Friday, May 29, 2009

Child Goes on 2009 Camping Trial Run

Last year I published an article about the camping trial run. And again stuck to my own advice for 2009 as we embarked on our trial run. This year close to home...down on the property of our friend's on the South Fork of the American River.

We spent the entire week prior with the tent trailer popped open in the the water lines and tanks, charging batteries, and general loading and restocking. We felt very confidant as we rolled away on Saturday afternoon to camp two of the three nights of the long Memorial Day weekend within 1 hour of the house.

We rolled into camp abut 6:30PM...and thank goodness for the group's dinner arrangements, which I loved and are transitioning into my camping trips. Everyone fixes their entree/meat for themselves and then brings a side to share. So while the guys straightened, leveled, and parked the trailer and used random boards to keep our stabilizers from sinking into the sand I got the kids fed from everyone else's good cooking.

We quickly added a few things to our to do list at the beginnig of the season when our definitely charged battery yielded no juice to the trailer...get some contact cleaner because our battery contacts were corroded enough we got no flow. With some light brushing we got it working and our friends who also own a pop-up got lessons of what to do when your water pump goes out and spent the weekend tinkering away on that.

As far as key learnings from packing. We do now have a list saved off in Word that we can print out everytime for the standard items and check-off to ensure they are loaded/stocked. I will ensure to post this list in the coming days as I need to amend it for some obvious ommisions.

We forgot the kids' nightlight and I am a firm believer in routine. I think kids can sleep about anywhere if you have a routine and try to replicate whereveer your travels take you. Well, forgetting the nightlight was a huge ommision in replication and we had to hang out with them until they were well into ZZZ-Land. The nightlight we use at home and travels is more eco-friendly with rechargable batteries...a TykeLight.

We thought we were doing good by having our first aid kit...and I even packed aspirin for the post vino-invibation, but we had no meds for the kids. I didn't panic though as again we were on the trial run...close to home when my son starting running his fever and his digestional tract hit the skids. And luckily our partners in camping remembered their's and additional buy to my list from here on out...Children's Tums. After all the samores and other camping staples do tend to play tricks on the munchkin tummy.
Otherwise we had a great time. The kids enjoyed a tree swing, waving to all the passer-by rafters & kayakers, and painting rocks (not a state or national park, so we can take more than a picture). So with a few minor adjustments and we will be ready to hit the trails at least 3 more times this summer:

Other Camping Related Posts:

...Until next week...get your Child on the Go this weekend!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Home of Larry Bird and much more....

French Lick, Indiana...many people know it for it's having been the home to NBA great Larry Bird. Or folks who even are history buffs remember it's hey days in the early 20th century attracting celebrities and mobsters alike, including Irving Berlin and Al Capone. It also is located about 30minutes from my husband's hometown and we have been keeping a close eye on it the last several years as it attempts to rebuild itself and regain some it's glory from the days past.

This small town of just over 2000 people has been pouring a lot of time and energy into restoring two of it's iconic buildings...French Lick Resort and West Baden Springs. Both share massive pieces of history in their own rite...French Lick being the place FDR launched his candidacy for President and West Baden being the largest free-spanning dome until 1913. Both have feasts of fun for any adult from world-class golf courses, spas, restaurants, shows, etc..

But this blog is all about the kids, so we have been keeping our eyes and ears open to see how they would accommodate our littlest traveling companions. At the two resorts there is a "Just for Kids" club open daily for free play for a nominal fee. Additional fees will get you all kinds of extra organized activities including cooking, dude ranch, zoo, musical parties, etc.. The family can also play together at the arcade, bowling alley, or pools or take a ride at the stables. All of these are located right within the two resorts which you can move back and forth between via a free shuttle service or the many walking paths. We visited at the holidays and the decor was jaw-dropping.

Outside the compounds of the resorts the town is adding additional fun. Big Splash Adventure Waterpark just opened in March. This is one thing that has caught on in the Midwest that I think is great as our waterparks still sit empty here in Northern California awaiting opening days at the end of May.....Indoor Waterparks. Even though medium in size it is the largest with a retractable roof as of it's opening in March. Lazy rivers, slides, toddler has it all. Day lockers, locker rooms, just bring your suit and have fun. It had fun for all 2yo enjoyed all the levers turning water on and off, my 4yo enjoyed the slides aimed at her age group, and Daddy and I even took to the slides aimed at the big kids...or big kids at heart. And we must admit they very much got our pulse a pounding. In addition there is on site arcade and restaurants. We booked in advance as we were not staying here and there are limited amounts of day passes, but it is limitless for you if you book one of the adjacent hotels 150 rooms.

If you have a Thomas the Train lover in your family (our 2yo boy is an addict) then a trip to the Indiana Railway Museum located in town should be on your list. The museum is free and there is a nominal fee for the 2hr 20mile ride through scenic Orange County. A special note...the museum is open year round, but the train rides do not go out December through March.

We're very excited to return many more times in the future as they are adding a indoor go kart track and a Amish Restaurant. Also right down the road is Patoka Lake for the kids to enjoy some angling with their Papa. So if in Indiana or even Northern Kentucky I would highly advise a day or two stop-over in this re-polished gem in Orange County that has something for everyone.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Time "flies" when you're having fun!

Wow, I thought I was taking a two week hiatus from the blog and it's been a month. But I must say it has all been in the vein of the fun that comes from converting from winter "go"ing to spring "go"ing.

The end of April had us enjoying some major spring time skiing and the Easter holiday on the slopes. Nearly all ski resorts in Tahoe host some Easter festivities...from your standard egg hunts to Alpine Meadow's beacon hunt. After reviewing several resorts' activities we decided to stay at our home resort, Alpine Meadows, and participate in their activities. In addition to the beacon egg hunt, there was an all-mountain hunt, 2 hunts at the children's ski zone for the little munchkins, and then another on Hot Wheels for the slightly older kids. Two bunnies provided lots of hugs and traditional cute furry one and your rail jamming shred head bunny. All of this happened before the nap-time...aka melt-down time of early afternoon.

With Easter behind us and the snow starting to melt away with the warm spring temps our last weekend of our ski lease had us itching for one last round of fun in the snow. We joined several snowmobile-owning friends up SR431 .We parked alongside the road and placed several lawn chairs at what would be the end of the kids' sledding run. We parked the cars tight enough on the roadside the kids were well protected from the traffic and easily supervised while waiting their turn by 1 adult. And the adults had easy access to the snowmobiles. Everyone had a blast and I enjoyed putting off the packing and cleaning required to move out of our ski lease.

Alas that evening over a few margaritas our ski lease was clean and we were ready to roll out. Until next season. The nice thing about most owners/agents if you were a good tenant you get first dibs at the same place next season if you meet an early deadline, June 1, and a small deposit, generally a couple of hundred bucks. After the June 1 deadline you still have some preferred customer status by having that agency's properties only available to you and their other existing tenants, but generally if you haven't made a decision by July 1...everything still available becomes fair game for the general public. So even though the season just ended you have to start thinking about next season.

With our decision made it was now time to fly!...literally. We headed out early one AM for the heartland of Kentuckiana and our purpose, The Kentucky Derby. We prefer early AM flights because getting the munchkins up early, say 3 hours before their normal waking hour, forces them on to the new time zone. With every flight we are constantly making notes about what worked and what didn't. Here's this trip's list:
Sony's Children Headphones (Model#MDR-222KD): At $15 were a great buy. After several flights of our children struggling with ear bugs or adult-size headphones we ordered these. Comes in Black and Pink for your princesses. Perfect!
Crayola Beginnings Washable Triangular Crayons 16ct (SKU#52-016T): OK, at nearly $5.50 for a pack you may think forget it. BUT, the fact that I still have the entire pack after a flight and they are not scattered in the 20rows behind me after they rolled off my child's tray is worth every penny. Oh yeah...the triangular shape is also good for their hand-writing instrument coordination.
United Airlines On-line Baggage Check: You should not check your bags in on-line if you plan to check a car seat. Car seats are free, but must be checked in at the airport. So when I thought I was doing a good things by paying for and checking or non-car seat bag from caused a delay at the airport by having to add the car seat after the fact. Next time, still check-in on-line, but do the bag/car seat portion at the airport kiosk
United Airlines Car Seat Policy: Car seats are free when it comes to checked baggage. Unfortunately Unites does charge...even for the first "other" checked bag at $15. So...our family of 4 crammed into one large duffel bag (see article), but to ensure we were not overweight...we crammed our extra shoes and jackets into the car seat bag. So $30 round trip for our checked bags and easily 60+lbs plus car seat.
- United Airlines Gate Check: Double and triple check what the gate agent puts on your gate check tag where you want to pick up your destination or perhaps a connection. I remember remarking to the agent we would need to stroller in O'Hare our connection. We waited and waited at O'Hare...the stroller never showed. The first class steward apologized profusely and I jokingly said he could make it up by helping us with 3 backpacks, 1 2year old, 1 4 year old, and a car seat who had 30min to switch terminals and make our next flight. In the end after some running we made it on our next flight with 5min to spare and the stroller made it to our final destination...about 6 hours after us.
+ United Airlines 1st Class Stewards: Remember the steward above did actually take the time to wait with my husband, check with baggage personnel, and apologized. On our return flight we thought we were in trouble when a first class stewardess came walking through the plane with a ship's manifest, but we failed to see in her other hand was fresh baked cookies for all the kids' on board, whether in first class or us in our cheap seats in coach. Score round 2 for the first class personnel.

So with these tips and tricks from our latest flight to add to our others:
Packing to Avoid Fees
> Lap Child, Car Seat, Seat Belt...Oh My
> Check the Seat Pocket in Front of You....AUGHH!
> I hated the back of planes...Before Kids
...we were ready for a fun filled trip to Kentuckiana, including parades, fishing, KY Derby, and a massive indoor waterpark...and next week's article.