It's that beautiful time of year when the leaves are turning, the air is cool and the temperatures are reasonable once again. It is time to get out into nature and explore. (or at least go for a quick walk) At least this is what I tell myself. The reality is often a different picture altogether...
Here is the truth (and nothing but the truth) get ready, you might recognize a part of yourself. It's time for a walk - I tell the kids. They are excited and can't wait to get outside. We do the bathroom thing and make sure each child is fully clothed. Inevitably, they will be wearing stylish clothing in an effort to look cute in case I decide I want to take some pictures. I will brush hair and maybe even put in a braid - a girls got to be ready at all times. Myself, on the other hand - I am just grateful that workout pants on a walk are entirely acceptable - and the hair? A ponytail fits the bill, on a good day I will actually get all my hair into the ponytail. (I'm the one taking the pictures, remember?)
We are set to begin our journey. And believe me, a walk often turns in a journey of epic proportions. (Not always the good kind of epic either) I load the kids in the car and we drive to our favorite location. It's a nice walking path in a wooded area. The kids immediately being running around like they have never been outside before in their lives. They start scavenging for everything! I think they have a strong tie to hunting and gathering societies. I often wonder what would happen if I stopped feeding them. Maybe, they would bring home food instead of rocks...just a thought. Once we have started out in the proper direction the hunting beings. The children will begin to collect sticks and rocks.
A perfect walking stick is a top priority. Each stick is picked up and examined. It must be straight, but not too tall. Interesting, but not too crazy. Large, but not too heavy. Sturdy, but not too thick. You can see that the perfect stick must stand up to a series of tests. Once they have finally found the most amazing stick they will immediately begin to look for a better one. If a stick show potential for beating out it's rival I will have to hold the incumbent stick. Obviously, the old stick can not be cast away unless the new stick, does indeed, prove to be a better option. Often times, the old stick must still be retained just in case something happens to the new stick. By this time, we have usually made it far enough that I can still see the car in the parking lot. I often wonder if we should have just went stick hunting instead.
I will encourage the kids to just walk. Eventually, I will ban the picking up of any new sticks. It will be then that a stick breaks, or gets forgotten at some really cool point of interest. I will have discarded the extra (during a time when no one was watching) and now we have a problem. The kids are upset, I am standing by my rule (because after all, I really did want to walk), there is no hope of taking pictures (picking up stick after stick can cause an awful lot of damage to a carefully chosen outfit), and it may be time to go home.
After returning to the house frustrated a few walks in a row I came up with an idea. I loaded the kids up and we went on a stick hunt. We walked around and looked at stick after stick until we found the absolute best walking stick a kid could ever imagine. We loaded the stick into the car and took it home. (The kids thought I had lost it since no stick ever comes home with us) The stick was treated to it's own personal makeover as the kids painted their walking sticks and made a project they loved. My husband sprayed a sealer on the sticks once the paint and set and the result was fantastic.
When we start a walk my kids already have the best walking stick in the woods. It passes all the tests and with the custom paint job no other stick comes close. We start and finish our walk with one stick each and actually get to enjoy walking and looking at other things in the woods. (Like the great sand hill cranes that were previously ignored in favor of new sticks.)
Next task? Figure out what to do with all the rocks the kids now bring back...