The Emotional Dangers Of Decorating: Grief & Holidays

I walked into her room and asked if I could talk to her. It was one of my [many] humbled-mother moments.

Earlier, I had been getting the Christmas decorations out and situated, and in her excitement, she wanted to hand-make, and display, her own decorations throughout the house.

I drew the line firmly – maybe a little too firmly – when she brought out a string with pink, purple, and white ribbons stranded across it. Continue reading “The Emotional Dangers Of Decorating: Grief & Holidays”

“I Will Never Homeschool”: The Background

never homeschool

I feel like the longer I homeschool, the more I could talk about it, so this first post will be the history, if you will, of our decision to homeschool.

A little background. When I was in a kid in school, I knew some people who homeschooled. A few were good friends of mine, but my mind couldn’t grasp how anyone could successfully school at home.

Try as I might (and if I’m being honest, I didn’t try at all), I couldn’t fathom not going to school. I was a student council member (still have the t-shirt), I was in pep club – heck, my senior year, I was the MASCOT. I loved the socialization of school. Continue reading ““I Will Never Homeschool”: The Background”

The Bedtime Hoops: 4 Important Questions To Ask Your Kids Every Night (Guest Post)

A few years ago, I signed up for the 31-Day Challenge: a challenge to blog every single day for 31 (consecutive!) days. Through that process, I came to know Christine. While we’ve never met in person (yet!), we have always felt connected. I’m so pleased she agreed to guest post for me and share with you on the Mind Mumbles blog. I’m honored to know her, I’m blessed to call her friend, and I’m thrilled to introduce her to you all today. I know you’ll love her as much as I do. ~ Val

The Bedtime Hoops: 4 Important Questions To Ask Your Kids Every Night


This post was first shared on Her View From Home ( )

I love my kids, but by bedtime, I’m just exhausted. At 8pm, my patience shuts off. It’s like I have some sort of glitch in my mommy code, or maybe I just missed the patience upgrade with each kid or something? Continue reading “The Bedtime Hoops: 4 Important Questions To Ask Your Kids Every Night (Guest Post)”

Three Kids, Three Parenting Styles

three parenting styles

I have three children. Two living, one waiting for us in heaven.

All three children occupy my heart to the fullest, yet I respond to each one differently.

Little Miss is my first child, and had her own traumatic entrance into the world, when I nearly died from HELLP syndrome. Six years later, she may be petite in size, but her dreams and goals fill some pretty big shoes.

Harlynn passed away before I had a chance to look into her eyes or hear her baby coos and cries. I still parent her beyond the grave, however. October being Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness month, her legacy continues to inspire and motivate us to continue helping the broken hearts of bereaved parents who have also had to say goodbye to their precious babies, most before ever having the chance to say hello.

Little Man, the little boy I never thought I’d have, requires attention in  his own style. If we’re not reading, playing with trains or trucks, or chasing one another, I’m able to steal some sweet snuggles from my mini-prince-charming.

This week, my different roles as a mother to these three, made print a couple of times.

First, On The Minds Of Moms ran a wonderful feature piece on Michelle’s and my journey in starting Harlynn’s Heart. You can read the article here.

Second, it was my turn to share in The Forum’s Parenting Perspectives column, and I knew exactly what I needed to share this time around. You can read that article here.

I’m one mother to three very special, very unique children. I don’t always do a perfect job, but I’m so thankful our perfect God chose me to be their Mama.

Autumn Weekend Staycation

autumn weekend

autumn weekend

I had told Little Miss to stay in her bedroom until 7:30 the next morning. Hubs was working an overnight shift (yuck) to cover for another employee, and I was going to be up late taking care of things around the abode. I knew she’d be up early but I told her to stay in her room and read so I could have a chance to sleep in a few extra minutes.

Not only did she emerge much earlier than 7:30, but she woke Little Man up as well.

Certainly not the start I wanted to my weekend.

I was running from the time I got out of bed, and had been awake over an hour before I realized I hadn’t had any coffee yet. How was I getting so much done?! It’s one of life’s great mysteries, and small miracles.

I got everyone fed and cleaned up after, got them in their outfits for the day and tasked them with entertaining one another. I started the process of canning the black beans I had set out to soak the night before.

After Hubs was done with work that morning, he drove to the church parking lot to snooze a bit before the men’s breakfast event. It was something I half-suggested, half-hoped he would be able to do, and he did it. I wouldn’t have. But he’s a better man than I am, so he did.

The black beans were well on their way to prime deliciousness for future use when he walked in, totally wiped. The kids had about worn each other (and their mother) out, so it was time for the weekend treat: television.

Don’t judge me.

I’ve never liked plopping my kids in front of the television, and I rarely do – but sometimes a mama’s gotta get stuff done, and the t.v. just happens to have some pull in order to make it all happen. I grew up on television and Taco Bell and still managed to turn out pretty functional, so I have really high hopes for my kids.

We had planned to drive to one of the Minnesota state parks that Saturday, but because Hubs worked overnight, changed our plans to be closer to home and hit up our favorite pumpkin patch instead. While the beans were canning and Hubs was snoring, however, the storm clouds moved in. It didn’t look promising for an afternoon trip to the patch. I love the pumpkin patch and all the activities the kids partake in. The carriage rides, the corn maze, the animals (especially the animals) – I love it all. My favorite part, though, is choosing my very own pie pumpkins from a local grower.

It’s the simple things.

Tell me what’s more amazing than an entire vine of pumpkins growing from a single seed, producing these beautiful, tasty pumpkins, and being able to turn them into a delicious dessert (and roasted seeds for snacking). All from one seed! If an entire crop can yield from a single seed, surely God created me to do so much with the gifts and talents He gave me.

A side note about beans: I have a ridiculous bounty of dried beans in my cupboard. I’ve canned 11 pounds of beans already and probably have more than 10 pounds still to be prepared in my cupboard. I love beans. A lot. But the funny thing – that’s not really funny at all – is I’m the only one in our family who likes beans.

Obviously, they have no choice but to become bean lovers over the course of their life, because I doubt I can put away almost 25 pounds of beans by myself. That’s not the kind of achievement I want to be remembered for. / End side note.

Another small miracle occurred that day – it didn’t storm. Not until much, much later. We headed out to the patch-o-pumpkins, and it was one of the most splendid times I’ve ever spent there. It wasn’t crowded. It was windy enough to keep the bugs at bay, but not to send us flying. Even though it was past nap time and a few meltdowns made an appearance, it was an enjoyable outing to be sure. It’s one of my favorite annual traditions and that outing solidified why.

Everyone napped afterward. Everyone went to bed that night completely content and completely tuckered out. It was lovely. So very lovely.

So far, I’m really enjoying fall. And I’m thanking God I’m able to.

Little Miss In The Small Apartment

Little Miss Comparison

Little Miss Comparison

I’m going to say it again, even if you’re sick of hearing it: I stinking love Little House On The Prairie books.

I’ve gotten to the point where I’m taking notes about parts of the stories because I want to learn more about doing and making things they did and made in their day. Over 130 years ago, life was so very different from what it is today, and I’ve found myself incredibly grateful Laura Ingalls Wilder went through the painstaking detail work of documenting her life in story form.

It did get me thinking, however, on how different our own accounts would be today. Surely we wouldn’t have the interesting tales to tell. Sure, we have some fun memories from things we did and we had bedtime prayers every night, but … what it would it read like?

Rather than diving into the folds of my own fading memories from childhood, I thought I would compare – apples to apples – Laura Ingalls’ childhood and the childhood of our own Little Miss, as if Little Miss were writing the recount of her life. Here we go:

Little House In The Big Woods:

After this was done, Ma began the work that belonged to that day. Each day had its own proper work. Ma used to say:
“Wash on Monday,
Iron on Tuesday,
Mend on Wednesday,
Churn on Thursday,
Clean on Friday,
Bake on Saturday,
Rest on Sunday.”

Little Miss In The Small Apartment:

Each morning Mama would sit and sip her coffee and beg us to stop speaking until her cup was empty. Then she would get to work on her second cup. She would restart the washing machine that still had laundry in it she hadn’t put in the dryer soon enough. Then she would restart the dryer in hopes nothing in there would wrinkle too terribly. When a button would pop off a clothing item, she’d put it on the dryer and leave it there for weeks before finally digging out the sewing kit to reattach it. This is pretty much how it was every day.”

Little House In The Big Woods:

Ma was busy all day long, cooking good things for Christmas. She baked salt-rising bread and rye’n’Injun bread, and Swedish crackers, and a huge pan of baked beans, with salt pork and molasses. She baked vinegar pies and dried-apple pies and filled a big jar with cookies, and she let Laura and Mary lick the cake spoon.

Little Miss In The Small Apartment:

Mama was a good cook, but I never knew how she made anything because every time I asked to help, she would say “not this time” and every few minutes would holler to remind us to “STAY OUT OF THE KITCHEN!” Christmas was special because she cooked real food – not the frozen pizzas or reheated fried chicken from the grocery store deli. She always made cinnamon rolls and apple pie, and we always had prime rib. Sometimes she made cookies and let us decorate a few of them, but we all knew decorating cookies was Mama’s least favorite activity in the entire universe.

Little House In The Big Woods:

Ma was busy, too. Laura and Mary helped her weed the garden, and they helped her feed the calves and the hens. They gathered the eggs, and helped make cheese.

Little Miss In The Small Apartment:

Mama was always busy. She worked on her computer for her client. She led painting parties a few times a month and prepared for those. She also “exercised her brain” on a game called “Sudoku”, and had to send several messages through an app called Snapchat. When the groceries were delivered, she put off as long as possible putting them away.

Little House In The Big Woods:

But the best time of all was at night, when Pa came home.

Little Miss In The Small Apartment:

But the best time of all was at night, when Daddy came home.

Yes, it seems I have a bit of work to do if I don’t want my children remembering me as their dud mom, or having uninteresting childhoods to write about one day.

Lately I’ve put down the Sudoku and picked up the knitting needles. I’ve let Little Miss help me stir a few things and unload the dishwasher. I’ve let both kids help me clean, and surprisingly, they think it’s incredibly fun. I suppose I should just get up earlier and get the coffee sipped before they rise and want to chat for the [entire] day.

I’ll work on it.

Now Serving: Peace & Quiet For One



In the not-so-distant past (it was today), I may have told my husband I was going to find new parents for our children.

It was a day from that non-heaven place. My children refused to listen, no matter how snarly I spoke, or how loud my threats were. By 8:15 this morning, I had already resigned for the day.

These days don’t come around often (praise the Lord) but when they do, they completely do me in. I am not equipped to handle consistent (nay – constant) disregard.

Little Man, who by all accounts is the sweetest little boy to walk this earth, was 150% rotten. This same little boy, who runs around our congregation on Sunday mornings hugging the legs of complete strangers, and melts onto the shoulders of those he feels needs a hefty dose of toddler love, was scowling, growling, and purposefully disobeying me. His eyebrows furrowed as he showed his dislike for my giving voice to his rights (or, lack thereof), as I reminded him for the millionth time he was not allowed to touch anything on the counter. His face was no softer when he scolded me as only a two-year-old can when he pointed at me and barked, “Don’t do dat.”

His ever-so-sweet sister, Little Miss, decided to throw sensibility to the wind as she ran on the furniture, jumped off the furniture, held her brother down against his will, and all of this in between asking me in machine-gun fashion, if she could have more to eat. More snacks. More food. More. More. MORE.

Mama could take no more. I was done. After a rant to my husband about something unrelated, he responded as only the most perfect husband in the world could. “You should go on a girl date tonight.”

Ladies. If you find a man who both recognizes and suggests this solution, nab him immediately.

After only haphazardly trying to find company, tonight I ended up as my own date. I threw on a blazer and my fancy earrings and touched up my eyeliner that had been smeared in all directions when the children decided to sit on top of me and attempt to wrestle me into submission.

Mama was ready for some solo time.

When Brent walked in the door after work, he gave me a kiss and handed me the car keys. I told everyone I loved them and I all but ran out the door. I had no plan. No idea where I was going. No agenda. My only agreement with myself was I must not do anything responsible. No errands, no structure, no taking care of anything except my need for space.

I drove around for a while before a sweet potato with butter and cinnamon started calling my name from across town. Before too terribly long, my growling stomach and I ended up at Longhorn Steakhouse.

It’s just the right size to not feel incredibly crowded, even when it’s full. I was seated right away, and had a big booth all. to. my. self.

I ordered a water, which was the only responsible thing I did. I’m not sure if you’ve ever eaten there or if you have one nearby, but let me tell you a little secret… THEIR FOOD IS INCREDIBLE. Order the parmesan crusted chicken. Do it. And try not to make ridiculous noises of happiness with each bite.

I ordered said chicken with a buttered up, cinnamon-doused sweet potato. And it was the best dinner I’ve ever had. I ate every bite of the bread, chicken, and potato. The only bites of salad I left were covered with too much dressing for me to consume. Otherwise, I polished my plates.

I sucked my water glass dry and when my server came to refill, he saw my empty plates and asked me out of obligation if I wanted dessert. My affirmative nod took him by surprise. How could a little ol’ thing like me have room for any more food? I ordered a slice of banana cream pie and didn’t let a single crumb go to waste.

Earlier, just after my salad had been served, I saw one of my near and dear friends leaving the restaurant. I called out to her and she came over to say hello. She asked me what I was doing and I explained I was treating myself. She, and I know there are so many like her, stated she couldn’t go out to eat by herself like that. We chatted only a brief while before she had to leave, and I was left by myself once again.

I sat alone and was served one of the most delicious dinners and desserts I can remember eating in a long time. I didn’t have to clean up anyone’s spilled drink. I didn’t have to tell anyone to use their fork instead of their hand. I did no clean up. I saved no leftovers. I sat and ate in undisturbed peace. I ate my entire meal while it was hot, and I didn’t have to stop at any point to get any single thing for any other person.

It was heavenly.

When I left the restaurant, I texted my husband how amazing I felt. “Do you need anything? Like a new suit or new golf clubs?” I asked him. I felt that good.

I drove home and sauntered in through our front door. “There’s my honey bunches of oats!” I said, when I spotted my husband siting down. I went to sneak into the kids’ rooms to tell them goodnight. I snuck a hug and kiss from a very sleepy Little Miss. I made sure she was tucked in snug and made my way to Little Man’s room, where he was sitting up in bed waiting for me. I scooped him up and rocked him until he fell to sleep, then I snuggled him a little longer for good measure.

It had been an incredibly challenging, difficult day. When it’s all said and done, though, the kids are absolutely worth the crazy. I’d be lost in life without them.

Also, the moral of the story is: rotten behavior is nothing a little parmesan crusted chicken and banana cream pie can’t fix.

Hallelujah, amen.

Little Apartment On The Prairie: An Update

Apartment on the Prairie

Apartment on the Prairie

Last week, I shared my radical decision to bid my personal Facebook farewell. I received mixed feedback. Half of you seemed excited and even inspired to exercise your own social media discipline. Half of you were questioning my decision, and possibly even my sanity.

I hope I made it clear in my initial post, but I will reiterate here: this is a decision I made for me personally and I’m not promoting or insisting it as a way of life for anyone other than Val Kleppen. If you feel so inclined to do something similar, I applaud you! If you don’t share in my social media struggle, I also applaud you!

Now that we’ve cleared the air, I’d like to share what I’ve been up to since I’ve stopped scrolling news feeds.

I mended a shirt. A button had come off in the wash weeks and weeks and weeks ago. It sat on top of the dryer, waiting to be reattached to it’s shirt. I haven’t worn the shirt, because there was protruding thread where the button should have been. I couldn’t sew the button back on, though, because… wait. Why? Because people were posting things! I sewed that button on this week, and felt like I could do anything afterward. Just call me Caroline (or “Ma”) because this chick is taking Little Apartment On The Prairie to a whole new level!

I planted flowers. I’ve been meaning to since May. With travel and summer plans, though, I just couldn’t bring myself to get to the store to get flowers to plant. I thought I’d let too much of the season go by and would have to forego it this year, but I prevailed. It turns out when you wait until the first of July to buy flowers, they’re on sale.

My favorite pot I purchased last year was worthless, though, which was disheartening. Thankfully we had one pot on hand that is working quite well. My Little Apartment On The Prairie patio garden brings me immense joy each morning as I look out our sliding glass door. I only wish I had thought sooner to buy a window-box type flowerbed, so I could grow strawberries in it on the patio. My thumb will be green before this is all over.

I’m a new mother. Truly, I am. And wife, for that matter. I’ve been more present this week than I can recall being in quite a while. I don’t want to admit that, because I don’t want you to know the depths of my suckiness as a human being, but it’s out there now. In my Facebook days (a few weeks ago), I was telling my hungry children to wait for a snack so I could catch up on the things people were posting and sharing. Now, I feed my kids. When they’re hungry. It’s the most revolutionary parenting move I’ve ever made. We play more, we laugh harder, and we get more done together. It’s been pretty stellar.

And my husband, well, I talk his ear off in the evenings. He might be wishing I was staring at my phone instead, but so far, we’ve had incredibly meaningful (and entertaining) conversations. I’ve been able to steal a few more kisses from him, too. I also think he might be on board to pack up and move to Tennessee. Because… life goals. But for now, we’re still very much living in our Little Apartment On The Prairie, and really enjoying our time spent in actual communication with one another.

I’ve been so productive I can’t even believe it. Dust? What dust? Dishes? All clean. Laundry? I folded it and put it away already. Need a meal cooked? Well… it’s summer time, and it’s too hot to turn the stove on. Kidding! I’ve been cooking, too! If our apartment lawn were wheat, I’d probably be grinding my own flour. Need something done? I can’t help you, because I’m so busy doing everything I ever neglected doing before! I make our bed every morning WITH ALL THE DECORATIVE PILLOWS! Caroline would be so proud…

Also – my phone battery lasts a lot longer, now.

So there you have it. A week in, and I can see how much I needed to break away. Is it for everyone? No. It certainly is for me, for this season right now, though. I’ve been in touch with several of you, and kind of wishing I had collected email addresses before I wiped my slate clean – but I know I very much still have the presence and prayers of my friends, and this week has felt so good. So good.

I’ve gotta run, though… the linens need pressed. (Just kidding, I’m not that awesome. Yet.)

Little Apartment On The Prairie



Each night at kiddo bedtime, hubs has been reading chapters from The Little House series, written by Laura Ingalls. It fills me with nostalgia from reading those books when I was a child, but more than that, I’m struck by how incredible their lives were. They kept things simple as a sake of survival, but “simple” for them seems like so much work to me. Yet today, a lot of what we have to make our lives “simpler” seems to be making it more difficult to function as a compassionate being.

I’ve been struggling for months with the maze of social media. I’m required to be in it for work, but tend to easily get trapped in a time suck and before I know it, I’ve spent hours scrolling through funny memes, frivolous news stories, and conversations among complete strangers. I can’t seem to pull away from it.

It wasn’t all that long ago, I fessed up about my struggle with being stuck in technology when I wrote about needing a time out. It turns out a technological time out isn’t easy to come by.

It’s a fantastic and frightening world, social media. Linking us to our past, connecting us to a future we hope to have, and friending our current acquaintances in the meantime. Once upon a time, I used to call someone or send them an email to see what they were up to, or how they were doing. Now, I just browse their profile. I don’t interact at all. I simply observe. And I call myself their friend. If they need me, I’ll be there to click “like” or maybe even “love” if it’s really special. If I remember to click something, that is.

Is this troubling to anyone else?

I remember a time we heard from friends once a year, and knew they were just as much my friends as they always had been. I was updated on their lives, complete with pictures, and even got a warm fuzzy feeling opening that annual correspondence: The Christmas Letter. Social media has replaced the need for the Christmas letter. Instead of decorating my door with Christmas mail, I’m checking my computer for likes and comments.

My phone rings or buzzes and I cringe. “Who’s that?” “What do they want?” When the postman buzzes our door, I’m completely bewildered. Someone sent something too big for our mailbox? Oh no, wait, we ordered something. Without talking to a single person. I just clicked it to ship it.

I’m not just in need of a techno time out. I need a complete humanitarian reset.

Recently, our family attended my husband’s class reunion, where I was surprised by how many of his classmates were not on Facebook. Not on Facebook! What kind of mysterious lives do these people live?!

I also noticed how genuinely relational they were, how connected they were, and how no one was spending their time taking selfies or interrupting their talking to tweet something clever. They were having face-to-face conversations with one another, giving undivided attention. I marveled as I witnessed it.

I’m almost ashamed to admit it for it seems so shallow, but I was completely inspired by this.

Brent’s classmates themselves were fantastic, and I enjoyed visiting with them so much. Some of them I remembered from his reunion ten years prior, others I met for the first time. It was so much fun to see Brent in his hometown with his friends, picking right up where they left off. I visited right along with him and laughed so hard my cheeks hurt. And I didn’t take my phone out but one time.

Spending hours with these folks when not a single person was taking their phone out to post or catch up on other posts was a motivational boost for me.

Could I do the same?

Remember the book #Struggles I read? (And highly recommend, by the way). It talks about this phenomenon of living in a selfie-centered world. And that, in combination with the realization I was spending too much time on too many devices, convinced me I needed to break free.

I need to be unplugged. I need to disconnect from this world I’ve become so engrossed in so I can truly connect in the world I was created to live in.

So…at least for now, we’ll be The Little Apartment On The Prairie. I won’t let social media be my master. I’m going to have a routine of doing what housework on which days. I’m going to cook all our meals, bake our own bread, and smoke meat for the winter. (Okay, maybe not smoke meat….that might get us kicked out.) We’re going to focus on each other and fostering relationships. We’re going to master the art of face-to-face communication. No more sitting on my sofa asking my husband if he saw the funny picture so-and-so posted.

I’m going back to simpler times. Basic communication. I’m going to stop letting FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) dictate my time and energy. It’s that same fear that has actually caused me to miss out on what’s right in front of me!

So, friends, I may not remember your birthday when I don’t get an email from Facebook telling me it’s your special day. But I’d love to get together with you in person and laugh so hard our cheeks hurt. We don’t even have to take a picture to prove we did it. We can just let the memory of the moment nestle itself away in folds of our hearts. And if we live far apart, I hope I get that Christmas letter this year. Email me your mailing address so I can be sure to fill your mailbox up as well. That’s right, USPS, I’m coming to buy stamps!

In the meantime, come and check in with me in our Little Apartment On The Prairie as I blog about what we’re up to. This little corner of the internet is my coffee table, with one chair always available to you.

How To Be A Camping Family



For those of you who want to know how to be a camping family, here’s your helpful list:

Go camping.


That’s it. That’s seriously all you have to do. For some reason, however, it has been Y E A R S since I went camping last. This is wrong on so many levels.

I grew up camping. We camped all along the California coast and Wyoming mountains, and several of my near-and-dear memories are from camping as a family. Up into my early 20s, I was even organizing camping trips with others. The time I almost died hiking to the top of Boulder Basin was a camping trip I organized. Then, we just…didn’t camp.

It isn’t like we didn’t have camping equipment, either. We did. Even after we had Little Miss and I vowed to give her a childhood of outdoor experiences, we never went camping. It’s a little tougher to find decent camping areas close to home here than it was when we lived in Wyoming, but even living in Wyoming wasn’t enough to get us out of our married home and into the wilderness.

This year, I decided, was going to be different. Little Miss and Little Man were going to grow up with as many camping memories as I could give them, and it was going to start now.

Except somewhere between our move last year and organizing storage, we lost our tent. Or “lost” it. I’m not blaming anyone. I’m just saying he wasn’t exactly broken up over the fact we couldn’t find our tent.

We borrowed a tent (and a couple of bed rolls) from some friends of ours, though, and we forged ahead with planning. Well, I forged ahead. My husband couldn’t understand why my camping desire, which had been dormant for so many years, suddenly seemed insatiable. “We’re not a camping family.” he said.

Au contraire.

I did as much of the prep work myself as I could, to alleviate any burden from anyone else having to wear themselves out before leaving for the campground. I was so proud of myself for everything I remembered and packed. I also couldn’t find my husband’s sleeping bag. Turns out it was “lost” somewhere with the missing tent.

After I loaded up our minivan with our essentials, we had to make a pit stop at the store to buy my husband a sleeping bag. Thankfully, it ended up being less than even what the sale sticker said it would be.

We chose a campground close to home. For our first excursion as a family, not knowing how the kids would do, I thought we’d better be able to get home if we absolutely needed to. Once we arrived and found our reserved spot, we got the kids out and set to work.

This is where our first crucial lesson was learned. In the future, we cannot let Little Man out of his car seat until we have set up the tent. As soon as his feet hit the ground, that kid was gone. Every direction, in, around, on top of, or through every single thing he could get to. Had it not been for the good Lord providing a very friendly family with outgoing children camping right next to us, who could help us corral our children, Brent and I might still be trying to set up the tent in between our tag-team efforts of rounding up Little Man.

After the tent was set up, I got everything we needed situated inside of it, and easy-as-that TWO HOURS HAD PASSED. I couldn’t believe it. Between chasing the kids, setting up, and getting everything ready to prepare our dinner, it was well past our normal dinner time. I roasted some hot dogs and while Little Miss praised my camp-cooking abilities, hubs was disappointed I didn’t bring ketchup. But YOU’RE WELCOME FOR ME COOKING YOUR DINNER OVER AN OPEN FIRE.

The kids ran. And ran. And we chased. And chased. Finally, when story time by the fire wrapped up at 9:30, it was time to call it a night. We got the kids and ourselves inside the tent seconds before the heavens opened up and poured rain for the next several hours. The rain was noisy, the trains passing the campground were noisy, and the snores in the tent were noisy. I think – if I did my math correctly – I got seven minutes of sleep that night. Coincidentally, while I slept those seven minutes, I had a dream we were all being evacuated to a Century 21 realty office (which doesn’t exist anywhere near the campground in real life) because tornadoes were about to rip through the campground.

It wasn’t the most restful night I’ve ever had.

The next morning was freezing cold, misty, and windy. We dressed in layers and I cooked us breakfast over the fire again. Hashbrowns, eggs, mushrooms, and cheese. It was delicious. I boiled water so we could burn our mouths on sub-par camping instant coffee, and it was a big success. I’m just now feeling the roof of my mouth again.

That morning, my bathroom visit introduced me to an entire herd of daddy long leg spiders, most of which were congregating by the one and only hand dryer in the restroom. If you know anything about me, you know I struggle mightily with anything that has more than four legs and/or wings.

I can’t.

I won’t even go into detail about how I maniacally lit a tick on fire after it fell from a tree on my hand at the campsite. Die, devil bug! 

I let my hands air dry in the freezing cold wind that morning. After breakfast, we didn’t see much point in sticking around to suffer in the cold much longer and started the process of packing up. As we buckled our seatbelts to leave I exclaimed, “We did it!” and hubs replied, “Yay!” I added, “One night!” He laughed.

I assure you, however, this was the first of many camping trips we’ll be taking as a family. You can’t beat the memories made or the times shared, and I’m thrilled and excited to be able to do this with my kiddos.

We ARE a camping family.

But I am keeping a ready-flame with me at all times. Beware, devil bugs. Beware.