holiday

A Review of the Coleman Family Tent

Canadian Tire has this commercial.

I did not know about this commercial thanks to the magic of PVR, but when I purchased this behemoth of a ten-person tent for a 5 day family camping trip, Coleman was unwittingly fulfilling all of my unexpressed desires. I wanted to be the envy of all the tenters out there, all one amongst the army of 30 foot trailers. I wanted a tent that would house me, my camping-averse husband, my four-year olds, and my wayward dog for 5 days in a temperate climate during a family trip without causing a domestic dispute.

Is that too much to fucking ask? Yes. Yes, it is.

Set Up

Pros: YES. FUCK YES. BUY THIS TENT RIGHT NOW.

Setting this tent up set me up for a level of optimism I can only describe as “overly confident” at best, but “delusional” is a more realistic term.

Cons: The worst part about setting up this tent was that I had to set down my beer to do it because the poles have clicky things that require two hands. I really tried not to set down my beer, friends, but things just couldn’t be helped. My husband fiddled with this random piece of material that we think is some sort of fly or perhaps, OH MY GOD I JUST FIGURED OUT IT’S PROBABLY A WALL FOR INSIDE THE TENT THAT IS SO SMART BUT HAS VIRTUALLY NO USE TO US NOW BECAUSE I AM HOME WITH ACTUAL WALLS MADE OF DRYWALL AND I AM GOING TO KISS THEM.

THERE ARE TWO QUEEN SIZED AIR MATRESSES IN THERE THIS IS PRACTICALLY THE HILTON

There are two queen sized matresses in there and room to spare. Camping is going to be goddamn aces, you guys. Optimism level: OFF THE CHARTS.

But really, this delivers on the promise of the instant easy set up, if you subtract the hours worth of fiddling with mystery material.

Staying In the Tent

Pros: This tent is large. There is lots of room. It seems durable. There are lots of windows. It is a rectangle. I am a tallish woman and can stand up straight in it, if you don’t count me nailing myself in the head with a lantern at least six times during this trip because I evidently don’t have a short-term memory anymore.

Cons: You guys, being dry is all well and fine when you’re in a car wash for a few minutes, but what do you get when you’re in a downpour with two small people with only passing knowledge of potty training, a camping-averse husband who said (for real, I am not shitting you) “I didn’t change my clothes for three days because I kept thinking we were going to shower” and a dog who prefers feces and rain-soaked kibble to anything else?

The answer is condensation. You get condensation.

I can see the water is beading on the outside, so why is it dripping on my head. This is my thought process for two hours.

I can see the water is beading on the outside, so why is it dripping on my head? This is my thought process for two hours.

This is what I figured out as I clung desperately to the side of the brand new air mattress that required complicated re-pumping every day after having seven children (five not my own) abuse it to the point of disrepair. I had four-year old feet in my face, I was half out of my sleeping bag, and I was getting dripped on. So I had some time to think. And I thought “FUCK YOU, Coleman. Fuck you for making a completely sealed off “family” tent.” No one wants to be sealed off with their family. That is why suite hotels and boarding schools were invented. It’s all well and fine that you can make a neato commercial, but the practicality of having a completely sealed off tent is nil. So basically, I was having angry thoughts.

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All that air took hours to escape because I did not have the cognitive ability at the end of the trip to open a door or window to let it out.

And then, just as I was getting some sleep, the voice of my dad appeared from the heavens. He’s not dead, so it was especially weird that he was offering us respite in form of a the hotel room key that he and my mom were checking out of, so we could take a hot shower. So weird that I grumbled “but there’s pay showers here”, and he retreated as quickly as he came, but left wine. I thought it was a dream until my husband lost his shit over the fact that there was no hot showers to be had and I tripped over the wine bottle on my way out of the tent. I am drinking that wine right now you guys, and nothing ever tasted so good.

Take home message: Coleman denied me a hot shower by making me think too hard. It does not matter how big the goddamn tent is, friends, if there is no ventilation and five mammalian bodies, you have a problem.

Take Down

Pros: Take down of the Coleman Family Tent is relatively easy because of the magic of presto buttons and neat shit like that. I completely fooled our spectators (my cousin and the assorted kids) that everything was fine because we got it all sort of down minus all the massive air/ventilation problem seen above. And they left for the beach, with us promising to follow shortly as soon as we got our tent in the bag.

Cons: And that is when the proverbial wheels came off the proverbial fucking piece of shit tent.

Friends, I said and did things this morning that I don’t care to repeat. A lovely, lovely couple staying in the campsite next to us who were quietly having breakfast, and who live-in-the-same-city-as-us-so-I-will-probably-run-into-them-at-the-Farmer’s-Market-tomorrow-because-they-seem-like-the-type and their two-year old daughter, did not need to hear the things that they heard this morning. There was a domestic scene of epic proportions, rivaled only by our camping neighbors trying to park a 35 foot trailer in pitch black the night before. I feel ashamed, dear readers. Ashamed at what that tent made me do.

All of this shit had to go back into our van. I would have just set it back up and lived there on a permanent basis if they let you stay more than 16 days. I could have been a charming campground resident who helped you back your trailer in. I had plans. A lot of plans.

All of this shit had to go back into our van. I would have just set it back up and lived there on a permanent basis if they let you stay more than 16 days. I could have been a charming campground resident who helped you back your trailer in and made hilariously burned pancakes every morning. I had plans. A lot of plans. I had a lot of time to make those plans.

I have many reasons for yelling, but that tent became the lightning rod for all of my frustrations this morning. I was furious at Coleman for disabusing me of the notion that a family camping trip could be the joyous family fun times that I was envisioning. Mostly though, I was furious at them for saving the shitstorm right for the end of the trip, when we had lost all organizational capacity. All I wanted was a hot breakfast, Coleman. What I got was a maelstrom of throwing shit around, patronizing, and accusations. Where is that in your goddamn commercial, Coleman?

But on the bright side, at least we didn’t leave the camping tradition of having a major domestic incident aside. It’s right up there with roasting marshmallows and beer fueled hikes.

Rating
Let’s review:
Pros: I was lulled into a false sense of security that everything was going to be ok.

Cons: I do not enjoy 1) being disabused of notions and 2) having all the shit saved for the end of things. I like the shit up front so I can deal with it.

This tent is recommended for the camping-averse and those with short attention spans. This tent is highly recommended if you have lost your sense of smell, prefer moist environments, and you can afford to just abandon it at the end of your trip.

This tent is not recommended for actual families, those in shaky marriages, or people with dogs of any kind, especially ones who have earned the moniker “Smelly” by a horde of children becoming collectively more odorous by the moment.

Broads on a plane

I just got back from a weekend of total debauchery genteel jazz music, wine tasting, spa, and very little internet. It was magic. We flew in to San Francisco and drove down the coast for our annual pilgrimage to the Monterey Jazz Festival, this time with three of our best friends in tow.

While we were waiting for our plane we witnessed one of those beautiful moments in life. There was a lady celebrating her seventieth birthday, and five of her sisters, along with an assortment of neices surprised her at the airport and were all going on the trip with her. She was ecstatic; the surprise was a total success. Everyone on the plane was feeling revelatory.

The flight was not without drama. The attendants were mostly on call for the sisters, who were apparently attempting to break some sort of drinking record. There was a medical emergency when one of them ran short of breath from all the excitement. Then something went weird with the plane and we had to abort the landing and circle around San Francisco until we went down for a bumpy landing met with EMS and air field security.

Everyone broke out into applause when we landed. At least those of us who weren’t throwing up or busy cracking out the valium. We were feeling a bit giddy from escaping death (that might be a bit of a hyperbole, but in my mind we were only moments away from being a national tragedy), the general euphoria of a vacation ahead of us, and witnessing the family reunion.

So when yet another sister was waiting for the sisters at the luggage carousel, it was just too much. Everyone was in tears. Mr. Giraffe approached them to tell them how touched we all were watching this beautiful day unfold. As he made his way over the birthday girl yelled “Oh my god, you guys hired a stripper too!”

He’s probably hot enough to be a stripper, but not the lewd one of the bunch. Also, not sure the broads would like the white guy punching dance.

My inner broad was doing a slow clap with a cigarette hanging out the corner of my mouth. Bravo ladies, you give me hope. And I think the least Mr. Giraffe could have done was take his shirt off.

Lowering Holiday Expectations: A Timeline of the Plague of Easter 2012

We got flooded at Thanksgiving last year and then we had bronchitis and other family disasters at Christmas time. We’ve endured a lot of complicated living situations and crud, so I figured a really fun Easter might turn things around. I was prepared; I had the eggs, the Easter baskets, enough chocolate to put us all in a diabetic coma, adorable Easter cards made and photos taken. I talked the kids into being excited about the Easter bunny, or at least remembering that there is something called an Easter bunny, which they only understood in a vague way. This was going to be the best motherfucking Easter ever. (just like the best motherfucking Christmas ever.. sigh, I should have known).

Everything looking promising

Then on Wednesday night just as I was drifting off to sleep, early for once after weeks of being an idiot watching episodes of Mad Men all night long (I heart me some Don Draper), I heard the sound that strikes fear in the heart of every parent; the violent hack of stomach contents being ejected all over a bed. If you ever wondered what sleep deprivation sounded like, it’s all summed up in that distinct cough. Immediately you know that you’re going to be tending to the poor soul who just heaved his supper all over the bed and producing laundry at an exponential rate for an unknown quantity of time. If you have multiple kids you might hold on to the faint hope that you can keep them quarantined but deep down you know it’s only a matter of time before the second one falls.

Things went downhill for us leading up to Easter weekend. I couldn’t force enough fluids into Patient Zero and the vomiting would not end. Stupidly, I maintained a high level of optimism that things would turn around and Easter would be resurrected (see what I just did there?).  It was not to be.

Good Friday

Expected: Trip to the farmer’s market for ingredients for gourmet Easter dinner! Loads of time with Daddy! Out with some friends for birthday drinks!

Reality: Good Friday started with the haunting memory of being in an ER waiting room with about a thousand other vomiting 3 year olds. It’s not something I will soon forget. Patient Zero spent about 11 minutes awake all day and had to be force-fed pedialyte. I did make it to the farmer’s market where I was served chilaquiles heaping with salsa verde that resembled the impending mess that I was about to discover in my children’s diapers for the next several days. I never want to go to the farmer’s market again. We had now spent 3 days trapped in the bedroom in the vain attempt to ensure that the second kid remains healthy and Easter is saved.  I have watched Monsters Inc. eleven thousand times.

Chilaquiles: A visceral foreshadowing of impending doom

Saturday

Expected: Easter egg decorating! Basket hiding! Getting hot cross buns! Idyllic walks in the park talking about bunnies!

Reality: All is looking good on our quarantine attempts in the AM. Patient Zero is starting to turn around, and the second child is careening  around being a flying dragon with no volume control. And then just like that the second child morphs into Patient A by vomiting all over Grandma and Grandpa. Chaos ensues where I force Daddy half rinsed out of the shower to bathe vomity Patient A and myself for good measure. Daddy is mildly resentful for the rest of the day.

Patient Zero (in green shirt) maintained this exact pose for the next 5 hours

I experience the classic control freak dilemma; allow Daddy to do the shopping for Easter dinner or take care of ailing children? I send Daddy off for Easter lilies and ham, knowing that he has never purchased either and that all dreams of a gourmet meal will be dashed by whatever is cheapest at Safeway. Daddy returns with non-Easter lilies and a deli ham. Mommy decorates eggs on her own, resignedly dunking them in colours foregoing the sparkly gorgeous madness she envisioned. Patient Zero takes a mild interest in eggs and dictates colours to put the egg into for a few minutes, resulting in inevitable brown egg.  Eventually we all retreat to bed and wait for the vomiting to stop. It doesn’t.

The making of the brown egg

Easter Sunday

Expected: Brunch! Egg hunt! Thrilled laughs over Easter baskets, bubbles, chocolate for breakfast! Joyfully slaving over a gourmet dinner that my whole family will gather around and relish!

Reality: Bodily fluids, mess, laundry, pre-cooked ham, hot cross buns with that weird gummy dough on the top instead of glistening fresh farmer’s market ones, sleeping on the couch with a diaper perilously aimed at my lap, tears. Patient A curls himself around the bucket of Easter eggs and refuses to let go of his “DIYASAUR EGGS” without tears and flailing, so we let a whole bucket of hard boiled eggs spoil with the body heat of a fevered toddler.

Patient A and his diyasaur eggs

Patient Zero gets into the spirit of things and refuses to remove his bunny ears despite there being no evidence that Easter is happening. Neither child can summon up the effort to look for their Easter basket which is fine because I have now raided most of the candy from them. We all eat in front of the TV with half filled plates because the sheer amount of body fluids expelled has ruined everyone’s appetite. Watching a dude called Bubba win at golf, which was probably the worst part of the weekend.

Patient Zero refusing removal of bunny ears at any time

Easter Monday

Expectation: Kids in daycare! Daddy and Mommy having Ferris Bueller’s day off! Happy family reunion at the end of the day with two relaxed and happy parents and two happy and tired children!

Reality: We’ve given up. No one has been outside in days except to schlep over to the pharmacy and perhaps for emergency coffee. There is a mountain of laundry we may never recover from. As 11 am approaches we have a moment of silence for the spa treatments that were supposed to happen and finally resign any hope of adorable excited shrieking children. We eat all the leftover ham and cake. It doesn’t make anyone feel better.

Perilous lack of layers separating me and Patient A, but I give up

But you know, at least we endured our crap-tastic Easter as a family. And I managed it entirely booze free and without yelling at anyone except fate, which makes it a personal best for me on the holiday front. This is actually the best Easter I have ever achieved.