Tag Archives: family

Horse Camp, or how I nearly lost my left leg (again)

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So we have all these female children in our house and they are all girls.  Female girls of the girly female persuasion.

We made them all sign up for a certain Scouting Organization for Girls of the Female Persuasion, because we can.  We’re tyrants like that.

Last spring the two older girls went to an overnight horse camp where they did scouty things in the presence of, and briefly astride, gigantic hairy smelly animals capable of throwing them off and trampling them.  This is viewed, curiously, as a positive experience for them to have.

Earlier this evening I and my own personal offspring returned from “Mom & Me Horse Camp” which is similar except that we as mothers are obligated to attend as well.

We left yesterday afternoon.  I had to stop on the way and pick up a fast food burrito for my child because dinner was to be a “baked potato bar” which is where they give you a baked potato and various things to put on top of it and call it “dinner” even though it contains no “meat.”

As a meat-eating carnivorous flesh enthusiast, I was less than “enchanted,” but I like potatoes as much as the next person so I soldiered on regardless.  My child, however, is not a fan of the tuber.  So, bean burrito no onion please!  And off we went.

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We were assigned to cabin 5, the “LOVE” cabin.  The other cabins were named things like “FAITH” and “JOY.”  This camp serves as a Christian camp part of the year.  I, however, chose to think of cabin 5 as the LOVE SHACK in that whimsical corner of my brain that won’t shut up.

The other two moms in the cabin informed me that they had managed to piss off more than one presumably humorless Scout Mom.  I’d like to go on to say that we became BFFs, but we didn’t.  We did get on tolerably well, though.

One of the girls had ADHD which handily explained why she was frequently obnoxious, but from what I can tell the other child was merely ill-behaved.  Both moms were of the shouty threat-spewing type and neither child seemed to pay any attention to them.  What fun!

We all managed to get through the night without much drama although somebody left the heat on “comfort zone.”  This might have been all right but it seemed the comfort zone was one that originated in the tropics.  We all came through it somewhat sweatier than I personally felt was necessary.

In the morning we had breakfast and then there were various blocks of “free time” during which we were expected to “bond with our child.”  This meant “sitting around doing whatever we brought from home to do.”  In our case, this was Yahtzee and some crafty sewing projects, or books and Candy Crush, depending on which block of free time you referenced.  At one point we were urged to visit the BIG SWING.

I thought this would be a BIG LAME SWING but actually it was very cool  It was indeed a big swing, chained to two towering evergreen trees, and the hapless rider was not just strapped in but attended by two staff persons who were harnessed to the platform.  My child declined to ride the swing but did consent to be strapped to it.  Considering that this child would not ride any attraction that left the ground at Disneyland, this was a pretty big step and I was satisfied with it.

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I rode the BIG SWING and found it to be quite satisfactory, and indeed it was BIG and also a SWING, and therefore as advertised.  The first swing out over the ravine made my stomach get all wiggly, but after a moment that wore off and it was very peaceful and swooshy and verdant.  I was urged to follow tradition by spitting, and furthermore enhanced my BIG SWING experience by doing so on the way back thus avoiding spitting into my own face.

Eventually we were allowed to mount a horse, which as I understand it is the proper term despite sounding vaguely naughty, and an only slightly self-important teen led us around in circles up and down nearby hills for the better part of an hour.

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My horse’s name was Cricket.  I think this is rather a laugh, as crickets are known to rub their legs together of a warm summer evening to make a wee tiny chirping sound that is beloved by all.  This horse’s favorite pastime, on the other hoof, was to meander a bit too close to the occasional tree in an ill-disguised attempt to dislodge me from my seat.  When that proved less than fruitful, she resorted to a different game.  A large stick was protruding into the trail and given the nature of our jaunt, which is to say circuitous, we passed it twice.  On both occasions she skirted the stick by just enough to avoid getting stabbed by it, but by not quite enough to ensure that I was not stabbed by it.  Twice it jabbed into my leg and ground into me as we wandered, slowly and painfully, past.  It therefore left two large horrible swollen bruises on my leg, and managed to break the skin both times right through my trousers.  These little souvenirs of my Horse Camp Experience stung like the very dickens when I got into the shower on my return home.  THANKS A LOT CRICKET, YOU BIG BROWN JERK.

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Still, my kid enjoyed the ride fairly well.  She was very distracted by the prospect of the new Pokemon X and Y game that awaited her at home, so pretty much everything about the camp was more or less merely tolerated rather than truly experienced, thus making the sixty dollars per person money well spent, no?

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Why I Would Not Make a Good Stay-at-Home Mom

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So I have pneumonia and am at home.  I don’t feel well and I don’t rest well even if I don’t feel well, so I’m a very reluctant stayer-at-homer.

Since I am at home attempting to recuperate, The Lovely Rhonda didn’t feel it was worthwhile to engage a sitter as we normally do on Thursdays and Fridays.  This means that I am home with The Children.

Also, the house is kind of a mess because we got home from the beach on Sunday and I was already sick then.  And we both work.  And there is a fridge in the dining room because the new one was delivered yesterday.  The guy from the place is coming to get it, in fact he should be here momentarily, but in the meantime it’s looming over me as I sit here at my desk.  I’m fairly sure that it’s trying to make me feel guilty for replacing it.

Let’s recap:  I am not feeling well.  I am home.  With.  The.  Children.  In a messy house.

Today while making lunch I asked the spawn whether they would like a full sandwich or a half.  One of them, who will remain unidentified, declared, “Half.  Half a sandwich.  Turkey.”  This in a breezy way that implied just the sort of entitlement that we do not put much stock into around here, to put it mildly.

It was not the first time that I had had to remind these particular children to use those common words of politeness and gratitude, “Please” and “Thank you.”  It was not the first time TODAY that I’d had to do so.  And so my response was swift and not terribly subtle.  The pauses (…)  are where I almost but did not quite use a profanity to get my point across, because although I was angry, I was not quite over the edge far enough to actually drop the f-bomb in front of impressionable children.

“Okay, so the next kid who does not say PLEASE will be standing in the corner.  Because I am not your (…) SERVANT here to do your (…) BIDDING.  You can start saying PLEASE and THANK YOU, or you will find yourself making your OWN (…) SANDWICH.”

I rather doubt that this is the kind, gentle approach favored by child development specialists nowadays, but I’m pleased to report that nobody forgot to say “please” for the remainder of lunch.

This thing that happened today

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So this evening I took it upon myself to finish the project I started yesterday.

Yesterday evening I got a wild hair to clean the minivan, Moby Titanic.  It had been a while and the filth level was teetering on the brink of acceptable levels of sloth.  It’s one thing to say, “Oh dear, sorry about the mess, you know how it is with kids” to the poor co-worker who has been forced to hitch a ride to lunch with you, as you toss a few library books and a stray sandal into the back seat.  It’s quite another to say, “Oh, you’re riding with me?  Give me about ten minutes to stuff all the crap into the stow-and-go compartments and hang half a dozen Little Tree air fresheners to hide the smell of moldering graham crackers and despair.”

And so it came to pass that I spent a carefree ninety minutes clearing away various bits of domestic detritus from the van’s interior,  vacuuming every last crevice and cleaning various of the grimier bits with spray cleaner.

It was during this time that I spied something between the front passenger seat and the mini-console next to it, something that I had long since given up for lost: my car keys.  They disappeared around New Year’s, because the last few days before you get married are obviously the ideal time for your keys to come up missing.  Evidently they had fallen there at some point during the frenzy of preparation or possibly the night we went to the drag show where I had a certain number of adult beverages, numbering perhaps three.  For me this is something like depravity.  Don’t judge.  Anyway, a stray Home Depot receipt or similar had then fallen atop them, concealing them completely from view in the narrow dark little space.

So this means that for seven months we drove my keys around, wondering all the while where they could possible have gotten away to.

I didn’t have time to wash the van’s exterior what with all the OCD detailing and lost-keyring-finding exultation going on, so this evening I fired up the garden hose and went to town on that thing.  It turns out that beneath the crusty layer of filth, it’s a fairly nice white minivan that we have.

My nine-year-old joined me in this which is to say that she pranced around with a soapy washrag taking swipes here and there at random locations on the van and then entreating me to spray her with the hose.  I enthusiastically reluctantly agreed  and thus was she soaked to the point of drippy saturation.  When she wanted to go in the house a bit later I got her a towel and brought her around to the back door so she could strip down out of view of the neighbors.  If we let her drip all over the newly-installed floors our handyman would probably kill me on sight.

My kid is what you could call an enthusiastic nudist, charmingly free of self-consciousness and all too ready to get naked whenever the occasion calls for it.  In another year or two this might become cause for alarm but for now it’s just the exuberant innocence of youth and I for one applaud it.

The Lovely Rhonda might have applauded it also up to tonight, but maybe not so much any longer.

I am not sure what in the world caused me to say it but my mouth opened and words came out:  “Hey Delia, I dare you to go over and press your naked butt up to the patio door.”

Perhaps it was that I remembered seeing a perfect print of her nose and mouth to the glass surface of one of the French doors a couple of days ago, and perhaps also it was that I possessed the knowledge that TLR was seated at her desk just on the other side of the doors.

Very possibly it was just the whispered voice of mischief keeping me from getting too close to sainthood.  Nobody likes a goody-goody.

My child doth not disappoint.  She raced over to the door and gave it the full moon, laughing and grinning like the juvenile delinquent that I am evidently raising her to be.

I am sorry to say that I then dared her to wave it back and forth, which she did.  At this point TLR came over to the doors and under pretense of unlocking them,  lowered the blinds in each one without a word and then yelled through the closed doors that she would never be able to get that sight out of her mind.

I laughed until I cried.  Eventually she let us in.

I am still laughing.  I am a terrible person.

Family Camp Week

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So every year for the past four years, and conceivably for all future years, we have attended Family Camp at our church’s camp out in the sticks.

I say for all future years because there are people attending this camp who have been doing so nearly all their lives, and they are older than I am.  And I don’t think it’s any big secret that I am terrifyingly decrepit.  So apparently once you begin attending this camp you can expect to continue doing so for all eternity.  There are two ladies who have got to be in their 80’s who still come every year.

Now, “church camp” stirs up all kinds of impressions which I would like to hastily dispel.  We do not have lengthy camp meetings with laying on of hands or speaking in tongues.   Nobody thumps a Bible at anybody else.  It’s not brainwashing.

What we DO is we meet in the morning to talk about a certain amount of church related things (Jesusy stuff, you wouldn’t be interested) in the laid-back groovy UCC way that we have of doing things, and we eat lunch and go swimming down at the swimmin’ hole, and we have dinner and vespers which is a totally awesome way of saying we get together and talk about church related things again for a short time, and then we have campfire.  Also in there between swimming and dinner we do some crafts if we are so inclined, and some people also manage to get in a certain amount of napping, no names mentioned *COUGH COUGH RHONDA FOR FOUR SOLID HOURS ONCE COUGH COUGH*

Oh, and there’s also field games and hiking and all kinds of stuff.  This camp is on a couple hundred wooded acres with creeks and cabins and trees and dirt and bugs and stuff like that.  There is lots of The Nature to wander around in, if one is so disposed.

This was our first time going for the whole week, and we stayed in a rustic (translation: electrical problems meant that the stove hood light worked at random intervals and one room upstairs had no power at all for reasons that were unclear) cabin with our BFF Kirsten and her three magical offspring, the youngest of whom is only nine months old.  The other two are nearly exactly the same ages as The Lovely Rhonda’s girls.

The cabin is divided into two bunk rooms downstairs and two bedrooms upstairs, with bathrooms adjoining to the bunk rooms as well as one upstairs for the bedrooms.  We put the five girls in one bunk room and Kirsten, the baby, TLR and myself in the other.  Another camper stayed in the upstairs bedroom that did have power.  It was groovy.

Did I mention  how infants like to wake up in the middle of the night or very early in the morning and scream?  They do, in case you were uninformed.  This is useful information for those who might be tempted to travel with infant-having persons of their acquaintance, and so I mention it now in case this might describe either of you, dear reader(s).  I like to be of service to my fellows.

Kirsten was afeared that we would disown her for this but Happy Fun Ball is such a cheerful, adorable baby who smiles ALL THE TIME  that we couldn’t really hold a grudge.  Not much of a grudge.  Not too much of one.  Not much.  Of one.  Of a grudge.  Thing.

What was I saying?  Fatigue has made me a bit punchy.

Anyway, we made sure the cabin was stocked up with snacks and Cokes for late night cribbage and towels for swimming and fans for the incredible sticky wilting summer heat, and we had Family Camp.

On the last night we had a very fun campfire with lots of singing (I have become a Camp Song Dork) and s’mores, and then we coerced the camp counselors to hang out in our cabin while the children slept so that we, the alleged grown-ups, could sit in the lodge and play games.  This was super fun, made even more so by the fact that when we broke out the modest array of snacks that we had remaining, the response was so enthusiastic that we dispatched The Lovely Rhonda back to the cabin for more, and then watched as everything that was offered was devoured nearly instantly.  I think it is safe to say that neither of us expected these people to eat cheese doodles and peanut butter M&M’s, after seeing them eat salad all week, but they did, and with considerable gusto.

Camp is this place with singing and crafts and really, really nice people, and for all that it is an hour from home it’s a magical hour such that when you drive out to town to get something it’s like you’ve re-entered civilization.  We love it.

However, we’re not as wild about the mounds and mounds of funky camp laundry that we have to wash when we get home.

Still worth it though.

Girl Scout beach sleepover fun

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So yesterday and today marked the Epic Year-End Girl Scout Fun Beach Camp Out With Bridging Ceremony for our girls’ Girl Scout troop.

Let me just begin by saying that this is an awesome troop with a fantastic leader and a great bunch of girls.  So any comedic value I may draw out in this post is not done with malice of any kind.  I love these people.

That being said, perhaps this text that I sent to The Lovely Rhonda will set the tone:  Next time I get a hotel.

The Girl Scout organization owns cabins, as I understand it, here and there in nice places.  This cabin is right in a popular coastal town with a little promenade and an aquarium and lots of shops that sell things made out of imported shells (the Pacific Northwest is not known for its excellent shells) and taffy and so forth.

The cabin is pretty much one big room with an open kitchen along one side and a bathroom that has a door, probably only because privacy laws dictate that it must.  If there is anything Girl Scouts believe in, it is relentless Togetherness.

Sturdy vinyl-coated camp mattresses are provided for sleeping and are stored, when not in use, in two large stacks to either side of the room.  These are irresistible to your average 6-9 year olds, and while I like to think that our children are above average, they too fell prey to the siren song of the mattresses.

Oh, and someone, NO NAMES MENTIONED COUGH COUGH *TROOP LEADER* COUGH COUGH, brought an apparently indestructible beach ball which spent the two days careening nonstop off of every surface including the ceiling, the walls, and several peoples’ faces.

I arrived late in the evening on Monday, relieving TLR of duty so that she could return home to the relative safety of work on Tuesday.  We had s’mores and a bridging ceremony in which the troop leader’s daughter was promoted to the rank of Ambassador and my own offspring became a Junior.  (This is the rank above Brownie, for those of you who concern yourselves with hierarchy.  I know I was burning with curiosity about it myself.)

After that TLR hotfooted it home and probably spent the evening watching The L Word in a chenille bathrobe with a glass of wine and a box of chocolates.  She probably did this because she knew that I would be sleeping on a whisper-thin mattress on the floor of a big open room filled with children.  Knowing this, she further knew it was up to her to restore balance and harmony to the universe by doing pretty much the opposite.

You know, at first it wasn’t so bad.  My kid was happy that I was sleeping next to her on the floor — I had turned down the chance to sleep on a bed type thing so that this could happen — and the mattress thing didn’t seem too terrible.  My sleeping bag was tidy and I had an owl-patterned pillowcase my mom made for me on my pillow.  We all settled down relatively quickly and pretty soon there was the gentle, deep breathing of exhausted children.

But then… Well…

My pillow was too puffy.  I had grabbed a spare one out of the bedroom and didn’t realize it was one I had rejected for being neck-wrenchingly lofty and unmanageable.  I therefore spent the rest of the night chasing it up the slippery mattress as it squeaked out from under my head like a watermelon seed.

And?  Every time someone moved, their vinyl-coated mattress made rude noises.  The troop leaders both brought inflatable mattresses but these were no better in the rude-noise department.

Did I mention I am a light sleeper?

True story:  the tiny *click* of the clock coming alive followed by the sound of a CD spinning before the music started was enough to wake me up in the morning when I used a CD alarm clock, back in the day.  Now, of course, I use my cellphone alarm and if I forget to turn the sound back up, the screen lighting up is enough to do the job.

So you can imagine my joy when finally the baby started in.  One of the troop leaders has a young son, about ten months old, and of course had to bring him along.  He is completely adorable and pretty mellow overall, unless of course he misses his naps and bedtime at a Girl Scout beach camp out.  Despite even this he was super delightful nearly all the time.

Oh, except at 3:45am when he woke up, one assumes to be fed, and made a crapload of noise in the otherwise perfectly silent big open room of the cabin.  It wasn’t even any of that annoying crying that makes you want to throw the baby out the airplane window; it was mostly just … noises.  Noises of various types related to urgency, satisfaction, curiosity, whatever the hell goes through an infant’s little developing brain at FOUR O’CLOCK IN THE MORNING.  WHEN ALL NORMAL PEOPLE ARE TRYING TO SLEEP.

I like the little guy, and I like the troop leader, and it wasn’t personal.  But by FIVE O’CLOCK IN THE MORNING it was starting to get a little bit frantic over on my particular squeaky vinyl-coated rude-noise generator of a mattress.  I am not a violent person but it was starting to get all HULK! SMASH!  inside my head.  So finally I fired up my phone and played Plants vs. Zombies, and around 6:15am I finally settled down.  Just in time to wake up at 7am.  Because we had things to do.

Last weekend I worked two night shifts and then on Monday morning I woke up — also at 4am — and due to various Circumstances About Which I Do Not Blog, could not sleep any longer.  So I kind of walked into this thing with what you could call a sleep deficit.  Or you could call it OMG I AM SO TIRED ALREADY I JUST WANT TO LAY DOWN AND SLEEP ON ANY AVAILABLE SURFACE.

But no.  There is no time for that on an Epic Year-End Girl Scout Fun Beach Camp Out With Bridging Ceremony.

So now?  I’m going to bed.

Ode to Buttsong

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Found on the back porch:

Buttsong

One early morning I heard noise from Debra’s butt.

“Debra, you have a buttsong!”  “What?!” 

“There’s no such thing as a buttsong!”she yelled out loudly.  So,

“Yes there is” I yelled on back, “You just don’t know!”

So we spent the whole day arguing, laughing to and fro.

Now, I think, “Oh how funny was that, oh!”

This little masterwork comes to you, dear reader(s), courtesy of Rhonda’s oldest, the originator of the “buttsong” concept.

Preventable Injury

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So yesterday morning we took the children to a Girl Scout event held at a local park.  It was called “Fairy Myst” and the girls got to make their own fairy crowns, wands, and houses.  There were snacks and they all got some pretty high-quality fairy wings too.  It was kind of awesome.

The second best part of it was a song they sang as an icebreaker while waiting for girls to arrive.  It was called “Wiggalo” and went something like so:

Hey hey Betsy!

Hey what!

Hey hey Betsy!

Hey what!

Show us how you Wiggalo!

With my hands up high and my feet down low, this is how I Wiggalo!  (throws hands up high, then points to feet, then performs movement or gesture)

Wig, wig, wiggalo!  Wig, wig, wiggalo!  With her hands up high and her feet down low, this is how she Wiggalos! (everyone throws hands high, points at feet, performs movement)

My kid, the oldest, had that deer in the headlights look at first, but got into it before too long.  Rhonda’s oldest was grumpy and stated that she would refuse to participate because it was embarrassing, but we more or less forced her to take a turn.  When it was time to present a movement, she blew a raspberry.  It was completely delightful that without missing a beat they all went, (shrug), Okay!  and raspberried right back.  And thusly was she assimilated.

Rhonda had to actually get a good grip on the youngest and put her through the motions like a puppet, but once everybody sang and wiggled her wiggle she loosened up a bit (pun probably intended, knowing me).

But that was only the second best part, because the best part of course involved me injuring myself doing something stupid.  Because me.

I had raced home to fetch something we left behind and as I returned to the park I got a work call.  I was hanging up the phone and checking that it was really hung up, because I have the stupidest phone ever.  It likes to make me think that I’ve hung up, so that the party to whom I was speaking gets to hear anything humiliating that I might feel compelled to do once I believe I’m safely off the phone.

Naturally I wasn’t really looking at where I was going, so the humiliating thing I felt compelled to do was to walk straight into a thick, heavy metal cable strung around the shrubbery in lieu of what any normal person might construct, i.e. a solid, visible fence.

I hit this thing going full bore as I hurried back to Never Never Picnic Shelter Land, and it hit me a few inches above the left knee, effectively stopping me in my tracks.

Also I nearly performed a head-plant over it, but managed to prevent this by windmilling my arms and cursing loudly and repeatedly, which is my default response to painful accidents.  (I once wrecked my bicycle at the east end of the Hawthorne Bridge, and the good Samaritan who helped me up and dragged my bike out of the path of traffic was treated to some really, really interesting language.  Sorry, nice lady!)

Fortunately nobody was near enough to have their ears blistered, and I’m fairly sure nobody witnessed this brilliant act either because the picnic shelter has a big high wall at the end facing my location.  There weren’t that many other people around because it was a misty, breezy morning and all normal people were probably at home watching TV.

Naturally this forces me to confess the incident to both of you, dear reader(s).

I was left with a stripe of puffy, swollen bruise running across my leg above my knee.  It happens to be in exactly the right place for The Lovely Rhonda to poke and/or punch me if I say something insulting when we’re in the car.  She likes to arrive places quickly so she usually drives, because I am boring and old and drive sensibly.  So she’s usually  sitting to my left and if I am bothersome to her, she jabs at me in exactly that one spot on my leg which is now painfully bruised.  I only wish this stopped me from saying insulting things as we drive, but no, and nor does it prevent her from jabbing or poking.

I think I’ll drive for the next couple of weeks.