Hudson’s 2nd Birthday Party: Trash Truck Theme

For Hudson’s 2nd birthday party, we celebrated just with family at our home.  Before the pandemic, I had grand plans of throwing him a party at an indoor soccer facility and inviting lots of people and planning lots of things.  Of course all of those plans in my head did not happen, but the result was actually much more enjoyable for us all. 

We had a small gathering with family spread out throughout the day.  I bought most of the decorations at the Dollar Tree and barely did anything homemade.  This was quite the contrast from his first birthday party, which was baseball-themed and I spent way too much energy, stress and time on little details that ultimately did not matter much.

This year was different.  2020 will forever be the year that changed everything.  While some of the changes have been hard to swallow, there have been some changes during these times of quarantine that have actually been very good for my own soul. The elimination of elaborate party planning has definitely been one of those good things for me personally. 

Hudson’s 2nd birthday celebration was not elaborate or costly or extravagant.  It was simple.  It was small.  And it was good.  I enjoyed myself so much more with this type of celebration versus his first birthday party where I was so concerned that everything had to be perfect.  I am learning that the small, casual gatherings, filled with love are actually the types of parties that our children prefer!  

With that said, I wanted to share some of the fun details from Hudson’s trash truck-themed party!  Even though I kept decorations to a minimum, I had a lot of fun with this trash truck theme! 

The Invitation 

There are a ton of cute trash truck invitations out there, but since we were not throwing a big party, I did not want to use any budget on invitations.  So instead, I quickly designed a PDF invite that I texted to family members.  I am by no means a professional designer and it is not perfect, but I thought it was a fun (and free) way to invite family. It is also something for me to keep and remember from his 2nd birthday.  

I used Canva to design this.  Canva has a free option and it is a really great tool for design, especially for non-designers.  If you would like me to send you this trash truck invite PDF, enter your email below, and I will send you an editable PDF version so you can quickly make your own changes! 

Send Me Editable Trash Truck Invite for FREE!

The Birthday Shirt 

My mother-in-law found this shirt for Hudson from Etsy and it came right in time!  It was perfect and a fun way thing for him to wear all weekend long as we celebrated trash truck-style.

The Decorations

This year, I decided to not do a million DIY decoration projects and I was so much happier.  I found this amazing trash truck birthday banner on Amazon and it was perfect.  Since most of the party was held outside we hung it outside on our house wall.  It was the perfect addition for the theme and it required no extra work on my part- it was even pre-strung!  

For balloons, I just did a small order of a few green balloons and a big gold “2” foil balloon!  Party City delivered it directly to our house, which made the whole balloon process even simpler and less stressful.  I also got a smaller 2 foil balloon to put on our mantel.  I had leftover banners from last year’s birthday so made a simple, “Hudson is 2” setup.  This was a nice spot to get photos of H and for people to put presents.  

All the other decorations, were from Dollar Tree.  I got strung green pom-poms, which made a nice touch by where all the food was.  All paper good (plates, napkins, straws) were also from the Dollar Tree.

To top it off, I put out a couple of Hudson’s toy trash trucks, put straws and utensils in little blue bins (these were perfect and dropped off by our local trash truck company), and blew up a few extra balloons for the floors.  It was all super simple, but it still felt festive and very on theme!

The Cake 

I had grand plans of making a homemade chocolate cake with a chocolate buttercream frosting.  As I was making this cake the day before his party, the whole cake literally began to crumble as I was frosting it.  Hours of work in the kitchen literally crumbled before my eyes.  After shedding a few tears of frustration and stuffing my face with chocolate cake, I realized a store bought chocolate cake would be just fine.  

Even though the cake was store bought, I made it still feel homemade by:

  1. Putting it on a pretty cake platter
  2. Topping it off with a toy trash truck and lots of candy, which was supposed to look like “trash” coming from the truck!  

Even with the cake fiasco, this alternative, turned out really cute and was a fun centerpiece to have out on our living room table! 

The Piñata 

This was all my mother.  She spent weeks making this handmade trash truck piñata for H!  It looks just like the trash trucks in our neighborhood!  It was such a sweet and unique decoration for his party.  It of course was a big hit for H, as he got to pull the string from the bottom, and let out all the balls and candy!

The Gifts

Every holiday and birthday, I always make sure one of the gifts is a book.  This year, we got him The Wheels on the Garbage Truck by Jeffrey Burton. I was not sure if this would be a hit, but Hudson loves it.  It goes to the tune of “The Wheels on the Bus” and it points out all the different parts of a trash truck!  This is a new favorite.

The night before his birthday, we let him open one present.  It was trash truck pajamas for him to wear that night!  He of course does not get super excited over clothing, but they looked so cute on him. They were perfect for the next morning when all the trash truck drivers in our neighborhood stopped by to wish him a happy birthday! He wore the pajama bottoms with his birthday top! 

Hudson’s 2nd birthday was so special and one I will always remember.  The thing that put this birthday over the top was the kindness demonstrated by our trash truck drivers.  On the morning of his birthday, which happened to fall on trash truck day, all three drivers stopped by to wish H a happy birthday.  They did not merely honk and drive away.  They stopped and chatted and let Hudson hop up on the truck and pull the horn!  They went above and beyond to make this trash truck-loving birthday boy extra happy!  

This year as I planned Hudson’s simple trash truck party, I was reminded of a few things.

  1. Store bought cake is not the end of the world
  2. A simple call (in my case, calling the department of sanitation for our city) can be the thing that really makes the birthday extra special
  3. Big parties are overrated

Happy partying!

Week of Play: The Color Blue

This week we learned all about the color BLUE!  It was a week full of the ocean, Cookie Monster, and denim.  Blue is just one of those colors that bring a sense of peace.  For me, blue always brings me to the ocean, the sky, and the lovely outdoors.  While H is still a bit stuck on the color green, he slowly warmed up this new color as I introduced some fun, hands-on blue activities!  

Week 5: The Color Blue

This is what our week of blue looked like: 

Blue Books of the Week

The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse by Eric Carle 

This is an Eric Carle book that I was not familiar with at first, but I love this story for teaching not only about the color blue, but also about creativity.  The story is about an artist who paints animals different colors.  All the colors he paints the animals are not typically how that animal is portrayed. 

The horses are blue and the lions are green.  This is an excellent story to teach little ones about the importance of creativity and thinking outside of the box.  It is also the perfect book to pair with a painting activity: “Paint the Horse Blue” (activity description can be found below). Read-aloud can be found here.

Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle 

This is a classic and another perfect book for blue week.  There are lots of books in this series, but I am linking to the original one.  This story is perfect for teaching animal sounds!  Hudson especially loves how little blue truck goes “beep!” 

Blue Hat, Green Hat by Sandra Boynton 

Boynton is one of my favorite children’s authors.  Her stories are perfect for baby and toddlers. They typically are not super wordy and have super fun and engaging illustrations.  Even though it is perfect for little ones, I always find her books to be deeply entertaining.  This particular book is excellent not just for the color blue, but also for teaching all colors and clothes!  Throughout the simple story, it follows a confused turkey that has trouble figuring out how to properly put clothes on.  This is a good one.

Thomas & Friends

If you have a train-obsessed toddler, like me, reading some Thomas the Train books is a must during blue week.  I am linking to an electronic reader book set we have that is intended for slightly older children; however, we don’t use the electronic part.  I just read some of the different stories to Hudson, and he really enjoys them!  This set will eventually be helpful when he is beginning to learn to read on his own.  

Blue Sensory Bin

There were a lot of fun things in our blue bin this week that made playing even more fun.

This week’s bin consisted of: blue trash bins, big legos, foam shapes, blocks, train tracks, Thomas trains (lots of them), letters, balls, envelopes, wooden blocks, daddy shark puzzle piece, popsicle sticks, pom poms, and a few other random things.

We had so many Thomas trains that we played a lot with trains in the morning time.  We built tracks using only the blue pieces and had the Thomas trains race down! 

Monday: Paint Cookie Monster Blue + Cookie Counting Activity

To start off blue week, we did a couple activities around our favorite blue, cookie-loving monster…Cookie Monster!

For this paint setup, all you need is:

  • Coloring sheet of Cookie Monster (we used this one)
  • Blue paint
  • Paint brush
  • An easel setup (optional) 

Once H painted Cookie Monster as much as he wanted, I helped him fill in the white spaces.  Once it dried, I cut it out so he could hold and play with it. 

In the afternoon, we continued with the Cookie Monster theme and did a really simple counting activity.  

For this cookie counting activity, all you need is: 

  • Blue cupcake liner
  • 2 big googley eyes 
  • Black construction paper cut out like a smile 
  • White card stock
  • 4 small cookies (I use the ones from the tub at Trader Joe’s) 
  • Blue marker 

To construct this simple Cookie Monster craft, glue a blue cupcake liner on left side of card stock.  Glue eyes and mouth on top.  With the marker, write out numbers 1-4 (or whatever amount you would like to work on with your little one). 

Before I brought out the cookies, I explained to H that we were going to spend a couple minutes practicing counting.  I clearly told him he had to first practice with me and then he could eat the cookies.  This definitely grabbed his attention and made him much more invested and excited to get the counting done, so he could gobble up the cookies. 

At this age, it is important to keep learning super fun and light.  We ran through the numbers 1-4 a few times as we counted the 4 cookies on the paper.  I then let him eat them! Fun and simple and a great way to introduce counting.  

Tuesday: Ocean in A Bottle 

The ocean is definitely one of our favorite blue things.  After a morning visit to the beach, I set up a ocean in a bottle activity for H in the afternoon.  It is really simple and results in a fun sensory play for little ones to shake and play with after.

All you need is:

  • Empty water bottle
  • Water dyed blue (I used a blue bath tab
  • Sand and shells we had lying around (optional)
  • Blue pom-poms (we pretended these were fish) 
  • Glitter (optional) 
  • Funnel
  • Tape for sealing 

This is a good activity to have setup before your little one is up!  It is also a great activity to practice pouring skills.  With a little help, H used the funnel to pour the blue water into the water bottle.  He then threw in the different items he wanted in his bottle.  Once he was finished, I put the cap back on and sealed it with tape.  Then, your little one can shake and play with the bottle! It turned out really pretty and it was fun to watch the sand flow throughout the blue water.  

Wednesday: Blue Sand Art 

With some of the extra sand I had lying around, I decided to dye it blue.  This made for a really fun sand art activity.  

For this activity, all you need is: 

  • Sand 
  • Blue Dye 
  • White card stock 
  • Glue 
  • Spoon

To make the sand blue, simply place sand in sealed zip lock bag, add a few drops of blue dye, and incorporate dye into the sand.  Keep adding dye until the sand is the color blue you prefer.  

H really enjoyed playing with the blue sand.  I let him play with it a bit and then, using the glue I made a wave design on the paper.  H really enjoyed using the spoon to scoop the sand onto the paper.  This is a great activity to practice transferring skills.  

The end result of our blue sand waves turned out really fun!  

Thursday: Paint The Horse Blue Activity (based off of an Eric Carle book) 

For this activity, we used the Eric Carle book I mentioned in the book section, The Artist Who Painted A Horse Blue.

This was an Eric Carle book I was unfamiliar with, but we both really enjoyed it.  The blue horse is the familiar horse from the beloved Brown Bear, Brown Bear.  

For this blue horse activity, all you need is: 

  • The book (we were not able to get a copy in time, so we listened to the read-aloud version on Youtube). 
  • Printer paper
  • A copy of the book or Brown Bear, Brown Bear (use the book to trace the horse)
  • Blue paint
  • Paint brush 

Friday: Blue Chia Sensory Play with Boats 

Chia seeds make for really fun sensory play!  The texture is slick and slimy, without all of the mess and stickiness of regular slime.  

For this sensory bin, all you need is:

  • 1 cup chia seeds
  • 4 cups water + a little extra to top it off
  • 12 drops of blue food coloring
  • Toy boats
  • Bowl of water

Simply, combine water, chia seeds, and food coloring in a bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and let sit in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours (ideally overnight). Take out of the refrigerator and fill the mixture into a tray for your little one to play with.  Place a bowl of water and the boats out for little ones to use for play.  I added a bit of extra water to make the chia mixture more ocean-like. 

H really enjoyed moving the boats through the chia!  He especially enjoyed the bowl of water and spent most of his time sitting in it!  The chia can stick on hands, so the bowl of water was helpful for this.  

This can get messy, so be be careful with clothes! This is a good activity to do in diapers or bathing suites.  

Saturday: Blue Collage Activity 

To finish off our color week, we always make a collage of that particular color.  

For this collage we used the following blue materials: letter and number stickers, popsicle sticks, foam shapes, envelope, construction paper cut into squares, pom-poms

Earlier in the week, H painted blue on blue construction paper. To reuse this piece of art, I cut it into squares and put it out as a collage material option.  This is a great way to use excess art you do not have a place for!  

I was making a sign for H’s birthday and had blue letter and number stickers out.  H got a hold of these and decorated most of his collage with these stickers.  So, this collage has its own unique look!

Blue week was a lot of fun. This a great color to explore during summer…it is perfect for water play and the ocean! Next week, we will be reviewing colors and doing some birthday-themed activities! My baby turns 2 this week!

Happy Playing! 

Week of Play: The Color Green

This week was all about the color GREEN!  It was a week full of frogs, slime, dinosaurs, and leaf hunts! Green is already becoming H’s favorite color. Most of the week he was shouting, “Green! Green! Green!”  It makes sense why he loves this color so much.  Most of his favorite things revolve around this color: gardening, trash trucks, and dinosaurs just to name a few! 

Week 4: The Color Green 

This is what our week of green looked like: 

Green Books of the Week 

Froggy Learns to Swim by Jonathan London

This book is part of a series of many other books about Froggy.  We did a lot of crafts around frogs, so this was a great book to pair with those crafts.  This particular Froggy book is also perfect if you have a little one learning how to swim!  The book shows how Froggy overcomes his fear and learns how to swim with the help from his mom. The Froggy books tend to be a bit wordier, but my almost 2-year old really enjoyed the entire story.  It can easily be shortened by just focusing on the illustrations.

Green Wilma by Tedd Arnold 

This was another childhood favorite of mine and the perfect book for green week!  This is another book about a frog, so it works well paired with frog activities.  The illustrations are fun and the storyline is compelling with a plot twist towards the end.  After just one read, H was hooked and kept saying “Wilma!” 

Arnold also has a book called Huggly’s Pizza, which H thoroughly enjoyed as well.  Huggly is a green monster that lives in a slime pit.  This is another book that works well with green week.  It is actually quite a long story, but H loved it and kept asking for it again and again.

Other Book Ideas:

  • Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown (“in the great green room”) 

Green Sensory Bin

For this week’s color bin, we had LOTS of things that were green.  

This week’s bin consisted of: green train tracks, big lego blocks, popsicle sticks, feathers, pipe cleaners, shapes, grandpa shark puzzle piece, plate, toy peas, palm tree Duplo Lego pieces, foam blocks, balls, Percey trains, and a few other random green things.

Since we had SO many green legos, we spent some time early in our week building tall green towers!

Monday: Plant Something Green 

With this past Monday being a holiday, Memorial Day, we did not do many planned activities, but we did plant some basil!  This past week was National Children’s Gardening week, so it was a perfect way to celebrate the week.  H helped me shovel dirt in the pot, which he of course loved.  I gave him a straw to poke holes in the dirt and showed him how to carefully place the seeds in. 

We talked about how the tiny seeds are going to grow into green basil for us to eat.  I then let him use his watering can to water the freshly planted seeds.  Be sure to only fill up the watering can with however much water you would like the plant to have.  H over watered it a tad! 

Tuesday: Jumping Frog Origami Craft 

As I spent a lot of time with my grandma who was Japanese, I grew up really enjoying origami.  This jumping frog origami from Red Ted Art is really simple to fold and great for young kids.  While the folds are still too hard for H, he enjoyed watching me make the folds and explaining to him what I was doing.  To get him more involved with the process, I let him color with a green marker on the frog’s back.  I also let him help me glue the googley eyes on.  

Hudson loved playing with the final product!  He loved watching it jump around.  Even hours after we made these jumping frogs, he went back to play with them some more.  That is always a sign of a good craft!

This activity could easily be extended into a more active activity.  We didn’t have time for this, but after making these jumping frogs, you could play a “Jumping Lily Pad” game.  You could either cut out lily pads with green construction paper or draw them on the sidewalk with green chalk.  This could be a great way to teach numbers too.  You could number each lily pad and call out a number for them to jump on to! 

Wednesday: Green Slime + Dinosaurs  

We made green slime THREE TIMES this week, and if I am honest, even the final batch did not turn out great.  Next slime recipe I think I am going to try with Borax.  This is the recipe I used and even after pouring in way more water and contact solution, it was way too sticky.  So if anyone has the perfect slime recipe, let me know!  I also was hoping to make it glittery by adding green sparkles.  The sparkles would probably have showed up better with clear Elmer’s glue.  

It was still a fun process to make with H!  We threw in some of his miniature dinosaurs into the slime, which he seemed to really like.  It was fun for him to pull out the dinosaurs and see the elasticity of the slime.  Since our slime was SO sticky, I threw it all in a bag, which made for good mess-free sensory play.

Thursday Morning: Build-A-Dino Play-dough Tray 

This play-dough tray was a hit!  It was a super simple set-up with minimal materials.  For the homemade playdough, I used Must Have Mom’s green jello play-dough recipe.  It was a great recipe, but definitely needed a fair amount of flour to be added towards the end because it was still pretty sticky.  Using Jello or Kool-Aid mixes in playdough recipes is a great way to add color + smell! 

For the tray, I used a cracker and cheese platter.  I put out some googley eyes, cut up pipe cleaners, some feathers, a roller, and a few other playdough tools.  So simple and something that H keeps coming back to!  

Thursday Afternoon: Toilet Paper Roll Frog Craft

Last week’s bee toilet paper roll craft was such a hit that we did another one this week!  I had more time, so I was able to set-up this craft before he woke up and that made a big difference.  Right when he woke up, he was able to start creating!  It made it easier for the both of us.  

Materials:

  • Toilet paper roll
  • Green paint
  • Paint brush
  • 2 big googley eyes
  • Green construction paper cut into a circle (frog’s head) and two legs
  • Cut piece of red pipe cleaner (curl with finger to make it look like aa tongue) 
  • Green glitter glue (optional, but a fun way for little one to decorate the frog)

Invite your little one to paint toilet paper roll green.  H was not super interested in this part, so he mostly watched it be put together.  Towards the end, he loved squeezing green glitter glue all over the toilet paper roll.  This addition made the final product look really fun and sparkley.  

This is the perfect craft to chase your little one around with.  You can make frog noises, “ribbit, ribbit!” and practice hopping like a frog together.  We even named our frog Wilma and then read the book I mentioned above, Green Wilma. 

Friday:  Herb Watercolor Painting + Leaf Tracing 

Herb watercolor painting was a simple activity that turned out really beautiful and even smelled like rosemary!  

Materials: 

  • Rosemary or other herbs 
  • White paper
  • Watercolors (we mostly just used the different shades of green) 
  • Cup of water 

Simply, dip rosemary into water and then watercolor, and stamp it all over the paper.  The rosemary made a really interesting pattern that a typical paintbrush cannot. 

For the leaf tracing, we first went on a leaf hunt right outside our front door.  I gave H a set of binoculars and a basket to collect the leaves.  Since he is so into gardening, he really enjoyed finding and pulling leaves off  bushes and trees in our front yard. 

Materials: 

  • Leaves
  • White Paper
  • Green crayons
  • Green glitter glue (optional) 

For the leaf tracing, simply place the leaves under the white paper and color with crayon on the paper.  The shape and lines of the leaf will appear.  It looked really pretty to use different shades of green.  

Like most crafts, H’s favorite part was squeezing glitter glue everywhere.  If you have a child that like mine that is not super into crafts, finding the one element they do enjoy is a great way to get them more involved.  For H that is squeezing glue everywhere! 

Saturday: Green Collage Activity 

At the end of each color week we make a collage with items of that particular color.  Once we finish this color unit, I will bind each collage into a book for H to flip through.  

For this collage we used the following green materials: feathers, popsicle sticks, crayons, pipe cleaners, foam shapes.  

Like I say every week, at this stage, the collage is very much a team effort.  H needs help with gluing, but he likes to point where he would like the item to be placed.  

Green week was a lot of fun! Now, on to the color blue! I will have a full week of blue-inspired activities next week!

Week of Play: The Color Yellow

This week we learned all about the color YELLOW!  It was a week full of sunshine, lemonade, and buzzing bumble bees! There is something about the color yellow that just makes you happy.  Our week of play seemed to feel happier and lighter as we explored this bright and summery color.  

Week 3: The Color Yellow

This is what our week of yellow looked like: 

Yellow Books of the Week 

Super Submarines by Tony Mitton & Ant Parker  

This is a great story if you have a little one that loves vehicles!  We listened to “Yellow Submarines” by the Beatles a lot this week, so out of curiosity I wanted to see if there was a book about a yellow submarine.  And there is!  This is not only a perfect yellow-themed book to read, it is also very informative.  The authors go into great detail describing the purpose of a submarine and the different parts!  If you do not have access to get a copy of this book, there is a great read-aloud version on Youtube.

Yellow Copter by Kersten Hamilton 

This one is another great yellow-vehicle story!  There even is a mention of a crane, which is one of H’s current obsessions.  It is a perfect book for babies and little ones with shorter attention spans! There are very few words and the images are bright and engaging.  It is a simple storyline with a happy ending of the yellow copter saving the teacher that is stuck in a ferris wheel.  This would be another perfect book for yellow week. If you do not have a copy easily accessible, there is a read-aloud version for this story as well. 

We also read a couple books this week that had yellow characters and objects in them.  Spot’s Birthday Party by Eric Hill or any of the Spot books are fun ones to read and point out how Spot and Sally are yellow doggies. 

Any of the Curious George books would also be great to read during this week with the bright yellow book covers + the man with the yellow hat!

Monday Morning: Yellow Sensory Bin

For this week’s bin, it was not difficult to find an abundance of yellow things!  

This week’s bin consisted of: Yellow blocks, balls, pegs, train tracks, big lego blocks, plastic coins, stars, shapes, giraffe, toy pan, plastic cheese, finger puppet chick, pom poms, popsicle sticks, feathers, foam shapes, textured material, tractors, a Lego Duplo submarine, and a few other random yellow things. 

I have noticed that H has not been very interested in playing with the bin throughout the week, but I still think creating the bin with him is a great way to teach a specific color.  This week I included him in the process of helping mama find all the yellow things in our playroom.  He seemed to really enjoy this!

Monday Afternoon: Yellow Bubble Foam + Vehicle Play

In the afternoon, I made some yellow bubble foam.  There are tons of recipes and play ideas out there for bubble foam.  I was inspired by Bored Toddler’s recipe and setup.  Bubble foam is super simple to whip up, literally! 

All you need is:

  • ½ cup bubble bath (tear-free)
  • ¼ cup water
  • A few drops of food dye for color

I added some yellow food coloring drops to make it go along with our color week and then simply whipped it up with a hand-blender.  I put the setting on high and it quickly became a thicker consistency.  I would recommend whipping it in a bowl and then pouring it into the bin you plan to have your children play with.  

Hudson got super excited when he saw the yellow foam.  He started clapping his hands and jumping up and down.  I threw in some small yellow tractors, which got him even more excited.  After playing with the bubble foam and tractors for a bit, he quickly became uninterested. 

To make the activity last a bit longer, I created a “Yellow Truck Wash.”  I set up a bucket with soapy water, handed him a sponge, and he loved it.  Just make sure the trucks you let your little ones wash are okay with getting water on them!

Tuesday: Apple Star Stamps + Lemon Moon Stamps 

This craft did not turn out exactly how I imagined, but it still fun to show H how when you cut an apple in half, a star shape is revealed. 

To create this star stamp: Simply cut apple in half to create two parts, the top and the bottom.  I then cut away the edges to make a smaller square shape.  This proved to help make the star more visible when stamped.  

To create this moon stamp: Simply cut a lemon in half. Then, cut a way a small chunk to give it a more moon-like appearance.

Other materials you will need: 

  • Black construction paper
  • Yellow paint (if you are doing this project with a baby that still puts things to their mouth, try a safe-taste paint recipe).
  • White chalk to create a title or to let you little one draw on finished product 
  • Glue and glitter to add a final touch!

Quite honestly, H was not super into the stamping process.  It was mostly me showing him how to do it.  However, he did really enjoy dripping glue everywhere and shaking on the glitter.  Especially when you do crafts with little ones under 2, it is definitely not guaranteed they will be into it.  I still believe a craft is a success if there is a small part they find interest in! For this one, it was the glue + the glitter. 

Wednesday: Lemonade and Lemon Bar Picnic + Lemon Scoop Activity 

Naturally, when you are learning about the color, lemonade and lemon bars must be on the list!  

Grammy brought over an entire bag of lemons and we ended up using the entire bag for both the lemonade and lemon bars.  

We used this lemonade recipe.  We used an electric juice squeezer that made it easy for H to help squeeze the lemons.  H and his auntie squeezed all the lemons together!  After we made the lemonade, we enjoyed some sunshine and sipped our lemonade in the backyard!

Before we squeezed more lemons for the lemon bars, we made a fun game out of the remaining lemons.  This Lemon Scoop Game is SO simple and H literally had the best time.  I simply but a bowl of lemons on one side and an empty bowl on the other side.  I gave him a big serving spoon and had him scoop the lemons and race them over to the empty bowl.  I made it feel like a race and said on your mark, get set, go!  Everytime he got all the lemons into the bowl, I cheered and he got super excited and asked for more.  

Thursday: Toilet Paper Roll Bee Craft 

For this craft, you will need:

  • Toilet paper roll
  • Yellow and black paint
  • Card stock paper (we used yellow)
  • Googly eyes (we used extra big ones)
  • Pipe cleaners (again, we used yellow)

This bee craft turned out SUPER cute.  The process, however, was a bit more tedious.  I realized mid-craft this was a bit more challenging for H to get involved.  I was planning on having him paint the yellow stripes on the bee, but that proved to be too challenging for him.  He was more interested in wildly painting on the yellow construction paper.  I let him to do this with the yellow and black paint.  I then took this artwork and cut out two oval shapes for the wings.  It made the wings look super unique and it was a great way to showcase H’s artwork.  

After the stripes were painted, I cut out a cicle for the head, and glued all the parts together!  We glued big googly eyes on the head and I drew a nose and smile.  For the antennas I cut pieces of yellow pipe cleaner and used scotch tape to attach to the back of its head.  

Even though H was not super into this craft, he loved the final product!  This craft created even more play and imagination as I ran around the house chasing him with the bee. The toilet paper roll makes it the perfect finger puppet too!

A fun book to pair with this bee craft that we love: Orville: The Bumble Bee Who Didn’t Belive He Could Fly.  This book has beautiful illustrations!  It is a sweet story of a bumble bee that through the encouragement of his friends eventually comes to believe that he can fly, even with small wings.

Friday: Turn the Baseballs into Softballs Painting Activity 

Our Friday was super full, so I did a super simple paint set up on the easle board.  I simply drew three baseballs on white card stock.  I then gave H a paint brush and some yellow paint and told him to paint the baseballs yellow.  I also had a white baseball and yellow softball displayed for him to show him the difference!  

Once your little one is finished painting the baseballs yellow, you could cut the circles out and let them play with the dried product!

Saturday: Yellow Collage Activity

Our week was pretty full, so this collage activity fit into our week better as a Saturday morning project.  This would be another great setup for really any early morning activity.  H is usually more fresh and willing to go along with my different crafts and activities earlier in the day! 

For this collage we used the following yellow materials: feathers, popsicle sticks, pom poms, origami paper cut into squares, pipe cleaners, foam shapes.  

At this stage with H, projects like this are definitely still a team effort.  Similarly to the bee project, even when he doesn’t in the moment seem super into it, he loves the final product.  In his playroom, I have been displaying each collage with the appropriate color flashcard.  He loves seeing his artwork displayed at eye-level! 

Ideas We Did Not Get To: 

  • Sun Craft 
  • Lion Craft (using picked yellow flowers as mane) 
  • Griaffe Craft
  • Yellow Fire Hydrant Scavenger Hunt 
  • Paint the M yellow on Waste Management Trash Truck 
  • Drop off sunflowers to neighbors with a sweet note 

Week of Play: The Color Orange

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

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

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

Week 2: The Color Orange

This is what our week of orange looked like:

Orange Books of the Week

  1. Who Eats Orange? by Dianne White 

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

  1. Orange Blob by CJ Smith

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

  1. It’s Pumpkin Time! By Zoe Hall

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

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

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

Monday: Orange Sensory Bin + Orange Scavenger Walk 

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday: Squeeze Orange Juice + Bouncing Basketball Craft

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday: Orange Picnic + Carrot Dig 

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

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

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

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

Thursday: Paint the Ex Orange + Pumpkin-Vine Weaving 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Themed Week of Play: The Color Red

This past week was ROUGH. There is no way to sugarcoat it. It was a combination of things: the news, my hormones, the broken laptop screen.  

I don’t want to get into the details, but let’s just say I had a minute left on my workout video playing from my laptop and Hudson decided he needed a way to fully get mommy’s attention.  And it worked. I lost my mind on him. And we both were crying hysterically.  A very low moment of my week.  Not solely because of the laptop.  Definitely not ideal and an expensive mistake, but that moment was ultimately a low because I felt so terrible at how quickly I lost my cool with sweet Hudson.  Not my best mom moment.  But, it was humbling. It was the first moment I ever needed to really ask my son for forgiveness.  I know this will absolutely be the first of many and my continued prayer is that God will continue to give me the grace and humility to openly admit to my children when I am wrong. 

With that said, it was not just the laptop incident.  It was an overall feeling that seemed to not leave me all week.  Simply put, it was not my week. I was not my best self.  

In this week of weakness, one of the things that pulled me through and kept me focused was the color RED.

That might sound strange, but let me explain. 

Why Themed Weeks of Play?

Pinterest overwhelms me.  Like big time.  Quite frankly, it makes me feel frozen.  All at once I am flooded with thousands of brilliant toddler activities and crafts, and I don’t even know where to start. So I pin a bunch of things and never do any of it. 

I had an epiphany this week and realized I needed to be more focused when I went to Pinterest. If I go to Pinterest to find an activity to do with Hudson and search “toddler indoor activities” I will become frozen with comparison and doubt.  If I search: “simple toddler ladybug craft” I will quickly become inspired and make it happen that afternoon.  See the difference?

This concept of being more focused and choosing themed weeks for play-based learning was all inspired by an amazing blog I found, Mrs. Plemon’s Kindergarten.  Her blog is beautiful and full of amazing curriculum ideas at home for babies to big kids.  I happened to discover her blog in one of my many overwhelmed moments on Pinterest.  It was through her website that I realized I just needed greater focus when it comes to planning activities and crafts for H. 

This has been a game-changer.  It will be a rhythm I will definitely keep post-quarantine.

At first glance this might seem like a lot of extra work that only really creative and organized moms do, but I am convinced that is just not true. It is actually quite simple and literally has been saving my sanity. On Sunday, I quickly jotted down one red-themed activity for each day.  I made adjustments as the week got going. It was flexible, simple, and a helpful tool to really focus on one specific color with H.  He still mostly just says everything is “blue,” but I noticed towards the end of the week, even the way he said “red” was becoming more clear.  

Week 1: The Color Red

This is what our week of RED looked like:

Red books of the week 

  1. Firebears The Rescue Team!  by Rhonda Gowler Greene
  2. Llama, Llama Red Pajama  by Anna Dewdney 

Monday: Red Sensory Bin + Red Scavenger Walk 

For the bin, I took an aluminum food tray from Costco and literally just went around the playroom gathering everything that was red.  This took me minutes to complete and it was a bin I had had out for him to play with all week.  It is a great way for his eyes to really focus on the color and play with certain toys he usually doesn’t touch. 

Our red bin consisted of: Elmo, lots of fire trucks, red letters, big red legos, red cars, red shapes, red balls, a red monkey, red pegs, toy apple, and a few other random red things.  

We go on morning walks every day with our dog. On our first walk of the week, we went on a “red scavenger walk” and together tried to point out as many red things as possible. A lot of it is still me showing him the flowers, cars, and stop signs that are red, but I think this type of dialogue is important.

Tuesday: Red Tower Building + Red Line 

We used the same bin set-up from Monday.  Using the red legos, we built towers together!  After some tower-building fun, I brought out one of our favorite books, The Line-Up Book by Marisabina Russo.  This was a favorite book from my childhood and thankfully my mom kept it! It is not only a perfect book for toddlers who love lining things up, it is also a great book to pair with a follow-up activity.  After reading this book, we created our own line with the different red objects from the bin.

Wednesday: Ladybug Thumbprint Craft + Red Picnic 

For this week’s craft, we made these cute ladybugs (inspired by the blog, I Heart Crafty Things). We used his thumbprints to make the spots! They turned out really cute and would be the perfect idea for a card. In all honestly, crafting with Hudson is a bit of a challenge. The process for this craft would have been a lot easier if I precut the shapes and set out all materials before he woke up from his nap.

Materials: white card stock; black construction paper cut into small circles (head), larger circle (body), and thin rectangles (antennas); 2 googly eyes; red construction paper or origami paper cut into two semi-circles (wings;, green construction or origami paper leaf (option for child to decorate leaf with crayons); glue stick; and black paint for thumbprints.

Hudson is really into picnics right now.  Each week of our color-themed week, I plan to have an outdoor picnic will feature foods of that color.  This week, we simply cut up strawberries together and ate those.  In future weeks, I hope to get creative with some of the foods of that color.  This could be a good opportunity to introduce little ones to different kinds of food. 

Thursday: Paint the Red Lines on Baseballs + Red Water Play

Hudson is obsessed with baseballs.  I thought it would be fun for him to paint red lines onto circles I drew on card stock.  I drew lines for him to trace with his paintbrush, but developmentally this would be a better project for 3-4 year-olds. He still had fun wildly painting the “baseballs” red.  

In an aluminum tray, I created a red pouring station. I simply used a red color tablet we use during bath time and brought out cups and bottles for him to pour with. 

Friday: Red Collage 

As inspired by Mrs. Plemon’s Kindergarten blog, we will be making a color collage at the end of every week.  Once we have gone through all the colors, I will bind it into a simple book for him to flip through!  This will be a fun keepsake and a great learning tool to practice color recognition.  

For this collage activity, I set it up as he was napping, which did help make it a smoother process.  I simply gathered all the red art supplies we had (most of which is found from the Dollar Store).  

Materials: White card stock paper, feathers, popsicle sticks, red aloha shirt card, foam shapes, pom poms, cupcake liners, and pipe cleaners.

TIP: If you have a toddler, like mine, that is not so into arts + crafts, keep materials out on an accessible table for them to come to work on when they feel like it.  Hudson really cannot be pushed when it comes to doing art. 

There you go. Our RED week! It kept our week fun and full with activities that were all done with materials we had around the house (minus a few of the collage materials- I had to do a quick Dollar Tree run for those).

If you are considering doing themed weeks with your little ones, I hope this gets you inspired! Don’t feel like you have to do everything the same. It has been a really great creative outlet for me to think of that particular color and things that Hudson has interest in, such as firetrucks + the stitches on a baseball. Tailor activities that match with the interests of your child! It will definitely increase engagement. It might not be Pinterest-perfect, but it will be the perfect thing for your unique child and that is what matters.

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!