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The Smartest Camping Purchase I Ever Made

I grew up camping my whole life. It was what I call “car camping.” I clarify it for people who “backpack camp” out in the woods because that is a whole other beast that requires special gear and even more special bathroom skills. I mean, I’m a trail runner, I have done plenty of business in the woods. But I always know that a bathroom is VERY VERY VERY CLOSE BY if the run was no longer a priority. I need a safety net made of indoor plumbing, THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

So! Car camping. Or I sometimes call it “KOA camping” because we have hit up a lot of KOA campgrounds over the years.

When E was about 2 years old I met a guy who sold Kelty tents on the side of the road and bought a “family size” one from him which said “sleeps 6” but everyone who has ever bought a tent knows that means “6 sardines” or “4 comfy adults.” E and I took it camping with my Dad in Big South Fork and trying to put that thing back in the stupid bag it was designed for brought back flashbacks from my childhood camping days and Dad constantly saying, “It has to be folded up EXACTLY RIGHT or it won’t fit back in the bag.”

SO! As soon as I could I said, “Screw this stupid too-small tent bag!” And I bought a large rolling duffel bag from Wal-Mart and it was the best decision I have ever made. The tent bought in the late 90s was replaced a few years ago but the bag is STILL IN USE. Not only does it make packing up the tent SO MUCH EASIER because there’s no stressing about getting all of the air out as your roll it up or fold it up, but there’s also room for extra stakes, a tarp and a mallet! AND THE BAG HAS WHEELS!

IMG_7146This is the bag sitting in my garage. It’s definitely much bigger than the original bag but the ease it brings my life makes camping (and packing up afterwards) so much easier. If you’ve ever dealt with trying to get a tent in it’s INEVITABLY FLIMSY BAG, you know my pain. We unpacked the tent to clean it off this weekend as we’re doing a camping night at our botanical gardens in a few weeks. I cleaned/dried every thing and then put the tent, the mallet, the tarp all back in the bag easily and I just thought, “DAMN. I AM GOOD.”

Because if that tent bag had even lasted the years I’ve owned the tent, I would have screamed multiple curse words every time I tried to put it all back together.

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I just wanted to share my camping hack.

Also? My dad use to save yogurt cups and use them as drinking cups on our camping trips. I didn’t continue that trend in life. My kids life it up fancy style and drink out of running water bottles. They’re spoiled.

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Perspectives.

I actually returned from vacation Thursday evening which I hoped would give me Friday as a way to “ease” into the real world again before getting the full weekend to recover. Unfortunately, towards the end of my work day on Friday I started feeling sick and a mild-but-inconvenient illness kept me kinda useless all night Friday and a good chunk of Saturday. Then we were hosting Family Dinner on Sunday so I had to quickly get into “CLEAN THE HOUSE AND COOK THE DINNER MODE!” bringing me to this morning when I woke up thinking, Wait. What? Monday? Already? But I just got back from Colorado! I’m not ready yet!

Vacation hangovers are terrible. I mean, total First World problem, but still…TERRIBLE.

Also – a tree fell on our fence while we were out of town so I have to WALK my dog first thing in the morning now and I do not do well doing anything without my first 14 cups of coffee. Even walking the dog.

Oh. And let’s also discuss that when I woke at 3am (a time no human wants to be up if he/she has a choice) and went to get clothes out of my closet my husband – who I guess hadn’t been sleeping well all night – loudly grumped, “OH MY GOD. ARE YOU ALREADY UP? JEEZUS. I MIGHT AS WELL GET UP NOW. I’VE BEEN TOSSING AND TURNING ALL NIGHT BECAUSE I GUESS I HAVE FORGOTTEN HOW TO SLEEP.”

He did not get up, by the way. Which is probably good. My vacation hangover and my case of The Mondays and my irritation at having to walk my dog puts me in a mood I call: I HAVE NO PATIENCE WITH YOUR GRUMPS, MISTER.

I tell you all of this because I’m determined to try to take more control of my perspective. Yes! These are the things making me terribly grumpy this morning. I am very overwhelmed and tired and not quite ready for the real world yet. BUT. BUT! I also got to spend a lovely week with my Mom and my brother and his family in beautiful Breckenridge, CO and while the real world is a bit of a jolt, that was a trip of a lifetime. I’m so lucky to have been able to do it. The whole time I was thinking, Dad would love that we’re doing this. And he would have. That we are still close enough to plan trips together. That we do it involving the outdoors and adventures. That we were in a parade. (AND MADE THE LOCAL PAPER!) That I saw a moose. He would have loved all of that.

So I’m back to the grindstone today and I’m definitely overwhelmed with life but I’m trying to keep perspective. The world has been full of real tragedy and real pain that I’m seeing firsthand now thanks to the power of social media. There has always been real tragedy and real pain out in the ether, I just haven’t had to look at it every day like I do now.

Before social media I could choose not to watch the news, I didn’t have a lot of real world friends so unless the tragedy hit the few I talked to daily on the phone – I didn’t know of any of it. But now I do. I see fundraisers for kids with cancer and videos of unjust shootings. I see protests and marches and interviews with grieving widows. I see links to stories about houses being robbed or businesses burnt down. I see friends in the hospital and friends who have lost their children. Every day it’s right there on Facebook, as I’m checking it with everyone’s race results and Independence Day photos. It’s just speckled around the pictures of Red, White, and Blue parades and videos of cats jumping into bathtubs.

So I have a bit more perspective now, about my Case of the Mondays and my Vacation Hangover.

I’ll try to get back into the groove of life today so that I can wake up tomorrow with a little more rhythm and less grumpiness. I’m happy to be home, but I miss my family terribly, already.

Here’s to spreading joy today, in whatever way I can.

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Live! From Breckenridge!

It’s been a chaotic several days as you can imagine traveling in a group of 5 can be. We spent one night in Denver at my brother’s and now are in Breckenridge staying in the most amazing vacation rental in ALL THE LAND. What? You think yours is better? WELL CAN YOU REMOVE AN ENTIRE WALL TO ENJOY THE VIEW?

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It’s amazing. My brother’s wife found it and booked it and I’m moving in but she hasn’t told the owner’s yet. I’m most certain even if I sold all of my organs I couldn’t afford it, but it’s so big I think I can stay hidden and they’ll never find me.

The weather hasn’t been ideal so we’ve been enjoying the house (WHICH IS AMAZING! DID I MENTION THAT?) and doing activities that don’t need perfect weather. Like a Gondola Ride!

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The first night in Breck was a little rough as we were all exhausted and didn’t get to bed until late and trying to get Wes to brush his teeth turned into one of my Worst Parenting Nights Ever and I’m hoping to give him enough fun the rest of the trip that the memory of the first night fades behind the memories of the fun stuff.

Of course, that would be easier if he wasn’t seeming to amp up the JERK MODE for no reason randomly. He likes to be defiant about the usual stuff, but he’s testing out defiance now about EVERYTHING. Donnie thinks it’s some sort of influence from daycare. I think it’s being around his sister all day. They bring out the worst in each other.

Either way – I’m finding it’s motivating me to really focus on him a lot…playing cards, soaking in the hot tob (he’d live in that hot tub if we let him) and playing foosball. It’s exhausting but also nice.

And last night? I’ll be honest. I didn’t even mention teeth-brushing. Many may say that is succumbing to his terrible will, but I say it’s allowing me to get to sleep without drama and I’ll take the trade off.

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Memories To Fuel Me For A Lifetime

IMG_0463What an amazing weekend! The frenzy started Thursday night and we just kept going all weekend until I went to bed about 7pm last night. I was so exhausted my body ached. It was awesome. Nikki was tired too but she was not falling asleep as easily as I was last night and she wanted to chat and I kept dozing off in the middle of conversation and I think I basically win the Mom of the Year Award single-handedly now.

“Are you asleep? AGAIN?”
“What? Huh? Me? No. I was totally listening to you unload your anxieties. Just repeat the last thing you said just to make sure YOU remember.”

IMG_0414She did great all weekend though, hung out and got ready with the bridesmaids and was just one of the girls and it was adorable. She was a little taken aback by the stress levels at certain points, not realizing quite how anxious weddings can make people, but over all she loved every second of the process from the matching “get ready” outfits to the bridal room with all of the mirrors to the bouquets and the ceremony itself. I think she had a great time, the exhaustion and “let down” that comes after weekends like this just got to her last night.

I actually felt GOOD because I really loved my dress which I spent several weeks digging through racks at Ross for and finally found two weeks ago for $25. WOO! And the shoes I got on Amazon for $30 and they didn’t hurt my feet too bad at all. I also loved my pop of color and my necklace and I just felt like it all worked well together and I’m so glad I didn’t hem the dress like I wanted. My friend encouraged me not to, saying it’s the “in” length right now, and I’m so glad! It looked perfect once I put the heels on.

IMG_0469The boys were ushers and looked amazing in their suits and Wesley stay well behaved most of the weekend. I had to walk that fine line between “Give Him Everything He Wants So He Won’t Pitch A Fit” and “Don’t Let Him Know You Are Going To Give Him Everything He Wants Or Else He’ll Use The Power For Evil” and I think it went okay. We had a few borderline episodes where I thought tantrums were next in line, but I was able to keep the pot from boiling over all weekend and that was my biggest concern of the entire day.

IMG_0515The best part was FINALLY getting my husband out on the dance floor. We’ve always known he could dance because he dances at home with the kids, they’ll even watch YouTube instructional videos together and my husband has MOVES. But he’s never danced in a group before but the Cupid Shuffle called his name (“I can do this! It has instructions!”) and he stayed with us on the dance floor the rest of the night. IT WAS SO MUCH FUN. It was great to have all 5 members of the family out there dancing and I hope those memories get cemented into my brain forever. At one point Donnie shouted over the music, “This is so much fun! Why have I never done this before?”

All in all it was a lovely weekend. The bride was beautiful, the ceremony blessed, and the party was hoppin’. I actually am going out of town overnight for a work retreat today so I’m hoping to settle back into normal life sometime later this week. Until then? It will be smiles thinking about a lovely weekend surrounded by family and friends to pull me through.
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Why We Missed That Event For A Race

We had to miss TWO big family events this summer for races. Our second was this weekend for Donnie’s Ironman. As I thought of our family all gathered one state away for a wedding, I hoped they all understood the importance of this race of ours. It’s hard to tell sometimes with non-racers, if they get it. In our town there’s a 5K – quite literally – every weekend. And our town is small! I know from experience when people ask us questions about races that a lot of people don’t really separate a 5K from an Ironman, not if they have no experience with either. It’s all something about running or racing or swimming or something and I worry – do they think all races are the same?

We wouldn’t miss a wedding for a 5K, that much I assure you.

But I thought I’d write something about what goes into these type of endurance events, so that maybe others could understand why runners and triathletes miss important events for what might seem to be insignificant obligations.

  • Race registration is early and expensive. Donnie registered for his Ironman exactly 1 year ago and it cost about $700 with registration fees and USAT membership. So, one year ago we made our initial $700 commitment to this event and at that time, there was nothing else on the schedule. More often than not, our races are on the schedule before the event we’re missing, that’s how early registrations open up. And let me tell you, just signing up for a race is a brave thing to do, so that step right there – many months before training even begins – is a huge one.
  • Training costs money. Our other event that we missed this summer was a couples wedding shower for Donnie’s sister. I was very upset about missing it but I had my first Olympic Distance Triathlon that weekend and I had paid the $100 registration fee months earlier as well as paid $350 to join a 16-week coaching program. I had been training for almost 3 months before I learned there would be a conflict. That’s a huge investment of time, and another investment of money. Donnie hired a coach for both of his Ironmans and let’s just say – it was a little bit more than my training class. All of those dollars are worth it, but another part of the investment into these races that we choose over other events. If you don’t pay for coaching plans you pay for gear. Even just running events can cost hundreds of dollars in shoes and gear, but triathlons? Can cost thousands. Donnie had a lot of bike repairs this year. And Donnie’s set up is relatively inexpensive compared to most.
  • Training costs time. Hundreds of hours have been logged to train for some of these events. I was looking at 10 hours per week at least for my Olympic. Donnie did that JUST ON THE WEEKEND training for his Ironman. And for every hour of training we’re missing an hour of something else the rest of the world enjoys. Maybe it’s sleep. Maybe it’s family time. Maybe it’s another event that wasn’t that important but MAN, it would have been nice to attend. We make so many sacrifices for these races that to not do them means all of that was done in vain. And that would be a tough burden to carry.
  • The perfect event is only once a year. While 5Ks are every weekend, these endurance events we choose to do are only once a year. There may be a few similar events nearby but we chose the one we chose because it was perfect. There was another Olympic Distance triathlon 6 weeks after the one I chose, but it was a different kind of swim I didn’t feel confident about. And the one I chose went through my college town. I chose that one for a reason so another race of the same distance wouldn’t really work. There are other Ironmans but none within such an easy driving distance to a city we adore. We choose all of our races based on a series of conditions so – even if you know there’s one of a similar distance close on the calendar to the one we chose – there are bound to be other factors. I chose the 100K I chose because it’s on a greenway type course, and there are none other like that within driving distance of where I live. I chose my 12-hour run for the same reason, it’s local and there’s nothing else like it within a drive from our home. So, for all practical purposes? The races we choose are only once a year, so it’s not easily to switch up training halfway through for a different event. We’d have to stop and start over a year later.
  • A lot can happen in a year. “But this event you’re missing is only once in your LIFETIME.” And yes, it will. Luckily, for really important events (like Donnie’s sister’s wedding), we’re part of the decision process so we know PLENTY far enough in advance to avoid catastrophic scheduling issues. Because something of that level we’d obviously skip the race. But for cousin’s weddings and bridal showers, we’re not part of the process so we only find out a short time out and when we’ve already invested time and money and sacrificed hours of sleep and family time. And we could write off the investment and those sacrifices and just try again next year. But we have learned in our 6 years as a family doing these events, that a lot can happen in a year. Children are born, jobs are changes, families are relocated, injuries occur…many things could pop up to keep us from being able to do it next year. Our kid could join a club soccer team. Or maybe a different event will pop up on the calendar that day for next year, in advance. We many not have the time or the money next year, so throwing out all of the time and money spent this year is not a decision we could make lightly.

But it sucks. We really do hate it when it happens. It always dampers our race a bit to know the rest of our family is gathered elsewhere celebrating something we’d love to celebrate. Our immediate family has been on this journey enough with us long enough to understand, so we are confident they don’t pass judgement, but you never know about people a little further out from the loop. Are we the ones who “always miss stuff for races” at this point? Do people imagine us missing large gatherings for 5Ks? Do they understand the investment of time and money and the sacrifices we make in our lives to do these races?

I don’t know. I hope so. But if they don’t, maybe some day down the road they’ll make a decision to train for a marathon, or a triathlon, and maybe then they’ll remember how we missed that thing that time. And maybe then they’ll think, “Oh. Okay. Now I get it.”

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