Summer Camp

It was going to be the first week of summer, an easy breezy time where my soon-to-be-in-kindergarten daughter and I would hang out while my almost-4th grade son busied himself at the local park and rec summer camp.

We’d drop him off at camp, go have a leisurely breakfast, have some girlie time together at the lake, set up some girl’s only playdates. Do our nails, play dolls. Girl stuff.

Alas. Along came a change of plan. This morning when we dropped her brother off she decided that she, too, wanted in on the summer camp scene.

Huh? But what about our girlie time?

I know. You are probably like: What are you mad? She wants to go! Alone time for you! Wahoo!

And half of me is jumping up and down that I have some time without my five-year-old appendage sweating on me during this summery heat. But the other half just got hit with a big fat reality check right in the head.

This will be my life when she goes to kindergarten in just a few short weeks.

Both kids will be gone and I will be flying solo. After almost 10 years with someone here to occupy my day, come 9 1/2 weeks or so, I’ll be alone. All day.

Yikes.

So, after my morning that consisted of the following: drop campers off, got back to the office to pay the extra $50 bucks in a late fee (I know, I know), come home, throw my daughter’s lunch together, bring it to the camp, walk the dog at the park with my husband, brew more coffee, check email again, throw some laundry in, try to get some ideas for the job I am getting paid to do, have a conversation with my sister that I dragged out longer so I would to have something to occupy myself.

After all this, I realized something sad.

Without my kids around I am a lonely soul with nothing to do.

Now my husband might argue that there is plenty to do around the house. He might reiterate that dust bunnies in the corner are not considered knick knacks. That finger prints on the bathroom mirror do not match the tile. That the vacuum that sits in the closet could use a friend, too.

He’ll probably say that I should be able to occupy my time for a few hours without the kids, and aren’t those the same kids at whom I was just yesterday screaming at to go and leave me be for five minutes?

Yes, that would be a good argument.

But it is quiet around here.

I realize that this quiet is short-lived as their week of camp will be over on Friday. And then I will be back where I was last week — incredulous that they can not find a single thing to do once I shut off the tv. That I have to say more than 10 times “For God’s sake it’s summer and go play!” And it was only the first day of summer vacation.

I know, you are probably thinking I can’t make up my mind. Go! No stay! No go! Wait.. come back!

*warning — I am about to go off on a crazy tangent and not make much sense. But since it’s my blog, I can do that, right?

I think as their mom, I push them just far enough away so that they can make their own decisions and live their lives. But I want them where I can still reach them. Where I can still reach out and grab them in for a hug. Even my nine-year old who is as tall as me and going off to college in nine short years. I still want him close — able to make his own decisions and be his own person, but still close. So I can see what a wonderful young man he is becoming.

And my almost kindergartener, I want this once shy girl to go be that outgoing girl she has become. To enjoy summer camp, even though none of her friends are even there, because she said she wanted to go. Because it was her decision she made by herself. But I want her to come home and say she missed me dreadfully and that she never wants to leave me again.

Except for tomorrow, because camp is really fun, mom. Ok?

Yeah, that is ok.

Just a new chapter in my life, I guess. Using baby steps to get there is all. Sigh.

Itch

That’s what it was. Just a little itch that woke me up Sunday morning. I lay in bed listening to the stillness of an early Sunday morning, the sound of the birds chirping, the breath of a little girl sleeping soundly next to me, and I went to scratch that itch.

God Dammit! I swore out loud when I craned my neck and contorted my body to look at the bottom of my butt cheek cause I just knew that little black thing sticking out of my saddle bag was a tick. A damn tick bit me in the butt.

Why it was just last week that I said to my husband as I pulled off another tick walking up his calf, “Boy ticks sure like you, don’t they?”

Had I not said that to him, I may have been able to go another year without finding one of those little tiny blood suckers attached to my body. But no. Karma came and bit me in the butt. Literally.

So I padded downstairs to where my husband was spending a quiet early morning and I bared my butt cheek and asked him to Get this %$#$! thing off me. In the nicest possible way, as it WAS Father’s Day.

The little sucker had his head so far up my butt cheek that, when my husband tried to remove him, only his body came out. His head remained in tact. Stuck in my now red, itchy and aching but cheek.

We had to break out the big guns — skinny tweezers and some magnifying eye glasses. But alas, my heroic husband freed me from the bastard arachnid thing, put some neosporin on it and poured me a cup of coffee.

Now I have this constant itchiness accompanied by an ache in my butt cheek. The area where the tick was is red and swollen and hot. It gets worse before it gets better my husband tells me. And he knows. He has had his share of tick bites, being a woodsman and all that.

Ticks are just gross. In looking around Google trying to find a picture to go with this blog, YUCK. I won’t even put one up. Gross little suckers. Gag.

I am pretty sure it was not a deer tick. They are smaller than a pencil point. This one was likely a dog tick, one that got a free ride indoors on Checkers and sneakily hopped off and found a nice place to bite.

It’s a wake up call. I have not been good about checking myself for ticks. I am just left with an itchy bite that will go away soon. But it could have been a deer tick. I will be more diligent next time. I usually do a once over on the kids, and with my husband, more often than not, I grab one that is still in the walking up his leg stage. Checkers has the tick collar so they don’t usually bite him. They go elsewhere. This year I have actually found them walking up my baseboards.

It’s awful. May have to call Tick Ranger after all.

Between trying to dodge rabid mosquitos and now with the ticks being so brazen as to actually bite me, I just might stay inside all summer.

Or at least on my screened in porch, with a nice glass of wine and a magazine to keep me company.

Kick Ass Mom

I am so proud of my cousin, Maureen. Today she stands ready in front of a camera to bare her soul, so to speak, for a really good cause.

She’s a model for the 2012 Moms Who Kick calendar and her photo shoot is today. She’ll don workout clothes for one shot and fancy evening dresses for others, maybe because she is the Zumba Queen!

If you have not heard about this organization, Moms Who Kick  is a 501(3)c public charity dedicated to raising funds for breast cancer research. And the calendar is one way they do it.

At only 45, Maureen is a two-time cancer survivor. She had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at 20 and breast cancer just four years ago. Kicking cancer’s butt twice. With grace. So with her photos and biography, my awesome cousin will show people through this calendar that she is indeed a fighter.

Isn't she cute?

Maureen epitomizes a healthy life style. She is staunch Weight Watchers girl and, like I said, Zumba queen. She shakes her stuff and does it good! I think she even said she is going to get her certification so that she can get paid to show people how to shake their butts — Latin style.

Maureen never let the cancer, either one of them, get her down. She has never, ever stopped smiling. She honestly just kicks ass anyway with her positive outlook on life so it is no wonder she was picked out of tons of women to model for this calendar.

Her husband and her two sweet little boys adore her. They will be excited to see their mom all fancy and ass-kicky in the calendar I am sure.

Moms Who Kick is a great cause, one that I had never heard of before Maureen told me about it. It is Long Island based – a place where breast cancer is, for whatever reason, very prevalent.

The Moms Who Kick calendar was created in 2009 by a Long Island woman, Joanne Hutchins who was inspired to create a calendar for fundraising purposes since her mother had just been diagnosed with breast cancer. It featured beautiful, fit, over 40-year-old moms – kicking, punching, and lifting weights – while tastefully displaying their fabulous figures.  By enlisting women who shared her enthusiasm for all aspects of physical fitness, the Moms Who Kick calendar project was born. 

During the next two years, the calendars expanded to include women who are fighters and survivors of cancer, and the “model moms” were photographed while engaging in various sports.  All 100% of the net proceeds received from calendar sales are donated to The American Cancer Society to benefit breast cancer research.

Causes like these are near and dear to me. Especially when it takes both hands, sometimes more, to count how many people I know who have been affected by breast cancer and cancer in general. In our family at least, those with cancer outweigh those without. It’s crazy. Our family genealogy could be named the Cancer Tree. Bad genes.

On my mom’s side, four out of seven siblings had cancer and some has also been passed down to our generation. On my dad’s side, both he and his brother had different cancers, along with their mother. Cancer is like this family member that won’t go away.

So it’s very cool to have my cousin out there doing this great thing to raise money for something that has affected her personally and so many of us. For Maureen to put herself out there and say, “Yeah, I had cancer twice, but look at me now. I am smoking!” it is a great thing.

She rocks.

I love you Mo! You are making a real difference! Go get em.

Good Intentions

Since Father’s Day is around the corner, I thought I would hit the yard and give my husband a little reprieve from having to do his outdoor chores this weekend. So I took out the lawn mower, the push one since I don’t know how to drive the sit down, and aimed to give the grass a little trim.

I pulled the lever and… nothing. Again I pulled. And nothing. So I twisted off the gas cap and was met with emptiness. No gas.

I searched around the garage and found that familiar red plastic container that has the little gas tank thingy on it. Bingo!

I poured in what was left in the gas container and went on my merry way.

I yanked the cord and we got ignition.

So I pushed the little mower around the yard, carefully making sure that each pass was straight and got about 1/8 of the way through. Then the mower just konked right out. No more gas.

I look out across the yard and realized that my husband is probably going to kill me when he gets home from his trip because the grass now looks like crap. Not only had I mowed a very small portion of the yard, but I was not going straight. At all.

In fact I think I should dump my closet dream of becoming a hairdresser right now because no person in their right mind would want their head looking like the mess I have created in my yard.

So with no gas for me continue with the mower, (a gift from God for my husband?) I next grabbed the weed wacker.

The Worx GT. Lightweight and easy enough for me to use. Battery-pack operated and a real seller on HSN where my son sat mesmerized by it and the yard tools segment and then convinced my husband we needed this weed wacker. Worth all 100 bucks.

 I had my sights set on the weeds that were overtaking our wooden play scape with hopes that once it is unearthed my kids will actually go and play outside for more than 5 minutes by themselves.

So off I went. Turned the thing on and 2 seconds later, I was out of line. The weed cutting line. So I headed down to the basement to look for one of the spools that came with the lifetime supply from Worx GT and couldn’t find it.

However, because I remembered that Worx GT is now sold in stores, I grabbed the kids and headed to KMart and got the LAST Worx GT spool in the store! Wahoo! Weed wacking here I come.

Ain't she a beauty?

So after a brief trip to KMart that resulted in more than just the Worx GT spool, we got home and I said “Hey, kids, Spongebob is on!” They fell for it.

(How can I surprise my husband with all this yard work with my kids bothering me anyway?)

So out I went.

I struggled with getting the line on the weed wacker, but finally after about 15 minutes, I was up and wacking.

I had to stop every three seconds to demolish a mosquito and her six thousand friends who found me very bite worthy. Then I went in to find the bug fogger I bought last week. I sprayed it around where I was working, waited a few minutes and off I went.

I got bored weed wacking and thought my husband would really like it if I unearthed a beautiful rock hidden behind an out of control rhododendron and a big patch of Pachysandra. So I went back into the garage, grabbed the tree trimming tool thing and started trimming and pulling weeds and cutting back green stuff.

I don’t think he will be all that happy about my rock unearthing. It looks like a bad bald spot in my yard now. No rhodo branches to canopy the ugly patch of dirt and Pachysandra sinew. Hopefully he won’t notice.

So while that Cutter bug fogger worked well for the first 20 minutes, it was no match for the ridiculous amount of insects that left their mark on my body.

I am now one big, red, swollen, cranky and itchy welt. I hope I don’t get poison ivy, too.

Anyway, I hope my husband appreciates my gesture.

It’s the thought that counts?

I bought him a shirt from the Gap. Just in case.

Happy Father’s Day. Enjoy all the Fathers in your life.

Teach Your Children Well

My son’s baseball season is nearing its end, and while the season itself was fine — games were won and lost and skills were learned — I find myself reflecting on some of the experiences we had this year in terms of youth sports in general.

And sadly, some of them were just really crappy.

My son played soccer in the fall, basketball in the winter and then baseball this spring. And while the kids on his teams were absolute troupers, and the coaches he had were really good with them, it was a few individuals we encountered this year who really give kids sports a bad name.

It wasn’t a brawl between coaches or parents or anything like that, but it was flagrant unsportsmanlike behavior by some of the opposing coaches that really left a bad taste in my mouth.

I think sometimes the adult coaches forget they are coaching 9 and 10-year-old kids. KIDS. And that those same kids look up to them as role models. Monkey see, monkey so. I don’t think kids understand the “do as I say, not as I do” concept.

I first noticed it this year during a basketball game. The opposing coach, who was right in front of the parents, literally almost blew a gasket because he was yelling at the kids, these 8 and 9-year-old kids. They weren’t passing correctly, or were double dribbling or were doing something not to this man’s liking. (For crying out loud, they are 8! They are not NBA players.)

He was so frustrated that his face was beet red. He continued to yell at the kids, stomp his foot, and throw his hands up in general exasperation throughout the whole one hour game. The ref had to stop the game twice to speak to the coach. Our team won in the end and this did not make that other coach very happy. And he let each and every member of that team know it, too. It was sad.

At age 8 and 9, you are teaching kids that the only thing that matters is winning? Crazy. My son even said on the way home that the other team’s coach was mean. He was.

Well, fast forward to baseball season. This same coach now coaches a 9, 10 and 11-year-old baseball team. And our kids played them in a recent weekend.

Appalling would be a good word for his behavior.

I’ll set the scene. (Remember, 9, 10 and 11 year olds, ok?)

Batter up, runner on second, batter hits to the outfield, fielder misses the catch, but picks up the ball and throws it clear to third base. The runner is clearly out. Everyone on the bleachers or in the vicinity of third base saw the kid get tagged out. That would include the opposing team’s coach. However, the ump at home plate ends up calling the runner safe. Huh? 

The third base coach, the same man from basketball, bends over to his player and whispers VERY loudly “By the way, you were out.” and turns and walks away, smug little grin on his face. But he does not walk to the ref to challenge the safe call. He knows his player was out but instead, in the quest to win the game, does not do the right thing and call his player out.

What the heck does that teach our kids? That it is okay to win unfairly? That it is okay to not do the right thing?

Now I am no expert at Little League baseball rules, but I am pretty sure you can challenge an umpire’s call if both teams feel it was in error.

During the game, I also overheard this same man speak to one of his players and said in the same very loud voice “Let’s just mercy these guys okay? I don’t want to go home and do any chores.”

What the? Seriously? Where in the equation is good sportsmanship?

You can get mad at an ump, cause well he is an ump and he wears that padding to shield him from mean comments from fans, right? wink. wink. And umps sometimes make bad calls.

I could be in the minority here, but I think a better coach should have known better. A better coach would be concerned about showing the young kids the right way to do things — how to play baseball and how to be good sports about everything involved with it — win, lose or draw.

I hope that in a few years we don’t see the product of this coach’s poor sportsmanship move into the players themselves.

Everyday we see professional athletes who admit to using steroids in their quest to be larger-than-life and do anything to be the best and to win. It is sad, sad, sad. I wonder if when those guys were kids, whether they had good coaches when they played Little League or Pop Warner or whatever they did. Or maybe they had that coach who didn’t play fair.

I do know one thing though. If either of my kids ever had a coach like that, I’d yank them off the team so fast their heads would spin. And I’d let the coach know it.

Kids need to be kids. There is only a very short window that we have. Let them play. Let them win and lose. And most importantly, let them learn good sportsmanship.

It should not only be about winning.

Teach your children well.

Wrath of Nature

Lightning over one part of Connecticut last Thursday

Had I known that when I left the comfort of my friend’s home I would drive literally into the vicious line of thunderstorms that attacked Connecticut Thursday night, with my kids, I would have stayed put.

I did not realize that a) the storms were so close and b) that “severe” was the understatement of the year.

When I left my friend’s house, a place we spent a lazy and hazy hot and humid afternoon by her pool, the skies were dark. Very dark. Like 9 p.m. dark. But it was only 5. I should have realized.

The temperature went from 94 to 61 all in about 15 minutes. And the wind came upon me all of a sudden as I drove down to the end of her street. If I were to guess, I’d say the gusts were near 50 mph.

And then the rain came. It was as if I was in a drive though car wash, only there was no soap, only hail stones and tree branches and leaves. Everywhere.

Every time a strike of lightning lit up the sky or seemed like it hit the ground in front of us, I’d slam on the brakes. I only realized I was doing this because my son kept pointing it out. I could no longer turn around, because the storm was everywhere behind me. I thought that the rubber tires may be our safeguard. Stopping wasn’t an option, either. On the very wooded road, I feared a tree branch would surely fall on my car.

So I bared down on my steering wheel, focusing on the road, saying prayers that I would get my kids and myself home safely and tried not to let the kids know I was scared to death. The wind was whipping, the lightning intermingled with bent over trees and I drove slowly, dodging fallen branches and a lot of road debris. The power was out in my friend’s town — the blacked out traffic lights swung with such intensity on their wires I was surprised they didn’t fall to the pavement. At an intersection, people stopped and let others go. I don’t know if they were being courteous or it was a better you than me scenario driving through the storm.

There were trees down blocking the main road so I had to make some detours. My kids and I tried to assess the damage outside but it was hard to see through the driving rain on our windshield. All we could see was hail, tree branches and the bent over trees and lots of obstacles in the road.

We saw a tree split right down the middle — probably a casualty of cloud to ground lightning strike.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, we made it home. Probably the worst of the storm had left our town by then, but it was still pouring and the wind and thunder and lightning still raged on even as we ran from the garage into the safety of our home and my husband. Thankfully we had our power.

Later, I learned that there was indeed a tornado and it was captured on video by a man in our town. There were so many people without power and many who had to face worse scenarios than I did. A friend posted on Facebook that she was blocked both ways by fallen trees and downed wires and she and her three kids had to wait out the storm in their car and then trudge through a swamp to get to safety. The car sat there for a day or two.

Some people posted pictures of the damage to their streets or others they were able to capture.

Even now, four days later, the clean up still wages on. Some power may still be out and some are at least without phone, cable and internet.

For me the only lasting effect of driving through the storm was that I bared down so hard on my steering wheel, body crouching over the wheel and tense, that now Icy Hot and Advil are not doing anything whatsoever about the sore muscles in my neck and back.

I am pretty sure storm chasing is not in the cards for me. Too stressful and I was trying to get out of one!

But at least we made it safely home.

This experience has indeed given me a new sense of appreciation for Mother Nature and all she is capable of. It was by far the scariest weather I have ever experienced. For sure.

I had to reaffirm to my son, who said more than once in the car “I don’t like this, but I am not scared,” that yes, he very well should be scared of Mother Nature’s wrath.

When she is mad, she is very, very mad.

Summer

On the drive down to see my mom in her rehab center on this hot, hot, hot very hot day, (like nearing 1,000 degree day) I was, of course, thinking of summer and all that comes with it. And since my husband sat next to me on a conference call and I had no one to talk to,and there was a TON of construction traffic, I decided I would think happy thoughts and make a mental list of all things I like about summer.

So because it’s who I am, I thought how nice it would be if I shared my list with the thousands of you faithful readers who read my blog! (Kidding. The 12 of you who subscribe — you rock and that’s all I need!)

So here we go: A list of The Greatest Summer Things Of All Time (at least of my time, anyway.) Enjoy and feel very free to add your own!

  1. freshly mowed grass
  2. backyard barbeques
  3. the smell of Coppertone
  4. the beach
  5. the deep-fried smell of a roadside snack shack
  6. wild roses on the side of the road
  7. a freshly opened Corona adorned with a bright green lime
  8. a field of wild flowers
  9. the smell of lavender
  10. cherry red popsicle lips on both kids
  11. tiki torches
  12. waterskiing with good friends
  13. Coors Light (I know….)
  14. crystal blue water at a pool
  15. lazy days at the lake (sans snake mind you.)
  16. canoeing on said lake
  17. vacations to Cape Cod
  18. the local Farmer’s Market
  19. warm breezes and longer days
  20. sunsets
  21. spot thunderstorms that end in a rainbow
  22. catching fire flies
  23. bumble bees and butterflies
  24. camp fires
  25. fireworks

Okay, there’s my list. Not complete as I won’t bore you to death. But seriously, thinking about all those things about summer makes me look REALLY forward to when the kids are done for the year.

So enjoy your few remaining days of Spring. Around here, we may see temps near 100 tomorrow, a heat wave that is so New England in the spring. Very quickly goes from March like weather to the 90s. 

I’ll take it. And I will sweat, thanking Mother Nature that at least it’s not another two feet of snow.

What do you like about summer?