Crafts for Groups of Kids (A Challenge Accepted)

On Wednesday nights throughout the school year, Chris and I are “yellow team” leaders in our church’s Awana program. We hurry home from work, feed our pathetic cats, grab some fast food, and show up to church a few minutes late every Wednesday. We work with a group of third, fourth, fifth, and sixth graders as they study Scripture, complete activities, and ultimately memorize verses.

With May just around the corner, I’ve started planning for our summertime program that replaces Awana once the kids are out of school: MegaSports. If you know me even remotely, you’ll know sports are significantly beyond my wheelhouse. Fully within my realm of expertise, however: crafts, y’all.

Yes, I lead the less-than-sporty crowd at MegaSports, and we do crafts proudly.

I’ve been leading crafts since 2015. I took up this mantle when I learned that our children’s pastor could never find anyone willing to do it. This blew my mind; who wouldn’t want to bust out the popsicle sticks and glue with some munchkins on a fine Wednesday evening in summer?

Turns out, the hard part isn’t corralling an excitable group of kids around a table strewn with craft supplies. It’s finding crafts that are do-able with groups of kids. Most kids’ crafts that you’ll find on Pinterest are either too complicated for the attention-deficient or too simple to occupy older kids, or they require materials that are expensive or impossible to find in bulk (a must for church activities). It takes time and effort to find crafts that use inexpensive supplies, have simple instructions, and are suitable for a range of ages.

Crafts for groups

This blog post is inspired by my quest for such crafts. I’m writing it selfishly, as an attempt to wrangle all the ideas floating around on my children’s ministry Pinterest board for this year’s MegaSports. (Also, I’m 100% procrastinating some yard work needing to be done. Whoops.)

Wanna see some of my ideas for this year’s crafts? (Click the Read More button below on the right.)

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18 Tried & True Whole30 Recipes for Normal People

Well, family, it’s here: Day 29 of our very first Whole30. And we’ve made it here relatively unscathed! My cravings are mostly under control and, though I haven’t been on the scale, I can tell I have lost some weight. I’m feeling pretty great, y’all!

One of the reasons I embarked on this Whole30 was to gain a new perspective on meal planning. And considering that, in the last 29 days, we’ve tried 23 new recipes or food preparation methods, I believe that one has been achieved!

Building our first meal plan for our first week of our Whole30 was terribly intimidating. I wasn’t yet comfortable ferreting out the non-compliant ingredients I was used to using in recipes, and I was wary of going all-in on any recipes that I might not love. My husband is notoriously picky, so some ambitious ingredients (salmon, zucchini pasta, stuffed peppers) were off the the table this time around. Additionally, we don’t have an especially roomy grocery budget, so we couldn’t rely too heavily on pricey specialty ingredients.

So what the heck have we been eating for the last 29 days?!

I decided to compile a list of our favorite Whole30 recipes we successfully tried this month. These recipes were all simple and made up of ingredients normal people can afford and enjoy! Ready to dive in? 🙂

WHOLE30RECIPES (3)

Quick disclaimer: All of these gorgeous photos are the property of the bloggers linked in each caption. Please visit their blogs for the full recipes!

First up, let’s talk about breakfast! (Click the Read More button below on the right.)

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Whole30 – It’s all downhill from here

Well hello, Internet!

Here we are on Day 18 of our Whole30 — several days “over the hump,” midway through our third full week, very nearly out of the teens. If you’re familiar with the Whole30 Timeline, this is what whole food fans refer to as the “Tiger Blood” phase!

I don’t know about Tiger Blood, but I have seen “non-scale” improvements in several areas:

  • The food is good. I haven’t tried a lot of new foods, but I’ve definitely become more comfortable with preparing meals from scratch and using whole foods. We’re still eating too many white potatoes, but I only recently realized that sweet potatoes actually taste sweet on their own (without brown sugar and butter)! I don’t even think that they need cinnamon! And that’s just one example of my “good food” discovery.
  • I have way more self-control than I thought. I’ll talk more about my bad habits below, but saying no is becoming easier (that may be because I know that I’m one step closer to being able to say yes as I progress through my Whole30…shhh).
  • We are saving a ton of cash money! Anyone who is concerned about whole foods causing a spike in their grocery bill should consider how much they will save by not eating out as frequently. We’ve been eating out once, maybe twice per week, whereas we used to eat at least five meals outside of our home each week. In addition, many whole foods purchased in bulk (and in season) are far less expensive than convenience foods.
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A colorful, simple, last-minute meal that we tried this week (roasted veggies and chicken)!

There are, of course, some tough aspects, too.

  • My instincts toward junk food are still alive and well. I have become very conscious of some bad habits and toxic attitudes I have toward foods that aren’t so good for me. When coworkers offer me a snack or treat, it’s bizarre how I am wired to just say “Sure!” without even thinking, “Am I hungry? Is this a good choice if I am hungry?” It will take a lot longer than thirty days to break this habit, but I’m thankful that it’s being brought to light now (and I’m learning to arm myself with appropriate snacks if a craving hits).
  • I have had some moments of real boredom with the diet. These seem to occur most frequently on the weekends, when we have a lot of time at home and I feel so unenthused by preparing all three meals in my kitchen. I have tried to fight this by injecting lots of new meals into our meal plans; check out my Made it & Ate It board on Pinterest for meals we’ve tried so far!

I’ll still be posting daily snapshots over on my Instagram Story, so if you like pictures of people’s food (if you’re on Instagram, you clearly at least tolerate such photos), check out my Instagram!

Toward the end of our Whole30 (the last day of which is April 10th), I will post an update on the reasons we embarked on this thing in the first place. Stay tuned!

Whole30 – 1 day at a time

Yesterday was my first day of our Whole30 diet. It ended up being a looong day, which I think can be partially attributed to the start of Daylight Saving Time and the late-setting sun, but it’s also because I spent nearly the whole day in our kitchen.

After church, I set to work making breakfast for us to eat for the first half of the week (Egg, Bacon, and Sweet Potato cups), then moved to lunch (Bacon-Wrapped Chicken and carrots sautéed in ghee), followed by snack prep: washing and cutting fruits and veggies and making Whole30 compliant mayonnaise and ranch dressing for the first time. Finally, when I was desperate to go chill on the couch, I realized it was getting late, and quickly threw together our dinner (meatloaf and baked potatoes). Luckily, I was able to spend quality time with my couch for the hour that dinner baked in the oven. 🙂

All told, our day was full of eggs, bacon, sweet potatoes, fresh fruit, chicken, carrots, and meatloaf, with no grains, dairy, or sugar in sight. And we survived!

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The Whole30 Timeline refers to Day 1 as the “So what’s the big deal?” day. I saw glimpses of that yesterday, but all that meal prep was work. I see where our bad habits with convenience foods and eating out originated: I don’t think I have time to eat right. But yesterday, I proved that wrong.

Now that I’m cruising into Day 2, I want to remember the satisfaction I felt yesterday after making good choices all day long. I want to remember how delicious my homemade, dairy-free ranch tasted right out of the jar I’d blended it in. I want to remember all the colors of my foods strewn across my countertop and my plate. I want to remember the guilt I didn’t have when I climbed into bed last night.

Day 2, I’m coming for you.

Why Whole30?

We Davidsons plan our meals every week. I make a 7-day plan on Sundays after church, write up the grocery list while Chris takes a Sunday afternoon catnap (usually with actual cat accompaniments), and then he makes a run to Kroger and drops off our week’s worth of recycling along the way. We usually stick to our meal plan with about 85% accuracy; Chris has pointed out that, as long as we start strong early in the week, we can rock that meal plan. Then, it starts all over again the next Sunday afternoon.

This week, our meal plan looks different. It’s full of protein, roasted veggies, and far too many baked potatoes. Cheeses and pastas, typical Davidson meal plan staples, are conspicuously absent. There are no sandwich days planned for lunches. I’m not planning to bake any treats for my coworkers.

Smells like Whole30.

This Sunday, we are starting a thirty-day diet of whole foods, with no grains, no dairy, no sugar, and no legumes. (“No alcohol” is also on the list, but that is not a concern for us, because we don’t partake.) It will be an exceptionally difficult change for us.

There are lots of reasons to do a Whole30. But all those reasons don’t apply to me. My list is relatively short:

  1. To examine my bad habits and gain self-control. I am an emotional eater. Most of the time that emotion is “boredom;” when I’m trying to relax at home on a weeknight, it’s comforting to munch on tortilla chips or split a row of Oreos with Chris when we’re catching up on our DVR. Or, after a stressful day at work, although we had a meal planned, we’ll end up at a restaurant and obviously I’m getting dessert because I earned it by suffering through the horrors of being a middle manager in an office setting. Whole30 will bring all those to light, painfully. But the thirty days will be just long enough to help me start new and improved habits of making good choices when in a tough spot.
  2. To gain a new perspective on meal planning. Real, whole foods were not a priority in previous meal plans. We rely more and more on convenience foods as we grow busier at work and life in general. I have been in a meal planning rut for a while now, and I no longer enjoy the task. I used to try recipes all the time (my Made It & Ate It board on Pinterest has almost 250 pins) but now I stick to recipes that I can cook with my eyes closed/while listening to Netflix in the kitchen. How will Whole30 help that? It’s forcing me to try all-new, compliant recipes (I have a board full of ’em), and new methods of cooking old staples but also new components, such as Brussels sprouts. Next week alone we will be trying ten new recipes. Watch out, world! My Pinterest board will hit 250 in no time!
  3. To have more energy and generally feel better. Speaking of being busy at work? We come home tuckered out every day. I’m ready for bed by nine o’clock every night, and we sure as heck don’t ever feel like exercising. (I’m lucky to make it through a Zumba class once a week.) Eating whole, goodful foods for thirty days can serve to balance out all the mysterious inner workings of my body. A reset in my digestive system will be a delightful and well-fought perk as well.

I will need to remember these reasons when I’m five days into the Whole30 regimen and feeling unsatisfied, restless, and tempted to quit. But from what I understand, the hard days will be crazy hard, but the good days in the second half of the thirty will be crazy great. And if I can meet the three goals I’ve set for myself, I will come out on the other side a happier, healthier me.

Have you ever done a Whole30?