Friday, December 30, 2011

Half-finished Projects

Advent Calendar 2011
Sometimes I just can't follow through.  I have many half-finished projects to attest to this fact.  Though it's much more fun to write about and feature the stuff that I do accomplish, it's definitely more realistic to let you in on (at least a few) of the things that don't get done.  I mentioned here in late November that I was using Pinterest to inspire my Advent Calendar for Beansprout this year.  It looks great!  I used old socks of Beansprout's and filled in with a few socks bought at thrift shops, the dollar store, and Superstore.  I printed pictures to represent  the activities we would do each day, cut small pieces of scrapbook paper, added a number sticker, and stuck them into each of the 24 socks.

Counting Down 2011

Little Stocking All in a Row
Oh, how I had big ideas!  I thought I'd take a picture of each activity we did and feature them weekly to show all that we'd been up to in December.  Big ideas.  The truth is, we probably only did 3/4 of the activities and somehow the recording and posting of the activities dwindled out of sight.  I guess it's a lesson learned?  I now realize that a mixture of small gifts and activities would probably suit us better.  Luckily, Beansprout is really just too young to actually grasp the concept of counting down everyday, and so this year the Advent Calendar was more for me.  I also realize that prioritizing "me" time is difficult.  When things get busy and hectic, photographing and blogging are the to-dos that get cut.  To look on the bright side, I guess I have some built-in resolutions for the New Year!

Thanks for reading!  I love your comments and would love to hear how do you handle finding "me" time.  Also, are you able to balance the big ideas with realistic follow-through?  Share your secrets!

Wishing you love and joy as you ring in the new year!  All the best in 2012!!!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Thoughtful Thursday

Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home. 
                                                                                                        ~Edith Sitwell

Thomas the Train Christmas Tree!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Thoughtful Thursday

A little perspective, like a little humor, goes a long way.
                                                                      -- Allen Klein
Children's Hospital Allergy Clinic 2011

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Talking about Santa

Picture with Santa 2009

Our Beansprout has really been interested in the Santa aspect of Christmas this year. Since he was born, I've been wondering how we'll approach this topic with him.  Luckily, I have the examples of others to take in as we continue to work out the what and why of who Santa is.  My favorite post is actually a mom's letter to her little girl, who wants to know the truth about Santa; it's a real heartbreaker and definitely worth the read!  I've also read some really great blog posts about how different people describe Santa, and I especially like this one and this one from Not Just Cute.  At this point with Beansprout, I've sort of let the books we read do the explaining - it's easy now because he doesn't ask a lot of questions.  I love hearing how he sorts it all out through his limited language and have to share our most recent conversation:

Beansprout: I go to North Pole.
Me: That's right, what that actually means is that you're going to have your picture taken with Santa.  Do you want to sit on his lap?
Beansprout: I talk Santa.
Me: You can talk to Santa when you're on his lap.  You know, you could tell him what you want for Christmas.  *long pause*  What might you tell Santa you want for Christmas, Beansprout?
Beansprout: Ba-bars.  (snack bars)

We've been talking about Santa, but Beansprout has yet to sit on Santa's lap this year.  I've been trying to prep him and show him pictures from previous years, because I really think this is the year he'll boycott Santa when it actually comes to getting the picture taken.  I had made "Visit Santa" an activity in our Advent Calendar, but that's another story I will have to share soon.

Is anyone else astounded at the fact that Christmas is one week away?!?  I would love to hear your stories about Santa!  How did you find out the truth?  What are your thoughts on Santa now that you're an adult?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Thoughtful Thursday

Christmas Cookie Baking

How did it get so late so soon?  It's night before it's afternoon.  December is here before it's June.  My goodness how the time as flewn.  How did it get so late so soon?
                                                                                                                     --Dr. Seuss

Monday, December 5, 2011

Advent Calendar Traditions

Advent Calendar 2011

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was working on a Pinterest-inspired Advent calendar!  It is (finally) complete, albeit a few days late.  I hope you'll come back for a weekly post showing all that my little Beansprout did to countdown and prepare for Christmas!

Counting down the days 'til Christmas is such a wonderful tradition.  I can remember having the paper link chains and my fair share of the chocolate window variety, but it was my year studying in Germany many years ago that opened my eyes to a whole new way of approaching the Advent calendar.  My "German Mom" sent me a fabric calendar with 24 little gifts affixed to round red rings.  I was in heaven.  I learned what Raffaelo candies were, gave walnut cracking a try, and learned that sometimes the simplest gift can make your day.  A new tradition was born.

Upon returning home, I began to gift one to a family member or friend every year.  It was so much fun thinking of little gifts that would fit and to imagine the delight of the person who got a nice treat throughout most of December.  In recent years, I have only had the energy to create them for our niece and nephews, and as more nephews came, I decided I had to have an age limit.  This year the two youngest of the group get to keep the tradition going.  I pulled out the flat rate shipping box, the Santa treat bags, and some tissue paper, wrapped everything up and sent them off via USPS.  I hope the little guys are enjoying the socks, Christmas crafts, stickers, and books that will help them count down!

Do you have any Advent Calendar traditions?  Do you remember counting down until the big day as a kid?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Thoughtful Thursday

The Little Blue Truck
"Now I see a lot depends on a helping hand from a few good friends."
              -- The Dump, in The Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


I know it's the season for making a list and checking it twice, but I happen to be in the habit of making lists all the time.  Especially when I'm feeling stressed and/or slightly out of control of my life, I make a list.  Or two.  Or three.  I love lists!  I make them to organize life-goals, to make a plan for shopping, to write down all my wishes, and to remember whatever it is that I need to remember.  I guess that's how it works for me - I write it down so I that I don't forget.  Of course, I often find I've left the list or lost it altogether; but for me, the act of writing something down usually helps me recall what I need.

The lists pictured above are definitely the trying-to-gain-control kind.  You can tell by the scratchy writing and the crazy cross-outs and circles.  The bottom of one of these lists actually says, "Aaaaaah!"  Stress.  And now that I've shared these "crazy" lists, my mother will be disowning me.  Her lists are perfect.  She has just the right notepad, just the right pen, and gorgeous script!  Oh, and I think she re-writes them when she makes a mistake.  Maybe she won't notice.

How do you deal with stress?  Are you a list maker?  I'd love to hear about what you list!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thoughtful Thursday!

I can no other answer make, but thanks, and thanks.
                                                     -William Shakespeare


Wishing all of our American family and friends a lovely Thanksgiving!  We will be thinking of you and counting our blessings.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

"Me DRIVE!" Letting kids do dangerous things.

At the wheel.

We have a new driver in our house!  He's a bit short, can't quite touch the pedals, but he "drives" almost everyday.  It's hilarious to watch him.  He gets into the driver's seat, puts on his daddy's sunglasses, turns the wheel back and forth, and pushes any buttons he can find.  We figure this game will have to stop once he finds the horn!  Though he's not anywhere near moving the gear shift and Matt assures me that cars have to have the brake engaged in order to put a car in gear, I admit that I feel like a bad parent for letting him do this.  Beansprout's utter delight in "driving" and then "coming home" (through the back hatch of the car) make me put my worries aside.  The role-playing of him telling us he's home is priceless.  It's amazing how much they want to do all the things that we do when they're young, and believe me, I realize this is only the beginning.

Do you remember doing things just like your parents as a kid?  Did you get to "drive"?  I've heard that it's one of five dangerous things you should allow your kids to do!  Here's Gever Tulley's quick video about it on TED talks.  Do you agree with his list?  Anything you'd add?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Pinterest Inspired Advent calendar

I've mentioned before how much I love Pinterest!  The trouble is, I collect a lot of ideas, yet rarely do anything with them.  So in the spirit of the Pinterest Challenge Sherry from Young House Love started with her friend, I've decided to create my own diy goals inspired by this wonderful website!  

First up?  The Advent calendar.  After receiving the best Advent calendar in the world from my "German Mom", I have been creating Advent calendars for family members for years now, actually for over 15 years!  More on that soon . . .  Now that Beansprout is old enough, I want to start the tradition for him.  And though I'm holding to my pledge to avoid decorating for Christmas too soon, with December 1st fast approaching, I need to have a plan.  

There are a ton of creative ideas out there, but I've decided on a combination of the following:  


An activity for every day of Advent.

I can't resist the baby sock Advent calendar, and love the fact that I really would have to stick to buying a small gift that could fit inside the little socks.  However, I have read over and over again that it is the experiences of life that bring us happiness, so the idea of creating a special activity for the first 24 days of December sounds lovely!

It's taken me this long to come up with a plan, because I've felt slightly paralyzed by the fact that I want this to be a tradition for Beansprout.  Once I finally let go of that and realized that I can change the what of the Advent calendar anytime, I was ready to embrace my idea for this year.  By December 1st, I'll have a row of 24 baby socks filled with an activity for the day hanging just out of Beansprout's height.  I can't wait to show you how it looks!!!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Holding on to Fall

This time of year is challenging.  I seem to breeze through October thinking everything is going well, but with the drastic change of light and weather, November hits me like a semi.  I'm tempted to jump into decorating for Christmas, to keep my spirits up, but can't help feeling it's just TOO soon!  So with the sun peeking out in the late afternoon a few days ago, Beansprout and I enjoyed a walk/bike ride with the iPhone in hand.  My goal was to capture all that I want to hold on to of Fall.  I will have to keep returning to this picture for the remainder of the month, because today, three leaf bags stand ready for pick-up.  Amazing how quickly things can change in two days.  Hope you can savor these last few weeks of fall, what do you do to avoid the early holiday pressures?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Thoughtful Thursday

Watching giraffes - Detroit Zoo 2011

"The soul is healed by being with children."
                                     --English Proverb

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Encouraging the Cautious Daredevil

It all started with peek-a-boo around the ladder.

As I kid, I never felt fearful of trying new things and pushing myself physically.  I swam in waters deep at a very young age, loved climbing trees, and took on new challenges without hesitation.  To be honest, I never even thought much about it until I was faced with a wave runner.  I was in college when a friend invited me to try one out.  Getting on the machine wasn't hard, but I found myself quite afraid of trying the flip-arounds some riders do so well.  At the time, I was extremely frustrated with myself for not having the confidence to keep trying it, for being afraid.  Later, I realized that it was often the encouraging voice of my dad that allowed me to feel it was safe to try new things as a kid.  I guess I had a trust that if he thought I could do it, I could.

Luckily, Beansprout is no daredevil - not by any stretch of the imagination, really.  For this I am truly grateful.  That being said, he is a cautious explorer, meaning he does indeed push himself to do the usual things kids need to do to help them develop.  This has left me in the conundrum all parents must I'm sure face - allowing him to do things that make me cringe because of my fear he'll get hurt.  Naturally, I know it's necessary and par for the course, but still, I cringe.

"So tall!"

Before I continue, I have to admit that in the spring I feared he wasn't challenging himself physically -- you know, developing those gross motor skills he needs.  I needn't have worried it seems.  We have a ladder in our home, leading to a cozy little loft space above our bedroom which with a little work could be the perfect kid's hide-away for our Beansprout.  Though I'm not quite ready for him to have his own secret loft space yet, I am trying to be that encouraging voice telling him he can do it.  I am accepting the gray hairs I can see growing right before my eyes as he heads (quite safely, I must say) up the ladder "two times".

How many gray hairs did you give your parents as a kid?  How would you handle encouraging cautious exploration of somewhat dangerous endeavors?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Saline and tissues

First cold of the season!
Beansprout's first cold of the season makes me remember:

#1) how I take for granted our cold-free summers
#2) how helpless I feel when he's ill, as there's really nothing I can do to help him
#3) how everyone wants their mom when they're sick

Though I'm cursing the germs, I'm relishing the extra snuggles Beansprout has for me and giving thanks for our overall good health.

Has cold and flu season visited you yet?  Do you have any special routines when family members in your home are sick?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Thoughtful Thursday

Getting the hang of posing for pictures!

"Enjoy the little things for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things."
                                                               ---Robert Brault

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Pieces of Home

The bright colored leaves of Fall are making me homesick.  I guess it happens this time of year . . . even before moving away, I would usually get quite nostalgic with the change of the season.  The fall colors are a point of pride for Michigan, where you may even take a weekend trip away to see them at their peak.  British Columbia is one of the most beautiful places on earth, yet though I have admired the bursts of color here and there, it can't compare to the trees at home.  Of course, it's not really about the leaves.  I miss home.  To help me feel better, I've continued to add little reminders of "home" to my new home.  I started with a small collection of Pewabic Pottery from our first home together and received Woodward Avenue Brewery glasses as a gift to remind us of our second house (we tend to move a lot!)  These are all proudly displayed in what is now the playroom, until I figure out where they can be relocated.  It doesn't end there --- on my last two trips home I've felt almost a tourist, buying a Starbuck's mug of the Detroit skyline and most recently a Detroit Tigers t-shirt (in the airport!)  To take it a step further, I've postered University of Michigan all over a corner of my classroom!  This is my way of dealing with living thousands of miles away from family and friends - though they are just objects, the memories they represent comfort me.

Do you display, collect, or wear reminders of where you're from?  How do you handle homesickness? 

Monday, October 31, 2011

31 Days of Play! Halloween Fun!

I hope you have all had a Happy Halloween!  Having a little one around makes Halloween so enjoyable again!  I find my play is in the preparation of things -- like at Christmas time, I really have fun with all that goes into making the big day special.  The last time I remember making a big deal about Halloween was in college when my best friend would create prize-winning costumes for the parties she attended.  Needless to say, I've had a blast this year!  Creating Cupcake Party Kits to send home to my nephews, working on Beansprout's costume with my mother-in-law, carving pumpkins, and even just perusing all of the fantastic Halloween ideas on the internet have made it a great month of play for me.

Getting ready for the big night!

I have to admit I'm focusing on my play, because at this point we're just sort of laying the groundwork for Beansprout, helping him get the hang of it.  Though we've been reading books about Halloween and its traditions to bridge the gap, he's not quite at the fully embracing point.  We had to coax him away from his trains to get him to go door-to-door this evening.  Of course, he had a blast at his Halloween parties -- he enjoyed getting special treats, we wondered together what other costumes we'd see, and he loved his costume so much that he wore his hat all day!  I realize even the days where he will be the one so excited for trick o' treating will be far too few, so I am holding these moments dear and not wishing the time away.

I have had a wonderful month reflecting on play.  If you've missed any of my other posts, I hope you'll check them out here! Huge thanks to The Nester for inspiring me to try this challenge!  I also want to send a big thank you to everyone who has made comments, whether on the blog, on Facebook, or in person, your encouragement has really impacted me this month.  I may just have to try another themed month as I continue to get the knack for this!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

31 Days of Play! Songs

I talked about my love of playing music with Beansprout in this post, one of my first about play this month, but can't help but write about it again.  I've been reminded a few times this month how songs have really helped Beansprout in one way or another.  Of course, singing lullabies was a huge part of his babyhood - I learned as many as I possibly could as I'd do anything to help get him to sleep at that time.  Yet, music also came in handy as a distraction when he had to go in for numerous tests as a baby -- I was able to help him stay calm and relaxed by singing some of our favorite Mothergoose songs.  For his first year of life I attended a weekly Mothergoose program with him - if you have a young one, I highly recommend even one session of this program!  The program helps you remember songs you knew growing up and teaches you many more that you can stockpile for just the right moment.  We've been able to encourage him to brush his teeth and get his hair rinsed with songs and I know we've learned a getting dressed song, too.  My friend, Lorraine, and I used to joke that we had a song for everything - much to the annoyance of those around us, I'm sure!

Marching with the Dinosaurs
What I really appreciate is the fact that songs have not only soothed my little guy in many situations, but they've also helped him make connections in his world.  We recently visited the dinosaur exhibit at Science World and he fell in love with them!  We thought he might be afraid of the sounds and the lights and the size of the creatures, yet he wanted to go around and around to see them numerous times.  I half think that it's due to the fact that as soon as we entered the exhibit I started singing, "We are the Dinosaurs", from The Laurie Berkner Band.  Instead of being afraid, this was a signal to Beansprout that it was connected to play!  Whenever he sees or talks about dinosaurs now he always mentions their marching, a key part of the chorus, so it was easy to "march" him around the exhibit to help him take it all in at first.

I love when Beansprout is working to make connections, but songs have also helped avoid major meltdowns (for all of us) when the car ride has become too much for him.  Snacktime from Barenaked Ladies has been a favorite - one of those kids' albums that doesn't make you want to stick a knife in your head after listening to it.  He enjoys participating in "Popcorn" and likes to chime in with his favorite snack on the title track of the album.  The songs are really enjoyable, as many of them have playful lyrics that appeal to adults - lyrics that go over the heads of the young ones, I'm sure.  (Besides, who can resist all the famous Canadians featured on the "Snacktime" song!?!)

I'm always on the look-out for music that will appeal to both me and Beansprout.  Do you have any favorite albums for kids that you love?  Can you still remember those from your childhood?  How have songs helped you or your children?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

31 Days of Play! Playing with Pumpkins

As the end of October nears I'm sure it's no surprise that one of my last posts involves pumpkins!  I have had a lot of fun thinking about play this month -- play for my little Beansprout, play for me, and the play of my childhood.  (If you haven't already, please check out my other posts about play here!) Pumpkin carving always floods my brain with childhood memories of our annual October tradition - burning the pumpkin seeds!  Yes, that's right - we burned them.  Every. Time.  Mostly out of impatience, I think.  The thing is, it never mattered then - we claimed we LIKED blackened pumpkins seed and enjoyed them anyway - the important thing was we were hanging out as a family.  Though I don't feel I have any concrete memories of those times, I do remember it was always a lot of fun for us and I can almost hear my dad's laughter as I think about it.  I guess that's the thing with memories -- they sometimes become fuzzy pictures, but the emotion of the moment is strong and clear.

Pumpkins 2011

Now, I begin my annual play with pumpkins with our little guy.  It's the perfect play for any age - the sensory play of scooping out the pumpkin slime and the artistic play of creating a jack-o-lantern make a lovely combination.  I find myself digging right in!  Knowing that his dad hates anything sticky, I had to laugh as Beansprout initially hesitated to help me clean out the pumpkin.  I think he realized it was a bit of sensory overload for him at the start.  After watching me for a few minutes, he did come around to helping sort the pumpkin seeds from the slime and took his job pretty seriously.  And though he eventually bored of the carving, he was still active in the process as he pushed his cars and trucks around and IN the pumpkins.  I'm always looking for a new slant on pumpkin carving, so we tried our hand at cookie cutter pumpkins this year, as seen on Modern Parents Messy Kids.  I liked the idea that Beansprout would be able to help in the "carving" process.  Unfortunately for us, plastic cookie cutters really didn't do the trick, but we managed to finish our trains-and-cars-themed pumpkin anyway.  I'm happy to say we're off to a great start continuing the fun of creating jack-o-lanterns!

And this year . . . Matt was in charge of the pumpkin seeds!

Friday, October 28, 2011

31 Days of Play! Free expression

Play is the highest form of expression of human development in childhood, 
for it alone is the free expression of what is in a child's soul.  
                                                                      --Friedrich Foebel 

I'm writing about play for 31 days in a challenge to tackle one topic for the entire month!  You can check out my other posts about play here and check out other bloggers doing the same here!  Thanks for reading.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

31 Days of Play! Un-Toys

At sea

I've often heard parents lament the fact that they've spent hundreds of dollars on Christmas presents only to see the kids playing with the wrapping.  It's pretty amazing, though, what kids can come up with when they let their imaginations go.  At two, my little guy has only just started some of the imaginative stuff with "toys".  Beansprout has been using an arched block as a phone as long as I can remember, but most of his pretending involves re-enacting the world he sees everyday.  Yet, with all of the toys he has, I'm happy to see that he finds our Honeycrisp box from Costco the perfect BOAT!  He's been known to have breakfast, snacktime, sing his own version of "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" all while sitting in his boat.  The perfect "un-toy"!  I'm looking forward to more and more play that involves new uses for everyday things.

What are your thoughts on "un-toys"?  Any favorites from your childhood?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

31 Days of Play! Mischievous Play

When things get a little too quiet I know that my little Beansprout is up to something . . . This morning, in the middle of washing my hair, that feeling came over me, and as I peaked out of the shower, I found him squeezing his toothpaste into the sink!  I'll pause here to say how I love that he realizes he's doing something mischievous --  I know this because though he protests when I tell him he needs to hand over the toothpaste, the protest is half-hearted.  Though I now realize why we seem to have run out of two tubes already, I have to laugh at the experimentation of this play!  I figure this might be how it goes in his head . . .

         #1) get more toothpaste (it tastes so good!)
         #2) oh!  can I squeeze the paste out myself?
         #3) I CAN squeeze it out myself - let's squeeze some in the sink
         #4) Well, I can't see it in the sink, but if I reach my hand over, I can FEEL it.
         #5) Yum!

Of course, I am extremely grossed out by the fact that he's eating toothpaste out of the bathroom sink!  Such is the mischief of a two-year old!

I'm writing about play for 31 days!  You can check out an explanation of the challenge here, where you'll find my other posts, too!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

31 Days of Play! Artistic Play

A person might be able to play without being creative, 
but he sure can't be creative without playing.
                                                  -- Kurt Hanks

I can hardly resist those chubby little boy hands grasping the marker!  *CHOMP*  Here's hoping we offer him all the right opportunities for play AND creativity . . .

Only 6 more days of posts about play!  Please check out my others posts here; I've been writing about play all month in a challenge to write about one topic for 31 days.  I've really enjoyed writing every day!  May have to pick a new topic for November???

Monday, October 24, 2011

31 Days of Play! Electronic Devices

Beansprout at computer

I am constantly on my computer or iPhone.  I'm one of those people they talk about - you know, the ones who can't live without their electronic devices!?! Until this weekend,  I guess I hadn't realized how much a part of my PLAY they are!  We pretty much lost any sign of a good internet connection for more than a day and I hardly knew what to do with myself!!!  As much as I do actually work on my computer, I also use it to download movies, read others' blogs, Goggle chat, catch up on Facebook updates, and (geek alert!) have even been known to watch a few TEDtalks on a Friday night.  

With our internet deciding it needed a rest, this weekend was completely different - I spent the evening playing with Beansprout's scrapbook project that I've been putting off for who-knows-how-many-months!  I can't say that I loved it . . . when the electricity goes out I often get a sweet feeling of playing 19th-century for the night, and embrace the situation, but this time I found myself quite irritated by the fact that each time I thought of something I wanted to do, it had to do with using the internet!  I have grown completely dependent on these electronics and the thing is, I'm pretty ok with it.  That being said, having gotten quite a bit done on the scrapbooking project, I realize I may need to unplug myself a little more often.  

What are your thoughts on using electronic devices for play?  Do you take time to unplug?  What does unplugging look like for you?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

31 Days of Play! Preparing to Play

Sneak-peek at Beansprout's Halloween Costume

We are quickly approaching one of the biggest days of play! I've heard that Halloween is the second most favorite holiday next to Christmas. This comes as no surprise, I guess, as kids AND adults get to don their play hats. In preparation for the big night of trick-or-treating next week, I had a little playtime of my own! My mother-in-law helped me put together Beansprout's FIRST homemade costume! I've always wanted to make a costume for him and the simplicity of this year's plan gave me the confidence to finally forge ahead. Not owning a sewing machine, I figured handmade costumes were out and I have to say that the affordability of really cute costumes from retail stores makes the decision to diy rather difficult -- I'm sure it's cheaper sometimes to go ahead and buy one!! This year I've been able to use things we already had, only purchasing two pieces of felt and some buttons. Not a bad deal!

Next up, pumpkin carving!!!!  Are you preparing for the 31st?  What do you do for Halloween? Do you enjoy its playful nature? Do you dress up?

I can't wait for the big reveal of Beansprout's costume! Stay tuned . . .

Not long to go in my 31 Days of Play writing challenge!  I've really enjoyed the conversations - hope you'll come back and that you'll check out my previous posts on the topic here, if you haven't already!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

31 Days of Play! Thought for the Day

"You can learn more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation"

Friday, October 21, 2011

31 Days of Play! The Balance Bike

Resting on the beach.

I mentioned yesterday that we spend a lot of time outdoors with Beansprout's balance bike.  It's amazing!  The idea is that kids start out learning how to balance and how to control the steering of a bike.  This is the most difficult part of learning to ride a bike, and once they've mastered it without pedals, the transition is far easier than moving from training wheel assistance to just two wheels.  Beansprout loves it!  He often requests going out for a bike ride and while riding has been known to say, "vroom, vroom".  I enjoy seeing people's faces when they see little Beansprout "vrooming vrooming" on his little bike.  I actually had one woman stop us dead in our tracks to say, "Is he really riding a bike!?!  Isn't he only about two?"  Indeed, he's only twoand he is moving so fast that Matt and I have to race him, we actually RUN, to intersections so he doesn't surprise any drivers!  I feel he's in the making of a BMX rider the way he creates obstacle courses for himself: glide on the pavement, over the gravel, around the parking blocks, and back again.  It's play AND learning at it's best!

Strider with lights at night!

Don't get me wrong, our guy didn't jump on the bike and start racing around!  This is a boy who didn't walk until 15 months, so our hopes of having him on the bike at 18 months were probably reaching a little high!  When he was ready, though, we had him ride on it in the house for months.  We let him get used to mostly walking around with it, and once we took him outside we could almost see his synapses connecting faster and faster right in front of our eyes - a bit clumsy one day and full speed ahead the next!  Today he looks like the kids in the promo videos, as he coasts along with his feet up!

Writing about play has been such a treat this month!  Check out my other 31 Days of Play and an explanation of the challenge here.

edited 12/25/11

Thursday, October 20, 2011

31 Days of Play! In or Out?

Beansprout in the only snow last year.
I don't know why, but I clearly remember hearing the words "in or out!?!" a lot as a child.  Most likely said with exasperation by parents and caregivers annoyed with younger ones running in and out of the house letting the door slam each time.  I think the choice was usually "out"!  Most of my memories of playing are definitely of being outside with the neighborhood kids - hide-and-seek games at dusk, games of softball on the side of the house, and tons of bike-riding, which often  involved some racing no-handed down our hill to see who could get the furthest!  (I still have a scar to tell the tale.)  We keep hearing that children need to get outside more, which makes me feel for all parents because I think things have changed tremendously in the last 30 years.  Kids don't just go outside and play in the neighborhood anymore - parents are around and things are usually organized.

On his Strider.

As Beansprout becomes more and more active, the words of my best friend keep ringing in my ears, "We have to get outside and do something every day!"  Her guy is two years older than Beansprout, so I'm now facing the energy she's alluding to.  Throughout the summer it hasn't been a problem - quick trips to the park or even an easy walk around the neighborhood with Beansprout on his balance bike have made it easy to get out and be active.  However, I am beginning to realize I'm facing a whole new world of play as the end of Fall approaches - if we want to go outside, it will take a lot more effort and will not always be as comfortable (for me!) as it is indoors.  Rain gear will be an everyday necessity for certain.  And that makes us lucky!  If we lived in the Midwest, it would be SNOW gear.  To prepare, I've purchased my raincoat with a hood and have my rain boots at the ready.

Nature Scavenger Hunt in the yard.

The trouble for me is getting my head in the right space to take on the weather and get outdoors rain or shine or snow.  I have such fond memories of building snow forts and playing for hours in the snow at the Baldwin's after school and during winter break.  (This was our second home as kids!)  We'd come in with rosy red cheeks and wet gloves, to find hot chocolate waiting for us.  I guess I've lost some of that adventuresome spirit; I seem to prefer the let's-stay-inside-and-be-cozy-with-a-cup-of-tea side to winter.  Not something Beansprout will enjoy, I don't think.

For now, I'll embrace all the days of sunshine I can.  Hopefully you'll think of me as November brings the rains and send me some playful thoughts of splashing in the puddles and "singin' in the rain"!

I've joined a challenge to write about something for 31 days!  Hope you'll stop by again tomorrow - I'll be going on and on about how much we love the Strider balance bike!  You can also read about the challenge and check out my other posts on play here.  Thanks for reading and for leaving comments -- I love making connections with you.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

31 Days of Play! The Playroom, Part 2

I feel so blessed to have the space that allows me to dedicate a room for Beansprout! Here are the TOP 10 things I love about the playroom in no particular order:

Playroom from the stairs.

#1: There is so much natural light! Though it's the lowest level of the house, I never actually call it the basement because it looks nothing like the basements of the Midwest.

Dress-up station.

#2: We have another space to go to, making it feel like a change of scenery! This comes in handy on the dreary rainy days we get here in the Pacific Northwest.

#3: The space is large enough for movement! I have been known to fly around all of the furniture in the room pushing Beansprout in his wagon.  I'm sure it will be useful for him to be able to run around and blow off energy this winter.

Reading chair.


#4: Family and Friends contributed!  It's nice to have the extra touches that come from family and friends.  Grammy made the alphabet quilt that hangs above the reading chair; Beansprout loves pointing to the animals and I know it will continue to grow with him as he learns his ABCs.  Grandma and Grandpa sent him the pirate tent, which has become a second reading spot.  Play tents are also quite versatile for play scenes- I imagine it will become a vital part of the playroom as Beansprout starts to do more pretend play!  The cars and trucks accessories were also gifted by Grandma and Grandpa - admittedly, I'm the one who loves this, Beansprout will appreciate it, I hope.  Beansprout also received a huge package of play food from Auntie De - he loves cutting all the food and putting it in the basket as if he's out shopping.  The train baskets in the Dress-Up area were gifts from friends when Beansprout was first born.

Staying organized.

#5: The 5-cubby Expedit.  It has been perfect for parallel play.  I also love that we can have the Farm area and the Fire House area - two of Beansprout's favorite things to play with right now.  (It's also a super versatile piece, as we can flip it when Beansprout is older.)


#6: The Radio Flyer Wagon.  Beansprout has been playing with this since his first Christmas!  He pushed it everywhere for months and months and then we pushed him in it.  He now pushed the dolls and stuffed animals, and I love that he'll continue to use it for all kinds of play scenes.

Trains, Trains, and more Trains!

#7: The train table.  Beansprout plays with the trains everyday.  He loves to push them around and around and around again!  His parents love creating new configurations, adding on new pieces whenever we can.  There are some toys of Beansprout's that I don't embrace fully, but the train table is pretty much a win-win for the whole family.

#8: The play kitchen.  I talked about it a bit in yesterday's post, but there's so much more to say.  Isn't it great that Beansprout has "stainless steel" appliances!?!  And that the oven door window was created with a piece of weed-blocker.  Would it be too much to put up a backsplash of sorts?

#9: There's a wet bar.  Now, now, it's not what you think!  Any signs of a true wet bar are slowly being replaced with finger paint and Play-Doh.  What I really appreciate about this feature of the house is the fact that there is a sink right there!  It has made life a whole lot easier.

Plan toys Barn.

#10: The playroom is a YES zone.  I tend to run a pretty child-center household over here.  Even so, I often find myself having to say no to Beansprout as his curiosities can often land him in danger.  The fact that there is so much for him to do and that it's all his without limitations is the best thing about the space.

I'm finding I really enjoy taking pictures of TOYS - guess I picked a suitable topic to write about for 31 days.  Have you checked out my other posts about play?  Playing with Food, Play at Work, or This Mom Loves Music are a few of my favorites.  I'm writing 31 posts on play, one for every day of October; you can find all of them here!