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Is camping REALLY a vacation?

Updated: Jan 29, 2021

The Hubs and I planned to take an epic trip with the kids this summer. The kids said they wanted to take an “active” vacation with “historical stuff” instead of a relaxing vacation. We decided on New York City to do some sightseeing and see Wicked and The Lion King on Broadway. Then, if my feet were still attached to my body, we would catch the train to Washington DC. I protested and suggested we watch Tom Hanks in “The Lost Symbol” from the comfort of my living room couch instead, but my suggestion fell on deaf ears.

Unfortunately, for the kids, our plans just couldn’t line up with The Hubs’ work schedule. We ended up with a very last-minute week off. So we did what people used to do before affluence, the internet and airplanes -- that’s right, folks. We went camping.

I know, I probably don’t strike you as an outdoor enthusiast. But I do love s’mores and campfires! We have camped at Fort Davis and in New Mexico previously and wanted to try something different. We decided to try a place a friend recommended along the Illinois River called the Marval Camping Resort. It’s relatively close and has spaces for tents and RVs and it has cabins! With potties, kitchenettes and air conditioning!

Now, I don’t want y’all to get the same idea Little Son did. He kept telling people we were going “glamping.” I told him that anywhere I have to bring all the linens and wash the dishes four times a day is certainly not glamping. If you have ever stayed at a KOA campground, you know what we were walking into. In fact, The Hubs was betting I would want to go home early, but I scoffed! I was so ready for a week to ourselves with no Internet and no Xbox that I felt pretty sure I would want to extend the trip.

What I was not prepared for was how old and small our cabin was. I was grateful we brought our own pillows and immediately sent The Hubs out in search of bleach wipes and wine. That cabin triggered my OCD in a bad way, and I immediately scrubbed the bathroom and kitchen. I sanitized all the cabinet pulls, door handles and light switches. I lined the drawers and cabinets with clean paper towels and washed every single dish, pan and utensil there.

After we were done cleaning, The Hubs started a great fire and he and Bodacious made s’mores for everyone. The next morning, I realized we forgot half and half. But even sans coffee, we had a great day exploring the campground and spent most of it at one of the pools. That night, we made sandwiches for dinner and played Twister at the resort playground. We returned to the cabin for showers and more s’mores. It was my first and last shower of the trip. Y’all. I NEARLY DIED. The tub was clean, but it was so slick from age and the soft water there that it was like sudsing up on wet glass. Later that night, The Hubs and I spent some time alone by the fire, just listening to the tree frogs sing above us and watching the fireflies dance. I told The Hubs about my near-death bathroom experience. He said he thought I was exaggerating. But I’ll tell y’all, he only took one shower that week, too… .

The next morning, the kids were worn out, so we left them in bed and walked out to the river bank. The sun was just starting to get high enough to make the water sparkle, and it was cool under the trees. And for one of the few times in my life, I had nothing to say. I was peaceful. Content. We decided to go into town later that morning for half and half and some junking. I always envy Chip and Joanna Gaines on their tv junk hunts, they find such cool stuff, old doors and antique metal signs. I found a foot-tall white ceramic horse head instead. It had crazy horse eyes and it was very shiny.

“If you buy that, Melanie, I promise you will wake up next to it,” The Hubs said when he caught me looking at it.

After we got back to the resort, without the horse, we decided to go make a family craft at the activity center. We made some pretty sweet tie-dye t-shirts and can now be confused for a family of hippies. We also rented a golf cart to race around in. I found Little Son reading the rules for rental. He was sad to see he would not be allowed to drive. “I’ve always wanted to learn,” he said wistfully.

I tried to cheer him up by promising we would swim in the river that afternoon. But the river was so swollen from recent rain that it didn’t seem very safe. We let them get in about two feet but that was it. It was cold and not very fun. They wanted to go in further and we didn’t want to lose them, so we were at cross purposes for a bit. After about 20 minutes, I pulled the plug on the whole shebang with bribes of ice cream.

I had the most fun that night though. We took a midnight golf cart ride around the resort. It was a little eerie in the darkness, though plenty of folks were still up with campfires going. The kids took turns making up ghost stories, and I found myself envying their imaginations. I have never been able to spin a tale from the air like that, I hope they never lose it.

We spent the rest of our time crafting and swimming at the pools, punctuated with walks and ice creams. On our last day, we spent a few hours packing up and cleaning. Our final task was to take the trash to the bins at the property’s edge. I threw Little Son and our refuse onto the cart and raced away from the cabin. When we were done, I stopped the cart and got out. Then I asked him to slide behind the wheel.

“But it’s against the rules,” he said, slightly terrified. Being a rule follower kid with a rule breaker mom is hard.

“I don’t care. It’s the one thing you have wanted to do on this trip. We have insurance and they have our credit card so we are covered. Hit the gas, kid!”

And he did. I have to say, 15 miles per hour feels really fast with a 10-year-old behind the wheel. But as he cackled with glee and I held on for dear life, I felt like this was the best parenting decision I ever made. I wish that feeling could last forever, I spend much more time agonizing my parenting choices than celebrating them.

So, we might not have seen Lady Liberty or learned anything of historical significance, but I do not care. I saw fireflies and heard the songs of cicadas and tree frogs. My children told ghost stories and my son drove the forbidden fruit. It was a beautiful week and I cannot wait to camp again!

Along the bank of the Illinois River. The water was freezing!

We took Dutch on his first camping trip! Isn't he handsome? He is a Great Pyr/German Shepherd mix, and he's about 4. We rescued him about two years ago.

Little Son, 10 (thought he wants you to know he is almost 11), and Bodacious, 8. Though she is actually about 23 ... .

The kids loved playing night Twister at the playground!

We did a little junking yesterday. The Hubs said if I got this, I would wake up next to it... . #Godfather



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