Sunday, August 31, 2008

Subscription Functionality Added....

I have stayed very diligent with my once per week posting, but as any of you parents out there know your days can change on the drop of a dime. So which day I post has been very varied. Therefore I have added subscription capability to the site. You will find the widget to make this happen on the right side of this page sandwiched between "About Me" and "Contact Me." It's pretty cool as it can auto-feed your Google homepage, Yahoo, or many other options. This way you don't have to keep checking back...the newest posts will be right there when you log in to look at your mail, news, etc.. Enjoy!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Swimming at home & on the go...Safety

Everyone knows I seem to be raising two little fish. So I have been prompted by more than few readers and friends to do a entry about swimming and the toys, flotation devices, etc.. Because pools of course are everywhere...on the go in your neighborhood, on a trip, or perhaps just staying at home.

But before the fun we really need to talk safety....according to the CDC in 2005 over 3500 people died of unintentional drownings. Of those one in four are children under the age of 14. In 2005 of all children between the ages of 1 and 4 that died 30% were from drowning. Rates have slowly been dropping, but drowning still is the second leading cause of unintentional injury-related death in children under the age of 14. OK, if that didn't scare you on at the CDC's webpage Seriously pools and water can be really fun, but they can also be very dangerous, so we as parents who do everything from even before birth to protect our tiny loved ones from prenatal vitamins, washing all those new clothes, sheets, stocking their room with hypoallergenic everything, and then once they are here washing our hands, making baby food, buying organic, using monitors just need to be educated like we were with What to Expect When...or whatever book was your choosing....about water safety.

The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests not putting a pull into your yard until your children are 5. I thoroughly understand their rationale, but there is a high chance whether in your own yard, someone else's, or on vacation your child will be exposed to a pool, so next you need to look at some of the safety aspects (as outlined by AAP) of exposing your kids to a pool:
  • Never leave your children alone in or near the pool, even for a moment. An adult who knows CPR should actively supervise children at all times.
  • Practice touch supervision with children younger than 5 years. This means that the adult is within an arm's length of the child at all times.
  • You must put up a fence to separate your house from the pool. Most young children who drown in pools wander out of the house and fall into the pool. Install a fence at least 4 feet high around all 4 sides of the pool. This fence will completely separate the pool from the house and play area of the yard. Use gates that self-close and self-latch, with latches higher than your children's reach.
  • Keep rescue equipment (such as a shepherd's hook or life preserver) and a telephone by the pool.
  • Do not use air-filled "swimming aids" as a substitute for approved life vests.
    Remove all toys from the pool after use so children aren't tempted to reach for them.
  • After the children are done swimming, secure the pool so they can't get back into it.

A note regarding bullet #1 and CPR training. Living in NorCal where we just finished several triple digit days there are many of us that have pools and small children. So last year I organized a CPR course here at my home for several families. I did an on-line search or you can easily contact your local Red Cross chapter to get course information. We hired an instructor who's fee was per pupil and we also hired a babysitter for all the kids. It was definitely a morning well-spent. We got 6 local families, ~12 parents, all with pools at their home and all with children under the age of 8 CPR certified. We all agreed even though it was a gigantic pain to coordinate all of our was so worth it.

Regarding bullet #3...if you build your own pool or even use a pool company you/they will be required to go through inspections with your county planning commission. One of the things they will review is your fence height as well as gates. They will check the swing time on your gate to ensure it is closing in a quick fashion. These do loosen up over time and tend to swig slower so ensure your builder or installer shows you how to tighten them back.

You can find even more info regarding pool safety at the American Red Cross & ABC Pool Safety or a multitude of other sites of your choosing. I am not really sure why I felt I needed to spout or relay all this info before writing the fun piece (which I promise will follow shortly)....I guess as my husband would say...."it's the Mom in you."

Saturday, August 23, 2008

13 States in 2 Weeks & Eating Vegetables

My husband is a geography nut. When we used to do cross country road trips during college for internships he would pull out the Atlas and memorize the capitals of the Canadian provinces while crossing eastern Colorado. Or want to really get him ticked off let him watch one of those pieces on Leno or Letterman where they are on the street asking people where the capitol of the U.S.A. is and no one can get it right.

So I was out recently at a local learning/toy shop and came across a placemat that was a map of the United States. I knew he would be thrilled to be able to share his geography love with the kids, but it turned out it was me who got the ball rolling. See in order to get our nearly 4yr old daughter to eat her peas my husband does pea know...5 peas take away (eating them) 2 leaves 3 peas. Well, I decided one night to do something similar, but with the placemat. And to make it fun we would focus on the States where we were planning to or have traveled to recently or have friends who we have or will travel with us shortly. This way it is something relevant and fun. In less than two weeks we have 13 states down with ease. Even the other night she did it with broccoli spears.

The placemat is from a company called Painless Learning Placemats. I found it at a locally, but see you can also order them on their website.

For your older children another fun thing a friend of ours in Michigan does with his boys is loads their travel destinations into Google Earth. This allows them to better see topography, relationships, and routes traveled. His boys love it.

Happy Learning!...and maybe getting some nutrition to "go" too.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Children on the Go in Wine Country

Last year on our annual camping and wine tasting trip is where myself and a group of friends spun Child on the Go to life. A year later and we were embarking on our annual trip again with more experience and with the kids another year older.

The trip destination was the Kenwood region of Sonoma Valley. Our campsite this year was to be
Spring Lake Regional Park on the east side of Santa Rosa and less than 15minutes from some of our wine tasting venues.

We headed out of town on Friday at about 2PM. It took us about 2.5hrs. We opted to go up through Napa, Glen Ellen, etc to avoid the 101's Friday after work traffic. We got a little turned around in Santa Rosa getting to the campground. Definitely print the directions to the campground as there are two entrances to this park. There is a day use only on the exact opposite side of the park from a day-use/campground entrance. And there is no way to get around the lake, via car, that is from one to the other. You also get a little leery as to if you are on the right path as getting there you actually go through quite a bit of residential. But by 5PM we were cranking up our pop-ups trailers and the kids were off exploring. The staff was great at the entrance and we learned it was full for the weekend and learned it generally is. So you definitely want to reserve in advance.

We stayed in sites #18 & #19 trying to follow my rules on being on the outside of any loops, but close to the bathrooms. These were pretty perfect sites...a few trees and definitely more privacy than others. I would say the only small downsides were a mountain bike trail came right up through #19, but most folks saw us and created a new trail between #18 & #19...and we should have done some rock moving. The kids tripped over them quite often, but they definitely enjoyed bouldering as well.

Night one was pasta and salad. The pasta was pre-cooked al dente and then all it took was a little heating up with the sauce, some cut-up bread, bag-o-salad, and brownies and cookies for dessert. We got firewood for $8 a bag from the office after 7:30PM and had a nice one that evening. And the kids cracked open their first bunch of glow sticks...a must have for camping that can be picked up at any dollar store.

Morning one was cold breakfasts of yogurt, fruit, banana and carrot breads...ok, and some coffee for the adults. Then we were on our way. Our first stop was
Matanzas Creek Winery. Just outside the tasting room we set the kids up with crayons, coloring books, juice boxes, snacks, etc and half the adults headed in to start grabbing tastes. The staff was wonderful...letting us wander in and out checking on the kids and even coming out to meet them. The kids got antsy after a bit and enjoyed some water features, their lavender fields, and exploring the picnic area. We adults enjoyed their '02 Chardonnay, '07 Sauvignon Blanc, '05 Syrah, '07 Rose, and Dessert. Next we moved on to Family Wineries Tasting Room. We were really hoping with such a grouping of small wineries we might find a gem, but the only gem was really their picnic area outback which had a child-sized table as well and we had it to ourselves. There was a huge lawn for the kids to play hide and seek and red light-green light, but other than our token Viognier buy for lunch we left empty-handed. Wanting to get the kids back for naps and swims we opted for one more stop at Chateau St Jean. Definitely the busiest, but also the least kid-friendly of the bunch. My youngest was asleep in the car with Daddy napping as well, so we took the older ones up and let them play with a digital camera taking pictures of complete strangers while we took turns tasting. The tasting room to me just represented a huge "you break it, you buy it" sign and the staff was definitely over-stretched in their ability to attend to us. They were friendly when they did get to us, but that lack of customer service and timely attention left us walking away with no purchases.

Back at the camp the kids' enjoyed the incredibly clean and well-life guarded swimming lagoon. My family drove the 3 minutes to it while others took bikes. The lagoon drops to approx 4ft where there is a circle of buoys and then inside those it was about 6feet deep. All the bathrooms were clean and well-stocked. There was also a concession stand, lots of picnic and barbecue areas. Other activities enjoyed while there were bike rides and runs along their well-maintained paved and unpaved trails.

Dinner that evening was burritos for the adults with the meat and rice already cooked and just needing reheated, black beans, salsas, lettuce, and tomatoes, chips, and salad. For the kids it was quessadillas done in a frying pan in the pop-up on the gas stove. And of course for dessert we had the ever popular samores....and more glow sticks.

The next morning we cleaned up and showered. The showers are large rooms, so our family of four went in and were clean for a $1.50 for 5 minutes. Always, always have quarters on hand while camping. We also enjoyed a warm breakfast of egg english muffins. On our way out of town we hit one more winery, Kunde. They have a wonderful picnic area overlooking a water-featured small lake. We had lunch and tasted. With lunch we enjoyed their '07 Viognier and the kids enjoyed their Gewurztraminer Grape Juice. We continued to trade off tasting and kid duty until they joined the Dad's on a tour of the wine caves. Employees went 50/ wonderful. One well... Nice grounds...and some nice wines as well. We left with their Block '06 Sauv Blanc, '06 Chardonnay, more Viognier, '07 Blossom Rose, their wonderful Chateauneuf-du-Pape style '04 Vallee de la Luna.

All in all another good trip. Destinations tossed around for next year were the Murphys/Arnold area of Calavaras county or perhaps the Santa Cruz appellation.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Camping Off The Ground...The Tent Trailer

As you know we did the trial camping run a couple of weeks ago....made our notes....and were ready to go again this last weekend on the annual trip where this blog was spun to life last summer. That would be our annual wine tasting and camping weekend. But friends who join us on this trip and had been on our trial trip had me fuming with envy. Why? I should be excited right? It's another family who dare to join us on our adventures outdoors with small children. What I was envious of was a 15ft long metal box they towed behind their SUV that popped up into this wonderful box of nirvana with a queen and double bed, banquette for eating, stove for a cup of tea or coffee whenever the mood beckoned (mind you fires are a no! no! here in wildfire country), and this wonderful warm outdoor shower to wash away all the dirt, mud, sand, etc that has found it's way into every nook and cranny of their child's body.

So I must admit we came home from that trial weekend and I set out on Craiglist to secure a hopefully affordable, used, but functioning tent trailer to house my family of four for as long as it will take us or until our kids lay down in our driveway and refuse to go anymore. After the budget talk with the hubby...I agreed to push out a project here and downgrade a purchase there and I had a price point and was off and running. I found a couple of possibilities and was scheduling go-sees/showings. In preparation I of course begged my friends, who smartly bought theirs used from a dealer (smart because they may have paid a bit more than us, but they also have the dealer to fall back on for instructions, questions, perhaps warrantied respairs, etc), for "what to look fors." I cruised the Internet for reviews and other buyer's guide info. I honestly didn't find a lot.

So now that we own, yes we DID it...own a tent trailer and so many friends and readers within two weeks have said oh we have been thinking about getting one too I thought I had better get our buyer's guide out there:

  • Canvas: Basically the cover for your nirvana. Ensure there are no rips or mildew. A new cover can run $750 on up.
  • Zippers: Again replacement, unless you are a seamstress, can be challenging and costly. Climb in and zip and unzip every window and covering
  • Embellishments: Buttons on cushion, draperies, etc.. Easily replaced, but still something to check out.
  • Flooring: Most flooring is a linoleum and could be replaced, but check in out for stains (leaks from appliances or equipment), cuts, etc..
  • Electrical: Check everything functions off the plug-in, off the battery, and off the tow vehicle (notably brakes and brake/turn lights). Granted some things may be simply blown bulbs, but be weary of non-operational turn/brake lights. Labor at lot of of RV servicers if you are not a DIY person can run $150/hour and up.
  • Water: Put some water in the tank and check all line for leaks as well as appliances...sink and outdoor shower (if applicable)
  • Gas: Again check for leaks as well as functionality of stove, water heater, and any other appliance that run off this
  • Open and Close Every Little Door: There are so many small storage spots under cushions, drawers, etc where there could be damage hiding.
  • Put'er Up and Take'er Down: Do not be afraid to ask to put her up and take her down to ensure everything is sliding and moving the way it should.

And lastly...if you are going to a look-see/showing you think may turn good and it is not a dealer then ask them about their brake/lighting unit and what configuration it is. Our trailer is a 7 way...our SUV is a 4 way. Meaning our SUV supported all the lights, but not the brakes and the plugs that connect the two vehicles look nothing alike. So we drove it home...very carefully...and very slowly in the light with no functioning light system on the trailer. Then were required to go to a RV dealer/service and purchase an adapter, ~$50, to make the two vehicles work together.

So we are still working out all of our kinks, but are super excited about our new little home on wheels. With one weekend in it under our belts I already understand why my friends have theirs and why my jealousy was warranted. Just the lack of unpacking and knowing it is down there ready to go with the simple loading of a bag of clothes and a cooler of food...well it has caused two more unplanned for trips to go on the books this summer/fall. It makes taking the child on the go...camping....a lot easier on the parents who do the preparations and clean-up after. I will admit this purchase was more about me than the kids. But in the end it will allow them to experience many more camping destinations...and the tents are downstairs, but not forgotten and will be used.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Under The Weather

Our daughter complained all weekend on our camping trip about not feeling good. She never ran over 99 degrees and kept climbing rocks, swimming at the lake, etc.. But 48hours later and I am flat on my back with 102 degree temp and her bug. So stay seems like a 24hour deal and I will be back with a review of our trip to Spring Lake for our Annual Wine tasting/Camping well as the purchase of a tent trailer...a la pop-up.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Camping Trial Run Complete & ....

This last weekend we did one night away within a half hour from home on the south fork of the American River to fine tune for camping 2 nights away and 2+ hours away from home this upcoming weekend. As of right now we are tent campers and with a nearly 4 and nearly 2 year old we needed to really hone the sleeping arrangements.

First off we knew we would separate them having a parent sleep with each one. The 4 year old we guessed was pretty good to go after sleeping in her own sleeping bag last season. But the nearly 2 year old was in a pack-n-play last season...and he, as mentioned before, being off the charts in length no longer fits. So our first option was to put him on his sister's Ready Bed. Which btw these are awesome for trips away from home or children visitors from out of town. But we learned quite quickly he is still too much of an active mover at night and kept falling off and getting wedged between his and my bed. So in the end the best situation seemed to be letting him with a couple of blankets for padding sleep directly on the tent floor. So the plan for the upcoming weekend is to take a Thermarest and let him again sleep nearly directly on the floor with a small cushion of air between him and it.
Another key learning involved dirt. And we know there is always plenty of it when camping with kids. Last year I was very jealous of some friends who have a pop-up tent trailer and this great plastic like 4footx8foot rug that laid out in front of their door. Shoes were dropped there before their kids entered the tent. Dirty clothes as well were strewn along it. Well, I quickly brainstormed a fast and cheap option for us. Home Depot and other like stores tend to sell the faux grass rugs on huge rollers where you get a employee to cut you off your desired measurements. It worked great! It was super affordable and my only little tweak before the upcoming weekend will be to put duck or carpet tape around all the edges to prevent unraveling and throw in a little hand-broom to remove large debris.

My third key learning from our trial trip revolved around nap times. My son was having nothing to do with the warm tent when it came to nap time. Finally when we were about ready to throw in the towel and pack it up for home I put him in his car seat and turned on the air conditioner in our SUV. He was asleep in less than 5minutes. Then I proceeded to open all the windows for the cross breeze and he continued to snooze away. I hated at $4 a gallon doing that, but at less than 5 minutes in park it was totally worth it.

And finally last weekend's destination and our upcoming one have bodies of water, therefore swimsuits and towels were necessary. However, turn a 4yr old loose on a river each for an entire day and you can pretty much plan to trash that suit. She wore it so thin on the rear playing on the rough sand it fell apart in the wash. So if you don't have a near garbage-time suit ti take a is a good time to hit the clearance rack at your local Target, etc and pick up a suit for $4 like I did this week for this coming weekend's trip. And towels...bring dark colors and preferably not your best beach towels.

So I think we are ready for another set of nights under the stars this coming weekend....

On another note...for those who read my Frontier saga of lost luggage and canceled flights back in June. It took a little longer than their quoted 3-4weeks, but we received our check which reimbursed us for necessities for 3+ days and clothes to attend a wedding. Unfortunately our iPod Nano still has not made it's way back to us.