8. Go camping. Suck it up and do it. - DONE!
Look at my kiddo up there. All covered in mud. And that was the BEGINNING of our camping expedition! THUMP! Did you hear that "thump?" That's the sound of my friend Lindz somewhere in Georgia falling over dead at the sight of that mess. Quick! Someone resuscitate her!! ;)
The last time I went camping was Girl Scout camp, circa 1990. I'm not even sure if I made it through a whole night before calling my mom to come pick me up. And even them we didn't sleep outdoors. We slept in sleeping bags on cots in a little bungalow.
Seriously. I don't even know how that counted toward a badge, but whatevs.
So my dear friends Erika and TJ offered to help me knock #8 off my list, and I'm so glad they did, because I would've been COMPLETELY CLUELESS without them.
Erika had camped before, had all of the supplies (whatever those may be) and even knew of a great campsite. She sent me the link for the campsite, and I have to admit, even to my untrained eye, it looked pretty awesome. Sprawling land with forests thick with the Appalachian Trail, a giant sparkling lake, and the best part---there were bathrooms!! Score. I'm in.
So we picked a weekend, and made our plans. I had NOTHING to bring, no tent, no sleeping bag, no air mattress. When I say "camping clueless" I really mean I-would-never-even-consider-going-camping-because-if-I'm-going-away-from-home-I'm-staying-somewhere-nice-dammit.
It's truly not even something I'd consider doing, that's how foreign it is to me. I put it on the list because I found myself as an adult saying, "I hate camping!" and then people would say, "well, have you ever really gone camping?" and the answer would be "well, this one time a Girl Scout camp..."
Then someone would make a bad "American Pie" joke, and it would all go downhill from there.
I needed to prove that my hatred for camping was based on proof. I had to experience this firsthand and draw my own conclusions.
I say this begrudgingly.
Anyway, so the blessed day arrives, and we're on our way out to the campsite. I will admit, I was actually a teeny tiny bit....excited. And as we approach the campsite, it's looking pretty cool. Erika and TJ were a few miles ahead of me, so as I pull into the park, I'm getting more and more excited.
That is until I see a sign that say, "CAMPGROUND FULL."
The campground's full.
Apparently it was "National Take a Walk in a National Park Day" and that was why the campground was full. Seriously. This kind of stuff only happens to me. It's unreal.
I find Erika and TJ, and Erika's already on the phone calling around to other sites. I swear, SHE should've been the Girl Scout. There was no option for NOT camping, especially cause we were fully packed and the kids were AMPED up. So we finally get through to another one of the sites. It's only 10 miles away, they have space available for us, and it's conveniently located on the Antietam Battlefield. Awesome.
So we drive over there, pay for our spot, and find our campsite.
Let me just say this. If our campsite pick #1 was the Four Seasons of campgrounds, then this runner-up was definitely the Econolodge. It was...a tight squeeze to say the least. And muddy.
Really really really really muddy.
mud puddle campsite before we set up shop:
We're all pretty adaptable and decided to roll with the punches. Erika compared it to tailgating in the rain...you just have to accept it in order to have fun. We all accepted the fact that we were gonna be a muddy mess by the end of adventure, and started setting up the tent.
A word about the tent. Here is the tent before:
During the set up process:
(Sadie and TJ taking a break, bonding over Angry Birds):
The final tent:
I have to talk about this tent. It was absolutely majestic. It was like the Hilton of tents. In fact is was so amazing that I dubbed it "the Hiltent" for the weekend.
Let's talk about the Hiltent.
It had FOUR rooms. Seriously. The Hiltent may or may not have had more square footage than the first floor of my house. A portion of it was actually called "the atrium." The directions even said that, "use the long pole while erecting the atrium."
(SIDE BAR: I love using the word erect or erecting in casual conversation. Just goes back to my fifth grade boy sense of humor. You're welcome!)
So once the Hiltent, with it's atrium and mutiple vestibules, was finished, and successfully erected (giggle, giggle) we decided to kick back and relax, and do whatever it is that people do when they are camping. We ended up taking a tour of all of the campgrounds "amenities."
We looked at the creek:
We played in the "Kids Kabin:"
We swung on a tire swing:
We played on the slides...take a look at these muddy, muddy children (Sadie on left, Zane on right):
We played tether ball, the world's DORKIEST GAME EVER:
There was a pretty hilarious moment during a particularly heated tether ball game. It ended with *someone* (who shall not be named) laughing so hard she peed her pants and said, "That's what I get for never doing my Kegels."
We hung out down by the creek more:
Made ice cream in THE ONLY piece of camping equipment I brought---an ice cream maker!
It was actually crazy good. I will use that thing at home and make homemade ice cream whenever I want. Easy and delicious!
At one point Erika asked what time it was. It felt as if we had been there for days.
We had only been there for two hours.
We decided we discovered the secret to making sure our kids don't grow up too fast. We always find ourselves saying, "time is flying! They're growing so fast!"
Just take your kids camping. Time will pass veeerrrryyy slowly. Ha.
But that's just fine, when you get to spend time with cute faces like these:
(Please excuse my total lack of make-up. Guess I was going for that au naturale Susan B. Anthony pioneer woman look):
Though I have to admit, lounging in the Hiltent, with the cool breeze and the sun shining WAS pretty awesome...
and the kiddos LOVED jumping from one air mattress to another.
Sadie and Zane. They are cut from the same cloth. Zane IS Sadie. It's nuts how they have the exact same personality. She loves him. But then again, how can you not? It's super sweet.
Pretty soon it was dinnertime. TJ got started on the fire, but ultimately got some good help from our neighbors to the right. See that white canopy? Yeah, those were our neighbors. We could practically reach out and touch them. ;)
Well, what were you expecting, the FOUR SEASONS?!
We soon discovered one of the benefits of our Econolodge campground...the daily tractor ride around the
Here we are on the tractor. I'd like to add that neither Zane nor Titus had pants on. And I don't believe Sadira had shoes on. We were going for the full hillbilly experience.
(Again, don't run in fear at my lack of make-up):
Oh, and did I mention Santa just happened to be camping with us? It was him. He was even kind enough to let Sadie and Titus unleash their 2011 Christmas lists, and gave them an update on Mrs. Claus and the Reindeer.
Who knew that during the off season Santa enjoyed steamed crabs and camping in Western Maryland?
Erika made dinner over the fire. I'm not sure how much cooking versus charring was going on, but I will say she did a helluva better job than either TJ or myself could do.
And Sadie loved it.
Then it was s'more time. YUMMMMM....
(Hey Lindz, look at Zane's feet. I dare you. I triple dog dare you!)
As we were getting the kids settled in to bed (a difficult task, since they were impressed with the Hiltent too), I pulled out the super-appropriate bedtime reading material we had decided to bring along--Curious George Goes Camping. Everyone was enjoying themselves, and we were just getting to the part where Curious Geroge saves the campground from certain destruction by forest fire, when I look up and see a GIANT SPIDER ON THE INSIDE WALL OF THE HILTENT, JUST INCHES ABOVE SADIRA'S HEAD.
Please refer to this post for my feelings on spiders.
Then Erika and I did what anyone in our position would do. We stayed calm just long enough to grab the kids out of bed, and yank them by their arms into our laps on the other side of the tent, all the while saying, (calmly but with a sense of urgency) "comeherecomherecomeherecomeherecomehere!!!!" and then the minute we had them, start screaming like little girls for TJ to come save us.
Erika had the flashlight firmly fixed on that arachnid, and I kid you not, it was like this big:
From here <-------------------------------------------------------------------------> To here.
I may be exaggerating, I've been known to do so, but I don't think I am. Homeboy was HUGE. And all I kept thinking about was how spiders with legs that long could move fast.
Seriously dude, I get we're camping and all, but that spider was RIDIC. Didn't he know we were staying in the Hiltent?? Spiders are not welcome in the Hiltent!!!!!
(TJ removed the offender, and later even admitted that the thing was huge, and we were justly warranted for screaming like banshees. Thanks TJ!)
That night as I got settled in my own air mattress (in the Hiltent's left wing), and realized that we were really were SLEEPING OUTSIDE for the WHOLE night, I got to thinking about wild animals, and bugs, and any other things that might make their way toward us. But as I examined the flying buttresses of the Hiltent, I figured the liklihood of that happening was probably slim.
I guess us adults had enjoyed a little too much to drink, because we needed to make multiple trips outside the Hiltent to pop a squat. And when you're in the middle of nature, things are much louder than they normally would be with the city noise. At one point nature called Erika, and TJ so eloquently asked her if she was straddling the tent, since we could hear her so clearly. Of course then I started laughing and couldn't fall back asleep.
Another point during the night I woke up FREEEZING. Fortunately this was the one thing I had plan ahead for, and threw on a couple layers and grabbed an extra blanket. I figured if I was freezing, Sadie would be an ice cube....however this is how I found her:
Looks pretty comfy, huh? All she had on was a pair of PJ's and ONE blanket. I, on the other had, had sweatpants, a t-shirt, a sweatshirt, and three blankets and was still shivering. Unreal.
For comparison, here's Titus:
Erika and I had a few giggles at their expense. :)
The next morning inevitably arrived, and Baby Zane was the first to wake up. An hour so later, the rest of the kids followed, which meant I had to wake up too.
We had some breakfast:
Played in the Hiltent:
and thought about what we were going to do for the rest of the day. Hiking? Fishing? Paddle boat down the creek?
Who am I kidding, we had the cars packed up and ready to go by 9:30am. Hahahaha. ;)
But all in all, it was a fun and very interesting experience. Although I still don't think I'm the "camping type," it wasn't HORRIBLE, just not how I would choose to spend a weekend. (There were some folks there who said they went camping there EVERY WEEK in the summer. Could you imagine? EVERY WEEK? Nope, no thanks.)
Camping is something that I'd be willing to do maybe once a year, for a day or two. It was definitely fun to do something different. Though, if I ever go camping again, I would DEFINITELY have to go with Erika and TJ. Having good friends along for the adventure made it 100% worth it. I couldn't imagine how miserable it would be to be stuck outside in the mud with friends who didn't make the best of the situation. Or rescue you from spiders. Or char your dinner. ;)
And now that I've been camping in the Hiltent, I wouldn't be able to stay anywhere less. ;)
And let me tell you, that shower that I took when I got home was the BEST SHOWER OF MY LIFE!!!!!!!!!!!!
Once again, I'm reminded how I truly have the best friends in the business. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, Sadira and I are so lucky to have the people in our lives that we have now. We really hit the friend jackpot, and Erika and TJ are just two examples of that.
Thanks Erika, TJ, Titus and Zane for joining us on this adventure. I'll even go so far to say that you might be able to twist my arm and get me out camping again sometime!