Saturday, May 31, 2008

Camping with the Kiddos Part 2

Warning: Very long and contains some content that involves gross amounts of bodily fluids.

So yes, Saturday morning we awoke around 5:45am. The kids were excited to be in the tent and out in the woods and after 20 minutes of attempting to keep them inside and quiet, I finally gave up on one effort and let them out. Quiet was a requirement of the camp until 8am- practically torture for our family, but we managed as well as we could. Due to our hasty set up the night before we had not really prepared a spot to cook so after looking around and taking in the scene I decided on a good spot- right behind the van. Our tent was completely surrounded on all sides. On the river side we had a tent about 3 feet in front of us. On the back and tent about 1 foot away, to the left was a pop up camper about 5 feet away with a very loud sleeper in the bunk and to the right was one other tent about 8 feet away. So it didn’t really work to cook near our “spot”. Behind the van worked for that morning because it was away from all the sleeping people, it was quiet and there was a good deal of grass to lay out a kitchen of sorts and prepare things in a way that the kids could assist a little with.

Breakfast was bacon, eggs, and cormeal and the kids had a grand time eating out of their own little mess kits. I spent a while trying to cook over a stove without sufficient fuel in the little tank and finally gave in and turned everything off and refilled it. Once I did that things went wonderfully quick and I was able to enjoy a hot breakfast of scrambled eggs, crispy bacon, cornmeal and a nice cup of hot coffee. Then the boys pulled out their bikes and trikes and rode around while Rachel and I washed up the dishes. She thought that was great fun because she had her own little dish pan and scrubber and did a marveous job of rinsing and drying. By the time the whole process was over it was after 9am and everyone- or most everyone was awake.

We spent most of Saturday around the camp. The boys and Rachel biked around, canoed a bit with the Reeds on the river right next to the campground, played at the playground- a marvelous spot complete with a sandbox- and generally got aquainted with our surroundings. There was also a little kid’s clothing consignment shop in the office of the campground and Ellen and I poked around in there a bit while Dan watched the kids. None drowned.

One of the more interesting events of the day was Jeff and his efforts to get comfortable with the bathroom facilities. We went early in the day to the communal bath house into the ladies room, but he was frightened by the fact that the lighting wasn’t working properly and to make matters worse, as soon as he sat down, someone in the stall next to us flushed the commode and he really freaked out. So that wound that bathroom trip up and there was nothing I could do to get him to go at that point. Later in the morning I found that when he couldn’t hold it any longer, he left it as a gift in front of our tent. Not one, but four locations for me to “take care of”, so I did. I’ll leave the details to your imagination, but it was gross and I took care of it as cleanly as possible including removing all the grass in said locations.

I later saw him fertilizing a tree, much to my horror, right next to the area where everyone gathered for the main meals and thus where the majority of the people were. Fortunately most people thought it was funny and natural and gave a good laugh or just ignored him. The last episode of this nature came late in the day (In my defense, we did regularly attempt to get more aquainted with the proper bathroom facilities during the day.) when Jonathon came up to me with a really excited, “Mama! I think there are some deer around because I think I found some deer poop!” I went with him to the van and there next to the back right wheel was his scientific proof of deer in our camp. I disappointed him by explaining that it wasn’t deer, it was just Jeff and thankfully that was the last of that. Ahh…camping brings out the best in some people.

James seemed to entertain a number of adults around the campfire with stories, shocking comments, intense expressions, and jokes that only James can come up with.

Rachel was happy just sort of flitting around like a butterfly from one thing to another just taking it all in.

Jonathon had a great time riding his bike like the “big kids” and doing manly things like hunting snails and worms and poking the fire.

Jeff…well we know what he was doing. But aside from that he had a good time too.

We had a group dinner of taco salad- all 80 something of us. Since I was a last minute person I didn’t have an assigned dish to bring so I brought homemade guacamole and much to my delight I had the only offering of the dish. Thanks to Franks help the recipe was a smashing success and I had people come up and rave about it later. It’s been a fun thing lately to make, partly because I discovered this past year sometime that I actually like the stuff when I make it instead of buy it and it’s one of the things that is ok on the wacky diet we’ve been on lately. (We won’t go into that right now.) Anyway, it was a hit and I was glad. I always hate being the one that comes to a covered dish dinner or a potluck and has nothing to contribute, so I was relieved to find I was contributing successfully.

After dinner was over I pretty much just made the kids go up to the bath house and clean up and put jammies on and go to the tent. They were so exhasusted from the late night before and the rising early that morning that by the time 8pm rolled around they were very happy to go to bed. It was also chilly that night (got into the mid 30’s) and so they were happy to climb into their sleeping bags and snuggle deep. We read a couple of books- Andy and the Lion, and Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride and then off to dream land they went.

In fact, they went so deep to dream land they did all sorts of crazy things in the night. First, I snuck out to go take a shower around 10pm and while I was gone one of them- I’m pretty sure it was Jeff- got up to go to the bathroom, only he couldn’t find it in the tent (obviously) so he just stood in the middle and let loose all over the top of his sleeping bag and pillow, Jonathon’s bag and pillow (with Jonathon on it), and the edge of my sleeping bag. Then he got back into his bag and was fast asleep when I returned to find the mess. I cleaned up as best I could with some extra towels and then turned in for the night. I slept for a while before James awoke me that he had wet his bed. My first thought was, “I can’t change the sheets!” Thankfully, more towels helped with that situation and as it was more his clothes than anything, those were easily changed. Then, without going into much detail, only to say it involved child no.1, an empty bottle, poor aim, and results of a Mama’s wet sleeve, I had accident no.3 on my hands. After that was cleaned up, the restof the night was quite peaceful and the kids actually slept until after 7:30am, with James sleeping until 9am. In the morning, Jeff had wet his bag again and everything came out of the tent to air out and get some good sunshine. It stayed out all day and by the end of the day I really couldn’t smell any sketchiness when I put the bags back in the tent (thankfully).

Sunday we had a better meal operation and had rearranged the vehicles so that my van was backed up to a picnic table near the fire and another picnic table was next to it, so the Reeds and I sort of ate together. I’m not sure how it was for them, but it was a great help to me. For one, Dan washed the dishes for the rest of the trip and I had help with the kids. I know I had a few things, like spoons, that their family forgot, but I think I got the better end of the deal in the end.

Sunday morning we had oatmeal for breakfast and consumed every last bite. Then after breakfast we had a church service, which I spent mostly finding kids and taking Jeff to the bathroom. But what little I did catch was good. There were a number of topics covered after testimonies from various people, but the main point I came away with was how God uses our weaknesses instead of our strengths many times to accomplish his purposes. We had a little time of prayer and were encouraged when after praying for a family’s dog to be found, she was located about 2 miles away.

After the service, our family and the Reeds prepared for a canoe venture down the river and so Ellen and I packed lunch and got stuff ready while Dan figured out where we were going and how far to go. We went about 20 miles north and canoed for about 5 miles what was supposedly water with a bit more current than what was next to the camp, but the water level was different than normal and thus it was actually pretty flat as well. That being said, we had a good time- well, I had a great time because Ellen and I ended up in a canoe all to ourselves and talked all the world’s problems away while the kids floated down stream. No one went overboard and Jonathon, though he tried to tip Philip and Jayne over (accidentally), managed to just add water to the boat and leave them upright and a little wet.

When we got out of the river, Jayne and Dan decided to attempt canoeing all the way back to the campground, so Ellen and I drove the vans back with the kids and the trailer of canoes. All was well until we decided to stop for ice cream and found ourselves attempting to back up and turn that canoe trailer around. After several tries we finally did it, though not especially gracefully and ice cream was enjoyed by all. James and Jeff wore most of theirs on their face, but they looked happy nonetheless.

So back at camp we had hotdogs for dinner and then the kids ran around and played late into the evening. I had a great time sitting around the fire chatting with a lady named Maureen about healthy eating, exercise, and how it all fits in with the spiritual aspects of Jesus wanting first place in our lives. She was quite an inspiration- a testimony of loosing quite a bit of weight, and encouragement- of some Bible studies that might be helpful, and generally a friendly conversationist. What an encouragement towards self control, allowing Jesus to work, and renewed enthusiasm for working on weight loss.

While I talked to her, James had a chat with a man named Eric sitting next to me. His conversation was about blood, but I’m sorry to tell you there was nothing spiritual about it. James had his flashlight and was fascinated by the fact that his fingers glowed red when he placed the light under them. Eric explained that what he was seeing was the blood in his fingers and that was just too good to be true for James.
So from there, James had to see how many other things he could see blood in and after examining his own (boring) body parts, he subjected Eric to the same experiment.
“Does your hand have blood in it?” and then would try it, with Eric’s consent and enthusiasm all the way. He proceeded to fingers, ear lobes, nose, chin, and then got a naughty curious look in his eye and said, “Hey! Does your belly have blood in it?”
To which Eric replied, “Well, let’s see.” And without missing a beat he whipped up his shirt for James to poke his flashlight on his tummy to see if it glowed red. Sure enough it did and Eric’s wife, sitting next to him was heard to say, “No way is he checking my tummy for blood!” So James stole the show, for by this time many of the people around were listening in on this little dialogue between the adult and 5 year old about blood.

Jonathon at this point was running around having the time of his life playing flashlight tag with the teenagers and his brand new headlight he got for his birthday. Rachel and Jeff just remained content to sit in my lamp and stare at the fire.

They went to bed after a long evening sometime after 10pm and slept until after 8am the next morning. It was glorious. The temps that night were around mid 40’s so it was perfect sleeping weather again, no rain and no nasty bed wetting scenes. Monday we lazed around, packed up and ate lunch and then headed home without much excitement other than getting in some last minute visiting with new friends and feeling success over the fact that Jeff was happy to get to the bathroom before going by the end of the weekend.

Oh we had such a grand time. We tented, we told stories, we canoed, we roasted marshmellows, we cooked we played hard, we built fires and burnt long sticks and fat logs, and sat around and laughed and smelled like smoke and listened to crickets…and snoring (hehe) and played with flashlights and saw stars and snuggled and smiled a lot. It was a grand time and even though we had some crazy moments, overall it was a WONDEFUL weekend and I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat.

It did of course take me all week at home to recover, but it was worth it! Camping is glorious fun and you should all go out right away and try it. Of course the trick is to decide your going to like it, enjoy it, and have fun no matter what comes your way, then it’s trully grand. But then isn’t much of life like that?

Friday, May 30, 2008

Camping with the Kiddos Part 1

To begin my life at the beginning of my life, I was born…crazy. Then I had parents that were crazy, too. That explains a lot of things. So when you read some of this and ask, “WHY????” I will refer you to the first line of this post.

*Ahem*…So, I heard about this shindig that the Reeds had been invited to a few weeks ago. I had very little interest in going, partly because I didn’t think they were going and partly because I was high on trying to figure out a backpacking trip to the Catskills for our family and I didn’t want to “waste” the one trip Brandon would take on a “mere” car camping trip. (I will pause here to explain that “car” camping just refers to the idea that you take all of your gear in your car directly to the site you are to camp at and stay there. It involves no hiking, backpacking or canoeing, etc. to get to your camping location. Some of our dear friends refer to this activity with scorn in their voices and call it “cramping”.) Later I found out that the Reeds were in fact going and that it sounded like it could be a lot of fun. First of all, a couple that they know were throwing this camping get together and had just invited a bunch of people they knew, so it wasn’t as though the Reeds knew everyone, but there were about 80 people planning to attend.

I think suddenly this was exciting to me because it was a chance to get to know some new people and step outside of Fairwood life for a bit. Now, I love Fairwood and love being here, but I do wish sometimes that I got out a bit more than I do. So this was my chance and being the plan ahead, organized person that I am, I decided Friday at lunch time that I would go camping for the weekend and needed to be ready to leave by 4pm. Well, I didn’t quite make it and the good news was that the Reeds weren’t ready then either so, I had some wiggle room. As far as Brandon staying, he had just traveled the weekend before, doesn’t really relax by camping with little children, and absoutely doesn’t relax by meeting new people and being in an extremely social environment for 72 hours straight. So he stayed at home with Joseph and I was more than happy to go it alone with the 4 older kids. They were so excited and I knew that if I could just get there, I would have plently of wonderful people around to help me and make the weekend pleasant for all of us.

So, I packed and planned while the kids watched a movie…or two and was ready to go when the Reeds wanted to leave. We stoped at the grocery store for a few last minute items (the dinners were a combined effort for the entire group and we needed to contribute some things) and then we were off by 7:30. We arrived in Orford, NH, aside the Conn. River around 9:30pm. Just in time to pitch our tent, say hello in the dark and head to bed. The kids immediately had to go to the bathroom and I made the first mistake of the weekend and let them go on the far side of the van because they couldn’t hold it long enough to make it to the bath house. This was a bad habit to begin for the weekend I later discovered.

Our family had one tent for the five of us and we all had plenty of sleeping space. That tent has been through some great times in our family starting with our honeymoon which was a camping trip. Anyway, the three boys had one end and Rachel and I took the other end with a little walking space in between. We all had Therm-a-Rests to sleep on, so it was as comfortable as it could get for camping. The temperature than night was in the mid 40’s and that made it perfect for sleeping. A good snuggling down temp, not to cold to stay awake, but not so hot that you don’t want to be in your sleeping bag. The kids slept like rocks and I stayed awake most of the night. (The first half I was praying because Jeff and Fritha were at the hospital with Fritha in labor expecting my new little niece, Dani. The second half I couldn’t sleep because Jeff called, said she had been born and I was too excited to sleep after that.)

The children rose at 5:45am and were actually not the first ones up! But they were raring to go, so go we did.

To be continued…

Now I’m going to sleep in hopes that I can finish this saga tomorrow.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Quick! Quick! Before it gets Away!

Ok, here's the scoop. I took the kids camping last weekend. That would be me (Mary) took Jonathon, James, Jeff, and Rachel camping for three nights while Brandon stayed home with baby Joseph. We actually chose these particular roles, no one forced us. I WANTED to go and he WANTED to stay, so it worked out, but it does seem like a bit of a role reversal. Anyway, we went with the Reed family up to the little town of Orford, NH. It's on the Conn. River and is around 2 1/2 hours away. The Reeds were going because some friends of theirs were having a big camp thing (83 people) and we just sort of tagged along (with permission). Anyway, there are loads of stories from the trip and I hope to share some before I forget them all, but alas, I can't right now because I should be in bed sleeping. Sigh...maybe tomorrow. Great time was had by all though.

Oh, and lest I not remember in time, tomorrow, May 30th is my brother -in-law's birthday, so HAPPY BIRTHDAY BRYAN! and more importantly (if I may be so bold), it is my daughter, Rachel's birthday!

Rachel is 3!!!! HAPPY BIRTHDAY RACHEL! I love you. Even when you decide to pour an entire quart of maple syrup all over you and your room and the track it through the house and get your brothers to help like you did today, I still will say...I LOVE YOU!

Ok, Happy Friday to all.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Happy Birthday Jonathon

It's hard to believe that I have a 7 year old, but yes. It has happened. Jonathon turned 7 today and I found myseld recounting the memories of his time as a baby amidst the groanings and laughings of the other children.

Some of the memories were:

When he had his first bath, he looked more like an alien than a person, cone head, long fingers and toes, skinny body, bug eyes...humorous.

When he was an infant he was so small that we bathed him in the bathroom sink! He was the smallest of all- at 6lbs. 12 oz.

He was my longest labor- 29 1/2 hours and that started with a 3 hour shopping trip at Sears.

When he was sad I could lay him on the bed and just turn on the vacuum cleaner to keep him quiet.

He also loved listening to the Messiah.

He is my most inquisitive, yet most tempered like me.

I love him very much! Happy Birthday to a wonderful son.

And on a different note...did you know that James can carry rocks that weigh 5 lbs. in his pocket? Just one 5 pounder. There were other things in his other pocket. It does make him have to hold his pants up when he runs or jumps on the trampoline though. It was a special "sparkly" rock though that was precious enough to become part of the "junk drawer" in his bedroom. (I can't wait for the day we clean that out!)

Saturday, May 03, 2008

By Popular Demand

Ok, so for all of you who have been waiting patiently (some not so patiently) for pics of the house in a more finished state, here they are in all their glory. I will give a disclaimer that yes, there is "stuff" around, I did not clean up the house for these shots and the bedroom shots were taken after dark, with the children sleeping (or not) in their beds, so they aren't the best, but they'll have to do or you'll never get any. Also, the other disclaimer is that while it looks much better, we still have a LONG ways to go to finish the bits and pieces, but I won't bore you with the details. I'm so thankful for how much has gone on and how gorgeous it has turned out. Many thanks to Joe and Alouette for slaving away here!
With out more yapping:

The Master Bedroom

The Master Bathroom

The Hall Bathroom

The Upstairs Hall

Rachel's Room (with Rachel asleep)

Jeff and Joseph's room (with Jeff not asleep)

Jonathon and James' room (with both of them asleep...and buried in covers)

The Living Room (painted this past week)

note the new bow window!

The Kitchen

complete with cabinet doors and stuff behind them!

The Dining Room

recently painted, and still in progress also

Other areas not yet disclosed due to work still going on: school room, laundry, half bathroom, garage, basement, my heart...ok you get the idea. Here they are and hope you enjoyed it. Now I'm off to plan Sunday School.