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    Sunday Spark: Hiking in the Woods

    When Adam asked me what I’d like to do for my birthday, naturally, I said I’d like to go for a hike.

    (Leaves had fallen all along the trail... beautiful!)
    We’ve been hiking together for 17 years. I’ve hiked through two pregnancies, hiked with a newborn, hiked when the snow was up to my hips and when the wind blew so hard and cold that the water was freezing in my drinking water line, hiked when the mosquitoes have bitten my ankles til they’re swollen. Together we’ve woken with the sun, put a tent up in the dark, and the rain, hiked on the Appalachian Trail, in Canada, Mexico, and several US states, and have carried everything we needed for days on our backs. Our children have been along with us for much of the journey. So when we say we’re going hiking – they shout joyously: WHEN!! It warms my heart to see how much they love the woods, too.
    See, nature is my second language. When I’m out in the woods, everything is clear, right, and okay. We could be cold; it’s okay. We could be lost; it’s okay. We could be tired; it’s okay. The energy of the trees, the synergy between sun, air, ground, plants, animals, humans… the world is condensed, tangible, reachable, when you’re in the woods. There aren't any hard, fast schedules, no expectations, no limits. Everything seems possible, and life, perfect.

    (Starting off up the AT)
    Yesterday, as usual, nature didn’t disappoint! We chose a circuit trail at the Delaware Water Gap, on the Pennsylvania side – a favorite spot since it’s not too far a drive for us, and the elevation increase from base to peak isn’t too great, so the incline is gentle – perfect for hikes with children.

    (View across the gap - Mt. Tammany straight ahead, Mt. Minsi to the right)
    We climbed Mount Minsi this time, which was a gentle incline on a mostly clear, not-too-narrow, and well-marked part of the AT. We crossed streams, past a couple of ponds and rocky outcroppings, and were treated to several beautiful views of the gap. At the top, Mt. Minsi opens up to a glorious view of Mount Tammany – still very green, as you can see!

    (View of Mt. Tammany from the top of Mt. Minsi)
    We’ve hiked Mt. Tammany with the kids in the past; it was a slightly shorter loop. The Minsi loop we chose was a ~4.25 miler up the Appalachian Trail, and down a fire lane. It was a beautiful Fall day, warm, bright, the leaves starting to fall – it was absolutely perfect for a day hike.

    (Heading down the fire lane)
    I hope you had a lovely weekend, and are enjoying the Fall. If you hike with your family, tell me about your favorite hiking spot - I'd love to hear!
    Posted: Oct 09 2011, 11:29 by kelly | Comments (3) RSS comment feed |
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    Wordless Wednesday: Don't Mess With Texas

    We travelled to Texas over Spring break. The wildflowers were abundant; my iPhone camera was so happy! Family time was also in abundance; and for that, I am grateful. For Wordless Wednesday, here's our trip, in pictures. Enjoy!

    Texas Bluebonnet



    Blanketflower like I can never get to grow in my garden


    Sitting on rocks. Not the best photo, but necessary for the dramatic next photograh...

    This fellow crawled out right next to where we were sitting, above.

    Obviously, we didn't see this sign before sitting there.

    Creek bed


    An awesome mural

    Geocaching (we did A LOT of cahching while in TX!)


    Walking with her hand on his back. My heart.


    More wildflowers. And bugs.

    Tiger at the In-Sync Exotics Wildlife Sanctuary. Each big cat here was rescued (some really heartbreaking stories of abuse & neglect) & are cared for by this amazing place, run completely on donations. If you're ever near Wylie, Texas, you must visit. (just a note, I'm not affiliated with In-Sync, we just happened upon it on our trip & I was really moved by the place).

    Big tiger sleeping like a little housecat


    Hot & dry y'all

    Walking along the reservoir in the sunset

    Waiting to head home

    Posted: May 03 2011, 23:49 by kelly | Comments (6) RSS comment feed |
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    Babywearing Over the Years

    Ever since my first baby was born, I was a babywearer! I didn't wear my babies 100% of the time, but whenever it was convenient for me, or when it was what my babies needed (which, if you have high needs babies, can be very often!). Since I retuned to working very soon after both babies were born (we own our own business), I started babywearing right from the start. My first carrier was a Snugli, which I bought from a big box store out of desperation a few weeks after my 1st baby was born, and we realized she didn't like the expensive organic pouch I bought while I was still pregnant, and she wasn’t going to be the type of baby who would lie or sit quietly while we went about our work My daughter loved the Snugli – I’d dance around while packing & shipping in our warehouse and she’d fall asleep. She really liked being held upright. I also had the New Native pouch...

    Aforementioned expensive organic pouch
    which she pretty much hated until she was able to sit up, and we could do the hip carry. When she was close to a year, after a failed attempt at an Infantino sling purchase...

    Babywearing in front of the White House - She looks comfy, but my neck is KILLING me
    (I bought one, wore it on one trip, ended up with a horribly sore shoulder/neck/back, and returned it afterwards. Though she loved it, I hated it. Interestingly, this sling was recalled several years later), I bought a more supportive and larger hip carry sling called the Mei Hip – which I adored.

    Yay, Mei Hip! Okay, this is a weird photo, but still. Yay!
    The mei hip is one of only two baby carriers I have hung on to for my kids "baby boxes". Somewhere in the middle of my daughter's infancy, we also bought a frame pack carrier so Adam could carry her (the pouch was too small for him and the snugli required a lot of strap fiddling to go from one person to another), and so we could hike with her (it had a built in backpack area & a bar that clicked out so you could set the pack down w/out taking baby out). We didn’t end up doing much hiking that first year, but it sure came in handy otherwise:

    Babywearing at a baseball game!
    Once my son was born, I realized quickly that I needed to carry him much more often than my first, because, if I wanted to be able to tend to my 2 year old, I had to have my hands free. My son also preferred an upright position, but did. not. like. the Snugli carrier (I find it so interesting the distinct preferences babies can have!). The Mei Hip didn't work well for infants, and while he did like the New Native, it wasn't that convenient to get on/off. A friend of mine made a padded ring sling for me which was wonderful & we got quite a bit of use out of it as a newborn – it was very supportive, held him comfortably upright, I was able to nurse in it, and it was easy to slip out of if I needed to once he had fallen asleep.

    Padded ring sling & my thumb sucking newborn

    As we moved into summer though, the padded sling was just too hot, so I was given a used Solar Veil sling, which became my absolute all-time favorite go-to sling (this is the other baby carrier I kept for posterity):

    Adam wearing the Solar Veil
    I recommend this sling to anyone who asks, as it is versatile – you can carry in many different positions, keeps cool in the summer, offers sun protection, can get wet & dries easily, lasts for years...

    Solar Veil back carry at three years old
    and is quickly adjustable so anyone can wear it. As he was nearing a year old, I realized though that the solarveil sling kept him very close, and he was getting squirmy and often wanted more freedom of motion - though he didn't yet walk, he wanted to chase his sister! I invested in the Ergo, thinking it would give him a bit more autonomy, while still keeping him close. Truth be told, while the ergo WAS very comfortable to wear, and Adam could wear it to, we never really got the hang of getting it on and off easily with a squirmy toddler, and once my son was back there, he often got “bored” and wanted to be down, or on my front where he could see me, so we didn’t get too much use out of it. Fortunately, there’s a good market for these, and we were able to sell it for nearly what we bought it. Go babywearingsharing!

    Relatively comfy in the Ergo
    Now that my children are 6 and nearly 4, I look back so fondly on my babywearing years. I miss it! I always loved baby wearing because I could keep my babies close, which made them happy. I could get work done while interacting with them which made me happy. I could keep them up closer to “my level” so they could see what was going on, what I was doing, and were able to interact more with the world around them than from a “stuck” position on their back on the floor or in the playpen or bouncer seat (note: we used all these as appropriate and needed, but I found it much easier to keep my babies comfortable in a sling/carrier – I always felt more intoned to their moods when they were on my body). All told, I had EIGHT baby carriers over the years (yikes)! Truth be told, I could have gotten away with about 2 – the Solar Veil ring sling and the Ella Roo Mei Hip. And as "uncrunchy" as the Snugli carrier was, it sure did serve my colicky first baby well!
    So, do/did you babywear? How many slings/carriers did you have?
    **This post was written for inclusion in the “Baby Carrier Fashion Show Link Up” at A Ruby in the Sunrise blog. Do you have a babywearing post you’d like to share? Link up!**
    Posted: Apr 10 2011, 12:08 by kelly | Comments (12) RSS comment feed |
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    Wordless Wednesday: Spring Geocaching

    Spring is almost here! The morning rain stopped, and the afternoon brought warm(ish) temperatures and glorious sun - just perfect for an outdoor geocaching (what's geocaching?) adventure!

    Starting off...

    Getting closer...

    I think it's down there somewhere...

    We found it!!!

    Kids & water...

    Cool old house alond the way...

    I just had to peek inside (it's the photographer in me - going to have to get a real camera one of these days!)...

    And look, the daffodils think it's Spring!!

    What are you doing now that it's nearly Spring?

    Posted: Mar 16 2011, 17:50 by kelly | Comments (3) RSS comment feed |
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    Hiking With Children

    We went hiking this weekend for Mother’s Day. It was the first real, long hike we’ve taken A.C. (after children); and Adam and I used to hike and backpack quite a bit B.C. (before children). We were super-excited, and at the same time, not quite sure how it would play out. Truth be told, it ended up as the perfect trip; I couldn’t have planned a better Mother’s Day if I’d tried. The children had a blast - they are naturals in the outdoors! And Adam and I rekindled our love of hiking. Can't wait to plan the next trip - even thinking of trying a backpacking/camping hike next time!

    The hike we chose this past weekend was in the Delaware Water Gap national recreation area in Northern New Jersey/Pennsylvania. It’s positively beautiful in that area (yes, New Jersey!) – breathtaking views, fresh air, even wild blueberries (though of course not yet in season). The weather on Sunday was nearly perfect – mid-60’s in the sun. It was delightfully cool for hiking with a pack (or child) on your back, though a bit chilly for the children, who didn’t have packs, so it kept us all moving. The coolness and breeze also kept the bugs at bay, which was a blessing.

    We hiked a circuit trail up/down Mt. Tammany. The whole hike was approximately 2.5mi, with an elevation gain of 1,200ft – I’d call it a moderate hike in difficulty. It had varied terrain – a bit flat, most rocky, some small boulders, some gravel. It’s a very clearly marked (blazed) trail, and well maintained. Perhaps best of all, the trail was sparsely populated, even for a holiday weekend, which allowed us the freedom to move at our own pace – taking in the sights and sounds of nature, relatively uninterrupted.

    We chose to hike the trail in “reverse” – starting at the Appalachian Trail which is a bit less steep at the beginning, crossing the cascading Dunfield Brook, transferring to the “blue dot” trail, and descending on the “red dot” trail. All told, with several brief rests on the ascent, a half hour stop at the top for lunch, a short tantrum, and a sleeping toddler strapped to my back for the descent, it took us a bit less than four hours. With a 2 year old and 5 year old, on moderately difficult terrain, I call that a huge success.

    For more information on the Mount Tammany hike, here are a few good links:





    Along the way, we enjoyed beautiful overlooks, streams, birds, new spring growth, and the peace and inner focus that I’ve only ever found with exertive backwoods hiking. We even picked up few cans left behind by less-than-conscientious previous hikers (pack it in, pack it out, folks!).

    I rediscovered my love of hiking on this trip. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I enjoyed it just as much as I remembered it B.C., and perhaps even more as viewed within the new, innocent perspective of my children – who just happen to be natural hikers and gentle embracers of the beauty of nature. What a blessing to realize that we could share something we enjoyed so much, with our kids – and find that they really enjoy it too. We're really looking forward to our next trip!

    We managed to capture some of the sights along the way with our iPhones (the joys of modern technology). Enjoy!

    Posted: May 12 2010, 00:29 by kelly | Comments (7) RSS comment feed |
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    Filed under: Children | Family Time | Outdoors | Travel