I just ate half a bag of marshmallows

If there is such a thing as post-traumatic camping disorder, I am suffering from it today. It is three parts sleep deprivation, one part laundry, and two parts I DO EVERYTHING FOR YOU AND DO YOU APPRECIATE IT? NO! YOU DON’T! I’M JUST YOUR MOTHER, SO OF COURSE YOU DON’T!

Yes. It’s like that.

I totally NEEDED those marshmallows, man. Also this glass of wine that Otto so kindly placed on the corner of my desk before retreating to the safety of his own desk. In addition to my PTCD, I am also somewhat gripped with a screaming disorder today. Every other sentence out of my mouth is turned to maximum volume on the nagging fishwife channel and I am horrified to hear myself but powerless to stop it, because I am too tired to get a grip.

And the very saddest part is that it was an incredible day and SO MUCH FUN, right up until the end.

What you need to understand about me is this: My family did not take vacations or do vacation-y things, when I was a child. And in my first marriage I was regaled with tales of family vacations but we never seemed to actually do any of those things, ourselves. Bottom line, I have no idea how to just go and have fun. The idea of going somewhere to spend the day just HAVING FUN AS A FAMILY is kind of a mythical concept, for me. I’ve READ about such things, and I’d love to experience it myself, but who knows if it can be done.

Well, it turns out that it’s possible. Stone Mountain has a million things to do and see, and as soon as you get over the fact that it’s 95 degrees outside, you’re all set. The kids can’t believe that everything they suggest with a tentative, “Oh, can we go do THAT?” we responded with “Sure! Let’s go!” They were good as gold as we tromped to and fro, checking out all the south had to offer.

(As much as Otto loves to talk about people here referring to the Civil War as “The War of Northern Aggression,” I didn’t hear anyone refer to it that way yesterday. But I did see a lot of people dressed up in old-fashioned clothing and speaking in thick southern accents, so I feel I was sufficiently immersed. Plus, I ate fried pickles. So there you go.)

We ate ourselves silly and let the kids run through obstacle courses and pick events off the map and we even had a long conversation with a talking fountain. We had assumed it was just a recording of a voice, you know, and were more interested in the water coming out of the fountain than what it was saying. But after the kids had frolicked a bit I called to them and gave Chickadee our backpack to carry, and the fountain said, “Yep, you don’t wanna get your backpack wet! It was good that you took it off!” and we all FROZE because DUDE, THE FOUNTAIN IS WATCHING US! It was like Candid Camera all of a sudden. So I told the kids to go ask the fountain something, and Chickadee was all “NO WAY, he’s FREAKING ME OUT” and Monkey ran right up to the stone and shouted, “DO YOU EAT?” because when faced with a talking fountain who can apparently see you, the burning question on my son’s mind is probably what flavor of pop-tart said magical fountain might prefer.

(To his credit, Mr. Talking Fountain’s game reply was, “Do I EAT? Well now, lemme see. I don’t reckon I rightly do!” And Monkey laughed hysterically, because northern children find the word “reckon” totally giggle-worthy. And then he got sprayed again, so it was all good.)

We took the train ride and we let Otto take pictures of us and we rode the sky ride to the top of the mountain because we were all wearing sandals and did I mention how it was 95 degrees? After scoping out the top of the mountain for a while we began to feel that the gallon of water we’d each consumed was not doing enough to cool us down, so we made a pit stop for some Icees. In case you’re wondering, Icees on the top of Stone Mountain cost approximately $80 apiece. I’m surprised my children didn’t drop dead from the shock of my offering to purchase them.

Now, it was a big day, and an exciting day, and so when little signs of Excitement Fatigue started showing up, I tried to just accept that this is what happens. First we went to an Animal Planet show where Monkey fell apart over not being picked to be a volunteer. We were sitting about halfway back, in the middle, and even if the woman in charge could’ve seen his pitiful scrawny little arm, she was picking people from the front and on the ends. It was nothing personal. But Monkey, my sweet and darling Monkey, he just couldn’t hear that. He was heartbroken. He sobbed. I tried to soothe him and he would not be consoled. Finally I had to threaten to take him out if he couldn’t pull himself together, so he sniffled a bit and watched the rest of the show. Then on our way out the trainer was standing there with a parrot and Monkey said, “You didn’t pick me! I wanted to come hold him!” and he started sniffling again and the trainer let him hold the parrot. He was ecstatic.

Fabulous, right? Well, sort of. Otto took his picture, but of course he’d been crying for half the show by that time, so later on we were treated to a fresh tantrum when he saw how pitiful he looked in the picture. Of course.

Chickadee—to her credit—was an absolute angel when all of this happened, not complaining about her brother getting to hold the bird and have his picture done, and telling him how great she thought it all was. I took her aside for a squeeze and to tell her how proud I was of her, and she later scaled a rock wall and waved to me from the top with a grin that fairly split her face. She was having a great day!

And so by the time we’d had enough of the park, we headed back to our campsite—totally grateful that they’d allowed us to come in and set up when we’d arrived. All we had to do was make and eat dinner, and then enjoy a night’s snooze under the stars.

Well, I don’t know if you know this—and I certainly don’t want to alarm anyone—but in nature? Outside? There are BUGS. Some of them FLY.

I know. It was a shocking revelation to us, too.

And so dinner went sort of like this:


So that was relaxing. (Let it be noted for the record, that I am the only one in the family allergic, plus Otto actually got stung at the beginning of the day while we were putting up the tents, and neither of US were the ones screaming.) (Also please note that I killed three sweat bees with a newspaper, just because I was tired of listening to Chickie wail.)

We had a campsite right on the lake, which meant that we could hear all sorts of things. Like the laser show, which we’d decided we were too tired to go over to see. And when I say “right on the lake” I mean RIGHT ON THE LAKE, like the kids’ tent was about 15″ from the water’s edge, and there was a water taxi. The water taxi would zoom by and then after a short delay you’d hear the waves lapping at the shore in its wake, the net result being ZOOOOOOOOM SLOSH SLOSH SLOSH SLOSH HONKHONKHONK because there were also lots of geese and ducks who were generally pretty pissed off to have their nice quite water suddenly turned all choppy.

All of this meant that the insects and the peepers had a bit of competition, noise-wise, and so it wasn’t exactly quiet. But it was certainly quiet enough to sleep if you were really tired and wanting some rest and, OH YEAH, not my daughter.

Well, it was SO NOISY. Also, it was SO HOT. (It was really hot. Years from now, Otto will still be tormenting me about my insistence that we PACK SWEATSHIRTS when going camping in August in Georgia. It may have dipped all the way down to 75 around 2:00 or 3:00 this morning, but when we hit the sleeping bags it was easily still 85 degrees.)

And so my daughter, my darling daughter, decided she would not be going to sleep, Sam I Am. She sang. She talked. She poked her brother. She ignored countless warnings. She zipped and unzipped the tent, and she completely rearranged the contents of said tent until the children were spread-eagled in the middle while their mats and sleeping bags tried to climb the walls. She cried. She was too hot, too thirsty, too loud (“Try not making any noise,” I suggested through clenched teeth), and her head hurt (“Know what’s good for that? SLEEPING”).

I kept falling asleep and being woken up by her. And finally when even ultra-patient Otto said, “One more word from her and I’m packing the car and we’re heading home,” I pleaded with her to JUST. LAY. DOWN. AND. STOP.

It sort of soured the experience, but I don’t want it to. We had a wonderful day, we really did. It’s the capping it off with only about 4 hours of sleep that I didn’t enjoy as much.

In the morning we packed up and headed to Waffle House (mmmm… bacon) and the children insisted they’d had a great trip. Back home, I took the kids out on an errand run and Chickadee was asleep in the car before we made it to the end of the street. Later, Monkey collapsed on the couch and slept so long I had to wake him up because I feared he’d never sleep tonight. Both kids went to bed at about 7:15 (!!) without complaint.

So that was really special, and all, but I have had a lot of caffeine and a lot of marshmallows today and am really, really, really looking forward to sleeping in my own (silent) bed tonight.


  1. Charlene

    I think I’m still suffering PTCD from 20 years ago. Everytime my parents made us all go camping there was either a tornado warning (not a watch, mind you, but a take cover this very second or risk being blown to kingdom come warning) or a torrential downpour. Thank god they got the message after only about 3 trips. I still prefer my camping with indoor plumbing and room service.

  2. Otto

    Dude, what about the part where my arm went numb from the sting? Or how everyone but me got a blue Icee and I got a red one?

    I think I might cry now.


  3. Norma

    You know, I just realized, I have the same reaction to “fun days” as you do! I can’t allow myself to totatlly relax and by the end of the day I’m usually pretty stressed out. Thanks for pointing it out, I’ll be working on relaxing through the WHOLE experience from now on.

  4. Holly

    Hmmm, I too lack the ability to relax on family vacations. I wonder if it’s just a mom/woman thing? But, I do have a bright side! Even if it was silent as a tomb, you wouldn’t have gotten much sleep! Because, well, sleeping on the ground with nothing but a piece of cloth between you and the elements is just no good for sleeping.

  5. Chris

    Oy, I’m with Chickadee! I’d be up the whole night worried that something may come and get me, while I was sleeping.

  6. becky

    oh yes, tired and cranky children are so. much. fun.

    but it still sounds like most of it was good. what? i’m trying to look on the bright side of this. yes, i know that’s easy for me to say, way out here in socal where it hasn’t topped 75 yet.

    but really, i’m trying to stay positive for YOU. because you’re so pretty.

  7. jean

    You and Otto sure like living dangerously don’t you? New family, new home, new state and as if that isn’t enough you decide to go camping! I still have nightmares about our family camping trips. You guys are going to be fine. Hang in there.

  8. Kris

    Poor Otto. Go out and get him a blue icee NOW. He deserves that much, don’tcha think? Sheesh woman.

  9. Zee

    Ohhh… I feel for the kiddlings about the bee thing. I have a totally irrational fear of bees. Killer tsetse flies, ants, spiders, wriggly crawly worms, no big deal. But bees? ACK. GET THEM AWAY FROM ME RIGHT THIS MINUTE! You might call it a phobia.

    Ick. Makes me nervous just thinking about them!!

  10. Shash

    This!? This right here is why I don’t camp. This is my story, right here. I live in fear of this.


  11. tuney

    OK, aside from the fact that I will wait until, say, January to go to Stone Mountain, I just hafta ask. What, pray tell, is a “sweat bee?”

    Blue Icees rrrrock. Otto brought you CHOCOLATE. And WINE. Buyyyyy the iceeeeeee…

  12. Brigitte

    I’ve always felt they need to make tranquilizer darts for children.

    In that heat and noise, I wouldn’t have been able to sleep either, but at least I know how to suffer in silence (and think evil, evil thoughts at those around me who ARE sleeping).

  13. Linda

    Two things I don’t miss from the south, the heat and the bugs.

    One thing I so miss. Someone saying “reckon”.


  14. Mimipz5wjj

    I think Monkey and my oldest are cut from the same cloth! The whole “not getting picked” thing is just like something J would do!

    And as for the rest, yep, sounds about right for camping! In August! In GA! Hotter than Hades!

    And the Laser show is really good. You should go some time when you’re not so tired. And the walk up the mountain isn’t so bad. About 2/3 the way up there is a picnic pavillion you can stop and rest (it’s just before the “difficult” part) and turn around if you want!

  15. Kimberly

    Diva Girl does this too–seems driven to spoil the best time with bad behaviour at the end. The better the time had by all, the worse the behaviour. It’s incredibly frustrating, and I feel for you.

  16. meghann

    Further vindication of my position that camping should involve, at some point, someone asking you if you’d like a smoking or non-smoking room.

  17. Katie

    We camp in the mountains mid summer, then you would need your sweatshirts (which I always forget and then the kids whine they are cold. In July.)

    Congrats for surviving your first family vacation together!

    Normally I hate technology on a camping trip but you know that portable dvd player you have? We use ours at night in the tent to help the kids fall asleep, it drowns out the “noises” enough for them to drift off.

  18. Jenn

    My family would be jealous. Camping to me is no microwave.

    I am sure everyone will have fond memories.

    Congrats for surviving.

  19. LadyBug Crossing

    It must be a girl thing…

    Send pix!!! I wanna see Monkey and the parrot!!


  20. Jenny

    I consider myself a fairly hearty, outdoorsy type, and camping in Georgia in August just sounds like sadistic torture. When I was little, we used to pack up on summer weekends and head to Lake Hartwell to spend a day on the pontoon boat (a/k/a party barge) and cook out and camp somewhere. Forgetting for the moment just how redneck an activity that really is, the *idea* of spending an idyllic weekend with “nature” was always vastly superior to the reality.

    Nowadays we backpack for our camping trips, and the idea there seems to be to exhaust yourself to the point that you could fall asleep standing up wedged between two rocks.

    I can’t wait to read your take on football season!

  21. daisy

    I can totally sympatize with the bugs and the sleeping while hot since I grew up in the South with family that loved to camp. I thought we were SO rich when we finally got a camper that had A/C, but then my father refused to use the A/C! Cruel.

  22. chris

    So, was it hot? I’m not sure if you mentioned that.

  23. Terri

    Okay, I’ve been there a gazillion times and have never seen the talking fountain — where is it? Must be nowhere near the train because that seems to be where we always end up.

    Glad you had fun.

  24. Ben

    You lost me at marshmallows. Sorry.

    Stone Mountain – I’ve been there, back when they were still building it, but I’ve seen it ;)

  25. Chewie

    You and Otto need a date night…VERY SOON!


  26. Karen

    We do camping in late August in Adirondacks in NY State. We need sweatshirts at night. GA would be a different story, I am sure.

    Sounds like a fun day though.

  27. Sophie

    Mir, Mir, MIR! What are you doing!? Camping in the middle of ATL in August? That song about mad dogs and Englishmen is now running through my mind. We long-time southerners know that if we want to get next to nature in August, we’d better head to NORTH Georgia. Or TN. Or the western NC mountains. Well, now you know. I’m glad you guys had a good time.

    Monkey – what a sweet kid — tugs on my heart strings.

  28. Beth Reid

    Personally, I think that there’s a reason humanity invented hotel rooms, even cheap crappy ones; it’s so no one would have to sleep outdoors on the ground in un-air-conditioned space in the summer in the South. I’m okay with bugs, but lumpy, hot and loud would not work for me as a sleeping situation.

    Hope the PTCD clears up soon!

  29. Woman with Kids

    Thank god! You’re back! I was totally coming here today to comment, something borrowed and paraphrased from my boys:

    Are you back yet? Are you back yet? Are you back yet? Are you back yet?

    So glad I don’t have to do that…

  30. Delton

    All in all, sounds like a great experience! Very cool that you’re getting to give your kids the family vacation you never had. The blue icee tongue photo is great!

  31. jenn

    The first night home is ALWAYS my favorite part of camping.

  32. Aimee

    But, Otto, *why* didn’t you get a blue icee? Did they run out? Did you order first and then not want to change your order? Were you trying to be non-conformist? Did Mir make you? Inquiring minds want to know. And no matter what, that blue tongue photo is awesome — it just says summer.

    Enjoy your quiet sleeping, pretty Mir. You’ve earned it!

  33. Kate

    Uh, duh? It’s called Benadryl. They NEED it for the itching of the bug bites, oh, yeah, and it makes them drowsy. Never go camping without it. What? You’re not itching? I’m sure I saw a giant mosquito land on you. We’d better get you some Benadryl so you don’t itch, sweetie. And Sweet Dreams, Angel-Pie!

  34. LuAnn

    We went to a resevoir one time for boating. We camped out. I couldn’t help noticing a hotel nearby with the picture of a tent painted on the side. Ahhh….now THAT’s my speed! :p

  35. The Other Leanne

    I have been pondering the combination of “camping” and “laser light show” for two days and still can’t wrap my head around the concept. Now that I’ve seen the Talking Fountain I’m really confused! Where are the pit toilets and raccoons? What strange form of outdoor adventure is this?
    On the other hand, the bugs and lack of sleep lend an aura of truthiness to it all.

  36. Cele

    Ah the joys of camping. That fountain would freak me out too.

  37. Kim

    I have countless tales form our family vacations. We visited Stone Mountain one year on vacation in October, so it was a lot cooler. We went in the sky ride and decided to hike back down the mountain, in a thunderstorm. The four of us kids had a blast, my mother spent the whole time panicking about being struck by lightening:o)

  38. Betsy

    Kate beat me to the punch with the Benadryl plug, right down to the rationale that you use to administer the stuff to the young innocent children.

    Plus: I think they have those meltaway strips now that are perfect for road trips and/or the car first aid emergency kit.

    (I’d put marshmallows and some Hershey’s Kisses in there as well…)

  39. ScottsdaleGirl

    Where I camp? There are pine trees and creeks. NOt laser Light Shows.

    Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?

  40. mar

    Kate totally beat me to the Benedryl punchline – mother’s little helper!!

    And I have to admit, although we have only camped a few times, there were no laser light shows there either. However, I’m thinking that it sounds like my kind of camping!

  41. carrien

    I’m a bit OCD about many things, and I confess I”m that way about some camping things, but I usually enjoy it once I’m there. I anally pack everything just so, in the order we’ll need to get at it, I insist that tents stay zipped and shoes are taken off upon entry and that playing happens out side, not in tents, and that people meals are simple, but after all that work I have fun.

    I am a total loser aren’t I.

    Thing is they’ll remember it, fondly, forever so it’s worth it.

  42. Mom101

    I just want to say that there should be a talking fountain in my living room right now. It would both entertain my children and keep me cool. If it only served ice cream it would be perfect.

  43. ttulizzy

    Yumm—fried pickles!

  44. Amy-Go

    This story is Why I Don’t Camp.

    But mmmmmm…fried pickles…;)

  45. MaryP

    The second-last time I went camping, the group in the next site sat round their campfire and got drunk out of their minds, and one fellow? The drunker he got, the more his f*g vocabulary f*g shrunk, until he had, like only one f*g adjective f*g left. (Did you know that toaster ovens can f*k?) I didn’t, until then.

    The last time I went camping, we forgot our tent. Yes, indeedy. Someone had to make an emergency run back home while the rest of us sat in the dimming light and increasing mosquitoes, waiting. Oh, and then the raccoons got into the cooler. And my period started.

    And there will be no more camping for my deprived kids. But they have lots and lots of camping memories from before, when I was young and resilient. And too poor for hotels.

  46. Jenifer

    And THIS is why I hate camping!!

  47. Summer

    I love camping, but it might be because I have a mild Martyr Complex. Went camping this past weekend, and wound up teaching my son a new phrase. “Shut it.” It’s oh so very charming, at 11pm in a tent, to listen to a 4 year old practice saying “shut it” with varying inflections…. “Shut it. Shut IT. SHUT it. Shut. It.”

  48. MsRebecca

    Marshmallows.. mmmm.. I love to roast these over a fire, I haven’t done that in years!

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