We've been soaking up the great weather over here and it's kept us busy. Any day now (I've been saying for weeks) the bugs will come out with a vengeance and we'll be forced to go back inside in the evenings or avoid the woods where they are the worst. Because we've been quite intentional with our efforts, we've already had a solid three months of "summer activities" in the books and we are ready for the next season. The girls are itching for any and all water activities, and I don't disagree. We're ready for sprinkler play, swimming in pools, water tables, and the lake activities.
I've been surprised with how many people have commented in wonder on our outdoor time and activities. I do understand it, because that was me just a few years ago, but what people don't understand is that this new way of living, incorporating the outdoors into our daily lives as much as possible, is relatively new for me. I didn't grow up spending my free time enjoying outdoor activities at all. I did them, sure, but it was forced and I rarely enjoyed it as much as I would now. Over the past few years, something in me has shifted and I have a new perspective on this gift given to us from our Creator. You don't have to go far to discover something new and there are great ways to spend time together as family just right outside your door. The kids and I can be active together and they aren't stuck in front of a screen for most of their time (I'm not either). They burn off a lot of energy and we don't drive each other crazy. That's important!
Moms with younger kids wonder how I am able to go exploring with three little kids under five. It's not anything fancy or mysterious. We start small and work our way to longer distances and time outside. For Josie's birthday, we got her a backpack full of adventure tools like binoculars, a magnifying glass, a fishing net, a flashlight, a compass, bird and tree books, and room for her water bottle and sweatshirt. When they seem to be growing tired of the hike or path we are on, we pull out one of the tools and their interest is renewed. Another trick up my sleeve is to always always stop for a snack or picnic lunch. It's worth the time to get it packed and ready before we head out because stopping to rest, sit, refresh with water and fuel, and let the baby move around (who usually rides in a pack on my back) is priceless and the second half of our time is usually even more fun than the first.
Audrey carries a backpack as well, usually filled with her water bottle, an extra pair of leggings (you never know if a kid will slip in mud or water and get soaked and leggings would fit either of the big girls) and a thin blanket we can spread out for our break. It's quite light but she feels important carrying it, so we never leave it behind.
I bought a Deuter child carrier backpack for Amelia because there's no way she could keep up with us and our Beco carrier that I usually use isn't ideal for longer time periods. This backpack has helped tremendously. It's even more comfortable (the Beco is quite comfortable for our usual usages) and she sits higher up, increasing her visibility and circulation. She also has shade and room to rest her head if she gets tired. There is a small pocket right behind her and a larger pocket down below where she sits, so I can carry water for us without relying on the big girls and most of the food, sunscreen, and even my nice camera (it's easy to keep it safe since it's nicely cushioned and won't get bumped). There's a stand for when I put her down, so she doesn't just fall over while I take her out, and there's a pocket on the strap that goes around my waist for my phone (easy access). Seriously, it's made our adventures much easier. The pace that the big girls set is fairly slow, so I have no problem keeping up as the family pack mule.
For clothing, I try my hardest to encourage jean shorts, capris, or pants, but honestly they don't ever seem to mind or seem held back by their usual dresses and leggings. Josie often wears a skirt with biker shorts underneath along with her Tevas. Audrey and I wear Keens when it's nice enough since they grip the ground a lot better. If it's chillier, I'll wear tennis shoes but I prefer not to since I slip and slide more and I really hate that while wearing a child. I usually wear workout clothes, like compression pants or yoga leggings with a tank top and light sweatshirt that can be tied around my waist easily. The girls also just got new baseball hats that I'm hoping will help keep the sun out of their eyes and keep their hair off their faces. Plus, they just look adorable in them. Amelia wears light layers and a bonnet along with her Saltwater sandals and a good layer of sunscreen. Nothing fancy for her, since she's not the one walking on the dirt trails amongst the plants and bugs.
I was worried about going out on my own with the girls, so we eased into it. First, we went out with the whole family (my parents, my husband, the girls, and myself). Of course that went great. We also went out with another mom and kids during the week. I had got most of the kinks out on these two hikes, so now we are confident enough to go on our own. I've been so impressed with what is available within 20 minutes of us. It's no big deal to get out of our house for 3-5 hours without having to sit in the car for an hour there and back. That's priceless! The more we explore and drive around, the more nooks and crannys there are that nobody seems to be aware of.
All that to say, I am hoping and praying that we stick with it. I hope that all three girls can find ways to enjoy being outside and that we can participate and support these efforts as they grow older and become their own individuals. I have dreams of us swimming, tubing, kayaking, biking, and hiking tougher trails together in the not so distant future. We are well on our way, I'd say.
This summer, Josie is in t-ball and seems to love it so far. I was not going to force her to be in it each year, but I did want her to try it at least for a season. I needn't have worried because she hasn't complained once. We walk there since it is at a park near us, and Josie often rides her bike. Any chance we get to choose time outside, we take. We could drive there and save the time, but I prefer that time together, breathing the fresh air, chatting, and moving our bodies around over what we'd probably be doing at home (sitting around, making a mess, bickering or whining if we're honest).
It does take work. It takes planning. It takes a will to go outside even when you'd rather sit inside and chill out. Sometimes it's rainy or windy and the sun refuses to shine bright. Sometimes the humidity makes me want to nap instead. Sometimes the girls don't want to go on the particular path I've found or chosen or they are just not in a good mood. Of course these things happen. More times than not, though, they cheer up once we get moving and their poor attitude is forgotten. We find our rhythm and all end up refreshed and happy. It's worth it.