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Wednesday
May202015

The Mountains are Calling, and We Must Go

Eric and I keep separate blogs on this site. We have our own verbal autonomy. He doesn't speak for me. I don't speak for him, and we never know when the other may write a post. I was tickled pink when he finally wrote a post about the backpacking he has been doing with Cora and the trips he has planned for the whole family. 

Last month I flew out to Texas for the funeral of my friend's amazing daughter. While I was gone Eric had both girls to himself and time off of work so I could attend. 

He took the girls camping. 

We are most likely stuck on land for 2-3 more years.

That is okay.

While we are here we will go into the woods as much as we can.

Image via The Wheat Field on Etsy

My most vivid memories from childhood, the good memories that is, are from trips to the National Parks, playing and being outdoors, camping, kayaking, fishing, snowcaving, sledding, cross-country skiing, and climbing.

Arizona, 1983 (check out the pants on my brother, Rich!) 

Mount Rushmore, 1985

Old Faithful, 1985

Chena Lake, Alaska 1986

Gold panning, Nome Creek, Alaska 1986 

BBQing at 20 below, Fairbanks, Alaska 1987

Sixth grade camp, somewhere near Eagle River, Alaska, 1991

One of the horrible things about being abused by a parent is that you still love them. They are intrinsically woven into the very fiber of your being. My father taught me about and took me into the wilderness.

We searched for crashed WWII airplanes and we plowed through swarms of mosquitoes so thick you could clench your fist in front of your face and then open your palm to expose a poof of dead insects inside. He fell into devil's club. We cleared trails. I made a trap for rabbit, we skinned it, and we made into stew,in the dead of winter. It was delicious. I've been charged by a moose. My entire 5th grade class chased a black bear up a tree. 

For my first week of my freshman year of high school, I walked to each class, a stranger in a strange land, with one eye swollen shut from mosquito bites acquired from our last camping trip. Looking like that really did great things for my social life, let me tell you...

Once you taste the wilderness, you never can let it go.

Wildcat Canyon, Californa 2003

 

Sierras, Middle Palisades, John Muir Wilderness, California 2004

Tahquitz, California 2005

Taos, New Mexico 2009

Two Harbors, Catalina Island, California 2010

I post these pictures of my outdoor adventures with great hope. Hope that my daughters will experience the freedom of the outdoors. That they'll gain the same confidence and skills to explore the wild as I have.

I am grateful. Grateful to men who are good fathers and who take their children out to sleep under the stars.

Lyra, Eric, Cora, Wes, Gray, Miles, Cuyamaca, California 2014

Frankie, Auggie, Cora, and Eric - headed to Kennedy Meadows, Californa 2015

I can feel the girls' excitement. Its joyful intoxication makes me want to go, go, go OUTSIDE.

I'm lucky. I'm lucky I married a man who values what I value.

I hope that our love for adventure is catching.

Cuyamaca, California 2014

Cora and Lyra, when you read this one day, know that by land or by sea, the world is yours and is waiting for you to go explore.

Muertos Cove, Baja California Sur, Mexico 2013

Monday
May182015

Tiny House Bed | DIY loft frame, mattress, and bedding

Remember the loft bed Eric and Dan built for our tiny studio last year? 

It was an epic bed set up for our tiny home. You can read about it here. This post is about the foam, mattress, and bedding, you know, the stuff I do :)

We ordered a piece of 4" high-density foam and had it cut to the size of a queen bed. I know people spend thousands of dollars on mattresses, but I have never slept better than when sleeping on this type of foam. We had the same high-density foam in our v-berth on Rebel Heart. It is the best.sleep.ever.

I made a cover for the foam out of some awesome home-dec weight fabric.

The only thing I would have changed about making this cover is to have added handles. I forgot and a mattress without handles is a pain to move.

Next up was making a mattress protector. I had a king-sized white fleece blanket that I thought I'd turn into one for us.

While it looks lovely, and it is, this was a project fail. I first cut it to size (of the queen bed top) and then added satin blanket binding.

The reason it failed? When I added the fabric to tuck around the sides and the bottom of the cover (to turn it into a fitted cover), I miscalculated. I made the measurements from the edge of the blanket but realized I didn't want to sew into the beautiful blanket binding. Instead, I sewed the edge/bottom fabric into the seam of where the binding meets the blanket, moving my math by 2".

See? I sewed the fabric to the red line to preserve the satin binding, but my inital measurements were for the blue line.

Of course this meant that I made the cover too small/tight.

Ugh.

Sometimes, however, perfect is the enemy of done. I pulled an "ain't-nobody-got-time-for-that" and just cut the fabric in a few places and stretched it around the corners, quickly putting our fitted top sheet on to hold it into place.

And that is how the project stayed for quite a while. Technically, it worked. But underneath the fitted top sheet, the messed up project sang to me, calling out to be refinished correctly.

I finally got around to it.

The small blanket came off and I set it aside so I could carefully use a seam ripper to detach the side fabric and keep the beautiful binding intact. Now we'd at least have another pretty blanket in the house.

This time I used a much bigger orange fleece blanket for the cover. (Fleece makes an excellent mattress protector.)

All I did was pin the corners to size and then sew those lines. No chopping, no cutting. When I want to turn this back into a blanket, I can rip those seams and it will be back in business.

Ta da!!

Meanwhile, Lyra is doing her thing in the bathroom. Love that kid.

A perfect, tiny, minimalist bed.

I also made a custom pillow case for my memory foam pillow.

From too-large pillow case to...

A pattern drawn to....

A custom, zippered, matching pillow case to our bedding.

Here is the loft bed in our old studio.

And our bed in the San Diego house. 

I love that it is simple. I love that is comfortable. And I love to put a custom, personal touch on where ever we are living, on land or at sea. 

Friday
May152015

A Solar System Chalkboard Wall for Girls AND Boys!

I can't tell you frustrating it was to look for ideas on a solar system wall for our learning corner and be met time and time again with articles linking space and the solar system to boys.

The solar system is not for boys.

It is not for girls.

It is technically not for anybody, but I can tell you this, girls like the solar system too.

Don't believe me on the "boys only" posts? Here are just a few. Here. Here. Here. Here

We've been reading There's No Place Like Space and studying planets and our solar system. Cora pretends she is Neptune and always wants Lyra to be Pluto, but Eric is against Lyra being a non-planet. Lyra is earth instead. Eric gets to be Mars, and I claimed Venus, naturally.

The inner workings of our family shenanigans aside, I've been jonesing to set up a giant model of the solar system for the girls (and, I'll admit it, me and Eric too.) After much combing of the internet, these were the three images I used for my inspiration:

I knew I wanted to use chalkboard paint because our walls are a bit bumpy. Normally this would not be good for a chalkboard wall (you want them as smooth as you can get them.) I wanted the bumps though, because once I had seasoned the board and then erased it, I'd be left with a wall that looked more like the actual solar system than a jet-black wall. I wanted the bumps of remaining white chalk to resemble stars.

I had a plan, and I went for it!

Here's the wall after adding chalkboard paint. Gorgeous. Inky. Black.

But do your homework for creating your own. Read the gazillion tutorials on Pinterest and you'll learn that you need to season the wall before using it for the first time.

And so I seasoned.

I went through a few pieces of large, white sidewalk chalk.

This process is messy. Have your vacuum and broom at hand.

After seasoning, I wiped the wall down with a towel. See the difference? The wall on the bottom looks much more milky-way-ish, right?

I ordered this set of solar system decals from Very Berry Sticker on Etsy.

Voilà!

Pretty rad, right? 

I'm so totally stoked on how this turned out.

Lyra loves it.

Cora loves it.

A solar system chalkboard wall FOR GIRLS. Girls grow up to be scientists, pilots, engineers, and astronauts, just like boys. Give them the inspiration to which they are rightly entitled.

My favorite part of the entire project was when Cora looked at it and happily sighed, "Mom, this is the best home ever in the history of the whole world."

Thanks, lil' buddy <3

Monday
May112015

Our Car Passenger Safety Technician (CPST) | a personal fairy godmother.

When we arrived in San Diego we had only the bags we were able to bring off of Rebel Heart. Even as the USS Vandegrift was docking and we waited to bring Lyra to the doctor, I wondered about who was meeting us at the dock and if they had brought the correct kinds of car seats for each girl.

Luckily, they had.

We were gifted two car seats, each age/height/weight appropriate for both girls and they were already installed in the van that met us on Coronado Island. We couldn't pull away directly because I had to adjust the buckles for both seats to make sure they fit right. The Navy personnel who greeted us were very supportive and patient while they waited for me to make sure each girl was correctly seated. 

From that day in April until last January, we used those car seats. Sometime around Christmas I knew that I needed to start looking into new ones. I didn't have the car seat manuals for the girls' seats, and Lyra who was still rear-facing, would often complain about her legs, squatting down when she got out of the car after long rides, as if her thighs or butt had fallen asleep. I'm no expert at extended-rear facing, but I knew it was the safest option for her for as long as we could do it correctly, but I wondered what was bugging her.

Were her legs falling asleep because the seat wasn't very well padded? Was it because when she sat, her legs were bowed in a criss-cross applesauce fashion? I didn't know, but I needed to find out.

The science behind extended-rear facing is very clear. What wasn't clear, was trying to suss out which car seats would fit in our car, both for the shape of the back seat bench and that would allow me to still have leg room in the passenger-side of the car when all four of us were in the vehicle. There are some super, fancy, REALLY expensive car seats out there. Was this a case where more expensive equaled safer? Or could I keep my kids safe and not spend $1,200 on car seats? 

When my vision had started to go permanently wall-eyed from reading reviews, from looking at online pics of cars like ours with different style car seats, and from taking copious measurements, I knew I needed professional help. A local mom recommended I talk to Car Seat Tech, more formally called a Car Passenger Safety Technician (CPST). A CPST's job is to make sure kids are safe in the car seats AND the cars they ride in. They research both things (plus the age, height, and weight of the kid(s), to make sure it all works in harmony.

Enter Kara.

Kara is a CPST, a mom of six, and a fellow adventurer like ourselves (though she prefers the RV style of adventuring to sailboats.) Right now Kara lives in San Diego (lucky for me!). Kara told me to get the following information together for her so she could help us out.

  1. Child age
  2. Child weight
  3. Child height
  4. Current car seat model
  5. Current car seat model manual (if available)
  6. Car: make, model, year
  7. Car manual (if available)
  8. Budget for new car seats

I should state right up front after mentioning 'budget' that Kara works for herself. She gets no kick backs if you buy one car seat or another. In fact, she helped me find the lowest-priced option for the car seats we eventually bought for each girl. Thank you, Kara!

Kids at the meet up, waiting while our CPST inspects the old car seat in our friend's car.

I emailed several friends and told them that I was planning to meet Kara at my place for this 'car seat safety meet up' as I called it and invited them to partake. One friend jumped at the chance and on a Friday morning in January, we all met at my place.

My friend's family went first while I watched kids, made coffee, and wore their adorable baby.

Lyra was okay with my holding another baby for about....two seconds.

Those eyes!

Stop it, baby. 

Stop making me want another!!

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Soon it was our turn. After receiving all the info she needed and double-checking our car, Kara quickly let me know that Cora was over the height and weight for her car seat and that Lyra's  seat, while height/weight appropriate, didn't fit safely onto the back seat of our car.

GREAT.  

^^Sarcasm, people. Obviously.

This is why I call Kara our fairy godmother. She gave me the gift of knowing a ton of things about how to keep the girls safe. She also taught me, step-by-step, how to correctly install both seats when the new ones arrived.

For a few days, we drove NOWHERE. Now that I knew the seats would not do, I kept the girls out of the car until their new seats came. They each got to pick their own color, which gave them huge buy-in for being excited about new seats and not making a fuss about saying adios to their old ones (what little kid likes change?)

I got to intimately know the new car seat's manuals as well as my car's manual too. I found out that we needed to be using the top tether, and in our car, that tether is all the way back. Kara also explained that it is always recommended to use the top tether for a forward-facing seat and that if a vehicle doesn't have that tether, you can look into having the car retro-fitted to add one. Fancy! 

See the tether reaching all the way back on the left there? Kara also gave me her stock safety speech on projectile missiles in a car accident, and how anything can become one. She had me ask myself questions like, "Do I need this in the car?" and, "f I do, is there a safer way to stow it while the vehicle is in motion?"

It was a good reminder. I cleaned up our trunk and put everything we need for traveling with kids into a lock-tight storage box. For the moment it is secured down with line, but I'll be getting some true tie downs soon.

While we are on the issue of safety, do you have one of these on your key chain? Or Velcro'd to each side door? I do.

The ResqMe Key Chain has both a car seat belt cutter and a car window breaker. Handy little life saving device and very affordable.

Both seats correctly and safely installed. A thing of beauty, no?

A gentle reminder to send these puppies for your kids' car seats right away. And keep your own copies somewhere safe too.

I'm grateful to Kara for many things, but primarily for empowering me. I have had to take these seats out several times since purchasing them and each time I was able to correctly install them on my own. I felt like a friggen' rock star, and that is thanks to Kara's patience and guidance. Oh, and Lyra no longer complains about her legs falling asleep. The new car seats are more heavily padded than the old ones. She is comfy cozy now.

Thumbs up for car seat safety checks!

If you are in the San Diego area want to contact Kara, her email is karascarseats@gmail.com. Kara's fees are based on a sliding scale. Her knowledge and help are so incredibly worth paying for. 

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If you don't live in San Diego, or in an area where you can connect with a CPST, check out the helpful videos on Car Seats for the Littles Youtube channel. If you are financially strapped, most city police departments have programs that will help you find a safe, free, or greatly-reduced-in-price car seat for your children. 

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I did not receive a discount or free service from Kara for this blog post. I paid her for her services and I'm writing about what she does because I'm stoked at both finding her and how she helped us make informed choices to keep our kids safe.

Friday
May082015

This Moment ~ The Joy of Childhood

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. No words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. 

Have a wonderful weekend!

This Moment is via SouleMama