The Wonders of Nature as Seen from an Outhouse

“Twenty percent chance of rain” certainly isn’t enough to intimidate my husband out of a campout.  So, last Friday we packed up our gear and set off to squeeze in a quick camping trip before the autumn weather turned bad.  And I have to say, the first day was beautiful. 

The boys explored the woods and hiked all around the green Oregon countryside. 

Their dad taught them how to skip rocks and dangle precariously from steep precipices over waterfalls.

And, of course, the boys chowed down on camping food with alarming vigor.  Liam ate so many salt & vinegar chips, I’m surprised his lips didn’t fall off.  I admit I kind of gave them free reign on the treats.  I police them pretty hard at home, and this was the only campout we were going to have this year, so I let them have at it.

I was going to let them stay up late too, but they were exhausted by their regular bedtime, so I tucked them into their sleeping bags with their tummies full of s’mores, and they went right to sleep.  My sleep wasn’t fantastic.  In just one short night I was woken multiple times by children who needed a Kleenex … demanded a drink … asked for another Kleenex … required assistance getting his tangled sleeping bag back onto his air mattress … and, finally, urgently requested a trip to the pit toilet in the dark of night for a fit of violent diarrhea.  Those salt & vinegar chips had landed … and they were angry.

Wood smoked Pop Tart: fine camping cuisine.

Poor Liam had to sit, cramping and sobbing on that awful “toilet” (that was essentially a bucket with a seat) while I rubbed his back and tried to soothe him.  It didn’t smell great in there, but I suppose it was better than it could have been.  The park manager’s clean-up chart showed that it had been cleaned some time back in the middle of September, and that was practically yesterday.  So, awesome.

Liam asked me to tell him a story to distract him from his agony.  I really wanted to grant his simple request and help him relax, but the combination of the lack of sleep, coupled with the trauma of seeing my eldest son in such awful distress, I just couldn’t think.  I wanted to tell him a happy story, because I think in that moment he needed to hear something cheerful.  But I was having a hard time coming up with a story (children’s or otherwise) that wasn’t somehow tragic.  They all had wolves, and witches, and peasants starving to death, and egg-people falling off walls and spilling their guts everywhere.  Plus I couldn’t seem to shake the horror story that was forming in my mind about a little boy who slips helplessly into the maw of a dark, fetid pit toilet, striking terror into the heart of his mother who hadn’t brought a rope.  I ventured a guess that that was not what he needed to hear right then.

But my son needed me!  So, I dug deep and summoned up the most cheerful tales I could recall from a dark, spider-infested latrine in the middle of a pitch black forest.  I went with a Chinese folktale about a little boy who falls down a well and a sweet story about a beautiful, magical unicorn … who stands by as an old woman is ripped apart by a harpy, and an evil king is crushed to death under the ruins of his own castle.  I even retold as much as I could remember from my cheery middle school masterpiece, but under the circumstances I felt it best to just gloss over the part where the main character’s entire family dies in a fiery car wreck.  (I know.  I had angst.)

We were in that latrine for about an hour.  (Poor kid.)  By the time the sun came up I had recited him three stories, two fairy tales, one original work, and a major motion picture.  Peter eventually came looking for us and, mercifully, had one last Imodium in his overnight bag.  Peter gets center square for the win!  Liam recovered quite quickly after some medicine and was ready for more daring camping adventures … and then the rain hit. 

We all piled into the tent in the hopes that we could wait out the weather and get some sun later.  It was nice for the minute and a half that we were all quietly reading.  But then the boys got restless, and it was difficult to focus on my Kindle while having to yell out things like, “Sean!  No spin kicks in the tent!”  Liam and Sean spent the bulk of our confinement playing a game Liam dubbed “Fun With Sean,” which pretty much entailed Liam punching Sean in the crotch until he falls over; then they both laugh hysterically and do it again … and again … and again.

So, yay.  Camping.  I’m not quite sure we did it right.  But if you ask the boys (even Liam), they’ll tell you that they had the time of their lives.  Still, I think next time we’ll try to keep the stories around the campfire and the salt & vinegar chips at home.

It’s Back-to-School Time! (Or at least it WAS)

Well, I missed blogging about all of our back-to-school hubbub while the site was down, so I’ll cart that out now that it’s October.  We were all pretty excited for the boys to get back to school after a long summer break, and it was looking like this was going to be a pretty awesome school year.  After all, Liam’s school supply list only demanded ten glue sticks, unlike last year when he needed fifteen.  Aces!

We have a little tradition in our house of taking the boys’ pictures on the first day of school with a little sign to help us remember what grade they were in that year.  We like comparing the photos from year to year and seeing the boys grow.

My husband printed out a sign for Liam and got his picture on the first day back, but Sean wouldn’t be starting preschool until two weeks later, so we waited on his picture.  After all, it should be special.  But when Sean’s big day came, Peter had already left for work before Sean was awake, so he left the signage and the pictures to me.

I knew what Peter was after.  Just a simple sign with a sans serif font, declaring the grade and year.  And I did do that, but it just … didn’t … seem … like … Sean.  Sean’s a bit unconventional for a four-year-old, and he tends to lean towards the kooky and macabre end of things.  I mean, this was his Mother’s Day gift to me last year.

So, yeah.  I thought I would … customize his back-to-school sign a bit.  I think he liked it.

I mean, what screams “preschool” quite like a grim reaper and a font that’s oozing blood?

Even big brother loved it and wanted to get into the act.  It was great.  I’m already making plans for next year.  I think I could elicit some even more impressive looks of horror from the boys if I decorate their next signs with a bit of art from “My Little Pony.”  “Hold up Fluttershy and Twilight Sparkle and say ‘cheese,’ boys!”  Heh heh heh heh.  Aaaaaaah, I love school.