We spent a very lovely day at our friends’ lake house yesterday. The weather was cool and cloudy and not another soul was in sight, though it was the start of spring break this weekend. Even the animals stayed burrowed up – we saw plenty of birds, but nothing else.
Coffee and lunch. A very muddy walk. A short canoe ride. Then back inside for a few board games and cute little heads pressed together as they played.
During the day, the quiet and the view of the water, watching cormorants dive and a heron’s unhurried flight from one dock to the neighboring one, I remembered why I resolved this year to spend more time outdoors. When I am there, in my backyard or far from home, being outside feels so grounding…and so obvious. Every time, I wonder what took me so long to get there.
But I am such a homebody and sometimes my home is just too cozy.
And Evan and Clayton are so good at finding something to do anywhere, at entertaining themselves and each other, that they often stay where they are too.
So here are nine gentle reminders of old and new habits to help us to get out the door.
1. Step out the door
Most of the time, it just takes this simple step. Cross the threshold and I will be outside. Recently, I started going outside with the dogs when I put them out first thing in the morning. Instead of just opening the door and closing it behind them, I follow them out. This quiet minute or two before the neighborhood awakens is always one of my favorite moments of the day…when I remember to do it.
2. Walk there
I am lucky enough to have the world’s best walk to school. In fact, it was one of the main selling points for moving to our neighborhood. I can walk the boys to school more quickly than I can drive them – just four doors down, onto the path and across the waterway and we are there. Because of that, there is really no excuse for not walking every day. Sometimes it takes a bit of convincing if the weather looks ominous, but really unless a serious storm is already in progress, our walk is so quick that we can and should do it every day.
3. Bike there
When my husband was working out of the country for a week last year, I challenged myself not to drive the entire time that he was gone. I made sure we were well loaded up with groceries before he left and I put the boys in the trailer and biked for anything else we needed. My husband’s week away ended up being two plus, but I only caved one single time when I was so tired I just needed to pick up a pizza for dinner. I already drive so little that I only fill my gas tank about once a month (again, major selling point for our neighborhood), but jumping in the car for a quick errand is still more frequent of a habit than necessary.
4. Don’t go straight home
The boys’ school is in the middle of the woods, right next to a lovely park, backing onto the path and close to the waterway. Some of the parents have taken to staying around after pick-up time to let the kids play in the woods for a bit before heading home. The kids have found secret forts covered so completely in vines and branches that the adults cannot even reach it. This has become a treasured tradition for me and the boys, this hour of nowhere-to-be-but-outside at the end of the day. Somedays the to-do list threatens to pull me back home, but the boys are quite good at reminding me that this is the wrong decision…and they are completely right.
5. Dress for the weather
This reminder is meant to accompany all of the previous ones. As long as we have the proper clothing, there is no reason why we should not walk or bike or stay a bit longer. If I remember to throw the boys’ sun hats in my bag on a sunny day, if we wear our rain boots for our walk if the weather looks about to turn, if we layer properly when it is cool, we are more likely to stay outside longer and to enjoy ourselves more. (Renee at FIMBY wrote at excellent guide to outdoor gear for kids. It is focused on a much different climate than ours, but I still found it really useful.)
6. Eat out
We have plenty of extreme weather in Houston, but for a good part of the year we could eat outside at least once a day. Right now, it is only an occasional thing in our home, but it need not be. At this time of year, lunch time is best for eating outside. Later in the year, when the sun rises earlier and mid-day is too hot, breakfast outside is wonderful. And in the fall, dinner outside is perfect.
7. Try something new
I used to camp fairly regularly before kids, but all attempts so far with our little guys have failed. Either the weather is wrong, or we realize at the last minute that we have run out of camping fuel, or someone is a bit too tired… This year I have made a promise to take our first family camping trip. In fact, I took the plunge and made reservations at a nearby state park for next weekend.
8. Plan ahead
…like make the campsite reservations and make sure the gear is all in order far in advance. Invite friends so the commitment is stronger and backing out is more difficult. And pack up the night before. I should know by now that there is nothing more important for getting us out the door than getting the car cleaned out, the food prepared and the bags organized the night before.
9. Build it
This is a special reminder for us and a bit of a teaser for you. We have a space in the yard that we are planning to turn in to a sort of secret garden for the boys. We have already started some of the building, but we have so many more ideas for the space. I will be sharing more on that in a few days…