Perfect happiness. Great joy. That’s what yesterday was all about from 12noon-bedtime. The morning was anything but blissful. Packing up food, camping supplies, dirty clothes and taking down 3 tents….phew…that was A LOT of work. Hard work. Sweaty work. Work I did all by myself as a mama on this Adventure Club camping trip….9 mamas and their kids. All of us homeschooling mamas…..girlfriends on this adventure of life with our children….unified in desire to have our kids experience the world in the full grandness of God’s creation. We set out on a camping trip with our kids and we did it! Man did I realize and come to fully appreciate how much work Steve does when we go on family camping trips!
When my sweet friend Greta walked over with an ice-cold Starbucks frap drink in a glass bottle that she had purchased special for me from the campground store, I felt so significant. She is such an incredibly thoughtful lady and an observant one! She had gone out of her way to bring me sweet relief from the sweaty, tough work of packing up from camping. What a treat! I held that cold glass bottle up to my cheek and sighed a happy sigh.
Together we drove our packed up vehicles to Leo Carrillo beach and that’s when the bliss began. We walked to a secluded spot where there is a section of beach without rocks. The kids played to their heart’s content in the surf without getting smashed or injured. They played together for hours upon hours. At one point I jumped in the water with them and smiled at how truly refreshing the water felt. The sun was shining, the kids were screaming with delight at the impending crashing waves, cold water was rushing all around me……this was amazing. All the harried stress of getting our campsite packed up just sloughed off my shoulders into that ocean. I was soooooo thankful my friend Greta had planned to spend the rest of the day at the beach and I could tagalong to her plans. Making the drive home as a sweaty mess and arriving home only to then spend hours unpacking the car of smoke-smelling, dirty camp clothes and oodles of boxes and bags of stuff…..no thank you. Delaying that reality by a day was the best ‘extra’ day for this camping trip. I walked up to my beach chair, sat under the shade of my umbrella and felt joyfully disconnected from the rush and madness of busy life. Sitting there getting to chit-chat with a girlfriend, watching our kids play together, reading portions of my book…..man life was good. Life was sweet. This was beautiful living as a mama and homeschool teacher. There is freedom in homeschooling. Freedom to learn about things outside of the classroom. Freedom to extend academic learning into the weekend if you want to make a getaway camping trip. Freedom to experience the big wide world as your classroom……learning what it means to live out in the wilderness and relate to Sam Gribley from My Side of the Mountain, or to catch a toad and examine it, or see the farmers toiling in the fields cutting celery and preparing it for market, or the firsthand experience of the delicate handwork of picking blueberries one by one while the sun is beating down on you, or feeling the force of the undertow in the ocean, or observing hundreds upon hundreds (literally) of sand crabs scurrying across the sand out of a cave as the waters regressed….this is beautiful learning. It’s beautiful living. I felt so grateful that my husband loves this kind of living for myself and our children. When he tells me how happy he is that we go out and have adventures, it fills me with an overwhelming love for him. He works soooooooooo hard to provide this rich life for us. He genuinely loves our outings and is happy that I’m raising our kids this way and tells me so. That is a gift to me that far exceeds the value of all the money in the world.
And then if the day couldn’t get any better- it did!! My sweet friend Greta shared with me her plans to drive up PCH to Neptune’s Net for dinner. She told me about how her kids love to get french fries there and she longs for their clam chowder. Clam chowder?!?!?! Oh.my.word. I haven’t had clam chowder in years. By that point on the beach it was getting windy and cold, so the thought of warm, chunky clam chowder sounded absolutely heavenly to my palate. Could I crash her plans?! Oh she said yes!!!! Woohoo!!!! The camping extravaganza continued. We returned to the campground, paid to take showers and then headed north for Neptune’s Net.
Sitting there in this local dive I could just imagine scores of surfers over the years who have come in to fix their appetites or where motorcyclists have made their stop along their way up the coast…..a super casual, relaxed, hip place with the smell of seafood wafting out the doors….doors upon doors of refrigerated craft beers….help-yourself ketchup and tartar sauce station….this was fun! I asked the kids what they would like for dinner, thinking they’d say something like “hamburger please” or “chicken strips please”. To my HUUUUUGE surprise Natalie said “Mom, do they serve calamari here?” What?!?!?! Did I just hear her correctly!? Oh.my.word. My daughter just requested calamari. And then Jacob asked if he could have fish. What!?! Whose children were these? My kids were requesting fish at a restaurant? Wow. I couldn’t believe my ears. So, yes, I ordered calamari, fish & chips and a half-pint of clam chowder.
I sat there feeling gloriously clean from my shower, enjoying the warmth and flavor of my clam chowder, sitting across from a girlfriend who I resonate with so deeply on so many fronts…..this was bliss. Perfect happiness. Great joy.
As we said our goodbyes to our friends and began our journey home, my sweet Natalie cried and cried. When good times end, life gets really hard for Natalie. The true evidence of how much fun she has had, really, is when she cries if it all comes to an end. I have seen it enough times to now recognize the pattern. She has cried after having had sleepovers with her cousins at Grammy and Grandpa’s house, when her Haven Academy shows have come to a close, and now this….a fun-filled 3-days of camping with her Adventure Club friends. Who wants good times to end? Not her. Not I. Can we just slip back into that beautiful world of pure reverie? She and I are so much alike in this regard. And, yet, her heart painfully aches at the goodbye to that world. So much so, that she cries. The further we drove away from our friends and that camp/beach experience, the harder she cried. We’ve debriefed about this pattern in her life enough, that she can now recognize it. Her options in life are too completely avoid ‘beautiful fun’ so as never to have to say goodbye to the experience, or to learn to cope with the super intense, painful goodbye to that fun. She, of course, doesn’t like the option of avoiding the fun that awaits her in life, so after many “mama this is soooooooo hard” exclamations of frustration and heartache, I then lead her down the path of capturing her favorite memories.
“Natalie let’s name and hang onto your 5 most favorite parts of this experience. Start off by telling me one thing that you really, really enjoyed.” And so we continued, reveling in the details of each thing she named. Smiling, laughing as we remembered.
1. Splashing in the waves with our friends.
2. Time around the campfire with our friends. The s’more-making and the story-telling. Avery’s 13 fairies story. (And then I added in how much I loved her vampire cereal story with the Baconhead family and their dog Mr. Hamburger. Loved her creativity! Her imagination!)
3. Playing tag and the microphone interview game, as we all played together between the four campsites.
4. The hot chocolate.
5. Time at Neptune’s Net with our friends.
Oh she’s so social just like me. Oh and because I’m just like her, I too know that it is good for my soul to name and hang onto memories. Perhaps that’s why I take a billion pictures and love to journal and blog. It helps me hang onto that which I love so much. So here’s my list….
• being with other mamas who love to homeschool and totally get me
• getting to build my very own campfire for the first time with an attending audience of 15 children, who cheered wildly when they saw flames dancing in the fire pit
• successfully packing for, setting up and tearing down a campsite
• the amazingly creative stories the kids made up and shared around the campfire: puppets that were chasing people……vampire cereal…..elves that bestowed wishes of motorcycles…..the bloody finger…..oh I was smiling a huge smile as I listened to their great stories and watched them ever-so-seriously deliver their stories to a captive audience, while shining a red flashlight onto their chin for full effect
• kids riding in the back of my pick-up truck around the campground; the shock, the incredulity, the excitement…..”Mama you are being a crazy mama right now”
• my mama-friends following a toad at night…capturing it….trying to recreate a habitat for it…flipping a crate over to contain it….filling a tupperware with water and seeing it jump into the water….finding another toad to add to the crate….hopeful all exits had been blocked so that they could be met by ooh’s and aah’s by the kids in the morning….the shocking discovery that both toads escaped during the night
• tacos, spaghetti, pre-cooked bacon, blueberry muffins
• going blueberry and strawberry picking
• returning from blueberry picking to find that squirrels had ripped open the trash bags and gone in search of edibles……squirrels scattering as soon as we exited our vehicles…..all but one squirrel, who instead cowered under the picnic table….Natalie’s intense desire to save the squirrel that had the massive growth on the left side of its face…..”Mama we have to take it to the California Wildlife Center” so they can take care of it…..she and I driving out to PCH so I could get cell phone reception to call the place and ask if they would advise us catching the squirrel…..asking myself “really? is this really happening that I’m going to be throwing a towel over a wild squirrel to rescue it and drive to Calabasas so it can be rehabilitated?” But I knew more than anything I wanted to be a good Mama and foster Natalie’s love for animals. I did not want to stifle or squash her care and concern for animals, so I told her I would be willing to pick up the squirrel and drive it there just so long as she knew what that would mean time-wise. It would be a 30 min. drive there, examination time and then a 30-min. drive back. We were talking about a 1-2 hour trip, which would mean not having beach time with the friends. At that point she needed think-time to ponder this very difficult decision. She ended up choosing to go to the beach.
• Jacob introducing the game Ticket to Ride to his friends. The joy on his face of being able to share a game that he loves so very, very much.
• Natalie walking around the campsites interviewing her friends, holding up our yellow flashlight as her microphone. She is such a hoot!
• a flint….teepee wood-building strategy vs. log-cabin wood-building strategy….the conversations and confidence of the boys to start a fire
• not so fun, but a memory nonetheless, of two moms dealing with their kids throwing up; …..two additional families hit by the bug a day after returning home
• Natalie walking around with one of those black-hairy caterpillars crawling on her green shirt
• Jacob and his two buddy friends sleeping in a tent all by themselves…..actually not going to sleep for a realllllllly long time, chatting the night away…..talking about all kinds of things….me not hearing Jacob’s voice anymore, certain he had fallen asleep….only to then hear him proclaim some time later “this is a great book!” after having sped-read a book his friend had recommended. Then their discussions about whoever would wake up first ought to wake up the other two. Jacob was certain he’d be the first to wake, so he promised his friends he would indeed awaken them. One friend insisting that if shaking him by the shoulders didn’t work, to jump on him to wake him up. Jacob uber excited at the prospect of getting to jump on a friend. Then the sweetness that melted my heart! The 3 boys decided to pray together. Oh.my.word. My mama heart was bleeding. All on their own accord they decided to take turns lifting up their thanks to God for the wonders of the day. I was in awe and beyond thankful for their faith in action.
This trip was so good for my soul. It started off rough and harried and a TON of hard work. Hours upon hours of prep and packing. I kept telling myself “this IS going to be worth it. Really. It will be.” Longing to be a kid again where I could just show up to a camping trip and experience the fun and joy of all the play. All this packing up and getting it all in the truck- oh.my.word. definitely not a fun part of being a grown-up. But as I anticipated, the trip was an incredible adventure and a wonderful memory to tuck into our hearts and minds forever. A shaping, formative moment. As Steve encouraged me upon our return, “it was really good for Natalie and Jacob to see that a Mama can do a trip like that all on her own.” Indeed. Historic for myself. An accomplishment and sense of success.
I was soooooo thankful to have had 3 days. The first day was all about hard work. The second day I began to unwind. By the third day, I was fully relaxed and experiencing bliss. So grateful for our new cherished friends. So thankful for the adventure of this trip with them.