So we’re back from vacation and, despite some bad luck with the weather, we are mostly okay. Vacations with little kids tend to be exhausting, but this one seemed particularly exhausting for some reason. On the other hand, we had a good time, particularly Evie and Oliver. They have such a great time just being outside, that I feel guilty for not giving them more outside time. It’s like our kids love the outdoors by default, and then we train them to stay inside. Or maybe it is because Mother Nature does her best to make sure that we never go outside again. She certainly tried to ruin our trip this time. Hey, Mother Nature! We’re on the same side here! It’s in your best interest to have children who are raised to like you! In case you haven’t noticed, most people seem pretty hell-bent on destroying you!
Friday night we stayed at my Grandma’s house, so Mother Nature didn’t get her crack until Saturday. We had just put up our tent and put all of our things inside, when an enormous storm came up out of nowhere. Oliver and I were sitting in the sand box as these ominous black clouds came roiling over the trees, blotting out the sun. Luckily we had a building to go into, since there was thunder, lightning, crazy rain, and 60 mph winds. I believe about 6 tents were blown over or otherwise destroyed, including our own. One of our tent poles snapped, ripping a gash through the rain fly. However, the tent next to ours was blown away completely, with 6 holes in the side where the wind ripped it away from the straps, which remained staked down. So it could have been worse I suppose.
We managed to construct a frankentent out of the discarded pieces, taking a new rain fly from a broken tent and a piece of pipe that once served as the bottom of a solar powered light, the top of which had blown away during the storm. Our bedding and everything was absolutely soaked, and this was a little discouraging, seeing as we had just put it in there. All of our clothes were in there as well, but only a few articles of clothing actually got wet. It was hot enough to not need blankets and we had some extra sheets, so we managed to make do in the frankentent.
Sunday morning we manged to dry out our tent and things and then packed everything up and moved to the next camping location. We had barely gotten our tent up and our bedding put in, before Mother Nature came back for more! This time the torrential downpour included some hail, and our tent collapsed under the pressure. That tent has never collapsed before, so I don’t know if the rain was just too strong, or if maybe something about the way we cobbled things together caused it to collapse (maybe the ill-fitting rain fly put pressure in unusual places). In any event, everything was soaked yet again. This was even more disappointing, since we had just gone through it the day before. Luckily for us, my mom was renting a cabin there, and we managed to squeeze in with them, including displacing them from their bed (thanks mom!).
We weren’t discouraged yet, so Mother Nature turned to another set of tricks, making it so oppressively hot and muggy that nothing could dry out. However, we were able to borrow towels and bedding from other people and decided to make a go of it in the tent, even though there was a rumor that another storm was rolling in. So Monday night we were back in the tent, and it started raining at about midnight.
Evie woke me up saying, “Daddy, my pants are wet!” It turns out, she was sleeping in a huge puddle at the lowest point in the tent, and was soaked head to toe. I helped her out of her pajamas, and then she began to softly cry. “What’s the matter, honey?” I asked. “I don’t want to lay back down!” Poor girl. I guess I never expressly said that she didn’t have to lay back down in her puddle!
So, Evie started her birthday the same way she came into this world; in her birthday suit. Tuesday rained all day and sort of put a damper on her birthday. We had to cancel the big potluck dinner with everybody we had planned for the evening (though it went off on Thursday without a hitch). Later, when mom borrowed a shop-vac from the office, we found out we had a gallon and a half of water in the tent! We were struggling to keep the kids inside the tiny cabin all day, but we eventually gave up and drove to Appleton, where we found two awesome places that totally turned what could have been a really crummy day around into something fun.
The first was a fun, family oriented lunch joint known as the Ladybugs Bistro. They had kid-friendly food (and paninis for parents), and a play area with toys. Oliver mostly enjoyed pushing around a baby doll in a stroller. Then it was across the street to the aptly named Building for Kids. This was a surprisingly good children’s museum, on par with any that we’ve been to in bigger cities. Evie and Oliver would have stayed for longer, but we were all pretty exhausted at that point. Finally, we returned to the campground and had banana splits with everyone. Evie was really excited about these, and I think it was her favorite part about her birthday. She was mostly excited about the sprinkles.
After all of our weather troubles, we were still in a good mood, so Mother Nature relented a little bit and gave us a few nice days. We got some pool time in, and some guitar time, not to mention playground, sandbox and visiting time. Unfortunately, with all the rain and humidity, the bugs were pretty bad. Evie counted something like 43 mosquito bites on Sara’s legs. We also had to deal with swarms of gnats, who liked to swarm around sweaty heads (particularly Oliver’s), and some kind of mystery biting insect who seemed to only go after men’s ankles. Everybody kept asking us how the kids were handling the bugs or the rain, but honestly, the kids didn’t seem to notice that stuff. Evie complained about her bug bites sometimes, but mostly they were just happy to be on vacation with family.
We got a chance to check out the local water ski group, the Webfooters. All of the kids (ours and two of my cousins’ kids) thoroughly enjoyed it, but none more than Oliver, who thought it was the most amazing thing he had ever seen. Every time a boat would make a pass, Oliver would leap to his feet, point, and say, “Whoa! Whoa!” Then he would clap wildly before returning to his watermelon feast.
Finally, on the last weekend, we went to the reunion on my Grandma’s side of the family. I knew it had been awhile since I had been to that reunion (we usually go to the first one and then cut out during the week), but we figured out that it must have been something like 11 years since the last time I went! But it was very enjoyable, and there were lots and lots of kids there! It was nice to have so many kids of age with our kids. Reminds me of when I was a kid and I would go to the reunions and play with all of my cousins. Probably the highlight of the weekend for me was Sara and I taking Evie on a canoe ride. I love to go canoeing, and I believe that was Evie’s first ride on a non-motorized boat.
Obviously, we were having too much fun in the outdoors. Almost slapping Mother Nature in the face! Well, she decided not to take it lying down, and reports began to circulate about thunderstorms coming in Saturday night. Sure enough, right as we were about to get the kids ready for bed, the wind picked up, the sky darkened, and thunder began to growl. As we were taking the kids in to the bathroom for their nightly routines, Sara said, “Should we just pack up the tent and sleep in one of the cabins?” There were large, shared-room cabins (think army barracks) that had some vacancies due to some of the people who left early.
It was certainly worth thinking about. First off, I don’t know if I could have born another soaking night in a tent. Second off, packing up wet gear is awful. And third, we don’t really have anywhere we could dry our tent when we got home. If you have a yard, fine, just put up your tent and let it dry. But for us, about the only option we have is setting the tent up in a parking spot!
I was sort of against going in the cabin though, because it was time for the kids to go to bed, and it would have involved packing up everything, then unpacking some things into the cabin, then packing everything up again the next morning, just to turn around and leave. So I was ready to just brave it out in the tent. But then it occurred to me: if we were going to pack everything up, why not just get in the car and drive home? It was only 6:30 and we were only 5 hours from home. Let the kids sleep in the car and just go.
So that is what we ended up deciding to do, and I think it was the right choice. With the help of many family members, we were pulling out less than 40 minutes after we decided to leave. It was a long drive home (thanks to Sara for driving while I nodded off a time or two!), but it stormed hard for most of the way. Much better to face it in a car than in a tent. And it had the added side benefit of giving us all of Sunday to unpack and get back into the routine, rather than arriving just at supper time. I can’t tell you how much of a difference that made. It might have had the added benefit of letting us sleep in a bed for an extra night, except that Evie was so upset that we were leaving, that Sara promised her that I would have a “sleep out” with her on the floor of the family room. Small enough concession to end a tantrum, and I was so tired by that point anyway, I would have slept on a bed of crushed glass and razor blades. We didn’t even get home until after midnight.
I won’t lie, it’s good to be home. Towards the end, the lack of sleep was getting to everybody, especially Evie, who was having a lot of trouble listening. When we got home, we took the kids grocery shopping. It was like all that time out in the wilderness had turned them into wild-children, who didn’t remember how to behave in society! But things are coming back to normal now. Oliver has stopped crying and pointing at the outside, like a bird in a cage. One of the cutest things was that Evie made a bunch of “raffle tickets” and insisted on holding raffles for prizes such as pens and rubber bands (which we’re not allowed to keep, by the way). So I think it is safe to say they had a pretty good time.
One last thing I wanted to mention that didn’t really fit anywhere else. Some of these people are a little too comfortable while “camping”! None more so than the guy with the 48 inch flat screen in his RV. Why bother going to (living at?) a campsite? Honorable mention goes to the crazy couple across the street, who set up more and more stuff every day. The fake candelabras and porcelain eagle head were something to see, but the 25 pinwheels and Uncle Sam hat and picnic table runner were such a nice touch. And it’s pretty obvious they do this a lot too; every single item was in it’s place. My description doesn’t do this scene justice. And lets not forget the meticulously placed hunter-orange construction ties around any item that could even remotely be tripped over. How long does it take to pack all of that stuff up??