Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Underwear? Check!

The countdown 'til the last day of school has finally entered the very low single digits! I have to admit that I'm just as excited as Mimi is about the beginning of summer. Spending lazy hours at the pool and in the garden, sleeping in a little bit later, cooking on the grill, what's not to like?!

Vacation time also means, surprise, list time for me. My brother-in-law has made fun of me for years about my proclivity for making lists. I just love them and really can't function without them. Even though I use Microsoft Outlook religiously for my calendar, address book and, of course, email, the “Task” function has never lit my fire. I think I just need the added tactile buzz of putting pen or pencil to paper. And more than anything, I love to cross off a finished task!

A few months ago I made a packing spreadsheet for John. He travels quite a bit, mostly overseas. I really got tired of seeing $100 airport ties on our debit card not to mention funky, foreign underwear! And I was always sure that one day I'd get a frantic phone call summoning me to Dulles with his forgotten passport – although, to be fair, he’s never forgotten his passport. Yet. He keeps his spreadsheet in his nightstand drawer. Enabling? Yes. But it works and makes both of us happy.

Take a quiet moment with your pencil and pad (or laptop) and make a vacation packing checklist for each member of your family. There are many online list sites to help jog your memory. I really like the reasonably priced subscription-based List PlanIt (http://www.listplanit.com/). Jennifer is a super nice mom I met on the airport shuttle in Orlando after the NAPO conference. She is a self-described "List Mama", a woman after my own heart!

With your lists in hand, you'll be so happy you didn't get down the road without Mr. Snuggles or blankee or paci. And that you, your kids or hubby don't have to run into the CVS to buy underwear!

What’s the most important thing you’ve ever left home without?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


We had a great time “car camping” at Bull Run Park last Friday. Yes, the Friday of the torrential thunderstorms. Luckily, the storms stopped as we were pulling into our campsite so we quickly put up our tent and picnic canopy. As the next wave of rain came, we were cozily ensconced under the canopy, snacking away, enjoying our friends, and keeping (relatively) dry.

Since camping season is upon us, I’ve been thinking about organizing camping gear. Especially if you’re facing a rainy set-up, you want the most essential things packed close-at-hand. You also don’t want to finally find the salt and pepper just as you are packing up to leave!

Here are a few tips for family-style gear organizing as well as a few other tips to make your camping trips fun and relaxing!

Always keep in mind when you will need something and how quickly you will need it. These two things will drive your packing and unpacking process.

Pack your “arrival” stuff last and unpack it first. This includes your tent and rain cover, picnic table tarp or canopy and a mallet. John, Jen and Tom were making fun of my mallet obsession but it’s a very important tool! Seriously. Also, keep your raingear all together in one mesh bag in case you are setting up in the rain.

Once you have your tent set up you can unload the rest of your car. Don’t worry, the kids will find plenty to do while you are unloading the car. Mimi, Thomas and Jack were fascinated with the multiple (large) puddles of water around our campsite. They floated leaves, built bridges, stomped and splashed, and generally had a big time. With nary a mention of Noggin, Gameboy or pbskids.org. Ah, it was so ‘70s!

You’ll see that I use the large, clear Sterilite bins for most of our things. They keep things dry and bug-free!

Divvy up the unpacking chores and get all your clothes and kitchen stuff out now. It’s a good idea to create a “day bag” for each family member and pack them all in a large bin or duffle bag. Each day bag could be a backpack or just a large beach bag. Include extra outerwear (sweater, windbreaker, etc.), swimsuit, towel, sun hat, sunglasses, medications, water bottle, bug spray and other personal odds and ends. Make sure each child has their own flashlight unless you want to spend your time as the flashlight referee!

Try packing complete sets of each child’s clothing in plastic grocery bags. They can just grab a bag of clothes in the morning and get dressed. The grocery bags can then serve as dirty clothes bags in the evening. For babies or toddlers, you could use large Ziploc bags. Don’t forget your own sets of clothing! You can keep all clothing bags in one suitcase, duffle bag or large plastic bin.

All the kitchen stuff goes into one bin including cutlery, plates/bowls, mugs, pots, tablecloth/clips, pot holders, paper towels, trash bags, spices, dish scrubby, dish soap, tea, coffee, condiments, etc. Don’t put your stove fuel in here or all your stuff will smell like gas!

Next comes the cooler. Or should I say coolers. We keep a large one for food items and a smaller one for beverages.

Unless you are arriving at night, you can pack your “night stuff” first and unload it last. This would include pajamas, flashlights, sleeping bags, sleeping pads and toiletries.

Couple of pre- and post-planning ideas:

Get the whole family involved in creating check lists. It gets everyone excited and filled with anticipation about the camping trip. REI.com has a lot of great information for family camping including checklists. I will say that it’s fun to listen to your kids come up with their own checklist items!

Write down menus for each meal so you don’t forget to pack an important ingredient. If you are camping with friends, coordinate meals and food purchases.

Take notes after each trip. It seems like there is always something we wish we had brought. Like tongs to turn the sausages.

Tape a list of all the contents of your kitchen bin on the underside of the lid so you’ll remember what’s inside. I found my dishwashing liquid after Jen and I had used shampoo to wash our supper plates!

We’d like to push our camping boundaries a bit next time and hit Shenandoah National Park.

Where is your favorite camping site?