Sunday, September 4, 2016

Why You Should Try Camping When You Have Kids, Even If You Haven't Done It Before

Our family of six just returned from a short camping trip.  We stayed part of a day, two nights, and part of another day in the great outdoors.    

Why bother with camping?  Our family has found that no matter how we try to simplify, downsize, and limit distractions, unfortunately, we are still very distracted.  We have WIFI at home, cell phones, house projects in an ever-multiplying abundance, and mail to read and bills to pay.  We have good distractions too, like work, homeschool, and my husband pastors a church in addition to working at his secular job.  It is really difficult for us in some seasons to feel like we are “present and accounted for” for the better part of a day, much less a week or months.  Most things that clamor for our attention are very important things. 

Several areas of our life pay the cost for this; our children are one of those things. This is especially true concerning quality time with Daddy, as I am with them the vast majority of the time.  But freeing Daddy or me up to play and engage is sometimes difficult.  We are worker-bees, my husband and I, and we are trying to raise worker-bees.  But play is needful to express our love and appreciation for one another. 

Camping is a great time-out from regular life.   However. . . . .

When I first started camping, I was very excited about campfires, starry skies, s’mores, and hikes.  But after my first time camping with kids, I was beyond exhausted.  This didn’t seem fun AT ALL. This mama cooked, cleaned, and ate, and then it was time to cook, clean and eat again.  Repeat.  I decided that camping was, to quote myself, “like taking the comforts of home, paring them down to bare bones, and moving it all outside”.  I didn’t see the point.  All I wanted was Marriott.

I made a lot of camping mistakes early in the game, and I have learned some things:
  1.  Keep it short and sweet:  On your first outing, just go overnight, or two.  If possible go on Monday-Thursday, as you will have a lot of the campground to yourself.
  2.    Keep it close:  Don’t travel to Timbuktu to camp.  Stay somewhere close enough to travel to in about an hour and a half, and try to go somewhere you haven’t done much exploring already.  Venture farther out later.  We have found that we prefer to camp in places that aren’t too far from a town.  That way, should rain or boredom strike, we are in a great position to explore and just get out and about with no agenda.
  3. Keep it “crunchy”:  You know how all those books are coming out now about de-cluttering being the key to a happy life?  Well, de-cluttering is THE KEY to a “happy camper mom”.  Leave your hair dryer, straightener, curling iron, and most of your makeup at home.  This is a time to be outdoors, and to be with your kids. No one cares as much as you do.  If you can let down your “care”, you will have a much more enjoyable time.  You don’t need more than 2 pairs of shoes, some clean underwear and socks, and a few shirts/pants per person.  Towels, check.  In fact, if you keep your trip very short and bathe everyone before you go and as soon as you get home (we may or may not have done this), you may be able to avoid all things shower-related at the campground.  This is very, very awesome when you have four kids to shower.  You can’t imagine how much time you waste in there.
  4.   Keep it in a state park:  If you are concerned with economics, state and county parks are the best.  Research the campgrounds on your state parks’ website.  It usually lists the amenities available.  You may find one with a pool, and usually there are trails and playgrounds, etc.  Private campgrounds can be extremely nice.  But private campgrounds will usually charge you a base fee, plus a fee if you go over a certain “people limit”.  We almost always exceed the base “people limit”, and then the camping fee is in hotel range.  If we are in hotel range. . . then we hotel.
  5.  Bring the kids’ bikes:  It sometimes looks like it is a requirement to bike if you are a kid in a campground.  If at all possible, bring your kids’ bikes. 
  6.  Keep it SIMPLE:  All of it.  When we first went, part of what exhausted me was I was attempting to “play house” like my daughter might:  every time someone went into our little camper, I would resweeps/straighten up/put away, etc.  I had a very rigid order and expected it to be like home.  Well, it isn’t home.  It is a campground!  It is dirt and sand and sticky marshmallows and ash.  And it is wonderful when you don’t let all of that stress you to the max.

Tent vs. Camper:

We have a 1992 Toyota Winnebago.  This rare gem is a dinosaur with great (comparatively speaking) gas mileage.  It sleeps 5 comfortably. ;)  It has a fridge, a stove, a toilet, kitchen sink, and bathroom sink.  We don’t use any of that except the fridge.

Why?  Because we don’t have time to dedicate days upon days of camper preparation, that’s why.  The stove isn’t working, and we don’t want to pay the $300 for a new, tiny camper stove.  And we don’t need it. 

We always pay to stay at the “full hook up” spots.  That means you will have access to an electrical outlet on a pole, and a water spigot at your spot.  Usually there is a picnic table and a fire ring also.  In a state park you will sometimes pay a little bit more for this feature, but it is well worth it.
We plug the RV into the electric hook up.  We use the water from the spigot when we need it.  And we go to the bathroom/shower in the one at the campground.

If you only had a tent, I would highly recommend the full hook-up spot. 

Organization:

Here are some simple ways to organize your trip to make it run smoothly:
1.       Well before you set out to camp, begin picking up small things that you might need for a trip.  I have a small coffee pot from my mom, and a George Foreman grill and toaster oven from the Goodwill for a total cost of about $10.  Get a Rubbermaid tote and put all of your camping appliances in it.  Add to it some aluminum foil, gallon size Ziploc bags, paper plates, cups, and plastic dinnerware, some paper towels, a small jar of dish detergent, hand sanitizer, can opener, extension cord, hand soap to set by the water spigot, salt and pepper, a dish towel and a dish rag, two pot holders, a vinyl tablecloth, and a plastic mixing bowl.  Most of this can be purchased at the Dollar Tree.  You now have a portable kitchen!
2.      You might also gather a Rubbermaid tote and fill it with bedding for your trip.  If you are tent camping you will want to sleep on an air mattress, even if you have an awesome sleeping bag.  You can find sleeping bags at the Goodwill too, very cheap.  They can be washed and dried at home prior to your trip.
3.      Get one more tote ready for “incidentals”:  flashlights, duct tape (trust me), small first aid kit, bug spray, sunscreen, matches, fire starter, etc.  You will also want chairs for around the fire, but if you don’t have room you can just use the picnic table provided. 
4.      I bring some of my own things from home, namely:  cast iron skillet/dutch oven, electric skillet, sometimes a crock pot, spatula, 2 small kitchen knives, a slotted stirring spoon, tongs, and an old fashioned black roaster pan for doing dishes in.  I usually throw this in a laundry basket.  When I get home I return all this to my kitchen.
5.      Put a laminated checklist of each tote’s contents in each tote, and bring a dry erase marker.  Makes packing it back up a breeze.
6.      You will need a decent sized cooler, or better still, borrow one.

Food:

This was the biggest hurdle to my early camping experiences.  I had NO IDEA what to make! I knew that we would go camping, and inevitably there would be That Guy who is over there, roasting a leg of lamb over his fire on a solar-powered spit he whittled out of Popsicle sticks,  and we were over here with a hot dog.  Or there were the Cabela camping divas, with their fancy-pants Coleman stove ($$), Coleman lanterns (cha-ching!), and Yeti coolers (we’re talking lotto winnings here, people). 

I didn’t want the cost of camping to rival an Alaskan cruise.  Nor did I want to eat Bar-S hot dogs for a week.  What was a mom to do?!?

Remember the end goal?  “Focus on my own family. And focus on Mom being a Happy Camper.”

I started to tap into my inner “MomGyver” (if you don’t know who MacGyver is, I question if you are old enough to have your own kids, whipper-snapper) and thought outside the camper.  I thought about what I would do at home if my stove and microwave went out.  And I thought of my electric skillet and crock pot.

Here is a list of what I do for food:

  1.  Prep, prep, prep: Chop your veggies at home.  Save in ziplock bags with a paper towel thrown in to curb “wetness” (ewwwww) that ends the life of your lettuce, etc.  Cook meat beforehand in the oven and bring in ziplock bags.  Less fear of food poisoning that way, and less work for you on the trip.  Bring lots of bagged snacks, or pick them up at a store closer to the campground.
  2.  Breakfast:  We eat big camping breakfasts.  I make pop-from-the-can cinnamon rolls in the toaster oven.  I make pancakes using Bisquick’s “Shake and Pour” mix, so that I can avoid using a bowl or spoon.  I can fill it with a different, cheaper pancake mix to make more.  I can also use it to scramble eggs.  I can cook those in the cast iron pan ON TOP of my electric skillet!  For bacon or sausage, I bake ALL of it at home before the trip, put it in Ziplock bags, and freeze it fully cooked.  It is very easy to throw that in the oven some night before hand while I am in the kitchen anyway.  Then I just re-heat it on the skillet.  I use butter as my primary cooking oil because it travels solidly (nyuk nyuk nyuk!).  Sometimes we pick up donuts on the way out of town for breakfast.
  3.    Lunch:  My lunches are portable, in the event that we want to venture off to swim, hike, or go into town.  I usually do peanut butter and jelly, chips (I buy those bags that have lots of types of chips in them), and fruit and carrots.  That way we can go if the mood strikes us.
  4. Supper:  If you have a cast-iron skillet, you can cook on the grate provided (usually, but not always) on your fire pit should you feel adventurous.  I like to use fully cooked meats. I am not trying to food poison my whole family.  So we save, mainly for camping, kielbasa as a treat!  We make kielbasa sandwiches, and fry potatoes in the skillet.  My family loves it.  We have also done:  
      1.    Tacos/burritos/rice:  make meat ahead, cut up veggies ahead, cook and freeze rice
      2.   Soup:  I have used my crock pot for this when we have played all day.
      3.   Flatbread pizzas:  make pizzas, heat up in toaster oven.
      4.   Always have s’more supplies for dessert!  Or store bought cookie dough for the toaster oven. 
        Pancakes and the beginnings of a "pizza breakfast skillet".  This is inside our little RV.

        Cinnamon roll bacon face breakfast. 

This is the beast.  We bought this right before we moved across the country from Ohio to Oregon in 2013.  This was home for 10 days.
Above all, don’t sweat it.  Have fun with your kids and that is what they will remember:  the time that Mom caught a “rock fish” (on my pole!  I felt like Charlie Brown at Halloween!), when Dad rode our son’s small bike, etc.  That is what this is:  a time to recharge.  EVEN for Mom.  She needs it too.

What have you done to make your camping trips more enjoyable?

P.S.  If you have firewood restrictions in your area, you will probably have to buy it where you are camping. 






Why You Should Try Camping When You Have Kids, Even If You Haven't Done It Before

Our family of six just returned from a short camping trip.  We stayed part of a day, two nights, and part of another day in the great outdoors.    

Why bother with camping?  Our family has found that no matter how we try to simplify, downsize, and limit distractions, unfortunately, we are still very distracted.  We have WIFI at home, cell phones, house projects in an ever-multiplying abundance, and mail to read and bills to pay.  We have good distractions too, like work, homeschool, and my husband pastors a church in addition to working at his secular job.  It is really difficult for us in some seasons to feel like we are “present and accounted for” for the better part of a day, much less a week or months.  Most things that clamor for our attention are very important things. 

Several areas of our life pay the cost for this; our children are one of those things. This is especially true concerning quality time with Daddy, as I am with them the vast majority of the time.  But freeing Daddy or me up to play and engage is sometimes difficult.  We are worker-bees, my husband and I, and we are trying to raise worker-bees.  But play is needful to express our love and appreciation for one another. 

Camping is a great time-out from regular life.   However. . . . .

When I first started camping, I was very excited about campfires, starry skies, s’mores, and hikes.  But after my first time camping with kids, I was beyond exhausted.  This didn’t seem fun AT ALL. This mama cooked, cleaned, and ate, and then it was time to cook, clean and eat again.  Repeat.  I decided that camping was, to quote myself, “like taking the comforts of home, paring them down to bare bones, and moving it all outside”.  I didn’t see the point.  All I wanted was Marriott.

I made a lot of camping mistakes early in the game, and I have learned some things:
  1.  Keep it short and sweet:  On your first outing, just go overnight, or two.  If possible go on Monday-Thursday, as you will have a lot of the campground to yourself.
  2.    Keep it close:  Don’t travel to Timbuktu to camp.  Stay somewhere close enough to travel to in about an hour and a half, and try to go somewhere you haven’t done much exploring already.  Venture farther out later.  We have found that we prefer to camp in places that aren’t too far from a town.  That way, should rain or boredom strike, we are in a great position to explore and just get out and about with no agenda.
  3. Keep it “crunchy”:  You know how all those books are coming out now about de-cluttering being the key to a happy life?  Well, de-cluttering is THE KEY to a “happy camper mom”.  Leave your hair dryer, straightener, curling iron, and most of your makeup at home.  This is a time to be outdoors, and to be with your kids. No one cares as much as you do.  If you can let down your “care”, you will have a much more enjoyable time.  You don’t need more than 2 pairs of shoes, some clean underwear and socks, and a few shirts/pants per person.  Towels, check.  In fact, if you keep your trip very short and bathe everyone before you go and as soon as you get home (we may or may not have done this), you may be able to avoid all things shower-related at the campground.  This is very, very awesome when you have four kids to shower.  You can’t imagine how much time you waste in there.
  4.   Keep it in a state park:  If you are concerned with economics, state and county parks are the best.  Research the campgrounds on your state parks’ website.  It usually lists the amenities available.  You may find one with a pool, and usually there are trails and playgrounds, etc.  Private campgrounds can be extremely nice.  But private campgrounds will usually charge you a base fee, plus a fee if you go over a certain “people limit”.  We almost always exceed the base “people limit”, and then the camping fee is in hotel range.  If we are in hotel range. . . then we hotel.
  5.  Bring the kids’ bikes:  It sometimes looks like it is a requirement to bike if you are a kid in a campground.  If at all possible, bring your kids’ bikes. 
  6.  Keep it SIMPLE:  All of it.  When we first went, part of what exhausted me was I was attempting to “play house” like my daughter might:  every time someone went into our little camper, I would resweeps/straighten up/put away, etc.  I had a very rigid order and expected it to be like home.  Well, it isn’t home.  It is a campground!  It is dirt and sand and sticky marshmallows and ash.  And it is wonderful when you don’t let all of that stress you to the max.

Tent vs. Camper:

We have a 1992 Toyota Winnebago.  This rare gem is a dinosaur with great (comparatively speaking) gas mileage.  It sleeps 5 comfortably. ;)  It has a fridge, a stove, a toilet, kitchen sink, and bathroom sink.  We don’t use any of that except the fridge.

Why?  Because we don’t have time to dedicate days upon days of camper preparation, that’s why.  The stove isn’t working, and we don’t want to pay the $300 for a new, tiny camper stove.  And we don’t need it. 

We always pay to stay at the “full hook up” spots.  That means you will have access to an electrical outlet on a pole, and a water spigot at your spot.  Usually there is a picnic table and a fire ring also.  In a state park you will sometimes pay a little bit more for this feature, but it is well worth it.
We plug the RV into the electric hook up.  We use the water from the spigot when we need it.  And we go to the bathroom/shower in the one at the campground.

If you only had a tent, I would highly recommend the full hook-up spot. 

Organization:

Here are some simple ways to organize your trip to make it run smoothly:
1.       Well before you set out to camp, begin picking up small things that you might need for a trip.  I have a small coffee pot from my mom, and a George Foreman grill and toaster oven from the Goodwill for a total cost of about $10.  Get a Rubbermaid tote and put all of your camping appliances in it.  Add to it some aluminum foil, gallon size Ziploc bags, paper plates, cups, and plastic dinnerware, some paper towels, a small jar of dish detergent, hand sanitizer, can opener, extension cord, hand soap to set by the water spigot, salt and pepper, a dish towel and a dish rag, two pot holders, a vinyl tablecloth, and a plastic mixing bowl.  Most of this can be purchased at the Dollar Tree.  You now have a portable kitchen!
2.      You might also gather a Rubbermaid tote and fill it with bedding for your trip.  If you are tent camping you will want to sleep on an air mattress, even if you have an awesome sleeping bag.  You can find sleeping bags at the Goodwill too, very cheap.  They can be washed and dried at home prior to your trip.
3.      Get one more tote ready for “incidentals”:  flashlights, duct tape (trust me), small first aid kit, bug spray, sunscreen, matches, fire starter, etc.  You will also want chairs for around the fire, but if you don’t have room you can just use the picnic table provided. 
4.      I bring some of my own things from home, namely:  cast iron skillet/dutch oven, electric skillet, sometimes a crock pot, spatula, 2 small kitchen knives, a slotted stirring spoon, tongs, and an old fashioned black roaster pan for doing dishes in.  I usually throw this in a laundry basket.  When I get home I return all this to my kitchen.
5.      Put a laminated checklist of each tote’s contents in each tote, and bring a dry erase marker.  Makes packing it back up a breeze.
6.      You will need a decent sized cooler, or better still, borrow one.

Food:

This was the biggest hurdle to my early camping experiences.  I had NO IDEA what to make! I knew that we would go camping, and inevitably there would be That Guy who is over there, roasting a leg of lamb over his fire on a solar-powered spit he whittled out of Popsicle sticks,  and we were over here with a hot dog.  Or there were the Cabela camping divas, with their fancy-pants Coleman stove ($$), Coleman lanterns (cha-ching!), and Yeti coolers (we’re talking lotto winnings here, people). 

I didn’t want the cost of camping to rival an Alaskan cruise.  Nor did I want to eat Bar-S hot dogs for a week.  What was a mom to do?!?

Remember the end goal?  “Focus on my own family. And focus on Mom being a Happy Camper.”

I started to tap into my inner “MomGyver” (if you don’t know who MacGyver is, I question if you are old enough to have your own kids, whipper-snapper) and thought outside the camper.  I thought about what I would do at home if my stove and microwave went out.  And I thought of my electric skillet and crock pot.

Here is a list of what I do for food:

  1.  Prep, prep, prep: Chop your veggies at home.  Save in ziplock bags with a paper towel thrown in to curb “wetness” (ewwwww) that ends the life of your lettuce, etc.  Cook meat beforehand in the oven and bring in ziplock bags.  Less fear of food poisoning that way, and less work for you on the trip.  Bring lots of bagged snacks, or pick them up at a store closer to the campground.
  2.  Breakfast:  We eat big camping breakfasts.  I make pop-from-the-can cinnamon rolls in the toaster oven.  I make pancakes using Bisquick’s “Shake and Pour” mix, so that I can avoid using a bowl or spoon.  I can fill it with a different, cheaper pancake mix to make more.  I can also use it to scramble eggs.  I can cook those in the cast iron pan ON TOP of my electric skillet!  For bacon or sausage, I bake ALL of it at home before the trip, put it in Ziplock bags, and freeze it fully cooked.  It is very easy to throw that in the oven some night before hand while I am in the kitchen anyway.  Then I just re-heat it on the skillet.  I use butter as my primary cooking oil because it travels solidly (nyuk nyuk nyuk!).  Sometimes we pick up donuts on the way out of town for breakfast.
  3.    Lunch:  My lunches are portable, in the event that we want to venture off to swim, hike, or go into town.  I usually do peanut butter and jelly, chips (I buy those bags that have lots of types of chips in them), and fruit and carrots.  That way we can go if the mood strikes us.
  4. Supper:  If you have a cast-iron skillet, you can cook on the grate provided (usually, but not always) on your fire pit should you feel adventurous.  I like to use fully cooked meats. I am not trying to food poison my whole family.  So we save, mainly for camping, kielbasa as a treat!  We make kielbasa sandwiches, and fry potatoes in the skillet.  My family loves it.  We have also done:  
      1.    Tacos/burritos/rice:  make meat ahead, cut up veggies ahead, cook and freeze rice
      2.   Soup:  I have used my crock pot for this when we have played all day.
      3.   Flatbread pizzas:  make pizzas, heat up in toaster oven.
      4.   Always have s’more supplies for dessert!  Or store bought cookie dough for the toaster oven. 
        Pancakes and the beginnings of a "pizza breakfast skillet".  This is inside our little RV.

        Cinnamon roll bacon face breakfast. 

Above all, don’t sweat it.  Have fun with your kids and that is what they will remember:  the time that Mom caught a “rock fish” (on my pole!  I felt like Charlie Brown at Halloween!), when Dad rode our son’s small bike, etc.  That is what this is:  a time to recharge.  EVEN for Mom.  She needs it too.

What have you done to make your camping trips more enjoyable?

P.S.  If you have firewood restrictions in your area, you will probably have to buy it where you are camping. 






Why You Should Try Camping When You Have Kids, Even If You Haven't Done It Before

Our family of six just returned from a short camping trip.  We stayed part of a day, two nights, and part of another day in the great outdoors.    

Why bother with camping?  Our family has found that no matter how we try to simplify, downsize, and limit distractions, unfortunately, we are still very distracted.  We have WIFI at home, cell phones, house projects in an ever-multiplying abundance, and mail to read and bills to pay.  We have good distractions too, like work, homeschool, and my husband pastors a church in addition to working at his secular job.  It is really difficult for us in some seasons to feel like we are “present and accounted for” for the better part of a day, much less a week or months.  Most things that clamor for our attention are very important things. 

Several areas of our life pay the cost for this; our children are one of those things. This is especially true concerning quality time with Daddy, as I am with them the vast majority of the time.  But freeing Daddy or me up to play and engage is sometimes difficult.  We are worker-bees, my husband and I, and we are trying to raise worker-bees.  But play is needful to express our love and appreciation for one another. 

Camping is a great time-out from regular life.   However. . . . .

When I first started camping, I was very excited about campfires, starry skies, s’mores, and hikes.  But after my first time camping with kids, I was beyond exhausted.  This didn’t seem fun AT ALL. This mama cooked, cleaned, and ate, and then it was time to cook, clean and eat again.  Repeat.  I decided that camping was, to quote myself, “like taking the comforts of home, paring them down to bare bones, and moving it all outside”.  I didn’t see the point.  All I wanted was Marriott.

I made a lot of camping mistakes early in the game, and I have learned some things:
  1.  Keep it short and sweet:  On your first outing, just go overnight, or two.  If possible go on Monday-Thursday, as you will have a lot of the campground to yourself.
  2.    Keep it close:  Don’t travel to Timbuktu to camp.  Stay somewhere close enough to travel to in about an hour and a half, and try to go somewhere you haven’t done much exploring already.  We have found that we prefer to camp in places that aren’t too far from the nearest town.  That way, should rain or boredom strike, we are in a great position to explore and just get out and about with no agenda.
  3. Keep it “crunchy”:  You know how all those books are coming out now about de-cluttering being the key to a happy life?  Well, de-cluttering is THE KEY to a “happy camper mom”.  Leave your hair dryer, straightener, curling iron, and most of your makeup at home.  This is a time to be outdoors, and to be with your kids. No one cares as much as you do.  If you can let down your “care”, you will have a much more enjoyable time.  You don’t need more than 2 pairs of shoes, some clean underwear and socks, and a few shirts/pants per person.  Towels, check.  In fact, if you keep your trip very short and bathe everyone before you go and as soon as you get home (we may or may not have done this), you may be able to avoid all things shower-related at the campground.  This is very, very awesome when you have four kids to shower.  You can’t imagine how much time you waste in there.
  4.   Keep it in a state park:  If you are concerned with economics, state and county parks are the best.  Research the campgrounds on your state parks’ website.  It usually lists the amenities available.  You may find one with a pool, and usually there are trails and playgrounds, etc.  Private campgrounds can be extremely nice.  But private campgrounds will usually charge you a base fee, plus a fee if you go over a certain “people limit”.  We almost always exceed the base “people limit”, and then the camping fee is in hotel range.  If we are in hotel range. . . then we hotel.
  5.  Bring the kids’ bikes:  It sometimes looks like it is a requirement to bike if you are a kid in a campground.  If at all possible, bring your kids’ bikes. 
  6.  Keep it SIMPLE:  All of it.  When we first went, part of what exhausted me was I was attempting to “play house” like my daughter might:  every time someone went into our little camper, I would resweeps/straighten up/put away, etc.  I had a very rigid order and expected it to be like home.  Well, it isn’t home.  It is a campground!  It is dirt and sand and sticky marshmallows and ash.  And it is wonderful when you don’t let all of that stress you to the max.

Tent vs. Camper:

We have a 1992 Toyota Winnebago.  This rare gem is a dinosaur with great (comparatively speaking) gas mileage.  It sleeps 5 comfortably. ;)  It has a fridge, a stove, a toilet, kitchen sink, and bathroom sink.  We don’t use any of that except the fridge.

Why?  Because we don’t have time to dedicate days upon days of camper preparation, that’s why.  The stove isn’t working, and we don’t want to pay the $300 for a new, tiny camper stove.  And we don’t need it. 

We always pay to stay at the “full hook up” spots.  That means you will have access to an electrical outlet on a pole, and a water spigot at your spot.  Usually there is a picnic table and a fire ring also.  In a state park you will sometimes pay a little bit more for this feature, but it is well worth it.
We plug the RV into the electric hook up.  We use the water from the spigot when we need it.  And we go to the bathroom/shower in the one at the campground.

If you only had a tent, I would highly recommend the full hook-up spot. 

Organization:

Here are some simple ways to organize your trip to make it run smoothly:
1.       Well before you set out to camp, begin picking up small things that you might need for a trip.  I have a small coffee pot from my mom, and a George Foreman grill and toaster oven from the Goodwill for a total cost of about $10.  Get a Rubbermaid tote and put all of your camping appliances in it.  Add to it some aluminum foil, gallon size Ziploc bags, paper plates, cups, and plastic dinnerware, some paper towels, a small jar of dish detergent, hand sanitizer, can opener, extension cord, hand soap to set by the water spigot, salt and pepper, a dish towel and a dish rag, two pot holders, a vinyl tablecloth, and a plastic mixing bowl.  Most of this can be purchased at the Dollar Tree.  You now have a portable kitchen!
2.      You might also gather a Rubbermaid tote and fill it with bedding for your trip.  If you are tent camping you will want to sleep on an air mattress, even if you have an awesome sleeping bag.  You can find sleeping bags at the Goodwill too, very cheap.  They can be washed and dried at home prior to your trip.
3.      Get one more tote ready for “incidentals”:  flashlights, duct tape (trust me), small first aid kit, bug spray, sunscreen, matches, fire starter, etc.  You will also want chairs for around the fire, but if you don’t have room you can just use the picnic table provided. 
4.      I bring some of my own things from home, namely:  cast iron skillet/dutch oven, electric skillet, sometimes a crock pot, spatula, 2 small kitchen knives, a slotted stirring spoon, tongs, and an old fashioned black roaster pan for doing dishes in.  I usually throw this in a laundry basket.  When I get home I return all this to my kitchen.
5.      Put a laminated checklist of each tote’s contents in each tote, and bring a dry erase marker.  Makes packing it back up a breeze.
6.      You will need a decent sized cooler, or better still, borrow one.

Food:

This was the biggest hurdle to my early camping experiences.  I had NO IDEA what to make! I knew that we would go camping, and inevitably there would be That Guy who is over there, roasting a leg of lamb over his fire on a solar-powered spit he whittled out of Popsicle sticks,  and we were over here with a hot dog.  Or there were the Cabela camping divas, with their fancy-pants Coleman stove ($$), Coleman lanterns (cha-ching!), and Yeti coolers (we’re talking lotto winnings here, people). 

I didn’t want the cost of camping to rival an Alaskan cruise.  Nor did I want to eat Bar-S hot dogs for a week.  What was a mom to do?!?

Remember the end goal?  “Focus on my own family. And focus on Mom being a Happy Camper.”

I started to tap into my inner “MomGyver” (if you don’t know who MacGyver is, I question if you are old enough to have your own kids, whipper-snapper) and thought outside the camper.  I thought about what I would do at home if my stove and microwave went out.  And I thought of my electric skillet and crock pot.

Here is a list of what I do for food:

  1.  Prep, prep, prep: Chop your veggies at home.  Save in ziplock bags with a paper towel thrown in to curb “wetness” (ewwwww) that ends the life of your lettuce, etc.  Cook meat beforehand in the oven and bring in ziplock bags.  Less fear of food poisoning that way, and less work for you on the trip.  Bring lots of bagged snacks, or pick them up at a store closer to the campground.
  2.  Breakfast:  We eat big camping breakfasts.  I make pop-from-the-can cinnamon rolls in the toaster oven.  I make pancakes using Bisquick’s “Shake and Pour” mix, so that I can avoid using a bowl or spoon.  I can fill it with a different, cheaper pancake mix to make more.  I can also use it to scramble eggs.  I can cook those in the cast iron pan ON TOP of my electric skillet!  For bacon or sausage, I bake ALL of it at home before the trip, put it in Ziplock bags, and freeze it fully cooked.  It is very easy to throw that in the oven some night before hand while I am in the kitchen anyway.  Then I just re-heat it on the skillet.  I use butter as my primary cooking oil because it travels solidly (nyuk nyuk nyuk!).  Sometimes we pick up donuts on the way out of town for breakfast.
  3.    Lunch:  My lunches are portable, in the event that we want to venture off to swim, hike, or go into town.  I usually do peanut butter and jelly, chips (I buy those bags that have lots of types of chips in them), and fruit and carrots.  That way we can go if the mood strikes us.
  4. Supper:  If you have a cast-iron skillet, you can cook on the grate provided (usually, but not always) on your fire pit should you feel adventurous.  I like to use fully cooked meats. I am not trying to food poison my whole family.  So we save, mainly for camping, kielbasa as a treat!  We make kielbasa sandwiches, and fry potatoes in the skillet.  My family loves it.  We have also done:  
      1.    Tacos/burritos/rice:  make meat ahead, cut up veggies ahead, cook and freeze rice
      2.   Soup:  I have used my crock pot for this when we have played all day.
      3.   Flatbread pizzas:  make pizzas, heat up in toaster oven.
      4.   Always have s’more supplies for dessert!  Or store bought cookie dough for the toaster oven. 
        Pancakes and the beginnings of a "pizza breakfast skillet".  This is inside our little RV.

        Cinnamon roll bacon face breakfast. 

Above all, don’t sweat it.  Have fun with your kids and that is what they will remember:  the time that Mom caught a “rock fish” (on my pole!  I felt like Charlie Brown at Halloween!), when Dad rode our son’s small bike, etc.  That is what this is:  a time to recharge.  EVEN for Mom.  She needs it too.

What have you done to make your camping trips more enjoyable?

P.S.  If you have firewood restrictions in your area, you will probably have to buy it where you are camping. 






Thursday, July 28, 2016

Lessons from Elijah

Today the kids and I learned about the prophet Elijah.  Elijah was a tough as nails prophet sent to talk to King Ahab.  King Ahab, bad as he was, wasn't the worst----that title was earned by his wife, Jezebel.

Jezebel hated God, and as a result, hated all representation of God.  I imagine her as a vindictive, spiteful, awful woman who was convicted over her sins and not only refused to repent, but wished to strike every memory of God from her person so that she would not be reminded of her sin.  She was not submissive; she led with an iron fist. She wanted her way.

Elijah told Ahab that Israel would have no rain until he said so.  And with that, the voice of the Lord led Elijah to a little brook that had not yet dried up so that he might drink, and fed him. . .

from ravens.

Yep.  He received, from the ravens, bread and meat two times a day.

Think about this:  why a raven?

Well. . . .a raven could fly to somewhere far away to GET meat and bread.  According to Wikipedia, a raven is a survivor because "they are extremely versatile and opportunistic in finding sources of nutrition, feeding on carrion, insects, cereal grains, berries, fruit, small animals, and food waste."  They are highly intelligent birds, able to problem solve and avoid capture.  


God used ravens because they were perfect, just the way He had already created them. They obeyed His command and never, ever wavered in their duty.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
This election is really a pretty awful time.  It can cause a lot of worry and fear about the future for people who belong to Jesus.  We worry about our Christian liberties being taken away, about the laws changing into a form of legal persecution somewhere not too far down the road, about our American rights being stripped from us. We can get angry or upset about it to the point that it causes us to sin with anger or hate, or other things I am guilty of too.  

But what I saw today in my study was that, here is Elijah, simply following God in a time of terrible persecution, upheaval, and Israel not looking a thing at all like God's people in the way they were being led and in what they were doing, and in the midst of great turmoil and grief and sorrow. . . 

Elijah was fed by ravens.


Can you just imagine?  Imagine the starvation all around-----remember Katrina?  Remember how desperate people acted in a time of great calamity?  And yet God led Elijah to a quiet place of rest, and FED HIM BY RAVENS!  


Sometimes God has to get us in a hard spot so we can see the miracles that He does for us every day. 


If our country is headed for a hard spot, and you are a child of the Most High, be prepared.


Not to store boxes of ammo, not to boil water, not to get your Canadian passport ready. . . .

 
But be ready, by putting on your whole armor. . . .and simply follow God. 

 
And no doubt, He will make a miraculous provision for you.  


Psalms 37:25  "I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread."

May you have a blessed day,

Sandra










Sunday, May 8, 2016

Dear Mom,

This year I sent you a card that said, "when I thank God for my blessings, I thank Him for You."

This is very true.  There have been many times when I have humbly thanked Him for loaning me to YOU specifically, as it has made me who I am today.  Today, I am mothering my own brood.  Because of your lasting impact on me, I realize (sometimes stifling under the overwhelming sense of it all), the lasting impact I will have on my own children----good or bad.

From you, I learned the importance of the presence of a "soft mom".  You were never a flashy, sensational, red-lipstick-and-short-skirt mom.  I never felt that I had to compete with you, because you were Mom and stayed there.  You didn't try to become my friend or my peer.  And you didn't expect me to be yours, either.  You were Mom and I was a child.  You were also an employee, a daughter, a sister.  But those worlds didn't collide with mine too much, because you didn't make it about "you".  I never felt like you were burdened by me or my needs.  You were just there.  You smelled good, you had a soft voice, kind hands, and gentle nature, even when we called you every single afternoon at Evenflo Products to see what time you would be home, knowing you would be home at the same time every day.  When I am tempted, so very often, to make my mothering journey about "ME". . . I remember you.  I remember that, although I am sure now you experienced fatigue and burnout beyond measure, I didn't hear that from you.  For that, I thank you.

From you, I learned to find joy in simplicity.  We loved, and still do, the thrill of a great thrift-store bargain.  We both enjoy old recipes, dark chocolate, ice cream eaten in the car, nature, taking a walk, standing back and looking at something we just weeded, cleaned, or organized.  We appreciate anything that can keep our hair out of our face, and clothes that don't need to be ironed.  We both scoff at the notion of being a millionaire and how we just still would not be able to bring ourselves to buy things at full-price.  We are generic groceries, generic children's vitamins, re-purposers, and dare I admit. . . washers of disposable cups and good "quality" plastic silver ware, which I swore ad nauseam I would never, ever do.  We are both Mom-Gyver, able to fix broken toys or toilet flappers with dental floss and a paper clip.  When I am tempted to grow discontented with my ever-so familiar surroundings of ancient linoleum and nude wallpaper, I think of you.  I think of how you grew up without the benefit of indoor plumbing or generous portions, and were able to find fun in working for all that you had.  I think of how you don't have a great need for new house-things, and how we lived in a tiny duplex with shag carpet covered with toys.  For that example, I am thankful.  God knew I would be in a spot where I would have to learn contentment, and I believe He used you to help cultivate that in me.

From you, I learned to find the weak and the wounded, and give them extra care.  I learned to spot out the old folks and hold doors, carry groceries to the car, and make small talk.  I learned to show special attention to the kids whose faces and clothes are the dirtiest.  I learned to be gracious to the awkward, and that the greatest humiliation was not for those caught being in the company of "undesirable" folks, but for those who treat the less fortunate with cruelty or indifference.  I learned to use cooking and baking as a means of showing comfort or care to neighbors. I watched you care for your mother with a special, thoughtful attentiveness.  I watched you care for your less-than gracious mother-in-law with infinite patience.   For this, I am thankful.  When I grow weary of those who need me so, I think of your example.  I think of how I can Just. Do. It. and do it without grumbling or complaining or worrying about what I "deserve".

From you, I learned that it is OK to be embarrassingly silly if it will evoke laughter from a child. Whether it was playing "Lady of Spain" on the accordion window fan, or telling super fast bedtime stories so we would finally GO TO SLEEP, I learned that Mom was fun.  I learned that puns are fantastic and that witty, sarcastic humor and a sense of rhyme can bring levity to nearly any situation, even when it involves cremated remains.  For this, I am thankful.  I am sort of the kid Pied piper, much like yourself, and when I do anything silly like you our kids always say, "you sound just like Nani."

So Mom, thank you.  Thank you for setting yourself aside for the betterment of me.  Thank you for teaching. . . by doing.  I love you and hope that you have a wonderful day, and I truly desire all of God's richest blessings for you!

Love,
Sandra






Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Judge not

Eggshells.

We were all on eggshells this morning.  Three of my children woke up on the wrong side of the continent and were doing their due diligence to disrupt the peaceful morning that I was determined to have.

This is becoming an all-too-familiar scene: out of diapers, out of potty training, and out of biting, I have entered, “bickering”.  Bickering, backbiting, and selfishness.  There are days that I feel like I could trade my blouse for a black and white striped shirt and blow a whistle all day long, calling foul after foul and assessing penalty after penalty.  I grow oh-so-weary of it.  I am sometimes weary of it before I even get out of bed!  The inmates are attempting a hostile takeover of the asylum, and I wrongfully at times feel powerless.  I reach for the referee outfit in reactionary posture, and forget that I am really the coach.

Today it was a Pharisee-fest.  I had four little Pharisees, tooting their own horns, calling out law violators, no one listening, not one sign of honest repentance in sight.  Any schedule progress had ceased. 

I didn’t just have Pharisees.  I had judges.

So we sat down to morning Bible story.  I am again, grateful and humble, and thankful that God meets me in the chaos.  He meets in real time, when I need Him, and when my kids need Him.  When I first  started doing Bible time with my kids, I believe that I was the one reaping the most benefit.  And while that feeling still holds true, I now can see that He is giving my children exactly what they need, too.

Although I wanted to pounce all over Philippians 4:8 because I had heard one too many “jerk!”’s and “it’s not fair!”s, and did talk about that with them later, the Spirit was gently nudging me over to Matthew, to the words of Jesus.  To “judge not”.

“Judge not, that ye be not judged.   For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.   And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?   Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?  Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.”--------Matthew 7:1-5

I had the opportunity to serve on jury duty in December of this past year.  A juror is able to hear all of the evidence.  She is educated in the requirements of the law, and the stipulations under which she can decide innocence or guilt. As a collective group, the jurors reach a verdict. They are expected to do so and are charged with deciding honestly and justly.   But the execution of punishment is up to the judge. 

Why?  Well, the judge has also heard all of the evidence.  There are additional facts in a case and facts about a defendant that judges have and jurors are not privy to. But probably most importantly, the judge is the expert in the law and what it requires as a penalty.
 
I can see behaviors in our world, and when supported by evidence and by knowledge of God’s commandments, can render a verdict.  But I am not the one to issue the penalty. 

God is a perfect judge.  He has intimate knowledge of each of us which we don’t have of ourselves.  He knows our motives, our weaknesses, our hurts and fears, our desires.  He knows where we have been, where we are, and where we are going.  He has a perfect, all-encompassing viewpoint of the circumstances of each and every person who has ever, or will, live. 

With a log in my own eye, my vision is distorted.  When I want to be the judge of my Christian brothers and sisters, I want to elevate myself to be like God.  Not only can I not see them fully or me fully, I have a huge log in my own eye: pride.  As long as that pride remains, I will never see clearly.  I will operate out of a distorted view of others, and will accomplish absolutely nothing for the Lord.  I will be as a “clanging brass or cymbal”, offensive to all and blind to my own hypocrisy.  I will not sow, and therefore will not reap.

And when I judge the world-----not  being a juror, but being a JUDGE------and executing  the punishment of not sharing the gospel because I feel like I  have been offended by their actions toward me, or just by their sin in general------how can I possibly be keeping His commandments?  “If ye love me,” He said, “keep my commandments.”  How can we follow the Great Commission as a judge?

No------we must follow it as a servant.  After all, we aren’t the ones who are being offended.  God is, and He is the one who wants us to go unto the broken and the sin-sick and share His love.  (I realize that Paul said that the saints shall judge the world, and shall judge angels, in 1 Corinthians 6.  But that “shall” tells us it is for a future time.)    

When my children judge one another by using cross words or other acts of retaliation, do you know who gets judged?  They do.  They are judged and punished  for their retaliatory deeds.  If they would worry about correcting their own character flaws, they would be happier, more humble, more grateful, and we would have a more peaceful, joyful day.  They would accomplish so much more by working together! 

Sisters, what would our churches look like if they were filled with servants of one another, instead of a Supreme Court?  How much love could we pour out onto this dying, desperate, hurting, sinful world?  How much more Jesus would they see?

I would love to tell you that the bickering ceased.  It did for a time, most of the day in fact.  We had an opportunity to confess the logs in our own eyes, myself included.  We went around the table and complimented one another, some begrudgingly, others willfully.

Sometimes as a mama I have to remind myself that I am mainly a servant, and not a judge all of the time.  I can judge my children’s behavior, and I am expected to and to act accordingly.  But the heart matters are left up to the Lord.  I inform, I train, and I pray for, but the work in their hearts is God’s work to do.  I have to trust that the wisdom they get from me, that I get from Him, will be like my Brussels sprout seeds-----buried deep, with all the right elements in place, but waiting on a whisper from Him to get moving.

Love to you all-----
Sandra