Wife and I sat on either side of the pew; living bookends with our children between us. By natural necessity, the baby hungrily clung to Wife. #8, on the other hand, was more like a ping-pong ball. Bouncing between Wife and I until he became too energetic for Wife to handle him while #9 filled her arms. He was banished to my side. I attempted to keep a hold of #8, who wanted nothing more than to make his presence known to the entire church. Squirming, squiggling, and squawking, I tried to keep him still and quiet, which felt like balancing an egg on my head while I tried to catch the hen.
Ten sleeping bags, two tents, and one state park add up to camping (or more precisely the poor man’s vacation.) And that was where you could find me and mine, out in the cold of early October.
The children set to camping with a will. The older ones filled canteens and ran them back and forth from the camp site to the water spout. The younger ones followed and somehow got more wet. When their grandfather started the fire, they encircled him. The older ones offered advice and trash to start it. The younger ones took the trash as well as the firewood and attempted to run with both into the redwoods. #7 was so persistent in his endeavors to join the local wildlife that he found his liberties tethered.
The campfire meals were great entertainment for the little ones. They made it a contest between each other to see who could help the most. You might have heard #3 say to her sister, “I held a potato for Gwampa.” And #4 would reply, “Ya well, ya well, I hold the spoon.” And it would go on.
With that spirit, as I was cracking eggs for breakfast, I found eight little hands all offering an egg from the flat that was sitting in front of me. Considering that their hands were covered with dirt and ash, we had stunted their helpful efforts. But, as that would only dirty up the egg shell, I allowed the help. But after they dropped two eggs, I sent the whole bunch away and finished myself.
While the nights were cold, it was comfortable within a sleeping bag. However, I was denied the privilege of waiting out the night within mine. As we had outgrown a single tent, Wife, the youngest three, and I were in one tent, while the rest were in the other. The first couple of nights I went between the two tents tucking children back into sleeping bags that they had squirmed out of into the cold. Once they were all settled in and asleep again, we were then raided by raccoons.