happy graduation day

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Last weekend, Paul and I (and Savannah) drove up to North Carolina to watch my sister get her diploma! I can’t believe she’s a college graduate now! I’m so proud of her, and I hope she’s able to find a job soon doing what she loves. Her major was outdoor education, so she’s looking at camps and other outdoorsy type jobs. I hope she ends up close enough that we still get to see her frequently! I’ve enjoyed her being only 4 hours away in NC.

I think Amy is one of the coolest people in the world, so I was excited to see her again. :-) My parents and grandparents and us shared a cottage near Amy’s college campus, which was nice. I enjoyed being with them! My brother and his wife also drove up from Florida for the graduation, which marked the first time ever my whole family made it to a graduation! (Amy missed my high school, I missed AJ & Amy’s high school, my dad missed my college, and everyone missed AJ’s college)

Some pictures!
Amy and Savannah
Amy and Savannah

Parents with the graduate
Amy and my parents

The siblings
The three siblings

Sleepy Savannah
What Savannah did during the entire graduation

I didn’t get a picture of Amy accepting her diploma because I was videotaping. It was a really nice ceremony, though. It reminded me of Taylor – small Christian college graduation. :-) After the graduation, we went back to the cottage and two of my aunts came and threw a graduation party for Amy. It was fun to sit back and visit with my family! I hope Amy enjoyed it too. A good weekend all in all.

so… frustrating…!

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We put the first coat of sealer on the floor in the den yesterday, and today I went to check how it turned out. In the corner, I found a wet spot – cat pee. Argh!

My cats are driving me nuts right now. They are constantly peeing in the den, and we are nervous about how to get them to stop. We don’t want them peeing on our new carpet!

I think they are peeing in other areas of the house, too. I just haven’t found out where yet.

Everything has changed since Savannah was born. Before, they were my everything. Now I just don’t have the time or interest to take dote over them like I used to. However, getting rid of them is not an option. When I adopted them, I committed to taking care of them for their entire lives. They are only 5 years old, so they are not old and sickly.

I have been considering letting my cats outside. They desperately want to go. They stand at the door and cry. They will jump out of 2nd story windows to get outside. I wonder if that will help with the whole peeing thing. Maybe if they are bored being inside all the time? We’ve always had a porch for them and we don’t have one anymore.

I don’t know. They are driving me nuts, though.

dear savannah: nine months

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Happy baby!

Dear Savannah,

Today you are 9 months old. Every day you continue to be more interactive, more sweet, and more loveable. As we celebrated my first Mother’s Day this past month, I truly delighted in the fact that I get to have you as a daughter!

This month you had your first camping trip, and you did great. We hope this is just the first of many. Since the weather is getting warmer, you are spending more time outside. You like to ride around in your umbrella stroller while we work on the yard or go for a walk.

You are moving around more, and reaching so far for toys that are beyond your grasp! You like to move and dance with music, and you love to wildly rock back and forth wherever you are sitting. You still hate being on your tummy but I notice when I sit you up, you will often scootch around a little bit. The other day you took your first big tumble – head first off the couch! You cried so loud, but were fine 5 minutes later even though there’s a nasty looking bruise on your forehead.

Clothes go OFF for mealtimes!

You are eating a lot more solids, including crackers or cheerios. You seem to recognize when we’re eating food and you complain until you get some too. You enjoy feeding yourself more than you like being fed, but you’ll eat the pureed fruits and vegetables I give you.

Now that it’s warm, you’re barefoot most of the time and you love playing with your feet. I often see you with your foot in your mouth as we’re driving in the car. It’s so very cute.

Your hair has been growing in thick and long. I got some little bands and put your hair in a little ponytail at the top of your head, which was so cute. I have been playing around with other hair accessories, now that your hair is so long I have to keep things in it!

My mother told me that I started crawling at nine months, so I’m interested to see what the next month brings us in that regard. :-)

Love, Mommy

So excited to be camping!

first camping trip of 2010

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We normally start camping in April. However, because I was sick for most of April, we really didn’t get a chance. Then last week I realized that if we didn’t go camping this past weekend, we wouldn’t get another chance until the end of June. Sometimes it’s hard to fit it around other commitments, and also avoiding being gone too many weekends in a row!

I looked up campgrounds our book, found one about 2 hours away from Atlanta, and made reservations for this past weekend. I was really excited until Friday, when I happened to check the weather and found that there was a 60% chance of rain during the day, and 90% chance overnight. We debated about whether we should still go, and decided that since we’d already paid we would take our chances.

Well, it did rain all weekend. I think I’m glad we went, but now I know not to go camping in the rain again! It’s just kind of boring when it rains, and everything is so damp because of the humidity, even if they weren’t actually touching rain. Also because of the rain, we kept everything either in our tent or in the car, which was kinda a pain. I’m used to bringing everything to the campsite, and just putting the food back in the car at night. But this weekend, if we weren’t actively using it, we had it put away.

Savannah did pretty well for her first camping trip! She was a bit fussy the first night, but slept great the second night. She seemed to enjoy the outdoors. Paul and I were talking around the fire late Sunday night, and we said we hope that our kids never know a time when they weren’t camping.

Anyways, here are a few pictures!

Our campsite
Our campsite with the tarp that Paul rigged up. It was nice to have, but I accidentally forgot our long rope so we had to make do with what we had. So Paul had to tie one corner to the tent itself, which of course made it really low. It was fine to sit under, but would have been nice if it had been easier to get under without getting wet from the water on top of the tarp!

I’m sure this was not the best idea… But we went ahead and lit a fire in the fire pit on Sunday night, even though the tarp was over us. Paul put this stick up to keep the tarp away from the fire, and he purposefully kept the fire from getting very big. It was nice to sit around the fire, though. And it was one time during the weekend when I felt dry!

Savannah eating breakfast
Savannah chillin’ like a villain

Sleeping arrangements
For Savannah’s bed, we brought one of those under-the-bed plastic containers and put a thick, soft blanket on the bottom. This worked out really well.

The challenge of camping with babies… they want to put everything in their mouth!

Rain on the lake
This state park had a lot of trails for hiking, but we were afraid of getting caught in the rain while on the trails, so we stayed fairly close to the campsite. We walked around and looked at the stuff they had to offer nearby. Then sure enough, it started pouring rain so we took shelter in a covered amphitheater. You can see the rain as it hit the lake! I was glad we were able to find a place to wait it out without getting wet.

Savannah takes a nap
Savannah took a nap while we were out. I guess the noise of the rain lulled her to sleep!

Savannah and Daddy
Then she woke up and had fun playing with Daddy. :-)

A wet weekend, but an experience. Paul said if we can get the “camping in the rain” badge now, if they had such a thing. We’d like to go back here on a sunny weekend so we could check out the hiking! I actually have been to this state park before – back in 1993 we came with my grandparents who are no longer alive. Being there reminded me of my grandparents, and that made me happy.

cost of camping

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So Kacie asked me how camping compares cost-wise to staying in a hotel, once you take into account cost of equipment. I thought this was an interesting question, so I thought I’d research it.

I did the prices based on two people car camping with tents. By car camping, I mean that weight is not an issue because you will just be unloading it directly from your car to your campsite. I also determined “essentials” by our experience; everyone has different tastes as to what they’re willing to give up or not. You can see pictures and a description of our equipment here.

If you’re a first-time camper, I highly recommend camping with someone else. Then you can share some equipment, like the stove. Also, if you aren’t sure if you will enjoy camping, you can borrow equipment from friends or rent it from places like REI. This is an inexpensive way to figure out what equipment you like. These prices are all from Walmart and Target, which is where we got the majority of our camping stuff. You can always get better quality things if you find from experience it is worth it to you. For the conditions we camp in and amount of camping we do (about 5 weekends a year), then we’ve found the quality of these prices sufficient.

Camping essentials
(After consulting with Paul and Jes, we decided these are probably the basics for a camping weekend.)
Tent – $33 for comfortable two-person tent (we have this one), $54 for two-room, four-person tent (Jes has this one)
Sleeping bags – $15 each; foam sleeping pads – $6 each (total: $42 for two people; we also sleep on top of another sleeping bag for added comfort)
OR air mattress – $30 (queen); sheets (from home); & pump ($10-$20 depending on the type of power, from hand-cranking to battery to a plug) (total: $40-$50)
Camp stove – $22 one-burner stove; $50 two-burner stove (we have the latter – I think the second burner really helps make meal prep go faster!)
Fuel for the stove – $3 propane canister (this will eventually be used up; I think maybe 1 or 2 canisters a season)
Cooler – $2 Styrofoam, $18 soft-sided, $25 hard 52 gallon
Folding camp chairs – $9 each (total: $18 for two people)
Firewood – $5 (you can buy this at the campground; you made need two bundles for the weekend)
Tarp – $10 (6ft x 8ft)
Rubber mallet – $2 (Jes says you can use a regular hammer, but Paul and I think the rubber helps keep the tent stakes from bending as much)
Lantern – $20 (LED – ours is big enough to light a picnic table)

Things you probably already have
These are things that you probably already have lying around, so wouldn’t really be an added cost.
Pillows (we use smaller throw pillows that are easier to pack)
Whisk broom & dustpan (for cleaning out the tent)
Utensils & dishes (we have some set aside just for camping – plastic is good)
Pots/pans (we have lighter, more compact pots/pans just for camping)
Dish soap, sponge & towel
Bucket or dishpan
Bug spray

Things that are nice to have
You don’t have to go barebones when you go camping! We think these things are worth the money and worth lugging around, and have slowly added these to our collection over the years. You can pick and choose from this list, or add your own.
Tablecloth – $3 (probably will only last one or two seasons, unless you get a better quality and therefore more expensive tablecloth)
Rope – $3 (for a clothesline or tying up a tarp if it rains)
Headlamp – $12 (we opted for headlamps instead of flashlights, and we love them) (total: $24 for two people)
Hatchet – $7 (for the campfire)
First aid kit – $15 (we got a good one for this price at REI; you can probably find other kits at Walmart or something for cheaper)
Camping cookware – $25 (pots and pans that are light and compact, and easier than packing up your nicer cookware from home)
Dishes and utensils – $15 (2-person camping set, with everything you need; or you can build your own with plastic plates, utensils, etc.)
OR paper plates and plastic utensils (I didn’t price these, but they will be used up with each trip. It makes cleanup easier, but is more wasteful.)
Camping coffee pot – $30 (for those who like coffee)
Tent repair kit – $10 (I’m guessing on the price… It might be cheaper)
There are all sorts of other things you can buy that fall in this category – just wander around REI! We have tried to keep our equipment to a minimum since we have a small car.

And of course the actual camping part:
State park campgrounds: $15-20/night for tent sites (more if you prefer a site with electricity hookup, usually intended for RV’s) (Total: $30-$40 for a weekend)
Parking passes: $5/weekend or $50/year (this is for Georgia – not sure if other states also charge a parking fee)

So the total costs…
Campground + basic equipment: $192-$282
Campground + basic equipment + “luxuries”: $324 – $459

To compare it to a weekend away staying at a hotel… It really depends on where you are going, but I think most hotels average $60-$80/night, and more if you stay in a city or tourist destination spot. You’d have to also factor in the cost differences of eating out for a weekend versus cooking all your own food (most likely, the former will be more expensive). Also keep in mind that almost all the equipment is a one-time cost. So, if you calculate 5 weekends away versus 5 stays at a hotel, then you’re talking $600-$800 on hotel costs, and $332-$462 for camping. If you do that for 5 years, then it works out to $3000-$4000 for hotels, and $500-$640 for camping (assuming you got all of the “luxuries” in that time). And that’s not even taking into account food costs (which would be cheaper for camping).

Other benefits to camping: I can’t lie – camping is a lot more work. There are a lot more things to carry back and forth to the car, set-up takes time and energy, and then you have to take it all down at the end of the weekend. Camping isn’t really “pampering” like hotels can be. However, I think it’s good for your body to get out and exercise. Camping also encourages hiking and a lot of walking. It gives you a better appreciation for the outdoor world that God created, and can help you see the needs for preserving that world.

Camping isn’t for everyone, of course. But I like to encourage everyone to try it or at least consider it. :-) As Savannah gets older, I’d like to write a post about camping with children. (Maybe Jes can share some advice on the subject?) Paul and I hope that our kids never know a time when they didn’t go camping!