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Lucy Tuesday, take eight: The Botanist

6 Nov

Not yet three, Lucy has raised some incredibly thoughtful and amazing questions as of late.   Most recently, on our walks, “Mommy – who made the flowers?”

I’ve always been fairly open regarding my ambivalence about religion and spirituality.  When Justin and I first began dating, we had lengthy talks about what it means to have faith. When we got engaged, we spent summer evenings in the home of George Brown, the priest who would later marry us, discussing religion.  When I became pregnant with Lucy, we talked about what it meant to believe in God.  With time, I’ve come to a comfortable place with God and I couldn’t sum it up any better than this:

“I believe in God, only I spell it Nature.”

~Frank Lloyd Wright

So when Lucy asks questions like “who made the flowers,” Justin shares his beliefs and I share mine.   And we don’t share differing ideas to confuse or compete.   We share differing ideas because we feel it is important for Lucy to know that it’s okay to have differing ideas – that everyone doesn’t have to believe in the same thing and that we can still love each other fiercely.  And because ultimately, she will believe in what is most comfortable for her, just as I did.

“Mother Nature made the flowers,” I tell her.   And then I decided to show her.

Last Tuesday, I took Lucy to one of two viveros (nurseries) in town.   Located at the entrance to Zen Yoga, a small, but lush nursery grows.  Most of the plants are driven in from Catarina, a town north of San Juan del Sur, known for its abundant gardens.  Because they didn’t have seeds for sale, we opted to purchase a few small plants to pot back at home.

Not surprising, amidst the green, Lucy set her sights on a  pinkish/purple flower and I chose a basil plant (great for cooking AND keeping the flies away).  Once home, we laid out all the necessary tools for potting our plants (including a homemade shell-decorated pot from a previous Lucy Tuesday).

As we scooped earth and patted soil, Lucy talked – sometimes to me and sometimes to the plants.

“Okay, little plant, I’ll put you next to your mama plant.”

“Mommy – how do I say basil in Spanish?”

“Albahaca,” I told her.

“Oh right, alahabaga.”

“Okay, alahabaga – are you thirsty?  Here’s some water for you.”

“Mommy, why do they need water?”

“Well, they need water and sun to grow, just like we do.”

“Sun makes us grow?” she asked thoughtfully.

“It does,” I said.  “It gives us energy we need to grow and it makes us happy.”

“Okay, Mommy.  Let’s be sure they gets lots of sun.  Then they can have lots of energy and be happy…like me.”

And so began our very first conversation about photosynthesis, the beauty and power of nature, survival, and Mother Earth.

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Lucy Tuesday (take seven): The Recycler

24 Oct

Lucy was on “rainy season” break from school last week, so instead of a Lucy Tuesday, we had Lucy All Week.  We managed to hit the park, the library, the market, a friend’s house, and even Managua throughout the week, but looking back at the week in pictures, a very clear theme emerged…

Lucy loves a good art project.  She comes home from school every day covered in marker, paint, and glue.  Nearly every day lately, she asks to “do art.”  I’ve got a decent amount of simple art supplies, but was glad to have stocked up on a few additional items while in Managua.  But pipe cleaners and yarn can only hold a little girl’s attention for so long – and so we set about finding items around the house that we could repurpose and boy did we hit the jackpot!

Day 1: Cardboard Box Town

I never thought I’d say this, but thank goodness for diapers.  Monday should really be called “sponsored by Huggies and Pampers.”  Lucy was up before 5 a.m. on day 1 of school vacation week and so it took some extra creativity to keep her occupied.  The good thing is that Lucy is thick into imaginary play and once she has something that grabs her attention, she will roll with it for at least an hour.

Three diaper boxes, some construction paper, and a little ingenuity and we had a house, a yard, and a sled for Lucy’s friends.  I initially called it a car, but Lucy was quick to point out that the box had no wheels and should therefore be a sled.  An observation which blew me away considering that she was recalling a memory, from almost a year ago, of sledding with Daddy and Grandpa.  We added in a few projects she brought home from school (the whale, the rooster) and voila – she had a full on farm (because don’t you know that whales live on farms).

Day 2: Plastic Bottle Flowers

It’s hard to top the creation of a village, but every town needs a garden and so for day two, we cut into plastic water bottles to make hand painted flowers.  This was a HUGE hit!  I made sure to do the cutting, but then let Lucy run wild with the paint.  We had fun mixing the primary colors to make new colors.  We added some popsicles sticks to the base to make stems and a garden we created:

Day 3: Wax Paper Stained Glass

This activity was a bust.  I thought Lucy would love ripping tissue paper to shreds and gluing it to wax paper, but she lost interest shortly after the glue came out.  Truth be told, I did most of the ripping and only managed to get her to glue some paper before she took off for the sink to wash off the glue.  Once the glue set, she did consult with me on what shape to cut and she helped me to loop the yarn and hang it in the window.  I will say that the glue was a great alternative to ironing the paper – better for little hands.

Day 4: Cardboard Picture Frame

This was the surprise hit of the week!  Lucy loves looking at photos of her family back in the States, especially her cousins.  So when I suggested that we make a picture frame for one of her many photos, she was thrilled.  I cut a rectangle out of one of the remaining diaper boxes, gave her a container of “stuff” and the glue stick and let her go.  Once she decided it was complete, we added some yarn to hang the frame, though Lucy preferred to wear the frame for most of the day.  Every day since, I’ve discovered the frame hanging in different locations throughout the house:

Day 5: Toilet Paper Cars/Trains

This was another fun one thanks to the number of elements involved in making the cars.  We first painted and waited for the tubes to try.  While they were tanning on the porch, we cut out the wheels and painted those.  Once the body of the cars were dry, Lucy set about decorating them with stickers.  By then, the wheels were also dry and we were able to attach them with pipe cleaners.  Though cars are fun, trains are even better, so we eventually added the yarn and attached the two rail cars to make a train.  The train has gone on to take up residence just outside the cardboard box house – after all, Lucy’s friends need a way to get from the pool to home…

It was a busy week for little girls…and moms!  We now have a collection of recyclable materials waiting in bodega for the next school break.

Lucy Tuesday, take six: The Naturalist

9 Oct

Lucy and I have both been under the weather this week – me with a cold, and Lucy with her umbrella.  She, quite literally, loves to be “under the weather” – any opportunity to break out her ladybug umbrella.  So when I awoke to a torrential downpour earlier this week, a puddle stomping morning for Lucy Tuesday seemed appropriate.  Plus, we were down a car and it seemed a good day to stick close to home.

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Lucy had her rain boots on before I could say puddle and we were off to explore the hood to see what new creatures came with the rains.  We barely made it off of the front porch when Lucy noticed a beetle that had flipped upside down and was struggling to turn over.  I wrote him off for dead, but Lucy insisted that if we helped to turn him “right up side” (her version of right side up), perhaps he could walk again.  And so we began our day by rescuing Mr. Beetle by placing him sunny side up.  Less than five steps later, and still on the porch, we discovered a frog nesting in one of our flowerpots, soaking in the cool, damp soil.  After a brief conversation with La Rana, whom Lucy insisted was a girl, we finally made it onto the driveway.  By then, the rain had stopped and the sun was blazing, but we carried on in search of muddy puddles.

Thanks to heavy rains, puddles were abundant.  Lucy wondered allowed if any fish lived in the puddles.  When I explained that it was unlikely because they would need to travel from a lake or an ocean or a river to get to the puddles, she pointed out that crabs accomplished this feat daily.  And so we decided to check each and every puddle just in case there might be a fish (or a dolphin) because maybe, well, you just never know.  When the puddles came up empty, Lucy began taking notice of how much water filled each hole and wanted to know why one boot was covered in puddles more than the other.  I threw the question back at her and she surmised that it must be because one boot wasn’t as good of a swimmer as the other and therefore needed to stay in shallower water.  I decided to forego the opportunity to teach about depth and rolled with the possibility that perhaps one boot just needed some swim lessons.

In between puddles, we scaled giant rocks and crossed rushing rivers and happened upon some friends that looked strikingly like us:

And so we danced with our shadows for a bit, waving hello and finally goodbye and set off in search of more “natures.”  Lucy pointed out the billowing trees and questioned why they were moving.  We determined that the howler monkeys were not close enough to swing in these branches and therefore, the movement must have been caused by either the zanate or the uraca (both birds common to Nicaragua).  And then we happened upon this beauty roosting in the lush green leaves.

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As the puddles dried in the scorching sun, we made our way back home, but not before Lucy identified some letters on the sign to our entrance and said hello to the neighbor’s dog.

Once home, Lucy was quick to shed her boots and requested an “art project,” a favorite pastime for us both.  But I was beginning to run out of creative ideas (and materials) and so I did a quick Google search for preschooler art projects and found this recipe for homemade goop.  It seemed perfect, as I even had a little bit of leftover food coloring.  Unfortunately, I didn’t realize, until it was too late, that cornstarch and corn flour are not the same thing.  We’d already begun to mix the mess and so I let Lucy roll with it because really, goop is fun, no matter the recipe.  Instead of watching the properties shift from liquid to solid, as promised by the original recipe, we explored color mixing and watched blues and reds transform into none other but…purple!  We made handprints and drew our names and shapes in the goop, too.  Lucy delighted in the mess for far longer than I expected and even managed to keep the walls goop-free.

By the time we were done playing and cleaned up, it was time for lunch and so we ate gallo pinto and pollo with stained hands and headed up for nap.

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