Big Things in Small Packages

Here’s a confession: I love presents. That may sound a little selfish, but it’s not as bad as it sounds. I love getting presents, yes, but I love giving presents just as much. Since I was first old enough to go out to the store with my own money and buy my parents little tokens of my affection, I’ve loved the feeling of seeing someone open a gift that I picked out for them. It’s half of the reason that I love Christmas so much, and to me it’s just as fun as opening my own presents.

But not all presents are the kind that you wrap up in pretty paper and stick a bow to. Four years ago today my husband and I received a very special early Christmas present, which, incidentally, was also kind of a present from us to our families. My little princess has grown a lot since that day, but she’s still the best present in the world to me, and she’s made Christmas an infinitely more wonderful holiday in our household.

Happy Birthday, baby girl! And thanks for being my Christmas present again this year! ❤


Accountability Tuesdays: Week 50

~ You better not shout, you better not cry!You better not pout, I’m telling you why…
Santa Claus is coming to town! ~

We’re down to mere hours over one week to Christmas, ladies and gentlemen! And amazingly I can still list several people whom I personally know who have don’t next to no shopping yet. I am genuinely amazed. What is wrong with you crazy, masochistic people? o.O

In these last few weeks of the year I’ve been getting very little done toward my goals, because come on…there’s a lot of Christmas to do! But while I considered skipping my accountability posts for this exact reason, I decided against it because there are only three of them left. May as well finish up, right? Right.

Health and Body Image Goal

My husband has been playfully announcing day after day that the whole family is packing on the holiday pounds. He’s full of it, but that’s not to say that we’ve been the healthiest family in the world recently. Christmas treats and rushed suppers abound, and the only exercise we’ve been getting is shoveling snow and wrapping presents. It’s looking very good that this goal is going to carry over into the new year. But isn’t that always the way?

Editing Goal

Again, I didn’t even think about my manuscript this week, though I did get a little boot in the pants from a friend. Honestly, I’m very close to being done of all the wrapping and card-writing and what-not, so hopefully I’ll be able to find some time very soon. I’d love to spend the last few days before Christmas relaxing with a glass of rum-nog and my very-nearly-finished manuscript. Wish me luck!

1,000,000 Word Goal

Here’s the thing…amidst all the stuff mentioned above, I haven’t even been counting my words, so I have nothing to report this week. I know I have a small word count to add because I did write several blog posts, but I don’t have the time right at this moment to go back and count them all up, so I’m going to save it until next week, if that’s alright with you all?

These posts have been short and rushed, I know, but Christmas really truly is a very big time of year for me, and I’m almost finished preparing for it, so thanks very much for being patient with me! 🙂

Tracey’s Gift-Giving Guide: Part 4 – MORE TOYS!

Battle-Shell Ninja Turtles

Do you have a Ninja Turtle fan on your list? Check out these awesome action figures of the Nickelodeon iteration. These four “battle shell” turtles are larger than your average figure, standing about 11 inches high, and come with weapons that fit snugly into a compartment behind each turtle’s shell. They’re perfect for a fan of the Turtles, and since my wonderfully rough-and-tumble niece has a couple of her own I can assure you that they are kid-resistant. A wonderful choice at approximately $30 each. 

Talking Sophia the First

My daughter very recently fell in love with Sophia the First, an amazing little show on Disney Junior that follows a young peasant girl who suddenly becomes a princess overnight when her mother marries the king. Toys for the show have just begun to explode this year, and this 10-inch doll is one of my absolute favorites. Pressing Sophia’s magical amulet makes her share one of dozens of phrases, and when you bring one of her three animal friends close to her amulet the two will “talk” to one another. It’s a sweet toy, especially for a lover of the show. A bit of advice: shop around for this one. I’ve seen it as low as $30 and as high as $45 depending on where you go.

Collector Series Exclusive Nightmare Moon

If you’re someone who has been paying any attention at all to this blog, you know that my daughter loves My Little Pony, so I consider myself something of an authority. That said, this Toys R Us exclusive Nightmare Moon would be an excellent addition to the collection of any lover of the show, or ponies in general. This large figure of the series’ premier villain talks, and her wings move and light up when you press the button on her “cutie mark”. She comes with a comb and four barrettes (of course) with which to style her mane and tail. This toy is an exclusive item that can only be purchased at Toys R Us, and is also part of a collector’s series that probably won’t be around forever, so if you want to get your little pony-lover something special, this just could be it. The regular price for this talking, light-up figure is about $25.

LeapPad Ultra

If you’re looking to spend a little bit of money on something fun and durable that is also an excellent learning tool, I present to you one of the biggest toys this holiday season: the LeapPad Ultra. I have to admit that I haven’t yet seen one of these in action, but I’ve read so many good reviews that I feel I can still tote it as an excellent gift option. The latest in a line of “kid tablets”, the Ultra is the largest and most durable version of LeapPad to come out. It brags excellent specs, a 7 inch screen, 8 gigs of storage space, and front-and-rear-facing 2 megapixel cameras. Unlike previous versions, this one is wi-fi capable, and incorporates a child-safe web-browser that only allows the user to access pre-approved sites (the PBS website is an example of an approved site). This model also has a built-in rechargeable battery – unlike previous models – which is gold considering how a child can chew through batteries on a toy like this. The game/book/app library is huge, and includes plenty of options for kids ages 3 through 9. If your little one is as ingrained in technology as mine is, the LeapPad Ultra would make a wonderful gift that lets them feel like they’re using a “real” tablet, while playing games with their favorite characters and learning a ton in the process. This model costs approximately $160, depending on where you buy, and in my opinion it’s worth every penny.

Do you have any great ideas for toy gifts? Please share!

Stay tuned for Tracey’s Gift-Giving Guide Part 5: Last-Minute Ideas

Tracey’s Gift-Giving Guide: Part 3 – TOYS!

My friends, I am an expert in toys, not only because I have a daughter of my own who teaches me lots, but also because toys are awesome and I love them. Don’t judge me. My knowledge is helpful this time of year.

My Pal Scout & Violet

For a younger child, I absolutely love this puppy pal. My daughter has one from when she was younger, and for a good year straight it was one of her favorite things. Scout/Violet talks to your little one and sings fun songs, all depending on your input – these cute little pups can connect to your laptop via LeapFrog’s downloadable software, wherein you can program the toy with your child’s name, favorite food, favorite color, and your choice of a number of songs. Squeezing the pup’s paws initiates interaction. My favorite paw was the blue one, which plays so many minutes of lullaby music depending on how many times you squeeze it. It’s an excellent daytime and nighttime toy for any little one, and will only cost you about $25.

Melissa and Doug Handmade Wooden Toys

I didn’t specify any one toy because there are tons, and it all depends on the age-range you’re looking for, but Melissa and Doug’s wooden toys are amazing. My daughter has a few of the puzzles (the number one shown above, and an alphabet one), and one of their “build-a-cake” toys, which is a three-layer wooden cake with Velcro decorations. All are very well made, colorful, and original. You can order directly from the Melissa and Doug website, but these toys can also be found in a number of stores; I’ve found many of the options in Winners, which incidentally seems to have some of the best prices.

Dress-Up Toys

Again, for this one I give you a broad range, not a specific toy. Kids love dress-up, and YES, that includes boys, this is something I know for sure. At the playgroup my daughter attends there is a large tote full of dress-up gear, and all of the kids love it. From the 1-year-old little girls to the 5-year-old boys, they all love playing with the fireman and police officer suits.

This gift is up to your own discretion; you can spend a little or a lot because there are tons of options. You can go to the toy aisles of your local stores and find lots of Disney Princess dresses and Ninja Turtles wearable shells, or you can go to the local Dollar Store for feather boas, princess crowns, superhero masks, and a multitude of plastic jewelry. Either way, I guarantee the child will have a blast. Dress-up and imaginative play is one of the best things about being a kid. Think back. You know it’s true. 🙂

Do you have any great ideas for toy presents? Please share!

Stay tuned for Tracey’s Gift-Giving Guide: Part 4 – MORE TOYS!

Actually, this explains a LOT…

As you know, last week it was my birthday. I got a couple of nice presents, but one of them isn’t in my possession yet because it has not yet been purchased. You see, my husband suggested that he would buy me a new bathing suit for the (hopefully) coming summer. I’m not usually the kind to spend much money on such a thing, so he thought I could pick out a really nice one for a change. I loved the idea, but here’s the thing…if I’m going to get a really nice bathing suit, I want to look good in it. So on Saturday night I gritted my teeth and decided that this is it: I’m restarting Jillian Michaels’ Body Revolution and this time I’m sticking to it.

Sunday morning started a bit askew, since little missy was up in the middle of the night, which resulted in all of us sleeping in until almost 10 am. But I gritted my teeth, and after a healthy breakfast of whole wheat toast and boiled egg whites, I headed downstairs and did workout number 1. I then attempted to go about my day without resorting to any of the mindless snacking I’m famous for, while waiting for my meatloaf to finish cooking and anticipating the fact that I was going to have to measure my portions to keep from eating twice as much of it as is smart.

So you see, my day was full of willpower. Painful, frustrating willpower. And that got me thinking about something I once read in a article. At the time of reading the article I raised my eyebrows a bit and doubted the reality of the claim, but on Sunday I did a bit of Google research and lo and behold, it looks like it’s true.

Willpower is a finite resource.

I know, I know, it sounds like an excuse, right? But apparently there have been a lot of studies done on this idea, and so far it’s holding water. It looks like the more willpower you use in one area of your life, the less you have left for other areas. In other words, you might struggle all day to keep yourself from snacking, and actually manage it, but then when it comes time to do your exercises you just can’t seem to work up the willpower. It’s not entirely your fault…you haven’t got any left. This explains why you can feel so good about yourself early in the day and happily resist temptations, but later in the day you crash and start (for example) devouring everything in sight.

So does this mean we’re all doomed to failure because we can’t keep up the willpower thing forever? Of course not, although it’s definitely going to make things more difficult. Willpower (apparently) is like a muscle. It needs to be exercised. So the more willpower you are able to exert today, the easier it will be tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that. It’s likely to be a slow process, but in the meantime you have to figure out how to dole out your willpower as necessary. If resisting snacks and treats all day depletes your stores so that you can’t bring yourself to exercise later, figure out how to let yourself have a little something, thereby saving that bit of willpower for when you need it. It’s a delicate balance, which in itself probably uses up willpower.

In fact, you know what? It’s not a delicate balance; it’s a vicious, circular cycle that makes me want to punch walls.

*cough cough*

Anyway, I guess the point of this post is that I need to work on my willpower muscle. I’ve worked up great levels of determination before and used up all my willpower after a week or so, and I don’t want that to happen this time. I want to succeed this time because dammit, I want to look good in a really nice bathing suit! Is that so wrong? 😛

12 Posts of Christmas – The Aftermath

Well would you look at that…not only have the holidays passed us by, but I haven’t made a blog post since LAST YEAR (hyuck, hyuck…:P). What happened? The same thing that always happens…life. While I probably could have sneaked a few hours out of the past couple of weeks to complete my 12 Posts of Christmas posts, I instead decided that experiencing the holidays was more important than blogging about them.

That said, let’s just whip through the remaining five days real quick, shall we?

5. Presents are awesome at any age. Write about the best present you ever received for Christmas, whether as a child or an adult.

I had a nice long post all planned out for this one, but as I never got to it and we’re now trying to squeeze five posts into one, I’m going to bite my lip and shorten it considerably.

The best present I ever received was from my husband (then boyfriend). It started out as an enormous box, about six feet long, three feet wide, and about a foot thick. My then-boyfriend and father made a big show of carrying it into the room, but when I finally went at it myself I found it was exceptionally light. Unwrapping it I discovered that inside the box…was another box. Ah…that old game. So I unwrapped the second box, and found another, and another, and another. I don’t recall the exact number of boxes, but eventually I wore down to a single white envelope, and what was inside that envelope initially confused me. It was a sheaf of papers with a picture of a diamond and the words “Warranty Plan”. When I looked up at my then-boyfriend in confusion it was to find him down on one knee, a ring box in his hands. You can probably imagine what happened next…my then-boyfriend became my then-fiance, and about a year and a half later he became my husband. My squeals could be heard from ten miles away, I’m sure. 🙂

4. As much as we love Christmas, there are aspects of it that can drive us insane. Write about the most frustrating parts of Christmas for you.

Most things about the holidays don’t bother me nearly as much as other people. I see the people around me getting stressed out and losing their minds, but for the most part, I don’t let it bother me. There are two things that drive me mad though…one is last-minute shopping. Hate it. If I’m having a hard time finding something for a particular person and it results in last-minute shopping I become a very stressed-out little monkey.

The other thing that drives me nuts? Putting up and taking down the tree. Decorating is all well and good, but the actual raising and lowering of the tree frustrates me every time, mainly because I end up with a million tiny little scratches all up and down my arms. Rawr, I say. Rawr.

3. We all have our own particular Christmas traditions. Write about some of yours.

Our traditions are growing as we come into our own family. We still travel down home and visit around a few days before Christmas, but other things have changed over the years. Now that we have our own child we spend Christmas day at our own house. My parents generally come up on Christmas Eve and spend the night so they can see the baby open her presents. My mother helps me cook Christmas dinner. We play Christmas specials on the TV all through the holidays and we eat a big breakfast before opening any presents. There are lots of little things that make up our holiday traditions, and new ones pop up every year.

2. Admit it…you tried to sneak a peek at a present or stay up all night and catch Santa when you were a kid. Write about Christmas sneakery you performed as a child.

Okay, I admit it, I’ve searched for Christmas presents. I’ve even found them. But I can honestly say I was not the kind of kid to unwrap presents early. I was always happy just to find them. It was like a treasure hunt. And on Christmas morning, when I would wake at 2 or 3 in the morning, sometimes I would crawl, ever-so-slowly, out to the living room so I could see if Santa had left my presents. He always had, of course, and once I saw them sitting there, I was satisfied. I would crawl, ever-so-slowly, back to bed and lay down for a couple more hours until I thought it was late enough that my parents wouldn’t kill me for waking them. 🙂

1. Happy Holidays! Write about your hopes and plans for this Christmas!

My hopes for the holidays were simple this year…that my daughter would enjoy herself. We went a little overboard with the presents, but we were excited for the fact that this was going to be the first year she could actually open the presents herself and might understand what was happening. We weren’t disappointed. She opened all her presents herself, with the exception of a few clothes boxes once she realized that those shapes didn’t have toys in them…lol She loved everything and her eyes positively lit up when she saw the kitchen set we got her, so it was absolutely awesome. It only makes us more excited for years to come.


So there we have it. Not the best posts, but I wanted to finish. 🙂 New Years posts to follow!

The 12 Posts of Christmas – Excitement

10. Kids get SO excited over some presents. Write about a particular toy or other present that made you lose your mind on Christmas day when you were a child.

There have been a number of presents over the years that made me lose my mind when I was young. Obviously I can’t remember any from when I was very small, but I’m sure my parents  could tell you a couple of stories of major freakouts from my earliest Christmases.

As for what I actually recall myself, two that really stand out were video games. The first, which I can only vaguely recall, was when I opened my Super Nintendo Entertainment System. If I was so inclined I could hunt through my parents’ basement and show you a couple of photos of that moment. I am not so inclined, given that I am currently over 3000 km away from my parents’ house, but let me assure you that the little girl in those pictures is grinning ear to ear and is gripping the box of that SNES with such force that her fingers are turning red.

The second example requires a bit of back-story… You see, when my best friend Kelly and I were younger we would regularly scrounge up some change and rent a video game at Dave’s Convenience Store. One of the games we rented enough times to cover the cost of the cartridge more than once was Final Fantasy III (US version) because we were absolutely obsessed with it. However, because of the length of the game (I don’t think I would be exaggerating to say that it took at least 30 hours to reach the ending) we could never beat it. Inevitably we would run out of change and have to give the game back, and by the time we were able to rent it again some other child would have taken it out and overwritten our save file. It was a vicious loop. To make matters worse, by the time we had discovered this game it was actually fairly old for a SNES cartridge…in other words, it was no longer available in stores. Our only chance of getting it would be to snatch it up from a second-hand shop, and as not many people were willing to part with such a classic game, copies weren’t exactly floating around.

So imagine my elation when I opened a present on Christmas morning and found a like-new copy of Final Fantasy III staring up at me. I don’t recall exactly if I had specifically mentioned the game to my parents, but somewhere along the line they picked up on the fact that I was looking for it and they had kept close tabs on a local second-hand store until one finally popped in. I nearly cried when I opened that present, I’m not ashamed to say, not only because it was something I desperately longed for, but because I’ve always been annoyed by parents who are incapable of listening to their children and this proved that my parents were not those kind.