Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Camping With Kids | Our Trip To Jellystone Park, Maryland

A special thanks to Jellystone Maryland for hosting our stay and providing
us with a lifetime's worth of memories from our very first family camping trip.

A few weeks ago I reached out to our readers on Facebook and asked them to hit me with their best tips for family camping. We were gearing up to take our three boys, ages 3, 5 and 7, cabin camping for the first time at Jellystone Park in Hagerstown, Maryland and while I initially thought I was fully prepared for the adventure, once the tips and tricks started rolling in, I realized I had a lot to learn about executing a successful camping trip!

After spending 4 days and 3 nights "roughing it," in a three room cabin out in Western Maryland, I think the greatest piece of advice I can offer is just to keep it simple. I'm so glad we chose Jellystone as the location for our foray into camping. I think it's unanimous that we as a family are no where near ready to live off the grid which is why our rustic accommodations that boasted running water and a small kitchenette were just perfect for this family of first-timers. Not to mention the hoards of exciting kid's activities that greeted us around every turn. 

Jellystone is a great place to visit with your family for a fun-filled weekend of camping and with a variety of ways to stay and enjoy the park, including cabins, campsites, RV hook-ups and even unique tiny houses, there's definitely something for everyone! To learn more about the numerous packages available when booking your stay, head here.

Each day of your stay begins with the salutation of the flag and fun, energizing exercise regime with Yogi and Boo-Boo. At check-in you are provided with that week's custom itinerary which includes tons of both free and add-on activities available to you throughout the day. The staff on-site do an excellent job of involving the kids and interacting with them during activities. 

I would say roughly 75% of the kid-friendly activities are free to enjoy at no additional cost of the camper. These free activities include meet and greets with the characters, guided nature hikes, wagon rides, miniature golf, sunset movie shows, bouncy pillow fun, Gaga ball pits, horseshoes, basketball and volleyball courts as well as several awesome and well-maintained playgrounds throughout the park. 

For an additional nominal fee, campers can enjoy add-on a la carte activities such as zip-lining, gem mining, laser tag, ice cream social events with the characters, an arcade full of games and prizes, arts and crafts as well as a ninja warrior course. Whether you choose to partake in these activities is solely a personal decision but I will say that my boys loved (L O V E D) the zip line, gem mining, ninja warrior course and our special invitation to enjoy an ice cream sundae with Boo-Boo bear.

Our Accommodations

Our luxury cabin was the perfect amount of "roughing it" and "glamping" combined. It comfortably slept our family of five with its full size bed and two sets of twin size bunk beds. Personally I don't think we would've survived without the full bathroom, toilet and shower included. While I'm all for the belief that a swim in the pool doubles as a bath, it was nice to throw the boys into a warm shower after a particularly sweaty day at camp. 

The cabin also included a gas fireplace, small kitchenette, dinette, loveseat, fire ring, picnic table and charcoal grill. As I mentioned earlier, part of keeping it simple meant no extravagant meals. For 4 days our family subsisted on hot dogs, grilled barbecue drumsticks, scrambled eggs, bacon, toast, boxed macaroni and cheese, cereal, pop tarts, s'mores, pancakes, grilled pizza, fresh fruits and veggies. This no-frills approach to cooking meals that we knew everyone would enjoy made for happy campers and full bellies at every meal.   

Stay and Play

There truly wasn't a single dull moment during our camping adventure and truth be told, our daily routine didn't stray much from what we're used to doing each day at home. The boys would wake up between 7 and 7:30am and while we encouraged them to play outside the cabin (jumping rocks, going on scavenger hunts, safely exploring the woods behind our cabin) my husband and I would cook breakfast in peace. After enjoying our meal together on our porch or picnic table, it was back inside to check out the itinerary and make plans for the day. Most activities started between the 8 and 9am hours and continued long into the evening, often culminating with an outdoor movie at 9pm. 

When a little down time was needed between activities, we would venture back to the cabin for a little quiet time that included drawing, reading, a board game or two and yes, even some television. (Even we as parents needed a little peace and quiet, too!) Don't forget the S'mores making each night!)

Tips For Your Next Visit

  • There is a Starbucks and an Olive Garden within a 10 minute ride from camp, just in case things get dire. 
  • There is also a camp store on site where you can buy a hot cup of coffee, groceries, RV supplies, wood, charcoal, snacks, souvenirs and more! This is great for moments when you might have forgotten to pack the graham crackers for S'mores!
  • No matter where you stay, bring a cheap floor mat for right inside your accommodations. While we pretty quickly got into the habit of leaving our shoes right outside the door of our cabin, I wish we'd brought a cheap, small door mat for directly inside our front door. This way dirty, damp, muddy feet wouldn't traipse throughout the cabin!
  • Golf Cart rentals are completely worth it. Our cabin was located at the far side of the campground which meant we would've had quite the trek to enjoy most of activities. Little kids and tons of walking don't always go hand in hand so it was nice to be able to conveniently zip from one part of the park to the other. 
  • Tons of families brought their kids' bikes to camp! While there isn't a ton of paved access-ways (most paths are rocky gravel), we watched tons of families travel to and fro on bicycles. 

Will We Return?

Absolutely! We thoroughly enjoyed our stay in our luxury cabin. The amenities were top notch, our campsite was beautifully secluded and well-maintained and the boys really enjoyed all that the park had to offer. Even with their varying ages, all three of them found things to entertain themselves at every turn. 

We've already started looking into a Fall weekend getaway with some of our friends! While this was a far cry from our typical family vacation, it was the perfect way to unplug and spend some time with the boys before school starts back up. We all woke up each morning eager and excited to explore and try activities that I never thought in a million years the boys, specifically, would entertain the thought of doing. I think I'm most proud of the big boys for the incredibly big leap they took, both figuratively and literally, as they jumped from the platform of the zip-line. It was so fun to watch our youngest bust out some pretty amazing ninja warrior moves during Boo-Boo's Bootcamp and above all else, there are just no words to describe how much it meant to our family to make these memories that will undoubtedly last a lifetime! 
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Friday, August 18, 2017

Family Matters: You're Never Too Busy To Eat Together.

Let's face it, we're all pretty busy people. Busy parents, busy kids, sometimes being busy together, but mostly being busy with our own self-serving schedules. We as parents are dialed-in, over-worked, volunteered-out; dedicated to making sure we raise well-rounded, contributing members of society, a society that, to no surprise, glorifies busy, too often making it feel as if our worth is measured by our level of "busyness." 

The truth is, no matter how busy we think we are, we all have time for things that are important to us. 

Growing up my family always ate dinner together. Always. Which in retrospect, makes me wonder how my mother ever did it. How she managed to be the class parent, the school board volunteer, the chauffeur between sports practices, the cheerleader at all our games and the maker of a delicious dinner on the table every single night. While I swear she had super human parent powers, she too clearly realized how important sharing a meal together was and so she made it a priority each night where the four of us came together and connected as whole. 

They say the kitchen is the heart of the home. I say it's where my heart gathers. Although we may not make it to the table every night for dinner together as a family, we have, as a family, made it a priority to eat at least one meal together each day. Some days it's during the breakfast hour that we gather around the table as a whole- on nights that we aren't juggling a sports practice (or three), it's dinner that brings us together. No matter when we come together, while it's rarely Pinterest-perfect- juice is spilled, pancakes are burned and someone always has something less than savory to say about the menu- it's always deeply savored. 

Why? Because there is so much beauty in this mess. 

Conversation is unpredictable. Tiny, raspy morning voices clamor to tell jokes, recant dreams and fight over the last cinnamon roll. Sometimes at the end of a long day we need an icebreaker to get the stories rolling but once we do, it's even more difficult to get our boys to stop talking long enough to take a bite of food.

It's our hope as parents that by sharing family meals, our boys understand that the kitchen table is safe space for them to open up and share their feelings. In a busy world with super schedules and the bombardment of technology at our fingertips, this screen-free zone allows us to come together as a whole, power down to connect and invest in ourselves as a family unit.

While I'm not saying a casserole has the powers to transform a family dynamic (wouldn't that be amazing?), it's the interpersonal moments shared among us over a meal that will hopefully create stronger connections between our family away from the table. 

Dinner tables have always been the focal point of kitchens and ours is certainly no different. I have such fond memories of our kitchen table growing up- whether we gathered around it for family dinners, family game night or at the last minute to complete a school project the night before it was due, that table became synonymous with my childhood. 

I want our table to be that same safe, remarkable space for our boys. I want it to be a place where they gather around to tell me about their school day. Their winning goals. Their science fair failures. I want them to bring their friends over, littering that table with pizza boxes and candy wrappers and one day, inviting their very first girlfriends over to join us for dinner at that table.

I know one day too soon I will miss this beautiful mess. The spilled juice, the food on the floor, the incessant reminders to use manners and clear plates but it's these moments and all of the small moments in between that I am truly, deeply grateful for and it's with gratitude and hope that I look forward to many shared family meals around our table to come.

Dining Table Furnishings c/o Wolf Furniture
Sources: Concrete Table | X-Back Chairs | Upholstered Side Chairs
Runner, Candlesticks: HomeGoods

Shop Local
Gardiner Wolf Furniture is a local retailer with brick and mortar locations in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia. For a discount on your next online or in-store purchase, my friends at Gardiner Wolf have to put together this amazing promotion for all I Love You More Than Carrots readers! 

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Thursday, August 17, 2017

Get Back To School Ready with Kohl's!

This post is sponsored by Kohl's. 
I received the included back to school clothes and essentials as compensation.

The year was 1990. Two weeks after going back to school shopping, picking out hoards of pretty, playful dresses, I walked into the kitchen and politely stated, to the complete shock of my mother, "I'm not wearing dresses any more." While I hadn't given my mother a reason just then (spoiler alert: the boys had taken an interest in looking up the girls' dresses while on the monkey bars), she quickly replaced all of those brand new dresses with stirrup pants, over-sized t-shirts and all of the slouchy Wigwam socks my 8 year old heart desired.

I imagine her surprise that day felt a lot like several weeks ago when my oldest informed me that he's only going to wear "shirts and pants that are Under Armour," naturally prompting our middle little to follow suit as he exclaimed, "Yeah Mom! I'm only wearing soft shorts forever!"   

While knowingly I should embrace their self expression and desire to choose their own attire, admittedly there's a small part of me that already misses the days of matching brother sets in varying shades of seersucker and gingham. I totally get it though- it would be a case of the pot calling the kettle black if I didn't admit to spending nearly 95% of my days dressed in some sort of mesh athleisure-wear. Comfort above all else, am I right?

Since August is filling up with last minute travel plans and summer bucket list add-on's, I wanted to get a jump on back to school shopping. Shopping for three kids is no joke but with the help of Kohl's department store, I was able to find everything the boys will need to start the new school year in style, especially super cool athletic gear.

Of course there's always new sneakers to be purchased, backpacks to select and lunchboxes to coordinate and while all three of our boys will be attending private school in the Fall and wearing uniforms most days, they still needed a few basics to get them through the first few months of dress down days, sports practices and after school play.

(Don't tell the boys' school this but let me let you in on a little secret: Kohl's Chaps line boasts the perfect khaki uniform short and pant dupe for the more expensive line peddled by another brand that works in partnership with our school). [Insert all of the praise hands emojis!]

While the boys many not get to express themselves in their every day school attire, there are many other ways in which they can express their personal style, starting with their backpacks and lunch totes. 

Picking out a backpack is a big deal at any age and my oldest's love for Under Armour runs deep. I don't even think the previous school year had ended when he told me that he really wanted an UA backpack for 1st grade and you can imagine my surprise when I started researching sizes and styles! Hello sticker shock! I'm so thankful Kohl's recently picked up the Under Armour line- as if we didn't shop there enough already I now have hundreds of reasons to keep going back. 

While Kohl's provided me with a generous gift card to complete our back to school shopping, I also applied more than $50 in previously earned Kohl's cash to my order, essentially getting my oldest's beloved backpack for free! 

|| On Carter: Top (Similar) Long Sleeve (Similar) / Shorts / Socks / Sneakers ||  c/o Kohl's 
|| On Mac: Top / Shorts / Socks || c/o Kohl's
|| Backpack Backpack & Lunchbox || c/o Kohl's

The best part about shopping Kohl's for all of our back to school needs? 
More Kohl's cash earned! Get ready to save because the best time to get your shopping 
done is during the Kohl's Friends and Family event! 
From August 17th-20th, take 20% off your purchase with code "SAVER." 

Additionally between 8/4 and 8/20, you can get $10 of $50 of kid's clothes including Junior's, Young Men's, Footwear, Character Backpacks and Junior's Accessories! 
Promo code: BTS10
Kohl's Coupons

H A P P Y   S H O P P I N G!

My blog may contain links to other websites. I am not responsible for the privacy policies of those other websites. When you click on a link, your information may be collected by those websites so I encourage you to read their privacy policies. Affiliate links are not associated with Kohl's.

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