Believe it or not, this nomadic life with young children is not all rainbows and sunshine. Washington can get a little wet and gloomy (I know, I am full of shockers in this post). Margo hit this I-am-about-to-walk-but-first-I-need-to-make-your-life-a-living-hell stage, you know the one? She had a boogie faucet nose, a "don't you dare put me down" attitude , and an incessant whine all the live long day. I almost lost my mind, actually I might have, I am still trying to figure that one out. If she was not the cutest baby on the planet I would probably have locked her in the camper and gone for a long walk in the woods.
Thankfully a dab of luck and a large handful of kindness came our way. A fellow nurse at Alex's work frequents the slot machines on her days off and it just so happens that casinos give their loyal customers a few perks here and there, one of which being a free night stay at the local Great Wolf Lodge. His coworker graciously offered us the unused passes because all of her children had outgrown the glow-in-the-dark miniature golf course 30 years ago (give or take). Alex and I decided it would be a great surprise for Georgi so we sneakily told her that we needed to grab some gear before heading out to our next camping destination. Children are extremely easy to surprise, they rarely question why, when, or where and if they do there is really no need to give specifics, or even better you can insert a fantastical plan and they will full-heartily believe, at least that is the case with Georgi. We waltzed into the hotel and her eyes lit up as it dawned on her that this was no ordinary hotel, it was in fact a paradise. Great Wolf Lodge is a large indoor water park, a haven for energetic kids, and the ultimate parent-bankrupter. Her eyes wandered and then fixed on the water park behind the glass and I could see the internal longing to be immersed in the knee deep, overly chlorinated water. I have to hand it to her, she kept herself nicely composed in the face of such fun-filled excitement. She asked me oh-so pleasantly if we could maybe, possibly stay the night at the hotel and when I responded with a "no, we are going to another campground" she didn't raise a fuss and continued her silent longing stare at the kids blissfully splashing behind the glass. After what seemed like hours of perpetual lies (probably 10 minutes) Alex finished conspicuously checking in and we led her down the hall, opened the door to the room, pulled out the grey wolf headband ears and confessed that we had lied, no camping tonight, grab your bathing suit and lets go!
As Georgi girl was standing there looking up at the big water slide with fear in her eyes I had this lucid flashback of a time long ago in Universal Studios with my mom. I had been terrified of upside down rollercoasters and was vehemently refusing to go near them despite my mother's desperate persuasion. Somehow she was able to trick me into riding one and even though I absolutely loved it and went on every upside-down rollercoaster from that day on, I decided from that moment forth to hold a grudge against her for using her trickery on an innocent child and vowed never to trick my children into doing something that terrified them. Flash forward to the now where I am attempting to convince my daughter of how much fun she will have on the slide, telling her that we are not leaving the water park until she has at least tried it. In that moment I have never been more like my mother.
Needless to say, she reluctantly sunk her little five year old self into the float and let the water drift her down the steep, dark tube of unknown. She had entered the water slide with a few silent tears, a grim face, and a heart full of worry and exited with a forceful splash, a great big smile on her face, and excited squealing. She could not stop smiling and telling me how amazing it was, her eager speech and glowing face emanated self-pride and I nearly cried. I know, just a silly water slide right? I think it is more than that, I think it is a little girl's confidence taking shape. After the initial water slide escapade she preceded to do 10 more rounds and then take on the ropes course where she jumped off a three story platform attached to a wire... wait, whose daughter is this?!? That water slide taught her how to overcome her fears, that the unknown does not have to be scary, and most importantly that she is capable and courageous.
The following day, after a packed morning of even more Great Wolf, the nomads hopped in the car and drove down to the Oregon coast to stay at Cape Lookout in Tillamook Oregon. The last time we ventured in this direction was during the squall that nearly wiped our little teardrop into the Pacific Ocean, thankfully we decided to give it another go. It was much more pleasant this time around, with sunny skies and short sleeved weather. Tillamook is a small town but don't let that fool you, it is packed full of amazing cheese and gorgeous beaches.
We have been eating and drinking the Tillamook dairy products nonstop since living in Washington and I have been contemplating ways in which I could bring boxes of it home with us, any suggestions would be welcome.
After our return from the cheese factory, a fellow camper informed us of a whale sighting at the beach and you best believe we scurried as fast as we could to the sandy shore, sat our happy dairy filled behinds down, peered hopefully through our binoculars, and finally spotted whales! We watched as the Humpback whales spouted water from blowholes and waved fins in the air. Whales are magical creatures, my heart and soul are still glowing from this experience.
In the spirit of magical whales and Georgi's new found bravery it was decided that this sandy paradise was the perfect spot for her to ditch the trainers on her bike and launch into a two-wheel rider. We had lugged our bikes across country on a rickety, wobbly, good-for-nothing bike rack and I did not want all that effort to go to waste, but we had yet to find the place or the time to teach Georgi how to ride. So with the humpacks breeching and the sun descending in the background she coasted down the coast with an ear-to-ear-grin and two parents obnoxiously cheering like crazy.
I know what you are thinking, this trip couldn't get any better for the little nomads! Well, it did! We discovered these crazy cool, vibrant blue "sailors by the sea". They are distant relatives of the Portuguese man-o-war jellies but luckily did not inherit the stinging trait. Thousands of these squishy creatures washed up on the beaches and filled the waterways. They looked really awesome, but their rotting stench was not so awesome.
And Georgi made a few new friends...
A squirrel that she thoughtfully named Ginger. I think there were at least five Gingers in our campsite but this one in particular was fearless and let Georgi pet it, equally creepy and amazing at the same time.
And a slightly less furry friend, Roodie. Only a day after learning how to ride her bike she took off, riding around and roaming the campsite with a boy. She couldn't have found a better accomplice though, Roodie would stop when Georgi fell down and help her get started again by giving her a gentle push. Such a little gentleman!
Roodie also has a little sister about Margo's age. They held the babies up to kiss and hold hands, but that escalated to tossing them up in the air to make them giggle. Really cute, and really not safe, the adults had to intervene and break up the baby holding party.
We immediately hit it off with Roodie's parents. They were the type of people that you feel destined to cross paths with. Even though we had met ten minutes earlier it felt like we had known them for the past ten years. We spent Mother's Day together, eating and drinking at Pelican Brewery then caravaned to Portland where we continued the eating and drinking before hitting the hay at a Portland Hostel. Needless to say, the goodbye was tough the next day but we are certain of a future meet up, and until then will support each other's creative endeavors long distance.
The couple of days spent at Cape Lookout were a couple of the best days of or lives. Looking back at our stay at that same spot a few months back I can recall the fear and uncertainty in the midst of an unfamiliar place, cramped in a tiny camper, with the wind howling all around us. We were scared, and we were partially regretting our decision to uproot the family from the spacious, familiar lifestyle in Charleston. We entered the unknown with silent tears in our eyes, a grim face, and a heart full of worry but exited with a forceful spash, great big smiles on our faces, and squeals of delight. I no longer hold a grudge against my mom for forcing me through the roller coaster initiation. I understand now that taking risks is part of a fulfilling life and bravery is not always something you are born with, it can be a learned behavior. Even in adulthood, facing our fears and taking risks is still a constant battle, luckily we have two super courageous kids that show us the way each and every day.