To celebrate Earth Day this year, a group of my blogger friends & I decided it would be super fun to highlight our local State/National Parks around the country! A fierce group of food enthusiasts braving the wild, snacks in hand – who sounds more fun than us? Since moving to Kansas, we’d briefly visited the two State Parks closest to us but at the time, it was off season, which made the facilities inaccessible. Note to you Midwestern camping enthusiasts: even though you may get a couple of unseasonably warm weekends in February, it does not mean you should load up your 4 kids, camper & dog & drive out to the State Park. You’ll surely discover the facilities will be closed, therefore forcing you to examine plan b, then c… then, in a final act of desperation end up at a KOA sandwiched between a highway & a Wal-Mart… but I digress. For this particular Earth Day celebration, we decided to hit Cheney State Park.
Let me just be totally honest. Living in Kansas can be hard for me at times because our life is just so suburban. We live where we really need to drive most places to get where we need to go. There are some odd parks & trails you can access, but to really get yourself lost in the middle of nowhere, it takes some doing. And some driving. So, getting out & getting into #ourwild took quite a bit of preparation with 4 kids & a dog. And about an hour long drive.
I’ve reached this glorious stage in my kids life where they can do so much. Pack their own lunches & snacks. Pack something for a sibling if need be. Fill the CamelBaks. Grab an extra layer. My prep work has been cut down considerably the older my kids get.
There was one missing shoe that kept us from leaving for quite awhile as I made the kids forage the house. It’s yet to be recovered. If you have children, you get it.
CHENEY STATE PARK
I had to share that video from IG Stories. Partly because Arthur is so cute & partly because Elliot is just so darn excited about ‘nature’. Seriously, I didn’t tell him to say that. He’s just that adorable & full of love.
Admittedly, I didn’t take a ton of pictures during our hike. After shooting for the past few years I’ve learned there are times to shoot & times to put the camera away & just enjoy being in the moment. Plus, as any mother will tell you, it’s an exercise in extreme patience trying to shoot while also wrangling multiple kids + a dog. I took a few pictures at the start of our trek & then packed my camera up. I considered getting it out again when we found a great, deserted beach where Winnie had the best time running in the sand, fetching sticks & swimming in the water but I was having too much fun just being there. Pretty sure dogs aren’t allowed on the beach anyway but as there’s no proof…
As I said before, living where we do can, at times, feel so painfully suburban. I was recently asked by my friend – When do you feel the least anxiety? When do you feel most at peace? I was able to answer without skipping a beat – When our family goes camping.
Being in nature gives me an automatic out. I don’t have to answer my phone, check my email. I don’t even have to post to social media if I don’t want. And sometimes, when the pull to my phone is too great, nature has a way of cutting out the satellites.
To get our family camping requires much more preparation & time away so I’m grateful for the singularity of a one day reprieve like this. I’m grateful there’s a place I can put away my phone, breath deep, get wet & let the kids be wild.
Ready to get outside?? Sometimes people tell me – I just don’t know how you do it. To that I say, life with kids isn’t 100% Instagram filtered perfection. In fact, true to form, that unrecovered Keen shoe I mentioned previously, forced Arthur to have to wear socks + shoes, which ended up soaked & covered in sand & dirt. He also choose to wear pants that day – also wet & sandy. I traipsed 4 kids & a dog thru wet, grassy marshlands & then we all entered my car to drive an hour home. Car still isn’t cleaned & that was 5 days ago… Life isn’t perfect. It’s just life. If our adventures encourage you to go out & start having some adventures too, I hope that you do that! Just remember it will definitely be wet, sweaty, muddy, sandy, poorly dressed & fun.
With that said, I can’t help but mention some of my must have items for traveling with 4 kids + dog, in case you’re interested.
This sunscreen stick is a miracle from heaven. If you’ve ever tried to put sunscreen on a kid’s face to have them turn into a slippery, screaming octopus – you need this in your life. Trust me. It’s so small I keep it in my hand bag & on our way to soccer games, etc, pass it to the back of the car & have everyone apply their own sunscreen.
This anti-bug stick. Again, with the stick. I can’t get enough.
CamelBak or hydration backpack. I have a new larger size but we also have two older, small ones for the kid’s to wear. They are amazing. Lightweight & small. My oldest carried one around Disney the whole time we were there last summer & I will def be getting more as the little ones get bigger.
Dog Water Bottle. We quickly learned after sharing our water bottles with Winnie that it wasn’t our favorite way to make sure she stayed hydrated. We picked up a water bottle from our local pet store that stores itself inside a rectangle sized bowl. It doesn’t leak & makes sure she has her own designated water.
BioLite. I have to mention this because while I didn’t take it on this day, my husband is obsessed with his BioLite stove. When he’s with us, he always brings it & we’ll do a cooked lunch in the wild, as opposed to my lazy sandwich lunches. Kidding. Kind of. I do love a PB&J. Plus, it will charge your phone in a pinch!!!49