Monday, 18 March 2013

Camping with a Teenage Girl

My new friend Heather, the mama behind the blog ‘Failing with Flair’ is this weeks “I Get a Day Off From Writing and Feeling Pressure to be Funny and Get to Laugh at Your Stories and Share Some Blog Love Monday”.

Ok, so she doesn’t really "know" we are friends and how much I love her...yet. 
Meh, minor details.

But I have been stalking her blog and Facebook for just enough clues to find out where she lives and all about her life. What she doesn’t know is that I am REALLY good at social media stalking and that I have watched enough CSI and Criminal Minds to deserve my own badge, gun and bullet proof vest. Seriously, I try to figure out the who-done-it plot on sit-coms, the news and grade 7 girl drama for shits and giggles.
CSI Stilwell at your service.

Plus I know Calgary really well, so when she drops hints for me like where she is hanging out and what traffic she stuck in, it’s like she is leaving me a trail similar to Hansel and Gretel just so I can find her.
To become best friends.
I think she is ever so thoughtful to make a game out of it. See, she already knows I love to win. 
And my prize will be her.
Ok, that came out wrong. I am not boiling bunnies. It’s ok, Heather will understand. 
She get’s me.

Heather sent me her post on a REALLY shitty day at work. She made me actually ‘laugh out loud’ as I sat in my car in the midst of work related tears (I was parked ya’ll, don’t worry…her story was far too long to read at a red light or between changing lanes in rush hour). 
I called her my email fairy.
See, we already have nicknames for each other.

Heather is a mom to four and a truly gifted storyteller. I am honoured to have her here. I also want you to READ THIS because we have all been there and it will make you laugh. 
If you haven’t been there and don’t laugh…well then whatever. Screw you and your perfect body.
Kidding. Don’t be mad. My anger stems from jealousy.
I know it’s not the Christmas season, but I would also like you to READ THIS. It is perhaps one of the most beautiful stories of the true spirit of Christmas I have ever read. 
It will also let you see what an amazing woman my new friend Heather is.

Ok, I will stop rambling. Well, at least here. I will continue to ramble to Dylan as per usual. He is so lucky isn’t he?
Do you have a teenage daughter? Have you ever taken her camping? Are you going to be ok? Do you have the number of a support group I can contact? Some sort of program to get me through the worst of the pain, till the twitching stops???

Liz is an amazing kid, but we are just beginning her teenage years, and it turns out there are a whole lot of things I don't remember about teenagegirldom. And this becomes blatantly obvious on vacation.

Liz and I get along like a house on fire when we're out camping, because she is my daughter and I have ruined her. She is scared of the same things I am, and we are usually each other's first line of defense.
We walk together to outhouses, and NEVER make spooky noises while the other one is peeing. We run from the same things in the dark. I can throw myself through the door of the tent trailer onto the floor and kick it shut behind me because I imagined I was being chased by skunks with knives (It can happen!), and she won't laugh at me, like OTHER people in our family do. We have a song we made up years ago for when we have to walk through a dim forest/empty field/past an abandoned building of any kind/in the dark/to an outhouse/isolated garbage bin. It has one line, repeated over and over, as we stomp along in time with the song (because marching makes you less likely to break into a run). It goes: "We are so brave. We are so brave. We are so brave. We are so brave. We are so brave," to a simple 3 note tune (that way it's easier to remember when your voice starts to quake).

She's always been one of those kids who makes her own way in life and doesn't really give a shit what other people think. It's one of the things I admire most about her, and one of the things that makes her so popular. She marches to the beat of her own drummer (usually a more interesting one than the one we used for our camping song), and her quirks are the best part of her.

She has so many neat things about her that it's very rare for any of them to REALLY annoy me, but this year, camping with her was more challenging than ever before.

Although she is normally a very neat child, with a place for everything, and everything in its place, out camping there are fewer spaces for places and those that exist usually need to be shared by everyone. This meant that the 378,645 cubic inches of mascara, bronzer brush, lip stain, eyeliner, lip gloss, blush, bronzer, tweezers, eyebrow brush, face cleanser, makeup remover, eyeshadow brushes, lipstick, eye shadow, blush brush, and cotton balls she brought with her for the 10 days we were about to spend in the thriving metropolis of 'just outside Pincher Creek' were CONSTANTLY encroaching on everyone else's space.

Every time I tried to get the big pot out of the bottom cupboard to make dinner, I was pelted with a hail of Q-Tips. A simple search for my toothbrush resulted in near blindness caused by accidentally triggering a spray of HoneyDo perfumed body mist. (People should carry this stuff in Banff instead of Bear Spray- it completely incapacitated me. Even now, the smell of overripe fruit causes my eyes to tear up and sinuses to involuntarily drain.) Trying to find a diaper in an 8 x 12 tent trailer involved lifting my body weight (no mean feat) in cosmetics just to access the diaper bag, which had been emptied of its supply of baby wipes, as she prefers these to the harsher cleansers in the makeup remover she also brought along (apparently just to fill some weight requirement).

Her hair, which she used to care so little about that she allowed her father to shave it off, now requires the electrical output of a small village in Tanzania simply to keep it in an acceptable state for a week spent swimming in a muddy river. Her phone charger and IPod were plugged into the outlets that we had (incorrectly) assumed would be used to run the lights and power in the trailer, and the sound of her blow dryer drowned out singing birds for miles around. She had appropriated the longest extension cord we had because nothing else could reach the tent, where she was straightening her hair, and she was seriously annoyed that she we didn't have a power bar so she could heat her spiral curler at the same time. At one point, she actually UNPLUGGED LANA AND ERIK'S ENTIRE TRAILER to charge her Nintendo DS. (It was accidental, and she felt really bad, but we'll never let that one go. It's just too funny.)

She and the other girls were able to do near-professional manicures and pedicures on themselves, using the array of polishes, files, and buffers that they had brought with them for the trip (in comparison, Isaiah was excited simply to find a $5 pair of sneakers without holes in them to wear after his 6 weeks volunteering at a wilderness bible camp). She sacrificed a $20 beach towel to clean clay (CLAY!) off her body when the kids found a deposit in the river and spent 3 hours sculpting, and used my entire supply of laundry loonies to wash and rewash her white bathing suit to remove the streaks of mud. She used up a brand new bottle of body wash in 6 days (one intended to last the family a whole week), because camping makes her sweaty and she has to shower twice a day.

And here is what makes this all bearable. At one point, the tent that all the girls were sleeping in developed a leak, and I went looking for our roll of bright yellow duct tape. After several fruitless minutes, I asked her what had become of it, and she informed me that she had used it to make shoes.
Yep. Shoes.
She had gotten instructions for making duct tape shoes, and because yellow is a cool color, had used up the roll we keep in the camping fixit box. Come on. Tell me this isn't cool. My wonderful daughter had used up something I desperately needed, but she did it in such an awesome, creative way that I was too busy being impressed by her to give a hoot about the tape (besides- I didn't need to sleep in a puddle- that was her problem). And, despite the fact that making duct tape shoes sounds like it should be required learning for the homeless, she wore them all over the place this past summer, and inspired home repair fashion in countless other teenagers.

So I will keep being proud of my funny, independent daughter, and I will keep learning to camp with a teenage girl. Because the thing that scares me most of all is that someday, that teenage girl will stop wanting to camp with me.

Thank you Heather. Not only for the much needed laughs and sharing your blog with us (after all, misery loves company), but your heartfelt reminder for me to stop in the midst of my crazy and enjoy it….even the thirteen year olds.
This phase in our life will be over in the blink of an eye. And I will miss it.

Now you can all get in line behind me.
I call friendship dibs.

Xo J


  1. This is why we broke the Pumpkin into camping with the Girl Guides --> rules are no makeup, no electronics. I suppose it also helps that she only wears make up at home when she is 'in character' (i.e. cosplaying some cartoon character). Heather, woman, you have my sympathy . . I suppose your girlchild has a point . . . nothing scares off bears (or knife welding skunks) more than great hair and a fresh mani-pedi. Yes, teen girls are an interesting species . . .

    1. I say we start a support group:)

    2. If there will be wine . . . I'm THERE...

  2. It can be hard sometimes for parents to understand their teens...Very entertaining article :)

  3. You've touched my heart, Heather. (Which is remarkable considering I assumed long ago that it was inaccessible after having been exposed to 15 years in the hospitality industry.) Thank you.

    Beautiful work slowing down and enjoying the precious gift that is your child.
    By the way, she'll always want to camp with you. She may not have the time, but the desire will always be there.