And a great time was had by all

1 Sep

I remember this spring I was so excited about all of the trips I had planned! Two camping trips with multiple other families! Great Wolf Lodge! Glacier National Park! I thought it was going to be amazing and a really fun summer. It really was a fun summer but in retrospect, it was way too much! Although I did enjoy all of the trips, most of the summer I found myself feeling burnt out, frazzled, and in a constant state of packing/unpacking/planning. Add in to the things that weren’t originally scheduled–a weekend trip to Portland, Andy’s knee surgery, and the Bellingham trip and you have one tired mama. I learned a valuable lesson this year. Although I loved every single thing we did, toward the end I started dreading things a little–the packing, the driving, the “how are we going to entertain the kids because oh man there is another stinking fire ban so we can’t have campfires” sort of thing.

My thoughts now that it’s all done:  Great Wolf Lodge– TOTALLY WORTH IT. Granted, it’s a pricy weekend trip but if you pack your food (I was totally that mom carrying a crock pot and all our groceries into our room), it’s not terrible. The bang for your buck if you buy the Wolf Pass is totally worth it, even if little Ben didn’t understand any of the treasure hunt games, he understood and loved being able to wave his wand at random things in the hotel and causing an effect. The water park was super fun but not so big/packed that it was obnoxious and being a two minute walk from your hotel room at any time is pretty amazing. Also, the hotel room was pretty sweet. I was expecting a room that might be potentially run down, etc since it’s not the main attraction but it was as nice (if not nicer) than most we usually stay in. Add in to that reasonable food/drink prices in the place and a lot of stuff for the kids to do outside of the water park, it was worth every. single. cent. I am a total convert.

Deception Pass 4th of July camping trip–Totally worth it. We went with several other people–Ananda, another BP family (I used to work with the dad and they live down the street from us so Eli and Ben love their son), Emily & Jeremy & their son, Nicholas, Will, as well as Rachal and Matt. I had to reserve the campsite six months in advance because of its popularity but it was a great trip. The boys had other kids there so they were entertained. Although there was a fire ban having other kids took the edge off the boredom so it all worked out.

Berry Patch Wenatchee Confluence Park camping trip–again, totally worth it. Our friend managed to book the group camping site that fits up to 300 people so we had a HUGE field to camp in. It’s in the middle of the city which is odd but I guess since it’s right on the river they had no qualms about watering their lawns so we had the most lush, soft grass to set up camp. It was like having a pillow underneath your tent. I’d rate this high for no other reason than after this drought stricken summer, all of us kicked our shoes off and kept remarking about how soft the grass was. The kids brought their bikes and spent their days riding bikes, playing in the sprinklers we brought, and playing down at the beach by the river which was about 500 feet from the campsite. Also lovely to reconnect with the BP families and keep those ties solid. We all vowed to do this every year. Just a really lovely time.

Portland Trip–the kids and i did this one on our own. We went to see my friends June and Kristen (I used to work with June) in Vancouver, WA. We spent the weekend playing in their pool on their deck, going to the neighborhood playground, and we went to the Clark County fair at which the boys had a blast riding all of the rides. I had a fun time hanging out with my friends and felt really lucky to not have to pack a tent and food for everyone 🙂

Bellingham trip–we went to Ananda’s grandparents’ house for her 40th birthday party. We got to stay in one of her grandparents’ cabins on Lake Whatcom and it was beautiful. Once the sun went down, we put out blankets in the yard to watch the Perseid meteor shower. A short, overnight trip to celebrate someone who has become a member of the family. Again, totally worth it.

Glacier National Park — oh, the thrill is gone with this one. A long drive for not a lot of bang for our buck. The hotel the night before and after was fun but they are all with their continental breakfasts and swimming pools. There were 130+ wildfires in Montana as well as additional ones in Idaho and Washington with their smoke blowing west. There were three major fires in Glacier Nat’l Park which produced so much smoke that all of the scenery we traveled so far to see was almost completely obscured. We did do a few boat rides which were pretty but very hazy and the really WOW part of the trip–the Going to the Sun road with all of its associated hikes, etc. was basically nothing but a giant smoke bomb. I started following the Glacier FB page over a month before we went in anticipation of the fires but in retrospect I feel like they are intentionally minimizing how much the smoke is affecting the park. We had a lovely campsite pretty much on the shore of Lake McDonald and although it was fairly clear the day we arrived, by the day we left (we left a day early) it was so smoky that we were all getting congested and had sore throats.

The last day we were there, we rented a small motorboat to cruise around Lake McDonald. We did that for about 45 minutes then attended a ranger talk so the boys could earn their Junior Ranger badge for Glacier. I don’t know if it’s particular to Glacier but they had a pre-reader booklet for the Junior Ranger badge for Ben, something we haven’t seen before. If they have it at other parks and we just never thought to ask, I just think that’s such a cool idea. It’s all drawing pictures and draw a line to the baby animal that matches the mom animal, totally appropriate for the wee set. It allowed Ben to really work on his own badge instead of me doing it for him and he really got into it. During the ranger talk, he had the kids play musical chairs but instead of the usual game, the chair that was “out” was the invasive species and it showed the kids how the invasive species gradually ekes out the native fish.  The kids REALLY got into it and ended up asking all kinds of questions about how the fish are getting rid of the native ones, etc. The talk there was so much more kid-centric than the ones I’ve attended in the past and it was great to see the kids totally getting into it.

After that, we went to have lunch in Apgar Village, one of the few places with (spotty) cell reception. We heard the people at the table next to us mention “the storm coming” and Andy and I both checked out our phones. There was a HUGE thunderstorm coming in the next three hours. After some deliberation, we decided that was the end of our Glacier trip.  All of us were congested from the smoke and visibility was getting worse (you couldn’t even see across the lake from our campsite anymore by this point). It was the night before we were due to leave any way and neither of us liked the idea of having to pack up camp with everything wet. There was also a cold front due to move in right after the storm and so we were looking at a morning of trying to pack up camp while everything was wet, when everything would be cold, and we wouldn’t even be able to start a fire to entertain/warm the kids up.  How many signs do you need? That was it for us. We finished lunch and headed back to camp and we were out of there in about an hour and a half.

As we were driving out, the storm started. I have never been so relieved by a decision! The rain was going sideways, the wind whipping trees back and forth. Andy and I kept saying, “They don’t have tornadoes here, right?” because it was so bad. It lasted about two hours before it finally petered off into on/off drizzle but I was so happy we hightailed it out of there. Trying to cook dinner over a camp stove in that kind of weather with the boys so young would have been miserable.

So that’s summer in a nutshell!

Tomorrow, potty training for Ben begins in earnest. As in we are going cold turkey with him as we did with Eli. He’s gotten some warning about it and although he can pee on the potty like a champ, he tends to hold his poop for the diaper yet will come up to you and tell you he’s pooping in his diaper! I feel like at this point we just need to go all out so tomorrow morning he is in underwear, all the time, except for naps/overnight. We did the same with Eli. It’ll be a messy few days but it will work itself out and he’s ready for it. The boys and I went this weekend to Target and Ben got to pick out his new underwear (Paw Patrol and the Minions) and he’s really excited about wearing them. I’ll do the same as I did with Eli and stay close to home for the next several days with an alarm set for every 30 minutes so he can sit on the potty. It’ll be a messy (and I’m sure tantrum-my) four or five days but then we’ll be over the hump. It’ll also save us $75 in “diaper fees” at Small Faces (they don’t provide diapers but they do charge extra for the changing) starting in October so that will be nice as well. Ben is sort of excited-scared about it but he will do great.

Eli starts first grade (!) next week and he is so excited to go back as a big first grader. I’ve warned him that he will have homework this year so he knows what to expect. The lovely thing about North Beach is that starting in first grade they start evaluating the kids to see where they are in subjects and group them with kids who are on the same level so I’m hoping this year won’t be another round of “It’s boring” because frankly, he’s bored with a lot of the academic stuff.  He had a third grade reading buddy last year and read as well, if not better, than he did most of the time. I also plan to ask about having him evaluated for whatever their version of gifted and talented is because I think a lot of his “I hate school” feeling tends to stem from him being bored with the academic part of it (this is not me feeling like he is special but rather his own opinions on the subject as well as the teachers saying he’s way above the kids in his class). His teacher in kindergarten tended to want him to use his reading ability to help the other kids–i.e., helping the other kids with their reading, reading the announcements every morning, etc. and he really hated that. He is well aware he reads above his age level but he REALLY hates being singled out for it so putting him on display like that is a quick way to get him to shut down. I think if he were with other kids who could do what he does, he’d just step up to the plate and not feel embarrassed. His math and science skills are all well above grade level and six months ago he was reading at the higher end of third grade level.

That’s all for now. Andy is on nights this week so I’m flying solo. We’ve got swim class tomorrow evening for Eli and then swim class for Ben Thursday morning. Tomorrow night the boys and I are having a slumber party. On weeks Andy works nights, I let them sleep in my bed (I do not get a lot of sleep these nights for the record, let’s vote me Mom of the Year) and we get to watch a movie and eat popcorn in bed. Eli and I have had these slumber parties for the last year and now Ben is old enough to join in. Although I love having him there, these kids are bed hogs! About 50X a night I wake up with someone’s foot in my face because they are lying sideways) but the time that they’ll do this kind of thing with me is short, so I do my best to remind myself of that, reposition them so that they are lying next to me, and snuggle on them during these few short years they will allow it 🙂  Life is good!

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