Monday, May 30, 2011

Realizations after our camping fiasco: Surviving with a preschooler

Perhaps fiasco is too harsh of a word, but as a mom who in her past life loved to camp, I walked away from this weekend's 20-hour camping trip a little bit smarter.

After having a good night's (or two) worth of sleep in my own bed, I came to a few conclusions about camping with a precocious preschooler:

1. Know your location. Check out the web, brochures, online reviews, your friends...anyone you can to get their sense of the location and why their families liked and didn't like it. The reality for us was our Girl Scout council is trying to build the family camping program, so we didn't know people who had gone. Had we, we would have known that the platform tents area near the lake had less room for preschoolers to roam, and our money would have been better spent reserving in the "primitive camp" area, still not far from the lodge, where there would be space for the little guy to run around.

2. Nap time is futile. Maybe it's easier if your preschooler isn't in the middle of transitioning out of naps, but couple the excitement of sleeping away from home with the lack of naps, and you've got a recipe for "not listening" moments.

3. Realize your restrictions. The pint-size restrictions. Even though they can stare at a worm for 10 minutes at a walk at home, hiking for half an hour in the morning may not be as thrilling.

4. Plan for a little home essentials. Please, don't be like one of our platform tent neighbors and pack your DVD player, but bring a few comforts of home to make your trip more bearable. Like your preschooler's "tag" (or lovey). Or a football. Or a book or two to help them settle down if needed. Or crayons and paper while you're cooking over the gas stove.

5. Focus on the bright side. Yes, we had to bypass the latrines about 15 times to go to the indoor plumbing at the lodge, but at least I got my steps in!!
For your first few adventures, stick with sites closer to your home. It makes needing to cut your trip home short a little more bearable.

Any other tips you can share about camping with little ones?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Bear-Bear's Banana Berry Smoothie

Invented by my 3 year old, this smoothie was simple and turned out great!

1 large banana
4 large strawberries
1 tbsp. local honey
1 c. milk

Blend and enjoy!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Survival camping

Wasn't it Kenny Rodgers who said you had to know when to fold 'em?

Well, I caved. A mere 20 hours into our first camping trip, we were packing up and headed home.

Camping with a 3 and 5 year old for a weekend obviously meant I had a few screws loose. I posted the idea on my Facebook page for suggestions on managing it; there I got responses ranging from the optimistic ("Just tell them to stay away from the fire") to drugging them with Benadryl.

I figured I had it all planned out. Our Girl Scout council opens up one of its camps to families on Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends. I thought it was a great first forray into camping: no need to pitch a tent, family-friendly environment, unit house with kitchen in case it stormed, no drunken idiots.

I planned simple meals (hot dogs and Cheerios, anyone?) and hoped for the best.

Except I forgot who I was dealing with: Worn out children who were coping with lack of sleep from two night's worth of storms, a night with the engaged couple from church we were mentoring, the excitement of the end of school, the thrill of bike races the day before at day care, and by the way, we are CAMPING!

Somehow by the grace of God we straggled into camp at 8:30 p.m., delayed by the fact that life meant that we didn't start packing until six that night. The next morning, the kids were up as soon as daylight peaked through the gaps in our tent. They didn't want to hike the trails. They wanted to go into the ice-cold lake when it was still maybe 60 degrees outside. My daughter wanted to boat; my son didn't. Instead, I had to hear about whether we'd drown as we paddled the two of us across the lake while her brother and dad played in the nearby sand.

The men was what killed the trip. My little guy refused to understand the concept of staying with us, staying on the trail, watching for cars and, by the way, don't run out of the tent alone. Oh, and latrines? That would not be a consideration. Instead we hiked back and forth to the lodge so he could use the more modern facilities. Meanwhile, my husband, bless his heart, was getting sick not long after lunch.

So after one last roundtrip to the lodge and a hastily made batch of smores on the stove, I threw up the white flag. I knew when to walk away (though I felt like running). I swore to the camp manager that it wasn't about the camp (because we would go back!) as we hastily checked out two days early. We packed up and drove the hour home. The kids slept all the way. (Ninety minutes later, they're still out, husband included.)

It wasn't my fantasy weekend, happy memories of us sitting around the picnic table like when we camped as kids. But somehow, we all survived. And maybe, just maybe, the kids will find their glimmer as they recount their first camping trip.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

School supply savvy

The end is here!

School, that is.

Today, my baby will come home with her bag bursting with the last of her drawings, worksheets and half-used school supplies. Sure, from a clutter-busting perspective, I could recycle the papers and toss the rest. But I think there's a better purpose for my school supplies.

Last year, local story featured a public school teacher determined to have supplies ready for each of her students this fall. So determined she was, and knowing that many of her students were impoverished, she ended up dumpster diving at the very affluent Carmel Public Schools. She ended up with three carloads worth of school supplies, many of them in wrappers.

The reality is, in this case, your trash could be someone else's treasure. So if you're determined to toss your half-used school supplies before summer strikes, at least do it with purpose. Donate it to:

  1. Scout troop.

  2. Freecyle.

  3. Vacation Bible Schools, preschool programs and Parent's Day Out.

  4. Day care centers.

  5. Homeless shelters.

  6. Any social service organization - many clients may have to take their children with them, and art supplies and notebooks would occupy them while they are waiting.

  7. Goodwill.

  8. Garage sales.

  9. Survival packets to take to church (or any other place where kids have to be quiet but struggle.) It's great to be able to hand a frustrated parent some extra crayons and pages to color on!

  10. Retirement homes. You'd be surprised what craft supplies will do to help our older generations who just need some stimulation!

Any place else I missed?

A little hail damage never looked so good

Given the craziness of this spring's weather, I'm grateful to live with a little hail damage on my car and a knocked-out porch light after yesterday's three rounds of tornado warnings and storms. Haven't taken a full tour of the property, but my loved ones are safe, and I can live with that.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Trippin into Agritourism

Originally published at the Green Phone Booth, March 2010

Growing up, our trips were largely relegated to two locations: my grandparents in Wisconsin and to the Rocky Mountains for camping. The idea of field trips on a weekend wasn't largely entertained, that I remember.With two kids under the age of 5, spending dollars on amusement parks, water parks, skiing (yes, we do that in Indiana) and other high-ticket activities seems to be a waste of money.

Instead, we've centered our activities - when naptimes and attitudes allow - on taking in the local (or regional faire).We're regulars at many farmers markets. We check out the newborn cows at a dairy. We indulge in ice cream from cows noshing yards away. We hit festivals and even drag our poor kids to wineries.

Yep. We've become supporters of an up-and-coming trend in tourism: agritourism. It's hot, because of the economy, our growing awareness of keeping our communities sustainable, and a desire to eat more locally. There are Web sites entire guidebooks devoted to the subject - including one for Indiana - and you can take in everything from a brief stop to scheduled activities to a stay on a working farm.

Strangely, it was something that evolved over time. Have a nine-hour drive to Kansas? Where can we take a break that's more interesting than a fast-food restaraunt or dingy rest stop?Going someplace new? What's the random thing we can do that will detour the kids' desire to rip off the car seat straps?

And somehow, we found activities that help the local economy and make memories. Each year, we make plans to visit an apple orchard in the region, to stomp the grounds, have carmel apples and visit the petting zoo. My daughter still talks about the time we stopped for ice cream at a "cow place" (a seriously large dairy off the highway) south of Chicago. My toddler son couldn't stop talking for weeks about his first brush with "cows" - a term that quickly included everything from those that moo to those that cluck!

If you're forcing off that cabin fever this spring and are looking for a change of pace some weekend, forget the mall. Put off that trip to the indoor water park. Instead, get a little dirty and frequent a farm, orchard or other agritourist spot. A little slowing down never hurts!

Sandal giveaway winner

The winner of a pair of recyclable sandals from Okabashi is #8 Jenn at the Greenmom. Jenn, contact me at goinggreenmama at gmail, and we'll get you in touch with Okabshi!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Since the world is ending today...

Will the world end today or not?

If you ask folks Twitter, it's an excuse to charge their cards, drink up and party a bit more than normal. But maybe even the thought of the end of the world should be a time of reflection.

Today at the Green Phone Booth, I share five ways I wish I'd better enjoyed God's creation. The good news is, it's probably not too late.

What are yours?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Blueberry Pineapple Smoothie

Blueberries and pineapple, who can resist? This simple smoothie was inspired by a magazine recipe and amped up the frozen fruits. A great way to clean out the last of last year's blueberries from my freezer!

Blueberry Pineapple Smoothie
1 1/2 c. skim milk
1/2 c. frozen blueberries
1/2 c. frozen pineapple

Blend until smooth. Serves 2-3.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Recyclable Sandals from Okabashi Shoes

Finding a sandal that's comfortable, durable and has a shot at surviving a hectic life with two kids is no easy task. Too often I'm sacrificing something in the process, and usually my feet are feeling the pain.

So I admit to being surprised after checking out a pair of Okabashi sandals. I was pitched to try them from the environmental angle - they are vegan-friendly and 100% recyclable - but found that they are comfortable as well! They have great arch support, have little massaging beads and are flexible, both things that help with hours on your feet. And the fact that they're washable in your dishwasher allows for a crazy convenience in a crazy life.

The sandals are easy on the eyes and the wallet, costing less than $20 a pair. And I love that the shoes are guaranteed for two years, and when you're ready to part ways with the pair, the company wants it back - to recycle for new materials. In the last year, Okabashi was able to reuse over 100,000 lbs of scrap shoes. That is 10 tractor trailers full of scrap that would have otherwise be sent to a landfill.

Want to try them out? Okabashi will be giving away one pair of sandals to a reader! To enter, post a comment no later than Sunday, May 22, midnight EDT. You can get additional entries for 1) tweeting the contest, 2) blogging about it and 3) adding us to your RSS reader.
We will draw one winner randomly and post to the blog.

Disclaimer: I did not receive monetary compensation for this product.

Pay more now or later?

Today on the Green Phone Booth, we're discussing whether it makes most sense to catch the good deals on kids clothing - or cut down on consumption and just buy resale, even if it costs more. Join the conversation.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Indianapolis Area Farmers Market Dates

There's no excuse not to eat fresh! Indianapolis boasts farmers markets six days a week. Check out the many markets, including:



  • City Market: 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and Saturdays, 9:30 to 1 p.m., May to October

  • 38th and Meridian Farmers' Market North United Methodist Church: 4 to 6:30 p.m. June 2 to Oct. 27


  • Traders Point Creamery, 4 to 8 p.m. through October (Items go fast, though!)



  • Irvington Farmers' Market: North side of Ellenberger Park, noon to 3 p.m. second Sunday of the month, June through October

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

First Harvest

The first harvest of spring is something special. That little confirmation that you did something right, watching tiny fingers joyfully pluck radishes from the soil. The satisfaction that you're helping make a meal out of something you grew in your tiny backyard. And hearing that you're "the best cooker ever"--it's just icing on the cake!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Hunter's Honey Farm photos

From our weekend trip to Hunter's Honey Farm:

Some bees were in a tent, which had smoke to hide phermones.

Newly hatched bees were starting to come out, and a mom was able to feed one for the very first time. The new bees eat honey with their little red tongues. (Go figure.)

Pointing out where a bee was emerging. The girls were excited to be the first person to ever see that bee.

Inside, the girls got to fill their own honey bears. (Ours already has been well used!)

Pouring beeswax candles. (Visitors can roll their own candle.) Beeswax is smokeless when it burns!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Hunter's Honey Farm

Honeybees and Daisies. It's a good mix.

Today, our Daisy Girl Scout troop visited Hunter's Honey Farm in Martinsville, Ind., a drive but one well worth it. The 100-year-old honey farm had a Girl Scout day, where the Daisies could visit, see the bees in action, see how the honey gets from the comb to the table, make their own honey bear and create their own beeswax candle.

The girls were amazed to watch bees in action, see tiny bees emerge from the hive and see a young bee lick - yes, lick, fresh honey off a mom's finger. (I didn't realize bees ate honey as well as produce it.)

They learned that smoke staves off the honeybees, that the "boy bees" don't sting people, and that honey has lots of health benefits. I'm interested in testing out the theory that local honey can actually help people with allergies, any idea that sounds much better than giving my allergy-prone child a shot of Claritin every day.

It was a great afternoon, and the activities were able to entertain both my 3 year old and a friend's younger children, who have all had the chance now to make their own honey bears (a source of pride for my little guy) and candles (which were amazingly easy to make.) The honey farm offers these tours and activities on a regular basis, and the price is no worse than an afternoon at the movie or Children's Museum. They have some seasonal activities as well, like a forestry tour and a beehive tour as well.

Mamma Mia, Here We Go Again...

Party planning is on the mind of my soon-to-be 6 year old, and this year, I'm stumped as she tosses out themes like Mamma Mia and rainbow parties. Today at the Green Phone Booth, we're talking about fun, resource- and budget-friendly ideas for birthday celebrations. Join the conversation!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Mother's Day Seed Cards - A Preschool-Friendly Project

Mother's Day is fast approaching, and I wanted to do something fun for the grandmothers this year. Being hours away limits my options, however.

Remembering that last year, my daughter wanted to buy her grandmothers flowers, I stumbled on an easy solution that's simple to mail and easy to make: simple watering can seed cards. This 10-minute project was a great solution for my preschooler and kindergartener to help with, as well.

I found a watering can template at Family Fun magazine and printed on some cardstock, let the children color them and then cut out the cans and slots at the top and bottom of the can. There, I inserted a small package of flower bulbs that could be planted in our region through June.

Simple to make, easy to ship, and the grandmas get flowers after all!

We also did a variation of this for the teacher appreciation week next week, which my kindergartener insisted on signing herself.

Linked to Motivation Mondays at

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Big Green Box

The thrill of a delivered package never wanes. Whether it comes in birthday wrappings or a big brown truck, the arrival of a package brings excitement.

And if it comes in a big, green box, it's like Christmas around here.

A few weeks ago, we signed up for a subscription to Green Bean Delivery, a regional produce delivery service. I thought it was a great idea to bridge until our farmers local markets opened, and was I right. Little did I know how exciting carrots could be.

The first night, a man dropped two large green boxes on our doorstep. The kids were thrilled, ripping the lid out and announcing each of the contents like they won the lottery. "Apples!" "Asparagus" "Mushrooms" they yelled, whooping in between.

The best part? We ate great! For most of the next two weeks, we enjoyed fresh produce and even tried a few new recipes to get more veggies in our diet. Even better, I didn't have the frustration of juggling a 3 and 5 year old in the produce section!

Our latest box dropped last week. All day, the kids were waiting for the man with the big green box. And when the delivery truck finally pulled up around 7:30 that night, it was cause for celebration. The kids couldn't wait to rip open the package and yell out its contents. Just like Christmas. Only healthier.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Friends in low (and high) places: My attempts at companion planting

Companion planting is not for the faint of heart, nor is it for those who think too much.

Last year, I tried mapping out what could and shouldn't grow together, based on several books. I thought I'd finally have the answer...until I put it all to paper. It was a mess. In the end, I overplanted and undersucceeded at much.

Fast forward a year, and Jenn at the Green Phone Booth and I are still scratching our heads about the notion of companion planting. But this year, I've opted to stick with what I know has worked for me, and what I actually want to experiment with.

My garden journal showed previous attempts at radishes and carrots, which I remember to be a success. Thank goodness my kids eat both. And if the ground ever dries up and my root plants haven't rotted already, we might have another shot at that.

Tomatoes and herbs? Check. Love growing basil, oregano and garlic along with my tomatoes, and it's worked well in the past. (Not to mention, it's easy for harvesting together!)

And the whole three sisters' thing? Corn, beans, and squash: I'm actually considering trying that this year, given that my new love - asparagus beans - and the thai beans my friend gave me last season wound all throughout my garden late last summer. Climbing up a corn stalk might be worth it, even if we have a tiny lot!

What I've learned? Use advice as a guide, not an absolute given.