Saturday, December 15, 2018

Keeping Jesus at the Center of Christmas with Your Little Ones {And a GIVEAWAY}

As my boys get older, I am working hard to help them see Jesus at the center of our home especially at Christmas time. This can be stressful because I want to do it "right" and there are so many opinions out there on how to do it and what tools to use. I recently posted a list of all the fun Advent activities we are doing this year (and some more that we have done in the past) and while all of these things are fun and can point to Jesus, I want to specifically teach my children God's word. So today with just 10 days until Christmas, I thought I would share a few tools that have helped me feel more confident as I navigate beginning to teach my little boys about God and His word.

Memory Verse Cards (The ones I use are from Crew + Co.)
With my four year old, we do a new verse each month. This month our verse is Matthew 5:14, "You are the light of the world." I love hearing him learn God's word and I also use it to help guide me as I navigate another fun thing, discipline. I am amazed at how it has helped me discipline my children in a positive and meaningful way that simply makes sense!

Podcasts (Risen Motherhood)
I have found the Evangelism podcasts especially encouraging as I work on modeling this with my children.

Children's Bibles (The Beginner's Bible)
I can't emphasize enough the importance of a good and reliable Children's Bible. The Beginner's Bible not only has simple and relatable images, but the content is true and easy to read aloud to my kids. Outside of being a Mom, I am also in ministry so I use this Bible with my own children as well as other people's children and I feel confident doing so. This Bible has proven to be reliable and I love the amount of stories found within it! I have found other children's bibles that I love, but they are often missing Bible stories that I think children need to know about even in the little years.

With Christmas quickly approaching we are reading one pre-chosen story from the Beginner's Bible each day and I have a set of wooden ornaments that go with some of the stories leading up to Jesus' birth. We read a story and hang an ornament up to remind us of that story. My boys have loved it and it has been a great way to start our mornings together.

The Beginner's Bible is one of the most sold and most well loved Bibles of all time and my boys have loved reading from ours as you can see in the picture above. I would love to give away a new Beginner's Bible to one of you! Simply comment below and you will be entered to win one for yourself! I will also be posting the Giveaway on my instagram account tomorrow, @allie_renner, so you can enter there as well! 

How do you make sure to keep Jesus front and center with your kids not only this time of year, but all year round? I would love to know!

Monday, December 3, 2018

More Kid Friendly Advent Activities

There is something so magical this time of year and I don't want it to be a one day thing with my kids. I also don't want to look back and wish we had done more. Enter Advent, a way to prepare your hearts and minds for Christmas. And since I have had so much fun planning and doing Advent activities with my kids over the last few years, I thought I would go ahead and share a few more simple ideas that we have enjoyed or plan to enjoy this year along with a few tips to help it go smoothly. See my original post with more ideas here.

Set up our Jesse tree
We will add the first ornament and read the first corresponding story from the Bible. (This is something we will do each day until Christmas day. If you want to know more about the Jesse Tree, email me, but basically each day you hang an ornament on the tree that represents a story from the Bible you have read that leads up to the birth of Jesus.)

Christmas tree slam
I already have green cups and fake snowballs so instead of a Snowman slam, we are going to stack cups like a Christmas tree and then try to knock them down.

Make a skating rink for Charlie Brown (or your child's favorite figurines)
Pictured above

We are trying a different snow recipe this year. This one has shaving cream so is not safe to eat obviously, but I wanted to try a different consistency for the kids this year.

Read a new to us Christmas book

Make Christmas cards
In the past, we have used marshmallows to paint snowmen. This year we are going to use marshmallow to make Santa’s beard. I will add pictures as we do it!

Make a Christmas snack and watch a Christmas movie

Have a pizza picnic by your Christmas tree

Breakfast with Santa (or make a Christmas themed breakfast)

Christmas sensory bin
We are doing this one because we have the magnetic wants, but just look on Pinterest for other basic ideas!

Make snow cream (on a day you have a fresh snow)

Load up the car and go see Christmas lights

Give a giftcard to the Garbage man (or to someone who works hard and might not get noticed-Postal worker, Bus driver, etc.)

Decorate a Gingerbread house or have a contest!

Polar Express Train ride! (Or simply watch the movie and drink hot chocolate!)

Take coffee or a treat to a friend

Make Sugar cookies for your neighbors (this might be a 2 day activity including the delivery of the cookies!)

Go sledding or go on a winter walk

Have your kids choose some new or "like new" toys to donate

Christmas craft
We are going to try Dish Brush Christmas Wreaths

Read the Christmas story as a family and sing happy birthday to Jesus

Plan your activities in advance. Shop for your craft items, buy your food items, check your stock of paints, etc. That way you don't have to waste time during your day going out and buying items, you can just get right to your planned activity. (This is the kindergarten, type A person that I am telling you this. You do you, but this helps me because the last thing I want to do is go out to buy a few supplies each day with my two kids in tow.)

Keep your activities SIMPLE and STRESS FREE. You want this to be a fun way to enjoy the holiday season with your kids, not something that is going to be stressful for anyone.

You don't need to plan an activity for each day. Keep it flexible. The holiday season is already so full of fun activities that are already planned for you (Lights at the zoo, holiday parties, visiting Santa, etc.) The last thing you want to do is make yourself too busy or feel bad if you don't do a certain activity one day.


Monday, August 13, 2018

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star Baby Shower

My little sister is due with her first baby in October so this past weekend my cousin and I threw her very first baby shower. My sister is very classic so I knew early on I wanted the theme to be the same, classic and sweet. I landed on the theme Twinkle Twinkle Little Star for a few reasons, but it also reminded me of the many years the two of us shared a room growing up. We had cloud bed spreads, which we thought were the most amazing thing ever and we had those glow in the dark stars on our ceiling which we just loved as well. 
To plan a party, you obviously  need a theme, then comes the invitations. I LOVED these Twinkle Twinkle Little star baby shower invitations from Basic Invite. Basic Invite has a wide variety of invitations (and more) to choose from. I was so excited they had invitations to fit the theme of the baby shower. In fact, they had a whole page of Twinkle Twinkle Little star baby shower invitations, making my job easy.
I didn't want to go overboard with the star theme, but it was a fun and easy element to play with since as a Mom of two little ones I didn't have time to go crazy with the decorations. I made a star banner to hang on the fireplace, made some star "wands" to put in mason jars filled with Baby's breath, found a free printable and put it in a frame and let Sam's club do the cake. We also played a guess the Nursery Rhyme game and I found a Wishes for Baby on Etsy for each guest to fill out. I am going to make this into a book to give my sister.
The menu was not themed unless the theme was YUM. But I did use a star cookie cutter to make some of the fruit into stars because I just couldn't help myself.

It was so fun to be able to celebrate my sister and her new baby and to finally get some bump pictures together! Looking forward to seeing her again in less than a month for her next shower!

If you are looking for a place to order invitations, here are a few things I loved about Basic Invites:
-I loved the original invitation, but wanted to change the color palette to make the invitation more of a light blue verses a navy blue. Once you select a design it is easy to change the color of EACH element on the card. I loved this feature! 
-They will also send you custom samples if you want to check out the paper quality or actual design. -Lastly, I loved the foil element. I think a little sparkle adds a lot of interest to an invitation...especially when stars are involved. :)

Basic Invites also offers other items including professional business cards and if you are already thinking about photo cards! Right now they are offering 15% off with the code: 15FF51

*I did receive the invitations in exchange for my honest review, however all opinions are my own.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Diaper Backpack Now Required

With my first baby, I had no idea what I was doing when it came to purchasing baby stuff. I relied on Lucie's List and the few friends who actually had babies before me. I bought a very basic diaper bag mostly because I liked the Chevron print and it worked just fine for us back in the days when we only had one child to cart around.

Fast forward to today and I now have two kids who both need their own compartments in the diaper bag. That makes a Diaper Backpack a requirement for us! About 6 months ago, we discovered this, but couldn't find any diaper backpacks that were big enough for us. I am a type A Mama who packs everything but the kitchen sink when we go out so my husband ended up ordering an actual travel backpack used for camping by Osprey and it has been our go to bag. It has done the job, but I haven't ever loved it. Mainly because it's big and bulky and not very cute (I can be so vain. Haha) So when Soho contacted me about trying out their new Kenneth Diaper Backpack, I gladly accepted.
You guys. Honestly when I got this in the mail, I thought to myself there is absolutely no way all our gear is going to fit in here. Well, I was wrong! When I started loading up the bag, I was pleasantly surprised by all the compartments inside. It was like Mary Poppins' carpet bag, things just kept fitting in it magically. It managed to hold everything that my former Osprey bag held and it is way more comfortable (and cute) to carry!
Want to know what I fit inside it? It has an outer pocket perfect for those things you need easy access to like hand sanitizer and boogie wipes, then it has an inner pocket with lots of compartments. I fit a wet bag, diapers/changing pad, a change of clothes for both boys, sunscreen, dinosaur figurines a small board book AND a bag full of snacks just in this pocket. Then there is a smaller compartment on top for your wallet and phone. Plus the back has an extra zipper pocket that I usually put some extra wipes in because I always need wipes. 
Other features I love about this bag:
  • The cup holders on the side are big. We use Contigo water bottles for the boys and we have one bottle that doesn't fit in any of our other backpacks. Happy to report, it fits in this one!
  • It is so comfortable and lightweight!
  • The fabric is splashproof! Big Mom win! 
  • This bag also comes with 5 more accessories...5! A changing pad, stroller straps (which I've never had before), a personal purse that I put my wallet and the kid's snacks in), a diaper bag dispenser (for those spur of the moment poopy diapers that you don't already have a bag for) and 30 refill bags.

*I was sent this backpack to review, but all opinions are my own and I highly recommend this bag!

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Where do I even start?

I guess I should start with, Hi. Remember me? It has almost been almost three months since I opened up a blank blog post and simply started typing. I have no real reason that I haven't been blogging, other than life is full right now. I miss capturing moments on my blog, but I was starting to get overwhelmed by all the moments I wasn't documenting, which is silly so I just stopped worrying about it and stopped posting. But I'm least for today because there is just something about letting words spill out on a blank page that feels therapeutic to me.
As I said, life has been full. I am still working part time and Drew is currently looking for a new job as an assistant principal. He is off for the summer so we have had lots of amazing family time and when he goes back to school in August I will have to retrain myself on how to Mom. Haha. However, I do feel pretty adjusted now to life with two kids now. There are just a few cold hard facts that I've learned to accept. Someone is always going to need me, bathroom trips alone are a rarity, eating when the kids are strapped in at the table is a must or it will not happen, screen time is not the devil, popsicles on the porch are always a good idea and good husbands/fathers are worth their weight in gold. So thankful for my husband. We will be celebrating 9 years of marriage next week!
Aiden is now close to being a 4 year old (how?!) and he is doing so many things independently now. He surprises me everyday with questions he asks or with things he wants to do on his own without my help any more. He is my sunshine in every way. He can sense when someone feels sad and is there to give a hug. He is always saying he loves me and making me laugh. He is the most extroverted kid I know. At the mention of another child, he yells out, "KIDS! I want to play with them." He is very in to catching bugs right now and asking everyone he meets, "what's your favorite bug?" He loves to sing and dance and will be dancing his way in to preschool this fall two days a week. I have no doubt he will want to live at school where the kids are. He is SUCH an amazing big brother and makes sure I know whenever Alder needs me.
Alder is 18 months and acts like he is 4. I'm not even kidding. He is so independent and is in to everything. He grabs our keys and "unlocks" the doors, has the tv remote mastered, knows how to plug an outlet cover into the outlet and take it out and is always climbing up on something. If he doesn't know how to do something himself he yells out, "HELP!" It is hilarious. He is very strong willed, but also a big Mama's boy who lights up my world when he smiles at me and yells, "Hi, Mama!" He is obsessed with trains and we are taking him to see and ride the "real" Thomas the train when he comes to town in August. Drew and I can not wait to see his reaction!
Our summer has been low key. Lots of ice cream from the ice cream truck, trips to the community pool, grilling out and cooking Smores in our backyard and just being together. We did go to the lake a few weeks ago with my parents and had an amazing time (that's where all these pictures are from). Maybe I'll post about it, maybe not. But sweet memories were made.

There's not really a point to this post except to ease my way back in I guess.
So if you're reading this, bless you. And if no one reads this but future me in 10 years, I'm totally fine with that too.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Aiden's Hundred Acre Wood Party

I wrote this post way back in November, but never actually posted it, but this theme would be perfect for a spring birthday party so I'm going ahead and sharing it because it was cute and because I want Aiden's third birthday party documented.

When Aiden first watched Winnie the Pooh he laughed so hard at Pooh bear and it made my heart happy because I have always been a huge fan of Pooh bear. So naturally when the time came to think about a party theme for Aiden's third birthday I couldn't resist doing a Hundred Acre Wood party. I had so much fun with all the little details like the pom pom party hats, adding little bees to the yellow lanterns (beehives) and making Pooh parfaits and Aiden loved it all.

I wanted the menu to be simple, but themed of course so here is what I ended up doing. Hundred Acre Wood Menu: Pooh Parfaits (made with yogurt, honey, strawberries, bananas and vanilla wafers), Veggies from Rabbit's Garden, Pig(lets) in a blanket, Pooh Bear Tea Sandwiches (chicken salad and ham salad),

"As soon as I saw you, I knew an adventure was going to happen." -AA Milne.

Monday, April 23, 2018

A Simple Phrase I Never Want to Stop Hearing

I have a few precious minutes while the baby naps to shower and clean up the hot mess that is my kitchen and dining room, so I turn on an episode of Sid the Science Kid for my toddler and head for my bath robe. I haven't washed my hair in three days and I'm tired of wearing my hair in a top knot. My Momlife pants (that I've also been wearing on repeat) have dried playdough on them so I'm basically sprinting to my bathroom when I hear my toddler sweetly say, "Mama, hold you?" (his adorable way of asking me to hold him.) Every ounce of me wants to say "I'll hold you later, buddy Mama has some things to do," but later may never come. The older he gets, the more I want to hold on to the times when he really needs me, the times when he asks me to simply hold him. The day he doesn't ask me to hold him will come soon enough. I probably won't even realize he's stopped asking, it will simply happen.

The days of him being my little boy are so fleeting. Honestly, I get teary eyed even thinking about the day that I'm no longer "needed" by my boys for most everything. It is so exhausting, but so wonderful to be needed.

So when you see me in the same graphic tee and my hair is up in a top knot yet again, please don't judge me. Pre-kids, I used to think to myself, how can a Mom not have time to shower? But maybe there was time, but she simply chose to snuggle with her son instead.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Dear Baby Boy {A letter written to you on the night before your first birthday}

My sweet boy,
Tonight I put you in the same pajamas your brother wore the night before he turned one, we read all your favorite books and you laughed on cue at all of your favorite parts. I nursed you and then rocked you in my arms. Usually you fall asleep in my arms, but tonight you didn't. I looked down at you curled up on my chest and thought how big you looked in my arms and wondered where my little tiny newborn went. I was just starting to shed a few tears thinking about how quickly you were growing up and then out of nowhere, you started patting my shoulder. It's like you knew I needed that. So I prayed over you, put you in your bed with your puppy and pat your bottom a few times. Then I slipped out of your room.

I have felt very connected with you since the moment I first felt you kick. When you were laid on my chest, you knew just what to do. You found my finger and wrapped your tiny hand around it..then of course you wanted to eat, but first you wanted to simply hold my hand and get as close to me as possible.

You have such a sweet and thoughtful side of you. You are always "pat, pat, patting" things and laughing. And the way you put your head on my shoulder and snuggle with me makes me melt. The other day your brother had a sleepover with your Grandma and we got some time just the two of us. We took a bath together and then went for a walk around the neighborhood and it was so peaceful. You were so content just looking around and I just started thinking about how you have always simply gone with the flow of our lives, whether it's at our house with your brother running around (and not ever napping) or out to eat at a restaurant during your nap time. You simply go with the flow. You enjoy routines and know exactly what you want, but you are also laid back and content. Basically you are the perfect mix.

I love how much you continue to love your Mama and I hope you know how incredibly loved and treasured you are. You are strong and mighty and oh so determined. I pray often that God uses your strength and determination for His glory and that we find the best possible ways to help you learn to use your gifts.

I am definitely your safe place and like one of your books says, you are my wild.

You always seem to get in to the things you shouldn't like cords and outlets and the cat food dish. You love living on the edge (literally) and are always wanting to be held up so you can stand on the window ledge and see outside. You study things and watch us intently like you are soaking everything in. You grab all the remotes and knock down all the things on every single shelf.
You have the most infectious smile, the most fun laugh and we are all just so crazy about you. A year with you has gone by so fast, but I have loved every single second. I know God has big plans for you sweet boy and I can't wait to see them unfold.

I love you more than I can ever say in words. Happy birthday little love.
Love, Your Mama

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Moon Dough Recipe + Space Sensory Box for Kids

For Aiden's Valentine gift this year, we gave him an astronaut costume because he loves pretending to blast off in to space and is always turning things into rocket ships. So this sensory box was inspired by his Valentine's day know because I love him to the moon.

This sensory box was so much fun to put together and my toddler helped me with every step so he was very involved with the whole process. We started by making Moon dough.
This only requires two ingredients, 8 cups of flour and 1 cup of baby oil. Mix them in a bowl and then stir and mix with your hands until it starts clumping together like sand.

Once we had our moon dough made we added it to our plastic box. This one is from Target, but any plastic box with a lid will do (so you can save the moon dough to play again another day).
We added glow in the dark stars around the sides of our plastic box to make it more space-like and then added our space figurines. This activity kept Aiden busy for at least an hour and if you are looking for some fun books to read that have to do with the moon and space, our favorites are pictured below.

Suggested items for Moon Sensory Box:
Plastic box with lid
Moon dough
Glow in the dark stars
Space figurines

Also, I post a lot of random activities for littles on Instagram (#nestfulofactivities) and in my Insta stories if you want to follow me, click on over here.