The Littlest Campers: Tips and Tricks

General tips for camping with kids

1. Don't camp alone. Part of the beauty of these trips is how many adult hands there are to pass a baby off to, and how many adult eyes there are to watch out for the roving dust cloud of older kids. Find out how many of your friends are potential good campers, even if they've never camped before, and drag them along. Promise beer. Promise marshmallows. Promise anything, but don't camp alone. 

Our motley crew of pajama clad ruffians

Our motley crew of pajama clad ruffians

2. Don't over do the packing. You need less than you think, especially if you camp in a group.

3. Leave the workbooks, tablets, and toys. Bring books, buckets, and glue. Nothing entertains a pack of wild beasts like gluing leaves on paper. I can't explain it, but I know it's true. 

4. Dirt Tent! The kids will want nothing more than to go in and out and in and out of your pristine sleeping tent. They will want to play with the zipper and jump on your air mattress. Bring a dirt tent. Scour garage sales or maybe retire your old tent. Set up the dirt tent as the place they can play, keep their shoes on, not worry about bugs getting in. DIRT TENT.

5. Release the schedule. Stop looking at your watch. They aren't going to nap. They might pass out at 4:00pm in a mud puddle while looking for worms. They aren't going to go to bed on time. They might eat seventy marshmallows and fall asleep around the campfire in the middle of the second verse of Hey Jude.  Don't worry, they'll still be up at 6:00am. 

Camping While Pregnant

I have not yet attempted the CWP, but I have a brave and wonderful friend who joined us on a camping trip when she was a full eight months pregnant with her second son. Other than some hilarity over breakfast as she re-enacted attempting to get up off of her air mattress that had sprung a leak in the middle of the night, leaving her trapped and flailing, the trip was without incident and enjoyed by all. 

Tips for CWP

- Make sure you get a campsite close to the bathroom.

Camping with a Newborn

If you are practicing any version of attachment parenting (breastfeeding, baby wearing, and co-sleeping), camping with a newborn is no big thing. 

Not a newborn in that ergo, but seriously, ERGO!

Not a newborn in that ergo, but seriously, ERGO!

Tips for Camping with a Newborn

- Breastfeeding, babywearing, and co-sleeping

-If you have room and access to one, a pack-and-play can come in very handy. Put it under a tree with cool leaves and you might even get a quiet minute to set up the tent.

Pro-tip: Put the pack-and-play and any other crucial distract-the-kids style items in the car last. That way they are the first things you pull out. It is no fun trying to unpack and set up camp with bored kids underfoot. 

Camping with a Crawler

I'm not sure I have a ton of insight to offer here. Our first time out was with a crawler and it was rough. She didn't want to be in the baby carrier. She wasn't a fan of the pack-and-play. She just wanted down, into the dirt, on her hands and knees. I'm a big fan of dirty, but it started to be a safety concern. This might be the one stage I would wait out.

Come on, mom. I wasn't that bad.

Come on, mom. I wasn't that bad.

Tips for Camping with a Crawler

-Definitely bring that pack-and-play. Beg, borrow, or steal that pack-and-play. But then don't be surprised when the little stinker wants nothing to do with it. 

-Over-pack on kid's clothes. If there is water, they will find it. Dirty is one thing, but getting to the end of the day with nothing dry to put on for bedtime is another.

Camping with a Toddler

Here is where it starts to get really fun. The dirt! The bugs! The snacks! The disgusting intersection of all three! I don't think I've ever seen anyone more joyful than a filthy free-range toddler. Toddlers make good campers, if you let them. 

Tips for Camping with a Toddler

Bring extra shoes. If there is a puddle they are going to jump in it and life is no fun with wet shoes. 

-Pack for colder weather than you expect. Cold munchkins don't sleep well.

-All day pajamas is a good look when camping.

Camping with a Preschooler

Camping with someone who sees the whole world as magical is pretty special. This last trip, we would walk on the adjacent hiking trails and O would tell us stories about gnomes and fairies. It is the perfect age to take them to a new place that can challenge their expectations and immerse them more fully in the natural world. 

Tips for Camping with a Preschooler

- Snacks. Things that are easy to throw into their mouths as they run by. It can be tricky to get them to eat otherwise.

-Glow sticks are a fun, easy way to make sure the kids stay visible at night. 

-Camping is a great time to try to get a picky eater to try new food. They are so far outside of their normal day-to-day, you might be surprised by what they'll try. 

-Say yes. As often as possible, as much as you can stand, even when you want to say no, say yes.  You're camping. 

Camping with a Big Kid

I don't have any personal experience to offer, only observations. In general, I have watched the older kids in our camping group rise above what I would expect based on their ages. I have watched them look after the smaller kids, taking time and effort to make sure they were safe. I have watched them be helpful without being asked, when it comes to setting-up camp or cleaning up after meals. Perhaps the freedom they are permitted instills a sense of responsibility, or maybe they are just so happy to be outside.  Maybe, they were all just good campers. 

Crazy Train

O: Mom, the Easter Bunny is just a suit, a bunny suit, with a bunny in it, right?

K: Exactly. 

This past weekend was a whirlwind of excitement: egg hunts, chocolate bunnies, time with family, and a trip to the Getty.  

The Getty is one of my happy places.

The Getty is one of my happy places.

There has not been a lot of time for writing or quiet reflection.  This week I have taken on more than I should have and am learning several important lessons from riding this self-inflicted crazy train:

1. Ask for help. I have a wonderful community of people.  All of them would love to help me out, if they can.  I try to imagine how good I feel when I can really help someone who needs it. That seems to make the asking easier.

2.  Prioritize. There are a million things that need doing, but only two of them need doing today.  Some of them can wait until tomorrow or even next week, and some of them are just never going to get done. (see below)

3. Triage. Some things aren't going to get done.  This is a fact.  Take a breath, deal with it.  Release the desire for perfection, or more to the point,  the desire for the perception of perfection.  I had some grand plans for O's 4th birthday party this week.  Instead, she is getting store-bought cupcakes and a couple of balloons, and it is going to be okay.  

No, seriously. It is going to be ok. How can it not be?

No, seriously. It is going to be ok. How can it not be?

4. When in doubt, there are always cookies. Because sometimes I have chocolate-flavored feelings.  I'm not proud.

C is for Cooooookie. That sure as heck is good enough for me. 

C is for Cooooookie. That sure as heck is good enough for me. 



Making Time

O: When is tomorrow? Is it right now? Or is it a long way away?

You can't make time.  Days are only so long.  Moments are impossible to relive, or recreate.  The closest we can come to making time is being mindful about how we spend the time we have. It is so hard to stay present with the looming specter of "what needs to be done" hovering over your shoulder.

This week, I am doing a drastic audit of my "what needs to be done list" and finding, on closer inspection, that many of those needs aren't really needs at all.  

This needs to be done.  Daily.  Hourly if possible.

This needs to be done.  Daily.  Hourly if possible.

The list is shrinking. I wish I could tell you that it was easy and I felt better, more connected, but if I'm being honest, a lot of the letting go feels unsettling.  Somehow, the length of that impossible list of needs kept me anchored.  It is challenging to stay present when the present is a big jumbled mess of dirty dishes, laundry, big feelings, little bodies, and boogers.  Today, in fact, I failed more than I succeeded. Tomorrow, though, I get a whole twenty-four hours to try again. 

Things I Have Said

K: P, stop mopping the dog! He doesn't need to be mopped.

A lot of people keep cute lists of all of the cute things that their cute kids say. I decided to keep a list of all of the crazy things cute kids have made me say. 

In the past 24 hours I have said:

1. All right guys, I am leaving, with or without you. (So clearly a bold-faced lie, even the baby didn't buy it)

2. When he said that thing about the spaceman, why did it make your heart hurt?

3. You can't have bread right now, because right now is not the bread-having time.

4. I can't put your shoes on my feet, because I am driving with my feet right now. In fact, I am driving with my hands and my eyes right now too. 

5. You are having a big feeling about that piece of trash, aren't you?

At this point, that bandaid is purely ornamental.

At this point, that bandaid is purely ornamental.

6. I'm sorry, but you can't have that knife right now.

7. Let's roll around on the floor and have a tickle party. No.  Just me.  I'm the only one who thinks that is a good idea?

8. Well, I think that, when brown bear and pink bear fight over the bouncy chair, you should remind brown bear that it is important to take turns, and that since she is older than pink bear, it might be nice and set a good example, if she let pink bear go first. 

9. The doors must all stay open, because all of the doors are my doors, and I am the decider about the openness of doors.

10. There is no Winnie the Pooh tonight! Pooh is off the table.

I must sound like a lunatic on a regular basis.  Anyone want to make me feel better and share the craziest thing they've said to their kids today? Anyone? Anyone? 


A Mommy Blerg: A Promise

O: I promise I won't forget to love you forever, ever never again. 

(The above quote is a complete fabrication.  Nothing resembling that sentence has ever issued from O's mouth)

I have ambivalent feelings about blogging, especially being a "mommy blogger." Yet, as this project continues I am buoyed by everyone's kind words and positive feedback.  When I first started considering sharing my writing and my life in this way, I began keeping a list of things I would not do, things this blog would not become.  So here are my promises, to myself and to you.

1. I promise I will write in complete and grammatically correct sentences.  When I don't, it will be a specific choice because of style or tone, or a proof reading error, so blame Jim.

2. I promise I will never call anybody DH, DD1, or DD2.  I will never be TTC or EBF. If something makes me laugh, I will describe, with language, how I fell to the floor and rolled with glee.  

DD2 is so cute it makes me want to ROTFL, or something like that

DD2 is so cute it makes me want to ROTFL, or something like that

3. I won't rant, not because ranting isn't fun, but because this isn't the forum for it.  That is what late nights on the couch with Jim and a bottle of wine are for.  

4. I won't pad out a list.  If I only have four things to share, I won't restate one to get to five. 

5. My lists will only contain information that I want to share one time. (I just couldn't resist. I'm not proud)

6. I won't overshare.  This is tricky, because by some people's standards I already have. Just know that anything I do choose to share will be shared mindfully and with forethought. 

7. I won't try to sell you anything.  If I share about a service or a product, it will only be because we use that product and it genuinely makes our lives easier/better/more fun.

seriously, though, this is the best lunch box ever

seriously, though, this is the best lunch box ever

8. I will use my own images.  I won't load a post with a bunch of open-source, uninteresting pictures.  I have a fancy new camera.  I am trying to learn how to use it.  

oooh, a fancy picture of a basketball that I took all by myself

oooh, a fancy picture of a basketball that I took all by myself

9. I won't invent O quotes. If a blog post starts with a quote from the kids, I promise, they said it.

 "Though she be but little, she is fierce."

-Billy Shakespeare, regarding P

10. I won't turn my post titles into click-bait. I Got My Kids To Sleep Twelve Hours in Their Own Beds: click here to find out how.  

Is there anything you hate about blogs, or anything that you would like to see more of?


Five Things I Swore I'd Never Do

O: It's ok mom, I'll just watch another DVDV. 

Before I had kids, I swore I would never

1. give them food I haven't paid for yet in the grocery store.

I will buy your silence with string cheese, even before I buy your string cheese.

I came here to kick butt and eat string cheese and we are all out of string cheese

I came here to kick butt and eat string cheese and we are all out of string cheese

2. ever use a disposable diaper.

We were so close, but I can not tell a lie.  When it is after midnight and I discover we are all out of clean cloth diapers, I'm super happy about that secret stash of disposable diapers, left over from our Grand Canyon trip, I have hidden in the trunk of the car.  

they just take so long to dry

they just take so long to dry

3. let them have screen time on road trips.

Kids need to be bored, I said. It's when they stretch their brains and use their imagination, I said. Evidently, I said a lot of silly things.

4. utter the phrase, "Because I said so."

To be fair, I did say so, and sometimes, shouldn't that be enough?

5. start a blog, but especially, a mommy blog.



We Only Have One Refrigerator

O: Not that one, Momma.  That one is the dust cloud that made all the dinosaurs get dead.  

K: How about this one?

O: Yeah, you can cut up that one.  It's just a dragon eating a princess. 

painting stance

painting stance

O is as prolific as Picasso. And sure, each painting is a precious delicate flower and I’m going to save all of them. Except, I’m not. We live in a very, very small space, and we like it that way, but it means that choices have to be made and clutter must be vanquished. Here are four of the ways we’ve come up with to deal with the artistic output.

Warning: the below suggestions involve the destruction of your tiny one’s masterworks. We generally go through the stack together and pick a few that are not to be altered. I generally lean towards ones that O can tell me a story about; O gravitates toward anything sparkly. If you are a completist and cannot imagine parting with even one of these treasures, in the interest of your home not becoming the next episode of Hoarders, let me recommend ArtKive, an app that lets you photograph, tag, and date your kid’s work. They also make lovely coffee table books from the images. It is quick and easy, and the app is free.

and now P is getting in on the act

and now P is getting in on the act

1. Wrapping paper-We usually give books and those large preschool paintings are just right for wrapping picture books.

2.Thank you cards-Just find something blank on the back and cut a rectangle, fold in half and write a note in the middle. Bam, homemade thank yous.

Bonus: This year O wasn’t going to go to school on Valentine’s day because we were planning a long weekend. We didn’t pack in time and ended up deciding to send her at the last minute. I grabbed a stack of paintings that leaned red, cut out twenty hearts, and she scrawled her O on the back. The cheapest (read free) and most environmentally friendly Valentines ever.

2. Packing material-Ok, I know, this one hurts a little, but remember Artkive, and remember Hoarders. It makes it a little easier as you are crumpling up those paintings and shoving them in a box. Plus, I can not tell you how many thank you notes we have received that have said more about the packing material than the gift. 

3. Papier Mâché-Cut long strips of the paper, blow up a balloon, dilute some white school glue with water and go to town. This is a messy proposition. A drop cloth is advisable. Outdoors is preferred. Younger kids like to just layer the sticky pieces on the balloon, but you can encourage older kids to create masks. You can always go back and cut eyes and mouths with a pen knife once your creations are dry.  Note: any kind of shiny paper is not a great choice, the closer you can get to the look and feel of newsprint the better.

Full disclosure: This doesn't actually solve any problems, but instead creates a new one.  Now you have to throw out three dimensional pieces of art instead of just paintings, but, hey, it kills an afternoon.  

4. Grandparents-There is no shame in making them someone else's to throw away.

or they might just keep them forever

or they might just keep them forever

Any storage tips from the parents who keep it all? 

You are raising Angelenos if...

O: We are on Pico! (this is said regardless of our actual location, but every time we pass a fire house)

You are raising Angelenos if...

1. They think a heavy mist is weather, and warrants an umbrella, a pair of sweet rain boots, and some serious swagger.

2. Someone, somewhere, has told you your kids should be in commercials.  

3. You have a real love/hate relationship with sand.  You love the sand at the beach and you hate the sand in your car, which makes you start to hate the sand at the beach in a way you never thought possible when you were in your early 20's and lived in a bikini, but I digress.  

4. They call this a quesadilla cutter.

It is multipurpose 

It is multipurpose 

5. You have them tested, and find that they are 90% avocado, and that half of those avocados came from someone's backyard.

6.  They have had sushi, pho, carnitas, beignets, dim sum, tom kah kai, saag paneer, and bibimpap all before their second birthday, but they might make it to college before they know the joy of Lucky Charms.  

7. When getting in the car, they ask, "Are we going on the freeway?" If the answer is yes, they act as though you have stuck hot pokers in their eyes. 

Are we there yet

Are we there yet

8. They have a vegan friend, a vegetarian friend, a paleo friend, and a friend who eats KFC on the reg. 

9. Dealing with a film crew in the parking lot of preschool is a normal occurrence.

10. You have uttered the sentence, "If you want to go play in the fountain at the park before yoga, we are going to have to hurry," in a Starbucks, in December, more than once.