Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Making memories

"I want to go camping. The kids want to go too"

Those were Mr. Pete's words to me last week as he was campaigning HARD to get the heck out of Dodge and take us all on a mini-Labor Day Vacation.

I, on the other hand, was resisting STRONGLY! A few weeks ago would have been the perfect time for me to go! Both of my transcription clients were away so I literally had no paid work I was expected to accomplish. I had no weddings to coordinate at church and no musical obligations. I hadn't started our homeschool yet either. I was as free as a bird. And as poor as one too. The old paradox of having lots of time, but no money. Mr. Pete was working a side job that was expected to bring in over $1000, but as he only did that side job on nights and weekends he didn't have any time to get away either.

Now my clients are back, the side job is done. We have money. But the time was gone. I had already started homeschooling, my clients were back and I was determined to keep them up to date. My house was reasonably clean but there were some little extra projects I wanted to do. I was really looking forward to the Labor Day weekend to rest, plan, keep up. But Mr. Pete didn't share the same vision. He wanted to make time - damn the consequences!!

Now I would have loved to have the freedom of an empty house. No kids, no husband, no problem!!! At least temporarily. But alas as much as I have been blessed with the need to plan and organize, I have also been cursed with undue anxiety and worry about my loved ones when they are away from me. In other words, if my family is going to die in a fiery car crash on the nation's highways during one of the most busy travel times of the year - I sure as heck was going to be with them.

So I relented. The trip was on.

Most mom's I imagine, pack, check lists, shop, double check etc. to get ready for a trip. I use to do that before I had any kids and before I was self- employed. This has never been the case for me since I became a self-employed medical transcriptionist. To leave town I usually find myself typing furiously until the last possible second in preparation for the trip... and of course typing furiously to catch up when I get back. Mr. Pete, who unfortunately was blessed with only minimal pre-planning genes, does all of the packing. Mr. Pete is also self- employed. What that meant was that when he got done working furiously for HIS customers on Thursday night, by 8:00 p.m. he was throwing all kinds of things into backpacks coolers and food bins so that we could leave at the crack of dawn on Friday. This works out OK I guess. It lets me type until the last possible second. It does however, usually mean that we have to get stuff on the trip. Like toothpaste. Matches. A table cloth. Toilet paper!!!

Let's face it - when we go camping we're a mess.

It didn't help much either that I did get the Mary's Advocate book about divorce, "And Justice for None" and was reading it during our pilgrimage to the mighty northlands of Michigan, up the I75 corridor along with thousands of other campers, RVs and hunting vehicles. After reading that literally any Catholic can get an annulment for virtually any little defect, (and Lord knows we've got plenty of defects) I was beginning to feel that this trip would be more than enough for any marriage tribunal to consider our 25 year union null and void!!

We only made one stop on our way north and that was at the Hunting and Sportsman Store- Cabelas, just a little north of the Ohio/Michigan line. Every outdoorsman's dream store! Quite educational too because books and the internet just can't get across the size of a full grown moose head, or the length of a cougar's canine teeth. Cabelas has a very extensive stuffed animal collection, courtesy of all Mr. and Mrs. Cabela's many safaris. That was our only stop except to go through Drive Through in Flint for a Halo Burger, until we got to Manistee, Michigan.

Now, up in Manistee Michigan, on beautiful Lake Michigan, there is a particularly nice rustic state campground. Nice as in only $13 a night and a short walk to the lake. We had stayed there before but never on a big holiday weekend. Mr. Pete was convinced that if we got up there Friday afternoon we could get a spot but it didn't turn out that way. I started feeling pessimistic about our prospects when we hit Zilwaukee - a part of I 75 that has been enlarged and improved with lanes added and draw bridge eliminated so as to prevent the kind of congestion of Michiganders and out-of-staters heading North that a nice summer weekend (let alone 3-day weekend) can bring. It was bumper to bumper, crawl for miles. When we got to Manistee there were cars pulling campers and RVs all over the roadways and I thought our chances of finding a place, even at only 3:00 p.m. were dim. Turns out they were dim before we even left home. The camp supervisor told us he filled up on THURSDAY, and that the 3 spots that opened up on Friday were claimed within minutes.

So our first night of camping was in a motel - for $74 instead of $13. But a flush toilet, hot shower, continental breakfast and HBO for the evening kind of made up for it.

The next day we headed further north, thinking that the camping grounds would become more plentiful the further north we headed. I think Mr. Pete was resolute enough that he would drive to Canada if it meant finding a camp site! After bombing out a few more sites, we ended up on the Betsie River - a nice Camp site for two nights for $68. Clearly the camping budget for this trip had been totally exceeded but I was happy I made way on the Visa Card before we left town.

The rest was pretty uneventful, and yet it was one of those trips that I think the kids will remember with the phrase, "Remember that time..."

There was beautiful Lake Michigan to swim in. My husband has convinced these children that of all the spots in the world, the waters of Lake Michigan are THE best place to swim in. They had a blast.

There was teaching my three oldest to play Euchre and how to play their hands without giving out information to their opponents, such as, "That's OK, I don't have any trump anyway."

There was eating hot dogs and sausage off of the grill

There was the debate over who makes the better camp fire. I was, after all, a girl scout and made it all the way up to cadets! I know how to start a fire from kindling. Mr. Pete starts his with a blow torch!! The kids loved that!

There was sleeping all 7 of us in a tent we pitched. There was sleeping in a tent, all 7 of us while it was pouring rain outside but not a drop getting on the inside. There was all 7 of us sleeping a tent with a very loud wind coming off of the lake and not jarring the tent at all!!

There were clothes that never quite made it all the way dry. There was all of us making it to mass in our "church clothes" that looked like they had been stuffed into backpacks for 2 days, which indeed they had been.

There was visiting the lighthouse at night time.

There was breaking camp and discovering that my 5 year old daughter really is a very good little helper.

There was listening to the Harry Potter books on tape and wishing the trip would last a little longer so that we could hear the rest of book 5.

Now I'm back. The typing is still here. There is more laundry and we probably won't do any homeschool this week while I catch up. And I'll probably whine about it because it's in my nature to whine about such things. But I'm grateful we didn't have a hurricane or two to fight, and that our children are all safe and sound, and that the one that did die was taken peacefully by the Lord, and not a terrorist in horror and pain. I'm grateful we took the time to make the memory that will last for these kids forever.




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