The power cuts out mid-cupcake baking session. 

The oven clicks off, the mixer stops whirring, and the sound machine upstairs falls silent. Twenty seconds later, the first wail erupts from my son’s room.

“Looks like brother bear is up,” my daughter Madelyn says. 

“Yes,” I say. I lean my hands on the oven door and sigh. “Well, at least we have enough cupcakes done for your friends tomorrow.” She nods, and I head upstairs to grab our crying toddler. As I kiss him on the head and come back downstairs, we peer out the windows and into the front yard. 

“How long do you think the power will be off?” Madelyn asks.

“I don’t know, but keep the fridge and freezer closed, OK?” We go out the front door and walk into my next-door neighbor. 

“You too?” she asks. I nod and reply, “Well, I’m glad it’s not just us.”

“And it’s a beautiful day!” Madelyn pipes up, already pulling her boots on behind me. “We can play outside, right mom?”

“I don’t see why not,” I say and search the mudroom bin for brother bear’s tiny tennis shoes. 

Madelyn snaps her helmet on and grabs her scooter while her brother starts poking in the dirt with a stick. I grab a hat, a bottle of water, and settle in to watch the kids play. 

small child standing in a park with bare trees in the fall

That night, I pull down our 1,000 Hour Outside tracking sheet. Back in July 2021, I didn’t know if I thought it would be possible to spend 1,000 hours outside. But as I bubble in 3 more hours, I see that we are already at 630 hours, and it’s February 2022. 

We started the challenge after hearing about it from friends.

We had already missed the official January start date but I shrugged that off, deciding to start anyway in July. Our life is rarely marked by the beginning of a calendar year. I tend to measure time in duty stations. At that point, we had eighteen months left in Virginia. With the pandemic stretching on, outside gatherings, playdates, and activities still felt the most comfortable to us.

Instead of feeling hindered by the current living conditions, I felt encouraged to start a new-to-us adventure.

We had missed so much of this duty station with lockdown and then a new baby amidst social distancing and extended closures. But now, we could reframe our time here. We could focus on getting out in the natural beauty of Virginia.

Halfway into the 1,000 Hour Outside challenge, we’ve gained confidence. We’ve always been one to make the most of each duty station, but we needed to remember that as we’ve grown into a family of four. And a little external challenge push was just what we needed. We have spent time on hikes, at parks, playgrounds, renting a cabin, and camping in our backyard. 

I credit our choice to begin the challenge as a turning point for our family’s well-being for the past six months. 

While the big adventures have been wonderful, I have also noticed that we’ve developed more healthy daily habits because of it. We walk most days as a family. I use the backyard as a tool to help me prep dinner, help anxious little bodies burn off some steam, or both. As we’ve continued to homeschool and if the weather is nice, we’ll often do our lessons on the porch or in the backyard. 

When I am feeling mentally and emotionally drained, I tend to reach for whatever gear I might need and get outside. While I know each duty station comes with its own challenges (and weather!), I’m happy we’ve taken this step. I am eager to reach our first 1,000 hours and then see how often we can repeat.

What other wonders will we encounter if we experience nature together? 

What other precious gifts will it provide for our bodies and minds as we continue to grow? 

I can’t wait to find out, outside! child standing outside in the snow near a frozen pond

Are you interested in learning about the 1,000 Hour Outside Challenge? 

You can find out more about the challenge at the 1000 Hours Outside website. They have a store full of swag and free tracking sheets!

Founder Ginny Yurich is also on Instagram, with a phrase that captures the challenge as “…a movement for those who want a slower childhood and a fuller life.” The tag #1000hoursoutside is fun to check out and see how other families are spending their time in the great outdoors! 


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