At least six months ago, Punkin started crafting plans for her sixth birthday celebration. She had some grandiose ideas including a trip to Chuck E. Cheese, a weekend getaway to "Misconsin" Dells, a huge sleepover with all of her cousins and friends, and a camping party. Unusually warm spring weather a month before her birthday coupled with budget limitations and my attempts to keep hold of my sanity made one choice the obvious winner: a camping we would go.
Of course, I did not anticipate my dad actually following through with his year long ramblings about selling their camper. I should have known better; the day that we solidified plans for a birthday party at Comlara Park was the day before we had to break it to both girls that their beloved camper was gone. Backup plans immediately started rolling and we soon had an almost-six-year-old's green light for a day long picnic at the campground with an accompanying sleepover at Gramma & Papa's house instead. Crisis averted.
The menu was planned, email invitations were sent, and obsessive checking of the forecast commenced. I realized that I was asking The General's family to really reach beyond their comfort zone - known for their lack of camping experience and general aversion to sleeping anywhere but their own beds, they really stepped up to the challenge and for that I am very grateful. Sure we're an outdoor loving bunch (if it involves tending to the land, watching ballgames, or boating), but asking them to spend an entire day where the on-site restroom facilities that can be called primitive at best? That's a sign that they really will do just about anything for family.
I purposefully advertised that Saturday afternoon would be a very casual, laid back event. Food choices were going to be simple. Kids were going to be allowed to run free with minimal supervision. We'd probably all get a little dirty. Despite chilly weather to start the day, I think, on the whole, it was a pretty great day.
There was some fishing. Highlight: Vince casually approached Punkin as she was reeling in her line. "What are you fishing with?," asked the experienced angler. With a look that can only be described as a mixture of confusion and subtle sarcasm, the younger cousin replied, "a fishing pole". Not quite the information Vince was looking for, but I laughed because that would have been my answer too. Apple, tree. You know the story.
There was also some football. Three kids were brave enough to run some plays with their two uncles and grandfather for the better part of an hour. I casually stated, watching my husband call plays and direct his nephews and niece on proper running routes and ball handling, that he was in heaven. The Bride agreed, and Mrs. MC declared her hope that no one would go home injured.
After everyone had eaten and the football playing ended, Mrs. MC, my mom and dad, and I took these six yahoos on a nature hike scavenger hunt. Relish, The White Tornado, Rueben, and Star were all at The White Tornado's track meet and arrived while we were gone. Super Trooper (the baby formerly referred to as The Snake) and Wilder were exempt from this excursion for obvious reasons. Instructed to either collect or take pictures of nature items, the group worked collaboratively (after some initial turmoil over who was going to be on what team) and didn't complain once about the length of the trail. These kids really are some of the best around. It's hard to say who had more fun on the hike, but I'm going to say that my dad had a pretty fantastic time trying to scare the children into believing there really was a bear loose in the woods nearby. Oh, and Vince is pretending to fall into the creek behind the group in this picture. I laugh every time I look at this shot. To see this normally serious and studious kid acting the role of the jokester among this group cracks me up.
Following the nature hike, we took a quick bathroom break and let the kids play on the nearby playground. Apparently while they were playing another random kid tried to sneak into the family. What's one more, right?
While the children were being photographed by my dad, my mom and I took Mrs. MC on a quick tour of the nearby banks of Lake Evergreen where there is some prime fishing to be done. Check out the haul this guy brought in (by the way, he used minnows to bring in these fish - anyone want to guess what type of fish this is?). The sun finally came out from behind the clouds and the wind died down to an occasional light breeze making the location comfortable and serene - it took a phone call from The General calling us back and ordering some cake to pull us away from the lake.
Strawberry cake with strawberry frosting, served on Justin Bieber plates with coordinating JB napkins? Check.
By the time we returned to the shelter, AL and the rest of her group and Munchkin and guest were on site. Early evening brought cooler temperatures once again, and while the kids used the rest of the daylight hours to play on the playground, participate in mock javelin throwing and stage Jedi sword fights, the adults settled in around a perfect fire. As the party broke up, we took two filthy, exhausted girls back to my parents' house for a warm bath and de-ticking (ew, I know, there was one on Punkin's back; my level of calm in handling the situation was impressive, the same could not be said for my silently frantic mother) followed by a quiet car ride home.
The birthday girl declared her camping party a success. She's yet to start planning next year's event, but I'll give her a month before she starts hatching some spectacular plans.
This post, specifically the pictures, is brought to you by the power of cellular technology. I've become recently obsessed with an app called Instagram, and I'm spending a ridiculous amount of time turning perfectly acceptable photographs into blown out, over exposed, my-version-of-artistic versions of the originals. Okay, so we're in the year 2012 and we're still waiting for flying cars. But these pictures were taken by a phone, an instrument that only thirty years ago was functional only when securely mounted to a wall. I think we're doing okay in making forward progress.