Our first (and last) night camping

I don’t know what possessed me to want to go camping with the girls.

Maybe it was the thought of roasting s’mores as a family around a warm campfire. Or imagining the girls cuddled in our arms, wondrously gazing at the star-filled sky. Or thinking about the girls busily running around camp, collecting pinecones and rocks, while Jake and I relaxed, sipping lemonade.

NONE of this was a reality. It was pretty much an epic fail. But we did it.

Our disastrous evening out roughing it began in the afternoon setting up at a campground just 20 minutes from our house. The thinking was that we would be close enough to drive home if need be. Little did we know we would be THISCLOSE to taking ourselves up on that offer multiple times that night.

Samantha and Amelia excitedly helped  hindered Jake set up our tent.

A few hours into our afternoon, the girls were legitimately having fun running around, collecting rocks, and exploring. Jake and I didn’t get any relaxation time as the girls were clingy in their new environment, but at least they were happy.

All that balance beam time at gymnastics class is paying off for Samantha!

Samantha counts rocks as Amelia samples some in the background. 

Jumping from tree stump to tree stump. IMG_1173

Amelia spun around yelling, “ZOOOOOOOOOOOM!” for a good ten minutes. 

First signs of getting hangry/tired.

Before leaving for camp, Jake and I had prepared some yummy sausage, pepper and potato dinners in foil packets to grill. The only problem was, we severely underestimated the time it would take to cook  said packets on charcoal. With the girls frighteningly close to having complete hunger-induced meltdowns, we did the only thing any sane parent would do– grab take out! Enter first fail of the night.

While Jake and the girls were back in civilization grabbing food, I stayed behind, tending to our foild packets on the grill. With a book in hand, it would have been the most pleasant part of my evening… if it weren’t for our camp neighbors.

Enter Andy.

I nearly jumped out of my chair in surprise when I heard a booming man voice right behind me ask, “What kind of dog is that?”

I whipped around, suddenly hyper-aware that I was alone. Clutching my phone, I sized up this enormous, pot-bellied, wife-beater-wearing, unshaven intruder.

“Hi! I’m Andy! Your camp neighbor!” he explained.

We chatted about Bandit for a while, with me interjecting at every possible moment that my husband and kids would be back ANY second now. Apparently, Andy had just arrived from Arkansas earlier that week and was camping out while he found odd jobs to do in the city. He wasn’t even registered by the campground because he had simply asked someone who was already staying there if he could share his space. He kept asking what we were having for dinner and I couldn’t figure out if he didn’t have food, or if he was just genuinely being inquisitive.

I tried to dismiss all thoughts of  “Serial killer!!!” as ridiculous, but my imagination got away with me the rest of the night and I could never truly relax. I was at least extremely glad we had decided to bring Bandit, who made an excellent guard.

Several other “neighbors” stopped by to say hi– all of whom were friendly enough, but kept me a little on edge and wishing I hadn’t decided to leave my wedding ring at home for fear of getting it dirty.

I was relieved when Jake and the girls arrived and before I could say anything, Andy popped over to introduce himself again. Once he spotted the girls, he went on and on about how lucky we were to have twins.

“Weird, but harmless,” was Jake’s summation. “Serial killer,” I countered.

By then, our foil packets were finally done and the girls ate a second dinner. Full and happy, they blew bubbles and ran around camp while Jake and I tried to predict what kind of night it was going to be based on our neighbors.

We had no neighbors to our right, but on our left was Andy and his tent, along with an old guy who looked like he might have been camping out there a while. Next to them, two older women were camping in their tent and the whole group seemed to know each other. They were all constantly walking over to each other’s tents to chat or to ask about work or share food.

From their conversations, we surmised that on the weekdays, a lot of people who were looking for work and were otherwise homeless, rented camping spaces, and on the weekends when the campground was booked with families, these people had to go elsewhere to sleep.

We had come on a Tuesday night since the campground was booked solid on the weekends throughout the entire summer, thinking it would be great since it would be less crowded. We didn’t realize that by camping on a weeknight, there would be fewer families and more “interesting” characters.

Another fail of the night was underestimating how much wood we would need to keep a fire going for s’mores and sitting around the campfire as it got cold. Jake ran to the ranger station to grab more wood while I nervously waited for neighbors to approach us. Fortunately, we were left to do some bubble blowing in peace.

As the sun started to set, we gave the girls their first lesson in marshmallow roasting and s’more making.

 

S and A were fascinated by the fire, and, as an added bonus, never tried to touch it.

Samantha’s first taste!

She of course hated every bite.

Amelia had a field day!

The girls had one s’more and then wanted to gobble down all the graham crackers.

Camping is awesome!

Having s’mores so close to bedtime was definitely a huge contributor to our horrible night! Next time, (assuming there is a next time) we will cut off any s’more eating at 3 p.m. to allow time for all that sugar to get out of their system. The girls just aren’t used to eating sugary snacks/processed anything and it really made them crazy!

True to our vision of snuggling up by the fire and gazing at the stars together, we got the girls in their pajamas, grabbed some blankies and sang songs around the fire (mostly to drown out the group of newly graduated high school seniors who were constantly yelling out profanities!)

As the sun went down and the stars came out, S and A sat sweetly cuddled in our laps and truly seemed to enjoy pointing out the stars and moon. It was their normal bedtime, but we were ok with them staying up a little later than normal and figured they would fall asleep in our arms. Then, we would carry them to our tent, tuck them in, and high-five each other in celebration of our first camping success! NONE of this happened.

Amelia was obviously extremely tired and was SO close to falling asleep– she would have snoozed in Jake’s arms peacefully if it weren’t for Samantha, who kept obnoxiously trying to kick her sister, crawl into Jake’s lap, sing “Twinkle, Twinkle” loudly, or start screaming when I tried to keep her contained. Instead of falling asleep, Amelia suddenly got a second wind and then we had two wide-awake, over-tired little monkeys to deal with.

Sitting around the campfire with the girls was fun…. at first. After about an hour and a half, trying to hold Samantha and get her to fall asleep got old. FAST. The campfire died down, it was cold and all I wanted to do was lie down and go to sleep myself! If you’ve ever been super tired and unable to fall asleep due to little creatures crawling all over you, little fingers pinching your arms, and little hands slapping your face, you know what I’m talking about. Torture!

It didn’t help that it seemed like the night was just beginning for our camp neighbors, who were all ready to party.

Around 9 p.m., we opted to try our luck getting the girls to sleep inside the tent. This totally backfired!

Amelia the next morning:

Once inside, the girls got a third wind and had the time of their lives diving off their cots and crawling over each other and/or us. It’s too bad their sleeping bags didn’t have some kind of “lock” feature.

The next hour was pure torture!

Timeline:

9:15: Girls continue to jump around the tent

9:30: Continued arguing/profanity from camp neighbors

9:45: Someone starts listening to talk radio. Loudly. Without headphones.

10:00: Amelia finally conks out. Samantha is so overtired, she starts screaming and just can’t fall asleep.

10:05: One of the crazy camp ladies approaches Jake who was putting out our fire. All I could hear from inside the tent was, “I’m a grandma! I can calm her down! What’s wrong, sweetie?”

(Continued screaming from Samantha)

“Hmmmm… I definitely think she wants something. Lemme try and figure out what she’s saying.”

Jake: “It’s ok. She’s just over-tired and can’t sleep.”

“Maybe she wants something?”

To my great annoyance, crazy camp lady unzips our tent and shines her flashlight at us.

“Oh! They’re twins! That explains it! She just wants something her sister has.”

Jake, finally intervening: “It’s ok, really. Thank you.” Pushes past camp lady and climbs back into the tent, zipping it up and trying to calm down a growling Bandit and sobbing Samantha.

Me: “WHY DID YOU LET THAT CRAZY LADY UNZIP OUR TENT?!”

Jake: “I thought it would freak out Samantha enough that she’d stop crying!”

10:15: At this point, I was in tears. PLEASE GO TO SLEEP! Jake and I seriously considered packing up and heading home, but we decided to hang on for just a few more minutes, figuring that it would take us at least an hour to pack everything up and wouldn’t be worth it.

10:20: Samantha is still sobbing, but is finally asleep– 2.5 hours past bedtime.

10:30: Someone starts playing the flute. Really?

10:45 More loud talking/profanity, mostly from crazy camp lady.

11:00: A park ranger stops by to evict crazy camp lady for continued profanity/disturbances.

11:15: Talk radio is turned on again. Apparently, at this time of night, the only shows on talk radio have to do with conspiracy theories and the apocalypse.

11:30: We hear Andy tell his neighbors to keep it down. “There’s a nice family staying here tonight, guys. Let’s be respectful!” Awwwww…. thanks, Andy!

11:45 I’m up reading on my phone at this point since I can’t get any sleep. While Jake ran to use the bathroom, Bandit escaped from our tent and ran off, the crunch of leaves under his paws sounding super loud in the night.

“What the !?$#!? was that?” screamed Andy.

Jake secured Bandit and explained he had run off. Andy thought he was a mountain lion.

12 p.m.: Most of camp is quiet now, but neither of us could fall asleep because we kept hearing people walking around. Bandit did a low growl anytime he heard something, and wasn’t getting any sleep either. From inside our tent, the sound of anyone walking around outside was amplified and seemed like it was coming from very close to us. Despite Jake reassuring me that everything was fine and that he would stay up, I couldn’t keep my guard down for fear of serial killers!

Some point in the morning: I finally fell asleep.

6:45 a.m.: Despite going to bed WAY later than normal, the girls popped up like roosters at their normal wake-up time.

Who wakes up happy like this after a horrible night?

While at first, Samantha was giddy to wake up inside the tent, once we got outside to start a fire and breakfast, she realized she was severely  sleep-deprived and started crying uncontrollably, waking up everyone in camp. I didn’t feel too bad, since all our neighbors had kept us up with talk radio/flute playing/partying all night, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t desperate to calm her down for our own sakes. Exhausted, our nerves were WAY on edge that morning.

Nothing would calm Samantha down. It got so bad, we had to put her in the car in her car seat and shut all the doors. I kept bringing her pancakes and eggs, which she gobbled down, and asked if she wanted to come out. She kept giving me a stubborn, “NO!!!!!!” and refused to look at me.

Despite her late bedtime, Amelia was happy as a clam all morning. She was the only one!

Not wasting any time getting out of there, we packed up immediately after breakfast. Some other families stopped by on their way around camp, nodding understandingly and asking how long we had managed to make it. Camping with toddlers is not for the faint of heart! At least not our toddlers.

The girls were ecstatic once we got home and amazingly occupied themselves quietly while we unpacked everything. Several neighbors stopped by to ask how things went, and I seriously burst into tears recounting our epic fail of a night camping!

I think it was mostly the fact that I was so tired, but it was also that we had hyped it up in our minds so much, that it was super disappointing to not have a good experience. All those pent-up emotions from the night before came pouring out and I just felt plain exhausted.

I may be able to look back one day and laugh about what a crazy time we had. For now, it’s still a little too raw in my memory.

Despite the sleep-deprivation, the over-tired screaming from the girls and our crazy camp neighbors, I’m glad we hung in there. If nothing else, we can say we survived a night of camping with our girls. Barely. Needless to say, I have a whole list of things we will do differently next time… if there is a next time.

Lots of love,

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