The longer days has brought with it more outdoor play. There are puddles to play in, the sun is out, there is a foot of snow covering the grass after what might be the last Nor’Easter of the winter, allowing us still to do some sledding. You never know what the spring will bring in the North East of the United States. We’ve had a record breaking snow storm in April before, it could happen again. Yesterday was the first day of spring and we can feel spring everywhere.
Little J: The puddles in the driveway remind me of summer.
I heard a bird singing like it’s spring.
We open windows in the house and in the car on these warm days and can here the snow melting and trickling from everywhere, like it’s raining, but the sky is blue, the sun strong.
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.
It’s time to take down the holiday decorations.
Little J is so broken hearted, especially about taking down the tree.
We decide to put the tree on the back porch after undressing it of its ornaments.
But then, it is all plain looking, so we decide to make suet to hang like ornaments.
We have the best suet recipe. Click on the link to go back to a post where I spell out the recipe.
We pack cookie cutters with the suet and put them outside to firm up in the cold. It’s been below 20 degrees F outside the past couple of days.
We pop the suet out of the cookie cutters and tie them with twine, hanging them on the tree.
We also hang the tree with painted sticks and stones made previously from another project.
Big K says he’s seen happy birds all over the tree.
The birds come out to feed right after the sun rises.
The After Christmas Tree is a book I found amongst the Christmas books at the library. It about a family that feels the after holiday blues and finds happiness by having a winter party. At the party they go ice skating, drink hot cocoa and decorate an old christmas tree with bird food ornaments.
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.
I woke up on the “poopy” side of the bed this morning. I was busy being mad at myself for not getting up early to fit in a run, busy preparing my tea, getting little bodies dressed and bathroomed and brushed, busy with the dishes, making breakfast, packing lunch, in the mood to worry and over-intellectualizing my behavior, my kids’ behavior and overwhelming myself entirely, all while still in my pjs.
What’s best for me in these overwhelming moments? to center myself, breath and “be in the moment.” Find joy, laugh at myself.
I tend to get tired of this phrase, “be in the moment,” because staying in a given moment can seem like so much work.
These are the instructions in my brain for being in the moment:
find a quiet place
close my eyes
sit up straight
quiet the mind
find my inner self
get distracted by thoughts
let them go
sit up straight
quiet the mind
swipe a piece of hair out of my face
think about what to have for dinner
remind myself to clear thoughts
sit up straight
Kind of sounds unpleasant and labor intensive, kind of like beating myself up…I’m trying not to do that.
Sometimes, I can find that quiet place.
Most of the time, the house if full of kids and I have a full sink of dishes and a washing machine full of clothes and I’m due to some other place in 5 minutes.
Every time I really think about what it means to be “in the moment,” I understand the concept a little better…maybe. The huge effort I think it takes to “be in the moment” is really the opposite.
It takes almost no effort.
In times of feeling overwhelmed, I tend to try to find a mood booster, usually just keeping myself really busy.
When I think of what really makes me happy, I come back to no adgenda time outside.
The outdoors provides for my family, a natural tranquilizer.
I forget that sometimes.
We forget, so we can remember.
So Little K and I go out to the playground / beach in town, with a bucket, shovel, dump truck. We fill the pail and tip it over to make sandy mountains. We collect pine needles and decorate the sandy mountains. We read some books in the sand. We spend 2 hours in the sun and fresh air, hearing each other. We gather sticks and decorate some more sandy mountains.
As we walk to the car to go home, we gather more sticks in our bucket. “Maybe, we can use these in our sandbox at home,” we say. Little K says, “what’s this?” holding up a small ball of wet dog poop. I freak out…”OMG! If you don’t know what it is, you don’t pick up! That is so gross! What are we going to do?” There is no bathroom, there are no wipes or napkins in the car. After he wipes the poo on his pants, ugh!, we wipe his hands and pants on the grass as best we can and put his mittens on until we can disinfect his poopy fingers with very warm water and lots and lots of soap.
So my day makes a full circle from poop to poop. But, I am in a much better place at the end, poop and all.
(And no wonder kids love potty talk, dude, we’re surrounded.)
A group of about 20 folks, MOMS and all our little ducklings, organize a tour at our local Heifer International Learning Center.
This working farm is experiential, hands-on, interactive and fun. Overlook Farm is also a demonstration farm complete with gardens and animals including yaks and traditional farm animals such as pigs, goats and more.
Heifer International Learning Centers introduce participants to the idea that one person can make a difference in ending hunger and poverty.
We start the tour with a short video, featuring 5 children from around the world, who have personally gained positive life change due to the donation of livestock. We learn that a small donation of livestock can sustain a family by supplying food and helping them earn a living. The 7 m’s of livestock: milk, manure, meat, muscle, money, materials and motivation.
We walk around the farm visiting little huts from around the world. We see how someone might live in another country.
We card some wool and spin it into a bracelet.
We visit animals, collect eggs, crack them open and compare the colors of the yolk to a store bought egg. We take turns milking a goat, feed pigs the milk, check out the yaks.
This is an exceptional experience for MOMS and kids alike.
There are only 5 learning centers like this across the USA.
I hope there’s one near you! If not, any farm will do. Farms are Fun!
Heifer Village: Little Rock, Arkansas
Heifer Learning Center at Heifer Ranch: Perryville, Arkansas
Heifer Learning Center: Rutland, Massachusetts
Shepard’s Spring: Winslow, Maryland
Howell Nature Center Howell, Michigan
This is the last IQI post, promise.
“You are fully equipped.” Aruna Nan says this to us as her last words.
This is my list of goals, as I step out of the yoga retreat, and I only remember these goals, cause I wrote them in my journal.
breath through big feelings, ride the wave
meditate, make a space and time for meditation
be a better listener, look in the eye, don’t interrupt with my opinion
green tea instead of coffee
designate a time for technology
meal affirmations, taste my food
make healthier food choices for family and myself
This is how these goals have panned out in real life.
1. I drink green tea in the morning, instead of the IV of coffee my body and mind was used to. I’ve had a couple cups of coffee since the retreat, 3 weeks ago, only to realize that it tastes too strong now, and it makes me feel a little out of control, energy wise. I have trouble falling asleep at night, even when the coffee is consumed before noon.
2. I am making an effort to breath through big feelings, where before, I actually hold my breath when I’m upset.
3. When I wake in the morning, I meditate or make my tea and sit quietly for about 10 minutes, instead of jumping right out of bed and onto the computer or into rushing about the morning routine of getting kids ready for school. I also try not to eat my breakfast over the sink or while on the computer. I sit at the dining room table and taste my food.
4. I try to minimize the drinking of wine and other adult beverages by saving it for the weekend and then, trying to have only 1 or 2 glasses.
5. Big K and I have tried the co-listening thing, but the intensity of staring and listening so intently scares him a little, so I try to look someone in the eye when they share a story and I don’t interrupt with my feelings and opinions.
6. The biggest change has been getting off a medication that I didn’t want to be on in the first place. This medication was supposed to help me have more control over big feelings, but instead the medication numbed my feelings. I’d like to own my feelings and not temper them because society says I’m not allowed to be mad or sad. I think watching and realizing and not judging myself is the way to go.
This off the yoga mat experience has not created perfection in me. I still check my phone obsessively at every red light and lull in life. I still sit at the computer when I’m avoiding household chores.
The IQI has inspired a subtle change in my life that I will carry with me and around me…watching, realizing without judgement, and in seeing myself where I am, I can create positive change if that’s the road I’m ready for.
…And if I say ride the wave to Big K one more time, he just might strangle me.
“The whole world wants to be golden
like you, sunflower,
to rest in the cool air,
listening to the cricket songs…”
The spring of 2012 starts with 2 store-bought packages of seeds. One package holds pumpkin seeds and the other, sunflower seeds.
We plant both indoors, using recycled, cardboard egg cartons, a blend of soil that was part our compost, and we watch the sprouts break through the soil, growing into the sunlight outside of the kitchen window, nurtured by our water and affection.
When the time is right, we transplant the sprouts into the outdoor soil and they flourish.
We have three giant sunflower stalks and 3 giant pumpkins at the end of summer.
The fall arrives and with it comes wilting sunflower heads and pumpkins ready for carving.
We take the seeds from both, dry them on the kitchen window sill, and put them in baggies.
As the sunflower seeds dry, they change from white to white with a black stripes.
Next spring we’ll have our own seeds to begin again.
Here are a handful of beautiful and HappyLittleMesses approved children’s books about sunflowers:
Gift of the Sun, A Tale from South Africa by Diane Stewart
Mortimer’s First Garden by Karma Wilson
What’s This? by Caroline Mockford
This Is the Sunflower by Lola M. Schafer
To Be Like the Sun by Susan Marie Swanson
“Teaching a child not to step on a caterpillar is as valuable to the child as it is to the caterpillar.” Bradley Millar
We go on hikes often, and collect natural objects that we find on the ground. We observe creatures in their habitats, but try our hardest not to disturb them.
Sometimes, we find dead insects, like a dragon fly or in this story, a grasshopper. Even though the grasshopper is dead, we treat the insect’s body with the utmost respect, still carrying and handling it with gentle hands.
I think of grasshoppers as shy insects. If you get close to one, it makes a tremendous leap away from you. The grasshopper we find is not so lucky, but we are able to get a very close look.
We set the grasshopper up on a honorable altar as a provocation and make our observations. We set up a magnifying glass, small flashlights, paper and drawing tools. The kids draw what they see.
Did you know they sing with their legs? Males sing, by rubbing the hairs on their back legs against their wings, to attract females and to warn off other males.
The northern grasshopper can leap 20 times the length of his body.
They have no ears, but they do hear with an organ called tympanum.
When grasshoppers are picked up, they “spit” a brown liquid commonly called “tobacco juice.” Scientists believe this liquid may protect them from attacks by predators.
My Little Friend A was at his first day of school during the official Mini Rainbow Warrior Dash, where when everyone was done with their “heats,” we threw around colored corn starch as warrior powder. We were so excited to use the powder, that all the bags of color were gone before we could save some.
I wanted to make more, so Friend A could have a turn too.
We take our time making more. There is no rush, and lots of fun to be had during the process.
We fill the process table with one very large container of corn starch.
We add water and lots of packets of orange kool aide, making goop and adding some fun toys, like rocks and cars.
The next day, the goop has firmed up making it really fun to scoop. We add spatulas and large serving spoons.
When the goop is dry, we hammer it to turn it into chunks.
I put the chunks into the food processor.
We take the orange powder and use it to throw around, making one happy Friend A.