Tag Archives: Camping

Parents in the Wild


Uk and Ukette, 2016

Uk and Ukette, 2016

Camping was invented when Uk the caveman said to his wife Ukette, “Honey, let’s go on vacation. We’ll sleep on the ground, roast unidentifiable meats over a campfire, drink questionable water and battle dangerous wildlife.”

“But we already do those things.”

“Yeah, but now we’re gonna pay to do it.”

This ancient tradition not only has survived, but thrived through the ages. When our children were young, my husband and I packed our tiny Plymouth Horizon to the roof. Driving while astride sleeping bags and camp stoves, drowning in water toys, and surrounded by disposable diapers and packages of hot dog buns, we escaped to state and national parks. Unfortunately, clans of mosquitoes, yellow jackets and spiders scheduled family reunions at the same time.

As did every lightning bolt in North America.

My husband and I raised metal poles to the roiling nighttime sky while the tent’s wings flapped like an angry pterodactyl’s. Finally succeeding, we religiously kept the following nightly ritual:

  • Midnight:  Raindrops plop through the tent roof — mass Chinese water torture.
  • 1 a.m.:  Children pop up in my damp sleeping bag like mushrooms.
  • 2 a.m.:  Family death marches commence to the nearest outdoor john.
  • 3 a.m.: Steve and I share tender marital moments bailing out with Happy Meal sand buckets.
  • 4 a.m.:  We retreat to the car, sleeping (sort of) in pretzeled layers, periodically whanging noses on the steering wheel.

Inexplicably, our children wimped out of camping togetherness as teens: “Please let us stay home and mow the grass!”

Fearful for their sanity, we complied.

SteveHikerAs new empty nesters, however, Steve and I reminisced about hiking through verdant, sun-dappled forests. Canoeing silvery green lakes. Snuggling near a campfire, shy stars peeking through a gossamer cloud ceiling above.

Why did we let bored kids keep us from doing what we loved? And why miss out now?

Two-adult camping would be so simple. No more potty-training sprints to mile-distant restrooms. No more explaining the behavior of amorous groundhogs to six-year-olds while wishing for more personal romance sans a tentful of little roommates. No more arranging schedules in and out of the wilderness to accommodate Little League tournaments, band camp, or a first date with Mr. Awesome.

Steve and I could camp together. Alone.

I pulled out a faithful old iron skillet and my most raggedy towels. I bought Sandies Pecan Shortbread cookies, my beloved calorie splurge from camping years past (the kids wouldn’t touch them).

Munching away, I said, “Hey, Uk, want to go camping with me?”

He dragged our ancient tent from the garage. “You got it, Ukette.”


Living with the Wild Things

No camping trip is complete without wildlife. Years ago, we and our young children made the acquaintance of elegant deer, sunbathing turtles, wading blue herons, and swans trailed by fuzzy gray babies.

I loved all God’s creatures—if they stayed in their own hotels. I did not cheer when Granddaddy Longlegs invited hundreds of his grandchildren to stay in our tent. Nor did I welcome clans of mosquitoes and yellow jackets that hosted family reunions on our campsite. My flyswatter and can of Raid soon made it clear our family values were not the same.

raccoonCuter species — especially raccoons — also posed problems. We refused to let our children feed them. That night, the masked varmints assaulted the campgrounds like commandos. Fortunately, we’d locked our coolers in the car trunk.

Campers next door allowed their kids to feed the animals daily. The raccoons spread this good news with evangelistic fervor, and hordes of raccoons gathered in broad daylight, extending greedy paws, chattering for their fair share — a park version of the Feeding of the Five Thousand.

Our neighbors also left their coolers out at night, declaring raccoons could not open latches. Were they kidding? These coons could crack a safe.

skunkSoon word of easy pickings reached a rival gang: skunks. Guess who won the ensuing debate?

Thus, four-legged friends and thousand-footed millipedes inhabiting camp showers cause only a fraction of camping complications. Often two-footed wildlife create the most excitement.

Once, after a nearby rock concert, thousands of attendees decided to hug trees where we were camping. The lone park ranger looked 17, unable to control anything more aggressive than delinquent chipmunks. Our neighbors, who wore bandannas, chains and questionable cigarettes in their mouths, treated the campground to heavy metal favorites, courtesy of their oversized boom box. At 1 a.m., our tent walls throbbed in rhythm with the bass. One scary song sent our family over the edge.

“Mommy, it’s a bomb!” Our youngest dove into my sleeping bag.

“Nothing like getting away to peace and quiet,” I said.

“I’m going over there.” The love of my life unzipped the tent and stalked, unarmed, toward the gang zone. I prayed. I covered my eyes. But I could not cover my ears.

“Would you please turn that down?” he asked in a commanding tone. “My children cannot sleep.”

I waited for gunshots.

Instead, a loopy voice said, “Sorry, man.”

Silence. Blessed silence.

Out in the wild — and in the jungles of everyday existence — we often must communicate using fly swatters and worse.

Sometimes, when we least expect it, a forthright, courteous word will suffice.


Tell about a time when you lived with the wild things. Have you won any standoffs — two-legged, four-legged, or otherwise?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Home from Camping

Oh, my God, our home seems palatial, compared to the pop-up camper where Hubby and I spent the weekend. But I miss the wood-smoky campfire and Your sky chocked full of stars. Majestic rivers we viewed while hiking. Paper plates we didn’t have to wash. OMG, do You want to play hooky with us again?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: It’s Spring? Seriously?

Oh, my God, this weekend it snowed. Thundered. Hailed. Blew. Walking to church, we had to avoid ice on the streets. Yet, with the sun’s chilly afternoon rays, Hubby changed the oil on the lawn mower and raised the pop-up camper. OMG, is he a man of faith or just crazy?

A Camper Pops Up

I awaken, my stomach kicking up a ruckus.

My husband turns over, assuming the little-boy look I deeply distrust. “What would you say if I bought a pop-up camper today?”

Unprintable thoughts. (Deep breath.) “Weren’t we waiting until next year?”

I. Should. Know. Better.

Lately, he has regaled me with facts about hitches, sizes, and secondhand prices. To cut costs further, “They make Airstreams designed only for sleep.”

I snorted. “Translation: we can’t stand, right?”


“We’d slide into bed like bread slices into a sideways toaster?”

He offered, “I could rig something—”

No, thanks. I have never used a catapult to go to bed, and I won’t now.

As usual, he has lined up Excellent Reasons to Buy Today. “Think ‘clearance prices.’”

“They don’t come with catapults, do they?”

Thankfully, no.

He wants to enumerate all his Excellent Reasons, but I dive under my covers. “Buy it. Now.”

When he arrives with his new toy, Stomach and I have reached a cease-fire. I agree to a pop-up demonstration.

Unfortunately, the crank has disappeared. He’s off to the hardware store to buy a wrench that doesn’t work. Hubby ends up using a kayak paddle. But he sets the camper up.

Surveying its heater, he enthuses, “Now we can camp in March and November.”


He raids the cleaning closet, as the savings involved do-it-yourself elbow grease.

Given my uppity stomach, I cannot clean. Sigh.

Hubby scrubs and scours. Where have his cleaning talents been hiding all these years?

Instructional parking videos he watches online make Stomach and me uneasy. We do not trust safety tips that feature crash sounds.

He practices parking the camper in our church’s empty lot, then drafts me as safety spotter as he backs the pop-up into its new home by our garden. “Yell if you see traffic.”

As if on cue, car convoys appear. Clumps of bicycles clog the road. The Taylor University cross country team lopes by. I hope they prayed before practice — and that they take another route back.

Hubby shifts into reverse again. “I can’t hear you. Yell louder.”

Halfway through his next attempt, I spot a pedestrian and shriek, “Walker!”

The poor woman sprints away.

But Hubby completes his maneuver. The camper rolls into its spot. Sort of.

He jumps out, frowning. The pop-up will learn that “crooked” is not in his vocabulary.

Hubby learns that the camper is a slow learner.

I learn not to brainstorm fiction plots when my flowers’ lives are in jeopardy.

Mission accomplished.

We set an October date for our first campout. I don’t really mind his new toy, as he shares it with me.

But I hope nothing else pops up soon.