Travel Diaries: San Antonio Re-cap

Pardon the water spots on the mirror.

Hey friends! So, summer showed up! (insert laughing emoji) This dress was my momiform last summer, and I wasn’t disappointed at all when I found it while pulling out all of our summer clothes last week before we took a long weekend trip to San Antonio.

We had the sweetest time there visiting with our family and celebrating my great-grandmother who turned 100 this past Sunday.

We decided to try a couple new things this trip; one being we stayed at a VRBO instead of hotel. My parents generously rented a house for them, our little crew, and my two siblings to stay in (so 6 adults total + 2 toddlers) just around the corner from my grandparents’ (where all of the festivities would be). David and I are completely sold on using VRBO or Air BNB for long weekends going forward- no more hotels. Having a fenced in back yard to stick the kids in was such a blessing (for all affected parties) after our 9 hour car ride. Plus we didn’t have to worry about kids waking up at all hours of the night or coming back to the hotel for naps right when house keeping was in the middle of changing bed sheets.

We also explored the San Antonio Aquarium, which was something none of us had ever done before. It was a great little spot for toddlers since they have so many hands-on exhibits. I would highly recommend it IF you have an hour that you need to fill, and you don’t really want to be outside. I was able to get a Groupon for our tickets, which significantly reduced the price, so check them out before you buy tickets, and don’t plan on spending a whole day there (it only takes 1-2 hours to experience everything) or go on a Friday like we did (aka field trip day aka lots of little crowds).

The kids have talked about the exhibits with the birds and alpacas since we got home as well as a fiesty little tortoise who almost crawled out of his exhibit.

But what’s been really special is all the talking they’ve done about their cousins and family members who they got to spend time with while we were at my great-grandma’s birthday party. My brother (pictured above) mentioned how special, and rare, it was to have a day where everyone (except for two family members who were down with a stomach bug) could come together and genuinely enjoy each others company for an entire day. Not to mention how rare it is to celebrate someone becoming 100 years old!

On our drive home, I kept thinking about his comment. The truth is family gatherings with toddlers are a little overwhelming for us right now. We enjoy seeing family and being with them, but we’re never able to 100% focus on a conversation or even stay the whole time. We usually have to skip out for a bit for naps and most places aren’t 100% toddler proof. (Am I the only one who is terrified someone is going to give my two year old a grape while I’m not looking?) And you’re going to have toddler meltdowns at some point on a trip, so odds are one could very well go down right smack dab in the middle of the family gathering.

So, I wanted to encourage the other mamas (and dads) who know the feeling. I know you’re out there, because many of my friends fall into our boat too. “Is it really even worth it?” is a question I hear posed a lot when it comes to bringing toddlers to social gatherings.

We’re super privileged to have family who GETS IT. Aunts and uncles and cousins who help, grandparents who say when we have to leave early, “It’s ok! Go. Take care of your family.” But that still doesn’t remove all the overwhelmingness that manages to creep in before and during the gathering.

My dad encouraged me a couple months ago to tackle social gatherings (and trips in general) with a man-to-man offensive strategy. I take one kid; David takes another. Sometimes, we have to switch, and sometimes we have to tag another family member to cover for us for a minute. But, we’re still on the same team with the same goal. We usually remind each other what the goal is too before we walk into the gathering. (e.g. We’re here to celebrate Mammaw.) It helps me stay focused and not get so overwhelmed, AND it helps limit directing our frustrations towards each other.

We’re not perfect parents. We don’t have this parenting thing down pat, but this strategy (along with respectful communication) did help a lot at my great-grandma’s birthday party, and we plan to use it from now on while we’re in this stage of life with littles who need so much of our attention.

Some social situations aren’t going to be conducive with toddlers. They’re just not, and it’s 100% ok to skip out. But other things, like great-grandma’s 100th birthday party, are non-negotiable. We’re going to be there no matter what, and I’m grateful for a new tool in the toolbox to limit my anxiety while we’re there. That way, when it’s over, my kids aren’t the only one with fond memories of the occasion.

Do you have a strategy you implement in large social gatherings with your little kids? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Until next time,

❤ Lindsay


Easter Preparations

My kids recently started attending a Mother’s Day Out program TOGETHER, which means for the first time since becoming a mother I have a three hour window each week (that is not a nap/nighttime sleep window) where I can _________ (fill in the blank). Today I find myself at a local coffee shop enjoying this… BY MYSELF.

Iced Thai Latte + Carrot Cake

I love my kids, and I am incredibly grateful that I get to be at home with them. Do not get me wrong. But I’m also grateful for this quiet time when I can focus completely on work / continuing education hours / an adult conversation with a friend / etc.

Focusing, these days, requires some major intentionality on my part.

With Easter around the corner and my 3-year old now old enough to understand more about our Savior and the day He defeated death, I wanted to prepare for Easter intentionally. I wanted to get ready for Easter in the same way that we prepare for Christmas: with decorations and festivities and clothing and story reading and movie watching. But even more so, I wanted to prepare our hearts for the day, not just prepare a bunch of themed activities.

So, the first step I took was deleting all of the social media apps on my phone on Ash Wednesday. With the massive distraction that social media can bring removed, my chances for intentionality got a lot better.

Next we decorated our Easter tree.

I love how the colors of the eggs pop on the tree before the buds start blooming!

Then we hung our eggs in the kitchen.

Sparkle Easter eggs from the light fixture in our eat-in are my kids’ favorite decoration- probably because we spend so much time each day around our kitchen table.

We pulled out all of the Easter books (a couple we keep out all year, but the rest go into a box with the Easter decorations).

We’ve decorated Easter-themed sugar cookies (which came out of a kit from Walmart).

We’ve been watching everything we have about Moses and the Exodus. This includes The Price of Egypt (available on Netflix) and the Superbook episode Let My People Go (available for free on Prime Video).

And, David and I are preparing to celebrate a Christian Seder meal with our kids on Passover. (This year it is the day before Easter). My family began to celebrate Passover in this way when I was a teenager. In so doing, I began to understand the continuity of the Gospel throughout the Bible in a way I never had before. I purchased this book on Amazon, and we will use it as a loose script for our Christian Seder.*

I’ll be honest. Some of this has been kind of hard for me. We’re not shy in saying that we’re very protective of the content our children are exposed to. When my 3-yr old looked at a picture of Jesus on the cross in one of her Easter books and asked me what the red stuff on his hands was, I paused, but then I answered her.

I’m a hands on learner, so it’s natural for me to give my children activities to help them understand something. Things like baking croissants with marshmallows in them and dying Easter eggs… I learn best when my hands are working. My children both appear to be auditory learners, which is why we’ll still be intentional in talking and listening while we engage in our Easter festivities.

Preparing for anything these days is a lot work, but preparing for Easter has been such a joy this year. Nothing has been elaborate. Everything has been on our children’s developmental levels.

Our hope and prayer is that when Easter Sunday comes, our children awake not just to filled Easter baskets (which yes, we will do), but with excitement and an understanding that today is the day we CELEBRATE that Jesus is alive. We pray that seeds are planted in tangible ways for them to understand His sacrifice and why it was necessary and so incredibly perfect.

Wherever you are in your preparations for Easter, whether for your family or just for yourself, I encourage you to be intentional too.

Do you have an Easter preparation activity that you do every year? Or that you plan to do this year? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Until next time,

❤ Lindsay

*I am not endorsing this book by sharing it here on the blog. I am merely sharing it as a resource since that’s how David and I are utilizing it- as a resource. We grew up in a church that recognized the Christian Seder. My family celebrated it, as I mentioned above. But, we needed a resource to reference for prepared and sharing this special meal on our own. We chose this one because it focuses on presenting the Christian Seder to a child.

Kitchen Talk: Coca-Cola Cake

If you’ve been following me for any time on social media, you know I love to spend time in the kitchen, and now that I have little ones, WE love to spend time in the kitchen.

The kitchen is called the heart of the home because it’s the room where we most tend to gather. It’s filled with comfort in the form of a favorite food, warmth from the stove, and familiar smells wafting from the oven.

It has always been my desire that our home be a safe place, and that applies to every room of the house. So the kitchen is where we safely perform all of our experiments. Sometimes they’re with finger paint and sometimes they’re with flour, sugar, and milk inside mixing bowls.

My kids help me in the kitchen as much as possible. Sometimes it’s just putting a sippy cup away for me while I’m unloading the dishwasher and other times it’s scooping and pouring and flipping levers while we make a batch of banana muffins- it all depends on their current developmental stage.

A few nights ago I was putting our three year old down for bed after a full day of experimenting in the kitchen, and she asked me why she doesn’t hear God talk to her when she prays to him. In the most simple way that I could explain it, I answered her question: sometimes people do hear God like how she could hear my voice right then, sometimes people only hear Him inside their heads, but regardless, we can always know what He says because we have The Bible, and God wrote The Bible.

I could tell she didn’t really understand, and I knew a lot of that was because of how tired she was. So, I gave her a tight hug and let her drift off to dreamland.

A few mornings later I was pulling out ingredients to make icing for a coca-cola cake out of the Magnolia Table cookbook. My daughter so sweetly reassured me that the cake would be perfectly fine without icing, so I didn’t need to continue on my quest to make it. However, I told her that I always follow the recipe the first time I make something because if I follow the instructions, technically whatever I’m making should taste good.

Several minutes later we were dolloping tablespoons of butter into the mixing bowl of our stand mixer, and again she told me it would be ok if we didn’t use all 12 tablespoons that we were counting out.

Me: But JoJo says we need 12.

Ave: Who is JoJo?

Me: (pointing to the cookbook) That’s JoJo. She’s the one who wrote the recipe for the cake. She knows how to make it, so she wrote down the instructions, and if we do it like she says, it will taste just like the cake she makes.

Ave: (staring at the cover picture) But how can she talk to us??

Me: (trying so hard not to laugh) Well, she wrote the directions down, so she doesn’t have to talk to us, because we can read what she wrote. (I opened the book and pointed to the words of the cake recipe).

Ave: Oh. Ok.

A few minutes later we were adding our powdered sugar to the mixing bowl, and I took that moment to remind her of the conversation we’d had a couple days prior about God talking to us through the Bible. Even if we can’t hear him like how she could hear me talking to her right there in our kitchen, we can know what He says if we know what the Bible says. Just like how we can know how to make this cake even though we can’t talk to her face to face or on the phone.

Does knowing our Bible backwards and forwards mean that our life will be just as sweet and easy as JoJo’s coca-cola cake? Not at all. But, in those moments when God feels far away, when we wonder where He is within the circumstances we or a loved one finds ourselves, the living words of the Bible, inspired by God to be written by men, will never fail to speak truth.

Now, I can’t say it always works out that way when you follow a recipe exactly right, but I have never once regretted knowing and believing the Word of God.

“Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” John 17:17

Until next time,

❤ Lindsay

No Spend January – DONE

The best picture we could get with both of them in it.

We did it!

For all but 6 out of the past 31 days we didn’t break our “spending rules.” 5 out of those 6 days that spending was on eating either lunch or dinner out. That 1 day was a trip to Sam’s Club when we quite honestly decided to just break the rules.

Regardless, we still consider this experience as a whole a huge success.

It wasn’t all pleasant. In fact, most days it was down right annoying- mostly because I felt like an onion being peeled slowly. And right when I thought I was pearly enough, another layer was removed revealing selfish thoughts and bad habits.

But, it wasn’t all hard either.

When I asked David about his feelings towards the experience last night, he responded very positively. He said his favorite part was that our kids were involved. At the end of each day, if we had followed all of our “spending rules,” one child would get to put a sticker on the chart we had hanging on our refrigerator. If they couldn’t put a sticker on the chart, we had to tell them or remind them why. While we weren’t chipper delivering that news, it did provide a great opportunity each of those 6 nights to talk about spending and saving with them.

I, too, enjoyed doing it together as a family. David and I also both, surprisingly, enjoyed not eating out as much. We felt better, plus we didn’t waste food we already had at home.

Our home was filled with so many unused resources from food stored in the freezer to home decorations in the attic to unused gift cards we’d been given years ago. Not being allowed to spend money on “extras” reminded us to look for those items and use or repurpose them or gift them to someone else.

I don’t know if we’ll do this again this year for an entire month, but we are planning on making No Spend January something we do every year.

But, if we do decide to do it again before then, I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes!

Until next time,

❤ Lindsay

Kids Christmas Activities, part 3

So we were struck with illness the last couple weeks, and never have I ever been so grateful to be able to do so many festive activities at home with things that we, mostly, already had, which are the features of today’s blog post.

Activity #1 – DIY Pipe Cleaner Ornaments!

My favorite thing about this little project is you can make it as simple or extravagant as you want. Add beads, glitter, sparkly pom-poms, ribbon- whatever floats your boat. Or, just use pipe cleaners like we did. My 2nd favorite thing about this project- the ornaments you end up with are non-breakable! (Cue round of applause!)

One of the kids’ favorite books is “Orange Bear Apple Bear,” so we made one of each for our tree. The kids were completely tickled, and it reminded me of making balloon animals- just with a whole lot less energy expenditure. 

Basically, all you need are pipe cleaners, and, again, any extra embellishments you’d like to add! 

Activity #2 – Christmas Cookies (Baking and Decorating)

Batch #1!

We’ve now made two batches of Christmas cookies because this activity is that much fun. Most likely, you already have everything in your pantry / fridge to make homemade sugar cookies. I like this recipe from Real Simple, but I’ll bet your Southern Living or Joy of Cooking cookbook has one in it too. If you don’t want to make them from scratch, you could always grab a box mix or even do break and bake if you prefer. Although, if you’ve been following me on Insta for any amount of time, you know I love getting my kids involved in food prep. So, the fact that this activity is a two-part activity (baking AND decorating) is a win-win. 

Besides what you need to make the actual cookies, you will need things to decorate with. We used Lenox cookie cutters that one of my grandmas gave us last year, pre-made cookie icing, and red and green sugar sprinkles. I also had a couple things of red and black gel icing in our pantry that we used too. 

Don’t want to be sweeping all of the sprinkles off the floor? Have your kiddos work inside of jelly roll pans and your sprinkles have a better shot at staying more contained on top of the table rather than multiplying all over the floor.

Don’t have cookie cutters and don’t want to buy them? Use cups or circular Tupperware to make round ball ornaments out of! Or, roll your dough into a rope and curve it at the top to make it a candy cane. Cookie cutters are just an extra- not an essential.

The most important thing to remember when baking / decorating Christmas cookies is to keep it fun. It’s going to be messy, the cookies are not going to look like something you’d buy at a bakery, you are going to end up with some broken cookies I’m sure (we did both times), and at some point your toddler will figure out those sprinkles (and dough) are edible and will cease to decorate but commence eating instead. Try to roll with it as best you can and enjoy the giggles. 

I hope this gives you a little inspiration this week for how to spend quality time with your kids AND get into the holiday spirit a bit all within the comforts of your home. This series will wrap up shortly with part 4 coming soon!

Until then,

❤ Lindsay

Kids’ Christmas Activities, part 2

Hey friends! So, if you missed part 1, I shared a little bit about how we approach home church and a couple of the things we did this past Sunday with our kids, as we found ourselves at home Sunday morning unable to attend church. I left you with us heading to the kitchen for our “family activity.” 

This is not a new craft, I know. Surely people have been making these little homemade wreaths for decades. And my guess is that’s because they are so easy to make, you can literally use whatever you have at home, and it works for almost all ages and skillsets (we even assembled these at our church’s ladies’ Christmas event last year)

The supplies I gathered were…

  • red and green card stock (but, you can any kind and color of paper, including Christmas wrapping paper)
  • a pair of scissors (I have 1 pair that makes the decorative cuts, so I used those, but regular scissors are perfect)
  • a cardboard box (the handiest I had was a pull-ups box)
  • glue (I grabbed a glue stick and liquid glue, but you could use double sided tape, staples, or even rubber cement if you wanted)
  • tape
  • some red ribbon (all I had on hand was your standard shiny red ribbon for wrapping presents in, but again, you can use any kind of ribbon at all, or you can even go sans ribbon!)

The night before I cut leaves out of the card stock by folding the pieces of paper in half and cutting half ovals/hearts out of them. 

The next morning I used a box cutter to cut circles out of the cardboard box. I flipped a glass cereal bowl on top of the broken down box and traced it with a sharpie, then I cut along that line. (Don’t worry about making a perfect circle though- you’re going to be pasting leaves on top, so no one is going to see the cardboard.) When I had popped out my circle, I cut another circle out around that circle to make my ring/wreath. 

Now comes the assembly part- aka, where the kids come in- unless you have older kids, in which case, they may be able to cut the leaves out themselves. You know your kids and how well they handle a pair of scissors, so I’ll leave that call to you.   

Show your kids how to use the glue to stick their leaves onto their wreath, and let them go to town! Help them as needed, but try to let them do as much of it as they can, within their abilities of course. That’s what makes it fun! 

You may find you need more leaves. Don’t panic! Cut out some more, and if you don’t have any more of the paper you originally used, that’s ok, grab a different color and let them color a design on that paper in the original leaf colors before you cut the leaves out. So, in the case of our wreaths, I’d grab white paper and red and green crayons or markers. 

We found the glue adheres a lot better to the side of the pull-ups box that isn’t shiny, and you’ll get a fuller-effect from your leaves if you affix them with the leaf opening up toward you inside of towards the cardboard.

When you’re done, have your kid tell you which part of the wreath is the top, and then flip it over. There at the top, affix your ribbon with tape or a stapler, and wa la, homemade wreath! 

Our whole family had a ball with this little project, and their wreaths look adorable hanging up in our dining nook. They have loved looking at them and point to them with big grins on their faces. I plan on doing this every year with our kids and am excited about all of the potential this little project has. It can be THIS SIMPLE, or it can a lot more elaborate depending on the kind of paper and ribbon you choose to use. Make it your own and make it work for your family and the developmental stage your kids are in. 

Stay tuned for more of the Christmas activities we’re doing with our kids this month, and be sure to tag us on Insta or comment below if you give any of these ideas a whirl with your family. We’d love to hear about it!

Until next time,

❤ Lindsay

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!