Thursday, April 30, 2009

Spider Princess

One of my closest friends emailed this morning and wrote, "I think you should post this on your blog." I agree. It's from StoryPeople, by Brian Andreas. This is one of my favorites, which isn't saying too much, because I pretty much love everything he does. There's something beautiful about noticing the true, sweet, goofy things in life and making them your own (and then, if you're really brave, sharing these magic thoughts with other people, so they can experience them, too.) My thoughts on this one - I agree, there's nothing better than spending the day playing outside. Anyway, here it is -

Spider Princess
If I was a spider princess, she said, I would spin webs the color of sky & catch drops of sunlight to give to children who watch too much TV & then everyone would remember to come outside to play. If I was a spider princess, she said, things would be different.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day

When I opened up my browser to today, I saw a headline that was meant to be upsetting. Something like "The Year 2100." I opened the link and saw what could occur if global warming continues at its current rate. And I felt stuck.

I love being outside, exploring nature, experiencing our world. I try to do my part. I try to be aware of my carbon footprint. I recycle, I compost, I donate, and I reuse before throwing things away. I'm aware of the need to tread lightly.

What's hard for me, though, when I hear the dire predictions, is to have hope for a healthy planet. I fear for future generations, as we all should. But how can I affect change? What better choices can I make that might slow this process down?

Today, I made the choice to celebrate Earth Day with my kids. We took a hike with some friends, identified some flowers, and overall, had a great time outside. It's a beautiful world we live in. Today, I make the choice to inform myself as well. I'd like to be more aware of what one person can do when it comes to something so big.


Sarah took pictures with the camera yesterday, and while some are blurry and hard to recognize, others are kind of interesting, and (dare I say) good. She took a picture of the oak tree and it's an angle I certainly wouldn't have seen, let alone try to photograph. Along with other plants, she took a couple of pictures of me. One is more flattering than the other, I guess . . . Just my middle, really? Couldn't it have been a leg or arm? Of course, the one she was most excited to see was the "hair one." Like I said, some don't make a lot of sense, but she loved it.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Apple Pancakes with Maple Syrup

We have a very tasty Tuesday morning tradition at our house. I make apple pancakes for the kids (and myself) and we happily indulge. I'm mostly certain that this is how my four year old daughter maintains her grip on the growth chart that has forever presented itself as a challenge to her tiny self. She eats four pancakes each morning, until we run out of them, which is several days before the following Tuesday.
Here's my version, taken from Brunch, the perfect weekend treat by Jennifer Donovan.
Ingredients -
1 1/2 cups self-rising flour (specialty flour, and very easy to find)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp flaxseed (I add this to get some good stuff into the kids. It's absolutely optional.)
1 egg
1 cup milk
2 apples, peeled and grated
maple syrup
To make them -
Mix the flour, sugar, cinnamon, and flaxseed in a bowl. (I peel and grate the apples at this point.) Beat the egg and the milk together and pour into the dry ingredients. Stir together until it's combined and then add the apples.
Heat the butter in a large nonstick pan over medium low heat until melted and bubbling. With a ladle, pour in the mixture and cook until bubbles appear in the batter. Flip and cook until golden brown. Increase or decrease heat as needed. And add a little more butter between sessions.

ENJOY! We can't get enough of them!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Birds in the Fern

In the last few days, we watched a robin attempt to build a nest on our front porch's column, to no avail. For four days, the poor bird kept building, re-building and dropping the nest all day long. The attempt was finally halted when I hung a fern near the column, in which finches quickly took up residence. They are now busily preparing a nest. I wanted to bring the fern in last night, when it dropped below 50 degrees, but the bird sitting in the fern wouldn't budge. I've decided to allow them to stay, and I'm crossing my fingers that the fern won't come to much harm because of it.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Squish the Grubs!!

I teach my children to respect living things. I am adamant about this - when we're playing and exploring, we spend a lot of time talking about how to respect the world around us. Insects can teach these big lessons.

You can hold the roly-polys, but be gentle with them and put them back where you found them when you're done. Worms are really good, they help plants grow. Yes, you can put them in the compost bin. They'll be happy there. Look at that spider web! Isn't it beautiful! Let's not break it. That must have taken the spider a long time to make. How many dots are on the ladybug's shell? Let's count them and see. Look at that bee - he's pollinating the flower. How cool.

My kids spend a lot of time observing insects, lifting up rocks and looking at what's underneath. Digging in the dirt and finding worms. Spying ladybugs, inchworms, and spiders. They get excited when they find something and call everyone over to look. And we all get on our hands and knees or up on our tippy toes and watch closely. They generally treat backyard bugs with respect, and I am proud of the choices they make.

However, the wonder and admiration they have for all things small and slimy slips away when it comes to grubs. And this is entirely my fault. For all the lessons I wish to teach my children, I wish more to keep the roots of my plants happy and healthy. I'll explain - grubs are on the very short list of things that are okay to squish. Why? Because they are not good bugs. (Cockroaches, mosquitoes, and ticks complete the list.) The pleasure they experience in squishing grubs is a little disturbing, truly.

But they get it, too. That most bugs are good and helpful and fascinating. And that there are just a few that aren't. And for those, we show no mercy.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Garden Is Open

One of my favorite picture books is called The Garden is Open by Pamela Pease. I love it because it gives me a chance to talk to Sarah about something that I love. It's a sweet story about two sisters who spend many years planning, planting, and caring for a garden. Each year, when the garden reaches its peak, they allow neighbors, friends, and strangers to experience the beauty they've created.

The best part for me is that the garden is in Chapel Hill, just down the road from us. For the second year, we took the kids to see their garden. As we drove, Sarah "read" the story, as she does with books she knows well. She remembers the words we've read to her and connects them to the pictures. "One morning in early spring, a butterfly resting in the dogwood tree was the first to see a sprout come up . . ."

We wandered around the garden, more quickly than I would have liked, but wandered nonetheless, and then sat down in the front yard to read their story. The sisters' granddaughter, whose son is the same age as mine, stepped out. I hesitated, but then asked if we could get our book signed. Graciously, we were invited in. Once inside, I noticed that Sarah had an inchworm crawling on her arm. "It tickles," she said and smiled. She let it crawl down her arm while we talked to the sisters. They told us about the garden, about their lives, and about how the book came to be. I listened and I did my best to thank them, and then we headed back outside. Sarah then set the inchworm on a leaf outside. It all came together in that perfect moment. And I am so grateful.