Fabulous. But shit at the same time. The oxymoron of camping trips.
When I arrived at Flanagan's, I was a little disappointed at how easy the morning had been. Yeah, talk about a sucker for punishment.
My Thursday hadn't exactly gone to plan - Alex had her high school orientation that required an early drop off and midday pick up. Oscar had his "Zoom choir performance" that ended up being a filming of their year end concert and ceremony that were not on Zoom and took 45 mins longer than anticipated. So I ended up taking leave for the day and used it to prepare for camping. There were also some issues with bamboo "removalists" but that's a whole different story.
Since I essentially had the day off (after all parental obligations were filled) I had heaps of time to get everything organised. Thursday was fine. Friday departure was planned for 8am but expected to be 9am. We left at 9:05am. And well done to me, I loaded and completely hitched the trailer on my own. Well, Max helped me reverse, but by "on my own" I mean I didn't have to call anyone to help. So proud. Arrived at Flanagan's, checked in, had pretty much the whole campground to choose from, picked our spots and saved one for Carol & Will & family, and Sharon & her son Liam, set up the camper and done. So why was I disappointed? Because I figured I was getting so fucking good at this camping thing that my blog would end up being boring and I'd have nothing interesting to write about anymore.
Well, fate had something different in store.
ONE PARENT CAMPING
Close to Brisbane - only 1hr 40 from my house
Amazing view of Mt Barney, and well within hiking distance, if you haven't started your morning with OJ and bubbly
Big, beautiful creek full of water, even on super dry days
Dog friendly (or Goose friendly, whichever you prefer)
Hot showers and flushing toilets
Take EFTPOS and have small confectionery for missing items or ice cream addicted kids
Staff were lovely
Lots of campsites, and no matter where you were, you were never too far from the toilet/shower block
THE FUCKING OTHER CAMPERS
The drive down was easy. Alex and her friend Amelia (such a champ, love this girl!) in the very back, the boys in the middle with Goose, and me in the front with the gas bottle, straw hats, and control of the music.
Alex decided to start singing "99 bottles of milk on the wall" (what kid of mine doesn't know its supposed to be beer?) and I casually suggested she wouldn't get past 70. I was right. But then Max and Osc decided to take over. That's when I got bored and turned on Spotify. It ended up being a battle of who could drown out the other, and anyone who knows how competitive I am would have thoroughly enjoyed me singing Live's "I Alone" at the top of my lungs, while all four were singing about their 45 bottles of milk. Both of us (as in the kids vs me) claim to have won that round. They did in the end make it to zero bottles, but I issued a disqualification in that it took four people to get there, whereas I won with only me.
The rest of the relatively short drive consisted of me trying to get Spotify to stop skipping Foo Fighters songs, and telling the boys they could listen to music on their ipads but not watch YouTube, and then explain like some old person how our family trips when I was growing up were 16 hours long and all we had was a book and Dad's boring shit on the radio. Yes, I've reached that stage in life.
When we got to Flanagans, we were told that the campground was completely booked and those we were camping with should get there ASAP because we couldn't save sites. Hahaha, yeah, right. Who doesn't save a spot for their besties? Especially besties that had to work and don't get there until 7pm. Puh-lease.
My other favourite person however did arrive shortly after we did. Sharon (mentioned in previous post, former co-worker, confidante, and someone I couldn't survive without) was wooed by my pleas to spoil her with food and laziness, and decided to come for a night with her youngest son, Liam. It was her eldest son's birthday on Sunday otherwise I'm certain she'd have stayed two nights!
While I was setting up, the kids decided they couldn't wait 20 mins to get their luggage and ended up in the creek fully clothed. Again, I resisted my stiff and reserved parenting ways and figured its hot and we're camping, who cares. Fucking go for it! Goose swam for the first time too, which everyone was pretty excited about. I tried to get Sharon to have a drink with me at set up but 11:45 am was a bit early for her. Not for me. Zero sugar rye and ginger here we come (Canadian Club and dry, for Aussies).
It was at this stage I figured my blog was about to become shit because nothing exciting happened anymore. I remembered everything I needed, I had more food than all of us could eat in two days (or even two weeks I think), the camper set up easily, and I had fully charged fans in case it was too hot for me to survive. There was nothing I hadn't planned or prepared for. Except for hormones. Not mine. My preteens'.
Alex turned 12 in September. Max turned 11 in this month. Oscar is just Oscar.
I heard "shut up" (which is by rule not allowed in our house) (I suppose we weren't in the house so they could justify it), "You idiot", "I hate you", " You're a dickhead" (not sure where they got that from), and any other insult under the sun (not swearing though) they could think of more times than I can count over the course of the three days. Such fun.
Sharon's son Liam was in awe of the fighting. From the stories Sharon has told me, I assumed he'd be used to it. Turns out he and his brothers just don't talk to each other at all. No "entertaining" banter like mine do. Why the fuck do all three feel the need to get the last word in? And why don't they know I'm the one who gets the last word?
Between not sharing kayaks (2 kayaks for three kids I feel is quite generous), throwing mud at each other in the creek, taking up too much space on the air mattress, chewing with mouths open (which I refuse to believe happened because I would lose my shit completely at such bad manners), and breathing too loudly at any given time of the day, they all bloody hated each other every waking moment.
Except for when being a family meant something
The other fucking campers
There are two parts to this.
There were a few kids that were in a site a couple of tents down. Now while I know my kids aren't perfect, there are some things I do know about them. They are nice to people when they meet them the first time. They don't swear, unless defending themselves (and even then its rare), they keep to themselves and stay out of the way. And they feel bad if other people aren't kind. Under the anger and sadness, they have the most beautiful hearts.
So when they (meaning my group of four plus Sharon's one) came and said some kids were dropping C-bombs and threatening to kill them, I was pretty sure it was an unprovoked attack. Apparently these kids said some other unrepeatable things, one including "go run back to your Daddy", which my brave little girl tried so hard not to get upset about but did. I know they don't know about Duncan, but seriously, these kids were between 10-12 and said some appalling things. None of us were overly impressed, and once we saw what the parents looked like, figured nothing would come out of saying anything to them about the lack of class and manners their boys had. Seriously though, Duncan would have smashed them. The kids verbally, the parents, well first with wit, then force if necessary. Not that he condoned violence, but he firmly had his idea of justice and fairness. How I wish he'd had been there, even more than usual.
Turns out these kids felt the need to continue the following day, again saying unrepeatable things to our kids, and just being overall dicks. Yes, that's right. Me, with the language I use, found them to be offensive. I think that's saying a lot. The Cutler kids fought a lot this past weekend, but when it came to sticking together and protecting each other from nasty outsiders, they were cohesive and brilliant and I couldn't be more proud.
When we checked in to the campground, rules were clear. There was a fire ban. No fires past midnight and then only after 6pm the next day for cooking purposes. Showers were 20c a minute and since there was only one shower per gender, limit was 2 minutes. And no music after 8pm. Nice to hear for campers with kids. Nice when other campers abide, anyway.
First night, rowdy group. Music played for a while, but it was relatively decent music and not too, too late, and they eventually shut it down when the manager came around and told everyone it was time to turn it off. They did sneak in a quick rendition of "Sweet Caroline" at about 10pm but that was it.
The second night however, far fucking out. I swear, there is just no regard or consideration for anyone. People at the campground this weekend (our group excluded of course) are the reason I say "I hate people" so frequently. Apologies for my lack of eloquence, but they just fucking suck.
These people felt the need to play music well and truly past "music off" time, were so so loud with their laughing (not the fun laughing where you smile yourself because you love that someone else is so happy, but the laughing that is intentionally loud and obnoxious and is solely to get attention), and swearing as loudly as possible. No, not pot kettle black. I swear, yes, but I'm aware of my audience and I'm selective (you lucky buggers). I don't swear in front of my kids and I really don't appreciate loud pricks at the campground deciding for me that my kids get to hear their vulgar language. If anyone is going to teach them bad words, its me.
The next morning, the lovely lady in the campsite next to us came over to talk (and help me fold my floor matting) said she was so angry about the noise the previous night, that she had to call the manager three times to complain and get them to stop it. She apologised for being "that mom" and I apologised for not calling as well!
4 out of 5 stars
On the drive home, I asked the kids if they were to rate the weekend out of 5 stars, what would they give it. They all said other than the asshole kids and the loud partiers, the campground itself was perfect! It was beautiful there, they loved the creek, which they stayed in most of both days, and that they could have hot showers and buy ice creams. What more could 12 and unders want?
I had a lovely time with Carol and family and I was so happy to finally get to spend more than a few minutes with Carol's beautiful husband, Will. I was pretty sure at the end of the trip he'd think I was a walking train wreck, but he still helped me load the camper to the Prado and tie down the camper cover when the bloody zipper broke. Of all things! Carol and I didn't know our own strength and I ended up ripping the zip straight off. Like snapped it in half. I'll blame Mike and his brilliant PT sessions.
I loved that Sharon came to spend a night with us and despite the kids fighting endlessly, I may have her convinced to join us on our next camping trip. Liam apparently enjoyed himself too so that's definitely motivation.
Oscar read 5 books over the weekend but also got sunburned when he refused to put a rashie on. Alex was more grown up than I could handle, and also moodier than I could handle, and I'm sure at one low point I threatened to trade her in for Amelia. I've also purchased a small tent and double mattress for the next time she brings a friend camping. I'm not sure we can all survive that many hormones in one camper again. The best part, I'm getting her to set it up herself. That'll be fun. Max was stubborn and obnoxious but still my biggest helper and my biggest support.
I love them all to pieces. And even though I'm doing all this for them and for Duncan, nothing we do is ever fully enjoyable. Its always tainted with the sadness that he's not with us to enjoy. And how so we desperately wish he was.