Archive for the ‘family camping’ category

It takes a team to raise a child

June 15, 2012
Father's  Day is to honor fathers and the chores they do for us. the commitment they make for us. this is the father of my children, who is willing to be silly

The best father I know, Reliable Bob at the annual Country Fair selling trash and treasures.

Jane, the lead female character in “Lie Down with Lions,” a 1986 Ken Follet book,  is torn between two men. In a dramatic chase scene through the Afghan mountains with one of the men and her baby, Jane is contemplates who to choose: the good man or the evil spy. She has only two diapers for the baby for the arduous journey.

At the end of the day of the man she camped out with in the mountains washed out the diaper at the end of the day. This simple gesture, when she was mentally and physically exhausted, meant a lot to her.That scene illustrates the demands of parenthood, how one person can’t fulfill a child’s every need, and the value of partnership. I loved that scene because his willingness to wash out the diaper said something about his character and commitment.

It’s always easier to face a challenge together. I remember one night when Bob and I had one of our famous “in-house dates.” I fed the four kids early with one of their favorites — chicken nuggets, and put them in front of a movie while we shared a special dinner with candlelight and wine. Then we put the kids to bed and watched an adult movie. Voila, dinner and movie, without going out.

When we went upstairs at 11 pm to check on the kids, both boys had vomited in their beds. The only thing worse than one boy vomiting in their bed is two boys vomiting in their beds. It was disgusting. We cleaned up two beds and bathed two boys when all we wanted to do was to fall into bed. Teamwork made it tolerable, and a shared memory that strengthened our long-term bond.

Happy Fathers Day to all you guys out there. Plant the seeds of your love to grow as the tree commitment, to stay rooted when the hurricanes and tornadoes threaten to uproot a marriage.

How long can the cocoon last?

March 5, 2012
empowering children, when to have a knife? how safe is safe. Keeping kids safe. Chores, discipline, how to decide, using family meetings and encouragement for toddlers, tweens, teens and school age

Bree is cutting cantaloupe with a very sharp knife. At what age should children be given knives to use?

This picture caused a stir among the workshop room full of parents, day care providers and child-health professionals at a conference I presented at in February in Rhode Island.Comments included: “Just looking at that knife makes me nervous!”

“I’d never let my preschooler have a sharp knife.”

“Is she standing on a stool?

Later, I called my nephew Sean, father of knife-wielding-3-year-old-Bree and reported the women’s response. The audience was female except for one man, who didn’t object. Sean chuckled and said, “Some of my friends’ kids live in a safety cocoon. They never touch knives, scissors or fire.”

Wow. Why deprive children learning about the power of knives, scissors and fire under a parent’s guiding hand? They must live in a sterile bubble where parents hover, ensuring Junior never encounters danger, challenge or failure.

One of the best things we can do for our children is to let them play with knives, scissors and fire — talking about and taking safety measures, teaching how to use knives and matches safely, and how to operate kitchen appliances and basement tools.

I remember the intense heat of a huge campfire my brother Danny built on a camping trip when he was 17 years old and I was 12. The four of us kids compared all subsequent campfires to that glorious blaze, created with our parents nearby, silently watching. Danny, Mary, Brian and I worked as a team to gather wood, stoke it up and make a bed of coals that lasted until morning.

When another nephew and niece visited our home a few years ago at age 16 and 11, they lamented the ban on fires at the summer community on the Chesapeake Bay. I gave them permission to build a fire on our waterfront, and they were thrilled. Fire, knives and scissor have power.

Kids need practice at living life. Practice includes risk and sharp objects and gaining confidence and competence that “I can do it.” When we make too many decisions for our children, protect them from all things lethal, and intervene when hazards lurk, how will they learn what it feels like to hold a knife and use it responsibly?

What do you think? Are your kids allowed to build a fire in the backyard, cut cantaloupe with a knife, and play with matches and candles while you’re around? How do you handle danger?


The great outdoors is fun, frugal and local

July 18, 2011
Family fun can come in all sizes and shapes. Family connection is one of the most important aspects of summer vacation. Fun Frugal family times can be found in nature. Nature and kids seem to go together.

That's me, about to take a swing on the rope swing.

I want to jump back into this picture when we found this rope swing while on vacation with another family on Bustin’s Island in Maine. It was better than an amusement park, closer and cheaper, too. We made our own fun together. Bustin’s Island is an 80-acre island off the coast of Freeport, Maine — no cars allowed. Everything must be hand-carried or put into one of the few pickup trucks that meets the small ferry and taken to rustic cottages. When we went there in the 1990s, most cottages had outhouses, gas lights and gas refrigerators. It was one step above camping and we loved it. The kids and dog could roam free. We found non-electronic things to do like this rope swing, canoeing, playing volleyball, picking blackberries and biking.   Getting outside and playing together is one of the best methods for family connection and a mental health remedy.

It can be as simple as  slowing down for backyard fun, a walk in the neighborhood park, taking a day trip, or going camping. Nature is therapeutic according to multiple studies. Nature is a conduit for family connection — one of the best ways to protect your kids against making bad decisions as they become tweens and teens.

A strong parent-child/tween/teen connection is the BEST insurance that they stay away from the bad list — you know that list of parental angst that only grows as they grow up. Find some time to get in your backyard, bike around the block or plant a few seeds. Your kids will remember these activities for a long time. It’s an investment in positive parenting because you can act like a kid and have fun with them.

Have a family meeting and make a list of simple outdoor activities your kids want to do this summer. Let loose and take a turn on the rope swing. Bring the camera.  Time passes fast.

Biking together is a great way to get eveyone in the family on the same page. Good parenting is all about Family connection. The easiest way to connect is to have fun together and act like a kid with your kids, tweens, and teens. Use summer vacation to find fun frugal cheap family adventures. You don't have to spend a lot of money to have fun together.

Dad on the tandem with Ian and Kristen in the last century.

Tune into wireless camping

September 7, 2010

They're about as cute as they come. Children love camping together. It's a great adventure. Raising children outdoors teaches them to appreciate the planet.

BFF. Camping will do that for people, even when things go awry.

What a glorious view. Dry weather out west helps make camping more enjoyable. Even though camping with young children is a lot of work, it's worth it. Camping together connects families to the great outdoors, to each other and to friends.

Two families bond with each other and the great outdoors.

Hey Grandma, look at me! I can roll out dough with my cup. THat's what I love about camping- improvising. Camping is most fun when done with groups of people

Grandma and Bree roll out pie crust together at camp.

This guest post is from my nephew Sean who touts the virtues of family camping.

After a 10-day tent camping trip with my wife, daughter (almost 2 ½) and my parents followed by another 3 night tent trip with another family of 4, I said to Susan that camping “is a time to really tune into your family.”

There was a lot of “tuning in.”  As new parents, we were a little nervous about driving thousands of miles with a 2-year-old strapped in the back of our Suburban.  We had space to bring lots of camping amenities and plenty of toys and books.

We decided to forgo electronic gadgets and screen devices and stick to our convictions to use screen time very sparingly.

Our goal was to make it out to Glacier National Park in Montana, which meant about 9.5 hours of driving from our Seattle home.  We chose to divide up the drive into two segments, stopping in North Central Washington for the first weekend.

That drive went uneventfully as Breanna slept about half of the time.  We strategically plan to drive during nap times, so this one encompassed her afternoon nap.  Two days later, we were on the road again, headed to GNP.  After arriving in the park and the rendezvous with my parents, we realized that we had not even turned on the radio the entire drive.

We became so in tune with our daughter’s banter or sleep that we didn’t even need the background noise.  In fact, Bree kind of kept us entertained after learning a few driving games.  Soon she was asking things like “What do you see, Daddy?” or “What color, Mommy?”  Those games translated into object identification games including barns, animals, and various trucks.  So we learned together, and what started out in fear ended up in learning, listening and tuning into one another’s sights and sounds.

The camping trip had lots of outdoor time, inter-generational cooking and discovery time outdoors seeing wildlife, trees, lakes and plants.  We made it through several long days of driving and ended up with in Bend, Oregon– all without a single DVD player!

Back home, one of the biggest realizations hit me.  Breanna had a chance to really tune into us as well.  I was printing and trimming some pictures from our trip; running around as I sometimes do.

Breanna was in the room with the printer and paper cutter.  Suddenly I heard, “Daddy, look!”  I called back “What, Bree?”  “Campfire!” she exclaimed.  I ran around the corner to see the most meticulous campfire built with kindling and all.  Bree had squirreled away the steps in making a campfire during our trip, and without even knowing it we had taught her a new skill.

She had placed the paper strips on the floor as kindling and found some table legs to use as logs over the kindling.  I was excited to see that Breanna had a chance to learn from and tune into us without us even knowing it.  Of course this reinforced my motivation for always being the best person I can for the sake of my family, especially my child(ren).

We spent 25 nights in a tent this summer and learned a lot about each other.  We spent time with several other families and became more intimate friends through cooking, doing camp chores and having real-life sleepovers.

For me, there have been great opportunities to get away from house projects, computers and phones.  Road trips provided great talking and tune-in time for our whole family and camping allowed us to divide up tasks and learn new chores.