Camping–The Cheap, Easy, and Fun Family Vacation. ***

Setting up our luxury accomodations

***Excludes hidden costs, forgotten items such as sweatshirts, and bedtime.

In an effort to plan our upcoming nuptials, as well as to “get away from it all” over Memorial Day weekend, Daniel thought that a night camping in Letchworth sounded like a good idea. I agreed, as much as one can agree with the idea of camping with a two-year-old as a GOOD idea. Certainly it is an adventure, a learning experience, a test in the limits of patience (I failed), but whether it is actually a GOOD idea, well, I will let that debate fight itself.

On Friday night we started throwing clothes into a duffle bag, knowing we had a family Mass and picnic to attend on Sunday that would require slightly less casual attire than one wears in the woods. It was around eighty degrees while we were packing, and so shorts, lightweight pajamas, sandals, etc. went into the duffle bag. I put in a sundress with a flouncy eyelet hem and a thin sweater to wear on Sunday morning, and as an afterthought, one pair of long pants. We’d throw the fleeces in tomorrow morning. Pretty much all of our camping gear was still put together from last year’s excursion, so we were all set. Right.  If my backpacking sister had been a fly on the wall that night, she would have been throwing herself up against the window screens in frustration.  “Did Mom and Dad teach you NOTHING?!?!”

Let me also state for the record that last year’s “Camping Packing List” and last year’s “Things We Forgot While Camping List” were still in Daniel’s notebook that he carries around twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. The thought to consult those lists never crossed our idealistic minds. It wasn’t until we started the hour-long journey across idyllic seas of dry cornfields and cow pastures that we started the inevitable half-conversation, begun with several repetitions and variations of the following statement:

“You know what we didn’t bring?”

I think part of our lack of thoroughness had to do with the thought that we were only going to be gone for one night, so no big deal if we forgot the floss. But it’s hard to project when it’s eighty degrees and you’re exhausted on a Friday night what you could possibly need while sitting around a picnic table in the woods on Saturday night, or sitting at a campfire after the kids have finally pounded their heads to sleep on the walls of the tent two hours after the pronouncement of “Bedtime!”

So we ate canned baked beans out of cups with no spoons, beans that had been stirred with a stick.  We unrolled our sleeping bags onto the lumpy, hard forest floor underneath the tent, sans Thermarests.  We bought overpriced bug spray, firewood, a soap dish (because they didn’t have contact lens cases, and I was sure I had left mine at home, and that was one thing I had actually brought), and two outdoorsy (read: hideous moose print) fleece blankets to wrap ourselves in after dark, because we’d forgotten to grab our jackets, and the two gift shops we hit at 5:00 and 6:00 that sold goth-inspired Letchworth hoodies both closed two minutes early.  And leather Born sandals do not make good shower shoes, in case you were wondering.

We parked our car in the Lower Falls parking lot on Saturday evening and walked the short distance to the picnic shelter that will be hosting our wedding in a little over two months.  Daniel took pictures while I kept kids away from the short stone wall built to keep kids from tumbling down into the gorge, and we traced what our steps will be that day.  We held hands and looked at each other and I tried to picture that this is all real, that he wants to spend his life with me.  It is starting to sink into my dense little head.  Later that night, as we sat around our expensive campfire that night, he pulled out two “How Well Do You Know Your Bride/Groom” quiz books and we filled them out, wrapped in fleece moose blankets and using our iPhone Flashlight apps, because of course we had forgotten the actual flashlights.  Our scores were nearly identical, so I’d say we’re starting our life together on fairly level ground.  With the fire burned out and the trash bag in the car (after a raccoon decided to take inventory of the stick-stirred beans and dropped hot dogs), we went to sleep.  Not easy nor cheap, but most definitely fun.

A “Simple” Wedding

August 8th, 2010

This is what most brides want, right? Something simple, not too complicated, everything working like clockwork. My vision for the Fischer-Quimby union was similar to his family gatherings–lots of food, kids running around, people sitting around tables chatting, enjoying the sunshine (or, in a few cases, cursing the rain).

So we started with the guest list. About 180 on his side, maybe 20 on mine. Slight discrepancy in family size.  Then, the location. Picnic in Letchworth State Park. Lovely setting, no decorations needed really, because how can you decorate the Grand Canyon of the East? I probably need some sort of wedding dress, because most brides wear something special, but at this point I’m having trouble envisioning myself as a Bride. I mean, for one thing, this is Wedding Number Two, and I’m not exactly blushing. I have two kids and am in my mid-thirties and don’t feel fresh-faced and innocent. My inability to cast myself in this role will prove to me my downfall, as the reader will soon discover.

Save-the-date postcards. Beautifully crafted, ordered online at Vistaprint. How many guests? Two hundred, so that’s the number of cards we ordered. After the fact we realize that number includes children and spouses, so unless we were mailing multiple cards to the same address, we have a few too many. Ah, well.  Mail postcards.  People mention “hey, I got your card, cool, it’s on the calendar.”  I ask my parents if they got anything in the mail yet.  “Um, no…”  My own parents fail to get a save-the-date card.  They aren’t the only ones.  Angry texts to Daniel from friends who think they’ve been slighted.  More postcards go out, these ones addressed by hand.  Perhaps the post office machines couldn’t read our choice of font on the address labels, or maybe it’s a big government conspiracy.

Less than three months before the wedding, I’m finally sitting down with Daniel’s aunts to discuss the day. “Who’s officiating?” Don’t know. Someone mentions a pastor in the family.  Why didn’t we think of that? Call him up, ask him to do it. No problem. Check. “What kind of flowers do you want?” Um… “Where are you staying that night?” Er… “How do you want to do the food?”

And it kept going like that. It was a good thing the ladies kept pressing, because these were questions I should have asked myself months ago, but couldn’t/didn’t. Because I wasn’t a Bride…or at least up until that gathering around the table.

Wedding dress shopping with my mother also helped, but didn’t exactly confirm my moniker. David’s Bridal is the Wal-Mart of wedding regalia. I go in, I fill out some paperwork, stupidly mention the fact that I might still be in their computer system since I bought a dress here eight years ago. Eight years. Different person. Not in the system anymore, which is fine. Phyllis comes out to assist me. I start sifting through the racks of WHITE, CREAM, IVORY, VANILLA, OFF-WHITE, sequins, seed pearls, lace, embellishments, long trains, tulle, puffed sleeves, buttons. Mom heads straight for the sale rack. I mention “tea-length” and Phyllis comes back with above-the-knee. They’re cute. We have about eight dresses to try on. The one I like the best just happens to be the cover photo for their Spring collection magazine, so of course someone would mention “hey, you went to David’s, didn’t you?” With no intention of buying anything, I try on dress after dress. Mom snaps photos with my iPhone (more on that in another blog post), and I look at myself. I’m a Bride. Gulp.

Maybe there is a part of me that still cannot believe my good fortune. I found someone with whom I want to spend the rest of my waking days, and believe it or not, he wants to do the same with me. He is (another gulp) my Groom. I will be his wife, and he will be my husband.  In the midst of the insanity of life at QFQA, with two delightfully maddening children running amok and three-and-a-half schedules to juggle, I forget the miracle that this all really is. Thirteen years after Jimmy Morrow put Fischer and Quimby next to each other on the Chapel Choir seating chart, we are now getting married.

Simple wedding.

Ha.

When is life ever going to be simple, and when will I stop expecting it to be simple?

Happy. Mother’s. Day.

I truly believe that my kids are the only ones on the planet who act the way that they do.

I read books, I read blogs, I read magazine articles and talk to other parents. My kids are the only ones who act like they do.

It’s a good thing. They will always be unique. They are charming. Usually the first comment I hear out of someone’s mouth is “oh, s/he is so cute!!!” And then they move their bodies, and it’s all downhill from there.

It’s a curse. My daughter performs many of the same antics that her brother did only a few years ago. She has golden ringlets and a flirtatious smile, and blue eyes that urge you to give in. Her older brother, who once had those same addictive attributes, sees the attention flowing and tries to behave likewise. It breaks my heart. What is cute for two is not cute for six, and especially not for six-looking-like-nine (which is so not his fault).

How can I help these beautiful creatures achieve their full potential without either a) squashing them or b) squashing myself? I hear all the time “Oh, don’t worry about it, you’re a great mom, you’re doing all you can, they’ll be fine, blah blah blah.” I do worry about it; I doubt I am a great mom, I don’t think I always do all that I can, and even if I did, they might not be fine, so how does that make their chances better?!

I think I’ll paint my toenails now and try not to think about any of it, since it will all be here tomorrow.