You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘nature’ tag.

I just ordered my kids back into the house in the middle of a sunny afternoon. The last straw came when a neighbor driving by stopped to yell at me that my baby was escaping, while her sister cried over a scooter-inflicted injury and I tried desperately to contain the chaos. I wound up throwing my cell phone into the bushes and tripping over the scooter myself.

“That’s it!” I shouted. “We are going inside! No more sunshine, no more scooters, no more picnic!”I scooped the baby up in one arm and the scooter in the other and marched right back into the house.

Which my two charming daughters proceeded to tear about is if bent on a mission of demolition. Within minutes they had broken furniture, skin, and what was left of my mind. But we are still inside.

What kind of ogre am I?

The kind of ogre that has to pay her mortgage, a task which involves finding the checkbook, writing the check and actually giving said check to her long-suffering housemate. The kind of ogre that has to make a phone call to a pediatric optometrist with the insane hubris to work only during hours that children are awake. The kind of ogre that has been wearing the same clothes for three days because there is nothing left in her drawers.

In other words, I’m an adult. And it turns out that those long lazy days of summer are not as idyllic for me at this point in my life as they were when I was five. Not only do I like games of tag and hide-n-seek a little less, but I find endless idleness less satisfying. Even on the days when I can spend the afternoon with other mom friends on a picnic blanket, knitting and chatting and passing time with pleasant grown-up pursuits while the kids play tag nearby… I don’t want every day to be an uninterrupted swath of play.

There is real work that must be done so that I and my family can continue to live well, and being prevented from doing it by a schedule of constant free play is, frankly, annoying. Playing all day long can be fun. Doing all the housework and finance work and personal work after the kids are *finally* asleep in their beds is not.

I believe passionately that my kids should have as much unstructured outdoor time as possible, every day of their too-short childhoods. I’m now running up against the reality that what is good for them is not always good for me. I know this of course, but here’s another opportunity to learn the lesson.

I realize it’s outrageous to be complaining that my day job is one that requires me to laze around at parks and playgrounds for nearly every sweet hour of warm sunshine the good earth gives us. It’s the very pinnacle of luxury angst, but once in awhile I envy my friends with office jobs.

The weather today was bright and almost-warm, and the whole day just echoed that sunshine and springtime and freshness.

We had our homeschool morning program. All the kids enthusiastically made Nature Journals, which we took to the park with us. On the way, they had to stop several times to crouch down on the sidewalk and write the names of “signs of spring” in their handmade books. Daffodils. Clover. Forsythia. (Later in the day we saw a duck, and Rio shouted, “that’s the first animal sign of spring we ever saw this year!”)

Morning program evolved into a kind of impromptu party when we were joined by half a dozen friends who happened to be in the neighborhood. We shared a delicious meal of fresh local veggie food, and the adults got to chatter while the kids played joyously for an hour.

Then everyone left, or went to sleep and suddenly Rio and I were alone in a very quiet house. She lay on the couch, wrapped in her favorite blanket. I put our favorite quiet time CD on, a recording of a dear friend playing her harp. I was just sitting down to work on an important writing deadline when Rio said, “Mama, I want you to sit in your rocking chair and knit my sock.”

How could I say no? I sat in the rocker and worked on the sock. The music played. We rested. Every once in awhile, Rio would roll over or sit up and say, “Mama, I love you. I love being with you,” and then snuggled back down in her blanket. Halfway through her “nap” she switched her pillow around on the sofa so her head was nearer to me and the magical sock I am knitting for her.

When the CD ended, Rio said, “I am feeling very healthy and strong and rested now. I want a snack.” She went to make herself a snack and I sat down at my computer. I said, “I need to do some grown-up work now.”

For the next 90 minutes, she left me completely alone, and played quietly by herself while I worked. I finished the course proposal I was writing and submitted it. Moments later, the baby awoke. We all bundled up and went back outside, to explore a new park a few miles away.

We came home in time for dinner, baths and bed. I did a little more writing and then went out to meet with friends for the evening.

I don’t get a lot of days like this, so I want to savor this one. It’s like finding one perfectly ripe strawberry in the midst of a tangled, unkempt gardening mess. It doesn’t make the hard work go away, but it reminds me why I do it.

Now that you’ve followed my earlier advice and gotten outside, where to go? If you’re in the Boston area, here are a few good suggestions:

Drumlin Farm, run by the Mass Audubon Society, offers a wealth of nature programs for kids, ranging from a “Walk on the Wild Side” into the surrounding woods to “Animal Yoga” classes to “Woolapalooza” with the farm’s own sheep.

Closer to home, The Somerville Growing Center offers children’s programming including after-school nature classes, morning concerts, and their annual Fairy Night.

Finally, for those who want to give something back while playing outdoors, Waltham Fields Community Farm holds weekly volunteer hours where anyone can come in and plant a row or pull some weeds. They donate a portion of what they grow to feed the hungry around Boston, and the rest goes into a local CSA program.

yes, the weather outside is frightful, but it still beats sitting indoors all day.

Here are two great sites for getting yourself and your kids out into the great outdoors:

The Green Hour offers suggestions for simple outdoor activities to do with kids. It’s updated weekly, and the site is a wealth of other resources for families interested in nature, environmentalism and play.

If you’re interested in something slightly more ambitious, The Outdoor Hour Challenges offer a series of weekly nature study lessons based on Anna Bosford Comstock’s Handbook Of Nature Study. This is a classic text on nature study that advocates simple observation and recording to learn about the world around you.

So go! Out into the cold, windy, damp spring! Enjoy its blustering beauty, frolic in its mud, play!

Flickr Photos

A little bird told me…

add to del.icio.us :: Add to Blinkslist :: add to furl :: Digg it :: add to ma.gnolia :: Stumble It! :: add to simpy :: seed the vine :: :: :: TailRank :: post to facebook

Blogged