Creekside.
April 06, 2011

A few hundred feet from our house, there is a small creek.  It dribbles slowly, languidly in the summer until there is nothing left but succulent greens and thirsty bugs.  But given enough rain it will flow with a passion in the winter, bubbling and rushing toward the ocean.  With your ear to the earth, you can almost hear the water speaking.  Hurry hurry hurry, the creek roars in the winter.  Our creek is slower now than it was two months ago, it still whispers.  Hurry hurry hurry.

Last week, I took Charlotte to the Eastern tip of Irvine Regional Park where Santiago Creek flows after the rains.  This creek is wider, shallower, less shaded, less furious than our own.  Already, it is drying up in the summer heat.

I brought her there because I thought that she would love splashing her feet in the water, tossing her head in the sunlight, plunking rocks in the small pools where the creek bends.  There is no rush here, no water whispering hurry, and I thought she would enjoy the unrestricted water play.

We crept up to the creek, tossed aside our shoes and lunch and change of clothes, dipped our toes in the cool water.  The creek was only a few inches deep, running lazily by.  Two minutes later, she fell and she wanted nothing more to do with the water.

I tied her onto my back and set a rubber duck we’d brought along in the water and we chased it downstream.  I told her how the pebbles and the sand felt beneath my feet.  I told her that we were not the first people to walk this creek, told her the story of Chehooit, the Earth goddess of the Tongva peoples who lived here long ago, told her about the trout that once occupied this creek and explained why they never come down this far any longer.  I told her about the bears that walked this land once, about the birds that relied on this creek for food, about the spiders that wait for water insects in the dark beneath the rocks.  I showed her a rabbit in the brush and some turtles on the rocks and pointed out a peacock in a tree.

After awhile, I brought her back upstream.  We ate lunch in the shade of a tree and then headed back into the water.  She still showed no interest, so after a few minutes of playing, I gave up and we headed home.  I felt disappointed.

As soon as we came home, I took her down to our creek.  I showed her a bat hanging in a tree, built a mud mound with leaves three times over for her to squish, let her dangle her toes in the water and made up stories about the squirrel nearby digging a tunnel near the roots of a tree.  We watched an egret skim along the water.  And sitting there, we heard the sounds of home: our chickens crowing, the neighbors’ ducks quacking, cars coming home after work, insects buzzing in the heat, the bark of a dog far away.

This time, Charlotte wanted to stay by the water forever.


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  1. By on April 06, 2011

    adopt me?

  2. By on April 06, 2011

    Why isn’t it summertime in Delaware yet?

  3. By Tabitha (From Single to Married) on April 06, 2011

    wow - so warm already?!  I don’t blame her for wanting to stay!

  4. By Sabrina on April 06, 2011

    Quick question….love your blog by the way!  I love that you are outside with Charlotte so much, but what do you do about sunscreen?  Do you use any on her?  My daughter is 1 and I am not sure what to do about it.  I want her to be outside and I want her to get plenty of Vitamin D, but I don’t want her to get burned.  I also don’t want to put chemicals on her skin.  Any advice would be GREAT!

    Thanks!

  5. By Cynthia Krajcarski on April 06, 2011

    Sabrina - I don’t know if Sarah uses sunscreen on Charlotte or not, but we do. We have a local eco store that carries all sorts of green products and we purchased our sunscreen from there. It’s by a company called Beaulance, Natural Sun Lotion. Most of the ingredients are organic and the main sun protection is from zinc oxide. It’s not as effective as mainstream sunscreens (most natural sunscreens only offer a protection equivalent of SPF 30) and you MUST apply it every two hours… But it’s good enough for us. We just try to put our daughter in the shade, more often than not. I hear California Baby is a really good brand for natural kids products, it’s not readily available in Canada (where I am) though.

    We always have the Cosmetic Database on hand (http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com) to reference any products or ingredients we’re unsure about. It’s a good resource to reference if you’re ever in any doubt.

    Now onto my comment….

    Sarah, I’m so jealous of your weather! We’ve been experiencing the worst weather, it snowed in my town yesterday. Can you believe that!? EFFING SNOW! The temperature difference between yesterday and the day before was almost 20 degrees celsius! Everyone’s getting sick because it’s ass-freezing cold one day and t-shirt weather the next. Damn it Canada. Anyway, I’m jealous and I can’t wait for days like this over the summer.

  6. By The Mommy Therapy on April 06, 2011

    First, please come pick up my boys because they would have had the BEST time doing this with you and Charlotte.  It sounds magical and 100% an activity they would revel in for hours.

    Second, you are really making me regret not purchasing a house by some sort of water.  There is nothing more fascinating and soothing.  Maybe next time.

    Sounds like a great outing.  Seriously, I sort of want you to be my mom now.  All I’m doing with my kids today is dusting….it’s super fun though.

  7. By on April 06, 2011

    Oh my! Seriously??!! Here in OH it is FREEZING and yes, we too had SNOW yesterday!! Although a few weeks ago we spent about all day outside for 3 days in the spring sunshine just playing in the dirt. And peacocks…and bats!!!! Just wow! Oh we have bats…lots of bats. The inspector just found a ‘sizable population’ in our new farm house attic! In the barn and garage…OK. But the house, not so ok. The kids were all for sharing their room with bats - they don’t know about histoplasmosis and such! Squirrels too, that actually knock on the windows when the feeders are empty! But definitely no peacocks!! Awesome! Like I said before, how I so wish I could connect with some families around here that would enjoy a day at the creek as you do. I just get the crazy lady looks from people as I let the kids search for salamanders, crayfish and fossils barefoot in a muddy creek:-)

  8. By Sarah Christensen on April 06, 2011

    Sabrina - I keep one tube of sunblock made by California Baby, which isn’t as super natural as some but is more so than most.  Last year, I put it on Charlotte two or three times - only when we were outside all day long in places where there was no shade - and this year I haven’t needed to yet.

    My general philosophy is that her body will produce some melanin (of course, I’m pale as a ghost, so it’s not like she’s got a lot to work with) if we give it a chance to learn how.  We mostly stick to shady areas and whenever we’re in the sun for awhile, we balance it out with shade time.  If there isn’t much shade, I focus on hats or on using my body to shade her.  There’s not always alot of shade to be had around here, so I’ve found that I need to be creative.  I pick beaches with cliffs or caves and go in the morning or evening, pick parks with tall trees, pick hiking trails that wind into a meadow and then back into a shaded canyon, etc.  I have summer locations and winter locations - the places that have more direct sunlight are the places I go when it’s colder.

    As I pointed out, I’m super pale.  Depending on the day, it takes anywhere from 10-20 minutes for me to burn, and there’s a history of skin cancer in my family, so I’m careful.  Charlotte isn’t as pale as I am, so I know that if I can feel myself burning then she’s right behind me, so I move us into the shade.  If I look around and realize it isn’t going to be possible, then I put sunblock on up-front.

    So far it’s worked for us, but I think that as she gets older, we’ll use more sunblock simply because I’m not going to have as much control over her actions and play locations.  I’m okay with that.  I figure that as she grows, her body will also become better able to process sunblock too.

  9. By Christy on April 06, 2011

    You are going to be your daughter’s best teacher!

  10. By Sarah Christensen on April 06, 2011

    Mommy Therapy - You can’t see the water from our house or anything - and you can’t hear it either.  You have to be back behind the neighbors’ houses!

    Also, dusting with kids is super fun!  Charlotte and I just swept together all day yesterday =)

  11. By Leslie Crane on April 06, 2011

    I loved this post. And I love, love the photo on the top left because it captures perfectly what we as moms see so many times a day as we hold our babes and it makes me smile :) Also, Charlotte is just getting cuter and cuter.

  12. By MOMSICLE VIBE on April 06, 2011

    Can you be my mom?  I want you to take me on a picnic please.  You pick where.


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