“Be Out There!” The best things in life ARE free!

I know this for a fact, because this weekend, our kids reminded us!

Saturday morning was spent sleeping-in (far too late), but after we got moving, we really GOT MOVING!  After long discussions about how we should spend the day, we decided to make the best of an unseasonable warm Ohio day (68 degrees!) and simply get outdoors.

bulb shovelWe went to our daughter’s school and ran around looking at all of the amazing wonders in her school’s Land Lab. This area in front of her school has a pond, decks, walking paths and large planter boxes that the families can adopt.  We cultivated our box and planted some bulbs (and will eagerly await their Spring arrival) and added a little metal sign that said “GROW”! (…somewhat of a double entendre for growing some of nature’s gifts as well as growing little minds!)

We came home and planted more bulbs in our own yard, raked leaves, the kids ran around playing every sport imaginable and jumped in (and sometimes destroyed) our perfectly raked piles.  Fortunately, living on a ravine, our leaves are simply raked down the hill so they can decompose and be recycled by nature.

The kids spent a half hour cracking open acorns to “make hors d’oeuvres” for the squirrels!  We even made ourselves S’mores over an outdoor fire and continued to run around and play, and enjoy the day long after darkness fell.  Everyone was in a fabulous mood.  And I don’t doubt for a second that it had everything to do with simply being outside and enjoying breathing the fresh air.leaf pile

I sometimes forget that a great day with my family doesn’t need to include museums or amusement parks, trips or expensive events or vacations.  Everything we need is outside our own backdoor or a short, local drive away… all found in nature, most often for free.

Kids today spend twice as much time indoors as we did (a very sad fact), so if you need ideas, reasons or simply more encouragement, check out NWFs “Be Out There” program and you’re sure to find something that clicks!

At the end of the night our daughter could hardly relax as she settled into bed.  She talked about how excited she was to see our flowers grow and proclaimed the day as “the best day ever”!

Thanks for the reminder, my little sweet pea!

Vacation, nature, and a bit of irony…

Yes, summer is dwindling… and as I spend small portions of days preparing to send our kids back to school I keep running across reminders of the vacation that was nodunes-kidst so long ago, but seems so long ago.

The drive took us through breathtaking views of West Virginia mountains where we were awed by trees as far as the eye could see.  It was amazing to see so many undisturbed miles without areas cleared away for development.  My views on chopping down trees are no mystery.   Can you just imagine how invigorating the air in the middle of those mountains must be?

I think about our kids running wild over the Jockey’s Ridge sand dunes, the largest active dune system in the Eastern US.  What a difference to those treed mountains… conditions on the dunes are so harsh, vegetation can only grow on the outskirts.  But the sunset… ah, the sunset.   The silhouettes in this photo are actually our precious kids, standing where the top of the dunes (that are believed to have been formed millions of years ago) seem to meet the sky.

And what beach vacation doesn’t include lots of ocean time.  Just the sound relaxes me.  I could watch the waves for hours on end and I get seaglasswrapped up in how vast and amazing the ocean is.  The irony is that one of our favorite adventures was trying to find sea glass washed up on the shore.  This sea glass is actually glass that has found its way into the ocean and gets tumbled and smoothed by the water, sand and salt.  Every time we found one it was like finding a real gem and then I start to wonder what it came from, where it originated, who touched it before us and even how it wound up in the ocean.  Yes, ironic that Mom Goes Green and family found treasures in something that started as ocean litter!

The point of all of this is simply that experiencing the mountains, the sprawling dunes and the incredible ocean reminds me of another quote by Divamish Indian Chief Seattle:

“Take only memories, leave nothing but footprints.”

… tread lightly in our daily lives, because this planet is truly amazing!

Raccoons & snakes & birds, oh my! A natural attraction?

Over the past weeks, we’ve had a raccoon hid her babies in our yard, snakes take up residence in a bush outside our front door and two birds nest under a different bush.  A raccoon even stopped by in our open garage while I was quietly doing something one evening. (That event caused me to let out a “startled scream” that sent mama running!)

rcoon-babiesAll this in a suburban neighborhood, close enough to urban life that we can see downtown Cleveland from our backyard.

I truly wondered “what gives!” until my husband pointed out that we have the most natural place in the neighborhood… no chemicals, no fertilizers or pesticides, no unfriendly environments… and I think he’s right.

When my neighbor saw the snakes, she suggested we pay for an exterminator or snake wrangler to get them out of here.  (Seriously?  I should pay someone to evict these poor little harmless creatures?!  But she is the same person {although she is a nice lady} that chopped down all of her backyard trees last year.) Then there is the other neighbor (also a “tree chopper“) that called out his OWN tree service to look at removing a tree in OUR yard because he didn’t like the leaves it was dropping in his driveway!  He offered to pay half, which we politely declined.snake

Maybe animals really do have a sense of “someplace safe”… yea, MomGoesGreen’s yard, of course!  And our kids are loving the animal park in their own yard (but yes, I do understand the dangers of raccoons, so they have been educated on safety.)

If you believe in karma, I think you’ll agree that my husband is right.  There IS a natural attraction because we do let off all whole lot of “good nature karma!”

Grab your gear and get back to nature.

I’ve always been a city girl at heart, but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate nature.  In fact, I may even appreciate it more as I see the direct effect of suburban development near my home (and the herds of deer that have taken up residence in the ravine behind my house and spent one night devouring all of my landscaping!)

camp-at-homeAnd while I’m not one to ‘rough it’ either, I realize that getting back to nature doesn’t mean you have to spend a small fortune at the outdoor store and drive for hours to set-up camp in some remote region of the country.  Your own backyard can be the ideal campsite.

This Saturday (June 27), in fact, is the Great American Backyard Campout.

Conceived by the National Wildlife Federation, this is a day they have created to invite families to reconnect with nature and the outdoors, and remind us that we can manage life “with a little less”.  You can set up tents, cookout over a fire pit, explore your surroundings, play flashlight tag, star gaze and our kids’ ever-favorite… gorge on S’mores!  Shut down all the lights, computers and TVs in your house and even save a little electricity while you’re at it. (Indoor latrine, via flashlight, permitted of marsh-roastcourse!)

If you want to find out who’s camping nearby, or register your own outing, check out NWFs site for more information.

I think this is a great opportunity to join families all over the country in embracing everything the great outdoors has to offer.  Now the only fear I have is waking up to find Bambi staring me in the face!