Oh, the Lord is good to me

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Can you spot Grey in this picture?

For my birthday, I got a new point-and-shoot camera. My prior camera really annoyed me on my trip to Mt. Rainier. It just wasn’t as good, as clear, as sophisticated, as HD as I wanted my record of that trip to be. But it did fit in my pocket, which is a definite advantage. I believe I got that camera shortly after Grey was born. Certainly I had it before Thane was born, which puts it at the 6 year old range. That’s downright elderly for a digital camera.

The need for a new one was made inarguable when Thane dropped my old one. So for my birthday I got a sparkly new point and shoot camera. It has pretty much everything my big camera has except a hotfoot for a flash and the ability to switch lenses.

We went apple picking today – a very hot day for late September. We got a bushel of apples, a dozen apple cider donuts, three ice cream cones and a tour of the farm. I figured this was a great opportunity to give my camera for a spin. I’m definitely still learning how to use it most effectively. It did run out of battery halfway through, but I think that I didn’t charge it when I thought I did. So hopefully that’s indicative of nothing.

You can find all the pictures here.

The other pictures I’ve taken this month on my “big camera” are here, including some really cool pictures of our last beach day of the year, which was bookended by a crazy thunderstorm.

The very last set off my old point and shoot can be seen here.

Five key tips to travel like a pro

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The other day I went on a business trip with a young lady who didn’t – as part of her job – go on business trips all the time. She was super excited about the whole thing. The novelty of flying, the eating dinner with the client, the spending the night in a hotel all by herself. Her degree of enthusiasm shocked me regarding my degree of cynicism.

The author, in a random hotel room in…. Philadelphia I think.

Business travel has some similarities to backpacking. People who don’t do it are amazed by the concept. But when I’m actually on the trail (in the airport) I know that I’m still a rookie. Do I travel a lot for business? My “deal” with my husband is that I travel, on average, once a month. I’d say I might be traveling a little more than that these days. Once every three or four weeks I crawl on a plane and go somewhere for a day or two. When they posted a description for my job, it said 50% travel. I have worked with people, though, who spend 3 or more days a week, every week, on the road for work. (That might be listed as 80 – 100% travel – the folks who travel the most are project consultants who will spend ~5 days a week, every week, in a city which is not their own. That’s folks like Accenture & Deloitte. They also tend to work 90 hours in that week and have a massive burnout rate.)

I know I have a ton yet to learn about how travel best, but as I drove from the Richmond International Airport to the corporate business parks in Glen Allen, I thought that maybe you, dear reader, might benefit from what I have learned so far.

Rental Cars
This was probably my biggest rookie mistake. You might have rented a car at an airport once or twice. You take the shuttle to the rental car center, stand in line, answer mysterious questions about levels of insurance coverage and take a bet on whether you’ll have enough time between meeting and boarding to refill the tank. I once got into a situation in Los Angeles with Hertz where it took me almost 2 hours to finally get a car – and that was after a long transcontinental flight, with several hours of driving still in front of me.

But that’s how it works, right?

No. It is not. My dearest business partner, after he got done guffawing and making fun of me for such a rookie mistake, explained. Many rental car companies have a second method – a premier method. I now use National (I’m part of the Emerald Club). I make a reservation ahead of time. Then I walked directly out to a row of cars, decide which one I feel like today, climb in and drive off. I stop at the gate on my way out to give them my license. All the rest of that stuff: gas fillups, insurance etc… is just on record. It takes minutes.

The business partner who laughed at me has upped his game, though. Now he just takes Uber everywhere, and doesn’t bother with pickup or dropoff.

Security
When I travel overnight, I have four things that go into the bins in security: my laptop, my toiletries, my shoes and my wallet. Here are some keys I’ve found to never being slower than the person in front of me:

  • Always, always wear slipoff shoes. Wearing boots or even tennis shoes is a mistake. I prefer to wear slacks with socks so I don’t end up standing barefoot in the security line, but flats will do in a pinch.
  • Don’t keep your toiletries in your Dopp Kit (what my family calls that back you keep your toothbrush and hairbrush in). Keep them in a ziplock bag in the outer zippered pocket of your carryon, so you can just slide it in and out.
  • Don’t bury your laptop under anything else.
  • Pay attention to whether you’re Pre. Increasingly, they’re putting more people through the lines where you don’t have take anything out or off. This only helps you if you’ve noticed in time to skip the long line.
  • No sequins. I have this shirt I like to wear with a peacock feather done in sequins. (Saying that it sounds appalling. I swear it’s not that appalling.) But when I go through the body scan with it, I light it up like Christmas. Patdown time! You need to build a travel wardrobe of clothes that are comfortable, washable, professional, good looking – and don’t have metallic bits. This isn’t as impossible as it sounds. I like Dressbarn for helping me find qualifying outfits.

    Points & Perks
    I avoided signing up for frequent anything miles because I know myself well enough to know that I’ll never get around to figuring out how to use them. The few times, in the past, I’ve tried, my one or two trips a year were laughably short of earning me anything, and definitely not worth the aggravation. But now that I’m travelling all the time, I think it might start to add up to something meaningful. The best programs are the ones that have both points for tomorrow and perks for today.

    In terms of perks, business travels are notoriously not price sensitive. My company pays for my travel, and doesn’t really case as long as I keep it within approved ranges. So offering me $10 off a rental car doesn’t actually encourage me to do much. But offering to make something simple, fast or comfortable counts for a tremendous amount.

    Hotel Loyalty
    There are two kinds of enterprise sales people at my company: Marriott people and Hilton people. (OK, they’re actually all Marriott, and fanatically loyal.) These companies make things better & better for you the more you stay with them. I have both sets of rewards (diluting the value of both – conveniently…) As an example, if you’re a Marriott Gold member, you get invited to the Concierge room. There’s late night snack food there, and a free breakfast in the morning. The non member people are downstairs paying $18 for their omelets. Way faster to zip through the buffet and grab a water on your way out, without having to pay. If you’re a platinum member – a coveted status – the hotel may be full for other people, but not for you.

    Also, just so you know, business travelers never, ever, ever check out of a hotel. (I apparently get laughed at a lot when I travel – this was another moment.) Just leave your key (and your tip!) on the table on the way out. Your receipt was likely under your door in the morning.

    The loyalty programs work together, so you are going to want to see if you can’t line them up. For example, as a Hilton person, I’d have a combo of Jetblue – > National -> Hilton family of hotels. This allows me to earn more points for the travel I’m already doing than if I just mixed and matched.

    I’ll let you know how to claim the points as soon as I figure that part out.

    Consistency & GPS
    If you’ve ever been in an airport and watched a business traveler, they often look extremely confident. They’re walking fast, roller bag trailing behind like a patient puppy, eyes on the horizon. “Wow, they really know this airport well!” you think. Ha. They’ve never been here before. But there are two things that make this possible: consistency & GPS.

    Every airport:

  • Has a bathroom right after you get through security and in baggage claim (business travelers never ever ever ever ever check a bag unless they’ll be gone more than a week)
  • Has ground transport next to baggage claim
  • Has a rental car facility where all the rental companies are (this may either be in the airport, or accessed via shuttles).

    When you get off the plane, you immediately walk in the direction of the sign that says “Baggage Claim”, stopping at the first bathroom you see. When you get closer, you start looking for rental car center. It’s always clearly marked. When you get to the rental car center, you follow the signs for your particular company. The closer you get, the more information on what you need. If you watched me landing in Richmond yesterday, you would have thought I knew exactly where the car was I was going to drive and had been there a thousand times before. It was the first time – I just knew what signs to look for.

    Once in the car, the hard part is trying to figure out how to drive it. (I drove a Prius this time. To my great surprise, I hated it. It beeps when you’re in reverse!) Plug in your phone, pull up the appointment for your meeting, and launch your GPS. I had no idea where I was or where I was going, but I got there in good time.

    So, does it sound glamorous and fun? Is there anything here you’re glad to know? Is there anything here I’m completely missing?

  • John Turley, 91 and a half, gone to the Great Thanksgiving

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    John Turley, in his aging backwards period

    John Turley, in his aging backwards period

    Saturday morning, my grandfather-in-law did not wake up. He was 91 and a half years old. He’d be in hospice care for more than six months. Never a man to do things in half measures, he was there for both heart and lungs. In July I was lucky enough to see both my relatives of that generation. (My grandmother is still doing shockingly well in Merced – she just finally went into assisted living this summer.) I added a few hours to my schedule and detoured a couple miles on a business trip to go see John, knowing it might well be my last chance. I sat with him for an hour and held his hand. It’s always hard to know what questions to ask in those circumstances. You find yourself wondering what you’ll want to know, later, when you won’t be able to ask. For many of those questions, the right moment for asking has already passed.

    I asked John about his time as a submariner in WWII. I have, not three feet from me now, a carved wooden chest from China. His boat had gone up the Yellow River (I believe) and he’d bought the three nesting chests and enough white silk to make a wedding dress for his girl back home. He solved the storage space problem for such large purchases by storing them in a spent torpedo tube. By this I know that his submarine had seen action. He was a short man – well proportioned to a submarine. But I don’t know much more about his service than that, and that he was proud to have served.

    John and Mildred

    John and Mildred

    That white silk was for his girl back home; a pretty, dark-haired nurse with more than her fair share of pep. I asked him that afternoon how he’d met her. He talked about dancing, and how she could dance the dawn up. That wedding happened, and that marriage was blessed with two dark-haired, energy-rich daughters – one of whom became the mother of my husband. Their life in Long Island sounds like an idyll of satin bows, maiden aunts (I’ve never been clear who the unmarried sisters were affiliated with, but there’s a litany of maiden aunts), gardens and decent labor for decent pay. (He was an engineer with tools and telephony, and finished up his career at a hardware store.)

    John and his grandson

    John and his grandson

    Adam tells a lot of stories of the important role his grandfather and grandmother played in his life. There were trips home from Saudi, when he stayed with his maternal grandparents. In ninth grade, Adam went to boarding school in Long Island. The Saudi expat education stopped at high school. He’d wake up at five oh something in the morning to catch the train to see his grandparents. John would be waiting at the other end. I can almost see him in the imagination’s eye – wearing a too big wool sweater and a jaunty tam. John was marvelously patient. I doubt – although my husband can confirm – that he complained about being dragged out of bed in the dark of the morning on a Saturday to pick up his homesick grandson. He and Adam would go get breakfast sandwiches (which Adam speaks of longingly). Then he’d buy Adam a whole stack of hamburgers to fill that adolescent-boy-belly and take Adam back to a loving home. There were silver dollar pancakes and quiet places to read, or play video games.

    Easter dinner

    Easter dinner

    I first met great gramps on Thanksgiving, after Adam and I had been dating a whole year. I was nervous enough to spend my $5.45 an hour work-study wages on a new skirt and sweater for the occasion. I remember being greeted by turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy and a stack of Sunday comics they’d been saving for Adam. I would have just turned 19, and they were as gracious and hospitable to me as they could possibly be. (Although I nearly had to break up with Adam over what constituted serving coffee after dinner – I still blanch at the very thought.)

    Thanksgiving was an apropos time to meet John. One of my favorite stories is about the time he was invited to three different Thanksgiving dinners. (See also: many sisters.) He went to the first and did a manful duty by the plate. Then he said his farewells and headed to the next sister’s house. They were just sitting down to dinner, and it would be rude not to join them, right? So of course he couldn’t be rude. His efforts at table – for a small man – were nothing short of Herculean. And best of all, he made it home in time to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner with his family. Five foot two, and he could eat three full Thanksgiving dinners to the satisfaction of an Irish/Italian set of sisters and wives!

    John and Grey

    John and Grey

    When Grey was born, he brought great delight to both Millie and John. They LOVED to see him. More or less from the first trip I brought a baby with me, in all the pictures I have of John he’s playing with his great grandchildren. Although he was well north of 80, in many of the pictures I have of him with Grey, he’s on the floor playing! John had two daughters, two grandsons and three great-grandsons: a great wealth.

    Great Gramps and Thane

    Great Gramps and Thane

    John loved dominoes. He was a canny and shrewd investor who delighted in figuring out the best strategies. He was a patient man, with soulful blue eyes and a fondness for meals made of meat, potatoes and a veggie. He wore hats with panache. He took his duties as a Catholic extremely seriously, and towards the end devoted his life to prayer. He never once turned his face away from a person in need.

    He will be greatly missed.

    John and (great) grandsons

    John and (great) grandsons

    I’ve gathered some of my pictures of our time with John here

    Covered Bridge Campground

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    By my count, The Flynns have gone to White Lake State Park 20 times. The first time we went was when Thane was hardly 9 months old. We had been camping only a handful of times in our misspent non-parenthood. I suddenly had some sort of fit when I realized that this was actually my life, and if I didn’t go camping I would be a person who never camps. We put a pack and play and some miscellaneous junk into the car, picked a campground and random, and started a family tradition.

    My dearest husband has this great t-shirt from White Lake that says, “Extreme Outdoor Adventure”. Less true words have never been printed on a t-shirt. White Lake has an excellent lake with a sandy beach, two camp stores, coin-operated showers, playgrounds, perfect cell phone access and near immediate access to a Dunkin’ Donuts. You can get pizza delivered. It’s a pretty fantastic place to go with your three year old and six year old. If you read my last musing on Mt. Rainier, you’re likely to accurately guess that it doesn’t QUITE scratch my itch for wilderness.

    20140901-171632.jpg

    So this year, for our third and final camping trip of the year, I decided to get crazy and try (GASP) a new campground. On one of our prior visits, on our near-traditional “Car Walk” across the Kankamagus, we scoped out several of the National Forest campgrounds as possibilities for our “level up” camping trip. I settled on Covered Bridge. I liked how much more space there was between the sites – enough to feel like you weren’t actually in the pockets of your neighbors. I like the boulders for climbing and woods for exploring. It’s near the scenic Swift River, enticing with it’s clear running water and scrambly rocks.

    Climbing into the car on Friday noon, headed north, I wondered how much resistance I’d get when it dawned on my children that we were not going to White Lake. Would they wail? Would they spend the entire time talking about how much better White Lake is?

    I am, this very moment, sitting in a gracious beech forest at the foot of a granite mountain – which we climbed yesterday. Behind the camp site 15 feet, in the woods, is a six foot mound of granite that has made for a perfect castle for the laird and thane. There’s the slightest rain tapping on one of Adam’s exquisitely hung tarps, and a roaring fire in the firepit preparing to be excellent cooking coals in an hour. (It’s not a Flynn New Hampshire camping trip if it doesn’t rain. This one is mild – there have been no extreme weather alerts yet!) My sons and I spent a cheerful two hours in that rushing Swift River, pretending to be the lords and ladies of Michisle (Think Mike-Isle) and finding the magic stones that will grant us the power to protect our kingdom. (We liked the Heart Stone so much we brought it back.) Adam got in a first rate nap. It’s been excellent.

    I even got my level up on camping – the toilets are pit toilets and the water is a glorified rerouted creek. There’s even a rather creepy cemetery at the entrance with ominous 19th century inscriptions.

    I asked the boys (currently reading/playing Legos in the tent after a very active day’s play) what they thought of the campground. “We should definitely come back again!” We’ll still head to White Lake – I’ve already gotten our Memorial Day reservations. But I’m excited for a future where I can get my sons to join me on the slopes of mountain adventures!

    And oh, what glory filled my soul

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    Top of the world

    Top of the world

    When you tell people here in New England that you spent your summer vacation backpacking around an iconic mountain, they tend to think you’re hard core. I like to sprinkle in even more shocking details, saying things like “Yeah, nothing makes you appreciate civilization like a bathroom with walls and unlimited free toilet paper!” (I took a picture of each latrine on the mountain. I think I might make a gallery. You’re welcome.) It does feel impressive, from the land of cubicles.

    However, when I was actually backpacking the Wonderland Trail – a 92 mile loop around Mt. Rainier that has so much elevation change it’s equivalent to summiting several times – I did not feel hardcore. Let’s start with the fact we were not doing the whole trail. Adam and I scored an amazing itinerary – absolutely my first choice. But it was only less than a third of the total length of the trail. People have run the Wonderland in the 40 hour range. I actually know some of these lunatics personally. Adam and I were on a pace for maybe a 13 – 14 day Wonderland circumnavigation. We’d stop on the trail and meet someone and they’d ask where we came from and were going. They’d give us a look, and lay out an itinerary often twice the length of ours. Any many of them WERE doing the whole trail.

    Two particular meetings come to mind: the three young, map-challenged men we met outside of Mystic Lake around noon who thought they were going to Fire Creek (20 miles and 10,000 ft of elevation change). They weren’t running, so there was no way that they were going to make it. Then there was the dad with his two daughters who were doing the whole trail. The young women were having trouble with their boots, and had done 20 miles, with packs, in flipflops. We handed over our blister packs since our feet were holding up fine and they were in dire straights. These things conspire to make you feel like you’re doing the tourist edition of the trail.

    Moonset over Mineral Mountain

    Our choice was a good one, however. Adam and I had enough time to linger in some of the loveliest places in the world. We could stop and stare. We could rise when rested, and rest when weary. Our longest day was 10 miles. Our final day out was a mere 2 miles, which eager feet ate up. We never once raced to our goal with nervous eyes measuring the ever decreasing distance between horizon and sun.

    The itinerary was this:
    Day 1: Sunrise to Berkely Park 2.3 miles
    Day 2: Berkely Park to Mystic Lake 10 miles
    Day 3: Mystic Lake to Cataract Valley 7 miles
    Day 4: Cataract Valley to Eagle’s Roost 5 miles
    Day 5: Eagle’s Roost to Mowich Lake (out) 2 miles

    The tactical travelogue is probably best enjoyed through the hundreds of pictures that survived the editing process. (The pictures are mostly captioned, so if you’d enjoy a day by day you can go through in slideshow.) Adam patiently stopped over a thousand times for the shutter to open and close.

    Mt. Rainier above Mystic Lake

    Why do I love this? We could have gone to Ashland for the Shakespeare festival, and stayed in fine accommodations with amazing food. (A fact Adam reminded me of not a few times.) We went through considerable expense and difficulty in order to walk 26 miles up and down the side of a mountain, on the week of our 14th anniversary. Why? It’s an answer I struggle to articulate. Because I can’t see these things anywhere else? Because I challenge my mind constantly and my body hardly ever? Because without the discipline of walking, I can never slow my mind down enough to listen? Because carrying everything you need forces you to embrace simplicity and to be grateful for what you have? Because I do not feel happier than I feel when I turn a corner and stare one of my oldest, deepest friends in the face, and see an aspect of that marvelous mountain I have never seen before? Because I enjoy the right kind of suffering? I’m not sure I ever have fully answered the why of loving to backpack, but I can assure you my heart exulted as soon as my boots hit the trail. (My heart promptly started to work overtime as those boots immediately pulled me up the hill to Frozen Lake.)

    Since returning to the email-filled world, I have found myself as I so often do – lying in a hotel bed in some city, mind racing with the challenges of the day. There are few things I resent more than work dreams. So instead I pick a section of path, in my mind, and walk it as close to memory as I can. I pull out as many of the scenes, unwittingly recorded. The sights, the smells, the creak of the pack, the loam underfoot. I see the avalanche lily, the lupine, the columbine, the Jeffrey’s shooting star. I watch the moon setting over Mt. Rainier behind Mineral Mountain. The hike feeds and nourishes my true self, and gives strength for the labors that are needed.

    Mysterious flower along the trail

    I’ve thought of a thousand things I want to tell you about my five days of bliss. How much I love my purple hiking shirt. How Adam and I learned just how little water people truly need compared to how much they use. Why Eagle’s Roost is so lovely. What it feels like for me to walk in the dark without my contacts. How beautifully my knee held up in extremis. What five days without any sort of internet access was like. How desperately I need a much better point and shoot camera for my next trip. Perhaps those thoughts will sneak out, but I struggle enough just to tell the primary stories, never mind the quirkier, flashing tales that sneak across my mind and are gone in a twinkling. So you shall have to be content with this:

    Hymns play through my mind as I walk, unbidden. There is less atmosphere so high to interfere between me and God.

    Cairn, looking over Mist Park, headed into Spray Park

    Kindly disregard this letter

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    It was almost a month ago that I made the journey north to New Hampshire to pick up my son from Camp Wilmot. I had to get up crazy early in the morning for a Saturday, like 7 am, but I was so eager to see my son again – to hear how it had gone – that I was markedly less grumpy than you would expect. (I am _not_ a morning person.)

    Grey and one of his bunkmates

    Grey and one of his bunkmates

    I arrived at the camp just a bit early – just like I had been to drop him off. Sure sign of a noobie parent a little anxious about her first-born, I think. Grey was just headed up the hill as I pulled in and I got the biggest, completest, least “hey-that’s-not-cool-my-friends-are-watching” hug ever. I breathed in deeply as I held him tight, and felt that all was well. (Happily this might be less dangerous than you think as daily trips to the lake nicely negated the complete neglect evidenced by the optimistic soap I’d put in his dopp kit.) He introduced me to some friends, and I gathered his belongings and watched the “Purple cabin” clean up the firepit before we all settled into the cafeteria for the closing ceremonies.

    They started with a flash from the past. The campers and counselors did “Energizers” familiar to prior generations of Christian campers. I was amazed that “Star Trekkin'” – not an obviously Presbyterian tune – was as popular 25 years later and 3000 miles away as it was in the Presbytery of Olympia in my youth. The spirit moves in truly mysterious ways. I watched Grey, my eyes hungry for him. (Constantinope and Star Trekkin here ) He was in the penultimate row, hidden behind the much taller, more confident kids in front of him. I’m used to Grey being the biggest one – the oldest in our group of friends, the tallest in any portrait. On this day, he was the baby, unsure, learning, in the back. He was circled gently by a loving ring of twice-his-height counselors and I could tell by how they all moved together that these young men had helped Grey through what I know was a challenging week for him. I watched my son slightly out of synch and a step behind the others (an unusual spot for him) and wondered what he’d say to me when we got in the car and he was ready to talk.

    There was some song singing (unfamiliar to me – I stopped listening to Christian Pop with Amy Grant) and then they launched in on a photomontage of the week. A number of the kids had opted for photography lessons, and to the accompaniment of more Christian pop I didn’t recognize. I was terribly grateful for this chance (never offered to my parents) to see his week through the eyes of his fellow campers. (Best of all, the CD of the pics was for sale. WIN!) Grey didn’t show up until about 20 in, and in the early pictures he looked shy. But as the pictures went on, he started to show up more – in the funny outfits, kayaking, hiking (an area where he apparently distinguished himself).

    He fell, exhausted, into the car after all the goodbyes had been said. He had seemed very reserved, but passionately wanted a t-shirt, and the pictures. His counselors told me he’d been great.

    “So what do you think?” I asked, heart in my throat.

    “I can’t wait to go back next year! Man, I’m soooooo tired!”

    It was exactly what I hoped to hear.

    Here are some of the fast facts I’ve been able to wrest out of him:

  • They stayed up until past ten every night. The night they stayed up to see the stars, it was 11.
  • Archery was his favorite part.
  • He’s totally going back next year.
  • The food was the best, especially the BBQ chicken the first night
  • They had a wacky clothes day. He crazily wore his SOCKS on his HANDS.
  • We did this one hilarious skit …. and then we said, “oh no, a horsefly!” and pretended to panic. It was soooo funny!
  • Also, horseflies are a near-mortal peril
  • He wasn’t a fan of the Scottish country dancing. “It was ok I guess”. I was jealous.
  • The worship didn’t seem to make a big impression on him, but he liked some of the music. I have NO IDEA what songs/artists they were listening to, so I haven’t been able to spring it on him. Anyone know what was likely?

    Since he came home, Camp Wilmot has been sprinkled sparingly in his conversation. A note about what Ethan said once. This hilARIOUS skit they did. How much he liked the food. How he can totally stay up later than this. I asked him, tonight, what I should tell you about Camp Wilmot.

    “Tell them” he said “That Camp Wilmot is a great place to go if you want to make friends. If you need some time alone, they give it to you. If you need some help, they’re there. If you want fun, there’s tons of fun. Tell them they will like Camp Wilmot!”

    Consider yourself told.

    Grey handles a kayak

    Grey handles a kayak

    Grey on ropes

    Grey on ropes

    Scottish dancing - that's what you get for being Presbyterian my son!

    Scottish dancing – that’s what you get for being Presbyterian my son!

    How goofy can you get? (The glasses came home safely)

    How goofy can you get? (The glasses came home safely)

    Bunkmates with dirty faces

    Bunkmates with dirty faces

    Crazy clothes

    Crazy clothes

    A happy camper

    A happy camper

    PS – I notice he’s wearing the same shirt in all these pictures. In at least one of the pictures, he’s wearing a different shirt. What I don’t know for a fact doesn’t hurt me, right? Maybe these pictures were all on the same day, right? Right?

  • The Last Camp Gramp update

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    This is the last update from Camp Gramp. Hopefully this week I’ll update with all the stuff Adam and I were doing while Camp Gramp was going on!

    The family that kazoos together annoys other people together

    Day 8 — I don’t know if this one counts. We had mac and cheese for lunch. A Camp Gramp favorite. Then, when Uncle Adam and Aunt Brenda returned home, Uncle Adam ran a fabulous game in which everyone emerged alive, and Aunt Brenda took Carolyn to town to get her ears pierced! Isn’t that awesome!

    We had roast beef, mashed potatoes, gravy, wilted leaf lettuce salad for dinner. Then went for a Mineral walk to the lake side. The evening ended with baths, PEACH crisp and drama. Puppy had gone walk about. 15 minutes were dedicated to finding him on my desk ….???? How did he get there.

    This is the last night in the tents. Another Camp Gramp. Thanks to Heidi and Brenda, Adam and Matt who make this activity possible every year. It has been a real joy to watch the cousins play together and enjoy one another. And it has been a privilege and a joy to have them. Tomorrow they start departing, and Papapa and Gramama collapse in a heap, just like the famous Collapsible Frink! 

    Camp Gramp Catchup – 2014

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    Our backpacking trip was marvelous. Sensational. Superb. I have just over a thousand pictures to prove it, which I’ll be spending the next several hours getting through. However, to tide you over until I get that magnum opus up, I have my mother’s Camp Gramp notes for days 3 – 7 for your enjoyment!

    To Marie in Downer’s GroveThanks!! I have Grey’s summer camp write-up in the works, and I’ll try to get that done in the next week!

    Day 3 — Camp Gramp 2014

    I have sad news to report. The much beloved bouncy house is too small to support all the children. In fact, they have to go in one at a time to get any sort of decent bounce. This is a catastrophe! The slit in the slide required re-taping, but even that didn’t provide enough bounce for the whole gang. It is tough getting old! The joys of childhood fade away, one at a time. We have a huge collection of toys in the attic which are no longer appropriate for the grandchildren we have.

    Today we went to church, had a picnic, then Gramama headed to Sunrise to deliver the backpackers to their trailhead while Papapa and the campers stayed home. There was much game playing, running, jumping, and enjoying the crew. There were no pictures taken. I promise to do better tomorrow. (Actually, pictures were taken of Adam and Brenda as they started their 4 day hike — but they are on Brenda’s camera somewhere on Mt. Rainier.)

    We ended the day with the traditional ice cream and an episode of Rocky and Bullwinkle. The Wasamatta U football story. That cartoon is rich in pun and innuendo.

    Tomorrow the Pacific Science Center. May the force be with us!

    Day 4 — I lied. The camera remained firmly in its case and you will have to use your imagination.

    Today was Pacific Science Center day. The spy exhibit was a real hit! They learned about the Enigma Machine and saw a chunk of the proposed Moscow Embassy with 8 different kinds of listening devices embedded in the wall.

    Then we went to the Lego store, where Thane and Grey purchased Legos, Brain Marbles — or some such name, where Sebastian purchased a game called “Snake Oil”, and I fell victim to the pneumatic arm kit — yes really. It is so cool! Finally, we went to Target for Little Ponies stuff — I am sorry, Heidi! Giving kids choices sometimes has consequences.

    Grey saw the sign on South Hill Collision which says “Wreck Amended” and he thought it was hilarious!

    The sleeping room hasn’t quieted down so quickly tonight. They are still talking, but hey, it is Camp Gramp. Tomorrow, day camping at Big Tree campgrounds. It has a lovely little stream for the playing and they are all ready to enjoy that.

    Happy Birthday, Matt! Hope it was a good one. Happy Anniversary tomorrow, Brenda and Adam. May the mosquitoes leave you alone!

    Editor’s Note – I don’t see a day 4, so we’ll just have to paint it in with our imaginations.

    Camping at Camp Gramp

    Camping at Camp Gramp

    Day 5
    The morning began with Lego assembly, before the adults were out of bed. My muffled voice emerged from the blankets, “Take the table cloth off the table and work there.” So Thane obediently took the table cloth off the table, put it on the floor and emptied the bags of pieces on the table cloth, on the floor. We played Sebastian’s new game Snake Oil, with fun results. It is like selling refrigerators in the arctic, but we enjoyed it. Thane’s reading is excellent for headed into K. There were, however, some little mistakes.

    Gmm washed clothes, imagine that.

    About 3, we went “camping” Camp Gramp style. That means we go to a favorite camp site, play in the stream, hike around, roast hot dogs and marshmallows, then go home to sleep. The weather is PERFECT. About 75, sunny, lovely! There was a nice breeze blowing through the trees. Just perfect!

    Then we broke “camp” and headed up to Paradise in hopes of finding the Cascade fox that hangings out in the parking lot in the evening. That was a wash. We saw only a couple of deer. No bear, no marmot, no Cascade fox. But it was really beautiful. The wildflowers, oh my! They are spectacular! I hope Brenda and Adam are enjoying them and the great backpacking weather.

    Tomorrow, OMSI. I think I will go collapse in bed!

    Day 6 – It is hard to tell which is the more popular, OMSI — Oregon Museum of Science and Industry — or IKEA for the meatballs. They were both a hit. Thane chose the dinosaur movie, which surprises no one. The older three chose the submarine, where they have decided the sleeping quarters are a little close! Then there were the exhibits. I think Sebastian liked the Laser room best. It had holograms! Thane and Carolyn went to the upstairs room to explore with the animal puppets and play in the water. For the second day in a row, Thane came home soaking wet! We will soon be out of shoes. Tomorrow we will rescue the hikers from Mt. Rainier. Mowich Lake, here we come!

    Day 7 – It is a joy to realize that children have learned from things you have done with them. But why did they have to learn that? Yesterday I took the 3 older ones on the tour of the submarine at OMSI. We got the shower lecture. He called it a sailor shower. 10 seconds of water, lather up and shampoo, then 20 seconds of water to rinse off. So, we needed showers, oh did we need showers. I sent Sebastian first. He came back in about 2 minutes — “I took a sailor shower!” Somehow I think the lather and shampoo section was not all it should have been. All of them took sailor showers, except Thane, who needs a shower, but definitely doesn’t want to take one.

    Today we went to Mowich Lake to pick up Brenda and Adam. That is such a beautiful place — flowers, crystal clear water, mountains, trees. It was amazing. The road was reminiscent of Zaire — pothole city for much of the way. But that was fun too.

    Now the children are playing together on different computers. That will make sense to me, I am sure. All I know is there are happy voices coming from upstairs!

    Camp Gramp Day 2

    Editor’s note: This is the second installment in my mother’s Camp Gramp updates. We’ll have a bit of a hiatus as Adam and I go tackle the North Side of Mt. Rainier. Tomorrow night, Berkeley Park!

    The Camp Grampers

    Day Two
    Today was chose your own adventure day. The children are old enough to have some say in what we do, so we made a powerpoint and posters for things we thought they might like, and each child chose one. Today’s adventure was the Carolyn Adventure, Northwest Trek. The tram ride was awesome. We saw a bull moose about 5 feet from the tram. We saw caribou, bison, elk, big horned sheep, deer. We saw ducks, geese, and swans. The bull elk herd was hot, so they were all standing in the water, fabulous racks bending and twisting like wind-tossed reeds.

    We even had an adventure of another kind. A 1 1/2 year old took off his shoe and tossed it out the window. In case you are wondering, they send the game keeper to pick it up!

    The core area was not so good. It was warm and everyone was sleeping. We got a good view of the fox, which is why we were there. We dragged ourselves out of NW Trek, tired but happy and came home to dinner.

    Now the living room is ringing with voices engaged in a game they say is called “politics”. Hmmm! What kind of grandchildren are they raising? I don’t know what the game is, exactly, but periodically there is the patter of little feet coming into my office and a child whispers in my ear, “Don’t tell them I am here!” I would never do that!

    They are playing together so well! Lovely!

    Checking out the scenery

    Camp Gramp: Day 1 2014

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    Editor’s Note: My parents take all their grandchildren for a week every summer for a hedonistic weekend called Camp Gramp. It includes Lucky Charms, adventures, tents and connection with family. We parental units are released on our own recognizance, and my mother sends out updates to assure us we can continue to ignore our progeny happily. I repost her updates, when I’m not on Mt. Rainier. Here’s the first.

    Camp Gramp! Day One
    It is a miracle! The children are nestled all snug in their beds — I can’t vouch for what is dancing around in their heads, but they all seem to be asleep without the usual 13 trips to remind them that tomorrow is another day. This could be because the Flynn crew were up early this morning. However it happened, it has been a good start.
    Camp Gramp t-shirts are all tie dyed and tucked in their plastic bags for a night of getting more intense.

    The tents are all up. The kids are getting to be a much better help in that capacity.

    Much laughing and giggling and “Let’s pretending” has already gone on.

    On the down side, poor Papapa has pneumonia and is feeling far from well. Hopefully his medicine will kick in soon. It is discouraging to feel worse after the doctor.

    Brenda and Adam are going tomorrow morning to try for camping spots for Mt. Rainier.

    I am headed for bed. My day hasn’t been quite as long, but it has been busy, and those kids are getting a head start on me.

    I promise to get out the camera tomorrow.

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