Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Last Day of August, 2010

I don't know exactly what a prayer is.

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?

from "The Summer Day" by Mary Oliver

Monday, August 30, 2010

Good Things, August 2010

Fireworks over Navy Pier in Chicago;

an amazing night to see Brandi Carlile at Meijer Gardens;

phone chats with cousins and plans to see them soon;

post-dinner swimming at the pool in lieu of baths now that we're back out in the world again; gorgeous sunflowers from the farmer's market on my coffee table; new, healthy baby girls born to two friends; our annual sushi in the front yard by candlelight tradition with dear friends; Annie's excitement about her new first grade teacher (a man!); plans to spend Labor Day weekend up north, hopefully with the chance to check "go fishing" off our Summer List; the ice cream Jason has just gone to get me at Jersey Junction, and the fact that there is nothing on the calendar tomorrow to prevent us from spending the entire day out in the heat and sunshine.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Bleak House

Jemma is on day seven (SEVEN!) of the stomach virus, and Annie came down with it, too, so now I'm on day seven (SEVEN!) of wiping butts and washing hands and being trapped within a 50-foot radius of a toilet with my children. The zen-like acceptance of the tethering that I exhibited early this week has given way to bitterness that we are missing out on the last, good bit of summer sunshine and beach days. I feel so sorry for the girls and their sore little bellies, and I feel (less) sorry for myself as we've had to cancel plans and modify schedules to make sure one of us is always near.

Luckily, Jason and I have remained (so far) healthy, so I've been able to scoot out of the house around 6:00 every night (eleven hours a day of nursemaiding being plenty, thankyouverymuch) for various activities. I biked on Monday, swam on Tuesday, saw Brandi Carlile at Meijer Gardens on Wednesday (to cap off three weeks in a row of fantastic outdoor entertainment there), and then there was last night.

Last night, our training group biked and ran the actual triathlon course as a group. We gathered at Manhattan Park at 6:30, got a little pep talk from one of the coaches, and then we were off: 17 miles out and back on Fulton and around the lake, then around the lake again - this time on foot - for 4.9 miles. The air was perfectly cool and crisp - maybe 68 degrees? - and the sun was sinking lower as we passed the football field, where our home team was kicking off its season with a victory in a packed house. It felt pretty great, all in all, and I feel like I got a big mental boost, just knowing that I can put those two pieces together before the big day. We stood around in the parking lot afterwards, feeling victorious and surprised at what we could do, Connie and Katie and I quite pleased with ourselves, to be honest.

Today, it's back to trading shifts of nursemaiding with Jason (I went out for yoga, farmer's market, and an errand this morning; now Jason's off on a long bike ride for the afternoon) and settling into a weekend at home since we've had to cancel our plans to go up north. I'm not sure what we'll do, except to say that the seven days I've been mostly in the house already have caused me to go a little stir-crazy. I can tell this because at one point yesterday I started thinking I might as well wash windows (taking breaks every 20 minutes to assist someone in the bathroom) or plant my fall window boxes, or something that would at least make staying at home feel productive. And you KNOW I don't wash windows, ever. Who knows? Maybe tomorrow, in the 85-degree sunshine, I'll be inside again, wiping butts and cleaning a closet or two.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Half a Mile

I swam half a mile across a lake tonight.

I put on my new bathing suit - the purple Speedo with psychadelic hearts across the chest from the Gazelle clearance rack, the one that Jemma LOVES - and tucked my hair into a swim cap and suctioned my goggles to my face. Then I just walked into the water, thinking, Muck, Muck, Weeds, Ewwww and suddenly I was stroking towards an orange boat on the other shore as the sunlight slanted down from the clouds.

At no point did it feel easy, but neither did I feel at any point that I could not go on one more minute. I did a fair amount of breast stroke amid the freestyle. I counted to ten, then to ten again, then made myself do ten more strokes before another sight of the shore. I was surprisingly unmoved by the murkiness of the water or the weeds floating in my line of sight; in fact, I think I liked it better than the pool. I know! But when a teeny bit of lake water snuck into my goggle, it did not immediately burn my eyeball the way the chlorine does after one blink in the pool. I did not spend a single second thinking about fish or turtles that might want to nibble on my toes. It was just breathe, breathe, breathe to the other side of the lake.

I began swimming on July 7th and today, August 24th, I swam a half mile without stopping. I am pretty happy about that.

Monday, August 23, 2010

On the Cusp of Six

We spent the weekend tethered to our house because of a fun little stomach virus that's causing Jemma to need to be very near the toilet. And this was okay with us (the tethering, not the virus) because we didn't really have any plans this weekend, anyway. Oh, we filled the days up, alright, with working out and bike rides, baking cakes and grilling chicken, checking a few things off lists while the girls watched Toy Story 2. But mostly we floated happily from thing to thing in the kind of unstructured motion that's become our modus operandi this summer.

The girls stayed in their jammies until about 4:00 p.m. one of the days, hauling out every single toy in the playroom and constructing an elaborate Fairy House smack in the middle of the living room. Jemma sorted Polly Pockets outfits by color and fanciness while Annie built towers and closets and rooms out of blocks, paper, ribbons, and tape. She painstakingly set the table with tiny cups and tiny plates of pastries from her Strawberry Shortcake set. She created a bedroom and a dressing room and a pool for the fairies. She spent hours placing ribbons and decorations just so, lost in her architectural plans, humming It's a Small World to herself.

She asked to go running with me on Friday morning when I returned from my seven-miler, so in spite of my exhaustion, we ran to the coffee shop and back. One mile. She swings her arms and pumps her legs and runs the whole way without stopping. We talked about school supplies and birthday party ideas and what to make for lunch. She let out a big, dramatic sigh when we got back in the house.

The next day, she pestered Jason to take her running for two miles, and he did. She burst back in the front door, her face shiny and red. "I feel like I'm going to explode!" she said. "I feel 110% Sweating Hot!" She collapsed on the ground with a grin after giving me five. She ran two miles.

Yesterday, she got out the accessory bin and asked me to teach her to braid. I sat down with Annie and her Ariel head and showed her how to separate the fake red hair into three sections, how to trade the pieces back and forth, left, right, left, right, taking turns. She got frustrated and almost gave up two times. Then, suddenly, she was doing it, a huge smile creeping onto her face as I praised her persistence.

We made invitations for her birthday party together, armed with her recent obsession with Mo Willem's book The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog and our color scanner/copier. "Annie's Camping Hot Dog Birthday Party!" they say, in a five-year-old's colorful printing. There is a picture of the pigeon dancing around with his hot dog, squaking, "Yummy! Yummy! Yummy!" We stuffed the envelopes and rode our bikes around to deliver them to friends.

She cracked eggs into a bowl and flipped pancakes for breakfast. She worked on tying her new running shoes. She read her list of school supplies and made a new chart for her morning routine. She drew me a picture. She made place cards for our family meal with a special note inside Jemma's that read: "Dear Jemma, I am sorre you are sice. I hope you feel betr soon. Love, Annie." She called her grandpa to tell him she wants to go fishing next weekend. She shrieked and splashed and dove for my toes when I took her to the pool for an hour.

She is almost six. She is so big to me, so able. I watch her print her letters, run down the sidewalk, crack eggs into a bowl and I am caught between pride and wistfulness at how quickly time is passing. I know better than to try to stop time from marching on or my little girl from growing up. And instead of wishing for things to be any different than what they are right now, I console myself with the fact that Annie still, on the cusp of six, will spend a day wearing her princess nightgown and building a fairy house. She still rushes out of her room the next morning, searching for the glitter that proves the fairies have been in her house. For now, at least, there is still magic.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


This morning was the girls' last day of gymco for the summer. They've really loved the two mornings a week they've spent there these last weeks, and this morning us parents got to go in and observe for the first hour in the gym. They blew us away with the things they could do: Annie swinging up and down on the parallel bars; Jemma doing a backwards somersault; Annie casually walking across a very high balance beam; Jemma walking across hers, and stopping halfway to do a little pirouette; lots of jumping and rope-swinging and far more coordination than I would have expected. The girls are sad to see it end, and Jason and I are, too.

Except for one thing.

Nobody in this family can take one, single more day of negotiating with Jemma to get her to wear SHORTS to gymco two mornings a week. Both girls have lots of opinions about what they like to wear, and both pretty much pick out their own clothes every day. Both prefer to be as "girly" as possible, but Annie understands that one of the rules for gymnastics is that students must not wear skirts or dresses since they get in the way of all that aforementioned jumping and flipping and swinging. Jemma has fought this rule almost each Tuesday and Thursday morning of the summer, culminating in this morning, where, for a finale, she went through the whole ordeal twice, since after we wrangled her into her outfit the first time, she took it off while I was in the shower and zipped herself instead into a baby-jammie onesie she dug out of a Rubbermaid container in an upstairs storage room. I made Jason do the second round of "You're welcome to come out of your room as soon as you've put these clothes on; No, we're not going to talk about any other clothes; These are the clothes you have to wear today; Are you ready to put on your shorts, now? No? Then go back in your room until you are," complete with lots of screaming and protesting. She is happiest when wearing head-t0-toe purple, preferably with some some of ruffle and a coordinating accessory. (See above.)

This afternoon, the girls ran through the sprinkler with neighbors. When we came in the house, I toweled them off, then instructed them to go put on the clothes they had been wearing before they put on their swimsuits. And AGAIN with the having-a-fit and wanting to get out a dress and lobbying for a change (it was 5:00 and I don't need to add to my laundry load by letting people change complete outfits with two hours to go before bedtime). I told her I wouldn't be getting anything new down, and that she was welcome to wear her clothes from the morning or nothing at all. (Luckily, she can't reach her hanging clothes yet!)

This is what she finally came out of her room wearing:

-bathing suit top
-Cinderella underwear
-princess slippers

I let it go.

Chicago Photo Walk

Monday, August 16, 2010


It was so good to be back with my little ones today. We hung out at the house for a while this morning (and they tried on the new 80's-style clothes I brought back from Chicago for them) and went to the park for a while before lunch, happy to play in the (finally!) non-humid weather. We spent the afternoon at Connie's in-law's lake and the kids tired themselves right out catching minnows, floating on and diving off of rafts, eating ice cream cones, making sand houses, and splashing in the warm water. The girls were exhausted when we came back in the door at 5:30, so we did baths before I fed them dinner and read books on the couch before a very early bedtime. I am so conscious that we have only a few more weeks of these laid-back, sunshiney, spontaneous days; I'm seizing the chance to be out in the water and the warmth every time it's possible.

Because of the very early bedtime, Annie had already been tucked in her room for about half an hour before Jason came home from a post-work meeting. I'd promised her that he'd go in and give her a kiss when he got home, thinking she'd be sleeping anyway and never know the difference. But Jason really did go in to kiss her sleeping forehead and instead he found her propped up on her back in bed, reading Little Bear, eyes half-closed from drowsiness. She reads all the time now: Magic School Bus, Henry and Mudge, Ramona and Her Father, The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog, Fancy Nancy Sees Stars. Neither one of us had the heart (or the inclination, actually) to tell her to put the book away and go to sleep. Staying up past your bedtime reading in bed is the kind of familiar vice I'm going to count as a virtue, and cross my fingers that she's still doing it thirty years from now, like her mommy.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Chicago Status Updates


-tried on several pairs of the (ironically-named) "skinny jeans" at stores up and down Michigan Avenue and Rush Street and concluded that I will not be participating in this fall fashion trend. Other things I'll be opting out of: booties; purses with fringe; belted, jewel-tone, plaid, button-down shirts; tiered ruffled skirts (though I did buy one each for the girls).

-attended the morning session of Jason's conference with him on Friday, then wandered the streets for the rest of the afternoon, slowly accumulating little shopping bags along the way, until I acquired a giant Anthropologie bag (clearance throw pillow!) and was saddened to have to walk many, many blocks back to my hotel in the 90-degree sunshine and humidity with Difficult Shoes. I was further saddened to become lost whilst circling the block that my hotel was on, unable to just find the street entrance, eventually becoming trapped in some underground labyrinth of parking structures until I stumbled upon the correct one.

-was lucky enough to see peeks of the Blue Angels yesterday afternoon as they swooped in and out and around skyscrapers and caused the kind of sonic booms that made everyone on a city block pause, look at the sky, and smile.

-ate one of the best steaks of my life at Gibson's Steakhouse at about 10:30 p.m. with Jason and a lot of red wine.

-missed the girls and occasionally wished they were with us, especially while we stood taking in the fireworks over Navy Pier last night.

-took myself on a self-guided photo-walk of the city streets for an hour yesterday afternoon, pausing and snapping anytime a sign, building, skyline, or architectural detail caught my eye. The pictures themselves are completely amateur, but I like how setting out with the intention of noticing great shots made me so much more aware of my surroundings.

-took a nap.

-went running with Jason along the lakeshore two mornings in a row at sunrise.

-bought and started reading the book The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. I want to fold down the corner on almost every page so far.

-bought school clothes and little headbands for kids, a summer blouse and a fall hat for myself, birthday presents for Jason, and a clearance throw pillow.was grateful to come home today to my quiet, leafy street and find two little girls playing in the front yard, full of stories about all the fun they'd had with Mimi and BopBop and eager to show me the Fairy House they built in the backyard. It's bedtime, and I'm going to settle in with my new book just as soon as I go out and sprinkle some fairy dust on it - you know, so little girls will be able to see that the fairies came.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Reunited, and It Feels So Good: Girls' Weekend 2010

When I snapped this photo, it was during dinner on our first night in Asheville, and I was drinking a cocktail called a Front Porch Iced Tea, eating fried green tomatoes with goat cheese grits and a sandwich called The Southern Fried Chicken BLT. Clearly, I was very happy, and the happiness continued mostly unabated for the next three days on this, our ninth annual girls' weekend.

Five out of the six of us stayed the first night in two adjoining rooms in the "historic" section of The Grove Park Inn. By historic, the much-talked-up Inn apparently means "dorm-room type rustic furniture, vaguely Aztec stencils on the walls, and a teeny tiny service elevator operated by strange old people." We were underwhelmed by the room itself and feeling skeptical about the experience when we talked over dinner at Tupelo Honey Cafe, not that this stopped us from staying up late talking and reading magazines when we returned to the inn.

The next morning, though, when we entered the Grove Park Spa, we apologized - to the inn, to the universe, to karma, whatever - for anything slightly negative we may have said. The spa exceeded our highest expectations. They didn't allow cameras inside, so there are no pictures of us there, but suffice to say that we checked in well before noon, changed into robes and slippers, had lovely, lovely massages, ate lunch, swam in various pools and sat around in various steamy rooms, brought cocktails and champagne out with us while we lounged on a deck with an amazing mountain view, and were still awfully sad to have to leave at 7:00 to make our dinner reservation. It was everything we hoped for and more, which is dangerous, really; this morning, back at home, I had a brief moment of self-pity that nobody would be bringing me a peppermint-iced towel while I lazed near a pool with a waterfall today. Sigh.

For the rest of the weekend, all six of us made camp at one of our in-law's mountain homes, which they generously left for the weekend so that we could sprawl around, sleep in, order food, drink bottles of bubbly things, and - of course - talk. Most of that essential, hilarious, honest, necessary talk happened out on the deck. We couldn't bear to miss this view for any longer than necessary:

We did go into town for the requisite shopping and grocery-store impulse snack-buying (dill havarti, olives, chocolate almonds, hummus, chips and guacamole), but otherwise we were there, talking. This year was the first year we've extended the annual weekend to add one more day and we still didn't run out of things to say. On the flight home yesterday, I wondered, how many days would it take until we sat silently in a room and admitted defeat, until we were just plain out of words? It hasn't happened yet.

We have a journal that Heather bought and that we finally got around to writing in this year, because the dates and locations are starting to blur together and we want to remember the highlights of each event we've shared. I opened the red cover to a swath of blank pages and the whole group watched me as I made the index page, numbering years one through nine and recording the month, year, and location. We left plenty of space after numeral nine - two pages, to be exact - because we think, we hope, we're going to run the tally up to at least forty, maybe more if we're exceptionally lucky. And I think we are.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Monkey Mind

This summer, for the very first time since Annie was born almost six years ago, I have a regular time each week when I can count on three hours of the kids being somewhere else. Tuesday and Thursday mornings, they've been at gymco, flipping around bars and jumping on trampolines and trying new projects with a bunch of their friends.

It is strange - in a good way - to be alone in my own house. Some mornings, I am full of motivation, and I knock ten things off my list: run errands, get groceries, make a meal, clean a bathroom, edit writing, work out. Other mornings, I admit, I get sucked into the computer, or a good book, or watering the garden, or painting my toenails and talking on the phone to a friend, and that's OK, too. I am letting myself use the time in any way that feels right at that moment because the time itself is such a gift.

Alongside this newfound time, I've been reading things (this, this, this, and this) and watching things (this) and for the last few weeks, my brain has been working on some type of manifesto, some way to pull together all the thoughts swirling around my brain about motherhood, the way it's changed over time, and the way it changes us. Or, I should say, the way it has changed ME, because one thing that has become abundantly clear to me over the last six years is that no two people experience this ride in quite the same way. (Nor should they be expected to; do we expect everyone to have the same feelings about marriage? Or to have the same college experience? Or to like the same type of exercise, or food, or music? Why, then, is it so hard to remember that each woman will feel differently about the experience of raising the tiny people in her life?)

My brain, more specifically, has been doing what my yoga teacher calls "the monkey mind," climbing spastically from one thought to another, jumping around without taking the time to make sense of anything. I've sat down three times to try to write some of it down, and I can't. There's too much. It's too hard. But here are some things I'm trying to remember:

I want to remember to stop what I'm doing (unloading the dishwasher, checking e-mail) and sit down on the couch to watch the girls sing and dance to "Take a Chance on Me" and give them my full attention.

I want to give myself permission to forgive myself for not always responding in exactly the "right" way to every situation.

I want to remember that parenting is hard in different ways for everyone, and that for me it is hard because I am slightly introverted, not a morning person, and someone who likes control over situations.

I want to be grateful every day that I am not a 1960's housewife, that I have so many more choices, while also recognizing that it is the multitude of those choices that makes parenting feel so uncertain at every turn.

I want to keep telling the girls every day how amazing they are; how much I love them; how lucky I am to be their mom. Even - especially - on days when things have not been magic rainbows and unicorns.

I want to keep telling the stories that are mine, ours. And I want to tell the whole story (not just the happy parts) so that my two little girls, if and when they become mothers themselves, will know that it is just fine to sometimes feel that parenting is "All Joy and No Fun" - or to laugh at the quote from that article that says, "Children are a huge source of joy, but they turn every other source of joy to shit." (For the record: I don't agree, but I almost would have about three years ago, when the mere possibility of going camping or eating dinner out or talking with friends was next to impossible with the kids there; when the choice used to feel like choosing between having fun OR being with the kids.)

I want to, in the words of Seth Godin, "market a perspective and attitude of generosity" in the stories I tell myself.

I want to remember how, in those early days of mothering and round-the-clock nursing, I had no confidence that my life would ever return to "normal," no perspective to see that life as I knew it hadn't, in fact, ended, and I want that knowledge to remind me how fleeting every stage of this journey really is.

I want to say to every person who is about to embark on this journey, "Come see something amazing!" as Jemma said to me last weekend.

I want to tell Annie and Jemma that the single best thing I have done in the last six years is to keep a part of my life just for me, to set aside at least a single hour in every day to read, write, run or talk about things that have nothing to do with being a mom.

I want to say that, weeks ago, my yoga teacher asked each of us in class to think about what the last five years had been "about" for us. What had life been teaching us? At the end of the class, she asked each of us to say our word aloud. Mine was "patience."

I want to note that, just this minute, on the cusp of leaving my little family for four days to be with five friends who I love dearly, I almost don't want to go. Part of me wants to be here, climb into bed with them in the morning, drink coffee while they dance, put ponytails in their hair. I'm not sure this feeling - needing and wanting to "get away" while simultaneously not wanting to leave - ever goes away.

I want, though, to give myself space to rest and recharge, to go away and come back again, ready to dive back in wholeheartedly.

I want to give the monkey mind a rest.

"Our culture invariably supposes that action and accomplishment is better than rest, that doing something--anything--is better than doing nothing. Because of our desire to succeed, to meet these ever-growing expectations, we do not rest. Because we do not rest, we lose our way. We miss the compass points that would show us where to go, we bypass the nourishment that would give us succor. We miss the quiet that would give us wisdom. We miss the joy and love born of effortless delight. Poisoned by this hypnotic belief that good things come only through unceasing determination and tireless effort, we can never truly rest. And for want of rest, our lives are in danger."
-Wayne Muller, from his gorgeous book Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Packing a Bag

If the theme of Summer 2010 is "I Don't Want it to End," one sub-theme must be "Packing a Bag." That is what I've been doing multiple times a day to enable all this non-stop fun. Yesterday morning, we headed to the gym at 9:30. I planned to check the girls into the kid's area, run, swim, and then get them out and take them to the outside pool and stay for lunch, which I packed and brought along to avoid spending $10 on PB&J. This required three separate bags (one with ice packs!), four bathing suits (one for each of them, two for me since the one I swim laps in is so hideous and butt-enlarging that I have fantasies of burning it when the triathlon is over), and so many ID cards, goggles, shoes and flip-flops for each person that it was truly annoying to carry it all into the gym.

It went smoothly yesterday and we stayed happily at the gym until 1:00, at which point I had to haul said bags back to my house and unpack them, separating out the things I'll need for workouts later in the week, leaving in the things the girls will need the next time we go to the pool. This scenario, repeated daily since June . . . makes me weak.

Furthermore? The bag-packing and excursions plus the workout clothes laundry plus the two-sports-a-day working out has left me feeling a level of tired that I haven't encountered since being in the first trimester of pregnancy. For example, when I was pregnant with Annie and still teaching at Cranbrook, I used to walk my class down to, say, music, return to my classroom, shut the door, and lie down on the floor for half an hour until it was time to go get them. Then, after school, I would drive home and fall asleep on the couch before Jason got home for dinner, wake up, eat dinner, and go immediately to bed for the night.

Since that amount of during-the-day sleeping clearly isn't an option at this point, I have opted to let a few things go. I have essentially stopped making dinner. Last week there were two nights that I made an effort, but then camping happened, and this week is Just! So! Hot! and, well, I let the girls get that $10 crappy pool food dinner tonight and ended up eating microwave popcorn and Twizzlers when I got home, even though there is a piece of perfectly good fish sitting in my fridge, thawed over the course of the day, waiting to be grilled.

And it's gorgeous outside right now, but all I really want to do is drink a beer and watch the next episode of Mad Men, which Jason and I have been working our way through one DVD at a time while the joys of Modern Family and 30 Rock are unavailable.

So training for the tri continues, and my biggest triumph to date is the fact that, last week at "swim practice," I counted up the 50's and 100's at the end of the workout and it totaled almost 1200 meters! Now, that 1200 meters took me the better portion of an hour, and a little of it was drills, but I am thrilled to be at a point where I really, truly can swim at least 6 or 7 laps without stopping at all, and where I can swim almost 20 with a few breaks between sets.

Speaking of swimming, just writing about swim practice reminds me that, right now, I need to go get my hideous, butt-enlarging suit from its perch hanging to dry in the shower, track down my goggles from wherever Jason left them (oh, because he's decided to do the triathlon, too), and (you guessed it) pack that bag for tomorrow's swim practice, complete with pool punch card, towel, swim cap, conditioner, and change of clothes for date night afterwards. It's my reward for an hour of gliding back and forth, back and forth while water lodges in my ear and my goggles make ugly red marks under my eyes.

After I pack that bag, I have to pack another three, too: Annie and Jemma's overnight bags for grandma and grandpa's on Thursday, and my own, for my upcoming long weekend here with five of my favorite girls. Spa rated #13 in the world??? That's a bag I don't mind packing at all.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

We Came, We Saw, We Camped

THIS is how we spent the last 48 hours:

Hiking in the pines;

reading bedtime stories in the tent;

eating Ziploc-baggie ice cream with sprinkles;

doing sparklers at dusk;

cooking large quantities of meat over an open fire;

eating s'mores

and corn on the cob, and hot dogs,

and popsicles;

playing games in the dirt;

reading together outside;

riding bikes;

wearing inappropriately fancy clothing while playing catch with a football;

having dirty faces

and dirty feet;

and doing a lot of laughing, biking, swimming, swinging, singing, and just plain hanging out together. I'd call our first family camping trip a huge success. The fact that we all slept in one tent without incident amazes me, and it's not something we could probably have done before this point. We went with two other families and the little girls - all six of them between the ages of three and five - were in heaven. They ran in a pack from our site to the swings to their bikes to the art table to the bubbles to the outdoor games and back about a hundred times yesterday. They said, "Let's get in the group!" when a parent approached with a camera, then hammed it up with silly faces and tongues sticking out. They got FILTHY (the award for filthiest goes to Annie, who went directly from being sprayed with bug spray to go play in the sand pit by the swings and became coated with a fine layer of sticky dirt which gives me the chills even now) and were constantly sticky from some snack or another. Up until this morning, they played so well together the whole time. (This morning, though? Let's just say people were tired and the best personalities were not on display. Time to hit the road!)

On our end, a TON of work went into the 48 hours of actual camping time. There was the packing, the grocery-shopping, the food-making, the loading of the cars and campers, the tent set-up, and then the constant meal-making and cleaning-up-the-meal drama that goes on during any camping trip. I felt like I was going to lose my mind most of the time, simply because it was so hard to keep track of where things were. I'd set the camera down somewhere, or go to get a sweatshirt for someone but get sidetracked by a child asking for a drink, and twenty minutes later I'd forgotten where the camera was and still hadn't retrieved the sweatshirt. Today, when we got home, there was the UNpacking and of course the laundry (which still isn't done) and the way being in my house made me want to lie down and take a nap. (Best thing we did today, though, was go straight to the gym and swim at the pool before we even came home. Let's leave that nice layer of grime and filth in a lovely, large chlorinated pool and not bring it in our house, right?)

Let's just say, I'm beyond glad that we took this adventure (glad, too, that it didn't rain on us). I love that the girls will grow up knowing what fun it is to camp and I love having a weekend totally disconnected from phones and schedules and television. I love coming home smelling like campfire, having slept under the stars and started every morning by drinking coffee in a camp chair. But we're not rushing out to invest in a fancy camper or even a bigger tent, just yet. I think I have about one camping trip per summer in me. I'm tired. We all are.