What to do to get your kid outside!
The experts...you know those people that make you feel bad about your parenting style...say children need an hour of green space each day. Green space? Ok. Can I just paint a room green and toss said children in? Course not. Green space refers to outdoor time. Time spent in nature. My child is just shy of 7. We live in a nice area however, I am not just going to let my kid outside without supervision. My backyard is a state hiking trail which is great. However there is only so many hikes I can go on before dinner needs to be cooked or dishes done. Most of her free play is in our front yard with the neighbors. Most days they play nice together but there are other days where it is not going to happen and Mommy becomes the director of play and needs to hang close by. As I ponder the "advice" of THEY I began to think...does my kid get an hour? How do you get an hour in after school when trying to get dinner on the table? I began to get creative as I can not always loom nearby and I do want her to have time outside in a safe manner.
First up is the coffee can. Or old food container....or any type of bucket or pail. I used to spend hours as a kid digging in our yard and scavenging for all sorts of treasures. The above picture contains a worm. This was going to become her new pet. She and her friends found some worms and then proceeded to name them and provide for them. They needed a bucket...good old coffee can worked. The worm needed dirt. Leaves. Rocks. All found in our front yard without digging or causing mass destruction to the landscape. Warning....your child will get dirty. I believe my little one was out in her white leggins. My idea on clothing is they are meant to be worn. I don't get hung up on my kid staying clean. Go. Get dirty. Explore. Create. So my dirty little worm hunter spent 2 hours handling her find. Getting just the right amount of dirt. Finding worms for her friends. When it came time to come in I told her the worm needs to stay outside. This was a bit of a struggle but I won in the end. Wash child. Fun was had by all!
~On a side note before you send Peta to picket my house I did go out after dark and find that darn worm and let it loose. I know it is just a worm but I am a softie at heart! You may do whatever you wish with the worms your child finds.
Chalk. Who does not like chalk? I always have chalk on standby. Even in the winter! You will notice in this picture not so much as drawing with chalk but making a fine powder. There are other times when our front yard looks like a a crayola factory opened up nearby! Nothing a good rain storm won't wash away. Chalk is great for not only drawing but also for making 4 square and hopscotch. It makes me sad that children do not know how to play hopscotch. If you don't know what hopscotch you will be happy to know it is not a game that incites children to alcoholism nor a game that mocks those with Scottish heritage. It is a game where you draw squares in sequence and toss a rock as you move around the squares. This game is great because it can be played by one or many. If you are unsure of this game you can find more information and rules on how to play here http://www.parents.com/fun/activities/hopscotch/
Climb a tree! Yes...a tree! This is our favorite tree to climb and hang out on. By hang I mean really hang. We are lucky to have this in our front yard. This tree has seen a lot of action! I have been letting my little one climb this tree since she first came to live with us at 4. There are times when I have had to lift her down. There are times when she ripped a shirt or two. With that said I have seen her grow in her balance, strength and ability. She jumps from the tree to the ground. She hangs upside down. Like I said this tree has seen some action! There are kids older then her who do not know how to climb. I strongly believe that kids who work their gross motor muscles will have better success as working their fine motor muscle. I can hear what you are thinking. What if they fall? What if they break an arm. Well....a child can break their arm falling off a bike. A child can bump their head on the coffee table and need stitches. (By the way both were my brother!). I am not saying have them climb the highest tree hanging over a pit if vipers surrounded by alligators! Find a small tree or even start with a shrub if you need to! Part of childhood is climbing trees.
Ride a bike or scooter. These are a favorite pastime of ours. Most of the scooter riding is on our front path and sidewalk. The bike we sometimes ride to grandma's who lives less than 1/2 mile down the road. Please teach your child young to always wear proper gear for whatever wheeled device they are using. Remember...they will follow your example! So wear yours as well!
The family pet! We love to take our little pup for a walk! We don't always get very far. Sometimes it is just having the pup on the lease out front! Throwing a ball for the pup. Throwing a stick. Or just plain old sitting with her watching the clouds roll by. All good. Playing outside does not always mean movement. It can be sitting and pondering. It can be laying in the grass and being quiet in nature!
Lastly is hiking! This is one of the trails behind my house my kiddo and I like to explore. It follows a river and all 4 seasons it is beautiful! This is a peaceful as it gets! We can often be found here. We don't just walk we explore. We will pick up sticks and bang them on trees. We will stop and smell flowers. We will throw rocks into the river. Hiking is not always about getting through the trail.
So the next time your kid says they are bored hand them a coffee can and scoot them outside! I tell mine to go play with the 3 dimensional people! We have been gifted this great earthy. Go. Be. Explore! HAVE FUN!
1. That I ate cookies last night before dinner.
2. That I gave a cookie to my little one before dinner.
3. I didn't shave my legs.
4. That I don't have cable TV.
5. That my husband has the man cold.
6. I threw a bunch of student work in the recycle bin.
7. That the pretty girl in high school is still pretty.
8. That I put candy corn in my daughters lunch box.
9. That I put off doing laundry.
10. That I am ordering out tonight instead of cooking.
As a teacher for many years there are certain things that strike fear into my heart...below is a short list
1. When you get the email from a parent that says lice in the subject line
2. Dealing with hot lunch money.
3. When a parent says he was not feeling well this morning but I sent him anyway....
4. The PTO sends out the fundraising packs.
5. You see rain for the next 5 days and know it is indoor recess.
6. Your special has been canceled.
7. When your child wakes up sick and you need to stay home but still need pull together lesson plans.
8. Food allergies
9. Field trips
10. It looks like snow so prepare a snow bag to send home.
11. It is a kids birthday and they bring in cake that needs to be cut up and served and cleaned up.
12. When your admin wants to meet with you on a Friday afternoon.
13. You come in on Monday and find the tuna sandwich in the trash from Friday.
14. You send a child home with conjunctivitis.
15. You get the email over the summer that says you need to move classrooms ASAP!
16. A parent sends you a note that their child is going to be out for 2 weeks starting tomorrow and they want all their work.
17. Standardized testing.
18. Getting a new student in February.
19. The barfs.
20. Glitter and glue.
What makes us smile.....SNOW DAYS!
In my quest to move more I decided to sign my family up for a 5K. Never having done a 5K I was not sure what to expect. I was a lifeguard for the Muddy Rudder this past fall, which is a 20 mile race with 10 obstacle courses having to do with mud or water. I was at the station where they had to crawl under barb wire and then crawl through a long tube and drop into water. Trust me when I say the people plopping into the 5 foot deep water did not seem like they were living the dream! Many of them looked tired, wet and less than happy. A lot of people came through with groups dressed up in all sorts of outfits. More power to them. I did not want a race that would leave me scared physically nor emotionally. I knew I wanted to do a 5K. I wanted one that was nothing like the muddy rudder. Although I am sure some people think it is fun....not my idea of a family bonding time. My husband has 2 permanent broken bones in his foot. Was not sure how this was going to turn out. Saw a friend signed up for the Bubble Run. Well that just sounds like a grand time...right? Running through bubbles! Good, CLEAN fun! Actually that is their tag line! For some crazy reason I signed us up for the 8 am heat. The alarm goes off at 5:45 and we are up and moving. My 6 year old was up as soon as we opened her door. We donned our crisp white t-shirts and powder blue headbands and loaded into the minivan! We stop by "dunkins" for some coffee and a little sugar in the form of donuts. And we are off! The event was held at the Loudon Race Track which is about 30 minutes away from our home. We arrive and snake through a long line of cars waiting to park. With excitement we crest the hill and see the blue Bubble Run tent and a few food vendors. What we did not see was bubbles. I saw the Start line...again no bubbles. Hmmmm? In my mind I pictured frolicking through a field while little elves blew bubbles at my family. Ok...maybe not elves. Park car. Put on our bib numbers and follow the throngs of people heading towards the action. We hear announcements to head to the starting line. No check in. No are you who you say you are. Easy peasy! You got your bib so jump in line. That is when I saw it. Two giant tubes covered in what looked like giant pantyhose's hanging down over the start line. The excitement builds! There is a DJ and he is getting the first wave excited for the run. He is tossing out blue ducks and headbands. Course I throw my child up hoping she would catch a blue duck. Why? I have no idea and I would have been the one to carry that darn duck the whole race but it was free and the competitive side of me got the best of me! Sadly we did not receive a duck nor a headband which is odd because we all got one in our signup bundle. Then the most amazing thing happened. The giant bubble jets were turned on for a test. The most beautiful, fluffy, white bubbles came spilling out! The level of excitement just hit a new high. We don't need no stinkin' blue duck...WE HAVE BUBBLES!!! The DJ said the bubbles would be epic today because there would be no wind. Cool. Along with this bubble bridge would be 4 more. Each containing a different color. The countdown is on. 10,9,8....ok you get it 1!!!! We are moving. The bubbles are getting closer and closer....! It was like walking trough a giant bubble bath. My little one took the brunt of it but it was not too bad. Some bubbles to flap away. We had some in our hair. Loads of giggles and excitement. We keep walking. We hit the next one a kilometer away. It was pink bubbles. This time the bubble machine had obviously been on awhile as the wall of bubbles was higher and there was more of them. A giant wall of pink bubbles. Having no prior knowledge of how bubbles worked we heading straight into the bubble wall. Except it was more than a wall. More like a tunnel. A bubble tunnel. Being taller I was able to swat my way to a visual freedom easier than my 6 year old. I reach freedom and realize she has not. I start swatting bubbles looking for her. I hear her giggle and she emerges covered head to toe in bubbles. My husband helps me clear off her face and we realize the 3 of us are now no longer white....we have all turned a lovely shade of pink. From our shirts to our skin. Now with a little bit of warm up we are jaunting to the next one. My 6 year old gears up as we see the blue one. She takes my headband and puts it on her eyes then takes her headband and puts it on her mouth. She takes my hand and we bravely attack the tunnel. Now this was a little higher....my quest for visual freedom was a bit longer. We made it through and now there was a bit of blue along with our pink. We keep tromping along to the next one. This one is green. A fun shamrock green. A few more bubbles, still no wind. This time my husband plows a path and we follow behind. Good in theory but when you are under the bubble machine no amount of taller man will help clear the path as the bubbles are falling straight down on your head. EEEK! A little bit more effort to make it through. Child found. Head to toe we are in bubbles. Off to the next one. This is the last one...yellow bubbles! I can see it from a good distance away. A mountain of bubbles if you will! This one was the last and obviously they wanted you to remember it because the amount of bubbles being pumped out was alarming! The standing bubbles alone were over my husbands head. I take my little ones hand and walk behind my husband. Well that was pointless. As soon as we hit bubble-apocolyps we all lost each other. I am ashamed to say I panicked and let go of my daughters hand. All I saw was bubbles. When I tried to breathe I breathed in sudsy bubbles. There was no point of orientation. I was not sure if I was heading straight, up or down! Really! I keep walking which I hope was forward. To no avail I am still in bubble hell. Wiping the bubbles from my face did no good. There was no place to whip them. Breath holding did not good...as you know we all need to breathe. All thoughts of my child and my husband fled from my mind. My only mission in life at that time is to find the end of this bubble tunnel of hell. I press forward with my mouth full of bubbles. I have visions of my body being found after I pass out from fear and lack of bubble-less oxygen. Then I hear it. Shouting. The rush in my ears subside...I hear people cheering. Ok so I have not entered a third bubble dimension...I am still in fact, on earth and will soon be free from the chains of bubbles that seem to have a strong hold on me. Bubbles in my eyes. Bubbles up my nose. Bubbles in my...well lets just say I was fully covered in bubbles. As my panic was rising to a whole new level I see a light. I thought for sure it was Jesus coming down to save me and take me to heaven. But it was not my savior....it was the clearing of the bubble tunnel. Fresh air. Sunshine. Life! A quick survey tells me only my head it free. It would take a good deal more steps to be free from the bonds of bubbles. But wait. My child. My lovely family. Quick thoughts to abandon them came to mind. But no! I am THE MOM! I can do this. I see my husband further ahead of me. He can tell by my face that I do not have our child and I could tell by his face he did not have our child. We bravely do what parents have been doing for centuries. We abandon our own safety to go back in to find our child. He starts calling her name and swinging his arms. I follow suit. Now way was this bubble monster going to claim my family. We all survive together or rest forever in the hallowed ground of good clean fun. My husband told her to waive her hands over her head and to walk to his voice. My husband. My hero! HE FOUND HER! He drags her out of the grips of bubble death and we all proceed to freedom. FREEDOM!!! We reclaim our child by wiping mounds of yellow bubbles off of her. She did not carry the enthusiasm as the last few bubble tunnels and I think she was relieved to be freed. Quick high fives and we move on. All was silent until the little one said "next year I want googles and an oxygen tank." Oh sweet words of wisdom. My response "momma too baby girl...momma too!" We see the finish line. There it was. A blue beacon calling us home. We three hold hands as we cross the finish line. We did it. We finished our first 5K. We battled the bubble monsters and lived to tell about it. Sitting here now in my compfy chair having had a long shower and a good nights sleep I am able to reflect back and report that over all it was fun. I will be better prepared next year. I will know what to expect and will in fact be investing in goggles and a solid scuba set! After all there is nothing like good clean fun!
Lastly....the YELLOW BUBBLES
If I could go back and tell my high school self I would say this. It does not matter. I was not one of those girls that had a great high school experience. I was the sporty husky girl in the crowd of skinny's. There was a mean girl. One day she would like me and the other day she would not. The hard part was when she did not like you the others had to follow. Her opinion of me mattered so much at that time. Now I could not give a flying fig what people think of me. Don't get me wrong....I want them to think I am a nice person. Good. Kind. Giving. Funny. I get friend requests on facebook from some of the old high school peeps. My response...DECLINE! Why would I give you a window into my world when you made my high school years so awful. After high school I went to a one year bible school called Word of Life. While I was there I found my value...my passion...my calling if you will. I realized I have a voice and something to say. I was no longer afraid of my own shadow or afraid to go against the flow. Give me a mic and I will rule the room! I had the chance to grow and become. I realized my value did not lie in the eyes of those who look at me...my values lies in the eyes of my creator.
I began to think about those girls and guys from high school. My first response was I hope all the girls are fat and I hope all the guys lost their hair. What can I say...I am human. Then I realized the girl in high school still comes out every once in a while. In my own insecurities I try to find fault with others. The thing is, it really does not matter if the pretty girl is still pretty or fat. My husband thinks I am the most beautiful woman in the world. My family adores me. My little girl loves me like crazy....sometimes to the point of driving me crazy....but still I am her whole world! I have a job as a teacher and I am a GOOD teacher! I love my job. I love my students. I have a friend whom I met when I was 19 and we are still best of friends. I would not trade that for anything. Those 4 years in high school did not define me. It helped shape me into who I am. It made me realize what true friendship is. It made me thankful for what I have now.
Do I get some sort of satisfaction knowing the mean girl is on her 3rd marriage. Not really. It makes me a little sad for her. Makes me wonder what choices led to her current status. As far as I can tell the pretty girl is still pretty. She is not married for some reason. She works in a bit city and seems to be doing well. Does that make me happy or sad. Neither. Those are her choices. Although I am thrilled to be married to my husband (we married later in life) I guess it is not in her cards at this moment. Good for her. She is living life int he fast lane. I only hope this is the life that brings her happiness. Her success or failure does not have any impact on me. The fact that she is still gorgeous does not make me any less pretty. Eventually no matter how old you get things are no longer perky and gray hairs are really under the dyed color. It's all good! I may choose to grow old with grace while others fight it. Does not change my path nor make me less valued. To the bully who used to punch me when the teachers back was turned....come at me and see what happens now. Here in the light of day with everyone watching! I will not stay silent. I will NOT keep quiet. Punch me again and see what I do. You were and still are a coward to pick on those smaller and different than you. Last I heard you moved to Maine. I hope you are doing well but I also hope at some point you grew up and stopped picking on those around you. If I saw you on the street I would look you in the eye. We both know what you did!
I look back at my classmates and some I see are happy. Others are struggling. One guy lost his wife in a horrific accident. Makes me sad for him. The jock now coaches his son's soccer team. Good for him. Are we friends. Not really. If I saw him would I say hi. Probably. My mom raised me to be polite. Would I go out of my way to hang out with people from high school...maybe. If for nothing more to show that I made it. My life is great. Do I have it all together...NO but does anyone? Am I happy? Yes. Am I productive? Yes. Am I raising my kid to be a functioning adult? Yes. Do I regret high school? No....but I wish I knew then what I know now. I would have made better choices. I would have branched out and made friends outside of my "approved social circle." I would have laughed more and taken more chances. I would stand out. Shine! Be known as that girl who is friends with everyone. I would have studied more. I would have....I would have...I would have.... Can't change the past. The only thing I can do is let my life lessons fuel my future. I hope my successful future. But then again what is successful for me may not be what success looks like for someone else. That is fine. Why? Because it does not matter! We all have our own paths to walk and our own gifts to offer. Give your gifts freely. Walk your path with strength. Above all else learn the value you have in just being you!
Off to soccer we go. My husband helps coach so when he said our game was in Northwood I thought no problem. I know how to get there. He wanted me to swing by and pick him up even thought it would mean doubling back but family time is worth the gas. So we head driving through small back towns of New Hampshire. Up and over. Round and through. I am heading to Northfield. After about 10 minutes down the road in Pitsfield my husband asked me where I was going. I said Northfield. Wait. Northfield. Oh MONKEYS!!! Wrong town! We need to head to Northwood. So I bang a Uturn and head the right way. It looks like we will get there just as the game starts Ooops. My bad. So I come careening into the small parking lot and hit the BIGGEST pot hole I have every seen. The kind of pot hole that EATS cars. I am serious when I say I caught air. The sound of all 4 tires hitting the ground again caused such a stir that all the perfect moms who arrived on time glared at me over their starbucks cups. I slink over to the furthest corner of the parking lot and tell the crew to grab water bottles and get out. It is then I notice there are no other blue shirts on the field. Not. A. Single. One. FAIL! My brave husband finds the nerve to ask one of the perfect moms if there was another field. I see the coiffed mother pointing and my husband nodding. Back into the van. I crawl over the car eater otherwise known as the pot hole from hell. Back on the main road I laid rubber as I tore off down the road. Its ok....the Sienna can handle it. Turn right by the church...half a mile down on the left....driving like Satan himself is chasing me. I see the field. I slow down to a normal speed so as to not draw the stares of disdain. Pull in and see blue shirts....but wrong shirts. This is our older team. WHAT! There is sighing and moaning! I ask my husband to pull up the schedule. It seems right town. A text to another soccer mom. She said it is at the school. Recheck the schedule on my husbands phone. Sure enough...he was looking at the older kids schedule....not our little girl. ARE. You. Kidding! I pull another Uturn in the parking lot and as soon as my tires hit pavement I stepped full throttle and bolted out of there. If we miss every cop, traffic light and by the grace of God any slow people crossing the street we should make it to the game by half time. FLYING down the road praying there is not a cop in sight we arrive at the field just after halftime. My husband and little girl humbly sprint onto the field. I don't even grab the chair or blanket. Won't matter. Not that long left in the game. I get the "look" from other moms. I knew I had to come clean or be forever labeled as the mom who could not show up on time. I threw my husband under the bus so hard I should have won a prize! "My poor husband looked at the wrong schedule and we went to Northwood." This got the sympathy I was hoping for. Nods of understanding. Smiles of welcome. I was forgiven and embraced into the tribe. My little girl played great game for the short time she was there. Lesson learned. Always double check the schedule and look out for pot holes when careening into the field at Northwood. #momfail #reallife
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A simple jelly jar. That is what was handed to me this morning. After a horrible weekend of having virtigo I feel like my head is in a fog from the medicine I take to keep the waves of nausea away. With a deep breath I start the day. I dragged myself into school. I have a lovely class of 18 students. I have 13 boys and 5 girls. Sitting at my desk trying to get the Monday morning groove to kick it a boy hands me a jelly jar. This boy is taller than the rest of the class. Some may question if he is on the spectrum. He is awkward but funny. The class is a very sweet class so he is not treated different but through adult eyes you can see he is a bit out of place at times. He simply said "here....peach jam...my mom and I made it for you." I think that is the most he has ever said to me at one time where I did not have to prompt him. He has his hands in his usual T-Rex tuck. A smile on his face. I must have had a look of shock. He said "it is for you." I took it and thanked him so much. His smile got bigger! I was able to realize this was a gift and get my head out of the clouds to make the proper deal of it. It really is a lovely gesture. I know his mom and she is an amazing cook so this will be a lovely treat for my family. I can picture this little boy carrying this the whole way to school. Careful not to break the jar. Waiting to give it to me. It is a simple gift but one that warmed my heart to the very core! In my quest to educate the little minds...trying to find the balance between teaching modes and proper testing and academic preparedness....am I really making a difference? Well....I think I am. To have this little boy say to his mom that he wanted to bring a jar in for his teacher must mean I am doing something right. It is small gifts like this that remind me I am not a machine pumping out the next generation of machines. I am a teacher connecting and encouraging and (hopefully) preparing the next generation to go out and be the best human they can be. In 4th they will learn their facts and be able to read. It is still this age my quest is to instill into them the love of learning. With that love they can go far. Not all will be bound for college. Some will enter the armed forces. Some may take the route of a trade school. Regardless they all have gifts and as long as they are encouraged to use those gifts they will be a success.
Now you will have to pardon me as I make some toast and add some jelly!