Families With Grace

Helping Christian moms create homes filled with grace, love & faith

Our family tent camping fails

Camping and life lessons learned from tent camping failures

I’m a relatively simple person. I enjoy the small things in life and quiet moments. I love nature and feel at peace in the solitude of being in the mountains or on a lake. And so I feel like tent camping should be a great activity for me. I mean, of course, I’m not all that outdoorsy and am kind of allergic to the sun (I get hives). I also can’t sleep on the actual ground because my fibromyalgia-ridden body would complete revolt. But otherwise, this camping thing should be perfect for me, right?!

In theory, tent camping is completely up my alley. It’s something I’d enjoy and be happy with. I don’t even mind too much getting dirty. I’m the kind of girl who baits her own hook when fishing with worms. (I’m also the kind of girl who goes on said fishing trip with a full face of makeup!)

But, alas. Tent camping seems to be something I just don’t have a knack for. Or maybe it’s just something that I have bad luck with. Each time we go tent camping, I go with a positive attitude that this time will be different. And, other than two overnights in a tent at a theme park (which doesn’t completely qualify as camping), I have been wrong.

Tent camping fail number one

My husband and I took our first camping trip just the two of us a few years before we had kids. We headed about three hours away. We left most of our belongings in the hatchback of our vehicle because the tent wasn’t huge. It worked just fine.

We camped in an area surrounded by sand dunes and lakes. We rented a dune buggy and had fun. Then we decided to rent a jet ski. While I grew up nearly constantly being in the water, my husband didn’t. Without thinking, he put the car keys in the pocket of his athletic shorts. He wasn’t planning to do much swimming.

But the jet ski tipped over on a wave in the huge lake and into the water we went. Back on shore after our rental ended, we realized my husband didn’t have the keys. Yep. They floated out of his pocket and were somewhere in the lake. We couldn’t get into our car, back to our campground or to any of our dry clothes. We were stuck. Doh!

My parents came to our rescue and headed to us with the spare set of keys from our house. They got an unexpected trip and rescued us. I’m not sure this fail was from tent camping or just our crummy luck, but it was my first experience as an adult with camping. It is certainly an unforgettable one!

Tent camping fail number two

Fast forward about eight years and our family had grown. We bought a larger tent on sale a couple of years previously and decided our kids were old enough to try some tent camping for a night. They were 3 and 6. We loaded up the car. Our first stop was to see Thomas the Train and then camp. But, the town where we planned to camp was inundated with rain with more forecasted. My husband suggested we look somewhere without rain and change our plans. So, we did so. We drove in the opposite direction and found a campground.

The campground was a bit soggy, but no rain was predicted for a couple of days. We didn’t get to roast marshmallows or anything by the time we got there, but we did get settled in for the night. I woke up in the middle of the night to hear the pitter-patter of raindrops on the tent roof. I thought it was relaxing. When I woke up cold soon thereafter cold, I even felt wet. As I woke up even more I realized it wasn’t a brain trick; I was wet. It was the middle of the night and the roof of our tent was leaking horribly.

We all woke up, cold and wet. I settled the kids in the car then helped my my husband tear down our tent in the rain and mud. We were soaked through and covered in mud. In our frustration, we threw the tent in the dumpster, assuming the rain protection was faulty.

Because all the nearby hotels were inexplicably booked, my husband drove us three hours home. I tried to keep the kids happy since they were tired.

When we got home and reasonably clean, we fell asleep — after remembering that we had packed ponchos in case we needed them. Doh!

Successful camping

Our next camping experiences were about two years after the rain leak fail. The kids wanted to go to a theme park nearby to ride roller coasters. I discovered the theme park offered an in-park camp night once a summer. It was a great deal, and we decided to go for it. We did that camping trip two years in a row.

I’m not so sure it was actually so much camping as it was sleeping in our (now new, bigger and easier to assemble) tent on a manicured law. But we liked it and made good memories. So, I’m calling it successful camping!

Tent camping fail number three

And that brings us to the most recent tent camping failure that happened just a few weeks ago. My kids keep wanting to go camping. As summer break wound down, we had a lapse in the heat and headed to a state park for two nights of tent camping. Our kids are now older (8 and 11). We were now wiser. This would be the camping trip of our dreams. Plus, the state park offered horseback riding — something both kids love right now!

The first night went swimmingly. We roasted hot dogs and marshmallows. We played some games and had a good time. It rained overnight, and we didn’t get wet at all. The next morning we were raring to go and hit up the horseback riding. After lunch and a couple of excursions, we headed to our camp site to rest. Backing into our parking spot, we hit a tree stump that pulled about 1/3 of the front bumper loose.

It wasn’t a great way to start our downtime that afternoon. With some ingenuity and a carabiner clip, my husband got the bumper to stay in place until we got home the following day and he could repair it.

We all had a rest after that and then decided we’d go out for dinner. The sky was a beautiful blue. The weather forecast said 0% chance for rain. We talked about it and decided leaving our tent windows open was a good plan to keep the tent cool while we ate our pizza in town.

As we sat down for dinner, the wind dramatically kicked up. The sky grew dark. The rain poured down for about 10 minutes. We hoped the trees shielded our tent. We speculated that maybe it didn’t even rain at the campground, which was about five miles away from town.

But, we were wrong. We arrived back to camp to find our tent wasn’t in standing water, but it was wet. Our bedding, chairs and clean clothes were all wet. We discussed options and decided heading home a night early was the best choice. We tracked mud through the tent as we packed up to leave. In the end, we tied the wet, muddy tent on the roof of our vehicle. On the way home we frequently checked to make sure the bumper and tent were still attached.

The next day, we spent a few hours (quite literally) cleaning mud off of things. We hosed down the tent a couple of times and used the wet vac. My husband repaired the bumper. The kiddos sprayed down the chairs. We took a brush and hose to our shoes. Exhausted, we got everything put away and ended our camping adventure.

What we taught our children

While our oldest daughter remembers the second tent camping fail, our son doesn’t remember it quite as well. But now at 11 and 8, they certainly remember the most recent fail. We had discussions while we were unexpectedly packing up our campsite and the following day as we cleaned.

We told our children feeling disappointed by cutting our trip short was normal. In fact, we were disappointed, too. I mentioned that having had very minimal positive tent camping experiences, I felt all the more determined to go tent camping again and not let it defeat me. (Though I had a moment the day of scrubbing mud from the tent where I was fine to let camping be the victor!)

We also talked about working together. I was incredibly impressed with my children. They helped us pack everything up at the campsite and also clean everything up when we were home the following day. It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, but we determined this crummy thing happened and we got to choose how we reacted to it. Both packing up and dealing with the disappointment were much easier working together.

My husband and I each felt some responsibility for the soggy tent. We decided to take the risk and leave the windows open. But we didn’t blame each other. We explained to the kids that we had certainly learned a lesson. (Never again will we leave tent windows open while we’re away from the campsite!) And that’s what failure is about. We learn lessons, take them with us for the next time and move on. I pointed out to them that everyone messes up, and we don’t have to get really angry at ourselves when it happens. It’s an important lesson to learn.

In the end, our tent camping fails have given us memories at the least. And they’ve allowed us to teach our children how to react when life goes sideways. These weren’t the first time we’ve taught them that lesson, and they won’t be the last. I want my kids to be prepared for times life goes unexpectedly, because it surely will.

Now we just have to gather the courage to take on tent camping again with our lessons learned. One of these days, we will prevail in tent camping. At least I’m pretty sure we will!

Become a happy family with one small attitude shift

Changing assumptions can lead to a happy family dynamic

One of the things I want most as a mom is to have a happy family. I want us to have a good relationship with each other and get along.

Yet, the truth is that nobody gets along all of the time. We get short with each other. My kids argue sometimes. My husband and I can get cranky with each other.

One of the biggest things that can trip us up in relationships is making assumptions about the other person or people. We’ve found a trick to help make those assumptions positive instead of negative. And it makes a big difference in how we treat each other.

Negative assumptions

We may not even realize it, but we can make negative assumptions about other people quickly and easily. In fact, we are more inclined to make negative assumptions about someone than positive ones.

When someone cuts us off in traffic, we may not consciously think, “That guy is just trying to make my drive more difficult!” But we react that way. We get angry and offended.

We do the same thing within our families and it can result in anything but a happy family. When your husband does the laundry then forgets to get it out of the dryer, we don’t consciously think, “He’s trying to make my life harder. He knows I’m busy!” But we react that way. We get upset with him. Our attitude shifts negatively and soon everyone in the family feels the effect of that negative assumption.

The root of negative assumptions

When it comes down to it, the root of negative assumptions is selfishness. Sometimes we are so caught up in ourselves and what we have going on that we subconsciously think the world revolves around us.

Of course most people would never admit to feeling that way at least sometimes, yet it can be how we act. What we are really feeling with our frustration at the guy who cut us off in traffic or the husband who didn’t complete a chore is that they are personally affecting us. And, gosh darn it, we deserve better treatment!

So many issues in relationships come down to the root of selfishness, because we can struggle to get over ourselves and think of others. God is clear in His Word that we are to think of others before ourselves and not do things out of selfish intent (Philippians 2:3-4). He knows we can’t have happy relationships or have a happy family if we are too focused on only ourselves.

Changing to positive assumptions

Making the shift to positive assumptions isn’t as difficult as you might think. For us, it started in our marriage before we had children. Since then, it has grown and expanded. We’ve put it into practice and gotten better at it so that now it’s our first reaction 90% of the time.

Instead of assuming that the other person is trying to be difficult or intentionally hurt you, assume they aren’t out to get you. What you really do is give them grace.

In the laundry example, instead of assuming my husband is trying to get out of folding the laundry, make my life harder or couldn’t care less about taking care of our family’s needs, I ask nicely. I know that most likely, he just completely forgot. Maybe we can fold the laundry together or he just has a friendly reminder to do so.

It sounds like such a small shift, but it makes a big difference in our relationships. We are able to more easily stay on the same team, so to speak, because we recognize that we’re not battling. We recognize that our loved one isn’t out to make our lives more difficult. We give grace.

Teaching children about positive assumptions

Our kids are still learning about positive assumptions, especially our youngest who just turned 8. He has a strong sense of justice. Sometimes he mistakenly assumes that his sister purposefully went to the bathroom when he needed to brush his teeth. The list could go on.

But we remind him to not assume she is trying to make his life more difficult or that she’s out to get him. She’s not trying to make him angry. It’s OK to talk and find solutions while keeping in mind we all have the same goal.

How positive assumptions make for a happy family

I’m not saying or implying that shifting to positive assumption is going to mean you always have a happy family. I’m also not implying that I always have a happy family — because I don’t!

But, I can tell you that it makes a difference. We don’t criticize others as much. We don’t get as upset and indignant over the small stuff. All of the stuff I’m talking about here is small stuff. Do I want to argue with my husband over laundry or my kids over dishes? Nope. I also don’t want my kids to argue over bathroom time or whatever else they come up with.

So, we do our best to assume that the members of our family only want good for us and not bad. We promote that as much as possible. Because when it comes to people you love, you do (and should) only want good for them. The challenge is living that our in the daily grind of family life.

How I stopped being a people pleaser

Tips to stop sacrificing your happiness for others

Making people happy is something I tried to do for years. Now, making people happy isn’t a bad thing to do. However, I used to try to make EVERYONE happy. I was a people pleaser. And I was miserable in the process.

Due to this, I got really, really bad anxiety over almost anything and everything. Like, to the point I had to take multiple days off purely because I was nervous enough to feel like puking. I was just in first grade… But it was seriously bad enough I nearly had to go to a therapist.

I learned how to do a few things that helped me: use logic/common sense, assess the worst case scenario, seriously just not care and stop trying to make EVERYONE happy (because, honestly, it isn’t going to do anything.)

Caring what others think

My friend and I were talking the other day. At some point she was telling me about being nervous about getting something wrong due to people expecting her to do it correctly. My response to her is something everyone should know. Because, listen, you need to stop caring what everyone thinks. Why exactly do you care anyway? I mean, what exactly is the point? They don’t affect you.

Also, if people decide to sit there and take time out of their day just to think about you doing something wrong, then honestly, it’s their loss. I mean, instead of thinking about you being late to class or whatever, they technically could have been doing something much more enjoyable like eating ice cream! And instead of worrying about what they think, you could be eating ice cream, too. That’s much more fun than being a people pleaser!

Because lovelies, listen (well read, but whatever), closely. Who the heck are they to judge you? In the end you are all going to end up 6 feet under. Dead, non-important souls whom people on Mars will never take time to morn. We are all human, and none of us are perfect. Therefore, if I find myself face-to-face with a quite literally perfect human being who has never done anything wrong ever in their entire life and is without flaws, then I will allow myself to care about their judgement because it must be God. And then, if this person (God) is perfect, then He isn’t going to judge me mercilessly and will love me regardless because that is the perfect thing to do.

So, I stopped caring, because if I’m happy and am doing God’s will, then it’s OK. Well, as long as it legal.

Common sense and worst case scenario

Using common sense is important as well. For example, you have to think about how or if you can change the situation. Like if a friend of a cousin isn’t happy with your friend, but your friend is fine, there’s no need to go out of your way to make them happy. You have to let it go and stop the urge to be a people pleaser.

What is going to be the worst scenario if you don’t please them? In some cases, it may be a not-so-great thing, but I’m willing to bet it won’t kill you. Maybe that one friend might get mad at you for a day or two, but that’s probably about it. Is it worth my happiness to please this person, or is it OK if they’re upset for about a day? I’ve learned in cases like this to put my happiness first.

People are ALWAYS going to be upset. It is quite literally humanly impossible to make everyone in existence happy at once. Live your own life, do what’s right, but at least someone is going to hate you for it, so I suggest you stop negotiating with them to please them. It’s simple. They get on board, or get out of the way. You just keep fighting the good fight and don’t give up to make some idiots happy, OK? ( I may be a little in love with “Young Justice,” so excuse the reference! Everything I said was pretty true.)

Girls with Grace, a tween blog written by a tween girl, has new posts on Tuesdays two to four times a month. Find out more about Girls with Grace:

Getting some perspective for 2020

A recent biopsy has me re-evaluating my priorities

Back in the fall of 2013, I went with my husband to a health fair through his employer. One of the offered tests was an ultrasound of arteries in your neck. We both did that. His came back fine. My arteries were fine, but the technician found nodules on my thyroid.

Since then, I’ve had my nodules checked annually. (Thankfully the nodules don’t affect my thyroid’s function or interfere with my swallowing.) I had a biopsy the first year that came back benign. My scan in 2018 showed some growth, so I had to have another biopsy. I was anxious, but everything was again benign. My 2019 scan showed additional growth, so I had to go for another biopsy. I wasn’t very anxious going into the biopsy.

I went into the office and held still while the doctor took samples from two different spots. After she takes the samples, the doctor leaves the room to do a preliminary reading. I have to stay lying down.

As I was lying there, still not feeling too nervous, I started to think about how the results coming back could change my life and perspective. While I expected benign findings, I knew cancerous findings would dramatically change things.

Fortunately, the findings were that the nodules continue to be benign and nothing to worry about. I will keep check on them, because it’s not worth the risk to ignore them.

But in talking with my husband as we ate Mexican food on the way home from the biopsy, I mentioned to him how I had thought about my perspective shifting depending on what the biopsy showed.

This is a busy season of life with two young school-aged children. I have a lot on my plate right now from work to kids’ activities to running a household (and keeping a lively puppy out of things!). Sometimes that gets to me. Sometimes I get cranky, stressed and even angry. I try to be a woman full of love and grace, yet sometimes I’m more of a woman full of exhaustion and frustration.

God pricked at my heart to show me some changes I need to make. I thought about what my priorities actually are. If my nodules had come back cancerous, what would I be worried about? I can tell you my worries would certainly shift.

I’d worry less about the places to be, chores to complete and work to be done. I’d worry more about spending time with my family, enjoying every minute I can and doing things that truly matter.

I concluded that’s what I need more of in the new year and beyond. I am starting with some shifts in what I’m doing. I love my work, but for the parts that don’t HAVE to be done, I’m giving myself some grace along the way. I put a lot of additional pressure and stress on myself, and sometimes I need to just let it go.

My body pays a price for everything I do from typing on the keyboard to stirring cookie dough thanks to fibromyalgia. So my time is better spent on what matters.

In 20 years, my kids won’t talk about the chores I did or homemade goodies I made. They’ll laugh about the memories I made doing things with them.

One of my prized Christmas memories from childhood is playing a board game with my dad on Christmas morning after we had opened gifts. I can’t tell you what we ate that year or even what other gifts I got. What I cherish most is the good memories made with him.

That’s what I’m focusing on going into 2020. My kids are growing every year. My daughter is already maturing and losing some of the wander of childhood. I know my son isn’t too far behind.

I want to enjoy them as much as I can. If that means I take some shortcuts in the kitchen, post a few less blog posts, let laundry go a couple of extra days and do more online shopping then so be it.

Sometimes what we need most is the reminder of what truly matters.

Teaching our kids how to handle the unexpected

How to help our kids when plans goes sideways

Last week, my kiddos and I took our Lhasa Apso puppy for a walk. Our goal was to get in a decent walk for him, come home make and eat dinner and then be off to swimming lessons.

My husband, who has injuries from falling down the stairs early in the morning on July 5 when taking the puppy out for a bathroom break, would be home alone with the puppy during swim lessons. We were doing our best to wear the pooch out before we left.

I knew rain was forecasted. I noticed half of the sky had some deep gray rain clouds. But, I checked the radar on my phone and saw there was a pretty large gap in the rain and decided we should be clear to take a walk.

As we worked our way down our street, we had a few very light sprinkles. I told the kids we would go ahead and change our route to be a bit shorter. When we were on our way back, about a half block away from being home, the rain started.

When it went sideways

It went from light sprinkles to a hard, blowing rain. The kids and I ran and screeched all the way home. The puppy joined us in the running until he couldn’t, so I then picked him up and we continued our way home.

We arrived on the front porch dripping wet. Seriously wet. All four of us (the pup included) looked like we had just been thrown into a swimming pool. My kids felt a little unsure about the whole thing, my 6-year-old son especially.

But I could only laugh. Yes, it was bad timing. I had planned our schedule so that we’d have the right amount of time to include cooking dinner, eating dinner, taking the dog out again and then getting on swim gear.

I’d also just given the puppy his first bath at our house. And the rain water was sure to make my curly hair frizz, having washed out at least some of the no-frizz products that I use. I also realized I had just made more laundry for myself as we each had to do a complete outfit change.

But still I laughed. Because of all the walks we will go on this summer with our puppy (and we are going twice a day), this is one that all of us will remember long after summer has gone and even long after the puppy has turned from a puppy into a dog.

As we stood in the entryway dripping water and drying off, I made a joke. My daughter told me that she liked that I still had a sense of humor at such a time.

Using it as a teaching moment

So we talked about how being grumpy and irritable about the situation wouldn’t change it one bit. I could laugh or I could be grumpy, but either way I’d still soaking wet, holding a soaking wet dog and giving instructions to my soaking wet children on where to put their wet clothes and what to change into before they go get soaking wet again at swim lessons. I chose to laugh.

I’m not always great at choosing laughter over irritation, but as I’ve gotten older, I have learned to laugh way more. There are so many big things in this world that deserve my worries and irritation that getting wet in a downpour on a warm summer afternoon isn’t such a big deal. It was out of sorts and unplanned, but it wasn’t the end of the world.

My husband and I often tell our kids that they get to choose their attitudes. They can’t always choose or affect their circumstances, but they can choose how they react to them. Of course it’s OK to get frustrated, upset and sad. Those are all very human and very real emotions! But we can choose how to move forward when something goes sideways.

It’s a good skill to have, because I have also learned that something is always going to go sideways. I can plan as much as I want, but life throws curve balls unexpectedly. Getting upset about something I cannot control or change does nobody any good.

These are the lessons I want to teach my kids. I want them to remember how we went for a walk, got soaking wet and screeched while running home. I want them to remember laughing in our entryway as we dried off together. Because life isn’t always so serious. Life sometimes needs to just be fun, even when it goes sideways.

Getting some perspective

We can find adventure in the everyday and in the mundane. We can find it in the mishaps. And isn’t it better to look at an adversity as an adventure rather than a huge irritation?

Because I can also tell you that in five years, we may look back and joke about this walk, but nobody will remember what I was even making for dinner that night or how frizzy my hair was when we went to swimming lessons. Those are small things that don’t matter. And if I totally lost my temper and yelled at the kids for dripping water and made a fuss over how the rain threw a wrench in my plans, we might remember that in five years. That’s the kind of memory I want to avoid making!

No matter how I reacted to the unexpected downpour, my kids were watching and learning from it. Just like every other moment with them, they learn by seeing how I handle things. I don’t want them to stress over the small stuff. I want them to laugh when they can and know what really matters — we were warm, safe and dry in no time.

I want my kids to have perspective on life that hard times happen and plans go wrong, but that doesn’t mean all is lost. It doesn’t mean we can’t make good memories or make the best of a bad situation. Those are lessons I’ve fought hard to learn myself through layers of anxiety. They are hard-won lessons that I prize. Those lessons are what God has taught me as He has helped me through one sideways plan after another.

I get all these ideas in my head and make all these plans. In the past, I have gotten upset when things didn’t go as I had planned. But God has reminded me that whether my plans work or not, He always has one.

That’s what I want my kids to learn, too. It starts in small lessons like laughing through a literal downpour and carries over into big lessons like laughing — or at least finding some silver lining — in the midst of a major life storm.

Today we get to choose how we react. We model that for our children. We are teaching them by what we say and do how to respond to the world around them. What are we showing them?

Finding victory in spite of chronic pain

Learning to celebrate the positive instead of focusing on the negative

Last week, I had an appointment with my urologist. I hadn’t seen him for a year. A year! I had called in with one issue in that entire year and that was pretty quickly resolved.

When I was at my appointment, I realized I don’t know most of the staff any more. I used to know them by name and even some personal life information from some of them.

My doctor and I talked about how my medicine I’ve been taking for a long time still seems to be hanging in there and working for me. We smiled together about how nice it was to have a quick and easy appointment where I mostly just got refills for my prescriptions.

It hasn’t always been that way. About 17 years ago, I first started going to this urologist. We were both younger back then. I was miserable, though. He worked with me on all sorts of different treatments. I’ve tried so very many things through the years. At one point, he told me I’d reach the limit of what he knew to do, and he would suggest another urologist in a larger city.

At yet another point I saw a urologist a state and four hours away who did help me as well. But, my local urologist has been my main go-to guy for my interstitial cystitis for almost two decades. And being able to see him once a year right now and not be miserable going into his office is a blessing.

The thing about IC, like with most chronic pain conditions, is that it can wax and wane. Just because my symptoms are mostly under control right now doesn’t mean it will always be this way. Right now I have to take my medicine and be careful of my dietary trigger foods, but otherwise, my bladder issues are pretty stinking good most days. (Truthfully, right now my biggest issue is my fibromyalgia symptoms.)

I could focus on how it could all come back full force any moment. Or I could think about how the surgery I had a year and a half ago could undo itself any minute (which is a definite possibility). But I have learned through the years to take the wins when they happen. Focusing on the negative facts of my health takes away from the joy of the positive facts. Because of those hard times and really difficult days I appreciate the good ones all the more.

Combine this good appointment with attending the annual meeting of the American Urological Association earlier this month on assignment for IC Optimist magazine and IC has been on my mind even more than usual lately. Though I’ve gone to these meetings before, it had been about a decade since I was last able to go. I’ve been processing all I learned and writing about it over the last couple of weeks.

I was reminded there are lots of doctors who really, truly care about IC patients and helping us get answers and feel better. I was also reminded, though, about how bad IC can get as I heard different struggles with studies and treatments. I have been at some of those really bad points and there are other really bad points with IC that I haven’t been to.

All of that combined to make me feel incredibly grateful as I walked out of my urology appointment last week. I tucked my appointment card with an appointment a year away in my pocket. I am thankful. I may not be able to wait yet another year until I go back to see my urologist. Or I may. I have another appointment next month with a urogynecologist in Michigan to follow up with him from my surgery a year and a half ago. I don’t anticipate bad news at that appointment, but I can’t predict the future.

I just know the now. The now isn’t perfect. Pain free days don’t really happen thanks to my fibro, but there are many low-pain days. There are days that I don’t give my bladder much extra thought, and I am so incredibly thankful for them and blessed by them. That is victory in chronic pain and illness!

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