Friday, July 28, 2017

July Fun and Car Camping

Like I said in the last post, it was really nice to have some screen-free time this summer.  Lead to more adventuring and getting stuff done than I would have otherwise in those three weeks.

First off, one Saturday, Eve and I spontaneously made and painted this cute little chair for our back deck.  That way we don't have to haul Autumn's high chair out every time we eat on the deck.

It took about 29" inches of a 2" x 8", so if you're looking for a really cheap, quick little booster seat, this was is nice and easy.  Originally, I was going to add straps to attach it to the bench and straps to attach her to the seat... but I think we're happy with it as it is right now. 

Quick plans if you'd like to make one yourself.
Secondly, we made an impromptu solar oven.  It got pretty hot in there (about 200°F), but not hot enough to cook Eli's steel cut oatmeal.  It was fun to finally make one though.

And since the weather was so great, we also hit up the new splash pad and playground at a somewhat local park in Dover, NH.  The whole redo of the park was pretty exciting, and it was packed, even at 5pm.  We treated ourselves to pizza and hung out at the park for a while.

We tried to hike Parker Mountain, to find a plane crash and old mica mines... but got rained stormed out. It was an amazing and loud and really neat storm to view (you can see the line of rain on the left of the picture), but we decided to turn around...  just before Jon's phone went all crazy and told us to seek shelter.  Still hope to head back to the mountain soon.

 Instead, we headed to my Mom's house, the weather cleared and Jon and I got to go canoeing (while the kids were on the boat with Grandma and Grandpa).  They snapped an elusive picture of Jon and I together.

If you're curious, this is why I'm wearing a bandana. You just wait until I get the whole outfit done :P

Alright, and the big finale to our screen free week (and a little bit of  my birthday celebration) was going camping!  We had a hike-in site on the water of Meachum lake in NY last year, which, despite the rain, was amazing, but this year we decided to give car camping a try. Since I couldn't look up good campsite online, I based my campground decision on two books - Tent Camping in NE and Hiking with kids, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.  We went to the Bear Brooke state park and I was happy with that choice for what we were going for.

I bought a bike trailer for our hitch and I really like it. It was tough to get all our gear packed in that van though, especially with Autumn's stroller/bike trailer taking up half the trunk (our Baby Jogger Pod).

 We managed to stay dry while we got the tent up, as well as a tarp up... but just about 5 minutes after I suggested we get the storm cover on, we had our first rain.  And then it rained, and rained, and rained hard, all night long.  Last year, in NY, our tent stayed dry.  This year, not as much.

Still, we were warm and comfy at night and everyone was happy just to hang out together coloring.

The next morning though, my birthday, didn't exactly as planned.  We woke up with a bit of a damp tent, and unfortunately, one of our kids had made a bit of damp sleeping bag too.  So one of our kids got a hot shower and we hauled ourselves off the campgrounds to a laundromat and picked up brunch at a diner while the sleeping gear was in the wash.

While our stuff was in the dryer we went to Bass Pro Shops.  Turns out, even if you don't fish or hunt... store is still really fun.  We didn't see anything to help with our leaky tent problem, but we did pick up a Thermacell to help with mosquitoes.

Before we even got back to our tent with our newly laundered gear, we decided to stop in and check out the Bear Brooke archery range and course. 

Autumn got her nap in while we made it through the first 7 obstacles.  Then we decided to call it quits and come back later so we could get dinner ready and meet my parents for a birthday celebration.  I can say we successfully made brownies in a dutch oven.

Next day wasn't rainy, but it was fairly cool, so we decided it would be a good day for a nice long bike ride to the archery course to finish out the trails.  The 2.5 mile bike ride itself was such a blast, but the archery course was awesome too.  Jon and I shared my bow, Eve and Eli shared Eli's bow and Isaac had his bow to himself.

Alright, so a big part of this trip was answering the question - how do we like car camping? And well, I think it's fairly mixed.  I can't say I liked it as much as Meachum Lake.

First off, everyone really enjoyed biking all over the pace.  I think all the kids enjoyed the all the freedom they were given to bike around by themselves. Even though Isaac was tag-along bike with Jon, he still really like going on bike rides.  Eli and I already enjoyed biking together, so it was great to pair up and go as fast as we could (okay, fast as I could with a baby trailer and our gear) to the archery range.  Eve gained a lot of confidence and skill to push her over to the edge of enjoying biking.

Isaac like it so much, he even ran back from the bathroom one time to get his and Jon's helmets, so they could bike back together (Jon had biked over just after Isaac walked over).  I tried to get a picture of it, but he was so fast this is all I got.

The toughest part for me was the constant back and forth the car.  I decided to keep our clothes in the car, which was good since our tent leaked and they didn't end up wet, but it meant more trips back and forth.  The trunk was fairly well stuffed and all the coolers and gear and stuff were jammed in between the seats.  Managing everything for 6 people and trying to keep it dry was such a pain.

Cooking was an overwhelming pain for me.  Don't get me wrong, I like making certain things over the fire at home...  but cleaning there is such a pain, and I worried so much about our cooler food being cold enough and safe.

If we do this more often, I would need a much better way of storing and sorting our stuff.

Which leads me to point #3 . . . I barely sat down and relaxed.  There were a couple times, like early morning, sure, but the majority of the time was either cooking or watching a toddler... and keeping her away from dangerous like fires and knifes and axes, as well as the more normal things like mosquitoes and other peoples food.

All and all, I liked the hike-in site in NY more, as we were more self sufficient at our site and there was a lot more down time, since the place we wanted to be most of the time was where the view was... right at our campsite.

Anyway, of course, the day we were leaving was the warmest and nicest, so after we packed up our campsite we hung out at the beach for a while.

Bye Bear Brooke!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Three weeks with limited screentime

Whew. We did three weeks with no movies, tv, youtube clips, video games, facebook, instagram, online shopping or online "research".  The goal was simple.  No screens except for work, managing our life, texting/facebook messenger and email.

I learned a lot, still trying to figure out some.  So first off, I had several days of withdrawal.  For real.  It was a little odd how much I had gotten used to having a kindle or phone in my hand. Go to the bathroom?  Where's the phone.  Nurse the baby, where's the kindle? Eating food? I'm not hungry until I something with a touchscreen in my hand.  It felt so empty, so unsettling, so odd to do something empty handed.  It's funny, because I only caved to switching to owning smartphone in January, and it didn't take long for me to start using it habitually. 

It's odd, because I both liked and disliked the ease of being able to share on social media with a smart phone.  It takes less time to post because it's so easy to do - snap, edit and it's uploaded.  But then I do it more frequently, and think about it more often.  All and all, the experience was a little conflicting, more than I thought it would be for myself, and social media has me very conflicted.  So why if I'm just coming of a screen free purge, do I spend my first morning blogging?  Well, writing down my thoughts seemed like a good place to start.

The Good

I had so much more free time.  It seemed like such an alarming amount of freetime, I couldn't believe I spent that much time with media on a regular basis.  So I used it for good.  I was still allowed to use the computer to 'adult', so I actually had time to 'adult'.  Our bills were all paid.  I listed and sold about most the things I tried to on Craigslist.  I was able to work on and finish several house projects.  I actually completed what I would consider a real book (one I hadn't read before, not an audiobook, fiction & written for adults - Ie, not Harry Potter again).  We went to the library more often, and our kids spent a somewhat disturbing amount of time reading quietly.  We did play more board games, but not as much as I thought we would.  It didn't suddenly make everything I wanted get done suddenly get done, but it did give me a lot more peace and less stress.

I didn't have to spend my evenings catching up on some series I got roped into watching.  Not every night had to be some sort of movie night.  Jon and I didn't sit on the couch "together", but really looking at phones.  

I didn't have to know everything about everything, and I could make most decisions without looking anything up online.  It was so simple.

One big thing I haven't really touched on, was the amount of time I was spending shopping online for things we don't have or researching things we likely will never need to know.  It was a big switch from "planning" all the time to "doing" all the time.  It's one I will have to balance, as we have been catching up on big purchases lately.  Though we were successfully able to buy a deep freezer with very little research.  Basically, does Best Buy have a deep freezer in stock and are they open. (Okay, I also made sure it had more than a 3 star review.  Hey, I didn't want to waste money! But, I didn't even read the reviews, cause it was like 4.5 stars).

We went camping based on a few books recommendations.  I didn't have to spend a whole lot of time looking it up, which was great.  Just tried to wing it.  Worked out well, but that may have just been luck.

My kids didn't ask for screen time the entire time.  No nagging, no whining.  Honestly, they did great.  They seemed less stuck to screens than I thought. 

The Okay

I did cheat a little bit.  When I wanted to know if there were fireworks, we thought, great, we should get a paper... and we didn't go out in time to get one.  So I just checked on my phone.  At one point I went on facebook to give condolences to someone who's sister had just passed (my sister had told me).  I did the reservations for our campsite online.

I started some sewing of a character in a video game, and looking online wasn't giving many results for the look, so I just turned on the Switch to be able to rotate the character in the outfit.

Sometimes, I had that early 2000's desire to go rent a movie and have a family movie night, but that was not allowed.  Online streaming had ruined that feeling, and I the opportunity to really enjoy a family movie night has past.

The Bad

Honestly, not that much about dropping screens was bad.

Sometimes I was felt isolated from people.  I'm never going to be super social in real life, and not being on facebook made me feel disconnected from people.  It gives me a false sense of connection, but it still fulfills a desire I have to connect.

Sometimes I really wanted to know what was going on in our town ("Why is that road closed"  "Surprise - our road it being paved."), but it didn't kill me not to know.

My sister said she missed seeing pictures of our family online, and I imagine most of our family did as well, as only my Mom and one uncle live near us... though I did send some to my sister via messenger.

I did miss a few appointments or forget to look at the weather soon enough when planning activities.  Also, because I was waiting to pick a campsite when the kids weren't around to see us on a screen, I missed having more of selection for campsites (it didn't truly matter though).

I missed playing Breath of the Wild.  It's one of the best games since Tony Hawk pro skater, and I like it for almost the same reason.  It emulates the outdoorsy, survivalist, adventurous feeling I like to have in real life, and I don't think that's a bad thing

My sister and I both signed up for an online exercise course.  I bought it when it went on sale ( it only happens once a year) and I've been waiting a few weeks to try it... so putting exercise on hold seems a little odd.

Jon's birthday present for me was a DVD of our kids, and I haven't been able to watch it yet!

What's my conclusion?

Kids Kindle keep the same - Because of freetime time limits, I have found this to a be a great solution to give our kids a little modern tech access(15 minutes a day) with no whining, complaining or management

One Note keep the same - Using this app on my phone & computer has been very helpful for me to organize what needs to be done and give me one place to store notes, lists and to dos.  I'm not changing a thing about it.

Instagram keep the same - I haven't really found it an issue.  I do like posting little pictures to look at, but I don't spend much time on there.

Video Games keep the same - I play it for a few hours once a week, and I'm pretty happy with that pace.  It's a game that brings a lot of enjoyment to my life, and something I can share with my family.

My kids use a point system for rewards, and our most used reward is for video games.  I think we need to somehow make this easier to give and remove points, because we don't always keep track as well as we should, but the amount they play doesn't seem excessive.

Online Research/Shopping tone it down, a lot - It's really just a needless pastime that takes away from the things I can take satisfaction from in real life.

TV/Youtube tone it down - I usually have an up/down cycle with netflix (winter I subscribe, spring I unsubscribe), but this year it was harder to disconnect from it. Thanks to the is purge, I have no desire to watch TV for a while.  Hopefully this is a clear cut resolution for me.

Facebook tone it down - Oh, facebook. I spend is so much time scrolling to just find those three elusive posts that actually make me feel connected to people.  Plus, being free of politics and opinions for the last 3 weeks was so refreshing I didn't even notice how much it stinks to be on facebook until I went online this morning.  Ignorance is bliss.

Also, I seem to be wanting to post to no one, yet somehow to everyone.  It's odd.  There are the posts where I just want to save the images somewhere I can look back at them, almost like a photobook or journal of what we've been doing as a family, like all the images and details of our camping trip. Yet, those images I want to save for myself are being broadcasted to everyone on facebook.

I love getting likes on them, even if they're for me.  I would start trending towards living my life and snapping photos in a way that makes more people impressed by what I do and how I do it.  Does that mean I should change how I live my life?  So I get more likes?  I don't want to live like that.

And on the other hand then there are one-off there posts of cute pictures of my kids, like my daughter decked out in her 4th of July clothes.  And then there are cute phrases and sayings the  that I want to record, so I put them on facebook.  Those are things I just want to show off, to share and make someone's day a little happier.

Facebook knows it's power.  It's even started counting my likes, is just trying to play on how much I'm liked, which is alarming, because they're in it for the money.

So here's my resolution, only put up fewer photos and one off images of the kids (essentially, like instagram).  I'm still figuring out how to resolve the time I spend on facebook.  Have Jon change the password?  Have a time limit?  Leave it entirely again?

Movies bring it up, a little - bring back family movie or date nights.  It was fun to look forward to something special, not plop on the couch and search for something.

Blogging bring it up, a little - we'll see how this goes, as blogging is very time consuming, and I'm trying to cut down on screen time... but I'm going to try to replace what I've been doing on facebook with blog posts.

Reading books/magazines bring it up - I'm going to fill my downtime with more reading.  There are times I want to fill idle time, and a book can be nice and relaxing... and fairly easy to put down, unlike a phone.

Whew.  Ironic that I just spent over an hour on the computer, writing about how I want to be off of screens more often, but at least I feel like I understand my thoughts now.