Showing posts from May, 2010

Mama Blue Jay

My husband will be the first to tell you that I tend to morph into a crazy bird lady as soon as our fine feathered friends start migrating back to balmy Ohio and it doesn ’t require a snowsuit to fill the bird feeders. “You spend more time and money feeding those birds than you do your own family” he jokes. But before he can say another word I stuff some suet in his mouth and go on my merry way. I was never a birder in the past. Quite the opposite, I was the kind of person who made fun of them, with their binoculars draped around their pocketed brown vests with matching safari-style hat. But I never really took the time to realize why birding can be kind of fun and now I have guide books and binoculars with me all the time. There are birds everywhere, from the deepest jungle to the busiest of city streets. They are the creatures of the air and if you stop and think about it, they’re as alien as the fish in the ocean. Somehow they manage to survive around us, adjusting and thriving

Worm activities for toddlers

Introducing nature to toddlers can seem challenging, but doesn’t have to be. Toddlers are naturally inquisitive and exploratory, and parents and caregivers should take advantage of this special time to introduce the child to the natural world. When planning activities with toddlers, parents should follow the time-tested “KISS” rule, keeping it short and simple. The following are some short and simple games and learning activities about earthworms that toddlers will enjoy, while they are learning and working to create a lasting relationship with nature. Wiggly, Wiggly Worms While the thought of holding a worm may not appeal to most adults, toddlers love the tickly feeling that a squirming worm will bring. Adults should collect a few worms beforehand and introduce the worms to the children. Gently place the worm in the child’s hand – toddlers have a tendency to pinch or squeeze the worm. Let the child hold the worm for a few seconds, and make sure to wash the child’s hands when finished.

Summer preparedness for the queen of the backyard

I knew it was going to be eye-widening, the total number that rang up at the register. But I had to do it. We were already one case of poison ivy and three skinned knees into the season and I was so unprepared, if I was a Boy Scout that would have ripped the badges right off my chest. And so I went, list in hand, to the store to prepare for summer. I’ve done this so many years now it’s practically second nature, but it wasn’t always that way. I had to learn, over time and as my children grew, just what a family needs to get through the roughest season of the year. Bandages. Small ones, big ones. Favorite cartoon character ones for children who would purposely fall off their bike to be decorated by Spongebob, and the plain flesh colored ones because you know at some point you’re going to take a beating too. (This coming from the person who slices at least one leg on at least one berry bush a year.) Burn-your-skin-off-antibacterial wash for cuts. Sure, we tell them it won’t hurt, but it

Make a Maple Friend

Learning to identify leaves is no different than identifying Thomas the Train characters, Matchbox cars, or Barbie and all of her friends. Children are whizzes at this stuff. They recognize details and crave order and category , so what better way to appease that and ditch the toy aisle and teach them something practical. Native Americans and other children of pre - Wii cultures could identify trees at an early age. Their jobs required it. What was the best firewood to collect? Which twigs made the best cooking utensils? Building supports? Weapons? It was a way of life for them. Happily we don't need to send our kids out foraging in the woods to stay warm and survive, but that doesn't mean that learning trees and leaves isn't a great learning exercise. 'Cause it is. Start simple, start young. My older children, still in school, can readily ID a maple tree, so I'm taking this chance to teach my youngest about the trees in our backyard. Find a Maple Friend Maple tre

Short order cook: tortilla pizza

I have this terrible habit of asking my kids what they want for lunch. It's a bad habit because they will always, without a doubt, say three different things. I swear it's on purpose just to make their mother frazzle right there on the spot. One such episode happened just recently. "Ham and cheese," said one. "Chicken nuggets," said another. "Tortilla pizza," said the third. I threw down my fists and responded, "I am not a short order cook!" and they looked at me blankly because they had no idea what I was talking about. "Pick ONE" I demanded, still thinking they didn't know how lucky they were I didn't give them old, crusty bread and glass of spoiled milk. After much deliberation, they settled on tortilla pizza, a go-to standard of this house that originated somewhere in the mountains of New Mexico on a backpacking trip where bread would have been squished in my 40-pound backpack. Cooked over a campstove , it's a

Wanting for a wall: something's off balance here

Whether learning to walk or riding a bicycle, it’s very typical to hear about the ears because that’s where the beautiful technique of balance does its job. The inner ear has tiny canals have tiny hairs that can detect even the slight change in the fluid that resides in those canals as we tip ourselves over. But there’s another part of the body involved that might be overlooked: the eye. The eye sends some serious feedback to the brain, helping the ear and keeping us walking and running upright without face-planting into the ground. For this I am very thankful. The eye does double duty and also works its magic in seeing straight lines. It knows to prefer things that are completely level, absolutely straight, and amazingly can detect when things are slightly less than perfect. They crave things like the horizon and other things that either parallel or perpendicular to it. My eye, however, isn ’t seeing a single thing when it comes to my family room wall. At the time of this postin

Wonderment Wednesday: Play with a rain drop

This summer as I share my love of the out-of-doors with children, I thought I'd share some of our favorite activities and new experiments with readers of this blog. Visit on Wednesdays each week to find something new to do and try when the kids invade your home! ******* Our weather this week couldn't get much worse. They say if you don't like the weather in northeast Ohio, stay one more day and it's likely to change. Lately around here it's gone from bad to worse. As I type this, I can look out my window and baby pea plants, beautiful bachelor buttons, blooming lilacs, and it's only 43 degrees. And raining. Spring sprung, then went back to bed, apparently. The good news is that it's supposed to warm up. The bad news is that the rain is supposed to be the big story all week long, which is par for the course when it comes to spring, but a veritable doomsday when you're a kid and really want to go out and play. Instead, touch some raindrops. Play with them.

Good Gracious, great grilling: Carolina Pork Chops

It is upon us, the great season of grilling and picnics. Every evening in small town USA, you can bet your bottom burger bun that there will be the sweet smell of charcoal wafting through the air as you smile, nod, and stir your potato salad. Swing sets will be creaking and soon enough, hoses will be squirting. Someone will yell "tag!" about the same time someone else finally gets close to digging to China in the comfort of their own sandbox. And we'll love it. I always start craving the good grill and macaroni salad when the snow melts, but it takes a few weeks to really get into the groove of remembering your outdoor cooking appliance. This is one of my favorite things to whip up in advance and store until the weather is just right and corn first starts showing up in the grocery stores (and not at outrageous winter prices.) Heat the grill, mix this up, smile, nod, stir your potato salad, and enjoy. Carolina Pork Chops Spice rub: 1 tsp garlic powder 1 tsp. onion powde

Out of the mouths of mothers

*I never really planned on being a mother, not that I didn’t not plan it, either. I was just never the mothering type as a girl. I didn’t really play with dolls or Barbies. While most little girls transformed cardboard boxes into beautiful houses in which to raise their babies, my cardboard box became a boat where I was a park ranger that gave people tickets for cutting down trees. (True story. You can ask my mom how long that giant box lived in our great room.) When I got older, I didn’t do much babysitting. I tried it once, and after dealing with annoying kids for what seemed like forever, I earned a measly two bucks. End of career. And so it goes that I never daydreamed about being a mom when I was a girl. (True story. You can ask my mom how many times she has recently said to me, “I still can’t believe you have THREE kids,” because even she has a hard time believing the maternal transformation.) I don’t know when it actually happened, if there was some deep inner-body hormonal chan

Maple Walnut Chicken: plate-scraping good

Forget licking the fingers, this one had my kids literally scraping their plates with their forks and asking for more, which is scary because kids don't normally do that unless the food in question is full of sodium, fat, sugar, or all of the above. For me, it all started with panko flakes. If you've never heard of them, check out the breadcrumb section at the grocery store. That's where they live, those japanese-style breadcrumbs. They are pointy and apparently not made from the crusts of bread, just the insides, and the texture is totally different and delicious. You can panko bread just about anything, and just about anything will taste better. Maple Walnut Chicken (recipe adapted from Betty Crocker ) 4 chicken breasts, sliced in half so that their flat (or you can pound them if you've got pent up frustrations) 1/2 cup maple syrup (fake stuff is just fine) 2 Tbl mayo 1 Tbl dijon mustard 3/4 cup panko flakes 3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts Materials needed: 2 shallow d