{ Camping at FDR State Park }

We were determined not to let this summer pass us by without a camping experience, and we knew that if we were going to have a fun time it would have to be before the weather got too unbearable. Memorial Day weekend always seems to be the perfect time when the nights are still a little bit cool and the days aren’t totally scorching hot. A few months back we made our reservations at FDR state park just up the road from us-it sometimes seems a little anticlimactic to go camping so close by, but I think we have just found it to be a fun place and it seems a shame to ruin a good thing.

Aaron was able to rent a trailer, a canoe, a couple bikes with a small tag-a-long bike,and a whole pile of other things from down at Ft. Benning for super cheap. We had both cars packed up, the dog in tow, and were all set for a fun weekend.

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Even with all of our planning we still ended up getting there well before dark, but after the rental office had closed. They had left our reservation as well as a few others in the overnight box for us. And this is where our little weekend adventure starts… In years past when we have camped here, the campsites are basically first come first serve, but we noticed that they had recommended two different camp sites on our map. We wondered why they would have done that. We drove to check out “our” campsite and sure enough it was free. Yea for us!! We love our campsite. It is wide open, and away from all the crowds around the lake. In the back of our minds we still had a little concerned thought that kept whispering to us about those two recommended campsites. We decided it was worth a drive by them just to see. They were both closer to the lake, right by the bathrooms and a playground. Maybe they thought we would want to be closer to those things with all of our kids? We decided to ask the on duty camp ranger there, and he confirmed that we were welcome  to pick whichever campsite we wanted as long as there wasn’t a tag on it yet.

We returned to our campsite and got to work getting our big family sized tent set up, and getting a fire going for the night.

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Even though we have camped several times, we still feel a bit like camping losers when it comes to the food. We usually stick the the ol’ camping standby’s of hotdogs and foil dinners. We decided to jazz things up this year, and opted to have grilled shrimp in our foil dinners instead. That was a huge hit, for everyone! Garlic butter shrimp, and oil and salted asparagus wrapped in bacon-we felt a little gourmet for a few minutes.

The kids played cards, took turns riding the bikes around, and peeing in the woods. That was Ryan’s favorite. Boys, you gotta love ‘em! When the stars started to come out, we parked ourselves by the fire for some late night s’mores and relaxing. Aaron had brought a couple of cots, so him and Austin decided they were going to try to sleep out under the stars that night. Our last-weekend-in-May plan of camped worked out great for that, as the night was nice a cool.

The next morning our early risers (Erika,Scott,and Ryan) pulled us out of bed with some hungry tummy's. We tried breakfast burritos this time around, and were pleasantly surprised how well they worked out. I think we are slowly gaining our confidence with this camping cooking thing.

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Don’t let this cute little smile fool you-this poor kid was pretty miserable the whole time. He is a boy after his mom-one who doesn’t notice how bad the Georgia summers really are because we happily park ourselves in the air conditioning almost the entire summer. No matter how hard he tried he just couldn’t get comfortable. I think he enjoyed the air conditioned drive home the next day the most.

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Right before we left to come camping Scott decided that he was going to learn to ride a bike. I think it was Austin who suggested it, and Scott willing just hopped on Abby’s pink bike and away he went. I don’t think we have had such a quick bike rider since Austin learned to ride when he was 3 years old. Scott was so excited that he was begging us to take him around the loop that passed by our campsite. His wacky faces crack me up!

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When we had checked in the night before, there was a note letting us know to come to the main office and really check in the next morning before 10:30am. Aaron headed up to the main office and we jokingly said that we hoped that we didn’t have to move campsites. A little while later he came back with that “Guess what?” look on his face. So….apparently when you reserve a campsite online, they always save the handicap spots for last, unless someone specifically requests them. When it comes down to the those last two sites, the system still recognizes that there are two sites left and lets you reserve, but unfortunately we had no clue what that meant, and that we had to have one of those two sites. Every other person gets to pick-except for the last two to sign up. What?! The two sites we had driven by before both had concrete slabs on them, perfect for a RV setup, not necessarily a tent. We talked to the ranger we had spoken to the night before, the manager at the office, and several others, but unfortunately we were out of luck.

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Aaron and I tried to have a good attitude about it, and I’m sure I muttered something uplifted about what we could learn from this and how the Lord was testing our honestly. I think I threw a little “getting the plates and Laman and Lemuel” just for good measure. I am pretty sure this picture was one about the time that Aaron was telling the kids all the fun they would get to have taking everything down. Can you feel the excitement?

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We took down our tent partially and loaded it into the trailer, and then half packed up the rest the best we could. We drove all ten of us over there and tried to decide the better of the two evils. There was this young couple with their little dog in the campsite next to us. I am pretty sure they were silently praying we wouldn’t actually stay. 8 kids, one crying baby, one big loud barking dog, …nice.

We were in the process of going back to the campsite for the rest of the stuff since Aaron and the kids had rode all the bikes over, when the ranger camp back on his golf cart saying that he has talked the manager into letting us stay at the original site. At that point, we were feeling like camping experts with all the up and down of our camping gear. Even though we had just packed up all of our stuff, we knew that our original campsite was the best for us. Our group just needs lots of trees, and room to roam. He felt so bad for telling us one thing the night before and then having us pack everything up with all of our kids-I was grateful for him having pity on us.

We hustled ourselves back over to the original campsite, and promised lots of ice cream from the trading post for extra good attitudes. Ice cream goes a long way I have found. We set up camp, had some lunch (only Lunchables-not so much gourmet this time), with a little ice cream thrown in, and them headed off to the lake. This was the first time that we had brought a canoe with us camping, so the kids were really looking forward to getting to tool around in it. There is supposedly a no swimming rule, but not a rule against “accidentally falling in”-so needless to say we had a lot of falling in that day.

Our dog Simon LOVES to swim, and after meeting another lab dog there that was really afraid of the water, we were pretty proud of him for just jumping right in and swimming all around. Whoever was out in the canoe would call to him and he would dive in and swim out to them-one of the kids would then “accidentally” fall out of the canoe and hold onto his collar and have him swim them around. He was in dog heaven I think.

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After several hours of boating we headed back to the campsite for dinner-we made steak kabobs and the rest of the asparagus. More bike riding-more fighting over who got to ride which bike, and more card playing late into the night. The girls had brought their school yearbook, so there was lots of giggling about pictures, and telling us funny stories about all the kids in their classes.

The next morning we had planned on going on a hike, but after packing up we decided to just head straight to the pool to swim. Since we had Simon with us and couldn’t leave him in the car or at the campsite unattended, I drove back home with him and Ethan and let Aaron and the rest of the kids go swimming. If you know me, that was a pretty big sacrifice to be in Aaron’s car with this big dog in the passengers seat next to me. Imagine lots of slobber and hair..and slobber. One of us may have been really happy to get home after that.


{ An Early Summer Getaway }

Our annual Family Medicine Residency retreat always falls a few weeks before Memorial Day, and this year before school was even out. Since we had “saved up” a few sick days from school, we let the kids miss Friday and we headed south to Panama City Beach a day early. We drove down Thursday night and got checked into our exact place from last year. They must only have so many condos available that have enough bed space for a family this big.The condos there are right on the beach with a pool just steps away too. The kids loved hopping from pool to beach and back again all weekend long.

The next morning the sun came shining through our window so early-I don’t know what it is about all that early morning sun shine-but it came at about 6am, just beckoning us to come and play. After hours of shopping and packing and organizing, this view out my window that morning was just what I needed-an open invitation to relax and have some fun. I think the late night movies the night before had helped our kids give us a little bit of a break and they managed to sleep in until about 8am. As soon as everyone was up, we grabbed some breakfast and were off for a fun filled day.

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The big kids hit the beach first, and the younger kids decided on swimming at the pool. The water was a bit chilly and it was kind of windy that first day, but they were not about to miss out. Even Ryan insisted he wasn’t cold, but would take a lot of towel brakes to warm up. Luckily, the second day was HOT and a lot less windy so the kids were able to enjoy the smaller waves in the ocean and the pool became a nice refreshing place to cool off.

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Ethan is still a bit too young for that much pool time, but was happy to spend most of the day in his stroller and in the shade down at the beach.

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When Ethan was born his eyelashes were barely noticeable, now look at those long things! They curl up in the corners and practically touch his eyebrows when he opens his eyes all of the way. I don’t know what it is, but Scott, Ryan, and Ethan all have the longest eyelashes I have ever seen. And just for the record-his eyes are pretty officially blue-so now the blue eyed ones in the family are “winning” with 6 of us.

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I love having our room within walking distance of the pool and beach. It’s so much easier to walk back for lunch and dinner instead of having to drag everything down to the beach and eat sandy food or cut our day short to stop and pack everything up to go back to eat. We wandered back for lunch, a short nap, some puzzles, and then the kids were ready to head back out for some more water time.

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Some of our friends will be graduating from the Residency program and moving in a couple of months. Scott and Carrington are in the same primary class at church and are quite a pair. Carrington’s mom, Amy, gets to teach them and tells me all about their fun. Let’s just say it involves Scott’s arm around Carrington’s shoulder and playing with her hair all during class. So funny! These three sure had fun the whole weekend. They were so cute as they looked for shells. Carrington showed me her “friendship shell” that Scott had given her and the one she gave him. My two little boys are sure going to miss their little friend.

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We have been to the beach enough times now with a baby to realize that a new 10x10ft canopy for shade was a must. We recently bought a new one that was way easier to put together than our last one. Once we had it up, we dug a little hole and covered it with a towel for Ethan’s little “bouncy seat” for the day. He loved the view, but the guy sure is a kicker these days, and within a few minutes he had the towel all bunched up and sand all over himself. So much for our novel bouncy seat idea.

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I love his cute little smile he shows us more of lately. There are some days that he looks so much like Ryan and others that he reminds me a lot of Austin still.

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My friend Amy (Carrington’s mom) getting her baby fix ..

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    My favorite picture from the whole trip I think. Those cute little puppy dog eyes sure melt my heart.

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Brianna’s best friend Ashleigh got to come with us again this year, and while they were out swimming she found the first couple of hermit crabs of the weekend. After that we found two more to add to our bucket. They were a lot of fun to watch crawl around, and sneak in and out of the sand. The kids had high hopes of bringing one of them home, but in the end we left our little friends there. The big one that is crawling around out of his shell was Ashleigh’s-she named him Kermit.

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Our cute teenagers-Brianna, Ashleigh, and Austin

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Proof I was actually at the beach too..

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Back at the room, Abby was getting her own little baby fix. We all just can’t get enough of this cute guy-I think we say about a hundred times a day-“You are just SO cute!” And that Abby with those little freckles splashed across her face-she is a pretty big cutie as well.

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More of our three musketeers…

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…Scott told me they were having a club meeting there around the table.

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By the end of Saturday we were getting ready to head back home, and the kids wanted just one more time down at the beach. They started digging two big holes-no reason besides just to dig. We finally convinced them to combine the two holes to make it big enough to all get in it. They dug their little hearts out until all of the kids fit in…

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…one by one…

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…and then we covered them up…

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..and then one by one they all got out again. Good times.

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We will miss you Panama City Beach…until next year.

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