A blog about me and my adventure as an ex-pat.
Because someone told me to... Thank you Gaby.

Monday, July 22, 2013

camping in a thunderstorm with hungry fish

We are halfway through the summer already! (Sorry to those in the UK who have kids still in school but we don't get to enjoy half term breaks. This is it for our kids until they get a few days at Thanksgiving.)

And it has flown by! Anyone else find that they worry about filling up the days only to find that halfway through the holidays you've only done a few of the things on your list?!

We ticked off a few more this weekend when we went camping.

And when I say camping.... What I actually mean is that a nice family lent us their tow-along, air conditioned, 2 bedroomed camper van with shower, fridge freezer, stove and microwave... So the only time we were under canvas was when we were asleep! (The ends folded down to make beds.)

I think camping is something you relax into so a weekend probably isn't long enough. I'd say by Saturday evening we were getting into the swing of things and by Sunday we were so relaxed we almost didn't come home!

Of course the kids were way too excited to go to bed on the first night. We tried splitting them up but they soon found each other. We finally got them to sleep around 10pm.

And then the thunderstorm made for an interesting introduction to camping Michigan-style! We have camped out a couple of times in the UK and it rained (of course!) but nothing like this. I had just come in at about 10:30pm as the mosquitoes were beginning to really eat me alive but I told the hubby to stay out and enjoy the fire pit. Luckily he didn't because within a few minutes I spotted lightning out of the tiny kitchen window closely followed by thunder. We checked the radar and at first it seemed it would miss us but within no time the rain started. Really heavy rain that sounded like corn popping (only louder!) and then the wind started howling and it made the camper shake and the curtains on the bedrooms blow wildly. We thought there was a break so we attempted to move Toby into Charlotte's room but it started up again and he quickly woke up.

We waited and waited and wondered if we were in the right place (we were wondering if we should move to the car but were assured we were safe in the camper) so we attempted to go to sleep. I think it went on until around 1am. It was more annoying than scary as I was exhausted and just wanted to sleep! But I had to laugh and figured it was part of the adventure.

We survived the night and woke up to a beautiful sunny morning. Unfortunately friends were not so lucky. I know a couple of girls who live on a housing estate about 15 minutes south of where we were staying and their yards and houses did not fare so well! Fences were destroyed, trees and branches blown over and power lines brought down. The plastic siding on the side of their houses was ripped off and it looked like a war zone when they woke up. Thankfully all of them and their pets survived but there was a massive clean up operation the next day.

After we woke up on Saturday and came round with a cup of tea and a bowl of cereal, we headed to the beach. We were staying at a local campsite which had full hook up ie we could plug into electric and water and use all of the luxuries that the camper van afforded us. Anyways the site had 2 playgrounds and a lake with a swimming beach.

Charlotte and I had gone for a swim on the Friday evening whilst the boys set up the camper. We'd gone to the playground to get out of his way whilst he parked up but it was just too hot! So swimming seemed like a good idea.

But I jumped up and ran right out of the lake after about 15 minutes of swimming. Why?! Because I got bitten (well nibbled) by fish! Most of them were minnows but there were some big ones too which could give you quite a nudge! I hadn't come across this before so it was quite a shock at first! Of course that frightened Charlotte who then took a while to be convinced to go back in but they turned out to be a lot of fun. They really liked me and would come right up and try to nibble me. I was a little worried I'd lose one up my swim suit so I had to keep an eye on them!

It seemed I was quite a tasty treat because once we returned to the camper for dinner, the flies decided to have a nibble of my ankles. And they do hurt when they bite! And of course later on the mosquitoes had a go too! What can I say... I am obviously too tempting to the local wildlife.

The rest of the weekend was spent in the lake with the kids practising their swimming. They are doing really well and are happy to swim under water and without life jackets. We were with them the whole time and never more than an arm's length from them. The great thing about the small local lakes is that there is never a tide and they are pretty shallow for a long way in. Also they are not salty so the kids don't mind putting their faces in. Plus they are usually pretty warm which means you can stay in there for hours!

We did take a trip to a little town called Plainwell, to try their famous ice cream sold in an old fashioned ice cream parlour... And it was delicious!! The portions were massive but worth putting on a pound or two! As we were looking out of the window, a procession of classic cars drove by! Quite surreal given we were sitting in a fifties style diner and fun to 'ooh' and 'ahh' over the beautifully restored vehicles. The town is full of pretty buildings and we even saw on old drive-in movie theatre on the way up. I would love to do that one day!

The weekend was full of sweet treats as we also toasted marshmallows to make s'mores. The kids loved giving it a go (supervised of course!) but impatient Charlotte could not wait for hers to melt and that kind of makes for an awkward shaped s'more! It was definitely one of Toby's favourite things to do and he was all for skipping dinner and going straight to the "fireworks" (fire pit) to toast his marshmallows!

We ate pretty well over the weekend, though we made it easy with canned veg, microwaveable hot dogs and meat balls and pasta. Having a fully fitted kitchen obviously helped too!

Before we knew it, it was time to pack up and head home. The kids had a fantastic time, they thought the camper van was the most exciting thing ever (Toby sobbed when it was time to return it) and we all loved some quality family time.

Would we do it again?!

Yes. I think we could do an annual camping trip. I have to admit I am a city girl at heart, who gets excited about bright lights and big buildings. I love the comfort of a nice hotel and the excitement of discovering a new city. But I loved the relaxation you get with camping. Enjoying the great outdoors and coming back feeling refreshed... And ready for a long shower! Camping makes you appreciate how simple life can be... And also how nice it is to come back to your home.

Thank you so much to the family who lent us the camper. We very much appreciate your generosity and are grateful that thanks to you, we got to enjoy a wonderful weekend away!

Our home for the weekend in amongst the other camper vans and RVs on the campsite

Clockwise from top left: 
The swimming lake; standing up to eat because he couldn't reach; 
yummy raspberry kriek; one of our sleeping areas; 

One of my water-babes; the hungry fish;
playing on the campsite; snuggling in Mummy's bed

Toasting s'mores; oh yeah!;
all american s'more; fire pit! 

Downtown Plainwell; the drive-in movie theatre;
another shot of downtown Plainwell; icecream! 

Sleeping babes; colouring outside after breakfast;
fluffy white clouds; my boy 

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