Wednesday, July 21, 2010


What is MCO? Mazur Campout. And YES, we just came back from the 22nd annual campout, a tradition started in 1989! This year we occupied seven of the modern cabins at Keystone State Park which is located outside of Pittsburgh, PA. This annual outing is an opportunity to gather six siblings and our families. And since all six of us live in different states, this annual get-away is essential for us to keep close. So much happens during the course of a week but I will try to highlight some of the activities below.

Rule number one of MCO - DO NOT be the last to arrive! Although the campout actually began on Friday 7/9, I did not arrive until Saturday (we were home celebrating David's birthday on Friday). Upon arrival, many of my nieces and nephews were quite enthusiastic to greet me (yes, me singular. David & Madeline drove up separately and arrived an hour or so after I did....I'll explain why later) and watch me get settled into my cabin. Come to find out that my nieces and nephews had a blast boobie-trapping my cabin the night before I arrived. Aside from a HUGE plastic fly that was hung from the cabin's rafters and rigged to swing down at me when I opened the cabin door, there were also fake animal droppings (made from softened and molded Tootsie Rolls) in front on my fridge, inside a cupboard drawer and inside my microwave. When I turned on the ceiling fan in my bedroom, shredded tissue flew all over the room. When I turned on the ceiling fan in my living room, fake plastic worms flew all over the place. There was red Kool-Aid powder in my toilet tank so that the toilet water was red for the rest of the day. And finally, a kitchen cupboard was rigged so that when I opened it a champagne party popper "exploded" and popped confetti all over the place. If you are not from a big family, you must realize that this type of mischief is a way of life and comes from a good place. Yep, just another way to show love :-)

Secondly, I can't even begin to describe how hard Madeline was playing the entire week. Although the majority of her cousins are much older than Madeline they are so good with her. Madeline was pretty much on one speed - GO, the entire time! Between, swimming, swimming & more swimming, playing on the playground, sidewalk chalk drawing, running around between cabins, playing hide & seek, etc, etc, etc, I can safely say that Madeline had a blast!

Food is also a major component of any family gathering. For the most part each family fends for themselves for meals however there are 2 pig out fests that we have each year. The first is the Chili Night. I don't have pictures of this but it is an annual masterpiece cooked up by the men (with my brother Marty as head cook). Geez, what a male bonding ritual for the guys. The women steer clear of the cabin as the chili preparations are in process......too much testosterone! A newer food tradition that was started only in the past 5 (or so) years is "Appetizer Night". For dinner on appetizer night each family contributes munchies for a "cocktail party" of sorts. Despite trying to feed approximately 30 people a meal of appetizers, it is insane how much food there is in one cabin......and the picture doesn't even include all the sinful desserts!

My (paternal) Aunt Sue & Uncle Ron have recently joined our campouts. I am so happy that they have joined our gatherings as growing up we spent so much time at their house for holidays & other parties. Aunt Sue was always great at doing something special for us kids. This has not changed! Aunt Sue brought with her TONS of craft activities that the kids dug into. Madeline was most proud of a pair of "fancy flip flops" that she created.

Also, growing up, many family gatherings ended up to be a musical event. When we were young, we often rolled our eyes at the old folks singing along to Polish songs, the screeching of the violin of my (widowed) grandmother's gentleman friend, the playing of the trumpet (after a couple cocktails) by my Uncle Ron and if my Dad was in a particularly good mood (oh, and I am certain a cocktail was involved too) he would play harmonica. But, what a TREAT (and I am sincere when I say that!) that my Uncle brought along his trumpet. Sitting around the campfire my uncle played his trumpet and the brassy tunes warmed my heart with nostalgia. I wish I was able to enjoy more but Madeline was fighting bedtime despite the fact that she was "crashing" quite hard from a day filled with activity.

The timing of the annual campout generally coincides with my sister, Marysia's July 15th birthday. Each year, my brother-in-law, Mike, gets a cake large enough for the troops to celebrate Marysia's birthday. Of course, aside from a serious gift, my sister was re-gifted the items that we have been passing back and forth (click here for background). However, this year, because I love her so, I decided to add to that collection with a ceramic vase that my mom made many moons ago when Mom and I took ceramics together. Oh yeah....and the balloons that were in Maryland for my 40th birthday "mysteriously" showed up in my shower (by Marysia's children) when they were visiting us before the campout. Marysia got those back too! Before long, Marysia & I are going to have to rent a U-Haul to pass our junk back and forth!

When I was in Maryland at the end of June, Marysia and I found time to go shopping (go figure!) We decided to get a (8/23) birthday gift for our sister, Margaret. Okay, kind of cheesy but we got 4 things to represent the 4 seasons because we love her through all seasons. We presented Margaret with her gift at the campout. She got a raincoat (that folds into a little pouch that could be thrown in the car or even her purse) for Spring. For Summer, she got red, white & blue flip flops & a red, white & blue lawn ornament (Margaret loves her yard & garden). For Fall, she got rusty orange kitchen towels paired with black pot holders (Halloween colors). And for Winter she got slippers and tea. It was fun to shop with Marysia and just as fun to give the gift. I have included pictures of Margaret modeling her raincoat and the lawn ornament.

So why did I drive separately from David? Well, the most simple answer is because we COULD bring two cars since the campout was only about 3 1/2 hours away. Why would we choose to do that? Well, David has been eating up his time off at work. Between the week he took in February due to pneumonia and also multiple trips this year to Indiana (the most recent was a week long), David's vacation time reserved for other occasions is limited this year. We decided that we would take two cars to the campout. Madeline & David drove together on the way there. David left to go home on Wednesday (to reserve the time off he would have had to take if he were to stay Thur & Fri too) and Madeline & I stayed the remainder of the week with she & I driving home together on Friday. So why am I including the picture of the grill? Because I was sooooo proud of myself that I did this by myself AND cooked the hot dogs on the grill too! I might know my way around a kitchen but I leave all the grilling to David. This may be a "no big deal" accomplishment for some but for me, I made myself proud!

Other big news of the week?? My niece, Anna, lost one of her teeth while at the campout. Anna took great pleasure in showing everyone how loose her tooth was and watching us squirm. If it is possible for a tooth the be "hanging on by a string", hers was! She is no dummy! Anna made a killing from that loose tooth. Encouraging Anna to pull the tooth out she was told by her aunt (my sister, Margaret) that she would give Anna extra money (aside from what the tooth fairy gives) if she lost her tooth at the campout. In no time flat, that tooth was out. Not to be out done by Aunt Margaret, Mama-Dirtyfoot added to the tooth money as did Aunt Vicky (and I am not aware but possibly other aunts/uncles too) Anna was so proud and her pockets were so full......what a budding business woman! Good for her!

The last night of the campout, my brother Paul, his daughter Becky & Becky's boyfriend Zac disappeared into their cabin at dusk. When they returned they came launching water balloons at us! SNEAKY!!! They had returned with bags filled with water balloons! It took us by surprise! The nieces and nephews jumped right into the action. But as the older siblings started joining in it was (at least for me) like a time machine making me a kid again, enjoying that carefree play we used to in our youth. This mischievous play was a tiny vacation from the reality of grown-up responsibilities. What an adult may have looked at as an obnoxious annoyance, I enjoyed as a quick vacation to childhood. FUN! Although it took Paul & his family a good part of the day to fill the balloons, the water balloon war was over in about 10 minutes. But thanks for the effort! Once the balloon war was over, Paul, Becky & Zac went back to their cabin only to return with cans of silly string - ROUND TWO! All the "weapons" were now gone. Some of my nephews took it upon themselves to try to get Paul back. When Paul had gone back to his cabin, the nephews climbed on the roof of another one of our cabins (thank God a park ranger didn't come by) with a couple dishpans/pots full of water, awaiting Paul's return. Yes, they surprised him.....but they missed! HA!

I am sure I could go on and on and on....MCO is filled with fun, food, drink, mischief, storytelling, nostalgia, etc, etc, etc. After so much fun, it is a downer for the week to end. We try to stretch out the fun by gathering for breakfast at a local restaurant before we all head in different directions on our way home. Madeline LOVED sitting at the end of the table with her big cousins. After so much fun, activity and attention, Madeline is going through some serious cousin withdrawal! Yes, I had a 3 1/2 hour drive filled with Madeline half-whining, "I miss camping! I wanna go camping!" Sigh.....if only we could do this more than once a year! Until next year's MCO.......


Marty said...

Nice post, Sister. MCO gets better with all the new traditions we keep tacking on.

Ghost of Dad: What, you couldn't crop the picnic table edge out of the group shots?

Paul said...

Well written, sis.

Craig and Phyllis said...

Sounds like a blast! I wonder where the nieces and nephews learned how to rig your cabin?! Your family sure sounds like they have such a great time together.

Amy said...

Dear Ghost of should be glad that with a 4-yr old I (a)remembered to bring a camera, (b)thought to take a picture, (c) took time to blog and post pictures. And now you want me to crop to perfection???? NOT!

Marty said...

Ghost of Dad: Dave should have cropped the pictures.