Sunday, June 2, 2013

How to become a camping a-FISK-ionado...

What?  You think completely disastrous memorable camping trips just happen on ACCIDENT?  No way! It takes a special knack to execute a camp-out like this one.

First, wait to go until you are so desperate for good weather that temperatures of almost 100 degrees with almost 100% humidity sound positively palatable.

Originally we'd scheduled our first trip for the season back on Amber's birthday.  But it was super chilly and damp, so we waited.  And after that we reserved spots for our second camp out Memorial Day weekend.  But it rained and rained so we camped in the living room instead.

Yay!  Sleeping in the tent in the living room!
Waiting for s'mores to cook in the microwave.  
Urban camping at its finest.
This was perfect prep, though, since when the weekend rolled around again we were super ready to not play Goldilocks anymore ("too hot, too cold, too wet...") and packed up our gear.

Of course, you'll want to leave in at least a 30% possibility of thunderstorms, because you'll totally want to have your rain fly over the tent, sealing off any possible hopes of ventilation.

Second, double-check everything on your camping list.  Twice.  Except for the food.  Because you'll feel so much more spontaneous if you arrive at camp only to realize you left your carefully prepared, nutritious AND delicious, foil-wrapped meals in the fridge.  Don't worry: a friendly park-service employee will then be able to point you to a (relatively) nearby gas station where you'll be able to find over-priced hot dogs and nacho cheese dip to bring back to the campsite for your waiting brood.  If you're lucky, you might even manage to accidentally fling one of those hot dogs (that your child is patiently waiting for) deep into the underbrush of the forest while trying to get it off the roasting stick.  Memory made.

Distractions like forgetting to pack dinner may even delay setting up camp until you get to use flashlights while doing so: total perk for the kids!
Next, bring along one bundle of kiln-dried firewood to get things started, but plan on purchasing additional wood at the park. This way you can spend the evening honing your boy-scout skills trying to coax the park's completely soaked logs to stay lit.

S'mores for camping Katie-style: all graham cracker, no marshmallow.
Don't worry, the hissing sound of water-logged logs will add atmosphere  to things like roasting marshmallows.

After that, reflect on how awesome it is that your bug spray is apparently water soluble and seems to be melting off of you along with the puddles of sweat.  You were feeling guilty about using something with 40% DEET on kids anyway, right?  This way the exposure is at least temporary.  Besides, it's important to spend at least a little time on a lower rung of the food chain.  Circle of life and all that.  You're welcome, Mosquitoes.  Sing a few songs, read a scripture, tell a story, play with Dad's green stargazing laser, marvel at the ravenous herd of chipmunks that seems to be closing in on you, watch the mosquito bite on your daughter's forehead start swelling to the size of a golf ball, and then abandon hope gracefully opt to retire early in favor of hanging out together in the tent.  (Which will now closely approximate a luxurious Swedish sauna! Lucky you! :)

Trying on Daddy's hat during "Family Camping Evening."
Stories in the tent!!
Next, decide on the perfect size tent for your family.  Our formula for picking the right one involves taking the number of people in the family and subtracting two.  For example, six-person family?  Four-man tent.  Matthew was born last summer (which meant we didn't do a lot of camping) so our last serious tent-time was almost two years ago.  Thankfully, any of our fears that our tent might be as roomy as it was with only a 4-year-old, 3-year-old and 1-year-old were quickly allayed.  I can guarantee that nothing will make you feel closer to your family than a hot summer night spent constantly removing your child's sweaty arms and legs from your face.  Also, if you're fortunate enough to have a baby who doesn't sleep well anyway and who decides to sleep especially not-well while camping, you won't have to worry as much about whether or not your littlest one is being suffocated in the chaos: if he's screaming you know he's still breathing.

With the night safely past, your next step is to begin rationalizing reasons for the baby's fitful sleeping.   He wasn't at home.  Being outside is hard on a little body.  It was too warm for him.  There were funny noises.  Get creative.  Assume all is well and shovel him full of oatmeal and bananas for breakfast: you don't want him to be hungry with so many fun things planned for the day!

Robyn writing out a storyboard for Three Little Pigs.  (Matthew  kept interrupting my attempt to tell the story in the tent and Robyn decided the next morning to prepare in case she were called on to tell the story next time.  I love her!!)

Like going for a nature hike!

Look: Nature!  (We actually saw this cool turtle while driving away from the nature trail, and I mostly just took a picture out the car window and then passed the camera around to the kids to look at, but, still: nature!)
Since nothing spoils a camping trip like spending too much time hiking and talking, be sure to plan a few ways to short-circuit the nature walk if it starts to last too long.  Like more than five minutes.  Here are a couple of excellent suggestions:

First, forget to reapply insect repellent.  Unintentionally walk through a few giant swarms of bugs.  Soon everyone will start to feel paranoid and begin swatting at phantom insects.

Second, carry the over-tired, over-fed baby on your shoulders.  This way, when he starts to vomit massive chunks of partially digested bananas and oatmeal it will all land on your head, successfully truncating the trek while avoiding leaving a nasty mess behind on the trail.  If you are blessed with a thoughtful, helpful, husband like I am, your sweetheart may even remind you of all the reasons you married him by rubbing the regurgitated gunk further into your scalp using your ponytail ("it doesn't look so bad now!") and then kindly offering you his hat to hide what couldn't be rubbed in.

With the obligatory nature hike now out of the way, refer back to an earlier step: start rationalizing.  The baby isn't actually sick.  He just got jostled too much on a full tummy.  He seems so happy now!  Look at him smile!  And there's still the playground and the beach on Lake Ontario you really shouldn't miss.  Snuggle him affectionately and move onto the next activity.  In our case, the amazing playground area.

Robyn communicating cross-playground using one of the walkie-talkies Bryan received as a reward for working five years at his company.

Going for a spin on this updated-version of the old playground-goodie  merry-go-round.

Amber proving that she is fearless (and at least part monkey).

Robyn was a little bit cautious in her play, but still had a good time climbing on the equipment.

Katie loved the slide: wheeeee! 
Mandatory group shot on the teeter -totter!
Finally go to the beach.  Skip rocks, make sand castles, collect teeny-tiny little shells.  Tell the girls to roll their pants up before wading in the 54-degree water, but only do it half-heartedly since they're going to fall on their bottoms in the water eventually anyway.

Buckle the baby up in his car seat where he can rest and be safely shaded from the sun.  When he starts throwing up again, act totally shocked.  Try to pat him clean with a blanket and tell the girls you have to go home in just a few minutes since the baby's not feeling well.  Cover the baby up with the clean-side of the blanket facing out so if anyone walks by they won't see the brown chunkies.  Look!  He's falling asleep.  And the girls are having so much fun.  Linger just a little bit longer.

Because nothing will make you feel like a better parent than when he wakes up with a start, begins throwing up again, and you have to herd your disgruntled group hastily back up the beach to the van.

And that is how you too can camp like a Fisk.  Don't worry.  Only one additional child will get sick on the car ride home.  And only one more besides that will get sick in the middle of the next night.  But think of all the memories!

P.S.  To any grandparents or cousins or friends who are considering camping with us this summer, we just wanted to let you down easy: not ALL of our camping trips are this much fun.  Hopefully you'll understand if next time there isn't quite as much excitement.  Even when things trend towards the boring, we still love camping and we still want to go with you!


  1. Can we go with you next time! Lol that just sounds like sooo much fun! You are a good woman!

  2. Love this!!! Looks like a blast! (minus the vomit and the humidity ;) I love that picture of Katie with her "s'more" :)

  3. Oh my gosh! I seriously lost it when I got to the part of the baby throwing up in your hair. Gah! So sadly funny and gross and I cannot believe you still went on with all the other activities. What a trooper.

  4. the only thing to say after reading this post is, Calgon take me away!! (and you are a saint...) :)

  5. Hilarious! Even our last camping trip wasn't that much fun! Glad you guys are still camping! We will have to try the living room variety.

    We solved the 3-4 man tent for 6 person family by borrowing a small one for me and the baby. I was quite scared when a bear cam in to our campsite and I was all alone. Once I got up the nerved to look out the window I realized the 'bear' was my husband sleeping in the other tent. All sleeping in one tent has its merits ;)