Friday, August 5, 2022

Five on Friday: Camp Communication

What's the best part of sleep-away camp? Is it learning new skills? Making lifelong friends? Or is it the letters you get from your family and they get from you?

This year, I'm going with the latter. Some winners from the past two weeks, sent in both directions:

1. Letters from our girl written on the first day . . . the top one sent to us, the bottom one sent to her friend.

"Hey fam . . . the food is good"
"Hi Sam . . . the food was kinda bad . . . but the lemonade was fantastic"

2. Me: Write a letter to your sister.
16-year-old: Fine. I'm going to send her some of Zipper's hair.
Me: Great, I have a little baggie you can use, just write a letter already.

The letter:
Me: How did you start to address it to yourself??
Him: I don't know but I already spent all that time making the dots around the edge so I wasn't going to start again.

3. A modern option: Campgrams! We could write emails that would be printed out and delivered to her. Her 20-year-old brother never disappoints:

4. Her 14-year-old brother also sent one in which he bragged about how much time he was getting with the dog without her and lied and told her that he's been sleeping in her bed. He is the only sibling to get a letter in the mail from her in which she said "Get out of my bed."

5. Last letter home:

Friday, July 29, 2022

Five on Friday: Advice for Sleep-Away Camp

After never having attended sleep-away camp, two summers of no day camp and a last-minute COVID exposure scare . . .  our youngest is OFF for a very long two weeks away in upstate New York.

Luckily she's with three good pals from home, who we took the ride up to the Adirondacks with (and two moms, in two cars). In the last leg of the ride, the Mom I was riding with felt the need to come up with as much advice as possible. I began laughing and taking notes . . . now I need to send her a thank you for basically writing this week's post for me.

1. Mom: Let's see, let's see, what do I need to advise you on? Let's review the four choking foods. They are hot dogs, carrots, grapes and . . . I forget. 

2. Mom: Speaking of food--please, please remember to eat protein at every meal.

12-year-old daughter:  . . . that's what she said.

Mom: HONEY! That is not even the right context!

3. Daughter (to my daughter): I'm going to teach you how to gamble.

Mom: Did you remember to pack the deck of cards?

4. Mom: Do you remember how to make shadow animals with the flashlight?

Daughter: Why . . .  is that a requirement?
5. Mom: (after a story about her own camp experience) So my advice is, if you pee on a bench, get creative.


At the last gas station stop mere miles from camp, one of the girls from the other car asked to take her Mom's picture with her Instax (it's like a Polaroid but you don't have to shake it!). She said she'd like to have it at camp.

Mom that I was riding with: (to her daughter) Do you want my picture, too?

Her daughter: (immediately) No.

My daughter was suspiciously non-committal about it, so we took two. After resisting the urge to shake them, I snuck them in the girls' bags.

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Five on Friday: Stranger Things/80s Night!

. . . and by that I don't mean a marathon TV watching session. To the contrary, the television remote was one of the items that I bagged up and took with me when I left the children home alone for a few hours Friday night. The other items included every iPhone and iPad in this house. (Um, Mom, that one doesn't even work anymore. I don't care, I'm taking it!)

 I told the kids they'd be home without any of those items, just like it was in the eighties! Let's call it a Stranger Things night, shall we?

Surprisingly, there was no argument. Maybe they thought I'd lost my mind and it'd be best to quietly agree with me (they were correct). Also, two of them knew that they had really pushed me over the edge that afternoon and best not fight. I was starting to feel bad about the middle guy but then I remembered: this wasn't actually a punishment.

Okay, it was motivated by the idea of punishments needed but ultimately it was a move I made when I had a super obvious realization.

My kids, like many, are pretty much looking at screens every single time I look them. I tell myself that this is how kids entertain themselves now (at these ages and in this culture); this is how they stay connected to friends (how many people my age would drag the family phone as far as the cord could stretch to talk to their friends for hours in the privacy of the hall coat closet?)

But I also realize they spend way more time indoors and sedentary than I prefer, especially over the summer. They are easily distracted and do not finish the tasks they are set to do--of course some of this just comes with their ages, but the phones don't help.

I was doing a little handwringing about it all, a lot of "oh what can I do about this!" That's when I had the realization: I'm the adult!!! I pay for the phones. I can take them away. 

My husband was away and I had plans to go out locally. The kids here are old enough to stay home alone. What would normally happen would be that they'd show minimal effort in doing the chores I'd leave for them and then spend hours in their own rooms on their own devices. 


No. You know what you're supposed to do when you're home alone with your siblings on a summer night? Accidentally set the corner of a pot holder on fire and figure out how to deal with a small emergency situation with your sibling that you normally bicker with. Create some sort of insane game that results in a mystery spot that will stay on your parents' dining room ceiling for the rest of their lives but nobody ever fesses up to. 

This is the stuff of family legend.

(Hm, but what if there's an emergency and they have no phones? Quick text to my next-door neighbor to confirm she'd be home if they needed anything. Yes she would. Boom.)

When I came home:

1. The kitchen was clean to a much higher standard than it had ever previously been by this crew.

2. Little sister cleaned up her messes in four (!) rooms that were part of what had made me angry in the afternoon.

3. They had played basketball and Uno together.

4.  Little sister put herself to bed early because she got bored.

5. They survived.

Post script:

Daddy-O texted home on Friday night to see how things were going in his absence. I filled him in on the current status at home. First he had an awesome response that made me laugh about the whole thing and then he pointed out that they could play video games if they were smart. 

I did know that but already had a bag full of electronics. I considered grabbing all the game controllers, but that was starting to feel a little too crazy somehow.

A few days passed and a little birdie told me that the boys were, in fact, smart enough to figure out how to play video games without the television remote. 

So what little birdie was saying is that they were NOT each in their own rooms staring at small screens ignoring each another . . . they were:

1.  Working together to conspire against Mom
2. Getting into a little bit of non-harmful mischief
3. Cooperating on how to set the scene to avoid getting caught (Clean the kitchen but leave strategically placed Uno cards on the counter!)
4. Playing together 
5. Taking turns being on the lookout for Mom to come home.

Surprise, kids! That's just I wanted.

Friday, July 15, 2022

Five on Friday: These Children Are Censoring Me

1.  Friends, I found hanging in my home. MY OWN HOME. 

You understand that this feels like a personal attack, right?

2. Text with the son who hung the above offensive material:

3. Me: Well that sounds like a legit reason to . . .
    12-year-old daughter: Mom. Don't say "legit."
4 & 5: While looking for sympathy from my oldest two on being censored from saying "hot as balls" at home, my son then further censored me.

Quite frankly, I have had enough.  I have purchased myself a tiara and shall be wearing it as much as possible. If this doesn't force them to yield to my authority at least it will thoroughly embarrass them. 

Queen of Everything

Friday, July 8, 2022

Five on Friday: Playing Grandparents

When playing "would you rather," my husband always comes up with two absolutely horrifying choices. When I finally pick the one that is marginally less terrible, he says, "What you failed to ask . . . " and then tacks on some awful caveat that makes my slightly-less-appalling choice clearly the worst one. So I hate playing with him and usually refuse to answer.

Until recently, when he asked, "Would you rather have a baby now at age 48 or have our 21-year-old daughter have a baby now?"


"What about her hopes and dreams???"

"She can go pursue them while I watch the baby and then I'll give it back at night. Easy-peasy."

The truth is, of course, I don't want her or any woman to have a baby before she's ready to, but I am pretty sure I will very much enjoy being a grandma.

Earlier this week, my (adopted) kids' older (biological) sister* and her nearly-two-year-old came to stay with us for a few days. I was reminded once again of how the English language is inadequate when it comes to having enough words for family members when your family looks like ours. We don't have a solitary word to explain what our kids' sister relationship is to us (or to our biological kids) and that's just one example. 

However, my nickname is Gigi and that is apparently an acceptable name for "Grandma" now. You can bet I taught the little guy to call me that. Here are some highlights from our  days of playing Grandparents:

1. Oh my god the tiny little hands and feet. Swoon.

2. Case of the sillies (& making big sister in Pittsburgh jealous)

3. Me: "Oh so now you're embracing the fun-cle role, huh?"
14-year-old son: "Yeah, I like babies when they have functional legs."

4. Valuable lake time:
Teaching him important things in life, like how to squirt water at his uncle on a kayak
I maintain that the two are not mutually exclusive.

5. But then at the end of the day . . . back to his mother he went! That's truly the best part of grandparenting (real or pretend), right?

Confirmed: I am going to very much enjoy grandparenthood one day.

Friday, July 1, 2022

Five on Friday: One Week of Summer

First a little recap . . . 


Big kids aka alleged adults: no jobs
Little kids: no camp
Parents: virtual work

Some travel (to a family beach cottage where we could remain secluded but just . . . elsewhere) and outdoor playdates (wherein I felt like I had to constantly break the kids up from play-wrestling and hugging which were activities that clearly could not happen six feet apart).


Basically the same but with at least some of us vaccinated, doing things like going out to get ice cream or letting friends step into the house to use the bathroom or get a drink felt more possible.


Everything opening back up coincides with changes to our family since the kids are older and in different life stages now. 

Alleged adults: not even living here (!)
Little kids: can hardly be referred to as the little kids anymore. Only one of them is still shorter than me and it's just by a hair. Our youngest son is a rising freshman which means he's booked pretty solid with summer workouts and practices at the High School with his older brother (who will also hopefully be kept busy with a part-time job and behind-the-wheel driving practice though I'll admit I'm more excited by the former than the latter). Youngest has some day camps and a TWO-WEEK sleep-away camp later this summer.
Parents: working and more freedom to take walks and bike rides together and go out socially without having to worry about who's watching the kids.

To summarize, this summer is more normal, but it's a new normal for our changing family. Here's a recap of our first full week:

1. Work for me is less virtual than ever and (lucky, lucky, LUCKY me) includes opportunities to connect with community in so many different ways (and venues!)

Monthly Story Slam at Scout's with yours truly as a host

Back to packing the museum with folks for interesting lectures!

2. This guy might be going to High School in the fall but he still loves babying this ridiculous dog and now he has more time to do it.
I think she likes it.

3. Back to the basics of good old-fashioned summers means eating outside, pool parties with friends and lots of time for card games. 

4. House full of kids on a rainy day felt like the kind of summer day that we've loved for years, including: bracelet-making, video-game playing, cookie baking, shenanigans, chicken-butt competition truce and so many laughs. "New normal" version of this perfect day means they're all old enough to figure out what they want to do on their own, clean up after themselves (with reminders), get along without needing me to break up any fights. Sometimes I really like the new normal.

5. Speaking of summer shenanigans! Actual footage of me pushing my way ahead of my child (okay I say child, and he isbut I would like to remind you he is much bigger and stronger than me and I did ask him to protect me) to get into the house after we (okay, I) threw a rock at one or more raccoons in the garbage can. 

Meanwhile, our older son--who I'd like to inform you is afraid of lady bugs--came home and tried to befriend it. He'd like to make it a pet. Maybe I should be encouraging him to get those driving hours in so he can drive himself for rabies shots.

Friday, June 24, 2022

Five on Friday: These Kids Make Me Laugh

Shenanigans and giggles this past week:

1. Me:  Woah! All I did was shout, "big fat groundhog!!"  and he actually ran away!
16-year-old E: Yeah, Mom, you body shamed him.

2. 12-year-old baby hog: When the baby comes next week can we go to the mall?
48-year-old baby hog Me: Why would you want to go to the mall with a baby?? Unless of course you girls wanted to go to the mall and leave the baby . . . 

Me: Hey I saw Mr. N and he said the basketball coaches can't wait for you to get to the High School in the fall.
14-year-old rising freshman basketball player who is very talented but who also talks a lot of smack: (whispering and looking wistfully off into space) Varsity . . . 

4. Baby hog, AGAIN: Aw, Mom, it's too bad you work Tuesdays so you have one less day visiting with the baby.
Me: I took Tuesday off!
Her: DOH

5. Scene: A quiet weeknight evening at home on the night before the youngest two kids' last day of school. Mom has plans to go out to dinner with her own mother and sisters. She departs the house at approximately 5:30 pm, leaving three practically self-sufficient kids and their highly capable and involved father at home.

Three hours later:
Me: (Nothing)

14-year-old who is, as far as I know, home:

Clueless? Hysterical? Both? You decide.

Friday, June 17, 2022

Five on Friday: Just a Little Giacomo Journaling

Listen, I know what I said about cars being better than Vespas, but I didn't actually mean it.

Even though I've been too busy for pure pleasure riding lately, just regular riding is more remarkable when I'm on the Vespa . . . and by that I mean there's always something to remark on.

Here are some recent memorable moments from the 2022 riding season:

1. You know gas prices are high when . . . 
You think that's bad? The week before it was $8.71!

2.  No free parking spots? No problem.

Sharing is caring! (Don't worry, that's my friend's truck.)

3. Everybody loves a Vespa.

Sorry, Dude, I don't think you can drive this thing with hooves. 
And you probably don't even have a motorcycle license anyway.

4. New reversible rain bonnet! New sticker! 

You may or may not realize that my obsession
with cemeteries has only gotten deeper lately.

5. And, of course, people's reactions are always noteworthy. Recent favorites:

a. The teeny tiny little dude (honestly, an absolutely adorably miniscule child) who started  waving wildly at me and whose face lit up when I beeped

b. You know that thing kids do to try to get truck drivers to honk their horns? There's a gaggle of kids at a bus stop who begin madly pumping their arms when they see me coming. I always oblige--not sure who is happier after this interaction, me or them.

c. So the cemetery obsession thing . . . I recently participated in a veterans' headstone cleaning event  where I met a man who is apparently a bit of a local celebrity in, um, headstone maintenance circles?? 

Anyway, after the event, he was parked on the opposite side of the parking lot from me and I rode over to him on Giacomo to hand him my card (I want to be his apprentice). He was leaning into the passenger side of his pickup truck and turned around to see me . . . and had ZERO reaction to a pink Vespa covered in stickers appearing behind him. Badass.