By Debra Minor Wilson
Times West Virginian
Just like Dorothy, what you’re looking for may be right in your own backyard.
Or maybe just a little outside it.
Tenille Wyer doesn’t need to take a long trip to the beach or even a day jaunt to the zoo to relax and have fun with her daughters, Sadie, 8, and Sophia, 2.
“Sometimes I just have to get out of this house and get away.”
A day of fun is as close as the rail trail, local park or swimming pool.
“When it’s not feasible to leave the kids with others, we just get our shoes on and hit the rail trail,” she said.
Don’t tell her kids, but these walks are as educational as they are fun.
“We like to take nature walks,” she said. “I like to identify certain things, the flora and fauna along the way.”
Or maybe they’ll just pack up a lunch of sandwiches and bottles of water, and take a little picnic trip.
“Sometimes we’ll bring our little pug Scooter with us,” she said.
“I like to have unique experiences, not just one thing.”
Take the way they hit that rail trail.
“There are several entrances,” she said. “We’ll start at different ones and go in different directions.
“It’s completely free. We’re not hurrying anyone. And it’s exercise ... and a little mental checkout. Then I can go back home and work on some chores, or whatever I have planned on my list of things to do ... which is usually a mile long.”
Sometimes she manages to get out by herself. Sometimes she’ll take Sophia in a stroller.
“Then I like to start at the plant behind the recycling place and go through the tunnel to Pricketts Fort. It’s three miles from there to across the river at the fort. That’s six miles round-trip. I can push Sophia in the stroller, but Sadie can’t quite make it on her bike yet.
“If she’s with me, we normally go two or three miles, whatever she can handle. She’s only 8. We’re walking most of the time, but she can go fast on that bike. I have to give her credit.”
Ever the conscientious mom, Wyer insists on safety first, foremost and always.
“I encourage her to use her helmet. It’s senseless to have a helmet and not use it when you can prevent serious head injuries.”
She makes sure their outings are as much fun as they are educational, too.
“We do stop and smell the flowers. We make time to look at what’s new as each season changes, like grass and budding flowers in the spring. And bugs and flowers in the summer.
“We will stop and take five.”
She likes to take her daughters outside in the fall, too, but not winter.
“I don’t like to take them out when it’s that cold,” she said.
Little Sophia, 2, is in that Christopher Columbus kind of phase.
“She loves to explore,” Wyer said. “She’ll say, ‘Look, Mommy, a bug or a butterfly,’ or whatever is interesting to her.”
Like a good mom, she tries to make learning fun.
“If the kids ask me what something is, like a flower, I may not know. But when we come home, I’ll look it up on the Internet to identify it.”
She loves going to the park, which is easier now that Sophia is bigger.
“She’s more independent. I can let her loose,” Wyer said. “We like to go to different parks. I’ll put some sunscreen on them and let them play and burn some energy.
“Sadie is building strength and Sophia is developing gross motor skills. And it’s exercise for me. I can sit down and get some sun. I enjoy watching them play.”
Sometimes you do have to go outside that backyard.
“I try to sneak off to visit Grandma and Grandpa in Preston County, where I grew up. And we’re planning to go to Carnegie.”
Basically, though, “We’re homebodies,” she said.
“I don’t have to go some place fancy or expensive to have fun. We like the pool. It’s not been too crowded this year. When we go to the pool, it’s all day long, not ‘let’s go to the pool for an hour.’”
Housework will always be there, she knows, but it’s not the most important thing in the world.
“It will just have to wait. It’s not going to matter in five years if all the laundry is folded or the dishes are washed. But it will matter in five, 15, 20 years, the memories of having the kids outside and hearing their laughter and having good times.”
While her grandparents live in the city of Kingwood, she does have relatives who live in rural Preston County.
“I stayed with some of my relatives in Terra Alta a lot when I was little. Now, that’s way out in the country, way out in the holler.”
There, she and her cousins “just played outside,” she said. “We played fort. We played army. I always had to be the army nurse because I was the girl.
“That was fun. I love those memories. We’d play from morning to evening.”
As an only child, she could go to the park and playground by herself.
“But it was boring unless I had some friends with me. I didn’t like to go by myself.
“I have what they call ‘biophilia,’ the love of biology and nature,” she said. “I guess there’s some sort of gene in me. I love being outside and being in natural beauty.
“The city is great, but we just visit. Home is in nature. Even the beach or mountains or forest.”
It’s a win-win situation, she said.
“My children get physical activity and I’m rewarded by seeing them grow in a safe and natural environment.
“I like being outside even by myself.”
“Sadie was born in November so there wasn’t much we could do when she was a baby-baby. When she got older, I got braver. This time around, Sophia was born in April and we hit the rail trail a month later.”
She spent a lot of time outside while she was pregnant with each.
“You have to embrace these times. There are always going to be chores. You need to stop and regroup afresh. You need to stop and do something you love.
“I love nature and being outside. I take a break and come back with a different perspective.”
Email Debra Minor Wilson at email@example.com.