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Though camping is a popular summer activity in the lovely state of Oregon, it had been three years since my last camping trip. Why? Because I became a mother. For the last two summers, camping wasn’t on my radar, even though I admired the adventurous spirit of the woman in my postpartum yoga class who took her newborn camping in Yellowstone. My parents have always been adventurous as well, and they took me camping the first summer after I was born (end result: a trip to the ER after I toddled over to the campfire grate and gashed my forehead).

I still thought it might be a few years before we took MJ camping, but my husband thought we needed a cheap weekend getaway and suggested we give it a try for one night. Which is how we found ourselves camping on Labor Day weekend at Honeyman State Park on the Oregon Coast. Honeyman is a massive campground, so we spent the evening in close proximity to several hundred other families and their (exceptionally well-behaved) dogs.

We prepared MJ for this trip by watching an episode of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood where he goes camping in his backyard. She was very excited to play in the tent.

Climbing into our tent.

Climbing into our tent.

Tent silly times.

Tent silly times.

The tent kept her entertained for quite awhile. We grabbed some pizza for dinner in Florence, followed by blackberry ice cream in Old Town. Then back to our tent for more play time and a campfire. I was fairly terrified of open flames around a 2-year-old, but she sat in my lap and watched the fire for about 5 minutes before heading back to the tent.

Overall, camping with MJ was an astounding success! She had fun and there were no trips to the emergency room. Hurray! She did get scared when I turned off the flashlight at bedtime and she realized it was not a game and we were actually going to sleep in the tent. And then there was the moment when she woke up in the still silence of 3 am and started screaming at the top of her lungs. Spencer had left to use the bathroom and I began to panic as I thought of the several hundred other families nearby. “Please stop, please stop,” I whispered. After about 5 minutes Spencer came back and had the presence of mind to hold her and soothe her, and she fell back asleep. Sorry camping neighbors! She doesn’t normally do that.

The next day she would tell the story this way: “I was screaming and Mama said ‘Stop! Stop!’ And then Dada feel me better.”

Aside from the tent, I think MJ’s favorite part of our trip was playing at the beach. This was her third trip to the beach this year, and she loves the ocean. I have to hold her hand so she doesn’t jump in and get completely soaked.

My future marine biologist explores the surf.

My future marine biologist explores the surf.

Have you gone camping with a toddler or infant? How was your experience?

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Books: I’m currently reading One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp and Battlefield of the Mind by Joyce Meyer. Next up on my list are the YA novel  Looking for Alaska by John Green and Malcolm Gladwell’s new book, David and Goliath. 

Movies: Hmmm, I rarely have time to watch movies anymore. Marie is currently fixated on Disney’s Pocahontas and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. I was really impressed with Hunchback, really a deep message for kids about inner beauty. In fact, I could probably write a whole essay about this film, but I’ll spare you that. We also watched Happy Feet last week, which is pretty cute.

Television: Downton Abbey is over and I’ve decided that Grimm is too creepy for me. So that just leaves Parks and Recreation. I like that it features strong female characters. Also I’ve been letting Marie watch Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, a cartoon spin-off of Mr. Rogers. It’s pretty sweet, each episode has a little lesson that’s set to music. For example, “If you feel so mad that you want to roar, just take a deep breath and count to four.”

Music: I’m digging the Johnny Cash and Ella Fitzgerald children’s albums my mom recently gave us. Grandma Alice is helping Marie develop sophisticated musical tastes.

Project: Gratitude journaling.

Work: Writing a series of blog posts for accounting and finance professionals — here’s one. Haven’t subbed yet this month.

Gratitude: We just had our first vacation since 2011! A week in Palm Desert with my in-laws.

Sideview of the apparently famous Marilyn statue in downtown Palm Springs, where we encountered some colorful characters.

Sideview of the apparently famous Marilyn statue in downtown Palm Springs, where we encountered some, um, colorful characters. (Photo credit: Ursula Crawford)

 

Fear: Carcinogens in plastics.  

Developmental milestones: Marie swam on her own (with water wings) on the last day of our vacation! Also her vocabulary has me pretty impressed. She keeps creating verbs, saying things like, “I’m get upping,” or “I’m lay downing.” Or “Pocahontas, she troubling.” Did I mention she’s obsessed with Pocahontas? Might be awhile before we let her watch that again.

Looking forward to: Watching Marie continue to develop her personality. She’s almost two. I love kids in the two – five age range because the things they say are so funny.

Grandma Alice with Baby -- and Papa too!

Grandma Alice with Baby — and Papa too!

A guest column by Grandma Alice

One of the presents I bought for my granddaughter this Christmas was a CD of children’s folk songs published by Smithsonian (Smithsonian Folkways Children’s Music Collection). I was particularly interested in acquiring a recording of Woody Guthrie singing his classic “Why Oh Why Oh Why,” which I had entertained Marie with on the way to Portland one sunny October day when I was helping the family prepare to move. Spencer drove and Ursula sat in the front passenger seat while I took the job of keeping Marie happy in the backseat. Singing was my choice, and one of the first tunes that surfaced from my labyrinthine store of folk songs was the Guthrie ditty, his effort to explain the world to his children. Picture little Arlo asking, “Daddy, why does an elephant have a long nose?”

As Woody Guthrie put it to Arlo, “Because because because because, goodbye, goodbye, goodbye.”

I’m not sure what brought the song back into my memory. I don’t remember ever singing it to Ursula when she was a child.  Perhaps Marie had already begun to ask that eternal toddler question, “Why?”  and that day, the song just reappeared from out of nowhere. “Why does Marie like to sing,” I sang, “Why oh why oh why?”

Marie began to sing along with me in a gentle, lovely soprano, a remarkable clear tone, and altogether in tune. I was impressed and rather astounded, as she was then but barely 18 months old.

We went on together, with me making up new verses, for a good 45 minutes before Spencer and Ursula began to show signs of annoyance. It’s not so much that they complained. They simply turned on the car radio, at a fairly high decibel level, in an apparently mutual decision to drown me out.

Oblivious, I kept going with it. “Why oh why oh why?” So did Marie.

Call it the grandmother-granddaughter conspiracy.

Now, when I call on the telephone and speak to Ursula, I often hear Marie in the near background singing in that gentle, clear soprano: “Why oh why oh why?”

She’s been listening so much to the new CD that she’s found a new favorite, which is beginning to replace the “why.” Maybe you know it? “Miss Mary Mack Mack Mack, all dressed in black, black, black.”

I’m enough inspired by having a young granddaughter to get out my guitar again on a regular basis. I’m beginning to remember more oldies but goodies. Did you ever hear Odetta sing, “Froggy Went a-Courtin’”?

Do you have any favorite folk songs from your childhood? Or favorites to share with children?