I realized the other day we have four weeks until school starts; (well I began writing this two weeks ago so now it's two weeks) where has the summer gone? In an effort to capitalize on spending time with my children in the remaining time I created what I call Camp Mommo. "Mommo" is the nickname my two girls gave me and when they call me this it means we are going to have fun together.
Camp Mommo takes place inside or outside our house. At our house usually means something crafty, creative or silly, like making a homemade piñata, painting shells we collected from Potowomut Beach or decorating your own pancakes with all the sprinkles I have in the pantry. If we take a trip somewhere it needs to be nearby, historical, educational, and a place we’ve never been before but always meant to visit.
Frenchtown Park is a great example – I’ve heard it was a gem of a place so we decided to explore it for the first time. It’s located behind the EG Parks & Recreation Building on what else ... Frenchtown Road.
You should know I am not quite the outdoorsy nature kind of gal. For example, my idea of camping is roughing it at the Ritz Carlton in their remotest location, only in the U.S., of course. By the way turns out from some quick research that could be at the Dove Mountain property in Marana, Arizona. It’s promoted as “clear skies, fresh air, stunning sunsets and where ‘elegant simplicity meets adventure.’" It hits me that elegant simplicity meeting adventure is exactly how I’d describe my perfect camping excursion. Throw in a bag or two of Dove chocolates and that place has my name written all over it.
Back to reality at Camp Mommo with this mommo leading a pack of five children under the age of 8 on a steamy, muggy day armed with bug spray, water and animal crackers but no Dove chocolates in sight. When we enter the broad walking path there is some signage with trail maps explaining we’re about to explore the old Tillinghast factory where cotton thread was made in the 1800’s. This is good news for us because I’m also not a great navigator and I rely too much on my GPS. But no worries as the Cotton Mill trail is marked with bright orange circles spray painted on tree trunks. We set off on our "big" adventure in search of history.
We walk past a large pond filled with lily pads and immediately the kids start asking me why they don’t see any frogs on them. A few seconds later we walk past a little bridge they think is awesome because on one side there’s a small waterfall. We energetically hike up a big hill and find a bench strategically placed at the top overlooking the lily pad pond. It really is a beautiful and peaceful sight. Already the kids are saying this is the best day ever and how they love it here. I start to proudly feel like a famous naturalist or hiker although I have no clue who that would even be. Then more questions like, "Are we almost at the mill?" "What if there aren’t any more orange circles on the tree trunks?" and "What is this fuzzy green stuff on the ground [moss] and how did it get there?" Less than five minutes later they need to rest and snack. Luckily there’s another bench on the trail. I’m thinking a really smart mother must have put it there hundreds of years ago. And that’s what I tell them when they of course ask me that too.
The trail is starting to get narrower and a lot rockier. We see remnants of stone walls and they ask me how they got there and are we at the mill yet. We keep trudging on and I’m wondering how much further we should go because I don’t think they realize we still have to hike back to the car. We come upon a very muddy trail segment and a huge old tree lies uprooted off to the side. Ahead I see the trail goes up a small hill then twists with still no mill in sight. I look around and see residential houses on either side of us and kind of feel we are intruding on backyards. I tell all of them to stay put, I’m going to scout ahead just atop the hill to see where the trail goes and if there is a mill anywhere in sight. I will be right back.
This is the part all five kids remember the most – that I left them, make that abandoned them next to a spooky uprooted tree which in the nine seconds I’m gone, they’re sure a haggard old witch lives in. I’m no sooner up the short hill out of their sight and I hear wailing and cries of "Mommy!" I run back to them laughing to myself while looking at the houses with tennis courts and swimming pools literally about 100 meters off to my side.
I tell my five Nervous Nellies there isn’t a witch, the tree is not haunted and the whole time I was so close I could hear everything they were saying. So with a smile and lighthearted laugh, I decide it’s time to head home for lunch and a yummy secret-surprise dessert. Every Camp Mommo session ends with a delicious dessert I’ve never made for them before.
We’re no sooner back to the lily pad pond when they boast they’re going "to kick the monster’s butt" the next time. I’m thinking how did a monster pop up into all of this. Apparently the spooky witch now has a pet who is some sort of monster. I tell them I admire their bravery while I chuckle to myself at how resilient kids can be. I let them sit on the lily pad pond’s edge and stick their feet in the cool water before we head back home. They think this is the best part of our entire hour-long adventure. I love this kind of old-fashioned fun. We never found the mill, we didn’t play the latest video game and I didn’t spend a dime.
We were outside enjoying nature. Yep, even Ritz Carlton Camper me. Makes me
think I might one day be able to hack it camping – as long as I pack my Dove chocolates.
Next up for Camp Mommo: the Old Washington County Jail and custom
Camp Mommo T-Shirts.