NATURALLY, KIDS! A family bucketlist…

A childhood friend shared this article on Facebook. I immediately recalled the hours chasing her around outside her home. With her, I got to first experience feeding dogfood to a rescued baby bird, wheeling, then dumping, her little brother into the rosebushes because red wagons don’t corner well, and protesting the adoption of all her roly-poly puppies because we wanted to keep them all.

The article states what we already know, that in the age of Facebook and smartphones, children are more sedentary than ever even when they are outside, with one in 10 unable to ride a bike. This is their list of 50 things kids should do before they are 12 (plus a few I threw in). Since my son is almost 11, I’m just going to use it as a rough guide of 50 things to try to do before college. Though now that he is heading to college, we’ll say before his younger sister goes to college…

Feel free to join us for any or all of them!

The full list is as follows:

1. Climb a tree

After volunteering at a pancake breakfast we found an awesome tree with thick broad branches perfect for climbing!

2. Roll down a really big hill

One of the greatest activities at this party was the impromptu roll down a huge hill. If kids picked up enough speed they could go right in the lake.

3. Camp out in the wild

It’s dawn – time to wake up?!

4. Build a den

5. Skip a stone


Right-handed Softballer; Left-handed Stone Skipper

6. Run around in the rain

7. Fly a kite

Flying Free with the wind in her hair!

8. Catch a fish with a net

9. Eat an apple straight from a tree

10. Play conkers

11. Throw some snow

This was the first snow found – dirty snow in the parking lot

12. Hunt for treasure on the beach

13. Make a mud pie

14. Dam a stream

15. Go sledging – I’m guessing they meant sledding as sledging is a great way to pollute the air with smacktalk!

Sailing over the snow!

In CA we also sand sled!

16. Bury someone in the sand

What if your head isn’t what’s buried in the sand?

17. Set up a snail race

18. Balance on a fallen tree

19. Swing on a rope swing

I called this Ewok Training Camp in Hungary

20. Make a mud slide

21. Eat blackberries growing in the wild

22. Take a look inside a tree

23. Visit an island

24. Feel like you’re flying in the wind

Not a ride in nature, but the closest thing to flying at Knott’s Berry Farm!

25. Make a grass trumpet

26. Hunt for fossils and bones – or our hunt for Elliott if we want to be fully transparent – Like Elliott!


Only the cave knows what treasures it holds

27. Watch the sun wake up

28. Climb a huge hill (bicycle optional!)

Carson rode all the way up this exhausting hill for bragging rights and an ice cream!

29. Get behind a waterfall

30. Feed a bird from your hand

31. Hunt for bugs

32. Find some frogspawn

33. Catch a butterfly in a net

34. Track wild animals

35. Discover what’s in a pond

36. Call an owl

37. Check out the crazy creatures in a rock pool

38. Bring up a butterfly

39. Catch a crab

40. Go on a nature walk at night

41. Plant it, grow it, eat it

42. Go wild swimming

Swimming upstream!

43. Go rafting

44. Light a fire without matches

45. Find your way with a map and compass

46. Try bouldering

47. Cook on a campfire11/9/13 Lauren and her friend Riley learned how to cook Snickerdoodle cookies on a campfire in a box oven. I wish I’d taken a picture, but I didn’t so here is what it looked like (but we used cinder blocks, not coke cans).

The Snickerdoodle cookies were a huge hit! Lauren ate 3 herself! Thanks for this photo! I'm your newest fan!

The Snickerdoodle cookies were a hit!  Thanks for the photo! I’m your newest fan!

48. Try abseiling

49. Find a geocache

50. Canoe down a river

51. Go on dog sled

Mush! We have a lot of Montecito Sequoia to explore!

52. Visit a national park preserve

Even grander in real life!

53. Do snow/sand angel

After falling off her bike a lot that day, she preferred activities already on the ground.

54. Squish toes in the mud

55. Jump in a pile of leaves

The crunchy leaves smell like fall!

56. Relax in a cave

Contemplating Superstitions at Superstition Mountain

What about you?
Do you have any bucketlists for your family?
What have I left off of this list?
Which National Park MUST I see first?
How have your family travel plans changed once kids go to college?


Our neighbors always inspire us with their outdoor adventures. Where I overflow with curiosity, I lack in outdoor survival skills. Thankfully when we set out on this adventure, our neighbors gave us a few tips – wear tennies and watch the tide.

For years, I’ve wanted to explore a sea cave on the sea edge of the Terranea resort in Palos Verdes, CA. Ever since seeing Disney’s Pete’s Dragon.  I instinctually knew that Elliott retired to California.

This summer, our neighbors came home with this…

Big Boned

…proof that large creatures, dragons even, live off our coasts.

After guilt tactics that Mommy always does what the kids want to do and now it’s my turn, promises of adventure, and one of possibly the best pretzels ever at Nelson’s, my kids finally agreed to help me hunt for Elliott.

Arriving at the trailhead, their pace quickened.

Suddenly the jaded teenager leads the pack

Suddenly the jaded teenager leads the pack

The seawalls growing higher around us opened revealing a little cove.

Immediately the kids were submerged in the beauty of nature and the magic of the adventure.

Lauren, my rock collector, hunted for a treasured memento.

Please Mom, may I keep it?

Please Mom, may I keep it?

We opted to look for smaller ones.

What treasures the cove held

What treasures the cove held

Carson found one with a chain link fence in it. Knowing it came from the top of the cliffs chilled us. Lauren found unique rock formations.

Aliens or humans

Aliens or humans

The kids skipped a few.

Skip it

WTF: With True Force – skipping rocks!

The day surpassed Carson’s relaxation goal.

Recalibrating from hectic  Middle School days

Recalibrating from hectic Middle School days

The cave called us up the cliffs.

Wait for me!

Wait for me!

We stood at the open mouth.

Bom bombom bombombom bombombom... We love you too

Bom bombom bombombom bombombom…
We love you too

The tide warned us to stay out – but, Carson leaped in.

A squishy shoe for the hike back is worth this view!

A squishy shoe for the hike back is worth this view!

The tide pushed him into the cave!

Mom, it's open way up in back...

Mom, it’s open way up in back…

We gals vowed to return another time when the tide retreats.

Lauren secretly hoped he was moving in

Lauren secretly hoped he was moving in

After catching their breath in a cave and promising to not resist as hard next time I get a hair-brained idea,

We'll never doubt you again! Mark their words...

We’ll never doubt you again!
Mark their words…

we hiked back to civilization in search of cool refreshments.

Manhattan Beach Creamery:  They custom make magic there!

Manhattan Beach Creamery:
They custom make magic there!


With a name like that, curiosity wins, although the kids opted for standard options. While they weren’t thrilled with the flavor, it was all part satisfying our appetite for adventure!

Never met a flavor I didn't like... 'til now.

Never met a flavor I didn’t like…
’til now.

We will return to the cave and explore deeper with head lamps!  Plus we want to wander down another trail to take us closer to the bone yard.

Now, the kids can’t wait to see where we explore next.


This past weekend we went camping with my son’s Boy Scout troop.

Doesn’t get any more peaceful than this…

It was one of the few family camping outings since most outings will be for Scouts alone – with adult supervision. We were split up as follows: 2 patrols with 4 new scouts each – my son led one; 2 senior patrol leaders – incredibly patient, straightforward yet humorous teenaged motivators.

Lauren has some motivational skills to sharpen before she could lead a patrol.

One adult oversaw the itinerary. We 10 parents plus 3 siblings made up a 3rd patrol. Each patrol had to operate independently. We could not help the boys, only intervening in case of a safety issue. They (and we) were responsible to set up tents,

Beautiful spot of real estate – we learned rocks are unavoidable and uncomfortable.

plan, buy and cook food,

They bought everything they needed and came in under budget!

clean up dishes,

Lauren compromised patrol boundaries to eagerly help the boys wash dishes.

plus leave the camp sight spotless. Boy Scouts Leave No Trace.

It was a great weekend to meet the other parents, too. One ex-military mom with “intelligence” and “corporate organization” words in her job title caught my attention when she’d step in to redirect the boys, “Don’t cook bacon on the grill without a pan” or “Dishes aren’t rinsed in the creek” then returned to the parent patrol motioning with her two curved fingers brushing past her skull – “Neural Pruning!”

I hear Nat’l Geographics Insight into the Teenage Mind provides great insight!
Image from Brain Brilliance.

Neural Pruning means that young kids collect an avalanche of information and form ridiculous numbers of neural connections to absorb and make sense of it. Eventually, we have to get rid of connections or we’d be wandering around in spirals with glazed-over expression, words flying through our mind without sticking – like my 11-year old (albeit smart) son does. Neural Pruning strengthens strong connections – gun safety,

The highlight, and the most neural pruning – forget what you learned in Modern Warfare…

multiplication tables, reading – and eliminates unnecessary connections – Barney songs, first time you hated broccoli, perhaps it’s even how women “forget” the ordeal of childbirth to eagerly have another one.

My Another One… My favorite girl enjoying her gourmet dessert – while camping!

It was amazing watching the boys alternate between skillful teamwork and not absorbing that there was a nearby fresh-water spigot. Now, our parental goal is continuously encouraging the boys to rise to the occasion and fighting the urge to do things for them.

As long as he had his pasta, he was comfy!

…and it turned out tasty! I want to create patrol boxes for every part of my life.













Why, then, can I still remember songs from Sesame Street 40 years ago knowing I don’t need them today – not even after raising 2 kids. What could I do with that valuable neural real estate?


Somewhere along the way, my kids became jaded before their time. When I wanted to see Disney Nature Chimpanzee and my kids refused, while regularly quoting Zombieland or pointing out when real artifacts resembling those in games, something had gone awry.

(C) Disney

From the moment I bawled during the trailer, I knew I’d make my family see this film. I get it, for kids the film smacked of “educational.” When I told the kids and their guest which tickets I bought, protests arose – some more polite than others. Walking through the movie theatre lobby, another friend that asked what he was seeing approached my son. My son’s meek response and the child’s apologetic look confirmed, “Mom was officially uncool!” I pressed on.

The film was visually stunning. Seeing breathtakingly untouched parts of this world committed me to ensure their future. Witnessing the detail of the alive and threatening jungle contrasted with the slow-motion chain reaction igniting raindrops inspired me with views I could not have dreamed up, much less captured. I knew the gist of the story from the trailer, and knew where conflict might occur but the film was shot very tastefully showing real danger and emotion but without the raw, last quiver of nature films.

(C) Disney

I highly recommend this movie! Watching the amazing family structure, behavior, and interaction of the chimpanzees, especially the baby named Oscar, was enlightening! The shots were so close you felt like family. It revealed awesome things about nature, nurturing, family structure, animal hierarchies, and movie making. During the credits they shared the experience of the film-makers. It amazed me how close they were to the family and that when the chimpanzees charged by the camera, both camera operators turned their faces away and backed up slowly – to avoid eye contact that might provoke the chimpanzees. Learn more Chimpanzee survival tips here.

In the last 50 years 80% of the chimpanzee population vanished. A percentage of ticket sales from this opening weekend go to the Jane Goodall Institute! Go, today, and share your impression of this movie.

Oh, the kids reviews ranged from “I admit, it was pretty good” to “I want to see it again!” See, listen to your mother!

(C) Disney

Naturally, Kids!

Rather than a new post tonight – I’m introducing a new page!

Inspired by Spencer the Caterpillar, our nature-loving neighbors, the desire to get back to nature, and the memories of an unplugged, fancy-free childhood, comes:  Naturally, Kids!

If you have any ideas to add to the list, or favorite adventures to share, I’d love to hear them!



We have a house guest! He’s got thick black hair and loves to eat… No, it’s not Elvis, it’s SPENCER! He’s our neighbors’ caterpillar! Caterpillars don’t really like to travel in cars at speeds up to 65 mph and although they won’t tell you, they get a little carsick. The family thought it best if Spencer sat out this trip!

I didn’t want to irritate him by sticking the camera in his face too much, so I got a close up shot elsewhere so you may almost see how handsome he is.

Handsome devil!

Here are a few cool things about Spencer. He’s black with barely noticeable streaks of orange. He lives on wood chips and soil, with a seaweed tree, and loves to eat leafy vegetables. If you feed him lettuce, he poops green. If you feed him red cabbage, he poops pink! It’s pretty much in one end out the other with him. I hear he’s nocturnal, but fortunately, he’s not very loud so besides the crunch of the lettuce leaves I don’t think he’ll disrupt our sleep.

Our first night we wanted to make sure he felt welcome so we wrapped him in Lauren’s blankets.

See him next to his lettuce?

Lauren read to him. His favorite page had a picture of his cousin the inchworm on it.

Spencer was smiling so big!

We talked to him about what it felt like to be a caterpillar, if the things we’d learned along the way were true. Were caterpillar’s chronically hungry? I’m now envisioning a rainbow of caterpillar poop as he progresses.

A whole new rainbow of foods!

Did all caterpillar’s lives revolve around becoming big beautiful butterflies? They think Spencer will turn into a beautiful moth!

Heimlich is one of my favorites!
(C) Disney/Pixar

With recent news on the effects of smoking or second-hand smoke on caterpillars, do they still feel the need to smoke while emitting short puffs of insults and riddles?

Whooo Rrrrr Yooooou?
(C) Disney

Perhaps he’s still warming up to us as he didn’t really answer one way or the other. Carson enjoyed having a sleepover.

Sawing logs and eating leaves

OK, kidding, considering their size difference and the violent nature of Carson’s sleeping positions, Spencer felt more at home on the highest bookshelf among the natural rocks, fossils, and gemstones and away from cats.

Protected in his element

We hope Spencer has sweet dreams of more adventures tomorrow!


I count down the days until my much-anticipated vacation, practically kill myself to get out of town for a few, but know the amazing escape will be worth it if I live long enough to get there!

I looked forward to the serenity and reflection nature offers.

Last week, we were set! My son got a jumpstart on his school project due tomorrow – while keeping up with homework. My daughter proactively did 3 pages of homework a night! I looked for work, fundraised for kids’ science camp and blogged. We’d hit a new rhythm and this bonus trip was fun-tastic!

This week, starting my new job, we had the learning curve of a new routine. Couple that with my daughter’s lost security blankets (Buddys)

My daughter communicating the pain of her lost “Buddys”

and the week got crazy until Friday night. I planned to pour a glass of red, do laundry, and pack. I didn’t go as planned (does it ever?!), but we packed, I blogged the extra post for Saturday and were surprisingly on time Saturday morning.

We drove up to the wilderness, the kids looked forward to shooting and running while I hoped to wander and shoot scenic photos. Once I got there, the lack of snow revealed that the reserve was devastated by fire almost 9 years ago and left in ruins. Usually the snow paints a prettier picture. While the kids did team building exercises, I looked for gems hidden in the forest floor along the way:

A forest throne to crawl in, sit for a while, and hear amazing tales.

During archery, this natural bulls eye hypnotized me. The fire attacked, but didn’t destroy it.

I shot this to share with my kids as I know they ran right by it. Woodpeckers shove acorns in logs to attract bugs to eat.

I loved how much fun my kids’ had with their friends from all years of their lives. I loved exploring the town, accommodating my son’s insistence of our malt shop tradition. I felt restored heading home early enough to relax for the week.

I didn’t love that we couldn’t shut the front door fast enough to keep reality from barreling in after us.

After reintroduction back into the wild (your life) it’s hunting season and you’re open game!

My daughter wept since I wouldn’t be at school for writing showcase, my son pressed on to meet his report deadline, and my relaxing moments crashed like the oversize Jenga game from the camp. We all needed a nap but couldn’t sacrifice the time. I look forward to the week starting again but feel like I was never gone. At least I have the pictures or I’d never believe it.

A Jackelope – believe it or not!

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