Category Archives: summer camp

My One Day. 

I was supposed to have one full day this summer – one full day with no children. Four finally shipped off to camp yesterday and the baby (ok, she’s six) and I are headed out of town tomorrow afternoon. She was supposed to do her last full day of camp while I basked in the rare solitude of summer. One day. 

It’s been a pretty hands on summer so far. I’ve spent hours at the pool. Took an eleven year old to see Miss Saigon for her birthday (I may have forgotten that 2/3 of the play is set in a strip club brimming with hookers) and packed and unpacked the beach bag more times than I can remember. I have supervised the making of slime (what’s up with that shit anyway?) and made vats of pasta. As I may have mentioned, I’ve spent a lot of time gardening, but not much of it has been alone. In short, I’m a little on the tired side.  

I had plans for today, big plans. Plans that involved hours alone, including a long run and time at the keyboard. (I admit, we may not all celebrate in quite the same way.)

But the baby woke up in the middle of the night with a fever. She woke up in the middle of the night in my bed because that is where she went to sleep. She figured if it’s just the two of us, she may as well skip the middle man and jump into bed with me. Before she woke up, I slept alongside her, her toes wedged in between my ribs. 

So, my One Day has turned into this:

That long run never quite materialized (and frankly, I’m a little too tired to make the most of it) and while I’m getting time at the computer, I’m doing my fair share of mothering, which includes watching Barbie movies on an endless loop and making cups of tea. Say what you want about Barbie, but that girl can seriously do anything. In just one morning she has piloted a space ship, designed an entire fashion line with the help of some fairies, and turned into a mermaid while winning a surfing competition. I, on the other hand, have yet to get dressed.  

There’s always next year. 

Right? 

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Filed under Summer, summer camp, television, Uncategorized

The many stages of packing. 

For my people, summer travel generally means car travel.  I like the Northeast in the summer. I love the beaches, and I particularly dislike summer air travel. Once in a while we get on a plane, but more often than not, come summer, you can find us in the minivan. Ah, the minivan. I have detailed fantasies about an asteroid taking it out, but last time I checked it’s still here, and 101,000 miles later, we are still tooling around in it. 

With any trip, after the planning (I am bad at that), comes the packing (I am even worse). Everyone knows, that if I am left to pack for all of us, at least ONE person will travel without underwear. Thankfully, on these trips, I can count on the kids to pack themselves. Hell, if they want to travel with underwear, they have no choice; even the little ones have a list. God knows what’s in their bag, but at least I don’t have to pack it. 

Packing is bad, so bad that it comes in stages, like grief. Here are the ones I can think of, so far: 

1. The denial phase: This generally involves me sitting on the floor in my bedroom overwhelmed. Many things in my life have me sitting on the floor of my bedroom overwhelmed, but none more than packing. In this phase, I tell myself that this time will be different. This time I won’t pack 14,000 little bags for myself (M hates this, he especially hates that of the 14,000 little bags I pack for myself, NOT ONE of them zips shut). But I like to put things in little bags because I believe it is easier to find things if they are in little bags. (I also love collecting little bags, and summer travel lets me use them.) I have a shoe bag, a toiletry bag, a book bag. You get the picture. In this phase though, I am completely convinced that this time I will remember my underwear and this time I’ll be more streamlined, because when you travel with 14,000 little bags, you are likely to lose one on the trip. 

2. The kitchen sink phase: This follows pretty quickly, and we are all guilty. I get asked questions like: I just made slime, can I bring it with me? (NO), and When you said three outfits, did you mean six? (NO), and IS THREE FOOTBALLS TOO MANY? (YES). In this phase, the kitchen floor looks something like this:  

 
I don’t even know that the hell is in those bags, but I’m pretty sure we need none of it. This phase also has me emptying out the Stone Age contents of the freezer into a bag to bring with us because if we have yet to eat it at home we are definitely going to eat it on the road.

3. The I hate my children phase: I know they have packed their own bags, but that’s pretty much it. I asked one of them to empty the dishwasher and was turned down, so I had to move down the line. I asked them to empty the garbage. Three times. The garbage, which is bursting forth with crap, has still not been touched. Every so often, I pass by and shove all the crap down so it looks a little less awful, but then someone washes his hands and used 200 paper towels and leaves them all on top… 

 

4. The I really fucking hate my children phase: This phase has me outside, drinking. Ok, it’s usually iced coffee or kombucha (DON’T), but I’m still sitting on the back step, shaking with anger and chugging a cold beverage. Inside, 5 children are all in front of a screen. One is crying because her iPod keeps shutting down and she isn’t sure how she’s going to make the trip. Another is playing some princess shit on MY ipad, which makes me crazy, because there is literally nothing in this house that they don’t touch. One of them asks me why we have to take car trips when other people get to go to Hawaii in the summer. Yeah, says another, how come we’re not going to Hawaii? I just spent 20 minutes wondering from room to room trying to remember what it was I came into the room for, and I am strung out. I try to explain that not only is Hawaii on the other side of the world, but that seven tickets to Hawaii… oh, whatever, they don’t even care. 

5. M’s intervention: At this point in our marriage, he knows better than to tell me I’m wrong or to calm down, so he just reminds me that this trip was my idea. Of course, that never makes things worse. He then tells me to channel friends of ours who never seem to lose their shit. He says, correctly, that these friends of ours would ditch the kids and go for coffee. We look at each other and we both know that if he and I leave the kids and go for coffee, we may never come back. We may even go to Hawaii. 

6. Retreat: At some point, I come back inside the house, and finish up the packing. At some point, the TV is turned off. At some point, our stuff gets in the car, and we follow suit. The children are even moderately helpful – at least some of them are. And at some point, we get on the road and the packing phase ends and the puking phase begins (another story, entirely). 

But nobody ever emptied that trash. 

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Filed under Minivans, Road trip, summer camp, travel, Uncategorized

How I Made It Through a Summer Without Diet Coke.

This time last summer we had moved cross country. At some point I realized that the entire move was fueled by a combination of a potent desire for change and copious amounts of Diet Coke.

Copious.

At the high (or low) point of the move, I was mainlining about four liters a day. It got so bad that more than one person said to me: “For someone who is so careful about what she puts in her body, you sure do drink a lot of poison.”

And there it was. During the year I get by on coffee and tea, and neither in ridiculous amounts. Come summer, however, I rely on buckets of fizzy poison to make it through the day.

I was determined that this year was going to be different. Sure we were moving again. Sure the kids were underfoot for weeks on end (camp was here and there, and much appreciated, but it seemed to be the exception to the rule), but I was going to KICK the Diet Coke habit.

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The first order of business was to come up with a substitute. Every night I made a batch of iced tea, stuck it in the fridge, and prayed for rain.

For the most part I was just fine. There were certainly moments where I could smell and taste the goodness that is a cold Diet Coke, where the very thought of the bubbles up my nose and the aspartame in my bloodstream sent me into shivers. But I pushed on and even though iced mint/green tea tastes nothing like Diet Coke, nor does it deliver the same electric thrill, I made it to Labor Day.

This week is a little tricky. New York City was the last corner of earth to start school. I watched all of you send your kids back to school while mine stayed neatly underfoot in full end-of-summer meltdown. To make matters worse, my kids go to schools that are under the impression that small children need to be EASED INTO a full day of school. (Never mind that some of them did a full day of camp with nary a transition or that the little ones are the ones you are most ready to outsource come September.)

My little ones go for fifteen minutes a day for about a week. (Hence, the only easing happening seems to be on my end as I currently feel as though I’m being slowly dipped in a large bucket of full mental collapse.)

By next week, when school actually starts, I may be a complete fucking mess, but I will also be a complete fucking aspartame-free mess.

Victory is mine.

Sort of.

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Filed under New York City, parenting, Summer, summer camp

The Return

The boys returned from camp today. It’s wonderful to have them back even if one of them made it through his seven hour bus ride home only to throw up all over the backseat of my already pungent minivan, and even though some bugs crawled out of their laundry bag and under the washing machine. (Please, NY in August is buggy enough.)

It’s not easy coming back from camp to find your family has moved into a new house, especially when your room isn’t quite done yet. They keep walking into the wrong rooms and are forever looking for the toilet.

The one that didn’t throw up told me he learned how to cut hair at camp. (Wait, what?) He also intentionally gave himself a bald spot:

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I told him that would come soon enough. But, really?

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Filed under children, New York City, Summer, summer camp

Up in Yonkers.

This week I went to apply for my NY driver’s license. I don’t remember much about getting my license in Seattle but I appear to be smiling in the photograph and my hair was having a good moment. I do recall cheating off M for the written component of the California exam. Sadly, I was halfway through when I realized we had different tests.

Summer is exhausting. I got up early to run, jumped into the shower, and threw my hair into a bun atop my head, promising myself I’d think about it later. I got everyone to camp, blah, blah, and Frances and I made our way to the DMV.

In Yonkers.

(If any of you happen to find yourselves in downtown Yonkers, check out the Civil War memorial. My kids think I’ve never met a war memorial I didn’t like, especially a Great War memorial. But the Civil War is a crowd pleaser (In the crowd: Me), because there’s generally a canon around:

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I filled out the paperwork and readied myself for my photo. I looked at the kind woman behind the desk.

“Up?” I asked, pointed at the hairy donut atop my head.

“Or down?” I said, pulling out the elastic and letting the mass of hair fall around me.

“Uh,” she said. “I think you might want to put it up.” And she quickly looked away. I honestly think she was concerned there would not be enough room in the photo frame for me and my hair. Or maybe she was afraid that if she looked at me for too long she’d turn to stone.

Up, it was. Up in Yonkers.

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Filed under children, New York City, summer camp

Make up.

There are some children who could spend every waking hour on a play date, or who look to birthday parties with eager anticipation. There are some children for whom summer camp is a treat, an adventure, a giant exclamation mark at the end of a year of school.

Not all children.

My seven year old likes to leave the house as little as possible.

In her mind, if she can get it together and make it to school five days a week, and to do so successfully, she should not be expected to do much else.

“Much else” includes after school activities, playdates (with friends she really, really likes), birthday parties (same), and most certainly summer camp.

This summer she told me that the only summer camp she’d agree to is “poetry camp.” This is not a pathetic attempt at humble bragging. I suspect she came up with this because she well knows that finding (and then coordinating) POETRY camp for an eight year old will be nigh impossible. (What DOES one do all day at poetry camp anyway?)

This same child recently came into possession of a rather large and imposing makeup kit. Not only did it make her the subject of ridiculous amounts of envy from her sisters AND brothers (who can resist sparkle eyeshadow, really?)… it has also resulted in me having to lay down one simple rule: While you may tart yourself up in the comfort of your own room, YOU MAY NOT LEAVE THE HOUSE IN ANY MAKEUP.

A few days ago, she woke up and dolled up herself and her sisters. Wearing what amounted to fifteen pounds of eyeshadow and blush, they looked like French ladies of the night… extras from the Les Mis “Lovely Ladies” scene. After a late breakfast I told her that she had to come with me on some errand or other, and then possibly to the park where we’d spend another failed hour trying to get her off those effing training wheels… to which she replied: No can do, Mother dear. No makeup outside of the house. Remember?

Game, set, match.

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Filed under children, parenting, summer camp, Uncategorized

Listless

With about two weeks to go until we leave this house, there are many, many things I ought to be doing. I am neither a lover nor a maker of lists. They bore me. They almost bore as much as the people who love to make them. My usual tactic of organization resembles synapses firing off in a toddler brain — a rapid spurt of activity in which I remember scores of things I ought to do, followed by a protracted period of nothing at all.

But last week  the move caught up with me, and while tossing back a margarita with a friend, I was forced to make a list.

From time to time I just stare at the list. Occasionally I add something to it. I have yet to remove anything from it. Once in a while, to placate myself, I add items to the list that I accomplished about six months ago (schedule swimming lessons for summer, clean the barbecue..), and then I cross them off. It’s remarkably soothing.

Here’s the rub: As much as I love a good cross-country move (and I do, I really do), It seems as though I still have to parent while I’m moving.  I think back to all the glorious moves I made single, or newly married, when I could spend a day drowning in my accomplishments, when I could clean the house one room at a time, when I could find homes for all the items I didn’t want to bring with me. (For someone who buys NOTHING without asking “how will I move with this?,” I have a remarkably large amount of crap.)

No matter how much cleaning I do now, every surface of the house looks like this:

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The boys came back from a week of day camp (sweet respite!) brimming with “prizes.” The absolute last thing I need in this house at the moment is 14 pairs of Groucho Marx glasses, 23 Chinese finger locks and 6 pairs of plastic maracas. I cannot keep the crap at bay.

And it’s not just the stuff they carry, but it’s them as well.

I took Sidney to the park this morning, trying my damnedest to get some time alone with her, hoping that’s all she needs to cure her of these insufferable terrible-twos (which in my experience last until four). Turns out that a cat took a shit in the sandbox, and then Sidney herself (newly potty trained) had to take one in the skeevy public toilet.

I truly do not belong anywhere near one of these.

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While I was in there, holding my breath and flushing with my foot, I got a text:

Text: “Hey Efram.”

Me: Who is this?

Text: This is Miguel. You recently responded to our ad about making money from home.

Oh, I did.. did I?

Me: Efram is a nine year old boy.

Text: I am texting today to see if you are still looking for an opportunity, or if you have found one.

Me: I repeat — Efram is a nine year old boy. He recently lost his new retainer within 22 hours of receiving it. Occasionally I tie his shoes for him. I’m quite sure you don’t want to entrust him with what I’m sure are high level business interests.

Text: Maybe you are interested? Would you like to work from home?

Me: No. Thank you. (What I did not write: I already work from home, and I’m not sure I’d write me such a stellar letter of recommendation at the moment. Bark elsewhere, buddy. This tree is all wrong for you.)

Really Efram? This is almost as good as the stunt you pulled last summer when you signed up for information from about 20 unaccredited universities online and I spent all of July fielding phone calls from admissions offices. (When I asked him about this, he said: “The ad asked if you were smart for your age, and I kind of am.”) I told him that if he gives out my number again to some online yutz while he’s playing fantasy football, then I’ll cut off his thumbs.

At least that’ll be two less things to move with.

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Filed under blogging\, children, parenting, Seattle, Summer, summer camp, Uncategorized