Friday, June 26, 2009

Happy Father's Day!

I have so enjoyed the last 4+ years of my husband being my partner to take my children "on the go!" We have a long list to tackle, but with him by my side I am excited the adventures we will be taking as a family in the years to come.
But for now a little photo collage of our success to date.
Happy Father's Day!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Start "Go"ing Local

We just had some friends do the cross country transplant...Boston to Northern California. Totally new to the area they remembered that my blog had several entries regarding Northern California and thought perhaps we were here and sent an email. A couple of exchanges later and I had sent a list of places and activities to start them and their family that contains three children, 6months, 2.5yrs, and 3.5yrs "go"ing in their new location.
(Funderland 30mi from home-->)

And they have taken the list and are checking things off rather quickly with the wonderful attitude that "We decided if the kids don't make it very long we'll just pack up early but we'd like to try!" They can do this because they are easing their kids into their new surroundings as well as making them change adaptive by doing lots of activities locally.

(<--Rodeo Park, 13mi from home) The first area to look close to home is your local Parks and Recreation Department or Community Services District. For starters this is generally who maintains your parks system and therefore will have a list of parks with addresses and generally descriptions. What kid does not love a park. And generally you will be surprised to find many you did not even know existed. We literally could probably pick a day every week of the summer and go to a different park within a 15mile radius of us and still not visit them all. My to go list for Parks:
> Sunscreen
> Baby Powder (for drying and brushing off sand from sandboxes)
> Sand Toys (with your family name in permanent marker)
> Hydration & Snack (sack lunches if you want to extend your visit)
> Change of Clothes
> Swim clothes & towel (if park has a water feature)
Other things your local Department or District may offer is classes...from cultural in the arts (dance, theater, media arts, cooking) to sports training or teams (soccer, t-ball, swim, flag football). Some go as far as to offer full blown camps in the summer that may be a mix of classes. And most are very economical especially if you are a resident in their covered territory.

Then there are other local attractions such as zoos, libraries, museums, that if you are good and review their calendars will have special events for kids or even free admission days. These are good ways to get kids on the go and marry that with my favorite quotation which comes from the children's characters Toot & Puddle.."The more you go...the more you know."
(Folsom Zoo, 13mi from home-->)
(<--Amador Co Fair, 30mi from home)

And lastly alway ensure to grab your local paper at least on the day they publish their local calendar of events. In addition to many of the event attractions listed above you will also find local festivals, fairs, and concerts. Or if your community is large enough to have a local magazine it seems as though the focus of the May or June Issue is always the family and summer activities as this is the time kids are getting out of the traditional school year and parents are plotting the summer activities. Another source is the local Visitor's Authority.

So even if your children or even you for that matter are not ready for that road trip quite yet you can slowly work your way there by "go"ing on mini-adventures in your community.

For my local readers here's some of my favorite resources. but for my non-local readers you can pretty much do a search on these same titles, but replace the location with yours:

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Child Returns to the Big Trees with Friends

We enjoyed Calaveras Big Trees State Park so much last year that we really wanted to return this year and take along some friends. So our annual wine tasting trip where this blog began seemed to be the perfect reason for the return as Calaveras and more to the point the town of Murphys houses a dozen+ tasting rooms.

We had 2 sites reserved for Friday and Saturday night at the North Grove Campground within Calaveras Big Trees State Park. We arrived approx 30mins after check-in began at 2PM and found there were only 2 choices for us to be side-by-side. They do not make advance site assignments. Upon advice from the Rangers we took sites #41 & #43. which worked out fairly well. Level with huge open space between for our friends and tent-campers to set-up and the kids to run freely between the two pop-up trailers and be seen at all times. Had we had a better choices and had they been open we would have preferred something on the far side of the meadow and away from the traffic of the highway, but not too bad none-the-less. We had bathrooms a 30sec hike up a hill and the coin-operated showers were a walk or bike ride away. Next time for showers we will forgo the handicap/family one for the girls and boys individual. The room was large and open and therefore cold and the only shower head was a hand-held that was set at about 4&1/2ft high with no ability to increase it's heigth.

Friday night we set-up, did a bike ride to the visitor's center to check out the weekend's activities, and had dinner. Bikes are allowed, but not on any trails of course. Dinner was Pasta Puttanesca, which is wonderful as the pasta can be cooked aldente and just reheated as well as the sauce...and for the kids we could do butter noodles. The visitor's center was a wealth of information even when closed...5PM weeknights, 6PM Saturday & Sunday as there was a large bulletin board with the times, descriptions, age requirements, meeting places of various activities. And if you had any questions during the closed hours a very well versed camp host was the first site on the right. This is also where we picked up spare firewood for the evening and were even told could have gotten it at the Ranger Station upfront had our host not been around.

Up bright and early Saturday morning after a chilly night...our heat decided to not work our breakfast was breakfast burritos, various pastries, and cereal, oatmeal for the kids. We set off at 10AM for some programs for the kids. This park had an incredible staff of volunteers and therefore not only held the standard Junior Ranger Programs for the 7-12 yr olds, but also had a cubs program for 3-6yr olds. We tried to get the two 2.5yr olds to participate and even though the volunteers were willing to have them their attention span only lasted a brief while which was fine as the wonderful trails of the North Grove were a few steps away and the parents took them for a walk. The remaining 4yr olds enjoyed learning about various animals, flora, and fauna within the park as our volunteer, Marilyn, made forest soup. She definitely knew her audience as when they got about half way through she had them get up and move around and act our various animals. Then using egg crates they made caterpillars. After the hour program we set off on the North Grove Trails with them to rev up their appetites for lunch and a nap.

Unfortunately the afternoon was drizzly and chilly, so we spent a lot of time in the trailers or under the awnings playing cards, doing puzzles, etc.. During a break we did venture down to the visitor's center again to wonder through the exhibits where there was a lot of tactile items for the kids to handle and touch. The 4yr olds even sat through a beautiful slide show of the history of the park. On the way back to our sites we walked the boardwalk of the marshy meadow. This boardwalk definitely needs some revitalization, but was very nice none the less. Dinner this evening was taco salads for the adults and quessadillas for the kids. Again another meal that much can be done ahead and just reheated...rice, beans, meat, and various toppings...all placed into a bowl. And of course each evening was topped off with the traditional samores.

Sunday was pack-up and move-on time. Sunny and beautiful a few of us took the kids to the boardwalk again on a flora and fauna hunt to keep them occupied while others packed up. We were on the road to Murphys...about 12mi away just after 11AM. Check-out is Noon.

We parked the tent trailers right across the street from 221 Main Street and the home of Black Sheep Vintners. We enjoyed some tastes and made some purchases while the kids all sat on their front porch doodling on the Etch-A-Sketch's they had available. The only slightly annoying rule was you could not step one foot out the front door with a glass in hand to check on the kids. Oh well, we can not have it all. After some q&a with a couple of locals we made our way down to 402 Main Street and Firewood for lunch. Plenty of choices for everyone and the best feature just around the corner was the wonderful Murphys Community Park on the river with a play structure where we took the kids while the food was prepared and just rang cell phones when it started to arrive at the table. Ask any local and they can point you in the right direction. After they enjoyed lunch watching the passersby we ventured up a few doors to 454 Main Street and The Peppermint Stick for dessert. Dreyers choices were made and we proceeded outside to sit on the curb which sat about 15ft off the street where the kids could look at all the motorcycles and if we lost a cone or dripped it was right into the gutter. Heading back for the RVs time for the adults to have dessert and it was at 350 Main Street and the Twisted Oak Tasting Room. A large fenced tree-shaded flat lawn welcomed the kids as did a trunk of toys just inside the tasting room door. They played tag, red light green light, and various other games while the adults watched and lingered in and out of the tasting room trying the various libations. With wine purchased and every child ran through their wonderfully clean and spacious restroom we embarked on the road home. (Photo Insert: Playing Doctor on Twisted Oak's lawn)

The weather cold have been a little nicer for us on Saturday, but all in all we loved this trip. Definitely a do-over either camping...or sans kids at one of the historic hotels in Murphys. But we will be back.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

What to Pack When Child Goes Camping....

I finally got serious with camping trip #2 of 2009 this weekend and put pen to paper in the high tech sense and made a re printable check-list of our must-have's...minus food. And I am sure via our own experiences and the wonderful inputs of this blog's readers it will grow and evolve. I left nearly all inputs as generic, but would like to take a minute in this week's posting and share some products or brands we prefer.

Starting in the Toiletries section. Now I know it is hard to go Eco-friendly (most notably because a lot of these items are expensive) all the time on things such as shampoo, toilet paper, toothpaste, wipes, but there is something that truly eats away at my consciousness when I am camping in some of the most pristine and preserved lands in our nation and then leave behind a huge bag of trash or soap scum from the showers. So for our camping provisions I do go out of my way to spend the extra dollar and get products to leave a lesser footprint on these areas I hope survive long enough to see my children's grandchildren one day.

Also in the toiletries section you will find sunscreen and bug spray mentioned. We are huge fans of Avon's SKIN SO SOFT Bug Guard SPF 30. At $14 a pop you may feel it is a little pricey, but remember you are getting 2 in 1....bug spray and sunscreen. Also if you keep your eye out you can always find a sale on it about every few weeks. We are also fans of the Off! Towelettes for use on the kids' faces. Spraying their face or wiping on matter how hard I try we seem to always be flushing their eyes due to their rubbing or our misdirection. The towelettes dry quickly and are more error free. We are also fans of the Off! Power Pad Lamp. Stronger than 15 citronella candles, flame is protected in lantern from little hands...and a little mood lighting all in one.

When it comes to kitchen supplies we have pretty much stocked our trailer or camping box with very used things from our home kitchen. The only splurges came in some very heavy picnic plates, bowls, silverware, etc.. And even those you can find on sale at the end of summer or even at a dollar store. Again on the environmental front...we try to only use paper goods for perhaps the first meal or the last meal when you are busy unpacking or packing up. Otherwise reusable plastic that can be washed with your enviro soap is a great way to protect the environment...and over time save a dime and offset the expensive Seventh Generation or other Dish Soap.
Otherwise the list is pretty self explanatory...and here's a few closing remarks. We always keep a crate of kids toys at the ready...with sand toys, bug catchers, etc.. Most are very good about this in general, but make sure to pack your kids helmets if they bring their bikes or scooters. If under the age of 18 most campgrounds require a helmet within their properties and rangers will quickly approach any child out for a spin without one and escort them back to their parents. Always have extra batteries...rechargeable that are charged are best. We carry a utility type bucket...this is good for washing dishes, hands, feet, or carrying your stuff to and from the public restroom or shower as there is generally very little space to sit things in or on... and let's be frank...even the cleanest of campground restroom/shower floors are still a little scary. Whether camping via a tent or a trailer a large outdoor carpet or in our case the cheap way out...a huge swath of faux grass from Home Depot serves as a place to leave shoes and dirt before entering the sleeping quarters. We are also big fans of the Alps Mountaineering chairs, tables, and camping gear in general as well as REI. Make sure you shop around...lots of places carry it and the prices can be very different.

I know...we are missing food on here. I will tell you we pack three ways...1 large crate for dry goods, 1 cooler for beverages, and 1 cooler for cold foods. As the summer progresses I will take the time to share some camping recipes and some of our favorite must have beverages, snacks, and foods while in the wild.

Please review our ever evolving list...and share what's on yours or your favorite brands or products.