Campfire! Y'all, I am a NCIS junkie it is what I always watch when I work because I have seen it so many times I know I won't miss much, and immediately when I said "campfire" I thought about that show. When the team leader calls “Campfire” they all huddle and share what they know, right? That was kind of what I did when I decided to brave the wilderness with 2 under 2. I sent out an SOS to all my outdoorsy, granola, nature- loving mamas. I needed the scoop before I took this adventure by the horns. Melissa is one of the sweet ladies that helped ya girl out! I asked her if she would share with you all what she told me as I prepared.
“Camping with toddlers sounds like a bit of a loaded statement to me. My husband had a wild hair idea that we should buy a camper this past spring, and camp our weekends away. At first I was hesitant, because it sounded like a lot of work. However, once Covid hit, he convinced me it was a way to travel, make memories, and be traveling in our own germs only. As a nurse, those were a big selling point for me- not to be staying places where we were sounded by other people's germs. Yuck!
So, we bought our camper at the end of April, and we camped pretty much every weekend for 3 months straight! We camped in local state parks with lake access and at our favorite beach campground. The first weekend we camped, we forgot so many things- milk, paper towels, and any other drinks, other than water. We were too anxious to unhitch our truck, so we decided we would make it through with what we had. Brave! But, we did.
While we sat outside that first weekend, we started compiling a list of things we needed for the camper. We decided since we were going to be camping so frequently, we needed to buy clothes and household items we could just leave in the camper. From there we learned a little system. We had a packing list each week to make sure we had what we needed. The more we camped, the more we got into a routine. Then, when friends would ask what my recommendations were for camping, I would say "make a list of must-haves" and remember, you can make do without some things for a few days.
The very first morning, Justin cooked our breakfast and since we had forgotten the paper towels, he separated the bacon as he cooked it with coffee filters. We got creative. We felt crazy at times, being in a small space with our two toddlers, but we were able to make tons of memories this past year even in the mist of the chaos of Covid. So friends, take the risk! Step out of your comfort zone, and start making memories with your family. I am certain you will not regret it.” -Mel
So, I loaded up the car with everything on my list, Nolan (11 months), Ellie (2.5 years), a tent, air mattress, & snacks for the road-- we were set! Here's the deal, we weren't going full on primitive camping, we were going more like civilized, bathhouse, one- step- below glamping- camping, haha! My parents met me about 4 hours from my house at a JellyStone campground and we set up camp about 30 yards from the bathhouse and even less distance to the nearest playground.
The first night Ellie was to sleep in the camper with my parents while Nolan and I took to the tent with an air mattress and the pack-and-play. Little did this mama realize that Nolan was having NO PART of sleeping outside. The boy started crying before 9:30 and didn't stop. Despite our "camping" set-up, we still had less than zero cell service so I couldn't phone a friend for help. I grabbed my crying baby and buckled him in his carseat and we drove in loops around that campground for hours. GUYS!!!! He finally went to sleep. I couldn't remember the rule about sleeping in a car with it running and I couldn't turn it off, the baby was finally sleeping, so I just sat awake until the sun came up. Ya know what though? I was tired, but I would do it again!
I thought a lot while I was awake in the middle of the night about how God looks after us in the same way when we are scared and weary. I thought long and hard about how there were times in my life when I, like Nolan, experienced something for the first time. How I would ask God if He was sure I could handle it. Like how Nolan was crying out for his mommy, I cried out to God. "Are you there? Do you know I am scared? Do you know it is dark and cold and lonely here?" I thought about Jonah in the belly of the whale. "God, are you there? It is dark and scary. I am sorry I tried to run." I thought about how Nolan trusted me to care for him and to be there when he woke up. He may have been scared, but he knew mommy was only a cry away. I get scared when things don't happen the way I have them planned. I call out and trust that God is right there.
The next night we got smart! We moved this party, all 5 of us, into the camper! I know we all slept better, besides the fact that Nolan was exhausted, we were all in the thick of it together. You know what I mean? When a situation seems super bleak because you're left to face it alone, but then you add some company and all of a sudden things seem bright again? Isn't it interesting how that happens? How there is something so divine about community? It literally takes isolation, and fear and replaces it with identity and hope! Guys, that is what I hope you all find at Grits, Grace, and Granola. I hope you find community that makes your situation look less bleak, that your tiny screaming human seems more like an adventure than a burden.
Happy Travel Nesting,
Kenzie & Melissa
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