Thursday, September 26, 2013

"Surely the apple is the noblest of fruits."

One fun fact about the school up here is that they have the an apple orchard up here that is one of the most diverse in the US, with varieties as old as the 1600s, from all over the world. We take a trip (or two or three) every year to enjoy the crop.

I love the way the kids whoop and holler about the apples they find, the vinegar smell that permeates the air later in the season, the mystery waiting in every tree when so many varieties are waiting to be tasted.

Enjoy a few photos from our recent excursion!


{Ladybugs taking cover at the stem.}

{Little Bird says, "This is my little friend!}

{Unfortunately, the pears were off limits for data collection.}

{Brother and sister, so excited!} 

 {Enjoying the spoils.}

 {Daddy does the climbing and the hard work!} 

{But big sis does the lifting!} 

 {Sharing together!}

 {What?!? No more eating apples!}

 {Oh! Just kidding? Phew!} 


{Too much fun and delicious apples...}


Saturday, June 8, 2013

A Letter to My Daughter, on her Sixth Birthday

Dear Sweet Squirrely Girl,

Happy Birthday, my darling! This year, you are six. SIX! This year has been like a whole new world, and I think it's because you have really entered the WORLD. No longer does everything in your life revolve around home and the little existence we carve out together; you go to school,  you make friends, you experience things I will never witness or be a part of. Thankfully, our little family is still the center of your world and everything else you experience is still in the peripherals, but this is the year that I have begun to see this delicate world of ours is already beginning to tilt.

Your father and I have spent the few weeks before your birthday teasing you, telling you that you mustn't, no CANNOT, grow up. We informed you and your brother that no more birthdays are allowed, and you would therefore be five forever. This, of course, led to a great deal of despair, and wailing over the complete unfairness of the parental unit you were dealt, until we finally relented and explained that, regardless of our wishes, time marches on. And how it does, my sweet.

This has been a banner year for you. Perhaps, the biggest event of the year is that you started Kindergarten. This was both terribly exciting and a bit heart-wrenching for me. I love the excitement you had, the way you were so brave, with just a touch of nerves showing through. I love watching you learn. I've been amazed at how much you have come to know this year. You went off to school knowing your letters and most of their sounds, and you have ended Kindergarten as a reader. I feel so much joy and pride when we sit and YOU read ME a book. This change from non-reader to reader is as mysterious and miraculous to me as the metamorphosis of a butterfly. You do math too. And draw so beautifully now--your people have arms, legs, smiles, hair; your flowers have petals and your houses have windows. You LOVE your teacher. I have to admit, there have been times when I've been a bit jealous of the amazing Mrs. D--her ability to coax that learning from you and your trust in her teaching. But because of all she's done for you, I love her too. And in spite of my constant reassurances to you that you will love first grade and your new teacher just as much, I feel a little bit of that anxiety you feel as well, wondering if another teacher could possibly ignite that fire and show such care for you as well.

You have a best friend. A "best best best best best friend." And it's not me or one of the dorm girls, but another little girl, like you, who loves the land of make-believe and dress-up and princesses and dragons and rock stars as much as you do. You play inexhaustibly. I love that you are learning the ropes of friendship and the discussions it brings up, the additional layer of preparation for the real world it gives you. I'm not crazy about the sassy way you have learned to speak back, or the concepts you pick up which I wish we could keep away a bit longer.  I feel dread too, in this transitional stage of our lives, knowing you will lose her at some point and knowing that the first heartbreak so many little girls experience is the loss of a best friend to distance.

You are growing in the Gospel in a sweet, and beautiful way. Your prayers have become more thoughtful and sincere. You ask deeper questions. You encourage your brother towards reverence and have started teaching family home evening on occasion. You have a sweet little testimony and enjoy the lessons you learn at home and in church.

You are in many ways much the same as you have always been, and with the way time continues on relentlessly, I am so grateful for the consistency of your personality:
You are charming. Your big blue eyes and dimples and sweet thoughtfulness catch the affection of everyone you meet.

You are contemplative--you ask big questions and listen to the answers.
You are sensitive--you are still so scared of so many movies and shows, and you are affected deeply by bad news you might hear about. (For instance, our pug Titan died this year, and though he hadn't lived with us for 3 years, you wept as though you had known the daily comfort of his presence.)
You are thoughtful--you like to do things for others that know will make them happy: draw pictures, sing songs, make presents.

You are flighty--you travel from activity to activity, never caring to put too much effort into any one thing. We bought you a ukulele for your birthday, and though I think you'd have a great deal of joy from learning to play, I won't hang my hopes on you applying enough dedication to be a maestro.
You lose things--I don't know if this is a "you" thing or a six-year old thing, but you cannot keep track of your shoes, your backpack, your "favorite" toy of the moment.
You are silly--you love getting people to laugh, and lately this silliness takes form of making funny voices and funny faces, or trying out hysterically terrible impersonations of songs or movie scenes you know are funny (though you may not always know why).

You are a performer--I love watching you dance because there is such a transformation that comes over you when you know you have an audience, but you also love to sing and run and leap when no one is watching.

You are sassy--you've always had a sassy, defiant streak since the day you were born, and it certainly remains. It's turning into a pre-teen sort of sassiness, something I'm not sure if you've come about naturally or if it is something you've learned from your peers. Thankfully, your finer graces usually win out, even though we do have to endure your defiant shouts of "no!" and crossed arms.

You are a great sister--you love your brothers and you mother them. At times, this causes problems, like when you boss your brother to the point of arousing his anger (in fairness, his anger is often easy to kindle), or when your baby brother lets out banshee screams because he doesn't like someone interfering with his plans for mischief. But for the most part, you are amazingly helpful and loving with them.

Some things you love this year:

Music: Adele--anything, Mumford and Sons' "The Cave" (you and your brother will play this on repeat FOR-EVER); Ellie Goulding's "Lights;" Five for Fighting's "100 Years;" Bob Marley's "Three Little Birds;""Somewhere Over The Rainbow" (we read The Wizard of Oz this year) and "The Rainbow Connection," and from primary, "I'm Trying to Be Like Jesus" and "I Love to See The Temple."

To Eat: Candy. Always you have loved candy. You also have a thing for cauliflower and sweet peppers this year.

Your baby brother: Oh, how you have delighted to have a baby brother! You have been such a proud sister from the beginning. You love coaching him, teaching him how to crawl, walk, laugh, clap. You read to him and sing to him. In the days I have been writing this letter, he has started to call your name, always after you walk away from playing with him, he'll call to you up the stairs or through the door. He adores you and his favorite part of the day is when you come into my room where he sleeps, talk to him in sweet tones and carry him off to play with you. I love the love between you.

Your bigger little brother: While this relationship is somewhat more volatile, there is still such a great love between the two of you. The gap between you two is widening as you shift this year from family-centric to peer-centric, but there is still much fun to be had. Unfortunately, not a day goes by where the two of you don't have some sort of explosive disagreement (which almost always goes something like this: he does something he shouldn't or that you don't want him to; you put on your bossiest voice and attempt to correct his behavior; he resists; you insist; he either screams at you or hits you; you erupt into emotional tears). Thankfully, not a day goes by that you two don't roll in hysterical laughter together as well. You two are into body humor these days, jinx, and elaborate pretend games like superheroes, animal rescuers, princesses and knights, and detective. I know the impending years and gender difference will continue to spread wider over the next few years, but I hope that these years of friendship and joy will lay a strong foundation for the other side of that valley when the gap narrows again.

To work: Emptying the dishwasher, sweeping, and cooking dinner. You always want to be helping in the kitchen, and admittedly, this is the place I LEAST like getting help. I'm working on that. You've also learned how to do your laundry and are getting better at this. You have the same problem as me though--you'll wash it and sort it, but folding and putting away are never any fun.

To watch: He-Man and She-Ra--Your father introduced you and your brother to the hero of his youth, and you both became instantly enthralled.

To play: Barbies, dress-up, princesses, and make-believe. Happily, you also enjoy a game of cars or superheroes, but your world is first and foremost, a "pink" one.

To read: Amelia Bedelia--you think her antics are hilarious, and I love watching you deduce the misunderstandings that she is known for. Elephant and Piggie--these Mo Willems books leave you in stitches. I am absolutely gaga for the hysterical laughter that these books bring out in you.

Things you definitely do not love this year:

Bedtime, but this has always been the case. You are somewhat better now, if I will indulge you in a story and any number of lullabies.

Cleaning up your messes--oh, how you weep and wail at the mention of cleaning your room or the piles of toys you have a tendency to leave out. I try to make this a more enjoyable experience, but it's hard when you collapse to the floor at the suggestion that you need to pick up.

The bus ride home from school: In theory you like the idea, but you are the last off the bus and it makes for one tired kid by the time the long ride is over. But I sure do love meeting you at the stop after school and enjoying those few minutes the two of us have to talk and enjoy one another.

As always, the simple descriptions and generalizations of the past year hardly do you any justice at all. And as always, it comes down to the simple fact that every single day, I am more in love with you than the last. Even though it is hard to see you grow up, to feel the long expanse of your body that once fit into my palms, it is also a delight. Every day I put the "old you" to bed and know that I will never have that same little girl in my arms again. But every day when you rise up and come to me, I get the "new you," and no matter how relentlessly time marches on, the loss is worth getting to know the person you are becoming. You are truly a glorious being. You are so vibrant that you reflect around on others. I am full of so many shortcomings and misgivings and so blessed to be your mother. Somehow, you are quick to forgive me of those shortcomings and make me feel better than I could ever hope to be. I'm so grateful every day for the blessing of being your mother and the deep spring of joy that comes from such a title. I love you my darling, darling love, from the depths of my soul. Thank you for being you, and for sharing another year with me!

All my love,


Thursday, May 30, 2013

To My Son, On His First Birthday

Dear Sweet Baby Grasshopper,

You are ONE! You are amazing! You are suddenly so BIG and it breaks my heart and is simultaneously so. much. FUN!

Where do I start? You have been a whirlwind and trouble since you were still in my belly. The events of my pregnancy with you turned me from someone who suffers from a slightly elevated level of neurosis on a daily basis to a woman in constant risk of totally losing it. And to be honest, there are still days where things are like that between us. For me, that pregnancy journey was about really learning to trust God, and not just to fix a trial, but to trust that He would carry me through one that couldn't be fixed. I had a lot of fear in the weeks leading up to your birth, but I learned that the ONLY thing that conquers fear is faith, and that sometimes faith is hard work. But always, it is worth it. Your father of course, was a perfect example of exercising faith. He always has been, and was my steady rock (along with the healthy sounds of your NSTs and the oft-counted kicks) through the uncertainty.

When you were born, oh, how I rejoiced at your safe arrival. You were strong and feisty and sheer perfection. You were my easiest recovery from a birth, but also my neediest baby. We had a tough go of it at times in this first year, as you rarely slept. Ever. You've never taken a pacifier and are attached to no lovey. Instead, your comfort items are me--nursing at the breast, pulling on my skin, chewing on my hair. At times it seemed that you were never satisfied with the level of closeness between you and me, but that you would literally chew my hair to get closer to me. And I admit, as a mom, there are times where I would hand you off to Dad and run to the store just to get at little distance.

You are my "Koala Baby" or "Velcro Baby"--the vast majority of your life has been spent in my arms. While I am exhausted by the busyness that your recent ability to walk has brought on, I am also glad for the respite it brings at times--for the personal space I regain while you destroy something besides me. You are now a year old and you still wake every 2-3 hours in the night, and a 45 minute nap in the day is practically a miracle. There were probably too many lazy days, too many dishes left undone, and too few sweet moments captured in all my sleep deprivation, but what I do know is that I wouldn't trade you for anything, even if it meant a year of uninterrupted nights! First of all, you are the only of my three babies who will actually snuggle me. Your brother and sister never had much interest in snuggling, and I am so grateful for the way you will sit quietly in my lap sometimes or fall asleep on my chest.

And, even though it is at times hard, I love that I am your favorite. By about six months old for both your brother and sister, Daddy was the favorite. They knew when he was coming home, and they looked forward to it. They were always happy to play with Daddy and sometimes fussed about being handed back to Mom. There is no doubt that I am your favorite. In fact, I can be sitting in my office working and hear you happily playing with Dad or the babysitters, and if I sneak in to use the restroom or get a drink, and you spy me, it's all over--you'll weep and wail and cry "muhMAH" until I come over and sooth your pitiful abandoned self. And yes, that's sometimes exhausting, like when the house is a wreck (always, since you came along, sweet thing) or dinner needs making. But it's also kind of sweet to know that no matter what everyone else in the world may think of me, I am your favorite person on the planet.

What you lack in sleep skills, you make up for in personality. You are at times the most pensive child I have ever seen. I love watching you watch things. You have this funny way of pulling in your bottom lip and gently furrowing your brow as you observe the world around you in a most meditative way. When strangers talk to you, you use this wistful expression on them until you decide whether they are friend or foe. Generally, you decide they are friend, and how you light up! I get so many questions from perfect strangers about whether you are always this happy, or what I do to have such a happy child. (The answers are: no, you are not always that happy because sometimes I try to make you sleep; and apparently if you want a happy baby, all you need do is never let it sleep, but take it out in public to perform for strangers!) You have one of those smiles that just makes people laugh out loud at you, and not in a "oh, what a sweet baby" kind of way, but a deep, surprising sort of way. Perhaps it comes from the contrast in your expressions, but I think it really is just that kind of smile that tells people that we're all children of God and He's closer than we think.

You don't dance. I think this is funny because your brother and sister both danced as soon as (or before) they were walking. You do not ever dance. Instead, you come over and sit in my lap or sit on the floor when your brother and sister are dancing about and give them that thoughtful look as though your are attempting to figure out just what this silly ritual is that they are performing. You clap for them now when they are done, and you'll laugh and giggle if I spin you around, but dancing is not yet your thing.

You spend a long time studying the pictures in books. When we read a book, you are very intent on a page, and if I turn it before you have fully completed your perusal of it, you will inform me with your angry squawks of your displeasure. You aren't big on TV (which to be honest, I have at times just wished you would sit and watch a Baby Einstein or something to get five minutes to myself!), but you do get very enthralled momentarily when the big kids want to watch Kipper. Something about that opening theme song just pulls you in.

You are so funny! And I really do think you know it. You have this funny little "Huh-huh" laugh that you use when you've done something that you know if funny. I love the little glint in your eye when you catch my attention--that infectious smile and one little raised eyebrow get me laughing every time. That same pensive quality you have lets you know when people will be surprised by your actions, I think, and you anticipate that you'll get a reaction. Sometimes, you like to poke me or stick a finger in my nose or smack me while you nurse, and you get a mischievous little smile, and laugh your little giggle. You'll peek around the corner at someone and giggle, you'll throw away a piece of food to get your brother and sister to laugh at you. I'm so amazed that such a little guy already has his timing down so well!

In just the last few weeks, your growth in every area has simply exploded. In the last month to six weeks, you have started to fully walk on your own, to reliably say a few words, to clap, to eat a variety of solid foods of all textures, to color, and to point. You got your first two teeth around six months, but haven't had any more come in for a while. Now, in just the last few weeks, your teething has been nuts--right now you are working on six teeth. At least three of them have finally broken through, and I think the next few will be just days behind. You'll have a mouth full of teeth in no time.

You say "mama" and "dad-dad" with knowledge of what they mean. My favorite expression you say right now is "HUMM" which roughly translates to "That looks yummy! Can I have some?" Any time someone is about to eat something, you will wander over and expectantly repeat "HUMM! HUMM!" until we share (or in the case of your brother, until he says, "No! No HUMM!").

In the last couple months, you have also become a much bigger fan of your Daddy. Where before, there may have been times when you didn't even want to let him hold you, you have now learned the great secret about Daddies: they are super FUN! You've learned to wrestle and roll about, to be tickled, to giggle and laugh with Dad and that it is a blast. I love this special relationship that your dad gets to have with you.

You absolutely adore your siblings. Squirrel comes in to the bedroom where you sleep with me most mornings, and you are always so happy to see her! I think your favorite part of the day is when she comes in and talks baby-ease to you and then drags you off to play with her. She's always my first up and always happy to rise, and so she's always good to carry you away for play time in the mornings. And you laugh and giggle as she carries you happily into the hallway or her bedroom.

When it comes to Little Bird, his feelings are not always as warm--I don't think he quite understands that you're just a baby, and so now that you're busy enough to do things like climb on him and pull hair, he'll push or yell at you, and we're working on that. But he does love you so! In fact, his love for you and his desire to help with you has been an unexpected, but delightful, surprise. He loves to wrestle with you, to play with you and your toys, even to help me out by taking out diapers or attempting to make you bottles. He's always looking out for you! He will be an awesome big brother, and I can picture the two of you on many adventures as you grow!

You are becoming more independent--with your recent mobility, you seem to experience less frustration and boredom than in the previous months. There is more trouble for you to get into and that really delights you. Even with your new independence, I am still home-base, and I love the way you'll wander off to check something out, and then return to sit in my lap and observe from afar. I love this relationship we have, this push and pull. I can see it being the type of mother-son relationship that helps you explore your world safely and learn new things in a deeper way because I hope you'll always bring back what you've learned and allow me to help you process it. I know that the bigger you get, the less time you'll spend with me as your "base," but I hope there will always be time spent there, no matter how little. To me, it will always be meaningful. And as difficult as it sometimes has been to give up so much of myself to being your mom, I wouldn't change it for the world. Because in the end, I'm getting all those pieces back, and they are so much richer and better than I could have hoped.

I love you, my sweet little Grasshopper. Thank you for coming to me and for being you. I'm so grateful to have you (constantly!) by my side and a part of our family.


Wednesday, May 29, 2013


Since our little picnic adventure, I've been telling Rob that we need to get out of town and go camping. It's a cheap and fun escape, and with a long weekend coming up, I keps saying that I wanted to go camping as a family for the Memorial Day weekend. The kids just don't get to see enough of him all buried away in organic chemistry and physics and kinesiology and whatever else he's always neck deep in, and since he didn't have a test that weekend, I told him we were going, darn it!

I think, at first, he just "yes, dear"ed me because he didn't think I would actually follow through--I'm not exactly an "outdoorsy" person. I aspire to be...I admire that quality in others...but frankly, I really am more of a spa-getaway in a cushy resort type of person. Last time I told him we were going camping, we went, pitched the tent, started a fire, and came home because it was DARN COLD! However, I was determined that would not be the case this time.

He started selling burgers at the farmer's market this year, so our Fridays are kind of eaten up by that, which is why we really needed a long weekend for a camping trip. So Saturday morning, I got everyone packed up, made Rob dig out the camping equipment, and we headed to West Yellowstone, MT. Now, let me say this. I attempted to find a campsite in Yellowstone Nat'l Park, but being that I made reservations the day before the long weekend started, that just wasn't happening. And so West Yellowstone it was. But let me also say I AM SO GLAD! We stayed in a KOA. Which has toilets that flush and showers. After this experience, I am happy to camp as often as my family wants, but I know enough about myself to know that really, I'm a girl who needs the comfort of a flushing toilet. (Side note: I have this weird, grotesque fear that one of my children will FALL IN to a vault toilet or a port-a-john. Worst case scenario--child drowns in pit of filth. HORROR. Best case scenario? Child is retrieved. I spend the rest of my life thinking about that instance every time I have to kiss them for the rest of my life. HORROR. So anyway, flush toilets=GOOD.)

It was a great little campground and we had a lot of fun. I had the foresight to plan our meals before we went and to get everything prepared. Unfortunately, I forgot to have Rob collect the meat for our first night's dinner (foil dinners). Lucky for us, we were only a few minutes out of town and ground beef is only about four times the regular cost when you are in a tourist town on Memorial Day weekend.

At any rate, we managed to make our foil dinners--they need some time to cook and we were already running WAY late on dinner since we had to go to town to buy meat, but luckily the KOA also had a pool which is THE MOST EXCITING THING EVER if you are 4 or 5, and so the kids happily swam for an hour while Dad manned their very late dinners. (And I planned this recipe for the next night, which is a PERFECT camping recipe because it is SO easy to chop and mince before you go, and then just throw in a pan and cook and dinner is ready faster than you can roast a hot dog.)

And this guy was in absolute heaven, making muddy boogers and eating rocks and using his newfound walking skills to meander all over the campsite. Seriously, the little Grasshopper was SO HAPPY to throw rocks and eat grass and dirt and generally be left mostly to his own devices outside, which never happens when you are a baby. 

Little Bird was, as usual, oscillating between pure joy and misery. I can't really blame it all on personality this time. He caught a TERRIBLE cough at preschool that week, and by the end of the weekend, we all had it. So whenever his meds wore off (am I a bad mom for still dragging us out when I knew he wasn't 100%...?), things went south. But for the most part, he was sweet and helpful and only occasionally telling me to take him home or that I RUINED HIS LIFE by bringing him into nature. 

Squirrel, too, was mostly delightful. I think her favorite part of the whole thing was getting to help make dinners and breakfasts. And s'mores. Good heavens. It is entirely possible that if we had waited four more seconds before we busted out the s'mores, she may have actually died. But she was a great help, especially with her baby brother, who she kept coralled in our site and mostly out of danger. 

She was also the one who was up at 5:30 in the morning after our first night there. A night in which I received zero sleep....and yet had to get up with her at FIVE THIRTY. I shouldn't be surprised. That's pretty much been her MO--up with the sun like a spring--since birth. And it IS pretty exciting to be on a camping trip when you are almost six.

The first night was mostly awful. Somehow, I got dealt the child-sized sleeping bag for the Grasshopper and I to share, and it comes up to about mid-torso. And temps were below freezing that night. So I spent the entire night curled in a ball with my tushie in the freezing air, worrying only about the Grasshopper staying warm and dealing with him wanting to nurse about every 16 seconds. The nursing part wasn't unusual. But the numb butt part was. And then there was the part where Squirrel woke up at O'Dark Thirty. 

The next night, in an adult bag, was MUCH better, even with the sporadic rain.

Except that we need some kind of padding. Sleeping on ground=no good.

How could I do that as a kid? No idea.

After our first night, we spent our full day in Yellowstone.
Unfortunately, we spent the first three hours of our day attempting to get IN to Yellowstone, as there was apparently a "Bear Jam" somewhere along the road that leads to the lower loop. 
If you don't know what a bear jam is, it basically consists of all vehicles, in both directions of traffic, slamming to complete stops in the middle of the road without looking around them, and jumping out of their cars into oncoming traffic, leaving doors open and running around like lunatics because: 
A) They have seen a bear, 
B) The see a bunch of people doing the same thing and think there must be a bear to see. 

So after driving 15 miles in two and half HOURS, we finally made it to the loop, and started our day. 

The bright side of this was that even though we saw no bears (or other animals) in this time, we did pass some trees where some bison had shed some of their winter coat. I hopped out and pulled some off for the kids to hold. Squirrel declared that it would be perfect for her collection of animal furs, of which I am assuming this is her first piece, but man she carried that dirty hunk of fur everywhere all day. She even asked me if I could crochet a hat for her out of it. If only I had collected more...

First stop: Old Faithful! It was a pretty overcast day, so the sky was the same color as the geyser, but  I swear, this is the big kids in front of the geyser shooting into the sky. 

And some nice park ranger let Squirrel wear her hat as we were waiting. This was a benefit because when she wanted me to make her a buffalo fur hat, I could remind her that she had already worn one that day. 

As we drove through the park, we did see a good amount of wildlife. 
Some mule deer: 

Some Bison eating grass.

Baby Bison and Mommy Bison:

Baby Bison frolicking in the grass:

Some up close Bison crossing the road: 

And some REALLY up-close Bison (insert Little Bird screaming hysterically and telling Rob to 

We also saw a baby moose, a grizzly, lots of geese, and plenty of various birds. 
(That black shape in the middle, WAAAAY off in the distance is actually a grizzly bear. I need a better zoom lens, I guess!) 

We stopped at the Mud Volcano area and saw the "Dragon's Cave" which we will henceforth use to terrorize our children if they don't go to bed at night:

Stopped in at the interpretive center at Canyon Village, which EVERYONE thoroughly enjoyed. 
(No really, he actually loved it, but this is what Little Bird does any time he has to do something which his loving mother asks him kindly to do.)

And here are some trees that were made into benches, which Squirrel was really excited about, because, well, because that's just how she is. :)

All in all, we had a great time! We were truly pooped by the time we got back to camp that night, and we all crashed early. We packed up camp the next day, and spent the remainder in the town of West Yellowstone. We visited the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center there and I have to say, I was really impressed. It's a great little facility for bears and wolves who can no longer live in the wild and does a nice job working to educate the public and provide a good "retirement" for the bears that would otherwise have to be put down. If you're in the area, it's worth an afternoon. (Plus, they have a couple of Alaskan grizzlies there and HOLY CRAP those things are ENORMOUS. I had no idea that Alaskan grizzlies are 2-3 TIMES the size of Montana grizzlies. Those salmon must be good eatin'.)

 In the end, the preparation and cold nights and hard ground were worth it because it was just us together as a family, leaving everything else behind, and we really needed time all together. And there were flush toilets. I don't really need any time with my family without flush toilets.