Ah, Summer; the time of year we await with fervor, knowing that once school is out we will get to all of the projects that have been piling up. We will pick up the old band-aids laying behind the toilet, knock down the spiderwebs that have been in the corner since Christmas, and finally take the baby clothes out of the 3 year old's drawers. Oh, we know there will be other activities to tend to, but, we assure ourselves, when those are done, we will pass the remaining hours each day filling photo albums and finally writing in baby books.
What are you smoking? Summer will be over in 4 minutes and
It feels like we just got here!!!
June blasted by in a cloud of road dust and dirty laundry. Because this blog is actually my journal for my kids (Aw, you thought it was for you? How cute. Gee, sorry 'bout that. Also, you really need a hobby), I am going to take the time to post about each of our ventures. It will be like one eternal slide show from the seventies. Go get a snack and come back. I'll wait. Go pee while you're up. It's good for your kidneys.
We kicked off June with a trip to Calaveras Big Trees to camp with Kathy and Bishop (who, by the way, is no longer Bishop, but now President, so I'll just call him Wayne. It's shorter). We forced the big boys to join us with promises of unlimited napping. The park rangers did a great job of convincing the kids that bears would come in the night and gobble them up like human jerky if they had a stick of gum in their pocket, so yeah, bed time was super fun. I'd like cash for each time I said, "You will NOT be eaten by a bear!" Oddly, this is not on my regular list of bedtime assurances. It is a promise I couldn't really back up for sure, but I kinda think that if a bear started at one of my kids he would get his first dose of Crazed-Mama-Lion. My shrieking and arm flailing would at least make him nervous. After the kids woke up the first morning NOT in a bear's stomach, they all did a bit better the second and third nights. All but Natalie, who puked like a fire-hose on me in her sleep (are bears attracted to puke?)
We had the campsite almost to ourselves, and though it was quiet in that respect, we were sadly so near a highway (I know! LAME!) that it took the sparkle off of the shiny-wilderness experience. Speaking of campsites, allow me to take a moment to mention this, the North Grove campground, in particular, since I could find nothing online that did so before we left (if you're here because you googled this, you're welcome. Don't stay in unit 24). The pluses of this particular campground were: great bathrooms, showers (coin-op), and very handicapped accessible, with a cool boardwalk right through the middle of the meadow. There were no terribly pesky bugs, and there was plenty of shade. Minuses? As I mentioned, the highway was VERY near by, the bear boxes were a complete pain in the tookus, the creek was dry, the river was too far away to walk, and the fire-pits were so tall that while sitting you couldn't even see the fire. Yeah, they kinda missed the whole point with that one. Besides the threat of bears, there were very few actual critters to be seen, probably because you have to keep food locked up so tight there were no vittles laying about the ground for them to nibble.
We had a ball at the Stanislaus River, and though it was a billy-goat style workout to get down from the road to the water, once there it was almost dream-like. By the second day I was actually able to let myself relax and stop making lists in my head. There was a great pair of rocks that created a cradle just the right size for a pair of grown-ups or a grown-up and a kiddo. We all took turns cuddling and talking to the kids one-on-one, and it was a sweet experience. As couples, we took turns watching the kids so that the other pair could sit with feet propped up and enjoy a visit. It was concluded after all the chatting that: camping with anyone under age 3 is a pain; tents are a pain; and next time we will get sitters for the kids, rent an RV and have a couples' retreat!
For me, the things from this trip that I will tuck away in my dusty memory banks are:
The kids loving on the crafting supplies we brought. They spent hours painting rocks and sticks, making flags and wooden dolls, and relearning how to simply unplug and play. Their replacement for media became an obsessive compulsion to play Uno. They may have played over 100 times. It went on and on for hours. I wasn't thrilled, but eventually the middle kids began to include the little kids, which was nice, and Ellie and Tessa began to prefer exploring by the second day.
The rangers had posted instructions on what to do if you were confronted by a bear. You are to raise your arms above your head, wave your hands and yell something like, "Bad Bear!" I guess they figured they should give you something to say rather than just screaming "mommy!". On one afternoon, Ethan stayed behind at our site with Adam to nap while we went to the river. Hours later after we had returned, Ethan finally woke up and stumbled out of his tent. Everyone started yelling, "Bad bear! Bad bear!". His response was a bearlike grumble as he shoo-ed his hand at us as at a fly. He acted mad, but there was a sleepy hint of a smile on that grouchy muzzle.
On the last night, as is our new tradition (because two years makes a tradition, baby!), I made Dutch oven carnitas and we enjoyed them with limes and cilantro. After dinner we got our S'more on. You may remember last year we swapped the graham crackers for homemade chocolate chip cookies. Well, this year we took it up a notch with Reese's Peanut Butter Cups (in the new bar form). Next year I may have to try making my own marshmallows. Oh, and yes on that sugar high, in case you were wondering.
There were no major catastrophes, no burns or capsized boats (that's a camping story for another day). We had a pretty good time, and we even sorta got to see a bear (or at least a grumpy teenager).
(Now it's time for a game. It's like Where's Waldo, only you have to find Natalie)
When I saw this photo the first time I was shocked by all of the very big kids in it. I still picture them as hitting me at the shoulder or elbow. So much like the giant sequoia trees that we bent our heads heavenward to see, they are growing and growing and not stopping (why won't they stop?!).
On the nature walk we took among the giant sequoias, the guide held up a small pine cone about the size of a chicken egg. He said it contained even smaller seeds, and each was capable of growing into one of these mighty giants. He said that the forestry service used to try to prevent fires in the forest in attempts to protect the trees, but have learned that the trees need the fire to thrive. He said that each of these trees had been through about 100 fires in their lifetimes. The fire kills disease, encourages new growth, and helps with overcrowding, and for those small pine cones to pop open and germinate.
I guess we are not the only ones who grow from adversity.
And now, Ladies and Gents, the pictures!!!!
Another picture of Natalie, already, you ask? Oh, you just wait.
Because two of my brats refuse to be photographed. I am just making up for it.
Kaylee and Tessaloo, standing on water.
"Seriously, mom, is there any point to this? Don't you realize that in 10 minutes I plan to lick the cold soot off the grill and crawl under the table to suck on rocks?"
The "Booty Rock", as the kids called it.
I'll admit, it did cup one's tushy quite nicely.
Nap time, anywhere!
Is it just me, or are they beauties?
Carnitas!!! (the beginning stage, anyway!)
The only decent picture of Ethan I managed to get (and by decent, I mean his hand is not covering his face).
Jonah-boy was like a lizard on the rocks. A really loud lizard.
Enjoying my kidlets from the comfy booty rock.
Speaking of rocks, I like to take pictures of them.
Hush! You do weird stuff, too.
Top to bottom: Kaylee, Jonah (protesting the picture),Tess, Ellie, and Lauren
Adam spent a lot of time off exploring, but otherwise he could be found by the fire pit. You know; boys, fire, sticks. Enough said.
I wanted to remember this little moment. Ellie had invited me to lay in her nest and visit. We talked about important things, and I am glad she thought to include me. I am also glad that I didn't pass up the moment to go do something "productive" and utterly unimportant by comparison.
At the foot of a giant. The roots of a medium sized Giant Sequoia. Living it was "only" about 200 feet high.
Look what Daddy caught...
too small to keep, too cute to throw back!
Looking at ladybugs.
Never mind that they are different ages, they play together sweetly.
Wayne with Ryan, who kept his mama and papa up a lot the night before.
It didn't bother me, I was probably cleaning up puke.
As illusive as Ethan and Bigfoot... an Owen.
*Squeak!* So dang cute.
If I had to title this picture, I would call it "Cooperation". Jonah had been hiding from me every time he saw the camera. I had a little chat and told him how much I loved his cute face and how sad I was that he wouldn't let me take a picture to remember the fun we were having. This picture was his response.
Forest elves. Make a wish!
On the nature trail.
"I done. I not coming any-moh!" He plopped himself down and was determined to become a permanent part of the forest.
I adore this picture of Guy. And I also adore him most days.
This little girl got in freezing cold water and played away.
Her teeth chattered but she wanted to stay!
Wow. Those eyes.
I took slightly more than 5 billion pictures on this trip, so there were many more that I left out, but I think the one above of Ellie and Jonah is my favorite of all. They made a nest of long pine needles, and they played in it for over an hour together. It was magical. They giggled and rolled and hugged, and stared up into the trees. They whispered quietly to each other and then giggled some more.
This is what childhood should be like. I feel like I allow my children to be robbed when I succumb to their requests for "screen time". Even if they are watching or playing educational programs, they are still letting their imaginations sleep. It is sad. By contrast, the way they played at camp was amazing. The first day they complained and said there was nothing to do. The second day they shifted and began to explore and really play. The third day, they ruled their universe, and on the last morning Tessa announced, crestfallen, "We're going home today? Awwww! It feels like we just got here!"