Welcome 2021

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I know that most people are saying good-bye and good riddance to 2020, but as the year ended and I started reflecting on how we filled our days, I realized that despite the fear, confusion, and division that rocked the world in 2020, we were extremely blessed.

2020 started with me on maternity leave with a one-month-old Henry. I went back to work for about a week in March before the world shut down and I ended up staying home with the boys until school started again in August. That time at home with my boys will forever be my favorite time – and I am extremely grateful to have been given that time to stay home with them and get to experience Henry’s firsts and get to watch Jack grow into his role as a big brother.

Other fun moments in 2020 included a family trip to Lake Fort Smith in Arkansas with my parents, celebrating Jack’s birthday (and Papaw Hoot’s, which is just two days after Jack’s) with a small family dinner and a trip to Chattanooga to go to the aquarium, a new job that I started in August at a school that is much closer to home and cut my commute in half, celebrating Henry’s baby dedication and first birthday with family and friends, our annual beach trip the week of Thanksgiving, and a sweet holiday season with our two boys.

I know 2020 was hard for a lot of people – and there were parts of it that were hard for us, too – but when I look back through the pictures on my phone, I see so many happy memories of simple moments spent with family and for that I am grateful. I think a lot of people are giving the new year way too much power, insisting that things have to be better or believing that something is going to change just because the calendar flipped over to a new page. I love a fresh start, and always love this time of year for setting goals and making resolutions and reflecting on how far I’ve come in past goals, but I don’t have any hope in the year 2021 itself. Instead, my hope comes from the Lord – I can definitely testify that He was with our family in 2020, and I believe that He is the one who will continue to be with us and give us hope and joy in the new year.

With that said, I do have some big goals and plans for this new year. I typically pick a word for the year to kind of guide me (last year’s word was strong, and I succeeded in getting stronger in lots of ways in 2020). This year, my word is FOCUS.

I was having a hard time choosing a word and thought about not even having one this year, but then I found a devotion book by Cleere Cheery Reaves (@cleerelystated on Instagram). The title of the book is Focus, and the book takes a deep look at one word a week to grow spiritually. I really like the idea of reflecting on one specific word or idea each week, and I feel like since this book is set up as a weekly devotion instead of a daily one, I will be much more likely to stick with it and complete it. I like that I can just read the devotion in the book on busy weeks, and on weeks where I want to study more or go more in depth, there are extra Scriptures included for me to explore. I am really looking forward to reading this little book and spending time meditating on the theme word each week.

Another way I want to apply the word FOCUS in my life is by being super selective in what I say “yes” to. One thing I learned about myself from 2020 is that I am so much happier when I don’t have a full calendar. I love slow days when there is nowhere to go and nothing to do but just be with my boys at home and see what we can get into. I am planning on focusing my time and energy on the things that bring me joy this year: my family, my faith, and this space. I want to spend less time just filling my days with things other people need me to do or say I should do and I want to make more time for creating and writing and doing the things that fill my cup. I also want to focus on spending quality time with my boys – less time in front of the TV and more time outside, for example.

One thing I accomplished in 2020 was making working out a more consistent part of my routine. I want to continue to focus on my health and continue getting stronger and healthier in 2021.

Here are a few other random goals I have for the coming year:

  • Read one book a month that is not school related.
  • Never go to bed with a dirty kitchen (because waking up to a mess stresses me out and is not a good way to start my day).
  • Create routines that work for the boys and STICK TO THEM (I am so bad at routines…but I know that we need them and that it would really help ward off meltdowns with the boys, which have been happening on the regular lately).
  • Be more mindful about the stuff that I buy and what I bring into my home.

Here are a few of the books I am planning to read this year to help me reach my goals:

Do you make New Year’s Resolutions? If so, what are yours? I’d love for you to share in the comments!

Happy New Year!

Christmas Recap

We officially had our last Christmas celebration on Sunday, and although this year’s Christmas was a little different than normal (just like everything in 2020), it was still filled with sweet memories.

Something about the start of this season just felt off – we weren’t nearly as busy as normal (which was actually a good thing). Despite not being as busy, I was somehow very late in getting my Christmas decorations put up. I normally try to decorate right after Thanksgiving and have it all put up before I go back to school after Thanksgiving break, but this year I still had a bare tree two weeks before Christmas. Jack didn’t seem to care, though, and he loved helping me decorate when I finally got out the ornaments.

The boys’ daycare did a great job making the season special for them with all kinds of fun activities and themed days – they had a gingerbread day where they made and decorated cookies, they visited the North Pole and met Santa (Jack’s favorite part of that was riding the big school bus from one building to the other – Henry, on the other hand, HATED that trip and was not a fan of Santa), they had a birthday party for Jesus, and they had a pajama day where they watched Christmas movies.

Poor little guy…NOT a fan of Santa!

This was the first year Jack has really been into Christmas, and it was fun to see how excited he was about everything. He wanted a tree in his room, which we put up and covered with blue lights. He also couldn’t wait to see Santa and tell him all about what he wanted for Christmas – a real airplane that he and Henry (and later he added Mama and Daddy) could ride in together. We have no idea where that idea came from, but he stuck with it and consistently told us that’s what he had asked Santa for. Let’s just say that Santa had some trouble finding such a plane. Even Amazon couldn’t help. So Santa had to call in some reinforcements and ask Daddy to build a plane.

I found some plans on Pinterest, and Jeff and I went to Lowe’s and bought all the wood and supplies, then Jeff got to work building a plane in our basement. He finished it a few days before Christmas, and I painted it on Christmas Eve right before we left for my family’s Christmas Eve dinner (nothing like waiting until the last minute, huh?). Of course, we couldn’t let Santa take credit for the plane since Jeff built it (I wanted Jack to know his Daddy made it), so Santa brought Jack an airplane book with a note attached explaining that the plane was too big to fit in his sleigh, but that he had told Jeff that’s what Jack wanted and Jeff built it for him. Jack was so excited to go see it after we read the letter from Santa! Jeff says that I’m more excited about it than the kids are, but I am really proud of him for building it (it is the first thing he has ever built, and I think he did a great job).

Other than the plane, we kept it pretty simple with presents. Santa filled the boys’ stockings and brought one small gift, and then Jeff and I tried to stick to just a few simple gifts. I basically followed the something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read plan and stuck to about 4 gifts total (besides the plane). Jack ended up with a guitar, some cool new underwear, pajamas, and a new bedtime Bible story book (which we have been reading every night since Christmas and he has loved). Henry got new pajamas, a Bible story board book, some toy cars, and a new stacking toy.

It was actually kind of nice having fewer gifts to open on Christmas morning because the boys weren’t so overwhelmed and had time to actually play with the things they got for a little while instead of us just shoving another box their way.

After our visit from Santa, we went to my grandparents’ house for Christmas breakfast and then spent the day at my parents’ house letting the boys play with their new toys.

On Saturday, we met Jeff’s dad at his river cabin for lunch and to exchange gifts. Jack got to go fishing on the river with Jeff, which he loved. It was a beautiful day on the river and a nice way to spend the afternoon.

On Sunday, we had Jeff’s mom and our niece and nephew over for lunch after church. Jack loves getting to play with his cousins and all of the kids enjoyed playing on the plane and out in the yard with all their new Christmas toys.

Cousins taking a trip in the boys’ new plane

All of our gatherings were small this year, but it was a nice change for them to be that way.

Family Pictures 2020

We had family pictures made a few weeks ago, focusing specifically on Henry since he had just turned one, and they turned out so good! Heather from New Creations by Griffin’s Photography has been taking our family pictures since we got married and we love working with her! She always gets the best shots of our crazy bunch. If you are in Northport or Tuscaloosa, I highly recommend her!

Christmas Activities for Kids – Character Analysis for Any Story or Movie

I know a lot of you are doing a version of hybrid school or homeschooling this year, so I wanted to share a fun activity I do with my students each December. The printables for these activities are available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store and are suitable for ANY short story or novel your child has been reading. Since they are not specific to any story or book, you can save this activity and use it year after year no matter what your children are reading at the time.

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Christmas-Characterization-Activities-for-ANY-Story-6306480

I always end up with a few flex days around exams when I don’t want to start something new, but also don’t want to just show a movie. That’s where these activities come in – I have my students choose a character from a story or book we have read and complete the following Christmas activities for that character:

  1. Santa’s List – First, I have students decide which characters from the story belong on Santa’s nice list and which ones belong on the naughty list. I always have my students provide textual evidence to back up why they placed each character where they did. This is a fun little activity, but it really gets them thinking about the characters and their motivations in the story.
  2. Character Christmas Ornaments – For this activity, students design a Christmas ornament that represents a character from the story. Again, I require textual evidence and for all the designs and symbols used to be based on the story we read. After the students design these, I often cut them out and laminate them and we will decorate a classroom tree with them.
  3. Character Stockings – For this activity, students will analyze the character by creating a stocking for him or her and filling it with gifts. This activity includes the most writing of all three, as students have to explain why they chose the gifts they picked to fill the stocking.

All of these can be done with any short story or novel, or even a movie. They are great little activities to keep kids occupied and help them practice critical thinking, analysis, and writing skills. I use this for my high school students, but it could easily be used by younger kids.

If you purchase this activity, please leave me a review and let me know what you think!

The Best Homemade Taco Meat

Originally posted on July 1, 2020. Updated on January 15, 2021.

One of our favorite cuisines is Mexican food. Before COVID, we used to go out for Mexican a few times a month, but now that we are staying home more, I decided to create my own recipe for taco meat to fill that craving. One of my absolute favorite Mexican restaurants is the Mexican Kitchen in Columbus, MS. Their taco meat is the best I have ever eaten, so that’s what I was going for here. I decided to start with a base of onion and peppers, then add the meat and lots of spices, and finish it off with the lime juice to add a little acid. This is now one of our favorites that we have weekly in our house. I hope you enjoy it!

The Best Homemade Taco Meat

Description

This is a weekly staple in our house – we love it for tacos, bowls, and burritos. I love to make a big batch and have it on hand for easy taco salad or taco bowl lunches for the week. You can make this with ground beef, pork, or turkey, so it is versatile and easy to adapt for different diets.

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. In a large pot with a lid (I like my enameled cast iron Dutch oven for this), heat about a tablespoon of avocado oil (or a generous spritz of cooking spray) over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the diced onions and diced green chilies to the hot oil and cook for about 1 minute, until the onions become transparent.
  3. Add the ground chuck to the pot and break up the beef as it browns.
  4. When the beef is browned, add in the spices and chicken or beef broth. Stir well.
  5. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 15-30 minutes to allow the flavors to develop.
  6. Add lime juice and stir before serving.

Notes

  • If you like your taco meat extra spicy, you can also add a tablespoon of diced jalapenos in the first step, or add a tablespoon of your favorite hot sauce when you add the lime juice at the end.
  • Jeff loves this meat for traditional tacos, but I love to make taco bowls with mine. Just layer white rice, whole kernel corn, black beans, taco meat, lettuce, peppers, red onion, cheese, and tomatoes together.
  • If you don’t have chicken or beef broth on hand, you substitute with water.
Keywords:Mexican, easy meals, weeknight meals, one pan

Christina Reads: Furious Hours

One of my goals every single year is to read more. I read a lot of books and short stories and student writing for work, and because of that, I have kind of fallen out of love with reading and rarely read for pleasure anymore. I figured quarantine would be a good time to work on my To Be Read pile, and I have finished two books in the last two weeks!

I have been a fan of Harper Lee ever since my 7th grade English teacher handed me a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird. I actually signed up for the preorder of Go Set a Watchman when it came out, and went the day it was released to pick up my copy. But I never read it. I heard so many bad reviews and people saying that Atticus was not the hero we saw him as in Mockingbird, and I just didn’t want to ruin what was the perfect book and perfect character.

Last summer, I found the book Furious Hours, which is a nonfiction account of how Lee spent years working on a crime novel. She did all the research, took all the notes, and spent tons of time writing, but the manuscript was never finished. I was fascinated by Lee anyway, and knew she had helped Truman Capote research his book, In Cold Blood, so I was curious to learn more.

I’m almost ashamed to say that I started reading Furious Hours LAST summer on our trip to Arkansas. The book is fascinating, and I devoured pages as we drove during that trip, but I was about halfway through it when we got home and life got busy again and I never finished it. I finally picked it back up last weekend, reread a few sections to refresh my memory, and finished it. I came away with a new appreciation for one of my favorite authors and learned a lot about her writing process and the life that she worked so hard to keep private.

Reading this book gave me a new interest in Go Set a Watchman and In Cold Blood, which are the next two books on my list. I don’t think this book is for everyone – it is long, extremely detailed, and unless you are already interested in stories of the South or Lee, you probably won’t be as fascinated by it as I was. I was gripped from the very first page (which I know sounds crazy, since I put it down for so many months, but it was always waiting on my nightstand and I was always just too exhausted to dive back in – those final months of pregnancy and the newborn phase are rough).

I did have a moment when I realized the author, Casey Cep, is from up north. For some reason, it would seem more fitting for someone from the South to write about Lee, but Cep’s writing is great and you can tell she did her research on both the person and the place. In fact, it was probably good that a Southern writer didn’t pen this book, as we Southerners are prone to tall tales and exaggeration (something Lee notes and is frustrated by during her research), and as an outsider, Cep was able to write the facts without feeling the need to insert herself into the story.

The book looks closely at correspondences between Lee and her friends and family to fill in the gaps in her life after Mockingbird was published, and I loved getting to read snippets from her letters.

This book gave me two major realizations:

1. Letter writing is a lost art, and we need to bring it back.

2. Writing is a little about talent and a lot about hard work and dedication. Even someone as brilliant as Lee struggled with the latter.

This book gets 5 stars from me.

Next on my reading list:

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

Sunday Thoughts

For the last few weeks, I’ve been in a funk. My mood has been all over the place. I have days when I’m really productive followed by days when I can’t even get the simplest tasks like laundry and dishes done. I’ve snapped at my kids more than I’d like to admit. I’ve slacked off on completing my workouts. My eating habits have been crazy. Some days it’s a challenge to even get a shower and put on real clothes.

As a homebody, I really thought I was going to handle this quarantine thing just fine, but it turns out that I’m actually not handling it the best.

Now that social media is pretty much my only way to be social, I’ve spent way too much time scrolling and checking in to see what everyone else is doing, feeling, and thinking. I see other people doing home improvement projects and homeschooling their kids and working from home and killing it at their home workout programs and cooking gourmet meals and reading all the books and learning new hobbies and I feel so much self-imposed pressure to be doing all the things and doing them all well so that I have Instagram worthy pictures as proof of my hustling.

Hustle is something the world tells us we need to do. You need to hustle at your job. You need a side hustle. Your hobby isn’t important unless it makes you money. You need to be a Boss Babe.

There are some people who thrive on hustling all the time, but I am not one of them. In fact, I think one of the lessons I’m learning from this forced shut-down is that hustling is overrated. The days that work well for me and my family are the days where I’m not trying to hustle and get it all done. The days that I’ve enjoyed during this time are the days where I’ve truly slowed down and just enjoyed time with my boys and Jeff. The days where I’ve tried to force a struct schedule or push too hard to fulfill someone else’s idea of what I should be checking off my list to be considered productive are the days that have ended with me feeling like a crappy parent because I snapped at my kids (usually over something stupid that was my own fault because I was trying to force some kind of activity for Instagram’s sake and we all ended up frustrated).

Don’t get me wrong – there’s nothing wrong with being productive and there’s nothing wrong with schedules and activities. But hustling for the sake of hustling? Just so you can prove to other people that you can? I don’t see the point in that, and I definitely don’t feel like my spirit is fulfilled when I follow that mindset.

This week, I’m saying no to the self-imposed hustle. I’m saying no to comparing myself to other people on social media. I’m saying no to strict schedules and complicated activities. I’m saying no to ridiculous expectations.

This week, I’m saying yes to quality time playing with my boys. I’m saying yes to time spent in the porch swing. I’m saying yes to slow mornings, afternoon walks, and naps on the couch. I’m saying yes to embracing the slowness of this time and to see what God teaches me from slowing down and savoring the moment.

A Different Kind of Easter

Easter Sunday for us usually consists of opening Easter baskets and eating cinnamon rolls for breakfast before getting dressed up in our new matching outfits and going to church with my grandparents. After church, we usually join in with their church for a potluck lunch and egg hunt followed by spending the afternoon at my grandparents’ house and hunting eggs hidden by my grandfather, who is the best egg hider ever. (He once buried the prize egg in the yard and stood on it while we were hunting.)

Jack with my grandparents on Easter 2018.

This year has definitely been different. We woke up on Easter Sunday with nowhere to go, stayed in pajamas and cozy clothes all day, and ate cinnamon rolls out of a can instead of my mom’s homemade ones. We had bad weather and spent the afternoon hunkered down in the basement instead of hunting eggs.

It mag have been an Easter like we’ve never experienced before, but our reason to celebrate is the same. No matter what our circumstances on this Easter Sunday, Jesus is still alive and on the throne and that’s worthy of our celebration and praise.

Despite missing out on some of our favorite traditions, this has been a sweet Easter season. In fact, doing things in a totally different way has gotten me thinking about some of our traditions and some new things I’d like to implement in the future. I have loved seeing on my social media how other people have chosen to celebrate from home, and some of the ideas I’ve seen are just so cute that I want to try to add them to our celebration next year.

One tradition we love is our annual Easter Egg Hunt at church. On the Wednesday before Easter, our church has a special service just for the kids with a guest speaker, fun music, an egg hunt, and food and fellowship.

While our egg hunt had to be cancelled this year, we still had fun hunting eggs at home. One of Jack’s Sunday School teachers delivered a bag of Easter goodies for Jack and Henry, which Jack loved. He was totally surprised and excited to get his own mail (she put them in our mailbox, and he was so excited when I took him to get the mail and he found them).

We also took an egg hunt to our cousins’ house, which was really fun. We egged their house on Thursday, then they egged us back on Saturday. Jack loved hiding the eggs for them, and I think this might be a new yearly tradition for us.

I saw a post by Kate from The Small Things Blog on Instagram where she mentioned that the Easter Bunny came to visit her kids on Friday night and they got their baskets and did their egg hunt on Saturday. I actually really love the idea of getting the Easter bunny stuff over with on Saturday so that Sunday is reserved just for celebrating Jesus. I think I’m definitely going to start that with my kids next year. This year, we filled baskets for the kids to open on Sunday, and they loved their gifts (please excuse Jack’s lack of clothes – quarantine has really lowered our standards over here and he basically lives in just his Pull Up these days).

Another fun thing we did this year was complete a painting kit put together by Created Resources (a local business here in Tuscaloosa). Jack loved painting his canvas, and the final product is a great keepsake for me to keep.

Our church has done such a great job with online services since this whole thing started, and we enjoyed watching our church service at home this morning. While I’m thankful that technology allows us to still hear a message from our pastor and praise team each week, I really miss going to church. I can’t wait to be able to go back to church and worship with our church family under one roof. You can watch our Easter Sunday service here.

This was Henry’s first Easter, and I am a little sad that he missed out on some of our normal traditions (especially time with family), but I was able to get a few good pictures of him in his Easter outfit (the same one Jack wore for his first Easter).

This may have been a very different Easter week, but it’s still been a special time with my boys. I hope that you’ve had a blessed Easter week as well.

Fun Toddler Activities for Quarantine Life

Is anybody else feeling a little overwhelmed with keeping kids entertained now that we’re all staying at home? I love being home and wish I could be a full-time stay-at-home mama, so even though the circumstances leading to us being cooped up in the house are not good, I’m thankful for the extra time with my boys. I’m already used to staying home during the summers, and I typically have some sort of loose schedule during those months, but so much of that schedule depends on going places. We visit family, go to the library, go to the playground…all things we can’t do right now under our current circumstances.

I’m going to be honest – during this time, we don’t have a schedule and more often than not we watch a few hours of Disney+ every day. That’s just how I’m making it through to be able to get the house semi-cleaned and cook dinner and keep my sanity with a toddler and an infant. I don’t see anything wrong with using TV as a tool or a distraction during this strange circumstance, but I also don’t want Jack to be a TV zombie, so I’ve been trying to do at least one activity each day and we try to get outside every afternoon.

Here are some of our favorite activities from the last few weeks:

Color Sorting

For this activity, you just need some construction paper, markers, and a box of any kind of toys (I like using blocks for this).

In a perfect world, I would have used colored sheets of construction paper for this, but I didn’t have any, so I used white cardstock and some markers to make place cards for each color. Jack has a pretty good grasp on the six colors of the rainbow, so I added black and white since he has blocks that are those colors, too.

Setup it simple – set out your color-coded cards, dump out the toys, and let your kid sort them by placing the toy on the correct colored card. I like to review the colors with Jack before we start and I’ll help him do the first few to model how to play. Once he gets started, I leave this set up all day. He typically does a lot of non-color sorting play as he goes through the toys and decides to build something or finds a toy car in the box of blocks and decides to race it, but as long as the cards are out, I can usually easily redirect him to sorting colors by asking him what color something is and that makes this activity last for quite a while. I don’t mind that he plays other things in between completing this activity as long as he’s playing independently and not glued to the TV – independent play is actually the whole point.

Shape Sorting

This activity is similar to color sorting. All you need for this one is some construction paper and markers. I just take sheets of construction paper and draw shapes on them (I did circle, square, triangle, and rectangle in the activity pictured). Once you have drawn the shapes, review them with your child – I like to have Jack tell me the name of the shape, try to draw the shape, and find something in the room that is that shape. Next, send your child on a scavenger hunt for items in those shapes. Each item he or she finds should be brought back to the cards and placed on the correct shape’s card.

I have a few rules for Jack when playing this game:

  1. No climbing to get items. Everything he finds on his hunt has to be within his reach.
  2. No opening doors or drawers to find items.

This is another activity that I set up in the morning and leave out all day. Jack will play with it on and off, and when Jeff gets home, he can’t wait to show Daddy what he found and tell him about all the shapes.

Dino Dig

This is one of Jack’s favorite activities, and you can do it with any kind of toy (not just dinosaurs). I actually used this for the first time during Jack’s dinosaur themed birthday party, and all the kids loved it. We have continued to do it over and over since then.

All you need is a sandbox, some digging tools (shovels or even plastic spoons work), and some kind of toy for kids to dig up (dinosaurs, in our case). Just cover the toys with sand, give the kids the digging tools, and let them have at it. This keeps Jack entertained for hours. He usually ends up getting all his trucks involved in digging up the dinosaurs, too. It is the perfect vehicle for imaginative play and he makes up stories as he goes along, which is so cute and so great for learning.

As you can see in this picture, our sandbox is nothing special. We just bought a small plastic kiddie pool from the dollar store and a bag of sand from the hardware store. I got a small pool to use as the sandbox and one a little larger to use as a cover when we’re not using it to keep bugs and animals out of it.We made a super cheap version with a plastic kiddie pool from the dollar store and a bag of sand from the hardware store. I just got a small pool to use as the sandbox and one a little larger to use as a cover when we’re not using it to keep bugs and animals out of it. It cost about $25 total and we used it all summer and fall and most of the winter. We did dump out the sand and get a new bag a few weeks ago, but that will last us a few months before we need to replace it.

Car Wash

If there’s one thing my toddler loves, it is water! I use the cover of our sandbox (the bigger plastic kiddie pool) for this activity and Jack loves it. I just fill the pool with water, squirt in some dish soap, dump in some toy cars, and give Jack a scrub brush. He loves this activity because it has water and bubbles (the epitome of a good time for a toddler).

As you can see in the picture, sometimes this turns into an actual car wash for his ride-on toys, but that’s just an easy way to get all the pollen washed off of them without me having to do it. This even led to us washing Jeff’s truck together one afternoon last week, which Jack absolutely loved. He’s practicing real-life skills with this activity, and it is his favorite thing to do when we go outside.

Sensory Bin

I first saw sensory bins on the Busy Toddler Instagram page (linked here – this is one of my favorite resources for fun activities for kids). I made Jack a bin using rice and keep it ready all the time for those moments when time is dragging or we need a quick distraction that doesn’t involve TV for me to get some work done.

There’s a whole post on the Busy Toddler website (linked here)about the benefits of sensory bins and there are tons of ideas for them there, too.

Robot Building

Jack’s collection of Mega Bloks is one of my favorite things to get out for him to play with. I love how creative he can get with such a simple toy. We love having robot building contests with his blocks, and you’d be amazed at what he can create at just 2.5 years old.

I usually help him get started and then once he has a few robots built, he will play with them for hours at a time. I know this doesn’t really seem like much of an activity, but he’s doing so much learning through play when he does this and it gives him a great opportunity to use his imagination.

Dance Party

This one is so easy and it really helps on those days when things start to go south and we need a quick way to get out some energy and reset. There are tons of apps you can use for this that have videos for kids to dance along with (Like GoNoodle, linked here, or you can search for videos on YouTube). The videos are fun, but my favorite way to do this is to just blast some fun music and be silly. Even Henry loves when we do this activity.

Henry’s face when his favorite song comes on…

Here are some of our favorite songs to use for a quick dance party:

  • “Can’t Stop the Feeling” by Justin Timberlake (Henry’s favorite)
  • “Can’t Touch This” by M.C. Hammer
  • “Happy” by Pharrell Williams
  • “Uptown Funk” (the clean version) by Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars (Jack’s favorite)
  • “Old Time Rock and Roll” by Bob Seger
  • “Rockin Robin” by Bobby Day

Corona Chronicles 2020

This is such a strange time.

I don’t think I’ve ever actually been afraid of a virus before, but I do have moments of fear when I let my mind go through the worst case scenarios of what would happen if one of us gets sick. The boys and I are home since the schools have closed, but Jeff is still working. He works at the hospital, so I’m worried that he’s going to catch the virus and bring it home and pass it to the boys. I’m trying my best to not let fear control me, and most of the time, I can push it aside and enjoy this rare gift of extra time with my family. However, as a mother, I can’t help but worry a little bit. That doesn’t mean I don’t have faith. It just means I’m normal and human.

I’m really not even sure how I feel a lot of the time. Sometimes, I’m afraid and worried about the health of my kids and husband and extended family. Other times, I feel at perfect peace being home (getting to live my dream of being a stay-at-home mom for a little while). My boys aren’t old enough to know or understand what’s going on in the world right now. They just know that they’re home with mom, and I’m trying my best to make these days with them count.

Here’s what we’ve been up to during the first week of our quarantine (including the good, the bad, and the ugly):

Day One: Sunday, March 15

Our church did meet today, but we stayed home because both boys had runny noses and a little cough (that first cold from daycare). We took Henry’s weekly picture, Jeff ventured out to the grocery store to get groceries for the week, and we had a pretty normal Sunday.

Day Two: Monday, March 16

I’m trying to limit TV during the day because Jack gets addicted to it so easily and I don’t want us to spend all our time in front of a screen, so we filled our day with lots of playtime on the back deck. We baked banana bread and took some over to our neighbors, took a family walk, and had chicken and broccoli casserole for dinner.

Day Three: Tuesday, March 17

Jack and I made some fun handprint art to review his letters while Henry napped. We watched Cars on Disney+ and deep cleaned the couch. The weather was perfect and we enjoyed the sunshine for a while this afternoon. We set up an obstacle course on the back deck and Jack loved running through it over and over. I made taco zucchini boats for dinner (recipe coming soon).

Day Four: Wednesday, March 18

We had originally planned to go see my mom, but Jack woke up with a fever, so we stayed put and spent the whole day snuggling on the couch, watching movies, and eating ice cream. I know I cooked, but can’t remember what. The stores were low on lots of our normal foods, so I’m already having to get creative with our meals.

Day Five: Thursday, March 19

Thankfully, Jack was feeling better today. We spent most of the day playing and drawing pictures to send to family members who we can’t visit right now. After a full day of TV, Jack spent a solid 30 minutes pouting and crying and hiding under the kitchen counter because I wouldn’t turn on his show. He ended up telling me that he couldn’t play with any of his toys because he didn’t like them and needed his TV. I ended up grabbing a trash bag and stuffing it full of every single toy from the den. When I carried the bag outside, and it sank in that I had just taken all of his toys, he changed his mind and stopped crying and is now earning his toys back one at a time with good behavior. I don’t know if that’s good parenting or if I’m just giving him a good story to talk about in therapy one day, but it stopped his tantrum and we all survived. It’s definitely not all rainbows and butterflies in quarantine with a toddler.

Henry also insisted on being held for most of the day and I was extra thankful to see Jeff when he got home from work. I’m not trying to complain – just sharing real life and that, despite being a homebody, this many days of staying home on lockdown have the walls closing in for all of us.

Day Six: Friday, March 20

We cleaned and organized the bedroom today. I have so many projects I want to get done (I notice so many things when I’m home for a while), but just started with simply cleaning out closets and doing all the laundry.

Jack and Henry were both in better moods. We’re starting to get a little stir crazy and all needed a change of scenery, so we piled in the car for a little drive and picked up dinner at a local restaurant on our way back home. We ended the day with a family dance party.

Day Seven: Saturday, March 21

We got Jack some new, clean sand for his sand box and Jeff let me take an epic nap this afternoon. Dinner options are starting to look like a bad episode of Chopped and we’ll have to do a grocery run soon. The boys are all off their normal schedules, but we’re still hanging in there and everything is fine.

As we continue this quarantine (schools are closed for at least two more weeks), I’m trying to set some personal goals for things like working out and developing some new recipes to share, but this week was all about adapting to our new normal and surviving.

How are you practicing social distancing and how’s it going for you so far? Let me know in the comments!