Sunday, October 23, 2016

On being an adventure mom

We spent this weekend camping in Shawnee National Forest, at a campground we visited and liked two years ago. We set out early Saturday morning to repeat the previous trip's hike to a great natural bridge, found the stream crossing a little higher than we wanted to try, and decided to take a longer loop around to approach the bridge from the other side. By MB's apple watch, we hiked five miles. It took four hours. The kids KILLED IT. They were chipper and capable, walked the whole way with only a tiny episode of whining from each at the very end, and generally were enjoyable company. We had the entire trail to ourselves, with the exception of one couple we passed near the end. The landscape was fantastic, the weather was perfect. We were a little too early for fall colors, with the summer lingering so long this year. We had zero network coverage the entire time we were there, and it was great. I read a whole novel on Saturday afternoon. The boys played mostly well together at the campsite, creating a complicated pretend game with small branches standing in as spaceships, scooping hickory nuts and gravel with their toy construction vehicles.

I've been asked a few times for tips on being an adventure mom, so I thought about it some. With the caveat that all this probably depends on your particular brand of children, here's what I think you should consider if you're interested in taking small kids on outdoor adventures:

1. It takes practice. We took Nico camping for the first time when he was 20 months old. Elliott went on his first trip at eight months. My kids have literally been camping their whole lives.

2. If it's not easy at first, it's okay. For the first two years we camped with Nico, bedtimes were miserable. I'd lay in the tent with him for over an hour, missing nearly all the socializing with our grownup friends, waiting for him to stop thrashing and fall asleep. I was often not as patient as I should've been. The whole cycle repeated with Elliott, though I don't remember it lasting as long. This weekend at ages three and six, they fell asleep within ten and twenty minutes of being zipped into their sleeping bags and slept right through the night. If you have tried camping with your little kids and it was really hard, that is normal. Once you can think about it without wanting to drink / cry, try it again. Eventually you'll get there.

3. Have realistic expectations. Two years ago, we camped at this weekend's spot. We went out on a hike with the friends we were camping with, and after an hour and a half, we bailed and went back to the campsite to take naps while our friends kept hiking. This year, I still can't believe it, my little kids hiked five miles. And I had Elliott's carrier in my backpack the whole time in case he couldn't walk the whole way.

4. Take some stuff to keep them busy at the campsite - coloring books or dump trucks or sand pails...something. Let them get filthy if they want to - it's camping. We don't even take showers when we camp for a weekend. Everyone smells; no one cares.

Most of all, you know yourself and you know your kids and I do best when we are out, away, and gone for most of a day. We don't do well staying in the house for more than half a day. Adventure parenting is totally my jam, and adventure kid-ing is definitely theirs. So, that's what I've got. Maybe it's helpful? I hope so. If not, here are some cute kid photos to make up for it:

He climbed up to get a better look at the sandstone cliffs and whispered to himself, "This is so cool."

We got off-trail and ended up mountain-goating up this steep slope to get back on track. The kids rocked it.

We ended up on top of the natural bridge toward the end of our hike, which was pretty awesome.

My response to this method of descending from the top of the bridge was to blurt out, "Are you KIDDING ME?"
We did not attempt it. Maybe in two more years. Or ten.

Instead, we doubled back and eventually made it to the bottom. It was worth all the walking.

Here are some bonus pumpkin patch photos, also. We visited on the 16th and it was very nice.

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Here we come to a turning of the season

I am annoyed that I let my unintentional hiatus result in an entire skipped month. I'm really tempted to backdate this post so I won't have a gap in my archives later, but I'm going to resist because it's just silly. Since we last met, I have hung out with my delightful baby nephew many times and played two rounds of Pandemic Legacy with his parents. My sister moved to Indianapolis for a new job. We took the kids on our annual amusement park trip, went to a few birthday parties, and planted a butterfly garden. Elliott went back to preschool and started attending the extended-day Lunch Bunch program on Wednesdays. I took on more responsibilities at work and also hired some new part-time staffers. I made hundreds of mini muffins for the kids and about a dozen bowls for the Empty Bowls project. I went on TV twice for work to promote the biggest event that I run every year, and then smashed the previous attendance record for that event last night. I led four Navigators meetings, reaffirming that starting our chapter was one of the best ideas I've ever had. We went camping, and even though it was hot I was glad we went. It feels like we are officially a Camping Family now. We are hoping to camp at least three more weekends before it gets too cold (actually, I'm hoping for four...we'll see). I read a book. I watched some football games and some episodes of Project Runway. I made felt apple slices for a felt food exchange. I made more headway into my decluttering effort. We have been SO busy, mostly with our everyday life stuff. So many muffins to bake and lunches to pack and laundry to wash and floors to sweep, and none of it is bad it's just SO BUSY. I miss writing here when I don't make time, so I'll keep trying to make time. Meanwhile, I expect there will be more of this...which is also fine.