the smell of my desperation has become a stench

Because a trip to South Padre Island is out of the question

Leta’s spring break is coming up, and when Jon and I were brainstorming ideas about what to do he suggested we all go camping. In a tent. With Marlo. I told him that he might as well take a bat and hit me over the head, again and again, and then take me by the feet, swing me over his head and toss me into the middle of the street during rush hour. Because that would be less hurtful.

You people who go camping with your kids, AWESOME FOR YOU. You and your kids are going to have awesome memories, and I’m happy for you. I’m just not jealous of you. You and I can still be friends, but when you talk about how your kid loved sleeping on the ground and didn’t mind the smell of campfire smoke in his hair or the bug bites on his face, I’m going to ask you to show me your golden panties. Surely the two go hand in hand.

Jon has tons of memories of camping with his family, and I don’t blame him for wanting to recreate that with our kids. And I’ll gladly engage in this endeavor when Leta no longer freaks out when her hands are dirty. Also, camping with Marlo at this age? They’d have to warn all the bears in the area that she would be present. So they could seek shelter.

So we had to come up with another plan, otherwise he would be camping with his two daughters alone. And I’d be lying in my warm bed, a beer in one hand, bag of Cheetos in the other, crying into my pillow because I’m watching Beaches on Netflix.

Last summer my mother, a total glutton for pain and misery, took Leta and her twin cousins to Logan, Utah for a couple of nights. Logan is about an hour and a half north of Salt Lake, but to Leta it could have been as far away as Indonesia and just as exotic. Other than the trip she took with Jon to Disneyland, this is probably her favorite memory in life. Because of the indoor pool. And the chips and salsa at Chili’s.

(That is also my favorite part about life, the chips and salsa part. And Diet Coke. Oh! And pictures of other people’s cats looking bored.)

Since Jon got to take Leta to Disneyland by himself, I’m going to take Leta to a hotel by myself. Just a couple of nights, a hotel with an indoor pool, a hotel with a Chili’s nearby. And we are going to eat the shit out of those chips and salsa.

I’m really looking forward to getting to spend this time alone with my firstborn child, to making these unique memories with her. I would also pay to be there when she’s talking with the other kids at school about what they did over the break. Because I’m sure some of them will go camping, and others will take exotic trips. And she’ll be all, WE STAYED IN DOWNTOWN SALT LAKE AND ATE DIP!

  • Pandora Has A Box

    2011/03/21 at 11:53 am

    I’m with you. The idea of camping with my two kids makes me want to break out in hives. Maybe when they’re about five years older and can follow directions with whinging, crying, throwing a hissy fit or otherwise being impossible.

    I would pity the bears. Tell them to run! 😉

    The plans y’all have devised sound just about perfect to me.

  • Janice

    2011/03/21 at 11:54 am

    You are a wise, wise woman…..

  • leatitia

    2011/03/21 at 12:01 pm

    Great idea! Close to home in case of emergency.. but still special and fun. Hotel rooms were the creme of the creme of luxury when I was younger.

    You’ll have a blast.

  • Amy J.

    2011/03/21 at 12:05 pm

    You sounded so like me in this post it made the hair on my arms stand up. Camping always sounds like punishment or torture to me. People started building houses with doors, windows, central heat and air and bathrooms for a REASON!! To avoid living outdoors!! : ) Our totally spoiled children can’t even sleep in the same bed together (only in the past couple of years able to sleep in the same ROOM together on vacation), which means we have to rent an entire house every time we go on a family trip! It’s either that or never go anywhere or no one sleep the entire time we’re gone, which would make spending time together in an enjoyable way away from home basically pointless.

    Once upon a time, when I lived in Memphis with my husband, during medical school, I wanted to get away so bad I thought I’d go insane. We didn’t have kids yet, but were a POOR med student/fiance, so there was no vacation in our near future (meaning 8 years).

    So I spent the weekend, alone, in a hotel room out in Cordova. I went and got take-out at Formosa and ate it on the bed in the room while I watched ours of cable (we didn’t have cable). Then I went to see American Beauty the next day alone and shopped in Germantown at the stores I couldn’t afford to buy anything in. Then I took a LONG walk around Shelby Farms lake while listening to my headphones and sat and people watched all afternoon.

    It was wonderful!!

    Have a good time on your staycation. Go enjoy some things in your hometown that you never visit. She’ll always remember it. My just me and mom days are some of my girls favorite times/memories. We are currently on spring break…the girls are currently in their matching gowns, playing with the new reproduction vintage Barbies I got them and watching hours of kids tv. We’re having a GRAND time!!

  • Daddy Scratches

    2011/03/21 at 12:09 pm

    I am so, SO, SO with you on the camping thing. I had to camp out when I was in the army … and, like most things I had to do when I was in the army, I have no desire to do so again … and certainly not with a 7-year-old and a 5-year-old. Thanks anyway. Save us a seat by the pool and some dip.

  • danib

    2011/03/21 at 12:14 pm

    My mom used to take my brother and me to hotels for spring break (we also grew up in Salt Lake City) and we both loved it. Have a pool just outside our bedroom door! And eating out every night! So exciting for us. You and Leta will have such a great time.

  • The Christine

    2011/03/21 at 12:15 pm

    Hotel, chips and salsa sounds perfect, however, you need to be eating Chevy’s chips and salsa. Not Chili’s! Trust me. No comparison. CHEVY’S.

  • Buttahbean

    2011/03/21 at 12:18 pm

    I would kill for a few nights of hotel-sleeping, salsa-eating, pool-swimming fun. BONUS if I could leave my family behind.

    Sounds like a lovely thing for the two of you to do together. Have fun!

  • hender_sk

    2011/03/21 at 12:21 pm

    I always laugh when people say they are taking their kids on vacation. It’s not a vacation, it’s a change of scenery! Personally, I don’t see the appeal – wait until they are older and want to be as far away as possible from you on vacation – you will all enjoy yourselves so much more!

  • infinitdee

    2011/03/21 at 12:21 pm

    My favorite memory of time with my Mom was a weekend when she picked me up from school with a suitcase for each of us and told me to pick a direction to take on the road. I thought she was nuts. I picked left, then picked straight at the next intersection and then every once in a while she’d ask again. We just wandered around for hours, looking at things that suddenly seemed really exotic because we’d ‘discovered’ them randomly.
    We finally ended up at a super old beach motel in a random little town, eating pizza on the bed and playing cards all night. I got to stay up late and woke up to the waves outside. It was amazing. A walk on the beach, a big breakfast and then a much more organized drive home. Perfection!
    Enjoy the time with Leta. I know she will.

  • apostate

    2011/03/21 at 12:22 pm

    My old college roommate and I got flashed at the Downtown SLC Chili’s parkinglot. I had never seen one “live” at the time, so I had to ask her if it was real. She said it wasn’t. Good times.

    You really gotta splurge on the queso cup though. It’s like $2 extra but totally worth it.

  • ashmolitor

    2011/03/21 at 12:23 pm

    The end of this post made me laugh so hard. Goodness. I love you in an internet-friendly, I’ve-never-met-you kind of way.

  • rivervision

    2011/03/21 at 12:23 pm

    really? your mother brought leta and cousins here to logan for a vacation???? what did they do, besides the pool??? visit the cemetery?? sorry. that just blows my mind. now, bear lake is another story, but that’s garden city, not logan. sorry. i live here, have lived here for 5 years working on a phd. i hope to get post doc money to be here longer, but i live here. i wouldn’t ever vacation here just to do that. *blown away*

    have fun with just the two of you in salt lake 🙂

  • Crazy Card Lady

    2011/03/21 at 12:29 pm

    Every body has a different pain tolerance. And frankly I wouldn’t take your kids camping. I can see both you and Jon coming back with teeth like Marlo! I was camping a while back and our campsite was right across from Overprotective Mom. She wouldn’t let her kids do anything. I kept wondering why there were even there, but yet her cruelty had a sort of comedic justice about it. My daughter loves to camp. She’s 16 and still does, but she had three older brothers who kind of broke her in.

  • twodoghouse

    2011/03/21 at 12:30 pm

    This reminds of the time we took our firstborn (dog) camping. She’s a Border Collie/Australian Shepherd mix which = CRAZY.

    Yeah, camping with a 6-month old puppy? WORST IDEA EVER.

    We thought it’d be cute to hang out with her in nature, but we didn’t count on the fact that at some point we would want to sleep and she would continue to run around like a maniac inside our tent every time an animal/leaves/the wind made the smallest noise.

    Anywho, hope your trip with Leta goes wonderfully!

  • lauracapello

    2011/03/21 at 12:45 pm

    that’s more than my boys got. i’m the bitch-mom who made them clean the playroom over spring break.

    they lead such a hard life.

  • Kristyne

    2011/03/21 at 12:56 pm

    A good friend of mine loves to take her family camping. I said “All people do when they camp is get smelly, feel uncomfortable, risk getting e-coli and drink.”

    She said the reason they drink is to make the rest of the experience tolerable.

    Then it made sense – the reason I hate camping as an adult is because I wasn’t allowed to drink all those years “roughing it” with the Girl Scouts!

    Oh and FYI, booze still doesn’t prevent the lice & ticks you can pick up …

    Now my husband takes my girls “camping” in our backyard – makes smores over the gas bbq and runs an extension cord from the kitchen so they can watch DVDs in the tent. I stay in the house with the remote 🙂

  • Tricia

    2011/03/21 at 1:15 pm

    Our daughter (<5) keeps begging us to go camping... she just wants to make s'mores and tell ghost stories; I don't think she understands the big picture. Nonetheless, I feel guilty for hating the idea- like I'm depriving her of some critical formative experience. But I remember having to pee in a coffee can in the middle of the night when I was her age (pop-up camper, no potty), and not being able to sleep because daddy snored so loud. Not my favorite memories.

    I think the hotel slumber-party idea is fabulous! And there's no reason Jon couldn't take Leta on a daddy-daughter camping trip over the summer, right?

  • helixiafox

    2011/03/21 at 1:21 pm

    Other people’s cats looking bored? Is there a website for this? If there’s a wealth of bored cat photos out there, I’d like to know about it.

  • football_swan

    2011/03/21 at 1:43 pm

    When I was little (I’m 42 now,) our family vacations happened to be camping – but in a pop-up camper. I wasn’t sleeping on the ground!! Now, though, we go for the “condo on the beach/in the mountain” thing. With air conditioning.

    Leta’s going to have so much fun, EATING CHIPS AND SALSA AND DIP!!!

  • CrabMama

    2011/03/21 at 1:50 pm

    I shuddered reading this. My idea of “camping” is sleeping with the window open. That’s as close to nature as I want to get.

    Heather, tell your hubby he is welcome to take Leta camping but not Marlo, as she’s too small. Let him give it a go and see how well it turns out. If it’s a disaster he won’t bug you about it again for a long time. If it turns out well you can say “Oh, that’s your special father-daughter activity! You can take her every year!” – then park Marlo with your mom and spend a couple of days at a spa with your BFF.

    OR, simply insist that you all go to a cabin somewhere with clean bathrooms and hot water and all the amenities of civilization. He can do “camping” activities all he wants but you can stay inside and be comfortable.

    Remember, the southern woman always lets a man think he’s in charge, but she actually runs the show.

  • labradoris

    2011/03/21 at 2:00 pm

    Aww. I’m definitely in the minority here!

    If the dogs (LABS! CRAZINESS!) aren’t spilling in and out of the tent, dragging the nearby pond water with them, if we sleep the whole night long, if the kiddo actually manages to sleep the whole night long, if no one manages a potty break during the night, if some random wildlife doesn’t try to terrorize us, if our fingers aren’t sticky from too many burnt marshmallows, if we aren’t sweaty and itchy from hiking several hours prior…it’s not camping and we haven’t had a good time. 😀

    (Though no judgment from me – if the kiddos don’t like being outdoors, that’s not something you can force because otherwise it is awful!)

    Hope you have fun on your stay-cation. Those can be super fun as well! 🙂

  • Nancy D.

    2011/03/21 at 2:13 pm

    I don’t do camping. With small children. With big children. Without children. Doesn’t matter…I don’t do it.

    I did spend several days last summer in a hotel downtown with my 15 year old daughter. It was SUPPOSED to be part of her “your life is over” punishment.

    She loved it. Wants to do it again. Best time EVER.

    If you take “attend all day boring meetings with mom” out of your teenager punishment grab bag, what do you have left??

    But I would do it again. Cause she’s right… it was a BLAST!

  • Terilianne

    2011/03/21 at 2:15 pm

    Uhm, I confess I am a camping Mom. My husband and I camped across country for our honeymoon. Our oldest son (who is now 20) was 6 weeks old on our first camping trip. My boys have memories of me bathing them in a bucket, chasing frogs in creeks in our state campgrounds, hiking to see bear caves, climbing rocks, fishing etc. Standards are very lax on our camping trips, fire, hotdogs on a stick, etc. We tell stories, laugh and sing. We read the 5th Harry Potter book by coleman lantern after being on Lake Michigan all day, but the boys wouldn’t go to sleep until they had “one more chapter”. As we get older, my husband and I have graduated to a small trailer, (basically a bed with a hard roof, and kitchen we don’t use the bathroom cause ick cleaning the tank, ugh) but our boys still use tents. We recreated our cross country camping trip in 2005 for our fifteenth anniversary but with a trailer, three boys and a dog. The best part was seeing them surfing on Mission Beach in California. Both my husband and I grew up camping, and it has been exciting to see the changes to the campgrounds of our pasts. Flush toliets, hot water, paved campsites but still the trails, wildlife and fellowship of campers can’t be beat. You could try some of the KOA Kamping Kabins for some easy car camping.

  • bubbytoots

    2011/03/21 at 2:35 pm

    What a great thing! I hope to do the same with my boys as they get older. We’ve already started skiing which is primarily my hobby and it has been a blast. Individual trips would be fun too! Good parenting!

  • Johi

    2011/03/21 at 2:58 pm

    I don’t even like dining out with my children.(yes~ I read your post about dining out and it is the same way for us. I may or may not have peed my pants).

    Camping? Ugh. I would rather jam a fork into my thigh.

    Maybe when they are older. Or maybe I will send them with my husband and I will host margarita night.

  • mybottlesup

    2011/03/21 at 3:02 pm

    i just returned from south padre island yesterday. no joke. it sucks my will to live.

  • Dani

    2011/03/21 at 3:05 pm

    I love camping. My husband and I used to go camping just about every weekend during the summer.

    Notice that “used to”? Yeah we haven’t been since we had our daughter. She cried and said she wanted to go home when we took her to Disneyworld. Camping….no. And if there were two…shudder.

    Maybe when she’s older.

  • slappyintheface

    2011/03/21 at 3:06 pm

    In the words of the all knowing Derek “time spent with your family is better spent alone”. We have never taken our kids camping and I don’t see the appeal of it at all … but we have gone to VEGAS without the kids … and they had a great time (at my sister’s).

  • subjectivitis

    2011/03/21 at 3:31 pm

    Sounds like a sweet girls’ trip. Have fun!

  • Chi-Town Jen

    2011/03/21 at 4:11 pm

    Since we’re on the topic of trips: I booked a trip to Moab in June with my two boys. We’re going to tour Arches Nat’l Park, take a Hummer safari along the red rocks, and finish up with a two day whitewater rafting trip down the Colorado River…complete with a night of CAMPING! I’m hoping it will be a blast!

    Have fun during Spring Break!

  • NicoleC

    2011/03/21 at 4:17 pm

    Time alone with my daughter reminds me of the reasons why I had her. Perspective makes me happy. Hope you and Leta enjoy each-other thoroughly. Makes me miss my mom:-(

  • lolab9442

    2011/03/21 at 4:23 pm

    I’m with you on the camping. I camped as a child and my mother did it with 4…YES! 4 kids! I have 2 boys and they both love love love camping. I H-A-T-E it. Hate that comes from the deepest part of my soul! Its the planning and packing. Then the actual camping is aweful, cooking is more difficult, sleeping is non existant….theeennnn, the arriving home and unpacking and cleaning everything that came home because it’s dirty and stinky. Thats not my idea of fun. We do go camping twice a year, I manage to weasel my way out of most trips 😉
    I’ll take a hotel anyday! No cleaning, laundry, no making beds. Eating in a restuarant means no cooking, and dishes…ahhhh now thats a vacation! shhh…..I always allow the kids to jump on the beds in the hotel 😉

  • Stepheffhelene

    2011/03/21 at 4:47 pm

    “A can of beer in one hand, cheetos in the other watching Beaches on Netflix”
    Oh God, I think I just found out what I am doing this weekend.

  • NHMaman

    2011/03/21 at 4:47 pm

    Awww, don’t rule it out forever! April’s a bit too chilly (before kids we tent camped … in January … in Montana … with our x-country skis), but many of our memories as children come from really bad camping moments, and they’re good for bonding.

    Long after I’ve forgotten what we ate at TGIFridays, I’ll remember the “shortcut” road to get to the wilderness that we decided to take that went straight up and down a mountain, leaving us with no brakes. And the time mom, with her notoriously bad sense of direction, wandered away in the middle of the night and needed Ranger Rick’s help finding us again. And the time my brother brought his fiancée who survived (barely) to become his wife, ’nuff said.

    We have camped in a tent with two kids, one an infant, and loved it–except for the part where I had three people in my mummy bag–and my husband was not one of them! It is a good growing and bonding experience. Really.

  • The Dalai Mama

    2011/03/21 at 4:51 pm

    Camping with small children seems synonymous with torture for all of those involved. I have wonderful memories of camping as a child, but I have no desire to recreate those with my two kids–my oldest also isn’t a fan of getting dirty.

    Alone time with each kid is so important. I am sure the will be a trip Leta won’t forget and one she’ll want to re-create with her own kids.

  • RudeAwakening

    2011/03/21 at 5:16 pm

    Hey, I wouldn’t mind doing that with my kid either (but he probably would). That sounds like something I would have done with my mom, except we would take the train to Chicago.

    Anyway, I agree with you on camping. Have fun:)

  • damefolle

    2011/03/21 at 6:13 pm

    In the future, you might want to consider Mayan Dude Ranch, Spring is a great time to come to Texas, before it gets too hot, and the accomodations are better than a tent. Some friends of mine went there over spring break and I want to take my daughter there soon.
    Have a fun trip!

  • eticklethomas

    2011/03/21 at 6:23 pm

    Who needs Disney? Or camping? Or wherever!

    We just got back last night from a long weekend trip with my dad and my 4 sons to ….ATLANTA.

    Indoor pool. Check.
    Breakfast buffet. Check.
    Pizza place within walking distance. Check.

    The kids had a ball. The grownups hung out and had beers and chips and dip.


  • DevonS711

    2011/03/21 at 6:53 pm

    After one camping trip with my family almost 4 years ago I decided I would rather go where there are cabins. Texas is HOT and camping in a tent is not fun when you are a hot sweaty mess.

    Over the holidays we enjoyed a trip to Great Wolf Lodge courtesy of my awesome boss. The place is like Vegas for little kids. Year round indoor water park, need I say more! The closest one to Utah is in Washington or Texas. It was a fun get away and something you could all enjoy.

  • KatieMama

    2011/03/21 at 8:20 pm

    I cannot wait to hear if you make Leta call the front desk when the toilet gets plugged!! Maybe Jon could take her camping for a night after you get back from the hotel trip, then she can decide which she likes best. With camping you get hot dogs and s’mores, you know.

  • Absent Minded Housewife

    2011/03/21 at 9:48 pm

    You’re free to look at my golden panties, but touching them will cost you five dollars.

  • Laurenha

    2011/03/21 at 9:49 pm

    Reading that last line and then clicking over from my reader to your blog, only to see your blog header photo, was perfect comedy!

  • minjarrah

    2011/03/21 at 10:27 pm

    Camping with children made me divorce my husband. True story.

  • tinacolada97

    2011/03/21 at 11:55 pm

    I like camping, but only if it’s somewhere you can’t get with a car. I never understood leaving your crowded neighborhood to hang out at a campground 10 feet from the next camper…(that is, until college when I discovered that you could DRINK and do this)

    BUT that said, it’s not for everyone. And I sure as hell won’t be taking my son backpacking until he’s at least potty trained. Diaper changing in the woods does NOT sound like a good time.

  • crikkett

    2011/03/22 at 12:37 am

    I am with you on this one. Camping is NOT my thing. I mean, I pay a lot of money to rent this condo with a nice bed that I can sleep in at night. WHY would I choose to sleep out in the cold with the bugs and other scary critters on the ground? No thank you. I can enjoy the great outdoors during waking hours, this is why God created cars. and sidewalks. and scenic points. AND SALSA.

  • lisdom

    2011/03/22 at 6:54 am

    This sounds so fun! I don’t think I ever stayed in a hotel room until I was 14 years old. Is that just weird or what?

    Also: in reference to bored cats, you NEED to watch this video about guilty dog. Hilarious. It’s already been watched 3 million times, so you may have seen it already, but if not, here you go. You’re welcome.

  • zuwkeeper

    2011/03/22 at 7:17 am

    Holiday Inn is our idea of roughing it. The memories you are creating with Leta will be more valuable then the horrible camping memories she’d have.

    I come from a camping family and have wonderful memories- my family, so not a camping family. We wouldn’t have great memories if we went. We are the “rent a condo on the beach” kinda family.

    Not only will you be making amazing memories, but when she hates you and can’t stand the sight of you much less speak to you- she will still want to go away with you on spring break. If only to spend your money and eat chips and salsa, but still it will be time spent with you and not plotting your death.

  • nalawriting

    2011/03/22 at 8:12 am

    I have two girls, both now teenagers. It was really interesting—and still is—to see how their personalities are when we are all together, and how they are different when we have one-on-one time. Connecting one-on-one is really important, whether they are 2 or 20.

  • PinayLA

    2011/03/22 at 8:13 am

    We did a lot of camping when my kids were growing up and it was very relaxing and fun as we went with other families too. I’m sure if your family would just try, then that’s when you’ll really know if camping is for you or not.

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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