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.

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!

Kindness

I bought this shirt as an impulse buy one day while looking for a daddy-shark t-shirt for my husband (inside family joke). I’m not sure why this burgundy v-neck was included in my search results, but there it was on my screen displaying back to me a phrase I say over and over again to our kids every day, “Be kind.”

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It’s kind of baffling to me how easy it is to be kind, and yet I see this phrase plastered as a reminder everywhere I look these days- on t-shirts, on social media newsfeeds, on hand-painted signs at craft and decor stores. But why do we need the reminder when it’s so easy to be kind?

Sadly, I think it’s because so many people are not kind. One time I joined a public group on Facebook for moms who use a specific kind of baby wearing carrier thing. The group’s purpose was described as a resource for people who use that baby carrier- a place where you could post questions, including pictures of yourself with it on, and your baby in it, for tips on how to adjust all the straps the right way so you’d be wearing it correctly. Well, I quickly understood why a facebook support group existed for this baby carrier, because it was incredibly confusing to get on right. So after my husband and I watched a few videos on YouTube and still hadn’t figured it out, I posted a selfie with me wearing it with my son in it along with a caption that went something like this, “I know I don’t have this on right, but I can’t figure it out. Can someone please advise?”

The comments almost brought me to tears; they were so mean. I couldn’t believe people would respond that way to a person asking for help, especially in a place where those questions were encouraged. Shoot, the entire purpose for the group was for women like me to post exactly that kind of question/picture.

It was a wake up call. It took me a couple hours after I’d deleted the post and left the group to realize what I was experiencing wasn’t out of the ordinary. It’s comments like the ones made about my selfie that warrant the plastering of “be kind” everywhere.

But still, I just kept thinking to myself, “It just isn’t hard to be kind.”

And when it comes to our words, sometimes being kind is just being quiet.

Sometimes it’s hard to be quiet. And social media lets us shout anything through our fingertips with a captive audience 24 hours a day, so “sharing” and “transparency” are constantly encouraged if you’re connected at all to that world.

Other times it’s hard to find the right words. Especially when you don’t agree with someone, or they’ve offended you in some way. However, there is a way to disagree and confront another person in a kind and respectful way. If kindness and respect are not what are bubbling up from inside of you, you may want to wait to use words in that moment. (Something I’ve definitely had to work on at times.)

It’s really easy to be kind to others, but I fear it just isn’t our nature. I have a little song I sing with the kids that my mom made up that we apply a fruit of the spirit to when we sing it depending on which fruit applies best during that situation. Our top three are kindness, patience, and self control.

Kindness, kindess

Jesus gives us kindness.

Kindness, kindness,

Jesus gives us kindness

Through the Holy Spirit.

When I sing this with the kids, it diffuses whatever situation we’re currently finding ourselves in. (I find singing when I get mad or they’re mad is SO helpful!) It also reinforces which choice they should be making, so in regards to kindness, it would be whatever the kind choice is in that situation. And, most importantly, it reminds me how badly we need the Holy Spirit to work in our hearts and refine that sin-nature we all have into character that reflects Jesus.

If you’re currently finding yourself in a place where kindness is not being shown to you, I just want you you to know that I prayed for you before I published this post. I know how much that hurts when someone isn’t kind to you, whether it’s through social media or directly to your face or behind your back. Remember that there is Someone who wants kindness for you in this broken, self-centered world. Keep giving it, living it, and letting the Holy Spirit grow it in you. Hugging you.

Until next time,

❤ Lindsay

PS – This post does contain an affiliate link, but my opinions are always my own. Thank you 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! 

 

 

The Easiest Overnight Cinnamon French Toast

Every Saturday morning our little family has what we call “Saturday Fun Breakfast.” Sometimes it’s simple like running out for donuts and other Saturdays it’s a big spread like homemade waffles or a sausage, egg, and cream cheese casserole, but this overnight french toast is my happy middle ground effort, go-to breakfast dish. Hence it’s name. This is the easiest, overnight cinnamon french toast you will ever make. Is it fancy like the one Jo-Jo shares in her Magnolia Table cookbook? No. This one has no fancy crumble on top, nor as many decadent ingredients, but that’s what makes it so easy. It’s just a handful of ingredients, that are all probably in your pantry and fridge already, and about 5 minutes of prep time are all it takes to make this warm, crowd-pleasing, easy breakfast.

Ingredients:

Nonstick spray

1 loaf of your favorite sliced cinnamon bread

2.5 cups milk (you can use any kind of milk you want – you can even go crazy and use half-and-half if you want to make a richer breakfast casserole or almond milk if you want a dairy-free breakfast)

6 eggs

1.5 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Maple syrup / powdered sugar / butter – optional, for toppings!

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Directions:

Grab an oven-safe dish (I prefer to use my 9×13 pyrex with a lid when it’s clean! But if it isn’t, I go for a Le Cruset baking dish) and coat the bottom and sides with a good layer of nonstick spray.

Cut your cinnamon bread into bite-size, 1-inch cubes. (This is not a science, so don’t be too worried about cutting them too big or too small.) I toss the cubes into my sprayed-dish as soon as I’ve cut them and fill the pan up as I cut.

 

 

Add your 6 eggs and vanilla extract into your 2.5 cups milk and whisk it all together.

Pour evenly over your cubed cinnamon bread and use your whisk to press the tops of your bread cubes down into the pan so everything gets wet.

Cover your baking dish and let it sit in the fridge overnight (I recommend 6-8 hours).

In the morning, take your dish out of the fridge and take your lid, or whatever you used to cover your dish with, off.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Put your baking dish in the very center of your oven and bake for 30 minutes.

Grab your oven mitts and rotate your baking dish 180 degrees then bake for another 20-30 minutes.

You will know it’s done when you can insert a sharp knife into the center of your casserole, and the knife comes out clean when you remove it.

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My family enjoys this overnight french toast topped with pure maple syrup and a little butter! On Saturday mornings, I’ll sprinkle a little powdered sugar on the kids’ to add a little extra fun factor.

I hope you enjoy this as much as we do!

Until next time,

❤ Lindsay

This post does contain affiliate links, but all opinions shared on the blog are always my own. Thank you for clicking through!