Monday, April 30, 2012

Laundry on a Road Trip: Pack an Extra Bag

My final tip for taming the travel laundry beast (see my post on organizing baby laundry here and coming home laundry-free here) is all about keeping tabs on the laundry while on a road trip.

Summer is the perfect time to hit the road for a lengthy vacation. If you're planning to be away for a week or more, the idea of handling all that laundry can be a bit overwhelming. I picked this tip up from my sister, a mom of two who traveled throughout Michigan for a week last summer. They visited several different areas of the state and stayed for a couple of nights in each place. Needless to say, there was a lot of packing and re-packing throughout.

Before they headed north, she threw an extra (empty) duffel bag in the car. As their trip progressed, each morning she put their laundry in that duffel. Then when they got home, it was the first bag she brought into the house and got to work on washing it all.

A few benefits of this method:
  • If you don't have time to unpack every bag upon arriving back home, you can at least get a load in the washer immediately without digging through bags.
  • Your other bags will stay organized and clutter-free throughout the trip. And you'll make room for a few souvenirs, too.
  • You won't have to try and remember which clothes your kids wore and got dirty.
  • The stinky stuff stays contained with the other stinky stuff (especially important in the hot summer).
My sister's beautiful family enjoying their week-long trip in Michigan. Bonus: Everyone is wearing clean clothes!

We're heading up to Michigan for a week this summer, and I can't wait to steal her idea. Thanks for the tip, sis!

This post is a part of Travel Tips Tuesday at Suitcases and Sippy Cups and Walkingon Travels.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Spring Weekend

I had high hopes for a fun spring weekend. Fly a kite, take a hike, dinners on the patio. But it mostly rained, and Big Arrow, Little Arrow and I were all battling colds.

But tonight, it was like spring finally sprung around here, and we got out to make the most of it.

Spring means trips to the park, swinging on swings.

Spring means new beginnings, like a baby's first time on those same swings.

Spring means chasing bunny rabbits down the street.

What does spring mean to you?

This post is a part of You Capture at I Should Be Folding Laundry. The theme this week is spring.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Baby Tours Chicago

As a mom who loves travel, I'm often contemplating questions like:
  • What's the best age to visit Disney?
  • I wonder how old the boys should be when we head out west?
  • Are they old enough for a 10+ hour car trip?
A couple of week ago, I did reach one conclusion: the best age for a trip to the big city. It's 4 months.

We ditched Big Arrow with family back home and took Little Arrow to Chicago so that I could get some blogging work done (by work, I mean visiting museums, taking pictures, getting some video, eating out... it's a rough life, I tell ya!)

More on why we headed back to the Windy City to come, but I loved getting to see big city life through the eyes of a baby. Here are a few of his thoughts on Chicago:

The El: It's loud.

The Field Museum: It's big.

The Skyline: Worth a look.

The Art Institute of Chicago: Boring. (His parents respectfully disagree.)

The SkyDeck on the top of the Willis Tower: Eh. I'd rather nap.

Playing airplane with Dad: Now THIS is exciting!

If you're missing Big Arrow, you can read his 3rd Birthday post from yesterday here.

This post is a part of Photo Friday at Delicious Baby and Friday Daydreaming at R We There Yet Mom.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Three Years Ago Today...

Happy 3rd Birthday to Big Arrow!

He'll always be the one who started it all, who launched us into the category of family travel. And if he didn't love our "adventures" (what he calls any outing/trip/vacation) so much, we probably wouldn't do them nearly as often as we do.

We couldn't possibly love him more, from his quirky ways (he correctly used the word "vermillion" in a sentence this week), to his adorableness (anytime he curls up to read a book with us, he always holds our arm), to his tenderness (like the lengths he goes to keep his baby brother from crying), to his silliness (you should really see his favorite dance move, the "booty shake"), to his fly-off-the-handle tantrums (yes, even those).

He's pretty timid by nature, and I think travel has really helped him to embrace stepping out of his comfort zone from time to time. There are no limit to the number of questions he asks me on any given day, and I'm thrilled to know that every museum visit, trek to the zoo, and roadtrip expands his mind even further.

It's been three years of nonstop fun. Nonstop energy. Nonstop affection. I wouldn't trade in a single day (well... I could have done without the 50+ hours of labor...)

Here's to many more birthdays and many more adventures shared with this handsome little man.

Riding the train to the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.

And don't worry, Little Arrow is going get some love and be the star of the show in tomorrow's post!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Make Your Last Day of Vacation Laundry Day!

As a follow up from my post last week about organizing baby/toddler laundry while traveling, here's a quick little tip to further tame the laundry beast.

Make your last day/night of vacation laundry day.

We did this for the first time during our trip to Madeira Beach in March. We had already decided we were going to order takeout and stay in on our last night, hopefully putting the Arrows to bed early so that we'd all be well rested for our flight home the next day. Our rental property had a small washer and dryer (another benefit of renting!), and as we began to sort through clothes to pack up, I suggested to my husband that we do a load of laundry.

In full disclosure, my husband was the one who actually carried out this great idea and washed and dryed all of our laundry that evening. (He's a keeper, folks.) This meant that when we arrived home the next day, there was NO laundry to sort through. We just unpacked the contents of our suitcase directly back into our closets.

Big Arrow helping with laundry at the ripe old age of 1. Start 'em young!
It was so nice not to face the mountainous pile that usually awaits us, and doing laundry while on vacation didn't really involve much sacrifice. We were sticking around that night anyway, and it was just a couple of small loads.

This post is a part of Travel Tips Tuesday at Suitcases and Sippy CupsWalkingon TravelsOne more laundry-inspired post next week!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Return to Caddy's on the Beach

The highlight of our first trip to the Tampa/St. Petersburg area of Florida as a family in 2011 was dinner at Caddy's on the Beach. So on our first night of our return trip back in March, we wanted to eat dinner somewhere that screamed, "YOUR VACATION HAS BEGUN."


While Caddy's is somewhat adult-oriented (lively bar, loud live music, etc.), it's a great spot to take the kids. Just sit outside at one of the picnic tables, and your little ones can play in the sand while you wait for you food or to pay the bill.

In fact, we brought Big Arrow's beach toys with us and he quickly planted himself under the table in his own personal sandbox. (After a long flight keeping two young kids happy, my husband and I were happy to let him entertain himself for a while so we could enjoy some adult conversation.)

I love a place where you can kick off your shoes and bury your feet in the sand. Or in this case, put your Crocs right up on the table.

Afterall, don't let shoes get in the way of a beautiful sunset.

This post is a part of Wanderfood Wednesday at Wanderlust & Lipstick, Photo Friday at Delicious Baby, and Friday Daydreaming at R We There Yet Mom?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Taming the Laundry Beast: Munchkin Baby Laundry Bag

Two of my favorite family travel bloggers, Keryn from Walkingon Travels and Jessica from Suitcases and Sippy Cups, have teamed up to launch a new weekly roundup of travel blog posts, called Travel Tip Tuesday. I can't wait to read the tips they'll share, as well as those from other travelers.

For the next few weeks, I'm offering a few ideas to help tame one of the dreaded travel challenges: the laundry!

(Hey, it's not glamorous, but wouldn't you rather be flipping through all the great photos you took instead of staring at mountains of laundry upon coming home from vacation?)

I've mentioned that a few weeks ago Munchkin sent me some travel products to put to the test while my family is out and about on various adventures. We've now used the Munchkin Baby Laundry Bag* on two trips, and I'm a big fan. At first I thought it looked like another unnecessary baby item, but it has saved me several minutes during trip packing, unpacking, re-packing, and then unpacking again at home, and if you're like me, a few minutes here and there is priceless.

On our trip to Florida, we checked one big suitcase with all the clothes that my husband, both Arrows, and myself needed for five days. I used the Munchkin bag to store the Arrows' socks and Big Arrow's underwear so that they wouldn't get lost among all the bigger clothes and would be easy to find in the bag upon arrival. Such an easy tool to keep a big bag organized.

And guess what? We didn't lose a single baby sock on that trip. (Which is more than I can say for a typical week around home.)

On our trip to Chicago last weekend, when we left Big Arrow at home and traveled only with Little Arrow (more on this to come!), we packed all the clothes he would need in the Munchkin bag, along with a container of wipes, some baby food and bib. Then all his dirty laundry went back in it when we packed to come home. Yesterday as I was starting our laundry, I knew exactly which of his clothes to throw in the wash.

Little Arrow's wardrobe for a trip to Chicago

So whether you use Munchkin's bag or just find a small laundry bag of your own liking, I highly recommend utilizing this type of system for the youngest travelers to keep track of all their itty bitty laundry. And beyond the organizational benefit, I like the idea that the inevitable really yucky baby laundry mess would be more contained, and the other items in a suitcase would be protected from any unfortunate "incidents."

More laundry tips to come over the next few weeks!

This post is a part of Travel Tips Tuesday at Walkingon Travels/Suitcases and Sippy Cups and Things I Love Thursday at Be The Difference.

*Links to my Amazon Affiliate account. A small portion of any sales made through these links will come back to support this blog, but this does not in any way increase the cost of purchase for you.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary Munchkin Baby Laundry Bag to review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Yogi's in Bloomington, Indiana

Since my husband had a rare vacation day last week for Good Friday, we went on a fun day trip over to Bloomington, Indiana (home to Indiana University). I've got a lot to share about our day there, but as with all things, let's start with what's most important in life: the food.

Bloomington has a great college-town atmosphere. You might think that makes it exclusively adult and party-oriented, but just the opposite is true. A good example is our lunch at Yogi's. Just a few blocks from campus, I've been to Yogi's many times (my sister is an IU grad and my husband got his MBA there). I got to see it in a whole new light while dining with a 4-month-old and almost 3-year-old last week. And you know what? It's still just as relaxing and delicious as it's always been, just with a few less beers.

I wrote about dining at Yogi's at the Indiana Insider earlier this week.


While at lunch, we sat near students, parents visiting for Easter weekend, professors and Bloomington professionals, along with a few other families. The enclosed patio lets in lots of sun and the colorful wall decor kept Big Arrow entertained while we waited for our food. (Side note: Big Arrow LOVES to "match" colors these days. As in, "Mom, your red shirt matches this red chair!" It makes for a perfect game to kill time when we're out and about.)


My husband convinced me that we needed to order the broccoli poppers, and as usual, he was spot on. It was like a fried ball of broccoli cheese soup. I could have polished off the whole basket! (Big Arrow recommends the tater tots. He has a very refined palate these days. Mmmhmm.)

So if you're planning a visit to Bloomington soon, put Yogi's on your list of dining options. More to come on our beautiful day in this great Indiana town!

This post is a part of Wanderfood Wednesday at Wanderlust & Lipstick.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Share Your Outdoor Hobbies with your Kids

This is my sixth (and last) in a series of posts for Nature Rocks, a wonderful movement that encourages families to spend more time outdoors connecting with nature. It's an idea that my family tries to live out each and every day. This week, I'm their featured ambassador, so Nature Rocks will be posting some of my tips for enjoying time outside with kids, and I'll be posting more detailed posts that correspond with each tip.

Read my earlier posts here:

Today's tip is to share your outdoor hobbies with your kids.

I have no interest in raising little clones of my husband and I. I fully realize that my sons will develop interests and nurture talents that are different from my own. But I have found that being outside is a great equalizer. Long before we had kids, my husband and I discovered that we both really enjoyed hiking and camping. We grew up doing those things with our own parents and have fond memories of great family time in the outdoors.

So naturally, we didn't want to stop hiking and camping just because we have young children. So we bring them along on these adventures. And we have found that they thrive joining in the fun.
Hitting the trail at TC Steele State Historic Site

Regardless of what you enjoy doing outside, look for ways to involve your children. If you love to ski, enroll your kids in ski school on your next trip, perhaps they'll enjoy it too! If you love to bike, invest in a bike seat or trailer so that your kids can come. I've read posts about kids rock climbing, snow shoeing, and scuba diving.

A lot of children love to try new things and are always up for an adventure. But I know my oldest son can be a bit timid when he's forced outside his comfort zone. Here are a few pieces of advice if you're worried your kids won't enjoy your favorite hobby:
  • Start slowly. In other words, don't plan a 4-hour hike your first time out. Or camp in your backyard one night to test things out.
  • Show your kids a YouTube video to introduce them to a new activity. I have a friend who often does this with her toddler, with great success. Many kids are visual learners, especially at a young age. This may help them to conquer their fears. 
  • Don't give up. I remember that our son got pretty fussy toward the end of our first family hike. But we tried again a few weeks later, and he did much better.
  • Keep it relaxed and fun. If you're having a good time, chances are your kids will too.
For more information on camping and hiking, I'm linking to a few posts I've written about each activity (some links will take you to Visit Indiana's blog, where I'm a regular contributor).

That concludes my week as the featured Nature Rocks ambassador. I hope you have found my tips helpful. Please share a few of your own! I'm always looking for new ways to enjoy nature with my kids, and I enjoy connecting with others who feel the same.

If you've enjoyed my posts, please consider subscribing to Arrows Sent Forth, or keep up with my family's adventures on Facebook or Twitter.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Giving Kids Nature-Inspired Gifts

This is my fifth in a series of posts for Nature Rocks, a wonderful movement that encourages families to spend more time outdoors connecting with nature. It's an idea that my family tries to live out each and every day. This week, I'm their featured ambassador, so Nature Rocks will be posting some of my tips for enjoying time outside with kids, and I'll be posting more detailed posts that correspond with each tip.

Read posts from earlier this week here:

Today's tip is to give nature-inspired gifts to your kids.

If your family is anything like mine, you look around your living room at the end of each day and see a sea of toys. Most of them were brought out, played with for a few minutes, and then abandoned. So we have tried hard to live by a little motto:

Give "used" toys and "new" experiences.

By that I mean we often give the Arrows hand-me-down or resale shop toys and books. We frequent the library to boost our reading material. In the summer months, you'll often find me browsing garage and yard sales for little treasures. Where you won't find me is the toy aisle of stores (except maybe the dollar store or dollar section at Target). I'm looking at the Arrow's toy bins right now, and basically the only new items were those they were given as gifts by family.

Instead, we use that money for trips, admission to local attractions, park passes, etc. Afterall, I'm convinced the Arrows will remember those things well into adulthood, not the matchbox cars and stuffed animals that litter my floors.

So here are a few nature-inspired gifts you might consider for the next holiday/birthday/special occasion:

  • An annual state park pass. We love state parks and we're fortunate to live near a few great ones. I love having a pass because it encourages us to visit more, even if it's just for an hour. I wrote this post for Visit Indiana yesterday about some new packages our state parks are offering.
  • Camping equipment. I'm going to write more about camping later this week. While it's much cheaper than a hotel stay, the experience is greatly enhanced with good supplies, like a quality tent, sleeping bags, a lantern, etc.
  • Baby or toddlier carriers. (Wrote all about those yesterday.)
  • Zoo membership. If you have a membership, you can take your time at each visit and really connect with the animals, instead of rushing through to see everything in one visit. Just return a few weeks later and visit another section. Don't have a zoo nearby? Maybe there's an arboretum, botanical garden or nature preserve you could join.
  • Kid-sized yard tools. Big Arrow loves helping us with yard work. So we have some tools he can use for each season (like kid gardening tools in the spring, a kiddie mower in the summer, a kid-sized rake in the fall, and a small shovel in the winter). It helps us get our work done faster because he's entertained and feels like one of the adults.
  • Bikes or bike seats. Biking can be a great way to get kids outside and see more of the world at the same time. Depending on the age of your kids, either get them their own bike and helmet, or a good bike seat. (We love the iBert for kids 1 year up to 40 lbs.)
Enjoying our iBert and biking as a family.

Next up: Sharing your outdoor hobbies with your kids.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Babywearing in Nature

This is my fourth in a series of posts for Nature Rocks, a wonderful movement that encourages families to spend more time outdoors connecting with nature. It's an idea that my family tries to live out each and every day. This week, I'm their featured ambassador, so Nature Rocks will be posting some of my tips for enjoying time outside with kids, and I'll be posting more detailed posts that correspond with each tip.

Read posts from earlier this week here:
Today's tips is to invest in high-quality baby and toddler carriers.

While I really like babywearing for sentimental purposes (is there anything more beautiful than a little one all cuddled up to you?), I mostly love it because it allows us to explore so many more places much easier. Nowhere is that truer than when getting outside with little ones in tow.

After having Big Arrow nearly 3 years ago, we soon realized that most hiking trails weren't stroller-friendly. Fortunately, we had a hand-me-down Baby Bjorn* and learned that he loved hiking as much as we did. As he got older, we found a Kelty Kids backpack carrier* on deep discount. My husband still wears him in that on difficult or long trails (or when he's being uncooperative, lazy, tantrum-y, etc.).

When we knew Little Arrow was on the way, I wanted to beef up my babywearing options. A friend made me a great ring sling. Little Arrow loves to snooze in it, and I can see us putting it to good use around a campsite at naptime. I'm told they're great for holding tighter to squirmy babies in a pool, too. I'll give that a try this summer, I'm sure.

Slinging at sunset in St. Petersburg, Florida

My favorite purchase for Little Arrow has been an Ergo carrier.* I like the Ergo for our outdoor use for a few reasons. The fabric is cool and breathes well. Once I got the hang of it, it's really easy to get it on and off and for Little Arrow to get comfortable. I love its sun shade feature, especially once Little Arrow falls asleep. And most importantly, it's the most comfortable carrier I've worn yet. Little Arrow spent hours in it on our trip to Florida, and not once were my shoulders ever sore.

A few tips for babywearing in nature:
  • Get comfortable with your carrier around the house first. For example, I wear Little Arrow almost every afternoon while Big Arrow is playing in the yard. Not only will this get you more comfortable with the carrier, but your baby will get used to it as well. I'm always more confident figuring things out in the privacy of my own home and yard, and then I feel like a pro when we're out at the park or on a hiking trail.
  • Layer outside the carrier. I try to only wear a thin layer under the carrier, and then put a zip-up sweatshirt or jacket over it if it's chilly. That way, if it gets warmer later, I can remove the outer layer without bothering Little Arrow.
  • If it's chilly, bring an oversized jacket (my husband's fleece jackets work perfectly), and just zip it up around both of you. Some carriers have special wraps and blankets, but I find them a little overpriced and unnecessary (unless you know you'll be doing a lot of babywearing in cold temperatures).
  • Be mindful of the sun. Even with the sun shade on the Ergo, Little Arrow's legs and arms are still exposed. Make sure you're taking proper measures to protect your little one.
  • Choose hiking trails carefully. You won't want to wear your baby on a treacherous path or one with really difficult footing.
  • Educate yourself on proper and safe babywearing practices.
The Ergo helps me keep up with a toddler and a baby.

More fun photos of my husband and I babywearing here!

Next up: Tips for giving nature-inspired gifts to your family.

*Links to my Amazon Affiliate account. A small portion of any sales made through this link will come back to support this blog, but this does not in any way increase the cost of purchase for you.