at the library.

i love hearing what people plan to use their masks for- usually it’s playtime/dress up, birthday parties, or weddings. but it especially warms my heart knowing my masks will be used in a library program or other learning situation. there is so much you can do with a mask; when you slip it on you instantly become another character! librarians are brilliant at using resources and coming up with fabulous ideas that both entertain and educate children of all ages.

today i am shipping a set of 3 masks to a library in New York! here’s the note i received with the order:

Your masks are great! Our library’s summer reading theme for 2012 is night creatures so we would like to order the raccoon, owl, and skunk masks. We put each child into a mask and take their picture for a guessing game all July and August. These are perfect! Stillwater Free Library Stillwater, New York.

such a fun idea! i love it!

and on thursday of  this week i will be hanging out at my local library as part of the kick-off for their summer reading program .this years theme is “dream big”. i will have a mask-making station for kids to make their very own super-hero mask! i’m very excited to work with stephanie, the children’s librarian (for 13 years!) the masks we are making on thursday will be paper, makers and glue- but i know the kids will love them nonetheless! i’ll even have some of my felt masks there for the kids to try on and play with.  (monroe county library- ellettsville branch– if you are local, stop by on thursday- they have a fantastic kids program this summer!)

libraries offer wonderful programs for kids during the summer. it’s worth it to look into, no matter your kids ages. children’s librarians work very hard to make the library an extra fun  (and educational) place to hang out. even if you don’t have kids, i challenge you to find a children’s librarian this summer and thank her/him for making your local library come alive! (and while you’re there, grab a few books, movies, and some music- cause it’s free!)

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blog love.

opposite of far had been receiving some serious attention lately and i would really like to share those sites with you here!

thanks for the love folks, it is much appreciated!

mom’s daily zen showed the red fox mask  in an article spotlighting the importance of imaginative play!

check out stitch machine‘s kitty party post featuring the kitty mask!

and mighty junior was kind enough to feature the woodland set of masks!

mighty junior is a kid-centric shopping and design blog, and a sister site to mighty goods. we look for perfect things for your favorite kid, and then we put them here, right where you can find them.”

enjoy, with caution.

i am enjoying this 80 degree march (in the midwest) as much as everyone else, but it does bring many questions to mind, much like our record-setting warm winter (which i discussed here). i was asking allison about early blooming plants and she sent me this article on the impact of early blooms. i know i’m not the only one wondering about all the early signs of spring- i have had many passing mini-conversations with strangers about the early blooms and what that could mean for us, our environments (bugs, animals), planting, summer weather, etc. i hope you find some answers in the articles i share here!

something else to think about is all the bugs…read this article to learn more about worrisome ticks this season!

this was also quite helpful to read:

Most people consider the onset of spring and the growing season a good thing. But for nature, the trend toward earlier springs and the resulting lengthening of growing seasons may be too much of a good thing.

That’s because plants and animals are responding to early springs and longer summers in different ways and at different speeds. These varying responses are damaging the synchrony between creatures that depend on one another for their survival–sometimes with potentially disastrous consequences.

Some examples:

  • Some wildflowers that migratory hummingbirds eat in their summer ranges are flowering early–before the arrival of the hummingbirds. The hummingbirds are thereby being deprived of an important food source. If this trend continues, populations of the hummingbirds and the wildflowers could decline.
  • Some wildflowers are failing to produce seeds because they are now blooming early–before the springtime emergence of many bumble bee queens that would otherwise pollinate them.
  • The vulnerability of some flowers to frost damage is increasing because early snowmelts are encouraging them to develop buds before the last frost of spring occurs.
  • Millions of hectares of North American forests are being killed by record-breaking blights of bark beetles. Populations of bark beetles are increasing, in part, because: 1) longer summers extend the beetles’ reproductive season; and 2) warmer winters are enabling the beetles to survive what would otherwise be killing seasons.

Note that this was the fourth warmest meteorological winter on record across the contiguous United States and the warmest since 1999-2000, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

if you have further questions, please post them in the comments and i will try to get them answered for you!

winter.

as i sit on my couch this morning finishing up this post all my windows are open and the birds are chirping in the trees…

maybe you are enjoying the same mild winter morning.

and if you live in the midwest, specifically indiana, this might look strange to you this winter:

we have had a weird winter, to say the least. this display of ice happened 2 weeks ago and lasted only 1 day.

throughout january we went from over 60 degree days to freezing rain, then a thunderstorm (!), light snow, warm rains, cold again, and now warm for the last few days of the month- but most of the month was warm and mild.  usually we are buried under piles of snow and complaining of cabin fever by this time in the winter. instead i hear murmurings of “spring fever” and promises of “spring cleaning”…have we forgotten spring is still months away, technically? i am the first to take advantage of a beautiful day, at least to briefly sit outside and soak in some sunshine…but this is truly weird!  as much as i enjoy it, i can’t help but listen to that voice in my head screaming “this just isn’t right!

so i have questions, and maybe you do too. i often look around and wonder what this unseasonable weather means for us, our plants, animals, life cycles….our home. luckily i have someone i can turn to with all my questions and concerns: Allison is not only my best friend, she is also an environmental scientist. so i turned to her with some of my pressing questions.

*Allison is speaking for herself, friend to friend.*

J: We are all loving this warm winter weather, but we have seen other unusual weather patterns that are not as enjoyable. Why are we seeing these new patterns and what do they mean for our future weather patterns? 

A: Let me give you an often used analogy: suppose you have a favorite baseball player, who one day begins to take steroids. This baseball player used to hit home runs every so often. But now, all of a sudden, he’s hitting them out of the park several times a game. And they’re getting hit super far- way way past the bleacher seats. Now, it wouldn’t be weird to see this baseball player hitting a home run- he’s hit them before. But suddenly he’s hitting them much more frequently and much farther. This makes you say “hmmm… something isn’t right here. Something is giving him more energy”. What we’re doing to our atmosphere is kind of like pumping it full of steroids. A warm day in January, a hurricane, a heat wave– all these things have happened in the past and aren’t completely out of our realm of weather possibilities. But now, suddenly, they’re happening much more frequently, and with much more (scary!) intensity.

So, with a warming climate, you can expect to see much more frequent weather events, like heat waves, droughts, floods, and storms. And these events are much more likely to be more intense than what we consider to be “usual”. In fact, we’re already seeing it: in 2011 there was at least 14 extreme weather events in the US where the damage exceeded $1 billion dollars. This is a LOT more than we usually get, and definitely suggests that climate change had a big role in our unseasonable weather.

J: Are we going to see more unseasonable weather in other seasons? Will it snow in July or is the trend only in the direction of warming? 

A: Remember: Climate is what you expect, weather is what you get. Weather is very chaotic and changes all the time- that’s why its so hard for meteorologists to predict it! But climate is a long-term average of what we expect the weather to be.

This is actually a really great animation that helps to explain this concept, using a dog-walker and his dog. Check it out- its only a minute long video!

It is very hard for any climate scientist to point to one extreme weather event and say “Aha! That’s climate change!”. But climate change makes the frequency and intensity of these sorts of events much more probable. So it’s possible to see random weird cold days in summer and random weird warm days in winter. But climate change is looking at the long term trend, underlying all these small-time-scale weather events.

That said, as our climate gets warmer and warmer, the cold extreme weather events become less and less likely. We can see this in the decreasing number of record cold temperatures in the US. So there may be an unusually cold day here and there, but they will become more and more unusual as our climate warms.

J: How is this warm weather affecting our natural environment? I have heard bits and pieces about animals and plants being out of their natural cycles…can you tell me more about that and what it means for us, our plants and our animals? 

A:  Climate change has already had many different effects on our environment. One of the big effects is changing the timing of seasons. Snow may melt earlier, which can be bad for some cold-dependent crops (like apples) and plants. Birds may not migrate as far south. Scientists have found different flowers start blooming earlier (get ready all of you people allergic to ragweed!). Changes in the seasons can affect the geographical areas where animals (and the food they eat) live, making it hard for them to adapt.

A lot of these changes are really bad for farmers. Agriculture is heavily dependent on the climate. Check out this cool graphic by the USDA, who recently had to update all their plant hardiness maps.  This means, this spring when you look on the back of your seed packets, the color coded map that tells you what you can plant in your area will be different. It had to be updated to take climate change into consideration. Extreme weather events, like floods and droughts, are also really bad for farmers. In the Midwest, you can expect a lower frequency of rain… but when it does rain it will pour! These heavy precipitation events that occur after long periods of dryness are really hard on crops.

Don’t forget, it’ll be tough on us too. Besides for those suffering from ragweed allergies, we’re also seeing an increase in heat-related deaths across the country (though a decrease in cold-related deaths). A longer summer is also good news for disease-carrying mosquitoes and ticks.

J: What can we do to prevent further damage while still feeling free to enjoy unseasonable weather? 

A: Everyone has to make that decision for themselves, so I’ll just give you my personal opinion on the matter. In my opinion, the best thing you can do to avoid climate change is to use your civic power to vote, talk to your representatives about your concerns, and pressure the government to take actions to mitigate greenhouse emissions. It also helps just to talk about it with your friends and family and neighbors. It’s not as divisive a topic as you’d expect– most people treasure the national parks they visited as a kid, or care about how the climate will affect our farmers, or feel that it is their religious duty to care for the Earth. Whatever the reason, it’s hard to find people who don’t want clean air to breathe or clean water to drink.

And this unseasonably warm weather in January makes it very easy to go out and enjoy our environment. It’s a great opportunity to take your kids out into nature and instill in them a deep respect for their surroundings and the amazing beauty of our environment. Perhaps the best things we can do is to encourage that kind of care and respect in our kids, and to encourage them to learn the science and math skills that will make them capable of tackling these problems in the future.

thank you Allison for answering some questions for me…

(for all of  us!)

do you still have unanswered questions? if so, please leave them in the comments below. i will be featuring allison on my blog more often, and your questions will be answered by her in time!

*here’s an article from today that might answer more questions! What’s Up With the Wacky Weather in the Washingtonian

i would also love to hear what you are doing/ interested in doing to enjoy this warm winter weather, how you teach the children in your life to respect the environment, and/or how you &  your family do you part to make change.

for now, let’s all enjoy the beauty of our environments and educate ourselves and our children so we can all be mindful, respectful and educated about our daily decisions!