365Outside

Refresh Your Life

Author: 365Outside Mama (Page 1 of 8)

Hospitals and Healing Vibes

When I talk about founding 365Outside, I often refer to our family’s “rough autumn” that led up to January 2015 when we started our first 365Outside Challenge. I rarely go into any more details. For one, the details have never been relevant; Little Bear was sick, and that was that.

But recently I have been thinking about this time in our lives a lot, reflecting on how it has shaped us, and how it shapes others who are suffering, too.

Little Bear

Let me start off by saying this: we are the lucky ones. We have healthy, happy children, and we have never experienced the pain of an uncertain tomorrow. Even in our lowest moments, we knew that it would mostly be okay. Maybe not normal, maybe not easy, but always okay. We never had to wonder about that. We are the lucky ones.

Little Bear’s birth was as peaceful as they get. He was beyond due, and I was beyond ready in mind, body, and spirit. I put Junior to bed that night, and then proceeded to catch my new baby in the bathtub less than three hours later. We felt completely overwhelmed with gratitude.

Little Bear

But when he was just a few weeks old, Little Bear got a fever. When I brought him to the doctor that day, I had no idea the wormhole we were about to go down. Later that afternoon, when I walked into the E.R. cradling my tiny son, it never occurred to me that we wouldn’t step outside again for weeks. Little Bear spent two weeks on IV antibiotics, first at our local hospital, and then at Boston Children’s Hospital where he was transferred by ambulance when his IV line failed for the umpteenth time.

At first we thought his infection was a one-off. But the next winter he couldn’t shake recurring ear infections, recurring pneumonia, and recurring impetigo, all of which would clear up on antibiotics and then return as soon as he finished the course. Before he was two, he’d spent 10 months of his life on antibiotics.

We were shuffled around from infectious disease doctors to immunologists, and back again. Ultimately, we learned it was something he would eventually grow out of, as his immune system caught up with everyone else’s. It was good news, but it was a tiring journey.

Starting 365Outside in the midst of this was both literally and figuratively the breath of fresh air that we all needed. Getting outside was the medicine our family needed to heal. Rediscovering our wild selves was the salve for our wounds. And by all counts, Little Bear has flourished.

A Long Term Hospital Stay

I thought I’d put this all behind us, until recently I visited a friend in the hospital. My best friend is pregnant with her first baby. It’s a boy, and I am so excited to be boy-moms together, to pass on hand-me-downs, and to play auntie to a new, perfect little human.

Visiting my bestie.

When her fluid began leaking at 26 weeks, my friend and her husband prepared for the worst. She was admitted to the hospital and told that she’d need to stay there until the baby arrived. That was nearly nine weeks ago. Next week she’ll be induced and hopefully welcome a healthy little trouble-maker.

Visiting my friend reminded me how isolating hospitals are. She has been inside those walls for nine weeks. Can you even imagine? She has been living in the hospital for more than two months so that her baby will arrive as healthy as she can make him. She’s missed birthday parties, holidays, everyday life, even her own baby shower. But of course she doesn’t think of it that way; she just puts her head down through the hard times and does what she knows she has to do. I am so proud of the mom that she is, and her baby isn’t even here yet.

Penny Thornley

Anyway, one of the fun, unexpected parts of 365Outside has been the families I’ve met along the way. It’s been so fun to touch base and trade tips with families from around the country and abroad who share our values and understand our lifestyle. Though we’ve never met most of these people, we consider them our friends.

Penny with her doting big bro.

So it was with a gut-wrenching heartache that I read about Penny Thornley, the daughter of fellow adventurer-photographer-wildhearted-mom Sachi. Penny loves to play outside. Her parents bring her on all sorts of crazy, beautiful adventures. They love to hike, camp, and rock climb. Her mom’s Instagram account is basically a stream of beautiful people doing inspiring things outdoors.

Until it wasn’t.

These days, the pictures of Penny aren’t of a fearless conqueror of the outdoor world. They’re of a scared little girl with a brain tumor. It’s heartbreaking and seems doubly cruel for a family who thrived in such an active lifestyle.

Penny has a long road ahead, and the family has been thrown into a whirlwind of hospitals, surgeries, and medical jargon. Their new normal is something that I can’t even imagine.

But there are a few ways we can help. First, there is an Instagram auction happening now. It closes on Sunday at 7pm MST. Some amazing artists have donated some gorgeous goods. Check it out and bid generously at Pennies for Penny.

There is also a GoFundMe set up to help with the astronomical expenses, which will soon include relocating the family to Seattle where Penny can receive the best care. Head over to Positive Vibes for Penny! to contribute.

If you aren’t able to contribute financially, I’m sure the family will appreciate your good thoughts, whether offered through prayers, vibes, or juju.

You can do it, Penny.

Penny Thornley with her mom, Sachi.

Quit While You’re Ahead On Outdoor Adventures, Or Risk Family Mutiny

Well, it happened. We went on an outdoor adventure and we called it quits, due to weather. Surprisingly, this has never actually happened to us before. Sure, there have been days where we cut a walk short or chose an alternate activity, but we’ve never committed to a big trip, undertaken it, and then bailed when the going got tough.

Of course, that’s not to say that it’s a bad thing, though. In fact, I would say we left at the exact right time. You know what they say about quitting while you’re ahead. Well, we quit at the pinnacle and everyone left happy and excited to do it all again. That’s what matters most.

Let me back up.

Winter Cabin Camping

For the last two winters I have been mildly obsessed with winter cabin camping. I’m definitely not ready to commit to sleeping in a tent on the frozen snowpack quite yet, and honestly the idea of winter camping in a tent with children who still, despite every warning, KEEP THEIR SHOES ON WHEN THEY GO IN THE TENT, is distressing.

So when I first discovered winter cabin camping through an article in Outdoor Families Magazine, I was immediately hooked. And lo and behold, it took just a quick search on Reserve America to find winter cabin rentals within a few hours’ drive.

We booked our first trip for last January. It was a bitterly cold weekend, and the cabin was more a dirt-floored shack-closet to which the captain vowed he would never return. Yet still, the forever-memories won us over.

Just look at the kids exploring the magic of a frozen lake and then roasting hot dogs and marshmallows over a fire while the sunsets across the ice. It was beautiful enough that we all wanted to give it another try.

A late afternoon ice hike with daddy.

 

Cooking hot dogs on the fire.

 

Late afternoon memories on the frozen pond.

This year, I booked us at some cabins just down the road from the closet we stayed in last year. From what little information I could find online, they looked significantly newer, cleaner, and more civilized. They even had electricity, which I argued actually made this less winter cabin “camping” and more winter cabin “retreating”. In any case . . .

Come November, I knew I wanted to escape and I chose inauguration weekend because I knew we’d all appreciate being unplugged then. We gathered some friends to book the cabin next door, dusted off our trusty camping packing list, prepped some meals, and then proceeded to shoehorn enough gear to reach the north pole for the weekend into every last crevice of the minivan. We were ready.

Mohawk Trail State Forest

Three hours and several potty stops later, we arrived at Mohawk Trail State Forest, picked up our key at the ranger station, and found our way to Cabin 7. We pushed the heavy door open and with the flick of a switch, we illuminated the entire spacious cabin, finished in fresh white pine, complete with built-in cabinets, granite countertops, and a 3/4 wall separating two spacious sleeping areas.

Sleeping area: Bunk bed and single twin separated from a double bed by 3/4 wall.

 

Kitchen area (no running water), kitchen table, and woodstove.

This was not winter cabin camping. This was . . . bordering on luxury. As we unpacked, the boys got to work with their trucks to build ski jumps, sledding hills, and parking garages in the snow piles by the front porch.

That night, we sat with friends, eating bowls of hearty chili and sipping on hot toddies around the outdoor fire while the kids stuffed themselves with s’mores. We fed the wood stove inside to keep things downright steamy, and everyone slipped into a long, comfortable sleep broken only by the occasional draft that reminded us to keep the fire going through the night.

Little Bear scouting for kindling.

In the morning, we cooked bacon and eggs on the wood stove and us adults fortified ourselves with dark coffee to make it through the day. We hiked to a small summit and followed deer and coyote tracks along the way. Then we descended to a shallow valley with a thawed river bubbling through it. The boys threw snowball after snowball into the current.

Family picture at the mini-summit.

 

Boys walking with daddy.

 

Little Bear surveys the river

After some quiet time in the afternoon, the boys were ready for some carefully plotted sledding through the trees behind our cabin, gathering firewood, and then foil packs of veggies and potatoes, and sausage cooked on the outdoor fire.

As the evening got quiet, we began to ponder the weather forecast. We had had no phone or internet since our arrival on Friday and when we left, there’d been rain forecast for both Saturday and Sunday. We had gotten lucky on Saturday with a mild, overcast day free from rain, but we weren’t sure about the outlook for Sunday. We had big plans so we crossed our fingers and headed to our bunks early enough to get a jumpstart on our Sunday morning.

Cooking sausages and foil packs of veggies and potatoes.

The boys roast marshmallows with help from the Captain.

Second night fire – you can see that the snow has melted quite a bit during the day.

Sunday dawned dreary and damp. The air felt cold and wet. We had a full day of skiing booked at the little, local mountain four miles down the road. The kids were taking all-day lessons and we were finally going to have a day to ski together as adults.

The rain started on the drive to the ski hill. It was pretty light at first but soon the drops were falling in giant dollops that landed with a smack on the windshield. We hurried into the ski school and got the run down of options and even a peak at the radar.

It might stop, it might not. The staff were very accommodating and offered refunds if we decided to skip the lessons. Instead, we opted to cut the full-day ski school down to just an hour in the morning, skip the adult skiing, and then call it by ear. Honestly, the ski day wasn’t going to be cheap and I wasn’t about to drop $400 on a day of family fun that simply wasn’t.

Checking out the rain before ski school.

 

Ready to conquer the rain for an hour!

It was the right choice. The kids skied an hour and were absolutely soaked. Afterwards, they trudged into the tavern looking (and acting) like freshly flea-dipped cats.

We stripped off soaking jackets, rung out mittens and neck warmers, and hung everything by the fireplace. Over a lunch of fried kids’ meals, we took the opportunity to go online and check the weather forecast. The afternoon called for more heavy and consistent rain that would turn to sleet and freezing rain overnight. The next day called for ice.

It didn’t take much conversation to decide that we should just call it quits. If there had been snow in the forecast, we’d have happily stayed to bunker down through the worst and wake to a white wonderland, ripe for exploring the next day.

But we couldn’t face an afternoon of being wet and cold, followed by the rigor of packing up in freezing rain and the stress of driving home through it the next day.

So we quit while we were ahead. The kids were sad to leave. We were sad to leave too. Even the ranger smiled in a sad way and remarked, “Going home early to beat the storm, huh? Sorry about that.”

We’ve found it’s always best to quit before it gets bad, but it’s often a fine line to walk, especially with kids. They can go from having the time of their lives to wailing like mateless coyotes in just a matter of seconds, so our goal is always to get out of there while they’re still having the time of their lives. This also makes it much easier to convince them to go back again another time.

This time, I think we nailed it. There’s no shame in heading home when all signs point to impending misery. The real shame is in sticking to a plan that’s only remaining strength is its title of The Plan.   

5 Ways Parents Can Save the Planet

The boys pick up trash along the river.

I will admit to feeling more than a little apprehensive these past few months. If anything will make you more political, it’s becoming a parent. Suddenly I’m not just invested in decisions about my own life. I’m worried about a whole generation from now.

It’s hard to know where to start with affecting any change at all. We’ve been talking a lot in our house about love and letting the love inside our hearts be more powerful than other feelings. These are things my small children can understand.

But talking about the very real and very imminent threats to our environment is a little harder. How do I tell them that I’m worried for the earth they will inherit? How do I tell them that the planet they grow up on and pass on to their own children is less rich, less diverse, and less wild than the one I enjoyed when I was little? And do I tell them that it’s our fault?

There are hundreds of ways that we can affect positive change for the environment every day. But the single most important change we can affect as parents is the generation we raise. If we want to save the planet, we need to raise children who will speak up for it, take action, and stand against the destruction of natural resources.

Saving the planet isn’t going to be easy. Head over to Parent.co to read my recent article, 5 Ways Parents Can Save the Planet.

Guest Post: Reflections On Our First 365Outside

I’m always excited to hear about how embracing the 365Outside Challenge has helped other families and friends to get outside more on a daily basis. When Nina contacted me this week asking if I’d be interested in hearing her story, of course I said yes.

Nina has just completed her first year of the 365Outside Challenge, and is rolling straight into year two with another baby added to her pack. Read on to hear about how she managed to get outside over 300 days last year, with her toddler and a baby on board. Thanks for reaching out, Nina!

Reflections On Our First 365Outside

by Nina Rhoades

I first learned of 365Outside last December and decided immediately that we needed to do it. My husband and I love nature and time outside, and we consider it a cornerstone of our parenting goals that our kids play in the outdoors as often as possible. However, my son was 21 months old when we started on Jan 1, 2016, and I found out just days later that I was pregnant with our second, so getting outside every single day was definitely going to be a challenge, especially since we live in northern Utah — where the ground is snow-covered from mid-December to late March on average.  

All in all, I got outside on 312 days in 2016, and my son got out on 327 days. (We didn’t count days for my husband because his job requires him to travel regularly, but he also loves to be outside and took my son out to play whenever he was able). Most of the days lost were either during the winter, or in September when my daughter was born. It wasn’t 366/366 days, but I was happy with it — and we hope to improve upon it this year!

 

As we begin our second 365Outside, now with an almost-3-year-old and a baby, here’s what I learned over the last year:

  1. Gear does matter. No, I am not suggesting that small children need wardrobes from The North Face. But if you’re battling weather at all, you’ll want to identify the couple of items that will make you and your children most comfortable. For our snowy winters, Stonz Mittz for my son, along with some good boots (we chose Kamik) have made all of the difference in whether he wants to go out in the snow or not.
  2. A few solid outdoor toys are also REALLY helpful. Again, I’m not suggesting that spending a lot of money is necessary — I’m actually fairly minimalist when it comes to toys — but if you’re going to be spending a lot of time in your yard with a toddler, you will need something to do. For us, a sled and shovel for the snow, and a Strider bike, scooter, and water table in the summer, along with some sidewalk chalk, made a huge difference. While I wasn’t crazy about it, I also came to appreciate his “Lightning McQueen” motorized little car (approximately $60). It’s not the same as running around, but he loved that thing so dearly, and it got him outside many a day that he wasn’t otherwise interested — and you can try to change activities once you’re out there.  Idea: Ask family members and friends to gift outdoor gear or toys for birthdays/holidays.  

    Photo courtesy of Nina Rhoades

  3. That said, varying your activities is absolutely necessary. I love hiking, skiing, snowshoeing, etc., and am thankful we live close to mountains so we can do those things regularly without too much trouble. But in real life with a toddler, it’s just not practical to do that every day — just like it can be painful to draw on the sidewalk every day. I liked the book 15 Minutes Outside by Rebecca P. Cohen for additional ideas.  It’s nothing cosmic — roast marshmallows, build a birdhouse, and so on — but helped us to get out of our daily routine. Also, it doesn’t need to be fascinating.  One rainy summer day we listened to distant thunder from our porch and I taught my son the phrase, “Thunder means be careful; lightning means go inside.”  He repeated it for days.  Another night I had him help put up Christmas lights on the porch after the baby was in bed as a “special activity.”  It wasn’t exploring mountains but we got some fresh air.  
  4. Keep in mind that sometimes it’s about you — and sometimes it’s not. We have done hikes with our son (and even in the fall, our daughter) in a backpack or an Ergo, in the baby’s case, and they enjoyed it. But I’ve also driven an hour to a “perfect kid hike” and let my son determine the pace, where we stop, and how long we’re out. He loved it and spent over an hour throwing rocks into a tiny stream. They’re not going to love being outside if they’re only being dragged along.  
  5. On that note, sometimes you need to push. Sometimes you don’t. My son loves being outside (and I’m thankful to 365Outside that his love for the outdoors has increased significantly over the last year), but sometimes he’s happy doing whatever he’s doing inside, or gets distracted by a favorite train on the way out the door. Sometimes you need to shove him out the door (he rarely complained once out and often didn’t want to go back in,) and occasionally just accept that a book or other indoor activity IS the right choice that day.  
  6. Make it happen. Right now, with a 4-month-old baby, when my husband is at work, getting outside in the snow often means waiting until she takes a nap, hanging the monitor around my neck, taking my son out while staying within range of the monitor, and then going back in when she wakes up.  Sometimes I do take her out in the snow of course but it’s not realistic that she, a baby who can’t yet sit up on her own, is going to stay out for two hours like my son wants to.  I feel bad dragging him back in after 45 minutes, but 45 minutes is better than nothing.  
  7. Get out yourself.  You can see from the numbers that there were days when my son got outside and I didn’t, probably because he went outside with my husband or with the daycare that he attends two mornings a week. I like to go running and do other things that bring me outside without him, but on more than one occasion, I went out after he was in bed and went for a walk, or shoveled some snow instead of snow-blowing it, just to get some fresh air myself on a day when I otherwise wouldn’t have. I never regretted doing that. We all need fresh air.  

Photo courtesy of Nina Rhoades

Nina is a stay-at-home mom to two sweet and amazing children while also working very part-time for an online research company.  Before having kids, she worked as a foreign and defense policy analyst, and lived in the Middle East for two years.  She and her husband love to travel and explore, run and do Crossfit, and debate politics.  They live near Ogden, Utah.  

Enter to Win a Trip to Iceland From Outdoor Families Magazine

Remember last year when we thought we were being scammed into a timeshare or something when really the Captain had won us a no-strings-attached family adventure in Baja, Mexico? Being that we had never won anything, ever, we assumed we’d never be able to take advantage of such an amazing prize.

But lo and behold, two months later we were flying the kids to Mexico for a week of surfing, hiking, horseback riding, and swimming with sea lions. I am still in a little bit of disbelief that this actually happened. While the tan is long gone and the memories are starting to fade, at least we still have the pictures.

 

 

 

 

 

It was undoubtedly the most amazing family vacation we’ve ever been on with the kids. The Captain and I used to go on adventures abroad as a part of our work, but that phase in our lives ended when the littles came along. These days we mostly stick to off-grid camping or sailing vacations. But Baja reminded us how amazing it is to experience other cultures, with the added bonus of sharing them with our kids. Traveling as a family is an experience that I don’t think can be matched. And we certainly won’t be able to match the Baja experience anytime soon.

Feeling jealous yet? Don’t worry, now it’s your turn.

Enter to Win A Trip to Iceland

Outdoor Families Magazine, who ran the awesome contest that we won, is running another vacation giveaway right now, and it sounds beyond cool.

Between now and February 2, you can enter to win a three-night vacation for three in ICELAND. Sound awesome? It should!

Iceland has been on my bucket list for about five years. We have a handful of friends who have gone and report back that it’s every bit as magical as it’s cracked up to be.

Why travel to Iceland? Well, for starters I want to see the northern lights, do a glacier tour and, most definitely, bathe in a geothermal pool. I mean, seriously. Look at this thing:

The Captain also wants to go surfing there, but he already won a surf vacation once so I think his odds are pretty slim.

You can find all the details here. (Spoiler alert: 3-course dinner and a Puffin Watching Boat Tour.)

Read the rules and regulations here (to find out if the Captain is allowed to win twice in a row). Obviously you don’t have to buy anything, and if anyone can vouch that this is truly a no-strings-attached giveaway, it’s us.

May the odds be ever in your favor . . . and may you bring me back a keychain.

Stuck in a Rut, and the Importance of a Micro-Adventure

I’ve been stuck in a rut lately. Not so much a bad rut. More like a fairly comfortable one, but maybe perhaps too comfortable because then I’m less inclined to make my my way out. Maybe I don’t want to anyway, I don’t know.

It’s no secret that this is the time of year when this sort of thing happens. It’s cold out. Like – one morning it was 4F so of course our pipes froze in the barn and our old drafty house struggled to stay above 60. It’s that kind of cold. We have to pile on layers to get outside, and then Little Bear runs away squealing in glee because it’s just SUCH A FUN GAME to peel off the socks and the long johns as soon as Mama layers them on him.

It’s also almost the shortest day of the year. I am beyond lucky that both of my kids still nap every afternoon, but the double-edged sword means that often, by the time they are getting up and ready to roll again, it is getting dark out. I scurry around like a mad-woman barking, “Hurry up! If you don’t hurry up it will be dark!” when they casually wander downstairs and announce that they want to ride bikes. We have spent many a flashlight-lit afternoon pedaling back and forth on our dead end. Back and forth. Back and forth. 

So very proud of himself on the two-wheeler.

Back and forth, riding bikes. I think that’s also part of the rut. Little Bear finally learned to ride his two-wheeler, graduating from his balance bike to no training-wheels over the course of a week (YAY!). This was after months and months of us knowing he was ready but him pushing back in his Little Bear way, and insisting that he stick with the balance bike because, let’s be honest, he was very very good at it. So now, he can pedal and weave his way down the road even faster, and it’s all he ever wants to do. Junior is also content to ride his bike, all day every day. And while I love to watch them and I marvel at their physical agility, to be completely honest, it gets boring for me. I am sick of standing in the road while they ride bikes. Back and forth. There, I said it.

I feel a little bit like our tiny section of dead end road has become a part of our house, and that when we go out to play there, it’s no different than playing in the living room. Of course, there’s fresh air, which is great, and the boys get more exercise, which is also great. But we miss out on so many of the things that I find beneficial outdoors. There is very little creativity in their play when they are pushing dump trucks, riding pedal tractors, riding bikes. There is a monotony to it. I know that we are privileged to even experience a monotony to our outdoor play, but I am also missing the days of endless wanderings through the woods, the concentration of building imaginary worlds out of forest-found materials, the magic of discovering animal tracks or coyote scat. But right now the boys just want to ride their bikes, again and again. Back and forth.    

Junior shredding at the BMX park.

I do try to bring them to new places to ride their bikes, but the options aren’t that varied. We are at a strange place where I still need to be on foot to help Little Bear out, but they are both much faster than me once they get going. We did hit a local BMX track a few weeks ago, which was fun for all, but now with the ground frozen it’s no longer a great option. I like to bring them off-road to trails, but this isn’t much fun yet for Little Bear who struggles to get going in the grass. His balance bike was a different story, so he gets frustrated when he can’t pedal through a field. We’re getting there, but it will take some practice.

Another point that’s thrown off our daily outdoor routine has been my writing. My content writing has taken off and I published 30 articles last month. So yes, you could say I have been busy. It feels great to be paid for my writing, and great to do something that’s intellectually stimulating. I feel accomplished at the end of the day, but I also feel guilty because my time spent writing comes at a cost – the house is dirty, the boys were watching more TV, and this blog starts to collect cobwebs.

But this week, with the cold sweeping in and Christmas around the corner, and the boys clawing at one another at epically new rates, I made some changes to get us going again. To get us up and out of the rut, stretching our legs, refreshing our lives. We needed to hit the reset button in a big way.

First, I banned screen-time. We aren’t generally a huge TV family (as you probably could have guessed), but I was using it more and more to occupy the boys while I was trying to write, and, not surprisingly, they were falling into the habit of expecting it. I hated that. They would come downstairs first thing without so much as a “Good morning” and ask if they could watch a show. Then when it was over, they would fight. They were restless and agitated. The TV was just a bandaid when really what they needed a saline wash.

So we stopped watching TV. The first day they cried and pleaded and went through all five stages of grief. But since then, they haven’t even asked for it. It’s been nine days without TV, and they don’t even bring it up anymore. They are playing better together. They are playing better independently. And my guilty conscience feels better too.

Today we ventured out for a kid-paced walk at one of our favorite spots. It snowed yesterday and today was rainy with temperatures in the 50s, so the world is mud-wonderful and slippery soft. We do have some big adventures planned over the next few months (which helps because, it’s always fun to anticipate), but sometimes we forget that there are adventures to be had just down the street. Sometimes we forget that little moments, little things, can refresh us too. Here are some scenes from our micro-adventure.     

365Outside on TV

Recently, I had the honor of being interviewed for our local cable channel, Cape Ann TV. Follow the link below to hear what I had to say about 365Outside!

365Outside on the Cape Ann Report

Will You Join the 2017 365Outside Challenge?

Registration for the 2017 365Outside Challenge will be open soon. Will you join us in committing to a happier, healthier 2017? Check back soon to sign up!

 

5 Simple Ways to Celebrate the Supermoon

A full moon walk last winter.

A full moon walk last winter.

If you follow us regularly, you know how we feel about full moons. Every month (errr . . . lunar cycle) the boys eagerly await the night of the full moon because with it comes our family’s tradition of a full moon walk before bed. Whether we can see the moon or not, out we go to celebrate it.

On November 13 and 14, we’ll be treated to a particularly rare and beautiful “supermoon”. Read on to learn about what causes a supermoon and how you can enjoy it together as a family.

What is a Moon Cycle?

Lunar Cycle Diagram

Lunar Cycle Diagram

You may already be familiar with the basics of the moon cycle, but just to review, the moon orbits the earth every 27.3 days. As the moon orbits the earth, one half of it is always illuminated by the sun, just as one half of the earth is always illuminated by the sun (the side of the earth experiencing daylight). Here on earth, we cannot always see the part of the moon that is illuminated and the part of the moon that we can see changes slightly each night according to its location relative to the sun. During most of its cycle we see just part of the moon’s illuminated side and part of the shadowed side. When we see a crescent moon, we are actually seeing just a small bit of the side that’s illuminated and the remainder of the shadowed side (which we can’t distinguish from darkness so far away). Check out the Lunar Cycle Diagram to get a better idea of how this works.

What is a Supermoon?

426px-apogee_psf-svg

Moon’s Orbit Diagram

But wait, there’s more! The moon’s orbit isn’t exactly round. Although it is depicted as perfectly circular in most diagrams (including the one above), the moon’s orbit is actually almost elliptical – meaning it’s more of an oval shape. This is true of all orbits due to variations in gravitational pull, initial velocity of the orbiting bodies, and any other disturbances such as collisions. Because of this, the moon’s distance from earth varies between approximately 357,000 kilometers (222,000 mi) and 406,000 km (252,000 mi). The moon’s location closest to earth is called perigee while its location furthest from earth is called apogee. See the Moon’s Orbit Diagram for a visual.

When a full moon occurs at the perigee, it is often referred to as a Supermoon. These moons appear 13% larger and shine 30% brighter than a typical full moon. The Supermoon we will experience next week is the closest full moon we’ve experienced since 1948 and a full moon won’t be this close again until 2034. That means this is the closest full moon in a period of 86 years!

How Can We Celebrate?

The moon rises over the bay.

The moon rises over the bay.

Full Moon Walk

Our family celebrates the full moon by going for a walk before bedtime. We do this not just for Supermoons, but every full moon, regardless of the weather and visibility. Next week, rather than walking down our street, we will go someplace special to walk by moonlight.

Aside from the full moon walk, here are some other great ideas to mark this special lunar event:

Meditate

Did you have a stressful month? We sure did. Between The Captain transitioning to a new rotation on his tugboat, the melancholy of days getting shorter, and the presidential election (I can’t even go there yet), this past month has seemed far from peaceful around here. Buddhists mark the full moon with a day of spiritual focus, meditating and keeping away from worldly distractions. Historically, ancient sages have advised the same thing – to take time on the full moon day to relax your mind and devote time to spiritual development.

If you’ve felt the emotional weight of the past month heavy on your shoulders, take some time under the full moon to be present in the moment. It doesn’t have to be fancy, and you don’t need to have any experience with meditation. Just go outside, find a comfortable place to sit or lie down, and focus on breathing and clearing your mind. Try taking a deep breath in through your nose, holding it for a moment, and exhaling through your mouth. Let your mind clear and allow yourself to be present in the moment. This can be hard for kids, but even young children can attempt it. Challenge a child to sit quietly and soak up the moon’s beauty for the same number of minutes as their age.

Dance

Full moons are, not surprisingly, a symbol of fullness. They mark the highest of high tides and many believe they spark the height of creativity and power. One of our favorite ways to release this fullness is through dance. When our house gets too crazy, too loud, and too full, we put on some music and we dance. It’s often a raucous party with the kids quite literally bouncing off the walls, but when it’s over they are tired and subdued, at least for a moment. Try having your own dance party outside under the moon. Choose whatever music feels right to you and dance with wild abandon.

Bring the light inside

Full moons bring light to an otherwise dark place. One of the reasons we love our full moon walks so much is that the night is normally a time of darkness when we can’t easily enjoy the same places that we do during the day. The full moon helps us to see that there’s nothing to be afraid of after the sun goes down. As a symbol of your appreciation, light a candle outside under the moon, then bring it inside with you. Try having bath time or stories by the light of your candle. There is something simple and peaceful about enjoying everyday activities by the light of a candle’s flickering glow.

Read a moon story

There are many beautiful books about the moon. Goodnight Moon is a staple of many bedtimes, but the list goes on from there. Here are some of our favorites:

Wings Across the Moon by Linda Hargrove

The House in the Night by Susan Marie Swanson

Red Knit Cap Girl by Naoko Stoop

If You Decide to Go to the Moon by Faith McNulty

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen

In our house, bedtime stories are a way of winding down and enjoying each other’s company before bed. We snuggle up in a cozy spot and read together before turning off the lights to continue with some songs. Moon stories are a great way to cap off the night of a full moon, and even better if you decide to enjoy them outside, under the moon.

This month’s full moon is definitely one for the ages. How will you mark the occasion with your family?

The boys watch the full moon across the water on Christmas 2015.

How to Build an Outdoor Play Tent

Our completed outdoor play tent, constructed by Mama and the boys in one morning!

Our completed outdoor play tent, constructed by Mama and the boys in one morning!

We are staring down the tunnel at winter. The days are getting darker, we set the clocks back tonight, and this morning the back deck was sprinkled with hail. We got off pretty easy as far as winter last year. There were a few snowstorms and we did get in some skiing and a winter cabin camping adventure, but it was still 70 degrees on Christmas Day and the snow never lasted between storms. This year, I am convinced we won’t get off so easy. We have already booked our winter cabin camping trip (hoping for more fluffy white stuff and less hard-packed trail ice this year). And I’m making a mental list of how to make our outdoor space more friendly through the winter.   

Little Bear peaks out from a lunch picnic in the old plastic playhouse.

Little Bear peaks out from a lunch picnic in the old plastic playhouse.

When we got rid of our plastic playground climbers and clubhouse last month and made way for a new natural playground, the one major piece missing from our work-in-progress was a sort of hideout for the boys. In fact, not long after the nature playscape was complete, they had relocated all of the free pieces to a shady little clearing under my lilacs, which they called their “campsite”. I had always intended to build some type of structure for the boys to play in. Originally, I wanted it to be something that they could build and take apart themselves, like a natural lean-to, but at ages 3.5 and newly 5, they don’t really have the strength or coordination to handle very long pieces of wood and I wanted the structure to be big enough and cozy enough to host our rainy (and soon snowy) day picnics. As much as I hated the plastic play structure, that clubhouse hosted many cozy inclement weather meals for me and the boys over the past few years. 

So this morning, with The Captain halfway through a two-week stint on his tugboat, I began my own hasty search for a suitable structure that would blend in with our natural space while offering shelter and coziness. To be honest, what I really wanted was a giant traditional teepee, complete with smoke flaps and a liner and room for a fire in the middle. But it didn’t take long for me to decide that that’s beyond my solo-build-in-a-morning skill set, not to mention that the footprint would be too big in our backyard. I looked at smaller, kid-sized teepees but didn’t think they’d allow enough room for me and the boys to crowd in through the winter.

Eventually I found some plans for play tents. These seemed both roomy enough to accommodate the family, but simple enough that I could build one on my own in one morning. We are lucky in that we have a stockpile of scrap wood, tools, and sail canvas at our disposal, all of which would be needed for this project. A simple play tent appealed to me for its simplicity and the fact that I already had most of the supplies on hand. One quick trip to the hardware store, $18.35 spent, and we were ready to go.

Interested in making your own? Check out my step-by-step directions below!

Materials, plus an old pallet that we grabbed to use as flooring.

Materials, plus an old pallet that we grabbed to use as flooring.

Materials:

-4 2”x3”x6’ (I would have actually preferred 1”x2” or 1”x3” but they didn’t have them, so I went with what they had in stock – the lengths were 8’ but they cut them for me)

-2 bolts long enough to fit through two of the pieces used above, I used 6” carriage bolts

-2 nuts to fit the bolts above

-10 3” wood screws

-5 2”x3”x5’

-One piece of canvas, 60” x 140”

Process:

Little helpers are always eager to use power tools!

Little helpers are always eager to use power tools!

Pre-drill a hole on the centerline 10” from one end of the 6’ lengths of wood. Repeat on all four pieces. These will be your frames.

The primary frames, with predrilled holes bolted together.

The primary frames, with predrilled holes bolted together.

Use the bolts to connect two pairs of the predrilled holes. Hand tighten a nut on each one. They should now effectively be hinged on one end.

Primary frames, with bases screwed on and perpendicular frame in place.

Primary frames, with bases screwed on and perpendicular frame in place.

Use wood screws to connect one of the 5’ lengths to the bottom ends of the frames, making each into a triangle.

Raise the frames and use one 5’ length placed in the top Y, perpendicular to each frame. Secure in place with a screw at each end. 

Completed tent frame. (Note: I added additional strapping towards the peak, not necessary if you use the materials listed above).

Completed tent frame. (Note: I added additional strapping towards the peak, not necessary if you use the materials listed above).

Screw two more 5’ lengths between the bottoms of the frames, thereby connecting them with a square base.   

Use the canvas to cover the tent. Secure in place with wood staples if desired.

I used some additional pieces of strapping across the top to sturdy up the structure but those won’t be necessary if you use 2x3s along the base (which I didn’t – I just used the scrap wood we already had). We also put a used pallet inside to create a floorspace.

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The boys wanted to put their sleeping bags in the tent to make it “cozy” and constructed their own benches to go around the fire pit for dinner.

The boys immediately took a liking to their new play tent, but were disappointed when they heard we wouldn’t actually be sleeping in it that night. Instead, we built in a fire in our backyard fire pit and the boys constructed some benches around it to enjoy an al fresco fireside dinner in celebration of our new “home”.

 

This is one happy camper here.

This is one happy camper here.

Our completed outdoor play tent!

Our completed outdoor play tent!

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