It's that time of year again-camping season:) No sports and no coaching from July to November! Eventually I think our boys will insist on playing football, but so far, they have been ok with the "two sports a year" rule. It really has been a good thing for our family to enjoy several months each year with very few structured activities.
Two weekends ago I took Graci, Jesi and Lexi on our second annual Daddy Daughter campout. Last year, Graci pointed out that I took the boys camping more often than the girls, and so a tradition was born. We went to the same campground that we went to last year: Clover Spring Campground. It's a little over an hour to get there, and it's quite a beautiful setting. In the foothills of the rocky mountains, the campground is next to a natural spring that feeds a good-sized river which provides water for a small rural town.
With Graci's back still somewhat sore and Lexi with some obvious limitations, including this being her first ever camping trip, it was up to Jesi and me to pitch the tent. It went pretty well. Jesi is a good sport and always wants to help. After the tent was pitched, we built a fire and had hot dogs, chips and s'mores.
Lexi had really wanted to come, and was happy to be there, but she just didn't get it. The whole evening she just kept asking: "Can I go to bed?" Once she was in bed, the rest of us enjoyed the fading campfire and the brilliant stars. I love camping!!!
That night was pretty terrible. As I was tucking Jesi and Graci in, I had an experience I've never had before. I glanced around the tent with my headlight flashlight on, and caught the bright reflection of two little eyes looking back at me from the corner. A mouse had somehow found it's way into our home for the night. Yikes!!! The girl's didn't see it at first, and I tried to keep it that way lest they freak out. Graci kept asking what I was doing as I moved back and forth trying to keep Mr. Mouse on the opposite side of the tent from them. Eventually, they saw it. I was very proud of their reaction. Instead of squealing (like their mother would have), they were enamored with the cute little guy. Graci quickly dubbed him "Melchisedec" after Sara Crewe's pet rat in "The Little Princess," which I am currently reading to the kids. I chased him around the tent for awhile and was finally able to trap him under a pair of Graci's pants and toss him out into the wild from whence he came. A memorable experience. Then came the (lack of) sleep. Jesi kept having some kind of nightmare. She would start calling out in her sleep and I'd jerk awake and have to help calm her down. This wouldn't have been too bad were it not for the fiendish folks in the motorhome across the way. If ever there were people who deserve the cruciatus curse it is those oblivious campers who decide it's ok to run a 500 HP generator ALL NIGHT regardless of how entirely disruptive this is to the sleep of the poor folks who are trying to make through the night in a tent! (Several alternative courses of action ran through my head as I lay there awake at 3am. Go turn off the generator myself. Pour sand in the gas tank. Etc. Ah, the musings of the sleep-deprived mind.) Enough said. (Taylor, Parker and I just finished the Harry Potter series, if you can't tell:)
The next morning, we had a small breakfast (Dad forgot the eggs!!!) of bacon, zucchini bread and kiwi fruit. Have you ever tried to cook bacon over an open flame on a hot-dog roaster? Don't! Fortunately, we had a frying pan with us for the rest of the bacon:) Before we took down the tent, the girls posed for a couple of photos:
Next we went for a small hike. Inspired by Eric Weihenmayer, who I recently heard speak in person, I decided to have Lexi hike right along with us. I talked her through things, but gave her very little physical help. At first she was nervous on the steep, rough terrain, but once we got going, she really enjoyed it, giggling every time she slipped. I had her hold on to my waistband and just follow me. Good girl, Lex!!!
To end things up, Jesi and I "braved" the cold spring water by dunking our heads in it. I know, a whole two inches, but it really was cold. And to get any deeper would have been pretty challenging without falling in.
So there it is. A great weekend trip. With three of my five daughters. Full of memories to store away now so I can have them years from now when these girls have grown up and gone. "God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December." James M. Barrie. The most powerful experience of this trip for me was on the drive there. We popped in a CD that Graci had received in the hospital. It had pop songs on it that had been redone with kids as the singers. One song hit me so powerfully. It's "Just the Way You Are," by Bruno Mars. I put it as the first song on the playlist for our blog. Listen to the lyrics and think about our girls. There's one line in the second verse that doesn't work for a father singing to his daughter, but other than that, the song perfectly expresses my feelings about my five little girls. Looking only at the physical, my girls have some differences and imperfections. But each one of them, in her own way, is truly amazing--just the way she is!