Camping is Forever

O: I need my own tent, my own tent where all my friends can sleep with me. 

My dad took me camping. I couldn't tell you if he took me twice or a thousand times, but he took me camping. I rode my bike around the campground with my purple unicorn whistle around my neck. I ate s'mores and hotdogs, slept in a tent, and went days without a shower. I carried my own bag, even if it was only from the car to the tent. I learned that there are two kinds of people in the world: good campers and bad campers. I learned that I wanted to be a good camper.

That's me on the left, good camper in training.

That's me on the left, good camper in training.

Good campers go with the flow. They know how to have a good time regardless of the circumstances. They always have a pocket knife and bottle opener, and they always know where they are. Good campers follow the campsite rule everywhere they go, always leave the campsite/friend's home/restaurant table/partner/friend/lover better than you found them. They rarely brush their hair, but they always brush their teeth. They share their supplies and food as willingly as they share stories and jokes around the campfire. They know how to pack light, but they always manage to have exactly what they need. Good campers have easy laughs and cool toys. My dad is a good camper. 

In our post-marriage, pre-kid life, Jim and I camped. We registered and received a tent as a wedding gift. We didn't camp enough, though. It was always "that thing we should do the next time we have time to," and we never managed to have time to.  

We have camped three times with the girls. The first time was unbearable. No one slept. We were dirty and miserable. I brought a car full of things we didn't need, but still couldn't manage to make myself coffee in the morning. If it wasn't for the peer pressure of a beloved group of friends, we might never have camped again.

The second time was better. I packed lighter and smarter. We agreed beforehand to throw the schedule and rules out the window. It was a land of no naps, unlimited snacks, and a run-until-you-pass-out bedtime strategy. It was late fall, cold and damp, and as we snuggled deep in our sleeping bags, I heard O giggle in her sleep, dreaming of s'mores and dragon flies.

Now, this is a kid who knows how to camp

Now, this is a kid who knows how to camp

This last time was spectacular. The campground had recently had a fire and the charred trees were surrounded by the fresh green of new life that always seems to follow destruction. It was awe-inspiring and a great chance to talk about the cycles we find in nature all around us. O is old enough now that she just was absorbed into the roving dust cloud of children that bounced happily from campsite to campsite, being chased out of tents, and climbing trees. P hopped from lap to lap, happily hosted by the different adults in our party, eating overripe peaches with her sticky, dirty hands. We can't wait to go again, to walk at sunset and look for lizards, to wiggle our toes in the sand, to throw dirt clods in a gully, to watch sleepy children climb onto their parents laps by fire light, fighting to keep their eyes open for just one more minute.  

I am learning to be a good camper, to revel in the quiet and to take each moment as it comes, to balance preparation with practicality. I want to lead by example by following the campsite rule, leaving the world behind me better than when I entered it, improved or at least not damaged by my presence there. I want them to remember, when they are grown, being dirty, exhausted, and happy, sleeping deeply with sounds of close-by crickets and far-away coyotes outside the tent. I want them to be good campers, like their grandpa. 

Check in tomorrow for my Top Ten Tips for Camping with Toddlers.


POTUS v. Preschool

O: I mostly didn't like it.  It was exciting, but loud.

This is not a political post. I promise, not even kind of.  

Los Angeles is a strange and wonderful place.  A few days ago, after sign out at O's school, a bunch of parents were just hanging out in the park, when WWIII began, or at least that was where my hyperactive worst-case-senario brain went.  

Several large grey helicopters flew low over the playground, ruffling the kiddos hair.  They landed in formation just up the hill.  Moments later two identical green helicopters approached from different directions and landed on the field too.  The loose perimeter was maintained by a couple of intimidating dudes in polo shirts and jeans.  Everyone ran up the hill to watch.

  It was very clear that this level of security was way too lax for Marine One to have it's illustrious passenger inside, but it was still pretty cool.  A couple of the babies are still pointing emphatically at any plane, helicopter, or bird they spot in the sky, and then insisting that their mothers force a landing for closer inspection.  

I'm not saying that that was a dry run for Obama's visit to Los Angeles this week.  I am saying that preschool was unexpectedly shut-down for two days due to unforeseen "park maintenance".  I guess it makes sense that POTUS trumps preschool, and at least we got a really awesome, up-close, personal air-show out of it.  

Home

O: I just want to sleep in my own bed, or in your own bed.  

For a variety of reasons, we haven't been home for about five days, and even though the places we were are all places we like to be, as I pulled into the driveway, last night after rehearsal, a huge feeling of relief and peace rushed over me.  The people that I love are all safe under one roof.  After the earthquakes, urgent care trips, and the late nights of the past five days, I can't ask for anything more.  

Home is wherever these two tow heads are, but it sure is nice to sleep on my pillow again. 

Home is wherever these two tow heads are, but it sure is nice to sleep on my pillow again. 

Humming Birds and Trumpet Vines

P: AAhhh egg canto black plaaa.  

O: She said she is going to find a spot where the flowers will grow, because that is the spot that will make them happy. 

We are too sick to go to school, but too well to stay home, and the weather has been beautiful, so we ventured out to the nursery.  There is a small family-owned nursery that has been around for generations, just a few blocks from us.  

this is our smelling flowers face

this is our smelling flowers face

While wandering the rows O spotted a humming bird's nest.  She admonished me not to disturb the mama while I took her picture, but was perfectly delighted when I offered to scoop her up so she could get a closer look.  

Is it spring yet? It sure feels like it.

Is it spring yet? It sure feels like it.

We found a climbing trumpet vine, with pink flowers.  It looks healthy enough and the man assured us that it would thrive in our very shallow, full-sun, flower box outside our front window. 

Behold, the conquering hero

Behold, the conquering hero

Every morning, on waking, O rushes to the front window to update us on the vine's progress. So far, we have gotten a new flower every day, well worth the twelve dollars and fifty cents, especially if you include the fresh air, the humming bird's nest, and the sense of accomplishment. 

They have the most beautiful orchids.  I have yet to bring an orchid home.  I tend to kill plants, not with neglect, but with an abundance of love, a good metaphor for my parenting (I'm working on it). Perhaps, next time, I'll bring an orchid home to practice mindful neglect. 

Rainy Day at the Huntington Library

K: We are going in.  Do you remember the two rules about museums?

O: Quiet talking and no touching.

K: Right. 

O: But those are the two hardest things in the whole widest world.  I know, if I feel like feeling a painting, I'll just touch my nose instead.

Collecting Camellias 

Collecting Camellias 

I've been in rehearsal for Much Ado at the Long Beach Playhouse for the past month and family time has been hard to come by.  We used our first day off after opening to go to the Huntington Library.  It was drizzly and glorious, and I had a new camera.  

P had about 6 wardrobe changes due to excessive puddle jumping

P had about 6 wardrobe changes due to excessive puddle jumping

We stayed outside for nearly our entire visit. The children's garden was a huge hit. 

Pink bear really got into the microscopes

Pink bear really got into the microscopes

Then, we attempted the main house. 

P is a rebel, just like her momma

P is a rebel, just like her momma

After a pep talk about museum etiquette and promises of cookies, we visited several galleries and touched our noses a lot.  O thought that The Blue Boy looked very sad because he didn't have any one to play with.  I agree.  I wonder what she'll think of the Gutenberg Bible. Maybe next time.

So long, farewell...

So long, farewell...

We took selfies in the bathroom (babies and buttons), had a subpar lunch at the cafe (packing a picnic next time), and had, by all accounts, a stellar day.  

Which button?

Which button?

The camellias were all in bloom and it was nice to forget we live in a city for a minute, and even nicer to be back in that city when we were were done. 

Fairyland

Fairyland

Can't recommend enough, a thirty minute drive and a world away.   

Where do you escape to when you only have an afternoon?

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