How did my college roommate convince me to hop on an airplane alone with Iris just five days after I hung up the phone with her? an enticing opportunity to take Iris camping –risk-free with the experts. Yes, Jill’s family has camping down to a science, and they seem to have endless supplies of tents, sleeping bags, and especially food.
Would this trip be like the adventures Jill led us on in college? Let’s see… warm and tranquil like their annual hike in beautiful Henry Coe State Park, neat trails lined with indian paintbrush wildflowers and peeling madrone trees? Or remote with an aura of danger like the backpacking trip in the Yosemite hills, where the bears ate our food out of the tree at night and we marched out singing and banging pots past the bears cavorting in the river?
Hmm… why not entrust Iris’ first camping experience to the wild and adventurous family of Jill’s?
So off we went. The plane trip was a breeze – Iris got giddy with joy just watching the airplanes, trucks and luggage through the airport window (new playdate location?). Then she slept half the flight and between looking out the window, reading books and chomping snacks, we landed before I knew it.
Jill picked us up at Oakland airport in her massive van, and we stopped to pick up her son Leo at preschool before driving to the campsite. Here’s a glimpse of the ride:
(Leo talking and singing very loudly)
Cherise: “Iris may need to nap in the car on the way there. Can you sing her a bedtime song?”
Leo: “yes.” (he pauses, hands poised like the Thinker) “I can think of two.”
(Leo begins singing Japanese Twinkle Twinkle Little Star as loud as he can)
Iris, emphatically: “no sleeping! Nooo sleeping! Iris wake!”
Jill, Cherise, Leo and Iris (loudly, with hand motions): “Row, row, row your boat gently down the stream…”
After the long, raucous drive, we found the campsite and put up the tents – quite a feat with Iris and Leo running around. They “helped” by dragging around the poles, stepping on the tent as we laid it out, and discovering the dropoff to the river. What can I say… Jill and I are superwomen. Mission accomplished!
We celebrated by lighting a campfire and slowly cooking a scrumptious meal complete with smores. (No way! Goodbye previous life of camping without kids) We celebrated by driving into town and eating at a homey little restaurant.
Iris fell asleep easily in our little shared tent, though she didn’t understand how sleeping bags work and preferred to sprawl out on top. And, she woke and wanted to join in the fun at the next campsite over when we heard whooping and hollering at 1am. But, thanks to nursing we still had a good sleep.
The next day was a whirlwind of family arrivals. Each time we came back to the campsite, new people were there. There were 5 little blond boys for Iris to play with! She’s never seen so much excitement. And she didn’t quite know how to hold her own with them yet, like when she was playing in the blow-up boat and all of a sudden all 5 jumped in with her and began to row. Yipes! Good thing there was a cute little “reading tent” that she could retreat to every once in awhile.
She LOVED being outdoors all day long, and especially the times with no clothes on. (Even back in Seattle on cold days now, she will proclaim “NO Clothes! Iris neknekd!”) She hardly napped the whole day, and by nighttime both she and I were quite exhausted. I decided we’d better take the offer from George and Mary Lou (Jill’s inlaws) to retreat to a real house for the night. Iris ran around the campsite in her ducky pajamas and croc sandals before crashing asleep in the car. Ahh… we both slept well and had a nice bath in luxury. Iris even slept on the way back to the campground the next morning.
Fully refreshed, I took off with the group going kayaking and left Iris to wake up to play with BenBen, Zain-o, and her other newfound friends. When I paddled back to shore, Iris was happily cuddled on Jill’s husband Jon’s lap. Iris was happy to see me, but the rest of the afternoon she would randomly blurt out “beach time!” trying to get me to recreate the fun she’d had digging in the sand while I was gone.
Jill, true to form, had not only organized a camping trip, but also a jaunt to visit a local goat creamery and farm. After drying off from kayaking and eating a big picnic lunch, we hopped into the cars and headed off. Turns out it the creamery was closed, so we did the next best thing – went wine tasting! Ah… was this a rough trip or what? Iris buzzed from flower to flower while we stood looking out over Napa Valley from the gorgeous Iron Horse vineyard where Jill’s father-in-law used to work. Jill’s dad took the kids on a tour of the machinery, and then Iris fell asleep on the drive back.
We had our last romp around the campsite and a final yummy dinner before hopping into Jill’s aunt’s car for the drive to my parents’ house in Lincoln. Iris snored through our lively political discussions during most of the drive. I thought I’d move Iris from the car straight to the crib, but she knew where we were and awoke immediately to greet Aita (grandma) and Tampa (Iris’ new word for grandpa).
So, thanks to Jill for creating the perfect camping getaway. Iris is hooked! We’ll have to do it again someday soon, and maybe we’ll bring Sandy along next time too.