Things done (notes from the campfire fairy)

Had campout for the boys (aged 7 through 15) with four of their friends last Wednesday. (They had two weeks of school holidays.)

The older boys slept outside in tents, tried archery down below the apple trees, with T’s ancient crossbow and the target board I’d gotten a while back (one shared arrow only! This is key to group safety. Idea from eldest son).

Also did repelling down from ropes from the big tree (T had earlier bought some basic climbing equipment).

This was something I’d been dreaming up for ages, and was a huge thing for me to organize on my own (T was away, and is not much of a fan of big groups anyway) but the result was excellent, the boys were really grateful. Of course I did not sleep much and nearly died from anxiety in the middle of the night. But my fears were unfounded. Yes I was that annoying mom who came repeatedly to check on things, and finally, at 2 a.m. asked the last three young men standing — or sitting quietly talking, as it turned out — to leave the dying embers and go to bed so I could stop dying of anxiety and do the same.

Learned more about how I’d like things to go differently next time.

Next time I would choose a set “lights out” (or “fire out”) time in advance, yes even for the older boys, yes even if that makes me an uncool mom. I would mention this at the outset of the invitation. I would also say no technology in tents.

I debated that for ages beforehand, but there were a myriad of decisions to be made besides this one, and in a weak moment my eldest boy convinced me not to ask the friends to check their tech at the door. I also feel that forbidding something can lead to greater interest in the thing so I proceed in all forbidding with extreme caution and self-doubt.

I checked on that brief tech phase of the evening, too (this was after the younger kids were in bed, and it was dark outside; they were watching a PG13 armageddon style movie, which I certainly don’t condone, but it could have been worse. The friends are allowed all manner of violent video games (subject for another post, or rather, has been written by me in many never-published posts) so I knew their parents would not mind. I talked to all the friends’ moms about everything before and afterwards.

No matter how things are developing these days I still feel that camping ideally should be camping, a chance to hear the natural sounds around us. But perhaps I’m too idealistic.

The boys’ friends were excellent guests. I made a time-lapse movie of the two groups setting up the tents. I had explained the process to my elder son in advance and then left them to figure it out for themselves after that (which of course they prefer, and had a lot of fun doing). I’d also explained how to take down in the morning, just as my dad had taught me when I was a kid, sweeping off and drying each surface before/while folding.

To my delight, when I went outside in the morning, the big tent was beautifully packed up and the smaller one (for the middle two boys) was in progress. I felt super grateful to, and impressed by, this entire group of boys-becoming-men. The future doesn’t look so bad after all.

The weather was spectacular last week, sometimes reaching the high twenties in the sun, unheard of here for February. Usually we are snowed in around that time. Positive sides to global warming.

Same night, I hosted a simple dinner under the stars for old/new friends. I set up lighting on the lawn by the fire pit and prepared hors d’oeuvres and a gourmet salad, then did the very odd thing (in France) of serving firepit-barbecued veggie burgers. Our guests were amazingly good sports and even said they might choose to buy those instead of meat sometimes. Campfire and guitar/drums singalong.

Completed interview for Akarsh Jain and sent it to him (two versions). I feel sad for all the versions that are unused. I realize it sounds crazy to have so many versions. But I was writing them in the midst of kid-chaos and kept getting interrupted, losing my train of thought and forgetting which writing app or email I was using, sometimes, and long story short, there are like, nine versions of it, probably none making sense.

Wrote overlong emails which could have been blog posts to at least five people (efficiency is apparently something for me to continue to work on). These run on endlessly in an attempt to be helpful, but probably are TDLRs just like so many of my posts.

Commented on several blogs I hoped to revive and/or sustain, as well as many that were going strong. I like supporting other writers. I consider giving up writing once again, and instead just supporting other writers. But then I would miss the sweltering rain and the mud on my face.

I helped my sons with their school projects and teaching them further how to filter information, something I consider to be a primary task of every adult to teach every child. Only problem is I am not a drill sergeant by nature, so they often still choose books I’d rather they not read. Got my second son to read “Catcher in the Rye,” instead of a different one he’d picked out, though. We have shelves full of all kinds of books; do they choose the reference books and classics? Not if sci-fi, and fantasy novels are on the shelves. It’s the same as with food. Only vegetables on offer? They will only eat vegetables. Chocolate and red pills beside them, or even high above them? Guess which ones they’ll choose.

The night just prior to the sleepover, I had forbidden my second son (age 13) from reading Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander (scenes of rape and torture, amongst all the good stuff), which he found on the highest shelves of our bookcases.

I later read Akarsh Jain’s wonderful story about trains, which touches on the issue of parental book censorship, so of course I second-guessed myself again, but ultimately I still feel good about my decision. Also I had not exactly forbidden him from reading it; rather, I’d had a long (and wheedle-y) discussion about why I did not want him to read it, now, at this time in his life. And then I’d spent time with him researching classics for teens, and finding something a little less torture-y and rape-y, and a little more classic, that I hoped would satisfy him. Hence, The Catcher in the Rye.

On our Sunday family movie night (T included) we watched two old episodes of Star Trek Next Generation. By chance they both had male rites of passage themes:

STNG Season 2 Episode 14: “After his father makes several attempts to reconcile, which Will rebuffs, the tension between the two finally boils over, and they agree to a match of anbo-jitsu, a form of martial arts. During the match, the two continue to argue, with Will venting his bitterness over the death of his mother. Will interrupts the match, claiming a move his father used is illegal, and realizes his father had only been able to beat him in his youth by cheating, which his father admits. The two are finally able to talk and reconcile, and Will admits he is glad his father came.” —

STNG Season 2 Episode 15: “As the Enterprise surveys an area of unexplored planets with unusually short life spans due to severe geological changes, Acting Ensign Wesley Crusher is put in charge of a survey team in order to further his studies toward becoming a Starfleet officer. Wesley selects a team of highly competent science officers; however, as they are much older than he is, he worries that his authority will be challenged. One team member, Davies, rebuts Wesley’s request to run a time-consuming scan, causing Wesley to doubt himself.”  —

I can highly recommend those for watching together with your teens. Generates some good questions and discussions. Also fine for watching with younger kids, if you’re patient enough to pause and explain a lot. The older kids might not be fans of that though. In my experience, anyway. ;))


Anyway, felt good this morning, since I had completed those other things, at least. Still a lot I’ve tasked for myself that remains undone.

I think the main thing might be to try not to task myself with too many more things. I find myself too “busy” (awful word, is it not?) and theoretically this is achieving goals, yet outwardly I look a total mess. Took the kids to school in yoga pants and rat’s nest hair again today today. Did do our walk around the lake though. That’s one of the best parts of the day.


Akarsh Jain’s train post:

Nadine inhales & exhales words & images from current vantage point in Zone of Emptiness, France. Discussion welcome. :)) Thank you for reading. ❤︎








7 thoughts on “Things done (notes from the campfire fairy)

  1. strider48

    Fantastic post. We love campouts, the biggest one we organised was 6,000 kids (true but lmfao). Always find that first night out we let them sit by the campfire until they fall asleep (making sure they don’t fall into the fire). Otherwise they go into their tents and start shouting to each other and we have to call out ‘Shut up and go to sleep’ for, like, a million times.

    Second night out they crawl exhausted into bed around half past nine if we’ve planned the day right and we adults can then sit by the fire sharing wine, stories, jokes and memory.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Strider! So nice to see you here. 6000 kids?!?!?! What kind of event was this? And how did you keep all of them from falling into the fire?!? Sounds like you had a system down pat, that’s for sure!


      1. strider48

        Hello Nadine. I replied a few days ago but my words seem to have evaporated in the æther. It was a regional Scout camp for a week. We had a couple of hundred helpers. No-one fell into the campfire.



        Liked by 1 person

        1. Well that’s a relief. All sounds very official. 😆 Regards, Nadine 😉 p.s. I hear you on the comment ether! It’s a mysterious place.


  2. It is said that forbidden fruits taste the sweetest.. My mother tried to keep from her adult books and to no avail, I read them anyway and I don’t think I ever was hurt by them. We did not have “tech” when I was a boy and we did a lot of camping out from overnights to month long journies with the YMCA. I did the same for my kids. In my last family, tech had emerged and the kids took it with them, and my son has a thriving business in it and he loves the outdoors and camping. I think you are doing well with your four. Dr. Bob

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh my. What a lovely, kind and encouraging comment, Dr. Bob. Thanks a lot for this. Very reassuring indeed. Nice to hear these success stories as well. I guess it’s really the level of interaction and quality of example that matter most. And of course a lot of love and understanding from the parent.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: In conversation with Akarsh Jain (part 2) – Bloomwords

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