One of my personal sabbatical goals was to camp by myself with the kids this summer and I am happy to report I did that last week. Since we started camping I have heard the wonderful tales of my mother in law's solo summer camping adventures at Airline Park and Nickerson State Park on the Cape. She would camp all summer, read tons of books and found it to be so relaxing. She spoke so fondly of these times I thought "I need to try this myself!" Now, admittedly, I am not ready to be a seasonal camper. I'm afraid of bridges, don't like trolls, and don't want a sign that tells everyone my name and where I am from (see my previous post as a reference here). However, I felt I could easily do a week. I figured the Cape would be a safe location...Tim could come rescue me if need be, I have my mother, 2 sisters, and in laws there, and I know the Cape very well. Baby steps.
I ended up at Peter's Pond RV Resort in Sandwich which turned out great. It has 2 beaches on the pond, both were within walking distance of our site. We had a nice private site, there were activities during the week (bring on the BINGO!), and it was very family oriented. To try out my Camper Peep scale, I honestly did not see any Slackers or Sweats, there were one or two Serious Campers, a smattering of Helpful Regulars, and the great majority were Seasonal Folks. There were limited amounts of The Rest of Us. Still no preppy camper sightings.
T Minus 1: Timmy gave me the lowdown to prepare me. He showed me How to Light The Grill (I am afraid I will blow up in the process), How to Light the Water Heater ("It has never gone out on me"), and How To Empty the Tanks (Hi God, It's Me Kelly...Are You Kidding Me?")
Day One: I get up to make a fantastic breakfast...visions of pancakes, bacon, bagels, and OJ are dancing in my head. I go to light the grill...nothing. No spark, nothing. Huh....ok, let me try again. My upper lip begins to sweat. Mabye I'm not doing it right. Maybe the next time I push the button we will all blow up because I have had the gas on too long. Finally I call Timmy...he doesn't answer so I leave him a message through clenched teeth...that sounds something like "You NEED to call me asap...something is wrong with your STUPID grill!" Five minutes later Timmy calls back. He has me check a few things and it turns out the propane is empty. What the What?? So, I can't cook or take a shower because we have no gas or hot water?! Cue up the rain clouds. I quickly make my way to the office and cry big tears...."my husband...he's away all week...I don't know how to get the tank off the camper...can you help me?!" They promise to help. Insert the moonsoon rains. We are on a hill...with the camper on the down slope. Luckily one item on my sabbatical list is to paint more and I have brought watercolors, paper, and brushes. We hunker down and paint....for several hours...with the rain falling steadily. Mimi painted a giant flower, Jack painted a Jeep Jamboree (of course), and I painted a beach scene. The kids were so impressed with my painting skills that I felt like Picasso. Mimi told me I should get a job as a painter for my next job. I am, in no way, a great painter, but boy does positive reinforcement make you feel good. Remember to always pump up your kids...it does a world of difference no matter what age they are! Then the kids decided to paint a picture together and I moved on to a mermaid picture. This should have been a warning sign for me...my kids decideded to paint a picture together?? It only lasted about 15 minutes before the smack down ensued. I decided, despite the pouring rain, we needed to get out of the camper and take a break. So, we drove around for about 2 hours getting to know the area, and ended up getting take out since I wasn't about to grill in the pouring rain.
I should mention that the water heater that has "never gone out" needed to be started again. I should also mention that I am afraid of fire and am such a potential fire nut that Tim calls me The Fire Marshall. So, when he told me that I had to relight the heater with a match, I almost passed out. I had him on the phone walking me through it and his first instruction is "Okay, let me just warn you that once you get it lit, there is going to be noise like a jet engine and a little fire kick back." Ah, ok...I can take cold showers for 5 days, no problem. Realizing he has scared the bejesus out of me he says "You can do this...it's not that bad!" So, I haul the kids out of the camper. Mimi was sitting near the water heater so when I blew up the camper, I wanted her to have a fair shot to run free. I had Jack hold the phone for me and this is what I ACTUALLY said to my 11 year old son "Jack, if I catch on fire, tell Daddy and then run." He nearly soiled himself and then said "ah, ok". Just as I am about to light the thing he says "Mom, wait!! If you catch on fire, should I roll you on the ground?!" It was at this moment I thought, "I may have done some damage here." I told him "I won't really catch on fire, Buddy" and then proceeded to do the sign of the cross and I lit the match. Turns out it wasn't so bad...and I DID it! I did make Tim stay on the line for about 10 minutes though in case I did it wrong and the camper self combusted. Obviously we made it out alive.
Day 2: It was a busy day! I had signed up in April for a Diamond Back Terrapin Walk on Sandy Neck, knowing how much Jack loves the turtles. I highly recommend this...you can sign up through the Sandy Neck website. For two hours, several educators taught us about the turtles that live in the area, including a red eared slider that someone got sick of having at their house and they let go in the dunes...a fresh water turtle in a salt water environment. For those who don't know, Jack has owned a red eared slider for the past 5 years (shout out...or more like a smack down to my sister Courntey) and we are all about the turtles. We got to meet a baby diamondback, dig up turtle eggs, and view their nests. After that we had lunch on Sandy Neck, went for a quick swim, and then went on a Family Canoe trip at the Green Briar Nature Center in Sandwich. We went on a canoe trip in search of turtles (of course) and frogs. We didn't catch any of the like but got a great education in pond ecology and saw a beautiful pair of swans. Then it was home for Jack's summer baseball game.
Day 2 1/2: Why do kids wake up sick and feel the need to tell you they are going to throw up instead of going directly to the toilet. I awake at 2 am to Mimi leaning over me saying "I feel like I am going to throw up!" She then proceeds to vomit on the couch/kitchen table. I move her to the bathroom and then stand in a daze wondering how to pick up her spew. I don't have any Resolve or carpet cleaning supplies. I am woefully unprepared for camper vomit. I wonder what the girl scout badge would be for camper vomit? I do the best I can with paper towels, a sponge, and some Dawn dishwashing liquid. Mimi emerges from the bathroom with vomit hanging from her hair. I quickly put it in a pony tail and send her back to bed. It's not a pretty moment.
Day 3: The sun is shining and Mimi is vomit free! She takes a shower and then Tim's mom came to the campground for the day which was so fun! Our campsite clearly brought back memories of when she camped with the kids and to have someone appreciate the camping experience was fun. We went to the pond...which has a playground that is partially submerged under water since the pond level has risen over time. So, there is Tim's Mom in her Lily Pulitizer bathing suit...hair in a perfect ponytail, sunglasses on..and she decides to go down the slide! The kids thought it was the funniest thing they have ever seen! Props to Nanny for living in the moment!! We had a great picnic lunch and then Mimi went home with Jeanne while Jack and I went home for baseball. Mimi had the pleasure of dining with her aunt and cousins and then went to a play at Harwich Jr. Theatre. Lucky Duck!
Day 4: Jeanne dropped Mimi off around 7:15 am. I didn't sleep well all night because I thought I would sleep through the alarm. Once I picked her up, we both went back to bed until 9:30 am. Now that is more like it! This day did not turn out harminous. Does everyone's kids fight as much as mine? What am I doing wrong?! It was a virtual emotional and verbal smackdown every day and it's surprising I lasted until day 4 before I threatened to harm my children if I heard one more negative interaction. Luckily, Jack's friend happened to be on the Cape for vacation so we went and picked him up and he spent the day with us at the campground. In addition, I made plans to have my sister's three kids stay overnight. She is so good to us and takes my kids throughout the summer that I never feel I can repay her adequately. Her kids love to camp...and she and her husband do not...so this works out perfectly. We ate take out pizza, played games, went to the arcade, and made smores. By 10 they were all in bed and I was exhausted. Now my youngest niece tends to get up early...like 5:30 am early. I am, by no means, an early riser, but quite honestly, if this little girl got up at 2 am I would get up with her. She is quite possibly the cutest, sweetest kid on the planet. But then again, when she woke at 5:30 am I pretended to be deep in sleep. Cute or not...I like my sleep. I could feel her standing over me...looking at me...waiting for any movement....but I held still. She padded back to bed and within 10 minutes she was out like a light and did not wake up until almost 8:00 with the other kids. Wahoo!! We had breakfast and then went to the Woods Hole Aquarium. I will save you the details but for those going, please allot plenty of time for the trolley. Again, I love that my niece takes my hand, swinging it like no one's business. And she asks me silly questions like "What's your favorite word?" (Hers is "boobies")....and "Do you like root beer or sprite better?" I miss that age...so darn cute. And she has the cutest laugh...she could ask me to take someone out with a box cutter and I wouldn't hesitate to make her happy. We finally meet up with her parents and my parents at the Barnstable County Fair...aka...Monsoon Fest 2010. Bottom line: Fun for Kids...Sucked for Parents and Grandparents. Tim was coming down that night so we had planned to have dinner. Turns out a roll over on Rt 495 caused traffic to snarl for hours and he didn' arrive until almost 9 pm. We had a quick take out dinner and then went to bed.
Day 5: Awake to dampness but somewhat bright skies. It was 10:00 am before the troops really got up and moving. We decided to get breakfast and go to the Canal Visitor Center, which we had never been too, but had seen signs for nearby. What a great place! There were tons of people fishing off the jetty, we watched tons of boats go through the canal, and at the end of the jetty is a great beach. We searched for beach glass...came up empty handed but did find some cool shells and rocks. Afterwards we went into the visitor center and they had great information on the history of the canal and bridges on the Cape (I highly recommend a visit the next time you are in the area). We left there and decided to salvage the day and head to Tim's parents beach. They have a beautiful spot on Bass River and the kids love going there...tons of sea treasures and great swimming. Turns out, friends of ours were on the Cape too so they came over and we got caught up on what's been going on. It was lots of fun but we didn't end up heading to dinner until 9:00. During dinner Jack laid his head on the table and attempted to go to bed....in his meal. Check please!
Day 6...Time To Go Home: I awoke to the sound of pounding rain. It was so hard I thought for sure it would come through the canvas at any minute. I do know firsthand that after 3 days of constant rain, the canvas will begin to slowly drip on your head. I was hoping to avoid that again at all costs. We let the kids sleep while we packed up. Let me just say that packing wet or damp stuff is ugly. Oh, and apparently all my spider "friends" enjoy this type of weather and decided to have a send off party for me. Again, still amazed that I continue to camp. By the time the kids woke up we were ready to go! On the way home, we decided to have an early lunch at the Seafood Shanty on the side of the bridge, overlooking the canal. Fried food at its finest....and killer onion rings. We all had a fried food ache afterwards but it was well worth it! We have driven past this place forever and never stopped. There always seems to be tons of people there which in my book is an indicator that they are doing something right. If you find yourself doing that, just stop someday!
Well, I learned a few things. I am a very self sufficient person anyways but I felt pretty good about myself after camping with the kids. I also learned that my ability to hold it together without going kooky nuts on my kids for their incessant fighting is 4 days max. If I hadn't had my Mommy juice with me, it probably would have been 2 days. I also learned there are tons of things to do in your own backyard (I grew up on the Cape) that you don't even know about. Just do a little research and you will find tons of fun things to do. I did like the experience so much that I just booked another week with me and the kids at a different campground in August. I figure this is the only time I will be able to do this so I might as well take full advantage. I will be investing in some ear plugs and prozac before I go though. I also learned that I need to seriously think about going on a diet. Onion rings + Mommy Juice = A Muffin Top.
Next week it is off for our big family summer camping vacation to Ocean City Maryland. Can't wait!!