Happy New Year! {And Top 10 Posts of 2015}

Happy New Year | thisgratefulmama.com

Happy New Year!

I am so grateful for all of you. May God bless you richly in 2016.

Lets ring in the New Year with a countdown of the top 10 posts from 2015.


Top 10 Posts of 2015

10. A Couples Wedding Shower

9. It Takes a Village {to Raise a Child With Food Allergies}…And This One’s Fantastic

8. I Chose To Stay Home With My Children – Not To Throw Away My Career

7. ‘You Are My Sunshine’ Birthday – DIY ‘You Are My Sunshine’ Photo Birthday Banner

6. A Multi-Purpose Solution: Quick DIY Two-Color Painted Storage Crate

5. 25 DOs and DON’Ts for Travel With Small Children

4. Infant Silent Reflux is NOT Silent – Our Experience Navigating Reflux Treatment

3. DIY Dinosaur Tails, Dinosaur Spike Party Hats and Favors

2. The thisgratefulmama 2015 Twin Cities Summer Bucket-List (70+ Toddler & Preschooler-Friendly Places To Visit)

1.  Infant Silent Reflux is NOT Silent – Our Search For An Answer To Our Baby’s Cries


DIY Snow Day Survival Kit

DIY Snow Day Survival Kit | thisgratefulmama.com

Somehow, Christmas has passed, and I haven’t given all our gifts yet. I’m not sure how it happened, but it did.

I love giving gifts and am usually done with cards and gifts long before Christmas arrives. And to this list-making, pre-planning girl…procrastination is rather uncomfortable.

I woke up this morning with the NEED to get things done. Time to kick procrastination to the curb.

Better late than never?

For a handful of friends, I’m putting together Snow Day Survival Kits with an assortment of goodies to keep them warm on a snowy day.

Good thing we FINALLY got measurable snow in MN this week.

Simple, warm and tasty.

Each DIY Snow Day Survival Kit includes:

  • Plastic storage container (Hello, dollar section of Target)
  • Hot Chocolate Mix (Packets of Starbucks Salted Caramel and Starbucks Peppermint hot chocolate and/or small tin of specialty hot chocolate)
  • Plain Marshmallows in cellophane bag
  • Peppermint Marshmallows in cellophane bag
  • Chocolate Covered Spoons (homemade using plastic spoons dipped in melted baking chocolate – dry on wax paper then wrap each chocolate end individually in plastic before packaging in cellophane bag)
  • Baking Mix (Brownie, Blondie or Cookie Mix)
  • Caramel Corn or Popcorn

The marshmallows and chocolate spoons were hand-packaged in cellophane bags. Labels were created using PicMonkey and attached with ribbon.

labels for snow day

What you include in a Snow Day Survival Kit may vary depending on the recipient. The kits we made went to families with small children. If you are looking for other ideas, there are plenty of ways to personalize this gift!

Ideas to Personalize a Snow Day Survival Kit:


Our family Christmas card and the note below were included in each gift.

Snow Day Survival Kit

These were fun and simple to put together and I think they turned out pretty cute.

DIY Snow Day Survival Kit | thisgratefulmama.com

Hopefully they bring some warmth and fun to our friends on the next snow day.

Merry Christmas!

DIY Snow Day Survival Kit | thisgratefulmama.com


The Wonder Of It All – All God’s Grace in One Tiny Face

Last year’s Christmas time reflection on Jesus Christ

this grateful mama

john114Do you ever find yourself wrapped up in the bustling holiday schedule, and even though you keep Christ as the center of the events, you find yourself missing the feeling of WONDER? You know, the magic, the feeling of joy and mystery, and gratitude that seems to come so easily to children.

And lets be clear: I am not talking about the wonder of Santa, although I do not think Santa is a bad thing. But lets set the Santa discussion aside for another day.

I spent last Christmas, focused on Jesus, and while I certainly felt grateful that He came to save the world (to save me), I am sad to say, I didn’t feel AWE.


Because we are busy. Because I’m often guilty of being so analytical in my thinking that I lose my imagination; I read the facts and commit them to memory, but I have trouble…

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The Wonder Of It All – Mary’s Response

Some thoughts to ponder this Christmas.

this grateful mama


Since having children, the bible passages telling of Jesus’ birth have become a different kind of real.

The experience of pregnancy, the expectant waiting, the joy and heart-stopping love at their birth that took me by surprise – even with our second child, and the daily blessing of watching each child grow and develop gives new perspective of the beauty of God’s plan with Jesus.

As a mother, I find myself trying to step into Mary’s shoes. I find myself wondering how she was so obedient, so in agreement with God’s will for her that when the angel came and told her that she would have a son, conceived by the Holy Spirit, her response was so simple, bold, and profound:

“Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” – Luke 1:38 (The Holy Bible, ESV, emphasis added)

We are not told much about…

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Graham Cracker ‘Gingerbread’ Houses – A Simple, Nut-Free Solution

Graham Cracker Gingerbread Houses A Simple Nut Free Solution | thisgratefulmama.com

Many of you know by now that baking is not my strong suit. Not only have I never baked gingerbread, I have had little success making frosting (of any kind) – seriously, there are friends who will attest to my comically disastrous frosting attempts.

The idea of ME successfully making a gingerbread house from scratch is unlikely. Making one that will withstand decorating by children…is, well, laughable. And completely unrealistic without multiple attempts. Frankly, I’m just not committed to mastering this.

So, I went looking for a nut-free gingerbread house kit. Although I’ve heard they exist, I was unable to find one. I was stuck. Inept and lacking motivation to make one of my own, and unable to find a safe option for our family. I even considered skipping baking by forking over the big bucks to buy a LEGO Gingerbread House.

Then, something remarkable happened. We received an invitation to join our son at preschool to decorate a gingerbread house. I was curious how these teachers, who carefully ensure their classroom is nut-free, would pull this off. Is one of them a master baker? Did they find those coveted ‘safe’ kits? And how on earth could they successfully assemble a gingerbread house for each child and have it be cost-effective?

A month in advance, parents were invited to donate supplies. But instead of a donation free-for-all, the school provided a list of specific products. Not only did they specify the type of candy or treat, they included brand name, nut-free wording that should be found on the label, and where to buy it. This ensured parents bought ‘safe’ products, and that they didn’t have to run all over town trying to find a specific brand. They knew exactly where to go. No hassle.

Because ALL supplies were safe, they were able to provide a mixed bag of candy for each child.

The ‘gingerbread’ houses were simply and inexpensively made using hot glue guns and graham crackers.


To accommodate families with younger siblings, they made extra houses. Imagine my daughter’s (and my) surprise when they presented HER with a house, frosting and decorations. The crackers were glued together, and to the plate. They were stable enough for a 2-year-old to manhandle.

You guys, I was SO blessed! This preschool cares for each child AND family.

For many, a food-related activity might bring anxiety to an allergy parent. Or at least a heightened awareness requiring plenty of preparation. But because of careful planning, research and scrutiny of staff, every single food item was safe for nut allergies. Their attention to detail and safety has blessed our family time and time again since September.

How can I express gratitude for this type of care and concern for allergic children and families?

For those of you with no food allergies in your family, this may seem like no big deal. But to us, it means the health and safety of our child. It is immeasurable. It means we didn’t have to call ahead to pre-approve snacks or read labels. It means we didn’t have to go and search for the nut-free versions of similar candy, at who knows how many stores, to provide for our son. We were able to just show up and decorate without a concern.

It was wonderfully care-free.

As a result, two children were delighted and their mother left feeling waves of emotion – joyful, grateful, blessed, cared for.

And to the kind parent who carried our gingerbread houses to the car so I could pick up our daughter when she fell down…Thank you.

Tis the season.

2015 thisgratefulmama Winter Bucket List

The ThisGratefulMama 2015 Winter Bucket List | thisgratefulmama.com

  1. Make homemade hot chocolate with peppermint mini marshmallows
  2. Get your exercise shoveling snow instead of using the snow blower
  3. Attend church every Sunday during Advent
  4. Share the true meaning of Christmas with your kids and others
  5. Make snow angels any time, any where – the more spontaneous, the better
  6. Do your best to put up Christmas Lights without harming yourself or your spouse
  7. Build an epic snow man
  8. Put the hot chocolate in a travel mug and enjoy a hike through America’s largest walk-through light display Bentlyville Tour of Lights in Duluth, MN – now – December 27, 2015
  9. Go ice fishing
  10. Pray for loved ones to come to know the Lord in 2016
  11. Bundle up and invite friends for a snow-bonfire
  12. Rent snow shoes and explore a MN park
  13. Enjoy a peppermint or gingerbread mocha
  14. Drive through nearby neighborhoods looking for Christmas lights – be sure to mix in plenty of oohs and aahs
  15. Go ice skating
  16. Don’t miss the MN Pond Hockey Tournament January 14-17, 2016
  17. Keep a Gratitude Journal in 2016
  18. Have a neighborhood Christmas gathering
  19. Sled in a state park
  20. Give a gift to a stranger
  21. Search for the medallion during the St. Paul Winter Carnival – January 28 – February 7, 2016
  22. Cross country ski through the Three Rivers Park district (can rent equipment)
  23. Donate unused coats, clothes, shoes and boots to charity or local shelter
  24. Spend a family evening packing meals at Feed My Starving Children
  25. Take the kids to a nursing home and play games and visit with residents
  26. Host brunch for your closest friends
  27. Leave an anonymous bag of groceries or a meal for a family in need
  28. Go snowmobiling
  29. Serve a meal at a soup kitchen
  30. Spend 2016 waking up before your kids
  31. Explore a new way to serve in your church in 2016
  32. Buy and donate gifts to Children’s Hospitals of MN
  33. Create a snow fort
  34. Ring a Salvation Army Bell
  35. Watch the start of the Beargrease Dog Sled Marathon in Duluth, MN – January 31, 2016
  36. Check out the MN Snow Sculpting Competition at the MN State Fair grounds January 29 – 31, 2016
  37. Take a romantic winter outing to Lebanon Hills Regional Park in Eagan, MN for candlelight hiking, snowshoeing and ice skating – February 13, 2016
  38. Organize a neighborhood Christmas cookie exchange
  39. Have a family Gratitude Tree
  40. Make mulled cider and make your house smell amazing
  41. Memorize scripture with your kids
  42. Read the Christmas story every day to your children
  43. Do the Polar Plunge for a worthy cause
  44. Drink Egg Nog
  45. See Canadian Pacific’s Holiday Train on one of its stops -(Hastings – December 9, St. Paul – December 11, Cottage Grove – December 12, 2015)
  46. Escape the cold and go bowling
  47. Catch Birkie Fever watching or skiing in the American Birkebeiner – February 20, 2016
  48. Set 2016 goals on New Year’s Eve and keep them
  49. Bundle up and take a winter walk or winter scavenger hunt
  50. Have a snowball fight
  51. Set up and decorate your Christmas tree
  52. Shovel your neighbor’s driveway and sidewalk
  53. Join your local BSF bible study of Revelation – now through May 2016
  54. Donate food to the local food shelf
  55. Go Christmas Carol-ing
  56. Watch your church children’s Christmas pageant or find one nearby
  57. Go snow tubing at Eko Backen in Scandia, MN or Green Acres Recreational in Lake Elmo, MN – check websites for hill conditions
  58. Drive through Lake Phalen park to see the ‘Holiday Lights in the Park’ ($10) – now through January 1, 2016
  59. Pack an Operation Christmas Child box
  60. Make the time to see at least ONE of these amazing christmas light shows synchronized to music: