We had an incredible time on our campout over the kids’ Spring Break last week.  We went from Wednesday to Saturday and stayed over in Carmel, just south of Monterey.  The weather was pleasant, though in the 40s at night, and the time we had together was very enjoyable.
Lindsey, being 6 months old, needed a little more comfort and attention than usual.  Also, she had a diaper rash that I aired out while Scott and the kids set up the tents.  Right away, the kids got to playing in the trees that were plentiful in the park.  I still don’t know what kind of trees they were, but they are excellent climbing trees.  They were many-branched, and pretty low to the ground.  Derek perched at the top of one right over our camp and had a good lookout post with his binoculars.  They all climbed the trees except Rachel and Lindsey.  There was a very good, large playground in the center of the park, two bathrooms—one with warm water and showers–, and a few nature trails.  The first morning we were there we saw a group of 5 deer come right by our campsite!

Our dinners were fun.  We roasted hot dogs wrapped in biscuit dough the first night, the second night Scott baked potatoes in the fire to perfection and we put butter, sour cream, cheese and sautéed onions over the top, and the third night we had canned beef stew and rolls.  Our breakfasts were pancakes & eggs, French toast & sausage, and oatmeal & hot chocolate.  It sure is fun to do things in a different, adventurous way.  It’s fun to be resourceful when you don’t have your usual tools and conveniences from home, although I highly recommend buying a “Camp-Pal” that holds your garbage bag, paper towels, sanitizer, and salt & pepper all conveniently located wherever you choose to clamp it on your table.

Scott still amazes me on our campouts.  He is the epitome of patience doing what’s necessary day or-gratefully-night like blowing up our sagging air mattress time and time again, helping Melissa to the bathroom, or investigating strange noises in the camp, Melissa being the source of most of them.  He doesn’t complain the next day over lost sleep, and we even get a good laugh over the nightly escapades.  I helped Melissa change from wetted pants to clean ones in the middle of the second night.  I was able to arrange her sleeping back so as to not feel any wetness, so she went right back to sleep.  The next morning I took her to the bathroom.  She was talking to me through the stall, but stopped mid-sentence.  She exclaimed, “What the…Some magic must have happened in the night because I did not wear these pants to bed!”  I told her what happened and she-at first-was not willing to believe me.

Staying quiet was out of the question so various camping “neighbors” got a glimpse of our family-life. Most of what they saw was positive: singing, working together, etc.  I don’t know what they thought in the middle of the night, though, when Melissa started yelling at Christine for taking her spot.  They yelled at each other for at least a few minutes!  It helped my nerves to know that we set up camp first, and the others, if they had been on their toes, could have avoided a camp that looked to be holding a large family.  I mean, we had two tents, a suburban, and Lindsey’s booster chair always in plain sight!  One set of neighbors actually picked up their tent and moved it to another spot and then later took all their stuff.  We had a few good chats with them, though, and there were no hard feelings.  He commented that “at least it sounded like we were having fun.”

I love the way you can spend your time on camp-outs.  Staying 3 nights is ideal, I think.  Our down-time on a stay of any fewer nights does not justify the work a campout requires. Any more feels too long for me.  We talk a lot about past, present, and future.  We walk.  We get to appreciate nature a lot.  We feel the wonder and adventure that is inherent in life.  We read aloud to each other.  Being on such Hi-adventure also lends itself to kids putting-off using the bathroom.  It is amusing to note that each person in the family actually has a very unique stance they take when they are trying to “hold it.”  We picked these magestic looking frauns-on-a-stick and tried to use them in various ways. You have the time to stop and talk about lessons in life; about work, resilience, flexibility.  And “life’s lessons” are somehow taught perfectly when you have the experience of losing your golden marshmallow to the unforgiving fire and you then have to start over again.  So does the experience of losing your precious and only pack of Double-Stuff Oreos to a thieving (and very fat) raccoon.

We visited the old California mission: Carmel by the Sea.  Father Junipero Serra, the priest over all the missions up Camino Real, was buried there.  We toured each structure, saw paintings, sculptures, replicas of the priest’s “cells,” courtyards, the cemetery, and the chapel.  Derek’s 4th grade class focused on the missions this year, and he was especially attentive during the tour.  Rachel was especially inattentive.


Both Thursday and Friday we were able to visit the beach.  There were a lot of interesting things to see in the pools and rock off of the Monterey coast.  The Carmel coast has white, warm sand that we picnicked and napped on.  The kids kicked around at the water’s edge and got quite wet.  Lindsey napped during almost the whole visit to the beach.  One day we’ll go back and rent a Bay Bike, which is actually two bikes joined together by two benches, one at the back and one at the front.  Our whole family could fit on one of those.  It has a lovely umbrella, and the path you take has a view that is unbeatable.

It was funny.  We ran out of propane, using it the first two nights for heating our tent.  So on the last day we went to buy some more.  Scott and I couldn’t agree on which store to go to.  We ended up paying for convenience: $5.50 for a new pack of pristine sea-side Double Stuff Oreos and $5.80 for a single can (good grade plastic with a cool logo, mind you) of propane.  Ay Caramba!

Well we packed up on Saturday morning in about an hour (that was how long it took for our family moving crew to load ALL of our belongings onto a moving truck back in 2004).  We left that wonderful camping feeling and headed for home.  To “round” things off we ended the whole affair with a buffet lunch at Golden Corral where most of us stuffed ourselves silly with city food, no pun intended at first.  Maybe it was just feeling too full, or maybe it was the stinky city bathrooms (this is a different stink from parks and recreation bathrooms), but I think we came out of that restaurant feeling a letdown from the sharp contrast we felt.  (Our) nature’s tendency to excess clashed with Nature’s Wonderful Gifts of peace, wonder, work, and enjoyment. 

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This is Rachel:

Giving birth to her was an oh-so-natural experience.  Whew.  She is 15 months old now, but this picture has her at 3 months.  I have been stunned over realizing just how many times Rachel brings smiles and laughter to our family.  Our joy has been tripled since her birth, and to think that counting just these last two years, how many fewer times I would have smiled and laughed without her!  She’s cute beyond words, and I feel so thankful!

Now that she’s been potty-training these last two weeks I remember how I responded to some of the older kids’ difficult learning curve.  I didn’t trust enough that they would learn or that they wanted to do it right.  I was in a box dwelling on the negative so I could  be right about how negative of an experience it was, you know?  I didn’t know how to do better then, but I’m sure if I could have trusted more in them and in their ability to learn I would have been better off.

Rachel likes us to go with her most of the time that she “goes,” and she’s not reliable yet about #2.  But that’s ok.  I knew that training her so young would have its drawbacks.  She went potty away-from-home today for the first time and I was very excited!  Did I say that she is one who “holds it” for a long time, and actually stays dry every night?  Hooray!

came down the stairs tonight in a sleepy stupor.  Her hair was hanging in her face, she was practically tongue-tied, so when she went over to the dish cupboard and started clanking around I had to ask her what she was doing?  Scott and I were already chuckling because we knew this was going to be good…

As she pulled a dinner plate out of the cupboard, Christine held it up, muttering with conviction that she “needed to get the hamster.”  The only thing to do at that point was direct her to the bathroom because when our kids are up like that they invariably are about to “go.”

One more about Christine, and I wrote this up when she was two years old for my journal:

To “Tiss” or Not to “Tiss”
Christine has been learning her “c” and “g” sounds for the last year, and recently made good progress. As I was tucking her in for her nap the other day she told me she didn’t like kisses (sometimes “tisses”), and didn’t want anyone to “tiss” her.  She was very adamant.  Next day, on our neighborhood walk, she called back to me from her front seat in the stroller, “Mom…I need ta tiss you!” It warmed my heart, and I stopped the stroller and gave Christine a kiss on the lips. I laughed and told her I thought it was funny that just the day before she had said she didn’t want any part with kissing. She looked at me blankly and repeated, “Mom, I need a tissue…I have a runny nose.” I guess I lost face that day, but oh well.
Written in 2005: Christine came to me distraught and complaining that Janelle told her that her brain stinks. I told her, “I’m sure she means “breath” (Christine has a history of bad breath in the morning).” So I had to check with Janelle. It turns out that Janelle, 6 years old, doesn’t know the word “breath,” because she told me, “Yeah, Christine’s brain stinks!” I guess if your brain is inside your head and behind your mouth, and it is the source of most things, then why not the source of your breath? Holly

is the name of a tribe of Native Americans who lived in eastern California up until the 1880s, and it’s the National Park we camped in last weekend as well! The views are glorious!  Down in Yosemite Valley you can look up at the domed granite cliffs, or you can drive up and around on the North or the South to see the same breath-taking Half Dome, El Capitan, The Three Brothers, Echo Peaks, Cathedral Peaks, and so on.

You would not believe the effect that listening to John Denver Greatest Hits 🙂 while driving to 10,000 feet elevation along Tioga road would have on you until you try it!  And what if your cute kids are totally into some of your favorite music?  It adds even more punch to the “rocky mountain high” that you’re on.  HA!  Jenny, remember how we listened to Troy and Travis’ cool music over and over until we had every word memorized?  I told the kids how we would argue over who had the words right.  I admit that I also told them that you eventually gained a respect for my wonderful memory for lyrics…wouldn’t you agree? Hee Hee.

This is me, detaching the camera-case Velcro from my lovely camping sweater for the third time.  Hand-me-down sweaters made of acrylic yarn are very sticky, people.  I’m gonna have to keep a tighter surveillance on the location of the camera in the future…I guess I thought it was funny enough to share, though.  Hmmm.

I have to say that I “stand all amazed” that the wonderful world of nature goes on all around us, in it’s majesty, whether humans notice it or not.  The world spins, the insects buzz, trees grow, trees house other animals, drop seeds, burn sometimes, fall over other times, but mostly offer some of the best beauty and solace we children of God ever know.  Little animals find their food and store it, birds stay together flying around and playing, and the effects that the flow of water bring all year round keep it all continually changing.  Here is a great shot of a chipmunk that Janelle got at Glacier Point.

We had planned this trip since we’ve met some people that are pretty enthralled with Yosemite.  We took good food, a couple of frisbees, and gear.  I’m glad that we had a secluded spot–glad for ourselves as well as potential neighbors–and the kids found plenty to explore.  Rachel found herself flat on her tummy every half hour it seems, but enjoyed herself nonetheless.  She takes to rough terrain with a lot of courage, but doesn’t have the balance she needs to stay upright all that much!  Friday afternoon, while Scott took a rare nap, I taught that awesome game I learned at girl’s camp to Janelle, Derek, and Christine, where a couple of people are the rescue team and they wait in a hidden spot until the “lost” people call them to come find them in the wilderness.  The exciting part is that the lost people have laid down an intricate set of clues for the rescue team to follow to their hiding spot.  Sticks set up to look like arrows, words spelled out in sticks, such as “31 steps North,” pathways dug out of the pineneedles, and other landmarks that would point the way to the location of the stranded hikers.

So, while a couple of times I felt a little put-out that meal preparation and clean-up took the bulk of 5:30-7:30 p.m., I also realized that we had the time for it!  Here is the wonderful enlightenment that allows me to be at peace with my work even at home: I have the time to do this valuable task, and I am going to do it.  There is no hurry.  Janelle and Derek felt wonderful about being old enough to do most of the fire-starting and tending, and Christine and Melissa felt very grown-up about helping me cook at the stove.  Especially the little girls couldn’t believe they were actually cooking at the stove!

The weather was accommodating, the site was private enough, and the views were fantastic.  This was another great camping trip!

Do you like how that rhymed?

I thought it would be good to talk about Prop 8.  I’m glad that we live here in California during this push for an amendment.  It is hugely important!  It will be good to see just where people stand after the ballots are in, and even better if we can persuade and gain some people over to understand the importance of traditional marriage.  Every person matters.

First, I’ll tell you how things are going with us.  Our stake president has been doing his part traveling to each ward to speak.  Our bishops have donation goals, such as, our ward’s which was $11,000.  We’re asked to donate 4 Saturdays walking our neighborhoods with registered voter information/surveys.  We knock on a door, wearing a “Vote 2008” pin, and ask, “Are you Hein Le?” for example.  “Hi, I”m Holly J. and these are my children :), and I live on M. Circle near your neighborhood.  We’re walking precincts for the Yes on Proposition 8 campaign.  Are you familiar with this proposition regarding traditional marriage?

At this point people who are FOR preserving marriage between a man and a woman wonder if I am.  They raise one eyebrow and say, “what side of the campaign are you on again?”  Their face looks like how I feel each time I worry that the whole world is against me.  No one likes to disagree openly with the person on their doorstep, so they are really relieved when they realize we are against legalization of same-sex marriage.  Some people can never figure the wording out so they just say, “Umm, I’m just old-fashioned, and don’t like that with 2 men together or 2 women.”  I can reassure them that is exactly what we are hoping they would say.

After we find out how they stand, definitely Yes, probably Yes, Undecided, probably No, and definitely No, we ask if their spouse would agree with them, or other registered voters in their household.  We’ll answer questions or offer information.  Finally, if they are a YES we ask if they would be willing to contribute by volunteering in any way or by displaying a yard sign.  We circle the correct code number reflecting their answers on our sheet, encourage them to inform their family and friends about the issue, and then move to the next house.  If they are a NO, we tell them we respect that, thank them for their time, and then move on to the next house, with not a few eyebrows raised or strained expressions from our children.  BTW, the NOs seem very confident in their views, most often because they are aware that their views are the most popular these days, I think, and then next most often because they are closely connected to someone making homosexual choices and the issue, on the surface, seems like an issue of tolerance and equality.  They don’t waste time shutting the door, giving me the feeling that I must be cold and unfeeling towards the helpless.  OR, the NOs don’t want to “impose their beliefs on others,” yet they don’t think of the myriad “impositions” those believing otherwise will make on them if the Prop fails.

The confident Yeses who are involved in the effort are always refreshing to talk to.  Some confident ones still won’t accept a yard sign, though, for fear of drawing attention to themselves, hate acts against them or just for fear of associating themselves with someone their employers or landlords would not approve of.

Calling prospective voters using the same sheets is very ineffective, though we still do it some nights.  You reach about 1 in 10 people, or fewer.  This is wear my belief “that every person matters” is tested!  The questions here are, do you block your number for their caller id by using *67, or do you not?  Do you address them by their name–since we know it–and possibly freak them out, or do you not?  In my opinion, I like the forthright approach.  I will more often answer the phone to an unfamiliar name out of curiosity than I will to a “blocked call.”  Then, I feel that addressing them by their name gives the call a little authority vs. a feeling that their money will be solicited.  Mostly, it’s hard for me to get to “calling” either because of background noise or the sense of futility you feel when you’re done!

WHAT IS THE ISSUE THEN?

My friend, Ciana, and I talk about this quite a bit.  I’ll echo some of what she tells me, too.  She and I are in different wards here in Stockton, but in the same stake.  Ciana’s husband is in the bishopric in her ward.  They hold Family Home Evenings every Monday for their ward members to come celebrate the work they did the previous week, and then to pump them up for the next week!  She feels that since her ward is struggling with numbers and with finances that this is the kind of support that is needed.  She knows members of the church who are even offended that the church is so involved with the effort.  Why, I want to know.  Is it just because it makes us more “peculiar” and some people are tired of that?  Would this just be a case of moral ineptness?  1. What do you think about this stand coming from a church member?

I also think, from my own experience as a LDS, that minorities feel defensive no matter what.  I went through somewhat of an identity crisis when we moved to Colorado from Utah.  Believe it or not, there is a big difference living away from Utah overseas, and living outside of Utah in the U.S. Until we get practice and experience defending our beliefs we are open to letting our emotions get the best of us.  2. So remember, we are not the minority in wanting to preserve marriage, so we can be confident.  What do we respond when others say we are imposing our views on the world?

3. What will really happen to church’s freedoms if the proposition fails? I can’t imagine it could get so bad as all that–since the majority of citizens in the U.S. oppose same-sex marriage–in the short term, but after the course of decades, just like when divorce was made much easier for women in the latter part of 1960s, the prevalence will rise.

In the book of Helaman the Nephites relied on their own strength, and so were “left to their own strength” by the Lord.  “They became weak, because of their transgression,” their lands were taken and owned by the Lamanites for quite awhile, and this all happened in the space of a few short years.  They lived in fear of the Lamanites, they were indecisive about their war strategy, and ended up having to put all their forces just to maintain what they had.  Their laws being corrupt is mentioned.  Nothing prospered.  Most of our laws are just, aren’t they?  4. What corrupt laws do we have?

These are some questions I have.

(This is Jenny)  Remember how we were talking about how we like to know if certain behavioirs/thoughts are normal?  Here’s one that I’ve been wondering about.  After a very full day  I climb in my bed and almost feel giddy.  I feel such joy to be done for the day and to have the night’s rest ahead of me.  I even often look forward to bedtime (both the kids’ and my own).  Do you have feelings like that?  Do I “love” sleep too much?  Maybe it’s because it’s a precious and scarce commodity that makes it more valuable.

Do you ever consider how much time we, as humans, spend sleeping?  It’s a whole lot of time.  Why do you think Heavenly Father would create us to need so much “down-time”?  Why couldn’t we do our rejenerating in 2-3 hours?  Can you imagine how much more we could get done in a day?  In the next life I suppose we won’t need sleep which means we will have plenty of time, actually… literally endless time.