Week of Play: The Color Orange

For week 2 of our color unit, we focused on the color orange! It is amazing when your mind is focused on a particular thing, how much you begin to notice.  Orange has never been a favorite color of mine, but after spending a week all about orange, I must say I have a greater appreciation for the way it points us to things. 

Hudson and I noticed how much orange was everywhere along the street and within construction sites.  Traffic cones, street barricades, the letters on trucks.  Orange is everywhere.  It is not the type of color that gets all the glory, like blue or green, but our world simply would not function as well without this bright color pointing us into the right direction.  So thank you, orange!

With this new appreciation for all things orange, Hudson and I had a lot of fun exploring and learning about this color through books, play, and hands-on activities.  

Week 2: The Color Orange

This is what our week of orange looked like:

Orange Books of the Week

  1. Who Eats Orange? by Dianne White 

This book was the perfect book to read again and again this week.  It is a great book to teach all the different colors through types of food and the animals that eat each color.  The illustrations are beautiful and bright.  

  1. Orange Blob by CJ Smith

We do not have a copy of this book, so we watched it on Youtube.  It is a really cute story about a blob that only does orange things.  The word “orange” is repeated a lot throughout the story, so it is great for little learners.  Also, orange blob only plays with orange soccer balls, which made Hudson excited, since he too loves playing soccer.  

  1. It’s Pumpkin Time! By Zoe Hall

Even though this book is centered around planting pumpkin seeds for Halloween, it is still a fun one to read in the spring as it explains the process of growing a pumpkin. I love the bright illustrations of this book and the way it shows the changing colors of the pumpkins as they grow.

  1. Peek-A-Flap Dig! By Jaye Garnett

After noticing how much orange is within construction sites, we pulled this book off our shelf. This is definitely a favorite of Hudson’s. He loves the flaps and loves naming the different trucks and equipment. He gets very excited at the crane and bulldozer page. A fun orange activity with this book is to point out all the orange cones.

Monday: Orange Sensory Bin + Orange Scavenger Walk 

For this week’s bin, we collected as many orange things we could find.  I definitely noticed we had less orange items than red items from last week, but we had enough to make a relatively full bin.  

Our orange bin consisted of: Lego Duplo clown fish, big orange lego blocks, plush basketball, orange drumsticks, orange train tracks, foam pumpkin cutouts, lion and tiger finger puppets, orange letters, orange popsicle sticks, orange pom poms, and a few other random orange things. 

Similar to last week, we made towers with the orange blocks in the bin and we made an orange line after reading The Lineup Book.

On our orange scavenger walk, we got the chance to really notice the beautiful orange flowers in our neighbor’s frontyard and the orange leaves on the ground.  This orange scavenger hunt continued throughout our week, as we noticed how the Ex on the FedEx truck is orange and even sometimes green.  We noticed the amount of orange traffic cones and signs and barricades out right now due to the quarantine.  Even the rocks along the shore were all orange!

This color scavenger walk is a great activity to carry throughout your week.  You might just be surprised at how much one particular color is in fact all around you!  

Tuesday: Squeeze Orange Juice + Bouncing Basketball Craft

Grammy came over this Tuesday morning and Hudson and her together squeezed some fresh orange juice.  Hudson loves making juice with his grammy and especially loves drinking it after! 

Like the baseball craft from last week, I wanted to come up with an orange craft that was aligned with Hudson’s interests.  Naturally, I landed on basketballs.  For this simple craft, I took a paper cup and covered the opening with foil.  We used this as a cicle stamp to create the basketball shape.  I actually really like the way the foil stamp turned out! It created circles that have a more textured look on paper.  A sponge cut into a circle would also work well for this craft.

On the cardstock, I created dotted “bounces” as a guide to encourage him to stamp the basketball at the bottom and top of the peaks.  This allows the basketballs to look as if they are bouncing across the page.  

Hudson loved the outcome and enjoyed watching me draw the lines on the basketball, but was not as into the process of stamping. I have a feeling he will enjoy a craft like this even more in a year.  

The part Hudson enjoyed the most was actually the process of creating the orange paint.  I only had white paint, so we created our own by adding red and yellow dye to the paint.  This is a fun way to show how colors are created.  H really enjoyed adding the yellow dye and mixing it with his paintbrush. 

Wednesday: Orange Picnic + Carrot Dig 

There are SO many yummy orange foods, so it was easy to create a full picnic with all of our orange favorites.  In our picnic, we had orange slices, cheddar rocket crackers from Trader Joe’s, dried mango, carrots, and a carrot-apple squeeze pack also from Trader Joe’s.  

A color picnic is a fun and tasty way to teach colors!  Thinking of the color orange even helped guide me as I made my weekly grocery trip.  I found myself trying new flavors and foods because they were orange and I was curious.  

The carrot dig sensory bin setup was SO simple and was by far Hudson’s favorite activity that we did all week.  All I did was pour soil into an aluminum food tray and buried about 12 carrots.  Hudson is very into all things gardening, so this was the perfect activity for him.  He loved shoveling the dirt and it was nice to have a more controlled area where playing with dirt and digging were acceptable.  After he found all the carrots, I let him wash them with a bowl of water.  The washing them part was equally as fun for him.  

This activity is a great thing to leave out for a few hours and let your little ones go and play with it as they wish.  

Thursday: Paint the Ex Orange + Pumpkin-Vine Weaving 

I came up with this idea as I noticed on our Monday run how bright and orange the Ex is on the FedEx truck.  Hudson is very much into all types of trucks so this was another way for me to tie in his interests.  I did not have much expectations for this craft, but it turned out to be a fun one.  Hudson definitely needed help to actually paint the white space on the Ex, but he did enjoy wildly waving his orange brush all over.  

Even though it is not fall, we did play a bit with pumpkins.  With some of the foam pumpkin cutouts I had, I showed him how to hole punch and helped him to weave the vine (green pipe cleaner) into the top of the pumpkin.  This is a great activity for those fine motor skills.  This activity would work great paired with that pumpkin book I mentioned above. 

Friday: Orange Collage Activity + Orange Water Mixing/Sponge Activity

We used similar materials from last week’s collage: white card stock paper, feathers, pom poms, popsicle sticks, foam shapes, orange origami paper, and pipe cleaners.

This week, I left the materials out longer, so he could come to the art table when he actually felt like it. I realized morning time is a better time for him to do an activity like this. He was much more into pointing to where he wanted each item to go on the paper. I helped him glue, but he showed me the design he had in mind. It was a good team effort.

For the water activity, I simply created two containers of water: one dyed red and one dyed yellow. I let him scoop with a cup each color into a new bowl to make orange. I also put some sponges out for him to play with. With the orange water, we worked on sponge transferring water to the empty containers. So simple and a great way to show how the color orange is made.

Mother’s Day Reflections

I have a confession: on my first Mother’s Day (last year) I was not very kind to my sweet husband. 

Looking back on that day, we had a great day celebrating with both of our moms, but I can still remember the way we ended the day on my own bitterness with unmet and very unrealistic expectations.  

Like a lot of new moms celebrating their first Mother’s Day, I had expectations in my head about what the day would look like.  While there is nothing wrong with hoping for a special day, here was the problem: I did not share a single one of those expectations with Lance.  Needless to say, I ended feeling not fully satisfied not because I don’t have the most loving and thoughtful husband, but because outwardly I made Mother’s Day seem like not a big deal, when in my own little head it was a very, very big deal. 

Lesson learned.  This Mother’s Day was different. And it was a new favorite day. 

Want to know what changed? I was honest. Before falling asleep the night before, I told him very directly: I would love breakfast in bed.  His response: sure, what sounds good? 

Well, that was simple.  And guess what happened.  I slowly woke up Sunday morning to the literal sizzling of bacon and the lovely smell of pepper and melted cheese.  And mama was happy. 

It wasn’t really ever about the food. Simply put, I would be happy with just a cup of coffee, it was more about the act of service.  I felt so loved not because of the amazing bacon omelette, I felt loved because Lance got up early and came walking in smiling with breakfast and I could see the effort, the love, and the care.  And from that moment on, the day was perfect.  

It all started with me quickly mentioning before falling asleep the expectation I had in my head.  Because as loving and thoughtful as Lance is, he simply cannot read my mind!

Once silly Mother’s Day expectations were met, I was able to fully see with clear eyes the amount of love that daily surrounds me.  

It was a sweet day spent with both of our moms.  

Bellinis were sipped.  Lots of yummy Mediterranean food was consumed. Chocolate cake and key lime pie were devoured.  Sweet cards and beautiful flowers and gifts were exchanged.  And Hudson picked purple flowers for me and said “mommy” extra sweetly. 

Once our moms and families left, we rested and then went back out to the pool and splashed around for a bit. I created a spa set up and Lance even attempted to paint my nails. It was the sweetest thing, but let’s just say I had to take over after the first nail.  His willingness to try will always be remembered!   

All that to say, it was a good day.

My heart felt full + thankful. 

I am thankful to be surrounded by so many amazing women that set such a beautiful example of what it looks like to mother well.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Lessons My 22-Month-Old Is Teaching Me

This week Hudson turned 22-months!  How has it already been 2 months since I wrote his 20-month update?  In that same amount of time we will have a 2-year old!  

In the two months since last I gave an update, Hudson’s language has really developed.  I am daily amazed with the words that he can say. Some of his favorites include: ball, bowl (when being given a snack, he always requests it in a bowl), bat, glove, catch, Dodgers (grandpa can be thanked for that one), pool man, gardener, lawnmower, boom (fav book), pout-pout (another fav book), more, please, mimi (kitty), ala (nala-our dog), treat (which he says every night after dinner), straw, car, choo choo (train), roar, baby, bear. 

Of all the random words he can say, like lawnmower, he still has trouble saying his own name! And another word he does not say is NO, which I am thankful for! Instead of saying it, he just shakes his head wildly to indicate “no, don’t want to.” Personally, I prefer the head shake over hearing NO, NO, NO! But hey, I am sure that is coming. For now, I’ll enjoy these silent, head shaking no’s.

Along with all the words, Hudson has become even more accustomed to a very specific routine.  He is a creature of habit. This mostly shows up in his nighttime routine. First he gathers all of his closest friends (beary is his first priority, then slothy, then bear, then another blankie, and his Buzz Lightyear pillow.  Once all of this is taken out of his crib and put in our reading corner, the reading of his favorite books begins.

I cannot tell you how many times Lance and I have shouted “BOOM!” from Stormy Night or read the line: “I am a pout-pout fish, with a pout-pout face, so I spread the dreary wearies all over the place.”  Once we read the classic line up of books, without fail, as daddy gets up to leave the room, he asks for a “nana” (banana).  He usually just wants to hold it as we read Good Night, Gorilla because there are bananas all over the pages of that book.  

Once he is put in his crib, his quest for routine and comfort continue.  He points to his feet for fresh socks. He then holds up each of his stuffed animal friends and wants me to kiss each one.  So I do. Slothy always seems to get an extra kiss. And then I say good night, love you and he is ready to drift off. In some ways this process seems excessive.  There are quite a lot of complex layers in this nighttime routine, but it never really feels like a burden. I mean come on, kissing stuffed animals for your baby boy because he wants them to feel loved and comforted right before bed? Does it get any sweeter?

I write all this out not because I think you necessarily care, but because I do not want to forget it.  I want to look back in ten years and remember our precious 22-month baby boy and the things his heart needed and clinged to.  This time is so sweet. Yes, the tantrums are wild and listening is a lesson we work on daily, but as a whole, these are the days.

One thought I have not been able to shake the past few days is how much Hudson teaches me.  I am not just saying it because it sounds cute. I truly mean it. When I watch the way my 22-month old baby boy lives out his simple days, I am drawn closer and closer to the Father.  Let me explain. 

Lesson #1: Pray for the Pool Man 

Every night as we pray at the dinner table, Hudson immediately says with a sense of urgency: pool man, gardener.  Not sometimes, but every single night, without fail. His eyes get big and he pulls on Lance’s arms and he keeps repeating their names until Lance prays for them.  This whole process is then repeated with bedtime prayers. At first, it started as something that was just cute, but it has become such a consistent rhythm that it has actually really ministered to my own heart and prayer life.  I desire to pray more like my 22-month old.  I hate to admit it, but Hudson is more consistent in praying for the people on his heart than his mother.  Talk about learning from our children.  

My prayer life can be so inconsistent.  My prayer life can also be very me-centric.  Hudson is teaching me daily the power in consistency and to pray for the people we might not know well, but that we interact with in our daily lives.  Hudson loves our neighbor, Howard. He loves the lady that works at Trader Joe’s. He loves the pool man, the gardener, the trash man, and any truck driver, for that matter.  He loves the people that we might not know intimately as family or friends, but he loves the people in our local community well and I have a lot to learn from him in that area.

Lesson #2: Feel Sad for the Pout-Pout Fish 

As I mentioned in his list of words, “pout-pout” is one of them.  The Pout-Pout Fish is one of his very favorite books and is read at least 3 times every day.  And here is the thing, we all know the ending of the story. Things end well, but this does not stop Hudson from truly being concerned for the fish in all the pages when he looks sad.  He points and makes a sad face. He actually almost begins to cry. He feels deeply for Mr. Pout-Pout. A few pages in when the fish is on his back and still has his pout face, Hudson just about loses it.  He points again with urgency and his breathing picks up. He mourns the sadness and despair of the fish every single time. He knows the ending, but this does not keep him from feeling real, genuine sadness.  

I am the opposite.  I want to skip over the sad, the hard, the painful, and move on to the joy.  I tend to ignore or not allow myself to fully feel the parts of a story or life that are in fact sad.  Hudson is changing this for me. He is reminding me that even when we know how the story ends, we should still feel the emotions along the way.  In a lot of ways, it makes the joy at the end of the story that much sweeter because we felt the sorrow first.

There is a page towards the end of the story where there is a big picture of the fish smiling because he realized he was actually a kiss-kiss fish.  Every time we turn to this page, Hudson’s whole face lights up and he literally kisses the pages of the book. He does this every time. He cannot contain his joy!  

Taking this all outside of the context of the pout-pout fish, makes me think about the time period we are in today: in-between Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday.  A large part of my personality wants to just rush to the joy of the empty tomb. The Lord, through my little emotional boy, is teaching me the importance in sitting at the cross.  He is teaching me to feel the pain, the sadness, the sacrifice. And in the same way that Hudson kisses the fish at the end with such joy, I can thank the Father with an even greater joy and gratitude for all He has done for me.

Lesson #3: Worship Freely 

Hudson is also reminding me that worship is not confined to a church service.  We should be constantly living in a state of worship to our loving Father. Ever since church service became solely online, H has been obsessed with worshipping on the couch together.  He wants to sing and put his hands up all the time: on the couch, at the dinner table, when he is playing baseball. It doesn’t matter where he is or what he is doing, if he feels the urge to look up and thank God, he will.  

And let me tell you, it is humbling to say the least, when you see your not-yet-2-year old worshipping in a more authentic and real way than you.  I have a terrible singing voice, so I tend to sing pretty softly in church. Throwing my hands up has never been comfortable to me, so I usually keep them glued to my sides. But you see, Hudson does not care.  He dances wildly, he sings off-key, he waves his hands in the air, and he asks for more and more and more. Oh, how I desire to worship, like that of a child.  

Lesson #4: Pursue Passions 

Back to our prayer time, after Hudson says pool man, gardener, he usually will pretend to swing a bat.  Sometimes he even says “Dodgers,” so we aren’t exactly sure what the prayer request is. Dodgers to win the World Series? For him to be on the Dodgers? Or for God to help him be a good baseball player? We are not certain, but one thing is clear: Hudson is passionate about baseball and soccer and really anything involving balls. 

He practices his swing in the living room every day. He does pretend practice pitches. He wakes up in the morning saying, “catch?” He raises his hand and yells “corner” when he is about to kick a soccer ball. This kid is all in when it comes to ball-related sports. Who knows what it will look like for him in his life, but I feel pretty confident that he will pursue some type of sport or sports with a great passion. 

As I have been watching this obsession develop over the last couple months, I can’t help but be inspired.  The way he watches the ball so intently before he swings it. The way he claps when he does a big hit or surprises himself and actually catches the ball in his glove.  The way he pursues his passion when he doesn’t even know what that means, inspires me to be more forward with the passions I tend to bury down and not boldly proclaim.

I want to wake up like Hudson and proclaim the things I am most passionate about: Jesus, family, raising little ones, running, writing.  Just like he rises and asks who wants to play catch, I hope to become more of a woman that rises with all the things I love most flowing from my words and actions.  

It sounds cute to say my 22-month old is teaching me these things, but the bigger truth is that the Lord is teaching and maturing my heart of these lessons THROUGH my little boy.  I sometimes want to pull out my hair because as sweet and precious as our Hudson Boy is, he can be a real challenge. He is bold, stubborn, wild. And I know with certainty, the Lord placed him as our first son to do some major heart work and teach us valuable lessons in our faith.  So, really, these are lessons from the Lord, but he has been gracious enough to use a sweet and hilarious little boy to teach me them.  


Happy 22-months, Hudson Boy! We love you! 

5 Easter At-Home Activities Your Toddler Will Love

Easter celebrations are likely going to feel quite different for most of this year.  There will be no bunny photos or large egg hunts or dressing up in our Sunday’s best for Easter service.  In a lot of ways, Easter this year will be quite simple. They will be quiet, without the rush and bustle and people that usually surround all of our favorite holidays.  And while in some ways this disappoints me; in a lot of ways it is allowing my heart to be even more focused on the reason we celebrate Easter in the first place.  

Taking away the external elements of Easter, we are left with the one thing that truly matters and is forever unchanging: a cross and an empty tomb.  Jesus is alive and we get to be with Him forever! That will never be taken away. That is just as true now during a pandemic as it was before. That will never change.  In a time where everything seems to feel different, this Easter, we have even greater reason to celebrate our great, unchanging Father that loves us SO much. 

Even though things feel so different, I am very much in the Easter-spirit!  To me, this is what Easter is all about. It is about facing the darkness of the cross, but then it is also about looking past it and seeing the light and hope that lies beyond it.  Jesus’ resurrection is one of the greatest reminders that death and darkness DO NOT get the final word. Death is defeated. There is hope. We will get through this.

This may sound silly to you, but one thing that has helped me to be more focused on the hope of Easter is a week full of Easter-centric activities and crafts with Hudson Boy (21-months)!  Each day this week we did an Easter-themed activity. All of them were very simple and with materials that can mostly be found around the house. These activities absolutely brought some joy to our indoor days & reminded us both of the great hope we have in Jesus! 

With Easter just about a week away, these activities could be a great way to count down the days to Easter Sunday with your kiddos.

Quick side-note: we packed a lot of fun intentional activities into our week, but if you look at all my pictures in this post, you will easily find dust all over our floors. To the mom that struggles with a comparative heart (ME!), don’t worry if it was a week with less hands-on activities. It is all about give and take. This week we did a lot together, but my kitchen and floors and whole house for that matter is a bit of a disaster.

1. WATERCOLOR CROSS ART

I was inspired by the  Resourceful Mama’s tape Resist Cross.  We did not have painter’s tape on hand, so I cut out a cross with construction paper and taped it to the card stock.  Obviously painter’s tape is ideal, but it still worked out for us! This is a great project to do on Good Friday to focus and teach on Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection.  This project is simple and the result is really beautiful with the watercolors. I have ours on our mantle. It has been a really powerful reminder to me all week about how the dark cross does not get the final word.  There are beautiful colors on the other side.  

2. INDOOR EASTER EGG HUNT 

After this egg hunt, all Hudson seems to be able to say is “eg, eg, eg!”  I had saved a handful of plastic eggs from last year’s Easter egg hunt, so used these.  If you are feeling stumped with what to hide in the egg for this random, indoor hunt, you could do a “Resurrection Egg Hunt.”  There are ideas for this type of egg hunt all over, but I was specifically inspired by Meredith over at the blog, Wait ‘Til Your Father Gets Home

For Hudson’s egg hunt, I quickly wrote down what each item represented, along with the correlating Bible verses.  As Hudson gets older, I will use this activity to go through scripture and have a more in-depth discussion on Jesus’ resurrection.  For my 21-month old, it was still a good activity for him to hold each item and for me, in a few, simple words explain to him what the item represented.  This was a great activity that helped make a random indoor egg hunt feel a bit more meaningful.  

Since this one hunt, we have done a few.  Usually with empty eggs. He is obsessed with it and it is a fun way to pass some time. 

3. POM POMS + EGG COLOR SORTING

With those same eggs, we did this color sorting activity.  So simple and great for practicing colors with toddlers! Also, great for fine motor skills, as Hudson tried to pack as many pom poms as he could in a single egg.  We just used our hands to sort pom poms by color, but you could also use plastic tongs or a spoon to really work on those fine motor skills.  

4. CHRIST-CENTERED COLORING PAGES

My favorite resource for free, Christian coloring pages is Christian Preschool Printables.  It is an amazing site with some wonderful + free printables.  I look forward to using this resource even more as Hudson gets more into the preschool years.  He really enjoyed coloring these crosses and immediately started to run out the door to give it to someone.  Coloring pages, like these, are a great thing to have on hand, especially when someone wakes up way too early from their nap!  Coloring in the afternoon with a few snacks seems to sit well with Hudson as a solid afternoon activity. 

5. EGG + BUNNY EARS COOKIE BAKING

To end the week, we spent time with auntie and made Easter sugar cookies.  At this point, I am convinced that Sally’s Baking Addiction has the very best sugar cookie recipe.  I made this same recipe for Valentine’s Day and these Easter ones were just as delicious.  I was totally inspired by the way she used the same cookie cutter to make both eggs and bunny ears. How cute!

Our cookies, look NOTHING like hers, but we all had a lot of fun making them!  I set up Hudson’s own little decorating station with wax paper and a few cookies already frosted in white for him. This allowed him to spoon some color on to each cookie and shake some sprinkles on.  He was a happy camper with this set up. I intentionally made a really small egg that he called “baby.” This was a fun one for him to decorate and I didn’t mind him eating the whole thing since it was so tiny!! 

There are a few things we did not get to and are hoping to fit in next week!

Other Easter Things To-Do with with Kiddos

  • Dye Easter Eggs! (Excited to try these PAAS Marble ones).  If your Target has a Drive-Up, you should utilize it!  I just made a Target trip the other night and it increased my anxiety times 10. 
  • Easter Photos! No mall bunny photos this year, so hoping to make a spring little set-up in our backyard to get some cute Easter photos of Hudson! 
  • Write Easter Cards to Family!  Holidays are my favorite times to write words of gratitude to those we love most.  I have a mild obsession with Trader Joe’s seasonal cards. Picked these up the other day and I am excited to spend time with Hudson pouring love into each card.  We might not be able to see all of our family members this Easter, but we certainly can show them we are thinking of them. 
  • Easter Play-dough Play!  Planning to make a new batch of play-dough.  I will dye half orange and the other half light pink, so we can use our carrot and bunny cookie cutters! 

And of course, we will be reading all the Easter books on our shelves.  A couple weeks ago, I put a list of our favorite Easter books.  Another one that is not on that list that we have been reading constantly is Here Comes Peter Cottontail!  We have Hudson’s grammy’s version and I love this edition’s illustrations.  This week would also be a great time to delve into the Easter stories in The Jesus Storybook Bible. We keep reading the story, “God’s Wonderful Surprise,” over and over again.  It has been a comfort to both of us this week.  

What are some simple things you are doing with your kids and family this coming week to celebrate the coming hope & joy of Easter?  I would love to get some more ideas + inspiration!

12 Things to Do at Home with an Active Toddler

I know we each are affected by the coronavirus in very different ways.  Some in life-changing types of ways, and others in smaller disappointments.  I know there is this temptation to down-play our own feelings right now, with the preface of with everything going on, it feels silly to… or I know others have it a lot worse, but… 

I know that temptation well because I have most certainly felt it in the past couple weeks.  It feels silly to complain about a postponed marathon, when others are losing jobs, weddings, graduations.  It feels silly to complain about not getting to play at the park when we have a cozy house full of toys to play with. It feels silly to feel the pressure of keeping up with all the other moms that appear on social media to be handling it so much better than you. 

All of it can feel silly, especially in the face of death and unemployment.  But, it is your feelings and your situation, and it is okay to feel real sadness, disappointment, and anxiety over things that may feel small in comparison with everything else that is going on.  It is okay to own our struggles, even if they may be small.

With that said, in the past couple weeks my emotions have been all over the map.  I have felt a whole lot of disappointment. Disappointment over the marathon.  Disappointment in not being able to attend church in person. Disappointment over not being able to go that basketball game or have that couple over for dinner or attend that birthday party.

Then, I went from disappointment to determination.  Last week, especially, I was determined to make the best of these situations.  This means keeping my whole routine as normal as possible. These choices have helped the initial disappointment to fade, but it also has created some unrealistic expectations. 

The fact of the matter is that we are living in a global pandemic. This is new territory for all of us. It is new, weird, strange, scary, confusing, and uncertain. While I still stand on the fact that it is important to keep things as normal as possible and still goal-set and look ahead to the future, I am learning I need to add room for grace.  

To give you an idea of how my brain works… 

Circumstance: Race postponed.

Response: Keep training hard and run a sub-80 minute virtual half-marathon.

Circumstance: All classes, parks, museums, and stores closed.

Response: Be the best Pinterest-worthy mom.  Do ALL the sensory bin activities. Do a craft every day.  Read ALL the books on the shelves. Create fun learning experiences.  Avoid screens at all costs.

Circumstance: All restaurants are closed, except for takeout.

Response: Bake and cook gourmet recipes for every meal.  

Circumstance: Quarantined.

Response: I must learn to knit, organize every cabinet/drawer in the house, and finally finish Hudson’s baby scrapbook.  

Get the picture? 

Not a whole lot of room for grace.  This is new. This is weird. I am doing my best and God will fill all of the holes.  He always does. I don’t need to put added pressure on myself to be super-mom, super-wife, super-human. This pandemic alone is pressure enough.

Before getting into ideas to keep an active toddler busy at home (I promise, we are still heading in that direction), I wanted to preface it with the fact that I too am struggling and feel this weird sense of pressure to do all the things. I am learning daily that the mundane elements of our day: taking a bath, watering the grass, calling a grandparent are enough. We don’t need to get crazy.

We Are Still…

We are still good runners during a pandemic if our mileage suddenly drops drastically.

We are still good moms during a pandemic if we do not always have a scheduled craft for the day.

We are still good wives during a pandemic if we become a bit more reliant on frozen pizzas than we did pre-pandemic.

We are still good productive humans during a pandemic if we have not acquired a new skill and the junk drawer is still full of junk.  

Let God’s grace enter.  You don’t need to be all the things or do all the things or learn all the things.  Keep it simple. Keep folding the laundry, washing the dishes, reading bedtime stories, running, and cooking.  In other words, keep doing the normal life stuff you would do all the time, no need to add the pressure to become a gourmet chef, a Pinterest-perfect mother, or super fit.  

With all that said, here are some very simple things I am doing with my very, active, almost-2-year old that is keeping us both sane and happy, mostly.

1. Keep a routine

Keep waking up at similar times, keep changing out of pajamas, keep snacks, lunches, and dinners at normal times.

2. Walk/Run Outside 

Take the jogger out for a short run or walk around the block.  The days we go out for a morning run always seem better because it really breaks up the day.  We have been calling our runs around our neighborhood, “dinosaur runs” because we stop by a nursery with giant, metallic dinosaurs and Hudson gets to roar at them. It is the small things!

Also, the sunshine and fresh air does a whole lot of good for the both of us. If you’re new to the baby jogger, I have some tips on running with the stroller, you can find here.

3. Take Long Baths 

We now take baths in the morning and the evening.  If Hudson is acting crazy, the bath is always a sure way to calm him down and get some sensory play as he plays with the bubbles and his bath toys.  Typically, we will take a quick shower and rush out the door to our scheduled outing. It has actually been a real joy to embrace these slower, bubble bath type of mornings.  If you are looking for more bath activities, here are some of my favorite products that always make bath time more fun:

4. Chores Around the House 

There is always a chunk of our day scheduled for getting things done around the house.  I try to always incorporate Hudson. Sometimes he just watches me or wanders off to play independently in the playroom, but sometimes he grabs the broom or his pretend lawn mower and goes around the house “working.”  This is a win-win because I get things done around the house, while he imagines and helps me through play.

5. Bounce House

Set up something fun in your living room or playroom that is typically not up.  It could be a tent, a fort, a ball pit, or a bounce house.  We have this bounce house.  It is not very big, but it already has been a well-worth it investment.  As a family, we seem to always end up hanging out in the bounce house after dinner.  In these scary and uncertain times, I feel pretty certain I will look back to our evenings spent in the bounce house with great fondness. There has been a whole lot of laughter happening in that little house- Nala (our 80 lb. golden) even joins and things get real crazy.

6. Songs + Dance 

We usually break out the Greg & Steve tunes midmorning.  This is a fun way to transition between activities and is a great way to burn off some extra energy before nap time.  Here are a few songs, that are especially great for dancing with your toddlers:

7. Leave Things Out 

Here’s the honest truth, our house currently is chaos.  And this is entirely intentional. Part of it is laziness, but part of it is strategic.  There are TONS of invitations to play all over our house for Hudson. He can jump in his bounce house, he can color on his chalk board, he can pretend play with his trains, he can practice his baseball swing on his tee.  I am simply leaving things out all over to invite him to play. This creates a very messy house, but it is not like we are having guests over anytime soon and it takes the pressure off of me to constantly entertain.

8. FaceTime Family/Friends

This has been a great way for him to still have social interactions and see the people he loves most!  We have been doing this almost daily. It has been the perfect way for both of us to feel more connected. Not to mention, great for him to practice names.

9. Make Cards

So far, we have made 2 birthday cards and one thank-you card to our amazing pool man.  This is an easy “art project” and Hudson is at the age where he LOVES giving things to people he cares about.  We don’t have a ton of art supplies, so I have kept it really simple with crayons and card stock. For auntie’s birthday card, we even broke out the water colors.  I am not very creative or artsy, so making cards is a great way to incorporate some art + also teach Hudson the importance of appreciating those we care and love for.  

10. Scooter 

Self-explanatory. Lots of indoor and outdoor scootering happening over here.  

11. Mud Play

I will be honest, I have been on Pinterest more than ever recently.  And it gets pretty overwhelming. I am all about simple activities with few supplies and ingredients needed.  When I saw this mud play recipe, I knew it was perfect.  You just combine water, flour, and cocoa powder.  And there you go, the best smelling mud ever. It was perfect for creating dinosaur and truck tracks on paper.  

12. Window Clings 

If you are able to make a quick trip to the dollar store, they have really cute Easter window clings.  This was very entertaining for Hudson.  He especially likes the gel clings, which I am not crazy about because it attracts dog hair and H always ends up ripping them.  But it is just $1 and entertains him, so still worth it in my book. The day we brought them out, he kept going back to the window to rearrange the bunny and the chick. 

Okay, I am going to stop here. This is becoming too long.  Here is the bottomline: use this time wisely. Soak it in and appreciate it for what it is.  Sit in the quiet, the slow, the mundane. Don’t feel like you need to do all things.  Keep it simple. Invite your little ones along in your ordinary days and take lots and lots of bubble baths. 

Beauty in the Ordinary Interactions of Life with a Toddler

On Fridays, I typically recap some major event or milestone of the past week.  And this week, I am left a bit stumped with even the words to say. Nothing major or noteworthy has happened, well at least not in my narrow-earthly focused mind.  From God’s perspective, quite a lot has been going on, but I can be so distracted, it is easy for me to write it off.  

Upon deeper reflection, the common thread of this past week that has really struck a cord has been the small, ordinary interactions of our week.  

There are a million reasons why I am thankful to be Hudson’s mom, but one of them is the experiences and conversations and things I notice that I never would have seen prior to motherhood.  Similarly to when you get a dog, you discover a whole new world of what it means to be a dog owner. You meet people and have conversations about strange things that typically you never would have had the opportunity to experience.  

Same thing is true when you have a kid.  Your eyes open up to thousands of beautiful, little things that happen every day that you had no idea was even going on.  Let me explain. 

Hudson has taught me to be more friendly and more forward when it comes to making friends.  My introverted self tends to stay away from a lot of interactions with strangers. Hudson is changing all of that.  Everyone is a friend (especially if they have a ball and snacks) in his mind. This past week at our different park outings, we made new friends with the boy who brought the baseball tee, with the brother and sister that brought two soccer balls, and the cool guys playing basketball that called Hudson “bud.” These interactions were sweet and in each of them I saw kindness, generosity, and connection.  

Beyond these random park interactions, I also am feeling thankful for the deeper friendships and relationships that happen on a daily basis.  It has been a recent joy of mine to see Hudson begin to form real friendships with some of the boys in our mommy and me class. There is nothing quite as sweet as hearing him say his friend’s name “john-nee” when we ask him who his friends are.  

Along with friendships Hudson is making, I also am thankful for new mom friendships that are forming. One of the biggest things I miss about work is lunches with my other teacher friends.  Now, lunches are mostly eaten with just the two of us. I really have missed my lunchtime full of chatting and connection. This past Tuesday, after class, a group of us picnicked with all the kiddos.  We shared food, we chased kids from running into the duck pond, and we laughed together as Hudson sat in a mud puddle. Not quite the same as work lunches, but this picnic lunch with friends, and muddy kids, and real conversations with other moms really filled me up.  This was yet another moment of connection so different from life pre-H, but also so full and fun.  

Hudson has also opened up my eyes to people that are doing really amazing work.  We have come to know the street cleaner driver that drives every Wednesday on my parent’s street.  I don’t know his name or his life, but every Wednesday he stops at the corner with a big smile and puts on a “show” for Hudson.  He runs the bristles, turns on the vacuum, and splashes water. He drives the street cleaner with such joy. We look forward to his visit every week.  And it is not just Hudson. My mom and Hudson were at the park when the street cleaner driver drove by. He did the same “show” with a great, big smile to an audience of excited toddlers.  I was still finishing my workout when this all happened, but I can picture it so well because I have seen the way he does his job on a weekly basis. It really has impacted me. He weekly inspires me as a literal driving picture of what it looks like to work with joy and love.  He does much more than clean the streets; he brings joy to toddlers who see him as a hero! 

I could continue.  I could write about the nice new librarian, Genevieve.  I could write about the way all the librarians have come to know us and scavenge the shelves looking for books about dinosaurs and baseballs.  Quick side-note: if you have a toddler obsessed with those two things, you have to check out or get a copy of Dino-Baseball. We have read it over ten times in the course of a couple days.  Anyways, I could write about this and the story-time we had this morning. I could write about marching around the library singing “we are dinosaurs, marching, marching.” I could, but to keep things more precise, let’s end here.

The fact is, this week was not the most exciting.  There was no big, exciting happening. It was ordinary.  And in the ordinary, it was quite difficult. There were lots of moments of disobedience.  Moments of jumping into mud puddles, of literally falling out of the crib, of running to the ocean for the one-millionth time without a fear in the world.  There was a whole lot of screaming and tantrums in the backseat. There were many lunches left uneaten: food thrown and milk everywhere.  This was not an easy week. But it was good.  It was good because of all those small, ordinary and beautiful interactions I described above and for that I end the week with gratitude. 

Also, Hudson was just scootering outside and he picked a purple flower for “mama” and that basically melted away all the hard moments in an instant.  Heart is melting.  

20-Month Old Update

How is our baby already 20-months old?  In 4-months, we have a 2-year old! Time, you can slow down just a tad.  

It has been 20-months of being a mama.  20-months of baby snuggles and broken sleep.  20-months of falling in love with our crazy, baseball-loving, cookie-obsessed toddler, who feels more like a boy and less like a baby with each passing day.  It has been 20 beautiful, life-changing months.  

I don’t even know where to begin!  It has been a while since I gave an update on Hudson.  You can go back and read my 6-month update, where I include 6 major lessons I learned in those first 6 months.  I also posted for his 1st year birthday with 6 more lessons.  For the sake of time and your sanity, I am not going to list out 20 lessons in 20-months, even though I totally could.

To keep it brief, these past 20 months have taught me the importance of seasons.  That hard seasons do not last forever. It has taught me to own who I am as a mom and to embrace these beautiful and simple days.  I am finally beginning to really own these days of backyard bubble blowing and boo-boo kissing.  Side-note: there is nothing quite as cute as watching a toddler blow bubbles. Or when that same toddler falls and immediately runs to you to heal the boo-boo with kisses.  It will melt your heart in all kinds of ways.

I am really loving this season with Hudson.  It is no secret that the newborn days were not my jam.  I struggled. Not to say, I don’t struggle now, because I definitely am hit with those days of doubt and insecurity, but as a whole things feel more calm and confident and controlled (even when the tantrums and crying roll in).  I am more secure in my identity in Christ and this pours out into motherhood. I was made for this. I was made for these days.  

See his sweet scar? It has been just a week and it has healed so well!

Things feel so much lighter than they did even a year ago.  My bag is lighter. Now as long as I have wipes and a snack, I know we will be fine.  My heart is lighter. Things are less serious. I can’t control everything. He will get hurt, get stitches (a lesson we unfortunately just learned), get bumps and bruises.  And here’s the big lesson: that stuff doesn’t make me a bad mom. I used to take every bump and scape so personally. Not to say, I did not feel terrible about Hudson’s recent visit to the ER and his 5 stitches smack dab in the middle of his forehead.  Of course, I felt terrible, but I didn’t feel like a bad mom. This stuff will happen again and again. I will do my very best to protect, love, and guide him, but I trust God’s plans and perfect timing for Hudson’s life.  

My arms are also much lighter as I no longer am constantly holding and nursing and rocking.  It has been a really fun season of getting to just watch him do his thing. I love the way he walks out in the morning ready to start his day.  I love the way he runs in circles when he gets extra excited. I love the way he holds my hand as we walk outside. It was a special season to have him so close and needing me for nourishment the first year of his life, but this new season of independence is such a joy.  

Like I said, I am not going to give 20 lessons, so instead I thought I would make a list of the 20 things Hudson is currently loving at 20-months!

20 Things Hudson is Currently Loving:

  1. Balls
  2. Trash trucks
  3. Any other type of truck, another fav is the street cleaning truck
  4. Dinosaur rain-boots
  5. Dino chicken nuggets 
  6. Morning smoothies made by daddy
  7. All of his blankies, especially ones with silk that he can rub on his face
  8. Running!  
  9. Daddy and Mum (as he calls me) 
  10. ALL of his loving family
  11. Morning walks with Nala and bird watching 
  12. His red VW car that he can “drive” really well 
  13. His scooter and his Paw Patrol helmet.  He loves wearing the helmet, but has not quite gotten the scootering part down.
  14. Hide-n-seek with DADDY
  15. Teacher Lynn 
  16. Reading a million books before bed
  17. The ocean- there is no fear with this one 
  18. Signing “more” 
  19. Playing “baseball” in our living room 
  20. Picking flowers 

Happy 20-months, H-man! We love you so much!

6 Steps to Make Exercise a Routine for the Busy Mom

Routines make the things happen that you don’t always feel like doing.  For me, a huge one is exercise. Running comes pretty naturally to me and something I have been doing for over ten years; however, the reality of being a busy mom, often is still a huge barrier for me.  While I definitely do not always feel like it, I still manage to exercise 6 days a week. This simply would not happen if I did not have a consistent routine. The miles and burpees are literally scheduled into my week. That might sound excessive, but here’s the truth: if I don’t pencil in my workouts like they are important work meetings, they simply WILL NOT HAPPEN!  Same with you?

I am coming from the perspective of someone who loves to run and loves staying active and healthy, so I can only imagine the real obstacle to actually get out there and workout when it might not come as naturally to you. This is just more of a reason that you need to make exercise into a weekly routine! 

Routines Make It Happen!

 As I have said a ton on here before, routines help us actually do the things that are good for us even when we do not FEEL LIKE IT. If I am being honest, there are very few days where I truly feel like pushing myself and running a hard workout. Even when the feeling or desire is not there, I still get it done because I know that I run hard every Wednesday morning. It is just what I do.

I have a LOT of thoughts when it comes to exercise routines for the busy mom.  Before I even really get started, I want to clearly acknowledge that I absolutely understand that some mamas have greater barriers to fitting in workouts based on either being a single mama, having no family nearby, dealing with a tight budget, and/or having multiple little ones still at home to care for.  With that said, I still firmly believe that 6 days of movement, even for the busy mom with limited help and resources, is not only possible, but absolutely necessary.  

Before you start listing out the excuses about why there is no possible way you can exercise 6 days a week.  I want you to stop. The excuses are likely valid, but if you truly are priortizing your health, you can and will make time for scheduling working out as a daily routine.  

6 Steps to Creating Your Own Exercise Routine

Below are some step-by-step suggestions to help you get on the track of incorporating movement into your daily routine.  Notice how I am saying MOVEMENT. We tend to put a lot of pressure on ourselves with that word “exercise” or “workout.” There is this underlying pressure that if we do not have a solid hour to workout, then forget it.  This way of thinking needs to stop. You have 10 minutes in your day. I don’t care how busy your days are. There are 10 minutes you can spare for intentional movement.  

I will send you this 4-paged printable that I created that will help you target the times in your schedule that are open + guide you as you set goals and actually schedule the exercise into your week. I have made this PDF editable so if you choose to keep it on your computer, you can easily edit the boxes! To get this sent straight to your inbox, just enter you email below. If you are already a subscriber, you will getting this lovely PDF in my Tuesday newsletter.

 



 

 

1. Examine Your Weeks + Identify Open Windows

Take the time to list out all your time obligations and responsibilities during the week.  Write it out as a schedule with time blocks. Once you have everything written out, identify the windows that are open.  It might be very small windows, but even if it is 10-minute windows, highlight these.

2. Set Clear Weekly Goals 

Be VERY specific.  Set the number of times you plan to do cardio (run, spin class, bike ride, swim, treadmill, HIIT training).  Set the number of times you plan to do strength training (core, weights, yoga, barre). For example, my typical weekly goals when I am not in full-on training mode is 4 runs per week + 2 classes (focused on legs, arms, and core).  

3. Schedule It

Now that you have your goals, schedule the exact time + type of movement you will be doing on each day.  Similar to my meal planning tips, I suggest that you do similar types of movement on each day of the week.  For example, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays could be days you run. Tuesdays and Thursdays could be days focused on core strength. Saturdays could be either long run days (if you’re into that type of thing) or a morning class you attend to kick off the weekend on the right note.  When scheduling, try to frontload your week. Schedule the hard things early on in the week when you are more motivated. For example, Monday-Wedneday I have most of my mileage scheduled in + a run workout. Put the hard things first! 

4. Plan Ahead 

Once your weekly schedule is set, next you need to plan out the logistics.  As a busy mama, it is no longer as simple as just leaving the house for a run or the gym.  You need to figure out who is watching your kiddos. Plan ahead and ask if you can have help in the hour you plan on getting out to exercise.  If you don’t have help available to you, try to plan out with your spouse a time when they will be home. For us, this usually means waking up very early or using the evening time. 

If limited help is a major barrier, try to plan most of your daily movement time when the kids are either in school, still asleep, napping, or my personal fav (can join you).  The baby jogger is a great way to incorporate your little ones, while you get out the door and prioritize your own health. I wrote a whole post dedicated to tips on running with the jogger, which you can read here.  There are also gyms that offer childcare, so this is another great option if you can swing a gym membership!

5. Actually Do It 

This can sometimes be the hardest step.  Once you have done the extra work of planning ahead and creating plans, you must actually commit to it.  At first it might feel hard, especially if your only window of free time is in the evening, but once you make it a consistent routine, it will become easier and easier.  Tuesday and Thursday evenings are the nights I go to a core class at my local Yogaworks. It used to be hard to find motivation to drive to these classes at 6 pm after a long day chasing Hudson, but now that it is a routine, it is something I look forward to and expect.  

6. Be Flexible

Even with the routine set and things planned out, the reality is that certain days will simply not allow for your typical exercise routine to happen.  There will be days where finding an hour window will feel nearly impossible and that is okay. I am learning that on these types of days, I can still incorporate 10-minutes of intentional movement into my day and this will help me to not feel guilty for skipping out and will also boost mood and productivity. 

We often operate in this all or nothing mindset. We think if we don’t have a solid hour of time available, then we should just skip it. Not true! 10-minutes will always be better than none. Be willing to adjust and stay committed to the movement even if it will look slightly different than planned. Just getting out the door to run a couple miles and play at the park with your little one will always be a win over just choosing to skip it. 

The tabata method is another great way to get in a solid workout in a short amount of time. It is similar to HIIT training in the sense that it focuses on doing certain exercises at a high-intensity level for 20 seconds and then resting for 10 seconds. I really believe we can all do something really hard for 20 seconds. You repeat this cycle 8 times. This is just 4 minutes of work, but it will push you in ways that going out for a casual 2 mile jog will not. I really believe this type of training is key for us busy mamas. It gives a high-quality workout in a short amount of time, and if done consistently can have huge aerobic and anaerobic results!

You’ve Got This

Wherever you are, whether that be training for a marathon or just trying to walk around the block daily, remember that you’ve got this and that prioritizing intentional movement daily is an essential part of your routine.  If you do not have a consistent movement routine, I really hope this encourages you to do so.

Remember, it will likely not happen if you do not have a routine dedicated to staying active! You can always give up 10-minutes to move! Those intentional minutes put towards your health will ultimately make you a better human, mama, wife, and friend.  I know that I am a wayyy nicer human, a more loving wife, and a much more patient mother when I get out there and make my running and fitness routine a priority.

Let me know how you squeeze in working out! I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment below!

Happy Birthday to Us & Hello Routines!

this mama needs grace blog is one

 Happy Birthday to us!  It has officially been one year since our very first post on This Mama Needs Grace.  On October 19th, 2018, I wrote our very first blog post: “This Mama Needs…”.  Go back and check it out.  Or not, because let’s be honest, it is not the best, but the messaging is solid.  And it still is very much the driving force behind this blog: 

“My prayer is through this blog of grappling through my own ever-present need for Jesus’ abundant grace, that you too can remember that even when it feels like you have nothing together, that God loves you with a crazy love and He showers you with grace in all of your imperfections.”

A year later, and this is still my prayer.  

blogger with toddler son celebrating first year of her mom blog
I came up with a cute idea to get a cupcake at my fav spot, Susie Cakes in celebration of year 1 of tmng! But then life happens & it got smeared in the car, but hey, I tried!

The Beginning

TMNG (this mama needs grace) initially was born because I was drowning.  I was drowning in my tears, drowning in unreasonable pressures I had set around motherhood, drowning in feeling like I was simply not enough.  The transition from working to fully staying at home was a much more difficult than I would have imagined. Since I can remember, I have always wanted to be a mom.  I have dreamed about snack making, playdates, arts and crafts. But then reality hit, and the vision I had of being a stay at home mom was not quite as peachy.  

I quickly realized I needed an outlet.  I needed a place to spill my guts. A place to be fully honest about some of my raw and difficult days as a new mama.  I needed a place to write and remember who I am. I am not just a mom, a wife, a runner. No, I am much more than that…I am His beloved daughter.  I needed to remember this.  

Year 1 Reflection

To be honest, I did not have a ton of goals when TMNG began.  I really just needed a creative project that was for myself. A year ago, I was not in the healthiest place because I was fully consumed in being a “perfect” mom. I barely took time to go on a run or to yoga and I had nothing that made me want to get up early in the morning. My days were consumed with nursing, cleaning, and making dinner. Those things just were not filling me up. I desperately needed a reason to get out of the house to pursue something I was passionate about.  I needed a fill-up and in many ways TMNG was that place for me.

So while this began as very much a personal thing, below is a quick look at what has happened in a year.

Year 1 Stats

  • 70 posts published
  • 98,621 words written
  • 264 post likes
  • 22 comments
  • 124 subscribers

I am not a numbers girl.  I am all about the words, but I also think it is important to occasionally check in with the number side of things.  Those stats in some ways impress me. I am shocked I have written those many words in a year of very much working on this thing part-time.  I am also shocked I have actually stayed with it and have been for the most part pretty consistent. This I am proud of!

In terms of comments and followers, well, we are small, but after a year of writing, creating, posting, and dreaming; I firmly believe this is just the beginning.  TMNG might be small right now, but I have this beautiful vision of what it can become so I will not stop. I feel God in this, so I will keep writing. When He tells me to stop, I will, but now is not the time.  

5 lessons learned from first year blogging

A Year of Growth

Within this year, I have written on all types of things.  From losing my grandmother to returning to running to mom routines to traveling to lessons in motherhood.  TMNG has been a place for me to ramble about the current state of my heart. It really has come to hold a lot of the hard things that have happened this year (saying good-bye to my grandma and dealing with anxiety as a new mother) to a lot of the really exciting moments (running a sub-3 marathon, celebrating 4 years of marriage, celebrating Hudson’s first birthday).  TMNG is more than just another mom blog.  It is the home place of all my crazy ideas and emotions wandering in my head and heart.  It is my open-diary for myself; my open-letter to you.  

This past year, TMNG has been a bit all over the place, trying to really figure out who we are.  We took on different subjects, styles, and formats. From super short posts to extremely long 2,500 word posts; from no pictures to pictures embedded everywhere. We have had a lot of different looks and held all types of content: lists, tips, reflections, letters. Through this year, we have grown a lot and it feels like we are finally beginning to understand our voice and purpose.

Looking Ahead

After a year of figuring out exactly who we are, we think we know.  Kind of. TMNG is changing and evolving. TMNG is still going to be the home base for my emotions and ideas to wander freely, we are just taming it up a bit. 

For year 2, TMNG will become your destination spot for all things…ROUTINES. Yes. Routines, schedules, healthy habits. And not just any routines. Simple ones.  Not overwhelming or more complicated than your life before routines. Simple and accessible ones you can start adding to your life TODAY.  The focus will be on routines revolved around the morning, quick cleaning, fitness, devotional time, meal prep, and toddlers (because that is currently where we are at over here at the Capel home).

These routines are specifically curated for not just anyone, but for the busy mama on-the-go. 

this mama needs grace blog is for the busy mom on the go

Busy mama, we see you, and this one’s for you.  

Starting next week, join us every Thursday for new content that will be geared towards providing you with specific ideas and tips on how to make different aspects of your life into a routine.  We will be talking about ALL sorts of things (working out, marriage, cleaning, dinner time), but it will all be through the lens of how to make that thing into a routine. A pattern. A thing you don’t even think about, you just do it.  

We Love Routines, You Too?

If you can’t tell, we are big fans of routines, and believe routines are the key to happier, healthier, and more productive mamas.  Mom life, especially new mom life is EXHAUSTING.  Without systems in place, it is easy to feel like you are drowning in all the responsibilities on your plate.  The thing we love about routines is that it not only is something that allows for you to be more productive, it ultimately frees up chunks of time for you to do the things that fill you up.  It allows for you to start taking the time to go to that Tuesday workout class every week, or consistently work on that side hustle you have been dreaming up for years.  It allows you to finally step into your calling and ultimately, to find CONFIDENCE in your new life as a mama. 

Not to mention, routines benefit not just us as mamas, it benefits the entire family, specifically the little humans we are raising. Check out this really interesting article that presents research that draws a link between family routines with children that are more socially and emotionally healthy. Once you start diving into the research and numbers, routines become more than a nice option for those people that are well-organized and enjoy planning. No, routines, are necessary for all of us! And as the article points out so well, routines do not mean your days are always super strict and rigid. There is flexibility, which we talk about in future posts.

So are you in, mama?  Click the button below to instantly join our community, get email reminders when a new post drops, and as a special gift to say thanks, we will send you one of our fav weekly checklists to make sure you are getting all the important things DONE! See you next week! 



 

 

10 Simple, Fun Fall Activities with a Toddler

Fall is in the air! Well, if you live in Southern California, it is in the air only in the crisp mornings and as the day goes on, it suddenly reverts back to summer weather.  But hey, I can pretend that we actually live in a place that experiences the magic of autumn.  Even though the weather is not quite allowing for me to pull out all my scarves and sweaters, all the pumpkins in our house and the smell of Trader Joe’s pumpkin bread baking in our oven are definitely helping me feel like it is in fact October, not July.  

Along with pumpkins everywhere, it feels more like fall when we fill our calendar with fun, fall activities and events!  From visiting pumpkin patches to costume parties to art projects, there are so many fun ways you can spend your fall days with little ones to help get you in the mood of the fall season, even when you are still sweating in a tank top.  

There are a lot of lists out there in the Pinterest world of round-ups full of fall crafts and activities for toddlers.  Those are great, but this is not that type of list. I am just not that type of mom, maybe one day, but I just can’t seem to find the time to create those elaborate sensory bins and messy craft projects.  This is more of a simple, everyday list that is budget-friendly and accessible to the everyday mama, like me!

1. Decorate Your Home 

Our pumpkin collection throughout our home is growing, largely thanks to my mother-in-law, whose love for pumpkins is contagious.  Our friends were over Sunday evening and they counted 27 pumpkins! I took some pictures just to prove it. We love pumpkins over here at the Capel home.

I know some people don’t even bother with putting out the pumpkins and scarecrows because it feels like a lot of extra effort and work for a season that often feels very fleeting. And let’s just be honest, it does not quite compare to the magic of Christmas, but I am here to tell you that I think you should put up a few fall decorations to help make your home reflect the change of season. It does not need to be super expensive or extravagant, you can keep it real simple. You can make it into one of the first fall activities you do with your toddler to help expose them to the colors and shapes of this fun season. 

toddler boy decorating window with fall window stickers

Fall-themed window stickers is a great and easy way to make the home feel more autumn-like, while giving your toddler a fun activity.  Especially if you have large windows, this is a great way to easily make a room feel transformed for fall.

As I mentioned, we have pumpkins everywhere. Some really nice and fragile ones that are high up, but we also have little ones that I don’t care much about.  These have become the perfect toys for Hudson to play with. His pumpkin obsession is real, wonder where he gets that from? These fake foam pumpkins are the perfect decor to put out that you won’t need to worry about if your toddler decides to throw them across the room or chew on them. Just speaking from experience.

2. Take Fall Porch Pictures

You don’t need a crazy porch set-up to make this one happen.  All you really need is just a couple pumpkins and maybe a fun fall-themed sign.  A wreath might also be a nice touch. I love the one I bought at HomeGoods this season! Wreaths are one of those things that can be a bit expensive, but I think of wreaths as good home investments.  I plan to use this wreath every year for a long, long time. Like we are talking great-grandchildren long, if I am so blessed to be around that long. Anyways, a wreath goes a long way and I think it really pulls a porch together.  

We had our little photoshoot last week.  It was one of the first colder mornings so I took full advantage of it.  I was actually able to dress Hudson in pants and a vest! This is a big deal if you live in Southern California. These photos are a great way to capture the amount of changes that happen in a year.  Try to make it a tradition to have these fall porch photoshoots. It will be a great collection to look back on as you see how your kiddos and home-decor style changes over the years!  Hopefully that expensive wreath you bought will be that one unchanging element.

3. Visit a Pumpkin Patch 

toddler boy with halloween dinosaur skeleton shirt from Target smiling in a  pumpkin patch

Well of course. Yes I know this is an obvious thing to do in the fall season, but this is such a fun tradition, I can’t just not include it.  I briefly told this story on Instagram a couple weeks on my pumpkin patch post, but I am going to tell it again here.

We have gone to the same pumpkin patch for the past three years.  It is a farm in Irvine, CA called Tanaka Farms.  Two years ago, we found out we were pregnant the very same day we visited the pumpkin patch with my mother-in-law.  I got the positive test result the morning before we left. We kept it a secret that day just between the two of us, but I can still remember that giddy feeling I had in my heart as we rode the wagon ride.

Last year, we were again at Tanaka. This time with a little, 4-month old baby in a pumpkin hat and overalls. It was so fun to pose him by the pumpkins and place him in the wheelbarrow.  We got some really precious pictures from that trip.

This year, we went again at the same early October time. We had a blast and it was such a different experience from even a year ago. He was running all about, pointing out things that looked interesting, and laughing and enjoying the time with his cousins.  The point in all of this, is to encourage you to find a pumpkin patch that is either local or a bit of a drive and stick with it. Go there each year. Make special memories. Before you know it, that very pumpkin patch will be a place that is extra close to your heart because it is a beautiful reminder of the amazing changes a year brings.

4. Attend Local & Free Halloween Events 

I am all about free events in the community! It is even more fun when they are themed for the fall season or for Halloween.  One of the best ways to be in the know of some fun, family-friendly events happening in your city, is to notice the flyers when you are out and about.  I try to be really observant over these types of things and then jot it down in my calendar, so I don’t forget. You can also visit your city’s website and check out their calendar of events.  Mommy Poppins is also a great resource for events and things happening in your local city.  Facebook can also be super helpful in suggesting events near me and also showing me what some of my other mommy friends are planning on doing! 

This week, Hudson and I are excited to attend an event called “Mummy” and Me that is held in El Segundo at The Point shopping center.  Do some research, find some free events in your area, and actually go to them (and plan ahead because often times free events like these get SUPER crowded). 

5. Attend a Trunk-Or-Treat 

Is your church hosting a trunk-or-treat? Get involved and have your kiddos help you decorate your trunk.  We are planning on doing a Toy Story-themed trunk to match our little Buzz Lightyear. If you are in the South Bay area, you should attend our church’s Falloween Fest!  Lots of churches host these free and fun events, so you should research and find out if a local church to you is having a trunk-or-treat.  There might even be a free dinner served and games and even a movie shown (ours will!).

6. Go to the Library and Check Out Fall-Themed Books 

mother reading Stumpkin book to her toddler boy at the local library

If you are already part of the tmng community, you know I am a fan of the library. Go to your local library and check out a few books that are fall or Halloween-themed.  Most libraries will have a seasonal section displaying some of the librarians favorite books of fall!  At the library we go to, their display is behind the counter, so if this is the case, just ask the librarian and they likely will be happy to check them out for you! If for some reason you do not see a lot of seasonal-themed books out, ask your librarian! Our sweet librarian brought us out out about 20 books that they had in the back room. So just because you don’t see a large selection does not mean they don’t have ample supply of pumpkin books!

selection of fall and halloween themed books for toddlers and children at the library
  • EEK! Halloween
  • “Hallo-What?”
  • Spookie Pookie
  • Trick or Treat, Marley!
  • It’s Pumpkin Day, Mouse! THIS IS Hudson’s FAV! He literally gets spooked and laughs out loud all at the same time! Now that is a good story. I am all about the library, but this is such a hit for Hudson, I might just need to buy it to have a copy for our at-home library!
  • Ollie’s Halloween
  • You Are My Pumpkin
  • Pumpkin Orange, Pumpkin Round
  • Penguin and Pumpkin
  • Boo! Haiku
  • Stumpkin
  • In the Middle of Fall

7. Pick 1 or 2 SIMPLE Pinterest Fall Crafts 

simple fall and halloween craft projects completed at home with a toddler

Pinterest and blog posts about a bunch of fall crafts to do with your toddler REALLY stresses me out.  For one, I am not very creative and also, it just feels very overwhelming and messy. Hudson is still not quite at the age where he is fully into arts and crafts, but I still think it is fun to plan ahead and choose one or two fall-themed crafts to do with your little ones at home.  Why do I think this is a good idea? It is an activity that fills time, it feels festive, it acts as unique decoration to put on your walls, and it is a great memory keeper. For the really special crafts, I would even recommend laminating it to help preserve it throughout the years. 

Especially at the baby and toddler age, it is always fun to find a craft that uses hand or foot prints to help remind you how little they used to be! We did this REALLY simple, “itsy bitsy spider” handprint craft with some ladies from my MOMS Club.  All you really need is orange paper, googly eyes, black paint, and a marker to draw the web.  You also should try to do a pumpkin-type craft, whether that is with actual physical pumpkins or paper pumpkins.  Here are some fun pumpkin craft ideas.

8. Bake Fall Recipes 

Trader Joe's pumpkin bread on decorative pumpkin platter

This is a fun one to get your toddler more involved in the kitchen with you.  Not only will they love “helping” out, they will most definitely love being a taste tester.  I started to let Hudson help a bit more in the kitchen as he started showing interest. I am thinking about getting a kitchen step stool to help make our kitchen time a bit safer!  Anyways, choose a simple fall recipe that your toddler can help get involved in on. 

I keep it real simple and usually get the boxed pumpkin bread from Trader Joe’s, which I linked to at the very beginning of this post. Try to choose something like this that takes only 10-minutes to whip up together.  His attention span is very short these days! Allow them to hold the spoon and mix batter. Talk through the different ingredients you are pouring in. Show them how you crack the egg.  The egg crack is always the most fascinating to Hudson. I have a pumpkin bread pan that I love. This is a fun way to visually make the outcome even more fun for your toddler.  Give them a slice of the bread as their reward for helping out! Hudson literally gobbles this stuff up.

9. Walk Through a Neighborhood that is Well-Decorated 

toddler boy in blue push car pointing out to Halloween decorations on a house

Find a neighborhood that is especially well-decorated with fall and Halloween decor and take a walk through it.  This is one of Hudson’s favorite fall activities. He literally points out every single pumpkin. He is also a fan of scarecrows and spiders.  You can even use the walk as a way to help expand vocabulary and make a game out of it. “Can you show me where the big, purple spider is?” “How many pumpkins are outside of their house? Let’s count together.  1, 2, 3…” And so on. This is a totally free activity and if your toddler is anything like mine, they will LOVE it.  

10. Organize a Costume Parade with Friends 

toddler boy dressed in Buzzlightyear costume for Halloween with a buzzlightyear toy from Disneyland

This fall we are in a couple Mommy and Me class that will have costume parades the week of Halloween.  If you are not enrolled in any classes that are doing something similar, create your own costume parade!  You could make it super simple. Reach out to a few close friends with little ones. If you are in a mom’s group, maybe host a whole event for your group.  Either meet at a home or a park and bring Halloween-themed music, treats for the little ones, and be sure to take lots of pictures as they march around in their costumes!  

I hope you liked some of my toddler fall/Halloween ideas!  I tried to keep them really simple and manageable.  Do not get overwhelmed with Pinterest! There are so many fun, fall-themed things you can do to keep your little ones entertained that are budget and time friendly!  I would love to hear what you are doing with your kiddos this fall season! Leave a comment below.