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The Great Outdoorswoman

Maddie’s always been an outdoor kind
of girl – she loves going to the park to play and even enjoys
walking for long distances, which I hear is rare in a toddler. But
just this spring she’s discovering a whole new playground
– our backyard.

Now keep in mind that we live in New York
City, and our backyard is probably the size of your bathroom.
We’ve got a small cement portion and a strip of grass that
can’t be more than 5 feet square. But we’ve managed to
cram a fair amount of flowering plants and vines around the
perimeter, and we enjoy it during fair weather. Madeleine’s
bedroom window looks out on the backyard; her room used to be our
office and I loved staring at our flowers from my desk. Now that
she’s discovered the view, there’s a small stool
permanently in front of her window so she may avail herself of a
glimpse any time she likes. In fact, if she twists her head she can
see out the window while getting a diaper change, which she often
does – I think of it as her Calgon moment.

We’re happy to let her stare out the window; Brian will often
head outside for a few minutes gardening and Maddie will chat away
through the screen as he works. She worries about all the birds and
loves catching them around the birdfeeder, though she’s
anything but stealthy as she screams happily, “Mama! Birdies
here now!”

Looking out the window, though is a poor substitute for the real
thing, and Madeleine has quickly worked Back Yard Time into her
daily routine. Every day as soon as she wakes up from a nap she
begins begging to get outside. Once in the yard, she’ll spend
literally hours happily puttering around: she’ll help Daddy
sweep, carry around an empty watering can and pretend to water the
bushes, help Daddy fill the birdfeeder, and inspect the strawberry
plants for signs of incoming fruit. She has a bubble machine that
she’s finally mastering, and between that and her jumbo chalk
her outdoor toybox is complete.

And then, of course, there’s the rocks. I don’t know
how this happened, but Madeleine’s big into rocks right now.
Whether she’s in the park or in the back yard she adores
hunting everywhere for new rocks to add to her collection. At the
park she has to leave them behind every day, but at home
she’s got quite a collection stacked neatly on a little stone
step. She’ll sort them, “count” them, carry them
around a while, or simply admire the ensemble.

We try to give her as much time as we can outside since we know
this balmy weather won’t last forever. Then we’ll be
moving towards the hot, sweaty time when we drag out her pool every
morning but try not to linger in the hot sun too long. For now,
though, we dine outside when we can, stretching Maddie’s play
time outdoors into the 3-4 hour range. Our neighbors marvel at her
love of fresh air and her seemingly unceasing enjoyment – I
mean it, she never gets bored and asks to go inside! On the
contrary, every time dusk falls and it’s time to head indoors
she cries and screams as if we’re torturing her. We’re
working on the compliance thing, but it’s not easy right now.

So before the heat and mosquitoes descend, we’re reveling in
our mild weather and giving our little Nature Girl as free reign as
we can. For a few minutes, even Brian and I can forget we’re
in the big city and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere.


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