Summer of Awesome - Backyard Camping

by Lynn It's no secret that I despise camping. I've blogged about it many, many times. I hate being outside, I hate cooking over two tiny burners with a pint-size pot, I HATE the bugs. I really hate getting up in the middle of the night and having to make my way with a flashlight through a cloud of mosquitoes to the "comfort station." Assuming there even IS one.

My kids have been camping twice with their much hardier father, and as a result, they've had a taste of the joys of sleeping outside. And of course, they love it (maybe I brought home the wrong spawn from the hospital?). This summer, they bugged us and bugged us to go camping.

I believe I've come up with a genius solution: backyard camping!

Here's what you'll need to do.

1. Check the weather forecast and pick out a nice, sunny, warm day for camping. No need to book your site months in advance and take a gamble that it won't rain - your private site is ready and waiting for you whenever you want. Just say the word and it's yours. This must be what Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie feel like.

2. Get up early and pitch your tent in your backyard. Then kick back with your first tall lemonade of the day while the kids spend an hour running in and out of the tent like it's the greatest thing since sliced bread.

The Tent

3. Reflect on your brilliance.

4. My kids like camping for two reasons only, and the first one is the ability to gather a huge amount of sticks from the surrounding woods. So now's the time to take them for a walk in the woods, in a nearby park or in the green belt. We are lucky to live within walking distance of a few green belt trails - you can see a full map of them here and get driving/parking information here. We like to bring chunks of fruit and baggies of birdseed to scatter around, and sometimes we're lucky enough to catch sight of birds, ducks, or chipmunks. If you're really ambitious you can take them out to Gatineau Park, but if you're willing to go hiking in Gatineau Park, why don't you just go camping for real, FREAKS.

The Woods

5. Head home for lunch. Make lunch in your own kitchen. Use your own bathroom. Reflect on your genius.

6. The afternoon is time for the second thing my kids love about camping: the beach! We live closest to Britannia Beach, and we like it - the beach is really nice and they have a big play structure set back from the water a ways, so you can alternate between fun in the sand and snacks in the shade. You can get information about all the city's beaches here. Be sure to check the Swim Advisory Site before heading out to make sure that the beaches are open - the city site is updated every morning around 10 a.m. or so with details on the bacteria levels.

The Beach The Beach

7. Head home for a BBQ dinner. Hot dogs, hamburgers, and corn on the cob will serve you well. Be sure to eat outside, at your patio table or even a picnic on the grass in front of your tent. Afterwards, finish up with smores - not having a fire isn't a problem, you can make them in your microwave. Here's my recipe: put a graham cracker on a plate and top with 8-10 chocolate chips. Microwave on high for around 15 seconds. Add a big marshmallow on top - it's best to place it on its side - and then microwave for 12-13 seconds on high (your kids will get a kick out of watching the marshmallow swell up like a balloon). Remove from the microwave, top with another graham cracker and enjoy with many, many wet cloths nearby.

Indoor Smores

Mmmm. Gal Smiley prefers her smores made with two chocolate chip cookies instead of graham crackers and chocolate chips, and you really can't argue with that, either.

8. As it gets dark, light some candles and break out some board games or books. Let the kids run around with flashlights, they LOVE that.

9. Time to sleep. Now, those that are truly wimpy can use a real bed, but even a dedicated non-camper like myself can handle a night in the tent. Either way, if you need to get up in the night for a pee, I can recommend a close, clean, private "comfort station."

10. Get up in the morning to a fun breakfast made in your own kitchen. Reflect on your smartitude.

I almost forgot a critical component of backyard camping - unplugging. No computers, no phones, no video games, no movies. It will be hard to resist - the family room couch is RIGHT THERE - but it's camping. There has to be SOME hardship.

My kids do still pine for the real thing, but backyard camping is just about as close to nature as I am willing to get. So for that reason, it's a Summer of Awesome Must Do, and my kids can love it or lump it.

Lynn is mom to three tombliboos aged 7, 5, and 3, and blogs over at Turtlehead.