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I don’t mean for it to feel like Birthday Party Central around here, it’s just that I have two little boys with birthdays less than a month apart, and throwing their parties has been pretty much the only “productive” thing I’ve done since August. Don’t worry, I can’t do more than about two of these themed, thought-out gatherings a year, so now that these are over, I’m putting away the balloons and the cake flour and getting back to dusting and cleaning the toilet regularly. (I can hear Sam breathing a sigh of relief.)

My Grandpa Dave and Grandma Mary spent many of their summers while their kids were growing up introducing their family to much of the country, camping at National Parks in canvas tents and thick, warm sleeping bags. I remember seeing pictures and hearing of their adventures as a kid, and when I was about four they even took me camping with them on Lake Superior, in Minnesota. I still remember that trip to this day, and as our kids get older, I want to emulate that experience. I want them to see the country through the window of an over-stuffed car, to explore it on foot, bike, canoe. When I think of camping, I think of my grandparents’ iconic 60’s-70’s* experience, and that was the inspiration for William’s birthday party this year.

We wanted to take the boys camping this summer or fall, but as we talked about it, we decided they’re a little too young to go on a real camping trip yet. (Or we’re a little too weak to brave a real camping trip with a three-year-old and a baby.) However, William was old enough, we thought, to sleep in a tent with his dad, so our campsite (Grandma’s backyard) furnished the perfect backdrop for the party.

I slept in the house with Titus, and we joined the guys again in the morning for breakfast cooked over the fire and camp stove. Then we packed up camp and headed to a nearby trail for a long bike ride and picnic lunch.

Camping this way proved to work well for us, as we could let Titus nap in the house and send William up to harvest potatoes with Grandpa when he got tired of helping set up camp. (Plus, I needed him distracted while I set up one of his party games–more on that later.) I also borrowed a few things I inevitably forgot to pack. Not to mention, we had real bathrooms just a walk away, and–most vital on a camping trip with little ones–fresh coffee in the morning.

There will be more details to come about the food, favors, and that party game I mentioned, but right now I need to go clean up a boy who just finished a snack of leftover graham cracker and chocolate frosting from the party.

*Now that I think of it, it was probably more like the 70’s and 80’s, but I can’t help it, 60’s and 70’s is what I pictured in my childhood mind. I just don’t want to be presenting inaccurate information here! Grandma, if you’re reading this, you can set me straight! :) And thank you so much for letting us borrow the camping gear–Sam and Will layered all the sleeping bags to keep warm at night, and you may have caught the dishes in some of these pictures. But most of all, thank you for all the great memories to recreate with my boys.

**It was brought to my attention that I should make it clear that the vehicle was not in motion while the boys were playing in the trunk. I do not reccommend that, in fact I’m told it is illegal. They were just hanging out in there while we were loading up, me at arm’s length from them the whole time. Safety first! I guess the cheesy caption should be, “Packing up camp–we’re not forgetting anything, are we?”