I am a parent volunteer at the boys first ever summer camp at a local nature sanctuary. Unless you’re suffocating or helicoper-ing, parent involvement equals more success for our children. Lend your strengths to your children’s classrooms any chance you get. On the last day of camp, Big K and I team up to create a lesson plan about the forest.
Big K brings in a giant tree cookie, explaining the science of tree rings: how you can tell the age of a tree and how you can tell what years were good growing years for the tree and how bark serves as a protector for the vulnerable growing part of the tree.
Big K introduces himself as a forester and explains what that means, scientist of the forest. He reads a great children’s book given to us by a great forester friend of ours.
Forestry by Jane Drake, Anne Love and Pat Cupples, explores an important and controversial American industry, looking at everything from the methods used to cut trees to the planting of new seedlings. While reading this book, the reader travels with the logs to the mills and sees what happens inside a sawmill and a pulp and paper mill.
He takes the kids outside to his work truck and shows them his forestry tools: chain saw, tree corer, stray paint for marking trees, hard helmet, measuring tools etc.
We also read The Busy Tree by Jennifer Ward and illustrated by Lisa Falkenstern, describes the amazing activities that go on in a tree from its roots to its branches, “breathing out air for all to breathe in.”
We take a walk through the conserved forests around the sanctuary where the kids pick up leaves and Big K identifies the type of tree it came from. We find oak, maple and birch leaves, witch hazel, indian cucumber, acorns and pine cones. We also find lots of mosquitoes.
Leaf Jumpers by Carole Gerber, Illustrated by Leslie Evans. “The green leaves of spring and summer make food for the tree from water, air and sunshine. The tree food made in the leaves is a kind of sugar that keeps the leaves alive and helps the tree to grow.
“I send roots down deep into the earth. I am focused and stable. I reach high to the sky. I am a beautiful tree.
What kind of tree are you? Feel yourself growing. Bend with the wind. You are supple enough to weather any storm.”
When we get back to the classroom, we practice some nature yoga: the river pose, the rock, the turtle, and the tree pose. We also make a list of “things that happen in nature.” I call out the natural phenomena kids add to the list, like clouds, cattails, water, birds, fish, etc, and we act them out with our bodies.
At nature camp this summer, the kids take samples from a pond. They find a leech, 2 tadpoles, and 2 very cool bugs.
I pack a white tray, popsicle sticks, little clear jars and paper and drawing pen to go to one of our favorite places, the river.
We pull samples from different parts of the river: the shallow still waters, from a rock in the middle of the river and scooping muck from the bottom of the river.
We pour the samples onto the white tray and browse for living creatures with our pop sticks.
We find a leach, lots of water skimmers and something that looked like a tiny crayfish.
The kids become involved in catching lots of water skimmers.
When they are finished observing, we empty the contents of tray back into the river, and draw a picture of water skimmers together.
When I was a little girl, I used to go everywhere with my very sociable Abuelita Mercedes. She would take me to visit all sorts of family. We would go to the bakery, where they would let me empty a loaf of bread, leaving the outside crust. We would go to her apartment and make wedding dresses for my pretend play. One of my fondest memories is going to my Tia Martha’s house, and as the biejitas talked their gossip, they would play a game. They would throw coins onto the carpet, and I would pretend for hours to be a diver, diving for coins.
The boys are wired after summer camp. They need some down time. I bring our “Rainy Day Fund” coin jar down to our pool. Little K throws the whole jar in the pool.
The boys dive for coins, emptying them into a tupperware. Dunking their heads under water is a new summer skill for them and they’re loving any time they have to practice.
Big K has a dream of scuba diving in Key West and finding a treasure, keeping us rich and comfortable as gentlemen farmers for the rest of our lives. Little K says he wants to be a “diver, diver” when he grows up too.
After a busy morning at our first day of summer camp ever, we go home and relax with mirror and face paint. When I say relax, for the kids, that means, freedom to move and an open ended project where they get to determine the beginning, middle and end.
The face crayons only cost $3 at iParty. It’s a perfect way to spend the afternoon. Little K has been very interested in my make up and the face paint is a perfect solution. I don’t have to be afraid he’ll use up or spill all my eyeshadow or lip gloss.
I set up a long mirror, that I found at the recycle center, tilted against the curb of the driveway so they apply the paint and see themselves.
They apply, play, apply more, play. The transformation is clear.
This is one of my favorite type of posts because it combines food and being outside.
The summer can’t go by without visiting the local farms’ blueberry bushes. We always do something different with our horde of berries…blueberry muffins, pancakes, cakes, sprinkling berries on our favorite yogurt with granola…etc.
The boys help me pick berries. They probably eat more than put them in their roped pails that hang from their little necks. After about 20 minutes of hunting for loaded branches and eating and picking, they get lost in the bushes, finding hide outs and calling out to me like the game Marco Polo.
I fill my bucket 4 times, picking as fast as I can to make the most of our trip.
This year we’re going to use our blueberries to further explore our new juicer. We did a taste test and blueberry juice was the kids’ favorite.
We fill the sink at home with berries, wash them gently and thoroughly.
I take out the vat of organic spinach that I usually use for pesto and layer blueberries and spinach in the juicer.
Because we’re taking a little risk with adding vegetables here, because the kids might say, “Why ruin a good thing?” I put the juice in an extra special cup, but we have some mixed reviews. The boys have trouble with some of the pulp left in the liquid. I don’t know how I will fix that. Any advice expert juicers?
I have a new gadget, bought with a super discount, just the way I like it, and it will serve my growing family well. It’s a juicer. We take it out of the package, clean all the removable parts and pick out the fruits we want to try as a first step to experimenting with our new kitchen machine.
In our fridge, we have grapes, oranges, mango, nectarine and blueberries. I take a small glass out for each fruit, and one at a time, turn them into juice. I peel the oranges and mango and cut the nectarine up into slices before juicing them, but the smaller of the fruit, I add as is. Sometimes, the color of the juice surprises us and we start to guess the color before is pours out of the nozzle.
Each child has a straw of their own. We set out each glass of juice on their little lunch table. 5 kids take turns with 5 different fruit juices, taking a sip and passing. I ask which is their favorite.
Three out of four like the blueberry best, but as they pass the juices, they say, “that’s my favorite, yum.”
I put the peels and pulp in the compost bin.
And I start on step 2 of juicer experimentation, which is add veggies. I combine grape, blueberry and spinach. The kids like this too. I then, take it step too far, or maybe they’re too full from all the sampling. Carrots, spinach and grapes go into the juicer and is rejected promptly. A friend recommends putting the juice in an opaque cup with a cover and straw so the green color doesn’t influence the kids impression of the drink.
My Friend Jess introduces us to Nature Print Paper this week at our Art Playgroup.
Jess procured the special stack of paper at Dick Blick, about $10 per pack. Each pack has 30 sheets of 5 by 7 papers that are light sensitive. You can make photographic prints by laying objects flat onto the paper and exposing it to the sun. You stop the exposure process by giving the paper a water bath. There are no dark rooms or chemicals involved in the process.
The simple instructions, the potential for experimentation and the magic of the process hook my kids immediately. After the first guided attempt to work with natural materials, they want to do more.
They gather little dinosaurs, use their hands for prints and Jess brings out a magnifying glass to further the investigation with the paper.
These are usually the boys that would rather run around, climb, dig and jump, than focus on a small motor activity. If you combine art with experimentation, they are in, hands down.
Of course, my mind immediately goes to asking, how is this paper made and could we make it ourselves?
I’ve been growing my hair since Little K was born. He’s always found a lot of comfort in rubbing my strands of hair between his fingers, especially when breastfeeding. Otherwise, I’m a short hair girl. I feel the most myself with a short hairdo. I thought, since I was growing my hair out anyway, I might be able to donate it to a worthy cause.
I choose to donate my braid to Pantene. They take 8 inches or more and do not charge clients for wigs. Locks for Love charges clients a partial fee for wigs and also needs 10 inches. I only had 9 inches.
Do you know how to donate your hair? I got this information from Oprah’s website.
Hair must be clean (shampooed and/or conditioned) without styling, hairspray or additional hair products.
Gather hair at the nape of the neck.
Create a ponytail using an elastic band. Ensure the band is tight around the hair to keep the hair together after cutting. If the hair comes out of the band it will not be usable. (A second hair band can be placed around the middle of the ponytail to help keep the hair together after cutting.)
Ensure the elastic band is just below where you want to cut your hair.
Measure the length of the ponytail from the elastic band; make sure the hair is at least 8 inches. Any length shorter than 8 inches is too short to be used in a wig and will not be used. There is no maximum length requirement. (If your hair is not 8 inches, continue to grow your hair out.)
Cut the hair just above the elastic band such that the band remains on the ponytail after cutting and keeps the hair together. Do not wash or style the ponytail in any way after it has been cut off.
Place the ponytail, kept intact and completely dry, in a plastic zipper-lock bag.
Place the plastic bag with the ponytail in a padded or plastic envelope and mail to:
Pantene Beautiful Lengths
511 Wisconsin Drive
New Richmond, WI 54017-2613.
This is the cut I had before I had kids, and it’s strange to have my hair in a bob again. I’ve changed so much since I last had this hair cut. I wonder if it’s me anymore on the first day with my hair short. I’ll have to see how I feel as time ticks. It will definitely be cooler in this humid New England summer.
When life gives you pine needles all over your trampoline, and they pinch your toes and cover you with sap, what do you do? You make pine needle soup of course.
The kids complain that the pine needles are sticking to their toes, so we bring every broom and dustpan we own into the trampoline and try our best to sweep it all up.
Even though the kids are making no progress, I let them sweep for as long as they want. Then, I quickly sweep up a pile and the kids ask me to fill their little pails.
They dump all the pine needles into a tote with little weeds from the grass and fill the tote with water from the rain barrel. They mix the concoction with shovels. When they move onto something else, I dump the mixture into the compost.
I plan a family event for this weekend. It’s not often we do something special, just the four of us. During the week, the house is full of kids. On the weekends, we often are visited or are visiting by friends and family…which is all good.
Sometimes, it needs to be just us.
We all sign up to race in a 5K called Color Me Rad in Boston, MA.
We wake up at 6am to get there in time to park and get bibs, racing numbers.
They give us fake tattoos that say RAD and sunglasses.
We race with the ski goggle clad kids in a double stroller, taking turns pushing.
The race is not timed. There is no pressure to run fast. The plan is to get colorful and have fun.
While running, teams of volunteers unload buckets and shovels full of corn starch colored with food coloring.
This tie dyes everything…the stroller, the kids, our clothes.
The kids are a little skeptical at first, but when the colors fly, they’re laughing.
The last station of the run, the volunteers hand out color packets that you can use yourself.
Little J uses his color packet like a big hairy man with golden chains uses cologne.
He is doused in blue. He calls it, “getting rainbowed.”
We’re so proud of our colors that we stop by a friends house on the way home to show off before we shower it all away.
The kids and I are on a mission to see if we can replicate the colored corn starch to use at home.
I would LOVE to create an obstacle course for the kids in my backyard that combines lots of the fun elements of popular races that are around. Little Warriors, Rainbow Race. This idea is in the brainstorming phase…I’m collecting ideas for obstacles for kids.