Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Starr Ranch

Last week we headed to Starr Ranch for a field ecology program on Reptiles and Amphibians and a Nature Hike. We've been there in the past for their Song Bird monitoring program and it's really one of my favorite places in OC.

Tucked away in an unnoticeable corner of Dove Canyon, Starr Ranch is owned by the Audubon Society and there is a lot of research that goes on there. You can only visit by appointment but they do take small groups of families and are 'homeschool friendly' - accommodating curious Mothers, younger siblings, infants, etc.

This is the fun road to Starr Ranch

Here's Scott, the 'herp' guy (or herpetologist) talking to our group. If you know me, you know how I feel about Rangers and Educators and the way they talk to our kids, and I can emphatically recommend Scott. He is PASSIONATE about reptiles and amphibians, particularly snakes, and he is all about getting in touch with real things - a total fit for our CMers.

Here's a picture of a Herp Array, or a trap. Basically, it's a series of panels or walls that direct the animals towards a trap.

Here's the real thing

Here's Scott looking in a funnel trap - almost the same setup as the crawdad trap we borrowed once.

Here's a pitfall trap - basically a bucket in the ground that the animal falls into.

Unfortunately, there were no snakes, it was too cold a day for them to be out. But there was a fence lizard in one of the traps and here's a harvestman.


They're really cute!

I forgot the name of this caterpillar, but it was crawling along the herp array.

After the first session, we had our lunch outdoors back at the picnic tables then went for a rigorous (for me and my belly anyway) hike up the hill.

Here's a wooden post covered with Acorn Woodpecker holes filled with Acorns.

I. love. open. space. !!! It feels so incredibly amazing.

Yucca, or Our Lord's Candle

Here's a close up of prickly pear cactus - can you see the white scale bug on there?

Well she took it (what a neat shirt by the way)

And smushed it and look at that color! It's called cochineal and the scale bugs are used for its dye. Isn't that interesting? I never knew, nor had I ever noticed the white scale bugs on prickly pear. Imagine what else we fail to notice right before our eyes.

And last but not least, we saw several mule deer - what a treat!

You can enjoy some of Starr Ranch too by viewing their live Barn Owl Cam. Hope you can visit, it really is worth the effort!

Pittypat and Tippytoe

Kristine framed this poem for me for my baby shower last night.
It was one of our favorite poems from YR2, one of those things that just warms a Mother's heart.


Pittypat and Tippytoe
by Eugene Field

All day long they come and go
Pittypat and Tippytoe;
Footprints up and down the hall,
Playthings scattered on the floor,
Finger-marks along the wall,
Tell-tale smudges on the door
By these presents you shall know
Pittypat and Tippytoe.

How they riot at their play! I
And a dozen times a day
In they troop, demanding bread
Only buttered bread will do,
And the butter must be spread
Inches thick with sugar too!
And I never can say "No,
Pittypat and Tippytoe!"

Sometimes there are griefs to soothe,
Sometimes ruffled brows to smooth;
For (I much regret to say)
Tippytoe and Pittypat
Sometimes interrupt their play
With an internecine spat;
Fie, for shame! to quarrel so -
Pittypat and Tippytoel

Oh the thousand worrying things
Every day recurrent brings!
Hands to scrub and hair to brush,
Search for playthings gone amiss,
Many a wee complaint to hush,
Many a little bump to kiss;
Life seems one vain, fleeting show
To Pittypat and Tippytoe!

And when day is at an end,
There are little duds to mend:
Little frocks are strangely torn,
Little shoes great holes reveal,
Little hose, but one day worn,
Rudely yawn at toe and heel!
Who but you could work such woe,
Pittypat and Tippytoel

On the floor and down the hall,
Rudely smutched upon the wall,
There are proofs in every kind
Of the havoc they have wrought,
And upon my heart you'd find
Just such trade-marks, if you sought;
Oh, how glad I am 'tis so,
Pittypat and Tippytoe!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Child Training Revisited

Last night I spent some time browsing child training articles and was reminded of how good it is to revisit these things at various stages of training my kids.

One of the main issues I'm dealing with now is my 3 1/2 yo daughter who cries very loud and very intentionally when she is offended. She is very particular about things and is easily set off if her sock is slightly twisted causing a bump at the toe, if her jeans aren't tucked in to her boot just right, if her baby's blanket comes slightly untucked, if I give her the wrong spoon at dinner or if I move my hand the wrong way when she's holding it - you get the idea.

While I used to think only people who didn't train their children ended up with children like this, I have, and I did. The result of all my training efforts thus far are that she doesn't cry for hours or throw fits or yell in defiance or hit, she just cries for about a minute or two and then she moves on to pouting or playing, depending on the perceived offense, her level of tiredness and the situation.

Just today we were at the grocery store, I had a full list of things to pick up. #4 is due in one week so I'm hoping to pre-make some dinners and stock the freezer for my husband.

On the way in, I grab a full size shopping cart, my 7 yo asks if he can push one of those "customer in training" miniature carts around the store so I say yes, then my 3 1/2 yo follows suit and pulls out another miniature cart and follows along behind him. We now have a caravan.

I immediately assess the situation, because I just want to get done and get home, but I'm smelling the perfect storm brewing:
-she's going to be all over the place with that cart
-she's overtired because I kept her up late last night which means if I tell her to put the cart back, she's going to cry. longer. louder.
-I'm sick with a yucky head cold + 9 months pregnant = low tolerance

All things considered, I decide against conflict and ask my 9yo to keep an eye on my 3yo and help her maneuver the cart. This was a total cop out - shoving the responsibility off on my 9yo, but a reasonable one I thought considering all things.

We made it to the onions, the bell peppers, the celery - oops, she got distracted to wet her hands in the water spray and left the cart behind in the other isle. 'Go get your cart.' She does. So far so good.

Now for the meat dept. 'Let's go, quick, quick!'

Half way there, she stops.

'Come on Tat, let's go!'

No answer, just a sour look on her face and she's not moving. She wants to take her time, look at what she wants to look at, and play down each aisle at a leisurely pace, bumping into things, etc.

Unfortunately, today is not the day for it. We need to get the shopping done, dinner on the table, and she's part of that program whether she likes it or not, as am I and her siblings.

So I squat down to her eye level and lay down the line: "We have to finish our shopping, so you can either push the cart and keep up with Mommy or I will have your sister push it for you. Do you understand?"

No response.

"Do you understand?"

One lackluster nod in response.

Clearly, she's resisting. But maybe if I let it go, just maybe, she'll get with the program to avoid the conflict.

Who am I kidding? Did I mention she was overtired?

She slowly flops one foot forward and then another at a snail's pace, all the while looking at me with a full pout on her face.

Some people would consider that obedience, but I assure you, it isn't. It's an attempt to move the line I drew to maintain her control. But where I drew the line was clear, she either keeps up with me or she loses the cart.
So I can either keep my word, or I've trained her that she is in control. *This* is the moment of truth - either I mean what I say, or I don't - and this is a hill I'm willing to die on...

because I know the alternative is this little person making my life, and my husband's life, and her siblings' lives completely miserable. I have seen it many a time in the homes of friends and let me tell you, it's an ugly thing.

So I do the unthinkable... I take the cart away.

Her wail breaks forth and travels far and wide from aisle to aisle, heads turn, I become painfully self conscious...

but what does it matter what anyone else thinks? Sure they see my bawling child, my embarrassed face, my big belly blaring 'yes, I'm doing this again!'

What matters is that this child, right here, the one that God has entrusted to us, learns right now that the world will not bend to her selfish demands. If she doesn't learn it within the loving care of our family today, then someday she will learn it, the hard way, in the big harsh world out there.

And just think of all the people who will thank me later - teachers, employers, co-workers, her friends, certainly her husband, her own children... the list goes on. And if I don't set the standard with her, what can I hope to expect from the one still in my womb?

So I take her hand, walk her wailing through the store to the restroom, spank her bottom 3 times and calmly tell her to stop her crying. It takes her a minute or two and she stops - the pout is gone, the look on her face is resigned now.

I tell her "There is no crying to get what you want. We are going to finish our shopping and if you cry and fuss again, we'll come right back for another spanking. Do you understand?"

She nods yes and cuddles up to me.

We walk out and she doesn't cross that line again... not today.

Will she cross it again? Test to make sure it's still there? You betcha. Will I answer in kind. So help me God.

When we get home, she helps me put the groceries away and cook dinner. I give her lots of cuddles and spend time with her and she is cheerful and obedient.

Am I a perfect parent? Hardly. Did I do the right thing? For my child, our situation, I believe so, yes. Is it the right thing for everyone? Only you as the parent can decide that.

One thing I can say is that our home is relatively peaceful with three young children in it. And as a homeschooler with a newborn on the way and a husband who works from home, let me tell you, it matters.

It matters that we can enjoy our children, that we can take them places with us, that we can accomplish life with them a part of it. And from what I can tell, training is at the root of it all.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

We headed out to the San Juan Loop Trail in the Cleveland National Forest today after reading in Orange County, A Day Hiker's Guide that it is one of the best wildflower viewing trails in the county. It's still early in the season, but with a baby due soon, I'm taking in all that I can of Spring while this little person is still quietly contained!

The trail is located 20 miles East of the 5 Fwy on Ortega Highway (74), a winding mountain road which runs from San Juan Capistrano to Lake Elsinore, bisecting the Santa Ana Mountains and connecting Orange and Riverside Counties.

We learned that the parking lot was right across from the famous Ortega Hwy Candy Store where you can purchase a Daily National Forest Adventure Pass for $5. But don't get your hopes up too much about the store, when we got there it looked more like a scantly stocked convenience store, lacking the charm you might imagine in an out of the way candy store.

It was a cool, beautiful day, and while it's still very early in the season, there were plenty of flowers and sights to see along the trail (and a bit off it).

Some kind of Sumac - maybe sugar sumac?


popcorn flower

My husband was able to hike down to the pool at the bottom of this waterfall with my 2 older kids. I stayed behind explaining its difficulty to a very teary eyed 3 year old.

Monkey flower


Chaparral nightshade

California Goldfields

I have no idea what these are - some kind of fungi or lichen. Odd and interesting!

Baby blue eyes

Blue dicks

Not sure what this is

More interesting fungi

Poison Oak

And its natural remedy - Mugwort

And last but not least, our little naturalist, conversationalist soon to be big sister :)

Be Still, and know that I am God

Psalm 46

God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

Come, behold the works of the Lord,
how he has brought desolations on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Sensory Stimulating Play

I found this article today on a commercial playground manufacturer's website:

New study says playgrounds should stimulate children's imagination

A five-year study in Vancouver, Canada, recently found that children may benefit from playgrounds that feature areas for free and sensory-stimulating play, The Vancouver Sun reports.

"We found that outdoor play spaces that contain materials that children could manipulate - sand, water, mud, plants, pathways and other loose parts - offered more developmental and play opportunities than spaces without these elements," Susan Herrington, a professor in the University of British Columbia's School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, who led the study, told the news source.

Sensory playgrounds enable children to interact with a variety of materials, such as sand and water, while nature-inspired equipment allows youngsters to experience natural settings in a safe and controlled environment. Parents can speak to town representatives about installing similar play areas in their own neighborhood.

I couldn't help but think that reading a little of Mason's writings could have spared them five years!

Our nature day last week was spent under one big oak tree. We were there for hours and, I'm no expert, but I'm pretty certain even without a five year study that our children will benefit from the free and sensory-stimulating play they had there.

And thanks to the many opportunities they've had out in nature under our guidance, they are learning to determine for themselves what is 'safe and controlled', rather than it always being ensured for them in a manufactured environment.


by Joyce Kilmer

I think that I shall never see
A poem as lovely as a tree,
A tree whose hungry mouth is pressed
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast
A tree that looks at God all day
and lifts her leafy arms to pray.
A tree that may, in summer, wear
A nest of robins in her hair
Upon whose bosom snow has lain
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.