Happy Campers

Caryn: I have leeches in my fridge right now. They were once bait, but my son—in a long line of animal-loving and rescuing people—decided that instead of using them all to try to catch bass in Green Bay, they should be kept as pets. Pets. Leeches for pets.

And I said it was okay. (Note: I did draw a line when he came to me worried about what they would eat since they really need human blood. I know this boy well and his eyes told me he expected me to offer my wrists. No go. These leeches may die a slow death, actually…. Better to be bait!)

I said it was okay because I’m still on the totally-loving-my-family-loving-my-role-as-mama high that this week’s family camping trip in beautiful Peninsula State Park put me on. (This is not to say that the whole trip was bliss and I didn’t totally melt down and yell at my family at the campsite on Tuesday night. Because it wasn’t and I did….) But aside from prowling and crunching-on-something animals and one huge storm that kept me from sleepinig too well, this trip was great.

Woods. Lake. Bay. Beach. Kayaks. Swedish pancakes. Piers. Beer-battered fried cheese curds. Seeing my five-year-old daughter play fairy house around a tree stump. My two-year-old turning around to smile at me as I pointed out bluffs and caves from the kayak. My seven-year-old hooking nightcrawlers and leeches and casting off with his dad. Me having a solid hour of blissful, sun-setty quiet on a bay-side park bench while two of my kids played together at a playground. What’s not to love about this?

And that was the thing. I know there’s not going to be much to respond to or comment about here, probably. But I just felt like with all the “complaining” we do (or I do) about the roughness of motherhood, about the unfairness of expectations, about losing our identities, I wanted to just give a shout out to what Carla has called the “wonders” of motherhood. (Actually, I think it was the “Wonders of the First Year” but who cares.)

Were I not a mom, camping just now would’ve just been okay. (Though I still think the beach is best sans kids. Oh, how I miss lying in the sun and reading without having to worry about someone drowning!!) Without being able to watch each of my three kids’ personalities shine in the shady woods, it would’ve been, well, watching my city-boy husband roll his eyes at the other campers staring into their fires wondering why we weren’t in that nice hotel with the big porches. Watching a fish boil, at least.

This week’s time in the woods and on a lake with my lovely family just helped me appreciate my family for who we are—individually and collectively. And I loved that. So I thought I’d share.

Carla: I’m so glad you have been willing to sit at my feet and discover the joys of camping.

We, too, were camping this week and I felt much the same way–that despite the fact that neither of the adults got to spend any time in the fabulous hammock, despite the rain that forced us into our tent for most of an afternoon, despite what my husband says may have been the most horrific 45 minutes of his life spent on a bug-plagued trail with our two oldest kids, we had a wonderful time together. We told the kids stories about when they were younger. We pretended we were a pioneer family venturing into the woods for the first time. We snuggled and read and explored and laughed (and some of us yelled a little bit).

Family vacations don’t always bring out the best in me, but camping seems to work for us. It does remind me of the wonders of parenthood. At least once day, I looked at my babies playing together or helping each other or working with us and I was flooded with that warm mommy love.

So maybe the question is, what bring out that rush of love for you? In what activities or moments do you find yourself being reminded of how glorious parenting can be?

Caryn: Well, thanks a lot, Carla. That was going to be MY big wrap up question! (And for what it’s worth, I discovered the joys of camping as a child. The rest of my family hated it, but I actually liked it. So, technically, I was re-discovering the joys. But yes, you sparked my interest again.) So, Revolutionary Mamas (and Steve), what does bring that rush of love?


7 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by April G. on July 18, 2009 at 12:30 pm

    Another post close to my heart. I LOVE camping. When I was a child, my hippy father owned land in Colorado. We spent each summer with him in the high desert. It was a child’s paradise: no running water, no electricity, 40+ acres to explore, a canyon with water holes to swim naked in and then dry in the sun, horses, chickens, sunsets, coyotes, outhoses, a big garden, and campfires every night. For two years my father lived in a tent while he built his log cabin. Even after the cabin was built, my bedroom was a tent each summer. Needless to say, this experience has engrained in me a deep deep love of the outdoors and gardening. I long for it, feed off it, get energized by it. But, sadly, we have only been camping with our children once. My daughter was an infant and my son was a year and a half. I spent most of the time worrying about him falling into the campfire or running off in the woods by himself. I am hoping we can go again this year now that they are a little older (2 and 3). But we do get our outdoor fix with our two big gardens. We have turned about 1/3 of our little Minneapolis yard into a garden and we also rent four plots at a local community garden. Between the two gardens we have well over 100 tomato plants, 150 pepper plants, strawberries, squash, cucumbers, zucchini, beans, peas, carrots, lettuce, cabbage, herbs, chard, and more I am sure I am forgetting. My husband and I both get a special thrill from watching our children enjoy the garden vegetables. They devour the peas like candy. The othe night they were both sitting on the sidewalk with a handful of peas shelling them and eating them. Esther was gathering them in her dress as she shelled them. For some reason, watching her do that made everything feel right with the world. We love watching our kids grab handfuls of herbs or a fresh carrot to eat. Something about that hits a special place in my heart. Several nights a week the kids and I will meet my husband at the garden. The kids will play while we work. It is usually dusk, that special time of night when everything seems more magical. Those moments as well make me love being a mother. I long for when my kids are a little older and camping will be more manageable too. 🙂 I can’t wait.


  2. The kids tripping into the campfire thing stressed me out more than I could almost bear. Glad I’m not alone in that!

    Am I right in thinking maybe we need to plan a Mommy Rev Family Camp-a-ganza?


  3. Posted by Steve B. on July 18, 2009 at 5:59 pm

    Well isn’t this ironic? In 2 days our little family of 3 will be flying to southern Montana to enjoy a week’s vacation. Part of this will include one night of camping in Yellowstone. Those who know my wife – aka, the Queen of Fashion – are quite amazed that she will be spending part of her hard-earned vacation in a tent in grizzly bear country. But why does she do it? Quite simply, for the kids (me and our daughter). I am so looking forward to the sheer joy on our daughter’s face as she takes in the majestic sights that I did back in 1971 (shut up, I’m old), the last time I visited Yellowstone and camped in the same campground. Hiking, spelunking, fishing, and staring into the campfire, all the while asking “Is this what you did when you were little?” To have my family together, without any distractions, is as good as it gets for me.

    As for my dear wife, I have the perfect out should she complain about the harsh elements of camping. I remind her that when we went to Kenya, she survived a camping safari in which we spent 3 nights in the African jungle, in two-person tents, listening to elephants chomping on leaves and hoping and praying that the Masai warriors sitting by our fire to protect us from lions really knew how to throw those spears. Yellowstone National Park? Piece of cake.


  4. Posted by Robyn on July 18, 2009 at 7:17 pm

    I like “camping” in hotels… I don’t even really mind nature as long as there is a hot shower and real bed at the end of the day.

    But, to the point, one of my favorite things about motherhood is also getting to see my child discover, wonder, learn, and enjoy life.


  5. I grew up camping,–we went to Pennisula State park every Columbus Day weekend (the colors are beautiful in the fall) when I was a kid. My husband did not go camping. so we haven’t done a lot of camping–altho we did yellowstone last summer–and had a great time. My kids are heading to Yosemite Natl Park with my parents, who feel my children have been deprived because they haven’t gone camping enough. Of course, these days, Grandma and Grandpa love hiking but tents–not so much. So they’ll stay in cabins.
    My kids are teens so no worries about falling into campfires–altho they are sometimes too daring when it comes to climbing on things (teens and toddlers are similar in that way).
    And Camp-a-ganza, CAryn? sounds great!


  6. Lovely thoughts.

    I’m finding that I get more of those rushes of loving mama life in the midst of our ordinary lives. Just last night after getting home late I went up to watch my kids sleep for a few minutes. They were sleeping so deeply and peacefully that I was assured in those few minutes that my husband and I are loving them well and providing a nurturing home for them. I was grateful to God for giving us the ability to care for our children. (I am able to see this more when they are asleep. There’s no arguing, whining, & fussing–from them or me–to get in the way of my attempts to believe this.)

    I also like watching them love learning. It is fascinating to watch their synapses fire when they make connections and when they begin to grasp new ideas. I feel honored to have the opportunity to observe this and be a part of this on a daily basis.

    Vacations are great, too. Our family trips to the beach are full of fun, happy-mama times, too. We’re all more relaxed because we are away from all of the pressures and responsibilities that oftentimes pull on us, weigh us down & take away our energy.


  7. gloriousness of parenting …

    getting texts from my daughter who’s working at Trout Lake this summer, relaying to me – with pride – that she caught a big snake … but it bit her. LOL!

    little girls with bedhead standing on a chair flipping pancakes.

    eavesdropping on my 14yo son telling his grandparents all kinds of details about his recent trip .. the one that he told me very little about.

    p.s. — not a camper, here. maybe once the kids are grown …


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