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.