Joe’s 3 Theories of Summer Camping

sunAfter 3 days of camping, BBQs and lots of hot sun, I have come up with 3 important theories. There are those who will argue I came up with them after a mild case of heat stroke or after drinking my weight in Gatorade, but does it matter where inspiration comes from? I think not.

So, sit back, rest your brain a bit cuz I’ve done some thinkin’ for ya.

Heat and Flies

mosquitoesOk, here’s my theory on this one. The madder you get, the more the flies and mosquitoes will come. Or, more specifically, the more they decide to land on your face, fly into your ear or sneak up your pant legs.

This theory played out at our Kettle River campsite, a place of beautiful snow in the winter and scorching temperatures in the summer.

Some of us, (The Youngest and the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world), seemed immune to buggy things, or at least not too bothered by them.

Others, (me and The Oldest), fought a constant battle with the little blood-sucking denizens of hell.

By the end of the first day, The Oldest looked like he had a case of measles. I looked frazzled enough to pop a vein in my head. He’d spent a day chasing them with a fly swatter like an evil villain out to rid the world of all insects, and I spazzed around like someone being constantly electrocuted whenever one flew up my nose.

flamethrowerSo, take my advice. Buy the best anti-bug gear you can find, don’t be shy with the bug spray, and learn from the zen masters – the bugs can sense your hate, like creatures of the dark side of the force.

You will always forget something.

Me, I usually forget a whole ton of somethings. But traveling with the well-organized and attentive Prettiest-girl-in-the-world, those ‘somethings’ are few. However, it’s not zero, either.

So why do we forget things?

Yes, I have a theory.

It’s not about lists. I have lists, and lists of lists. It’s not about being organized – the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world has that down pat. It’s not even about being a sieve-head.

It’s just that we rely on too much stuff.

That’s right. You read me. ‘Too much stuff.”

pillowIt’s a problem of the first world. In the 3rd world, when they go camping, or ‘what they call hunting for food’, they seem less concerned with bringing a therapeutic pillow and more concerned with them remembering to bring a skin of water or some dried rhino jerky.

Here in the 1st world, we think we need so many things. But do we?

Do I really need to bring my solar-powered iphone charger on a camping trip? Do I need my pineapple-coconut hair conditioner? (which may, in fact, have something to do with the mosquitoes and flies loving me so much.) Do I need to bring my self-heating batman coffee mug?

Probably not.


saskatoon berries. Personally, I thought that was just another name for mouse poo.

So if we are destined to forget something, why not make it a fun adventure to figure out a way to compensate? Forget a mug, use a glass. Forget a condom, try to fashion one from a goat’s bladder (what, you forgot the goat, why then, there’s another challenge for you.) Forget cheerios? Eat a bowl of Saskatoon berries.

Embrace the lack of things, I say. Embrace it.

Now someone pass me my timmies.

Unplugging Can Be Fun.

I know, who would have guessed? But get the boys out of the house and even if they have the option of loading up Clash of Clans and attacking some kid in Korea, you may just find them hopping from rock to rock or inventing all sorts of outdoor games.

My theory?

Being inside a house all the time limits what they can do. I mean, hey, they’re not allowed to leap from sofa to sofa or climb the stair railings or throw things into a bathtub full of water. They aren’t allowed to make dams in the backyard. They aren’t permitted to scream at the top of their lungs or build fortresses out of tree branches and boulders.

The Dam the boy 's built

The Dam the boy ‘s built

While camping, though, all things are possible, and just being outside of a house can inspire the boys to play more, laugh more, goof around more.

Like monkeys let out of the zoo.

Or, to put it in their terms, it’s like real-life minecraft. You can build and create and run around (and one of you could even be a zombie). How cool is that?

However, you have to be sure not to mention that it’s cool. They have to discover it for themselves. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that if I say it’s good for you, or cool, or fun, the boys will automatically assume the exact opposite. So tell them there’s no way anyone could make a dam in that river. Or no way you could run around the trailer 30 times while humming the theme to the Terminator.

True, being outdoors with them can be exhausting, but give them a day of running around, and they’re pretty tired, too.

It’s not a bad thing.


So thus endeth my thoughts on camping.

Anyone else have any theories?

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The Great River Trek

deliveranceEvery great trip needs a great adventure. Something out of the ordinary. Something where I’d say, afterwards, that I just HAD to try it.

For us, that was a rafting trip down the river , done like voyageurs of old. Or like Burt Reynolds when he wasn’t old and ugly.

The river we’d chosen was right on our campsite. I’m sure it had a name, but we simply called it ‘the river’. Or RiverMcRivery. Based on advice, we decided to go upriver a bit and float back down to our campsite. It was a perfect day for it, but the heat had made the river a little low.

raft peopleThat was sort of the good news and bad news. Good news, the river wouldn’t be a raging torrent that would carry us all to Mexico or Japan. Bad news, there were a ton of exposed rocks and likely, there would be places too shallow to raft.

No matter. We lathered up in sunscreen and bug spray, exuding a cloud of toxic smells around us just like the voyageurs, though they just kinda smelled bad. And, like the voyageurs, we used air mattresses, an inflatable comfy chair with a drink holder, and a leaky pump-up raft.

There were 5 of us. The Prettiest-girl-in-the-world, her amazing mom, me, and both boys, aka creatures of chaos known as the Oldest and the Youngest. All of comfy chairus could swim, the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world even had a first aid certificate and we were all confident of our transportation choices, even the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world who’d chosen the inflatable comfy chair with a drink holder.

We began in mid-day. I want to say 2ish. The Prettiest-girl-in-the-world’s stepdad drove us up to our launching point since we all made loud complaining noises about having to carry our ‘rafts’ for an hour in the scorching heat to reach our destination.

We hauled the ‘rafts’ off the truck, then made our first fateful decision. We tied all the ‘rafts’ together. This seemed like a good idea at the time. I mean, knowing The Youngest, he would have happily roared downriver by himself and been lost for a very long time, reappearing 20 years later as a hairy-faced man with a bear as a girlfriend.

But, roped together, we would all be tied to the same fate, but not all of the ‘rafts’ had something to tie a rope to, so some of us, well, most of us, just had to hold on to the rope. Honestly, the only one really secured to anything was the Youngest who we wanted to make sure didn’t make a run for it,

So we plopped the ‘rafts’ in the shallow water. For some bizarre reason, The Youngest was out front, with me behind him, both of us on air mattresses. The Oldest and the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world’s mom brought up the rear in the real raft, and the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world lounged in the middle, staring at the empty drink holder longingly.

pooh raftThe first bit of the river wasn’t too bad. The water was deep enough for us to move, shallow enough for us not to move too fast. But we soon realized that being all tied together, if one of us got stuck on a rock, all of us did. Like a dog on a leash, we’d all get jerked to a stop, spun around and, as often as not, slammed into one another.

To get off the rocks, we could do one of two things. Stand up. Or wiggle like a salmon trying to jump upstream. Being us, we chose the salmoning. So every time our colourful train of little boats got stuck, we would jiggle and shake and squirm and twist until we were free.

Sometimes we’d all just do that even if only one of us were stuck. I can’t explain why. Anyone watching us would have thought us mental or under attack by electric eels or something.

But we made our way SLOWLY down the river. At several points, we tried to wriggle our way off the rocks only to fail. We all then flopped in the water and pulled our ‘rafts’ to deeper water, the small bugs that hugged the river scattering like, well, flies.

When we did get up some speed, I learned why the voyageurs had not chosen air mattresses to use. I lay on my stomach on one and every time we began to zip along, some rock would catch me in the nuts. Whammo! I dunno about you, but 2 hours of having the family jewels roughly polished by big round rocks is about as fun as being a kicking dummy for a woman’s self defense class.

catzThus we made our way downstream, listening to the sound of the river and the screech of the Youngest as he tried not to flip over, inhaling the intoxicating scent of the wilderness, looking upon the mossy trees, the stone cliffs, and the sparkling sunlight on the water. Sure, we swallowed our fair share of bugs and fought off wasps with bad attitudes, but that was the price of being surrounded by such beauty.

For the last leg, though, I had to get off my air mattress and pull everyone over the rocks.  This seemed to really piss off the little flies who chomped on me like I was made of honey. Like a drunken zombie, I staggered and slipped and yanked the train of small boats over the slippery rocks. Amazingly enough, I only fell once, and even more amazingly, I didn’t twist my ankle like a princess fleeing a dragon.

But we made it back intact, stopping at the dam the Oldest and the Youngest had made near our campsite. All of us were a bit bruised, a bit bug bitten, but we had survived the epic journey, even if I’d never father any children from this point on.

jockNext time, though, we may think twice about using air mattresses and inflatable drinking chairs. Next time, we may even bring a paddle or two. Next time, I’m wearing a jock.

Still, it was one of those things I just had to try.

After all, every camping trip has to have an adventure.

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The Biggest Danger of Camping

hockey maskFor most people, the biggest danger of camping is bears or falling trees or if you’re a teenager, some ax-wielding madman in a hockey mask.

For me, the biggest danger has to be that I’m out in the wilderness and when I’m out in the wilderness, something changes in me.

I can’t tell you how it happens, just that it happens. Most of my brain cells seem to die. Nearly all of my common sense disappears like politicians getting audited.

Basically, I become that guy who wants to try everything.

At some point in our evolution, every tribe needed that idiot who looked at a blue mushroom covered in a fuzz of grey-green mold and thought, hey, why don’t I try that?

Darwinism at its best, right?

coffee poo

coffee poo

But if it weren’t for such people, we wouldn’t be eating rocky mountain oysters (aka bull testicles), Kopi Luwak, which are, in fact, coffee beans pooped out of some sort of a small mammal in SE Asia, or kale.

I mean, what thinking process happened there? My, those bull testicles look tasty, I think I’ll take a bite out of one of them? (though I do hope the bull was dead when this thought occurred). Or, oh, look that thing just pooped out something, let’s try it? Or hey, let’s use this leaf that tastes worse than bull-balls and call it kale?

Some would call it curiosity. Others insanity.

I think the NatGeo channel even has a show about this phenomenon. It’s called stupid people.

electricityBut without stupid people would we know we could fly with squirrel-like flaps, or swallow fire, or say things like ‘pain is temporary, pride is forever’? Would we have discovered electricity if someone hadn’t attached a string to a kite and gone out in a lightning storm?

No, I think not.

See, stupid…errr I mean, curious… people advance this world.

You’re welcome.

Now the odd thing is, I’m pretty cautious at home. I don’t look at a snake and wonder if it bites. I don’t look at bear scat and then take out my camera and shout, here yogi bear, here. I certainly don’t gape at a berry on some weird looking tree and think, hey, what does that taste like and will it kill me?

It’s why camping can be dangerous for me.

Hmmm, how hot is that fire? Will this explode? What happens if I shout at bees?

Who knows what will get into my head?

But something.

Something for sure.

Best have the first aid kit on standby.


Does anyone else change their personality when camping?

Does anyone know a good psychiatrist?





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The Great Camping Trip of 2015

camping-20clip-20art-Kingr6nXTOk, let’s be clear. It wasn’t really hard-core camping. We weren’t going to have to sleep in tents. We didn’t have to hunt squirrels and cook them on an open fire with sticks. We didn’t have to poop in the woods and wipe our butts with palm leaves or whatever grows in our rainforests.

Nope, we would have a trailer, an outhouse, and cooking equipment that Gordon Ramsey would be proud to use.

IMG_7244We even had internet and electricity.

But we wouldn’t be sleeping in our own beds, we wouldn’t have a Timmies 10min away and we’d have to shower in soft, well water.

Yup, tough times, man. Tough times.

The boys were about as keen as if we were going to darkest Thailand and living in a cave. The only bright spot was that they would see their grandparents. Me? I worried that it would be too hot to sleep at night. The Prettiest-girl-in-the-world dreaded that she would have to shower in a space about the size of our fridge.

Still, getting out of the house, going on an adventure, challenging ourselves in small ways… that’s what summer is about, right?

So we loaded up the car with everyone, the dog, food, clothes, and everything we would need, including a backpack full of electronics, cords, chargers and game players. God knows what the boys and I would have done without those!!! Read books? Go for walks? Look at sunsets? Bah!

Then we took to the highways.

We tend to forget what amazing things these roadways are, what incredible feats of engineering. We simply drive on them, complain about the asshat in front of us doing 70kph on a 100kph stretch, and wonder why they hadn’t put a Timmies on the summit of the Coquihalla. I mean, what the hell, right?

Luckily for everyone, I couldn’t download the Sound of Music in time, so they didn’t have to sing with me for 5 hours. OOooh, the hills are aliiiiiiiive, with the sooooound of muuuusic, lah, lah, lah, laaaaaah.

Instead, they played games, largely silent, and we adults got to look at the world around us in peace.

I know I’ve written about how to do a long trip somewhere, but I’m not ashamed to say that to save our sanity, having the boys plugged in while we drive is not such a bad idea. We tried listening to an audio novel the last time we made this trip, but that got me all sleepy as the road disappeared and I entered the faerie world of Artemus Foul.

Fun to do, but not such a good idea while driving.

prattBut with the boys playing games, the adults could talk about serious adult things. You know, like how did Chris Pratt ever became a leading man? Or what stage of rehab was Johnny Depp in? Or who was that guy in the movie with the girl, you know, the one with the bad buy in that city?

In the end, the drive went off without a hitch. We bought Wendy’s food in Chilliwack, and spilt only a minimum amount on ourselves. We stopped at the summit so the dog could go pee, managed not to lose the dog in the forest, then switched drivers in Merit so I could snooze and dream of faeries, and we successfully navigated downtown Kelowna, which was crazy busy.

IMG_7242We arrived at the campsite well-rested, well-fed and well-peed, but too late to really do anything.

But we had big plans for the next day.

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I Have A Dream – Stepdad Adventures

spongebobI had a dream last night. A happy, wonderful dream. I dreamed that the boys listened to every word I said like I was Moses preaching from Mt Sinai. Or Spongebob talking about poop.

“Joe, Tell us, again, how WW2 started and don’t leave out any details.”

“Well boys, it all began…”

Four hours later. “Wow, that was the most interesting thing I’ve ever heard, Joe. Tell us more. Tell us everything you know about history, girls and Game of Thrones.”

Sadly real life is not at all like that. It is, perhaps, the greatest tragedy in a parent-child relationship. You know sh*t about some sh*t but they don’t want to hear anything you have to say.


Me: “If you hold the weed whacker like this, then …”

crop circlesI know, I know.” Then they proceed to ignore everything you just said and weedwhack a small crop circle into the lawn.

Or Me:“Don’t eat all that candy or you’ll throw up.”

2 hours later, they’re throwing up.

Me: “Ok, so the best way to type is…”

“I know how to type and besides, I’m not going to need to do that ever in my life.”

Or Me:“Get your raincoat, it’s gonna rain. You dunna wanna catcha cold.” (Sometime I believe they’ll listen if I use a Scottish accent.)

After school, he runs to the car in the rain and I say, “You’re soaking. Where’s your coat? And why do you only have one shoe?” The next day, he has a cold.

I get that sometimes they need to fail to understand or learn. I get that they don’t like to listen to their parents because, you know, they’re parents. I even get that sometimes we don’t know what we’re talking about.

Me: “So, ok, it wasn’t such a great idea to try using crazy glue on your puzzle so let’s go to the hospital and see if they can unstick your finger from your forehead.”

The weird thing, though, is that they do listen to some people. Teachers, oddly enough rank pretty high on that list. Coaches, sometimes. But anyone on the internet, anyone with a Youtube channel, well now, there’s where the real knowledge is.

world war 2Don’t worry, Joe, I found out how World War 2 started. It was the Illuminati.”

Or worse, “Hey, where’s the skateboard? I just saw this awesome video on how you can skate off your roof and into a pool.”

Oh, if they’d only listen to us, I lament.

We have knowledge. Wisdom. Experience. And if they’d only listen, wouldn’t their lives be better, safer, far more efficient?

Am I wrong?

Oh, if they would only listen.

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Stepdad Adventures – Destroy it and they will come

Yes, it's brown.

Yes, it’s brown.

Getting the boys away from their video games and You Tube movies is like yanking a fly off of flypaper after it’s been embedded in amber. So it was, very much to my surprise, that something odd happened on the weekend.

I had to take apart a BBQ. A nasty, greasy, smelly job. Not as bad as cleaning out a medieval poop shoot, but pretty close. Most of the bolts were rusted. The trap was filled with years of melted fat. And a lot of the metal was more flakes than solid steel.

I have to confess, I wasn’t looking forward to it. But since we’d bought a new BBQ, I needed the room and needed to get rid of the old one.

So I began. I brought out my tools, found a full can of WD-40, and put on my painting clothes.

The boys looked away from their games for a moment.

I started off by spraying all the bolts. WD-40 is a miracle compound. It can loosen any bolt, cut through most grease and, I think, cure the common cold if I snorted it up my nose (I may have to try it).

bbqBy the time I’d finished lubing the BBQ up, the Youngest had left FIFA 2014 to come see what was happening. That’s a pretty big step. First of all, it meant he actually has to peel his butt off the chair. Then he managed to avoid being drawn back into the game by bright lights and cheering crowds.

He wanted to know what I was doing. Then, after I told him, he asked if he could help.

I gave him the drill with a Philips bit. He took to taking out those bolts like a man on a religious mission or a hobbit on a quest.

Soon his brother came out to see what was happening. I put him in charge of the greatest tool ever invented. The vice grips. While his brother worked the drill, he held the bolt in place.

bbq2I won’t lie. It took far longer to get it done with their help, but it made the job a lot of fun. We took it apart piece by piece.

When something was stuck, the Youngest would run to get the WD-40 and apply it like he was painting a masterpiece. While he’d do that, the Oldest worked out exactly what bolts had to be taken down to get rid of specific parts.

All in all, a great collaboration.

It took about 2 hours, but after the greasy dust had settled, that horrible old BBQ lay in pieces. Covered in grime, the boys looked like triumphant miners returning from a cave-in.

I was proud of them. Heck, they were proud of what they’d done. They were proud they could help. And, I think, they even enjoyed their time away from their games.

What was even better was that I didn’t have to yell at them. I didn’t bribe them or threaten loss of electronic time. I just started destroying things and they came.

How cool is that?

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Adventures in Step-daddying – Cutting It Short

lawnmowingThere are rites of passage we all must go through. First walk to school alone. First dance. First job. But somewhere in-between them all is first garden chore.

Back in my day, I had a briggs and stratton gas mower, old-fashioned manual clippers and a rake. I didn’t get paid for it, it was part of my allowance.

Now in our house, the boys don’t get an allowance. They do, however, get paid for the chores they do. The Oldest, wanting a treadmill, needed a way to earn more money.

Oh, I nearly jumped out of my chair when I heard those words. “I want to earn more money.” The boys have learned as soon as they say they’re bored, they don’t have anything to do or they need money, I leap into action and find something for them to do. So, yeah, they usually don’t say those things.

This time, however, he couldn’t help himself. The Oldest needed more money. Simple as that. So I turned to an old favourite. Mowing.

We went and checked out all the mowers. Weighed the pros and cons. Pushed them around in the stores. Talked to the sales people.

Then he made his choice.

Gas was too loud. He’d heard the neighbours run their machines and hated that he’d wake people up or bother them. Electric had a cord he didn’t want to lug around, but it was lighter and much, much more quiet. That left the cordless electric. A little less power, not too expensive and only good on mostly dry lawns. That meant he’d have to mow a little more often.

mowerHe accepted the challenge and we bought one. A cobolt blue Kobalt mower. Vrrooom!

When it came time to assemble it, I asked him, do you want to do it the Joe way where you basically yank it out of the box and toss all the stuff on the ground and assemble it by sheer intellectual willpower? Or do you want to read the instructions.

He read the instructions.

It was put together without a single piece left over.

I was proud.

bowserThen he took it for a spin. I know he was nervous. I know he wasn’t sure what to do. I know he would have rather been inside smacking Mario’s arch enemy, Bowser, but today, today he mowed!

It took a few runs to get used to how the blades cut, how the wheels could be used to help line up the next cut, and how to set the height of the mower. But after a few minutes, he was a pro. He marched up and down our front lawn, scything the grass to the correct height.

He didn’t want to say anything, but I think he was proud of himself.

He’d completed another right of passage. One of many this year.

And so many more to go.

I know with each one, he’ll become more and more confident in his ability to handle the world, but you know what, that’s a little sad, too. The more time we spend making sure he’s going to be ok, the more we’re giving him his own space. One day, he won’t need his parent, he’ll be his own man.

I can already see the signs.

In some ways, I wish he’d never grow up. In other ways, I can’t wait for the next rite of passage.

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