Sunday, October 30, 2005

We are Family

We just got back from Grandpa's Camp. What is Grandpa's camp you ask? Well, well, let me explain. It's usually about a week of complete craziness. Treasure hunts, talent shows, trips to the zoo, going on outings, late nights of games and homemade shakes for the adults, late night stories and bedtimes for the kids. Every summer for the past 7 years or so we've had Grandpa's Camp. We would all meet up at my Dad's house here in Nebraska from across the country. April 2004 was the last Grandpa's Camp there at "Calvert Place". About 12 years ago my Dad bought a large old (1900's) home and remodeled it. In 2004 he had decided to sell the house and move to Arizona to work on a new business venture in ethanol investing. ANYWAY, we have some great memories of Grandpa's Camps past.

There was an awesome playroom that my sister had painted. This is usually where the big treasure hunt ended for the little kids with a load of toys and books for them. Every summer at Grandpa's Camp we would paint up the kids hands and get them on the wall. My favorite is my niece Hannah's handprint at only 7 days old. When my Dad sold the house we wanted to cut out the drywall and keep it somehow.

Usually Grandpa's Camp consists of a lot of planning on our part (my 3 other sisters and me--this last year was the first year my brother from NYC, and North Carolina was able to make it.) We'd plan the activites, organize the days, the food, etc, etc, and my Dad would show up to play with the kiddos.

This is the kids last year getting ready to race on the go-carts!! At the end of our long days, we'd pile all the kids in one room, in beds and sleeping bags and my Dad would read story after story from the rocking chair until they were all asleep (usually including my Dad!). Their favorite by far (and mine) is Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby (complete with all the accents, just like the Uncle Remus record we used to have.)

A few of the nights during the week the kids and Grandpa put on a show. They love to plan it all out, get the outfits and usually my Dad or brother in law Jon was the emcee for the show. We had dances, hulas, piano numbers, and song after song. That's Madison in the middle showing off her fabulous hula, and check out those Jazz hands!

They love to dress up, put on silly hats and sing and dance to their little hearts desire while my Dad accompanies them on the guitar or banjo. He even wrote a Grandpa's Camp song (to the tune of "Ride that Glory Train"), and every year he writes a new verse. We have plenty of video of all the shows and the kids love to watch them over and over.

One year we did a "garden party" for all the kids (all girls but one!!) We had butterfly wings and decorations and even pinwheel sandwiches, slugs (baby pickles cut in half), and cheese sailboats to eat!! One of the best memories for the kids (sometimes for the adults) was the year of the chickens. CHICKENS? Yep, you heard it (I mean, read it) right.
My Dad had remembered as a boy having a few feather-footed bantam hens. So he chatted with my brother in law Jon about it and before we knew it they were ordering chickens for Grandpa's Camp!! So they sent off for 25 baby chicks to arrive a few weeks before Grandpa's Camp. 25? Yep, you see if you ordered 25 then you got the special bonus of 2 RARE chicks. It's all about the bargain!! So we all were at church when my Dad got the phone call from the post office saying our package had arrived. I'm sure it was more like "Please get over here and pick up this loud package before we throw it out the window!!" I guess they don't want a box of chirping chickens sitting around the post office on a Sunday afternoon!! So we pulled the kids out of Primary--hey, THE CHICKENS ARE HERE!! My, oh my, they can cram a lot of chickens into one tiny box. A lot of LOUD chickens, that is. I guess it has to do with warmth and hopefully keeping them alive. The kids were so excited and wide eyed as we opened the box, and the parents were all saying "Are you kidding? How loud can these things get??" So we put them downstairs into their new box in the basement with a heat lamp and a bunch of chicken feed. My neice Hannah (the same one with the 7 day old handprint, at this point was 5) would earn the most points for teaching us about chickens. Did you know that chickens are not so fond of ice baths?? They also don't so much like meeting the neighborhood cat. They like to be held but surprisingly not like Lenny and the rabbits in Of Mice and Men. Who knew that this would not only be the Year of the Chickens but would also be the year of teaching our children about death and burying chickens. See kids, it's all part of the circle of life. . . at the end of Grandpa's camp we managed to save a few of the chickens and pawn them off to unsuspecting friends in the ward that lived on a farm (you need a few chickens out there don't you??) and a few to Madison's preschool where they have a little barn with some other animals.

In April 2004, when we met up at Dad's house for the final clean out before the move, we had a great Grandpa's Camp. One of the highlights was the ceremonial cutting of Grandpa's comb-over. It was long overdue!!! After years of telling him to let it go, he finally decided it was time. All of the kids got to climb up on a little stool and take a little snip of the old-man's locks. It was hilarious!! The Moms even kicked off the event with a rendition of "Cut-it" to the tune of "Beat-it".

So, this last year has been a busy one for our family. My Dad moved to Arizona and was busy traveling to New York, London, Geneva, and Stockholm. My sister moved from Omaha to San Jose in July. So Grandpa Camp kind of got missed this year. My sister called me and wanted me to fly out to visit. The timing wasn't great, even though I really wanted to go. I found one weekend that could work. I talked with my Dad we got the ball rolling. We called everyone and it just happened. I feel so lucky and blessed to be part of my family. We live coast to coast but try to make up reasons to be together. This year was a little different than in years past. With only about 36 hours with all of us together, we bypassed the show, but we did have a few numbers by the little ones. We got some great pictures and we did have a fabulous treasure hunt. Most of all, the cousins got to play and the parents got to play and stay up late and chat. I guess I'm getting to the age of realizing that not much matters in life besides family. I loved that we were all able to drop what was going on at home and get together for a weekend. No one knows how much longer we all have together, but we'll take it while we can get it.

So even though this year was not quite the same, I'm glad we didn't let a year get by without Grandpa's Camp. As the years get by us and we and our kids get busier, it may not happen every year, but for now, my kids can't stop talking about it and we can't wait until next year.


Christy said...

What an amazing tradition! Those kids are going to remember this forever. And, I can't fail to mention....what a good looking family you have!

Bek said...

That is so cool!! I love that you do all this. I am really pushing my mom and dad to do something official like that. I love the pictures. You have officially inspired me--I am going to do it this year.

Did I read that right and see that you were in SAN JOSE? 10 minutes away? I could have done a wicked family picture for you (although it looks like you got one anyway). Good to have you on our coast for awhile...

Happy Halloween

wendysue said...

Bek--I SO should have called you but it was all last minute. But, with both of my sisters out there now, that will be our main vacation destination for sure! In fact, I'll be there (maybe without the kids even) next April, because my sister Lisa is due with her 5th. I would love to come see you and the kiddos (and get some fab pictures!!)

lisa v. clark said...

Hey, I wanna come! Bek--you and me and Suzi and Wendy out on the town? Yeah, that's going to need to happen.

Wendy--I love to see your family. Everyone looks exactly the same, it's so weird! I hope you get to do Grandpa's Camp every year now--that's awesome!

Bek said...

Consider it done!! Come over any time. Just tell your kids that I have TWO POOLS at my house. :-) If you can get Lisa out here too I will give you a medal.

Seriously--I know Matt's sister is a photographer, but I would love to do portraits. I am still trying to build the portfolio!!

Where do your sisters live? Your sister on the left (in the sibling picture) looks really familiar...

~j. said...

Ooh...sounds so fun. What great traditions! I LOVE that photo of the hula/jazz hands. Great pose. Is there a photo of you here?

**my word verification: ehads. ("Ehads, look at those beautiful children!")

wendysue said...

Bek, Heidi (furthest to your left in the 2nd to the bottom pic) lives in San Jose. They just moved there in July, her hubby works for Microsoft. My sister Lisa (far right) lives in Santa Rosa, they've been there about 10 years, her hubby is a dentist there. Was LVC out there visiting?? That was my guess from your last post. . .I'm glad you got to get together. . .maybe next time I'm coming out there to visit my sisters, we could get her out there too!!!

Jenny--I guess I never have posted a picture of myself here (unless you can recognize me in my fabulous pioneer get up). In the 2nd to the bottom picture I'm the 2nd from your right. In the big family picture at the top, our family is the one on the far right (Whitney is with Grandpa. . )

Bek said...


LVC WAS here this weekend. I get her out here on the rouse that she is going to paint something for me. You should see my nursury. It looks awesome. We painted a mural on the wall that matches the Chamois Lamby bedding from Pottery Barn kids. :-) Next time you come, lets get her out here. Your sister in SJ probably lives 10-15 minutes from me!!

I was going to out you in the pictures. I see so much of you in your girls, even though most people probably think they look like Matt. ;-)

When do you get to go have a big milkshake? Are you back on dairy yet?