Posted in family life

at the pumpkin farm

This post is a bit out-dated already, since we went to the pumpkin farm in time to get our Halloween pumpkins 🙂 but since we were all hit by the stomach flu starting the evening of our visit, we’ve been a bit distracted by laundry, bathroom-cleaning, and attempting to carry on normal life with lingering fatigue and nausea. I think we’re all better now – but the boys are starting in with sniffles and hoarse voices so I guess we’re in for a round of something new. Ah, fall with toddlers 🙂

The pumpkin farm we visited has a huge variety of attractions and activities available, but we honestly only made it to a few of them; I wanted the boys to be able to just enjoy themselves on their schedule instead of having to rush from thing to thing to thing just to say we did it all. Rondel especially takes some time to acclimate himself to a new place, and I wanted to give him that time so he could enjoy the morning as much as possible.

Unsurprisingly, the first thing they wanted to do was snack 😛 so we spent some time eating, taking in all the sights and sounds and smells around us, and deciding what we should do next. Also unsurprisingly, they both ran to the bounce pad first of all, and since we were there on Tuesday for the farm’s toddler discount day, we didn’t have to worry about a bunch of older kids bouncing around and making it dangerous or intimidating for the little ones. I even got on and jumped around for a bit, regardless of how silly  must have looked with this huge pregnant belly! It was so much fun 🙂

As is typical for each of them, Limerick instantly ran out into the middle of the bounce pad, while Rondel sat with me on the edge for the first five minutes or so watching everyone else, talking to me about life, and occasionally snuggling up to me.

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Look at those beautiful eyes! He’s probably thinking, “Stop taking pictures and pay attention to me, Mom! I’m talking to you!”

But after that, Rondel joined in as well and had an amazing time jumping, running, rolling, and more; the boys are at an age where their sheer physical energy astounds me, and I’m always looking for fun ways to burn it off – this was definitely a good one.

We spent most of our time here, but did walk around a bit more of the farm and took a little train tour around it as well.

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Limerick investigating some straw from a hay bale 🙂
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Some unripe grapes growing along the fence – Rondel and I tried a few anyways 🙂 I’ve enjoyed the dry-sour tang of unripe grapes since childhood.

Finally, on our way out, we stopped to choose a pumpkin for each of the boys. While they each picked one just slightly too large for them to lift independently, Rondel simply asked me to put his in the stroller for him, while Limerick struggled for a long time to lift his off the ground and onto the hay bale. I eventually had to take it away from him because he was falling apart in tears of frustration and we needed to head home for nap time – I felt so bad for him 😦

Overall, though, it was a good experience (though cooler weather would have been nice), and a special part of fall in a place that doesn’t get most of the traditional autumnal highlights.

 

Posted in family life, links, musings

spending time outdoors, and trying to avoid the built environment in an urban setting

I read a rather depressing article in The Guardian this week about the amount of time kids spend outside – apparently, about 3/4 of kids in the UK spend less than an hour outside on an average day, which is less than the amount of outdoors time the UN recommends for prisoners. I don’t imagine it’s that much better in the US, particularly in urban environments.

There’s been a combination of factors leading up to this, I think. We have the increased attraction of indoor activities, to start – a proliferation of games, toys, and technologies that didn’t exist a few generations ago. We have an increased sense of parental fear and anxiety, which I think stems from the globalization of our news and the breakdown of neighborhood communities. And in general we have a cultural tendency toward comfort and convenience, and being outdoors in all weathers isn’t the most comfortable or convenient thing, especially when parental supervision is required!

But it is undeniable that outdoors, active play and exploration is one of the best possible things a young child can be doing.

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So, in sort of the same spirit as my efforts to make sure my kids eat a variety of healthy foods, I’ve decided to be very intentional about getting them out of the house every day for an hour or two at a time (Limerick doesn’t usually last longer than that without needing some sort of rest or snack). I wish I had more wild and natural places for them to play easily, but at least I can get them outdoors with their hands in the dirt and rocks and grass!

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And in the mud! Irrigation at the botanical garden makes for a great play place for a toddler.

Our city does offer a variety of parks, and we live in a walkable area, so that helps a lot. Just this weekend, actually, we discovered a new park that has a small desert botanical garden, some walking trails, and some Native American ruins in addition to the playground area! I’m anticipating a lot more exploration there…

Rondel and I stood under this palo verde, by the flower-crowned organ pipe cacti, and held very still so we could listen to the buzzing drone of all the bees over our heads. The branches were probably a good two feet above my head and we could still hear the hum loud and clear.

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Limerick learned the hard way that even the flower buds on cacti have prickles!

In a similar vein, I learned today about the concept of an urban farm preschool, where very young children who don’t live in a rural environment can still have daily exposure to the natural environment – to experience firsthand the ever-changing beauty and wildness of nature, to see how plants grow and bear fruit and die, to taste and touch and feel living things every day, to grow comfortable around dirt and animals and the unsanitized processes of the natural world. There’s another idea added to my catalog of small businesses I’d be interested in starting some day!

What are some of your favorite ways to encourage your children to play outdoors, especially those of you who live in more urban settings? How do you think our society as a whole might do a better job of enabling outdoor time for both children and adults?

 

Posted in family life

riding the light rail

On Tuesday I took the boys to the big park on the light rail train instead of walking the mile to get there like we have in the past (I have a pass since I take the train to work every day, and the boys are still young enough to ride free). The children’s museum we frequent has had a train exhibit up for a while, and part of it is themed after the local light rail train, so Rondel has been even more fascinated by it than usual. I have to admit, I used riding on the train as a sort of bribe to get Rondel to leave the museum when it closed for the day…

Anyway, Limerick just wanted to run around and explore the inside of the train, and was upset that I wouldn’t let him do that, but Rondel was completely entranced by just being on the light rail train. Every time it would start moving again after a stop his whole face would light up and he’d exclaim, “it’s driving!!!” He loved it so much, in fact, that when we got off the light rail after our return journey, he almost broke down in tears because he wanted to get back on and ride some more “right now.”

I was worried that it would be a hassle taking two babies and a stroller on the train but now I see that my worries were baseless, and I’ll have to find more destinations for us to ride to 🙂 It’s such a simple thing but it brings so much happiness.

 

Posted in family life, phfr

{pretty, happy, funny, real} – enjoying the cooler weather!

November and December are very joyful, celebratory months in our house, because in addition to the normal holidays we have three of our four birthdays (rather nicely spaced over the season, I might add). The festivities begin with my birthday, then Limerick’s two weeks later, continue through Thanksgiving a week after that, pick up my husband’s birthday about two weeks after Thanksgiving, and end with Christmas and New Year’s about two to three weeks later. Adding to this festive spirit that strikes me at the beginning of November is the fact that the weather here finally becomes cool and crisp right around the same time. It finally feels like the world is ready for cookies and hot chocolate and pot pies and stews and fresh bread and festive music (I try to wait on the Christmas music but I feel so ready for it!). There’s just something so much nicer about baking with all the windows open and a cool breeze wafting through the house than with the windows shut up and the AC on trying to combat the triple-digit temperatures outside…

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In the few weeks between “hot” and “freezing” (“freezing” having a very generous definition for us wimpy Phoenicians), we spent almost all our time outdoors and fell in love with our little park. (see the pants and long sleeves? I think it was in the high 70s when we were there… we really are wimps about the cold).

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For a smallish city park, this one has a lot of open grassy areas as well as a great playground, and it’s all fenced in so the boys can run and explore freely (without making me worry that they’ll run off or wander into a road)

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I’m always trying got encourage the boys to get out of the built environment (as much as possible given that we live in a very urban context) and lately I’ve been working on getting them to walk on the grass instead of on the sidewalk. It’s not as smooth and stable so they don’t prefer it, but Rondel was more than happy to run into the grass in order to give that big tree a hug.

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It reminds me of the library I grew up going to as a little girl (in semi-rural Pennsylvania) – my mom and I would always stop to hug the big oak tree in the front. It makes me happy to pass that on to my son now.

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Limerick gets super focused sometimes and he always looks so fat and grumpy when he does 🙂 It’s neat seeing him so engaged in what he’s doing though.IMG_2730

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Rondel used to be quite nervous around slides, but as he’s gotten older he’s gotten a lot more comfortable with them. Limerick suffers from no such anxieties… now my only difficulty is trying to keep Limerick from going up the same slide that Rondel’s trying to go down!IMG_2666

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The double slide lets them be in the same space without running into each other all the time!

 

I hope your November is beautiful and joyful as well. Head on over to Like Mother, Like Daughter for the link-up today!

Posted in family life, phfr

{pretty, happy, funny, real} – at the fire station

Rondel has a deep and abiding love of firetrucks. As an infant, one of the first imitative sounds he ever made was a firetruck siren (seriously – he was 5 or 6 months old, sitting there with his toys, making siren noises!), and now, if he hears a siren coming, he runs to the big window upstairs, asks to go outside, or (if we are outside) almost frantically tries to get to the nearest road in case it is going to pass by. We live less than a mile from the biggest station in our city, so we hear and see the trucks fairly often, but I wondered if there was a way to see them up close and personal.

To my delight, I discovered that our city offers free tours of the fire station as long as you have a group of 6-20 people! Completely against my personality and preference as a shy, logistically-challenged individual, I recruited some other families I knew, called the fire department, and set up a date.

The ladder truck (the biggest fire engine) had to leave for a call just about the time we arrived for the tour, so the firefighters showed us some of the other vehicles – the support trucks, the IT van, and the community care ambulance. That ambulance is one of the more fascinating and unique things about our fire station. Using funds from a federal grant to study ways to reduce health care expenses, they converted the ambulance into a sort of clinic on wheels, and take it to low-level 911 calls that would otherwise have resulted in an ambulance trip and an ER visit. (This type of call can include a headache, a baby’s fever, a cut that might require stitches, and so on; the firefighter who helps staff the community care vehicle told us that we would be surprised at the calls that come in.) In addition to providing immediate medical care with the onboard physician’s assistant, they can provide basic health education to equip people to deal with non-emergency situations on their own in the future. It’s a pretty awesome idea and I hope it makes a difference in our community!

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The boys weren’t quite as interested in the community care concept as I was… fortunately, the ladder truck returned and they were able to check it out! Rondel walked around the whole truck with the firefighter, listening to him explain about all the different tools stored in each compartment on the truck (the ladder truck carries some heavy-duty equipment for cutting through roofs or into cars). He wasn’t so sure about sitting on the front of it but he let me get a picture at least.

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The icing on the cake was when he realized they would let him sit in the driver’s seat and pretend to drive the truck. I don’t think he ever wanted to get out!

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It’s a little hard to see, but his jaw is dropped open in awe or disbelief here. This was the moment he reached out and grabbed the steering wheel for the first time – I think he thought he was literally driving the firetruck.

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True to my aforementioned logistically-challenged self, I scheduled the tour at a time that overlapped with Limerick’s morning nap (in my excuse, I had to schedule it a few weeks in advance and he was transitioning from 3 naps to 2 at the time). He probably would have enjoyed it a lot more if he hadn’t been so tired; he spent most of the hour-long tour sitting in his stroller just watching everyone else. He did get to check out the second-row seating in the ladder truck though:

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He was loving it despite his exhaustion when – of course – they got another emergency call and we had to whisk the kids out of the truck. Oh well. I’m sure we will go again sometime! The firemen were incredibly welcoming and friendly, and very accommodating to the little kids (my friend with older kids canceled last minute, so we only had toddlers and babies). So thank you very much, Mesa Fire Department! You rock!

Don’t forget to head over to Like Mother, Like Daughter for the link-up today!