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.)
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.
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 WAS A SUPERHERO.
I had camped, DAMMIT, by myself, in a tent, with my kids.
I WAS AMAZING.
…Except that in the process of the tick check, I found one extremely embedded in…guess who?? Noah.
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……
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.