Camping with Young Children (Gear+Activities)

Earlier in my life I wouldn’t have believed you if you had told me that one day I would count a box fan and electricity as necessary camping gear.  Our backpacking trips have trickled into our camping habits and we don’t like setting up a ton of stuff.  But one thing we’ve learned camping with littles  is that if the toddler isn’t comfortable, they aren’t going to sleep.  And if the toddler doesn’t sleep, nobody is going to be having any fun.  Thus, we’ve added a few luxuries to our list of essential camping gear to help make it easier on our kids.

The list and tips below are geared towards a family of 5, camping with kids under the age of 6. This was our packing list for taking our 5yr old, 3yr old, and 5month old camping for 3days/2nights.

Happy Camping!

To Do

1. Plan a light schedule.  You have to assume that the majority of your time camping with young children will be spent feeding them, getting them to sleep, and making bathroom dashes.  We will do hiking or exploring activities in the morning and then just swim or play games around the campsite later on.

2.  Along those lines, include meal prep in your list of family activities. Eating leisurely meals around the campfire is one reason why we love to go camping.  So we plan our schedule to allow in plenty of time to let the kids be involved. With supervision they can help fill the pot with water, collect fire wood, set out dishes, and cook food on roasting sticks. They love being involved and this keeps them busy while waiting on food.

3. Campground/camp site choices We like to pick a campground that is shady and has at least one fun thing to see or do: either sightseeing hikes or swimming.  The best hikes are ones with a shallow swimming hole at the end of it. We choose a campsite that is 2-3 sites away from a bathroom.  Close, but not too close.  We’ve found that the noise of people coming and going wakes our kids up and we’d rather run a bit further for the bathroom than deal with fussy/tired kids getting woke up!

4. Acclimate the kids to sleeping out doors before you go.  Try some back yard naps in the tent or take a couple of one-night trips. If you will be camping for more than one night, getting them over the newness of sleeping in a tent before you go might help everyone sleep better when it counts.

4. Make rainy day plans ahead of time.  Take things you can do in the tent or find something local it would be fun to see.  If it’s going to be hot, spending time in a tent during an afternoon rain isn’t always a great idea.  Especially since keeping your fan plugged in during a rain storm may not be feasible.  We look for a local indoor place it would be fun to explore, an indoor pool/YMCA, kids movies playing at the theater, or a sheltered pavilion we can take games and puzzles to.

5.  Plan nature activities for the afternoon/evenings around the campsite.  This is especially helpful for times when my husband and I are trying to set up/pack up camp. Here are my favorites I’ve done in the past:

  • Tongs and a bucket.  It’s amazing how much fun kids can have with these collecting rocks, twigs, and leaves around the campsite.
  • A magnifying glass and/or binoculars
  • A ream of paper with colored pencils or kids markers (for leaf rubbings, color leaves or sticks with markers, nature scavenger hunt lists, drawing, writing down fun memories to remember later, paper airplanes).
  • Paper can also be used to make targets for rock/stick/airplane throwing games.
  • Water guns (and a bucket for filling them up).
  • Twine or yarn.  Great for lashing sticks together to create things. Or you can string it between two trees and clip the kids artwork to it with clothes pins.
  • T-shirt and T-shirt paint.  You can use sticks and leaves as stamps by outlining them with paint and pressing onto the T-shirt.
  • Bubbles

To Take

Here are a few things we found essential for camping with young kids.  At the end is our camping checklist.  We keep most of these items in a bin in the back of our closet so we can just grab and go for quick overnight camping trips when a beautiful weekend pops up. These things are included on the checklist below.

1.  Camp beds or super comfy quilts/sleeping bag pads.  A well rested family is a happy family!  Since we go camping often, we invested in REI’s Camp Beds  and oh what a difference they make!  Well worth the price.  We only paid $25 each for ours but I’d pay full price in a heartbeat when ours wear out.

2.  Waterproof pads and extra blankets.  Our kids sleep on top of their sleeping bags and we take blankets for warmth.  We got some waterproof top-of-the-bed pads that they can sleep directly on to help prevent accidents on sleeping bags.  We also take extra blankets, just in case.  Even if they are wearing pull ups we use these because pull ups are not fail-safe.  The last thing you want is to have to wash out a sleeping bag while camping!

4. Box Fan (pick a campsite with electricity).  At one point, I would have scoffed at bringing a box fan camping.  But now I count it as helpful because a little breeze makes a world of difference in trying to get kids to sleep. It also acts as a great noise maker.

5. Buckets.  We use buckets for lots of things.  Washing dishes or mud out of clothes, sponge baths for dirty kids, and toting toiletries to the bathrooms.  We also use them for water fun to help the kids stay cool. They splash in them, wash rocks in them, fill water guns, all sorts of fun.

6.  Travel Bed and a Fleece sleep sack for infants.  We were given a Eddie Bower Travel Bed at a baby shower and we’ve found it perfect for camping with a baby (found at Target and on Ebay)!  It doubles as a changing station during the day.  We fold up a thick blanket into fourths and put the bed on top.  We also love the Halo Fleece Sleep Sacks for infants and toddlers too small to use a sleeping bag.

7.  Soft music on our phones.  Our kids can’t resist falling asleep to music.  If they are really struggling to settle down we’ll put on some music and they will be asleep within a few minutes.

8.  Quick Drying camp towels and washcloths.  We invested in these because we are constantly in need of towels and washcloths.  Regular towels take too long to dry and too much room to take extras.

9. Swim suits. Even if the campsite doesn’t have swimming (or it’s too cold) take swim suits to use in the shower.  Our kids are terrified of the camp showers.  So we put on swim suits and go into the shower with them.

10.  Wool or Fleece sweatshirt/hats for warmth if it will be chilly.  Cotton is pretty worthless to keep you warm while camping.  Unless you have 4+ layers of it.  Fleece is our favorite.

Check-List

General Gear:

  • ___Tent
  • ___Footprint or Tarp for under tent
  • ___Camp Beds and sheets
  • ___Waterproof Pads
  • ___Blankets plus 2 extra ones
  • ___Pillows and favorite sleep items for kids
  • ___Infant Travel Bed
  • ___Infant Fleece Sleep Sack
  • ___Box Fan and outdoor extension cord
  • ___2 camp hand towels
  • ___bio-degradable dish soap
  • ___bio-degradable hand soap
  • ___pocket knife
  • ___hatchet
  • ___a 2-gallon size bucket or plastic bin for dish/laundry washing
  • ___nylon rope for a clothes line
  • ___20 clothes pins
  • ___Check or cash for campsite, wood, etc.
  • ___Headlamps with extra batteries
  • ___small dust pan and broom for tent
  • ___camera
  • ___phone and phone charger
  • ___nature activities and some books for the kids
  • ___camp chairs
  • ___portable booster for toddlers/bumbo for infants (we put these on a picnic blanket on the ground – picnic table seats are not stable enough)
  • ___picnic blanket
  • ___Food and cooking gear list
  • Water purifier pump or bottled water (if you are concerned about campsite water – always good to check with the Ranger first before giving to kids!).

Clothes & Personal Care:

Update 6.24.13 (after a 5 day/4 night trip):  The camping ground we went to had lake swimming.  We spend so much time changing in and out of swimsuits it was annoying.  And we also only used 1/2 our clothes.  Thus, next time I’m raiding the thrift stores and taking 3 swimsuits for each child (2 pieces so they can go to the bathroom easily), several comfortable covers, and laundry soap to wash them out with.  Maybe take 2 clean outfits each for going into town and the ride home but that is all.  Really, we spent 3/4ths of the trip in swimsuits! They pack so much lighter and are cooler to wear in warm weather than regular clothes.

We pack one swimming bag that has everyones stuff in it and then 1 backpack per person.  It helps to have the kids things separated individually!

  • ___ Life vests for swimming in lake/boating.
  • ___swim suits
  • ___5 camp washcloths and bath towels (1 set per person)
  • ___5 Beach towels for swimming (1 per person)
  • ___first aid kit w/ allergy meds, thermometer, and fever reducers (for both adults and kids). You really don’t want to be caught behind a locked gate trying to figure out how sick a child is.
  • ___Poison Ivy Soap/Calamine lotion
  • ___sunscreen
  • ___sun hats/glasses
  • ___bug spray
  • ___ Toiletries (including bar of soap/bath wash)
  • ___Rain gear for everyone
  • ___Fleece jacket and hat for everyone
  • ___1 outfit per day+few extra for everyone (see update above)
  • ___Sleepwear
  • ___water shoes for the shower/lake swimming
  • ___large canvas bag for laundry (something breathable so your laundry doesn’t mold/smell awful).
  • ___laundry soap (I put some in a small, empty hand soap pump bottle). In case of accidents since you don’t want a pee smell to haunt your campsite!
  • ___diapers/Pull-ups + wipes

Extras

We don’t take these items but if you wanted a bit more comfort or a nice looking campsite you could add them to your list.

  • Port-a-crip for a safe play zone for busy toddlers
  • Picnic table cover and clips
  • doormat for outside of tent
  • lantern
  • picnic table screen tent
  • screen food covers to keep bugs off
  • outdoor sting lights for making the campsite pretty at night
  • bug candles to keep bugs away

Camping With Young Children (meals)

My husband and I love camping.  We just returned from a 2-night/3-day trip with friends and we have a 5 day trip on the calendar.  You might be thinking right about now that with a 5yr old, 3yr old, and 5 month old we’re pretty crazy.  It’s possible.  However, when we started having children we decided that it wasn’t going to stop us from enjoying one of our favorite pastimes. We would find a way to make it fun.  So here we are, planning ahead for our 5 day camping trip.  If you are contemplating your first camping trip with littles in tow, here are some tips and the menu from our weekend trip we just took (activity and gear tips are here).

Tip #1.  Keep meals simple.  Elaborate meals are fun but not practical with kids because of the amount of time it takes for cooking and cleaning up.  We select meals that are minimal prep and only require hot water or roasting sticks to cook. Think backpacking style meals.

Tip #2.  Take a camp stove.  Or food that doesn’t need to be cooked.  Because not being able to cook meals due to rain or campfire cooking blunder is not something you want to have happen with young children.

Tip #3.  Eat Healthy If we are camping with kids for more than one night we take oranges for the vitamin C factor and veggies for snacks.  We’ve found it’s easy to get sick if you are used to eating healthy at home but deviate from that with the standard hot dog fare for several days at a time.

3 day, 2 night Camping Trip Menu (serves 2 adults, 2 young children)

Easy Camping Meals

Easy Camping Meals

Friday Dinner: frozen BBQ chicken* on sandwich rolls and frozen peas.

Prep: Warm up chicken over fire (on foil doubled up with sides) and serve on buns.  Boil water for the peas.

Pre-trip prep: 2 days before we left I slow-cooked the BBQ chicken, shredded it, and froze it in a zip-lock bag.  I packed it in a personal, lunch bag  size cooler from REI with the peas so it would stay frozen until dinner time that night.  We use canned or pre-cooked packaged meat for meals the rest of the trip.

Saturday breakfast*: Fried eggs/Pre-cooked sausage links/english muffins, coffee, and hot chocolate

Prep: Over the campfire we cook the sausage, eggs, and coffee in the percolator.  On our camp stove we boiled water for hot chocolate. You can toast the muffins over the fire with roasting sticks if you want.

Saturday lunch: Flour Tortilla Parmesan Cheese and Summer Sausage wraps, easy peal mandarine oranges, baby carrots.

Prep: Slice cheese and sausage and roll up with the tortilla.  We don’t do any kind of dressing or anything.  You could, but they aren’t bad plain and it’s a lot less work! 

Note: We picked the cheese and meat based on Backpacker Magazine’s list of trail worthy cheese and salami. I’ve used this meal on numerous backpacking trips.

Saturday dinner: Chicken Alfredo (using ramon noodles/jar sauce/packaged chicken) and baby carrots

Prep: Boil water, pour over ramon noodles (discard the seasoning packet).  Drain once noodles are hydrated and mix in chicken and sauce. We also grated in some of the fresh parmesan cheese.

Sunday breakfast: pre-cooked waffles with honey and strawberries.

Prep: Heat the pre-cooked waffles over fire on foil or sticks.  Top with cut strawberries and honey. Or Peanut Butter.  

Sunday lunch: Peanut Butter and Honey flour tortilla wraps (or leftover sausage/cheese wraps), easy peal mandarine oranges, baby carrots.

Desserts: Marshmallows, Chocolate Bananas (we cooked this on the grate over the campfire and topped with strawberries)

Snacks: Trail mix, baby carrots

Another favorite dinner we like to take (we didn’t use it this trip) is indian rice with chicken in pita bread. We use instant rice and mix the seasoning up before we go.  You could just use a couple tablespoons of curry powder to flavor as well. 

Shopping/Packing List for the menu above (insert in appropriate portion sizes for your family):

  • frozen bbq chicken (I pre-cooked 2 chicken breasts)
  • small bag of frozen peas
  • sandwich rolls or hot dog buns
  • 6 eggs + hard plastic egg protector/carrier (I packed these with the sausage links, summer sausage, and cheese into a 2nd personal-size cooler with a freezer pack).
  • 1 pack of pre-cooked sausage links
  • english muffins (or you can use the flour tortillas for breakfast burritos)
  • 1 roll of Summer Sausage (found in the deli specialty cheese/meat case)
  • 1 small chunk of parmesan cheese
  • 1 package of 6″ flour tortillas
  • 8 easy peal mandarine oranges
  • large bag of baby carrots
  • 3 ramon noodle packs
  • small jar of Alfredo sauce
  • 1 package (or can) of pre-cooked chicken
  • frozen, pre-cooked waffles
  • 1 quart of strawberries
  • honey
  • Small jar of Peanut Butter
  • trail mix
  • dessert supplies (marshmallows, chocolate, bananas)
  • hot chocolate
  • ground coffee
  • coffee filters
  • percolator (ours is one that you can put over an open fire)
  • aluminum foil
  • zip lock sandwich bags (for taking snacks on hikes)
  • water bottles (we take one large nalgene per person)
  • roasting sticks
  • one pot with lid for boiling water + frying pan (we use our backpacking set made for a camp stove)
  • ladle
  • Spatula
  • Pot lifter tool for hot lids and pans
  • camp stove and fuel as a back up in case the camp fire cooking fails you (we used our backpacking stove).
  • matches or lighter
  • fire starter sticks
  • paper plates/bowls/plastic silverware
  • camp mugs or disposable hot-cups
  • glove for handling hot things (we use your standard, cheep work  gloves)
  • biodegradable dish soap, wash cloth, and hand towel for washing dishes.

__________

* If you will be camping in hot weather make sure you take necessary steps to keep eggs and meat cold.  The weather this past weekend was on the chilly side so we didn’t have to worry about things not staying cool over night.  We only pack un-packaged meat/eggs for the first dinner/breakfast of our trip.  After that we either get them the day we need them during our trip or use pre-cooked/packaged stuff.

Summer Orzo (Pasta) Salad

Summer Orzo (Pasta) Salad

Today we attended our annual Mother’s Day picnic in the park with extended family and some close friends.  It’s a lot of fun but it is also a dance trying to figure out what side to bring that wouldn’t be replicated by five other people.  I was a bit stumped for a bit and then remembered: orzo!  Orzo is the often overlooked pasta for pasta salads but it is really good.  I looked at a few recipes but ended up just making up my own recipe with things we liked.  That’s the great thing about orzo, you can put just about anything into it and it ties it all together.  This is definitely going on our short list of summer favorites.

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz of uncooked orzo (3/4ths of a 16oz box) – cook al dente, drain, rinse with cold water to prevent sticking, and chill)
  • 1 Pint cherry or small grape tomatoes (use yellow and/or red) – slice each one into 3-4 pieces
  • 1.5 Cucumbers – diced into 1/2″ pieces
  • 1 Small head of raw, fresh broccoli (Cut off the stems and separate the florets into individual pieces)
  • 1.5 cups of frozen green peas (run hot water over them just until they are thawed, do not cook)

Instructions:

  • Prepare each of the ingredients as directed above and toss together. Don’t forget to chill the orzo first.
  • Add in 1/2 a cup of dressing and toss again. Anything light flavored with a zing would taste amazing.  I made this one up to use but adding in little bits of each ingredient until it tasted right to me:
    • Mix together with 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil:
    • 2.5 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
    • 2 Tablespoons of dried italian herb mix (oregano, thyme, basil, dash of dill). If I had fresh on hand I would have used that.  But I didn’t so I used dried.
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 1 tsp pepper
    • 1 Tbsp of lime juice (I wasn’t planning to use this, just the vinegar, but it needed a bit more zing to it that the vinegar wasn’t giving). You could use lemon for a more distinct citrus flavor.

Shaving Cream Fun

Shaving Cream Fun

This is what is happening around here this morning while Luke and I work on gardening and fence building.

Ingredients needed: Shaving Cream (unscented, cheep as possible kind because it makes for easier clean up) + paint shirts + cookie cutters + cups and spoons + paint brush + dandelion/weed flowers from the yard = 1 hr of undistracted time for Luke and I to make some progress on our way to long to do list.

We typically do this activity outside. If it’s a warm day a paint shirt over a bathing suit would make for easy clean up!  When the kids are done simply take the paint shirt off and hand them a hose.

I would not do this activity with a child who might try and eat the shaving cream.
Do not do this on wood tables or painted surfaces either (might damage them).  Plastic tables work best.

Shaving Cream Fun Shaving Cream Fun

 

How to Shop Kid’s Consignment Sales

It’s that time of year when the twice per year consignment sales are selling seasonal clothes.  Are you going? The first few times I went I was overwhelmed by both the quantity and the crowds.  That’s a lot of shopping to do all at once if you are trying to get everything your child needs for the next season.  But the prices for gently used clothing are fantastic and I like the idea of helping out other mom’s that are consigning.  Thus I’ve tried to find a system that works for me.  And I think I found it.  This is one I’ve used for several sales now and I can get in and out in about 3hrs, for all three kids.  It’s actually kind of fun now.  If you’ve never ventured into a consignment sale for fear of being overwhelmed (but love the idea of them) here are a few tips I’ve picked up that have made it more enjoyable for me:

Pick a picky sale in a upscale part of town.  You want a sale who sticks to their “gently used, like new” policy. Otherwise it’s a waste of time because you are sorting through damaged clothes or purchasing things that won’t last long.  Also consigners tend to pick sales close to them to sell at. I’ve noticed that if the sale is in a upscale part of town you will find a lot more high-quality items and brands that wear well.  My sale of choice for these two reasons is the  Kid’s Everywear Sale.

Volunteer and shop on the volunteer days, avoid public days.  If kids sales overwhelm you this is the best cure.  The isles are not packed with shoppers and you have a significantly better chance of finding what you need quickly since there are more of the same items. You would spend about the same amount of time fighting crowds and waiting in line on public days as you would volunteering or tagging to consign.  Sometimes there are other opportunities for volunteering other than just helping at the sale.

Start with the items that are expensive new and hard to find at other second hand stores:  Everyday clothes at reasonable prices  are so easy to find for kids.  I make a list per child of the specialty things I need and purchase those first.  I pay for the items on this list and take them out to my car before any other shopping (example of my list)

Afterwards, if I have the time and motivation, I will go back and shop for everyday clothes or browse the books and toys again.  Otherwise I’ll pick up these clothes gradually at some of my favorite second hand stores.  Usually by then I’m running out of time and motivation and it is enough where we can pick up anything else I’m missing as we need it.

Browse the clothes quickly, decide later.  If I’m looking for three nice dresses and a coat I will go through the clothes quickly pulling out 4-5 dresses and 1-2 coats I like.  Then I will find a quiet corner to measure if I need to measure and look the garment over.  I open and close all fasteners (buttons/zippers/snaps), check for holes and stains, and check the arm hole seams.  Then I put back the ones I don’t need and move on to the next item on my list.  It’s tempting sometimes to look through everything but if I find something I like in the 1st quarter of a section I make myself stop and move on.  Otherwise I could spend an hour looking for one thing!

Shop without the children.   There are dozens of brands at kids sales and since the sizes tend to vary by brand it’s hard to know which ones run small and which ones run true to size.  It’s tempting to take the kids for sizing but I’ve discovered that using a sewing measuring tape is all I need.  Before I go I measure:

    1. For shoes: the length of my child’s foot from heal to longest toe.  Or you can make a cardboard cutout of their foot.  Stick this inside of a shoe to determine how much “grow” room they will have.
    2. For bottoms: Measure the width of the waist band in their currant size.  If a brand runs small the next size up will have the same width as their currant size. For pants, stretch pants measure differently than regular shorts.  FYI.
    3. If you like shorts to be a certain length, measure from waist down to where you want it to get a good idea of where it will fall.
    4. For Dresses:  Measure from shoulder to knee, down their back (curve of stomach will throw off the measurement because when you lay clothes flat to measure at the sale it doesn’t account for body curves).  This will give you an idea of how long (or short) a dress will be on them.  And make sure they have growing room. You can do the same with shirts or onsies if your child has a long torso.
    5. You can also measure sleeve lengths and pant lengths but I don’t bother.  They tend to be more true to size for my girls and easily rolled up if too long.

Do you have any other tips?

He Said, She Said (Ed Welch Seminar)

I fully intended to complete my review of Fit To Burst.  I had it mostly written and then we had a baby on Dec. 11 :). I will finish that post but for now here is a little filler to break the blog silence. My husband’s parents took the older girls for a long weekend so we could attend a marriage seminar titled “He Said, She Said: Communication that Builds Intimacy in Marriageby Ed Welch. Except for Christmas this was the first time we had been out of the house for something other than grocery runs.  Baby girl did great and slept through the whole thing.  I have always loved Ed Welch’s books and perspective on counseling and was pretty excited to hear him speak in person.  He and his wife have struggled through many years of conflict (his wife said that during their 2nd year of marriage she had a very strong dislike of Ed).  But yet their marriage survived. This is the kind of person you want to hear talk about communication in relationships!

Ed’s speaking style is a bit different.  There were no bulleted points to write down.  It was more like a running conversation filled with stories for examples.  The more I thought about what he said the more things stood out to me.  Here are a few quotes I loved:

“Having a common destination in mind for your marriage is key”E. Welch

His point here was to ask are you heading towards a common goal or are you pulling apart?  He encouraged folks to write down a mission statement for their marriage.  The entire first session was on ways to define what you want your marital relationship to be like and how to achieve that goal through communication.  Luke and I hadn’t ever really thought about it like that but it was fun to discuss this together.

“Stem grumbling and complaining about each other. Have a zero tolerance for anger” E.Welch

If you ask Luke and I when our last fight was we’ll probably tell you we’ve never had one (“fight” being defined as one or both people angry at the other person). I think a huge part of this is because we did come into marriage with a commitment to not get angry at each other. Our marriage isn’t perfect but by God’s grace this is one area where we do not struggle.   For sure, we do have things we disagree on and have moments where we have to work through opposing desires.  But we don’t fight and yell at each other about them.    This perspective begs the question: if you rule out anger towards each other what is left? What, then, is the role of conflict?  Conflict is the clashing of two people’s desires.  It is inevitable in a relationship but I consider this to be a good thing because it reveals what we are hiding inside (James 4).  It causes me to bring my desires out into the open and hold them up for evaluation against God’s word.  Appreciating and understanding this role of conflict can diffuse anger in the moment.  It makes me eager to talk through things to find the middle ground.  It causes me to think about how I can approach conflict in a way that preserves our friendship and chose my words and tone accordingly.

“Bring it all to the relationship. There should be openness and no fear of sharing. No feelings of walking around on eggshells for fear of how the other person will react…There is something becoming about fragile, finite people speaking of their weakness. Because that’s what we are: fragile, finite, people…words are how God works among us.” E.Welch

I loved this point because this has not always been my first instinct; my nature is probably to be more of an introvert in my friendships; observing and listening but not really offering up a lot of info about myself.  At some point many years ago God convicted me that this was just pride.  I didn’t feel the need to discuss thoughts and view points with others because I had a low view of the necessity of accountability/support and a high view of my ability to evaluate my own heart.  Once I made the choice to be more open with a few close friends I began to appreciate the idea of having folks who know me well.  I began to value the accountability and support/encouragement from those who see me better than I see myself.  Today this is one of the things Luke and I talk of appreciating most about marriage: the aspect of sharing the ins and outs of daily life together. We are constantly using each other as a sounding board for thoughts, ideas, and convictions. We love talking about everything together – trials, dream vacations, current events, observations where spiritual growth is needed, things we’re excited about or fearful of.   I think a key part of developing this openness (if it’s a struggle for you like it was for me) is that you have to make it a point to volunteer the information, not wait to be asked.  On the flip side, Ed Welch made the point that also, at times, developing openness involves listening to trivial things you have no interest in.

I could go on. It really was a fantastic seminar.

Baby Waiting Projects

This week is the week I’m due with baby #3.  We finished up all our projects before Thanksgiving, our bags are waiting by the door, and our house is clean.  It’s been a relaxing week of no deadlines or commitments.  But sitting around twiddling our thumbs isn’t quite our style or idea of fun so here are a few baby waiting projects I finished up over the weekend. Figured might as well while I have the energy!  Or you can chalk it up to nesting :).

#1: Baby-Wearing Poncho Wrap

photo 3 (28)photo 4 (26)

I got the pattern from Here (Walking with Dancer’s Blog).  She has lots of pictures of how it will be worn.  This wrap will be perfect for errand running and walks during the winter.  Our front baby carrier doesn’t work well with my jacket.  And it’s hard to get the baby in and out if they are bundled up in lots of layers.  It was super easy to make and very warm!  It took 15 minutes to cut out 2 of them (one for a friend).  I just followed the measurements on the pattern below and poof: Done.

I did want a more finished looking edge so I decided to re-learn a basic crochet stitch. And then I was reminded why I never liked crocheting. But I still wanted that finished look so I used this tutorial on YouTube to figure it out. I didn’t have the fancy tool so I just used a craft awl I already had to punch holes.  There are instructions in the blog post for this but I got yarn that was too thick to do 3 stitches in one hole thus I needed a simpler stitch.

#2: Christmas Decorating

photo 2 (46)photo 1 (44)

We put up our tree the Sunday after Thanksgiving and I finally got a few other decorations out for our mantle, windows, and table.  The bulletin board is a new addition to that wall.  With a thermostat and a light switch located awkwardly in the middle of this wall I have been at a loss for what to with it.  Until this cork board was passed on to me and I saw an idea where someone had cut a hole to accommodate an intercom box.  So I cut a hole for the thermostat and light switch and love the result!  The background is black felt I had leftover from another project, cut to size, tucked under the frame edge, and then pined up with a silver thumb tack border.

#3: Popsicle Snowflakes

Project Inspiration and instructions are from CraftyNest.

These were also easy and quick to make (A must for projects when you know a baby can come at any moment!).  I glued them together and then let the girls paint them with me.  I didn’t have a Christmas Red that matched our poinsettias so I darkened the basic red I had with a couple drops of green.  Then finished them off with a clear acrylic sealer.  All in all these probably cost about a penny each to make.

Snowflake project

Fit To Burst Recap: Giving Freely

Our church organized several ladies book studies over the fall.  My group just finished reading Fit To Burst by Rachel Jankovic.  I don’t follow much of Rachel’s stuff but I love her 2-book series on parenting young kids (Loving the Little Years is the first one).  Her chapters are short and to the point but still leave much to be reflected upon.  And her humor is fantastic.  A lot of the discussion in the book isn’t new ideas.  You can probably find dozens of blog posts and book chapters on the same topics.  There are a couple of things I want to keep in mind as we enter into the newborn phase once again.  Here is the first one.  The rest will be coming soon in future blog posts.

Reminder #1: Give freely, Give Joyfully.

“In Christian circles there is constant talk about free salvation.  It is free, thank God.  But it is only free to us.  God paid a great price for it.  Jesus paid with His blood.  It is free to us because someone else paid a great deal… We imitate Christ, and we do things that are hard, that cost us much, because we want our gifts to be free to others.” Fit To Burst, page 22

The Christian’s life is a call to selfless living in whatever season of life God has called us into.  Willing to give up our life, time, and energy to serve another without expectation of return. As Christ did for us.  While this is true for all of life, the giving of ourselves to raise young kids is a bit different than serving adults.  With adults there is often a understanding of the sacrifice made or gratification of thanks given.  However, young children have no concept of how much energy, emotion, and time you are pouring into their lives.  They don’t understand how their total dependance affects us physically and emotionally.  But this doesn’t change God’s command to me to give freely to them and pour out my life and energy for them, every day. Luke has said frequently that the first 6 months of an infants life isn’t about us.  It’s about our family, and giving of ourselves to provide what they need.  Christ willingly sacrificed for me to the point of death. I die to myself  and sacrifice for my children over and over – often times to the point of my own exhaustion –  because Christ did the same for me.

“Cheerfully embracing the mundane work in your life, diving into the challenges, working harder than you would think was possible at the little, at the trivial, at the boring – these are all ways to say, “Use me Lord; I am your servant.” Fit to Burst, pg 44

Willingly and with Joy.  The past eight months has been fun.  We haven’t changed a diaper in a long while, the girls are able to do simple things for themselves, their little chores are actually helpful, it’s easy to go places, we been able to sit through church services with minimal distractions, host a few parties, and Luke and I have enjoyed some fun getaways and projects together.  It has been a welcome season of adequate rest and feeling like there were more than enough hours in the day to accomplish what we needed to do.  It’s been easy to be joyful.  But before this easy season was a hard season.  The year after our second child was born was difficult for me. Life was 95% filled with basic survival tasks:  food to eat, good hygiene, clean clothes, no mold in the bathrooms, infant needs, and potty training. Which was serving my family but seemed monotonous and boring for me.    I like making gifts for birthdays, having lots of time to organize the girls club I do lead, working on occasional projects, or being able to take part in church outreach and service on a regular basis.  Even when there was a bit of extra time, the energy to do more was gone.  As we approach another year of having an infant around I’ve been both bracing myself and praying through how we can not only survive, but enjoy this next physically demanding season of life.  At some point during a quiet time in the middle of that first year with two children I was impressed with the thought: This is not how it was meant to be. This struggle to survive, to provide for our basic needs is harder than it was created to be. Because of sin. You can laugh but it was a very freeing thought to me that laundry (that never ending task) in and of itself  is a direct result of the fall.  It is a part of my life solely because sin entered into the world.  But that didn’t mean I couldn’t fight for joy in the mundane tasks. By fighting for joy as I cleaned up another potty training accident, walked the 3yr old through the 12th fit of the day with patience, played make believe with a tired brain, or used the evening hours with my husband to catch up on dishes (when we both just wanted to sit down) I was fighting the sin in my own heart. Sin that would seek it’s own comfort, desires, and pursuits.  Because to die  is to live in Christ and I wasn’t living for myself but to fulfill HIS calling and will for me right now:  to be at home caring for my children.  As the kids get older and more independent there will be seasons of life where God’s calling might extend once again to outside-the-home activities.  But for this season that is not his will for me.  Right now he has called Luke and I to spend the best part of our time and energy caring for, training, enjoying, and building relationships with the little people he has entrusted to our care. 

What do I personally need to do to maintain this joy and attitude of freely giving?

Be renewed by prayer and scripture often.  My joy is not from my circumstances but from my relationship with Christ and the fruit this relationship brings.

Weekly asking: God what is my purpose for this week?  What are you calling me to focus on? How can I be living in the center of your will? Am I taking on more than you are calling me to do this week because I feel bored? Our paster gave a great message to the ladies in our church a couple months ago about not forgetting our first calling: to be a disciple of Christ.  He made the comment that: “often times our area of concern is much greater than our actual responsibility.”  I need to be seeking God’s directions as I plan out my weekly tasks so I don’t over-extend myself and commit to things or projects that will prevent me from giving adequate attention to my family.

And third, by continuing to pour out my time and energy in faith when it feels like I have nothing else to give.  Chapter 6 in Fit to Burst is titled ‘Too Many Straws in My Milkshake’ and Rachel comments that “The demands for your attention and energy get suddenly loud and obnoxious when you feel like there isn’t anything left to give.”  Like the sound a straw makes at the bottom of a milkshake. It’s easy to go into self-preservation mode at this point and start craving to be left alone.  But God says pour in faith and I will “supply all your needs according to my great riches” (Phil 4:19).

Autumn Leaves

Fall is in the air!  Each season I try and find one thing our kids can help make to decorate our house.  They love being included (in the words of our 2yr old “we’re making the house SO pretty!”).  Searching around I found this idea for Tissue Paper Leaves and loved it for both it’s simplicity in making as well as how nice it actually looks.  Sure, there are tons of things they could have glued, cut, and painted with just paper but I liked the nicer window catcher look of these leaves.  Here is how we made them.  It took just under 45 minutes to complete.

Complementary Book Suggestions (for ages 4-5):  Leaf Jumpers and Why Do Leaves Change Colors?

Step One: Create an Outline

The site above has a template you can print out.  Instead of doing that we went for a walk and collected some leaf shapes of our own from around the neighborhood. I took those leaves, traced them onto black construction paper, cut them out, and then cut out the middle leaving a thin outline.

If the leaves had a jagged edge I used my scrapbooking scissors to cut out the outside to give the outlines a similar look.

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Outline

Step Two: Tear up/Cut Tissue Paper and Fill the Outline.

Want to know how to entertain young kids for 30 minutes?  Give them tissue paper and kid scissors and let them at it.  The girls cut and tore the orange, red, and yellow paper into small pieces for quite a while.  We used a laminator so I just opened up the laminating pocket, put the outlines in, had the girls fill the outlines with the tissue paper scraps, flipped the top sheet back down, and ran it through the machine. I did have to use a ruler to poke some of the filling back inside the outlines once I closed the top.  Laminating paper is very static.  If you use contact paper, cut two squares the size of the leaf outline, stick the outline and fill on one square and then place the other square on top when finished.

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Step Three: Laminate

You can use a machine or clear contact paper.   Warning: You DO NOT want to use glue for either of these options. The contact paper is already sticky and the glue will gum up a laminating machine.   You can leave it as is or trim it to the leaf’s shape.

Side note: A year ago I acquired this Purple Cow laminator and it has served us well!  We are just now reaching the end of the free laminating pages it came with. Definitely worth the investment if you have a preschooler in the house.

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Finished!  Aren’t they fun?

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Placemat Alternative:

We have lots of tissue paper scraps leftover so we might make some placemats for the kids to use at Thanksgiving.  Using this Patchwork Acorn idea with black construction paper and contact paper (so we can make them larger than 8×10).

Cascade Falls + Rendezvous Mountain

This past week Luke and I took our girls on a mini vacation to Boone, NC to enjoy some time together before our baby arrives and busies up life.   After several beach vacations in a row it was refreshing to head West for a change! We had a relaxing few days roaming the woods, swimming in the hotel’s indoor pool, and introducing the girls to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.  People are often asking me what my favorite trails are so here is a bit of a review of two we explored should you ever find yourself in want of a family friendly hike out that way.  

Cascade Falls (Boone, NC)

Back in July, Luke and I attended a free seminar at REI titled “Best Waterfalls and Swimming Holes in North Carolina.”  It was presented by Casey Marcum of  http://www.wildncwaterfalls.com.  Cascade Falls (photo) was one of the ones he tagged “a great family friendly hike.”   So bright and early we left our hotel and headed North on the Blue Ridge Parkway to find this trail.  It turned out to be the perfect trail for wee feet.  The girls loved hiking along the creek and discovering the waterfall.  And there are great photo spots at the falls.

Cascade Falls (lower observation deck)

Cascade Falls (lower observation deck – Photo Credit goes to our 4-yr-old)

Difficulty: None.  It’s a leisurely 30 minute hike around a loop.   You do descend about 30 stairs to get to the Fall’s lower overlook that were a bit daunting for our 2-yr-old but not for our 4-yr-old.  She didn’t seemed phased at all.

Located:  In the E.B. Jeffress Park, between mile markers 271 and 272 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Most visitor centers in the area have a free map of the Blue Ridge Parkway.  The parking lot is just a turn off  directly off the Parkway.  There are signs at the edge of the parking lot marking the location.  If you are facing the mountain view, the trail starts to your left.  Head right or left at the first fork (it’s a loop).  If you head left (towards the “MST” trail)  it follows the creek to the waterfall.  Just note that a little ways down this way there is a second turn off for the “MST” Trail.  Ignore that and stay to the right for the falls.   The waterfall is at the half way point along the loop.

Facilities:  There are a few picnic tables and a bathroom at the parking lot.  However, the bathroom was closed mid-week.  They might just open them up on the weekends or it might not be maintained anymore.  I’m not sure which one it is so be prepared to find a tree if the need arises.

Rendezvous Mountain (near Wilkesboro, NC)

On our way home we were simply looking for a nice place to eat our picnic lunch and stumbled upon Rendezvous Mountain Educational State Park.  They have two trails that are also great for young kids: The Saw Mill trail and the Talking Trees Trail.  Each trail has a electronic push-button at each exhibit/tree that once activated gives a bit of information.  It was fun, but more than that, the drive up the mountain and the view was incredible.  There are picnic tables near the Saw Mill Exhibit Trail (no bathrooms) as well as a couple tables up near the Ranger Office (bathrooms available).

Park Information Link   and    Trail Map Link

Rendezvous Mountain