Camping under the stars, building stick forts, wadding through the creek, and fishing with Dad have been fond memories of my childhood. These memories inspired my career as an Environmental Educator for the past ten years. I work at an amazing nature center and was glad that I could continue to work part-time after my daughter was born almost 5 years ago. I have since had a son who was born 2 years ago.
Keeping the Balance
To help keep the balance between work-life and mom-life, I enrolled my daughter once a week in an in-home daycare. I met the “Hoot Nanny” through my job as she would frequently visit the Nature Center with her daycare kids. Alina was a genuine, happy person with a love for early environmental education and anything owls. She was a supporter of puddle-jumping, mud-pies, tea parties for squirrels and spiders, messy experiments, fairy gardens, and outdoor yoga. The “Hoot House” children either spent their day outside exploring (no matter the weather) They also visited local charities like animal shelters, food banks, and nursing homes.
Alina and her father passed away on the same day in March due to influenza. Heartbroken doesn’t even begin to describe the feelings and I will always remember the day I had to look my daughter in the eyes and tell her that Alina was gone. It has been the first unexpected death that either one of us has had to experience.
Needless to say, the month of March was very hard for me emotionally, and I had no desire for the next Hike It Baby 30 April Challenge. I’ve lost count of the number of challenges that I have completed, so skipping one would be okay with me. But then I saw the Hike It Baby “Owl Sticker” and something told me to sign up for the April Challenge. Alina’s memory is with me always and I guess that includes anything owl related as she was passionate about owls.
Remembering a Loved One
I stayed awake well past bedtime on a night in March, thinking of Hike It Baby and how I can remember Alina through my actions. I had that “ah-hah” moment and remembered that Alina scheduled weekly alphabet themed activities. For “N” week the kids would learn about Neighbors, Nocturnal Nurses, Number News, Noodles, and Nuts. My daughter’s favorite class was “P” for Pajamas while the children visited a llama farm.
I was inspired to host alphabet letter themed hikes for Hike It Baby. During the month of April, I hosted more hikes than normally would fit in my schedule. But I’ve really enjoyed planning the alphabet theme and choosing a book that Alina enjoyed reading as well.
During my “A for Alphabet” hike, I hid large foam letters on a short trail and read the book, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. Ironically during this hike, my family discovered an abandoned pair of toddler owl boots (making me think of Alina again). Occasionally I told a verbal story in place of reading a book.
Alphabet Hike Options:
- “A is for Alphabet” – I hid large foam letters on a trail and read Chicka Chicka Boom Boom
- “B is for Beaver” – We visited a lake with a beaver lodge and read the book, Little Beaver and the Echo
- “M is for Maple Magic”- We visited a pancake breakfast at a Sugar Inn and hiked along a river. I retold a legend about a mouse who discovers maple sap and shares it with the Native Americans.
- “E is for Eggs and Explorers”- We stayed at a natural playground and experimented with different ways to use plastic eggs. There are many great books for this one, we like, First the Egg
- “D is for Dinosaur” – We hiked with our plastic dinosaurs until we reached a sandbox. Then we built a dinosaur village, complete with erupting volcanoes.
- “P is for Pajamas and Pinecones” – We wore our pajamas and explored a cluster of pine trees. Our book was Penguin and Pinecone
- “C is for Clouds and Chalk” – During our stroller walk, we looked for cloud shapes in the sky and used liquid chalk on the pavement to make cloud shapes. Our book was It looked like Spilt Milk
- “S is for Sticks, Stones and Sand” – Based off the book, Not a Stick, we hiked through the forest and used our imagination with sticks and stones.
- “F is for Fairies” – We dressed in fairy-type costumes, built fairy houses, and read The Mud Fairy
- “V is for Vernal” – We hiked to a vernal pond and scooped for pond creatures.
Continuing the tradition
I also have future plans to continue the alphabet hikes with all 26 letters. I hope to host a hike using the books, Uni the Unicorn (U is for Unicorn), Miss Spider’s Tea Party (T is for Tea Party), and Billy Goat Gruff (G is for Goats with a hike over bridges). I’d also would like to read a few poems from Where the Sidewalk Ends (another favorite of Alina’s). Of course nature hikes are filled with all sorts of fun alphabet letter themes and the list seems endless.
My daughter has looked forward to the alphabet themed hikes and would ask every morning what the letter of the hike would be. During our hikes, we would often share memories of Miss Alina. I find myself asking, “What would Alina do,” with a lot of situations in my day, and now that includes ideas for hosting hikes. It feels great to serve a purpose with something I love and using a “before children” skill with environmental education. I have benefited greatly from Hike It Baby, and now I can add one more perk to this great organization…a way to honor the memory of a loved one.
Do you have a book you like to read before a hike? Or one that would make a great alphabet themed hike? Share below.