School holidays are upon us. For those of you who are heading off camping with your families over the school break, well done! You are creating memories that will last a lifetime and taking one more step towards building a strong family identity. I thought I would post the following story which I wrote after a camping trip with my family at the beginning of the year . With five children 7 and under at the time, it was an interesting experience and yes, we will do it again over the Christmas break! (Just without the ticks this time.)
After 2 days of planning and organizing around all the usual daily activities, we woke early and were on our way by 8.30am, which wasn’t a bad start as it was only 30 minutes after we had hoped to leave. We drove the 1 ¼ hour distance to the Neergabby campsite and were pleasantly surprised at how close it actually was. We pulled into the driveway to be greeted by Nan and Granddad and the rest of their 4 wheel drive club and informed that the campsite was riddled with large ticks. After some debate it was decided that it may be best to set up camp away from the trees and longer grass as there appeared to be less of an infestation there. (This of course meant that we were in the full sun on a 31 degree day.) We set up camp without much assistance from the children who were eager to get out and meet the gang and begin events for the day.
We enjoyed a pleasant day of games and craft with the whole group, young and old, lunch on the verandah, cups of teas and chit chat – while looking after our 5 of course. The twins found several willing hands to be passed around to and the older children had a couple of other playmates to run about with. They received an extremely generous Christmas bag from a club member and copious amounts of lolly bags and chocolate prizes throughout the day to give the kids that sugar rush we parents always love.
The late afternoon was filled with sliding down the plastic sheet waterslide pulled by a rope which was enjoyed immensely but ended tragically as the soldier ants whose nest we had apparently disturbed finally came out to find out what was going on over their heads. Several children (including 2 of ours) suffered painful stings. We cleaned up for a sumptuous Christmas banquet under the beautifully decorated rotunda. Mum and Dad were camp directors and had knocked themselves out making it special for everyone and didn’t sit down the entire weekend.
All children were bedded down by 8 and quiet when I checked on them (I think they heard me coming) and all was well for a while, until Master 7 appeared to tell us that one twin had been woken up by everyone else talking. We settled him down, got all the others quiet and Daddy stood guard for noise outside the tent while I returned for the raffle draw. The stayers kept on for the guitar led singsong, but we retired fairly early to bed.
We both struggled to go to sleep, being either too hot in our sleeping bags or too cold out of them. The night wasn’t tooo bad – I was only awakened once for the toilet, twice for “I can’t get back in my sleeping bag” (from a previously hot but now cold child who was under the bag rather than in it), once to feed a baby (also awakened by the sleeping bag incident) and finally to push another child back onto her own mattress (she had turned sideways and was trying to get comfortable at her brother’s feet – grumpily telling him “Don’t, stop it, stop it,” as she was kicked in the head while he tried to push her off him in his sleep.) The kookaburras started at 4/4.30am but went away fairly quickly, the first neighbours were chatting around 6am and the first child was awake at 6.30am, needing to go to the toilet.
Breaky of toast, eggs and leftover ham was up on the verandah in a lovely cool breeze and after this leisurely start, we faced the task of packing everything back in the car and trailer again.
We spend 2 hours in the already boiling sun re-packing all the gear into the car and trailer while the twins sleep in their pram in the shade (lucky them!) Miss 3 1/2 completely lost it and spent the whole packing time crying about her sore arm, sore tummy and how tired she felt and the oldest two pestered us continuously to eat more lollies and chocolates from their Christmas bags. Fellow campers flipped camper-vans back together in 20 minutes and enjoyed a cuppa in the shade whilst pondering the joys of being Grandparents rather than parents and packing for 2, rather than 7. We spent the morning wondering whether all our fond memories of camping growing up were due to the obliviousness of childhood and selective memory, however Mum tells me that no, it wasn’t anywhere like this much work for them!
We finished eventually and took leave of the camp-site, electing to skip the car museum trip and simply head home with our tired crew. Master 7(who sits between the twins) was very patient and kept busy giving the twins offers of milk and finger food during the trip while Miss 3 1/2 told us over and over that her tummy and arm hurt until she finally fell asleep. Twenty minutes down the road, Master 7 informed us that there was a brown substance (that looked exactly like melted chocolate but unfortunately wasn’t) on the baby toy, his hands and oozing out of a twin’s nappy into the car seat. We stopped by the side of road to change said twin, including his clothes, wipe his seat, Master 7′s hand and wrap up the toy to deal with later. We resumed the trip again to hear a yell from the back seat that there was a tick on the feeding pillow. We stopped the car again and I threw the tick out of the window with my bare hands (Mummy to the rescue yet again.) The final tick count for the weekend: 3 off the sides of the tent, 2 off the floor of the tent, 4 off the children, 3 off Daddy, 1 off me and many sightings. God answered my prayers and none actually bored into skin.
Twenty minutes further into the journey Miss 3 1/2 woke up, cried and threw up in her lap. We stopped by the roadside yet again to clean her up the best we could, wondering throughout whether ticks were crawling up my legs or were they just flies I could feel? As we set off yet again, Daddy and I laughed uncontrollably at the absurdity of the situation and wondered what could possibly go wrong next. We FINALLY reached the city and the home stretch, only to hear Master 7 tell us that he needed to go to the toilet and no, he couldn’t wait 15 minutes until we got home. We pulled off the freeway and stopped by a clump of out of the way bushes for longer than would ordinarily be necessary (apparently he really did need to go) and set off again.
At the next set of lights, the guy in the next car wound down the window to tell us that we were dragging an occy strap, so we pulled over once more, wondering what it could be as we don’t have any occy straps?! Turns out to be someone else’s occy strap which has hooked around the trailer lights and pulled them out of the socket (meaning we’ve had no lights for who knows how long) and badly damaging the attachment which miraculously turns out to still work when reattached but will need replacement later. After looping through the South Terrace area to get back on the Freeway we noted that we had taken 20 minutes to go 5 minutes worth of distance.
On arrival home (which we were amazed to see was only 2 hours after leaving instead of the 3 hours it felt like) we fell out of the car, fed lunch to the now crying babies and older children (not crying but complaining at the removal of their lolly bags for later), washed and re-dressed Miss 3 1/2, put twins to bed, send older 3 to room time, spent ½ an hour unloading the car and dumping everything to be dealt with later, ate some lunch ourselves and collapsed in a heap.
We looked around the house and noted that it had not cleaned itself in our absence and was now littered with all the camping gear as well and decided not to go camping again until all children were old enough to carry their own gear and put up their own tent… until the next time that is – got to build those childhood memories! We hear Dunsborough is nice over Christmas time…..