Mustang Island State Park, Camp Vol. 2

This trip to Mustang Island for my 30th birthday was originally intended to be our first family—and first ever for me—camping trip, but we decided it would be wise to have a trial run somewhere a bit closer to home. It was a chaotic week, and our 8th anniversary took a back seat as we spent that day unpacking, washing, and packing again in preparation for our beach trip. Cody made it sweet, still, by stopping to kiss me only about 1.5 million times that day. If you missed it, you can still read about our first trip to Colorado Bend State Park.

May 17th / I was feeling the weight of postpartum insecurities creeping in, so Cody encouraged me to go for a run. I had a sweet phone convo with a friend during my run, and that, combined with some good old fashioned endorphins put me in the right state of mind for a mini road trip. We packed the car and headed out. A little bit outside of Austin, Cody instructed me to open the drawer under my seat, revealing a little mound of presents and an envelope. An early birthday surprise! Inside the envelope he had written,

“For the woman who can’t stop

Voicing her love for the

Outdoors…”

Inside the envelope was money and his suggestions for what to buy at the Outdoor Voices store in Austin! A dream, you guys. Cody knew I had been interested in this brand for over two years, and that I really wanted to wear something fresh for my 30th birthday. I really appreciate that he took the extra step to look at the website and write a couple suggestions for me. I would have purchased the 3/4 warmup leggings in Lake if my size had been available. The cactus color I chose was his next favorite.

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If you love Outdoor Voices, too, you can use my link to get $20 off your first purchase of $100.

Our drive continued with the steady hum of… whining as our soundtrack. Nothing serious, but definitely that white noise all parents hope against hope won't find it's way into the day. We did some audiobooks, some movies, and some coloring. Our stop at OV had set us back a little bit, so we raced the sunset, hoping we would have just a few minutes of light to be able to locate a good site for our tent and get it up.

As we rolled up to the beach, the sunset was setting behind us in gorgeous streaks of pink. Seriously, it could have been the poster child for Glossier Cloud Paint.

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We stepped out of the car and as big gusts hit our faces and we heard the ocean roaring it was clear that the wind was exceptionally strong. Cody grabbed the bag nonetheless and hurried down the beach to find a spot to set up camp. We learned the next day that we could have driven along the shore, but getting stuck in the sand at sunset is not really how you want to start a camping trip. After waiting a few minutes, I realized that Cody probably needed help because of the wind. The boys and I headed down the beach after him. We managed to get the tent pitched, but the wind was too forceful. At this point Seb and Bruno were literally rolling their entire bodies around in the sand, which as far as they were concerned, might as well have been confetti. My kids are nothing if not festive in a high-pressure situation.

Now, totally dark, we took the tent apart and packed it up again. Suddenly our walk back felt like we were the Mario Brothers, jumping, rolling and shuffling around the hundreds of crabs scuttling all over the beach. There were tiny ones and big ones, and you could imagine you heard that distinctive zipping bloop sound each time we narrowly escaped one of those tricky side-steppers. Fortunately the rules of Nintendo games don’t apply to real life, so when Bruno stepped on a crab, barefoot, we didn’t have to start over. Phew! He yelled so loud, but was unharmed. Even in the moment I knew this was going to be a hilarious memory for our family.

After this, things became more civil. We found a spot to park and pitch in the RV lot on the other side of the sand dunes where it was considerably less windy. We ate sandwiches on the tastiest Rosemary bread from H.E.B. for supper at 10 p.m., weathered a few sand-in-eyes meltdowns, and took a family walk to the bathrooms. Again, we were facing another 11:00 p.m. bedtime, with kids, and again, it went horribly. Bruno couldn’t cope, and the poor babe fell asleep sitting up in the car with Cody next to him.

With heavy post-meltdown hearts, Cody and I finally closed our eyes minutes after midnight, with a kiss and the first “Happy Birthday!” wishes, seriously wondering if we could be a camping family after all.

May 18th / You know the old saying that things always look brighter in the morning? The person who coined that phrase must have been an avid camper.

I’ve never found that statement so true as on the mornings I’ve awoken in a tent. I’ve also never felt so refreshed in the morning. That gradual rising of the sun and shedding of warmth on your skin feels like a nature facial.

With this new revelation, my thirties were looking pretty bright. Of course the morning wasn’t all glittery sunshine on my 30-year-old—are those sunspots!?—skin. It had been a late night and the kids still felt that lack of sleep and showed it in their moods. Our impromptu camping spot prohibited fires, so we had to roll with the punches and opted to find a coffee shop and indulge in a light breakfast and hot drinks all around.

We went to Island Joes, a great little spot with a waffle bar, a few baked goods and hot menu. We split a couple small breakfast sandwiches and energy bites—all delicious.

The Moana soundtrack had been playing steadily in our home, so when the boys asked me what kind of birthday I wanted, I proudly announced I wanted a Moana theme. Well, they didn’t disappoint. Those thoughtful little dudes followed through by gifting me my very own Moana, Hei Hei, and Maui figurines. Dream come true, I tell ya. Nailed it, boys! They were very grateful that I like to share my treasures.

After that we ventured to the very windy beach at Mustang Island State Park. One of the best things about this beach is that you’re allowed to drive your car along the shore and build a campfire. There are even picnic tables dotting the coast. Cody alternately splashed with the boys in the warm gulf waves and built a fire, roasting hot dogs and marshmallows for us. If you’ve never eaten sandy campfire fare, get thee to Mustang Island! We had to rinse our hotdogs with water before eating them. And then, like the rebellious thirty-somethings that we are, we drank margaritas as our toes sunk into the sand. Unfortunately we soaked up a wee bit too much sun, and learned an eternal beachy-times truth: Leave your crunchy non-toxic sunscreen at home, because that scary spray stuff is your BFF (beach friend forever).

We found a great dinner spot at Irie's Island Food. It was one of those places where everything you order is perfect, and you leave feeling satisfied and delighted. If you go to Mustang Island, definitely make time to visit Irie's.

That night the boys went to bed after a flashlight glow coloring session, and sigh of relief, Bruno didn’t scream himself silly before bed. I fell asleep with a full heart, and thankfulness for the reminders of life that day. The good, the bad, and the ugly. These are the precious people with whom I’m honored to live. Thirty years. Thirty good years.

That camping trip was kind of the worst in so many ways, but as worse as the worse times were, the best times were the best best best of times. I’m thankful for a husband who sacrificed a lot of comfort (he’s not much of a beach-goer), and time to give me an adventure to remember, and that was really the best gift he gave me. Which is saying something, because when I consider those snazzy Outdoor Voices cactus-colored leggings and drool-worthy light sage colored flats, well, it was a pretty dreamy birthday.

Lesson no. 1 of my thirties, "dreamy" does not mean "without difficulty." Noted.