When I was a kid, I loved going to the beach. I've so many pictures in my parents' old photo albums of me playing in the sand and goofing around in the water. A strange thing happens though as we remove ourselves further and further from the days when we were young... or maybe just in my case... but I can't recall when I last grabbed a shovel and played in the sand, built a sandcastle, or dug little canals connecting a dug-out pool back to the water that licks the shoreline. It's just hasn't been part of my beach experience for what seems like a lifetime. This changed fairly quickly when my three year old son and I found ourselves at the beach last week. Sure, I've played with him in summers past, where he'd stare all infant-like at the sand in his shovel before attempting to put it in his mouth, but a lot has changed in the brain of this young creature in the course of a year. When he hit the beach, his enthusiasm to build things in the sand and play with the water completely re-awakened that part of me too. As I expertly crafted a series of waterways in the sand, it reminded me of when my Dad used to do the same for my brother and I when we were kids - opening up a rare window into the mind-frame of what he must have been thinking in those moments. I'm guessing it's pretty clear by now through my writing that my brain rarely stops examining life and "the human experience". I find it all so fascinating really. Anyways... I did most of the building, while my son played the part of Godzilla and would gleefully destroy as much as he'd create. :D
My daughter getting in on the action.
My little guy being pretty stinking adorable... when he's not being a turd, of course. :D
Sand castles and waterways gave way constantly to my son's desire to play around in the lake. We've had him in swimming lessons at the YMCA for quite a long time, but rarely get to see the result of all those lessons. Well... let me tell you... wow! The pride in my son that I felt, watching him swim around with a pool noodle tied around under his chest... his little legs and arms moving and taking him all over the place without any fear of the water whatsoever... just wow. He even was holding his breath and dunking his head under the water, showing off his mad skills and bravery for me. He got the biggest kick out of racing me from the shore and into the water, turning around and then trying to run back out as quickly as possible. In addition to it being a blast for me as well, it's interesting from a health standpoint how my brain would constantly consider "this is also a great way for me to try and work off those delicious s'mores and half bottle of wine I'm likely to down later tonight". :D You know your health has become central to your life when those thoughts always find a way to creep into your daily conversations with yourself. :D
Although the kids slept wonderfully at night, their nap time was a different story altogether. It was mostly cute though, since they both remained quiet and didn't fuss, and in place of sleeping, they would babble and laugh with each other in the tent. We'd shush them, but what they couldn't see was the smiles on our faces as my wife and I enjoyed their little interactions. It's really the big reason we chose to have a second kid. We wanted our son to have the joy and experience of growing up with a brother or sister. Now that this dynamic is in place, my wife and I regularly high-five each other every month when her TOM arrives, lol. (The pill wreaked havoc on her, and we're not decided yet if it's time for me to have "the surgery", so the natural method is how we roll... tmi? ... hmm, probably, lol). Back to their naps though, it never proved to be a big deal that they didn't really have any - my son doesn't actually need them anymore, and my daughter was magically happy regardless except for one day.
Friday morning came quietly, and peacefully. The week had gone so much more easily then I had prepared myself for, and it amazed me how relaxing it all had been. Sure, the kids had their moments, and it's not like camping is without its dishes, chores, and disgusting outhouses... I am so NOT an outhouse kind of guy, lol. I would literally choose to dig a hole out in the woods instead of sitting in an outhouse... so gross. My son, on the other hand, marveled at this toilet that doesn't flush, lol! Kids... strange little creatures. :D It was such a great week though. My wife and I had done the resort thing a bunch of times before we had kids, and we always wondered how parents could have fun still while having to be tied down to their room at the kids' naptime and bedtime, and also keep them occupied during the day - but having camped, it's clear that it would just be a different kind of fun. So in addition to camping, we're now desperately saving up our pennies to hopefully go to a resort next year. That said, we're super excited about the future and all the camping trips we'll be able to do with the kids. It's a big continent, and there are so many places to see. Camping will totally be how we go about seeing as much of it as we can with the kiddos.
We were pretty sad to go home. :)
That's pretty much it. In closing, I shall grace you all with the absolute greatest method for making s'mores by a campfire. :D This comes after years of careful research and delicious trial-and-error, so I hope you're ready to be catapulted into a whole new world of s'more awesomeness. The first, and obviously the most essential things you'll need are the ingredients: any old box of graham crackers, a bag of nice big marshmallows, and either a Jersey Milk chocolate bar or a Dairy Milk chocolate bar... Dairy Milk makes a cookie dough chocolate bar that took top place last week, fyi. The next obvious requirement is a nice long stick to roast the marshmallow with, as well as a fire that has been allowed to burn down some and expose some incredibly hot coals - flames provide heat, but less control, and you're more likely to create a flaming gooey ball of death when roasting over them... a dangerous thing when drinking is also involved... I've got stories. :D The secret though to the perfect s'more is found in how one goes about melting the chocolate. For this... I give you... the Camp Cooker, aka "the ultimate s'more making device".
Taking a single graham cracker, you place it in the opened cooker, upon which you lay three squares (four if you're feeling exceptionally greedy) of chocolate. The final graham cracker lays perfectly squared on top, and you close the cooker. Holding it over the heat, close enough to get it hot inside, but far enough away to keep the graham cracker from burning, you do a minute or so and then flip the cooker over to get the other side... then another minute or so and back... with another minute or so before flipping one last time, and then another minute or so for good measure. Once opened, you should find two barely toasted graham crackers, with chocolate that still has some form, but is soft and melty to the touch, sandwiched between the crackers. Making the perfect s'more isn't a one-man show though, as while one person is working the chocolate, you'll have your expert marshmallow roaster doing up not one... but two big marshmallows over the coals. They'll have started shortly after you began working the cooker, and will have expertly heated the insides of the marshmallows ever so slowly, allowing the outsides to brown up without burning. Once the chocolate filled graham crackers have been flipped onto a plate, you'll remove the top cracker, and slide the marshmallows on top of the chocolate. Gently press the top cracker on top of the marshmallows, slowing squeezing out it's creamy insides, which will begin to bulge out the sides, give it a minute to cool slightly (helping to keep it's form better and making less of a mess on your hands), and proceed to eat the living daylights out of that beautiful piece of culinary artwork. :D You're welcome. Have a great weekend Sparkies!!! :D