Sink or Swim: Our Family Camping Debut!

As a kid, just about every 4th of July week in my memory was spent in Carnation, WA, a tiny town about 45 minutes east of Seattle, filled with sprawling green valleys, sturdy red barns and u-pick berry farms. For five nights each summer, my siblings, cousins and I (and the adults chasing after us, of course) would sleep in creaking narrow cabins equipped with little more than a bare light bulb and twin mattresses of prison-issue thickness. The mornings came too early but the days stretched on forever, our only markings of time the lines that would form before meals and the chapel bells that would echo through the acreage twice a day. “This is the life,” I would think as I spent hours at the pool, groomed my favorite horse, or floated lazily down the Snoqualmie River.

It really was the life. Some of the best days of my childhood were spent outdoors, running wild, at camp.

In search of an early start to a similar tradition for my own little family, we have begun camping, first last summer with just Anderson (Jude was not yet two and we feared a serious lack of sleep…), then this summer – this week – with both boys.

Though different in many ways than the Bible camp of my youth, tent-camping with my husband and kids in a local state park has been just as magical and memory-building in its own right.

There’s something about cooking on a camp stove, hiking down a crunchy gravel path to the bathroom, and waking way too early to a surging chorus of songbirds, that cleanses the spirit. Watching our kids run circles around the campsite, poke around endlessly at the beach, and snuggle into their sleeping bags at night, utterly worn out and utterly content – fills me with joy and makes life feel less…complicated.

I went into this camping trip a little apprehensive. What if my kids don’t sleep? What if Jude cries and keeps everyone awake? What if three nights is too long?

It hasn’t been seamless, but what ever is? We’ve had a good dose of puking (Jude, but only once the first night), bloody noses (Anderson) and pee-soaked naps on the beach (Jude, on my lap- note to self: swim diapers do NOT absorb pee!!).

But those aren’t the things I’ll remember. At least not in any sort of deterrent sense.

I’ll remember things like this:

(Jude and his buddy, Elia)

And this:

(this is the pee nap…we smelled GREAT!!)

And this:

(I love small town parades…their first!)

And this:

(tent-service coffee from Aaron was THE BEST!!)

And this:

(Anderson called this his hot tub and never wanted to get out)

And it already makes me want to return to this place, where we’ve bonded as a family and laughed with our friends – filthy feet, borderline sleep, chipmunk poop everywhere and all.

Because it’s magical. And because this, indeed, is the life. It’s the stuff childhood summers are made of.

Let’s do it s’more.