Thursday, September 24, 2015

Out of the house and into the woods

The forecast last weekend predicted perfect camping weather. We jumped at the opportunity for a long awaited camping trip. It'd been almost 3 years since our last camping trip, unbelievable!
Since the start of school, life has been fast paced and monotonous. We needed to take the time with just our family and get away from the house. We needed to forget about reading challenges, fractions and division, diagramming sentences and keeping the house picked up. This family desperately needed to look at each other in the eyes, listen and laugh together.
Now, before I give the wrong idea that this was the perfect weekend, before the pictures make me a liar, we had some big struggles. I had a week long battle with my kids not listening to a word I said. Everyone fought with everyone, I was pretty tired of wasting my breath and fighting the fighting.
Going tent camping for a family of 8 requires so much preparation, all the things to pack and then, to get it all fit into the van. By the time Joe came home from work, I had lost my mind. All day I'd been fighting with the kids to stop fighting and saying horrible things to each other, to help me and to clean the house before we left in case there was a showing, which there was. I was one crazy momma and despite how hard I was trying to get into the mindset that this was going to be fun, I was not having fun, I just wanted to go camping by myself! And then of course, I had a bunch of guilt for not dealing with everything better. Eventually, I was able to let things go and be present, but it was hard. This mom isn't perfect and this family isn't perfect.
The first thing Brady did was dump out his 40some cars and trucks into the dirt and start building roads. This is what he did for hours and hours all weekend, he was the happiest little guy. Up until the minute we left, he was playing cars in the dirt. They were the last things packed away. There were tears that he had to leave his spot. I took a picture of his final construction to ease the heartache.
Joseph helped Joe set up the tents and get everything set up. He is the best helper and so handy, always likes figuring things out. It's so nice to give him jobs to do that he thinks are fun and helps us out. He loves being outside and playing in the fire was definitely the highlight of the weekend for him.
Often times it's surreal, we have little ones who are imagining and pretending, then we have these two big kids who sit by the fire talking and quoting Tim Hawkins. Jenna is still at the age that she floats between the two groups. I have moments that I see the changes and I just can't move. All I can do is try to freeze time and remember the moment we're in, knowing these days are numbered. Our olders are closer everyday to being teenagers and our littles are fast nearing their siblings. I definitely feel the changes happening and coming. This is why we have to make the effort to do these things more often.
Anne, she played Mom and Dad with Brady all weekend. Jenna joined them alot. Anne is such a funny little gentle girl, always relaxing. She can rock a little camp chair.

Our kids are expert campers, they love everything about it. No one is afraid of bugs or the dark. No one missed their beds. Not a single complaint about campground bathrooms, layers of dirt on their skin or marshmallow in their hair.
Despite the fact that our campground was between a Nightmare Forest and a Field of Screams, and we listened to sirens, train whistles, machine guns, chainsaws and loud booms from 7pm-2am, they all went to sleep just fine and woke up the next morning saying they slept great. Not the case for Joe and I, we both agreed we wouldn't be staying the second night... until the kids got up the next morning so happy and loving camping. We knew we had to endure the nightmare all over again the following night.
We somehow talked about how Indians named their children. Joe said they named them whatever they saw when they walked outside the tent, but Jenna remembered reading in a museum that they named their children when they were 6 years old. So we talked about what we would name our kids at 6 years old. We talked about what traits they have that would be the meaning of their names. Bethany got my phone out and started looking up names. Here is a list we had fun making.

Bethany~Miya~Elder Sister
Jenna~Ahyoka~She broght happiness
We laughed alot at the meaning of names, like one name meant coughing fish. And when Jenna heard the meaning of Ahyoka, she said, "Call me Ahyoka Daddy! It means, she brought happiness!" and then she giggled her silly laugh and plopped herself into his lap.
Bethany was reading over the campground rules and one of them was do not deface a tree of it's bark. Jenna said, "How do we not look at a tree?!"
Laynee sat in her high chair or pack in play for hours over the weekend. We'd walk by her and she'd just smile at us. She loved camping, she loves when a breeze blows on her face. Both nights she slept all night. We all just can't stop awing over her, she is one loved baby.
 This poor baby can't get any attention.
We walked to the river and the kids were limboing under this log gate. The picture makes it look like Joseph is lifting the log.
Bethany likes to be dramatic, especially when I try to take her picture. Her favorite part of the weekend was everything. She loved going exploring, taking the little kids on walks around the campground or in the nearby woods. The three oldest slept in a tent and the 3 youngest slept in mine and Joe's tent. Bethany told Anne she missed sleeping with her. The two of them are buddies.
Anne is like Bethany in some ways and I can see looking up to Bethany. Bethany mothers Anne in a very good way.
When we asked the kids what their favorite part of the weekend was Anne said it was seeing the "creek" and throwing rocks into the water.
Brady's favorite part was playing cars in the dirt and finding treasures. The second night we were there, he collected some sticks, feathers and beer caps. One stick was shaped like my sister's initial of her last name, T, and the other he held up and said, "Look at my eyebrow!"
The following day, we went to a creek and I told him I'd walk with him to look for treasure, because he was completely obsessed with finding things on the ground. I didn't have the heart to tell he couldn't keep the beer caps, because he was so happy everytime he found another one. He did have some pieces of broken glass and I told him he couldn't keep that, so when we saw a buried bottle that I thought might be unbroken, I was excited for him. I showed him how to use a stick to dig it up. I told him how Joe buried a bottle in the ground and put my ring in it. Sure enough, it wasn't broken. He was over the moon. He collected pieces of old metal, an old nail, some rectangle, flat rocks, a bunch of bottle caps, a penny and a quarter. I had to laugh at one point because Anne pointed to something on the ground and he said, "That's garbage Anne, I don't collect garbage!"
I don't know if I have ever seen Brady so completely happy, and he is one of the happiest kids. It was the sweetest time and gave me so much joy. I held his hand and we walked in the creek looking at fish and crayfish. It was definitely one of those moments I just tried to savor and lock away.
He came home from camping and that's all he can talk about. He can't wait to go looking for treasure again, it was the highlight of his life. Several times over the weekend he said, "Thank you Mommy and Daddy. You made the whole family have fun!"
When we asked Jenna what her favorite time of the weekend was, she said all of it and having everyone together. Joe and I both kinda laughed because we are together almost all the time. She said, "Yeah, but everyone is in different places in the house and doing different things." What she says is pretty true but it's also very much her personality. She likes being with others. I told Joe she is definitely his daughter, she is like him in so many ways, and I can't think of a single thing that she and I are the same in, it's really amazing.
One of my favorite things about the weekend was stopping on the side of the road for probably 20 minutes to touch Touch-Me-Nots. They are the most entertaining and fun wildflower, you touch the seed pods and they bust open.
The second night was much quieter, but colder. Everyone slept great and was sad to have to come home. The battery on the van died and we had to get a jump from a neighbor camper, then replace it altogether.
I had a camp stove dropped on my foot and Jenna had a log dropped on her toe but other than that we didn't have any other injuries.
The weekend was a needed reminder that we have to work hard to make memories. It has to be a priority. Sometimes the best memories are made during the stressful moments. Life isn't perfect. We aren't perfect people but I'd still say last weekend was perfect. It was exactly what I hoped for and so much more.

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