A note to stepmoms everywhere

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The Great Outdoors (Just like the movie, but no one dies and there’s no storm, or steak)

Youngest and dog, both in anticipation.

Youngest and dog, both in anticipation.

I love the outdoors and camping. I love fishing, hiking, sitting in the woods and staring at trees and controlled fires in their designated areas (I’m not a pyro, I just enjoy a nice little fire). I take my people on these excursions with me. They are meant to be calming little vacations where we all sit around and talk and roast marshmallows. We sleep in and have big breakfasts and relax, walking around the campground.

Now sometimes all of that nice stuff actually happens. But everything I do in life ends up completely weird and messed up in a way that wouldn’t even be possible for a normal person. This rule also applies to my vacations, so my people are also subjected to my weird occurrences.

We had a lovely little weekend planned at a state park we had not been to yet. We get to the campsite, and it is a patch of gravel perched at the edge of a steep hill. We were overlooking a small valley. The kids were not enthused. We tie up the dog and start setting up. We were there for a total of 30 minutes, yes, 30 minutes in, and the dog broke loose and went for a jog in the wilderness. Yay.

The littler people and I run down the hill to get the dog. We are whistling and calling her and clapping to get her to come back. She was gone for about 10 minutes and came pouncing back like it was the best play time she ever had. I dragged her about halfway back up the hill, then she dragged me the rest of the way (thankfully, I was dying!). We finish setting up, make dinner and after some fire time, we go to bed. I go to get ready for bed, and I came back without a flashlight and hear “Jessie, there’s raccoons in the screen tent!!” We were being raided by raccoons.

I chased out the bandits in the screen tent and began securing the food there, then I hear “there’s one in the cooler!”. Little dude figured out how to open the cooler. I chased him off with a stick, at one point I made contact, we were both surprised, and he ran off into the woods. I turn around and there are 2 more in the screen tent! It was an ambush!! I hollered to my husband for backup.

We finally got all the food in the car, and I was allowed into bed. They came back and found some dog treats. They didn’t have the decency to drag them off into the woods, they had to knock things over and rip open the bag as loudly as possible, terrifying the children (who are now absolutely traumatized and terrified of raccoons forever. I don’t get it). I had to get up one more time, chase him off and salvage the dog treats. Stupid raccoons.

The next day, we had rented a pontoon boat for the entire day. The dog was a little unsure of the whole thing, and freaked out a little. She stared at the water, but didn’t want to jump in. We went out and fished all day and then just cruised around the lake. I was sitting up front while we were putting along, when all of a sudden the dog jumped off the front of the boat. I was holding her leash, but knew her collar was a little big. She had gone under the boat, and if she slipped out of her collar, it was propeller time. I screamed at my husband to stop the boat and he threw it in reverse. The middle child ran up and opened the gate that I was struggling to open with my one free hand. The boat slowed, and I could see the dog paddling for her life! I grabbed her collar and yanked her back up on the boat, a little shaken up. So was I.  Stupid dog.

The next day, we went to the beach. It was packed. We found a part of the park where we could hang out and the dog didn’t have a massive anxiety attack (high maintenance, seriously). We got some sun and got in the water. I went to the bathroom and apparently missed a man getting completely naked for the outdoor shower area where you would normally just rinse off in your bathing suit. Totally naked in front of God and everybody. I’m still not sure why anyone would think it was ok to do that. We stopped off on the way home and tried to fish a little. We caught a few tiny guys, but that was it. The dog was just beside herself at this point and tried to chase the bobber on every cast and wanted to run around and drive us all crazy. I slipped and called her a Dick Nixon, minus the Nixon, in front of the people. They all stopped and looked at me wide eyed.  I said sorry about 20 times, then they all giggled for a bit.

We went back to the campsite, had dinner and went to bed a little early. The next morning, we woke up and had everything all packed up and left the site in 2 and a half hours. A personal best. But aside from bandit raccoon ambushes, drowning runaway dogs and full frontal beach time, it was a good trip.

But I swear sometimes I feel like it’s so crazy, you just can’t make this up. I need a vacation from my vacation.

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A Little Break in the Waves

Just a little fishing

Just a little fishing

I’m kind of having a tough time right now. There is just a wave of activity swiftly moving towards me and I’m beginning to panic.

Let’s start with something nice. We had a long camping trip this weekend. It had some adventurous interludes; there was a rude family of boys who felt it was okay to swear at their mother and they wanted to pick on the girls. So that was fun. We forgot a lot of things because there was literally NO planning put into this trip. That was on me, normally I do that and I didn’t want to think about it. There was enough going on already. I spent a lot of time doing what I consider working; cooking, keeping the dog under control, settling arguments, then loading the kids up and whisking them away in the car when a freakish storm rolled in. We went fishing, and I didn’t really get to fish. I didn’t really get to relax. Each night, by the time the kids went to bed, I was just shredded. Our last trip was so light and fun and relaxing. This one was more work, and now I am sore. But the kids had a really good time, they ate some awesome food (smoked turkey and a ham on the fire, and chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast) they caught lots of fish, and I took lots of pictures. They loved it. So I guess this was one for the kids.

So after our family trip (and any mom will tell you a family trip is for the kids, not for her necessarily) we come home to a pretty ridiculous house. I’m upset about it. And I’m not upset an anyone else, I’m upset with myself. How did it get like this? How do I get this under control?

I’m at a point where I feel like things are just getting away from me. School is right around the corner and I’m not ready. We have house projects that are collecting dust, and have been for months. The house is a disaster. Now, what I consider a disaster is not the same level as what I’m sure most people consider a disaster, but it needs a really good cleaning, and I don’t know when I can do that.

Our evening schedule has a “time turd” plopped right in the middle of it, and that is the middle child is in cheerleading from 5:30 to 7:00 every weeknight till school starts. We would normally eat dinner around 5:30, but this has thrown things off. I’m still not sure how to deal with it, we’ve just been eating at 7 which is crazy late for me. So my husband rushes home, picks up the middle child and then rushes off to the Y from 5:30 to 7. Gah. The other option is the one I’ve been dreading for months, and that is the round up the kids and take them all to the gym.

Sure, taking the kids to the gym sounds great, but now that’s effort spent getting them there, to what they want to do, settling their arguments, doing my workout, then rounding them up and finding the lock (every single time). Then after that I still have home projects and cleaning and cooking to do. Sounds super suckish. I’m not down.

This week, I’ve got a packed schedule, then my husband is going on a business trip. I will be handling the kids and the time turd on my own. I guess we are all going to the gym. Here comes the wave! WOO!


A Vacation from My Vacation

A professional angler in the making!

A professional angler in the making!

Well, I must say, our weekend in the “wilderness” was pretty fantastic, bumps and mishaps and all. It all went pretty well. Nobody got hurt, the dog didn’t get to bite anyone and we’re all still alive. Fantastic.

Friday we rolled out on a trip that seemed short and painless, then the tents went up in record time. We had dinner, and the 2 younger kids tried to put a bean bag toss game together. Both tried to tell the other what to do and neither felt the need to read directions. It somehow got put together, not sure how.

Saturday was the middle child’s birthday (she keeps saying that now she’s “physically 13”), so a breakfast of epic proportions was created. Chocolate chip pancakes, bacon, sausage, and corned beef hash. I’m pretty awesome on a skillet and camp stove, if I do say so.

Then we went fishing. The kids were so excited, I couldn’t believe it. They loved it. They figured out how to do everything themselves. They needed some guidance and a little help when the reels snagged up, but they did pretty good. The oldest child somehow ended up completely covered in line at one point, like her reel exploded. Not sure how.

Towards the end of our trip, I snagged something under the water, and in the process of trying to help me, my husband lost the entire top half of my pole. It just slipped off and slid right down the line, into the water. Gone forever. The kids all offered up their poles, but I didn’t want to take them. I just hung out with the dog.

Even though it was overcast and raining a little all Saturday, I managed to get a pretty intense sunburn. Saturday night brought a pretty awesome storm. I mean full on downpour. Puddles and standing water, winds, lightning…it was a little like a hurricane. The kids abandoned their tent for the car and my husband and I were stranded in our tent, watching the water pour in through the seams and puddle on the floor. Everything got wet, and the temperature dropped. I had a dry fleece throw to huddle under in my damp clothes. It was probably around 60 degrees out, but when you’re wet, that might as well be 30.

After a long night of what may have been mild hypothermia, I really needed a shower to stop freezing. I felt bad for the kids, so I made another epic breakfast. We went off for another adventure, but discovered we couldn’t take the dog anywhere so they went without me and I dried out and packed up camp.

They caught some little fish and came back planning their next trip. They can’t wait to go again.

Well, my shoulder is blistered, I haven’t slept well since Friday, and the house is still dirty, but the kids had a good time. It was something we needed to do as a family.

My husband is on a trip all this week, and for the first time in what might be a month, the kids are at their mom’s for the week. I am alone in the house for a few days!! I would like for my husband to be home, I would like to spend some time with just him. But I guess trying to relax and take care of myself for a few days is also needed. I’ve been in full on “mom” mode for a while, and you forget to do things, like tweeze your eyebrows, sit down or have quiet time. I’m getting a hair cut tomorrow (I cut it like twice a year) and I’m sure I’ll do my usual falling asleep in the chair thing. You forget what it’s like to have someone kind of take care of you like that.

I can’t wait. They’ve been with us so much, I really had a big gap to fill. I did more than usual and really pushed myself to be more of a mom. I’ve been scared of that because they have a mom, and it’s hard to find a balance there. But they’ve needed me to be more than their friend, so I risked stepping on toes and started being more of a mom type person. It’s been more rewarding, but seems like it takes away from time with my hubby, and definitely takes away from self-care.

But the kids are thriving. I will have time for self-care later. Right now, little people are in bloom.


Endless Summer

From a trip a few years back

I am just so super excited for so many reasons, I think I may just blow up. There’s been a buzz of activity for a few reasons, the biggest one is we are going on the first camping trip of the year.

I grew up camping, and I loved it. Being outside, we didn’t need to do much. Ride our bikes around the campground, read books, sit for hours by the fire pondering the cosmos (seriously, I was a wierd kid). It was wonderful. Yeah there were a few weekends being trapped in your tent while it rained all day long, but it didn’t kill us and it showed us how to deal with that kind of stuff.  I wanted to introduce the kids to those kinds of things, so we all started going camping, and they really took to it.

There were a few bumps in the road. People got hurt, there was rain and everything got wet, I heard “I’m bored” a few times. But they really loved it and they told everyone about it. They’ve been asking since May “when are we going camping?”

This trip will be different. We are also introducing them to fishing. Being that they have matured a lot since we cut the cable (they read more, play better and have lots more patience) we felt they were ready.  We took them on Tuesday to go buy fishing poles and they were just besides themselves. It was great. They walked around grasping thier poles like they were stuffed animals, holding them tightly and displaying them proudly.  I also fished a lot as a kid, so this will be something else I get to share with them.

In preparation for the trip, they have made another expedition to the library for reading material, in case there’s a lull in activity (like if fishing isn’t exciting). This is the most they have read, just about EVER. Even during the school year they don’t read this much. I am so impressed. They really look forward to it, too! It’s so nice to have them excited about such simple things.

Finally, on an unrelated note, the middle child had learned to crochet a while back. I had seen a news story about a girl who crocheted hats for babies in the hospital, and thought that would be something good for the middle child to be involved with. The oldest child makes jams and pies in jars and sells them to support an orphanage in Uganda that she visited last year (I’m not kidding, this seriously goes on and she raises a lot of money) and the middle child wanted to get involved in a cause of her own. I asked her if crocheting for babies would be something she wanted to do, and she almost didn’t let me finish before she blurted out “Yes!”

I finally got a response from a hospital and we are going to get all signed up. We will start next month. She was so excited she said “when can we go get the stuff so I can get started? Can we go next week?” I had to tell her we needed to wait and see what the hospital wanted us to do.

I was worried at first about how this summer would turn out, but it seems like it’s taking a turn for the better the further we go. People are saying they notice a change in the kids, and I do too. The attitude and feel of the house is different.

It’s like it’s really summer, no messes, no complications, no fights. Just warm, fun, happy summer, with all the possibilities laid out before us, just like a lush lawn.