Epic Camping: The Ups.

Everyone should go tent camping.


Unless you have children under four or you are pregnant or live in north Canada or have an aversion to bugs or can’t sleep to the sound of crickets or are addicted to your Sleep Number bed or don’t like peeing in bath houses while large spiders watch you or can’t handle your kids waking up at sunrise.

As I said, EVERYONE should go tent camping.

It really is a lovely experience, and an investment in getting to know nature.


But more about that in the next post.

Our camping trip consisted of myself, my two children, my sister-in-law, her three children, and my parents.

(Don’t ever go camping without grandparents.)

Chris was in Dallas at the season opener football game, and my brother had to work, so the lack of Daddies just made it all the more adventurous.


The five cousins in attendance were:

Ali, 8:


Eli, 7:


Tessa, 6:


Noah, 4:MG_2068.jpg

And Andi, 4:MG_1895.jpg

Clearly, one of the benefits of the trip for me was getting to play with my new camera.MG_2045.jpg

It was even better to have kids around that weren’t my own, because mine might be a little tired of posing for photographs.


But other people’s kids! They’re like fresh meat for my photographical needs!MG_2034.jpg

…Until you try to get them all in a group shot. Because that will never ever ever be successful.


But this is about camping, not photography.

The trip was full of playing in hammocks,


Sword fights,


Glow sticks day and night,MG_2030.jpg



Feeding, chasing, and yelling at the ducks,MG_2074.jpg

Tents accidentally and ridiculously too big,



Pedal Boating,


Perfect reflections,


And a long hike.

The five mile hike, only for myself and the two oldest kids, included nature counts and a very intricate points system that kept changing in an endless string of excited conversation.

Butterflies are worth one point. Butterflies are worth two points. Frogs are worth two points. Frogs are worth 300 points! I see three frogs so that’s 5,000 points! If you see an Alligator it’s worth 500 points but only if he doesn’t eat you. If he eats you then you get zero points. Because you’re dead.

But points aside, we did find 22 frogs.

At least 10 of which Eli picked up,


And exactly three of which peed on him – including this shirt-soaking gusher.


I apologized for the frog’s bad manners, but he told me “Oh it’s okay. I get peed on by frogs all the time.”

Our hike led us to the dam,


Where Ali placed her own form of rebellious graffiti – she wrote her name on a large leaf and left it behind, with the explanation “I’ll be famous now! Because people will see this and know my name!”


So that’s how you get famous, people. In case you were wondering.

And then there was the sunset. THE sunset. One of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen.


The reflections were perfect, and the ducks were amenable to make beautiful synchronized swimming patterns.


The skies morphed so many times over that 43 minutes that I could only capture all of its beauty by making a video. If you’ve never quite understood my obsession with sunsets, this should explain it.

So clearly, it was a beautiful trip. And everyone should go camping. EVERYONE.


Be sure and remember I said that when you read tomorrow’s post. Because we’ll both need the reminder.

Vacation Like it’s 2005.

We just returned from our fifth traditional summer beach trip with our friends, David, Ashley, AJ, and Tessa. We arrived Wednesday evening in Isle of Palms, South Carolina (just a few minutes outside of Charleston), got unpacked, and hurried out to the beach to enjoy the last colors of sunset.


The skies, the water, and the full moon were a blissful start to the trip.


The next morning, we set out for a long day at the beach (after spending the required amount of hours sunscreening the little people and then distracting said little people with silly selfies so they didn’t lose patience with how long it took to sunscreen all the big people.)


We lugged our five tons (per child) of beach equipment with us, and staked our claim on the lovely and largely uninhabited beach.


I decided that before I got wet, I wanted to get some pictures of the kids. So I pulled out my camera, which immediately became covered in a fine mist from the thick humidity. And it proceeded to tell me in no uncertain terms that it would not be cameraing. At all.

I took it back to the house to put it in a dry time out, then headed back out to the beach – old-fashioned style, no camera.

I mean, I did have my phone, but something about not having my “real” camera made me just…let it go.

Not immediately, of course. I was pretty mad at the camera/worried about it/determined to fix it that evening, but that was not to be. It was cooked. But I somehow accepted the fact that this was not meant to be a properly photographed trip and settled into the most bizarre decade-old lifestyle where I simply enjoyed the vacation for myself – and shared the moments almost exclusively with the people I was with.

…I let my Twitter and Facebook feed go.

…I took very few pictures on my phone.

…I tweeted or Facebooked once a day or less.

…I didn’t take any notes for future blog posts.

And in five days of constant fun and beautiful scenery, I only put up six Instagram photos.

I just enjoyed the trip for what it was….a really, really great trip.

Bizarre, right?

And I really liked it that way.


But I captured a few moments…

The children, as always, had the most blissful five days of their year, paired with their best friends in their favorite spot.


And this year, we added a huge upgrade for everyone – we brought our babysitter, Sarah, with us.


(Yes, Noah WAS excited as well, especially since he’s insistent that he’s going to marry Sarah one day.)

The kids got an extra playmate, Sarah got to do what she wanted all day (which ended up sometimes including the kids – lucky them), and then she kept the kids at night so the parents could go out for a lovely dinner with no over-tired beach-burned children to whine throughout our entrees.



It was perfection.


On all of our previous trips with our friends, we have gone to our sandy white Alabama beaches, but Isle of Palms was a fun variety, as we had the super hard Atlantic sand to make the best sand castles,


(Even though it totally looks like mud when photographed),


And the added benefit of the fun sights and activities in Charleston.



Charleston is absolutely one of my favorite southern cities – the history and colors and beaches and atmosphere are all eloquently unique and fantastic.


….And all of it is surrounded by the most beautiful marsh waters, adding a sense of calm and elevated beauty to the entire area.


But other than the above ridiculously choppy narrative, I have no further tales or quotes or silliness to share with you – because I just completely vacated,


Almost as thoroughly as the children.


And it was fantastic.


Just as it should be.


Summers are For Kids.

Our summer thus far has been the most fascinating family paradox. While Chris and I have been wrestling with it in a most epic fashion, the kids have literally had The Best Summer Of Their Lives.

  • I had surgery = The kids got ten days of fabulous playdates with different friends every. single. day. Then got to eat the remains of my tonsillectomy spread of ice creams.
  • Our house flooded and we had to move out = the kids got to live in a fancy hotel for five days with their own pool and breakfast buffet and dreams come true.
  • We’ve had workmen in our house for days at a time = The kids got to spend every day being chauffeured by me to fun activities and interesting surprise ways to spend our days.
  • Noah got bit by a spider = Okay that one wasn’t fun for anyone.

But you get the point. Things have been solidly going their way – summer camps and pool days and being on billboards and visiting TV stations and waterslides. They’ve been very aware of their fortunes and fairly thankful for them, as kids go. At least once a day, Ali has reminded me that “This is THE BEST SUMMER EVER!!!!”, which has helped me find solace in her exuberance…and prove that summers truly are for kids.


As such, Noah had yet another fantastic summer surprise last week.

It never hurts to have dreams. To be a person with vision. And to communicate that vision clearly to the people around you.

Especially if you’re four and endearing.

A few weeks ago, I discovered The Ideal Bribe to get Noah to be the perfect four-year-old that has been in my personal dreams – and that bribe was a favorite shirt from his favorite store, Alabama Outdoors.


But in that process, Noah expressed his vision for how things should be.

He needed the Big Tree on the front of the shirt.

I mean – if that tree is a beacon of everything you love, then you want to be able to see that tree, blown up, as big as your chest, without having to screw your head around backwards. A completely reasonable observation.

IMG_8265I told you the shirt was bright. I’m pretty sure the whole city can see him.

Alabama Outdoors took note of Noah’s vision, and Tyler and Evan specially designed and printed just such a T-Shirt for him, even in his favorite colors.

His Big Tree on Front bliss was palpable.


This made for a very smug four-year-old. One that will probably begin to have many more visions for the way things should be.

But the question that Noah hadn’t considered was: what do you put on the back of a shirt when you move the big tree to the front?


Apparently Alabama Outdoor’s design theory is to fully solidify my son’s Diva Status and Summer of Dreams.


I’m pretty sure this makes Noah The Official Alabama Outdoors Mascot. Or an Indentured Future Employee. One or the other.

As a bonus, Noah got a lesson in exactly how rock climbing works, including adding new rocks to the wall,


and learning how to belay, using The Lovely Silver Lady.


When Tyler brought Silver Lady over for the demonstration, Noah immediately asked, “Did you stuff her after she died?”

I’m not sure what the alternative answers to this question were in Noah’s mind…

“No – we stuffed her before she died.”

“No – she died but we didn’t bother stuffing her.”

“No – her skin tone is naturally that lovely matte silver.”

“She’s not dead yet – just mostly dead.”

But if she wasn’t dead before, she was certainly dead after Noah finished with her.


After which he laughed mightily at her ungraceful descent. As one does when one is having The Best Summer Ever.


(Free Tip: Don’t have Noah belay your rock climbing adventures.)

That evening, Noah was sitting on our front porch admiring his shirt, then trying to screw his head around to see the back.

“You know what? NOW what I want is a shirt that says ‘Noah’ on the front.”

And this is why, along with teaching our kids to dream big, we must also teach them other important philosophical concepts, such as this one.

Even in The Best Summer Ever, you can’t always get what you want. But if you’re a kid, you get pretty dang close.