The Ups and Downs and Ins and Outs of Famping


/ˈKAMPing/nnoun: camping

  1. the activity of spending a vacation living in a camp, tent, or camper.”visitors can go camping in the vast wilderness surrounding the mountains”


/ˈFAMPing/noun: famping

  1. The activity of fake camping, in a lodge, hotel, motel, hostile, or other shanty with subpar mattresses and pillows, electricity, and indoor plumbing. “Friends can go famping in the woods of Brooksville, FL at Lakewood Retreat.

Last night I slept on a mattress purchased in the 60s. With one pillow. ONE PILLOW. At home, I sleep with 3 pillows every night, each one serving a different purpose and part of my body. Last night I attempted to mold pillows out of bath towels and body fat and still came up feeling like I had lost a game of Twister. The pillow I did have was so flat that it did nothing to span the gap between my shoulder and the bed. It could not meet me halfway. And to cap off the whole luxurious story, my daughter’s phone alarm went off at 7:15 this morning, telling me to feed her fish. Back home.

Every November for many years, we camped with a large group of our friends at Fort DeSoto State Park. Some of us in tents, some in RVs. From year to year it varied. In ways, it was glorious. The campfire talk at night, listening to the kids laugh on the playground, walking to the ice cream parlor with friends. But let’s be honest, I spent most of that time scrubbing the previous meal from the bottom of the cast iron pot we brought with us. I’d look over my shoulder to follow the trail of laughter to the playground and see them tossing their hair as they zipped down the slide. So carefree. Then I’d turn back to the inch-thick layer of dried grits and watch as my sweat dripped into the hose water I was using to scrub the pot.

Where’s the fun in that?
For the adults?

We got smarter as the years went by and figured out that real camping was for the birds. And the cowboys. And the campers. Not for us. We could still have all the glories of camping with none of the hassles. So we found a campground that was established in 1965 and hasn’t changed in the 54 years it’s been operating. We rented a ranch-style lodge with all original mattresses and very flat pillows and a long back porch that stretches the length of the building. Most of our time is spent playing games on the porch and chatting while rocking in our Amish rockers. At 8:30, 12:30, and 6, you can find us in the dining hall, eating food prepared for us by hardworking employees of the campground. And when our grits are mostly eaten, the last of the grit balls clinging to the bowl from which we supped, we place the bowl on the counter, where another nice person washes them for us. And then we walk outside to play shuffleboard, or four square, or human foosball. Or we sit in hammocks that are slung from a group of towering pines and we swing in the gentle breeze. From the porch, I can hear the voices of my children talking as they walk toward the game room or off to the next activity that is not coordinated by me.

I hear people disparaging the F in Famping. I can assure you there’s nothing fake in the fun I had playing four square with people from 3 separate generations. There’s nothing fake about the frolicking between the lodge and the dining hall. And there’s nothing fake in the festivity of these lifelong friendships.

I hear people talking about the glories of camping. Go ahead. I hear ya. Pitch your tent. Fight the racoons for the Doritos bag in your plastic bin at midnight. Thaw your bacon in the community bathroom sink before you fry it over your open fire. Talk it up. Wipe the sweat from your brow as you talk it up.

It’s all fun and games until someone has to wash a pot.

Every Toolbox Should Have Some Nyquil

If I were grading myself on keeping it interesting Monday-Friday, I’d give myself a tentative C-. Below average, but clinging to hope. And as far as diet and exercise go, I’d grade me at a D-, very precariously about to utterly fail. But I’m not depressed or deterred or defeated. Because at some things this week I have knocked an A+ out of the park. Just today I have:

  • Become a boss at digital sprinklers
  • Dragged a kid to the doctor to watch her test positive for Flu A
  • Talked to 7 different people about grass and sprinklers
  • Done 6 loads of laundry
  • Prepared a wholesome meal (chick fil a app)
  • Walked the dog 3 times and made 3 school runs
  • Taken Nyquil.

I don’t have original thoughts in my head at this hour. And when I did have thoughts in my head that might have passed for original, I was playing the sprinklers like a video game.

So maybe I don’t have an A in some important subjects, but there’s time and room for improvement. And I have friends making As. You know who’s making an A right now? Nyquil. That guy is something else.


Loading my Toolbox – The Art of Distraction

My life isn’t hard. I am a reasonably healthy, middle class American, with 4 children who tolerate me differently depending on the day and the circumstance. I do have horizontal lines etched in my forehead like a bad paper jam, giving me a semi-permanent look of confused anger, but it’s not so bad that I’ve yet researched Botox.

But still. Life is life. And sometimes it sits down on me. Sometimes other people sit down on me. Some of those people are fatter than others. Some of the things poking me are sharper than others. And sometimes I just get tired.

But life isn’t usually about big survival moments or big victories. At least mine isn’t. Life is about surviving all the little things that pile up around me. It’s about worming out from under what sat down on me, whether I gave it permission to or not. It gets a little harder as the challenges become emotional. Or daily. Or chronic. Or out of my control. What do I do with the kid on the sidewalk who’s crying about hating school? And the bickering between teen brothers who understand respect for others but don’t apply it to each other? And all the people I encounter in a day who make decisions that impact me, even negatively, but over whom I have no control or influence? And the 103 degree fever that threatens to unravel a week’s plans?

What about that stuff?

Well, that stuff needs a little first aid kid. A toolbox. And that toolbox needs tools. I’m pretty awkward with packing the toolbox. None of it comes naturally to me. Fortunately, these things can be taught. Eventually, I become desperate enough to learn. The tool I use obviously depends upon the situation. I wouldn’t use a hammer to apply paint or a brillo pad to tighten a screw. So the tricks I pull are closely related to the crisis at hand. Because this week is all about high fevers and night terrors, I’m too tired to talk about all the tools at once. So tonight, I’m rooting around for the first tool. Just one.


Lately, my youngest has been worrying about everything from who left school after vomiting to the color of the smudge on her shoes. She’s been a little stressed out. Sometimes stress is irrational. Sometimes it’s perfectly rational, but not immediately curable. But if you can’t escape the problem and you can’t change the problem, look away. Think about something else. If you can’t change your circumstance, change your mind.

I stink at this. So much. I don’t think this way. When a kid is freaking out on my watch, I am much more likely to freak out alongside them (“ALL IS RUINED!”) than to point them to a better way of thinking. Fortunately, this one can be learned by careful observation of people who do it well. And even more fortunately, my husband has this skill mastered. I watch him like a stalker.

Last week, my youngest hadn’t slept well and didn’t want to go to school. She was whimpering on the way to school, so I suggested we start a chain poem. I would suggest a word or phrase, she would try to add a rhyme to it, and we’d keep going until we had something. Here’s what we came up with in a half mile drive:

There once was a bear with E coli in his hair
And he had red shoes and he liked the blues
One day a woodchuck sat on a frito
And the frito broke.

I am not the one who added E coli to the poem. Jenna is obsessed with deadly diseases. I did put the E coli in the bear’s hair to make it rhyme. I also am not the one who put the unrhymable frito on the tail end of a line. It was actually working pretty well–we were both laughing–until she realized something she had left at home and started wailing again.

So I put that tool back in my toolbox and drove home.