Tag Archives: camping

Real Life

Of all of our post-adoption adjustment periods, this has been the easiest. I’m guessing this is for many reasons– her age, she has a full understanding of what was going to happen, she agreed to it, she’s visited us before and knows our family well, and of course, this is our third adoption. We have a slightly better picture of when to let go and when to freak out. That being said, there are still hard things, and I like to keep things real around here.

Probably the hardest thing about this adjustment? Me. I am worn out. The months of compartmentalizing and pushing through tasks with a whatever-it-takes attitude are over. Now, I’m fully jumping back into work and parenting my other kids… and being a real, present mom to this new, wonderful kid. I constantly feel like I need a physical and emotional nap!

Another big challenge is finding boundaries and setting expectations for being in a family. We’ve finding a lot of edges that I’ve always thought of as common sense, but not for a kid who has never lived in an American family. I remember being shocked when we experienced this with Reed, as he opened the door of the car himself, tried to play with the stove and once made an attempt at driving as a 4 year old.  This looks very different with a teenager, but there’s a lot of gentle guidance.

Figuring out the best options for school is another exhausting feat. The school district is unresponsive to both my questions about enrolling her for the fall and ESL resources. I’m trying to fill gaps in her knowledge and build her English confidence and competence before August. It’s hard to find math without a lot of word problems, and English which is doable, but not too easy. I’ll do a whole blog post on what we are using at another time.

We went camping this weekend and I really wanted it to be a great family bonding weekend… it was an flop.

We started it off with swimming, but the lake was a bit cold and the beach was busy with college students celebrating the end of the year. I just wanted to either a)listen to an audiobook as the kids played in the water or b)read a library book as they played on the beach. I didn’t make much progress with either.

On the plus side, we found a nice campsite, secluded with a great view. On the menu was s’mores and hotdogs and other food we wouldn’t call dinner at home.

Josie is really hoping that someone will drop something worth eating.
Chilling by a campfire is one of my favorite things.
Reed made a total of 7 s’mores and ate 5 of them.

The night sky was full of clouds. A disappointment for someone who loves the stars like I do.

With 4 kids, 3 dogs, one husband and me sharing a tent, I didn’t sleep very much. I woke up to 3 dogs ready to go out, and I decided to take them out and see how the sky looked. The sunrise was starting to show, just a bit. At the top, with the break in the clouds, you can see the Milky Way, just a bit.

Aaron went for an early morning hike with the dogs, while the kids and I slept and played around the campsite. Here he is, returning to an excited Gus.

Happy Mother’s Day, from my four crazies.

The Very Worst Camping Trip

We’ve had a few friends comment on how we’re “really outdoorsy” or even ask us for camping advice. Snort. Neither one of us went camping a lot as kids. I was briefly a Girl Scout, but chickened out of the overnight trip when I realized that there were spiders in the cabin. I basically started “enjoying the outdoors” when I met Aaron, because when a cute boy likes something, you generally convince yourself that you like it, too.

All in all, we were doing okay at camping… at least until we had the very worst camping trip.

We planned a three day weekend this summer, pre-N visiting, to take the kids camping. It would be our longest yet, Friday-Monday. A couple of days before, the weather forecast started looking pretty bad, particularly for Saturday. But, we wanted to go, we had made arrangements, so we decided to stick with it.

Before we were even halfway there, I realized I’d forgotten my tripod. I cried. Too late to turn back, but that is what I look forward to most about any camping trip, being under the stars with my camera.

We arrived, set up our tent, and then headed off to our first planned activity… the kids’ first ever drive-in movie.


It rained for the whole movie. We had to run the air to keep the windshield from fogging up, and run the windshield wipers from time to time for the rain.
Despite it being a really less-than-ideal drive-in movie experience, we still had fun.

When we arrived back at the campsite, I knew that I wasn’t missing out on anything star-wise that night. It was so cloudy and even a big foggy.
(camera set on a picnic table)

We decided to hit up some other close-by state parks the next day, Saturday. Aaron is currently doing a little contest to see who can visit all of the Kansas state parks first (there’s a cash prize!). We first went to Mushroom Rocks.

The kids enjoyed this weird park. But, we ended up literally running back to the car as it started pouring.

We spent our day in the car, driving around, to a couple more state parks and through various small towns of Kansas. All the while it was pouring rain.

When we stopped for lunch, it was hard to even eat under a pavilion, with rain blowing in.

Fortunately, the rain cleared up in time for dinner. Things were looking up.

We had a nice time, roasting hotdogs and making s’mores.

We decided to get pajamas on and head to bed early, hoping to make the most of the following day, Sunday. Aaron took Reed and Lena to the bathrooms and I got Gus ready for bed at the tent.

This is about the moment when I discovered our BIG problem.

Everything inside of our tent was wet. Ranging from soaking wet to damp, depending on how close to the edge of the tent it was. There was no way we could sleep in the tent.

I gave Aaron a choice… find the closest laundry, hopefully at the park, OR pack it all up and head home, two days early. We opted for the laundry. Well, there was no laundry at the park. The closest laundry mat was 30 minutes away… and it was already 8:45.

The laundry mat closed at 9. And, like I said, we left at 8:45 and it was 30 minutes away. Miraculously (or because it’s small town Kansas), they had not locked up. We headed inside, hoping that no one would arrive and kick us out.

I would have loved our local laundry mat, with it’s wifi, huge TV screens and open 24 hours. We would have camped out in there for awhile, getting everything sufficiently dry. Instead, I took this semi-clean laundry mat and was grateful that no one kicked us out.

So, we made it through the night and survived until Sunday. Sunday was supposed to be the nicest day of our weekend… and it was.

A little aside, one of our dogs loves to stand on things.

In the morning, Aaron took the kids hiking while I hung out at the trailhead and practiced my Ukrainian. The afternoon was designated for swimming at the lake.

I’m not sure if it was the rain the day before, but the kids were not impressed with the lake.

I just found this picture while prepping for this blog post, and I love it.

In case you’re wondering if things can be worse in retrospect, when editing this picture, I saw a mosquito in my s’more that I did not see before I ate it. Can we say “eww?”

My messy, messy boy.

Burned my finger on one of the skewers. Ouch.

I love this picture. Camping, challenges or not, is family time.

That’s my summary of our worst-ever camping trip. In short, be careful if it rains while you are camping. Make sure that you have the rain fly on really well and maybe even everything pulled away from the sides of your tent. 😉

In retrospect? It’s all okay. I want our kids to see us respond to challenges and still try to make the most of it. I want them to learn to be creative problem-solvers, so sometimes, that may mean waiting out the rain with markers and paper in the car or heading to the laundry mat late at night. So, we will keep on camping, hopefully learning how to be better campers, teaching our kids a love of the outdoors and how to make the most of unexpected challenges.


Summer is our busiest season of the year. I can be a hermit from September to April, but May to August is when the adventure happens. A lot of adventure.

We went camping twice in May– both just state parks within a few hours of us. I still need to blog about the second trip, which was our very worst camping trip ever.

June was out to Colorado to pick up N and enjoy Rocky Mountain National Park. 2015-06-30_0017

In July, we visited Aaron’s family in Missouri. I had a work trip in Wisconsin. Aaron and the kids drove out and met me in Illinois and then we headed East, stopping for a few hours in Chicago, very briefly at Cuyahoga National Park (Ohio), a quick morning swim at Lake Erie (Ohio), an overnight in the incredible darkest spot east of the Mississippi, Cherry Springs State Park (Pennsylvania), and lastly at The Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania before we reached our destination in Eastern Pennsylvania. Whew. I needed a nap.

Chicago was a lot of fun. Through the adoption community, I have a made a wonderful friend, Amanda. She invited us over to her apartment for Chicago style pizza. Then we took the train to her office, which has an incredible view of the Chicago skyline.

We had so much fun with her. We just want to come back another time when we have more than a few hours for a real tour. Amanda was an awesome host and tour guide!

The next day, we stopped at Lake Erie for a quick swim.

Aaron and I had been looking forward to going to Cherry Springs State Park in Pennsylvania for months. It’s the only gold-rated (highest rated) dark sky park East of the Mississippi. They had an sky tour, where they used a laser pointer to talk about different constellations and we got to look through telescopes to see Venus, Saturn and Jupiter. Unfortunately, it was a bit cloudier than we’d hope, but we still were able to enjoy it.

(There are more photos from Cherry Springs on my photography Facebook page.)

The next day, we made a quick stop by the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania. We found it to be a little bit underwhelming.

Just a few more hours of driving + one tunnel (always exciting) and we reached our destination.

We are now semi-unpacked here for a few weeks, enjoying family time!