The Great Outdoors

We live in a big city. But that doesn’t mean we can’t get out and get dirty, do a little exploring, have some hands-on learning. What do you do to get outside and do and see something new?

The great thing about kids and their limited life experience, while tantrum-inducing at times (Why can’t I have cookies for dinner? But I don’t want to leave!! I want that toy RIGHT NOW!), makes for some real fun as just about everything is novel! And their reactions are so priceless!

Xander staring at the turtles is just too much! Pure wonderment!

One of the local universities (happens to be pumping out lots of rocket scientists so we go there to let the smarts rub off!) has a large pond of beautifully landscaped rocks and plants, waterfalls and pathways all around and through it. Also, it’s full of turtles, so it makes for a fun field trip.

Resting and keeping cool after a hike through the canyon.

We happen to live near the mountains and there are several (easy) hikes through the canyons and arroyos near us. I tend to shy away from these kinds of adventures even though I have fond memories of family hikes back in the Midwest as a kid, because my mind goes to rattlesnakes and poison oak and the like. But I have to get past all that; call it what it is: fear, and get out there and let adventures happen. Even if it’s not all happy and wonderful. Of course there are scrapes and falls and not-so-pleasant things along the journey of life. My kids will have to learn that sooner or later, so it might as well be while I’m along to help manage the not-so-fun stuff.


The beach. Now there’s an outdoor activity I can get behind! Yeah, it takes a lot of stuff, and for us, a bit of a drive, and lets not forget the whole sunscreen-up scenario and the dreaded de-sanding process (tell me you’ve heard of the baby powder trick, it will change your life!). But the sound of the waves and the warm sand between my toes is just the good life, plain and simple. I may be a little biased from our dreamy pre-kids life living just a few doors up from a lovely Southern California beach.

Watching the encounter with the tactile experience of crawling/walking/digging in the sand is one of my favorites.

I know some kids just can’t hack the sandiness, but my kids eat it up! Sometimes, literally.

Ahh, this oldie but goodie of beach baby Eddie. *Sigh* Wasn’t that yesterday?

Nowadays Eddie is a busy kiddo at the beach. His favorite is playing with his toy construction trucks in the sand, but any kind of general digging–shovels, sifters, buckets–will keep him busy for hours.

Until this summer he was afraid of the unpredictability of the waves, not to mention the cold. Now he’ll actually get wet which is a worthwhile learning experience in and of itself.


Eddie getting his own pair of wheels this year has opened up a whole new world of playing outside: riding his bike! As he masters propelling, steering, and balancing, he’s also developing his imagination which is a blast to see and join in the fun of spaceships, race cars, and freeway driving (poor big city kid).


I’m not a great boy mom in that I struggle to let my guys get dirty. Sometimes all it takes to combat my clean-streak is to simply think it through: while maybe it wasn’t my plan, we can always take a bath and their clothes are washable. Letting boys be boys and get filthy in the process takes a little letting go on my part.


Take for example the other day. I have a crawler. That wonderful stage when constant supervision is required because he’s on-the-go but doesn’t have much sense to accompany his shenanigans. But I had some yard work to do, watering the trees, weeding, etc., so I buckled Xanderman into the stroller out in the courtyard so he was contained while I worked and Eddie played. Not only was he not going to get into trouble, trying to eat rocks or something, but he’d stay much cleaner that way.

Imagine my surprise when I rounded the corner to this:


Big brother had filled the stroller tray with water from the hose, some grass and sticks and rocks and leaves, and some dirt-turned-mud for good measure! Xander was soaking wet, had mud all around his mouth like he’d had a few bites, and was happily splashing!

Eddie said he “just wanted Xander to have fun”. Well, mission accomplished. I guess it’s true that getting dirty is pretty sure-fire fun for little boy. And I’m hoping all the pounds of dirt washed down the childhood bathtub, all the little black fingernails, and wet, muddy, stained loads of laundry, and mud tracked through the house will translate to grown boys who won’t back down from the nitty-gritty, down-and-dirty, hard work it takes be a grown up.

2 thoughts on “The Great Outdoors

  1. Jody Klotzle

    Ahhhh…. I loved raising three boys in Southern California, you’ve described it beautifully! Hold on for the ride, it get much crazier! Plus I had a girl thrown in the mix for good measure! Thanks for this post!


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