Category Archives: Activities and Traditions

Ice Cream Day

It turns out that we are SO good at celebrating holidays that sometimes we even celebrate them by accident!  Earlier this spring I bought an ice cream ball from Crate and Barrel.  It’s a ball that you fill with ice cream ingredients on one side and ice and salt on the other side.  Then you kick it and roll it and shake it for about 20 minutes until you get ice cream.  I first used it at school back in May.  It was hard work to shake it enough to make the ice cream (It rained that day so we couldn’t kick it around outside, so the kids got tired of rolling it inside after a few minutes and I had to finish the job myself – boy were my arms tired!), but it was still a lot of fun and MUCH better than using the always leaky double baggie method to make ice cream in the classroom.  After having fun with it at school, I couldn’t wait to try it at home with my own family.  Last week, I decided that today would be the day to try it – it was supposed to be nice out, and we had some free time today before an insanely busy week coming up so why not?  Our daughter loved pouring in the ingredients (a pint of cream, sugar, and some vanilla)

Ice Cream Ball Ingredients

Ice Cream Ball Ingredients

and kicking it around the yard.  Sure enough, we got ice cream!  Now for the funny part though – after we had put it in the freezer and cleaned up from making the ice cream, my husband looked and Twitter and announced that he saw that today just happened to be National Ice Cream Day.  We had no idea, and yet we celebrated in grand style by kicking our ice cream ball around and making our very own ice cream in honor of the day.  Are we good or what???

Decorating Bikes for the 4th of July

Last year as we drove home from the annual 4th of July Parade in my parents’ neighborhood, my husband brought it to my attention that not everyone has the tradition of decorating bikes for the 4th of July.  In fact, he said he had never heard of it before he met me.  And he lived all over the United States (and the world) when he was growing up.  I was shocked.  I was under the impression that this was something everyone in America did, right along with fireworks and cookouts.  Evidently not though.  So I wanted to share this tradition, one of my favorites of the year, with you in case it might be new to you too so that you can try it!

I remember decorating my bike almost every year when I was little, whether or not we had a neighborhood parade.  Actually, we only had a parade on our street once, and it was very short because it started to rain.  But it was still super fun.  My mom even made me an Uncle Sam hat and vest to wear!  When I was nine we moved, and our new neighborhood had a real parade each year complete with a fire truck and a bike decorating contest.  I was thrilled.  When I was too old to be in the parade myself, I couldn’t completely let go of participating in the tradition and decorated signs showing where to park the bikes for the decorating contest.  Now that the neighborhood kids have all grown up, we bring our own kids back for the 4th of July Parade: The Next Generation.

One thing that makes this tradition so great is that it isn’t hard at all.  We just go to Party City and buy a bunch of random patriotic decorations that could be attached to a bike somehow  (flags, streamers, crepe paper, ribbons, bows, tinsel, pinwheels, balloons, stars, etc.) and put them all over the bike or wagon.  We even keep the decorations in a box and reuse them year after year.

4th of July Bike

4th of July Bike

Just make sure that the vehicle can still move as it should.  It’s great fun!

Granted, this may not be the ideal time to introduce this tradition… I’m writing this while shivering in a sweatshirt on a very rainy 3rd of July, and we decided to go ahead and have our cookout and mini bike parade with our neighbors last night on the 2nd of July since the 4th looks like a total washout this year.  However, if it happens to be sunny where you are or if you don’t mind soggy, dripping crepe paper then go for it!  Decorate away!  Happy 4th of July!

There’s an Elephant on My Blog – April Fool!

Happy April Fool’s Day!  Even though it’s kind of a tiny holiday, it’s always been one of my favorites.  When I was little, elephants were my April Fool’s Day joke of choice: there’s an elephant on your head, there’s an elephant behind you, etc.  You get the idea.  Comic gold, right?!?  So elephants have become the symbol of April Fool’s Day for me.  I still text my family pictures of elephants and put elephant toys here and there on April Fool’s Day.

The elephants have even become a big part of some of our most important life events which have coincidentally happened on April Fool’s Day.  April 1st is our wedding anniversary (and yes, 10 years later we are still “fools in love!”).  Much to our wedding coordinator’s dismay, I got some elephants and wedding outfits at Build A Bear and had them all dressed up and waiting as a surprise at my parents’ seats in the sanctuary at our wedding.

April Fool Wedding Elephants

April Fool Wedding Elephants

Last year, our first big inspection of our new still under construction house was on April 1st.  My husband was sure to take some pictures with a strategically placed toy elephant to commemorate the occasion.

April Fool Elephant at Our New House

April Fool Elephant at Our New House

Such happy and special memories on such an absurd holiday!  So have some fun today – whether or not elephants are part of your celebration.

Leap Day, Oscar Night, and the Quest for Free Time

I have two things on my mind today: Leap Day, which we only get to celebrate once every 4 years, and Oscar Night, which to me feels like something I celebrated in a past life.  Both of them happening just a day apart makes me think about having extra time and how to use it best.

I used to be a movie buff.  I made sure I saw every Oscar nominated movie before Oscar Night.  I studied the Golden Globes and the SAG Awards and read movie magazines and made signs to cheer for my favorite movies and made elaborate charts about who I wanted to win and who I thought would actually win.  And, not to toot my own horn, but I was pretty good at it.  I had a high rate of accuracy on my “think will win” list – even in the more obscure categories like “Sound Editing” and “Art Direction” (which I see is not even called “Art Direction” anymore).  That all seems like a lifetime ago.  I have not seen (not do I have any desire to see) any of the Oscar nominated movies this year.  In fact, the last 2 movies I saw were Les Mis and The Lego Move.  And they were both fantastic, by the way – I will be rooting for both of them to win an Oscar tonight, as futile as that may be…  A moot point anyway though because odds are Mickey Mouse Clubhouse or Sid the Science Kid or Handy Manny will most likely be playing in our house as the awards are announced.

Remembering when I used to have free time to see movies leads me to think of Leap Day.  A whole extra day!!  What to do with all that extra time??  Sadly, extra time is not necessarily free time.  And if it were free, I seriously doubt I would spend it in a movie theater.  I would want to spend it doing things with my little family because I constantly feel I don’t have enough time with them as it is.

Which lead me to my blog.  I started this blog when I left my teaching job at “real school” because I was worried I would get bored with all of my new found free time and that I wouldn’t have enough opportunities to be creative without teaching in a public school.  Luckily, I have found that my job teaching preschoolers gives me plenty of creative opportunities – even more than “real school” actually!  However, the “new found free time” has still not been found.  So I am going to start doing my blog posts a little less often.  Rather than once a week, I may just post whenever I have a fun seasonal idea to share.  I must admit I feel guilty – even though it was a self imposed “assignment” to do a blog post each week, I feel like I am letting myself down by scaling back.  But then again, what good are all the seasonal activities I share if I’m too busy to actually enjoy them with my family?  So with that, happy Leap Day and happy Oscar Night… or as it is shaping up to be in our house, happy cuddling on the couch while watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse night.

2015 Was Too Much

My blog post is a few days later than usual because we have been in the throes of undecorating after Christmas.  It always makes me a little sad to take down all of our beautiful Christmas stuff, but I’m also always happy to get out the fresh new winter decorations.  I was especially excited to get out the winter stuff this year because we weren’t allowed to put it out last year since our old house was on the market.  It’s hard to believe that just one year ago we were getting ready to sell our house.  Which made me start reflecting on everything that happened in 2015.  And I have come to the conclusion that 2015 was just TOO MUCH.  In our family we had 2 moves (3 if you also count moving my classroom at school the same week we moved to our new house), 1 case of pneumonia, too many cases of stomach flu to count (the most recent occurring on Christmas Eve, of course!), 1 major surgery, 1 broken nose, 1 bad playground injury (ironically for the husband not the kid), 1 anaphylactic  allergic reaction,  daily life with a 3 year old… and a partridge in a pear tree.  Phew.  Even though not everything (like daily life with a 3 year old and getting to live in our new house) was bad stress, even good stress is still tiring.  Like I said – too much.

So needless to say, I am very excited about celebrating the New Year this year.  We have our usual quiet, low key celebration planned to ring in 2016: appetizers and snacks and general assorted junk food and a viewing of When Harry Met Sally (assuming a certain little someone heads to bed early enough) followed by a herculean effort to stay awake until midnight while watching Kathy Griffin embarrass Anderson Cooper.  I can’t wait!  2016 is going to be my year of recovery and relaxation.  It can’t start soon enough!  Happy New Year!

Thanksgiving – 3 Year Old Style

I was going to write about a poem of the month for November this week.  It’s a really cute poem called “Recipe for a Happy Thanksgiving.”  And I still will share it next week, for sure!  However, our 3 year old reminded me of the true meaning of Thanksgiving today, and it seemed only right that I share that experience instead.

I had a loooooong to do list today (not exactly the lazy Sunday I wrote about a few weeks back, but -oh well- you can’t win them all I guess).  The agenda for today included, church, choir practice, delivering a treat to some new neighbors, laundry, putting away Halloween decorations and toys, getting out Thanksgiving decorations and toys, preparing the outside of the house for winter, making a turkey for the fridge with our daughter, and writing my November poem of the month blog post.  Phew!  With so much to do, I decided multitasking was a must.  So while my husband was out winterizing the house, I was busy doing a load of laundry and making the annual hand print turkey for the fridge with our daughter.  I will admit she was less than interested in the task, so I sweetened the deal with glue, sequins, and feathers… many, many feathers.  She was suddenly more enthusiastic and ended up making a handprint turkey that looks like a performer in a Las Vegas show.  Not exactly what I had planned, but it made me feel happy and thankful for her creative little self.

Las Vegas Turkey

Las Vegas Turkey

Then came time to put away the Halloween stuff.  Our daughter began to cry as I boxed up a stuffed Halloween toy she had not even touched once during the entire month of October.  I tried to cheer her up by showing her the new Thanksgiving toys for her to play with and telling her a very simplified (and not entirely historically accurate) story of the first Thanksgiving.  (In a nutshell, I told her that the King of England said the Pilgrims had to go to his church and that made them sad, so they decided to leave England and sailed far across the ocean on the Mayflower.  When they arrived at Plymouth Rock they had no food, but some kind Native Americans helped them learn how to grow food.  After learning to live in their new home they had a feast to celebrate having food to eat and to thank God for everything they had.)  Our daughter then began playing herself and retold the story in her own way, and even invited a few new guests to the feast: Doc McStuffins and Mario.  Why not?  Here is her version of the first Thanksgiving:

The Pigrims left England because they had no feet.  Then they lived in a manger with the Mannequins.  Then they prayed to be together forever and there would be cheers.  Then they all curved a pumpkin together.

Thanksgiving According to a 3 Year Old

Thanksgiving According to a 3 Year Old

After hearing her tell this story, I was thrilled because I knew she had been paying attention both to me just then and also to her choir teacher earlier in the day who had talked about Jesus in the manger as we practiced our songs for the upcoming Christmas performance.  I also was happy that she had clearly enjoyed “curving” her own pumpkin the night before Halloween.  But most of all, I felt like for the first time in my life I really, really understood the true meaning of Thanksgiving.  Taking the extra time to play with her during my crazy busy day made me short on time to prepare my blog post about a “Recipe for a Happy Thanksgiving,” but it reminded me that the true recipe for a happy Thanksgiving is spending time with my precious family and enjoying special little moments like these.  And that while unorthodox or unexpected, the 3 year old version of things is by far the best – especially if it includes a showgirl turkey and Doc McStuffins at the first Thanksgiving feast.  When I break the wishbone on Thanksgiving day, my wish will be that I can remember this all year long.

“Lazy Sunday”

I’m excited to share one of my favorite new traditions this week.  It’s called “Sunday.”  To be totally honest, I’ve only done it once so far, but it was so great I really hope it becomes a weekly occurrence.

I have always hated Sundays.  When I was in first grade, my teacher was such a meanie and I was so scared to go back to school on Mondays that I would sit myself in a chair all afternoon in hopes that I would make the day as boring as possible and therefore make it go by as slowly as possible in order to delay the return to school on Monday morning as much as possible.  Later in my childhood and teen years Sunday afternoons were spent doing homework and going to the church youth group which I hated because it was centered around complaining about your parents and I, frankly, liked my parents.  The other people in the youth group couldn’t figure out what to do with me since my parents and I enjoyed each other’s company (even though the youth group people tried their hardest to convince me otherwise).  For most of my adult life, Sundays consisted of waking up too early and rushing to church, followed by rushing around all afternoon to get all the weekend chores finished before Monday followed by lamenting all the stuff I didn’t manage to get done during my precious weekend “free” time, all leading up to the most dreaded, depressing, soul sucking chore of the week: packing Monday’s lunch.  If I was really lucky I might have gotten the bonus of watching SNL taped from the night before or “Chopped,” “The Pioneer Woman,” “Cupcake Wars,” or whatever random show was on the Food Network playing in the background while I did all my Sunday chores but that was the only bright spot.

Well, last week I got to experience an actual “Lazy Sunday,” and I LOVED it!  It just so happened that the house was already cleaned, my school work was already finished, we had already gone to the grocery store… I didn’t have anything I HAD to do on Sunday!  We still got up too early and rushed to church.  Then we went out to eat and enjoyed a nice relaxing lunch.  We went home, and I changed into sweatpants (acceptable since I had no plans to leave the house), and spent the rest of the afternoon crafting, playing with our daughter, watching “Mamma Mia” and “Love It or List It,” and… I even took a nap!  Unfortunately, the day still ended with packing Monday’s lunch, but the task was less depressing after such a nice relaxing day.  Perhaps God knew what He was doing with this whole “Day of Rest” thing.  I can’t wait to do it again soon!

August: The Month of Nothing

First of all, this is an ode to the month of August, not an episode of Seinfeld.

Today my friends in the school district where I used to attend as a student and later teach elementary kids went back to school.  I wish them all the luck in the world while simultaneously offering them my deepest condolences that they are missing out on the wonderful new discovery that has come with my current job: I have discovered… THE MONTH OF AUGUST!

When I was a kid I absolutely hated the month of August.  Back then we started school usually around August 20th or so.  As a result, I just saw August as this long, hot, sticky, miserable period of time in limbo waiting for school to start.  There was nothing to do except organize and reorganize my brand new stash of back to school clothes and school supplies. There was also the pastime of calling the drugstore every few hours to see if the much anticipated back to school issue of Seventeen had hit the newsstand yet and then the adventure of walking to the drugstore to get one (being allowed to walk to the drugstore was the ultimate rite of passage in my neighborhood – in some ways it was a bigger deal than getting a driver’s license).  And then when I finally did get my hands on a copy, I would look through it a million times, dog ear the pages, and have my mom help me scour the city for more back to school must haves that Seventeen told me I needed.  And then back to the organizing and reorganizing of the new clothes and supplies with the ones I already had.  In other words, August was always a time for being antsy and spinning my wheels.

More recently as a teacher, I saw August as a time of frantic stress filled with trying to get my room at school ready before the two so called “teacher work days” at the start of the school year which were full of meetings but completely devoid of time for any actual “teacher work.”  Unless you are a teacher, you have no idea how you can actually feel your blood pressure rise as you watch the clock hands race forward in time as you think about all the name tags you need to put on desks while you are required to do some sort of “fun” activity to build camaraderie with people you already like in the first place and who are every bit as cranky and stressed as you are while you all painfully endure the forced fun together.  Phew.  I feel like I need to catch my breath just remembering all this….

These days though, my job at a preschool that starts the day after Labor Day has enabled me to embrace August for what I’ve recently discovered it should have been all along: The Month of Nothing.  As a remnant of my past life, I am still in the habit of rushing to get my doctors’ appointments and everything else that HAS to get done before school starts out of the way at the end of July and early August leaving the rest of August totally open for… NOTHING!!!  I have actual empty spaces on my calendar – something that doesn’t happen during any other month of the year.  It’s glorious – like gaining a whole month I never knew existed.  I’ve heard that many places in Europe totally shut down during the month of August, and I’m thinking they are on to something!  August – where have you been all my life?!?

The 4th of July… Sans Fireworks

Going to buy fireworks with my dad and watching him set them off in our driveway has always been one of my favorite 4th of July traditions.  It’s fun, and it makes me feel especially patriotic since our very own ancestor John Adams was the one who decreed that the 4th of July should be celebrated with fireworks.

I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival . . . it ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade . . . bonfires and illuminations (fireworks) from one end of this continent to the other, from this day forward forevermore.                 – John Adams  

Our little fireworks tradition got even better when my husband joined our family and unintentionally added a new comical dimension to our yearly fireworks display: watching him and my dad walk on eggshells to politely share the fireworks lighting privileges with each other even though each guy clearly wants to light all of them himself.

It’s been several years though since we’ve had fireworks due to either droughts and firework bans, being rained out, or having a baby/toddler who would also like to share in the fireworks lighting duties but certainly cannot be trusted near flames and sparks.  So while we look forward to another fireworks show in our driveway one day in the future, for now we have found nonflammable entertainment for after out 4th of July cookout.

One of my most favorite 4th of July activities is watching 1776, a musical about our very own cousin John and his efforts to create our new nation long ago.  We’ve actually watched this each year for years, usually while waiting for it to get dark enough for fireworks.  This year we also got some other fun things to play with that might be more exciting for a toddler (although she does really love her show tunes!) including glowing flags and water balloons.  May not be explosive fun, but I know we will enjoy it nonetheless.  As long as we are together (and get to eat gallons of potato salad), it will be a great celebration I’m sure!

It’s Always the Most Wonderful Time of the Year… Except When It’s Not: Moving Day – Part Deux

Last week marked our second move in four months.  That’s two moves too many if you are keeping track.  And now that both moving days have come and gone, I can say without a doubt that the moving process in general is decidedly NOT the most wonderful time of the year.  Here are a few choice reasons why:

1. First, to stick with the point of this blog, every single holiday or special occasion over the course of this four month process was somehow negatively impacted by the move – from being exiled from our old house on my husband’s birthday so that the inspection could occur to beginning the move to our apartment amid cases of stomach flu on Valentine’s Day to having our Easter decorations mostly unavailable in storage to not getting to plant flowers for Mother’s Day to being so exhausted from finishing our second move to our house that staying awake during dinner out was a real struggle on Father’s Day… this moving process has put a real damper on every celebration.

2. Companies will try to cheat you out of bunches of money at every opportunity during a move.  Whether it’s a security company who charged your credit card without authorization and lied to you about your contract and then requires you to pay hundreds of dollars to break that contract (that they told you wasn’t a new contract in the first place!) or a moving company who informs you on the Friday before your move on Monday that they have suddenly decided to change the rate they quoted you five months earlier and confirmed two days earlier and your move will now cost $300 more than you were told… lying, cheating companies are the worst!

3. Moving stuff into a brand new pristine house is also the worst.  Especially when the refrigerator delivery people smash in the side of your brand new countertop and when the movers choose not to take the drawers out of a heavy dresser before carrying it up the stairs despite you asking them and then those drawers slip out and slam into the wall of the brand new stairway leaving it gouged and scratched.

4. Dealing with utility and cable companies is apparently beyond my capabilities.  Evidently my master’s degree is not a high enough level of education to handle canceling and starting services.  The following conversation actually happened –

Me: I would like to schedule a time for someone to come pick up our old cable equipment since we are disconnecting our service.

Cable Company: Oh, I’m sorry, we don’t schedule pick up or accept old equipment.  You will be charged $40 for keeping the equipment.  Unless of course you’d like for me to schedule a time for someone to come pick up the equipment.  Then the $40 fee would be waived.

Me: That’s what I’m trying to do.

Cable Company: Ok then, I’ve scheduled an appointment for someone to come on Tuesday.

WHAT??????

5. Moving with a toddler is not easy.  After finally being free from our old tiny apartment and in our lovely new house where she actually has room to – you know – play, she keeps crying to go back to her “repartment.”  Poor baby.

Phew.  Thank goodness the moving part is over.  I can’t wait to finish unpacking and start enjoying all of the most wonderful times of the year in our new house.  It’s about time!