Merry Christmas!

I just wanted to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. I hope your day is full of “Chocolate Cake Moments” where you are happy, smiling, and making memories with your family.

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Tags: 25 Days of Christmas Family Fun

Christmas Fun for All Ages with the Rockettes


Every year we have a tradition of taking the kids to see a Holiday-themed show. It’s our annual Christmas outing where we dress up and do something cultural that puts us in the Holiday mood. We’ve seen the Joffrey Ballet’s Nutcracker production. AMAZING! Last year we went to the Goodman Theater to see their version of A Christmas Carol. ULTRA AMAZING! So this year, when I was offered tickets to see and review the Radio City Christmas Spectacular with the Rockettes, I was thrilled. We would get to experience a new show that I know people make a tradition of seeing every year.


Let me tell you, it’s a kickin’ good time for families.



Bring the young ‘uns

This show is perfect for little ones. First, the show is split into two 45 minute segments so little people won’t get too squirmy. They can get up and walk around during intermission. Second, even though there is a lot of singing and dancing there is a story line that will keep young kids interested. Unlike the Nutcracker Ballet for example where there is no talking, Santa Claus comes out to narrate in between dance numbers so little kids don’t feel lost and then get distracted. Actually, the Rockettes do a little Nutcracker Ballet routine with teddy bears and mice as dancers. Perfect for little ones.

Also, there is nothing risque, inappropriate, or scary in the show. My kids are 10 and 12 and they got a little scared during A Christmas Carol when the ghosts come out and the stage gets dark. There is nothing but bright lights, smiles, and wholesome fun with the Radio City Christmas Spectacular.



Something for Everyone

I have to admit I was afraid my 12-year-old son, who’s going on 25, was going to hate the show but he liked it. It’s like an old fashioned variety show that seems to be popular again on TV. There’s some singing, some dancing, and even some nostalgia. For the adults and grandparents in the crowd, the little segment with the history of the Rockette’s on Broadway was interesting. It’s the 85th anniversary of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular! Wow!

The show did a very nice job of combining a more traditional, commercial Christmas with Santa Claus at the helm and ending the show with a live Nativity Scene to remind everyone what Christmas is really about. The costumes in the Nativity Scene are spectacular.

Making a Spectacle of Themselves

Even without the crystals on their costumes, the show had some pretty spectacular moments. The Rockettes are all about precision dancing, right. No girl can be too tall, kick too high, or be out of step. Having performed on a drill team in high school I know it’s hard to sync your movements to people dancing next to you. Well, the Rockettes take it a step further in one of their routines by showing a video of dancers on the screen behind the stage. One of our favorite routines was the Santa routine. Everyone in the cast is dressed in a Santa suit and they dance on stage but then they turn on the video screen to show an infinite number of Santas doing the same routine on the screen. It creates a very cool optical illusion that only works if all of the dance movements are in sync.


Another of our favorites was when they bring a double decker sight-seeing bus on the stage and with scenes of downtown New York City flashing by on the screen behind the stage and the wheels turning on the bus, it really looks like it’s moving. I don’t see how the dancers don’t get dizzy and fall down but it’s cool to watch.

Finally, the Christmas Spectacular wouldn’t be spectacular without the march of the Wooden Soldiers. Precision dancing at it’s best!


A Tradition of Giving Back

On the night we were there, the marines were in attendance collecting unwrapped toy for the Toys for Tots drive. You can see my daughter adding gifts to the box. However, I learned a lot about how much the Rockettes give back as an organization. They do a lot of charitable outreach while they tour the country. Since my daughter is a Type 1 diabetic, I was especially encouraged to hear their involvement with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation in Seattle, hosting several events to raise money to find a cure.

According to the press material the show has been totally revamped with new scenes, costumes, and special effects. I’ve never seen the show so I can’t comment on what is new but even if you have seen the show in the past, I would definitely consider making this show a Holiday Tradition. The show runs at the Akoo Theater in Rosemont through December 30, 2012. You can still get tickets so grab them now and take the kids for a show they’ll always remember.

Thank you to the Radio City Christmas Spectacular and the Rockettes for allowing me to share this fun Holiday Show with my family.

Have you ever seen the Rockettes?

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Tags: 25 Days of Christmas Family Fun · Fun with Kids in Chicago

5 Fun Christmas Children’s Books to Read at Bedtime

There are so many ways to have fun with your family around the Holidays. However, it’s very easy to get caught up in the stress and crazy-busy schedules during the Holidays that we forget to stop and have some fun. (What do you mean we forgot to get a present for your Spanish teacher? Why has the cat eaten all of the curling ribbon? Where did I put the Christmas cards that I bought last January on sale?) So, one of our favorite ways to unwind and have fun during the Holiday Season is to read Christmas-themed bedtime stories. We put on our jammies and sit by our Christmas tree to read. There are so many great Christmas children’s books but these are some of my family’s favorites to get you inspired. Have fun!

Favorite Christmas Bedtime Stories

Bear Stays Up for Christmas

Last night, we read Bear Stays Up for Christmas by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman. While my kids are a little too old for this picture book, it is still a Holiday favorite. The illustrations are too cute and the rhyming words are perfect for lulling everyone to sleep. (I want some of the cookies that Bear makes his friends!)


Snowmen at Night Book

Snowmen at Night by Caralyn Buehner. This fun board book is not only cute, but inspires some ideas for outdoor, snowy fun. Who wouldn’t love to see snowmen come to life at night and cruise around town?


Russell's Christmas Magic Book

Russell’s Christmas Magic by Rob Scotton is another favorite of ours. The illustrations are cute and the red color for Santa and the “fixed-up sleigh” just jump off the page. Even though this is more of a toddler book, my kids still love to read it just for the illustrations.


How the Grinch Stole Christmas Book

The Grinch. Need we say more? The Grinch by Dr. Seuss has it all. Great rhymes, silly words, a loveable dog, and a very important message for kids. “Maybe Christmas, he thought… doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps… means a little bit more!” We definitely watch The Grinch TV Classic but we’ve made it a tradition to read the book every year, too.


You can’t have a Christmas book list and not include Jan Brett. My daughter and I LOVE her illustrations. She has a lot of winter and Holiday themed books but The Mitten is our favorite. The illustrations of the animals are incredible, the kids laugh at the thought of all of these animals crawling into a small mitten, and my kids totally relate to the boy losing his mitten. All elements of a great story.

If you love to read with your kids, here’s an awesome idea for next year! Over at This Girl Loves to Talk, their family has a tradition of wrapping 24 Christmas themed books. Starting December 1st, every night the kids get to unwrap a book and read together. Pure genius!

Note: I don’t receive any compensation if you click on and buy these books. I just provided the link to make it easier for you to find them.

What are your kids’ favorite Christmas books?

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Tags: 25 Days of Christmas Family Fun

How Will your Elf on the Shelf Appear on Day 1?


I love it when I get to answer a question from a reader! Madi recently left me a comment and asked a great question which fits perfectly into my Elf on the Shelf Busy Parents Survival Guide.

“This is only our second year doing the elf tradition, and our elf comes Dec. 1st. How are some ways you have brought the elf back each year? Does he just appear? Does he get shipped? Does he bring a note?”

Traditionally, our Elf just makes his appearance on the day after Thanksgiving and I never really thought about how to make Day 1 extra special, so I’m so glad she asked the question and forced me to put my creative hat on and investigate how other families handle this. Here are some great Elf on the Shelf Day 1 ideas.



Surprise, I’m here!

Like I said, I haven’t really done anything special to announce his “return” in the past. When the kids were really young, I hid the Elf in a very obvious spot on the first day so the kids do a doubletake and are surprised when they see him. As they got older, they anticipated that he would show up the day after Thanksgiving and they would wake up and automatically look for him. But one year, Jack, our Elf, wrote the kids a note and of course our Elf had to be complicated and write backwards, so the kids had to hold their notes up to the mirror to read it. (As your kids get older you need to throw in some challenges.)


A Breakfast Fit for an Elf!

Elf on the Shelf First Day Breakfast

Laura from Come Together Kids had a great idea to have the Elf make breakfast for the kids on Day 1. The Little Pumpkin Grace blog has some super cute Elf Breakfast ideas, as well. To get your Elf breakfast going, download these freee Elf Breakfast invitation and printables from 505 Design. So cute!



Magic Seeds!

Amy at Living Locurto had a cute idea to have the Elf deliver seeds with a letter from Santa on Day 1, asking the kids to plant the seeds and wait two nights for a special surprise. They grew magic cookies! You could have so much fun with what “grows” from the seeds. Click over to her site for a copy of the letter from Santa.


Let me in!

Another Mom told me she puts the Elf outside the window on the first day (only if the weather is good) like he flew in from the North Pole but needs to be invited inside. One of our readers said even though this is her second year doing the Elf tradition she was going to have a wrapped package be outside the front door on December 1st with a note inside from Santa saying that their family Elf was back.


Here’s your Letter!

Here’s a great letter from the Elf to use as inspiration from the ItsyBitsyPaper Blog. Leana at A Small Snippet did something similar with a letter from Santa. Scroll most of the way down in the post to check out her letter for inspiration.

I’ve also seen people write a note from the Elf or from Santa to leave next to the Elf saying that he is back and excited about being with the kids this Holiday Season. Model A Designs has some great free printables for you to use with your Elf on the Shelf fun, including official letter head from Santa’s desk for his letter to your kids.

I hope those ideas have helped you figure out what to do with your Elf on the Shelf on Day 1. Have fun with it!

How do you bring your Elf back every year?

You Might Also Like:

When to Start the Elf on the Shelf Tradition

What to Do if You Forget to Move Your Elf on the Shelf
Elf on the Shelf Busy Parents Survival Guide

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Tags: 25 Days of Christmas Family Fun

How Old Should Your Kids Be to Start the Elf on the Shelf Tradition?

Continuing my Elf on the Shelf Busy Parents Survival Guide, today I’m sharing thoughts on how old your kids should be when you start the Elf on the Shelf hide ‘n seek tradition. From my experience and from other Moms I have talked to, at 2-years-old, kids like and can participate in the hide ‘n seek game but it isn’t until they are 3 or 4-years-old that they understand the motivation behind it all.

But as for when to start, that depends on you. Let’s face it, the “hider” can get just as much joy out of this Holiday tradition as the kids. If you want to start when you first child is still a baby, go for it. If you want to create funny little scenes for just you and your spouse, have at it. Maybe don’t hide it every night but have it sitting out in the house somewhere as a decoration.

I wish I had my Elf on the Shelf when my kids were infants because then I could take pictures of the Elf with each baby and show them how the Elf was there for them from their very first Christmas.

One thing I do know is that at my online retail store, ChocolateCakeClub.com we have sold a lot of Elf on the Shelf as baby shower gifts. People were giving them as gifts to start a tradition for their new family. What a cool gift to give someone – a lifetime of fun and memories.

On the flip side, I remember how exhausted I was all the time after each of my children were born. If you are in that stage of mommyhood where you have a new baby or your toddlers are a handful and you just look forward to going to sleep, then skip it and wait until the kids are older and you feel more able to enjoy the tradition. It doesn’t take that much time but you do need to think about and remember to do it at a point in the day when you are most exhausted. If Elf on the Shelf is stressful for you, then it’s not worth it.

What do you think? How old should your kids be when you start Elf on the Shelf?

You Might Also Like:

When to Start the Elf on the Shelf Tradition

Elf on the Shelf Busy Parents Survival Guide

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Tags: 25 Days of Christmas Family Fun

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