Cragmama "Not all who wander are lost…" JRR Tolkien

Cragmama’s Featured #Kidcrushers (Issue 4)

The summer may be drawing to a close, but the crushing still continues for kids all around the country!  This month’s featured climbers are an impressive bunch.  Read on to be inspired by folks a fraction of your own age, and to hear more about this month’s sponsored prize from Bearded Brothers

This little lady (who also happens to be part of the Bearded Bros family!) recently tied in for the very first time outside!

This little lady (from the Bearded Bros family!) recently tied in for the very first time outside!

Next up is Sage, gettin’ it done on Loch Ness Monster (5.11b), at Bath Rock, Idaho.

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Check out @TeamMesaRim kiddos Sebastian (climber), and Adam (up top) having some fun at the boulderfield.

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Here’s Holly M. gettin’ after it in Leavenworth, WA.

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A throwback shot of Victoria (featured last month), on her first trip to Rocky Mountain National Park.

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Here’s 11 year old Lex on a 5.10 during a family climbing trip to Alaska.

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 Pierce and Marianna Florine (children of Yosemite legend Hans Florine) working their way up Fairview Dome.

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The three winners for this issue (hand-selected favorites from myself, the Crag-Daddy, and Big C) are….drum roll please… Sage, Lex, and Holly M!  Each lucky winner will receive a sample package of organic energy bars courtesy of Bearded Brothers.  Our family got the chance to try these out a while back (review here), and they are amazingly good AND good for you.  They are the perfect option for fueling a day of climbing as well as a great on-the-go option for breakfast or a large snack.  

As always, if you know someone who isn’t featured here, but SHOULD be, let me know!  Email me a picture and caption at infoATcragmamaDOTcom, or simply tag your instagram photos using hashtag #Kidcrushers.  Photos received by September 20 will be considered for next month’s issue, and eligible to win a fun prize!  So get out and get crushin’!

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(For Pinterest purposes…)

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The Freedom of Stepping Back

I learned a long time ago that any writing done when I am rushed and/or not inspired to write is writing that is not worth reading.  Which is why you may have noticed things have been a little quieter around here of late.  The arrival of Baby Z, combined with summer (meaning no preschool mornings for Big C…) has put a giant dent in the time I have available to write.  In fact, over the past few weeks I’ve seen the small windows of time that I previously had for myself shrinking away to practically nothing.  

While Baby Z is a CONSISTENT napper, the majority of her daytime shut-eye still happens in 35 minute bursts.  That leaves very little baby-free moments during the day, and by the time I share some one on one time with my 4 year old, eat, do laundry, and if I’m lucky, go to the bathroom by myself, that time is up.  Once the kiddos are in bed I may write for a few minutes here and there, but I want the larger chunk of my evening to be spent hanging out with the hubby (or for two nights of the week, my friends at the climbing gym…) 

I truly love writing, in particular for this blog, and it’s a therapeutic outlet for me in many ways.  However, I’ve had to prioritize a lot recently, and it’s one of the luxuries that’s had to go on the backburner.  I’ve also taken a step back (but not completely away from) many of the companies that have supported me along my journey climbing through motherhood.  

These are my people.

These are my people.

The past few months have been a little bittersweet, and it’s been hard passing up on several opportunities that have come my way.  But I must say it’s also been freeing.  I’ve turned my focus completely inward rather than outward, and in so doing, have felt a lot less (self-imposed) pressure to always be “out there” and talking (writing) about it.  We’ve had a lot of fun just doing our own thing, and discovering the best ways for our family of four to play together.  

Rest assured, Cragmama as a website (and a person ;) ) is still alive and well.  This is certainly not intended to be a farewell post of any sort.  And once school starts back up again, I’m hoping to be able to free up a few more moments in the nooks and crannies of my day.  But for the time being, I’m just going to let it go.  (Cue Frozen soundtrack…)  I’m going against all social media and blogging rules about posting “X” number of times per day/week/etc.  Some weeks you may still hear from me a lot, and others I might be silent.  If I have something to write AND THE TIME TO WRITE ABOUT IT, I will certainly do so with pleasure.  If not, I refuse to sacrifice time spent with family.  

In the mean time, we’re still going to be climbing, hiking, camping, and exploring as much as we can, so don’t forget about us! Please check back often for the latest tips and tricks about outdoor adventuring with kiddos (and the gear that makes it easier!)  

 

 

 

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8 New Things About Sunset Beach (and Sunscreen Giveaway!)

This summer marks our family’s 4th beach trip with the Crag-Daddy’s extended family.  One week out of every summer is “come one, come all” at a giant house at Sunset Beach.  Over the years we’ve developed a few traditions about how our family “does” the beach, but this year in particular brought a lot of newness.  Here’s just a few of the “new” highlights we enjoyed…

1.  3 NEW FAMILY MEMBERS:  Last year I, along with BOTH of my sisters-in-law, were pregnant…2 of us in the exhausted, nauseous early weeks, and 1 in the uncomfortable latter stage.  Energy levels were at an all-time low, and happy hour was not nearly as fun.  This year we’ve got 3 new bundles of joy to show for our efforts!  Having 3 babies around made for more than a few crazy moments, but it was so much fun seeing all the cousins together.  

Beach blanket full 'o babies!

Beach blanket full ‘o babies!

2.  BIKE RIDING:  Now that we’ve got the craggin’ wagon, we have extra room to bring fun things like bikes.  One of my vacation bucket-list items was to bike from Sunset Beach to neighboring Ocean Isle.  At just over 14 miles round trip, it was the perfect distance to squeeze in during kiddo naptimes.  The ride was almost entirely flat with the exception of going/coming over the bridges to/fro each island.  The little boys (who would probably prefer to be referred to as “big  boys”) logged some mileage along the side streets, and the Crag-Daddy and I even managed a morning beach ride to the Kindred Spirit Mailbox on the far west end of the island.  

Biking date with the crag-daddy!

Biking date with the crag-daddy!

3.  THE MAZEMATICIAN:  On one particularly fussy evening during that “arsenic hour” before dinner (can I get an Amen from the other parents?), I plopped Baby Z into the sling and went for a walk on the beach.  The sounds of the waves lulled her into a snooze right away, and I stumbled upon one of the coolest pieces of sand art I’d ever seen.  The “Mazematician” was a Sunset Beach native who spends his summers creating intricate mazes along the local beaches.  Each one is unique, and takes him anywhere from 3-5 hours to create.  Once he’s done he simply leans on his lucky shovel and people-watches, offering help to maze-runners when they get stuck.  In fact, by the time I started walking through it, the tide was starting to “erase” the outer edges, so he led myself as well as the others out there through it so that we’d be able to finish it before it was gone.  

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A-maze-ing!

4.  SKIMBOARDING:  You know those thin, wooden boards that folks use to ride atop the skim (that inch or so of water at the end of a wave.)  I’d always wanted to try it, but never had the chance.  This year, however, I noticed that their was a board in the closet of our beach house, so I dragged it out one morning.  It’s hard and a little bit scary, since the sand isn’t exactly the softest landing!  I think my longest run was somewhere in the .5 second range…I probably should stick to climbing.  But it was fun to give something new a try!

Big C's form was far better than mine...

Big C’s form was far better than mine…

5.  FORT FISHER AQUARIUM:  In previous years, we’d gone to the little aquarium at Ocean Isle on rain days.  This year we decided to go bigger and drive out to the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher.  It was substantially bigger, with much more to see – highlights included an albino alligator, seahorses, sharks, jellyfish, and the biggest lobsters you can imagine!  

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6.  TAKING THE FERRY:  The weather had cleared by the afternoon on aquarium day, so we opted for the ferry ride on the way back rather than driving around.  Big C loved watching the other boats and the seagulls that were following behind us.  We even got the chance for a good family photo opp.

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7.  CATCHING MINNOWS:  The Crag-Daddy’s uncle met us for dinner one night, and took Big C and his cousin out to catch minnows.  I’m not sure who had the most fun, because they all had a blast!

Making sure their captives stay put.

Making sure their captives stay put.

8.  BLOCK ISLAND ORGANICS:  In a house of 8 adults and 5 kids, we really went through the sunscreen, and were grateful to Block Island Organics for providing us with their newest all natural, mineral-based products to test out.  The sunscreen did its job well, as no one got burned, even with SPF 15 and some fairer skinned folks.  The only negative was that it seemed to leave a thin, whitish film on the skin at times (maybe we were using it too liberally?)  We also had a sunburn relief gel, which despite the fact that we didn’t get burned, still felt great at the end of a full day on the beach.  My favorite part about this company is their pledge to fully disclose their product ingredients, as well as their reasons for choosing them.  With so many crazy chemicals hidden in products these days, it’s refreshing to find company committed to finding a combination of safety, quality, and affordability.  

No sunburn for this crew!

No sunburn for this crew!

I sure was hoping to be able to add a sea turtle hatching, but it wasn’t meant to be this year.  We saw several nests along the beach, but there wasn’t any action that we were aware of.  I guess it’s always good to keep some items on the bucket list for return trips!  You know what else is always good to have?  GIVEAWAYS!  So if you are intrigued about Block Island Organics and what they have to offer, youv’e got a chance to try out some for free!  You can enter via the Rafflecopter widget below, but first be sure to leave a comment about your favorite beach activity as a family!  Contest will run through Tuesday, August 12.  Good luck!

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a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Tips for Breastfeeding on Outdoor Adventures

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Anyone who has done it for any length of time knows that breastfeeding is NOT always the comfortable, natural, and peaceful activity that parenting magazines make it out to be.  It can be awkward, exhausting, uncomfortable, even downright painful at times…and this is especially true when a nursing pair takes to the Great Outdoors!  With my first son, figuring out the logistics for nursing on days where I camped/climbed/hiked/swam/etc was pretty tricky.  There was definitely a learning curve.  Thankfully I’ve been able to glean from those prior experiences these past 5 months with my daughter (and trust me, the second time around is WAY easier!)  So in honor of World Breastfeeding Week (August 1-7), here’s some tips for any nursing moms out there that might be hesitant to take their milk buffet on the road trail.

THROW YOUR SCHEDULE OUT THE WINDOW.  Even though our family has always resided firmly in the “demand-feeding” camp, both of my children settled into their own routines pretty quickly.  And both children throw those routines right out the window on weekend adventures.  As young babies, both of mine nursed more rather than less on outdoor adventures – a few quick sips to quench thirst on a hot summer day, or a cozy snack to warm up on a cold morning.  My daughter isn’t there yet, but sometime around 12-15 months or so, my son went the opposite direction, and began nursing LESS on adventures.  I think he was just too “busy” discovering and exploring to stop and eat.

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 STAY HYDRATED.  One of the main components of breastmilk is water, so make sure you are getting enough to ensure your milk supply stays where it needs to be.  If you are active and/or it’s a really hot day, adjust your intake accordingly.

LAYER YOUR CLOTHING.   While I don’t hesitate to feed my baby wherever and whenever he/she needs to nurse, I fall more on the conservative side when it comes to how much skin I’m comfortable showing (especially since most of my climbing partners are guys who have ZERO experience being around a nursing mother.)My go-to outfit is usually a nursing tank (or some other top I can pull down BELOW my breasts) worn underneath a t-shirt that I can pull up OVER my breasts.  The extra tummy coverage keeps my belly from getting cold, while the t-shirt keeps me from feeling too exposed.  (In hot weather I skip the nursing tank and opt for a sports bra style nursing bra.)  I also make sure I have a burp cloth/receiving blanket with me in case baby is popping on and off and I want a little extra coverage.  (You could also use one of those “hooter hider” things, but I personally HATE those…and so have both of my little nurslings!) 

Stonewear Lyra Dress + Ring Sling = perfect nursing combination!

Stonewear Lyra Dress + Ring Sling = perfect nursing combination!

And speaking of clothing, here are some more specific product recommendations, based on activity…

HIKING/CLIMBING: 
Stonewear Designs: Neither the Momentum, Lyra, or Tango tanks were designed specifically for nursing, but the fit is stretchy enough that the top pulls down easily.  (I also recently wore the Lyra Dress to an outdoor wedding – that and a linen ring sling provided the perfect combination of comfort and discretion!)  
Bravado Designs Nursing Tank: The great thing about these is that you can buy them at Target!  They go far to add warmth on a cold day outside, but aren’t the most breathable when it comes to hot weather.  
Motherhood Maternity Racerback Sports Bra – Though this bra definitely wouldn’t cut it for high impact activities like running, it’s a much more “athletic” option than a typical nursing bra.  Works great layered under a regular old tank top.  

CAMPING: 
Mountain Mama:  These clothes were a staple for me during my entire pregnancy with Baby Z, but I have been thrilled with how much postpartum use I’ve been able to get out of the maternity pieces that double as nursing gear!  The Lumni (tank), Orcas (short sleeve), and San Juan (long sleeve hoodie) are a perfect combination for midnight nursing sessions in the tent! 

BEACH/POOL/LAKE: 
Bathingsuit with Halter Style Top:  Nursing is a piece of cake if you’re bathingsuit ties at the neck – I simply throw on a t-shirt, and then untie the straps!  (Seems like a bandeau style with straps would also work, though I haven’t tried it.)  Although any brand would fit the bill, I’d like to give a shout out to Athleta - their bathingsuits aren’t cheap, but they are worth it.  I have two that are currently in their FIFTH season and still going strong.  Only one is a halter, so I ordered another one this season so that I’d have two to rotate through this summer (that, and because I’m tired of looking at beach pictures year after year in the same suit…)

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Shady nursing break on the beach, untied but covered-up.

RUNNING:
Finding something supportive enough to handle high impact sports AND nursing-friendly is a tall order, but I found a winner with the nursing/maternity Orange Zest Sports Bra from Cake Lingerie!  The flexible underwire provides plenty of support without being uncomfortable and restrictive, while the moulded, drop-down cups provide an actual shape other than the dreaded uni-boob…and the fabric is thick enough to dim the headlights, but thin enough to still be breathable.  The straps are hefty duty, and the closure in the back has SIX options so that it can grow with you during pregnancy and throughout your breastfeeding journey.  The bra can be worn as a “regular” bra or a racerback – I found the racerback to be most supportive.  The best thing about it is that it is so  comfortable that I usually end up wearing on rest days too!  The price tag is not cheap ($79), but it’s worth it for the active mama!  

So whether you’ve nursed one baby or ten, for one day, one year, or beyond, congrats on giving your child(ren) the best comfort and nutrition available!  Celebrate what your body can do this week!  And for the veteran nursers out there, feel free to leave your beset “adventure tip” for any moms out there that may be struggling to figure out the logistics!

 

 

 

 

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5 Ways to Have Fun With a Cheap Plastic Pool

Here's a throwback pic of our first season w/this pool, summer 2011!

Here’s a throwback pic of our first season w/this pool, summer 2011!

You know the ones I mean – they sell them at Wal-mart for 10 bucks or so.  At first glance they appear to be far too small for anything bigger than a small one year old child to enjoy.  But before you toss it after just one summer, think outside the box a little bit – you might be surprised at what you can do with it!  We used ours for Big C the summer we moved to Charlotte – he had just turned 1, and we hadn’t explored the local pool options yet.  We used it for a couple of months, then moved it to the attic, where it had previously been collecting dust for the past three years.  But this summer our creative juices (and sweat glands…) have been flowing, and we’ve brought it back to life.  And I daresay we’re having even more fun with it now than we did before!!!

WATER TABLE – Our “pool” fits perfectly onto the round table on our back patio, which goes into shade by mid-afternoon.  Fill it up with a few inches of water, toss in some toys, and voila!  A sensory experience that will entertain the kiddos as well as keep them cool.  Big C likes floating his lego men around in boats (aka bowls), while Baby Z likes when the water from the bowls spills onto her legs.  (Just a fair warning, if you’re kids are anything like mine, they will most likely end up IN the water table before it’s over, so dress accordingly.)  

Just chillaxin' by the pool.

Just chillaxin’ by the pool.

ACTIVITY MAT - Speaking of getting IN the pool, Baby Z has discovered that tummy time is twice the fun when it’s done in a couple of inches of water.  Plus the threat of getting a face-full of water is a great incentive to keep her head up (totally kidding…it should go without saying that this one should only be attempted for a few minutes at a time and under very close adult supervision!!!)  But you don’t have to stop at tummy time – once baby can sit up independently, park him/her in the pool with a few toys.  Your child will have fun exploring how the toys interact with the water!

Tummy time!

Tummy time!

SCIENCE EXPERIMENTS – There are all sorts of science experiments that involve water.  (For some ideas, check out here and here.)  It can be as simple or as complex as you want to make it.  With a 4 year old (and a 4 month old), we tend to go for impromptu teachable moments rather than following the Scientific Method to a “T.”  For example, there were a few afternoons last week in the upper 90′s, which meant the water that was nice and cool from the hose earlier in the day had elevated to hot tub status.  Our solution was to grab a giant bucket full of ice cubes and watch them melt.  Another favorite at our household is grabbing a bunch of toys and predicting “Sink or Float?”  WARNING: Unless you want your pool to become a birthing center for female mosquitoes, I suggest you don’t experiment with leaving the same water in the pool for more than 24 hours…

The budding scientist in our "Sink or Float" experiment.

The budding scientist in our “Sink or Float” experiment.

BALL TOSS GAMES – A cheap plastic pool can make a “wet and wild” version of just about any ball game.  Recently we’ve been enjoying a few lively rounds of  “Splashketball,” which is basically a watery combination of H-O-R-S-E and Keep-away.  (At least that’s what it felt like yesterday…it’s hard playing with a 4 year old because the rules change often and without warning…)

Splashketball, anyone?

Splashketball, anyone?

SAND/DIRT TABLE – Just because pool weather is over doesn’t mean you have to part ways with your cheap plastic pool.  It can still make a great sensory table during cool weather – but instead of water, why not use sand?  Dirt?  Moon Dough?  Throw in a few cups, bowls, garden tools, and maybe even a small dump truck or two, and you’ve got a fairly well-contained mess on your hands that any toddler will love!

The above is how we’ve been rolling with this summer, but we’re always up for other ideas!  Any other “off-label” uses for a cheap plastic pool that we should know about?

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