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We went camping for the first time as a family this past weekend. I went camping for the first time this past weekend. Like at a campsite, in a tent, in sleeping bags, on the ground, camping.

My husband, Travis, had wanted to go camping for some time. He wanted it to be “our thing.” He wanted our family to be a camping family. He was putting a lot of stock into this dream with a wife who had never camped before and the unpredictable nature of the weather app.

“I’m going to take Anna camping for her birthday,” he told me back in September. Secretly I was relieved he didn’t invite me on their father/daughter trip. I wasn’t so sure I was ready to be among the bugs and the dirt and sleeping on the hard ground just yet.

He made reservations at a campsite at a nearby lake. Anna’s third birthday came, and with it, a storm that was to last all weekend. They moved their camping trip indoors and set up the tent in our tiny living room. She had a blast. She had no idea this wasn’t real camping.

But Travis did. He was ready for the real thing. He longed to be sitting by the fire roasting marshmallows and hot dogs, falling asleep under the stars, and waking up to the birds chirping and the cool air filling his lungs. And he wanted to experience it all with his family.

Autumn left without another camping trip planned. Winter was cold, as usual, but living in the south we knew it wouldn’t be long before spring brought warmer temperatures. Travis spent December through February researching the best tents, sleeping bags, and other camping gear out there. Who knew there was something called a mummy wrap to keep you from freezing to death while you sleep? 

He set up a trip in February to go with a good friend. They went backpacking for two nights. He was very thankful for that mummy wrap — without it and a few other pieces of clothing he might have actually frozen to death.

After that experience he was more ready than ever to introduce his family to the great outdoors. I told him we needed to wait until the weather app told us the low would be higher than 50 degrees. But he lived for the open air and the surrounding trees. He was suffocating in the urban jungle of Charlotte.

At the beginning of each week starting in March, Travis would check the weather app for the following weekend. For six weeks the low was less than 50 degrees. He began growing weary. Until the weather app brought great news — at least, great news for him. He reserved our spot on Lake Wylie, we gathered all our supplies (sans mummy wrap because you don’t need one when the low is higher than 50 degrees), and we loaded the car. We were going camping!

Excitement filled the car but my expectations were low. Since I had never slept in a sleeping bag on the hard ground, in a tent, outdoors, with nothing but mesh between the elements and me I didn’t know if I’d wake up with a crick in my neck that would last for the next week. I feared what it would be like for Anna and our son, Theo, who was barely a year-and-a-half. Would Anna be startled by the sounds or scared of the dark? Would Theo toss and turn all night, waking up at all hours and impossible to lull back to sleep?

I wondered what Travis was really thinking taking his young family into the woods. As soon as he reminded me of conversations with friends who have taken their kids camping and survived, I trusted him and began eagerly anticipating the unknown.

Pulling into the campground I was relieved knowing we weren’t the only young family to leave the comforts of our home to brave the outdoors. Moms and dads were pitching their tents or making their RVs ready while kids ran through the trees and down by the playground.

We parked the car at our own campsite and I immediately noticed how peaceful it was with the trees enveloping our little space. We were far enough away from the other campers but close enough to the playground and bath house to make me feel like we weren’t in total seclusion. I stepped out of the car, and after feeling the crunch of the gravel beneath my feet I looked up at Travis.

“We’re sleeping on gravel?”    

“Jess, just breathe.”

That’s all he said. That’s all he needed to say for me to remember we weren’t at the Hilton. He would’ve said it was better than the Hilton; the verdict was still out for me.

Not even 30 minutes later our kids were playing in that gravel. Dirt so thick on their little bodies, dirt so embedded under their tiny fingernails, I cringed knowing a bath was still 24 hours away. I carried the baby wipes around with me, following their every move, wiping and scrubbing the caked on dirt to no avail while Travis sat in his chair enjoying his surroundings.

“Jess, just breathe,” he reminded me again.

He was right. I needed to breathe. I needed to remember that the wilderness calls for dirt under your nails and dirt in your clothes and dirt everywhere. It was going to happen regardless of whether or not I ran at the heels of my kids with a baby wipe in hand. Why was I fighting it? I know how important it is for kids to play outdoors, getting dirty, feeling the earth, playing with sticks and bugs, building castles made out of rocks. Exploration. Feeling. Sensing. This is how they grow.

“We’re going to have to clean them with soap and water before we eat,” I told him.

“Just breathe.” The baby wipes sufficed.

“We should have them take a shower in the bath house before we get in the tent for the night,” I recommended.

“Just breathe.” The shower was nixed.

We fell asleep under the stars. We were dirty. All of us. We smelled of fire and smoke and the great outdoors. Before I closed my eyes for the night I peered over at my sleeping babes next to me. Anna’s face was smudged with dirt and leftover marshmallow from her s’mores. Theo bore a welt on his forehead from a fall he took earlier off the picnic table and his fingernails were caked with earth. As I drifted off to sleep, I breathed for what felt like the first time that day and decided camping wasn’t so bad after all.

We were stirred awake the next morning by the birds chirping and the sun breaking through the trees illuminating the inside of our tent. We survived the night! I took a deep breath allowing the fresh, cool air to fill my lungs. I was determined to let my kids get as dirty as they possibly could that day knowing we would leave in a few hours to return to our home and bubble baths. And they did.

Later that evening I held Theo close as I nursed him in our chair. After a night in the wilderness it felt good to be back among the familiar. Taking a deep breath I let the heavenly scent of Burt’s Bees baby shampoo overwhelm me. I took his hand in my own. The earth that was once caked under his fingernails had been washed away. No trace of camping left on our bodies.

Just breathe.

Travis’ words echoed through my mind. He knew that was all it would take for me to enjoy our first time camping as a family and to allow my kids to experience the great outdoors in all it’s glory.



Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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Baby stuff comes in such cute prints these days. Gone are the days when everything was pink and blue and covered in ducks or teddy bears. Today's baby gear features stylish prints that appeal to mom.

That's why it's totally understandable how a mama could mistake a car seat cover for a cute midi skirt. It happened to Lori Farrell, and when she shared her mishap on Facebook she went viral before she was even home from work. Fellow moms can totally see the humor in Farrell's mishap, and thankfully, so can she.

As for how a car seat cover could be mistaken for a skirt—it's pretty simple, Farrell tells Motherly.

"A friend of mine had given me a huge lot of baby stuff, from clothes to baby carriers to a rocker and blankets and when I pulled it out I was not sure what it was," she explains. "I debated it but washed it anyway then decided because of the way it pulled on the side it must be a maternity skirt."

Farrell still wasn't 100% sure if she was right by the time she headed out the door to work, but she rocked the ambiguous attire anyway.

"When I got to work I googled the brand and realized not only do they not sell clothing but it was a car seat cover."

The brand, Itzy Ritzy, finds the whole thing pretty funny too, sharing Farell's viral moment to its official Instagram.

It may be a car seat cover, but that print looks really good on this mama.

And if you want to copy Farell's style, the Itzy Ritzy 4-in-1 Nursing Cover, Car Seat Cover, Shopping Cart Cover and Infinity Scarf (and skirt!) is available on Amazon for $24.94.

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy.You've got this.

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Daycare for infants is expensive across the country, and California has one of the worst states for parents seeking care for a baby. Putting an infant in daycare in California costs $2,914 more than in-state tuition for four years of college, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

Paying north of $1,000 for daycare each month is an incredible burden, especially on single-parent families. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines affordable childcare as costing no more than 10% of a family's income—by that definition, less than 29% of families in California can afford infant care. Some single parents spend half their income on day care. It is an incredible burden on working parents.

But that burden may soon get lighter. CBS Sacramento reports California may put between $25 and $35 million into child care programs to make day care more affordable for parents with kids under 3 years old.

Assembly Bill 452, introduced this week, could see $10 million dollars funneled into Early Head Start (which currently gets no money from the state but does get federal funding) and tens of millions more would be spent on childcare for kids under three.

The bill seeks to rectify a broken childcare system. Right now, only about 14% of eligible infants and toddlers are enrolled in subsidized programs in California, and in 2017, only 7% of eligible children younger than three years of age accessed Early Head Start.

An influx of between $25 to $35 million dollars could see more spaces open up for kids under three, as Bill 452, if passed, would see the creation of "grants to develop childcare facilities that serve children from birth to three years of age."

This piece of proposed legislation comes weeks after California's governor announced an ambitious plan for paid parental leave, and as another bill, AB 123, seeks to strengthen the state's pre-kindergarten program.

Right now, it is difficult for some working parents to make a life in California, but by investing in families, the state's lawmakers could change that and change California's future for the better.

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When a mama gets married, in most cases she wants her children to be part of her big day. Photographers are used to hearing bride-to-be moms request lots of pictures of their big day, but when wedding photographer Laura Schaefer of Fire and Gold Photography heard her client Dalton Mort planned to wear her 2-year-old daughter Ellora instead of a veil, she was thrilled.

A fellow mama who understands the benefits of baby-wearing, Schaefer was keen to capture the photos Mort requested. "When I asked Dalton about what some of her 'must get' shots would be for her wedding, she specifically asked for ones of her wearing Ellie, kneeling and praying in the church before the tabernacle," Schaefer tells Motherly.

She got those shots and so many more, and now Mort's toddler-wearing wedding day pics are going viral.

"Dalton wore Ellie down the aisle and nursed her to sleep during the readings," Schaefer wrote on her blog, explaining that Ellie then slept through the whole wedding mass.

"As a fellow mother of an active toddler, this is a HUGE win! Dalton told me after that she was SO grateful that Ellie slept the whole time because she was able to focus and really pray through the Mass," Schaefer explains.

Dalton was able to concentrate on her wedding day because she made her baby girl a part of it (and that obviously tired Ellie right out).

Ellie was part of the commitment and family Dalton if forging with her husband, Jimmy Joe. "There is no better behaved toddler than a sleeping toddler, and she was still involved, even though I ended up unwrapping her to nurse her. I held her in my arms while my husband and I said our vows. It was really special for us," Dalton told POPSUGAR.

This is a wedding trend we are totally here for!

Congrats to Dalton and Jimmy Joe (and to Ellie)! 🎉

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The internet is freaking out about how Peppa Pig is changing the way toddlers speak, but parents don't need to be too worried.

As Romper first reported, plenty of American parents have noticed that preschoolers are picking up a bit of a British accent thanks to Peppa. Romper's Janet Manley calls it "the Peppa effect," noting that her daughter started calling her "Mummy" after an in-flight Peppa marathon.

Plenty of other parents report sharing Manley's experience, but the British accent is not likely to stick, experts say.

Toronto-based speech and language pathologist Melissa James says this isn't a new thing—kids have always been testing out the accents they hear on TV and in the real world, long before Peppa oinked her way into our Netflix queues.

"Kids have this amazing ability to pick up language," James told Global News. "Their brains are ripe for the learning of language and it's a special window of opportunity that adults don't possess."

Global News reports that back in the day there were concerns about Dora The Explorer potentially teaching kids Spanish words before the kids had learned the English counterparts, and over in the U.K., parents have noticed British babies picking up American accents from TV, too.

But it's not a bad thing, James explains. When an American adult hears "Mummy" their brain translates it to "Mommy," but little kids don't yet make as concrete a connection. "When a child, two, three or four, is watching a show with a British accent and hears [words] for the first time, they are mapping out the speech and sound for that word in the British way."

So if your baby is oinking at you, calling you "Mummy" or testing out a new pronunciation of "toh-mah-toe," know that this is totally natural, and they're not going to end up with a life-long British pig accent.

As Dr, Susannah Levi, associate professor of communicative sciences and disorders at New York University, tells The Guardian, "it's really unlikely that they'd be acquiring an entire second dialect from just watching a TV show."

It sure is cute though.

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