Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Memorial Day Camping Trip

Growing up in WY meant that my family went camping on a regular basis.  And because my dad likes to think he could be a modern day Mountain Man, we didn’t go camping in a tent in a camp ground like most people do.  We camped in a tee pee out in the middle of nowhere.  No bathroom, no sink, definitely no shower.  We brushed our teeth in the creek, we washed dishes in the creek, and we bathed in the creek.  Cooking was done over an open fire.  No camp stoves for us.  And we would go out for 4-5 days at a time.

Joe grew up on the beach, but always loved the idea of camping and would do it whenever possible.  As a kid he read the book “My Side of the Mountain” and claims that it changed his life.  From that moment on he was going to be a camping and hunting guide in the wilderness.  He even went as far as to go to a hunting guide training camp one year.  Needless to say, that career path didn’t pan out.  His love of the outdoors, however, is still strong.

When we got married we knew that we would go camping and take our kids camping.  Our wedding registry consisted of all of the items needed to make a camping trip successful…tent, mess kits, sleeping bags, lanterns, travel egg carrier, grilling tools, marshmallow skewers, etc.  We went a few times before Ella was born, but once she made her way on the scene life got in the way and the camping equipment started gathering dust.  We rented cabins a couple of times, and did some backyard camping trips (and basement camping trips), but nothing major.  No REAL camping trip.

It wasn’t her EB that kept us from going camping.  It was just life and logistics.  Where would we go?  When?  What time of year is best?  Then the next thing we knew, nearly 9 years had passed and Ella had never been on a real camping trip.

Well…that all changed this Memorial Day weekend.  Several weeks ago a friend had mentioned that a group of people from our church were going camping and they had some extra spots available on their campsite.  We jumped at the opportunity and cleared our calendar for a weekend of fun and camping!

I spent all day Thursday and Friday morning getting things ready and going shopping.  I did get pretty embarrassed when Ella and I were at the grocery store on Thursday afternoon stocking up on good camping snacks and junk food.  Suddenly I heard someone say, “Hi Ella.”  When I looked up it was Ella’s teacher.  I was immediately mortified!  Here we were with a shopping cart overflowing with more junk food than should be in any house, and I was so afraid Ella’s teacher would think this was how we really eat at our house.  Of course I started explaining the situation and she just laughed and said, “I think I see some fruit in there.”  Phew, so glad I threw in those strawberries, apples and grapes!

We loaded the car up on Friday morning and took Ella out of school early to get on the road.  As is usual in our area, traffic was terrible.  A trip that should have taken 2 hours ended up taking over 3.  Oh well.  We got there safe and sound and had plenty of time to get things set up before nightfall.

When we registered for our tent back in 2005 we chose one that, at the time, was a bit lavish for just 2 people.  It claims to be a 6 person tent with extra space for a “wall” if needed.  With air mattresses and clothing bags it’s not quite that big, but it was just the right size for our family of 4.  It held a queen size air mattress for Joe and me, a twin size for Ella, and even fit AJ’s pack-n-play.  We had just enough room to squeeze in our duffle bags and had a little strip of space to walk.  It was perfect!

The camping trip was a blast!  There were around 50 people including kids of all ages (AJ was the youngest).  Joe and I had a ton of fun chatting with all of the adults, and the kids had a good time being outside.  AJ was completely in his element!  He ran around and played in the dirt the entire weekend.  Fortunately I brought our little travel playpen, so I was able to confine him if needed, but most of his time was spent running around the campsite and exploring all things nature.  I was worried how AJ was going to sleep in this new environment with all sorts of sounds, but he was so tired from playing all day that he went to sleep each night without a problem and slept all night until the sun came up (5:30 am is REALLY EARLY).

There were only 2 downsides to the trip.  1) The heat!  The morning was perfect, when the sun went down it was fine, and sleeping was no problem.  But during the middle of the day with the sun blazing down, the heat was terrible.  It was so bad the first day that Ella sat in our van with the engine running and the AC blowing on her face.  The second day we took the hot part of the day as our opportunity to drive around and see some sights in the area.  Joe and Ella went exploring and took a stroll through the visitors center, we went strawberry picking (which was still hot, but at least we got a iced strawberry lemonade in the end), and Joe took AJ swimming which gave Ella and I the change to get some ice cream!  And 2) the ticks!  Ticks don’t usually bother me.  I’m cautiously aware of them and what damage they can do, but generally they don’t freak me out.  That said, this camping trip had ticks everywhere!  The first day Joe found one on himself, and I found one on Ella.  I have never been more thankful for bandages than when I saw a tick on her and knew that it hadn’t been able to get through the layers to actually get to her skin.  After that I put this thing called a Bug Band on Ella and didn’t find anymore ticks on her.  AJ got a complete tick check every time he got a new diaper.  Fortunately I never found any on him.  Every night we would take our clothes from that day and shove them all into a grocery bag and tie it shut in hopes that any ticks on our clothes would be contained.  When we got home all of our camping gear went into the living room on the hardwood floor where ticks were least likely to travel.  I spent the first 3 days home washing every single item that was on the trip with us.  And if I couldn’t wash it, it was put in the dryer long enough for the heat to kill any hitchhiking bugs.

We had such a great time camping and are looking forward to going again.  We learned a lot and while there are some thing we would modify, it was a great experience and I’m so glad we went!

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Jesus, Only You

My aunt tells the story of when everyone discovered that my dad could sing.  He was probably in the 3rd or 4th grade and she said that they were in their church children's choir and the director asked if anyone wanted to sing a solo.  Ronnie (dad) raised his hand.  According to my aunt, everyone kind of looked around at each other confused because no one knew if he could actually sing.  She said that when he opened his mouth the most beautiful sound came out.  Not only could Ronnie sing...he was really good!

Fast forward 70 years.  Every year Ella attends music camp at church, and every year she tells me that she can't wait until she's old enough to try out for a solo (they are usually reserved for kids who have completed the 4th grade).  She sings in the church choir for kids in 1st-3rd grades and every so often they will have a solo slot.  Well, a few weeks ago Ella came out of choir carrying some sheet music.  She explained that there was going to be some solos for their end of the year concert and she told Mrs. Beth that she wanted to audition for one.

This is where it's hard being a parent.  I love hearing Ella sing!  I think she has the sweetest voice on the planet!  BUT...the world is full of people who can't carry a tune, yet their mothers think they have the most amazing voice that has ever been heard.  Various TV shows are full of people who have spent their entire lives being told they are fantastic singers, only to have expert judges tell them that they can't carry a tune in a bucket!  And so my struggle began.  Encourage Ella to audition and help her practice as much as possible, yet keep her grounded enough that she doesn't get too upset if she doesn't get the solo.  I knew her competition...they were good...they were REAL good.

She practiced daily for 2 weeks.  I would peck out the tune on the piano and she would sing along.  She practiced in the car.  She practiced in the bath tub.  She practiced sitting on the couch.  She practiced while she was helping me cook dinner.  The girl seriously practiced!

The week came for her audition and I gave her a little pep talk beforehand.  We talked about how she had practiced as much as she could and as long as she felt good that she had done all she could, the results didn't matter.  And I emphasized that it was very important for her to be a good friend and if another kid gets the solo and she doesn't then she needs to be happy for them.  It's ok to cry and be sad, but it's important to not be mean and to support them.  She agreed.

Secretly, I prayed.  I prayed so hard that she would get the solo!  I prayed so hard that if she didn't get the solo that she would feel good about her audition.  I prayed the entire time she was in that choir room.

I picked her up after GA's (which meets after choir) and she came trotting out of the room without saying a word.  I anxiously waited for her to give me some sign.  ANY SIGN!  Nothing.  We just walked down the hall in silence.  KID!!!  You're tearing me up!  Finally, I asked, "How did choir go." "Good."  she responded.  Good?  GOOD???  That's all I get?  Just a plain, old 'good?'  Finally she said, "Well, I have good news and bad news.  The bad news is that I didn't get the solo I auditioned for.  The good news is that I got another solo and I'll be singing it in front of the entire church on Sunday morning!"  She went on to tell me the details about how Mrs. Beth announced that there was another solo opportunity to sing on Sunday morning with the big kids choir (4th-6th grades) and she asked kids to raise their hand if they were interested in auditioning for that solo.  Ella raised her hand, auditioned, and got it!  I was floored and so proud of her!  What courage!

Now if I'm being honest, I already knew she got the solo.  I direct the 4 year old choir at church, and afterward I usually just sit in the hall and talk with other moms until GA's is over.  This week as I was sitting in the hall, Mrs. Beth came up to me and handed me some music.  "Here," she said, "Ella got a solo.  She'll be singing on Sunday, May 22 in both Sunday morning worship services."  My heart was beating out of my chest!  Apparently, when she asked who wanted to audition, Ella's hand was the first one in the air.  I was so excited for Ella, but I wanted to hear it from her mouth, so I didn't tell her that I already knew.

Meanwhile, Joe was sitting and talking to some other dads in another area of the church.  Turner, a kid Ella's age, came out looking for his mom.  He was so excited because he had gotten a solo!  Joe's heart sank.  If Turner got the solo, that means Ella didn't.  He was happy for Turner, but already planning on how he was going to cheer Ella up from this disappointment.  Then, out of the blue, Turner said, "Ella got a solo too."

So here it is, without further ado.  Ella's solo debut.