Saturday Things

Hopefully you don’t work on Saturday, but we don’t all have that luxury. If you don’t have Saturdays, pick another day when you’re free and do one of these things alone or with your family. I like to save money, and use my creativity when thinking of fun things to do on the weekends.

Now, there are tons of girly things to do on Saturdays, but I rarely get a pedicure or manicure. I don’t have my hair done or anything of the sorts. That’s just me. I’m a very cheap person and don’t particularly like to do those things. If pampering is your go-to Saturday thing, who am I to judge? There is a value in taking care of yourself this way. I prefer to do the following things on Saturdays.

Sleep in a little bit. I just can’t help it. My husband is home on Saturday mornings and is an early riser. He and the kids let me sleep a little later on Saturdays.

Bird watch! Even today I have seen a blue bird (a very different bird than the blue jay, and much more difficult to find) and two hummingbirds fighting over territory. Birds are all around us and are surprisingly entertaining to watch. Many predatory birds also live in my area and I have several great stories about these bird sightings.

Talk to some pretty flowers

Take an easy walk around the neighborhood. I would avoid doing this midday, as it can be hot and uncomfortable at this time. The morning is the best time, but not always achievable. If you are a late riser, take your walk at dusk but don’t forget bug spray or light colored clothing. Don’t leave pups at home, they deserve a nice Saturday, too.

Listen to the radio. I love listening to NPR on Saturday mornings.

Paint something with your little ones, or by yourself.

Have a pic-nic in your backyard, or pack up the family and head to a National Park. Don’t forget to include water, supplies for babies if you have them, sunscreen, and a thick blanket for sitting on. Bug spray will probably be necessary here, too. Get creative in what lunches you pack.

My kids are too small, so we don’t go to the pool or lake. We play in the hose, which my garden loves.

Another thing I like to do on a Saturday is go through my paper bills. They pile up inside of an antique secretary’s desk in my living room. I shred old bills myself and take them to the compost pile. I doubt many people would be willing to dig through rotten food to see my statements from the electric company. I even remove the plastic windows from envelopes and shred those, too. This might not sound fun to you, but if you’re getting behind on things during the week, Saturdays are great for catching up on seemingly small, irritating chores.

Visit the farmer’s market! Here, the farmer’s market meets on Saturday mornings and is a fun place to visit. There are always a lot of people and things to look at, and you can stock up on some organic vegetables, pretty flowers, or interesting, handmade goods at the farmer’s market. Different vendors come on different Saturdays, so it’s good to make this a part of your routine.

Cook something, of course, but keep it light. Spending a lot of time in the kitchen on Saturdays wears me down. An easy sandwich or salad can do the trick. Don’t forget the lemonade if it’s hot out.

Knock out old projects. I always have pictures to hang or compost to turn and Saturdays are a good day to work on these tasks.

Read a book with your family. Start your own book club and meet with your children on Saturday afternoons around snacks to discuss their books.

Saturdays can be anything you make them, with lots of fun things to do. The things that I do on Saturday don’t cost much, if anything. Shopping, brunch, or the movies are fun ways to spend the weekend also, but can cost more than we would like. Alternate your weekends, spending money this Saturday, and staying at home the next. Whatever you decide to do, invite your family or friends and be as creative as you can.

The Conversion of A Night Owl

The night, la nuit, la noche. It is one of the best times to be alive. Ask any nocturnal creature and you will be told that the night is a special time. La luna, my son’s favorite spectacle, appears in the night, to quiet us all with her loving glow. I, being a night owl from birth, love to stay awake with the moon, and the beasts of the dark, and my solitude. But life has a way of making small changes in our lives without notice. I am no longer a creature of the night. I have been converted.

Indeed, all of the hours have their merits. 9:00 a.m. is a wonderfully productive time, while 9:00 p.m. is a stern, but understanding hour. The ten’o’clock hours are equally cheerful, while noon and midnight are mischievous. I like to be awake all of the time, and usually wake from a nap feeling as though I have missed something. You might call it a joie de vivre; I call it the luck of the twenties mixed in with the screams of young children. In any case, I don’t sleep very much and my affections for the later hours are waning.

Now I wake with the birds and the sun. It is an optimal time to water flowers and vegetables, and coffee has an especially enticing smell at 6:00 in the morning. All is quiet, bathed in soft blue light, patiently waiting for sleepers to rise. I don’t usually beat both kids out of bed, but it is still a peaceful time. I am not exactly sure how this transition began but I have a few ideas on what has happened.

Obviously, having kids doesn’t give me much lazing about time but in the beginning, I found myself staying up way too late and dreading getting up for the baby. This wasn’t fair to either of us, but it continued for a while. Kids will wake you up, however, so I haven’t slept until noon since before my first pregnancy (this doesn’t count mid-morning naps, which I have succumbed to from utter lack of energy). Having two children has been the biggest factor in my conversion from night owl to earliest bird.

It is an ongoing process, however, because a love for the night is a personality trait of mine. I have found a few things that help me to rise earlier, including making my bed, cleaning the kitchen before bed, and eating throughout the day rather than before sleep (a terrible habit of my husband’s. He often eats another helping right before bed and later complains of an uncomfortable “full” feeling.)

I am a reluctant cook, and no expert on nutrition, but I have strong opinions on what I eat and what I feed the people in my house. Breakfast requires coffee (more than two cups), cereal, nuts, and other grains should be snacked on throughout the day, fruit and sugars are delicious, dairy is dangerous but heart-warming, chicken is okay, and red meats or seafood are to be avoided.

I’m not a vegetarian or vegan (by any means!), but I carry with me many videos of animal abuse at the hands of the farmers that feed us. I no longer eat pork, and don’t choose beef on my own. I can’t change my husband’s tastes (or yours), so beef is often a main course when he is home. I also love a perfectly seared, slightly pink steak, but abuse is not appetizing, so red meat turns my stomach. I must add here that I do (rarely) purchase nitrate-free bacon from the co-op. I have talked to the farmer though, and am confident that she cares for the pigs properly and with dignity.

My opinion on seafood is this: it is disgusting. The ocean is littered, full of who-knows-what, and I am not interested in chewing on shrimp. The textures of the ocean appall me and I don’t think it’s healthy (shrimp has a ton of cholesterol). I would never eat anything that slithers on my plate or is cut from a helpless animal, no matter how worthless they may seem (shark-fin soup you disgust me!). But my point in talking about my views on food is this: it matters what you eat and I feel less weighted when I stick to things that come from the ground. Jumping up in the morning is easier when your stomach is not focused on the tacos, pizza, or hamburgers you ate at 11:30 p.m. I have no designs for a new diet plan, I only caution that you pay attention to yourself.

This brings me to alcohol. Skip it if you want to get up early. I drink occasionally, but it’s just not fun anymore. I have my own kids so I won’t parent you, but I’ve learned from experience that hangovers are not conducive to being my best in the morning.

These days, I’m trying to make my bed more often (there’s more of a finality to it when you climb into a made bed at the end of the day), and clean up my kitchen before heading off to sleep. The day has been reset when I close up my kitchen for the night and I feel ready for an early morning.

If you need to leave quickly the next day, make your coffee the night before (don’t turn the pot on obviously, just get it ready), organize your papers, and try to fix your hair. I have a big issue with my hair so it’s something I attend to the night before for days that require a decent appearance (I’m practically a hermit). If you have kids, don’t even think about going to bed until you have their things ready.

If you really want to change your schedule, change your outlook on time. Instead of damning the hour, appreciate what it brings. Each hour goes by quicker than the one before it, so find something in each to love. Whether you watch shadows with the owls or smile at the morning dew with robins, sleep when you can, enjoy the time we have, and wake up to live it.

Tips on Painting with Toddlers: Don’t Toss Out That Easel Just Yet

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Sergio and I like to paint. Not every day, because you can imagine how messy and time-consuming that would be. But, on rainy days like today, we like to fire up our creativity with a few art projects. I am not a creative person when it comes to colors, paints, or anything visual. I’m still learning, I suppose. However, I am one of those stay-at-home moms with nothing better to do than cook up ideas for the kids. Painting is one of those ideas that always sounds fun. It can be frustrating for mom or dad though, so here are a few tips to keep it fun.

I am interested in researching how to recycle paint, and which paints are better for the environment. For now, we paint what we can (old jars, rocks, pieces of wood, and of course, paper) with what we have. This keeps the price for materials down (canvases look great, but are incredibly expensive).

Washable Crayola paint, watercolor palette, brushes, and a recycled jar to put rinsing water in

I love trays. This one is made from silicon (I think? It doesn’t say on the bottom) from Aldi. It has handles and is lightweight; Sergio can lift it also when helping to clean up. Trays tend to keep everything together, easy to reach, and this particular tray doesn’t mind a few spills. Other good options are available on Amazon.

Set up your area, including snacks, utensils and paints, mediums, and whatever else you want to add, before telling your son or daughter about the day’s activity. I have made this mistake many times, and am often followed frantically by an excited, chattering three-year-old on my quest for supplies.

Something else to consider is where you and your little artist will paint. I like to set up a spot outside, so that stubborn paint stains can be pressure-washed from concrete areas or, more ideally, absorbed by the grass and dirt underfoot. For me, painting can have calming effects, which are multiplied when practiced in the open air. I have a screened-in patio, so making a paint station outside is easy for us. If you have a few more obstacles in the way, think creatively, and hoard some cardboard or old linens to use for covering important spaces in your home.

Once your area is clean, covered with an old tablecloth or piece of cardboard, arrange your tools of creativity and make sure the child can reach everything. I also use this easel (I love that it is not made largely from plastic and is easy to carry from room to room) to give Sergio ample access to his work. This is not a fun activity for the children if you don’t allow them to explore and grab their own materials.

On this note, painting is an excellent way for toddlers to dabble in colors, shapes, and textures. It’s a good time to practice vocabulary, so don’t forget to talk about whatever they’re doing. (Today Sergio said the words “dark” and “star” while painting.)

I practice my own creative efforts while spending time with my son.

Mistakes and spills will happen, making supervision necessary. Young children are prone to tasting, smelling, and smearing things all over the place. While working with paints (washable or not) supervision is very important. While sitting next to Sergio, I looked away for one second, and turned back to see a blob of blue paint in the tin of rocks still to be colored. My son had opened a paint jar by himself, and dumped everything out; at least it wasn’t on the floor. Another good reason to use washable paint.

We quickly found a solution by simply painting the rest of the rocks blue. Painting is a nice way for children to explore their surroundings because accidents can turn into artwork.

Another tip is to slyly remove items or tools that are not currently interesting your child. Too many objects to use or things to do can be overwhelming for young ones, and you might have less mess to clean up if you secretly take away the less exciting stamps, stickers, or glitter. Please don’t let them catch you doing this, and remember: I am not liable for any tantrums that occur in your house.

Don’t forget to have fun and don’t worry about cleaning up: everything is much easier with a tray to toss it all into. If you and your artist made it outside, there should be even less to worry about cleaning. Stick your brushes in a jar of water (mineral spirits or paint thinner for acrylic and oil-based paints), and go take a break. You’ve earned it. Keep that easel for the days when you’re not sure what to do, or those times when inspiration strikes.

Plans for a gallery of Sergio’s work are under way because displaying your toddler’s artwork is just as important as making it.