Thursday, January 31, 2013

Mr. Turtle

January 31

They didn't get sick! My daughters woke up this morning  happy and healthy still talking about dancing in the rain. I do have to admit that my already sick self is feeling like maybe I will finally be in the running  for some antibiotics. Last week I had the "it's just a virus," visit to the doc. Which in my case really means, "it's not antibiotics worthy. . . yet." I probably should have worn a coat last night.

We have a family rule, that is kind of a joke, but not really, "Mom is not allowed to get sick." And if I do get sick, I would add, I am not allowed to act sick. You know how it is for moms, we carry on.  So I really wasn't feeling like going outside today. But, but, I can't give up so easily. If I got my kids to school, volunteered in a classroom and cooked dinner I can certainly handle 15 minutes outside.

"Who wants to hide Mr. Turtle for Daddy?" I ask and my girls run for the front door. I do insist on coats and shoes this time as it is clear skied and bitter cold out. My first grader goes right back to her mud patch to investigate, thrilled to see it is still there. My little one reminds me that I am the fox and must chase them. Off they go running, stomping in mud, running. . . Oh, thank goodness we got out here I think. Yes, I feel like I have broken glass in my chest, but I felt that way inside too. It will be bedtime soon and I have noticed how smoothly it goes after some evening play out here.

We take a break from running to hide Mr. Turtle on top of a small bush. His little smiling face is just peeking out. That will be an extra challenge for Daddy.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Mud is base

January 30

Today felt like New Years in a funny way. It was cold and rainy and getting dark, and we had not been outside all day. Unlike New Year's Day I did kind of have an excuse: bad weather. Not the kind a rain coat and boots can deal with, more the listen for sirens, make sure you have batteries in the flashlight kind.

Finally at dusk the storm had moved on and we were left with innocent showers. "Let's go check the mail!" I said, using yesterday's excuse knowing there would actually be mail in the box today. My little one put on her rain boots but was not interested in a coat when she saw her big sister had decided to go barefoot out into the wet evening. We turned on the flood lights and the front yard was transformed into a stage of sorts. The bright spot lights made it feel we were on display for the cars rushing home to dinner. "It's for my blog, we have to get outside every day!" I wanted to shout. Oh well, I gave up worrying about what my neighbors think years ago.

My barefoot ballerina twirls in the rain tipping her head back to feel the drops on her face and catch some on her tongue. All three of us stand for a moment holding hands faces turned to the sky. I have this flash that every sense is in play in that moment: the taste of the rain, the feel of the cold water, the sizzling sound as the drops hit the ground, and the sight of it all.

Footprints in the mud
In a flash they are running, jumping and laughing. "Catch us, we are gingerbread girls!" I become the crafty fox trying to nibble them or convince them to climb on my back. I watch their hair get wet, their shirts soak up the rain, and the bare feet pat through the water. My mother always said "You don't get sick from the cold, you get sick from germs." Oh, please be right mom! Please, because if we all wake up sick, I'm going to feel like a huge jerk.

A patch of mud is discovered underfoot. "Oh mud! It's so squishy, and gooshy!" says Miss Barefoot, pushing her toes into the muck. "Mud is base!" she announces and calls her sister over to enjoy the squishing. They alternate stomping in the mud and running. Finally, I decide we should go inside while this is still really fun.


January 29

I had to resort to extra creativity and a little fibbing to get us out today. My little one had preschool and was so tuckered out that our driveway play only lasted about a minute. She was hungry, tired, ready for snuggles. The afternoon wore on and I needed some reason to get us outside. I found myself letting hour after hour pass and we were still in the house, it seemed like such a huge effort just to open the front door. So I bent the truth, just a tad. "Let's go check the mail!" I announced. Now I knew the mail would not be delivered for hours, but this was just the push we needed to get us going.

As usual, as soon as we are in the fresh air we feel good and there are endless things to do and explore and imagine. We do check the mailbox and I feign ignorance at why it is empty. We then decide that our ceramic turtle should be moved to "trick Daddy," as we like to say. We move the turtle periodically and Daddy has to come home and find the little critter's new spot. Then we play chase for a while, look at clouds, and listen to birds. We talk about how to stay safely in the yard and not go into the street. My little one is just getting to the point where I can explain the boundaries of our play area and feel pretty sure she will not just decide to run where she wants. A year ago, she would head straight for the street and think it hysterical when I would scoop her up and bring her back to the grass. Needless to say, playing in the front yard is much easier now.

Our hiding spot
My older daughter is back riding the bus home from school and we decide to wait for her outside in our new secret spot. We crouch down next to a tree and peer through the bushes at the street. This is great fun. We see the yellow bus swoosh into view and giggle thinking about our surprise welcome. We watch as feet come off the bus, move around to the front, pause for the driver's OK, and then walk toward us. We turn and watch as she walks slowly across the yard turning to wave to her friends. And then her eyes spot us, and she smiles. "Surprise!" shouts my little one.

Off comes the backpack and coat. My tired first grader is suddenly energized  "I want to climb this tree! Help me!"

Monday, January 28, 2013

Playground Wisdom

January 28

My little one is on the seesaw  She rocks up and down bouncing bouncing. "Faster, no stop! OK, go!" she tells her older friend with legs long enough to reach the ground. I stand a few feet away with the other parents watching and chatting. "Did you see the email about the Lock Down drill?" I ask. Heads nod. "I'm glad they told us ahead of time. Now I know to be ready to talk about it," says a dad.

But I'm not ready. I don't know what to say. I start to cry just thinking about it. We did drills like this at my school after 9/11. But that was different. The threat seemed farther away. Or maybe it was just because I didn't have children back then. I was a teacher, I loved my students, but they went home to their own families. I am so sad. I just wish that my children were not living in a world where Lock Down drills are now added to the list after Fire, and Hurricane.

"They are going to be fine," says a mom. "I just don't worry that much, maybe I should," she adds. No, I think, I wish I could worry less. We compare notes about our childhoods and how much freedom we had or didn't have. "I used to play outside until dark," I say "Now I worry about playing in the front yard because there are SUV's that zoom past our house going 45." My friend nods. "I just think they are going to be fine either way. Protective, not protective, I'm just sure our kids are going to be OK." I want to hug her. I need some of that quiet security.

My first grader comes home and within ten minutes is describing how the new Lock Down Drills work. Yes Drills, there are two versions. Soft Lock Down and Hard Lock Down. Don't cry, don't cry I think, just listen. Are you kidding, I think, Hard Lock Down? Is this prison? Later as we are getting ready for bed she says, "Let's play Lock Down." I follow along as she describes the procedures. We end up huddled in the corner in semi darkness. We hug for a moment and then she stands up. "OK, will you help me turn on the lights, let's read." I am holding it together. This is good, she's working it out in her play. Hold it together, hold it together I think.

After an extra chapter of "fabumouse" Geronimo Stilton, a nice long back rub and a lullaby, my first born is breathing deeply next to me. I feel her warmth through the covers. This is all normal for her. Tears stream down my face.

Sharks and Minnows with Daddy

January 27

"Daddy is home! Daddy is home!" My husband walks in the door from a business trip looking worn from the long drive but so so happy to be home. "Where's my hug?" he asks and they squeeze him tight tight tight. He heads upstairs to change and we decide it is time to go outside. He joins us in the front yard ready to play. "You and Daddy are Sharks and we are Minnows" suggests my six year old. My little one's eyes get big. "OK here we go," says my husband putting his flat hand above his forehead as a fin. "Dun, Dun . . . Dun, Dun!"

They are off running squealing, pretending to swim, getting close and rushing away. My six year old sets up many bases, as usual, so as to never really be in danger of being caught. Her favorite position is near a base where she quietly says, "I'm not touching, I'm not touching. . ." As we come close she touches the tree with one fingertip or the toe of her boot. "Touch me, then you're safe too," she instructs her little sister. I am touched by this offer and quietly smile at their little affections.

My husband and I stop chasing and stand hugging watching our little minnows.

Seed Soup and other magic

 January 26

It is a beautiful sunny day. Almost warm. We head to the deck and my girls ask to turn on the hose. I deflect and redirect by asking them to help me refill the bird feeder. But the request is repeated and I decide why not, we can always change our clothes. The water table has an impressive growth of algae  We dump it out and get to work scrubbing the sides. Soon it is filled with fresh clean water and it is time to make soup! "I'll get the spoons," I say, running into the kitchen for a couple of old wooden spoons. They mix and churn adding bits of leaves, sticks and finally seeds fallen from the bird feeder. "It's Seed Soup!" announces my six year old. "Yes!" adds her sister, "I"m making soup too!"

After a time they decide to decant their liquid into large mixing bowls and now they are making potion, magic potion. They mutter spells half nursery rhyme, half gibberish. Each spell ending in "Poof!"  Eventually the potion gets carefully dripped onto plants. My little magicians are busy transforming their world. When it is time to go out for a bit we leave everything as is. An hour later they rush into the house and out the back door. "Let's make more soup!" I hear while still putting my keys down. They mix and stir and pour to their hearts content. I make a cup of tea and join them in the sun.

Friday, January 25, 2013

The first flower

January 25

What a discovery today! The first crocus flower pushing up out of the cold ground! It is exactly 32 degrees outside but this little guy is ready for spring. I can not really describe how happy this little yellow bud has made me. We were playing in the front yard (yes garage door open) chasing back and forth as usual when we wondered onto the grass. I had no idea there would be a little golden flower snuggled up to the base of a tree. We almost stepped on it before realizing what we were seeing. "Grandpa's flowers!" I shouted. "They are here!" My little one crouched down and peered at the flower as if she had discovered treasure. On a day that we are expecting freezing rain I have to say this flower feels like a miracle.

A few years ago my father in law, Mr. Gardener, came for a nice long visit and decided we needed bulbs in our yard. He put in daffodils, crocus, and lilies. He carefully showed me where they were hidden along the edges of various beds and next to certain trees and bushes. Each spring it is a surprise and a reminder of his gift to us. I text him a photo and then call to let them know they have a photo to look at. They are getting pretty good with the technology but I like to help them along. I hear grandma saying, "Your flowers are up!" and a murmur of approval in the background. They live across an ocean from us and we see them not nearly enough, but today I feel like we are standing in the garden together admiring this tiny work of art.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Less with more

January 24

Sometimes I have to jump in to something with both feet in order to figure out that it is not the right direction for my family. So after two weeks of almost constant after school activity I learned or more accurately re-learned, that we all do better with less. Fewer activities means more time to just be. And I'm a big fan of at least attempting to create time for my children to just be. Time to explore and play, rest and go wild. But I get caught sometimes, I get so excited about all the things we could be doing. All the activities, art, sports, music there are so many choices. I want us to participate and experience everything. But then we have days like today. We are just burnt out. I'm sick, my first grader is grouchy and my little one, she is the key here. She fell asleep, for the night, at 4:30 pm!! Wake up Mamma, something's not right here. Did we get outside? Hmm, technically yes, we had our walk to and from school pick up. But there was no fun outside time. No joyous adventure time. I'm too tired to be creative, and they are just too tired.

So my older daughter and I sit on the couch and snuggle and talk about our plan. She agrees that we are doing too much and she understands that her little sister is getting too tired. She agrees to go back to riding the school bus home and we pick one after school activity. Ahh, I feel better already. She is asleep an hour earlier than normal and we even have time to write a story for her teacher about eating "sand witches." "It has to be funny Mamma," she says with a twinkle in her eye. Thank you for the reminder my dearest.

Habit forming

January 23

One of the best books I read last year was The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. He describes how much of our lives we spend carrying out habits that we have formed. Something like 40% of our day is directed by habit. Wow! That is a lot. It really got me thinking. One of the reasons I started this project was to try and get myself and my family into the habit of being outside. I figured once we establish the habit it will have momentum and kind of run itself.

Today I had the first inkling that our habits are changing. I think, just maybe, leaving the garage open when we come home has become a trigger for the habit of . . . yes, playing outside. Duhigg talks about how habits work, very simple really. There is a trigger for the habit, the activity of the habit, and the reward. So I think, I hope, I have set up a trigger that leads to being outside. And the reward? FUN!

Here is what happened. My little one and I pull into the driveway after a morning out of the house. It is bitter cold, biting wind, sunny but chillingly cold. I'm not really thinking about playing outside, I'm COLD! An unscrewed water bottle drenched one arm of my heavy coat that morning in the car so I'm under dressed and ready for some tea. But as soon as we pull into the garage, before I can hit the button to close the door, my little one asks excitedly, "Can we play outside?" Oh, yes, yes my little one we can. I rush inside and grab another coat and hats for us both. Out we go. I push her on the mini bike with the long handle. Around and around she peddles nearly missing bushes and walls. Her nose is pink and she squints against the wind. But we are out in this winter world, even if just for a while. It feels so good. I feel my face chill and my lungs fill with sharp clean air. There will be plenty of time later for hot tea (another fine habit).

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

More with less

January 22

Today we are sort of stuck. We are over scheduled and other than our quick walk from school to the car our outside time is on a sidewalk, in . . . a strip mall. We start with a wild gallop from one curb cut to the next. This nice straight path is delineated by a wide yellow strip on the curb side and a row of plate glass windows on the other. We began this galloping back and forth months ago when my older daughter first started taking her class in this building. We can see her inside moving in unison with the other kids. A blur of white as they kick, step, punch, repeat. There is silence and then a rush of sound as they count in Japanese.

My little one can't wait to begin Karate with her sister. But for now we are outside and have this wide strip of flat concrete to use for our entertainment. After the galloping we move to tickle monster but that proves too intense. She wants to run but not to be chased. Just a month ago she would have been sound asleep at this time.

Today we discover robots. "You be Mommy Robot and I'll be Baby Robot," instructs my little one. I stiffen my limbs and take on the requisite monotone voice. I shamble along patting her head saying, "Nice Baby Robot, bleep, bloop, blip." She thinks this is very funny and I'm glad to have found her funny bone. After a bit I decide my robot is broken and I tip half way over and repeat, "Mommy Robot needs help, fix me, fix me, fix me." I try to keep a straight face as my tiny mechanic begins working on me. She has pretend tools that make noise and after a bit she pushes me upright with all her strength. Clearly this is the sign that I am fixed. Off we go again, back and forth along the side walk. No toys, no grass, just a flat space and our imaginations.

Fun with friends

January 21

We have a much needed day off today and we stay in our PJ's until well into the afternoon. The sun is still out but the wind has picked up. The cold has crept out of the shadows and is right in my face as soon as I open the door. Thankfully we have friends scheduled to come play for a couple of hours in the afternoon. This gives us a reason to brush our teeth.

As soon as company arrives we rush outside. The kids head to the swings. The moms sip afternoon coffee and catch up on the latest. These are the kind of friends who are more like family. We instantly fall into play and talk. We don't see them often but the thread is never lost. My little one takes her nine year old friend's hand and leads her back into the house to get their barbies. Out they come having traded dolls for the moment and head to a bench to play. There they go we smile, our girls who love dolls.

On the other side of the yard, the two six year olds are happily trading karate chops. My girl is so happy to have a brother to spar with even if only for an afternoon. She often tells me she wishes she had an older brother. They kick the air and wave their arms wildly about. There is contact but not enough to hurt. They know the implicit rules of a mock battle.

The game shifts to surfing and they all climb on the slide to catch the pretend waves. This ends up in a jumble of sliding bodies and thumps on the grass. But all are smiling and they climb right back on for more. Finally it is time for our guests to leave and we sadly say goodbye. "I'm so glad we got outside today," says my friend in parting. Yes, so am I.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Digging in the dirt

January 20

Another day of sunshine came our way today and what a treat. It is Sunday and everyone is home. We open all the doors and windows and let the fresh air pour through the house. We head to the backyard and spend a nice long time playing make believe. My little one is dressed in a huge puffy pink princess dress topped by a bright red wig. "Your the prince!" she announces. "We can dance at the ball," she continues. "I'm a teenager," says my six year old. "Pretend I have a computer and a phone," she adds. The princess and the teenager swing and slide and run to their hearts content. There is a chill in the shadows that reminds me it is January but the sunshine feels so good on my bare skin. I have on a short sleeved shirt for the first time this year.

As the make believe game peters out I grab a trowel and start tuning over the dirt in our little garden bed. There is nothing growing this time of year but I just feel like getting my trowel dirty. My girls join me each taking a tool and we all begin to dig. We take turns with the tiny hand rake, the long narrow trowel and the short stout trowel. "Trade you," announces my six year old and we all switch. A lovely worm is discovered several inches down. We name him, hold him and then set him in a safe corner to bury down again. I think to myself that this year I will try and get started planting earlier and maybe even start some seeds in the house. I tell my girls that we will have to ask Grandpa for advice on when to start our seeds. He is a master gardener and always knows just when the right moment is to plant each seed. He even knows about planting during the right phase of the moon. Every time he tells me I am amazed and vow to remember what he says. Was it waxing or waning?  Maybe we can start a garden journal. My little writer would love that.  But for today there are no seeds and it doesn't matter what the moon is up to. We are just digging in the dirt.

The tree is dancing

January 19

The sun is shining and we are soaking it in. Clear sky-blue sky above! Everyone around us is happy. I'm getting messages from friends saying, "Enjoy this beautiful day." Should I be surprised that we humans are so sensitive to the weather? I certainly notice it a lot more now that we are in it everyday. And yes, this sunny day is making us feel good. "Who wants to eat outside at the soup place?" I ask as it approaches lunch time. We get our soup and head to the outside tables. We are the only ones there. "Come outside!" I want to shout to the patrons in the restaurant's dark interior. But I resist and focus on rolling up my sleeves to let my arms feel the warm rays.

We slurp our soup and look at the sky. The bare tree branches look like spindly fingers reaching up. After we eat we spend some time playing in on and around a tree in a raised bed just outside the restaurant  My little one cannot resist climbing up on the low circular wall that surrounds the tree. My first grader ducks under the bare branches and heads for the trunk. I know from past visits with this three that she will find a way to climb. I remember when she was little and used to walk around and around the circular wall just like her little sister does now. I have years of photos of them here next to this unassuming  tree planted outside the soup place. "The tree is dancing!" I hear. "Look at the shadows," adds my older daughter  From her perch she is gently pushing the branches with her feet. On the ground the outlines sway this way and that. "I want to climb!" announces my little one and we scoot in to the base of the tree. I give her a boost and she is up next to her sister.

I had a special tree as a kid. I spent a lot of time sitting in the low branches looking out at my world from this altered angle. I remember the feeling of testing a branch to see if it could hold my weight. I remember the thrill of gently swaying back and forth with the wind, high up in my tree. My tree was dancing, yes my dears, and so is yours.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Goats eat everything!

January 18

It is Friday afternoon and we are at the ranch. Our regular day was rained out so today I have a bag of carrots in my purse. That is enough to make me smile. Maybe I should always carry carrots in my purse. I did finally get the stale bread in the car for the geese by the way.

While my older daughter rides "her" horse my little one and I entertain the goats. They remember us from last time and make it clear that the carrots should all be for them. After lots of crunching and some petting we head off to play on the line of bricks laid out in a nice low obstacle course demarcating the path from the barn to the ring. I hold her hand and she walks and kicks up her legs showing me how a ballerina can jump. She has been wearing a sky blue tutu over her clothes for three days now. I'm going to have to sneak it into the wash this evening.

I don't know how it is at your house but we read some books over and over and over  . . .  The top hits in heavy rotation is how I think of them.  One of our current favorites is Duck on a Bike. In this delightful book a group of farm animals all get a chance to ride on bikes after watching Duck go first. On one page the goat tries to eat his bike taking a big bite out of the wicker basket attached to the front. So when we head back into the barn we are very very thrilled to see one of the goats attempting to eat a wooden wheelbarrow!!! His teeth slide and scrape the side as he tries to get a good bite. "LOOK! Goats eat everything!" my little one cries. I couldn't have planned this if I'd tried. It is one thing to read a book about a farm, and I'm all for that, but this is the real deal.

Save the worm Mamma!

January 17

It is getting very cold, very fast. It may snow tonight. As we walk up the little hill to the school our noses turn bright red. "The air tastes minty!" says my little one. I smile and take a deep breath. Would I have thought of that? Probably not. Thank you sweet girl. We stand stomping our feet while we watch the few bike riders being dismissed. Maybe someday we will be that brave, but it seems a little slippery for my taste. Next come the stream of walkers. I look and look for my daughter's pink coat. Scanning the line I feel the slightest tingle of worry, did she get on the bus by mistake? Where is she? And then she is there right in front of us smiling. She sees that I've been looking over her head and that I was worried. Every time I get her back a little piece of my heart relaxes. All day while she is at school a little spring inside of me is set ready to go at a moment's notice. And so when I finally hug her and take her heavy backpack off her shoulders, I feel the spring release, ah, my babies are safe.

We walk back down the hill toward the car. "I'm cold, cold, cold," she chants. "I know, let's move, move, move," I reply feeling my hands burn with the lowering temperature. But she is in no hurry. She's been inside all day. She shuffles her feet pushing pine needles this way and that. Suddenly she is crouched on the sidewalk finger pointing, "Save the worm Mamma!" I look and there is an earthworm stuck on the nearly freezing pavement. "Get him, put him back with his family!" my daughter implores. I gently scoop up the worm and lift him to safety in the leaves. He slowly wriggles his way out of sight. We all feel better. Where did this love of earthworms come from? She can't stand insects and is quite afraid of ants. But here she is attentive enough to notice this worm in distress that I would have walked right over. And her sense of concern, wanting to make sure he gets home to his family underground, this is precious. This cannot be learned inside.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Dancing in the rain

January 16

We pull into the driveway and I suggest we play for a bit before going inside. "No!" says my tired first grader. It is Wednesday and the week is feeling very long. "What if we play with our umbrellas and dance?" I suggest. That gets a smile and we rush out of the car and unfurl our umbrellas. It is sprinkling and my little one sticks out her tongue to catch some drops. "It tickles!" she squeals. My lovely first grader is sashaying around the driveway with her umbrella spinning around her. I try not to stare since she now sometimes stops herself from these moments of abandon when she sees me watching. Not often, thank goodness. Plenty of times I am still called on to witness her feats of agility, strength or silliness. "Look Mamma!" are two of my favorite words. But today she is tired and I know her mood can shift in a moment. I decide we need some music and  search for Singing in the Rain on my phone. Something else comes on and the girls go wild. "This is the stage!" shouts my little one and she swirls faster. There are curtsies and bows followed by much prancing. The music slows and they sway in time. I join them with my umbrella and envision what we look like from above. Three twirling umbrellas bobbing around the pavement.

A gust of wind blows one of the umbrellas inside out. "Look, a flower! It's drinking the rain." says my first grader. "Wait, it's a hexagon," she continues counting the sides. I'm going to have to remember to give her teacher a big hug. A new song comes on and the dancing recommences  Can it really be this simple? Leave the garage open, twirl an umbrella, listen to a tune. . .

We could walk . . .

January 15

It is raining on and off and we are at the mall. One of those nice outdoor pseudo small town feeling deals. I have to say that one of the reasons we bought our house was because of this place. I feel a little mixed about the choice. Yes we live in the burbs and there are not any genuine Main Streets to be had. But really, choosing to live next to a "nice" but completely manufactured center of commerce? Would it be better to live next to an ugly strip mall (no), or the mega enclosed double-decker mall on the other side of town (ugh!). Or should we be in the country, or no wait, in the city . . . OK I have to stop myself, because we live where we live and moving is not in the cards right now. So here we are walking along getting more of our stuff done. My little one has decided to splash in all the puddles and I am enjoying this sight. 

After leaving one store I start to head back toward the car. I'm planning on loading up and driving to the next store. Well it is at the other end of the mall. Wait! What am I doing? We can’t walk the length of two football fields? Why is my first thought always to drive? Did I mention we live next to this place? As in a 15 minute walk and a 5 minute bike ride. How often to we walk over here? Almost never. And yes there are sidewalks. But we are such a car culture. We love our cars, I love my mobile living room as I call it. But to get from basically one side of a parking lot to the other? This is getting silly. And so what if it’s raining, we have gear, and my little ones feet are already sopping, driving, walking, or flying, she’s got wet feet. So I put my bags in the car and we head off to our next destination. I let little puddle jumper lead the way and she picks our route. Thank you Dora for getting her so into maps and journeys. Along the way we find two fountains to throw coins in. We hear some nice music (yes the outdoor piped in kind) that inspires a little dancing and we see several little birds enjoying the puddles too.

At the corner of a building my little one shouts “Holly! Holly Jolly Holly!!!” And there it is a nice full holly bush with perfect red berries. We did a lot of reading over the holidays and she really adopted the holly for some reason. Maybe because it is so fun to say when rhymed with Jolly. We stop and look. She tells me very seriously that the berries are for the birds not for us. And she also reminds me that the leaves are very pokey.  After a bit we continue on our way through the manufactured small town. But I’m starting to appreciate it a little more. Yes, it was built all at the same time and, and yes you know the names of every store in here, but there is something real to be found if we just get out of the car and walk.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The joys of a wet swing

January 14

Did I say the "other days would be a snap"? After getting outside on New Years day in the gloom of a rainy dusk I did think that thought. But you know, this is going to take some doing. Every day, yea, as in today too? Well drat, now I'm going to have to really make an effort. What's my excuse? It's cold, it's raining and we are busy. Life is busy, no matter how you slice it, there is all that stuff to do. It is Monday and I've got a list. Oh, I like my lists. Finally put it on my phone, just add and add, and check check check things off. Kind of sad how much I like my list. But there it is, stuff that's gotta get done.

It's noon and I know we are running out of time, our afternoon is packed. Do I really want to drag my exhausted children out in the cold rainy dusk today? No, that was fun that one time because it was new and  we were rested. So what's it going to be? The Park. Yep the wet, cold, slippery park. "Let's go say hi to the geese," I suggest and we turn the car towards the park. I have not yet put a stash of stale bread in the car as I've been meaning to so we really only can say hi and watch the Canadian Geese and one far away heron stand in the shallows. It's nice, but we don't last long. "Let's go play," announces my little one. I try to explain that everything is wet and slippery. She doesn't care. She climbs up on the wide low wall encircling the play area. I hold her hand standing on the ground next to her. We walk hand in hand her head even with mine. This is a new perspective for both of us and for a moment I can imagine her full grown looking straight into my eyes.

She spots the swings and hops off the wall. There is a nice little puddle in the seat of each swing. "I think they are too wet," I say wondering why I didn't think to bring a towel. "Push me, push me, push me!" What's a little water I decide and  up she goes. I move in front of her and begin to push her feet. This is apparently the funniest thing I have ever done and she begins to laugh. She giggles each time I push her and her face is luminous. I try to capture this moment in my mind. She is so full of joy and abandon. This moment makes it all worthwhile.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Peddle Peddle Peddle . . . family on the go

January 13

For a long time my husband and I have been trying to figure out a weekend activity that will be wonderful for all four of us. OK other than staying in our PJ's and eating pastries. What can we do that is active, outside, and FUN? I think today we figured it out. My six year old is finally steady enough on her bike to handle bumpy sidewalks, curb cuts and sudden stops and my little one loves to be on the back of my bike. My husband is one of those "I love to run, I have to run, when can I get in a run?" people. Yes, I find this behavior perplexing. But that's him. So today he sets off running and we follow him on our bikes. Ah, same speed, same distance, and yes, fun for all.

I am enjoying being out and thinking about how close everything really is to my house and how I should really try and use my bike to do my errands. My mind drifts as I imagine pulling up at the dry cleaner on my bike. OK that's too much, but I could ride to pick up my little one at preschool. She would love that. . .

My husband is puffing along, not really appearing to work hard, but definitely in the "no talking" zone he goes into when he runs. How this is fun for him I'll never know. My little one shouts, "Sky blue! The sky is SKY blue today!" She has just discovered the multiple shades of one color in her crayon box and has taken this glorious knowledge out into the world. Yes, I think, the sky is sky blue, you are amazing. Meanwhile my older daughter is busy negotiating the terrain. She no longer comes to a complete stop at any bump or imperfection in the road and I watch her ride across a slanted driveway with relief. Last summer that driveway would have been almost insurmountable. She loves to know I'm right behind her and I work hard to stay close, but not too close. I ring my bell to say hello and she reminds me she needs a bell so that she can answer me..

At the first long hill my newly minted bike rider starts to slow down, gradually reaching a pace at which balance becomes difficult.  I watch my husband slow, turn and wordlessly come and run next to her with a hand on her back, giving her just enough of a push to make it up the incline. I start to get tears in my eyes. It is these little moments that fill my heart with such love for him and his quite sweetness. He is there, a little push, just enough, and on we ride watching the sky blue sky.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Play with me Mamma

January 12

It is finally Saturday! This has been a long week. My first grader needs me. I can see it in her face. Her eyes get a little watery and she looks tired. When we come home from getting donuts I leave the garage door open (my new habit) and immediately my girls ask to play outside. Out come the bikes and the scooters. I really really want to go inside and get some stuff done. I can't remember now what was so pressing but you know, there is always stuff. Stuff to do. But I realize this is the prefect time to play outside. So I resist the urge to sort junk mail, start lunch, or fold laundry and I stay in the driveway.

"Play with me Mamma," says my tired girl. Oh, I don't get to hear those words nearly enough these days. Yes, my sweet first born, I think, I would love to play with you. I miss you when you are at school and I know you are growing so fast into a little lady but I would LOVE to play with you. And so ensues a fantastic hour of play. My little one and I are clearly expected to follow along and that is fine with us. My six year old in her perfectly developmental stage of loving rules, spends lots of time and many words describing how we are going to play. "Now when we are here, it is the roof, so you can't get us."  "Then we will run and you have to try and get us, but you can't because then we will be here and that is inside the big tree, for pretend, and you can't get us there." On an on she goes, with lots of "Pause the game!" and "No, you are supposed to not see us right now!" I love it. I do my best to follow her instructions and her little sister is over the moon to be included in a game with BOTH her big sister and her Mommy. We run and chase and laugh and talk and chase some more.

This play sets the tone for the rest of the day. There is more imaginative play inside and more sweetness between my girls. The TV is off and we are finally just home together as a family.

A rant about recess . . . or the lack there of

January 11

Okay, for the record, my little one and I were outside a lot today, a bike ride, a nature walk, driveway play, walking to get my older daughter. Yes, we were outside, and it was great. But . . . here's the thing, my first grader was at school the entire time. Not a problem, I love school, I loved being in school, I became a teacher so I could work in a school. I am very happy with my daughter's school . . but WHAT HAPPENED TO RECESS? Oh, feels good to raise my voice just a bit.

When I was first teaching we had three recesses in the school day: 10 minutes in the morning, 30 minutes after eating lunch, and 20 minutes in the afternoon. That didn't seem like a lot. Amazingly that ten minutes in the morning was very very helpful. Kids who came in sleepy finally woke up. Those who came in wiggly got settled into school. Nowadays how much recess does my daughter get? Twenty minutes. Not at each recess, but total (in a seven hour school day). Do I have to use all caps again? In seven hours they can only carve out 20 minutes for outside play time? Here's the thing, when I ask about her day, what she consistently tells me is what she did at recess. Here is a sample: "Today we built squirrel houses out of leaves." "Today I was a pet dragon," "Today we played pirates." "Today I was the fastest runner." "Today I was the puppy dog." This time is not a waste, it is not frivolous, and it is not expendable. Do I need to get into brain research about how kids need movement and unstructured time to allow their brains to transfer the short term learning to long term knowledge?  Do I have to talk about how kids focus more after they have had a chance to play and run, climb and yell? And do I really have to say out loud that it doesn't make any sense to keep anyone sitting for six hours and 40 minutes? When is the last time you tried it? Yes, you sit at work, but I bet you can get up when you want, take a stretch, use the bathroom, grab a snack. And you probably don't get in trouble for talking to your friends. . .

Maybe it would help if recess were called it something fancy. How about Cognitive, Social, Motor Skill Integration Time? It could even be on the report card. "Well Mrs. Smith, it looks like Little Johnny is doing outstanding in CSMSI Time!"  News flash: kids need to run around outside at school. They need RECESS!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Attitude Adjustment

January 10

My grandmother was a wise woman. I never lived near her but she always made sure that I knew she loved me. She sent letters mostly and when I saw here she would find quiet moments and share her life philosophy. "Happiness is a choice," she said to me many times. As a child I had no idea what she was talking about. As a young adult I thought she was kooky. But now I understand. It's about perspective  and how I choose to respond to all that life brings my way.

Today I found myself and my little one at the park. It was our first choice in destinations after leaving preschool. Both of us now becoming gloriously addicted to our new found daily outdoor time. When I told her we were going to the park she whooped with excitement. We headed to our local park, just minutes away. It has a wonderful playground and access to a river with ducks and Canadian Geese in residence. Why aren't we here every day, I thought. This is a little paradise. Why indeed? I guess because I needed an attitude adjustment. I needed to kick myself in the behind and get out of my rut. Thanks grandma. Happiness is a choice. And choosing to visit the park today is making us both very very happy.

We started at the river looking for fish and watching the geese splash their big wings in the water. I had never seen them doing this before and wondered if they were taking a bath on this first warmish day in weeks. They could have been having a water fight there was so much spray. I noticed the flat rocks tipping into the water near where we were sitting. They were beautiful and inviting. We will have to come and wade in the shallows as soon as it warms up I thought to myself.

Next we headed up to the playground and spent a solid hour engrossed in running, climbing, swinging, spinning, and chasing. When it was time to go, neither of us was ready. "We can come back tomorrow," I said trying to console us both.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Horsing Around

January 9

Like I mentioned I grew up in the woods. We had chickens, a big vegetable garden, lots of trees to climb and . . . yes, a horse. She lived in the back near the chickens and it was my job to take care of her. I have to say I learned a lot from Princess (yes, Princess) about responsibility, consistency  facing challenges, and above all about love, just pure love. Love for her, love for galloping, love for being in the woods. I had one of those now unheard of childhoods where I was told, "be home by dark." And that was it. No directions,  no organized activities, no supervision, just go outside. And so I did and lucky lucky lucky for me I had a horse to go with me. I was never in a horse show and I only occasionally used a saddle. This was not a fancy set up.

So fast forward to me now, the mother of two girls. When my first daughter hit the usual horse crazy stage, let's just say I enabled her. I encouraged her, and I was over the moon to get a chance to spend time with horses again. But we do not live in the woods, we cannot have a horse in the back, and there is no way I am going to say "Go outside now and don't come home until dark." So what's today's version? How can I possibly give my kids the experience of barns and curry combs and the feeling of a huge gentle animal carrying you along? The best I've been able to come up with is riding lessons. But not the fancy high pressure kind. Not the goal oriented kind. No we found the mellow ranch, slightly run down but full of animals who are less than perfect to look at but who are wonderfully gentle, calm and yes, loving.

While my first grader learns which brush to use on the forelock, my little one and I distribute our mother load of carrots. We become very popular very fast. The goats are funny. They want the carrots but don't quite know how to attack them. I learn that they want bite size chunks. While the official lesson has now moved to the riding portion, what I think of as the unofficial lesson is going strong, "Don't run up behind a horse," states my little one matter of factly after I have just explained why this is important. We walk the dusty path from the barn to the riding ring. She stops to look at the rocks, the fence, the water trough. "Why do horses live in stalls," she asks. This is what I wanted, a little real life horse experience. Why do horses live in stalls I think. "Because they are too big to live in a house," I reply. I get a smile. This is going to be fun.

Merrily we walk along

January 8

Today I broke my self imposed moratorium on after school activities. I've been trying to simplify our lives, keep the hubbub to a minimum and allow for time to unfold gently at least sometimes. For the first half of this school year, we have spent our afternoons at home. My little one would take a nice long afternoon nap, I would have some one on one time with my first grader and then we could play, read, eat and enjoy the time until bed. 

But then . . . my little one stopped napping! And the whole dynamic changed. My first grader is not as tired after school now and so I timidly decided to take her to a class on a Tuesday after school. A big step in my little world.  What does this have to do with getting outside? Well, to get to the class on time I have to pick my daughter up from school. To pick her up at school we have to park the car a few blocks away since there is not nearly enough parking at the school. Here it is, our time outside!!! What used to feel like a huge drag (walking all the way from the car to the school, yes about ten minutes) is now a great opportunity for a little exercise and a chance to get some fresh air.

My little one and I park and head up the sidewalk towards the elementary school. She runs ahead shouting, "I'm Pippi! I'm Pippi! Try to get me." She is like a little spring who has sprung. I thought she'd be tired after a day of preschool, some shopping and a snack. Just a month ago she would have been sound asleep at this time. But not today. I speed walk along behind her and we catch up with a friend also walking towards the school. I haven't seen her in months, been meaning to call, you know the drill. Ah, the unintended benefits of just being out of our car, out of our house, actually in our community. More parents gather to wait and chat. My little one peeks out from behind my legs to smile at a preschool buddy. This is way more fun than waiting at home for the bus to arrive. And then the rush of students come out of the school. There is an anthill of activity as parents match up with students and they begin to disburse. We follow one crowed back in the direction of our car. My first grader slings me her backpack and starts chasing her friend down the sidewalk. Gathered by the cars, parents arrange play dates and suggest ballet classes while kids run on the grass. In about another five minutes everyone will be gone, the neighborhood back to its quiet self. But now, in this special time, we are outside and we are connecting with our friends. This may have to become a habit.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Just you and me kid

January 7

A blur of school and activity today. Back into the go go go feeling of regular life after the holidays. I am suddenly allergic to decorations and rid the house and yard (OK yes and car) of the last few decorations. Into a box, see you next winter.

My little one and I play in the front yard while waiting for the school bus. Today we make it outside an hour before it comes. We chase and run and pretend to hide. She mostly likes to race past me yelling "You can't catch me!" Eventually the bus swooshes to a stop and my first grader appears. She heads straight inside and asks if she can go up to her room for some time to herself. She has begun needing and asking for some decompression time after school. Even though I can't wait to ask about school and engage her I have learned that she just needs some time to just be after a long long school day. When she emerges from her room she is happy and re-energized. By now her little sister is watching a show. Finally we get some one on one time. "Let's go outside," I suggest. I tell my husband we are heading to the back yard and he nods.

Outside the evening is settling in and the air is golden. I could not have seen this subtle saturation of light from inside, even if I'd been standing right at the window. This is only going to last a few moments I think and I am thankful we are there to see and feel this particular moment. "Can you help me climb my tree?" asks my daughter. I think I'm going to cry with joy. Her tree, oh yes, her tree. She adopted this as her tree last summer and had announced she was going to sit it it every day and do her homework. But then of course we stopped going outside in the evenings and the plan was forgotten. So this evening I give her a boost and up she scrambles to her favorite nook. Her tree is not very tall and in her spot she is just above my eye level as I stand close by. She begins telling me about her day. I don't have to prompt or prod, she just starts talking and talking and talking. She is in a tree and she has my full attention, joy oh joy.

The Park? Really?

January 6

It is Sunday and again, cold, cold, cold. There is a thick sheet of ice on the water table outside. That is my way of judging the temperature. Is there ice? If yes, how thick? It has become a morning ritual for my girls to look outside at the water table on the deck and see if there is ice or not. Many mornings they go out in fluffy slippers and robes to break the ice with fingers or sticks. This morning there are big sheets of ice to break and toss. They explode into tiny ice fragments as they hit the deck. If I didn't know better I'd think there was a broken windshield out there.

Today I am more proactive about getting outside. "After lunch we are going to the park," I announce. "The park? Really?" says my husband. "Don't you think it's too cold?" (Yes!!! Yes! I think to myself) but I answer, "We'll go to the closest one and we only have to stay for 15 minutes." I get a nod and he goes back to peeling potatoes. I love it when he gets inspired to make Sunday lunch!

Birds nest spotted high above
We make it to the park in the afternoon and yes, it is cold but I'm starting to realize- it doesn't matter. My kids LOVE being outside. They aren't cold, they are bundled up and they are running, jumping, climbing and shouting. I think the joyful shouting is one of my favorite parts of our new outdoor time. They can be loud, they can squeal and sing and screech and it sounds wonderful. I'm not asking for an inside voice or saying my ears are tired, please, please stop. . . Nope, now I love their joyful noise. And I make up crazy monster faces while we chase around the playground, just to hear them screech more.

When their hands get too cold from holding the bars and the swing chains we go for a little walk around the park. I need to make those rice filled, heart shaped, hand warmers I saw on Pinterest I think . . . but I digress. As we walk we notice things big and small. "Here's a lady bug!" shouts my first grader. I think, isn't he cold, I thought they'd be hibernating or something. Mental note: look up how ladybugs survive the winter. My little one always attuned to the sky spots a bird's nest high in a tree. We look around and can see five nests in the trees above us! What fun it will be to know they are there when we are here in the spring and can here the chirping of newly hatched chicks.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Treasure Hunt

January 5
It is Saturday, City Boy is home, and we are feeling very lazy. The skies are gray again and it looks really cold out there. So the day unfolds slowly . . . inside. Thank goodness for my promise (15 minutes outside every day). Instead of starting another art or baking project, or just putting on a movie I start to think. And her is where I have to sing the praises again of the book that got me started on this plan: Fifteen Minutes Outside: 365 Ways to Get Out of the House and Connect with Your Kids by Rebecca Cohen. She talks about setting up an outside treasure hunt and letting children follow clues to find treasure. Perfect!!! So I enlist my little one to help set up the hunt for her big sister. We get paper and pens and I draw a very simple map of our back yard. Then we talk about where we should hide the treasure. Being three she has the marvelous idea to have lots of treasure so we come up with five different treasure locations and mark each spot with a number on the map. Next we make a list with the names of each hiding place: 1. Deck, 2. Tree 3. Bush . . . and so on. I am trying to make this EASY for our first try. My hope is that my first grader will use both the map and the list to make her way around the yard finding our hidden treasures. 

Then we head to the pantry and get five plastic baggies. We fill each with a different treat, whatever is on hand. We find a left over candy cane, banana chips, some fruit leather, a little chocolate bar and some popcorn. Little one and I head out to hide the booty. She tiptoes and reminds me to be "very quiet!" When we come back inside we announce that we have been told that there is TREASURE in the back yard. My older daughter is very happy snuggled in her room playing and she looks at me with suspicion when we make our announcement. "Look, we even have a treasure map," I add. She takes the map and the list and reads it. "I don't know . . " she trails off. "But there's a CANDY CANE!!!" bursts out my little one. She cannot hold in the surprise for one more second. That's all it takes and we are outside searching in seconds. We rush around the yard going from one clue to the next. The bags are "hidden" but not really and we soon have our bounty in hand. 

We munch for a bit and then, since we are standing right next to the swings, it just seems natural that we would play for a while. Yes, I have a swing set in my back yard. And how often do we use it? I feel so guilty. The answer, not nearly enough. But here we are swinging, and laughing and breathing the frosty air.

Howdy Neighbor

January 4
I am determined to get out on our bikes this afternoon. It is cold, it is windy and I don't care. I have been so invigorated by the last few days I am ready for a new adventure. My first grader loves to ride her bike but since the summer we have only been out a few times. I have a nice cushy seat for my little one on the back of my bike and there is even air in all the tires. See, no excuses! Just a little wind. The sun is finally shining and I don't want to miss it.

When I tell my daughters we are going on a bike ride they squeal with delight. As we walk down the driveway properly helmeted, jacketed and bundled I ask my older daughter which direction we should go. "Let's go left and explore the whole neighborhood!" Off we go. It is garbage day so the side walk poses extra obstacles. But we are so happy to be out that we don't mind and it becomes a game to navigate around them. I am always curious to see what people put in their recycling i.e. how many wine bottles (naughty habit I know).

We meander through our neighborhood and up and down a few gentle hills. My little one is bundled up so snug that only her little eyes and nose are poking out. I figured since she was the only one not peddling she needed extra layers. She looks contentedly up at the sky and is quick to point out holiday lawn decorations that are still out.

Suddenly a car slows and I see a friendly face and a wave. The car pulls into a driveway and I realized this is my new neighbor. We stop our bikes and have a nice little chat on the sidewalk. The neighbor and I make plans to have coffee soon and we peddle off. Suddenly I realize, I wouldn't have seen that neighbor for months if we weren't out on our bikes today. We spend so much time in our houses, we get disconnected from people, even those only a few houses away.

After about half an hour we head home and contentedly shuck off our outerwear. I heat up some apple cider and we sip it while we talk about our ride. My little one is tired and I can tell I better feed her soon because she is about to conk out for the night. All that fresh air and looking at the sky.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Leaving the garage door open

Today I pick up my little one from preschool and we head home. She used to nap during this afternoon window and I would get some delicious down time before my first grader would get off the school bus. But these days my three year old is way to busy to nap. As we pull into the drive way and I push the button to open the garage, yes, again going from one enclosed space to another, I think maybe I'll leave the garage door open this time and see what happens.

My little one pops down from her car seat and heads straight for her new tricycle parked nearby. Onto the trike and out into the driveway for a game of slow motion chase. I pretend to chase her and she peddles as hard as she can, barley moving up the slight incline of the driveway. I give her a gentle push and she screams, "I won!" Ah, I didn't realize we were racing. She is full of laughter and the game morphs by the moment from chase to race to make believe  Just the way it should be for her after a day of school. She just wants me nearby to witness her feats of adventure. "Here I goooooooooooo!" she shouts as she heads straight into a hedge. 

This time of day is usually challenging. We are both tired but don't want to do anything structured. We can't really go anywhere since the school bus will be coming soon. I dread turning on the TV because then that is all that happens for the rest of the afternoon. And so, instead, here we are in the 36 degree temperature, running and laughing and racing back and forth and back and forth. I feel my lungs fill with chilly air, I see my daughter's nose get red from the cold and her cheeks flush with running. This little bit of time will change the whole course of our afternoon. I can feel it. I will be more calm and more patient with the after-school/pre-dinner routine. And my little one will be tuckered out in a happy way. Finally having had the freedom to just be outside. 

I think about that garage door and how I always make sure to close it before we get out of the car. I thought I was keeping the cold out but really I knew that if it was open my children would see the open space of the driveway, the toys parked near and would want to go outside. And secretly I would dread this. Yes, I have to admit, I dreaded them wanting to go outside. Why? I think because I always feel like I have so much to get done. And I would just feel so tired and not want to stand in the driveway. But here is what I have realized, we don't have to be out for two hours, just 15 minutes, and if that stretches to 30 so be it. I am starting to see that the time I spend in the driveway playing may be the high point of my day.

Tree Tag and other reasons to RUN!

Yesterday morning we woke up to our last day of winter vacation. After a slow start and a leisurely breakfast my little one said, "Let's go out the front door!" To her this meas outside. We too often leave the house via the garage and thus go from one enclosed space to another. Many times upon getting ready to go she will ask, "Do we have to take the car? Why can't we walk?" I have to say her love for the outdoors was a big part of my inspiration for this year long commitment to go outside every day. And on the flip side there is my six year old who seems all too happy to be inside. This will be good for all of us. By the way, there is a fourth member of the family, my husband. He is a classic City Boy so I'm not sure how many of our adventures he will join us for, but he usually admits that nature is "nice" after I drag him on a hike.
Amazing lichen on one of our Tag Trees

So we bundled up again, finding our discarded boots and coats just where we left them the night before. We headed outside with our little bags but they were quickly shoved into pockets. "The trees are base!" shouted my six year old. And off they ran across the yard. "Mamma, you're the monster, try to catch us," instructed my older daughter. I mimicked a zombie and plodded across the yard. They shrieked and run tagging tree after tree as they went. I pretended not to see them and walked around whistling, they ran past me taunting, "you can't get us!"

For all the looking close and collecting the night before we were now rushing, crashing, and just running running running in the open space. I realized with relief that not every outing this year will require a lesson plan. There will be plenty of time to observe,  now it was time to let loose bursts of playful energy. "I'm riding Blaze!" yelled my daughter as she took off galloping. "I'm on Midnight!" answered her sister. I watched them galloping around and around thinking, this is heaven.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

It is raining, cold and getting dark . . . let's go outside!

If we can get ourselves outside in the cold rain at dusk on the first day of the year, I'm thinking the rest of the days will be a snap. Here is the story of our first adventure.

We bundle up and I hand each daughter a Ziploc bag, "for your natural treasures." I say. I hand the only working flashlight I can find to my three year old and out we go. There is a burst of air as we step out onto the front steps. "Smell the rain!" I shout. OK yes, I'm a little excited, but it really did smell amazing. My girls take a deep breath and smile. We walk out onto the lawn and see rivulets of water rushing and pooling in the dusky light. "Where are the ants?" says my little one. Ah, the teacher in me smiles, there is a great question for investigation. "What do you think?" I answer and she begins to look around intently shining the flashlight here and there. "I think they are hiding, it's too cold for them out here," chimes in my six year old. We keep searching for ants and discover some Pansies  drooped over in the flower bed. These become our first natural treasures and are carefully placed in the bags. There is so much to see, in our own front yard! I know it is such a cliche but also so true. We look at the lichen on the bark of a tree, pick up some spiky leaves, and some wood chips. I suddenly remember the standing magnifying glass I bought a year ago, bingo, we'll set up a little table to display and observe our collections when we get inside. 

Natural Treasures
We head to the sidewalk and find a great puddle near the mailbox. "Let's jump," I suggest and we splash and stomp with glee. Why did I put the waterproof spray on the boots if we're never going to get them wet, right? Just then my six year old turns and points to something caught in the gutter. I pick up a soggy box from a brownie mix we made days ago. "Hey, those are our brownies!" exclaims my little one. "This must have escaped from the recycling box yesterday and blown into the street," I explain. "We should throw it away," says my older daughter. Again, my little teacher heart pitter patters, a whole investigation of trash and recycling starts to form in my mind. "Where are the ants?" says my little one again with more intensity. "I think they are snuggled in their dens underground right now, it is too cold and wet for them to be out," I say thinking, but not to wet and cold for us!!!

I feel tingly, I feel energized, I feel like we have been out here in a magical world for hours. Nope, about 12 minutes. And at that moment I am hooked. This is going to be GREAT!

We stomp in a few more puddles, discuss how we could dam the water sheeting down the driveway, and scoop some wood chips away from the corner of a puddle and watch the water run free.

"Let's go inside," says my ant lover and we head in. Coats off, boots off, warm up our hands and we rush to find the magnifying glass. I quickly throw a dish towel over a side table and there is our new Natural Treasures Museum.  

Happy Happy New Year I think to myself.


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Let's Get Outside . . . Right NOW!

Yes today is New Years Day and my family should be winding up a nice long relaxing break from school and work, but instead we have been cooped up for ten days with fever, cough, upset tummy, you know- sick kids and then sick parents. Today I'm finally feeling good again and as I look out at the pouring rain melting the ice from last night and I think, "when was the last time we went outside?" Hmm, not sure. And while I'm all for hunkering down with hot tea, homemade blanket tents, and tag in the house, I also really really like to be outside. I grew up in the woods and spent almost all of my free daylight time outside. When and how did my family and I end up spending so much of our free daylight time inside? Yes, we've been sick, but that has just been the last two weeks. What about our habits? What about the "normal" days when I realize that the only time I've been in the "fresh air" is the parking lot between my car and the supermarket?

And since I've been in the contemplative mood considering New Years resolutions I began to think, "maybe I should put 'getting outside'on the list." But that seemed a little weak. Then I remembered an interview I heard about a man who read a book a day in 2012. Wow! Sounds great, but I haven't got that kind of time. Then it hit me, remember that book on the shelf: Fifteen Minutes Outside: 365 Ways to Get Out of the House and Connect with Your Kids. I picked it up and there it was, a chapter about going outside with kids in JANUARY!! I read the ideas and looked outside, it was now getting dark, and it was still raining. I turned to my daughters who were watching TV and said with a big grin, "Who wants to go outside and play RIGHT  NOW?" They jumped up and shouted, " Yes! ME!!!" "ME, me, me!" This was all I needed to hear, if this idea was exciting enough to tear them away from the tube, then I could wrangle some boots and rain coats.

So this blog is my story. A crazy idea to chronicle a year of getting outside again. I'm making a commitment to getting myself and my kids outside for at least 15 minutes a day, every day this year.

Stay posted. . .


P.S. For amazing and inspirational ideas for fun outdoors with kids check out Rebecca Cohen's Book. Fifteen Minutes Outside: 365 Ways to Get Out of the House and Connect with Your Kids