Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Some rambling about camping

Camping 2015 trip #2 is in the books now.  Thankfully.  Egads but there's been a lot of rain.  Harrumph but I sound grumpy about it.  Oh my but our shoes are muddy because my brother made reservations 6 months ago (otherwise known as the-very-first-day-he-could-because-you-can-only-make-reservations-6-months-in-advance), which was the day after Christmas, and by George we were going hiking no matter what.  Kudos to him 'cause I wasn't going to be that dedicated, I don't think.  This trip was to a family-favorite (and state-wide favorite judging by the way reservations fill up) state park, which has some of the best hiking trails I've seen in this state.  And irony of ironies.  Somewhere around 90% of them were closed this past weekend when we were there because of the tremendous flooding that has ensued from the tremendous rainfall this month.  It was tremendously disappointing for several members of our camping expedition. 

Personally, I just wanted a good campfire and a general lack of bugs.  And cooler but not too cool weather with a lower humidity.  Simple needs for a simple person.  I'm also one who could spend an afternoon doing not much more than watching the birds and animals in the wildlife observation room at the nature center of a state park.  The sheer amount of birds and chipmunks and (if we're really lucky) a snake or turtle just give me happy feelings. 

I actually missed the majority of the first slip-n-slide adventure (e.g. hike) because the Younger was fading rapidly after lunch and she was in need of some serious downtime.  So I ended up spooning with her on an air mattress while she sweated on my arm (a little heat source, she is) while I awkwardly tried to fill in some of my crossword puzzles that I had gotten behind while away the week before.  But the temperature was just about perfect, there were no bugs being all buggity, and who doesn't enjoy some rest time? 

But then the phone tag started in a place where you take one step to the right or the left and you lose service.  After the Younger woke up, we set out to catch up to the group, which fruitless.  But we ended up "hiking" the beginnings of a couple of different trails, much of it me walking at a snail's pace while the Younger trudged at a glacier's pace behind me moaning about having to walk.  I don't know where she's coming from, but she's not been all about the walking to anywhere on her own pins of late.  Then I gave her a stick, and she was all "Well, this is better.  Carry on."  And after an hour, we gave up trying to play seek & find with the family group and did whatever it was that we really wanted to do.  Which was sit in the observation room at the nature center.  So we did.

The Younger latched onto a bird identification book and told us a story.  Tell me what is better than sitting in a comfortable room, watching animals do their thing, while a 3-year old weaves a fantastic tale about animals using only her imagination and a bird guide to do so?  Not a thing.  At least at that moment, it was just right.  And she sure didn't care if there were other people around as well.  No, she did not.

And later that night, there was a delightful campfire (which was sadly missing in our first camping trip this year, though I seem to be the only one who noticeably minded that) and I didn't have to babysit the kids at bedtime, which is all it really is when you're trying to coax the Younger to lay down on your bed! and stop talking to your sister! and no, I am not going to tuck you back in! and stop kicking the tent! and great, you saw a shadow...now find your side of the tent and stay over there already!  She's a bit of a wanderer for an hour or so.  Or two on those special nights (like when you're camping). 

And as this summer is trip-heavy, I'm only planning for one jaunt at a time.  So this means that I'm gearing up for the adventure we're taking with the girls, whereupon the first two nights, we're going to be in the middle of Nowhereville, staying in a cabin-y area that has a mini fridge and a coffee maker but no other means of preparing meals for the first two days.  And I'm already feeling a bit befuddled by this because we are a family that does like to eat and we'll have limited space to take my pantry with me.

And while I'm mentioning befuddlement, I'll end with a favorite sign we saw when hiking in California (which, by the way...a comparative tale of two hiking adventures).  It said simply this: Don't pick up the seals.  I somewhat regret not taking a picture of that because, naturally, one might be compelled to do so.      

Friday, June 26, 2015

Of sun and sand and a pod of dolphins

We've been back from the anniversary trip for 2 nights now, and right this very second, we're supposed to driving to a weekend camp site for some time spent with my family, but forecasted storms are here, and we've put a hold on those plans.  It would have been our third trip in three weekends, which is what I'm quickly learning should be called "a wee bit too much." 

Off-topic, but chuckle worthy: The Younger just skip-ran into my room where I'm typing here, all sweaty from her nap, snuggled her head on my lap, and said "You're my little jim-jams."  Then, she walked out.

But you know, that's not necessarily so much off-topic.  Because we're still riding the oh-yay-oh-yay-Mom-and-Dad-are-home-again high with the girls, especially the Younger, who is (is it possible?) even more snuggle-cuddly.  After we got home from the trip, we slept a few winks and then drove to my parents' to pick the sweet ones up.  We noodled around there for about 3 or 4 hours before loading their gear in the car and trekking home again.  In that amount of time, I'm not sure that the Younger was farther away than arm's reach from me.  And after being away from them for seven sleeps, that little bundle of delicious was just what my heart needed.

I think that they were even more excited to see us than the big heart-shaped, chocolate dipped cookie that we brought them.  Not by much, but by some...

I got my loads of worrying out of the way prior to the trip, and just like when I drop them off at a sitter's house - out of sight, mostly out of mind.  We had daily chats on the phone, heard about many of their adventures, and were able to enjoy our rest time away from each other, knowing that they were being loved on.  And that's pretty great.

I also think that the sweeping vistas, general lack of humidity, and lux, not-the-Midwest, accommodations were pretty great, too.     

On our tenth anniversary, we slept for about 2 hours, hopped a couple of flights, and landed here.  Then, we ate fabulous seafood and asked someone to snap a quick picture of the happy couple, a decade later.  I was pretty much just as happy right here.  Who needs a wedding dress?  Just throw some crab cakes and astoundishing sun my way, and I'm good.

 We pseudo-swam with dolphins a few times.  (I pseudo-pretended to enjoy the swelling ocean waves.)  And, while I don't have photo evidence, the trip ended with a close-up of a baby humpback whale, flashing his adorable little (actually, huge) tail fin.

Having someone take your picture for you is something of a potluck affair as you're never sure how the shot is going to end up.  Here we are, standing in front of...

 ...this.  We were actually hoping that Big Sur would be a little more visible behind us.  Ah, well.

And just because I do love some ocean views, I'll include this one as well.  And now I'm at a loss as what else to say because....gah.  Ocean and the land of my kind of people.  

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The one about the pig-ckle

I spent some time this afternoon finding some jokes for the girls, and I came across this gem, which immediately had me laughing but I bypassed as point of reference: it is a'lackin' for the girls.  (I'm aware of how weirdly that sentence was punctuated.  That seems to be the best solution right now.  Keep reading, grammar fiend.)

Q:  What is large and green and pecks a tree?
A:  Woody the Wood Pickle

I hope your day is just a bit better for that.  I know that mine surely is.

I don't know how to transition here, so I'm going to do this:  TRANSITION.  (How many times will I try to use colons in this post?  Once?  Twice?  Too many...?)

We generally enjoyed camping trip 2015.1 this past weekend with The Hive.  And despite the cumulative hours it took to persuade the Younger to sleep for the love of marshmallows roasted over an open fire, the trip was a success.  We enjoyed two thunder boomers that swept in and out as if on a mission of spreading love and wetness across the campground, and I'm not joking there.  We really and truly enjoyed the rain both times.  During the first storm, it hit right at bedtime, and there's not much better than snuggling with your loves in a brand spankin' new tent, reading the minutes away while listening to the rain beating down and knowing that you are safe and you are dry and you are on high ground.  (And, you feel grateful that you got your rain fly on just a few minutes before the rain started, unlike the neighboring campers, who had left theirs off.)  And then, when the second round came through the next night, we were prepared with games and spent a thoroughly enjoyable hour or so under a shelter with family.  The littles were holding court with their grandparents and aunt.  The boy and I got through most of a game of Euchre with our brother(in-law) and sister-in-law, laughing and acting like adults with nary a care in the world.  And, another brother-in-law was roaming the perimeter, bouncing our three-month old nephew and filtering in and out of multiple, simultaneous conversations.  This was undoubtedly a highlight of the weekend for many of us.  Take that rain!  We accept your limitations and one-up you with good times!

And that little three-month old nephew...let's focus on him for a while.  Way back when (all of three years ago), we deferred from the annual camping trip because we were the family with a newborn and didn't feel that we were up to that particular roller coaster ride at that particular time.  But our sister(in-law) and brother-in-law handled the weekend like a champ with the little dude.  Granted, the little man was a champ in his own right as well.  He is a laid back little mister who likes to sleep and likes to eat.  There's not much that's better for first-time parents than that.

And our girls are enamored for their youngest cousin.  They are big fans of touching him, pulling on his feet, holding his hands, and petting his head.  I dig that.  Those are some of the best parts about enjoying a little babes.  Little kids have it figured out.  And this little guy is a solid little man-child, which has led the Elder to nickname him "Chubby Man Pig" because (in her words) "He's chubby, he's a little man, and he snorts like a pig."  And where the Elder wanders, so goes the Younger.  So the nickname has stuck, and this past weekend was, in some respects, the weekend of the Chubby Man Pig.   

See what I did here?  I started with a pickle and ended with a pig.  This is truly the one about the pig-ckle.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The Hive's maiden voyage

It's the month of CRAZY, which means that the well intentioned plans of allowing me to get some office hours (and eat my cake, too) have already well fallen by the wayside.

In preparation for a summer of camping plans, the girls are (right this very moment!) scootched into their respective sleeping bags on their respective air mattresses in their respective corners of a monstrously huge tent that I snagged off of Amazon last November.

Let's detour for a full on minute as I talk about the saga of the tent, 2014.  Last summer for our camping, we utilized the two-tent model as our girls are not big fans of sleeping within sight and sound of each other.  By that I mean that NO ONE sleeps when they're within sight and sound of each other.  And, personally, after a long day of hiking and camping whatnot, I don't have much patience for childish shennanigans of "I can see her!" and "I can hear her!" and "He's breathing too close to my ear!"

That last one is actually my own grievance and why I very earnestly wish to join the 25% minority of American couples who do quite well, thankyouverymuch, sleeping in separate bedrooms.

I digress.  As always.  Late last summer, we started THE SEARCH for a new tent that would be large enough with a room divider to house two girl childs who while they could still hear each other could not actually see each other.  I found one, on clearance nonetheless.  After struggling with it and two children through the store and while trying to pack a regular shopping trip's worth of groceries around it, then working on my best imitation of a pack mule lugging that heavy thing out of the store while balancing the Younger on her perch on the cart, I realized that it really didn't fit in my car.  But I massaged it into place full on between two car seats and well into my driving space since I thought surely, oh surely, this will fit in the car that we take when we go camping.  Oh my no, it did not.  Technically, it fit but it by no means fit in such a way that would allow us to also take something like a cooler.

When you can't fit the tent in the SUV, the tent must be returned.  And in so doing, I spent the extra $20 and got the one that was all well and fine.  We weren't convinced that it would have the space requirements that we thought would work best, but it was still a whole lotta better than our small 4-person dome tent, which was never what we would qualify as spacious.  Not that a tent should be spacious, exactly.  But it's not a long-term tent for our family.  And life went on.

But then I happened upon the queen bee of Coleman tents.  In fact, I might just start calling this The Hive as it really can fit a swarm of us all in there at the same time.  I heard through the grapevine that my sister-in-law thinks we could all of us hang out in our tent with room to spare should rain find us when we take a family camping trip this summer.  A bit of a stretch...BUT NOT MUCH.

This tent, my friends, could almost be permanently attached as a one-season room (of sorts) to our back patio door and thereby nearly double the square footage of our house.  It might incite a curious bit of interest on our house when we come to sell it.  It has THREE rooms, all of which are bigger than our original dome tent. 

(I have since realized that this is not really a detour in the post but the gist of the post.)

Well, The Hive is standing all proud and tall in our backyard right now with what sounds like two sleeping girls in it.  Sounds like sleeping girls?  Sounds like nothing...which sounds like wonderful!

(The boy centered the role of patrolling the bedtime festivities firmly on his shoulders, but at one point, n-i-n-e-t-y minutes into the "fun" and "good times," stomped into the house with a brusque "Nearly drives a man to drink..."  But that triggered some thought about some delicious ginger beer that I got him once, and I knew then that he wasn't heading for the liquor store so much as taking a moment to collect himself.)

The Younger was all about doing anything but sleeping until it got dark enough to help her realize that NO, this isn't hands-on play time and YES, you should be calm and quiet and NO, you shouldn't continue to unzip the door and YES, we are serious when suggest that you zip the trap and shut those peepers!  Forty-five minutes in, she wanted to touch the grass ("It's soft!").  Fifty minutes in, I heard giggling together because the Elder was supposedly rubbing the Younger's feet.  There was quite a lot of tattling about "She's out of bed again!" even though in so doing, the Elder was (wait for it) likewise out of bed again. 

But the boy was determined, and give in he did not.  And, as I began to type these thoughts out, I realize that for our upcoming camping trips, WE NEED TO BRING LOTS OF GINGER BEER.  Or something.


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Office hours

Today has already included a trip to a new park, 48 oz. of coffee, a new cupcake shop, lunch in the car, no afternoon napping (not without my encouragement), and about an hour's worth of work accomplished.  This has taken us to afternoon snack time.  I feel that any one of those parts is often a solid effort at the day.  (Oh, but that is not my style.  Oh, but I would love to find and then commit to the right full-time gig.)  The Elder is done with school for the summer season but the boy isn't yet, so my normal distractions are quickly increasing by the fistful.   

And thanks be for 20 oz. of decaf in the middle of everything, else my fingers would not be a'workin' for the shakin'. 

So this all leads me to a new thing that I want to try out this summer: office hours.  I fight the distractions when trying to get my work done here at home, and it's a frustration that I haven't overcome yet.  Even when the boy is around full-time, it's not much better.  I can shut myself into my bedroom, but there's still always someone knocking or shouting or crying or laughing hysterically.  With my house's petite size, you can just hear everything (great when you have to brush your teeth, terrible when you JUST WANT SOME SPACE SO PLEASE DON'T BREATH SO LOUDLY).  Plus, my space is also the boy's space, so I can't very well wholly shut him out of the room.  Of course that doesn't stop me from trying. 

So I've laid out some plans with the boy where I find some office space somewhere and gravitate there regularly M-F.  It will just be established that I am not available from 10-noon or 8-10 or even 3-5 every weekday.  I have a fairly consistent amount of work to do, and while it's getting done, I don't love my scatter brainedness with it.  I'm looking for direction and focus, so we'll give it a try at least for a week or two.  The main hope here is that I'll also start some new projects rolling or explore some new avenues that have been bouncing around in my mind for a while.

 Props to the boy, who I know can hold down the fort like a champ.  (Granted, we're a pretty weak castle to defend...more of a bygone relic, really.)  I say "I need to be gone every morning for a couple of hours."  He says "Okay.  What are you going to do?"  That's a golden response right there.