Camping with Babies

One of the number one things I looked forward to in moving back to North Carolina was camping. In Austin we camped every month that Tyler was in town, but one of the things we’ve done the least since moving back has been…camping. In the two years we’ve lived in Wilmington, we’ve camped 4 times. To our credit it’s been in 4 different places.

We went with friends to Croatan National Forest two Easter weekends ago. After we got Clara we took her to a small island accessible by boat only. In September of last year, around the end of the second trimester I took Clara to join friends to camp at Neuse State Park.

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Camping while pregnant was… not as bad as anticipated. Drinking a beer around the campfire is one of my favorite parts of camping so abstaining did take a bit of the fun out. I laid on both sleeping pads for extra cushion and by some sort of magical force I only had to get up once in the night to pee. I wasn’t far enough long that my walking was affected so it was pretty fun!

This past weekend I took the next step in camping- camping with a baby. Natalie was in town and we took Haines and Clara to Carolina Beach State Park along with friends. It was a very busy weekend at the park but with the exception of one truck full of yelling partygoers the campsites were relatively quiet. We walked the nature trails, played games, roasted s’mores and journeyed to the neighboring brewery. You really can’t beat a state park next to a brewery. So this trip I got to drink beer around a campfire and at a bar. Major improvement on the previous camping experience. IMG_3269

Even though everyone chipped in helping with Clara and Haines, camping with both a 4 month old and an easily excited dog is stressful. Clara was somewhat well behaved which isn’t saying much. Other dogs typically hate her and this trip was no different. Haines didn’t mind being outdoors all the time. He also tolerates being carried in the front pack better than I tolerate carrying him.

As it turns out he does not tolerate sleeping on the ground in a sleeping bag very well. This is fair as many adult humans do not either. I made him a palate out of blankets and swaddled him in a muslin blanket inside a thin sleeping bag that also had a hood. He wore a knit hat which also didn’t help with the sleep issue. I had intended to pack his fleece sleep sack but failed to remember it.

I ended up feeding him 4 times during the night which is on par with the feeding schedule he had during his newborn nights. This was partly because I could never find his pacifier in the tent when I needed it. But a boob I could find so we went with that. He only woke the campsite up once around 3 am so that’s pretty good, right?

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In case you can’t tell that’s two friends, one dog and a baby. 

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Those two beautiful hours that Haines slept.

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Wrapped up against the morning chill!

Next time we camp I will:

  • Figure out another sleeping option for him (suggestions welcome!)
  • Stuff 10 pacifiers in my pillowcase so I can pull them out throughout the night
  • Bring along a chair/seat for Haines so I don’t have to hold him the whole time
  • Also put the flashlight in there so when I run out of pacifiers I can find more

I also am going to be on the lookout for another baby carrying device. I love the free aspect of our hand-me-down Chico carrier but it doesn’t fit me well and it hurts my back. Time to do some research on different options because the hiking and camping won’t be stopping!

 

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Live with Focus

There are a million things I’d like to accomplish this year. I’d like to get outside more, save all my money, make all my food from scratch, establish a thriving garden, excell at my job, concentrate on making my time at home quality time with my family, write more often, put myself out of my comfort zone, go hiking, get back in shape, travel to new places and so on. But let’s get real. A year may seem like a long time but days and weeks pass by in the blink of an eye. The year that we have a brand new baby is not the year for lofty goals. It is not the year I’ll hike the Applachian Trail or start making my own pasta. It’s a year to soak in this time with baby Haines and survive our lack of sleep.

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But how do I stop making pies?!

 

Regardless I am the time of person who creates goals. I need focus and plans to guide me. This is most likely a fault that speaks to me being a control freak but…one thing at a time. This year we spent New Year’s Eve in the hospital so it was not a time for a resolutions (although how about no more trips to the hospital in 2017?!). My time at home on maternity leave was a foggy blur of sleeplessness and long walks. I’m back at work and back in a routine and starting to find a tiny sense of focus.

I really just want to use my time wisely and purposely. I don’t mean that I won’t watch TV or check my Instagram feed (FYI- taking Facebook off my phone was a great choice) but I don’t want to let myself get lost in it. I’m going to make my lunch for work at night so I can enjoy my baby cuddles in the morning without stressing. I’m going to go out with friends or go off by myself so that I can come back and better appreciate and be more present in my time with my family.

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This guy is pretty hard to resist.

 

To keep my focus I’ve determined 4 activities/goals.

Me: Be Patient

It starts with me. I want to have more patience with myself and others. I don’t need to accomplish everything today. Like many women, I put an unreasonable amount of pressure on myself to excel and worse, be perfect. It’s past time to get rid of that inclination. Time to slow down, communicate more often and more kindly.

Community: Get Involved

Contributing to  my community has always been important to me but often it gets pushed to the back burner. I need to move this up the priority list. It’s a value that I want to impart onto Haines and there’s only one way to do that.

Finance: Reduce Debt, Reduce Stress

It’s well known in my family that I put a large focus on financial security (some might say too much…) and I’ve let it cause my unnecessary stress in the past. While I don’t want to do that I do want to get to the point where we are making more strategic decisions when it comes to our finances and reducing our debt.

Travel:

This isn’t a deep and life-changing goal but getting outside my immediate surroundings has always proved to be key for my sanity. The one thing I’ve wanted to do since returning to North Carolina was visit the mountains in the fall. So far two falls have passed and we haven’t made it. This is the year! Fall leaves, I won’t miss you this time! It’s also a part of my home state that Haines won’t get as much exposure to in our beach town and I want him to see all the beauty of our state.

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Winter in Wilmington, NC

Exploring Wilmington: Coastal Hikes

Fourth of July has taken a different path since coming to Wilmington. It’s Tyler’s busiest weekend of the year with sold out boat rentals and all the crazies on the water. The beach traffic on a regular weekend makes me hesitant to head towards the ocean so 4th of July weekend is even less appealing. Luckily my dad came into town for the weekend and he has no desire to hang out at the beach. It made our options a little simpler.

Instead of packing our beach chairs and fighting for a space on the sand we got up unreasonably early each day and found some walking trails. It gave both of us an opportunity to explore new territory and get moving before the heat and humidity fully set in. Although with the mornings starting in the 80s, “fully set in” is a phase with little meaning.

Fort Fisher Basin Trail

This is a quick and easy trail, although will little shade and high humidity, I was surprisingly wiped out after this 2 mile out-and-back jaunt. It’s primarily on a well-kept dirt path or boardwalk through marshland parallel to the ocean. It ends at an overlook with views of the Inter Coastal Waterway. We spent quite a few minutes watching the ferry boats and kayakers go by and could hear chatter from a nearby small commercial fishing boat.

This is a great little walk which I think would be especially fun with kids as it was full of bird sightings, little lizards and fiddler crabs. I forgot to take a picture so my thanks to NC Parks for this one.

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Photo credit: NC Parks

We ended up walking through a market at Carolina Beach Lake Park afterwards which was a fun treat (as was the lemon bar we shared) and spending the afternoon buying used furniture for my porch! A very successful day.

There’s still a little work yet to be done…

Brunswick Nature Park

I have to admit, I wasn’t sure about this park. Although Tyler had already visited and had plenty of good things to say about the mountain bike trails, I somehow doubted that the walking trails would be anything to get excited about. Not surprisingly… I was wrong. The park is only a short drive from Wilmington and very easy to navigate. We ended up hiking two out of the three trails with the Dogwood trail being my favorite. You can’t beat the river views! It was much more scenic than I could have anticipated. I’ll gladly keep this in mind for any time I need to get out of the city for a short reprieve.

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Hikers!

Carolina Beach State Park

I was hesitant to drive towards the beach on the 4th of July but at 8 am, it was insanely easy. Having hiked a small portion of this park before it wasn’t the one I was most looking forward to. At the visitor center we grabbed a trail map and I was shocked to find out the park had way more trails than I had remembered with a total of six miles throughout. The park extended farther south than you might guess from a passing glance. We choose a 3 mile loop that would take us up a dune and past three ponds. While there was nothing epic about the dune overlook or the ponds we visited, it was an incredibly pleasant walk. The path was fine, white sand covered in pine needs, soft and springy below. The short oak trees still provided a beautiful overhang, protecting us from the sun. Despite being a popular park, we ran into only a handful of people on the trail. It was quiet and serene.

There were quite a few road cyclists zooming around on the park roads which means I will be looking to come back out with another activity in mind. And in a few months, I’ll be able to stop back by the park’s neighbor Good Hops Brewery! I really can’t imagine anything more perfect than a brewery across from a state park. Great job Carolina Beach folks!

So next time I’m missing the mountains and all the hiking I’d like to be doing up there, at least I’ll know a few options to explore in these parts!

A Love Letter To Wilmington

Last week at a gathering of storytellers at TheatreNow I heard many different stories of Wilmington. There were sad tales of heartache, violence and sickness. There were also tales of triumph, of coming together, of community. Every person’s story was different from one another’s and my own but the distinct traits of our city connected all.

I never wanted to move back to North Carolina. I grew up in Winston-Salem feeling very much an outsider. I wasn’t outgoing, athletic, religious, or conservative. Living in Winston meant feeling trapped and alone. My four years in Asheville were a relief but I knew I wasn’t in the real world- just a tiny hippie bubble in the backwoods. And even on my most nature loving days, I’m not a great hippie either.

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I do hippie dance well though. 

I traveled to Australia, Wyoming and Texas before I found my way back to North Carolina- here for a man of course. My husband could pick any coastal city in continental US and he finds a job in Wilmington. I’d visited here a dozen times and never really known it.

I remembered Airlie Gardens where my sister got married and Wrightsville Beach where we’d vacationed a couple times. Sweet and Savory stood out as a place my parents loved to eat. I knew where to find a few key Dawson’s Creek scenes. What more had I ever needed to know?

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How about that Front Street Books is more community center than used book store? Or that Wilmington struggles with racism, poverty, and a dark, complicated history? I hate passing every Daughters of the Confederacy statue but I love hearing our mayor come out against HB2. All the same, Wilmington does not struggle with generosity. There is more community action and non-profit pride than you would ever expect to see in a sleepy coastal town.

There are times (again, HB2) when I wish we didn’t live here. I wish we lived some place that aligned with my values and beliefs. Some place you could describe as progressive. We could live in Oregon or Washington and have major concerns about “too many damn hipsters” and which overpriced farmers market to go to. But when it comes down to it I don’t want to live in a bubble with a lot of people who agreed with me. How will I keep myself in check, how will I prove what I believe if no one ever questions it? How will I know what I believe if I never have to really live it?

Beyond all of that, this is my North Carolina. Mine and yours. I am invested in this soil because I was born to it and because I know it is the dogwood tree that cradled me and rose me up and it is the blue ridge mountains that made seek out what was beyond them and it is bluegrass music that keeps me dancing. It is waving to strangers on every sidewalk and an understanding that everyone’s favorite room in the house is the porch. It is talking to strangers in line at the grocery store because when we are all together we are a community. And I, for one, am here to stay.

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Dogs and Gardens

One of the disappointing parts of moving when we did, in the early fall, was that we weren’t able to see our garden through to the full season. We left green tomatoes and ripening peppers and a basil bush just waiting for pesto. We invested a lot of time and money into a project we weren’t able to see all the way through. Despite that it was still a good experience and we learned a lot. Mainly we learned there is a learning curve in gardening. A big one.

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Beware squirrels.

This year we’re approaching things a little differently. I refused to consider the possibility of an in-ground garden after the insane amount of weeding I did last year. Also, we thought our old yard had sandy soil but we might as well be at the beach in this house. In the end, after a lot of back and forth, we decided on two 8′ x 4′ garden beds. I was talked down from making them 24″ high like the ones we built at LINC last year for Work on Wilmington. Those were some awesome garden beds. When I actually saw how high 12″ is though, I was on board.

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These are not the exact boxes we built but we did base ours off these. Photo Credit: K.J. Williams 

We lined the boxes with weed cloth and put a layer of leaves in before we piled in our compost/top soil. We bought it all mixed up already from Seaside Mulch. We bought it in bulk instead of bags which saved us a lot of money.

What we should have done differently: Our very next action after building the beds should have been to protect them from their number one enemy- our dog. Clara was delighted to leap through the bed on her way to the fence where she chats with other dogs and also to dig up my seeds and freshly planted baby broccoli plants. So much fun!

After SOMEONE insisted there was no way Clara was going to dig in the garden again after she’d gotten in trouble for it, she did it again many more times. I won, he built me a fence. It’s pretty basic, just plastic mesh zip-tied to rebar poles. We* used sod staples to secure the fence to the ground.

*Please note when I say “we” in the same sentence as “build” or something similar I typically mean Tyler. “We” built garden beds, “we” used sod staples, etc. On the flip side when I say “we” planted or “we” weeded, I just mean me. 

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Fence Day!

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Finally these plants can rest easy. Whew. 

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There’s the culprit now, eyeing her prey…

Now we’re down a few broccoli plants (but how much broccoli can you really eat anyways?) and I’ve planted new spinach and beet seeds, along with tomato, pepper and herb plants. We’re trying not to plant so many different things this year. Trying is very hard for me.

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Whoops. 

Beer Tour of Wilmington: Fermental

I had heard about Fermental since I moved to Wilmington but I rarely venture past the downtown or midtown area here. With Hey Beer and Bombers within a few minutes of my house, I didn’t feel much reason to venture out down Market that far.

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That seems to have most definitely been a mistake. Now that I’ve visited the adorable house-turned-store once I’ll have to go back. Inside the walls are lined with racks of wine and shelves of beer. There is no wall space being underutilized, no room not filled to its capacity. You walk from room to room, each leading into the other, in constant surprise at how many delicious treasures a small room can hold.

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We visited this weekend during Fermental’s third anniversary. It was an incredible celebration with what seemed to be at least twelve rotating taps at any one time. We had the opportunity to try several beers between the three of us.

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Now I’m going to have to go back because between the Catch foodtruck, trying beers and the live music I didn’t have a chance to purchase wine ice cream or hop chocolate. What??

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48 Hours in Todd, NC

You don’t know Todd is? That is really shocking. It’s only a bustling community of approximately 2,000 people. To be honest, I really question Wikipedia for saying there’s 2000 people there. Even the general store is closed up and for sale.

I’m not painting a very good picture here. Todd is just off 421 right outside of Boone in western North Carolina. You don’t visit Todd to go somewhere, you go to Todd to just be. For my Christmas present and our Valentine’s weekend Tyler booked us a little cabin just past Todd. I have to admit, as excited as I was to spend the weekend in the mountains I was pretty hesitant about this trip. February is not my ideal time to go to a snowy, hard to traverse area. I’m not equipped to hike in snow.

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Luckily snowy roads are a lot easier to travel when you’re driving a full size truck instead of a Honda hatchback. Also, fresh snow + cozy cabin + puppy dog + books – cell service is exactly what the doctor ordered. Even when we were in Belize, we had wifi. I don’t know the last time I couldn’t use my phone, the internet or watch TV. The only radio station we could get was a public radio station from Bristol, TN that played awesome bluegrass music.

So apparently there’s one store in Todd but it’s closed on Sundays so don’t try to go then (whoops). I highly recommend going to Boone but we were too busy drinking fancy beer and walking in the snow.

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Take a mini-vacation y’all. You deserve it.