Camping in Yosemite with a Toddler & a Baby

We survived!

photo by Amelie along the River at Housekeeping Camp in Yosemite

photo by Amelie along the River at Housekeeping Camp in Yosemite

For the past few months, I had been looking forward to our Yosemite trip with both dread and delight- knowing the trip could prove a fateful family memory, but could also be a disaster. Last Wednesday night Emery got feverish and fussy. Uh-oh! Our toothless wonder seemed to finally be teething - which would make sleeping a tent at a camp with 30 of our friends and hundreds of strangers even more fun!

But really, it was fine! Grace reveled in the fact that she could walk right outside the tent on her own and go play with a dozen of besties who all had brave parents willing to make the trek. They frolicked along the river, made smores in the campfire, and explored with the wonder I recognized from my own childhood. 

All 9 families stayed at Housekeeping Camp in Yosemite National Park which was a true delight. Somewhere between glamping and camping, each family had their own little tent that has 3 walls and a canvas covered porch area and firepit. Instead of trying to coordinate schedules of a dozen toddlers and babies, each family was kind of on their own but our troop leader Leslye did a great job of hashing out a communal firepit and play area for the kids. 

A few tricks for camping with a 25 month old and 10 month old learned from the trip:

  • Glow Sticks! A last minute grab, I bought dozens of glowsticks (12 for $1 at Walmart) and they were a huge hit with the kids! Also provided a bit of relief to parents as the kids wore the glowsticks, it was easier to keep track of them at night in the woods.
  • Trader Joe's Pre-Cooked foods + Yeti! While we did do some meals from scratch, using TJ's pre-cooked sausage, Balsalmic Chicken Breasts, Veggies and more was far less time consuming and a heck of a lot easier when you have kiddos to keep track of and no walls to contain them. Frozen breadsticks, sweet potato gnocchi and more were all in the line-up and a great hack when you have hungry kiddos. 
  • Christmas Lights: Leslye needs to write a book on camping. By far the best piece of advice was to bring Christmas lights to string along our campsite - made all of the difference! 
  • Bikes/BOB: To optimize space for packing, we didn't bring the Double BOB - and I regret it. We should have brought bikes or the stroller as the path at Yosemite National Park are awesome.
  • Bring a hiking pack for both kiddos. I did the Baby Bjorn with Emery while Grant had Grace in the hiking backpack. My back is regretting this. Definitely investing in a 2nd hand-me-down hiking pack from craigslist soon.
  • Go with friends! There is a certain nostalgia for "it takes a village" when raising kids - and there is no better way to represent that then when camping. I had a blast taking my friends' kids for walks along the river, playing tag and roasting smores. My kids were extra exhausted from playing with their friends. While family camping is great, nothing beats sharing the adventure with good friends. 

Visiting Charlotte, NC with Kiddos

Last week we packed up the two little ones (Emery age 6 months, Grace 22 months) and flew to Charlotte, North Carolina for Grant's youngest brother's wedding. I hadn't bee to Charlotte in a few years, and was pleasantly surprised just how walkable the city was - and family friendly!

Accommodations: We stayed at the Westin Charlotte and it was a lovely hotel, extremely family friendly - happy to accommodate two cribs in our adjoining room and had nice, healthy kid options for room service. On the 3rd floor, there was a lap pool intended for adults but was great for the kids to hang out by. The interior wasn't so family friendly, but the staff was incredible always going the extra mile to lend a helping hand. We truly enjoyed our stay thanks to their hospitality.

**Pro Tip: Whenever I travel, I use my Instacart membership to have essentials like diapers, bottled water, formula and snacks delivered to the hotel within an hour of our arrival. Makes it easier to travel light. We hosted Grant's extended family in our room for brunch and found it so simple to have bagels and OJ delivered as well!

Eating: Downtown Charlotte is home to all of the usual family-friendly chain suspects - from Chick-fil-a to Brueggers Bagels, but we found two spots that were divine!

Amelie's Bakery: Ecstatic to welcome our new Au Pair, Amelie, in a few weeks, we had to check out a french bakery of her namesake. Everything from the coffee to the quiche was fabulous, but the best part was watching the bakers knead dough and decorate cakes! Grace was thrilled, her laughter perhaps somewhat a nuisance to the many businesses breakfasts going on, but whatever.

7th Street Market Public Market: Grant was determined to take us here one morning, and I am glad we persevered. After getting a bit lost, we stumbled upon the market that was filled with the smell of strong coffee and baked delights. With plenty of vendors to choose from, space wide enough to accommodate the stroller (and the other dozens of moms and their strollers) and high chairs tucked neatly in the corner, our family enjoyed a fun, care free meal cafeteria style. Great place to escape the heat and right off the train!

Attractions: While I searched and failed to find any playgrounds walking distance in downtown, we were delighted to enjoy our time exploring air conditioned museums (gosh I don't miss the east coast humidity).

Nascar Hall of Fame Museum: The Nascar was loads of fun, but if you are bringing your children, I would suggest they be a bit older. Fortunately, kids under 5 are free, but there just wasn't that much to engage them, and I had to miss out on the driving experience to watch the kids while Grant qualified and competed. That said, they do have a small kids experience section and there are tons of videos to keep any wee one entertained. The "Pit Stop Cafe" also offers great family packages with pretty decent NC BBQ.  

Charlotte Discovery Place: I cannot say enough great things about this place. With admission under 2 being free, we went in with low expectations but were amazed by all this small museum had to offer -- from a rainforest exhibit where we got to meet a variety of reptiles to an aquarium, IMAX theater and science section - we played and explored until Grace was ready to drop. We especially appreciated the toddler section with a gigantic water table, obstacle course and other activities geared towards the littlest patrons. A must see!

Wells Fargo History Museum: With free admission, we snuck into this museum for just a hot minute while we tried to cool down from the scorching NC heat. While the museum offered quite a bit of history, the highlights for the kids were climbing in the real stage coach and checking out the gold mine.

 

All in all, the trip was quite a success! Grace made it down the aisle as flower girl and I gained an incredibly awesome new sister-in-law! 

Oakland Airport to Open Lactation Suites

A big win for adventurous moms traveling with their wee ones. Oakland airport is opening "Lactation Suites" for moms to feed and pump in privacy. While there is some outrage (suggesting that mothers shouldn't just feed anywhere they like), I for one find immense comfort in this big step - providing a space free of distraction during hectic travel. While the NBC article claims this is a first for the bay area and the state, I do have to remind readers that SFO has an AWESOME mommy room before you get through security on the Departures level at United Airlines that is set up for changing, breast feeding (super comfy leather rocker) and place to pump -- completely private, you lock from the inside and only get access by picking up the phone and calling- it also has a very wide entry that can accommodate even a double stroller. I've pumped in there many times and also found it just a place to get situated after checking bags, before getting through security. 

Baby on Board: the real meaning behind the signs

I caught wind of an online debate over the "Baby on Board" signs so many parents tag to their minivans, and was surprised by the sheer number of folks who do not understand the impact of the "Baby on Board" tags. While I can empathize with the number of single posters who found the signs to be obnoxious "why should I drive more carefully around your car just because you have a baby?!" I think it is worth a mention that so few people in pop culture recognize the real importance -- to alert first responders that there is a person in the car unable to get themselves out of their seat.

There have been numerous debates of the merits of these signs- and in full disclosure our family does not use them. It has been argues that what if the sign is posted yet the child isn't actually present on the car trip and emergency responders waste their time looking for a child and neglect first rescuing adults. Others have brought to attention that the signs tend to only further aggravate drivers to the point of road rage when driving behind a slow driver with one of these signs. The list goes on and on. But at the end of the day in my opinion, an ounce of added protection - as silly as the signs may be - likely does more good than harm.

Thoughts?