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Category Archives: Blog Series

Going solo in the great outdoors… with kids

A reader recently submitted this question:

My hubby has poor health, but I *need* more outdoor time! Any tips for a mom and kids outdoors on their own? Mine are 7, 5, 3, and 2 mos. We live in beautiful western Oregon, but I have a thing for the SW.

-Meaghan

Meaghan, thanks for this excellent question.  It’s something I deal with all the time as a stay-at-home-mom who is also an outside junkie.  I actually really like getting the kids out on my own.   I’m not much of a home body and getting the kids out for a hike or a trip to the lake always seems like a far better alternative than futzing around the house.  Our situations aren’t that different–I’ve got a 5-, 3-, and five-month-old.  Granted you’ve got an extra child, but let’s just call your oldest an extra ‘helper’.

Your style for getting outside with just you and them will be all your own, unique to your personalities and situation, but here are some random suggestions that might make getting out on your own easier.

PS rare photo of me (above) taken by my good friend and awesome photographer Rebekah.

1. Don’t psych yourself out.
It’s not as daunting as it sounds. One less adult can usually be mitigated with better pre-planning.  Remember always what your objective is.  To be outside?  See something new?  Have a wee adventure?

Figure out what you’re going for and ‘settle’ for doing only that thing.  When the kids cry or complain, when something goes awry, when you call it quits early, just remember your objective… “well, my goal was to get outside for awhile today, and we did it!”  Have that attitude in mind before you even leave the house and you’ll be surprised how easy it is to feel good about your solo trip from the moment you’ve locked the front door.

2.  Pre-Plan. (more…)

Shade seeker

I started a really great blog post for today, but like most things I’ve started this week it’s just not going to happen. So instead I’ll leave you with this photo. Why? Because every time I see it, I laugh.

Dogs…


Hope you all find some shade this weekend.

This post is part of a photo series on unstructured moments. For more photos in this series click here.

What do your children think you value?

I heard about a study awhile back that crosses my mind on almost a daily basis. Maybe it’s just my lifestyle, but I really do think about it quite a bit.

This study involved two groups of moms. Group one never opened a book all day long. They just went about their motherly business while their kids were at home. Group two at a minimum had a book open on their laps whenever possible. If they weren’t actually reading, they at least gave the pretense of it. The study found that the kids whose moms were in group two were significantly more likely to become readers than the kids who grew up in the homes of group one.

To tell you the truth I can’t find that study anywhere to provide you with the link. Don’t remember where I heard it, or whether I heard it or read it. Maybe I dreamed the whole thing, I don’t know (if so, props to me for dreaming about scientific studies!). But I guess that’s also not really the point for me.

The findings are not shocking by any means, I’m pretty sure we can all agree that our kids watch us. Our actions speak far louder than our words. They do what we do. They learn to value what we value.

After reading (or dreaming) about the study, I started to mentally mull over my day. I imagined what it was that I was showing my kids about what I valued. Exercise? Computer? Work? Outdoors? Phone? Service? Them? Cooking? Health? Art? TV? Reading? Funny how what you think you value isn’t always reflected in how you choose to spend your time every day. I also thought a lot about what I wanted my kids to know that I value, and subsequently what I want them to value.

I made a few changes in my weekly routine. (more…)

Teaching kids stewardship… with a grabber?

Todays post is brought to you by my friend Amber. We got into a discussion one day about kids volunteering and learning to taking ownership of their favorite natural places. The result was this awesome essay about her experience taking her kids to volunteer in Yosemite. I love it.

Has anyone else incorporated outdoor volunteerism into their outdoor outings? We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences!

I grew up in a house where certain things were just, understood. Among such things was the understanding that if we didn’t take care of our things, we would eventually be out of things to take care of.  Although there was a certain resentment that accompanied this understanding, I knew when I had kids of my own that I wanted them to have the same sense of responsibility, or stewardship, over the things that were theirs.

I had the grand expectation that it would be fairly easy to help my child develop this sense of stewardship in every aspect of life, from toys, to friendships, to the natural world around them.

My child would not have the sense of entitlement that is so prevalent in so many kids today.

My child would always be noble, kind, and responsible. (more…)

Use #5 for a stick: Catch a crawdad

Crawdad catching season is in full swing around here. It’s such a popular past time with my kids I thought I’d share a few tips for other small aspiring ‘fishermen’.

What you need:

  • String
  • Stick
  • Paperclip or binder clip
  • Bait: Salami, peperonii, bacon, bologna or your choice of bad fatty meat

The set-up:

  • Tie your sting to the end of a stick
  • Tie a clip to the end of the string or tie the bait directly to the stirng

The Technique:

  • Find a  place that has crawdads. Lake, stream, river, canal etc. (ideally the water will be clear enough to see the bottom)
  • Locate a place near rocks or along the edge of the water.
  • Dangle the bait in the water, allowing it to sink to the bottom near the edge of the rocks or bank
  • Wait for crawdads find the bait
  • When the crawdads pinch the bait and try to tear a piece off, pull the bait out of the water at a steady moderate speed and dangle the crawdad over a bucket (when the crawdad realizes it is hanging in the air it will let go and fall in the bucket)

We have tried bringing some crawdads home as pets with limited success. (more…)

Are you hindered by ‘outdoor paranoia’?

Remember back when we asked you (our readers) to fill out a survey? At the end of the survey we asked: What topics would you like to see on the blog in the future?  We particularly enjoyed this one:

How to fight off a mountain lion. Seriously, every time I think about going on a hike I think about mountain lions attacking me and my children. And then I don’t go on a hike. I think I have problems, how about addressing outdoor paranoia? :)

Encountering wild animals when you and your kids are out is a valid concern for any caring parent. But don’t let concern prevent you from enjoying all the outdoor world has to offer.

Think of wild animals in the same way you think of bodies of water — a fear of drowning shouldn’t keep you from camping near a river.  It should instead motivate you to buy life jackets for your children and come up with a plan for being attentive when you are near them.  Similarly, unfriendly dogs in your neighborhood are no reason not to go walking, they are simply a reason to carry a big stick.

Encounters with dangerous animals are rarer than you’d think. Of all the times that people go hiking every day, all over the country, an attack happens very seldom (20 people in the U.S. have been killed by mountain lions in the last 100 years, for example).  Most animals are as uninterested in getting close to you as you are to them.

I’m wondering if ‘outdoor paranoia’ has something to do with how a person is raised?  For example, growing up in rattlesnake country has made me rather blasé about their presence, but  I can’t tell you how many random hikers have scolded me for taking my kids hiking in ‘rattlesnake country’. (more…)

Planning an overnight family bike trip

Today’s post is compliments of Stacy from A Simple Six. Her and her family (of 4 kids) recently took a different kind of weekend vacation, they did an overnight bike trip. I love the idea and have recently been thinking to do something similar with my family. While we’ve been eyeing a simple trail in Point Reyes National Seashore, I love that Stacy’s starting point was her own front yard.

Thanks Stacy for all your great advice on how to plan an overnight family bike trip. Fabulous ideas, can’t wait to put them to use! And as always readers, please feel free to leave a comment with your own advice, experiences or questions.

How do you save money on family vacation travel? Have you seen the price of gasoline!? What about hotels? The frugal solution could be in the form of a single overnight bicycle camping trip (S24O), one where you roll right out of the garage and pitch your tent several miles from home. Some tips for planning your trip: (more…)

Rock Climbing, therapy for kids with ADHD?

I got an email a few weeks ago from a Mom by the name of Sarah. She was seeking advice about outdoor play/activities for children with learning challenges, specifically ADHD. Because I have little to no experience with this kind of thing I invited her to write up her experience in hopes that other parents might have more advice to share than I did.

If you have a child with a learning challenge or special need and have used the outdoors as a tool, we want to hear from you.(See the bottom of Sarah’s article for more specific questions, or add your own thoughts).

Thanks for sharing your story Sarah, I absolutely love this post. I for one think Michael is a pretty lucky kid.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

This is my firstborn, Michael:

His little fetus self hit me in the gut at twelve weeks pregnant and didn’t stop moving the rest of the pregnancy. At twenty weeks, he kicked the TV controls off my belly. After his birth, he screamed for three months straight.

I stopped comparing him to other kids, or asking for help from other moms a year into the adventure. My son was just—different. Tough, independent, confident, and able to take down a full grocery cart in 2.3 seconds. He climbed out of his car seat before other kids even realized they were in one. (P.S. Duct tape around the straps solved this problem for awhile).

Around his third birthday, he was evaluated for early learning disabilities (including autism and ADHD). Twenty minutes into the evaluation he pulled out every toy, had to be told to go back to his seat fifteen times, ran into the door twice, and spun in a circle for three full minutes… Oh and he tried to set some turtles free. Anyways, after all this, the evaluator scrunched up her face and went, “Yeah. It looks like ADHD.” As if to drive this point home, the kid ran into the concrete block wall and bounced off with a huge smile. Then did it again.

One of her suggestions—find a gross motor activity that allows him to practice his missing executive function skills. (more…)

Teresa: Staying active in the outdoors while pregnant

Because I couldn’t have an active pregnancy I wanted to interview someone who would know a thing or two about active pregnant women. I decided to ask Teresa Delfin. Not only is she my twitter friend, but she’s also the founder of Mountain Mama Maternity, a clothing company for women who want to maintain their outdoor lifestyle despite their growing bellies. I knew she was the perfect person to ask.

Thanks Teresa for sharing your ideas on staying active in the outdoors during pregnancy, for providing clothing that helps women do just that, and for making me wish I could be one of those active pregnant women…

1. What outdoor activities do you enjoy most when you’re not pregnant?

I’m the classic multi-sport outdoor athlete – the more fun things I can find to do outside the better! I joke with my husband about my “triathlon” days, which is just any that I can squeeze in three or more sports. Since I was in high school, I’ve had a passion for rock climbing, but a good mountain hike with my family is fun, too.

For summer, I’ve picked up SUP (stand-up paddleboard) which is just loads of fun and manages to combine my love for kayaking and surfing. I’m excited to teach my 3-year-old skiing and have hopes of getting him on the slopes yet this spring. For fun and transportation, I enjoy riding bicycles. I have a trusty city bike for getting to coffee dates and shopping, a great mountain bike my husband got me to celebrate finishing my Ph.D., and the road bike I did the AIDS Lifecycle (SF to LA) on a few years ago. (more…)

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    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

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