For a while now Kyle has been saying we need to "add camping to our repertoire." Before now our travel repertoire has consisted of hotels, home swaps, boats, and occasionally a sleeper car on a train. Kyle and I used to sleep in airports and on planes, but we haven't done that in a while (thank goodness!).

Last weekend, Kyle took the leap and bought a tent.

For the past few years we've spent Columbus Day weekend on Blue Ridge Parkway. This year we weren't about to miss the chance to host a surprise party for one of our favorite people. (Happy birthday, Kate!!).

So this year a long weekend at home aligned with fall break for the county schools. Kyle and our neighbor, Gary, were texting about camping gear. Kyle was looking on Amazon, but Gary found a Craigslist posting for like-new tent for sale. He sent Kyle the link, and a few hours later the thing was set up in our yard, and the two of them were planning a weekend camp out.

Since this was our first try--and we had no idea how it would go--we stayed close to home. And we made it easy on ourselves with an extension cord to the camp site and use of the indoor bathrooms. But it was still so much fun.

On Friday the kids and dads set up the camp site in the neighborhood green space. We invited the other neighbors to join us. People came by to say hi, but no one took us up on camping.

Friday night we grilled brats and ate dinner around the fire pit. Gary made an amazing outdoor screen and we plugged in the projector with an extension cord and watched a movie under the stars. Hamish and the Manimal both went down on Friday night without much drama. Before long the neighbor kids were ready for bed too, and Robyn and I didn't last much longer. Kyle and Gary stayed up around the fire pit for a couple more hours, and visited with another neighbor who came to chat.

Friday night got cold early in the morning. About 4:30 or 5 I went in for another blanket. But everyone slept fairly well until 6:30. Then the Manimal was awake and chatting loudly. He was on the other side of Kyle, and when he heard me he said, "Is that my Mama?"

Saturday morning Ella and Arthur brought fruit smoothies out for everyone and Robyn and Gary made pumpkin waffles. Not exactly roughing it, but delicious.

We spent all Saturday morning lazing at our camp site, reading and playing. At mid-morning, Kate came by to enjoy the amazing weather and visit. This threw a wrench in her surprise birthday plans, because Sarah and planned to drop off the cake and balloons. I had to quickly text Sarah not to come by because Kate was with us.

"She's ruining it! Make her leave!" Sarah texted back. Of course I couldn't do that. So Kate stayed for a couple of hours until Sarah came and ran her off herself. She may have showed her hand, but it worked. Kate went home and we were able to get ready for the party that afternoon.

Saturday evening we had almost 20 people hiding in the kitchen when Kate arrived again. I'm not sure she was actually surprised, but it was a sweet birthday for her. (And I didn't get a single picture. Oh well.)

When the party guests left Saturday night, Kyle was intent on camping again. He'd snuck out of the party to buy three more sleeping bags, and was sure we'd sleep warmer and even better the second night. We'd gained another neighborhood family around our fire pit and the kids were running on s'mores and birthday cake and glow sticks.

The third family went home to sleep, and amazingly, both kids went right to bed once we put them down. I was not up for it though, and slept inside while Kyle and the kids enjoyed the new sleeping bags.

Sunday morning everyone was happy again. Kyle scrambled eggs and Ella & Co again provided smoothies.

We broke camp for baths and showers and church. There was some talk of night #3 but we didn't make it. We dismantled our tent village Sunday afternoon while the kids played a spirited game of Simon Says, leaving both families one last free day in the long weekend.

All in all camping experience #1 went well. Officially in the repertoire.