Author Archives: Lindsey and Olivia

Lessons from the 2 greatest moms we know: Ours.

Moms. Let’s face it. They play a huge role in the people we become.

We’ve done interviews with lots of amazing moms over the last few years, but lately we’ve both been thinking about our own moms, and how important their lessons 30 years ago influence us now, so many years later.

For me (Lindsey), it was suddenly having a daughter.  That mother/daughter relationship was brought to the forefront of my mind. The thought of raising a daughter seemed daunting. I started to examine how I turned out so… well, cool (by my own standards of course). The answer: My Mom.

The three most important things I learned from her.

1. There is no substitute for hard work.
2. Letting your kids run outdoors unsupervised is a good thing.
3. Taking your kids out for adventures is exhausting. My Mom did it with 6 kids in tow.  Get over it, and get out there.

This is the interview with my Mom (6/14/2011) Nancy: Adventure. Exhausting, but worth it

For me (Olivia), my mom is constantly in my head.  The older I get the less I need to call her and ask for her advise (though I do…) because I can hear what she’d say without her having to say it (some people have bumper stickers on their car that say WWJD; What Would Jesus Do–my bumper sticker should say WWMMD; What Would My Mother Do.  And honestly I think Jesus and My Mother would do similar things, though I am unfamiliar with what Jesus took on camping trips).

From packing for camping trips to married life to (very soon) taking care of a little girl, I think back to my own childhood, and what my mom did, to figure out what I should do.

The sacrifices she made were completely lost on me as a child.  It is only decades later that I realize what an incredible mom she is.

This is the interview with my Mom (5/5/2011) Bonnie: Raising Outdoor Savvy Kids 

Happy Mothers Day to all the great Moms  (future, present and past) who read this blog.

What to know when encountering wild animals

To help ease some of your outdoor paranoia’s, here are a few simple guidelines for the most common ‘dangerous’ wild animals.  Maybe knowing more about the ones in your area will make it easier to get past any latent fears and take advantage of the outdoor areas near you.


Range: Coyotes are found throughout North America, even in downtown Los Angeles!  Wolves (the Grey Wolf) is found throughout Canada and in the northernmost states of the U.S.

Coyote attacks are extremely rare. I’ve had several strange encounters with coyotes lately; thankfully they have not seemed intent on hurting me.  Wolf attacks are also extremely rare.  I only found four cases where a wolf/wolves had killed a person in the last twenty years in the U.S., and two of them were from ‘pet’ wolves on chains (one was a runner in Alaska).  There are a few more cases of attacks where everyone survived, including this story from Canada.  Interestingly (and sadly) wolf kills are not uncommon in Russia.

  • If a coyote approaches you, try to look big, make loud and sudden movements, and throw rocks.
  • Don’t run. Like most canids they may chase a moving object.
  • Make sure you stay between the coyote and your children.
  • If a coyote is barking at you, back off slowly. If it’s spring she probably has pups and just wants to make sure you stay away.
  • Wolves in the lower 48 are still rather uncommon, but should you and your kids run into a pack in Alaska, don’t run and don’t turn away.  Make noise, make yourself large, but don’t be overly aggressive.  Find a stick and some rocks to use against the animal–aim for the nose.  Wolves don’t climb trees well, so get yourself up in one quickly if you can.


Range: Species of rattlesnakes and rattling relatives are found throughout North America.  In addition, there are a few species of Coral Snakescattered throughout eastern and southern U.S.,the cottonmouth/water moccasin, which occur in the southeastern states of the U.S. up into the lower half of the Great Plains, and the copperhead, which occurs along the east coast, and throughout the southeast.

What to do before you see a snake:

  • Hike in shoes, the higher the tops the better.
  • If your worried you also might want to consider wearing pants.
  • Avoid hiking in tall grass, swimming in swampy water, and putting your hands and feet onto cliff ledges you can’t see.
  • Schedule hikes early in the day, before it gets hot.  Many snakes like to come out in the heat of the day, and lay in the sun where you may walk.
  • Learn how to identify poisonous snakes.
  • Be aware of the sounds and movements around you.  Rattlers will try to warn you if you are disturbing them too much, but if you don’t hear the sound, it does no good! (more…)

Be road-trip prepared: Assemble a Car Kit

I got to thinking the other day that I needed to update our ‘car kit’. I started making a list of all the things I would need if stranded in/near my car with my family (in any season). After pondering the list I quickly realized I should consult Olivia.

As I read her list I had to laugh.

Why? Because being that I’ve spent a lot of time in the backcountry and on the road with Olivia I’ve personally seen nearly every one of these items in use. I can also recall several personal experiences where I wish I had this stuff (see stuck on beach photo below).

It may seem like a lot, but Olivia assures me she has all her emergency stuff shoved into one box that always rides in the back of her car.  In the winter she also tosses in the duffle bag full of extra clothes and warmish things (her duffle bag, by the way, has a shoulder strap, so if she had to walk , she could use it to carry stuff).

It’s all great info, so I thought I’d share the list with other travelers. (more…)

Gift Ideas for Outdoor Families

Christmas is coming up (I know, duh). And while I’m sure most of you have all your holiday gifts squared away (wink wink), for those who don’t, this post may help. All are gifts that will encourage you and your family to be outside. Note that they are also realistic, I refrained from listing a Sportsmobile and the entire inventory at Jacks Plastic Welding.

Let’s get right to it, here are my top 10 picks. 5 Things you can make and 5 things you can buy. Plus links to other outdoor Mom bloggers who are posting about outdoor family gifts today as well.

I’d also be interested to know what your’re giving this holiday…

5 Things You Can Make/Assemble


Create your own ‘Olivia Bag’ (aka Survival Kit)

Olivia Bag /uh-LIV-ee-uh • ˈbāg/: a flexible container of random items compiled by Olivia for jimmy rigging anything (and just about any body) that breaks while out on an adventure.

The idea behind the Olivia bag (known to some as a ‘survival kit’) is that whether you’re hiking, backpacking, river-rafting, biking, or doing some other outdoor activity, the emergencies will generally fall into three categories:

1) Your equipment breaks.
2) You hurt yourself.
3) Something is inconvenient and annoying and needs an inventive remedy.

In all categories, the point is to fix the problem as best you can on the spot, making something that is ‘good enough’, and will get you back to the real world for a proper fix. I know it seems crazy, but I’ve used darned near every item in these bags at one time or another!

Make your own survival kit

I assure you that all these items fit into a small (5×6 or so) zipper pouch. You can use a make-up bag (found at most stores in the beauty isle, or at thrift stores), or something like a Pack-It Sac available at most outdoor stores.  You can even put all the small items into their own little baggies, purchased in the hobby section of your favorite “mart”.

My Olivia bag is actually divided up into two bags (pictured above). The first (larger bag) has all the non-medical essentials (known as the “Olivia Essentials” below). The second is smaller and fits snugly inside the first. This bag has all the first aid supplies (listed below as the “Olivia Medical”). (more…)

Outdoor (ish) Themed Do-it-yourself Halloween Costumes

If your like me, you’ve procrastinated making your child’s Halloween costume.  Now, with less than a week to go, you’re frantically looking through your cloth scraps, first-aid kits, and compost pile for something you can strap to your child and call it a ‘costume’.  “But I look like a soggy English muffin” your child says, looking in the mirror.  “Nonsense!” you parry, “That’s the darndest unicorn costume this side of the Mississippi!”

For the sake of your child, we’ve put together a small list (well, it started out small) of nature-esque costume ideas that you can throw together with ease.  Well, most of them, some are probably a little to advanced, but we’re craft-challenged. (more…)

How do you “structure” unstructured play?

If you haven’t noticed, unstructured play is pretty en vogue these days.  Articles touting its importance, experts saying kids need more, that it’s becoming a lost art form, that without it your child may become a criminal—articles leaving you awake at night wondering a) what the heck unstructured play is and b) if you’re a terrible person because you haven’t scheduled it in to tomorrow’s agenda.  Ugh.

Never fear.  Unstructured play is just a new phrase for something very old.  Something that animals do, and that kids naturally tend towards in every activity.  For example, remember when they were two, and could be entertained with an empty Kleenex box and a gum wrapper?  When they used shoes as telephones?  Remember the last time you set them down to chutes and ladders and came back to find them using the board, upside down, as a slide and the pieces as a marching band?  That, my friends, is unstructured play—activities that are steeped in imagination and creation; activities that downplay agendas and end-goals.  Unstructured play is when no one is looking towards the finish line.  It is the zen-moment of free time.  And what’s more, all it requires are the natural gift every child has:  an imagination.

Why is unstructured play so great? Because it promotes exploration, creativity and independent thinking.  What’s more, it gives you, the over-burdened parent, a little break.  Leave them be and let them figure out what to do with a half an hour.

Easy. Right? Ummm… no.  At least not for me and my brood.  There are so many other factors that go in to getting a child to conjure up an interesting and attention-capturing activity all by themselves.  Assuming that I’m not the only one with issues in this realm, I hereby dedicate the rest of this post to how to achieve those unstructured moments.

How do you de-structure your kids playtime?  You fight the urge to entertain.  You turn off the t.v., the playstation, the wii, and the ipod.  You leave them with materials and let them create their own fun.  They’ll be bored to start with, but out of desperation, they’ll figure it out–this is especially true if you’ve got several children of the right age–they’ll feed off each other.

Here are, in my experience, the most common obstacles for children left to their own devices, and the methods that I have dreamed up for dealing with them.  I very much look forward to hearing from readers who have also tried to incorporate undirected playtime into their child’s daily routine! (more…)


    I'm Lindsey. I'm an environmental educator, my husband's a biologist. The outdoors is infused into everything we do; which explains why I'm better at mud pies than home decorating. More About Me

    I don't blog alone! Meet outsidemom contributer Olivia