It’s complicated.

More than once, lawn envy has bested me: looking at my neighbors with perfectly manicured lawns, a single variety of thick blade grass mowed to a uniform height, glistening with morning dew.  Tempting, huh?  Since we moved into our Iowa home six years ago and began to tend our own landscape, I cannot seem to achieve the supposed lawn perfection, partly because I am uninterested in chemical solutions to the naturally concurring variety in our front and backyard ground cover (because of things like, you know, polluting our water table and children running barefoot through a chemically maintained lawn) but partly because it is just plain hard work!  Nature does everything in its power to diversify, and homogeneity is won through incredible force or unfair chemical advantage.  One thing I have learned through working with Backyard Abundance on our natural playscape is that the mark of a well established ecosystem is its diversity, and as human participants in our ecosystems, we do everything in our power to eliminate the diversity of our natural spaces.  Foolish humans.  I am grateful for the landscaping plan Backyard Abundance has drawn up because it embraces the natural penchant towards complexity and diversity and uses it strategically.  Plus, I made it clear that low maintenance was critical – like I have time to mow! – so our new landscape will have very (very) little mowing required!  Do I hear a halleluiah? (more…)

Water Crystals

Do you spend time foraging for materials that would be the pièce de résistance of any given sensory activity only to find those materials collecting dust on your art shelves months (or years!) later?  Me?  Guilty.  Majorly guilty.  I attend conferences and write feverishly as presenters give out suggestions for supplies that extend the learning of children in their programs, and then spend hours in the days following hunting them down online or locally only to set them on the shelf and look at them.  Look. At. Them.  What part of looking at a bottle of glitter glue, or staring at box of glow sticks, or creating in the presence of a wonderful bag of metallic balloons does any child any good?  It doesn’t even matter how expensive the materials were!  Often, the dust collectors set me back a couple of dollars at most!  Yet I typically fall into the trap of hoarding “my” supplies (who are they for again?) and doling them out sparingly – preferring to stick with safer and more known materials like play dough and paint.  And I even tend to guard those materials with the sharp eyes of a hawk.  (more…)

The Fine Art of Compromising

“We can only really give in a loving way
to the degree that we are receiving similar
love and understanding.”
Marshall B. Rosenberg

Compromise exists in the space between my needs and your needs – a realm where both of our needs are met and satisfied, keeping us on the road to learning and adventure. If I sacrifice my needs to the point where they no longer representing my spirit in effort to bring about a peaceable solution to a problem, then we are not compromising – I am merely folding up in an attempt to keep you happy.  If, on the other hand, I cannot make room to accommodate your vision and perspective and help you meet your own needs while still attending to my own, I am coercive, oppressive, and I am modeling that I am more important than you.  On the one hand, passivity is undermining my ability to advocate for myself.  On the other, aggression is teaching my friends to walk a little more cautiously around me, fearful that they might be stomped on – figuratively or otherwise – in an attempt to meet their needs for play.

(more…)

Playing with Words

Tekoa, designing a love bird puppet.

I’ve written about it before, but at Abundant Life, we sing all the time.   We sing to mark special events, we sing to transition between activities, we sing when something special happens, we sing as we dress for the outside, we sing around the table at meal and snack time, we sing when we need help, and we sing just because we feel like singing.  Singing does many things for our bodies and spirits: transforming our speech into melody with rhythm and accent, drawing us into a place of thoughtfulness about what we say and do, and connecting us with our inner creative muse.  Singing in tempo swells our innate understanding of rhythm and patterns – foundational numeracy skills.  Crafting spontaneous songs builds storytelling and rhyming skills which are at the heart of literacy.

(more…)

“My mama is going to LOVE this!”

Christian created this masterpiece while chanting methodically, “My mama is going to love this!”  With every sticker, each fringe cut on the cereal box, and all the letters written (there is a whole alphabet of Christan’s invented spelling on the reverse side), her excitement grew.  My mama is going to LOVE this!  She beamed as she finished her creation, and when it was done and sitting patiently in her cubby waiting for it’s beloved recipient to arrive, Christian visited periodically to gaze admiringly at the finished product, and to occasionally add an embellishment here or there that she found lacking in the form of a stray googly eye or a piece of cut yarn.  With so much attention paid during the course of a day waiting, the piece lost some of its extras, but it was with a heart bursting of love that Christian presented it at the end of the day to her mama who received the gift in the spirit in which it was intended – matching love for love – and thus offering back to her daughter what was most desired.

(more…)