Thursday, August 21, 2008

Sometimes You Shouldn't Listen To Me

It has been a very rainy summer here in little Vermont.

Rain + Dirt = Mud.

Everyone knows that. Mud we know. Mud we can handle. In fact, more than one native Vermonter has been known to quip that Vermont actually has four distinct seasons: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Mud.

Excessive summer rain also brings an excess of something considerably less pleasant than rain. Excessive summer rain brings mosquitoes. And the Northeast, for all its darling picket-fenced charm, is home to more than its fair share of mosquitoes and the ensuing red, itchy, keep-you-awake-at-night welts.

I hate mosquitoes. I'm a fairly health & Earth conscious person, but when it comes to mosquitoes, you hippies can keep your dryer sheets and rose geranium essential oils and celery extract. Give me a healthy dose of good old fashioned DEET. Preferably the kind that comes in an aerosol can so that I can get a continuous stream going for maximum insecticide coverage.

We took our motley Wonegan lot hiking on Snake Mountain in Bridport on Tuesday.

(Sophia has taken to calling us the "Wonegan Lot." It's befitting and makes me laugh.)

Climbing Snake Mountain entails making your way up the gentle incline of an old access road to the slightly more steep mountain trail that leads to the summit. On the summit rests the foundation of an old hotel that was in business for only a couple of years in the 19th century before its over-zealous owners discovered that you can't get a horse-drawn carriage filled with steamer trunks up a mountain in Mud Season.

Dan and I had been on vacation for almost a week before the rain stopped and it was cool enough outside to even consider climbing anything steeper than our driveway. The weather on Tuesday fit the bill perfectly. The day dawned clear and deliciously cool with a brisk, decidedly autumn-like wind prevailing.

Being the good parents we are, we told the grumbling children to put on their sunscreen "because," we knowingly opined, "you can get a blistering sunburn even when it's cool!" We packed a backpack with enough water for a stay in Death Valley, pounds and pounds of nuts, granola bars and fruit leathers, and sweatshirts to stave off the chilly wind that would inevitably be scouring the summit.

Right. Ready to go.

We packed everyone into the two cars (we're still looking for a car large enough to fit all 6 of us) and made our way down Route 7, through some infuriating construction delays, past our wedding-venue-to-be, through the town where Aunt Hannah and Uncle Mike live, and up a charming dirt road to the trail head.

We arrived at the "trail head" to find it looking suspiciously like a river.

Sophie and Adam got evil glimmers in their eyes at the sight of so much glorious, squishy mud, while Hallie glanced sadly at her brand-new white Converse sneakers and Eleanor scratched her Lilliputian head in wonder.

With the exception of Sophia, who plowed forward through the mud, not considering at all that her sneakers would be beyond repair by the end of the day, we started picking our way up the soggy, muddy trail.

Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.......... SLAP!

I turned around to see Dan flailing wildly at a mosquito that had discovered a tasty snack on his freshly showered neck.

He looked at me with desperation in his eyes and said, "Do you think we should go back to the car and put on some bug spray?"

And Mrs. Wonegan, in all of her vast wisdom of mosquito habitat and breeding biology, said authoritatively, "No, the mosquitoes are only down here were it's warm and muddy. Once we get up higher, the trail will dry out and the breeze will pick up and the mosquitoes won't be a problem. We don't have to worry."

Sometimes You Shouldn't Listen To Me.

Not only did the trail NEVER dry out - we essentially hiked up the middle of a muddy river - but the mosquitoes actually got thicker and more blood-thirsty the higher up the mountain we climbed. There was no stopping. Our only hope was to get to the summit as quickly as possible, daring to dream that it would be so windy up there that the mosquitoes would be blown away.

Our dream came true and the summit was cool, windy, blue and beautiful.

We pulled on our sweatshirts, ate our granola bars, scratched our mosquito bites, gushed over the view of Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks, and discussed how very dead we would be if we fell off the mountain.

Everyone was in high spirits as we headed back down the river to our cars. We looked at colorful fungus, caught a couple of frogs and a little orange newt, and enjoyed one another's company.

Despite the mosquitoes, it was a lovely, lovely day and reminded me of how much I love being in the woods.

Only next time, I'll remember the DEET.

PS. Once we got home, Dan managed to salvage Hallie's new sneakers with the garden hose and some careful scrubbing.

Sophie's sneakers, on the other hand, went directly into the garbage.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Where's the Whipped Cream?

We always have at least two cans of Cabot Whipped Cream here in the refrigerator at Camp Wonegan.

There is no sound more disheartening than the sad, sputtering "pppffffttttttt " of a whipped cream can running out of gas. And never is this more true than when you've just spent 15 sticky minutes getting each of the four kid's ice-cream orders just perfect and finally - happily - fixing your own bowl of ice cream only to have the farting can remind you of all the vast sacrifices you make for your family.

Hence, the two cans. We never run out.

I know what you're thinking:

"But Sarah, you've already got a bowl of ice-cream! So you ran out of Whipped Cream, so what?"

"Yes Dear Reader, ice cream is pretty good, but Whipped Cream makes ice cream GREAT."

All four of our children were with their other parents this weekend. The exodus began on Friday afternoon when our prodigious babysitter, Laura, brought Hallie and Adam to their mom's house. A couple of hours later, Sophia and Eleanor's dad arrived to pick them up and all of a sudden the house was so quiet.

My first thought - as always - was:

"This is pretty good."

Our plan for the child-free weekend was simple and appealing. We would sit in the clean, quiet living room and read our books. We would cook and consume a few non-child-friendly meals. We would probably drink too much wine. We would sleep in on Saturday morning without the nagging feeling that perhaps we're pushing our luck by expecting everyone to get along without parental supervision until 11 am. If the weather was nice, we would go cruising on our boat, "Cate," and if it wasn't, we would go to the movies and see "The Dark Knight."

And you know what? We did all those things. And it was pretty good.

But you know what else we did? We talked about the kids incessantly. We shared stories about funny things the kids had done or said. I changed the kids' bed sheets and lingered for a few extra moments in each room, smelling their smells, noticing how they each decorated their own spaces, and missing them. We folded their laundry, scratching our heads over how fast they're growing while at the same time marvelling at the tiny-ness of little girl tee-shirts. We brainstormed family vacation ideas.

What am I trying to say?

We're the ice cream and they're the Whipped Cream.

Hallie, Sophia, Adam and Eleanor make Dan and me GREAT.

It's just not the same without them.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Introducing the Wonegans

I’m Sarah.

This is me swimming across Lake Champlain back when my cardiovascular health didn’t embarrass me.

It was 2 minutes after I raised a huge ruckus, thrashing and splashing and almost capsizing my kayak escort as I tried to get the bloodsucking lamprey off my leg. The “lamprey” turned out to be a cramp. Oopsie.

That was 2 months before I met this guy.

This is Dan.

Isn't he cute as a button?

Dan is a self-described eternal optimist. His glass is always half-full. It's infuriating.

Actually, it's endearing.

He also endears himself to me by smelling good, grilling one bad-ass steak and putting my toothpaste on my toothbrush at bedtime.

This is Hallie. She's 11.

She's clearly gorgeous. She's also freakin' hilarious. There's a lot of laughing in our house, and it's largely due to Hallie's advanced sense of humor.

She eats too much candy.

This is Sophia. She's 9.

She's spunky. You've never met a girl with more energy. If you could harness this kid's energy, you could run all the appliances in your home. Infinitely.

Sophia knows too many big words and gets too much food on herself when she eats.

This is Adam. He's 9.

He has lovely red locks which you can't see here because we took this picture right after he'd been out playing in the stream during a rain storm. Adam always has really good ideas.

He likes fire. A lot.

This is Eleanor. She's 7.

She is a mad cribbage shark and gives the best hugs in the entire world. Sometimes Eleanor says things that make me wonder how old a soul she really is.

She needs to grow some teeth.