Routines to Keep You Centered This December

It has been a busy past few days.  From our trip to Yosemite to Thanksgiving to getting the house all ready for Christmas; my soul feels a bit tired and worn out.  The past week, I have definitely been out of my normal routine. I have been waking up later, working out less, and not sticking to my normal cleaning routine. Things feel a bit out of order. Our house is still scattered with Christmas things that are not fully in place. My mind has lots of words in it, but this typing thing already feels a bit foreign.  My legs are ready to increase mileage for marathon training, but I am not sure my head is there.

The thing with routines is that it is so easy to slip away.  My body fought me hard as I pulled myself out of bed at 5:30 am this week. My mind also fought me as I more easily convinced myself to skip on my typical disciplines. To me, this is just further evidence as to why keeping routines, even in busy holiday seasons is SO important.  If you have yet to read my past post on all of this, you can read it here.

3 Things to Keep Routines Around this December

On a different note, I want to write about some of the routines and rhythms you can keep this December. These three simple concepts are designed to help keep you centered on Christ this Christmas season. You are likely being pulled in a million directions this month. It is so easy to lose focus if you don’t have specific routines in place to keep you centered and grounded.

toddler boy playing in Christmas tree lot

1. Keep a Routine Around the Tree

On our first Christmas together, we started the tradition of getting our Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving.  This was our fifth year of getting our tree the Friday after Thanksgiving. I know a lot of you will get your tree whenever and that often depends on each year, but we have found to really love this tradition/routine of getting our tree at the same time every year. It takes away the guessing and we expect and look forward to it every year.  It is also nice to get it in on the earlier side, so it can be enjoyed all Christmas season. This year, we chose to decorate it the same evening. We listened to Christmas music, put up ornaments, and drank sipping chocolate from Trader Joe’s, which I highly recommend.  It is way better than regular hot cocoa.  

I can so clearly remember our first Christmas as a married couple.  I have a specific memory walking down the aisles at Target and feeling mad at Lance.  We didn’t have much for our Christmas tree. And I wanted to buy all the things for it: a fancy tree topper, a pretty tree skirt, festive ornaments.  But my logical and conservative husband, did not want to spend the extra money. We already spent over $60 on a tree, more money on things like that felt over the top to him.  I was so upset about this. It seems super silly now, but at the time it was a whole lot of Christmas drama!  

family Christmas tree traditions

Anyways, we didn’t buy a fancy tree topper. Instead, I used leftover ribbon we had from our wedding and tied a bow on the top of our tree.  Five years later and that is our same tree topper. At this point, we could buy one of those fancy toppers, but there is something about that bow that I love.  It feels right. It feels like tradition.

Christmas ornaments that hold important milestones for a family

All these little traditions and routines around our Christmas tree are fun and special and even important; however, the tree to me is actually more of a metaphor. It is this very physical thing that sits in your living room for nearly a month of your year. The tree is pretty and shiny, but even more importantly it tells a story. It holds important milestones and moments. And not only does it tell a story of your family; it ultimately tells a story of God’s faithfulness, even in the years that might not have any shiny or memorable ornaments attached to it. So, create routines and traditions around the tree. However, don’t be distracted by the small details, like the tree topper or the fact that your tree is always a tad crooked. Remember, the tree is just a metaphor of something much, much more important.

2. Keep a Routine Around Advent 

Last Christmas, Hudson was just 6-months old, so we did not keep up with an Advent calendar for him.  This year we are! There are so many Advent calendar options that you can buy at the store. Those are good, but I am currently really into the Advent calendars that you fill on your own and use every single year.  My mother-in-law got us this beautiful Advent calendar from Pottery Barn.  It has great big pockets to fill with whatever you choose.  It is nice that Hudson is still at an age where he doesn’t really care what he is getting and the smallest things are still super exciting to him.  For this reason, I filled up his calendar this year with things like stickers, plastic dinosaurs, and protein bars. I know- not as exciting as chocolate, but I think he will still enjoy it.  

scripture and stickers inside an advent calendar for a toddler

The day before Advent, I focused more on finding little things in the dollar section of Target to put into his calendar that I missed the point a bit.  I forgot that the whole point of this Advent season is to reflect on the coming of Christ. So, I kept the random dinosaurs and snowman stickers stuffed in the pockets, but I also added something.  I found an amazing blog that had this adorable handwritten scripture geared towards little ones for each day. She specifically had the two-year olds in mind! I printed it out, cut out the squares and put one in each pocket.  I taped construction paper on the wall next to our advent calendar to stick the scripture on. This way we can visibly remember the greatest gift this season: Jesus.  

scripture from Luke for a toddler's advent calendar

Again, this is nothing revolutionary.  A small adjustment to a typical calendar filled with chocolate or even alcohol (have you seen the beer advent calendar from Costco?).  While there is nothing inherently wrong with calendars like this, I do believe it quickly turns our eyes away from the point of Advent.  It is to remember and await in eager anticipation for what is coming. The purpose of Advent is not in the chocolate or craft beer cans. The purpose is in Jesus.

  If you have little ones and wish to incorporate simple scripture into your Advent tradition, you can get that free printable on the Happy Home Fairy blog right here.  Just because we are already a few days into advent, it is never too late to start implementing more of Jesus into your Christmas traditions.

3. Keep a Routine Around Family Time

After dinner time, we are trying to do one thing as a family that feels Christmas-y.  On the first of December, we started by watching Lance’s all-time favorite Christmas movie, Home Alone.  We just watched about 20-minutes, but it was a fun way to start off the month of December.  A few other ideas we plan on doing as a family include: walking around to see Christmas lights in Sleepy Hollow (we do this every year with our good friends Hannah and Kyle), baking cookies together, reading Christmas-themed books (more on this in next week’s blog post), dancing to Christmas music, drinking that sipping chocolate I mentioned above, attending local Christmas events (especially ones surrounded around celebrating what this time of year is truly about). 

If you live in the South Bay area, our church is putting on a special event called “Campfire Christmas.”  It is the perfect evening activity with your family to spend some time celebrating and singing and preparing your hearts for the coming of Christ.  Do a little research and see some of the Christmas events local churches around you are putting on. These are often free and the perfect Christmas family outing centered around Christ.  

Side note: the truth of the matter is that we are not all curled up together doing some cute, Christmas-themed activity every single night of December. Applause to those families, but that is just not us. In fact, just tonight we had a nice dinner together, Hudson took a bath, and I flew out the door to yoga. The point of routines is intention. We could have gone out to a local holiday event being held in the community this evening, but Lance and I both sensed it was not right for us tonight. I am telling you this story because I want to be clear: we are definitely not perfect and life is busy, but on the nights that make sense, we really are intentionally trying to spend them together doing something centered around this season.

Give Something Up + Commit to Something

I recently listened to a new podcast episode on The Next Right Thing.  I have mentioned Emily’s podcast before on here and it is because she always drops such good wisdom in her short 15-20-minute episodes.  You really should take a listen if you haven’t. Her latest episode is all about how to avoid decision fatigue during the holidays. She suggests deciding ahead of time one thing to say no or remove from your schedule during the month of December.  For her, it was work-related travel. She also recommended planning ahead and saying yes to two things that will keep you centered on Christ during the holidays. It could be a devotional, a playlist, a book.

All this very much resonated with me as I wrote up this particular blog.  For me, I am saying no to late nights and consuming myself with tasks that simply are not that important. When it comes to the evenings, I want to be home with my family, I don’t want to busy myself with shopping and planning and doing. By setting this boundary, I am hoping to end this Christmas season in a place where I am more present and joyful. 

What Are You Prioritizing this December?

Okay, so I know this was a bit all over the place, but the heart of what I am trying to convey is that the things and routines we choose to do during December really, really matter.  Even if we don’t realize it, what we choose to say no and yes to are ultimately revealing what matters to us. When I choose to consume myself with shopping, I quickly lose sight of what this time of celebration is all about.  However, when I choose to put scripture in each pocket of Hudson’s Advent calendar and we stick it up on the wall together, I ground myself and the Word of God pulls me into the true joy of the season.  

I hope this makes you think about exactly how you are spending your time in the days and weeks to come.  What is your focus? What is spinning on in your head? Is it your shopping list and the parties you are attending?  Or is it your family? The candlelight Christmas-Eve service? That verse from Luke you just can’t shake from your mind?  

It sure is easy to be pulled away from the important things this time of year. My prayer is that this December can be different for you. You will likely still make some mistakes and fill your schedule a bit too full, but I hope that you can end the month with just a bit more peace, joy, and gentleness than last year!

Share a comment if you have a particular routine during December that keeps you focused and joyful this time of year! I would love to hear from you.

Rest as a Routine: 10 Ways to Help Keep Your Sabbath

It is early Monday morning and I am getting some writing in before Hudson wakes up.  I find myself working with a sense of peace, clarity, and focus. Probably not typical feelings on a Monday at 5:30 am, but I have a secret and I want to share it with you.  Keep the sabbath. Allow for 24-hours of your week to be untouched by work, hustle, hurry, schedule, and yes, even social media. This actually is no secret. It is a biblical command: 

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy: You are to labor six days and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God.  You must not do any work…For the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and everything in them in six days; then he rested on the seventh day.  Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and declared it holy” Exodus 20:8-11

It seems like even for Christians, this is a command that is easy to not take as seriously.  Our culture literally preaches the gospel of work and hustle and making a name for ourselves. The concept of rest often runs counter to everything our culture seems to stand for.  

While rest is something that definitely does not come naturally to me, I have been learning, especially recently in the past year, how essential the weekly routine of sabbath is for myself and for our family.  It has become the part of the week that I most look forward to. It is restorative and necessary. And the truth is, this stop in work, is the very thing that allows me to produce better quality work throughout the week.

We Work from Our Rest

I have had the concept of work and rest backwards for much of my life.  I used to think that I had to work really hard to deserve my rest.  And here’s the thing: I never felt like I fully deserved it.  There will always be things left on my to-do list.  There will always be things I simply did not get to.  If we only allow ourselves to rest when we feel like we deserve it, rest will likely not happen very often.  

It clicked in my mind a month or so ago when I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey.  Her guest that week, Dr. Saundra Dalton Smith, explained how we don’t earn rest, we work from our rest. When you think about rest in this way, it no longer is just some nice luxury that you will get to if you have time; it is absolutely necessary and is commanded of us by the Lord. 

Typically, when we think of routines, we probably don’t first think of rest.  However, we should start thinking of rest as a routine that is just as important as our cleaning routine.  One of the many reasons I love routines so much is because it makes things that do not come naturally to me, aka rest and cleaning the house, actually happen!

The thing that is different with sabbath is that this is a routine that I do not need to create or carve out on my own, it is a gift given by the Lord. It is not about us creating sabbath, it is about us keeping it. Thank you to Emily P. Freeman’s podcast episode on “Keep Your Rest” for reminding me of this truth. It is not about creating or carving out rest on our own power; it is about obeying and keeping the rest that is already ours.

10 Ways to Keep Rest as a Weekly Routine

Below you will find a list of 10 things to consider when thinking about how to better keep the sabbath in your own life. I say the word “consider” because there is no one size fits all sabbath. Based on your season, your sabbath will look different, but it does not mean you simply throw out the practice. You adjust and keep sabbath based on your current stage of life.

1. Choose a Day 

It does not necessarily need to be Saturday or Sunday.  Examine your week and choose the day that is most open for you and your family.  For us, it is on Sunday. We could also practice sabbath on Saturday, but Saturdays seem to always get full with birthday parties and events and time obligations.  Sundays work better for our family. We try to keep church the only planned thing of the day. After church, our day is fully open.  

2. Keep a Timeframe 

Once you choose the day, it is important, that you set a clear signal for when your day of rest officially begins and when it ends.  Biblically, sabbath goes from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. So for some, this is a helpful way to indicate the beginning and end of sabbath. If you don’t have a clear indicator or signal, it is less likely you will fully get a 24-hour period of sabbath. Also, if you are in a place where 24 hours of sabbath feels not possible, that is okay. Create a time segment that you can weekly commit to. Maybe it is when you wake up on Saturday until lunch on Saturday.  Whenever it is, I have found that it is essential to commit to that time framework.  

3. Step Away From Social Media

This is one I recently added to my personal discipline of sabbath and I think it is essential.  I have a personal rule that I will not look at any form of social media, the entirety of my sabbath.  This rule prevents me from laying on my bed, scrolling through newsfeeds.  This is definitely a temptation of mine when it comes to my day of rest, but I have found (after many sabbaths filled with social media) that I do not receive as rejuvenating of a rest when I am on social platforms. 

We do not limit all screens, we tend to watch a show or maybe even a movie, but even this we need to be careful with. Sabbath simply is not about just vegging out and doing nothing.  There is a big difference from practicing sabbath versus being on the couch all day binge watching Netflix.

4. Limit Time Obligations 

This will likely mean that you will be saying “no” a lot when it comes to plans or events on your given sabbath day.  Occasionally, we will attend a scheduled event that falls on our sabbath if we feel it will be a time of good fellowship.  For example, sometimes our church will have fun outreach events on Sundays and we will mostly always still attend those.

When it comes to getting together with friends, we like to schedule things like this on Saturdays, but with really close friends (shout out to Hannah and Kyle) we enjoy spending time with them on our sabbaths.  It is all about determining what is restoring and what people ultimately bring you closer to the Lord. Spend time with those types of people on your sabbaths + whenever else you can. If we are meeting people or people are coming over to us, we like to have a looser time boundary on our sabbaths. It is incredibly refreshing to have one day that does not feel as scheduled or as pressured to be at places at a specific time.

5. Prioritize One Thing You Typically “Never Have Time For” 

I started a scrapbook for Hudson when he was born.  For the first 6 months of his life, I was invested in this scrapbook.  Every month, I would fill out the page and write all about what we did for his _ month birthday and list out major milestones and his likes/dislikes.  Now, he is almost 17-months and I have piles of photos and a half-empty scrapbook. Life has gotten more full now that he is older and scrapbooking just does not happen during our busy weeks. 

But here’s the thing, memory keeping through the act of scrapbooking is something that very much fills me up. I love it. When I create the time to actually work on it, I sense my whole body relaxing.  It is a really healthy and joyful practice for me; the perfect sabbath-keeping activity. It feels extra special because I know Sundays are the one day I get to work on my scrapbook. What is it for you?  List out the activities that your heart always longs to do. Maybe it is gardening, or baking a pie, or knitting a sweater, or learning calligraphy. Write out your list and use your sabbaths to start actually doing those things!

6. Connect with Your Family 

Sabbath is the perfect day to really spend quality, focused time with your family.  Of course we try to spend a good amount of family time throughout the week, but during our regular week, it feels like a to-do list is always running in the back of our heads.  It is refreshing to have one day set apart that I just sit on the couch and really watch Hudson play and create and imagine. I love this stillness that is created on our sabbath.  I am not frantic, I am just sitting and watching and connecting.

Last Sunday, during Hudson’s nap, Lance and I went out into the backyard, threw Nala tennis balls and went through our roses, buds, and thorns of the week.  It was simple and good, and it is so different from our normal pace during the week. Our best connection as a family absolutely happens on our sabbaths. So, turn off your phones, get outside, watch your children play as you simply sit, and slowly chat with your spouse.  

7. Don’t Touch Laundry, Dishes, or the Broom 

Our house is not pretty on our sabbath days.  And I am perfectly okay with this. There usually are dishes stacked in the sink, laundry sitting in the dryer, and crumbs scattered throughout the house.  And I do not touch it. I do this stuff all the time during the week. It is essential for me to have a day that I simply let the house go. This would typically bother me, but because this is the designated day of rest, I am perfectly fine leaving it for Monday or later that evening.  I also try to not get super legalistic with things like this. Of course, if there is a huge spill or mess, one of us will wipe it up, but as a whole, we will try to not worry about cleaning on our sabbaths.

8. Read 

Like scrapbooking, sabbaths are my days to actually curl up with a good book.  If you read all the time, maybe choose a special book you just read on your sabbath.  Something that will draw your nearer to God. Something that really fills you up. I am currently reading Run the Mile You’re In by Ryan Hall (thanks mom for giving this to me!).  It is the perfect sabbath book for me right now because it is a book about God and running. Two of my favorite things. Find a book if you are currently not reading, and save it for your sabbath days. 

Sabbaths are also great opportunities to collectively read the Bible as a family. We typically just do our personal Bible reading in the morning, but this is something I would like to start incorporating into our weekly day of rest, especially now as Hudson is getting older and loves listening to stories.

9. Dream

On our most recent sabbath, we all woke up extra early due to the time change.  I threw together a veggie scramble, we ate, watched the NYC Marathon, and since we had two hours to spare before church, we drove down to the beach for a walk.  On our walk, Lance and I dreamed. We rambled and casted vision for our future. When we both are undistracted by the hum of our to-dos and social media, we can really come up with amazing things.  I was reminded on our dream walk, how days of rest are the perfect days to dream and wander and talk to God about what He has in mind for the future.

10. Thank God 

This should be a daily practice, but sabbaths also create the perfect, quiet space to intentionally thank the Lord.  This could be done through prayer or creating a gratitude list. It is easy for our busy and full days to slip by without even noticing the amazing work the Lord is doing.  Take the time on sabbath to really notice.  

If you would like to read more of my thoughts on rest & sabbath, it is a topic that I have written on a lot in the past. You can find all other posts related to rest here, and here, and here.

I would love to hear from you. Do you practice sabbath as a weekly routine within your own life? If so, I would love to hear some of the ways you keep sabbath. Please leave a little comment below about sabbath, rest, time away from social media, or really anything this post made you start thinking about!

See you next Thursday. Find some rest, my friend. Actually, keep the rest. Remember, it has already been found by our kind, Father.

Simple, Weekly Meal Planning for Busy Moms

It is appropriate that I am typing this up on a Monday because Mondays are my meal planning and grocery shopping days.  Before you stop reading and tell yourself, “I don’t have time to plan out meals for an entire week. Heck, most days I don’t even know what I will eat for lunch.”  Think again! Meal planning is one of the things I do at the start of the week that allows for the next 6 days to be WAY less stressful.

I will admit, meal planning used to take me close to an hour every week in the beginning of our marriage.  However, like with most things, the more you do it, the quicker and more efficient you become. I am at the point where I can plan out all the meals for the week and produce the grocery list in under 15 minutes!  And here’s a little secret, you can too! It really is not as hard as you might be thinking and it will save you SO much stress and time throughout the week.  

Quick side note: if you have babies in your family and would like tips on preparing meals for the littlest mouths in your family, check out these 5 tips for making meals for babies. Using some of these tips have actually helped me not drastically increase our grocery bills because Hudson eats a lot of similar foods to us.

5 Reasons You Should Be Meal Planning

If you still are not convinced, below are some very clear reasons and benefits on why you should start planning out your family’s meals for the week.

1. Saves Time

People often think they need to be super organized and have a lot of initial time available to properly plan meals.  I am here to tell you that is simply not true! As you get used to the weekly discipline of planning meals out every week, you will become more efficient. Even if it takes you a bit more time at the beginning, it is is worth it because it will save you so much time later in the week. dft67t6tcv yjbv

2. Saves Money

I literally used to spend MORE money on food  when I was in college just feeding myself then what I currently spend to feed a family of three (and not just any family of three, a family that eats A LOT).  When it was just me in college, I never planned out my meals. I would go to Trader Joe’s and literally just let my stomach guide my purchases. This is no way to grocery shop!  I would buy lots of the frozen pre-planned meals because I thought it would save me time and money. NOT true! Plus, a lot of the frozen meals are pretty high in sodium. 

I would buy really just whatever looked and sounded good and figured I would make things work for meals. This method resulted in HIGH grocery bills that I could barely afford. By planning out your meals, you are creating a grocery list only with the items that you actually need. 

3. Wastes Less Food

Since you only are getting produce and proteins that you will actually use for meals throughout the week, you will notice that you end up throwing away much less food.  I rarely need to throw away produce because it is all used by the end of the week. Really one of the only times I need to throw things away is on weeks that plans change and we don’t end up using all the meals I had planned out.  In terms of proteins, I NEVER throw these away because I put all meats in the freezer, except what I am using that night and the next night. 

4. Removes Stress 

Our weeks are busy and after full days of work and chasing after littles, we should not be stressing about what our family will eat.  Taking the time to plan ahead, will allow your weeks to run so much more smoothly around dinner time. It is now something I don’t even think about.  I just know what we are eating and I start making it. There are enough stressors in our lives, don’t let dinner time be another one of those.

5. Allows for Healthier Choices

If meals are not planned, it is more likely that you will resort to going out or picking up something quick.  While of course you can find healthy options out, it is more likely that you will consistently be eating healthier meals the more you plan things out.  When you plan out your meals, you have the control to make sure you are getting lean proteins, greens, and healthy carbs.   

So now you might be thinking, “Okay I get it, meal planning has some clear benefits, but planning ahead is just not my personality.  I don’t even know where to start!”  

That is where I want to help you out. 

Remember how I mentioned it used to take me an hour to plan our meals for the week?  Part of the reason it took me so long was because I didn’t have any plan to help guide me.  I was doing all the hard front work myself. Now that I have been planning out meals for the past 4 years of our marriage, I have developed a weekly system that allows me to write out 7 meals + a grocery list in under 15-minutes.  I actually timed myself and I planned out the meals in 12-minutes yesterday, while throwing tennis balls to our dog Nala and chasing around a toddler. This is something you can even do quickly in the middle of your chaotic days! 

4 Simple Steps to Start Meal Planning TODAY

Below are four tangible steps you can start taking today to help with meal planning and make your life so much simpler.

1. Choose a Day to Plan and Shop (stay consistent!)

Pick the day that is open enough for you to plan out your meals and shop in the same day.  If you are working, a weekend will probably work best. For me personally, I do it all on Mondays.  Start by thinking about your week as a whole and intentionally choosing a day that you can do all the planning and shopping.  Try not to split it up over 2 days. I used to do this and it made the process feel longer. Get it all done in ONE day, so the rest of the 6 you don’t even need to think about meals or the grocery store. 

Grocery shopping on the same day every week is one of my favorite weekly rhythms. It saves a ton of time because you are just making one big grocery trip for the whole week. It is something that you expect to happen on that particular day so it does not hold as much dread. And it actually helps build a sense of community. I love the fact that I have come to know a lot of the people that work at our local Trader Joe’s. This type of community would likely not be as felt if we went grocery shopping at random days, times, and tons of different stores.

2. Write Down Ingredients Currently in Refrigerator + Pantry 

To be honest, I don’t do this every week because by the end of the week, we are basically empty!  However, at the beginning of your meal planning journey, you probably have a lot of food sitting in the fridge and pantry that are left unused.  I got this idea from Jordan Page, a blogger and You-tuber on how to be frugal as a family.   She suggests writing out a list of everything you have and then use this list to generate meal ideas.  This will ensure that you are using ingredients you already have.  

This is a much better strategy than first looking up recipes. I used to look up a recipe for nearly every day of the week, and I spent way more money on groceries because I was buying ingredients that I do not typically cook with. Don’t do this! Start with the ingredients you already have and generate meal ideas from there.

3. Create Meal Types for Each Day of the Week

Part of the reason I can so quickly plan out 7 meals in under 15-minutes is because I have created a system in which we have similar types of meals for each specific day of the week.  This is REALLY helpful. It takes out a lot of the decisions when it comes to meal planning and it can actually be a really fun thing for your family to look forward to and expect. This is something you can get the entire family on-board with.  To clarify, this does not mean we are eating the same meal every Monday or every Thursday, but we are eating the same “type” of meal.

For example our weekly menu includes “Meatless Mondays” and “Taco Tuesdays.” So on Mondays, I will either plan a veggie stir-fry, or veggie quinoa bowls, or a veggie pasta, or maybe even veggie burgers + sweet potato cubes.  On Tuesdays, we might have turkey tacos, or shrimp taco salad, or even beef taco soup. See? There can be variety even though each day of the week is assigned a specific type. I put together a sample week in the graphic above. As you can see, I keep it REAL simple!

Isn’t this menu pretty? I made it just for you! Well, and for myself too, but mostly you. I’ll send it to you for FREE! Just enter your email right below here. Along with the menu, I will also send you the organized grocery shopping list. Say goodbye to your frantic and wandering days of grocery shopping. This list will get you in and out of the store with CONFIDENCE.

Yes! Send me the Menu!

4. Use My Weekly Menu Chart + Grocery List 

There are tons of Meal Planning templates that you can purchase, but why spend the money?  I typically just grab printer paper and quickly write everything out, but I wanted something that looked a bit nicer, so I created this really simple menu chart + grocery list.  They are on two separate documents so you don’t need to cut the list off from the menu! I would highly recommend putting the menu up on your fridge or somewhere super visible in the kitchen so the whole family can see it.  Make sure you enter your email above, so I can send you this FREE gift.

For the grocery list, I have created it with three columns: Produce, Proteins, and Pantry. I used to just list everything out, but this method made grocery shopping more difficult. Now, as I make a list I organize it into these three categories and it makes the actual shopping experience a lot simpler.  So when creating your list, just think of the 3 P’s. Also, I started adding a fourth category: Freezer. I tend to not really get anything from the frozen section, except frozen berries and a couple dessert options. However, I included it on the list, just in case you tend to stock up on more frozen items.

I really hope this is helpful for you.  If you are already a meal planning type of gal, I would LOVE to hear some of your tips.  Leave a comment below! If you are still very new to meal planning, and have any specific questions, please leave them below as well.

See you next Thursday! Happy Meal Planning!

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.

5 Tips for Finding Routine as a Stay-at-Home Mom

I love structure, routines, and schedules. I love doing the same type of thing every week.  For some this might seem super boring, but for me, it is absolutely necessary.  I struggle with decisions. I am incredibly indecisive, so the fewer decisions I need to make within the week, the better.  There is something incredibly refreshing about establishing weekly rhythms in your life.  I believe these small patterns in our lives have the power to impact so much more than just how we choose to spend our days.  It impacts our attitudes, our characters, and ultimately our entire lives. So, if you ask me, this routine stuff is essential!

You might be reading this and thinking yes, I am all about schedules and routines too, but right now the season of life I am in makes consistent routines super difficult.  I get it! This is one of the many reasons I struggled so much early on when Hudson was born. I lost all sense of routine and control and if I am honest, it really had an affect on me in an emotional, spiritual, and physical way. I believe that even in a season with a bunch of little ones running about, you can develop a sense of routine.  And you should! Because it will not only help keep you more sane, it will allow for you to ultimately be more productive.  

daily routine for stay at home moms that will actually allow for rest, productivity, and quality family time.

So mama, if you are in a place where you want more steadiness in your life, but you don’t even know where to start, here are 5 simple things you can start doing today to get routines into your days. Just because you are a stay-at-home mom, that does not mean you cannot build in some of the structure and schedules you used to have in the pre-kids life.

green coffee mug for mom starting her morning routine

1. Wake Up Before the Kids

I have written a lot about my morning routine. You can read more about it, here. There are a few things I try to do every morning. The reality is that it is really hard to get the time to read my Bible, journal, and pray if I don’t get up at least 30 minutes before Hudson rises. I know this can be a real challenge, especially if you have really little ones that are not sleeping throughout the night. It can also be tough if your little ones are not consistently waking up at the same time. In particular seasons like that, allow for grace.

I would recommend setting a timer for you to get up at the same time every morning. Maybe for you right now, it is not realistic to wake up at 5 am. Try 6 am or 6:30 am. The reality is that you cannot control when the rest of the house is going to get up, but you can control when you get up. Consistently, waking up at the same time every morning is such an important rhythm that really sets the tone for the rest of the day. 

mom weekly cleaning routine

2. Set a Cleaning Task for Each Day of Week

As a stay-at-home mom, I put an excessive amount of pressure on myself to have the house in order. I know I am not alone in this. But here is the thing, solely taking care of a baby/multiple children is a full-time job in itself. There is not always time to have the baseboards shiny and the linen closet organized. Time and energy is limited. How can we have a relatively tidy house without feeling completely overwhelmed and burnt out?  Set small tasks for specific rooms of the house every week. Create a cleaning schedule that works best for you and stick to it.

Before you know it, you will be changing the bed sheets every Wednesday without even thinking about it. This is not a revolutionary concept, but having small cleaning tasks that are assigned for specific days of the week really helps me to not feel as overwhelmed. There are certain tasks like making the bed, emptying the dishwasher, sweeping and wiping down counters that happen on a daily basis, but here are the specific tasks I do for every day of the week, minus Sundays because those are for resting:

  • Monday: Frontload laundry (try to do as many loads as I can) + focused floor clean (baseboards on a bi-monthly basis)
  • Tuesday: Focused kitchen clean  
  • Wednesday: Change bed sheets + vacuum bedroom
  • Thursday: Change Hudson’s crib sheets + vacuum nursery
  • Friday: Focused bathroom clean 
  • Saturday: Mop floors, so floors feel nice and fresh going into our Sabbath (day of rest). Saturdays are often nice days for us as a couple to tackle any bigger projects, like a garage tidy or refrigerator clean. 
things to do with young children

3. Set an Activity with your Kids for Each Day of Week

Similarly, to the way I clean, I like to do similar types of activities for each day of the week. For this fall season, we are taking a couple mommy and me classes, so this built-in structure makes Monday and Tuesday activities already planned. Below is an example of a typical week activitiy schedule for us:

  • Monday: Mommy & Me hour length class + Trader Joe’s run post-nap 
  • Tuesday: Mommy & Me 2.5 hour length class + play in backyard post-nap
  • Wednesday: Trip to library + park before or after if time permits 
  • Thursday: Free Day! It really depends on the week, but I try to do something out of the normal routine with him on Thursdays.  This might mean hosting a fun playdate at our house, having lunch with a grandparent or attending a local kid’s event.  
  • Friday: Park, beach, or errands/appointments with mommy.  Our weekends are typically pretty full, so I try to keep Fridays more mellow.  

I have found that this rhythm of having an outing at the same time every day during the week is essential.  This time of the outing is going to likely change a lot as the nap schedule changes, but now that he is 16-months old, he has only one long afternoon nap.  This allows for a longer chunk of morning time to have an outing.  

One of the beautiful things that happen when we establish these park and library routines is that we are indirectly developing community.  You will find that other moms, nannies, and children also love routines. As a new mom where every day seems to be different, I have found a tremendous amount of comfort in seeing the same familiar faces every Wednesday at the library or every Thursday morning at the park. It reminds me I am not alone. It gives me a sense of connection that my days otherwise lack when I stay at home.

If you are feeling stuck with not knowing the best activities to do with your little ones that are home, here are a few suggestions that have helped me get out of the house:

Ways to Get Out the Door with Little Ones

  • Sign-up for classes! There are so many amazing baby and toddler classes offered by the city.  Signing up for classes is not only a great way to help with the development of your little one, but also a great way to build structure and routine into your unpredictable days of motherhood. 
  • Find your favorite local parks.  Not all parks are equal! Do some research (this might mean actually going to a handful of parks) and find the ones that you and your kids like the most.  And go out to them on a consistent basis.
  • Utilize your library! I cannot emphasize this one enough.  The library is one of the most untapped resources our cities offer.  Get to know the library staff. Grab their calendar of events and actually go to them.  The library we attend has great resources for both babies and parents.  
  • Make mom friends.  I am a part of a local MOMS Club and I am a big fan.  Joining this club over a year ago was one of the best decisions I made in those early months as a mom.  It has given me friends and has helped get me out of the door. Whether it is MOMS Club, MOPS, or any other local mom’s group, join something! Not only will this get fun events on your calendar, it will allow you to find community with other moms.
woman exercising in the early morning by herself as part of her routine

4. Exercise Consistently at Same Time 

I think people assume that for people that “love” running, it comes naturally for them to go out for a run.  Not true! At least not for me. Getting out the door, especially recently, has been such an internal battle. My whole mind and body often fights against it.  I know I am not alone in this.  

This is only further evidence of the importance of establishing exercise routines.  Without a consistent routine, it will simply not happen. You need to treat your times of exercise like important work meetings, even if it just a you.  Schedule the times you will run or go out to exercise and actually follow through.  You won’t always feel like it, but you will eventually hit your stride.

As I wrote about a few weeks ago, I am on a bit of an off-season for running, but I am trying to still exercise 6 days a week.  These days it is much less mileage and more group workout classes. This is what a typical week looks like for me currently: 

  • Monday: 6 mile run.  This is a really important run!  I am a huge believer of front-loading and starting your week with hard things.  This sets the precedence for the rest of the week. Last Monday, going out for a run was literally the last thing I wanted to do.  I felt pretty terrible and tired, but since this is part of my established routine, I did it. Even in those moments of not wanting to do something, I can think back to the past of how running on a Monday makes me feel, and from this, I am motivated to stick with it.  
  • Tuesday: 6:15 pm Yogaworks class.  For over the past month, I have been going to the same yoga class with the same teacher, Petra.  I used to pop from different classes with different teachers throughout the week, but for me personally, it is so important to go to the same classes every week.  This routine allows for me to start building a relationship with the teacher and build community with the other ladies that I see every Tuesday and Thursday.  I love how Petra knows me by name, chats with me, and compliments my yoga pants. This sense of belonging and community does not happen if you never consistently go to the same class or instructor.
  • Wednesday: 6 mile run
  • Thursday: 4 mile run + 6:15 pm Yogaworks class
  • Friday: 4-6 mile run (usually with Lance)  This is the end of the week run where I really listen to my body.  Last Friday, I felt terrible so it was just 4 miles. Two Fridays ago, I felt awesome so it was closer to 6.  It really depends. I am not super concerned about this particular run. I usually run this with Lance, so it is a nice run to connect with him and not need to push the jogger!
  • Saturday: Long run in Palos Verdes (right now this is usually around 10 miles) OR 7 am Yogaworks class with Petra
  • Sunday: OFF
woman preparing meal for dinner for her family

5. Start Dinner at the Same Time 

Set a time to start dinner and stick with this as much as you can.  For me, it is 4 pm. I know this is early, but we are early dinner people.  This rhythm of starting dinner at the same time is essential for us in our evening routine.  This allows us to eat at about the same time every night. This rhythm allows for a chunk of evening time that is not spent worrying about dinner prep and dirty dishes.

Like most of what I have written here, it is such a small choice, but this daily pattern of 4 pm dinner making allows things to get started when I often don’t feel like it.  This is usually the time where I am more tired from the day; however, this pattern I have set in our lives, allows me to grab the ingredients and turn on the oven at 4 pm without even really thinking about my feelings. Just another example of the importance of routine! 

Mama with the Crazy Child: You Are Not Alone!

This one is for you mama. 

The one who feels like she most certainly has the craziest, loudest, and messiest child in the world.  You are not alone. I am right there with you.

I know I cannot be alone in this feeling that my son seems to be the only one that is quite as loud or makes quite as much of a mess compared to all the other babies.  It is so easy to fall into this trap of comparison and feel like there must be something wrong with the way we are raising our kids. Here is the thing, sometimes children, especially really little ones, have bad days and it is NO indicator of how good or bad of a parent we are.  

In full transparency, Hudson and I have been having a rough past few days.  Like hitting other babies and throwing sippy cups off gondola rides rough. I can’t make this stuff up.  This is our life. Hudson is not even 16-months old yet and these past few days have felt like we are already in those terrible twos.

It is amazing how I can already see very large glimpses of the type of boy and man I can see him becoming.  And these glimpses are beautiful! I already can see that he is going to be incredibly passionate in whatever he chooses to pursue in his life. This makes me super excited for his future; however, this passionate personality feels a bit overwhelming right now. 

toddler boy with converse shoes standing by tree outside
Look closely! You can see some of the green paint remnants on right side of shirt.

The Green Paint Incident

Last Tuesday, we were at our mommy and me class when the teacher put out paint for the babies to use.  None of the other babies even went near the paint, except for my sweet Hudson. And let’s just say, there was green everywhere.  In his hair, on his shirt, on his shorts, on my shirt, and on my jacket. Then, he started running away with the green paint brush in hand and decided it was time to make other things turn green as well, like the soccer ball and the toy car.  So here I am, chasing this wild baby and wondering, why is he is the messiest and craziest one in this whole class?

The other babies seems to be neatly playing with the play-dough and water tank. They are not covered in green.  The thing with this mindset is that I am zeroing in on particularly tough moments and failing to remember the million, little sweet things he did on that very same day.  In that moment, Hudson was the messy, paint boy, but in the very next, it will be a different little one and I am guessing that mama or dad will feel just the way I did. Let’s give our kids and ourselves a little bit more grace. We all have our green paint kind of days. 

toddler boy waiting for the doctor at the doctor's office
Waiting for the doctor, post-poop everywhere…

The Poop Incident

The story does not end here.  Two days after the paint incident, there was the poop incident.  Hudson had his 15-month doctor appointment. As I took him out of his carseat and started walking up to Dr. Berman’s office, I felt something warm on my arm.  I also smelled something awful. Hudson pooped, but we are not just talking about a normal poop. Something went very wrong and this poop, like the green paint, was everywhere.  On the wall, on my shirt, on his shorts, and on his socks. For the entirety of his appointment, I smelled like poop.  I did not have a change of clothes for either one of us, so Hudson went home in a diaper and I went home in a poopy shirt. Again, here is a moment of feeling like I must be the most unprepared mother with a baby that has the craziest poops. All lies.

The Bus Incident

And the story continues.  On Monday, we went back to the San Diego Zoo. We went to the San Diego Zoo when we visited my sister about a month and a half ago. You can read about that first zoo visit here. This time we went with friends. These friends also have a baby that is a similar age to Hudson.  She is super calm and mellow. And this does not help my head case of feeling like Hudson is the craziest and messiest baby alive.  But here is the thing, they have such different personalities, I simply cannot compare. Hudson will never be the quiet one that can sit still and not say a word, and I am perfectly okay with this.  Again, I love how passionate he is about the world and all the little things in it; however, right now, it feels a tad overwhelming.

Hudson is obsessed with the animals.  It doesn’t matter what type, if it is moving and he sees it, he immediately signs “please” and wants to touch them.  He wants to be up close and personal. He wants to chat with them and see how they are doing. Again, I love this about him, but right now this manifests in him shrieking and screaming when the bus tour we are on drives away from said animal exhibit.  The amount of noises he made on that 40-minute bus ride was rather impressive. And again as I am bouncing him and exerting all the energy I can muster to get him to quiet down, that comparative voice again starts running in my head. I look around at all the quiet and calm babies sitting on their parents’ laps.  Why is my baby the loudest and most active on this whole bus?  

The Gondola Ride Incident

Then, there was the gondola ride, where he threw his sippy cup off the ride.  Thankfully, it landed on a building and it was just his green sippy cup. It could have been much worse; however, this was just another thing that added to my feelings of insecurity at this whole parenthood thing.  Why can’t I seem to control my child?

In between these moments on the bus and the gondola ride, there were also moments where he was super fun and independent.  In the Reptile Walk, he would run from glass exhibit to glass exhibit, with such excitement and enthusiasm. He would point at each animal, smile, and run to say hi to the next one.  These are the moments that I need to hold on to more. These are the times I should be asking: Do I have the cutest, most passionate baby in the whole wide world? Yes, yes I think I do.

Then, there was the dinner, after a long day at the zoo. This exhausted boy who was running and screaming all over the place at the zoo, was sensory overloaded by the time dinner hit.  As I write this, everything is beginning to make sense to me. The amount of energy he exerts throughout the day, often leads to him being a complete nightmare in restaurant settings. As his mom, I need to understand this better and make sure that after a full day I don’t push him beyond his limits. While the other baby could handle it, he is different and it was just too much for him.  

This sums up our past few days pretty well!

The Hitting Baby Incident

I will end with my final example.  This one happened yesterday at this week’s mommy and me class.  It involved a toy lemon and a plastic pan from the toy kitchen. I am not going to even sugar coat it, Hudson used this pan to hit another baby on the arm.  I could type up a bunch of excuses here, but I am owning it instead.

He hit her and he absolutely shouldn’t have; however, it was the reaction of the mom that again put me back in the spiraling head case I have been fighting for over a week. She simply said one word: “wow!”  With that one word and her telling her baby that they should head over to the kitchen, far away from this crazy child and his mother, I felt alone. This is really a story for another post, but as mothers, can we respond to situations in ways that create bridges, instead of further divide?

We Are in this Together

This is a lot of little stories to point to this one fact: we all have bad days, especially little ones, but don’t let the bad days take away from the good ones.  Don’t let the bad, misbehaved moments, take away from the really amazing ones. And this is especially for the mom that has a baby or child with a similar personality trait to sweet Hudson. 

Embrace this passionate side of your child. Yes, it may feel like he is the messiest, craziest, and loudest one on the whole bus, but he or she has a lot of good that they can offer. Learn to tame the wild and put all this energy and passion into good.  Ultimately, the point of all these very honest and raw stories are to be my open hand out to you. We are in this together. You are not alone, mama. If you think you have the craziest, loudest, messiest baby; come over and meet mine.

Alive in Your Calling

Have you ever had a day or a week where you were struck with a deep feeling in your bones that you were doing exactly what you were made to do? Trust me, I have a lot of days of doubt.  A lot of days where I question if the Lord wants more from me.  If he wants me to do this mothering thing, alongside a full-time career.  There are definitely moments, days, conversations that make me wonder. Amidst this doubt, I am occasionally hit with the unshakeable feeling that I am exactly where I am meant to be.

There was no big event that happened last week that woke me up to my calling, but it was the stringing along of ordinary moments, like singing at mommy and me class and hosting fun baby play dates at our house that made me realize: I was made for this.

Mother and baby at the beach
“What do you do for work?” This. This is what I do.

Oh, I Just Stay At Home

Being a stay-at-home mom is a tricky subject.  It is tricky because I am fully aware that it is a privilege.  Not everyone has a choice. I know there are plenty of mamas that would love to stay at home, but the extra income is a necessity.  Or, they are a single mama and their job is the sole income providing for their family.  Even as I type this, I sense myself holding back and overthinking the words to say.  I really don’t want to step on toes. The main point here is that I am fully aware that we all are living our own stories with our own sets of pressures.  I can only really write from where I currently am and that is at home. I feel thankful to be in a position that it is possible for me to stay at home. This is a big deal, and I do my best to not take it for granted. 

There is a lot of unspoken misunderstandings between the two camps: working mamas and at home mamas.  This makes me sad, but I think there is a lot of internal judgement and comparison. And I think it is absolutely felt on both sides.  Again, I can only speak from my perspective, but I feel pretty certain that working mamas struggle with not being able to have the same type of experiences or involvement as those that are at home. 

Baby and smiling mother outside
Thankful.

Own Your Story; No Need to Fabricate

On the flip side, SAHMs can feel like they are not doing enough. I have had countless conversations with people (all with good intent) that ask me when or if I plan on going back to work. I know it is unintentional, but this question often feels like a judgement.  It often feels like all the work I am doing within the home is somehow not enough. I have found myself in this past year making up stories of intentions of returning to work soon. I find myself telling them about how I had a few substitute teaching jobs last school year, as if they need to know that I am doing more than just staying home.

Especially when I talk to other working moms, I have felt this pressure to communicate my heart of eventually returning to my teaching job.  But here is the thing, I am not certain this is where I feel called. I really wish I could own my story better and not feel like I need to fabricate things to connect better to the woman I am speaking to.

Staying At Home IS a Full-Time Job!

Most people can acknowledge that staying at home with kids is a lot of work.  While I think a lot of people can recognize the tremendous amount of work and value that comes with being at home with your kiddos, I believe there is still a lot of underlying assumptions.  Since we don’t have a typical 9-5, people can easily assume that we are the perfect people to take on x, y, and z.

A stay-at-home mom works many job throughout the day. She’s a nurse, chauffeur, chef, teacher, playmate, housekeeper, laundry attendant, accountant, and babysitter all rolled into one.

What Does a Stay-At-Home Mom Do All Day, Apryl Duncan, VeryWellFamily

Again, I am writing this with hesitation because I don’t want to step on toes, but I think there is a lot of truth in this.  And it is not a bad thing per se. I feel happy to be in a more flexible position that I can do some extra things I probably would not have been able to do if I was still working outside of the home. The problem is when people assume that we must have the time.  This is where I think there is confusion. In a lot of ways, I feel busier than when I was teaching. I feel more on for my one, little toddler, than I did for 100 something students. 

I Should…

A lot of the things that I let slip when I was working, I have fully taken on.  When the floors are messy, I feel a lot of responsibility and guilt for not being on it.  Since my work is within the home, I feel so guilty when the house feels like a chaotic mess.  This is my one job! I should have spotless floors, a fridge fully stocked, and gourmet meals on the table every night.  I should be doing all the extra things. I should be on the board of my MOMS Club. I should be the one volunteering to be in charge of the email list for our year-long mommy and me class.  I should have a foot in every single ministry at church. I should be reaching out to friends more often and sending them letters of encouragement. I should do more for my husband, I mean he is the one fully providing for us.  I should, I should, I should.  

Mother kissing baby at the top of Inspiration Point hike at Will Rogers State Park
These baby days already feel like they are drifting away!

Sweet Daughter,

Man, typing up the above actually made me really sad.  It made me sad because all those things are truly weighing on my heart.  Being a SAHM often feels like it is not enough for the world around me and if I’m honest, sometimes I get caught up in believing this lie.  But here is the truth the Lord reminded me this week: it is enough and I am exactly where He wants me. 

Back to my original question that started off this post: Are you ever struck with a deep sense that you are exactly where you were meant to be?  This past week, I felt like I was living out my calling. It was not glamorous and it did not involve fancy meetings or important conferences. Instead, it involved lots of “the wheels on the bus go round and round.”  I sang a lot of songs last week with Hudson and I read a lot of the same book over and over and I made lots of snacks. And in this place of singing, reading, and making, I felt alive in my calling. I felt the Lord whispering to me all week: Sweet daughter, you are right where I want you.


Find Beauty in the Ordinary & Have a Great Weekend!

After especially busy seasons, slow weekends are best friends.  This past weekend was similarly sweet and mellow like the past weekend I wrote about. I want to put this into words so I don’t forget. I am feeling just so thankful right now.  Life feels simple and peaceful and quiet, and I know this won’t last forever, but I am really loving this particular season of life.

Hudson is at a stage that I am absolutely adoring.  If you have read even just a handful of my past posts, you should have the idea that the newborn stage was a struggle to say the least for me. I feel much more comfortable in this stage of making snacks, taking him to mommy and me classes, and chasing him about the house. I was unprepared for the very early stages. Not to say that that time is not precious and sweet and special, but I am really loving this toddler season.

Toddler boy wearing Hurley T-shirt with leather sandals at the park
There are those adorable leather sandals that he sported the next day at the…park!

The Leather Sandal Incident

Just yesterday, Hudson came up to me holding a pair of sandals he has yet to wear.  These sandals gathered dust because I assumed they were still too big for his little feet. Yesterday, he decided he was ready for them. He showed me them and tapped his foot with them.  Such a simple thing, but this moment struck me. I thought it was one of the most darling things.  He has desires and grand ideas, like wearing his cool leather sandals in the house just because. I love watching his brain churn.  I love watching his little quirks develop. And I love the fact that he can communicate with me.

Along with the sandal tapping, Hudson has been signing “please,” “more,” and “all done.”  I can now tell him, “say please” or “how do we ask for something we want?”. Hudson greets me with a smile and a hand over his chest. This melts my heart in a certain type of way. I love that he can ask politely for things without even a word.  I love that he can tell us when he is all done and ready to get out of his high chair. This early stage of communication is a lot of fun and I eagerly await for the words to begin to flow. So far the vocabulary looks something like this: “mom,” (which is always said in association with something he wants) “dada,” (which is usually said when he is happy and having fun) “ba” = ball, “na”=Nala, our dog.

Journal to Find Beauty in the Ordinary

I have become obsessed with a journaling concept I recently heard about on Emily P. Freeman’s podcast “The Next Right Thing.”  I am linking to that particular episode here. She talks about how when she is feeling overwhelmed with the demands of everyday life, she grounds herself by writing down lists called “These Are The Days Of.”  Under this title she lists the things that are currently happening in her life. This is such a simple, little exercise, but I think it is genius. It is genius in the sense that it gives us space to actually name what is going on in our life.

It is amazing how the most beautiful, yet ordinary things of our days so easily slip by us if we don’t take the time to intentionally jot it down.  This scares me! I don’t want to forget the beautifully ordinary elements of my days. This is why writing is such an important part of my days. It is why I journal in the mornings and persist in keeping up this little blog. Your perspective, your story, the ordinary elements of your day are sacred.  They are strung together by the greatest storyteller of all time, the Lord, and He wants us to share it. He wants us to tell about the seemingly ordinary, yet holy, beautiful, and sacred aspects of our days. So, I am sharing. I am logging them down for you to read because I believe it is important, no matter how small.

These Are The Days Of…

  1. Beach days
  2. Chasing Hudson as he runs toward the ocean, completely fearless
  3. Baby friends and mom friends
  4. The park 
  5. Homestate lunch dates with daddy 
  6. Farmer’s Markets
  7. Cinnamon rolls on Sundays
  8. 15-months 
  9. Planting plumeria in a blue planter
  10. Water diapers and sprinklers in the backyard
  11. Watching the grass grow, literally 
  12. Trying new things 
  13. Finding confidence in motherhood
  14. Fighting hard against comparison, daily
  15. Wondering if Hudson will be the crazy, misbehaved one in school
  16. Also wondering, if he will be drafted to the MLB before college; he has an arm!
  17. Leather sandals
  18. The park, again
  19. Capturing milestones with signs
  20. Registering for The Boston Marathon!
  21. Checking out 11 library books 

Poetic, right?  I love this exercise because it gets me to literally just list out what is going on in my life.  When I read that list back, I am amazed by the beauty in it. This is just our life right now. This is literally what is going on.  And if I am honest, most days, I don’t stop to let the beauty of it all sink in. Instead I spend a lot of time wondering if I am doing enough, as I mindlessly clean the baseboards and compare my mom life to the lives of the busy, important friends I see all around me.  I need to stop. I need to make my “These Are The Days Of…” list. I need to give space to the abundant blessings in my life, even though there are days where I feel pretty small and unimportant.

Toddler boy play with water sprinklers in the backyard
These are the days of backyard sprinklers & water diapers.

Your Story Matters- Own It!

This post is a little all over the place, but this is just what is on my heart, currently. I hope you can find encouragement in it.  I hope you can remember that your ordinary days of the park, library, and sprinklers in the backyard matter. It is easy to get lost in the stacks of laundry, sticky floors, and that feeling that you are always at a park.  It is easy to forget these ordinary days of correcting, feeding, cleaning, creating, and loving are in fact poetry. If you are overwhelmed and exhausted, do me a favor. Take 5 minutes. Write down the ordinary elements of yours days. Then, read it slowly and thoughtfully back to yourself. Let it set in. Let the ordinary moments hold space in your heart and let gratitude take over.

Each of our lists are likely going to vary quite a bit, but this variance does not change our status as moms or wives or sisters.  The Lord has a unique list and story mapped out for us, it might not look like the mom who is seemingly doing it all, but it is ours.  Let’s own it, more.


6 Simple, Daily Choices that Made My Week Better

This past week was a good week. And it was actually the simplest things that made it good. Nothing revolutionary. Just intentional, simple, daily choices. This is a concept I often think about. How seemingly small choices can make a day, a week, a year, and I am going to go as far as say a whole life.

Emily P. Freeman’s “The Next Right Thing” is a podcast I have recently been devouring. I love Emily’s podcast for a lot of reasons: her soothing voice, short yet largely informative episodes, and mostly for the fact that she is a resource full of amazing wisdom. She is wise and reflective. I think we could all learn a thing or two from listening to her podcast. Anyway, a lot of what she talks about is how the process of decision-making is so important because it is the decisions we make that inform the life we live.

When it comes to making decisions, I am an incredibly indecisive person. I am always the last one to order at a restaurant. I always overthink my ice cream order, then end up with the same thing I always do: a strawberry cone. I scroll through amazon, obsessively read reviews, add things to my cart, and then remove them and then add it once more. I could go on and on. Making decisions is not my strong suit. So, “The Next Right Thing” podcast is helping me. It is reminding me that I don’t need to always be thinking 5 steps ahead. I can be present and just focus in on what truly my next right step is. It could be as simple as taking the time to actually make myself a grown-up lunch, and not settle for those dino chicken nuggets. This is such a small choice I can make in my pretty ordinary days, but it does have the power to transform my perspective, mood, and attitude.

This week was good because I intentionally made a few very small decisions. There is so much I still need to learn about myself, but I am slowly beginning to catch on to the things that help me, and the things that easily trip me up. Listed below are the 6 things I have identified as the very things I need in my life on a daily basis. Again, we aren’t talking about anything extravagant or expensive. Literally, it is as simple as getting up early and sitting down in the afternoon to read. Sometimes the difference between a good and bad day is just a few very minor adjustments.

1. Rise Early

I have written about this before and you can read more about that here. I am a big believer that waking up early is one of the best decisions you can make for yourself all day. Depending on your personality it could also be one of the hardest decisions. By waking up before Hudson, I give myself the time to wake up to the day in a quiet and calm state. I often do not feel very good as I step out of bed. My brain is often flooded with excuses the moment I wake up at this early 5 am hour. And the thing is, sometimes those excuses win. I find that when I get out of my normal routines when on trips, it is more difficult to get back into the swing of waking up early. After the marathon and our family trip to Maui, I had about a month of not getting up early. I felt so tired from the past month of miles and travel, that I convinced myself that I needed extra sleep. Therefore, I would just wake up when Hudson woke up. The result? Not good. The month of August was definitely a slump month for me. I felt tired all the time. I felt incredibly unmotivated (you will notice that my posts on here have not been as consistent). And mostly I just felt like not enough.

It is not like waking up early is some magical solution, but I remembered this week the power in making this first choice. All week I have gotten up early, sometimes at 5 am, sometimes closer to 5:40, but everyday this week I have had at least a solid 30-minutes of time to wake up. And let me tell you, it makes all the difference.

2. Open Bible

After I get coffee, I jot down a few key things that happened the day before, and then I open my Bible. I need this to be the first thing I consume in the day, along with coffee of course. My days absolutely start off shaky if I choose Instragram over the Word. There are days where I fall short, but I try to always read the Bible before anything else begins. Sometimes it is multiple chapters, sometimes it is just a few verses. This simple act of choosing to open and read God’s word is more powerful than choosing to make your bed. Making your bed is a good habit, but it will not literally transform you from the inside out like the living word of God will.


3. Journal

This is a new one that I added this week. I have always been the diary-keeping, journal-writing type of girl. Except here is the thing, if you were to go through the numerous notebooks I have kept over the years, you would notice a trend. They are all half-filled. I am really great at starting journals, but rarely do I stay consistent enough to get to the very last page. When I get back on a journaling kick, I often want a fresh start, so hence the many half-filled notebooks that I have stuffed in my bedside table. I want this half-filled notebook phase to end. I want to be the person that fills up an entire notebook before moving on to the next one. The only way I will get to this point is if I treat the act of journaling as habitual of a routine as taking vitamins or brushing my teeth.

Just like I must consume the word of God first, I then must output the feelings and questions and anxieties of my heart. The pages of my notebooks, along with the ever-present ear of the Lord, is my personal sounding board. When I journal honestly, I see things more clearly. This week, in my early morning journaling, I used this time to pray to God. I sometimes struggle with prayer early in the morning. I easily lose focus and the words are more difficult for me to vocalize. Prayer through writing just makes more sense to me. For you, it might look very different, but find a mode of output that allows you to gain a sense of clarity, peace, and connection before the chaos of the day begins.

4. Exercise

After the marathon, I basically stopped running again. And let me tell you, my body felt this break. I often complain about the hard work of running, but the truth is, I am not very kind when I don’t run regularly. Even if it is just a few easy miles, my body, mind, and heart need it. I need the rhythm, the space, the quiet that running creates for me. Even though I rarely feel like it, after a run or a yoga class, I always feel more motivated and inspired. I almost always think of my best ideas when I am out on a run. Running gives me a greater capacity to show patience and love to the people in my life. I am a better overall mother, wife, sister, friend, and daughter, the more I carve out space to run or go to that 6 pm barre class. Last week was my first week back to exercising every day except Sunday, and my mood was the best it has been all month. There is something to breathing hard and sweating daily.


5. Read

I started 2019 off with the goal to read at least one new book per month. I know for some this might not be that much, but for me that was an ambitious goal. And the truth is, I began to read less as the year went on. This week I changed this trajectory and I started my habit of daily reading again. This all happened two Wednesday evenings ago when I felt exhausted from the day and needed some alone time. So, I left the house and I drove to the library. I know, a slightly strange place to retreat to, but for some reason it felt right. Here in this tired, worn out, and slightly discouraged state, I stumbled upon Imperfect Courage by Jessica Honegger. The Lord led me to this book. It is the perfect combination of being a good, faithful woman, while also not being afraid to chase after our God-given ambition and passion. I am loving it. I also find that reading books like these help make me feel more connected and inspired. I almost always notice that my writing comes more naturally the more I read.

Reading is just another small, daily choice that makes a huge impact in my days. The choice to intentionally sit outside and read while Hudson naps is also a way that I force myself to rest. This one act allows me to get off my feet and just take in words without any other agenda. Not to mention, our dog Nala loves when I choose to read because I am able to also throw the tennis ball for her!

6. Plan

This is such a small thing, but the weeks that I take time to plan out, are so much better than the ones I don’t. I go a little crazy when we stay at home. I also easily become stuck with trying to figure out what to do the day of when I don’t plan ahead. This week I got back into a rhythm of loosely planning out my week on Sunday evening. I quickly jot down the days I will run and how many miles. I write down a few days that I will intentionally make time to escape by myself and make it into a yoga class. I write down a few major household tasks. And I look at our MOMS Club calendar and pencil in a couple playdates or text some mom friends and create playdates. This does not take much time at all, but it gives me so much clarity as I go to sleep Sunday night. I can wake up Monday morning and feel like I am waking up to a schedule and routine. I know what is ahead. There are things to do, people to see, and places to go.

Hopefully that all was not too boring. I wanted to specifically write this out because these few small choices, while definitely not revolutionary, are really making a big difference in my overall outlook and mood. It is amazing what these consistent and simple behaviors can do to a day, a week, a year, and yes a whole life. I am curious, what are your go-to daily choices? Comment below!

Long Weekends Are Friends

While most weekends seem to literally just fly by and escape me, last weekend in particular seemed to hang around for a while and it was just what I needed. It actually felt long in the best possible way. Most weekends for us always seem to have a pretty lengthy agenda. Things to do, places to go, people to see. This weekend definitely still had some of that, but for some reason or another, there also felt like there was a ton of white space. There was a lot of down time, rest, breathing, dreaming, no agenda. And let me tell you, that is some of my favorite types of time. I even went to a spa by MYSELF! Yes, alone, just me and the steam room. If I were to say it was naturally just lovely, I would actually be lying because the truth is, it was uncomfortable for me. I truly had to push myself out the door to go and when I got there, I literally almost left. Little to my knowledge, bathing suits were not allowed in this particular spa. I am assuming this is a thing for most, if not all Korean spas. I was unaware. I went in with my securely tied pink and black suit, with zero intentions of needing to take it off. Here’s the thing, I am incredibly private. This is part of the reason I had SO much trouble breastfeeding in public. I like my privacy. I like bathing suits in spas. This really could be an entire story on its own, but here is the mildly shortened version. I did not leave the spa, even though every part of me wanted to. I felt incredibly out of my comfort zone. I walked into a spa that felt culturally unfamiliar to me. But, I took a deep breath, held the towel tightly around me, and tried to get into the hot tub as discreetly as possible. It was almost like that hot tub warmed me up, and I eventually got over my fears and was able to actually relax. I made a little circuit from the hot tub to the cold pool to the steam room and then back to the cold pool. I did this circuit over and over again, occasionally switching out steam room for the sauna.

Toddler boy in swim trunks throwing tennis ball in pool
Late Saturday afternoon pool time. Hudson loves throwing the ball to Nala Girl.

Will I go back to this bathing suit-less spa? No, probably not. Not my thing. I prefer having a secure suit around me, but here’s the thing that is important: I made the best of this situation that felt uncomfortable to me. I am quite aware of the privilege in this story. Oh no, poor thing, what a hard life, she had to endure a spa day without a bathing suit. I get it. This may sound silly to you, and it kind of is, but I still think there is value to it. It is not always going to manifest itself in the form of a Korean Spa, but daily I am faced with situations where I need to push myself out of comfort zones. If I am honest, I am pretty comfortable just at home, not needing to interact with people, or put myself out there through an email, an ask or a proposal. Lets just be real honest, life is so much easier in our comfort zones. It is so much easier to just type and type, but never hit publish. It is so much easier to complain about how I never get time to myself, but then not do anything about it, even when I have a kind husband that encourages me to take time. It is so much easier to pull out all the toys at home and not venture out on that playdate to the park you have never been and the moms you have never met. Especially for someone like me that craves safety, routine, and control, life is just easier in the comfort zone. I am very aware that the Lord wants more for me. He wants me to push myself. He wants me to get more comfortable with being uncomfortable. He wants to refine me. And the best way He will do this is if I am willing to get more uncomfortable. All this to say, I am proud of my spa day and thankful for my husband that gave me this gift of time alone. I needed it. Once I finally got into my little rhythm of the circuit I created, I ended up enjoying myself. I even laughed with other women about plunging into the cold pool. I let go and I was able to relax. I even got some writing in, as I headed up to the second floor, that was co-ed, so thankfully required a baggy orange and gray outfit. So in my orange gym shorts that went past my knees, I wrote. I munched on Sour Patch Kids and I wrote from a heart of gratitude. Even when I step away by myself for a couple hours, I can see with clear vision the incredible amount of blessings the Lord has surrounded me with. I am so grateful.

Toddler eating doughnut at Randy's Doughnuts
Sundays are for Randy’s Doughnuts

On a very different note, the rest of the weekend was filled with time with family, Sunday morning doughnut trips, BBQs, walks and runs along the beach, long drives and good podcasts, and a little bit of dreaming of things to come with my sweet husband. This weekend actually did feel long. It felt restful and fun and carefree. It felt simple and good. It is amazing how just one extra day off can really make a world of a difference. That extra Monday was very much needed after what felt like an entire summer of non-stop hustle. I loved our summer. It was a ton of fun. We did a lot, saw a lot, traveled a lot. My extra tanned skin and Hudson’s bleached and highlighted hair is our proof. We lived this summer well. We took in lots of sun and had numerous ocean dunks. As much as I have loved this summer, I am ready for slower fall days. I am ready for staying inside more. I am ready for less travel and more time at home. Our fall is still relatively full as we are starting a couple mommy and me classes next week, but I actually really look forward to this routine. I look forward to steady schedules and cooler weather and of course, more sweaters and nitro cold brews with pumpkin cream.

Father and father sitting next to son
So thankful for this family of ours