This was big for us. For a variety of reasons, we haven't camped in years. We used to go more, and I thought our older kids at least had happy memories from those times, especially the trips we took with my in-laws and the ones we went on with my dad. It was a bit startling when #3 said she had no memory of ever sleeping in a tent. She'll be ten soon.
What the what?
Then I remembered that one of our big camping trips was while my sister and I were both 8 months pregnant. I was pregnant #3. Of course she didn't remember sleeping in that tent. (Fun night of sleeping that was, let me tell you.) So yeah, it had been too long.
We picked an early weekend in the season mostly because we wanted to avoid the Memorial Day camping rush and because so many other weekends are already getting sucked up for the summer with things like Girls Camp (HOW do I have a daughter old enough for THAT?!) and Scout Camp.
But as the weekend approached, I started feeling guilty. Three of our kids ended up with party invitations for Friday, including my dear little kindergartner who'd never been to a birthday party for someone not in our neighborhood. This was a class friend inviting her. Wow! But we had to reluctantly RSVP our regrets.
Friday afternoon, we packed up the minivan until we were up to our gills, drove up the canyon, and picked out our site. We set up the tent as a family, hung out by the fire, read stories aloud, roasted hot dogs and made s'mores and did a bunch of other camping-type things.
No Nintendo DS interrupted the time. No iPods came along. I brought a book, but didn't open it. The time was purely hanging out with family. The kids were silly. They had a ball just hanging out with us and talking. They snuggled with Mom and Dad. They warmed up by the fire. When it was close to bedtime, we holed up in the tent and played a game of Outburst, Jr.
At one point early in the evening, we heard, "I'm so glad we came. This is a lot more fun than any party."
And the response: "No kidding! I don't understand people who say they don't like camping. It's so fun!"
The only negatives:
-Our youngest ran across the pavement in an eager rush to get somewhere, biffed it, and got a fat lip and a pretty good scraped across one cheek.
-In the tent, a plastic lantern fell and hit #3 on the head, giving her a goose egg.
-We picked a site next to a river. May nights are already on the cold side, but we learned that a river thirty feet away will make you FREEZE at night. Just a word to the wise.
I still have a bunch of supplies to put away and smoky clothes to wash, and all day Sunday, we were all kind of wiped, but it was a happy kind of wiped.
I can't wait to use our pass again. It was the best time we've had as a family in a long time.
And this time, they're all old enough to remember it!
Maybe next summer, Grandpa can join us, assuming he and Mom aren't given another calling the minute they get back this fall from their latest mission. (Let's all knock on wood really hard. Five years of straight service is enough to deserve a break, right? RIGHT?)
The best part for me: no distractions. No technology. No responsibilities. Just one-on-one time with family, talking and being together.
I think we'll be doing more of that. Just a guess.