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1st Family Camping Trip

I’d feel bad if I didn’t at least tell you that I was anxiously searching for hotel rooms after the first night….


Camping with a toddler is no easy feat. Honestly, I think it would have been easier when Layton was younger. We have been trying to do a family camping trip since, well, since Layton was born. One thing led to another and the timing didn’t work out. Last year, by the time we got the chance to get away, it was getting too cold at night for me to feel comfortable bringing a few-month-old baby outside to sleep. As Winter turned to Spring, and Spring turned to Summer, then covid hit… we just couldn’t, and didn’t feel comfortable, getting up to the mountains with a tent and sleeping bags.

As the restrictions shifted, and work starting getting back to semi-normal, our schedules filled up fast. Between all our jobs, we were left deflated, stressed out, and in desperate need of a getaway. We decided it was finally time to plan a camping trip because that was an affordable vacation option for us.

The amount of stuff needed for camping with a toddler is unbelievable.

October brings unpredictable weather and cold nights in Colorado, so we opted to drive to Moab to try out the family camping situation. Squeezing in a few days between major job obligations, we loaded up the truck, drove six hours across the state, then into Utah and set up camp!

We opted for a reservable, organized campground for a few reasons. 1. We both had a little bit of work to do and needed access to either wifi or good cell service and 2. I wanted a little more structure (i.e. running water and quick access to civilization). Don’t judge us; we actually LOVE camping in the most remote of places, but for our first camping trip with Layton, I felt more comfortable with less wilderness to navigate.

Camping 2016 (backpacking in the Tetons) vs Camping 2020

Upon arriving, we set up the tent as fast as we could while chasing Layton around the dirt campground as he explored the area. I set up some baby gates but it only slowed him down before he ultimately went to meet the neighbor’s dog. These gates actually did end up being perfect once we got a system down. I’ll link them down below. Our 10x10ft tent (borrowed from family) was perfect for a pack n’ play, our two sleeping bags, and plenty of extra room!

That first night was rough. It took a while to get Layton to sleep that night and he woke up several times screaming. In the end, we didn’t get him to go back to sleep in the crip. We let him sleep between us which really means him lying half across my head and kicking Daddy. Needless to say, we did not get much sleep that night and woke up looking much worse for the wear. The best we can figure is he was just a little too cold that night and the fact that we were in a very different place than home.

The next few nights were much better. We adjusted his clothes layers and blankets in and around the pack n’ play and he stayed asleep all the second night! The third night brought one midnight wake up but after lying him next to me (on the other side this time) he slept the remainder of the night. On the fourth (and final) evening, he had trouble falling asleep due to the campground being a lot busier and thus noisier. Once he was asleep, it was such a shame to have to wake him up for our early wake-up call to head back home.

At first, when we would wake up crying, I was frantic to try and get him back to sleep, in fear all the neighboring campers would hate us in the morning. By the end of the trip, I was a little more relaxed with each cry. Of course, we didn’t let him just cry it out (camping is not a great time to proceed with sleep training) but I began to not be as concerned when his tears didn’t subside right away. We got a few angry looks in the morning but far more sympathetic and friendly, “good for you’s!” from fellow campers. I figured that’s the risk (for them) of staying in a campground like that. Likewise, it was harder for us to get him to bed for the same reason.

Finding a new way to contain him, in our empty truck bed.

While at camp, we tried to wrangle Layton as much as we could so we could cook and relax, but all the fences and gates are not enough to stop this kid. If he wasn’t trying to break out of our enclosure, he was pouring dirt on his head, eating rocks, or banging sticks on the metal walls of our campsite!

To round out our vacation, we filled out days with short, easy hikes at Canyonlands National Park and Dead Horse Point State Park, swimming in the campground’s pool, and spent some time walking around in downtown Moab, something we’ve never actually done on our handful of trips out there. We did pack our climbing gear, but upon seeing how active and non-stop Layton was at our campsite, we decided it probably wasn’t safe enough for us to even consider top-rope climbing, even with Layton in a baby gate enclosure.


Although camping now doesn’t look anything like pre-baby camping for Ben and I, we are learning to adjust our ideas of travel, adventure, and ourselves as a family. And that is fun.


Gear that helped us:

  • Baby Gate: I got this gate for half the listed price on Amazon from the Nextdoor app WITH an extra two panels. I originally bought it to create a safe zone when I had to take Layton with me to cross country practice. Each panel separates, so with our truck as a boundary, we were able to set up some walls to keep Layton to a designated area.
  • Our Tent: Ben’s family already had this size of a tent. I’m linking a very similar option. This was big enough for his pack n’ play, our two sleeping areas, and plenty of extra room! We just slept on normal, small sleeping pads but are considering bringing an inflatable mattress next time we camp like this. I should have taken a picture of our interior set up!
  • The good ol’ pack n’ play: handed down to us from Ben’s sister who was handed down two of them! Even though Layton only used it two of the nights, this created a safe space, pretty close to what he has at home. We put a fleece blanket over top to keep it warmer for him.
  • A hiking backpack: The one we are currently using is not our favorite and we are in the market for a new one, but it was gifted to us (It’s an Osprey and is really uncomfortable on both of our hips – it leaves me bruised!). Having a hiking backpack opened up a lot of activities for us. Layton LOVES being in it!
  • A small amount of dirt-safe toys: We packed a handful of toys and books that he really enjoyed to keep him occupied for a quick minute and in the car.
The stuffed animals were for his crib and the books and other toys helps for the drive and campsite!

Comment below! Let me know if you’d gone camping with a toddler and what your recommend toddler-camping gear is!

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My First Homemade “Toy” – Black and White, High Contrast, Flash Cards

I have always been a DIYer. I love creating new from old and finding ways to make something that I want or need myself (especially if it’s cheaper to do so!).

When Layton was super, super tiny, just a month or so old, I was looking up the best toys for his age and I read that high contrast, black and white toys and books were the best.

We didn’t have any high contrast toys or books at the time and I didn’t really want to buy something that would only be entertaining for a few months. The best thing I could have purchased would have been some books that were black and white. I decided to wait until my local library had their used book sale and in the meantime, I made some “flashcards” for him to look at and enjoy.

It was super easy and free!


Materials Needed: Computer, a printer, and card stock.
Cost: $0 – $5 (depending on if you need to buy card stock)
Craft time: 2-10 minutes.

How To:
1. Search Google: “high contrast black and white images for babies” or any variation of that.
2. Save and print any images you like! I found a lot of search results that had multiple images/designs on one page. Of course, I’m partial to sloths, so I found some black and white sloths!
3. Print!
4. Cut up.
5. Display! You can prop them up in their bassinet or bouncer or even just hold them in front of baby’s face. Babies at this age only see about 12-15 inches in front of them.

We had this portable bassinet that made it easy to put some of my flashcards propped up around his head. As he got older, he would hold them and look at them. We retired them when he started putting everything in his mouth!


Pros: Cheap, easy and quick! Definitely get the same benefits that you would if you bought high contrast board books.

Cons: They tear easy and when baby starts putting everything his their mouth, you have to retire or dispose of these “toys.”

Durability: 1/5

Age: 0-4 months

Baby Entertainment Time: multiple hours a day, over a few months

Skills Learned/Benefits for baby: Helps with eye development. When babies are three months and younger, they only see in blacks, whites, and grays, so they love looking at simple black and white or other high contrasts images. This helps them focus on shapes and designs and helps with eye development!

I stored them in a zip lock and brought them with me when we left the house.

Sources:
Newborn Eye Sign, American Academy of Pediatrics
Why Black and White Toys Are Best For Baby, The Tot

Don’t Want to DIY?
High Contrast Board Books:
– “Look Look Baby” (We actually found this book at our library’s used book sale.)
– “Hello Animals” (There are a ton of “hello, ___” black and white books.)
My First Soft Books (If we had all the money in the world, I probably would have gotten something like these! They are great for babies, are fabric pages and have crinkle paper inside!)

Other high contrast toys:
Tummy Time Soft Activity Book With Mirror and other textures.
High Contrast Shape Set (these can hang off anything…your bouncer, stroller, or car seat!)

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Mama’s Monthly Mentions (September 2020)

I do love a good alliteration. Every month I would like to compile a list of what Layton and I are currently reading, watching, listening to, or otherwise worth mentioning. I’ll probably mention Daddy too.

Mama Mentions… this month has been so busy. I have been working a ton between my main job (albeit still not back to regular pay) and coaching. We held our first in-person race (my main job) since March and coaching is just crazy; there’s something new to deal with every day… it’s impossible to work on my hobbies, but I’m trying; especially because I’m trying to become a stronger writer to see if I can break into that industry!

Creating: I’m still working on some cross stitch projects I’ve had for awhile!

Reading: “The Montessori Toddler.” I originally checked this book out from the library but I really liked it, and it was 3 months overdue, so I ended up buying my own copy! I’m not a 100% Montessori mama, I’m barely 25%, but this book gives you some good ideas if you want to bring some Montessori play/learning into your home. It’s written very well, includes pictures, and example ideas for each age.

Listening To: “The Farm” audiobook. I honestly thought this book was going to be a bit different when I read the overview (I was thinking more dystopian/cult fiction). It ended up being just a fiction book about women that go to live a “the Farm” while carrying a surrogate baby for super-wealthy families. The first 2/3 were kinda boring, but the book did explore deep thoughts about pregnancy, motherhood, and family.
Find it on Goodreads.

Watching: Anything on Disney+. I’ve been a long-term insomniac and in recent weeks, I have taken to setting my phone up next to my pillow and watching a movie to fall asleep. It kinda works. The most recent movie: Zombies 2. It took me about four nights to get through the whole movie, but I did enjoy it in a geeky way.

Mama’s Me Time Activity: Speaking of Disney+, I’ve taken a 10-month hiatus from my Watching Every Disney Movie ever project I started years ago. I got a list of every Disney movie ever and started watching them, mostly in order of date released. In the process of doing this on my own, I found a girl on YouTube that is also doing this and reviewing them on her channel. She’s super cute, in an “I feel old enough to be her Mom kind of way”, but has improved tremendously over the years and gained so many followers since the beginning!
Check out Jess and her Every Disney Movie Ever project on YouTube


Layton Mentions… Layton is a rough and tumble, full of personality, ready to explore, 14-month-old. In the past month, he’s been keeping us busy, coming with me to cross country practices, and unfortunately taking a trip to the emergency room. I haven’t decided if I will write in detail about that, but in quick: he caught a random virus bug (negative for COVID) but it caused an intestinal intussusception which required an emergency procedure to fix (not surgery). He’s better now, recovered, and back to his normal self!

Current Favorite Toy: The traditional popper toy! You know what I’m talking about…

Current Favorite Book: This kid LOVES books. Obviously, he’s not reading yet, but he will just flip the pages and flip the pages…he’ll grab a book, plop in my lap, and put the book in my hand. All. Day. Long. And I love it! Right now, he keeps finding this “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” picture book we have. He must really like the colors. He also likes this tiny board book about a construction truck and giggles when I read “rumble rumble.”

New Discovery/Milestone: Body parts! He now knows what different body parts are! Like, “Layton, where’s your belly?” and he’s point to his belly! He knows belly, eyes, ears, nose, hair, mouth, and toes/feet!

Memorable Moment: Meeting Layton’s new cousin, Casey. 🙂

Family Time Activity: We’ve still been going on a lot of family walks to parks and having picnic lunches.

Daddy Mentions:

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Mama’s Monthly Mentions (August 2020)

I do love a good alliteration. Every month I would like to compile a list of what Layton and I are currently reading, watching, listening to, or otherwise worth mentioning. I’ll probably mention Daddy too.

Mama Mentions

Creating: I just finished up a cross stitch project, a wedding sampler for my cousin. Here’s a picture of it pre-wash and frame.

Reading: “The Memory Keeper’s Daughter” by Kim Edwards. This book has been on my shelf for who knows how long; I don’t even remember buying it or where it came from! I found the audio book on my library’s free audio book APP and have been loving this deep book. In short, it’s about a woman who gives birth to twins, a boy and a girl with sown syndrome. During labor, she passes out and her husband, who is the doctor, hands the girl off to the nurse with instructions to drop the baby off at a poorly run orphanage facility and tells his wife the twin died at birth. Instead, the nurse raises the baby as her own, the biological mother not knowing. This book dives into themes about love, parenthood, accomplishing dreams, and marriage. I’m almost done, but so far I highly recommend it.

Listening to: The rain outside my window. It’s much needed and the sound is so calming and relaxing.

Watching: NOTHING! I have not been finding anything that sounds good to watch or that interests me! Nothing motherhood related or otherwise! Recommendations?

Mama’s Me Time Activity: This past month? The daily shower. Oh boy do I look forward to my 15 minutes to myself in the shower and the following 15 minutes of my nightly routine.


Layton Mentions

Current Favorite Toy: Any type of ball! In particular the dog’s gross tennis ball!

Current Favorite Book: All my old, vintage Dr. Seuss books! My mom recently brought a tub of my old books down and in them are these old Disney and Dr. Seuss books. I think they were from one of those mail subscriptions things like this ad. Anyone else have these??

I don’t know if it’s the feel of the cover or what, he grabs those books first, carries them all around, flips the pages (doesn’t even try to tear out the paper!) and brings them to me at bed time!

New Discovery: Knocking on things. It’s pretty cute.

Recent Milestone: Climbing on the couch. He can now get on the couch by himself….and, luckily, can now get off the safe way!

Memorable Moment: Being a ring bearer at my cousin’s wedding!


Family Time Activity: Having family from out of town.

Four generations


Daddy Mentions: “Babe! look! This is how to be a dad,” he says as he holds Layton while vacuuming.

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Layton’s 1st Birthday

Wow. Layton is over a year old (now almost 14 months). Already!! How did that even happen!?

I would love to write a heartfelt story about the last year with profound words about how much he’s changed our lives for the better and I couldn’t imagine life without him, but I don’t even know how to begin that type of story! Words can’t describe how much I love watching this kid grow and learn.

As much as the 1st birthday is a fun gathering where you get to watch a baby shovel cake in their face, the 1st birthday is also about the parents, I mean, you should get to celebrate lasting a whole year, trying to figure out parenthood!

When I first starting thinking about having a birthday party for Layton, I wished I could invite all the people that helped us out throughout the year, but alas, we knew we should keep it small due to COVID. We debated back and forth what we wanted to do and ultimately just settled on a small gathering of our immediate family and a couple of friends. We BBQed and had adult beverages while everyone doted on and spoiled Layton.

Layton got a TON of presents, did great with his cake smash, and got lots of playing and pool time with his cousin (who is just about one month older).

Since Layton is too small to pick a theme, I stuck to his sloth theme that I picked for his birth and nursery. I cannot wait to do birthdays in the future (please pick dinosaurs, please pick dinosaurs, please pick dinosaurs...)!

It was a great 1st birthday and we are super grateful for all the gifts, help, and love for Layton over the year!


Check out my Pinterest board that inspired the decorations and my cake.

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Mama’s Monthly Mentions (July 2020)

I do love a good alliteration. Every month I would like to compile a list of what Layton and I are currently reading, watching, listening to, or otherwise worth mentioning. I’ll probably mention Daddy too.

Life is pretty complicated right now and unfortunately, blogging can’t be a priority, but every now and then I get a few spare minutes to write. We’re about halfway into August but here’s what July brought:

Mama Mentions
Creating: All month long I was working on some cross stitches for new babies and a wedding sampler. I also made a really simple sloth fleece blanket for Layton.

craft baby blaket
Simple, fleece tie baby blanket


Reading:
I’ve been slowly getting through “Parenting with Love and Logic.” I really like it; it’s more for slightly older kids, but it’s still giving me some things to think about in terms of how to raise and discipline effectively.

Listening To:
I’ve been downing audiobooks lately. I probably went through about six or seven in July. Some are deep and require concentration (like “The Water Cure” by Sophie Mackintosh) and some have been relaxing for right before bed (like my young adult series, “Matched” by Allie Condie).

Watching:
Hmmm… nothing mom or parenting related. Just watching some episodes of “The Rain” when I get a chance on NetFlix.

Mama’s Me Time Activity:
Not much last month, but when I did have a free moment, working on my cross stitch projects was relaxing. 


Layton Mentions
Current Favorite Toy: For his birthday, he got a LOT of toys. He really likes to carry around his toolbox and tools (something very similar to this) and drive his Cozy Coupe.

cozy coupe child toy
Cruisin’

Current Favorite Book: “All abroad to the National Parks” he got from his Aunt, Uncle, and Cousin for his birthday.


New Discovery:
The cold river! We walked to the local creek and stuck our feet in the icy water! Layton did not like it!


Recent Milestone:
More teeth! He now has 6 teeth in. Four on top and two on the bottom. He is also learning more and more words and associating them to what they mean.


Memorable Moment:
His 1st Birthday! We had close family and a few friends over for some food and cake. Layton was spoiled with love and presents, had a great time swimming with his cousin and did the best 1st birthday cake smash ever! 


Family Time Activity: We have been trying to make it a point to do one specific family activity a week. Whether that’s going for a hike, a long drive, or walking to the park, we’ve been finding it great for our mental health.

hiking colorado paint mine
Hiking around the Paint Mine near Colorado Springs

Daddy’s Mentions for the month: “I’m going to miss those noises the most,” referring to when Layton makes cooing and silly giggle noises.


(Yes, some of the links above are Amazon affiliate links. If you buy something through those links, the price to you is the same but I get a kickback! Ya know, trying to monetize my blogs!)

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Mama’s Monthly Mentions (June 2020)

I do love a good alliteration. Every month I would like to compile a list of what Layton and I are currently reading, watching, listening to, or otherwise worth mentioning. I’ll probably mention Daddy too.

I’m a few days late for June, but it’s here!

Mama Mentions
Creating: I just repurposed some candle jars into some bathroom decor!

Reading: I’m finishing up “What to Expect the first year.” I was way behind in the book! Although, I do like the traditional “What to Expect When You’re expecting” book, this one about baby’s first year was not my favorite. I preferred “Baby 411” which I reference regularly.

Listening To: I just finished listening to the audiobook of  “Bossypants” by Tina Fey. It’s pretty funny and there’s one great motherhood chapter near the end that had me almost peeing from laughter.
Money-saving tip: My local library has FREE audiobooks (via the Axis 360 app). It’s pretty great!

Watching: “Sweet Magnolias” on NetFlix. It’s okay.

Mama’s Me Time Activity: Blogging, or at least attempting to get blog posts up.

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Layton Mentions
Current Favorite Toy: “I’ve got my remote and I’m in control!” Let that get stuck in your head…Layton’s current favorite toy is this singing remote toy. He’s loved this toy for a long time and lately has been grabbing it first from the toy box, holding it up to me to turn it on and pushing the buttons…over and over and over…


Current Favorite Book:
Henry and Mudge books.

New Discovery:
Squishing blueberries, making them stick to his fingertip, and then eating them! It’s pretty cute!

Recent Milestone:
uhhh….. WALKING!! Follow my Instagram for videos! 

Memorable Moment:
Steamboat weekend with Ben’s family (sans actual Ben) Even though Ben wasn’t there, Layton and I got to hang out with the inlaws and his cousin and went on lots of hiking adventures and made best friends with his cousin puppy.

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Family Time Activity: Practicing walking back and forth between Mommy and Daddy. 

Daddy’s Mentions for the month: Daddy taught Layton how to belly flop on the couch cushions! It’s pretty cute!

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Mama’s Monthly Mentionables (May 2020)

I do love a good alliteration. Every month I would like to compile a list of what Layton and I are currently reading, watching, listening to, or otherwise worth mentioning. I’ll probably mention Daddy too.

Mama Mentions:
Creating: I’m currently working on making a cross-stitch bookmark for a friend’s (belated) birthday present. I can’t tell you what it is yet because chances are, she’ll read this. Before that, I just finished a grandma theme cross stitch that I gave my Mom for Mother’s Day and some Harry Potter-themed bookmarks for my Dad for his birthday.

Reading: I just finished up “Yes Please” by Amy Poehler. I liked it a lot. She’s one of my favorite comedians and I can watch “Parks and Rec” over and over. In her book, she talks about her life and how she got to where she is. She also has a lot of parenting stories and funny quotes! Find it on Amazon.

I’m a mother now and I think I’m pretty good at it. I think I’m a decent person, a very good listener and excellent at making funny faces; all necessary when mothering a child.”

Amy Phoeler, “Yes Please!”


Listening To: “Savage Mom (Parody)” by Laura Clery. On repeat.

Watching: 9 Months With Courteney Cox – This is a Facebook Watch Series, so everyone should be able to watch for free! They are on season two now, so I might be late to the game with this one, but I binged season one and loved it. The episodes are about 15 minutes each and I cry almost every time.

Mama’s Me Time Activity: Inspired by another blogger my age and a comment about my wrinkles, I’ve been obsessed with searching for an anti-aging cream and skincare regimen since my previous one just isn’t doing the trick anymore (it was built for ance treatment). After a few google searches, I realized this is a daunting task and It’s become a research project for me as I search products, tips, and look for samples (because a lot of them are EXPENSIVE and there’s no way I can just buy $50 bottles “to try”). The project has become rather fun for me and I can’t wait to try some of the samples that are on their way to my house.

Layton Mentions:
Current Favorite Toy: He loves the traditional stacking ring toy. That’s usually the first one he picks off the shelf and scatters around the house.

Don’t mind my laundry in the back ground there…I think that was actually clean.


Current Favorite Book: “Never Touch A Dragon” a touch-and-feel board book. He LOVES this book! He’s constantly flipping the pages and touching the dragons. Find it on Amazon.

New Discovery: Drumming on things with his hands and how they make different noises, including my belly!

Recent Milestone: TEETH! We can actually see TWO teeth on the bottom coming in. He’s been drooling like a St. Bernard for a few weeks and we’re excited to finally see teeth after we saw white spot when he was about 4 or 5 months old with no tooth to follow.

Memorable Moment: My first Mother’s Day. Ben made breakfast for me and let me sleep while he took care of the kiddo in the morning and went on a walk. That left me to my breakfast, coffee, and a book for a few peaceful minutes. Later, I ran with Layton in the stroller for a Virtual 5k and my Mom and Ben’s Mom brought flowers for our house!


Family Time Activity: Whenever we get the chance, we have been trying to run or walk together, Baby, Doggy, Daddy and Mommy.

Daddy’s 2 Cents for the month: “Don’t let your kiddo to walk in a cast iron tub.”

Little blurry, but my heart is full.

Comment below with your Monthly Mentionables! What are your favorite things this past month?

For me, becoming isn’t about arriving somewhere or achieving a certain aim. I see it instead as forward motion, a means of evolving, a way to reach continuously toward a better self. The journey doesn’t end. I became a mother, but I still have a lot to learn from and give to my children. I became a wife, but I continue to adapt to and be humbled by what it means to truly love and make al life with another person. I have become, by certain measures, a person of power, and yet there are moments still when I feel insecure or unheard.

It’s all a process, step along a path. Becoming requires equal parts patience and rigor. Becoming is never giving up on the idea that there’s more growing to be done. “

Michelle Obama, “Becoming”

Michelle Obama Quote