July 19, 2014
Long ago, Chinese philosophers introduced us to the concept of yin and yang. These are two concepts used to describe how apparently opposite or contrary forces are actually complementary. Perfect examples of this phenomenon are light and dark, the sun and the moon, and my sister and me.
Growing up, our personalities were more contrary than complimentary. We fought often as siblings tend to do. However, we always came together when times were tough and eventually learned to respect and enjoy our differences.
As adults, the bonds of sisterhood have grown even stronger. She can totally read my mind and finish my sentences. She makes me laugh like no one else does. And I mean laugh – until someone cries or pees their pants.
I’m so incredibly proud of her. She has a brave soul and believes that anything is possible. She knows how to make lemons into lemonade – not everyone can do that. When she sets her mind to something, nothing can stop her. One of the joys in my life is watching her make all of her dreams come true.
There are some things that we will never agree on. I will always prefer romaine lettuce over your kale chips. I will never be a fan of Monty Python or that Clerks movie that you think is a classic. But if you ever want to order from Saladworks and watch The Sure Thing, The Princess Bride or pretty much anything directed by Rob Reiner – I’ll be right over.
I wish I could jump in my car and drive 3 hours south to be with her today, but I am there in spirit. Plans are already in the works to celebrate together on another day.
And even though it is her birthday, my sister is the one who has given me the best gift of all – Donald Draper.
There is a Yiddish word for when one finds their soul mate. We say it is bashert. It is typically used for couples who fall in love, but I would argue that it can be used for sisters too. Bashert means destiny. And even though our personalities are very yin yang – it was bashert that we were put together in this lifetime, you are my gift and I am forever grateful.
July 17, 2014
This Sunday, we pick up our daughter from overnight camp. I am beyond excited to see her. I want to give her a great big hug, take her for a decaf caramel latte and hear all about her summer so far. I can’t wait to see her at our dinner table. I miss our conversations in the car. The passenger seat has been empty for long enough. The only thing that I haven’t missed is the bickering with her brother. I’m sure they will pick up right where they left off.
And if my memory serves me right, I will get out of the car on Sunday and she will greet me with these three words.
“CAN I STAY????”
Honestly, who can blame her? Overnight camp is a welcome respite from her normal life. She looks forward to it all year long. She never stops talking about camp. The memories keep her warm all winter long.
She lives off the grid. She has wonderful friends there that she doesn’t get to see at school. She takes care of herself without my constant reminders and nagging. She solves her own problems. She makes decisions about what kind of person she wants to be.
I think sending her to overnight camp is one of the best things that I have done as a parent. It is such an important part of who she is and I’m so grateful for the counselors and staff who make her feel at home while she is there.
But, do I want to send her there for almost the entire summer? I’m just not sure.
If my math is correct, I only have 5 summers of her childhood left. Just 5 summers! There is so much that I want to do with her in that time. There are family vacations that I want to take. Visit museums and walk on the beach. Sit by the pool at the swim club.
Shop! I miss our shopping trips and the boys just don’t get as much fun out of it as we do. Go figure!
Am I being selfish? Maybe I am.
Can you stay?
Your brother says stay as long as you like.
I say – Get in the car and I’ll think about it … next year.
July 7, 2014
I have a lot more time on my hands this summer and it is likely because I am not “refreshing” the camp website on a regular basis.
Does this make me a bad parent? I don’t think so.
For those of you who don’t know what this means, the webmaster of the overnight camp posts hundreds of pictures every day for parents to see. The act of “refreshing” means that I refresh or reload the website over and over again in the hopes that more photos will magically appear.
It isn’t that I don’t miss her – because I do. I miss her every single day. And don’t get me wrong. I do my share of “refreshing”, but it is not as high on my “to do” list as it used to be.
Did I just lose the mother of the year award???
Two years ago, I would wake up every morning and log-in to the camp website. I would spend my time sifting through the photos looking for my camper and then I would send the pics to my husband and post them on Facebook. I would repeat this act at least 5 times a day. If I didn’t see any new photos, my heart would sink to the pit of my stomach and then – in an act of desperation- I would “refresh” again.
During her first year at camp, I was a worry-wart type of parent. I worried that she would make any friends. I was concerned about her eating habits and making sure she knew what to wear and that she remembered to brush her teeth. At times, I admit that I was irrational – fearing that she would fall into the lake.
Last year, I checked the website fairly often to assure myself that she was still there. Plenty of photos of her filled the website for the first 10 days and then there was nothing. Absolutely nothing for 48 hours – a lifetime in the mind of a camp parent.
And did I mention that I was checking the website from my vacation in Punta Cana?
No photos. No trace of her whatsoever.
Um hello?! Has anyone seen my Jew?
A wave of panic started to set in. Where was she? And then I got my answer. Someone texted me a photo of her – on crutches. The camp staff purposely didn’t put any photos of her on the website until we were notified of a minor accident that involved a trip to the emergency room, a fancy boot and ultimately the crutches.
They are pretty smart at that camp. If I had seen a photo of that before I was told what happened, I think I would have been on the next plane back home.
I learned a valuable lesson – they know what they are doing at camp. She is being well taken care of and I need not worry – even from 1,500 miles away.
This year, I had the opportunity to meet many of her camp friends because they came to her bat mitzvah. They slept at my house and she has slept at their homes. I’ve met more parents and now, I know who her friends are and what a wonderful group she has at camp.
So while I still feel the urge to check the camp website on a regular basis – it is no big deal if I forget. In my heart and mind, I know she is just fine. She is exactly where she is supposed to be. My heart still soars when I see her smiling face at camp, but I can go a day or even two without visiting the camp website.
Until next summer…when my son goes to overnight camp for the first time. Then, all bets are off.
July 5, 2014
I wasn’t really in the mood to go to see the fireworks last night. The ones that I like to go to were postponed due to bad weather. Our only choice was the township fireworks that never play any music.
I like to hear music with my fireworks.
We also just went to see an amazing fireworks show at the Phillies game last week, so I had my fill. But my son wanted to go and how could I say no to him.
We threw 3 chairs in the trunk of the car and made our way over to the high school. It was a chilly night – definitely not summertime weather. Definitely not fireworks weather.
As we set up our chairs, I realized that Andrew was way too big for the kid-sized chair that we brought with us. I was sitting in an oversized stadium chair and I invited him to sit with me. He hesitated at first. I think he was trying to decide whether that would be cool or not.
Right before the fireworks started, he sat with me. I moved over so that we could both fit. I put my arm around him and he didn’t protest. We took a few selfies together and he pointed out the big dipper in the sky. Maybe it was the big dipper – maybe it wasn’t. I just went along with it.
Then the fireworks started and something wonderful happened. He snuggled in next to me and held my hand. And I suddenly remembered why it was so important for us to go to the fireworks.
It didn’t matter that it was chilly out or that they didn’t play any music.
It didn’t matter that I saw a great fireworks show just a few days ago.
It didn’t matter that it took us a half an hour to make our typically 10 minute trek home.
How many more times will my son and I sit like this under the stars? He is almost 11. Maybe I’ll get one more year out of him, but then my time is most definitely up. He will probably get his own cell phone next year, play games and ignore me like all of the other tweens and teens do. Someday, he will go to the fireworks with his friends and maybe he will meet us there. One summer, he will bring a girl to the high school and sit with her on a blanket to watch the nighttime sky.
Last night, he was there with me – laughing, smiling, singing our own songs to the fireworks, and oohing and ahhing the whole time.
It was a perfect summer night that I won’t soon forget.
July 3, 2014
I couldn’t help myself. It was staring me in the face – THE ULTIMATE BLOG CHALLENGE.
How could I resist? I didn’t – so I signed up. And then instant remorse set in.
I shouldn’t have done that. The minute I sign up for these things, my mind goes completely blank. Not only do I find myself with nothing to write about, but all of the same fears come back to me – like monsters waiting in the dark.
“She has committed to writing every day for a month again…let’s completely wash her mind of any good idea she ever had for a blog post.”
That’s what the monster says. And then I hear a maniacal laugh in the back of my head.
Do you want to know what else the monster says?
“Who is going to care about what you are thinking?”
“Stop talking about your kids so much.”
“Writing every day? Are you out of your mind? Don’t you have laundry to do?”
“Writing every day? Aren’t you going out of town this weekend? How is THAT going to work? Why even bother?”
These monsters are persistent and annoying. Luckily, I have a few strategies to scare them away.
- I read – I would say that half of my musings come from things that I find on-line, in the newspapers and magazines. There will inevitably be something that grabs my imagination, sparks my attention, and demands that I put pen to paper. The next time you see me sitting poolside with a stack of reading material – it may look relaxing, but I am looking for my next big idea. (Or I might be taking a nap – you never know when I wear my sunglasses)
- I live – I can typically find a gold mine of ideas just by running errands, talking to people or working on other projects. I just need to remember to keep a notebook with me so that I can write down my ideas when they come to me.
- I exercise – When the first two things on my list don’t come through for me, I’ll take a walk or go to the gym which always clears my head. Ideas used to come to me out of nowhere in the middle of the night when I would take care of my children when they were babies. Some of my best ideas come when I am focused on a single task and I have nothing else to do.
When all else fails, I have to remind myself that it isn’t going to be the end of my writing career if I can’t come up with a blog post on a particular day. No one said it would be easy – which is why they call it a challenge.
There aren’t enough monsters in the dark to scare me away from what I love to do.
June 26, 2014
Jenna Goes To Camp
Typically, it takes constant reminders to get her out of bed, along with a crowbar and a lot of yeling. Sometimes, I resort to a bribe - a decaf carmel latte from Starbucks.
But not THIS morning.
As I made my way back to bed from the bathroom at 5:30 am, she came running into my room, jumping up and down.
“When are we going?!”
Did I mention it was 5:30 in the morning?
She couldn’t sleep and I can’t blame her. She was already texting her camp friends who couldn’t sleep either.
Not so much this year. While I missed watching her hold her breath in the Lehigh Tunnel (a Harlam tradition) and her tears of joy as she saw her camp friends for the first time in months, I think it helped that I didn’t take her to camp.
I already took off six days this week to be with the kids for the gap week between school ending and camp starting. I need to save some of my time for 2 gap weeks at the end of the summer.
Apparently, saying goodbye in my driveway is much easier than in the middle of her cabin in front of her friends….and the other moms and dads.
I’m a crier.
I can’t help it.
I already miss her.
Andrew is Happy.
- Happy to have the remote control to himself
- Happy to have a bathroom that is free of make-up, hairbrushes, hair ties and other girly things.
- Happy to have our undivided attention.
He is a happy boy.
June 24, 2014
In the June issue of Oprah magazine, the contributors were asked to answer these four questions relating to age. This is one of my favorite parts of the magazine because when they pose personal questions to the writers, it tells me a little something extra about who they are as people. I feel like I know them a little better – especially when I agree with their answers.
Maybe you will get to know me a little better this way too, so I thought I would take a crack at it.
I wish I could tell my younger self … that everything in my life is going to turn out just fine. I’ll have so much fun in college, have plenty of friends, fall in love, have a family and the Phillies will win another World Series. All of these things seemed impossible to me at the time.
The best part about being 43…I’ve learned a lot and I still have a lot to learn. I have more dreams to fulfill and plenty of time to make those dreams come true. One of those dreams is to write a book, a memoir. I know I have one in me; it just hasn’t come to fruition yet. This is the perfect time in my life to work towards that goal.
My favorite way to celebrate my birthday is…enjoying Boston Kreme donuts with everyone in my family. These donuts were a special treat when I was growing up so I turned it into my own birthday tradition. My kids are always excited to wake up on the morning of my birthday because they know what’s coming.
And someday – a long time from now – when I’m gone, I hope that they will to continue to celebrate my birthday with a Boston Kreme donut.
I like to indulge my inner kid by… watching my favorite 80′s movies. It doesn’t matter that I’ve seen these movies hundreds of times. I still laugh hysterically at The Sure Thing (“Don’t you want to give me a ride?”); cry when I watch Beaches, and I could waste an entire afternoon watching the Back to the Future trilogy.
Also, I love everything about Walt Disney World. I could pamper my inner child there all day long.
Ten years from now, I’d love to…travel. There are many places that I’ve never been to – Italy, France, and Spain are on the top of my list. And I want to go back to the one place I’ve been away from for too long - Israel. Knowing what I know now about my faith and our traditions, I expect that it would be an even more amazing experience than when I went there in my twenties.
June 22, 2014
I am a working mom and I wouldn’t have it any other way, but this week I am playing the role of the stay-at-home mom. This is one of my favorite weeks of the year. The kids are finished with school and summer camp doesn’t start for a few more days. We have a lot of free time on our hands. I purposely did not plan on a lot of activities because it is nice to just breathe and see where the day takes us.
On my first day off, the kids still had to go into school for half a day. Technically, it was only about 2 1/2 hours of freedom for me, but I made the best of it. I got my nails done, changed the polish on my toes, and had my eyebrows waxed. When I came home, two excited children greeted me at the door declaring that the end of the school year was finally here.
Thirty seconds later, the following question was asked – “what are we going to do now?” I appeased their fear of boredom by allowing my daughter to invite a friend to the pool. My son was already going to a pool party with 25 of his closest friends and I volunteered to stay and chaperone. Translation: sit poolside, talk to friends and enjoy a Mike’s Hard Lemonade – at 1 pm on a weekday.
I could get used to this.
Later that night, I sat in on a local writer’s workshop. I enjoyed a conversation with complete strangers about our favorite authors and ways to self publish. I vowed once again to read any David Sedaris book that I could get my hands on. I didn’t admit to the others that I had never had the pleasure of reading his work. They may have kicked me out of the class had I mentioned it.
These are not the kinds of conversations I typically have with my friends. I have never carved out such a huge block of time for writing, but I did and it was fabulous. I could get used to this.
The next day, I woke up early because even though I am on vacation, my internal alarm clock is permanently set on 5:30 am. It kind of sucks. Swim team practice started at 8, so I had to be the mean mom who woke up her son early on the 1st full day of summer vacation. The swim coach informed me it would be more beneficial for him to come to morning practices before camp three days a week rather than practice in the afternoon. Oy Vey! How would I pull that one off when the camp bus comes at 8:30 am and work starts at 9? Luckily, I kept a cool head and three phone calls later arranged for me to drive him to camp on those days and go to work a little later. Thank goodness for an understanding, family friendly work environment!
We spent the rest of the day eating lunch & dinner at the pool. I read my book, talked to friends, and watched the kids at play – only coming to me for snack bar money. Total pool time was about 8 hours. I could get used to this.
On Thursday, we were up early for swim practice again and a dentist appointment. My daughter went with her grandmother to get her nails done and have breakfast at IHOP. A few hours later, we all met up with the intention of going swimming. Once we dragged all of the pool bags and chairs out of the car and up the hill to the pool, it began to rain. We opted for music class under the pavilion which was geared for the little ones. My kids made the best of it by encouraging their younger cousins to participate. It didn’t seem like that long ago that my kids were the ones who ran for the egg shakers and wooden sticks.
When class ended, we went around the corner to get some fro-yo for the first time this summer. I could get used to this.
We had great plans for Friday. Mini golf and homemade ice cream at a local farm. Earlier that week, I told my kids to each invite a friend to join us. It was going to be a wonderful day. Sadly though, we had to postpone that outing due to a death in the family. My Aunt Gert, who was my grandmother’s youngest sister, had passed away. She was 93 years young and married for 75 years to my Uncle Les who is still with us.
Although my plans had changed, it was still a day to see family and give lots of hugs and kisses. I could get used to this.
Saturday was a busy day. Both kids were invited to two different bar and bat mitzvahs. My friend came in from out of town to take her son to one of them. We spent the afternoon together enjoying each other’s company while eating the best portobello panini I had ever tasted. We took a long walk around her old neighborhood and talked about everything going on in our lives.
We came back to my house where my husband barbecued while the kids played in the back yard. I could get used to this.
Today was another great day. We took pictures of the grandchildren at Picture People and then did a little shopping before my daughter goes to overnight camp. We took my parents out to a late lunch to celebrate my dad’s birthday. And now, I’m enjoying a little down time (to write!) before we head over to – guess where – the pool for a swim team pep rally and hoagie dinner.
Family, friends & I don’t have to cook tonight. I could get used to this.
I have two days left of vacation. Andrew will be starting day camp while Jenna and I will enjoy some mother/daughter time together. I expect another trip to IHOP or Panera will be in order and perhaps a movie before I say goodbye to her for three and a half weeks.
Being a stay at home mom – even temporarily – has been a nice change of pace. In the midst of all of this family time, I was able to do a ton of laundry, clean out my daughter’s bedroom, make a big pile of donations for Goodwill, and enjoyed a walk with my husband around the neighborhood.
As much as I enjoyed this week plus a day off, I also look forward going back to the job that I love on Wednesday morning. I have a big to do list to tackle with a new found energy and rejuvenated spirit.
But in the back of my mind, I will relive this wonderful week and think to myself – I could get used to this.
June 21, 2014
Every time my daughter goes away to overnight camp, there is something different about her when she returns home.
The first year she went away, she came back practically self-sufficient. I was so impressed at how well she took care of herself. I didn’t have to remind her to brush her teeth. She didn’t need any help in picking out her clothes. She even made her bed without my asking – for a short period of time and then she went back to forgetting how to do it altogether.
Last summer, she got into the car and had something important to say. I could tell that there was a big announcement on the horizon. She had a look like she knew something that we didn’t know. I could tell she was taking a moment to enjoy that with a satisfied smile on her face.
As she got settled into the back seat of the car, she heard me unwrap my chicken salad sandwich. She peered over my shoulder and made a face.
“Are you really going to eat that?” she asked with distaste.
I replied yes and offered her the other chicken salad sandwich. I secretly patted myself on the back for buying her favorite kind and remembering to bring it with us for her to enjoy on the ride home. She had been denied this comfort food while she was away and I thought the gesture would be appreciated.
She waved it away.
“I’m a vegetarian now,” she informed us with great pride and enthusiasm. When I asked her how she came upon that decision, she said that she didn’t want animals to be killed just so she could eat.
Okay…makes sense. I guess. But was this for real? Where did this come from? I wondered how many of her bunk mates were also informing their parents about this decision on their way home. Were there late night discussions on the benefits of being a vegetarian versus a carnivore in the cabin? Were recipes exchanged?
Perhaps this conversation happened in the cafeteria after seeing the less than desirable camp food that was passed around the table at dinner. Was the mystery meat that much of a factor in this?
Regardless of where she picked this up or from whom, I knew that taco night would never be the same again. I would now have to include a vegetarian component. I realized that I would be making a separate dinner for her instead of her favorite meat loaf. I had to expand my cooking skills – which were already lacking – and embrace things like tofu and quinoa. Neither of which, I have yet to master.
Seven months later, we discovered eggplant and have enjoyed that on numerous occasions. This isn’t just a passing phase and I continue to be so proud of her for sticking to her values and her healthy eating habits.
This week, she leaves for camp again and I can’t help but wonder what she will learn this summer. What new regimen will she adopt? Whatever it is, I hope that it includes making her bed every morning. A mom can dream can’t she?
What do I know for sure? I know that I love being able to send her to overnight camp even though it is so hard to let her go. I know that her summer will include reuniting with old friends and making new ones. I know she will have new adventures, lots of laughs and many moments of inspiration.
I hope there is a minimal amount of girl drama – or worse – boy drama. I hope that I get lots of letters with details on what she is up to – although I know they will be limited to -” Hi Mom. I’m having a great time.Please send stamps or flip flops or whatever..”
I know that I will have fun coming up with care packages to send out with some of her favorite things – nail polish, magazines and updates from the home front and on The Bachelorette.
And I know that I can’t wait to hear all about it when she settles into the back seat of the car on July 20th.
June 5, 2014
I love commencement speeches. They are so full of wisdom and inspiration. And even though I’m not a high school or college graduate anymore, I still listen to them and benefit from what is said.
A few years ago, I heard a wonderful speech by Conan O’Brien at Harvard University. His words greet me every day when sit down in my office.
“If you work hard and be kind, amazing things will happen.”
I was particularly moved this year by a speech given at the University of Texas at Austin earlier this month. U.S. Navy Admiral William H. McRaven said,
“If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.”
I am a bed maker. If I don’t do anything else during the day, at least I can say that I made my bed.
McRaven said that the act of making your bed gives you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and then another.
He is so right! Sometimes, I’ll make my bed and then be motivated to put some clothes away too. How did he know?!
There are some other reasons why I make my bed which I will share with you.
- I love my bed, so I take care of it. I love the beautiful frame and the design as well as those two convenient little drawers at the bottom. My mattress has spoiled me rotten. I have yet to find its equal. I don’t allow pens, markers or writing instruments of any kind on the beige comforter because it would spoil its pristine look.
- I can hide the evidence. The last thing I want is my kids laying on my bed, watching Full House and finding a pair of my underwear at the foot of the bed. You know what I’m saying…(sorry Mom)
- I like having all the beds made. – If I want my kids to make their beds (which I do), I have to set a good example.
- I hate making my bed at night. - At the end of a long day, I just want to climb into bed, sink down into the mattress with a good book and get comfy. I don’t want to have to straighten out the sheets beforehand. It just ruins it for me.
- The day that I don’t make my bed … – is the day that I have an unexpected guest show up and go upstairs to use my bathroom. It’s true! And then I start apologizing and call even more attention to the fact that I didn’t make my bed – it’s so embarrassing.
Admiral McRaven also said that “making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right. And, if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made — that you made — and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.”
If this quote wasn’t so long, I’d hang it up next to Conan’s so that I remember that the little things in life do matter and tomorrow is another day to get it right.
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