Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow

This is my last Kids ‘R’ Ours blog. While I’ve really loved dragging my kids all over Westchester trying out various cool things to do, it’s time to slow down and catch our breath for a bit. It’s been a lot of fun while it lasted. I’ve learned so much about this county and it’s one great place, let me tell you.

As you can imagine, I wanted to make this last entry special—about something truly unique that you can only find in Westchester. That something is “The Nature of Things.”

Basically? “The Nature of Things” is an animal outreach program that brings animals to your kids for them to not only see, but touch—yes, touch. Naturalists teach the kids all about the various critters using an arsenal of devices, even songs.

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Let me tell you, this program is great for Maisie. Why? Because Maisie is THAT kid at the party. You know the one. She never sits down, runs around like a maniac, and wants to put her hands on everything. These instructors actually embrace her enthusiasm and have a way of coaxing the shyer kids, too. By the time the visit is over, everybody has had a great time.

I first learned about this group when Maisie went to a birthday party for her friend, Noah. It was amazing watching each little face shine with utter delight when it was his or her turn to pet each animal. Later, I learned that this animal outreach program also visits Maisie’s school. Personally, it’s my very favorite thing she does.

When “The Nature of Things” comes, it arrives with all sorts of animals, usually following a theme of some sort: Creatures of the Night, Egg Layers, Creepy Crawlies—that kind of thing. Noah’s party focused on teaching kids about the various textures of animals. They got to pet a tortoise, snake, rabbit, chinchilla—the list went on and on. Maisie was in hog heaven! Seriously, I’ve never seen a happier kid than she was that day. It was the perfect introduction to animals for two-year-olds. This group strives very hard to make the party match the audience.

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“The Nature of Things” is the brainchild of Deborah Mumford. Deborah is a kindergarten teacher who decided that kids needed a one-on-one experience with animals. So, back in 1982, she and her oh-so-supportive husband, Allan, started “The Nature of Things.” Now, the “Critter Lady,” as she’s called, has more than 160 animals living in her North Salem home. Somehow, she manages to teach kindergarten, tend to the animals, run the business, lecture with the critters, and study for her doctorate. Wow. Now she has a staff of folks to help her, but still…

Normally, Deborah doesn’t allow visitors at her home, but, because I was writing this blog, she invited Maisie and our family to come take a gander at all her animals. We got up close and personal with sugar gliders, reptiles galore, birds—you name it. Maisie even got to feed some chickens. In all my years of reporting, I’m not sure I ever met anybody with a bunch of dead mice in her freezer (food for various snakes).

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If your school isn’t a client of Deborah’s, encourage it to sign up. The teachers at Maisie’s school tell me that the kids absolutely love the visits. They send home papers with information about the animals that came that day so you can reinforce the lesson at home. Brilliant!

And if you’re a winter baby like me, ever envious of the summer kids who could have pool parties and picnics to celebrate their birthdays, now is the time to plot your revenge. No more need to endure year after year of pin the tail on the donkey followed by the same-old-same-old cake. Invite “The Nature of Things” to your home for a party and be the coolest kid on the block.

Thanks for reading. Writing this blog has been a hoot. Take care of yourselves and, as my grandmother would say, “Y’all come back now, ya hear?”

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