Tag Archives: Notes on Camp

Summer’s End

I started composing an email to Julie Klausner yesterday. I’ve been bingeing on her Podcast Archive for the last couple of months and since I’m finally nearing the present day I started writing down all the things I’ve been wanting to tell her about. She likes hearing stories about dogs who eat things they shouldn’t and turn out OK so I googled my post about my dogs fecal frolic in Prospect Park. Then of course I found myself browsing down my blog’s rabbit hole which inspired me to write a new post and catch myself up on where I am.

I transferred to a new job in mid-August. I was very happy about the change. My new office is an hour away and requires me to drive on the NYS Thruway which is not my favorite but I’m dealing with it. The new position meant moving to a place where the office was nicer (indoor parking garage!), the pay was a bit better and there was a lot more opportunity to move up. Mr. Awesome felt that my company has been taking advantage of me and my skills for a long time and that meant I should go elsewhere. Even though I agree with him I really really didn’t want to have to start all over again somewhere new (really!). My new office is huge and maze-like. I’m glad that I can find my way to the ladies room and back again without breadcrumbs. While the drive might be anxiety causing and made me have to start taking acid reflux medicine again – I’m very pleased with the change. I hope that this is the start of something really good for me and for us.  

P started the 5th grade this week. She is 10 now and I almost can’t believe it. I think she had a really good summer. She went back to her day camp but also went to acting camp, had two weeks home with Mr. Awesome and spent a week with my in-laws in August. She’s been going to the acting place since last fall. They did a production of The Little Mermaid last winter that was fantastic. The leads were all teens and her age group was in the ensemble. The summer camp worked a little differently since all the 4th and 5th graders were eligible for lead roles. She was very enthused about that idea and was hoping to get a leading role. They did a production of Honk! Jr., which is a musical version of the Ugly Duckling story. She is a great performer but not the strongest singer when it comes to keeping her voice in key. I got the sheet music for the songs and tried to encourage her to sit down at the piano with her dad so he could help her hear and sing the exact notes. She refused this help. The auditions were an all-day affair in early July. They audition as a group and everyone goes in-front of everyone. The director tries different combinations of kids to see who’s going to work best for each role. P was so fixated on getting a lead role she didn’t even want to consider one of the smaller supporting parts – parts with lines and singing solos. When it became clear that she wasn’t strong enough for a lead role they asked her if she wanted to audition for a supporting part and she said no. Later on in the day when she began to realize that she was going to be getting a small non-singing part she became very upset and then asked if she could audition for one of the supporting roles and they said no, it was too late. She was dissolved in tears when I went to pick her up at the end of the day. It was a fundamental lesson to learn but it was a very hard one. At first she said she didn’t even want to do the show and it took a while for her to get used to the idea again. The rehearsals didn’t start until the last week in July and she was hesitant at first but ended up really enjoying herself. The director was very proud of the change in her attitude as well and said that she had turned out to be a model cast member. She did an awesome job in the show and put her all into every moment she had on stage. I was very proud of her. My heart ached for her but it was something she had to go through herself. She says she understands why it turned out the way it did and she’s already preparing for the next audition in a couple of weeks. This time if it looks like she’s not going to get what she wants, she’s not going to shortchange herself. Her singing is improving too. We tried some lessons in the middle of the summer but I don’t think she really connected with the teacher. She’s become obsessed with the music from My Little Pony – Friendship is Magic seasons 1-3 and is constantly singing all the songs. She’s able to keep herself in tune singing those songs. As P obsessions go it’s at a mid-level. She’s singing, binge watching on Netflix and has just started asking about me to make her a pony costume. Her other obsessions of the summer have been mermaids/watching H2O on Netflix and of course Harry Potter which included an insatiable need to listen to back episodes of MuggleCast. While the mermaid mania included an irritatingly irrational desire to make and wear a swimmable mermaid tail the constant listening to 3 and 4 year old episodes of MuggleCast at top volume was very hard to take.

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Like a Fish

We went to the pool on Sunday and my daughter got to show off her new mad swimming skillz. She is just learning to swim at camp this summer and seems to be progressing very quickly. She just figured out how to swim underwater this past week and can already manage lots of fancy tricks and can hold her breath for vast time periods (12+ seconds)! We all had a great time at the pool. It was wonderful to see her really enjoying herself. She has learned so much in such a short time. It was only last summer that she was clinging to us in the pool and still afraid of getting her face wet. I am looking forward to our upcoming trip out to the Island where she can try swimming in the salty bay.

I am very excited for her. I distinctly remember when I started to learn to swim underwater and what a big deal it was for me. My parents were not swimmers. My mother doesn’t know how to swim and barely goes in the water above her knees. My father was always full of excuses when you asked him to come in the water. He would tell you how he didn’t want to get his hair or ears wet. Getting them to play with you in a pool was like herding cats. When I started to swim underwater I could entertain myself in the pool for a long time. Even though we only swim in places staffed with Lifeguards we don’t let Piper “swim” by herself in even the shallowest of water. It’s amazing to me how much the times have changed. If I had to wait for one of my parents to take me in the water every time I never would have learned to swim at all. No one taught me to formally swim and I never learned to do any strokes. But when I was underwater I could swim really well. When I started to go to sleep-away camp I found that I had to bump up my swimming skills. We all swam in a lake and you needed to prove yourself before you could go any further than the first two roped off sections. There was a floating dock out in the deep water (about 12 feet probably) that was the ultimate destination for campers and counselors alike. However, you had to pass swimming tests in the two shallower sections before you were allowed to even attempt the rigorous test for the dock section. The final test involved an exhaustive swim (for me) in open water to get to the dock and back and then several minutes of treading water. I wanted to be able to swim out to the dock so badly but didn’t pass the test until my second summer at camp. This was a great accomplishment for me. Having access to the dock also meant that you could take canoes out on the lake for tipping. My friends and I enjoyed this particular activity immensely. I especially liked the echo-y sound your voice made when you were inside the space created by the overturned canoe on the surface of the water.

We tried to go to the pool two weeks ago but when we got there we found that it was closed for a swim meet. Mr. Awesome cleverly suggested that we try to see if there was still room in the parking lot at Lake Minnewaska. Lake Minnewaska is part of the Minnewaska State Park Preserve and is a gorgeous lake surrounded by cliffs and miles of hiking trails. Luckily we got there just as they were opening the lake for swimming and didn’t have to park too far away. We didn’t expect to have to do any hiking and were all wearing flip flops. It was so wonderful to get to swim in a lake again. The water was so clean and felt so soft and light as you moved your hands through it. It smelled good. It has been so hot around here lately that it wasn’t too cold either, just cool enough to be delightfully refreshing. Piper got to swim and really enjoyed it but was a little nervous about putting her head under the water in the darker-than-the-pool lake water. It was such a special treat and one I hope we get to do again before the summer ends.

I told my daughter that this was going to be her best summer ever and I think I was right.

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3rd of July

I took the last couple of days off from my blog after writing everyday in June but I kind of missed you so here I am. There’s been a bit of thought build up (is that like waxy build up?) in my head and I need to get it out.

This past week was Piper’s first week of day camp. She went to this same camp last year but she was in the Young Campers program. She is very wary of change and before camp started told me that she wanted to stay in Young Campers and not move up. Now that camp has started and she is in a real cabin with other girls her age I can tell she is really enjoying herself. She’s already come home with two lanyards and is teaching us some silly hand clapping games. They invite the kids to sleepover one night at camp every other week. Last summer she only did the very last one. This summer she’s already signed up for the first one. She is just learning to swim and yesterday she put her entire head underwater for the very first time. I am so proud of her. Our mornings before camp have not been without anxiety and stress. She’s holding it together so well while she’s there that she’s just unloading it all on me beforehand. We’ve had a couple of big freakouts this week but we’re working through it. Tuesday was “Bug Day” and they told them to come dressed as your favorite bug. Next time I need to remind her that it does not mean you are supposed to look like an exact scientific representation of a bug. Wearing black shorts and a black shirt with a big yellow light bulb on it is the perfect firefly costume.

Piper and I have been watching a lot of AFV (America’s Funniest Home Videos) lately. I LOVE this show. We just laugh our heads off. I think it is a perfect show to watch with your kid. It has something for everyone. I especially like the music montages. This one made us scream.

It’s July 4th weekend. Time to get our beer, I mean American on. I love America even though it’s been a challenge these past couple of years. I feel a bit better now that we have a President I can respect. We’re still going down the crapper but at least now we’re going down with some thoughtfulness. America is great, it’s just those pesky Americans I have a problem with. When I think about what I love about America, I think about people like Pete Seeger. When I think about 4th of July I can’t help thinking about one of my most favorite musicals EVER:

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My Dog’s Namesake

I named my dog Dylan after a kid at camp. There are two camps in my life. I went to Camp Thoreau from age 9-11 and worked at Camp Lohikan during college. Dylan the boy was at Lohikan. He was a cool kid who was liked by most campers and counselors. I don’t remember him as being particularly athletic but he was definitely tall for his age. He seemed to be perfecting a stoner cool persona as if he had seen Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Spicoli had made a great impression on him. Everyone was in the gymnasium for the camp olympics. There was another camp visiting and playing our kids in volleyball and wrestling. There was going to be a wrestling match between senior boys from our camp and senior boys from the visiting camp. They were only matching participants by age because Dylan’s opponent was a good 6″ shorter than he was. When our kids in the gym saw the boy that Dylan had drawn for the match they went crazy. They started chanting, DyLAN, DyLAN, DyLAN! Dylan in turn looked at the boy and decided that he had already won and raised his arms over his head in victory and enjoyed the confidence of his peers. The other boy saw what was happening and started to cry. It seemed for a minute that he was giving up before he’d even started. The chanting of Dylan’s name only got louder while the counselors from the visiting camp gave their wrestler a pep talk. They were able to get him to go through with it. The smaller boy seemed unsure and scared while Dylan was all smiles and was raring to get started on his cake walk. However, once the match got started the smile quickly left Dylan’s face. The smaller boy was like a shark and was relentless in his determination to take Dylan down. Once our crowd caught on to where things were headed they got very quiet and the kids from the other team started cheering jubilantly. I remember watching Dylan’s wincing red face as he was being expertly pinned to the mat. He did not expect this to happen. There was no escape from a spanking humiliation for one boy and utter triumph for the other.

Dylan the dog came from Philadelphia. I got her when I first moved there and was working as a telemarketer for a Dating Service called Great Expectations. She was a German Shepherd Husky mix and looked very tough on the outside. Once on the street a little boy looked at her and said, “Mommy that dog looks like a WOLF”. She was really just a marshmallow inside. She was extremely afraid of thunderstorms and would hide in the bathtub shaking, panting and whimpering until the storm had completely passed. I didn’t know all this about her when I gave her the name though. When she was a puppy she was a one dog wrecking crew and tried to eat or chew on everything in her wake. Once she destroyed a potted plant in the apartment. She broke the pot and scattered the dirt all over the floor. There were paw prints literally 2′ up on the walls. I imagined her running circles on the walls of the room a la Fred Astaire in Royal Wedding.

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Five Things

Susan asked us to name “five things no one knows about you”. I know that this was weeks ago but since she’s only recently escaped her house, maybe she’s lost track of time by now . . .

  1. I have a system – I wouldn’t call myself obsessive compulsive by any means but there are some little things that I must obey . . . when I do dishes – I need to wash and then put everything in the drainer (yes, we have no dishwasher – bet you didn’t know that!) in size order. Dinner plates and platters go in first and then all the smaller dishes in order. I also like it when you allow the water to drip off the dish before it goes into the drainer. This helps to prevent the goo from accumulating at the bottom of the drainer.
  2. I usually loathe cigarette smoke but . . . I would let this guy blow smoke on my pillow.
  3. I hate my cesarean scar – My cesarean scar healed very badly. The area developed into a keloid-like scar. Not to gross anyone out but it actually protrudes from my body and sometimes my clothing gets caught on it. I’ve talked with my doctor about revising it but he suggested doing that only after we’ve decided we’re done having children. He said that they could “re-do” it now but if I were delivering another baby the new cesarean would take care of that. This of course forces the 2nd baby issue into the fore front again. Also, I just thought that healing from a new cesarean scar without the accompanying pregnancy/baby might be especially dispiriting for me. On the other hand I’d have a new tummy. I’m turning 41 in a couple of months and I don’t want to be much older and still be trying. I don’t think that is for me. G is pretty much decided against having another one because he is worried about money. I agree that it would be a struggle – especially the child care – but what else are you going to make sacrifices for if not your family??
  4. I love me some Nerd TV – Doctor Who, Battlestar Galactica (this may be too good to be classified as nerdy – or does that comment seal the deal?), Enterprise (do we see a pattern here?) and my new favorite Heroes.
  5. I still miss summer camp – I went to Camp Thoreau in upstate NY the summers of 1975, 1976 and 1977 (YIKES I’m getting old!!!!!) If you look carefully at the picture below, I’m the girl in the front row, right side, hugging her knees and sitting next to the kid in the hat. It was a great camp and even though I LOVED it – I became immovably homesick my last summer there and insisted on going home in the middle of the summer instead of staying the whole two months as I was supposed to. The place was filled with music. We sang every day after lunch and again in the evenings. I cannot tell you how much this meant to me. You could tell that you were finally a real camper when you had memorized all the words to all the songs. They had us singing all kind of political songs, anti-war songs, (remember, the war had just ended and we were several years after Watergate), union songs and protest songs (Guantanamera, No More Genocide(in my name), Birmingham Sunday, etc.)but we didn’t know the difference. I’m not sure what happened, I just got it into my head that I wanted to go home and I can’t remember exactly why. It’s not like I was going back to my super fun and happy home life?! Especially with my Dad griping about how much money I was costing him (the camp director refused to refund any of the cost of the second month that I did not stay for). I didn’t know this then but this would become a recurring theme in our relationship and not a positive one either. Like I said, I really loved it there I just couldn’t let anyone know for some reason. It reminds me of something that P started doing recently. I noticed that she was covering her mouth a lot at her gymnastics class and when I asked her why she said that she didn’t want anyone to see her smile. She was having a good time but for some reason, she didn’t want anyone to know. Is this genetic? I hope so, because I’d hate to think that I somehow taught her that behavior. I guess that she figures that she gets more sympathy or attention if she pretends to be sad all the time? That is awful!! I’m going to have to do something about this because I know from experience that if you do that long enough you’ll end up really being sad all the time. Ugh. Anyhoo, I’ve always regretted leaving early. It’s funny because we actually live in the same town that Thoreau was located in. I didn’t like our house too much at first (thank you G for having the vision) but I did warm to it because it was in Thoreau’s town. It is also part of what drove me to work at this camp during college in the late 80’s (YIKES, I’m O.L.D.). This camp couldn’t have been more different from Thoreau if they were on separate planets – which they kind of were. It’s amazing, it was only 10 years later but the kids, the counselors, the cultural vernacular – the whole shebang was so so different. I had a good time, don’t get me wrong and I loved my kids but it was in no way the same. I guess that you really can never go home again.

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Five for a Tuesday

For your blogging amusement:

Five (because I can’t manage ten) things that I loved in childhood (that I want my daughter to love too)

1. Group singing – I’d always get all choked up at summer camp when everyone sang together. Sometimes when the audience sings along on Prairie Home Companion I start to blubber.
2. English Muffin Pizzas – I’ll always love my english muffin pizzas though no one seems to like them as much as I do.
3. Performing – Right now she’s quite shy of showing off infront of others but give her time. From ballet recitals to the first time I sang in the elementary school auditorium I knew that this was my drug.
4. Horses – Not every girl gets hooked on them but oh . . . I still swoon.
5. Movie Musicals – I’m not sure how this will happen unless we start investing all our savings in a geriatric DVD library. When I was a kid they showed them on TV on Sunday afternoons, etc., remember those days? My excitement and joy while watching these movies brought me to number 3 on the list. All hail Donald O’Connor!

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