3 Poems Celebrating Motherhood

posted in: Parenting | 4

Happy Mother’s Day! I’m looking forward to a nice relaxing day with my family; I hope you have similarly enjoyable plans. In honor of all the mothers and women in my life, I wanted to share several poems I wrote this spring. There are three, actually. Additionally, you may want to read The Legacy of a Truly Excellent Woman, a tribute to my grandmother. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to share some photos of the lovely roses my mother-in-law got me for Mother’s Day either :). Enjoy!

Celebrating Motherhood - Mother's Day Roses - bphotoart.com

Celebrating Motherhood

Motherhood isn’t all fun and games.
It takes work, patience, self-control.
Being a mom can be exhausting, true.
But the blessings are more than worth it.

Consider a life without motherhood,
without bear hugs and butterfly kisses,
no delighted giggles or mischievous grins.
Life would be very dull indeed,
if children were not present.

Motherhood gives us a window back in time,
lets us recall memories of childhood,
reminds us to be grateful for simple pleasures.

There’s no job harder than a mother’s job,
but no work with greater reward.
The world is a better place with children,
and the mothers who dare to raise them.

Celebrating Motherhood - Mother's Day Roses - bphotoart.com

I also want to share a poem I wrote for my mother. Motherhood changes us, makes us realize that our mothers weren’t really all that crazy 😉 — and that we are more like our mothers than we would have cared to admit when younger. This was submitted to Positive Parenting’s Mother’s Day Contest (selected as one of ten finalists!).

A Reflection of My Mother

From birth, I was loved, unconditionally.
My mother held me in her arms,
keeping me safe from an unknown world.
As a child, my desire for and pursuit of
independence challenged her, but
ultimately she learned to let go and trust.

She prayed over me before I was born.
While I was growing, she trusted my
future to God – my life in his hands.
Faithful in prayer, she never stopped
lifting me up, whispering her hopes and dreams,
letting them go as I pursued the path
of my own choosing.

Even into my own journey of motherhood,
my mother has been there for me.
Supporting, encouraging, inspiring,
Continuing to plant in me a firm foundation
for my journey through life.

I see things differently now, through the
lens of motherhood. My mother’s actions
no longer seem so strange and unexplainable.
I can appreciate her patience, her selflessness.
Always overextending herself to make sure
her family is taken care of, nourished, loved.

I see in myself a reflection of her — different, but
echoes of the same. I am my own person,
redefined by motherhood – but defined, in part,
by the love of the mother who raised me.
she always gave freely…and she still does today.

Celebrating Motherhood - Mother's Day Roses - bphotoart.com

And last but not least, I wanted to honor those mothers who do not have their children to hug and hold. Mothering is hard, but harder still is facing the loss of a child — whether in youth or in the womb (The Miscarriage: The Secret Heartache of 1 in 4 Women). I chose to write this poem as a haiku.

Empty arms, aching heart.
Childless mother, angel babe,
Apart on earth and heav’n.

Once a mother, always a mother.

I saw a quote floating around the internet that really summarizes up motherhood: “we are blessed to be a blessing to others.”

What About You?

Are there memories of motherhood that are near and dear to you?  Do you have something special planned for the women in your life who have made the transition to motherhood?

The Ultimate Guide to Baby's First YearThis post is part of The Ultimate Guide to Baby’s First Year — I’m one of 30+ blogs participating. Over the course of a week’s time, there will be posts on these topics:

  • taking care of new parents
  • feeding baby
  • taking care of baby
  • baby’s milestones
  • baby play
  • baby spaces
  • celebrating baby

Check out the The Ultimate Guide to Baby’s First Year for a list of all the posts on each topic. Posts on celebrating motherhood are listed below!

Celebrating Motherhood Links

Here are some posts by other moms about Mother’s Day and celebrating motherhood. Also check out my Motherhood + Parenting board on Pinterest. Links will open in a new window for your convenience.



Mother’s Day Gift Ideas

posted in: Parenting | 14

Still deciding what to give mom or grandma for Mother’s Day? I’ve got some ideas to share (and a link to a Mother’s Day poem I wrote too)! But first, let me share some art from quite some time ago that I created — and as I was preparing for Mother’s Day, I remembered these two pieces in particular. Both are digital/drawing/photo collages that I created over ten years ago.

This first one is my favorite of the two. I honestly can’t even remember what I titled it at the time, aside from Sunset Girl. My mother loved this image, and ultimately it graced the cover of her book, Riding Past Grief – A Daughter’s Journey #afflink.

So while this piece isn’t about mothers specifically, it is about being a daughter, finding your own way, and holding firm through the storms life may bring. I vaguely recall titling Riding Past Midnight (but that may be the title of a short story I wrote around the same time). The sunset and rough terrain are based on a photograph I took in the mountains of Montana, and the girl began as a sketch. I blended the two, using digital painting and other applications that are probably long obsolete by now.

Mother's Day Gift Ideas - Sunset Girl Fresco

This second image inspired a poem for my mother. The piece and the poem share the same name – Mother Daughter Walk. Well, her poem may have assimilated whatever I had originally titled it (but I’m ok with that). This image was created in a similar fashion, digital painting with the mother and daughter originating as a sketch and paired with a photograph of mine. The rocky mountain path is from Scottsdale, Arizona, on Camelback mountain if I recall correctly.

Mother Daughter Walk

Given my mother’s love of poetry and all things art, I’ve actually planned ahead and written her a poem.

I submitted it to a Mother’s Day writing contest, and amazingly, my poem was selected as one of ten “finalists” — head over to Positive Parenting to read “A Reflection of My Mother.”

Mom, if you’re reading this (don’t moms always read their daughter’s posts?), you don’t get to read it until Mother’s Day. Sorry. you can read it early but no complaining!

But then the next question, for me, at least, was how to help my son with the concept of Mother’s Day. I will *not* be helping him make a gift for me, as that seems tacky. Dad can be in charge of any gifts that might materialize (and frankly, I’m ok without… toddler hugs are sufficient for me!).

But, grandmothers are still important — so we will be creating something for both grandmas between now and Mother’s Day. Again, since one or both of them may read this before Mother’s Day, I am not going to share what we are creating. But, I do want to give you some ideas in case you’re in the same boat I was a couple days ago.

What to make/do/give… that’s the tough question!

Mother’s Day Gift Ideas

Here are some ideas and resources for thoughtful Mother’s Day gifts! I’ve included the link to the aforementioned grief poetry in case you know someone who has lost a mother and may find it helpful. Links will open in a new window for your convenience. You might also want to check out my Gift Ideas Pinterest board, as I may find some more cute ideas between the time of posting and Mother’s Day.

Follow Betsy @ BPhotoArt.com’s board Gift Ideas on Pinterest.

Do You Have Plans for Mother’s Day?

We typically go out for a nice Mother’s Day brunch, and this year we may spend time outdoors too if the weather is nice. Do you have any family traditions for Mother’s Day? I’d love to hear them. And, if you want to share any creative Mother’s Day gift ideas, I’m all ears 🙂

Making Sense of Words

posted in: Parenting | 15

Last night my toddler read his first two words. We’d spent a few minutes in the afternoon playing what I named “The Almond Game” — an Egg Carton Reading game based on the book, Teach Your Child to Read in 10 Minutes a Day by Sidney Ledson (#afflink).

I had bought this book a year ago, when my then-two-year-old said he wanted to learn to read. We didn’t really do much with it at the time, but since we started working on letter recognition, I did bring it back out this week. And what a difference a year makes. It was impressive to see my son process the sounds and read two words on his first day of “lessons.”

Anyways, I’ve shared some “teaching reading” resources at the end of this post, but please first enjoy my poem inspired by my son’s new milestone (beginning to read). This bookworm mama is proud 🙂

Making Sense of Words

Letters and sounds
lines and curves
cover the pages of books.

A secret language
unreachable, unintelligible —
for the illiterate child.

Picture books are well and good
but nothing compares to
cuddling up with a good book
and letting the words come alive.

The desire to learn is there,
the goal to decode those mysterious
black and white lines
marching across page after page.

The letter’s name is not its sound
As the animal, a cow, says “moo”…
the letter U says “uhhh.”

What tricky business, separating
names from sounds — unlearning
the alphabet to learn how to
sound out the foreign words
comprised of familiar letters.

But success comes quickly for the young,
a glow of pride spreads from ear to ear
as not one, but two first words
are sounded out — independently.

“Uhh” …”Puh.” Up. Pup.
High fives awarded all around
my young reader beams
excited that the world of words
has finally been decoded —
the world of books is his.

Reading Resources

Here are some resources for teaching little ones how to read. Links will open in a new window for your convenience. Also, make sure to check out my Learning + Education Pinterest Board for more ideas.

Follow Betsy @ BPhotoArt.com’s board Learning + Education on Pinterest.

What About You?

Do you have any tips for cultivating the love of reading? Maybe a tried and true way of teaching sight recognition? I would love for you to share in the comments.

As for me, I’m looking forward to continuing to cultivate my son’s love of reading. Maybe “bookworm” is a nickname that will be generational 🙂 — based on how much he loves “reading” the pictures of books he knows, I’m thinking yes.

Making Sense of Words - Learning to Read Books

Feeling Overwhelmed?

posted in: Parenting | 8

Sometimes we get too busy, life gets to us, and we begin feeling overwhelmed. Like the tree bark photo below, we feel peeled raw, falling apart, imperfect and unable to be the “perfect” person. But life isn’t perfect. We can’t expect everything to go smoothly — there will be bumpy roads on our journey. Here’s a poem and some resources to help you be the parent your kids need — even when you’re tired and worn out.

Tree Bark - Outdoors - Feeling Overwhelmed (poem)

Feeling Overwhelmed

Too many things to do
A To-Do list a mile long
prerequisites and tasks
left unfinished
supermom is missing.
Vanished in the night.
Maybe she never was.
The pretense of
having it all together
looms overhead
weighing down
frantic attempts
to tread water.
How to escape?
Let go of pretenses
drop the weighted ropes
pulling me down
and tiring me out.
But pride keeps me blinded.
My idealized life
doesn’t match reality.
I need to let go…
…accept.
Let go of the unachievable
and begin to breathe.

Resources for When You are Feeling Overwhelmed

Here are some blog posts for when you’re feeling overwhelmed, tired, or just not good enough as a parent. Let me add, though, that these resources are no stand-in for seeking professional help if you are depressed — please, please, please, seek help. That being said, these links may be helpful for the standard everyday parent “burnout.” Links will open in a new window for your convenience.

And if you want to see more, check out my Mothering + Parenting Pinterest board:

Follow Betsy @ BPhotoArt.com’s board Motherhood + Parenting on Pinterest.

What About You? How Do You Cope With Feeling Overwhelmed?

Do you take a break when you’re feeling overwhelmed? How do you recharge? Maybe a short nap, a shower to relax, or a fun afternoon out with the family? I’d love to hear your tips for finding peace and sanity in a busy and hectic world.

 

It’s The Little Things In Life…

posted in: Parenting | 13

I love that our son is adventurous when it comes to most things, including food. I’m not sure if it is just his nature, or maybe the “two bite rule” we implemented in our house proved helpful… At any rate, we have been blessed with a wonderful eater. Here are a couple snapshots of him devouring Bibimbap at one of our favorite local restaurants. These are the snapshots that inspired my poem that follows, about remember to enjoy little moments like this one I will treasure.

toddler eating bibimbap

enjoying bibimbap for lunc

It’s The Little Things in Life…

It’s the little things in life that we remember.
The memories that will stay with us years from now
are simple pleasures, nothing extravagant.
Living in the moment can be so tough,
especially when you give in to the pressure.
The pressure to
…do more
…be better
…live up to others’ expectations
…fulfill your destiny
…make more money
…be a success.
Giving in doesn’t guarantee these desires
will ever materialize or become reality.
All it does is take you away.
Away from
…enjoying the present
…living in the moment
…creating memories that matter.
Life is too short to forgo the little things
in favor of creating a name for yourself,
or fulfilling your destiny.
Step off the train, stop. Look around.
Life is here. Life is now.
It’s the little things in life that
…bring us pleasure
…give us enjoyment
…help us feel alive.
Don’t get so busy living that you forget
to actually live your life in the here and now.

Candid Snapshot Tip:

Sometimes the moment worth capturing has come and gone before you know it. Sometimes we focus so much on documenting a candid moment that we forget to enjoy it ourselves. Guilty as charged. As a photographer by trade, I know this all too well. When photographing an event, or even just taking snapshots at a family get together, my attention is focused (hah, an unintentional pun) on creating images — I’m not enjoying the moment as an active participant, but as an observer.

Don’t get so caught up in composing the perfect picture that you forget about being an active participant in what’s going on. Imperfection is ok. Take a snapshot or two, set the camera down, and enjoy the moment.

What About You?

What do you do to enjoy the little things in life? How do you keep yourself from getting so focused on “tomorrow” that you forget about the here and now?

Signs of Spring

posted in: Parenting | 25

Signs of spring have finally arrived! The weather is getting warmer, the last of our snow melted this weekend, and we’ve been able to venture outdoors in shorts (loving the balmy 60 degree weather!). My toddler has been asking to go outside multiple times a day, which I have unabashedly indulged. I am tired of being cooped up inside too. We’ve gone on walks, bike rides, and explored our yard… and I’m not sure who is having more fun!

signs of spring - toddler tricycle riding

P.S. Read to the end for some spring activity + gardening resources 🙂

Signs of Spring

Spring comes slowly,
but steadily.
The forgotten warmth
finally graces the ground.
Rains fall,
new life
springs forth
from the ground.
Her patience
reaps abundant
reward.
What was hidden
or hibernating
now springs forth.
Life is ready…
…waiting.
The sun shines,
divine warmth
wraps the earth.
Just another
season of life.
But one awaited
with much anticipation.
Thought it may have come
slowly…
the signs of spring
have finally arrived.

signs of spring - first flower

signs of spring - feverfew starting to grow

Since spring is finally here, we’ll be starting work on our garden soon. Our four 4×8 raised beds are in need of some well-deserved TLC, as the grass infiltrated them (from underneath). Lesson learned… next time put down a barrier for the grass in addition to putting down chicken wire to keep out critters. My son is excited to transplant our kitchen scrap romaine lettuce and celery… we’ve acquired quite a collection over the past weeks. Sadly, we were not on top of our seed germination this year, so we do not have a plethora of seedlings to put in the ground (last spring, we had 200+ seedlings that we grew inside). Oh well, experimenting with different techniques is good, right?

Here’s my Pinterest board on Greenery and Gardening in case you too are looking to enhance your green thumb this growing season. I will tell you that we tried several experiments last year — one we won’t be doing again is the mythical potato tower. While we did get some lovely potatoes from our towers, it was just too much of a hassle to water and keep the towers of dirt moist. The final complication was harvesting the potatoes — I had a hard time figuring out where to put all that dirt! It ended up going into the nearest raised vegetable bed, I do admit. On the other hand, I did enjoy the string trellises that we made, and will be doing more of them I think. Give and take. It’s all a learning experience.

Follow Betsy @ BPhotoArt.com’s board Greenery + Gardening on Pinterest.

We found an old bird nest under our deck, and my toddler enjoyed asking questions about it, how it was made, why there were no eggs in it now, and the like. I love how the minds of children work!

signs of spring - old bird nest

Spring + Gardening Resources

Here are some gardening and spring resources I wanted to share with you. Links will open in a new window for your convenience (check out the Pinterest board a little further on in this post too).

What About You?

What have you looked forward to most as an authentic sign spring is finally here? Are there any spring activities that you enjoy doing — either as an adult, or with your kids? What will you miss about winter, if anything?

Family Finances, Kids and Money

posted in: Parenting | 4

I’m guest blogging over at Divas With a Purpose today… make sure to check out my post on Managing Personal Finances as a Family. You’ll learn about some essentials when it comes to managing family finances, plus get some great (easy) ideas on how to save yourself stress, time, and money.

Family Finances + Teaching Kids About Money

While I already shared a bunch of resources and activities for kids to learn about money over at Divas With a Purpose, here are some additional resources on family financial responsibility that I discovered in the past few days, and wanted to share with you!

Teaching Kids about Money

Kids learn by getting hands on. Though still a toddler, our son knows that leaving the lights on in an empty room wastes electricity (and money), and he has helped deposit his own birthday money in the bank. There was even one occasion where he had to pay for something he broke with some of his money. While not appropriate for all toddlers, this approach has certainly proved beneficial in our situation, as our son understands the value and perhaps even the concept of scarcity when it comes to money. At any rate, here are some tips from other parents on how to help toddlers through teens how to be responsible with money.

Money and Family Finances for Parents

Family finances don’t have to be difficult, sometimes you just have to think creatively. These resources are more parent/adult oriented, and range from how to save money at the grocery store to planning a fun (yet frugal) birthday party. There are also two savings challenges that you might check out — easy ways to put a little money away at a time, and end up with a lot at the end of the year!

More Resources for Family Finances + Money

You may also want to check out my Money + Financial Responsibility board on Pinterest.
Follow Betsy @ BPhotoArt.com’s board Money + Financial Responsibility on Pinterest.

What Are Your Ideas for Managing Family Finances?

Well, what about you? Have you come across ideas for making your family finances easy to manage? Do you have a great way to help kids understand the value of saving for a rainy day? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so leave a comment!

And if you haven’t already, make sure to head over to my guest post: Managing Personal Finances as a Family.

bphotoart-family-finances-money-5672

Moms Can’t Get Sick (…yeah, right)

posted in: Parenting | 19

Being sick stinks. And when you’re a mom and business owner, you can’t just call in sick and expect things to keep on running smoothly. On the home front, there are kids to take care of, meals needing fixing, and the minimal household chores that keep a home from falling into complete sloth. On the business front, there are meetings and appointments with clients — clients who expect to meet with you. And they don’t want your sick germs any more than your husband does.

So, what’s a sick mom to do? Besides grit your teeth and try to do it all?

Moms can't get sick (yeah right)

Well, I have had the pleasure of being sick twice this winter — while pregnant. And the fun thing about being sick during pregnancy is that most “sick drugs” that help us adults plod through and carry on… those drugs are off limits. So I’ve had to resort to natural remedies, old wives’ tales, and those overrated concepts of sleep and rest.

The first time I was sick, I felt it coming on. But the holidays were coming too — and I wanted everything to be ready, to be done right. I didn’t want to drop the ball. So I didn’t slow down, I didn’t rest, I didn’t take a break or even ask for help. I attempted “mind over matter.” But it didn’t work. All it did was help my poor immune system get more stressed out, more run down, and less able to fight off the sick bug. I was probably sick for a good month. And my immune system was so worn out that that as soon as I started to feel better, the sick bug would get another wind.

Hint taken. Next time, slow down. Take it easy. Make sure you don’t get this sick again.

So, when my son came down with a nasty cold this month, I did my best to stay healthy — but caught the bug anyways. I was a sick mom again. But this time, I didn’t want to a repeat. I took naps. Lots of naps. I tried to sleep in. I tried (tried!) to go to bed early. Healthy, immune boosting foods were a focus of my diet. I drank lots of liquids, plenty of a specialized herbal tea blend, and performed daily sinus rinses. I had a few terrible days. But not nearly as many as last time. I was tempted to plow through now once it felt like I was on the mend. But as I knew… as soon as I started pushing myself, I start to feel the sick bug attacking in full force.

Lessons Learned

This has been a lesson in asking for help, for admitting I can’t do it all, for letting others step in and take care of me. Yes, I’m a mom and a business owner. But I don’t have to be in charge all the time. Sometimes I need to be taken care of too. Sometimes, I have to tell my clients we’ll reschedule — because I don’t want anyone else getting sick. But, I still feel like I should be stronger, able to pull through and keep going. I have the utmost respect for those parents and adults who can make that happen.

This winter, I had to be realistic about what would work best for me — instead of trying to live up to what someone else is able to do.

It feels selfish and wishy washy to rest and “take it easy” instead of plowing through like the rest of the normal world. But with the added factor of being pregnant, you lose the option of relying on those sick drugs to help mom function normally. I have to take steps to prevent a body-wracking cough from hanging around. It’s ok to let my husband take care of me, make me meals, and ask him to come home early so I can rest. It’s ok to have my toddler entertain himself with his toys, or ask him to bring me a kleenex and refill my drink. My family is always willing to help — I only need to stop being stubborn, listen to my body saying I need help…and ask.

And the astounding thing, to me? No one was annoyed or frustrated about having to reschedule. I love my clients and friends! They are all so sweet.

I don’t really want to share any “sick mom” snapshots with you, so a sleeping toddler one will have to suffice. I think I napped as much as (if not more than) my son when I was sick. Go figure.

sleeping toddler on couch

Some Resources For Staying Healthy (Not Sick!)

As I plodded through my sick mom experience, I pinned herbal and natural remedies to my “Health” board on Pinterest. You may find some of these pins equally useful 🙂

Follow Betsy @ BPhotoArt.com’s board Health – Natural on Pinterest.

What About You?

What do you have trouble asking for help with? Are you stuck on trying to “do it all” like me? Does it drive you nuts when you can’t follow through with what you said you were going to do? Any go-to remedies you can share to cut short a cold?

sick remedies for moms

“Kids In the Garden” – Growing Romaine

posted in: Parenting | 10

“Kids In the Garden” has featured a guest post of mine on Growing Romaine Lettuce from Kitchen Scraps. I am excited to participate in their series Kids in the Garden; Learning and Growing! Here’s a sneak peek (er, some of the outtakes from the photo session) before you head over to read my guest post: Growing Romaine Lettuce from Kitchen Scraps.

kids in the garden - growing romaine

This started out as an experiment for the winter months, and actually turned into something quite exciting. Who knew that you could take the core of a romaine lettuce head and grow more lettuce? Well, I do now! You’ll have to head over to learn how the process works in more detail, but you can check out some “behind the scenes” photographs here first.

kids in the garden - growing romaine

Toby was thrilled to participate in this with me. He was also happy to be able to sneak some lettuce off the cutting board as a snace. Cinnamon, one of our cats, was very interested in what we were doing also (you can see her checking out the lettuce in one of the photos).

kids in the garden - growing romaine

Have I intrigued you enough yet to head on over and learn how it’s done? Make sure to read my article on growing romaine lettuce from kitchen scraps so you can get the step-by-step instructions on how to start growing your own lettuce!

 

Kids in the Garden Resources

Here are some links for further gardening ideas. They’ll open in a new window for your convenience. Let’s get those kids in the garden!

Do You Have More Ideas?

Do you have more ideas for getting kids in the garden? Or, into gardening? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

Unstructured Outdoor Play

posted in: Parenting | 16

Unstructured outdoor play (or indoor!) is so important for children. Whether it’s in the presence of others, or solitary play, purposeless unstructured play (that seem meaningless to us adults) is really essential for helping kids develop their imagination and process the world around them. Have you ever stopped to just watch a child play? To marvel at the improvisation and invention that comes from such a young mind?

Happy Toddler - playing in melting snow - unstructured outdoor play

As we’ve been in limbo between winter and spring, my toddler has been hanging onto every last opportunity to play in the snow. Seriously, whether it’s melting or not, he hasn’t cared. And since I wanted to get in one last post about snow 🙂 — I decided to share some ruminations from the other day while I watched my son play by himself. It’s truly a joy to enjoy observe unstructured outdoor play (unstructured indoor play too, I’m not picky)

Towards the end of this post, I’m sharing links about unguided, unstructured outdoor play, but I wanted to share a quote from one of the articles right now. It’s on the decline of unstructured play in over the decades:

The researchers found that compared to 1981, children in 1997 spent less time in play and had less free time. They spent 18 percent more time at school, 145 percent more time doing school work, and 168 percent more time shopping with parents. The researchers found that, including computer play, children in 1997 spent only about eleven hours per week at play. [ All Work And No Play: Why Your Kids Are More Anxious, Depressed]

And, imagine, what such a study would show in present day, given that 1997 was more than 16 years ago (the time elapsed between 1981 and 1997). I almost don’t want to do those calculations. Kids today have so much more access to technology, and free time (recess) during school is traded out for expanded “educational opportunities.”

I read about a challenge for parents to have their kids play outside an hour each day — wasn’t unstructured outdoor play a standard element of childhood? I know I got kicked outdoors as a kid for a couple hours daily (or most of the day during summertime). Note to self — thank my mother for that. Now, onto my thoughts as a mother about unstructured play.

Creating Without Intent – A Mother’s Perspective On Unstructured Outdoor Play

Right now, I’m watching my son play outside in the snow. He’s on our deck, in snow boots — no coat. It’s not all that cold out, so I’m not worried. Such a pleasant day! He’s thrilled to be outside. I’m thrilled to watch him play.

unstructured outdoor play - building a castle with melting snow
The wind whistles through the barren trees. He stops, looks up, and screams in delight. Is he listening to his echo? The sound of his voice? We’ve been reading a lot about bats and the soundwaves they use to catch insects lately. He is so observant, so curious about nature.

He hears the nearby highways sounds, tells me about the ambulance that went by, and how he’s going to stay outside.

The snow is a foot thick in places on our deck still. His lightweight body walks across its surface with ease. My husband comes home early and goes out to say hi. He crunches deep footprints through the snow, and helps our son fling a couple big scoops of snow off the deck. Then it’s time for toddler shoveling again. He scoops snow haphazardly, flinging it with delight. It doesn’t matter where the snow goes, there’s so much of it that one more scoop won’t make a difference. To start, he’d tried to clear off the deck, but realized the futility of it. Halfway through the winter, my husband had done the same – cleared a path to the stairs and left it at that. We built it well, the deck will hold the snow.

Still hard at work, my son stumbles in the snow. Nonplussed, he gets right back up and keeps shoveling. Hard at work, hard at play. No goal in mind, save shoveling snow. Oh, I remember the days of childhood, when it was a delight to complete tasks that had no “purpose.” But really, there is purpose. He is learning, he is experiencing, he is doing. His actions may seem pointless to an adult (schooled in the way of “efficiency”), but to a child, his actions are pointed and full of intent. And that is the joy of childhood. You get to define the meaning, you get to determine what matters to you. And you don’t care what anyone else thinks. Not yet. It’s all meaningful if you want it to be.

My son’s accomplishment? A snow castle, complete with broom, tunnels, and plowed “roads.”

unstructured outdoor play - melting snow - snow castle

More Resources – Unstructured Outdoor Play for Kids

If you want to read further on the benefits of unstructured play, or get ideas for encouraging unstructured outdoor play, here are some links below (they’ll open in a new window for your convenience).

Books Related to Parenting + Unstructured Outdoor Play

Articles On Unstructured Outdoor Play, etc

Schools + Unstructured Outdoor Play

Ideas From Parents for Unstructured Outdoor Play

Unstructured Play – Your Experience

What about you? Is there something that you take joy in the simple act of doing? That you’ve lost sight of because, as an adult, there are more “important things” to do? I know I loved creating things. It didn’t matter what, they didn’t have to have a purpose. I loved being out in nature for hours on end, playing pretend and defining my own reality.

As an adult, I’ve fallen away from these childhood joys. I “don’t have time” to do things without “purpose” or to just read for pleasure.

But who determines whether there’s enough time? Why am I filling my life with busywork? Just to make myself feel efficient?

unstructured outdoor play - toddler carrying snow with a spoon

Outdoor Nature Walk @ LNC

posted in: Parenting | 18

Need ideas for planning your next outdoor nature walk? I’ll share some links (for warm or cold weather) at the end of this post, but first let me share about our recent outdoor nature walk at a local nature center. Winter has been hanging on here, with record snowfall now over 6 feet, twice as much as usual. Needless to say, we’ll be happy when spring comes. But for now, we’ve been content with snow.

The other day, we braved the cold weather to visit the Leslie Nature Center for storytime and an outdoor nature walk. The monthly weekend storytime event is well-loved by the kids. We started out indoors, and read a book on spiders while waiting for storytime to start. The storytime tale was about bunnies — so there were guest appearances by the two resident bunnies (they normally live in the Critter House at the nature center).

This particular bunny was shedding quite a bit — notice the tufts of fur floating in the air in front of Toby’s face:

petting one of the bunnies at leslie nature center, winter outdoor nature walk

After getting to say hi to the bunnies, we donned our gear for an outdoor nature walk on the trails. It was nice to see Toby finally getting his snow legs. The first couple times we ventured outdoors in the deep snow, he wasn’t quite sure what to do, By the time of this outing, he was an old pro. On our outdoor nature walk, we listened for birds (and spotted a far-off cardinal), saw animal tracks (dogs, squirrels, fox, deer, etc), discovered snow fleas, and found rabbit scat.

And the finale of our outing, we of course visited the raptor enclosure. The Leslie Nature Center houses a variety of raptors (birds of prey) that are not capable of surviving in the wild. There are bald eagles, owls, falcons, and even a turkey vulture. Click on an image below to open the gallery view.


Outdoor/Nature Resources

I know some of you love resources and reading further. So, with that in mind, here are some blog posts on planning outdoor nature walks and relevant outdoor nature activities for kids. The links will open in a new window so you can consult the list as desired. Enjoy!

Cold Weather Outdoor Nature Ideas

Year Round Outdoor Nature Ideas

Nature Printables

Birds + Bird Watching

Rabbits

  • Rabbit Care – what is involved with owning a rabbit
  • Rabbit Facts – 23 facts about rabbits you might not know
  • All About Rabbits – learn about rabbits and how they are different from hares
  • Wild Bunnies – what to do if you find a litter of baby bunnies in the wild

  • Have More Outdoor Nature Walk Ideas?

    The possibilities are endless when it comes to creative, imaginative, outdoor play. Hopefully these photographs and links get your brain coming up with even more great ideas!

    Do you have more fun outdoor nature walk ideas? Or fond memories of things you enjoyed doing when young? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

    Shoveling + Snow Sensory Play

    posted in: Parenting | 21

    What’s snow sensory play? I’ll get to that in a minute (with activity links at the end of this post!), but first, let’s talk snow. There’s something about snow that just draws kids right in. My toddler is obsessed with shoveling snow, snow sensory play, you name it — if it has to do with snow, he’s rearing and ready to go. I’ve felt bad about not being able to get out more this winter (negative digits, windchill, plus sick bugs)… but fortunately we stumbled across two nice snow activities this winter:

    • “shoveling” snow on our deck
    • indoor snow sensory play

    Coincidentally, both of these activities *will* work even when the snow is melty and the weather is on the warmer side! So read on to see what we’ve done for snow sensory play — indoors and out.

    Snowy Day - Sensory Snow Play

    Outdoors Snow “Shoveling” Fun

    This past week we’ve finally seen temperatures rise above freezing, so Toby was thrilled to get out on the deck *without* a coat. I think he played for an hour out there, shoveling, scooping, and otherwise manipulating the snow. It started as a trip out on the deck to fill up a mixing bowl with snow for indoor snow sensory play… and turned into outdoors fun!

    Snow Sensory Play Indoors

    He did end up back indoors at the counter, playing with his bowl of snow. We don’t have a proper sensory bin, so have just been using jelly roll sheet pans to contain the melting snow. But, no matter. His fun has not been diminished by “lack” of proper materials. I supplied a few “real” kitchen items, and he supplemented everything else from the playroom. It’s always interesting to see what creative ideas toddlers will come up with on their own!

    Without much prompting, Toby discovered how to use the straw to move water from one place to another. He then experimented with putting ice chunks into a jar via the straw, all on his own. Really quite neat! Here are a few images of the snowy day fun — both indoors and out.

    Click on an image below to open the gallery view. Also, make sure to scroll to the end of this post, as I’ve shared some more great ideas for snow sensory play!

    More Snow Sensory Play Ideas

    Want to play in the snow? Indoors or Out? Well, here are some other blog posts that may help get your parental creative juices flowing. These links will open in a new window, in case you want to refer to this (non-exhaustive) list).

    Indoor Snow Play

    Outdoor Snow Play

    What If You Don’t have Snow?

    Have More Snow Play Ideas?

    What about you? Do you have more snowy day ideas for kids, or great snowy sensory play suggestions? Maybe you have some fond memories of activities you loved when growing up? I’d love to hear them in the comments section.

    Jackson Pollock Art with Permanent Markers

    posted in: Parenting | 4

    Now that Christmas has come and gone, I can share these pictures of a top secret present being made. As I’ve mentioned earlier, this year our little one really understood the concept of giving — and so, both Mama and Daddy took turns helping him make presents for both parents. I received several lovely drawings with toddler-traced hands (so cute). And when we were deciding what to make for Daddy’s present…someone *really* loved the idea of personalized golf balls (“So Dada can golf!!!”).

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    Shoveling Snow

    posted in: Parenting | 0

    Happy New Year! I hope you had as much fun ringing in the new year as a toddler does (since after all, don’t they have fun doing EVERYTHING?). It’s been interesting to reflect on the past year while simultaneously contemplate the year ahead.

    As I wrote in our personal Christmas card —

    while life is not without its struggles, we truly have been blessed this past year. It has been amazing to reflect back and see God’s hand at work in our lives, and all the blessings that have ensued — including a growing family [see post about in-utero #2].

    And before we part for the day, let me share this picture of my toddler…having fun…shoveling our deck the other day (today’s snow was much more substantial). I love how little minds work: “mama, I need my dump truck.” Next thing you know, the dump truck is helping move the snow off the edge of the deck and dumping it. I think he had the most fun inside afterwards, rinsing off the “inside” dump truck and toweling the truck dry. It was tough for me, in parent mode, to think outside the box and let that inside toy play out on the deck, but the whole experience for my son made my “sacrifice” worthwhile. I love when our children teach us things, don’t you?

    May your 2014 be filled with peace, joy, and love!

    Indoor Winter Fun | Holiday Ornaments

    posted in: Parenting | 1

    We haven’t ventured outdoors too much lately with it being so cold — the teens is just a little chilly to play outside for long. So, many winter crafts have ensued. I figured you might enjoy seeing a touch of our holiday decorations as they go up, and maybe these will inspire you to get creative with your little ones this week too!

    Today’s craft was from a well-anticipated playdate; we improvised a gluten free dough recipe so both kids could participate. It actually turned out really well — the ornaments are adorable, don’t you think? Ok, I may be a little biased, but I am just glad the dough baked into something durable and non-breakable. Plus, Toby finally got to use his favorite cookie cutter, the train.

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    Crafts and Artwork for Kids

    posted in: Parenting | 5

    It’s been so much fun crafting with my toddler lately. I found a lot of Advent and Christmas-themed craft ideas (thanks Pinterest, among other places). He has really been excited about an almost daily craft, and I’ve been grateful not to have to think up all these cute ideas myself. So far, we’ve made a family tree, a decoupaged candle holder, a “pocket” to hold promises (in our case, toddler-selected Bible verses), and today…well, we got sidetracked and just did free form painting on the computer. They learn so much from actual hands-on crafts, so I’ve been avoiding computer-related art for the most part. But I figure once in a while doesn’t hurt. He really enjoyed seeing how the “pen” made the paintbrush move and create colors on screen. Yes, I let him use my stylus and tablet; no, it didn’t get broken.

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    Thoughts for Moms-To-Be and New Mothers

    posted in: Parenting | 0

    Congratulations! Becoming a mother marks the start of an amazing journey, one which I’ve also begun recently. While I know they grow quickly, it’s hard to believe my little baby is already zooming towards the one year mark (and beyond).

    Though I considered myself to be pretty well prepared for mothering a child, I made a point to never assume I knew everything. And, let me tell you… there is a lot I have learned already! I really could fill a book with stories and ideas, but for now, I’d like to keep it simple. And sweet!

    Learn to take advice with a grain of salt. Everyone will have suggestions for you, or anecdotes to share. And usually, these people are genuinely trying to be helpful …even though the advice they give may not always be useful to you. I’ve found the best thing to do is smile, graciously say “thank you,” and make a mental note of it if you do find something you can apply to your life. If not, don’t sweat it!

    There is a ton of baby stuff on the market. Relax, you don’t need it all. There are a few essentials, but the rest is just fluff. Some products will make your life easier, but others are just out there to profit. The trick is finding out which ones you need! I recommend asking other moms what they found useful, and what they could’ve lived without. For us, my essential baby items were as follows:

    • Baby carrier / wrap
    • Carseat
    • Swing (AC or batteries)
    • Cloth diapers, (via diaper service), diaper covers, and snappis
    • Layette (mostly onesies)
    • Cosleeper

    We have loved babywearing, it has been a lifesaver for those fussy times when your little one needs to be held close. My little boy loves napping while I work or do chores. And when looking at swings, consider if you really want to be changing batteries all the time; we love that ours simply plugs into the wall (and can swing the infant car seat too). I bet you’re curious which baby products we found to be superfluous and unneccessary, right? For example, while a wipes warmer sounds like a neat idea, consider where you would plug it in… and more importantly, why it’s needed. You can quickly warm a wipe between your palms prior to use! We also didn’t use bibs (aside from at the table for food)…they just ended up being one more item of clothing to wash, fold, and put away. Use your judgment, and ask yourself how long a product might be useful (days, weeks, months?) before investing.

    Using a cloth diaper service has been wonderful. Not only are we keeping diapers out of the landfill, but my baby doesn’t get icky chemicals against his skin for hours on end… and no diaper rash! What sold my husband on the diaper service was the ease of use. We don’t have to rinse or scrape the diapers, simply toss them in a hamper, and put the bag out once a week. Plus, it’s a fixed cost… and I never have to worry about running out of diapers.

    Some other activities/groups that I highly recommend:

    La Leche League – there are many local chapters that meet on a monthly basis, and there’s also an online forum. I have found my La Leche group to be a wonderful source of support. If you can find the time to attend while you are still pregnant… do it! You will be able to get any birth or early nursing questions answered before you are in an urgent need-to-know situation.

    Prenatal/postnatal yoga – I can’t say enough about how my yoga class helped me survive through rough times. It was a weekly escape where I could focus on restoring my inner peace and allowing my body to let go of tension. The best part about taking a class geared towards new and expecting moms is that the poses are adapted for your body’s needs and abilities. Instead of focusing on general well-being, I was able to help my body cope with the changes of pregnancy; and later, to help my body recover and heal.

    Babywearing International Groups – I discovered my local babywearing chapter by chance. It has been one of the best assets, providing me with an opportunity to get out on a weekly basis, while enabling me to keep my baby close at hand. Chapters usually have extensive libraries, and you can borrow all sorts of different baby carriers to figure out which works best for you. It’s amazing when I consider that only a year ago, I thought that my only options for wearing my baby were the Baby Bjorn carrier and the Mobywrap. Far from it. In fact, I discovered how poorly the Baby Bjorn fits both mom and baby. My favorite carrier is varies depending on the day and my mood, but I like my Boba soft structured carrier, my BabyHawk mei Tai, and my new favorite is a Didymos woven wrap. There is no comparison to the comfort and support I feel when wearing my little boy in these baby carriers!

    Baby Portraits – I am a bit biased, but as a visual person, I loved documenting my pregnancy and my child’s first moments. Let me tell you, there is no comparison between the snapshots we took and the professional portraits we had done. It is wonderful to feel pampered and to be photographed beautifully. We had newborn portraits done within the first week, and while I was physically in poor condition….none of that hits me when I look at my son’s portraits. He is beautiful; I feel beautiful and motherly in the portraits that include me. So, is it worthwhile to splurge on a newborn portrait session? I say yes!

    Well, I think that’s a good start; as I said before, I really could go on for hours about this topic. Your best resource is other moms who have been there, done that. Don’t be embarrassed to ask questions, you deserve to be well informed and know all your options!

    Your birth experience will likely be different than mine, but the important thing is for you to take ownership. You can plan all you want, certainly! Take Lamaze, read books, but keep in mind that birth is a chapter in the book of motherhood. I wish I’d read fewer pregnancy books and more parenting book while pregnant, if you know what I mean. Birth is the beginning, and your journey will be what you choose to make of it.

    Here’s to motherhood! Enjoy the journey!

    Crafts + Activities to Keep Your Kids Entertained!

    posted in: Parenting | 0

    crafts and activities: easy ideas to keep kids busy - betsy's photography - http://bphotoart.comSo we were watching “Super Nanny” on TV the other day, and I realized that some of these parents don’t realize how important it is to play. Isn’t that one of the best parts about being a kid?

    Getting to play, whether outside or inside, is related to many of my favorite childhood memories. Of course, along those same lines, getting to make things, or create, is equally important.

    Maybe that’s why I became a photographer — I love the process of creating. At any rate, I’ve compiled some ideas for you that might help you in a pinch if you need ways to keep your kids occupied. Some will depend on how messy your kids are, of course — so do plan for that in advance!

    Make Your Own Play Dough

    If you have flour and salt on hand, then you’re probably equipped for this project. Depending on the age of your kids, why not let them help MAKE the play dough before they play?

    Chances are they’ll love it even more than just playing with the store-bought or pre-made stuff.  I made play dough with my boys, and we didn’t even bother to put food coloring in it. They like it “plain.”

    You can also make store bought play dough colors “stretch” further by taking some of your plain play dough and blending it with those tiny colored packages for even more fun.

    Don’t have a recipe? Get play dough recipes here.

    Make Popsicles

    This is another easy activity that your kids will probably enjoy. Making popsicles can be as complicated (or simple) as you want it to be. Just make sure you have some popsicle molds!  We found a set of silicone popsicle molds ad used them to talk about diversity (the popsicle molds were all different colors, but inside they were all the same).

    Anyways, from there, you can let your kids make lemonade popsicles, pineapple-orange juice popsicles, or even yogurt popsicles.  My kids enjoyed making applesauce popsicles the other day as well.

    If your kids want to make something more creative, why freeze different layers (colors,flavors) into the popsicles!

    Make a Map

    Get out the crayons or markers and start drawing! Maybe your kids could make a map of the backyard, or if they’re a little older, they could do something a bit more ambitious — like make a map of your neighborhood!

    You can even suggest they explore or make “excursions” to the places they’re mapping out — so that they don’t forget the best places!

    Make Board Games

    If your kids love to play boardgames, why not encourage them to make up their own? It can be based on the traditional board games, or even something more original! Make sure to provide your kids with lots of craft materials, like cardboard, colored paper, and maybe even some clay so that they can sculpt the board game pieces or dice.

    An old shirt box, once decorated properly will make a great place to store the new board game and its accessories. Next time you have game night, make sure to pull out the new addition to your collection — your kids will be so proud!

    Make a Meal

    If your kids are a little older (and responsible), why not teach them how to cook? It could be something simple like a favorite dessert, or they’re ready, even a batch of pancakes (make sure to be careful around the oven and stove).

    While it’s up to you to decide what your kids are ready to make, they’ll probably love helping make meals if you can make it fun! Of course, desserts also call for decorations, which most kids particularly enjoy doing.

    More Resources

    If you’re looking for some crafty websites, why not try a few of these websites…they look promising! And remember, if you run out of ideas, it can’t hurt to ask your kids’ opinions!!

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