Sunday, April 30, 2017

Attempting RV Camping - Part 3: The Sun Always Rises

Day 2

It is still dark and very early.  I wake up to Lilli's happy sounds in the back of the RV. She is laughing and making little fun squeals. I know that this is because she is watching Baby Einstein re-mixes on Youtube. (There is a whole world out there of people - who I think must also be on the autism spectrum - who take Baby Einstein movies them. Sped up, slowed down, set to techno music, etc. Highly entertaining to Lilli. Not so entertaining to her parents.)

We had arranged the sleeping places this way ahead of time on purpose. We knew Lilli would wake up before 5 am, and we would have to figure out how to keep her happy and from waking up the rest of the kids. And also the entire campground. Since the back room has a door, we closed the door and had the iphone charging and ready to go for 5 am to keep her back there and happy for awhile. My husband is super dad. He can get up, take her to the potty, get the phone on her techno Baby Einstein video, and fall alseep next to her with a pillow over his head. I cannot do that. But we all have our different talents.

Not the best picture, but the only one I have of the back of the RV. The bathroom door swings out and doubles to become a bedroom door, closing off the back half of the RV.  This is a morning moment of Lilli hanging out on the bed back there with legos and a movie.

Our plan worked.

I lay there on the pull out bed next to Nate in a mixed state of extreme relief to have finally gotten here, and apprehension about how the rest of the trip is going to go, based on the fiasco of last night. Surely it can only get better from here, right? We are at the beach! The beach is my absolute favorite place. I am partial to Ocean City NJ, but I will take any beach as a second choice. Anytime I am ever at the beach, I wake up before dawn and feel an indescribable pull toward the sunrise over the ocean.

But today, even though I feel wistfully drawn to it, I cannot get up to watch the sunrise. I am physically worn out. Also, it is cloudy and there might not be a visible sunrise. The weather forecast says clouds and rain all day. I am just going to ignore that for now. I am determined to drink my coffee and read a book. This is vacation, after all. I am going to make it feel like a vacation against all the odds.

I sneak out of bed and make my coffee, and sit at the little kitchen table with my book, turning pages quietly. Josh and Chloe are sleeping up in the overhead loft. Nate is sacked out on the couch bed across from me. The noisemaker I brought blocks out a little of Lill's noises and the kids all sleep through it. Ok that's glamping. A spa noisemaker plugged in to keep your kids sleeping while camping. I admit it.

This is good. It's going to be OK. Let's just forget about the trip last night. We are here. I have coffee and a book, and we are at the beach.

My husband comes out from the back room and silently holds up his glasses so I can see them.


Lilli had picked up his glasses from the side table, snapped them in half, and tried to put them on his face while he was sleeping. 

"Have a cup of coffee hon. We're on vacation."

The First Bike Ride

After quiche and bacon and sugary fun cereal that you eat right out of the box when you're camping, we get ready for our first day at the beach. The kids are crazy from excitement (and the cereal) and slowing my beach-packing pace. While I'm packing towels and bags, I suggest to my husband that maybe he could take the kids for a bike ride to keep them out of the way.

Camping cereal. My husband laughed at me because that first morning I said to the kids, "Do you want bacon,  pancakes, or sugary fun cereal that you eat out of the box?" Hmm, tough decision for a kid. "Sugary fun cereal that you eat out of a box!" they yelled. 

He loads our two and a half year old on the baby bike seat on the back, and takes off with Josh and Chloe. Lilli, who didn't have any fun sugary cereal and sticks with her gluten free pancakes, stays behind with me and I get her changed for the beach.

Josh is our dare devil, so Jasen instructs him to stay behind him, watch for cars and other bikers, and stay on the trails.  To confirm, he asks Josh, "You understand?"  Adjusting his helmet and clearly thinking of wheelies or Pokemon rather than bike safety, Josh responds "Huh?  Oh, yes sir."

According to Jasen, not five minutes into the ride Josh darts in front of my husband, hitting the edge of a side walk and nearly wrecks, causing a chain reaction.  Jasen swerves, hits the brakes and quickly ends up sitting on the handle bars as Nate's chunky momentum swings the back end side to side. Jasen, hopping on one leg as he desperately tries to keep the bike upright, hops in circles for what seemed like minutes until he finally crashes to the ground.  He pops up instantly to check on Nate who was in the baby seat that crashed to the ground.

Nate is fine. Several bystanders are idling at a distance, clearly concerned.  Jasen oddly finds himself with his hand in the air giving the beauty pageant wave turning in circles politely nodding his head and smiling, letting the audience know: Nate's fine and you're welcome for the performance.  A middle aged man approaches Jasen.

"You almost had an epic dad-save there..." With a sideways smile while he walks away, and adds, "but not quite."  Nate is uninjured, Josh has learned to stay in back, and dad has the best knee hamburger he's had in years.

Good thing I had packed the big band aids in the first aid kit.

Beach and Movie Soundtracks

We head to the beach together. How is this going to go? We are carrying two chairs and that feels like a joke. Will Jasen and I even get to sit down? It is all such a gamble.

We arrive at the beach with high hopes. The sun comes out and the forecast changes from cloudy to sunny. It's an absolutely perfect beach day. Lilli is content to sit in her stroller, listen to music, and enjoy the sun. We meet a very cool family from Boston and the husband works with adults who have special needs at a special outdoor program. He has met Joni Erickson Tada. I am super jealous. They are sweet about Lilli and our kids play together. Lilli naps in her stroller next to me and Nate plays in the sand.

It's amazing. I actually get to sit in a chair at the beach and relax for a little bit.

Lilli does really well at the beach, with only a few minor times of being upset. I cycle through her music, Veggie Tales kindle movies, dvd player, and Sesame Street movies I had downloaded onto the iphone. I have all of the devices hidden down in the back netting of her stroller behind her, and she lays back and listens to them and looks out at the ocean. I guess that's like relaxing paradise for Lilli.

Our beach set up. No one near us. Lilli is snoozing under that towel in her stroller.

After the beach, we all go to shower and discover that something is wrong with the hot water heater on the RV. I call the 1-800 number and get trips for trouble shooting. It never works for the rest of the trip. It's not a big deal though, because we are right next to the very nice campground bathrooms.

Later we all take a family bike ride on a trail and see an alligator and cool birds. Lilli rides in the bike trailer. My husband has Nate behind him in the baby seat, and pulls Lilli in a bike trailer at the same time. On a trail through the woods. Over pine needles and tree roots. I can't believe we do this, but it goes great. No wipe outs this time.

We come back after the bike ride and cook burgers over a campfire for dinner, and roast marshmallows and make s'mores.

It wasn't all how I had envisioned it.

For all of my envisioning, many things did not go as I had planned. That's life, right? We can make all the detailed plans we want, but life is going to surprise us every time. We stressed about the smoke from the campfire and tried to keep Lilli in the back room with the door and windows shut and an air purifier running. We yell "Shut the door" a few dozen times as the kids come in and out with food. We learn from all of this. It's still good. It's doable. We can do it again but better... the next time we go camping.

Josh found a cool spot to eat fun cereal out of a box.

This guy is my hero. Just don't look at his shoes.

At the campsite, she is happy with her movies and legos. The wifi is not perfect but it works pretty well. We think this is going pretty great so far. Besides the not so great stuff, it's pretty great.

Lilli chilling at the picnic table after the beach with her DVD player in her lap and a bag of cheesepuffs.

Day 3

It's our last day. 

What? You just got there! 

I know.  I cooked so much food so we would not have to cook on the trip. I feel like we need to sit around and eat all day.

Lilli is up again at 5 but happy with Youtube while Jasen again falls back to sleep with a pillow over his head. I get up and check the weather on my phone: cloudy. But I wanted to see the sunrise. I always try to see a sunrise when I get to the beach. It's my thing. 

I crawl back in bed next to Nate and lay there for a minute, debating.

I'm going to go. Maybe I'll get lucky and get a glimpse of the sun through the clouds, I think. 

I reach up and tap Chloe's leg and she sits up immediately and nods. She knows why I am waking her. This is what we do. We steal out into the chilly morning darkness and run quietly in our flip flops to the beach entrance. We might catch it, I tell her in a hushed voice. The entire campground seems to still be asleep. Hurry! We run and come up the path to the top of the dunes just in time. The horizon has a layer of clouds resting just above the water line. But just then the top ridge of an orange sun peeps over the clouds, and I am thrilled beyond belief to see it.

The husband from the family we met at the beach the day before is standing there at the top of the path, also watching the sunrise. We smile and nod a good morning to each other.

"I didn't think we would get to see a sunrise today because of the clouds," I say to him. "But there it is!"

"Yep, it always comes," he says. We smile.

"Every morning," I say back as Chloe and I take off running down to the water. 

It's that verse. His mercies are new every morning. The sun rises every day, clouds or not. There it is, in full beauty over the sparkling ocean.  I feel like crying because I'm so happy, but instead Chloe and I laugh and run along the water's edge and take pictures and pick up shells. 

This was a gift I was hoping for. It is priceless beyond measure to me. These moments in the sunrise with my Chloe. I can honestly say that for all the insanity we went through to get here, this moment alone makes it all totally worth it.

But the trip is not over yet. There are more surprises still to come.

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