Simple Father’s Day Bow Tie Card

Father’s Day is this weekend! To celebrate Father’s Day this year, I wanted to share a simple and fun card idea Hudson and I did together this week! It involves colored pasta, which we played with before putting the card together as a way to review our colors.

How to Dye Pasta

This was our first time dyeing pasta and it is super simple. It is a fun morning activity to have your little one help with.

All you need is:

  • Bow tie Pasta (we just used a total of 16)
  • Rubbing alcohol or nail polish remover or vinegar (ideally vinegar, but nail polish remover was the only thing I had on hand)
  • Food coloring
  • ziplock bags (one for each color)
  • one mason jar

To dye pasta, simply put the amount of pasta you wish to dye that color in ziplock bag. Place bag in mason jar (see picture above). Then, put one tablespoon of liquid (we used nail polish remover) and as many drops of food coloring. The more drops of food coloring, the more vibrant the color on the pasta. Seal bag and shake and incorporate the color throughout the pasta. Repeat this for each color.

Set pasta to dry on a piece or parchment paper or wax paper. Let dry for 3-4 hours.

Bowtie Father’s Day Card

For the card, all you need is:

  • White card stock
  • Construction paper to cut out “big” shirt for dad and “small” shirt for child.
  • Glue
  • Marker
  • Photo cut out of head of dad and child
  • Glitter (optional, but fun for decorating)

As Hudson was taking his nap, I setup everything for the card. I glued the shirts, glued the photos, and wrote a Father’s Day message.

When Hudson was up, he got some time to play with the colored pasta and we worked on sorting the pasta based on color. This was a fun way for us to review colors!

Once he was over the pasta, I let him choose the bowtie he wanted to give to dad and himself. He chose red and so then he found the matching red bowtie and placed it on his shirt. I helped him glue the pasta on the shirt. Then, he decorated the shirts with glue and glitter.

This was super simple, but the perfect card! I love how it incorporates a matching photo of my husband and son (they are both wearing Yankee baseball caps!). The red bow tie pasta is also a really fun and unique touch.

Hope everyone has an amazing day celebrating all the amazing dads out there!

And to Lance, thank you for truly being the best dad to Hudson. You love our son so well and I am so thankful!

Happy Father’s Day!

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!

Easter 2020 Reflections

I woke up Easter morning feeling a bit sad.  I was sad because I knew we would not be going to Easter church service.  I was sad to not see extended family. I was just generally sad that Easter could not be celebrated in the way we normally would.  And so the first couple hours of Easter morning I had a bit of a pouty attitude. I was mopey and down as I whipped up pancake batter and failed at hash browns.  Side note: if anyone knows the secret to getting really crispy hash browns, please let me know. Mine always turn out drenched in oil and soggy.

This is the true picture of how our Easter morning started.  I write this because this is just further evidence of how special and beautiful Easter truly is.  This girl, who still manages to get in a slump on the most joyous day when we celebrate the Risen King, this girl, needs grace every moment.  Left on my own, I will quickly lose sight of the big picture.

Praise God that he chose to love us forever and to sacrifice his one and only son.  This is truly good news! If it were not for this radical act of love, I would be stuck in my misery over soggy hash browns and changed plans. Thanks to Jesus our day of Easter celebration was not ruined by my poor attitude.  Grace filled in. And our Easter was not like any Easter previous, but it was quiet, intimate, and full of worship. And it was good.

Egg hunt all to himself!

The quarantine is showing me a lot of my shortcomings.  One of them is how dependent I have come to the hustle and bustle of life.  While we sometimes complain about it, I have realized I love a full calendar.  I love rushing from one place to the next and stuffing our days with as much experience, people, food, and laughter.  This is especially true when it comes to holidays. As much as we sometimes dream about a quiet holiday at home, the reality is I love the rush of a full day of celebration and people.  

While there is nothing inherently wrong in this, over the years, it has made my heart numb to why we are celebrating in the first place.  We say Happy Birthday, Jesus and He is Risen! but our hearts and minds are easily distracted by the feasts, gifts, and people all around us.  At least that is the case with my own heart.

This year there were zero distractions.  And initially, my heart could not handle it.  There was no rush to get out the door. No need to iron the dress.  There was no pressure to make some elaborate meal because it was just the three of us.  And with all the normal busyness that typically fills days of celebration, our small family of three was left in our pajamas on the couch in quiet and peaceful worship. 

We were not checking our watches to make sure we made the family Easter brunch in time. We were not scrambling in the kitchen. We were present and at peace and in full awe.  The words of worship felt more crisp. The faces of my husband and son were in clear focus. The truth of the gospel has never felt more real.

This Easter will not be another blur of a holiday full of too many things and obligations, no, Easter 2020 will be the one where we really allowed ourselves the quiet space to sit in the emptiness of the tomb and truly feel the joy of what that means.  

It will be the one where we worshipped on the couch.

The one with the big brunch.

The one where Hudson had an egg hunt all to himself.

The one where we all napped and then soaked in all the amazing online church services we could.

The one where we Face-timed and zoomed with family.

The one where we just sat out at our new fire pit and watched Hudson play.

The one where we ate too much candy and had a simple dinner. 

This Easter I am thankful for the quiet, the extra time, and mostly I am thankful that Jesus rose for us. Even on mornings when we wake up with bad moods and eyes fixed on earthly expectations, God is gracious and loving and meets us where we are.  

Happy Easter! He is Risen! Thankful that this truth remains just as true, regardless of the state of the world. And for that we have a lot to celebrate.

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!

Easy St. Patrick’s Day Activities with a Toddler

With St. Patrick’s Day right around the corner, I wanted to share a few very simple activities you could do at home with toddlers!  I must admit, I have never been a big St. Patrick’s Day fan.  It is definitely not a holiday I get super excited about or even decorate the home for, but Easter feels a bit far off and our son is in fact more Irish than he is Japanese, so I wanted to do a couple fun and easy activities.

1. Shamrock Marble Art 

If you have read my blog even a bit, you know that Hudson is the definition of a crazy, wild, and active boy.  Art projects are NOT his thing. With that in mind, I thought it would be fun to do a simple shamrock art project that we could give to family.  One of the reasons I love all the different holidays is that it allows for an opportunity to give a few words of thanks to those we love. I know St. Paddy’s Day might seem like not an obvious holiday for that kind of thing, but I think it is!

Last year, we did a shamrock footprint project with H’s little, baby feet.  Lance had a race on the 17th, so it made a cute gift to wish him good luck for his race.  This year, I decided to do marble art shamrocks. It seemed like the perfect art project for my active and ball-obsessed toddler.  

TOO much paint. TOO many marbles.

It is so simple.  I just cut out shamrock shapes using a shamrock he had made in his toddler class as my stencil.  We bought a bag of marbles (be very careful to not let your toddler play with these), a tube of green pain, and green glitter glue all at the Dollar Store. That is it!  $3. There are many reasons I love the dollar store, but it it the best spot for kid craft supplies. I used to spend a billion dollars at Michael’s.  There is a time and place for these type of craft stores, but when we are just doing fun, little art projects at home, the Dollar Store is my place.

All you have to do for this project is get a big container, put the paper shamrock in, and add a few drops of paint and the marbles.  I learned my lesson from the first one and put WAY too much paint and WAY too many marbles. The best ones were the ones with minimal drops of paint and just 4-5 marbles.  

They turned out really fun.  I love how each one is so unique.  They will make the perfect cards to give to our family!  

In terms of Hudson’s experience, he still was not super into it.  He had more fun standing on the big container and throwing his stuffed “peas” at me.  But hey, this is just my kid. I think most toddler-aged kids would love this project.  It is a fun one for them to get some energy out!  

2. Read St. Patrick’s Themed Books

I love checking out a ton of holiday-themed library books.  I could literally only find one book on St. Patrick’s Day at our local library: The Night Before St. Patrick’s Day by Natasha Wing.  It is a fun one that uses the familiar rhyming of ‘Twas the  Night Before Christmas.  Again, I just don’t get too excited over leprechauns and the color green and corned beef hash, but this one book is a fun way to read a themed-holiday book for the month of March.  

3. Sensory Play with Lucky Charms 

Hudson is super into helping me cook in the kitchen.  He loves pouring things into different containers and he also loves to sort.  While obviously not the most nutritious cereal choice, I thought it would be fun to give him some cups, spoons, and containers to play with Lucky Charms.  We are currently working on our colors, so I used construction paper colors to help work on sorting the different marshmallows by color. Again, super simple, but a fun activity to do after nap time when you have some time to kill before dinner.

Reality check: depending on the age of toddler, this might look more like them excitedly eating marshmallows as you sort by color. Activities like these can feel pointless when it seems like your toddler is not quite ready to follow directions and fully participate; however, I fully believe talking to them about the colors and modeling how to sort as they stuff their faces with rainbows is still better than not. Right?!

4. Find a Local St. Patrick’s Day Parade or Event 

I grew up in Hermosa Beach and for as long as I can remember, we would go to our local St. Patrick’s Day parade.  I have no idea if this is a thing in other cities, but it is in Hermosa. It has been a few years since I have been, but we are planning on bringing Hudson down to it this year.  If you are local, here is the event’s information. 

Okay that is all I got!  Super simple, easy things to do with toddlers and really any-aged kid this St. Patrick’s Day that are budget-friendly and not a ton of extra work for you.  I will say, the art project was a bit more messy than I like for a typical Thursday afternoon, but hey we got beautiful shamrocks out of it. Worth the mess.

Hudson’s 2nd Valentine’s Day!

I know people have a million feelings when it comes to the holiday of Valentine’s Day, but I am definitely in the “I love it” boat.  One of the main reasons I love it is because it is one of the few holidays that is revolved around using written words to spread love.  Sure, chocolates, roses, and fancy dinners might also be involved, but at the heart of the holiday, is a simple card to express love.  

One of my favorite things I used to do was write little notes to strangers.  I would write short notes, with simple reminders, like “you are loved”. I would then leave these notes scattered around town in book shops, cafes, and on the street.  I have no idea if they were all found, but I sure hope they were. I never really saw the reactions, but it brought me a lot of joy that a few minutes on my part could help point others to their own belovedness.   

We can get so focused on the big gestures and gifts.  We so easily forget that some of the bigger impacts come from a few sweet, intentional words on pretty paper.  

I can write a lot of nice things about people, but I have found that the best way to show people that they are loved is to point them to the greatest love, God’s love.

Last week, I taught a bible study to a group of women and I made these little cards to hand out.  I wrote a short hand-written note on the back. The front held the greatest truth this Valentine’s Day:  “We love because He first loved us,” – John 4:19.

We don’t love because it is easy.

We don’t love because it always comes naturally.

We don’t love because we always feel like it.

We don’t love just when they love us back.

We love regardless.  And this type of love, well, that is only possible with God.  

We can only love others well because of the love and grace and mercy He has individually poured out to each of us.    

With that said, if you are stuck with how to celebrate Valentine’s Day this year, here are 5 simple ways to show love. 

1. Share Scripture 

There is nothing quite as loving as giving a friend a verse that speaks truth into who they are in Christ: a beloved daughter.  Let me know if you would like this simple printable, I am happy to send it your way. 

2. Take Time to Write a Letter 

Get some cards or make some at home and take a solid amount of time to actually write out why you love that person in your life so much.  Early on in dating, Lance and I would write letters back and forth all the time. Now, life is a bit busier and quite honestly, there is not a lot of letter writing happening anymore.  For this reason, it is extra important to me to take the time to write out a letter within a card on special holidays. I am slightly obsessed with these cards I got at Trader Joe’s. And they are only 99 cents!  

3. Give a Thoughtful Gift 

I wrote about this a couple weeks ago, but we have started a new tradition of giving a book to H for his Valentine’s Day gift.  My list of 10 favorite books themed around the holiday + love, can be found here.  Truthfully, I don’t like to spend a lot of money on Valentine’s Day gifts.  I think a book, a batch of freshly baked cookies, and maybe an item or two at the Dollar Store are the perfect little tokens to show love to the little ones in your life!

If you so plan to whip up a batch of cookies, my very favorite sugar cookie recipe can be found here. We made some heart sugar cookies and they were simply the best. These make the perfect little gifts to hand out to friends and family.

The little set up I did for Hudson was all items found at the Dollar Store, minus the book, which I got at Target. I love this “love you” basket. I will definitely be using this every year for Hudson, so it will definitely get good use. Within the basket, I found these red glasses, which I thought would be fun for him to wear around, a lion (he keeps roaring like a lion), bubbles, and Mickey stickers. Very simple and together all just $5. Each item is something I know Hudson will get to enjoy today!

4. A Valentine’s Day Breakfast

Holidays are the perfect excuse to have something extra sweet and special for breakfast.  I am all about keeping things simple. This year, Lance picked these cute doughnuts up at the shop down the street.  After I got home from my run, I made bacon-shaped hearts and popped those in the oven and cut up some strawberries. I have a feeling Hudson will not care that I did not make handmade red velvet pancakes! Doughnuts are definitely his love language.  And bacon is mine. 

5. Time Together 

One of the reasons I love Valentine’s Day is the simplicity of the holiday.  After the initial cards and heart-shaped doughnuts, it is all about quality time together.  This year, we spent our day together first by going to art class at Zooga and then playing with friends down at the beach. The day felt like it was filled with extra laughter and giggles. There is something extra special about these days, I am so enjoying this time with H.

As much as I love all my time with H, Lance and I are getting away for a night and staying in Newport this weekend. I can’t wait to have some time just the two of us. I will recap our little getaway next week!

Happy Valentine’s Day! xoxo

10 Favorite Valentine’s Day Books

It is no secret that I am a lover of children’s books.  I also love love, so it only makes sense that I share a few of my favorite Valentine’s Day books to read and give to your little ones this year!  

Over here in the Capel home, we are starting a new tradition of giving a new book for Valentine’s Day instead of the classic candy and stuffed animal option.  Our sugar-obsessed toddler definitely does not need anymore chocolate in his life and his room is already overflowing with lots of stuffed animal friends.

Candy is eaten, stuffed animals are played with and tossed in the basket, but books, those just keep giving.  Hudson’s book shelves can always use more company, we will never reach full-capacity when it comes to books, so it really is the perfect way to say “I love you…let’s read together.” 

10 favorite Valentine's Day books for toddlers, kids, preschoolers, babies

There are SO many cute books, specifically designed for Valentine’s Day, these are just my 10 favorite!  I put some classic ones that you probably have already seen on the shelves of Target in their Valentine’s Day book display, but I also put some that more intentionally share about God’s love.

  I have no problem with fun and cute books about the more cultural elements of giving cards and chocolates, but I always like balancing out the collection with more meaningful books that point little ones to larger truths, like the great care and love of God. This list is designed specifically for baby though preschool-aged little ones!

  1. Happy Valentine’s Day, Mouse! By Laura Numeroff 

For our fall collection of books, we checked out, It’s Pumpkin Day, Mouse! at the library and that quickly became Hudson’s favorite book.  “EEK! It’s a scary pumpkin!” became the line Lance and I would constantly say to get Hudson excited.  When I saw this Valentine’s Day version at Target, I quickly snatched it, knowing it would make the perfect gift for Hudson.  I love that it is a board book. I love the illustrations and how each page is dedicated to something lovely about each of Mouse’s friends.  This will definitely be a hit for Hudson, and I have a feeling this will become the new favorite that is read again and again and again.  

  1. The Biggest Valentine Ever 

This is another great classic Valentine’s Day book, also involving a mouse, actually involving mice!  I love this book because it feels like there is more of a substance to it as the story helps teach little ones the beauty in collaboration and working together to make something even bigger and better.

  1. Happy Love Day, Daniel Tiger!: A Lift-the-Flap Book by Becky Friedman 

This book is a win-win: Daniel Tiger + flaps.  Two things my toddler absolutely loves. I always love books that he can interact with. This book has flaps he can pull to reveal how the Daniel Tiger characters show their love for each other.  And like I said, it is Daniel Tiger, so it automatically is a hit.

  1. Love from the Very Hungry Catepillar by Eric Carle

We are big fans of Eric Carle, so this book needed to make the list!  Unlike most of his books, this one does not have much of a storyline. However, I like it for the beautiful images that are familiar in the eyes of my hungry caterpillar-obsessed toddler. The book contains tons of cute phrases, like “You are the cherry on my cake” and “The apple of my eye.” With these beautiful images and short lines, this is a great one for babies and toddlers.

  1. Llama, Llama, I Love You by Anna Dew

Hudson loves the Lllama, Llama books, so this one has also been a hit.  Again, not a super intriguing storyline as it is mostly about llama making Valentine’s Day cards and loving his mama llama. Hudson loves it and asks for it every night, so naturally it had to make the list!

  1. The Berenstain Bears Love One Another by Mike Berenstain

I have always loved the Berenstain Bear books, but especially love them now as a lot of them point little readers to the love of God.  Typically, the books are too wordy and long for my toddler, but this board book is short and sweet. It is the perfect Valentine book that teaches about true love (not chocolate and cards), but God’s love.

  1. God Gave Us Love by Lisa T. Bergren

I love the God Gave Us… series of books.  This is the perfect book choice to give for Valentine’s Day that will help point your little one to the bigger picture of this holiday all about love.  It shows different types of love and explains how we are ultimately showing His love everytime we show love to the people in our lives. This is a book that is great for the holiday, but also can stay on the shelf all year long!

  1. Let’s Play I Spy Valentine

This is a great interactive book with a Valentine’s Day theme that is also educational!  Amongst the hearts and red and pink hues, there are letters, counting, and colors. A perfect way to celebrate the day, while also working on early learning skills!

  1. Snuggle Puppy! by Sandra Boynton

Okay, so over the course of becoming a mom, I have grown to have a slight obsession for everything Sandra Boynton. Her books provide entertainment for both Hudson and myself. I am always blown away with the silliness, creativity, and thoughtfulness that is packed within just a few pages of a board book. One of these days, I am going to create a post with all of my very favorite Boynton books, but for now let’s talk about Snuggle Puppy! This is a sweet book for Valentine’s Day, but also a great one to keep in your night time story rotation all year long! It is a fun one to sing and the last page of course ends with a kiss!

  1. The Valentine Bears by Eve Bunting 

To me, the sign of a really excellent children’s book is one where the adult can also connect and be moved by the story.  This book is one of those books. It is a beautiful picture of marriage and a wife that still desires to make this little holiday a special day for her husband Mr. Bear.  Nothing says I love you quite like your husband’s favorite bowl of honey mixed with only the best dried up beetles. Right? I also love this book because even in Mrs. Bear’s best efforts, things don’t go quite as planned, and for this reason, it really strikes a cord.  They might be bears, but this story sure paints a lovely and genuine depiction of marriage.  

There you go! 10 lovely books that would make a great Valentine’s Day  gift for your kiddos and would all be excellent additions to your at-home library.  If you don’t feel like buying more books, take a visit to your library and see if they have any of these books or other Valentine/love books.  I always check out a bunch of holiday books to keep at our house for a few weeks and then return them! Then I know the ones Hudson really enjoyed and can buy those for our permanent collection.  

Do you have a favorite Valentine’s Day Book in your family? Let me know below!

Year 26 + 2020 Intentions

I am officially 26!  

One thing I love about this little blog of mine is that it holds all the important moments and thoughts of my heart.  It is so fun to go back, even a year ago and see what was going on in my head.  

Last year for my birthday, I wrote a reflective letter to my 15-year old self.  I just went back and read it and I was moved by these words I already had forgotten a year later.  You can go back and read it here.

25 felt like a big one to me and 26 just does not seem to have the same ring, but upon deeper reflection, I can see the great significance in 26.  Turning 26, in a lot of ways actually marks the official beginning of the 2nd quarter of my life (God willing, I live close to 100). Quarter 1 is done and lived. 26 brings on a whole new quarter and I am giddy to see what lies ahead.  

Quarter 1: Learning Everything

The first quarter of my life was all about learning.  Literally learning how to walk and how to talk. Learning about God and who I really am in Him.  Truth is, this is one of those lessons that I know will follow me with each season of my life, but quarter one established truth about who I really am.  I am not just a runner or a teacher or a mother; I am a Daughter of Christ. I look forward to see how this foundational truth will continue to develop in my heart in the years to come.

The first 25 years of my life have been so good.  From following my dreams to run at the D1 level in college to finding my husband to getting the opportunity to teach for a couple years  to becoming a mother. There have been so many firsts and major milestones, but if I am honest (which I love to be as honest as I can on here), I have found them to be a great challenge, especially recently.  

Quarter 2: Fighting Comparison

Contrary to some, I am finding the mid-twenties to be hard. This could be just because I am in a different season full of diapers and chasing trash trucks.  I am finding this mid-twenty season to be a time of uncertainty and comparison.  This is largely why I have greatly reduced my time on social media. My heart simply cannot handle it.  I have been in a battle of comparison as I look around at all my peers seemingly doing really big things.  Becoming lawyers and doctors and traveling the world.  

I don’t want this to come across as complaining because I am full of gratitude for the life I have.  I literally would not change it for the world, but these feelings have reminded me that even when you have all that you could ever want, comparison will steal your joy every single time.  

As I enter quarter 2 of my life, I am fighting this comparison syndrome hard with strict boundaries around social media.  I have limited myself to only 10 minutes per day with Sunday completely off. This reminds me of the 30 minute TV limit I had as a kid, but if there is one thing I have learned, it is that limits are needed in whatever stage of life you are in.  

2020: The Year of Care

As I am greatly reducing time spent on screens (except for writing on here to you), my hope is that I can better care for my soul.  I have been meaning to create a whole post dedicated to my intentions for 2020. Since this post is rather reflective, I thought I would share it here.  2020 is the year of care. Not self-care, which of course is part of it, but an overall better care for all things. Yes, I want to take better care of my body: a more consistent skin care routine (hello, eye cream), more baths, more books, more solo coffee dates.   I also want to take way better care of everything the Lord has entrusted me with: the grass, the car, our home, my marriage, my sweet boy, and my soul.  

As I enter this new quarter of my life and this new decade, I can sense how this intention is seeping through my ordinary days.  I water the grass on our side yard every morning like it my full-time job. I take pride in ensuring each inch is evenly soaked and nourished.  The miles I run are fueled with more care and gratitude and not out of obligation, but because I want to keep up with a skill I know the Lord has hand-picked for me.

I am more present. 

 I am reading more and clicking that Instagram icon way, way less.  Part of better caring for my people, is ensuring that I am actually present before them.  I have a new rule of simply not checking social media when Hudson is up. I was finding myself dug into my phone and missing the amazing little boy before me.  When I am stressed or tired or anxious, my go-to is absolutely to tune out and scroll. This does me no good and I am finally realizing I need some really clear boundaries.  

Lunch & afternoon read!

Make Yourself Lunch

A new thing I am doing is nothing revolutionary, but it really has been a game changer.  I am taking the time to make myself lunch. It is sad to admit, but when it comes to lunch time, I always make Hudson a balanced and colorful plate, while I  pick at cold leftovers or eat some scraps from Hudson’s lunch. Then, I wonder why at the end of the day I feel so cranky and drained. Especially as mileage is beginning to increase for Boston, taking the care and time to properly fuel my body is a necessity.  

For me, this has looked like taking out a pan, heating up oil and garlic, and sautéing veggies and putting them on hot mashed potatoes I made the night before.  It also has looked like making a whole packaged salad and putting shredded turkey on it, and slicing avocados on-top of it. I think how we make ourselves lunch is actually quite significant.  It shows our priorities, how we view our bodies. It is easy to just eat the scraps of our kid’s lunches or forget lunch all together, but I have learned recently how it makes me feel to eat a full and hot lunch that was carefully constructed.  This whole lunch thing is changing things for me.  

I have no idea what quarter 2 of my life will hold for me, but my hope is that it can be marked with me taking better care of all the beautiful things and people the Lord has placed before me.  I hope it is marked with more hot lunches at the table, more runs, more time doing things with my hands (knitting, gardening, scrapbooking), more time with my eyes wide open and present to my people, my family. 

10 Simple Things to Fight Burn Out

If you too have recently been feeling burnt out, uninspired, and uncertain, here is a list of a few things I have been doing that might just help you too.  They all are simple and obvious, but sometimes it takes actually reading something to make it happen.

Ignore weird table, this was on my retreat. Bible, journal, and coffee are the elements of my morning rhythm.

1. Wake up + grab journal + Bible 

I used to wake up and go on my phone and scroll.  That is the worse way to wake up to the day. Get a routine that allows you to start your day with pen and paper.  Again, like the lunch making, this one is a game changer.

2. Water Something

Go out and water the grass in your yard or water plants in your home. It sounds crazy, but I have so much peace as I start my day with watering the grass.  I love the sound of the water, I love the smell of water-seaped soil, I love feeling like this small action is actually allowing for growth to occur.

3. Take a Bath

Let’s really quick talk about the Sunday Bath. I don’t know about you, but taking a bath feels like a real luxury. It is so much easier to take a quick shower. I am finding the only way I actually slow down and enjoy a bath is if it is part of a weekly rhythm.

Thus, the Sunday bath was born. It works well because Sunday is the one day I do not sweat in the morning, so it just makes sense to have a bath Sunday evening on our Sabbath. Find a time to make it a consistent part of your routine. Get some epsom salt (this is the lavender one I use) or use your son’s bubble bath and take a bath. I will literally spend 40-45 minutes taking a bath. This is one of my favorite times to get some reading in! Quick showers are so overrated, I am all about the slow and meticulous process of making a good bath.

4. Listen to a Podcast

The soundtrack of my days greatly affects my mood.  It is a different day if I intentionally choose podcasts that inspire me and worship music that brings my eyes up to Him.  If you are into running, my two fav running podcasts are the Ali on the Run Show and The Road to the Olympic Trials. For faith-based podcasts, favs are The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey, The Next Right Thing, and The She podcast.  

5. Make Yourself Lunch

Take the time to crack eggs or heat up garlic or toss a great big salad just for you. You deserve more than cold leftovers and goldfish.

6. Stay off Social Media

It is possible.  Try it for a day.  See how you feel. 

We had no plans on New Year’s Day, so we just did something fun and spent an afternoon at Balboa Island.

7. Do Something Fun

Go to the park, bring sand toys down to the beach, go out to ice cream on a Wednesday night.  I am such a routine person that sometimes I forget to schedule in fun, random, spontaneous things.  I always feel better when we just do something fun.

8. Read a Book in the Middle of the Day

You might be saying, if only I had time for that.  Well, I bet you check social media at least 10-minutes during your day, replace that wasted time with slowing down and giving your brain and body some refreshment.  It does not take many words to put me in a better mindset. I just finished Here Now by Kate Merrick and it is so, so good.  It has a lot of similar themes to what I have been writing in this post. 

Hudson loves “creating” and test tasting with me in the kitchen.

9. Create Something 

Do something with your hands.  It could be as simple as writing a letter to a friend, planting a flower, whipping up some oatmeal chocolate cookies.  I am always amazed how I feel so much better when I tangibly make something with my hands. With the day-to-day demands of being a mom, sometimes a day goes by and I feel like I have no idea what I even did.  You too? Mothering can sometimes feel intangible. We don’t yet see the fruits of our labor. Sometimes, seeing that flower we planted or smelling the cookies in the oven can help.  

10. Connect 

Plan a playdate, text a friend to get coffee, set up a phone call.  We are made for connection. When I start to not feel great, a sure sign is that I am pulling away and isolating.  Get together with your people. Gather.  Open up your home even when it’s a mess. Connect.

Managing Christmas Expectations: Broken, Fallen, and Redeemed

How is your Christmas season going?  If you haven’t guessed from my title, so far, it has been less than perfect.  This seems to happen every single year and I think I am just now beginning to learn how to better respond when our holiday season simply does not match the high expectations we have in our heads.  

toddler with santa hat smiling by Christmas tree
Don’t be fooled by his cuteness, he is an ornament breaking machine.

Broken Things

It is just the middle of December (as I am typing this) and so far Hudson has broken about 5 ornaments, 2 salt and pepper reindeer shakers, and one snow globe (yes, there was water and those little, fake flecks of snow everywhere).  This is to be expected. Last Christmas we still had a baby that mostly was in our arms. I don’t think he was even really crawling last year. This year, he is literally running. And oh man, it is so much fun, but it also means that things break more easily.  Next year, there will definitely be less glass and ceramic ornaments on our tree.  

Fallen Things

Along with a long list of things that have broken, our Christmas tree has fallen over TWICE. As I have already mentioned here on the blog, every year Lance and I fight about the straightness of our tree.  Every year I complain that it is crooked and every year he tells me it is not. Well, this year, it fell in the middle of the night.  This resulted in even more broken ornaments that Hudson, in fact, had no part in. The point here, is obvious: the tree will shed a million needles, the tree will falter and not stand perfectly straight, the tree will fail us every single time.  Do you see what I am saying? It is amazing how in this time of year, how easily our eyes are taken away from Jesus and moved toward imperfect and unimportant objects like the tree.  

toddler unhappy at santa photos with Mrs. Claus
Unsure about this whole Santa thing.

Imperfect Things

And finally there was the Santa photos.  Last year, we opted for the EXPENSIVE package at the Grove with the Santa that looks like he just fell out of the pages of The Night Before Christmas.  We were excited and eager first time parents willing to spend whatever on the perfect Santa photos.  And they were pretty good, Hudson was still so little, that he had no reason to even cry. He just looked directly at the camera with a sweet smile.  

This year, we went to the Santa at Bloomingdales.  There was even a Mrs. Claus and the photo was absolutely free, which is our very favorite price.  However, Hudson did not like Santa very much and the photo is less than perfect to say the least. Somehow, I ended up sitting on the Santa chair and Santa didn’t even make the picture! 

toddler crying in igloo in Minnesota
The reality of traveling with a toddler.

Painful Things

Since last typing this up, we took a little trip to Minnesota with Grammy & Auntie Kay. And in similar fashion to the theme above, Hudson and I both were not feeling 100% and I was hit with some especially bad body aches (so bad it brought me to tears!).  Traveling with an over-active and curious toddler is hard, but it becomes especially difficult when both of you are not feeling well. Thankfully my mom and sister were incredibly helpful!

toddler happy in igloo in Minnesota
The way I picture things in my head.

While my ideal for this trip would have been to feel a bit better, it still ended up being a great trip! We got to see a lot of family we don’t get to see often. Hudson got to touch snow for the first time. We visited the Mall of America. We slept in, ate lots of good food, and even sipped cider in plastic igloos. So overall, it was a special and memorable trip, minus my body being difficult.

toddler hugging santa claus
We changed our minds. We do like him.

And you can actually scratch the imperfect Santa photos. We ended up trying again and visited Santa at the Mall of America. Tip: if your toddler is anything like mine, try allowing them to walk up to Santa on their own, instead of placing them on Santa’s lap. This was my sister’s idea and it was really effective. Hudson was so much more confident and interested in Santa as he walked up to him on his own.  We got some really sweet photos. My personal favorite is Hudson hugging Santa and looking straight at the camera.  

Redeemed Things

Okay, so what is the point in all this? It is not to bring you down. Or get you to start complaining about all the little things that have not gone according to plan. No, it is to remind you to manage your Christmas expectations. If the gifts, the parties, the perfectly decorated home, the homemade cookies, the Christmas lights, and that perfect family Christmas card are the things at the forefront of your mind right now, you will likely be disappointed. You will likely feel like Christmas was just not quite right. However, if everything in you is focused on the baby, the baby in the manger: Jesus; then disappointment will not follow you. Because here is the thing: your cookies might burn, your cards might be late, the dog might eat the gingerbread house (true story); but he is already born. We know how that story goes. So no matter how many of your Christmas expectations seems to be falling around you, you can still rejoice, for there is good news!

“But the angel said to them, ‘Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: Today in the city of David a Savior was born for you, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be the sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped tightly in cloth and lying in a manger'” -Luke 2:10-12

toddler smiling with gingerbread house
Before the big, bad Nala ate the whole thing!

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas! I hope this perspective can help you really embrace all the imperfect elements of your holiday that really don’t matter that much and can allow you to focus and rejoice on the baby that changes everything!

Christmas Books that Bring Family Together + Hearts Centered on Jesus

This mama is a fan of children’s books. I believe the books we read to our little ones are more than just books. They are teaching our children what we believe, value, and love. For this reason, I am pretty picky with the books I choose to read to Hudson.

Especially when it comes to Christmas books, there are soooo many options, but there also are a lot that tell more of our culture’s version of Christmas and fail to include Jesus and instead focus on Santa, reindeer, and gingerbread men. Nothing inherently wrong with these elements, but I love finding books that help show the fun in these things, but ultimately draw our attention to Jesus and family and love.

I spent a ton of time sifting through our own Christmas collection, scrolling through library catalogs, and researching through all the books on Amazon, to bring to you my 10 Favorite Christmas books. This is a good mix of secular and Christian books. There are some classics you should recognize, and there are likely a few you have never heard of.

If you are anything like me, and still in the midst of Christmas shopping, one or more of these books would make a great gift for the little ones in your life!

Top 10 Favorite Christmas Books

1. Santa’s Prayer by Tom Roberts

This season, I have been very much feeling the tension between how our culture celebrates Christmas and the true reason for this special season: Jesus.  As a new parent, I am trying to navigate the role Santa will have in our family. I do not necesarrily wish to steal away all the fun that comes with traditions of Santa and putting out cookies for him and carrots for his reindeer, but I certainly do not want my children to miss the point. 

This book is a beautiful answer to some of this tension I have been struggling with. There is a Santa in this book, but it is a Santa that is a humble servant of Christ. It is a Santa that kneels and prayers and asks for God’s wisdom to help guide the children to understand the true joy of Christmas.  This is the type of book that I know I will read over and over again to all of my kiddos.  

2. The Way to the Manger: A Family Advent Devotional

This book very much aligns with much of what I discussed last week.  This is the perfect book to help bring your family together around Christ this Christmas season.  This book is the perfect element to a family tradition around advent. It gives you and your family a devotion for each day of December before Christmas.  Not only can this be the perfect family evening routine together, it will feed the whole family with the Word of God and keep everyone centered during this very busy time of year.  

3. Christmas Is Coming: An Advent Book

This is another great book that functions as an Advent calendar.  The illustrations are darling! This book would be the perfect coffee table book to have out during the holidays! It also very much connects to all my thoughts from last week’s post and gives a new recipe, activity, song, game or craft to try each day as a family.  There is something about books that can really bring a family together and I love how this book so intentionally gives fun, holiday ideas to help get your family to enjoy time together.  

4. Pick a Pine Tree by Patricia Toht 

This is the perfect book to make part of your Christmas tree traditions. I just discovered it, but next year, we are definitely going to make reading this book apart of our Friday-after Thanksgiving tree tradition!  It is the perfect tradition-type of book as the book itself holds the traditions a family has around their own Christmas tree. I love how this book is so centered around family and the importance of tradition. Not to mention, it is a rhyming book so perfect for the little ears in your family!

5. God Gave Us Christmas by Lisa Tawn Bergren 

I am a fan of the God Gave Us series of books. This is another beautifully written and illustrated story that helps your little ones understand that Christmas is in fact about much more than the tree and the presents.  I love these books because the author so beautifully captures the curious, question-asking mind of a child. The answers from the mama bear, even minister to me as a parent, as I glean wisdom on how to discuss some of these bigger topics with kids as they begin to get older. 

6. Room for a Little One: A Christmas Tale by Martin Waddell

There are so many wonderful books that beautifully depict the birth of Jesus that are geared for young children.  Of all that I sifted through and researched, Room for a Little One, stands out.  For one, I love that the story is told from the perspective of animals. Hudson is animal obsessed right now, so this retelling of the story is especially interesting to him. There is also something very charming about getting an animal’s perspective of the night of Jesus’s birth.  

7. Little Blue Truck’s Christmas by Alice Schertle 

My mom got Hudson this book last Christmas and it is one of our favorites.  The whole Little Blue Truck series is so endearing and perfect for my little guy who is becoming more and more truck obsessed with each passing day.  I love this book in particular because it allows us to work on counting as we get to count the number of trees that are left in in Little Blue Truck. It is also fun because the last page has flashing lights on the final Christmas tree! 

8. Red and Lulu by Matt Tavares 

Hudson is currently loving birds.  We also just visited New York City this summer as a family.  For these two reasons, this book feels like the perfect addition to our Christmas library.  Again, this book’s illustrations are stunning. I love the beautiful images of NYC at Christmas time.  Red and Lulu are birds that get separated, but eventually are reunited by the story’s end. This heartwarming story combines some of our favorite things: birds, NYC, and love.  It is a bit wordy for Hudson’s attention span, but I look forward to enjoying this story with him next Christmas and for now, we will just enjoy the beautiful illustrations.

9. The Story of Christmas by Patricia A. Pingry 

This is another well-written book that helps young children understand the real point of Christmas and how things like gift giving is ultimately connected to showing love, like the love God showed us through Jesus.  I particularly enjoy the last two pages: “We give gifts at Christmas to show our love. And we say, ‘Happy Birthday, Baby Jesus’” (Pingry 19-22). The language in this book is super simple, the words are nice and big, making it again the perfect Christmas story for the little ones in your home.

10. The Night Before Christmas Recordable Book by Clement C. Moore 

Hudson got this as a gift last year from his nanny and poppy.  This makes such a great gift! Hudson loves opening this book and hearing the voices of his nanny and poppy.  This is such a classic book and we have multiple copies of The Night Before Christmas, but Hudson definitely prefers the version that is personalized with voices he can recognize! 

What are some of you family’s favorite Christmas books? I would love to hear from you! Leave a comment below.