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 “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).
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!
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.
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:I 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.
If 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.