It started out as a compromise, a way to keep kids happy and make sure I did what I needed to do too. It turned into a tradition.
Before our summers were consumed by sports, we camped. A lot. We enjoyed weekends out exploring the area, spending time together as a family. And we usually planned our weekends and made reservations in about April. 1999 was no different. We had several short trips planned and were looking forward to all of them. The last trip was set for late August, just before the whole "back to school" thing kicked into high gear. Everyone was excited. But I was trying to make a decision. There was going to be a baby shower for my youngest sister, and it was going to be the same weekend as our family camping trip. After much discussion, it was decided that Jim would take the kids (ages 10, 8, 7, and 5) and I would stay home to attend the baby shower. After all, it was my sister's first baby!! My family had a wonderful time, and I thoroughly enjoyed my "weekend off." I don't remember what I did besides the shower, but it was fun and relaxing and very pleasant.
Since then, the "Dad and kids only, no Mom allowed" trip has become an annual event. Every summer, we pick a campground and I cook some food. I help pack the trailer, then send them off with hugs, kisses, and enough food for their 3 day adventure. And they have a BLAST! Even though there's always a bit of grumbling beforehand, when they come home there are stories galore about the funny things said and done, the sights seen, and the adventures enjoyed. Those stories come up time and again through the winter, then in the spring it turns to thoughts of what they might see and do this year. They all love it. And yes, Jim takes ALL the kids! Ryan joined us in November 2005 and his first time on the trip was August 2006. Logan started going last summer, just 3 months after he got here. As a bonus, Brent was able to join them for a brief time this summer. Special times for everyone!
And me? Well, I stay home. This year I had planned to take a trip south to meet up with an old friend, but some things got in the way and it didn't happen. Instead I attended a beautiful wedding, thoroughly cleaned the kitchen, bathroom, and floors downstairs, watched lots of "chick flicks," ate dinners that I love and no one else can stand, read books without interruption, and hosted a ladies night for some friends. What fun! They started arriving at 8pm, and we laughed, giggled, ate, talked, and had a wonderful time until 2:15 in the morning!! It was a totally relaxing enjoyable weekend.
When Jim and the kids came home yesterday, I was ready to see them. Helping unload the trailer was fun, not work like it is after a camping trip that I go on. I can clean the trailer and get it ready for winter without feeling stressed and aggravated, since I'm not hot, sweaty, and tired. It's a pleasure to be out hearing their stories as they work beside me. Listening to them talk about the smores they ate, with "brown crackers and cock-late and toasted mushrooms" (Ryan and Logan's description--they get marshmallows and mushrooms confused!), about the jellyfish they found, about the crab they held--those are the things they'll talk about this year. Jim gets a chance to enjoy some time with his crew, I get a chance to enjoy some peace and quiet, and we both find a new appreciation of our spouse and his or her willingness to make this a special weekend for all. In addition to great memories for them, it's one of the things Jim does for me that I appreciate most.
As the big guys get older, it gets harder to schedule the trip. Brent isn't home anymore to come, and starting next summer it's likely he'll be totally out of the picture. Hailey's summers with them are limited, since she's starting at UW in a few weeks and I fully expect that her summers will get much busier. Em graduates in June; it's not likely that she has too many summers left with the group either. But the tradition will continue. After all, there are still places to go, things to do, parks to explore, and little boys to do it with. Once they're grown? Who knows! Maybe by then the grandchildren will be part of the scene!!