Wednesday, November 8, 2017

My 10 Favorite Pregnancy & Birth Books



For the last year I've been teaching Prenatal yoga here in in Portland. I see beautiful, glowing women come in to the studio every Sunday afternoon and I love spending an hour leading them through a gentle, supportive class. So even though I'm not pregnant, my mind returns to my experiences and also sits with the experiences that my students' are having on a daily basis as I prepare sequences for classes and just think about what my mamas might need. For some, it's their very first time. For others, they've been through it before, although every pregnancy and birth stands alone. I'm putting together some resources for them and thought I'd share what I come up with here, too.

Reading about pregnancy and birth is so fascinating, but sometimes its hard to know where to start. The books I've listed below hopefully cater to a variety of personalities, so you'll find something you like, or a tone or perspective that suits you. Pregnancy and birth is a very sensitive time in a woman's life and it doesn't help to hear condescending or doom-and-gloom voices coming off of the page...but everyone's tastes are different. Explore this list, maybe stop in at the library before committing to a purchase, and see what you like. It was hard to narrow this list down to ten. Two of them are journals, so technically it's eight...but ten is a nice round number and I wish I'd have thought to find a very pretty journal to write in! This list is by no means exhaustive, so if you have a book you'd put on this list, let me know in the comments!

(All links will take you to the book's Amazon page, and are affiliate links.)

Pregnancy & Childbirth

The Mama Natural Week-By-Week Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth by Genevieve Holland

Magical Beginnings, Enchanted Lives: A Holistic Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth by Deepak Chopra, David Simons, and Vicki Abrams.

Our Bodies, Ourselves: Pregnancy & Birth by the Boston Women's Health Book Collective

Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn by Patty Simkin

Ina May's Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin

The Big Book of Birth by Erica Lyon

Mindful Birthing: Training the Mind, Body, and Heart for Childbirth and Beyond by Nancy Bardacke

Nurture: A Modern Guide to Pregnancy, Birth, Early Motherhood by Erica Chidi Cohen

Journals

Expecting You: A Keepsake Journal Pregnancy by Amelia Riedler

Bump For Joy: Guided Pregnancy Journal by Studio Oh! 



Watch for my favorite postpartum book list coming soon! 

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Simple Autumn Family Rhythm Ideas




So far, we've been delightfully in tune with Autumn this year. I love this time of year in the Pacific Northwest. The weather is usually balmy, sunny days with a few chunks of gloomy rain here and there, but the sun comes out again before the moods start to drop too dramatically.

Having seasonal family traditions or rhythms has always been of interest to me but deciding on them and following through has not been a strength of mine. So whenever we intentionally try or complete a seasonal activity it feels like a huge win! I also know that our rhythms will change as we move through different ages and stages. That's also why I like the word "rhythm" over "tradition," because it gives a lot of space for change and ease.

For now, with three small kids, these are my favorite five fall rhythms that don't take a million supplies and the whole family can participate in together. They are SO SIMPLE  yet leave us with warm fuzzy memories of time together.

1) Leaf Walk + Beeswax Leaf Dipping Garland

My neighbor invited us to do this with her and now it's a little tradition. It's very simple and easy for the kids to help. Simply collect medium-sized and varied shapes of beautiful leaves. Buy beeswax at the store or Amazon and melt it in an old or thrifted saucepan that you're happy to "donate" to the yearly beeswax-melting activity. Once the wax completely melts, dip the leaves in and let them dry on waxed paper. String baker's twine or ribbon through the leaves and you have a lovely festive garland! Invite friends or family to join and have snacks and hot cocoa afterwards.



2) Family Pumpkin Patch Day

This one is trickier than it sounds up here in the Portland metro area. Pumpkin patches are big business and incredibly popular with us outdoor-romantics, and there are several scattered around the area that are huge operations. Visits to those places tend to lend an air of frantic anxiousness to me and then subsequently to the kids, so this year we were on the hunt for a smaller place with less "attractions" and just pumpkins, and maybe a wagon ride. We luckily found a place outside of town that was not crowded at all, and had the most gorgeous Clydesdale horses pulling a wagon, plus pony rides and a slide/playground area. We kept looking around wondering when the throngs of people were going to pile into the parking lot but they never did. Best pumpkin patch year EVER.



3) Attend a Fall festival or carnival

We have two Fall Festivals we attend - one at our church community and one at the girls' school. They get to do the fun carnival activities like fishing, cornhole, photo booth, and facepainting, all with people they know. Both our church and school are very small and so the community feel is strong and feels safe and not overwhelming. This is definitely a tradition the girls are loving.



4) Check out Autumn-themed books at the library

I love incorporating seasonal books into our reading! Try these we've enjoyed:






5) Begin lighting a candle at dinner.

This is my favorite, and it normally carries into winter, too. As darkness begins to fall earlier, it's so cozy to light a candle at dinnertime. The older kids can take turns lighting each evening. We are sensitive to scents and I don't like the smell of burning paraffin so we use pure beeswax tealights. Because our table is small and I'm not quite confident in a tall taper candle not getting knocked over, we burn a tealight in a himalayan salt tealight holder. It has a lovely orange glow and paired with the subtle scent of the natural beeswax, it feels very Fall!

6) Family Leaf Walks

When the weather is good we spend as much time outside as possible, because when the rain comes, we're indoors for what feels like months. A before-dinner walk, extra time at the school playground, or weekend outdoor adventures get us fresh air and we also get to watch the trees change, leaves fall, and the air grow more crisp! The girls gather leaves, pinecones, and other nature items. Plus the lingering smell of wood fireplaces begins in the evenings and it feels so cozy.

That's it! So simple, right?

What are your favorite autumn rhythms/traditions? 

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Have you heard about MightyFix?

Learn More About the MightyFix One Simple Change Each Month


(This post contains affiliate links. I'm a MightyNest affiliate but pay for my MightyFix out of my own pocket.) 

I'm a subscriber to MightyNest's MightyFix and October marks my one year subscription anniversary! I have really enjoyed this innovative subscription service from MightyNest - it's affordable, dependable, and I've been able to incorporate some cool new environmentally-friendly products into our home. Because I've subscribed for one whole year before writing about my experience, I feel like I have a solid perspective on the program and whether or not I'd continue the service. Fortunately, I have been pleased for a year and will continue to subscribe!

MightyFix is a monthly subscription service from MightyNest that sends a new eco-friendly product(s) straight to your doorstep. You never know what you'll be getting and that is a fun aspect. As another subscriber perk, MightyNest also offers MightyFix member-only deals on the site, too! As a subscriber, I get up to 25% off products that I can add on to my MightyFix shipment, all with free shipping. Pretty sweet.



The MightyFix subscription is only $10 per month, with shipping included, which I think is a good value, especially to discover new products and support a small business. You can also pay a year up front for $99, giving you two months free. To be honest, I usually forget about it until a box or bag arrives in my mailbox with the MightyFix sticker, so it's like getting a little gift every month.

Once you subscribe to MightyFix, you also have the option of sending a MightyFix invite to a friend, and if they sign up, they'll receive their first month free! You can gift a MightyFix, too.

As a business, I also appreciate MightyNest's commitment to schools, to the environment, and to their products. I'm happy to send my dollars their way and have been happy with every purchase I've made.

As a MightyNest affiliate, I have a great offer for my readers to save $7 off their first month and get their wool dryer ball set as your first Fix. I hope you try out the MightyFix for yourself!

Try the MightyFix for only $3 with promo code DRYERFIX2017 and get 3 wool Dryer Balls for your first Fix!


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Affirmations for Kids: The Good Night Game



Sometimes I feel goofy using affirmations.

Maybe you feel the same way?

But at the same time, it's easy to get caught in a loop in my own head and have a hard time breaking free. Especially when it comes to parenting.

My therapist recommended a new (to me) book called Growing Up Again (affiliate link) by Jean Illsley Clark and Connie Dawson. It has helped me SO much in so little time, not only in my own life but also as I learn to respond and nurture my kids. This book is GOLD and I'd love to talk about it in no less than 10,000 words, but I'll start small. 



One of my very favorite practical tools they offer in Growing Up Again is the Affirmations - positive phrases that "shore up" - that can be used for both adults and children. The authors' working definition of an Affirmation is "anything we say or do for others to let them know that we believe they are lovable and capable" (217).

Clarke and Dawson state:


"When we offer developmental affirmations to children, we offer powerful support that strengthens their ability to accomplish their developmental tasks successfully." (pg. 290)

Clarke and Dawson offer a quite a few different practical and helpful tips for working with affirmations, but I've been most interested in their Good Night Game and it is SO simple. 

The Good Night Game

Either copy and cut out, handwrite, or read straight from the book the affirmations that begin from Stage 1 all the way up to your child's specific developmental stage.

At bedtime, have each child pick three affirmations from a basket each night, and say these affirmations to the child as you tuck them into bed. Keep your affirmations in a basket that is easily accessible. As you repeat the affirmations to them while they are tucked snugly into bed, it's the last words they hear (hopefully! but with kids...well...no promises!) before they go to sleep.

An important note: "The affirmations we deliver MUST be sincere or they become crazy-making double-bind messages" (217, emphasis my own). So if you aren't completely comfortable speaking an affirmation and then letting your kids (or yourself!) live it out, then leave it out of the pile for now. 

Here are a few of my favorite affirmations for the different stages. Try them out for the Good Night Game, and pick up the book for yourself to get all of the affirmations for each life stage. 

Prenatal Stage (Becoming)

- I celebrate that you are alive
- We are connected and you are whole. 
- Your life is your own
- I love you just as you are

Stage 1, Birth to 6 months (Being)

- I'm glad you are alive. 
- You belong here.
- I love you and care for you willingly
- You can grow at your own pace

Stage 2, 6 months to 18 months (Doing)

- You can do things as many times as you need to. 
- You can be interested in everything 
- I like to watch you initiate and grow and learn
- I love you when you are active and when you are quiet. 

Stage 3, 18 months to 3 years (Thinking)

- I'm glad you are starting to think for yourself
- You can learn to think for yourself and I will think for myself 
- You can think and feel at the same time. 
- It's okay for you to be angry, and I won't let you hurt yourself or others

Stage 4, 3 years to 6 years (Identity and Power)

- You can explore who you are and find out who other people are. 
- You can be powerful and ask for help at the same time. 
- All of your feelings are okay with me. 
- I love who you are. 

Stage 5, 6 years to 12 years (Structure) 

- You can think before you say yes or no and learn from your mistakes
- You can learn when and how to disagree
- I love you even when we differ; I love growing with you
- You can learn the rules that help you live with others. 

Stage 6, 12 years to 19 years (Identity, Sexuality, and Separation) 

- You can know who you are and learn to practice skills for independence. 
- You can learn to use old skills in new ways
- I look forward to knowing you as an adult
- My love is always with you. I trust you to ask for my support. 

Stage 7, Adults (Interdependence)

- Your needs are important
- You can trust your inner wisdom
- You can be creative, competent, productive, and joyful. 
- You are lovable at every age. 
- Your love matures and expands

Stage 8, Toward Death (Integration)

- You can grow your whole life through. 
- You can share your wisdom in your way. 
- You are lovable just the way you are. 
- You deserve the support that you need. 

The authors offer more affirmation activities in the book, and the "ovals" that appropriate to the age you're working with are found in each different developmental section within the book. The ovals are tiny and not too pretty, so I took the ovals that pertained to my girls' age and printed them out on computer paper. Next step is to laminate them, if you want! I didn't have any lamination paper so I wrapped them in clear packing tape. Still, not so pretty, but a little better. I forgot to type in the developmental stage on the little slips so I went in with a sharpie after I taped them up and added the age stages on the back.

I'm hoping to put a little more time to beautify these cards because they'll be used for their entire childhood, and I've also had many friends asking about them! And these affirmations are for adults, too, so I'm going to experiment working with them as well. 

For adults, you use the affirmations starting from Prenatal stage on up. The book IS called Growing Up Again, so it is as much an adult guide as a parenting/child guide. No matter how amazing our parents were, they weren't perfect, and we all have gaps in our development. Every human receives uneven parenting in some way, because our parents are 100% human. This has been hard for me to accept as I walk my own parenting journey and it is a hard truth to accept - that we can't be perfect? Feels like a given, but we want the very best for our kids and it's part of my work to accept that I can't home-run their childhood like I want to. But, I can do my own work and do my best by them. Anyway...With compassion and attention, we can utilize the practices and skills in Growing Up Again to help fill in those holes.

I encourage you to try this exercise. It may feel funny at first, but "remember, experience is the architect of the brain." (pg 208)

Let me know how it goes!




Friday, September 22, 2017

Five Essential Oil Organizers {to help organize your life}

My essential oil bottles live in a wire basket from the Target $1 section...and then one on the window sill, one in the medicine cabinet, and a few in another old cosmetic bag from the clearance section of Old Navy. Sound familiar? The conversation, "where's such-and-such oil?" comes with the answer, "check the med cabinet, or the bathroom cupboard, or above the sink - oh, you know what? It's in my jacket pocket in the closet." Confusion and frustration ensue.

In a quest to be more organized, a new essential oil organizer is on my list. Some very creative individuals are creating super pretty and functional oil organizers, and I think I might - no, I know that I need (want) one.



This wooden storage case holds up to 59 bottles and comes with some bonuses, too. At only $29.99 plus free shipping, with almost all 5 star reviews, this is my top contender for at-home organization. If the budget allows, you could splurge for a $50 model with even more bells and whistles.


(photo from reviewer Gina Karol) 

This round organizer would be cute enough to leave out on the counter. It holds 37 of the 15mL or smaller bottles and is made of raw wood. The picture isn't very clear on the site, but the customer photos in the reviews are clearer so you can see what it looks like up close. 



Ugh, I love Liberty of London fabrics! Sew Grown makes these dainty, beautiful cases that fit 8 roller bottles. 



Hytek Gear essential oil case looks sturdy with nice neutral fabric. This would be better for longer travel, as it fits 30 bottles of multiple sizes. It's a great price, too. 





I love the design on the inside of this stained pine box. The reviews are high, and it can hold 69 bottles! Another option for at-home storage. There are a few smaller versions, too. 




BONUS!  This isn't just an essential oil organizer, it's also a diffuser case! Handmade by Baggage and Co., this pretty case comes with pockets for 8 oils on the inside AND the diffuser to boot! Everyone can use another diffuser, right?

Here are my top five. Which is your favorite? How do you organize your oils?




Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Our Kid-Friendly Glacier National Park Itinerary {Adventures in Family Camping: Part 4}





We planned. We packed. Now it was time to load it all up and hit the road!

Coming from Oregon we'd be driving for around 10 hours. It could have been done in one drive but we decided to split it up into two days and stay one night in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. The next day, we hit the road in the morning and pulled into Glacier Campground in West Glacier (with a pit-stop for Huckleberry milkshakes along the way and for new sleeping bags in Kalispell) later that afternoon. The next morning, Andy drove into the Park at 7AM and found a campsite for us in the Apgar Campground. We made it! Commence GNP Itinerary!


A few notes: 
  • This was our itinerary with two 6-year-olds and a 3-year-old. Their endurance is limited and it would have been easy to try to cram in a lot of hikes and trips. But, we want these kinds of trips to be a) enjoyable in their memories and b) sustainable for us as parents. So we majorly downgraded our expectations and as someone who normally plans out itineraries to the hilt, it was the best thing for our family! 
  • If you have small kids, plan for a "camp day" in between day trips. We found that the every-other-day schedule worked beautifully for us. 
  • There are a lot of itinerary ideas online. Take what you like and make it your own! We barely scratched the surface of Glacier National Park and our trip back next time will most likely be a totally different experience. 

Our Kid-Friendly Glacier National Park Itinerary



Day 1 - Settle In and Explore Apgar

Settle into camp. Walk to Apgar Village (.2 miles) to check out the lake and the grocery/ice cream situation. Get huckleberry ice cream at Eddy's and walk down to the lake shore. The view from McDonald Lake is beautiful and the water is crystal clear and that glacial water is COLD! Walk back to camp and eat dinner, then walk over to the Apgar Ampitheater for a ranger talk. Get your Junior Ranger booklets to complete and turn in for your badges in the next few days and learn about the geological history of Glacier that led it to be designated a World Heritage Site! 




Day 2 - Trail of the Cedars/Lake Day

Trail of the Cedars. Go early, if you can, to find parking. We went late and it took us a while to park. It's a congested area with all the hike entrances and the Avalanche Campground. Don't forget snacks. If energy levels are good, continue on from the Trail of the Cedars and do the Avalanche Lake hike. 

Come back to camp and gather swim stuff and head to the Lake. Go to the Day Visitors area of Apgar for more shoreline space. We brought an inflatable SUP and it works perfectly. Walk back to camp for dinner and IF spirits are good, head to the Apgar Visitor Center parking lot for astronomy viewing with volunteer astronomers. 



Day 3 - Camp Day

Spend the day close to the campsite. Go to a Junior Ranger talk at the Apgar Nature Center and get your Junior Ranger badges which will be pinned to the kids' clothing each morning from here on out. Maybe get some rest/naps in, if you're lucky. Bedtimes are late here as the sun is still shining until at least 9pm. Take a picnic dinner down to the lake for more swimming/SUP. 

Day 4 - Bowman Lake/Polebridge

Pack up early and head out to Bowman Lake and the town of Polebridge. The "town" is an off-grid collection of buildings: mercantile/bakery and a saloon built in the early 1900s, with cold beer in mason jars, a selection of groceries, and food.

If Polebridge is busy, head to Bowman Lake first. The lake is up a 6 mile dirt and rock road, and you might see a bear on the road! You'll drive into the Bowman Lake Campground and find day parking. Walk down to the lake and gasp at the stunning views. There are not very many people here and it's very peaceful. The only downside to Bowman over Lake McDonald on the kid-friendly perspective is the biting flies that hang out on the shoreline. They aren't terrible, but just annoying. Enjoy the water and maybe take a short hike along the North side of the lake. Come back to Polebridge and purchase some pastries from the Mercantile, making sure to get a few huckleberry bear claws for breakfast. Between the Mercantile and Northern Lights Saloon is a sand volleyball court and some kids play structures that the kids can dig in/climb around on while you sit out on a picnic bench under the saloon's shady trees and enjoy a cold Montana-brewed beer.

On the way back to camp, if you're hungry and don't want to make dinner, stop for BBQ at Home Ranch Bottoms. It's a very small restaurant serving locals and some tourists with filling food and deliciously smoked BBQ. Hear locals talk about the effect of the wolves coming back and feel conflicted. Remember that there are no simple answers when humans and animals co-exist.  





Day 5 - Camp Day/Laundry Day

After a busy day trip, this morning is relaxed and you toss around ideas for the day. In our case, you may have had one child who had a nighttime accident two nights in a row and you need to find a laundromat to wash sleeping bags and throw in all the clothes, towels, etc. to wash, too. In this case, pile into the car and drive into West Glacier to ask at the KOA (you have to be staying to use facilities), then find a frightening place in Coram that is a definite NO, then finally find one in Hungry Horse. Load your clothes into three triple-load washers and then walk to the adjoined grocery store to find cheap cast iron pans and groceries that you'll probably need. 

Find a distillery on the way back to West Glacier and get some small-batch whiskey and vodka. You deserve it! Get back to camp late but load everyone up and drive down to the lake anyways for an evening swim/paddle. Dinner is quick and bedtime is needed. Make a much-deserved cocktail with your local liquor. 

Day 6 - Going To The Sun Road and Many Glacier/Swiftcurrent Lake

Finally getting to do the Going to The Sun Road! Head out as early as you can (in this case it was STILL 10:30am before we got out of camp) and hope to get to Many Glacier for a hike and to see if there are any campsites available in case you decide to move over to the east side. 

The Sun Road is breathtaking and beyond words - a bucket list experience. It's nerve-wracking, too. The narrow roads climb high and the going can be slow. The road was completed in 1933 and its history is fascinating. Stop out at a few vista points and hope for parking at Logan Pass Visitor Center. If there is no parking, keep going. Change plans to do one of the hikes that starts at Logan and postpone it for another day. Cross the Continental Divide and see the immediate shift in the landscape.




Come out at St. Mary, leave the Park for a few miles, and circle back in at the Many Glacier entrance. Here, the Park is much drier with a more "Wild West" feel to it. It is supposedly the "remote" area of the park but note how many people are here - it's crowded! The scoop from a reputable source says there are less amenities in Many Glacier but the hiking is better. The Many Glacier campground hosts say it is fairly impossible to get a campsite here unless you've reserved, and they start handing out first-come, first-serve numbers at 7am. Abandon plan to move to this side of the park and decide Apgar is treating the family well. Next time! 

Find the Many Glacier Campground picnic area and have lunch before heading out on the hike around Swiftcurrent Lake and the Swiftcurrent Nature Trail. The trail is 3 miles long, which is the perfect length for the kids' stamina. If your energy level is higher and there is enough time, veering off to the Grinnell Glacier hike would be a highlight experience. Another time. Remember the Boba carrier this time and put the 3-year-old up to see if she'll nap. She does! Enjoy the beautiful hike around the lake and end at the century-old Many Glacier lodge for an ice cream sandwich stop. Continue to circle around to the picnic area and realize you're going to be getting back to camp really late. Decide to embrace the journey and instead of going home on the Sun Road, head outside of the Park to East Glacier to Serrano's Mexican Restaurant for dinner and margaritas. East Glacier deserves some more exploring next time, too, because there won't be time to head to the Two Medicine area until next visit. Drive the LOOOONG way home around the South end of the park and drive back in with enough time to put everyone in bed. 



Day 7 - Camp Day

After such a long but fun day yesterday, it's time for another camp day. Enjoy your breakfast and coffee around the campsite and let the kids play. Walk up the Nature Center for a Jr. Ranger talk and ask for a replacement badge because someone already lost theirs. Get ice cream at Eddy's in Apgar Village. Scoot into West Glacier to Glacier Guides to reserve a Scenic Float Trip for the next morning. Relaxing dinner and bedtime and a camp cocktail. 



Day 8 - Scenic Float with Glacier Guides

A Scenic Float with Glacier Guides can be done by all ages, which is perfect for the small children. In the morning, get to the Guides headquarters at the appropriate time and ride a big blue school bus to the Flathead River launch. Your kids will think the bus ride is the best part of the adventure. Your guide will row you down a gentle section of the river while chatting about Glacier, wildlife, river life, etc. There are 3 "rapids" just bumpy enough to get the kids excited and there are quite a few calm spots to jump out into the frigid water and swim. If you're lucky, see a bald eagle. Enjoy the rainbow-colored rocks of the Flathead and take a deep breath. After the float, hit the burrito food truck Wandering Gringos on the way back and realize how massive these burritos are. Save them for dinner. 

Back at camp, either relax or head to the lake before going to another Ranger Talk at the amphitheater. After the talk it takes a long time to get everyone settled as they're becoming adjusted to the new later bedtime. No one blames you if you fall asleep with the kids! 




Day 9 - Junior Ranger Hike

Eat a quick breakfast with your late risers and send an adult to the Apgar Visitor Center to get the free tickets for the Star Party tomorrow night - they'll only hand out as many as the parking lot can hold. Hustle up to the Apgar Nature Center for the Jr. Ranger Hike with one of the rangers. With 10-12 kids, hike along Lower McDonald Creek, stop at a beaver dam, do a nature scavenger hunt, and try to help your kids use all their senses in the 1.5 hour hike. The kids will be in awe of the ranger and shy at first, but by the end of the hour, they'll want to hold her hand and tell her everything about their lives. Circle back around through Apgar Village and either eat lunch there or back at camp. Relax in camp and go for an early evening swim before an early bedtime because tomorrow night is the Logan Pass Star Party and it's going to be a late night. 




Day 10 - Hidden Lake Overlook / Logan Pass Star Party

This is the last day in camp! Time to tie up loose ends. If your kids wake up early and the day stretches wide before you, take the beautiful drive back to Polebridge for pastries and to buy cool souvenir hats and stuffed animals because the shops in the Park all have the same merchandise and none of it is catching your fancy. On the way back, circle through West Glacier to the distillery and get more whiskey and vodka. You're definitely taking some home with you! 

Pack up parts of camp that you can for the early departure tomorrow morning. Get on the road to Logan Pass for the Star Party around 3pm or 4pm. Plan to do the Hidden Lake Overlook hike before the Logan Pass Star Party starts and be SO GLAD that you did. This hike is gorgeous! See mountain goats congregating on the boardwalk paths up by the lake. They are walking right by you and the kids think it might be fun to chase them. Nope! Don't do that. They're close but still wild. 

Come back down to Logan Pass and make dinner out of the back of the car. Bundle everyone up as the temperature is dropping. Walk up to the Center to get a seat along the rock walls to watch the Astronomer presentation before taking a look through 10-12 mega telescopes. When darkness falls, around 11pm, be astounded at the Milky Way while the kids want to go back to the car and go to sleep. Take shifts with the two adults still awake - one at the car looking at the stars, the other walking around looking through the telescopes. See the moon, star clusters, nebulas, and the andromeda galaxy. Stay in the parking lot until midnight and make your way back down the Going to the Sun Road in the middle of the night which is it's own experience. Everyone stays asleep as you put them in their sleeping bags. 







Day 11 - Ready to go! 

Camp is mostly packed up and around 8am, hopeful campers will begin driving through the campground to ask you if you're leaving. Someone reserves your spot and you quickly take down the camper and get everyone strapped in. Say goodbye to Apgar, to Lake McDonald, and to Glacier National Park. This place has been so good to your family! You'll be back. You only scratched the surface. You're already planning for your next trip back to Glacier, where you'll spend more time in Many Glacier, Two Medicine, and will not forget the passports so you can visit the Waterton-Glacier sister park in Canada. 





Building Your Own Itinerary Resources:








Monday, September 4, 2017

Visionary Vitamin: Ritual Multivitamin Review



(Disclaimer: I'm an affiliate of Ritual Vitamins and they kindly sent me a month's supply of vitamins to try, but all opinions are my own. There are affiliate links in this post!)

As a busy mother of three I'm not always good at self-care. Sure, I have a whole cupboard in my kitchen full of herbal, homeopathic, and natural supplements and remedies. And I use them often for my kids and husband. But not very often for me!

Last year I saw an N.D. for serious fatigue and depression that was still lingering after seeking intensive care for my brain injury. I slept 10+ hours per night and had scary depressive thoughts during certain times in my cycle. I could almost time them by looking at the calendar. It was really frustrating! I did a saliva adrenal test and some blood testing and found out that my adrenals were tanked and I had symptoms of PCOS. Rather than going for a full on "diagnosis," the doctor and decided to pursue natural treatments to see if we could resolve my symptoms.

Besides taking adrenal support supplementation and finding ways to incorporate healthier habits into my day, I also was on the hunt for a really great multivitamin - and I am a multivitamin skeptic. Then I promptly forgot. Funny how that happens.

In comes Ritual. I really liked their list of ingredients and intrigued by their company (see: This Mom-Owned Vitamin Company Just Raised 10.5 Million in Funding). Ritual was kind enough to send me a month's supply to see for myself and to share the love (if I do indeed love them!)

photo: Ritual

The verdict so far?

I really like this vitamin.

I like:

- Low dosages. I'm not scared of the amount, thinking "should I be taking this much?" I also have major tummy sensitivity with any high-dosage vitamins. Zinc flu, anyone? I have not had one upset stomach on Ritual and I have been taking them in the morning.

- Cost. At $30 per month, this is comparable - or even less - to what I would pay getting a random multi at Whole Foods or Natural Grocers. Plus, they ship it to me!

- Simple ingredients and transparency. Vegan, non-GMO, gluten-free, soy-free, sugar-free, and dairy-free. Yes! These vitamins are literally transparent. You can see exactly what's inside, their supply chain is traceable, and their website is incredibly informative.

- The scent/taste! Ok, so it is a vitamin you swallow (and it goes down easily), but it's special because it has a scent and hint of peppermint due to the peppermint essential oil. I love this! The bottle also says it contains natural vanilla flavor, which I haven't tasted, but I appreciate this little "touch".

I'll report back in a few weeks. Meanwhile, check out Ritual for yourselves!


Thursday, August 31, 2017

Packing for a Family Camping Trip (Adventures in Family Camping: Part 3)

Packing for Camping


Now that we had our campsite "secured" (read here), it was time to PACK.

This trip is the longest we've been on as a family, and besides from a 2-night camping trip with very ill children (fail), this is the very first time we've all camped together. What could go wrong on a 13 day trip? Turns out, not much! In hindsight, we did pretty awesome at packing, which is a point of pride for me because I usually forget quite a lot.

Perusing Pinterest for camping hacks and checklists offered up a wealth of posts and articles. The most attractive was the "bin system". I tweaked it to cater to our family's needs, as we wouldn't be tent camping because we have the tent trailer. My mom emailed me a "master list" that my uncle had put together over the years, plus I also used the checklist from my favorite Down & Dirty Guide to Camping with Kids book and the very adorable and helpful Camp Sunset that I borrowed from my neighbor (affiliate links, love both these books.)



So, here's the thing. I never knew it cost so much to prepare to sit in the woods! Simplistic, but it felt like we had nothing. We had a trailer, and a propane stove, and a few odds and ends. Being that we were on a budget, I also couldn't spend a lot. Being as low-waste as possible was also a high priority so I went through what we had in our kitchen that we could use as opposed to purchasing a new item.

Caveats to this list:

1) We have a tent trailer, so things you'll need for setting up a tent aren't lists. We also did not need air mattresses or sleeping pads, which i'm guessing you'll want if sleeping on the hard ground.

2) We are camping in bear country. Camp has to clean of any food, food scraps, dishwater, handwashing water, or scented toiletries EVERY time we leave. Kitchen gear is kept to the minimum.

3) I wanted to be as low-waste as possible, so we didn't buy any disposable dishware or utensils. You might want these, though! I actually ended up just bringing our daily Fiestaware dishware and figured if one broke, it was high time because we've had them for 10 years and not lost one yet. None broke!

I bought 2 heavy-duty bins from Costco and emptied out 3 rubbermaids that we had at home. I printed out my lists, divided by box, and taped each list to the top of the appropriate lid.

Links shown below take you to the actual product I personally purchased on Amazon. Bless that 2-day shipping!

Bin 1: Campground Box

Safety whistles
First Aid Kit
Compass
Bear Spray - get the one with the holster to keep it close
Headlamps - one for ea. person
Flashlights
Solar Lantern
Pocket Knife
Bungee Cords
Hammock
Rope
Tarp
Duct Tape
Emergency Blankets
Hammer/Screwdriver
Big bucket with lid for wastewater - this was a last minute grab at our house and it ended up being ESSENTIAL. Grab one at a hardware store.

Bin 2: Kitchen Box

Foldable Dish Bin for washing/rinsing dishes (I bought this one. I'll buy this one next, though.)
Biodegradable Dish Soap (Dr. Bronner's or I hear Dawn is biodegradable, too)
Dish Towels
Dish Gloves
Hand santizer
Sponge
Chainmail Scrubber for cast iron pan
Trash bags
Paper Towels
Plastic Container w/spigot for handwashing
Pot holders
Stove Fuel
Matches/Lighters
Cast iron pan(s)
Pasta Pot
Tea pot (or just use the pasta pot)
Cooking utensils
Cutting board
Tin Foil
Biodegradable Soap
Broom & Dustpan
Serrated Knife
Kitchen knife
Kitchen scissors
Spatula
Corkscrew
Vegetable Peeler
Can opener
Collapsible colander
Collapsible Mixing Bowl
Tablecloth w/fasteners
Coffee Gear
Camp mugs
Reusable plastic cups
Plates & Bowls
Silverware (1 set per member)
Napkins
1 box Ziploc bags
Marshmallow forks

Bin 3: Kid's Box

Mancala
Art & Coloring Supplies
Velcro Paddles & Ball
Books
Canteens (a present from Grammy and a huge hit with the girls!)
Coleman Kids Nature & Adventure Sets: Binoculars, magnifying glass, etc. (also a gift and very popular with my kids)
Sunglasses & Sunhats
Swimsuits & Rashguards

Bin 4: Toiletries

Towels
Baby Wipes
Sunscreen
Natural Bug Spray
Toilet paper
SPF lip balm
Biodegradable liquid soap (Dr. Bronner's)
Hard soap in soap container
Toiletries for each
Hand sanitizer

Bin 5: Dry Foods

All the dry foods we organized in this bin. And I was actually pleasantly surprised (ok, shocked) that we forecasted pretty well as to what foods we'd need. Besides traveling, we only ate out twice! when we were staying in Glacier. That's pretty good for us!

Duffel Bag:
Sheets, Pillowcases, Extra Blankets
(If you are tent camping, you could put all this in a bin.)

Other: 
Propane Stove
Camp Table - super handy!
Camp Chairs
Sun Tent/play tent
Bikes & Helmets
Inflatable Standup Paddlboard (This is ours, we LOVE it!)
Kids' Sleeping Bags

This list served our family beautifully. Sure, there are ways we will tweak, add to, and subtract from it in the future. For sure, I've got a camping wish list going. But for our first outing together for two whole weeks, we barely needed to buy anything, besides new sleeping bags for the girls in Kalispell and new ice every day. Good job us!




What did I miss? I'm sure quite a bit. I'd love to know your list must-haves, too!




Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Finding a Campsite in Glacier National Park (Adventures in Family Camping: Part 2)


Finding a Campsite

After we settled on heading to Glacier National Park we had to assess the campsite issue. Due to our lack of early planning, we couldn't find any open reservations and would have to take our chances on the first-come, first-serve sites. Due to the fact that Glacier is estimating another record-shattering number of visits this year, I was more than a little nervous that we would be out of luck.

Taking a gamble on the campsites was feeling stressful for both of us - what if we drive 10 hours only to find that there is nowhere for us to stay? Luckily, the National Parks has a real-time campground status website that shows each campground and what time it filled up that day. Then you can click on a specific campground icon and find out detailed and pertinent info you'd need to know.

This was really helpful for me as this would be our first visit to Glacier, and you can look at a map as much as you want (and I did, I practically memorized it) but you still don't really know what it will be like until you get there.



Glacier National Park Campsites

The other issue was that we would be towing the tent trailer, so the primitive and hike-in spots weren't an option. We also wanted a campsite that would be convenient to some amenities - we'd need ice for the coolers every day - and was more centrally located so we wouldn't have to spend unnecessary time driving to and from for day hikes and other trips.

The campgrounds in Glacier that can accommodate a trailer are: Apgar, Fish Creek, Avalanche, St. Mary, Many Glacier, and Two Medicine (Technically, Bowman Lake doesn't "allow" towed vehicles because it's a long dirt road, but we did see a tent trailer and a little camper up there! So you could take your chances). 

Since we'd be coming to Glacier from the West, we decided to start the trip out in the west side of the park. This meant our options were Apgar, Fish Creek, Sprague Creek, and possibly even Avalanche. 

After looking at all the campground photos I could find online, Apgar looked like it would be the best fit for our family. It is walking distance to Apgar Village and Lake McDonald, so we wouldn't have to drive if we wanted a day close to home. Ice, ice cream, and the Nature Center with ranger talks would also be walking distance. 

To get to the campsite in time to get a spot, we'd stay outside the park the night before and Andy would get up bright and early and head in to secure a site. 

(Spoiler: While there, we made a point to visit almost every campground we could get to and we were both ultimately super pleased with Apgar as our choice.) 

GNP Campgrounds
NPS.gov - the National Parks Service and Recreation.gov for making SOME camp reservations in advance. Some of the campgrounds above are only first-come, first-serve. Again, you can check the status of all Glacier campgrounds HERE, updated daily.

Campground Options Outside the Park

There are quite a few campgrounds outside of the park that would a good option to a) stay at the night before, as we planned to do and b) stay at your entire trip to avoid vying for a spot. This means a bit more driving, though.

Glacier Campground  


We were lucky enough to get a campsite at Glacier Campground a few miles outside the park and it was the LAST one available. You have to call them, too, no email. I'll post more about this campground but it was a lovely spot with a great cafe and a playground, and cheaper than the KOA. We'd definitely stay there again.

KOA West Glacier


I looked here too but it was fully booked and it was more pricey than we were looking for. We did visit this campground on our hunt for a laundromat after Dylan had some nightly accidents (more great memories!) but you have to be staying here to use their facilities. It's very clean with a pool, ice cream shop, laundromat - everything you'd expect from a top-notch KOA.

Did I forget anything? Let me know in the comments!

Next up: Packing for a 2-week camping trip with a family of five (are we crazy? we might be!) 






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