Camping With Kids, Take One

For Father’s Day this year, JDubbs decided he wanted to break with tradition and instead of spending the weekend at home with his family, he wanted to take our little party of five on an entirely new adventure and start a tradition of our own: he wanted to take the kids camping.  JDubbs grew up camping and the idea of the five of us in one tent, the security blanket of bedtimes and schedules out the window, sounded exactly like the kind of weekend he wanted.  I, on the other hand, was less sure, grasping at any and all vestiges of normalcy.  “Should we bring books?” I asked him.  “What about toys?”  He looked at me like I was officially out of of my mind and reminded me that that is what sticks are for. Trying hard to focus on the potential for magic and not so much mischief, I simply packed the kids’ clothes and let JDubbs do the rest.  All we needed was a place to sleep, he pointed out to me.  The rest we could improvise if need be.

Improvisation is not generally how I roll.  Have you seen my chore chart?  I generally enjoy things neat and organized.  This weekend was going to be an experiment in many things, one of which was parenting-on-the-fly.  I took a deep breath and trusted in my husband, and perhaps a little in God, that all would be well.

I have only been camping in a tent twice in my life, both with JDubbs when we were in our twenties, when there was more emphasis on beer than babies.  But those experiences left me with a great impression of JDubbs’s ability to come prepared and be responsible, so while he and the kids unpacked the van, I basically stayed out of the way and let the master do his thing.  I did mine–I took photos.

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It has been long established that setting up camp is not in my particular skill set.  I would be more successful teaching a bear to read than to pitch a tent.  But JDubbs had three very eager helpers, and before long, we had shelter, and the kids were wholeheartedly proud and impressed.

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My next job was to keep the kids out of the way while JDubbs set up the food/grill/campfire.  They were content to stay inside the tent, although preventing them from popping one of our air mattresses–which I had laboriously blown up in the nearest bathroom and somehow managed to carry back to camp–wasn’t exactly easy with three little monkeys jumping on the beds!

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The kids were barely through dinner before they were begging for dessert.  Of course we obliged.  Camping isn’t camping without having to cut the marshmallow out of your daughter’s hair with a leatherman!

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Then it was off to bed for Little H, with the big kids staying up until it was dark to sit by the fire with us.  Jax excused himself and went into the tent to read for a while, but Em was our little buddy and hung out chatting by the fire with just me and JDubbs until bed.  It’s so amazing what you can learn about what’s inside your child’s head when you have nothing else to do but just be there and listen.

After a decent night’s sleep, it was breakfast in red Solo cups while wearing fuzzy bathrobes…

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…and then a hike to a nearby waterfall.  The kids were really excited about the adventure, and super good troopers about the trek!  We hadn’t brought the stroller with us and it never would have made it down the trail anyway, so JDubbs and I took turns carrying Little H (when she’d let us) and keeping clumsy Em from breaking her neck.

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Afterward we had naps all around, a bit of ice cream and some quiet time…

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…before heading to the river for some cool fun, which mostly revolved around finding interesting rocks and throwing sticks.

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The big kids eventually brought their favorite sticks back to the campsite and used them as wands to cast Harry Potter spells on each other.  Our neighbors could hear shrieks of “Wingardium Leviosa!” and “Petrificus Totalus!” as Jax and Em ran around trying to make each other fly and hexing each other with the full-body bind all afternoon.  Looks like JDubbs was right; apparently toys are overrated.

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Back at the campsite, the kids got a little antsy waiting for dinner.  I broke out the emergency markers I keep in my diaper bag for restaurant distraction, and was hilariously surprised to see the kids set up what was basically their own tattoo parlor!  I guess since everyone on my side of the family has at least one (if not four or five), it’s not too surprising that the kids were ready for some ink of their own.

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The forecast called for rain so before the sun set JDubbs and I basically broke down everything extraneous that night and packed it back into the van.  By morning all that was left was our tent and the people and gear inside.  One thing that we kept out, however, were the necessary accouterments for snipe hunting!  That is one tradition JDubbs would never forget!

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Don’t know what a snipe hunt is?  Look here–I can’t remember if I fell for this the first time JDubbs and I went camping, but I think there is a high likelihood I did!

Well, JDubbs, as I often say, you were right.  Camping was a really great escape for our family, a chance to unplug and reconnect, to spend quiet moments listening and loud moments laughing and living life.  I hope this becomes a new tradition for our family!  You deserve only the best and happiest memories for Father’s Day!

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