Opening Weekend

So many things have happened in our little family over the past few weeks. It’s hard to pick what to write about first. As you see in the title of this post, I obviously have decided to go with the opening weekend of duck season in Mississippi, but I will be sure to fill y’all in on all the other happenings too.

Back to duck hunting. Every year I eagerly await this time of year not just for shooting and eating ducks, but for the quality time outdoors and more importantly the time spent with family. Duck season and holidays have the great benefit of falling at the same time of year, so not only do I get to spend the holidays with my family, but I get the whole 60 days of duck season. Most weekends are spent at my parent’s house or duck camp where we are surrounded by good food and better people. It’s because of this that I look forward to duck season all year long.

Normally, I miss opening weekend to spend Thanksgiving with the Burke’s in New England, but this year due to travel we decided to visit for New Years instead. That means this was the first Thanksgiving and opening weekend, I spent at home since I met Andrew, 7 years ago. This might not work out again, so I savored the whole weekend getting in as much family and outdoors time as possible.

In Mississippi, duck season always opens the Friday after Thanksgiving, so after eating an incredible meal at my sister’s we loaded into the car and drove the hour to my parents. Among the chaos of four families unpacking and getting settled to stay the weekend, we bathed and put Chicken to bed and gathered our hunting clothes. At my parent’s Chicken sleeps in a pack-n-play in the walk-in closet in our bedroom (my brother’s genius idea), but even with a door and sound machine blocking her from our room, we had to pull some pretty stealthy moves getting our hunting gear together without waking her. Luckily,  she was in a pretty deep Thanksgiving coma. Once our gear was together, Andrew and I let the trytophan and pecan pie take over too.

This is probably an unpopular opinion, but I love the early morning scurry before heading to the duck blind. It was a pretty chaotic one as there were 5 adults and 3 kids all trying to get ready. Normally, situations like this stress me out, but the stumbling adults desperately waiting for the coffee to finish brewing, the toaster popping up toast every minute or so, kids not so quietly looking for socks and hats, and let’s not forget my dad telling us we’re late for the thousandth time, gets me amped up for the duck blind. It is these early morning moments that only us hunters get to share, and it is something about our family I cherish.

The scurrying continues at camp when we pull on waders, load the ranger with guns and decoys, somehow fit 9 people and a lab in the ranger, drive to the blind, unload, get the kids settled, and put out decoys all before shooting time if were lucky. All this work pays off when everyone is settled and quiet, and you get to witness the world come to life.

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We hunted every morning of the weekend. Repeated the routine for 3 days and had a great time too. We had good hunts, but probably the best part was not the shooting itself but sharing this weekend with my family, particularly my niece and nephews. They were such troopers and eagerly woke early each morning. While in the duck blind they didn’t complain or fight. My nephew wants me to take him back this weekend, and I will happily do just that.

Sharing the outdoors and our sport with the younger generation is so important. As outdoorsmen and women, we must instill the love of nature in our children. It is the only way to ensure that these wetlands will be conserved. Besides duck hunting, I took my niece deer hunting one afternoon over the weekend. These 2 hours were probably the most special 2 hours of the weekend. The time I spent with her talking in the woods is something I will always hold dear. She has grown to be a smart and insightful little girl. While waiting for the deer to appear, she asked why I was the only girl who hunted. I had always thought I’d be ready for this question when it came and although it caught me a bit by surprise, I think I did a pretty good job answering. I first began with telling her that I am not the only girl who hunts and explained that there are many women hunters including her. I didn’t want her to get the idea that there was a reason that some women didn’t hunt, so I told her that more women probably would hunt if they just had the opportunity too. I also explained to her that things are different now, lots of young girls hunt and will continue to hunt. I said to her it is our job, to show other girls how great it is. I finished by asking her to help me teach Chicken and her cousin to love the outdoors too. She was very proud to have the responsibility as the older cousin, and she left with a new found mission of their outdoor mentor. I think in the end it went alright, and I am glad I got that time with her.

I will finish with some pictures from the weekend. I hope you enjoy.

 

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My parent’s lab, Nell, looking regal on her dog stand.

 

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My nephew and Dad after Sunday’s hunt.

 

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My niece and nephews on opening day.

 

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Andrew watching the ducks come in. 

 

 

 

 

 

I Might Actually Be Crazy!

This past weekend, Andrew, Chicken, and I spent the weekend camping. It’s no secret that our little family loves camping. We take every chance to spend our weekends outdoors. But don’t let me mislead you, camping with a 1-year-old is no easy feat. It requires a ton of stuff (here is my list of baby camping must-haves), zero sleep (you can from our baby sleeping mistakes here), and a really messy baby, but with all that, it’s still totally worth it! This trip was made a little easier by some extra helping hands. We were joined by my parents, and sister’s family, so we had the benefit of splitting tasks and baby holding.

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Our little camping crew. My nephew had such great time on his first big camping trip. 

Although camping is not why I’m crazy, but it did produce the opportunity for my husband to attempt to talk me into doing something crazy, but I’ll get to that later. We are a family that needs to move, and the Village Creek State Park’s great trails are perfect for just that. On Saturday morning after we all enjoyed some delicious breakfast sandwiches my mom made, we strapped on the babies and went for about 5-mile hike. The good thing about hikes that long on easy terrain is you get a chance to talk with almost everyone. At one point during the hike, while Chicken was sleeping on my back, Andrew mentioned that after the St.Jude Marathon, I will have run 3 marathons in 3 different states. He then joked and said maybe you should go for 50 marathons in 50 states. The man should know better than to mention crazy running schemes to me. I’m extremely susceptible!

As crazy as that idea is, it got me thinking, why not? After St.Jude and my 50k, I could easily add in the Mississippi Blues Marathon at the end of January. There’s 4. I’ve had my eye on the Moonlight 50k in Arkansas in June, that’s 5. Then I would only be 5 away for qualifying for a membership to the 50 States Marathon Club (yes, that’s a thing). If I finish all 50, I get a trophy, medal, and finisher singlet. I mean, what won’t I run for free stuff. Seriously I’m not lying, I signed up for the New Orleans Rock n’ Roll Marathon instead of the Half Marathon so I could get the finisher jacket. Totally, worth it!

Another bonus to committing to 50 in 50 is it would give Andrew and me an excuse to buy a camper, and we’ve been dreaming of a camper for a while now. We could turn most of the races into family vacations. How cool would it be to be able to show Chicken the United States one race at a time? Oh no, I think I might be talking myself into it! Maybe I should finish the St. Jude and Swamp Stomper first before I fall too deeply into wanderlust.Well, I’m not committing yet, but it sure does sound like a pretty awesome goal!

Does anybody else have dreams of crazy running goals? I’d love to hear them! Maybe you can inspire me to do something even crazier!

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It never fails to amaze me how messy she gets while camping! 

Camp Rules…

…are different than Everyday Rules. As I mentioned in a previous post, we took Chicken camping for my birthday last weekend. On our adventure, we learned some valuable lessons while camping with an 8-month-old. Probably the most important one was that your everyday rules get thrown out the window while living in the great outdoors particularly those pertaining to bedtime and sleeping arrangements.

Normally, Chicken goes to bed between 7:30 and 8:00, and she always sleeps in her own bed. She has always slept in her own room. We have never co-slept, not even for a nap. This is mostly because when Chicken was an infant, she had acid reflux. At first, the doctor thought it was colic but thankfully was later diagnosed with the very treatable acid reflux. During that time of continuous crying, the only time she would sleep was in her crib at night. Ever since then she has loved her crib, and her dad and I have thanked our stars for this. We assumed that camping would be no different. Like most assumptions in parenting, we were wrong.

Her first night camping, we let her stay up later than normal. I figured she would have a harder time putting herself to sleep in a new place, so I made sure she was tired before starting her bedtime routine. Going down in the pack-n-play went smoothly, and she managed to stay asleep later on when Andrew, myself and the two dogs climbed into the tent to go to sleep. At about midnight, she woke up crying. (To note, she has been waking a lot lately due to teething.) Normally, I don’t nurse her during the night, but I figured since we were camping all the normal rules had to go. I picked her up and nursed her until she calmed down and fell back asleep. When I laid her back in the pack-n-play, she woke up again. This time I tried to pretend I was asleep, FAT CHANCE! She had never seen me sleeping so close before and was like, “Why am I over here? Pick me up!” So instead of letting her cry and becoming “those” people at the campground, I picked her up and put her in bed with me and Andrew. She fell right to sleep. Home rules just don’t pan out when camping. Camping is about survival, I guess? (That’s pretty hard to say while using my phone as a sound machine.) From then on, we all got some decent rest. Other than me who was paranoid about rolling over onto Chicken or just even waking her up. (Mom worry never sleeps.)

Chicken woke up bright and early. Normally, she wakes up around 5 am, I feed her, and she goes back to sleep. But this morning in our family sleeping bag, she opened her eyes, saw mom and dad, and the sweetest grin spread across her face. She was so happy to wake up with us beside her. She was up and ready to play. The sleepless night was totally worth that sweet face, so from now on, when camping Chicken is allowed to sleep with us. It will be our camping treat, and just one more reason to love sleeping under the stars.

 

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You can’t help but smile waking up next to this sweet baby girl.

 

 

20 Things to Bring when Camping with a Baby

This weekend to celebrate my upcoming birthday, we took a family camping trip. It was our first time camping with Chicken, and I was so excited to finally share this experience with her. The idea of camping with a baby brought on lots of stress and worry, so when we made the decision to go I went straight to Google for tips and tricks. I found a lot of good ideas that I had mostly already thought of, but it was still good to get some reassurance that taking a baby camping wasn’t a completely insane idea.

 

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Chicken trying to escape her pack-n-play while we set up camp.

 

My baby camping packing list is long, but it’s better to be prepared, right? We also went car camping which made it easier to carry everything. We aren’t quite ready for hiking in, but hopefully one day we will have the confidence for that. Anyway, here is my baby packing list. I have attached links to the products we used.

  1. A pack-n-play (This is an absolute must for crawlers. It doubled as her bed and a place for her to play during the day)
  2. A portable high chair (If your baby is eating solids. It is also doubles as another place for the baby to sit.)
  3. A baby carrier for hikes
  4. Some of their favorite toys
  5. A lovey or something your baby finds comforting (Chicken loves this security blanket and sleeps with it at night and during all of her naps.)
  6. Multiple changes and layers of clothes and don’t worry about matching. (The temperature at night got pretty chilly and hot during the day, so breathable layers are important.)
  7. A sleep sack
  8. A meal and snack plan (If your baby is eating solids, you need to prep and plan out their meals. Make sure you start preparing their meals well in advance. You don’t want a crying baby while you’re trying to cook their meal on a campfire.)
  9. Water cup and clean water (Obviously, it is important to keep your baby hydrated, but we were not sure what the water source would be like at this campsite, so we brought a jug of purified water just for her.)
  10. Lots and lots of diapers (The last thing you want is to run out of diapers or wipes. We kept an emergency package in the car in case we ran out.)
  11. A roll of softish paper towels (Just go ahead and accept that your baby is going to get dirty! They will probably also eat a little dirt too. That’s just being in the outdoors with a baby, but I found a wet paper towel went a long way in keeping her clean.)
  12. Baby friendly bug spray (Just remember that these baby bug sprays need to be reapplied more often than the bug sprays containing DEET).
  13. A mosquito net (Bug bites on a baby can ruin your trip, so we took extra precaution in keeping the bugs off Chicken. Draping a mosquito net over the pack-n-play was the best way to keep the bugs away from her. Mosquito nets are cheap and can be found at any outdoors store.)
  14. Formula and bottles (We didn’t pack this because Chicken is breastfed, but if you are using formula be sure you have plenty of both.)
  15. A warm hat and a sun hat (nights can get cool and day’s hot and sunny, so make sure you have both.)
  16. Sunscreen (Chicken looks just like her Irish daddy, so sun protection is a must for us.)
  17. A clean surface for your baby to eat on (Outdoor picnic tables are hard to clean, so we brought along our handy EZPZ mat.)
  18. Don’t forget the bib either! One that is easily rinsed off is best.
  19. A large blanket for playing on the ground
  20. The expectation that things are going to go wrong!

 

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Chicken enjoying some french toast and berries for breakfast.

 

What a great list, right? It sure would’ve been nice if I could have followed my own advice. Here’s my list of everything we forgot. Not everything we forgot was baby related, but when you’re so focused on making sure your baby is comfortable you often forget about everyone else.

  1. The baby carrier (Thank goodness there was a Wal-Mart in the nearby town.)
  2. The dogs’ leashes (Had to turn around for that one.)
  3. A lighter definitely makes building a fire easier
  4. Carabineers for tieing up the dogs (Poor pups, they sure do get the short end of the stick since Chicken arrived.)
  5. Mine and Andrew’s dinner for the first night (Dorrito’s and beer it is!)
  6. And I’m sure some other things that I’m not remembering right now.

 

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Last minute baby carrier purchased right before the hike.

 

Needless to say, we forgot some stuff, and everything did not go as smoothly as we hoped, but we had a wonderful time. We got in lots of device free family time and created a lot of great memories. There were other learning moments, I will share with y’all in future posts, but for now, I hope this list can help you in planning your family’s outdoor adventure.

Frisbee and a 5k

Last week, Andrew and I decided to drag Chicken to our various activities. We started off by taking her to her very first Ultimate Frisbee game. Andrew loves ultimate frisbee and has been playing since his days at Villanova. The start of summer also means the start of summer league for the Burke family, and Chicken and I were there to cheer daddy on.

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Chicken had a great time playing on the blanket and eating mommy’s keys. She loves to be outside so was fairly happy even though we were creeping in on her bedtime. We did have to break out the “magical” Cheerios when things started going down hill.

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For the most part, we had a successful first game. Andrew had two games, and they won both. We only stayed for the first since I didn’t want to get little one to bed too late. Although, that turned out not to matter anyway. Parenting lesson of the night, make sure you have your house keys after switching vehicles with your husband. If you don’t you’ll spend about an hour driving around the neighborhood trying not to wake a sleeping baby while waiting for your husband to get home to unlock the door. I guess it could’ve been worse, she could have screamed in the car that whole time instead.


 

The next night, we signed up to run the Harbortown 5k with my sister and her family. It was my first time running this Memphis “must run once” race. It’s a great course that wound through Harbortown and the locals really come out to support the runners. Let me go ahead and let everyone know, I am not a fast runner. I love to run and run a lot and hope to get faster, but that is not my primary goal when it comes to running. So don’t expect to see any impressive times posted on this blog.

I ran the 5k with my sister while Andrew pushed Chicken in the stroller. My sister has recently found her love for running and that brings me more joy than I can tell you. Nothing makes me happier than to share my passion for running, and it’s even more special to do so with someone I love so much.

For starting at the back of the pack, we ran a good race, and my sister outran her expected pace by a full minute! The best part was the finish when my 6-year-old nephew ran through the finish line with us. Sharing experiences like these with loved ones are why I sign up again and again. Here a few pictures of us before the race (when we still look pretty).

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Chicken is ready to run!

 

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Lining up at the start as a family.

The party after the run looked super fun, and those Sonic burritos looked sooo delicious! But once the stroller stopped moving Chicken quickly realized it was WAY past her bedtime, and we had a to make a quick escape! Thank goodness for car rides and my Widespread Panic lullaby CD.

After a Thursday night frisbee game and Friday night race, we decided a weekend at home relaxing and getting back on Chicken’s sleep schedule was what we ALL needed.

Here goes nothing…

is something I often mutter before starting something difficult. Whether that’s the start of a race, a big project at work, heading out to the duck blind, telling my husband I’ve signed up for another marathon or have some crazy idea to redecorate our house. Writing my first blog post feels very similar. I’ve never found it easy to put myself out there, and I can feel myself getting a stomach ache just thinking about clicking “publish.” I have always had a weak stomach that seems to be directly tied to my emotions. Since this whole blog thing is about telling the world the nitty gritty of your life, the good, the bad, and the embarrassing. I thought I’d just get it out of the way and start with an embarrassing story about my emotionally ridden stomach.

Here goes nothing…when I was a little girl about 11 years old, I would often go waterfowl hunting with my dad on the weekends. I would look forward to these mornings all week. The night before I would lay out my hunting clothes and make sure my boots were by the door. I always wanted to be ready to wake up and go so I wouldn’t be a hassle. (When you’re the only girl in the duck blind this is a common worry. In an effort to not be a bother, I would try to be extra prepared the night before.) One morning on our way to the duck blind, I had gotten myself all worked up. We arrived at the boat and were loading up to head out to the blind, and I could feel the butterflies fluttering. Not wanting to be a wimp, I decided to just suck it up. This turned out to be a very bad idea. For those of you who don’t duck hunt, trying to go to the bathroom as a girl wearing chest waiters is almost impossible. So my nerves got worse as I worried about this fact, and the extra worry resulted in my REALLY needing to go to the bathroom. There was nothing but boys and waist-high water all around. I finally got up the nerve to tell my dad that it was an emergency, and being the awesome dad he is, he told everyone he had forgotten his duck calls in the truck. Dad and I loaded back into the boat, and he drove me out of sight to an abandoned duck blind where I could go to the bathroom. Still surrounded by water, I had to lean off the deck to use the bathroom, it was awful and not to mention cold. Dad never told anyone, but when it was just us and we passed that duck blind, he would joke and ask me if I needed to use my outhouse. I’d like to say that is my only embarrassing nervous stomach story, but one is definitely enough for now, especially since we just met.

That experience might ruin the outdoors for someone but not me. The times I spent with my dad hunting are some of the most cherished moments of my life. To this day, I anxiously await the start of duck season when I get to spend mornings in the blind with my dad and family. I hope that one day I can share those experiences with my daughter, except she won’t feel like she has to prove herself because she’s a girl. She will find empowerment in her time in the outdoors and the activities she pursues, and I will be there to help her along the way. In this blog, I will share our adventures as new mom and daughter in a life lived outside.

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Dad and I after a great opening day a couple years back.