Saturday, July 17, 2010

Our California Adventure in a Nutshell. Or Seashell.

Here's the thing. About 40 years ago, Brandon's grandparents started camping with their family. They have returned every year (except one or two) to the same campground; the same lake. The traditions are the same. The meals are the same. The activities are pretty much the same. Some things do change, and they've added dozens more people to the mix (they started with two parents and 7 children. Or 6. Not sure how many they had 40 years ago, but they have 8 children altogether!). There are now nearly...let me count...93 people! (Counting boyfriends/girlfriends) And there are 3 babies on the way. No, wait! There are 4 babies on the way!
So, nearly a hundred people.
That's a lot of people!
Anywho, we go every July. Not everyone can make it each year (understandably), but if they can, they do it.

This year, we decided not only to go on the family camp out, but to visit Brandon's immediate family beforehand. So, it kind of went like this:

1. Pack the trailer/van.
2. Drive to Vegas.
3. Stay in Vegas with a hotel that didn't have, in fact, a complimentary breakfast (our bad!) and end up going to IHOP instead.
4. Drive to Simi Valley (Brandon's mom and both of his sisters live there).
5. Hang out there for a couple of days playing, hiking (the grown-ups and #5 went hiking up a steep trail to the top of a cliff to plant flowers in memorial of our BIL's niece who died there), contemplating (about the death of the niece), working (Brandon), partying (I went to my SIL's roommates bridal shower, where the reverse stripping took place. What is a reverse stripper, you might ask? Just what it sounds like. A hilarious rendition of stripping, where the "dancer" puts more clothes on until he is ready to go snowboarding. No worries --he started out with clothes on to begin with. But let me just say that it was one of the funniest things EVER!), shopping, horse-riding (the kids), Indian/Thai food eating (the grown-ups), and remembering why California rocks the world in the weather department.
6. Say good-bye to Brandon as he flies up to school.
7. Load up the van (Brandon had already loaded the trailer again for me) and drive the kiddies up north 3 hours or so to the lake!
8. Unpack van and trailer and set up the tent all by myself. ALL. BY. MYSELF! Man, I rock.
9. Enjoy camping! This includes lake swimming, beach swimming, petting zoo/farmer's market going, amazing food eating, 10 mile walking, Pounce playing (it's like Speed, if you've played Speed), cousin teasing, marshmallow roasting, late-night talking/laughing, etc. and so forth.
10. Be grateful when Brandon joins us Saturday evening!
11. Have a great Sabbath by taking a shower (only 75 cents for 5 minutes!), relaxing, and discussing with fellow family members why this tradition is so important for the grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
12. Pack up all the camping gear, make kids pick up trash, be sad a bit because the tradition of going to the local water slides (really small) will be passed up this year due to a huge hike in prices.
13. Go to an amazing burger joint near the beach instead of the water slides.
14. Drive to Tehachapi. Visit cousins who couldn't make it to the camp out.
15. Drive to Vegas. Get there really, really, really late. Like, I-haven't-seen-this-time-of-night-since-I-was-single-unless-you-count-nursing-babies late.
16. Wake up late. Drive home.
17. Unpack.

But the best part of all of this, I believe, is the fact that the people who watched our cat and house for us (our neighbors) did a few things for us. It included:
*Cleaning out our entire shed. And organizing it.
*Cleaning off our back porch. And organizing it.
*Cleaning out my entire laundry room, washing the rugs, cleaning the floor, washing the machines, cleaning out the kitty-litter box completely and washing it, and! You guessed it --organizing the room.
*Cleaning (and organizing!) the car-port.
*Vacuuming the upstairs AND downstairs.
*Mopping the floors and cleaning the bathroom.
*Doing some laundry that was in the laundry room.
*Killing ants.
*Killing wasps.
*Watering our lawn and garden and feeding the cat.

When we got home, you wanna know what they did? Came over and helped me unload [see, Brandon had an important board meeting in SLC the night we got back, so much to his chagrin (he felt really, really bad about it), he had to skedaddle up north and left me to unload things and take the trailer back to Uhaul], unpack some things, and completely cleaned my van! Then they watched the kids so I could take the trailer back and get some pizza. And what, dear reader, do you think my sweet neighbor was doing when I got back? She had already sorted and started my laundry and had cleaned out my cooler from camping and washed it! Then she said to me (and I quote):
"Cheryl, let's just count this as visiting teaching for the month, okay?"
I stared at her for a moment and then I said,
"Sue, I'm YOUR visiting teacher!!!"

I love that woman. And her awesome family. They are amazing neighbors!

So, there you go. Imagine you have pictures of the kids in face paint (and great-grandma!), beautiful views of Simi Valley from the cliffs, Avila beach, fresh fruit, family by the campfire, wasps trying to get into my syrup, deer and wild turkeys coming into camp to eat whatever we accidentally drop, the frogs caught by the kids, and #3 swimming confidently in the lake. Imagine it. Because I have to! I still can't believe I didn't take any pictures.

Sigh, sigh, sigh...


Gio, Judi and Boys said...

sounds like an amazing time and just what you all needed! glad you had such a wonderful time with family. that is what it all is about anyway, isn't it!

Alison Wonderland said...

I'm actually really jealous. And I'm really really glad you're back.

Julie said...

I'm so glad you had such a great time! You are really awesome for loving that so much.

Stephanie said...

Can I borrow you Sue?

Julie said...

Avila Beach has dear memories for our family - honeymoon and vacations before we moved to Utah. I'll have to look up more about that lake for a quick camp when we visit my fam. I'm glad you had such a good time!

Kids Outback Club said...

Love reading about other family camping experiences from the mom's perspective! Great post, thanks for sharing it with the world.