Monday, October 6, 2014

Cabin Creatures

With a family trip on the horizon, preparation begins days in advance. From behind the the screen of my laptop, I open two, sometimes three, blank documents. Here, I begin to organize my thoughts. Listing my to-do's, I look at my week and assign daily tasks to help alleviate stress. One list details what we'll need from the grocery store. Wanting food to be fresh, that trip will wait until the day before we leave. The list that includes laundry prep, clothing needs, medicine/first aid kits, etc... is what I focus on first. 

Twisting Andrew's arm, I make him verbally commit to getting a few of his He-Man related tasks completed in advance because more often than not, the kids and I are in the car, waiting to go, when he says:

"Be right back. I just have to go pack my bag real fast." Bless him.

When I feel weighed down by the job of readying myself and the children, Andrew suggests that I allow Eliza to be fully responsible for her belongings. I believe in teaching your child to take ownership and responsibility but if I had to guess, at this point, her suitcase would be filled with a few essential items mixed in with her American Doll, the doll's clothes, bedding accessories for her doll, a baggie of hair elastics, again for her doll, the doll's stuffed animals and all other comfort items. Mixing it up a little, she'd bring a few book too.

It's a big job. It's the kind of job that went entirely unnoticed when I was a child. My dedicated Mother quietly went about her business, organizing the family, handling the laundry and packing the perfect car treat bag. She never failed. I'll always remember the pink, circle mints that slowly melted in my mouth as the miles passed by. Wheat thins and squeezy cheese were also reserved for family road trips. We loved to see what designs she'd create with that gourmet canned cheese. I bought squeezy cheese once to snack on at home and it suddenly was a very gross concept. Car trips are the one exception. I find myself doing these same chores now, but unlike my Mother, I am loud about it. My kids know what I'm doing and that they better keep their cute little paws of my organized stacks of "stuff!"

What a boring introduction, sorry Andrew, but it's an accurate portrayal of what's involved when we go out of town. Usually, there's a high level of excitement attached to the prospect of travel which is a great motivator in getting things done. Unpacking, well... there's nothing fun about that. Often times, it's depressing and overwhelming; especially when you're returning home from Disneyland. It's just the worst!

Last weekend, we made a return visit to Bubba's Cabin. It was the first time we went with just our little family. In fact, it has been a really, really long time since we've traveled without another family. We were bummed at first that we couldn't round up anyone to come with us. Looking back, however, it turned out to be a really neat thing to enjoy that time with our kids, alone.

It takes five hours to get there. The kids weren't perfect, but for the most part, they were really well behaved. Forrest, as we expected, grew restless most often. Henry the Saint, always steps up as he's the one sitting beside him. He is patient beyond his years, well... not always. However, when it comes to keeping Forrest happy in the car, he does a fine job.

We were greeted by a stunning sunset as we made that final stretch. With several maintenance type jobs to accomplish upon arrival, we were in a race against time to reach our destination while it was still light outside.
About that race... we definitely lost. It was dark by the time we pulled up the driveway. Even so, Andrew and I went to work opening up the cabin and situating the children. We had made it! The scent of pine provided me the best of welcomes. I was jazzed to be there and eager to bust out the children's pajamas, light the kerosene lamp and snuggle on the couch. The kids then initiated "ghost stories."

Andrew and I took turns sleeping with different kids while we were there. We laughed as he informed me of Eliza's frequent sleep talking spells. My favorite being the time that she called out,

"I'll file it for you!" At school, Eliza is happiest when she stays in from recess to help file papers for her teachers. My wish would be that she'd be outside running around with friends, but she is who she is. And that girl loves to earn suckers, and her teacher's sweet praise, by filing those papers.

At night I would stay awake, worried if my baby was warm enough. That first morning, it was around 6:00 a.m., when I brought him in my bed. I don't sleep with my babies, ever. It's fine if other parents do, that's there choice, but it's something I've never been tempted to do. So, breaking my own rule, I welcomed him in my bed, eager to warm him up. Listening to him breathe and cuddling him close, a return to sleep proved impossible. I loved every second.

Cups of hot chocolate and a warm pancake breakfast helped set the mood for our day of adventure. Watching their little hands cradle their warm cups of chocolate, I felt a surge of how important these moments are. And, in some ways, how these moments are the best that life has to offer.
 Andrew dips Forrest's pacifier in the hot chocolate for him
 I know we weren't "camping" but the "food tastes better when you're camping" rule still applied.
Our morning began with a family walk. We made our way to the boys and girls forts where Eliza showed me the improvements that were made the last time they'd been at the cabin.
Later that same day, Andrew would help build a second, more sturdy, bridge to the girls side of the fort.
After that first outing, Andrew took the boys on one four wheeler while I drove the girls on the other. I drive slow and with extreme caution. Andrew is always patient, allows me to lead and set the pace. It was a sweet experience to do this all together. I know. Sometimes I say dumb things. But I loved it.

The older two children are allowed to go to the forts on their own as long as they use the "buddy system." So you can imagine Eliza's dismay when she and Henry made it all the way to their destination only to hear that Henry suddenly had to use the bathroom. His need was greater than simply "going in nature," if you know what I'm saying. Even so, I was proud of her for obeying my rule that they stay together.
 Eliza and Henry tromp off to their forts
   Andrew and Lottie head off to collect wood

Andrew and Lottie, who had been off on an adventure together, met up with them at the fort to work on the bridge project. Meanwhile, I curled up with a good book while Forrest took his daily snooze.

The rest of our day included activities like this:
 Forrest loved four wheeler rides the most. 
He would  light up with excitement when he heard the ignition start 
and scream in wild protest if his demand to be a passenger was not met.
Andrew's idea to bring their bikes was a brilliant one.
Henry, especially, loved having his bike around. 
He took a few spills, but that didn't stop him. 

 Knowing we were leaving the next morning, we tried to savor the afternoon. Forrest was allowed to explore outside. He sampled rocks, crawled under tall fences and marveled at the camp fire.  
He is curious, busy and full of mischief. Later that night, he managed to fit his entire body into the unlit wood burning stove. How he managed to open it and crawl inside, is beyond me. How he did this undetected (Andrew was in the same room, but his back was turned) is an even greater mystery! His deed went unnoticed until he fell out of the fire place, landing with a crash! He was covered, head to toe, in dark black soot. It would have been an incredible photo, but the sun was setting and we were more concerned about comforting and cleaning the poor child up!

We roasted hot dogs and ate a pasta salad that I had brought from home for dinner. And did I mention there were marshmallows?

Sunday morning we woke up to an onslaught of rain. Unable to play outside, we went ahead and began the cleaning and shutting down cabin process. It took Andrew and me four hours! The kids did great to stay out of our way and occupy each other while we worked. We think that we can slim down that time now that we know exactly what we are doing. With the rain still falling steadily and five hour drive ahead of us, we left as soon as we were done. 

"Is it worth the effort?" I asked him as we were driving in the middle of no-where. "We had one full, beautiful day. That's all." The preparing, the cleaning, the gas money... is it worth one beautiful day with the kids in this special place. 

"Absolutely." He replied. Why I even asked him, I don't know. But I'll take it. The kids won't always support our ideas and family trips, so we'll go to the trouble, schedule the time and sift through those piles of laundry to make memories like this continue. 
Thank you Bubba and Nanna for your kindness in letting us play and explore this neat place. We love you!

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