Saturday, May 24, 2014

Overprotected Kids Go "Wild"

In early April, we received the most recent issue of The Atlantic.  The cover story was one titled "The Overprotected Kid".  I couldn't break the magazine open quickly enough.  This is a topic I think about A LOT.....I know my kids don't have enough freedom and I worry how about how it will affect them in the long run.  Like most people my age, I had WAY more freedom than my own children.  My parents let me loose in the neighborhood and I was only called in for dinner or when it got dark.  

I LIVED in the woods and I am well aware that the amount of time I spent surrounded by nature shaped me in a HUGE way.  I played in the creek daily.  Didn't Mom & Dad worry I'd fall, hit my head on a rock and drown?  Weren't they concerned that some weirdo would walk into the woods and steal me?  What about the poison ivy and the snakes and my dirt-covered clothes and shoes?They never seemed worried.  Neither did the parents of my friends.  But letting me loose was one of the most fantastic gifts my parents could give me.  I have such beautiful memories of swinging over the creek on a long vine, building forts, chasing each other through the woods, perfecting our dam building....need I go on?  No one was looking over my shoulders.  Not one afternoon had a planned activity.  

I finished reading the article and I was upset.  But what could I do?  We don't live in an area where I can let my kids loose.  No way.  So what did I do?  I filled the girls' water bottles, packed a few snacks, jumped in the car with Clara, picked Sophie up from the bus stop and headed straight to a nature path near home.  When we got there, I told the girls to go and do whatever they wanted. You should have seen the way they looked at me!!!  It's so sad but they didn't even know what to do.  Go, walk in the woods, play in the creek, get dirty, find some bugs......these are the things I told them.  It took a while and there was some trepidation but they eventually took tentative first steps into the woods.  

And I have to admit that it wasn't easy for me.  These kids weren't raised in the woods.  I was nervous.  I followed them around from a distance as they ventured.  I tried to pretend like I wasn't paying attention to them (yeah right!).  A couple of times I even let them out of my sight (GASP!) but immediately panicked and called them back.  Still, I do get points for trying, right?  As they played and went "wild" (ha!), I took photos.

Of course Harry had to follow along and help protect the girls.

The girls played at this rotted log for about 1/2 an hour until a massive bug ran out and made Sophie jump a foot into the air.  She is not afraid of bugs so that just tells you something about the size and "scary factor" of this particular bug!

I kept going back for more pictures because, as you may remember, towhees are my favorite (sssshhhh, don't tell Harry!).

If I still did my Suburban Field Journal posts, I'd include this picture.  I love when we go somewhere in the suburbs and find a reminder that this used to be someone's large piece of property. Well, I shouldn't say I love it because it actually makes me sad.

My kids are still overprotected.  I want to be positive but I just don't think there's any way around that these days.  Even a laid back parent like me has a hard time letting go.  I will always search for opportunities to give the girls freedom to roam and explore.  Until I find them, I'm happy I had this lovely afternoon with two of my favorite people and I was glad to have a little of my own freedom to take some nature photos!  

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Marsh Island

We've been home over a month now but I'm still trying to get caught up on my Kiawah posts.  It's much harder when time has gone by.  Still, I really LOVE some of these photos of Sophie and it's been in the back of my mind that I needed to get them "out there" before too much time passes and I forget.  

When we first arrived on Kiawah, I immediately set my sights on figuring out the best nature spots.  On our first full day, we set out in the car to check out a bunch of these sights.  Can you imagine my disappointment when we discovered that the majority of the island is behind a gate that can only be accessed if you're staying in one of the homes there?  Let's just say that I was miffed!  How come no one told me that?  I honestly don't think I would've gone there had I known.  At the Nature Center later that day, I asked an employee how I could see some of the good nature spots inside the gate.  She said by walking or biking.  Yeah, with a two year old in tow. Sounds fun.  I think the closest spot was 4-5 miles away!  Still, I really wanted to see some of these sights.  I'd read they were good for birding and wildlife.  Right up my alley!

One afternoon, when Clara was getting sleepy, we tucked her in the cart with some snacks and took off on our bikes.  It was a long ride, especially with a seven-year-old riding her own bike.  It took a long time to get there, especially with a stop here and there to look at/for gators.  In one pond, we found babies!!!

After what seemed like an eternity, we arrived at Marsh Island (the first stop on my wish list).

It was a beautiful place.

Then I spent about half an hour photographing this sand fiddler crab.

He was fascinating to me!

When I turned around, I discovered that Sophie had been playing with the crabs down by the wet sand.  She was in her own little world and having fun. 

As she walked toward me, she was smiling to herself and looking up at the birds.  She's my nature girl.  I really believe she is.  And I feel so lucky to have someone like her, who has a strong interest in nature, to share my passion.  It's so much more fun going to places like this when she's around!

As we were walking the boardwalk over to the island, we saw a raccoon walking on the sand (it was low tide).  I was too slow grabbing my camera and didn't get a picture.  As we were walking the boardwalk on the way back to our bikes, I told Sophie we should look for raccoon tracks.  And she found them before the words finished leaving my mouth. 

In the end, we'd spent so long biking to and exploring Marsh Island, the kids were tired and cranky and hungry.  We also had to bike the full way back.  No matter how much I wanted to see the other sites, it wasn't a good idea.  We started back but I felt real disappointment in not seeing all the nature this place had to offer.  I knew there was no way we were going to bike all that way again another day!  It seems so wrong to me that the nature is not accessible.  For this reason, we likely will not return to Kiawah again.  I get gated communities yada yada.....but nature should be accessible to everyone. I left there not feeling totally satisfied with my vacation....I know I missed out on some great spots.....and that's not a nice feeling.

Yep, so we're looking forward to heading back to Hilton Head in the Fall!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Angel Oak

As I've mentioned before, the weather did not cooperate while we were in Kiawah over Spring Break.  It's a fairly small island and there isn't a lot to do when it's cold (maybe some of you wouldn't mind being stuck in a small cottage with two wild and crazy kids but we are not those people).  I was searching for things to do and, while reading a local nature magazine, I came across an article about a local tree that the article claimed was over a thousand years old (sources differ about the actual age). What the what?  As I researched further, I found out that it was only about 15 minutes away.  

We were packed up in the car faster than you can say Jack Robinson.  And you know what? I can honestly say this is the nicest tree I've ever seen. Old, majestic, packed full of soul.  I stood under its wide, strong, antique branches and I thought of everything this tree has seen, all the hurricanes it has survived, the sheer number of folks who've walked under it's canopy, how happy it makes the thousands of people who come to visit each year.  

I'm so pleased I came across the article (the tree was so close!!!) and I feel lucky that we got to see and experience such an amazing tree/soul!  Hope you enjoy the pictures and that you get to see it in person yourself one day....

{the dirt road leading to Angel Oak}

{large posts holding up some of the branches}

{some branches go down into the earth and come back out again}

{I like this one for scale.}

{the annoying signs!  argh. they basically tell you not to breathe next to the tree. i understand their purpose but, seriously, this picture would be amazing ~ and I would probably enlarge and print it ~ were it not for those blasted signs.}

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Instantaneous Happiness

Earlier today I uploaded a month's worth of photos.  As I flipped through them, I came across the photos below and knew I had to post them right away before I forget!  

At the end of April, Sophie attended a friend's birthday party.  Right before we left the house, I finished wrapping the gift and went to collect the birthday card that Sophie had been working on.  When I glanced down at the card, my heart just melted. 

{Even though I didn't get a close-up, I'm pretty sure that green dot hanging from the bottom branch is an inchworm ~ we've seen so many of those lately!}

Lately I've had a lot of moments when I questioned my parenting abilities.  But when I saw the innocent, sweet drawings that Sophie had made ~ full of nature ~ I realized I was just being terribly hard on myself.  This is not at all unusual!  As Alain always reminds me, this is a marathon.


When I picked Sophie up from school the following Monday, she told me that the birthday girl relayed that her Mom's favorite present from the entire party was Sophie's card and that it made her heart happy.  "That's exactly what you said, Mom!", Sophie said.  Yes, it does make my heart happy.  As we drove towards home, I peeked at Sophie in the rearview mirror and was delighted to find that she was smiling to herself.

Several years ago, I published a post entitled Instantaneous Happiness.  I still melt into a puddle whenever I see those pictures. Especially these days!  Every once in a while, someone will arrive at my blog because they've GOOGLED "Instantaneous Happiness".  I love that!  The very second I saw this card and when I came across the pictures today those words were the first to enter my mind.  The innocence and creativity and sweetness of childhood will forever make me happy.....instantaneously.  

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Little Girls' Room

One morning, during our Kiawah vacation, Alain took the girls out to the beach to build sandcastles (it was too cold to swim).  I stayed behind as I needed some down time to buy groceries, clean a little, etc. When I walked into the bedroom that Sophie and Clara were sharing, I was overcome by the girlishness of the room and all the things they'd brought from home to make them comfortable. They'd definitely made the room their own. I felt this strong need to capture a few things....

This is the shared dresser that separated their two beds.  By next year Sophie will surely have moved on from Critter Club books but I love the glittery letters and soft colors of the covers.  Each night she'd sneak her flashlight under the covers to read while Clara fell asleep.  And Clara's little ladybug day soon she won't want or need that anymore.  I know because Sophie just gave up her nightlight a couple of months ago. Gulp.

A bunch of shells the girls collected on the beach were lined up on the dresser.  I'm sure Sophie did that.  It really warmed my heart.

I know it won't be long before Sophie stops carting her stuffed animals on our travels.  I only allow three on each trip ~ otherwise she'd bring twenty.  I still get sad that Blue Man, the infamous Blue Man, gets left behind nowadays.

And Clara's loveys.....all three of them....they go everywhere with us.  How much longer will this last?  On this trip, our first attempt at having Clara share a room with Sophie and sleep in a "big girl bed", her bed was covered in extra pillows that we used to buffer her and hopefully prevent any falls from the bed. I'm insanely excited to report success!

The girls are growing so quickly.  Yes, they can drive me totally insane.  Oh my, yes, they fight way too much.  They can be really messy.  But I love, LoVe, LOVE  having two daughters. I've made my peace with pink.  I embrace their interests and do my best to soak up the best moments.  It won't be long before teeny magazines cover the dresser and no stuffed animals, loveys or nightlights will be necessary to comfort the girls away from home.  

In the future I know I will miss these days and just seeing photos of their favorite possessions on that long-ago vacation to Kiawah will melt my heart!
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