Winter Camping, and Why Soup Isn't Good for Breakfast

March 5, 2010

Dear Family,

Ben is VERY interested in law and order. Police officers--what do they do? Why do they drive faster than everybody else, even if their lights and sirens aren't on? Do they get arrested or get tickets? Why “not usually”? What happens if a person steals something? Have WE ever had anything stolen? What happens in a courthouse? And tickets – what do they look like when you get one?

You may think this has nothing to do with eating soup for breakfast, but that's because you probably don't remember that soup is mostly water. This means that if you (meaning me) have a nice, steaming bowl of it at 7:00am, you will feel really full and won't eat anything else. You will have had to pee a lot by 9:30. And by the time you've finishing the grocery shopping and have arrived at the library at 10:00 with two energetic boys, you will realize that—all of a sudden—you're super hungry.

I know, it still doesn't sound like I'm talking about law enforcement, but hypoglycemic moments can lead to all sorts of problems. I absolutely could not focus my brain, and everyone knows you can't eat in the library. But we couldn't leave, because we didn't have our books yet. I tried to locate all that we came for, except that I kept walking down the wrong aisles, and Ben had ten thousand questions, and Jem was un-shelving things way faster than I could put them away...

And now there were precisely seven minutes till our parking meter ran out. Plenty of time to use the self-check-out machines and head for the door. “NO! _I_ do it!” Jem yelled. I let him slide a couple of books, and Ben wanted to do some too, which made Jem mad, so he started banging the counter. The library card I was using timed out, so I searched for another one, removed Jem's fingers from the receipt-printer, and started checking things out as fast as I could. Except that Jem was still mad, and he yanked his hand from mine...and pressed the power button on the check-out computer. The self-check-out station promptly flashed Out of Order, Proceed to the Front Desk.

I was _really_ not ready for this, so I said, “Jesus CHRIST, Jem!” upon which he collapsed into tears, while Ben looked at me wide-eyed, like we'd just collectively vandalized the Ark of the Covenant.

“What are we going to do??” Ben asked me seriously, as I dragged our books and my youngest, screaming, child to the front desk. One minute left on the meter...surely they don't check THAT conscientiously?? The already-checked out books were mixed with the not-yet-checked out ones, so the librarian started them all again. She was telling me about her friend's kid, who once knocked over a barrel of molasses at Greenstar, and it took them all DAY to clean it up.

At the same time, Jem was crying: “Not broke library machine!”, and Ben was saying, “Can we have stickers?” and I was thinking: I wonder if my stomach can feel any emptier??

“What do tickets LOOK like?” Ben asked, once we finally got out and were hurrying to the car. Jem was now full-on screaming (currently because he didn't want me to hold his hand, and he wanted to run back inside and come back out “By SELF!”, and I wouldn't let him).

After a quick glance at our windshield, I said: “Well Ben, it looks like you'll finally get to find out.”

We sat in the car for five minutes, to calm down. I shoved food into my mouth. Jem sniffed loudly about how he wanted to go back in the library. And Ben asked me about a hundred and seventy-two questions about meters, and tickets, and meter-maids, and how they can tell when we've stayed too long, and WHY was I too cheap to put more money in, and what happens if you don't pay the ticket, and what I thought Papa would say when he finds out we got a ticket, and whether I've gotten a ticket before, and what happened then, and where the money gets mailed, and whether he (Ben) could use the paper ticket to make something with once I'd done with it...??

This is why, I now know, it's good to eat eggs and toast for breakfast.


--Jeff and I watched a movie in bed. It was "An Education," highly thought-provoking and perfect for our purposes because it did not contain loud moments or explosions or upbeat rock music. Therefore, the kids could fall asleep as we watched. This was LIBERATING, to start a movie before 9:00pm. Ben and Jem fell asleep next to me, and bedtime was great. Like I was on a hot date, even! (Am looking for other movie recommendations that also contain sedate sound tracks.)

--Last weekend, Jeff and Graham and Otto and several other neighbors constructed a large snow fort, almost tall enough to stand up in. It had a face, complete with a tongue sticking out, and it's still standing, though shrinking by the day.

--Recently, a small dog got loose and began yipping and following us down the hill—on the road. Ben freaked out, and began trying to climb up my body while we walked. I remained calm, as I explained that I knew how he felt, I didn't like getting followed by a dog either, but this was a little one and _really_, it was okay to walk forwards, and not in FRONT of me directly, because then I'd fall down and get really annoyed, and if worse came to worst and it came too close, I could kick the dog in self-defense, so REALLY he should stop trying to climb me, which was only tripping me up, and we should walk forwards and get out of the dog's territory. Meanwhile, Jem trotted along next to me, holding my hand, providing commentary: “Why dog in ROAD? Why dog territree? Dog loud! Dog have feet, an' BIG tongue, an' BIG teeth! Why BIG teeth? Why BIG tongue? Not dog eat Jem, not eat Ben, not eat Mama...” Conclusion of story: Dog not eat Ben, or Jem, or Mama.

--Yesterday, Ben told me, “You should take a piece of paper, and draw pictures of every word you know, and then write them so that I'll know how to write them too.” I explained that it would actually take more than just one sheet of paper, but I suggested that _he_ draw pictures of the words he wanted, and then he could tell me what to write. He came back with a fabulous page of pictures, with little blank spaces below each one for labeling. “There's a picture of Jem,” he told me, “but I know how to write 'Jem' so I already did that one. You need to write 'crocodile,' 'elephant,' 'ladybug,' 'B,' and 'car.'”

--Ben's very interested in the concept of school: who goes there? Why do they go? What happens if you don't want to go? Who does he (Ben) know who goes to school, and who doesn't? What happens if it's your birthday: do you still have to go? We've had lots of conversations on the topic, at least some of which Jem appears to be massively misinterpreting. “Jem go to school?” he asked yesterday. No, Ben told him, Jem doesn't go to school. “Jem NOT go to school,” Jem affirmed. “Kigs [kids] not eat me. Kigs have sharp beaks.”


I've always wanted to go winter camping. Jeff was very skeptical about this idea, but then he heard that our neighbors successfully slept out in their snow fort last weekend. I saw my chance, and on Wednesday afternoon, I took the boys into the woods and set up our tent and sleeping pads—no way we could back out now.

Ben was really excited, even though all potential campfire wood was completely covered by snow. Jem took one look at the tent and remembered: “Nurse in there!” We went home to eat dinner and pack up our sleeping bags. By 7:30pm, we were ready for bed, had closed up our warm house, and were headed out into the woods. Predicted low: 26f degrees.

We read Winnie the Pooh, made nests in our bags and mats and comforters in the tent on the snow, and everyone else fell asleep. I was up for a long time. We were outside, out of the house, out of the ordinary!

It wasn't till I got up in the middle of the night to pee, and opened the tent door, that it sort of hit me: There is a LOT of snow out there. Jem needed to climb on my chest to stay warm, and I put his and Ben's hats on. I couldn't sleep again for a while, so I lay there listening to the silence in the woods, with just an occasional creaky tree. My adventurous husband, my two boys, and I, were camping in March in the woods. This made me irrationally proud, like we were half-way through an unintentional vision quest. At least I would have a good REASON to be tired on Thursday. I love camping!

Ben woke up in the morning and forgot where he was. When he climbed out of his covers, he said, “When can we go camping again!?”

Jem got up sleepily, and irritably grabbed at his hat. He said, “Take off rubber band!” We all laughed, and then he sat up and laughed too. We had a fifteen-minute cold and snow-crunchy walk home, and were back indoors less than twelve hours after we'd left.

But as we basked in the sun that was streaming in our windows, morning felt different somehow. I felt like I OWNED the day, that I'd earned it somehow. This is highly un-explainable, but maybe that's because it was so fun to sleep outside.

This year: I have a lot of adventures planned...


Okay, a short and sweet update this week. :)