Monday, December 17, 2012

All I Want for Christmas is...MY SANITY!

Ah, such dreams I had for this wonderful Christmas season. Admittedly, after our super fun (and extremely busy!) Playing Through Autumn series, I had planned to tone things back, both on the blog and in real life. But oh, how life has a way of arching its eyebrows and laughing maniacally at your best laid plans. Such has happened in our lives over the past several weeks.

I wanted to have a lovely and relaxing holiday season, full of Christmas movies, baking cookies, spending time at home with the family rather than running around to commitments that wouldn't make me or my family happy.   Instead, I had a lot of stress, anxiety, and exhaustion. What is it about this season, despite my best efforts to not get overwhelmed, that just screams insanity?

To be fair, I did do a pretty good job of limiting commitments that drive holiday madness, but then life happened, as it's prone to do. From the first week of November, every single member of our family battled seasonal illness, one after another, and we've only really all gotten well now that December is well under way.  This is a busy time of the year for my husband at work, and also for me: family conferences, extra hours, long days away from home. Basically, we've had no time to connect as a family, and it's showing in our actions. The tot has been a hot mess lately, Hubs and I have been grouchy, the house is a disaster. We've had no time to relax and just be together.

The tot turned 2 back on December 7, and we had a huge shindig at home, which was incredibly fun...and also pretty stressful. Prepping for such an event just weeks before Christmas caused me more stress than I care to admit, but I'm admitting here because hey, I'm not a super hero and I'm fine with that. Even so, there are things I had planned to do with the tot this season that just haven't come to fruition. I'm making peace with that too. There's always next year.

Now that the tot's birthday has come and gone, things at work are settling down a bit for both Hubs and me, we are making family time and relaxation our top priorities. Sometimes I think I forget that what the tot needs is for just to just BE. I don't always have to plan activities or outings for her to feel connected to us...sometimes we just need to sit on the couch in our pajamas and read 27 Christmas books in a row. Sometimes we just need to take a walk around our neighborhood and look at Christmas lights. Sometimes we just need to watching "A Charlie Brown Christmas" and snuggle. This is how traditions are created and memories are made.

My hope for 2013 is that I'll remember this perspective even after life picks up speed again. I'm writing a letter to Santa asking for my SANITY in the coming year...and hell, I've been a pretty good girl and I know that my family (and I) really deserve it!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

May you and your family know the joys and blessings of this
holiday season!

Thank you for reading Play Through the Day!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Playing Through Autumn Wrap Up

It was with a shock this week that I realized autumn is very nearly over! As a family, we have been so busy (who isn't?) and much to my chagrin, every member of our family has been sidelined with some form of illness or another for the better part of the past two months, with only a day or two of relief sprinkled in here and there. That being said, I would like to take this time to wrap up our Playing Through Autumn series. We have had such a marvelous time exploring the wonders of this beautiful season. For years, I was so excited to have a child of my own with whom to share all the things I love about autumn, and this year I was able to see that dream realized. Admittedly, I am sort of bummed that we weren't able to do all of the things I had planned for the tot with this series (see above regarding illness), but it is with a sigh of relief I realize we now have a basis for our plans for next year.

Thirty days of seasonal experiences, outdoor adventures, cooking projects, sensory play, fabulous books...okay, I really need to stop beating myself up. We have had a wonderfully engaging season! Here's to our adventures still to be had in the coming seasons - cheers!

Most Popular Post:

This one was pretty exciting for me as a blogger - it got more that 10,000 views in just over one day! As a mama and teacher who loves autumn and sensory play, it was a fantastic way to start off the series!

The Tot's Favorite Activity:

This was one seriously fun activity! The tot loves anything that gets her outdoors, and this one had her listening for many of her favorite sounds - cars, dogs, kids playing. We heard some unexpected sounds as well, which just added to the fun!

Mama's Favorite Activity:

It was really hard for me to pick just one activity from the series as my favorite, but if I'm forced to narrow it down to only one, this is definitely my pick. Once again, we were outdoors, so the tot was hooked and it was so fun for Hubs and I to watch her experience so many new things in one outing. Hunting for pumpkins is certainly the pinnacle of autumn experiences, and more than a month later, she's still talking about it.

I hope you were able to find some inspiration here along the way and remember...if you didn't get around to everything you wanted to do this year, there's always next autumn!

Friday, November 9, 2012

{Playing Through Autumn Day 30} Books We Love: Books to Be Thankful For

I am absolutely ecstatic about Thanksgiving! I have so many things in my life to be thankful for and each year I get so excited to see family and friends during the holiday season. This year I am particularly excited because the tot is now old enough to start understanding what Thanksgiving is all about. To help prepare her (and myself!) for all the joy that Thanksgiving has to offer, I rounded up some of our favorite Turkey Day reads - books to really be thankful for!

Over the River and Through the Wood
Written by Lydia Maria Child
Illustrated by Christopher Mason

A Plump and Perky Turkey
Written by Teresa Bateman
Illustrated by Jeff Shelly

One Little, Two Little, Three Little Pilgrims
Written by B.G. Hennessy
Illustrated by Lynne Cravath

'Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving
Written & Illustrated by Dav Pilkey

Thanks for Thanksgiving
Written by Julie Markes
Illustrated by Doris Barrette

Merrily Comes Our Harvest In: Poems for Thanksgiving
Selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins
Illustrated by Ben Shecter

Over the River: A Turkey's Tale
Adapted & Illustrated by Derek Anderson

Clifford's Thanksgiving Visit
Written & Illustrated by Norman Bridwell

Thursday, November 8, 2012

{Playing Through Autumn Day 29} Pumpkin Muffins

One of the best things about the autumn is all of the delicious pumpkin flavored treats you can find anywhere you go. We recently decided to add our very own kitchen to the list of locations and whipped up a tasty batch of pumpkin muffins!

First things first: aprons on!

This is a really simple recipe and easy to manage for those little helping hands. The tot had a blast plopping the pumpkin into the bowl and then mixing all of the ingredients (see bottom of post for the full recipe).

Our finished product tasted as good as it looked! Of course, the tot had the honor of getting the first bite - after all that hard work, who could say no?

Easy Pumpkin Muffins

1 1/2 c. sugar
1 c. oil
3 eggs
1 can pumpkin (15 oz)
1 1/2 c. flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla

Measure all ingredients in a big mixing bowl. Beat together well for 5 minutes. Pour into cupcake pans (fill more than 1/2 full). Bake at 400 degrees F for 20 minutes.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

{Playing Through Autumn Day 28} Cookie Cutter Bird Feeders

One of the hot topics associated with autumn in our house is the migration of all the local birds. The tot is absolutely fascinated by birds, and lately we've noticed that there haven't been as many around as usual. Try explaining to a toddler that her beloved feathered friends have taken a vacation south - she just can't understand why they would leave! There are a few birdies left in our neighborhood, and plenty of squirrels too, so we decided to put out some food  for the critters that remain, which made us all feel a lot better.

Cookie Cutter Bird Feeders

What You Need:
Toasted bread
Cookie cutters in various shapes (we went with autumn shapes, of course!)
Peanut butter (or soy nut butter)
Vegetable shortening
Bird Seed
Yarn or pipe cleaners

Toast bread. Use cookie cutters to cut out shapes in the toast. Poke a small hole at the top and string through with yarn or pipe cleaner. Smear the toast with peanut butter mixed with vegetable shortening (this keeps the peanut butter from sticking in the bird's gullet). Gently press the shapes into the bird seed. Hang outside for the birds to enjoy!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

May the Great Pumpkin find you this Halloween night!
Have a fun and safe Halloween!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

{Playing Through Autumn Day 27} Pumpkin Carving!

A couple of weekends ago, we made a trip to the pumpkin patch and finally over this past weekend we made good on our promise to the tot and carved the gorgeous pumpkin she had picked. I have to say, outside of the actual trip to the patch itself, this is the single most fun thing we've done all autumn. Just as I suspected, the tot brought her usual curiosity and enthusiasm to this project, and we all had a ton of fun as a result!

No sense in wasting any time! We promptly got the top off that pumpkin and went to work emptying the inside. The tot got the hang of that job in about two seconds flat!

Even Zephyr the Long Dog got in on the action! The tot did a great job scooping out the seeds with her hands, and even with a spoon. The pumpkin guts are a sensory lover's dream!

After the inside of the pumpkin was as clean as we were going to get it, I presented the tot with two options for her pumpkin's face. I wanted to give her a choice, while at the same time keeping things fun and not overwhelming her with too many choices.  Before I even showed her the two choices, I knew what she would pick - but what kind of mommy/early educator would I be if I didn't at least give her the option?

The tot declared she wanted a "Boo!" face on her pumpkin, so Mommy got to work drawing it on the pumpkin, and Daddy lent his mad carving skills to finish off our masterpiece.

When all was said and done, the tot squealed with delight...then promptly moved on to the next thing (which just so happened to be chasing the dog around the living room). I was impressed by how long she stayed engaged, and how much she talked (and is STILL talking) about our pumpkin carving adventure. We can't wait to do it again next year!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

{Playing Through Autumn Day 26} Painted Pumpkins

There are so many ways to play with pumpkins - rolling them, stacking them, carving them, of course! - but did you know there are also so many ways to get creative with them? We recently painted some miniature pumpkins and gourds with purple paint - it was a blast and I was excited to see where the tot would take things. As usual, she blew me away with her level of engagement. And very unusual for us, she didn't even make that big of a mess!

I actually didn't have any purple paint on hand, so I mixed together blue and red until I got a nice deep shade of purple. It was quick and easy and gave us a nice fall hue to glaze over the orange of the pumpkins.

The tot got right to work and loved every minute of it! Pretty soon she had those gourds covered in purple paint and we had a lovely addition to our autumn decor!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

{Playing Through Autumn Day 25} Leaf Collecting & Pressing

We're going on a leaf hunt! We're gonna find some yellow ones! And boy...did we ever! I have been looking forward to collecting leaves with the tot since last autumn, and this year we really hit the jackpot!

We headed out to our favorite park on a perfect, sunny fall day. I have to brag on my kid just a little bit - she is a pro at finding gorgeous fall leaves! Pretty soon our bag was filling right up!

Once our bag was filled to the brim, we headed home to check out our findings. We had quite the stash!

Next, we laid out a huge piece of contact paper, sticky side up, for pressing our leaves. 

Helpful hint: Determine how much contact paper you want and cut it from the roll. Then, fold it in half and only take the backing from one half of the paper. Tape down the whole thing and go to town with the leaves. When you're finished, remove the backing from the other side and fold it over. This makes it so much easier to line up, and it helps to ensure a good seal. 

We had collected so many leaves that we ended up doing two huge sheets of contact paper and having enough left over to get a nice little sensory basket going. The tot was so proud of her creation that she showed it off to anyone who would look. I thought it was so beautiful that I ended up hanging it up in the living room of our house, where it can properly be admired by all who come to call.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

{Playing Through Autumn Day 24} Indian Corn Prints

If you have read this blog even just a little bit, you've undoubtedly picked up on the fact that I adore doing art projects with toddlers - the messier the better! I also love incorporating unconventional tools into everyday art experiences, and luckily I have a kid who shares my enthusiasm. We recently had a blast painting with Indian corn - a little touch of autumn incorporated into an experience we have quite often. Needless to say, we made a huge mess - and had a ton of fun in the process!

I started off by hacking a large piece of decorative Indian corn into two pieces, which turned out to be a lot more difficult than I'd imagined. Duly noted for the next go around! Then I used those handy little corn holder thingies that you use for eating corn on the cob to create handles for L to hold onto while she was painting. Add some autumn colored paint to a pie tin and we were ready to rock and roll!

After a quick tutorial on dipping the corn and rolling it on the paper, L was set to go. It didn't take her long to figure out how to roll the corn across the paper, all the while telling me about the fact that the corn was now orange. Clever girl!

The girl has mad skills! The technique was so much easier with the corn handle thingies than in the past when I've tried to have students do it by holding onto the ends of the cob. It was very satisfying listening to the clunk of the corn and the splatter of the paint on the paper - a feast for the senses!

The finished masterpiece was absolutely gorgeous! And don't let the photos fool the time we were finished, L's shirt was completely covered in paint! I've never been one to let a little mess scare me away from an awesome art experience, which is a good thing, because the paint also seeped through her shirt and turned her belly orange and brown! How festive!

Are you incorporating seasonal items into your kiddo's play experiences? What have been some favorite activities?