Monthly Archives: September 2011

I Can Do Hard Things


There’s a whole list of life lessons that we as parents want to help our kids learn, and it seems that every parent prioritizes this list differently.

The lesson I tend to focus on the most is I can do hard things.  I think this stems from the fact that Ari’s first reaction to any task set before him is that he “can’t do it”.  This concerns me.  Life is full of hard things.  Making decisions, learning a new skill, standing up for what you believe, passing a test, etc.  Life requires a certain amount of perseverance to survive, and an even bigger amount if you want to actually succeed.  I want Ari to know he has it in him.

For this reason I’m constantly pointing out to Ari when he does something that he was convinced he couldn’t do.  Fold his own laundry, draw a picture of a train, learn to read, jump off a rock, check the mail by himself, ride a bike, and hike to the top of a volcano.

Yes, a volcano. (more…)

Use #3 for a stick: Catch a lizard

Miniature dinosaurs.  Adorable, and common.  Ever wanted to see one up close?  Feel its little heartbeat, stroke its leathery sides?  I am here to help you achieve this life long dream.

You may not know this, but lizard experts the world over use sticks and dental floss to catch lizards.  Very high tech stuff.  Today I’m going to share with you their technique.  I’m sure it is a highly guarded secret, and if you don’t hear from me by Monday, know that a branch of the C.I.A. has likely locked me away somewhere for divulging this information.

What you’ll need: (more…)

Become Super Mom, if just for an hour…

I recall the exact moment I decided I needed reap the benefits of regular exercise. Isaac (my second child) was 8 months old. I was out on a hike, just me, my dog and a head full of thoughts. I was consumed by the idea of figuring out a way to regain control of my life. Being a Mom to multiple children (okay, two) was kicking my butt, I felt like the kid count had gone from 1 to 10. I was pretty overwhelmed.

Then all the sudden, right there on the trail, it hit me. I called Olivia immediately. I recall my exact words: “Olivia! I just decided what I want to be when I grow-up, I want to be the Mom who get’s up every morning and exercises before my kids are awake.” Of course Olivia kindly reminded me that, with an eight month old, my kids were awake at 8 pm, 11 pm, 2 am, 5 am, 6 am, and 8 am.

Normal sleep schedule Schmormal sleep schedule, I had something to look forward to.

It was a slow process. Eight months to be exact. No matter how much I wanted to get up early and exercise, actually doing it was a whole new ball game. Why it is so hard to do something you want to do, something that makes you feel so good is beyond me.

I can’t exactly say I get up “before” my kids all the time, (hard to beat kids who are up by 6am) but ever since January 8th 2011 I’ve gotten out for exercise at least 4-5 days a week, and usually early in the morning. Depending on the day, I hike up the hill behind my house (photo at top, mouse over for caption), speed walk with weights (just like my Mom did in the 90’s), mountain bike, or paddle around at the kayak park. Everything is no further than 10 minutes from my house. I know. I lucked out.

I’ve always been an active person. I’ve always hiked or biked at least once a week, but never consistently and never as much as I should have. I can’t believe I’ve lived my life thus far without regular exercise. I know I’m going to sound like an infomercial here, but it seriously changed my life for the better. How? I’ll tell you–and let me point out before I start, this is my personal experience–not what I read in Good Housekeeping, not what my doctor told me.  This is really what exercise does for me. (more…)

Song of the Water Boatman

Listen for me on a spring night,
on a wet night;
on a rainy night.
Listen for me on a still night,
for in the night I sing.

That is when my heart thaws,
my skin thaws,
my hunger thaws.
That is when the world thaws,
and the air begins to ring…

-Listen for Me (excerpt)


Okay, so many many many kids’ books are poetry, but how many of them are poetry that both you and your kid can enjoy?  (Sorry Dr. Seuss, I love ya’, but green eggs and ham?  You’re killing me slowly, painfully, to the gentle cadence of Sam I Am.) (more…)

And the winner is….

Does this sound familiar to anyone?

I had my sister’s old bike with a sparkly yellow banana seat and streamers on the handlebars. I miss that bike. My dad taught me, and I still remember how great it felt to finally ride without the training wheels.

Like maybe… Stephanie!?! Congratulations Stephanie, the balance bike is all yours! I’ll be emailing you shortly, you’ll have 24 hours to respond.

Many many thanks again to Outdoor Daily Deals for sponsoring the giveaway. And thanks to everyone who took the time to enter. I wish I was Oprah and could give you all a balance bike…and a sportsmobile… This giveaway has reminded me why I don’t watch sports. It’s too hard on me when everyone can’t be a winner. Not that your not all winners… it’s just… you know what I mean. You know you can always make your own slightly less cool version of a balance bike, right?

I thoroughly enjoyed reading everyones comments. Learning to ride a bike sounds like it was a major milestone (albeit at times traumatic) for many of you, thank you so much for sharing your stories.

Unfortunately I don’t remember anything about the day I learned to ride a bike. But I’ll never forget the day my son learned; I screamed so loud in my excitement I nearly sent him flying off the sidewalk in a panic. I was so proud, emotional containment was apparently just not an option.

Oh, and did I mention I was going to turn your answers into an informal not very scientific study? I did. Actually pretty interesting… Click to enlarge.

Note: The winner was chosen using the number generator at

How do you “structure” unstructured play?

If you haven’t noticed, unstructured play is pretty en vogue these days.  Articles touting its importance, experts saying kids need more, that it’s becoming a lost art form, that without it your child may become a criminal—articles leaving you awake at night wondering a) what the heck unstructured play is and b) if you’re a terrible person because you haven’t scheduled it in to tomorrow’s agenda.  Ugh.

Never fear.  Unstructured play is just a new phrase for something very old.  Something that animals do, and that kids naturally tend towards in every activity.  For example, remember when they were two, and could be entertained with an empty Kleenex box and a gum wrapper?  When they used shoes as telephones?  Remember the last time you set them down to chutes and ladders and came back to find them using the board, upside down, as a slide and the pieces as a marching band?  That, my friends, is unstructured play—activities that are steeped in imagination and creation; activities that downplay agendas and end-goals.  Unstructured play is when no one is looking towards the finish line.  It is the zen-moment of free time.  And what’s more, all it requires are the natural gift every child has:  an imagination.

Why is unstructured play so great? Because it promotes exploration, creativity and independent thinking.  What’s more, it gives you, the over-burdened parent, a little break.  Leave them be and let them figure out what to do with a half an hour.

Easy. Right? Ummm… no.  At least not for me and my brood.  There are so many other factors that go in to getting a child to conjure up an interesting and attention-capturing activity all by themselves.  Assuming that I’m not the only one with issues in this realm, I hereby dedicate the rest of this post to how to achieve those unstructured moments.

How do you de-structure your kids playtime?  You fight the urge to entertain.  You turn off the t.v., the playstation, the wii, and the ipod.  You leave them with materials and let them create their own fun.  They’ll be bored to start with, but out of desperation, they’ll figure it out–this is especially true if you’ve got several children of the right age–they’ll feed off each other.

Here are, in my experience, the most common obstacles for children left to their own devices, and the methods that I have dreamed up for dealing with them.  I very much look forward to hearing from readers who have also tried to incorporate undirected playtime into their child’s daily routine! (more…)

Let’s GIVEAWAY! a Balance Bike

**GIVEAWAY CLOSED! Winner will be announced Friday, September 15.**

If your fairly new to the site you may have missed a post I did way back in January called “The Power of the Balance Bike“. It’s such a fine product, I’m pleased and honored to be giving away a strider for our first ever Outsidemom giveaway!

I would love to take all the credit for this, but the giveaway is sponsored by Outdoor Daily Deals, it’s entirely their fault you have a chance to win this bike. They’re a facebook page that posts one outdoor item every day that you can purchase for 25-50% off. Emphasis on the ONE ITEM a day. They don’t drive you crazy by spamming your facebook feed with “deals”. They’ve been awesome to work with, and I highly recommend the “like“.

How do you enter my Outsidemom giveaway? All you have to do is leave a comment on the blog. Tell me how old you were when you learned to ride a bike, who taught you,  and whether the experience involved a banana seat.

And, of course, we would love it if you shared this opportunity with friends, but we completely understand if you don’t because it lowers your chances. You can always make it up to us by sharing something with them later (wink wink).

The winner will be announced Friday September 16th here on this very blog. Other rules below, check ’em out before entering. Good luck! (more…)

Encouraging the young naturalist: make your own plant press

So, you’ve got a little Asa Gray on your hands… a kid who stops to smell the roses, and the dandelions, the geraniums, and the four’o’clocks.  She picks bouquets of flowers just to collect them, and is disappointed when they wilt in her sweaty palm before she’s even back to the car.

Please tell your child that Auntie Olivia understands her pain.  She too was once a wee one with a passion for flowers.  I was nine when I made my first plant press, collecting every weed I happened upon and carefully preserving them in newspaper, smothered beneath stacks of books.  “I’m documenting“, I’d say to explain away quizzical stares and barely hidden snickers.  Lewis and Clark were my  heroes, and I toyed with ‘sketching’ the natural world around me, so that posterity could someday look back and appreciate the new species I had found in my backyard.  Perhaps they would name it after me, I fantasized.

After years of experimenting with presses and ways to store away the beautiful flowers around me, I was introduced to a lovely and simple way to make a tiny plant-press by my good friend Harold (who’s beautiful wife had twins just last Monday!  Congratulations  you two!!!).  Your little botanist is in luck: today I’m sharing Harold’s simple plant press with you!

What you’ll need: (more…)

The 5th Date: Getting Outside with your Spouse.

Joe and I have outdoor recreational hobbies that often don’t work very well with kids; hobbies we’re not really interested in giving up. Yes, it is easy, important, and wonderful to share your hobbies with your kids. But let’s be honest. Biking down a dirt road with a double-wide trailer is just not the same as flying down a single track, especially with your better half eating your dust. (more…)

Mom, are we predators?

The other day we were sitting at Lake Tahoe looking at some crawdads.  We’d just caught them and they were scuttling around the bottom of our bucket.

Who would have thought a question about pincers could lead to a discussion on where meat comes from?

I think it’s important for kids to know that they’re part of the food chain. That they’re predators too. Just like a fish dies every time we feed our diving beetle, a chicken dies every time we eat nuggets… well, I think they’re from chickens…

Ari: Mom, why do crawdads and crabs have pincers?
Me: It’s their special adaptation for catching food.
Ari: But why don’t all animals have pincers?
Me: Not all animals need pinchers. Every animal has their own special adaptation for catching their prey.
Ari: You mean all predators have adaptations for catching their prey.
Me: Right. Minor technicality.
Ari: What does minor technicality mean?
Me: Never mind.
Ari. (Thinks for awhile)

Ari: Mom. Are we predators? (more…)


    I'm Lindsey. I'm an environmental educator, my husband's a biologist. The outdoors is infused into everything we do; which explains why I'm better at mud pies than home decorating. More About Me

    I don't blog alone! Meet outsidemom contributer Olivia