Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Camping Mama

by Amanda Forester

Some of my favorite memories as a kid are the many times we went camping as a family. It was great fun! I remember playing in lakes, swimming in ice cold glacier water, or catching frogs in muddy ponds. Sleeping in a tent outside was always a thrill (except for the time we forgot the rain fly and it started to pour in the middle of the night and the tent filled up with water).

Camping food is the best too. Somehow anything cooked over an open flame is delicious! Hot dogs roasted over the fire, “dirty” eggs in the morning, and of course s’mores at night. My brother and I had different strategies for roasting marshmallows. He would carefully roast his over red coals until each side was golden brown. I was too impatient and would plunge mine into the fire until it burst into flame. I’d wait a few second for the flames to melt the insides, then blow it out and eat the charred thing. With chocolate and graham cracker I swear the black ashen husk of the marshmallow was barely noticeable!

So it was with eager anticipation that I planned my own family’s first camping trip last year. We were going to have so much fun! My first task was packing for the trip. When I was a kid I would just throw some stuff in a bag, which my mom would then double check and add the things I forgot. Now that I was the mom, this task fell to me.

Packing was my first clue that camping for moms is different than camping for kids.

It took me weeks to prepare. I made lists, I read books, and I planned for every possible weather contingency. There was a lot of equipment to buy. Have you wandered around a camping store? So many gadgets! And all of them collapse down into itty bitty packages. Me, a credit card, and a camping store is a dangerous combination. After spending as much on “roughing it” as a trip to Disneyland, I moved on to meal planning. I made careful estimations as to how long food would last in the cooler. Making a detailed list is key because you must bring everything you need for that meal. Want to eat a can of baked beans? You better be packing a can opener!

Finally the day of the trip arrived. We arrived at the campsite and the kids ran off the play. I spent the afternoon running around trying to set up camp and at the same time make sure junior didn’t fall into the stream and juniorette didn’t fall out of a tree.

Finally the campsite was up and ready. Now it was time to play… wait, no I needed to start cooking dinner. I got the fire started and put on the grill. Getting the fire right, with the coals just perfect is a bit of a challenge. Mom did it, easy—at least that’s how it appeared to me as a kid. I was coming to realize Mom did a lot of stuff… and maybe it wasn’t so easy.

Dinner was finally a success. Now to search out fireflies and frogs by the creek… or I could do the dishes instead. After the dishes it’s time for my favorite – s’mores! I get the kids sticks to roast the marshmellows and show them the proper technique. Suddenly, one of the marshmallows catches on fire and my kid screams, waving around the blazing torch. Argghhh! In a panic I grab for the flaming ball of death.

Crisis averted, I finally get the kids their s’mores prepared and now it’s time for mine. Except no, I need to take juniorette to the potty – which when camping is an experience best forgotten as soon as possible.

The rest of the trip pretty much went along the same lines. My kids had a fabulous time, just like I used to have. I worked my butt off, just like my mom used to do. Afterwards I called my mom to thank her.

We are planning on going camping this summer again. The kids are totally looking forward to it, and this time I know what I’m in for!

So here’s to all the moms who work hard so their kids can have a great time! Have you ever had to fill a role your mom did and realized just how hard that lady worked for you? Love ya Mom!

Oh and if anyone wants my camping packing list, e-mail me at Amanda@amandaforester.com. I’m happy to share!


  1. The story was a hoot. You are a braver woman than I ever was. The great outdoors, is just that, outdoors. And it can stay there. Bugs, sunburn, poison ivy, YUCK!!!!!

    Thanks for calling up your Mother and thanking her for everything. My Son is dating a woman with three kids. He calls me now and again to ask advise and to thank me for everything I taught him. Makes me feel wonderful, and that I did something wonderful with my life. Him. One day your kids will be calling you...great job Mom!

  2. What a great post! I loved camping in Idaho when we lived there, probably because there were no bugs! There was dust though, since it doesn't rain all summer in that part of Idaho. There's nothing like peeking out of your tent in the morning to find a herd of elk munching the grass outside.

    The last time we were camping in Stanley, it was over a 4th of July weekend, and the temps dropped too 23 degrees at night. Stephen and the kids slept fine, me, I froze. I told him next time we go camping, I want him to build me a cabin with a heating system instead of a tent.

  3. Great story! I've only been camping a few times myself, but they were all when I was very young. Nowadays, I don't do well in hotel beds, let alone sleeping bags. I think I'll leave camping for those who are more suited to it!

  4. Amanda, I sorta forgot to ask, what the heck are dirty eggs???and do I really want to know?

  5. Oh no, Amanda. Camping and me--not going to happen. Never did it as a child, but wanting to be the perfect mother, I went camping several times during the 5 years my daughter was a Girl Scout. I hated it. I was soooo thankful when she said she'd had enough of Girl Scouts and wanted to move on to other things. Bless her!
    As for my mom, she could make the best tasting, most beautiful cakes! Never lumpy, leaning, or in crumbles. Mine are usually all three!

  6. Jessica- who knew being a mom was so hard?! (I can hear my mother laughing at me). "Dirty eggs" is when you cook up some bacon in a skillet, then scramble the eggs in the bacon grease. Not healthy, but great in the cold camping morning!

    Robin - I hear you on being cold at night. I've invested in a VERY warm sleeping bag and good sleeping. Do not try an air mattress - that will freeze you. Also you can zip two sleeping bags together - just saying.

    Cheryl - one of my favorite "camping" trips was when plans didn't work out and we were forced to stay in a hotel (on the beach in Hawaii!).

    Amelia - a mom that bakes! Now that's a yummy skill!

  7. Nope, I don't do the roughing-it camping thing. I love the great outdoors since I grew up in the middle of a National forest, but maybe because of growing up personally familiar with the hazards, camping has never held any appeal. Every camping trip I made as a youth, if not involving a cabin or RV, has been a disaster. Just ask me about the time a bull took up camp right along with us and my 7 year old nephew became bosom buddies with Bubba and his biker pals while we were trying to set up the tent!

    We have a trailer and that is as close to camping as this gal will ever get! I can enjoy the splendors of campfires and roasted marshmallows, BBQ and starry skies, but then take a hot shower and curl up in my cushy bed while watching a DVD!

    Great story, Amanda. You are one brave woman and a terrific mama to do it all again.

  8. I have fond memories of camping as a kid. My dad was the great outdoorsman who'd take us off on expeditions to fish and hunt berries while my mom worked her tail off the entire time. She even ricocheted a hatchet off a log while chopping wood and it embedded in her shin. "Oh I'm fine," she says with blood dribbling down her leg. "It didn't get into the bone." She's a far stronger woman than I. I would have been calling in the National Guard to rescue me. She just hobbled around the campsite for the next two days, refusing real medical attention and relying on the first aid kit to patch herself up.

    Those memories you're making with your kids are so important. Enjoy them!

  9. I thank my mom like every day. I love my daughter, but oh my gosh! I'm exhausted!

    Oh, I loved camping as a kid, too. but we lived in Michigan. Now I live in Texas. No camping for us.

  10. Sharon - I think you're talking me into the trailer idea - sounds much more civilized!

    Olivia - oh my gosh, your mom is one tough mama! Camping is over at the first sign of gushing blood. It's one of my rules!!

    Shana - I just never understood how much darn work kids, and espcially babies are. I think that's why they're cute!

  11. Great post, Amanda! Sorry I missed this the other day. It's been crazy with my computer constantly crashing when I get home from work, and my internet keeps going out on me due to storms in the Gulf. Have a terrific camp-out!