Saturday, May 29, 2021

My 5 Tips for Taking Kids Hiking in the Rain

Linking up with Kelly over at her blog today.
Check out her post and others at this link.  Thanks, Kelly!



Yesterday, we went hiking, my family and I.  This is not unusual for us.  We hike a lot.  At least once a month, sometimes more often.  We live smack dab in the center of a National Forest, so there aren’t many other options for entertainment.   Thankfully, there aren’t many other things we’d enjoy doing more.

The unusual thing about our hike yesterday, however, was that we hiked in the rain.  Now this may not seem all that unusual, but given the choice, most people would not hike in the rain.  Or should I say, most adults would not hike in the rain.  Kids?  They love it.

I have come to know this after spending years as an outdoor educator.  Yesterday, we had planned to hike with 7 other families.  As it turned out, 6 of those families backed out of coming at the last minute.  The reason?  It was raining.

So, we hiked with the one other family that showed up, and our boys had a blast, just as I knew they would.  The mother and I, whom I only knew casually, got much better acquainted, and bonded over our mutual agreement that kids are anxious about enough things these days, why make them anxious about the weather, as well? 


Skipping rocks in the rain.


When we got home that afternoon, it was still raining.  My son, who was already wet from the hike, asked what he could do, and I suggested he take the firewood off the front porch and return it to the woodshed.  Without hesitation, he agreed to do it, and a few minutes later, I looked out the window to see him loading wood into the wagon.  In the rain.  He was wet but working, and it dawned on me that children who play in the rain become adults who will work in the rain.  And in a world where time is money, that just might be the edge they need someday.  I spent my professional career working with men and women who were required to perform most of their assignments outdoors.  So many times, projects got delayed significantly due to inclement weather.  Not because the weather prohibited them from completing the work assigned, but because they were unwilling to work in less than perfect conditions.  It cost the government tons, not to mention the frustrations that came from incomplete projects and delayed timelines.  All because it was raining, or too cold, or too hot, etc, etc.

Moving firewood in the rain.


However, I do realize that a lot of people, especially mothers, are not sure just HOW to enjoyably hike in the rain with their kids.  Obviously, getting cold and soaked is a very unpleasant experience, and if you have cold and wet children, then the whining begins, and they will drive you totally nuts, and you will vow to never, ever take them out in the rain again.  I know. I’ve been there.  So, I decided to share a few of the things I have learned after years of taking kids (and myself) outdoors in rainy weather.  

1. Get rain pants.

I think most parents have a rain coat for their child, but I have seen very few people show up for an outdoor activity in wet weather wearing a pair of rain pants.  Get some.  Not only will they keep the kids a whole lot drier, but they will also prevent the mud that they are sure to smear all over their rumps and knees from grinding into their clothing.   Plus, when it is time to put the dirty, muddy little rascals into their car seats post-hike, you can just peel those nasty rain pants off, put them in a plastic bag, and Voila!  You have kids with clean pants again.  No soiled car seat covers, and no mess in the car.  Rain pants are also awesome for putting over their pants when they play in the snow, or for just having on even when it is not raining, but the ground is wet.  I always buy the lightweight rain pants so that they are not too warm in the summer, and ripstop nylon is best because you know those kids are going to walk right through that briar patch!

My favorite rain pants and accompanying rain coat for kids are the Kids' Discovery Rain Pants and Jacket (pictured below), sold by LL Bean, but unfortunately, the big kids sizes are no longer on the market.  They do have a similar (more expensive) pair available and sometimes you can get them at a big discount on Black Friday.

My little hikers, six years ago.


Since I didn't want to pay that much nor wait until Black Friday, I recently purchased the Columbia Kids' Cypress Brook II  rain paints (available on Amazon) for one of my older sons, and so far, they are holding up well.  I generally have had good luck with Columbia brand kids clothing.

Oh, and one more thing.  When you get home with those mud-caked rain pants that you stashed in a plastic bag, take them outside, give them a good shake, then put them in the washer on the rinse setting. DO NOT USE LAUNDRY SOAP and DO NOT PUT THEM IN THE DRYER or else your rain pants will soon just become pants, and lose all the waterproof qualities that they once had.




2. Wear waterproof shoes

My boys all have waterproof hiking boots, but more often than not, when it is really wet or we have snow, they wear ordinary rubber “chore boots”.  Again, because it is often warm, I buy the uninsulated boots.  Pair them up with some wool-blend socks, and their feet will stay warm even if they get wet.  Heavier socks also prevent blistering.  

Some rubber boots hold up better than others.  I am not a big fan of the cutesy Western Chief boots, mostly because they have poor tread for slippery surfaces. I also tested the Crocs rain boots on my 9 year old and they lasted about 3 weeks. We have mostly been using the Ranger Splash series youth rain boots by Honeywell for our boys since they were 2 years old, and by far, they have held up the best.  Some sizes are currently available from Amazon, and I've also found them online at Wal-mart. 

Another plus to wearing these boots is that they have higher tops than most kids' hiking boots, which is something to consider when hiking in rattlesnake country.

And here’s a helpful hint…when wearing rain pants with boots, be sure that the kids pull their rain pants over the tops of their boots, not tuck them into the boots, otherwise, the water will just funnel right down into their shoes.  Somehow, this seems obvious to me, but I have learned that it is definitely not obvious to an 8 year old!

 

If you wanna see salamanders,
you gotta hike in the rain.

3. Wear a ball cap. 

Pull a raincoat hood over a ball cap and unless you are facing the wind, the rain will run down your hood and away from your face.  And if you have a kid who wears glasses, they will still be able to see, at least until they decide to turn their face up towards the clouds and catch raindrops on their tongue!

Watching mist rise above the river
in between rain showers.


 

4. Know how to find shelter.

When hiking anytime, but especially with children in rainy weather, it’s important to have a plan for finding shelter, if needed. I usually try to stay within 15 minutes of shelter when thunderstorms are around.   When the storm hits, we wait it out in our shelter.  I have a son who is deathly afraid of thunderstorms, and I think the best way to help him past his fear is to expose him in a safe manner to the storms.  When it is all over, he relaxes and realizes that he’s still okay.  Bit by bit, he is overcoming his phobia.  A vehicle or picnic shelter or cliff overhang or cave or even beneath a large evergreen tree are all shelter options that we have taken advantage of when caught in downpours or thunderstorms, although some shelters are definitely better (and safer) than others.  And yes, lightning is a threat at times, but that risk is still probably lower than the one you took driving on the freeway to get to the trailhead. 

Waiting out a downpour under a cliff overhang.
This one caught us by surprise, hence, no rain gear.


5. Stay warm.

I always say, “It’s all fun and games until the kids get cold,” and it’s true.  Regardless of whether it is raining or sunny, if the kids get cold, their fun is over.  For this reason, I am much less likely to take kids out in the rain if it is below 45 degrees F than if it is 70 degrees F.  Even if you dress them with all the best rain gear and boots and hats, they are going to get wet in the rain.  If you keep them moving, they can usually handle it if the temperatures are above 45 degrees, but you should definitely plan to pack some extra dry clothes for when they slow down and start to get chilly.  Generally speaking, adults will start getting cold before the kids do. If it is around 70 degrees or warmer, odds are those kids are going to ditch their rain gear anyway, and just want to get wet, because nothing feels better on the skin that a warm, summer rain.   When this has happened to me, I’m not above making them strip down to their underclothes before getting into the car for the return trip home. Keeping an old bath towel in the vehicle is a huge help at times like that!

 

My mostly dry hikers yesterday. As expected, one
of them ditched the raincoat and decided to just get wet.

So those are my 5 tips for how to prepare kids for hiking in the rain.  Of course, these same tips apply to adults as well, and I follow them myself (well, except for the stripping down to the underclothes part!). I encourage you to get those kids outside in all kinds of weather.  Life is full of enough anxieties; let’s not teach our kids to be anxious about the weather.   God gave us the natural world so that we would always have a place to play and imagine and grow.   Our Lord uses rainy days to bring life to the earth and even more so, to our children. I try not to get in the way of that.

 



He covers the heavens with clouds;

He prepares rain for the earth;

He makes grass grow on the hills.

                                           Psalm 147:8

 


Saturday, May 8, 2021

May Days

I have a serious case of writer's block but am determined to keep up with my goal of a post per month, so rather than try to paint a picture with words, I will share with you some photos from our past month.  We couldn't have had a prettier springtime, and it has continued.  I'm chomping at the bit to plant tomatoes, but I also learned a hard lesson last year when we had a killing freeze on May 11th!  So, I am trying to hold back.

In the meantime, we have been hiking, planting potatoes, doing schoolwork, and cooking.  Always cooking.  I do not know what I am going to do when I have 3 teenage boys to feed, as I am already barely able to keep up with their appetites!  For scrawny little runts, they sure do eat a lot.  I am counting on them being able to cook for themselves in a few more years, and so far, they are doing pretty well in the their training!  

There is no big news on the homefront, which is always a good thing.  Tom and I are still married, the boys are finishing up 5th and 4th grades and Dominic is graduating from "Grandma's Preschool" this month.  He is wise beyond his years and recently completed the "know how to jump on one foot" task that was on his "Things Kids Should Know Before Kindergarten" checklist.  So, I guess he's ready now.

Our dog did chase off a bear last week, so I make sure the boys go into the woods in pairs now so that they can give the bear options.  Our dog, Chessie, is the best when it comes to chasing off squirrels, rat snakes, bears, and UPS deliverers.  

So, without further elaboration, here is our collage of all things Springtime 2021 so far.

Our at-home Easter Vigil ceremony,
 lighting our Pascal candle

Dying our eggs with natural food dyes

Spring cleaning. If you are looking
 for a natural floor wax, try coconut oil!

A spring break trip to Lost River Cave in western KY

With a side trip to the Fathers of Mercy chapel

Potatoes in the ground

Morel mushrooms, a delicacy!

A trip to Frozen Head State Park to look for wildflowers.

Large white trillium

Black-eyed Pea, our new hen, laid her first egg!

My little boy isn't little anymore. 
Here he is teaching 2nd graders about the human body.

Baby broccoli plants in the ground.


Rhubarb after the rain.

Big brother made little brother an omelet!

Homeschool art class

And the beat goes on.   Happy May Days to you!

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Point of Reference (Birthday Reflections)



I was born on Holy Thursday, a fact I didn’t realize until just a few years ago. I have always loved Holy Thursday, the pageantry of the Mass on that night, the meaning of the Last Supper, the humility shown in the washing of the feet, the celebration of the priesthood, the end of what is always a long Lent, the summation of our faith in the gift of the Eucharist given to us on that night, the solemn act of departing in silence, and spending quiet time with our Lord at the altar of repose.  Long before I knew that it coincided with my birth, I loved it, and apparently, God knew I would, so He gave me the day as a birthday gift.

This year, my birthday falls on Holy Saturday, and is overshadowed by the preparations for Easter.  We are cleaning the house, and I will be baking and decorating and assembling Easter baskets for the kids.  At sunset, we will have a bonfire and chase away the darkness, renew our baptismal promises, and sing the Alleluia songs.   The focus will not be on my birthday, but on the day we were all given a chance to be “born again”, as the Bible-belt saying goes.  My birthday can wait, as it should.

It took me a while to realize this, of course.  Humility is not a virtue that comes easy to me. I was reminded of that again this past week, when I got terribly upset because my husband asked me to write out a list of what I would like for gifts, rather than just “shopping from the heart” as I’d hoped he would. I minced no words in expressing my disappointment and hurt.  Of course, it was not really about the gifts at all.  It was that strong desire we all have inside to just be loved and wanted and the center of someone’s attention, if only for a little while.  The center of attention.  Exactly the opposite of humility.

I recognized in a very painful way last year that so many of my anxieties and emotions are brought on by a lack of humility.  Since that time, I have tried to be more mindful in practicing this one virtue from which all other virtues stem.  It has been a challenge for which I was not well prepared and has been a series of triumphs and failures. Much as the Israelites were winning the battle as long as Moses’ arms were held up, I have found that when I really work at humility, I am winning the battle for peace and love in my home.  When I relax, the battle is no longer in my favor.  Thankfully, I have the saints and our Blessed Mother to help me lift my arms back up, and the confessional, which is where I placed myself on Holy Thursday this year.

When I awoke on this Holy Saturday, I reflected upon the many birthdays I have been blessed with in my life. Fifty-two of them so far.  That’s a lot of reflection.  Most, I cannot even remember.  A few, I recall, were terrible, like the one when I turned forty and was still childless.  That was a bad one. Then, there was the one when I drove from Missouri to Kentucky with two three-year olds in the backseat, moving them away from the only home they’d known to a new life in a new place.  That was a stressful and anxious one. There was the birthday when I submitted my letter of resignation after a 20-year career in the workforce, a gift to myself that came 10 years later than I’d planned.  There was the birthday marked by a pilgrimage to the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament. Accompanied by a supportive husband who understood the importance of the trip to me, and the three children I never thought I’d have, that birthday was an act of thanksgiving to God for 50 years of answering my prayers in ways better than I could have imagined.  And there was the birthday I had last year, spent in pandemic lock-down, when the only pilgrimage I could make was to the forest outside our door.  God blessed me that day with sunshine and wildflowers because He knows that second to family and faith, it is His creation that I love most.

It was in this reflection that I realized that birthdays are nothing more than simply a point of reference for our lives.  When I leave this world, my birthday will be meaningless to me.  While I am in in this world, they are a point from which I can look forward with hope and look backward with gratitude.   They are the stepping stones along a journey to my final destination, if only I can remain humble. And in between each stone grow wildflowers and children and a marriage and a family and a realization that all along, I have always been the center of God’s attention.