Posted in Parenting, Starting Over

what if?

We exist in a realm of “what ifs”.  From the abstract to the concrete, we allow our minds to wander into the unknown:  What if I’d turned left back at the light? (Maybe I wouldn’t be stuck in traffic now.) What if I had chosen a different career path? (Maybe I wouldn’t be in debt now.)  What if I had been born into a different family? (Maybe I would be smarter/more self-assured/TAN.) What if I hadn’t been afraid and just gone after what I really wanted? (Maybe I would be happy.)  What if, what if, what if?

oh wellTwenty years later, a series of “what ifs” still haunt me. What if we had put the yard sale off another weekend? (Maybe she wouldn’t have died.)  What if she hadn’t stayed to help me clean up? (Maybe she wouldn’t have died.) What if she hadn’t come back for the ice cream? (Maybe she wouldn’t have died.) What if we hadn’t stayed up so late the night before? (Maybe she wouldn’t have died.)  What if, what if, what if?

Today, I’d love to tell you about my sister’s sweet, gentle, quiet spirit… but since she didn’t have one, I will tell you she was moody and argumentative and rebellious and jealous. She was a “kick butt and take names” kinda gal. And she was passionate and energetic and fun and determined and beautiful and strong-willed and, yes, naturally tall, thin and blonde. Ugh. She wasn’t one to sit and wait.  If she wanted to do something, she did.  Or at the very least, she tried. And above all else, she loved fiercely.

what if“What if” my sister hadn’t died in that crash twenty years ago today?  Who knows.  Life would be different for my entire family.  Much better, no question.  I could write an essay about her passion, or share an unending stream of memories, or bring you to tears with my feelings about the hole her absence has left in our lives, but truth is, you’re only politely interested. And that’s okay.  She was, after all, MY sister, not yours. We all have our own losses and stories and empty places, and it’s enough that we can empathize and rejoice and grieve with each other.

I miss her.  Every stinkin’ day, I miss her.  I miss her fire. I miss her heart for kids. I miss singing with her. I miss all the things I would have learned from her as we transitioned from “big sister & little sister” into “friends & equals”.

What I think I’ve finally been able to take from her life is the ability to mesh rebellion and determination into something worthwhile. What I have learned is:  You cannot live your life asking “what if” retroactively.  Well, you CAN, but nothing productive comes from it.  Sure, maybe you SHOULD have.  Maybe you COULD have. But second-guessing your past will settle you into an unending funk of regret and sadness.  This I understand all too well.

So I’m taking all of those past-tense “what ifs” and replacing them with present-tense ones.  “What if” I stop complaining?  “What if” I stop procrastinating?  “What if” I stop waiting and start doing?  “What if” I stop making excuses and be who I was meant to be?

“If only” I had learned this sooner.

Posted in Hippy-Dippy Stuff, Parenting, Quirks and Other Weirdness

crunchier than grape nuts

Sometime ago I was invited to join a “Crunchy Moms Group”.  If you don’t know what that means, you should Google it, but you’ll have to do it later because, frankly, I’m writing a book about a cow and I don’t have the time to wait on you.  

Crunchy moms are women who make their own soap and wear hand-made calico peasant skirts and raise chickens. They grow mushrooms in their compost pile, hug trees, go braless, and eat organic kale chips for breakfast. They bravely venture out in public without makeup, and clean their houses – and their bodies – with nothing but baking soda and vinegar.  They are green, eco-friendly, natural-minded, family-oriented granola eaters. Hence the term “Crunchy Mom”.

And I am not one. But I joined the group anyway, because it seemed like the polite thing to do.

I feel like such a phony.

I’m not crunchy.  If anything, I’m caffeinated.

I haven’t worn a peasant skirt since 1977, Ulta is my happy place, and I wear my 18-hour bra 16 hours a day.  I love my Honda minivan and I collect salad ingredients from the produce aisle, not the garden. In fact, the only mushroom I ever grew was behind the toilet in my humid Georgia apartment (it was fairly impressive if I do say so myself, but I did not feel compelled to eat it).

I will confess that one time I DID eat a kale chip, but thMKG treeen I had to go outside to lick the bottom of the lawn mower to make sure they weren’t the same thing. The verdict is still out on that.  And thanks to Saturday Night Live character, Mary-Katherine Gallagher, the thought of tree-hugging kinda freaks me out.

Clearly, I am NOT a Crunchy Mom. Half-baked maybe, dipped in a little organic coconut oil.

Although, a few months after joining the Crunchy Mom group, I ran across a “How Crunchy Are You?” quiz. (And you should know, I’m a sucker for a good quiz.) The result forced me to admit that I was a co-sleeping, partial-cloth-diapering, non-vaxing, Mooncup-wearing, homebirthing, homeschooling, non-medicating, organic-baby-food-making, recycling rebel whose baby self-weaned at 30 months. Oh yeah, and I’m a doula.

Turns out I’m a  “Granola Earth Mama”. The only thing that saved me from a perfect score of “Crunchier than Grape Nuts” is that I shave my armpits.  Well, sometimes.


Posted in Down on the Farm, Quirks and Other Weirdness

…and boppin’ ’em on the head

Once upon a time, Gus and his friends made Cinderella a ballgown, and Mickey made Walt a legend. Princess_Activity_Kit_Page_08_Image_0009The Mighty one was a superhero; the Mexican one was super Speedy. Spielberg brought a little Russian one to America, and E. B. White let his sail a boat in Central Park. There were, apparently, three blind ones, Fievel_Mousekewitzthough Bart Simpson’s was just Itchy. Laura Numeroff gave hers a cookie, and you’ve probably let one named Chuck E. give you a pizza.

So why am I completely freaked out to have one in my house???

I was sitting in the den chair, one foot tucked under me, the other foot on the floor, and my laptop located where its name implies.

Suddenly I sensed it.

You know that feeling you get when there is SOMETHING else in the room with you? I peeked around the 17″ LED screen and THERE IT WAS, not 4 inches from my foot. I screamed silently (since there was no one else around to hear me, I obviously wouldn’t have made a sound anyway), quickly tucked BOTH feet under me, and watched it watch me.



When it was a safe distance away (safe distance = 7 car lengths), I went to get a mousetrap. Not finding one, I came back with a broom.  I dont know why. I guess I thought I could use it as a getaway vehicle if I saw her again.

I say “her” because she was small. And kinda cute. And completely offensive. And though I NEVER gave her a cookie, she still left little chocolate sprinkles in her wake. *Shudder.

I used to have gerbils as pets. Explain this to me.

Anyway, a couple of days and a mousetrap-shopping-spree later, the cowboy trapped one and notified me via text. I breathed a deep sigh of relief…until his second text arrived stating “what a big sucker he was”.

No, no she wasn’t.

She was a wee little thing. Dainty. Delicate. Disgusting. And apparently still vacationing in my house and inviting her friends.

Oh, where is a hungry snake when you need one???

“Mini Mouse” tormented me for days, zipping around corners, scurrying under sofas, bounding across bedroom floors, forcing me to leap into bed and pull the comforter up on all four sides to make CERTAIN she did not have an access ramp to my bed, and by extension, to me. Once she even stared me down from the back of what USED to be my favorite reading chair.

Finally, I broke down and bought glue traps. I know. They are inhumane. Or inrodentane. But this cohabitation arrangement had gone on entirely long enough; it was time for this unwelcome tenant to go! The cowboy lined up several traps in a row, baited them with cat food (which works great in the absence of an ACTUAL cat) and within the hour we heard her. And saw her. She raced under the couch, around the leather stool, across the brick hearth, landing on one of the glue traps with the finesse of an Olympic medalist, and went flying across the floor like a sticky Jamaican bobsledder.

I will not tell you what happened next, though a reference to Little Bunny Foo-Foo would be appropriate.

Go ahead, Good Fairy, goon me.

The End.

I hope.
I really, really hope.

Posted in Movie Mondays, Uncategorized


I’m a movie buff.  Not a total cinephile mind you, but I know more about directors, composers and how to play “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” than I do about, say, ratios, negative numbers, and how to “solve for X”.

So I’m often asked what my favorite movie is, and the only way I can respond is: “Why don’t you ask me an EASY question, like which of my children I love most?”  Sheesh. I can’t even list a favorite genre, much less a favorite film.

There IS one, however, that consistently floats to the top 10…

  • pongBack in the days when I wore a mood ring
  • and listened to the Bay City Rollers on 8-track
  • when I thought Pong was the greatest thing since frosted Pop-Tarts
  • and watched Brady Bunch reruns religiously
  • and believed that “Love Will Keep Us Together”
  • Before I started Junior High
  • or got my first bra
  • or began shaving my legs
  • or even had my first kiss in the back of the church bus

….this movie became the first-ever summer blockbuster.   Problem was, it was rated PG, and I had never been allowed to view a PG before.  This was a big deal.  A BIG deal.  It wasn’t just that I wanted to see ANY PG-rated movie.  It’s that I wanted to see THIS PG-rated movie.  After all, this was the summer of 1975. Everybody was going to the theater… and as a result, nobody was going in the water.

big eyes

I begged. I pleaded.  I made “Big Eyes” like a Margaret Keane painting and looked pitiful.  I kept my room clean to earn brownie points. I tried every method known to 11-year-olds to convince my parents that IF I DID NOT GET TO SEE THIS MOVIE I would certainly be mocked and ostracized by every single member of the incoming 6th grade class.

Finally an exception was made to the “not old enough for PG movies” rule, and Jaws became my introduction to “grown up” movies.  (I actually wrote “adult” movies, but realized the term “great white” would take on a whole different connotation. Haha. Sorry, I made myself laugh.)

Where was I?  Oh yeah. Jaws.

Cue the ominous, repetitive John Williams’ cello theme…

Truthfully, I think my parents gave in because I was a timid little thing and they thought the monster shark would scare the toe socks off of me.

Instead, I was hooked (unlike the 25-foot mechanical shark). From Chrissie’s first terrifying scream to Matt Hooper’s nerdy enthusiasm to Captain Quint’s riveting monologue to Chief Brody’s “I used to hate the water”, I was IN LOVE with this movie.

Frankly, I still am.

When I talk about it, I get giddy.  My eyes light up.  I can’t explain it.  Part nostalgia.  Part originality. Part dialogue. (“I’m not going to waste my time arguing with a man who’s lining up to be a hot lunch.”) Part soundtrack. (Du du. Du du. Du du du du du du du du dududuuuuu!)  Part directing. Part…everything.  I’ve read Peter Benchley’s novel.  I’ve worn out a VHS.  I’ve purchased and repurchased the DVD. I’ve even read the script.

I can go a little overboard when it comes to Jaws.  (Hehe.  See what I did there?)

I tried to find an application for this blog.  Something like “Life lessons I learned from Jaws”.

  1. “The past always seems better when you look back on it than it did at the time.”  Especially true of old photographs of yourself.
  2. “Why don’t we start leading the shark to shore instead of him leading us out to sea?”  Simply put, why are we letting someone else call the shots in our life?
  3. “It’s only an island if you look at it from the water.” Yeah, sometimes what we fool ourselves into thinking is good and safe turns out to be tragic if we don’t step back and look at things from a different angle.
  4. “I’ll never put on a lifejacket again.”  Meaning, literally, “sink or swim” but don’t bobble in fear waiting to be eaten.

I also tried to find a comedic angle to this blog.  Like how I thought Brody’s line was “You’re gonna need a bigger butt”… followed by 10 steps outlining how I became an overachiever.

shark baitI toyed with doing a creature feature comparison between Jurassic World and Jaws, to include the subtle homage to Jaws where Spielberg’s original monster, the Great White Shark, is used as bait to feed Jurassic’s Mosasaur.

I thought maybe I could blog about how Chief Brody’s story mimics my own…well, except for bikinis and harpoons and other weapons.  But you know what I mean. Brody’s character wasn’t really pursuing the Great White – he was learning to stand up for himself.  A public servant bombarded by a sea of brass bands and demanding islanders.  Unassuming and accommodating, trying to please everyone, all the while losing himself. On the ONE occasion when he does speak up, he’s shot down – metaphorically told not to rock the boat.  “Don’t mess with our little community’s way of life.” Little by little, however, it’s all left behind, the voices grow quiet, the music simplifies…everything that prevents Brody from being true to himself is stripped away until he is left all alone to face the beast…and is able to emerge victorious.

11166199_oriBut the only real angle I have for this blog is that I STINKING LOVE THIS MOVIE. The Hitchcockian filming.  The M*A*S*H-like characters. The iconic soundtrack.

No, it can’t measure up to today’s computer-generated special effects, but darn it, it’s 40 years old.  It was brilliant in 1975 and it’s brilliant in 2015. Drama, action, horror, comedy, suspense – the “Quint”essential battle between good and evil – all rolled into one giant animatronic fish saga.  And a young Richard Dreyfus spewing out lines like, “He ate the light”.

I mean, what’s not to love?

On Sunday, June 21, Cinemark is reviving Jaws on the big screen in honor of its 40th Anniversary.

You know where I’ll be.

Posted in Just Funny

mattress mayhem

(Dearest paternal units, please forgive me in advance for the story I am about to share!)

Once upon a time when we lived in our little roach-infested one-bedroom castle in southern Georgia, my family came for a weekend visit, bringing an air mattress along with them. air-mattress-3That evening we made a bed on the couch for my sister and began manually inflating the balloon-bed on which Mom and Dad insisted they would sleep. And when I say “manually” I mean “orally”. Yep. No self-inflating mattress here.  No simple vacuum attachment. Not even a measly little foot pump. We huffed. We puffed. We huffed some more. We puffed some more. And we blew that giant overpriced pool float right up. . . over the course of, say, two or three hours.

Eventually we were all peacefully sleeping in our respective beds when the apartment complex came under attack. We were awakened by an explosion akin to a sonic boom or an anti-aircraft missle, and being near a huge military base, we took these things seriously.


It hit us so hard we literally screamed ourselves awake. “WHAT WAS THAT?! ARE YOU OKAY? ARE WE UNDER ATTACK? IS EVERYBODY ALIVE?” I hurdled over the end of my bed (I could still hurdle in those days), out to the main room to witness the Ground Zero mayhem:

The air mattress had exploded. Amidst the rubble, Dad was lying FLAT on the living room floor, pillows and blankets thrown clear of the wreckage. The bubble of air (and saliva) remaining in the mattress was mushrooming out past their toes. And Mom…well, Mom was awkwardly draped over Dad like the winning wreath on American Pharoah.

Recalling this event still makes me laugh out loud.

I’d give anything to have an actual photograph of the aftermath. Then again, the mental picture in my head is so worth these thousand words.

Posted in Quirks and Other Weirdness

game of phones

I am not a phone person.

This comes as no surprise to any of you who know me.  When my cell rings, it is merely a request for my attention, not a requirement.

phone 2Maybe

… it’s learned behavior from my dad. Our adult conversations have mostly gone like this:

Dad: “Nnnnnyellow?” (His resounding bass voice rolls a series of “NNNN’s” to signify he is about to name the color yellow. It’s cute.)            

Me: “Hey Dad!”

Dad: “Hey!  Here’s your mom”

Now, Dad and I have a great relationship, it’s just that he already spends most of his days on the phone and I, well, I would rather stick those itchy, off-brand cotton swabs into my corneas than chit-chat on the phone and he knows this.


… it’s because I once heard it said that after 5 minutes most phone conversations turn from “what” to “who”, and spiral downhill into gossip. I generally find this to be true, and am adamantly committed to never disparage others, even when the reverse courtesy is not extended.

phone 1Maybe  

… it’s because I’m afraid of calling people at the wrong time. I’m a firm believer in etiquette when it comes to the right and wrong times to use the phone. I adhere to a strict “9 to 9” rule. Any earlier and you risk waking people, any later and you risk waking people. It’s rude, unless it’s an emergency. And by emergency, I mean death.

Then there are our “rural” friends and family who always seem shocked we are still sleeping after sunrise.  They always say something politely passive-agressive like, “It must be so nice to sleep in” when what they’re really thinking is, “WHY ARE YOU STILL LAZING AROUND IN BED?  WHAT WERE YOU DOING LAST NIGHT…WORSHIPING SATAN??”  

Anyway, while we’re on the subject of poorly timed phone calls, my mom has been guilty of this on numerous occasions. When the cowboy & I were newlyweds, Mom ALWAYS called when uh, well, you know. Bad timing. Sometimes REALLY bad timing. We referred to it as her “sexth sense”.

Then when we lived in Alaska, she would forget which way the 3-hour time difference worked.  She’d call at 8 a.m… thinking it was 11 in Anchorage. Unfortunately for us, it was 5. In the morning. FIVE. And we had a 3-story condo with only one phone (pre-Caller ID days). If we wanted to actually ANSWER the phone, we had 11.63 seconds from the first inkling of a ringtone to jerk awake, unswaddle from the blankets, bound down the hall and descend a flight of stairsphone 3 (necessarily taking 2 at a time) just to grab the phone off the wall before the mystery caller hung up. Many times I took a bronze medal in this event, but other times my qualifying time just wasn’t up to par.

Speaking of this 100-meter-phone-dash… one morning the phone rang me out of a dead sleep. Probably one of those “rural” friends. I stumbled down the hall with Frankenstein lead feet thinking, “Have to pick thing up and SAY words! What to say??? What WORD you say when you answer phone? What IS word?!?”

11.63 seconds later, I picked up the receiver and muttered loudly, “HUH?”

Eloquent, as always.

Maybe                                                                                                                                      … THAT’S why I’m not a phone person.

Posted in Hippy-Dippy Stuff, Just Funny

my best day ever … it’s not what you think

The following story is true and is intended for mature audiences only.   This blog contains:  unspoken language, mild peril, sexual innuendos, processed food, and swashbuckling action – not necessarily in that order.  Do not attempt to try any of this at home without the oversight of a professional.  This blog was manufactured in a facility that uses tree nuts and soy.  Oh, and multiple mice were harmed during the making of this production.  That’s all.  Sit back and enjoy.

My name is Stephanie.  I’m wearing wedges.  The blog you are about to read is overdramatized.  The names were changed to protect the innocent, but since there were no innocents, I changed all the names back.

The story started in March when I decided to fully embrace REAL food.  No more processed junk,  no more bleached white flour, no more high-fructose corn syrup, no more artificial sweeteners, NO MORE FAST FOOD, and no wire hangers.  EVER!

Some time later, several friends organized an organic food delivery, which would have to be picked up once a month, 60 miles from where we are.  We were set us up as a ‘satellite group’ with one contact person. If there are issues, they will coordinate with her.  The rest of us simply have to make the 2-hour round trip when our turn rolls around.

June was my turn.  I was to meet the Covenant truck on Monday afternoon at the designated truck stop.

Since this was my maiden voyage, I left early to avoid any complications.   I arrived 45 minutes before the driver was scheduled to be there, drove around the truck stop, but seeing no sign that he and his Covenant semi had also arrived early, I parked and waited.

And waited.

And waited.

The driver was now a half hour late.  At 4:00 I texted our contact person to be CERTAIN I was in the right location (a moderate-sized truck stop), and to verify I am looking for a semi with ‘Covenant’ on the side.  She does not return my text.   I drove through the truck stop again, just to be sure I was not missing something.

At 45-minutes past time, I CALLED our contact person.  She did not answer my call.  This is NOT normal.  I drove around the truck stop another time, again just to be sure. My stomach was starting to growl, but the only food off this exit is a McDonald’s and, as I said earlier, fast food is NOT on my Real Food Agenda.

truck stop hookerAt an hour late, I called the girl who had picked up last month, and she verified the semi does, indeed, say Covenant on the side, and added the fact there will likely be 2 people in the truck.   A few minutes later she called back with phone numbers. So I called the organic grocery company, who gave me the number to the trucking warehouse, who gave me the truck driver’s number, who chased the cat, who killed the rat, who ate the cheese…  who didn’t answer his phone.

Another quarter-of-an-hour later, the driver called back to say he’d had a breakdown (I assume he meant mechanical and not emotional).  He had left a message with our contact person earlier in the day, but she hadn’t responded.  He apologized, but said he wouldn’t arrive for another 2 hours.

I was supposed to have dinner with my daughter.  I phoned her to say “that ain’t happenin,” as I won’t be back to the house before at least 8:30.

Now all the girls in our grocery group are texting and calling and wanting to know what time they can expect their healthy goodies, and I’m scrambling to return their texts, all the while I’m stuck at this truck stop exit for another two hours waiting on my organic avocados and steel-cut oats and sweet potato crackers, which I should happily be snacking on at this point instead of listening to my tummy rumble.


Since I have time to kill, I look around for something – ANYTHING – to do besides languish in the van another 120 minutes, sweating and grumbling.  It’s 104 degrees in the shade – and there IS no shade – the only things that ARE here are the truck stop, an interstate, a McDonald’s and a large tacky touristy gift shop.   I don’t need diesel, I’m not eating fast food, so “Eenie, meenie, miney… tacky gift shop!”

photo4I spent an hour taking pictures of gaudy gadgets and sending them to my daughter:”Things I am buying for your house.”   I was especially fond of the 4-ft-tall-Mystic-Fairy-statue.  This amused her somewhat and kept me entertained for a bit.

After strolling past the ceramics and do-dads and knick-knacks and bric-a-brak and CRAP that nobody should ever spend money on, I perused the candy aisle.  Mmmmm…. gummy worms and orange marshmallows.  Obviously, I’m starving now, as it’s 6 p.m. and I haven’t eaten since my 11:30 bowl of field greens.

So, while I waited on my organic fruits and veggies and gluten-free bread to arrive… I compromised all my principles and drove through McDonald’s for some pink slime  and a cup of sodium phosphate.   Shut up.  It was delicious.

At least I was less grouchy now, and since it was nearly truck-arrival-time, I returned to the truck stop just in time to see a Covenant Transport truck – with two men in the cab – pull into the line of semis in the back.  I drove in front of them and waved (as they would be expecting me).  They didn’t acknowledge me with anything other than quizzical looks.  I had a hesitant feeling, as they didn’t look like truck drivers so much as vagrants in a police line-up, so I pulled back around to the front to wait some more.

After a couple of minutes, my brain started to reason with me.  “Steph, you’ve been here HOURS longer than you were supposed to.  You have missed dinner with Kacey.  You are tired and hot and bored and there is a Covenant Truck parked back there, likely with your boxes in it!  Go back there and ask!”

Bravely I got out of my car and walked over to the cab of the Covenant Transport truck.  There was now only one man in there.  He was wearing a gold necklace and a sweaty black tank top (I’m assuming to coordinate with his sweaty black hair) and holding a brown glass bottle.  He lowered the window and looked down at me.  I called up something like, “I’m here for my Azure pick up?”  But because there are dozens of trucks lined up here, and it was very loud, and because I got so hot sitting in the van that I took off the camisole under my shirt that WAS keeping the girls tucked in, I’m pretty sure what he heard was, “I’m here to ensure a pick up”.

Naturally, he invited me up for a beer.

And that’s the story of how I was mistaken for a truck stop hooker.

The end.

Posted in Just Funny, Parenting

delusions of (summer camp) grandeur

It’s June. Time for swimming pools and lightning bugs and baseball and yard work and afternoon thunderstorms…and camp.

Most every summer of my childhood and into young adulthood included at least one week of camp.  Some of the best memories and most important moments of my life took place under a pavilion or in a cabin or on a hike.

Then I grew up.  I had children. I took a break from camp.  A long, long, long-long break.  But after a 20-year hiatus, I decided to go back.  A nine-hour ride in a noisy kid-filled van.  Seven days in a cabin with 8-year-old girls.  The smell of teenage boy sweat permeating everything.  Heat.  Mosquitoes. Snakes. Metal-framed thin-mattress bunk beds. It was pretty great.

sku_272203_1In preparation for my return to camp counseling, Kacey bought me “The Coolest Mother’s Day Gift of All Time!”  A camp survival kit: Red hoodie, red hairdryer, red water bottle, red electric fan, red rain poncho . . . you get the idea.

Now, while the gift itself may not seem like the coolest of all time, the sentiment behind it does. Maybe I should tell the whole story…

Kacey was a wee little thing. Seven to be exact, and she was going to camp for the first time. She was uber-excited. Chattered about it every day.  Friends, swimming, sports, singing.  Summer camp was right up her alley.

Being a super cool mom, I got her all matchy-matchy stuff for camp. new ultimate - hotpink[1]_001I bought pink towels to match her pink sheets and the pink buttons I hand-sewed onto her yellow blanket.  We even bought a pink Rubbermaid container to use in place of a suitcase and puff-painted her name on the top.

We prepped in practical ways as well. I taught her how to do her own ponytail. We worked on it for days and days so she could get it just right and be the cutest little princess at camp. We talked about hanging wet clothes on the line outside. We practiced tying up her sleeping bag. I rolled up her clothes so they wouldn’t wrinkle, and labeled them according to each day. Shorts and tops rolled together with clean undies on the outside (so they could be easily gotten first, as she would be showering each night BEFORE bed, per my instruction, thus keeping her sheets and her pj’s clean all week). Anyway, her clothes were rolled into 6 little rolls, one for each day of the camp week and secured with matching socks and scrunchies to complete her ensembles. She was set for a perfect week of camp cuteness.

Sunday afternoon came, and we drove to camp and got registered.  We met her counselor, got her bed made and her shelf organized with towels and toiletries, and her container tucked under her bed.  At 112 muggy degrees in the shade, I opted not to stay for the entire afternoon. I gave her a hug and told her goodbye.

girls_cabin_900x430_1A look of panic swept over her little face. “You’re not staying with me?????” No, honey, mommy is going home to take care of your baby brother, but I will be back to pick you up on Friday evening. (What we have here is a failure to communicate. I ASSUMED she knew I wasn’t staying. SHE assumed I would be playing Robin to her Batman in the adjoining bunk all week.)  As I got in the car and backed out, I caught my baby girl’s face in the rear view mirror… crying. CRYING???  My baby doesn’t cry. Oh, what kind of mother am I?  But I KNEW in my heart she was going to love camp. I blew her a kiss and drove off into the sunset.

I sent her goofy letters all week. Some written backwards so she would have to read them in the mirror. Some in multiple envelopes with only one word per page. I even sent her ice in a baggie so she could “stay cool”.  But I could not get the image out of my head of those tears streaming down her cheeks as I left her.

It was the longest week ever. Friday evening did not arrive any too soon. I drove back up the gravel road to camp, envisioning Kacey running to meet me (ponytail bobbing, wearing the cute little polka-dot fish outfit that was labeled for Friday), happy she had stayed, but happier to see me. Instead, she was nowhere to be found. I checked the tennis court, the bath house, the dining hall, the back of the milk containers…but she was still missing.  I went on to her cabin and loaded her things into the car.  Alone. Her belongings were just as we had practiced. I was so proud. Clean. Organized. Pink Rubbermaid box tightly closed…

with all her clothes still neatly packed, rolled, and scrunchy-wrapped!

I stuck my head out of the cabin door just in time to catch a glimpse of somebody’s nasty little child wearing… wearing the same outfit my daughter was wearing when I dropped her off 6 days before!!! Only much, much, much, much much dirtier. And this urchin had black fingernails and a grubby face and was wearing a cap she had made herself, matted, greasy hair sticking out from under it.  Her first words were not, “I missed you, Mommy!” or even “YAY, you’re here!”.  They were simply, “Can I stay another week?!”

Needless to say, Kacey loved camp. I knew she would. She continued to love it 12 or 13 more times. I think by the second year she even showered and changed clothes once or twice.

When it was my time to go back, she brought it full circle for me. I had sent her with pink towels and pink sheets and rolled up scrunchies. She sent me with a red hoodie and a red hair dryer and a red water bottle, etc.  And, of course, I bought myself a red suitcase to complete the matchy-matchy ensemble.  After all, the only thing that separates us from the animals is our ability to accessorize.