Category Archives: camping

This Vagabond Life (Day 31 and counting)


It’s Day 31 of the month–and of our lives as vagabonds.

After packing up everything we own and sending it to storage, we departed our princely town on June 30, and we have been busy! We’ve spent weeks traveling the continent. We’ve stayed at country houses and city houses and hotels and motels and in our palatial tent (as palatial as tents come, anyway . . .) . We’ve been seeing mountains and fountains and lakes and moose and elk and bison and geysers and hot springs and canyons and tall towers and waterfalls and shopping meccas and bears and a Cubs game–

This fellow greeted me on my bleary-eyed amble to the bathroom for my morning ablutions. If you think I backed away slowly, pretended to be big and scary, or zapped him with bear spray, you overestimate my woods smarts. I ran for my life.

I probably should have moved Baby MoFo a little further away from this bit of wildlife rather than snapping pictures …

Too much damn traffic. It’s worse than NYC around here!

We’ve been going on magnificent hikes and boat rides and elevator rides and bike rides–

Is this freaking gorgeous or WHAT?

And we’ve been doing a heck of a lot of driving.

Pinch caught on camera

The driving is something of a challenge. Our home rule is 30 minutes of screen time a day (iPad, TV, computer, and Wii all count), but we tend to be laxer on the long drives. After all, although my friend Anna Oh believes kids can be kept entertained for hours on end with a roll of tin foil (think of the possibilities!), I see no evidence of such vast creativity in my kids. We play Geography and Brain Quest and word bingo; they color and write in their journals; they nap and snack and fight; and when they get bored of all that, they watch DVDs. It helps with everyone’s sanity.

The downside is this: whenever I ask them what their favorite thing has been thus far, they reply, hesitantly, because they know what answer I don’t want to hear: “Do you mean other than screen time?” And then they scramble to come up with a suitable answer (“Does eating ice cream count?”).

And when my friend asked them what their favorite activity has been–asked them, that is, when I wasn’t around–they told her frankly: “Playing Wii at our cousins’ house!!!!”

So you might wonder, as I wonder, if I am completely wasting my time taking them on adventures across the continent when clearly this–

Looking at the “grand” canyon below–

is less interesting to these boys than this:



Bedtime Battle Royale


Picture it: Two vagabond parents pack up everything they own and throw it all into storage, then they drag their kids from their (now empty) home, stick them in the car, drive for hours, and when they arrive at a little house in a wooded lake town in the mountains, they say, “OK, everyone, sleep tight. This will be your home for exactly two weeks. Then we move on again.”

And they expect the kids to crawl into their chosen beds, pull up the covers, and not be heard from again until morning, when they eagerly rise to find their clothes in new dressers, eat their breakfast in a new dining room, and start a day at a new camp or at a new beach, make new (albeit temporary) friends, and try out new activities. Oh–and some of this in a new language. They have crossed an international border during their long drive, you see, into a land where most people do not actually speak English (and if they do, they pretend not to).

No problem. And really, no problem!–for the big kids.

You see, the big kids are used to being schlepped hither and thither. LL has probably been to more countries than many adults–among them, Japan, France, England, Latvia, Estonia, Sweden, Mexico, Italy, Germany (twice)–and he’s been to most provinces in Canada and almost half the states in the U.S. And as for living, he started life in the Northeastern US, moved to Western Canada, then back(ish) . . . Schlepping? No problem.

But the youngest–it’s hard to say that Baby MoFo remembers anything before our life in our princely town, save a visit to Gramma and Saba in the sunny state over winter break. If you think he remembers the famous camping incident or even this very country house that we stayed at last summer, you would probably be mistaken.

And perhaps this confusion is what has contributed to the BEDTIME BATTLE ROYALE.

I say “contributed” because even before leaving the princely town, we were having our share of woes: Baby MoFo diving out of his crib 1, 2, 10, 26 times and being returned 1, 2, 10, 26 times until he finally fell asleep. But now these woes have been ratcheted up a notch.

Now, the out-of-beds are more rapid (no crib), easier (the doors don’t close properly), and more disruptive (the boys are all sharing a room here), and they go on for much, much longer (sunlight be gone!). And to make things worse, this sneaky child’s mama feels guilty because she’s the one who is schlepping him hither and thither and then telling him to just sleep tight.

The routine goes something like this: Baby MoFo is readied for bed (bathed or not, changed into PJs, read stories). He gets some milky in a sippy cup which he is likely to throw at my head (I will confess, at this inopportune moment, that I took away his bottle exactly 2 days ago–which my pediatrician will likely say is insane because I should have done it a year ago or more, and my mother tells me is insane because a time of life changes is not a time to add more life changes). He is tucked into bed. Then he comes out and is returned to his initial bed for hours. Then the other kids beg us to take him elsewhere (I can swear I heard Cool J shout SHUT THE FUCK UP while fast asleep) and he goes into my bed. Then his bubby’s bed. Then the couch in the foyer. And then we’re back to his bed and he comes out and I put him in and he comes out and I put him in and I sit beside the door of his room and eventually he either gives up his wakefulness right at that border–

Or maybe makes it all the way into the living room and onto the sofa to come sit beside a mama who is too exhausted to return him to bed one. more. time and gives up there–

Yes, eventually he falls asleep. On his terms.

Please oh please oh please readers–mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, pediatricians, people who have nothing to do with kids but like to dispense parenting advice nonetheless– do send me your brilliant insights and your deep wisdom, for which I would be so grateful — How, oh how, do I get this child to GO THE FUCK TO SLEEP?–in his bed, at bedtime.

[Here, my readers, is Cool J’s suggestion:

Cool J: “Hey, mama, look what you can do with this laundry hamper? BABY JAIL!!!!!!!”

Can Jews Go Camping (not at the Hilton)?? Hashem says: No way.


Modern Man: Jews Don’t Camp

When the idea occurred to us to go camping–to pack up our three kids, all under 5, and one under 5 months–not only the Jews thought we were nuts. But it was the Jews who were bewildered. Since the big camping trip–you know, with Moses and Tzippy and, if you’re a Jew, as legend goes, you too–Jews have supposedly been turned off to the whole tent-under-the-stars thing. Except for, maybe, the Israelis. They’re hardy folk. In any case, we were determined. We even invited The Molahses: Mushroomhead, Fennel, and their kids, Carrot and Zucchini, another (sort-of/part-)Jewish family, to join us (Mushroomhead is a “California Jew”; moreover, the Molahses are Northern Californian twig-eating organic vegan hippies–how unJewish is that?? Although I have, in truth, seen a very lovely Magen David atop their Christmas tree . . . But alas, that’s mostly Mushroomhead’s mom’s attempt to put a little Yid in her kid . . .). The Molahses and the Princess-Scientists, geared up with firestarters and new sleeping bags, and just a wee bit of fear: off we went, ready to explore the Canadian Rockies, one of the most glorious places on earth.

Lake O'Hara in Yoho National Park

A brush with wildlife

The Twig-Eating Vegan Hippies in their Hippymobile

On the drive, we're reminded that MAN has moved (part of) the mountain.

Moraine Lake

The Okanagan

Perfect? Glorious? Formidable? Indeed. Despite the rain, despite the near-zero (Celsius) temperatures, despite The Scientist feeling weak from a lack of hardy meat, we were doing awesome. We had successfully camped in Revelstoke, successfully collected our firewood and lit our campfires and toasted our marshmallows (“Do you know you’re eating a horse’s hoof?” 6-year-old Carrot asked 5-year-old LL, to which LL replied, “YUMMMMMMMM.”), successfully slept through the nights in our new cozy sleeping bags (apart from The Scientist, who was either romantically attached to the sleeping bag he used at the religious sleepaway camp he attended as a child–or was disinclined to buy a new one for another reason . . . but a couple of nights in the Canadian Rockies air was enough to send him straight to MEC on our arrival in Victoria, cost irrelevant), successfully hiked and canoed and had, in short, fun.

On The Scientist’s birthday, we were camping in the Okanagan. Cool J woke up, made himself a little mud puddle, and rolled around in it. It was hard to believe he had turned 3 the day before. A 10th percentile boy (up from 3rd!), he was still a little and cuddly and mushy baby. And dirty as hell. I pulled off his sleeper and bedtime diaper and scooped him up to throw him under the shower, two campsites away.

The little piggy about to turn on the faucet and create a mud puddle to roll around in

From the campsite between ours and the shower, I saw a couple sitting on logs, hacking away as they smoked and downed their 4/5 of JD. I paid them little heed–Cool J and I were singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star together and giggling as we sang–but a few words came my way: “Disgusting . . . what the fuck . . . ” As their discussion went on, it got louder and louder until I heard “NOT EVEN A FUCKING DIAPER!” and I finally realized it was about my child. I turned. “Do you have something to say to me?” I asked. The man: “Yes, you disgusting fucking bitch. How could you let your child be naked? That’s fucking gross.” The woman: “I’m a mother and a fucking good one and I would never fuckin’ leave my kid without a fuckin’ diaper.”  There were more nasty nasty words slung at me (and my child–classy). At first I tried to explain that I was steps from my campsite and his clothes were filthy and I was putting him right in the shower, but the abuse continued. I stopped explaining. I got mad. I threw a few rude words their way. They were, I thought, not half as impressive as those of the ever-so-eloquent couple (drunk at 9am), but they weren’t pretty. They shut up. I felt triumphant. I had rebuked them, and clearly they had lost the battle. Don’t you try to win a wordfight against an English PhD! Yeah! I got you good, you trashy losers! I washed that little baby until he was squeaky clean, and we set off for a day of wineries and water-fun. The sky was threatening, but it didn’t rain. The Scientist’s birthday was a lovely day.

As we pulled up to our campsite in the evening, tired but cheerful, however, the first thing I noticed was the pool of water around our tent. “I guess it rained here,” I said, thinking in terms of microclimates. But how micro was this climate? Had the rain shot out of a single cloud that hovered directly above our cloud, like a laserbeam? It didn’t seem likely. I opened our tent to investigate.

Remember the faucet Cool J had played with? The hose attached to it was hooked into the back of our tent. During our 6-hour absence, the water had been running into our tent, soaking everything we own. Trapped in our tent, sealed tight, the water reached up to our waists. I had won a wordfight. Yet in the language of the trashy assholes–and she a mother!–we had been fucked. I had won a wordfight and lost a giant, fucking war.

Can Jews go camping? Hashem gave us a clear answer–well, Hashem and the human refuse with no sense of the camping code, and little sense of humanity, –which was no. Next time we attempt to camp, perhaps we’ll try the Hilton. Or the Fairmont. There’s always the Fairmont.

To children, all adventures are exciting. Cool J delighted to be spending a night in an RV since everything we owned had essentially drowned.

Baby MoFo and LL bedding down for the night while their mom and dad wring out their belongings

The Banff Springs (a Fairmont): our future campsite