Kids Christmas Activities, part 1

I grew up in a family that attended church every Sunday morning. Not only did we attend, but we were involved in church. My parents were always serving in some capacity, and we (us three kids) began serving as well as soon as we were old enough. Once in a blue moon, however, we missed church on Sunday. And when those Sundays happened, we had home church. I can remember my dad sitting down with all of us in one of our family rooms with his big black Bible open, and he’d read scripture to us, we’d talk about it, and sometimes we’d even have music. He’d play something on the boom box for us to listen to or sing along with. He set a very important example for us in this way… Sometimes, for whatever reason, you won’t be able to get to go to church, but that doesn’t mean you can’t set a special time aside on Sunday to honor the day by studying God’s word, worshiping Him, and talking about God’s work and word with believers around you.

David and I have been in this season of not getting to go to church most Sundays for the last three years pretty much. Our daughter has a slightly weaker immune system than most kids, so she catches almost any germ that blows by her, and it takes her body a little longer to fight that germ off, which translates to she’s sick a lot. Anatomically, she’s also susceptible to moderately severe secondary upper respiratory infections, so we have to be really careful with how we manage even a simple cold. So, long story short, we end up missing church a lot. 

(Before you start sending me every oil or supplement we could try with her to help her immune system, trust me, we’ve tried most of them, and gratefully we’ve found a regimen that is beginning to make a huge difference for her.)

But, just like how my dad modeled for us, we haven’t let not being able to attend church stop us from setting time aside on Sunday to honor the day as a family. Home church has looked different for us over the last few years as we’ve being raising two children in stages from infancy to three-nager, but currently it looks like this most of the time: Bible lesson, discussion, family activity. (David and I are able to supplement with Bible study together and independently, podcasts, and online church sermons. The kids and I are also able to attend a Bible study during the week when everyone is healthy.)

During the month of December, you can guess what we’ll be spending most of our Sundays focusing on- Christmas! It’s easy to share the story of Jesus’ birth with little kids, but activities may be a little harder to pull together. So, this week I’ll be sharing some that we’re doing. The best part is, most of these activities cost NOTHING- you can use things you already have around your home, or you can order them online, which means no having to hunt for stuff with the general public during the most wonderful time of the year. 

Our daughter came down with bronchitis over Thanksgiving, so today was another home church Sunday, and we pulled out one of our absolute favorite family Christmas traditions and made the beginning of our home church lesson. 

For those of you who, for whatever reason, don’t want to go the elf on a shelf route, DaySpring has the sweetest alternative- The Shepherd on the Search. Every day the shepherd moves around the house on his search for baby Jesus, and every morning your kids wake up and search for the shepherd. Christmas morning, when they wake up, the shepherd will have found Him, and he’ll either be sitting in the nativity you set up in your home or in the nativity box that he comes inside of

The set includes a sweet book too that is an excellent conversation starter for young children about the day Jesus was born. 

I loved watching both our daughter’s excitement last year as she’d scurry around the house looking for him and the smile on my husband’s face as he watched her (as he is the one who has taken ownership of moving our shepherd, Sammy, each evening before we go to sleep). I’m excited that our son will be old enough this year to join in on this fun tradition too. 

After we read the book, and re-named our shepherd (because none of us could remember what we named him last year!), we watched The Star together as a family. Oh my goodness, my husband and I haven’t laughed that much at a movie in a long time! We absolutely loved it, and again, it provided excellent opportunities for us to talk about the circumstances surrounding Jesus’ birth during and after watching the movie. I can guarantee we’ll be watching it a couple more times before Christmas gets here. (Also, I have to say, I was super impressed with all of the accurate Biblical references in the movie, so big-thank-you-hug to everyone who played a part in making that so, and to Sony for leaving it that way.)

After we watched The Star, we moved into the kitchen for our NO-COST family activity, which I’ll share with y’all later this week! 

Until then,

❤ Lindsay

P.S. This post does contain affiliate links, but my opinions are always my own. Thank you for clicking through!

Turkey Cupcakes

Raise your hand if you love routine? Now raise your other hand if your kids love routine? I know from first hand experience that the week of Thanksgiving can be a stressful week for families, and while the reasons are numerous, I think one big factor is the abrupt change in pretty much everyone’s routine. This change can be even more extreme for everyone when kids find themselves outside out of their home (e.g. traveling for the holiday) or have guests hanging out in their home.

Because the truth is kids like routine. They’re going to wake up when they’re used to waking up. They’re going to be ready for snacks when they’re always ready for snacks. Sometimes, as much as we try and want to, we can’t keep them on their routine though. We also can’t assume that everyone else we’re celebrating the holiday with is going to jump right into our kids’ routine.

So, it’s really helpful to have a few go-to activities for your kids to do in those hours when their routine isn’t meshing up with how the days’ schedule is unfolding.

They can be simple, like new coloring pages and crayons or a secret stash of legos (we have such a secret stash that we only bust out when we’re on vacation- usually when we’re staying in a hotel room). I made a couple dozen of these Turkey Cupcakes several years ago before we had kids, and stored the idea away as one I knew I’d like to try again with my kids, whenever we had them, and whenever they were old enough.

My kids are 3 years old and 1 year old, and I knew they were ready to at least attempt decorating these cupcakes. I knew they probably weren’t going to look like something you’d see on Pinterest by the time they were finished, but the entire project, for the most part, would be edible (so I wouldn’t have to worry if they put something in their mouth), easy to clean up, and inexpensive- all I had to buy for it was a box of cake mix and some candy corn. AND, the best part, this is a TWO part activity, so it helps pass the time TWICE. Keep reading and you’ll see what I mean…

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What do you need for this project:

  1. Cake Mix (and whatever the mix calls for … like eggs and oil)
  2. Cupcake pan
  3. Chocolate Icing
  4. Candy corn + assorted candy (we raided their left over halloween candy)

Steps:

  1. Make + bake cupcakes! And LET YOUR KIDS HELP. They may not be ready to crack eggs, but give them the whisk or let them operate the mixer by pulling levers or pushing buttons. They probably can dump the bag of cake mix into the mixing bowl if you cut it open for them and help direct the bag. Even my one year old can place cupcake liners into the cupcake pan, so he and my three year old did that part together. And older kids can, with guidance and oversight of course, ladle batter into the cupcake pan.

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  1. Let cupcakes cool – overnight even! This is what I did. We made the cupcakes in the afternoon, and we decorated them the following morning. See what I mean… TWO PART ACTIVITY.
  2. Decorate cupcakes. This is where you need to put your perfectionist bend to the side. Let them play while they decorate. The purpose of this activity is not to have perfect cupcakes when you’re done. The purpose of this activity is MULTI-purpose: have fun, engage with your kids, spend quality time together, and give them something to do in those windows when they’re feeling the effects of their routine being thrown off.

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Tips for SUCCESS:

  1. Make sure your icing is room temperature and one that easily spreads. I made mine from scratch and wished I’d just picked up a $1 jar of it from the store, because my decadent chocolate, cream cheese icing that I threw together right before we iced the cupcakes didn’t spread so well. And I think it was just too thick and too cold still. ALSO, because I used cream cheese frosting, I had to make room for the cupcakes to stay in the fridge. You’re not going to want to do this when you also have all of the Thanksgiving food in the fridge. So, just use the store-bought stuff that can sit on the counter without worrying about it spoiling.
  2. Change their clothes. We have “eating” clothes which are clothes that are stained-beyond-saving or a little too small that we keep in a bin. When we eat food that I know is going to stain- like red pasta sauce or chocolate ice cream, I have the kids go to the bin and pick out “eating clothes.” They also wear them when we paint or do a messy art project. So, change into clothes like that. Don’t have them decorate cupcakes in the clothes you want to take Thanksgiving pictures in. That’ll just make the whole experience stressful, which is counter-productive.
  3. Use what you have to decorate. The only candy I bought for this project was candy corn. We used skittles, sweet-tarts, and cereal to make eyeballs on our turkeys- all stuff I either pulled from the pantry or our kids’ leftover Halloween candy.

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Do you have a go-to activity for your kids to do when their schedule is thrown off? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Until next time,

❤ Lindsay

P.S. This post does contain affiliate links, but my opinions are always my own. Thanks for clicking through!

Dear Pregnant Mama of a Toddler

I have so many friends who are pregnant right now with their second baby. There is something in the water where we live, so all the rest of us who are done having babies are drinking bottled FIJI water. I kid, of course. But in all seriousness, I’m loving not being pregnant (or nursing) and watching my friends in this special season. I’m also remembering how hard that season is, and I’m wishing I could write a letter to myself when I was in that stage – pregnant with a toddler.

But, since that isn’t possible, I thought I’d write one to those of you who are in that season right now…

Dear pregnant mama of a toddler,

It’s ok to have such mixed emotions right now. You’re excited, but you’re so miserably uncomfortable. You can’t wait to meet this new little baby, but you also can’t imagine how you’re doing to do it with two little ones. How will you have enough love for both of them? Enough arms for both of them? Will this second one be anything like the first? What if they aren’t? What if they are? 

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If you want to know what “pitting edema” is just look at my swollen foot. This picture was just days away from my due date. I originally captioned this photo as, “The only good thing about my legs being this swollen is there’s more room for ‘A’ to sprawl out on.”

Well, they’re going to be different. And you’re going to be different this go around too. You know more now. Do you remember how intimidating it was when you had to figure out how to change the liner in the diaper genie? Or the first time baby #1 had a fever? Or just getting the baby in and out of the car by yourself when you ran your first errand after being cleared to drive a car postpartum?

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That is definitely my child going through all the magazines at my OB’s office. I promise we cleaned up everything before we left that day!

You feel kind of guilty for not wanting to do things- like take your toddler with you to your OB appointments, which is totally fine to do, especially if your OB delivered that first baby anyway. 

But you know what mama, once I hit that third trimester, I hired a baby sitter to watch my toddler while I went to those appointments, and not me or my husband even blinked at it. It’s hard running any kind of errand with a toddler, and when you’re pregnant, it’s super hard, and when you have to sit in a waiting room with them while your OB has to run and deliver a baby, and that waiting room, or even exam room, if you’re lucky, doesn’t have toys and TV’s playing Daniel Tiger for them to watch, that’s kind of like torture.

Honestly, I took almost every person up on their offer to help me before my due date. If someone offered to come over and watch my toddler, I said, “Come on!” In fact we have an aunt who would come over a couple afternoons a week and watch our toddler just so I could go to the grocery store by myself or get caught up on house work. So, if someone offers to take your child for a couple hours, take them up on it. (They know exactly what they’re getting themselves into.)

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When you get to get out of the house with someone who is super helpful to you, GO GET OUT OF THE HOUSE WITH THEM! The one and only Kristina Goodwin snapped this pic btw, and she is one of the most helpful people on the planet. Hence why I’m smiling so big. (It could have also had something to do with that faux fur coat I’d just bought from her vintage shop, but I digress.)

You probably have your birth plan figured out- or at least the basics like who you’ll call if the baby comes in the middle of the night. And who you’ll call 2nd if the first person you call can’t come for some reason.

I remember thinking my labor and delivery with baby #2 would go a certain way, just like I had expected baby #1’s to go a certain way. Well, you’d think after baby #1 did not go at all the way I thought she would, I’d have come to the realization sooner that baby #2 wasn’t going to follow my plan either. I do wish I’d been a little more prepared for Plan C- which in my case was a failed epidural and “natural” delivery, albeit induced. I’ve talked to other mama-friends who were in similar boats. They’d wished they’d been mentally prepared for Plan C and Plan D, not just Plan A with fleeting thoughts that entertained Plan B. So, just something to think about…

I also wish I’d thought about how feeding baby #2 could potentially be different than feeding baby #1. I nursed baby #1, and I loved pretty much every minute of it. It was such an incredible experience that I looked into becoming a lactation consultant while I was pregnant with baby #2. I never dreamed that nursing baby #2 would be anything but just-as-amazing, so I didn’t have milk pumped or back up formula in the pantry that first week home from the hospital when I really wanted to go to the emergency room for the kidney stone I was passing (again, without pain medicine!). I wasn’t about to take my newborn to the emergency room, but I had nothing for anyone to feed him with if I left him at home. I also didn’t have anything stock piled to feed him when my milk “dried up” after I went on Zoloft* for postpartum depression. A can of formula in the pantry would have done a lot of good, had I had one…

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Are you taking a lot of pictures right now? I’m so grateful I took a lot of pictures of my firstborn while I was pregnant with baby #2. That season is so fuzzy when I try to remember it. I love looking back at the videos and pictures. They remind me of all the sweetness there was in that season.

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Try to focus on the cute bonding going on here between the siblings and not my cankles.

It reminds me that there is so much sweetness yet to come. Yeah, there are uncomfortable days- days where you just want to fast-forward and get through this season and at the same time you don’t want to miss one minute of the sweetness you have right now with this first little one looking back at you. 

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First time making ginger bread houses. We called them ginger bread forts.

So, dear pregnant mama of a toddler, basically, be encouraged. This season is everything you feel right now, and you are not alone in it, or the season you’re about to step into. 

From this mama who made it,

Until next time,

❤ Lindsay

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*I started Zoloft at about 3 months postpartum. It did not dry up my milk, but I lost the sensation of let-down, so I thought my milk had dried up. Since I wasn’t pumping, when I tried to pump, I didn’t experience the sensation of let-down, nor was I able to express any milk. Regardless, we knew my baby was still getting milk because there was absolutely no change in his wet diaper count. ❤

A Toddler Mom’s Review of the Memphis Zoo

My husband and I love to travel, but traveling has taken on a whole knew meaning (and energy level requirement) since we became parents. Thankfully, we’re getting a lot better at it, the proof being we up and took a day trip recently to the Memphis Zoo.

If you’ve been following me on Insta for awhile, you know we go to our local zoo a lot. But on this particular day, what we needed was to get out of town. Ok, to be honest, what I needed was to get out of the house and out of town for as long as feasibly possible. So, we drove to Memphis and set our GPS for the Memphis Zoo.

This is the 3rd zoo we’ve taken our kids to. They’ve been to the Little Rock Zoo and the San Antonio Zoo… and technically “A” has also been to the Georgia Aquarium. So, we couldn’t help but take a bunch of mental notes while we were in Memphis about how the Memphis Zoo fares for families with toddlers.

Here are our take-aways…

1. Get there as early as possible. Like most zoos, the animals tend to be most active first thing in the morning. So, if you want to see animals actually moving around, or just see them at all, you’re going to want to get there as soon as you can. This also helps you beat the crowds that will build up in front of the most interesting exhibits near the front of the zoo. This is important with the littles, because they’re going to have a harder time finding some of the animals in their exhibits, especially if they’re sleeping behind something. Being there when the animals are active and when there are less people will definitely make it more enjoyable for your tot, and therefore you.

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We pretty much skipped all of the exhibits towards the front of the park since we got there an hour after it opened. 

2. Bring your stroller. The Memphis Zoo is a pretty decent size and contains hills. If you have even just one toddler, we’d recommend bringing your good stroller (and I’m not talking about your standard umbrella stroller). I’m talking about your super sturdy stroller that has storage and cup holders and a spot for your mom hook. If you have more than one toddler (or a toddler and an infant), bring your double stroller for sure. We love our double stroller and consider it one of the very best investments we made in baby gear before our 2nd child was born. I do wish, however, that I’d also brought my baby carrier. We ended up carrying each kid quite a bit because of takeaway #3…

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Holding “J” so he could see the elephants.

3. Many of the exhibits are not stroller-rider friendly. And by that I mean the child who is sitting in a stroller can’t see into the exhibit. Not all of the exhibits were this way, but many were. Which meant, we were picking the kids up a lot. So, if you’re prepared for this, mentally and you have the right gear, it’s more than doable.

4. Lots of amenities. We loved that there were so many snack spots, bathrooms, and misters throughout the park. There were also a variety of rides and a fountain / splash pad (which had we packed swimsuits I would have absolutely let my kids play in because it was HOT that day). We also liked that there were several animal encounters you could participate in for an extra fee.

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Splash pad! It’s in front of the lodge if you’re looking at the Memphis Zoo map.

5. Watch for the tram and golf carts. We were surprised at how much vehicular traffic there was on the paths throughout the zoo. At one point we were even three wide – us, a golf cart, and the tram, all side by side. We didn’t feel like we could just let our kids walk freely in many areas of the park because the trams and golf carts would come up on us pretty suddenly. We’re sure the drivers are very vigilant, but we would have preferred for the tram to have it’s own rail and the pedestrians to have their own path.

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We may have stopped at every mister.

6. We’d go again. For a day trip with toddlers, it was perfect. In fact, we didn’t even get through the whole zoo before the kids were done and ready to enjoy some Memphis BBQ. And in my book, that’s the perfect scenario for our family. I’d rather tap out early without seeing everything than get through the whole thing in 30 minutes and be wishing we’d spent our money on something else.

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Seal watching! I think this was one of my favorite exhibits.

Traveling with toddlers is a lot of work. But thankfully there are places out there that make it a little easier for your family to travel to, and we agree, the Memphis Zoo was one of them.

Until next time,

❤ Lindsay

P.S. This post does contain affiliate links, but all opinions are always my own. Thank you for clicking through!