Pop-Up Camping with 3 Kids: How We Make It Work

It’s been a few years since this post, and since then we’ve grown into avid pop-up campers. Our little 1996 Palomino served us well, but this year we were able to upgrade to a slightly-less-old  2002 Coleman Carmel. We weren’t looking to upgrade to another pop-up (we have our sights set on larger, loftier travel trailers) but an amazingly priced opportunity presented itself so we went for it. Since we were also able to unload our old trailer for a decent price, the whole process ended up costing very little.

Our good old 1996 Palomino

Our good old 1996 Palomino

Carmel

Our new-to-us 2002 Coleman Carmel

Most pop-up campers are designed to sleep up to 6 people, but that would be really crowded. Fortunately, we only have 5. We’ve managed to make camping work for us in our little pop-up while still affording ourselves the luxuries we like to include in our “glamping” experiences.

Sometimes it amazes me that we can all sleep on the same small place and not keep each other up all night. Maybe it’s the fresh air, but our kids usually sleep better when we’re camping than they do at home. Here’s how we do it:

The older two kids:

9yo and 4yo both sleep on the double-sized bed. I was worried they would pick at each other all night or wake each other in the early morning. To avoid conflict, we decided to have them sleep in sleeping bags on top of a comforter. This works well for two reasons: 1) they aren’t sharing bedding so there’s no fighting over blankets and 2) we can have them sleep facing opposite directions so it appears as though they each have their own end. This has worked really well and has elicited no complaints from either of them. We’ve found it’s best to put 4yo to bed first and have 9yo sneak into bed once he’s asleep.

BigBeds

The baby:

1yo is still sleeping in a crib at home, so we need to use the pack-n-play whenever we travel. The only place to put it is on the dinette bed. When 4yo was an infant, we tried putting it in the bunk end but it was far too hard to lift him in and out from that height.  1yo sleeps really well in the pack-n-play as long as we put her to bed before the other two. To keep cool breezes and light to a minimum, we attach blankets to the exposed sides. One day I may make cute curtains for the sides, but if I wait long enough she’ll be sleeping in a bed and I won’t need to.

BabyBed

If the morning is cold or rainy, it takes 30 seconds to lift the pack-n-play onto the older kids’ bed and assemble the dinette for breakfast, puzzles, or a competitive game of UNO.

Dinette

Us:

Our bed is easy. We topped it with a memory foam mattress pad because all camper mattresses were made by the Flinstones.  Then, I simply make the bed like I would anywhere else. We have no complaints.

GrownUpBed

There’s no more work getting our beds ready in the camper then there would be in a tent. Maybe even less, since we don’t have to blow them up first!

We’ve already camped twice this summer and we have another trip planned in a couple weeks. It’s become a wonderful way to make memories with our children.

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Summer Project: The Deck!

Jim has been extremely busy working on our home remodel, pretty much since the fall of 2014.  It’s a second job we’re paying for him to have. He works all day then comes home and works all evening. Fortunately, the results have been worth it. He completed the work on our bedroom remodel last year and it looks heavenly.

Unfortunately, just outside the double doors of the bedroom is the world’s ugliest deck.

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This deck was slapped up by the original builders. It’s small and the spindles are so far apart we can’t even let our kids hang out on it for fear of them falling through and plummeting to the ground 15 feet below. I decided something needed to be done about it, but I didn’t want to add to the never-ending list of projects Jim is trying to tackle. Painting a deck does not require any special skills, so I decided to take it on.

The prep work wasn’t too difficult. After helping me carry the heavy things off the deck, Jim did pressure wash it for me — not because I couldn’t but because he really loves pressure washing and I have no emotional attachment to spraying things with water. Then, I scrubbed it down with an acid cleaner the paint specialist at Home Depot recommended. Two days later we were ready to begin. I sent 1yo to my mother-in-law’s house because there was no way I could get this project done with her around. I grabbed enough brushes and rollers for 9yo and 4yo to help me out and we got started. decka1

I won’t go through all the details, but painting a deck is long and tedious. 9yo was really helpful throughout the entire day. 4yo lasted 45 minutes, which is to be expected. In the end, I had enough deck stain to finish the deck, but not the steps.  They need to be repaired anyway, so we’ll save that for another day.

Because we’ve spent gobs of money (at least that’s how it feels) on the rest of the remodel, I tried to do this as cheaply as I could. Deck stain costs what it cost, so I couldn’t do much about that. For furniture, I reused our old patio table and chairs. Despite the rusty, old appearance of the table, I was able to make it look nice with a beachy vinyl table cloth I found at the grocery store for $5. We also lucked out with the deck chairs. My parents had purchased them for their pool, then decided they were too low to the ground. Instead of returning them, they generously gave them to us to use for our deck. Score! I bought cushions for them from the garden section of the Walmart. One of my biggest worries was splinters from the old deck boards. I had two Amazon gift cards I’d been saving from Christmas, so I used them to purchase a 9 x 12 patio rug. Our deck is 10 X 13 so it was perfect! I love the color and design and it goes really well with the gray we used for the stain. The umbrella is a beach umbrella we already had.

The only task remaining is making the railing safer. Our plan is to purchase lattice to attach to the spindles to close up the gaps. I’m hoping to get that done this week so we can start enjoying our evening meals on our deck.

decka3 decka4

Overall, I’m extremely pleased with how it looks, how much we spent, and the fact that I did the work myself.

Summer is Here!

We made it to summer!

After the craziness of the last month of school, today marks the kick-off of summer vacation here. Despite the calls for rain, it’s sunny and beautiful outside.

Our plans for the summer include lots of swimming, a couple day trips, and tons of camping trips (provided Jim can get off work). I’m hoping to get in lots more blogging now that I have the time to do it. Watch for chronicles of our summer adventures!

Take a Deep Breath

It’s about to get crazy here.

For the next 5 weeks, I’ll be lucky to keep my sanity. I think I’ll manage, as I do every year, but somewhere in there Jim is sure to be the recipient of a major mommy meltdown.

I’ve always thrived on being busy.  As a teenager, I would fill my calendar with activities: rehearsals, practices, part-time jobs.  If there was an empty day, I would look for a way to fill it. Until recently, I still enjoyed being busy. Maybe it’s age, maybe it’s having a third child, but I’m reaching the point in my life when I look at the calendar and pray we have nowhere to go after work and school.

There are no days on my calendar that look like that.

Part of it is being a music teacher, part of it is having three kids with their own interests and activities. Teeball, dance recitals, concerts, field trips, Mother’s Day: is a Spring whirlwind we fly through every year. I try my best to enjoy it, but some days it’s all I can do just to get through it.

Fortunately, once we’re through the craziness, we arrive at summer when we can take a deep breath.

(Except for Jim.  He doesn’t get breath until September.)

My Third One is My “Only Child”

Every parent I know who has multiple children has said the same thing to me at one point: it is amazing how different they are.

For several years following the birth of our first child, Jim and I dealt with infertility issues. Since we now have three children, we obviously solved our problem.  In the meantime, we suffered through the barrage of unwelcomed comments all parents of only children endure. These comments are usually intrusive and unfair. More importantly, they are dead wrong.

“If you only have one, she’ll end up spoiled.”

“Only children don’t know how to share.”

“How will she learn to get along with others if she doesn’t have any siblings?”

Despite being our only offspring for over 5 years, our oldest daughter is the opposite of all of these things. She’s selfless, kind, helpful, and many other qualities parents wish their children to be.  She is patient and caring with her younger siblings and helpful to adults. She didn’t learn these traits from having siblings. She developed them long before the other two came along.

Siblinga3

Ironically, the third one (1yo) is everything the first one (9yo) was “supposed” to be. Heaven forbid 4yo wants to sit in my lap and snuggle. 1yo will climb over him, screaming, attempting to pry him off. If that doesn’t work, she hits him and ends up screaming in time-out. She loves chopped strawberries until she sees a sibling eating a whole one.  Then, suddenly, chopped strawberries are inadequate and only a whole one will do. If she is the first child to arrive in the nursery at church, her anger mounts as more children arrive to play with the toys or receive attention from the nursery teacher. If there is a communal bowl of snacks, she scrambles to it like a puppy who is one of several in the litter and shoves the food into her mouth as though she will starve if she does not get her fair share of goldfish crackers.

Siblinga2

My 9yo, who spent over half of her life not having to compete with anyone for attention or possessions, is hardly competitive at all. My 1yo, who has always been one of three, has learned very early that there will always be someone else who will take what you want if you don’t get it first. 9yo was never the stereotypical only child (even when she was one), and 1yo is about as spoiled for attention as a toddler can get – despite having two siblings.

That these two completely opposite girls are exactly who they were meant to be has been a big lesson to learn. I cannot light a fire in 9yo’s belly any more than I can extinguish the one in 1yo.  All I can do is guide them, support them and discipline them; and, of course, love them and their brother exactly as they are.

Siblinga1

 

 

 

 

 

A Little Gem

I recently found this conversation from last summer that I had written down so as not to forget it.  I read it tonight and it made me smile.

3yo: Now that it is warm I will hug bees.

Me: (half listening) yeah?

3yo: Yeah, they will not sting me if I hug them.

Me: Wait, what? You want to hug bees?

3yo: Yeah.

Me: We don’t hug bees.

3yo: Why not?

Me: because they will sting you.

3yo: Not nice bees.

Me: Yes, even nice bees.

3yo: But why?

Me: Because bees don’t want you to hug them.

3yo: Aw, but I want to hug them.

Me: Bees are afraid of people.  You can say hello to them, but you cannot touch them because they will sting you.

 

3yo thinks for a while….

 

3yo: Bees are not in our cars.

Me: No they are not.  If one flew into our car we would open the windows so they can fly out.  They don’t want to be in cars, they want to stay outside and find flowers.

 

3yo thinks some more…..

 

3yo: Bees don’t like flowers on Mars.

Me: What?

3yo: Bees don’t like flowers on Mars, only on Earth.

Me: Um, yes.  They only like Earth flowers.

3yo: A long, long time ago, bees flew into our car.  Then they turned into butterflies.

Me: They did?

3yo: Yeah.  Two weeks ago.

Me: Oh. Ok.

 

My Funny Buddy

Recently, 3yo and I were in the basement where our toy kitchen is located. He was preparing a plastic dinner for me, and the following conversation ensued:

 

3yo (handing me a bowl of plastic bread and peas): Here’s your sayfillow!

Me: sayfillow? What’s that?

3yo: It’s French.

Me: French, huh?

3yo: Yeah, French from America.

 

The other day, in the car:

3yo: I’m a dude.  I lost my dude glasses, but I’m still a dude.

 

 

They Look So Real

Now that the baby is mobile, she’s really enjoying playing with her toys. She loves things with knobs and buttons and she likes to drum on flat objects with anything slightly resembling a stick.  She has also tasted all of the tools in 3yo’s tool bench.  Interestingly, she has two favorite toys: a green plastic car that she drives everywhere and an army of giant plastic insects that originally belonged to her brother.

The car thing is cute.  She pushes it along the floor, the fireplace mantel, and the coffee table.  The bugs are not cute.  In fact, they’re kind of terrifying.Spiders2

I like to think of myself as a pretty brave person. I’m not cancer-fighting brave, or join-the-armed-forces brave, but when it comes to common fears (the dark, heights, snakes) I don’t have many. Insects, however, are my one unreasonable fear. Our house has often echoed with the sounds of my shrieks, brought on by giant hairy spiders or miles-long house centipedes that don’t understand they are not allowed inside. I’ll admit that they often don’t survive our encounters. Yes, I know that they’re more scared of me, they eat other bugs, blah, blah, blah. In the moment, as they crawl out from under the wet towel I just picked up off the laundry room floor, all I can see is a descendant of Shelob ready to wrap me in its web and drain me of my blood. If Jim sees a plastic cup upside down on the floor, he knows there’s a good chance I left a spider under there for him to handle.  Spiders1

So what does the baby do? She leaves these giant, plastic, very realistic-looking bugs ALL OVER my house.  I turn the corner, and there’s the spider of my nightmares.  I bend down to pick up another toy, and beneath it is a scorpion, ready to attack.  More than I’d like to admit, I have screamed in surprise at these small plastic objects.  I’ve freaked out after stepping on them in a sleepy daze as I wander to the end of the house for a midnight nursing session. Today, there was one in the refrigerator.Spiders3

I kind of love that her favorite toys are so gross and not traditionally “girly.” I just wish they didn’t look like my worst nightmares.

(9yo suggested I title this post “Bug Baby.”)

This is my heaven.

Life is short. What happens after you die? I wouldn’t know. Whatever it is it probably isn’t this, and I love this.

I love the sound of my baby’s breath as she sleeps.  I love the strength in my husband’s rough hand as he grabs mine. I love the giggles that echo down the hallway. I love the taste of a ripe peach, the smell of an approaching storm, and the way it feels to drift off to sleep. I love the beauty of music. I love the company of good friends.  I love the feel of sand between my toes, a cool breeze on my neck, and the soft skin of my son’s cheek on mine as we snuggle.

What comes after this is unknown to me. Maybe it is better. Maybe it is not. But it is not this, and I love this.

This is my heaven. 

heaven