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Tag: 365Outside Challenge (Page 1 of 2)

Happy Birthday, 365Outside.org!

September 2015

September 2015

Although the original 365Outside Challenge started for our family nearly two years ago, this week marks a year since I started the 365Outside blog. It also marks my seventh wedding anniversary with The Captain, the beginning of our first extended sailing trip with the kids (heading out for 10 days on Friday, more on that coming soon), the first time I’ve ventured camping with the boys on my own, and the last week before the boys head back to school. It’s a week of many milestones and as such, I’ve been reflecting on the past year quite a bit.

“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” – Zora Neale Hurston

October 2015

October 2015

We know all the cliches about how fast kids grow up. Looking back at some of our first posts on the blog, I can hardly believe that less than 365 short days have passed since my boys were that little. They are growing stronger, smarter and feistier by the minute.

And as our kids grow, so do we. 

A lot has changed for me this year. Our first year of the 365Outside Challenge cleansed my mental health. This second time, I’ve recommitted to a healthier physical lifestyle – eating more nutritiously, drinking less alcohol and exercising more regularly. In doing so, I’m regaining some of the energy and strength I lost after having 2 kids in a year and a half. I can do pull ups again and my endurance is finally back. There are little shadows of abs and biceps that were hidden for years. My body will never be the same as it was before babies, but I’m proud of it and confident in its abilities. The softness in my belly was my babies’ first home. These saggy boobs provided their first meals. The streaks of white rubbery stretch marks outline sacrifices to create new life.

November 2015

November 2015

I’ve recommitted to my writing career this year as well and achieved my goal of getting published offsite at least once a month. Since the launch of my writing website I’m finding work as a content writer too, producing pieces I’m proud of for companies I believe in and getting paid along the way.

I’m proud of my kids all the time. But it feels good to be proud of me for once, too. 

December 2015

December 2015

And of course, with all our growth and change comes more independence all around. The boys play for extended periods in the yard on their own. They climb trees. They build ramps and jumps for their bikes. They know how to dig clams and paddle a surfboard. This summer I’ve started taking them out on the boat by myself. Knowing I can trust them on the boat has allowed us to explore the river on quiet days when The Captain is working. And now we are camping without the Captain for the first time. We are with good friends, so there is plenty of support. But the packing and parenting are all on me.

January 2016

January 2016

The first time we were preparing to go for a boat ride without The Captain, Junior asked sweetly, “But who will drive the boat?” I froze. I thought I was raising feminists and here was my four-year-old thinking that I can’t even drive a boat on my own. After an uneventful trip to the beach and back he turned to me and said, “Good job, Mama. Good job driving that boat.” I smirked back, kind of grateful and kind of indignant, and told him “Good job to you too, honey. Good job riding in that boat.”

February 2016

February 2016

It was kind of sarcastic but kind of true. If it weren’t for each other and the ways we’ve grown this year, we wouldn’t be able to do it on our own. But here we are, just one short year later, and somehow one long year stronger, one year smarter, one year feistier.

Happy anniversary to us. 

There’s another big year ahead. Look out, world.         

March 2016

March 2016

April 2016

April 2016

May 2016

May 2016

June 2016

June 2016

July 2016

July 2016

August 2016

August 2016

How To Wander the Woods With Very Young Children

Junior wanders the woods with a set of walking sticks.

Junior wanders the woods with a set of walking sticks.

When I first sat down to write about hiking with the kids, I drew an absolute blank. I felt totally unqualified and unprepared to dole out any advice about the topic and, dare I say, I actually felt completely uninspired by it. I know, I know – I felt uninspired by the idea of hiking outside with my kids??! Who am I and why so glum, chum?

But then I flipped my thinking. I realized that whenever I ask my kids if they want to go for a hike (or inform them that in fact we WILL be going for a hike, whether they like it or not), there is immediate pushback. They never want to go. In their minds, hiking is an arduous task. It’s work to get from one place to another. It is strenuous activity for relatively little in return. Yet when I ask them if they’d like to go for a walk (or inform them that in fact we WILL be going for a walk, whether they like it or not), they are always game. They help me choose where we’re going. They want to pack snacks and water bottles. They want to know if the dog can come, or if we can bring friends. They are excited. They are clamoring at the door while I finish getting our things together. And that’s exactly the flip my thinking needed.

Hiking, with my very young children, is in fact not pleasurable. If we leave the house with the sole objective to start on foot in one place and end on foot in another place, I am most definitely starting off on the WRONG foot. I am setting myself up for failure.

Junior was so proud of himself when he reached this little summit on our hike in Baja.

Junior was so proud of himself when he reached this little summit on our hike in Baja.

But when we go for a walk, or even better yet, a wander in the woods, we are infinitely more happy. When the kids set the pace and the agenda, we all have more fun. That’s not to say we never make it anywhere. It’s just to say I can’t ever count on us making it somewhere specific and if we do, it’s never within a predetermined timeframe.

Later this year, the Captain is hoping to take Junior on a backpacking trip. Just to remind you, Junior is still four years old. And though he isn’t a super-enthusiastic hiker (YET), we think he will actually love being out there, making his own progress and carrying his own gear, if we frame the experience correctly. First, we are going to try to coordinate with some friends so that he has some positive peer pressure to help him along. Next, we are framing it as a privilege. Backpacking is something that can only be done when you prove you’re ready for it. You have to be able to walk a couple miles with a pack on your back. You have to put in some work to reap your rewards. You have to be physically and emotionally strong enough to keep up. In short, you have to be a big kid.

Obviously, having just turned three, Little Bear isn’t there yet. He’s still at the meandering-through-the-woods phase. Which is just fine. Sometimes we have to meet our kids right where they are. And so, for Little Bear and little people like him, here are my top 3 tips for hiking wandering the woods with very young children.

  1. Enjoying a wet snack in the soggy woods.

    Enjoying a wet snack in the soggy woods.

    Bring plentiful snacks. This is pretty much my top tip for anything with kids. Skiing? Bring snacks. Sailing? Bring snacks. Hitting the beach? Taking a road trip? Sticking your head out the window to check if it’s raining? Always bring snacks. There will come a time when you will be running out the door for a very quick errand or simple stroll to get the mail and you will fool yourself into thinking it’s okay to not bring snacks, but you will be wrong. Very, very wrong.

  2. You may set a target destination or a target timeframe, but never set both. If you’re trying to get somewhere specific, allow all the time your kids want to take. And believe me, that will be ages. Epochs even. Or, if you know you don’t have several days to wander the woods, set a timeframe and confine your explorations to areas that are easily accessible. That is to say, don’t wander off deeply into the woods only to find your time expired and your car two miles away. Murphy’s Law says that this will happen every time, and that your child will then either take four times as long to return to the car, or will need to poop immediately.

    When they want to stop, discover and observe, go ahead and stop, discover and observe right alongside them!

    When they want to stop, discover and observe, let them!

  3. Don’t push it. Go in with low expectations, and let your kids set the pace. Instead of walking ahead of them, follow along behind. When they stop to look at something, stop to look at it with them. If they are tired or uncomfortable or hungry, listen. If they are fussy, ask yourself if they could be tired or uncomfortable or hungry. It is usually one of the three, and all can be fixed. Stay one step ahead of them in preparations, but one step behind in pace. Your patience will be rewarded.

Have you wandered the woods with the very young people in your life lately?

Wandering the woods with friends on an incredible fall day.

Wandering the woods with friends on an incredible fall day.

 

Why We Risk It: Teaching Kids About Risk Management

This is the second in a two-part series about risk. To read the first installment about our family history with risk, click here

These days, I try not to think too much about risk.

This probably sounds irresponsible and flippant so I should explain that I have spent an enormous amount of time assessing risk in a professional capacity and reflecting on its implications on my personal life. It is not in spite of but rather because of this, that I try not to think too much about risk. Let me explain.

Sunsets at sea were a constant reward for our travels.

Sunsets at sea were a constant reward for our travels.

After college, I decided to pursue some professional sailing certifications. I trained first in the UK and then Australia, and ultimately I achieved a few handy licenses that got me a job as a captain and sailing instructor in the British Virgin Islands. It wasn’t long after that that I met The Captain and began teaching study abroad programs with him on larger sailboats. Later, once we moved back to the states, I became the director of several youth sailing programs. This is all a roundabout way of saying I worked as an experiential educator for a long time.

In running all of these sailing programs for young people ranging from 8-year olds bobbing around in tiny dinghies to college students crossing oceans on 100-ft sailing schooners, it was a regular part of my job to professionally assess risk at every moment and make split-second decisions that weighed risk against experience.

Is this worth it, I would ask myself. Is the risk small enough and the experience great enough to justify what I’m about to do? 

Is the relatively minuscule risk of a serious accident worth the immensely beautiful reward of crossing an ocean under the power of sails, of standing watch under a blanket of stars that is reflected back by the endless sea, of arriving safely to a new continent and knowing that it was nothing but you and mother nature that got you there?

When the risk is relatively small and the reward potentially enormous, the answer is often yes, it’s worth it. For remember, there is always a risk even if just in falling to sleep each night. Even in waking. In crossing the road. In getting behind the wheel. Everyone dies. It is such a delicate balance between risk and experience.

You can get hurt doing anything. You can get hurt doing nothing.

So how can I justify this balance, how can I justify such a delicate juggling act when I’m bringing my kids along?

This brings me to risk management.

Headlamps on for some pj-clad explorations after dark.

Headlamps on for some pajama-clad explorations after dark.

Without thinking about it, we practice risk management every day. We learn to recognize real, significant risks and take reasonable steps to minimize them. At the most basic level this includes things like helmets on bikes and life jackets on boats. It means affixing lights to my children when we’re in the woods after dark. It means a latch on the backyard gate that’s out of their reach.

It does not mean staying home all the time. It does not mean keeping both feet firmly planted on dry land all the time. It does not mean watching life pass us by while we stand still.

For the record, both of these kids stuck the landing without incident.

For the record, both of these kids stuck the landing without incident.

The single most important element of risk management when kids are  involved is education. I let my kids push their own limits. I let them experience failure. I am often the parent at the playground whose child climbs too high and I’m okay with that. I would rather my kid come home with a skinned knee and bruised elbows, having learned something about his own physical limitations. I would rather my kids push the limits and experience failure in a relatively safe environment. Kids learn through experience, and failures including injuries are a part of that.

My kids are young enough now that they are nearly always within my sight. But someday they won’t be and before they’re out there alone, I want them to already know and have experienced real risks with me alongside.

We spend an enormous amount of time talking with them in truthful terms about the risks that exist in their environment. We live across the street from the town boat ramp and marina, where the marsh meets the river and leads to the sea. My boys love to stomp on icy puddles and to them, the river right now looks like the mother of all icy puddles. My worst fear is one of them somehow escaping my sight and getting out on that ice. It looks thick but it’s salty and mushy and moving. So we talk ALL THE TIME about the risks of the river.

Surveying the icy river.

Surveying the icy river.

It doesn’t matter if you’re just going to get a ball you dropped or you’re just going to have a better look at the ducks. 

You stay away from the river because the banks are slippery and the ice is dangerous. 

You keep your feet on the gravel road.

You could fall in. 

It would be too cold to swim. 

You wouldn’t be able to keep your head above the water, and Mommy and Daddy would have a very hard time getting you out.      

We aren’t purposely trying to scare them, but it does scare them a little bit and that’s not a bad thing. It’s perfectly fine to have a healthy respect for nature. It’s perfectly fine to be a little scared. I’m glad that my boys have spent enough time outdoors to know that we are tiny in this big, big world. We don’t own this place. It’s bigger than us and we have to respect that.

Teaching our kids to recognize the risks in their environment is not the same as invoking fear of the outdoors. It’s empowering them to protect themselves and others, and to make better decisions when we’re not around to guide them. 

Pushing the limits at the skate park is just another part of learning what our bodies are capable of doing.

Pushing the limits at the skate park is just another part of learning what our bodies are capable of doing.

We talk openly with the boys about dangerous weather conditions. On days when it snows wet and hard all day and the trees hang low under the weight, we tell them that we will walk in the hay fields where we will be safe even if a tree falls. When it rains and then nightfall brings a deep freeze, we talk about how slippery the roads and the steps can be, and the boys help to spread sand along the walkway. When the sun beats down and we’re at the beach for six hours straight, we talk about taking breaks in the shade to cool off and drink lots of water.

I don’t want to raise kids who think that the world is their oyster. Kids who think they are larger than life and can take on just about anything. Kids who think they’re invincible and can conquer all.

No. I want to raise kids who know their place in the wild. Kids who respect the power of nature and recognize the delicate balance between risk and experience. I want to raise kids who are confident enough to ask for help or say no when something feels scary. I want to raise smart adventurers.

Junior conquers the playground.

Junior conquers the playground.

Week Two of the 365Outside Challenge: 2016

January is more than halfway over, which is significant for 365Outsiders because if you live someplace seasonal in the northern hemisphere, it’s likely that January and February will be the hardest months of your challenge. And one of them is already halfway over. See how quickly this has happened?

The first barefoot beach day of 2015 was on April 15th. When will it be this year?

The first barefoot beach day of 2015 was on April 15th. When will it be this year?

In just a few short weeks we’ll be staring down February, the last of the hard work. Come March, we’ll see the ground thawing and the occasional return of balmy days when our gloves and hats are left behind again. By April there will likely be a few barefoot beach days and then perhaps a last blast of frost before the cold clears for spring and boxes of winter gear are taped up and shoved into the attic. The flowers will begin to push aside mounds of muddy soil as they sprout. The air will smell earthy and moist. The ground will once again bubble and give beneath our feet. It really will not be long. The hard work is here now, but not for long.

If you have not been following along on Facebook, here is what you missed this week:

Monday: Junior insisted that we go to the playground and I relented, only to pry two crying, tired children away from it when it was time to go home. This is pretty much how we always leave the playground and is one of several reasons why we do not often go there. I will write more about playgrounds another time. Suffice it to say, they are not my favorite. Also on Monday, I shared a photo from the Let’s Go Outside Revolution that summarized the scarcity of children playing outdoors by comparing them to an endangered species. Scary thought.

Image courtesy of the Let's Go Outside Revolution

Image courtesy of the Let’s Go Outside Revolution

Tuesday: I shared tips for layering up and dressing appropriately for the cold weather.

Picnics don't have to be reserved for sunny summer days.

Picnics don’t have to be reserved for sunny summer days.

Wednesday: We had a picnic! Since starting our first 365Outside Challenge in 2015, I’ve found my thinking around seasonal activities has dramatically shifted. Picnics used to be a fair weather activity for mild spring or summer days. More recently though, we’ve had them year round. We even sometimes have rainy day picnics in the backyard playhouse and eat to the sound of the rain drumming on our roof.

Thursday: I shared an important reminder that many campsites book up for the summer starting now. If you are interested in a summer camping trip (and you should be!) check Reserve America to find campsites near you. Some even offer sparse accommodations to choose from such as cabins and yurts.

Wild turkey tracks in the snow.

Wild turkey tracks in the snow.

Friday: We went for a nature walk. These also fall under the category of previously seasonal but now year round activity in our family. Though it’s certainly easier to find traces of wildlife in the warmer months, there is still plenty to see if you slow down and carefully observe. We look for prints in the snow, discarded shells or seeds from animals eating, and even holes in the ground in which critters might be sleeping. We recently learned that you can tell when a groundhog is hibernating in its hole by the frost around the opening, which forms when the rodent’s breath condenses.

Junior really loved these Strider Snow ski attachments for his balance  bike.

Junior really loved these Strider Snow ski attachments for his balance bike.

Saturday: It finally snowed here, a tiny bit. Junior got to try out the Strider Snow Ski attachments for his balance bike (verdict: two thumbs up) and I began to research cross country skiing adventures.

Sunday: For the second week in a row we were lucky enough to be joined by good friends for a hike. Junior did the whole two-mile circuit on his own, and Little Bear lasted most of the way before going in the carrier for a snuggle. This week we walked at the Coolidge Reservation, which is a great hike for little legs since it traverses a broad variety of terrain including a short bridge over a stream, and comes out on a beautiful rolling field down to the ocean, all in the span of a mile. After a scenic snack, it’s mostly downhill on the way back to the parking lot.

A great hike with friends today at the Coolidge Reservation in Manchester.

A great hike with friends today at the Coolidge Reservation in Manchester.

Now we look forward to a new week with snow in the forecast. Don’t hate me too much when I say I welcome it. Remember, adventure is all a frame of mind.

The 365Outside Challenge: 2016 will be open for new registrants through the end of the month. Many thanks to our friends over at Merrohawke Nature School who shared the challenge in their  newsletter this month.

Keep spreading the word, friends!

Week One of the 365Outside Challenge: 2016

Lighting our wish lanterns was a special way to welcome 2016.

Sending wish lanterns up into the sky was a special way to welcome 2016 with old friends.

Some weeks always seem longer than others and for me, the week back to reality after the holidays is always a long week. I can’t believe that it was just a week ago that we were celebrating the New Year, sending wish lanterns into the sky with good friends and waving goodbye to 2015 as their light faded smaller and smaller into the night.

There’s also something daunting about starting a new challenge that makes the first week seem even harder. I didn’t expect it to feel quite as big the second time around. By now, our daily adventures outside have become habit. We already have one challenge under our belts. But somehow it felt so much easier when I was thinking to myself, 335 days down, 30 to go. Today’s 10 days down, 356 to go sounds a lot harder! Especially on a day like today where the wind is howling and the rain is pounding down.

On days like today I am reminded how lucky we are to have wonderful, like-minded friends in our lives. Friends who don’t even blink when we invite them on a hike in weather that drives most people to the mall or the movies.

Enjoying a wet snack in the soggy woods.

Enjoying a wet snack in the soggy woods.

And so it was that we found ourselves stomping through the soggy woods all morning with a crew of muddy children, who relished the opportunity to run off some energy and search for signs of bears (which we don’t have around here, but a kid can dream, right?) It was a good reminder for me after a long week that it’s not so hard. We are surrounded by beautiful people and beautiful places. The hardest part is motivating to get out the door, and so we just take it one day at a time. It felt so, so good to come back to the warm house, hang our sopping gear by the woodstove, and heat up some hearty bean soup for lunch. And now, as I type this, I’m drinking my raspberry tea and listening to the steady downpour on our skylight while both boys nap upstairs. It’s the perfect Sunday afternoon, after the perfect Sunday morning.

In case you weren’t able to follow our last week on Facebook (you don’t need an account just to read the page) here’s a summary:

Monday meant work, school and all the other commitments of our busy lives were back in full force. Getting outside when you’re busy can seem hard and intimidating until it becomes an everyday habit.

Bedtime stories outside after a busy day.

Bedtime stories outside after a busy day.

Our favorite trick for getting outside on busy days is to get it done as early as possible, or wait for after dark and make a special night of it. If you weren’t able to get out this morning, try taking fifteen minutes tonight after the sun goes down.

When we aren’t in the mood for a walk or the kids are already in pajamas, we make hot drinks and set up some chairs on our back deck with plenty of warm blankets. We snuggle under the blankets and star gaze while enjoying some warm tea or hot chocolate. Sometimes we use our headlamps and read a favorite story outside. The kids love this routine because it feels special and exciting. We love the burst of fresh air to end our day on a positive note.

Tuesday brought a windchill of-2 degrees here. Brrrrrrr! Is that “too cold” to take my kids outside? I’m sure lots would say yes but Tuesday’s tip: LOW EXPECTATIONS.

Junior keeping cozy on a frigid day.

Junior keeping cozy on a frigid day.

While we aim to stay outside for at least 20 minutes every day, there is no rule about how long we should stay out. The only “rule” so to speak is that we get outside simply for the sake of getting outside. We’re not pursuing outdoor play at the expense of frostbite over here.

Tuesday we went through the hassle of putting on all that winter gear with very low expectations. We may only last five minutes and that’s ok. I’d rather spend only a sliver of time outside and have my kids ready and excited to go out again tomorrow than force them to stay outside longer than they’re comfortable and pay the price on another chilly day when they remember their discomfort and refuse to go out at all. In fact, Junior begged to go out again after dark on Tuesday!

If something is holding you back, go out with the knowledge that it’s totally ok to head right back inside once you’ve given it a solid try. And don’t forget to dress appropriately (more about that on the blog coming soon.) Good luck and stay warm!

Wednesday we fed the birds. Even if you don’t live someplace snowy and frozen, they’re sure to appreciate it. No birdseed in the house? No problem. The humane society recommends using raw nuts and seeds, or egg shells which provide healthy calcium for backyard birds.

Little Bear was so proud of himself when his patient, quiet waiting paid off and this chickadee landed on his hand to eat some sunflower seeds.

Little Bear was so proud of himself when his patient, quiet waiting paid off and this chickadee landed on his hand to eat some sunflower seeds.

Little Bear and I took our first class together on Wednesday at the Ipswich River Wildlife Mass Audubon where we learned that local chickadees there are so acclimated to budding ornithologists that they will land on your hand to feed. Little Bear was so proud of himself.

Even if a bird doesn’t land on your hand, it’s still fun to watch them. Get out a bird book or download an app like Sibley or Audubon to help with identifying your new feathered friends.

Little Bear takes a minute to lounge on the ground while we wait to pick up Junior from school

Little Bear takes a minute to lounge on the ground while we wait to pick up Junior from school

Thursday we were looking for an easy way to make it through the last of our busy days this week. We find it’s easiest to make time for outside play when you’re already coming or going. When I pick my oldest up from school, he’s already wearing most of his outdoor gear. I just slip his snow pants on (if needed) and give him some free time to run wild. We both need it after a long day. Other times the kids are so spent that they just want to lie down and cloud-gaze, and that’s fine too.

If you’re on a busy, time-pressed schedule by the time you are heading home, take a deep breath and ask yourself if it will really matter if dinner and bedtime are ten minutes later. Sometimes I get so caught up in our “schedule” that I lose sight of the bigger picture. Try going for a walk around the block before you even get in the car. Or park a block away and try not to rush your little one as you stroll back. Think of it as your moment of peace in an otherwise hectic week.

Waiting for our neighbors to come over so we can start our glow stick hunt (which ended in tears because everyone wanted everyone else's glow sticks, but hey - we tried!)

Waiting for our neighbors to come over so we can start our glow stick hunt (which ended in tears because everyone wanted everyone else’s glow sticks, but hey – we tried!)

Friday we celebrated the end of the school week in a fun way with the little people in our life.  Stop off at the store on the way to or from work today and pick up a pack of glow sticks. I found packs of 15 glow bracelets for a dollar at Target! Hide them around the yard after it gets dark and set the kids loose on a glow stick hunt. Just because the sun has set, it doesn’t mean your chance to play outside has been missed. Your kids will thank you.

Saturday’s tip was to visit your favorite summer spot in the depths of winter. Try it! We are lucky to live near the coast so we visit the beach year round. It’s a different experience in every season but the kids love it regardless of the temperature.

Little Bear ready to go tide pooling in 25 degree weather.

Little Bear ready to go tide pooling in 25 degree weather.

This week also saw our news story (which originally ran in the Gloucester Daily Times) republished in the Newburyport News. Yay for spreading the word! We’ve now had almost 90,000 days of outdoor time pledged for 2016 and the challenge will be open for new registrants until the end of the month. Do you know someone who might be interested? Send them over to sign up before it’s too late.

There’s Still Time to Join the 365Outside Challenge: 2016

 

Will you join us in our journey towards a happier, healthier lifestyle in 2016?

Will you join us in our journey towards a happier, healthier lifestyle in 2016?

365Outside has received over 60,000 days of outdoor play pledged for the year 2016 and we will continue to accept new pledges through the end of January. We are also featured in our local newspaper today! Have you joined us to lead a happier, healthier lifestyle in 2016?

If you haven’t already taken the pledge (it’s free!) head on over to the 365Outside Challenge: 2016 to get started. While you’re at it, tell a friend or two and spread the word.

If you are looking for some new ideas for outdoor activities to get you started, please sign up to follow our blog by entering your email in our subscription link located in the righthand sidebar. We promise not to send you any spam and you are free to unsubscribe at any time.

We will also be posting daily inspiration on our public Facebook page and compiling it weekly onto the blog from here on out. You can keep up with our daily activities too, by checking us out on Instagram.

If you’re on Facebook or Instagram please tag us @365Outside or document your own journey with #365outside. We love finding inspiration through our friends!

We wish you all a 2016 filled with sunshine, rain and snow, and the mindset to smile through it all. Happy New Year and welcome aboard!

~365Outside | Refresh Your Life~

PS – We promise not to clog your inbox with loads of junk because we hope you’re way too busy playing outside to read any of it. If you’d like to follow along, make sure to sign up for further information and inspiration by following our blog, Facebook, or Instagram accounts. Otherwise, you’re on your own from here and we wish you all our best.

Ride a Bike!

We have snow on the ground here, but the streets are mostly cleared and the boys are begging to get out on their bikes so we’re seizing the opportunity while we can.

 
If you have little ones too small to pedal, we recommend a balance bike to get them started. Our boys both started on balance bikes and we credit it for Junior learning to ride his two-wheeler when he was three, without ever using training wheels. At 2.5, Little Bear can cruise on his balance bike all the way down our hill without putting his feet down. We think he’ll be riding a two-wheeler before he turns 3.
 
Today we’re off for a family bike ride. We’ll bring the seat in case Little Bear needs a lift with us. Can’t wait to take advantage of this mild weather one more time before the frost settles in for a few days tomorrow.

3 Things You Should Know About the Warm Weather in the Northeast

November 2, 2014

November 2, 2014

November 3, 2015

November 3, 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We live in southern New England and though white Christmases are a rare treat, even rarer is what we had this year. After the boys were done ripping open their gifts and the adults were done sipping coffee and mimosas, we headed outside. But we went out without the usual rigamarole of wrestling mittens, hats, and boots on. This year it was 68 degrees out.

55 degrees for our full moon walk on Christmas!

55 degrees for our full moon walk on Christmas!

This fall (and now winter) has been unbelievable. Back in October I kept telling myself, this must be the last beach day. I would pause on the wooden boardwalk as I headed back to the parking lot, taking a deep breath to savor the last sips of summer. I’d think to myself, soak it up, the last warm day to run around at the beach with the sand in our toes. The last breeze that doesn’t chill our spines and force us further into our jackets and scarves. In November, on a random 70-degree day, we met friends at the beach for lunch and lay on the sand, remarking how this was most definitely the last blast. “I don’t think we’ll even see 60 degrees again until April,” I sighed.

But here we are. We’ve had two days in a row of near-70 degree weather. It is so amazing, yet also somewhat disconcerting. What is going on? Is it global warming? Should we be feeling guilty about enjoying this strange pattern?

Here’s what you should know:

  1. El Niño years generally mean less snow and warmer temperatures in the northeast and this is being called a “Super” El Niño. El Niño occurs when temperatures in the central Pacific Ocean are higher than normal. This happens with variable frequency but usually once every 3-5 years. It lasts 9-12 months and peaks in January or February. This year’s El Niño is the strongest on record so it stands to reason that a great deal of this unseasonable warmth can be attributed to it.
  2. The strong arctic oscillation is trapping cold air to the north. When the cold stream of winds that run above Alaska and Canada are in a strong rotation, they remain stuck in the arctic region. Remember all the fuss last winter about that mysterious polar vortex blanketing New England? That’s what happens when the arctic oscillation is weak, allowing the cold winds to move further south. A strong oscillation means warm air for us here in New England.
  3. The role of climate change in this specific weather pattern is uncertain. Climate change is definitely happening and globally, average temperatures are predicted to climb 20 times faster over the next century than they ever have before. But climate change on its own cannot explain average December temperatures in New York City that are 14 degrees higher than normal. Instead, scientists are considering the greater role climate change may play in its effects on En Niño and the arctic oscillation, which are the primary players in this bizarre pattern.

Last winter, we were hit with the opposite of extreme weather and were blanketed with over 8 feet of snow in just one month. Already we are seeing snow in the extended forecast so, enjoy this relatively mild weather while you can. Although the winter is predicted to be a mild one overall, this particular warmth is a rare treat that won’t last long. Savor this.

December 3, 2015 - Beach day in our pajamas.

December 3, 2015 – Beach day in our pajamas.

Eco-Friendly Gift Guide

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The 365Outside Eco-Friendly Gift Guide is live over at Outdoor Families Magazine!

My favorite is #3 and I know someone who is going to be happy to find one under our tree this year.

Click here to have a look!

And don’t forget to join the 365Outside Challenge: 2016 by pledging your days outside and committing to a happier, healthier you in the new year!

Are You Ready For the 365Outside Challenge: 2016?

2016 challengeWe are in the final stretch of our 365Outside Challenge. We have played outside for 352 consecutive days and counting. But it doesn’t feel like a challenge anymore. It’s just our life now; it’s what we do.

One of the most important parts of this challenge for us has been the way that it’s rooted us as a family. It provides a sense of self. We are a family who appreciates nature and loves to be outside. We are a family who plays outside every day regardless of the weather. It’s easy to get lost in vague blanket statements when trying to define what makes a family unique. But this is a very concrete way that we’ve come together around a cause that’s important to us all, both physically and mentally.

The boys giving me a lesson in risk management!

The boys giving me a lesson in risk management!

It’s hard to say how much of who my kids are has been born from this project and how much would have developed regardless. The age old nature vs nurture debate. Kids grow quickly, and mine are at an age where they seem to develop by leaps and bounds every day. Regardless of why, I can say confidently that over the past year I have watched both my boys turn into complete little rippers. They tear around on balance bikes, barrel through the woods on foot, scale anything in their way and have an absolute blast doing it. They paddle around on surfboards, jump into water over their heads and beg to go faster as we head out on our boat. They swim, ski, sled and ride. They barrel out our door in sunshine, rain, sleet, snow, wind and even complete darkness. I am so proud of them. I am so impressed by them. And I am sure that as they get older, I will so have my hands full with them.

A quiet moment listening for coyotes.

A quiet moment listening for coyotes.

But despite their no-fear, high-speed approach, there are moments of quiet too. They continue to be deeply interested by habitats so we are constantly pausing to look at bird nests, beehives and tide pools, nooks in a tree that could possibly provide a spot for a mouse to nest or deep crevices into the rocks that may be big enough for a bear’s cave or a wolf’s den. The boys watch the sky for clouds. They make acute observations about animal tracks and weather patterns. They admonish me a sharp “Shhhh Mama!! I’m listening for birds!” as we make our way through the forest. For every moment of wildness there has been a moment of peace. Sometimes they are even one and the same.

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We’re ready to take on 2016. Are you?

As we bid farewell to 2015, we look ahead to the new year. There is a lot in store for 2016, and I can’t wait to share it all. We already have three camping trips booked and there’s a much grander adventure that we’re looking forward to working on in 2016. But we’ll save that story for another time. There is so much ahead.

For right now, I am excited to announce that the 365Outside Challenge: 2016 will be open for pledges starting today and lasting through the end of January. Of course, there are actually 366 days in 2016, so you have a great chance to be a complete overachiever and hold the record for  the next 7 years to come.

Not sure you can hack a whole year outside? Check out some of my tips for making it out the door here. Or, simply pledge a number of days that makes more sense for you.

To read more, or to pledge some time outside in the new year, check out the 365Outside Challenge: 2016.

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