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.

Posted in Birth Stories, Parenting

Birth du Soleil

So Carrie gave birth to a towheaded baby boy. He was born at 11:50 p.m.  Nine pounds, eight ounces and twenty-two inches long.  Nothing else interesting happened at all.  The end.


This was Carrie’s 5th birth.  Yes, that’s a FIVE with a “th” after it.  She called me on Thursday evening with an “I MIIIIGHT be in labor, but who knows?” call.  And since a 21-minute drive separates our homes, I put on my truly ugly birthing Crocs, crocsgrabbed my doula bag, and went to my daughter’s much-closer house to nap.  After some banter about flat, lumpy pillows, I fell into that twilight place where you begin to dream, but you still know where you are, when my cell buzzed.  Carrie texted, “WHERE ARE YOU?”

“Where am I?  I’m trying to nap until you say you need me!”

“Oh, well, I NEED YOU!”

So much for sleep.

I let myself into Micah and Carrie’s house and found her, quite comfortably lounging in bed, having VERY mild and VERY far-apart contractions.  “You needed me for THIS?” I teased her. (If I’d wanted to watch somebody lie in bed, I could have stayed home with a mirror!)

She assured me the contractions were much more productive when she was upright.  “Well then,” I prodded, “let’s get upright!”

We moved to the stairway wall, my hands on her lower back, working with her contraction to move things along efficiently when suddenly a deep, guttural moan rose from under the stairs, as though a poltergeist was trying to escape.  Turned out to be coming from the depths of Carrie herself.  “Carrie dear, we maybe might sorta kinda need to go ahead and transport to the hospital.”  

The first hurdle in our relay: Getting her into my van.  It was exactly 37 steps from where we stood to the gray sliding door of the Odyssey, but it took 9 contractions and 28 minutes to get there. I am so not kidding. “Carrie dear, we maybe might sorta kinda need to go ahead and transport to the hospital TODAY.” Once we made it to the van, and got Carrie semi-situated in the back seat, she made it abundantly clear that NO WAY was she going to ride 40 minutes without my hands welded to her back.  So I handed my keys off to Micah Andretti and we were off.

lombardThe second hurdle in our relay: Performing our backseat contortion act from Cirque du Soleil. Carrie is draped over the seat, one leg arched backward, I’m standing, my back pressed against the roof of the van, arms twisted sideways to give her counter pressure, both of us desperately trying not to toss our cookies as Micah drove – what I have to assume – was Lombard Street. He zigged and zagged every back road shortcut known to Google. Finally we hit the highway, and now it was simply a straight shot for the next few miles.

The third hurdle in our relay: Don’t get arrested.  As we reached the county line, doing Mach 3, I noticed a couple of shiny black and whites in the parking lot of a liquor store.  A couple of minutes later, those black and whites had turned to revolving neon blues in our rearview.  Micah got a bit panicky, “What do I do????”  Carrie’s scary underworld voice resurfaced, demanding “KEEEEEEP DRIIIIIIIIVING!”

Being the wife of a former police officer, I insisted we pull over.  “It will be fine. He will see what’s happening and let us go on.” 

The officer, who looked to be fresh out of 10th grade, emerged from his patrol car and approached the vehicle with caution. MIcah rolled down the tinted front and back windows, exposing our chauffeured circus act.  We tried to explain in terms of dilated centimeters, but he looked baffled and terrified.  We expressed urgency and the desire to not have to deal with roadside placentas. He stuttered with excitement and offered escort.  After a second thought, he ran back and suggested, instead, to just follow us.

Again, we were off.  Micah shaved a good 27 minutes off the 40-minute drive and soon we pulled into the entrance of Labor & Delivery.  Time of day: 11:30 p.m. on the nose. Micah got a wheelchair, I got Carrie out of the van.  Almost instantly, she’s moaning and swaying, leaning against the back of the Honda. Also almost instantly, Officer Joey is standing beside us, mesmerized.  I thanked him for his courtesy, when I heard him say, “I don’t know nothin’ ‘bout birthin’ no babies, ma’am.” (Okay, that’s not EXACTLY what he said, but it was so close I intentionally tried not to laugh.)  I told him this was about as exciting as it gets until the baby comes out.

The next moment gave me a great deal more satisfaction than it should, especially considering how courteous this young officer was.  As he turned to leave, I asked him, “Are you aware you have a headlight out?”  He dropped his head in shame, kicked some dirt on the ground and said sheepishly, “Yes ma’am. I’m sorry.” Was a sweet moment of vengeful satisfaction from the only time I was pulled over some 30 years ago.  But I digress.

call-the-midwife-third-season.14168The fourth hurdle in our relay:  Getting the nurse to call the midwife.  Once in the birthing room, our nurse was doing her best to follow protocol while being respectful of Carrie’s birth plan. Carrie asked her to call the midwife. That, however, is not hospital policy.  Certain things must be checked off the list before making that call, but Carrie was in no position to be helpful at checking off anything. Her next contraction was accompanied with an obvious attempt to push…and so the midwife was called.

During this “please call the midwife” phase, Carrie had to pee. For that matter, so did I.  And since Carrie had made me her conjoined twin, we did what girls do: we went to the bathroom together. She went first, then I suggested she lean against the door so I could take my turn and still have my hands free to put pressure on her back.  Chalk it up to having no blood in her brain, but the second my jeans hit the floor, Carrie yelled, “OHHHH, I’M SOOOO HOT!!!!” and flung the door wide open…to the shock and chagrin of her husband, who was STANDING. RIGHT. THERE.

Embarrassed much?

The fifth and final hurdle in our relay: Get Carrie comfortable. She got on her knees and hugged the back of the bed.  This was good. Micah whispered sweet things in her ear, and I breathed with her through each wave.  And when I say “each wave”, I really just mean two good contractions before she heard the midwife in the hallway and screamed, “GET YOUR BUTT IN HERE!”  Yes, yes she did.  And the midwife did.  She laughed at Carrie and said, “What’s the big deal?  It’s not like you need me to do this.  Besides, Stephanie is more than capable of catching this baby.”  Oh, I like her so much.

water slide blogAnd then Carrie pushed.  One push and there was a frenzied look on her face.  Hugging the bed had been fine for laboring, but made her feel out of control for birthing.  We got repositioned just in time for crowning. Carrie pushed, the midwife said, “Stop” and Carrie finished the thought with, “collaborate and listen.” Ice, Ice Baby. The final moments are best described in waterpark terms.  There was a tunnel and a blue mat and a big splash and a squeal and a naked child…and somebody yelling, “That was awesome!  Let’s do that again!”

So Carrie gave birth to a towheaded baby boy. He was born at 11:50 p.m.  Nine pounds, eight ounces and twenty-two inches long.  Nothing else interesting happened at all.  The end.



Posted in Parenting

525,600 minutes – how do you measure a year in the life?

Listen???  Hear that?


 Yeah, me either. Isn’t is fabulous?

 I’m home alone for the first time in 12,963 minutes…but who’s counting?

And I may just have alone time for an hour or two, but the silence is deafening definitely glorious.

I am currently sharing my life, my house, my free time, my quiet time, noisy girlsmy empty nest, and my secret stash of organic chocolate and cashews with my daughter and her two babies.  Boo is 4 years old.  We’re still counting Latte’s age in months.

(I tried doing that too, but 619 months doesn’t help me sound younger.)  

Anyway, the girls are pure joy and giggles.  Life and light.  Beauty and spontaneity.  Wonderment and love.


Latte has a vocabulary of 35 words, most of which sound like “MINE!” and “BITE” and “AH AH AH!!” and unless you are reading her body language, it’s hard to decipher which is which.  Boo, the 4-year-old, serves as the younger one’s commentator.  She has a vocabulary of 3,000 words, but 1/3 of the time she relies on “actually” and “amazing” to make her point.

 “Emmy, Emmy, Emmy, Emmy, peeze, Emmy” says the toddler while poking my leg with a purple ink pen.  “Emmy I uh uh uh I peez half?”

 “Hey, um, M.E. (pronounced “Emmy”, my g-mother name), Charlotte actually wants to have your lotion. Can she have your lotion? The one that smells like coco oil?” says the commentator.

 Continuing from the toddler, “Emmy, Emmy, Emmy” as the leg poking turns to more of a leg slapping, “Emmy Emmy Emmy, I I I I uh I I I I uhhhhh… PEEEEEEEEEZE!”

 “M.E., Charlotte actually said please. She really wants your lotion.  It would be amaaazing if you would actually give her some of your lotion. I think she actually wants to try the coco one,” the narrator insists.

As I pick up the coconut-scented lotion to squeeze a dab onto her tiny pudgy little hand, the toddler begins to hyperventilate from excitement.  Bouncing up and down, flapping her arms like a wounded albatross trying to take flight she exclaims, “YA!  YA!  Emmy, YA!  YA!  Peez, ya!  Emmy, YA, Ta tu!”

Boo’s commentary continues: “M.E., Charlotte said ‘ta tu’, that means ‘thank you’. Isn’t that actually just so so sweeeeeet?  How did you know Charlotte actually wanted lotion?  Why do you think Charlotte wanted lotion?  I think she actually likes the coco oil smell.  I like the coco oil smell too. It smells amaaaazing. Do you think I could actually have some coco lotion too??!!”

This encounter lasted exactly 51 seconds.  Similar encounters occurred 257 times today alone.  483 if you count the ones they had with their mom.

In between the jabbering conversations they sing. And by “sing” I mean they sing ‘Annie’ songs.  Exclusively.

Thank you, Pandora.

Lyrics like, “The sunna come out tomorrow, hetcha bottom dollar then tomorrow” and “It’s a hard nuck life.” The toddler also knows every word to the entire Broadway soundtrack, but it sounds something like, “ToNOOO ToNOOOOO, AAAAHHHHHH  AHHHHHH….OH!  LEE!  DAY!  A!  WAY!!!”

It’s precious. And wonderful. And entertaining. I wouldn’t trade this time for anything. But I won’t lie – I was 8 seconds away from a core implosion when they pulled out of the driveway.

And the silence is, actually, amazing.