Having boys is like having puppies…you’ve GOT to take them for frequent walks, in all weather.
Winter in New England can be long and cold.
Taking a walk outside can freeze you thoroughly and fast.
But if there is snow, it changes everything.
Taking a wintery hike is a seasonal sensory experience; crunchy, impressionable snow.
Crunchy, brittle ice, some white, some clear, all of it slippery.
We don’t run or jump onto the ice because we fall hard.
We’ve had some unusually warm days here, mixed with the regular NE weather, so there’s lots of ice and snow. We find the edge of a lake today, on our wintery walk, and break off pieces to throw onto the frozen lake. The thrown pieces of ice shatter like glass and slide across the slippery surface like they’ll never stop. This project, involving breaking ice, pulling it up and throwing it, keeps the boys employed for about an hour.
The MOMS Club has set up their outdoor tree for the Annual Scavenger Tree Hunt, organized by the Conservation Committee in town.
When we are finished hanging all the sticks and rocks, we step back, admire our work, and venture off to find the rest of the hidden trees.
We hike about 2 miles and find 13 trees.
It is a long and tiring hike for a 3 and 5 year old. It was cold, but we kept moving, saying, “never give up.”
We’re going on a tree hunt, we’re gonna find a beauty, what a beautiful day, we’re not tired.
What if you decorated a tree on local trail for people to find? That’s be fun, right?
We will be sending the pics of the boys and trees to the conservation committee, and entering to win a grand prize of movie tickets.
This summer we visit Purgatory Chasm State Reservation, a state park in Sutton, Massachusetts. The park, managed by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, is notable for its .25 mi long, 70 ft deep chasm of granite bedrock featuring abrupt precipices and boulder caves in which ice lingers into the early summer. The reservation is open to picnicking and hiking.
My little mountain goats love this trail. We don our hiking boots, our headlamps and climb rocks.
After a most perfect hike, where for the first time, the kids were able to carry themselves through the whole trail, we stop at the playground. The kids start gathering sticks and stones, building little “camp fires.”
They pretend they are a family of bears. They hunt for “bear fish,” or salmon, and cook them over the fires.
We stay there for an hour building fire pits, fishing for salmon and pretending to feed our bear family. This was a good day.
The kids and I have been talking about the possibility of signing up for a karate class. We are all a little unsure, but even though they don’t know wether they want to take the formal class or not, there have been lots of pretend kicks and punches lately. The boys love to wrestle with each other and with daddy. I would love to give them the chance to learn how to “fight” without really hurting each other. There are many benefits to allowing kids to wrestle.
I come across a Tae Bo video for kids at the library and bring it home for the boys. I think it might be a nice idea for an after school cool down.
The kids start getting tired and sweaty as they try to keep up with Billy Blanks. This starts a conversation about the heart speeding up during exercise and how we are strengthening our muscles when we exert them.
The Art of Manliness has highlighted, and listed in detail, the benefits of rough housing with your kids, which include:
Rewires Brain for Learning, Increases Neuron Growth
Develops Social Intelligence
Great Physical Activity
Strengthens the Parent/Child Bond
Taking advantage of the this beautiful fall weather is on our agenda for after school cool downs. After a long day at a desk, following classroom rules about when to move, when to talk, how to eat…all the pent up energy, big voices and big body movements can be used comfortably out in the open.
One of our favorite ways to enjoy the outdoors is to arrange natural materials. The garden needs tending, and the kids were happy to help pull up all the dry tiger lilly stalks. We use the lily stalks to build some outstanding LandArt.
Little J forms a square with 4 stalks and fills in the square space with more stalks and river stones.
Friend H floors me with her creation. She uses the stalks, dry clumps of grass, river stones and giant hosta leaves to create a house, complete with a door bell. She is absorbed, focused, and happy.
Some of the most fun happens spontaneously and simply. The older kids get off the bus from a full day at school and we’re all set to play big and open in the yard. This is just the kind of activity they need after so much rule following, desk sitting and structure. Little J spots a frog in the grass…
We all start to hop around like frogs.
Little E lines up some hoola hoops and we take turns frog hopping from one hoop to another.
Simple Fun…and here are some fun facts too:
1 ) One gram of the toxin produced by the skin of the golden poison dart frog could kill 100,000 people.
2 ) The female Surinam toad lays up to 100 eggs, which are then distributed over her back. Her skin swells around the eggs until they become embedded in a honeycomb-like structure. After 12 to 20 weeks, fully formed young toads emerge by pushing out through the membrane covering the toad’s back.
3 ) A frog completely sheds its skin about once a week. After it pulls off the old, dead skin, the frog usually eats it.
4 ) When Darwin’s frog tadpoles hatch, a male frog swallows the tadpoles. He keeps the tiny amphibians in his vocal sac for about 60 days to allow them to grow. He then proceeds to cough up tiny, fully formed frogs.
5 ) When a frog swallows its prey, it blinks, which pushes its eyeballs down on top of the mouth to help push the food down its throat.
6 ) The wood frog of North America actually freezes in the winter and is reanimated in the spring. When temperatures fall, the wood frog’s body begins to shut down, and its breathing, heartbeat and muscle movements stop. The water in the frog’s cells freezes and is replaced with glucose and urea to keep cells from collapsing. When there’s a thaw, the frog’s warms up, its body functions resume and it hops off like nothing ever happened.
7 ) A group of birds is called a flock, a group of cattle is called a herd, but a group of frogs is called an army.
8 ) The glass frog has translucent skin, so you can see its internal organs, bones and muscles through its skin. You can even observe its heart beating and its stomach digesting food.
9 ) There is a frog in Indonesia that has no lungs – it breathes entirely through its skin.
10 ) The waxy monkey frog secretes a wax from its neck and uses its legs to rub that wax all over its body. The wax prevents the skin of the frog from drying out in sunlight.
11 ) Most frogs have teeth, although usually only on their upper jaw. The teeth are used to hold prey in place until the frog can swallow it.
12 ) The biggest frog in the world is the Goliath frog. It lives in West Africa and can measure more than a foot in length and weigh more than 7 pounds – as much as a newborn baby.
13 ) There’s a type of poison dart frog called the blue-jeans frog; it has a red body with blue legs. It is also sometimes called the strawberry dart frog.
14 ) The red-eyed tree frog lays it eggs on the underside of leaves that hang over water. When the eggs hatch, the tadpoles fall into the water below.
I’m running away from the fact that my little man is entering full time Kindergarten by throwing an “end of summer” obstacle course party. I’ve been dreaming up this event since I participated in the Warrior Dash and Color Me Rad races and saw the excitement on my kids’ faces.
We work hard this week to set up the obstacles we’ve imagined up for this “Mini Rainbow Warrior Dash.” Everyday, we do a little something to prepare. We trim branches in the deep dark woods and in the forsythia fort, rake out all the leaves and sticks and small stumps. We paint low branches orange to let kids know to crawl under or climb over. My team of kids love to trim branches with our shears and to paint non-traditional objects, so they are really into this.
Certain kids who have thought up a certain obstacle take charge of specific projects.
Friend H designs the “Lazy River,” made with a found playground slide, dry lily stalks and river stones. We’ll be adding the hose on low water flow.
Little J and Friend A think of jumping over fire, and after convincing them against real fire, we brainstorm a way to represent fire instead. We use real fire wood with cardboard triangles painting red, wedged into the cracks between logs.
Little K thinks to use our small collection of hoola hoops. We hang them from branches of our crab apple tree so kids can lunge through the hoops.
My ideas are incorporated too. I have simple ideas, like hopping on slate stones, skipping through the spokes of a ladder, pushing rolling toys around a chalk road on the driveway…
…using caution cones and hay bales borrowed from Big K’s work, and taking advantage of our more natural playground elements, like the sandbox, the deep dark woods and our forsythia fort.
All together we have 16 kid friendly obstacles.
The kids try a dry run. We iron out some wrinkles, like undetected stumps and prickers, and have a record so far of 2 minutes 45 seconds, held by Friend H.
The kids help me with every aspect of this set up.
Each obstacle can be used individually for an afternoon of fun with kids.
If you like any idea in particular, you are welcome to use it!
We are inviting our friends over to play tomorrow. We’ll see if anyone can break Friend H’s record.
Stay tuned for a head cam movie of the obstacle course after the race. My talented Brother-in-Law has agreed to be the photographer during the event. Thanks Mick. And thank you Big K, for being so flexible with these big plans, for bringing us hay and cones, for weed whacking the forsythia fort and helping me lug all the heavy stuff. You rock babe!
To celebrate the end of a full and adventurous summer, we are planning a “mini rainbow warrior dash” for the kids and all their friends.
The kids have seen me run in fun races all summer. They got to stroll along with us in Color Me Rad. They have so much fun at these events that I thought to create an obstacle course suited for children.
Combining the themes from races, we came up with a rainbow warrior dash. The kids and are are in brainstorming mode, making lists and collecting ideas. We have a list of supplies, ideas on how to use them and some great imaginations working on fantastic ways to run, jump, crawl, slide and balance.
Once the kids have their list of ideas, they draw some of the obstacles. Friend A draws a map of the obstacle course. Little K draws a hoola hoop around a boy. Little J works on a logo.
These are some of their ideas:
jump over mountain of toys
hoola hoop as fast as you can
crawl under branches in the deep dark forest
climb over mountain of hay bales
get through a spider web
lazy river, slide with rocks.
crawl through tunnels
jump over pretend fire
Any other ideas?
The boys and I are driving by an office and see they are throwing away giant, framed, foam maps of New York. The maps still have pins poked in important places. Awesome find. I wonder what the kids might think to do with this free and found provocation?
We lay the maps out on the driveway and remove all the pins…to be used later.
I try and think about what mark making tools might be fun to use initially while we’re exploring this new surface. Sharpies seem like as good choice as any. The kids divide up the map and start to work with big arm movements and markers… and make a scribble city.
Little K stands up, looking at the scribbles on the map from above and exclaims, “These are roads!” He runs inside the house and gets his little baskets of small cars.
Don’t know what we’ll do with these maps next. Anyone have any suggestions?
The kids have been so busy and invested in their face painting this summer.
We have a designated mirror that comes out of the garage and lays on the curb of the driveway so the kids can watch themselves change their faces with color.
It’s only natural that eventually, someone thinks to paint the mirror. I quickly set the face paint aside and gather up the little bottles of tempera we received as a birthday gift in June. I put a brush in each container to keep from muddling the colors by accident. The kids fill the whole mirror with swirling, mixing colors with paintbrushes and hands, while a friend is still trying to paint her face.
They mirror painters leave a little corner of mirror clear for our friend.
We use up all the paint. We print painted swirls and scrapes on paper when our friend is finished with her face.
The next day, I set out the now dry painted mirror and 2 scraping sticks from a scratch paper book.
“I see the sky and the trees. It’s like I’m cutting out the glass.”
It’s great to discover the magic of subtractive media.
Then we have a grand series of thunder storms, and all the paint is washed off the mirror.
Time to start all over again.