Winter Ponds & Snowy Walks

This past week winter decided to rear its head here in Michigan. We had freezing temperatures and even snow. It was a great week to study winter ponds with the Exploring Nature with Children curriculum – I was so pleased that the weather in Michigan cooperate with us. It was just a great week honestly – we had a lot of outside time, and had some fun inside too, with our indoor campout on Friday night!

We started our week last Sunday with a short hike around a bay in the Detroit River, and then around the small pond that is nearby as well. We were excited to see that it had frozen over since the last time we had visited this area, as the last time there was no sign of ice at all. We looked for signs of life around the pond, tracks in the snow, birds, animals, plants and talked about those with Wyatt a bit. We did find some interesting tracks and we are still just learning to identify these ourselves, so we made our best ID’s with the help of Google lens.

We decided that these were coyote and raccoon tracks, based on the Google ID and a little more online searching. Also, for the coyote tracks I did not see any footprints near them, from a person walking their dog. If you are better at identifying tracks then us, I would love your opinions!

Then Friday, Wyatt and I made our own winter pond. We talked about water freezes, what some of the animals that live in or around the water do when this happens, and then froze some things in water while we were at it to simulate a pond in winter. We also checked on it every hour noting the temperature and whether it had frozen or not yet.

Unfortunately after checking for 7 hours, it still had not frozen. The temperature would not budge from 33 degrees! It eventually did freeze but overnight so Wyatt did not get to see it gradually happen as I had hoped. But he did get to play with his frozen pond the next morning. He was a pretty dedicated little scientist though, and enjoyed checked the water every hour. He wouldn’t let me cheat and just look from the front door either, we had to go out every time lol.

Later that evening we had a indoor camp-out in our living room which was a super fun way to unplug. We set up his tent, laid down blankets, turned on our little electric stove, and read books by lantern light. Wyatt was seriously excited by the whole thing, it was cute. To be honest, Billy and I were so relaxed as well – it was quiet and warm and we were just having such a great time hanging out. We will definitely be doing this again.

Saturday morning after a breakfast of homemade pancakes, we threw on our winter clothes and headed outside, because it was snowing! It was the weather we had been waiting for all winter and we were so excited to get in the woods and walk through the falling snow. My brother and his family had the same idea and they had a beautiful walk, complete with wild turkeys, deer, and birds that ate birdseed from their hands at the nature center. We didn’t see anything on our walk, but enjoyed the brisk walk together, trying to catch snowflakes on our tongues.

It was the kind of weekend I love, with plenty of family time and hiking!

Puddles and Pinecones

Over the weekend the weatherman predicted torrential rain storms, flooding, and then to top it all off, ice. Well, it did rain, a very drizzly cold rain that did do a little flooding, and raised the rivers and creeks a little bit higher. We had plans to stay inside and do fun things there for most of the day and night, but..we couldn’t resist a little splashing in puddles first!

Wyatt wears AFO’s – braces for his feet to help him stand stronger when he is working on walking and standing. We love his braces, they are great tools to help him. But they also make it hard to buy shoes and boots, boots especially, as we can’t really manipulate his foot into one with the stiff braces. But we found that Butler boots have enough give in them that they slide fairly easily right over the braces – so we ordered him a pair of bright cheery yellow boots, his favorite color, and perfect for adding some sunshine to a dreary day. Then it rained and we got our wish to go stomp around in the puddles!

The cutest little stomp and splash ever!

While we are all excited that we found boots that work with his needs, Wyatt is more excited about the fact that he now has gumboots like the character and kids on one of his favorite shows, Scout and the Gumboot Kids! This very morning while we were watching one before school (they are short and perfect for a moment like this!) Wyatt went and got his boots out and started putting them on, just like Scout and the Gumboot Kids. Gumboots are another name for rain boots, or wellies, whatever you want to call them, and this show is adorable, with nature mysteries presented by a felt mouse in his own little cardigan and gumboots. The episodes are short, with a quick mystery that includes clues, and a mindful moment, which I am hoping to incorporate more of into our lives. The talented Jessie Farrell also provides the music and song for these episodes, with lovely lilting tunes that are so catchy that kids don’t even realize they are learning as they are singing along. As a companion to the Scout series, there is also Daisy and the Gumboot Kids, and Daisy is a crafty little mouse full of ideas for nature crafts. We love these shows and I love the inspiration they provide, while teaching Wyatt about all sorts of things – caterpillars and butterflies, space, agates, trees, dinosaurs are some of our favorites!

Not only is this series on television, they are now a series of books published by Firefly Books! We were lucky enough to receive a set of four signed books before Christmas, and now that the holidays are over, we really have time to spend looking through them together and talking about what we read. These books are beautiful, with full page artwork that captures the eye and attention, as page-size photos of the characters that Wyatt loves, solving the mysteries on paper within a book! Each book also contains two pages of field notes that relate to the mystery, mindful moments, and a nature craft. There is so much within the pages to inspire creativity and learning! We have been having a lot of fun with them. We also received a cute little coloring and activity book, a signed CD of Jessie Farrell’s music for the show, and stickers!

Today we spent some time reading through the books a little after school – Wyatt likes to “read” them to me too.

After we read about bird feeders and butterflies, I had a book and craft set up in the other room waiting for us.

We read the book, The Wooden Timekeeper, and talked about conifer trees, pincones, and the rings on trees, and how when you count them you can find the age of the tree. Wyatt really liked playing with the pinecones and petrified wood the best.

I showed him the pictures in the book of the craft, and let him choose whether we made an owl, bear, or mouse. My sweet boy chose to make an owl, my favorite! It was a group effort, with him doing the gluing while I helped out with the placement and cutting. We had a great time reading and making this little owl together! And look how cute!

Scout and the Gumboot Kids and the series, both on television and the books by Firefly Books are such a great resource for kids to learn, and entertaining and cute to boot! (yeah, see what I did there..)

Thanks to Firefly Books for the wonderful gift of the books, CD and extra little fun things!

1000 Hours Outside Challenge

We love to be outdoors – we always did, but since we had Wyatt, we have increased the amount of time that we are outside. We learned that it is so good for your brain and vision and just your whole health and body and healing to be in nature, and we were determined to take every available route to aid him in his journey. Sometime last year I learned about the 1000 hours outside challenge, but it was too late for us to attempt to make the 1000 hours. So, this year we are trying. I don’t think we will get there – we have our own challenges that we have workarounds for. But, I am curious as to how much time we WILL spend outdoors. I think just by trying we will achieve more outdoor time than if we hadn’t attempted this challenge.

The 1000 Hours Outside Challenge was the brainchild of a couple, Josh and Ginny, from the state of Michigan, actually even my own part of the state. We love the outdoors here in Michigan! They had read that the average child spends 1200 hours a year on a screen, which is crazy when you think about it. They hope to balance some of that screen time with time outside, and aim for about twenty hours a week. Right now, we are nowhere near that, but we hope to increase our time as the weather improves.

So this January, we were off and running, and have done three different hikes, and a small little walk in the snow. Our time spent isn’t much added all up, but the time spent meant more than just the minutes themselves – we had all that time together, soaking up the fresh air, the snow, the birds and trees, and all the goodness that lives outside. And all that family time!

We hiked through a lonely, cold marsh, where we were the only humans. When we stood silently, we could hear the wind rattling the bones of these marsh grasses and trees, and the din of the waterbirds, which lined the rails of the decking and dotted the gray waters. We were surprised to see no real ice, it was all open water pretty much still – it’s been such a mild winter!

We took a quick snowy walk around our neighborhood, and then another short jaunt through another marshy area. The pond here was just starting to gain a skim of ice, but it was utterly silent there, except for the lapping of the water onto the shoreline. This is where I found my turtle shell!

Then this past weekend we visited yet another more marshy type spot, which was weirdly snowy, icy, and muddy. We tried to be more observant of the small things we could spot here, and I found some air-breathing freshwater snails, while Billy spotted some bits of green and icy swirls. There is something to be said for being the only people in a cold woods – everything feels different, the quiet is just so big!

So, while we have not racked up lots of actual time on the clock, we have had many family adventures already. I can’t wait to see where the rest of the year takes us! And, it looks like my son is ready for whatever it brings!

Last week in photos

We had such a busy week last week! Honestly, parts of it were pretty rough. Wyatt had some arm spasm that we had never seen before and that scared us; then later in the week hit his head which further sent me into my own anxiety. Then we had a heavy duty weather storm warning that caused me to worry about my mom, alone in her house 10 miles away. I did not want her to be stranded without power because I knew it would upset her so my husband went and picked her up to have her stay with us, just in case. The weather never actually got bad but we had fun all of us anyway, munching on giant family size nachos, having a dance party, and finding our animal personas. I wrote a bunch of animals on popsicle sticks, and some fun qualities like joyful, curious, strong, etc and then we pulled to see what we were. I was Quick Owl, whatever that means lol, Wyatt is my little Bold Badger, Billy is a Strong Wolf, and my mom is a Fearless Rabbit. It was fun! So aside from my worries, we did have our fun times.

So this old turtle shell. On Tuesday after therapy where we asked Wyatt’s PT about his arm spasm, we took a little hike, and spotted this turtle shell. I couldn’t get it out of my mind after seeing it, and knew I couldn’t leave it there in case someone found it and destroyed it, dishonoring this turtle’s life. So, Wyatt and I took a trip back on Thursday and retrieved it, bringing it here to keep safe. I don’t know what to do with it exactly, but I know it is safe at least.

Then on Thursday night, I actually got out of the woods and mud and dressed up, did my hair, and went somewhere that served adult drinks with my best friends! We reserved these cool igloos at a restaurant near us, and it was so neat to be in them. It would have been prettier had it been snowing, as it should be in Michigan in the winter, but it was raining. Not as pretty, but the gentle rain sounds on the igloo were enjoyable. It was a seriously much needed time with my tribe, we laughed so much our faces hurt, ate so much food, and exchanged our Christmas gifts for each other. I had made everyone hand painted by me ring dishes (made the dish too!), Chrissy made everyone lavender soap that smells amazing, Mary bought everyone the softest plaid blankets, Kelly gifted us all the cutest cat shaped cheese boards, and Jill bought us all wine based on our personalities/likes. Mine is called The Woodlands, so very perfect- and I am drinking a glass right now!

On Friday we celebrated the Full Wolf Moon, with wolf paw cookies, and chili. Lol. Wolves might eat chili right? My hungry wolves did at least. My mom made these delicious butter wolf paw cookies, which we ate the heck out of. Then we had a collective “howl” at 7:30, where my mom went to the window at her house and we went to ours and howled, which Wyatt of course thought was awesome. His favorite song is Howl by the Okee Dokee Brothers, so we followed our howl up with the song version. We calmed things down by turning off the lights and reading picture books in the tent by lantern light. My dad bought us that battery powered lantern and Wyatt loves it.

So although my week had its anxiety ridden moments, it also had some pretty darn good ones.

A Great Holiday and a Return to Routine

I had a wonderful time with my family the last few days! From the Saturday Solstice to Sunday at my dad’s for our holiday celebration, to Christmas Eve with my husband’s parents, to Christmas Day with my family, we had busy days packed with loved ones.

On Saturday we celebrated the return of the sun, and our love of nature by going on a nature hike at our favorite metropark. We have been having some unseasonably warm days these past few days, so the weather was actually beautiful. As we walked through the woods, looking for signs of winter, a flock of geese flew directly overhead, honking their hellos. Later we made sure we fed the birds and other wild things in our neighborhood a little feast, filling up our feeders to the brim and giving them some special treats as well. We finished up our evening with a beef stew over polenta and Nantucket cranberry pie, read a few picture books, and looked back on our year of hikes, some of the highlights, some of the things that we saw along the way. We also talked about our journey with the Kids Moon Club that we took last year, where we all learned a lot! We signed up as Lifetime Members and are looking forward to this new year.

Our three Christmas’ were fun as well! Wyatt had a blast with his grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins, and was a lucky little guy who received some thoughtful and fun gifts as well! Lots of dinosaurs and musical instruments and books and baking toys, and some exploration gifts from us too – including a bird call that I am currently listening to. Billy and I never exchange much with each other, we do “small” Christmas for each other and feel so happy to have received this beautiful bracelet and another John Lewis-Stempel book, about owls no less! He also bought me a warm wool hat, gloves, socks and a set of blank books. We had a wonderful few days, the best of all being all the family time.

Today we start to get back to our normal non-holiday life. Wyatt is getting all the time he wants to play and explore his new things, to just play and relax and have fun. We will have music on, a full coffee pot for me, and I will attempt to make some dent in putting our house to rights. But on some level, I enjoy doing this after a holiday, saying goodbye to some things, rearranging, making way for new. We will leave the tree up a while longer, but I really need to dig out our bedrooms which have taken a huge hit. They became a bit of a dumping ground in between holiday events!

I hope that you all are enjoying your holiday season!

A Slow and Cozy Fall Day

Saturday we hit the city; Sunday, we were back tromping in the woods. It was the most perfect fall day. Not too cold, not too warm. The leaves were a blanket over the ground, crunching under our feet, paving a yellow golden road for us. We didn’t hear many birds, just some geese flying overhead occasionally, and sometimes catching a glimpse of a woodpecker or two, with their distinctive red heads. Mostly we walked and talked and listened to the woods, keeping our eyes open for an owl tree, where an owl may by roosting. A few signs would be a tree that has been “whitewashed” and owl pellets at the base. Despite our best efforts though, we didn’t spot one. Billy and I are going on an owl prowl in a few weeks though, so hopefully we spot an owl that night!

I found the teeniest little baby acorn!! We may not have spotted any owl trees but we did spot lots of mushrooms, and stopped to make some nature art near the trail out of acorns and oak leaves. Billy also made a “clock” to signify the time we took to hike together that morning near the trail as well.

When we got home, we dug in and kept cozy, listening to music, having impromptu dance parties, and baking. Well, Billy and I at least. I made an apple pie while Billy tried his hand at a hand raised hot crust pork pie, inspired by the Great British Bake Off. We have a pie project for this month, and this was our first attempt. I have never made a completely from scratch pie, nor has he, and we didn’t do too bad for the first round. My dough was a little tough, which I guess can be too much water or over handling. Billy needed a little more flavor in his filling and he had made his crust a little too thick. So, we will see how we do next time! My recipe came from the Art of Pie, and the filling was delicious! I ended up using Granny Smith and Gala apples and it was very tasty together. And I apologize, I am the worst at food photography!! I thought Billy’s little dough piggy looked cute though.

I am so glad that we had such a fabulous fall day together, because the next morning we woke up to a whole new landscape…

We got 6.5 inches of snow!! Our little gnomes in our gnome garden are totally snowed in! And it is still here, sticking around.

But hey at least we had pie!

Date Night: Ragtime Street Fair and Motor Muster

It was a spur of the moment type thing, this date night, and sometimes those are the very best kind. Greenfield Village was having its annual Ragtime Street Fair and we were having dinner with my mom who lives nearby, so it was so easy to ask her to watch the little man for us for just a quick few hours out.

I have always wanted to go to the Ragtime Street Fair and this was the first time we managed to get there for it. It was super cool to see people dressed in period clothing for the 20s, strolling in and out of the street fair tents full of food and drink. It was another motor muster, with old cars lining the streets but this time, the ages of the cars were limited from early 1900 to the ’30s, and nothing “newer” than that. The village was open late for this event, and we got there just as people were leaving, probably having been there for hours already during the day. My brother had gone earlier in the day and said that it was packed, so we weren’t sure what to expect. We had a little bit of a hard time finding a parking spot, but once inside it wasn’t bad at all.

It was one of my favorite weather nights – cool, moody, clouds in the distance threatening rain, yet still summery with no humidity. We were able to walk around comfortably, checking out all the cars and chatting with the owners. We ambled a bit, bought drinks, and noticed everyone lining up on the curbs to watch the twilight parade of cars, so took our own seat on the side and peacefully watched the cars drive by for a little bit, sipping our drinks, comparing favorites, just existing side by side for a bit, easily. When we finished our beverages, we scrambled across the street between cars to check this one out – we had never seen anything like it before!

This car is so cool! It can drive in thirty feet of snow, and the owner said that he had taken it out in the snow many times – why not, he said, and really, if I had this I would take it out too! He couldn’t drive it in to the village like that but brought it in on a truck. It is a 1929 Closed Cab Model A Ford Pickup with a super Snow Bird Snowmobile attachment. According to the guy, and his sign. It was used for mail delivery, and I am assuming lots of other purposes too. I think I need one of these to handle our Michigan winters! Lol. And of course the buffalo plaid clothing hanging there – I am a sucker for buffalo plaid anything.

We chatted with the owner for a bit then wandered off to the garden, one of my favorite spots in the village. It was a great time to go, and now at the end of the year the blooms are fading but there were some plants bearing fruit, like tiny ornamental eggplants that looked like pumpkins! I am definitely adding that to my garden next year! We were on a slow roll tour of the village, so we took a seat in the garden watching the sun begin to set.

We sat for a few minutes, taking it all in, chatting with other people strolling through the garden, guessing what the different plants were, before setting off and catching up with the parade on the other side of the village. A man in an old Ford truck offered us a lift to sit on his hay bales in back, and we almost took it, but chose to keep walking, although, it would have been fun. The clouds started to really roll in and we had a feeling it was going to start to rain and wanting to beat the crowd out, we started heading toward the exit, slowly making our way there.

I had my head in the clouds, the sky was so dramatic and beautiful. It was one of those times I itched for my camera, not just my cell phone camera. I put my camera away a few years ago, as I felt I was missing moments, trying to capture them. I wanted to be fully present and not just the person behind the lens. I will probably pick it up again at some point, but not just yet, unless I go out and solo shoot.

The night was low key, mellow, and last minute. And we had a wonderful time together; we were able to talk and listen to each other, something that we don’t actually always get to do, with Wyatt around. Lol. It was one of those nights that was easy and simple and didn’t need to be a big thing to have fun.