Wednesday, September 30, 2009

It's Almost October!

What a beautiful fall day it has been! It's been the coldest day we've had for quite awhile, which really makes it feel like October is here. And I'm so happy that I got my Halloween decorations up before October 1'st! Stephen got all the boxes out of storage today, and I decorated the house tonight! Now it really feels festive at my house!

Kirsten "helped" me take all the decorations out of the boxes, and she really got a kick out of everything! She loves the witches and the pumpkins and scarecrows, but she's scared of the ghosts and the spiders. I don't really have any spider decorations, but there was one little plastic spider that was inside her trick-or-treat bucket. She called it "scary spider" and pushed it away, so I took the spider out. After that she kept staring suspiciously into her bucket, like she expected the spider to reappear.
Guess who loves Halloween decorations the most in our house? I think it's the cats! They go crazy! I'll post some pictures soon.

Some other things that really make me feel like October is already here:

*I've realized I've got to start thinking about Halloween costumes! I have a really cute idea for Kirsten and Natalie, but my mind is pretty blank when it comes to costumes for Stephen and me. I want to be something really fun!

This is my favorite Halloween picture. I can't believe Kirsten (at 5 months old) was ever small enough to fit inside a pumpkin!

For her first Halloween she was a ladybug!

And last year she was a cute little butterfly fairy. . .

*Want to know my secret to really making it feel like fall in your house?
Buy a pumpkin spice candle, or any spicy, autumny scent that you love. I adore my pumpkin spice candle, and I light it every night! Smells so yummy!!!

*Halloween Oreos. . . . my biggest October weakness! I don't care that the package says "Same great taste." They taste BETTER, and I can't explain why! They just do!

*I'm so excited to go see 'Wicked' in Seattle this Saturday!
I have been waiting and waiting, after hearing all the hype from everyone about this show, and can't wait to see why everybody raves about it so much. How's that for the perfect kick-off to the holiday season?

What are some other things I should do to welcome October in? I love getting new ideas!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

ImagiPlay Review!

With all the toys that have been recalled lately (even from big, reputable companies!), it's really nice to find a natural, earth-friendly toy shop that you know will be 100 percent safe for your kids. Of course I still have tons of plastic toys at my house, but I really love wooden toys! There's just something so classic about them, and you know they're awesome quality. Imagiplay
sent me this sweet little elephant rattle for Natalie, and I just had to share what an awesome website they have!
Natalie just loves sticking this cute little guy into her mouth.
Imagiplay's motto is "Toys With Integrity," and they create toys that are naturally safe, thoughtfully produced, and thoroughly fun! I love eco-friendly toys! They encourage kids' imaginations to develop, since they have to actually play with them and not just push buttons. All of these toys remind me of the wooden animals I used to love playing with when I was a little kid. I want my kids to develop just as active an imagination as I have always had!

Here are some of the toys from their website that I'd most like to have in my home:

*This Palm Tree Bead Maze is only $13! Kirsten loves playing with these, and this is one of the cutest and least expensive ones I've seen.

*Love this adorable fruit cutting set! This is a million times better than the cheap plastic food we have in Kirsten's play kitchen. The pieces are all secured together with velcro, and kids can practice cutting and role-playing! I think I'm putting this on Kirsten's Christmas list. . .

*Their Noah's Ark play set is truly one of those heirloom toys that you pass down to your grandchildren. It's beautiful! Too bad it's $104. . .

*A much more wallet-friendly alternative that's still totally cute is the award-winning Arctic Expedition play set! At $26, I think this one is going on the Christmas list too! They also have a Zoo play set and an African Safari play set, and they're all made with environmentally-friendly rubberwood and painted with child-safe paints.

*We need a good set of blocks at our house, and I'm loving these Safari Stacking Blocks! This company just sells too many cute things!

*Imagiplay is offering an awesome discount code:
Get 15% off with the coupon code 'kidstuff09'

Christmas is coming up soon! Happy shopping!

Envirosax Review and Giveaway!

Envirosax is an awesome company with such a great mission. . . "to help create a better future for our planet by providing a stylish and eco-friendly alternative to disposable shopping bags that have caused so much damage to the environment worldwide."

My Envirosax bag is soooooo lightweight. It only weighs 1.4 ounces! It's also portable, waterproof, and each one holds the equivalent of two plastic shopping bags! I love how you can fold it up to be really tiny and then stick it right into your purse. And seriously. . . look how cute mine is! It sure makes those plastic grocery bags look ugly and unfashionable!
These bags are the perfect go-to bags for just about everything! Anytime I need to throw a bunch of stuff into a bag and take it to a park, the pool, the beach, a friend's house, anywhere, I always grab this bag. I get really annoyed when I can't find it or can't remember which purse I left it in, because it's now my favorite bag to tote stuff around in. Despite their light weight, these bags are really large and hold a ton of stuff!

Envirosax come in so many fun and groovy designs. Most of my favorites are from the Animal Planet series, but all of the Graphic series prints are awesome. The individual prices are only $8.50! SUCH an amazing price for such a great quality, versatile bag that you will get a ton of use out of!

Envirosax donates a percentage of its sales to charities and non-profit organizations who are dedicated to preserving the environment. Love that!!!

They even have a Kids Series of bags, so you can teach your kids how to be environmentally-conscious while they help you shop or just to carry all their stuff. Such a cute idea! I'd love to get this one for Kirsten:

Envirosax has agreed to give away any reusable bag of your choice to TWO winners!

Here's how to enter:
*Visit their website and tell me which Envirosax bag design is your favorite!

Here's a whole bunch of ways to get extra entries:
1. Follow my blog!
2. Blog about this giveaway with a link to me
3. Mention this giveaway on Facebook with a link to me
4. Tweet about this giveaway
5. Go here to become a fan of Envirosax on Facebook!
6. Go here to follow Envirosax on Twitter!
7. Go here to subscribe to their email list.

*Please leave me a separate comment for each entry! Be sure I have a way to contact you if you are the winner. This giveaway will close on October 13'th. Good luck! There will be TWO winners this time and each will win a reusable bag of their choice!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Adorable Etsy Shop. . . Pearberry Review!

Anyone with a sweet tooth (and that most definitely includes me!) would just love Pearberry's scrumptious Etsy shop! Her cute little charms really do look good enough to eat!
She sent me this Cinnamon Bun charm, and I'm amazed at the intricate details on it. It's such a tiny charm, and the details are absolutely perfect!

Jessica, the artist, hand-sculpts these charms and I just don't know how she does it! Aren't they exquisite?

This would make a perfect Halloween necklace!

And how cute are these little fruit charms with the faces? They would be adorable all together on a charm bracelet.

She also hand-sculpts certain charms into earrings. I'd love to wear these delicious-looking cupcakes!

Pearberry is offering a discount of 10% off your entire order!
Just visit her shop and enter the code SWEETS in the "message to seller" box at checkout. The discount will be refunded after the payment is received. This offer is good until October 31'st!

MJM Books Review and Giveaway!

This is such an awesome idea. . . a book starring your child! MJM Books creates stories that are adorable and totally customizable so that your kid can be the main character.
I would have absolutely loved one of these books when I was a kid!

I got to order the book If I Were Big for Kirsten. The rhymes and rhythms make the story really pleasurable to read to her, and she thinks it's so great to see pictures of herself as a giant and all the things that would happen if she were big. The story has a great message that being small is just the right size, because it's the perfect size to fit in Mommy and Daddy's arms. :) It's such a cute book!

Each of their books is customized with your child's name, and you can also choose the gender, hair color, eye color, and skin color of the main character! It was super easy and fast to go on their website and customize a book too. It only took me five minutes! And I love how you can also enter a special message that will be printed in the book.

The retro-inspired images are beautiful! Here's an example of what one of my pages looks like:

I love the company's motto. . . "Making Reading Fun!"
This is something I've really struggled to do with my two year-old, as it took a LONG time for her to show much interest in books. Now she loves reading stories before naptime and bedtime, but it took a long time to get there! I'm sure that when she gets older and learns to read, she'll love even more having a book with her name in it and a story all about her! This would be so perfect for an early reader!

Another thing I love. . . all of their books are printed on 100% recycled paper!

MJM Books offers three different personalized books. . . If I Were Big, A Day At the Park, and What Animal Are You? Go here to find out all about the three authors and three artists who create these wonderful books!

MJM Books is offering one customized book to one of my readers! Even if you don't have kids yourself, this would make such a wonderful gift that would stand out from all the rest!

Here's how to enter:
*Visit MJM's website and tell me which book you'll want if you are the winner and who it would be for!

Get extra entries when you:
1. Follow my blog!
2. Blog about this giveaway with a link back to me!
3. Mention this giveaway on Facebook and link to my blog
4. Tweet about this giveaway.
5. Just for fun. . . leave me another comment and tell me the name of your favorite childhood book!

*Please leave me a separate comment for each entry. This giveaway will close on October 13'th. Good luck winning this wonderful personalized book!

Friday, September 25, 2009

News From the Terrible Two's

Just look at that face. You know I love this girl so much. You know I do.
But lately she is sooooo very. . . well. . . TWO!!!
Just a few examples:

*Last week she started saying "mine" and calling everything hers. "My car, my story, my bed." Of course I knew it would happen! And at least all those things really are hers, and she's learning about ownership which is fine.

And then the other day at the mall. . . we were in the kid's play area, where most kids run around and play on all the climbing structures, but Kirsten mostly clings to me and watches the other kids with a terrified expression on her face because she thinks they might come near her or (heaven forbid!) look at her! Kirsten really liked one of the killer whale climbing structures (she called it a dolphin), and she was getting pretty upset every time another kid climbed on it. I kept telling her all the kids can play with everything and so can she, and then she turned to me and said. . . "Dolphin is Kirsten's."
Where did she come up with that??? I thought it was really funny, but I quickly said, "Noooo, the dolphin is not Kirsten's. The dolphin is for everyone to play with."
I still can't believe she thought the random dolphin at the mall was actually hers. . .

*Yesterday she pulled the rainforest animals off the mobile that hangs over the baby swing, and then said (with obvious delight), "Baby Natalie. . . Broken!"

*Last night I tried singing the ABC song with her, and she shouted, "No! No! I want to sing it by myself!" I was stunned! And then of course she wouldn't sing it by herself.

*Every single day, without fail, she asks for fries with ketchup. And to drive her Little Tikes car. And to watch Shrek. Apparently those are the three most important things in this 2 year-old's world.
I totally love her and she's tons of fun!
But. . . gee whiz, she makes baby Natalie seem easy!

5 Months Old!!!

Natalie the sunshine baby is five months old!!!

*She really IS our little sunshine! She's just the happiest baby I've ever seen the majority of the time, and it's incredibly easy to make her smile and laugh! It's so much fun! ALL you have to do is smile at her and her whole face will light up into a smile for you. And she has the greatest laugh! She laughs hard at so many things now!

*She doesn't roll over yet. She rolled over a few times from her tummy to her back, but I think she forgot how because I haven't seen her do it in awhile. And she hasn't rolled over the other way yet. But she is always trying to sit up on her own, even though she slumps over and can't really do it. She'll be lying on the floor trying to sit up, so you just see her head come up off the floor and it looks like she's trying to do crunches. Funny baby!

*She's still a little teething machine, and loves to chew and suck on absolutely anything. She's also discovered how fun it is to grab onto long hair and PULL. She loves to grab at toys that are dangling down over her, and she already thinks peek-a-boo games are hilarious.

*I just don't know what to do about getting her on a sleeping schedule during the day. Some days she'll take a long, awesome nap, and other days she'll sleep for 20 minutes and then is wide awake and wants to play. It makes it kind of hard for me to plan out my days, but at least if all else fails I can put her in the car seat and go somewhere and she'll fall asleep in there if she's tired. Her car seat is getting heavy, but at least she's portable!

*She's still a total night owl, and she almost always fights sleep at night. We'll be rocking her and we know she's tired, and she still keeps popping her head up to look around and see what's going on. It's hard to get her to relax, and I think she just doesn't want to miss out on anything. That doesn't remind me of anyone I know, not at all. . . :)

*Natalie is so snuggly, sweet, and smiley! I just love having her in our family so much!

Adorable Etsy Shop. . . Coco's Greenhouse Review and Giveaway!!!

Beautiful. . . elegant. . . refined. My new Noir Glamour Necklace.
This necklace is a true stunner piece! It dresses up my old black dress perfectly and makes me feel like I'm going out to a fancy dinner in Paris! Which is exactly what a piece of jewelry should do, in my opinion. And it matches SO many outfits, I hope I don't end up wearing it too much!

It was sent to me by Coco's Greenhouse, and every bit of this Etsy shop is full of handmade, high-quality jewelry inspired by a love of nature.

Birds are a common theme throughout her pieces, and I am coveting this beautiful Twilight Flight necklace. You can choose a different-colored crystal if you want (even though I love the amythest!), and it can also be made with dragonflies.

This Oak Forest bracelet is the most perfect bracelet for fall I've EVER seen! It just oozes the spirit of fall, my favorite season! I really want it.

This Poppies in the Wind necklace made of antiqued silver has such beautiful detailing. Her work is so unique!

Owl lovers take note. . .

These Drop of the Sea earrings remind me of the crystal clear waters in St. Thomas!

And since Halloween is coming soon (it's almost October! I'm so excited!), I think these would be SO much fun to wear all month long!

Isn't that the greatest shop?
I'm so thrilled. . . Coco's Greenhouse is doing a generous giveaway of ANY piece of jewelry of the winner's choice from her shop!!!

You all better enter this one!
Here's how to enter:
*Visit her shop and leave me a comment on this post, telling me which item is your favorite and what you'll want if you are the winner!

Get extra entries when you:
1. Follow my blog!
2. Blog about this giveaway with a link over here.
3. Facebook this giveaway with a link to me.
4. Tweet about this giveaway.
5. Add her shop as a favorite on Etsy.
6. Follow her on Twitter for secret sales and discounts just for fans:

*Please leave me a separate comment for each entry, and make sure I have a way to contact you if you are the lucky winner!
This giveaway will close on October 11'th. Good luck!!!

Coco's Greenhouse is also offering a 10% discount on your entire purchase if you put "veaterfam" in the notes to seller upon checkout. She will refund the difference back to you!

Thanks Dad T-Shirt Review and Giveaway!

Thanks Dad is one of the sweetest companies I have heard about in a very long time. They create apparel and accessories that are designed to capture the unique experiences shared by a father and child. The shirts have beautiful images of father/child activities on them, and all of them say "Thanks Dad." I love the message, and the shirts are really nice! Stephen got this blue one pictured below. Of course it would have meant much more to him if it came as a gift from our kids, but he still thinks it's a great shirt and really comfortable. I love the color and the soft fabric!
I know for sure I would get the same Beach Tee that Stephen got for my own Dad. When I think back about my favorite memories with my Dad, many of them involve swimming and playing at the beach. I grew up in San Diego, and my Dad is the one who taught me to love the beach and the ocean, so this shirt would be perfect for him!

This Ski Tee is another design they feature. The shirts come in adult sizes or youth sizes, and they come in six nice color choices. The shirts are tagless (which I love!) and they run a little small so be sure to order a bigger size than you normally wear.
These would make such thoughtful gifts!
Tom Kiddoo, the Chief Executive Dad and Manager, created these shirts because he wanted to capture these precious moments with his Dad and his kids forever in time. The artwork is inspired by memories of his Father. He said, "These 'snapshots' tell of the unconditional love and understanding between a father and child which so often can become blurred by the hustle and bustle of everyday life. These are the memories that often fade too quickly, memories that Thanks Dad has captured forever. These are wonderful memories, filled with love and respect, that will bring you a smile every time."

It makes me happy to help promote such a great company!!!
Know what else makes me happy? Of course. . . a giveaway! Thanks Dad is giving away any T-shirt from their website to one of my readers! So enter to win one for your husband, your Dad, your kids, or whoever you think would appreciate it!

Here's how to enter:
*Leave me a comment on this post telling me one of your favorite memories that you have with your Dad.

Get extra entries when you:
1. Follow my blog!
2. Tweet about this giveaway.
3. Blog about this giveaway with a link to me!
4. Mention this giveaway on Facebook with a link to me.
5. Leave another comment telling me who the shirt will be for if you win, and which color you like the best.

*Please leave me a separate comment for each entry, so I will be sure to count them all, and make sure I have a way to contact you if you are the winner!
This giveaway will close on October 11'th. Good luck!

My Newest Winners!

I've noticed that I'm kind of a slacker about posting the winners of giveaways right when they end. I usually let it go a few days over. But don't worry, if I have the giveaway still posted under "Current Giveaways" when you enter, I still count your entry. I'm just nice that way. :)

*The winner of the Sweet Abigail Hairbows is. . . #6!
Corey and Kim Nasfell said... I would definitely get one of the big gumdrop bows...probably the candy isle gumdrop.
(Holy cow, this girl has now won THREE giveaways from my blog! Best record ever!!! Maybe it's because she gave some of her adorable bows from Azure Sky Creations up for one of my giveaways. Good karma has paid back!)

*The winner of the Laken & Lila skirt is. . . #1!
Bethany said... I like the Girly Polka Dot, Bow and Pearl Corduroy Twirl Skirt!
(She has also won a giveaway from me before! And I'm glad to see the first one to comment DOES win sometimes!)

*The winner of the DWilcox necklace is. . . #79!
Motherboard said... SERIOUSLY? I cannot choose just one. If I were shopping, I would have to have one of everything. Especially the wicked witch stuff. And the Jack from Nightmare before Christams. And the wicked one. And the Paris one... SEE?? One of everything please!! (I have been looking everywhere for these necklaces!)

*The winner of the Monsoons and Mangoes Custom Dress is. . . #66!
catss99 said... I follow the blog

*The winner of the Snugs Boutique item of choice is. . . #33!
Jaime said... Its really hard to choose, so many great items, but I would love the wipes for sure!

*The winner of the Krize totally adorable brooch and pin is. . . #57!
Carol Anne said... I have this shop in my favorites.

Thank you SOOOOO much to the companies and designers for donating such awesome products to these giveaways, and thank you to everyone who follows my blog and enters my giveaways!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Happy First Day of Fall!!!

"Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns."
-George Eliot

I agree with George. I'm just in a constant state of excitement and it's all because fall is here! I can't wait to go apple-picking, pumpkin patch hunting, trick-or-treating, and decorate my house for Halloween!

In Seattle right now. . . it's 85 degrees. Yep, bright and sunny and HOT. Doesn't feel anything like the first day of fall! But it's still here, and I can still smell fall in the air.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Adorable Etsy Shop. . . Marie-Madeline Studio Review and Giveaway!!!

Check out the deliciously cute skirt the Marie-Madeline Studio made for Kirsten! I LOVE it, and Kirsten just looked so adorable wearing it!
As the weather starts getting cooler (love the crisp fall weather!), I love dressing Kirsten in skirts for church instead of dresses. Skirts are just so much more versatile, and I like to pair them with long-sleeved shirts or sweaters. It's really hard to find a cute kid's skirt at a regular store. This skirt from Marie-Madeline Studio is such a quality piece, and I adore the tiers of ruffles in three different fabrics!

Marie-Madeline Studio is a family business, and run by the sweetest team of mother and daughters! They make hand-sewn bags, aprons, and clothing for children and women! They also sell sewing patterns, and they have over 200 beautiful fabrics available in their online fabric store! If only I knew how to sew. . .
They sell ready-made items in their Etsy shop, or you can completely customize your designs by choosing fabrics from their website. I chose their Gracie Knee-Length Ruffle Skirt for Kirsten. It's such a sweet little girly skirt! I had such a hard time choosing the fabrics, so I ended up giving them an example of a skirt I liked and they chose these fabrics for me. I love the colors! They also got Kirsten's waist measurement from me, so the skirt fits her perfectly!
Marie-Madeline Studios is generously offering a giveaway of a customized item from their shop to one of my readers! You can choose any of the skirts, in any children's size from 2 to 14!

You could also choose a fun, flirty apron for yourself if you are the winner!

Here's how to enter to win a customized skirt or apron of your choice:
*Visit their website or Etsy shop and leave me a comment telling me what you love most from their handmade items!

Get extra entries when you:
1. Follow my blog!
2. Become a follower of their blog over here, and let me know you did.
3. Sign up for their newsletter here.
4. Mention this giveaway on Facebook with a link to me.
5. Tweet about this giveaway.
6. Blog about this giveaway, with a link to me.
7. Add her shop as a favorite on Etsy.

Wow, up to 8 entries this time!!!
Please leave me a separate comment for each entry. This giveaway will close on October 7'th. Good luck winning this amazing prize!

Thank you to Marie-Madeline Studios for making this beautiful skirt for me to review!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Adorable Etsy Shop. . . MustardSeed by Carollai Review and Giveaway!!!

Check out this stunning pair of earrings I was lucky enough to receive! I just adore the turquoise stones on these and the way the colors blend with the sterling silver! They are small and charming with exquisite details and I love them.
These earrings are from a beautiful Etsy shop called MustardSeed by Carollai.
Carollai began making jewelry as gifts for her friends, and she loved the way their eyes lit up when they opened their gifts so much she decided to begin selling her jewelry for everyone to enjoy! She is such an artist!!! Each piece of her jewelry is hand-crafted, and she uses the finest hand-selected gemstones to ensure that each piece is beautiful.

The pair of earrings I received are not available in her shop anymore, because they were a limited-edition pair. But I wish I could have SO many of the pairs she features on her shop, and here is a sampling of my favorites:
Aren't they gorgeous???
I'm also blown away by her necklaces. She has such a unique way of doing her loops and hooks, and they are so artistic and unique! I love the green onyx stone and the looping double-leaf design on her Olivia necklace.

I think my very favorite necklace is her Summer Breeze Lariat necklace. The colors are so pretty, and this necklace has no clasp! It's meant to be worn with the chains wrapped over each other at any length. It's such a cool idea!

She also makes some beautiful bracelets, like this one called Seeing Double. It's simple, classic, yet really refined and cool-looking at the same time!

Carollai is doing a giveaway for one reader to win a $20 gift certificate for anything in her shop! I'm so thrilled about it!!!

Here's how to enter:
*Visit her shop and leave me a comment on this post, telling me your favorite piece of jewelry and what you would use the gift certificate towards.

Get extra entries when you:
1. Follow my blog!
2. Add her shop as a favorite in Etsy and let me know you did.
3. Blog about this giveaway with a link to me!
4. Mention this giveaway on Facebook with a link.
5. Tweet about this giveaway.
6. Become a follower of her blog, and let me know you did.

*Please leave me a separate comment for each entry!
This giveaway will close on October 5'th. Good luck!!!

And that's not all. . . she has an amazing end-of-summer sale going on right now, and everything in her shop is 20% off!!!

Go find something pretty! It's extremely easy to do at her shop!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

K.C. Fuzzy Review

Calling all fellow animal-lovers. . . I instantly fell in love with the artwork of K.C. Fuzzy!
Katie Covington is the artist, and she draws and paints adorable, fuzzy little animals. She captures such a gorgeous spirit that these animals have, and the artwork is sweet, innocent, and totally cute. . . and perfect for decorating a nursery or little kid's bedroom! I find that lots of art geared towards nurseries is way too "cutesy." The animals featured in these prints are both adorable and beautiful at the same time.

I received the Tiger Art Print, and I adore the sweet face on this gorgeous tiger!
I hung it up in my two year-old daughter's room, and she loves to point to it and say "Tigey."
My favorite things about K.C. Fuzzy:
*The artwork all really IS fuzzy! The fuzzy image stands out from the paper, and it makes it really unique!
*The animals and colors used are completely gender-neutral, so they would all work great for a boy or a girl.
*The art prints are all printed on premium quality paper and double-matted, so they're ready to instantly frame in an 8x10 frame. Each one is also signed by the artist!
*They come wrapped in tissue paper and tied with a cute bow, so they're definitely gift-ready.
*They also silk-screen the images onto cute little infant snapsuits.
*I just LOVE what this company stands for. . . all four featured animals are on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, and K.C. Fuzzy joins with WWF's efforts to save endangered animals, and gives back some of her proceeds to the animals.
*The tiger is my favorite, but I think each one of the animals is adorable!

Each art print is $22, which I think is such a good price for a really beautiful and high-quality art print! And each snapsuit is $28. Visit her website and enjoy her beautiful designs that support a great cause!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Camping With Kids 101

I love camping!!!
I always loved it, but we hadn't been camping since before we had kids. When we were invited by our awesome friends, the Van Dykes, on a camping trip I knew it was time to try it out! I talked Stephen into it, and in August we went on our fun-filled, two-night camping trip with three great families from our ward!!!

Now that I am an expert on camping with a baby and a toddler (what? You doubt me?), I am willing to share this knowledge with all of my readers! Count yourselves lucky!

I now present. . . Camping With Kids (Young Kids!) 101:

*Be prepared!!! Be extra, ultra-prepared! Take things with you that you think you won't even need. It's better to have too much than to have too little. I made a list that was about four pages long and checked off everything as we packed it. (Never mind that some things I could never find because the car was packed so tightly!)

*Take LOTS of pictures of your cute little campers! Kirsten had so much fun living completely outdoors for two days, she was in Kirsten-heaven!!!

*For a baby, a front pack or baby carrier is a great idea! Too bad Natalie doesn't like it and cried whenever I tried to put her in it. What I used quite a bit was the car seat. She took naps in the car seat, and I would just put the entire seat on my legs and swing them back and forth until she fell asleep. It worked really well for her!
*Make sure you have a big enough tent to fit your entire family! This is what I wish we would have done. We knew our tent was much too small to fit a queen-sized air mattress AND a pack-n-play, so we borrowed an extra tent from our friends and had two tents. It worked out fairly well (I slept on the queen air mattress with the baby in one tent, Stephen slept on a twin air mattress in the other tent with Kirsten's pack-n-play). But before our next camping trip, we're buying a bigger tent for sure! It's more fun to be together as a whole family, plus it's kind of a pain to set up and take down two tents instead of one!

*For heaven's sakes, take air mattresses and make sure you have a pump for them that's FULLY charged plus extra batteries for it! Air mattresses are one of the greatest inventions ever. I remember camping on a thin little mat as a kid and not getting a wink of sleep the entire night. Air mattresses are so comfy!

*Find a beautiful camping location. Fortunately, this is extremely easy in Washington! The hard part is choosing where to camp! This place was already picked out for us, and it was in the Wenatchee Forest. Gorgeous, huh?
*Get there early enough that you don't have to set up in the dark! Setting up tents and trying to get everything cooked in the dark is tough. We had a late dinner the first night, and it was a little stressful.

*Get each kid their own flashlight. Kirsten was so thrilled to have a flashlight, and she would just walk around the campsite at night shining it everywhere!
*If you're camping with other families (which most people do!), it works great to do dinners together with everyone, and divide up the food list and assign people different things to bring. We had hot dogs and chips together the first night, Shepherd's Pie made by Stephen in the Dutch Oven the second night, and French toast and bacon for breakfast on our last morning!

*Two nights was a good length of time. Three would have been fun as well. One night would just be too short, and four would be getting too long!
*Bring roasting sticks and make all the s'mores you can eat! Campfires are my favorite part of camping! I love to sit around the campfire and talk late into the night, and a fire-roasted s'more just tastes so perfect!!! We all played some fun games around the campfire like I've Never and Two Truths and a Lie. And I loved talking and getting to know people better! Campfires are just the best. Someday I really want a fire pit in my backyard. First I need a backyard. :)
*Make sure you have some manly men along to supply firewood. The guys found a dead tree and hacked it up with an axe, so we had a never-ending supply of firewood!
*This isn't a tip, and there's no way to prevent this, but I have to tell you the worst thing about our camping trip. . . BEES!!! Horrible bees were constantly buzzing around us in the campsite, whether we had food or not, and it was annoying! Of course when we had food it was even worse, and they would swarm around us so badly that some of us ate meals sitting in our cars! I expected mosquitos, but never expected bees like that!

*Let your kids enjoy climbing on everything in sight!
*Be prepared for ALL types of weather! We had really nice weather, and it was nice and warm even at night!

*Expect that your kids will sleep really badly. . . that way if they sleep well you'll be happily surprised! Natalie slept better on this camping trip than she does at home. She slept in both mornings until close to 10:00! Why can't she do that when we're at home???
*Did I mention that you have to take lots of pictures? It's the only way I get any good ones, especially with a two year-old who is constantly moving and won't pose for the camera!

*Take awesome friends with you who love to hold your baby! Especially since Natalie refused to go in our front carrier, it was a lifesaver to be able to hand her off to other people and have my hands free some of the time. Thank you, friends!!!
*If your kids aren't the same age as other kids who are going, don't worry about it! Kirsten just loves Alanna Van Dyke, who is six, and follows her around all the time. It's really cute!
*Kirsten also made a few new friends on our camping trip. . . and her new favorite is Thomas Lovell, who's five. She thought he was hilarious, and chased him around yelling his name. Two years old and already chasing the boys!
*Taking art supplies and games is a great idea! Kirsten and the other kids had fun coloring one morning. I like this shot of her grubby little hand holding the crayon.
*Don't take anything with you that you can't bear to ruin or lose! I took my favorite, adorable flowery baby hat for Natalie because it's the most comfortable and warmest one we have, but I was nervous the whole time that it would get dirty or ruined.
*If you or your kids normally sleep with white noise machines, put some batteries in them and take them with you! Portable sound machines made it possible for our kids to nap and sleep through the night, and helped me to sleep better too. It minimizes noise from other campers, or annoying bugs or birds that are always right next to your tent.
*Explore the surrounding area! The Van Dykes found a great little waterfall, so we got some gorgeous pictures taken there. Here's our family at the waterfall!

*Go camping even if you're pregnant! My friend Rozemary did it, and she had an awesome time too!
*Make sure your kids have sturdy shoes to climb in. . . and know that the shoes will never be fully clean again. Kirsten climbed everything!
*Go hiking! Kirsten loves riding in the baby backpack. You never know what kind of interesting things you'll find in the woods.
*Take super cool pictures in front of massive, awesome rocks!!! (Okay, maybe that's just us. But it was fun!)

*If your kids go to bed and stay there, enjoy some fun, relaxing adult time by the campfire! That was one of the hardest things for Stephen and me, because Natalie was the youngest kid there and she didn't fall asleep until much later in the evening than the other kids did. So while everyone else got to relax, me and Stephen had to bounce Natalie and try to get her to fall asleep. Teething baby = No fun! This shirt is so fitting. . . she is SUCH a night owl! Good thing she's cute!
*Expect your kids to get VERY dirty! Take lots of baby wipes and antibacterial wipes with you, and have plenty of water on hand for washing. I thought this was dirty, but I hadn't seen anything yet. . . (Love this face!)

*She actually streaked the dirt ALL over her face! And every other kid there was at least as dirty as Kirsten was!
*The dirtiest Kirsten has ever been! And she loved it!
*Bonus points if there's a nearby river the kids can go wash off in!
We'll never forget this camping trip and I'm SO glad we were brave and decided to take our 2 year-old and 4 month-old camping with us. It was hard at times, and not relaxing at all, but it was FUN and completely worth it! If you're considering camping with young kids, go for it! We will definitely be camping again next summer!!!