Wildlife Count and the Slow Demise of a Tomboy

Mountain getaways are a time to explore, discover and delight in the myriad of wildlife encounters!
A trip to the Tonto Fish Hatchery proved fascinating as we inspected the various species of trout that inhabit Arizona waters.  Are we the only weird one’s left that enjoy reading all of the signs?  Our zoo did away with most of their posted information because they said that no one reads them anymore…
Of course, this trip to the hatchery only spurred on the boys obsession with learning how to fish!  In true city-slicker fashion, this was the FIRST time {gasp} that the boys went fishing.
They were thrilled with their catch and I have to tell you that this former tomboy still has some crazy good fish cleaning skills! 🙂  As a girl, I would walk up and down the creek each time we would go camping asking people if I could clean their fish.  Then I would gather the younger kids around and give them all a fish anatomy lesson!
Like old times, I gathered MY boys around for that super cool lesson!
Bugs were EVERYWHERE.  Our favorites were the walking sticks and praying mantiss’.
As Trey-man and I returned from the creek one morning, I spotted this little guy scurrying across the path.  Isn’t he just too cute?!?!?!?  The inner-tomboy emerged once again and I was able to catch this little fellow and take him back up to the cabin.  The boys were quick to create a little habitat for him and he was the recipient of copious amounts of love and attention.  We found it fascinating that he could change colors!  He patiently endured all of this love and attention and was rewarded with help in making an escape that afternoon much to the boys disappointment.
That was not the end of the wildlife adventures.  You see, we were in bear territory and found tracks that seemed to indicate that one had even been near the cabin in recent days…  We love the “Who Pooped in the Park” series on animal tracks and scat.  I’ve written about the Sonoran Desert version and found the information helpful when inspecting the abundance of tracks and scat up north. Next year, I think I’ll try and find the Grand Canyon version to broaden our understanding of animals in the northern part of our state.
I felt pretty smug while managing to stay calm, knowing bears were around and then eagerly inspecting the daddy-longlegs that Xander brought INSIDE the cabin to show me.
But I was undone by this little fuzzy creature…
Keegan wanted to bring one home as a pet.  We convinced him to leave this guy in the wild.  But somehow one of its relatives managed to stow away in the van.
After feeling a tickling sensation on my arm, I let out a high pitch girly squeal while frantically brushing it off. This woman who can clean fish, capture horny toads, inspect tracks and scat screams like a grade-school girl at the up close encounter with of one of these harmless caterpillars…
My status as former tomboy is looking to lean heavily on the “former” end of the spectrum.

Nature’s Gift…

When nature hands us the gift of opportunity, we take advantage and go exploring.  Yesterday, we pulled out the balls and had an impromptu lesson on lunar eclipses.


Natural learning opportunities abound everywhere.  With the help of the internet and a few balls, we were able to prepare for our ‘quasi’ early rise the next morning.


With hubby tucked warmly in bed and keeping Greta company, the boys and I ventured outdoors early this morning to take in what we could of the eclipse.

Extreme Weather – Arizona Style

Dust storms are quite exciting, especially if you happen to actually catch one rolling in towards you!  I had to break from my series on Open-Ended play to share some pictures we took when we noticed a big one rolling in yesterday evening as we were getting the kids ready for bed.  From our upstairs window, we usually have this view:

Instead by the time I had ‘raced’ downstairs (as much as a 27.5week pregnant lady can) to get my camera and back up, it had already curled up over the mountain and looked like this as it rolled in: 

The time lapse from when I first noticed orange-ish clouds starting to billow behind the mountain to when we were engulfed took about 10 minutes.  The boys were a little frightened since they had recently been learning about tornadoes…  They were quite relieved when I reminded them that we rarely get those here and they certainly aren’t like the one’s that hit the midwest…
I am thankful that we were all home and not out on the road somewhere.  That is where dust storms can be especially dangerous since visibility drastically drops with very little warning.
A photographer did time-lapse photography to capture the storms growth and progress.  Check it out!
This cloud of dust, that at its peak (somewhere down near where we were at), was estimated to be about 10,000 feet high was a sight to behold.
Ok, now that the excitement is over, hopefully rain will be on its way soon to our dry desert home and I’ll get back to posting about the importance of play!

Hip, Hip Hooray, It’s Monsoon Day!

Monsoon season is upon us.  It is a bittersweet time for those living in the desert.  While the electric lightning displays and torrential rains are exciting, the accompanying humidity makes life difficult.   The kids however don’t seemed phased by it at all!
We use this season to get outside and play!
Or get that necessary, but long put off weeding done…
I ended up filling our wheelbarrow twice with the tumbleweeds that had grown up in our side yard.  Softened dirt makes this work so much easier.  And yes, it was LONG overdue.
This year, we discovered the book, Hip Hip Hooray, It’s Monsoon Day!   This is a story of how many people anticipate and celebrate the coming of the monsoon season, which largely defines North America’s spectacular Sonoran Desert.  I love how it ties in the plants and animals of this region.  
The boys are excited about puddle jumping, neighborhood nature walks, flood inspections and lightning shows!
We’ll probably gear up for more of what we’ve done in the past:
Creative Play with our Umbrellas (Since lightning storms aren’t ideal for umbrella use.)
What do you all like to do when it rains?

What the Zoo Can Do for You!

We love our zoo!  From the moment we received our first zoo membership for Christmas when Xander was only 5 months old until now, it has been a ‘must-have’ for our family!  The zoo is a regular part of our routine.  When the weather is nice we go anywhere from two to five times a month.  During the hot months, we may only go once or twice per month.

But we still go.

If it weren’t for the 45 minute drive, we’d probably go weekly – year round.

My mom recently had a conversation with some people who were incredulous that one would actually buy a zoo membership.  They couldn’t fathom why people would want to go to the zoo multiple times for…

It gave her the opportunity to share all of the wonderful benefits of going to the zoo on a regular basis!

1. There is always something new to see.  Unlike any other museum, this is not a static exhibit.  The animals are always up to something and each trip is unique.  On our most recent visit, we got to see the Andean Condors get fed.  The boys were in awe as these massive birds spread their large wings and dove down to the meat offering at the front of the exhibit.

2. There is freedom to run and explore.  My little boys have a lot of energy.  Walking around the zoo and playing in one of their many play areas gives them the opportunity to flex their growing muscles, and release all of that energy!  Movement is vital for learning.  Children, especially little boys, need to move to help foster neural connectivity.  It is always fascinating to see what kind of play they engage in and how they incorporate their zoological discoveries of the day into their play!

3. There is ample opportunity to develop their observation skills!  As much as my wild little boys love to romp around, it is always interesting to watch them slow down and just watch.  They’ve learned the rewards of sitting still and waiting.   As a result of taking our time going from exhibit to exhibit, they get the treat of witnessing very interesting animal behavior and we all enjoy sharing our observations with one another!

4. And I know this is a bit selfish, but zoo mornings make for great afternoon naps!
5. Getting outside and learning about the world around us is incredible.  His creation is so diverse, complex and beautiful.   Watching my boys develop a love for the natural world and its Creator makes me smile!

What a Gift!

As a gift to me, my wonderful hubby released me early this morning to a mini-retreat! I woke up and made my way to the Riparian Park and arrived in time watch the sun make its debut for the day.

I definitely needed the time away. I felt like a kid on Christmas Eve. Every couple of hours I would awaken and check the time and ended up bounding out of bed at 4:50, excited to make my getaway!

With my Bible, journal and camera, I embarked.

There is something so powerful about getting out in nature. I always have my most intimate conversations with God when I’m outside. There’s just something about the quiet, fresh air and space, especially at the opening or close of a day…

Although spring definitely feels like it’s gone, there were still quite a few blooms out there.

Reading about God’s creative power takes on a whole new meaning, when I’m outside enjoying his beautiful creation.
I’m reminded of what Billy Graham once said:

“Mothers should cultivate their souls, that in turn they may cultivate the souls of their children.”
I came back refreshed. The rest of my day certainly didn’t go perfectly, but God gave me the strength and grace to navigate thru it. Perspective changes everything!

What a gift! Thanks Rich! (can i go again next week?)

My Favorite

“My favorite” has been a favorite phrase around these parts lately. Xander randomly announced a couple of months ago, “Frank is my favorite.” We were a bit confused as we have a friend, Frank, whom Xander is supposed to be calling by his last name… But no, he meant FRANK.

Today he was announcing that ChittyChitty Bang Bang was his favorite and then it was watermelon… When we asked which he liked the best of the two, he announced that they were both his favorites.

Well, I have a new favorite! Favorite place, that is. It is this grove of cottonwoods. Due to it’s secluded nature, there are very few people here and the only thing you here is the wind rustling thru the tree’s. It’s hard to believe that we are in the middle of the city.

We met friends there yesterday for an enchanting morning!

The boys explored and got muddy.

Rode noble steeds.
Fought fierce dragons

Enjoyed their freedom.
And napped very well that afternoon!
Oh yes, we’ll be back to our new favorite place!