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Mud Dauber

I know most toddlers are explorative and
messy in general, but I think Cora’s going for an exhibition
at the MOMA – Mixed Media: Mud and Sand.

Seriously, this girl’s favorite thing to do is sit down and
dig. If we’re in the back yard playing for any length of
time, she rather quickly abandons the swingset and heads round the
corner to the side yard, with its hidden pile of wet sandy dirt,
and rapidly gets going. At the playground she’ll frolic on
the twisty slide for a few minutes before settling down with the
playground wood chips, trying to see just how far down that layer
goes before she hits dirt.

Even places that aren’t ostensibly
about the garden will become Cora’s palette. Finding herself
in a zoo, Cora will head for the cedar shavings escaped from animal
cages and set to work. And if we go out to eat at a restaurant
she’ll start digging in the decorative geraniums in

What is it about this kid? I swear we’ve raised her just the
same, but can’t deny there’s an exposure to nature that
Maddie simply didn’t have in New York. Our neighborhood
playground was paved in rubber mats, and our backyard was all of
10x10 and largely concrete. So I can understand Cora having more
chances to get back to nature than Maddie did at this age, but
it’s getting tough on the wardrobe.

Just yesterday we hit the local arboretum for its annual fall
pumpkin festival. Bringing a picnic lunch, we settled on the grass
for a free children’s concert and cracked open our
sandwiches. I had carefully spread out our waterproof blanket to
guard against the damp ground, but we’d barely been down for
two minutes before Cora grinned, toppled over, and rolled happily
off the blanket onto the wet grass. By the time I got to her
she’d covered herself in a fine layer of mud, effectively
nixing the idea of any “spontaneous” fall pictures. For
our rest of the time there, she was detouring to any puddle or
patch of earth and trying to get some dirt under her fingernails.
And since we were in a giant freakin’ garden, the pickings
were bountiful. Try explaining to your sixteen-month-old that
she’s not allowed to rip apart their carefully constructed
three-dimensional bamboo-grass sculpture.

This nature kick has its plus side, of course; just look at yard
work. All those mature trees I’ve been complacently sitting
under during the spring and summer have turned traitor on me and
started dropping their leaves at an alarming rate, and a few days
ago I realized I’d probably have to get out the rake which
had, in New York, been in our basement more for decoration than any
real need. I brought the girls outside to play while I swept and
raked the front lawn, and not long after I started Cora marched
over and picked up the broom, happy to help out by sweeping the
front lawn after me. Even better, once I’d gotten those nice
leaf piles all put together, she thought I’d invented the
best game ever: Pick Up the Leaves And Shove Them In A Bag. Heaven!

I guess I’ll let her dirt kick continue on a while longer;
fears of poison ivy aside, it’s a relatively harmless
occupation, though it is hard on the laundry. So I’ll let it
slide for now.

At least until leaf season is over.


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