Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Our First Family Camping Trip

We had our first foray into camping this weekend. As we are planning to camp for three nights in Oklahoma in a few weeks, we decided to make a test run: an overnighter at nearby El Dorado Lake. I was determined not to be the big baby on this trip, supposing that my whole family would be all gung-ho and I would be the one that hated camping. Boy, was I wrong!

We went out Friday afternoon to check out the campsites and figure out where we might want to camp. We would have reserved a site, but the site host had taken his wife to the hospital with a broken ankle. So we just looked around.

I went on to work Friday night, then went to the store afterwards. We still had supplies we needed and Arrena and Kimmy were having a tea party with their friends Monday, so I wanted to make sure I didn't have to go to the store again before that. The shopping took forever. My stomach had been feeling yucky for a few days and I was tired, so I think I just moved slowly. I finally left and went home to get some things packed and organized. Chris had gathered up gear in a corner of the garage that he would load into the truck in the morning. I laughed out loud when I saw the huge pile of stuff he had planned to take! I finally made it to bed around 4:30am.

Chris woke me up at 7:30am with a desire to get an early start so we wouldn't lose all the good camping spots. Needless to say, I was exhausted. We loaded up the truck. That was so funny because we had taken out the third row of seats in the Expedition and filled the back, floor to ceiling, plus there was more stuff packed into the floorboards beneath the kids' feet and mine as well. For a one night camping trip! Ha, ha! You'd have thought we were moving out there!

We got out there and picked a very large, shady spot, right next to a walking bridge that led to the swimming beach. It's in El Dorado State Park, but it wasn't really near the lake--you couldn't even see the lake because where you turn off to go to the campsite we were at, you're right by the huge dam. We were by the Walnut River. We set up our campsite and then headed out to explore a bit and get some lunch. We had some miscommunication along those lines. I thought we were leaving first thing Sunday morning, so I only packed food for lunch and dinner Saturday. Turned out, Chris had planned to leave after lunch Sunday, so we were two meals short. We decided to eat at Freddy's Frozen Custard for lunch Saturday. I suddenly had an urge to go shopping when I spotted a store on the main street in El Dorado called Robin's. I had never heard of it before, but I guess they have been featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show, have made TV commercials, and have a website (http://www.shoprobins.com). From looking at the display in the window, Chris concluded that they carry my style clothing. From looking at the website, I would say that might be true, but it is likely doubtful that they carry my current size. Still need to lose that weight!

Anyways, after lunch, we headed back to camp and got changed to go swimming at the beach. The beach was nasty with goose droppings. I had seen a flock of geese through the treeline earlier, but hadn't thought what that would mean. We waded for a while, then headed back to camp. Our shady campsite had become decreasingly shaded as the afternoon progressed. Fortunately we had brought a blowup pool and set it up and filled it with the icy water from the spigot our campsite boasted. The kids splashed and played and Chris and I dragged chairs over and put our feet in. I think it was 98 degrees this weekend, so it was plenty hot and if you're not familiar with Kansas' humidity...you are very fortunate indeed! It was so hot, we went through seven bags of ice in our two small coolers! For, what, 28 hours? Yikes!

There was a family with a little girl, almost four, camped next to us, so the girls invited her to come over and play on their inflatable that we brought (yes, they lugged that huge thing along with us!) and wade in the pool. After she went back to her mom and dad, we started dinner. Chris had said a couple of his friends might come by to meet me. I have been giving him a hard time because he has several friends with motorcycles that he rides with and hangs out with, but I have never met them. So, they showed up when Chris was halfway through making dinner. Okay, first I must tell you that I was really not in the mood to entertain. For one, that three hours of sleep I had gotten was really not cutting it. Then the heat was draining me even more. I felt like I was melting into oblivion! All I wanted to do was lie down in a coolER spot and and stay there. With the heat, goes my appearance. I was pouring sweat; my hair was a frizzy, damp, matted mess; any makeup I had started off the day with, was long gone. Not the condition in which you want to meet anyone! As they arrived, Chris abandoned his cooking. I had been in the middle of making plates for the kids and myself, but I had to run over and take over the cooking to rescue the burgers and sausages from being burned. Chris had made extra for his friends, but they didn't want to eat. I finished making the plates for me and the kids and we went to the screen house to eat, so we wouldn't be plagued by flies and I invited his friends to come sit with us in the screen house so we could visit, but they declined. So I sat with the kids in the screen house while Chris and his friend, his wife, and another woman friend of theirs (girlfriend of another guy friend) conversed far enough away from me that I couldn't participate in the conversation. Between the heat, my lack of sleep, and my stomachache, I was getting irritable. So, when they left me with the children and wandered off chatting, I nearly lost it. When Chris returned and they left, I informed him that I was not the babysitter or the hired help, but that that's how he makes me feel sometimes. He had been offended when some of the parents that brought their children to Kimmy's birthday party had refused to come in the backyard to chat or even meet him--I pointed out that his friends just did the same thing to me. I then retired to the tent to lay in front of the fans we had brought. He said I was pouting, but I was trying to cool off, literally and figuratively.

Billy had started to break out in a heat rash. He has really bad eczema--landed him in the ER last year--so heat is a big problem with him. Chris packed us up in the truck and drove to WalMart...and bought an air conditioner for the tent! We had talked about it for the three-day camping trip, but I was sure we could last one night without one! And I was fine as long as I laid down in front of that fan. I knew it could only get better as it got darker and cooler. I was prepared to tough it out. But, with the rest of the family whining about heat and lack of a TV, I turned out not to be the biggest sissy in the family! It did make it cooler in there, but I worry that it will make me want to hang out in the tent all day instead of being out doing other things!

There was a Vietnam reunion at the lake this weekend, so when it got dark, we drove over to watch the fireworks display they had. After that, we went back to the campsite and went to bed. I thought the girls would be scared and would end up sleeping with us, but they must have been really worn out because they fell asleep right away. Billy took a little more time and woke up once in the night crying and screaming. It took a long time to get him calm again. I woke up a few times, listening to the sounds of crickets, locusts, frogs, and other noises that I couldn't identify.

When we awoke, I went to the screen house and found crumbs all around and all the cookies were gone and there had been a hole chewed in the bag of hotdog buns and most of the buns had been chewed up. We had forgotten to store the non-perishable food away and had just left it in the closed up screen house. We're guessing a raccoon raided us. Lesson learned.

We went and ate breakfast at Braum's in town. Then we packed up most of our camp and went fishing. Chris had restrung the kids' poles several times, but had let them practice casting and Billy and Kimmy's had gotten tangled until he was tired of fixing them and put them away. He and Kimmy fished on one side of a cove, while Arrena fished on the other side, with me and Billy cooling off with our feet in the water nearby. Billy didn't seem to mind that he wasn't fishing--he was amusing himself throwing rocks in the water and scooping up water in his bucket. I don't fish. I don't like the idea of the hooks in the fish's mouth or of "cleaning" the fish. When my dad used to take me fishing, he would give me a pole without a hook on it and I would just cast and reel in all day and be perfectly happy with that. I think daddy was proud because it reminded him of one of his favorite songs (Red Sovine's Daddy's Girl: "I recall the day I took you on a fishin' trip. You said: 'Daddy won't that hook hurt the fish's lip?' And you said if they don't get air, those things in the can will die. So we turned the worms all loose and chased some butterflies. Daddy's Girl, Daddy's Girl, I'm the center of Daddy's world. I know I'm Daddy's number one, for he loves me like I was his son. Daddy's Girl."). Anyways, the fishing only lasted about 20-30 minutes and we realized that the boats were too close (we were getting waves) and were scaring the fish. So, we loaded up, broke camp, and headed home.

Chris said, "I don't think this family was cut out for camping." I said, "We spent enough money on gear, a year-long parking permit, a fishing license, and an a/c unit we don't need. I don't care if we hate it, we're going to keep on camping and get our money's worth out of it!" It wasn't so bad (except for the heat). The only other bad part was that there was a group of teenagers nearby and they liked to tromp right through the middle of our campsite to get to the bridge. So rude. I would open my mouth to tell them off, then stop, trying to let my husband be the man of the family, but he never did say anything to them. I expected him to, I wanted him to, but was surprised when he didn't. He said that they are the type of jerk teenagers who would come back when we were asleep or away from the campsite and either steal or vandalize our stuff, so he just let it slide.

The only real outdoorsman of the family was Billy! Where we had camped, we were within walking distance of a bathroom, but a little too far for a three-year-old who is in the middle of potty-training. So, since he was a boy, Chris told him to pee in the bushes behind our tent. At first, it scared Billy. He couldn't do it. But, he finally acclimated to the idea and before we knew it, we'd look around wondering where he was and see that he was by the bushes, back to us, with his shorts around his ankles. Then he'd run over and exclaim excitedly, "Me go pee-pee!" I took a picture of this--but it's for the blackmail file, so I won't post it here! Then when we got home, hot and tired, wanting nothing more than a bath and to relax on the couch in front of the TV, enjoying the air conditioning, he immediately grabbed his sidewalk chalk and headed out to the back porch to sit in the heat and play. I couldn't believe it!

If nothing else, we learned what we need to do for a longer trip--for example, secure the food and I want an oscillating fan for the screen house--the wind doesn't penetrate the screen very well. It was a good trial run. I think with practice and repetition, we could learn to like camping. Though, I think spring and fall would be better seasons for us!

I wish I hadn't scheduled the girls' tea party so soon after our camping trip, but it was too late to change my mind. It was fun for them. My mom wondered why she had never done something like that for me.

After all of the adventures, I feel like a wrung out dishcloth. I think this week, especially with the hot forecast, will be a week to relax and recuperate.

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