Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Autumn in San Diego

Do you have any idea how much I am loving the fact that it's finally autumn?

Actually, what I'm really loving is the fact that it feels like fall.  For part of the day, anyway.  Cold nights (I actually have to close my window sometimes!), cool mornings, cloudy days, being able to keep things opened up until lunchtime... it's glorious!

It still doesn't look particularly autumnal around here though.  A few leaves have changed color, but most of the trees are still stubbornly green.

But that's not stopping us from going out and enjoying the weather!

Also, I am a total junkie for beautiful sunrises.

Even the zoo has been getting in on the glory of fall flavors!  Pumpkins everywhere!  And apples make good jack-o-lanterns too.

Residents of the insect house like celebrating Halloween!

After two and a half years of living here, I'm still not fully adjusted to the weather.  We haven't seen any real rain yet, which makes me sad, but there's something to be said for being able to go to the beach in November.

Happy autumn, everyone!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

12 Ways to Entertain a Toddler on a Rainy Day

Welcome to the November 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Indoor Play This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared ideas and inspiration to keep families happy and healthy while cooped up indoors.


Here in sunny San Diego, it's really not that often that cold weather keeps us indoors.  On the contrary, we are more likely to be stuck inside due to extreme heat than we are to winter weather!

But it's officially autumn now, and winter is a few short months away.  Not only that, but lately it's actually started to feel like fall.  It's been cold in the mornings (I actually had to find my bathrobe!), it stays cooler until lunchtime-ish on most days, and it's actually been so cold at night that I'm making my son sleep in socks and long pants and considering adding another blanket to my bed!  (Now if only Bug would sleep under a blanket too...)

We may not get a lot of rain here, but rainy days are coming.  And since I don't have a car most days, inclement weather may actually keep us housebound this year.  Strange thought, right?

But... but... how do you keep a toddler entertained on a rainy day?

A good question.  And for me, a rainy day honestly won't be that different from a non-rainy day, insofar as keeping Bug busy goes.  But since I want to shake things up a little sometimes, here's a fun list of ways we might be occupying ourselves on rainy days.

1.  Play outside anyway!
Because who cares if it's wet outside?  Bundle up in long pants, a warm jacket, a hat, and some rain boots and hit the streets (er... sidewalks) anyway.  It doesn't matter if you get a little damp if you're heading right back home where there's a warm shower and something hot to drink.  And who doesn't love splashing in puddles?

2.  Make homemade play dough.
Every kid loves play dough.  I love play dough, and I'm technically an adult.  We don't have play dough on hand often, mostly because, historically speaking, play dough time usually just turns into Bug asking me to make snakes and people and cats and whatnot.  Sometimes, this boy really overestimates my creative abilities.  But I digress.  Play dough is fun, but why buy it in the store when it's so easy to make at home?  Chances are you already have all the basic ingredients in your pantry right now: flour, salt, oil, cream of tartar, and food coloring (if you want to get fancy), plus water.  So go mix up a batch and have a go!

3.  Make a batch of salt dough.
If you've never heard of salt dough, it's basically like modeling clay made of salt, flour, and water.  It keeps for awhile in a tightly-covered container, or you can let it dry out (or stick it in a low-temp oven for a long time to hasten the process, or toss it in the microwave for a much shorter period of time) and then paint it or otherwise decorate it.  It's fun for making presents to send to grandparents, or for taking foot- or hand-print casts of your little ones. 

4.  Fun with potato stamps.
Got some potatoes?  Got some paint, or stamp ink pads that you don't mind potentially ruining?  Then make some potato stamps!  Simply cut a potato in half, dip the cut side in paint, and stamp on paper.  Think of oval-ish things that you can further decorate with markers.  Pumpkins?  Balloons?  Apples?  Or just have fun making polka dots all over the page.  If you really want to get fancy, you can try cutting designs into the cut side of the potato, but that's probably more work than you'll catch me doing!

5.  Or try finger painting!
If you don't have potatoes, why not just have fun with finger painting?  This might not be recommendable depending on your toddler's age, but if you think they'll stay in their seat for awhile (or acquiesce to being confined somewhere that is easier to clean, like the bathroom or the patio), then get out some (washable) paint and let them have at it.  Bonus mommy (or daddy) points if you get your fingers dirty too!

6.  Bake something.  Anything.
I don't know about you, but my son absolutely LOVES to help me in the kitchen.  As in, he gets the bowl out and demands flour and baking powder.  As in, he gets mad if he discovers that I've mixed up even a batch of pancake batter without his assistance.  And since a rainy day is complemented by a batch of warm cookies (or a loaf of pumpkin bread, or a cake, or a pie... take your pick), why not use this opportunity to let your toddler help you make something yummy?  What all they can actually do to help depends on their age and ability level; my son is currently 2 and 9 months, and he loves helping me measure ingredients (meaning, I measure them and he adds them to the bowl, or sometimes he holds the measuring spoon when I'm measuring liquid ingredients), mix them together, and dump them in the pan.  When I'm feeling adventurous, we wash his hands extra thoroughly and I'll let him help shape cookies.  But kitchen stuff is always a win with my Bug.

7.  Sing together!
My son loves to sing.  I have been singing to him ever since he was an infant, and now he sings with me!  Well, kind of.  But the point is, singing is always a fun activity in our home.  Sing nursery rhymes, lullabies, camp songs, Christmas carols, pop songs... whatever you happen to know will be fine.  Try making some song flash cards if you find yourself always wondering what to sing next.  Pick up some non-annoying children's music CDs from the library (I am a fan of everything Sandra Boynton has made!), or make a YouTube playlist of kids' songs that you can sing together.

8.  Send some mail to someone you love.

I can't send mail to anyone without Bug wanting to add his own personal touch with his crayons.  So why not make a card for Grandma & Grandpa (or other relatives or friends) just for the fun of decorating it?  Get out the crayons or markers, have fun with potato stamps, or get some regular rubber stamps.  Cut shapes out of construction paper and glue them on a card.  Add stickers if you want.  Help your toddler sign their name, then address it for them, add a stamp, and put it in your outgoing mail pile. 

9.  Take a bath.
What?  Did you think this was going to be all about creative things to do?  Bug loves bathtime (...sometimes...), so sometimes a bubble bath with all his favorite toys (or some new ones) is just the ticket for staying busy for an hour or so.

10.  Make popcorn.
On the same note as the "bake something" idea above, why not make some old fashioned popcorn on the stove?  Admittedly, a toddler can't really help all that much with the actual "making" part.  My son helps me measure out the kernels.  The way I make it involves removing the pot from the heat for 30 seconds immediately after adding the kernels, and Bug enjoys trying to count along with me.  Where they can really get in on the action is with adding seasonings to the cooked popcorn.  Salt?  Parmesan cheese?  Nutritional yeast?  Curry powder?  Let your own tastes dictate your choices... and probably pre-measure those ingredients before you let your toddler add them.

11.  Clean the house.
Put your toddler to work!  No, seriously.  Toddlers love to help, so why not find some appropriate tasks for them to work at while you get some real cleaning done?  My son loves to help with sweeping, wiping down counters (we use homemade cleaners for this), and folding laundry.  He'll help me put his toys away (I try to take periodic breaks during the day to clean up a little, otherwise our living room would constantly be a disaster area), and he likes to feed the cat (which isn't housework, but still something that needs to be done every day).  Find ways to nurture your toddler's desire to help, and maybe when they're teenagers they won't complain as much about having to do chores.  (Maybe?  That's what I keep telling myself, anyway.)

12.  Make a rainy day box.
Okay, so this is not something you can do spur-of-the-moment, but it's worth thinking about and preparing for before those rainy days actually hit.  If your toddler really does start to get cabin fever, a good solution is to bring out something new.  To that end, I'm slowly putting together a "rainy day box" with some brand new craft supplies.  It'll be like my secret weapon, ready to pull out when we simply can't leave the house but have exhausted all other ideas.  Here are some of my ideas for what to go in it:  new crayons/markers/drawing supplies (because new always trumps older, used ones), a fresh drawing pad, small rubber stamp kits, pipe cleaners, straws, empty toilet paper or paper towel tubes... It's a work in progress, so I'm sure the contents will change with trial and error and as my son grows, but I'm hoping it'll help stave off the worst of the rainy day restlessness.


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting! Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

Thursday, November 6, 2014

On Kindred Spirits

Welcome To the The Mother magazine's Blog Carnival: "Friendship and Connection" The Mother magazine is a holistic, natural mothering publication. It is with great pleasure that we share this topic with such a talented group of bloggers. You will find links to the each of the other posts at the end of this one. We hope you enjoy them! 

At times, I envy the ease with which my toddler makes friends.

When we are at the park, now that we're (mostly) past the how-dare-you-play-on-MY-slide phase, making friends is generally as simple as "I'm small; you're small; let's play!"  And off Bug goes with whatever other little kid happens to be there that day, while I look on wistfully.

Best buddies.  (For real, actually.)

As an adult, I find that making friends is actually pretty hard.  I like to think that I'm a nice, likeable person.  And it's not that hard to find people to socialize with.  The mother of that child at the park, for example.  There's always basic conversation about their child's name, age, siblings.  If the other child is young, I might ask about the birth, or whether they're breastfeeding.

And yet, the conversation rarely goes much farther than that.  Seeking out new people in other contexts is usually the same.  Whether you find people on sites like Meetup.com, meet them in a group class of some sort, or even stumble across them serendipitously at Starbucks, it's hard to find people you really click with.  You can usually tell a kindred spirit when you meet one, but meeting one in the first place seems so rare.

I think that one of my biggest problems is that I overthink friendship.  When you're young, it's easy to find some simple similarity and run with it.  We live in the same apartment complex.  Or we have English class together.  Or even we both like cats.  But as an adult, we think much more deeply about the people we associate with.  And I think being a mother makes it even worse at times.

Sure, we both have preschool-age children is an okay starting point.  But how does she parent that child?  And how is her parenting style similar to mine?  Did she breastfeed, or did she go straight to formula?  How does she handle discipline?  Does/did she use cloth diapers?  How does she intend to school her child?

And more importantly, will she still like me if I do things differently?  You can laugh all you like, but I find that as an adult we all care much more than we like to admit about what others think of our actions.  Kids fight and make up easily, but adults don't always handle differences of opinion so well.  If you're outright against spanking your child, another mother who uses physical punishments on occasion might not want to be your friend.  If you're still breastfeeding your two-year-old, another mother who weaned promptly at six months might think you are more than a bit weird.  If you would never even dream of taking your child to McDonald's, another mother might think you are some stuck-up health nut.

These scenarios can go either way, of course; you may be just as uncomfortable by the way she parents as she is by you.  And the end result of any situation like that is usually that the other mother ends up cancelling playdates at the last minute, or declines your invitation outright.  You may see each other in other social situations, but future conversations are awkward or stilted.  Eventually the friendship fades away completely, and you delete her number from your cell phone.

Still, I keep on trying.  Because you know what?  Sometimes you have to go through a lot of acquaintances before you find a true kindred spirit.  It's hard to find good friends, people you can truly connect with - as Anne of Green Gables would say, people who are "of the race of Joseph" - but it's worth it.


Thank you for visiting The Mother magazine blog carnival, read further and enjoy the other fantastic bloggers!


Hope in the Heartache, Light in the Darkness

"A child heats your lap with a fever that rages fire. Your chest heaves, holding an unimaginable weariness like a weight pinning you to the floor. Tears threaten at your lashes. In this moment you want to cry out; for help, for understanding..." Follow Starr and The Mother magazineFacebookTwitter

The Mama Club

"The internal battle between the nurturing unconditional Mama and the pregnant woman who watches pandemonium unfold from outside of her own body is already raging at this early morning hour. I can feel myself unraveling. I know I am going to yell. I know I have to contain myself. Pull it together. Breathe. Get the Coffee in the Cup. Try to Connect."
Follow Kati from THE BEST THINGSFacebookTwitter

The Dream Friendship

"For me a true friendship is built on honesty, love, trust and belief in each other. When you have a friend with this kind of connection life is so much easier, especially the journey of motherhood." Follow Vicky from MOTHERING A DREAM •••

Twins and Friendship

"After I had my twins and the weeks turned into months I began to feel afraid the words may ring true. I began to feel estranged from my old self, as if she had died but I had just then realized it. I felt as if I were imprisoned in my own home..." Follow Miranda from Twinning ItFacebookTwitter •••

The Red Thread

"I feel blessed by the integrity of those women who I call friends, and am deeply thankful for the bonds that knit our lives together, even when we’re separated by long distances and busy lives. We connect at a heart level." Follow Veronika Sophia RobinsonFacebookTwitter •••

On Kindred Spirits

"At times, I envy the ease with which my toddler makes friends. When we are at the park, now that we're (mostly) past the how-dare-you-play-on-MY-slide phase, making friends is generally as simple as "I'm small; you're small; let's play!" And off Bug goes with whatever other little kid happens to be there that day, while I look on wistfully."

Follow Holly from Leaves of Lavender


Where Moms Make Friends in the Digital Age

"Before the Internet, moms met each other at Mothers’ Centers, when they dropped off and picked up their kids from nursery school, at child birth classes, in their neighborhood where moms used to knock on each others’ doors for tea and a chat, and at work"

Follow Laurie Hollman, PhDFacebookTwitter