Practice Camping

I bought a tent.

It’s a big one, large enough to house my wife, myself, and the two boys for a few days while we take a small vacation in July. We’re easing into camping. The boys have never done it, and my wife is lukewarm to the idea. She’s not AGAINST it, but she has a hard time seeing the merits of camping in July when there are perfectly good hotels with showers, air conditioners, and continental breakfasts. For some strange reason, my wife equates relaxation to being comfortable. She’s weird. I know.

At any rate we’re not even doing any ‘hardcore’ camping either. Ever since I was a little kid, my family has been vacationing in Gettysburg Pennsylvania every summer for a few weeks. We went there once on our way back from a trip to Washington D.C. and decided that we wanted to go back and learn some more about the park and the history of the battle, so my parents planned an entire trip to the place the next summer. One thing led to another, and it’s been the annual vacation spot for my family, as well as a number of other close-friend families for years. They get a few adjoining spots in a campground, circle their campers and tents up like an old-timey wagon train, and proceed to do nothing but enjoy themselves for a few weeks, take in (and live) the history of the area, and honest-to-god live it up. They count down the weeks and days until they all get to meet up down there.

I was a party to this annual jaunt myself until only a few years ago. Even after my wife and I got married, we went and joined them down there for a few days every year, until the summer of 2013. I was graduating the police academy that summer, and couldn’t make it down. The summers of 2014, and 2015 saw me working schedules and jobs that simply didn’t permit the time.

Now though, I’ve had my vacation time approved, and we’re heading down for a few days. My wife agreed to the trip, but under the condition that we only stay three nights. That would be plenty for the boys to get their feet wet with some rather tame camping.

Still, we’ve got some prep work to do. Since my son doesn’t have school on Monday for the Memorial Day holiday, and Monday happens to be one of my pass days at work, we’re doing some ‘practice camping’ in the back yard, and we’re going to make a whole affair out of it. We have some fun and necessary errands to run in the morning, then when we get back, we’re going to light the campfire, set up the tent, and spend the night in the darkness of the Catskill Mountains, a hundred feet from our house.

Camping has always been one of my favorite things to do. I’m a bit more used to walking into the woods as far as I can and living for a weekend with nothing more than I can carry on my back- but I need to scale back a little bit, for two reasons.

  1. I’m not 20 anymore.
  2. If I’m going to get the boys interested, we need to do this methodically. Throwing someone into a lake and saying ‘swim!’ isn’t the best way to teach someone HOW to swim, nor foster a lifelong love of aquatic sports. So…easy does it.

Funnily enough, I’m honestly as excited about our little backyard practice camping as I ever have been about a weekend of ‘roughing it’ in the mountains, or even our old family trips to a campground outside of Gettysburg Pennsylvania.

This is one of those instances where- while I very dearly hold the memories of our old vacations and experiences, I’m getting to forge ahead with our OWN family trips, traditions, and adventures. I often get nostalgic for the old days of roving over hallowed battlefields with my family, like the one time my brother and I got separated from a tour group and spend hours walking the battlefield to get back to town and meet up with our family. (Before cell phones. Yes, it was a long time ago.) I remember someone had asked my father if he was worried about us, being ‘lost.’ My father shrugged and told them “No. They know this field as well as they do the woods behind our own house.” I was thirteen, my brother, eleven, and it’s still an event talked about to this day.

But even with those fond memories, I even more so enjoy the day trips we’re taking with the boys now that they’re old enough to do things with. Three hour drives to Steamtown train museum, or the Boston Aquarium…each of these experiences are becoming as, if not more treasured to me than the old days are. Because these are the adventures we’re making as a whole new team. We’re the successful spin-off of the classic hit show. We’re the epic sequel to the blockbuster film. We’re Chapter two in a voluminous tome of adventure, memories…and more than a little bit of chaos.

So, stay tuned and find out how practice camping goes, as well as a report on how our first REAL vacation as an entire family ends up.

 

May Your Days Be Merry and Bright

Since the half day I’m at work today promises to be the last instance of quiet time until 2015 for me, I shall now seize the opportunity to wish those of you who have kept me in your reader all this time a Safe, healthy, happy, and merry Christmas.
I know a lot of you are like me, stress-ridden and busy over the holiday season, but here’s hoping that no matter what else you’ve got on your plate, you get a chance to relax and enjoy the holidays for what they are.

As for me? I’ve got two little boys who are clock-watching like an office rat. The Narrator’s enthusiasm for Christmas has been picked up by Mini-Me, who still hasn’t got any idea what’s happening, but can sense something exciting in the air. The two of them are doing me a world of good, and they’ll never know it.

When I was a kid, every Christmas Eve, the families would rally to my grandmother’s house. There would be food, presents, and family, and always a lot of fun.

Now that my grandmother has moved to live with my aunt, my parents have taken up that mantle, and we’re gathering at their place tonight for a short while, until it is time to take the kids home and put them to bed. Then will follow a flurry of wrapping gifts and trying to get a handful of hours of sleep before The Narrator inevitably wakes up at some ghastly hour of the morning.

Tomorrow will be filled with family dropping in to visit. My parents, whom we’ll see tonight, will stop in in the morning, and my in-laws, who we’ll go visit in two days, will be there immediately after. We stagger their visits, mostly because the house is too small to accommodate what would be twelve people all at once, and also because my mother and my mother-in-law get along like a house on fire. They’re always pleasant to each other, but the temperature when they’re both around is always much, much colder than is comfortable.

….’tis the season- right?

I’m also on ambulance call starting around 6, so I could be celebrating part of my Christmas Day with some interesting illness or injury. It’s probably bad form to drive the rig wearing a Santa hat….right? And I’d probably get fired for wheeling a patient into an emergency room shouting “Ho Ho Ho!” as if I’m delivering some sort of squirming, barfing, or bleeding gift?

Anyway.

Sarcasm and joking aside, Tomorrow will be great. Exhausting, but great. We have family that we love visiting, and we’re going to have some honest-to-god quality time with the boys in the morning. Just us, them, and coffee.

I really and truly hope that every last one of you manages to have a great holiday, and if I don’t happen to get back here between now and then, I will see you all in 2015. Thanks for making adequatedad part of your 2014 experience.

The Wrong Outlook on the Holiday Season

I found myself looking at the calendar this morning and saying “Its almost over” with a sense of anticipation. As the first wonderful sensations of my morning coffee kicked in, I realized that I am doing the holidays all wrong. Especially this year. I’ve caught myself looking at the holidays as ‘just another something to get through.’

I’ve honestly been looking at the next week of what should be joy and family, as little different than the few days where my car was laid up at the shop, or when I have to work a few 16 hour days back to back. “Gotta get through this” is not the way to be viewing the season. I’ve missed the point entirely.

However, between today and January 1st, I’ve got two 4-12 PD shifts, three 8 hour days at the day job, two 12 hour ambulance shifts, A visit to my parent’s house Christmas Eve, Both families visiting on Christmas Day, a “Polar Express” train ride with the boys on the 26th, a 4 day trip to the in-laws for New Years…even though they had visited us less than 72 hours before we’re due to arrive, and a large grocery shopping to get done. So where some of us are slamming high-octane eggnog and donning hideous sweaters and felt reindeer antlers, I’m tearing from one obligation to another until 2015 comes rolling in. (Hopefully with some good news, more on that later, I don’t want to jinx myself!)

So you’ll pardon me if I seem a tad stressed out about the week upcoming.

I KNOW I’m looking at it all wrong, and I’m trying like hell not to let my grinch-like feelings bleed through to sully the boys’ excitement, and I’m doing something right, because the little one stood in the middle of the living room floor this morning chanting “Kheee-mas!” -while the big one counted how many sleeps were left until Christmas…so even if I’m a bit grouchy, I haven’t blackened anything for them.

The tree is up, decorations complete, Christmas shopping done, there’s snow on the ground, and as an added bonus, there’s actually a pay day coming up at the end of the week, so things aren’t really all that bad. I’m just having a tough time adjusting my brain to get into ‘celebration mode’ as opposed to ‘survival mode.’

Perhaps some Creme de Minthe will help.