That Agape Family

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Tag: nature (page 1 of 2)

Oh Snap… I was Wrong

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Last year, around this time, I wrote a couple of blog posts. I titled them Snapdragon Fun and Snap Chat Continued.  Pretty witty of me, right? Well, I’m here to confess that I was wrong. I mistakenly identified those fun, beautiful plants as “snapdragons”, when in reality the orange flowered plant is “jewelweed” and the pink flowered plant is “Himalayan balsam”, both of the impatiens family.  I stand corrected. This photo is a card from the board game Wildcraft. Wildcraft is a cooperative board game that helps children learn how various plants can help heal us. From sunburns to bee stings, it is a fun reminder of the healing power of the plants around us.

And, guess what? They’re back in season! Yay! If you’ve read my previous posts, you’ll know why I’m so excited. These plants, also called “touch-me-not”, have these fun little seed pods that pop when you squeeze them. It turns out that these seeds taste like walnuts, and are super healthy! The flowers are good for you as well. Both the seeds and flowers are nutrient rich. Foraging the seeds can be a fun game, too! See if you can harvest the seed pod without it popping, and let the seed pods pop in your mouth, instead! Naturally, we gave it a go:

Little Miss (4.5) wasn’t a big fan of the seeds, but Sweet Pea (1.5) was. Granted, she’ll eat just about anything, but I enjoyed them as well. As we continued on our walk this morning, we came across another plant that looks very similar, however the flowers are pink in colour. As I mentioned earlier, this is the Himalayan Balsam. It turned out that this plant is an invasive species to our area, which led to a fantastic discussion about invasive species, endangered species (we’d recently learned about those, and Little Miss was trying to audibly recognize the difference), and habitats. We decided to harvest some of the Himalayan balsam, and see if our fine feathered friends, the ducks, might eat it. 

Before we got to the ducks, I asked Little Miss to develop a hypothesis, as to whether or not the ducks would eat the flowers. She doesn’t like to be wrong, so she decided not to guess. I hypothesized that they would eat them. Wrong again! Perhaps the flowers just weren’t exciting enough to munch on. 

So, if you’re by a ravine, and happen upon these entertaining plants, take a few moments. Try a flower or two, and see if you have the gentle touch. Let the seed pod pop in your mouth. It’s fun for the whole family!

Blessings,

Liz

For the First Time in, Well, Ever!

We love the forest, if you couldn’t tell. We try to go every week, with a lovely group of friends. We have been joining this group for about two and a half years. In all this time, Little Miss has never ventured over “the tree”. Ever since we’ve been coming, there has been a tree that has fallen over there creek. It’s a large, beautiful tree that just begs to be climbed and crossed.

I consider Little Miss to be rather adventurous, and I’ve always assumed she’d eagerly climb it with the greatest of ease. However, in all our time in the forest, she never has. She would explore the exposed roots, and climb to the top of them, but never over – until this week.

We’ve had a few kids over the years who love to shimmy across to the other side, but it’s never had the pull that I thought it would with her. But this week, one of the newer girls she was playing with climbed right over – and she followed! It was really exciting to watch her try something new, and be guided by her peer. She needed a little encouragement on the way back, but she did it. I love watching children attempt something, of their own accord, and accomplishing the task. It’s so exciting!

I wonder how she’ll approach it next time…

What has your child recently tried and conquered?

Blessings,

Liz

The Forest is Changing

“The forest is changing…” was Little Miss’ observation this last week in the forest.

Here she is making her observations of what she’s seen, about a month ago:

(I thought her boots were in the car. I was mistaken… Oh well! I forgot my boots, too!) The giant tree tumbled down sometime during a fierce windstorm in the previous couple of weeks. When we returned a couple of weeks later, the tree had settled substantially lower, and left a beautiful mud hole for the children’s enjoyment:

The children spent a lot of time discovering the bugs that had made homes, or had their homes recently upturned. They investigated the effects of mud on boots (sluuuurp), and the month earlier, they explored the clay that had formed deep below the tree’s roots.

But Little Miss’ observation that “the forest is changing…” was spot on, and completely spontaneous. Although a month ago we were starting to see little buds all over, this last week it was so much more pronounced. And these beautiful Trout Lilies scattered the forest floor:

I can’t wait to get back out there this week, to see what else has sprung up.

What is “spring”ing up around your area?

Blessings,

Liz

Roll With It

The other day, we went to the park. There’s a lovely new park near our house, so with the warmer weather, we headed down. Little Miss was having fun on the various equipment there, when she noticed 3 children rolling down a hill (who needs toys, right?). Well, she marched herself up to the top of the hill, lied down, and rolled down the hill, making corrections to her direction as she went.

It may be hard to see in the photo, but there she is, in her purple sweater. Do you notice something? She’s the only child in the photo. You see, moments before I snapped this pic, the parents of the other children went over and scolded them. Granted, I think the main reason they were reprimanded is because at the top of the hill is a main street, but there’s a sidewalk in between, and they weren’t all that close to it, to be honest. However, there are many reasons parents discourage this type of activity. They may not want their child’s clothes to get dirty, or perhaps they think it’s a silly concept.

But, you know what? Rolling (and spinning around in circles) is good for a child’s development. In her book, Balanced and Barefoot, Angela Hanscom explains how the motion of spinning is key to proper balance development in children. Remember back in the day when we had those awesome merry go rounds? They were a good thing! Our park has this neat little contraption:

Little Miss loves going “faster”! Even Sweet Pea wanted to try this past trip, and she just turned one.

Let them roll! It’s good for them.

Blessings!

Liz

P.S. What was your favourite piece of equipment on the playground when you were a kid?

Art Is Not My Forte – A Nature Journal

I love to look at art. I think it’s beautiful, and I marvel at how people can create such magnificent pieces. I enjoy looking at the children’s books we take out at the library, and I examine the various techniques the illustrators use. That being said, I suck at drawing, and most things related to the visual arts.

No, seriously. I’m not trying to be self-deprecating, nor am I fishing for compliments (what? No! You’re fantastic! – Liar). I’ve simply come to the realization that art (drawing, painting, etc.) is not something I’m good at. I’m OK with that. I have other strong points, and frankly, I’ve never had the patience or determination to work at it in order to get better at it. I would try to draw here and there, but I never put any true effort into it. I expected it to come naturally to me. If you’ve ever seen my drawing of Peppa Pig’s father, you would wholeheartedly agree.

But, because we are choosing to homeschool, I so desperately want to give our daughters a well rounded experience, which includes art. So, I’m giving it the good old college try – I’ve started a Nature Journal.

A nature journal is where you record your experiences and discoveries in nature. I recently read I Love Dirt, and one of the suggestions for a winter activity was to sketch a slumbering tree. Here is the view from our backyard:

Winter Window

And here is my rendition:

Winter Window Sketch

On the left is one type of tree (which, after a quick Google search, would appear to be a Corkscrew Willow Tree) and on the right we have a Maple tree.

It was frigidly cold here in Toronto today (-18 Celcius, with a windchill somewhere around the -37 Celcius mark), so we opted to hunker down inside today.

I’m stepping out of my comfort zone by doing art in the first place. I’m also working on my Wreck This Journal. I got it shortly after having Little Miss. I wanted to stretch myself in terms of my creativity, and this has been an interesting outlet. I’m also demonstrating creating with Little Miss, in hopes that she will take an interest and enjoy partaking in the creating experience. Thankfully, Grandma loves art, and has significantly more talent, so she’ll likely be covering many of these art areas.

What do you feel is not your forte?

Blessings,

Liz

I Love Dirt! A New Year’s Resolution

Happy 2018 friends! I love New year’s. A time of review, and fresh beginnings. Up until just a few of years ago, we would celebrate with my grandparents, and my extended family, by having a family dinner on New Year’s day. I loved it – even the silly tinsel necklaces. My grandparents would go out dancing New Year’s Eve, with my Great Aunt (my Grandma’s sister) and her husband,  until 2 in the morning! I was always pleasantly surprised that they could out-party me. As with all good things, those too have come to an end, but I savour those memories.

With this time of reflection, one of my New Year’s resolutions is to spend more time outside. I like to think that we spend more time outside than the average family, but with a new baby in 2017, I have certainly come up with my fair share of excuses to dodge excursions, particularly in this frosty weather. This book, I Love Dirt (affiliate link) by Jennifer Ward, is a great quick read to get you in the mood to get outside.

i-love-dirt

With 52 simple suggestions for the varying seasons, this book inspires you to take your children outside, and connect with nature. I also really loved the science applications that are recommended to incorporate into your explorations.

What are your New Year resolutions?

Blessings,

Liz

Forget the Flashcards

To be completely honest, I’m not a fan of flashcards. Interestingly enough, this video came up on my Facebook newsfeed today, because I shared it a year ago (thank you Facebook memories). I find them an inauthentic way to learn, as they aren’t contextual. I truly feel that the best way to learn anything, is in a hands on situation, with real life examples.

We’ve got colour and sight words flashcards because I thought they’d be useful at some point. I was also concerned, at the time, that Little Miss didn’t yet know her colours (or at least many of them). I think she was about two and a half at the time. But you know what? She’s got them down pat now. And it wasn’t because I showed her cards with colours on them, but because we talked about the colours we saw around us on our daily walks. The trees, leaves, flowers, signs – everything. Don’t you think that’s more fun than sitting at the dinner table, discussing what colour the strawberry is that Scooby Doo is holding? (Yes, they were Scooby Doo flashcards…)

I tend to worry, from time to time, that Little Miss doesn’t know this or that. Yet, I tend to forget that she has a remarkable knowledge of animals (she knows what an ostrich is), flowers, and My Little Pony characters. They will learn. We want to learn. Our job to not squelch that curiosity, but to feed it and encourage it. Today, we discussed magnetization, and the difference between The North Pole and the pole firefighters slide down at their stations. Conversations will naturally ensue, as long as you’re open to them.

So, currently I’m watching Little Miss as she learns her letters and numbers. She’s just started learning to play Dutch Blitz with my mom, which I hear has been quite fun. Now, in order to play, she needs to recognize her numbers. She’s been able to count to 10 for a while, and can pretty much get to 20, except for that pesky 15 which doesn’t always make it in there. But, it will come. I just don’t think I need to show her a card with the number 5 on it, versus going to a friend’s house, and finding the 5th floor button. Context has meaning, and dare I say, longevity for learning.

Blessings!

Liz

P.S. Have you ever played Dutch Blitz? It’s a Vonderful Goot game.

Dutch Blitz

Nests

Fall is upon us! Or, my preferred name – Autumn. I love just about everything about fall – the smell of decaying leaves, the cooler, sweater weather, Pumpkin Spiced Lattes (don’t try the M&M’s, they’re disgusting), and of course, the leaves changing colours. Fall gives us a wonderful opportunity to see the hidden homes of our neighbourhood animals.

Here is a tree that housed both paper wasps (I’ve got an exciting post about them coming up soon!) and a squirrel, right around the corner of our home.

Nest 3

I don’t think it was only me who noticed the numerable wasps in Southern Ontario this year. It felt like they were everywhere! In fact, here’s another nest that’s clearly visible with the changing colours. I know this looks like a photoshopped image, but I assure you, I have no such skill to trick you.

Nest2

And here is a bird’s nest we found on one of our walks, again right in our immediate neighbourhood. It used to look much more pristine, but I think Little Miss has been exploring its components, hence its more disheveled look.

Nest

Fall offers the exciting opportunity to more easily observe animal habitats. With the trees bare, we can observe various types of nests in our area. Squirrels tend to have larger nests (basketball sized, or larger) made of leaves, and are also often closer to the trunk of the tree, to provide additional protection from the elements. Wasps, on the other hand, tend to have their nests on the outer perimeter of the tree, making them easier to spot throughout the year. Perhaps they do that so they’re easier to find and access? Birds nests are harder to see, as they are usually smaller (of course, depending on the bird), and are also closer to the tree’s trunk.

It’s truly fascinating to observe the intricacies that go into how nests are made. One day, I would love to be able to differentiate the different birds’ nests based on the species of bird. One day…

Blessings,

Liz

Swing Low

You’ve read about our beloved experiences with our Forest Playgroup before, and here we go again.

This week, rope swings were of interest. A couple of weeks ago, one of our most adventurous forest friends tied a rope to a fallen tree, and made a rope swing which he thoroughly enjoyed. He learned to tie the appropriate knot, and got to swinging!

Well, since that time, Little Miss had had the opportunity to try out the rope swing at gymnastics. Naturally, she wanted to extend that experience to the forest, so I tied this rope to the tree, and away she went.

Rope Swing

Why is swinging important? Angela Hanscom has this to say in her book, Balanced and Barefoot, “in order to hold on to the rope swing, children must have a strong core, upper body and grip” (Hanscom, 2016), which the majority of children today are lacking.

Now, take a look back at that picture, and do you notice a string on Little Miss’ right side? The one with the stick tied to it? Well, our forest friend, after tying, and trying, his own knot (he forgot the one he learned a couple of weeks back), tied this stick onto his swing, to create a seat for himself. He did this all on his own – and he’s 5!

It is so exciting to watch these children learn together, encourage one another, and have fun. I went back to the head gymnastics coach last week, and told her that at first I thought the rope swing was just for fun. Then I learned that this is an essential part of developing a child’s core strength. Fun and developmentally necessary… who would have thought?

Blessings!

Liz

The Salmon Run

Today, a friend and I enjoyed watching the Salmon Run here in Toronto, at Charles Sauriol Conservation Area, with our girls.  This is our second year going, and we had a great time. Last year, we were a bit late in the season, and only saw a couple of fish, and plenty of salmon carcasses (a  great science and philosophical lesson). This year, there were more fish fighting their way upstream.

The salmon run is where salmon swim upstream, even jumping up over waterfalls, in order to lay their eggs upstream. You can see them all along the Don River, making their way to the top. A some points, they vigorously swim against the current.

Those white splashes of water are the salmon

In addition to the river, when you first enter the park, there is a large pond, that is home to a beautiful blue heron, ducks and some curious Canadian geese.

There is a beautiful walking trail along the river, but do be careful of the poison ivy! (Thanks Jena!) When our friend pointed it out, Little Miss exclaimed “It’s a good thing I’m wearing stockings!” as she traipsed through it. She did take notice though, and was careful walking along the rocks.

Poison Ivy

Lastly, a friendly grasshopper, that intrigued Little Miss.

If you get a chance, check it out! The salmon run typically runs from mid-September (earlier in other parts of Ontario) to mid-October. The weather does affect the salmon run, and with the ridiculously hot weather last week, it has delayed it.

We plan on going to another location next week, so we’ll see if there are more or less salmon. I hypothesize more.

Blessings,

Liz

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