Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Chickens, Camping, and Diego, Oh My!

Last week was sort of a vacation. Sort of. Riley didn't have daycare for the week so Jesse and I worked a short week. I had to work Tuesday and Wednesday, Jesse Monday and Thursday, and we both took Friday off. This is a bit of a long post so you may want to get comfortable... get a beverage and a snack and settle in.

Friday: My so-called vacation really started with the boat trip I got to go on with my colleagues the Friday before. I was hoping it would set the tone for a relaxing, and enjoyable week. You can see pictures from that excursion here.

Sunday I went to a Minnesota blogger get together at Minnehaha Falls. I did a terrible job of taking pictures and instead just hung out talking. It was good to connect with local bloggers and see people face to face... and discover new blogs. Thank you Laura and Erin for organizing and 'hello' to Alison, Molly, Maggie, and Bill - it was nice meeting you all! And even though it was nice to meet all these adults face to face it was also fun to see the kids. One of my favorite parts of the day was when I pulled out coloring sheets and crayons.... and got swarmed by all the toddlers.

Monday: Riley, my dad and I went to the farm. I've talked about the farm before, but just as a review... my dad bought the 140 acre property in Wisconsin years ago (in the '60's, I think?). It's a short 70 mile drive from my house which takes just over an hour to travel. My dad once envisioned retiring there, but life doesn't always work out the way you expect. Over the years we have used the farm house as a cabin of sorts, except instead of relaxing by the lake we'd be mowing the lawn, cutting down wood, clearing brush... and if we were lucky we might get to go snowmobiling or walk down the road to the Apple River. When we weren't using the house, my dad rented it out - as it is now and has been for years. He rents some of the cleared land to a farmer and the rest is trees (when he bought the farm the previous owner had just planted something like 10,000 trees).

To get to the farm we have a number of paths to choose from, but this time we went through downtown Stillwater presumably because my dad wanted to talk for the bazillionth time about how they could have built a new bridge in Stillwater at a portion of the cost years ago. That conversation never gets old, apparently (I love you dad). Stillwater is a nice little touristy town, if you haven't been, but even on a Monday there was a fair amount of crowds.

My dad recently had a new septic tank installed which is a different system than his old one. I can't remember the details, but essentially we ended up with a huge mound in the yard between the house and the old barn that is imperative to the septic tank working properly. We went out to the farm to plant trees along the front edge of the mound thereby forever changing the farm landscape as I knew it. Oh, it's not like there haven't been changes over the years, but this one seems so jarring to me. We also hoped to complete some other small tasks while out there as best we could with a toddler with us. Since Riley usually naps at about 1:00 pm I asked that we leave by that time hoping that she would nap in the car.

As soon as we arrived Riley started asking where the chickens were. I figured she heard the random birds and thought she was hearing chickens. She even asked if the chickens lived in the old barn and while once upon a time they did, they no longer do (My one and only experience with butchering chickens and a poor little duck happened here. I did not embrace the event with nearly as much gusto as my sister, Karen. I'm pretty sure Karen was delighted when I passed on the offer to pluck the chickens and remove innards so she had the task all to herself. She's crazy like that, but someone has to be).

After my dad got the trees planted, with pretty much no help from me due to a whiny toddler, we headed out in the field to see if we could find a small balsam fir to replant in the yard. Riley was pretty fussy and repeatedly asked to 'go home'. She wanted to be carried everywhere and she's at that size/age that it's just too hard to do which aggravated her even more (we do lots of piggie rides, as she calls them). I soon put two and two together to realize that she was so fussy because the grass was really wet. All of our shoes and socks were soaked which was rather uncomfortable so I guess I don't totally blame her.

We never did find an appropriate balsam to replant so we decided to tackle the driveway issue. The driveway had a small ares of sinkage so we decided to drive into town to get a couple wheel barrels of class 5 gravel, but the first place we went was closed. A couple other places were suggested so we headed out to Monarch, WI only to be told that they didn't have any to sell. Never mind that I saw huge piles of various rock all around me. At least I can brag that I've been to Monarch, WI. Have you? On the way back we, of course, had to stop at the feed shop and the nursery to find out if they sold rock or could send us in the right direction. We finally got the number of a place on the other side of the farm, but my dad agreed to give up his search for the day as he said he would pick up the rock on his next journey out. A quick stop at McDonalds for lunch (note to self: quit letting your dad talk you into eating here. This is the third time in a couple months and before that it was years). After lunch, back to the farm we went.

With the new septic tank there was some settling of dirt near the house which we also wanted to fill. There's a mound of dirt my brother piled up years ago for a dirt bike jump (to my father's chagrin). It's now covered with large weeds, but it would have to do. Riley had no problem walking through the large weeds leading up to the hill, but the mowed wet grass out front? Pure hell to walk through for her. Granted by the time we walked through the weeds the ground was dry, but still.

Soybeans to the left, trees to the right.

I put Riley in the front seat of the truck (so I wouldn't run her over) and backed through a bunch of weeds to the dirt pile. Of course, we made several trips to the dirt pile and across the yard as we did a horrible job of assessing the dirt loss in the first place, thus creating more work than we needed to do. While sitting in the truck with Riley I captured the following video (one of my favorites so far):

Obviously, all her books have led her to believe that a farm equates to animals. I mean, what the heck kind of farm doesn't have chickens.

We headed back home a little after 1:00 pm. I had to highly encourage my dad to leave, and even then he wanted to drive around Star Prairie, WI to find this other gravel place. My dad just doesn't know how to stop and obviously doesn't know what it's like to push a toddler way past her nap time. I finally pulled over and had him call the gravel place only to find out that we passed by it and that it was quite close to the farm. Go figure. Luckily, my dad didn't suggest we go back. Riley probably only got about a 45 minute nap, but it was enough to keep her in a good mood for the rest of the day.

Thursday: After a couple days of working we finally went camping. My husband is big into outdoorsy stuff like camping and hiking. He even has a degree in Forestry. I thought he'd be all about camping with Riley at an early age, but turns out he's a little on the protective side. I'll admit Riley was a sensitive baby (colicky) and it took forever for her to get halfway decent sleep habits in place... and even then she had to sleep in her element with all the right things in place. So I understood his concern with messing with the equilibrium of all things working right, but was confident that we needed to give camping (and other schedule interrupting things) a try. I felt like I was pulling teeth to get him to agree to camping, but he finally agreed to a test run in the back yard. After our successful practice backyard camping event he finally agreed, but only wanted to camp for one night. I wasn't having it and booked two nights at Baker Park Reserve. It was close to home and had a park and a lake to keep us busy.

The day we were to leave Jesse tried to talk me out of camping that night as thunderstorms were in the forecast, and we borrowed a tent that we had no idea would stand up to the rain or not. I brushed his foolish thinking off as I was determined to go camping as a family. Plus, when is the weather ever right? 

One hour at the campsite and her face is already trashed. Apparently, she was fully embracing the outdoors life. That is, until about 15 minutes later when she was asking to go home and asking for the iPad. *sigh*

Our campsite was right next to the road and a walking path... and right across from the bathrooms. Some might not find this ideal, but I thought it was perfect. After we set up camp and ate dinner we hopped on the trail and headed towards the park.

Riley insisted we play on these zip lines. We both had fun humoring her, especially Jesse. Oh wait, you can't really tell in this picture? Let me zoom in for you...

Then we headed down to the lake which was really the highlight of the weekend. Rocks + water = hours of unending joy for our child.

Besides having to retrieve rocks for Riley I was able to find some peace sitting by the water.

Back at the campground we tried to do our best to keep Riley entertained. This certainly would have been easier had there been some other kids there. In the future I would love to do a group camping trip where there are multiple kids to entertain each other, but for this trip we had to be the entertainment directors.

I'll admit, the mood wasn't the best this night. There was a silly argument about ice, the weather was hot and muggy, the tension about whether we should camp or not with a possible storm... well, lets just say it wasn't really any fun. I think we were all feeling a little miserable this night. 

So we went to bed and it started to rain. And rain. And the tent started to leak. And leak some more. At 9:15 the campground ranger guy came around to check in and let us know that the county was under a thunderstorm warning until 10:00 pm. Jesse was ready to pack up right then. I figured that this was what camping was about - being in the great outdoors and taking the punches that came with it. Our tent was still standing even if I felt a constant wet mist on my face. Plus, I didn't see the point of hopping in the car and driving through the storm. We seemed safer in the tent. 

We all eventually went to sleep only to be awoken a few hours later by another storm. Riley actually slept through the entire night. I don't think she woke once and there was a ton of thunder, lightning, and sideways rain. At this point Jesse started packing up everything. I assumed it was to put in the car to make sure it stayed dry, but then he said "well, are you coming?". Again, I didn't want to drive in the storm, nor did I want to wake our sleeping child. Jesse was clearly not pleased with my response and went to sleep in the car. About 20 minutes later I discovered that the tent door had never fully been closed and now that side of the tent (including a blanket) was soaked. I zipped it up and eventually fell back to sleep.

Riley and I woke to a pretty wet tent, but we were dry, if not a little chilly. I went out to check on Jesse who was curled up in a fetal position in the back seat next to the car seat and without a blanket. I suggested he move into the tent and tried to convince him there were dry spots he could lay down, but he wasn't moving. I found a dry towel and covered him up before returning to the tent for breakfast with Riley.

Yes, that is an open umbrella in the tent. We opened it up to help provide extra protection above Riley's head. As you can see the ground is pretty wet and there is even a little puddle that formed. In fact, Riley and I had the following conversation about said puddle:

Me: Look, there's a puddle over there.
Riley: Are dere fish in dere?
Me: Um, no. No fish.
Riley: Um, are dere frogs?
Me: Nope, no frogs.
Riley: Are dere ducks?
Me: No sweetie, no ducks.

Yeah, that kids a goofball.

That blanket's pretty wet.

Our neighbors did not make it through the night, but that was no surprise. Before the storms started we noticed their tents weren't set up very well. However, all other tent's were standing.

Once we were all up we decided to check out the lake and the park. Jesse and I weren't really talking as I think we were both pretty frustrated. I was frustrated with his unwillingness to relax and let go... and have fun, and he was frustrated with my stubbornness, and my unwillingness to take his advice. I don't blame him. I'm not sure most people I know would label me as stubborn, but it's true and it's most likely to rear its ugly head with those closest to me. (Just ask my dad. Whenever he helps me with a remodeling project I insist on it going my way... even though he's the one that has way more expertise. I have a vision, people!). I know that Jesse was just looking out for our safety and comfort and I needed to do a better job of acknowledging that.

Not sure if you can see this, but the guy above had blow torch. At the playground. I believe he was trying to get rid of wasps as there were a number of what looked like wasps or bees flying around. We decided to move along, but we saw the guy back the next morning as well.

Back at the tent we debated about what to do. The mood was so thick I was ready to give up right there. Jesse and I sometimes aren't the best communicators. Instead, we will stuff things down and try to overlook the issues, but having said that I feel that when we do talk we are respectful and understanding of each other and really try to get to the bottom of the issue. We finally voiced our frustrations and I don't think it took much for us to understand where the other was coming from. We decided to go home, clean up, take naps, and come back refreshed later that day.

Apparently, that was just what was needed as the mood was completely different the second night.We had a dry tent, clean blankets, and no rain in the forecast for that night.

This little trail was right next to our campground and looped around and met with the paved trail next to us. After I walked Riley through it a couple times she decided that she wanted to do it on her own multiple times and got upset with us when it remotely looked like we were getting close to the trail. "You stay there!"

So, as was the daily ritual, we went down to the lake and the park. I brought her bathing suit, but we never put it on her. Apparently, we should have as she freely walked into the lake and got her skirt soaked. She didn't even seem bothered by the slight drop off in the water. I'm pretty sure she's still hesitant about water, but I'll take any moment that she seems to have no cares about it.

And finally, the next morning we packed up before that day's rain came in. We drove down to the lake and the park one more time before heading back home. While the trip might not have been the one I envisioned Jesse has already planned out our next camping trip. In fact, we've already purchased a nice new tent of our own and a lantern... and are planning a trip to Gooseberry Falls in a few weeks. Let's hope this time goes better.

Saturday afternoon we went to Olivia's third birthday party at Elm Creek Park. Josie is Olivia's mom and my longtime friend. She's also my only friend who has a child approximately the same age as Riley (we both got late starts in the parenting department). We arrived late as I wanted to make sure Riley got a full nap since she hadn't really napped in days and stayed up far past her bedtime the previous two nights. This year was a Diego themed party and I knew Diego would be visiting so I rushed Riley out the door to meet him. Unfortunately he was gone by the time we got there, but it was probably for the best as she wasn't a fan of the Elmo that showed up at Olivia's 2nd birthday party either. 

It didn't seem to matter that she missed Diego because she did get a treat bag with a sticker of Diego on it. This was so special for her that she carried it around for a few days until it was demolished. She even slept with it. Geez girl, he's not worth it - let him go.

I agreed to take Riley and Olivia up to the playground. By myself. This was a HUGE mistake. I'm not made for chasing after two toddlers (plus I was carrying a good size bag). Usually we have two adults chasing after one toddler so I was ill prepared for two toddlers with one adult. Olivia whipped right past the toddler area and up to the large slides. She was crawling up high ladders and going down slides that freaked me out (never mind that I am a wimp when it comes to this stuff - plus they ripped up my skin again). My kid insisted on going down the slide on my lap so it was hard to sneak out of going down these slides. I felt like I was constantly trying to catch up to Olivia as she is clearly much braver and riskier than my kid. Riley was even chasing after her repeatedly saying "Olivia, Olivia, Olivia...". After a bunch of big kids over ran the big slides I caught up with and then convinced Olivia to play in an area that didn't stress me out... and where I was able to snap a couple pictures.

After what seemed like hours, but was probably 15 minutes I convinced the girls that we should go back to the picnic area.

So serious, girls.

That's better!

So Josie had a baby 4 months ago and I was just getting to meet her this day. Lame that it took me so long, but so glad I got to finally meet little Ellie Mae. As you can tell her grandparents and auntie adore her.

Ellie had the cutest chunky little legs and toes. Riley never had that. I felt like I was always waiting to see those fat thighs everyone talked about babies having, but they never came. 

Thank you Tita Josie for the Diego sticker.

We also missed the beating of the Diego pinata which was probably for the best. Olivia is obviously doing a 'laying of hands' on Diego in the hopes that he will come back to life. Who cares that his foot fell off and his face was smashed in and that he really didn't look like Diego at all.

Olivia asked me to take another picture of Diego. Actually she asked me to take three pictures, but then got distracted when she said "three" and started talking about how she is three years old. Ah, kids.

Happy Birthday Ollie. Hope you had a fantastic day!

So, yeah, that was our sort of vacation. It may not have been rainbows and fairies, but it was an enjoyable experience overall. Let's hope the weather cooperates in a few weeks when we try camping again or I have a feeling we'll be checking out a local motel.