Using our senses at Green Lakes!

For the third week of the winter session we explored Green Lakes State Park! This park as a fascinating history and the lakes are extremely rare, so it gave us lots to discuss. The snow was extremely easy to pack so as soon as the kids got out of their cars they started making snowmen and rolling the biggest snow balls they could. 

Once we were organized and together we discussed our theme of the week, using our senses! Along our walk we stopped to use each sense. The kids felt all of the different types of bark, listened to the many sounds in the park, looked for hard to find creatures, and got to smell and taste different forest edibles.  

Along on walk we kept hearing a Pileated Woodpecker! It took a long time but we finally spotted it as it flew to a different tree! On our way back one of the kids spotted a rare winter site, a spider!!!

See it up there! It was the tiniest little spider crawling along the snow. The kids thought it was fascinating, until it started crawling towards them! This enabled us to talk about how we have been seeing early signs of spring this year, last weeks eastern bluebirds and this week a spider and new tree growth. 

After our walk the children all made little wind chimes and worked on their fine motor skills. Of course I forgot to take pictures of it! Next week we will be making some forest art at the Woodchuck Hill Field and Forest Preserve, come and join us!

Going on a Squirrel Hunt and Fairy Houses

This week we visited the Chittenango Falls State Park. The kids first wanted to check out the semi frozen waterfalls and we discussed how the water freezes as it falls to form the ice.

 Brandy taught us about the different squirrels that live in our area and now to look for signs of them. The snowfall from the previous night was light and fluffy, which made the hiking easy on the kids. Along our walk we looked out for signs of animals in the snow and places to make fairy houses. 

After adventuring and finding many places to build we settled on making the houses under the exposed roots of a tree at a frozen stream bed. 

The frozen stream made for an excellent impromptu sensory experience. They pushed all of the snow off, used it as an ice skating rink and then broke up the ice. After they had piles of broken ice (there was no water underneath) which they used to make different structures with. 

The kids got to observe a whole flock of Eastern Bluebirds with binoculars! They are defiantly not supposed to be here until spring but we were happy to observe them, and they were curious about our little flock of happy children also. 

The fairy house was complete! The ice shards made lovely couches and the children used their imaginations to gather supplies and make a cozy shelter for any local fairies. 

Next week we will be at Green Lakes State Park where we will explore using our senses to observe the natural world around us and make wind chimes!

Winter Tree Study

The first class in our Winter Session was spent exploring Woodchuck Hill Field and Forest Preserve. The children made observations about everything they discovered in the snowless forest. Brandy taught us how to identify local trees when there are no leaves to help us! 

When there is no snow in the winter it makes the forest extra special. You can see right through the trees and the forest floor is a treasure trove. The little adventurers collected many of these treasures and we discussed what they all were. 

This particular wild area there are numerous extra special trees growing. Weird growths, trees that do not belong in our state, different kids of trees growing twisted together. 

On this land there is a mysterious tree house that the children love to climb in to and imagine what it was used for. It even has a chimney and bunk beds so they always have some amazing ideas!

February 18th we will be going back to this wild area to see what has changed and to create some forest art!

New Years 2017

Whenever New Years Eve approaches I start to notice people talking about resolutions. Every year I make my own list and think “This year is going to be the year that I don’t forget about this list a month in!” So far I have been unsuccessful... 

It really does seem fitting that when the new year rolls around that we try to change things. Especially after this years Winter Solstice and I focused on letting go of the negative and searching for positive things to look forward to in this cold dark time. Now there should be something to work towards! 

Instead of resolutions this year I am going to focus on one word that keeps popping in my head, mindfulness

The Greater Good Science Center of Berkley College defines mindfulness in a way that is very comprehensive 

Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment.

Mindfulness also involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them—without believing, for instance, that there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in a given moment. When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future.
— http://greatergood.berkeley.edu

 

 

As an alternative to a resolution, focusing on this one word will benefit my whole family. Instead of rushing through our days doing our normal daily routine I want to slow down and really pay attention to the stage our lives are in. I need to make sure we are taking time to appreciate all that we have, and listen hard enough to know what we need. 

There are five areas of my little family's lives that so very much need some mindfulness injected into them.

Parenting

When my kids are running around like overtired loons playing and goofing around I want to be able to stop and laugh with them instead of feeling frustrated. There are times when I get so overwhelmed with all I have to do as a single mother that I seem to miss all of the joy in our world. When the anxiety and frustration wash over me from now on I will acknowledge them and explain to myself that I have two happy healthy creatures and the panic does not need to overtake our lives, but when I try to push it away it just magnifies and stays for way longer then it needs to. 

Nutrition

Normally food is super important to me. As a former baker and cook I can make basically anything from scratch, and usually that's what I do! It gives me great joy to take raw ingredients and magic them into something delicious and tasty. Then I get into this rut of making the easiest nonsense I can get Ivan to eat. The poor guy is so picky he has very limited foods. His doctor suggested I make him the meals that he enjoys and not to pressure him into trying new things. It worked like a charm, he went from barely ever eating, to eating me out of house and home. But the problem now is his foods are so easy to make that making my own healthier meal is very unappealing. Sadly as a 30 year old woman eating “kid food” is not as harmless as for my 5 year old. 

It’s very important to me that I am mindful of what I am putting in my body. It truly effects how I feel, and my health. Mindlessly eating can take a tole on me so I am hoping that with practicing mindfulness I can also move towards better nutrition choices. 

Creativity

There are times when all I want to do is drop whatever task I am doing and create something. Usually either writing or drawing is my first instinct. I think that it is time for me to listen to that impulse. Making art is so very good for our mental heath and happiness that taking time for it when it strikes should be a priority. Already the kids have been embracing this, their art shelf has been moved into easy reaching distance. All day you can see them running over and grabbing various materials when they get an idea. No need to bother with asking me to get it and lose their train of thought. It is truly changing how we see art in our house. It is no longer a task but a pure pleasure.

Purchases

This is a big one. Whenever I purchase something this year I want to really take the time to think about where it came from, what's the impact on the environment will be, and honestly do I really need this?! Let's be honest, I am a stuff getter. Time to clean out the hoard, give things to those who truly need it and only buy what is needed, clean and honest. Real will power is going to be needed here.

Self Care

I just fell asleep sitting up writing this. What more could I say about how I need to listen to my body more then that? Pushing yourself to the limit makes us Americans very proud. Lately I have been wondering why. Nothing will get done if your body and mind are so overextended that you end up sick and bedridden! 

 

On that note I am going to put all of this to use and be mindful of what my body is saying. Right now it’s saying “Go to bed you dumb dumb head!