Monday, March 30, 2015

Easter Traditions for Preschoolers (and their grumpy mamas)

Easter Week is here, and it's a good thing--because I have been super grumpy lately!  I am looking forward to this week of fun, spring, peace, and Jesus.

For a few years now I've wanted to do some simple, spiritual Easter traditions and lessons with Noah, but I just haven't found/made the time.  (Plus I was pregnant and super sick last year, so I get a pass, right?)  There are so many great ideas on the Internet for spiritual Easter fun with kids--I just needed to take an hour to click around and make a plan.

So I did it on Friday.  And the irony wasn't lost on me that I was incredibly crabby with Noah as I was doing it.  (I think Mom may need these lessons about Christ's life much more than Noah.)

I thought I would share my ideas (which are not actually my ideas because I found them all online, mostly here and here) on this blog, so if some mom out there reading this doesn't have an hour to click around on the Internet, she can just take my list and go with it. You can do these activities/discussions in any order, and they don't have to be elaborate.

I want to give this disclaimer, though, about my Easter traditions:

I was going to start on Saturday with a visit to the beautiful grounds of our temple here in Twin Falls and a discussion about how Christ cleansed the temple in Jerusalem and how we can feel close to Christ in the temple--but Saturday was a crazy day and it didn't happen, so I decided we would start on Sunday.

And then yesterday, we were going to walk to church and gather blooming spring branches for an "Easter tree"and come home and find our favorite pictures of Christ online and print and laminate them and hang them on our Easter tree--but that didn't happen either.  You see, I insisted on taking some photos of the kids before we left for church, and this is how that turned out:

And of course because of my (very successful) photo shoot, we cut it too close on time and couldn't walk to church, and when we got home I had to rush to a pharmacy to get some penicillin because, lo and behold, I contracted strep throat AGAIN and all of the pharmacies close early on Sundays, and by the time we'd had dinner, there was no time for Easter tree, so we cleaned up and got the kids to bed and then collapsed in our bed and wasted time surfing Facebook.

So.  All that to say that your Easter traditions don't have to be perfect, so don't stress or get mad at yourself if these activities don't happen according to plan (or happen at all).  This is real life we are talking about.  And real life is messy and busy and unpredictable.

Okay, so here are a few ideas that I plan to make happen this week:

Easter Walk

Tonight for Family Night we are going to start our Easter Week (so help me!), and we will kick it off with an Easter Walk.  (I got this idea here.) You read the clue from the scriptures, and then each child has to run and find an object to match.  If you can't keep the attention span of the little ones long enough to read the actual verse, you can also just tell them about each part of the crucifixion and resurrection story in your own words.  Here are the clues:

Clue 1: Mark 15:17 - Find something pointed and sharp to represent the crown of thorns.

Clue 2: John 19:17-18 - Find something made of wood to represent the cross.

Clue 3: Luke 23:46 - Find something dead to represent the Savior's death.

Clue 4: Luke 23: 44-45 (Bible), 3 Nephi 8:23 (Book of Mormon) - Find something dark to represent the darkness in Jerusalem and in America.

Clue 5: Mark 15:46 - Find something hard and round to represent the stone placed in front of the tomb.

Clue 6: Matthew 28:5-6 - Find something alive to represent that Jesus Christ is alive again.

Washing Feet

One day this week, we will talk about how Christ's whole life was about service, and then we will wash each other's feet in a soapy basin, like Christ washed his disciples feet at the Last Supper. We will sing the Primary song "I'm Trying to Be Like Jesus" as we do it. :) We will also watch this short animated depiction of Christ's act of service.  As corny as the video is, I just know Noah will be completely glued to it, and, hey, it gets the message across.

Last Supper

One night we will have a very simple version of the "Last Supper."  (Maybe Thursday night since that is when it happened during the first Holy Week?)  We will have pitas, cheese, and grape juice--maybe some lentil soup because I actually have some frozen.  (Score!)   We will talk about how Christ instituted the Sacrament and what the bread and wine (or for us Mormons, water) represent.  We will talk about how we can be more reverent during the Sacrament each week at church, as we remember Jesus and what He has done for us.  Maybe I will even set a Biblical-looking table for dinner that night.

Atonement, Crucifixion, Ressurection

This will be the heavy doctrinal day, but we will try to keep it simple.  We will briefly explain each of these key events in the Easter story, and then we will watch these sacred events depicted in videos that will help Noah visualize.  We will explain what is happening as we watch:
            -Garden of Gethsemane video (we will probably start about 4-5 minutes into the video because it's long for a three year old)
            -Crucifixion video (we will start about a minute into the video because I don't want Noah to see the entirety of the scourging scene--painful to watch)
            -Jesus in the Tomb video (we will watch until about 2 mins--when the angel tosses the stone-- because it's long)
            -Resurrection video

**Someday I would like to do more with the Garden of Gethsemane--perhaps take him on a hike  and then talk about the significance of the Atonement and repentance, but he is too young now to grasp the significance of that sacred, infinite act.  I'd also like to teach him this beautiful children's song--maybe next year.

Visiting a Cemetery 

We might make a visit to a cemetery and talk about how the grave has no power over us because of Christ's resurrection.  If we were living in Colorado, I would totally take the kids to the cemetery where my mom is buried to have this discussion.  We might even let go of some Easter-colored balloons to send up to her in heaven.  (Maybe I should still do this here in Idaho?)  If we were living in Buffalo, I would totally do an Easter egg hunt in Forest Lawn Cemetery--which may sound morbid, but honestly you have not lived until you have walked the grounds of that insanely spectacular cemetery.  This cemetery visit would be fun to do on actual Easter morning if the weather is cooperating.

Easter Vigils: Lanterns, Luminaries, Sky lanterns

Saturday night, we will have some sort of "Easter Vigil" on Easter Eve.  We might make these darling Easter lanterns, but I don't think our tree is sturdy enough to hold them, so maybe we will just use the luminaries we have left over from Christmas or even the sky lanterns!  That would be awesome if it's not windy.  We will discuss how Christ is the Light of the World (perhaps using Mosiah 15:9?), and we will go to bed with our lanterns burning bright, waiting for Easter morning to come.

Easter Day Fun

Sunday morning we will wake to some awesome religious music like the Hallelujah chorus and special Easter hymns.  We will watch this seven-minute video which beautifully depicts the entirety of Holy Week and hopefully will recap and tie things together for Noah.

Then we will have a yummy breakfast (maybe this ah-mazing coffee cake with fruit and hardboiled eggs?), and then we will watch our church's annual General Conference. It will have some beautiful, inspiring sermons, if anyone is interested!   (General Conference is the first Sunday of October and the first Sunday of April--it just so happens to be Easter weekend this year.)

I'm sure we will have Easter baskets and an Easter egg hunt that day, and I'd also like to deliver some springy flowers (daffodils? tulips?) to our neighbors.  We have several new neighbors whom we haven't met, and it's about time!

With Easter dinner (and who knows what we will make for that--we aren't exactly gourmet chefs around here), we may have some simple symbolic foods along with our main course.  I'm not going to do a full-out Seder dinner like this post recommends, but I may pull a few of the ideas from it and use it.

Who knows what else this week will hold!  I will try to make it special for our family.  And if all havoc breaks loose and it's not as peaceful as I'm imagining, I will not get crabby with my children.  And if I do get crabby with my children, I will repent and think about Jesus.

Happy Easter Week, Friends!  I hope you have some special moments with your families!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Motherhood. It's something.

Last night was one of those nights.  You know what I mean, mamas.

I am recovering from the stomach flu, so I meant to go to bed early—but, I’m recovering from the stomach flu, so I need to get caught up on the life stuff that I completely neglected for several days while I lay on the couch and watched Noah and Sally tear our house apart.

So I didn’t get to bed as early as I’d hoped, and then I lay there with my mind racing for a while, and of course within what seemed like minutes of drifting off, I woke with a start to Noah shrieking my name.  And when I say shrieking, I mean ear-splitting, world-ending, he-must-be-dying screaming.

Certain that he had probably caught my bug and was vomiting his guts out as I had been a few night before, I raced to his room and pulled him into my arms. 

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that, no, he was not throwing up: his maniacal screams were due to…are you ready for this?…a stuffy nose. 

Yes, a stuffy nose. 

I just—yeah I’m not sure what to say here.

Don’t get me wrong, I know stuffy noses are uncomfortable.  And I know that three-year-olds aren’t used to discomfort and don’t like such sensations.  But stuffy noses don’t generally cause death, and they aren’t usually cause for ballistic wailing at 2 a.m., so even as I tried so hard to be loving and patient, I will admit that I was annoyed.

I offered him a Kleenix.  I rubbed his back and offered to sing him a song.  I assured him that everything would be okay and asked if going to the potty and getting a drink of water would help.  When he continued to wail and flop around like a suffering fish, I realized that he wasn’t even hearing me—that he could not be reasoned with at the moment—and I just had to leave.  I gave him a kiss and told him I hoped he felt better soon and I would see him in the morning.  And then I left.

Maybe this wasn’t the “nurturing mom” thing to do.  Maybe I should’ve gotten in bed with him and endured his shrieking and just been there for him until he calmed down.  But this kid’s emotions are always 0 to 60 in a second, always insanely intense, and I do a pretty good job of being patient during the day and even most nights (he’s been waking up and wailing in the night a lot lately)—but last night, I just couldn’t do it.

So I left, and then I lay in my bed and listened to him howling for another thirty minutes.  Of course I couldn’t sleep as I lay there and wondered if I am ruining my child. 

Am I too soft? Am I babying him too much? Is that why he has these fits--because I put up with it?

Am I too hard? Should I be more compassionate?  Is that why he has these fits--because he is having a tough time and I am not giving him the attention that he needs right now?

Should I just let him have a good rage and settle back to sleep on his own, or does he feel scared and abandoned and need me right now? If I go back in there, will it just reinforce that he can wake me up on a whim any time he wants in the night?  If I don't go back in there, will he feel like my love has been withdrawn in a time when he is confused and struggling and needs me the most?  

As usual, the answers weren’t clear, so I just followed my heart, and once his shrieking had calmed to a whimper, I went back in and hugged him and told him I will always be here for him—but sometimes mommys need sleep too, and sometimes noses just get stuffy and there’s nothing we can do about it, and I wish I had a magic wand to make his snot go away but I just don’t, and when he wakes up in the night, can he try to take care of whatever it is without waking mommy unless it's a *real emergency* because it’s really hard to take care of him and Sister when I am exhausted the next day?

He seemed to understand, and after I snuggled with him for a few minutes, he willingly let me leave and told me he would see me when his light turned green in the morning.

So that ended semi-well, but the night’s adventures weren’t over yet.  I will spare you all of the gory details (I really didn’t mean to give you so many about the stuffy nose incident--apparently I needed to get that off my chest?), but suffice it to say that Sally has a terrible cough and couldn’t sleep without being held, so Ryan and I took shifts with her, and her hacking often leads to throwing up, and the night ended with me covered in spit-up with a crick in my neck from “sleeping” in the rocking chair with a sick baby on my chest. 

Not the best night of sleep I’ve had in a while. Which is fine.  A few poor nights of sleep never hurt anyone.  I'm not writing this to complain--I don't even know why I am writing it, other than that it seems to be a pretty revealing snapshot of motherhood, and I want to remember it.  

I also want to remember that most of the time, I had no idea what I was doing in this midst of this mothering gig.  But I always tried my best.  I really did.  

And this morning, after the night from hell, Noah came wandering into Sister's room to find me with the baby asleep on my chest, and the minute she heard his voice (informing me that he had wet the bed, of course, because, well duh that would happen after a night like we had!), she woke up and grinned like she wasn't sick at all, because she adores her wild brother more than anyone on the planet.  And then Noah asked if he could snuggle with us and he climbed up into the chair, damp pants at all, and I just held them both, feeling inexplicably peaceful and completely bewildered by this experience that I'm having.   

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Tale of our Minivan

It all started when I noticed that Ryan was spending hours online looking at minivans.  My husband is not exactly one to take tons of initiative in researching things, particularly something as matronly as a minivan, so I knew that he must be seriously tired of squeezing his skinny bum between the kids' carseats on road trips.  (See photo here.)

Recognizing that this was my chance to get the car of my dreams, I jumped in and helped with the research.  We recruited the advice of knowledgable friends who have sold used cars, we checked the listings every day, we contacted people and haggled prices...lots of invested time, lots of back-and-forth...and then, one night, we saw it come up on Craigslist: a beautiful 2012 Honda Odyssey in Bountiful, Utah--with an amazing price and all the features we wanted!  Bingo!

The next morning, I called the seller, asked for more details, and told him I would be on the road in an hour.  I dropped my kids at a friend's house, rented a car, and headed to Utah.  It was all rather a whirlwind, and while I was making the long drive, I thought, "This van better be as good as it looks online!"

Well, it was.  It is.  It's amazing.  And now it's ours!  Never has a man been happier to own a minivan!

Of course nothing can be as easy as seeing a listing, getting in your car the next morning, and driving to get a perfect and perfectly priced minivan.  Oh no, not in Rachel Nielson's world.

It's possible that as I was driving the minivan home, in the death-stretch between Snowville, UT and Burley, ID, I ran out of gas on the highway, at 10:30 pm, in the pitch black nothingness, in the middle of nowhere.

Who does that???

I called roadside assistance, and they contacted a service station in Snowville, and a friendly old man came and brought me some gas.  He asked me how many miles the van gets to the gallon, and I said, "Um, well, I'm not really sure.  I literally bought it two hours ago."

Hahahahaha!  I am a ridiculous human being!!!!  But in my defense, I wasn't expecting to buy a car with an empty gas tank, and I didn't know that the "gas empty" meter or whatever it's called would be a TINY little light on the bottom right of the dashboard.  Sheesh!  (Okay, and I'm a moron.  I will freely admit that, but COME ON.)

To make the story even better, two days after getting our new beauty home, an old lady backed into me at the post office and dented the driver door.  Ding #1 taken care of!  I guess that's why it's best to buy cars used--particularly when you're Rachel Nielson.

The good news is, we love it.  So much room, so easy to drive, so many convenient features.  Noah was so excited about it when we first got it that he literally told everyone about his "new minivan with magic doors that open by themselves!"  He also woke his baby sister up that first morning by climbing into her crib and whispering, "Sister, sister!  Wake up!  I have to show you our new minivan!"  Normally I would freak out about him waking the baby, but when I heard him over the monitor telling her about the van, how could I be mad?  We were all just giddy about the new addition to our family.  You'd think we had won a Porsche by how we were acting.

So we are a minivan family now and couldn't be happier about it.  Best purchase we've made in our ten years of marriage--and with some stories to tell about it as well.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Snapshot of Us

About a month ago, I decided it was high-time that we got Little Sister represented on the blog header and sidebar.  (You know, only took me six months to do that...)

Still trying to get the clarity and sizing right on the header (that will probably take me another six months), but here is the image, designed by my awesome friend Tia, and I love it.  And if anyone has any advice on how to get the sizing right so it fills the length of the computer screen, let me know.

Those of you who read the blog on a phone won't ever see the sidebar, so I thought I would post our current "autobio poems" here (plus that way they will be saved in my blog books for posterity as well--I should've been doing this all along).


Lover of squishes from Mama, snuggles from Daddy, and tickles from Brother
Who feels content and smiley first thing in the morning
Who needs shoes that will actually stay on her wiggly feet
Who gives mega-watt grins that melt the heart
Who fears the raucous (but affectionate) smothering of her older brother
Who would like to see her aunties and grandparents more often
Resident of a comfy one-story home where she is the queen


Lover of the Polar Express, all things sugar, and his "Baby Sister"
Who feels ecstatic when "chuffing" one of his beloved trains around the house
Who needs explanations for everything, big and small
Who gives strangers a reason to smile with his friendly chatter
Who fears "spooky" shadows, scary scenes in movies, and toilets that flush by themselves
Who would like to see a friend come over to play every single day 
Resident of a house covered in photos of him and his sister


Lover of conversations with a kindred, homemade chocolate chip cookies, and Idaho sunsets
Who feels overwhelmingly happy when nibbling on one of her delicious children
Who needs daily quiet-time to think
Who fears losing someone else whom she loves
Who gives care packages to her friends and love letters to her kids and Ryan
Who would like to see more openness, compassion, and individuality in the world
Resident of a little house with cute daisy bushes in front


Lover of ice cream, the night sky, and dance parties with his happy kids
Who feels glorious at the peak of an Idaho mountain
Who needs alone time to just look at the ceiling when he gets home from work
Who gives froyo gift certificates and sugar-free suckers to his dental patients
Who fears talking on the phone and settling for less than his potential
Who would like to see family cartrips in a minivan to explore the West
Resident of Twin Falls, ID

Love my little family!  Love my life, even when it is hard.  I've been getting some good emails with advice on feeling "burned out" lately as a stay-at-home mom, and I am feeling much better this week.  Maybe I will compile some of the advice I've received and post it here soon.

And speaking of the kids, I love my new photo with them.  When I was updating the sidebar, I realized that I didn't have a single photo with me and both of my kids.  Horrible, right??  So on the spot, Ryan snapped a few with my iPhone, and I am amazed that we got a good one.  So happy to now have my blue-eyed cuties captured at this stage forever.

Life is good.  Have a great week, everyone!