Always have a checklist for camping

Up until earlier this year I was not what you would call a seasoned camper. I had been a couple of times in childhood with my Dad and once last year with my friend, Kate, who sorted everything, packed the car and even gave me a list of what the kids and I would need to bring. Easy.

This year we’ve spent most of our sunny days on campsites which means that I was under the (false) illusion that I am now a pro and can remember everything in my head. Despite having forgotten at least one thing on every other trip. Throw into the mix that camping was a last minute decision. On the Thursday afternoon we were at the playground with the kids, the sun was shining, my partner looked up the weather forecast for the next couple of days then phoned and booked a campsite for the next morning, all within the space of 5 mins. We had to rush home and pack. Or in my case, chat on the phone to friends, play games with the kids and convince my partner that I would remember EVERYTHING and that it would be really quick to pack the next morning.

*Spoiler Alert* I did not remember everything. When the 1.5 hour drive to the campsite was extended to 3.5 hours, not because of traffic, but because we had to keep stopping at shops as I remembered en-route the vital things I had forgotten, it felt like I’d barely remembered one thing.

Thank goodness for the Tesco Extra that my partner spotted, 2.5 hours into our 1.5 hour journey where I could hastily pick up a saucepan, wok, colander, shower stuff, medicine for the kids who were complaining they all felt ill after being squished in the car for so long, and lunch. Who the hell forgets lunch?

We eventually get to the campsite, having deposited the same amount it cost us to come camping in the first place, across a petrol station, Tesco Metro and Tesco Direct. We set up the tent as usual, and I start to discover all the other stuff I’ve forgotten. Oh well, we made do and at least this time I’d remembered the kids PJs and my 8 year old didn’t have to sleep in my cropped jeans, like last time.

My Partner is who you want in a crisis

I like to think of myself as good in a crisis and with a family the size of mine, there have been a lot of crises to date. If you need someone to rock up at hospital, drive across town at the last minute, talk to medical professionals, convince kids their injuries aren’t as bad as they look, whilst answering the paramedic’s questions in the ambulance, I’m your girl.

Last Saturday we discovered that when it comes to fire, I am very definitely not your girl. We’re on the aforementioned camping trip, the kids are in the playground and thankfully, my partner is the other side of the tent, sorting out the swimming stuff. I’m cooking dinner on the gas stove and the canister runs out. Thinking I know everything there is to know about camping equipment I grab a new canister, load it into the gas stove and ignite it, as normal. Literally a second later, the gas cooker and canister have huge flames everywhere oh and I’m cooking in the porch of the tent so it looks like that’s about to go up in flames too.

After the event my partner told me he’d never seen someone run away so fast from a fire they had started themselves. I maintain that I was running towards him, to get help. I’m not so sure I was but let’s let that go down in history as what happened.

Without batting an eyelid, my partner grabs a damp towel off the washing line, covers the entire stove, flames and all, picks it all up, moves it outside the tent and pats out any other flames. Then he calmly reloads the gas canister, shows me how to line it up (it’s at this moment I have a flash back of him showing me this on our last camping trip), and calmly reignites the stove (no fire this time) and continues cooking. At no point does he criticise me for not having done this, or for not doing anything to put out the fire.

Once everything’s calmed down, I start to remember other times where he’s been great in high stress situations; his calm text saying he’s taking his daughter to hospital because she had broken her finger. The ‘don’t worry but I’ve just given your son medicine because his (horrendous) allergies are playing up’, all with a sense of calm and control.

So there it is, if you’re looking for someone to keep you company in hospital, drive across town when you need them etc, I’m your girl. If it involves flames or highly stressful situations where you have to think on your feet, he’s the man for the job.

*photo of my partner and the kids later that night with a fire he built, on purpose, and had complete control of the whole time.

I thought I’d be a cool mum. Turns out I’m not

We all think we have the most beautiful, wonderful children, except when they’re being, let’s just say, challenging. In my case, not only do I have lovely children, I’m also blessed with a lovely step-daughter.

My step-daughter is 3 years older than my eldest son so I didn’t think I’d be at this stage of parenting so soon. After my own teenage years of hearing ‘you’re not going out wearing/looking like that’ from my own parents, I vowed I would not be the same with my kids.

On the one hand I do not dress my children in the hideously traditional, outdated, old-fashioned crap we were clothed in. It was the 80s, neon was very much the order of the day and the tighter and shorter clothes were, the better. There was no room in life for the Victoriana styled dresses my mother put us in. Therefore I always vowed that my children would be fashionable at all times. I realised that this had backfired when my step-daughter turned up looking bang on fashionable in a teeny pair of hot pants and cropped top. Even though I had vowed that I would never, ever say this to our kids, I said ‘you seem to have left half your clothes at your Mum’s’. She confirmed that this was in fact, her entire outfit for the day and I had to concede that at least she’s fashionable. Even if she is only 11. So there we have it…. the day I dropped the mantle of ‘cool mum’ only to be ‘old fashioned values step-mum’. I guess I’ll just have to live with it and be grateful that 2 out of our 3 children wear clothes full stop as my 5 year old has a habit of stripping off the second he’s in the house and nothing and no-one will convince him to put his clothes back on again.

Having an accountability partner is a game changer

Working from home can have it’s challenges. First of all, the blimming world and it’s wife get all their deliveries sent to my house as they know I’ll be home. Some days can be a constant round of answering the door and apologising to the delivery driver for Stitch snapping at them (he really doesn’t like the postman or deliveries). Secondly, there is always something distracting to do once home. Especially at this time of year when the kids have been home all summer, work has been done in snatches, (or on one memorable occasion, a whole day on holiday in Portugal), home has just been a base between camping trips and the whole house feels wrecked. Therefore the temptation to clean, tidy and get some semblance of order now the kids are at school, is at an all time high.

Wednesday 5th September has been marked in my calendar and on my brain, indelibly as the day I get my work and personal life back after 6 long weeks. It’s been hard to know what to do first; I’ve been irritable because I haven’t been able to get enough work done and I’ve been irritable because the house isn’t as clean as I’d like it to be. (Don’t get disillusioned here, I’m not a clean freak, I would just like for the carpet to not crunch when I tread on it). Knowing that work must come first; after all, I can enslave the partner and children at the weekend, Cinderella style, to clean the house, I set about keeping myself on task. This meant roping my friend, who also works from home, to come and work with me, so neither of us slopes off to do housework or watch tv. To keep it fair and to stop us from going stir-crazy, we alternate houses. You know what? It works! We work in completely different industries so there’s no chatting about work, stepping on each others’ toes or thinking we know how to do each others’ job better, just casual camaraderie whilst getting the job done. I’m going to build this kind of accountability into the next few months and hopefully watch my productivity soar, even if it means the house is a little more dishevelled by the end of the week.

Board Games aren’t dull

Board games have never been my thing. At all. Even as a child I found them pretty dull. Other than the odd game, I was much happier with my Sindy dolls (never Barbie, after all, who needs that weird gravity defying body image thing going on?) or making up games with friends. So you can imagine my horror when it turned out that my son, aged 6 at the time, developed a love of board games. I try to palm these off on my Mum, sending the boys off to her whenever she’s around for food and games, and stick to playing with their Avengers figures when they’re out, I mean, with them.

Every now and then my oldest son asks to play a board game, my partner and I quickly begin a game of rock, paper, scissors to see who has to be the one to play the dreaded game and with a resignated ‘If I have to, you have to, too’ attitude, we all sit down to what will be the longest 15 minutes of our day.

Until last week, where I took some of the board games camping with us, in the hope it would keep the kids occupied, and once again got roped into playing with them. I quickly learned that it’s not in anyone’s interest for me to get competitive when playing these games as it means they go on for an eternity. Instead, we’ve come up with ‘family’ rules where we basically all help each other out with clues (great in Cluedo and works for most games) to make the game go quicker and make everybody feel like they’re winning. The last game of Cluedo was wrapped up in a record breaking 4 mins and 57 seconds and everyone was happy. What’s more, it was fun all shouting our accusations and suspicions and whilst I’m not ‘looking forward’ to playing again anytime soon, I’m not dreading it either.

This might seem the end of the story but a word of warning. Playing the games ‘family style’ is great when the adult sets the rules. Under no circumstances let the children set rules for these games as you end up with complicated, nonsensical instructions and with the urge to drown yourself in the nearest Gin bottle. Not great when you’re a month into ‘One year, no beer’. Also don’t lose the instruction manual, as we found out with ‘Don’t say it’. A game that went on far too long and I’m still not sure what happened but I am sure none of us were playing it correctly. Typical of what happens when you put an 8 year old in charge. So if anyone has a spare set of instructions please send them my way. Alongside a vat of Gin and I’ll try not to play the game or drink the Gin until next August.