viva la woodchip.

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I did it. I went camping. This INDOOR girl spent four days – FOUR days – in the OUTDOOR world. For the first time. With two children. Without their daddy. And we survived. Amen.

So…a few reflections:

DO camp with another mom who is an expert at camping because she owns basic camping necessities like a grill and a griddle and a real tablecloth with clips that hold it down to the table and special toilet paper and a wine bottle opener and an overall state of calm and confidence.

DO camp with another mom who has children near the same mental and emotional and physical ability that your own children have. Because if you do, you will both be managing similar meltdowns and quarrels and conflicts and whining for that $1 toy gem at the camp store. And, you’ll both observe how good it is, in this culture, to remove your children from rectangles and watch the sun kiss their skin and smile at all the humorous things they do and say. And, most importantly, all of the children will go to bed all at the same time.

DO search until you find a camper that meets your basic physical and mental needs – like a queen size bed and bunk beds and bathroom and kitchen sink and microwave (just to name a few). Your internal well-being relies on this. Trust me. (Yes, someone somewhere makes these types of lovely campers!)

DO ask for a camp site that is next to the playground, across from the bathrooms/showers, a skip and a hop away from the pool, and that has an eye-sight view of the massive trampoline pillow where the children will expend much of their 12+ hour energy. (I’m assuming that ALL campgrounds would have these parent necessities.)

DO choose the PERFECT weather week – like mid 70s/low 80s. Because this could make or break your camping experience.

DO choose the week when most of the bugs and mosquitos that surely swarm around every camp site fly away to visit another campground or your friends’ homes. This, too, could make or break your camping experience.

DO pack tons of liquids and snack foods because you and your children’s bodies will constantly feel the need to ingest more than it normally requires. And, most importantly, bring Coke and M&Ms. And, bring ingredients for summer recipes like fresh BBQ Chicken Salad and Limonada de Coco, because it will help you feel special. It will remind you that you really are on a “vacation.” But, do make these when all the children are running around the campground making new friends and spinning around on the merry-go-round, so that you can eat in peace, so that your taste buds can savor every delicious bite, so that you are able to feel each little lime-y coconut-y slushy piece of ice slide down your throat.

DO bring lots of firewood, because making a fire each night is a MUST in the world of camping (along with s’mores). And then, after the children are nestled in and then out like a light because they’ve jumped and ran and biked and swam hard all day, pull up your new, red Costco camping chair beside your friend’s chair, stare into the fire, and start talking – about things that matter, about things that don’t. Talk and laugh and be silly and serious until midnight. Or 1 o’clock. Or 2 o’clock. Because in those 3-5 hours, you can cover A TON – like friends and family and in-laws and parenting and your story and decorating and finances and how life is so very wonderful and so very hard and how important it is to be gracious truth-tellers and what it’s like to feel like you’re “too much” and bucket lists and what you’re learning and how you’re failing and how you hope your children will grow to be lovers and doers of good and how to offer yourself as a wife whose husband knows she loves him and is grateful for him and how the people camping next to you talk really, really loud. Basically, you can solve most of the world’s problems in those night hours. So…

DO have your first camping experience with a friend who is fun and neat and organized and flexible and experienced and silly and honest and open…to all that life has to offer. And, who will invite you into an experience that will give you perspective of the OUTSIDE world and perspective on all the things you unknowingly take for granted about your INSIDE world. And, who will post funny pictures on Instagram and tag you as you sit 1 foot away from her. And then laugh about it. And, who will partner with you in an experience that reminds you that you’re capable – of doing new things and hard things and unlikely things…for yourself, for your children, WITH your children. And, who will play her radio ALL day on a station that has ALL the songs you know, so that at any moment you can raise your thumb to your mouth and break out singing and dancing and partying, like it’s 1999.

And then, pack up, go home, wash everything really good and know…that at the end of the day, it’s OK to say, you’re a hotel girl. Hands down.

#VivaLaWoodchip

 

summer slush.

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Sitting on a deck in the summer? The best. Sitting on a deck WITH someone? Even better. Sitting on a deck WITH someone, WITH a good summer drink? Heaven.

I’m not a huge “drinker” (I would choose a coke over most anything), but when I decide to sip a little, it’s gotta be good. Because I’m picky. Someone introduced me to this delicious, subtle alcohol tasting slush years ago, and it’s still my all-time favorite summer slush. And it’s SO easy, so doable, so worth sharing.

So gather your friends and introduce them to this. And then laugh and tell stories and enjoy one another!

Apricot Brandy Slush

7 cups water + 2 cups sugar – bring to boil and let cool, making sure all sugar is dissolved.

2 cups water – bring to boil and add 4 orange pekoe tea bags and let cool. Squeeze out tea bags and throw away.

1 can frozen lemonade + 1 can frozen orange juice + 1 pint of apricot brandy.

While the two pans are boiling, mix the last three ingredients together in freezable container (I use a 9/13 covered pan). Add cooled sugar water and tea. Stir. Freeze overnight (I give it a good stir after a few hours, but you don’t have to). Spoon into cup, add some diet 7-up, stir until slushy.

VOILÁ!

 

 

summer days.

Summer is here! The lingering days, the sun-kissed skin, lakeshore beaches with their waves crashing into sand toys and kid-dug holes, sand nestled between the toes (and other hidden places), candles glowing at the beach, outside lunches that make everything taste better, gleaning fresh produce and flowers from the farmer’s market, wagon rides to the bridge and “popcorn store,” frozen apricot brandy and strawberry/pineapple slushes, the smell of freshly cut grass, the sound of rhythmic sprinklers, slides and swings, friends that talk and laugh and play, and gorgeous sunsets that say, “All shall be well.”

Ahhh…we love summer! Something about this time of year feels more alive, more laid back, more lovely, better.

10 steps gets us to the backyard and kiddie pool and shade trees and swings and trampoline.

20 miles gets us to Holland State Park.

25 miles gets us to Oval Beach in Saugatuck.

30 miles gets us to Grand Haven State Park.

These are the West Michigan lakeshore beaches we feel giddy driving to as we sing our favorite songs. We have water all around us, tucked into little spaces that shout, “Let me refresh and enjoy you!” That’s one of the best parts about living in the mitten state. Heck, we even have our own Michigan clothing website that celebrates this good land shaped like a hand. Come drive up the shore and visit some of the most beautiful northern country and make some family memories in Pure Michigan! (I love these ads!)

Some of my favorite lazy summer pictures so far…(Secretly, I wish I was a photographer.)

I hope you’re breathing in these summer moments and taking the time to soak the memories you’re making…in…deeply. Hopefully you are able to capture your moments with pictures or words or videos or maybe just tuck them away in your mind. Life moves by us so fast, if we let it. I know that for me, this summer, is about making room on my calendar for more days, more moments that I will choose to be more fully present, more playful, more engaging. For me, that may mean saying NO to some really good things and maybe some really good people. For you, it may mean saying YES to some new things and to some new people. Whatever it looks like for you to enjoy summer – stepping into or stepping away from – may it be a choice that brings fresh perspective, a simple smile, a new gratitude, and memories that are worth remembering.

Here’s to summer 2012 and to all the LIFE and BEAUTY and JOY it holds!

PS – If you have a favorite summer time place or escape or activity, please do tell!