Exploring with Kids: Newport Bay and Muth Interpretive Center

This week’s adventure took us to Upper Newport Bay and the Muth Interpretive Center. This is one of my personal favorites.

Exploring Newport Bay with Kids | Motherhood in the Trenches

Why We Like It:

Hike for All Ages: This is a really great hike for all ages. Even our three year olds did great and nobody complained of exhaustion. It was a warm day but the ocean breeze made the hike enjoyable. If you are new to hiking, this is the perfect trail for you. Just enough hiking to be called a hike but still really easy. There are quite a few opportunities to stop and look out. Toward the end of the loop (see map below for the loop we did), there was a beautiful lookout spot to take a little break.

Exploring Newport Bay with Kids | Motherhood in the Trenches

Nature Finds: There are usually a lot of birds, but on this trip we didn’t spot too many. We spotted a snowy egret flying by, a pair of ducks and a lot of sparrows. While hiking along the bay we spotted some round stingrays swimming near the shore which was a really fun discovery. We also spotted a few salt marsh caterpillars and a ton of snails.

Exploring Newport Bay with Kids | Motherhood in the Trenches

Muth Interpretive Center: This is probably our favorite nature center/interpretive center. The center itself teaches all about the estuary which is fascinating. There’s also a really cool “classroom” where the kiddos can play puzzles, color a large picture of the Upper Bay, play puppets, read books, check out some live reptiles and a large tarantula. My girls could spend forever in there.

Exploring Newport Bay with Kids | Motherhood in the Trenches

Outdoor Amphitheater: This is a great shaded area to have lunch. The kids love climbing on the rocks and logs and playing there. It’s also a great place to see the planes taking off from John Wayne airport. They’re super low and so cool to see close up.

 

What Should You Bring?

  • Strollers: The trails are stroller friendly. If you have a BOB or something similar, you’ll be great. I have an old, very basic Graco and it did okay but with a bit of struggle.
  • Baby Carrier if you don’t want to use the stroller
  • Sunscreen, hats and sunglasses: There is no shade on the trails and the sun can be pretty intense, even in the morning during the late spring and throughout the summer.
  • Light Jacket: If you’re exploring during the early spring you’ll want a light jacket as it can tend to stay pretty overcast in the morning. Definitely check the weather forecast before you go so you can see what the cloud cover will be like.
  • Lots of cold water: Between the hiking and the hot sun, you’ll need lots of water.
  • Binoculars: You don’t get too close to the bay using the trail so you’ll want binoculars to see the bay and birds flying by.

How to Get There:

This site is a little tricky so I thought I’d share some tips for getting to the center.

For starters you’ll park in a dirt parking lot right off of Irvine and University. The Interpretive Center is down below, so you’ll hike down hill a bit to get there. When you’re in the parking lot you’ll see a map:

Exploring Newport Bay with Kids | Motherhood in the Trenches

 

and a sign like this:

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Follow the trail to the right of the map to get down to the interpretive center.

There is a map on the Newport Bay Conservancy site but it wasn’t very helpful. I’d suggest you look at the satellite version on Google Maps to familiarize yourself with the trails.  I created the map below to show you where to enter, where to park, how to hike down to the center and the that trail we took. The loop we did was the perfect length for all of the kiddos, and mamas too. It took us about an hour with quite a bit of stopping to observe and play. NOTE: When you start the trail you’ll want to stay on the dirt path, not the asphalt bike path. The dirt path is a bit hidden by some benches but you’ll see a fence that separates the dirt path from the asphalt bike path. Make sure you’re on the dirt path. (click the map to make it larger)

Exploring Newport Bay with Kids | Motherhood in the Trenches

Things you should know:

  • The Muth Interpretive Center is open Tuesday – Sunday from 10am – 4pm
  • Wild Tales is a one hour program for kiddos ages 2-5 and is held on Friday mornings from 10:30 am – 11:30 am. There is storytelling, crafts and activities and a nature walk. It’s $5 per kid and you must pre-register
  • Family Science Sundays are held one Sunday each month. This is for kiddos ages 3-12. This is a free event with self-guided activities to help you explore the center and the area around it.

If you guys get to check out the Newport Bay I’d love to see your photos! You can hashtag them #bravelittleexplorers and also check out our Instagram account just for our outdoor adventures! IG: @bravelittleexplorers

Happy exploring!

 

A Visit to Amy’s Farm

A Trip to Amy's Farm | Motherhood in the Trenches

This week our nature group visited Amy’s Farm. We have loved Amy’s Farm for years, there is so much to offer for the whole family in a variety of capacities.

Why We Like It:

The Heart of the Farm: Amy’s Farm is one of those places where you leave knowing it’s a special place. Their desire to educate, to give back to the community, to love others, it’s all evident in the way they run the farm and treat those who visit. During our tour Farmer Randy came and talked with the kids about the need for young people to become farmers so that they can keep the farming tradition alive. He also taught them how God gave us sun, water, seeds and our hands to grow plants. I just love that the heart of the farm isn’t simply to exist but to teach and encourage others.

A Trip to Amy's Farm | Motherhood in the Trenches

They Give Back: Amy’s Farm has established relationships with various food banks within the Inland Valley and they donate fresh produce to the food banks. Do you know how rare it is to find fresh, organic produce at a food bank? I just think it’s so cool that they give to the food banks. If you visit you can also bring canned goods to donate and they will take them to the food bank when they deliver the fresh produce.

A Trip to Amy's Farm | Motherhood in the Trenches

The Organic Produce: During your tour you will tour the organic garden and pick some of the veggies that are growing. I love that my kids get to see where food comes from. I think it’s so important for our kids to understand that food doesn’t just magically appear at the grocery store. There are hard working farmers who grow our food. This is a great opportunity for them to see that. Amy’s Farm also has a farm stand where they sell fruits and veggies, organic beef, organic pork, eggs, goat cheese, goat’s milk soap, raw honey and other goodies.

A Trip to Amy's Farm | Motherhood in the Trenches

It’s SO fun: Seriously the farm is just so fun. You get to pet goats in the petting zoo, milk a cow, brush a horses and feed the pigs. It’s really just so much fun.

A Trip to Amy's Farm | Motherhood in the Trenches

Picnic Area: There’s a big grassy area and picnic benches suited for large or small groups. After the tour we headed over there to have a snack and let the kids run around in the grass field. The kids had a blast.

A Trip to Amy's Farm | Motherhood in the Trenches

What Should You Bring?

  • Water Bottles
  • Sunscreen, sunglasses, hats, etc. (there’s not much shade and it can get really hot in the spring and summer so be prepared for that)
  • Rain boots if you have them. Rain boots are the best because you’ll be walking through mud and poo and they’re so easy to wash off when you get home. If you don’t have rainboots then definitely wear shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty.
  • Cash or Credit Card to buy some goodies from the farm stand and to tip your tour guide

Things You Should Know:

  • The farm is mostly stroller friendly. It is all dirt or wood chips but I’ve used a cheap Graco stroller there with little problem. If you have an infant, I’ve found it best to bring both the stroller and the baby carrier because you can ditch the stroller for a bit while you meander through the garden with the baby in a carrier. Belle is a year and a half and while she wasn’t easy to redirect, she was able to walk the whole tour without problem.
  • You can book a tour for groups of 10 or more. If you want to just go with your own kiddos, you can call and see if there’s a tour you can join.
  • The tour lasts between 60 – 90 minutes
  • Cost is $8-$10 per person depending on what tour you do. Kiddos under 2 are free.
  • You and your kiddos can volunteer! I’m hoping to get my kiddos out there this summer to help out. I know the farmers usually need the most help pulling weeds. We have volunteered once in the past but I’m hoping we can do more in the near future. Click here for more info.
  • They have some really great events and workshops for kids, adults and the whole family so be sure to follow them on FB to get the latest news. Some of our favorites are the 8 week farm class called Fun on the Farm with Your Little One, which I posted about here and Bethlehem in the Barn which is a special event they do during the first week of December to kick off the Christmas season.

My Top Five Favorite Podcasts

Top Five Favorite Podcasts | Motherhood in the Trenches

I love a good podcast. When my sink is piled up with dishes or the floor needs a good mopping or the mountains of laundry need to be folded, a good podcast can change my attitude from dread to anticipation.

It was my hubby who first got me hooked on podcasts, we would separately listen to various TED talks and then discuss them afterward but TED could only carry me so far. I started looking for more and more podcasts and now I have a few that I really look forward to listening to each week. I love hearing about new podcasts so I thought I’d share my faves and I hope you’ll share your’s too!

Favorite Mommy Podcast: Coffee + Crumbs

Motherhood in the Trenches: Favorite PodcastsMy friend Jen recently told me about this podcast and I am hooked. There are some really great podcasts on motherhood out there but this one is for real. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a no frills kinda girl. I like jeans and t-shirts maybe an occasional blouse. I’m a glass half empty, or maybe even completely empty, kinda gal because from there things can only look up. I’m really trying to work on that perspective this year though! There are some podcasts out there that talk about a lot of precious things in motherhood but skip over the really hard things. I’m in the “trenches of motherhood” and I need to be reminded that I’m not alone here. That is what Coffee + Crumbs is all about, it’s three moms of little kids, who love Jesus and also know that motherhood is hard. I love their real perspective, the encouraging interviews and just everything about them.

Favorite episodes:

 

Favorite Homeschool Podcast, Not Just for Homeschoolers: At Home

Motherhood in the Trenches: Favorite PodcastsI’ve been following Greta Eskridge and Kristin Rogers on Instagram for a really long time. Even though I’ve only met Greta once and haven’t had an opportunity to meet Kristin, they are like some of my favorite people. They share real life but still bring so much joy, encouragement and beauty to their feeds and those who follow them. When I heard that they and a few other homeschool mamas were starting a podcast I was SO excited and I haven’t been disappointed, it is my absolute favorite podcast ever. In each episode they have a roundtable discussion about a given topic. I love hearing different perspectives on the same topic and while they are all further ahead in the parenting journey than I am, they still keep it real and I love that about them. I always leave encouraged and challenged to think through some of the things we’re doing at home. It’s hard to pick favorites because I really love almost every episode but here are a few you really have to check out, whether you homeschool or not…

Favorite episodes:

 

Favorite Kid Podcast: Brains On

Motherhood in the Trenches: Favorite PodcastsSo this podcast can be a little cheesy but Big Sis loves it. It’s all about science, which is her favorite and the two older girls love to guess the mystery sound in each episode. One thing to note, this is a secular podcast and as such, some episodes have a strong bent towards evolution so you’ll want to use your own discretion there.

 

Some of Big Sis’ favorite episodes:

 

Favorite “Girly” Podcast: The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey

170x170bb-3If you listen to this podcast, be ready to expand your personal reading list. Each week Jamie Ivey talks with a “girlfriend” about the big things in life, a lot of times these “girlfriends” have written books and the show allows you to hear just enough of her story that you totally want to go out and buy her book. I am fairly new to this podcast so I haven’t listened to the episodes in order, I’m sure there are some amazing episodes I’ve missed but these are my favorites that I’ve listened to so far…

Favorite Episodes:

 

Favorite Podcast for Anybody: TED Radio Hour

Motherhood in the Trenches: Favorite PodcastsEach episode of the TED Radio Hour is a compilation of several TED talks that center on one theme such as screentime, the source of happiness, artificial intelligence and other interesting topics. I think Guy Raz is a great host and while I tend to listen only when a subject seems interesting, I really enjoy the way they compile the TED talks.

 

Favorite Episodes:

 

Here are a few other favorites that I enjoy listening to:

I’d love to hear what you’re listening to, especially if it’s something that doesn’t fall into one of these categories. I need to expand my podcast listening! :)

Strawberry Picking: Kenny’s Strawberry Farm

One of my favorite things to do is to get outdoors with my family. I am very easily a homebody but as soon as I get outside I feel renewed. The more I go outside, the more I want to be outside and I see the same thing in my kiddos. We are fortunate enough to have a group of friends who feel the same way so every week we meet on Tuesday mornings and explore somewhere. Since most of the kiddos are pretty young, we usually stick to nature centers, farms and easier hikes.

Kenny's Farm Review | Motherhood in the Trenches

This week we visited Kenny’s Strawberry Farm in Fallbrook, CA. Kenny’s Strawberry Farm is similar to other U-Pick farms we’ve been to but let me tell you, if you’ve never picked fresh strawberries, you need to ASAP. These are the best strawberries I’ve ever had, even better than our local farmer’s market’s delicious strawberries. So juicy, so ripe, so so good.

Even Belle can tell that there’s something special about these berries. ;)

Kenny's Farm Review | Motherhood in the Trenches

Why we like it:

Easy parking: There’s a dirt lot that seems to have ample parking. There was a small field trip and a few other families visiting the day we visited and there seemed to be plenty more parking.

Kenny's Farm Review | Motherhood in the Trenches

The Collection Baskets: Sounds silly but have you ever taken toddlers and preschoolers fruit picking with a one handled basket? Lets just say, we’ve had plenty of blueberries spill on the dirt floor. The baskets are two handled baskets which make it almost impossible to spill. None of the 7 kiddos we were with spilled their strawberries. Yay!

Kenny's Farm Review | Motherhood in the Trenches

Easy to pick: Apple picking is hard because they’re up high, veggie picking can be tricky (especially those carrots!) and it’s difficult for the kiddos to decipher ripe blueberries from the unripe ones. Strawberries are easy to get off of the plant and it’s easy to determine if they’re ripe or not. Even the 3 year olds were able to find the ripe strawberries by their deep red color

Kenny's Farm Review | Motherhood in the Trenches

Picnic Area: There’s a spicket to rinse off your berries (only rinse the ones you’re going to eat there otherwise they’ll go bad really fast!) and covered picnic tables where you can sit and enjoy your strawberries.

 

Kenny's Farm Review | Motherhood in the Trenches

What should you bring?

  • Cash or credit card
  • Good walking shoes
  • Baby carrier for tiny ones (this is not stroller friendly)
  • Water bottles
  • Sunscreen, sunglasses, hats, etc. Aside from the picnic area, there’s not much shade so plan to be out in the sun while you’re picking
  • Wipes, cuz you know your kiddos are gonna end up covered in those juicy strawberries

 Things you should know:

This is a pretty quick trip. It only took our group of three mamas and 7 mostly little kiddos about 40 minutes to pick, pay and eat so if you’re driving a ways to get there you might want to head over to Myrtle Creek Botanical Gardens for a bit. I have a full post on Myrtle Creek coming soon but for now, you can click the link and check out what they have to offer, a butterfly garden, bird sanctuary, and beautiful grassy areas to run around, plus their  strawberry salad and Myrtle Berry Lemonade is delicious!!!!

Cease Striving

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It was past midnight, I laid in bed unable to sleep, warm tears soaking my pillow. I was so unhappy and feeling so guilty for being so unhappy. There were so many good things in my life, how could I possibly feel so lost?

In the dark of night, I began to pour out my heart on paper:

I want to feel alive
I want to feel the sand running though my fingers
Each grain slipping through, rubbing against my hands
My hands that so easily take to busyness, to work

Too busy to enjoy life
Too busy to feel alive

I want to see the smile on my daughters’ faces
Study each tooth, each line, each movement
Feel the joy exuding from them

To lay in bed next to my husband,
Hear his heartbeat,
His deep breaths as he falls into a slumber
Remembering from where we have come
But looking forward to our future

I want to feel alive
Taking the cool air into my nose,
Filling up my lungs
Recognizing the Creator
Worshipping
Praising
In awe of the One who gave me this life

To stop
To pause
To feel
To be
Alive

 

Night after night I poured out my heart on paper, random thoughts, raw emotions, spilling on the page…

Sometimes I want to shout from the rooftops, “I am here!” “I matter!” just so I believe myself.

What do I like and dislike?

What do I enjoy doing?

What makes me happy?

What brings me real joy?

WHO am I?

I was so lost. I had forgotten how to find delight. I had lost all sense of who I was. I allowed myself to get so tired, so worn down, so overworked that I had forgotten how to find delight in anything at all. I literally didn’t even know where to start to find delight. I was too tired for a hobby. Too exhausted to go out with friends. I wanted to enjoy my kids and my hubby and the life that was whirling around me but I was too tired…mentally, physically, emotionally DONE.

As I started praying and seeking the Lord, Psalm 46:10 kept “popping up.” Don’t you love those “coincidences?” Sweet whispers from the Lord. “Be still, and know that I am God.” This is a seemingly simple part of Psalm 46:10 and while it has been redundant to my ears many times, it hit me like a ton of bricks this time. The New American Standard version says, “Cease striving and know that I am God.”

God’s words to my heart:

Just be. Stop striving. Stop looking for more, stop wondering what will be, what could be, what could have been. Just be. Take Me in, learn about who I really am. Take in the life around you, your kids, your husband, creation that is all around you. Exist in the space that you are in. Stop going from one thing to another while thinking about the next thing. Just BE.

I played these words over and over in my mind.

My prayers for myself before all of this were often prayers of, “I don’t know what to pray for myself but God help me.” Now I had clarity for what to pray for myself, “God help me be. God teach me how to cease striving.”

I have these beautiful lives right in front of me and every day that I am in a fog of anxiety or depression or busyness, is a day that I have swallowed up. Danielle Bennett says in her poem “Kairos” (a moving spoken word poem that you should totally listen to), “I want to taste the day before I swallow it.” I know that learning to “be” is going to be a lifetime journey. A life of learning to accept what is in front of me. A life of learning to enjoy what exists around me. A life of constantly surrendering myself to His glory. A life of learning to be ALIVE.