Wednesday, July 20, 2016

A Box of Memories

Sometime in the 80s, my dad decided to build a box we could use for camping.  A special box with shelves we could store our dishes in and a fold out counter top so we could prep our meals.  It was given the (rather uninspired) name of Camp Kitchen.  

Camping has been a big part of my whole life, (and now our kids' lives) and the Camp Kitchen chronicles much of it.  Throughout the years, we have added stickers from the places we've camped (we haven't always been diligent about it, so there are many, many places not represented), and looking at it is like taking a little journey back in time.  

The Camp Kitchen conjures up many childhood memories. . .

  • Loading it (carefully) into the back of the '78 station wagon in the 80s
  • Hikes in the hot dunes and through cool fall foliage
  • When the tent flew off the top of the station wagon (on the interstate!) on our drive home
  • Singing songs at the campfire with our big group of church friends
as well as many memories made by my husband and me, with our new family. . .

  • Our first camping trip a few weeks after our wedding, using a borrowed tent
  • Our excursions into the mountains of Colorado, complete with snow on top of the tent
  • Our first trips with our kids in our pop-up, cramming two play pens into the open floor space
  • Trips with grandparents and cousins
  • Wild adventures out west, up north, down south and out east, creating priceless family time
The Camp Kitchen hasn't gone on all of these adventures with us, but it has traveled many, many miles with us - even internationally (Canada counts!)

The Camp Kitchen isn't long for this world, I fear, having been repaired and shored up many times along the way.  But it still hangs on, even these 30+ years later.  I bet my dad had no idea when he built it the mileage it would see.  I'm hoping it has a few more years left -- we still have more camping adventures planned!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Family Adventure ala the Great White North!

I have finally clawed my way out from under a mountain of dirty laundry from our vacation and have caught my breath slightly.  We got back from two weeks in Canada, Maine and New Hampshire last week and then I took the three younger kids to a family reunion on Saturday.  My older two kids are in New Orleans at the youth gathering, and I left my middle two boys with my parents for a few days.  So it's just me and my newly-minted 7-year-old girl in the house.  And it is QUIET.  Weirdly, strangely quiet.  Our house is never quiet, unless everyone is asleep or the kids are up to no good.  But today my girl and I got home and she's playing with her new set of miniature horses (whispering her story line), and there is no other sound.  I'm not sure I like it.  I'm looking forward to the time just with her, but I gotta say, I'm kinda missing the hustle and bustle a bit.  I'm sure when everyone gets home I'll be wishing for a little peace.  Always greener on the other side.

Here are a few highlights from our travels:

  • The night before we were leaving, as we were about to go to bed, my husband opened the fridge.  And he found it full of grape lemonade.  The drawers were half full of lemonade, the shelves had standing lemonade. . .it was everywhere.  So, instead of going to bed after a full day of packing, we completely cleaned the refrigerator (and cursed the dog and all of his dog hair which seems to get everywhere).  We quickly ascertained that the spigot on the lemonade dispenser had been left on after someone (we had our guesses) filled his cup.   But, as we assumed, when we questioned the children the next morning, the culprit was the elusive family member NotMe.  

  • Just as we were about to leave Niagra Falls, one of our children (in a tousle with another), whacked his head on the headboard of the hotel bed, cutting it open, complete with blood all over his hair.  Commence quick shower and direct pressure.  He wasn't in much pain and the cut seemed okay.  But all I could think of was Massive Head Wound Harry.  I'm a terrible person.
  • We have many "discussions" about who sits next to whom on our long vacation drives.  After one such heated discussion, one boy proclaimed "I'd rather sit next to Hillary Clinton" (than next to his brother).  1) That was highly undesirable to him , and 2) he's been listening to his brother discuss politics too much.
  • Quebec is awesome.  Everything is in French, and I mean everything.  Every now and then we would find things that might also have English printed underneath, but not often.  None of us speak French, but we managed just fine.  It was like being in Europe, truly it was.  We could have spent much more time there.  We ate well (poutine, crepes, pastries, Tim Horton's, McDonald's (they are waaaaaay better in Canada!) and we saw beautiful scenery and old city streets.  It was amazing.  My youngest daughter kept practicing her "French" by saying over and over and over "Cinco de Mayo!"  We didn't burst her bubble.  But one son had had just about enough of the French culture and was longing for his homeland.  On our last day there, he proclaimed, "I'll be glad to get back into America and be done with all this French monkey business!"
can you guess which store this sign is in?
  • Wildlife seen:  Loon (rare sighting and he played hide and seek with us while we were in a canoe), eagle, foxes. . .but no moose.  We looked the whole vacay, but never found one.
  • Each major adventure seems to create its own soundtrack, and this year was no different.  But I'm sorry to report that the soundtrack for this vacation was. . .T Swizzle!  Yep, a few of the kids are obsessed with her, and we heard Taylor Swift songs over and over.  I'm pretty sure she is never, ever, ever, getting back together with her boyfriend.  Good to know.
  • In Acadia, we spent $7 and got two crabbing nets for the boys and they spent many an hour on the dock catching and releasing scores of crabs.  Seriously, the best $7 ever spent!  When we left, the boys passed our nets onto another family to keep the fun going.
  • Camping isn't quite what it used to be in our family, and multiple electronic devices traveled with us.  Every night, this was the sight on the camper floor:

  • We ate lobster (rather, I tried it once and never again).  My husband and some of the kids loved it, but the whole process was disgusting to me.  I couldn't even watch him embracing his inner caveman as he pulled the thing apart.  I'll stick to meat that keeps some of the mystery alive by not looking like it did in the wild, thank you very much.  
  • We ended the trip with some major outlet shopping (no tax in New Hampshire = one happy mamma!), and three feverish children.  We all powered through, however, and made it home in my aforementioned 19 hour driving day.  Another family adventure in the books! 

Thursday, July 14, 2016

True Love

Yesterday, my husband and I celebrated our 20th anniversary.  We were just finishing up a two week camping trip in Canada, Maine and New Hampshire (I'll blog more about our trip when I resurface from under the laundry pile), and decided to push the whole way home in one day.

And so our special way of celebrating our 20 years of wedded bliss was driving 929 miles with all our kids and the camper in tow.  All told, it took 19 hours, due to general stops for eating and potty, aaaand a blown tire on the pop-up.

The tire blew on interstate 90 just outside of Buffalo, New York.  It was about 4:00 in the blazing 93 degree sun as my eyes moved between the roaring traffic, the suburban full of our children, and my husband efficiently changing the tire.  As I watched, I prayed continually.  I prayed that the drivers flying by would be cautious, that our children would be calm, safe and cool enough, and that my husband would be able to change the tire without incident.  And I also gave thanks that the tire was on the passenger side and my husband wasn't right next to the 70+ mph traffic.  I thanked God for a hundred things - no rain, no darkness, no freezing temperatures, no desolate road with no cell signal.  And I also gave thanks, repeatedly, for my husband's calm, capable, can-do attitude.

At 4:00 20 years prior, my husband and I had been standing in the cool church, dressed in our finest, exchanging our vows.  We stood there, at ages 23 and 24, pledging our lives to one another. . .for better or worse, in sickness and in health, till death parts us.

And we had no real idea what the heck we were saying.  Sure, our intentions were good, our love was real and solid, but no one has any idea exactly what life will bring.  As I stood on the side of the road, watching him take care of what I most certainly would not have been able to do, I was reminded just what marriage is about.  It is these things, these shared moments, this journey together.  A quote from a favorite movie of mine, Yours, Mine and Ours (1968 version) suddenly came to mind.  In the movie, a man and a woman marry (he with 10 kids and she with 8), and in this scene, the wife is about to give birth to their first child together, while the wife's eldest daughter is pleading for advice about "proving" her love to her boyfriend.  Her new stepfather gives her this advice:

 I've got a message for Larry. You tell him this is what it's all about. This is the real happening. If you want to know what love really is, take a look around you(...)
It's giving life that counts. Until you're ready for it, all the rest is just a big fraud. All the crazy haircuts in the world won't keep it turning. Life isn't a love in, it's the dishes and the orthodontist and the shoe repairman and... ground round instead of roast beef. And I'll tell you something else: it isn't going to a bed with a man that proves you're in love with him; it's getting up in the morning and facing the drab, miserable, wonderful everyday world with him that counts.

I stood there, watching my husband take care of what needed to be done, and I was struck with the gloriousness of our shared life together.  While we weren't filled with the same kind of angst as the teenage daughter, the father's words apply to us, and all married couples as well.  Love is a choice.  A choosing to get up together each day and face life -- the good, the hard, the beautiful, the exhausting, the journey together.

And it's amazing.  God's blessings in marriage are countless. With each passing year, my husband and I are more intertwined as we share our lives with each other.   That's true love.