Esmé’s First Camp Trip

I love camping. It is such a source of nostalgia for me. I have memories from when I was young, and we went camping with family at the Grand Canyon. We weren’t all that interested in the scenery around us, but I distinctly recall setting up the inside of our tent to look like the inside of Jeannie’s bottle from ‘I Dream Of Jeannie.’ It was such fun pretending to be magic genies with my cousins.

After my husband and I were married, we ended up camping a lot. It was how we did all of our exploring around here…at the Outerbanks, in the mountains, and even river rafting in West Virginia.

My favorite was when we decided to go up to the mountains near Mount Mitchell, and hadn’t made a reservation because we thought that there would be a site available for us. Lo and behold there was not. But they did tell us that if we drove up the road a little bit farther, there were some spots off the road you could pitch a tent. So that’s what we did. There were quite a few more bugs than usual because we were right next to a creek, but it was so much more peaceful and relaxing because there were no other campers around. I sat and read my books, while Emile did lots of fishing, but the best part was at night. It was the beginning of summer, so the fireflies were out. Because we had camped where there was no one else around, there were hundreds of them! The only way I can describe it is if you’ve ever seen the movie ‘Avatar.’ How the jungle lights up at night with all those magical lights? That’s what it looked like. It was incredible.

Needless to say, we have been wanting to take Esmé for some time now. Last weekend we finally got the chance to take her and she LOVED it.

The second we let her out of the car she was off and running. She immediately started picking up as many acorns as she could find, set them on the table and was off to find more.

She was more than happy to “help” set up the tent. Though I’m pretty sure my husband would have rather she not. She kept trying to go inside before it was all the way up, and laughed like crazy when it would float back down on her head.

I will say that we had quite the upgrade in our camping situation from when Emile and I used to go camping. We used to be in a very small tent, on very uncomfortable small camping pads. We knew that we needed a bigger tent since the monkey had to sleep with us, so we got a 6 person tent. We also brought along a nice air mattress for us, and Esmé’s travel mattress (which is basically like a kid-sized air mattress). Man oh man. Let me just say, that is the way to camp! We were so comfortable and cozy in our new camping arrangements.

We also did a fair amount of exploring with her. We were right next to this trail that was about a mile walk to a lake, and it was gorgeous.

The weather was perfect, and the water was so clear. The leaves were even starting to change color, which Esmé really enjoyed. She’s seen the leaves change color before, but I don’t think she remembers it. She just loved that there were trees dropping red leaves all over for her to collect.

We even got to see a waterfall while we were there. The water was super cold, but she did not care in the slightest. She probably would have stayed all day if we’d let her. She loves water, and she loves rocks, so this was a very happy marriage of both. There was lots of splashing. There was throwing of rocks to make even more splashes. Basically she was living her best life.

As much as she loved everything else, her absolute favorite was the hammock, (also new addition to our gear!). Probably because she thought it was a swing, thus tried swinging Emile and I (not at the same time) as fast and as high as it would go. Yes, we both got very nauseous/dizzy. Esmé did not. In fact, the higher/ faster you pushed her, the happier she was. She pulled up the sides over her face to cover her whole body in there, like a little bat, and there she’d rock. Back and forth. Back and forth. All the while with her thumb in her mouth.

Truth be told it wasn’t all perfect. Esmé fell six times at our campsite alone, and every single time it was a Broadway production. People two towns over could probably hear her wailing, and she had huge tears to go with. Her poor little knees, legs, and hands took quite the beating from that. We also forgot a couple of things like towels, and cooking tongs, but that was it. Everything else was a breeze.

I know that camping isn’t for everyone. There are bugs involved, and sometimes manual labor is required. You also have to be ok with being kind of dirty for a couple days. But for me, it’s like a reset button. There’s no phone service. It’s peaceful and quiet (Esmé’s meltdowns excluded). You have gorgeous scenery everywhere you look. You’re completely free to relax and enjoy your family.

I kicked back with a good book. I got lost daydreaming in the sites and sounds around me. I got to watch my girl’s face as she experienced the magic of it all on her own. It’s just the best.

In The Garden

One of things I was most excited about when we moved to North Carolina nearly 9 years ago, was having my own garden. When we were first married I grew as many pots of herbs and flowers (and trees) as I could fit, outside on our balcony. When we bought our house years ago, I was beside myself with excitement because I finally had the chance to grow my own veggie garden.

It is something I look forward to every year starting around February/March when we get a false Spring. I start seeing all these plants at the farmers market, and I get really tempted to buy them. We actually did do that one year because I got a little too eager, and we got a frost. It killed all the seedlings we planted and we had to go buy them again. Every year since then, my husband has to fight to contain my enthusiasm, so we don’t have a repeat, and have to buy them twice.

Since having Esmé my love of gardening has increased so much more. It was wondrous to watch something two inches tall grow into something that is almost as tall as myself, and bear countless tomatoes. But with her, it’s a whole new experience. She gets the biggest thrill watching all the plants grow, then flower, then start producing fruit.

Fun fact: Esmé didn’t like tomatoes until she tried them from our garden. We actually have to watch her now because she will sneak off from wherever we are outside to go pop a few in her mouth. Then she runs off laughing, while looking like a chipmunk because her cheeks are stuffed with tomatoes (see above). Last year Emile and I didn’t get to eat any for almost a month after they started ripening because she kept eating them!

This year was even better than the last because we had a surprise plant pop up. We composted our pumpkins into our veggie beds last fall, (and by composted I mean placed them in there and let them rot into the ground). One of our tomato plant seedlings died off, then something else sprouted up over top of it. Initially we thought it was a cucumber, because the leaves looked similar. However, as time passed, and it grew out of the first box, then into the second (again, see above), and the leaves grew bigger than my head, we thought ‘hmmmm. Perhaps this is something different.’

Sure enough it turned out we were growing a pumpkin! Now, I don’t think we had the best environment for it to grow in with all the other things crowding around it, so it turned out to be a rather small pumpkin. We harvested said pumpkin last month. I know, I know. Harvesting a pumpkin in July? But the vine was pretty much dead, and I wanted Esmé to get the chance to pick it before it was rotten. So yes. We have a pumpkin at our house and it’s only August. We are those people.

That’s the cool thing about living here in NC. You don’t have to have a green thumb to make things grow. Things just grow on their own! Our pumpkin grew from seeds that we didn’t plant. These mushrooms, (which are not edible, but still fun to explore), show up all by themselves every year. They pop up in our backyard a couple times in the summer, and then again in the fall.

Esmé likes to pretend that they’re homes for her “Troll” friends. She picks off tiny little pieces and then says “I opened the door for them, so now they can go in.”

I have loved gardens and plants for as long as I can remember. Something that was likely the result of having a grandmother who had the most amazing garden ever. She always had flowers. She had three enormous trees out front that were excellent for climbing, and she had fruit trees as well. The fact that she was able to get any of those to grow in the desert was impressive in and of itself, but she somehow made everything flourish.

Some of my favorite memories are from playing in her garden. Whether it was picking and eating apricots off of her tree, climbing the highest of all my siblings up the trees, or pretending we were explorers in a wild jungle. We always managed to have such grand adventures at her house.

Some sad day in the future, when my daughter is grown, I hope she remembers our time spent together in the garden. I hope she remembers it as magical an adventure as I had when I was little.