It's super-annoying that Typepad doesn't seem to wanna auto-save anymore, and I lose almost an entire kick-ass post when the screen freezes. But anyways...
While I was going about my business preparing for our Earth Day picnic on Monday, Rob came out wearing this Navy-issue peacoat, with the Meerschaum pipe in his mouth, saying, "Picture me on the bridge of our boat, steering across the Atlantic..." and I totally could. Can you? Course you can. It's still our dream, y'know. In a heartbeat, we would...
I had been searching on the old innernet for Earth Day activities and crafts when I came across The Nature Conservancy's All Hands on Earth picnic website. The idea, in a nutshell, is to foster sustainable food-eating practices by buying local and in-season to reduce, you know, gas and energy consumption from the production and distribution of worlds-away, out-of-season, uh... I said that way better the first time, but you get the gist, right? Right.
I had no fundage available at the time to run out to the Farmer's Market and pick up some deliciousness, so I figured I'd just use what we already had on hand to reduce waste, live frugally, and other great things we try to practice on a daily basis. I had cooked a bunch of chicken tits in the Crock-Pot the night before and still had half a -Pot left, so I tore that up and added some gorgonzola cheese crumbles leftover after our salad fixin's were used up, along with some apples I diced to add some sweetness and crunch. Along with some seasonings and Miracle Whip (Rob's fave), it was aces all around. Total yummo.
We chose Biscayne National Park as the nearby destination for our picnic because, despite the fact that it's too far to walk or ride a bike for us, the idea of Earth Day connotes (to me, anyway) surrounding oneself in the beautiful precious natural resources of our planet, and so it seemed a fitting locale. The last time we were there, I'd gotten a wicked bad sunburn from being too stupid to put on SPF before lying down on a towel with my library book. I just discovered what appears to be a melanoma - for which I'm going to the doc in about 7½ hours - on my chinny-chin-chin Monday morning, so I wasn't taking any chances with those harmful UV rays. We took along everything from SPF 30 all the way up to 85+. Although, really? Is that fo'real?
Aside from our afore-mentioned chicken salad on both spinach and sun-dried tomato wraps (also already on hand), we had mango cubes (I'd searched for a YouTube video on cutting them perfectly:
and it was spot-freakin'-on. Worked like a charm, after many failed attempts on my part.)
Plus, I threw in a bunch of bagged cereal for snacks, and Sophia snuck in half a pound cake for good measure. We served everything on reusable napkins and wrappers, and a pitcher of fruit punch was served in regular ol' plastic kids' cups. Leave no trace, leave the place better than when you found it, and all that.
When Jack dropped a piece of his cereal, this duck walked boldly up to him and looked askance. Not in the "how dare you?!" sense of the word, but "how dare you not feed me?" sense. He stayed there, quacked a few times, and made Jack squirm and squeal a whole bunch. It was hilarious.
We really laughed out loud a moment later when the two ducks on the bottom and left waddled up in perfect unison, speeding zip-zip along the sand to get their pieces of the proverbial pie. They didn't get any from us, although I noticed Sophia "accidentally" dropped one or two their way. Soon a fourth joined the flock, and by then we were surrounded by Muscovies looking to join our Earth Day picnic. Fun times.
After lunch, I sent the kids off on a Nature Treasure Hunt geared for kids aged 8-11, which, hey, is perfect since that's what range my kids all fall into, hey? The first one (of ten) was: "Find a place where an animal made a home," so off they went toward the mangroves to find nests or burrows. The three quickly spotted deep, wide holes in the ground and decided something had dug its way in, and I couldn't argue with that, so I gave them credit.
The second one directed them to make fairy homes out of natural objects, so Sophie had the idea to make teepees out of dried-out palm leaves. Chloë and Jack quickly followed suit; all but Chloë got them to stand without being held.
3. Find a seed - Easy! They just had to look up at the big palm trees everywhere to find them hanging out like so many, um, testicles. (What can I say? It's where the mind automatically goes.)
4. Make a tool, like a hammer or drawing stick. Jack, not being terribly imaginative, picked up a stick and started drawing. Okay, fine. Sophia, surprisingly equally unimaginative, picked up a stick and started hammering the top of her fairy teepee. Okaaaay, Chloë? She picked up a stick and pretended it was a screwdriver, driving, er, screws into the dirt. Better, but totally uninspired. Still, we moved on.
5. Find or name two things that all living things need to survive. The kids shouted out things like, "A home!" "Air!" "Food!" "Water!" etc. This one was too easy for this age group, IMO.
6. Listen for five sounds, including both human ones and otherwise. They listened to birds singing, people shuffling their feet on a nearby path, folks talking, boats' engines starting up at the marina next to us, and the wind whispering through the trees. That last one was my favorite.
7. Find a place where a plant-eater would be happy. Again, in a national park, way too easy.
The eighth one was super-cute. They had to spy on a bug. Jack crouched down first and watched an ant go ten ways to Sunday, all over the sand. Sophia and Chloë traced their own insects, and soon they all met up, head-to-head, with their daddy. I was thinking he probably wished he had a magnifying glass to light 'em on fire, because that's just the kind of Bob he is, but maybe I'm wrong. Maybe.
9. Find a pattern in nature. They all came up with A-B-A-B-A-B patterns, so I challenged them to find something other than that. Jack was the first to do so; he found spirals projecting out from the center vein of a leaf, and I was proud.
10. Find something other than an animal that can live in water. First, they named about 3400 different animals before noticing us crossing our arms over our chest, tapping our feet and rolling our eyes all over the place. "Ohhhhh! Like seagrass?" Yeah. Duhhh.
We were done with that, and rather than do sunprints, they decided to go swimming again. Fine and good, but I was freezing and wasn't joining in. The lifeguard came over to speak at us about letting them go too far out without a parent right there (in zero waves, with a lifeguard spitting distance away, but whatevs), so Rob went in while I lay in the sun and fried a little more. My SPF 85+ was failing me, y'all! I reapplied.
Then, Rob rigged up his fishing poles and took us to go fishing. Well, took the kids, while I followed along for some Instagramography of whatever they caught (big fat nothin', it turned out). But check this sign - crocodiles?! In Florida? Gators, sure - we'd seen an 8-footer the last time out, in the canal near our house - but crocs? Who knew? Not I, not me, not us. Jack was determined to find one, but we didn't.
Also, I'm pretty sure they stole that croc drawing from Peter Pan.
Rob didn't have any bait, so he used a Sabiki Rig to try and catch some. He cast waaay far out, and then near, and then far again... but not even the pinfish were biting. So the kids and I went exploring while he kept trying.
We went up to the end of the walk, which culminated in, like, a pier, and looked out at the water. Another fisherman was next to us, so they meandered over to him to see what he was doing. "Fishing." What do you have on your hook? "Bait." He amused me. The kids kept pressing. My kids are pressers. So we learned this about him: He was originally from Ithaca, New York, now lived in Texas, and was here in Miami on temporary extra duty. He had never fished here before and insisted that pinfish couldn't be used to catch snapper, grouper, or larger fish, but Rob taught him how to rig the baitfish for better success (not that he was having any, but he had on previous outings, after all). He was fishing with live shrimp. I had about seventy-nine more facts about him on the tip of my brain, but they all just scattered because of course, I need them right now. Oh, and he gave Rob a beer. That was nice. Maybe it was a consolation prize, since neither man was having any luck with the fishies that day.
Rob gave up for a while, and just then, a manatee came into view, swimming toward the harbor. Another, smaller (I'm guessing female) sea cow swam toward him, and they met nose-to-nose for a few moments before the female turned, and they both swam away in the direction of the marina. It all happened too fast, just like with alligator the other day, for me to get a good picture, so all I have is this one of the four of them looking and pointing. It was SO breathtaking, Chloë was near tears, Sophia couldn't stop exclaiming, and my heart was racing. What wondrous things we've seen in our month here so far!
And then, if that weren't enough, a pelican flew in and landed near us. The kids thought that was just fantastic; they walked over and got in the big bird's face, not knowing how aggressive those things can be. They want fish, and they want it now. The pelican squawked, flapped its wings, and moved toward them. They yelped and jumped back, while I laughed. A third fishergent caught a pinfish - at last! - and threw it in the center of the pier. The kids gawked while the pelican stormed over there and gobbled it up. Only, the fish was spreading its rays, and the bird couldn't swallow it. We all watched, helpless, as it gagged and regurgitated the fish repeatedly, struggling to get it down its gullet with no success. What to do, what to do? Call a park ranger? Finally, with one loud gulp, the fish was choked down and bulging in the pelican's neck. Whew! What a relief.
We went home, exultant in our beautiful day, reliving all the amazing sights we'd seen.
Hope you all had a happy Earth Day, recycling and reusing and reducing. Remember to link up here if you're wordless - or not - today, too!