Epic Camping: The Downs.

Read Part One and Part Two here.

Yesterday, I showed you the beautiful moments of our camping trip. Today, I unweave the rest of the story.

As I mentioned in my first post, Chris and I have never tent-camped with children – we used to do it pre-kids, but not since – the whole waking up with the sun, bad dreams, hearing every sound and moan that the little cherubs make – it’s not for wusses. And we’re wusses. If we can stay in a cabin and not sleep with our kids, why would we all sleep crammed in a piece of fabric?

Because camping is awesome, that’s why. And Chris wasn’t coming along and I was up for double the adventure. Because adventure is awesome, too.

We had a last minute state park reroute the day before we left (stupid Labor Day crowds), so I woke up at 6:45am on Thursday to get out the door and get our spots before they were all gone.

I was ready to leave a 7:45, which is pretty commendable for all that must be packed for a camping trip. I called the state park to make sure they still had three spots together. They did, but they would go fast. Oh – and by the way – the only way you can rent spots is if you have tents to set up on each spot IMMEDIATELY – your car there, your money, and even your placard that they insist you post on your site – those proofs are not enough. Tents must be assembled. Immediately.

I knew my parents would not be ready anytime soon (Mom had just started packing), and I suspected that Lindsay was not ready to leave at 7:45 am. So I called them and concocted the plan: I drove to Lindsay’s, picked up her tent, then drove to my parents and picked up their tent AND my Dad.

We arrived around 10:30am – not as early as I planned, but we had three tents. Which was good, because the park ranger asked us at the front entrance: DO YOU HAVE YOUR THREE TENTS.

This particular State Park will go down in history as the most OCD State Park Ever.

But it’s pretty.

And so began The Great Tent Assembly – something I hadn’t taken part in at least nine years.

Dad and I put together the first two tents, then took a lunch break, during which Lindsay arrived, so she and I put together her tent while Dad supervised.

The kids, meanwhile, were all asking to go to the playground. Every two seconds.

We delayed the hot walk, and instead put them in swimsuits to wade in the lake (which we later found out was against the rules – swimming at the beach only. It doesn’t matter if you got up at 6:45am to get a lakeside spot.)

When Ali got out, she went in our tent to get something. Then called out, “Mommy!!! Will you come get this earthworm out of the tent?”

I went to save her from certain death, and scooped up what I thought was an inchworm onto a piece of paper.

Then I looked at it. And its circular sucker for a mouth.

It stood on its backside and silently screamed at me through that large, round opening.

OH. My gosh.

This ancient creature was no inchworm. She was a leech. And she was leaving circular bloody spots on the paper as she crawled along on her mouth, clearly having lunched off of my daughter.

Ali said, “There must have been at least two, because Eli pulled one off of me, too!”

I didn’t get a picture of The Leech Attack because we passed him around to study her. And when Lindsay took her kids up to the bath house to get cleaned up, I had finally caved and taken my kids to the playground that had been there since the extraordinarily creepy 1950s,


so I missed seeing the much bigger leech she pulled off of Andi – the one that decisively made a popping feeling when she de-suctioned it.

(For the rest of the weekend I tried to get someone to lure a leech out for a photo, but no one else was interested in getting in the water after that. No idea why.)

When we got back from the playground, my Dad told all the kids to get all the firewood out of his truck and bring it to the fire pit.

There were 18 stairs down from our cars to the camping spot, so this was no small task. There was much moaning and sweating of children, but they obliged.

Until Noah started screaming manically from the truck – so much so that I didn’t even look because I just assumed it was not my kid. I’d never heard him scream like that. Mom ran up there to see what was wrong. He was the lucky kid who had picked up a log that was covered in fire ants. His arms sprung up with dozens of bites, and he even got a couple on the palms of his hands.

(Meanwhile, Chris was enjoying a nice, quiet, direct flight to Dallas. But no matter.)

Moving on.

Eli had jettisoned his shoes early into the trip, despite the ground being made up of approximately 47.8% duck poo. Of course, he managed to also gash that extra soft piece of skin between his big toe and foot. I found him sitting by my tent in a dirt pile, foot gushing blood, and he had it twisted up so that he could…no he wasn’t. Oh yes. Yes he was.

He was licking – nay sucking the fountain of blood off of his foot.

STOP IT!! Your foot is covered in duck poo and dirt!!!”

“But it won’t stop bleeding!! <lick lick> And this is the only way to get it to quit hurting!!” <slurp>

For the rest of the trip, anytime there wasn’t an adult around to forcibly stop him, he chewed the skin off around the gash, widening it further by the hour, and creating a five-star hotel for every piece of duck poo bacterium in the campground.


Naturally, on night one, the children had trouble falling asleep (“The creatures are too loud and I miss my noisemaker!!” /// THEY ARE YOUR NOISEMAKER GO TO SLEEP), and woke up at near-sunrise.

Around lunchtime on Friday, Noah told me that his ankle hurt, and held it up to show me.

I grabbed it to try and see what he was pointing to, and he had another complete meltdown. MUCH screaming.

Which is when I realized that his ankle was quite swollen – all stemming from a bite – that definitely looked like it had fang marks.

It didn’t look spider biteish at all – I should know. The fang holes were bigger, and the swelling was not at all red and was not around the bite, but extending from the bite.

Mysterious Bite

He seemed okay, though, so I didn’t do anything about it right away. Then then we walked to the playground again – half a mile of heat and sweat and misery.

I had just said how great it was that the kids had figured out the antique seesaws when Noah started screaming. Again.

Because the rusty, rickety seesaw had come down on his mysteriously bitten ankle.

It took long moments of withstanding cacophony to get him calmed down, and then a carrying him back to the picnic table in the sweaty sweaty 91 degree sun.

But even after he calmed down, he couldn’t walk. At all. And we needed to get back to the campsite to treat his foot.

So I hefted and toted my 46 pound child half a mile in the 91 degree direct sun, all while mentally awarding myself 2,300 calories of exercise for the excruciating effort.

I cleaned and medicated and pondered what it could be. Weird spider bite? Mild snake bite? I had no idea. Noah started walking again not too long after all the doctoring – at first he was hopping on one foot, then limping, then just barely limping.

So again, I let it go.

That night, I dreamed of running all night. I hadn’t gotten to run since Wednesday night, nor had I been alone for a single second. I was craving those miles and miles of quiet, child-free trails, and my subconscious knew it. I awoke wide awake at 6:15am – quite unusual for me.


Both kids were still racked out – this was my chance.


I ever-so-quietly got dressed in my running clothes, put on my shoes, and started writing Ali a note to tell her I’d be back, and that they could get out of the tent when they heard Gramamma or Pop or cousins. Our tent was in the middle campsite and my parents were nearby – what could go wrong? I wouldn’t go far. I was so desperate for a run. I needed this to survive.

As I was finishing my note, Ali rolled over and asked what I was doing. I whispered that I was writing her a note and to go back to sleep. Then Noah lifted his head. I told them both to go back to sleep. They closed their eyes. I snuck out and walked up to the bath house, guzzling a Five Hour Energy and nearly skipping at the glee of my future run. I walked back to the campsite to grab my phone and start running.

Except that Ali was looking out the tent window, crying pitifully.

There were ants in our tent – TWENTY maybe – and she was afraid they would eat her and all her stuffed animals while I was gone.

I knew she was exhausted, hence her reaction, so I got in the tent, killed the twenty tiny black non-biting ants, and laid down with her to try and get her back to sleep.

Noah was wide awake and was physically unable to whisper. Or be quiet in any way.

I knew, sadly, that my run would not be happening.

So instead, I walked my kids half a mile and rented a pedal boat, at 7am, and spent the next two hours pedaling all the cousins around the lake – again in the direct sunlight.


Then it was time to start breaking up camp – the much dreaded breaking up of camp. Oh my gosh so much carrying. So much sweating. So much de-tenting. So many stairs to our cars. SO MUCH HEAT AND MISERY.

It took a couple hours of pouring sweat and folding and stair-climbing, but we finally got packed up.


Except that my car battery was dead – not too surprising since I’d been electronically locking, unlocking, and raising the back for days without driving it. Dad jumped me off, I left it running for a while. But when it was time to go, my battery was dead again.


Which meant that my battery was probably bad, which meant that I could not under any circumstances stop on the way home. Oh – and my cooler had also slowly dripped all night and soaked my third row seats. So yay for the smell of mildew.

I got home and I found my Wonder Woman inner being again. I unpacked that car with Hulk-like strength and grand amounts of longsuffering. I put EVERYTHING up. I unpacked all our bags, our coolers, and even our miscellaneous crap. I started a load of laundry. I bathed the filthy urchins. I checked everyone for ticks.


I had camped, DAMMIT, by myself, in a tent, with my kids.


…Except that in the process of the tick check, I found one extremely embedded in…guess who?? Noah.

Oh –and there was still the small issue of his mysteriously bitten foot, which was now purple and red and even more swollen.

This was the first time I had found an embedded tick since being a parent, so I called my parents to inquire as to what was the latest way to get ticks out.

Dad said he’d heard that if you put cooking oil on a q-tip and twisted it, you could literally unscrew the tick. This sounded easier to do than putting a burnt match on the tick’s back as my parents had done to me as a child, so I retrieved the oil.

The tick did not unscrew.

So then I tried the burning thing, and Noah completely flipped his lid. More screaming than ever, and wouldn’t let me get near him.

I talked him down off the ledge by asking him 565 times if he trusted me (he trusted me on the 566th ask), and then I burnt the tick.

Except that the tick was dead. So getting burned didn’t exactly make him jump out of his cave in Noah’s back.

Then I did what I should have done first and Googled “How to get a tick out” and found the CDC site. SO MUCH EASIER.

“Grasp the tick close to the skin with tweezers and pull steadily” – something my parents always told me NEVER to do.

(Sorry Mom and Dad.)

I tweezed out the tick, including his mouth parts, and then alcoholed Noah’s back.

Then I turned my attention to his purple foot.

It hadn’t seemed to bother him hardly at all all day today – except that he had a slight limp. But it looked so much more infected I felt like I needed to check. I texted a few medical friends and followed their advice – I medicated him again and outlined the swelling with a Sharpie and decided to wait until morning.

Oh…and all while I was pulling a tick out of my hyperventilating and screaming child and trying to figure out if I needed to go to an after hours clinic about his ankle……

Chris was riding to the football game. In this.

And all of this occurred because one fateful evening in July I took two Benadryl before dinner.

Epilogue: Thankfully, the next day, Noah’s ankle had improved drastically. Not as thankfully, the next night, Noah came down with croup. The children remember the trip as magical, and I actually enjoyed it too and never lost my cool – until Chris’ flight got delayed three hours. God’s grace was sufficient for me to camp on my own, but it was not at all sufficient for those last three unplanned hours of no Daddy.

Epic Camping: The Origins

So I went camping last weekend.

Camping at Lake Lurleen

This camping trip, as you will come to understand, deserves a three-part series.

Part one, the origin – how it came to be that I tent camped for the first time with children. Oh and did I mention – without my husband. In part two, I will share with you the beautiful moments of the trip – the happy kids, the photographical magic, and the reasons that one should absolutely go tent camping. And in part three, I will share the…other parts of the trip. Because there were definitely two distinct trips jumbled up all together, and to properly document them, I had to first detangle them.

You will not want to miss the third post. Because you all have told me many times – your favorite posts are the ones where you get to watch me suffer. All in good fun, of course.

But first, the origins.

The entire shebang started with an unfortunate accidental roofying of myself.

A few weeks ago, we went to the beach to visit Chris’ aunt and uncle. I had taken some Benadryl in the early evening for an allergic reaction – two pills, in fact – and Benadryl is not usually a medication I frequent unless I’m extremely close to being horizontal for the remainder of the night.

Then we went to dinner. And I ordered one cocktail with my meal. A girly, beachy cocktail. Very fruity. Very little alcohol. At least I thought so – but perhaps the fact that the drink was called “Love Potion Number Nine” should have been a clue that it might have been hiding more Love than I suspected.

The mixture of Benadryl and Love Potion Number Nine very quickly made me feel like I’d been slipped something in my drink.

Because I had forgotten about the pre-dinner medication and did not understand why a few sips were making me feel this way, I glanced suspiciously at our waiter. Then slid my 90%-still-full drink away from me and attempted to focus on the conversation at hand. Chris’ Aunt Kitty was saying that she hadn’t been feeling good and wasn’t really up for joining Leo on a trip to the season opening football game in Dallas.

My mind, working in stranger ways than usual and with a bit of a happy topspin, blurted out, “Well that’s easy to solve! Why doesn’t Chris just go with Leo?”

The other three adults at the table lit up at this fantastic suggestion. It was perfection for all of them – Kitty wouldn’t have to travel when she wasn’t feeling well, Leo would have an excited football companion, and Chris would get to go to another football game.

But. Hmmm. I just. What?

The opening game was Labor Day weekend. The fact that the game was in Dallas meant that Chris would be gone for multiple nights. On a holiday weekend.

Being Daddyless on a weekend already feels like double overtime.

Being Daddyless on a holiday weekend – a weekend that’s supposed to feel more relaxing than usual – felt like it was definitely violating a labor law or ten.

Last time Chris was gone over a holiday weekend, I greeted his return with a full-on breakdown that included many tears.

What had I done.

This was not good.

But my mental state was deteriorating fast so there was no time to process. And they were already happily talking about the trip to come.

We arrived back at Kitty and Leo’s and I literally fell across the end of our bed and passed out. Chris checked on me later and I remember mumbling that someone had roofied me – and I was not joking please call the restaurant and report the bartender. Chris reminded me of the Benadryl and tried to coax me into pajamas which I bluntly refused, so he put me under the covers in my clothes and I didn’t move until morning.

No one mentioned my brilliant plan for the rest of the weekend. On Tuesday, Chris emailed me from work.

“Are you serious about me going to the game? I told Leo it might have been the Benadryl and Love Potion Number Nine talking.”

“Oh, it was definitely the roofie and I can’t believe I said it, but I did say it, so yes, go. I’ll find somewhere to go with someone so I’m not home alone all weekend.”

And so began the search for Labor Day plans. Plans which ended up being the most epic camping trip of my life.

On Neighborliness: A Cautionary Tale.

It’s been three weeks since I may or may not have killed my new neighbor’s chicken, so maybe it’s okay to blog about now.

Time heals all wounds and all.

(Except for fatal ones. On poultry.)

Chris and I are very dedicated to neighborliness. In our last neighborhood, we had a lot of those super relationships where we waved and smiled at people every day but never knew their name, and after a certain number of months and then years, it became way too awkward to introduce ourselves. So when we moved to our current neighborhood eight years ago, we made a pact: we would be proactively neighborly from the first day.

(For the first year, we had a legal pad where we kept notes on everyone we met so that we could remember names and facts. Because that’s not creepy at all.)

This summer, we had new neighbors move in across the street. We immediately went over and met them, connected on Facebook, and let them know that we were available if they needed anything.

A few weeks later, Virginia, the new neighbor, told me that they were going on vacation for a week. As our neighborly philosophy dictates, I asked her if there was anything she needed me to do while she was gone.

“Yes, one little thing, if you don’t mind.”

No problem. I can handle little things or big things. I’m neighborly.

“Can you let my chickens out in the morning? It doesn’t have to be every morning – just when you think about it. I have someone else that will put them up each night and feed them – they’re just happier when they’re free range during the day.”

This seemed an easy request. After all, my Mom has dozens of chickens, providing her (and consequently me) with a regular battery of matter-of-fact tales of their mating rituals and hen-abuse and eggs-gone-awry. In fact, you never know what will lead to a story you don’t want to hear when at my parent’s house. Such as, seeing a nasty looking specimen in her basket of freshly harvested eggs.


Me: “WHAT is WRONG with that egg, Mom??”

Mom: “Oh nothing. It just came from an older chicken.”

Dad: “Can you imagine how that felt coming out?”

Me: “I don’t want to. You’re not going to….eat it…are you??”

Mom: “Sure I am! It’s fine.”

Dad: “I’m not.”

From now on that is how I will picture my own nearly 34 year old eggs – lumpy and covered in large pores – and will continuously weep at the declining of my womanhood.

“….so all you have to do is open their cage and let them out into the fenced-in area.”

I snapped back to reality. My neighbor’s chickens. Of course. NO problem. The kids and I can HANDLE IT. We rock neighborliness.

The next morning, I led my little troupe across the street. The children gleefully attacked their play set while I let the four chickens out and checked their water.

We repeated these steps for the next few days with no incident. I began to get to know the four very differently colored and sized chickens. There was the tiny one – was it even a chicken? And then the brown one, the speckled one, and the black one. The black one was the Mean Girl – every time I opened the coop, she pecked, squawked, and flapped at the other chickens in an attempt to be the first one out of their tiny home.

I pondered her personality further and realized that maybe she was just the Introvert. And if so, I totally understood her need for escape.

On Friday, I was leaving for the weekend and forgot to let the chickens out. I remembered later in the day, but didn’t worry too much about it, since Virginia had said to only do it when I thought about it. I was gone all day Saturday to the lake with some other moms, and I meant to ask Chris to let the chickens out while I was gone, but in the process of relaxing completely, it again slipped my mind.

Because the lake is where neighborliness goes to die.

On Sunday morning, I got a text from Virginia.

“Good morning. Are y’all at home?”


“No…I’m at the lake. But Chris is home – what do you need? I’m so sorry I forgot to let the chickens out!”

“That’s totally fine! It was just if it was convenient for you. But yes, if he is home and wouldn’t mind would you ask him to go open the coop? The girl that is taking care of them said that the black one seemed to not be able to get out of the coop yesterday and I don’t know if she is hurt or just being grumpy.”

I texted Chris and asked him to go let the chickens out, and promised Virginia that I would also go check on them when I got home that afternoon. Chris texted back that they all came running out, so I let Virginia know, and she was quite relieved to hear that nothing was amiss in the coop.

When I arrived home, I walked across the street immediately. As I strolled up to the fence, I saw three of the chickens at the far end, all pecking and socializing.

Which was the point that I realized I had not told Chris how many chickens should have run out of the coop.

That probably would have been useful information.

I searched the yard. The black chicken did not appear to be in attendance.

Not good. This is not good. No good at all.

With much dread, I bent over and peeked into the coop.

And there she was. On her side.


VERY dead.

My Poultry CPR skills were not going to help this situation at all.

What am I going to say?! A chicken just died on my watch!!

Not wanting to ruin some beautiful moment in my neighbor’s beach vacation, I texted her rather vaguely…


And then I went back across the street to get a garbage bag. I mean, I couldn’t leave her there…dead…in the coop…right next to the food. Maybe the other chickens were traumatized by the death and that’s why they were in the other end of the yard.

I fretted to myself how the chicken might have died and if it could be my fault. This didn’t fall into our neighborliness philosophy at all.

Or maybe the other chickens ganged up on her and voted her off the island…she WAS the mean one/introvert…

As I walked into my house, Virginia texted me – she was ready to hear the news, whether injured or fatal. I texted that the chicken was indeed dead, and that I would take care of it.

(I’m pretty sure that texting pet death announcements is the bottom rung on the neighborliness ladder.)

Chris instructed me to double bag my hands with grocery bags and double bag the chicken in two garbage bags so that no neighborhood wildlife would be tempted to retrieve a snack out of our garbage can, and so that I wouldn’t come down with some sort of Dead Poultry Disease.

I headed back, covered in plastic and carrying even more plastic, ready to perform the most environmentally unfriendly burial process in the history of chickenhood.

The other three chickens were back in the coop, pecking away at the food and unceremoniously stepping on their dead friend.

So they weren’t traumatized. And were more suspicious than ever.

I reached in and picked up the dead chicken, feeling the talons claw me accusingly through the bag. I dumped her in the trash bag, tied her up, tied her up again, and put her in our trash can on the way back home.

I felt my pocket buzz with a text, but there was no way I was touching my phone until I washed my hands, double bagged or not.

As I was standing at the sink, my phone started ringing. I quickly dried, glanced at the text that was begging me not to worry about the dead chicken, and then answered Virginia’s phone call.

“Please don’t pick up the dead chicken! I will get someone else to take care of it! I’m so sorry you had to come home from the lake to that!

I told her I’d already done it, and apologized for the bad news on her trip. She apologized that I had handled a dead chicken. I assured her that I wasn’t squeamish, and I was much more worried that I had been a factor in the death. She said she was sure I wasn’t – but did ask me to check with my Mom as to what she needed to do, if anything, for the other chickens, since we didn’t know the cause of death.

I called my Mom and told her the whole story. After assuring me that she didn’t think my misconduct had led to the death (most likely, she stressed), she said,

“Well. I think the best thing to do would be to put the black chicken in your freezer until Virginia gets back from the beach so that she can take the chicken to the department of health to get tested for diseases.”

In one simple suggestion, my Mother managed to find the limit to both my neighborliness and my squeamishness.

I am not putting a dead and possibly diseased chicken in my freezer, Mom. How about if she has another chicken die, she can take that one to the department of health?”

“Yes, that seems reasonable.”

Still feeling slightly guilty about The Great Chicken Death, I texted my friends that had been at the lake with me to update them. They texted back with much needed doses of encouragement and advice.


Advice which I have not, as of yet, taken.