It’s Bee Time
November 3, 2011 at 6:00 am
We got a couple of special deliveries this past week. Our farmer friend Jan harvested honey and beeswax from her hives recently and was kind enough to share some of what she got with us.
This big jar of delicious local honey is a little like liquid gold to us. The honey helps keep us healthy during cold and flu season, and it tastes great on our toast and tea.
I was also thrilled that she gifted us with some wax from her hives this year, which we used to make some homemade beeswax polishfor our toys and also for blocks we colored, sanded and polished last week as part of our wood-themed homeschool pre-school class.
I’ve got some other big plans for these great local gifts, but I also thought it might be a good time to look back on last year’s “Honey Week,” when I spent several days talking about our farmer friend Jan and all things honey:
Hope you are enjoying a little of the sweet stuff where you are!
October 12, 2011 at 6:00 am
One of my kids’ favorite annual projects is apple painting.
I think we have put apple prints on just about everything — bags, table runners, T-shirts, greeting cards, homemade wrapping paper …
We love using apple halves and apples cut the other way, to reveal the star inside.
A friend gave us homemade banners to decorate with apple prints this year. She made them with pieces of muslin and wooden dowels.
They will be nice decorations for our home all season, and a perfect mama keepsake for years to come!
Quick Apple Print tips:
- Be sure to cover your table and wear old clothes.
- Cut lots of apples to devote to each color, but later in the process you can mix the yellow, red and green paint to get some really beautiful and realistic looking apple images.
- It’s easy to make a little “handle” in the apple half. Just cut a way a small piece from each side!
A Little Apple Story
October 11, 2011 at 6:00 am
Have you ever done the little apple poem with your kiddos?
I had the opportunity this week to share it with a new group of pre-schoolers, and I had kind of forgotten how completely excited they get. It seems like some kind of magic to find that little star inside.
The Apple Star
Take an apple, round and red
Don’t slice down, slice through instead
Open it up and you will see
A star inside for you and me!
We have been doing an Apple Week here since the kids were tiny and have discovered a lot of amazing apple-themed books over the years like The Apple Pip Princess, Jane Yolen’s Johnny Appleseed biography, Apples and Pumpkins and lots and lots of others.
What are your favorite apple books and stories?
Fall Fun: Leaf Rubbings
October 6, 2011 at 6:00 am
One of our favorite fall activities is to go for a hike (or even just hit the back yard) to look for cool and interesting leaves.
The kids and I spent a lot of time last week talking about leaves, why they change color, and all the different variety of trees that can be found in our area.
Afterwards, we took a stroll and a chose a variety of fallen leaves to take home and make leaf rubbings.
We used simple recycled paper, beeswax block crayons and our leaf collection to make a seasonal display for the front door. In the past we have also used cardstock to make autumn greeting cards for family and friends.
Quick how-to: Fold a piece of paper in half and insert the leaf into the middle. Holding the paper (and leaf inside) very still, rub the top with a block crayon or the side of a regular crayon. You may need to rub pretty hard to get a clear pattern to show up, so the littlest ones may need a bit of help.
This is an excellent project for tiny hands, though, and something we have been doing here since the kids were tiny!
How are you bringing little bits of fall inside your home?
Creating a seasonal table
September 14, 2011 at 6:00 am
I mentioned on Monday that this week we will be updating our seasonal table.
This is something we started doing several years ago — having a seasonal or nature table in our home.
But here is a quick funny story … Our nature table is “housed” on a small table that my grandfather bought for my grandmother many years ago. Before my grandfather died, he gave it to me.
I think because it reminded him or her. But this all worked out, because it reminds me of both of them. It reminds me of their love and commitment to each other. And so, even though it is essentially just a decorative table, it is important to me that it is a part of our home.
It’s grain engraving makes it a perfect fit for a nature table, I think.
And so, when Owen was old enough, we created a nature table for all of his “treasures.”
It was around the time that he started pre-school, so we were also arranging other areas of our home to be more conducive to learning.
My husband, seeing the nature table, suggesting we re-appropriate it since the kids were just putting random stuff on it.
I am sure this is how our first nature table looked — like some random junk piled up without much of a plan or design.
Since then, our nature table has changed a lot. It not only changes every season, but it sometimes changes day to day.
It is home to rocks and shells, pinecones, leaves, acorns, seeds, flowers, bug exoskeletons, twigs, bark and various other found items.
It is a place that brings the outside in, and it is a place my kids visit a lot …stopping to see something that to them has a lot of meaning.
I think my grandparents would have liked that.
Do you have a nature table in your home?
Kids in Trees
August 29, 2011 at 6:00 am
We have been reading a lot of Encyclopedia Brown around here lately.
We all enjoy the mystery books — the kids love the stories and how Encyclopedia figures it out each time. I like the way the books are laid out — perfect for reading one or two chapters at bedtime or after lunch. And, OK, I like the stories too. It is a little success for me when I can keep up with an 11-year-old kid in the solving mysteries department.
But what continues to surprise me about these stories is that being set in a different time, there are a lot of references to things that today, aren’t always universally accepted in parenting circles.
There are knives and swords. There are snake races. There’s a gun in one story, and a kidnapping in another (blamed on a clown, no less).
Can you imagine asking a fellow mom if her kid could come over for a little knife action and snake racing?
“Oh, don’t worry,” you would say, “Creepy the Clown from next door promised to help me keep an eye on the kids.”
I was reminded again last week of how much things really have changed in the past couple of generations.
We were at a playdate when a mom found a turtle. The kids gathered around excitedly. The mothers pulled out the hand sanitizer.
There is nothing wrong with sanitizing hands after touching a turtle, of course. I just don’t think the same thing would have happened when my parents were growing up.
I used to spend days at the creek with my best friend, and I can assure you — there was sandwich-eating, swimming, fish chasing and much reading of Nancy Drew books, but there was absolutely no hand-washing.
At this same playdate, a couple of kids (including my son) took to the trees to climb, barefoot.
It partially warmed my heart. It partially made that same heart skip a beat or two …
As one mom pointed out so well, “People get upset sometimes when they see my kids climbing trees. Yes, I know they could break their necks, but they don’t. They haven’t. They are having the time of their lives.”
And they were, up in the trees that day.
When exactly did we become so afraid or turtles and trees? I think when we learned a little too much.
And so, like my barefoot kid 20 feet off the ground, I continue to strive for balance in my parenting.
I hope someday to be as surefooted as he is.
Nature Gifts for Nature Kids
August 4, 2011 at 6:00 am
The other day, we got a box in the mail.
It was unexpected, and when my kids saw it was from their aunt, uncle and cousins who live out of state, they couldn’t get it open fast enough.
Because their aunt and uncle are GREAT gift-givers. They give the gifts that always get played with the most … open-ended and often from nature.
We opened our suprise package to find two smaller boxes inside. One, contained the bird’s nest above, filled with three tiny stone eggs. Perfect for my bird-loving boy.
Ellery got a small vintage treasure chest filled with three beautiful gems. It is really what every princess needs.
These gifts were wonderful and generous, but they were also so thoughtful — they showed a true connection to my kiddos that made me feel incredibly grateful.
They also reminded me how difficult it can be sometimes to find gifts for kids at an actual toy store!
Sometimes, we will hit the area’s big toy emporium and wander around looking for something that fits. But often, the best gifts for nature-loving kids aren’t available at the toy store anyway. Things like:
- A small plant and watering can
- A magnifying glass, compass or binoculars
- A “grown-up” style sketch kit or a nature journal
- A handmade certificate to learn a new outdoor skill or do a nature activity together
- Seeds to plant
- Original outdoor treasure hunts with a small prize at the end
- A birdfeeder
- Cool rocks, stones or shells
- A bag or basket for nature collecting
- A child size vest with many pockets
- Specimen jars
- Baskets of acorns or pinecones
- A lantern
- A tent
- A backpack and cool nature- and adventure-themed patches
These kinds of gifts are so much fun to give and receive. And I can promise you that at least here, they get played with the very most!
What are your favorite nature-themed gifts to give?
July 19, 2011 at 6:00 am
Last Sunday a Midwest storm hit our area. We were so lucky to have only minimal damage.
But Monday when we ventured outside, we saw a little visitor whose home had not fared so well.
A tiny robin was huddled in a corner of our yard. Owen said he was a fledgling — not old enough to leave his nest, and certainly not old enough to fly.
In truth, he was gangly and not exactly adorable. His shoulder blades were naked where feathers should have been. He was the kind of bird that only his mother and two young children could love.
“What do we do?” they asked. I wasn’t sure, but thank goodness for the Internet.
We found a site that said backyard baby bird sighting in June, July and August is very common and often due to storms that knock little fledglings out of their nest.
The site said the easiest solution was to just put the bird back.
But unfortunately, after a careful search, we determined Baby Bird’s nest must be at least one county over.
If a natural nest is no longer available, the site suggested creating a man-made nest out of a berry box or something similar. It also mentioned that the parents, “who have probably been watching the whole time” would then care for the baby in this substitute home. Apparently birds have a pretty bad sense of smell, so a little human contact is usually safe.
As we approached the little bird, two adult robins flew in out of nowhere, objecting loudly to our attempts to corral the baby.
So acting quickly, we scooped him into a little container and placed him high in a tree.
The site said to wait two hours to see if the parents would respond.
We only had to watch for 15 minutes before we saw the mama pull a fat worm from the wet ground and deliver to the little guy in his box nest.
The story has an even happier ending. On Friday we saw a slightly older fledgling hopping around our yard and doing well. We can only guess he’s the same little guy. He certainly has the same parents because as we approached him to say hello, the two adult robins again flew in out of nowhere.
It was as if they were saying, “Thanks for the help, but you are big and scary. So maybe just go watch over there.”
And as a parent, I understand that sentiment completely.
The Happiness of a Simple Summer
July 8, 2011 at 6:00 am
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My grandparents’ house was pretty much the perfect place to be in summertime.
They were early risers, and I remember my feet getting wet each morning as I stepped outside. With dew in my Keds, I knew something wonderful was ahead of me: a day of the same.
I remember it this way …
Bike rides around their circular driveway with my grandmother. She had a tall blue bike, and it made me happy to see her on it; the same way I felt when my grandpa would challenge me to a footrace.
Around age 7 I started to realize that my grandparents were old, and seeing them so active, getting outrun by a 68-year-old man, was somehow comforting.
They both stayed fit through exercise but also through hard work. My grandpa was a veterinarian and retired around when I was born. But they ran a family business together with my mom.
And my grandpa always had projects. He had things that needed to be accomplished and he was happy for my help — the kind of help only a curious 7-year-old could provide.
Once, he created a clubhouse for us. Another time he hung a tire swing. There were cat doors and dog houses. If nothing else, there was a giant tractor that always needed fixing.
But my grandparents’ house didn’t need much else to make it special.
It came equipped with a pear tree, an old water pump and a river; lots of trees and a ravine that seemed pretty magical. To one side there was a steep hill atop which my grandfather grew an experimental garden (peanuts!) while the other half was lush and green and mossy. It had corners. Perfect cozy corners and table-top tree stumps.
For lunch there was chicken soup and saltines, leftovers and canned fruit cocktail. For an afternoon snack there were ice cream bars. They never ran out. We were welcome to take as many as we wanted, although we usually just had one while sitting on the front porch during the very hottest part of the afternoon.
I remember summers of bike rides and outdoor tea parties, ice cream bars and Nancy Drew books. One after the other after the other. The books were like the ice cream bars (special, and to be enjoyed one at a time) except I was afraid that someday they would run out. It was my grandmother who reminded me about the pleasure of re-reading a much-loved book.
My grandparents never had air conditioning. They had fans and ice water. I remember sleeping on the living room floor to stay cool, and waking up knowing another day would hold so much of the same. My summer rhythm before I knew that that was.
My grandpa’s favorite expression was “it’s a bad day when you don’t learn something,” and he and my grandmother taught me plenty:
If you enjoy your work, it isn’t really work at all.
Still, take time for play and reading.
Get outside every day. Get your heart rate up. Real work makes you sweat.
Eat good food: vegetables you grow yourself; eggs; fruit; grains; real butter. Ice cream and cookies in moderation. Buckets of tea. Water from the well.
Aim for a full night’s sleep, but don’t be afraid to take an afternoon siesta. It restores you. Speaking of which, go to sleep early, and wake up with the sun.
My son noticed the dew on the grass today, as we headed out for an adventure.
Remind me to tell you what wet grass always reminds me of, I said.
Because it always reminds me of my grandparents, and the sheer happiness of a simple summer.
Recycled Bottle Bird Feeder Project
June 22, 2011 at 6:00 am
In our family, we try to use reusable water bottles and cups as much as possible. But there are times (not very often, but those baseball games and festivals require factory-sealed bottles) when we are away from home that we buy a bottled beverage.
Our resident ornithologist came up with this cool bird feeder that you can make from a used bottle and a few twigs.
The kids and their dad used a drill to make the holes in the sides of the bottle and in the cap (for the hanger).
The birds love it. It draws grackles, chickadees, robins and one very brave squirrel.
It also draws two young children, who love watching the wildlife in our backyard.