Live simply.

Grow naturally.

Love greatly.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Weekend Challenge #3

For me, winter is the hardest time of the year to get outside regularly. Shortened days, overcast weather, plus the whole process of bundling up the kids to keep them warm sometimes seems like too much of a hassle to deal with. Of course, once I’m outside, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. I love the pink cheeks, the windblown hair, and the deep breaths of cold fresh air. I love the smell of the outdoors that lingers on the body and clothes after going back inside. It is always eye opening to find, once I return, a house that is hot with stale air.

Here is another challenge for those of you who are looking for a reason to get outside. The photo essay that follows is a walk we took looking for the colors of winter. What colors can you find in your neighborhood? 

Yellow Green Moss found wedged between a rock wall
Red Nandina Berries
Yellow Dandelion
Burgandy?? wild boysenberry branch
I was surprised by how many colors showed up on the pine tree trunk after color enhancing through photoscape
Orange leaf from unidentified weed
 Blue, gray and white from the winter sky

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Every Newborn Need a Full Grown Tree

I have a bunch of newborn toys hanging around the house. Soft, plush bunnies and teddy bears, brightly colored plastic teethers to chew and hold on to, and plenty of black and white checkered objects (for those first weeks when babies can only see black and white). These are all guaranteed to hold your newborn’s attention. Honestly, I found these to be absolutely worthless for at least the first three months of a baby’s life.

Might I offer an alternative to the vast array of toys that companies are hoping you will spend money on? A full grown tree, visible from any window in the house, will keep your newborn’s attention like nothing else will (with the exception of nursing). Mere days after the birth of both our daughter and son, I remember being in awe of the power of nature at such a young age. The contrast between the blues and whites of the skies and clouds and the greens and browns of tree trunks and leaves captured the attention of our tiny babies even more than face to face time with mommy and daddy. Eyes were especially drawn outside on windy days when clouds billowed by and branches swayed to and fro.

Let me further suggest that that fresh outdoor air will calm a baby better than any sound machine. My second baby was fussier during the first few weeks of existence than my older one. I remember evenings when his little stomach seemed to be giving him no relief and he would cry softly throughout the late evening hours. Walking up and down the halls would sometimes appease him but, more often than not, simply walking out onto the porch would bring a calm to the little one cradled in my arms and sleep was soon to follow.

God has created us to revel in the natural world around us. From infancy, there is a connection to nature that just blows my mind. It takes hard work to turn us and our kids away from that connection. We must increase T.V. time, surround ourselves with expensive toys and gadgets, decrease outdoor time and allow for more sedentary activities. Sadly, that reality is becoming more and more prevalent. I want to say “yes” to the simplicity of nature and all it has to offer and “no” to manufactured happiness.

My youngest is 4 months old now. He has started learning to grasp things that are put before him. I am just now using one or two of those colorful teething toys. But I am happy to say that being outside still catches his attention and calms him down more than any of the other baby objects lying around the house. And it does wonders for mommy, daddy, and big sister too!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Honking the Horn about Public Libraries

When I was in fourth grade, my teacher, Mrs. Ross, took us on a field trip to the county library. We all signed up for library cards and chose a book to check out. Two weeks later my mom took me back to the library to return what I had taken home. I can’t remember the next time I visited the library. It must have been sometime during high school or college, because I vaguely remember updating my card.  For the majority of my life, however, I relied primarily on family, friends and bookstores to meet my reading needs.

My reintroduction to public libraries took place when, about 8 years ago, my husband and I took advantage of AARP’s freetax help. They annually set up tax volunteers at my local county library. I guess that’s when I realized that aside from the huge, ever changing collection of books housed there, the library also offers a wide variety of additional services.

We have only taken advantage of a few of the many resources available to members, aside from books. When teaching my daughter baby sign language, we checked out sign/sing videos, which she loved watching and mimicking. Activities such as crafts, walks, puppetry that I plan at home often come from library resources. My 4-year-old loves using the computers that have age appropriate learning software and playing with toys and games that encourage learning and creativity. One Christmas we happened to visit when a model train and village, created by a group of people from an area model train club, was on display (train cameras included). We have also been to a few children’s story times, which are often accompanied with crafts. I recently downloaded the Overdrive App on my iPhone. If you are a member of a library, you can sign in with your card number and access that library’s e-book collection. My first book downloads were “Are You My Mother?” By P.D. Eastman and “A Walk in the Woods.” By Bill Bryson. Any books downloaded are accessible for 14 days.

We have yet to take part in the monthly book club for adults, or the special events planned regularly for kids (visits by the police men, firefighters and evening programs like pajama parties and back to school events.) I’ve seen announcements for writing lectures and book signings. They have great home school resources that I can’t wait to utilize. And how much does all of this cost? NOTHING!!!

If you can’t tell, I really get excited about libraries. Just for the record, I am not being compensated in any way to write this post. Libraries really do open up the world to kids and adults alike. If you don’t have a library card, I highly recommend getting one.  And if you are already a member, tell me your favorite aspects of your local branch.