After a wonderful, long holiday season on my family’s property and then an extended stay with great friends, we decided a family weekend was in order. We found a great COE campground near Ft. Smith, Arkansas to spend a few days, as Coral put it, “like our old life when we just lived in campgrounds instead of people’s yards”. It’s amazing how full circle I have come – in September and October I had begun to think that I had made a mistake by committing to spend 24/7 with my two rambunctious kiddos in a tiny space for a year, but fast-forward 5 months and I’ve become so accustomed to it being just the 4 of us all the time that I miss the Fitzgerald Flow. I think one of the very best parts of the entire adventure so far is all of the family time that we’ve enjoyed. So many family game nights. Countless hours in the car. Bedtime and mealtime routines that don’t get interrupted by a lengthy list of other commitments. It’s been an irreplaceable gift.
So we checked in to our 2nd COE campground with some trepidation, as our first experience at this type of campground was a negative one. At the Army Corp Of Engineers park where we stayed in Texas, a grumpy older couple working at the registration booth spoiled our stay with multiple, aggressively-negative conversations. I didn’t pay at the kiosk quickly enough for the woman’s liking, and she let me know about the fact that I was breaking “FEDERAL POLICIES”. Another day after Brad rinsed some mud off of Stumbo that had been kicked up during towing by muddy tires, we got another knock on the door. It was the old man from the registration booth there to tell us the the water on the pavement “Just don’t look good” and “They’re not gonna like it….” which we took to mean that he was threatening to tell the US Army on us. So we cut our visit short and moved to a different campground the next day. No need to upset the army…
Since we knew the negative experience was wholly because of the hosts, we gave COE another try, and we’re so glad we did! It was the perfect park for our family weekend. Large spaces with lots of natural space in between, a playground, and friendly hosts.
A local friend let us know that Ft. Smith had a trampoline gym. I’ve ALWAYS wanted to visit one of these! They had a special deal for families on Thursday nights, so after dinner we surprised the girls with an hour of bouncy fun. I guess we timed it right arriving about 80 minutes before closing time, because we paid for an hour but got to stay until closing time. And for the final 30 minutes we had the entire place to ourselves! We played family dodgeball, did slam dunks in the air, bounced and flipped and jumped against walls, laughed, swung on fabric ropes, jumped into foam, got sweaty, laid breathlessly on surfaces that smelled like feet, and laughed some more. It was a GREAT way to splurge on some winter time family fun.
You gotta wait for the surprise lurking in the foam at the end of this video…
On Friday we did some homeschooling, some grocery shopping, and had a family game night.
On Saturday Mimi drove over to spend part of the day with us. We visited the Janet Huckabee Arkansas River Valley Nature Center to learn about all of the plants and creatures of the Natural State.
We spent our first night in Stumbo in a legit thunderstorm that night. I spent a lot of time on weather.com studying the tornado-watch maps, which always stayed south of us, and considered what it would be like to run across the campground in the dark to the brick bathroom building and hug the bases of toilets with my family if need be. Thankfully it never became even remotely necessary to act upon that thought, but at times the raindrops pelting our ceiling became so loud that we had to pause our movie and wait for it to pass. (first world problems…)
Then on Sunday we had the honor of an invitation to Lucy’s birthday party in Oklahoma. Since we were so nearby we were able to accept!
On Monday when it was time to roll out, we were sad to tell this site goodbye. It was exactly the kind of restful, family weekend that we’d hoped to find.