There are two groups of you reading this out there with very different reactions. One group of you are thinking, "oh, that's great! What a wholesome family vacation! How great to be introducing Ben to the outdoors, and how fun to be outside all weekend!"
The rest of you actually have kids, and are thinking "OHMYGOD THEY TOOK A TWO YEAR OLD CAMPING?" It's tough enough to get a small boy like Ben to sleep under the best of circumstances. Those of you who have experienced small children can only imagine getting him to sleep in a tent.
And yet, somehow, we did it. We pulled out all our old camping gear over the last few days, checked it, and prepared to pack it. We bought the new pieces we needed: a new lantern, sleeping pad for Paul, freezer blocks for the cooler. We loaded everything into the microvan yesterday: sleeping bags, tents, stove, cooking gear and dishes, food, tarps, lanterns and flashlights, towels, and clothes. We timed it so the drive up would take place over Ben's nap, reducing his awake time in the car so he would be less likely to wake up & get bored in the car ("I want down, Mama. I'm stuck in here! All done car! Down! I want down!") And we headed off to Gaviota State Park, up by Santa Barbara.
Of course, we had to stop at Chick-fil-A in Oxnard on the way up. Ben likes their nuggets and the board books in their kids meals. I just like Chick-fil-A.
(Ben at Chick-fil-A)
We got to the campground a little after 3pm, and immediately went to the beach
Ben at the beach
Paul, meanwhile, set up the campsite, because he is (a) the man in this family and (b) because he is awesome enough to do that while I played with Ben in the sand. Even when I brought Ben back though, we managed to distract him with some rocks:
Ben at the campsite
Then Ben helped me make veggie skewers as a side dish for our special camping dinner:
Ben helps Mama put zucchini on skewers
And then we all had dinner: hamburgers, sliced sweet potatoes in tinfoil packets, and veggie skewers. The leftovers were pretty awesome chopped up into pasta sauce the next day, too:
Ben and Paul at dinner
So far, this trip was going great. Ben was having a great time at the beach. He loved the adventure of eating outside, and running around the campsite. He loved seeing the trains going by above the campsite. He did NOT love bedtime. We put him in his PJ's, and put him into his tent...which was in our tent:
Ben's tent, inside the big tent. I'm a genius.
Paul spent an hour trying to get him to sleep, and then finally, Ben said, "I want my crib." To which Paul said, "This is your camping crib." Ben seemed to accept that and ACTUALLY WENT TO SLEEP. And he only woke up a couple times in the night...until he woke up for good at FIVE FORTY FIVE IN THE MORNING. That isn't much earlier than he usually wakes up on weekdays...but I bet our neighbors didn't realize that.
Ben, up and moving at 6am. IT'S STILL DARK OUT.
Once the sun came up, Ben and I went down to the beach, where we had a Mama-Ben moment:
Ben and I look out at the ocean.
Ben absolutely loves the ocean.
Ben looks out at the ocean.
We played on the beach for a bit, and then went back to the tent for breakfast. Unfortunately, the milk I had brought had gone bad. So we decided to go into Buellton and go to Pea Soup Andersen's. This is one of the best, most hilarious, and most delicious tourist traps of the California highways. It's so iconic that my mother also used to stop there, on the road to San Francisco. Ben is the third generation of the family to stop at Pea Soup Andersen's while on a road trip. And Ben also loves pea soup.
Ben enjoys his pea soup breakfast
Did I mention it's a tacky tourist trap?
Paul and Ben goofing around as Lum-pea and Pea-wee
We returned to camp, went to the beach one last time, and then Ben had a snack:
Yes, Ben does have an apple AND a peach
It was a very successful weekend, and I'm thrilled that we can now share our love of the outdoors, with the tiny boy we love so much. Ben LOVED camping. We plan to start doing this on a regular basis, so we can get out of the city a little more...and see our son's little face light up with joy like it did so many times this trip.