Tent Camping: If you don’t laugh, you’ll cry.

About 6 months ago, I decided to make reservations at a campground near my family’s cottage, where we celebrate our annual family reunion on the 4th of July. There’s never enough room for everyone to sleep at the cottage, and camp reservations for the 4th of July weekend have to be made 6 months in advance or you’re screwed. I booked 3 nights on January 3rd for July 3rd, crossing my fingers for good weather.

Hello, my name is Kelli and I am a fair-weather camper. Hi, Kelli.

Cut to 5 months later, when my cousin sadly lost his battle with pancreatic cancer and a memorial was planned at my family cottage 5 days before our trip.

So off I went to check with the campground for 4 extra nights…

Sure, we’d have to switch sites mid-camp, but that’s not a big deal, right?! Even though we’ll be tenting it?! The hubs NEEDED and DESERVED a weeklong vacation. Something he rarely does. We’d be less than a mile away from our family cottage on Lake Michigan…

So, I booked it, and crossed my fingers, toes, and lips around a few beers for a week of good weather and attitudes.

I was completely sober at the time of booking, yet… I still don’t quite know what I was thinking.

I drowned myself in planning for everything from the time I booked that week to packing up the invisible jet like a Tetris game.

The weather channel app was stalked more than any social media app on my phone.

The forecast for showers scared me, but I focused on being there for my family and getting camp set up.

The first night, at around 4am, it happened… drip drip drop… POUR. Boom. Lightning. I laid in my metal cot scared our tent wouldn’t hold up… and, of being struck by lightning. But I was in fear alone, as the rest of my family slept through it.

I woke up the hubs… he assured me we were safe, yelled at me to shut the hell up and go back to sleep. Yeah. Sure.

Thankfully, the storm was mainly rainy, and not too bad, at least… compared to the next night.

The hubs and I got up with our kids and started to assess the situation while we both stalked the weather app again. The forecast called for more storms. The hubs even saw the potential for tornados. Why he told me this is beyond me. I was ready to pack it in. The hubs said “this is camping!” Good times.

So after forcing multiple IPAs in me, the hubs somehow convinced me to ignore the forecast and enjoy our day, visit family at the cottage and swim in lake michigan.

After that excitement, we came back to camp, lit a fire, made dinner, and my youngest and I braved the campground showers I know I’ve been watching a lot of OITNB, but these were a notch above prison showers! Living the DREAM!

The four of us snuggled and told stories around the campfire, then crashed after the sun finally went down — around 11p or so.

And now… a timeline.

I wake up to wind, rain, thunder and lightning.

My oldest crawls into the cot with me. Crying. So scared. I try to stay strong until the hubs starts yelling at me to go back to sleep… now I’m crying.

Storm is building up instead of improving. In full-on tears, I beg the hubs to join my oldest and me in the van. We’d go to the cottage, but I freaked out wondering what to bring, what to leave. Plus, the hubs was being stubborn about not leaving the tent and I refused to leave them behind! GA! Stress!

My oldest and I camp out in the van, holding hands in the front seats, wondering how my youngest was sleeping through all of this… and “why is daddy so crazy and mean at night?” Crying. Laughing. Talking.

Screen tent implodes into itself. Chairs fly. Tornado sirens. Yes, I said tornado sirens. I text the hubs to get the fuck out of the tent and bring my youngest ASAP.

We are no longer alone in our awakened state of fear — we see the entire campground run to the bathrooms. Already in the van, with my family, I drive. Yeah, I know. I’m such a hard core camper.

Party in the campground bathroom! Who brought the keg?!

The hubs hears whines from all 3 of his girls: “we wanna go home!” Especially after seeing more storms in the forecast for the next few nights. (yes, I was still obsessed with my weather app) More of THIS insanity?! Nope! I assure my kids we’ll be home in about 12hrs. The hubs sighs.

Park ranger gives everyone the go-ahead to head back to our sites. Storm is passing. The four of us sit in the van and joke and laugh at the bullshit we just endured.

Rain ends. We go back into our tent… Where we all immediately and miraculously sleep until 8:30am.

The bright sun drags our tired bodies out of our tent (that suffered ZERO damage! Swiss Gear FTW!!) to tear down the damaged bullshit from our campsite… mainly so we can get to our cooler, save the precious beer, and make some damn coffee before we pack up the rest of our gear and head home.

We arrive back home, safe and sound. Feeling like we had been gone for a week.

Some people have joked “will you ever camp again?!” Yes, of course we will! While I don’t know if I’d ever schedule a week of tent-camping again, I’d be game for a long weekend.

When the weather was good, we were really enjoying ourselves. Even when it was raining — we had some fun talking and playing old maid and connect-four together, instead of being stuck with our noses in electronics.

It was a surprisingly positive experience overall. The wind was so strong the 3 days we were there, the bugs were practically non-existent. We got to spend time with extended family at the cottage and enjoyed swimming big waves in Lake Michigan.

The campground itself was easy to navigate, and our huge tent rocked. We never got wet, and it more than held up through multiple storms and an effing tornado!

Last, but maybe most importantly, it was a character builder and bonding experience for all 4 of us.

Oh, and for those who thought we should’ve stuck it out for the week — a few more storms swept through the campground the next couple of days. We made the right decision. Even if it ended up being crystal clear and a perfect 69 degrees the rest of the week… we knew we made the right decision. We got to enjoy being home. Our beds felt like heaven. We went to the library, read books, napped, watched movies, went to parks, drank good beer, went to see fireworks… basically had some low key days and nights… it was nice.

I used my phone on a music dock quite a bit over our trip. This kept me from taking too many pictures… which is fine. The mental snapshots I have are awesome. And I will savor the following gems from our tent-camping adventures for many years to come.





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Scheduling Summer?

Last year was my first “nap free summer” — as in, the first year I had two children awake, in need of entertainment. All. Effing. Day. Long.

I made a magic boredom eraser jar with little slips of activities… that crapped out by day 3. Then… I had… nothing. Most days, it was too hot to do much outside… so onto the screens they went. Just so momma could get some shit done!

This year, we’re all a little older and wiser. The kids are 6 and 9, and don’t need an entertainer as much as a guide (and driver, obviously).

About half way through the school year, I realized that my oldest was struggling when she would come home from school (cranky, tired, anxious, unfocused) except on days with some level of a schedule. Mondays, for example, were dance days — forcing her to do her homework while her sister danced. If she didn’t have homework, she had to read a book. This was something we extended to the rest of the week. In order for her to earn that precious computer time — she had to be without screens until 5p. I can’t even explain how well this worked. Sure, some days… she didn’t want to, but I’d be flexible if she didn’t have homework + wasn’t into reading; I’d have her write or draw instead.

Cut to the final weeks of school when I’m reading endless articles about living the “best summer of your life” by *not* scheduling anything!

That may work for some families!!

I would love it if it worked for us… but… it doesn’t.

And when you have one daughter who thrives on a schedule, and another who’s a go-with-the-flow gal — guess who wins?! The schedule-thriver.

I talked about it for weeks.

I have to make a schedule.
I will make a schedule.
Hmmm, what should I include on the schedule?

Then I blinked and the last day of school arrived — and as I whined and moaned about it ending, I finally put pencil to paper and sketched out a schedule.

The kids loved it.

I know it’s shocking, but that’s *not* a typo!

The girls were excited to see how I carved out outdoor time, screen time, reading time, art time, alone time, etc. I also added a little disclosure note at the bottom about reserving the right to change the schedule at any time for various reasons, and to be flexible — it’s SUMMER! And roughly sketched Olaf to lighten the mood. (when in doubt, quote Frozen)

While I haven’t been diligently following my own daily schedule — even after scheduling “momma’s work-time” during certain time-frames, — the kids have been using the schedule for the last week, and it’s… working.

Wait, what?!?

I had a feeling it might… but I had no idea they’d love it as much as they do. Since unveiling the schedule last week, I haven’t heard “I’m bored” much at all. Sibling fights have been minimal. Sometimes they may want to move something around on the schedule, but… I’m absolutely fine with that. See what happens when you *start* out “strict”?! You = hero when you loosen up the reigns! Wins all around!

I’ve been joining the girls on a few art projects, outdoor activities and many other things I sometimes avoid just so I can get the dishes or laundry done… seeing it on the schedule not only prepares the kids, but gives me an opportunity to set things up, and helps me to plan my chores around the activities I’d like to share.

On that note, I thought about adjusting the schedule to add a daily chore or two, but for now, I do want all of us to have fun and enjoy the summer. Even if it is moderately scheduled — it’s helping us not only stay sane, but keep our noses out of electronics 24/7. *She says as her eyes peer over an electronic device… whoops.*

At 6 and 9… we only have a few “childhood” summers left. Our electronics and chores will be there tomorrow… or the next day… or the day after that. Sometimes, ya gotta enjoy the laughter with the people who are right in front of you! Especially faces like these.



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I don’t think it is a huge secret that I adore all things craft beer.Beerology

The learning never seems to end when it comes to craft beer. I have never - nor will I likely ever - claim to be an expert, and I do my best to absorb everything I can about craft beer from people I trust in and out of the industry. That includes my home-brewing friends, professional craft brewers, fellow beer aficionados, Cicerones, and beyond.

When I was approached by Random House to be among the lucky few to receive an advance copy of Beerology by Master Cicerone *Mirella Amato — I embraced the opportunity, and subsequently squealed with delight when it arrived.

Consider Beerology your Craft-Beer Bible. Mirella Amato is one of only seven Certified Master Cicerones in North America. Amato knows craft beer, but doesn’t talk down to her readers. Amato uses language anyone can understand, whether you just sipped your first gateway craft beer, or have been home-brewing craft beer for decades.

Wonder what a Berliner Weisse is? Thumb through Beerology to Page 78 where Amato summarizes this beer-style in one sentence:

“A combination of low-alcohol content- usually below 4% ABV – light body, dry character, strong effervescence and a tart finish add up to an incredibly refreshing beer.”

Amato expands her education on this particular beer style by breaking it down into a detailed description, and in another side-bar, lists snippets like what food it might pair with, and, my personal favorite — what each style is “Fun For…” In the case of a Berliner Weiss – Hot summer days. 

There are chapters detailing How to Taste Beer, Hosting Beer Tastings, Pairing Beer with Food, and even Beer Cocktail Recipes and Style Comparison Charts…. and so.much.more.

Beerology is an incredible resource for any craft beer lover.

And guess what? No need to be jealous of my possession of this essential Craft Beer Bible… because I’m giving a copy of Beerology away! Follow the Rafflecopter instructions below to enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*Mirella Amato has dedicated herself to promoting local beer and beer appreciation since 2007. She is the first non-US resident to earn the title of Master Cicerone. Mirella is a National Level BJCP judge and has sat on juries for the Canadian Brewing Awards, the Great American Beer Festival, the European Beer Star and the World Beer Cup. She was the recipient of the 2012 OCB Centre of Excellence Industry Choice Award in Food & Beer Matching Development. Follow Mirella Amato on Twitter @beerologyboffin

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  • About Me

    Kelli Williams

    Kelli Williams

    Keeping up with 2 little girls, writing assignments, music gigs, the house, laundry, ETC, backwards, wearing ass kicking boots and a smile, without spilling my beer. Ok, ok, so I spill my beer, but my floors have never been more germ-free since I started putting a little alcohol on them. Who needs ammonia...

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