Winter’s antidote

So when last I graced these pages with my erudition, I complained about the interminability of winter. Little did you know that I had a cunning plan for freeing myself from winter’s vile clutches! Indeed, in the strange New England tradition known as February break, we hied ourselves down to Mexico, where a cold day is when it dips below 70.

We’ve been to Cozumel five times, by my count, and to the Intercontinental three times. We went first for the high quality (included in room price) child care, and stayed for the fantastic reefs and unbeatable rooms. We pretty much stayed put this time, venturing out of the resort only twice – once by boat and once by taxi on the tiny island.

It was superbly relaxing. We snorkeled between once and three times a day. We read for hours. The hotel pool was warmed to the world’s most perfect temperature. The spa was fantastic. The poolside food service excellent. The four restaurants enough to keep us from getting totally sick of the menu.

The only real downside was the night where I decided (in long pants and a long shirt!) to sit on our “front porch” and read until late. I woke up the next morning with 83 mosquito bites. The skeeters weren’t out at all during the day, but they were stealthy predators by night. For the record, I read through about 30% of the catalog of M.C.A Horgath during my stay, which I highly recommend as beach resort reading. She’s rather prolific. I hadn’t realized I’d read such a small percent!

The snorkeling was awesome, and since we my Valentine’s gift was a new underwater camera (which was fantastic, by the way!) we have a lot to remember it by. We saw moray eels, lobster, sea turtles, eagle rays, starfish, parrot fish, anemones, barracuda and all manner of fantastic underwater beasties!

We returned to cold rain and gray days, but with warm memories to sustain us. Now, to survive Monday….

Mr. and Mrs. Iguana here were one of Thane’s favorite parts

Moray Eel
I loved these bubbles
The serenity of the reef
Two thumbs up to this cool full face snorkel mask!

Our room was right in front of the first palm tree on the left
Sea turtle!!
Eagle ray!
Family portrait
My boys and me
Starfish in “El Cielo” – the sky

The pool was amazing
The Thane snuggles were also amazing
Handsome menfolk!
Grey approves

This is Camp Gramp 2016

There comes a point where you just shut down your computer on a Friday, and don’t open it up for a week. I hit that point. Man, did I need a vacation. I’m so grateful I’ve gotten it! Meanwhile, Camp Gramp is in full swing. Instead of the typical email updates, my mom has been posting Facebook updates. I can’t blame her for it, but in the interests of stealing her writing and using it as my own (hey, it’s not a vacation if I have to work, right?) I’m reposting here for your delectation!

Camp Gramp Day 1 – Saturday
We are here! The tents are up! The sleeping bags are out! The children are happily playing. They are old enough now for some self-determination, so they have decided our destination in Canada will be Vancouver. The criteria is — a good science museum! Parents are raising these kids right!

Two kids have outgrown their tents, and a third tent is on its last legs. We have two new tents and will need to replace a third.

The Camp Grampground
The Camp Grampground

Camp Gramp – Day 3
Today started with a bang. A flat tire. The van has a spare, but it is under the front seat and really hard to get to. We played old people and used our AAA. The nice young man had bad things to say about getting the spare out.

I needed to go to town to get the tire fixed and visit the Group Health lab, so we gave the children a choice. Go to town and chase Pokeman Go or stay home. They chose stay home! They have been upstairs playing together much of the day. When they weren’t doing that, they were playing outside. This sounds like the MOST BORING Camp Gramp. But they are enjoying themselves. I think it is a sign of maturity. First, they can make choices themselves. Second, they can entertain themselves!

It is like a Lan party for Matthew. Feed them and stay out of the way!

Camp Gramp Day 4 — Tuesday
Today is Gramama’s birthday. We spent a while at the lake with the boats. The children did a great job, no one got wet by accident. We did have an incident of a nest of bugs in the canoe, but otherwise, it was great fun. Swimming too. The cake was the work of the W. children!

Hot enough to swim in Mineral Lake!
Hot enough to swim in Mineral Lake!
I love this picture - time for Thane to learn how to paddle his own canoe
I love this picture – time for Thane to learn how to paddle his own canoe
Good think I sent this kid to three weeks of camp that included kayaking!
Good think I sent this kid to three weeks of camp that included kayaking!

Camp Gramp – Wednesday
Today was organic farm day. A colleague of mine has a new farm in Ashford and the kids spent a couple hours there. They met Otis the dog, and the chickens. They came home with some eggs they collected. The met the llamas and the alpacas. There was also hay climbing and chicken chasing.

Then the evening was spent on Mt. Rainier at a Star Party. Sebastian was a helper, keeping the moon in the telescope. It was great, but very late when we got home. Fortunately, they all woke up enough to get out of the car and go to bed.

Strong candidate for official camp gramp picture
Strong candidate for official camp gramp picture
Turkey in the straw
Turkey in the straw

Sometimes the symbolism hits you over the head


I was lying in the summer-warmed water of a small New Hampshire lake. The sun was gently warm on my upturned face. Pines surrounded the lake with taller peaks framing the tableau. The air was full of the sound of happy children playing — the yells and shouts and laughter. My ears were stopped by the water, where it was blessedly blissfully quiet. I noticed I was far more buoyant than normal, with my nursing-large breasts and Tevas dragging the rest of me towards the surface. And for that glinting moment in the sun, I just WAS and it was good.

Later that afternoon — after a long leisurely tent-nap — I noticed my watch had stopped keeping time on that swim.

Every once in a while, the symbolism just comes down and smacks you.

We had a fantastic three-day weekend camping. We spent two nights at White Lake State Park, this time. The water was the best. When I was playing with my sons in the water, I had the rare sensation of being completely engaged. I was entirely present in the play, and not thinking ahead or behind or calculating or listening to something else or wishing that I was anywhere but where I was. I threw my laughing children into the air and caught them as they splashed in the water. I watched them discover what they could do in this unusual medium — sand squishing between small toes and eyes squinting against bright sun. I watched my husband, strong and lithe, play with the boys who look so much like him.

The camping parts were great too. We made a vast improvement by putting Thane to sleep in his car seat inside the tent. He was far more comfortable AND we had more room for important things like stomp rockets, rope for practicing making knots and marshmallows. My husband delighted in knot tying (really delighted — he was nearly illuminated with the joy of learning this new skill — and our tarp only took about 4 hours to get up!) Grey poked things with sticks and stayed up too late and ate his bodyweight in marshmallows and made his brother laugh. Thane? Well, Thane probably got the short end of the deal. He really liked the water (a lot!) but spent most of his time hanging out in his stroller, which is probably not as much fun as getting to eat dirt and rub pine needles into his hair.

There were, of course, tribulations. Notably, the first night was an absolute deluge. The rain was phenomenal. On the plus side, we had a drum-tight tarp to keep us dry, which it did. On the negative side, we therefore had a snare drummer playing above our head all night long. Also, Thane woke up inconsolable, which is really hard when we’re all in such a short space. I’m not sure what was wrong with him, and therefore I couldn’t fix it quickly and that woke up Grey and that meant, well, let’s just say we were sleepy by the time the weekend was over.

Also, let us discuss for a moment the word cheap. Cheap can mean inexpensive — a bargain. Cheap can also mean low-quality. When one encounters “cheap” firewood, perhaps one should not be surprised when it turns out to have been cut last week in a bog, where it has been stored since. It took me two and a half hours to get a fire going with said “cheap” firewood. I can usually get a fire going with one match using no man-made materials in about 15 minutes. (We used to heat with wood. I’m really pretty good at fire-building.) The tinder would go up, the fire would appear started and then in 5 minutes it would be dead. The cheap firewood didn’t just smoke, it steamed.

There was also a plague of frogs. If I had to pick a plague, I think the plague of frogs was probably the one I’d mind least. They were pretty cute little buggers, but TINY. There were so many of them that on a walk with Grey we could hardly step without imperiling the little froggy bodies below us. The forest floor twitched with the movement of perfectly camouflaged frogs.

Tiny little frogs everywhere!
Tiny little frogs everywhere!

I think we will go camping again SOON. I keep wishing we could go with friends or another grownup so that my husband and I could go witness the miracle of stars, or listen to the loon sing a night-song on the lonely lake. But even if my husband didn’t like camping (which he does), I think he would go just to watch the petals of the flower that is me uncurl and turn to the new-shining sun. The wilderness is manna to me. It is sunshine. It opens me up and drops my defenses. It makes me remember what I like about myself and forget my mantras of doubt, gloom and distraction. I like who I am in the woods.

Driving home, I couldn’t help but be excited by what we were doing, and had done. Already, a grand two trips in, we have traditions. There’s the “Miss Wakefield Diner” and their chocolate chip pancakes. There’s the spooooooky stories (not so spooky) around the fire. There’s rough-housing in the tent. There’s swimming in the lake. There are memories saved up against cold February days and the creeping sense of dismal sameness.

There is joy, a shared joy, and remembered joy.