For today’s blog post, I’ll be sharing a letter from my dear friend, Mrs. Richardson. Mrs. Richardson is a second grade teacher in Cary, North Carolina. She has written an insightful and encouraging letter to parents about how the COVID-19 pandemic affected the 2019-2020 school year, what challenges teachers faced and how schools are fighting to overcome those challenges for the 2020-2021 school year. So, if you are sending your children back to school this year – whether virtually or in-person – I hope you’ll read this letter.
How COVID affected the 2019-2020 school year – and what will be different this year
During March of this year, teachers and students left school for Spring Break, not knowing we wouldn’t return for the rest of the school year. I have the last day in my classroom ingrained in my memory. I tried to make it fun for the kids. We did St. Patrick’s day activities, creative writings about what they would do if they found a pot of gold, Read and Feed, and watched the Bee Movie since we had been learning about flowers, pollination, and the plant life cycle.
These are the last images I have of my classroom. Everything frozen in time. Student work left on the walls, supply baskets strewn about as they had left them, countdowns on my board of things we would never get to. A time capsule of March 13, 2020.
Today’s devotional is about why you should read your Bible – and, more specifically, why you should read the Bible more often than not. I know that we are all busy mamas, but I hope you’ll grant me a few minutes to convince you why reading our Bibles is so critical. If you’re already reading your Bible daily, I pray that this will encourage you to keep going and to help others to do the same!
#1: Reading the Bible changes our lives.
Listen to this incredible 2-minute video from Messenger International about what happens to us when we read our Bibles four or more times per week:
When we are reading our Bibles more often than not, it changes us. When we open our hearts and minds to God’s powerful words, we are allowing God to transform us.
This is called repentance. And, no, I’m not talking about beating yourself up after you sin. Repentance comes from the Greek term “metanoia.” Meta = change. Noia = mind. Metanoia means a changed mind. A new mind. When we are engaging our minds in God’s Word, it transforms our mindset, our way of thinking. And when our minds are changed, our lives change, too.
In this post, I want to share with you how to do a DIY project with your preschooler. If you’re like me, whenever you’re refinishing a dresser or building a bookshelf, your first instinct when your little one comes around is to shoo them away. However, involving them in household projects is SO good for them and it can be a fun, bonding experience if we allow it!
Recently, Finn and I had so much fun with this DIY furniture painting project! We’ve had an unstained bench in our entryway for a few years now, but I recently decided to update that space. Originally, I’d planned to paint it white, but when I brought it up to Finn, he said, “Why don’t we paint it red? Like a fire station?” So, that’s what we did!
You might be wondering…Why in the world would you want to do a DIY project with a preschooler?!
If I wanted to get something like this done without my kids, I’d have to do it while they’re asleep or when someone is watching them. And I’m going to be honest, that’s just not how I want to spend my free time. Because of my chronic pain, I usually need to spend nap times resting/taking it easy or at least not doing something that would put strain on my joints. And sanding/painting/moving furniture is not very nice to your hands when your joints are prone to swell.
It’s good for him. It teaches him several useful, real-life skills. He has to follow instructions. It takes quite a bit of fine motor skills. It’s bonding. It’s fun. It builds his confidence in amazing ways. To be able to look at something in the house and say, “I helped put that together!” is a unique, wonderful experience for anyone – especially a child.
Yes, it did test my patience at times. There were, of course, things I had to do without him. But the end result was something we were proud of – and had created together! This is a big confidence booster for a kid (or an adult!).
So, if there’s a DIY project you want to do but haven’t done it because you have a preschooler sticking their nose in everything, maybe this will give you the confidence to let them assist you!
Here’s some tips for your next DIY project with your preschooler:
Prep in advance: lay down a drop cloth, get the paint and other tools ready, and get your mind ready! Ha!
Have an “obedience” talk: I typically have some version of this conversation before we do activities that could get messy or require him to pay attention more than usual. I make sure there’s no distractions, have him look me in the eye and say something along the lines of: “I need you to make sure you listen to my instructions and wait for me to tell you what to do.” I make sure he understands what we’re doing and if there’s anything potentially dangerous (or if there’s something I simply don’t want splattered across the house!)
Don’t do something that’s undoable: paint can be stripped, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend painting your front door with your preschooler!
Protect them: this goes without saying, but make sure you’re aware of what could be harmful or toxic to your child. Have them wear protective gear (mask, gloves, eyewear) if necessary. With most DIY projects, there are chemicals involved that children shouldn’t really be around. For example, I applied polyacrylic coating during Finn’s nap because I didn’t want him inhaling those fumes, even with a mask!
Give clear instructions and do it with them first: sometimes I’m guilty of assuming my kids know how to do things that I don’t remember learning. When I first handed Finn a paintbrush, instead of brushing the paint on the bench, he hit the bench with the bristles, as if he were hammering the paint into the wood. So I demonstrated how to paint and then took his hand in mine and showed him how to do it. He still wanted to hammer the paint in too, but I made sure he did it AWAY from me!
Trust them: part of the process of our children growing up is learning how to do things independently. Once we show them how to do something and then assist them in doing it, it’s time to let them try on their own. Most likely, they’ll “fail” in some way or another – but what matters is that they’re trying, they’re learning and they’re creating new neural pathways in their growing brains! At some point, we have to trust our children to do tasks on their own – and I think you’ll be surprised by how happy and confident this will make them.
Praise them: make sure you’re not just correcting them whenever they are learning a new task, or this will discourage them. Of course they need you to teach them how to perform the task correctly (or at least mostly correctly! Ha!) but don’t forget to praise them for their effort, their creativity, the fact that they’re being brave by trying something new, etc. It always surprises me how much my children bloom when they’re praised.
Take a deep breath: when you add children to most any project, it complicates things. It won’t go exactly the way you want it to go, and that’s OK. Take a deep breath, count to ten, take a break – whatever you need to do in order to be in a good mental space, do it.
Enjoy the process: relish the bonding experience between you and your child as you create something new! Not only is this an enjoyable memory, but you also have an “artifact” of that memory: your DIY project! This is so special and will make your child feel special, too.
I hope that next time you have a DIY project around the house, you include your little one in the process! Make sure you tag me on Insta with the end result. 😉
Today I’m going to share with you one of my favorite anti-inflammatory diet meals: my Easy Mexican Cauliflower Rice Bowl. This is another crowd-pleaser in our house. The boys eat it up with a big spoon!
Reasons why I love this Easy Mexican Cauliflower Rice Bowl:
It’s sneakily healthy – swapping out cauliflower rice for white or even brown rice means that you’re eating lots of veggies in each bite…and you don’t even know it!
It’s a simple, quick weeknight recipe. I typically make a double (or even triple) batch of this during the week and it’ll take me less than 30 minutes from beginning to end. Cauliflower rice cooks so quickly and you can just throw all the ingredients together!
This is a low-carb, low-calorie option if you’re looking for go-to low-carb or low-cal recipes!
It’s versatile – I can easily make this meal with shredded chicken, ground beef or turkey, or vegetarian. I’ve also easily swapped cooked white rice for the cauliflower rice when making this for large groups (with people who may or may not like cauliflower rice!) and it’s so yum.
My boys love it – Tyler loves this recipe because it’s super filling while also being low-calorie. Both Finn and Justus will gobble this down as soon as I put it on their plates.
Toppings galore – this dish is easily personalized depending on what toppings you like. I love to put avocado, an extra squeeze of lime juice and more cilantro on mine. Tyler appreciates covering it in cheese and sour cream, and Finn does all of the above! Whatever your eaters like, this meal can offer it.
How to cook cauliflower rice
There are three options for making cauliflower rice:
Buy cauliflower heads, chop them and put them in a food processor to make the “rice.” This is the most time-intensive option.
Buy a pre-chopped cauliflower head. With this option, the cauliflower is already “riced” for you. Typically you can find this in the produce section where you would find other bags of pre-chopped vegetables. This is the simplest, quickest option.
Buy frozen cauliflower rice. This option allows you to save the cauliflower rice for longer – I usually buy a large bag from Costco so I can use it whenever I want to. However, it takes slightly longer to cook all the way through (about 10 minutes instead of 5).
Any of these options work – obviously if you want to rice the cauliflower yourself, it will take longer. Also, if you purchase fresh cauliflower (either a whole cauliflower head or a bag of fresh cauliflower rice) it will cook quicker than the frozen cauliflower rice.
This super cute and fun summer craft is from our resident arts-and-crafts director: my sister-in-law, Amanda! And, of course, her sweet daughter, Lily. This tissue paper craft doubles as sensory play because what kid doesn’t love playing with tissue paper?! It’s also fantastic fine motor practice for your little one!
Supplies for Tissue Paper Watermelon Craft:
Card stock/thin cardboard or paper plate
Green, red and pink tissue paper
Black material for seeds (tissue paper, construction paper, paint, etc.)
Today I want to share with you what helps me get through extra difficult days with my chronic pain. If you’re suffering from chronic pain – whether physical, mental or emotional pain that is ongoing – this should be helpful for enduring those days when you just have to survive the day.
1. Accept help.
If you’re battling with chronic pain, you need to find a tribe of supportive people to surround you. Whether that’s your physical family, your church small group, or some friends and neighbors – find your tribe. Have your go-to people that you can text or call if you’re having a bad day. People who can pray with and for you, or who can come over to help distract your kiddos if you need a break.
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
Of course, if you want this type of friendship, you have to be this friend to others as well. Be intentional about your relationships. It’s not realistic to have 15 super close BFFs – but you can have 2-3 friends whom you would do anything for – and who also will understand if you have to change your night-on-the-town plans to a movie night in bed because you’re in pain.
2. Communicate your pain.
“A sorrow shared is a sorrow halved.”
If your friends and family members don’t know you’re in pain, it’s going to be impossible for them to know how to help you. So even if it’s hard, you have to share your pain. You don’t have to tell everyone – but be intentional with what you share. Don’t just say “I’m fine” when you know that’s not true. Be specific. Be real.
Have one or two people that you know you can shoot a text to on painful days. For me, I typically reach out to my sisters-in-law, Amanda and Andrea. Just a simple, “pray for me, I’m in a lot of pain today,” text can help take some of the burden off of me.
A note on getting help & communicating your chronic pain:
One question that I get a lot from friends or family members is: how can I help? This is a difficult one for me because I genuinely need help, but I don’t want to inconvenience people and I certainly don’t want to ask for something that’s more than they were willing to give. However, I think if someone is asking this question, they most likely really want to do something for you! My mom often reminds me that God can use my pain as an avenue for others to answer His calling to serve. I shouldn’t hinder that call by being too proud to ask for help. So, communicate specific ways that a friend can help. Perhaps they can bring a meal, watch your kids for an hour while you rest, pick up groceries or medicine for you, or just bring you a coffee.
Please don’t be hurt if people don’t “get it” when you’re in pain.
If you’ve never had a migraine before, it’s hard to grasp how debilitating one is. Oftentimes we feel like we’re falling apart on the inside, but to others we look just fine! This can make it much more difficult for them to connect with how we’re feeling. I’m always surprised after a group hangout if I mention that I was in pain and people reply, “I had no idea!” Don’t assume people know how you’re feeling and don’t be afraid to explain in detail what you’re experiencing. However, make sure to offer lots of grace when a friend or family member inevitably doesn’t quite understand. That’s OK!
This is one of my favorite anti-inflammatory diet meals! This butternut squash Thai curry is so incredibly flavorful and versatile. It packs an immune-building punch with all of the inflammation-fighting foods in this recipe. This meal is one that I love to make for company or if I’m bringing a meal to someone – it’s unique and delicious.
Butternut squash is an incredible food – packed with vitamin A and vitamin C, which help with immune function and are powerful antioxidants. It also happens to be relatively low in calories, which is a double win!
If you’re battling with chronic pain or any kind of inflammatory issue, exercising regularly and eating an anti-inflammatory diet could help reduce the inflammation in your body. What we eat can either speed up or slow down the inflammatory processes throughout our bodies. That’s why I try to keep an anti-inflammatory diet regimen throughout the week – which can be tricky when you’re cooking for others, including a picky husband, a toddler and a baby!
My husband (a picky eater) and my kids (not-so-picky eaters) LOVE this meal. Even my one-year-old shovels this curry into his mouth. I typically add a dollop of plain Greek yogurt to cool the curry a bit for them.
This recipe is versatile. It can easily be made vegetarian/vegan if you omit the chicken. The vegetables in here (butternut squash, sweet potato) can readily be swapped out with one another. For example, you could use 4 cups of sweet potato OR 4 cups of butternut squash if you only want one over the other. You could also substitute carrots or other squash in place of one of the vegetables.
We’ve all had those days: the ones that seem to drag on endlessly, where we wonder what else could go wrong. You’re exhausted, the house is a mess, your children are whining, your husband still isn’t home from work and dinner burned. Or maybe you’re dealing with a deeper trial where you really need God to carry you through. It’s on these days when we need God’s strength the most.
God put these verses on my heart to share with you, and it seems like the more I searched for scriptures on God’s strength, the more there were! There are so many precious Bible verses about God’s strength at work within us. Download these printable memory verse cards that you can post around the house for those weary days.
Paul gives us a great example of someone who went through hardships and trials (2 Corinthians 11:24-29) yet was strengthened again and again. Here’s a powerful verse displaying God’s strength:
At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth.The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
2 Timothy 4:16-18
In this passage, Paul was going through one of the most challenging times: he was imprisoned, on trial, facing the end of his life, and he was alone. It seems that when he went to court to defend himself, none of his friends showed up. Despite all of this, he kept his faith. He believed that God would carry him through – and He did. None of his earthly friends may have stood beside Paul, but the Lord did. He was not truly alone, because he had Jesus beside him. The same is true for us.
This seed growing experiment is one of my favorites for so many reasons!
It teaches kids about how plants grow.
It gets them excited about vegetables (and fruit and flowers)!
It’s simple and inexpensive.
It’s genuinely incredible to watch these plants grow up close.
What you’ll need for this seed growing experiment:
Clear cups (glass or plastic)
Seeds of any kind
Paper towels (about 2-4 sheets, depending on the size of your cup)
Dry erase marker or permanent marker (to indicate the seeds on the cup)
First, pick out your seeds. We did pea, green bean, cantaloupe, radish and an assortment of wildflower seeds – but you can use any seeds you want! It was fun to take Finn to Lowe’s and have him pick out which seeds he wanted to grow.
Next, take your paper towels, wrap them around your hand so they form a tight spiral (so they can fit in the cup in an organized manner). Then, wet the paper towels so that they are moist but not soaking wet. They need to maintain some structure inside the cup. Then, place them in the cup so that they are snug against the edge of the glass. If the paper towels are falling down, just reinforce them with more damp paper towels.
Finally, stick the seeds on the outside of the paper towel so that you can see them through the glass. You can use your finger (or a pen) to create a small tunnel on the side of the paper towel so they can slide down the glass. You want to paper towel to be snug against the seed so that the seed gets the moisture from the paper towel. This will help it to germinate!
Then, mark your seeds (so you can remember what they are) and place in a sunny spot in the house! A central windowsill is a great spot so your kids can check on them every day.
If you’d like to make this into more of a formal experiment, here’s what we did:
Question: which seed will germinate (grow) the fastest?
Finn guessed that the green bean would grow the fastest because it was the largest. I “guessed” that the radish would germinate quickly because it was the smallest. (Also because I read online that it would! Ha!)
Keep track of the results and once the seeds have sprouted, you can do some more research with your little one about why they sprouted at the rate that they did. You could also have a “competition” on which seeds will grow the tallest or test different hypotheses based on how much sunlight or water your seeds are receiving.
Watching these seeds germinate was really amazing! It took a little patience at first, but once they sprouted I was amazed by how quickly they grew.
After they outgrow your cup, you can (very carefully) remove them from the glass cup and replant them. Note: the roots will grow into the paper towel so you have to be careful to gently detangle them.