As our garden theme study continued, we took time today to visit a local water garden that’s home to a variety of tropical water lilies. I wasn’t sure what exactly Little Bear would think of this excursion, because she tends to interpret the word “park” as “playground.” I knew she would love the flowers, but hoped she wouldn’t be disappointed over giving up our usual Thursday picnic at the park/playground just to look at flowers.
… I’d usually find repeated queries of “Are we almost there, Mommy?!?” and “How long until we get there, Mommy?!?” wearying — especially when they came in rapid-fire succession, at least a dozen times over, during the course of what might have been a 10-minute drive. Today, though, they provided welcome assurance that she really was looking forward to this “field trip” and might just enjoy the break from our routine.
As we made our way down to the park, we were greeted by terraced layers of plant life:
A city oasis
and a medley of color:
Scaling the rock walls
Flitting here, flitting there
Little Bear flitted from flowering plant to flowering plant, running back and forth along the cobblestone path, captivated by the wild beauty of her surroundings. Baby Bear, too, was obsessed with her environment, though her curiosity seemed to center on two common questions: “Can I reach it?” and “Can I eat it?” As for me, I divided my time somewhat equally between keeping Little Bear in sight and trying to keep Baby Bear from injuring herself or the surrounding plant life.
After a 50-yard walk that took almost as long as the drive to the park, we reached the international water lily collection.
“Look at all the flowers!” exclaimed Little Bear.
And look we did. But her face soon filled with concern.
“Where are all the frogs?” Little Bear asked.
“What frogs?” I replied.
“The frogs who are supposed to take care of the lilies,” she said.
“Honey, there aren’t any frogs here. It’s just a water garden,” I explained.
“No!” she insisted, “There have to be frogs! There have to be frogs on the leafs to take care of the lilies. The lilies can’t live without them!”
… One of her favorite picture books shows a frog sitting on a lily pad. As an adult, I see a lazy frog who’s found a convenient spot upon which to rest. Her young mind, however, apparently saw that frog as a guardian of nature, without whom the lily could not possibly survive. As I stood there in the park looking into my daughter’s deeply concerned eyes, I recalled that we’d spent quite a bit of time this month talking about what plants need to survive.
“Honey,” I asked, “What do plants need?”
“Air and sun and rain and dirt,” she recounted proudly.
“Air, sun, rain, and soil,” I said. “Hmm. Are frogs on that list?”
She thought for a moment. “No. Does that mean the lilies will be OK without them?”
“Yes, that means the lilies will be OK without them,” I assured her.
Her happy smile returned. “Can you pick me up so I can see better?” she asked.
“Sure, honey,” I said, breathing a silent prayer of relief and thinking “Whew, crisis averted!”
"Hmm, how can I get in THIS puddle?"
… Life has a funny way of lulling you into a false sense of security just before it kicks you in the pants. As I picked up Little Bear, out of the corner of my eye, I spied Baby Bear dart to the side of the path — and turned just in time to see those chubby little legs swing off the path down into a drainage ditch filled with murky black stagnant water. In an instant, Little Bear found herself on the ground, and Baby Bear’s aquatic explorations came to a screeching halt. The “puddle,” for lack of a better term,” was only 4 or 5 inches deep, and I’m not sure her feet even had time to hit the bottom. But, oh, the stench. The STENCH.
I carried her (quite gingerly) to the nearest rock wall, where I sat her down, removed her almost-outgrown moccasins, and promptly discarded them.
Little Bear looked at me like I had three heads. “What are you doing with [Baby Bear’s] shoes?” she asked.
Much as I’ve hounded her about not being wasteful, I really didn’t want to admit that I was discarding a conceivably-salvageable pair of shoes. But I also wasn’t about to put the reeking things inside our vehicle and ride home with that awful smell so that I could then turn around and spend money trying to launder shoes that were already due for replacement.
“Two words,” I said, “Waterborne pathogens.”
“What???” she said, looking more confused than ever.
“You’ll understand when you get older,” I said. “Let’s go look at the rest of the flowers.”
We visited the last basin of lilies, played on a rock bridge, and meandered through yet more terraces of flowers on our way back to the car. As Little Bear climbed into her car seat, I heard her say to herself, “I still think there ought to be frogs!”
We stopped at Target to get Baby Bear a new pair of shoes, then headed on home for a late lunch. The afternoon was filled with reading, drawing, a bit of fine motor work, an episode of Super Why, building with Duplos and Magnatiles, counting (Little Bear’s current obsession), yet another game of Discovery Garden, and active outdoor play with the neighborhood tyke. And so ended a happy, productive day.