Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Camping Dreams

It's Spring Break for the public schools in our area.  Not for us though, we are plowing through so that we can get caught up and finish by the end of June.  It's a big task but we are going to make it happen!  Today is a gloomy day though.  While my friends on Facebook are talking about the break being half-way over and the days they're losing to weather, I'm sitting on the back porch, enjoying the breeze, while my husband tills up a garden bed, and the kids play.  I've got my iPad in hand and a friend posts that her kids are getting ready to go camping.  I've been wanting to go camping since the baby was a week old but, Gabe can't take off for a while.  That leaves me dreaming of awesome camping trips.  I have an epic trip through Arkansas planned and I hope we are able to make it happen this summer.  For now though, I'm just sharing some links to lists of amazing places to camp with kids.  We enjoy geocaching so I'll post some lists of great places for that as well.  In the spirit of dreaming, be sure to share your dream trips in the comments!

If you aren't sure camping is your thing, here are a few links to convince you to at least try it once.  14 Reasons to go camping.  I love this list of 11 reasons Why camping is the best.  10 Reasons to go camping NOW!  10 Health benefits of camping.  Real benefits of camping.  17 reasons why camping is the best.  Why do I like camping?  I enjoy connecting with my family when there are no distractions.  I also enjoy the weight of the world being lifted from my shoulders.  Camping is hard work but it doesn't even seem like work.  I've camped in an Rv only a few times but I've camped in a tent more than I can count.  We've camped in cabins too.  Camping in a tent is by far my favorite though.  As I get older, I have developed a love of a good bedroll though.  I don't need an air mattress but a good pad under my sleeping bag is a must!

This list has me all Googly-eyed.  Camping on the beach, hiking through the mountains, sleeping out under the stars, it all sounds like so much fun.  I'm ready to tie the baby on and take off!  This list will for sure have you dreaming!   This list includes places outside of the US but since we are dreaming, I might as well add it.  Some great southwest US sites.  

I grew up dreaming of seeing the ocean.  On our honeymoon we went to Santa Rosa Beach, Fl.  Technically it was still the same gulf I'd been to a million times but this time the water was a little more clear and the sand was much cleaner.  On that trip I learned that beach camping is a thing and have wanted to do it ever since.  I firmly believe I could be one of those retired people that just live on a beach, maybe in an Rv, maybe a tent.  I'd even settle for a van down by the beach, as long as I could lounge around and read all day while my skin turns a beautiful shade of tan.  If that sounds awesome to you too, check out these great beach camping destinations!

Are the mountains more your thing?  Growing up we camped in Arkansas a bunch.  The mountains are smaller in the areas we camped but they're still mountains.  There's still beautiful forests all around.  I once camped in the mountains in New Mexico while at youth camp.  That was the first time I ever saw the Milky Way.  It's still the most majestic thing I've ever seen.  The only thing that might compare is the Northern Lights but that's still on my bucket list.  Anyways, back to the point.  You want a few mountain lists, well here you go.  Rocky MountainsAppalachian Mountain Trial-There are links within this site for each individual state along the trail.  The Cascade Mountains- this link contains links to each region of the mountains.  Sierra Nevada- I've visited some of these places and they're must see places to travel!  Smokey Mountains. Some of these are dreamy write ups, some are just lists of campsites and things to do in that area.  These mountain ranges cover several states each so trying to find a list of all the great places to camp in the mountains was a little daunting.  Just know that camping in the mountains is awesome and leads to lots of exploration in caverns, caves, lakes, and rivers.  

Okay, so honestly, desert camping has never really been that appealing to me but as I get older, it starts to sound kind of cool.  I don't know, it kinda has a hippy kinda VW bus vibe to it and lately that just seems kinda dreamy.  California Desert camping.  New Mexico camping. It was a little hard to find information that wasn't state specific but I'm sure someone living in a desert region might could give us some better info.

The Grand Canyon is so beautiful and majestic.  It deserves it's very own paragraph!  It really deserves it's own blog post.  This is one of those places I dreamed of visiting growing up.  I finally saw it when pregnant with David, our first baby.  I naively thought our frequent trips and weekend excursions would continue once we had kids.  I've since learned that traveling with kids is not easy and it's much more expensive.  Foster care has completely changed it for us, as we have to have permission now.  Anyways, The Grand Canyon is simply beautiful and would be so much fun to camp.  Not sure I'd want to do primitive camping there but they do offer guide services for that.  Thankfully, there are established camp grounds and a whole website devoted tot he ends and outs of camping there.  Check it out and if you've ever camped The Grand Canyon, let us know how it was.

Geocaching..  This goes hand in hand with camping for our family.  We love the thrill of looking for a cache and hoping we find something really cool inside.  We once took a 2 week camping trip we called a treasure hunt.  We camped at the diamond mine in Arkansas, went antique shopping throughout Arkansas and Missouri, and geocached all along the way.  Craziest CachesTop favorites  by state.  Arkansas state parks have a Secret cache that you can only access with information from the clues you get at the other 52 caches in state parks throughout the state.  It is a life goal for our family to eventually find all 52 known caches and then the 53rd.  As you start out on this adventure, don't get discouraged by bad caches.  The hype has died down and there are many caches that are not maintained.  Use a geocaching app to locate caches around where you are camping and check in when you've found them.  If the cache needs attention, report it so others know to avoid it or someone  can maintain it.

I'm sure I could sit and give links to great camping spots for hours.  I could share my own camping adventures for days and our travel adventures for months.  Almost anywhere you could imagine vacationing will have camping options.  Camping isn't for everyone but if you're up for a real adventure, you are sure to find it, whether you are camping in a tent, Rv, or even a cabin.  Take a break from the big resort vacations this year and get in touch with your natural side.  You might just find camping to be your new favorite vacation style, but even if you don't, you're sure to make some amazing memories.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Becoming a Joyful Mom

     Ah! A fresh new notebook. A new book to read about motherhood. I'm not sure why I'm so in love with self-help type books but I even read books about topics that don't apply to me. This one is not one of those books. I need this book soooooooo badly. So what is this book called? "Who Are All These Children and Why Are They Calling Me Mom?" Seriously! Yes, really! I don't even remember when I bought this book but I know it was at least 2 kids ago, possibly even 3 or 4!

     I'd say I'm kinda on a mission right now. Elijah just turned 10 and I've realized his childhood is pretty much gone. He's got a few years left but he's nearly a teenager and slowly those childish things will be no more. I've missed out on the last 3 years of it. I've missed out on the best 3 years of school with Levi, he's finishing up 1st grade now. I've missed out on the sweetest 3 years with Malachi, who is now 5. Oh, I've been here, and we've had some great moments, but all of my energy has gone to therapies, family visits for foster care, and court dates. It has been exhausting! The kids' behaviors and manners have suffered, our school has suffered, and our family has suffered. I am so glad that it is all over now! Our adoption will be final this year too! It feels like a huge weight has been lifted.

     Now we are trying to learn how to be a real family again. We are learning to be diligent in our school work. We are learning to take responsibility for our chores. We are learning how to treat each other with respect. We are learning how to enjoy life at a slower pace!

     So far, we've got a set schedule for each day of the week and a clear list of school work to do each day. The younger kids' rooms are organized and they clean up before bed each night. The girls and Seth are even wearing pajamas each night instead of just going to sleep in their clothes. We've gone back to reading a story each night before bed. The routine has been great and has made bedtime for the younger ones so much easier. I'm still working on Malachi's cleaning ability and him wearing pj's each night. Elijah and Levi still need lots of work. We're starting from the bottom and working our way up though.

     The whole point of my changes is that I want to enjoy my life again. I want to enjoy being a mom again. I miss the days when being a mom was pure joy and I still had an identity as Audrey too. I want to enjoy my hobbies again but without routine and order, I can never find the time. I want my kids to remember a happy childhood and I want my kids to remember a mom that wasn't constantly stressed. I want them to remember a mom that knew how to have fun.

     I've started this journey on my own and I already have my plan, but this book jumped out at me tonight when I looked at my bookshelf. I look forward to reading about another mom's journey and writing about mine. Maybe I'll even find the time to write about it on my blog.

(Above copied from my journal entry dated 3/20/2016).

     Chapter 1 Reflection Question: What part of my life do I need to hold with an open hand?

     I'm not sure I understand the question. I think it means "what part of my life do I need to let God control?"

     This one is kinda tough. I have a lot that o just need to give to God. I think my biggest thing right now is our living situation. We're living in the church parsonage, which is too small for our family, while waiting for our home to sell. We want to build once it sells. The logical side of my brain says this will take a few years. The dreamy side wants it done by Christmas. Then there's the whole "what will we build" thing and the dreamy side takes hold again. Leaving all of that alone, I'm married to a preacher that isn't pa storing a church right now. I know God will eventually cal, him to another church but we don't know where that may be. I'm not worried about this and certainly not trying to control it, but it does affect our building plans.

     All my life I've dreamed of raising my kids in our forever home and them coming home doe holidays and family gatherings to the house where they were raised. I didn't dream of living in the country but that's the life I want for my kids now. I want a big beautiful southern farm house and I want it now. I want it perfectly decorated. I want it perfectly organized. I want it perfectly clean. This is the life I'm holding on for but ultimately I want the life that God is holding for me. I need to learn to wait patiently!

(Above copied from my journal entry dated 3/21/2016). 

     Monday mornings are hard!  We get in late from church, have to eat dinner and then get everyone in bed.  Last night we went out to dinner so we were even later getting home.  Everyone got in bed late so I let them all sleep late this morning.  The morning was ROUGH but I slipped into the dining room to leave everyone a message from my reading last night.  Love is not a feeling, it is a choice!  My older two boys left me replies.  This is the kind of mom that I want to be.  These are the things that I want my kids to remember about me.  Did this change our day?  Not at all, it was still long and stressful.  It did change how I looked at the stressful day though.  Instead of getting frustrated with the crying baby and the wild preschooler and the 1st grader that didn't want to do his work, I took it as part of life and kept going.  I may still shed a few tears but at least I can see through them.