Sunday, July 24, 2011

Camping: A Rant

Confession: I judge people when we're camping.

We just returned from our second of two camping trips this week. Our first was with good family friends who have kids the same age as our boys. The second was with all of my family for a weekend get-together.

The first campsite was on an island on Lake Superior. It was somewhat remote and not very full. Tents outnumbered RVs.

The second campsite was on a lake in Iowa. It was almost completely full and mostly RVs. Now, I understand RVs for older people who aren't able to sleep on the ground or who are travelling across country. I would accept if my parents decided to get a small pop-up camper at some point.

I don't get parking in the great out doors so you can cook and eat all your meals inside and spend your evening watching television.

Camping is about getting away from all that. It's about being outside. It's about building memories with your kids and teaching them new skills. It's about having fun together as a family.

So get out there and do it. Every child needs to sleep in a tent and cook food over a campfire at least once. Even if it's a terrible experience--even if it rains the whole time and the lake is cold and the food doesn't turn out well--even those bad experiences produce great memories.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Seven-Year Old's Birthday Party

Confession: We went simple.

Years ago when our eldest son was nearing the age when he would start having birthday parties that involved inviting friends over and not just family members, I declared that we weren't going to have a big party every year. Maybe every other. But I didn't want to do a big fancy party every year. It can get out of control.

However, since Anders turned three, I believe, we've had a birthday party for him. Partly because we ended up moving a few times during those last four years, and I think we partly did them to compensate for some of his losses. And of course, we had to do the same for his younger brother once Nils came of age. And so it became a yearly requirement.

This year I said I wasn't up for programming a big party. We caught Anders in an agreeable mood, and he asked if he could just have a playdate with a few friends from school he hasn't seen in a while.

So three of his friends met us at a nearby regional park with a nice play center and wading pool with a big boulder in the center that sprays water in various directions. The boys played for a while, then we had a simple meal (hot dogs, chips, carrots). They played some more, then we had "cake" (cupcakes made in the shape of a caterpillar). Then the boys played some more until it was time to go home.

They had fun, and we didn't have to do much work. It helps that his birthday is in the summer, which provides many options for play. It also helps that kids are content with just being together and playing.

So, happy seventh birthday (his golden birthday), Anders! You've brought a lot of joy into our lives the past seven years. We're looking forward to seeing the wonderful kind of man you'll grow to be.