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Camping Q&A

Q: What's worse than camping with a diarrhea-ridden child?

A: Camping with TWO diarrhea-ridden children!

It all started out so nicely. Yes, we had the regular pre-trip balagan:

How many snacks can I have

No I want popcorn

I won't eat that sandwich if it has tomato

Can I bring three swimsuits?

No you may not wear a tie camping nonsense, but that's to be expected.

Standard stuff in the Faverman household, and I dare guess - any household with three small kids.

After loading up the car with everything imaginable from tents and air mattresses to hippy food and plenty of wine (one cannot forget the wine) we hit the road. Friends had spent the previous two weeks psyching me up for convening with nature and downplayed how bad pooping in the woods really is. "It's GREAT!" they say. "I PREFER to poop in the woods! Really!" they say.

Two hours later, we met up with friends (and their three kids) and travelled convoy-style up North. Anyone with children knows that a lengthy car ride (four hours total, each way) requires tactics, snacks and strategy. Or an in-car DVD player, and my kids don't watch TV. Plus, considering we live in Israel rather than Los Angeles, our children are not used to any destination taking more than about 90 minutes. I mean, more than four hours in any direction and you're either in the sea or in an unfriendly nation. So, a four hour car ride means either Shlomo Artzi or Laurie Berkner (ah, the pleasures of bicultural children) on repeat, which is enough to tense any one's nerves.

OK, perhaps it's just enough to tense mine.

We arrive in The Middle of Nowhere for our non-facility camping. Why did you elect to camp outside a campground, you ask? Several reasons. First, budget. Camping in an Israeli campground costs $20/person/night, including kids. That means that a 2 night camping trip for my family costs $200 just to sleep, not counting activities, gas to get there and nourishing ourselves. And that's for bringing our own domicile! I just can't bear forking over $200 for the privilege of using dirty bathrooms.

Second, campgrounds (like most other places in Israel, especially during vacations) are packed. They are back to back tents all in a row - many of them literally just a few feet apart - filled to the brim with arsim blasting techno remixes of Cher's Believe and expressing loud and colorful disappointment about why microwave popcorn cannot be made on a hot plate.

Third, fires are not allowed in Israeli campgrounds. Who wants to camp without a fire to sit around at night? I mean, I understand the logic (arsim + beer + fire = bad) but it's less than inviting. Hello, camping without s'mores?

Not for me.

Suffice it to say, we opted for our first sans-facilities camping trip, preferring a random spot in the Middle of Nowhere. How bad could it be?

Enter the Stomach Virus of Death. A few days before the trip, the 5 year old felt sick. He caught a stomach bug and we pumped him full of the Israeli equivalent of Pepto Bismol (it's pink internationally) and he lay lethargic on the couch for two days with frequent trips to the bathroom.

Always the prepared mother, I brought the Pepto with us, just in case. I should have brought a Hazmat team.

The first evening went great - we found a private, beautiful spot with a natural stream running through it, the kids explored, the adults relaxed and all was right with the world. I had my first experience with a poike pot and we ate like kings. Idyllic. Until we went to bed.

Geniuses that we are, we bring two tents when we camp - one for us and one for the kids. Little did we know HOW smart we were being on this trip.

Around midnight, our oldest starts to whine, and we hear her desperately trying to get out of the tent. Turns out she's got tummy problems and we sent her as far from the test as was reasonable (in the dark) with a flashlight and some toilet paper. Come dawn, we stumble out of the tent it is unpleasantly clear that she had several more trips to the non-facilities during the night, but could not bring herself to make it very far away from the tents.


We spend the first 10 minutes of our day burying the piles.

The following day, we hiked. I have tried and tried, but I just don't "get" hiking.

Take a walk in the Middle Eastern mid-day sun with many loud Israelis as your company. Sweat. Look at trees. Aren't the trees pretty? Sweat some more. Carry everything you need (hello - we have kids with us - this means lots of snacks, wipes, extra undies, water, etc.) I just fail to understand how this is fun.

Given that we were facility-less, showering upon return to the campsite was not an option. Plus, I kept forgetting to bring toilet paper with me when I ventured away from our camp to pee. Any woman knows that the shake-shake method might work once, but when repeated, you basically end up wearing your toilet paper. Again, eeew.

Night fell, and as soon as we got good and comfortable in our tent, the youngest began to howl. His tummy hurt. We barrel into the kids' tent, and the stench hit us. He leaked. He's not in diapers - his diaper didn't leak. HE leaked.

His sleeping bag was hit, the mat under his sleeping bag, the floor. Mind you, we had another two kids sleeping in this poop-fortress, and two other families sleeping in tents nearby. Desperate not to wake everybody, we pulled him out of his nastiness and I washed him (thank you, stream) while my husband attempted to clean up the tent with a pile of wipes. Mind you, it's dark and we're half conscious. When all was said and done, we put him back in the semi-disinfected tent and returned to ours.

10 minutes later, same drill.

10 minutes after that, again.

By then, we were taking turns on Dysentery Duty. By the 7th round, we stopped bothering to try and get him any distance from the tents. Needless to say, as the sun rose, it revealed the Holy Ring of Poo which surrounded us.

The second morning, we packed everything effected by the Stomach Virus of Death into the Hazmat duffel and headed - no, not home, home would be for intelligent people - we headed to Disney on Ice. We bought these tickets six months ago, and dysentery or not, I'll be damned if the kids are missing Cinderella in skates.

While en route, I started to feel a bit....funky. Ever budget conscious, we stopped at a grocery store to purchase rolls and lunch supplies and just after checkout, I realized that the kids must have generously shared the Virus of Death with me.

Given my history of fainting, I knew it was coming....the world started to go black. Right there in Mega.

Now, Israelis don't take this sort of thing lightly. As I went down, I called to Eytan (husband) still bagging our groceries, but he didn't hear me. The manager did, though, and ran around screaming "Eytan! Who is Eytan? Is there an Eytan?" and the staff promptly brought water, assigned a checkout girl to watch the kids, gave them chocolate, and called an ambulance. What fun.

Disney on Ice was in an hour.

It took me a good 15 minutes to make it to the bathroom, with Eytan's help, and by then, the ambulance crew was checking my blood pressure (low) and sugar levels (fine.) I drank some water and was told to have a sandwich.

Feeling up to it after another 30 minutes, on to Disney on Ice we went.

Now, knowing our two year old could not possibly appreciate all the glories of Barbie and Ken doing pirouettes, and seats (even discounted, even balcony) cost us $25/piece, we smartly only purchased tickets for one parent and the two Big Kids. That meant that either I had to be alone in a nearby park with the Little, or accompany the two Bigs. Which would be a better scenario if I passed out again? We vollied the merits back and forth, and decided that the stadium had medics on call, so it was probably a safer bet. Like I said, we're geniuses.

Settled in with two very excited Bigs, the show began. I made it through all of Lightening McQueen performance (they call him Speedy McQueen here, because have you ever heard an Israeli try and pronounce "lightening?") but as Toy Story began, I felt it coming.

Decision time.

We were a full floor and a half away from the bathroom (I scouted it ahead of time.) Did I grab them away from Woody and his friends and have them join me for my bathroom adventure, or do I leave them alone in their seats, sandwiched between strangers, hoping that I recovered quickly enough to return unnoticed?

I had about 15 seconds before I hit the floor, so I had to decide fast. I opted to go it alone and made it to the stall before the black hit. I'm pretty efficient - I managed to revive, vomit and use the facilities in less than 10 minutes, and slip back in (ok, climb over 15 annoyed show goers) without a hitch. The kids hardly noticed my absence, she show ended (finally) and we went successfully on our way.

Will I camp again? Damn straight I will. Because even worse than camping with two diarrhea-ridden a life without adventure.


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