today is ben's birthday.
he is 30 and has turned into a mature, old man overnight. or that is what he tells himself.
the truth is, he will always be a boy at heart and i love that about him. he will always be excited to give people presents, anticipate vacations, make birthdays special. he will always be the first adult male on the floor with a bunch of kids, making up games and encouraging them to use their imagination.
and no matter how old he gets, he will always be the boy who i fell in love with 7 years ago, and the man who i am still in love with today. sigh.
that being said, i agreed to do something for his birthday that i normally wouldn't do:
camping. (cue scary music)
now i don't dislike camping because i'm a primadonna and can't stand to get dirty. i think it's healthy to get a little dirty, go a day without showering, and have your husband tell you that you smell like sweat and dirt.
but there are two things that have a tendency to provoke an anxiety attack just from mentioning the word "camping."
1) bugs. i hate them with a passion so deep inside my soul that it sometimes astounds me.
2) my overactive imagination. i have heard too many scary camping stories, seen too many scary movies, and was born into this world on july 22nd with the ability to scare myself to the point that i can become paralyzed with fear.
that being said.
when our friends called and invited us to celebrate jardan's birthday, i fully intended to turn them down kindly but made the mistake of looking into ben's hope-filled brown eyes. and all he had to say was one word.
blast it all. so i conceded, and we packed up to go.
luckily our fantastic friends had a camper so at least we weren't going to just be sleeping in tents. shudder. my mind can conjure up some pretty intense things when i'm sleeping in a tent. and instead of getting rest, all i can think of all night is, "there is only a scrap of material between you and..." whatever it is i am most afraid of at the moment.
but i decided that ben would only turn 30 once, and so therefore i would only have to go camping one last time in my life. this is the lie i told myself in order to get in the car.
the ride was great, i got to stare at leah's little mug the whole way.
the minute we arrived at the camp site, i coated myself in bug spray. one fear down, one to go.
so we got all set up and after the kids finally went to bed, roasted s'mores and as visions of charcoaled marshmallows and chocolate danced in our heads we got ready to settle in for a long summer night's nap.
unfortunately, right before we got in the camper, we took a potty break. and as our friends were out and about tending to their business, they heard a noise. something was right next to them, creeping through the trees. and it wasn't human. aubrey took off running, and as she relayed the story to me, my imagination started spinning.
what could it be? a bear that's going to eat my brain out of the back of my head? a bobcat who likes to munch on chubby babies? or worse...what if it was something that my mind couldn't come up with?
i reminded myself that there wasn't just a scrap of material between my flesh and the great unknown...i was in a camper! that's right! totally safe! i closed my eyes in comfort.
somehow we came up with the idea that it would be fun for caleb and his little 2 1/2 year old friend eve to share a bed. just below them was myself, leah and ben. on the other side of the camper was aubrey and jardan.
well surprisingly enough, there is a place in arizona that does get cold at night. a miracle! but unfortunately, eve woke up cold. and upset. twice. each time i had to sit up and move out of the way so that her parents could comfort her. then leah woke up. ben continued snoring like a bear. the third time that eve woke up, the sun was rising and i decided to give up hope that i was going to get any rest at all.
jardan was nice enough to offer to take leah outside of the camper with eve so i could try to sleep, but 10 minutes later caleb woke up. that was it. i walked outside, greeted the morning with puffy eyes and a lovely bed head, and coated myself in bug spray.
when ben finally rolled out of the camper, i handed him the baby, said "goodnight," and walked back into the camper to fall asleep.
i don't know how long i was out, but i woke up laying next to leah without another person in sight. i assumed they had gone on a nature walk, which wouldn't have been a problem except...
i had to go to the bathroom. badly.
you know that feeling when your bladder actually hurts because there's too much fluid in it? well that was where i was at.
since i had leah and didn't want to leave her in the camper alone, i wasn't sure what to do. the portapotties weren't an option because they were seriously nasty...someone had decided to make artwork out of their bodily waste and spread it all over the walls. flies were everywhere. and since i am one who will only "hover" in public potties, i couldn't do that and hold onto the baby.
my only other option was to head out into the trees somewhere. but as i looked around, we were surrounded by other families camping. that, and again, i couldn't figure out the logistics of being able to hold onto leah and do my business.
i waited. painfully.
to distract myself, i did a little photo shoot of miss leah.
she looked happy, elated, even. well of course she does. i had just changed her diaper and her bladder was empty.
20 minutes went by. then 30. i called their cell phones. no answer.
finally i started getting nervous. i wasn't sure how long they would be gone and knew that a UTI was in my near future if i didn't get some relief.
outside the camper, i heard one of our neighbors talk to the lady in the camping spot next to us, who had 2 dogs with her and was in her mid 20's. she sounded nice enough. hmmmmm...
no. i couldn't.
as far as mothers go, i would consider myself one of the most over-protective, cautious ones i know. i get extremely angry when i hear of parents being negligent with their children and something happens to them.
i watched the neighbor lady.
just then, i realized she was packing up to leave.
then judged the distance from her to the portapotties. she was in plain sight, so the only time i would actually have to take my eyes off of my child would be the 30 seconds or so that i was answering nature's call. her dogs were still outside, tied to a tree. i knew that if she really loved her dogs, there is no way she would have time to shove my baby in the car and grab her dogs by the time i came running out. could she?
i had to make a snap decision. i said a little prayer in my heart, grabbed my baby and walked over to her.
"hi." i said.
"oh, hey there." she answered back.
i just blurted it out, quickly.
"um,iwouldneverdothisexceptireallyneedtogotothebathroomandit'sanemergencyandisthereanywayyouwouldholdmybaby? and you're not crazy are you?" my voice squeaked a little with the word crazy.
"oh, sure. that's fine. no, i'm not crazy." she said with a little laugh.
yeah, that's what the crazy people say, i thought in my head. but knew there was no going back.
"hernameisleahandshe'sagirl," i rambled again. not quite sure why i had to specify that, but it seemed important at the time. i handed her over, took one last glimpse at my chubby gal and took off in a sprint. i'm sure at this point, the stranger was thinking about how crazy i was, but whatever, i had more important business to tend to.
i was in an out in a flash, and even though i could see returning from the porta potty that leah was safe and sound, sprinted back. i thanked the kind lady, thanked God in my heart, and went back into the camper. a few minutes later, the good samaritan left the campsite.
5 minutes after that, the rest of my crew returned. i told them that leah had almost been kidnapped (just kidding). and ben said to me,
"well the reason we came back was because while we were out on our hike, we saw you running back and forth fromt he porta potty and thought something might be wrong."
apparently they saw the flash of my blonde hair and black shirt and decided to head back. nice to know that they were close enough to see me and that i probably could have screamed out ben's name so that he could relieve me so i could go to the bathroom, but whatever. it was over, i risked my child's life in order to save my bladder's and all was well.
after that, we ate lunch and packed up. then we went to slide rock, which was a beautiful area that you could swim and go down natural water slides. the water was ice cold and felt fabulous.
i got in, cooled off, and then hung out with leah while the rest of the group went down the slides. for a long time, she did snoozed.
then she finally woke up and i sat in the water and dipped her toes in. she looked like little bo peep in her hat. cute, but a bit ruffly. ah well.
when everybody came back, both toddlers had had enough and were starting to decompose, so we decided to head back home. after an icecream break.
leah decided to sleep for the first 1/2 hour of the ride, then wake up and torture everybody with her dislike for her carseat. and by "everybody," i meant me. amazingly enough, even through her screams, the row of people in front of me held up surprisingly well. (for pictures, go here.)
we finally made it home, and all in one piece! and to think, it was barely 24 hours from the time we had left. it was fun and exhausting all in one day. really though, the company was great and none of us were eaten by anything. not even one bug bite!
a birthday miracle.
when it was all over, ben had the guts to ask me,
"soooo. if we had a camper like that, would you come camping with me?"
"sure," i answer warily.
"so like, 6 or 7 times a summer?"
"try 3 times a year. max." and he accepted it.
the thing is, even though it's fun, camping is a lot of work. and really, i just like my bed. with it's four walls and a door. and most importantly, the working powder room nearby.
but for the chance to spend time with friends, my family, and enjoy nature for a night or two?
yep, i'd do it again.
happy 30th, bennigans. i love you.