The past few months have been very difficult for me. My heart has been broken, my stress levels have been high... I've questioned everything from our journey in foster care to my parenting and my career and myself. I think that this trip was just as much, if not more, for me than anyone else. I needed a change of scenery, I needed a break from reality ... I needed my mom without realizing it.
Part of the reason for our trip was to see my family in Arizona... yes, my entire family (except my dad) live within an hour of each other. This makes a family trip easier because I just have to go to one place to see everyone. This would be the first time that our son met the majority of my family and the first time I've been there in about 3 years. We planned for my husband to fly in about a week later to do the return trip with us to really make it our first full family trip since our son came.
We arrived at my moms pretty late Friday night and we were all just happy to be out of the car for a few days and excited about the things we were planning on doing. The kids shared a room at my moms, but not a bed... I learned my lesson people! They were OUT almost as soon as we got there, both sleeping in the next day which was such a blessing.
Throughout the week it was family, family and MORE family. We got to see my 97 year old grandmother and were given some of the greatest life lessons. Please video your grandparents. I asked her advice, life questions and just general stuff. I LOVE that we will have these forever and she was more than willing to chat. I did the same with my grandfather before he passed a few years ago. I wish I had done it with my other grandmother. We were incredibly close so it never crossed my mind but now, she passed in 2013, I really regret it. My grandmother is blind now, she hadn't met my son before nor been able to see a photo of him so we explained his looks as Opie... she laughed and hugged him. He just LOVED meeting his GG (great grandma).
Then came camping. So lets set the stage for a moment shall we. I grew up tent camping... like middle of no where, at the lake, no facilities, tent camping. I loved it and it holds some of my favorite family memories. My mom picked this campsite due to the proximity of water. Lets remember we were in the AZ desert and it was 105 the day we set up camp... water is important, especially for the kids. So we drove, then more and then found the dirt road and parked. This was the first time in my life I camped in a campground.. and it had a BATHROOM! We set up all the tents, the pop ups and then found the nearest water hole and just hung out. I was in heaven. No devices, no drama, just family and the heat. The next night the rest of my family showed up and a day later my husband did. We ended up with about 18 people, including kids, camping in the desert. My kids were in heaven, as were the rest. They hunted crawdads, built dams, played kickball.... they just simply got to be KIDS. I got the chance to rejuvenate a little. I sat, reflected, laughed and talked. I watched my kids create memories together and with their cousins. For 5 whole days, we camped without social media, without FaceTime, without technology. THIS was what my heart needed.
Tips for camping, in the middle of nowhere, with kids.
1. We bought nets and buckets at the dollar store. These provided 4 days of entertainment for under $10 for ALL the kids.
2. LOTS of water and ensure they actually drink it, not open the bottle, take one sip and "lose" it.
3. Sunscreen! My son is a redhead, he gets tanned but I didn't want to chance it. All of the kids, including my daughter (with her hispanic olive completion) were doused with sunscreen multiple times a day. I've been the one friend like a lobster on day one and remained miserable for the duration of a trip.
4. Have an ice chest JUST for kids drinks. They tend to not close the lid entirely and you don't want them to ruin the meat.
5. Dollar store flashlights! These created hours of entertainment from tag to bathroom runs... and spooky tent stories.
6. An extra bathing suit and a clothesline. Our kids spent ALL day in a bathing suit. Honestly I packed them 2 bathing suits, 4 shirts and pajamas... no need for anything else. At the end of the day I would wash the suit, hang it to dry and the next day they could wear another suit and alternate.
7. Fruit for snacks. Apples, watermelon and grapes have a high water content which also helps with keeping kids hydrated while they are in that type of heat.
Camping like this warmed my heart for more reasons that the Arizona heat. Sharing one of my favorite childhood experiences with my kids was amazing. They got to understand my love of camping and it actually enticed them to want to camp more. Living in Tennessee there are A TON of amazing places we could camp so this just opens up a world of memories with my family.
What is your favorite childhood memories to share with your kids?