Category Archives: children

Home in the Carolinas

We are done with long drives.  Hallelujah!  Not that it was all bad, but it is time for it to be over.  Our car is too full to stay organized.  Every time I go searching for a needed item, my leg room somehow grows smaller and the piles of stuff become less stable.  Also, I will have to partake in some kind of extended detox diet to counteract the consumption of road food that I found myself option-less against.  Usually I pack enough food for a year, even when I’m only going for a weekend.  Unfortunately, there just wasn’t space in the car for such a luxury on this expedition, and I found that non-GMO, organic, free range food is not really available along the I-10 corridor.  Luckily there were always hawks, lots of hawks that gave me hope that all is not lost in the world outside of the little utopia of Bellingham, WA.

The best part of the road trip was hanging out with Juniper and Pearl with no interruptions and no other agenda.  Joey and I are blessed with the two most awesome travelers that any wanderlust couple could ever hope for.  We shared stories, sang songs, sewed flower fairies and hearts, made cards, listened to good music, read books, drew pictures, ate lots of rice cakes with almond butter and jam, dressed and undressed dolls, watched the world go by, and thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company.

The other good part has been cousins and aunts and uncles.  It has been heart warming to see the girls reconnect with our family.  There has been much laughter and lots of fun.

We will soon be to Grandma’s.  Joey will take his leave to prepare the boat for a toddler and her older sister.  I will do our taxes.  The girls will do lots of puzzles.  Lusa will take lots of walks and get lots of snuggles.  I’m starting to get a little teary at the thought of leaving Lusa behind.  But I know that she detests boats, and Grandma is thrilled to have her company.  Every journey has its share of sacrifice along with its rewards.

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And We’re Off

My fingers were shaking and my heart was racing as I turned the key to lock my clean, empty home.  Everything was out.  Our beds, artwork, and vast array of books were tucked into the outbuilding we recently constructed.  The canoe was nestled into our walled off, half of the garage with our bikes, gardening tools, and dishes.  While my home was empty of its stuff, my mind reeled with memories as I mopped the floors.  Babies born, friendships forged, songs sung, meals shared, books read, games played, projects created, gardens grown are all part of the richness that Joey and I created together within these walls and on this little plot of land.

And ever so quickly, under the cover of night, we were gone.  The car was loaded down and a bit squirrely under the weight of 700 feet of line, an anchor, chain, books, games, art materials, and clothes.  If you do anything with boats and you find yourself in Bellingham, WA, you must make your way to Pacific Marine Exchange (www.pacificmarine.com), a store of previously owned marine equipment and supplies.  We saved an incredible amount of money there.  Now we just have to share the car with our bounty.

We are spending the day with family like friends in Kirkland, recovering from three days of a mad dash to get out of the house.  We are resting and getting ready for the long drive to more family and friends and finally the boat in Charleston, SC.  While we all feel some sadness in leaving our chosen clan, incredible friends, inspiring community, and lovely life in Bellingham, the joys of travel are upon us.

Snowy Owl Magic

The Snowy Owls have come to the outskirts of Bellingham this winter.   They have traveled far from their arctic tundra home in search of food.  As I clean out my cupboards and feel disgruntled about the amount of waste and excess I find there, I reflect on the goals of my family’s journey.

Journeys provide lessons and magic.   The journey of the snowy owls brings us a glimpse of wildness and courage.  These owls have come to our rooftops from a place so remote that few people ever venture there.  By traveling into new landscapes and facing unknown dangers, they exercise bravery and adaptability in their necessary quest to survive.  Our house is nearly packed and we plan to leave this week.  We are not seeking food for our bodies, there is much more than we need here.  We must then be seeking food for our souls.  To find a patch of wildness, to experience the richness of personal discovery together, and to share our society’s wealth with others also takes great courage.  In these moments of preparation, I have found that courage in snowy owl magic.

I hope that on our journey we will lighten our load of consumption and reduce our environmental footprint.  I also hope that we can share the abundance of our privileged American life.  I want to give special thanks to Crystine and Brian from Uprising Organics (www.uprisingorganics.com) for donating A LOT of organic, heirloom seeds to share with people in the Bahamas.  I also want to thank Rowan for visiting the owls with us on a blustery, snowy afternoon and for helping me to contemplate the enriching process of creating art with children.

Rowan's Snowy Owl

Pearl's Snowy Owl

with a little help from my kids

As we get closer to our departure date, I am becoming increasingly excited for the time I will have with my kids in the natural world.  The boat is small, but the air will be warm and the beaches are vast.  I have always needed to spend time in the outdoors.  This need has become even more pronounced with children in my daily life.

With children though, the quality and focus of time spend outdoors has shifted a bit. I no longer try to see how far I can make it on a trail.  I cannot be attached to preparing a garden bed AND getting it planted in the same morning.  Instead, I have learned acceptance.  I have been given an opportunity to learn how to be more present and aware in the here and now.  As we walk in the woods, we stop to play hide and seek, finding special spots to be still and quiet.  We marvel at millipeds and search endlessly for owls.  In the rivers, we look at rocks and fill our pockets with treasures.  In the garden, we search for worms and beetles.  We take frequent snacks on garlic chives and kale, all the while singing songs and listening to birds.

Aldo Leopold said that “when we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”  Perhaps to build this sense of community with nature, we must start by thinking like children.  How rich we may become, if we can all spend time each day outside, thinking like a kid, and experiencing the beauty of the present moment.

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How do you put your kid hat on?  How do you develop and foster a connection with the natural world?  We love comments.

What to Say?

We get mail from almost every conservation group in the country.  I often question the efficiency of these mailings, but that could be the subject of a whole other post.  Today we got a map of the country from the Sierra Club.  I’ve been meaning to take a look at potential routes across the country for our upcoming road trip.  Luckily, this one had all of the major highways and cities labeled.  I eagerly called Pearl in to take a look with me.  She quickly become bored as I verbally weighed the options of spending the night in Albuquerque versus Santa Fe.  She wanted to see the map on the other side with pictures of beautiful endangered animals in their native regions.  She started asking questions, the likes of which I can’t fully remember because I was honestly thinking about skiing in Colorado.  All of a sudden I heard myself respond that “they” were worried about these animals.  Well, really I heard her ask, “Why are they worried about the polar bear?”  And there it was, what for me is a really big topic.

Before working with young children and having my own, I thought all knowledge to be good knowlegde.  I always wanted to learn as much as possible, especially about the natural world.  As I switched gears from being an environmental educator for high school and college kids to working with young children,  I realized that some things are better left unsaid.  Young kids need the warm and fuzzy.  They need to feel safe and good about the world.  They need reassurance that bad guys don’t win.  Sadly,  today’s environmental issues, such as hyper-rapid climate change, food security, and wildlife habitat loss, don’t really fit that bill.

With my kids, I try to foster an intimate relationship with the natural world.  We spend time outside every day.  We find beauty in the swirling clouds, the caw of the crow, the sharp scent of rubbed sage, the softness of moss, a newly germinated pea plant emerging from the soil, and the sweet taste of a perfectly ripened strawberry.  Our list for all things beautiful in nature is infintite.  At their young age, I do not burden them with the knowledge that our climate is changing at such an accelerated rate that habitat loss is inevitable and the polar bear is likely doomed.  Where is the beauty in that?  Their lives are long.  There will be lots of time for them to worry, ponder, and hopefully find solutions for these harsh realities.  So, I was a little shocked to be on the edge of such a big conversation.  I sat down and took a deep breath and remembered that keeping it simple works best, always.

“They are worried that there are not as many polar bears as there used to be,” I say.  “They want people to help the polar bears.”  She proceeded to ask how people can help polar bears.  “By riding bikes,” I tell her.  She giggled and giggled and giggled some more.  Finally she calmed down enough to ask about ways of helping the other animals on the poster-  keeping trees by streams for the salmon,  buying food from local farmers to help the whooping crane, taking your own shopping bags to the grocery store for the Kirtland’s Warbler, and keeping hotels off the beach for the Hawaiian Monk Seal.  She’d heard enough.  She walked away giggling to herself that she could help polar bears by riding her bike.  It seemed for her silly, fun, exciting, and BEAUTIFUL.

 

Love and Laughter

From one journey to the next, there is always beauty and learning.  Right as our lives had become unexpectedly absorbed with boat logistics, we set out for Breitenbush, a retreat to hot springs and mindfulness for body, mind, and soul.   At a moment when we most needed to unite as a family, we had luckily organized a visit to a place where it is impossible to feel anything but love for one another.  It was everything we needed- rest, time to simply BE together, nourishing meals prepared for us, warmth in fresh air, and a practice run for our upcoming road trip across America.


And then it was back to the frantic pace of the modern American Christmas.  “How can this be?” I wondered.  I try to keep it simple.  Yet, somehow, I also want everything to be just right.

Grandma arrived the day after we returned, Winter Solstice.  I spent the morning making everything ready for an evening celebration to pay tribute to the longest night of the year.  We brought in our four year old live Christmas tree, small and majestic.  We decorated her and enjoyed the best of holiday carols.

The next morning we took Joey to the train and settled into our new rhythm.  As I hurried to play Santa and finish my gifts,  the last of the packages arrived, and the girls eagerly found the anticipated candy tucked into the tissue paper by Uncle Ron.

Finally, at 1am on Christmas Eve, I threw in the towel and accepted that  I would not completely finish the art totes for the girls.  I had to find solace in simply enjoying their covers, the Crow and the Owl.

Once Christmas morning came, my whole body could finally relax and go with the flow.  It was incredibly fulfilling to see that my girls found their greatest joy in marbles, books, and modeling wax.  And then they spent the rest of the day wrapping and sharing presents with each other.  Their whole beings were immersed in the pleasure of giving with love.  Our hearts were overflowing.

And at the end of the day, we were most thankful for cooking together, sharing meals in mindfulness, being silly with laughter, and walking in the great outdoors with Grandma (and April, Jeff, Greysen, and Olive).

And now we prepare for the new beginning.

We are hoping that love and laughter are blessing all of your days!

Sacrifices

Last May we were visiting my brother and his family in Georgia.  My sister-in-law asked us to talk with my nieces and nephew about our upcoming sailing trip.  Specifically, she wanted us to talk about the sacrifices we had to make to fulfill this dream.  At the time, I struggled to come up with something.  Sure, I saved all of my earnings from Little Birdies Childcare for five years, and there must have been things we could have purchased with that money.  In all honesty though, this never felt like a sacrifice.  I’m not really much of a shopper, and buying most things in this modern consumer society usually has a price tag of guilt associated with it for me.  So what have I sacrificed?

This past fall, I had a bitter voice in my head reminding me that I had not gone for my annual solo hike on Baker.  It was a beautiful autumn season here in Bellingham.  Every time I saw Mount Baker rise up in a blue sky, I just knew I was missing out.  I tried reasoning with myself.  It was not as if we spent the whole summer working.  Well, at least the girls and I did not spend the whole summer working.  Joey pretty much did.  My part in that was taking the girls, so that he could get the work done.  The girls and I had fun entertaining our many visitors, and we swam and rode bikes a lot.  I also had some great moments to myself- runs on Galbraith, swimming at the park, and dancing in the late night.  Somehow though, I was still longing for a whole day of wilderness and solitude.  Luckily, snow came early this year and we got some family time up on Baker.  It wasn’t solitude, but being in such snowy mountain beauty eased my soul. I was finally able to let go of my regret, kind of.

Tomorrow I head out for a solo journey to check out this boat.  I’m excited to travel by myself, to see good friends, and mostly for the potential of it all.  It will be quick and exhausting, but I am okay with that.  My only problem now is figuring out when to go skiing again.  After all, I’m thinking I’m not really one to make too many sacrifices.

Pearl and June, December 2010