Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Summer Snapshots: Camping

Today our family is celebrating Eid - so you'll have to forgive me for not answering any emails or comments until tomorrow. It's also Yousuf's first day back at work (working on holidays seems to be a running theme with us...pffft.), and so we are trying to cram in as much special family time as the day will allow. Which OF COURSE, includes the making and eating of many Ramadan Cake Pops. It's an Eid tradition, you know. We wish all of you a very blessed Eid today, and hope that you enjoy love, peace and happiness today, and always. Eid Mubarak, and remember that the Mabel's Labels Do Something Good Giveaway is still open! xoxoxmahreen


We spent our weekend getting ready for Eid, hanging decorations, cooking and baking and filling the house with sensory delights. Our garlands are hung, our wacky menu has been planned (courtesy of Inara and Nissa - Inara asked for "Eid Challah" to add to the Ramadan Cake pops. Sigh.), and we are now in full-on festive mode. It was a splendid way to spend the last weekend of summer - Yousuf starts back to Professorship today, and Inara follows after the long weekend. This last blast was the perfect way to go out on a great big high.

I'm spending the day fully immersed in family time, but there is still much to share about the summer that has passed (all too quickly for my liking, I should mention once more, just for good measure). Today's installment of V2B Summer Snapshots includes photos from our first family camping adventure, at a sprawling state park on the (slightly-bacteria infested) south shore of Lake Ontario...

...where we spent an inordinate amount of time trying to put together the tent. It was a gigantic eight-man contraption that was loaned to us by Yousuf's sister and her husband.

You know that saying about too many cooks in the kitchen? I suspect the same is true about tent-raising, and after a few vain attempts at "helping" but really just getting in the way, I decided to retire to the comfort of my camera and leave the rest to the experts.

Inara is now a Tent Expert, or so she claims. I actually think she was far more useful than I was.

Behold, La Casa del George! This roomy getaway is tall enough to stand up in, and even to jump on air mattresses without bonking your noggin against the roof. Don't ask me how I know.

After all that hard work, it was practically time for dinner. And one person in particular was plumb tuckered out, because tent-raising is no easy task, you know. I know from experience that it is definitely not for the faint of heart.

I think that this was the best sleep the poor man has had in over five years. Badly sleeping babies will do that to a weary soul. Yousuf looked so peaceful that we barely had the heart to disturb him, so we quietly arranged dinner while Sleeping Beauty worked hard to earn his nickname. After a while the sun began to set, and we thought SB must be getting chilly, so we started a fire to keep him warm...

and took some more pictures of the cozy little scene that was created...

...while Yousuf slept on, oblivious. Truly the man was in his element, out there amongst the trees and sounds of nature lulling him into a deep, relaxing slumber.

(I cannot believe how different he and I are. Give me a comfy bed and room service any day and I'll tell you how comfortable sleeping can really be.)

Sleeping Beauty had impeccable timing too. He woke up, refreshed, just in time for the time-honored tradition of The Roasting Of The Marshmallows. This is a George Family Tradition in which you attempt to peel of layer after layer of crisp, toasted marshmallow until you can go no further.

Yousuf is a master at this.

It was the girls' first time roasting, and they were lovingly indoctrinated into the fold with the help of their Grandparents. I don't think it will be a memory that is soon forgotten.

I spy with my little eye...

Correction: Inara was indoctrinated, while Nissa went straight for the mallows, sans roasting. She's all about quantity, not quality, that one. Within a few moments, she was covered from head to toe in mallow goo, and she was on cloud nine...and going higher with every sugar-laden bite.

I never stand a chance when it comes to marshmallow roasting, it takes far too long and one has to have a certain tranquil calm about them to get it just right (and I wonder where Nissa gets her impatience from). It's not for me...but! This certainly was for me. ALL FOR ME.

It was a thing of beauty. I shall miss it terribly.

Campfires too, are a thing of beauty - Inara and Nissa had never been so close to dancing flames and crackling logs. We kept them well back, and showed them how to take slow deliberate steps so as to not accidentally fall close to the flames. They listened well, and we had a grand time together, alternating between raucous story-telling (thanks to Papa's expertise), and quiet, introspective gazing as the fire told it's own tale, glowing stronger in the fading light.

Fire, fire, burning bright.
In the forests of the night...
(all due apologies to William Blake, but we like our version better!)

Taking pictures of campfires is one of my most favorite things (says the girl who prefers hotel getaways to any outdoor expedition). In general, I find inanimate objects to be far more satisfying to photograph, as they tend to not run away or pitch a fit when they get annoyed by my endless clicking. But fires are different, they aren't exactly inanimate - and they have life all their own, one that draws the eye in and soothes the restless soul. We all felt it every evening, after the stillness brought on by the setting sun.

Our nights were spent tucked under blankets, huddling together as we fell asleep to the chirping of crickets. Every night at around 2am, Yousuf and I would be woken up by the rising crescendo of coyotes calling, and answering - the howls echoing all around us under the cover of darkness. The melodies were thrilling, and eerily haunting. Listening to those calls gave me goosebumps every time. A few hours later we'd wake again, this time to the morning calls of birds and babies, who woke up as the sun rose every morning. This was not, I soon discovered, ideal - as you can see here:

 So NOT ready to wake up. Need caffeine stat.

Nevertheless, we all clambered out of the warm blankets and into the cool morning, blinking against the sun's rays and thanking our lucky stars that we had only a short walk to endure before we were welcomed with a hot breakfast. And caffeine. Thank goodness for grandparents with RV's, because this is as "roughing it" as I am ever going to get:

Camping in style!

Mornings at the campsite were peaceful, so peaceful - there was nowhere to rush off, no schedule that needed keeping, it was a forced disconnection from the world that was a welcome reminder to just...be. And to enjoy the sky above us, the trees all around...

...and the little sun-kissed faces that peeked out from behind tabletops, beckoning us to forget our cares, for a little while.

Nissa's favorite part of the trip was any moment in which she was happily ensconced in playing in the dirt. If we even thought about prying her away, we got told off - two year-old style:

Well okay, then.

Because our plans to swim were thwarted by yucky bacteria, we decided to hike instead. We entered the cool quiet of the forest at mid-morning, and emerged at lunchtime a little dustier, a little tired, and full of interesting stories. Satiated by a grand adventure, I always like to say.

Moss grows fat on a rolling stone...

Wandering about under the canopy of trees we spied tiny woodland creatures out of the corners of our eyes and fantastical growths under our feet. We explored to our hearts' content as we swung on vines while the girls chased butterflies, balancing on gigantic fallen tree-trunk beams, and exclaiming with delight as the world around them became their own private playground.

 Donut Tree

The following day, which was our last day camping, we were pleasantly surprised to find that the beach had reopened (despite one employee telling us otherwise. Grrrr!). We didn't discover this until after dinner, when the shadows had grown long and the water had gone cool...yet we weren't to be deterred.

The girls were determined to swim and play in the sand and so, bolstered by their enthusiasm, we dipped one toe in...and then another, following their lead. Before we knew it, the waves were washing over our knees and toes, pulling us all into the current of another simple moment, another grand memory, and caressing us with the laughter of little ones as they scampered around us, barefoot in the sand.

We each embarked on our own adventure there on the shore, which is the very beauty of being outside for days on end. After a little while, I found myself hovering less and less, worrying even lesser, and marveling a great deal as I watched the girls discover the great wide world all on their own. There wasn't much else for us to do, other than sit back and marvel along right beside them.

Found Treasure - they are sitting in a bowl on the piano right now, my reminder to be open to all the unexpected surprises that hide in plain sight.

My own personal slow-mo Baywatch moment. A magnificent view, I'd say.

 While the girls are off playing, I like to sit around and channel my inner Sophia Lauren. But I don't think she ever had a soggy diaper lying around in the background.

Pure happiness. And a really cute tushie too.

Baby sis - happy in the dirt. Again. 

We called it a night when we were just too cold to continue, although we tried our hardest to stick it out for as long as possible. We finally left the beach, hand in hand, soggy diaper in tow, with the sun at our backs, smiles on our faces, and in Nissa's case - sand in our shorts. Really, we couldn't have asked for much more. I took this single shot as we were headed back to camp, glancing back at the most perfect moment:

All of us slept soundly that night, after our busy evening on the beach - and had a slow start the next morning. We took our time to pack up our tent and gear while taking breaks to enjoy one last catnap, one last page of a favorite book, one last giggle together...enough to look back on fondly. Which we will, about everything minus the big welty bug bites that we all brought home as souvenirs. Ouchie.

Inara said that the bug bites were one of two things she didn't like very much about camping. The second thing was - you know, the leaves.

Nissa being cajoled out of an astoundingly terrific tantrum - which will be the subject of it's own future post. It was THAT good.

Can we camp? YES WE CAN!

(That last picture makes me want to get us all matching "Go Team George!" t-shirts.)
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