Friday, November 21, 2008

Photo Friday: Ski Pass Time at Alpine Meadows, CA

My husband has been skiing since age 5 and I started when I met him. I was told if I didn't ski he would dump me during ski season. So bound and determined to hold on to this guy I started skiing. I feel in love with the sport as I feel in love with him. And now we are passing this love for the sport on to our children.

Normally the weekend before Thanksgiving we make the trek to Lake Tahoe to pick-up our season passes. This way the weekend after Thanksgiving when most resorts try to open we can walk straight to the chair and start laying down tracks.

Starting next weekend we will bid our home good-bye for 1/2 the winter and welcome again Alpine Meadows Resort as our winter home away from home.
Let It Snow!

Related Links:

Thanks to Debbie at Delicious Baby for this awesome opportunity to share travel photos and posts through Photo Friday!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Dear Santa, Please bring Mom & Dad's bicycles back that bad? To twist our child's Christmas list, so we can revive our road cycling passion. A year or two before kids were we were really starting to get into road cycling. At least one day a week after work we hit the local American River Bike Tail an amazing 32mi stretch of trail from downtown Sacramento to Folsom Dam for a ride. We participated in competitive rides like Eppie's Great Race the world's oldest triathlon, test our self rides like the Foxy's Fall Century, and fundraising rides like the Emigrant Trails Bike Trek for the American Lung Association.

But with kids...the brakes went on. We still continued to be active, but with a lot of things at a much less and slower pace. Bike riding is one that took a serious backseat. We never got around to getting one of the pull behind trailers because it seemed as soon as we started pricing them out...well, #2 was on his way. So here we are with #2 coming up on his second birthday and we feel a sense of freedom starting to bubble to the surface. And our feet wish to return to the clips of the bike, but with our kids in tow.
The realization this could come true came one day this fall when a friend called to tell us her girls were finished with their tag-alongs. A tag-along is kind of a half a bike that gets hitched on to and pulled behind the adults bike. It allows the child to be more of a participant peddling as they like and the biggie working on those balance skills necessary to ride a bike on their own. In fact my friend got them for her 5yr old twins and in less than a year she was calling me to pass it on as her girls had graduated to their own bikes and she swears up and down the tag-along definitely sped up the process. So we said yes, and that weekend it was hooked on to Dad's bike and our 4yo equipped with her helmet was on her way...and loving it!

So OK we have one kid moving on to the 2yo and hence "HIS" request to Santa. I was lucky in that my father growing up worked for a Huffy plant in rural Ohio. He was allowed discounted bikes and bike accessories on a renewing annual basis. So I have lots of pictures of myself on back of a nice 70's rust colored bike in a tan child seat. And we have very good friends who have had their now 4yo in a CoPilot Limo since he could walk. Ok, so as a family we have asked Santa for either that or a Topeak for Christmas.

Living in Northern California there are so many beautiful winter days between storms where we want to get outside, but the ground is so muddy we are perplexed as to what to do with the kids. So hopefully Santa will answer our Christmas wish and this year you will spot this family on the American River Bike Trail on sunny days.

So get your child on the go on a bike on the nice days this winter. By simply doing an Internet search of your area and adding the words "family friendly bike trail" something will pop-up. I would have listed some here, but honestly there were listings for pretty much every state, parts of states, metro areas, and national parks.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Empty Nest List

At least once a day someone says to me "enjoy them it it goes by so fast." Generally this person is older than myself...with grown or nearly grown children. But I would say a good 75% of the time this person is a "empty nester." I have generally nodded and with a smiled said.."yes, I know and I will."

But the whole concept of time hit me even harder after seeing the movie "The Bucket List." And no, not because I am afraid of my own mortality, but more because of the time factor. There are so many things I want to do and see with my children before they go start lives of their own. There are grand natural places that I want to watch their eyes when they see them for the first time. There are amazing historical stories I want to see how their little ears and hearts absorb and the impact it has on their little persona's. And to be fair there are just some flat out fun stuff I want to do with them.

So recently my husband and I sat down and made out our "The Empty Nest List" and here it is in no particular order:

1) Cross Country Road Trip with camper, including several National Park stops
2) Tour and Multisport through Australia & New Zealand
3) Learn & go scuba diving together
4) Do a stay on a Dude Ranch
5) Learn & surf Hawaii
6) Raft the Grand Canyon
7) Tour America's Founding Roots - Ellis Island, Washington DC, Boston
8) Attend an Olympics in a foreign country
9) Ski Europe
10) Tour and Multisport through Alaska

We are so serious about this when recently meeting with our financial advisor we told him to budget in a major family vacation every other year into our analysis. We have given ourselves the lee-way to adjust our list and locations as finances and new thoughts dictate, but it is a start. And we have placed it in a location that is viewable every day in our house and next step is to start putting some approximate years on the activities to even further ensure this is not simply an exercise, but an actionable list with delivery dates.

So today you are going to hear that phrase from me..."Enjoy them it goes by so fast." And don't just let the days pass by in a pace of normalcy lost in loads of laundry, doing dishes, carpool duties, etc.. So start your list today. There is a world beyond the home and school walls where lessons can be learned by visiting and interacting with the location, environment, culture, people, etc. that can shape and prepare them for the people they will be when it is their turn to be an Adult "On The Go."

Please take a moment and leave a comment with a location or activity you would definitely put on your Empty Nest List.

And if you would like to see a family who has taken this concept to an incredible level visit:

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

When a 2YrOld Loses it at 39,000 Feet

<- Oh if only it could be this simple...

My kids are pros at airpline travel. Part of this is our love to "go" and part is due to the fact we are transplants, all be it 12+ years now, from the Midwest to the West Coast. Which means numerous trips to the birthplace a year as all of our family remains there. They each have 3 frequent flyer accounts a piece and have flown 7 major airlines at least. So we can breeze through security almost as fast as the every day business traveler and fly so quietly the seat next to me appears empty versus there is a little person in it.

But all of this changed on our return flight from Phoenix on the morning of October 22. We stirred the kids at ~5:30AM to make our 7:25AM flight. Only just over an hour before their normal wake-up time. And our journey continued as peacful as watching movies and behaving so well the steward slipped us extra beverages ($2 a pop on this airline) and the 1st class steward brought them cookies. We also were workng our way through our backpacks of pleasure.

We have backpacks for the kids specifically for air travel. They stay packed between trips and I merely restock them just prior to another take-off. Here's a list of items we keep inside to help us survive the flight:
> Washable Crayons & Coloring Books
> Static Stickers to let them decorate their window
> Miniature Etch-a-Sketch
> iPod Nano or Laptop w/ Favorite Movies, +1 new surprise from Netflix
> Tupperware of their favorite snacks (as long as it is not liquid these can go through security)
> Activity/Sticker Books for the Preschool set
> Seatbelt for non-car seat child
> Lovey...that special stuffed animal or blanket
> 1 ziplock of small toys (Thomas trains, Matchbox Cars, etc)
> ...and then I always hit the dollar store, etc and put in a couple of surprise new items

> Please leave a comment with your child's must have air travel survival item.

My 2yr old son tends to occupy the seat next to his father and then my 4yrold daughter and I sit in front of them, so if he does decide to kick the seat in front of him he is kicking one of us (which btw removing their shoes softens that blow a lot). It started as low grunts of displeasure. I heard my husband talking low and quiet to him. They slowly grew and as they did so did my husband's pace working his way through the pack of pleasure trying to find something to appease him. We could hear lots of "No!" from our ear shot, so my daughter and I started working our way through her pack and sharing things. He was now screaming and crying. He would take breaks for gasps of breath to refuel his lungs and would also suck on his thumb (so we knew it was not his ears). And then he would let it rip again.

Our family's pace continued for the next 20minutes. My husband and I both trying to remember all the psych articles we have ever read. We were recognizing his feelings..."we know something hurts or is bothering you..." But this kid was having none of it. We both said loud enough so our fellow passengers could hear us...."we know you had an early morning...." We threw our travel mates lots of "I am sorry glances" as well as mouthes apologies across the aisles. I personally used a little mental game on myself telling me if I survived and kept my cool I was rewarding myself with a Grande Skinny Vanilla Late when we hit the concourse or if got much worse a glass of Louis M. Martini Cab when I got home. My daughter finally won the challenge playing peek-a-boo over the seat with a stuffed animal and his shrieks of discomfort became ones of delight with 10minutes left in the flight.

As we disembarked most passengers were quite congenial, but a few threw us the evil eye. And then the one directly across my aisle made me very nervous as she leaned across. She had moved out of our row at the on-set...I am assuming to escape such a display of emotions. As I opened my mouth to apologize yet again she interrupted me quickly and said...."There are many days I am having a bad one for some reason or another and how I wish I was a child again and could just let it all out and everyone around me would chalk it up to my being a child."

So when all else fails...just let them let it all out.
Don't you wish you could sometimes.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Political Ads Being Blocked

My sincere apologies for ANY political ads appearing in my AdSense header today. I have submitted to block them, but it may take a couple of hours. I am all about getting out the vote, but not about influencing the vote via this blog.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

"Go" Local at Harvest Time

Even before our kids were born I would drag..actually he was pretty husband a bit west of here to Camino, CA...otherwise known as Apple Hill. We would embark on a day of pumpkin purchasing, wine & beer tasting, and sweet treat munching. We have had to alter our agenda a bit, but we still take our children out and about locally to find the perfect pumpkin and partake in the fall delicacies that accompany apple, pear, etc season.

With children our day starts much earlier as we have to squeeze in activities before nap time as well as to beat the traffic up the hill. We utilize the Apple Hill Growers website , map, and calendar of events to plan our day. Here's some of our favorite stops and why:

> Abels Apple Acres: Easy access off Highway 50. Great Apple doughnuts and fritters to start the morning off good and sugary. To occupy the kids there are horse and pony rides, a hay maze, and pumpkin patch. And in years past you can find a balloon artist making hats, swords, ladybugs, etc for your tips. And a year after year photo spot at the Johnny Appleseed Growth tree. Lots of crafters are also on site. My favorite take-home item from here is their apple dumplings with cinnamon sauce.

> Plubell's Family Orchard: Another great kid-friendly stop as it has a large petting zoo of farm animals. Several tractors to climb on and a rope/tire swing to try out. More crafters...a lot with kids focus as well as clown performances throughout the day as well as the regular pumpkin patch. Here you might find a local boy scout troop or other kids organization happy to haul your pumpkins to your car via a red wagon for a small tip. Our munchable here are the caramel dipped on the spot apples.

> Grandpa's Cellar: Is actually next door to Plubell's and can be gotten to via a nature trail between the two properties and is often a good way to get there and burn off some munchkin sugar. Grandpa's is all about the yummy baked goods. I never leave Apple Hill without their sugar free Streudel. They also offer tours through the weekdays, a kid special lunch deal, plenty of picnic space under beautiful old apple trees, and crafters.

These are just a few. There are 50+ ranches in the Grower's Assoc. All hosting amazing food, crafts, concerts, etc..

And just a bit more as I received some adorable photos from a high school/college friend with children the same age as mine yesterday and it brought memories of the harvests of my youth flooding back. So half way across the US in Indiana if I were to still live there with my kids here would be a couple of stops on my harvest tour list:

> The Pumpkin Train: Every toddler/preschoolers dream....a train ride combined with pumpkin patch, hay maze, petting zoo, and face painting. No wonder this event sells out. And it is a really great philanthropy...donated land and seed and FFA labor. A portion of the train tickets goes back to the partnered FFA chapter. Two trains depart daily.

> Huber's: Orchard & Winery has u-pick ventures nearly all year long for whatever is in-season and an amazing bake shop pumping out the sweet treats from those items. Weekends boost entertainment and just up the road is the Family Fun Park with animals and various motorized and non-motorized rides. This family run business established in 1843 also has a restaurant named after it's patriarch who just passed away this last summer. It's menu is packed full with the latest from the harvest. This is a reservation we make every time we are back in our homeland.

You'll be amazed at how much your children get from "going" local at harvest time. The kids love seeing exactly where the food comes from, so it is not only a learning experience, but a giving back to your local economy. And you never know...they may try a need veggie or fruit from the experience.

Please feel free to leave a comment and share your harvest stops where you live. With readers from nearly all of the states in the US as well as several countries it's a great way to share our favorites.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Child Goes to Sedona....

Well, actually more than one child. Count them....13kids and 17adults in one house. Mind you it was one awesome, huge house. See this is the sister/summer trip to the one my husband and I organize in the winter. In fact this is what inspired us to start ours.

We are incredibly good friends with our college crew and for years we got together for weddings as well as an annual trip via chartered sailboat to Santa Catalina island. But as munchkins started to come into the picture the sailboat trip was not as feasible for many of us aging crew. So Joe, the summer organizer, has moved the destination a couple of times and this was it's second time in Sedona.

Sedona is absolutely jaw-dropping scenery about 2hrs north of Pheonix (which is where 5 families were from)...and that is where we flew into and rented a car. If you are lucky enough to fly into Terminal 4, home of US Airways and Southwest, there is a huge food court outside security where we grabbed lunch and gathered up with a few others. While lunch was finished two of us with our older walking children in tow hopped the shuttle bus to the rental car terminal. Love this recent renovation to PHX...all rental cars are in one building/parking garage versus spread over several city blocks.

Our house we rented was amazing...with some movement of furniture and vases we even managed to make it kid friendly. There were lots of little areas, water gardens, etc to explore...which sometimes posed a challege for keeping track of the kids as there were probably 10+ exits from the house outside. But in the evening there was a rec room off the garage that was huge and served as baby monitor central/adult socialization point. The pool was incredibly expensive to heat, so our kids enjoyed swimming in the hottub. I hear the house they rented last year was wonderful as well.

I am incredibly excited to take the kids back in a couple of years and shell out the money for a Pink Jeep Tour or go a little earlier in the year and enjoy Slide Rock in the hotter months. But outside the home we enjoyed still enjoyed a couple of ventures into town:

---> Black Cow Cafe: A ice cream parlor on the main drag uptown beckoned us in with it's smell of freshly baked waffle cones and kid sized/priced scoops. Then we took a stroll around town where the kids enjoyed several statues of horses, children, etc..
---> Rene at Tlaquepaque: A wonderful upscale restaurant let the eight of us Moms park for drinks at 4:30. They don't serve dinner until 5:30 which when service started we enjoyed some appetizers. Tlaquepaque even though called a Arts and Crafts Village was super upscale and not so kid-friendly, but definitely worth a Mom's get-a-way stop.

---> Red Rock State Park: Nearly all the families ventured here one morning after breakfast. After visiting the Info Center and relaying to them our situation of lots of little kids they pointed us to a Kisva and Smoke Trail which ran along and crossed a creek in majorily shade and allowed us lots of peeks of Eagles Nest monument. There were also picnic areas as well as various interpretive programs available.

---> Hyatt Pinon Pointe: Yes, it is a Hyatt with timeshare accommodations, but across the parking lot it and on the left side of the uptown Sedona as you enter is a great shopping plaza. There were plenty of boutiques and galleries displaying no children under the age of 12 signs, but we didn't need to go in there. Totally surrounded by shops were a plethora of sculptures....moving, animals, fountains, etc.. My daughter and I spent 5 minutes playing eye spy on the body of a goat sculpture where hidden in the details were fish, butterflies, bees, etc.. And at one end of the plaza is a Starbucks and at the the other a Wildflower Bread Company with kid friendly menu...and between a Cold Stone Creamery, Wine Shop and other indulgences. We spent a good hour+ here.

Prices are definitely on the touristy levels So we dined in for nearly all meals and limited our souvenir purchases to a $8 pair of sunglasses for my daughter, a clay-dyed t-shirt for my son, and a bamboo over-priced, but super comfy t for me.

It was gorgeous...even my daughter one night while enjoying sunset on one of the house's balconies remarked about all the pretty shades of pink and red. We are super-excited about returning here in a couple of years when the kids are a bit older and the $50+ per child 2.5hr jeep ride make more sense.

Thanks Joe for was beautiful and we look forward to exploring more of it with our children on the go.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

How to get a Teething Child on the Go

I have suitcases spread from one end of our bedroom to another as we pack for a long weekend in Sedona and Phoenix. Packing for the high dessert temperature swings, hiking, a creek out the back of our property and a heated pool has proven to be a art in packing with layers. I will blog when I return as far as how it went, what we did, etc.. We're excited as this is another one of our large group trips....probably about 8 families with children and then various others. All in all probably 20+ adults and 20+ kids.

So for this week's column I am going to defer to a wonderful friend, reader, and now contributor who lives in the beautiful high dessert of New Mexico. Located at the southern end of the Rockies their backyard provides them with lots of hiking, biking, lakes, winter sports, and an untold number of other outdoor activities. They have made this their home and are raising a nearly 3 year old boy there. Other than family they were of course drawn to the area as they are very active parents...she a runner, hiker, personal trainer. I used to be envious of her confidant spirit pre-children as she and her dogs, no hubby, would go out hiking to a cabin in some wilderness and stay for the weekend. Dad's career has him outdoors on a daily basis and he loves spending his free-time there too. So when their little boy' teething started to put a major cramp in their active style....the parents endured trials and tribulations of various soothing methods...medicinal and otherwise to allow their lifestyle to endure. Mom, Ness, has written an incredibly informative piece here below to help other parents who may be embarking on the not-so-wonderful world of teething.
Our Child-On-The Go was born into a family who does not merely recreate outside, but lives in the outdoors. We are rookie parents to a very decent 2 ½ year old boy, living on five acres at 7000’ in the Southern Rocky Mountains. Our backyard and our town are both surrounded by the National Forest. So, between working on our land and enjoying our mountain hikes, walks and jogs, we are outside all year around. Not to mention, I am an exercise nut, and have jogged or backpacked with him since he was one month old. All of this sounds like a fairy tale, until you understand how he our son has suffered and how we have learned and adapted to this repeated teething process. Alas, if you are one of those parents who never even knew their children’s teeth were arriving, don’t bother reading ahead. However, if you have either directly or indirectly experienced a teething toddler on the “Go”, the following little snippet may be helpful.
Since the arrival of his first teeth, we knew we had been blessed with a great little guy who would struggle with each tooth. All the signs arrived at once, like a four alarm fire in his first year of life. His cheeks would get red as apples, he would become irritable, eat very little, and always run a low-grade (99-100… degree) fever. At first, we stayed home and adjusted our plans. (Remember, I said we are/were rookies.) Then, we evolved and realized this was going to be a reoccurring process until all his teeth were in at roughly 3 years of age. Life had to go on; on occasion the kid had to be mobile even when feeling crummy. So, I read, I chatted, I called our Pediatrician, every Grandma, Mema, Nurse and Mom I knew and alas, I filled my knowledge cup with more than anyone would care to know about teething in children. The teething symptoms and challenges evolved as he grew and as the teeth became bigger (molars) or elected to arrive in multiples (four at a time). Poor kid, I am so glad he will likely not remember any of it. However, our family and friends will as we watch him persevere and come back around to his sweet, kind and silly self.

Here is what I know about being an active parent with a teething infant and now toddler under my wing. (Remember, I am not a Doctor, so check with your own for a “real” opinion should you desire.)
o Make sure you know it is the child’s teeth and not something more serious. You will become acquainted with the signs if you pay attention.

o When possible, plan your activities in the morning when your child’s endorphins are high and he/she is able to have better pain management. Endorphins crash in the afternoon which is when most parents see their kids really struggling. (See me pulling out my hair at naptime or during dinner preparations.)
o Teething generates more acid in the saliva and that ends up in the digestive tract, i.e. (really foul smelling poop.) Thus, try to give them easily digestible foods with low acidic value: mine gobbles any kind of yogurt…bananas, saltines, etc. I avoid milk for 1-2 days and use diluted juice, diluted Gatorade and plenty of H2O. Pack food when you can. (Airplanes, car, friends house, picnics etc.)

For pain management you will need to decide upon an escalation plan. Here is ours.
o If at home with no plans, we give him homeopathic teething pellets and gels. There are many options at health food stores so try a few until you find something that works for your kiddo: we like Humphrey’s, Boiron chamomilla 30, and Boiron Ferrum Phosphoriccum and Little Teether’s Gel. 2) If he continues to be in pain, we do the above and ice cubes crushed inside a small (kiddo size) wet washcloth with a rubber band around it. (Popsicles help but they don’t allow the chewing and knowing sensation to be met.) Both will reduce gum inflammation. 3) If pain is severe and/or fever is over 100.5 we give him Tylenol or Motrin in combination with the remedies mentioned above. On very rare occasion, we have had to administer all/most of these remedies to get him through and allow us to “go.” Under our Doc’s authority, we have alternated between Tylenol and Motrin. Motrin, if he has food in his stomach, Tylenol when he doesn’t. Honestly, Motrin is much better: it lasts twice as long, (thus you give it less often) and it is an anti-inflammatory that reduces inflammation in the gum, sinuses and ears.
o Give them some teething gel or pellets before dinner time. Otherwise, you have a teething toddler who is also running on an empty tank.
o Warm bath with a few drops of Lavender (calming not spiking) in the bath.
o Always travel with a few of these pain and swelling remedies. Always. I keep them in my truck and in our travel bag.
o Regardless of whether you are using a homeopathic remedy or over the counter product you need to be sure you understand the drugs/herbal interactions.
o Educate your caregivers and Grandparents on these remedies so they can help your child, safely, in your absence. (If you ever want a date night again!)
o Take a deep breathe. The process usually only lasts a few days and then passes.
o My kiddo often gets an ear infection when teething his molars. So, if when he doesn’t come around in 5-7 days, we go to the Pediatrician to determine if the ears are infected. Sinuses are directly tied to the process, so this is not an uncommon occurrence, but it is unfortunate.

Monday, October 6, 2008

First Snow, Ski Gear, & Growing Child I sit at my dining room table and gaze out upon the Sierras and their fresh and first dusting of snow of the season my mind turns to ski season. As it should...and did Friday night as the storm that caused these beautiful snow caps rumbled in. We opened the paper to see one of our favorite local ski shops was opening for the season, Helm of Sun Valley, and having their sale. After the munchkins were in bed we hauled up our 4yr old's gear to try on our nearly 2yr old in the morning. We already knew she needed longer skis, but what about boots. the results...she needed gear all around, but our son will be able to use her pass downs. Shew-wee....A quick call to the shop to ensure their was a deeply discounted kids package and they were still doing their trade-in program and we were on our way to spend the morning getting her outfitted for this season.

So as the sliding season is quickly approaching and with it ski shop openings and ski club swaps it's time to decide what your munchkin needs for the season. The info below is based on past shopping for our kids as well as our previous experience as ski husband 7+ years and myself 5 years. I broke this down by age/ability. Enjoy!

AGE = Not or Barely Walking: Just add snow and fun. At this age it is all about getting them used to the snow and making sure they love it. Take them for a ride on a sled or in a pack while you snowshoe.

AGE = 2nd year+ Walkers: Continue the activities from the "Not or Barely Walking" but now put on those klunky snowboots and let them tromp and stomp around the house during the summer months. Then once they have gotten used to the heavy boots let them check out some plastic skis...first just by touching them then let them walk around the house with them (WATCH YOUR SHINS). This helps them get used to maneuvering the extra inches added to their feet and even though not snow will will start getting them used to turning all that extra length without crossing them. As soon as any child is placed on the snow...with plastic skis or the real deal they should have a helmet and eye protection

  • Boots: Should be something with traction. And preferably one with a drawstring/gator top. This will keep snow from coming in through the top with they're treading through the freshies. Good source:

  • Plastic Skis: There is pretty much one pair on the market...KID-SKI Happy Ski Good source:

  • Helmet: Kids should helmet for protection from their own accidents as well as those caused by others. Added benefit 80 percent of heat-loss is through the head. Good source:

  • Eye Protection: Kids should have sunglasses and goggles with them. Skiing and riding is a lot more fun when you can see

AGE = Ready to slide on the real deal When you are ready either rental-wise or purchase-wise get your kids on the real deal take them to get measured at a ski shop. And when you get them measured and more than likely trying out a pair of boots ensure to do so with a pair of ski socks. Now you are the only one who knows your ski practices and what would be the best deal financially, but here's some options:

  • Rent: If you are only going to go a few times a year this may be your best option. Most resorts offer packages for lessons and rentals that are worth looking in to. If you are going on a vacation for a few days you probably want to check into a ski shop in your destination town. Good source:

  • Swaps: These are huge flea market type atmospheres where people bring their old gear and put it up for sale and the organizers take a piece of the sale to cover expenses or donate to some charity. Watch your local papers they generally happen well before the snow flies in October or November. You can generally find some good deals, but you need to be very careful to check the gear for proper working condition. You need to be positive about fit or ensure bindings allow for some adjustment to ensure they fit the boot. In fact it is best to have the boot with you if already purchased.

  • Ski Shops: People generally see dollars melting like snowflakes when they think about buying children's skis from a shop. Not necessarily so. Many shops offer future trade-in deals on their new and used equipment. Meaning if you trade it in after 1 years use you recoup 50% of it's value towards your child's next purchase...2 years 25%. So if your child is going to be going going a lot this is definitely one you should look in to.

Do not get your beginning child poles! Kind of think about the old adage...don't run with a pencil. Enough said, but seriously they are not needed. In fact one could argue a lot of adults could use a back to basics course and have their poles taken away. Kids are flexible and can easily get up without them. Kids are already struggling with coordination as it is...poles will only create more issues.

Now some other things you may want to consider...if you are doing some or all the instruction yourself (think long and hard about this unless you are/were a PSIA instructor...and even then still think about it) are tip locks, wedge lock, ski leash ,etc. Good source: Our daughter used the tip lock briefly as well as the KID-SKI ski leash. I make sure to note that ski leash as there are other's on the market that are worn on the child's upper body. Anyone who has given or taken a ski lesson knows most instructors tell you to keep your upper body pointed down the hill and quiet...pretty hard for a child to do that with a parent tugging on it. Where the KID-SKI is worn around the hips.

Definitely feel free to leave a comment and tell others a local ski shop or a swap upcoming in your area where someone might find good deals on equipment for a child to go sliding on the cheap.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Camping in Calaveras County

We were bound and determined as we spent the money on the pop-up trailer to get it out one more time before turning our attention to some travels outside NorCal as well as ski season. Folks camp very late into the year here in NorCal as was evidenced by all the state parks and numerous private ones on the coast being completely booked through the second week of November. So we turned out attention to the higher country. It's been a while since we traveled down to Calaveras County and yes that would be the same county of Mark Twain's famed The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County. This traditional green long-legged race still occurs the third Saturday of May in Angel's Camp and dates back to the 1800's. In fact the town lovingly has nicknamed itself Frogtown.

So Friday afternoon we loaded up and ventured the two hour drive from home. We set off as usual during the kids naptimes. Each one got 1 hour plus on the way down. Snacks and juice got us to the Big Trees Market in Arnold where we stopped for a couple of missing items as well as firewood as our campground was at 5000ft. Another 7mi up the road and we came upon our campground...Golden Pines RV Resort and Campground. We had hoped to stay in Calaveras Big Trees State Park, but alas they were full.

We entered the campground to see lots of permanently placed RV's completely with landscaping, water fountains, plastic flowers, yard animals, and permanent wood roof they do lease during the winter months for those who want to ski Bear Valley and use their RV as a "ski cabin." My husband was greeted by our host who had studied the check-in list and knew his first name and our family make-up just by telling him our last name. One downside to this place is you can not make site-specific reservations, but he was nice enough to give us our choice from a couple. But both broke my rules....were inside of loops and close to public areas. We went for a partial pull through with no one else staying at any spots on that particular loop, #73. The only one on the outside not in a lease is #34 (full hook-up). I think 22-27 might have been better choices, even though still on an inner loop, they were on an outter area of the campground away from the main drag.

We un-hooked, pop'ed up and I went about fixing dinner. My husband took the kids and dog (allowed on leashes) for a walk and to the red wood play structure that was conveniently located within sight of our camper. Dinner was spaghetti, bread, salad, and applesauce for the kids. We quickly learned after dinner another demise of our site choice...dirt + sap = sticky mess. As we drove and walked through we had noticed a lot of the "permanent sites" had appeared to have brought in their own gravel, rock, or bark. And we found out why when the kids started digging in the fine black dirt around our campsite after supper. We decided it was a losing battle especially with all the pines leaking sap and let them go to town while we set-up the beds and cleaned up from dinner.

All set-up we marched them off to the pay showers to clean-up. Two closed door quarter operated showers stalls/rooms existed in each the men's and women's restroom. These were located in a commons building which also housed a laundry and a rec room. The bathrooms were clean and well-stocked. And our kids enjoyed the decor of faux flowers, country embellishments of flowered hats hanging on the walls and bunnies in the window sills. Cleaned up it was time for samores and off to bed.

Now quiet hours were 10PM-9AM. And there were a lot of "leasees" in for the start of deer season. And they all knew each other and had a great time catching up. So it really did not quiet down until literally 10PM on the nose. The hosts were zipping through the campground using the golf cart nearly as a taxi service getting folks from one social gathering to another. It was really fun to take in the true RV'ing lifestyle. Thanks to deer season quiet hours ended at more like 5AM as everyone was up loading their big trucks and therefore opening and closing doors as well as starting them up. And remember we had to break our location rule, so they drove right past our camper as they left. So needless to say I didn't feel too bad when my kids were up and at'em full energy by 7:30.

Breakfast was french toast, fruit, coffee, and juice. Then we packed up lunch and headed 2mi back down the road to the State Park. We decided to take in the North Grove Trail which was a 1.5mi loop. It was very well maintained, so much so we saw several strollers along the way. There were more than giant trees with markers, which would have bored my 4yr old within 1/4 mile. There was one which had had a hole cut in it in the 1800's an a car driven through, another that had fallen and was hollow all through such that she cold walk the entire shaft, and yet another giant stump, so large I am guessing you could easily fit 50+ people on top. She walked probably 3/4 of the trail and piggy-backed another 1/4. We packed our son.

Then we turned our attention to lunch and getting our dog out of the car, as they are not allowed on trails. So we ventured a few more miles deeper into the park to the River Picnic Area. We picnicked at the obvious tables located on a bluff above the river. However, we wish we would have scouted better. Across from the restroom is a handicap parking spot, and on the other side of the fence is a trail down to the river. About 500ft which was do-able, all be it a little tough at times, with two little kids, but so worth it. At the bottom was a natural beach right below some rapids and some large boulders to sun on. Next time we are lunching down there.

Back to the campground for naps. Afterwards more play at the playground as well as they had a bounce house inflated. There were a few children at this site, but as there were so many leasees I am guessing most overnighters had grown children versus the small ones. But they still had plenty to keep the small ones busy, including a pool (but it was already closed for the season). Dinner this evening was turkey dogs over the campfire, salad, and veggies. Another round of samores and showers and they were snoozing away. This evening we sat out by the fire with a bottle of wine and again watched the RV social scene swirl around us.

Pack-up morning breakfast is always a easy clean-up one. Yogurt, muffins, juice, and hot chocolate. The kids played really well in the camper for a while, but then went off to the playground when time came to break things down. Next time we would really like to stay at the State Park, but this was a very friendly, amenity packed facility for $30 a night for a partial hook-up (water & DC). There was a huge area in the back behind the RV's for tents-only as well. And as far as the general area we only scratched the surface...there are caves, mine tours, horseback riding, old mining towns, and this is on our list as a potential for our annual winetasting/camping for next year as Arnold and Murphys are packed with wineries. Definitely a do-over destination....

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Child on the Go at a Music Festival....

About a month ago some friends of ours informed us they were headed to the Outside Lands art and music festival at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. We were seriously jealous.... they were getting to see some killer bands for a awesome cause and so we thought...enjoy all the tunes munchkin free. See they have an adorable 18month old.

And I later grew more jealous when I learned they had a great day...seeing 6 performances with their daughter in tow. So Mom, Blythe, has been kind enough to share their tips from the day. And they called this the inaugural event, so with these tips...count us in next go around.
Enjoy! And Thanks B!
We recently took our 18 month old daughter to a day of the outside lands music festival in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. It was our first concert with her and it went off without a hitch. Here are a couple of things that helped us all enjoy the day:

· Preparation... with the weekend festival, there was a very helpful website that was full of good information to have: parking (or lack thereof in this case), schedule, and most importantly, what’s allowed in and what is not.

· Food & Drink… we were allowed to bring soft sided coolers, so we packed one with all of the possible food and beverage items for kiddo and one for our dinner so we didn’t have to shell out quite so much on food & drink while there. We were sure to bring some of the favorites for our daughter so she would be more apt to eat given more than the usual amount of distraction. Also, we had plenty of water for her since it was outside.

· Comfort… we hauled in an old comforter for us all to sit on during the different acts. It was a nice place for us to sit and to keep all the other items we had semi contained. Given that it was an outdoor concert with 6 different stages, we packed everything in a very large bag that we could help carry things from stage to stage – a bit of a traveling circus, but it worked (we heard 6 bands in all).

· Transportation inside… we went sans extra transit method given that our kid likes to walk and can be corralled easily enough (and our stroller is not made for off-roading through the fields of the park). We did see several strollers that doubled as kid stuff carriers and we saw some soft side kid carriers. They were not allowing backpacks with frames into the venue in general, so that is one thing to look up before you try.

· Entertainment… while we had built in entertainment for the adults, I wanted to make sure we could enjoy the music and not have to be a constant entertainer for the kiddo. I packed a variety of items that I knew she would be enamored with…crayons, stickers, a notepad, a ball, bubbles (although we got outdone by the bubble machine someone else brought in), and a couple other things she was into that week. I considered what I brought to keep her entertained in one spot on the plane and expanded my ideas from there.

· Location at the concert… two things to consider in scoping out your spots at the concert – noise and people surrounding you.
> Location consideration 1: Noise… we opted not to go with earplugs for our daughter and chose our spots well enough away from the stage to be away from the crowded area and at a reasonable noise level. We did see kids with a variety of different ear plugs in (I think our curious George would have ripped all of them right out) and I’ve also read that getting hunting earphones/protectors is a good way to go.
> Location consideration 2 – surrounding parties… by the end of the day, we were sitting close to several families with kids (when we go again, we will look for this). This was great for two reasons. First, there’s less of a chance your kid will have to inhale smoke or hear words and phrases you may not utter around them normally and second, entertainment value. We ended up being the “base” for few kids that were interested in the crayons, ball, etc, which we were more than happy to share, as it gave our daughter even more entertainment and allowed other parents to enjoy the music as we were. We had fun chatting with the other parents too.

· Exit plan… we knew that we would not make it through the end of the last concert. We laid out our blanket in a strategic location so we could hit the exit without too much trouble (or walking in front of too many people). Our plan was to change our daughter into pjs on the blanket, let her drink her cup of milk there if she wanted and then bail and let her cash out in the car on the way home. It worked perfectly, but we also had contingencies in mind if things didn’t go the way we planned.

All in all, it was a great day for everyone and we are certainly going to try something similar again.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Book Ski Vacation Accomodations Now....

Woo-hoo...check another item off my to-do list. As mentioned prior we do a very large ski trip every winter for college friends and their families. Our numbers have been anywhere from in the teens to pushing thirty depending on the year, destination, etc.. We have singles, couples, and families. We prefer houses/townhomes with a group this size as this is just as much a reunion as a ski vacation, so we want to be able to have common areas for the adults and kids to socialize in at any hour.

But no matter what the numbers we always book early. Most winter vacation rentals start coming on the market after Labor Day. This early booking is good for a few have the best selections and availabilities by searching early and it also allows you or your fellow travel companions plenty or time to search for a decent airfare. Which we all know in this day and age is pretty tough.

This year we are returning to Park City where we have been in the past. 2002 for the Winter Olympics as well as 2004 for our group trip. I started my search the week after Labor Day. I went to a general Park City Tourism site and found all their property management companies. Before contacting any of them I ensure I have my dates dialed in. We generally avoid holiday weeks/weekends as rates can be double. I also ensure I have our accomodation needs thought out as well...approximate number of bedrooms, baths, linen service, stocked kitchen, on a shuttle route, parking, hot tub are just a few of the things to think about. And of course above all the budget. Be sure when communicating with anyone regarding numbers they include any taxes, booking fees, cleaning fees, etc.. If you get a number without those you will generally see it inflate 10+% when the broker adds them in. Then start contacting away. Nearly everyone has websites with photos, maps, etc. But do not be afraid to ask for physical addresses of properties, so you can see if "downtown" is really downtown.

Another avenue to consider is VRBO (Vacation Rental by Owner) or listings on Craigslist. Generally you will see huge savings in these properties as they are not paying a middle man to do their advertising or management of their property, including check-in/outs and cleaning. However, you do need to be careful by going directly through the owner. Ensure they have a contract and read it thoroughly. If their listing does not have previous guest comments ask for referrals. Also if you find something you really like, but is a little out of your range...ask them in they are willing to negotiate. This is more likely to happen with the direct owners vs a property management-ran property.

So here's a list of past properties or companies we have used and have had wonderful experiences
> 2002: Resort Quest in Park City, UT Property no longer listed
> 2003: ...back to you on this one. Need to find the info.
> 2004: Resort Quest in Park City, UT Property no longer listed
> 2005: in Zephyr Cove, NV Property#303
> 2006: Vail Central Reservations in Vail, CO Gore Creek Meadows Condos
> 2007: was VRBO is now TahoeMoonProperies in Tahoe City, CA Carmen's Talamont Retreat
> 2008: VRBO in Steamboat, CO Steamboat Escape Cimmaron
> 2009: VRBO in Park City, UT Canyon Cottage....keep your fingers crossed this one is as good as year's past

There is one other property management company I would like to mention. Even though I have not booked one of their properties their sales associate tends to bend over backwards to try to get my business...Mountain Reservations. Most notably Nate out of Park City.

And with Resort Quest in Park City ask for Janice White.

Our 100 degree days are gone here in NorCal and the leave are starting to fall. So snow is slowly coming to our mind....

Friday, September 12, 2008

We LUV All-Inclusives this much...... be up at 5AM this morning after a few hours of sleep in order to re-book our vacation thanks to Hurricane Ike. Now, I am not going to complain or moan poor me in this post at all. There are people dead, dying, homeless in the Caribbean...and more unfortunately probably still to come as Hurricane Ike heads for the Texas and Mexico coastline.

We booked 8 nights at Beaches Turks and Caicos nearly a year ago. They always offer these awesome deals at the end of a calendar year for bookings done in the next year. And it only takes a few hundred dollar deposit to secure your reservation. This is our 2nd trip to a Beaches. The first was to Ochos Rios, Jamaica named Boscobel. This is our third with this entity as we honeymooned at Sandals Negril. And we have done a 4th via Couples Swept Away with 3 other couples as a 5yr anniversary/reunion. So yes, we love it and we keep coming back for more.

All-inclusives are not cheap...and they certainly are not for everyone. After getting married just after graduating college we wanted a honeymoon, but didn't want to be skipping breakfast to ensure we could afford dinner. As we started our family we again wanted this thought-less process...except with the munchkins in mind. I hate to see food wasted as much as the next person, but let's be many toddlers and preschoolers have eyes bigger than their stomachs? Or there are days our son loves a banana and a piece of toast for breakfast and what restaurant menu let's you do that? And in my selfish mind...if I am going to one of the best dive destinations in the world I want to be able to go....A LOT. And where else will my daughter have dance lessons with Sesame Street's Zoe and bake cookies with Cookie Monster.

So by the time you start adding all these things up...and then throw in childcare from 8AM-8PM for as long, short, or as many drop-ins as you want that $500-$700 a day doesn't seem to bad. Diving alone for my husband and I would easily cover a couple hundred of that each day. Then toss in premium drinks, snacks, numerous restaurants, activities...and NO TIPPING. Well, it is the reason we budget in a all inclusive vacation every 2-3 years. All our money is paid upfront and the only bit we bring along is for souvenirs and any incidentals getting to our destination. This is definitely something to consider if you are looking for an active vacation with diving, snorkeling, other water sports, good on-land amentities like gyms, classes, well as care for little ones. If you and your family just want to veg on the sand it may be more economical to do that elsewhere.

So back to the original....Turks and Caicos was hit by Ike as a Cat4 last week. We had heard that "Provo" was the least damaged, so we waited and waited and read all the forums and thought we were in the clear for our vaca scheduled in November. But last night we received an email they would be closed and we needed to rebook. And We LUV All-inclusives so much we had to rebook ourselves, 3 of the 4 grandparents, and some family friends who we have all sold on the idea and were joining us.

Here's some tips on re-booking. Be prepared and know your options. Pull your current flight, confirmation numbers, costs, etc...and have some flights for potential rebooking pulled. Ask the airlines if there is a policy in place to wave change fees due to the catastrophe. Our airline when all is said and done will have waived...$1800 in change fees and another $300 in crediting back frequent flyer miles. Some of us had travel insurance...some didn't. So some will recoup their ticket differentials they had to pay. Some of us will eat it. If you are traveling with a group and someone is willing to take responsibility for everyone that is best...this way all travel associates you are dealing with realize they are dealing with numerous bookings and hence lots of customers and revenue. And be first in line...we got the email after Beaches office hours and called and were up and on the phone when they opened at 5AM west coast time.

And my motto in any dealing as this is try to kill them with kindness. Lots of thank yous go a long way. In a situation such as these catastrophe they are dealing with many upset and angry people and if you are the one who is kind and makes that last angry call they got disappear you will be amazed at what it could get you.

We LUV All-Inclusives so much we have our entire entourage rebooked for 1 month later than originally planned and we are going to enjoy and support the economy of Turks and Caicos.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Swimming at home & on the go...Fun!

Sorry to have disappeared. We have had the invasion of the grandparents for the last 3 weeks here at our home. So lots of going...and lots of pool fun, which brings me full circle to the 2nd piece of the swimming article I promised.

My kids have been in water since tiny tots. Even before we had our pool we bought those under $20 inflatables to get them used to the splashing and water in their face. Noting how much they loved cups and pouring water and filling things we gave them lots of those in early water play. Anything to get them comfortable. Even now our nearly 2 yr old son spends the majority of his play time on our over-sized 18" deep step with his cups lined up on the pool deck filling and emptying.

Our next step was to get them used to floating free in the water. We did this through whatever was on sale inflatable at the local Target, Walmart, or store of your choice that they could sit in and we could motor them around the pool. We also played motorboat a lot. It's a game that every swim instructor any of my children has had has played. You basically hold your child under their arms and above the water...then "Motor boat. motor boat goes real slow"...and you hold them out from your body and you turn in a circle more or less driving them through the water. "Motor boat, motor boat goes real fast...."....easy enough...pick up the speed. "Motor boat, motor boat kick on the gas!"....your child is more or less moving fast enough to create a wake with their legs. They love it!

Next when it was time to let them jump in or float free we went through lots of options...or dilemmas. We tried the suits with the blow up inserts. A lot of our friends have done the water wings. Friends who already have them just go ahead and use life jackets. And then there is the train of thought that is no flotation aids at all. I have seen benefits with them all, but at the end of the day you may have to go through a few options, before you find what best comforts your child.

Now that we have a swimmer we have progressed with our water toys. We have dive rings, toypedos, swim through rings, noodles, and fins. Oh and don't forget the ever popular water cannons and the such.

Honestly everyone asks how myself and some other close friends have such young swimmers...and I think there are a few major factors. #1...making it fun whether at home or in a lesson. #2...comfort, do what it takes to make your child have an enjoyable water experience. When they are cold or scared, take a break, talk it out, etc.. #3...exposure, the more opportunity they have the more comfortable they will be. And this needs to include other children their age. We saw this in full action last Friday. We have been working on my daughter's back float all summer. One of her best buds came over and she could...and within 5 minutes our daughter was right along side her back-floating with kicks all over the pool.

So I have a lot in draft right now...all-inclusive, more camping, plan your ski vacation now...and a guest article from a friend who just did an all day concert with their 18month old.