Sunday, July 10, 2011

A permanent film of summer dirt

Sometimes when kids are playing in the dirt or getting sticky with their food I hear parents say, "Well, I guess it's a bath night." Then I always wonder if there are really any justifiably "non-bath nights" judging by the dirtiness criterion because kids get filthy every day, and especially in the summer, when, in addition to the dirt of everyday playing they are regularly smeared in sunscreen and/or bug spray. This dirtiness is paradoxically both a disgusting and delightful sensation, and thankfully, one that my family has enjoyed almost daily during the past week and a half.

Camping was at the top of our list for the Fourth of July weekend. We recently graduated from our four-man tent and purchased a multi-room one. The entire top is mesh and so you are truly sleeping under the stars, plus the lovely trees! When we woke up in the morning Michael said, "I know that it's morning because the trees are green again. At night they are black."
Every time we camp we have tin foil dinners for dinner; pancakes, eggs, and bacon for breakfast; hot dogs for lunch; and s'mores at every meal. Since I forgot the propane tank for the camp stove, we cooked everything over the fire this time, which made it even tastier.
 and yes!
If I could get them to eat this much at home, they wouldn't all be hanging out at the bottom of their respective growth charts. Look at those happy campers!
They all remained happy throughout the day, especially since our tent could accommodate the nappers:

A silly story: Later we enjoyed a visit from a friendly butterfly that took a liking to Michael and stayed on his index finger for about ten minutes.
Zachary, determined to have a similar experience, smeared a roasted marshmallow all over his hands so that a butterfly would stick to him. He soon found a butterfly and it did stick to his marshmallow hands. I did not take a picture because I was busy trying to save the poor insect from becoming a flightless cripple. After rolling off most of the marshmallow, the little butterfly was able to fly away. Phew. Where does he come up with this stuff? 

That afternoon we swam at a nearby state park, and then it was time to go. 
But we felt disappointed to be leaving so soon, and since Eric didn't have to be at the hospital until Tuesday afternoon, we booked another campsite for the following Monday! So after a nice day at church,
we hit the road again, this time for Devil's Lake. I left most of the supplies from Friday's trip in the van so that we wouldn't forget anything. We ended up forgetting plenty of things, including Adam's shoes! He didn't really complain:
Like all of the boys, he was excited to row around in our inflatable boat and do some fishing.
We ate our favorite camp menu again and slept under the stars again, and except for the viciously snorting raccoon that spooked us in the middle of the night, it was practically perfect.

Yesterday we swam at Stewart Lake (our friends call it "mud lake"), where we swam through and around mounds of brilliant green algae. The kids found a cool water spring and built all sorts of dams and waterfalls around it. We picked wild berries and watched some teenagers cannonball off the limb of a pine tree (Adam pointed and said, "Guys! Tree!"). That evening the kids went over to a favorite friends' house to play, and so Eric and I went to a lake again, date-style! We took the smaller boat out on Lake Mendota and ate sandwiches on board while we talked and watched the sailboats.

Summer dirt, I adore you. I'd like more of you, please, and soon!

P.S. My sister Michelle currently does not want anything to do with summer dirt and so did not accompany us on any of these outings. Maybe next time.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Sister support!

My sister Michelle is going off to college this fall--can you believe it? 

Before she goes, though, she agreed to come out to Wisconsin for eight weeks to 1) help me out as a part-time summer job and 2) have the experience of living away from home, but not as far away or detached as Idaho, which is where she's going in the fall. My mom drove out with her and then stayed for a couple days, when we picked strawberries, visited a farmer's market, and enjoyed some baseball. Yes, I had my mom and sister here at the same time! Can you spell a-h y-e-a-h? 
(Aside: darling boys picking strawberries. Go, boys, go!)
(Also: Jacob, I am so glad that it is summer vacation so that I can benefit from your sunniness all day. You are such a delight.)
But back to Michelle. Michelle is awesome! She helps me every morning from breakfast until lunch. Here's what's changed:
1. I can exercise every single day! Pre-baby size, I am coming!
2. My house has not been a complete disaster for even one day since she's been here! I once heard housecleaning described as a cycle of cleanliness and chaos; the homemaker's goal is to keep the home situation at the cleanliness portion of the cycle for the greater portion of the time, even though it inevitably must cycle through chaos occasionally. I have gone through DAYS (weeks) in the rut of chaos before returning to cleanliness. But Michelle has helped me keep up with the maintenance, plus she's given me flexibility to do big-scale organizing projects.
3. Summer Camp Brinton is shaping up! Our morning routine is this: exercise, eat, and dress; conduct devotional, scripture reading, and flag raising; complete chores, music time, and reading time. During the week before Michelle came, it took us until noon to finish our morning routine. With her help we're done an hour earlier, and each child has had more attention during it.
4. Field trips are safer and less stressful! Last week I convinced Michelle to come to a waterpark with us, and it was much more manageable with another adult nearby.
That way the big kids could do slides
 and the little 'uns still had someone to chase them around.
Here are Zachary and Jacob with a couple friends that we met there. So fun.
I've realized that my ability to reach my goals as a homemaker and mom are possible at c-1, where c=the number of children that I currently have. Is it always that way? I don't know. But for now Michelle makes up for my inadequacy, and I'm looking forward to the rest of her visit here.