You don’t have to push a handcart

(Warning to the sensitive: The following post contains the word “pee” six times — I counted. Proceed at your own risk.)

Although Dean and I were both semi-enthusiastic amateur campers before we had kids, my enthusiasm has greatly decreased in recent years. It’s difficult enough to provide food, clothing, and shelter at home, so to need duplicate, outdoors-worthy versions of all these things, and care for and maintain them, just seems like work rather than recreation. Also, I’m always pregnant or nursing or sick or we have a crawling baby (who would get knees and hands filthy crawling in dirt,) so we’ve very rarely camped. However, since we have none of those obstacles right now, we decided we could probably manage the one-night tent camp-out our ward hosted last weekend. (Well, actually I am pregnant, but I’m in the middle trimester, the easiest part of the pregnancy, and I’m still sleeping well at night.) We dug out all our gear and found that we had enough gear and bedding, just barely, for all of us, and since the invitation said that it might be cold at the campsite (well, actually it said it might be “chili,” but we interpreted that to mean cold,) we did manage to grab jackets for everyone as we left.

Well, it was very cold. We did the best we could to get everyone in the warmest sleeping arrangements we could, but still the little ones kept crying out in their sleep because of the cold. We had put Henry between Mabel and Isaac in the two-man tent, and when Henry woke up crying, Dean and I were too tired and cold to get out of our tent to comfort him, so Ike and Mabel got a crash course in Parenting 101 — I told them to rub Henry’s back and sing “Rock-a-bye baby” to him, which actually worked, and he went back to sleep.

So, it must have been midnight or later, and the kids were finally settled down to sleep (so I thought; actually it would take a couple more hours and several more rearrangements of bedding before everyone was really warm enough to sleep.) And then I realized I needed to pee. I really didn’t want to get out of my warm sleeping bag and go out into the cold, dark, night, so I told myself that if I just ignored the feeling, it would go away. I tried this for half an hour. It wasn’t working. I finally accepted that I was not going to get a bit of sleep unless I emptied my bladder, so, miserably, I wormed my way out of my sleeping bag and crawled out of the tent. As I did this, I was thinking about the Primary children’s song that goes:

You don’t have to push a handcart
Leave your fam’ly dear
Or walk a thousand miles or more
To be a pioneer

You do need to have great courage
Faith to conquer fear
And work with might for a cause that’s right
To be a pioneer

I usually have agreed with the premise of this song: I have thought that the moral and spiritual challenges we face in our day require our own courage and determination, not much different from that needed by the Mormon Pioneers to cross the plains. I’ve also felt that every person in this life eventually gets tested to the utmost. But, trying to work up the courage to go out into the forty-degree night to walk a few yards to a latrine, I was making some quick modifications to my theory. I was feeling very grateful I didn’t have to trade places with the pioneers, and thinking that having to go days or months never quite being warm enough, and with one’s children never quite being warm enough, (let alone facing the much greater trials the pioneers encountered,) would be far more misery than I want to experience in life. I decided I usually underestimate the trials and suffering of the pioneers.

As I was thinking all this, I’d managed to slip my sandals on over my socks, and walked to the little building where the latrine was. There was a little crack of light under the door, and I couldn’t decide whether someone was in there with a light, or whether moonlight was showing under the door, so I knocked lightly. Someone was in there. I waited a couple of minutes for them to come out, and by the time they did, I was really, really wanting to empty my bladder. As the door to the outhouse closed behind me, I discovered that there was NO moonlight in there. I was blind, and hadn’t brought a lantern. Well, I would just have to walk in the direction of the toilet and find it by bumping into it.

I found it. By now I needed to go so badly that I started to let loose in mid-sit. I was picturing the toilet as one of those lidless ones you often find in camp outhouses, but I immediately realized, by the sound and by the back-splashing, that the polite previous user had followed the instructions I would see posted clearly on a sign the next morning: “Please leave toilet lid closed.” I was peeing onto the closed toilet lid. I was sure the splashing was going to soak the sweat pants I was using as pajamas, leading to an even more freezing night. (Actually I had dry clothes in my car I could have changed into, but I hadn’t yet had time to think of that option.)

As newlyweds, Dean and I lived for nearly a year in the Middle East, and at this moment, my training in the use of pit toilets came unexpectedly back to me: I scooted forward a little, squatted a little lower, and pushed my pants forward to be sure they were out of the stream. Having finished, I stood and felt all my clothing carefully. I discovered that all my clothes and underclothes, and even my socks in my sandals, were still dry.

Of course I wanted nothing more than to just leave the mess and go back to my tent and sleep — but I was camping with my ward family. Even in my groggy state, my social conscience was vigilant enough to keep me from leaving such an unpleasant surprise for the next cold camper.

So, I stumbled back to my tent, found our lantern, lit it, went to our car and got a box of tissues, and went back to the outhouse and mopped up my own pee off the toilet and the concrete floor. (When I told my family this story the next day, Isaac wanted to know why I hadn’t just used the toilet tissue in the bathroom to clean up the pee. A good question. I think that I had first wondered whether we had paper towels in the car, and then remembered the box of tissues there, and also I think that I’d noticed earlier in the evening that the TP supply in the outhouse seemed a little scant, so I didn’t want to use it all up on this one clean-up.) Then, not wanting to walk back to the center of camp to wash my hands in cold water, I rubbed a very large dollop of hand sanitizer onto my hands, and gratefully crawled back into my warm sleeping bag.

I had reason to be glad for my clean-up efforts, too, since it turned out that the next person to use the bathroom was me, a couple of hours later. (Never overestimate the size of the bladder of a pregnant woman.)

Great courage? Check. Faith to conquer fear? Check. And a sense of love and duty great enough to mop pee off a cold dark concrete floor with tissues in the middle of the night? CHECK! I have no more doubt about it: I am a modern-day pioneer.

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18 Responses to You don’t have to push a handcart

  1. Jessie W. says:

    I second your notion about camping not being as exciting as it was when we were kids. I think that’s because the majority of the responsibility is laid on the adult’s shoulders. Plus, who enjoys having to get up in the middle of the night and have to walk all the way to the outhouse in the unfamiliar wilderness? I remember being at Girl’s camp with the same dilemma you had. But I was too cowardice to go out to use the outhouse so I spent practically the entire night awake and tortured having to go pee! I feel stupid thinking of it now, but I was easily spooked then and couldn’t get one of my friends to walk with me so I just waited till the morning, lol.

    It was very kind of you to clean up even though it was late, lol. I once went camping as a kid, had to go badly so I ran to the outhouse and without looking on the seat sat down. There was something on the seat and it wasn’t pee (you can only imagine) Well it was bad case of it and it was SOMEONE else’s not mine, which makes it even worse. I was pretty traumatized. Anyway, I’m rambling, but there really are endless Camping Horror stories! Great blog subject!

  2. rychelle says:

    put your shoulder to the wheel, push along.
    do your duty with a heart full of song.

    i imagine you humming that while you cleaned.

    i also imagine the pioneers would be proud!

  3. If only you had taken a picture——–:)

  4. Shellie says:

    wowie girl. that is probably hands down the best story i’ve ever read. I so hate feeling of wanting to pee, needing to pee, and not wanting to in the worse way. I once had to pee really bad while I was camping but pushed it away and fell asleep. then I had a dream I was in a hot tub. Come to realize when I woke up that it was just me peeing my pants.

  5. Mrs. Organic says:

    Great camping story, I am wondering what ‘chili’ feels like.

  6. tonks says:

    Blessed, honored pioneer:

    This made me laugh so hard that I almost peed my pants:-)

    I am a frequent victim of thinking that I can make it to the bathroom, ready myself and assume sitting position in 2.7 seconds flat. I can’t. But that doesn’t stop me from thinking that I can the next time around. Peeing is a huge inconvenience.

    I’ll have to send you an invite to my blog so that we can swap embarrassing moment stories…it’s quite unfair for me to get to read all of yours, and for you to not be able to see mine!

    DeLaina

  7. Thora says:

    I loved this post. I too went camping once when I was pregnant. It was in a free range area for cows on Mt. Nebo (the Utah mountain, not the other one). I had to pee really badly in the middle of the night. I made my husband come with me, because the free ranging cows all around our tent were really scaring me ( I know, cows being scary? In the middle of the night when they’re mooing in your ear they are).

    You left a comment forever ago (like two months) on my blog, and I never said welcome or thanks or anything, and now I’m thinking I scared you away, or maybe I just bored you away. Anyway, a very belated thanks, I’m glad that you read my blog and left a comment (it was about your wedding ring).

  8. zstitches says:

    Jessie: 1. My first time to girl’s camp, on my THIRD DAY there I realized that I hadn’t yet used the bathroom ONCE. I think an adviser overheard me talking about this realization and urged me to remedy the delay, so I faced down my fear of the smelly latrines. (It must have been a deluge, but I don’t actually recall.) I must have not been much of an imbiber in those days, and also had an iron bladder. Many years and four babies later, I can hardly believe this story is about me. 2. As to your second story — EWWW!! SO SORRY! I would just about go back in time to clean that toilet for you before you sat, were it possible. As it is though, I just wish I had some brain bleach to eradicate the image from my mind.

    Rychelle: I don’t think it was a very mentally musical moment for me (although this moment turned into an absurdly abjectly alliterative one.)

    Laura: I could try to do a re-enactment. (Nah.)

    Shellie: “Hands-down best story?!” Wow, that is VERY high praise coming from a blogger as funny as yourself. (I’m serious about the PayPal thing, by the way.) I’ve been craving positive feedback on this post, since I think my dear husband is a little chagrined for me to have written on such a topic.

    Mrs. O: I know! (I mean, I thought I did know what chili felt like; now I’m not sure.)

    Tonks: Yeah, I’m annoyed when my recently-toilet-trained kids don’t give themselves enough of a margin to make it to the toilet, but I have to admit they came by the tendency honestly. My cousin Laura (the therapist) gave me a great, useful vocabulary word when she called this sort of thing “Maximizing” — which I take to mean trying to fit in the utmost, even when it’s not very practical or is even impossible. I think it also explains my tendency to be late to things. And yes, do send an invite — I’m pretty sure my email address is in my Facebook profile (mainly because I haven’t figured out how to get it off of there.) If that’s how the invite thing works, anyway.

    Thora: I went and found my comment. :) Have you replaced the ring yet? Don’t worry, you didn’t bore me away, I’m just very random in my blog-surfing (I’m not even sure how I got to yours, although I’m guessing it was through Mormon Mommy Blogs) but I never hesitate to comment on a stranger’s blog because I know I love getting comments, too. (While I’m at it, where did your blog’s name come from?)

    P.S. to all: Yes, it’s Family Home Evening night and I’m online. I’m home sick with a stomach flu and asked Dean to take the kids to dinner. I’m kind of liking the alone time, just wish I didn’t have to feel sick during this unexpected hour of freedom.

  9. Coffinberry says:

    Loved the story. I remember working as a YMCA camp counselor one summer, and somehow (whether consciously or unconsciously, I couldn’t tell now) I figured out that the less I drank, the less often I would have to go to the outhouses. Worked great that summer. Turned into kidney stones by fall. Not a good solution (oops, not punny). I still don’t like to have to pee often (to use your word), though. Thanks for the laugh.

  10. Alex says:

    LOL @ the Primary song that came to mind. Very appropriate.

  11. Thora says:

    I don’t have my ring back yet. I’ve told my husband that’s what I want for Christmas, so that’s hopefully what I’ll get. I randomly blog surf too.

    My name is from when my husband was talking to his (french speaking) brother, and was trying to use his very limited french to tell him that I was mighty (puissant), but instead said I was a fish (poisson). Since then I’ve jokingly been called the mighty fish, or poisson puissant. That the source of the name.

  12. lili says:

    Mom and I are in our hotel room in Oxford (first free internet in days), so we thought we’d catch up on your blog.
    I read aloud, and we laughed so hard we cried; I couldn’t see through my tears.
    I’m so glad you blog…
    And wondering if you’re in Arches…(and hoping you don’t have to pee)

    PS I’m like you–as a child/teenager I hated the inconvenience of peeing in strange places so much that I barely drank, and though I don’t think I made it 3 days in girls camp, I’m certain I made it two… and I recall numerous road trips to Cali or Washington etc without peeing once before we arrived.

  13. the MomB says:

    We really did helplessly laugh ourselves to agony. I’m proud of you, m’girl.
    Lili told me not too long after I arrived here how much she likes it that the Brits use words like pee unselfconsciously; I like it too (as you can well imagine). They also say breast-feeding rather than the very strange (when you think about it) nursing. And the word toilet is up in public places all over (we’ve forgotten that it started out as a euphemism).
    My mother used to say that when it comes to camping, boys are better equipped. I am having my own adventures with getting up to pee in the middle of the night in a different hotel every night, but nothing like so challenging as your experience. From first hand observation, however, I can say that Lil’s reluctance surpasses even mine.

  14. Lili says:

    Yep. I hate it. I still avoid getting up–
    Even when it means strange dreams and continual waking up…
    (I’ll get up at my own place, but I still resent the disturbance of sleep)
    Sigh

  15. zstitches says:

    I MISS you guys! (And not *just* because I’d been wondering, due to the complete comment silence, whether any family members had ever or would ever read this post.)

  16. Lorie says:

    Too funny! Poor you, though! I’ve done my share of camping, but never when I was pregnant.

  17. American Yak says:

    Oh, we’re reading. :)

  18. Cheryl says:

    Okay, so I GUESS, I promise to never answer the following situation with this funny (thanks for being such a good sport at the campout) story!

    We are learning about “Modern Pioneer Women” in RS and the teacher asks:
    “Does anyone have a good story of being a Modern Pioneer?

    hehe, Yes, I promise!

    Zina, I love your mad blogging skills!

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