Teacher Man and I knew we could do it. We had invitations from both of our families to go camping in Michigan at different camps. One problem: both trips were the same week. No problem! We'll just divide our week between the two camps. After all, they're both in Michigan. No big deal, right?
I think there's a reason that none of my friends have talked about camping with their preschoolers and toddlers. They just don't do it. And now I know why. Within minutes of arriving at camp, Ben had tried to eat acorns; and both boys had fallen out of my Grandma's trailer, face-planting in the dirt. They spent the rest of the week getting as dirty as possible and hurting themselves in every way imaginable. Ben fell while pushing a dump truck toy and managed to cut both his inner lips, creating a lovely show of blood. Caleb tripped and fell at least twice a day, and now has matching scabs on both of his knees.
That being said, you would think they hated camping. Nope. They were in their glory. In fact, the first thing Caleb said when he got home was, "I love camps. Can we go camping again soon?" And after about an hour inside our house, Ben tried to put on his own shoes so he could play outside, and there were major tears when I told him we needed to stay inside for a bit.
They fell in love with nature. Caleb collected acorns like a squirrel preparing for winter. He excavated the sand at our campsite looking for fossils and even found a dinosaur toy that someone had left behind buried in the sand. Talk about an excited paleontologist! Ben filled and emptied countless dump trucks of sand and dirt. He walked everywhere and learned so many new words because he was experiencing everything in living color.
So why do I say that camping was a challenge? Because it was more than a little stretching for me. As an introvert, I want at least thirty minutes away from people. In the quiet. Living with just a tent wall away from my neighbor does not count. By Thursday, I made Teacher Man drive me around for twenty minutes while the kids fell asleep in the back. It's amazing how much better that made me feel.
Next, I feel like the kids and even Teacher Man got to escape when we went camping. No emails, no work, no walls holding them in. Camping used to be that way for me too. Then I had children. Suddenly, cooking takes twice as long and is an intensive planning adventure. Dishes become a water-hauling challenge, and children must be watched constantly to keep them from ingesting too much of the forest floor. One of my children went through three outfits... the very first night. Oh my. So suddenly keeping everyone in dry underwear, good food, and safe surroundings has just become a challenge of Olympic proportions. Phew. At least it felt that way to me some days.
All that said, Teacher Man and my extended family were a huge blessing. From pushing the kids on the swings to making pancakes for breakfast, both my family and Teacher Man's loved our children well and, in doing so, loved us well. Would we do this again? Deep breath... Yes.
You can't replace those moments of watching your kids eat s'mores for the first time, of talking with family from Israel around a campfire, of building sand castles on the beach, of seeing your son be courageous in the waves. You can't experience creation by staying home in your four walls. You can't be challenged by the sovereignty of God in the same way until you are truly at the mercy of the wind and the rain.
So I still love camping and am already looking forward to our next adventure in the fall. It's not that it's a relaxing vacation anymore (or at least for this season), but in so many ways I see how God uses this time away to grow my children and to grow me to be more like His Son. And there is no denying that being away from emails, blogs, Facebook, and electronics for a week was good... so good for our family. But we're home now, grateful for our little corner of the world, grateful for electricity and running water, and grateful for the creative, curious children the Lord has given us, even when they do eat acorns for dinner.