Sunday, November 9, 2008

Fun With Leaves and Berries

We've got three oak trees in the front yard, as well as a dogwood, a maple, and one tree I haven't identified yet. It's really beautiful in the autumn, but we get a LOT of leaves on the front yard.

This weekend my husband used our mulching mower to chop up a bunch of them for the yard and the compost pile, but then he and Olivia got out the big rake and the little rake and made a big pile of leaves for her to play in. She loves crunchy leaves.

After a while she started playing in other parts of the yard though, which I was happy about. It's not very often that my daughter does undirected, self-play outside. She had noticed our "burning bush" had a bunch of pretty red berries on it and was absorbed for about twenty minutes in picking them. She got a whole bunch and brought them up to the front step.

I looked at them, so vivid and bright, and said we should smash them up and color with the juice. They didn't end up smashing very well because the berry is mostly a big seed covered with a thin red skin. But we did figure out we could treat each one like a little crayon and use it to color lines and squiggles. We colored on the front step and also on a piece of paper. Instead of making red ink it made more of an reddish-orange color.

After a while I looked at my hands, covered with sticky berry juice, and it hit me: Why hadn't the birds and squirrels been eating the berries? And of course from there I remembered all the stories about poisonous red berries. I came in and googled it, and yes, my late instincts were right.

So yes, I was the mother that let her preschooler color with poison berries this weekend. But we sure had a good time!

Friday, October 31, 2008

A Different Kind of Halloween Activity

Halloween originated with an old Gaelic holiday called Samhain. For the Celts it was a time to celebrate the harvest and their dead.

During this past year my grandma and my father-in-law passed away, and a few years ago my father passed away. I talk about them with my daughter, but I thought it could be really special to put together a little traditional tribute to all of them today.

First we gathered photos of our passed on loved ones, as well as things they liked, or left to us or that reminded us of them. Then I got some little candles and we took them all outside. We put the candles down on our front walk, one for each person, and clustered our mementos around each one. After that we picked up some especially pretty autumn leaves and berries to finish our decorating.

As we lit the candles we sang songs that my daughter felt they would like (these included ABC's, a church song, and a Barbie song, haha), and then I spent about 10 minutes telling her stories about these loved ones from when they were little.

One thing my grandma loved was some special "surprise" tulips I planted in her yard one fall without telling her. It was so fun for both of us when they bloomed the next spring. This fall I had picked up a package of tulip bulbs, so after our songs and stories we planted surprise tulips to remember Grandma Ruby.

I don't want anyone to get the wrong idea about the nature of this activity. I'm a Mormon and believe in God and Christ. I'm definitely not a pagan or anything, and we didn't have any prayers or spells or chants at all. We just had a few quiet minutes together outdoors to appreciate the beautiful day, to plant flowers, and to reflect and remember our loved ones. It ended up being really special and I am looking forward to doing it again next year.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Puddles Aren't Just for Kids

Saturday was a rainy day and we were out of eggs so I took my daughter to a farm market. It's on one of those pick-your-own farms, and they have a really fun playground. After I did the shopping my daughter asked if she could play on the toys. They were soaked, with standing water everywhere, so I started to say no, but then I figured what could it hurt?

It was chilly, and she wasn't wearing rain boots, so I stripped off her tights and shoes and my own, and we went and splashed in the puddles. It was so much fun. The water was only cold for a minute, and then we got used to it and just splashed away. Afterwards we dried off and shared a cup of chili from the market before heading home.

Sunday's (less successful) outing was a walk in the woods by our house. Our HOA has been trying to develop a wooded area into a park. I thought I knew where it was, so we followed a trail down into the woods but it dead-ended near some railroad tracks. I'm just not ready for "off-roading." We played a little bit in our yard when we got back, but company was coming over, so I cut it short to straighten up the kitchen.

I'd say this weekend I learned a little bit of preparation can help. I wish I'd dressed us for the rainy weather on Saturday, and I need to check around and find out if there's a good trail close to the house.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Reclaiming My Child

My goal with this blog is to share my experiences as I try to break the hold television and computers have on my daughter. She's only 4, but if asked what she wants to do, she always says the following, in this order:

  • Watch a show
  • Play computer
  • Eat something
I was lucky enough to grow up in a small town in Idaho where we rode our bikes in the street, played Kick the Can and Hide and Seek with the neighbors, and were allowed to leave the house after lunch and play in open fields and unused lots until dinner. I floated down irrigation canals on inner tubes, played in ditches catching water skippers and explored the rocks and banks of my grandfather's lake side home.

I still remember the feeling of stepping out of the house on summer mornings, feeling the dew on my bare feet and smelling fresh cut grass. It was a wonderful childhood, something I wouldn't trade for anything.

I'm now married with 2 kids, living in rural Virginia, working full-time, and I've got an hour commute to work twice a week. I work from home the other three days and I let my daughter watch TV and play computer to keep her busy so I can work. She isn't interested in going outside by herself, and when we do go outside she wants to come back in almost immediately to watch a show.

She's being cheated of the kind of childhood she deserves and I can do so much better for her and my son.

I'm going to use this blog to share our successes and failures as I try to get my family outside more. We live in a beautiful place, and while I might not be familiar with nature in Virginia, I'm going to try to make it part of our lives.

Maybe some of you will share your thoughts and suggestions too. Please help me get the Wonder Pets theme song out of my head!