Camping for Dummies

What do you get when you mix 19 adults, 14 kids (12 of whom are 7 and under), 2 dogs, 17,583 ticks, 1 white bass, and 1 raccoon?

My weekend.

Yes, this weekend I braved the open country (otherwise known as a state park campgrounds) and went camping. Relaxing? Notsomuch. Clean? Hardly. But enjoyable nonetheless. And educational too! I thought I would share some highlights (and lowlights) of our trip and what I learned from them.

What I Learned On My Camping Trip
by pjmomof3boys

1. Packing sucks. No matter how long I think it will take to pack and load up for a trip, I always need to double it to be even remotely close to accurate. This trip proved to be no exception. In fact, it was even worse because I couldn’t rely on a hotel to provide us with things like bedding or water or anything. I was trying so hard to be organized, but in the end it was just as it always is–getting ready to pull out of the driveway when I scream, “Wait!” and run back into the house for something I (almost) forgot. Five times. And still, when we were 30 miles from home, I asked Husband, “You packed your contact stuff, didn’t you?” His response? “Uh, I thought YOU did.” Turns out, it was the same for his toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, t-shirt, shorts to sleep in, and UNDERWEAR! Super. This leads to the second thing I learned…

2. If you stop in a small-town Pamida for stuff you forgot to pack, you will pay for it. Big-time. Husband ran into a “discount store” to purchase said forgotten items (I guess he didn’t want to “rough it” quite THAT much) and came out with $50 less in his pocket. We were off to an EXCELLENT start.

3. Don’t pack the fishing poles where the kids can reach them. What is it with my kids? The entire trip down was spent telling Boy #3, “LET GO of the fishing line!” Later I realized that the fascination with the fishing poles wasn’t limited to Boy #3. Boy #2 was not only playing with the fishing poles but had the fishing line IN HIS MOUTH! I give up.

4. It’s not stressful at ALL to try to find a state park in the middle of Nowhere, Iowa, as it’s getting dark, with 4 kids in the car (we brought Jake, the favorite baby-sitter–the one whose name is carved into our kitchen table), a tornado warning in the area, and the light coming on reminding us that we were almost OUT OF GAS. Oh, and did I mention that I accidentally pulled the end off our car charger, and our cell phones were nearly out of battery? No, not stressful at ALL.

5. It’s also not stressful at ALL to put up a behemoth tent that you’ve never put up before in the dark under menacing storm clouds. Fortunately, we had plenty of manpower. And beer.

6. When sleeping in a tent with 4 kids (two of whom snore LOUDLY) and a dog, expect to use the term “sleeping” loosely. New definition: laying on a quick-to-deflate air mattress listening to the rumbling of the sky harmonizing with the rumbling of the 3-almost-4-year old in the sleeping bag beside you while sweating profusely and swatting mosquitoes.

7. Raccoons like Busy Bones. On the first night, I got up with the dog in the middle of the night to stop him from barking. As I was stumbling around waiting for the dog to find a good place to pee, I noticed that a garbage bag that had been left outside was ripped open and the contents strewn about the grass. Then I noticed that a bag I had left beside the cabin (yes–my mom, dad, sister, brother-in-law, niece, and nephew got to sleep beside us in a CABIN. Did I mention it was AIR-CONDITIONED? Yeah, hard to tell who’s the favorite daughter, isn’t it?) had been drug on the grass. It was a bag that I had packed for the dog. Looking inside, I noticed that not only was his dog food gone, but so was the second Busy Bone I had bought for the dog so he would go to sleep without barking on Saturday night. I could just see that raccoon dragging the Busy Bone back to his den, gnawing on that thing for hours. And me, up all night with my dog, sacrificing my arm so he had something to chew on to keep quiet. EXCELLENT.

8. When camping during the summer of a 500-year flood, be prepared for the beaches to be closed. Yes, there would be no swimming this weekend as the beaches were under water. The kids took it pretty well, though, especially when we offered to take them fishing instead.

9. Playing with worms is more fun than actually fishing. After hiking through tick-filled trails to find a place to cast our lines, we settled on a bridge. The little ones’ short attention spans quickly showed as they got bored watching the bobbers after about two minutes and busied themselves instead with terrorizing the night crawlers …followed by picking and eating mulberries. After about an hour of fishing, Boy #3 was the only one to catch anything. He was a proud boy!

10. It is impossible to go hungry while camping. At least when camping with my family and friends. Wow. I swear, we would just finish cleaning up from breakfast and we were dragging out food for lunch. And I’m not talking just lunchmeat and chips. (Well, that’s all WE brought.) Fortunately, we camp with the VERY BEST COOKS in the Midwest. No joke. I’m talking homemade meatloaf, chicken and noodles, mashed potatoes, blackened chicken salad, sugar cookies from scratch, and the absolute, hands-down BEST monster cookies you will ever come across in your entire life. And that was just for supper Friday night! Yeah, that goal of losing 10 pounds by the 4th of July officially went out the window this weekend. Unless, of course, I get really sick between now and Friday…Keep your fingers crossed!

11. There is nothing better than s’mores over a campfire. NOTHING. I lost count of how many marshmallows I roasted, but I have to brag that I got PRETTY good at it. In fact, my friend told me I roasted her “THE perfect marshmallow.” Golden brown on the outside, gooey in the middle. Maybe I have FINALLY found my calling…

12. During hurricane-force winds, a tent WILL stay up, but only by swaying violently from side to side. Did you know that when you are inside the tent, trying to sleep when this happens, it is really REALLY LOUD? Well, it is. Trust me. And when it starts raining along with the wind, it’s just icing on the cake. When I finally got up at the crack of dawn Sunday morning after not being able to sleep, I busied myself pulling ticks off the dog and throwing them outside the tent. Good times, good times.

13. “Family” is not limited to blood relatives. This was obvious after spending a weekend with family friends who have been just living life together for 31 years. We had the “first generation” who started it all–my parents and their friends. Then the “second generation”–us “kids” who all grew up together, playing at one another’s houses, camping, then later helping with one another’s weddings and throwing baby showers. And it was indescribable to watch the “third generation” interact. Even though they don’t see one another nearly as often as us “second generationers” did, they all got along wonderfully and played just like we all did growing up. Tag. House. Baseball. Touch-the-air-conditioner-and-slice-your-fingers. (Oh, I guess that was just Boy #2 who played that.) These people are truly a gift from God, and I couldn’t imagine my life–then or now–without them!

And the final thing I learned from my weekend of camping is…
14. My dog gets carsick. After finally pulling into our driveway, sweaty, muddy, carrying a tick or two, with our entire van filled to the brim with camping gear, dirty clothes, and dirty kids, my dog put the finishing touches on the weekend by throwing up. In my lap.

Should I have expected anything else?

I’ll leave you with some photos of our weekend.

The boys fishing, playing catch, and doing gymnastics on the bunk beds.


The tent, before and after, and the view of the lake from our campsite.

Mmm…food…
homemade cinnamon rolls, black toasted marshmallows, and made-to-order eggs…

A long day…Boy #3 was “missing” for a few minutes, and we found him by himself in one of the cabins–LIKE THIS. Note the string of snot going from his nose to the floor. Gotta love him–snot and all!



So, who’s up for going with us next year??

19 thoughts on “Camping for Dummies”

  1. OMG, you are much more daring than I. I would love to camp, but I require a camper or a cabin. lol
    Don’t ticks just creep you out?!!!!

    Love the pic of #3, snot and all!!!

  2. bless your heart, is all i can say! i have camped once in my life, pre-daughter. now i tell hubby if he camps, he camps alone while daughter and i stay home ๐Ÿ™‚ sooooo not my thing. but the idea of being with that many friends and family is great–good for you!

  3. You couldn’t pay me – I used to go with my first husband and my first two girls- ugh, did I mention we are divorced. lol. I enjoyed hearing about your trip from my AC’d living room. ๐Ÿ™‚ Seriously though, these are the times you remember forever!

  4. That is the best kind of camping…well minus the tornado warnings. And the crazy raccoons.

    I love when we camp or have trips with old friends. It is the best way to do it.

  5. pjmom–Sorry to break it to you, but while you may be a great marshmallow roaster, it’s not your calling…it’s writing! Loved the story and just reading it makes me sure of the fact that camping is, in fact, something I DO NOT have to do before I die! Bet your boys will remember it as the best trip EVER, though! Especially when you take Mommy’s Dream Vacation to the spa next year.

  6. Camping is the best. I must admit I did like the cabin bettr than a tent. We are so fortunate to have friends who are like family, maybe even better because we can go home without them!

  7. Thanks for all the comments! I have to admit, a hotel IS more my style, but if you’re going to camp, doing it with family and great friends is definitely the way to go (especially when they are also AWESOME COOKS)!

    And nochickens, I think Mommy’s Dream Vacation to the spa sounds FABULOUS right about NOW!

  8. You didn’t mention that the tent was YOUR birthday gift to yourself. Or that you conviently “had to take pictures” while the tent was going up.

  9. I remember the good old days of camping. We loved it. I remember when daughter fell out of the camper under the canopy and I was awaken by her cry for “mommy”. I couldn’t find her in the camper and then realized she had slip out under the canopy and was sitting on the ground holding her blanket and crying for me. Imagine how I felt. You are making so many great memories and it is cool you are writing them down. I still say you need to make a book!!! Hey, Art, I am surprised you didn’t have something other than putting the tent up to do!!! ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. I like camping, but discovered recently I LOVE camping from a camper. Turns out I’m a bit prissy.

    Great list. Will go back to it before our next trip ๐Ÿ˜€

  11. Sounds like one of my vacations with all the drama, except I don’t camp.

    The snot trial cracked me up!

  12. #12 & #14 – I'm so there with you, sista! My entry is about our camping trip, too. And I also used "highlights" and "lowlights" in the same sentence, just like you ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. Well it sounds like all in all, it was a pretty good trip…HA! The tick infested campground would have been enough to send me packing. You are one brave momma!

  14. Sounds like tons of fun, well except the tick. Ticks are icky! I really like camping but I need my husband so when something goes bump in the night, he can deal with it, not me! The wicked weather just makes for a great story.

  15. Your story was so entertaining! I love your list. We enjoy camping, but I could definitely relate to some of the list items – we have camped in the rain in a tent before.

    The pics and descriptions of all that food made me gain a few more pounds! ๐Ÿ™‚

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