On the Road with Soaps (camping 2014)

We went camping for nine days last week. Honestly even though we go every year, I had a lot more anxiety prior to this time than the previous ones. Last year was challenging but good. We knew camping with two young toddlers wouldn't be relaxing but we did end up having a good time. This year Sophie definitely can't be called a toddler anymore. She has grown over the past year and looks like a real big kid.


And even though she's a pretty easy going big kid and Felix is routinely more challenging on a daily basis, his is the typical-brand of challenging. I've dealt with it a few times already. He's getting to be at an age where he can be redirected, talked through (sometimes) or if all else fails, bribed. Sophie is fixed in her interests and few typical tricks work. But mainly, I was scared of the unknowns- what if she's not happy? How will we manage her then? We weren't bringing any iPads so there was no safety net of Thomas.

The downside of all the special-needs "stuff" - the preschools, the camps, the assessments, evaluations, countless specialist appointments, the individual learning plans and alternative communication and so on and on is that if we are not careful after a while they can "other" our child. Since so many things are different, it might feel as if everything were different, as if this child is a different species altogether, sharing no common characteristics with her peers. I fight that mentality regularly, taking great effort to keep Sophie, the four year old girl in the forefront of my mind, and all the "stuff" in the background. Sometimes it's harder. But this camping trip it was easier.

There's no doubt Sophie has special needs and is delayed in many ways. Even considering the fact that she still needed the stroller for the hikes while her 2 year old brother would not be persuaded to sit in one anymore and walked all the long hikes on his own.

But she is such a kid in so many ways. A kid who...

Loves ice cream (they even had gluten-free cones). And who

Loves the beach. And of course

Loves swimming (she swam more than the other kids combined. If there was water, she was in it in the whole time).

One day we went for a hike to the rocky coast of Georgian bay. The views are breathtaking, but the terrain difficult to navigate. We carried the young kiddos as far as we could and while the older kids dispersed on the rocks my husband suggested we find a "safe, flat rock for Sophie to sit on". While that is certainly reasonable and reassuring, given her gross motor challenges I recoiled at the thought. "No! Sophie isn't a senior citizen! She won't be sitting on a safe, flat rock while the other kids are exploring. No." And so we took turns facilitating as much exploration as Sophie wanted to do. And of course, as usual she surprised us.

Safe, flat rock dad? Really?

Looks kind of happy to me. Sophie was an outstanding camper. With some accommodations we did everything we always do. We hiked.

We visited favourite old places.

Sophie and Felix enjoying the view from a historic lighthouse

Kids paddled on the raft (Soaps loved it too!)

At the campsite Sophie was initially a little lost, wandering between the van, stroller and wagon as if looking for her place. I had packed a lot of Thomas books (a good substitute for when the ipad isn't available) and she gradually settled into a calm routine. She either read

Or hung out on the road between campsites (like last year)

Or did both!

Like last year, we set up camp chairs by the side and had a rotating Sophie guard keep watch for the rare car or bike.

Our last-day tradition is to drive to the local town and pick up fish and chips and coleslaw and eat it in the bleachers of a small baseball field. Suits us better than a crowded patio. Sophie loves this tradition and had a blast this time around.

Check out the weirdos behind me
Fearless as always

And finally lest you think it's all about Soaps let me assure you we took plenty of adorable photos of the rest of the gang too. Here are some of my favourites.

Felix and his big bro climbing some rocks
She loves all creatures, big and small
Water rescue of pup who got a bit over her head
Our luxurious accommodations
Felix finally getting wet (he was resistant initially)
All the kiddos and a bit of mama too
Daddy and Felix atop the lighthouse

And of course

Mimi- camping dog extraordinaire

I better stop myself before I transfer all the pics from our camera to this post (it's tempting to show you everything we did. Tempting, but not appropriate). I can say that for all my pre-camping jitters this trip will go down in our family's history as one of our favourites- it's definitely in the top 3 which says a lot. And the weather was amazing, which also counts for a lot because there's nothing quite like waking up in a soggy tent on a soggy site and only your wet shoes to look forward to (we've had a few trips like that too). And if you read through all this- thanks for sharing our memories with us.



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