Saturday, June 26, 2010

Family Camping - Friend or Foe?

the much awaited camping trip is over.
Manchester Beach KOA.
We survived it - 4 solid days of family bonding togetherness.

I love camping.

It's funny that I do, because when I think of it, it's actually a really bizarre recreation.
Living in the wild for days, eating food from cans with dirt caked in between your toes that will surely take a chisel to break free.

The most regularly asked question being, "What IS that?!"

Before we left, Justin packed up the car in a way that only a true former UPS worker could have. It looked like something out of a Dr. Seuss book. We shoved the kids in like sardines and took off in the mini-van for the 2.5 hour drive up the windy coastal highway and told them not to complain.

The air conditioner was broken.

Chloe was immediately sick and pale with carsickness.
I guess we should have paid more attention to her when she said,
"Throw up is going to come out."
because about 10 minutes later, that's exactly what happened.

Of course all her clean clothes were packed and tied and bungeed to the roof, so she entered camp 15 minutes later buck naked, smelling like puke, and covered in a towel in the off chance she did it again.
Alena -- gagging and carrying on about having to be in the back seat with her.
Tessa -- screaming because when I'd opened the door as the nominated puke-scooper, she thought she was going to be set free from her car seat and had been rudely awakened.

The camp was amazing.
We'll go back for sure.
There's something to be said for "roughing it" in a place with hot showers, a heated pool, a hot tub and a general store.

It made me wonder why we packed so much.

We unloaded and let the kids play at the park, then got set up for dinner.

The evening was mostly uneventful. In a good way.
There was a campfire hosted by a staffer who I could have TOLD you would be named Pat.
One can always pick a "Pat" out in a crowd.

(These are the paths my mind takes me down.)

There were smores. They played movies in the rec hall at night for the kids.

All went perfectly until bed time.

I forget when I'm planning on camping to factor in what sleeping will be like with small children who are only used to sleeping in their own beds.

Tessa hollered into the night like a banchee until we freed her from her pack-and-play.
Chloe climbed in and out of bed with us all night. Night one gave us 3 hours of sleep. IF that.
The kids were up for the day at the first crack of dawn asking to revisit the park.
It was 6 am. In my daily life 6 am is more of a BED TIME than a wake up time.

Somehow tunnel slides and rope ladders don't seem like the best thing ever to me the MOMENT my eyes are jarred open.

But that's just ME.

We were all exhausted from no sleep. All of us EXCEPT the kids. We adults were just buying our time till nap time with the misguided notion that they'd actually sleep and we could maybe go to the hot tub in shifts or something.
Like I said - Misguided.

Nap time was just like night time. Scream. Shriek. Disturb the peace. Make everyone at camp avoid eye contact for the remainder of the day.

For the rest of the camping trip we ended up playing musical beds. Each night trying a different combination of sleeping partners to see which combo would win out.

It was like a game of Clue.
I have Chloe in the bed with Mama with the lantern.
I have Tessa in the bed with Mama and Daddy with the sound machine.
I have Myself crammed up against the side of a twin bunk bed with Chloe and a kinked neck.

The winning combo, of course, was discovered on the last night, when it didn't even matter anymore.

Perhaps one of the weirdest things, too, was realizing that this is the year that Alena started getting checked out by boys.
I don't feel old enough for that yet!

Every time we were at the pool, all the neighboring pre-teen boys in the camp would mysteriously meander by. Back and forth. Whispering. One boy, in particular, --Trey--leached himself to her and I think would have come home with us if we'd have had an extra seatbelt.
He tried to be smooth, "When I saw you in the pool earlier, I didn't even REALIZE you had a blonde streak in your hair. Is that natural?"
He helped her play with the little girls. He asked her what she was doing after dinner.
Cut to him wearing her hat, sitting in her chair, reading her book by our campfire later that night and then trying to tickle her as she reached into the van to pull Tessa out.
She kept coming to me bug-eyed, with panic in her voice saying, "WHEN is he going to go to HIS cabin?"

And so it began.

I would have loved to pull him aside and tell him that first impressions are everything and maybe opening up with an ice breaker of how his brother had puked in the car on the way there and had still not had a chance to change his pants wasn't the best option.

The other highlight was a hay ride driven by a man with a missing index finger. After it was over, he said, "Did you guys see all the deer? I counted 9 of them!" and that left me wondering if he'd ACTUALLY counted 9, or if that was just as high as his fingers would allow him to go.

All week the girls were covered head to toe in dirt.
I gave up on cleaning them up.
I even got to the point of nodding in encouragement as Tessa took her toothbrush and brushed in the planters and dirt and then brushed her teeth immediately after.

It was what I like to think of as "emmersion therapy" for my OCD husband who had to do deep breathing into a lunch sack over the girls eating their dinner with completely black fingernails.

Whatever. It's immune boosting.
10 second rule?
Let's make it 40.

I also don't know why I thought it would be a relaxing vacation.
I'd like to know what is relaxing about lugging all your cookware and food in a box to the camper's kitchen to cook meals and inevitably forgetting 10 things, which you will then have to walk back and get?
One at a time.

Camping is inconvenient.
It's cold.
It's dirty.
It forces you to do nothing but spend time with your loved ones and hope against all hope that they are STILL your loved ones by the time you return home.
(And it's usually a pretty close call.)
We made it, thankfully, by the skin of our teeth.

I was SO glad to be home.
Home is clean. Home has hot baths. Home has box springs.
But that feeling lasted about 2 hours and then I was wanting to go back.

I must be a glutton for punishment to want to trade my dishwasher for spit and Dawn.

But sometimes I do.

There's something to be said for removing yourself from the world of DVRs and telephones and blow driers and MAC makeup and Target and exfoliants......Um....wait a minute..... Maybe I'll wait a little longer to go back afterall.

I forgot I have shows recorded....

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Notes from a Cow Cage

Well, It's Father's Day and it wouldn't be fair to have written a tribute to my mom for Mother's Day and then not have one for my dad.

My dad is like no other man on the planet.
NO other.
Be assured.
It's true.

My dad is creative, smart, funny and completely impossible to fully explain.

He can build something fantastic out of absolutely nothing, in a fashion that would make McGuyver look like a novice.
And he has.

His inventions are numerous.
One was an enclosure he welded to fit into the back of his Ford F250 truck that we all called the "cow cage."
It was what it sounds like it was.
It served many purposes.
One of which was to completely embarass me in high school in the times I was forced to drive that truck to school.

I can still hear the rattle of it as I drove over the speed bumps that led into student parking. Try being popular in a blue cow cage truck.

He invented a dog-pulled sled that was on wheels.
It was a contraption in the truest sense of the word. And it was fun on the beach.
We'd drive it out there, hook our two family dogs up to the harnesses and take off, gently pulling the hand brake if they got going too fast.

He welded and hammered and melted noxious chemicals on the kitchen stove at all hours of the night.
*Tink. Tink. Tink.*

He once build a canoe in the living room. He still has that canoe.

I learned to fall asleep to just about anything, including light flashes from the welder and banging against the anvil in the living room as he mounted a rivet on something or made designs in some leather item he was designing.

He was the best person to have in your circle when it was school project time, because even though I hated it at the time, he wanted it to be perfect.
Just so.
The Egyptian dioramma couldn't just have straight chop stick palm trees beside it, they had to be bent like REAL palm trees. So we steamed them. On the stove. At midnight.

We got an A.

Until the day she died, my fifth grade teacher held on to that dioramma as an example to all of what REAL chop stick palm trees looked like.

He fishes.
He camps.
He sews.
He rides horses.

He brought home unusual pets. This was heaven for a girl who loved every animal. This list of pets included, but was not limited to:
a skunk
a raccoon
a pair of chipmunks
a pot bellied pig
a catfish named Smoky (That actually lived for YEARS in a fish tank in the dining room)
hostile chickens
and for awhile, we had pigeons until my brother forgot to feed them while my dad was gone on a trip and came home to a dozen dead pigeons.

He was strict.
There was a chunk of my life where he would measure my fingernails wiht a micrometer weekly because he didn't want me having long nails. It was too "hooker-y"

He thought he was funny. He'd call my boyfriends by the wrong name on purpose just to throw them off and make them question if I was seeing someone else.

He once switched out my toothpaste for hemhorroid cream and fell out of his chair laughing when I came out of the bathroom saying,
"Dad.....What did you DO?!"
because my mouth was numb and not so minty.

His medical practices included treating himself with horse medication which he always kept in the fridge next to the eggs, and soaking wounds in liquid bleach.
Amazingly.....They both worked.

He's had more near death experiences than I can count and it's almost dinner conversation now, with how used to it we all are.

"I was pinned under a tractor for 12 hours today while buzzards stood watch just waiting for me to die."
"Wow. You must be hungry. Can you pass the salt?"

My brother and I spend hours laughing our way through the memories of how he'd drink a slim fast , do 5 sit ups, and then follow that with a handfull of cookies and a nap.

Or the time he sent us out front with a box full of bread crumbs and told us to pluck all the snails from off the side of the house and put them in the box. He said he was going to cook them.
He said they were dinner.

He taught me to draw.
He taught me to work.
He also taught me to drive after my mom gave up on watching her life pass before her eyes.

He has always smelled like metal, wool, leather, rope and hard work.

He can draw out an invention on a napkin at lunch, complete with dimentions, and go home and knock it out in hours. Amazing. He once built a horse trailer that way.

He plays every instrument and is the type of guy that ALWAYS has on hand, in his truck, whatever it is you are looking for no matter where or when.
Need a paper cutter? Got it.
Bottled water? It's there.
Native American beading kit? Don't doubt it.
It's probably under the weed-whacker or the model ship kit.

We've had our moments of misunderstanding eachother -- As I became a teenager and he was....well....a dad.

But no matter what, I can always say that as complex as he sounds, I know just who he is.
He has never waivered.
Never made me question. I know where he stands and what he believes in, and one of those things he believes in is me.

I'll never ever forget him helping me pack up a truck with all of my belongings while he was still in his work clothes as I set off on my own - Moving out for the first time. He had tears in his eyes as he patted the hood and told me to come home for dinner soon because my "Mom would be missing me."

Now that I'm married, I watch as my husband comes in the door from work and immediately dons a pink tiarra if asked to, jumping in an instant from Costco Chic to Princess Perfect.
I see how the girls all look up to him and expect certain things from him and I see myself as a little girl, looking up to him -- this mystifying, amazing person.

I only hope that my daughters will one day look back on their childhoods with the same smiles and laughter.
I hope they'll compare notes about things their dad used to say and do and that they will get as much joy from their memories.

My dad wasn't perfect, but he did the most important thing you can do as a dad.

He showed up.

He stayed and worked at it.

So for every dad out there, hold your Slim Fast Shake to the sky and let's toast to Fatherhood.

Every anvil pounding minute of it.