We are an outdoorsy family. Well, it’s mostly my husband. Truth be told, I prefer luxury hotel rooms, but my poverty and inner poet necessitate the camping/nature-loving lifestyle, so I go with it. To hell with worldly travels and gourmet meals; I have perfected the s’more! I can carve the perfect wiener-roasting stick! And I will poop in a bush if required, with a shit-load of wet wipes to erase all memory of it from both arse and hands. Andrew calls me a germiphobe. But seriously, does he want me to get poop particles on his wiener? I think not.

The moment Max was born, Andrew excitedly followed the nurses over to the table where they cleaned and weighed our gooey gift from the gods. He wanted to get a head-to-toe gander at his boy. He was, of course, sizing him up to see how big the lil’ tyke’s first lifejacket should be.

Andrew wisely delayed the purchase until last month, and this week we took our 2-year-old tot to Great Pond, just a few minutes from the house. The evening was peaceful. The water was calm. But the 20-minute canoe ride to come would be neither of these things. (You didn’t see that coming, did you? One day I’m going to blog about the perfect day and blow your freakin’ mind.)

When we got to the pond’s edge, we kept Max locked securely in his car-seat while we hoisted the boat off the roof of the car and unloaded all the gear. Otherwise, in about 18 seconds Max would have been up to his neck in pond scum with a fishing hook in his nostril.

While Andrew dragged the canoe to the water, I took Max out of the car and got him into his bright, new, yellow life vest. Excellent. No matter what mayhem was about to ensue, at least the little meatball would float, and choppers would spot him from above.

I had dressed him appropriately before we left the house. A wide brim hat, waterproof jacket, and camouflage rubber boots – so I wouldn’t see the dirt on them later and be compelled to clean them. And because camouflage is cool on people under the age of 9. After that, you’re looking for trouble, skeet ball.

The flies were t’ousands, as grandfather would say. But according to the OFF! can, fly dope is not to be used on children 12 and under. Okay then. So we can start protecting our kids from mosquitoes around the same time we start protecting them from gonorrhea:

Max, I need to have a talk with you about the birds and the bees… and the nippers.”

Fine, no fly dope. I’m innovative. I attached five plastic frogs to Max’s jacket and stapled a Venus Flytrap to the top of his hat. Ha ha, tricked ya now, ya little black buggers! I will be appearing on the Dragon’s Den with these inventions next season. As well as my prototype for a robot that picks up beer bottles and dirty socks, and magically removes the ungodly stench from hockey equipment. I expect Android Andrew to be on the market by 2012.

We strategically placed ourselves in the boat: Daddy in the back, Mama in the front, and Max sitting on a little folding chair right in front of me where my hand was mere millimeters from the handle on the back of his life vest. So THAT’S why they put that there! All this time I thought it was for hanging it to dry. Drowning is not a concept Max has grasped yet. First, pooping in the toilet. Then, avoiding death. All in good time.

The chair worked for about five minutes. Then he started to get shifty. Of course. Nobody puts Baby in the corner, and nobody puts Turbo Ginger in the bow.

Time for the art of distraction.

Oh look at the bird, Max! Oh, look at the pretty trees; let’s count them, one… two… 47… Oh, listen to the loon! And do you hear the trike ripping the shit out of the ecosystem across the way? Awesome.

My bullshit worked for about 90 seconds. Then he called my bluff and started grabbing at my paddle that I had been trying to keep out of his view from the get-go. I would have had to shove it up my ass to keep his eyes off it now.

I quickly gave in. I had no choice, really. He was flipping out, and with no naughty chair in sight except a watery grave for three, I let him hold the paddle. He slapped the water with it as gracefully as a crack baby beaver slapping its tail. I kept my hand on the top of the handle. Until he noticed I was doing so. He would have none of my paddle-groping. Skipper Max Murphy could man this ship alone! So I let go and the heavy oar almost pulled him headlong into the pond. But it was okay; I had a ninja death grip on his life vest handle. Giving birth to this child was extremely painful and I’m not doing it over.

So the heavy oar escaped Max’s puny pipes and he watched with horror as it drifted away… until daddy reached out and grabbed it! Daddy, our hero! So we played this new game of Drop the Paddle, oh, seven or eight times, and as riveting as it was, it got old fast, especially when Max wouldn’t let anyone else have a turn. Once, the paddle got away from daddy’s Elastigirly reach and we had to circle back around to retrieve it. The Love Boat soon ran out of fuel, and patience. Come on, Tattoo, it’s time to head back to shore.

And by the way, all this time, as I struggled to keep Max of this world with one hand on him and the other batting away flies as they harvested my delicious flesh, Andrew – our hero – was in the back of the boat fishing, footloose and fancy-free. I was trying to keep our little one in the boat, and he was trying to snag the big one. I prayed a 150-pound mud trout would emerge from the depths and swallow him whole. A good way to die in Andrew’s books, I reckon. But not today; I needed him to get us back to shore where safety and sanity awaited like a cold bottle of beer.