Ain’t Nobody Got Time for Advent!

We’ve all been doing it.  Pouring over Pinterest hour after hour prepping ourselves for this very month(ish) of holiday wonderment.

We’re all putting our Elves on our Shelves next to glazed donut cheerios.
We’ve all seen three million different ways to decorate cone forms as tabletop christmas trees.
Everybody and their mother’s got the family initial in an evergreen wreath on their front door.

But move over, burlap stocking DIY.  There’s one showstopper we’ve ALL got on our list.  That my friend, is the glorious DIY Advent Calendar!  Remember when those things were just fancy packages for candy and trinkets?  Oh Pinterest!  You laugh at such an antiquated notion!  Now instead of treats, each pocket is supposed to be filled with holiday themed activities.  24 of them for each December day before Christmas.

If you’re like me, at first you lit up at the idea of packing every magical December day with a fresh new memory for the spouse and children you love so dearly!  Hot cocoa and popcorn and Charlie Brown Christmas one night.  Tickets to “The Nutcracker” the next!  Holiday light viewing another night!!  A Christmas tree slumber party the next?!!!

Then reality sets in.  You don’t even know how you’re going to get your Christmas shopping in, let alone make time for the graham cracker snowman craft you’ve had pinned on your “Kiddos” board for the last three months.  Not to mention, like, the boring normal life stuff.  Work, laundry, exercise…  Oddly, the stuff that makes you busy and behind schedule in September is still there in December, no matter how much holiday magic you’d rather cram in instead.

So, call me a realist.  I know I can’t actually do everything I pin.  But at the same time, I now have this amazing Advent Calendar ready to hang, and nothing to put inside it!  (Giving my kids chocolate for breakfast every morning just doesn’t thrill me.  What can I say?)

Today, however, I had an epiphany.  My house isn’t ready to decorate yet.  I forgot to get out my Elf on a Shelf yesterday.  We’ve yet to officially ENTER the holiday season at this house, and frankly, the to-do list, albeit most enjoyable, can be a bit overwhelming when I think about my other responsibilities.  Exactly what all is even on my holiday to-do list?

Hm…  Well, for sure I’ll want to

  1. Put up the tree
  2. Light the tree
  3. Decorate the tree
  4. Take pictures of the kids next to the tree
  5. Hang the stockings
  6. Put out our nativity
  7. Read Elf on a shelf
  8. Make something pretty for my dining table.
  9. Decorate our windows.
  10. Wrap gifts
  11. Buy or make cards
  12. Sign and send cards
  13. Christmas baking

    AND THEN there’s the scheduled Christmas activities through various groups we’re involved in…

  14. Christmas Kids (and Parents) Night Out
  15. Christmas Groove Concert
  16. Pre-K Christmas Program
  17. Church Christmas Pageant
  18. Oh!  And Church Christmas Pageant Dress Rehearsal!
  19. School Christmas Party
  20. Work Christmas Party (Which for us, happens to be kid friendly!  Yay!)
  21. Christmas Eve Church services

    Hm… Well, those are interesting numbers.  At some point, we’d probably also like to

  22. Go for a drive to look at lights.
  23. Watch a Christmas movie with the kids
  24. Read a Christmas story book
  25. Make a craft or present with the kids
  26. Play in the snow
  27. Volunteer or donate to a worthy cause
  28. OR stay in our pajamas all day…

What do you know! There’s nothing on this list that my three year old (or even 1 year old) can’t participate in on some level!  And that’s way more than 24 items… all of which we’re intending to do ANYWAY!  Advent activity countdown, or no!

So, get smart people!  You CAN have it all… okay maybe not it all, but if you approach the classical Pinteresty advent activity thing as an organizational tool, rather than just another way to overextend yourself this holiday, it can actually REMOVE holiday stress from your month rather than compound it!

Sure, it’s a simple notion, just write everything on slips of paper and stick it in your advent countdown device thingy of choice.  Sync it with your calendar, and keep a few simple substitutes on hand in case you need to switch out a big plan for a simpler plan one day  (Heck!  Maybe that’s where the candy comes in!).  But then your Christmas to-do list is organized, broken down day by day, and done in a slow and steady way that involves your kids!  What could be better?

Did I miss anything on my list?  What are some of your absolute HAVE-TOs during the holidays?


Categories: Activities, children, Christmas, DIY | 1 Comment

A Stupid-Easy Summer Schedule Everyone Can Live With

Time to play in the garden can be magical to a child

Okay. So now the kids have been out of school for a couple of weeks and you’re running out of ideas. You may also feel the urge to lose a few marbles wondering how you’re going to get it all done whilst surrounded by the kiddies.

Don’t fret. Rest assured that these 4smartypants are happy to help! Instead of reverting back to television, video games or spending huge amounts of time, sanity and money on camps, outings and amusement parks, why not put some savvy into your schedule? Here’s what we do…

Instead of allowing the day to be wasted, we at 4smartypants organize each day with meaning. For me, I allow for some structure, like naps, learning time and meals to be surrounded by loosely organized activities. Within this structure, I allow for opportunities to get my household tasks done without taking time away from my kids. This is what a typical day looks like in my home…

Breakfast/Getting Ready (I put in a load of laundry while kids are dressing)

Learning Time (Home schooling books are great for this! I can do dishes while I help)

Arts & Crafts or Trip to the Park or Pool

Free Play (While I switch a load of laundry and make lunch)


Reading Time

Nap (I pick one chore item to do each day then fold & put away laundry)

Free Play (While I check emails or write)

Dance Party (Use your imagination!)

Outdoor Play (I usually study lines for my play or go over edits for my book at this time)

Game or Outing

Clean-Up (They can pick up while I vacuum and sweep)

Coloring (While I Cook)


Family Time (Everything’s done or can wait ‘til tomorrow. Time to enjoy the family)



Story & Bedtime (I do my shopping after the kids go to bed)

Playtime with your children is a treasure that should never be wasted

I realize that the above outline looks like just a lot of common sense. When I was an activities coordinator, I learned that writing down a simple outline of structured, daily activities allowed me to get the most out of my day. I have since incorporated the same practice into my home life with great success. With this schedule, the kids are content to have some structure mixed with nonsensical free-play and I am happy to have time built in to get my daily tasks done.

If you haven’t already done so, I highly recommend tugging up those smartypants and giving it a go with a schedule that works for you!

Categories: children, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Only A Mom

By Bectoria Crandall

Only A Mom…

-would stay up until 2am to finish making costumes for her child’s school play

-thinks nothing of playing personal chauffeur for her children

-would go Christmas shopping in June

-would consider painting her toenails while balancing on one foot “pampering”

-would clean her car with baby wipes

-will wake up before the birds and stay up long after what is considered sane just so her kids can discover their talents

-can bling up ANYTHING

-would regularly sacrifice her social life for her child’s

-would use the “lick the finger and wipe” maneuver to clean anything off of her child’s face

-can spend ten tireless hours making the “perfect” birthday cake

-knows the perfect song to sing when her child wakes up with a fever

-would consider reading a book “procrastinating”

-can go to the bathroom and be greeted by everyone in her family

-would spend any amount of time or money to make a DIY school project “just right”

-knows where all of the good “hiding places” are

-would spend hours watching her children kick a ball in the rain-and then serve cookies

-can consider the teen years “endearing”

-would carry 1000 crumpled tissues in her pocket-that aren’t hers

-can change a diaper, help with homework and talk on the phone all at the same time

-would drive to ten stores just to find that “perfect” Christmas dress

-knows all of her child’s fears and favorites

-can make a booboo go away with a kiss, a song and a smile

-will cry twice as hard when her children are sad

-will laugh out loud when her children are glad

-will stand with pride when they achieve

-will mourn days past when they grow and leave

-would trade anything if given the chance, to hold her babies for one more dance

Thank you moms for all you do

Go celebrate

This day’s for you!

Categories: children | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Going Vegan: Nutrients to Consider

By Bectoria Crandall

A true smartypants is always looking for ways to improve ones personal and family health. One way we at 4smartypants are doing this is by changing to a vegan diet. When talking this over with Mac and Stephanie, I had two concerns. First, nutrients and then budget. This post is about the former.

SAHM’s are always struggling to weed through the barrage of information that is constantly being published about the foods available in our market. Yes, we in this country are the lucky ones to have the luxury of being so choosey about the foods that we eat. Since we do have a choice, true smartypants would make every effort to provide a well balanced, nutrient rich diet in their homes. For me, going vegan provides its own set of challenges. If I am going to cut out a large portion of my family’s diet, what foods do I need to introduce that would provide the nutrients my growing family needs? “If we aren’t drinking milk any longer, how will my family get the calcium and Vitamin D we need?” was one of my questions during our last 4smartypants admin meeting.

Now I love these two ladies to death, but let’s face it, Stephanie, Mac and I get the majority of our information by reading reports published by the experts in the field. Instead of relying on what they have or have not yet read, I decided to go to the experts myself. To get my answers about all things nutritiony I went to my fav nturition experts Denver Wellness and Nutrition Instead of muddying up their answer, I’ll just quote what they had to say about transitioning a family to a vegan diet…

“If you’re a family that normally eats meat, then the safest way would be to ease your family into it. Start by trying out meatless Monday’s if your family is a little on the fence about it. Then ease into a full vegetarian lifestyle, and once you’re all used to that, start cutting out eggs/dairy/honey/other animal related products.
Some things to make sure you’re getting in are:
Protein – Soybean products (tofu, tempeh), chickpeas, lentils, nuts and seeds
Vitamin B12 – Fortified nutritional yeast, soy and rice milk.  Make sure to read the nutrition information to know how much you’re getting in!
Vitamin D –During the warmer months, you can get your fix of this nutrient just by basking in the sunlight, awesome right? But for the colder months, try getting things that are fortified with vitamin D such as some nondairy milk and juices.
Omega 3 fatty acids – Flax seeds, walnuts, and canola oil
Calcium – Collard greens, kale, broccoli, beans and almonds
Iron – Black-eyed peas, lentils, oatmeal, nuts, sunflower seeds, quinoa and millet
Zinc – Grains, legumes and nuts
If you’re eating a wide variety of foods, you shouldn’t have any problems getting these into your diet.  But if you still feel that you are deficient, then these can be met with: introducing a multivitamin (if you aren’t already on one), sometimes a B-complex (if your vitamin B levels are low even after the multivitamin) and get in omega 3’s from flax seed  or vegan DHA capsules from algae (otherwise you’d be eating fish!).
You don’t want to shock your system, or that of your family. Anytime you want to make a lifestyle change, remember to ease into it.”
Armed with this new knowledge of nutrients to consider, I feel better able to make the right dietary decisions for my family. Now I can begin to investigate an answer to my latter concern… Budget. How much is this all going to cost me? I’ll keep you posted!
Categories: children, Family, Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Easter Eggs with Toddlers


Last year, Mac mentioned on Facebook that she planned to forego Easter egg decorating because her oldest son (only son at the time) had just turned 2 and she thought he was probably too young still to participate in such an activity and/or enjoy it. While it’s true that dyeing Easter eggs CAN be a messy and stressful event for everyone involved, it’s not a deal-breaker.


We have kiddos in our house ranging from 18 months to 4 years who are all egg decorators. Their methods for decorating vary depending on age, but they all did a beautiful job on this year’s eggs. Henley, my 18 month old, you might think is a little young to be dyeing eggs. You’d be right. But why shouldn’t he be able to join the fun? Here’s what I did for him: I set him up in the Bumbo (with tray) on top of the table in the middle of the festivities.Image

I handed him a hard boiled egg and a couple of crayons (with bold colors, none of that “magic crayon” nonsense that comes in the egg dye box- he needs to see what he’s drawing!) As he drew, I handed him stickers and let him apply them or helped him apply them. Most of the egg dye kits come with a sheet of close to 100 tiny stickers. When he started to look bored with that egg, I took it away and handed him another one. I planned on 3 eggs for him, and 4 eggs each for the older kids.


Here are some things to keep in mind if you want to enjoy the fun but avoid the messy/stressful chaos this activity usually entails. (I tend to stress easily over messy children’s activities and am prone to try and control the mess as much as possible, to the point of killing the fun.) These reminders help me give the kids an enjoyable experience without making me feel like I’ll have to hose each child down afterward and remodel the kitchen.

-Each kid gets 3-4 eggs. (They don’t need a dozen, each! It stresses them out trying to remember which egg belongs to whom and after a few they’ve run out of stellar ideas and get bored and fidgety, anyway. 3-4 is a perfect number of eggs to become their artistic masterpieces.Besides, 4 dozen eggs is a little cholesterol-excessive, don’t you think?)

-Save the little wire egg dropper/ladle thing each year. (Only one comes in the kit and they always fight over it. No one wants to use a regular spoon to drop their egg in the dye, that’s lame. Just hang onto them this time instead of throwing them away, you’ll be glad you did next year.)

-Use colored crayons. (The “magic crayon” is dumb. I get what they’re going for, but using a colored crayon makes the egg drawings pop so much more! Yellow is brilliant. Plus, the kids can actually see what they’re drawing on the eggs. Toddlers don’t understand “When we take it out of the dye, you’ll be able to see the invisible drawing you made on the egg.” They think, “Hey, this crayon doesn’t work.”)Image

-Stickers are exciting! (Use up all of the ridiculous stickers that came in the box, it’s a great alternative to trying to teach a 2 year old to be patient and wait for the egg to finish in the cup of dye.)

-Don’t worry about cracking the eggs. (If you’re going to hand an 18 month old an egg, it’s going to be handed back cracked. Big deal. Eat those first.)Image

Don’t let the fact that they’re young keep you from enjoying this tradition. They’ll remember it all year and look forward to doing it again. It’s one of those memories that really stick, enjoy it with them.


Have you already decorated eggs with your munchkins this year? Any crazy mishaps?

Categories: children | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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