Friday 21 Oct 2016

Jennifer Flaten

This 4th of July, we will be engaging in one of those great American past times. No-not drinking. I mean the other great American past time-camping.

Yes, we are one of those families that spend a better portion of the holiday weekend putting up and then taking down the tent

Our holiday tradition involves packing everything but the kitchen-sink along with ourselves into the car and going to the "Northwoods".

Yep, here in Wisconsin we consider anything that isn't metro Milwaukee the Northwoods. Of course, if you are from Illinois anything over the Illinois-Wisconsin border is the Northwoods to you.

Not one to shun tradition, this holiday I will load every one into the automobile and hit the road.

When you travel with kids, you have to prepare for every contingency. Kids are very accident-prone; trust me I know from first hand experience. I know how to pack for every type of accident.

Take these popular scenarios- kid falls down/into something, needs an entire change of clothes or the kid falls/down into something, requires bandaging. Then there is my personal favorite -'ooops I spilled my entire cherry slushie on myself and my brother'.

Aside from clothing, kids require a tremendous amount of toys/blankets/entertainment in the car. I swear half of the compartment space is their stuff.

Not to mention the snacks, oh the snacks I have to budget an extra $20 for all the snacks they eat in the car.

In fact, every trip we take, along the way we stop at the same gas stations at about the same time for our snacks.

Now our campground isn't really a campground; it is a private piece of land. You could call it the family compound, if you wanted to be all pretentious and stuff, which I don't want to be, but you must admit, family compound sounds cool.

Anyway, our campground includes a home with running water, electricity and indoor plumbing; we just stay out in the tent.

I never said the kids and I roughed it; this is as close to camping, as I want to get.

You don't know fun until you have slept in a tent with three little kids.

The kids bring along every single toy they think they might play with, along with blankets and pillows. Somehow, we make that all fit into a 5-person tent.

Yes, the children are practically stacked on top of each other, but hey, they like it

Since the kids are so low to the ground anyway, they sleep in sleeping bags on the floor of the tent. I get the air mattress or in this case the airless mattress.

While the kids shout in glee at sleeping in the tent my back spasms at the thought of dreaded air mattress. No matter how well filled the air mattress is before you lay down at night, by morning it has slowly sank to the height of a pancake.

In the morning, the children spring out of their sleeping cocoons ready to hit the beach, I roll off the airless mattress ready for an intense session with the chiropractor.

Ah, the things I do for my kids.

We always go into town for the 4th of July parade. It is full of small town fun.

The floats pretty much consist of every resident who has a boat, car, tractor or 4-wheeler marching along the parade route. There is one school in the town, and it seems like the entire school marches in the band.

The kids love the parade because of the candy.

The people riding the floats toss handfuls of the candy out to the kids. Every few minutes as a float cruises by there is a mad scramble to scrape the candy off the pavement.

Generally, we collect enough candy at the parade to hold us until Halloween, and no that isn't an exaggeration.

We also look forward to that other great American tradition....fireworks.

I love, err, I mean the little kids love sparklers, snakes, and snap-ems.

Actually, I think sparklers are the best firework ever.

The small ones find them endlessly entertaining. They spend a good amount of time running through the yard waving their sparklers around like mad.

This serves two purposes, 1-it wears the kids out and 2-the smoke keeps the mosquitoes at bay.

After that we engage in yet another great family past time, roasting marshmallows over a fire. The little kids are finally getting the hang of toasting the marshmallows as opposed to incinerating the marshmallows.

Once full of gooey goodness we head off to our cozy little tent, to fall asleep to the sound of crickets, mosquitoes and the occasional coyote.

Jennifer Flaten lives where the local delicacy is fried cheese, Wisconsin. She writes about family life, its amusing or not so amusing moments. "At least it's not another article on global warming," she says. Jennifer bakes a mean banana bread and admits an unusual attraction to balloon animals and cup cakes. Busy preparing for the zombie apocalypse, she stills finds time to write "As I See It," her witty, too often true column. "My urge to write," says Jennifer, "is driven by my love of cupcakes, with sprinkles on top. Who wouldn't write for cupcakes, with sprinkles," she wonders.

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