…old school way to bond with your family? OR new way to drive a stake (literally) through the heart of your family’s morale?

It all started so innocently:  My Dad and step-mom have a mobile coffee/smoothie/ice cream/whatever-you-need-I-got-it business called, “Cuppy’s”. They decided to take time off from traveling and park it and their camper permanently at a campground in Crystal Springs, FL. They live 15 mins. from there, so they invited us to come stay in the camper for a weekend.  Great! Free weekend getaway…we’re in!

Mark and I did the sales pitch/pep talk with the boys to get them excited about camping. We told Nate that it was near a natural spring that was filled with Manatees. “Can I touch the Manatees?” he asked excitedly. “Maybe.” I said trying to cover my butt in case we couldn’t. “Can I jump into the water to play with him and if he’s stuck in a fishing net can I take out my knife and cut him loose and he will be so thankful that he will give me a ride on his back into the sunset?” Nate said in one breath. “uuuhhhh…{bite lip} eeerrr…hhmmmm…{shrug shoulders} I…think….uuhhh….Sure. If the Manatee is stuck in a fishing net…go right ahead and cut him free.” I said playing the odds. I mean, they MUST be in my favor, right? (Note to self: Maybe a little less Crocodile Hunter/Go Diego, Go viewing in the future.)

If it's the journey, not the destination...we were in big trouble. 20 miles out and the engine light came on.

If it's the journey, not the destination...we were in big trouble. 20 miles out and the engine light came on.

“Mommy…can I help Daddy with the oil?” After a momentary flash from the “Christmas Story” tire changing scene, I said, “OK, Nate…you can help Daddy but watch your language.” “What Mommy?” “Nevermind. Go help Daddy and be careful.”

One oil change, two missed exits and seventeen potty breaks later, we got to the campsite. It was great. Everything was already set up,so  it was like checking into a camper hotel. We just brought in our suitcases. Now, I have to tell you that this was not Mark’s idea of camping. He grew up tent camping.  Packing everything into a backpack and hiking miles into the woods to be “one with nature”. I’ll be one with nature as long as there’s a thick piece of glass separating me from it and something porcelain for me to “commune” with. Besides, he grew up in WI. We’re in FL now. Sleeping in a tent in this heat will make you wake up dead…if the bugs didn’t eat you alive first. We have 2 small boys and live in FL…camper or hotel. Pick one.

Now, everyone has their ideas of what camping is. An almost 5 year old’s vision is this: tents, campfire, bears and marshmallows. So we had to at least make 2 of them come true. It was 96 degrees out but we made a campfire by golly.

Let the fun begin! "Yes, I know it's hot Nate. Campfires are hot. If you want to roast your marshmallow, you have to hold it over the fire. No, I'm not doing it Nate. You wanted to roast one...so roast it!"

Let the fun begin! "Yes, I know it's hot Nate. Campfires are hot. If you want to roast your marshmallow, you have to hold it over the fire. No, I'm not doing it Nate. You wanted to roast one...so roast it!"

This is the only time Zeke sat still and it was for exactly 6.2 seconds. I spent the entire weekend chasing after him saying, “No Zeke! Danger! No touching. Out of the road, Zeke! Not in your mouth. That’s Dublin’s food. Fire is hot, Zeke. Come down off the top of the camper, Zeke!  That was fun.

We found a grass field with a small hill for the boys and we decided to set them free. If they came back to us, they're ours...if they didn't, well...they never were!

We found a grass field with a small hill for the boys and we decided to set them free. If they came back to us, they're ours...if they didn't, well...they never were!

Huge field to run and play and my boys find the only grate/hole and a stick to anger whatever might be living in it.

Huge field to run and play and my boys find the only grate/hole and a stick to anger whatever might be living in it.

I looked down to swat the 67 mosquitos that were biting my legs and looked back up to see Zeke inside someone's firepit. {sigh} Things I never thought I'd have to say: "Mark, please go get your son out of that firepit."

I looked down to swat the 67 mosquitos that were biting my legs and looked back up to see Zeke inside someone's firepit. {sigh} Things I never thought I'd have to say: "Mark, please go get your son out of that firepit."

I lost count after 237 but Nate’s querie of “Where are the Manatees?” went on for the entire second half of the day. Just when he would forget about them for a nanosecond, there would be a reminder:

"Mommy, I love this Manatee so much. Can we bring her home? She's so lonely here."  "No, Nate, she belongs to the campground." "Mommy? How old is she?" "Well, she has to be at least 55...she's in the red-hat society." "Mommy? Why are you laughing?" {sigh} "Because sometimes I crack myself up Nate."

"Mommy, I love this Manatee so much. Can we bring her home? She's so lonely here." "No, Nate, she belongs to the campground." "Mommy? How old is she?" "Well, she has to be at least 55...she's in the red-hat society." "Mommy? Why are you laughing?" {sigh} "Because sometimes I crack myself up Nate."

We found the Homosassa Springs State Park welcome center. It was filled with all kinds of stuff for the boys to play with. Their favorite (of course) was the gator:

"Crikey! Have a go at this beauty! Isn't she gorgeous?" Nate to his brother who, unbeknownst to him, was playing Steve's best mate, Wes.

"Crikey! Have a go at this beauty! Isn't she gorgeous?" Nate to his brother who, unbeknownst to him, was playing Steve's best mate, Wes.

Mark and I feel it's very important to teach your children the Art of the gag-photo.

Mark and I feel it's very important to teach your children the Art of the gag-photo.

After a 20 min. bake…uh, I mean boat ride, we were in the park. Finally! Manatees:

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Sailors use to think Manatees were beautiful mermaids...I'm thinking I wouldn't be so self-conscious in a swimsuit if I lived back then.

Sailors use to think Manatees were beautiful mermaids...I'm thinking I wouldn't be so self-conscious in a swimsuit if I lived back then.

Mark and Nate got to watch a Manatee program given by the park rangers. Me? I got to take a screaming/writhing Zeke into the pavilion to try to calm him down. In hindsight…I probably should have just let him climb the fence to the gator enclosure. Just think of the gag photos we could have gotten!

The next day we just hung out. We swam in the pool, helped with the smoothies and scratched mosquito bites. (That was just me, by the way. Mark didn’t get a single bite. Hard to get blood from a stone I guess!)

Nate helping Grandma Fae make/taste smoothies. He made a killing in tips! Nate helping Grandma Fae make/taste smoothies. He made a killing in tips!
The only way I could keep Zeke happy was to let him feed me Cheerios. By the time our food came, I was stuffed. Mark hugged me and said, "Thanks for taking one for the team, Honey!" "No problem." I smirked "because YOU'RE emptying the camper's sewer tank before we leave!"

The only way I could keep Zeke happy was to let him feed me Cheerios. By the time our food came, I was stuffed. Mark hugged me and said, "Thanks for taking one for the team, Honey!" "No problem." I smirked "because YOU'RE emptying the camper's sewer tank before we leave!"

Well, we came...we saw manatees...we got bit...we camped.

Well, we came...we saw manatees...we got bit...we camped.

 All in all I guess it was a success. Nate got to roast marshmallows on a campfire and see manatees; Mark agreed that not having to walk into the woods and dig a hole to “go” was really nice; Zeke got to run free in the wilderness. And me? I got to do field research…I have over 27 mosquito bites on my legs alone and I’m going to see how long I can last without scratching. Does rolling around in Mark’s sandpaper bin count? (yes, he has an entire bin of sandpaper…)

I wonder how long it takes for a mosquito bite to go away? Hopefully before I “crack” and start taking out members of my family.

 

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