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DIY Activities to Make Easter Traditions Even Sweeter!

We partner with companies who we feel bring value (and sweetness!) to our readers, and Hudsonville Ice Cream is here to help you make family Easter traditions sweeter.

Easter seems to be the official sign of Spring for most people. With mild temperatures and beautiful blooms, it is the first of many holidays to gather after the long, winter months and is full of family Easter traditions.

In my house, Easter was always my mom’s favorite holiday. Every year we would celebrate with all of our family traditions, and now I get to pass those along to my children. Since my husband also has his own traditions, we incorporate those, as well as brand new ones, into our Easter holiday!

Not only are traditions fun, but they also bring families together to create sweet memories that last a lifetime!

A table with a chick Easter Basket, dyed eggs, craft supplies, and a Hudsonville Ice Cream container.

This is especially true when you can get the kids involved with hands-on activities the whole family can enjoy.

But first, we needed to empty the ice cream carton. That was fine with us! Any excuse is a great excuse to eat yummy, delicious ice cream, right? Hudsonville Ice Cream has a large variety of delicious flavors like Bananas Foster, Triple Peanut Butter Cup, and Belgian Cookie Butter. We decided to dig into the Triple Peanut Butter Cup, and it did not disappoint on peanut butter flavor! The little peanut butter cups were my daughter’s favorite part, and I’m pretty sure sharing a bowl will now become a new Easter tradition at my house!

A bowl of Triple Peanut Butter Cup ice cream from Hudsonville Ice Cream, along with a mother and daughter eating a bowl and making Easter traditions together.

Below you will find some of my favorite DIY Easter activities, along with instructions for how you can do these with your family at home, with some help from our friends at Hudsonville Ice Cream!

Dying Easter Eggs with Whipped Topping

A table with hard boiled eggs, food coloring, a spoon, and an empty Hudsonville Ice Cream container.

What you’ll need:

      • 12 hardboiled eggs, cooled and dried
      • a tub of whipped topping of choice
      • food coloring
      • two empty containers of Hudsonville Ice Cream
      • a spoon
      • a skewer or toothpick
      • a plate or paper towel

Directions:

  1. Divide whipped topping evenly between both Hudsonville Ice Cream containers, then use a spoon to spread into an even layer.
  2. Add 10-15 drops of food coloring to the whipped topping in any pattern you want.
  3. Use the skewer or toothpick to swirl food coloring into the whipped topping.
    A child in a bunny dress swirling food coloring into whipped topping in an empty Hudsonville Ice Cream container
  4. Place eggs on top of the whipped topping.
  5. You can either use the spoon to move the eggs around or place the lid back on the ice cream carton and allow kids to shake the eggs around.
  6. Remove eggs from the whipped topping and place them on a clean paper towel or paper plate.
  7. Let the eggs sit undisturbed for at 10 minutes.
  8. Once the time is up wipes the eggs clean with a paper towel.Hard boiled eggs dyed by whipped topping and food coloring.

Since this uses whipped topping, these eggs are still edible as long as they stay refrigerated!

Homemade Easter Baskets

A table with a glue stick, hot glue gun, craft supplies, and a half gallon of Hudsonville Ice Cream.What You’ll Need:

      • an empty Hudsonville Ice Cream container
      • scissors
      • tissue paper cut roughly into 1-inch squares
      • construction paper
      • glue stick
      • scrapbooking paper or other sturdy, heavy-duty paper
      • hot glue gun
      • stickers, ribbon, construction paper, or other materials used to decorate the carton

Directions:

  1. Clean the ice cream carton with soap and water, then allow it to dry completely.
  2. Take tissue paper sheets and cut, or have you kids tear, into roughly 1-inch squares
  3. Measure a piece of construction paper to fit 1/3 of the carton and cut off the excess paper. Cut two more pieces the same size.
  4. Put glue on one side of the construction paper and cover 1/3 of the container. Repeat with the other two pieces.An empty Hudsonville Ice Cream carton covered in yellow construction paper.
  5. Place tissue paper squares all over the carton working in sections so the glue doesn’t dry. You can either glue the pieces straight on or take the eraser end of a pencil, crinkle the tissue paper over the eraser, then attach to the carton.An empty Hudsonville Ice Cream half gallon carton covered in yellow construction paper and tissue paper about to become an Easter basket.
  6. Once covered, let dry.
  7. Allow your kids to decorate the carton.An empty Hudsonville Ice Cream carton decorated as a chick for Easter.
  8. Take the piece of scrapbook paper and cut a strip 1 inch by 11 inches (or however long your paper is).
  9. Warm the hot glue gun and use it to attach the scrapbook paper to the inside of the carton.

These can be used as Easter morning baskets, decorations, or for Easter egg hunts!

Family time is important, and doing fun DIY activities with your kids is a great way to spend those precious moments making Easter traditions.

Click the picture below to check out how their Scoop Locator can help you find your favorite flavor at a grocery store near you!

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Happy National Crayon Day! {Ways to Celebrate}

Did you know about National Crayon Day? I didn’t but now I’m going to celebrate it with the kiddos!

National Crayon Day, celebrated on March 31, is a day to celebrate and enjoy the invention of crayons while having an awesome time to just color. So get those crayons, mama, and color away! While you’re at it, put on some soft music in the background and grab a glass of wine to go with it (juice for the kids, of course). Ahh… The joys of life!

crayon

Another fascinating fact I learned was that National Crayon Day is also the day Crayola retires a color (so sad). However, there are always new colors being made! Me, personally, I’m cool with any shade of blue because blue is my favorite color and apparently blue is the most favored color. There are so many colors out there and so many different shades of the same color. It’s astonishing to know there are thousands of colors out there.

Crayons have definitely come a long way from when they were first invented. Nobody really knows when crayons became crayons but we do know safe crayons started in 1885 thanks to two cousins, Edwin Binney and C. Harold Smith. However, it wasn’t until 1903 that Crayola came to life with the help of Binney’s wife who came up with the name Crayola. So thank you, Binney and Smith, for making pigment changes in crayons safe to ingest if it happens (and trust me, it happens)!

Crayons are such a huge part of all of our lives and they continue to be for our children.

Coloring is actually a huge part of development and muscle training for your fingers, hands, wrists, arms. Who would have known?

You have the big egg crayon that young toddlers can palm like holding a ball. I use these with my little guy. However, if big sis comes along to color as well, he wants the pencil crayons or markers. Next, you have the big fat crayons to help the transition for more of a defined grip. I like these more than the skinny ones. I find them to be easier to grip and color with.

After that, there are the skinny crayons and even pencil crayons – all to help your child build and develop those fine motor skills as well as learn how to hold a pencil properly.

There are also other ergonomically made crayons that were made to help your child’s grip. Ooly makes one called Left Right Ergonomic Crayon. I’ve never used them but did come across them while researching National Crayon Day. They look pretty cool.

Here are some fun ways to celebrate National Crayon Day!

Did you know that coloring actually begins when a child starts to eat and they accidentally drag their arm or finger through their food? You can learn more about the Developmental Stages of Art here. And there are plenty of educational shows about coloring, including the ones listed below:

Another fun thing to do with crayons is to melt them! By melting crayons, you can make:

  • More crayons by melting them in a regular muffin tin or a shaped muffin tin, like hearts or clovers.
  • Lego pieces by putting them into a lego mold.
  • Lanterns or suncatchers by melting shaved crayons on wax paper and then cutting the wax paper. For a lantern, you’d have to glue the pieces to a lantern frame. For a suncatcher, you’d just cut a shape and hang or tape to a window.

Lastly, you can just color!

Grab a coloring book or a piece of paper and allow your creative masterpiece to evolve naturally as you draw and color with crayons, using all 8 or 120 colors from your pack.

The sky is the limit on National Crayon Day!

Staying Connected During Social Distancing & Isolation

With true face-to-face interaction no longer an option because of the COVID-19 social distancing recommendation, we’re adding some time to our daily schedule for keeping up communication with family and friends.

Social distancing, quarantine, and isolation are words that have had an extra layer of impact on parents across the world.

social distancing

Educators have been working diligently to prepare and provide distance learning opportunities (A thousand thank yous to these underpaid warriors!), and parents are doing their best to implement structure and sanity into daily schedules.

As an educator myself, having the tables turned and occupying the time of a very active 6-year-old all day long in our home is a bit daunting. I am very inspired and appreciative of all of the models being shared on social media where moms and dads are planning out daily schedules to meet their children’s educational, active, and socialization needs.

One of the trickiest components of all of this is the socialization piece. Social distancing and socializing seem to be polar opposites. While there are apps that allow us to continue digital face-to-face contact, there are some populations that don’t have access or the ability to utilize these. We also can’t spend our entire day on Facetime or Zoom touching base with everyone we know.

In our daily schedule, I’ve added a 30-minute block right after breakfast for Communication/Correspondence Time. We’ve generated a list of people that we will correspond with regularly via mail. Yes, that’s old school snail mail that I’m referencing. There’s no expectation of return items, but it would be fabulous to receive some reciprocated mailings!

Our Correspondence Station has plain paper, construction paper, markers, stickers, crayons, glitter glue, etc. Just about anything crafty for making cards and drawings that I could gather. Don’t go too crazy on adding lots of layers to ensure mailings aren’t over the single stamp limit.

No need to head to the post office for extra stamps. It’s simple to order stamps online and have them delivered right to your mailbox. There are even options for making envelopes if you don’t have a box on hand.

My hope is that during daily Correspondence Time, my son is able to feel like he is connecting with loved ones and bringing some joy or at least a smile to others. I think that’s an important element to keep alive in this time of uncertainty.

While snail mail correspondence will be a daily occurrence, we also plan on using this block in our schedule for other communication ideas. These are some additional ideas for staying connected:

  1. Recording reading a story for a little cousin.
  2. Creating an easy how-to video with a craft idea for friends/family to try.
  3. Making a daily check-in video for grandparents and/or other relatives and friends. (For generations that aren’t as tech-savvy with video chatting, it’s nice to send a format that can be replayed. This also means a smile can be brought to their faces over and over again from watching.)

While our villages may not be gathering, they can still offer support. The lines of communication may no longer be in-person, but they can still remain open. We’re adding some intentionality to staying in touch with our family and friends.

Our daily schedule will likely evolve as we navigate this new normal, but regardless of how the time slots change, reaching out to others on a daily basis will always be included.

Facing Your Fears About COVID-19

With COVID-19 in all 50 states and our state essentially on lock-down, fear is as real to us as the virus.

Here’s a secret: it’s not going to change anything.

Honestly, it’s probably going to make your new homeschool life and spouse miserable and barely able to tolerate you. I know this because I am an overly-anxious, obnoxious researcher when scared. And guess what – it doesn’t help. It actually probably makes it 1,000 times worse.

So how do we rechannel fear?

fear

Give It a Name

Naming your fear gives you the ability to recognize it. Say it out loud. Not even the generic fear but really get into what it is that you are afraid will happen.

Does that mean by naming it, magically it won’t take place? No, but it will allow you to face it versus trying to ignore it. That stops it from growing.

Manage Your Stress Hormones

When you feel threatened, your hypothalamus sets off a reaction. Long story short, your hormones set off adrenaline and cortisol. Adrenaline ups your blood pressure and heart rate, while cortisol increases the sugar in your bloodstream and lowers the functions that are necessary for a fight or flight response – functions such as the immune system and the parts of the brain that regulate emotion and fear.

If that wasn’t enough, anxiety, depression, heart disease, headaches, and sleep problems can all increase with long-term activation of stress. But your reaction may not be totally your fault. Life experiences and genetics can both play into your fight or flight responses.

Now that you’ve named and can identify your fear, you have to find ways to manage the stress when triggered. Your diet, physical activity and sleep matter. Yoga, meditation, hobbies, music, and friendships are also important. Laugh when you can, help others or the earth, and if you need it, reach out for professional help.

To practice social distancing, check out apps like Zoom, Facetime, or if you have relatives who are on Facebook, Messenger has video conferencing capabilities. Leave out sanitizers for mail carriers, take extra pasta to food banks, or figure out what skills you have that could help others.

If you are not in a place to help with that, think of what you can do around town. Text neighbors and see if they need anything left on the porch. Plant flowers outside. Send letters to family. Create art and give as gifts. And breathe.

Educate Yourself… Responsibly

Sometimes fear can be alleviated by education. When you are not sure about the facts, rumors can sway your thoughts. It is important that your sites are reputable and not clickbait. The CDC and WHO have information without being sensationalized. Local health authorities generally have websites that can give you more information, also.

There is a limit though. Especially with the coronavirus, too much information and the constant overload of bad news can play a number on your mental health. Limit yourself if you start to feel overwhelmed. We cannot control what is happening in the world and our communities, but we can regulate the amount that you take in.

Focus on What You Can Control

When life seems like it’s spinning beyond you, focus on the things that you can control. Wash your hands for 20 seconds or more. Don’t touch your face. Stay home unless you have no choice. If you have to work in the public, take precautions to keep safe. Keep your distance from people, wipe down shared equipment, use sanitizer or wash your hands.

At a bare minimum, you can control your mind and what you take in. Be mindful of who you talk to: Do they enhance your stress or calm you down?

Fear is Natural

Remember, fear is natural and often serves a purpose in keeping us safe. The kicker is to not let it consume us. Remember, if you can’t find your way out of a place of constant fretting, talk to someone. Seek help if you need to. We are not alone in this world. Don’t let fear replace the good we have in front of us.

Making Basic Pantry Staples At Home {Recipes Included}

Moms go through a lot of food in the pantry when they have growing littles ones. A LOT. Maybe you run out of something last minute, or it’s late and no stores are open. Perhaps you have fresh ingredients about to go bad, or your local store had a really good sale.

Whatever the reason, you’re in a situation where your pantry is missing some important staples.

pantry

Well, good news! Most of those pantry staples are super easy to make! And not only that, you can 100% control what goes into them. Don’t want a lot of sugar? Cut it in half or omit completely. Prefer cinnamon bread instead of regular? Add cinnamon! The choices are endless.

Below you will find some of my basic go-to recipes for pantry staples that can be customized to the needs of your family!

Basic Bread 

Ingredients:

    • 1 cup of warm water (hot tap water works fine)
    • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
    • 1 packet of yeast
    • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
    • 3 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Directions

    1. Mix together hot tap water, sugar, and yeast, then stir. This can be done in a medium-sized bowl or a stand mixer. Let sit for 10 minutes to allow the yeast to bloom.
    2. Mix in vegetable oil, salt, and flour to yeast mixture.
    3. If using a stand mixer, attach a dough hook. Slowly add one cup of flour at a time until fully incorporated. If using a hand mixer, combine these ingredients and then knead by hand.
    4. Mix or knead for a few minutes until dough clings to the bread hook and doesn’t stick to the bowl. After that, mix for another 3-4 minutes until no longer sticky.
    5. Remove the dough from the hook, put in a lightly greased bowl, and cover with a kitchen towel.
    6. Turn on the light in your oven, and place the bowl with the dough and towel in the oven for about 1.5 hours, or until the dough has doubled in size.
    7. Once risen, punch (yes, punch) the dough down. Shape into a long oval shape while tucking the seams underneath.
    8. Lightly grease a loaf pan and place the dough seam side down in the pan.
    9. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise a second time in the pan for about 1 hour or until doubled.
    10. Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes. Cool completely before slicing.

You can add mix-ins to make it flavored, but cannot substitute whole wheat flour for all-purpose. That’s a whole different recipe! Below is a risen, unbaked loaf of cinnamon sugar pull-apart bread so you can have a visual of how high it needs to rise.

An unbaked loaf of pull apart cinnamon bread in a pan.

Pasta Sauce

Ingredients:

    • 3-4 pounds of Roma tomatoes
    • 5 cloves of garlic
    • 3 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1-2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
    • 1 tablespoon dried basil
    • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

    1. Wash tomatoes and cut each one into four pieces. Place in a large bowl.
    2. Add in the rest of the ingredients and place mixture in a 9×13 baking dish.
    3. Roast at 375 degrees for an hour, stirring mixture halfway through. Keep an eye on it for the last half hour to make sure the tomatoes and garlic don’t burn. If they start to, stir again.
    4. Once finished mash together with a potato masher for a chunky sauce, or blend in batches for a smoother sauce. *If it’s too thick, thin out a little bit with pasta water.

This can be refrigerated for 3 days, or frozen for 1 month.

A sheet pan of freshly roasted tomatoes and garlic ready to be made into pasta sauce.

Applesauce

Ingredients:

    • 3-4 pounds of apples, peeled, cored, and diced into about 1-inch x 1-inch pieces
    • 2 teaspoons of cinnamon (more or less to taste)
    • 1/3 cup of brown sugar (adjustable and optional, omit if using sweet apples)
    • Water

Directions:

    1. Place cut apples in a large, heavy-bottom pot or Instant Pot.
    2. Add in the cinnamon and sugar, then stir.
    3. Add enough water to almost cover apples. It should be enough to have the water peek through, but not to be fully submerged.
    4. Boil apples until soft, or close Instant Pot lid, turn the knob to sealing, and press manual button and set to 5 minutes.
    5. If using Instant Pot naturally release pressure.
    6. Once apples are soft mash with a potato masher to the desired consistency. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Tart apples like Granny Smith aren’t the best for applesauce. Try to use Fuji, Pink Lady, Honey Crisp, or any similar sweet apple.

Fresh peeled Pink Lady apples ready to be cut and made into homemade applesauce.

Pie Crust (Makes 2)

Ingredients:

    • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
    • 1 cup (2 sticks) cold butter cut into small squares
    • 1 egg
    • 1/4 cup water
    • 1 tablespoon vinegar (trust me, it makes the dough flaky, and you won’t taste it)

Directions:

    1. Add flour, salt, and sugar to a medium-sized bowl and whisked together.
    2. Use a pastry cutter or fork to mix in the cold butter. You want it to resemble pea-sized pieces. (Tip: cut butter into chunks and place in the fridge until ready to keep it cold)
    3. Beat the egg lightly, then add it to the flour mixture along with the water and vinegar. Mix just until the dough comes together without over-mixing. *You might need a bit more water to make everything come together, but add it 1 teaspoon at a time.
    4. Divide the dough into two equal pieces, shape into a disk, then wrap with plastic wrap. Put the dough in the fridge until chilled completely, about 30 minutes.

At this point, it is ready to be used for your recipes such as pie or quiche. You can refrigerate these for up to 5 days, or freeze in a freezer-safe bag for 2 months. Thaw in refrigerator and keep cold before rolling out.

A fresh quiche made with homemade pie crust, potatoes, bacon, cheese, and green onions.

Toilet Paper

Ingredients:

    • Ok, just kidding. I’ve got nothing for this one, but if someone could figure it out, they would be a billionaire.

Whatever your reason is, these simple pantry recipes are great to keep in your back pocket for those times when you need them.

Looking for more pantry recipes to try at home? Check these out!

4 Things to Make in the Instant Pot 
Instant Pot Yogurt 
Meal Planning Ideas and Recipes
5 Simple Crock Pot Recipes
10 Easy Leftover Ham Recipes

A Professor’s Perspective – We Care, Too

There’s a saying “little kids, little problems, big kids, big problems.” Being that my own kids are 7 and under, I didn’t quite appreciate this phrase until I took a full-time position as a college professor. Now sitting in this role, with roughly 60-100 students I interact with weekly through classes in a semester plus the students I advise, I want moms of those bigger kids to know that we care, too.

Speaking for myself, but I’d guess also for most college professors, we care deeply about the individuals we get to know, and feel a strong sense of responsibility to guide and assist our students.

professor

We have the unique opportunity to watch them in those first days, weeks, months when they come to campus bright-eyed and naïve and watch them grow and mature years later and ultimately, adjust to adulthood. While you have let them go to this new world, feeling they are independent and navigating their new life completely on their own, they are really anything but alone. They have many waiting for them, waiting to help them every step of the way, with new resources like ways for us to share when someone may be struggling. Someone is looking out for your student every day because we really do care.

College students go through a lot of change in a short amount of time.

Compared to when I was a student myself, college students go through so much more. They have many more things to stress about, which is why we care so much – we see that. We honor that. We try to take that into account while also maintaining standards and expectations across our classes. And while we may not always be their favorite, or give them the grades they want, I hope I can reassure you that…

…we genuinely care about your student.
…we look out for your student.
…pride and joy are feelings we feel, too, when your student does well.
…we say “dang, you were so close” as we grade something incorrectly, hoping things go better the next time.
…we are passionate about what we teach, which means we do get carried away sometimes. Though not everything that’s taught is “life or death,” we do believe what we’re teaching is helping your student grow.
…failing is a good thing sometimes. But those that fail and reach out are often our favorites.
…no matter what your student shares with me, I keep their privacy, earn their respect, but will intervene if necessary.
…despite not keeping traditional office hours, we are available a lot of the time because we want your student to get it.
…we are wives, husbands, moms, dads – and do have to go home sometimes, too.

The world is throwing our students a lot of curveballs these days. And while my perspective certainly can’t speak for every professor out there, I honestly believe I speak for a good proportion of them. We care, too.

Saved By Social Media {Surviving Social Distancing}

About two years ago, I wrote a post about how social media can be a very bad influence on me in the real world. I have witnessed people cut family members out of their life for a few years because of what they have read on a social network. I have seen friendships end after finding out that their ex-friend had opposing political views, and I have heard so many stories of kids being bullied over social media. For these reasons and more, I started to reign my use of social networks back. And when a well-meaning friend and a wonderful classmate of my son’s asked for him to join him on a kid-appropriate messaging app, I declined… probably a little too quickly.

Then, the Coronavirus pandemic began.

social media

And I am a worrywart. I have young kids, two with asthma. I have been keeping social distance since day one fn this pandemic. But man, sometimes it can get lonely. One of the big truths in my life is that whenever possible, I want to be a rock for my kids. I know that much of a good childhood experience and self-confidence comes from having a parent that makes a child feel secure, does not involve them in all of the adult matters and concerns of the world, and one that does not let their kid see them cry on a regular basis.

So with a husband that is currently working out of the home and myself, a mom that is trying to balance taking care of the kids and work from home, being the rock, while keeping social distance from everyone outside of our home, it can be a lot to cope.

Who knows, my opinion may change in a few months, but right now, I wish to say thank you to the social media channels that have made me feel not so alone.

Thank you for providing the ability to see my family and friends’ faces when I cannot see them in person right now. Thank you, social media, for providing me a way to have a glimpse in the lives of people that may live down the street, that I would normally see every couple of days, but now it may be a few weeks until I see them in person. It brings a smile to my face to see that their kids are having fun acting out parts of Frozen II, making desserts with their parents, or playing in the rain.

I also chuckle a bit when I see the memes about an asteroid heading towards earth and the dinosaur is more worried about getting more toilet paper than his impending doom. Thank you, social networks, for allowing groups to be created. I do not know where I would be without hearing from other mothers that can offer fun ideas of how to make play-doh from 5 ingredients in my pantry, where to find virtual visits to the zoo and fun videos that kids can dance to in the front room.

Most of all, thank you, social media, for giving me a place that I can log into, any time of day and know that I am not the only one stuck at home, missing out on the Cub Scout meetings, track meets, playdates, mourning routines, and stopping at Dunkin on the way to work to get a coffee. You remind me that I am not alone as there are a lot of good people out there in my life that can’t wait to see me again when we are allowed to be closer than 6 feet together.

Oh yeah, and about the kid-friendly messaging app. Let me just say that my son has some amazing classmates that I feel bad each day that he does not get to see them, meet them at the Y to go swimming, at the park to earn a badge, or at recess. It makes it hurt just a little bit less that he can call his friends and see their faces on occasion and be silly with them for a moment and, for that, I am grateful. When this pandemic is over and his friends are just a one minute drive away, maybe I will delete that app, but right now, I am grateful for it.

April Family Fun {Quarantine Resource Roundup}

Editor’s Note: Spring 2020 is teaching all of us quite the lesson in the importance of flexibility. For 6 years now, we have been publishing our monthly round-up of events. As of our date of publication, Cincinnati (and the rest of the world) is on somewhat of a pause, so we decided to roll with it and in lieu of our typical post chock full of amazing local events, our April post consists of suggestions for family fun close to home. We continue to hope that by the end of April, this list will no longer be as needed and we can get back to enjoying this wonderful city of ours. Stay safe, stay well, and don’t forget to have a little fun along the way as well.

With all of us suddenly being thrown into life stuck at home with work to do, kids to entertain, and kids to homeschool, we all need a little help navigating this new normal. It has been amazing to see our teachers, community members, business owners, authors, etc. all come together to provide us with a plethora of resources to use with our kids during this time. I’ve honestly been a bit overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of social media posts and lists floating around with things to do, listen to, and make. Our team has come together to offer you our personal recommendations of the things we have been using and loving with our own kids.

We hope this helps you find a few new resources and weed through those huge lists.


Cincinnati Mom Collective Team Recommendations:

Casey: Mo Willems Lunch-Time Doodles and Science Mom
Allison: Cosmic Kids Yoga and Scholastic Learn at Home
Kristin: GoNoodle
Jennifer: PBS Kids Daily Newsletter and Great Parks of Hamilton County Parks at Home
Ashley: ABC Mouse and Cincinnati Zoo Home Safari
Elissa: Blue Manatee Virtual Storytime and Busy Toddler
Feliz: McHarper Manor Art Classes
Sarah: National Park Virtual Tours

More Sanity Savers…

  • Do a city scavenger hunt while driving around in your car.
  • Hit up Amazon for a few new activities like letter and number magnets for the littles to play with on the fridge or older kids to practice spelling and sight words.
  • Make a “library fort” filled with pillows and books.
  • Order a roll of butcher paper and tape it to the floor to create a large surface for coloring, stickers, or painting.
  • Check out the CMC archives for some craft suggestions (many of which can be done with things you likely have around your house and/or yard!)
  • Freeze little plastic toys in ice and tell the kids Elsa came overnight. Give them a bowl of warm water and a paintbrush and tell them they have to get their toys out.
  • Start prepping those gardens. Do some weeding while the ground is wet and let the littles find the worms.

The Life Changing Magic of Having A Morning (and Night) Routine

Up until a few months ago, on most days that I had to go to work, it felt like Groundhog Day – the popular movie in which the main character repeats the same day over and over again.

I’d wake up. Scramble to get myself ready. Throw something in my lunch bag. Wake my kids it. Help the kids to get dressed, eat breakfast, get coats on, brush teeth. Drive one kid to school while my husband drops the others off at daycare. Then spend the next 5 minutes during my drive to work feeling stressed out about the morning. Then I would work. Pick up all three kids, make dinner, my husband usually would get home sometime right before dinner. Before we know it, all of the kids are heading to bed, and then I would stay up for several hours before I repeated the cycle. No routine at all.

I wanted more.

routine

I did not want to feel rushed in the morning with the kids. I belong to the YMCA and usually use it just to take our kids to the pool, but I really wanted to work out regularly as well. Every few days, my mind would take turns between feeling guilty that I do not work out on a regular basis and on other days feeling guilty that I paid for a health club membership and only used it when we took our kids to the pool.

Then about 6 months ago, my husband started making a point to go to bed between 9-10 p.m. At first, I did not join him in this endeavor. I did not want to miss out on the “me time.” At some point, I eventually started to join him, likely because I got lonely. After going to bed regularly during the week by 10 p.m. became normal for me, the idea of waking up earlier did not seem so far fetched. What I wanted for myself was time to go to the gym before work, to not feel rushed in the morning, to be more aware and purposeful of content in my car, and feel more relaxed in the morning. I have created a new routine for myself and it has made a world of a difference for me.

Here is how I have structured my work nights and mornings to hit these goals:

1. The process starts the night before with a reasonable bedtime. I need a minimum of 6 hours of sleep to function well the next day. I usually work out at 5 a.m., which means I wake up at 4:30 a.m. and need to go to bed by 10 p.m. the night before.

2. Find an alarm that will wake you up. No matter how much sleep I have, I find that I naturally want to hit the snooze button multiple times. It has been very hard to break that habit because normally I was half asleep and not thinking clearly (or about any goals for that matter) when I hit snooze. I found a great app for my iPhone called Alarmy. I now have to do three math problems before I can turn my alarm off. By the time I have done the third math problem, I am awake and I remember what I want to do that morning.

3. Exercise. I am easing my way into it. I currently make sure that I go to the gym at least three times a week. While I am there, I always do some cardio. I take turns between the elliptical and treadmill and then I also do either leg or arm machines.

4. Have my clothes out the night before. It is so nice to be able to come home from the gym, take a quick shower, and quickly put my clothes on, without having to put much thought into it.

5. Start coffee the morning before. I have a regular coffee maker and a Keurig. What I use in the morning often just depends on if I have coffee grounds in the house or K-cups currently. If I am going to make coffee in the coffee pot, I put the water, filter, and coffee grounds in the machine the night before. Then, when I come home, I flick on the on switch before I jump in the shower. That way I am greeted with the smell of freshly-brewed coffee as soon as I get dressed. If I am planning to use my Keurig, I make sure to have the K-cup next to the machine, the water basin filled, and my travel mugged picked out (because that is very important) the night before.

6. Make breakfast the night before (if possible). This depends greatly on what I am planning to eat that day. If there is prep that I can do in advance, I do. If I plan to have a protein shake for breakfast, I get out my shaker bottle, scoop out the protein mix the night before, add some PB Fit, close the bottle, and then add ice and water to the bottle before I leave my house for work.

7. Be present once the kids are awake. After my routine, the remainder of my morning before work is dedicated to them. They usually eat breakfast before they get ready. I help them with breakfast as needed. I listen to what they have to say. Talk to them about what they are excited about for the day. Sometimes we listen to some music while we eat breakfast. Some days of the week I do not see them as much as I would like to. I try to make every minute count. Same for my husband. With my new morning routine, I feel like I have more time to ask him what I can help him with in his own routine in the morning.

8. Make good use of the time during my commute. My default is to listen to Q-102 most mornings. Second Date Update has been my favorite thing to listen to in the morning for years. It is nice to laugh about something before I head off to work. If it is my last day of work for the week, I often like to end my commute by listening to music that pumps me up. Another new thing that I started doing last fall is listening to podcasts. This is another great option as well. I love that we have the opportunity to listen to so many different podcasts with content catered to our interests and it is completely free. There is nothing better than listening to some good music or a good podcast on the way to work and enjoying coffee.

That is my typical morning in a nutshell before I go to work. It was hard to do at first, especially if I was tired the night before and still needed to get things ready. Now I look forward to my routine and it starts my day on the right path.

How Pregnancy Sends Me Spiraling

When I was 6, I had a bad case of food poisoning that developed into a lifelong phobia of vomiting. My entire adult life, I’ve been terrified of pregnancy for one reason and one reason only: morning sickness. Knowing that my husband and I wanted to start having kids pretty quickly, I spent the better part of our first 1.5 years of marriage mentally preparing for pregnancy and whatever that meant for my anxiety, my body and my depression.

This was a conscious journey I was on, sans anxiety medication (which I had been on for years) because I knew I wanted to go without for at least the first trimester. When I did get pregnant, I was in the best shape and probably one of the best mental states of my adult life. My pregnancy was intentional, but I was still scared. Not to be a mom, but for the unknown of the next several weeks.

depression

The weeks that followed were filled with uncertainty and I was thrust into hormonal changes, anxiety, depression, and unexpected unemployment. In hindsight, I honestly had a great pregnancy, but my brain disagreed. The months that followed were spent actively pulling myself out of depression with the help of my friends and family and for the sake of my baby while, to everyone else, I put on my glowiest pregnancy face and pretended I couldn’t be happier. A little less than halfway into my pregnancy, I cried to my doctor and asked for medication.

Fast forward two years (Spring 2019).

We had been itching for a bigger house, but not sure it was the right time. We met with a realtor and our financial adviser and came to the conclusion that because of the current market, selling our house would be a beneficial financial move for us and we went for it. In a whirlwind 24 hours, our house sold and we were thrown into a desperate search for our new family home. After losing three houses and running out of time, we ended up living in my husband’s parents’ basement. About two weeks after we moved in, I bought a pregnancy test and it was positive. 

Here I was, a married and very much loved and supported woman, unexpectedly pregnant and freaking out. We were living in a basement. We weren’t ready. This wasn’t the plan. It was in these early weeks of pregnancy that I thought a lot about women in much worse situations than myself who find themselves unexpectedly expecting and I prayed for them and their emotional and mental health. I can’t imagine.

I found out I was pregnant at three weeks and by five weeks, I didn’t want anything to do with food. My anxiety was high and I was ashamed. I felt guilty for not paying as much attention as I possibly could to my growing, playful daughter, who was no longer going to be my only. I felt guilty for not being the wife I wanted to be. I felt guilty that I no longer had the energy to provide for my family in the ways I usually did, like meal planning and cooking, because nausea had taken over. I felt guilty that both my work and social life were suffering. I felt guilty that my number one emotion was not joy, it was fear and anxiety. I soon felt like the only thing I was good for was growing this human inside of me. That felt like my sole purpose and my only contribution to the lives of those around me. 

Enter depression.

Well, hello old friend. I did not miss you, but I know you well. Thankfully (or not so thankfully), I can recognize depression in myself and I’ve gotten to a place where I know I can admit it and ask for help. Also thankfully, I have friends and family who are willing to listen, who validate my emotions, and who encourage me to take action. Not so thankfully, I’m stubborn. 

As I sit writing this, I have anxiety and depression medication (prescribed by my doctor) sitting less than 2 feet away from me that I haven’t started taking. My anxiety is high. I’ve had multiple panic attacks this week about my gestational diabetes, carpal tunnel, back pain, lack of sleep, childbirth, and my almost 3-year-old baby whose whole world is about to change.

This isn’t a story about how I beat depression and anxiety, because I’m very much in it – still fighting every day. This is a story about how you, reading this and maybe having some similar feelings, aren’t alone. Mama, this is hard. I see you and I think about you often. You can do this. We can do this – our babies need us.

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