Archive for the ‘holidays’ Category

12th Birthday Party

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Hail to Camp – – – –
Hail to her colors true
Oh, cherished Camp – – – –
Our thought is all for you

Going to an all-girl camp that was founded in 1908 on the shore of a lake up in the mountainous woods of the Northeast is like joining a sisterhood that stretches back over a hundred years with very deep roots and wide far reaching branches, and also a little bit like joining a cult.

There are ceremonies of initiation, with special handshakes and mythological stories. The girls are inducted into one of two teams, which they will stay a member of for life. There is even a totem animal, the turtle.

Every morning Z and her five cabin mates had Cabin Inspections, which they were graded on. Besides the normal keeping the bathroom and cabin clean and tidy they had to make their beds with square corners and line up their shoes using a straight edge. The girls traded off jobs each day. Apparently lining up the shoes was the hardest thing. (I am going to have to make Zoe demonstrate this for me, because I just don’t see how lining up shoes could be that difficult.)

Actually, the one thing harder than lining up shoes were the warm-up laps at the beginning of each daily swim. Zoe, who is spoiled by the crystal clear waters of our heated pool, found the lake waters to be “gross” and “cold.” To warm the girls up they had to swim laps: freestyle, backstroke, and breaststroke.

They built a lot of routine into camp life. The girls got up to the sound of a bugle horn at seven a.m. every morning, except Sundays. After breakfast and inspections they all met in the Lodge for assembly where they would sing camp songs, celebrate birthdays and listen to important announcements.

Then they had three activities before lunch, two were assigned but the third was their own choice. There is climbing tower, archery, camping skills, art and crafts, cooking, tennis, volleyball, kickball, soccer, hiking, field hockey, mountain biking, and yoga to choose from. Being on a lake there were also tons of waterfront sports like swimming, water-skiing, sailing, canoeing, paddleboarding, taking rides on the sea wasp or jumping on the water trampoline. Zoe’s favorites were the sea wasp, water trampoline, archery, and sailing.

After lunch in the lodge-like dining hall there was a built in rest hour. For the first half hour the girls had to stay silent and on their bunks in their cabin, the second half they were allowed to talk. Zoe seemed to treasure this time to read and write in her journal.

The afternoon had three more assigned activities, one of which was always swimming. Zoe is such a strong swimmer now and she is brown as a little nut.

At quarter to five it is time for the counselors to get a break and go swimming and the girls all run for the showers because there isn’t enough hot water for everyone. Zoe told me that only a third of her showers had hot water. It was not something she complained too much about though. Makes me wonder if she wasn’t really taking that many showers…

After supper was something different every night, like camp wide capture the flag, trivia contests, the masquerade, crafts, canoeing out for a sunset ride. They also had their plays, talent shows, and campfires.

Before the early taps the girls were all fed a bedtime snack of milk and cookies at the Milkline. Zoe and the other youngest girls had Milkline at the Crow’s Nest overlooking the river. Every night, somewhere not too far away on the lake, fireworks flashed and banged as the girls tried to fall asleep in their lakeside cabins.

I chose this camp after much research. There were many camps where Zoe might flourish. Theatre camp, French camp, music composition camp, math camp, science camp, CSI camp, circus camp and more. But Zoe devotes a lot of time during the school year to those things and I wanted her to have a different experience this summer. My main goal was for Zoe to experience independence, to get outdoors, and to get a sense of and grow in her capabilities. I decided a traditional outdoor camp was the place. This camp doesn’t have a state of the art gym or Olympic swimming pool. It has a trees and a lake. Not only do they not have computers, they don’t allow them, or cellphones or iPads, or anything that can get you online. The cabins aren’t air-conditioned, the lake isn’t heated, and the music you hear you are making yourself. It is life unplugged.

One of the things I think this camp did extremely well was to create a sense of belonging  and camaraderie. The history is thick and palatable and it gives the girls the feeling that they are joining something special. There are so many traditions, like signing the walls and ceiling of the cabins, the pageant, songs with hand gestures, and the milkline . There was also the experience of being at a camp where all the decision makers are girls, and all the winners are girls. There was plenty of competition but Zoe said it was friendly, with a lot of fun being had dressing up in your teams colors and cheering for your side. She also said that the losing team didn’t feel bad because the whole thing was just too much fun. But it wasn’t all lighthearted. Zoe pushed herself hard to qualify for and move up to higher levels in various sports. She was testing herself, literally, proving she could tread water, work the tiller on the sailboat, tie knots and light a campfire.

As far as she could tell Zoe was the only PG girl, the only home schooled girl, the only geeky girl, and the only Jewish girl. But this W.A.S.P.y sisterhood was more than welcoming. When we came to pick her up on Saturday she took us on a tour of the camp and everywhere we went girls, her age and older, and counselors were calling out “Zoe!”, “Hi Zoe!” “Zoooooeeeee!” I asked, “How does everyone know you??” and she answered, with a wink, “I’m kind of a big deal.” LOL! She was joking. Probably. She has gotten pretty good at those pop-culture referencing one-liners.

She taught her cabin mates Pink Fluffy Unicorns and they taught her The Sprinkler and Motorcycle Cat. She bonded with a geeky counselor from Britain over Doctor Who, Firefly, and Buffy. She got a little homesick, especially when she and the other youngest girls spent the night in an old creepy house on Lake Wallenpaupack the night the derecho storm blew through Pennsylvania. The Spyglass house had no electricity, only a fireplace to offer a sense of protection from the hair-raising thunder and lightning.

Zoe was happy to see us and come home after two weeks, but she already asked if she can go back for three weeks next year. I’d love to send her and maybe that will be the best place for her to go, year after year. But I can’t say for sure at this point. Summer is an exciting time to try new things.  Or maybe it’s a time for traditions and seeing old friends.

Remember beside the campfire
Beneath the mountains blue
That you’re part of Camp – – – –
And it is part of you.

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I guess everyone knew it was going to be harder for me when Zoe went to sleep-away summer camp for two weeks than it was going to be for her. Not that Zoe isn’t adorably attached to me, we are still as we have ever been, the closest companions. But going away on an exciting adventure is fun and diverting in a way that being left behind usually isn’t. Except it was.

The initial five days were easy. Brian and I had our first alone-for-longer-than-a-weekend vacation  in years and years. We slept in every morning. We spent some part of each day outside, hiking up to waterfalls, riding zip lines, or ski-dooing around the lake. Every evening we ate and drank at a fine French restaurant. It was decadent.

And the next week, all alone during the day, my time was my own. I could go when and where I wanted, eat where and when I wanted, watch British movies on Netflix, read, write, and nap. And that felt even more decadent!

I was totally prepared to miss Zoe fiercely and painfully. Her summer camp doesn’t allow cellphones or email. I thought I might only hear from her two or three times and, in between, I would be worried and wondering if she was happy and safe. But her camp has this cool system where I can send her an email and they print it out and give it to her and she hand writes me a letter and they fax it to me. My dear girl sent me nine letters in two weeks. They were short but long enough to let me know she was happy and having loads of fun. So there was nothing to worry about.

So, this little experiment of mine, has been a success, at least on my side, and by all accounts, for Zoe as well. I decided to celebrate this last afternoon of my vacation with a slice of cake. I’m not celebrating Zoe’s absence or her return, but the not small triumph of things turning out better than you thought they would.

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Hanukkah 5th Night

Brought to you by nerf and Think Geek

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We have been getting ready for Hanukkah/Solstice/Winter here. This year I am going with a “candle light” theme. I like the idea of Hanukkah as a Festival of Lights. I am also decorating with green branches of Holly, White Pine, and Juniper. I bought three more menorot/hannukiot so we have six now, which really helps light up the darkness during the long nights of winter.

We have been having a really lovely holiday season in Philadelphia. B’s work holiday party was extravagantly fabulous. They even had a Candy Bar, which I hear is the new rage at parties. It was cool. I mean, who hasn’t wanted, at some point in their lives, to be given a bag and be allowed to take whatever they want from a candy shop? It really makes you feel like a kid again.

Here are some pics of our holiday festivities so far.

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