Enjoying Spring in Texas

The weather this week has been beautiful, so no wanderlust for me. Instead I’m happy to be somewhere with 70 degree days, a cool breeze and bright blue skies. I’ve gone running so many times this week at lunch, and I swear it was just to take advantage of the weather.

While Mark is up in the Northeast enjoying the snow, I’m trying to keep my crazy toddlers entertained and most importantly, outside. Today we (thanks Dad!) went to the Bayou City Arts Festival and walked around, ate from food trucks, purchased a picture for Annelise’s room, and just generally enjoyed being in the sunshine. Nolan did some art on his own too.

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It was a nice reminder to me that when the weather is good, anything is possible. Tomorrow, we’re off to Blessington Farms which I mentioned in my last Houston post. I expect to see quite a bit of this…(from last October)…

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Happy weekend everyone!

– Stassja

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Close to Home: Camping with a Baby

Living in Texas, there are not many “outdoor” activities available that involve hiking boots, or a backpack. However, there are a few campgrounds nearby which we’ve visited either for overnight camping where you park your car in a spot and sleep in a tent (a.k.a. car camping) or for a day hike. We actually haven’t done any of this since Annelise was born, but we’re planning to go later this year, so we can update you on how camping works with older toddlers, but I’m optimistic!

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We’ve taken Nolan overnight camping twice – once when he was about 2 months old, and once when he was about 15 months old. We had a great time both times though I’ll say the baby is much easier. I personally would avoid taking kids camping during the crawling stage as there aren’t many options for them to crawl other than in an area with lots of dirt / bugs / etc. But once they’re walking, it’s actually a great place to explore. In fact, Nolan learned “wipe your dirty hands on your shirt” on the second camping trip and now we’re trying to get him to break that habit!

Camping with a baby can be easier than you think, as long as the people you go with are cool with some occasional crying. When Nolan was little, we just took our small backpacking tent, and used a changing pad in between our sleeping bags as his place to sleep. When he fussed, he was close by and I could feed him quickly and put him back down.¬†We also brought our travel crib and a stroller mosquito net to put over it – he napped reasonably well in there, and it was a good place to put him down when someone wasn’t holding him.

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For the hiking this trip, we carried Nolan in our Baby Bjorn, but an Ergo would have worked as well. He was a big baby, and after a few hours, my back started hurting so I traded with my husband. But obviously depends on how long the hike was – this was a flat ~8 mile course so the carriers worked fine.

For meals, we brought our Baby Bjorn bouncer so he could feel like part of the conversation. We just set it up next to the camping chairs.

camping 054The camping spot pictured above is Huntsville which is our favorite, and we will be returning shortly. We went in January (hence the long sleeves) but we also got pretty lucky with weather. We tried to go last year in February but had a forecast in the 40s and decided taking a 3 month old out in that cold would not be fun – so it can definitely be weather dependent.

Our second camping trip was with a young toddler (15 months). We did much of the same, except we got a larger tent and put the travel crib inside the tent for both naps & bedtime. Since we put him down earlier than we went to bed, we just crept in later. It helped that our campfire was at the second campsite next to ours so we could put him in the tent and be within earshot but not so close that we kept him up.

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We also went ahead and purchased a hiking backpack for this trip as he was now a stout boy, and required more support though I have friends who used the Ergo up to 18 months, so it may just depend on the kid. Nolan loved the backpack, and even fell asleep on the hike – you can see he slept right through our snack break!

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Since we knew we’d have some downtime, we also brought the wagon so we could walk him around the campground areas. This worked really really well since young toddlers do not go where you want them to go when walking. I think our running stroller would have worked well too.

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This trip was near Lake Somerville which was fun, but probably more for people who have a boat or horses (it was equestrian friendly). The hiking was different and slightly hilly (for Texas) which was a nice change of pace, but I find the Huntsville campground much easier. Good variety though!

So as I’m thinking about taking our one year old and three year old camping, are there any other parents out there who have done this? Any tips for how to get both kids to sleep in a tent at the same time? I think there will be some serious trial and error. ūüôā Luckily it’s a short drive away, so if we have to go home early, we’ll just do that. Wish me luck!

– Stassja

Close to Home: Fun with Kids in Houston

Is anyone else feeling ready for winter to be over? We had a rainy weekend (which I know, is better than snow) and it made me feel a bit anxious to do something. It probably doesn’t help that we just came back from vacation (WDW, more on that later), but I found myself craving something fun to do. But alas, South Africa is not in the cards right now so I wanted to share our list of close to home activities that are on our agenda for the spring.

  • Houston Zoo – such an obvious one, and you would think it would get old, but it’s actually really peaceful (trick: get there when it opens like we do) and it’s a good two hours of entertainment, and you spend it outside.¬†If you’re hungry for lunch, grab some food at the Giraffe House and eat on the patio with the giraffes. Food is decent…and did I mention the giraffes?

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  • Farm Fun – There are several in the greater Houston area but the one by us is Blessington Farms – we’ve done the pumpkin patch, strawberry picking, and just the “farm funland”. It is heaven for toddlers, especially little (and big) boys who like trucks. Oh and the giant slides are fun too.

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  • Hiking and/or Camping – Our favorite spot to overnight camp is Huntsville and we hope to make it there this season. We’ve taken Nolan before, but it was a few years ago. A few weekends ago we “practiced” in our backyard by setting up a tent and it was a resounding success with Nolan. I think Annelise may be another issue, but we’re willing to give it a go just to get away for a weekend. Even if we don’t make it camping, I forsee more backyard tent time & some hiking in Huntsville around the lake. We have to practice using the hiking backpack with Annelise for our upcoming trip to Bend Oregon (yay, more hiking!).
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Bayou Bend hiking – before we realized that gators. were. everywhere.

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Huntsville State Park in the winter. Perfect.

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Somerville State Park

  • No Label Brewery – Just because it’s not for your kids, doesn’t mean they can’t have fun. We went here after work on a Friday with a few other families and the kids played together with toys / soccer balls and we drank beer. We will definitely be doing this one again.
  • The Beach – you would think we go here more often, but we actually almost never go – which is sad, given how close it is. We’re going to try to do more of that this year.
  • And of course, parks, parks and more parks. Our kids current favorite is “the train park” – Katy¬†Playstation Park, but really anything with a slide is acceptable.

houstonpost 058What are your favorite Houston things to do? Please share, always looking for ideas!

– Stassja