Category Archives: Raising Alex and Jen

Belated

I’m back. In case you don’t recognise me, it’s Angelika 😉 .

It has been almost a full year since I have written anything for Playground Hunt. And it has been a year of huge change in my life. Briefly, and without complaining, I got sick last April and spent a week in hospital with kidney issues. I spent the rest of spring on the sofa and in bed recovering, while many of our friends helped looked after Alex and Jen.

I spent most of the summer taking it veeeeery slowly, but taking Alex and Jen to as many fun activities as I could. Luckily my children like playing with each other and they are both now at an age where I don’t need to hold their hands everywhere. I could take them to the playground and sit on a bench, and to the lake and watch them potter around the water edge from our blanket. I did have baby sitters come and help, but at least I could spend time watching my children enjoy themselves and sleep when I needed it.

We did go camping a few times. I posted pictures of these trips on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/PlaygroundHunt), but we went to the yurts on Peddocks Island again (this time with Lindsay and her girls), to Searsport Shores Ocean Campground in Maine where I somehow also spent a week showing campers how to make paints, giant bubbles, playdoughs, bouncy balls, etc. as a follow-on from the Recipes for Disaster Kickstarter *, and to Pawtuckaway Campground in New Hampshire.

Fall and Winter seem to have gone by in a blur. Alex and Jen both enrolled in school because homeschooling became infeasible due to my health (it’s hard to teach when you have to spend so much time resting). It has been a time of reflection on how life will be now that some weeks I sleep 16 hours a day. It has been a time of learning how to parent and have a couple of chronic illnesses (suggestions welcome). I am trying to be at peace with enjoying the present, the calmer, and the smaller things.

One more thing before I go for now… I have joined the Friends of the Fells board in the hopes of getting an outdoor afterschool program started in the Fells. They did a superb summer camp forest Kindergarten last year, and this would hopefully be a natural extension. Check out their website and join the Babes in the Woods hikes – they are hugely popular!

* This project was almost funded when I ended in hospital and couldn’t promote it for the final two weeks to make it become a reality 🙁

Outside

I want Alex and Jen to WANT to go outside. I’ve taken them to hikes with Babes in the Woods (Friends of the Fells), classes at Mass Audubon Ipswich and at Drumlin Farm. I take them for walks, kayaking, and to plenty of playgrounds. Each has been fun and mostly rewarding, but depending on the day, each activity meets with some resistance: too cold; too hot; don’t feel like walking.  But then…

AlexBoatCamp

BoatCampLogoThen I enrolled Alex and Jen in Forest Kindergarten at Boat Camp Nature School. I have never seen my children so happy and at peace with the universe. When I pick them up after 3 hours in the forest, they are happy, calm, and dirty. And full of stories of pirate ships, and chipmunks, and poison ivy, and Ducky Debbie. The other teacher, Andrew, doesn’t seem to have a camp name yet.

The Forest Kindergarten is for children 4-6 years old and the entire three hour session is spent outdoors at a property they own with a diverse scenery. You sign up for the school-year, though they (weirdly) have a couple of spots left in Forest Kindergarten.

Outdoor classrooms naturally create endless learning opportunities for our children to nurture their own curiosity, perhaps by following animal tracks and sign, making wild crafts with leaves and treasures found on the forest floor, or using fallen logs as balance beams. Adult mentors assist in the learning, rather than lead the teachings. This is different from a “nature preschool,” which infuses lessons with nature-inspired themes and balances indoor time with outdoor time, as we will be outside the ENTIRE time in all but extreme weather conditions. Proper dress and an adventurous, curious spirit is essential… and we know that’s what kids do best!

Each day we’ll embrace the weather, the forest, and our friends with songs and greetings of thanks. Then we will embark on our time together with natural hands-on learning, storytelling, and exploring the world around us. This is a great opportunity for children to spend quality kid-time enjoying freedom outside and connecting with our natural world, their own self and each other.

The rather lovely people at Boat Camp don’t know I’m writing this post. But, since they do such a great job at providing the most wonderful outdoor experience for my 4 and 5 year olds, I thought they deserved a gigantic public thanks. Also, the several hundred followers of this blog seem to be fairly outdoorsy and might want to check out the classes and summer-camps they offer. 🙂

JenBoatCamp


I won’t re-hash all the arguments for why children should spend time outside. Many people write blogs and books on the topic.  If you think your child would like to spend some super quality time outside, check out Boat Camp Nature School. And if you are keen to find out more, grab a copy of Last Child in the Woods.

 

Tiles by Jen

Economics 101

This is a post about art, crafts, and teaching children about money.

Crafting

I discovered alcohol inks via Pinterest. Usually stuff I do from there doesn’t QUITE turn out how THEY made it look. (pffft). Anyway, I got some of the inks from Amazon (but was too cheap to spring for the spreading solution), and some tiles from the hardware store.

Google promised that if I used rubbing alcohol it would work well with the inks. I cleaned the tiles with it, then dripped the inks on. Super pretty. Then Alex and Jen wanted to try.

Tiles by JenThey made a lot of tiles. I sealed them with spray sealer and put felt pads on the bottom. Then I needed some items for their school fundraising auction and the ones Jen made (“Look Mom, I made a picture of Elmo”) got snatched up. And everyone LOOOOOOOOVED them.

Economics

So on a whim I applied to the Wakefield Farmers Market to sell them. Oddly, we got accepted and set up a both there yesterday. This is a very well run, popular market with very good veggies, baked goods, and a couple of artists – well worth the visit!

Tiles for sale

Our tile display

Alex and Jen were very excited. We had agreed to sell their tiles so that they could earn money to buy Lego. It was very interesting watching them during the day: Alex spent the entire 4 hours yelling “Tiles for sale” and then telling potential customers he had made them, and how much they were per set ($10). We sold several sets, but not everyone bought one. I could see it start to sink in that he would have to WORK for the money. He neatened up the display, he put ribbons on, he put on the charm. HE LEARNED HOW TO SELL!

Alex selling

Alex behind our table selling tiles

For me this is very important. I have found that being able to sell is crucial. The same techniques are used for selling yourself during a job interview, for selling services or goods, for starting a business, for convincing people to work with you or for you.

We will be back at the Wakefield Farmers Market in a few weeks. Come by and see us. Alex will be sure to convince you to help him grow his Lego fund and have some beautiful artwork in your home. And that they make great gifts! 😉

Playground Hunt at the beach

Bucket List Summer 2013


I had a little panic attach a couple of days ago that there weren’t enough days in summer to do all the things I want to do. so here is my list of things I want to do with Alex and Jen this summer. Then I remembered that I should stop and smell the flowers, and the forest, and the ocean. So here is my initial list of thing I want to do this summer. Let me know if there is something we absolutely must do on Facebook.

Camping

use Reserve America http://www.reserveamerica.com/

Playground Hunt at the beachBeaches

The Department of Conservation and Recreation manages several swimming beaches. Freshwater lake beaches are listed here: http://www.mass.gov/dcr/recreate/inlandSwim.htm and their ocean beaches here: http://www.mass.gov/dcr/recreate/oceanSwim.htm. The ones I would like to get to this year are:

Playgrounds and Sprinkler Parks

Hiking

Summer Concerts

Fruit Picking

  • strawberries
  • blueberries
  • peaches

Kayaking

We randomly went kayaking on Spot Pond last year and both children, then 2 and 4, greatly enjoyed it and both want to do it again this summer. The blog post from last year is http://www.playgroundhunt.com/blog/kayaking-on-spot-pond/

Specials

I’ve even made a special map with just these locations:


View Summer 2013 Bucket List in a larger map

Please stay in touch, report any errors, let me know about must-see-places, and fun things to do on Facebook (it’s where I frequently post snippets and interact)

Back at it

So it has been a super long time since I wrote a blog post.

A number of things have changed for me recently: it’s become cold and I have been sick with some random kidney thing.What that has really meant is that in between the cold and chronic fatigue I have, we have been spending some time inside. Not much time at the playground.
We have also been thinking about home schooling. Turns out that with all the running around, checking out local museums, classes and at Mass Audubon, going to art classes, going to swim class, going to gym classes, going to library story time and crafts, and last but not least playing with a vast amount of Lego we acquired over Christmas, I am homeschooling.

Who would’ve thought it!!! Anyway some of my friends on Facebook have been getting excited about the stuff that we’ve been doing. It seems to makes sense to use the PlaygroundHunt blog to chronicle some of our adventures now.

So here is what Jen is doing RIGHT NOW: vinegar with food coloring, baking soda on a baking tray, combining the two with some transfer pipettes. This was a repeat request 🙂

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Big boy bikes

I’m sitting in the backyard watching Alex ride his Strider bike, which he wanted last year for potty training. It took him awhile to get used to that one, but now he is zooming around the backyard with out any problems.
Unfortunately he is almost too big for the Strider bike, so I’ve been looking for a replacement bike – one with real pedals. Unfortunately, most of the children’s bike are made out of wrought iron as far as I can tell.
I’m putting a call out to the community if anybody can tell me about a children’s bicycle that weighs less than 30lbs. His Strider bike only weighs 9 pounds and Alex can lift it in and out of the car himself and I think this hugely increases his enjoyment of the bike.

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No money for this blog

Might be time for a disclaimer about how I make ZERO money from this blog. I write to have a sporadic record of what Alex, Jen and I get up to. I write because I want to be part of a parenting community. And I write because occasionally I want to share our crafts. Though I admit that’s mostly for my family’s benefit, since we all live on different continents.

I HAVE put up links to Amazon.com and a couple of other affiliate programs. Those affiliate links bring in on average $20 a month, which I always donate to the Rebuilding Rounds project, or to a few random strangers who needed a Christmas miracle in 2010.  And I do admit that a couple of years ago a friend gave me $50 to place an advertisement. These links are there just in case someone cares to support (more emotionally than anything else) a woman raising kids and starting a few ventures from home. When I asked the Mass Audubon Society if they would renew my membership for free after I had written a bazillion posts on how great their programs were, they said they couldn’t afford it, but would I like one of their lapel pins.

So, really, no financial gain for me from this blog. Several hundred people visit the website and read my posts each month though, which is why I make all of it public.  I suppose that with some of my narcissistic leanings, I like it when my friends comment on the blog or on Facebook. It makes me feel connected and not quite so stuck-at-home-with-little-kids.

And I do get remarkably excited every time someone new “likes” the Playground Hunt Facebook page, or follows me on Pinterest. So, so sad 😉

That being said, if there is anyone out there who has a similar blog (and read this far), I would love to update my links list with the brightest and shiniest (alight, that should be dirt and glue-covered) websites out there.

Bouncy Eggs

It’s getting close to Easter and lots of Easter pins are popping up on Pinterest. I saw this one about “Naked Eggs” and had to try it with Jen and Alex. The pin links to this original post from Imagination Station and was as easy as they promised.

We put two eggs in white vinegar for a day. They started bubbling almost immediately as the acidic vinegar interacted with the calcium carbonate in the egg shell. Waiting was the hardest. But the next day the shells were gone and they were surprising strong to handle. They bounced.

 

First Mountain Bike Ride

Last summer, Alex finally after much pleading and lots of bribery decided to give up diapers. Nothing had worked – he preferred diapers over chocolate, stickers, toy cars,… BUT then he saw the bike: Strider PREbike Balance Running Bike in a magazine and instantly got on with potty training. Thirty days of choosing to wear underpants later, I ordered the bike, to discover that they had sold out in the entire country.

Oops.

Well, we went to all the local bike shops and tried out various helmets. That took up some of the waiting time. When it finally arrived, he was actually a bit scared by it. And it took a few weeks to really get him to be brave on it. In the last few weeks he has wanted to go over bumps and do little jumps 😀 (proud and terrified mama).

Then last week we ended up at Greenwood Park playground, which is exceedingly nicely situated directly across from the Stone Zoo with a big parking lot to access a corner of the Middlesex Fells. I used to walk my dogs there. We played at the playground for over an hour and then both Alex and Jen wanted to check out the forest. Alex took his bike. Jen walked and I stayed in the back and encouraged them to look for rocks and sticks, for a craft project I’ve had in my mind for about 33 years (ah childhood memories).

Well, we didn’t find the perfect rocks, or the perfect sticks, but we looked. And we saw. I thought it was the most brilliant outing ever, since it was the first time that both had actually paid attention to outside. I used to do a lot of hiking and climbing in New Zealand and always found it very peaceful to be outside. And I must admit, I’d been somewhat discouraged when Alex repeatedly declared in the past that he just wanted to stay home and play with cars and trucks.

But they both really liked it. Jen may have even burst out crying when I told her that we didn’t have enough snacks and water to last us all day. But we were out in the forest for almost an hour, and both really wanted to go back the next day with lots of snacks. 😀

Anyhow, here are some pictures of Alex’ first mountain bike ride, and Jen’s first big hike.

And incidentally, the playground has been cleaned up for spring and has new woodchips – woohoo!

Nature Craft Books I’m reading

A quick list of children’s craft books I am into at the moment. Alex, who turned 4 in Dec, is definitely able get something out of these. Jen still makes blobs a lot – though she surprised me by daintily painting just the wings, eyes, and feather tufts on an owl mask the other day. I’m looking forward to spring – can ya tell?