We're still camping

Summer is here and for the first time since an abandoned water-logged tent in the middle of nowhere Wisconsin while nursing a newborn, we have decided to see if we still like to camp in a tent. Before kids, we did it a lot and really liked it. I'll be the first to admit I am a fair-weather camper. Major mosquitoes, humidity and heat and continual rain will send me packing, but when it's nice (you know, on those three days of summer where conditions are perfect), I am all for it. With little ones, I found my desire lessened. Anything that ends up feeling like more work than fun should be abandoned if it is supposed to be relaxing. But after the pain faded, there was one other attempt after Benjamin arrived but that, too, ended in bailing in the middle of the night during a down pour. Those combined experiences left me quite sour on the whole thing. But there was the pull to camp, still, so we decided to rent a pop-up and that worked. But...parents are silly. They get nostalgic for things they either did as a kid or always wanted to do and that's why it still seemed like a good idea to try the tent again. When we set up the tent in the yard and the kids go crazy. Soon half the house is in the tent and my kids are happy as can be. Surely this translates to- we want to camp! So...in a grand experiment of travelling light, we even managed to pack and travel on this latest venture in our small car. And survived. Despite rain every day, we had a great time. Lucy decided cooking was fun on a camp stove outdoors so I did none of it, Ben legally played with fire every day, and there wasn't a screen to watch anywhere. Other than some minor heart failure while watching my babies climb on water-covered rocks that seemed a little too close to a large cold lake, pulling a leech off the girl, and bandaging my boy's knees (twice) there were no accidents and the bugs stayed far away from us.

Home again, the kids still think we're camping. They liked being piled into the tent close together so the sleeping bags have migrated to our bedroom. Most night at least one of them will wake up at some odd hour and get snuggled in trying to re-gain that feeling of closeness. It's sweet, but I like my bed and I am not joining them on the floor. That will have to wait for the next adventure.


We are just entering this phase-- the one where we embarrass our children. Mostly, it's the daughter who you can hear say this in the way only pre-teen girls can. "Da-aaad!" It makes me remember when my own dad just would not tone it down in the name of my own hoped-for coolness. Despite my repeated admonishments and requests to not do this or not wear that, dad would just grin and forge on. I remember walking through the local mall with a friend, my dad, and her grandfather. Both men were sights to behold. Her grandpa's pants drooped a little too low- way before drooping pants were cool. To be clear, no sporty Joe Boxers were peeking out. My dad had a five inch single cuff on his dark blue Wrangler jeans (of course they weren't cool Levi's). If he moved just right or turned too quickly, you might notice a kernel or two of corn flying out from this elegant cuff. Neither man could hear well so the shouting that ensewed would have been comical had my friend and I not been so hyper-aware of how completely un-cool these two guys were. If memory serves correctly, both men also sported tootpicks just to the left of their front teeth. My friend and I were trying to walk far ahead or behind them and we may have even appeared to be mocking them. Her grandma caught us and gave us a lecture that surely had the, "These are good men. They take care of you girls. Show them some respect. Kids these days...blah blah blah" in it. Dad just grinned. Again.

As I grew older, more embarassment would ensue. The big grin on my dad's face when he brought home a 1972 two-door, sky blue Oldsmobile mystified me. That car was larger than my first dorm room. Later I would concede that despite it's 40 gallon gas tank, I could haul 6 extra people and that was great-- even if parking caused me problems. This same dad had the gall to teach me how to change oil (none of my other friends had to do that), ask me to bottle-feed calves BEFORE school, and expect me to help walk beans, sow oats, and pick rocks out of a field. I was just slave labor, apparently. But I lived through it all and what I thought was so embarrassing now just makes me smile. Because now I hear my own daughter echoing the same tone which will be the music in our lives for the next few years and I kind of think this will be fun. No wonder my dad was always grinning.

Three out of Four Isn't Bad

It seems crazy that I can say I have been married for fourteen years. At times, I still feel sixteen and chubby and wondering if anyone will ever ask me to dance. But someone did eventually. Well, ok. I didn't get asked to dance but close enough. You all know about the Sweet Potato Queens, don't you? They believe you actually need four husbands- one who can do house repairs, one who will cook, one to ....., and one who can dance. I didn't get this recommendation until I was well on my way with the one that I chose. At the time, getting one husband seemed more than enough. I now joke with the ONE that being three our of four isn't bad.

Ok, I didn't get asked to dance. I got asked for a ride home from a party.We were at a Halloween party of all things- both in costume. I was carting all the bridesmaid's dresses from weddings I'd been in along with a sash that said "The Eternal Bridesmaid" written on it in blue Sharpie. I also had those lovely dyed-to-match shoes so I could change the whole ensemble every hour on the hour. From fetching frothy peach to shocking satin pink to a lustrous aquarmarine, I gave reports about each couple. The ONE had on a mask of some melting-faced creature. Pinned to his t-shirt was a sign that read "I should have listened to my mom. I DIDN'T stop making that face. It stuck."

I don't know if meeting my future husband in costume had any weird meaning for us. But what I know is that we felt comfortable with each other early on, that we got to know each other through letters (how old-fashioned) because we didn't live in the same town and we were both short of cash that enabled us to travel frequently to see each other, and the laughter came easily and frequently.

Fourteen years later, I can report that we are still comfortable with each other, we don't write to each other anymore except for the cryptic e-mail reminder of this or that, and that laughter has sustained us and gotten us out of some tough spots. Halloween is celebrated in a big way--for the kids, the grandparents or for us--it is never quite clear why, but it is. I feel certain I won't look for a dancing partner. Who knows? Maybe my son will buck the Wilfahrt male tradition and ask me to dance one day. However, I've got no complaints. Really. Three out of four is pretty great.

Not much

The last fight about getting dressed was today. The last rush for the hair brush and matching shoes and the underwear check seemed just about normal, but it was easy to take since we are all looking forward to the long break. Adventure awaits....right? What I remember of summer as a kid include hot days with no air conditioning while helping mom can corn, walking beans, and the county fair in good old Iowa humidity. I remember buying taffy at the local pool for five cents and getting sunburned frequently and taking joy in pulling off real large pieces of dried skin. There may have been a random car trip to visit relatives in exotic Northern Minnesota, but usually there were just vast days of sun and no plans. I am hoping to give my kids much of the same-large amounts of unplanned time. This is a challenge to the modern parent. So much is offered for kids and much of it is good. But we all know boredom breeds creativity and I loved playing imaginary games and just being a little bit...idle. It's not a very popular concept in our world- idleness. But one of the things I like about myself is that most times, I can be comfortable just doing nothing. I can be in silence with no tv or radio and just be. I get restless, yes, but once I settle in, it feels good. I work really hard to listen to myself. I hope I can teach that to my kids. I suppose you don't have to be idle to do that. But I think it's ok to not rush from here to there. There aren't any awards given out to who did the most in one day and if so, I am hereby bowing out of any race. Oh, I am not trying to be too philosophical. Any parent does what works for them and maybe I am just lazy. But I want my kids to not need something or someone for entertainment. In the end, we only have ourselves, right? For sure there will be camps and play dates, but there will also be a lot of nothing. We'll see how it goes. Check back with me on day two.

I did it!

The introduction went well. It was totally fun being in front of people though I forgot about the microphones being too tall for me. That being said, I had my captive audience and they laughed when I wanted them to! It wasn't a big deal at all. Most people just expressed relief in not having to be the one to do that. Perhaps I should join Toast Masters just to get my kicks from speaking. I don't know...I will find more opportunities. They must be out there somewhere!

Check out my addition in Family Fodder today.

A Chance to Speak

From my boss yesterday:

" I have a big favor to ask. A really big favor. Would you introduce Nicole Helgut on Monday night at the Masonic Temple?"

Silly boy! Of course I will. There will be hundreds of people there and you are giving ME a chance to talk? Never mind that no one (until now) knows I will be talking. I love a captive audience! How weird is it that I love to introduce people? I spend a disproportionate amount of time crafting introductions for the writers that visit the store. What is even weirder is that I don't always give the introductions- my boss does. He hates writing introductions and usually forgets. I salivate at the thought and usually hand them off too early and he loses them. Oh well. But I love finding little factoids about the author that lets them know I know something about them. I wrote this really great introdcution for a bigwig author (Michael Perry--if you don't know who he is, you should. Check outhttp://www.sneezingcow.com/ now and finish this later)who visited in the spring. Of course, my boss read it since this guy was a bigwig, but the author referenced my introduction and pontificated a bit on details I had mentioned which segued into a great story that he added to his talk. Cool! Now, this doesn't exactly jive with my need for praise, but I got through it. And this time, I will be delivering the introduction, which I would have written anyway and passed off to the boss. The occasion is a night with the Winona Reads! author and the book is The Turtle Catcher, which I have read. This reading of the books by the author is mostly a good thing. Occasionally, I have had to introduce people with whose work I am not familiar, which creates a talking-out-your blowhole- sensation and that is not fun. The other icky feeling that can occur is that you have read it and don't care for it so then the acting bug kicks in. As a parent, I feel well-schooled in this department. Feigning interest in the stag beetle book which is 21 pages too long or attempting captivation at the fifth viewing of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer' Stone is a skill I had not banked on using. But, I have. I am safe, however, on both counts and do not need to cram or prepare to fake it this weekend. I just need to write and practice and pick my outfit. Yes!