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Becoming a parent means parting with all kinds of luxuries. Gone are nights of uninterrupted sleep and afternoons spent devouring a novel. But being a parent doesn’t have to mean saying goodbye to adventure.


We caught up with three families who refused to abandon adventure once they welcomed children. Professional musicians Enion Pelta-Tiller and her husband David Tiller employed creativity and a road nanny to bring their son on tour before he’d even cut a tooth. The Nolan family described the sense of liberation they’ve experienced since embarking on a full-time RV journey. Karon and Rob Dickinson spend much of their time at desks as a marketing consultant and a software developer, but for their summer vacation, they took their three kids into the Colorado backcountry.

Though these families approach their adventures differently, they all possess creativity, a strong sense of personal values, and a passion for exploration.

Tap an icon to jump to a family’s story (or just keep scrolling)

Backpacking
 Van Life
In The Band

An extreme summer vacation

This fall, the Dickinson kids returned to school with a unique answer to the question, “What did you do this summer?” Karon and Rob Dickinson took their 13-year-old daughter and six-year-old twins on a backpacking trip in Colorado’s wilderness. While it might sound insanely adventurous to most, it was the most natural thing in the world for a couple who met through the Colorado Mountain Club and had been taking their kids camping since their eldest was four months old.

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Parent Co: What inspired you to take your kids backpacking?

Karon Dickinson: We wanted to teach them the skills we had learned [from outdoor adventures] – resilience, responsibility, preparation and planning skills, trust, and emotional maturity.

PC: What were the most challenging parts of the trip?

KD: We carried two tents, five sleeping bags, five pads, cooking gear, extra clothes, and of course food for five, which meant my husband and I ended up with a lot of extra weight. Our six-year-old son cried for the first half hour until he got used to his pack. It rained for hours, and the trail ended up being three miles longer than the guidebook “suggested.”

Parent Co. partnered with Ems for Kids because they believe kids are the best partners in adventure.

PC: What were the best parts of the trip?

KD: Watching my 13-year-old carry more weight than me and entertain the twins on the long trek down. Getting back to the car, all three kids started yelling, “We did it!” and “Family hug!” We shed our heavy backpacks and hugged in the parking lot. It was one of the most amazing moments of my life.

PC: What do you think your kids got out of this experience?

KD: I think my twins grew closer to their sister, and she was more patient with them.

PC: What advice would you give other parents contemplating a similar trip?

KD: The lag time for medical emergency evacuation is formidable as there is no 911 in the backcountry. I highly recommend outdoor education classes. Also, give yourself plenty of time to prep. I spent at least 40 hours planning, shopping, preparing food, and packing for the trip.

Embracing #vanlife

Sarah and Ryan Nolan ditched most of their possessions and took what matters most – their sons, Kevin, age five, and River, age seven, plus their shared passion for adventure – on the road. As homeowners with stable jobs, Sarah and Ryan thought they were living the dream until they realized, “we were bored and felt our spirits squashed with the minutia of corporate life,” says Sarah.

Currently, the Nolans and their Airstream are in New Hampshire. As temps drop in New England, they’ll head south to Key Largo to help with hurricane relief. Stops in 2018 include San Diego, Arizona, Texas, the Pacific Northwest, and Colorado. This winter, they’ll leave their RV to fly to Hawaii where Sarah will lead a retreat. The Nolans have no plans to end their RV journey for the foreseeable future.

Parent Co: What has been the best part of your journey so far?

Sarah Nolan: Our family coming together around a common purpose. Also, the energy at the campgrounds has been great. Families in the full-time RV community have created a culture of following their dreams and living off the beaten path.

PC: What are your kids are taking from this experience?

SN: They’re learning how to make friends wherever they go and how to function as part of a family team. They also benefit from constant outdoor time and increased independence. They get to grow up with the belief that they can do anything. They’re making plans to start their own businesses, which will be part of their homeschool curriculum.

PC: How has this experience has enriched your life?

SN: I love the simplicity. We have very few possessions, which means minimal cleanup and little incentive to spend time inside.

PC: What advice would you give other parents contemplating a similar journey?

SN: Make a plan and set a date. It may seem daunting, but you can make this happen. It’s a pretty inexpensive way of life. You could RV full-time for a year for $25k. My kids’ courage and confidence has increased, and it’s changing how they see and experience the world.

He’s with the band

Aesop, now nine, went on tour with his parents’ band for the first time at two months of age and hasn’t stopped since. His mother, Enion Pelta-Tiller, is a violinist/fiddler and singer. She writes for music publications and teaches music when not touring with Taarka, the band she and her husband David Tiller, a mandolinist/guitarist and singer, co-lead. Although the family has been touring a bit less lately, they spend up to three weeks on the road about four times a year, staying with friends, in hotels, or in their Sprinter van.

Despite being on the go, says Enion, “Touring has always been a grounding experience for me. Before having a child, I could work more on the road – practice, write, do band business – but there was also more time to get involved in personal drama, stay up too late, and not take care of myself as well as I should. The rhythm of caring for a child brought a new kind of order to our lives on the road.”

For the first few years of Aesop’s life, his parents depended on a nanny while touring. By the time he turned four, Enion recalls “shows where he set up his entire Thomas the Tank Engine set on the stage behind us, and others where he ‘played’ ukulele or harmonica with us.”

Now that Aesop is older, he’s content to read a book or spend a little time on the iPad while his parents perform. If the venue is family-friendly, Aesop has no trouble finding and befriending other kids. Schoolwork also keeps him busy. Currently enrolled in public school, his teachers keep him up to date with homework assignments to complete while on the road.

Parent Co: Did you ever imagine taking a more traditional path once you became parents?

Enion Pelter-Tiller: We are both lifer musicians. It has never really felt like an option not to continue doing what we do, though the shape of it has changed over the years.

PC: What do you love most about touring as a family?

EPT: We enjoy the stops in beautiful places where we’ve camped for the night. Our son will often participate in the setup and breakdown of shows, or he’ll make sure we’re getting on the road on time. He’s even (voluntarily) done some business communications for us! The integration of our work and family lives has a feeling of tradition to it that I think is positive for us and our kid.

PC: What are your greatest concerns about touring as a family?

EPT: Oddly, the same thing that I love is also a concern – that our work and family lives are so integrated. In this era where individuality is so celebrated, the potential to have our child begin to create his own path seems like it could be limited.

PC: In what ways do you feel taking your son on tour has enriched your life?

EPT: Getting to spend so much time with him when he’s at an age that most kids end up spending more time away from their parents.

PC: What advice would you give other parents considering a similar path?

EPT: Plan ahead, but don’t go overboard. Kids are better than adults at rolling with what you give them. The best thing you can do is ensure that your child’s experience is full of joy, diverse experiences, and good food, whether on the road or at home.

Your Adventure Toolkit

Safety whistle, earmuffs, travel potty, quick-dry towels, binoculars, a kid’s camera, and headlamp.

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As mamas, we naturally become the magic-makers for our families. We sing the songs that make the waits seem shorter, dispense the kisses that help boo-boos hurt less, carry the seemingly bottomless bags of treasures, and find ways to turn even the most hum-drum days into something memorable.

Sometimes it's on a family vacation or when exploring a new locale, but often it's in our own backyards or living rooms. Here are 12 ways to create magical moments with kids no matter where your adventures take you.


1. Keep it simple

Mary Poppins may be practically perfect in every way, but―trust us―your most magical memories don't require perfection. Spend the morning building blanket forts or break out the cookie cutters to serve their sandwich in a fun shape and you'll quickly learn that, for kids, the most magical moments are often the simplest.

2. Get on their level

Sometimes creating a memorable moment can be as easy as getting down on the floor and playing with your children. So don't be afraid to get on your hands and knees, to swing from the monkey bars, or turn watching your favorite movie into an ultimate snuggle sesh.

3. Reimagine the ordinary

As Mary says, "the cover is not the book." Teach your child to see the world beyond initial impressions by encouraging them to imagine a whole new world as you play―a world where the laundry basket can be a pirate ship or a pile of blankets can be a castle.

4. Get a little messy

Stomp in muddy puddles. Break out the finger paint. Bake a cake and don't worry about frosting drips on the counter. The messes will wait, mama. For now, let your children―and yourself―live in these moments that will all too soon become favorite memories.

5. Throw out the plan

The best-laid plans...are rarely the most exciting. And often the most magical moments happen by accident. So let go of the plan, embrace the unexpected, and remember that your child doesn't care if the day goes according to the schedule.

6. Take it outside

There's never a wrong time of year to make magic outside. Take a stroll through a spring rainstorm, catch the first winter snowflakes on your tongue, or camp out under a meteor shower this summer. Mother Nature is a natural at creating experiences you'll both remember forever.

7. Share your childhood memories

Chances are if you found it magical as a child, then your kids will too. Introduce your favorite books and movies (pro tip: Plan a double feature with an original like Mary Poppins followed with the sequel, Mary Poppins Returns!) or book a trip to your favorite family vacation spot from the past. You could even try to recreate photos from your old childhood with your kids so you can hang on to the memory forever.

8. Just add music

Even when you're doing something as humdrum as prepping dinner or tidying up the living room, a little music has a way of upping the fun factor. Tell Alexa to cue up your favorite station for a spontaneous family dance party or use your child's favorite movie soundtrack for a quick game of "Clean and Freeze" to pick up toys at the end of the day.

9. Say "yes"

Sometimes it can feel like you're constantly telling your child "no." While it's not possible to grant every request (sorry, kiddo, still can't let you drive the car!), plan a "yes" day for a little extra magic. That means every (reasonable) request gets an affirmative response for 24 hours. Trust us―they'll never forget it.

10. Let them take the lead

A day planned by your kid―can you imagine that? Instead of trying to plan what you think will lead to the best memories, put your kid in the driver's seat by letting them make the itinerary. If you have more than one child, break up the planning so one gets to pick the activity while the other chooses your lunch menu. You just might end up with a day you never expected.

11. Ask more questions

Odds are, your child might not remember every activity you plan―but they will remember the moments you made them feel special. By focusing the conversation on your little one―their likes, dislikes, goals, or even just craziest dreams―you teach them that their perspective matters and that you are their biggest fan.

12. Turn a bad day around

Not every magical moment will start from something good. But the days where things don't go to plan can often turn out to be the greatest memories, especially when you find a way to turn even a negative experience into a positive memory. So don't get discouraged if you wake up to rain clouds on your beach day or drop the eggs on the floor before breakfast―take a cue from Mary Poppins and find a way to turn the whole day a little "turtle."

Mary Poppins Returns available now on Digital & out on Blue-ray March 19! Let the magic begin in your house with a night where everything is possible—even the impossible ✨

After a pregnancy that is best described as uncomfortable, Jessica Simpson is finally done "Jess-tating" and is now a mama of three.

Baby Birdie Mae Johnson joined siblings Ace and Maxwell on Tuesday, March 19, Simpson announced via Instagram.

Simpson's third child weighed in at 10 pounds, 13 ounces.

Birdie's name is no surprise to Jessica's Instagram followers, who saw numerous references to the name in her baby shower photos and IG stories in the last few weeks.

The name Birdie isn't in the top 1000 baby names according to the Social Security Administration, but It has been seeing a resurgence in recent years, according to experts.

"Birdie feels like a sassy but sweet, down-to-earth yet unusual name," Pamela Redmond Satran of Nameberry told Town and Country back in 2017. "It's also just old enough to be right on time."

At this moment in time, Simpson and her husband, former NFL player Eric Johnson, are probably busy counting little fingers and toes , which is great news because it means Simpson's toes can finally deflate. She's had a terrible time with swollen feet during this pregnancy, and was also hospitalized multiple times due to bronchitis in her final trimester.

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We're so glad to see Simpson's little Birdie has finally arrived!

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Spring is officially here and if you're looking for a way to celebrate the change in the season, why not treat the kids to some ice cream, mama?

DQ locations across the country (but not the ones in malls) are giving away free small vanilla cones today, March 20! So pack up the kids and get to a DQ near you.

And if you can't make it today, from March 21 through March 31, DQ's got a deal where small cones will be just 50 cents (but you have to download the DQ mobile app to claim that one).

Another chain, Pennsylvania-based Rita's Italian Ice is also dishing up freebies today, so if DQ's not your thing you can grab a free cup of Italian ice instead.

We're so excited that ice cream season is here and snowsuit season is behind us. Just a few short weeks and the kids will be jumping through the sprinklers.

Welcome back, spring. We've missed you!

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The woman who basically single-handedly taught the world to embrace vulnerability and imperfection is coming to Netflix and we cannot wait to binge whatever Brené Brown's special will serve up because we'll probably be better people after watching it.

It drops on April 19 and is called Brené Brown: The Call to Courage. If it has even a fraction of the impact of her books or the viral Ted talk that made her a household name, it's going to be life and culture changing.

Announcing the special on Instagram Brown says she "cannot believe" she's about to be "breaking some boundaries over at Netflix" with the 77-minute special.

Netflix describes the special as a discussion of "what it takes to choose courage over comfort in a culture defined by scarcity, fear and uncertainty" and it sounds exactly like what we need right now.

April 19 is still pretty far away though, so if you need some of Brown's wisdom now, check out her books on Amazon or watch (or rewatch) the 2010 Ted Talk that put her—and our culture's relationship with vulnerability and shame—in the national spotlight.

The power of vulnerability | Brené Brown

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If Marie Kondo's Netflix show got people tidying up, Brown's Netflix special is sure to be the catalyst for some courageous choices this spring.

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My husband and I recently had a date night that included being away from our son overnight for the first time since he was born three years ago (but don't let your heads run away with a fantasy—we literally slept because we were exhausted #thisiswhatwecallfunnow). It was a combination of a late night work event, a feeling that we had to do something just for the two of us, and simple convenience. It would have taken hours to get home from the end of a very long day when we could just check into a hotel overnight and get home early the next day.

But before that night, I fretted about what to do. How would childcare work? No one besides me or my husband has put our son to bed, and we have never not been there when he wakes up in the morning.

Enter: Grandma.

I knew if there was any chance of this being successful, the only person that could pull it off is one of my son's favorite people—his grandmother. Grammy cakes. Gramma. We rely so much on these extended support systems to give us comfort and confidence as parents and put our kids at ease. Technically, we could parent without their support, but I'm so glad we don't have to.

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So as we walked out the door, leaving Grandma with my son for one night, I realized how lucky we are that she gets it...

She gets it because she always comes bearing delicious snacks. And usually a small toy or crayons in her bag for just the right moment when it's needed.

She gets it because she comes with all of the warmth and love of his parents but none of the baggage. None of the first time parent jitters and all of the understanding that most kids just have simple needs: to eat, play and sleep.

She gets it because she understands what I need too. The reassurance that my baby will be safe. And cared for.

She gets it because she's been in my shoes before. Decades ago, she was a nervous new mama too and felt the same worries. She's been exactly where we are.

She gets it because she shoos us away as we nervously say goodbye, calling out cheerfully, "Have fun, I've got this." And I know that she does.

She gets it because she will get down on the floor with him to play Legos—even though sometimes it's a little difficult to get back up.

She gets it because she will fumble around with our AppleTV—so different from her remote at home—to find him just the right video on Youtube that he's looking for.

She gets it because she diligently takes notes when we go through the multi-step bedtime routine that we've elaborately concocted, passing no judgment, and promising that she'll follow along as best as she can.

She gets it because she'll break the routine and lay next to him in bed when my son gets upset, singing softly in his ear until she sees his eyelids droop heavy and finally fall asleep.

She gets it because she'll text us to let us know when he's fallen asleep because she knows we'll be wondering.

She gets it because just like our son trusts us as his mom and dad, Grandma is his safe space. My son feels at ease with her—and that relaxes me, too.

She gets it because when we come home from our "big night out" the house will be clean. Our toddler's play table that always has some sort of sticky jelly residue on it will be spotless. The dishwasher empty. (Side note: She is my hero.)

She gets it because she shows up whenever we ask. Even when it means having to rearrange her schedule. Even when it means she has to sleep in our home instead of her own.

She gets it because even though she has her own life, she makes sure to be as involved in ours as she can. But that doesn't mean she gives unsolicited advice. It means that she's there. She comes to us or lets us come to her. Whenever we need her.

She gets it because she takes care of us, too. She's there to chat with at the end of a long day. To commiserate on how hard motherhood and working and life can be, but to also gently remind me, "These are the best days."

After every time Grandma comes over, she always leaves a family that feels so content. Fulfilled by her presence. The caretaking and nourishment (mental and food-wise) and warmth that accompanies her.

We know this is a privilege. We know we're beyond lucky that she is present and wants to be involved and gets it. We know that sometimes life doesn't work out like this and sometimes Grandma lives far away or is no longer here, or just doesn't get it. So we hold on. And appreciate every moment.

As Grandma leaves, I hug her tight and tell her, "I can't thank you enough. We couldn't have done this without you." Because we can't. And we wouldn't want to.

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