Camping with the Crew at Eisenhower

Hubby and I used to enjoy camping before we had kids. It didn’t seem like a good option until recently. We felt that with Camden’s sleep issues better under control and the boys being older, it was time to give it a go. The little guy went with me ahead of time to visit a couple of nearby (under an hour) campgrounds so that we’d know what to expect. Camden can get a bit anxious in new situations and unfamiliar places, so we wanted to do what we could to make it as successful as possible. Carson and I checked out the various camp site options, the bathroom situation, play areas, activities, etc. Our initial plan was to stay at Lake Ray Roberts. Since we are new to this, we didn’t realize they book up pretty early. At least 2-3 weeks notice it typically sufficient.  Our back-up plan was Eisenhower State Park in Denison, TX. I called the State Park reservation number, and we secured a sheltered site. The shelters are enclosed with a concrete floor, a few shelves, electricity, a light, and a picnic table. Quite a few of the sheltered sites have room for a tent. I really wanted site #30, but it was taken, so we were assigned #23.

We left after school on Friday and headed that way. Camden is not a fan of extended (anything over 15 minutes) car rides, so we heard, “all done,” “almost there,” “we almost made it,” no less than a hundred times.

Carson at Site #30
site #30(Here’s site #30. I liked the view of the lake, the fact that it’s on the end (but unfortunately, far from the bathrooms), pretty flat, and good space for a tent.
Carson Camden Site #23
Carson and Camden at our camp site, #23.

Carson “helped” Brian set up the tent while I unloaded the truck and started prepping dinner. Camden watched his PreSchool Prep video on diagraphs and then the boys watched our dinner cook over the campfire (with Brian’s help).

Carson Helping with the Tend
Brian and Carson getting the tent set up.
Mama in the Shelter
To give you an idea of what the shelters look like on the inside, here I am prepping dinner. We were glad to have the shelter to store our stuff and to prepare meals.
The guys at dinner
Brian, Camden and Carson enjoying steaks, zucchini, and cantaloupe. Our adjustable table from Sam’s that we bought years ago was really handy for the little ones to fit comfortably for meals.

DSCF4424

For fun during the weekend, we had campfires, played with the remote controlled truck, went to the beachy area of the lake for the boys to swim, explored the little caves, swung, enjoyed time with my brother and his family, etc. I know some people totally unplug when they go camping. Since my phone had been stolen the week before, it was certainly easy for me to unplug. We took Camden’s dvd player and allowed him to watch some of his movies. He’s a very routine kind of guy, so at night when we typically have our family/devotional time, we turned on a praise music dvd around the campfire. We have these transitions in place and they seem to comfort Camden. All that to say, we didn’t unplug, but we did have some very special moments with our little family!

Camden Carrying the RC Truck
I was so surprised and excited when Camden initiated that he wanted to play with the RC truck. So cute! Such a big boy!
RC truck collage
Camden and Carson playing with the remote controlled truck.
Mama and Her Boys at the Campfire
LOVED the cool morning around the campfire with my sweet guys!
Campfire Collage
So glad that Uncle Kerry and some of his crew were able to come up on Saturday to have dinner with us!
Cave Collage
You can see the caves from the image of the boys in the water. They were small, but fun to see. Relatively easy to get to, minus some rocks and those sticker/burr/pokey things.
The Marina
I liked the marina, but it didn’t go so well for us. We asked Camden if he wanted to go see the boats, and he took it to mean we were going to get in a boat. Once he had it in his head, that’s all he could think about. He was pretty disappointed. =( The ramp to get to the marina almost gave me a heart attack, as the handrails were a bit too open for me comfort. They do rent boats. I checked into just a paddle boat, as I figured it would be the cheapest and still fun for our crew. Apparently, they know longer rent paddleboats. There were some nice clean tables that we sat at for our snack time. The weather was nice, but we didn’t stay long since Camden was having a tough time.

 

That's Far Enough
The boys were able to swim on Saturday and Sunday. Camden and Carson are both pretty cautious by nature. It amazed Brian and I when he had to tell the boys, “That’s far enough.” We’ve come a long way!!!
Beach Collage
We had a good time at the sandy area. The weather was nice and not too many people. The drawbacks were the burrs/stickers/pokey things and the 86 stairs we had to trek. Certainly not impossible. We just took our time since Camden has some gross motor struggles and we were hauling tons of stuff.

 

the stairs
The steps. There are 86 of them. Rocky and sandy and sometimes steep.
Eisenhower Playground
Their aren’t any true playgrounds at Eisenhower, but there were swings at the various areas. Two big kid swing, a little kid swing, and some grass to play. To give you an idea of how far our site was, you can see Brian’s white truck in the background. The bathrooms were about 20 yards from this play area.

 

Eisenhower Shower
In case you are considering going to Eisenhower to camp, let me show you the showers so that you have an idea. We just had the boys wear their Crocs. Neither of my boys had done a shower before this, so I packed a big ole plastic cup in case they weren’t willing to stand under the shower. With allergies and the yucky lake water, they had to shower while we were there. Brian had that privilege. Carson LOVED it and declared himself a shower guy. Camden doesn’t love water in his face and his hesitant to change, so he was less than pleased.
Camden, Carson and Little Dog at Site 23
I love these little dudes and that Little Dog!

I’ve had a few folks ask me for my review of Eisenhower from the perspective of a special needs family. Let me share a few positives and some negatives:

GOOD STUFF DURING OUR TRIP:

  • The shelter was a big plus.
  • Having a site in the trees with a lake view was peaceful to me.
  • Close to a play area, even if it only had swings.
  • Not far (maybe 50 yards) from the bathroom.
  • I thought it was nice that there were tables at the marina where you could snack and watch the boats.
  • Electricity and water was a bonus for us.
  • Reasonable rates based on my limited experience. $5 per person over the age of 13 to get into the park. Kids under 13 are free. The sheltered spots are $25 per night (at least they were in Oct of 2014).
  • There are various skill-level hiking trails, though we didn’t do them. They also have dirt bike trails that I know my little guy would’ve enjoyed watching.
  • While there is not a store in the park, there is a grocery store about 6 miles away.
  • The beachy area was a huge plus for us. We took sand toys (shovels, sand molds, construction trucks, etc.) down there. It was nice to see the boys having so much fun, and it was easy to keep our eyes on them.
  • The caves were somewhat interesting.
  • Every employee we came in to contact with at the park was super friendly and helpful.
  • While we were there, they had firewood available and easily accessible that you could pick up and then pay by donation.
  • Less than an hour from home.

SOME CHALLENGES TO OUR TRIP:

  • So wish the marina had paddle boats for rent.
  • The slamming shelter doors of neighbors was kind of annoying, but that’s part of camping….people staying up past “quiet hours” laughing and chatting, kids hacking in the night, crying, animals, etc.
  • The bees did cause me some angst. I don’t know if they were the mean kind, but it was hard to relax when they were buzzing around. It didn’t happen the majority of the time, but they were annoying when my brother and his family were there, and the bees were buzzing around the twin babies.
  • The stickers/burrs/pokey things on the beach were mildly unpleasant. We are still finding them around our house.
  • No on-site store for stuff you may have forgotten.
  • The shower situation was a challenge for one of my guys, but most kids would be fine.
  • The incline at our site was a bit steep and the loose gravel didn’t help. My boys fell several times.
  • The camp sites are a bit farther from the water/lake than we might have liked. I know for many ASD families, that would be a relief.
  • Carson did get really stressed when we heard a lot of noise in the trees by our site late one night. Come to find out, it was an armadillo.

A huge “thank you” to all the folks who cheered us on. And a big “thank you” to our sweet friends that let us borrow supplies we were lacking. We didn’t want to invest, in case it didn’t go so well, but we definitely have a bigger tent on our wish list for next time.  Our little family is starting to do more and more “normal” things. Camden loved the beach this summer, and we were hoping he’d enjoy camping.

When we pulled out of the park to head home on Sunday afternoon, I was telling Brian that it sure seemed that the kids enjoyed themselves. Brian remarked that he’d really love to know (like really know) how Camden felt about the experience. Just then, Camden pipes up from the backseat…”TENT.” He wanted to go back to our tent/campsite!!! That was super sweet to hear.

Our Family at Site 23
Even though the boys look like they just watched a 5-hour documentary on migratory birds, I LOVE that we have this family picture at camp site #23. A special memory I will treasure forever!

On a sad note…this week, the autism community lost an amazing person, Melanie Baldwin. She was part of the Thinking Moms Revolution and has son with severe autism. Her nickname was Booty Kicker, because she had already beat cancer twice. I admire her story. She was a follower of Christ, and shared that love with her fellow sojourners in the autism community. One of the autism FB groups that I follow, shared an article titled “When an Autism Mom Dies.” Here’s a snippet of what jumped out at me:

The autism community, like every special needs community I assume, lives in an inverse world of fear when it comes to death. Most parents dread with all their heart and soul having a child pre-decease them. It’s unnatural. It’s a grief like no other. I can remember my Grandmother, who was close to 80 when her oldest daughter, my Auntie Frannie, died from lung cancer. She wept, “No parent should watch her child die.” Her child was 60 years old.

In autism we know that our kids rely on us every moment of the day and we fear dying before them.

Then there was this graphic, that resonated BIG TIME:ParentPrayerForSpecialNeedsI know this is a blog about HOPE, and that is a bit depressing. Everyone is different, but this is certainly how I feel, no matter how unrealistic it may be. So…thinking about Melanie’s death and this “prayer” has kind of lit the fire under me to make some changes. I make some poor choices when it comes to my health, and I want to try and set a better example for my kids and to be around as long as possible to actively participate in their lives. My goals aren’t huge, but they are a big deal for me.  Since I rarely drink water, I have started with a goal of 20 ounces per day. I realize for many of you, that is nothing. But I don’t like water, so it’s a good goal for me. My other goal is to do an 8-week walk/jog training program that will culminate in the Santa Run 5K. I have not actively exercised since I prepared for this same race last year. Maybe this time it will stick. It’s good motivation for me. Last year, I convinced some other autism mamas and our speech therapist to sign up. Some of the gals ran the whole thing, some walk/jogged, and some walked the entire thing. It was fun to encourage one another. So easy to focus on our child’s health and healing that we overlook our own.  The Santa Run benefits My Possibilities, which is a full-day learning program for adults with disabilities in North Texas. A quality organization like this is something I am extremely happy to support. Last year, my hubby completely surprised me by showing up at the finish line with our boys!! I was shocked and so happy to see them.

SantaRunFamily
Me and my precious guys after the race.

Santa Run CollageIf you are local and want some motivation, come join us. I’ve created “Team Hope” for anyone that would like to join. There are oodles of 5K training programs you can find online. I am doing this one. Today only, the race registration is $25. Regular price for adults is $40 and then $45 after December 1st. I’ve got big plans for some festive knee-high socks and tutu! You can register here.

 

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4 thoughts on “Camping with the Crew at Eisenhower

  1. Danielle October 8, 2014 / 10:36 pm

    Love your sharing and I’m sooo glad you had a great time camping. I’m excited to talk about your progress in your training at BFG too. You are gonna do great!!

    • admin October 9, 2014 / 7:21 am

      Thanks for the encouragement, Danielle! Yep, I am glad we can keep tabs on one another’s progress! You have the age goal (you youngun’) and have the 5K. I say whatever motivates a person is a great place to start. =)

  2. Beka October 9, 2014 / 8:00 pm

    I want to see a pic of you in the socks and tutu! Loved reading this whole post, very thorough review! Did you drink your water today? ! =) Awesome goal setting!!

    • admin October 9, 2014 / 8:06 pm

      You got it, Beka! =) There were so many cute costumes last year for the Santa Run. Yep…drank my water…double the amount. That felt good. You know I’m a lower-the-bar gal, and that seems to help me. Thanks for reading and chiming in!

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