Mother’s Day Reflections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All that to say, it was a good day.

My heart felt full + thankful. 

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

Happy Mother’s Day!

The Perfect Quarantine Weekend

It is no secret that I am ready for life to return to some semblance of normalcy, but there are definitely a few things that I want to stay the same even after quarantine.  One being an open weekend.  Typically, our weekend plans are so filled to the brim with plans and things to do.  This makes for fun and full weekends, but these types of weekends often lead to tired and drained out Mondays. 

Now, weekends are fully blank slates.  Infinite possibilities.  Well, not infinite because there is not much to do currently, but it does make way for much more restorative time away from the hustle of the week.  

We just had one of those magical weekends.  The one where it feels like time is endless.  It was the perfect combination of productive and rejuvenating.  It was full of family, doughnuts, fresh air, and lots of sunshine; a winning combination in my book.  

After this magical weekend, I am convinced that quarantine weekends can in fact be just as good, I will go as far to say, even better.  It just requires some intentionality.  

Just like I would write down a recipe that resulted in the perfect meal, I want to do the same for this amazing weekend we just lived out.  I don’t want to forget it.  

In no particular order, here are a few ingredients to what I am calling, the perfect quarantine weekend.  

1. Slow Start

Usually with marathon training or a regular weekend, there is something that requires an alarm on a Saturday morning.  It has been refreshing to not have an urgent alarm that requires me to get up before 6 am.  This slow start sets the tone. 

2. Doughnuts  

Saturdays and Sundays are NOT for oatmeal and toast.  This weekend we picked up Sidecar Doughnuts.  I am convinced doughnuts on a Saturday morning are always a good idea.  For some reason, this time they tasted even better.  They were warm and tasted like summer.

3. Fresh Air 

With most trails and beaches closed near us, the options for a nice hike are limited. We took a little drive to Orange County and as we waited for our doughnuts to be ready, we went on a short walk on the Back Bay Trail in Newport.  It was nice to be in a setting outside of our normal neighborhood + to take some detours off the main path onto some narrower dirt trails.  The view of the bay is beautiful and there are yellow wildflowers everywhere.  It felt good to not only get outside, but to get outside somewhere outside of our normal view.

4. Family  

Some rules were broken and we did spend time with family this weekend.  Definitely not condoning rule breaking, but my heart could only take being apart from extended family for so long.  It was live-giving to spend quality time with family that we love.

5. Takeout

We have a rule where we order takeout every Saturday night.  It is our small way in helping local food establishments, while also giving us all a much needed break from cooking + dishes.  It is such a small thing, but these weekly takeout Saturday evenings have become a thing we look forward to and a much needed break from our regular weekly routine.  A few of our takeout favs: Cava, Bamboo Thai, Senor G’s, and Mendocino Farms.

6. Play

Our weekend was full of a lot of bubbles, chalk, legos, coloring, and running around.  In the week, I like to set a few intentional/educational activities and projects for H.  By the weekend, I need a break and it is all about just free play.  It is one of the most rejuvenating things to watch a little kid freely play.  It gets me every time.  Quite honestly, watching Hudson and his own creativity develop, pushes me to continue to lean into my own creative passions.

7. Water

Water makes everything better.  We are really thankful to have a pool.  It has been a blessing in this time stuck at home.  This has been a source of abundant entertainment and energy release for our active, water-obsessed boy.  It also has been a joy to lounge out by the water and watch H splash around with his daddy and Nala, who is also water-obsessed.  

8. Creativity

Sunday was a day that just kept on giving.  I felt like I got to dabble in every single one of my creative passions.  I knitted.  I scrapbooked a few memories from last fall.  I read a book just for fun. 

I feel so much more fulfilled even when I give myself ten minutes away in the bedroom to knit a couple rows.  By the way, things are not going well there.  There is a giant hole, but I am determined to finish.  Like, I wrote about last week, I am choosing to embrace the process over the outcome.  Knitted hat with holes is greater than not ever trying.

9. Books

Lots of words were consumed this weekend.  Some spent near the pool as I listened to giggles from H, and some spent in my Sunday Bath.  Water and words just go together.  Last month, I did a couple audiobooks, but this weekend I was reminded that nothing beats having a book in hand.  

10. More Sunshine

Vitamin D was in no shortage this weekend.  We seemed to be outside soaking up all the sunshine for the majority of the weekend.  It made for some burnt and happy faces.   

11. Banana Bread

Part of what made this weekend feel so lovely is that Hudson actually took really nice long naps.  I am convinced that is thanks to the water + sunshine.  In this long nap time, Lance and I had the sweet leisure to make banana bread together.  This might seem like a small thing, but it is so contrary to our normal hustle and bustle, that it felt like sweet time together.  Lance mashed bananas, and I measured out ingredients. 

12. A little Netflix

Emphasis here on a little.  I never feel great after hours spent on Netflix mindlessly consuming tv.  That is definitely not life-giving for me.  This weekend, we had the perfect sprinkling of Netflix.  We giggled and rested as we watched our new favorite series.  But we did this for only the length of the show, 20-minutes.  It was the perfect little break and the right amount of time to then continue on little projects that brought us more joy, like that banana bread I mentioned above.

13. Unplug 

The days always feel longer (in a good way) when I am not constantly checking my phone.  Sundays are my much needed day away from social media and email.  It is a rule and I respect it.  It allows for greater presence and greater joy and ultimately allows for long days filled with lovely things, like knitting a few stitches and holding actual photos in my hands.  

14. Spontaneous Drives 

It feels like most of our days revolve around obligation.  The things we have to do.  Up until this pandemic, we never made enough margin for spontaneous things that had no purpose or plan.  Not to say this has happened frequently, but there have been a couple evenings after dinner that we decided to take a drive.  Not to any particular place.  Not to see any particular person, but just because we had the time and curiosity to do so. 

There it is. 14 ingredients to help craft a perfect weekend even amidst pandemic and quarantine.  There might not be many options when it comes to weekend plans, but with some intentionality and creativity, the weekend can have its own rhythm set apart. And it can still be lovely.

Embracing Process Over Outcome

Last Monday, Hudson and I attempted to make homemade noodles. Like a lot of things in my life, I had a picture of what the outcome would look like. In my head, it looked almost identical to the perfect noodles pictured in Joanna Gaines’ cookbook. Let’s just say they looked nothing like the picture. While her’s actually looked like noodles you would have bought from the store; mine looked strange and unnameable. I couldn’t even will myself to post a picture of the outcome because they looked so strange. Something clearly went awry. This was not the outcome I was expecting.

All week I have been thinking about this soup.  I have been thinking about if my mindset was merely outcome driven, I would have been pretty disappointed.  And here’s the thing, I usually am outcome driven.  I am all about a clear measurable.  My heart rests a bit easier when I can see a spreadsheet of all the things I did accomplish in a day.  That is one of the reasons I love training for a marathon.  I love the outcome of high mileage.  Even if I produce nothing else the rest of the day, it feels good to know that I ran 20 miles.  That is an outcome I can be proud of.  But here’s the thing, what about the seasons where you are not training for anything? What about the seasons that do not have a clear goal or some outcome that can be measured?  What is the indicator of success?  

Those noodles the other night were not my definition of success.  However, Lance did snap a few quick photos of Hudson and I making those noodles.  And when I look at those photos, I see success.  I see happy faces and floured noses.  I see time well spent in the kitchen. 

There are a handful of lessons this season of quarantine is teaching me.  One is this: the process is always sweeter than the outcome.  In times where we do not have races, or stages, or arenas to display our outcomes, the process becomes essential.  We must lean in and embrace the sweet process of things and not be quite as concerned with the outcome.  

For me, personally embracing the process looks a bit like this: 

  1. Getting out to run with zero expectations on mileage and pace.
  2. Making noodles for the sake of spending quality time with my son with zero expectations that it will look like Joanna’s.
  3. Writing words for the sake of creativity and the fact that I am a better person when I am creating + vulnerable.
  4. Sending bold emails. There are lots of no’s, but I am embracing this process of putting myself out there.
  5. Trying new activities with Hudson and being absolutely okay when they do not look like Pinterest.
  6. Taking photos and capturing moments that are not perfect.
  7. Journaling. This is one of the best ways I can look back on the process of my life + see the Lord’s kindness.
  8. Prayer. This outcome-oriented girl needs a lot of help from the Lord to see new vision and embrace the process of things more.

Process over outcome.  It is freeing.  It allows room for grace.  It allows you to sit down at the dinner table still smiling as you eat noodles that look nothing like Joanna’s. It allows you to create, run, write, love, and step out in boldness because it is not about the outcome. It is something more. Something greater. It is about who you are becoming in the process.

Small Joys in Quarantine Pt. 2

I found the process of naming the little things in my day that are bringing the joy to be incredibly helpful. It reminds me. It points me to the blessings all around me. It grounds me. Naming the ordinary joys I interact with on a daily basis grounds my head and heart from the ever-present temptation to complain and grumble. And let me tell you, I am an excellent grumbler. Instead of grumbling, I am doing my best to name the small joys. So, here are 5 more:

6. Knitting

Just like running, I am finding a deep sense of comfort in the repetitive nature of knitting. I am no master, literally just beginning.  I have already messed up a handful of times, and I am pretty sure the hat will likely have a few random holes, but still, I am doing it.  I am a knitter. 

This is actually my second time picking up yarn and knitting needles. The first was my sophomore year in college. One afternoon I had the sudden urge to knit, so I drove myself to the closest Joanne’s near LMU. I knitted on the 20-minute van rides over to the track for workouts. Amidst the blasting music and chatter of how painful the intervals would be, I kept my hands and mind steady on the stitches. During that season of sophomore year, I had fallen into a bit of a slump and picking up knitting brought steadiness that I desperately needed.

Nothing really came from these van rides of knitting on the way to the track. I quickly put it down as I became again distracted, but that season planted a seed. And I sense it pulling me back in. This time around, I have an actual pattern I am following. I have a clear goal of creating a hat. I even semi-figured out how to cable. I love re-entering this phase of knitting because already in this beginning stage, I sense a deep commitment to actually figuring it out. I sense a deeper maturity and patience. I sense progress, even if the outcome is an oddly-shaped hat.

7. Memory Keeping

Scrapbooking is that thing I always want to do, but it never seems to fit in my days.  Now it does.  And not only does it feel nice to catch up on Hudson’s first year scrapbook, it feels nice to look back at happy times.  Not that these are not happy times, but most of our current pictures are within our backyard. It feels refreshing to see all the places and people and things that our lives a few months ago held.  I am enjoying this process of not only looking back, but preserving all these memories by cutting out, taping in, and making a little remark with my pen about that particular moment.  This work seems important, valuable, and I often picture my grandkids and great-grandkids flipping through and enjoying it. And that brings me a lot of joy.

On a quick tangent, most of my photos are all on my phone, but the process of scrapbooking actually forces me to get certain photos printed. There is something about actually being able to tangibly hold the memory. To me, it is like actually reading a book. The act of flipping through pages simply does not compare to reading the words digitally.

There is something about actually being able to hold that 4×6 moment in your hands. The smell of ink. The way they come shipped in those little paper envelopes. I love this process. It is also fun to slip a few of the extra copies into a card and send it the people in the photos. There is nothing quite like opening mail with a beautiful memory carefully placed inside.

8. Running Through Sprinklers 

I woke up last Thursday feeling uninspired and unmotivated.  And then, we turned on the oven, made delicious cookies, and ran through the sprinklers in our backyard.  And things were good.  I was hit with inspiration, and motivation came crawling back to me.  Isn’t it amazing what some cookies and a little bit of water and laughter will do? 

Also, walnuts, oats, and chocolate are my new fav cookie combo.

9. Trash Trucks 

Beep!  Beep! Trash truck!  These have been Hudson’s words all last week since two amazing trash truck drivers honked and waved at him.  This made such an impression on him.  He has been talking about the beep, beep all week.  And let me tell you, it has brought some major perspective. 

These trash truck drivers have no idea the positive impact they made on a little toddler boy that dreams about trash truck Mondays.  They have no idea that the simple act of honking their horn has made them seem magical and heroic all at once.  This is making me want to honk my metaphorical horn a bit more often & not be afraid of doing the small and simple acts of kindness. 

I want to mother and live my life in such a way that embodies the trash truck drivers.

10. Earl Grey Tea

Afternoons are really hard for me. I have my most inspiration and motivation right around 6 am. In this place of silence and caffeine and scripture my mind is sharp and my heart is open. From 6 am to 1 pm, something happens. Maybe it is the loads of laundry. Maybe it is that careless driver that nearly hit me as I was running. Maybe it is the constant “mommy, mommy, mommy.” Whatever it is, by 1 pm I feel tapped out. Even more so since quarantine.

So once Hudson is down for a nap, I go to the kitchen, turn on the tea kettle and I make myself a cup of earl grey tea. I let the tea bag steep a bit and then a splash in some almond milk and shake in a spoonful of sugar. There is something about earl grey tea. I am a fully committed black coffee drinker, but when it comes to earl grey, I always add some milk + sugar. Kind of like the burnt marshmallow situation I mentioned last time, it just tastes better.

Then, I bring my cup of earl grey tea to my little desk and begin to write. And every single time, the words come easier when I have my friend earl grey next to me.

Small Joys in Quarantine Pt. 1

I am going to be real honest here. I am over this. I am over staying at home. I am over not getting to see my family and friends. I am over hearing the words cancelled and uncertain. I am over wearing a mask to get our weekly groceries. I am over it.

I truly don’t want to come across as insensitive. I am fully aware of the realness and severity of this virus. I am not questioning the validity in any of it.  I am just admitting my very human feelings of being ready to move forward. 

The last couple weeks have been more of a struggle for me. The initial adrenaline of the quarantine has fully worn off. I began with a great deal of motivation and inspiration to tackle projects around the house and to do all the creative at-home things with Hudson. All of that is fully gone. My well is feeling dry and my ideas are slowly beginning to dwindle. I so desire for life to return to its normal rhythms once again. 

Amidst this struggle and creative block, I am finding a few very small things that are bringing the joy. I wanted to share. Here are the first 5: 

1. Audiobooks and Dishes

Is it weird if I admit I am enjoying doing dishes?  The only reason I am enjoying this time is because I am listening to audiobooks. I just finished You Are the Girl for the Job by Jess Connley and recently began Big Magic by Elizabeth GilbertVery different books, but both are speaking to my heart.  Connley is reminding me that I am in fact the girl for the job and Gilbert is reminding me to keep on writing.  

2. Fire pit and S’mores

A couple weeks into the quarantine, we decided to buy a fire pit.  It was something we always talked about, but our days never seemed to have the margin to actually sit down research fire pits, order it, and then spend leisurely time at home actually enjoying it.  We now have lots and lots of margin so a fire pit seemed like a timely and good idea.  And it was.  We have spent a lot of time around our little fire pit.  It has been our evening thing we do almost every night on the weekend.  There is something about fire.  The smell, the light, the warmth.  It brings you in. It makes you want to stay a while.  

Along with my love for our new addition, I have realized my deep love for burnt marshmallows.  I used to pretend I liked my marshmallows golden brown.  I did not, but I thought it seemed like the cool, more patient thing to like.  A perfectly, golden marshmallow.  Now that is something to be proud about.  But here’s the thing, I love burnt ones.  And I mean, like really burnt.  Like near charcoal.  Like if you were to touch it, you might think it would crumble to ash.  I am done pretending I like the perfectly golden one. I am all about the burnt ones. They just taste better.  

3. Minestrone Soup

I have also decided that if I were a food, I would be minestrone soup.  This might seem like a strange choice, but let me explain.  It is hearty- full of veggies.  It is varied- we are not talking about chicken noodle soup here, there is zucchini, yellow squash, celery, carrots, onion, kidney beans, great northern beans, tomatoes, and of course the lovely shell pasta. 

There is a lot of life in a minestrone soup.  Each bite you are not exactly certain what you will get.  Not only this, but there is a simplicity to minestrone soup.  It’s flavor is warm and deeply comforting and reminds you of your mama, but it is not overly extravagant.  It requires meticulously chopped vegetables, broth, a few cans, and pasta.  That is all. It is a weeknight meal.  A meal for a quiet Sunday evening.  A meal for a new mom.

There is something about this soup that I deeply resonate with and I am pretty certain I would be happy if it was the only soup I ate for the rest of my days.  I am falling in even greater love with this soup after making Joanna Gaines’ Minestrone soup from her new cookbook, Magnolia Table Volume 2.  Clearly it made an impression if I just spent three paragraphs rambling about soup.

4. Pulling Weeds 

No need to ramble about weeds, but I do want to note how good it feels to pull out a weed and get the whole root.  The smell of fresh dirt and the satisfaction of knowing it ain’t coming back is unbeatable. The past few days when I started pulling weeds in our crazy front yard that needs a lot of TLC, I did not feel overwhelmed with the work that needed to be done.  I was perfectly satisfied with the few weeds I pulled, knowing it made a small dent into the jungle of weeds that we call our front yard.  

5. Picking Wildflowers

Today, I also discovered that I love taking scissors and cutting some of the lovely purple wildflowers we have in our yard. Hudson is obsessed with lawnmowers and all things gardener-related.  This morning after our walk as he pulled grass and made his precious lawnmower noise, I cut and arranged the wildflowers. 

This I decided is even more satisfying than the weed pulling. I washed an old, beautiful vase that had been gathering dust in our garage and put the flowers in their new home.  Each time I have looked over at this vase full of purple, I have smiled.  

More joys coming next time!

Easter 2020 Reflections

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

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

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

Egg hunt all to himself!

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

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

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

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

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

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

The one with the big brunch.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 Easter At-Home Activities Your Toddler Will Love

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. WATERCOLOR CROSS ART

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

2. INDOOR EASTER EGG HUNT 

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

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

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

3. POM POMS + EGG COLOR SORTING

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

4. CHRIST-CENTERED COLORING PAGES

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

5. EGG + BUNNY EARS COOKIE BAKING

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

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

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

Other Easter Things To-Do with with Kiddos

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

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

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

12 Things to Do at Home with an Active Toddler

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

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

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

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

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

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

To give you an idea of how my brain works… 

Circumstance: Race postponed.

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

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

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

Circumstance: All restaurants are closed, except for takeout.

Response: Bake and cook gourmet recipes for every meal.  

Circumstance: Quarantined.

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

Get the picture? 

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

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

We Are Still…

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Keep a routine

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

2. Walk/Run Outside 

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

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

3. Take Long Baths 

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

4. Chores Around the House 

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

5. Bounce House

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

6. Songs + Dance 

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

7. Leave Things Out 

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

8. FaceTime Family/Friends

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

9. Make Cards

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

10. Scooter 

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

11. Mud Play

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

12. Window Clings 

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

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

Easy St. Patrick’s Day Activities with a Toddler

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

1. Shamrock Marble Art 

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

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

TOO much paint. TOO many marbles.

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

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

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

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

2. Read St. Patrick’s Themed Books

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

3. Sensory Play with Lucky Charms 

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

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

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

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

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

Weekend Away in Newport Beach

We had an amazing little getaway last weekend!  We had a free hotel night that was expiring in March, so we decided to use it on a staycation to get away for a night!  It was originally going to be Ventura, but we decided to change it to Newport Beach.  

Hudson stayed with his nanny and poppy and had a blast hanging out with his cousins and watching a baseball game!  Thank you, Nanny and Poppy!

Compared to last time he stayed with them (last July), I felt so much less anxious and worried. Last time, I typed up a whole document with his typical schedule.  Now, things are so different. They are simpler. He eats really anything. He takes one afternoon nap. That is really it. It feels so nice to be at this stage where he is more independent and I do not need to be anxious about leaving him for a day.  

14 Miles Together

We chose to start our getaway by running 14 miles together.  We don’t usually run together, but it turned out to be a nice way to start our weekend.  As I mentioned on Monday on my training recap, we typically fight on our runs. There was not a single fight, minus my grumbling on pace during the tempo Lance paced me in. 

I often take it for granted that Lance and I share a passion for running.  It really is something I am super thankful for. It is special that we can share so many miles together on the run.  Running is really what brought us together (senior year recruit trip to LMU) and now 8 years later, it still is a part of our relationship.  

Sometimes I wish I was faster than my husband, but it is really nice that in the middle of a run, I can rely on him to pace parts of it that for him come easier.  There is a sense of comfort in having him pull me along in a run. Even though it is easier to show my own tiredness to him, I trust in him completely, and there is no one else I would rather have to pull me along to my running goals.  

Brunch at Zinc 

Our first stop after the long run and showers was brunch in Laguna Beach.  We went to Zinc and it was great!  It is a market and a cafe.  We went to the cafe portion. We sipped our almond milk lattes on the outdoor patio.  We devoured pesto pizza and breakfast burritos and we embraced the freedom of no pressing timeline or wandering toddler.

After having kids, you really appreciate the small things.  You appreciate a meal at a restaurant that you can sit and relax at the table for more than 15-minutes.  You appreciate the quiet. The mess-free meal. Don’t get me wrong, I love our meals out with the 3 of us, but it is nice not dealing with some of the realities of having a toddler in a restaurant.  

Swimsuit Shopping 

After our meal, we walked around to all the different shops.  I forgot to pack a swimsuit, so we made a stop at Toes on the Noes, and Lance bought me a really cute new one.  I haven’t gotten a new suit in years, so it was a good excuse. The suit was half off and I love it so much! It is a maroon one-piece and it basically just feels like me in a swimsuit.  I couldn’t find the exact one online, but it is by Carve Designs and I am basically obsessed with every one-piece they have.  They are all the perfect blend of cute, yet modest.  

After popping our heads in a few more shops and finding the cutest little children’s boutique, Little Freebirds, we headed to the Marriot we were staying in Newport.  

Pools, Apples, and the Bay

The thing that I loved about our time away is that it was very unplanned.  The night before I was stressing over the fact that we never finished our itinerary.  It sounds kind of silly, especially considering we were staying locally for just a night away, but this is just how my brain works.  I like a good plan, even if the purpose of getting away is to just relax and enjoy time together. The itinerary never got finished, but it actually was for the better.  Our days typically are so scheduled. It was refreshing to have no plan, to just wander and swim and rest.  

We spent the rest of our afternoon going back and forth from the jacuzzi to the pool as I tried out my new purchase!  

The hotel was right on the back bay in Newport, so after grabbing fruit from the gym, we munched on apples and just sat and looked out at the bay.  Simple, I know, but there was something about it. We rarely just sit and munch apples together. There always seems to be an agenda or some background noise going on.  It was so refreshing to just be still together as we just focused on our apples and the beautiful bay before us.  

Sushi and Sunsets 

It is funny how you get set into routines.  Even though we were baby-free, we still chose to go out to dinner at 5pm to get into the sushi restuarant right when they opened.  We were literally the first in. There is not many things that I am willing to sit outside doors to wait on, but sushi will always be one of them.  We ate at a local sushi place called SOTA  in Corona Del Mar.  It was great sushi.  

After lots of spicy tuna rolls, we made the short walk to the beach.  The sun had just set and the sky was pink and beautiful. And again, we just stood there and looked at another body of water.  This seemed to be the theme of our time away and it was the perfect theme.  

The rest of the evening was filled with wine, leftover Valentine’s Day cookies, and The Stranger on Netflix.  We were obsessed with this show for that day, but since being back, I keep falling asleep during it, so now not so sure.

Sunday Morning

We tried to sleep in, but were both up by 7 am, unfortunately.  Again, routines are hard to break. We went down to the hotel lobby, got our coffee, and walked on the back bay trail.  Sundays are always off from running for us, so it always feels like a real treat to just sip coffee and leisurely walk.  

For breakfast, we picked up bagel sandwiches at Bruegger’s Bagels and brought it down with us to the beach.  A similar spot to where we watched the remnants of last night’s sunset.  Lox and capers and avocado were all involved and it made the perfect end to our time away.  

Once we were back with Hudson, we all went to Zoomar’s.  Hudson loved feeding the llamas and most of all loved hanging out in the corn.  I also enjoyed the corn with H! At lunch, we had a small meltdown that involved sweet potato fries flying in the air, but hey overall, it was a great weekend.  The meltdowns will happen.  

Thankful for family to make things like this possible and thankful for my sweet husband and friend.  This little getaway was simple and good and the very thing I needed.