The last part of our journey was in Portland, OR at the International Pinot Noir Celebration, to have some quality time with Leo and Soren (and, of course, Amy and Dave -- although, they are quite busy during the course of the weekend, which is why we are there!)
Getting to IPNC was no small feat. Wednesday, July 24th was our longest travel day. We woke up at 7:30 AM in San Juan, Puerto Rico and landed in Portland at 11 PM at night. And, then we had to get from the airport to Amy and Dave's house, where we were crashing for the evening and getting a car to take up to IPNC the next morning. I think we got to Amy and Dave's house at about 12:30. So, it was a 17 hour travel day.
Kai did great the whole time. The backpack o' fun that we bought her for the trip was really a stroke of genius on our part (if I do say so myself). She was so excited about the various art and craft projects, and she waited SOOO many months to get to play with the little stuffed mermaid we bought her that she had hundreds of stories ready to be acted out with the doll. Even during our 5 hour layover in Chicago, she just played games or watched shows on the iPad. Of course there were bits of whining interspersed throughout the day, but no meltdowns (or really anything approaching a meltdown). Maybe it's just a matter of being 5. Such a big girl!
She did give us quite a scare getting from the airport to Amy and Dave's house. We decided to save about $30 and ride the Max to downtown and then catch a cab downtown to their home. We boarded the train and got about 4 stops along when some guys got on the train that were pretty wasted (likely meth) and acting out. We had quite a bit of stuff with us, each of us loaded down with 2 backpacks and then an additional carryon. But, we decided we should probably move to the other end of the train just to get out of the way of what was likely to be trouble. So, we told Kai we were moving down. She misunderstood us and thought we said we were getting off. We were passing by the doors of the train when it stopped and Kai ran off. We were still on, since we weren't planning on exiting. I screamed Kai's name and she jumped back on, right as the doors closed behind her, nearly giving me a heart attack. All I could think about was Kai alone on some train platform in the middle of the night. It was terrifying.
We finally got to Amy and Dave's house and, of course, we were all jazzed up from the day of travel. We ended up hanging out for about an hour and finally crashing at about 2 AM (which was, remember, 5 AM where we had just come from ... Kai's first all-nighter!)
The next morning, we had nowhere to be so we were thinking that we could sleep in. When I say "we" were thinking that, I am referring to myself and Eric. Kai had other ideas. She was excited to be in Portland and couldn't want to see Leo and Soren. So, she got up at 5:30 AM. That's right. 5:30 AM. As in 3 1/2 hours after we went to bed. We tried to get her to go back to sleep but she kept saying, "WHEN are we going to IPNC?! Let's GOOO!" We got up and going by about 8 AM. I think we were on campus before 10 AM. Crazy kid.
But, it was great to get there. Soren and Leo ran up to us and gave us all huge hugs. We immediately started trying to figure out how to get into trouble (just kidding). We went straight to crew chow (IPNC is all about the food, after all).
The next few days were great -- everything that camp IPNC has to offer. This year, we brought a slack line and a slip n' slide... hours of fun! We spent many, many hours trying to get across that slack line. I think the boys were quite amazed at my balancing skills. Ultimately, it was Eric and Soren that made it all the way across. But, I think I had the most consistency at getting pretty far. It was fun, evidenced by the sore feet I had for the next several days. In addition to slack lining and slip n' sliding, we played in the fountains, did some wrestling, and just had fun hanging out.
We also had an actual IPNC-sanctioned task this year. Rather than handing out popsicles to the guests as they got off the buses from the winery tours, the kids were tasked with running Shrubs by Shrubs. A shrub is a colonial area drink that was made from fruits preserved from the summer with the use of flavored vinegars and herbs. Then, when you wanted a nice refreshing beverage in winter, you could pull out the syrupy vinegar and add some water and, presto, deliciousness in the dead of winter. And, of course, Leo, Kai and Soren were the shrubs handing out the shrubs.
They had a blast making the base syrup. They spent forever playing around with different fruit combinations (and making a disaster in the kitchen boiling the fruit in various pots). Then they would experiment with different vinegars and herbs until they found the perfect flavor combinations. I think they had a strawberry/blackberry concoction with lemon verbena and mint. And then other flavors, using peaches and other yummy combinations.
Then, each afternoon, we'd load up the wagon with the cups, ice, syrup base, sparkling water and scoops and head to the buses. The drinks were made as the buses pulled up, to prevent the ice from melting too much. Kai loved making the drinks. She got really into measuring out the syrup, adding some ice, and then topping it off with the sparkling water. A lot of folks tried to get pictures of her because she was so intense and serious about the entire operation. But, whenever she saw a camera, she'd dive under the table and hide. I did manage to get some pictures of her, but I don't think the other guests did!
She was less thrilled with handing out the drinks. She would grab a couple and march over to the folks exiting the bus. The guests, of course, were usually engrossed in conversations and not looking down. That is, until they felt an icy beverage being shoved into their more sensitive regions and then they'd jump back in surprise and notice Kai staring up at them, drink extended towards them. Many folks said "no, thank you", which made Kai hold up the cup more insistently. She never talked to anyone. That is, until someone handed her a dollar for the drink. After that, she started saying "MONEY" with an outstretched hand whenever someone took a drink. They made $50 on the drinks the second day. Best lemonade stand ever.
The rest of our time at IPNC was great. One of my dear friends had decided to come to the Salmon Bake many months ago, and it was nice to catch up with her (and eat the spectacular food of the Salmon Bake!) And, the brunch on the last day was divine. It was bittersweet to be winding down our vacation, but if it had to end, there was no better ending then crab, oysters, champagne and sabering.
It really was an epic journey. And now, Kai gets ready to head into her next epic adventure -- Kindergarten, here she comes!