Yearly traditions are fun.

They are a kind of glue for a family.

The holiday traditions — Christmas Eve pajamas and Books on the Bed.

The quirky traditions — The Wildwood Snow Day Policy and Pizza & Red Kool-Aid Night.  (This was a recent repeated celebration.  It’s our family’s celebration of the first day Riley ever lived with us.  And yes, it was actually what I served that six-year-old for dinner for her first meal at our home.  It was before Pinterest, you guys.  I was working full time.  Shoot, it was before the iPhone.  Whatever.  I gave the entire family red dye (and I have once a year since then) – alright already.)

I love all of these annual traditions.  But they have a fatal flaw – they only come around once a year.  That’s not nearly often enough.

I also think the daily traditions have incredible value.  Maybe they are better labeled rhythms as that word feels more accurate.

The daily rhythms we all already have in our homes – what your mornings look like, your dinner routine, your bedtime rituals.

It’s so easy to let life dictate those daily routines – especially when you are surrounded by toddlers.  But I want to encourage parents – YOU are the rhythm maker in your own home.  YOU, the parent, set the tone to determine your family’s routine.

Your actions reflect what matters to you and your house.

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At this house, we love nature.  I want the kids to grow up observant and aware of the natural world surrounding them.  To have the tools to tap into the grace and the beauty, the restoration and the recovery that the Out of Doors can offer – the Therapy For Free.

Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. … There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.
—Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

Years and years ago, I started a little family project that I call Nature Notes.

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(I mentioned it in a blog post a long time ago, but I wanted to revisit it and explain it more fully.  Plus – that was early on.  It’s so much more rewarding now that we have years under our belt with the project.)

Basically, the Nature Notes are simply a daily noticing and recording of anything nature related.

It is a very simple idea.

The beginning (like most things) is the most involved.  After that, it’s all about follow through.

What you need:

     365 Notecards  (I prefer the larger ones – 4×6 I think)
     One container for those notecards

Each card will only say the month and the date:

February 16

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The years are written below the month and date so that you add a year note on to every single card, one year at a time.  This way, one card will reflect many years on the exact same day.  (In the photo above I hadn’t written the month.  I’ve gone back and added that – for fear that one day the Notes would be toppled over and I’d never recall which card went with which month.)

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Each day you record something nature related. Anything at all.  Some days it’s a stretch.  On those days, record the weather.  Write down the temperature’s highs and lows.  I promise, it won’t take long for your kids to be walking outside and to begin saying, “Hey, Mom – there’s the first daisy.  Let’s write that down.”  “Mom – I hear a mockingbird.  We can write that in our Nature Notes.”  “Look – snow!  We have to write that down tonight!”

I’ll be honest – that first year isn’t all that exciting for entering your Nature Notes.  You’ve got to think Big Picture and write it down anyway.

It’s been so much fun now – five years in – to read our Nature Notes and to say, “Oh my goodness – every February 12 for  the past three years it has rained!”  It’s been so easy to recognize this year that the rise and fall of the South Carolina weather is, in fact, nothing new under the sun.  It’s been going on for the near decade we have been residents of the state.

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We do our Nature Notes every evening as part of our bedtime routine – our nightly rhythm. It works best for us then, but in your house – that might be different.

This isn’t just for little kids either.  I certainly plan to keep it up as the kids grow right up.  Nature is something that daily affects and influences all of us.  It’s a great talking point.  Are you and your spouse empty-nesters?  I think this would be a lovely landing spot for two people at the end of a day.  Living alone?  Still a perfectly simple and charming way to recognize the role nature can play in your personal rhythms.

We’ve learned that apparently the daffodils start blooming every February in South Carolina, but we act so surprised to see them each time.

We also take the cards on the road with us when we travel.  

I like that for three reasons.

1.  I love seeing our adventures from past years in various locations.  “Oh – you guys.  Last year on this day we were at the farm, enjoying a snow storm with Oma.”  And “Look – we were bird watching at Laura Ingalls’ house on this day two years ago.”

2.  It keeps our routine and family bedtime rhythm intact even when we are sleeping in different beds in a different house.

3.  It’s a reminder and an opportunity to notice the outside world wherever we travel.

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I actually don’t think my Nature Notes are at their peak of attractiveness right now.  We had to give up our smaller and cuter container because we are now at the point of having some days with two cards.  Also.  I want better and cuter divider cards that state the months but I just haven’t spent any more time than a random Amazon search for them.  When I am at Hobby Lobby I keep forgetting to look.

Nature Notes – if you begin some with your family I would love to see how they look and what glorious little discoveries you make with your loved ones.

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