Thursday, August 26, 2010

Things I have learned at the Laundromat

While washing clothes at the campground laundry, these are the things I have learned:

If I have a can of pop and a package of cookies, near me, the kids will find me.

My kids, come to find out, are NOT the dirtiest ones in the campground.

Everyone has a story to tell. Like the lady who's husband is dying of liver cancer and how she's learned to value life and appreciate it so much more day to day. I wish I had gotten her name. But I will never forget our conversation.

Or the lady who is camping with her 6 grandkids, and complaining about how much laundry she has to do....that one cracked me up, since I was doing laundry for twelve of us!! And, having my grandkids so far away, I don't think I would ever complain about doing their laundry. I would love to have them close enough to me so that I COULD do their laundry!

Another random thought while I am watching the dryer spin, is, for every quarter I am sticking into this dryer or washer, I am depriving one of my kids the opportunity to shower in the campground shower room. Yes, they charge a quarter for a shower. At first it ticked me off, I mean, we are paying plenty in the two week jaunt to cover a shower. And Nicole was terrified it would shut off in the middle of her sauna and she always took two coins just in case. I always shower in the camper, but the big kids, especially, go to the shower room. But then I mellowed out and realized, for just a quarter, I lose 3 teen or near-teen children for up to 1/2 hour. That is actually a bargain for a quarter. With the benefit, I do not have to listen to their teenage conversations, that usually makes my skin crawl after the 22 hour car ride to Jersey.

When I am on laundry duty, it never ceases to amaze me how quickly the kids find me. I mean, usually at a campground, I am looking for where they got off to on their bikes, but when they know I have a bag of laundry money, they come running to me like long lost cousins. They are the sweetest, most loving children I have ever seen when they have their grubby little hands out, asking for a couple of quarters for the game room. And, ask their dad? He's had his hands full with them the whole time I did laundry...what??? They were bothering me, not him!!

At home, we both dread laundry duty, and are very grateful for a friend that helps us keep our heads above the suds. But when camping, we fight over who GETS to do the laundry, because that usually means a bit of time with a magazine, our laptops, or a short nap between machines having to be switched. However, since the kids are now masterminds at the whole quarter thing, we get less time alone, and more time fighting off their requests. I may quit lobbying for laundry duty from now on.

Another thing I have learned is that people will knock you down to get their laundry into a washer before you. I typically go early, and figure for 6-8 loads it will be a 2 1/2 hour job. That's if Atilla the Hun is not trying to do her laundry. I fill the washers as full as they can go and still get the clothes fairly clean, but Atilla likes to put 5 pieces of her delicates in one washer, a hand towel and a few washrags in another, while she takes yet another washer for her tennis shoes that she, most likely, would never wash at home. So out of 9 washers, she has just taken up 3, and stands guard over a fouth one, just in case a member of her family may need to put garment in it before she is finished. I think the rules should say, "No saving washers," because laundromat people do not understand the phrase "first come, first served." With Atilla at the helm, I have 5 washers available to do 6-8 loads of laundry, and I am only washing what I have to have to get by. Our camping clothes traditionally get pretty ruined every year, so it's just a matter of necessity that I wash while we are camping. The clothes don't usually look much better when I am done. They do smell better tho. One lady actually accused me of not saving a washer for her. What?? Like I can think about what she needs when I am fighting off grubby hands begging for quarters, Atilla's dark stare as I slink past her to double load the last washer in the place, and she thinks I can save a washer for her? Oh my. It's a world I am not that comfortable with.

Plus, alot of campers have an attitude. I mean, the ones who pay to leave their campers there all summer act like they own the place. In reality, we pay MORE than they do, so shouldn't we be entitled to a little bit better treatment - or at least some kindness!!

I was glad when I met friends of Scott and Britt's to know that there truly are some people in South Jersey who are kind, compassionate, nice people. Otherwise, my dealings with most of them would leave me with a much different impression.

So, that's what I think about when I am doing laundry at a campground. I suppose in some way it will grow me or I will gain compassion, or something like that. Mostly, I get the job done, and when I get home, I appreciate my friend who helps me with my laundry even more. Plus, my friend never holds out a grubby hands and asks for a quarter. Now that's a definate win!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

We took an impromptu trip yesterday with all 13 kids and the 4 of us adults. We headed to Philly from Ocean City, NJ. The heat got the better of us so we went with PLAN B.

The Aquarium, Camden, NJ. What an awesome decision! The kids ran from exibit to exibit, excited at every turn. There were some favorites for each of them. The Hippos were fun to watch as they wrestled, with their huge teeth and wide mouths. They were so playful that they drew alot of attention, but they also moved so effortlessly in the tank that it was unbelievable to imagine their massive size.

We saw Penguins that seemed zapped by the heat. They looked like statues, barely moving. The seals glided in their pool, belly up, effortlessly, without a care in the world.

The most intimidating to me was the huge crabs, their pinchers looking like they could kill a human with very little effort. I think sea life is awesome, but scarey too!!

We saw Sea Horses floating, and were able to pet several Stingrays!! That was a highlight for all the kids. Little Keegy was laughing so much everytime they floated past and he could touch their backs. The kids also spent alot of time touching SHARKS!! Some of the sharks were so curious they stuck their noses above water like a dolphin would! Macy, my 3 year old great niece, was intimidated by the moving creatures, so was shy at that point. My 3 year old grandson, Keegan, however, actually picked up a star fish! I think that frightened the worker there, and he had to put it down right away. For the grandsons, they are used to finding things on the beach, so this must have looked like an easy catch to Keegan, with the critters floating in a clear glass tank and someone telling them to touch the creatures!!

Of course, the final room lead us directly to the gift shop, so everyone had to pick out a treasure to remember the day. I tried to steer them away from candy and knickknacks, preferring them to get a stuffed toy or shirt. We were mostly successful, although no one choose the lavendar hippo. I guess I should have gotten one for me. It seems I was the only one who really loved that one!

We stopped at Subway for a fast dinner on the way home. 9 kids meals, 5 adult meals and one adult sustaining from fast food for the night. We ate on the way back to Scott's house, and were back at the campground by 9. It took about 45 minutes to get everyone slowed down and asleep, but eventually, everyone drifted into dreamland, most likely viewing all sorts of sea life in their minds.

I know I did. That's what memories are made of.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Adventures in Jersey

Being on the Ocean shoreline has definitely given us alot of adventure so far this week.

The waves were perfect the first day out, and the kids were jumping in them as soon as their feet hit the water. Since we brought my 2 great nieces, and great nephew with us, I am trying to watch 10 kids in the water, plus my 3 precious grandsons.

Grandson #1 is hitting the waves on a long board!! Amazing. He's not even 5 yet!! He impressed me immediately with his agility and drive to catch the perfect wave. Gnarly, dude!

Grandson #2 played for hours in the sand, found shells and special rocks for me to take home, and chased the sea gulls. He is the shy type, but can melt my heart with one dimpled grin. I love watching his almost 3 year old creative mind while he played on the beach.

Grandson #3, at 10 months old, has eaten his weight in sand. For sure. He is the blondest, blue eyed beach bum, and loved stomping in the water while holding onto his momma's fingers. Between he and his older brother, they had PaPa on his back in the sand, showing us exactly what this beach life is like! Adorable!

I was a bit worried when my 10 month old great nephew was shoving his mouth full of the wet sand, but my grandsons have all done it too, and they are healthy, happy guys. And, like the old saying goes, "It all comes out in the end."

My great nieces had totally different reactions the first time at the Ocean. Nila, the oldest at almost 5, ran to the water and couldn't get enough of the waves. Macy, almost 3, was much more timid, but once Britt took her into the water, she loved it and couldn't stop running in for more. I was able to take several photos of them all, 13 kids, 13 years and under, enjoying God's beautiful creation.

The beach and Ocean are always changing. On Sunday, the beach was literally covered in washed-up jelly fish. I had never seen anything like it. Mere, Tom and Kaiden ran up and down the shore collecting them, and by days end, they had amassed at least 100! They collected them on a boogie board and in sand buckets, hoping to take them home to show our oldest daughter, Ashleigh. It looked like tons of slimy, clear pancakes had been strewn along the beach, almost sticking to the wet sand in hopes that some curious child would come along to collect them. So they did! Of course, they had to be put back in the ocean!! But we were able to get pictures and they are worth a thousand words.

The next day they ran to the beach hoping to collect more, and there were none!! However, this time they had big brother Scotty with us, and the surf boards!! We found out Tara is actually very good and was able to get up on the board several times and ride a few waves in. With her blond hair and deep tan this summer, she looks like she fits in very well with the surfers around town! Tyler took his turn on the board, enjoying the deep water with his big brother. It sure wears them out and helps them sleep good at night.

After being on the beach for about an hour, I was snapping pictures for our memory books, and trying to get shots of all the kids in their worlds of play, when I saw Britt come limping out of the Ocean. As she got closer, I realized her knee was bleeding, and within a few minutes, my EMT son had determined it would need stitches. Three hours later, as the kids were melting down from exhaustion, we returned to the camper, three stitches and a bruised knee later, to a crockpot dinner that we had started much earlier, and an early bedtime. I won't go into details about the neighbors we have to one side of us, but let's just say, East Coast folks are pretty brisk and that's only the nicer way of saying R.U.D.E.
Momma's, don't let your children grow up to be like them! I am sure there are nice folks here, but we haven't met any yet.

Today we spent the afternoon at Britt and Scott's house. They have moved into a large home with alot of yard, so there is plenty of room to run and play. The kids played in Kaid and Keegy's pool, and even baby Keane was having a ball sliding over the edge and into the water! Baby Liam was less impressed with the water, but sure enjoyed sitting next to Keane later and eating tomatoes!! The boys are cute together and it's interesting to hear peoples comments about them being twins. We just say, "Nope, cousins." It's fun to see them together.

We went to Sunset Beach for dinner on the deck, and was able to take part in the Ceremony at dusk of the lowering of the American Flag that had been donated by a Veteran's family. Tonight the man we honored, along with all Vets, was named Larry. He passed away two years ago, and was 91 years old. It's hard to explain to the kids just how important this ceremony is. It means so much to honor those who have served our country. As the music to the National Anthem played, Nila turns to me and says, "Why are we singing so many songs?" I hope one day they will have a small memory of the time we stood on the beach with our hands over our hearts, and remember just how special it was to be a part of a nation that honors those who give us the freedoms we enjoy today. The ceremony always brings up questions from the kids, and is a highlight to our trip.

At one point tonight, Kaiden looks up at me and says, "Grandma, I am glad you are here." Oh Kaiden, I could never explain how much I miss these days when we are apart. I am so glad to be here too. My favorite days are the ones with Kaiden, Keegan and Keane.

On a lighter note, as the ceremony began tonight, I was watching the sun disappear into the Ocean when the announcers voice came across the public address system. Mere looks up at Britt, standing just to my left, and says, "Where is that voice coming from? Is it Santa?" She seemed to be a bit confused about the whole ceremony, but it gave us a chuckle as we packed the van to head home.

We have been able to visit the firehouse where Scott works, get ice cream and smoothies, do 6 loads of laundry at the camp laundromat,surf, eat and play, so tomorrow, when it rains the men will stay with the kids at Scott's house while Britt and I go do some serious shopping. Not bad for our first few days in Jersey...

And, just maybe, we will get to see Keane start to walk. He's so close, and tries harder every day. It is just one of those things that makes the long ride sooooo worth it!! The rest of it is just icing on the cake.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Getting Ready for Jersey!

This is the week we wait for all year long. On Friday afternoon, we leave for New Jersey!

I have never been impressed with NJ as a state, or even as a vacation spot. Until my grandsons moved there.

To me, Jersey was just a place - but an important place, now, since it holds a large part of my heart.

Kaiden was six months old when he left Michigan. After his dad, Scott, got through his Boot Camp days in the Coast Guard, they packed up their belongings and we waved goodbye, through our tears, to the most precious little life and his parents.

Over the years we have managed at least one trip a year, as a family, to where Kaiden lives. It's always an added blessing to have time with Britt and Scott too, but the main draw is Kaiden.

In the fall of 2007, Keegan joined the ranks. His cries were louder when he was born than I remembered Kaid's, but just like his big brother, Keegy's little fingers wrapped themselves around our hearts and now we had two very special reasons to travel the globe and back.

I have been fortunate enough to fly out in between our yearly visits, especially during the times that Britt was due to deliver these blessings. I have even managed an extra trip "just because" I really needed a hefty dose of grandkids to get me through my days.

The last trip out was in March for Scott and Britt's birthdays, and also to get in on a little extra loving from the baby of the family, Keane, whom we had only seen at his birth last October 10th. They all came for a short visit in June, but since they were needing to spend time with Britt's brother before he went into the service himself, that time was exceptionally short for us. (Of course, it usually is, regardless of how many days we get to be together!!)

The main thing is, we are getting ready to head out to see those beautiful boys and by saturday, Lord willing, we will be watching our road weary kids splashing in the kiddie pool with their young nephews, and I will be snapping pictures right and left of the bobbing blonde heads of my favorite grandsons!!

It is a moment or two when time stands still and we can enjoy the bond that glues us together as a family.

Kaid will start preschool next month. He's turning 5 on October 3, and I wonder where that time has gone? It seems impossible to fathom that he will now have a great amount of influence from others around him. He will make choices and decisions on his own now, perfect at his age. He will meet new people, and broaden his mind and horizons. His parents have chosen a good school, and he is so smart and ready for it. I am proud of the little man he is already, and look forward to hearing all of his plans in the days ahead. I asked Britt if I could go back pack shopping with Kaid when we are there, and he sounded excited about it!! I wish I could be there for his first day of school, but I know his mommy will let him call me to tell me all about it.

Keegy wants to go to school too, but he is just turning 3 on Sept. 23. He is such a little man. His hair gets blonder every time I see him, with all that Ocean sunshine and fresh air! He loves the beach, and animals, especially cats and horses. He has his own way of talking that sometimes mystifies this gramma, but his dimpled grin gets me even when his words don't make sense. He's a spitfire, since day one, when we could hear his loud cries in the halls of the OB unit!! He was the first "real" Jersey kid, but I hear traces of an accent in both boys voices now when we talk on the phone. Keegy is a bit shy at first, but warms up and skips and laughs right along with all the others. I am taking a bag of preschool goodies for him to stay busy when big brother goes to school.

Hard to believe that Kaid and Keeg are out of the toddler stage now, and on to more important big boy things. Like bikes, skateboards and surfing. They jump the ocean waves with such confidence, telling us about the shells on the beaches and the wonders of their world. I can't wait.

Keane is on the move since the last time I saw him, and it sounds like if he's not walking this week, he will be before we leave Jersey. He's built alot like Kaiden was at that age, thick and soft, a sturdy little man. He's got the bluest eyes I have ever seen on a baby, and he looks so different than the others with brown eyes. But he's definately "one of us" and makes me remember the stages the other boys went through at his very age. It's all happening so fast - he's learned to say "Ball" and "Dada" and "Momma" and before you know it, he will be another little voice on the phone saying "Narly, Gramma!" That's my grandsons!! I know Keegy and Keane may be too little to spend the night in "Papa's" camper, but we will soon be there, around the campfire, or playing in their back yard, making memories to last us through the long winter months while we are apart.

I don't know where their next stop in life will be. I know Scott and Britt are beginning their international adoption process right now, and their next child will be just as loved and wanted as the first three. We will watch and wait with anticipation to see which child we will welcome into our family next, and continue to pray as that child waits for our love bonds to bring us together. I am not sure where God will be leading them over the next year or so, and where their life work will lead them. My heart would love for them to be right in my back yard! But God has a greater plan for their family.

Until then, we pack the trailer, plan meals and get things ready to leave here.
Boys, Papa and Gramma are coming - get those surfboards ready!! See you Saturday!!
Hugs and kisses, until we see you again!