Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day Camping

I had a meeting before church on Sunday (ward council—it was my first time going and it was kind of amazing) which meant, because we only have one car, that I got a ride and left Andrew behind to get all three kids ready (and then to) for church by himself.

When I walked into the chapel I saw my sweet little girls in their Sunday best. Miriam's skirt was on backwards and their hair was thrown into classic "Daddy" ponytails, but other than that they looked spectacular.

"Dad took Benjamin out," Rachel informed me when I sat down. "He's throwing a fit. Daddy told him you'd be here waiting and you weren't and then Benjamin started screaming 'AAAH! MAMA! AAAH! MAMA! AAAH! MAMA!' and wouldn't stop. He was being so bad. He was kicking his legs and..."

"Alright, I'll go find them," I said.

After doing a quick lap around the building and coming up with nothing I eventually did find them—sitting with the girls in the chapel. Benjamin was no longer screaming, but he certainly wasn't calm either. When he saw me he took a shuddering breath, lunged into my arms, and nestled his face into my neck.

When he was quite comforted I took a good look at his outfit. To Andrew's credit Benjamin had on Sunday shoes and a tie. He also had on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle socks, pants with holes in both knees, and a wrinkled red plaid shirt.

"He wanted to wear it," Andrew shrugged.

Pick your battles, folks.

Rachel had a hard day at church. Her class was fabulous when we moved in. There was a whole herd of girls her age—so many that we actually felt sorry for Callin when he moved in because he was the only boy who came every week. Then summer happened and everybody moved and it was hard but we still had Eliza! That's what kept Rachel going strong through all her friends moving away last year.

Well, Eliza is moving this year. And her family went on vacation this weekend so she wasn't at church.

Suddenly it hit Rachel that this was how it was going to be: her and a couple of (lousy) boys. She ran to me in tears and I took her into the hallway to talk until she snorted and blew snot all over the place. Then we moved our conversation into the bathroom. The poor thing is completely brokenhearted.

We're working on it.

I totally get where she's coming from. For years I was the only child in my age group. For most of the time I lived in PoCo I went to class with the older class. Sometimes Damon would come, but not always (besides which he was a (lousy) boy). For a while I had Lia and Hona in my class (yes, together that makes Liahona), twins from Taiwan, I think, but they weren't there for long either. Eventually Jade moved in (from South Africa) and we formed a fast friendship...but then I moved away so I didn't even get to enjoy that very long, either.

Anyway, my point is that transient wards are like that. Friends come and go. And sometimes you're stuck in a class with a (lousy) boy.

(I should note that none of these boys are lousy but when you're six it sometimes feels that way).

After church we had lunch, threw our camping gear in the back of the van, and went to take care of our friend's dog.

Andrew (who had done a lot of the packing while I was at that before-church meeting) and I stood for a moment, fretting about whether or not we had everything we needed, before I finally announced, "That's it. Let's just go. We have enough stuff to move across the country. We're only camping for one night. Whatever we forgot we can live without."

I just realized today that in addition to my agreeing to tend a dog this week (I don't do dogs) Andrew was simultaneously fulfilling one of his worst nightmares: teaching early morning seminary!

We had quite the week, he and I. He, getting up early to teach sleepy teens about the gospel, and me facing my fear of dogs every time I had to let that silly dog out of the house.

Side story: when we were at the beach, Andrew caught Miriam giving herself a pep talk before getting into the water. "I will be brave! I will be brave! I will be brave! I will not be afraid!" she hollered, charging into the ocean.

I found myself repeating her words with my hand on the doorknob. "I will be brave! I will be brave! I will be brave! I will not be afraid...of this tiny puppy the size of my foot." Phobias aren't rational, guys. But at least my phobia involves teeth. I have a friend who has a phobia of balloons—like, she can't be in the same room as them without having a panic attack, which I'm sure is hard.

But she owns a dog, so I think she's got guts.

Anyway, after we said goodbye to the puppy (who really isn't that bad now that we're all familiar with each other) and put a teary-eyed Benjamin back into his carseat ("Wan' puppy! Wan' puppy!") we were on our way to Falls Lake.

Side story: Back in 2008/2009/2010 (when we lived in Egypt) we were talking to some friends about future plans and we mentioned that we might head to Washington DC eventually. Maybe. Foreign Service looked good. USAID. Umm...other stuff...

Obviously our plans were not set in stone because here we are.

One of our friends, who is currently living the dream in Zimbabwe, said, "Oh, we actually have an apartment in Falls Church. You could rent from us!"

And another friend familiar with the area chimed in with a scary story about something he and his friends did at this one place in Falls Church.

And the whole time Andrew and I both thought everyone was saying 'False Church.'

Neither of us had been to DC in recent memory. Andrew went when he was a kid. I had never been. We had no idea what the surrounding areas were called. It was pretty funny when we realized (after Googling it, I think) that it was Falls Church.

A similar thing may or may not have happened when we heard about Falls Lake, which is actually manmade, so perhaps it is a false lake, after all!

The girls are in matching outfits (that they planned themselves): butterfly shirts, tennis skirts, and crocs
Anyway, we camped at Holly Point, which was nice, if not a little removed from the swimming beach. It was fine, though, because all we did was set up camp, eat dinner, and go to bed, which sounds much simpler than it actually was because when the kids were whining about how hungry they were and we were digging around in the cooking box we discovered that we had failed to pack matches. I say "we" but really it was Andrew, who assured me he had the cooking box all packed up. He said the same thing about the camera when I went to get the battery from the charger but found the charger empty.

"Oh, I took care of that already. I'm on top of things," he said.

He neglected to put the memory card back into the camera, so...all our pictures are from the phone.

Suddenly my parting phrase "whatever we forgot we can live without" started to seem very untrue. No matches!? No memory card!? We were doomed!

We slunk around the campground admiring everyone's roaring fires before finally asking our neighbour for a match, which was rather humiliating.

But Andrew did eventually get that fire going and our children finally got to roast hot dogs and marshmallows, which they were very excited about.

Benjamin was a little too curious about the fire and was making me nervous so Andrew joked about Karl G. Maeser's famous quote, which every BYU student should recognize immediately:
I have been asked what I mean by 'word of honor.' I will tell you. Place me behind prison walls—walls of stone ever so high, ever so thick, reaching ever so far into the ground—there is a possibility that in some way or another I may escape; but stand me on the floor and draw a chalk line around me and have me give my word of honor never to cross it. Can I get out of the circle? No. Never! I'd die first!
I laughed with him—mostly at the improbability of a two-year-old staying inside a chalk circle (I mean, obedience isn't exactly Benjamin's forte) but soon I got desperate enough to keep him away from the flames that I decided I'd try it. I drew a line on the ground and told him not to cross it.

Does that make me a helicopter parent? Perhaps. But Benjamin's really not stead on his feet. Factoring in tripping hazards and open flames to his toddlerhood made this scenario seem quite dangerous.

Also, when I warned him that the fire was "hot, hot, hot!" and that it could burn him he responded, "Yes! Yes! Burn my arm!" and tried to stick his hand into the flames. I'm sure that would have been a quick teacher but, uh, instead I yanked him away from the flames and banished him from the fire pit.

The girls were allowed across the line to cooke their food (Rachel even helped start the fire).

 Benjamin was not allowed across the line for any reason.

For the most part Benjamin kept to his side of the line, though he did absentmindedly step over it once or twice. Each time we reminded him about the line and he quickly got to where he was supposed to be. But Benjamin also spent an inordinate amount of time pacing up and down the line trying to find a way to get past it.

"The lawyer inside of me says to stand at this point here," Andrew said, picking a spot. "It's the closest spot to the fire—you didn't draw your line equidistant from the fire pit."

Do you want to know what the lawyer inside of Benjamin said? It said, "Just walk outside of the gravel pit. Mommy didn't draw a line in the detritus behind the fire pit."

He strutted along the line, stepped over the concrete barrier, left the gravel lot, kicked his way through the dead leaves littering the forest floor beyond, and came right up behind the fire pit. He looked up at me with a smug grin on his face.

I was just lawyered by a two-year-old, but not to be outdone I scolded him. And then he ran into my arms so I could hold him while he sulked.

After we finished with hot dogs and s'mores, we got into our pyjamas and then sat around the campfire for quiet time. Benjamin got to cross the line in order to sit on Daddy's lap and he was pretty excited about that.

We haven't gone camping this close to summer in a long time and we're prepared for how long it would stay relatively light outside. So it felt like we waited a long time before we could officially call it bedtime. And, boy, was I ever glad to see bedtime come.

I was feeling rather tired and although I meant to read my book while Benjamin and Miriam fell asleep I ended up falling asleep with Benjamin. At 8:00.

I woke up around 10:00 when Rachel and Andrew were putting out the campfire so they could also go to bed. Rachel's still convinced she stayed up until at least midnight. We won't tell her otherwise. I think she and Andrew had a lovely time reading together.

I know I had a lovely time sleeping with Benjamin and Miriam.

I was the first one up in the morning so I went around snapping pictures of everyone sleeping (because what else do you do when you're the first one awake?). I love how Rachel's sleeping with her arms draped over Miriam.

I was worried about Benjamin all night because I'd only packed one blanket for him (he hates sleeping with blankets on so packing any more seemed futile) and I was a little cold. I kept waking up to put his blanket back on him. However, when I checked on the girls in the morning I found that Miriam was sleeping on top of her sleeping bag, covered with her favourite blanket, Rachel was hanging out of her sleeping bag. Benjamin was perfectly fine.

The kids are always roasty-toasty sleeping on their thin foam pads on the ground. Our big air mattress might be comfortable but it certainly doesn't offer much in the way of insulation.

So, I might have felt a little chilly but this was a beautiful sight to wake up to:

Miriam got up soon after I did and together we made a trip to the bathroom and then started preparing breakfast. Our original plan was to have breakfast completely ready by the time Daddy, Rachel, and Benjamin woke up, but breakfast involved bumming a match and we were apparently up earlier than our neighbours (sunrise was at 6:00) so there was no one to borrow fire from. And then Benjamin woke up and needed to cuddle so we put breakfast preparations on hold until we could coax Daddy out of bed (which he had a hard time with because of all the mornings he spent teaching early morning seminary this week).

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