Celebrate · Family · Fun

Little Cowboy Gift Guide


Shopping for little cowboys is a lot easier than shopping for big cowboys, but as a mom I know I appreciate reviews and recommendations for toys that kids will actually play with! We don’t go toy-crazy in our house, mostly because Wacey only likes a few toys and because he’d rather play outside or with a bucket or Tupperware.

And also because I hate cleaning up mountains of toys. Full disclosure, here.

Anyways. Here’s a list of tried-and-true (if not by us, then by someone I know) toys, clothes, and other things that would be great for the little cowboy in your life!

John Deere Tractor: I found one of these for Wace on a Facebook swap page (for $8, #momwin!) and it’s one of his most played-with toys. Inside, outside, upstairs, downstairs, he plays with it everywhere!

Toddler Stormy Kromer: This falls into the “something they need” category, especially if you live in a cold area. As Wacey gets older, I appreciate so much tiny versions of adult things, both because they tend to be made better and because he loves wearing things that are just like Daddy’s, which makes it easier to get him dressed. We got one of these for Wacey this year (we got the largest “toddler” size, for reference) and I’m hoping he’ll be enthusiastic about actually wearing it!

Little Blue Truck: We have all the LBT books and they are Wacey’s favorites and have been taped back together so many times. I wish there were more!

Rody Bouncy Horse: This is solidly in the “fun toy” category. We got one for Wacey last Christmas, but he’s only now really gotten into it. They’re pretty much a ranch kid staple, and seem to be made really well. You can even get little bucking chutes so they can practice their bronc riding skills!

Cowboy Small: This is the only book that is more beat up and read more frequently than Little Blue Truck! I love this book because it’s authentic, and a definite classic, with fun illustrations and short, simple words.

Toddler Armchair: Wacey is getting this for Christmas and we are so excited to give it to him, as he’s really into sitting on the sofa or in chairs. It’s a “something they want” and a “something they need.” It seems to be made pretty well, and is a great value compared to other toddler armchairs, plus the “pony” print is adorable. It seems to come in and out of stock on Amazon, but it’s also available elsewhere.

The Original Cowboy Toy: This has been requested by my husband as a gift that he and Wacey would both enjoy, so it will probably end up under the tree sometime in the future. It’s a great, inexpensive toy that apparently is for boys of all ages, though maybe not a destructo-toddler boy 😉

Duck Boots: Wacey has these exact ones (thanks, Mom!) and they are awesome. He wears them with thick wool socks, and they keep his feet warm and dry and aren’t completely hellatious to get on like some other boots.

Kids’ Rope: Every cowboy needs a rope, right?

Livestock Flag: When Bert’s parents asked what Wacey would like for Christmas, my answer was “A flag and a bucket,” because he really does need his own set that aren’t disgusting. He loves carrying his flag at the barn to “help” the guys, and plays with the feed buckets in the barn when he’s helping Bert with chores, or you know, for holding rocks and dirt and other treasures. In my experience, every kid needs a bucket!

Lil Quad Four Wheeler: This is Wacey’s “big” Santa gift this year, he rode on at my in-laws and had so much fun that we couldn’t not get one. He always wants to go on the real four-wheeler with Bert (again, tiny versions of adult things seem to be a major hit). If you’re in the market for one, I scored one on Jet.com for a really excellent deal!

Resistol Cowboy Hat: Every cowboy also needs a hat! Wacey has one very like this one, and it holds its shape and has held up to some pretty rough toddler treatment.

All-Over Ointment: I know kids don’t care about lotion, but even little cowboys get dry skin and need some help every now and again. This is our favorite, favorite lotion for Wacey’s dry, patchy, eczema-prone skin and we have tried them all. If you live in a climate where you need a Stormy Kromer, you also need this lotion. Plus, it’s a mom-run company! 

Little People Farm: Wacey got this as a first birthday present from my mom, and it’s still one of his favorite toys! It’s also great to help kiddos learn animals names and sounds, and it makes not-too-annoying noises.

Cowboy Boots: Rope, hat…and boots! Wacey grew out of his first pair of boots and has been asking to wear them, so it was time for a new pair. I found these incredibly reasonably-priced boots on Zappos, and they seem to be a good buy. They have a real leather upper (necessary, folks, don’t bother with the fake stuff), and side zipper to make getting them on easier, and they don’t look stupid. If he likes them, I’ll probably just go ahead and buy more sizes as he always needs boots that fit, and Little Brother can wear them, too!

Little People Tractor: A perfect addition to the Little People Farm, and again, a very played-with toy.

Carhartt Overalls: We gave these to Wace early when it got frigid and we all went out to chop wood, and they are great! I’d size up–he’s a bigger kid, but still pretty normal, and there’s no way the 2T would have even come close to fitting. The 3T has plenty of room so that he can wear it over clothes, with room to grow. I’ve heard the Oshkosh ones are warmer, but these seem to be more durable, which is what we’re after. Plus, again, they look like Daddy’s!

Pickup and Trailer: Again, just like Daddy’s. They make different models of pickups, too, so if you’re a Dodge family like us, they have one to match 😉

Feed Bucket: See “Livestock Flag” above. Plus, at that price, you can have one for inside and outside, which is ideal. (“That’s what we said, Bob, we looked at this big ski lodge and said “isn’t it ideal?”)

There it is!




Celebrate · Family · Home · Personal

Decking the Halls

If you’re anything like me, you love seeing the inside of other people’s houses. Have you ever been walking or driving at night, and come across a house with curtains thrown open, and lights ablaze? It’s hard not to look in, right??

No? I’m the only incorrigible snoop out there? Ah, well, there are worse things to be. It is hard, though, being a snoop in a rural area, because that’s pretty much trespassing.

Anywho. Here’s what our house looks like this Christmas. One thing about working for a ranch is that housing is typically part of the package, and we don’t get to choose where we live. (We don’t, however, live in one bunkhouse with the entire crew, as my OB had thought, based upon the bunkhouses in old westerns. For this I am very, very thankful. I mean, our crew is great, but is any crew great enough that co-habitating sounds excellent? Likely not) I’ve lived in five different ranch houses, ranging from just-barely-modernized homestead cabin to triple-wide modular to our current house. This one, though? I never want to leave. It has excellent bones, and although it’s in need of some upgrades, it’s such  a great house. It started out as an original homestead cabin, too, but has been added onto three or four times in the hundred-plus years it’s been standing (judging by the dates on the cemetery behind the house), and is perfect for what we need.

And, you guys? It has three bathrooms. Having had just one, three is a dream.

As far as our Christmas decor goes, you’ll find nothing white, nothing matching, and nothing Pinterest-worthy, but gosh is it cozy of an evening with the lights on and the woodstove blazing. I also don’t decorate every room, as much as I’d like to. I have in the past, but with a toddler running around and a belly in the way, I opted to simplify a little this year.


dsc_0693This is my favorite part of the house this time of year. There’s a sofa and a TV just out of the frame to the right, and we’ve spent so many pleasant evenings up here after Wacey’s in bed, cozy by the fire (and lately, watching the NFR!). I also like to snuggle up here in the morning before the boys are up with my Advent devotional–it’s magical. PS–did you catch that there are four stockings? I got one for littlest bub this year to make sure he’d have a matching one (these are super affordable from World Market–their stock leaves pretty fast, but they have an adorable fair isle one on sale right now!) and I couldn’t resist putting it up. I plan on embroidering everyone’s names on them someday, but figured I can have a pass this year since we’re keeping LB’s name a secret until he’s born!


dsc_0721…these actually stay like this all year, lights and all, much to my husband’s chagrin. He says twinkle lights are for college, I say they are for every day of every week and are appropriate for literally every occasion. I’m considering bringing several strands to the hospital delivery room. I’m not kidding.


My grandmother has been gifting us pieces of this nativity for the past several years, and it was finally completed last year. I seriously love it. It’s the first thing to go up when I decorate, and the last thing to come down.


dsc_0717Wacey has recently learned about noses, and yells “NOOOOOOOOOOSSSSSEEEEEEEEEEE” whenever we go past the nutcrackers. Apparently their olfactory appendages are particularly impressive.


dsc_0703I made actual cranberry garlands this year, and sealed them with acrylic so they’ll last a couple of years. It was a pain to make them, but I’m really happy with how they turned out!

dsc_0691One thing that’s kind of lovely about this house is that the ground-floor bedrooms (it’s kind of a split level) get a little sun in the morning, but stay pretty grey most of the time, which is ideal for toddler naps and resting during the day. However, it doesn’t make for a great picture, but you get the idea!

The top picture is the window in our bedroom, the bottom is one of the windows in Wacey’s.


Not pictured: the disaster that is my exercise con gift wrapping room that is literally brimming with so much Christmas cheer I have to jump over all of it to get to the treadmill. It’s festive, and just a little bit dangerous.

There’s more Christmas-y things sprinkled here and there–apparently I have a penchant for holiday handtowels–but nothing too crazy. Someday I would love to have real greenery everywhere instead of artifical, and do more in the playroom (we will have a kids tree down there next year, since we have a spare smaller artificial tree we don’t use), but we’re off to a cozy and festive start and I just love it. Of course, it’s all made more magical by the toddler running around exclaiming over the lights and the ornaments like he’s never seen anything like it in his life.

Merry Christmas, indeed! I hope your gift wrapping situation’s middle name isn’t Danger like mine is.

Celebrate · Fun

Friday Five: Gift Wrapping

I love wrapping gifts, just like I love sending and receiving Christmas cards. Basically, paper goods are one of my love languages. I get everything ordered/bought, and once it’s arrived I put it all away in the guest room (or in a sneakier locale if it’s for Bert, as he isn’t as easily fooled as a toddler, bless him). I set aside an evening or two to wrap in the light of a Christmas movie and the tree, or, in this year’s case, in the light of a Christmas movie and, well, regular lights, since the tree is upstairs, Wacey sleeps upstairs, and for whatever reason the sound of paper always wakes him up. In years past, I’ve wrapped everything and then put the non-Santa/Christmas morning/super obvious gifts under the tree, but again, toddler. So I wrapped a bunch of empty boxes and they’ll be placeholders for the next, oh, ten years or so.

Also in years past, I’ve really put a lot of thought into wrapping gifts, and did a sort of theme each year. This year I’m going pretty basic as the boys could care less how their gifts are wrapped, but I do love gorgeous wrapping paper and am happy to lust at beautiful and festive wrapping from afar. I love things that are simple, colorful, and not too fussy, but are a little more than paper and box.Or a bag. I’m kind of against gift bags for stuff that gets left under the tree for a long time, because it makes it waaaaay too easy to peek, and I’m all about the element of surprise.

Not because I ever peeked at my own gifts inside gift bags, of course.

Although, for those oddly-shaped, don’t-fit-in-a-box gifts, give me allll the gift bags.

Letter tags: I think this would be so great for older young kids to help them figure out whose gifts are whose (provided everyone’s name begins with a different initial!) Plus, glitter and baking twine are two of my spirit animals. I might go so far as to try this for some gifts this year. I know, I know, slow your roll, Martha Stewart.

PS–can you imagine what Martha Stewart’s gift-wrapping is like? In my mind, it’s so lovely.


Buffalo Plaid and Kraft Paper: I kraft paper and buffalo plaid is pretty and festive and rustic, even without the evergreen topper. I also love mixing patterns, so throwing in another pattern would work here too! You could use any plaid with this, too, if buffalo isn’t your style.


Sharpie Labels: Again with the kraft paper, I know, but it’s vintage-y and simple, comes in giant rolls, and is thicker than regular paper so you never have to worry about sharp corners poking through. It makes a great neutral canvas (yes I just used “neutral canvas” to refer to gift wrapping), and the red ribbon is simple, easy, but also elegant. I like the idea of writing the name of the recipient directly on the paper–it eliminates the whole gift tag step, and is informal and fun. You could also do this with a chalk pen!


Jingle Bells: Isn’t this the cutest bow alternative?? It adds just a little something extra, to quote Elle Woods, and bonus points it you color-coordinate it to your outfit. You could go gold, silver, or colorful depending on your decor, and vary your sizes if you’re really looking to win at the wrapping game. I think this would be exciting for little kids, too–Wacey LOVES bells, and if nothing else it might buy you a little time on Christmas morning.

Actually, I’ll take my own advice here, as I have several too-large-to-choke-on bells in my Christmas stash. Of course, the ultimate toddler packaging would involve some lights, too, and something that buckles or zip. Basically, a light-up backpack with a bell tied on. Do it.


Mixed Patterns and Plaids: How fun does this look?? My mother-in-law gifted me with some beautiful wrapping paper for my birthday, and I mentioned that it was almost too pretty to just be ripped apart on Christmas morning. My father-in-law said “Why don’t you use it for the fake presents under the tree so they stay wrapped?” and basically, he’s a genius. Like I said above, I’m not putting actual gifts under the tree until the Johnston household is a toddler-free zone (soooooo in the next decade ha) and I love this idea with the different plaids and patterns, it fits our whimsical (okay, juvenile)-yet-traditional vibe to a T. Plus, it won’t seem so futile to make things pretty if I keep bringing them out year after year! I still haven’t found the perfect plaid paper (okay, I haven’t looked, but when we went to get wrapping paper Wacey spent the entire time using his roll as a stick and getting pretend cows up like he does in the barn, so we weren’t exactly in perusal mode)


Now, if wrapping gifts isn’t your bag (see what I did there?), or can’t be because you have a house full of tiny destructive tornadoes, I feel you, because sometimes I just want to put everything in trash bags and hand it over. They do make mint-scented trash bags (to repel varmints), so that’s pretty festive, right? I remember asking my mom if I could help wrap presents and her being like “YES! In fact, you can do it all by yourself!” Now I see what you did there, crafty lady.