How to Succeed in Camping Without Really Trying

We went backyard camping this weekend and… good news!… we survived. We even all got some sleep!

IMG_20180127_192045

The husband got home Friday around 5:30pm and I headed off to the store because, SURPRISE!, we had no food. Well, at least no food we could easily cook outside. Plus, we did not have s’more stuff. How can one even survive a camp out without s’mores? Riots, led by me, would ensue. Plus, we are a one car family right now (although the husb is literally at a car place AS I TYPE to hopefully purchase a tiny tin can, I mean…a Honda Fit) so I couldn’t go before he got home.

I asked/told him to set up the first tent while I was out so we would not run too late, but the poor man got distracted playing with his kids. Who does that?! Just kidding. He’s great and the kids were loving playing on the crash pad with him.

So I went to the grocery store which put us setting up camp and starting the fire around 6:15 or so. I let the oldest help set up the tent and she was beside herself kind of happy. You probably don’t know her, but she has this incredible vocabulary so she told me that setting up the tent was “delightful”. Yep. That’s my awesome kid, folks. She is, for real, the coolest 5 year old ever.

IMG_20180127_180932 - Copy

In the midst of my love of setting up a tent with my oldest and watching her traipse around the wet yard, proudly sporting her headlamp and asking where the stakes go, guess who forgot to make dinner? My husband. Just kidding, it was me.

So I check the fire, it’s passed 6:30pm now (which is typically the latest they will wait to eat), and start to get our foil packets together. Chicken. Asparagus. Barbecue sauce. Deliciousness awaited us!

Except…

The kids could not make it and the meltdown process began. The youngest especially was going downhill fast. So, last minute change in line up, the kids had fancy lunchables for dinner. Yep. I had grabbed some at the store for someone else and then not been able to deliver them to the person so I had random lunchables in my fridge. Divine intervention. So they sat in their camp chairs and ate lunchables while I made foil packet food for the husband and I. In the end, the kids thought they had the better dinner which was hilarious because the foil packets were deliciousness to the extreme, but the middle insisted that his Triscuits, ham, and cheese were much better. We’ll never know. It’s a stalemate.

IMG_20180127_184423 - CopyIMG_20180127_185655 - CopyIMG_20180127_192908

Don’t judge my mushy asparagus – that’s how I like to eat. You roasters (people who roast asparagus) don’t know what your missing.

So after eating, we realized that we had not staked down the first tent because of meltdown city but we also could not find the stakes for the big tent. So we improvised…

IMG_20180127_185605 - CopyIMG_20180127_185350IMG_20180127_185400 - Copy

The husband managed to give himself a lovely souvenir from splitting the wood on his knuckle, but it’ll heal. He said he saw his gloves and was all…”nah”. He changed his mind shortly afterward.

Then we did the most beautiful thing. We put up our new tent.

IMG_20180127_185815

So you may not know, but the husb and I are already planning our 10 year anniversary. It’s two years away, but we have big plans! We are going to go primitive backpacking for a week and it is going to be heaven. We are slowly accruing our gear and going on practice runs until the big one and this beauty is going to be our tent.

Don’t worry, it had all the stakes.

IMG_20180127_192045

Isn’t it beautiful? Answer. Yes.

We put all of our things in it and then, you know what time it was…

IMG_20180127_193019 - CopyIMG_20180127_193928

Oh no! My s’more picture is a bit blurry! Well, I’m saving up for a real camera, but you’ll have to hang with me and my cell phone photography (I did take a short cell phone photography course) in the meantime.

Guys, I bought dark chocolate bars, but I also bought Krackle bars. Is anyone else as obsessed with those as I am? I can only ever find them in the miniature bags or when children sell candy bars for school. I love them. It’s just so good. It’s better than a Crunch bar. There I said it! I’m not ashamed!

So I had a Krackle bar. And it was delicious. So so good. I mean, I also had a dark chocolate one…purely scientific, you know. I needed to compare. Professor Slughorn would have been proud.

But you see, we broke one of our own rules.

Gasp! We are like Leonardo DiCaprio in Inception where every rule he makes, he breaks. Except, this is not our norm. Hopefully.

So the kids were all done and playing around with their giant shadows (doesn’t the middle one kind of look like Darth Vader in his shadow?)…

 

But we still hadn’t had dinner or s’mores! So…we put the kids to bed in the tents. Without us. And in true kiddo fashion, they did not sleep. The audacity! They were so them about it too which was really funny. The oldest stayed quietly in the tent until I could join, the middle kept getting up and down asking for snacks or water or something, and the youngest was laughing hysterically because it is just all too magical.

So we ate, we had our delicious delectable s’mores, and got in our tent.

We got everyone re-settled, we turned on the sound machine, and went to bed. It took a little bit to convince the boys that it was really time, but, special magic, they all went to bed! It was insane and wonderful! No one is more surprised than us!

In fact, all three kids slept all night. (Granted, the husb and I still got very little sleep because the rain kept stopping and starting and the wind kept knocking things onto the tent loudly, but still a win)

We might just be winning an award for this. I’m just saying.

The youngest did wake up with the dawn and want immediately to get out of the tent and be fed, but we consider this adventure a success!

Next step, a nearby, kid-friendly campground. Do you think we should try out Lake Livingston (again) or head to the Sam Houston National Forest? Let me know in the comments!

See you Outside!

 

Camping without Catastrophe

Good Afternoon Everyone! Despite my best efforts to get up and blog this morning, life happened (i.e. we have one car so I am driving the husband to work each day), but I am here now!

IMG_1100

 

One thing I frequently hear from friends is that they are afraid to take their little people tent camping with them because they are not sure how it will go. Let’s be honest that the idea of driving hours, setting everything up, cooking over a stove in dark, all while listening to a screaming toddler does not sound good. With that also comes the deep deep fear that no one will sleep. And anyone with a toddler can tell you that no sleep comes with continuing consequences. You might as well pack up and go home.

Enter Backyard Camping.

Backyard camping is almost like giving your little a class called How to Camp, Toddler Edition. It teaches your child about camping, it gets them comfortable with all of the ins and outs of sleeping outside, but it also allows you to emergency style put someone to bed in their room should things go awry.

We have been backyard camping for over a year with my older two as well as camping on camp grounds. We have even camped in our living room and guest room when the weather was exceptionally bad. They love it. In fact, tomorrow night we will be taking our youngest backyard camping for the very first time. I want to be honest with you:

I have no idea if they will sleep. 

This might be an epic failure. But we will keep at it, and keep trying until we have it all figured out.

Here is roughly how we do it:

Around 5, we all put on clothes that are comfortable enough to sleep in, but are not pajamas so we can still wear them outside.

Then we bring out all the necessaries – tent, ground pads, sleeping bags (or nap mats before the kids had sleeping bags), pillows, comfort items (blanket, teddy bear, etc), extra blankets (if it’s cold), a small portable fan (if it’s hot), headlamps (kids love headlamps way more than flashlights, just trust me), wood, matches, camping chairs, camping utensils/plates, food, trash bag, cooking utensils, and a pan.

IMG_1190
Night time photography is not my strong suit

Next, we set up our grill to be our fire ring. Our kids took a little time learning that fire is hot and should not be touched. As they get older we will use our fire pit, but in the mean time, we like to keep the fire a little higher up for little hands. We teach them how to start the fire step by step, and we teach fire safety. Then we cook! Cooking outside is a great way to give the whole adventure a special feel and help them to understand that cooking will be outdoors when you go camping away from the house. Sometimes, we even use the camp stove in the backyard so that they can see how it works and learn how to be safe near it. Check back later for one of our favorite camp meals!

IMG_1188

Everyone sits around the fire in our camping chairs and we eat a delicious dinner. If you want, you can go so far as to have the kids help you wash the dishes outside, but I will be honest that I usually use paper plates on these adventures and just toss them.

IMG_1184

And what’s a camp out without….s’mores! We always roast marshmallows and have s’mores or banana boat s’mores when we camp. You really want this backyard adventure to feel like camping and to feel exciting/special to your children to help them want to do it again. What’s more exciting than lighting a marshmallow on fire and eating it with melted chocolate? Nothing.

IMG_1185
If you’re wondering what is in the tin…it’s ginger snaps. You won’t regret it.

After dinner, we usually play around in the yard, playing tag or being silly with our headlamps on before tucking in.

Here comes do or die.

We make sure everyone is comfortable, we sing a few songs, we may read a book, and then we turn out the lantern to go to bed.

This is so hard for any toddler.

You may have older kids and this is a snap or just a calm child who goes to bed without issue, but that is not the norm. Our oldest has always had no trouble going to sleep in a tent, and enjoys it a lot. She lays down, gets comfortable, and goes to sleep. Our middle son does the exact opposite. He does anything and everything to keep from sleeping. I cannot tell you the number of times my husband or I have finally given up at 11pm and taken him inside to sleep, leaving the other kiddo(s) and adult to finish out the camping experience.

So how do you get your kids to sleep without catastrophe? The bummer is that there is no magic sauce. But my best advice is:

  1. Do not let the kids sleep next to each otherPutting a parent in between them discourages them from trying to play with each other while also helping them to feel safe and taken care of because they can snuggle up to you should they feel scared.
  2. Do your best to drown out car noiseBoth of my older kids sleep better in the actual great outdoors than in our backyard because the car sounds are not present. Sirens, especially, are not your friend. We occasionally bring a sound machine when we backyard camp to help create a more outdoor sound rather than continuing to hear the sounds of the city.
  3. Regulate the temperature of your tent. I listed above that we bring extra blankets or a portable fan when we backyard camp. While you can make yourself sleep when your pretty cold or pretty hot, children are much less capable of doing this at sleep time. It’s okay for the tent not to feel air conditioned or heated, but circulating the air with a small fan in the summer or having an extra blanket in winter really will make all the difference.
  4. Pretend to sleepIt is so hard, as an adult, to go to bed when they do because they often times need to go to sleep much earlier than you. Close your eyes and pretend to sleep, they are likely to follow your lead. If you can actually stay awake, wait until they fall asleep then get out some headphones and watch Netflix because guess what…your backyard has your house’s wifi. You’re welcome. 

Now the best thing you can really do, is get out there and keep trying! Check back Monday to find out how our youngest did this weekend and comment here with your own stories.

See you Outside!

IMG_0519 (1)
Again, I’m working on the photography thing haha

Outside the Extraneous

IMG_1428Welcome to Outside the Extraneous, a glimpse into my world.

I grew up in the suburbs of Central Texas and, while I was a Girl Scout and my dad was a backpacker in another life, the outdoors was never something I really “did”. I participated in a few sports, I enjoyed playgrounds, but I never considered myself an outdoorsy person. Maybe the fact that I loved the few times we went camping with Girl Scouts and how I aced my outdoor cooking badge should have been a sign to me, but what can I say, small kids are not always the most perceptive. I even found a deep peace at going to camp each summer and spending most of my time outdoors during middle school and high school, but I was not athletic so I assumed I was meant for the indoors.

Then I found myself as an “adult”, because let’s face it that your 20s never feel very adult-like, being invited camping for the first time. I had a tent and a sleeping bag, so I said sure! I was excited but also nervous to be cooking and living outside for a weekend. And while it was not perfect, I felt alive. All those moments at camp where I had woken up early to sit by the lake just to breathe it in began to make sense. The deep love for hiking a difficult section in Colorado, the waterfront work that excited me, and the intense feeling sitting below the stars gave me all began to click together in perfect harmony.

And that’s where the passion started.

So now we are cutting back on screens, we are opting out of screens for our children, and finding joy in camping, hiking, and generally being outside.

We went to Vermont to go snowshoeing and sledding, we hiked in the Texas Hill Country, we enjoyed the snow in North Carolina, we camped in Haiti, we walked all over Seoul to find its green spaces, and backyard camping. So much backyard camping!

I’d love to take you with us on this journey.

In fact, I’ll make you a promise. I will keep coming here, posting each week, giving you the real version of what it is to camp with young three children, and to have a life without a remote controlled babysitter. I will give you product reviews to help you succeed, pictures to help you feel inspired (and normal – because we all make mistakes), and any tips I can find. This will not be a blog that is always about my perfect polished life, but it will be honest and it will be helpful.

Let’s take a note from REI and #optoutside together. Let’s let go of all of all the extraneous things in our life that do not have purpose and do not give life. Let’s live Outside the Extraneous.

20150715_111752