Archive for July, 2007

Another day under the rainbow

July 24, 2007

I already blogged at getting my dose of peace, love, and hippie happiness up at Camp Winnarainbow a few weeks ago; just went up for another treatment (that is, to pick up my boys). Again, amazing, though I have to say it would have been nice if my eight-year-old first time camper had pretended to miss me just a little bit. (He looked so confident and OLD it was scary.) And I did lose a few mom points because I pushed the wrong button on the camcorder so failed to record his blue-meanie-three-kids-on-a-single-trapeze act.

I did manage to tape "Theater Experimento," a 15-minute music and movement performance performed by the camp teens. (Disclosure: My 15-year-old, who didn’t miss me either, is the boy with the maroon pants.) You can see it here or right. Take a look if you’re wondering if you’ll survive the teen years (a reminder that teens are awesome) or simply if you like the music of Styx. (This medley was framed by a meditative version of "Michael Row your Boat Ashore," which was really interesting, however, it busted the YouTube 10-minute limit.)

Sand between my toes

July 20, 2007

Just read “Barefoot,” a novel about three women spending a summer together on Nantucket. Various ups and downs, romantic entanglements, basically what I look for in summer reading, the major criteria being that it takes place in some kind of resort setting, because while I only spend two weeks of my summers at the beach, I think about it all summer long. (Disclosure: I didn’t even have to hunt this book down for my summer reading, the publisher was nice enough to send me a copy. I was a little worried when I first started reading it that it would be too bleak for summer, since one woman was facing the big C, but that was only a catalyst, to get the women to Nantucket for the summer, it didn’t set the mood.)

    Anyway, the beach is this book is a place to go to get yourself fixed, when you’re upset, discombobulated, or in crisis. Yep, I nodded, that works for me. And when people leave the beach in the book, the mother of one of the women always hands them a jelly jar full of sand, to sprinkle in their shoes when life gets rough, because things just don’t seem so bad when there’s sand between your toes.

    Wow, I thought. Brilliant. I’ve got jars and bags of sand in a pile in my office right now; I’ve been collecting it for a while, and am in the process of putting my sand collection into matching labeled jars (yeah, sure, right after I alphabetize my spices and organize my closet by color). I can’t leave a beach without taking some sand—but I never thought of sprinkling it in my shoes. Of course, the most powerful general-purpose-make-a-crappy-day-better sand would be from my home beach, Seaside Park, NJ, but I’m thinking some of these other sands (and I’ll have plenty left over after I fill the matching jars) might have special powers of their own. Grenada sand for marital conflicts, since we went to Grenada on our honeymoon. Puerto Vallarta sand when the kids are driving me nuts, since that was our first overnight trip away from Alex when he was two or so. French sand when U.S. government policies are what’s bugging me. The possibilities are thrilling. (I’ll let you know if it works.)

One afternoon under the rainbow

July 17, 2007

“We are the children of Camp Winnarainbow
We are the ones born into the belly of the beast
If the worldwide struggle was a jigsaw puzzle
We’d be the ones left holding the very last piece (peace).”
            –Camp song

    I’ll be spending this weekend picking my boys up at their summer camp, Camp Winnarainbow, up on Route 101. Wayyyy up on route 101. I’ve already been there once this summer; my daughter went to an earlier session. OMG, people say, couldn’t you convince your kids to go all at once? Well, this is better for them, because they get some space to figure out who they were without so many siblings around, and better for me, because I get to spend two Saturdays getting my soul recharged instead of just one.

    Because, for me, that’s what pick-up day at camp is, a day to get my optimism back, to remember that there is hope for the world, even though there’s global warming and Iraq and Michael Moore is right about our country’s health care system.

    Last session’s pick-up day, a little over a week ago, I arrive about twenty minutes early; I always do. The alternative might be being late, and I don’t want to miss a minute. I wait at the entrance, milling around with other parents, looking through the lost and found, trying to memorize my daughter’s schedule for that afternoon’s Big Show, the final event of the session. Just as a counselor finally motions us to head in, Patch Adams (Yes, that Patch Adams, Robin Williams played him in the movie; he taught my daughter clown philosophy, love strategies, but, mostly, how special it is to have someone who just wants to listen), trailing grey braids and carrying duffle bags, squeezes through the crowd, joking that he is sorry for the delay but the staff had to finish unchaining the kids.

    The kids are supposed to stay out of sight until the parents eat lunch. They don’t; they know when the parents will be coming down the path to the dining area and they spy on us, diving forward when they spot their own. The couple in front of me stops short when their daughter burst over the hill, eyes shining under her brilliant blue hair. “Honey, we missed you….my god, what happened to your hair?” I don’t stay to listen to the answer, because my daughter comes flying out of the teepee circle, hair braided just like Patch’s. She is glowing; that Camp Winnarainbow glow, the world is a wonderful place and I love everyone glow. We hug, she tells me to get ready to run from one stage to the other during the second act to see her in two numbers (the Big Show really is a multi-ring circus), and then she evaporates back into the teepee circle; I go to lunch. (Excellent, by the way, and I really need to get the recipe for the cream cheese fruit bars; I say this every year.)

    The next time I see my daughter she is dancing on stilts to drum music. The drumming stops and Patch Adams, stepping out of a golfcart driven by camp founder Wavy Gravy (yes, that Wavy Gravy, of ice cream and woodstock fame), gives the shout that traditionally opens the big show: “All we are saying, is give peace a chance.” The children take up the chant, many on stilts, some on unicycles, some on their own feet carrying banners or wearing giant butterfly wings, all in colorful costumes, hodgepodges of their own clothes, borrowed clothes, and gear from the camp costume shop. The parents join in until the kids give out a shout and the drumming resumes.


    For the next three hours I watch kids toss juggling balls up in the air and sometimes catch them, sometimes not. I listen to poems, about summer, about ice cream, about losing a parent.Juggle I talk to a single mom who’s struggling to raise her kids in a bad neighborhood while she tries to get a graduate degree, and was thrilled to take advantage of the camp’s scholarship program. I talk to a grandma who’s there with nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends—they all came to watch the show because they all chipped in to send her grandchild to camp.

I see a heart-stopping performance of a song by a group of teens, dressed in white, clustered into a tight knot. They had written the song during one of their camp classes. It starts out funny, about how when you’re making

popcorn some kernels don’t pop, and gives other silly examples of
things that don’t work out, chances that are missed, potential that
isn’t fulfilled. By the time the song ends with a teenaged soldier
dying in Iraq. I am Aerialsteary.
But I can’t stay and sob, I have to run over to the aerial field, where
my daughter is spinning several stories up, one hand on a rope, the
other behind her waist, her legs extended towards the trees. I think
about Wavy Gravy’s favorite explanation of the camp: we teach the most
useful life skills, he’ll say, timing, balance, and a sense of humor. I
think, looking at my daughter so high in the air, that he forgets to
mention courage.

And then back to the stage for the camp play, written that week,
based on various Shakespeare plays that the counselors had handed out
to the kids to read. Seems the princess didn’t want to marry the prince
her parents had picked out for her, and instead falls in love with a
zombie prince (the zombie family’s makeup is stunning). But the zombie
world and the human world are at war. However, the zombie prince leaves
his family and goes on a quest below the ocean for the magic seaweed
that can make him human, but when he comes back to claim his bride,
she’s dead. Good thing he has some seaweed left. And the zombies and
humans will never fight again.Zombies

With peace restored to the world, the Big Show is almost over. And
it is time for the kids to sing. The Children of Camp Winnarainbow
(above), If I Had a Hammer, Stand by Me, Dreamer; then Wavy Gravy ends
the show shouting “First row, attack your parents!”

But we’re not quite ready to leave yet, so my daughter and I cross
the stream over to the open field with the labyrinth; we walk the
meditation path and contemplate the collection of powerful objects in
the center; lots of crystals, a garden gnome, a statue of Bart Simpson.

    Finally it really is time to go, to pick up her dufflebag full
of dirt, twigs, and tie-dye T-shirts, to say goodbye to her teepee
mates and counselors, and go back to the real world, where magic
seaweed can’t end war. But for a while, it’s nice to feel that it can.
And nice to know that I’ve got one more parent pick-up day this summer.

Tough times for traveling toddlers

July 14, 2007

Oh man, am I glad I’m past my traveling-with-toddler days. I’d probably be sitting in a jail cell by now, my kids in foster care, trying to figure out how to get myself sprung and get my kids home again without stepping onto a plane.

    Did you catch the latest? A mom and toddler were kicked off a plane because the kid wouldn’t stop saying, “Bye-bye plane”, and the mom argued with the flight attendant, who suggested she give the kid Benadryl to shut him up. And of course, back in January  there was the family kicked off the plane because the kid was having a tantrum.

    That could have been me. It would have been me, had plane travel been as unfriendly when my kids were little as it is now. (And I thought it was plenty unfriendly then; turns out it could have been a lot worse.) There was the time I was flying alone with my son when he was about 14 months old; it was a full flight, he was on my lap. The plane got stuck in a long line of planes approaching the runway, takeoffs had temporarily been stopped because of weather; he got squirmy, I knew the only thing that would settle him down was getting up and walking, there was no other way to calm him down. But the seat-belt sign was on. He started crying, and ratcheted up to hysteria; the flight attendant came over and asked me if I couldn’t do something to make my baby be quiet. I said the only thing I could do was get up and walk, and she told me that I had to stay in my seat. About 10 minutes later, the crying triggered his gag reflex, and he threw up all over me. I jumped up, fled to the bathroom, and tried to clean us both off while the flight attendant pounded on the door and told me I had to sit down immediately because we were on an active runway. (Not until I was rinsed off, thank you!)

    Then there was the time when my son was about 18 months old, and I thought taking a red-eye would be easier because he would. I did give him Benadryl. It made him speedy (that happens in some pretty significant percentage of kids), and he spent the whole flight yelling at the top of his lungs, “I want my crib, stop the plane and get my crib.” He’d seen us check his portacrib into luggage, he wanted to go to sleep, he figured it was like getting something out of the trunk of the car and couldn’t understand why we were being so obstinate. Nobody on the entire plane got any sleep; other passengers mumbled about chucking noisy kids down emergency exit slides.

    My son became a fairly easy traveler when he got older. But my daughter learned to walk at nine months, about five minutes before I took her with me on a business trip. She insisted on spending the entire flight practicing her new motor skills up and down the aisle, with me trailing her, constantly getting in the way of the flight attendants. There was no way I would have been able to get her to sit quietly; luckily it was a smooth flight. On the return trip, a gentleman in line to board mentioned he had noticed me pacing the aisles on the flight out; I began to apologize, but he interrupted to offer to do a few laps this time if I needed a break. I wanted to hug him.

    For the next few years and (and one more child’s toddler-hood) I always took a jar of earplugs with me on the plane, when my kids screamed, I’d offer them to other passengers. It got a laugh, at least. These days, it would likely get me arrested.

    So you traveling parents of toddlers, I do feel for you this summer. And when you see me watching you struggling to quiet your child, as mine are sitting engrossed in the latest Harry Potter, really, I’m not wishing your kid would shut up, I’m remembering what it was like and hoping that you’ll make it through the toddler travel years without doing time.