Fake camping in the fake jungle

Tent in a dark room decorated with artificial jungle plants

We took last week off to go camping, only not really, because California is on fire. The lower level of our house is themed to be a nighttime jungle, and Wanda had the brilliant idea to set up our tent in the jungle and "camp" for a week.

The downstairs is ordinarily our entertaining space (the answer to the question, "why do you have a nighttime jungle-themed entertaining space in your basement?" is "why wouldn't you?"), but during the pandemic it had turned into a junk collection area, so first I had to spend three solid days cleaning it out. Wanda packed up her bag with all of her most forest-y stuffed animals and nature-centered books, and her lantern, and we set out on the hiking trail down to the lower level of the house.

Inside a tent, with a sleeping bag, stuffed animals, a lantern, and some books

Wanda bought her tent last year with her allowance money. We filled it with sleeping bags, pillows, stuffed animals, and... for some reason Wanda also really wanted to bring in a plastic pineapple and a set of Russian nesting dolls carved into Hawaiian tikis. Okay, kid, sure. But pack it in, pack it out. I just lost a weekend to cleaning this jungle.

Wanda's all-time favorite movie, Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown.

Over the course of the week, we watched some camping-themed shows & movies, the tentpole feature (hah!) being Wanda's favorite movie, Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown. If you haven't seen it, you should track it down, it's great. It's the best of the few feature-length Peanuts movies, from 1977, with the gang in a river race at summer camp. The music by Ed Bogas is funk-tinged, time-capsule perfection, and I love it.

Pre-teen girls dance by a campfire in a scene from Troop Zero

We also watched the movie Troop Zero, we've seen it a few times, and we like it. We watched Bug Juice, a docu-series about kids at summer camp on Disney+ (the new series done a couple years ago, I've never seen the '90s original series). Wanda lit up when one of the campers said she was homeschooled!

A friendship bracelet made from embroidery floss, with a small metal acorn charm

I brought out a bag of embroidery floss that had been left to me by my grandmother when she passed away, and Wanda and I made friendship bracelets for each other (here are the instructions we followed, only instead of ending with a button, we braided the ends to tie). We added little acorn charms, the symbol for our school. I'm terribly honored to be the recipient of Wanda's first friendship bracelet; I'm wearing it now.

Wanda wanted to make shadow hand puppets with our flashlight, which I'm not terribly good at, but thankfully she thought my triple act of a snake, a worm, and an eel was hilarious.

I must have been a pathetic sight as I made s'mores by spearing a marshmallow on an ice pick and holding it over a tea light, but Wanda was thrilled, so good enough. Wanda wanted hot dogs, but it turned out she just wanted the idea of hot dogs, and not the reality, and that's camping in a nutshell, isn't it?

A red tent in a dark room with artificial jungle plants

Wanda and I had a slumber party in the tent one night; we ate granola bars, and read lots of Lumberjanes, and retold the spooky camp story of The Scrum Bolo Chihuahua from Timmy Failure, and I surprised myself by having no trouble sleeping on the floor. We had a surprise visit from from a spider. Too real! Who invited you, nature?? The dream of a bug-free indoor camping experience wasn't to be.

Wanda is champing at the bit to go for-really-reals camping, and we're hoping to make it happen next year, probably up in Oregon. In the meantime, I suspect we'll be doing more of this fake camping. I might have to invest in a better s'mores rig.

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