“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.” ― Anne Lamott

Over the long Fourth of July weekend, I unplugged by heading into some of Utah’s mountains to sleep under the stars (which are incredible, and less dangerous than fireworks).

For us, raising a large family meant that the family vacations we could afford were someplace we could get to by driving, and not paying hotel or restaurant costs. In other words, camping. I have some great memories of bathing small children in dishpans on top of picnic tables, camping in the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone and the Utah mountains and just not caring about dirt getting everywhere.

I laugh at myself now, but it took me several years of “vacationing” with young children to realize that it didn’t mean the type of vacation I remembered as a kid, where I could sit in a chair and read for hours at a time. In fact, it’s the same kind of “Mom” work I did at home, at a different location and with a lot more prep work. Once I shifted my mindset to have more realistic expectations, I enjoyed those vacations a lot more. They were still a lot of work, however, even with all of us pitching in.

I must admit to a bit of PTSD getting ready for this past weekend’s trip because it is So.Much.Work. We hadn’t gone camping in about five years, so our camping-ready trailer was not, in fact, ready. Getting new tires, refilling propane tanks, checking (and chucking) tents and sleeping bags to separate the usable from the no-longer-usable, and then shopping for food when we didn’t know if we would have seven or 17 people for meals made the first part of the week pretty stressful.

Here’s the heart-warming part, though — our children have such fond memories of our camping trips that they want to recreate them for their own families. It was one of our grown daughters, the one with a 1-year-old baby, that spearheaded this trip. She sat down with me months ago and found a double site with wheelchair accessibility that we reserved well in advance, helped plan menus and get supplies, and was generally a great camping cheerleader.

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Here’s what happened: I was reminded what I love about camping.

There was uninterrupted family time, a rarity in today’s busy, busy world. We played games, chatted, told family stories (including previous camping stories), laughed until our sides hurt, and hiked (strolled) to a small waterfall, dousing ourselves in the refreshingly cold water. We made messy s’mores and banana boats in the evening, hot chocolate in the morning and oddly shaped pancakes. Outdoor cooking means ash in the food, unevenly distributed heat — and food that tastes better than it does when cooked at home.

We continued creating family traditions, by adding new memories to our memory banks of previous camping trips. There’s a reason s’mores are included every trip. Meg Cox, author of several books including, “The Book of New Family Traditions,” describes traditions as “any activity you purposefully repeat together as a family that includes heightened attentiveness and something extra that lifts it above the ordinary ruts.” Camping fits the bill.

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We also had a four-day break, or reset, from all of our devices — no internet coverage in the mountains. Turns out, we can survive without being constantly tethered to technology. My worries that something terrible would happen and we wouldn’t know did not, in fact, happen. The reset is both mental and physical.

I slept better. Crazy, I know, to think that sleeping on the ground, in downright chilly weather could result in better sleep, but it did. (That ground did have an inflatable mattress on it, to be fair.) A 2017 study suggests that a couple days of camping in the great outdoors can reset your circadian clock, help you get better sleep and awaken more refreshed. Worked for me!

We still have plastic bins of non-perishable food sitting on my kitchen table, waiting to be put away, laundry that needs to be washed and I still have dirt under my fingernails. But, my comment to my daughter as we were packing up was “Let’s do it again!”

It was totally worth it.

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