Who takes a baby and toddler tent camping for a week in Florida? We do!
It was crazy but fun, and I’m so glad we went, though next year I’m demanding we teleport. We left around 6:45 a.m. Saturday morning. At 7:20 I thought, what if Jane sleeps all day in the car and doesn’t sleep at night? At 7:25 Jane woke up and didn’t sleep more than 40 minutes in a row until we got to the hotel, where she slept soundly in a pack ‘n’ play in the bathroom.
The next day we were almost to the campground when I realized we had no swim diapers. Sunday was to be the warmest day and we kept our beach gear accessible in the over-stuffed rental SUV with car top carrier. I planned to buy diapers there in a failed effort not to over-pack (we never wore half the clothes I brought, which were supposed to only last half the week).
“I don’t have any swim diapers,” I told Neil.
“It’s fine, it’s the ocean,” he replied.
“But he hasn’t pooped all day. He’s going to poop when he gets out of the car.”
“It’s the ocean,” he repeated.
“But then his swim trucks will be dirty.”
“It’s the ocean,” he said, concluding the conversation.
Jane and I hid under the SPF 50 “sunbrella” tent while Simon and Neil got to work on sandcastle-building. As prophesied, Simon pooped within 30 minutes of arrival. A friend pointed out his sagging shorts and Neil nonchalantly threw some sand at the poop that inched up his back. By this time a host of our friends, also taking advantage of the beach weather, starting watching the spectacle. The litter box approach was clearly not sufficient so Neil pointed to the ocean and he and Simon ran to the water, where Neil dipped Simon in to the waist and started stirring him around.
“I was going to get back in until this,” one friend laughed, while everyone watched in shock and disgust.
Simon’s friend Miles just noticed Simon’s presence and started running to meet him. “Wait, Miles, don’t go in there!” his dad yelled after him.
Simon wore those swim shorts and went barefoot until bed. The first night in the tent began well with both Simon and Jane going right to bed, though staggered. I couldn’t believe I got to hang around the campfire that evening; I tried to prepare myself for camping by expecting the worst. ‘I just want to see the ocean,” I told people, and, already having accomplished that goal, I figured it would all be downhill from there. Simon did wake up Jane (& everyone) in the middle of the night, and it took about 3 hours to get them & me settled down and sleeping. Nothing some strong coffee didn’t fix in the morning.
We were too busy to feel how tired we were that week. Neil and I each took 1 shower. We kept brushing our teeth in the car on the way to attractions like the zoo or the fort. I didn’t have time to keep walking to the bathroom so I started peeing in a cup in the tent and pitching it in the woods (the guys pee there anyway, right?). I devised this strategy when it was supposed to rain all night, and I can’t believe it took me 11 years of camping to come up with it. Especially when I already have baby wipes and hand sanitizer in the tent. I never took my Bible or novel out of the suitcase, whereas the last two years (with Simon), I read most of an entire book. I never put on any make-up or even did a real ponytail.
Monday was rough because Jane couldn’t nap well and was crabby, and I kept trying to help her fall back asleep, but then she just got more mad. After that day I just gave up and she never took a nap longer than 40 minutes all week. I’m paying the price for that this week, but there was no way around it. Simon barely napped, usually in the car for half an hour on the way back from sightseeing. I had an (also prophesied) “why did we come here?” moment to Neil on Monday, but acted more despairing than I actually felt. I attended the campfire again that night so actually the trip was far exceeding my expectations.
Monday we went to Walmart for groceries and supplies and spent $50 more than last year, and perhaps more than necessary, and bemoaned this all week to each other because we’re so cheap. Monday afternoon we went to see the turtle pond. The path was flooded but with the help of friends took Jane, her stroller & car seat, and Simon through the woods to get there. There we saw a bird (heron?) eating fish. Tuesday we went to the zoo and the beach, and into town for ice cream that night. Wednesday Neil took Simon to a playground with a $1 carousel and then he left for his overnight backpacking trip a.k.a. “campception.” Mandy had volunteered to fill in, which was basically a full-time job until they went to bed. She’s a saint. Wednesday afternoon we toured a local distillery (with the kids!) since it wasn’t very warm out.
Thursday Mandy helped me take the kids over the Muller’s site where Simon had a blast playing with Miles and Desmond. The Mullers are an intriguing family of seven ridiculously happy and interesting people. That afternoon when Neil got back we went to the Spanish fort with them & another family. While walking they spontaneously burst out singing, “This is my commandment that you love one another, that your joy may be full!” in harmony, further perpetuating the myth that they are, in fact, the perfect family. Then to the Hyppo, the gourmet popsicle shop. Simon loves popsicles but is used to the flavor-ice variety, not Starfruit or Mango Pineapple or Cranberry Cinnamon. Everyone must have been sick of hearing us moan about our Walmart overspending because both families gave us their free popsicle card.
Friday we packed up camp in gorgeous weather. It was forecasted to rain all night Saturday and we didn’t want to pack in rain. We visited the Muller’s site again, and got ripped off at the over-priced taco stand on our way out. Jane slept much better in the car on the way home. We left 80 degree weather and returned to freezing rain.
Camping with two little ones was extremely busy and, as far as hygiene goes, an extreme survival situation. I freaked out at the hotel about needing to shower when Jane was sleeping in the nook next to the bathroom. “What the eff do you want?” Neil exclaimed when I was freaking out. “I want an effing shower!” I replied. “Do not, under any circumstances, let me leave this hotel without showering!” Neil offered some solutions and then I found the light to the bathroom and took a shower while Jane continued to sleep. After breakfast Simon asked, “Mom, did you take an effing shower?”
Despite how hectic caring for kids while camping was, I had a really good time. I went to the campfire every night and enjoyed sharing a site with the Allies. Neil and I fought less than any previous camping trip, probably because we were so busy serving the kids. Aside from the first day Jane was her usual good-natured, sweet and happy self. Simon had a blast being a boy in the great outdoors, though he’s suffering from a bad case of diaper rash and post-vacation syndrome now. Yesterday he got spanked before breakfast, didn’t nap, and threw a screw into his poop (in the potty). Today he took a big bite out of a stick of butter while I was changing Jane’s diaper. I knew he was too quiet! But they are both sleeping now which is how I wrote this. The end.