Thursday, October 27, 2011

Camping: Here's how it went down

We packed up the car Thursday night and the boys and hit the road shortly before noon on Friday.  The park where we were camping is a little more than an hour northwest of here.  The fall color up is peaking right now and it was absolutely gorgeous.  It was downright distracting as we were driving up the mountain.

I checked in, bought out wood for campfires, and headed to our site.  The boys were so excited. The got out and started exploring the woods around our site, and because it is fall and the leaves are thin, I had no trouble seeing them.  Then, the middle-aged couple (who had three grown boys) came over and insisted on helping me make camp. It was really nice.  They were my saviors. They brought me a cup of coffee every morning, and kept a spare set of eyes out for my boys.

That first day, the boys just wanted to play in the tent and around the campground and that was fine. It was cool (in the 50s), cloudy, and VERY windy.  I should have brought gloves for the boys, but it was supposed to be sunny and in the 60s so I did not think of it.  Poor little Miles kept saying, "My hands are fweezing!"

The wind made it tough to build a fire, but I eventually made it happen and we had dinner and s'mores, brushed our teeth, got in our PJs and went to bed. It went pretty smoothly, but it was very windy and cold that night, down in the low 40s. Brrr!

We got up early the next morning, had breakfast (bagels), the boys got dressed and played around the campsite for a bit, then we decided to take a morning hike to the waterfall. I somehow chose one of the more strenuous hikes with lots of rocky paths, and several rocky cliff and outcroppings, but the boys did great.  It took us about and hour to get to the waterfall, which was a downward hike, and about and hour to get back up.

When we got back to camp, we had hot chocolate and peanut butter sandwiches, and then we made signs of fall collages with leaves and acorns.  Here is where I made a terrible mistake. The friendly neighbor campers offered the boys each two mellowcreme pumpkins, and I allowed them to have them. I don't let my kids (Oscar in particular) have artificial food dyes because they make them nuts. They just can't be controlled (Oscar; Miles is pretty much fine.) But, I figured it was just two candies, and we were outside and they would burn off the crazy.

After the collages/pumpkins, we went and climbed this rock formation called Bear Rock, and then we returned for dinner. While I was making the campfire, the kids were playing around the front of the van.  Now, I'd been telling them all weekend not to play around the front of the van because when they play there I can't see or hear them, and it's also right next to the road.

I went to the van to scoot them to the front and I saw that someone (Oscar) had been using a rock to "draw" on the hood of the van.  And by "draw" I mean scratch the surface down to the paint.  A terrible row ensued and he ended up with a time out and tears and apologies and dinner and more bad behavior (dragging Miles around by his hood, knocking Miles the ground, threatening to run away) and OHMYGOD is it bedtime yet?

And it was and we all slept like rocks.

The next day was pancakes and breaking camp (which I did all by myself, thank you very much) and we headed home just before noon. No more drama.

Save the scratches on the van and the three or so hours of atrocious behavior from Oscar, we had a great time.  Just look at the photos.  Could they smile any bigger?

On our hike.  The wanted a photo on every rock and fallen tree. 
Woman make fire.

Fall color

The kids called this the T-Rex rock.

Fallen tree = photo op.

Climbing Bear Rock.

This was on our hike.  Steep and rocky!

The tree stump by our campground was the center of their play.

Another fallen tree! Say "hike!"

Monday, October 24, 2011

Moms that camp

I took the boys on a camping trip solo this weekend.  Just me, a 2.5-year-old and 4-year-old, sleeping in a tent and cooking over a campfire for two days and two nights.

This was not my first time camping. The wasn't even my first time camping with the boys.  But it was my first time camping ALONE with the boys.  Oscar is a great age for camping, and I think Miles is right at the lower limit for camping - around 2 or 2-and-a-half. Not that you can't take a baby camping, but no way would I take a baby AND a toddler camping together by myself.

Anyways, I decided to take them on this trip for a few reasons.  First, we had promised the boys we'd go camping at least once more before it got too cold.  Second, Nelson is studying for a big professional exam and there's not much I can do to help, other than give him time, space, and quiet to study. Third, camping with Oscar and Miles is fun, and I wanted to take them and create this good memory for all three of us.

Nelson was surprised that I offered to take them on a camping trip alone, and suggested I try to find someone to go with us.  It's not so much that he thought I couldn't do it, but logistically, camping with small children is tough.  Normally, one of us rides herd while the other pitches the tent and makes camp. He was worried it'd be difficult for me to make/break camp and also watch the kids, and that is a valid concern. I had that concern myself.

So, I did try to recruit others to camp with us with no success.  Regardless, I had told the boys about the trip and  committed to them that I'd take them, so we were going.  I felt nervous, but Nelson kept reminding me that I'm an experienced camper, and an experienced parent.  There was nothing that we would be doing that I had not done before and that I could not handle.

I got lots of comments, both on Facebook and at the campground, about the fact that I was camping with too small boys. "It's really impressive that you'd take on camping with two small boys" and "Just you and the little ones?  Good for you" and "You are doing a really great job with them" (from the campers next door) and "You're a rockstar" and I believe that someone may have even nominated me for a Nobel Prize.

Someone on Facebook asked the question would people still think what I was doing was special had I been a dad camping with my kids.  I appreciate that question. I think it's important that we examine traditional parenting and gender rolls, like dads take kids camping and moms bake cookies with their kids. Like, why should stay-at-home dads get more kudos than stay-at-home moms?  Why is that more important and special Why is a mom camping with her kids more noteworthy and impressive than when a dad does the same thing? These are fair and important questions that we should ask ourselves and each other.

I also think it is fair to address this.  Now, I don't know for sure, but based on what I heard while camping, and what I saw while camping, I really think it was the age and number of kids that I took camping with no help that people found impressive. I did see other moms camping with kids, but they were older kids.  Miles was really one of the youngest kids, at least on our loop (lots of campgrounds in state parks are broken up into loops throughout the park.) It was really too cold to camp with kids much young than him unless you had a popup, which plenty of people did.

Maybe it was the novelty of seeing a mom camping solo with her kids? Like I said, there were a few others, and I personally know several other moms that camp, some alone with their kids, and even they were impressed that I'd taken two littles all by my lonesome.  There were no only dads with kids on my loop (not that that never happens, but it wasn't happening where we were this weekend.)

So, tell me, what is more impressive?  That I'm a mom who camps alone with her kids, or that I'm a mom who camps alone with two young children? Do you camp?  Would you go by yourself with two young ones?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The saga of my stove

Last Thursday, I smelled gas in the house after returning from preschool drop off.  I took the kids outside, called the gas company, and they were out within hour.  They confirmed a slow leak from the back right burner, turned off the gas to the stove, and instructed me to call a repairman.

So I called a repairman and scheduled them to come out between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.  They never showed, never called, never nothing.  I called back and rescheduled for the next day.

They guys did show up the next day, and told me that there was no gas leak and my stove was in fine working order, but was pretty old and crappy and I should just buy a new one. He turned the gas back on and left. This was Friday.

Well, on Monday, I smelled gas again.  I took the kids outside, aired out the house, and it was fine.  No more smell. To be clear, it was not a really STRONG gas smell.  That would have freaked me out.  It was more of a wafting, occasional light gas smell.

Then, on Tuesday, after preschool drop off, I smelled gas again.  I took the boys outside, called the repair company and told them they needed to come back. Then, the repairman called and told me he was ordering a new regulator for my stove and he'd call back with the cost and estimated time of repair.

The problem was not the regulator.  It was the BURNER.  I was sure of it.  So I called a different repairman and they were there in about 30 minutes.  Guess what was wrong with my stove?  THE BURNER. The burner had worn out, as had the igniter, as had the tube that connects to the burner knob.  NOT THE REGULATOR.

So, the repairman fixed my stove so it would be safe (I cannot use that one burner) and told me he'd check on parts and call me back.  Then, I called the other repairman and told them how wrong they were, and how even if the regulator had been broken, no way should he have left the gas to my stove ON.  What a jackass. I'm trying to decided if I should demand my money back, since not only did he not fix my stove; he put my family's lives in danger with his carelessness and lack of knowledge and skill.

I heard back from the good repairman and they told me it would be $329 to fix my stove. My stove that probably cost $350 brand new 15 years ago.  HAHAHAHAHA!

We're getting a new stove.  I'm ordering it tonight, and it will be installed in about two weeks.  In the mean time, my current stove is safe it use and operate.  And that's the saga of my stove.

Thursday, October 6, 2011


I don't know if you know this about me, but I spook easily.  Funny shadows and strange noises make my heart race.  Scary movies give me nightmares. I'm no fan of the dark.

I get even more spooked out when Nelson is on travel, which he has been this week (in New Hampshire, funnily enough staying at a famously haunted hotel.)  Our house is really old and really quiet at night, which is great, except when you DO hear something, a creak or a bump, it's even spookier because it is always so silent.

This not to say my house is scary.  I've never really been scared of my house.  I know some old houses are spooky but mine is not one of them. Mine is very comforting and homey. It has always calm and safe to me.

Last night, I was having trouble falling asleep, as I often do when Nelson it out of town. I finally fell asleep while reading a book a book that was a little odd (monsters and elves and witches and magicians), and I fell right into a dream about this book. So, the dream was a little odd.  Not scary exactly, but definitely a little creepy.  I don't really remember the dream, just that it had to do with the book and it had a creepy feeling.

I woke with a start because I heard the water go on in my bathroom sink.  It came on slowly, went off, and then came on with a more forceful rushing sound, and then went off again. There seemed to be some stirring in the bathroom.  I check the time and it was 12:30am, so I'd been asleep for maybe an hour, hour and a half. After a few seconds, the water came on again in the same pattern; slow, off, rushing, off.

I was feeling a little creepy from my dream, and the water sounds from the dark bathroom sent one of those ice water chills down my spine. Who or what was in my goddamn bathroom? Whenever I have these moments, I remind myself that I'm a parent now and I need to harness my irrational fears and look for rational answers, so that's what I did.

Miles had woken briefly earlier in the evening and stumbled sleepily through my room and into the bathroom. He came out teary-eyed requesting water.  I went into his room and got his water cup and gave it to him.  He drank it down and I went into the bathroom to refill it.  He drank some more and then I walked him back to bed.

So, I decided it was certainly possibly that it was Miles in the dark bathroom getting himself a drink.  He can reach the faucet when he uses his stool, which is permanently beside the sink, and he loves to drink directly from the faucet.  So I called out to him.

"Miles?  Miles?  Is that you? Whatcha doing, buddy?"

And then things got eerily quiet.  I had sensed some stirring from the bathroom, but after I called to Miles things were just...still.

(I'm getting chills remembering this.)

So, I was like, okay, it MUST be Miles, right? Because he heard me calling and went still because he's not supposed to play at the sink.  So I called him again.

"Miles?  Miles come in here with Momma."

Stillness. Quiet. Chills.

Miles was NOT in that bathroom. Who or what was in my damn bathroom?

And then I had to pee.

There was no avoiding it.  I had to get up and go into the bathroom.  Even if I did not have to pee, faucets running at midnight bear checking out. I turned on my lamp.

My dog was by the bed and she was only slightly disturbed by my calling and the light.  At that point, I knew no one and nothing were in the bathroom.  She'd have heard them; she'd have growled or barked.  I marched myself into the bathroom.

I flicked on the light.  Empty.  The sink was a little damp near the drain, but there did not seem to be fresh water because of course there was no fresh water because no one was in my bathroom.  I realized that the faucet sounds were likely just pieces of my dream that had broken through to reality as I was waking up. I sat in bed with the lights on for a few moments to reassure myself, and then went back to sleep with little trouble.

Several hours later, I was woken again, this time by the sound of Miles crying.  He was crying and saying, "No! No, no, no!  Oscar?  Oscar?" (Oscar was beside me in the bed already, having sneaked in at some earlier point in the night.)

He came out of his room, shut his bedroom door, and continued crying, asking for me.  He was a bit confused, and did not seem to know quite what to do next.

"Miles, I'm in here Miles. So is Oscar.  Come on in, buddy."

He stumbled in and I hoisted him up onto my bed where he promptly snuggled into my armpit.

"Are you okay, buddy?"

"No one's out there? No one's out there?"

He was shaking. He was clearly terrified.  He was asking for reassurance.

"Nope, no one's out there," I told him, and as I said it, I shivered a little myself.