Monday, 29 June 2015

What to take when you go camping (with toddlers)

Almost 2 years ago (I really cant believe it was that long ago!) I posted up a quick kit list of all the things we take when we go camping for 4 days. Had I known at the time it was going to be one of my most re-pinned pins on Pinterest and most visited post, I would have taken more time over the post rather than just throwing something together as a response to a email I received!

Today I am updating that list, The girls have grown up a lot since then and many of the things we had on the original list, like dummies for the girls, are no longer needed. Plus we have had another child! Our new kit list is based on the way that we like to camp. For example, we like to take 2 tents with us, our main one with carpets and bedrooms and a separate day tent to cook and eat in. We also have a kitchen unit to put the cooker on in the day tent, but if you are new to camping, these things aren't actually needed.

Our kit list is a mixture of essentials and luxuries but all of the items make our camping experience a little bit better, from the folding bin that means we don't have to have a bin bag floating around the tent to the beach tent shelter that enables us to have a home from home when we decamp to the beach for the day, every item is essential and I honestly couldn't live without it. Everyone's kit will, and should, be unique to their family. This list is very much based on the needs of our family, Ollie has asthma so a baby mask for the inhaler is essential for us, but you may have other medical or physical needs. Play around with your list until you find something that works for you.

You can download and print off a full copy of my list here

Take a look at my top 5 tips for camping with toddlers to see how we use some of these things.

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Monday, 22 June 2015

My top 5 tips for camping with toddlers

The first time Adam and I went camping was when we'd only been married a few months. We picked up a cheap 2 man tent, a couple of sleeping bags and an air bed and thought every thing would be great. It wasn't, it really wasn't. We pitched our new tent in the rain and we were wet and tired once we'd finished. The tent was alot smaller than we expected, but we thought we'd make the most out of it anyway. Halfway through that first night we discovered the tent had leaked leaving us lying in a puddle, the air bed had deflated and the wind had whipped through it leaving us freezing cold. We retreated to the car and, first thing the following morning, we packed up and took the tent straight back to the shop. It took a couple more years before we gained the courage to try camping again, but when we did, we had learnt so much from that first expiearience. We now go camping every year and absolutely love it! Here are my top 5 tips to enjoy camping with your children.

1) Keep warm during the night
The main thing we learnt about camping was that if we were dry and warm we could do anything. Being warm during the night often means a better night's sleep and the ability to tackle anything in the morning. At night time the children wear thermal vests, pj's and a big fleecy onesie on top. They then have their quilts off their beds and a big fleecy snugly blanket. I also take enough blankets so that they have the option of having another one if they need it. For us adults we wear tracksuits, have our quilt and snugly fleecy blankets. I'm a person who always feels the cold so I usually have a pair of gloves and a woolly hat to hand, and don't forget those think thermal socks too!

2) Take a potty
Trekking out in the middle of the night because Millie needs the toilet is no fun. Trekking back just to find that Callie now needs to go too is just really not funny. We take a make-shift travel potty made up of a small peddle-bin liner placed over a potty, lined with thick cheep maternity pads (think 10 for 20p). When the kids have finished we tie up the bin liner and place it in a nappy sack ready to put in the bin in the morning. Job done! I also like to believe that the less we unzip the tent at night the warmer we all stay!

3) Buy the comfiest chairs
Somewhere comfortable to sit can transform a camping trip, especially with young children. A comfortable place to feed a baby, nurse a hurt knee or sit and relax for a few moments once the kids have gone to sleep is essential. A few weeks ago, on our last camping trip, our chairs broke. I am gutted, but am on the look out for new ones in time for our next camping trip later in the month.

4) A dustpan and brush can save a marriage
I am very tent proud, I like my tent to stay tidy and grass and leaf free, especially as I have a toddling toddler who likes to pick up every thing and eat it. That's not so easy when you are camping in the middle of a field! I love my little dustpan and brush and we have a little morning routine down where I send out the kids to play with Adam while I sweep out the tent. I find it really therapeutic sweeping out all my frustrations, the dustpan and brush definitely contribute to our marital harmony while we are camping.

5) Have a couple of Thermos mugs
I bought these on a whim one particularly cold August and they have been an absolutely essential part of our kit since. A hot drink in the morning to warm us up while the sun warms up the tent and a hot drink in the evening to warm us up before we snuggle down in bed is just perfect.

My bonus tip is to invest in a good tent. The tent we now have is a totally enclosed 8 man pod tent, complete with a carpet, that's big enough to stand in and with a large space where the girls can play when its raining outside (we also have a separate kitchen tent). This is a major factor in why we now enjoy camping. A large pod tent isn't for everyone, some people prefer a tunnel tent, bell tent, tepee or trailer tent. Do your research and whichever one you choose, make sure you invest in the best one your money can buy.

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Thursday, 18 June 2015

Last minute fathers day plans and a cute little bookmark

Every year I leave fathers day to the last minute, in fact 2 years ago I was here writing almost the very same words! I'm not yet sure what we're going to do for fathers day, but all day I have been scouring Pinterest in the hope that I might be struck with inspiration.

A few years ago I asked Millie some questions all about Daddy, which was really fun, I was too overwhelmed by the newborn stage last year to remember to do it, so this year, (particularly as the girls have destroyed it) I think I'll upgrade it adding some answers from Callie too. These are so much fun to do and a great way to document how your child feels about their dad year after year. I'm also really excited about doing it this year as I have a laminater so can make one that will stand the test of 3 toddlers!

If you wanted to try making a book mark like we did (and are going to upgrade), I asked Millie to finish off the following sentences, you can make up your own or use ours.

- My daddy is funny because...
- My daddy thinks I'm funny because...
- My daddy is {how old?}
- My daddy's favourite thing to do is...
- My daddy's favourite colour is...
- When my daddy goes to work her does ...
- My Daddy's favourite food is ...
- My daddy loves me because ...
- My daddy always talks about...
- I love my daddy because...

I also really love these matching father and son t-shirt's from Mothercare, I just know that Adam would just love to dress the same as his son, just maybe not in public! And I'm loving this Sharpie scribble mug from the 'I heart arts and craft' blog, I love the idea of all the kids having a go at creating some art work they can all be proud of together that's also very practical.

My fall back has also been a few bottles of root beer and a decent pick a mix, it's Adams favourite and always puts a smile on his face. Although now I've written this post, and no doubt he'll have read it,  I'm going to have to come up with some new ideas!

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Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Beach day fail

Have you ever woken up and just known the day was going to go badly? Call me a pessimist, but that is exactly how my day started yesterday. When Ollie started fussing at 4.45, I just knew it was a day to stay at home and hunker down rather than branching out and attempting the fun day we had planned; but I had promised the girls and the day must go on and to the beach we were destined to go.

We've been to Sandbay beach lots, but I'll be honest, I've never actually ventured past the sandy dunes you can see on this picture, but I was told the sand wasn't far away. We walked out over the dunes and looked where the lovely soft sand was and realised it was a small hike. Undeterred we pressed on laden down with a picnic, beach shelter, towels and everything you could possibly need for a fun day at the beach, thinking it would be worth it in the end. The further we walked the further the sand seemed to get, it was never ending, but finally we reached the sand that had no pebbles that was soft enough for us to set down for the day. I attempted to put up the beach shelter, the wind was so strong it kept trying to take off, finally 20 minutes, tent pegs, guy tropes, many many large rocks, all our bags and me sat in it, it wasn't going to go anywhere...As long as I didn't move!

The sun was shining and it was a glorious day, the kids played for about 10 minutes before deciding they were hungry. I brushed and towelled off the sand and handed round the picnic to hungry children, unfortunately sandwiches were dropped in sand, toddlers refused to stay sat down to eat and finally came whines of  'my hands are too sandy', 'I'm cold' and my favourite 'can we go home now'. So with that we packed up and trekked the small hike back to the car. It was so not worth all that effort for less than an hour sat on the beach! We ended up in the back garden of my mums house where the kids forgot all about the wind and how cold they were and enjoyed playing together in the sun shine.

I've not been completely put off the whole experience though, tomorrow I plan to try again, this time in a better mood at a different beach (where I can park much closer) and hopefully it will be a better experience all round.

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Friday, 12 June 2015

Millie's Glasses

Millie has always wanted to wear glasses, for her that is the ultimate sign she is a grown up girl, all of her grandparents, half of her aunties and uncles and of course Adam and I both wear glasses, so it makes sense that she sees this as the mark of 'big girl' life.

This week we went along for her annual optician appointment, I tried my best to manage her disappointment from the outset, telling her that she could only have glasses if the optician said she needed them and reminding her that at her last appointment she didn't need them and that may be the outcome this time.

We went into the appointment and she was asked to read off letters and numbers, pick out letters from a line-up and look straight ahead while the optician had a good look at her eyes and then came the words she had been waiting to hear. The optician looked at me and said, 'I'm going to give her a weak prescription for....' before she had even finished speaking Millie had leapt off the chair and ran to the door. She knew exactly what glasses she wanted and was ready to grab them!

She got to try on many different styles and picked 2 she liked the best, unfortunately the optician wouldn't sign-off one of the pairs as they were a little big around her ears, but she was happy to go back and pick another.

She is thrilled to have reached this 'milestone' in her life and finally be a big girl. Now how do I break it to her that its only for 4 months and then it will be reviewed!

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Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Ploughing in a blizzard

I was driving down the road once on a bitterly cold day, the sun was shining and everyone was driving along hapily. Fast forward 60 minutes and there were thick white clouds in the sky, tumbling all around us were heavy flakes of snow. Drivers were getting slower and slower on the roads, the lane lines were disappearing and visibility was extremely poor. What once was busy fast moving 2 lane duel carriageway, was now a very slow single-file road. It felt like every inch we drove we were taking our lives in our hands. On the opposite side of the road was a snowplough, doing its best to shovel the snow as it continued to flutter down all around us. It was doing it's best but, it seemed to me, it wasn't making a single bit of difference. I've been thinking about that snowplough a lot today, trundling along even though it all seemed pointless to me, why would it bother? What's the point?

Its all to easy to relate this experience with my life, I'm sure most, if not all, of you have heard the saying "tidying a house with toddlers is like shovelling snow while its still snowing". As I write this I have washing overflowing in the bathroom, the girls are meant to be tidying their room but I hear them playing (and fighting) rather than tidying! My kitchen is tidy, but only because I sacrificed the living room in order to make it happen! The fight in the girls room has escalated and I need to step in. Millie is now whining at me, and Callie joins in. Its impossible to keep more than 1 room tidy at a time while my 3 adorable monkeys are rampaging through it faster than I can blink! Last night I found myself saying, what's the point?! Why am I bothering? And then I started thinking about the snowy day and the lonely snowplough that was attempting to keep the streets snow free during a blizzard.

Its easy to say 'what's the point', its easy to give up and dismiss what good you are doing. It may have seemed pointless for the snowplough to be ploughing during the blizzard, but then I remember the delicate lines of snow it was leaving on the road side. Its job, though seemingly pointless to me at the time, was to keep the streets from getting too bad. Imagine the state of the roads had he not been out. Imagine how many accidents there could have been, imagine the people in the the cars that would have skidded across the road being seriously injured, or worse dying, in the blizzard.

Its so easy to dismiss my efforts as a mother, to dismiss what I do during a day, to say my efforts just aren't worth it and why do I bother, particularly with so many little ones around. Then I imagine the mess that would encircle me, I imagine the fights that would escalate further, I imagine the children that would miss me and I know, without any doubt, my job is worth it. Shovelling snow in a blizzard isn't easy, but it is so worth it.

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