29 Jan 2015

A Gift We Give Ourselves

Every year for the past 4 years we've made family photo albums. We've used a few different companies but the one i've settled on for now is Blurb. They have free downloadable software
BookSmart which is super easy to use and you can make the entire book offline! It automatically saves, which is great because life is pretty interrupted around here! Just a side note, make sure you have the most updated version of BookSmart (you can download the newest version any time) but i had a font issue with this years album, which was quickly resolved by updating my out-of-date version (oops). And by the way Blurb's customer service is fantastic!

I usually try to keep up with the year so that the book is ready to export and print right after Christmas.  I try to have July done by July... but come October i hadn't even started, gulp. Thankfully since I have my photos organized I got caught up in just 5 days (10 months!!!)

Here's a layout from our family trip to Italy...

They also make great gifts... Do you and your family give yourselves a yearly gift?

Right now Blurb has a great deal on ~ 20% off sitewideIt's good until January 31, 2015.
Use coupon code: MYVALENTINES

*This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I’ll receive a very small percentage of the proceeds. But i post about BLURB because i really do love the simplicity & ease of their software and the quality and cost of their large books!

28 Jan 2015

BAJO Wooden Toys for Boys

We found this cute little toy shop with wooden toys in Krakow, when Ben was studying Polish. We later learned that BAJO is a Polish company and the toys are made just outside of Krakow. We made bought a few of our favourites right before we moved and each of our kids have received one on their first birthday. Here are some of our favourites:

1. Transport Truck with Stacker - Our middle son got this for his 1st birthday and loved it! We were pleasantly surprised with how much he played with it. It is great for colours and learning to stack and an extra bonus that it comes on a truck! What little boys wouldn't love this?!

 2. Tow Truck - One of the ones we picked up at the store before leaving. I loved the 2 little cars that stack on the back. Classic.

3. Rocket Ship - Our youngest got this for his 1st birthday and loves it! There's a cute little astronaut that holds it together. It's fun to stack and knock over ;) Only bummer is i think he threw the astronaut in the garbage :/

4. Snail Shape Sorter - Middle man got this for his first birthday from some friends and i love it as a stacker! Super colourful and solid. It works as a pull toy too once they start to walk.

5. Classic Bus - The boys love this bus. It's solid wood, great for little fingers. I'm considering getting a few more of these wooden cars to add to our BAJO car collection!
The thing I love about all of our wooden toys is their solid construction and classic feel. They don't feel junky or cheap and I already know they are 'keepers', the toys we will keep around even after the kids are grown for other kids to play with as they visit our home. But for now I'm happy that they are getting lots of use and that they are so durable. I'm optimistic they'll survive even our 3 boys! (As long as little man doesn't take any more of them to visit the trash can!)

{Note: BAJO is sending me a new astronaut man! LOVE this company}

26 Jan 2015

Family Life :: Our Top 5 Toddler Toys {2-3 years}

1. Wooden Stacking Toys - we love wooden toys, and honestly this one should have made the 1-2 year list because our kids play with it a LOT. Our second son got this BAJO truck for his first birthday and i absolutely love this company's wooden toys. They are based out of Krakow, Poland and difficult to find outside of Poland. We have several different wooden toys from this company, which i'll have to share in a different blog.

2. Duplo Lego - a great duplo starter set... our boys got this earlier, but honestly didn't start building untila about 2 1/2. We recently got this set to add to the building fun. The boys love {and fight over} the rocket.

3. Balance Bike - such a great bike for little guys. our son got this for his 3rd birthday and it's already gotten a lot of use, our second son will probably start using it a little before he turns 3.

4. 4 in 1 Puzzles - we have several of these 4 in 1 puzzles (jake, planes, cars). I'd say these puzzles are definitely the ones that get the most use in our house. They are great for little ones as they are developing puzzle skills!

5. LeapFrog LeapPads - all of our boys have these.  We use them specifically for long distance travel and rainy/sick days. They are super durable and educational and if you buy the online version of the game you can upload it to up to 3 devices! Score.

I know I said 5... but here's a bonus:
Chuggington Train Set - our boys love trains and they really like these sets that all link together. We got them this roundhouse, koko's icy escapade, and another stacktrack and some connector tracks. It makes for a fun afternoon to set them up in the living room. Currently we have about 6 trains, which fit perfectly for storage in the roundhouse. With 3 boys we're hopeful that they'll get lots of use for years to come!

If you have boys, what toys get the most use at your house?

24 Jan 2015

Lucas' Paw Patrol 4th Birthday Party

Seriously, what kid doesn't love Paw Patrol?! Our son first encountered it in Italy when he was in the hospital there for 3 days. He loved it right away... and he doesn't even speak Italian!

I love celebrating our kids lives with creativity. Their birthday's are great opportunities to enter into their world and create fun for them and their friends. I searched around for Paw Patrol inspiration for big boy's 4th birthday and this is what I came up with. You can find links to the free printables i used below. Enjoy ~

"sticks for dogs"

"dog food"
{this looks a little too much like dog food!}

{we also had "dogs in a blanket"}

Food Labels - Editable {mom's tot school}
Water Bottle Labels - Editable {mom's tot school}

Paw Patrol Banner {i made}

{i pasted the poster together in photoshop and had a local print shop print it on A2 paper}

{i just used glue to stick them on!}

{i pasted the poster together in photoshop and had a local print shop print it on A2 paper}
 - the kids loved this game!

PAW Patrol, PAW Patrol
We'll be there on the double!

Here was the invite:

And his present:
Cost of Party Supplies:
printing for 2 large posters - $5
2 dog bowls - $4
balloons - $1
party hats - $2
party plates - $4

total: $16

{all other printing was on our home printer}
{food not included}

22 Jan 2015

Our Big Boy :: 4 Years Old

Our little guy turned 4 years old this week. He brings us so much joy and is full of life, adventure and ENERGY! Recently he has started talking up a storm in English... and in Polish too! I love taking pictures of our kids on their birthday to "capture" this time in their lives. Lucas is most alive when he is outside, and on this particular day the weather was nice (in January!) and so we went to the park. He loves running and climbing and playing around with his brothers. These are my favourites. Enjoy ~

19 Jan 2015

Books for Little People (3-4 years) :: Our Top 10

A few years back i did a post on the little people books we were reading but some time has passed and i thought i'd add to the list. Big boy is about to turn 4, so we're up a step from board books (though his little brothers still really enjoy them!)

Here are some toddler books we are enjoying:

1. The Bear Books {Karma Wilson} - we love the stories about bear and his forest friends. We have about 5 of them and they rhyme nicely and are wonderfully illustrated! We have some board books, and some paperbacks. The board books hold up better with the little guys and the paperback have bigger pictures for the older guys. Karma Wilson also wrote Mortimer's Christmas Manger

2. Cat in the Hat's Learning Library {Dr. Seuss Inside your Outside} - the biology major part of me LOVES this series! It is super education and super dr. seuss style fun! We have 5 of them and even our 3 1/2 year old will sit and listen to the whole story!

3. Berenstain Bears Living Light Series - After reading a few other series that i would not recommend, i revisited this series from my childhood. I soon discovered that in addition to the classics there are some new stories under the name of "Living Lights". These book teach Christian values and Biblical truths.  They were written by the son of the original authors after they passed on. I am looking forward to picking up some more of these next time we're back in Canada!

4. Fool Moon Rising {Fluharty} - We got this book from a really good friend when our first son was born and it's a great book. It has beautiful illustrations and teaches about pride. Also based on scientific fact such a great story using nature to show the sinful nature of the human soul. A great lesson for little ones and a great reminder for parents too!

5. The Big Red Tractor and the Little Village {Francis Chan} - What little boy doesn't love tractors? Francis Chan writes a great story to remind us about the importance of God's word through his story of a farmer finding the 'instruction manual' to the rusty old tractor that actually showed him how it was designed to work! Our kids love it.

6. Danny & The Dinosaur - A friend recommended this to me and our boys LOVE it! I bought a used older copy because i love the vintage feel of this classic book. Such a great make believe, imaginative adventure for little boys. Come on, who wouldn't want to spend the day with a dinosaur?!

7. Franklin Books - Our oldest (almost 4) loves the Franklin books. They are a great way for us to introduce traditions that don't exist in Poland (like Halloween, Thanksgiving...) and also just normal stages of life like 'going to school', 'visiting the hospital'. We have about 10 in English and 10 in Polish (which are a challenge for mommy to read). But he often wants to read 2-3 in a row. 

8. The Complete Adventures of Curious George -  This is a great collection of Curious George adventures. Our little guy loves it... this monkey's stories are always mischievous, messy, active and oh so random ~ no wonder toddlers love him!

9. If I Ran the Circus {dr. Seuss} - I remembered a family i lived with read this book over and over again. We recently got it for the boys and it is super duper fun. Classic Dr. Seuss full of fun words and imagination. Great for the toddler that has entered the stage of imaginative play!

10. Harry the Dirty Dog {Gene Zion} - This one is on my to buy list. Our boys love the scholastic film made based of the book and it's just a classic, fun story.  "No Roses for Harry" looks great too... i think i want to buy these in the old vintage style.

What are your favourite books for toddlers?