Saturday, July 10, 2010

Saturday, in The Park . . .

It's been the most amazing week. We started off with the Fourth of July. Gaye agreed to tag along to church with us and we had a great Sunday afternoon as a family. From there we headed home to prepare a BBQ and get ready for a visit from Grandma and Grandpa Black. They were in Baltimore with my brother, J, and his family. They arrived around 6pm, and we all had dinner at 6:30. After more than a week of waffling, we agreed to skip the big fireworks display at Penn State and blow up the store-bought ones in the street in front of our house instead. So that's what we did. We blew up the fireworks and admired the fire flies and called it a good time. Then the grandparents went home to sleep and the kids went to bed. In the morning, the heat wave had arrived and we looked for quiet, indoorsy things to do. I guess I won't do a play by play of the whole week, but it was full and delicious. Among other things we:

  • all went swimming at Park Forest pool. It was soooooooo hot that even I, at my heaviest weight ever, put on my best bathing suit and got in the water. The water was wonderful and I felt instantly reengergized. Grandma Donna and I played with the kids and then we went off the board together. It was a blast and made gettting through the rest of the hot, humid day easier.

  • visited the Palmer Museum of Art, which turned out to be a smallish, but very nice museum, worth going back to.

  • had lunch at the Creamery. We ate lunch and then ice cream. They got to see the education building from the outside.

  • played Apples to Apples, with much laughter.

  • attempted gluten-free chinese dumplings, with some success, and spam musabi, with much more success.

  • picked up 190 lbs of blueberries from the Kiwanis club and got it all delivered to everyone who placed an order by noon the next day.

  • took Ben's mild earache complaints seriously because we knew we were going camping and wouldn't have easy access to a health clinic in the next state, only to find that he had a raging ear infection going on--we left with ear drops, lessons in managing swimmer's ear, and amoxicicillin.

Then Mom and Dad had to go back to California. We all said goodbye, and then realized we had some serious packing to do. I squeezed in two 5-hr days of work before we left, and a lot of packing, and then suddenly it was Thursday at 3:02 pm, and we were rolling out of the driveway.

It has been a wild and wonderful camping experience. First, it's hardly Muir on an iceburg. It's a KOA camp ground, and I paid the extra few bucks for one of the tent sites with water and electricity (unfortunately, what this really means is that I have a good-sized RV site, on which to pitch the tent). It had wifi, as long as the weather is good anyway, hot water showers, clean toilet stalls, a chlorinated pool, and dozens of other activities we could do if I would spend the money.

Second, the weather has been every manner of extreme except exceedingly cold. We arrived on day five of a major heatwave, all of soaked to the skin with sweat after 20 minutes of unpacking--and since our tent (Taj Mahal model. Sleeps 8--or 5 if you're sleeping on two queen size and one twin-size air mattresses) takes a bit of unpacking, we were at it for longer than that. Still, I got dinner cooked before the sun set and we all collapsed happy, if incredibly hot, sometime around 11pm, when we simply couldn't take the mosquitos for one moment longer.

Since there was electricity to the site, not only could we use a regular mattress inflator (instead of the weak battery powered things that sometimes come with them) but frankly--we'd brought a 100 foot extension chord and a large air mover fan. I pointed it at the ceiling, for which the other four were mostly resentful--but it was the best way to circulate the most amount of air in the tent so everyone got at least some small amount of breeze.

On Friday we had breakfast, prepared the tent for the thunderstorm that was supposed to arrive at 7pm and then clear up in time for the 9:15 pm pageant, and then left for LDS tourist places as soon as possible. It was already unbearably hot and it wasn't even 10 am yet. We hit the Visitor's center at the Hill Comorough first. They were predicting 9,000 in attendance on the first night of the pageant (which was that night). Then we visited the Sacred Grove. It was as beautiful as you might expect (and shady enough to not be miserably hot). I think that was my favorite spot of the day.

By now it was after noon, so we decided to get out of the heat for a bit--we went to see a matinee of Desipicable Me. The kids and I loved it, although Ben and Milo are not eager movie goers (well, neither am I frankly--we all find the movies just plain TOO LOUD). But we thought there was definitely something for everyone in the movie, and use of the 3D was magnificent--definitely a movie intended for 3D, not tacked on as a gimic.

When we got out, the skies were gray, there was a wind, and there were drops falling from the sky. The big, heavy ones that seem to come ahead of the real storm. We hurried to the car and went to the grocery store to get food for dinner. The twins need to each plan, prepare, and cook and outdoor meal under adult guidance, and so this camping trip seemed like a good way to get that done.

Ben decided to go first. He chose hamburgers. We got goodies for smores, too. Then we ran home, still expecting the storm to come in quick after dinner and leave again--the first storm had already come and gone while we were in Wegman's. But when we got back to the campgrounds, instead of getting lighter and clearing up, it got darker and darker again. The tent had leaked a little, so we used the Shamwow we got for Christmas to dry out the wet spots and we made a few adjustments to the fit of the rain fly, and one wall of the tent. I started preparing things for a run into the tent. About 20 minutes after we got back, a little before 4 pm, it started raining again. We all piled into the tent and listened to the deluge. And listened, and listened, and listened. We played electronic games. Chris fretted over every drip into the tent. I tried to keep everyone calm. And on and on it poured and poured. I couldn't stay connected to the internet long enough to get a forecast. I just saw the flood warning that wasn't there the day before and the mention of 2-4 inches of rain over a matter of hours--before we were going to get less than an inch over the course of half a day. So it had all changed, and we couldn't seem to get the specifics.

At 6:20 pm, all of the boys were getting fussy and desperate, so I moved us to the nearest covered picnic table, and supervised Ben's preparation for dinner. We were mostly done when Bishop called--his whole family is in the pageant this year--to see if we were still coming. We were surprised, but when he reassured us that the show would go on (the website DOES say it's never been called on account of rain. It just doesn't say that it hasn't ever rained--they're supposed to cancel in the event of LIGHTNING--and sure enough though it certainly rained last night, there was no thunder or lightning during the show.

So we bought ponchos, and cleaned up dinner, threw ourselves back in the car, and drove over to the pageant. One plus with the rain--the anti-Mormons were thin in number. The rain was heavy and then light and then heavy again. We were happy to see friends there and it was a welcome distraction from the tent leaks. The show was well done and we all enjoyed it. Then it was a hike in flip flops (no one wanted to ruin their sneakers) back through the mud and back out to the road. Miraculously, no one seemed to get stuck in the mud.

Back in the tents we again mopped up, put down fresh bedding, and fell into an exhausted slumber. I woke briefly when the rain started up again, but this time it wasn't heavy enough to leak into the tent.

In the morning the air was cool and breezy. The kids played (KOA campgrounds lend themselves to young pups like ours banding together into wandering groups. Since so many people are here for the pageant, they're largely Mormon puppies, and we ran into a few of them during our daytime travels :) and I made more pancakes and bacon. We pulled everything wet out of the tent and ran into town. Chris and Max did a load of laundry and two loads of drying. Ben and Milo and I went back to the grocery store for more groceries. Today it's Milo's turn to plan, prepare, and cook--so he's doing pork chops and pot stickers.

Back at the campsite, we had sandwiches for lunch, and then we all went swimming at the pool. Sooooo much fun. Chris and the boys laughed their heads off. Wonderful.

We squandered a couple of hours doing nothing (waiting for the sun to set a bit) and now it is just shy of 7 pm, and the boys are all back looking hopeful, so Milo and I will get to work making dinner.

Tomorrow we'll strike camp, pack up the car, and head off. I will head back home with the kids and Chris will go to Canada on business. It's a full week of graduate assistantship training for me, with a little bit of work here or there. Theatre for Max. Swimming and time with grandma Gaye for the twins. Canadians for Chris.

But right now it's an evening of good food, a fire, s'mores, and potentially the best night yet in the tent. It's really been a magnificent week. Magnificent. Many thanks to all who made it possible.

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