Eight years ago, Scott & I went on a Royal Caribbean cruise to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. We left the kids with their grandparents for the week while we frolicked and played on the high seas. We laid out on the pool deck drinking cocktails, drove jet skis in Haiti, climbed Dunn’s River Falls in Jamaica, swam with the stingrays in Grand Cayman, and toured Cozumel on segways. Throughout the entire vacation away from the chaos at home, we were reminded how much we really enjoy each other’s company and why we got married in the first place. It was like falling in love all over again. This summer, we don’t need to go away to have a good time. We are experiencing a “staycation” while both kids attend overnight camp in the Poconos. We are taking nice walks at night, having great conversations during the day, and staying in bed a little longer in the mornings. Our relaxing agenda consists of to do items like hanging out with friends, going out to dinner, and discovering the wonders of Netflix. By the way, I don’t know why it took us so long to take advantage of this plethora of great TV at our fingertips! Anyway, we purposely made no big plans for these weeks so we could just “be.” The first six months of this year were rocky to say the least with several family illnesses–including my own battle with anxiety accompanied by some crippling panic attacks. (More on that later.) Thankfully everyone, including myself, is on the mend, but 2015 has been the year of the unexpected. To kickstart the 2nd half of the year, I am referring to our staycation affectionately as “Camp Heisman.” It is a new beginning. A fun little haven of adult conversation and activities in the comforts of our own home. Hot showers and good food are standard. Clothing is optional. (Sorry Mom & Dad). And while we miss our kids so much, we know they needed a break too. We all deserve this little hiatus which is probably why I do not feel at all guilty about our current situation. In a little more than two weeks, we will be one big happy family under one roof again. Things will pick up right where they left off. Jenna and I will watch and analyze episodes of The Bachelorette while Andrew catches up on American Ninja Warriors. Tube Night at the pool will go back on the calendar. Clothes and kid clutter will give the house that “lived in” look again. Conversations about camp, friends, school and life in general will come back to the minivan–where it is frankly a little too quiet for me these days. Soon enough, my life will be exactly like this again (click here). For now, my plan is to lay low and take it easy while it lasts. Maybe we will go to a movie during the week or out to dinner. Perhaps, we will jump in the car for a day trip or two. And I should probably finish my novel for book club–or actually start it. Most importantly, I am grateful to be able to give our kids some wings, take a break from it all and enjoy this time together as husband and wife.
My son’s mohawk has been a summer staple in our family for the last 5 years. He waits all school year long to make the journey to Great Clips. He knows we don’t allow the mohawk between the months of September and June because don’t want any major distractions to interfere with his studies. Not that I have any scientific evidence which correlates hairstyles to good grades, but I’m his mom and I’m sticking to my guns on this one. Summertime is different. We don’t mind him letting loose and expressing himself in this way. He loves the look and quite frankly, I think it is adorable. Not everyone in the family agrees with me. The grandparents don’t like it one bit which is why I waited until after the annual Father’s Day barbecue this year to get it cut. Mohawks are synonymous with rebels like Mr. T or some of the people who walk down South Street in Philly. Not a look for their grandson. Of course, they love him anyway and take comfort in the knowledge that his hair grows back quickly. Some supporters of the mohawk suggest I have him dye it red or blue. To them, I say no thank you. He is a boy, not a clown. I appreciate your support, but this is as far as I go. He started with the mohawk after he joined the swim team. All of the other boys were sporting them and he begged me for one too. I was hesitant at first, but he wanted it so badly and I relented. I reasoned it wasn’t like a piercing or anything permanent. When he came home for the first time with the shaved sides and landing strip down the middle, it was shocking to see. It was also the first time I saw my youngest look more like a little man. I admit I wasn’t crazy about it at first, but within a day I embraced his new look wholeheartedly. He made it so much easier because he loved it and–let’s face it–he rocked it. This summer, he is trading in swim meets for overnight camp in the Poconos. A few of his synagogue friends are going to camp with him but for the most part, he will be making a lot of new friends. I thought this might be the end of the Mohawk. But I was wrong. As June rolled around, he couldn’t stop talking about it and is even more excited to show his choice of summer hairstyles at camp. His sister tried to deter him. As a veteran of the same camp, she gave him the lay of the land and told him no one else had a mohawk. He was not at all phased by this information. In fact, it seemed to make him want it even more. I pulled him aside one day and quietly asked if he thought it was wise as he was going to a brand new camp with people he didn’t know. I didn’t tell him I feared he would be made fun of and not be accepted by his peers–although this has always been my worry. His answer shut me up once and for all. “Mom, I’m a leader. Not a follower.” SHIT! How can a parent argue with that?! And then I realized a few things. This is a kid with a boatload of confidence and I raised him to be that way. What kind of mom would I be if I didn’t respect his choices to be an individual? Within reason…of course. The mohawk may be a shocker at first, but if I know Andrew (and I think I do…) he will quickly win people over with his huge smile, great sense of humor, athletic skills, and wonderful personality. At 11 years old, he knows exactly who he is and he can’t wait to show it. They say you are only young once and we all know it to be true. He isn’t sporting a mohawk at school, in an office setting and he certainly will not have one at his bar mitzvah next year. I’ll admit, he did have it for a family funeral. We really had no choice there. It was purely bad timing. There is no better place than summer camp for him to have a little fun. Fun is what summer is all about! Seriously, there is no harm in it. And as his mom, I look past the mohawk and straight into his beautiful green eyes. He is still my son and he makes me incredibly proud.
There is a countdown going on right now at my house. 22 days until the kids leave for URJ Camp Harlam in the Poconos. I’m not sure who is more excited about it—the kids or me. Sure, I have 21 days of shopping, packing, and labeling clothes and various accoutrements for both kids ahead of me. But when all is said and done, I will have two happy kids at overnight camp and two happy adults at home. Of course, I will miss them—especially for the first few days. But I know I will get over it quickly. They will be back soon enough. After a year of illnesses in my extended family and hundreds of trips schlepping the kids to and from various school and extra-curricular activities as well as dealing with schoolwork and life in general, we could all use a little respite. Overnight camp provides the break we all need. This is Jenna’s 4th year at Camp Harlam and she is looking forward to going off the grid and hanging out with all of her friends. Andrew is starting overnight camp for the first time this year and, while I’m a little concerned about how he will adjust, I know he is going to have a wonderful experience. As for my husband and I, this is a staycation. People ask where we are going while the kids are away at camp. Um, nowhere – we still have to PAY for camp leaving little money for a second honeymoon. But I do have a list of things to do while the kids are away. • Enjoy 3 ½ weeks of not being a slave to the calendar. For 49 weeks out of the year, I struggle to carve out any quality time for myself or for my husband because we are hopelessly trapped in the web of our densely packed calendar. • Reconnect with my husband by having a lot of date nights, long walks & talks and simply reminding ourselves how much we enjoy each other’s company. • Go on day trips: A night out in the city; A hike and picnic in a pretty park; A day on the boardwalk at the Jersey shore • Invite some friends over for wine and adult conversations. • If I have the energy, I might partake in some household projects such as cleaning out closets and reorganizing some rooms in the house. No promises though. • READING – So many books…so little time. Three and a half weeks should be long enough to put a dent in my Goodreads list. • WRITING – Finding the time to write is such a sacred thing for me and having the quality and quantity of time to do it will be wonderful. I just hope I don’t have any writer’s block. • AND OF COURSE – Refreshing the camp website. If you don’t know what this means, click here.
In three days, the curtain will go up on the 5th grade play–The Jungle Book– with my son Andrew playing Mowgli. How could I not be proud on such a wonderful occasion?! His first audition ever and he gets the lead in the show! I’ve done my best to contain my excitement and not to go all Beverly Goldberg on him. It hasn’t been easy. I realize that I am a little bit like that dreaded stage mom. After we found out he had the lead, I worried over how he would learn 40 plus lines in a little over a month, plus the songs and the choreography. He never had to memorize much more than a list of spelling words before. How was he going to pull this off? “Do you know your lines?” I asked each night. “Yes, Mom,” he said with the occasional eye roll. “I’m here to go over them with you if you want, sweetie,” I said casually. Inside my mind was racing…dying to know how far he got in learning his lines. “Okay!” he replied, but he never asked me to read with him. Not once. I decided not to push it. During one parent meeting, I took the music teacher aside to ask him how Andrew was doing. Should I push harder to read with him? Does he need more practice? What can I do to help him? He assured me Andrew was doing fine and he wasn’t worried about him one bit. Easy for him to say. It’s not his kid going up there. About a week later, Andrew’s spring allergies kicked in big time. His watery eyes turned into a terrible runny nose and eventually a croop-like cough and then laryngitis. That’s right. LARYNGITIS! My kid can’t have laryngitis. I’m sure you know where this is going. I made a sick visit with his allergist the very next day. I have had a few other stage mom moments. I almost lost it on my husband when he innocently suggested taking Andrew for a haircut. Was he joking? Mowgli doesn’t have a crew cut! Andrew’s hair has to be long and messy as if he actually lived in the jungle. And then there was the time when Andrew told me play practice was fun, but he told me how he wasn’t sure if he could actually get up on stage and play his part in front of the entire school. I took a deep breath and told him it was a little too late to worry about that. But then, there was the final straw. One minute Andrew was standing at the kitchen counter looking at a Minecraft video on his phone. The next minute, he was on the floor in tears holding his leg after tripping over the dishwasher door which was open. I admit that my first thought was not the typical “Is he ok?” It was more like: “WHAT THE HELL JUST HAPPENED?! ANDREW, GET UP! THE SCHOOL PLAY IS NEXT WEEK! YOU CAN’T BE MOWGLI WITH A BROKEN LEG. CAN YOU GET UP? CAN YOU WALK?!” And then after a brief moment of silence I added, “I mean…Are you okay?” Luckily, he is fine. I just need to keep him in a bubble for the next 72 hours. A bubble that will protect him from sickness and/or injury. Did I mention he has no understudy? I want him to do well. I want him to enjoy himself. And okay yes, I want to see his adorable face shine on the stage. This may be my only chance. Who knows if he will ever want to be in a play again and Broadway isn’t exactly knocking on our door-yet.