The Ant vs. The Grasshopper

TGSG Note: Readers of this blog will not be surprised by the fact that I was both a camper and a camp counselor back in the day. Yes, I can sing a campfire song and roast a marshmallow with the best of them, and have amazing memories of summers spent with the ABCs: arts & crafts, bugs and canoes. (Of course, the ABCs sometimes stood for attitudes, boys and complaining, but that is all part of the charm of being a teenage girl.) I am thrilled to have Ariella Rogge from Sanborn Western Camps guest post today. If you haven’t already, download their 101 Nature Activities PDF. It’s more fun than you can shake a stick at!

See ya outside! ~ The Grass Stain Guru

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Do you remember Aesop’s fable of  The Ant and The Grasshopper?  The ant who works, works, works and then condemns his lively, singing, dancing, sunshine-enjoying neighbor to an inevitable death by starvation when he refuses to share his hard-won winter stores?  The moral:  To work today is to eat tomorrow.  A morality tale that has become stark reality for many who are under or unemployed right now….and yet…..the Grasshopper within us, and especially within our children, deserves its moment in the sun today and everyday.

Autumn is my favorite season.  Warm days, crisp evenings, color everywhere.  The kids are settling into school routines, the holidays are approaching—but not close enough to worry about yet—there room to breathe, plan and prepare…and suddenly, it is Thanksgiving.

What happens during these finite fall months?  For me, I often chalk it up to proper (mis)management of time.  Project at work?  Let’s host the preschoolers at our outdoor education center, the project can wait til tonight.  Make a three dish meal?  Let’s go on a walk to the pond after school—frozen veggies and applesauce round out pasta/burritos/pizza quite nicely.  Clean the house?  That is why children (typically) sleep between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m….and “they say” dog hair is good for kids’ immune systems, anyway.

There IS a lot to do—and the ant in me is quick to point out that I live in a state of perpetual work anxiety, I don’t eat as well as I should, nor do I approach even the basic sleep requirements of an active adult.  If I didn’t have kids (and a fantastic spouse) I would probably be the poster-child for the Live Like a Toad campaign—working to eat/play, lounging in the sun during the long summer days, and then burying myself deep in the mud of a pond to sleep out the winter (dreaming about the inevitable arrival of the independently wealthy prince who will give me a big, life changing smooch).  But rather than moralize about my conformity, or non-conformity to the arthropods in my midst, I prefer to think that the moral of my autumnal tale is this:  Do what needs to be done.

And getting myself and my kids outdoors every day to explore and play is a priority I’m not willing to sacrifice.

To accomplish this, I look for activities to do with my kids that mesh the outdoors with my other priorities—which, most recently, was painting the bathroom.  A trip to the hardware store with two small boys is a delight…and then you try and choose a paint color.  But kids love paint swatches—so I gave them the task of finding colors that reminded them of fall (which meant every color of the rainbow)—and once they had a full assortment (and I had some paint that would change the color of the room, but not necessarily my life) we went home.

We sat on the deck and divided the complete rainbow of colors into seasonal piles, then we picked our five favorite swatches and decided which color on each swatch we were going to try and find in the natural world—and then we went on a Color Scavenger Hunt with our choices.  The only perimeters were that a) the color had to match perfectly (a nod to my Type A tendencies, but a fairly loose rule in the minds of young children) b) we could only use natural objects c) we could find other colors from our swatches, but we would not “win” the scavenger hunt until we found the five colors we wanted to match perfectly d) if you matched a color, you could propose a new name for the shade. 30 minutes later my son proclaimed victory after matching “Frolic” with the outer edge of a fallen aspen leaf—his new name for the color?  “Karsten Vomit” after our family’s recent bout of the stomach flu.

And with the grasshoppers careening and popping into our legs on the walk home, I was glad for our time to “frolic” and as I dished up our favorite blend of previously frozen peas, corn, carrots and beans I thought, “I will paint the bathroom later”…maybe.

Guest Blogger Bio: Ariella Rogge works as an associate director and program director at Sanborn Western Camps, where she lives with her husband, Matthew, two boys, a somewhat wild dog, and more rock/stick/bone/dirt collections than she can count.  Beyond gathering paint swatches from the distant hardware store, Ariella focuses her time and energy helping spread the word about the importance of both the camp experience and getting kids outside every day to play.  You can follow her on Twitter at @sanborncamps or check out her recent posts on the Sanborn Blog.

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