This summer, I insisted upon a mandatory daily routine of getting outside. At first, Kyra and Ethan couldn’t wait to race their Cozy Coupe, bikes, and scooters in our yard. I proudly noted gear-tester talents manifesting on days that it rained. A big smile broke across their faces when they remained dry while the world around them soaked.
Kyra usually collected sticks, gifted me dandelions, and took Ethan on adventures. Ethan enjoyed sitting on my lap on the deck and playing our “What’s that Sound” game. Closing his eyes, he can now name every sound he hears accurately, including discerning the difference between a squirrel and a bird.
Lately though, I noticed that it’s harder to keep them outside for more than a few minutes. Dandelions began to strap down their bikes and scooters the way the Lilliputians felled Gulliver while Kyra bargained, “If I go outside, how about I get to play with your phone?”
“Okay, how about we get juice? Ice cream? Marshmallows?”
Ethan tried, “How about watch Superman? Sesame Street? Something edu cation?” And when that didn’t work, they would complain, “The bugs will bite me” or “It’s too cold.”
Recalling the plan I outlined in Dandelion Killer to explore what’s outside our doorstep, one day, I tossed onto the living room floor a bunch of guidebooks on flowers and plants.
“Kyra, I have a summer project for you.”
“Cool Mommee. What is it? What is it?”
Measuring the amount of gleam in her eye, I found the right words to get the leader of the pack on board. “How would you like to pick flowers in our yard and make your own book?”
She looked at me suspiciously, “I can make my own book?”
While she browsed the guidebooks, I found a handmade journal I had bought at Alyeska’s Blueberry Festival and never figured out what to use it for. Dangling this journal and a box of art supplies in front of Kyra, I said, “You can start by decorating the title page.”
Two seconds later, she was done. In crayon, she had scribbled the words, “Mommy and Kyra.” She slapped on some Spiderman stickers and then handed the journal to Ethan, who honestly was much more interested in tattooing himself with markers.
“Kyra, I can barely read this. Do you want to make it darker? Maybe, add some flowers?”
She already slipped on her shoes and was halfway out the door. “Let’s pick the flowers first!”
Delicately negotiating her “now that I’m done with Kindergarten, I’m in charge” attitude, I explained that once we put the flowers in the book, we couldn’t open it for at least 24 hours.
“Alright,” she said, kicking off her shoes. “Very quickly, okay?”
Now, the title page was exciting enough to entice Ethan’s attention.
He insisted on carrying the journal and Kyra grabbed a guidebook. Outside, they ran up to the first flower they saw, my one and only California poppy that had bloomed overnight, and picked it. I made a note to myself that I had to read them Eric Carle’s The Tiny Seed at bedtime and show them how to be nice to plants.
Then, they started to fight over who could put the poppy in the book. “Kyra, since you picked the flower, do you mind letting Ethan press it?”
“Fine,” she huffed and puffed.
“Look, there’s some purple stuff growing along the driveway. But, before you pick it, Kyra, do you think we should find it in your guidebook?”
“That’s a good idea, Mommee. Okay, you help Ethan and I will find this purple flower.”
I did have to teach Kyra how to use the guidebook, but she was very proud to name the Bluebell.
As the sun warmed my face, I recognized that this was one of those rare moments where I think I got my parenting right.
Here are some other ideas on nature journals:
• Plant press which I might try next.