Tuesday, May 27, 2008

All Night Party

We went to Family Camp in the mountains over Memorial Weekend.

Kids: Camping is SO FUN! You get to sleep in a sleeping bag in a tent.

My husband and me: Camping is a pain in the ass! Putting up a large tent by the light of the car headlights and a single flashlight held by a wildly excited eight year old is a test in patience. We utter curses under our breath at the tent and each other as we try to appear to other campers, who arrived much earlier and are shouting out greetings as they walk by, like we are already having fun.

Kids: This tent is so COOL! It's huge!

Us: This tent is big! But as soon as we move five sleeping bags, all our clothes, pillows, and shoes in, it is completely full. This thin nylon house is neither warm nor does it muffle any sound. We can hear the bullfrogs, dropping leaves, the footsteps and conversations of other campers walking by, and they can hear our children belching.

Kids: I slept great but I was a little cold.

Us: Sleep? I was so cold that even though I had to pee pretty bad sometime in the middle of the night, I didn't even consider getting out of my sleeping bag. Sometime later, my husband and I were awoken (if we were asleep) by the distinctive crunching of sticks and leaves just outside our tent. Pause. Silence. Then slurping and licking noises. "Honey there is a bear." "I know. It's out there and we're in here. I'm not going out there to chase it away." Slurp, slurp. "It's really close." I try my best to relax enough to fall asleep, even though there is a bear nearby, separated only by a thin piece of nylon. I'm freezing cold, and I really really have to pee. Then just before it gets light, we hear the gentle tapping of a light rain on our tent. By morning I'm pretty exhausted.

Kids (shouting): Look at the lake! Is it breakfast time?? What's for breakfast? Can we go out in a boat? Can we go fishing? Can we play basketball?

Me (the only one who can't just take a pee right outside the tent): Where are my shoes? I trudge up to the bathrooms and I'm glad to note that it is at least 20 degrees warmer inside the unheated bathroom than it was in my tent.

Kids: See ya!

Us: Hey isn't this Family Camp? Yes, but we know that we will hardly see our children again until it is time to go home. They quickly join up with friends and disappear for hours at a time. We will spot them maybe during meal times.

It starts to heavily mist, or maybe sprinkle. My husband, who has been working so hard that he really should be on vacation at a spa resort, climbs back into his sleeping bag and doesn't emerge for several hours. I head to the craft shack, where I gamely try to sit and paint a wooden frame with a picture of our tent and a bear. My hands are soon too cold to do much. I wander back to the tent to check on my husband, who looks at me and says, "Just give me the word and we can be packed up and out of here in an hour."

My eight year old discovers the joys of the walkie-talkies I brought. Although there is no cell phone coverage at camp, I am paged every five minutes by my son who is less than a hundred feet away but wants me to know that he found a really cool stick.

In the dining hall I hear that a bear broke into a bearbox in the night and ate all the food out of it, including a watermelon. Ah ha! The slurping all of a sudden makes sense.

After lunch, my husband and I decide to go on a walk around the lake in order to warm up. It is a two-mile walk. My youngest son is in a boat on the lake fishing. I call him every five minutes on the walkie-talkie to tell him where we are and that I found a really cool rock.

The kids were pretty warm during the day because when they woke up, they just put on all their clothes over their footed fleece pajamas.

The sprinkles turn into rain. Someone says, "It's almost snowing!"

We come to the realization that we shouldn't sleep in the tent that night. We don't want to be cold again, and we really don't want to be cold AND wet. We send our two oldest boys to sleep with other families who were intelligent enough to book cabins rather than a tent site, and we ask around and are very kindly offered a place to sleep in a friend's cabin. They have their own two children sleep in other family's cabins so there is room for us.

I find out in the morning that my middle son stayed up playing cards until 1:30 am. Obviously, he knew where the party was.

In the morning my husband goes to take down our tent, which is very wet because it is now steadily raining. He comes back to the mess hall with freezing hands. We have to leave the mess hall though, because we have to eat in two shifts since the weather is so band and we can't all fit in the hall at the same time. Luckily, there is a room nearby called the library where we are to wait for our shift. The library turns out to be a nursery room with fake wood panelling, a short table and tiny chairs, and a mesh climbing structure in the middle. Once this small room is filled with adults and children, it is very similar to being in Chuck E Cheese. My husband disappears. I find him packing the car.

We give the kids the news: after dinner and square-dancing we are heading home. The boys are absolutely indignant. How could we make them leave early?

For some reason, our children think that going to Family Camp is by far the best trip they could ever go on. Better even than Hawaii. I don't get it, but after some extensive questioning, I think I have figured out why they like Camp so much. They like the freedom of running around with friends, and they like the sense of community. They know nearly every person at the camp and have known many of the families since they were in preschool. They like all the traditions of camp (most of which were cancelled due to weather), the s'mores, the campfire songs and skits, the fishing, hiking, swimming, popsicle stick boat races and the pajama breakfast, the conga line dancing to "All Night Party." As for me, I enjoy spending some quality time with people I don't get to see very often. I enjoy seeing children I've known since they were little preschoolers turn into teenagers. I enjoy being away from the cell phone and computer and I enjoy being outside. My husband would enjoy these things too if he was not so desperately in need of a genuine relaxing vacation.

This year, it was a little too much like roughing it and not much was relaxing. Each year we waver about going back to Family Camp. To be honest, we really do it for the boys. If we go next year, we are ditching that stupid tent and staying in a cabin.

On our drive home in the middle of the night, through 38 degree weather, fog, rain and hail, they boys slept and my husband and I talked and I read to him as he drove. There was no holiday traffic and it was probably one of the most relaxing parts of our trip.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


I am itching uncontrollably.

I just got an email today from my boys' school. An exposure notice. Not chicken pox this time. Not strep throat.

"Your child has been exposed to lice. It is highly contagious. Please check your child every day for the next two weeks and immediately report any cases to the school office."

I questioned my children later and all three of them quickly name exactly who has been sent home with lice. There is no hope of anonymity here. Then they told me that even a teacher had been sent home. That's when I started itching.

There is a lot of good information online about lice. The worst part, however, is the microscope view of a louse. Don't look at it!! It will give you nightmares.

I immediately went to the drugstore to see what I could find. Someone has told me about a special kind of comb that will take the lice and nits out. My children weren't even home from school and I didn't know if they had lice or not, but I wanted to be prepared. I wandered through the shampoo and hairbrush section and didn't find what I was looking for. Lice stuff is not where other hair-related products are sold. It is in the aisle with the fungicides, jock itch sprays, athletes' foot medication, and pinworm medication. I have had to purchase each of these items in the past. I hate this aisle of the drugstore. It is the gross isle. I have never had to even walk down this aisle until I had three boys. When visiting this aisle for the first time, I approached timidly, looking around me cautiously as I desperately tried to study the labels to determine which would treat athlete's foot the fastest. When we needed the pinworm medication, I couldn't even go to the store. I sent my husband. He gamely went and got it. In a different city. Then we had a long round of needing wart stuff, as my sons caught warts from each other in the shower, and then I got one. I bought and tried every kind of wart remover and resorted to wearing flip flops in my own shower. By this time I didn't care who saw me shopping in the gross aisle.

I thought I was done with the gross aisle for a while. But no, the lice stuff is right there too. So I bought the strange metal combs and called my friend from the store on my cell phone. She has children with thick, dark curly hair. I was trying to make myself feel better by telling her about the exposure notice. Satisfyingly, she flipped out, her visiting mother flipped out, and we all had a nice panicked gross-out conversation. Then I drove home and since my children were not home from school yet, started to obsessively comb my own hair looking for evidence of lice.

I found no lice on myself or any of my boys. Since they have such fine thin short hair, they all enjoyed the combing, which was a little weird. I even made my husband submit to the combing, and he didn't even dare argue about it. I felt like a mother gorilla grooming her family. Well, except for the part where they eat the bugs they find.

I did discover while combing my hair with the lice comb that I have dandruff. That must be why I'm itchy! I have to head back to the drugstore. At least dandruff shampoo is NOT in the gross aisle!!!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Mother's Day

My youngest son turned eight on Mother's Day today.

In honor of all baseball moms out there, I'm sharing this quote I found.

If I were playing third base and my mother were rounding third with the run that was going to beat us, I'd trip her. Oh, I'd pick her up and brush her off and say, 'Sorry, Mom,' but nobody beats me.

Leo Ernest "The Lip" Durocher, Brooklyn Dodgers, Manager

Happy Mother's Day!

Card from my middle son

Card from my youngest son

Card from my oldest son, given to me several years ago. It says "I love you so much that I would walk a thousand miles to be with you."

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Great Hit!

What is the etiquette when you have a son who is really good at a sport?

Why the heck do people, friends and strangers alike, come to congratulate the parents of a kid who hits a home run?

How is the parent supposed to act in the face of this somewhat misguided compliment? Proud but not too proud? How do you walk the fine line between competimommie and noncompetimommie? We all know the type who brags non-stop about their child. But is it just as bad to hide our children's accomplishments?

I found a great blog entry on the topic titled My Child Is Smart. Want to Punch Me Now? The author says, "Let's face it, it's easier to bond with other women by confessing our insecurities and shortcomings rather than our successes--and I think this goes double when our children are involved. The line between expressing awe and boasting is so fine, so precarious, that it's better not to tap dance within a hundred miles of it at all." But after exploring why we don't want to brag about our kids, she makes a case for appreciating their accomplishments. It's worth a read.

Now what do we do about the competigrandma who believes she has earned the right to sit in the stands and sing the praises of her grandson while maligning all the other kids (and the umpires) out on the field?

Sports . . . Illustrated

I'm thinking about taking a class in sports photography since I feel like I'm going to be doing it for the rest of my life. No soft-focus shots of little girls with flowing hair holding flowers in the dappled sunlight for me. I want grit determination on a contorted face, the ball frozen in space, image stabilizing with a macro lens, where you can almost smell the sweat.

I wonder, do I need to really understand the game to take killer pictures??

I shocked myself by picking up a Sports Illustrated in the doctor's office waiting room the other day, and studying the photos in it. Shocking because there was a People Magazine right next to it that I didn't pick up. I picked up the Sports Illustrated. I just don't know what's wrong with me.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Baseball Has Taken Over My Life

It really has taken over. Between feeding and outfitting my three Little League baseball players, I have little time to do much else. I am really enjoying the games though. Thank goodness or I'd go crazy. All my non-Little League friends wonder what has happened to me. I scoff at the idea of doing anything else between 3 and 8 pm. Between practices and games, I am at the field from four to six days a week. If I'm lucky I remember what day I am snack mom and who has grown out of their cleats and where I last saw that athletic cup laying around the house and how long that water bottle has been in the car and where that team jersey is in the laundry cycle and when I have snack shack duty and if I have updated the latest practice schedule changes from the 87 emails a week I get related to Little League.

To avoid eating out all the time, I often start planning and preparing for dinner right after they leave for school in the morning. Providing them with healthy and filling after-school snack (which is often as big as a dinner) and then feeding them dinner within 5 minutes of getting home from practice and/or games after being gone all afternoon is really challenging and takes high-level organizational skills.

If my children did not truly LOVE baseball there is no way in hell I would put myself through this. My middle child loves baseball so much that he has proclaimed he wants to be a professional baseball player when he grows up.

I wonder why, when the trophies are handed out at the end of the season, the moms don't get one. I figure if I got a trophy for assisting each boy through each baseball season (which lasts almost SIX months) and another for each All-Star team, I would have ten trophies lined up on my nightstand, and I would be looking forward to four more pretty soon here.

Although baseball has taken over my life, I did take a day to go surfing last week with some girlfriends.

And yes, I am mentioning it because it makes me sound really hip.