Monday, January 30, 2012

Why children need nature

I spend a lot of time at work researching and writing about why children benefit from a connection to the natural world. The evidence is overwhelming: When children spend time outside they benefit academically, socially, physically, and mentally. One of the best books on this subject is Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv.

An excerpt from his book:

He was right. Americans around my age, baby boomers or older, enjoyed a kind of free, natural play that seems, in the era of kid pagers, instant messaging, and Nintendo, like a quaint artifact.

Within the space of a few decades, the way children understand and experience nature has changed radically. The polarity of the relationship has reversed. Today, kids are aware of the global threats to the environment—but their physical contact, their intimacy with nature, is fading. That's exactly the opposite of how it was when I was a child.
As a boy, I was unaware that my woods were ecologically connected with any other forests. Nobody in the 1950s talked about acid rain or holes in the ozone layer or global warming. But I knew my woods and my fields; I knew every bend in the creek and dip in the beaten dirt paths. I wandered those woods even in my dreams. A kid today can likely tell you about the Amazon rain forest—but not about the last time he or she explored the woods in solitude, or lay in a field listening to the wind and watching the clouds move.

There is also a lot of great research about how our culture has evolved in such a way that children are no longer allowed to roam. Like in this case:

But when I am outside with Truman, digging in the dirt, walking on a trail, or just trying to burn off some energy (his, not mine), I don’t think about these things. I just feel more relaxed. More at ease. There is nothing to break, nothing to clean, no screens to stare at. There is something about being in the trees or on the beach, with no other people, that always reminds me that I am a human being (and not a human doing). So today, after a long walk in the forest near our home, I am grateful for natural spaces and time spent outside.

Rachael Carson says it much nicer than me:

Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature ‑ the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after the winter.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

DIY: Hobby Horses

I had this great idea a month ago - to make hobby horses for all the kids invited to Truman's 2nd birthday party, which happens to a cowboy party. I found a great tutorial on this cute blog and I started sewing away. And oh boy, that was a great idea in theory. But I am really tired of sewing yarn onto socks. Thankfully, I am nearing the end of the project and will soon spend my evenings creating a faux western town front from cardboard, making "fools gold", and breaking in my cowgirl boots.

The blog linked above has a lot of great ideas, so if you are a diyer, enjoy!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Small town living and Craigslist Fail

I absolutely love Craigslist. I have purchased the following awesome items for cheap in the past year:

  • A wood dollhouse
  • A mini trampoline
  • A fireplace gate
  • A giant red dresser (free!)
And I have sold the following unwanted crapola:
  • An oversized chair ("Finally, a realistically priced brown microfiber chair")
  • Some hand blown glass bowls (from a girl that was ecstatic to have something from the Hilltop neighborhood of Tacoma)
  • A giant red dresser (free!)
This week, during a typical household purge (I hate clutter) I found an old Henckels bread knife which was a wedding gift. After eight years, I was certain we would never use this knife. Since it was still in the packaging, I put this up on CL:

seattle craigslist > kitsap co > for sale / wanted > household items

Henckels Bread Knife - new in original packaging - $25 (Bainbridge Island)

Date: 2012-01-23, 7:48PM PST
Reply to: your anonymous craigslist address will appear here

Hi there,

This is a brand new knife in its original packaging. We love this brand - very sturdy and sharp. We have two, so I am finally selling this one.

image 0

I was so excited to hear back almost immediately from someone who was interested. We met up, made the transaction, and I had $25 in my pocket. He didn't haggle at all. (As a side note, my personal CL strategy is to ALWAYS make a counteroffer in person. I have never been turned down because --honestly--what is better, me hauling away your crapola now, or you having to connect with another stranger at a later date?)

And then today, I get an email. It turns out the buyer was very disappointed. The knife is "smaller and more lightweight than I thought and is on sale for $12 on amazon!" (I checked, it is.)

My first reaction was:
A. Do your homework before buying anything on Craigslist
B. Too bad
C. That 25 bones is loooong gone

But we live in a small town. I can't turn around without running into one of Jason's students, parents, former students, co-workers, etc. And now that I work on the Island too, our world is even smaller. And I just had this weird feeling - that this guy is neighbors with my boss. Or he goes to our church. Or his kids will have Jason when they reach the 7th grade.

And I did the unthinkable.

I offered him his money back.

WTF Mairead?

It is his fault! He did not do his due diligence! He bought the knife! There are no returns in the Craigslist universe!

(He was super super nice about it, and did not ask for his money back . . . )

So now I am waiting to hear back from him. And I will let you know when I do.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Playing house

This weekend, Truman asked me to play "baby."

I was hoping he wanted to "play house" but he actually wanted me to wrap him in a blanket while he did this really irritating pretend cry. Which was very sweet and funny and it kept his attention for quite a while.

When I went to bed that night, I was ecstatic for all the pretend play that lies ahead: Restaurant. Fire station. Explorers. House. I was also a tiny bit sad. There is no denying the fact that this big boy is a boy. Not a baby.

And today we played trains on our make shift train table. I love these days of playing together. This guy is my best little buddy right now.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Book Review: That's Not My Truck

That's Not My Truck is a book about a cute little mouse looking for his truck. This mouse must be very forgetful because other titles in this series include That’s Not My Train, That’s Not My Dinosaur, and That’s Not My Monkey.

I picked this up off the shelf before I headed to the potty. [My Mom suggests that I go ahead and brag a bit right here – because she herself has been working on ways to casually mention that I CAN POOP ON THE POTTY. And that this feat has been more memorable and exciting for her than my first steps or my first food. But I am not really the bragging type, and what I do in the bathroom is my business. Except when I fill the toilet with a giant mound of toilet paper . . . then it's my dad's business]

I digress. These chubby little books are very simple to read and the mouse is always a funny character. Spoiler Alert: He does find his truck. Peace out, little readers!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Jason totally thought this was okay

How about a teddy bear? Or your stuffed lamb? 

Friday, January 13, 2012

Truman's rules for getting dressed

Truman fully dressed and looking for mischief
He will choose his socks. Don’t even try to choose his socks.
Shirt. Sure. Until you put it on his head and he panics, cries, and wants another shirt.
Pants? No.
Coat? Hell no.
Hat? Maybe, if it is a fireman hat.  

Grouchy fireman

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Which bridges to burn

When Truman was a small baby, I went back to work.

Many months later, I called my priest. (We go to an Episcopal church and I think the official name is vicar, but anyways, the head guy at my church.) I told him I was unable to feel close to God because I spent all of my time--every single day--wrecked about leaving Truman. I had been back at work for over a year, but I lived in the past, considering and reconsidering my decision.
He met me for lunch. I poured my heart out. I cried in my soup. I explained to him that while my body was doing important work, my mind was living in a different dimension. I had been agonizing for many months. More than I’d like to admit.

He said a lot of things. But the most important thing he said was:

Burn the bridge.

Cross the bridge, then burn the bridge.

I left our lunch together and went back to work. I felt the same. I thought a lot about the bridge.

My mind back at the bridge. My body miles up the trail.

And all the while, my baby turned into a boy. And he needed me to play fireman. He needed me to set up his art supplies. He needed snuggles and books and trips to the zoo.  

He needed me to burn the bridge.
And then somewhere between driving him to daycare and making pancakes in the shape of dinosaurs, I forgot about the bridge. I didn't burn the bridge. There is no momentous turning point. No catharsis. I just kept moving forward, with all of my unfinished business as a person totally exposed.

And all of a sudden I was too far from the bridge to worry about it anymore.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Reflecting on our 2011 Joint Resolution

Truman at Point Defiance Beack on New Year's Day
I wanted to take a quick moment to reflect on our 2011 resolution:

Our joint resolution for 2011 is to use less plastic in our kitchen. We are the people that forget their reusable bags at the grocery store . . . every time. And since we are adding to the landfills by massive amounts by having a child, we are going to try to do our part.

This is an ongoing goal for us, with me dragging my husband along. Here is how we did:

What worked: For the most part, we started making different decisions at the grocery store. For example, buying milk and eggs with cardboard packaging. We stopped using plastic produce bags almost entirely. If I forget my reusable bags, I just let all my veggies and fruit frolic together in the cart. We totally eliminated ziplock bags and plastic wrap from the kitchen, which is super easy and I encourage everyone to give it a try. While it is unrelated to the kitchen, we refused to buy any new plastic toys for Truman.

What is still a challenge: There is no getting away from plastic in the dairy section! Yogurt, sour cream, cream cheese. The Shutt family likes dairy and there are few alternatives. Our garbage can is lined with a plastic bag and I am not ready to give up that convenience. We still bring a lot of plastic into the house in the form of diapers and personal care products . . . .

We did okay. It is a start. I was inspired by this site: and if you need inspiration, just youtube "largest garbage dump." It is floating in the ocean and it is larger than the state of Texas.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Doce en Doce: 12 Goals for 2012

Here are my hopes and intentions for the New Year.

1.      Start a running routine again. Take some long weekend runs. Run from one end of the Island to the other.

2.      Go see live music with Truman.

3.      Write a dozen letters. To my godparents, my Irish family, and the old people in my life who don’t use the interwebs.  

4.      Advance my latest business idea: the Earthquake preparedness kits for B. Islanders (watch out Red Cross, this kit includes organic food and a spare Ipad battery).

5.      Walk the Dungeness Spit. (

6.      Workplace goal: Be an awesome manager. Do more, talk less.

7.      Refuse to use single-use plastic bags.

8.      Reserve Mondays for Truman.

9.      Over-deliver on my promises and commitments to others. (And stop making so many damn promises!)

10.  Spend less time comparing myself to others and more time comparing myself to my previous self.

11.  Finally make the trip to Stehekin, Washington (

12.  Give up dairy for a month. Just to try it and see how I feel.