Posts Tagged ‘children’

Can you find the mouse in this picture?

This afternoon, a deer mouse climbed the vines that cling to the house and made its way to the window ledge.

Its scurrying movements back and forth along the ledge quickly caught the attention of everyone inside.

Deer mice are recognizable by their white underbelly which contrasts with the rest of their brownish grey fur.  They have big ears and beautiful dark eyes.  They can scale vertical surfaces and are extremely agile.  Especially hardy, they’re known to survive for 5 to 7 years, twice the life expectancy of most mice.

Unfortunately, these mice are also carriers of the hanta virus and lyme disease.  The best way to appreciate them is through glass.  Care should also be taken to avoid their nests and droppings.

This little mouse was quite busy checking out the vine leaves during its short visit.   It seemed to be eating little translucent granules that were clinging to some of the stems.  It was very active and managed to even climb a few of them.

Hang in there baby!

Before we could say ‘Appley Dapply’ our cute little visitor was gone, but not before it managed to give us one good look through the glass.  It was probably wondering what all the fuss was about.

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2012

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Bugs may be small and easily taken for granted, but they are most children’s first intimate encounter with a wild animal.  How they are taught to deal with these small creatures sets the tone for their relationships with larger ones such as birds and amphibians.

To a two year old, there’s no such thing as an ant, a wasp or a spider.  They’re all bugs and worth a closer look.   Unfortunately, in their zeal to teach children to be wary of dangerous bugs, many adults tend to not discern between those which are poisonous and those which aren’t.

Wounded wolf spider

By showing their disdain for all bugs and killing any that cross their paths, many adults  inadvertently teach children that all are to be feared and destroyed at every opportunity.

If you want to live and thrive, let the spider run alive.
~ American Quaker Saying

If handled carefully, even a stink bug will not release the smelly substance in its glands.  A gentleness and reverence for all creatures should be taught at an early age.  It’s important to remember that, the younger the child, the more she/he learns by modelling rather than by verbal instruction.  Colonies of ants found under stones are fascinating to watch as they go about their business.  A child who’s shown how to put overturned stones back in place to leave insects undisturbed is more likely to take that care than a child who’s simply told to do so.

Now where did that ant go?

Teaching a child not to step on a caterpillar is as valuable to the child as it is to the caterpillar.
~ Bradley Millar

Butterflies seem to be the least threatening of bugs to adults and children alike.  Colorful and delicate, a child has to learn both patience and quietness in order to approach them successfully.  This isn’t easy but well worth the effort and practice.

Red admiral butterfly on a crabapple blossom

The reward is a lifetime of being able to see nature in an up-close and personal manner that allows awe and wonder to enhance any time spent outdoors.

Mourning cloak butterfly

He prayeth best, who loveth best
All things both great and small;
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all.
~ Samuel Taylor Coleridge ~ The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

All text and images copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2012

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snowshoe hare

Where am I going? I don’t quite know.
Down to the stream where the king-cups grow —
Up on the hill where the pine-trees blow —
Anywhere, anywhere. I don’t know.

If you were a bird, and lived on high,
You’d lean on the wind when the wind came by,
You’d say to the wind when it took you away:
“That’s where I wanted to go today!”

Where am I going? I don’t quite know.
What does it matter where people go?
Down to the wood where the blue-bells grow —
Anywhere, anywhere. I don’t know.

~  Excerpted from A. A. Milne’s poem ‘Spring Morning’

Arnold Schwartzenegger read this poem as he put his class down for a nap in the movie Kindergarden Cop.  Putting children down for a nap is seldom easy, but these words are so soothing, they might even put an adult to rest… especially if they were read by Arnold’s strong yet gentle voice.

Milne, who became known for his stories  of Winnie the Pooh, wrote another poem ‘Puppy and I’ which has a similar theme.  In it he asked rabbits he had met on the road where they were going in their brown fur coats, which made me think of the hare I saw along the trail this morning. 

In trying so hard to figure out where we’re going, sometimes we miss the wonders of the world around us, where we are, right now.  Sometimes it’s just enough to go… outdoors.

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Giving your child immunity against loneliness may be as simple as fostering within them a kinship with the natural world.  A love of nature begun in childhood can last a lifetime. 

It is astonishing how little one feels alone when one loves.
~John Bulwer

Playing with doll furniture and worms on the back steps circa 1961

Some of my earliest memories are of playing with worms and doll furniture in my grandparents’ backyard.  I could never understand why the worms didn’t survive the baths I’d give them.  In the springtime, my younger sibings and I spent hours creating dams and controlled waterways with the water from melting snow that would stream in the lane next to our yard. After a long Canadian winter, seeing the sun sparkling on those streams of water gave me such a wonderful feeling. My mother and grandmother both scolded us for getting wet and muddy but it seemed like such a small price to pay for such happiness.

In the summer and fall, we went for picnics in the woods.  We’d enjoy tomato sandwiches wrapped in waxed paper under a big spruce tree while my mom moulded faces in the spruce gum that ran on the tree trunks.  The ‘devil faces’ would harden and we’d see them again the next time we picnicked there.  So began the magical enchantment that’s always been a part of my love for trees.

So much snow

Eventually my grandparents purchased the land where we picnicked most frequently.  Old firefighting hoses were made into swings that my grandfather suspended from the large branches of white pines.  My younger brothers would climb the trees but I was content to swing for hours, daydreaming and singing to myself. 

Climbing a white pine

In the summer we were out in the fields picking berries and flowers or catching grasshoppers and butterflies.  I learned how to drive a tractor in those fields when I was about ten years old, as did my sisters and brothers.  I also had my own little axe with which I was able to trim dead limbs off trees, an activity I still enjoy doing to this day. 

Growing up outdoors

In the winter we’d play in the snow, go sledding or skating at one of many outdoor rinks.  There was always something to do outdoors, either together or on our own. My siblings and I all brought our love for nature with us into adulthood.  Giving children the opportunity to be outdoors, as did my parents and grandparents, truly is a gift that lasts a lifetime. 

Thanks to Gerry at Torch Lake Views for suggesting a post about memories of growing up outdoors

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kids climbing rocks

Are kids testing the limits of your patience?    Perhaps you’re feeling cooped up with a baby who won’t settle down for a nap, a whining toddler  or older children who are arguing incessantly.  If so, maybe it’s time to take it outside.

scaring away wildlife with a teething baby in florida

Scaring away wildlife with a teething baby in Florida

When I was a young mother, taking a crying baby outdoors in my arms or in the stroller always seemed to take the edge off.  Even if the baby didn’t settle completely, at least I felt better.

When my sons were older, having them run around the house several times was my favorite solution to behavior that was spiralling downwards.  They always came back in refreshed and in a better mood than before they went out.   More often than not, time outside can be more effective than a time out.

we don't want to be outside

But we don't want to be outside!

Of course children don’t always want to go outside.  They might complain that the sun’s too bright or it’s too windy, too wet, too cold, too hot or too early in the morning.  Never mind.  Dress them appropriately and throw them out.  Better yet, go with them.  If they’re climbing the walls, you probably are too.

outdoor kids

You can’t stop kids from horsing around, but you can have them take their loud voices and rough play to a place where noise isn’t an issue and they can inhale fresh air while exercising their large muscles.

Climbing the walls isn’t half as much fun as climbing trees.  Besides, the trees don’t mind.

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The day after Saint Patrick’s Day is an excellent one for catching a glimpse of remnants of leprechaun activity the night before.  And what better than enlisting the help of little people in the quest for evidence of Little People? Trodding through the woods this morning, we weren’t disappointed by our findings.

shamrocks or wood sorrel

Shamrocks or wood sorrel coming to life in late winter.

Beneath some dried leaves we found some green wood sorrel, also known as shamrocks.  Surely the leprechauns’ merrymaking coaxed them out of their sleep last night.   They looked a bit limp, but the warmer days ahead should see them coming back to life again.

leprechaun jacket near vernal pool

A leprechaun jacket and prints found near a vernal pool.

Melting snows have created numerous small vernal pools over the past couple of days.  These provide temporary watering holes for wild creatures and excellent spots for leprechauns to catch a quick dip.  One must have done just that by the light of last night’s moon.  Could a surprise visit from a neighborhood cat have prompted him to leave so quickly that he forgot to take his jacket with him?

green moss heart on birch tree

Of course nothing says spring like a bit o’green smiling in the sunshine.  The heart-shaped moss we found on a birch tree was a delightful find, and surely a sign of creative activity by the Little People themselves.  Although many will roll their eyes at the thought of leprechauns still roaming the woods, I find it hard to not believe when  there’s so much evidence to the contrary.  Spring and warmer days are ahead and surely that is something to smile about.

For your smile is a part of the love in your heart,
And it makes even sunshine more bright.
Like the linnet’s sweet song,
Crooning all the day long,
Comes your laughter so tender and light.
For the springtime of life is the best time of all,
With never a pain or regret.
While the springtime is ours,
Through all of life’s hours,
Let us smile each chance we get.

~  When Irish Eyes are Smiling

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