Monday, June 24, 2013

6:31 PM

Family Floatilla
In honor of my dad's birthday and Father's Day, my entire family spent the weekend together camping at Donner Lake last weekend. There were eight of us total (my parents, my foursome, and my brother and his wife), ten if you count the dogs. This was a special weekend in many ways, not the least of which was because we were celebrating the fact that my dad is as vigorous at 66 as I remember him being at 36, but also because it was one of the very few weekends that my brother, an orthopaedic surgery resident, has had off in over a year and we were psyched to be able to get to celebrate with him too, as he has missed many family holidays over the last few years.

We are a family of doers, so the weekend was full of big plans: raft down the Truckee river, do some mountain biking, canoe and SUP on the lake, fit in runs whenever, eat lots of good food, and above all, have a great time. Maybe not so much part of the plan was epic traffic both coming and going, two sleepless nights, and rain (?!?!?!) on Sunday. But surviving that sort of stuff is what separates the men from the boys, or as we (now) say here, the MommyTaskers from the multitaskers. 

Scootering Heaven
SUP Partners
Splash Dance

Canine Bonding
Adventure Hike

Choo Choo Train
Trip Highlights

Packing: To share some of the highlights of the trip, lets start with the garage on Friday morning. Somehow, during the course of the week, which had included work, my daughter's birthday, and her preschool graduation, we had managed to assemble a mountain of essential gear for our two-night car camping trip. After trying to pack everything, then realizing he had to unpack some of it in order to fit in the rest of it, my husband managed to pack what looked like the entire contents of our house into our van, roof rack, rocket box, and bike rack. To say that we scraped the ground as we pulled out of our driveway would be no exaggeration. I have no idea how people with more children or smaller cars do it.

Driving: Apparently every single person in the larger Bay Area decided to get on the road at exactly 1:20 PM on Friday afternoon, and 2:20 PM on Sunday afternoon. Two things were particularly amazing about the drives to and from Tahoe this weekend: (1) We sat in stop and go traffic for five hours each way, and (2) we did not see a single accident, person getting ticketed, active construction site, topless women, or any other indicator as to why we were sitting in said traffic for 10-plus hours. Sometimes, although you never want anyone to actually get hurt in an accident, your life makes more sense if there is at least a reason for your pain.

Sleeping: To quote my husband: last night was great if you enjoy balancing on a one-foot wide portion of air mattress while being kicked in the ribs, cuddling a milk bottle so you can keep it warm, and dodging the condensation drips falling from the second milk bottle you have stashed in the mesh pocket above your head. I personally enjoyed having my son lay his entire body weight across my esophagus for much of one night. However, I reached my personal nadir when I got up to respond to my daughter's cry for the third time Saturday night and managed to pop the seal on the air mattress, immediately deflating the bed underneath my husband and son.

Childcare: The ratio of six attentive, loving adults to two kids was about right, although I still swear I never truly got to sink deep into my camp chair with my mug of coffee or glass of wine. I think next time perhaps an 8:2 ratio might be better in order to actually be able to relax for more than five minutes at any given time.

Despite the above, the weather, and the very painful lack of sleep, we did manage to do everything on our list last weekend. The rafting trip was mellow and fun, even though I may have uttered an unseemly expletive in front of many when blasted by a squirt gun while trying to take a photo of my family (exhaustion leads to frayed nerves if you haven't noticed). I had a nice, long run around the lake, and we did one of our favorite, and appropriately short and scenic, family mountain bike rides. My son really learned to ride his scooter and spent hours scootering around the campground, one doting adult after another trailing him. On adventure hikes and canoe trips, and during games of chase and soccer, my children blossomed under the attention of the amazing people in their lives and got more pleasingly grubby than they have in a very long time.

In the end it wasn't the big things that made the weekend the most special for me and for my kids - it was the little magic moments (shared or observed) of building huge pine cone towers, making and scattering pixie dust, scooting down a hill at wobbly top-speed, and balancing together across the precarious distance of a fallen log. Those are the moments I could never have planned or orchestrated - they happened organically when nurtured by space, time, active imaginations and more than a little dirt under the fingernails.

Pine Cone Towers and Pixie Dust
I asked my husband on the way home what could we do differently to make this any easier? He had no easy answer, and I don't either. I think, like everything else right now - camping is lots of hard work, punctuated by the many beautiful moments that seem to (sort of) make it all worth it.

A special shout out to my dad, who introduced me to camping and so many other amazing experiences in his short 66-year old life. He is a friend, an adventurer and my most enthusiastic supporter. His relationship with my daughter gives me a glimpse as to what kind of father he was to me as I child, and I could wish for no more. Happy Birthday - and here is to many more shared adventures!

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