Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Camping: Party of Eight--An Epic Failure of Biblical Proportions

Tell'em Louise!

No, this is not an exaggeration.

Yes, this was the suckiest camping trip ever.

Yes, worse than the time when I was a kid and my whole family was throwing up while my dad put up the tent in the rain (yes, this is part of why it has taken me 25 years of married life to go on my first camping trip as an adult).

Yes, at one point as I sat on the edge of my air mattress, on the verge of tears, I thought "If my phone battery hadn't died I would probably call Stori and tell her I am not coming to the OFA reunion this summer because I can't possibly survive another night of sleeping in a tent with my children."

Our trip was sort of doomed from the start by the Old Testament plagues that we encountered at our campsite.  Not storms of fire and locusts, but storms of seaweed and mosquitoes.

For our first camping trip (outside of our backyard), we decided to spend the night at the beach at Sea Rim State Park.  My kids LOVE the beach.  They were ready to play in the sand, splash in the waves, and collect hundreds of seashells.  But instead, as we walked down the path to the beach we came to this thick, black, smelly mass. Miles and miles and miles, as far as the eye could see, nothing but seaweed.  Seaweed. Seaweed teaming with flies. Seaweed 2-3 feet deep in spots. Seaweed blocking any possible way to get to the water.

We came to the beach for vacation and there was NO BEACH!

This was all the beach we got.  Some sand, no water.

Haven said, "This looks like a chew toy for Big Foot!"

If you could get to the water it was still just more and more seaweed washing in.
As you might expect, my kids were very disappointed.  We had planned to play in the water, go back to the campsite for dinner, then go back after dinner for a little beach combing.  But there was no beach. OMGGGG.  I tried to just tough it out and walk down to the water, through the piles of seaweed, but my feet started to sink in and there were lots of little creepy bugs swarming around my ankles.  I just wasn't that tough.

But my little darlings made the best of a really crummy situation.  We all settled down on the 4 foot swatch of sand at the end of the foot path and started building sand castles.

The artist at work.

Don't even think about touching my shovel!

Can you believe Daddy wore tennis shoes and socks to the beach?


Kill the sand castle!  Hurry before it gets away!

Frisbee anyone!

A little sand in the eye.

Beach Beauty!

Louise is her own circus act!

Digging to China!


Chocolate, vanilla, butterscotch, and buried toes.
So after awhile, Daddy went back to the campsite with JoJo and Manny to fix dinner.  I stayed with the other four and we picked up some lame broken shells.  But the kids didn't know they were lame and everyone really was having fun in spite of the seaweed plague.

We headed back to camp for dinner.  Grilled burgers and s'mores for desert!  The kids had a blast roasting their first marshmallows.  Manny especially was loving the cooking.  He didn't care about eating the s'mores, he just kept cooking more marshmallows.

More please.
My master chefs.
As the kids were finishing up I started to take them into the tent to get on their pj's while Brian finished up outside.  Suddenly he started yelling, "Get in the tent, GET IN THE TENT!"

Plague #2 had arrived--MOSQUITOES. Totally out of nowhere a swarm of tiny black mosquitoes rolled over our campsite.  They were mean and aggressive and had a bite like a fire ant.  Manny came in crying, covered with bites and Brian was freaking out trying to keep the bugs out of the tent.  Everyone was screaming and sticky and sweaty.

And then we realized that half of what we needed to sleep that night was still in the van.  Out there.  With the mosquitoes.  Here is where our most miserable 30 minutes of camping happened.  Here is where Parenting to Connect went straight out the window.  Here is is where the night simply fell apart.

I volunteered as tribute.  I had to get 8 pillows and blankets, several towels, and a bungee cord, out of the van and back into the tent without letting any extra mosquitoes back into the tent.  I got to the van, got everything piled and ready to move, but realized that I was trapped in the van by the child safety locks on the side door.  So Brian had to come let me out and help me drag the great mass of bedding into the tent.  

Once inside we started to get everyone settled in, and started piling towels around the air conditioner perched in our tent doorway to keep out more mosquitoes.  We got it all arranged, turned the knob, and nothing!  No power.  Louise had unplugged the cord from the outlet!!!!!

So Brian trudged back outside into the plague, plugged us back in, rearranged the tent flap and finally the AC came on.  We turned on a movie for the kids to settle down with, everyone took a turn on the porta potty, and little by little they all drifted off to sleep.

Except for me.  I'm not entirely sure I slept for more than a few minutes at a time.  The AC was woefully inadequate and the tent was like an oven.  The wind was blowing outside and rattling the zippers on the tent windows. Bugs were slapping themselves against the walls of the tent.  And everyone once in a while I'd get another mosquito bite.

Brian tossed and turned all night, too.  And sweaty little children kept crawling over to my air mattress to cuddle.  

This camping trip was one of Dante's circles of Hell.

But I  did survive.  We all did.  And somehow, in the early hours with the birds chirping and the ocean breeze blowing, it all seemed a tiny bit less disastrous. But only a tiny bit.  It was still the suckiest camping trip ever.

Yet, we will try it again.  This afternoon we were already trying to decide where our next, much better, trip was going to be.  We learned some important lessons on this trip.  Mostly, that we are going to need a lot of practice to be good at camping.  Who knew!

We also learned:

  • We need much longer extension cords and we need to Louise-proof them.
  • We need to unload every single thing that we could possibly want out of the van as soon as we set up camp (not later, after the plagues arrive).
  • We are not going to do any more cooking on our trips.  We'll stick to cold cuts, snack foods, and fruit.
  • We will never make s'mores again.  Ever.
  • We need rugs inside the tent and outside the door.
  • Our AC plan needs tweaking.  And we need to add a big fan.
  • The porta potty was the very best camping supply we bought.
  • Bedtime is always a drag at our house, even on a good night.  So it will always be a drag in a tent, too.  We just need to brace ourselves for it.
  • People in trailers and motor homes are not really camping.  And we are very jealous of them.
  • No matter how crummy a time we seem to be having, the kids mostly remember the fun parts.
Best Fun EVER!

OK, I've gotta go take a nap.  This camping trip kicked my butt. It may take me a while to recover.  

Do any of you Texas campers have suggestions for our next camping adventure???

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