To the Busy Mom: 10 Reasons to Take Better Care of YOU in 2015

For many, new years is a time for making resolutions. It is a time to reflect and think about how we can be a better person in the coming year. We think about what we need and want, and set goals.

I don’t know about you, but one of my main goals every year is to take better care of myself…but every year, I fail in doing so in one way or another, and have to resolve to do better when the next year arrives.

As a mom, my schedule seems to revolve around meals and sleep schedules. Much of the time, I see my day as a TO DO list. While filled with GOOD and necessary things, these TO DO lists tend to consume my thoughts, plans and attention. Too often, I neglect to spend any time taking care of myself. I do not completely forget to read my bible, pray, exercise, or eat well, I sometimes choose to neglect doing them. And busy-ness is not a valid excuse.

Some days, I justify putting it off by telling myself I will do it later…when it’s quieter, slower…but in reality, I don’t. And there are tangible consequences. Self-neglect leads to something very unimpressive…I run myself ragged. I become impatient and cranky. I feel worn out, but don’t sleep well. This lack of spiritual and physical maintenance robs me of my ability to be an effective, joyful, healthy wife, mom, friend, Christ-follower and well, PERSON.

In 2015, I need some ammunition to keep going, instead of continuing this unproductive cycle. I need some reasons to persevere. Why? Because my determination will fade. I know it.

Here are 10 great reasons for busy moms to take better care of themselves in 2015 (and always). Whatever your resolutions may be, I hope this list of reasons will encourage you, and help you persevere in whatever you are striving to achieve this year.

Happy New Year!

10 Reasons to Take Better Care of YOU in 2015

1. Our children are watching us: We lead by example. Our kids will learn how to care for (or neglect) themselves by watching us.  If I neglect to read my bible every day, if I never exercise, if I never rest and run myself ragged…where will they learn to make these things a priority?

2. What we eat affects our whole family: I shop and prepare most meals in our home. This means I decide not only how healthy I eat, but how healthy we ALL eat. I want my husband and kids to benefit from wise food choices.

3. We are too busy NOT to: I often claim I am too busy doing ‘good’ other things to exercise, pray, read…But in reality, I can do my job better and with more stamina if I do take time to do these things. My husband and family deserve to have me at my best.

4. There are long-term health consequences: We all have genetics that predispose us to certain diseases or disorders. But our health isn’t decided by genetics alone. How we treat our bodies will directly affect our quality of life, and perhaps the length of our life. Healthy living can prevent or delay many health issues. The genetics are up to God, but I want to know I did my part. And I believe He expects me to.

5. We don’t want to be a burden: Neglecting myself now may mean that I need more help when I’m older than if I’d done otherwise. I don’t want to be dependent on my husband or children because I failed to care for myself. It isn’t fair to them and I am far too independent to be OK with that. It is my responsibility to do what I can to prevent unnecessary needs.

6. It isn’t fun to be out of shape: For anybody. When I have neglected my soul…I’m not fun to be around, and I find myself ungrateful. When ungrateful, I don’t have as much joy, and am generally not as happy. For me, that steady peace and joy can only come from daily time with Jesus. Without it, I’m on my own, and it isn’t very pretty. When I’ve neglected my body…I don’t feel well and I don’t like myself much. Being lazy makes me unproductive, and being unproductive makes me feel bad about myself…it makes me unhappy and unpleasant…not fun.

7. Being unhealthy is expensive: For us, eating simple, homemade meals and in-season vegetables reduces our grocery bill. When in shape, my clothes fit better and I am more likely to be satisfied with what is already in my closet. This means I won’t be trying to find something new to ‘make me feel pretty’. And, being healthy generally means fewer illnesses and fewer medical bills.

8. There is no excuse: Sometimes we put our lack of self-care on others. Our loved ones should not bear this burden and don’t want to be our excuse. I think as moms, we often neglect ourselves because we’re so busy making sure others needs are met. But at some point, we give so much, we have nothing left but scraps. Perhaps we are proud and think we can do it all. Or, maybe we feel guilty because we think we’re so needed. Or, maybe we tell ourselves we’re sacrificing our needs for the greater good. Ha! If we’re running on empty, what good are we to anyone? We are to be stewards of our mind and body. We are accountable to ourselves, and to God for what we put into it and do with it.

9. You ARE worth it: God loves you. Your family loves you. It is time to love yourself enough to put in some TLC. 

10. It is easier to maintain than correct: If I can’t keep this body in shape now, how much harder will it be in 10 years…20 years…40 years? The older we get, the harder it will be to change or to improve. There is no such thing as a less-busy time than now – life will always be busy, just in different ways. Including time to care for yourself is a habit worth building into your schedule, permanently.

The Wonder Of It All – All God’s Grace in One Tiny Face

john114Do you ever find yourself wrapped up in the bustling holiday schedule, and even though you keep Christ as the center of the events, you find yourself missing the feeling of WONDER? You know, the magic, the feeling of joy and mystery, and gratitude that seems to come so easily to children.

And lets be clear: I am not talking about the wonder of Santa, although I do not think Santa is a bad thing. But lets set the Santa discussion aside for another day.

I spent last Christmas, focused on Jesus, and while I certainly felt grateful that He came to save the world (to save me), I am sad to say, I didn’t feel AWE.

Why?

Because we are busy. Because I’m often guilty of being so analytical in my thinking that I lose my imagination; I read the facts and commit them to memory, but I have trouble thinking on a deeper level.

And, the story is familiar. Of course, I want scripture to be familiar…but it is never a good thing to think it doesn’t hold truths we don’t already know, just because we have read it before. It is meant to be treasured, each time, and then to be questioned, wondered at, and pondered.

So I’ve been reading the gospel accounts of Jesus’ birth, over and over, and have been trying to spend time really thinking about what is said, and what IS NOT SAID.

In the process, I have generated more questions than answers, and the questions have left me with a sense of wonder…that this story has truths that are not revealed, that I cannot understand within the limits of my human mind, and that cannot be explained by science, reasoning, or deduction. Like much in the Bible, there are details and truths in this story that God intentionally left out; mysteries left behind for us to marvel at.

So while I don’t know all the answers, I do know is that the Christmas story – the miracles, the gift of God’s son, and the great work of God that began with Jesus’ birth deserves not only to be read, but to be studied, reflected on, and to be AWED at…with wide eyes.

In order to experience the WONDER of Christmas, I have to take time to realize what there is to wonder about.

As I posted last week, I have spent a lot of time thinking about Mary, and what her experience would have been like if it happened to, gulp, ME.

But today, my thoughts are all about Jesus. Fully God. Fully man…

My thoughts were on Jesus when I saw this sign in Hobby Lobby while trying to find a craft for my son to make for his preschool teachers:

All Gods Grace in one Tiny Face sign from Hobby Lobby

I’d seen the sign before and had thought about how cute it would be in a new baby’s room. But never before had I made a connection to Jesus and how these words are more than fitting to describe His birth.

It is easy to think of Jesus as a cuddly baby and to celebrate His birthday. I’m sure He was cuddly. I’m sure he was as sweet as newborn babies are. Complete with ten tiny toes, ten tiny fingers, and baby soft skin and hair. I’m sure Mary and Joseph thought there was never a baby as cute as Him. There was certainly never a baby as miraculous as Him, but we know Jesus was ordinary. By looks, I’m sure he blended in with the crowd – it was His actions and character that set Him apart.

The meaning of Christmas is more than just the miracle of His conception by the Holy Spirit and birth to a virgin.

God did not have to send Jesus. And Jesus did not have to abide by the Father’s will. God does not have to love us. And furthermore, God could have kept his plan limited to His chosen people, Israel. He didn’t have to blow the doors off their hinges and open the way for the rest of us to come to know Him and be saved.

The truth is, He doesn’t have to do anything. Which means…He chooses to love, to redeem, to save. Perfectly.

I have no reason to offer God that can make Him want to include me, to save me, to love me. In reality, I should be unlovable by God – sinful, ungrateful, selfish…I could go on…In God’s holy presence, I deserve judgement and wrath. He is far too holy to tolerate even ONE of my many, many sins. I deserve Hell; we all do.

And yet, on that day, God became flesh – Emmanuel. God With Us. Why God would desire to be WITH us…I cannot answer. But when He came to earth as a baby, He not only dwelled here, but He paved the way for the Holy Spirit to dwell WITHIN us.

In us. A gift we don’t deserve. No words can express how priceless this gift is.

Jesus was fully God. Can you fathom what this means? Was He actively restraining His power at all times while on earth? Did He, as a tiny baby, have to allow Mary to take care of Him? He certainly had the power to meet His own needs. And yet, allowing others to raise Him, care for Him…Was that a part of how He humbled Himself to experience our life? Did He do it to show how only He could remain sinless as He experienced our physical and daily challenges and temptations?

I don’t think we’ll know these things on earth, but I can’t wait to ask Him in heaven.

When all will be revealed.

Our God is certainly powerful, but He also has the utmost self-control – The RESTRAINT required to live 30 years without showing His power…Oh my. It’s unfathomable.

He makes no mistakes. He committed no sins.

Not. A. One.

He MEANT to come, to carry out this amazing plan, to fulfill every single prophecy, to serve us and love us in this way. He was all-powerful, all-knowing, and able to do anything. But He lived a quiet life before His ministry began. His life’s sole focus was on fulfilling an eternal purpose. To save us. Us.

He chose no worldly glory – He didn’t come to reign as King and to rule over all, even though He is the ultimate King, of ALL Kings. Ruling here could have been His rightful place. But His plan was eternal. More perfect than we can understand; and a plan we could NEVER come up with. He aimed to save as many as possible. A plan to end ALL plans.

Certainly we cannot know the truth of all of these mysteries…but I believe HE KNEW all of this the whole time He was on earth. It doesn’t explicitly say in the Bible if as an infant Jesus was pondering these things, but since He was fully God, I believe He did.

I believe that when Jesus came as a baby, He knew how and when His life would end.

Can you imagine the self control, love, and faithfulness of living each day for 33 years, knowing the exact time and circumstances of your death? He knew He would be ridiculed, punished, beaten, spit on, and hated by those He loved and came to save. The sins of those who brutally crucified Him, He bore on the cross. He looked in their eyes, knew their names, and heard and felt their scorn.

Do you wonder how love could be so big? So deep? So motivating to God that He would do all this? Do you wonder how an all-powerful God could be so humble as to enter His own creation? To feel pain, physical exhaustion, and all of our frailty? And to be unrecognized, and to be rejected, all while not striking down those who certainly deserved it?

Only a God who IS love…

Jesus entered a world of sin. Full of sin. As THE Holy God. Every person who had ever lived before, and has lived since deserves His WRATH. Yet He held it back, even when surrounded by sinful men, women, and children.

Surely, the sin in the fallen world He entered repulsed Him. But despite His ultimate authority, He showed mercy. He demonstrated attributes that we struggle and fail to emulate…Unconditional love. Peace. Compassion. Comfort. Service. Sacrifice. Gentleness. Goodness. Kindness. Patience. Grace…

And oh, do we need His grace…But we don’t deserve it, and can’t earn it.

When I think of these things…when I WONDER about these things…

It gives a new perspective on Christmas. It brings depth, peace, joy and gratitude at a new level. Here I stand today, washed white as snow by the blood of Jesus, all because Jesus came as a baby…grew up…and died for me.

I find myself finishing this post, words blurred by tears of joy (If you know me, you know that tears do not flow freely for me very often – it holds significance here). They are welcome tears to someone who often sees the facts but often misses the heart of scripture.

I find my thoughts wrapped up in the mystery…in awe…in gratitude…at the wonder of it all.

“And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” – John 1:14 (ESV, emphasis added)

Merry Christmas.

Too High or Too Low…Beware of Setting Irrational Holiday Expectations (and 6 Tips to Maintain a Realistic Mindset)

too high or too low

We’ve all done it. We develop expectations of our children, friends, family and of events only to be disappointed.

It could be an event we’re attending, or one we’re hosting.

It starts innocently. We pencil in a date on a calendar to go on a date, celebrate with family, attend an event, or just spend time with friends or family. We get excited.

Don’t get me wrong, being excited is a GOOD thing. In fact, if I’m spending time with someone, I WANT to look forward to it.

BUT. Sometimes, this excitement transforms into something unpleasant…and sometimes, into something downright ugly.

In our excitement, we start thinking of all the fun things that can happen,  and how lovely we will feel. Of course, we assume everyone there will be just as excited as us.

That would be a good place to STOP.

But often, we start to get carried away. We begin to assume that our version of events is what will work best for everyone. We jump down a rabbit hole and imagine everything we anticipate in vivid color. Our imagination skews the event to fit our personal desires and we anticipate something PERFECT.

Perfect is a dangerous word.

Perhaps we think our children will be elated with an activity, even if they’ve never done it before. We just know our family will make lasting memories and how everyone will never forget them.

Of course, everyone will be on their best behavior, our daughter will nap, and even if the kids go to bed late, it will be fine because everyone is having SO. Very. Much. FUN!

This daydream becomes our EXPECTATION for real life.

These types of expectations are not just silly, they are irrational.

Now, if something goes wrong, we’ve built things up in our mind so much that we may now find ourselves in the place of disappointment. We may end up trying to make others do our bidding, instead of just enjoying the moments as they happen.

OR, conversely, maybe the problem is not perfect expectations, but no expectation at all. Sometimes, we have such low expectations we assume NOTHING will go well, and we dread the event all together.

Do you ever find yourself dreading an event? Perhaps you booked it a while ago and now you don’t feel like going. Or maybe you booked so many things that now the next event just feels like just a hassle. Perhaps it is across town, late at night, or you are tired from a long week and just want to stay home.

There is plenty of danger here too.

When we expect the worst, we are likely to show up with such a poor attitude, that we may rob others of joy. We put ourselves in the mindset that something will NOT be fun, and then we’re surprised when we do not have fun.

We may take for granted, and poison someone’s efforts, good intentions and goodwill. 

Bad attitudes are infectious.

So what ARE we to do? I think there are a few practical tips we can follow.

6 Tips

6 Tips to Maintain a Realistic Mindset:

1. Choose to Have Fun

Walk into the event with an attitude that YOU will choose to have fun, regardless of what happens. No matter how many daydreams you’ve perfected, set them aside and CHOOSE joy, regardless of what happens, who comes (or doesn’t come), who throws a tantrum, or who leaves early. If you’ve simply decided the event will not be fun, stop, check your bad attitude at the door, and CHOOSE to go into it with an open mind, and to find something or someone you enjoy. Remember, Christmas isn’t about you, or your family, or your friends…it is about JESUS. Having that in mind will make it hard to be focused on your desires. Also, be wary of dragging others into your poor expectations, because it will be more difficult to break free and enjoy yourself while you’re commiserating with someone else. Find someone who is having fun, and join in their fun. Misery loves company, but so does JOY!

2. Leave Room For Spontaneity

While is nice to have some back up activities or ice breakers to use in case the party gets slow, don’t have everything so planned out that you leave no room for spontaneity. Go with the flow and don’t force something that seems to put a halt to good that’s already happening. Be open to others ideas and suggestions and if you don’t get to everything, be OK with it. Put your efforts into helping everyone else have fun, and you will too!

3. Laugh It Off

Often times, the worst thing you imagine happening (a burnt dinner, saying the wrong thing, or something else totally unexpected) becomes a topic for laughter for years to come. It’s all about how you handle it. Sometimes it is hard when something we worked hard on doesn’t turn out, or we find ourselves embarrassed. But, it can be done, regardless of what happens. When something goes wrong (and let’s be honest, something will go wrong), choose to make light of it, and move on to enjoying the moment.

4.  It’s Not About the Event, It’s About The Company

It isn’t about the perfect meal, activity, or gift. The joy is in the people who are there with you. Spend time with THEM instead of analyzing whether your plan is going well or if they are living up to any expectation you may have had. All these people came to the event and most of them are probably in a pretty good mood and hoping to have fun.

5. When It Comes to Children, Expect NOTHING!

Two years ago we took our son to Big Truck Day. He loves trucks and we expected him to be elated, to laugh, and to, well, love it. What happened? He cried most of the time, overwhelmed by all the people and noise, and we left with him screaming when he saw a person dressed up like Curious George (who was apparently TERRIFYING). Just because the idea is well-intention-ed and seems like a great fit, doesn’t mean a child will see it the same way you do. And, anytime sleep is lost, or over-stimulation is possible, give them a lot of room to act however they are feeling. Instead, take a step back and let their reaction surprise you, and marvel at how unique they are.

6. Be OK Staying Home, or Leaving Early

Just because you scheduled it doesn’t mean you have to go. Sometimes we have simply over-committed and taking a little time at home may be enough to set your mood right for the rest of the season. So, if your kids are over-tired, over-stimulated, ill, or if YOU are in that same place, it is OK to just stay home. It is your choice to attend or not. The people who invited you to the event love you, and while they want you there, they will understand if you can’t come. Be respectful: use tact, and honesty, and communicate using your VOICE not a text message or email. Perhaps you aren’t comfortable not attending. That is OK too. Go with an open mind, have fun for a while, and then bow out early. Or, if you find yourself where your children are falling apart, or you are falling apart or are detracting from the mood of the event, call it a night.

The Wonder Of It All – Mary’s Response

Behold

Since having children, the bible passages telling of Jesus’ birth have become a different kind of real.

The experience of pregnancy, the expectant waiting, the joy and heart-stopping love at their birth that took me by surprise – even with our second child, and the daily blessing of watching each child grow and develop gives new perspective of the beauty of God’s plan with Jesus.

As a mother, I find myself trying to step into Mary’s shoes. I find myself wondering how she was so obedient, so in agreement with God’s will for her that when the angel came and told her that she would have a son, conceived by the Holy Spirit, her response was so simple, bold, and profound:

“Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” – Luke 1:38 (The Holy Bible, ESV, emphasis added)

We are not told much about Mary before this occurrence, but I think it is reasonable to assume that she was God-fearing, humble, and willing to serve Him in any way He asked. I have no idea what life experiences and truths she had of God that made her this way. And yet, she did.

Lets be clear: the words spoken by the angel must have been amazing, but they must have also been equally terrifying. She, a virgin, was going to be a mother. She didn’t get to plan for it. I’m sure her heart was pounding, and the sheer shock of the angels presence would have done as much. But his message would have been perplexing, frightening, shocking, and wondrous all at once.

When my husband and I were ready to have our first child, we were in agreement that we were ‘ready’. We believe each child is a miracle, and created intentionally by the hands of a loving, creative, and skillful God. We ultimately knew it was up to God’s timing, but as a couple, we had entered a place in life where we were open to it, and were expecting it to happen. Even then, when that pregnancy test was positive, it was easily one of the most exciting and scary moments of my life.

I cannot even begin to fathom how it would have felt if an angel had, first of all, appeared (that alone is unfathomable to me), and then spoke such words. I can’t imagine being told while I was unmarried that I was going to become pregnant.

By the Holy Spirit.

Whoa.

With God’s son.

The words must have stolen her breath.

We are told she was ‘greatly troubled’ (Luke 1:29) by the angels presence and greeting – BEFORE even speaking about pregnancy. We don’t get a description of how those words left her.

And perhaps it is because there are no words to describe it.

Surely, greatly troubled is not broad enough of a term to accurately describe the immensity of the emotions and questions she must have experienced. If I can’t get my head around it, how could she?

I can only believe she was empowered by her faith and that God’s peace was poured out to her in its fullest measure.

When she responded, she couldn’t have known that Joseph would also be visited by an angel and that he, too, would be obedient and believe her, and the angel. She was simply open to God’s plan for her life, and trusted He would work out the details.

Thinking of her, I find myself questioning my own faith and obedience. I question my need to know all the details, and if the often, much-too-analytic-thinking part of my brain would be my detriment.

I wonder if I would have been more like Zechariah who doubted and questioned the angel (Luke 1:18-25) when he was told that Elizabeth would have a baby. And let’s be clear: Zechariah was a priest and knew and served the Lord. His doubt is nothing to criticize. It was a moment of doubt, in a life of service to God.

He just wanted to know MORE, and like me, he wanted something concrete to grab onto. I see this tendency in myself. But who am I to think that God needs to prove Himself or share all the details of His plan with ME?

While it is comforting that God still used Zechariah despite his moment of doubt, blessing his family with John, it leaves me wanting to be sure my heart is ready to respond with the humble, bold faith of Mary.

Zechariah reminds me that God has a purpose for me, and that any day, any moment, I could be called to serve Him in a way I don’t expect or understand.

Mary’s response is surely why God chose her for this special job; He knew her heart. She could have chosen to reply in any way she wanted to.

She chose to completely surrender her life to God. She was open to His leading, and not so caught up with her worldly life that she couldn’t see past it.

It takes my breath away.

Her path of obedience was not easy, and one could argue it was certainly not logical. The social repercussions of an unwed pregnancy could have been life-ending, but she risked it all and trusted God to take care of her.

She birthed Jesus.

Mary held our savior in her arms and loved Him as only a mother can, but also with the knowledge that He was a true miracle. A gift.

She then did her best to raise God’s own son.

Imagine the complex feelings and challenges of raising the son of God!

Parenting often leads me to see my own shortcomings. Does this happen to you too? Can you imagine the shortcomings that would become evident if you were parenting the perfect and sinless child? His perfection could only show our imperfection. And yet we know he was gracious, kind and gentle. I am sure He was all of these things with His mother.

Talk about true sanctification. I’m sure the process was often painful, and always humbling. And yet, she served the Lord, willingly.

As a result, she was blessed to be the His mother. She was close to the son of God before His ministry began. She knows all those details about Him and His life that the Bible does not record. Precious things. She knew of His true origin, and of the truth of His perfect and righteous character.

I have no doubt she knew He was without sin and marveled at His wisdom.

Can you imagine all SHE learned from Him?

While I do not believe that Mary is worthy of our worship, I certainly believe she presents a worthy example of a woman of faith to emulate.

This Christmas season, I’m looking to increase my faith and be willing to be bold and obey whatever He asks of ME.

Dinosaur Birthday Party Brunch & Dessert that will Please Both Kids and Parents

Dinosaur Birthday Party Brunch & Dessert that will Please Both Kids and Parents

Dinosaur Birthday Party Brunch & Dessert that will Please Both Kids and Parents

Our son turned 4 on Halloween and we celebrated the occasion with a dinosaur birthday party.

Brunch is a great option for a kids birthday party. We invited 3 to 6 year old kids and their families, which included many younger siblings. Brunch allowed us to start at 10 am, and be done at 1 pm, just in time for afternoon naps. Brunch is also a good option because baked goods, eggs, and chicken salad can be made inexpensively, be made a day ahead, and provide a great variety for even the pickiest eater.

The meal needed to:

  • accommodate both kids and adults, including a few picky eaters…
  • be completely nut-free to accommodate a peanut and tree nut allergy
  • include some dairy-free options
  • be plentiful and filling enough to feed a crowd of 14 kids and 20 adults
  • be able to be prepared a day ahead, with minimal prep time
  • be easy to set out and finish up the morning of the party

Our dinosaur birthday brunch & dessert included the following foods and beverages – bold items are described in further detail below.

Dinosaur Birthday Party Brunch & Dessert that will Please Both Kids and Parents

Brunch

  • 4 Varieties of Muffins
  • 3 Different Egg Frittatas
  • Chicken Salad and rolls
  • Dinosaur Juice-Jello Jigglers
  • White Cheddar Pirates Booty
  • Veggies and Dip (cucumber, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, carrots sliced thinly, and cherry tomatoes)
  • Grapes (because there were NO watermelons at 3 stores! Otherwise we were going to make a dino-head from the rhine like this one – sad it didn’t work out)

Dessert

  • Dinosaur Dig Jars and Gummy Dinosaurs
  • Brownies and rice crispy treats

Beverages

  • Mini Apple Juice boxes
  • Coffee
  • Sparkling Water
  • Ice Water
  • Orange Juice
  • Dinosaur Ice Cubes

 

Muffins

Cinnamon streusel, Lemon Poppyseed, Blueberry and Chocolate Chip Muffins

Cinnamon streusel, Lemon Poppyseed, Blueberry and Chocolate Chip Muffins

We made Cinnamon Streusel, Lemon poppy-seed, Blueberry and Chocolate Chip Muffins. Even though these could have been made ahead, we made them the morning of the party. It took under an hour using 2 ovens, and made our house smell delicious as guests arrived. Looking back, this was too many muffins; next time, for a group this size, I’d just make 3 flavors (skip the Lemon poppy-seed – the only flavor hardly eaten).

 

Egg Frittatas – Spinach & Sausage, Ham & Cheese, and Plain egg

Ham & Cheese, Plain, and Sausage & Spinach Egg Frittatas

Ham & Cheese, Plain, and Sausage & Spinach Egg Frittatas

Egg frittatas are inexpensive, simple, healthy, and look great on a platter. You can mix and match fillings to your liking. These can be cooked a day ahead; just cool, wrap with foil and store in the fridge. Reheat in the oven at 350 F for 15-25 minutes, or until warmed through.The recipe recommends to serve at warm or room temperature, so they’ll still taste great even if they’re not piping hot when eaten.

Overall, these fritattas were liked by both kids and adults. Ham & Cheese was the clear favorite and was gone long before the others.

All three recipes were adapted from this recipe from Williams-Sonoma’s Healthy In A Hurry Cookbook, as follows:

  • Spinach and Sausage Frittata: substituted spinach for arugula, omitted the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and substituted rice milk for dairy milk to make it dairy free
  • Ham and Cheese Frittata: substituted 8 oz ham for sausage, and added 1 cup cheddar cheese (omitted sausage, arugula and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese)
  • Plain Frittata: omitted the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, sausage and arugula.

 

Chicken Salad

Chicken Salad

Chicken Salad

Chicken salad is a go-to recipe for me when hosting brunch and lunch. It is easy to prepare, can be made the day before (just wait to add the apple until the day-of), and can be eaten alone or on a roll as a sandwich. Using Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise creates a great healthy option. Kids and adults will enjoy the fruit and veggies that make every bite a little different.

This salad was prepared using the meat from 2 fully cooked rotisserie chickens (from Costco – they’re huge!), 1 cup dried tart cherries or crasins, 1 chopped large apple (I used honey crisp), 2 diced stalks of celery, 2 chopped green onions (green only),  1/4 tsp dill weed, salt & pepper to taste, mayonnaise or plain greek yogurt to desired consistency, and a drizzle of honey, to taste. If you want it just a little sweeter, add some chopped grapes just before serving.

 

Dinosaur Juice Jigglers

Dinosaur shaped 100% Juice Jello Jigglers

Dinosaur shaped 100% Juice Jigglers

What child doesn’t love jello, especially when dinosaur shaped? When made with 100% juice, they’re a pretty great option for parents too. Two flavors of juice gelatin (100% White Grape Juice and Apple Cider) were made and cut out with T-Rex and Triceratops cookie cutters. In hindsight, I wish I’d used something with a brighter color so they looked a little more fun. Just buy plain Gelatin and follow the package instructions.

 

Dinosaur Dig Jars and Gummy Dinosaurs

Dinosaur Dig Jars with Pudding, crushed Oreo cookies, and gummy dinosaurs

Dinosaur Dig Jars with Pudding, crushed Oreo cookies, and gummy dinosaurs

I’m not much of a baker and it can be a challenge sometimes to find a cake that is nut-free, so I was really excited to see the idea for these Dino-Dig Jars on Two Prince Blog. We filled our cups with chocolate pudding, crushed O cookies, and put two Hairbo Gummy Dinosaurs (nut free if you buy the factory-sealed bag) on top. This no-hassle, nut-free dessert was a hit with the kids. We also set out the gummy dinosaur candy, brownies and rice crispy treats for parents and kids who didn’t want a dig-jar.

Tip: The only problem with this dessert was when my son went to blow out his candle, the Oreo cookie ‘dust’ blew back into his face and all over the table. May want to mix the cookies into your child’s cup if doing candles so they don’t blow cookie crumbs into their eyes.

 

Dinosaur Ice Cubes

Make Dinosaur ice cubes in a muffin tin

Make Dinosaur ice cubes in a muffin tin

Set out dinosaur ice cubes with clear cups with lids and bright colored straws

Set out dinosaur ice cubes with clear cups with lids and bright colored straws

I found this idea for dinosaur ice cubes on Pinterest. I found these tiny dinosaurs in the Dollar Spot at Target (20/bag-a STEAL compared to other stores), washed them, and made a set of 12 cubes for the party. These dinosaurs floated when water was added to the tin, so ice cubes were made by filling each tin half-way, freezing, then adding water and freezing again so the dinosaurs were mostly encased in ice.

Clear cups with lids and colored straws were provided so the kids could see their dinosaur melt from the ice during the party.

 

 

Our dinosaur party brunch was delicious, and required minimal effort the day of the party. The food was enjoyed by toddlers, preschoolers and parents. Here are a few more pictures of everything the day of the party.

Beverages and dinosaur ice cubes

Beverages and dinosaur ice cubes

Dinosaur Themed Birthday Brunch for kids and parents

Dinosaur Themed Birthday Brunch for kids and parents

Desserts

Desserts

Happy Celebrating!

 

Check out the dinosaur birthday party decorations and favors in these posts:

DIY Dinosaur Birthday Party Decorations

DIY Dinosaur Tails, Dinosaur Spike Party Hats and Favors

7 Tips For Moms When Your Spouse Travels For Work

spouse travel

Whether you stay at home with your kids, or work during the day, life is just a BIT more complicated when your spouse travels for work. Suddenly, your parenting partner is unavailable during evening hours, and your kids are missing their daddy (all while YOU are missing your spouse!).

A traveling spouse means you’re IT. You and the kids are on your own for meals, activities, bedtime and emergencies.

Per Murphy’s Law, SOMETHING unplanned will happen. At our house, it’s usually a sick child. I’m not sure how this happens, but literally, the moment my husband’s plane leaves the ground, one of my previously healthy children falls ill.

Almost. Every. Time.

Weeks without daddy can be especially difficult when a child is ill. Now, no one is getting out of the house. This means no adult interaction for the mama, and no alternative entertainment from friends, family, school, or activities.

Whether everything goes as planned, or not, here are some practical tips for thriving when we’re the one on our own with our little ones.

 

7 Tips For Moms While Your Spouse Travels For Work

1. Practice Gratitude

I know, I know, you’ve seen me write this before. I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but for me, it’s crucial. My situation looks mighty different when I look though a lens of gratitude for all the blessings God has provided to our family, and specifically, to me.

When the weeks or days (or HOURS) get long, remember to be grateful that your spouse HAS a job (hopefully one they enjoy and are challenged by). Savor that your kids are amazing, and that you have the chance to see them every day (and acknowledge that your traveling spouse does not get to)

If you’re a stay-at-home mama, be grateful YOU CAN. It is a special privilege not given to many.

2. Be Flexible

When my husband will be gone, activities have two purposes: to entertain the kids and to give me a little break. Our schedule is selective and is sometimes designed specifically to save my sanity. But, even a well planned schedule has pitfalls; illnesses and cancellations happen. I can’t rely on a carefully planned schedule alone to carry me through the week.

It can be disheartening when you can’t go to activities. WHEN it happens, remember that as the parent, YOU are the one who sets the tone. Bad attitudes are particularly infectious.

BRIEFLY acknowledge your own disappointment and theirs. Console. Then, adapt and move on. SHOW your kids how to be flexible. Even if you ‘fake’ a good attitude at the beginning because you are discouraged, as they cheer up, so will you.

3. Soak It Up

When one parent is gone, you’re IT. You are on-demand. You are needed and wanted possibly more than you’d rather.

When daddy is gone, my kids are more attached to me than usual. They have been known to start getting upset when I leave the room for just a second, and suddenly a bathroom break causes chaos. Sometimes all that attention makes me want to just run away and find a closet to hide in. Even for just. ONE. minute.

When I feel smothered, it helps to remind myself that the kids miss their daddy, and that I need to extend extra grace. I intentionally lower my voice and try to speak gently, even when I’m feeling emotionally raw. I do my best to welcome their requests to be close (as in hugging-my-leg-the-entire-time-I-make-dinner ‘close’). The more available I am, the better their behavior, overall.

So, set those dishes down, leave the crumbs on the floor, and let those little ones climb into your lap. Read to them until you’re hoarse. Love them up, and enjoy every second of it. It may sound cliche, but it really WON’T be this way forever. Do whatever you have to do to remind yourself that these moments are fleeting, even if they feel like they’re taking For..ever.

Let their demand for more of you FILL your soul rather than drain it.

4. Check Your Perspective

During a two-week stretch when the kids and I were all sick and stuck inside, I had a moment of intense jealousy of my traveling husband.

Sure, traveling to Bangkok may sound glamorous, but 30+ hours of travel in a MIDDLE seat, then enduring wicked jet-lag, and FULL days of business meetings (with maybe 2 hours of sight-seeing during an entire week) is just NOT enviable…THEN traveling to Amsterdam with full days of meetings, even more jet-lag for another week, (also with little-or-no sightseeing)…THEN coming home to sick kids and a sick wife….taking care of them while enduring MORE jet-lag….IS. NOT. FUN. It just isn’t. Then after one day home (taking care of us), he was back at work, exhausted, and bombarded with people and problems who needed him. NOW.

My jealousy was absurd and unfair. My bad attitude didn’t help me be patient with the kids (which is why one of my first blog posts was about patience), and I felt drained, cranky and tired. If you start to feel this way, and you think life is more pleasant for your traveling spouse, step back and be honest about what traveling for work is REALLY like. Trust me, the grass is NOT greener on the other side and it isn’t as glamorous as you may assume.

Kick that jealousy to the curb and be grateful you endured your week without jet-lag, and that you slept in your own comfy bed.

5. Stay Connected

Whether you are getting out of the house or not, find ways to stay connected with your spouse, friends and family. Set phone and skype dates with your spouse and KEEP THEM (even if just for 5 minutes). Do the same with friends if you can’t get out because your kids are sick. When healthy, accept invites with friends and setup play dates, or meet a friend to go for a walk or to the park. If you have family in the area, quality time with beloved grandparents, aunts and uncles can work miracles with children who miss their daddy and need some extra loving. And, don’t let being BUSY while your spouse is gone deprive you of your quiet time with the Lord. Staying connected there will remedy a whole lot of problems and leave you feeling refreshed in the midst of what may be chaos.

6. Find An Outlet

Regardless of your next ‘break’ out of the house, you need to find something that gives you a ‘mental’ break. FIND an outlet that energizes and restores you. Look for something to learn, read, do, make, exercise or play. Doing something productive is always a bonus and mood booster.

For me, one of the things that came out of my husband’s travel is this blog. The blog was and IS STILL a necessary outlet for me to write down thoughts. It encourages me to DO something productive and stop vegging out on the couch, eating junk food, and watching garbage TV at night. I do hope you enjoy reading this, but in reality, this blog is for ME (Selfish, I know). I’ve also found an outlet doing some part time work from home, and in craft or DIY projects while the kids are asleep.

7. Ask For, and Accept Help

This is not one of my strong suits…but important to acknowledge and DO! We all need help. Admit it. Accept it. Ask family, friends, or hire a baby sitter if you have to. When someone offers, take them up on it. Also check around your community for other forms of help:

  • Check into events that can lighten your load: See if your church, (or a local church near you) does a meal any night of the week – they often have children’s programming that the kids can attend for FREE. Everyone benefits.
  • Utilize the child care at your gym to give yourself an hour break and to work out: Your body and attitude will thank you.
  • Consider identifying a daycare source if you need somewhere for the kids to go in a pinch: There are some pay-by-the hour places, and some companies have backup daycare for children of employees. Get the paperwork in order, so it is available if you need it.
  • This might be a good time to take advantage of ECFE, Parks and Recreation, and Community Education programs in your area.
  • Check out things like open gym, open swim, or other similar activities that can let your kids play while you watch, sipping a coffee.

 

At times, the schedule may seem grueling and the days may sometimes feel like they go on forever, but we can still do our job as a mom WELL and enjoy it whether our spouse is in town or not. The trips aren’t stopping for us anytime soon, so I would love to know your best tips. What do you do to make the most of the days when you’re on your own with the kids?

 

7 tips for moms when your spouse travels for work