Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Camp Chronicles: D-Day and Beyond

Well it’s hard to believe that my daughter finally came home from camp a mere four days ago (can you see me grinning from ear to ear?)  I couldn’t stop touching her the entire day, as if she was an apparition about to slip through my fingers.   She looked great, albeit tired, but had an air about her that clearly indicated… a change.  A new self -confidence, or perhaps a bit more independent ... nevertheless, she was home! 

 I have finally made amends with the postman, though; he is still a bit wary of the nut case who’s been hot on the mail trail for camp correspondence.   I presented my daughter at the mailbox as proof of evidence that my camp mail witch- hunt had officially ended…for this summer season anyway.  I think he’s put in for a transfer.
You would think that after her return, however, I would be shouting it immediately from the rooftops via my blog, or even Facebook.  After oozing my angst all summer with a series of blogs solely devoted to the new camp experience, her anticipated denouement should have been the post du jour.  However, my seemingly quiet and monotonous summer where I was able to “indulge” in my own writing self-help suddenly flipped without so much as a warning leaving me like a deer in the proverbial headlights.
The minute she walked off the plane, like an astronaut’s re-entry to earth complete with paparazzi (a.k.a. anxious parents crowding the plane door), cameras flashing, welcome home signs, crying babies, crying campers, crying parents, life turned upside down.
Here is the top ten list of what I have encountered in the span of just four days.  It’s easier to write this as a list.

1.       A very loquacious, happy, exhausted camper who feels she has to condense her one -month experience into the course of 2 hours.

2.       Four lice checks (yes it went around camp, and I am paranoid that it came home).

3.       Lyme testing (this one was for me, not fun and I am on an intense round of antibiotics)

4.       One month’s worth of very rank laundry.

5.       Laundry that has been ripening on the basement floor prior to camp that needed to be done first.

6.        Strep tests at the doctor (strep went around at camp as well).

7.       Back to school drama (classes, carpools, requests for volunteers, last minute doctor notes for Epi-pens, blah, blah, blah).

8.       A 5.8 earthquake

9.       A pending hurricane

10.   Dealing with Unit #2, (my son) as re-entry has been difficult since his demotion from Sheriff to Deputy again…
Yup…its official…summer has come to a screeching halt. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Camp Chronicles: Throwing Out the Seeds of Doubt

Well, we are in the home stretch!  The letters arrive a bit more sporadically and are no longer gut wrenching essays.  Camp is now being described as a “home away from home.”  My girl is blossoming, absorbing, and taking it all in.  She is thriving, smiling, and enjoying herself to the fullest.  She is described by camp counselors, liaisons and friends as a model camper; the kind that every camp needs and promotes.  She has made the definitive decision to return next year…four letters ago she wasn’t so sure. So, in the long run, she stuck it out and reaped all the rewards of an utterly exciting camp season.  Yeah for my girl!

Allow me to sigh audibly for a moment…haaaaaahhhh.

The tightness in my chest has subsided, and my relief is evident in that I no longer camp out in front of the mailbox, nor do I hound the postman by chasing him down the block, or rifling through his bag while insisting on an earlier delivery time.  No, now that I am secure in the knowledge that she is loving life, I AM GOING TO THROTTLE HER WHEN SHE GETS HOME!

Seriously? “Home away from home?”  She took a piece of my heart with every gut wrenching; tear inducing, heart-rending manuscript she meticulously wrote.  I waited anxiously with my heart in my mouth, every day, for a piece of paper that would either make my heart sing, or destroy every ounce of parental self-confidence I ever had.  The first week brought doubt, sadness, stomach pain, sleeplessness, and food binging. I gained 5 lbs this summer!
Each letter contained some sort of zinger that would plague me until the next delivery.  Does she even realize the hell I have been going through?  Does she know that I am constructing a protective bubble to keep her in next summer? Could she ever know that her father (by the way, whatever they say about Jewish mothers is totally wrong…it’s definitely the fathers who should be the butt of every neurotic joke)  was ready to jump on a plane on a moment’s notice and whisk her out of the “evil, alien” environment we call…camp?  Or that he was ready to do the “I told you so” dance, but exercised sympathetic restraint when he saw how awful I felt? NO, NO, NO, NO!   
She couldn't possibly know any of that because my letters were nothing but positive, supportive, motivating, and understanding.  “Don’t worry, sweetie, homesickness is natural, it means you love your family.”  I dug deep into my social work background, I used all the appropriate jargon, I stepped up as the understanding parent and did everything to encourage and foster independence, self-awareness, and acclimation despite my own fears and insecurities.

And how does she repay me? She takes my advice…THE NERVE!!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Community Blogger of the Month-Whole Living Magazine

I am taking a moment out of the Camp Chronicles (I have a lot to write about, and I will do that later) to let you all know that I was featured at the Community Blogger of the Month in Martha Stewart's Whole Living Magazine on newsstands now.  Let me know what you think...pass it on to someone you think will appreciate my neurotic, yet insightful and anecdotal remarks.  Look carefully, it's a sidebar and thumbnail picture!!! 

Thanks Martha~

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Camp Chronicles-The Banana Bread Blues

We are now down to 11 days before my girl comes home…but I’m not counting.  The reports I receive indicate that she is doing great…I’m glad.  However, I am still not used to the sensation of not having her around.   While her days are filled with sports, swimming, and special projects, mine are restricted to being in the house alone at my computer, and while I relish the quiet,  I can’t seem to quell that little anxious part of me that just wants her home already.   

Yesterday, I walked into the kitchen to the overwhelming smell of overripe bananas.   Believe it or not, this was an indicator of how much I missed my child.  I buy bananas by the truckload.  Often, strangers quizzically look at me when they see the monkey’s worth of Chiquita sitting in my shopping cart.  What can I say? My kids like bananas, which is the reason I always buy in bulk.  The fruit disappears by the end of the week, though I have made many breakthrough, emergency banana runs to replenish them before the week’s end.
Today, however, there were six, overripe, giraffe colored, heady smelling bananas lifelessly lounging in the fruit bowl, which only reminded me even more that my girl wasn’t home.  Clearly, I needed to learn how to downgrade on the bananas since she wasn’t around to eat them.   
I decided to turn my restlessness around with the old adage, when life hands you rotten bananas…make banana muffins.  Baking is rather therapeutic for me.  It’s my happy place, and while I sifted, stirred, scooped and taste tested, my anxious nerves took a break, (until I made some banana oatmeal cookies with the extra banana and ate my weights worth, which then sent me into a cookie induced coma)! 

For what it’s worth, I am giving you my recipe for banana muffins (adapted from the Joy of Vegan Baking), and my breakfast banana cookies…my own creation that you can actually serve at breakfast …especially to those picky breakfast eaters.  The recipes are all egg, dairy, and nut free.  Enjoy.

Banana Muffins
1 ½ Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
½ cup unbleached flour

1 ½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
2 TBSP wheat germ (optional…but so healthy)
½ cup Sucanat (Sugar Cane Natural-you can even cut this to ¼ cup…if the bananas are ripe it will still be a little sweet)
1/3 cup canola oil
4 ripe bananas mashed
¼ cup water
1 tbsp vanilla
½ cup mini chocolate chips (optional, I use Enjoy Life allergy free brand)
Preheat oven to 350, line muffin tin with cupcake papers
In medium size bowl, sift the flour, baking soda, salt and wheat germ…mix with whire whisk to incorporate all the ingredients.
In a large bowl, beat the sugar and oil together then add the mashed bananas.  Stir in the water and vanilla and mix thoroughly.  Add the flour mixture, along with the chocolate chips and stir to mix.
Fill each muffin tin halfway with the batter. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until they are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Yields 12 muffins.
Banana Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies-Makes approximately 24 cookies (depending on size)

1 cup + 1 TBSP White Whole Wheat Flour (you can find this in mainstream grocery stores….it is whole wheat flour with all the benefits, but is much lighter and yields a lighter product).
½- cup Sucanat
2 tsp. vanilla
½ tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. cinnamon
1 TBSP wheat germ (you could also try flax seed)
¼ tsp. salt
1/3 cup canola oil
1 ripe banana (large)
2 cups rolled oats (not the instant kind)
¼- ½ cup raisins (optional)
Whisk banana, oil, sugar and vanilla.  Sift in the dry ingredients and mix well. Add the rolled oats and raisins and may want to use your hands.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Scooping by tablespoons, (I use a small ice cream scooper) place dough balls an inch apart from each other, and then slightly flatten with your hand.
Bake for 8-10 minutes, pull tray out and flatten the cookies slightly again (they tend to puff up) and bake for another 2 minutes.  I like mine crunchy on the outside…if you like yours softer, take them out sooner.
Cool for about  1-2 minutes and then transfer to baking rack.
These are very hearty cookies, and really hold up nicely to a good cup of coffee.  I have also served them for breakfast along with yogurt and fresh fruit.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Camp Chronicles: The Road Back From Food Hell

It’s hard to believe that 1 week and two days have passed since dropping my daughter off at sleep away camp (but I’m not counting). 

When we travel as a family, to any destination, there is always a lot of behind the scenes busy work. Travelling with a food allergic son makes things a little more challenging so, we just can’t pop into a restaurant, rather, we have to research a restaurant in advance, and then grill the manager about their allergy protocol, if any.  In many cases, even after this arduous process, we won't even eat there, because frankly, it’s just not worth the anaphylactic risk.  Therefore, we always make sure that we have enough supplies in the car to quell those hunger pangs.

We stay in a hotel with a kitchen, as a fridge, microwave and a stove- top are requisites. We head toward the supermarket after check in and load up on enough groceries for our 3-4 day stay to cover enough for three meals a day and snacks.  I usually stock our temporary dwelling with fresh, bright colorful fruit (which always makes me happy) cucumbers, frozen broccoli, pasta, yogurt, string cheese, hummus, whole wheat bread, water and some assorted crunchy snacks that aren’t too offensive.  NO FROOT LOOPS here!    You get the idea.  I try to make it healthier so that the kids can see that you don’t have to abandon all good eating habits while on vacation, though occasional treats are warranted.  I do buy ice cream for our home away from home, as Ari can’t eat ice cream in most mainstream shops because again…too risky. 

So, there we are on the long return journey back from camp.  It’s a little quieter in the car, though Unit #2 has settled in nicely with an iron-clad grip on the DVD remote control.  No longer the Deputy of DVD-ville…he has finally been promoted to Sheriff…and he definitely likes it.  Nevertheless, we had lots of road ahead of us.

Over the course of the next two days, we did some special stuff with the sibling who was left behind.  My husband and I were trying to make the best of it, but this camp thing was a new experience to us, we just weren’t quite used to being a family of three.  It started out innocently enough, after miles and miles of blurred scenery and road, I started to nibble on some pretzels.  I was bored and a little sad.  I missed my girl. 

We stopped for lunch (Dunkin Donuts is on our approved list).  After my veggie egg white on flatbread and coffee,(still trying to keep healthy)I felt ready to conquer the road again. Well, one hour and 45 miles into our journey toward home, I noticed that I was missing my backpack.   “We need to go back and get it.” I said frantically to my husband.  “It has my wallet, but it also has the Epi-pen!  We called the Dunkin Donuts and miraculously, they had it, in tact. 

We turned around and made the 45-mile return trek.  Unit 2 mercifully fell asleep, so I grabbed the bag and we instantly got back on the road…Did I mention we hit loads of traffic? Did I indicate that it took a roundtrip of 3 hours just to get back to our original spot?  Did I forget to tell you that it was another 3 hours to our final destination, which wasn’t even our home because we were going to PA to take Unit #2 to an Amusement Park? 

Therefore, I finished off the bag of pretzels, and dove into the fruit bars followed by the extra bagel from Dunkin Donuts.  After a 7-hour ride, we finally reached the hotel.  It was late and we were low on supplies.  We ventured into Wal-Mart to stock up on some new DVD’s for Unit #2…he deserved it. He survived the ride with only a small modicum of complaining. 

I am not sure what happened to me that night, but something unleashed that was too powerful to stop.  I started out with good intentions.  I perused the fruit aisle, but clearly, Wal-Mart isn’t known for their stellar produce.  Like a zombie under someone else’s control, I headed toward the snack section.  I was tired, my tuchus was irreparably numb, my muscles ached, and I was still acutely aware that with each passing mile, I was travelling further away from my girl.

Like my previous shopping trip at the beginning of our journey, I loaded my cart with colorful things…conversely this now included orangey goldfish, pretzel goldfish, graham crackers, Oreo minis, and when I passed the pop tart aisle, my hand instantly reached for the strawberry toaster cake that would be my salvation.  It was as if a puppeteer was controlling my jerky, unthinking movements.   Don’t worry, I declined…but I did buy two bags of pretzel M&M’s….HEY DON’T JUDGE ME.

It’s all a blur after that, I basically ate my way through Scranton and Harrisburg (oh yeah, we bought soft pretzels brushed with butter in Lancaster).  I did buy a salad at the amusement park in an effort to re-set my egregious eating ways until I ate a bag of Oreo minis followed by greasy Chinese food finale upon the return home. 

It’s ironic that someone like me who writes articles on healthy recipes, goal setting, and nutrition would plunge into the depths of food hell.  Nevertheless, like the dietician who is overweight, or the doctor who smokes, or the therapist who has more problems than his/her clients…sometimes we fall off the wagon.  The bigger issue is how we get back on. 

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Camp Chronicles

Sending your ten year old off to sleep away camp for the first time is rather comparable to a new pregnancy.  After all, everyone has advice both good and bad, most people think they know more than you, and anticipation, doubt and nervousness are the emotions du jour. Throw in weight gain, breakouts, sleeplessness and lethargy, and I could be pregnant, or I’m just reacting to a difficult transition (trust me…it’s option #2.  Option #1 would be a very different blog post).

It’s funny, some people tell me to get over it, “relax, she’s going to have a great time,” or “it’ll be good for her,” while others look at me as if I sold her to a band of gypsies along the side of the road.  Then, there are the ones who tell me what a brave mom I am, and that if I can cope with this, it will make for a seamless college experience AHHHHHHHHHHH!! College? I’m still wondering who’s going to detangle her hair at camp, or tell her that a 5th bowl of cereal is probably not a good thing, or that wearing flip flops all day is really bad for her feet, or to reapply sunscreen frequently, or that Laffy Taffy will unhinge the sealants on her back teeth…WHO WILL TELL HER?  No one…she has to resort to her own good judgment…sigh.  I’m screwed.

It’s not even so much that she has to make these independent decisions without me; it’s that I can’t talk to her and I think that is what frustrates me the most.  I have heard that child’s voice for ten- years, from a lusty newborn cry, to her first words, to a chattering, loquacious pre-tween, and now…silence.   So, I impatiently wait for a long awaited letter and I stalk the camp photo gallery online trying to gauge how she’s feeling from a snapshot.   I analyze it carefully and ask questions like, why does she have a band-aid on? Why isn’t she smiling? Who is that girl that is always next to her? Why is she eating froot loops? (she knows how I feel about them; I mean they aren’t even spelled right, f-r-o-o-t, that’s because real fruit gets insulted when they use the correct spelling).   

The computer is always on now, and I check it, albeit rather frequently. No, I am not proud of my stalker like behavior and my mood is affected daily by the way she appears in a given picture.  Today’s pic was great.  She was smiling, surrounded by a posse of girls and she was wearing an old Disney princess sweatshirt which actually spoke volumes to me.  She never, ever wears that sweatshirt, even on the coldest winter days because it’s too babyish. I packed it along with other warm attire in her duffle anyway because it’s cold in the mornings at camp.  The fact that she had it on is a signal that she is comfortable enough with her bunkmates, environment and herself to wear it.   She seems to be in her element…wish I could say the same.