My parents were invited to a Memorial Day camping weekend with three families from their church, and because my daughters automatically assume that anytime their trailer is hitched to the back of my dad's vehicle en route to a campground they should be following right behind, we scored ourselves an invite to tag along. I grew up camping, but all I can say is that roughing it with your own children sure adds a whole new dimension to the experience. There were so many funny, memorable, bloggable moments from our weekend at Moraine View State Park that I really should have been blogging in real time, but I didn't so I'll just try to document some of the highlights as well as a few valuable lessons learned.
For those of you who hold firm to the belief that camping is not relaxing, I want to provide some first hand experience to the contrary. This weekend was the first time we took the girls camping as part of a larger group. Between the four families that were camping together, there were a total of ten children ages three to ten. From the moment we unpacked, my children were nearly constantly entertained. I was really able to embrace my inner neglectful parent while they rode their bikes, ran from camper to camper to play and watch movies, and took off on their own to play at the nearby park. I'll admit that it took a good half hour for my helicopter-parent-in-crowded-public-places mode to disengage, but after I was certain that Shortcake and Punkin understood three rules (always stay together, never go near the water without an adult, and come tell me if you are going somewhere different than where you are going now) the atmosphere was glorious.
Scene: outside the camper chopping kindling for the fire, early Saturday evening
Papa Poke: Punkin, where are you going?
Punkin: To Allie's campuh.
Papa Poke: Why?
Punkin: 'Cause I want to play wif huh.
Papa Poke: Don't you want to stay here with me?
Punkin: No, I want to play wif Allie.
Papa Poke: But aren't I special?
Punkin: (walking away with a backwards glance) Not dat special.
(And trust me, that girl knows a thing or two about being special.)
Injury Report: Shortcake managed to sustain minor injuries to her upper hip region and knee when she fell off her bike while practicing without training wheels (she and I got tangled up in our effort; my injuries were severe bruising of my knee and dignity); middle finger after learning the valuable lesson that you never swat at a fish hook dangling from a line; upper elbow area after taking a second fall three miles into a bike ride around the lake; and her back after falling out of the hammock.
Most of Saturday and Sunday was either spent indoors in an effort to avoid the rain or rushing through outdoor activities before the next storm passed through. On one of those efforts my dad and I took the girls down to the dock for a little fishing. I was one of the only ones to actually catch a fish - a baby walleye according to those with fishing knowledge - and while I was equally part shocked and excited (and also pissed because I failed to bring my camera along to document the event) I also capitalized on the opportunity to look like a total moron:
Jr. High Aged Fisherman: What did you use to catch that fish?
Me: A Princess pole.
Jr. High Aged Fisherman: (with a look of total disgust at my ignorance) No, I mean what's on your hook?
Me: Um, I don't know. I think it's green?
Jr. High Aged Fisherman: Here, let me just look at it.
What I wanted to tell that punk was to stop drawing attention to my mad walleye catching ability seeing as how I was fishing illegally. The only thing causing me more panic than getting busted for not having a fishing license was how I was going to get that dumb fish off my line (which ended up being a non-issue because Jr. High Aged Fisherman was more than eager to do the work for me).
My parents, God bless them and their willingness to take on our crazy for two days in close quarters, love them some Hobos. A camp fire delicacy, these stupid aluminum foil encased meals cause more turmoil and tribulation than you can imagine. Always focused on conflict avoidance, this trip's Hobo related debacle led me break the tension by creating an on-the-spot dance I appropriately named "The Hobo Hoedown Meltdown". Look for it coming to a dance floor near you soon.
I really have to keep my bashing of these two to a minimum though. As I said, they graciously allowed the girls and I to tag along on their weekend getaway while feeding us, letting us steal the big bed, and helping me out during those moments when the girls actually required some adult attention. Thanks, guys, for the hospitality and entertainment.
As I mentioned, the majority of Saturday afternoon was spent inside the camper due to steady rainfall. Luckily the four families' campers were all parked in a row and all parents subscribed to an open door policy allowing kids to hop from one camper to another. Saturday night it was revealed that the following took place away from our camper, an event that is classically Punkin.
Scene: Katie & Neil's brand new Taj Mahal like camper. Katie, Neil, Alicia, and Greg are vising at the table when Punkin enters.
Katie: Hi, Punkin. None of the kids are in here right now. They're all playing in Becky & Brian's camper.
Punkin: Yeah, I know. I just came in he-uh to poop.
Luckily, the adults in the camper have a great sense of humor, a deep appreciation for Punkin's personality, and found her innocence hilarious.
Monday finally brought sunny skies and warm temperatures which makes perfect sense considering that was our departure day. My dad organized an impromptu water balloon and squirt gun fight, a definite highlight of the weekend for the kids, their parents and even strangers who watched with delight from their own nearby sites.
I firmly believe that conversations around a campfire set the scene for the most enlightening and therapeutic words exchanged between friends.
Sunday night's talk confirmed:
- a mother's guilt is a universal binding force
- there is little that causes a mother more pain than watching her child hurt and not being able to fix it
- no matter how well you know and understand your own child, it sometimes takes another mom's perspective for that "aha moment" which allows you to see your child in a whole new light
In addition to not paying employees' salaries as well as other assorted bills, the State of Illinois must be cutting costs by not budgeting for the cleaning and general upkeep of their state campsite bathrooms. One word: disgusting.
If her growing belly isn't enough proof, you should take Cari's choice for a mid-afternoon snack as a clear indicator that she is indeed pregnant.
When the girls ask to help make pancakes for breakfast, you should eat with caution. Although they were great helpers, they aren't afraid to pick their noses, put their fingers in their mouth, use the box to kill an ant, or other undocumented unsavory behaviors during the meal preparations.
One of the less glamorous sides of camping in luxury is the obligatory dump station visit. Luckily camp officials always put safety first. Quite literally, here's your sign (and I shudder to think why this warning is even necessary).
The girls were appropriately unimpressed.
While we all missed The General while he stayed home in an effort to finish odd jobs around the house, the girls and I had so much fun. The girls were filthier than they have ever been in their lives for the majority of the weekend, but the smiles on their faces were almost constant. Getting away from the distractions of home, surrounding yourself with family and good friends, taking time to enjoy the sun, woods, water, and even thunderstorms that surrounds you, and creating memories that will last forever - this is what I love about camping*.
*As long as I have a semi-comfortable mattress, running water, ample electricity, and functional toilet and shower at the ready.