Blog | Lindsey Smallwood


Not Going Camping

Lindsey Smallwood

Happy Friday friends - I'm coming to you live from my comfy spot at the Hot Springs with my family and sharing some words over at Middle Places on giving yourself permission for just good enough. Here's hoping you take these words of grace and enjoy the holiday! xoxo

I want to like camping.

In theory, I love it - smelling the fresh air, getting away from the routines and responsibilities of home, making space for adventure, creating memories together. But in practice, it ends up being

  1. exhausting – because even without two kids under two it’s hard to sleep in a sleeping bag. Seriously. It is so hard to get in and out of those things. Someone has got to find a way to make it easier.
  2. dirty. Every time we go I end up with laundry. FOR. DAYS. So much to clean – blankets, hats, hiking clothes, swim suits, towels – on and on it goes. Plus five days later my hair still smells vaguely of campfire smoke even after I lather, rinse and repeat with my best John Frieda.
  3. chaotic. There are only four of us, but we take so much stuff for one night away. Five full meals, four changes of clothes, three sets of blankets, two pack and plays and a partridge in a pear tree. Loading and unloading the car takes half the trip!

Nonetheless, even with all these challenges, we keep making reservations to live the dream at campgrounds all around our new home state of Colorado. We’ve toured Grand Lake, driven up the Poudre Canyon, spent the weekend in Rocky Mountain National Park and hiked the Beaver Creek trail in State Forest. We did all of these adventures with our Suburban loaded down with coolers full of camp-stove food and travel cribs that fit in our ten-man tent.

Until this weekend.

We had reservations to join friends from church at Lake Dillon, a beautiful mountain lake about two hours from our home. I had bought the food and finished the laundry and packed all the things my boys would need for our overnight trip. We were supposed to head up Saturday morning, spend the night and come back Sunday afternoon.

I woke up yawning Saturday morning, the night had not felt nearly long enough and I was not ready for the high-energy job of caring for an infant and a toddler who were already singing loudly from their cribs. I rolled over to see Chris grimacing, knowing that it would be many hours until our heads hit these pillows again.

“You want to call an audible on this one?” I asked. “We don’t have to go, our friends will understand.”

“No, no,” Chris replied. “We said we were coming, we should go.”

“What if we just went for the day?” I pushed back. “We could hike and picnic and see the lake and then head home for bedtime.”

Chris looked at me, fully awake.

“Yeah,” he said. “That actually sounds really nice.”

We scaled back our weekend plans and did the easier thing. Our friends teased us a little bit, but when we had both kids bathed and in bed at 8:30 and were cuddled up on the couch watching a movie, it wasn’t hard to feel like we’d made the right choice.

It’s not always easy for me, the lesser choice. To come for only a part of some event. To help with only one aspect of a project. To make the spaghetti and not the meatballs. It’s like there’s an invisible task master on my shoulder, barking orders, reminding me that I need to do it all to feel successful, that only in completing all the items on my to-do list will I feel accomplished.

The truth is that letting things go means usually means getting something in return. Only bringing snacks to Bible study instead of volunteering to lead the group means I can spend the time I would have needed to prep hanging out with my new neighbors. Buying storebought pesto instead of handcrushing basil leaves frees me up to finish a writing project. It might not taste as good, but it’s good enough.

Sunday morning my whole family slept in until 9:00. That would have never happened in a tent. We spent the morning together, rested and connected. It wasn’t the plan, but it sure felt good to us.

Friends, is there something you need to let go of? Are you trying to do all the things, only to find you’re left tired and wondering why? Tell us more in the comments below and give yourself permission for good enough this week.

Hot Pants & Heatstroke

Lindsey Smallwood

Last week we took a family trip to Moab, Utah.

Moab is a tiny tourist town nestled between two epic National Parks - Arches and Canyonlands. The landscape is like something out of a science fiction movie: enormous red earth temples carved by natural erosion in the rocks, land bridges and rock tunnels appearing out of nowhere, sweeping views of canyons larger than the eye can see, dotted with rivers, rocks and dirt roads. It's like no place I've ever been. 

After spending our first night in the cabin we rented at a local campground, we woke early to beat the desert heat by getting to the Park early for some kids-in-backpacks-and-frontpacks hiking. I packed our lunches and made sure we had enough water while the boys investigated the large ant colony by our picnic table. Cleaning up the breakfast dishes, I surveyed our tiny home-away-from-home and surmised that we were ready to go. 

Then I looked in the mirror. 

Instead of seeing a happy mother of two in a tailored top and carefully selected jeans, I found arm flab and jiggly thighs competing for attention with my tank top and running shorts. It's been a cold spring in Boulder and this moment was the first time I saw myself in summer clothes. It wasn't pretty. 

The embarrassment was tight in my chest.

Is this really what I look like?

The shame began to whisper.

That's what you get for snacking your way through nap time.

I threw off the outfit and changed into a different shirt and shorts combination, realizing as I looked back to the mirror that the clothes were not the problem. I briefly considered wearing jeans, even pulled them out of my suitcase, longing to hide myself in the dark forgiving fabric.

Really, Linds? You'd rather hide in your jeans and get heatstroke hiking in 100 degrees then let those hefty gams see some sunlight?

I put my shorts back on.

The hike to Delicate Arch that morning was incredible. Chris carried the water and we each wore a baby as we made our way up the steep mountain trail without any shade. It was hard work but the payoff was the incomparable views of surrounding canyons. I kept stopping just to say "Wow".

At the top, we found a fellow hiker willing to snap our picture. 


We sat down after we took the photo, getting out water and snacks for the boys. As I held out the straw for Tommy to take a drink, a woman stopped, watching us feed our sweaty babies. 

She looked me in the eye. 

"Beautiful," she said. "Just beautiful."

She kept walking. 

Her words landed like arrow, quick and sharp. She wasn't complimenting the way I looked in my shorts or how my tank top accentuated my curves. When she looked at us, enjoying the view and making a memory, she saw beauty. Beauty in being together.

And I saw it too. 

So often there's beauty if only you look in the right place.

We're home now, with a camera full of pictures and hearts full of sweet memories.

I'm tracking calories on my phone in hopes of feeling better in my shorts, while trying to ignore the voice.

The voice that says my body isn't what it should be. It's been there for as long as I can remember. It tells me the same stories of shame and failure over and over again. There is some truth to it's claims, but it would have me believe that it is the only thing that matters. 

It's not. 

Family matters more. 

Adventure matters more. 

Trying something new matters more. 

My marriage matters more. 

Enjoying the once in a lifetime chance to climb red earth canyons to sky high rock towers matters more.

I choose what matters more. 

So if you need me, I'll be rocking some shorts to play with my babies in the Boulder summer sun.

And looking for beauty in all the right places.

Even in pictures I told Chris to delete. 

Friends - are you choosing what matters more? How do you quiet "the voice"? Here's hoping you're finding ways to make the most of your one wild and precious life. 


Let Them Live

Lindsey Smallwood

Writing today at the Mudroom for the first time on hiking, writing and other things that shouldn't die...

My husband is from the Cascade Mountains in Washington State.

He’s at home in the outdoors. He’s a skier and a hiker and a rock climber. He loves the idea of overnights in the wilderness, navigating with a compass and the stars. My preferred form of adventure is trying a new grocery store, but I’ve been known to hike a mountain or two, especially if it means quiet time together with Chris.

There aren’t a lot of quiet wilderness moments when you have two babies in two years. Our life together lately is mostly focused on tending to our little ones and occasionally squeezing in quick family outings in between nap times. And though we moved to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains nearly five months ago, we haven’t actually made it much past the city limits.

Until yesterday.

After a leisurely morning building block towers, we decided to take a lunch up to a nearby State Park for a picnic. But loading and packing took more time than we anticipated and a wrong turn led us astray. We ended up eating our picnic in the parking lot of a hillside government building and then getting right back in the car to get home for nap time.

As we were driving down the hill to our apartment, we noticed a trail leading up the mountain, busy with hikers and families.

“Someday, I guess, “ Chris said, the disappointment thick in this voice.

Returning home, the boys went down for naps and we commenced with our weekend cleaning rituals.

Dinnertime neared and Chris suggested we get something ready to eat.

And as I looked out the window behind him, I was struck by how light it was outside, that even at 6:00, we still had at least 90 minutes of daylight left.

“Let’s go,” I told him. “We’ll give the boys a quick dinner and we’ll go hiking up that trail, the one we passed on the way home.”

“But it’s late,” he said. “It’ll be dark soon and they need baths and it takes time to load everything up.”

“Let’s go anyway,” I said, not responding to his valid points.

“You’re serious?” he asked, eyes beginning to spark with adventure.

“Totally,” I replied.

Off we went, infant and toddler in tow, with plans to hike a mountain before bedtime.

Arriving at the trailhead, we strapped on the babies and began to climb. The further we got into the trees, the fuller Chris’ chest seemed to become. Step by step, I watched as he relished in the surroundings and relaxed into a state of quiet joy.

“I feel . . alive again,” he told me, slowly. “You know? There’s a part of me that needs this.”

“I know,” I replied.

And I did know. I could see it in his expression, his posture, his movements.  He was standing straighter, smiling, moving with a zest I hadn’t seen in awhile.

And I knew because I understood what it’s like to bring a passion back to life.

Scurrying up a hillside is not my cup of tea. I’d prefer the cup of tea—with a spot to write a story or a song. But since becoming a mother, I haven’t often made time for these loves.

Instead I find myself flipping on the TV for the last ten minutes of a home renovation show or scrolling through my news feed. Not my passions, but who has time for those?

Giving up social media for Lent this year made me realize how much I missed being creative. When I stopped consuming everyone else’s updates and comments and ideas, I wanted to make my own.

And so I started to carve out time. A few minutes in the morning. A half-hour in the afternoon. Some nights after bedtime.

Time to be alive again.

To feel the spark of creativity. To craft words into stories for the pleasure of it. To find myself on the page.

It’s bringing me to life in new ways.

There are passions that will cause the heart to ache if they are not given space to flourish.

Let them live.

There won’t be enough time.

Let them live anyway.

There are other things that need to be done.

But let your passions live. Resurrect them if you must.

Remember that you are alive but once.

And that mountains can be climbed before bedtime.

This story originally appeared at The Mudroom.
Find it by clicking here