Love, Laughter, and Life

Adventures With a Book Lover


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Throwback Thursday: Kids & Nature in the Arizona Desert

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I was probably in first or second grade in this picture. And I can tell you, we had no nature deficit disorder in my family. We were always outside. Either the kids were out, by choice or by mom’s choice, or the entire family was off and exploring.

It seemed like our family spent most weekends in the station wagon or camper, heading off to explore and find what we could find. Though I know we also went to church on a regular basis, so maybe we spent Saturdays traveling and skipped a random Sunday now and then to camp. Life as a kid was always an adventure.

I’m pretty sure this picture was taken at Turkey Creek in Arizona. Turkey Creek was a great spot. I can remember camping there at least 3 different times. Judging by the grin on my face, I loved getting outside. And in Arizona, being outside around water was a treat. Being a desert and all. We four of kids (maybe not James, who was a baby) had a ball splashing in the creek. We did the usual-get muddy, catch critters, drench ourselves, throw rocks, find favorite rocks, go fishing with plain sticks. I remember one trip in particular when I found a snapping turtle. I was, of course, sticking my finger towards its mouth, seeing if it would snap. It did. Pinched my finger hard enough that I wet my pants! I remember crying. Hello. If you poke a wild animal in its mouth, it will bite.

Besides random attacks from snapping turtles, I remember all of us being together. That was important. The mom and dad, the 4 kids, the dog, the cat, the bird. We all crowded into the camper and dad drove us along bumpy dirt roads to get to our camp or picnic destinations. That was back in the good old days when kids rode in the camper while the vehicle was in motion. We played cards, colored pictures, ate snacks, climbed up and down from the over-the-cab bed, and I’m sure, fought like crazy. But somehow, we all made it to adulthood.

Looking back at this picture of myself standing on rocks and my sister collecting nature items, I can remember the beauty of the water, the rocks, the plants, the dirt. I can feel the sun on my back. Just look at those boulders behind me. I mean, they are gorgeous. Plenty of lichen and hiding spots for poisonous desert dwellers. But we didn’t worry too much about those. Stay away from the obvious dangers like tarantulas and rattlesnakes. Leave them alone, they’ll (most likely) leave you alone. Dappled light gives great luster to this photo. I love how the sunlight highlights my braids. And I see I am, even at that young age, wearing one of my lifelong favorite colors. Orange. And stripes. I’m still into stripes. Funny.

I’m so glad my parents instilled in us a love of the outdoors and exploring our surroundings. It doesn’t matter where you live, there are interesting and beautiful nature hot spots just waiting to be discovered. You can go as far as your backyard (welcome, gallon jars of tadpoles) or escape to a different state or country.

Hello, Arizona desert. I miss you.

How about you? Where did you go exploring when you were a child?


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Book Report: Astronaut-Aquanaut: How Space Science and Sea Science Interact by Jennifer Swanson

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Astronaut-Aquanaut: How Space Science and Sea Science Interact

Written by Jennifer Swanson

Published by National Geographic Partners, LLC; 2018

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I received two copies of Astronaut-Aquanaut by Jennifer Swanson, one to keep and one to give to my grandson’s school. We made the delivery in January, giving the book to his teacher. Thanks so much to Jennifer!

You can learn more about Jennifer and her books by visiting her web site.

 

AMAZON BLURB:

Journey from the deepest trenches in the oceans to the farthest humans have ventured into space and learn what it takes to explore the extremes. You might just be surprised by how similar the domains of ASTRONAUTS and AQUANAUTS really are.

Space and the ocean. If you don’t think they go together, think again! Both deep-sea and space explorers have to worry about pressure, temperature, climate, and most importantly, how to survive in a remote and hostile environment. Join us on an amazing journey as we go up in space with astronauts and dive deep down in the ocean with aquanauts to explore the far-off places of our planet and the solar system.

With a strong tie into STEM topics–such as making connections, making comparisons, and recognizing patterns across content areas–readers will discover the amazing science and incredible innovations that allow humans (and sometimes only machines) to survive in these harsh environments.

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WHAT I LIKE ABOUT THIS BOOK:

Astronaut-Aquanaut is a gorgeous book! Colorful illustrations, photos, graphs, and detailed information fill the pages. Despite ample pictures to look at, the text is skillfully written and explains so many space and ocean concepts! I learned many new ideas and information. I had no idea how similar deep sea science and deep space science are to each other.

This book really is an excellent resource for anyone who wants to learn about becoming an astronaut or an aquanaut. The pages are filled with so many cool tidbits, factoids, and real life experiences of those individuals who have pursued careers in both fields.

STEM based, Astronaut-Aquanaut is primed for leading young explorers to delve far and wide and learn more about both areas.

This nonfiction picture book, geared for older readers, is an excellent example of a text that instructs, entertains and informs.

Way to go, Jennifer Swanson!


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Throwback Thursday: Colors of Desert Sun

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The opposite of sun-bleached, we were sun-drenched.

Long shadows, blinded eyes, rich dense colors.

Yes, this was us in the early 1970’s. I was most likely in 2nd grade, dressed for Arizona heat. My brother was in kindergarten, already pursuing his unique personality and sense of humor. Little sister must have been preschool-age, but back then going to preschool was not a thing families did.

Yes. That was how our yard was landscaped. Gravel, dust, scrappy weeds. The interesting parts were the critters and wildlife we discovered as we played and explored the desert environments. In this location alone, I remember collecting gallons of tadpoles after desert storms, and hunting horned toads, tarantulas, scorpions, snakes, spiders, jack rabbits, and those scary spider wasps. We also rescued a tortoise from the middle of the road and let him burrow around in the back yard. Thaddeus Humperdinck. That was his name. No idea why.

Yes. Windows open. The weather must not have been too drastically hot, and judging from the distant clouds, we might have recently enjoyed rain. We had a swamp cooler on top of the trailer and I remember lying on the floor beneath it during the hottest part of summer days with my coloring book and crayons, cooling off in the damp wind it created. But in this photo, the time of day was when the desert sun was kissing the horizon, ready to give us well-deserved shade and respite.

Yes. This was a very cool station wagon. Not only a wagon, but a magic vehicle capable of transporting us on weekend family treks to historical, dusty, engaging, scary, crowded, isolated, or deserted Arizona hot spots. Haha, “hot” spots. Soda pop bottles, white bread, bologna, and we were ready to roll. Up hill, down hill, across stretching southwest landscapes, stopping for rare shade trees and dusty gullies, drips of streams and gorges filled with flash floods. Life was an adventure. Include: dogs, kids, play pen, stroller, and avid interest.

Yes. A home on wheels. And we used those wheels to move the trailer several times over our life within the metal, possibly uninsulated, walls. We survived desert thunderstorms, lighting shows, freezing temperatures, snow storms, and heat hot enough to cook (insert your favorite food). Home it was. 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, living room, dining room-kitchen, and utility room. Kids lived on the right end, parents on the left. We six (plus critters) crammed a magnificent amount of life into that gorgeous tenement on wheels.

I loved living in the desert, back when heat didn’t bother me and I spent all my days outside, digging in the dirt, catching insects and reptiles, chasing kids in the ‘neighborhood,’ and making up daring adventure stories while riding horseback with my similarly minded friends. The nostalgia of childhood paints beautiful masterpieces in my mind, blotting the difficult times (were there any?) and adding exquisite details to enhance my thankfulness to God for a good, excellent, childhood.

What about you? Which photo takes you back to your childhood?


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Throwback Thursday: Girls Can Do Anything

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This Throwback Thursday post is brought to you by Mission Friends, preschool education, and great activities for kids.

Hammer, safety glasses, wood, apron, nails. Real tools. Check.

Plus supervision.

Add Chelsie, age 5. Ready to go and do some world building. Figuratively (pretend play and exploration) and literally (girls can do anything they dream, including learning to hammer nails and build). I offered this activity to my group of preschoolers in Mission Friends. I never shied away from plans some considered slightly dangerous: hammering nails, melting crayons on a food warming tray, chopping softer fruits and veggies with butter knives. And the kids never let me down. They LOVED doing grown up jobs and took their activities seriously.

How do preschoolers and young children learn? By doing, exploring, experimenting, evaluating, planning, making mistakes, trying again.

My way of doing preschool.

“Play is the highest form of research.” Albert Einstein


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Clay Tiles + Wood Benches = Fun for Kids

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Did you know that:

  • Dried-up markers make excellent painting tools when dipped in clay saucers of water?
  • Water color makers make pretty cool paintings on the clay tiles of a patio.
  • Chalk is another fun tool. Water, chalk, clay tiles. That’s it.
  • Dirt. Always fun. Anyplace. Dig out the gardening tools and construction toys.
  • Wood benches also make the perfect canvas for dried-up markers and water and chalk and water.
  • River rocks, those flat, smooth sorts that are so awesome to hold and touch, make wonderful stacking blocks. Add them to clay saucers to experiment with how they change colors. And paint them with chalk and markers.
  • Add some off-roading or construction vehicles for a different type of exploration.
  • Turn the tiles over. Bumpy road! (My tiles have ridges on the back.)
  • Cut fallen branches into logs for building. Birch trees are a personal favorite. My kiddos love peeling the paper off (extra fine motor practice) and I can use it for crafts. Or they can.
  • All of the above? Leave as is and let the rain or sprinkler wash away the traces. Or spritz the clay tiles and benches with water and TA-DA, clean, fresh canvases for more fun!

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So go ahead, enjoy those dried-up markers, clay tiles, rocks, branches, and benches. I love watching my grands explore, create, make a mess, and explore. Me? Not a care in the world since it all washes off.

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