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We did it!!!
I’m just so proud of us! We finally did what we’ve been saying we’d do for just soooooo long. We finally got the tent and gear and set off for our first camping trip this past weekend. Invited along to attend with a home school group who does 2 annual camping trips a year for the last few years, we thought this the perfect opportunity. Off to Covert, MI for an extended four day weekend, and just the-most-perfect-weather-one-could-ever-ask-for! As we packed up to leave last Thursday, it was a bit wet. Of course, there hasn’t been rain at all around here for just a really long time, but the morning we are attempting to leave town…. rain. We drove through some pretty heavy storms and fog, and I just kept chanting to myself, “the weather will clear when we hit the north-ward highway to Covert. Clear. Clear. Clear.” It was impeccable because just at the junction where we hit I196, now veering away from I94, we see the rains seize and the skies begin to clear as well. And just in the nick of time too, because as we were getting off at our exit we saw this sign primed for K. You’ll see it pictured last in the album because after our trip, he wanted to go back to where we had spotted it and get a picture of it. It was a sign searching for big foot….. one of K’s all-time favorite and most anticipated creatures to spot in his lifetime. He spent much of his waking hours sure he saw a big foot in the forest close by! Upon check in, we were so very excited to pitch our tent and check out this new surrounding.

After our successful pitching-of-the-tent experience, we head down to the water to see what this beach looks like. Just imagine the clouds parting and the rays of sunshine beaming down! This beach was just so beautiful, that I’m fairly certain no words could quite sum it up. The water even warmer than what we expected, the rock collecting so much fun, the dunes to hike and climb…. it was love at first sight for each of us. Later that evening we headed back to camp, had some grub, saw a few friends had arrived and were setting up camp, and…. headed back down to the beach for sunset. WHAT.A.BEAUTIFUL.SUNSET! The pictures below maybe don’t even do it justice! I sat realizing that the last time I may have ever seen such a view was when I was in The Gambia. You just don’t often get to see such an amazing event everyday, especially from the Midwest, and it’s not something I take for granted at all. I connect deeply with the sun and the trees. The sun feels, to me, as a driving power force in much of how I feel, act, react and think. I cherish that huge fireball, and appreciate all that it gives to me. As for trees, I only have admiration and deep connections with trees.  All trees. I don’t know that I can personalize or verbalize just how deep this connection runs, but it is something that feels very much like a deep part of me, regardless of tree. The when/where/how of the tree is something I feel deep inside. A reaction as though…. family…. yes, a familial connection. Example you say? Well, one day a tree cutting service came to cut down this enormous, gorgeous, very thick, old maple in our front yard. I heard the noise and it was just so bone-chilling. I went to the window to see this guy flying from huge branch to another slicing pieces of this tree down. I had deep sorrow, depression even, to see how this tree was being taken from the earth. This part of history just destroyed. This provider of all that is good for us… chopped. I grabbed photos and videos marking the event and believed deeply that it was my part to be the standing historian of this poor old tree. And then, I certainly will admit to feeling rage and anger. The ignorance of ‘these people’ who dare to come and take this root from the earth. What an outrage. I could hardly stand it. I just feel the tree as a part of me to my very roots. I wish more people could feel that same connection.

So, anyway, now that you know just how wacky I am, back to camping. After we experienced this most incredible sunset, we headed back to camp for a campfire, friends, and S’MORES! The kids were dying to widdle their own sticks, roast marshmallows and have some tasty s’mores. It was super fun. And as I sat their mesmerized by the beauty of the flames, I realized just how much the power of fire moved me as well! So, we head to bed in our new tent and overall, a pretty decent night. I have to admit….. I did not prepare for SBJ and myself to sleep as well as the kids, apparently. I thought the two of us would be fine with just a wee-bit blanket and it got C.O.L.D. at night! Yipes. So the first night for me, nursing M, was really rough. Then she woke by 6:30a, and that was a bit painful. But after enjoying breakfast at our site and heading to the beach, all was forgotten as we enjoyed an amazing day on the beach. SBJ and K got our huge kite in the air, soaring quite high. We did some rock collecting, and found this steep dune to climb and fly down. It was really a blast. Just a wee-bit more down the beach I found a message in a bottle! It was really bizarre too b/c as we were climbing the dune, sitting at the top, looking over the vast water, I had a notion of sending a message out in a bottle. But then reconsidered the ideas because I did not feel it would travel very far with the waves only bringing things to shore. I anticipated that you’d have send it out on a calm day, or from a boat, or in a place very little populated. So that idea flittered from my mind, we continue along the beach and low and behold, I FIND a bottle sitting on the beach with a message.

It took a great deal of time to get the bottle open. We ultimately decided to break the glass, but I somewhat regret that decision. I wish I had kept it in whole to have after the fact. But regardless….. as we were living in the excitment of the moment, I opted to crack the bottle, eager to see what it read. On the outside of the rolled paper it read “message in a bottle,” which built our excitment. Inside the message read, “6/18/12 Live life as if it were your last. Happiness is the secret to life.” It was seriously destine to find me. Not only do I live by those words, but who could not use the reminder? I was so elated and felt amazed that this all had traspired!

We head back to camp to prepare some lunch before heading back to the lake for more swim time. This time we found friends also enjoying the beach. M found a little pond, made by the lake, close to the shore. It was the perfect size and depth for her. She was so elated to jump off the side into the pool, and roll around dipping the back of her head in. She was on cloud nine. She swam hard and then passed out, which was nice for me to sit and chat with moms, but also quite warm and I longed for a swim. SBJ had stayed that afternoon at our campsite to get an assignment done for school and then met us a bit later.

After a quick drive into town to help SBJ find Internet to send in his assignment and indulge in cold ice drinks and frappe’s at McD’s, we headed back to camp. I took advantage of the little’s exhaustion and quickly showered them so they could sleep when they felt the need. SBJ started our nightly fire with them, K was off with friends playing the Hunger Games, and D and I snuck off to the beach for a sunset swim. It was chillier, but really just perfect. I got to have some one-on-one time with her, swim around and enjoy the amazing sunset. That second night was even more impeccable than the night before. I felt spoiled to have such an amazing experience. Got a quick shower in and headed back to camp where we roasted some turkey dogs and veg burgers on the fire. Yum. It was fun. Neighbor/friend/campers had some left over roasted veggies which we thoroughly indulged in too. And of course…… S’mores! Can’t forget that best fun of all!

That night was even colder than the first, if you could even imagine that. I know I couldn’t at the time, and was quite miserable. Not only did I suffer trying to stay warm, at 3am, but the neighbor campers started their car just before 6am. The car that was sitting just 2 feet from our tent!!! And woke S and M! We were up for good and just beside myself at that point. SBJ started a fire, so we at least were able to warm up. But the morning was a bit rough. I was hosting mama’s tea at camp that morning, and had to get things ready for that. We had quite a lovely tea-time camp and I even had a blast doing henna for a few moms. Once we headed to the beach, lifelessness left my body and I was feeling much better.

That evening was probably one of my most favorite parts of this whole weekend/experience. I have, since being in The Gambia, longed for the sense of/feeling of community. True community. It was this day/evening that this really became overly apparent that this was what was going on throughout this weekend. I had not been feeling quite in this way in my life in general, but this weekend really opened my eyes. I loved the idea that we were just all ‘out there.’ There were not walls built around us dividing us from each other. People were sharing food, camping supplies, equipment, drinks, good conversation and fond memories. That evening everyone there camping under/with our home school group brought dishes to share for a traditional potluck dinner. It was just so much fun. So great to see all of these amazing families together, and fun to hear stories and get to know people a bit more, and a bit more.

Later that evening, there was a tiny upset. While D was at the park with her friends, she ended up getting reamed out by crazy camper lady who felt they were throwing sticks and rocks. It was quite a negative experience and not really something I want to harp on in this post. D was quite shaken though, and said that they did not even have sticks and rocks in their hands. And the way and manner in which this woman attacked them with fulgarities (using the F-word) really frightened her. She was in tears, and she and her friends quite shaken. Fortunately, after dealing with that woman, we did have another joyous activity….. campfire sing-along!

Yet another tradition that has been going on for some time, there was this lovely sing-along at one of the family’s site. It was a true moment of community touching each other deeply and I just so connected with the whole experience. You could see the warmth and abundance beaming from each person’s face, youngest to oldest. Though not able to stay up for the entire thing, I did enjoy it most of all (it was up there with sunset swim with my daughter anyway)! But I was not able to put in as much time as I would have loved too. I was sooooooo sleepy from the evenings before and really truly hoping that the warmth in the dark was a good sign that we would not be as cold as we were the 2 nights before. And, fortunately, we were not! Yippee! However, M did nurse quite a bit that evening. In that sense, it was kinda tough. But being able to be in bed till 7am was more than exciting for me!

Everyone rose quite early, which I found a bit odd as they had not much sleep this entire weekend, but at the same time helpful as we needed to get home for K to get to a bday party, and D to pick up her guinea pig. So we did pack up and leave a bit early. It was a speedy, smooth ride home, and everyone spent much of the day on a camp-high. For me, this high will last quite some time. I look forward to more camping with my hubby and kids in the very near future, as well as with NUG. I realized driving back into Chicago, as I saw that breath-taking skyline….. I surely love Chicago and all it offers our family. It is home for each and every one of us. But oh, how I love to escape it when we are able… and oh, how therapeutic it truly is for each and every one of us. It’s incredible really, just how much my kids soaked in every moment of this entire experience. Priceless.

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