Back To Nature

I just had the opportunity to spend just over two weeks on a camping vacation with my 5 boys, my husband and my dog.  Camping at our house is a relative term.  We far from “rough it”.  We have a 15 passenger conversion van that hauls a 33ft travel trailer.  The trailer duplicates all the amenities of our house, only smaller.

My childhood includes fond memories of actual camping.  With a tent, in rain, no showers, bring your own toilet paper.  A couple of these weekend camping trips involved canoes and one included horses and had me ending up in the emergency room.  Coming home on crutches smelling like smoked meat and feeling like you slept on a bed of rocks (because you actually DID sleep on a bed of rocks) was all part of the enrichment of the outdoor experience.  I actually loved it.

About 6 years ago I mentioned how much I enjoyed this to my husband.  Frustrated with the amount of time they spend on computers and video games, I really thought our boys were missing out on the awesome experience of getting back to nature.  I wanted them to go camping.  With us. My husband looked at me, doe eyed, like I just explained quantum physics in Greek and then said “Going without my own bathroom is NOT my idea of a vacation.”. 

Thus enters the RV.

A Recreational Vehicle is the “roughing it” equivalent as a gas grill is to a gourmet kitchen.  Not exactly all the bells and whistles, but damnit, you can still camp like Bobby Flay.  We have air conditioning, a gas stove, hot water, a shower, a toilet, mattresses, and a power converter for the Xbox.   Like most vacations, you get to observe another side of your family that is rarely seen during the hubbub of the regular work week.   Going back to nature brings out certain survival instincts.

My normally ready-to-nap-on-the-couch husband didn’t have a couch to nap on.  We brought zero gravity chairs and he was quite content to spend an hour of his day on the chair with his laptop and then head to the pool for sun and beverages.  Getting frustrated that the campground’s promised wifi signal wasn’t strong enough at our site he told me to go ahead to the pool and he would meet me there after he hits the coffee shop to check his email.  I suggested just going to the front desk and inquiring why there was no signal.  He assures me that he will figure it all out.

A couple of hours later my phone rings at the pool.  He now is sitting at the Laundromat looking for a better signal because “this campground sucks”.  I do my best to reassure him that it’s probably just a tech issue.  In between applications of sunscreen and sips from my adult juice box I revisit my suggestion that maybe he should ask at the front desk where the best place to use his computer would be.

If I have learned nothing else from spending 20 years with a house full of men, it’s this.  Not one of them will ask for directions.  Sure, we have all heard the jokes about how a man will spend hours in a car and never stop and ask for directions, but apparently this also applies for toilet repair, flat tires, large construction projects, cooking without tuna and wifi signal searching.  Asking for help or directions is some sort of instant revocation of the man card.  Men. Must. Figure. It. Out.  I don’t understand this, especially provided that my husband is what I would call a “schmoozer”.  He can convince a kid to give him their candy, a cat to walk away from milk and easily procure some wifi from the front desk.  JUST ASK!

Instead, my darling husband spent an entire day ….and I mean ENTIRE day…..strolling around the campground with a Samsung tablet trying to figure out the best spot for a signal.  Picture the “Can you hear me now” guy; only instead of holding a phone and smiling he’s clicking buttons on a computer and uttering 4 letter words that start with F.  By the time I came back from the pool, completely burnt and ready for my post juice box nap he looked like Jack Nicolson from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.  Sweating, eyes bulging, falling just short of banging his head against the aluminum siding of the trailer and getting a call from Nurse Ratched, he informs me that the entire campground is devoid of any internet access.  So I ask, “What did they say at the front desk?”.

Head hung low and shoulders slumped in defeat I hear a mumbled “I’m going there now. I just need a sandwich first.”.  One sandwich and 30 minutes later my husband returns triumphant from the front desk.  He informs me and the boys that we will need to rise with the sun the next morning because a “tech guy” is coming to our campsite.  The campground felt so badly about his wifi-less day that they called in the reserves.   The next morning someone from the campground technology staff knocked on our camper door and installed our own personal router.


Aaaahhhh……NOW we’re camping!



The Male Reptilian Brain

One thing that is unique to living with a group of men is the astounding capacity for memory. As a woman, I often get noted for remembering all sorts of things that should be dubbed as “to-be-forgotten”. Things like; who broke my favorite crystal candy dish, or the location of socks and baseball jerseys to the chronological order of the required steps to prepare boxed macaroni and cheese are all but useless bits of information to the male mind. What I have actually discovered is that male memory has everything to do with the reptilian brain.

We remember learning about the reptilian brain right? It’s the flight or fight core of the mind where human instinct comes from.

It’s what gives each and every human being the capacity to survive by creating a response we gravitate to. Much like how birds fly south when the weather gets cold, our reptilian brain gives humans a basic ability to survive and endure a longer life through gravitating to basic human necessities. This was pointed out to me just yesterday.

Currently my husband and I are enjoying some much needed time alone, out of state, under the guise of celebrating a wedding of a family friend’s daughter. The five boys are under the skillful care of my long suffering mother in law, who also happens to live with us. Each night we have talked through the schedule of events with grandma and the boys to make sure all the bases are covered.

My 16 year old requested to go to a college night with his girlfriend at the local community college. He assured everyone that he had transportation covered with the girlfriend’s family and would be gone from 6pm until about 8:30pm. I enjoyed a lengthy discussion with said 16 year old son about coming home right after school to check in with grandma, eat and get some homework done before venturing out for the evening. So, imagine my surprise when my husband makes the daily call home around 8pm and grandma informs him that she has not seen hide nor hair of her blessed 16 year old grandson since she dropped him off for school.

Now, here’s the difference between men and women: I assume my son has met some terrible circumstance of dire consequences that detain him from meeting the requirements of coming home after school. My mind immediately goes into panic mode and plays through a million scenarios; some that include broken limbs and natural disasters. My husband however, cups his hand over the phone as says to me “Get that kid on the cell phone now and let him know I am pretty ticked off!”. I oblige. The call goes like this:

Son: “Hello?”

Me: “Hey, where the heck are you?”

Son: “Ummmm, I’m at Dairy Queen, we decided to stop on our way back from college night.”

Me: “Really? What happened to coming home after school? Grandma was expecting you.”

Son: “No she wasn’t, I told her I would be late.”

Me: “No….I told YOU to come home after school, remember?”

Son: “Oh”……long pause…..”I forgot about that.”

Now here is what my husband instinctively understands due to his identical chromosomal alignment with our son. Once a 16 year old boy has a cute girl that requests ANYTHING of him, the reptilian brain kicks in and obeys. Just the mere mention of going to her house after school means HE MUST GO. The reptilian brain says so. There are no rules, no consequences and no perceived disadvantages. Like lemmings falling off a cliff, bears hibernating in a cave and the swallows return to Capistrano, the teenage male must oblige the reptilian brain.

This conditioned basic-need response falls into play in more than just situations with the opposite sex. For example, if there is a game on television, it must be watched. If the grass needs to be cut, and nap must be taken. If a soccer sock smells so bad it causes you to gag, it must be thrown back into the sports bag to cultivate. These are the given responses to the male brain.

Once I begin to understand this, then I can plan accordingly. I know better than to request a substantial household project during the NCAA final four tournaments, I always empty out the sports bag while holding my breath, and if there is a girl involved,…..someone is going to be grounded for an entire weekend until he understands how to override the reptilian response.