Wednesday, August 17, 2016

My little stinker!

Even with Samantha at Sleep away camp 500 miles away, she has found a way to mess with me.   Yes, really.  While our communication is all one-sided with me emailing her and sending her packages, Samantha took what little she could and turned it into a moment to drive me crazy.

Due to our inability to find rain boots prior to finalizing packing Sam for camp, I Amazon Primed them to her to arrive the day after she did.  In each email I sent (on a daily basis, thank you very much), I'd mention how I hoped the rain boots fit; did the rain boots fit?   I even asked her to give me a thumbs up in one of the pictures she took as a sign to let me know all was well with the rain boots.  I gave myself an extra big pat on the back for thinking up this idea as a way for her to communicate back with me. 

My friend Susanne sees her one day and asks her about the rain boots.  Sam starts giggling and says she finds it funny that I keep asking her about them.  Yes, the rain boots fit fine, but she won't let me know that because it is too funny how I keep asking. 

THIS is what I am talking about....even with us being apart for 12 days, she managed to use what little spark she had and turn it into a flame.  I am both impressed with her ingenuity and frustrated by it too.   Got to give the girl credit; it is hard to be worried about her when she totally knows what she is doing. 

After studying in great detail every single picture I could find of her posted on the camp website, I have come to the following conclusions: 
1. She looks very happy. 
2. She looks at peace. 
3. It looks like she has made a few friends as some of the same girls keep showing up in different photos with her.
4. Someone must be doing her hair and having fun putting cute braids in it. 
5. Samantha truly looks like this is where she is meant to be. 

As much as I miss her dearly, I have this feeling of satisfaction that this camp is doing wonders for her confidence and self-esteem.  If I am reading these photos correctly, Samantha is flourishing. It is a beautiful thing to witness.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

The babiest of baby steps

Now that the boys are the ripe old age of 11, they had asked for lots of freedom to be able to do things on their own, unsupervised by their parents -- go to the arcade, the beach, rent a surrey, etc.   Leslie and I, along with the dads, had discussed in advance (without their knowledge), what we'd be comfortable allowing them to do on their own. One thing we agreed to was going to Uncle Bill's for breakfast -- completely on their own!   This is HUGE!  First time going to a restaurant and being responsible for every aspect of the process; getting a table, ordering, paying the bill and leaving an appropriate tip.

Our house was as close to Uncle Bill's as you could get.  The boys were super excited about being able to get breakfast on their own.  We spoke with them the night before and quizzed them on how much tip they should leave based on different amounts the check could be.

When it was time for them to go, I stood out on our porch and watched the boys cross the street and walk into the restaurant.  I texted Leslie and wrote, "I have confirmation that the boys went into the restaurant."   One minute later Ian texted me with "Mom we made it."   Seriously, how adorable is that?

Here's the funniest part of the story...Leslie's parents had spent the night at her beach house and decided to go to Uncle Bill's for breakfast.  Meanwhile, my mom & Jim decided to go to Uncle Bill's too for breakfast.  Neither set of grandparents realizing the other set was going to be there.  Uncle Bill's is a pretty big restaurant and wouldn't you know, Both Mom/Jim and Uncle Bernard/Aunt Beth got seated not too far away from where Ian and Max were.   The boys were surrounded by their grandparents!

Uncle Bill's has ridiculously oversized portions.  One of the best things about this place is ordering breakfast on one day and having leftovers for the next 2 days.  Yum!  The boys decided to split an order of cinnamon roll pancakes. As reported by my Aunt who had a clear view, instead of putting the pancakes on two plates, they just ate from the same plate. This must've been adorable to see in action. 

I couldn't take it any longer and had to go in and shoot a picture of the two of them, without them seeing me.

These boys are just too cute!   This was the babiest of baby steps in terms of independence and getting some freedom.  I was able to watch them walk into the restaurant.  And, they were surrounded by not one, but two sets of grandparents!  hehehehee.

The boys were giddy with the how great it went and wanted to go on the boardwalk to get lunch.  Ha!  Not likely.  We said this was it for this week and we can discuss what you can do next summer in another year. 

Friday, August 12, 2016

Sam at camp

Sam is at sleep away camp in Palmer, MA. I dropped her off on Tuesday, Aug. 9th, and it will be more than another full week until I get to see my little girl again on Aug. 21st.

I am doing my best to keep it together and not jump on a plane to go to the camp and see how she is doing.  I've got my spies and they've done an excellent job reporting back how it is going, but there is nothing like seeing firsthand what's up.

Oh, what I'd give to put on my cape to make myself invisible and really get close to her.  Make sure she isn't too homesick.  Make sure she is being friendly to the other girls in her bunk.  Make sure she having fun and enjoying all this camp has to offer.  And make sure she isn't swimming too deep at the lake.  Is she brushing her teeth every day?  Is she using enough shampoo and soap in the shower?  Is she realizing she will need to wear each pair of her pajamas her few times before they will get washed?  Oh my!  I know her.  Sam will not be happy if she puts her pajamas in her laundry bag and then realizes in 4 days that she needs to fish them all out to wear again.  This will not go over well. 

Sam is only 8 years old.  I am still in awe that this was her idea to want to go.  She was so excited and had the biggest smile on her face as we left for the airport at 5:45am to catch our flight.  I am not ready for her to want this much independence.  I know this is a good thing.  I know this is all part of growing up.  I know Jeff and I are giving her a fantastic opportunity that a lot of kids (especially ones that are only 8!) don't get a chance to do.  It's all well and good to remind myself of this --sometimes hourly -- but it doesn't fill the void of how much I miss her.  How much I want to speak with her and hear her voice.

I've been obsessing checking the camp website each night for pictures of her.  It's not enough for me to find a photo and see her looking clean, well-fed, doing a fun activity, smiling with a new friend or two.  Nooooo, I have to literally pick apart every single thing in the picture -- what is she wearing? Is this the same outfit in each photo posted of her that day or has she changed once, twice or three times?  Is she going to run out of clean clothes before they do their wash?  Can I gaze into her eyes and really figure out what she is thinking at that moment?  Is she truly as happy as she appears or is it is a fake smile for the sake of the camera?  What's going on with her hair?  Is this a ponytail she did herself or is the counselor helping her put her hair up?  Is she too hot?  Too cold?  Too wet from rain?

Since I left her on Tuesday, I've sent her a pair of rain boots, a new hair brush (one of my spies told me hers broke), 2 pairs of shorts, 2 t-shirts, (again, a fear of her running out of clean clothes) and a deck of Uno playing cards.  Thank G-d for Amazon prime.  I've also sent her an email each night, put 3 real cards in the mail to her, and had Ian send her a card.

No, I don't think I have a problem. :)  Nothing that can't be solved around 10:00pm on Sunday, August 21st when Sam returns home.  

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

OC, NJ for the win!

Magical: beautiful or delightful in such a way as to seem removed from everyday life.

I love this definition of the word "magical".  It completely sums up our week at the beach.  Bringing our extended family together with my sister/brother-in-law/niece, mom/stepfather, and cousins has got to be one of the best feelings ever.  And to be with everyone for 7 days at one of the best beaches in the country (Ocean City, NJ) is magical.

I've never had a week of time go by faster.  I felt like we had just arrived when it was time to start packing up for our return trip home. 

This is our 3rd year of meeting at OCNJ, getting beach houses near each other and having a blast.  When we arrived on Saturday, July 30th, it just felt like home.  The excitement level of getting out of the car and thinking about all the things we had to look forward to in the coming week was through the roof.  We certainly have our favorite things we like to do (Aunt Betty's for ice cream, Uncle Bill's for pancakes, renting Surrey's on the boardwalk, going to the amusement park for the rides, Johnson's popcorn!, flying kites on the beach in the evening, countless hours chilling on the beach, playing paddle ball, and so much more).

And this year, we tried a few new things too!   Ian and Max took a surf lesson.  The boys were finally tall enough to go on the Go-Karts by themselves.  And we also let the boys go get breakfast on their own -- more on that later.  We found two new restaurants in a town nearby that we loved and will most definitely return to in the coming years.

One of the best things I have to report on:  Jeff took Monday and Tuesday off from work.  Yes!  He had plans to join us on the beach.  The rest of the week he worked remotely from the beach house and put in his usual 10 hour work days.  But for Sunday, Monday and Tuesday he was all ours!   Funny enough, the weather was the worst on the 3 days Jeff was available to put aside his dislike of the beach and join us.  On Sunday, we excitedly made our way to beach, set everything up, and within 5 minutes, the skies opened and it started pouring.  Both Leslie and I were a bit shocked as the weather app we used didn't say anything about rain in the forecast.   We did make it back out approx. an hour or so later, but at this point, Jeff was done for the day and opted to stay indoors.  Ha!   Monday was another washout and the skies looked gloomy most of the day.  None of us even put on bathing suits that day.  So Jeff got another free pass.  Tuesday we did better and not only made it on the beach with Jeff, but also went to Ian's surf lesson.  Although, I have to admit, you could actually see the switch flip from when Jeff was 'ok' being on the sand, to when he had 'enough'.  And when Jeff's had enough, its best for everyone he gets off the beach as soon as possible.

In other good news to report:  We had enough bedrooms this year.  Jeff and I didn't end up on the living room sofas or close to getting a divorce over my huge SNAFU last year.  Whew!  This went far in keeping the good vibes going all week long. Our house was in the most awesome location of being positioned right next to Aunt Betty's (fabulous ice cream place) and Uncle Bill's (amazing pancake breakfast place).  I joked with my mom, whose bedroom was closest to Aunt Betty's that if she rolled out of her bed the wrong way, she'd be ordering ice cream.  We were that close!

The beach is my happy place.  Even on a rainy or cloudy day, there is something so tranquil about being near the water, waiting for the sun to come back out.  We don't lack stuff to do together even when the weather is not at its best.

One of my most favorite times of the day is when we've been approaching 7+ hours on the beach and the sun is starting to set.  The kids are very content to stay and play much longer.  I've settled into my chair with a good book.  We are happily munching on our snacks, sipping our drinks and discussing what we will do for dinner later that day.  Time is standing still (but really it's not!) and we are savoring every moment.  At 5:00pm, the lifeguards call everyone out of the water and give us the speech that they are going home and swimming in the ocean is at our own risk.  It takes all our willpower to call it a day.

Yep, that's Ian surfing!

Proof we had Jeff on the beach.

It's like 2 peas in a pod x 2.  

The whole gang at Uncle Bill's

Monday, August 8, 2016

Soul Mates

 I just found The Crazy Man's twin.   OMG!  This was a Humans of New York Post that ran on August 7th.  I read it and can't help but think this is EXACTLY like the eccentric old man I do part-time work for.   This post made me laugh. 

“I’ve always lived off my artwork all my life. I’ve lived all over the world. I’ve had fourteen common law wives. I’ve never needed money because I’m talented. Talent is better than money because it’s always with you. Let me give you an example. Back in 1970 I was getting dinner with a Japanese model at the Sao Paulo Hilton in Brazil. This guy from Texas was sitting at the table next to me, and he’s trying to order a steak, but he keeps sending it back to the kitchen. ... He keeps saying: ‘The steaks are better in Texas.’ After the second time he sends it back, the master chef comes out, and I hear him say in Portuguese: ‘I’m going to kill this man!’ Now being a Galician myself, I know the character of the Latin American people. If a French person says he’s going to kill you, you don’t have to worry. The French are lovers and all lovers are cowards. Trust me—several of my former wives are French. I know this. But when a Latin American tells you that he’s going to kill you, it’s time to leave. So I walked over to the man’s table and bought him a bottle of wine, and I talked with him about Texas. I knew all about Texas because I competed in fishing tournaments there. After a few minutes of talking, I tell the man: ‘If you order one more steak, you’re going to get killed with a machete.’ So he took my advice and he left. The entire restaurant staff came out and started singing to me with tambourines. They brought out free wine and a full spread. They said, ‘Your money is no good here.’ The Japanese model was so impressed. See what I mean? Talent.”