USA: Hiking with Kids

USA: Hiking with Kids

We are approaching summer in my part of the world, which means prime hiking season! I hike with my two boys all year round, but I love this time of year when things are a bit less wet. We live along the Cascade Mountain Range, so there is no shortage of amazing vistas and gorgeous forests to explore. I have been hiking with my kids since they were babies, most often on my own. My sons are now elementary school age, and while some things have gotten easier over the years, some have not. Endurance and motivation are continual challenges.

All of those lovely photos on social media usually have some rough backstory moments. But nothing ventured, nothing gained, so we keep at it.

Today I share some tips on planning a hike and keeping little feet moving along the path.

Choosing a Trail – It’s important to start any journey with a clear plan. Map out where you will go. Depending on where you live, there are often trail websites as well as guide books available that will tell you which are good hikes for kids and when is the best time of year to go. Take into consideration the drive as well as hike length and elevation gain. Are you considering a hike to a destination such as a waterfall or lake, or do you want a no-pressure meander in the forest? Find out if there is a bathroom at the trailhead. And if you do pick a hike with water features, have a plan for when your kids get wet, because they always do.

Safety – Once you have some ideas, make sure to check weather and trail conditions online or with the closest ranger station. Provided the trail looks good and you have any required permits, you can start gearing up. Make sure to pack the 10 essentials plus extra clothes, food, drinks, books, games, and toys for the car. If you are heading to a trail that will be near any ridge, look out,  or peak, have a plan to keep little ones safe. I always liked to bring a special blanket that we called the safety mat. When we were in situations where the kids needed to stay put, I brought out the safety mat and they knew there was no leaving the blanket. You may even offer stickers or other rewards for following safety protocol. Lastly, whether you go solo with kids or with friends, have another adult who is not on the hike as your check in buddy. Let them know where you are going, when you plan to return, when you will call to check in, and where they should call if you don’t.

The Drive – Hopefully your kiddos enjoy all those goodies you packed and let you focus on the road. I always keep an eye out on the drive for fun places to stop for a meal or a treat on the way home. I keep it under wraps, but there comes a point on a longer hike when saying “let’s just get to the car, and we can go get ice cream” helps a ton.

Hiking Goals – If your kids have a concept of distance or elevation, talk to them about what you are doing. Give everyone a map if available. Or better yet, give them pencil and a little notebook and have them draw the trail with noticeable landmarks. Consider having them take photographs along the way. My kids LOVE having a camera to carry and will take tons of photos. If the kids are younger, consider picking a favorite tv or book character to pretend to be and act out an adventure on the hike. My boys loved Thomas the Tank Engine, so we’d pretend to be the engines on the narrow-gauge line up on the mountains. If your kids are older, try geocaching, because everyone loves treasure hunting.

Bribery – There is no other way to put it. I bribe my kids. If the drive is super long, they get to play extra video games in the car for being good sports and coming along. I pack treats along with all the healthy stuff. In the photo above, my boys are shown on a mountain peak. Leading up to that moment, my youngest was beginning to bonk at the site of the final climb. I let him know if he made it to the top, he could eat all the cookies before his lunch. He was thrilled, and as the photo shows, we made it. Maybe video games and cookies aren’t going to work for you, but there is something special you can do to reward all that effort.

The last piece of advice I will offer is to always know that at any time you may need to bail.

Maybe it happens on the drive or on the trail, but set a clear expectation with yourself that it will be whatever it will be, which may mean only a few feet down the path. But the more you get your kids out on the trail, the more accustomed to the work they become. And before you know it, you are on top of a mountain having the cookie party of a lifetime!

Do you explore the outdoors with your children? What tips do you have on keeping them safe and moving?

This has been an original post for World Moms Network by Tara B. Photo credit to the author.

Tara Bergman (USA)

Tara is a native Pennsylvanian who moved to the Seattle area in 1998 (sight unseen) with her husband to start their grand life adventure together. Despite the difficult fact that their family is a plane ride away, the couple fell in love with the Pacific Northwest and have put down roots. They have 2 super charged little boys and recently moved out of the Seattle suburbs further east into the country, trading in a Starbucks on every corner for coyotes in the backyard. Tara loves the outdoors (hiking, biking, camping). And, when her family isn't out in nature, they are hunkered down at home with friends, sharing a meal, playing games, and generally having fun. She loves being a stay-at-home mom and sharing her experiences on World Moms Network!

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USA: The Back to School Safety Puppet Show

USA: The Back to School Safety Puppet Show

tara_puppetsWe are nearing the end of summer here in the US, and I just put on my annual back to school safety puppet show for my kids. I started the practice when my eldest was just starting out, but even at ten years old, he enjoys sitting down for my Mom Production.

I came up with the idea years ago, not only to provide my kids with tips for self-care, but also to mollify my control issues.

When my first son was a toddler at home, and then a preschooler, I felt confident that I could shield him from certain dangers. However, once he started Kindergarten in the public school, I realized that there was much of his day that he would need to navigate on his own, even with support from teachers, staff and friends.

There are many lightly supervised zones where things only get noticed upon full escalation. That was hard for me to accept, but it’s life. So the talent show was born to help us both with this process, and it has stuck to this day.

I cover the big topics in an age-appropriate yet crystal clear manner:

Traveling to and from school. My kids take the bus most of the time, but there are special exceptions for playdates or activities. My puppet show covers who they are allowed to leave school grounds with, and what to do if they are unsure. This naturally brings in talking points around school staff versus unknown persons on campus, and our emergency contact list.

Private body parts. We review what they are and the fact that no one can touch, explore, or try to see anyone else’s. Not kids. Not grownups. No one. Accidental bathroom viewing aside, private parts are aptly named because they are private.

Now bathroom humor can be hilarious, but it’s important that the potty jokes are just words and do not actually cross the physical line.

Weapons. Toy weapons are not allowed at school. So guess what? Real weapons aren’t either. No guns or knives or cross bows or spears or anything of the like, whether it’s real or Nerf. If anyone has one with them, talks about having one hidden at the school or about bringing it to school, it needs to be reported.

Food, drugs, and alcohol. The bottom line is that food and drinks cannot be shared at school. This may sound harsh, but there are too many variables that could go wrong. Teacher-approved birthday treats and school bought lunches aside, you need to stick with what you brought. Some kids have allergies. Some kids need to take medicine. Some kids like to experiment with grown up stuff like beer and cigarettes even if it’s bad for them. So to make sure everyone has the right stuff that won’t harm them, don’t take food or anything consumable from other kids, and don’t share your own. We can plan snack parties and picnics together outside of the school day.

I know it sounds like a lot, but trust me, when hilarious looking puppets are walking you through it, times flies and giggles abound. But how much of this actually sinks in?  Probably not all of it, but I do know that a few take-aways stick.

Those include tattling versus helping, the things that have a hard line you cannot cross, and when in doubt, talk with the staff in the school office.

Will my kids always make the choices I want them to? Probably not. However, when things do come up, we have a foundation from which to build. I will continue to do the back to school safety puppet show as long as my kids will sit down and watch. I am hoping to make it to college.

How do you prepare your kids for going back to school? Do you or your school address safety topics?

This has been an original post for World Moms Network by Tara B. Photo credit is to the author.



Tara Bergman (USA)

Tara is a native Pennsylvanian who moved to the Seattle area in 1998 (sight unseen) with her husband to start their grand life adventure together. Despite the difficult fact that their family is a plane ride away, the couple fell in love with the Pacific Northwest and have put down roots. They have 2 super charged little boys and recently moved out of the Seattle suburbs further east into the country, trading in a Starbucks on every corner for coyotes in the backyard. Tara loves the outdoors (hiking, biking, camping). And, when her family isn't out in nature, they are hunkered down at home with friends, sharing a meal, playing games, and generally having fun. She loves being a stay-at-home mom and sharing her experiences on World Moms Network!

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USA/POLAND: New Writer Interview – Loren Braunohler

USA/POLAND: New Writer Interview – Loren Braunohler

DSC016171. Where in the world do you live? And, are you from there?

Currently, I live in Washington, D.C. with my husband and three children (ages 1, 2, and 4).  Our family is constantly on the move because we are a U.S. Foreign Service Family.  We just returned to the U.S. after nearly four years in Bangkok, Thailand, where both of my daughters were born and my son grew up, and will be moving to Krakow, Poland in the summer of 2015.  I was born and raised in Florida, but I spent my high school years in Singapore.
2. What language(s) do you speak?

I speak English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Thai — some better than others!

3. When did you first become a mother (year/age)?

I first became a mother at the age of 31, when my son Logan was born (2010).

4. Are you a stay-at-home mom or do you work?

It was always my intention to continue working after I started my family (previously I was a U.S. diplomat serving in Mozambique, Venezuela, Sudan, Washington, D.C. and Thailand), but after the birth of my first child, I knew instantaneously that I wanted to be home with him — and other children we might have — in order to nurture them and watch them grow.  I was fortunate to be able to make the choice to stay at home and although some days are more challenging than others, I’ve never regretted the decision to leave my career in order to be at home with my children.

5. Why do you blog/write?

I write for a number of reasons.  First and foremost, I enjoy writing.  I’ve always written – whether in a journal, for major publications, or on my blog.  I express myself best when I write. I love being able to chronicle our family’s journey around the world on my blog, Toddle Joy.  I also enjoy being able to inform other parents about traveling with their families to places that we’ve lived and visited.  I love discovering new vacation spots and/or activities and being able to share that with others!

6. What makes you unique as a mother?

I  like to be on the go.  Whether it’s traveling to a new location or checking out a new local museum, library, or park, I like to be out and about.  I think my children have followed in my footsteps, because they cannot bear to be home for more than a few hours at a time before they are ready to get out and explore too.  Luckily, my husband’s job affords us the opportunity to move around the world to new locations every few years.  Suffice it to say, we never get bored.  It’s perfect for us!

7. What do you view as the challenges of raising a child in today’s world?

I like to encourage my children to be outgoing, courageous, and inquisitive.  I feel like there are some places in the world where they can do that freely and I don’t need to worry about their safety.  In other places, I worry more about their safety.  I want them to be able to trust others, but also have a sense of street smart about them.

8. How did you find World Moms Blog?

A dear friend of mine, Ana Gaby Turner, introduced me to World Moms Blog.  We lived together in Thailand and are now both in Washington, D.C.  We’ve shared many of the same overseas experiences and have children the same ages.

These interview questions were answered for World Moms Blog by Loren Braunohler. Photo credit: Loren Braunohler.

Loren Braunohler

Loren Braunohler is a former U.S. diplomat turned stay-at-home mom and freelance writer. She is a world traveler who avoids the cold (don't ask why she is currently in Poland). Former assignments have included Mozambique, Venezuela, Australia, Sudan, Thailand and Washington, D.C. She enjoys running, although she probably enjoys sleeping even more. Loren blogs about her family's international adventures and parenting at

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FLORIDA, USA: A Pie for Ms. Jackson

FLORIDA, USA: A Pie for Ms. Jackson

DSC_0792Do you remember those movies in which a new family moves into a neighborhood, and one of the neighbors brings them a pie as a welcoming gesture? Maybe you have been the recipient of such a gift, or maybe the giver. Maybe, you have done neither and additionally do not know your neighbors. I must say I have been guilty of not being the pie-bringer, although it always looked so nice and like the joyful & peaceful thing to do.

Over the last two years I have been better at this, but truth be told, my mother would be doing a much better job and by now she would know everyone in half mile radius! There is one neighbor with whom I have a food exchange every so often. He is the one who calls on us and we can call on him when in need of some flour, or bug spray (Florida bugs want their swamp back), or someone to keep an eye out for our teen if we aren’t home when she gets back from school.

A man lives down the road and if it weren’t for his injured dog, we may have never struck a conversation. There is a guy everyone goes to when they need their car washed, gutters cleaned, or lawn mowed for a little money. Down the road there is a sweet older lady with a name that makes you want to know if she is a spy or what intriguing life stories she may have. I haven’t asked her yet, but I will. For now she is my ‘hugging’ neighbor while with all the others I exchange nods, waves, and the occasional, “How do you do?”, and “Just trying to stay out of this heat!” The corner/convenience store is owned by some cool people, whom I would feel safe sending my teen girl to buy groceries from.

That’s really it. My motivation for getting to know my neighbors has realistically been for the safety of my children and my family as a whole.

I want to know we can walk around safely, and that no one would bother my daughter. In the event that a stranger walked on this road, I want to know that my neighbors will intervene on my behalf to ensure my daughter’s safety. I want to know that if she goes to the convenience store on her own, that they will give her exact change if she miscounts.

Ideally I would know all my neighbors. I would have been in their homes at least once if it seemed safe, and if not that, I would at least know their names. So what’s stopped me? Maybe wanting to stay out of people’s business. As a photographer I have become sensitive to people’s want for privacy, and maybe I am spreading that sensitivity to situations that don’t really need it. After all, some people are just camera-shy, but would love to share a recipe, or a story, or know they can come to you if they need their trash bin put on the curb if they won’t be here on trash day.

Maybe getting to know our neighbors is a part of making make the world seem less crazy, technological advances less calculated, and absence of family less cold as the family that neighbors can be brings warmth in our lives. Of course this may be the case if our neighbors aren’t what makes the world a crazy, sad, and maddening place.

How about you and your family – do you know your neighbors well? Do you think there was more emphasis on getting to know your neighbors in years past? Does the type of neighborhood you live in play a factor in whether you get to know the people next door, or make you keep your distance?

Thank you for reading. Please share your thoughts & experiences 🙂

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Sophia. You can find her blogging at Think Say Be and on twitter @ThinkSayBeSNJ.

Photo credit to the author.


I am a mom amongst some other titles life has fortunately given me. I love photography & the reward of someone being really happy about a photo I took of her/him. I work, I study, I try to pay attention to life. I like writing. I don't understand many things...especially why humans treat each other & other living & inanimate things so vilely sometimes. I like to be an idealist, but when most fails, I do my best to not be a pessimist: Life itself is entirely too beautiful, amazing & inspiring to forget that it is!

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TUNISIA: The Evacuation: A Mother’s Tale

TUNISIA: The Evacuation: A Mother’s Tale

Natalia and her son in Tunis.

Natalia and her son in Tunis.

As I sat in the Embassy listening to the rocks and chants hitting the wall outside, I couldn’t help but feel as though my maternal instincts had failed me. Why didn’t I know to leave? Why did I stand on the second floor, flippantly observing the gathering crowds, and assume it would just be your standard protest? Shouldn’t I have had some sixth sense, some feeling in my gut that things were going to go from bad to worse?

I knew that the baby was far from danger, picked up by family friends from his daycare miles from the Embassy. The staff had in fact been quite at a loss to understand why I couldn’t pick him up at 2pm. “Protests you say?”

The events of September 14th at the U.S Embassy in Tunis took many people by surprise. Not least of which the Tunisians who were even more taken aback when the order was given to evacuate all non-essential Embassy personnel and all families. (more…)

Natalia Rankine-Galloway (Morocco)

Natalia was born a stone's throw from the Queen's racetrack in Ascot, UK and has been trying to get a ticket to the races and a fabulous hat to go with it ever since. She was born to a Peruvian mother and an Irish father who kept her on her toes, moving her to Spain, Ireland and back to the UK before settling her in New York for the length of middle and high school. She is still uncertain of what she did to deserve that. She fled to Boston for college and then Washington, D.C. to marry her wonderful husband, who she met in her freshman year at college. As a military man, he was able to keep her in the migratory lifestyle to which she had become accustomed. Within 5 months of marriage, they were off to Japan where they stayed for a wonderful 2 and one half years before coming home to roost. Baby Xavier was born in New York in 2011 and has not slept since. A joy and an inspiration, it was Xavier who moved Natalia to entrepreneurship and the launch of CultureBaby. She has loved forging her own path and is excited for the next step for her family and CultureBaby. Natalia believes in the potential for peace that all children carry within them and the importance of raising them as global citizens. She loves language, history, art and culture as well as Vietnamese Pho, Argentinian Malbec, English winters, Spanish summers and Japanese department stores...and she still hopes one day to catch the number 9 race with Queen Liz. You can find her personal blog, The Culture Mum Chronicles.

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