Experiences, anecdotes, tips, how-tos, hiking, nature, motherhood, memories.

Adventures in Camping with Kids

Camping with kids is like pitching a tent upside down. Both are bound to fill with laughter and raindrops.

--Victoria Marie

Monday, December 13, 2010

Learning the Metric System

A difference in measurement, that's all. Kilometers instead of miles. Celsius instead of Fahrenheit. Canadians and Newfoundlanders use the metric system in their traffic signs, national park hiking maps, and weather. It took me two days to realize that we weren't supposed to drive 80 "miles" per hour on that mountainous road in Newfoundland dragging a trailer behind. It was kilometers--about 50 miles per hour...but I still didn't like it. It was too fast for an unfamiliar, curvy, cliff-lined roadway. I was getting too close a glimpse of the guardrail and the cliff ledge for my liking.

Now we've started the children hiking through forests and up and down mountains at a tender young age, the youngest, twins, were four. Just a mile or two, many breaks and sights to see. They were seasoned hikers by the time we came to Newfoundland. But they couldn't get over a simple word: kilometers. The children were convinced. Kilometers were twice as long as miles, especially on raw, rugged trails up ragged mountains to view the glorious Atlantic and the Gulf of St. Lawrence or along planked trails over bogs. I tried to explain that kilometers were shorter than miles, but they kept focusing on the number.

"Five kilometers!" They shouted. "Mom! Are you nuts!"

"It's only about three miles round trip across a flat bog." I tried to explain. "Besides, we get to the fjords, don't we?"

The thing was that they couldn't envision a fjord. However, when they saw one, a hush fell over the children. It was the first time they were quiet the entire trip. That's what God's beauty does to people.

When hiking with children especially, make sure you know the type of terrain and the round trip or full length of a hike before starting. You can find this information on trail maps or at visitor centers in the parks where you hike. Hikes are usually rated strenuous, moderate, or easy. Double the suggested time given for a hike with children. This information will help you to decide if the children are up to the challenge.

Oh, and there is a distinct difference between ability and desire with children. As my children got older, I noticed that they would grumble for about the first quarter mile and then become so absorbed in their surroundings that they begin to pepper me with questions and "Oh, look Moms."

Friday, November 5, 2010

Welcome Visitors!

Welcome to my blog "Camping with Kids" fellow Momsters, Motherboard followers, and friends. Steep a cup of tea or grab a mug of coffee and join me as you read some of my family's adventures camping. Hopefully you will pick up some tips on how to entertain the children on long road trips or how to keep peace when vacationing. Who knows? You might even begin camping with your own family.

There are many more adventures to come, so please stop by again and visit a while. Thank you. --Victoria Marie

Monday, November 1, 2010

Newfoundland Hospitality

Another way to pick up scrapbook material and photos as well as local maps and be able to get a feel of where things are in a new area is to stop at the Visitors' Centers. There are brochures and booklets, coupons and attendants at courtesy desks. We usually do this and it was a good thing we did when we were heading to Newfoundland. I decided to ask one of the attendants to check on our ferry ride to Newfoundland the next day leaving at 8 a.m. from North Sydney, Nova Scotia. She informed me that we had already left THAT morning.

The confirmation slip we had printed out from home showed us leaving the next morning. Luckily, the woman could schedule our van, trailer, and seven people on a ferry leaving at 1:30 p.m. the next day. However, what we forgot about was the time needed to cross the mouth of the Saint Lawrence Seaway--about six and a half hours--and the time zone change--another half-hour later.

Once docked in Channel-Port-Aux-Basques, Newfoundland, we journeyed on the only road available, Route 1 heading north, and passed one town before we reached the Deer Lake campground, the only camp around, at about 10:30 p.m. Newfoundland time. The only vehicles traveling on the road had been logging trucks. We didn't see any gas stations, stores, or hotels. Consequently, when seven weary travelers appeared at the camp store, which was closing, and the woman said the campground was full, I felt like Mary and Joseph when there was no room at the inn. Although I wasn't pregnant, I did have five whinny children and an exhausted husband.

After hearing of our tedious tour, the mix-up at the ferry, and then realizing that our reservation at their campground was never placed on the books, "Saint" Roy [the owner of the campground] proceeded to find level ground for us to set up camp. By 11 p.m. our fellow camp neighbors had rigged up bright lights and were hooking up water and electricity to our little camper while the children dozed in the van.

Bless them all; they assisted seven exhausted travelers set up camp near Deer Lake and adjacent to the new rest rooms. There are Saints here on earth, and one of them welcomed strangers to his town and gave them two nights stay free for all their troubles.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Scary, Scary Night...

Although we asked God, nightly, NOT to replenish the whole water table during our camp stay, sometimes he'd try--usually at night. This can be a good thing except when you have to break camp at 3 a.m. to catch a ferry back to the mainland.

It is very important when camping with children, or just camping in general, that you understand time zones and driving distances. You can find this information visiting the tourist website of the area where you plan to camp or if you are like me and like hard copies of information and photos for your scrap books, ask for a welcome packet to be sent to you. Maps of the area are of primary importance. Begin at the area's websites. I found tourist information to Canadian destinations by typing the country.com; www.newfoundlandlabrador.com/. For the United States use the state plus tourism.com; www.floridatourism.com.

We were camping near Gros Morne National Park on the northwestern side of Newfoundland, a dramatically rugged country surrounded by craggy coastlines and one major roadway, Route 1. Because we had misjudged distance and the time needed to cover that distance on a two-lane coastal highway, we had to break camp at 3 a.m. to make the 8 a.m. ferry at Channel-Port-Aux-Basques back to Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia.

The rain started about 1 a.m. We knew because we had taken down those precious tarps I told you about in my last entry in hopes of cutting time from our pre-dawn camp breaking. However, this left us with a sopping tent to tuck in and mud everywhere--bedding, trailer, van--and everything smelling of that ubiquitous "wet dog."

My husband and I got the children up and decided to dispense with their helping to break camp...just this once. The groggy kids settled in the van with their damp pillows and possessions, we began quickly and deliberately stowing and stashing "wet dogs" in our race to the port. The rain never let up. Even our raincoats couldn't keep our torsos dry. I tucked in the canvas as my husband cranked down the hard cap to our trailer.

"Move your fingers!" He shouted.
"The canvas is sticking out!" I yelled through the torrential downpour.
"The water's pouring in!" He returned.

Once inside the humid van, I felt like we were in the Rain Forest--with nothing dry to blot our skin or the windshield. The treacherous journey to port really began once we hit Route 1 and found our headlights and the occasional lightning the only illumination. The rocky coastline was a perpendicular drop from the roadbed as the road cut into the mountain.

Wind and rain rocked the van as my husband, wide-eyed and white-knuckled, struggled to keep it in the correct lane and away from the logging trucks making their journey northward. I, as unyielding as one of the boulders below in the whitecaps of the Saint Lawrence Seaway surf, peered blankly out the windows "helping," I thought, my husband to see all and control the van on the roadway.

The rain eased as the sun rose. It took the entire six and a half hour journey aboard ship for my husband and me to relax after that drive. But we made the ferry.

Readers Rejoice!

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You readers make the sun shine and the heart sing. Thank you so much for reading my blog.

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Wednesday, September 8, 2010


"Rain, rain, go away; come again some other day..." the children would chant when home, but at camp? We found it didn't matter...too much.

Rain usually blessed our trip, both trailer and campers alike, at least once during its duration. The longer the camping trip, the more chance of rain, and the more chance that the tent trailer would smell of wet dog...minus the dog. As long as you mentally prepare your family for it and make contingency plans you should be fine. Make sure you explain to the children that any rain during the camping trip would not stop the fun, maybe just change the activities a little. Bring quilted raincoats and a second pair of shoes and tarps to cover the tent or trailer. It is best to cover the trailer with tarps when you set up camp even if there is no threat of rain. Tarps keep the trailer cooler if you are camping in the desert and protect it from dropping sticks and acorns if you camp in the woods.

Quilted raincoats keep the torso dry and warm. We found that even in summer, the rains can give a chill if you should get soaked and still need to hike back to the van. I found out that children love rain, especially in nature. They love the earthy smell of the forest, the contrast of wet and dry bark, and the squishy feel of the muddy trail. The damp weather doesn't stop seasoned hikers. They hike in the rain and in the clouds trapped on mountains. We were hiking along the Catoctin Mountains in Maryland when a torrential downpour hit. The tree canopy did protect us somewhat except for the bare mountain spots along the trail. By the time we came across the Visitors' Center, which was a short side trail in our loop trail, we looked like sunflowers after a storm, faces down and dripping from every petal and leaf--even though we had our raincoat hoods up.

There was a four foot by four foot tiled entry space before the carpeted Visitors' Center proper. I told the children to just stand on the tiled space and take off their dripping raincoats and leave them on the tile before entering the Center. Right. Six people's saturated raincoats plopped right by the door. You're a genius, Vic. Once again, I could barely get in out of the rain to shed my own coat and add it to the pile. The only good thing was that there probably wouldn't be too many visitors in a torrential downpour. But I did forget about the "wet dog" that seemed to follow us around on rainy days and our soaked shoes. Let's just say that the park rangers in the Visitors' Center knew exactly where we were at all times as we waited for the storm to subside even if just a little.

Hiking in the rain is fine. Breaking camp in the rain has its own set of difficulties, but that's a whole other story.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Laundress Gets No Rest

We didn't notice it at first. The longer camping trips brought it to our attention. At first it only ran around the trailer, like the children, scurrying under blankets, burrowing inside sleeping bags, or scrambling under tables. My first attempts at containing it inside canvas bags worked...for a while. But eventually I accumulated more canvas bags stuffed with laundry than the mailmen had stuffed with letters to Santa Claus in the courtroom scene of Miracle on 34th Street. The problem had earned everyone's attention. It was time to do the laundry.

We simply don't have the space in our pop-up tent trailer to bring along enough clothes for a three-week camping trip. Nor do we even own enough underwear to last the duration. Hence, laundry must be done on vacation. Since no one else seems to know how to run the washer or dryer--no matter how hard I try to teach him or her--if we want clean underwear, I must do the laundry.

When people are on vacation, they try to avoid whatever is considered "work." I am no exception. Doing laundry for a family of seven is definitely "work." Think of five children who "wear" everything...juice, catsup, mustard, jelly, soda, grease, and yes, just plain dirt! Do I want the clothes clean or just washed? Right. Pre-treat and scrub. By the time I truly must do laundry, i.e. no more clean underwear, I have about eight large loads.

I look for a time when all six washers are available, usually during dinnertime after a day of hiking in the mountains. Campgrounds usually have half the amount of dryers. You must combine loads. After we gathered all the laundry and compressed it into one immense sea bag, we needed to lug it to the laundromat. Campgrounds seem to locate their laundromats on the crests of hills. I've always had to lug laundry uphill. It may not seem like a difficult task until you realize the laundry bag weighs the same as a woolly mammoth.

We were in Nova Scotia at the time, and my husband was in charge of dinner and watching the rest of the kids. My daughter Michelle helped me drag the laundry uphill. A concerned retired lady lounging in front of her plush Winnebago motor home informed us that we'd rip the sea bag dragging it along, so we hoisted the bag millimeters off the ground and on wobbly legs painstakingly stepped past the lady's indoor/outdoor carpeted campsite. Immediately afterward, we collapsed from the effort. We rested atop the mammoth. Regaining strength, we continued our uphill drag.

When we got to the top of the hill, we realized that the laundromat was on the other side of the camp store which was cut into the side of the mountain. Instead of dragging the laundry around the store and in front of people who'd tell me I'd rip the bag, I stopped at the back wall. I asked Michelle to run around to the laundromat entrance to see if there were any flowers by the wall. Negative. I kicked the dead mammoth over the ten foot cliff with both feet, darted around the building, and dragged the carcass inside.

Quickly, I started all six washers before anyone else came inside the laundromat, separating, squirting the worst stains, and shoving clothes by the fistfuls inside the filling tubs. I sent Michelle to the camp store several times for more Canadian dollar coins, the only coins the machines would take. Fellow campers came in. "Oh, are you still here?" I couldn't leave. Someone would take my wet clothes and put them on the floor to use the washer. Plus, I had more loads to do. Three dryers...forever. Combining loads, more trips for Michelle to the camp store for coins. Separating seven people's clothing on a two foot by two foot table. Badgering the family for help transporting clean clothes back to the trailer and into everyone's respective travel bag. All before the clothes get dirty...again!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Snake Encounter, Part 2

As I stood before the snake, trembling like a baby about to take her first step, I couldn't help but wonder why my family wasn't coming to my aid. The minutes multiplied as sweat dripped down my back. Didn't my family realize that I wasn't behind them anymore? Still, I was glad it was me and not the children whom the snake chose to glare at. At least I was a little more patient. I hoped.

Forgetting that a snake's sense of hearing is not that of a human's, snakes taste and feel vibrations more than they hear, I remained mum, panting as if I had just scaled Mt. Everest. The snake continued to taste my fear with its tongue as we eyed each other warily. I studied my options, the cliff ledge or the mountainside. The trail pinched in by the snake's rocks leaving no place else to step but on his pile of rocks. No one came around the side of the mountain on the trail, not my family or other hikers. It was just me and the snake. And I was in his rocky kingdom. I was the intruder.

As my breathing slowed, the snake flicked its tongue less. I began to hear the birds singing in the trees once again. Was it my imagination? Did the snake shrink in height, even if only an inch or two. I decided to take a chance as it didn't look like anyone would be coming to my rescue. Time and stillness had been my best allies. Scraping my back against the mountainside, keeping my eyes on the snake, I approached his rock. He watched me closely, his tongue flicking more quickly the nearer I came. Stepping ever so carefully over his particular rock, sweat dripping down my face, I slunk away from his domain, or at least his rock. I must have brushed the mountainside with my back for about fifteen feet, keeping an eye on the snake, who had settled back down once I was out of his eyesight. Then I raced down the trail, tears in my eyes, screaming at the top of my lungs for my family.

I found the family where the trail widened, sitting on rocks and having a snack. My husband asked, in a matter-of-fact tone, why I was screaming and crying. He thought I had just stopped off to use the "trees," so they were waiting for me to join them. It was only later in the trailer, as we all got ready for bed and my husband noticed the scrapes on my back that I told him about the snake encounter. Such is one of the adventures of camping with the family.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Disturb Nature: Camp with the Family

As the children became more accustomed to hiking in nature,through forests and deserts, in mountains, along craggy coastlines, and over bogs, their chatter increased. Suddenly, the silence of nature was no more--at least wherever we were.

We always hiked in a single file as trails in the mountains and bogs tend to be narrow. Our family constitutes a "mob" of hikers [seven people], a mob of slow hikers at that, so we needed to make room for faster hikers to be able to pass. My husband led the way because we needed to know where we were going, and I brought up the rear, to keep an eye on the children. Perhaps that's why the children were so loud. They were always screaming to their siblings, usually two children away. We've frightened away more wild turkeys, American Goldfinches, deer, moose, and salamanders than I care to remember. Every time I tried to hush the children to point to a little neon orange salamander on our path or a huge turkey in the shadows of the shrubbery, the cacophony of kids beat me to the point. In fact, the creatures literally skittered or fluttered off in terror!

This was not the case with bear and snakes, however, a fact that still terrifies me. You see the bears, usually a cub calling for mom--and I bet anything that I was between mom and cub--and the snakes, seeking the itty bit of sun streaming through the forest canopy heating up their own personal rocks, always stayed to give attitude. They would glare at me stating with their presence, "Madam, could you keep the noise down; this is my home," or it was more likely, "I was here first; beat it!" And I had every intention of "beating it," but by the time the creature got to me, it was usually fed up with all my children and it told me so in posture or cry.

I remember one particular incident when our family was boisterously coming around the side of a cliff ledge along the Appalachian Trail in Virginia one summer, tromping over the loose rocks and boulders, I bringing up the rear as usual. Once again, no one saw it...but me. A slick black snake with flecks of bright yellow and orange, as if God dabbed it with the tip of his paintbrush. By the time the snake met me, it had arched as high as my knee and tasted my own personal air with its tongue, air filled with the sweat of fear. The children's babble trailed away around the curve of the mountain, as my daughter hadn't heard my dry whisper for assistance. I faced the snake alone. And it glared at me...

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Keeping the Peace with Schedules

Yes, camping is all about family togetherness. Yes, you need to coordinate schedules to achieve this. But sometimes just a few extra schedules can mean the difference between a peaceful trip and one filled with antacids.

"You sat there last time!" the children would whine. And the parents would cringe.

Rotating schedules can help alleviate parental indigestion and prove to siblings the fairness of parental placement whether it is who sits where on the drive to camp or at the dinner table or who helps out at meals. Whatever the children are arguing over determines the number of schedules needed. We required seating placement schedules for the road and meals, clean-up team schedules for mealtime, and which sister slept by herself on the smaller dinette bed in the new tent trailer schedules. These rotating schedules don't need to be complicated diagrams or crammed calendars. A simple seat, table, or bed designation with a name list in a pocket notebook or a pocket calendar with initials will do.

As for dish and dinner duty, let the children choose their teammate. Of course, a parent is linked as a supervisor to be sure the tent trailer stays in tact and the food is in fact edible. Keep the list and/or calendar in the same spot so that the children know where to find proof of arrangements, if needed. I kept the car seating schedule in the glove box and the table/clean-up arrangements in the silverware drawer of the tent trailer. My journal came in handy as the official record of who, which, and when.

As the children matured, I relinquished control of the lists and calendars to them to keep track. This helped the children with responsibility, reading, writing, and communication skills as each child had a turn in completing the schedules and relaying them to the family.

Sometimes even family togetherness needs a little scheduling to become peaceful.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Occupying Young Children in the Car

You know all those plastic children's lunch boxes used during school time; well they are ideal for travel occupation. You need at least one lunch box per child, and depending on the length of the trip, bring a few extra packed lunch boxes. What you pack in them depends on what's in the toy chest or what your children like to do. You are looking for smaller, imaginative-play type toys, like Barbie dolls, G.I. Joes, Match Box cars, rubber creatures and Beanie Babies. Then stretch your imagination, and subsequently the children's, by including a wooden-shaped block or plastic ring or large paste jewel or finger ring, perhaps a colored feather or ribbon. These eclectic objects will spark the children's creative play on a small scale as the miles roll by. Don't forget Etch-a-sketches, story picture books, listening tapes, and sharpened pencils (with sharpener)and pads of paper for tic-tac-toe and hang the man.

Pack each lunch box differently and exchange boxes often to keep interests peaked. You can make each box a theme, like sports with sports cards and figurines or aquatic with underwater creatures and boats. Make play interactive and practice communication skills by writing notes to each other and passing them along via "child mail" to the recipient. Tic-tac-toe and hang man can work this way also. As the children matured, I added something new, like a "Yak Bak." It was a small tape recorder that recorded about two minutes of words or sounds. The receiver listened and then taped over a response or posed a new question. This was not a lasting tape recorder but rather for short chit-chat.

Whatever the children were learning in school, we took up on the pad of paper, like poetry and rhyming. Each participant would write one line of a rhyming poem, attempting to keep on the same subject, and at the close of the day's driving, we would share what we had created at camp after dinner, which tended to be quite comical as the rules required only that it rhymed, not make sense. We kept journals of our excursions both on the road and what transpired at camp or a particular park we visited. These didn't need to be long or involved, but each child needed to remember something that happened that day. These journals were shared in the evenings only if the person wanted others to know what he or she had written. I also kept a journal of our trips and shared with the children the more comical aspects of camping with the family. The children always appreciated being able to look back last vacation to see what they had experienced and what they had thought about it.

Monday, April 12, 2010

And Limitations

Besides time and money, limitations for a family may include the ages of the children and later when the children are teens, and more daring, the ages of the parents. In the beginning of our camping experience, we spent endless hours at playgrounds, lazy lakes, farms, and zoos, but then when the twins were 4, our son 6, and the girls 8 and 10, we decided to try the mountains. We started with a short hike, about a half mile roundtrip to a waterfall in the Shenandoah Mountains. Yes, it took hours...and hours...as we stopped at every boulder and tree along the way. Our son gathered rock rubble and acorns to weigh down his cargo pants pockets. We had snack breaks and drink breaks about every fifteen minutes, and I and my husband carried the twins on our backs most of the way, their little feet tucked into our back pockets, our hands clasped around their bottoms as they held onto our shoulders.

Nevertheless, the majestic mountain falls brought a hush over our usually talkative family as the water skipped and bumped down the mountainside. This was how we knew that the children would enjoy the beauty in nature also. Questions flew around and my husband and I did our best to answer all of them. Following the stream away from the falls a bit, we settled the children along the bank of the stream and instructed them to peel off their socks and shoes to look for fish and frogs as we refreshed our tired toes in the icy transparent water.

I told my son to empty his pockets on the bank to admire the "treasure" he had collected. After our investigation of the matter and elimination of the heavier non-descript rubble, we returned his treasure, a few choice pebbles and most of the acorns, to his pockets and discussed once again the possibility of collecting different kinds of leaves on the journey back down the mountainside. It didn't work; he had another ten pounds of rubble in his pockets by the time we had reached the car. That's okay; the twins felt heavier on the way back down the mountain, so our progress was slowed to a caterpillar crawl anyway.

Limitations. This approximately four hour hike would be our only family activity for the day, unless you count meals, but that's another story.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Family Interests

If you start camping early enough you can mold your children's interests to mirror your own. My husband and I enjoy nature in all its facets and always enjoy learning something new. Hence we were looking for ways to educate our children as well as entertain them on vacation on a "tent" budget rather than an "Airstream" budget. Thus we visited national and state parks and participated in the park ranger-guided hikes and scavenger hunts which taught us about the flora and fauna, the geology and history of the parks. We also attended the park ranger craft demonstrations where the children always brought something back to camp, old granny apple dolls from Shenandoah National Park and fishing pole sticks from Peaks of Otter.

As the children grew older, we added one special event to our explorations and adventures per vacation--remember we had seven to pay for, and it got more expensive as the children matured and the events became more complex. We allowed the children to have a say in what we did. As a family, we enjoyed tubing down the rapids in the Great Smoky Mountains, horseback riding in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and white water rafting down the New River in West Virginia, to name but a few.

However, free activities abound to the observant camper who sees what the locals are doing. We've had snowball fights in July in tee-shirts and shorts in the Rocky Mountains, swung from ropes tied on a huge swamp maple tree out into a roadside river in Vermont, and, when the children were teenagers, jumped off a 30 foot cliff into a deep, tannin-colored river in the Adirondacks. I was petrified, but that's another story.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Reasons for Camping

The reasons to camp are endless. To see the world, or at least the continental United States and Canada, although we did take the camper, van, and family on an ocean ferry to Newfoundland. My husband and I wanted to see the country with our five children in tow and not spend our life savings doing it. Driving to our destinations and camping in state forests and national parks, sometimes without electric hook-up or showers, saved loads of money. At primitive campsites, we would use a Coleman lantern to light our camp and flashlights to walk to the toilets and sinks. These campsites were used sparingly as the children enjoyed the amenities at commercial campsites; pools, hay rides, playground equipment, and yes, showers. However, we did enjoy those star-filled nights at primitive campsites without all that light pollution. We garnered nightly entertainment lying on blankets in a field or on the beach of a lake, gazing up at those forever twinkling jewels, as if God speckled the night sky with a milky-white paintbrush just for us.

Another reason to camp is to spend endless hours with the family. Oh dear! I meant quality time with the family, of course. Free from the television and telephone. Free from the computer and work and extended family obligations. Free from home maintenance and outside activities. No hurry. No rush. Stories shared, games enjoyed, conversation given, discovering what your children are thinking. Camping requires much time on the part of the parents driving to the destination or the next destination on a multiple stop vacation, setting up camp, preparing endless meals on a two-burner stove where only one burner really produces a boil and everyone likes something different to eat. Close quarters with your immediate family and all the dirty laundry; there's nothing like it.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

How we Began

If your family is looking for an inexpensive way to see the United States, consider camping with the kids. For years my husband and I toted five children around the States in a fifteen-year-old spray-painted, garish green station wagon and a thirty-year-old pop-up canvas tent trailer with purple paisley print patches on the tent screen door. We slowly upgraded our camping gear, little by little, year by year, new screens for the canvas tent door, lanterns instead of hanging wicker lamps, and a port-a-potty for those late night or early morning tinkles. A screen house kept most of the bugs out during mealtimes, although the children continually jumped the zipper out of alignment. We learned about water hoses and extension cords and adaptors to be able to hook up at campsites.

As we ventured farther from home on longer journeys, we splurged and purchased a three-year-old conversion van to go the distance but needed adjustments to be able to see the tiny trailer tucked behind the boxy van. Then we decided to go all out--a brand new Jayco Eagle pop-up tent trailer that could sleep all seven of us in one unit without making my poor son sleep in his sleeping bag on the floor while his parents and four sisters slept on the three fold-out wooden platforms of the old trailer. Now, occasionally, once the children were a little older, we did allow them to sleep in the old trailer by themselves while my husband and I used the conversion van with the doors facing the tiny trailer tent doors, but this always made me nervous. I would sleep, and I use the term loosely here, facing the trailer, staring at it, waiting for a sound. By daybreak, when I saw the tiny tent trailer wiggle on its spindly legs, I knew it was time to get up--no matter what hour the clock said.

Why not let me help you to be able to experience the joys of camping with the family. Learn from our experiences; how I occupied children on long road trips, where we went, what we did. Pose questions; share memories. Shall we begin?