Refresh Your Life

Month: November 2015

Join Us as We Support REI and #OptOutside

optoutsideToday, popular outdoor gear store REI has closed its doors and paid its employees to get outside. It’s also urging consumers to spend the day outside and no, camping out on the sidewalk in front of Best Buy all night doesn’t count.  It’s a smart business move that’s gained a lot of press over the past few months. Their website is still taking orders today, but a note reminds visitors that orders won’t be processed until tomorrow since, really, no one is there. I’m guessing REI didn’t have a huge Black Friday following to start with, and any visitors they’ve lost today have probably been gained back two-fold by all the press surrounding this bold move.

To me, it’s the symbolism of #OptOutside that’s most important. More and more Americans are being made aware of an epidemic. We are stuck inside. We are comfortable inside; we are too comfortable inside. The Nature Conservancy reports that only 10% of American kids report spending time outdoors every day with 80% of kids saying it was uncomfortable to spend time outside. Similarly, the National Wildlife Federation reports that the average American kid spends as little as 30 minutes engaged in unstructured play outdoors, compared to 7 hours in front of an electronic screen. That’s not a typo – 7 HOURS. It’s no wonder that our health as a nation is plummeting. We are more out of shape and more stressed out than ever before.

So the real victory in #OptOutside isn’t that so far 1.1 million people have pledged to spend the day outside. It’s that millions more are being made aware of an issue that is plaguing our country. My request to fellow #365Outsiders today is to not just get outside, but bring someone with you who might not otherwise go. It’s one thing to opt outside on your own. It’s another to spread the love.

Happy Thanksgiving!


365Outside December Activity Guide for Kids and Young at Heart

IMG_5277Join 365Outside as we prepare for the holidays!

As the days get shorter and the weather gets colder, it can be even harder than ever to get outside, especially with your kids. Here, I’ve put together a printable list of 24 outdoor activities. They can be used all together as an Outdoor Activity Advent Calendar or choose some as a Countdown to the Winter Solstice, or Eight Nights of Hanukkah!

Download the 365Outside December Activity Guide!

Simply print the list and cut along the dotted lines. If you have an empty advent calendar, fill it with one activity per day! You may want to consider which days fall on weekends and put longer duration activities in those. Alternatively, fold the activities and put into a large vase or jar and let your child choose one per day!

These activities are non-seasonal so you should be able to complete them whether you live in the tropics or the tundra. Each activity comes with a material list and estimated time to complete.  Nineteen of them can be done in 20 minutes or less, and seven are meant to be done after dark!

You probably have most of the materials at home already. Here is a complete material list if you want to prepare ahead:

  1. String
  2. Construction paper
  3. Markers or crayons
  4. Large bowl or casserole dish
  5. Sculpey clay, playdoh, or make your own salt dough
  6. Chalk
  7. Glass jar and candle OR paper bag and glow stick
  8. Paper plates
  9. Contact paper
  10. Birdseed
  11. Flashlights
  12. A favorite book
  13. Blanket or sleeping bag
  14. Trash bag
  15. Vase or glass jar
  16. A warm drink
  17. Paint
  18. Paint brushes
  19. Glow sticks

And, of course, lots of found objects from nature which you’ll gather along your way!

We’d love to see pictures of you and your little ones enjoying this list. Use #365Outside to share with us!

Enjoy and happy holidays from all of us here at 365Outside!

My Thanks to You

Although you know how I feel about the season of gratitude already, it does seem fitting that this week happens to be Thanksgiving. I’d like to give thanks to you, the readers of 365Outside, for sharing and sharing and sharing my last post about my personal experience with refugees at sea. It was shared on Facebook over 400 times and has been read by more than 2000 people to date. It was not an easy one to write but I have received such positive feedback and I’m honored to provoke such an important conversation. Even when people disagree with me, I’m happy to incite this thoughtful dialogue.

All the conversation and sharing has brought us some new 365Outsiders too, and I’m excited to welcome everyone.


As my thanks to you, tomorrow I’ll be sharing a printable December activity guide with 24 (mostly quick) outdoor activities to share with the little people in your lives. This can be used in its entirety as an Outdoor Activity Advent Calendar, or in parts as a Winter Solstice countdown, Hanukkah activities or anything else you might dream up. The activities are nonseasonal so you should be able to participate wherever you’re located and most activities can be done in less than 20 minutes! Plus, since I know the long hours lots of you are putting in away from home, I’m including seven easy and quick after-dark ideas!

2016 365OUTSIDE CHALLENGE . . . or 366Outside?

And even better, December will see us rolling out the official 365Outside Challenge for 2016! Actually, February 29th will make it a 366Outside year but I don’t own that domain so we’re going to have to stick with what we’ve got. We are still ironing out the details on this one, but we will be looking to you, the 365Outsiders, to pledge some quality time outside for 2016!

Check back here tomorrow to download your printable December activity guide, and thanks again for letting my voice be heard!

Run Free, Be Wild!

Run Free, Be Wild!


8 Years Later: The Personal Lasting Impact of My Encounter With Refugees At Sea

Just another sunset at sea.

Just another sunset at sea.

This is one of those stories that I have thought about sharing so many times. One of those stories that made me stop to think for a long time afterwards. One of those stories that changes the way you think about who you are and what your values are. One of those stories that makes you ask hard questions about yourself.

This is the story of the time we turned our boat away from a boat full of refugees, and how that’s affected how I think about myself and the world.

There is a lot on the news right now about the Syrian refugees. There are news outlets that profile everyday heroes, people doing selfless things that jeopardize their own wellbeing in order to save someone else. There are stories about horrible things that are happening to those who are less lucky, to those who fall behind or are left behind or just don’t make it. And there is news about Paris, about the worst case scenario that came to be when someone filled with evil snuck in with others who might have died had they not been allowed.

I don’t have any answers. I don’t know that there are any answers, at least not any easy ones. I have read many points of view, many ideas about what we can do from afar and what we should do as neighbors in the world. I don’t think I can offer any new ones.

But what I can offer is some perspective. I can tell you what it feels like when it’s right there in front of you and your decisions are going to forever change the life of someone else. Someone who is going through indescribable pain already, and who is only asking for help. I can tell you the thoughts that went through my head, and that would maybe go through yours too. I can tell you how we reached our decision, and how I feel about it years later. I can tell you what questions I’ll forever wonder and never be able to answer.

The tranquility of the Mediterranean.

The tranquility of the Mediterranean.

It was 2007. The Captain and I were leaving the Canary Islands on a sailing ship filled with students, bound for the Caribbean by way of the Cape Verdes. We had taken our students onboard two months earlier, just south of Barcelona, and had spent autumn cruising around the Mediterranean while the students began their coursework, learned the boat and worked on their diving certifications. By November, we’d left Gibraltar behind and skirted along the west coast of Morocco, making calls at Casablanca and several smaller ports along the way. It had already been an eye opening journey, going from the plush crispness of the French south coast to the poverty of Africa almost immediately after. On the one hand the world was feeling suddenly very small, since we really had not traveled all that far but had seen such broad varieties of life. And on the other hand the world was feeling incredibly vast, such different people and different cultures and different values, all spread before us.

Leaving the Med through the Strait of Gibraltar, bound for Africa.

Leaving the Med through the Strait of Gibraltar, bound for Africa.

We left Las Palmas on the first leg of our Atlantic crossing a few weeks before Thanksgiving. The atmosphere onboard was electric; there was so much excitement and nervous energy about the three weeks ahead of us, leading up to our triumphant landfall in the Caribbean. Students and professional crew alike were ready for the challenge of a long ocean voyage.

Just a day into our passage to the Cape Verdes, we spotted a small boat heading towards us at speed. This was immediate cause for concern. We were 150 miles south of the Canary Islands, about 120 miles west of Western Sahara, in waters with active piracy alerts. What could someone possibly be doing all the way out here in such a small boat?

Just south of the Cape Verdes, pirates from Nigeria had contributed to the 10% increase in pirate attacks for the year 2007. And on the other coast, off Somalia, 4 ships had been captured in just the past two months. The topic was fresh in our minds and we had established standing orders for the event of a pirate attack.

The Captain at the helm on a bumpy passage.

The Captain at the helm on a bumpy passage.

As our first mate squinted through the binoculars, he waved me over.  There. There just beneath the horizon, the tiny dot. It was getting bigger quickly. I went to get The Captain who was down below with the students, teaching a course on navigation. By the time he came on deck, we could see the boat clearly through the binoculars. It was filled with African men. It seemed impossible that it was even floating but there it was, about 50 feet long and open like a canoe. It was low and wet, but moving surprisingly fast directly for us. We could count at least 50 men onboard. We knew that our big schooner would not be able to evade it so we activated our anti-piracy orders which mostly just consisted of charging our fire hose which shot like a geyser into the sky. We couldn’t out-maneuver them, and we couldn’t outnumber them, but we could maybe sink them if we had to.

Mosque in Casablanca.

Mosque in Casablanca.

When they saw what we were doing, they didn’t speed up or alter course to our other side like we thought they might. Instead, they turned so that they were no longer heading right for us, and they shut their engine off. They were parallel to us and they were waving flags, an international sign of distress in the maritime world. It hit us suddenly and all together.

They were not coming to hurt us. They were not the enemy. They were asking for help. They were lost and they were dying.

Fishing boats in Essaouira, Morocco.

Fishing boats in Essaouira, Morocco.

We could have left right then, and there’s no denying that that would have been the absolute 100% safest decision to make for ourselves. If we wanted to guarantee no chance of an interaction gone wrong, we should have left. They outnumbered us and they had nothing left to lose. But how can you look at someone who is dying, who has lost everything, who has put it all on the line for the chance at a better life; how can you look him in the eyes and turn around? Could you do that? Would you do that?

We loaded supplies together. Food, water, compass, fishing line. We tied them all up in bags and attached them to some old lifejackets. We set the supplies adrift and then slowly motored away. They approached them, picked them up and made huge waving gestures of gratitude. Like they were praising us and God all at the same time. Then they waved their fuel tanks, so we filled tanks with gas and floated those over too. Again the waving praise. But then what?

We couldn’t bring them on our boat. There were already 30 of us packed in like sardines. To bring another 50 onboard? And then there was our own safety. We were carrying other people’s children onboard with us. We were responsible for the lives and safety of the college students aboard, and we would be the ones to answer if something went wrong. So we did not bring them onboard. We offered them everything we could spare. We would be at sea for weeks still, but we gave them all we could. And then we called the Rescue Center in the Canary Islands, and we left.

Underway in the Atlantic

Underway in the Atlantic

I cannot believe we left. I still think through that decision every time I see a headline about refugees. I think of it every time I see a picture of the Syrians camped at the closed Hungarian border. I thought of it when I saw the picture of Aylan Kurdi, the three year old who drowned and washed ashore and whose body was photographed on the beach in Turkey. He is the same age as my boys. What would I do if someone turned their boat away from us?

It has been eight years to the month since we turned away from that boat full of African refugees. We will never know what ultimately happened to them. We do know that a ship and a plane from the rescue center responded to our call, and the boat was rescued and towed to the Canaries. But rescuing a boat is not the same as rescuing a person. We know that they reached land, but we don’t know if they were allowed to stay. More likely, they were sent back to wherever it was they came from.

Later I learned that at the time, an estimated 800 refugees were leaving Africa EACH DAY bound for the Canary Islands, their closest entry to the European Union. Most of them spend their entire life’s savings for the chance to sit in one of those boats and pray that they will make landfall on their own. Imagine the horror of spending all your life’s savings and risking everything, only to be sent back to where you started. Imagine a life such that taking to sea in a boat like this seemed like your only escape.

A rough passage.

A rough passage.

The reality is that the men in the boat were probably sent back to Gambia, or Senegal, or Sierra Leone. They were probably held in a detention center for months, only to end up back where they started. Some of them maybe began saving again to take the same perilous journey and pray for a different result. Others maybe resigned themselves to the lives they led before. We couldn’t change the course of their lives, even as they were risking everything they had to make change for themselves.

The system is broken. We wanted to save these people. We wanted to know that the risk they took was worth it. We wanted to know that there was a happy ending, something that these days seems so rare. We wanted to help. And we couldn’t do it ourselves. We needed a system in place that treated strangers the way we would treat our own brothers and sisters. We needed a system in place that was built upon a foundation of love.

When we act in fear, we perpetuate a disconnected world in which only those of the same skin color, country, or faith can support us. We enforce an existence in which we are all up against the same great big evils in the world, but somehow we all have to fight our own battles against them. We ignore everything we have in common, and we focus only on the small things that make us different. In fact, we fear the differences enough to let others die rather than overlook them. We live our lives rooted in fear.

Calm passage.

Calm passage.

Of course there are logistics. Where would everyone go? Who would pay for it? Who will be responsible if something goes wrong? These are questions worth investigating, but these are not excuses. While 34 governors of US states announce that they will not welcome Syrian refugees, France, the country that has just experienced the deepest imaginable loss of trust, continues to accept 30,000 Syrian refugees this year.

Imagine what could happen when we root ourselves in love. We can’t change the system by ourselves in a single day. But when we act out of love, and we treat others, even those who are different, the same way we would treat our own, small changes start to happen. It sounds cliche. It is cliche. But it is true. It is natural to be afraid of something that you don’t understand or something that you’ve never experienced before. But when you step outside of your fear and ask yourself what you would hope and pray for if the roles were reversed, you will find an answer rooted in love.

Like those who came before them, they are not coming to hurt us. They are not the enemy. They are asking for help. They are lost and they are dying.

This photo of the refugees was captured by our student, Rachel French, who is currently a member of the US Coast Guard.

This photo of the African refugees we encountered was captured by our student, Rachel French, who is currently a member of the US Coast Guard.

To read the email I wrote to friends and family after our encounter with the African refugees, click here.

To find contact information for your governor, click here.

To learn more about organizations helping Syrian refugees and how you can support them, click here.

Six Tips For Getting the Whole Family Out the Door!

My kids are like any kids, really. They have good days and they have bad days. They have days when I feel like the best mom in the world, and days when I think they’d be better off raised by the feral cats next door. There are days when I think they actually were raised by the feral cats next door. And on those days, convincing them to do just about anything feels very similar to calling our cable company (ahem, Comcast).

Junior has no idea why I put this 365 t-shirt on him and made him pose for me. I hope that 365Outside will be a part of who they are; not just a challenge made up by their mom.

Junior has no idea why I put this 365 t-shirt on him and made him pose for me. I hope that 365Outside will be a part of who they are; not just a challenge made up by their mom.

Yet still, somehow, I have managed to get them to play outside willingly for 315 days in a row. Admittedly some days are easier than others, but we have never had a fight about whether it’s going to happen. And that’s not because my kids love being outside every day in all kinds of weather (though I hope they do). It’s also not because they are supportive of the 365Outside Challenge. In fact, they don’t even know what 365Outside is. I don’t think they’ve ever even heard those words before. It’s not that I don’t want them to understand what we’re trying to do, or why I think it’s important. It’s that I want them to grow up with the outlandish idea that spending time outside daily is a natural thing to do. I want them to know why it’s important because they have lived it themselves. Hopefully by the time they’re old enough to understand 365Outside, they’ll think it’s completely unnecessary.  Going outside every day will just be an indelible part of who they are, not a standalone family challenge devised by their mom.

So sometimes the hardest part of the battle is convincing myself that it’s time to get outside. As I started writing about the techniques I use for getting my kids outdoors, I realized how many of them I actually use on myself too!

Here are my top tips for getting the whole family out the door!

  1. Recently, the boys' destination of choice has been the skate park (which is fine by The Captain, seen skateboarding in the background).

    Recently, the boys’ destination of choice has been the skate park (which is fine by The Captain, seen skateboarding in the background).

    Make outside time their time. Or your time. It’s hard to find the perfect balance, but it needs to work for everyone. My kids hate being told what to do, and they have to put up with it a lot. So when we go outside, I give them ultimate decision-making power. Sometimes I leave the prompt completely open. “What do you want to do outside today?” Sometimes, when I know we don’t have the time or resources for certain activities, or when I just can’t bear the thought of another day spent pushing tractors down our street, I give them some choices. “Would you like to go for a walk or would you rather go to the playground today?” Either way, they know that going outside means doing something on their own terms, and that’s always a good thing in their book.

    These kids had honestly no idea why our car was the only one at the Cox Reservation on this rainy, chilly day.

    These kids had honestly no idea why our car was the only one at the Cox Reservation on this rainy, chilly day.

  2. Don’t make a big deal out of the weather. There is no weather that keeps us inside unless it is dangerous, like a hurricane or a lightning storm. And because we play outside in most any weather, the specific weather doesn’t really matter except for its implications on what we wear. I make a point to never complain about rainy days, or cold days, or humid days especially in front of the kids. To us, weather is a discussion point for choosing appropriate activities and attire. If you don’t let the weather determine your mood, your kids won’t either. Today it’s cold and rainy here. When we pulled into the parking lot at our favorite conservation and saw that it was empty, Junior asked “Why isn’t anyone else here?” When I told him that people probably didn’t want to go out in the rain, he asked, “Why don’t people like to go out in the rain?” Don’t give them a reason!
  3. It was pretty cold on this walk, but at least we had waited for the rain to stop!

    It was pretty cold on this walk, but at least we had waited for the rain to stop!

    Be smart about timing. I know that sometimes we’re too busy and don’t have the luxury of picking and choosing when we get outside. But if you have a few different windows, even if they’re just fifteen minute chunks, plan it out in the morning. For people who don’t make a big deal about the weather, we sure do check it A LOT. Junior is obsessed with the radar. He makes us check it every night before he goes to bed, and he actually gets upset if there aren’t any patches of green and yellow on it.  If there’s red, he can hardly sleep. The kid loves a good thunderstorm. Checking the radar every night also means that we check the weather for the following day to get an idea of what we can expect. We also check the hourly forecast in the morning. If the driving sleet is expected to ease up and clear into partly sunny skies for the afternoon, there’s no rush to get outside while it’s still wet and nasty. We even check the wind direction to plan which walks or beaches might be best for the day. Of course it doesn’t always work out, but it sure is better than nothing.

  4. When we bundle up, the playground is a possibility all year round!

    When we bundle up, the playground is a possibility all year round!

    Dress appropriately. As rough and tumble as they appear to be, my boys are pretty sensitive. And they don’t forget a grievance. If they get wet and cold while walking outside in the rain, you can bet they will remember how uncomfortable they felt and won’t be so willing to go for a walk the next time it rains. Layers are your friend. Take the time to layer up appropriately so that no one has any reason to complain about comfort. It’s the number one distractor when getting outside in all kinds of weather.

  5. Willing participants on our rainy day walk . . . until suddenly they weren't. So we went home. No problem!

    Willing participants on our rainy day walk . . . until suddenly they weren’t. So we went home. No problem!

    Don’t fight about it. Sometimes, when we have the perfect opportunity to spend the morning at the beach on the most beautiful day of the year, my kids decide that today is the day they finally want to play at home with the legos that have gathered dust for five months. Fine. I don’t push it. I try again in an hour. Then I try again in another hour. Then I try again in another hour. My trick is to never seem desperate. It sounds horrible, but the more I want them to do something, the less likely they are to want to do it too. So my trick is to act like I don’t really care, all while making the beach sound amazingly appealing to them. Along the same lines, when we are outside, I don’t make them stay and do things for any longer than it’s comfortable. Yes, sometimes we get to the beach and get our things unpacked and finally sit down for a picnic just as someone announces that they want to go home.  Of course. And of course I don’t immediately pack everything back up, but I do validate whatever they’re feeling. Are they cold? Are they hot? Are they just bored? Whatever it is, we try to address it so that we can all go back to enjoying ourselves. And if we really can’t fix the issue, eventually we go home. I don’t want them to get it in their heads that this is my gig, and they’re powerless participants.

  6. Even I can agree that sometimes the best part of getting outside is the feeling you have when you come back in, and sit by the wood stove with a mug of hot chocolate!

    Even I can agree that sometimes the best part of getting outside is the feeling you have when you come back in, and sit by the wood stove with a mug of hot chocolate!

    When all else fails, bribery. This morning, when I talked about going for a walk, the boys didn’t exactly seem thrilled. So I just casually mentioned how much I was looking forward to going for a nice long walk in the rain and then coming back inside to have a mug of hot chocolate. They were practically crawling over each other to get out the door. And, the kicker is, their “hot chocolate” is just warm milk with a teaspoon of cocoa powder and a squirt of honey. They seriously don’t even know what they’re missing, and that’s okay by me.

As they get older and smarter I know I may have to up my game, but this list is pretty applicable to every age and stage, even my own. There are days when I wake up and want to stay in bed (mostly days when the baby monitor is lighting up before the sky). There are days when it’s so hot and humid that I wish I could crawl into a walk-in refrigerator rather than leave my air conditioned bedroom. On those days, I use the tricks above on myself too. I pamper myself and make sure that whatever choices the boys get for outdoor time are choices that I want to do too. I convince myself that the weather doesn’t matter, especially when I’m only going to be outside for 30 minutes out of the 24 hours in a day. I layer myself up so that even when I’m outside on the windiest, coldest day of the year, the frost only starts to creep up the back of my neck before we’re back inside. I don’t force it any longer than we’re comfortable. And I totally offer myself bribes. That hot chocolate line? It wasn’t just for the kids.

Counting today, there are 50 days left in the year 2015. Use the tips above to get outside and start 2016 off on the right foot!


Why We Don’t Squash Bugs

Ready to bug hunt!

Ready to bug hunt!

If you came here thinking you were going to get a “We love every living creature equally and we don’t even eat jello because I heard it contains horse hooves,” rant, well sorry but you’re out of luck.  Truthfully, I feel a little strange even writing this.  That’s mostly because I’m a hypocrite and when I see a creepy looking spider on the ceiling in my bedroom, or one of those damn weevils that tries to make a home in my whole wheat pasta, you can bet I’m crushing it with a paper towel. Yup, I’ll squish that little critter without a second glance and toss it straight in the trash. So, I guess I do squash bugs.

But when we’re outside, I’m teaching my boys not to. Here’s why.

The Worm Hunt

It started innocently enough.  Last spring it was mud season and the boys were worm hunting.  They were having so much fun.  Junior came trotting up to me with a worm in his hands that had been somewhat crushed and ripped into a few pieces.

Junior, with his catch of the day.

Junior, with his catch of the day.

“Look mama,” he said. “Sadly he is missing his head.”

It was a weird way to put it, and I knew that Junior had ripped the worm in half so I agreed with him, “Yes, that is sad.  We need to be gentle with worms.” I was winging it here.

“Why?” he asked, unceremoniously dumping the evidence and wiping the brown guts on his pants.

“Because worms are good for our garden.  We want them here.  They will help our vegetables to grow big and yummy.”

Junior nodded and went back to looking for worms.  I gave myself a little pat on the back- good parenting, Mama; go me!

“Kill it!”

Our bug-themed birthday party

Our bug-themed birthday party

Fast forward a few months and Junior had a friend over.  They were in the backyard tipping over stumps, looking for bugs.  Junior loves bugs and just about any other kind of critter that he can practice his catch and release skills on.  He has a little bug kit with a magnifying glass for “examining” them.  He routinely captures toads, hermit crabs, worms, ants, and just about anything else he finds, proudly displaying them to me and his brother before gently depositing them back to their homes.  He even convinced Little Bear to have a bug-themed birthday party last spring. Junior loves all creatures big and small.

So what happened next caught me off guard.  Suddenly, after moving a large log from the wood pile, I saw him start stomping with the heel of his rain boot.  “Kill it!! Kill it! Kill it!!” he was shrieking.

Bug hunting with friends

Bug hunting with friends

Now, keep in mind, this is a child who tells me I look beautiful when I put on something other than sweatpants.  He tells his brother not to push the dog.  He points out birds by name, and watches quietly for squirrels and chipmunks.  He is a gentle, caring soul.  And there he was, crushing ants, chanting “Kill it!”

I morphed into another mom.  The kind of mom who gets angry and yells without thinking and probably has a kid who enjoys killing bugs and chanting about it.  “STOP IT!!” I shouted, lunging across the yard and scooping him up, away from the ants. I put him down. I had saved the ants. I was a hero.  I turned back into myself.

He looked up at me.  “What?” he asked. He was completely bewildered.

“We do NOT squash bugs!” I said firmly, wagging a finger for emphasis.

“Why?” he asked.

I didn’t know. I had to think about it, and even then I could only say, “Because it’s not nice.”

Parenting is so unpredictable.  Try as I might, I never know what my kids are going to do next.  It’s one surprise after another, and most of the time I have to go with my knee jerk reaction and figure out why as we go along.  So since then, I have thought about it.  A lot. I want to be prepared for next time.

But WHY?

Junior with a woolly bear caterpillar.

Junior with a woolly bear caterpillar.

At first, a few murky reasons floated around in my head. It was true that it wasn’t nice, but so what?  Why do we have to be nice to bugs? For me, it had more to do with the blind aggression, the loss of control, the same look in his eyes that he gets before he runs full blast through his brother’s carefully built block towers and laughs maniacally.

And there was something about respect there too.  Respect for nature and respect for leaving things the way we found them. I couldn’t pinpoint it. I wanted him to be an observer. I wanted him to be gentle. I wanted him to appreciate how things are naturally.

Sometimes a quiet observer

Sometimes a quiet observer

All these vague reasons were swirling around my head and though I knew they were somehow connected, I couldn’t decide how.  I even googled it and found a lot of other concerned moms wondering if this was a phase, some part of normal development, or if their precious little one was destined to torture animals and turn into a psychopath.  But I didn’t find the answer to why this sat so uncomfortably with me.

And then, just like that, it clicked.  We were in the backyard and I saw Little Bear gleefully rip a snapdragon up by the roots and wave it around.  It was all the same.

“We don’t ruin something just because it’s fun.” 

We don’t rip up flowers just for fun. We don’t break tree branches just for fun. We don’t knock over block towers, or scribble on someone’s drawing, or dig up the freshly planted sod just for fun. Self control is a tricky thing, but it is so important, both indoors and out.

I want my boys to know that we don’t ruin something that others appreciate just because the act of ruining it brings us excitement.

Junior with a toad he caught and then released in our yard.

Junior with a toad he caught and then released in our yard.

It’s true that sometimes we do ruin things, but we do it with a cause.  We pick flowers to make our home more joyful, or trim hedges that are growing into a walkway.  We cut tree branches that otherwise might fall on our garden or our home. And we kill bugs if they endanger us, like termites in our deck or the bees who had a hive outside our front door.  We slap mosquitos that bite us, or try to bite us.  We do these things with purpose, to make our lives safer or more beautiful.  But there is nothing beautiful about ruining something just because it’s exciting.

Raising kids is a constant balancing act.  I want my boys to be all sorts of things. I want them to be gentle and I want them to be strong. I want them to be both observers and leaders, and know when it’s time for each. I want them to find joy and adventure and beauty outside, and I want them to leave it alone when they stare at it in wonder.  I want all these contradictions at the same time. My boys are still learning what’s right, what’s wrong, and what’s sometimes right and sometimes wrong.  Most of the time, I’m learning right along with them. And we’re starting by not squashing bugs.

We’re Growing Up!

under construction

There are some exciting things happening at 365Outside right now, and as we prepare to roll out these changes, we’re switching our web hosting so that we can launch some more robust features.

Truth be told I had no clue that my current setup wouldn’t allow much room to grow, but I trying to learn . . . with the help of a lot of tech support from Bulgaria. (Hi, siteground guys!)

What does this mean for you?  Hopefully not a lot!  The new site is up and running and you’re actually on it right now!

The only change that may affect you is your subscription setting.  Some subscriptions may not transfer completely.  If you’re a subscriber and would like to continue to be one, please go ahead and enter your email into the side bar on the right.

Oh, and if you happen to come across a link on the website that doesn’t work. Please let us know by commenting on the bottom of the page, or on our Facebook page.

Thanks everyone!

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