12 Things to Do at Home with an Active Toddler

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

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

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

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

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

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

To give you an idea of how my brain works… 

Circumstance: Race postponed.

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

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

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

Circumstance: All restaurants are closed, except for takeout.

Response: Bake and cook gourmet recipes for every meal.  

Circumstance: Quarantined.

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

Get the picture? 

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

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

We Are Still…

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Keep a routine

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

2. Walk/Run Outside 

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

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

3. Take Long Baths 

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

4. Chores Around the House 

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

5. Bounce House

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

6. Songs + Dance 

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

7. Leave Things Out 

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

8. FaceTime Family/Friends

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

9. Make Cards

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

10. Scooter 

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

11. Mud Play

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

12. Window Clings 

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

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

Beauty in the Ordinary Interactions of Life with a Toddler

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.  

Hudson’s 2nd Valentine’s Day!

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

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

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

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

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

We don’t love because it is easy.

We don’t love because it always comes naturally.

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

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

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

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

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

1. Share Scripture 

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

2. Take Time to Write a Letter 

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

3. Give a Thoughtful Gift 

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

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

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

4. A Valentine’s Day Breakfast

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

5. Time Together 

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

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

Happy Valentine’s Day! xoxo

20-Month Old Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

20 Things Hudson is Currently Loving:

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

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

10 Favorite Valentine’s Day Books

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. The Biggest Valentine Ever 

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

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

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

  1. Love from the Very Hungry Catepillar by Eric Carle

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

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

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

  1. The Berenstain Bears Love One Another by Mike Berenstain

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

  1. God Gave Us Love by Lisa T. Bergren

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

  1. Let’s Play I Spy Valentine

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

  1. Snuggle Puppy! by Sandra Boynton

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

  1. The Valentine Bears by Eve Bunting 

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

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

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

Christmas Books that Bring Family Together + Hearts Centered on Jesus

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

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

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

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

Top 10 Favorite Christmas Books

1. Santa’s Prayer by Tom Roberts

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

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

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

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

3. Christmas Is Coming: An Advent Book

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

4. Pick a Pine Tree by Patricia Toht 

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

5. God Gave Us Christmas by Lisa Tawn Bergren 

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

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

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

7. Little Blue Truck’s Christmas by Alice Schertle 

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

8. Red and Lulu by Matt Tavares 

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

9. The Story of Christmas by Patricia A. Pingry 

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

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

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

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

 

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.