Well, we made it out on our first camping trip of the year. I have to say, things could have gone better.
The Haven was still partially underwater. The water wasn’t nearly as bad as when we were there a couple of months ago, but the fact that any was there at all is a bit troubling. The first time it was forgivable because it had been raining cats and dogs for quite awhile. This time, however, it hasn’t been particularly wet.
Unfortunately, as we guessed, the raspberries seem to be kaput. That was a big bummer, since that was one of the fairly major projects of last year. More generally, it’s kind of a bummer that there’s so much water around everywhere, making it difficult to get around and sort of unpleasant to contemplate living there at some point. Especially since all of that standing water lead to the inevitable conclusion – mosquitos.
It was unbelievable. As a person who has done a lot of camping, I’ve never seen anything like it. The clouds of mosquitos were so bad that it was almost like you had a hard time seeing somebody through it. I cannot imagine there is enough wildlife up there to feed that many mosquitos, which means they were just that much more hungry when we got there. The picture above really does not do it justice AT ALL.
Oh, the poor kids. The poor, poor kids. I feel like such a bad parent even telling you. Even covered with bugspray, pants, and sweatshirts, the kids were all but carried away by the buggers. Their poor, sad little bodies are covered head to toe. Ollie’s left hand had so many bites on it that it was swollen like a sausage, and he couldn’t flex his fingers. His ankles were so bad, he had trouble walking. He’s got 5 or so that actually turned into big, white, swollen blisters and popped. Evie absolutely looks like she has the chicken pox.
Between that and the extreme lack of sleep, moods were pretty foul by Sunday, and we left hours before we had planned. Since we had gotten there so late on Saturday, we were only there well short of 24 hours. I still think it is safe to say that it was the most miserable less-than-24-hours of Evie’s life. I’m actually worried that she’s been soured on camping altogether, she was so miserable. Both children had to get up for benadryl in the middle of the night just to make it to morning.
The worst part of the whole thing is that I am relatively untouched, which make me feel a little guilty. With 3 tasty morsels around to snack on, I was distinctly less appetizing. My secret? When nobody’s looking, I quietly release a little mosquito repellent in the air, like one of those Glade air fresheners. Halbach brand repellent – absolutely repellent since 1980.
The one good news is that I was finally able to get around most of the property and hang the “no trespassing” signs back up. 3 sides are good to go, and the 4th is maybe a 3rd of the way done. I found every sign except 1, and they are much more secure this time, so hopefully they don’t just keep falling down again. It was somewhat depressingly difficult to find the signs, downed or otherwise. Isn’t it kind of half the point that someone can easily see them?
It’s especially depressing knowing that I sacrificed my kids to the mosquito gods, just to re-hang some invisible signs that will probably just fall off the tree again.
We spent two nights at The Haven, and we had beautiful weather. It was in the 80′s during the day, and down to the 60′s at night. Most importantly, NO RAIN! I don’t know why I’m such a camping rain magnet, but I’m glad my powers were not active for once.
We’re really starting to know our way around the land a little bit. We spent most of the day on Friday carving paths to various things with our new loppers (especially the potty tree). Most importantly, I think we might have found the location for our future tiny house! It’s in a sort of clearer area between a triangle of truly massive pine trees. Well shaded, midway back in the woods, and not too far from a clearing that may serve for fruit trees. Definitely some potential.
Equally importantly, we did find the mythical blueberry bushes towards the back of our property, and they were delicious. We might need to bolster our stock with a few extra bushes next year.
We’re starting to know our way around South Haven a little bit as well. On Saturday morning, we hit up the most excellent farmers’ market, followed by coffee @ Julias. I think this is going to become a Haven tradition (especially considering we all were in need of a real bathroom by Saturday morning!!) Also, strange coincidence, one of the vendors at the farmer’s market was the City Hippie, a family from Evie’s school and a maker of extremely beautiful things. Evie and Ollie did a kids’ activity at the market and colored some canvas bags with fabric markers and stencils, and they both turned out really well. They’re both very proud of their bags and they’ve shown them to everyone they’ve come in contact with since then.
By lunch time, some friends had arrived, and the work portion of our trip was over. Although I don’t think she really realized it at the time, I think that Evie probably had one of the best days of her life. To have friends her age there to play with (who don’t get frustrated with her no matter how bossy she is), to hike with and make up potty stories with, and to hide behind the tent and tell secrets with was about as fun as it gets. We found a dog-friendly beach and all had a great time, even if the water was a little cold and the waves were a little sneaky (some unexpected water in the face a time or two).
Ollie also had a great time with Maya and Elsie (he said his favorite part of the weekend was singing “Twinkle Twinkle” with them), but for his money, he was just happy to play in the sand. All day, every day, nothing but sand. We would no sooner wash his hands or put on his pajamas or whatever, and he’d be back in it again. He had sand everywhere, including what was basically a sand hood over his head and neck, which got pretty disgusting when we were forced to put a layer of vaseline on top of it all. Yuck.
Ollie played in the sand so much he was literally delusional. He shouted in his sleep, “I want to go under the sand!” I thought he must have meant, “I DON’T want to go under the sand,” nightmare style, but he repeated it several times and he definitely wanted to go under the sand. Based on how much sand he had on him, he almost got his wish.
And the best part about The Haven? You can be as LOUD AS YOU WANT:
(I love how Ollie just flinches a lot and looks confused, but still wants to be part of the group.)
Unfortunately, the worst part about The Haven is ticks. We found at least a dozen crawling around at various times, and poor Ollie won the dubious honor of being the first person to have a tick attached to them at The Haven. We checked him pretty thoroughly at bedtime, so it must have crawled up to his head during the night. We handled it pretty quickly and calmly, and Oliver didn’t quite seem to mind, handling it with his usual good-natured nonchalance (“The ladybug bit me!”).
Finally, on the way home, we stopped and picked 7 3/4 pounds of blueberries. Evie in particular did a great job. I was really surprised. The last time she went picking, she did what Ollie did this time, which was basically eat every blueberry that went in her bucket. She was pretty proud of herself, and cried quite a bit when she accidentally spilled her bucket. But she got back to it and ended up picking a full quart by herself!
A great trip and, as always, it makes me want to go back again!
I’m writing this is support of my candidate for “best campsite ever”, Waupaca Camping Park.
I have camped all over this great country of ours (well, mostly all over the Midwest) and I would be hard pressed to name a better campsite. There are undoubtedly reasons to camp at other places: some particular item of natural beauty, hiking trails, lake access, etc. But I don’t think you’ll ever find another campsite where the owners are so passionate about their property.
The idea of this post all started when we were camping somewhere else and Sara said, “You know, we were really spoiled by the bathrooms at Waupaca.” (Sara has, by the way, quite literally camped all over this great country of ours, so you’d do worse than to take her recommendation.) It got me thinking about how much better Waupaca is, overall, compared to other places we’ve been.
They clean their bathrooms often. I believe twice a day, but don’t quote me on that. Anyway, the bathrooms are always clean. This can not be overstated. Bad bathrooms / showers are one of the hazards of camping life. State park bathrooms seem to be particularly bad, due to low budget and high usage. Believe me, I would pay a premium for a good bathroom.
Waupaca Camping Park has all the amenities of a good campground: good camp store, swimming pool, playground, game room, laundry, etc. There are lots of trees so sites are obscured from each other. But none of that necessarily sets them above the rest, that just gets them in the conversation for best campground ever. (Actually though, the cleanness of their bathrooms puts them in the top 5% automatically)
There are a few things they do that really put them over the top. First off, there are solar panels on the roof that heat the pool, so the water is never cold (it’s usually around 86 or so). Second off, they have many different types of accommodations to choose from. They have big cabins and small cabins, tent sites and RV sites, permanent sites, sites with a view of the lake, and everything in between. They even have an air-conditioned yurt!
But third off, and most importantly, they just really care about their site. Every year there is new construction somewhere. Either they are installing air conditioners in all the cabins, or they are building a new roof over the bathroom area, creating new patios for the fire pits, etc. This year there was a brand new, enormous (wood! not plastic!) playground area. Every year there is something new. I see them going around to scoop out the fire pits. I see them cleaning the cabins. The owners send us a Christmas card! I’m not joking!
This probably doesn’t sound like much, but I’m telling you, this is the best campsite I have ever been to. If you are looking for a campsite in mid-Wisconsin (almost directly West of Green Bay), then this is the place for you.
If you recall, Evie said, “When I grow up, I’m gonna be a person in charge of Waupaca.” I don’t see how you could come by higher praise than that.
When we were camping, there was a missing knot in the bench of the picnic table, leaving a hole. Evie asked what it was for and, because I take the “Calvin’s dad” philosophy of question answering*, I naturally told her it was for “toots”.
Let me back up a second and explain toots. We didn’t have any cutesy names for bodily functions when I was a kid, we called a spade a spade. When Evie was younger, Sara asked me what names we should use for things and I was like, “huh?” It just didn’t occur to me that you should make ups some silly phrase. It doesn’t make it any more polite people, talking about farts in the first place is what’s rude, not using the word fart. That being said, when Evie says “toots” it’s the darned cutest thing you could ever imagine the world.
So anyway, I told her the hole was for toots, not thinking much of it. The “toot hole” (as Evie called it) must really have captured her imagination. She went around telling everybody about the toot hole and spend a decent amount of time trying to toot on the toot hole. It wasn’t long before the origin of the phrase was traced back to me.
Time passes and I don’t think much about it. Then one day we were sitting out on the back porch and she said, “My red chair has a toot hole!” See, her chair is one of those plastic ones and it has a hole so that (presumably) the water can drain off. I had long since forgotten about the original toot hole and the fact that she remembered it took me by surprise. This brought another round of Evie doing her darndest to toot on the hole. Not as funny as the first time, since I now had the sinking feeling she wasn’t going to forget about this one.
Fast forward to this week. Evie and I were pretending to go camping, one of her favorite games. Evie was telling me a big story about her imaginary, fully-featured lawn chair. It was blue with yellow arm rests. It had all the features, cup holders, a thing to lie back in, and, of course, a toot hole.
Don’t say I never taught you nothin’ kid.
* I couldn’t find a good copy of the Calvin and Hobbs strip I was looking for to embed in this post, but you can see a grainy one here. It’s kind of hard to read, so I will reproduce the text:
Calvin: Dad, how come old photographs are always black and white? Didn’t they have color film back then?
Dad: Sure they did. In fact, those old photographs are in color. It’s just the world was black and white then.
Dad: Yep. The world didn’t turn color until sometime in the 1930s, and it was pretty grainy color for a while, too.
Calvin: That’s really weird.
Dad: Well, truth is stranger than fiction.
Calvin: But then why are old paintings in color?! If their world was black and white, wouldn’t artists have painted it that way?
Dad: Not necessarily. A lot of great artists were insane.
Calvin: But… but how could they have painted in color anyway? Wouldn’t their paints have been shades of gray back then?
Dad: Of course, but they turned colors like everything else did in the ’30s.
Calvin: So why didn’t old black and white photos turn color too?
Dad: Because they were color pictures of black and white, remember?
Over the weekend we went camping and it was fantastic. Beautiful, perfect weather every day. We had lots of family, lots of guitar playing, some playing on the beach and some of the best, most creative food I have ever had camping.
In years past, we had one person buy all the food and everybody paid them. However, that puts entirely too much responsibility on one person, both to buy, plan, and transport all of the food, but it also makes them the defacto food master to make all the meals as well. So instead, we came up with a new scheme that I think makes a lot more sense. Every person is assigned one meal, to do with what they wish. We gave some suggestions so that people wouldn’t have overlapping meals, but other than that it was fair game. This worked out well for a few reasons. First, when people were divying up the money last year, it seemed like a lot of money for food. Now, they are spending the same amount of money, but it doesn’t seem like it. I don’t know if that made sense or not. Second, it forces everyone to do the work of at least one meal. Third, it is still a lot easier than planning food for yourself for the whole week. You only have to think about one meal, and once that’s out of the way, you’re off the hook. Finally, as a side effect of #3, because people only have to focus their energies on one meal, they can come up with some fantastic stuff.
Case in point, one morning for breakfast we had fresh doughnuts.
This was followed later for lunch by fresh french fries.
Both cases involved using a dutch oven as a deep fryer; loading it up with oil and heating that oil in the coals. The doughnuts were then rolled in either sugar or powdered sugar. Seriously, this was straight out of ”Dutch Oven Cookin’ with Cee Dub“! To be able to eat food like that while camping was amazing. The doughnuts in particular were a big hit; we consumed 60 of them.
Most of the rest of the food was pretty standard, however, that wasn’t the only campfire food experiment. There was also an incident involving jiffy pop extended over the flames on the top of a shovel, with gloves to protect hands. The popcorn came out fine, but it didn’t work quite as well as the one actually cooked over the stove. I also used some brilliant pudgie pie makers that were double wide, enabling you to cook two at the same time.
As for Evie, she greatly improved her steering ability with the tricycle. She can at least keep it going in the direction she wants, although it is no straight line. We also had a lot of fun inventing games to play with the parachute. Evie enjoyed it the most, but I think the rest of the campers enjoyed it the second most. It’s not everyday you see grown adults whooping and hollering and skipping to their loo (oh yes, there is blackmail video).
We also hit up New Buffalo’s legendary restaurant Redamaks, something that I’ve longed to do for years after seeing countless billboards. The result? It was actually quite excellent. As Sara said, “I’ve never seen a menu with so much fried stuff.” It was a little strange with the paper plates and plastic silverware, but the food was exactly what I needed at that moment.
Finally, what would a camping trip be without some jowling? Jowling is when you shake your head back and forth with your lower jaw sort of hanging loose, and then have somebody snap a picture. This leaves your face in all sorts of weird positions, like you have a crooked face, or a palsy of some sort, or got punched by an invisible prize fighter. For example…
In light of my recent camping post being linked to by a camping blog, I thought I would put up a little poll about something that came up when we were camping. I meant to include this in my original camping post, but I forgot to write it down on my blogging notes from the weekend, so it slipped my mind.
In other news, we are down to a 1 car family as Sara’s car takes an extended stay in the shop (should be about a week when all is said and done). And there will still probably be more repairs in the future. We are having a pretty bad run as far as car trouble goes. I think when all is said and done, we’ll have spent about $1,300 in about two months between our two cars. It’s really not too bad when you consider we haven’t had much car repair for the past few years, so maybe we should count our blessings. Still pretty annoying though.
Our vacation got off to a bad start.
When we left our house the car had a little trouble starting, but I promptly forgot about it. After all, Sara had been driving the car just that morning and she hadn’t had any trouble. Unfortunately though, it did mean something after all and after stopping at a highway oasis to use the bathroom, the car wouldn’t start again. They didn’t have any jumper cables inside and they told me to call the highway patrol for a jump. While waiting for them to show up, I didn’t have anything to do except try and eventually it started. It actually worked out pretty good. We called a relative to find a repair shop further up the road and we were in an out in less than an hour. They said the battery was “older than dirt” and they were surprised I hadn’t had trouble before this. They even fixed my headlight while they were at it. It was probably more convenient than if it would have happened while at home.
So we got to the campsite a little later than expected, but not too much worse for the wear. It was kind of a weird place. First off, it was completely flat with no trees whatsoever. Standing on our campsite we could see all the other campsites, minus those blocked by all the big honking motor homes (which was like all of them). Second off, the camp store had the largest selection of booze I have ever seen outside of an actual liquor store. I mean, it’s one thing to allow drinking in your camp and quite another to stock it 4 deep on the shelves. Third, the place was packed and yet it was…empty. Other than the two tent campers next to us, the entire campsite was silent after nightfall. From every motor home came the flicker of T.V. I just can’t quite fathom why people would even bother going camping if it’s going to be like that. It also rained a little, but it didn’t really effect much; we had time in the morning to let the sun dry everything out before we left.
On Saturday we went to the actual reunion. It was great, as usual. The food was good (especially Grandma’s rhubarb crisp!), it was fun to visit with family, we ended up with some embroidered towels from the raffle and Evie enjoyed the horse drawn wagon rides (she took a few). The weather was very odd. Every 10 minutes it would switch between sunny and hot and rainy and cold as if someone was flipping a switch. Every time it got sunny I was itching to put up the tent, but Sara wouldn’t let me. Her brilliant plan worked to perfection because by the time we finally put up the tent, we missed the rain entirely.
The next day we took our usual yearly trip to the Waupaca Camping Park. This place is really great; they have a lot of cabins and nice tent sites, they are very clean, they have a nice playground and they have a heated pool. The campsites are laid out nicely with lots of trees, etc. We did some hiking, the highlight of which was seeing an enormous turtle, at least two feet long counting the tail, sunning on a rock. We went to a very strange place named the Animal Haven Zoo. It wasn’t really a zoo so much as a series of connected pens. You never knew what you were going to find, one minute you’d be feeding goats, the next minute you’d be checking out some lions. It was way better than I was expecting and I would definitely recommend it. Buy the animal food too, it is well worth $1. They also had a surprisingly nice gift shop.
One day while running around the campsite, Evie fell down and skinned her knee and smashed her face on the pavement. We felt really bad, especially knowing that she was going to have a mark on her cheek in all of her birthday pictures. She wasn’t too concerned though, she was more upset about having to put on a band-aid than anything. Other than that we did all the regular camping stuff; smores, pudgie pies, hot dogs and brats, and more rain. It actually rained 5 out of 7 days that we camped, but the only day it was really a problem was on Thursday when we were getting ready to leave. We were already getting puddles in our tent and everything was soaked by the time we got it into the car. By the time we were ready to go, I was really ready to be home. Evie had a great time and really was an angel. She even slept well!
All in all a very nice vacation!
Of course you didn’t, because you didn’t know I was gone.
It’s been a long week and a half or so. Evie and Sara were in MI all last week until Thursday when we met for camping. Always when Sara is going to be gone I think to myself, “I am going to have sooo much time to do whatever I want!” and then I end up being busier than I normally am trying to get all the stuff done I’m supposed to get done while they are gone. So I was actually staying up late every night trying to finish everything I needed to do and didn’t get a lot of free time.
I ain’t complain’ though, because Sara had it much worse. Evie has taken it into her head to have some real tantrums, screaming, kicking, the whole nine. I remember a particular phone call in which I could hear Evie in the background yelling gems like, “It is nice to bite mommy!” Most of these tantrums involve the potty in one way or another. She is very willful and doesn’t like being told what to do, therefore, every little thing becomes a battle of wills. I understand this is pretty typical of her age, so once we are through it, we’re hoping it will go dormant again until she is a teenager.
Many of the problems are exacerbated by being on vacation. First off, she doesn’t have her usual routine going on around her. Second off, she is getting less sleep since her sleep schedule is off and her naps are often shortened because of stuff that we’re doing. Third, she is having a really good time and doesn’t want to do the things she needs to do (like sleep). Finally, when we are busy trying to do things she has more power to disrupt our life and she knows it. And she does not use this power for good. All of this lead Sara to proclaim it the “worst week she’s ever had as a parent” and seriously think about canceling the vacation altogether.
All that unpleasantness aside, there have also been some bright spots on the potty training front. She doesn’t really have a lot of accidents and she is starting to stay dry through naps and even through the night sometimes, despite her diaper. One night she even got Sara to take her to the potty in the middle of the night so she could go.
The actual camping went really well. We were going to tent camp, but the prospect of a wet weekend caused us to upgrade to a cabin and I think it was a wise choice. We were basically unaffected by the rain. One of the highlights of the trip was going to a u-pick strawberry and cherry farm and picking our brains out. Each strawberry was better than the last and I probably ate a pound of cherries. We may have overdone it a little bit on the strawberries; I don’t know how we can eat them all before they go bad. We’re doing what we can though and even as I write this I am eating fresh strawberries!
Evie also had a great time. When we got home she stayed in the car for about 15 minutes hysterically crying for us to get back in the car (right now!) and drive back to the camp site. She has also been asking to do some of the things we did while camping, such as “see the doggies” or “go swimming”.
So that’s about it, back home safe and sound, at least until the next vacation. I don’t have any quotes for you today, although I’m sure she said plenty of hilarious stuff over the long weekend.
So I haven’t been posting much for the past week or so, but we’ve been really busy what with the holiday weekend and all.
So last week we had some friends from Philly (well Jersey really) visiting and staying at our place the whole week. (Although I did mention our trip to Maggianos) They have a daughter about Evie’s age, so it was nice for Evie to have someone to play with, or at least follow around and imitate. It worked out pretty well for them to use our house as a base of operations and strike out from there all around Chicago. We didn’t get to do all that much with them since we were working and all, but we did manage to go to the zoo with them. Their daughter is really cute (maybe even a match for Evie, although exactly the opposite…dark hair and dark eyes) and smart as a whip. Ever since they left all I can think about is, “Will Evie really be able to do all of that in 10 months??”
Then, last weekend we went on our semi-annual camping trip in Michigan. It was the usual camping trip with Evie, which is to say, exhausting! It is a lot of work running around after her in general, but it is like 10 times as much work when you are camping. Especially this time because she wanted to be walking around (and into everyone’s campsite) from sun up to sun down and anything you wanted to do to get in the way of that was not appreciated! So I didn’t have time to play any cards or any sort of games or anything.
We went on a hike and we saw two sets of deer bounding out of the woods onto the path in front of us. It was really quite amazing considering we were singing childrens’ songs at the tops of our voices to keep Evie happy! As a side note, I did have some outside confirmation that my family has a preternatural ability to spot deer at any time. I always thought I had a knack for it, but compared to my dad, I’m pathetic. Anyway, we also managed to make it to the beach one day. You know, it’s funny, every time you go in Lake Michigan, or even swimming in general, you say, “Once you’re in the water it’s not so cold!” But then the next time you’re like, “Oh yeah, well not this time because it is COOOOLD!” And then you get in and say, “Once you’re in the water it’s not so cold!” Plus everybody around you is repeating the same thing. How many times does that have to happen before it really takes? So we went to the lake and the water was super super cold but then we got in and were surprised to discover it wasn’t that bad.
Only tangentially related but, when I was little we always had 2% milk. When I would go to someone else’s house and they had skim milk I just couldn’t stand it. It just seemed like colored water to me. (Of course now all we have is skim milk, but that’s not my fault). Well, when we were camping, Chris (who was the main skim milk house that I went to when I was growing up) said that sometimes he just puts water in his cereal and it tastes exactly like skim milk. Aside from sounding completely disgusting, I think this upholds my theory that skim milk really is just colored water.
In terms of an Evie Update, she has really been surprising me lately. I think she is entering into a stage where she is just learning everything so fast and picking up things you don’t realize she is picking up. This might be fatherly doting, so if you don’t want to hear it skip a bit, brother.
Three times today when we were going through a book she pointed at something I didn’t know she knew and said the word for it aloud: house, apple and flower. Sara told her to knock on the door and she went over and knocked on it just the way you would. When has she ever knocked on a door? Today she took Sara’s keys and went over to the door and tried to reach up to where the keys go. Probably the funniest thing was I had her little horse and I was pretending that he was telling me secrets. I would just put the horse up to my ear and whisper, “spsh spsh spsh” and she would laugh hysterically. So I just kept doing it because she thought it was pretty funny. Later I gave her the horse and she put it up to my ear and sort of “spsh spsh spsh”ed. That really cracked me up, that she copied that part! I didn’t even really realize I was doing that. Now in retrospect I think she wasn’t laughing at the idea that a horse was telling me secrets like I originally thought; she apparently understood much better than I knew. She was laughing at what an idiot I was making of myself sticking a horse in my ear and making funny noises!
Evie also has two new tricks. The first is making herself so mad that she pukes. That is a fun one, let me tell you. The other one is farting in the bathtub, which she is not too young to think is funny. She gets a little devilish grin on her face and heeeeaves up her stomach and really cuts one. Then she looks at me and laughs. She gets good resonance out of the tub. Sometimes she tries to lift up her legs to see the bubbles. This is now a multi-night occurrence.
And finally, football season is finally upon us! I’m only in one Fantasy league this year for the first time in a long time. I think that will work out nicely though since I have less time then I’ve had in a long time. I really get giddy with excitement when I think about the Packers on MNF!
So, you’ve probably noticed there haven’t been a lot of posts lately. That is because we have been having some crazy weeks lately! First off, I went to Detroit for business from Tuesday until Thursday night, then Friday we left for WI for a family reunion until Sunday, followed by camping with family from Sunday until Wednesday, followed by one night in Madison with my brother, then back to Chicago on Thursday when people began arriving for Evie’s big birthday party which was on Saturday. I think we are mostly cleaned up now and everything put back in order, but there are still a few loose ends. Lets just say I am not looking forward to going to work tomorrow, but I am looking forward to a weekend off next weekend!
So lets see, camping. Well, let me say for starters that this was the most exhausting vacation I have ever had. Camping tends to be a lot of work in the first place, but with a baby it is 10 times worse. There are so many more things to take with you and remember and every time you leave the campsite you end up making 3 more trips back because of all the things you forgot. So we were planning on driving all the way to the reunion but by the time we got out the door and then with typical Friday rush hour traffic, we realized we were crazy to think we could go that far in one day. So we ended up finding a campsite at a state park along the way. Even though it meant putting up and taking down the tent one extra time and rearranging the car a little, it ended up working out pretty well. It was only $30 total for the night (rather than $100 or who knows how much for a hotel) and it really wasn’t all that much work. The only bad thing was the mosquitoes! Due to all the flooding, the mosquito population in WI is really out of control. I probably got ~25 bites that first night. They were actually fine for the rest of the trip, but that first night we couldn’t even leave the tent.
The reunion was a lot of fun, although it seemed like a lot of people were missing; specifically my cousins! Very few of them were there. Attendance was a little down this year, I think it was around like 170 people. This was my first time at the new site, but I liked it. The only complaint I have about the whole thing was the fireworks. Now, I understand that not everybody has a sleeping baby and its not like I am one of those parents who thinks the whole world should stop and bow to my will because I have a kid, but I have to tell you it was as if the fireworks were going off on top of our tent. In fact that is not wholely inaccurate since I was standing outside of my tent when the first one went off and an 18 inch piece of debris landed about 2 feet away from me. Aunt Lois actually found some of the debris inside her car the next day! But I digress. By the time Sara made it to the tent she found me huddling over Evie with a pillow covering our heads. But it worked apparently because she was back asleep as soon as the fireworks were over. She even slept through the 4 wheeler drive-by / off road show a few hours later. Oh, and (as usual) our dish to pass went over very poorly. That wasn’t so bad though, since we ate it for pretty much the rest of the trip.
The rest of the camping went pretty good as well. There is not a lot of time to relax since (like at home) you are always thinking about the next thing the baby needs to do. By the time you get everybody up and showered and dressed, you start thinking about breakfast, then diaper changes, then naps then lunch, then more diaper changes, etc. Before you know it you are working on baths and pajamas and bedtime. It was fairly hot, but we (I) managed a dip in the pool I think every day. The campsite was really nice, I would definitely recommend it. It was obvious that the people really work hard to make it a nice place. The pictures on the website don’t really do it justice, but maybe that is because they are constantly upgrading everything. My family has gone there I think 7 of the last 8 years or something like that. Some of them even get Christmas cards from the owners! I would definitely go back there again. We would probably still tent camp, but the cabins were probably the nicest cabins I have ever seen at a camp site. Our tent was the perfect distance from the site where we had a fire every night: far enough away that we wouldn’t wake her up, but close enough that we could get there in a hurry if we needed to
Speaking of being away from the tent, Sara had this great idea I think she got maybe from parent hacks. In order to separate ourselves a little bit from the tent when Evie was sleeping, we improvised a baby monitor. Sara would call my phone, put both phones on speaker and then mute my phone. Her phone would stay with the baby. Since we don’t use minutes between our phone, we could let it go like that for hours. The only hard part is remembering to charge our phones constantly.
Anyway, Evie was again walking like a maniac all the time and again improved so much on the skill that she is now walking. Everyone was really helpful with her and it was very appreciated. She is starting to have some serious mommy issues (like separation anxiety). Also, she got some major diaper rash which meant kicking and screaming at every diaper change as well as hating the outdoor baths. Even though there were plenty of people to take her for long periods of time, I just got more and more worn out every day that went by. By the time we left I was sooo glad we were staying in a hotel the next night and not camping or even going back to our own house. If we went back to our place we would have ended up unpacking, etc. So the hotel was perfect.
So we went to Madison and got to take a tour of the capitol where little brother works. His co-worker gave us a tour, and he could definitely be a tour guide. He has worked there for something like 38 years so he definitely knew what he was talking about. Our hotel was literally across the street from the capitol which was handy since we had to leave early from the orchestral “concert on the square” to get Evie to bed, but we could still hear and see it from our room. We walked around the shops and things and ate at some restaurants and generally confirmed what everybody says: Madison is a great town! We even discussed what it would be like to live there, although probably not until we retired. The only thing we’re not sure of is that it, like much of the rest of Wisconsin, seems to be built on quite a beer culture that we have no desire to participate in. Well, it was just an intellectual exercise, but it goes to show you it is a nice town!
Okay, I think that is enough for one night!
I haven’t had a chance to update lately. Of course a lot has happened, we celebrated another month with Evie, our anniversary, and of course, the birth of our nation.
For our part, we went camping for a 4 day weekend. The camping went about as well as could be expected. We were a little nervous since we have 2 more camping trips coming up this summer. It rained once when we first got there and our tent leaked, but there was some time before we went to bed and it dried a little bit. The rest of the time, the weather was great. The bugs weren’t too bad and the campsite was decent. We mostly avoided the sun, although I did have two funny red knees from where I sat in the sun talking for too long and got burned between where my shorts ended and my legs bent down at the knee. Evie slept surprisingly well, including sleeping right through an impromptu fireworks display right outside our tent that kept Sara and I awake.
In general, Evie loved camping. She enjoyed being outside, she enjoyed the swimming and she enjoyed all of the people, but most of all she enjoyed the walking. She is not walking on her own yet, but she moves quite well when she has something to hold on to. When we were camping there was an endless loop of lawn chairs, picnic tables, outstretched hands, etc. for her to walk and walk and walk around, from sun up to sun down. She probably improved her walking skills more in 3 days than in the previous 2 weeks.
The only bad thing that happened was that Evie got sick. She had an elevated temperature (the doctor insists it wasn’t high enough to call it a fever) and she would periodically throw up. But when she wasn’t doing that, she was in a pretty good mood so it was hard to know what to do about it exactly. Actually, the one who got the worst of it was Anna who took a stream of vomit full in the mouth! Yes, you read that right.
After we got home, the first night was pretty rough as Evie tried to re-adjust to things around here. That was just the warm up though for the next day. Sara caught whatever Evie had and got as sick as I’ve ever seen anybody. She literally could not keep down a sip of water. In addition Evie was still throwing up, so it was somewhat disastrous around here. So far I have not gotten sick. My stomach felt a little uneasy here and there, but I’m hoping it was just paranoia from being around sick people. We seem to be through the worst of it (assuming I don’t get sick) so perhaps they will not have to paint a big skull and crossbones on the front of our house and quarantine us as a plague house.
Although, it wasn’t all doom and gloom, there were a few silver linings. For example, Sara lost 7 pounds in about 10 hours! She doesn’t recommend it as a weight loss program.
We had a great weekend camping! The weather was perfect, sunny and about 80 during the day (so not too hot) and cool at night but not cold. Unfortunately we forgot our pillows, but other than that it was good. Everybody made it except for Sara’s brother and everybody had a good time! The campground was nice, the beach was nice, what more can I say? We played games, including many rounds of backyard golf.
But of course, it wouldn’t be a camping trip without something weird befalling us. So Sara’s sister Anna just finished going to the bathroom when her keys fell out of her back pocket followed immediately by the automatic toilet flushing!! She put her hand up there and tried to grab them but they were gone! The ranger said that there was no trap or anything, so the keys were just gone forever. They had to drive 2 hours to Grand Rapids and 2 hours back to get an extra set of car keys. So if you’re ever swimming in lake Michigan and you find a set of keys…
Another weird thing that happened is this lady came into our campsite and started yelling at us for “offering her kids tomatoes.” I mean she was really pissed! Now, it’s true that my dad had a huge basket of tomatoes from his garden that he was trying to get rid of that he set by the road in case anybody wanted some, but nobody remembers offering any to any kids. But even if we did! This lady kept saying, “You don’t talk to kids when there are no adults around! What’s wrong with you?” But if she was so concerned with it, why is she letting her kids run around the campsite with no adult supervision? She made it sound so devious and illicit…”You were offering my kids TOMATOES!” Yeah, that’s what all the child molesters use to lure in the little kids! And when we said we hadn’t offered any to any kids she said, “Well both of my kids said you did.” as if we were lying about it! What do you think your kids are going to say when you ask them where they stole tomatoes from? Why would they be more trustworthy than NINE GROWNUPS! I think there has to be something wrong with you to get so bent out of shape about tomatoes.
So the final funny thing that happened was that there was this MONSTEROUS sand dune that we encountered a few times. We took pictures, but the pictures couldn’t possibly do it justice. It was so steep at the top it was like a wall; straight up and down. It was just amazing. It was so much fun to run down that you couldn’t help but laugh like a loon even as you were busting out all your teeth on a tree. Right about when you hit 70 mph you realize “this is going to end badly” and the rest of the time is spent just trying to get your next foot out in front of you. So my brother missed the first trip there so I had to go with him the next day. Walking (actually crawling, literally, on our hands and knees because it was so steep) up the hill nearly killed me!! It was so much worse than I could ever have imagined. So anyway, after going to the beach, we walked back and I went down the hill first so I could take pictures of him coming down. So he really gets going, obviously a little too fast, because he just does a perfect face plant right into the sand. I thought he died, so I tried to get a picture of it, but then the most amazing thing happened! For a split second the shutter was closed so I didn’t see it exactly, but the next thing I see is him running straight at me! Aparently his momentum was great enough that his feet just flipped over his head and landed back on the ground and he just kept going! When he got to the bottom you couldn’t even see his face, it was just a solid mass of sand with eyes blinking out. He couldn’t even swallow because all the sand in his mouth dryed it out. It was HIL ARIOUS!
So we went up for the reunion this weekend. Friday we drove to Janesville and stayed with my Aunt Lois. It took us about 3 hours to get there which wasn’t bad AT ALL, especially considering there was a semi lodged under an overpass on the Kennedy. Saturday morning we left early and got up there around noon, just in time for lunch. Our hummus did not go over very well…Northern Wisconsoners are not inclined to try out new-fangled middle easter dips. Then, when I went to get it later so we could eat it I found out someone threw it away! I had a really good time all day. All of my Aunt’s and Uncles were there except Uncle John, but his daughter Audrey flew in from CO so she was his representative. Sara didn’t have that great of a time. Sara likes to be entertained constantly, but I’m happy just sitting and talking to everybody. The only thing that put a damper on everything was the blazing hot heat and humidity. That wasn’t so bad in the shade though.
Now here’s where things get dicey…
So people were saying it was supposed to rain, but when we went to bed there was not a cloud in the sky. Still, I decided that I better empty my pockets and put my phone, etc. in the car so in case it did rain it didn’t get wet. I also rolled the windows all the way up in case it rained. Sara moved her puse into the front seat as well. Then we got into a fight because Sara insisted that we needed to lock the car doors since her purse was in there and I said that we didn’t need to because we were hours from anywhere in a big field surrounded by hundreds of my relatives (216 by official count). Finally Sara locked the doors in a huff. So we got into the tent and Sara realized her pajamas were in the car. So I went out to get them and that’s when we realized both of our sets of keys were now locked in the car! So I went back down to where everybody was and Rusty (the guy who owns the place) got us a wire hanger. I gave a feeble attempt to open the door but I realized it would be much easier when it was light out, so I went to bed and Sara slept in her clothes.
About 4:00 it started to rain a little bit so we zipped up our windows in our tent. That’s when all hell broke loose. Some sort of rogue Wisconsin hurricane blew through and tried to rip our tent to shreds. There was so much thunder and lightening that there wasn’t a second when the sky was dark. Even with the tent zipped up and our eyes closed, we could still see some of the bolts!! The wind was blowing so hard that the tent walls on our 6 man tent would almost touch us in the middle of the tent. Our tent did an AMAZING job of holding together and keeping most of the rain out, but with the wind blowing that hard and the rain coming in vertical, the wind would lift the rain fly up and the rain would come in the mesh sides. I quickly got dressed (Sara was sleeping in her clothes since her pjs were locked in the car)(with our umbrellas and some extra clothes) and we got ready to run for it. I honestly thought it was a tornado and our lives were in danger.
We decided to wait it out some and eventually it quieted down a little bit. We were shivering in the middle of the tent huddled under the sheet to keep it from raining on our faces. To be honest though, all in all, it really wasn’t that bad. We had very little stuff with us since we were only staying 1 night, so we had a couple of feet of buffer space on all sides of us, plus we were on an air mattress so we were off the puddles on the ground. We stayed pretty dry, all things considered. The most wet I got was when I went to slap my ball cap on and it was like dumping a cup of water on my head! There was a huge lake of water in the tent, but nothing was resting in it.
So finally the next morning we woke up and then of course had to deal with the locked car. Also it was raining pretty good. We tried for an hour and a half and couldn’t get in with the hanger, so finally we had to call the police and get them to come out and do it. They were super nice (the posed for pictures, including one of my Grandma up against the car like she was getting arrested) and popped it open in roughly 10 seconds. They were really a bright spot in the whole thing.
So anyway, everything ended up working out pretty well, other than it raining the whole time we took our tent down so everything’s pretty wet. We are trying to dry it on the balcony now, but we can’t really put the tent up or anything, so I don’t know how well that’s going to work.
Okay, that’s all.