Archive for the ‘camping’ Category

I just read about a fellow recent grad’s camping trip, and thought “ahhh, that makes me feel better.”  She commented on taking an RV camping being “posh.”  (sounds delightful to me).  I made a proclamation when we were camping that made me feel like a bit of a wimp.  I really don’t care, though.

When Beloved and I first went camping, it was just the two of us.  We bought a 4-man tent from Target, and an air mattress.  We had relatively inexpensive sleeping bags, perfect for California’s central coast in the summer time, and various additional gear.

Once our first couple trips were successful, we later decided that we wanted to try backpacking. We were not about to lug a Target 4-man tent on our backs.  We went to a proper outdoor store and purchase a 2 man lightweight backpacking tent.  Since we weren’t about to lug an air mattress, either, we bought self-inflating sleeping mats.  We also bought backpacking sleeping bags designed to squish up super-small, and that were rated for as cold of nights as 20 below zero.

It worked out fine.  We were comfortable enough.  Actually, I wasn’t all that comfortable, but it had  nothing to do with our equipment, and everything to do with the every 20-second fog horn that was located approximately 10 yards from our tent.  Or so it felt.

Since we purchased that gear, and the girls had been more comfortable camping, we would bring both tents – the 4-man for them and the 2-man for us.  We also purchased sleeping mats for them.  It worked out great at least twice.

Then we moved here and used the old air mattress as our sole piece of furniture while we waited for the truck to arrive with all of our earthly belongings.  During that time, the air mattress sprung a leak.

We chucked it.

We didn’t even think twice this time about doing it the old way – 2 tents; sleeping mats; fine.  The only tweaking we did was that we gave the girls the Target sleeping bags, because they look a little longer than the old kiddy-sized bags that used to serve them well.  Damn those kids and all the growing they insist upon doing.

Well, we were not so comfortable.  Our hips hurt.  My neck hurt.  My back was sore.  Beloved’s hips were hurting enough that he went and slept in the car.  I didn’t like that so much, even though it meant that I had more space in which to find the least-hard ground.

And I made the proclamation:  We do not go camping again until we get a second 4-man tent and a new air mattress.  (The 2-man is too small to fit an air mattress.)  The end.

I don’t give a shit if it makes me sound like a spoiled suburban old woman.  I want an air mattress.

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I overdid it.  I pushed myself too hard, ended up too tired, too raw.

I am a relatively young person, and I forget now and again that despite my youth (which all of my local friends are constantly reminding me of, as I’m typically 10 years their junior), I am not, literally, Super Woman.

I cannot go camping for 4 days, some of the time spent as the only adult, and come home fresh-as-a-daisy ready to go out and play on a day trip with friends.  I come home tired, and I need to re-coop.

But yesterday, I had made plans to go on a day trip with friends.  It sounded like a fun outing – heading to a local county fair.  I knew when I woke up, however, that I’d bitten off more than I could chew.  I was exhausted.  I wanted to just be home.  I wanted to put away the sleeping bags, which are still strewn around the living room floor.

The trip went well, the girls had fun, it was FINE.  I could not focus on anything, however, except the misery.  The misery of the fair workers: their missing and blackened teeth, their grouchiness, their interactions with each other.  The patches on the game awnings, the nastiness of the food.  I couldn’t imagine how these settings used to be magical to me.  When I was a kid and the carnival came to my small town of Southbury, Connecticut, I was thrilled.  I had the best time.  The smells were great, the rides were great, the games and food!  Oh, such happiness!  Yesterday, the wilder rides were set to heavy metal, and the less wild ones left me picturing my head snapping around on my neck in the most painful way.  I only went on the Ferris Wheel with J.  We were in one of two cars with people in it, and were able to listen to an argument amongst 3 of the fair workers the entire time.  Since no one else was in line, we missed out on the benefit of the stops at the top, or near top, and I missed it.  We had planned on looking for E and her friend from up there … but didn’t get the chance.

It also freaked me out that the day cost me $100.  I’m really freaking out about money right now.  I keep telling myself to calm down, it will be fine.  No, I don’t have much spending money between now and paycheck #1, but I have enough to cover the bills.  It’s hard, though, to not stress.  Even though this is likely the last time in a long time that I’ll have to worry like this.  Even though it’s been my life for the past 3+ years.

Then, at 11:20 p.m., my sister called me.  She’s been trying to plan a trip to come to the east coast to see my nephew who was born in May, right around J’s bday and my graduation (yeah, that was a wild week – planning a bday party, finishing exams and getting ready for graduation while driving down to Connecticut twice in a week … woo hoo!)  She has thrown a few dates out there, and all I can really say is, “I’ll do my best,” because they all came after I started work, and I just don’t know.  I don’t know.

But last night she called with good news, and as we were getting off the phone she told me she finally bought her tickets.  We had last talked about a date in mid October, and I said, “for the weekend we talked about?” and she said, “No!  I chose a different weekend!  I’m coming for dad’s birthday!”


Dad’s birthday is 2 days before E’s birthday.  E’s birthday is the DAY after I start my job.   Because I could not fathom planning a birthday party for E during my first week of work, I planned it for the weekend before – Dad’s birthday weekend.  It’s a sleepover.  The invitations were designed and glued by E while we were camping.

If Sis was coming mid-October, it would be “up in the air” as to when or whether I could drive down and hang out with her.  But I know that it would be likely that I could do so.  Perhaps something would be going on at work, and I would have to get up early on Saturday and go in for a few hours before getting on the road – but we’ve done quick turn around trips in the past.  It could have been done.

But the weekend that I have 4 (or 5?) 11 year olds sleeping at my house?  Impossible.

But I think it gets even stickier than “I won’t get to see my sister.”

It’s my dad’s birthday.  Fine.  No big deal.  My dad’s birthday has been overshadowed by E’s birthday since 1996.  But this is my dad’s 60th birthday.  Sort of a big one.

This has not been made a big deal of by either of my parents.  My dad knows I’m starting my job the next day, and that E’s bday is the day after that, and that we’re having her party.  I’ve never gone down to CT for his birthday (although I did for my mom’s last year, but that was just because I didn’t know what else to get her).  I call him.  I send a card.  If it’s a good year for me, I get him a gift.  My parents are currently on a  2 week vacation celebrating the event.  That’s how they decided to do it – no big party.  A vacation.  So it was FINE.

But now my sister is going to be there from California.  My brother lives around the corner.  There’s just 3 of us.  So now I will be the only one NOT there.

I guarantee you that NOW, it will be an issue that I can’t be there.  Now that it’s a “family gathering.”

So, two resulting emotions.

  1. I’m upset (as in mad, irritated, frustrated) that I can anticipate a lot of guilt and “problem-solving” from my mother.  (Problem-solving:  Wherein my mother tells me what to do, how to rearrange my life, and what phone calls to make in order to make HER idea of “what I should do” happen).
  2. I’m  upset (as in sad, disappointed, feeling left out) that I can’t be there with my family for this day that will NOW be a family gathering.

Then I woke up and realized I forgot to move the car from the street to the parking lot (no on-street parking allowed in our town, all violators will be ticketed and fined $30.  I’m paying $40 total for a parking space for the entire 2 weeks that we have the car … so this was very stupid, and does not coincide well with my stresses over money.)  Update! Beloved just texted me on his way to work to say that we did NOT get a ticket!  Phew!

Then I got an e-mail from E’s friend’s mom saying that E was still awake at 4 a.m.

4 a.m.

What the fuck?

Before I left there last night, I had a conversation with her. I told her that she has to SLEEP on sleepovers.  Sleep.  Not stay up all night and be a problem for her hostess.  That she will no longer be invited if she keeps staying up all night, and that honestly, before that happens, I will not allow her to go on anymore sleepovers.

Because she’s done this before.  Not until 4, but until 1.  And because E is not really a sleeper (ha!), I feel confident that she is the impetus for the lack of sleep on these occasions.   I don’t really know what I’m going to do with her when she gets home.  She will be grouchy and exhausted.

I’m mad.

This is not a good day thus far.  I am not a happy Zuska today.  It’s not a good way to start an at-home day, where J is having a friend over, and I am required to take care of all the camping gear.  Preferably before she gets here.  At one.


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Decompression … please?

We are home from camping. We had a great time. We built fires. I built fires. I built awesome fires. I think I have a knack for it. We hiked – far, long, high, fast.

But we forgot our f’ing cameras. Upsetting.  No matter, I’ll look up the good stuff on the internet to tell my camping-story.

Beloved left me as planned, and I was more than fine. There were coyotes or something yipping and yapping in the distance, but my thinking-brain took over my irrational-brain, and I was able to use the information that they were at least 15 miles away to feel safe.

This is where we hiked to on Monday, with Beloved:



Then here:




It was a lot of fun, with minimal whining – and that bit was partly understandable, considering we skipped lunch – accidentally.

We have lists of things to do differently next time.  One of them is to bring trail mix and/or power bars, even when we think we’re going for a “short walk.”  Since we now know that a “short walk” can turn into a 4 hour, 8.5 mile hike.

This is the coffee house the girls and I walked to, without Beloved, on Tuesday:


This is the game we played for hours after visiting, then abandoning, due to cold, the swimming hole:


(Yes, we have the classic version.)

Today, we went on this slide:


Then we went to Manchester, where we had fantastic sandwiches.  I wanted a Rueben, and had one in mind that I had when I was 11 … I know the restaurant has been out of business for 10 years at least, but we went to Manchester anyway.  We found another restaurant, and I chose a different sandwich:  A Pot Roast Cheddar Melt.  Huh?  Oh, just the best sandwich EVER.  Like, in the entire world.  Holy crap.  I mean, wow.

Then we went to a bookstore that we love.   We bought a new game.  Because we love games.  Then, I found a bag:


I really wanted it.  The girls told me I have too many, and Beloved said only if I throw away another one.  😦  But then I visited it again, and this time, the girls covered my eyes.  Then I memorized the name of it, and looked it up when I got home.  He he he.

It is not fun to be Bleeding to Death while camping.  It’s one thing to deal with the woes of womanhood at home, or in the civilized world, but when it requires schlepping out of a teeny tiny tent at 3 a.m. in the morning when it’s probably 38 degrees outside … it pretty much sucks.

Today’s travel felt hard.  We started the day with bickering girls, and while I think Beloved and I handled things well.  And sort of, so did the girls, with future plans and coping mechanism and such – not easy to come up with while parked on the side of VT Highway 30 with the threat of NO ALPINE SLIDE hanging over your head.  Despite it going “okay” – it resulted in my starting my day drained.  Who wants to start their day drained?  After already being tired because of 3 a.m. bathroom runs?

Hint:  Not Zuska.

Also draining — e-mails from ex-husband insisting that he be charged scholarship prices for childcare expenses, because after all, he didn’t get a raise.  This, my dears, requires a separate post.  And I’m not sure that I have the energy for that negativity-fest tonight.

Because tomorrow, we’re going to a fair with friends, having dinner at a friend’s, and trying to find time before hand to make plans with other friends for a trip to the beach on Friday.

Saturday, the whirlwind that is my parents returns to town, and I give up their car.

I think that will feel good.  I will stop feeling like I must squeeze a million activities into this free-car-window (which is not the same as a “free-gas-window” – lemme tell you!)

I thought, back on Tuesday or Wednesday when we first had the car, that it would be hard to give it up when my parents came to pick it up.  Now I just want to be done with it.  It keeps making all these demands of me.  “Use me to go here!” and then “Use me to go there!” and then, “Hey! I’m still here, in the parking lot!  Use me!  Use me!”

Leave me alone, car!  Leave me alone!!

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The Camping Diva

Werewolves be damned.  I’ve worked my ass off today!  Yesterday, after my “I have done NOTHING” post, the girls and I made a chart of all our meals.  We planned out pretty much all of them, leaving one opening to discuss with Beloved.  He filled the slot and made me a list of ingredients.

Today I woke up late, because the weather was so beautiful, and the cool wind was caressing me in a delightful autumnal way and made it impossible for me to leave my bed.  Late meaning 9 a.m. rather than the 7 a.m. required for a gym outing.  E was not home – I left her at a friend’s last night after watching High School Musical 2, and she was due home at an undetermined time (another reason I didn’t want to be at the gym … I wouldn’t have been here to coordinate E’s homecoming).  E got home shortly after 10, and I forced her and her sister to accompany me to Starbucks for the daily injection.

Again, the lovely weather!  We stepped outside, me wearing jeans and a short sleeve shirt, and immediately turned back into the house to get sweaters.  Sweaters!  The sky was royal blue, and the clouds puffy and white.  I was in heaven.  It felt like 55 degrees, tops and the wind was fierce.  Fall is coming!  Fall is coming!

We had an enjoyable walk, where we commented on houses we passed (typical conversation in this house, since I’m obsessed with houses) and then ran across a turkey.  Yeah, a turkey.  This isn’t the first time.  They live in our neighborhood.  They started out as tiny little things, no bigger than ducklings, back in April or May.  There were 10 babies who would follow their mother around, crossing streets, strolling through parking lots, etc.

Just the other day, Beloved returned home from a shopping excursion with my parents’ car, and came in the apartment laughing.  He said, “The parking spot was taken when I got home – by turkeys!  The babies aren’t babies anymore!”  The girls ran outside to catch a glimpse, but were too slow.

The one we passed by today came up to J’s chest … probably my waist.  It stood up on the curb staring across the street.  We laughed that it looked like it was waiting for the light to change.  Only there was no light.  Ha!  It stood stock still, just staring.  I said perhaps it was waiting for its babies to come home.  Perhaps they said they’d be home, and were late, and she was watching out for their return, worried that there had been an accident.  The girls told me, “mom, they aren’t babies anymore!”  I told them it doesn’t matter, moms will worry no matter how tall their babies have gotten, and told E that she is still my baby (so there!).  She then tried to convince me that she’s all grown up.

Newsflash:  While she is turning 11 in a month, and while she does seem to be passing through some of the younger stages into the more adolescent ones – she is NOT grown up!  No!  She is not!  She cannot go out without telling me where.  I will be watching the sidewalk for at least 10 minutes before the time she’s due home.  I will be continuing to talk with the parents of her friends to be sure we’re all on the same page with after school and extra curricular activities.  See?  NOT grown up.

We arrived home to spend 3 hours lost in the land of property acquisitions, bankruptcies, intrafamily loans, and hotel-building.  Ah, yes, we are Monopoly addicts. I eventually, at 2 p.m., had to pry myself away so that I could start to plan my multiple-store attack in preparation for camping.

It seemed so overwhelming at first.  I don’t remember the last time I had to plan more than one meal at a time, thanks to Beloved’s prowess in the kitchen (and at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s).  I had all these meals (9?  10?) and various ingredients, all of which are best purchased at particular stores, and at particular times, and it was a little scary.

So I made another chart.

I had to go through 3 different phases of lists.  First of meals.  Then meals with ingredients.  Then a store-by-store list, where I crossed the ingredients off the meal list as I added them to the store list.  Only during the last phase did I realize that it was, in fact, something I was capable of.

I could not cry uncle prior to that point, and ask for Beloved’s help.  First of all, he had shouldered the lion’s share of Europe planning, a la bar exam.  Second of all, he’s not feeling well.  Third of all, I have pride.  A good deal of it.

Between list phases, I had gone down to our storage closet and extricated the camping gear.  I loved finding all of our stuff.  It had been so long since I last laid eyes on it.  We have, really, everything you can imagine.  We even have an AXE!!  An axe!!  We had plastic cups.  And we have tongs!  A tea kettle.  A mosquito candle thingy.  Pots and pans.  A grill pan.  A stove.  Bowls.  A tupperware full of sugar (crystallized, rock hard and useless, but still … we had that in our stuff).

I realized that we had lent our gear to my parents, and since we passed it on without opening it up first (most of our stuff is in a storage bin), I didn’t realize just how complete our stuff is.  I was sort of impressed with us on their behalf.  How nice it would be, to be handed such a complete camping-kit.  Stove, lantern, propane, cooking utensils, etc.

Yeah, we rock.

And now we get to enjoy the benefits of our rockitude.

Then I went to Trader Joe’s, where I spent $89, but would have spent only $69 had they not seemed to be running out of my new-favorite wine and also had they not been advertising a new Pinot Grigio which I found appealing.  Despite how crowded they were, I was in and out in what felt like 20 minutes.  And I had a lot of stuff!  And I called Beloved at least twice, and he called me once.  And I sampled a weird wine.  (Yes, it was weird.  I don’t even know what kind – because the name was weird).

I dropped stuff off at home, drank a giant glass of my favorite, just-purchased orange sparkly water, and headed to Whole Foods.*

$54 later (huh?  I spent less at Whole Foods than Trader Joe’s?  What exactly is going on here?), I  went to Stop & Shop, because Whole Foods didn’t carry the BIG ravioli’s (tonight’s dinner), and I didn’t see ANY baked beans (for beanie weanies, at the campsite).

Once I brought all of that stuff home, I piled the kids in the car (I’d left them home for the previous trips) and we went to Target for: propane for the gas stove, S’mores ingredients, paper plates, batteries for the lantern, and a white t-shirt for me, because I stained my other one.

Finally, at 6:45, I came home.  To stay.

Now I’m doing laundry loads #s 3 and 4, and in 7 minutes, have to go downstairs and start numbers 5 and 6 – mostly towels from the beach, since our campsite does (thank god) have showers, and I need my crappy towels to be clean.

And I still have to pack!

* At least in our town, we have a huge uprising of reusable grocery bags.  Beloved and I have been a part of this movement since our Berkeley days, and own several canvas, plastic, and even woven grocery bags.  I always, of course, forget to bring them with me.  Especially since I often am out doing other things and then impulsively think, “oh, I’ll just stop at the grocery store.”  Of course I don’t carry my bags with me everywhere.  Right?  That would be … bulky.   This results in me feeling guilty at the thought of receiving yet more paper or plastic, and then purchasing MORE reusable bags.  Both our frequented grocery places sell them for as little as $1, which I find more than worth it.  [Ha!  While searching for a  photo of the bags, expecting to find it on Whole Foods’ site, I found that someone is selling one on EBay! For $9.99!  What the hell?  I bought it today – the very one – for $1!]

I have recently used the Whole Foods bag, similar to the one linked to above, and found it to be absolutely the best bag I’ve bought.  The Trader Joe’s ones are plasticky, and their handles aren’t long.  The Whole Foods one is a thin cloth, and the handles are long enough that I can put it on my shoulder.  It’s also bigger.  While the TJ’s one is the size of a normal paper grocery bag, the Whole Foods one is at least 150% that size, which means it holds more.  I’m a strong person.  I can easily carry (especially on my shoulder) a full bag that is 150% the size of a paper bag.

So today, I bought another one.  And I am very happy.  I was especially happy to see that a new season (or hint thereof) brought a new bag design.  Otherwise, I would have probably just jammed all the groceries into the one bag.  A new design, though?  Who can resist?  [The right answer is probably:  “Any normal person.”]

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The other night, I had a scary dream.

I dreamed that I was in a cabin in Vermont. I was there with several adults and at least 3x as many children. Before we went to the cabin, I checked the weather. Along with the weather report (which I don’t remember) was a warning that werewolves were sighted in [???] and were headed in a northwesterly direction (which meant toward my cabin).

The other adults and I spent the day prepping the cabin for the eventuality that werewolves would attack that night, when I would be alone with at least 6 kids. We closed all windows. We fortified. We stashed kids in center rooms. I don’t know what else we did, but I started to plan for the fact that I would not sleep. I did not only have charge over my own children, but several others. I was scared shitless. Of werewolves.

Eventually, I asked my father (a gun person) for a gun to protect myself (and the children) with. He chuckled at me, the liberal gun-control enthusiast, for requesting such an item, and handed me a palm-sized weird looking pistol which his father had given him, and which I imagined falling a larger than life werewolf with ease.

When I was still 1/2 asleep, I was imagining what it would be like to go to the Vermont cabin which I have stayed in for my entire life (in real life) in the aftermath of that dream. How it would be difficult not to remember my fear, and the impending danger. How I would lie in the room with the sliding glass doors, staring and waiting for a man-sized figure to fill the shadowy frame of the doorway, fully able to crash through the glass and rip my throat out.

Then I woke up, and thought about how I needed to forget the dream before we go camping in Vermont. Because as scary as it is to think of a werewolf’s ability to crash through the glass, it’s even scarier to think of how anyone, anything, can open a tent zipper. Right?

We leave for camping on Sunday morning. The four of us have been camping at least twice, and Beloved and I have been much more. We always have had a great time. We have 2 tents – one smaller (2 person) backpacking tent (the second one we purchased) which Beloved and I have occupied, because it seems more delicate and was a good deal more expensive, and one 4 person tent, which we have in the past given to the girls, along with toys and books and activities (they were at least 4 years younger, since we haven’t camped since moving to this coast). At one point, we also had a “play tent” where the girls were able to hang out and play during the day without endangering our pricier tents. They have outgrown that one now, by far.

Today Beloved came home from work with some news – schedules have been changed and staff has shifted. As a result, his hours are tweaked and responsibilities increased.

What does this mean?

He can’t take off from work on Tuesday. We were supposed to be leaving on Sunday and returning on Wednesday. Because of our Europe trip, he was holding off on telling his work-folk that he would be missing yet another day. This above news came before his announcement. Oops.

Which means either a) we cancel camping, b) we change our camping dates (when we made the reservations, the days before and after were booked), or c) he leaves on Monday evening and returns after work on Tuesday evening.

We are thinking option (c) is wisest. I don’t want to (won’t) cancel, and changing the dates is likely impossible.

The resulting questions:

  1. If he takes the car, what will the girls and I do all day?
  2. Can I build a fire and cook dinner on my own?
  3. Will the werewolves rip my throat out in his absence?

I assume the answers are as follows:

  1. We will explore the riverbed, go for a hike, and walk into town to visit the cafe, the country store and the other town-like attractions;
  2. Yes. I am as capable as he is.
  3. No? Even though I’ll likely sleep in the 4-man tent with the girls and will be awake with some sort of sharp instrument in my hand and a flashlight on my chest “keeping watch” all night long.

Honestly – I do not believe in werewolves. [This thought brought me great comfort when I awoke on Sunday morning.]

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