Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Father/Daughter Campout - Day 3

Not as great of a night's sleep, but still respectable for camping.  I was so relieved.  I get extremely emotional and short-tempered when I'm sleep-deprived, and I didn't want to be losing my head with Aislynn all weekend, so I had been praying hard leading up to this.  God was even teaching me faith in this trip.  I hadn't even bothered to pray for the simple "to be able to sleep," I was praying for God to override the horrible way I expected to feel.  I need to trust God to meet even the basic needs, knowing that He cares that much about me as His child.

Bryan had mentioned yesterday that he had wanted to detour the trip home to go rock climbing with Adam today.  He had said we'd leave after breakfast and still aim to get home early afternoon, so I was game.  Breakfast was cereal and Costco muffins.

Unfortunately, I did even worse involving Aislynn in tear-down than I did in setup of camp.  She was playing, and I saw it as my chance to get the tent down and car packed as quickly as possible.  I was almost finished loading our stuff in the car before Bryan had started bringing down their tent.  But I did bring Aislynn over to sweep off the tarp and help fold it.  I think it's important to show kids the work involved in making a camping trip happen to encourage gratefulness and a can-do attitude.  Clearly I need to still work on patience.

We loaded the car and headed north to Castle Rock State Park.  We were not getting home by early afternoon, but oh well, definitely worth it.  We had dropped off my car at the mechanic to get it looked at, so I arranged for Amy to pick it up for me since they would be closed by the time we arrived home.  We had a short hike to the climbing area.

Adam and Bryan did most of the climbing, and I manned Bryan's camera, taking pictures of them and the four girls (Avery, Aislynn and Adam's two: Annalouise - 9 and Julia - 5).  The girls each got a turn to climb, and then Adam gave me his harness to do a climb.  Adam didn't have any climbing shoes big enough for me, so I had to climb in my running shoes, making it a little more difficult to get a grip on the rock.  But they had outlined a good, mildly challenging, climbing path.  I encounter a climbing wall about once every two years, and enjoy it, but never enough to pursue the sport more diligently.  I enjoyed climbing actual rock more and oddly found myself a little more courageous knowing there wasn't some kind of man made pattern to figure out for a proper ascent.  I was satisfied to see my increasing ability to avoid panicking in a tight spot and not get into an "I can't" mentality.

When I got near the top, I knew I was done, so I gave Bryan the "you have me, right?" call.  He said yes, so I let go to start my descent.  The reason I had Adam's harness is that he only had one big enough for an average-size adult male.  So since Adam had no harness, Bryan had to belay me.  Bryan weighs 144 lbs and has a 29-inch waist, and he barely fit into the smaller adult harness Adam had.  I weigh a fair deal more than Bryan.  So when I was preparing to let go, Bryan had taken a few more steps back to make sure and have me fully in view.  When I did let go, Bryan actually slid forward to the base of the rock and I had a rather quick four-to-eight-feet drop, too quick to keep my feet against the rock face.  I bounced around a little, and still not panicking, I spun slowly and my elbow slammed into the rock, scraping me up a little.  I got the rest of the way down without incident once Bryan was anchored.  My arm was bruised and a little bloody, but otherwise fine.  Bryan and Adam each did another ascent, and then we packed up to head back to the cars.

We rendezvoused at Costco in Gilroy to gas up and grab dinner.  On our drive home, Bryan popped in Focus on the Family's radio drama of "Anne of Green Gables."  I was the only one who had heard this rendition before, but Bryan and I (and I think maybe Avery) had read the book and knew the story well, and we were cracking up through the brilliant delivery of lines, particularly those of Rachel Lynde and Anne.

We arrived back at Amy's around 9 p.m. and unloaded the cars.  Amy cleaned up my wound, and then I headed home.  I unpacked, got two loads of laundry done, finished my work on the inventory reports I had run Saturday morning, and went to bed.  Hands down, one awesome weekend!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Father/Daughter Campout - Day 2

I actually slept pretty well for camping.  I woke up a few times, but was usually able to fall back asleep without too many issues.  Sleeping with a towel over my face also helped block out the morning sun so I got a few extra z's, but once my eyes caught sight of morning light, my brain told me I was done sleeping.

I did realize that our air mattress wasn't full enough.  It didn't deflate during the night, Amy's pump wasn't powerful enough to fully inflate it because it had been splashed with pool water by the kids leaving it too close after filling up pool rafts.  So I borrowed Matt's later that day and filled it full for the next night.

I got up and some of the guys had started on breakfast.  We had pancakes, eggs, bacon and sausage.  This is my kind of camping.  Aislynn woke up in time for breakfast, but really didn't like all the bugs (meat flies, I think) vying for her food, so she hopped into Garry's suburban with his three girls and Garry brought them each plates to eat in the comfort of the car.

I ate by the campfire to warm up amidst the crisp air of the morning.  After breakfast, Aislynn played with her friends while I pulled out my laptop and ran a few reports for work that had to be run this morning while the plant was shut down and nothing was moving.  Thankfully it went pretty quickly, and just about that time, Aislynn was ready to do something else, so we put on swimsuits and walked over to the massive pool with most of other dads and daughters.

Amy has a pool, so Aislynn is very waters-savvy and an excellent swimmer.  This summer, I started launching her and her brothers into backflips, and it's one of Aislynn's favorite things in the pool to go flying through the air into the water.  I couldn't do very many because my arms would wear out from launching her and a few of the other kids, but we all had fun.

After staying at the pool for a few hours, we went back to the tents and put together some sandwiches for lunch.  There was a host of things to do in Gilroy nearby, but I figured we could keep ourselves busy inside the campground.  We got a map of the campground, and started along the marked 1-mile walking trail.  We stopped at the amphitheater and we each performed for the other.  She thought the Electric Slide was hilarious, and I invited her up to try the waltz with me, but that's going to take some practice for her.  We walked through the clubhouse, but there really wasn't much there.  There apparently weren't any golf balls, so we just walked the mini-golf course, which I think she actually enjoyed even more.  We eventually ended up back at camp, and just relaxed for awhile (1 mile is quite a lot for a 5-year-old I've found out) before deciding to go back to the pool with Bryan W. and his daughter Addison (4).

More people slowly joined us at the pool as they came back from various outings.  After awhile we headed back to camp and changed clothes before dinner.  Amy had graciously put Aislynn's hair in five french braids for me to make it low maintenance for the weekend, but Aislynn had lost two of the bands by Saturday morning.  Thankfully Bryan W. is even more OCD than I (I really look like a disorganized lackadaisical mess compared to him), and he deftly pulled out a transparent plastic 5"x8"x1" organizer tray of every basic hair-doing accessory a dad might need and quickly firmed up the braids and re-sealed them.

Dinner was burgers, hotdogs and baked beans.  A few of the girls were fed up with the attention of the bugs, and during their exploring, had found a clearing by the river a short jaunt from camp and urged us to relocate dining to there, also promising some vague surprise.  They put on the invisible bench skit.  I had never seen it before, but apparently it's very common for summer camps.  One by one, each performer walks up and invites herself to join the existing members in sitting (crouching) on the invisible bench.  The last one arrives and asks what they're all doing.  When they answer, "sitting on the invisible bench," she says, "Oh, I moved that over there last week," and the crouchers collapse backwards to the ground in synchronism.  I loved it.

The rest of the evening was sitting around the fire pit, roasting marshmallows for s'mores, talking and playing some card and board games.  Some of the kids objected to my very efficient method of roasting marshmallows by sticking them directly in the flames to catch fire and blowing to extinguish it after a few seconds of burning (not theirs, just the two I ate).  I put Aislynn down around 9:30 and I followed around 10:30.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Father/Daughter Campout - Day 1

Completely new experience for me this weekend: I got to be a dad for a whole weekend.  I've babysat from time-to-time, and I love it, but this was my longest stint yet.

Our church organized its first father/daughter campout, in response to the decrying of unfairness regarding the long-running father/son campout.  This was to be tent camping at a Thousand Trails RV park in Morgan Hill, CA, near San Jose.

I felt a burden on my heart to take Aislynn, the daughter of my friend Amy.  Amy's ex isn't super involved with his kids even on his weekends with them, and I see the subtle effects of that in their behavior and emotions.  I've attempted to take the three boys to the father/son campout the last few years, but those campouts have always been on his weekends.  But this trip worked out to be on Amy's weekend.

The only thing I was nervous about was the drive to (and from) the campground.  Two and a half hours in a car, just me and a chatterbox five-year-old (Amy said her house would be so quiet with only the three BOYS around), I would need some help with this.  Not being an official parent myself yet, I'm still of the high-and-mighty opinion of not plopping a DVD player or video game in front of a child while traveling to shut them up.  I hope I still hold to that when I have my own kids, but I do acknowledge I have a lack of experiential history in making that lofty opinion.

So I tried to find another father and daughter to carpool with, and thankfully my friend Bryan came through for me.  His daughter Avery is 10.  Only after arranging the carpool did Amy tell me that Aislynn loves and gets completely absorbed in coloring while driving.  She was no trouble whatsoever for the drive.

Bryan has an insane sweet tooth (there are regularly five to ten half gallons of different flavors of ice cream in their freezer at home), and had seen a Dairy Queen commercial for Blizzards on internet TV two days earlier and was still thinking about it Friday.  We don't have a DQ in Fresno, but there is one in Los Banos, on our way to Morgan Hill.  He whispered to ask and make sure I was okay with dessert for Aislynn.  So we stopped for blizzards.  Aislynn loves the cartoon (?) Strawberry Shortcake, so picked the flavor Strawberry CheeseQuake.  She loved all but the cheesecake bites, so I undertook the oh-so-difficult dad duty of eating them for her.

We arrived Friday afternoon and setup camp.  I did have Aislynn help with setting up the tent as much as possible, and she did a pretty decent job for only being five.  It was funny watch her try to connect the tent poles.  I really struggle with the "faster to do it myself" mentality, but I really tried to put effort into giving her things to do.  Thankfully this is just a small two-man tent and very easy to assemble even solo.

We had been told Friday dinner was on our own, so we had been planning on heading out after setting up our tents to find dinner, but the organizers had so much extra tri-tip and sides, that we were invited to join them.  Amazing!

Bryan set up his slack line for all of us to practice our balancing and walking the tightrope, so that kept many of the dads and girls entertained.  Aislynn spent most of the evening playing with some of her friends who had come, which I was very happy to see.  She and her brothers are a little less connected in church because they're only there every other Sunday.  Aislynn struggles with it the least because she's incredibly social, but it still made me glad to see more bonding.  They were running in and out of their various tents, but I had laid down the law that neither she nor her friends were to go in our tent until she was ready for bed, and that shoes/sandals always had to be left on the tarp outside the tent.

I was texting pictures periodically to Amy, and Amy had warned me about her playing the scared card come bedtime, and just told me to use an authoritative voice.  I had witnessed several bedtime battles of either Amy or me trying to put Aislynn to bed back at home, so I was armed and ready.  And she shocked me by going to bed so easily when I told her it was time.  No fussing or whimpering whatsoever.  The only "are you serious?!?" moment came when she was all tucked in and said, "Wait, don't I need to brush my teeth?" to which I replied, "It's okay, we're camping, you can do it tomorrow."

Our tent was in sight and easy walking distance of the well-lighted bathrooms, and I left her with a flashlight and went back to join the other dads for some socializing, but after another half hour or so, I was so tired from a fitful sleep the night prior, that I gave up and went to bed myself around 10.  I was worried about how I'd sleep given my terrible history of trying to sleep when camping, and knew the light of morning would really kill me, so I was even more motivated to get to bed early.  I had my tonsils out in January to treat my sleep apnea, and was hoping and praying that would help me sleep better also.