Saturday, May 18, 2013

First Ever Camping Trip

This happened a while ago, on Easter weekend to be exact. We went camping, hooray! Now, you might not think it's such a big deal. But last time I went camping family-style I was in elementary school. And I'm not sure Chris has ever been camping before.

Fortunately, we have terrific friends who are seasoned campers 'cause they go camping a lot and also 'cause they have a camper. They also have a ton of gear, doubles and triples of many things which was helpful. And my brother was able to join us. He's just about the most adventurous and outdoorsy person I know. Which is great for real backwoods stuff, but is not particularly useful at a nice family-style campsite. But what's really useful is that my bro is an awesome camp cook.

One thing you gotta know about camping with Russians is that there will be lots and lots of food. The entire day will revolve around cooking and eating food. Since food is so important to the success of the outing, it won't be any ordinary stuff like sandwiches. No freaking way! Instead, there will be some sort of soup (why do my American friends think soup is so complicated? it's just about the easiest thing to cook!), lots of veggies - fresh (scallions, radishes, cukes) and cooked (roasted corn, baked potatoes) and, of course, shishkebabs.

Anyway, the three of us - Chris, myself and M - were total noobs at this whole camping thing. But I think we fared well. M loved it. The first night we tried getting him to sleep in the camper with his friends. At first he was all for the idea. But as soon as the lights were out, he asked to sleep in the tent.

The second, last night, was particularly awesome. I let M stay up late. I wrapped him in a warm blanket and he sat by the fire, listened to his bedtime story, ate s'mores, watched the stars. Then he just sat and watched the fire and listened to the adults talking and fell asleep. It was just about perfect, I thought.

Here's the picture of the delicious shishkebabs my brother made. I fixed a salad to go with them. And we had grilled corn and baked potatoes too. Now, let me say a couple of things about baked potatoes. If you cannot enjoy a real baked potato, yes, the kind with ash on its skin 'cause it wasn't wrapped in foil, then too bad for you! You are totally missing out on things.

Here's the (now, in retrospect) funny thing about this camping trip. We forgot M's warm clothes. Yep, we sure took warm jackets for ourselves. But somehow we forgot M's sweaters and warm pants and, well, even a rain jacket. That's some parenting, I tell ya. Still, the kid did great and was happy and warm throughout the 3-day trip.

Since returning from our first ever camping trip, we traded our giant 6-person tent for a more modestly sized 4-person one. Our friends upgraded their popup camper to a better model. And we vowed to go camping again soon, as soon as we get a camping stove.

Oy Vey, It's Already the End of May!

... and it looks like I've been absent from this here space for a number of months. But not to worry, nothing extraordinary has happened here and we're all doing just fine. Simply put, I was way overwhelmed and reached a total burn-out point. Couldn't stand looking at the computer screen unless I absolutely had to (for work).

But I'm back for now. So let's see, what's going on around here...

First of all, the biggest news right now is that Moebius Noodles, the book my friend/co-author/math wizard/fellow homeschooler and  I've been working on for the past couple of years is out and it's awesome (or so I hear). So GET A COPY for yourself, your friends, your kids' teachers and so on. We've heard the book makes a great baby shower gift. PDF is pay-what-you-want (just remember, we worked real hard on this book and it's awesome) and you can order a hard copy too.

I'll post more updates about the book as things happen. So far, Maria and I appeared in a guest article on the Scientific American blog.

Ok, so that's that. On to the latest house/yard project. We're slowly, but surely turning our backyard into an amusement park. A few weeks ago we bought a used 15' trampoline on Craigslist. It seemed like a good deal - the huge trampoline was in a very good shape, including the safety net. But it turned out to be a GREAT deal, unbelievable awesome deal 'cause, check it out, the people who were selling it gave us a swing set, complete with swings, fort, sandbox, fireman's pole, and a slide. And to top it all off, they gave us a zipline. Yep, they just gave it all to us!

So Chris was very busy the last week or so. First, he had to take the playset apart and get it to our yard. Then he was busy setting up the trampoline. Then he put up the swings. Today was the zipline day. And next week the rest of the playground will be done (hopefully).

Now, I was going to take pictures of Chris setting up the trampoline. I figured, it'd take an hour or two of work tops. But turns out, putting together a used trampoline is very different from all those youtube videos of putting together a new trampoline. So it took us like 3 days, including rust-proofing, cleaning the springs, and lots of hammering. Besides, turns out, trampoline assembly means spending most of the time in very uncomfortable positions, usually bent over. And straining to connect the stupid parts. Not very photogenic.

So the only picture of me that I allowed here is where I'm doing light work - ducttaping parts together (that's also not in any of the videos).

Ok, fine, I'll including this one. Although it's obviously a staged shot (to Chris's great annoyance I never lift with my legs). But M took this picture, so I'm including it.

Yesterday we had friends over for a little trampoline-jumping playdate. It was awesome! We just need loads of Bug Off spray, mostly for parents 'cause kids don't seem to be bothered. Another option for adults is to stay in the house. You see, the trampoline is so giant that it can be seen from pretty much any window of the house. But the best view is from the sliding door which, coincidence I think it isn't, is by our kitchen table.

BTW, if you are wondering about a zipline adventure tour for yourself... Sorry, the zipline we have is not designed to hold adults. I mean, it will hold (it held me), but you get like no speed on it. Plus we set it pretty low to the ground - good for little kids, but a pain for anyone above 5' tall.