September 1, 2014

Our First Camping Trip

I have explored San Diego from many view points: from the air when landing at Lindbergh Field, from the underground cave in La Jolla, from a high rise in Down Town, and I can finally say I've seen it through the mesh of a tent. Our family attempted and succeeded at our first camping trip with a toddler and an infant. Not only did we survive, we thrived. It was enjoyable from beginning to end. I intended the trip to be a trial run of camping, and a way to test our children and their tolerance for bugs, dirt, and s'mores. They were pretty OK with it all.

We decided to head to Observatory Campground (located in the Cleveland National Forest), which includes amenities such as flushing toilets, coin showers, and, most importantly, a breathtaking view of the San Diego night sky. The stars at night were so numerous it seemed as if the whole sky was glowing in bright patches. It is easy to forget the amount of stars that exist beyond the light and air pollution of the city.

The trip must have been blessed by all of our guardian angels, because nothing seemed to go wrong. I prepared for the trip like any other major life event: finding list-based camping blogs on Pintrest, and creating my own spreadsheet to keep organized. The amount of stuff we brought for one over-night trip seemed ridiculous both in theory and in practice, but once we arrived at our campsite it all seemed to fit together to make the whole camping in comfort or 'glamping' experience go as smooth as possible when caring for two young children (one recently potty trained).  Among the stuffs brought was a small potty for the toddler, a pack-n-play for the baby, plenty of glow jewelry for night time fun and safety, and lots of food capable of cooking over a fire. Wipes also. Did I mention wipes? Baby wipes. Bring baby wipes.

After reading three or four articles with titles such as, "Surviving Camping with Kids," the suggestions of items to pack started to overlap, and at that time I felt as though my research was coming to a natural end. Thank goodness for those articles. I would have never thought to have lollipops in my pockets during hikes to instantly end meltdowns. Sometimes the "we are going to sit here until you decide to listen to us" method just does not work in certain situations.

Although the research I did was irreplaceably helpful, almost all blogs and articles seemed to leave out what I think are two extremely valuable tips. The first is to have a goal for your camping adventure. Why are you going on this trip? Is it to disconnect from your phone and internet? Maybe you are looking for a way to spend quality time with your family, or even just to test your limits. Whatever the goal is, keep it in mind as a motivator to have a great camping experience. We went camping because we wanted to have fun together. We all came together to have a good time, and made decisions to keep that goal alive. Flexibility and a good attitude are key here. I'm not ashamed to say an iPad was among the stuffs we brought and used. I'm also quite OK that our breakfast ended with some s'mores. Once all safety issues were secured, we relaxed and just enjoyed each other and our surroundings.

My second suggestion would be to have a plan for re-entry. On the drive back to civilization, we stopped for some barista-served coffee and discussed how we were all going to get showered, dressed, and unpacked. I think it is necessary to take a well deserved hot shower and put on some nice, clean cloths after a camping trip. Even my toddler, whom only hours before declared she was ready to make the tent her new home, agreed with a smile that her warm bubble bath was pretty nice. Within an hour of walking into our front door we had all persons washed and dressed. We were also tossing load after load of laundry into the wash and getting gear wiped down and ready for storage. It was the icing on the camping-cake to be able to relax that night knowing the house was clean and all of our things put away.

Our weekend was so successful we are already planning our next trip. What other part of San Diego will we venture to? As long as it has a spot for a tent... as well as a toddler potty... we are good to go.

Please visit my Pinterest board at 
for a list of helpful camping pins.

August 23, 2014

Marriage for Sinners

What do you think of when imagining a perfect marriage? One that has past the test of time, with both husband and wife happy always, smiling constantly in public, and never seen arguing or cross with each other? This is what most people want when starting a marriage, a life of happily ever after, as seen in most romantic movies. This is not necessarily the case though. A perfect marriage might include arguments, frowns, and tears. It might take time for the two to join together as one working unit. Disney movies don't include this fact in most of their love stories: Marriage is a sacrament where two sinners come together to grow closer to God.

I think most people have heard of the 'honeymoon' phase of marriage. The first few weeks, months, or years where life feels like a fairy tale. It seems like most people also know that this phase tends to pass, but what we hear less about is the phases that follow, and why we go through phases at all.

Many religious and secular sources acknowledge the changing phases in marriage, even if they vary slightly in their descriptions. For this post though, I will be referring to the stages as described here. Many secular websites I have seen tend to use a negative viewpoint on the changes in marriage, and basically make it sound like marriage sucks most of the years the couple are together, specifically the child years, and that marriage is not enjoyable until after the children leave and the couple can be together again. The link I shared from gives a much more positive light. I think it is because, being a Catholic website, it understands the true meaning of marriage, and the purpose it is supposed to bring about.

Marriage is a sacrament in the Catholic church. Sacraments are 'signs and instruments by which the Holy Spirit spreads the grace of Christ the head throughout the Church which is his Body. The purpose of sacraments are to sanctify men (Catechism of the Catholic Church).'

If marriage is a sacrament, and if sacraments are meant to sanctify, then by it's nature marriage will change the people involved. If the couple is letting the marriage work in their relationship, they will grow. Growth is hard work. It takes humility to see problems within yourself, and even more humility to let God work through another human to get rid of those problems and grow up. The couple may also grow at different paces, causing even more hardships.

I often see arguments as failure. Something didn't go right, and because of that an argument happened. Someone wasn't being humble. Someone wasn't being understanding. Someone was being selfish. I'm starting to think that arguments themselves are not the issue. The important part is how gracefully we act before, during, and after an argument. We are all imperfect sinners, or else we wouldn't need the sacrament of marriage. We are all going to mess up and stumble at some point. The goal is that spouses are understanding of this and are Christ-like in their reactions to the fall: They love each other unconditionally, even in the face of a mistake. They are there not to point fingers and to place blame, but to offer help, support, and forgiveness.

We marry because we love each other, we want to spend the rest of our lives together, and because we want to grow close to God together. All three aspects need to be present in a successful marriage no matter what stage we are in. A perfect marriage is one where we change from sinners into saints together as a couple. Is there any fairy tale with a sweeter ending than that? In the wisdom and words of my toddler, "I don't fink so Mommy."