This is a photo we took Wednesday, when we went for family night.

The first part of the week, I was truly not thinking much about my guys. I knew they were having a great time, the troop leader is a marvelous guy, and even though it’s Connor’s first year, they are together.

Besides, the house was so quiet with just one small girlchild. Messes stayed cleaned up. I spent whole afternoons in the studio. I started to understand what it must be like in houses where the school bus comes.

Then Wednesday night we went to Camp Pioneer to visit, and I have been missing them ever since.

They ARE having fun, and learning skills — climbing walls, earning merit badges, playing cards, swimming, cooking under the dining fly and bonding with their peers in that tribal, lord-of-the-flies way boys do.

I had to laugh at how naiive I continue to be, as a mom… I had helped them pack little toiletry kits for the shower, sunscreen and bug spray, organized little bundles of clothes and towels, compass and mess kit, canteen and first aid stuff… even a duffel bag for dirty laundry.

But when I unzipped the tent flap to put in some fresh clothes and take home the dirties, it wasn’t the way I had imagined it at all. It was a chaotic, twisted pile of dirty socks and underwear, playing cards, candy wrappers … every gadget pulled out of its pocket in the backpack and stirred into the blankets. And dirty clothes hardly says it… I don’t know whether to wash them or take them directly to hazmat.

Judging by their mosquito bites and sunburn, they haven’t exactly been hitting the supplies very hard. When I tidied up and made their sleeping bag “beds”, I found their soap still in the wrapper, and Ty doesn’t seem to have washed his hair this week (though they swim every day, which is some consolation.) The tent looked (and smelled) a little better by the time I was done, and I am pretending that it stayed neat and tidy after we left. Ty had bought us all a gift at the trading post. Jeff got an eyeglass repair kit and I got a sewing kit– which I used while I was there to mend the ripped tent screen and sew a patch back on Tyler’s class A uniform shirt.

They were happy to see us, and told us all the exciting things they were doing, though Connor looked wistful for a moment as his parents and little sister climbed into the car to go. His big brother put an arm around his shoulders and said, “It’s only two more days.”

No way was Connor ready to come home, though — they do a lot of the learning-the-ropes stuff early in the week (literally, for the climbing and rapelling) and then the last two days they get to do the exciting parts. I’m sure once we were out of sight, we were out of mind again — though for the first time all week I woke in the night thinking of my sons sleeping in a damp tent on the ground, in the thunderstorm that was boiling up as we drove the hour home.

They’ll be back in the morning. Their dad is going to get them. I’m cleaning their room, remaking their beds, and making a good supper to welcome them home. They packed up their entire camp tonight and are sleeping in the open for the last night, under the dining fly. I hope they won’t be sucked dry by mosquitos by morning. Man, do I sound like somebody’s mom, or what?