‘You Are My Sunshine’ Birthday – Simple Food So You Can Relax!

'You Are My Sunshine' Birthday - Simple Food So You Can Relax! | thisgratefulmama.com

One of the most difficult decisions for me when hosting is picking the food.

In March, we celebrated our daughter’s second birthday. I’ve already shared how the house was decorated with a few strings of bird and sunshine garland, and a ‘You Are My Sunshine’ photo birthday banner, strung using patterned paper covered clothes pins.

Like most families, ours has a few special dietary needs (peanut and tree nut allergy, dairy intolerance, and at times gluten-free or low-carb needs). On top of all that, we want food that is well liked by both children and adults and prefer to make it all a day ahead. There were 17 adults or teenagers, and 3 children, for a total of 20 people.

Since this birthday party was for a 2-year-old, you won’t find any fancy recipes here. She is easy to please!

Plus, with small children, I often have other duties than hosting that require my attention – diapers, wanting to be held, injuries or simply a lot of people arriving at once are sure keep a mama in-demand. Make-ahead, simple food helps ensure a low stress level when I’m hosting and little ones need me. It also helps make it easy to delegate when people offer to help.

What’s the use in throwing a party if I end up stressed-out and cranky and then take it out on the very people the party is for? Keeping things low-key maximizes the time I have to visit with company and actually enjoy the festivities.

Why not keep it simple so everyone can relax?

 Main Dish 

'You Are My Sunshine' Birthday - Simple Food So You Can Relax! | thisgratefulmama.com

We made a warm shredded chicken dish using a modification of this crock pot turkey recipe. Instead of turkey, the meat from 2 fully cooked rotisserie chickens (Costco ones are huge!) were used. All ingredients (except parsley and chicken) were combined with 1 cup water in a large skillet on the stove instead of using a crock pot. The sauce was heated over medium heat while mixing to ensure even distribution of the cream cheese as it melted. Chicken was added and mixed until coated, then cooled and stored in the fridge overnight. The day of the party, the meat was warmed on the stove until heated through. Finally, fresh-cut parsley was mixed in just before serving. Note: It was easy to reserve a cup of plain meat for our daughter who does not eat dairy. 

Simple Sides 

'You Are My Sunshine' Birthday - Simple Food So You Can Relax! | thisgratefulmama.com

Isn’t it great that the easiest sides are also often the healthiest? We served fresh-cut veggies and fruit, and a simple salted popcorn. It may not seem like much, but these simple sides are always a hit with our family. I count it an added bonus that they are low-budget and easy to prepare ahead of time.

 

 Dessert

'You Are My Sunshine' Birthday - Simple Food So You Can Relax! | thisgratefulmama.com

This year I was unable to find a nearby bakery that could ensure nut-free cupcakes. Instead of driving across town the day of the party for two dozen, over-priced (but nut-free) cupcakes, I chose to make them myself. As some of you may know, baking is not my strong suit and often ends in disaster. However, for once, I managed to make some plain white cake cupcakes – and yes, I admit I’m lame and used a boxed mix and pre-made frosting. I’m somewhat proud of myself for attempting and not totally failing at piping frosting…Trust me, this is a victory. They sure aren’t fancy, but were of sufficient quality to please a 2-year-old (who smashed it as soon as she got her hands on it). From the look on her face, they were birthday-girl approved.

'You Are My Sunshine' Birthday - Simple Food So You Can Relax! | thisgratefulmama.com

Happy Birthday, Sunshine-girl!

 

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What My Impatience Teaches Our Kids As I Rush Them Out The Door

What My Impatience Teaches Our Kids As I Rush Them Out The Door | thisgratefulmama.com

This morning was busy. Although I got up early for a head start, we were still running behind, struggling to get out the door on time.  We made it to the car just in time, only to need to go back inside to change a surprise dirty diaper.

As we finally left the driveway, I was taking a deep breath to compose myself as our son vocalized what I was already saying in my head…Hurry mommy, we’re going to be late!

Then, he turned to his sister, “Baby, you maybe made us late”. Uh oh.

While I didn’t use the words ‘hurry up’, he picked up on my impatient rushing as I demanded they put on their shoes and coat now. Plus, I’ve told him ‘we’re going to be late’ or to ‘hurry up’ plenty of times. An ongoing pattern.

Sigh…while its one thing for him to tell me to hurry, I don’t want him blaming his sister. Wonder where he learned that? While I have been careful not to say a person made us late, I have been guilty of blaming something – You know, we’re late because of that lost shoe, temper tantrum, or…problem. Not surprising he was perceptive enough to translate that as blaming the person.

Yep. Nothing like my own hurried, careless words being repeated by our child to stop me in my tracks.

Perhaps rushing around like a crazy lady morning after morning isn’t doing any of us any good.

I’ve been thinking about what I’ve really been teaching them with this pattern of impatient rushing. I often excuse the craziness of getting out the door by telling myself that being on time is a necessary life skill – And it is, but not like this.

I do want them to learn to be on time and respect the time of others. But I really want them to learn how to be on time without rushing, which requires preparation, flexibility, and grace. Even if we need to hurry once in a while, it can be done without barking demands. And, sometimes, unexpected things happen – it is ok to be a little late.

In truth, it is better to be late and not be a big ball of stress with two cranky kids in tow when we get there (you’d be cranky too if you were rushed into the car by an impatient mama!).

What is the point of being on time if you’ve exasperated yourself and those around you in the process? While I’ve heard the phrase “timeliness is next to godliness“, I’m pretty sure God is appalled by the rushed methods employed by many parents as we force our kids out the door.

While I may be reinforcing the importance of being on time, there is much more they are learning from my hurry – and most of it is unimpressive.

What My Impatience Teaches Our Kids As I Rush Them Out The Door:

  • Their last-minute (albeit important) need is a hassle they may even feel they, themselves are a hassle. I should be grateful we had the chance to change that diaper BEFORE we left, even if it means removing her coat, hat, mittens and boots, and putting them all on again (yes, it is snowing in April in MN)
  • Being too busy is OK, and a way of life – is this how I want them to treat their families when they grow up?
  • Being late is an excuse to forego kindness and gentleness – we taught Ephesians 4:32 to our son and often talk about being kind to others. As I hurry him along, sighing and making demands, I’m a hypocrite, undermining my own efforts. Of course he will turn around and do the same to his sister – he learned it from his mama!
  • Being on-time in tears, angry, or frazzled is better than being late – nothing like a stressed out, tearful family, on-time on to church…because that will get them in the mood to worship the Lord (note the sarcasm)
  • What’s next is more important than right now – There is nothing wrong with purposeful preparation, but worrying is a whole different thing. They will never learn to just be if I’m impatient to move on to the next thing or how what we are doing now is taking too long
  • Being on-time is more important than pausing to help them learn to zip their coat, tie their shoe, answer a question
  • Getting ready to go isn’t fun – if it always ends with an exasperated mama or daddy, or kids in tears…I would drag my feet too
  • Everything must be done quicklywe don’t have time to appreciate details, make observations or ask questions. Oh, the teachable moments I am missing!
  • A schedule is more important than what they are doing now
  • They slow me down – I never want them to think I’d rather they weren’t with me so I could go faster, but sometimes my words or actions may communicate exactly that. Ouch.
  • In a hurry, their feelings don’t matter ever tell your child you don’t have time for their meltdown? Sadly, I have, even when it was fueled by my own sharp tone? How wrong is that?
  • They can’t do anything right, or fast enough if we haven’t allowed enough time, they probably can’t do it fast enough. When hurrying, they will make mistakes, especially if I’m barking orders to hurry
  • If you’re late, it’s ok to be cranky, all the way there – sometimes we just need to accept we’re late. Don’t sit with clenched jaws in a car full of tension all the way there, turn on the radio and move on! Better to be there happy and late, than stressed and still just as late.

There are very few instances where the cost of impatient rushing is really worth it. Time to slow down, mama!

7 Reasons This Mama Wakes Up BEFORE The Kids

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Once upon a time, I was a natural morning person. It was normal to wake before my alarm with a spring in my step – motivated to exercise, get ready and get to work early. That said, I wasn’t necessarily a ‘social’ morning person – I needed time to get my head on straight before attempting conversation.

Ready for the day – but only after being awake for an hour or two.

I purposefully went to work early to enjoy my coffee in peace while sorting through emails. By the time co-workers arrived, I was adequately caffeinated and focused. I planned my day but was able to be flexible. Like any day with kids, a day in my former job was rarely what I expected it to be.

Then, we had kids.

After 15 months of consistent and severe sleep deprivation due to a hurting baby, a semblance of sleep normalcy returned.  However, sleep has never been the same. In just the past month we’ve had all kinds of night-waking due to dirty diapers, coughs needing a nebulizer, bloody noses, wet beds, a cold or hot child needing different jammies or an extra blanket, illnesses, sore legs, itchy skin, teething, falling out of the bed, thunder storms (OR clouds that might storm), burned out night lights, children claiming they are not tired at 2 AM, and…sigh…I’m sure I’m missing something.

The result? I have admittedly become a sleep-worshipper. Now, the idea of me being a morning person is downright laughable. 

Problem is, sleeping in until the kids wake me is not pretty. I greet those sweet joyful faces with an ill-prepared, impatient, attitude, still in the fog of sleep. You would think after two years of being home with the kids I’d have this figured out.

The truth is, I used to get up and prepare myself for my job. Staying home with our kids is no less of a ‘job’ than my previous employment. Staying in bed means I haven’t prepared at all – we all pay for it. In fact, I could easily argue that being mentally ready and prepared is even more important now because consequences are endured by our children.

So, I’ve been experimenting with changing my routine to make myself into a morning person again. It’s time to be purposefully prepared…

I started ‘for the kids’, but in reality, it has been as beneficial for me as them.

Our kids get up between 7 and 8. Most days, it’s 7:30. By getting up at 6, I now have between 1 and 2 hours without kids.

Alone.

Quiet.

To do whatever I want as the sun rises.

It is no exaggeration to call these mornings glorious.

Why? Here are 7 benefits I’m now experiencing. Not sure you can wake up that early? Start with just 15 minutes. Trust me, you’ll like it so much, you’ll want more. I’m actually considering getting up even earlier.

7 Reasons This Mama Wakes Up BEFORE The Kids

1. Exercise

While I often feel like a glorified pack-mule, hauling bags and kids everywhere, usually the most aerobic exercise I get is a quick walk/run around the block. While I tell myself I’ll exercise during nap time, I end up cleaning or relaxing. If not first thing in the morning, exercise doesn’t happen. Getting up at 6 means not only do I exercise, I exercise without interruption.

2. Quiet Time

If you’ve tried to read your Bible, pray, journal, or do anything that sounds like reflection in the presence of a 2 and 4-year-old, you know the result is endless interruption and likely frustration. Getting up early allows focused time, leaving me recharged and equipped for the day.

3. Caffeine

What makes a peaceful quiet time even better? Hot coffee, and finishing the whole cup. Coffee after the kids are up is found on the counter by my husband when he gets home from work, cold and half-full. Now I enjoy caffeine mixed with workout adrenaline when they wake. In other words, by the time I see them, I feel fantastic.

4. A Step Ahead

Staying in bed does means warm blankets and a slowly brightening room – tempting, I know. But it also means when I hear crying and finally get up, I stumble bleary-eyed into our daughters room. She greets me with ‘Yucky’ and ‘Big One’ (you know what that means). After changing her diaper she points to her hair and says ‘knot’ because she twirls her hair and it is a rats-nest each morning. By now, her brother has joined us and is desperate for breakfast, and ready to burst into tears because I’m just not going fast enough. Even though we’ve just begun, mornings often feel like a rude-awakening – from the bliss of a warm bed into a reactionary mode where I’m always one step behind. Waking early means I’m alert and ready to help them. I usually have breakfast on the table so our son can go eat, preventing hangry whining – I call that sweet victory.

5. Planning

I love having a moment to plan the day. I might even pack snacks or the diaper bag before the kids get up. Plans may change, but I’m more likely to be flexible. Because I’m prepared, I can help the kids know what to expect so they are more likely to transition quickly, with a good attitude.

6. My Full Attention

Instead of being preoccupied the kids have my undivided attention because I’ve already covered my bases. I am more patient, responsive, and less likely to frustrate them by being absorbed by something else and asking them to wait.

7. Relationships

One of the greatest benefits of rising early is hearing the first noises our kids make. I can go in for morning snuggles before they fully wake up. Hands-down, this is worth every minute of forfeited sleep. It helps them wake with a smile. Another benefit is getting to see my husband before he leaves for work. A short conversation over coffee with a morning hug and kiss is delightful.

Ready to be a morning person?

7 Reasons This Mama Wakes Up BEFORE The Kids | thisgratefulmama.com 7 Reasons This Mama Wakes Up BEFORE The Kids | thisgratefulmama.com


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This post was shared in the Salt and Light Linkup at Married By His Grace. Check it out!

 

‘You Are My Sunshine’ Birthday – DIY Bird and Sunshine Garland

You Are My Sunshine Birthday DIY Bird and Sunshine Garland

In March, we celebrated our daughter’s second birthday. The house was decorated with a ‘You Are My Sunshine’ photo birthday banner, strung using patterned paper covered clothes pins. To brighten things up a bit, we made a few strings of bird and sunshine garland using patterned scrapbook paper and thread.

Patterns:

birds and sunshine

Five patterns of colored (non-yellow) scrapbook paper were used to cut 15 each of birds and wings. To mix things up a bit, 5 birds were cut facing one direction and 10 the other direction. Three patterns of yellow scrapbook paper were used to cut 12 each of suns and 2″ circles.

assembled birds and suns

Birds and suns were assembled using a glue stick, making sure each bird and sun had two different patterns.

Bird and Sunshine Garland

The birds and suns were strung on both using a needle and thread in a pattern (1 sun, 1 bird, 1 sun, 2 birds), 6 inches apart. Tape was applied over the thread in the back to secure each bird and sun in place. Both horizontal and vertical garlands were made.

Since similar paper was used for the photo banner, the garland was a great compliment. The light-weight garland was was hung using Scotch tape – easy to put up and remove.

The kids loved the garland and photo banner so much, we left both up through the Easter holiday. We are just taking it all down today, almost a month later! The decorations will be saved so some will be modified for our daughter’s room when she transitions from her crib to a bed in a few months.

‘The Bunny’ Isn’t Going Anywhere…Ideas For A Christ-Centered Easter

'The Bunny' Isn't Going Anywhere...Ideas For A Christ-Centered Easter | thisgratefulmama.com

Did anyone notice that the Easter candy arrived at the same time (or earlier) than Valentine’s candy? I know we joke about Christmas in July, but I am not so sure how I feel about Easter in January, even though the hope and joy of a risen Jesus Christ is worth celebrating every day.

What I’m not so sure about is the drawn out bombardment of the Easter bunny, spreading his marketing agenda through children’s cartoons, billboards and aisle endcaps – obviously targeting children, parent and grandparents.

Now, I’m no bunny-hater – I grew up celebrating Jesus’ resurrection at church, with a basket of Easter treats at home. ‘The bunny’ hid eggs and treats all over our house (because usually MN Easter is cold and snowy or very wet) and we enjoyed many challenging egg hunts as a family. We dyed eggs and I have very fond memories of all aspects of Easter and the childhood wonder that goes with it.

What I struggle with is how to embrace both the bunny and Jesus with a consistent, Christ-centered message. I want Easter to be so much more meaningful to our children than a day celebrating a bunny, hopping from house to house, leaving eggs filled with candy. Up until this year, we’ve kind of avoided the issue. Last year our son was 3 and participated in an egg hunt but there had been little talk about the actual bunny.

It has never been our intent to shelter our children from the bunny entirely. Plus, sheltering from the bunny is simply not practical, and perhaps not even possible. The Easter Bunny is a dug in, popular figure who isn’t going ANYWHERE. The way I see it, the bunny and I are going to have to find a way to co-exist, and I’d rather it benefit our children by pointing them towards Jesus. Easter means so much to me, I long for them to feel the same way, long after the childhood wonder of the bunny has worn off.

When our son learned about Easter at preschool last Thursday, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Since the preschool is in a church, I was hoping what he learned would be in line with what our family believes. When I picked him up, he had decorated a cute little white bag with a face and ears like a bunny. He was extremely amped up and excited to see what the Easter Bunny had left in the bag while they were outside playing.

I thought…uh-oh. We haven’t talked about the Easter bunny yet. But I was blessed and pleasantly surprised to see the careful and intentional instruction of his preschool teachers. Inside the bag were 3 small (nut-free!) treats, some of that fake grass (annoyingly messy, static-charged, impossible to clean up…but I digress), and one easter egg with a heart sticker on the outside.

The egg was empty.

I asked my son, why is the egg empty? With delight in his voice, he told me what he had learned at school:

“It’s empty because Jesus isn’t in there anymore! He’s alive! It has a heart on it because Jesus is in my heart” (let’s talk about how these words make MY heart leap for joy). Then, “Easter isn’t about candy or the Easter ‘rabbit’, Mom, it’s about Jesus”.

If he’d have been a teenager, I’m sure his final, matter-of-fact statement would have been followed by “Duh” by the tone he used. For now, I’m glad he doesn’t know that term yet.

While we’ve been talking about Easter and Jesus’ death and resurrection for weeks, with reinforcement from Sunday School, this is the first time he really seemed to be able to verbalize it.  I was amazed to hear him profess how the Easter bunny wasn’t at the heart of Easter. We’ll see how he feels on Sunday after he gets his basket, but for now, this is a good start.

Friday morning, he informed me that if we don’t have a bag or basket to leave out for the ‘rabbit’, he won’t come. He reasoned, “We need to get one. For baby (his sister), too”.  As in, right now. 

SO, off we went to Target so he could pick out two buckets with shovels to use as ‘baskets’ this year. He wanted nothing to do with a true basket, because “you can’t play with it. It might break.” I found this logic to be pretty smart, and forward-thinking for a 4-year-old.

While I wasn’t sure how we would embrace the Easter bunny, I see no harm in using ‘the bunny’ to educate our children about Jesus and the true meaning of Easter. This year, ‘The Easter Bunny’ is planning to give our son the book, Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing by Sally Lloyd-Jones in his Easter Basket. It is our plan for our family to read the book together as a family devotional every evening after dinner.

Other book ideas for ‘the bunny’ to put in your little one’s Easter baskets include:

Given our son’s new-found understanding of the Easter bunny, I figured I better get my act together. I spent the past few days, searching for other, free ideas to incorporate into the next couple days, and to plan for in future years.

For a wealth of great Easter ideas, I recommend you pop on over to the Happy Home Fairy – the blog is filled with simple and great free printables and activities. While we won’t be doing all of these activities this year, I pinned a bunch of them on my Easter Pinterest board to use in the future. In particular, I liked:

Other options from other websites to use for Easter baskets or activities include:

What are your best go-to ways to discuss the ‘bunny’ and Jesus at your house?

He is Risen, Indeed! 

Happy Easter!