Thursday, October 13, 2011

Vacation Weekend with Volunteers

On the weekend of October 8 some of the amazing women and men who work hard to make Natural Parents Network the wonderful community and resource that it is got together for a meet-up at two locations across the U.S. — the Midwest and the Northwest. This was the first time that many of the volunteers have met in person after a year of collaborating on this amazing website. Please scroll to the bottom of this post for a list of links so that you can read what some of the other volunteers had to say about this incredible First Annual Natural Parents Network Team Get-Together!

It had been in the planning for months! As the date approached, my husband wanted me to admit (and realize) that we might not be able to afford the trip, but I was determined! This was just the light at the end of the tunnel / vacation I needed! Camping was great, but it was only one night.

It was a full weekend get together of volunteers from Natural Parents Network! A chance to meet all these internet friends... IRL! There were lots of confessions leading up to it, mostly people worried about meeting. Just like online, though, no one judged.

Midwestern Volunteer GatheringMost of our group.

With my first impressions of our arrival to our hosts' home running through my mind, it feels like it will sound like a hotel review! It was just really, really cool to see a real person using cloth "toilet paper," unpaper towels, and actually sorting garbage into recycle bins! Either she just re-organized how she handles these things or she is the real green deal!

Sasha took a shining to Kieran plenty fast and they were soon using an air mattress as a trampoline! I was glad for the opportunity for Sasha to get out some of the energy after being strapped into a seat for nearly 6 hours. She even went to sleep by 11 (though she did wake at 12:30)!

Since we're night owls anyway, I volunteered to wait up for some late night guests. They arrived shortly after Sasha went to bed. I felt too wired to go to sleep so I was up when Sasha woke anyway.

Saturday morning we had brunch (frittata, muffins, and fruit) and worked on a craft project: Freezer Paper Stencils. I was still clueless on a design! I finally used one of my scrapbook stencils to create my own version of the Intact logo from

Freezer Stencil Art Projects hanging to dryMine is the white onesie with the red Intact logo.

I hurried to finish so I could work with the littles on a Shrinky Dink project. I brought 4 x 5 cards of plastic and colored pencils so they could do these.

A few of our kids doing Shrinky DinksA few of our kids doing Shrinky Dinks

Just being around so many people (and probably especially dealing with the kids), I was exhausted afterward! I went with my husband and Sasha to get some non-healthy food (though I totally enjoyed the frittata!). We went to Denny's (Daddy's favorite)! They have these pancake hush puppy things... served with syrup and cream cheese icing... O.M.G. SO yummy! We got back with some time to spare before the afternoon hike.

I couldn't quite get Sasha down for a nap due to people coming through our room to get to the laundry facilities. I don't blame them, but I wish I had a "do not disturb" or "climb through window" tag for the door or something. If she'd gone to sleep, she would have slept through the noise, but the door was noisy. I was tired, but Elmo was the one that got a nap. I might have been more disappointed, if he hadn't been up since before 5:00.

Thankfully, a friend offered up some Gatorade for hubby... we all packed up and headed over to Burr Oak Woods to tour their nature center and then drove to a hiking trail.

Burr Oaks Woods Nature TrailDaddy, Mommy & Sasha, starting on the hike...

Mind you, I was unable to get out into the heat to walk all Summer. Our walks have included our apartment complex which means mostly flat ground and nice sidewalks. We quickly fell to the back of the pack and were lagging behind a bit. We started power walking, even with Sasha in tow, until we realized we just were NOT making any headway. Once we stopped and just enjoyed the hike itself, it was much nicer! I was amazed I didn't get out of breath unless I was carrying Sasha or going up a steady incline. We did eventually catch up to a few people, but then fell behind again. Then we caught up with one friend (and her son) and got to visit quite a bit along the last bit of the walk. I even left my family behind a bit as we discussed homeschooling!

Daddy & Sasha coming back across the bridgeDaddy & Sasha were the last to come back across the bridge, finishing the long (took US about an hour) hike.

I only thought I was exhausted earlier! Now I was really worn out! We returned to our hosts' home for a cookout. It was such a nice, casual time. The black bean brownies were delish! I avoided the s'mores for the sake of diabetes. We played with Sasha in the swing and watched little ones play together. The weather was perfect. Sasha actually fell asleep by 9:30 (this never happens) and I was in bed by 10:00 (also never happens)! The other guests stayed up for a while and visited with the hosts. I would have liked to visit, but I was simply too tired!

Daddy pushing Sasha in the SwingDaddy created this game: they made roller coaster noises as he pushed her waaay back slowly, then a kiss & go!
"dub, dub, dub, dub" - Sasha's version
This pic is actually from Saturday morning.

Sunday morning was family yoga, but I opted to get my belly henna done during this time. I would really have liked to at least watch and I'm interested to see how Sasha would do in such a setting. Still, it was really nice to get to know a friend even better and my henna is awesome!

Family YogaKieran, Acacia (the instructor), Azalea, Martin, and Amy doing some animal yoga

Pregnant Henna BellyMy Henna Design
Sasha smudged the spider, but Joni Rae salvaged it.

This was all followed by a Parenting Chat lead by another team member. It was a bit hard to participate with a child to whom to tend, but I did get to participate in some of it. And it was cool that the kids could be underfoot. Then I went with my husband and Sasha for an unhealthy lunch again. (He doesn't eat healthy food.) We had Sonic this time, but brought it back to our room.

I was able to help just a bit to prepare food for the evening's meal. We had quinoa chili with all the fixin's and I cut up some fruit for a fruit plate. There was also a veggie tray. The chili was so good! I fetched my bowl and actually chose to sit at a table outside for once and Surprise! I was suddenly showered with gifts from all my NPN Teammates! I have not counted yet, but I got an insane amount of cloth diapers / covers / etc! Two people told me I actually have more diapers in my stash than they do - already! I got all teary eyed explaining how I wanted to do cloth, but didn't think I was going to be able to due to start up cost. It was just amazing what all these wonderful people poured out to me! There were three large gift bags overflowing with stuff from everyone!

Surprise Cloth Diaper Baby ShowerSurprise Cloth Diaper Baby Shower

We did eventually get a video chat going with the Northwest members of our NPN Team. I'm not sure I liked the User Interface, but otherwise it was really cool to get to "meet" them as well! Some of my gifts came from them, too!

Pacific Northwest NPN Volunteer GatheringThe Northwest Bunch
(Our group was the Midwest)

People started working on leaving around 7:00 to drive to their home states / towns. It was sad to see people go, but we kept clinging to the people that remained. I got some great time to get to know friends. I stayed up quite a bit later and got to have some great chat time with my host. We shared a lot and commiserated as well... we're both pregnant and having nursing issues.

Monday morning we woke early and started preparing for the drive home. It felt a little odd to be the only guests left in the house, but I appreciated getting to start our drive on a fresh day! I did some vacuuming and we hit the road...

I did, eventually, learn that "family cloth" was a good, fitting term for the non-paper toilet paper. Daddy even used it for Sasha whenever he took her to go. We were also reminded how awesome Magna Doodles® are... Sasha must have one!

Above all, it was SO nice to vacation with friends and get to put faces / voices to all the names! I definitely hope this becomes an annual event! There is even talk about a Northeastern event, even though we had a couple of Northeasterners in our party.

My Henna Belly - 2 Days LaterMy Henna Belly - 2 Days Later
(finished darkening)

Click over to Code Name: Mama to see her Pregnant Henna Belly!

How many online friends have you gotten to meet IRL?
Did they live up to the hype?

To learn more about all the members of the Natural Parents Network team, visit our about page. To become a volunteer for NPN, first please check out what we're in need of, then contact us if you're interested in helping out. Here's information about some of our lovely volunteers, including all of those who are writing about the gathering today:

In The First Annual Natural Parents Network Cross-Country Get Together, Natural Parents Network thanks the many volunteers who made our first annual get-together a success, and the awesome companies who donated to fill "welcome bags" for the Midwest group.

Northwest Gathering Attendees:

Lauren at Hobo Mama writes Meeting My NPN Friends.  Also find Lauren on Twitter and Facebook!

Amy at Anktangle writes Meeting the NPN Family.  Also find Amy on Twitter and Facebook.

Arpita at Up, Down & Natural writes Me And My Ladies ~ First Annual NPN Team Gathering.  Also find Arpita on Twitter and Facebook.

Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings writes Seattle Bloggy Meetup & Gluten-free Shortbread! Also find Kristin on Twitter and Facebook!

Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy writes Meeting Those People.... Also find Jennifer on Twitter.

Shannon at Pineapples & Artichokes writes Thanks.

Moorea at MamaLady: Adventures in Lesbian Parenting writes The Natural Parents Are Coming! Hide the Stroller!

Midwest Gathering Attendees:

Dionna at Code Name: Mama writes Wanted: More NPN Volunteers in Kansas City! Also find Dionna on Twitter and Facebook!

Jorje at Momma Jorje writes Vacation Weekend with Volunteers.  Also find Jorje on Facebook!

Amy at Peace 4 Parents writes The Value of Parent-to-Parent Support, Truth, Love, and Healing.  Also find Amy on Twitter and Facebook.

Amanda at Let's Take the Metro writes The Gathering.  Also find Amanda on Facebook.

Joni Rae at Tales of Kitchen Witch writes The One Where I Go to the NPN Gathering.  Also find Joni Rae on Twitter and Facebook

Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children writes First Natural Parents Network Get Together.

Rebekah & Chris at Liberated Family.  Also find Rebekah & Chris on Twitter.

Fabulous NPN Volunteers who were unable to attend:

Melissa at The New Mommy Files writes Building a Modern Day Village.  Find Melissa on Twitter and Facebook.

Rachael at The Variegated Life.  Find Rachel on Twitter and Facebook.

Luschka at Diary of a First Child writes Dear Screen Name, Are You Really My Friend? Find Luschka on Twitter and Facebook.

Darcel at The Mahogany Way writes The Natural Parents Network Gathering I Couldn't Attend.  Find Darcel on Twitter and Facebook.

Sarah at Parenting God's Children. Find Sarah on Twitter and Facebook.

Julia at A Little Bit of All of It. Find Julia on Twitter and Facebook.

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