For the past 5 months Zed has been in an undisclosed location in South West Asia “finding the bad guys” as our kids said. On Tuesday he came home!
His arrival was filled with nerves, excitement, anxiety, and a lot of love. The kids and I made signs that decorated the garage. A good friend was able to get some pictures of Zed and I reuniting.
Less than 48hrs after landing Zed, the kids, and I packed up and headed out. Our destination, only known to Zed. First stop, McAlester Army Ammunition Plant to pick up our camper; a 35ft Coachmen Catalina that sleeps 8. We then we’re off to Robbers Cave in eastern Oklahoma. Once we were settled and leveled I got some hot dogs in the kids and Zed went out to get Chinese food for us, and a few essentials (Mac n cheese, cereal, oatmeal creme pies, etc).
We spent our first full day of vacation hiking in and around Robbers Cave. Mia and Ana hiked, Dax rode on Zed’s back in a pack and Zoe was on my front in a pack. The girls were champs and enjoyed exploring the cave with their flashlights.
Next stop…Broken Bow, OK. This turned out to be our longest and most eventful stop. I’ll start this stop with our campsite has zero cell service, not even 1G (keep that in mind). We were able to get set up prior to a crazy storm hit. While it was raining we ran into town and picked up some more supplies (burgers, potatoes, chutes and ladders, steak, etc).
The next morning I awoke with Mia telling me it wasn’t raining anymore more and it was “Sunday” (how she says it’s sunny today). I looked at my watch and saw that it was 9am! I vaguely remembered feeding Zoe at 5am and Zed saying something about homework. I walked out into the dining area to see Dax jumping in his pack n play, Ana beginning to stir on the fold out couch and a full breakfast spread. No Zed though. I fed the kiddos 2 sausage patties, 2 biscuits, 4 eggs, 4 hash browns, and 6 pancakes (most of which was consumed by Dax). Then it was time for the great game that is dress a 4/2/1/2m old. Thankfully everyone cooperated, thank you food coma. Then we set out to find Daddy. It didn’t take us long as he was just in his truck working on homework (darn Masters program ruining our fun).
Zed got to a good stopping point and we set out on a hike. Some kids learn their colors and directional skills in a classroom, ours learn them outside climbing mountains. “Follow the blue guy to the right.” “No, not the orange guy on the left!” We also realized just how afraid of heights Ana is. She insisted on holding Zed’s hand unless the trail was perfectly flat and wide. Then it was time for a train ride and pony rides. The kids enjoyed both, but it was a fight to get them off the ponies. The rest of the day was filled with throwing rocks in the lake and finished off with a duck tour. Each kiddo had a chance to drive the duck boat, Dax took a particular liking to it.
That night we had tin foil dinners and smores. (The end of this post will have tips and tricks I learned from this trip, a few come from this cooking experience.) Zed had gotten a Redbox so the kids watched a movie as we cleaned up the site.
We slept in the next day and spent the day around the campground. There was a bike ride, a little hiking, a lot of playing on the playground, and a nap. Zed went back into town while the kids slept to finish the last of his homework. When he got home there was a bit more bike riding and a lot more playing on the playground.
This is where I want you to remember what I said about cell reception. We were getting the grill ready for burgers and the fire ready for smores. We hear a scream come from Ana who was playing on the playground behind our site. As I walk over I tell her to get up and as I get closer I realize she’s on her back and not really moving, so I run the last few steps to her. Dax is now at her side very concerned and I see blood. Zed meets us, grabs a towel and loads her in the truck and takes her to the ER. I collect Dax and continue making dinner. I feed Dax and Mia, clean up, catch up on the blog, only an hour has passed. I start packing up the camper, I knew we were leaving for our next stop in the morning, another 30min. At this point I gave up on making myself busy, it was dark and I didn’t even know how close the nearest hospital was. About 2.5hrs after Zed has left there was a knock at the door. The camp host had come to tell us severe weather may be coming through (great…Bad weather, no husband, no reception to keep an eye on the weather, and a kid in the ER with a head wound). Just as she was leaving I ask if she has signal. Thankfully she does (the one time Verizon is not the best) and I call Zed. He tells me they’re on their way home and Ana has some hardware (5 Staples to be exact). I hear her in the background asking for chicken nuggets and I know there is no reason to be concerned anymore.
Zed and Ana make it back to the camper, Zed finishes getting things locked down for the impending storm, and we watch The Accountant (my third attempt at watching this movie and it’s pretty good). Just as the movie finishes the storm hits, lots of rain and hail but not much else. Zed runs into town the next morning to return the movies and to grab some breakfast.
We’re off again, this time for Devil’s Den State Park near Winslow, Arkansas. The kids slept most of the way, which was a nice break for Zed and me. We set up camp and took a simple hike along the river to the playground. After playing, we learned about the CCC and their involvement with the park. (Did you know CCC members made $30/month and took home $20-25 of it?)
The next day was filled with a lot of hiking and trying not to wake up the sea monsters. Mia was convinced sea monsters lived in the woods and the only way to get her to stop talking and listen to the sounds of nature was to tell her she would wake up the sea monsters. Then every crevice, crack, and cave became a potential sea monster home in her eyes. Ana loved spotting woodpecker holes in trees and then trying to find the bird that made it. Dax, well he just liked grabbing at the trees (he was the only found we found a tick on). Zoe slept just about the entire time. The kids went on bike rides and trail rides and of course more hikes to the playground. Steak was on the menu for dinner as we watched what had the potential to be a serious storm cross Oklahoma and come closer to us.
We awoke the next morning seeing the storm had lost strength, loaded up and moved on. We stopped at Lake Tenkiller to let the kids play while we unloaded the camper and cleaned it out. Final stop of our journey was back to McAlester to return the camper.
We had a great trip with many memories made (mostly by Zed and me as the kids are too little to remember most). We are already planning our next camping adventure as this one was such a success. Continue below for my tips and tricks for camping.
Tips and Tricks
– You can pack enough underwear and socks
– Pack two pairs of shoes for everyone if you can, don’t forget shower shoes too
– Pack large black trash bags to keep the stuff in the back of your truck dry during a rain storm.
– Buy the best aluminum foil there is, then you don’t have to triple wrap your foil dinners.
– Cut your veggies thin for your foil dinners.
– Bring extra pillows and blankets, you never know which bed the kids will end up sleeping on, it’s easier to have them all made up.
– Baby wipes should always be within arm’s reach…Runny nose, peanut butter face, dirty hands, dirty table, diaper changes (obviously), puke on clothes, etc
– The best time to eat smores is once the kids are all in bed.