Archive for the ‘nature’ Category

Quirks? What Quirks?

You pegged us, bluemilk–we’ve got quirks. Thanks for tagging me for this meme. I should be writing down my kids’ quirks all the time–I think I’ll never forget this stuff, but then I do…

Right now, our quirkiness includes…

1. Chris says “crocogator” for crocodile and for alligator. Crocodiles are discussed ad nauseum in our house, and never once have I heard him say anything but crocogator. I use the word myself without thinking sometimes…

2. The reason we talk about crocodiles so much is that Martin fancies himself a “creature adventurer.” Every day, he dresses himself in “creature-adventuring” gear; he’ll change to everyday clothes before we go somewhere, and as soon as we come in the back door, he steps into the bathroom to quick-change back to creature-adventurer. A creature-adventuring outfit includes animal-themed shorts and shirts, a giant backpack, creature-adventuring sandals, and often, flippers and a diving mask. Flashlights, sunglasses, nets, a raincoat, and/or head lamps often complete the look.


*Creature-adventure is a term coined by his creature-adventuring heroes–Martin and Chris Kratt of PBS’s Zooboomafoo and their Be the Creature DVD. And I guess this is an insight into one of my quirks–I have either named my children after Martin and Chris Kratt, or I have commandeered their names for my kids’ blog-names…you decide…

3. Martin vehemently refuses balloons whenever one if offered–then explains that he’s concerned an animal will eat it and choke.

4. Martin’s animal obsession and Chris’ car obsession clash when we’re in the car; Chris yells, “Go cars!” at the passing vehicles, but then Martin yells, “Go animals!” and glares at Chris. An increasingly hostile shouting match breaks out: “Go CARS!” “Go ANIMALS!” They usually wear themselves out; I’m still too dumbfounded by how weird this is to intervene.

5. They both want to wear their boots all the time. All the time. Shorts, t-shirts…and boots. Pajamas…and boots. 90 degrees out? Boots.

6. Martin considers poachers to be responsible for all of the evil in this world. If he sees a truck go by filled with logs–poachers are killing trees. A plastic bottle floating in the pond means that poachers have been littering…

I love hearing about kids’ quirks. I’m going to ask….Radical Mama, Up Popped a Fox, and not that I don’t love my kids…if they’d care to do this. I hope so, because I know we’ll enjoy more stories about hairy butts, cake-salad, and swearing three year olds…(you know who you are!).


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I was lying with Martin last night as he was falling asleep, telling him a story. I thought he had already drifted away; he was very still. Then he said, “Mom, when I am very old, are you going to be killed?” His voice broke, and he sobbed; I could see tears stream down his cheeks by the glow of the nightlight.

Uh-oh. My mind started racing. I believe in telling him the truth, worded appropriately for a three year old perspective, but this was not like telling him where the truck filled with stacked cages of chickens was heading on the highway the other day. How to say: Well, yes, I am going to die. Odds are, you’ll probably be in your fifties–that is, unless I succumb to one of the cancers that seem to cut down certain women in my family when they’re quite young–but, really, it could happen at any time, even tonight. . . . which would be, morbid as it is, the truth.

“I’m here right now,” I said, hugging him, “and I will be in the morning [please!] and I think I’ll be right here with you for so long it will feel like forever.”

He was still choking on his sobs; I could feel it in his little body as I held him. “But I’m going to have you when I’m three and four and five and six and seven, but then when I’m very old, you are going to fall off of a bridge and be killed.”

My odds of falling off a bridge to my death seem staggeringly low, and I reassured him on this point fairly well, and hoped that the conversation would turn to the various unlikely ways I could meet my end. I’d be on stable ground convincing him that a bald eagle wasn’t going to snatch me from the front yard, for instance. I wasn’t so lucky.

“Where will you go if you get killed? And where is Grammy’s family?”

I am not religious, but I sorely wished that I had a religion-based, this-is-what-happens-when-we-die answer for him. I had a fleeting thought of a mother, long ago, inventing the whole idea of heaven to soothe her child asking this very question…

I admitted that I didn’t know where people went when they got killed, but floundered for something remotely consoling. “Did you know that when I’m right here next to you, or somewhere else, or anywhere, you still have me with you? All the little pieces that make up your body are from Dad and me.” I went on a little in this vein, and he seemed to like it.

His last question: “If Dad gets killed, how is he going to teach people how to use computers?”

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Of Hawks and Bulldozers

When my husband takes the boys out without me, they go wild. Literally. Never a store, rarely a playground–they explore the woods and creeks and fields, returning with photographs of every creature and flower and leaf they discover.

A creature-adventure to remember came the day they discovered a red-tailed hawk eating a squirrel. “He was so close,” they said, “we almost could have touched him.” They watched, perfectly still, as minutes ticked by. They returned to the scene of that adventure last week, and I asked Martin if he saw any more red-tailed hawks. He said, “No, just bulldozers.”

The wild wooded area, blocked in by neighborhoods on all sides, was being sacrificed to the latest development.


I have nothing profound or unique or controversial to say about suburban sprawl and destroying wild spaces; I have just a boy looking for hawks and finding bulldozers.

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That’s what he calls himself when he does this.

Minutes passed as he ever so slowly crept closer to a group of deer.  One remained, and they just stared at each other.


Nature is so different to me now with him around.

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Martin, from the beginning, has been fascinated by creatures. Sea and land, wiggly and slimy.


I wasn’t sure how much of nature he was ready for though, and when. Lions chasing down a baby elephant on a nature show? A snake grabbing and swallowing a frog? Is that violence and death that a child should be much older to see and understand, or is it nature and his world?

I didn’t need to wonder–Martin lets me know. If I startle at a, to me, somewhat gruesome image in the nature books he likes, Martin explains, yet again, always patiently, “That’s just the way nature works, Mom.” I wasn’t sure if he was just repeating a line from one of his favorite creature-adventurers, or if he really got it. I think he gets it. Yesterday, he elaborated on the death theme: “Mom, all creatures have to die someday. Even people die. You, me, Dad, Chris, Grammy, Gramps . . .” After he listed most of our family, I asked him, “But what will happen when we die?” I thought he’d guess that we woke up the next morning . . . but he paused and replied, “Well, then we become carcasses for vultures.”

Yikes. But his point was made. Death is just the way nature works.

My other worry was that the chasing and killing and fighting that is a part of the natural world would result in more aggressive behavior. Wrong again. Martin will catch grasshoppers and frogs, name them (usually “Dengy”), call them “toad-friend” or “grasshopper-friend,” give them water and grass. Then he tells me, “I am going to put my toad-friend back in his natural habitat.” And then, so gently, and with soft words of encouragement, he does.

(Reading this great post in My Fairbanks Life about childhood wisdom regarding nature and life cycles got me thinking about this subject…)

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