June 19th: SK Showcase and Weekend Links

I’m so excited to share the creation for the SK Showcase this week!

This month we have been talking about spending time outdoors, and I know many families include biking on the list of favorite outdoor activities.

Amber of Giver’s Log sent me these pictures of how she created both a reflective handlebar flower and an upcyled handlebar bag.  For those whose biking adventures continue through the evening towards dusk, being visible to road traffic is imperative!

For the handlebar flower, Amber’s secret ingredient is retroreflective glass beads:

retroreflective-glass-beads

You can see that she covered the ends of the petal with these beads making the flower highly reflective.  This pretty and functional flower can then be attached to handlebars or to your bike bag:

reflective-handlebar-flower

reflector1

Iron-on reflective tape was the key component of this upcycled handlebar bag:

iron-on-reflective-tape-on-yellow-ribbon

upcycled-handlebar-bag-with-reflective-tape

If you think your family would like to create similar projects, be sure to read Amber’s step-by-step tutorial for the handlebar flower and handlebar bag.  Thank you again, Amber, for sharing this with us!

Now your weekend reading:

Simply Practical

Serene Journey: Household Shortcuts and Handy Hints

Inspired Projects

Family Fun: Recycled Crafts
Cluck and Tweet: Simple Nature Journal

Inspired Images

The Magnifying Glass: Dragonfly or Damselfly?
Living and Loving Every Minute of It: Anything Can Happen

Inspired Words

Zen Habits (guest post from Writer Dad): 7 Secrets to Raising a Happy Child
Psychology Today: Empowering Kids
FIMBY: Summer non-boredom

Don’t forget Connecting with Nature Challenge #2 – experiencing nature with your senses.  We’ll gather on Monday morning to discuss!

Lessons from the Robins’ Family

robinfamily

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Dina of A Worthy Life.

The Robins have come for a brief stay. Hidden away beneath our deck, they prepare for the impending births of their children. Watching them, researching them, enjoying them, my children and I were blessed by their moments with us. As I reviewed the pictures that we tried to snap from a courteous distance, I reflected on the lessons hidden within the examples of Mr. and Mrs. Robin as they prepared for and cared for their families. Lessons applicable for me and mine, lessons you and I would do well to emulate:

1. build a nest.

Make the home an environment where your children can prosper. Pad it with nature’s beauty, secure it with unconditional love, and invest your time and your presence in ensuring that home will always be a soft place to land.

2. shelter your children.

Take your children under your wing’s protection. Smother them in the warmth of your embrace. Let them incubate and develop under your watchful eye.

3. stand guard.

Secure the gates of your children’s hearts and minds. Protect their innocence. Shield them from negative influences. Fight against destructive thoughts and behavior. Build up their defenses with wisdom and creativity.

4. the mama and the papa: teamwork

The mama has a unique role to play. The papa has a unique role to play. Both are vital. Together share the responsibilities and the joys. Invest in your marriage so that it might reap huge dividends in an atmosphere of security and love for your children.

5. they are watching you.

More than media and friendships, your influence and example will provide the greatest impact on their young lives. They will learn from what you do more than what you say. How you treat others, how you respond to difficulties, how you invest your time and resources will teach them more than a thousand universities could ever instill.

6. feed them.

Nourish them. Give their minds and bodies good things to feast on. Provide them with books to provoke their imaginations. Eat dinner together as a family, growing in understanding and appreciation of one another. Mr. and Mrs. Robin feed their babies 100 meals a day. Respond to their questions, engage them in conversation, create with them, read to them, play with them, smile at them, hug them…100 times a day.

7. surround them with positive influences.

Cultivate friendships amongst siblings. Know who their friends are and invite them into your home. Ask a relative, friend, or neighbor if they would be willing to mentor your child, to come along side and partner with you in investing their experience and their friendship into building up the character of your son or daughter.

8. sing to them.

Encourage them when they test their wings. Help give flight to their dreams. Whisper sweet affirmation in their ears. Sing, so that they might follow your voice home when troubled times surround. Make your words of wisdom like sweet music so that it’s tune might return to them even when one day their flight takes them far from you.

A special thank you to Mr. and Mrs. Robin who provided us with hours of amusement and a lifetime of lessons. I noticed you, not because of your beauty, but because of your commitment to care for your children. I will remember you because of the beauty displayed in your acts of loyalty and love.


Dina is a girl whose only dream was to grow up and be a mother. Now that her dream has come true and multiplied by four, the only thing left to do is soak up the mini miracles and major spills that happen along the way each and every day. She writes to remember the magical and the mundane so that her journey called motherhood that so often seems commonplace will be transformed through reflection into what it truly is: a gift that, if handled properly, will define and develop the next great generation.

Connecting with Nature: Challenge #2

morningcoffee

Our first challenge to connect with nature invited participation from the entire family.  For our next challenge, I want to focus on us – parents, grandparents, care-givers – the “grown-ups” who are watched so carefully by little eyes each day.

Most of us understand in theory that the children in our care will model their perspectives, attitudes, and approaches to life based on what they observe in us.  In practice, this responsibility requires thoughtful practice to live out. “Do as I say, not as I do” is far easier to practice than mindfully modeling that which you hope to nurture in the character of your children.

Stepping again into Richard Louv”s Last Child in the Woods in the chapter titled “Why the Young (and the Rest of Us) Need Nature,” he speaks on the connection between technological progress and reduced contact with nature:

But one price of progress is seldom mentioned: a diminished spela casino life of the senses . . . as human beings, we need direct, natural experiences; we require fully activated senses to feel fully alive.  Twenty-first-century Western culture accepts the view that because of omnipresent technology we are awash in data.  But in this information age, vital information is missing.  Nature is about smelling, hearing, tasting, seeing . . . (p. 58)

How often do you, as an adult, seek out experiences in nature that awaken your senses?

The second Connecting with Nature challenge is this: for one week, focus on awakening your senses through own interactions with nature.

This will mean different things for different people, but just begin where you are and challenge yourself a bit this week.  Here are some ideas to get you started:

* Wake up early enough to catch the sun rising.  As you drink your morning cup of coffee or tea, take time to reflect on how each of your senses are speaking to you in the moment.

* Take your camera and go for a solitary walk.  Challenge yourself to capture images that will remind you of all that you heard, saw, felt, and maybe even smelled and tasted on your personal nature walk.

* Sit down in the grass and take in what the world looks like from your child”s eye level.  Take in all of the sensory stimulations they experience from that point of view.

There are innumerable ways for you to experience nature each day.  For this challenge, really push yourself to connect your time in nature with sensory stimulation.  We”ll meet back next Monday to share our observations!

photo by Tavallai

Discussing Nature Challenge #1: Naming Nature

Did you and your family have a beautiful week getting outdoors and meeting some new friends in nature?  Once we all finally recovered from our brief bout with a virus, we were happy to get outside, fill our lungs with fresh air, and pick some objects to identify.

naturemosaic11

(Starting from top, left)  Our neighbors behind us have a pet duck.  As you can imagine, the girls love to visit Duck daily.  I thought it might be fun to find out what sort of duck Duck is.  As it turns out, he (she?) is a White Pekin Duck.  (Of note is that 95% of duck meat consumed in the United States is Pekin duck.  Oh, I hope this won’t be Duck’s fate!)

The next one was an easy one for me.  Living south of Austin, Texas, introduced me to lantana bushes.  These hearty, sun-loving plants are fairly easy to identify, and our neighbor has a gorgeous one growing next to her house.  The pink and yellow blossoms are magnets for butterflies, and I was curious about what particular variety of lantana this is, as well as its scientific name.  The lantana pictured above is a Pink CapriceLantana camara. Such a pretty name for a pretty plant!

It isn’t often that we see mushrooms popping up in the very last days of spring, but these delicate little guys graced us with their presence for just a day or two.  I didn’t realize that mushroom foraging is such a popular hobby, but because it is, there are many online resources for identifying mushrooms.  I am not absolutely positive, but I believe these here-today-gone-tomorrow fungi were inky caps.

(Bottom row, left) One delightful benefit of living in a home built in the 1930s is that mature trees abound in our backyard.  The one that is by far the tallest and most majestic is just outside the back door.  It provides welcome and generous shade, and it’s massive leaves are so fun for the girls’ backyard creations.  I had to go to some botanically-educated family members to get a correct identification on this towering fixture, but from now on I’ll always be able to identify a catalpa tree. Depending on the region in which you live, you might also have known it as a catawba tree.  (pictures four and five are of our catalpa)

Finally, I have to confess we didn’t fully achieve our goal of naming five objects last week.  I have tried to get a positive identification on the shrub that grows on one side of our front porch, but its true identity has eluded me.  After looking through pictures of many, many shrubs, I thought perhaps it was a boxwood, but the fact that it has been an enthusiastic, quick-growing shrub tends to negate my theory.  I’ll have to keep digging so that I can find out how to call this green friend by his proper name.  Maybe one of you recognize him?

What are some resources we can use to identify the objects we happen upon outdoors?  Here are some that come to mind:

Field Guides

We don’t currently have any in our home library, but I know having an actual hold-it-in-your-hand field guide would have made the identification process so much easier.  One of my fondest memories from childhood includes the hours I spent pouring through my grandparent’s well-worn Audubon Field Guild to North American birds.  The National Audubon Society remains a wonderful resource for field guides for everything from mammals to wildflowers to spiders to stars.  Simple Kids reader Kristina mentioned the Peterson field guides and these seem to be highly recommended resources as well.

Online Resources

If your public library doesn’t carry a good selection of field guides and you aren’t able to add to your home library, there is a still a wealth of information available to you online.  I used a number of online resources for our naming challenge including the Arbor Day foundation “What Tree is That?” tree identification guide, the online community at UBC Botanical Garden and Centre for Plant Research (which even has a subforum specifically for identifying plants), and honestly, lots of good old-fashioned Google and Google Images searches.

Friends and Family

Chances are that the next door neighbor with the well-cared for lawn and inviting landscaping might know a thing or two about plant identification.  Your brother-in-law the bird-watching enthusiast could shed some light on that brilliant blue bird who has taken up residence with your family.  If your grandparents are still living, you may discover what I have found to be true – this is a generation who is well-versed in the flora and fauna in the regions in which they grew up.  Don’t be afraid to ask around when you are stumped!  Exploring and identifying nature with one another helps build up and strengthen connections.

I am so looking forward to hearing what you have discovered in the past week!  Feel free to share your results in the comments section or by linking to a post on your own blog.  I would also love to hear what resources you found to be the most helpful in this challenge!

Simple As That: Cherishing the Pet Rock

From the moment I saw the story telling stones created by Emily at red bird crafts, I’ve been wanting to gather up some of the many rocks in the abandoned rock garden next to our front porch to start our own collection.

One morning I started picking up rocks with this in mind, but before we even had a chance to start this project, our four year old offered me another opportunity to let go and go with it.  She was immediately captivated by a small chunk of concrete which she declared was her new pet, “Shelly.”  As it turns out, Shelly comes with a story of his own – he is bigger than the other rocks and none of the other rocks wanted to play with him, perhaps because he was so big and plain?  It was quickly decided that he was in dire need of a rainbow makeover.

Dacey selected on our new collection of sparkle paints for Shelly:

003a_edited-2

001_edited-2

004a_edited-2

008_edited-2

Eventually we had to call in some chocolate cookies to keep the creativity nourished:

012a_edited-2

Here is stage one of Shelly the Pet Rock’s makeover:

021_edited-2

He has since had some polka dots added, and I hear a pair of googly eyes along with some pom pom accents are in the works.

Remember when I told you how hard it is for me to purge out items from our extensive toy collection?  Shelly has reminded me that children really do delight in the simplest objects.  He has become a fixture at our table, joining in dinnertime discussions and overseeing other art projects.  In the past week, she has played with him far more than any of the other toys taking up space in the playroom.

Shelly has been a (forgive me) concrete reminder to me that when it comes to inspiring imaginative play, simplicity wins every time.

(By the way, how are you doing with naming nature for our first Connecting with Nature challenge?  Don’t forget we’ll gather on Saturday to discuss.  And remember that discussion on Last Child in the Woods for the Simple Mom Sound Mind, Sound Mom book club starts today!)