Thursday, May 3, 2018

Family Quest: Oregon State Parks

Last summer we undertook the first and longest camping trip of our little family's life. We went to Glacier National Park for 2 weeks in our tent trailer and had a blast, minus the normal ups and downs of life with three kids. Glacier has experienced record numbers of visitors over the past couple years - people are seeing the value of these gorgeous landscapes!

That trip encouraged us to keep camping a family tradition. This summer we won't have the luxury of taking solid weeks off at a time, so we narrowed our scope and came back to the idea that we really want to continue to get to know our home state of Oregon better than we do.

Because I'm much better at accomplishing life when I make it a project, I thought, why not make it a quest and try to visit every Oregon State Park? It adds an element of adventure and challenge and will make sure that we get off the beaten path!

Looking at the list of Oregon parks, I quickly realized that we definitely will not be able to get to every state park this summer, no where near even close. There are 196 parks, recreation sites, scenic viewpoints, and more on the state parks website! So it will be a project that will take us quite few years, but I think it will be something really fun that our family can look back on with fond memories and something that we accomplished together.

For this summer, I narrowed the list down to the historic sites within a 3 hour drive to knock those out first, because we both love and appreciate history and also want our kids to know that we do not exist in a vacuum and we haven't just always "been here." I want them to know about the native history of the area and how europeans came to be and settle here - good and bad.

I'm going to document our quest here on the blog and encourage you to travel along with us, as well as open the challenge to you as well, no matter what state you live in! Let's show our state governments that we value public lands and want to see them taken care of and enjoyed (and maybe even give us the opportunity to provide positive feedback for government leaders as to what we've found in the parks that aren't visited so often.) If you're interested in taking on your state parks quest, comment below and let me know where you live!

Monday, April 16, 2018

Vitamin N: The Essential Guide to a Nature-Rich Life {Book Club}

I remember the day I realized I was raising city kids. As a child growing up in a small valley in Southern Oregon, visiting the city of Portland was intimidating and felt huuuuge. But we've now been here a decade and all my kids were born here, and it's what they know. They know the city! So strange.

Although we are fortunate to live in a very lush part of the United States with wilderness and natural areas close by, it's quite often that the pace of city living and the traffic, air quality, and general busy-ness of life still gets overwhelming. Even something as annoying as a bright streetlight shining in the window will sometime just put me over the edge.

If you've read or heard of Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv, you might be interested in his book Vitamin N: The Essential Guide to a Nature-Rich Life. Louv coined the term "nature-deficit disorder" and has compiled a solid body of research and reasoning for why kids should have a strong connection to the natural world.

While nature-deficit disorder is not a real diagnosis, according to Louv, it is "the price paid, particularly by children, for our societal disconnect from the natural world." The antidote? Vitamin Nature - or Vitamin N. 

I picked this book up at Powell's a few weekends ago, and it's already been a great tool to stoke my creativity in how we engage nature with our little city kids, and I'm hopeful that being intentional will help foster a healthy and dynamic relationship between them and the wilderness for the rest of their lives. And the adults need it, too!

The first page of the introduction opens with this story:

"In 2009, Janet Ady of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service stood before a crowd of grassroots leaders gathered from across the nation by the Children and Nature Network. She held up an outsized pharmacy bottle...the label read: 

DIRECTIONS: Use daily, outdoors in nature. Go on a nature walk, watch birds, observe trees. Practice respectful outdoor behavior in solitude or take with friends and family. REFILLS: Unlimited. EXPIRES: Never. 

Here was a deceptively simple treatment for improving physical and mental health, for stimulating learning, creativity, and a sense of being fully alive..."

Vitamin N builds upon his research and is a more simplified, accessible guidebook style with lists galore of ways to encourage engagement with nature while also building strong family and community connections.

There are over 500 activities for children, adults, families, and professionals, sprinkled with essays, personal experiences, resources, and testimonies from families. It's creative and full of inspiration for those times when you know you want to get outside with your kids - or yourself - but don't want to do the normal park-and-hike.

Vitamin N is divided into eight parts covering different themes:

- The Gift of Memory
Example: Simple ways to expand time and space for kids and adults (p.7)

- Ways of Knowing the World
Example: Discover the lost art of finding your way (p.31)

- The Nature-Rich Home and Garden
Example: Build a backyard nature preserve (p.75)

- Nurturing Natural Resilience
Example: A brief developmental guide to nature play (p.105)

- Go Wild and Wilder
Example: Nurture your inner hunter & gatherer (p.140)

- Grow Outside: The Nature Prescription
Example: Create your own nature gym (p.157)

- The School of Nature
Example: Ignite natural learning at home and school (p.190)

- The Nature-Rich Community
Example: What every parent, teacher, and young person needs to know about the coming opportunities in nature-smart careers (p.215)

Check is out and let me know what you think! I'm also making a goal for our family this summer to try a new activity from this book every week. Maybe we'll make it an official nature challenge and share our experiences here.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Witnessing safe birth in Haiti this summer!

If you've read a handful of posts on this blog, it's probably fairly clear (I hope!) that pregnancy, birth, and postpartum care is a topic that I've spent a lot of time on. It's been enjoyable to process and share personally, and also an honor to walk together through these transformative times in the lives of other women, even through a computer screen. I've also worked with organizations supporting safe birth and the empowerment of women: through Adriel Booker's Project Baby Bilum and the two years of my ring sling business, and also as a Compassion Entrepreneur for Trades of Hope.

So when an opportunity presented itself to visit Haiti with MamaBaby Haiti along with a small group of women from Portland, including my mom and sister, I said YES.

MamaBaby Haiti is a nonprofit birth center in the north of Haiti. Haiti has the highest infant and maternal mortality rate in the Western hemisphere, with 98% of the deaths being preventable (stats from MamaBaby Haiti's website). Started by a team of American midwives, it is structured as a free-standing center run by skilled Haitian midwives, with volunteer midwives coming in from all over the world.

MBH provides completely free prenatal, birth, and postpartum care to the women of the area. MamaBaby also provides education around birth control and family planning, breastfeeding, nutrition, and more. MBH also recently opened a midwifery school to train new midwives in the art of care, which is so desperately needed in Haiti and all around the world.

Does this sound like something you'd like to support, or learn more about?

I'll be writing more about my trip and sharing stories and photos come June, but for now, you can learn more about MamaBaby Haiti on their website. If you'd like to do more right now, a $170 donation will cover the cost of care - prenatal, birth, and postpartum - for a mother and baby. Visit their website for more details. 

I'm also running a fundraiser through PureCharity to raise the cost of the trip. If you'd like to support me, visit HERE. I'm also hosting an Amazon wishlist fundraiser for items that we are going to pack into 50-lb duffels and take to the center. You can purchase items and they'll come to me. 

Stay tuned for more on this exciting adventure!

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