Category Archives: Baby

Baby & Toddler Swim

I could swim before I could walk. Never in my memory have I approached water without feeling confident in my ability to paddle around, navigate, or jump in. This was something that I very much wanted for my children.

Our first concern was safety – we are on the water often, and hope that our boys will not panic in an emergency if they are unexpectedly submerged. However, we also wanted to give them a true sense of confidence and understanding that would help them enjoy the ocean (and pools, lakes, and rivers) more as they grow. Finally, Simon really wanted to replicate the Nirvana Nevermind album cover.

DCIM102GOPRO
Joey loves jumping in – we always (try to) keep it fun for them

In the 2010s, teaching your infant or toddler to swim freely is not a straightforward task. The baby swim classes that my mom had taken me to don’t seem to exist anymore, at least not where we live. The premise that very young babies (less than six months) have an innate reflex to hold their breathe underwater, and will retain this with practice, seems to have been buried under concern of frightening children. It is our opinion that not knowing how to swim is a far more frightening option, but getting to the task at hand, there were no public or private lessons we could sign up for. We had to do swim school ourselves. For those that would like to try something similar, we found the following three resources immensely helpful. However, the most important thing was consistency and lots of time in the water. Experience is invaluable – I was far more successful with Blake than Joey at a young age.*

Little gear is needed – we used bath toys that we already had and let Joey pick out goggles at Target. One item that was immensely helpful in winter and spring was small wetsuits – both of our boys get cold quickly at an indoor pool. We like this one for infants and this one for toddlers.

Joey & Blake will now go underwater happily and hold their breath. They kick and paddle their arms to propel themselves, but don’t go far without adult help. I have let them lead the way for lessons in terms of what they are comfortable with. There are days when they don’t want to submerge, so we don’t. There are days when they enthusiastically ask for more, so we do. I had imagined far grander things, but for now I’m glad that we have been able to get them both comfortable in the water and solid on breath-holding.

As for the Nirvana photo – it’s a lot harder to replicate than we thought!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

*We are not swim instructors – just enthusiastic parents sharing what worked for our kids.

Advertisements

When Travel Doesn’t Go As Planned Part 2: Be Calm & Be Kind

We made it home! In time for Simon to start his new job! With most of our things!

After our last post, the comedy of errors continued including a rental car with no child seats (did you know that rental agencies are not obliged to guarantee child seats?, and that if you try hard enough, priceline will refund prepaid ‘nonrefundable’ rental car fees?), lost diaper covers, awkward seating assignments on flights, Blake being kicked out of a bar (too intoxicated), etc.

But something strange happened. After the first few days of everything seeming to go wrong, Simon & I stopped being stressed. We accepted the situation, paying an extra $1700 for flights, and moved forward calmly. We worked together to manage the safety, happiness, and well-being of our family first. We met many friends and colleagues along the way who were always surprised when we said our trip was full of things going wrong. “But you seem so calm and happy!” they said. Truthfully… we were.

The biggest reason is that we were with our kids, and my strong feeling is that happy parents make happy babies, and happy babies make everything easier. We both work hard to achieve family happiness at all times, but especially during travel and times of stress. The side effect of ensuring that the boys get time to play outside, timely meals, naps, and bedtime, is that we experience many of the calming benefits and are able to better handle the various fires being thrown at us.

In addition, we had a lot of good things happening alongside the fires. We had productive meetings with colleagues; Simon got good experimental data, we gave various talks, brown bags, and seminars at Scripps and at the International Coral Reef Symposium that were well received; we enjoyed quality family time in beautiful places; and we had happy reunions with friends.

Something else special happened on this trip though. In our times of great duress, we received unexpected assistance from strangers. Random acts of kindness that meant so much given our compromised state:

  • The strangers that switched seats with us on the red-eye flight from LA to DC so that our family could sit together in one row
  • The Virgin America flight attendant that provided six little bottles of water when we desperately needed it for the kids
  • The baggage claim clerk that helped me move all of our luggage to the street to meet Simon with the rental car and I was alone with Blake
  • The collection of Brazilian scientists at ICRS that happily held & played with Blake during the last night banquet for an hour while Simon & I ate and made friends with them
  • The friends-of-friends that offered to take photos of our whole family on our last day  (and only day on the North Shore!)
  • The cleaning staff at both hotels we stayed at, who were amazing about providing extra towels and coming back repeatedly so as not to disturb our napping children when cleaning the room

That’s not to mention all of our friends and family that stepped in, whether or not we asked, to play with Joey, hold Blake, and in general help us out immensely. Japanese grammy came all the way from New Zealand to Hawaii to look after the boys during the meeting. She did the typical grammy thing – spoil Joey rotten with care and attention – so that now Joey wants to “go back to Hawaii”. Why? “Obaasan”.

Those relatively small kindnesses made all of the difference for these strung-out parents that wanted to bring their kids on a work trip. Kindness matters most to those who need it. Look for the need and pay it forward. You might be in the needful position some day.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

 

Travel With Babies & Toddlers – Sleep & Food

We’ve been (happily!) receiving more family travel FAQs since we returned from Japan. At least half are about how to deal with basic baby necessities while on the road, in the air, or overseas. Here are some pro tips we’ve built up over the last few years. Bear in mind that every child is different, and its always important to find the right groove for your family. Our strategy has generally been to be adaptable and teach our kids to do the same, whilst being one step ahead to ensure that they get the nutrition and rest that they need. There is a lot of patience and planning ahead, and we are also more lenient than we would be at home. It is ultimately most important that they eat or sleep – happy baby happy life!

Sleep

IMG_1908
Whatever it takes – an hour of slow laps around the aquarium with two sleeping boys and one tuna.

We have always prioritized our kids’ sleep more than anything else, because we have found that a well rested baby is a happy baby. We knew that there would be lots of trips and outings long before our first was born, so we made an effort to teach him to be somewhat flexible in terms of where he sleeps. In other words, anything goes as long as the kid sleeps – walks in the baby carrier, car rides, co-sleeping, etc. We are more strict at home about keeping them in their beds (at least, the older one 🙂

We always plan ahead so that we have some means to help the boys nap during the day, which is often in a baby carrier or stroller. While this isn’t as great as napping in a bed as they get older, it works for us. The biggest key is to identify when they are starting to get tired and get them comfortable in their napping spot before they pass the threshold to overtired and cranky.

Jet lag is tough for adults and tougher for littles. The same rules that apply to us do them – hydrate well, go outside in daylight hours, and try to force your schedule to local time as quickly as possible. However, between jet lag and activities while traveling, we often wind up with an earlier waking time and earlier bed time while traveling.

Both boys have a bedtime routine that includes certain items. Blake is swaddled every night after receiving his last feeding and PJs. Joey reads stories with his stuffed toys, and brings a stuffed toy into his bed. We maintain these routines on the road, and always bring key items with us (swaddle blanket, a couple of stories, 1-2 stuffed toys of Joey’s choosing).

Even so, it doesn’t always go to plan – which is why we fall back to “anything goes as long as they sleep.” If they will only sleep in the bed with me for the first few nights in a new place, then they can sleep in the bed with me. Trust me when I say that the less tired the kids are, the more enjoyable everyone’s trip is!

Also – me and Simon always come home tired. We no longer ‘vacation’ in the restful sense. (Actually we never did, but it used to be because we spent all of our time diving and exploring!)

Food

IMG_1498
Joey takes apart his sushi at an expensive sushi bar (the chef cut all of his sushi pieces in half!), eating first the fish and then the rice.

This advice also depends on age, but the short story here is that our kids eat what we eat (or some part of it).

For the first year, we combo feed. Breastmilk comes everywhere with me, and we always brought our own formula and bottles to avoid any issues with switching brands/types on them. We usually buy bottled water to mix it with unless we can get access to filtered water.

Once on solids, the children eat what we do, and that continues overseas. Our rule is that they have to try the food, after which it is OK if they don’t like it. Since the rule is the same wherever we go, J has never really questioned it. Like me, he likes some foods and dislikes others when introduced to new things. I will never forget Joey slurping soba noodles with delight in Japan or demanding more sashimi. At the same time, he wasn’t really into gyoza (dumplings) and other items we thought he would like.

IMG_1115
In general bottled water is one of my most hated products, and you will never see it in our house. I’ve had to bend on this too because its more important to me that the children have clean drinking water.

As with sleep, we are more lenient with food when we are away from home. Processed/packaged foods that are normally not around our house are provided at opportune moments. Joey still calls Oreos “Peru Biscuits” since he first received them there, and he only gets them when we are traveling. It’s more important to me that they eat something to avoid hanger. There are also inevitable long, boring, waits associated with travel and having special treats/snacks helps mitigate that.

I’m used to carrying around a wide array of snacks wherever we go, and I usually stock up on favorites before any trip (fruit/veggie pouches, clif kids bars, goldfish or other little crackers, raisins and other dried fruits). I don’t try to bring enough for the duration of the trip, though, since I’ve always been able to find new and interesting snacks on site. Almost everywhere has some variation on bread, rice, or pasta and fruit – staples of the toddler diet.

J does have food allergies so I always learn how to say and write the offending foods ahead of time, and check labels/ask at restaurants as I would at home.

It can be a whirlwind with a lot of trial and error. We always say we will not plan anything during our first day at a destination, and we almost always wind up doing stuff anyway with catastrophic results. Dinner in particular has been disastrous several times with slow service, new food, and very tired parents and children. I’ve taken a tearful Joey out of restaurants in several countries to go to bed before the food actually arrived, and had Simon bring me leftovers later. Hang in there – it gets better!

Four Months Flew By

IMG_1951Just like that, I’m not surprised that I have two children and we are plateauing to the ‘new normal.’ Slow down time – my tiny newborn is now an excitable four month old!

Four months ago we were enjoying our new baby whilst getting very little sleep. Every event felt like a milestone; every outing an achievement. I’ve slowly been increasing my work hours, and we have returned from our family vacation to Japan. Suddenly, it seems like we have a fingertip hold that isn’t going to give.

I went to the grocery store the other day with both boys and it wasn’t terrifying. I knew to go slowly and take everything one step at a time. Put first kid in carseat. Put second kid in carseat. Drive to store. Unload Blake first and place him in baby carrier. Then unload Joey. Let Joey push the little shopping cart. Make several laps of the store. Smile back at the more experienced parents smiling at us. We bought (most of) the things we intended to get and went to Starbucks afterwards.

Blake communicates more each day and is falling into a routine, designed around his brother’s routine. They both nap in their rooms in the afternoon (*Blake is trying to do so, anyway), giving their caregiver a break. They both go to bed at 8pm, and I have enough confidence that Blake will stay asleep for a few hours that Simon & I can spend some down time together and/or finish cleaning the kitchen.

IMG_1973Joey has accepted that Blake is going to stay, and has started interacting with him more. Nothing fills my heart with more joy than watching J bring toys to his little brother, read him a story, or show him how to make the infant toys work.

We are making plans to bring them along on a big work trip next month without thinking “can we even do this?”

It isn’t easy at all. We are still very tired and really looking forward to when Blake sleeps all night…! But we are doing it. It’s funny how no matter what your situation is, you often find yourself busy and think that things are challenging. Then it gets harder and you wonder how you ever thought it was exhausting before.

For Mother’s Day I asked to go hiking, so we spent the weekend exploring Shenandoah National Park. As a family of four. And it felt perfectly ‘normal.’

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Japan Travel With Infant & Toddler

We are still recovering from jet lag, but safely home from our journey to Japan. We had a wonderful time and will post highlights soon!

In the meantime, here are some notable things that are different in Japan from western countries that are particularly relevant to travel with little kids.

There are a lot of:

  • IMG_1497
    Joey quickly mastered the vending machines

    Vending machines. Selling everything from hot coffee to soda to ice cream to toys to full meals. This is often useful (quick drink or snack anyone?), although our toddler quickly learned to recognize the ice cream machines and requested that we stop at them often.

  • Trains. Travel by train or subway is challenging with small children since there is a lot of rushing through crowded, busy, stations and there isn’t always a lot of room to sit or play on the train. For infants, a baby carrier is 100% the way to go. For toddlers (Joey was 2.5 years) it is trickier. We used a light front to back double stroller (Kinderwagon Dual Hop), which was about the biggest stroller one could manage on public transit in Japan. In retrospect I’d recommend a light single (you will have to push through crowds and lift it over the step/gap when boarding and disembarking) or another baby carrier. This was one of our biggest challenges.

    IMG_1419
    Shinjuku station rush hour
  • Huge, amazing, playgrounds. Even in the shopping mall on the roof. For a country with relatively few children (the current average birth rate is 1.2), Japan has extraordinary playgrounds. We made a point to stop every time we saw one, and often had it nearly to ourselves. No waiting for the zip line or complaints when the grown-ups joined in the fun!
Japan 1 simon iphone263
One of Joey’s favorite playgrounds in Japan
  • Rules. The Japanese have solved the problem of high population density with several rules (walk on the path to the left, queue for the train, etc). Everyone was very polite to us despite our often lack of understanding.
  • Outdoor public baths (when you get out of Tokyo). Onsen require some guts and cultural awareness to get onboard with the naked communal bathing, but they are actually amazing for toddlers. Joey loved playing in the wash room where showers/water could be put anywhere, and in the cooler parts of the naturally heated outdoor pools. One place we stayed had a private bath, which allowed our whole family to enjoy an outdoor pool together. Toys were provided for the children and the temperature was perfect for both of them (about 96 F).

There are not many:

  • Public rubbish bins. No one litters (see above re: rules). The intention is that you take your trash home with you. This is a great idea, but potentially hard to comply with given the number of pre-packaged items (especially from vending machines!) Thankfully we carry around plastic grocery bags with the kids anyway so it wasn’t too challenging to collect rubbish and store it in the stroller basket.
  • Dirty things. I am a germ-a-phobe about public transit, but everything was remarkable clean from the sidewalks to the trains to the stores.
  • Changing tables in mens or ladies restrooms. Japan’s solution is much better in my opinion – there is a third choice at any public restroom area called a ‘multipurpose’ or handicap restroom. The room is open to men and women and includes a changing table as well as handicap access and a regular toilet. Some also have a little plastic seat on a stand to contain your kid while you pee (best for children 6-18 months. Blake was too small and Joey was really too big).
  • Spacious restaurants. Most dine-in establishments are tiny, seating less than 30 people at a time or standing room only. This is sub-optimal for the kids as well. We searched for cafes with outdoor seating, and places selling take out (check out the department stores in Tokyo) near parks.
  • Places to sit. In part because most living spaces and restaurants are small, there is a distinct lack of sofas, cushy recliners, gliders, etc both in homes and public spaces. This isn’t a big problem unless you have an infant the needs to be fed frequently. In that case, work on your core strength ahead of time and be prepared to get creative.
  • Loud people. In fact, people walking down the street during business hours are so quiet that I almost felt rude talking. Joey attracted a great deal of (positive) attention between enthusiastically pointing out various items and being dressed in bright clothing. Again, the reception from the Japanese was very positive, but our family definitely stood out!

Japan has nearly all of the same features as the US, but the details are different. Some preparation will definitely help, especially for train and subway travel! I can’t say enough about the benefit of our baby carriers for this trip.

Packing for 4

I’m going around the world, and I’m bringing a… toddler. And his stuff. And his baby brother. and his stuff. Not to mention their caregivers (me and Simon).

We are on our way to Japan to visit friends and relatives. This is our first overseas trip with both kids, and packing for everyone was a mental exercise that could give the Sunday crossword puzzle a run for its money. Space actually isn’t an issue. Since Joey is now 2 and has to pay for his own seat (thanks, frequent flier miles!) he gets two checked bags. Blake also gets one as a lap infant on an international flight, in addition to a stroller and car seat. So in theory we could check seven 50 lb bags, two strollers, two car seats, and bring four large carry-on items.

Do you see the problem? We learned during our fieldwork adventures in Hawaii exactly what it means to travel with an absurd amount of stuff, and we do not wish to take that on with kids. So the trick is actually to make everything we need fit in the least number of bags possible, and keep each of those bags at or under 50 lbs.

This is what we are bringing:

Each kid gets one large checked bag. Simon & I are splitting the third, which is one of our American wheeled carry-ons. All of our camera gear and electronics will be carried-on in the camera backpack. Joey gets to choose his own toys and books for his backpack. Remaining diapers, clothes, wipes, snacks, changing pad, and anything else we need in -flight will be in the diaper bag backpack.

What are we bringing for the kids? Their bags are each being packed based on experience with Joey and our plans/background research about what we will experience in Japan.

For Joey (2.5 years):

  • Blanket
  • Clothing – 4 warm weather outfits, 4 cool weather outfits
  • Fleece jacket & raincoat
  • Diaper covers, cloth diaper inserts, and compostable inserts
  • Toys & books of his choice (in his backpack)
  • New coloring books & activity books for the plane & train rides
  • iPad loaded with games and movies for the plane & train rides
  • Snacks
  • Basic meds, thermometer, snot-sucker (for both boys)
  • Baby soap, lotion, toothpaste
  • Ergo baby carrier

    IMG_3057.JPG
    Blake got an extra insert for support in the stroller

For Blake (3 months):

  • Travel bassinet (he just still fits in it!)
  • Travel bouncer/baby lounge chair
  • Blankets – heavy, light, swaddles
  • Clothing – 5 warm weather outfits, 5 cool weather outfits
  • Fleece jacket, warm hat, sun hat
  • Diaper covers, cloth diaper inserts, and compostable inserts
  • One toy
  • Feeding gear
  • Another Ergo baby carrier

We made it to Chicago and are waiting for our long haul flight to Tokyo. Thirteen hours of close quarters await. The iPad is loaded with movies and games. After doing his homework, Blake has secured one of the coveted Boeing 787 long-haul infant bassinets and in the same breath obtained premium economy seating for his whole family! – we will let you know if that actually materializes. The American Airlines Admirals Club lounge at ORD actually has a family room for kids and we got to have breakfast at Starbucks, so everyone is happy despite the 5am wake-up call.

 

IMG_0605
Simon practices dual baby-wearing. Both baby carriers are with us!

 

 

Babies & Science Meetings

Blake crossed off two big firsts last month – his first flights and his first scientific conference. He has many more of both ahead of him, so I’m glad to report that everything went well.

Joey stayed home with his grandparents while Simon, Blake, and I flew to New Orleans, Louisiana for the AGU Ocean Sciences Meeting (OSM). We were quickly reminded of how easy it is to fly with an infant compared to a toddler!

We were thrilled to see lots of kids running around OSM, from tiny to school age. AGU kindly provides onsite daycare at a reasonable cost, with no obligation (parents can drop kids off when needed and pay by the hour). The meeting is divided into talks during the day, mixed with town hall meetings and big plenary talks, followed by poster sessions in the evening. The poster sessions are prime kid territory – there are food and drinks available, its already loud, and the posters are in a huge open space! Blake is too little to run around, but he was a great mascot at our poster.

IMG_5419
Blake helps attract interested scientists to our poster detailing some cool results from our family fieldwork in Hawaii 2012.

At just over two months old, Blake was perfectly travel sized and spent most of his time engaging in that newborn specialty – sleep. Since he isn’t yet on a very regular schedule and likes to be with us all of the time, it was pretty easy to haul him around the conference in a baby carrier. Both Simon & I were participating in the meeting, so we could trade off baby duty. Simon held Blake in the back of the room during my talk. Some may find that distracting, but I was really pleased to have them there for support! He was also a good sport about participating in all of the lunch and evening networking & socializing that goes hand-in-hand with most conferences. This was a particularly fun meeting for us as we had the chance to reconnect with many friends and colleagues from Scripps, including one of the greats – Walter Munk – who Blake was photographed with.

We’ve employed a variety of strategies at scientific conferences in the past – bring baby & caregiver, bring baby & extra parent, leave baby & 1 parent at home, leave baby (once toddler-sized) with grandparents… Unfortunately this situation doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all solution. But with some creative thinking, its definitely possible to pull it off. In our experience, it is rewarding and fun to bring kids along. When you are on break from the meeting you get a mini-family vacation in a cool new city, your old friends and colleagues get to meet your kid, and your baby is taking in the latest ocean science developments to prepare for kindergarten. That said, a baby older than about 6 months really requires a dedicated caregiver in our experience.

The adventures of Joey & Blake will kick into high gear in April – stay tuned!

The View From Three Weeks

Blake is here! He was born on December 18, 2015 without complications and has happily ensconced himself into our little family.

There are a few times from my life that I remember with a surprising clarity, as though I can replay the events in my head in slow motion with a high level of detail. Many of these were notable events, or times when I was forced to take things at a more relaxed pace. The days before both of my sons were born stand out, the day Simon & I got engaged, the first time Simon & I hiked to Cape Brett together… there are many more. But I can already tell that the first few weeks with Blake will be one of these times.

Many things are different with a second child. The two biggest are that you kind of know what to do with a newborn, and that you are also dealing with an older kid. I am usually of the stubborn mindset that I will do everything myself, but something in the back of my head told me to just ask for help during this time. We said yes to almost everything that was offered – my parents came to care for Joey and stay with us for the first week; the neighbors generously arranged a delicious meal train for the second and third weeks; friends offered to take Joey for playdates. Simon & I both promised that we would do no work for the first two weeks after Blake was born. This was greatly facilitated by his arrival a week before Christmas – plenty of other people were on holiday too.

Of course we are both very tired, since newborns eat all of the time and ours don’t seem to understand the concept of night time. But aside from that, things have been so peaceful. I’m sure it will be harder as we incorporate more and more work time, but for now we are very much enjoying this slowed down pace. Each little event feels like a big deal – going out to dinner, visiting the air & space museum, sprinting out for a movie date while both boys are napping under the watchful eyes of their grandparents – this will always be a special time in my memories. Blake & I go for walks each morning and have found new trails in parks near our neighborhood, which we love. Simon & I aren’t usually willing to dial back our pace this much (or stay around home this much!) and it has been a really enjoyable stay-at-home-vacation.

Blake and Joey both adore each other. Blake always looks towards Joey when he talks and is calm in his presence. Joey brings Blake toys and blankets, and like to hold him, pet him, and hug him. Although much louder than his brother, Blake is also a chill baby (something we are extremely grateful for!) He seems even more easy going & like he sleeps better than Joey did, but it could just be that we have a better handle on newborn care this time around.

I’m Not Ready

For the past few weeks, “are you ready” is my most often received question. My answer is a shaky to unequivocal no.

The room is ready. The crib is assembled, clean sheets and blankets are laid out. The newborn and 3-month size clothes are washed and folded in drawers, which have been meticulously labeled. The newborn nappies are freshly cleaned and ready to go. The car seat is ready. The house is (mostly) clean. The freezer has lasagnas in it. We’ve ticked off most of the boxes on the internet’s maelstrom of “things to do before baby” lists. My nesting urge has been strong, and I have indulged it.

But I’m not ready.

Partly because there is always more I could do – a little more cleaning, one more frozen meal, a little more work before I hand over my projects.

But mostly because a new baby means a huge change. And this time we know that.

With our first, we were so very excited and enthusiastic, but naively so. We knew that babies woke up every couple of hours to eat. We knew that babies couldn’t be left alone and had to come everywhere with us. I knew that it would take awhile to look and feel like myself again after he was born. We even knew that our life would change.

But we didn’t really know what that meant. This time we do.

Not only will me and Simon’s lives be turned upside down, but Joey’s will too. Our sweet & mischievous two-year-old is so excited to meet his baby sibling. He is looking forward to a friend and playmate. He really doesn’t know what it means to have the baby around all the time, that newborns can be kind of boring when it comes to play, and that they are also very needy. His life with regular sleep patterns, helpful skills, and a decent degree of communication that Simon & I have become used to is about to change dramatically. Joey’s ability to command both of his parents’ attention on a whim is about to be greatly diminished. How will he fare with this?

I know that at first it will be (very) hard. But I also know that amongst his other attributes, our two year old is very adaptable.

We always wanted to have two children so that they could grow up together, have a playmate and confidant when we take them to the far reaches of the earth, someone to race down the trail with when they are old enough to carry their own backpacks.

I hope that one day Joey will ask me what he did all day when it was just him – was he bored? Wasn’t he lonely?

No one told me about this part, but it hit me like a sack of bricks soon after we learned we were pregnant again, and the weight has only gotten heavier. People are often surprised that I’m not worried about labor, and not eager to be done being pregnant.

I just want a few more days of being mom to an only child. A few more hours of one-on-one time with him with no other babies on my mind. A few more minutes of keeping his life the same. I want to savor every second of our old life.

So that when our big change arrives, I’ll be ready to accept it with open arms. I’ll know that we made the most of every day we had flying solo with Joey, and embrace the opportunity to introduce him to his new best friend.

IMG_9069
Joey & I stay out past sunset to play in the sand a little more.

 

Don’t Forget to Think Like a Child

IMG_2034Joey absolutely loves wandering around outdoors now. “Outside! Outside Mama!” is my most oft heard request. We always try to fulfill it even in cold, rain, or snow. However, I have to admit that spring weather makes it a lot easier! We found a little park a block away from us with a series of wide trails through the woods. Joey can roam freely up and down the trails to his great delight, carefully navigating over tree roots and collecting rocks. We listen to birds and keep an eye out for squirrels. It’s just a small park in a suburban area, but we’ll take it.

Today, I took him through the park to get a bagel at the grocery store (another favorite activity of Joey’s). On the way home there is more uphill than down, and he started lagging. I stopped with him for a drink and snack, and taught him to play hide and seek behind a large tree. He quickly assumed the role of hiding (“Bye!”) and popping out (“Peek!”) with great enthusiasm, consumed with giggles. After several iterations, he disappeared behind the tree and fell silent. I couldn’t see him (I knew he was close behind the tree – I would have seen and heard him if he left). Curious, I approached the tree.

IMG_2041IMG_2038

Joey was standing inches away from the bark pointing to something. As I came closer, he smiled and said “baby bugs.” I looked too and saw a line of little black beetles climbing up the tree, traveling along the channels in the bark. Joey was absolutely fascinated. He was not touching or harassing the beetles, just watching them. “Beetles” I taught him, and he repeated it promptly. We knelt down and crawled along the leafy ground to follow the line of beetles across the trail and downhill into the woods. I lifted him up to watch them reach higher extents on the tree. Joey calmly watched the beetles for 18 minutes, completely captivated.

Earlier, we spent half an hour at the creek where Joey experimented with dropping in leaves, sticks, and rocks to see what would float downstream
Earlier, we spent half an hour at the creek where Joey experimented with dropping in leaves, sticks, and rocks to see what would float downstream

He would have stayed longer, but it was nearing lunch time and I urged him to continue home. He stopped at each subsequent tree to check for beetles, even those in our yard. When we got home, Joey collected both of his books featuring bugs and asked where the beetles were in the books. He is so very curious about the little bugs climbing up the tree bark. I looked up beetles on the computer with him so he could see more pictures and identify their eyes and wings.

My job is to be curious, explore, and learn more about the world. Even for me, it was a remarkable reminder to watch a small child discover something new today. We are all curious – we just become too busy to remember it, sometimes.

So once in awhile, stop and think like a child. Look for something you haven’t seen before in a place you visit often. Wonder why it is there and what it is doing. If you need help, just follow the nearest toddler around for half an hour.


Backcountry.com 20% Off Coupon

Joey is wearing a North Face Reversible Wind Jacket in 24M size, which is perfect for early spring weather in Virginia.