Life Lessons – Stroller Hikes Weekly Newsletter (1)

Life Lessons

As a parent, we come prepared with many lessons and values, but every now and again, one strikes us as difficult, perhaps because we find ourselves being hypocritical.

When we’re out on hikes, Toddler Treks, runs, bike rides, and camping trips in the local parks and open spaces, we enjoy the dirt and plant life, and the bugs, worms, and other fauna help those areas feel more genuine, and exciting. We’ll stop to follow an ant trail, watch a beetle, and wonder at where a spider might be off to. Petting moss and touching a slimy slug is MORE exciting than petting a dog we might meet in town on the street, and watching wild turkeys or deer from afar is a delight. We respect nature and value this life.

We make our home cozy for us, and surround it with plants, dirt, and mulch that helps it feel like nature, although in so many ways it is an artificial environment. So what happens when an earwig or spider crawl across the kitchen floor? “Kill it,” Max said the other day.

I’m not really sure where Max got this from – we’re both pretty mild-mannered about bugs in and around the house, though I admit to killing a spider or earwig when I know Max is not looking, rather than just helping the critter find the door to escape into the garden. For boys especially (who seem to be more boisterous), I think there needs to be a clear message about appropriate aggression and when violence crosses a line and becomes hateful. I’m finding that this is a very tricky message to deliver, as I feel I’ve been hypocritical in my lifetime.

When in graduate school, I kept millions and millions of bugs alive – wonderful water fleas that are ever so useful to people and live worldwide, though most people have never seen them and don’t have any clue about what they do for us. These Daphnia were the sweetest of critters – ranging from the size of a pinhead to the tip of a finger – and are helpful in pharmaceutical and toxin research, genetic mutation study, cleaning our water (at water treatment plants), and serving at the base of the food chain for freshwater ecosystems. If you’ve ever bought gourmet fish food, you’ve bought them, and goldfish go CRAZY when you drop their freeze-dried bodies into water. If you’ve ever taken medication, used bleached paper (where watery pulp is bleached with toxic dioxins), or used municipal water in an area with water treatment ponds, you should thank Daphnia for making the water safe. We fed our Daphnia algae, yeast, and filtered pond water, and they responded by reproducing so much that we ran out of room for them. It always saddened me to have to “throw some Daphnia away,” to a large bucket of pond water that I hopefully but unrealistically called “Daphnia heaven.”

There certainly are critters in this world that I would kill without hesitation – black widow spiders and wasps, for instance with their nasty venom. But can I rationalize killing an earwig, ant, or spider when it’s not of direct risk or harm to me?

For now, I’m thrilled to have Stroller Hikes events as a way to respect ALL life that we happen across. Even if the right of critters at home may be unclear, I’m satisfied with my life lesson to Max about all critters great and small in wild places.

Here are this week’s events:

Note that Monday’s usual 10 AM John W. Christian Greenbelt hike is cancelled this week. Also please note that Melissa’s Toddler Trek has a new location this week (Hidden Villa is closed on Monday). Amy Bankhead’s wonderful 2 PM hikes on Tuesday resume after this week!

Monday, October 26th at 4:30 pm join Melissa and little Maxwell for a Toddler Trek at Bol Park in Palo Alto. Bol Park is in many ways an area that time forget, in the otherwise bustling Stanford area. Meet at the play structures in Bol Park for a romp down the Bol Park Trail to visit the chickens and donkeys, look down the pond for frogs, and check out the change flora (lots of large-leaf trees and grasses out here). Any baby transport will work on this wide paved trail. For directions or more information, see The Bol Park Page ( Call Melissa at (650) 224-5461 if you’re running late.

Tuesday, October 27th at 9 am Loren and little Angelo will lead a hike around Almaden Lake and down Los Alamitos Trail. Meet at the water dragon by the big playground near the bathrooms and swimming beach in the main parking lot near the intersection of Coleman Avenue and Almaden Expressway. No dogs allowed! Any baby transport or stroller will work. For more information about the area or directions, see The Los Alamitos Creek Trail Webpage ( If you’re running late, call Loren at 831-227-6737.

Thursday, October 29th at 4:30 pm join Debbie and little Max for a Toddler Trek at McClellan Ranch Farm/Park in Cupertino. We may see some reptiles, plants, and insects with the help of one of the naturalists of the park. We may also visit the gardens and livestock area of the park. Come walk along the new stretch of Stevens Creek Trail here, and check out the creek! They have restructured it since last year – we may try to find the new collection/backwash area of the creek and see if there might be new critters here that haven’t been so prevalent in the quick water, before. Meet at the parking lot at McClellan Ranch Park at 22221 McClellan Road in Cupertino. Any baby transport will work, but we’ll encourage toddlers to hike. If you’re running late, call Debbie at 650-776-1082.

Come celebrate the festivities of this season at Palo Alto’s California Avenue Carnival sponsored by California Avenue businesses including Blossom Birth. This Halloween Event runs from 12 to 4 pm and will include store-to-store Trick or Treating with emphasis on toddler-friendly treats, arts and crafts, and games. Come by any time – most events will occur at or near Blossom Birth at 299 S. California Avenue. The train comes right to California Avenue, if you want to jazz up your trip with a train ride. Trick or Treating is free and participating businesses will display an orange pumpkin sign in their windows. Carnival games cost $1, with proceeds going to Blossom Birth, a local nonprofit supporting growing families. For more information, see Blossom’s Announcement about the event at

Enjoy life!

-Debbie and little Max

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