Blissful Camp Summers

24 Jun

Every year at about this time I get totally “homesick” for camp. I went to the best camp, Camp Walden, in NY state, for 10 years, eight as a camper and two as waterfront staff. They were definitely the best summers of my life. And every year at around now, I go onto Walden’s website and wish I could go back!

Looking at Walden’s website now, I know that my husband and I would never be able to afford to send even one of our four children to camp for the entire summer.  It costs almost $9000! I know it wasn’t cheap when I went, and my parents really could only afford to send me for one month while my brother was also going, but the price seems out of control expensive to me now. Even tuition to the school we are talking about for our kids costs less than that, for ten months!

As memory serves, I was the best kind of camper. I was totally into being away from home, with all my “camp” friends, wanted to participate in every activity, and knew everyone in camp, even when I was only eight years old! In fact, my first summer in camp, I only stayed for the first month.  Well, on visiting day, the day first month campers left, everyone my parents met told them, “you know, she really wants to stay!” That’s right, even at eight, I recognized how amazing and wonderful being at camp was. When I found out, at 11, that my brother wasn’t going back to camp, my first question was, “can I have his month?” Finally, I got to go to camp for the whole summer, to experience the second month trips and the all important Colour War!

Camp was so much a part of my life that I would go home and cry myself to sleep for days because I was home instead of at camp. I would go home and immediately get out a calender and count the days until camp started the following year. School was just something I had to do in between camp and camp. So, how, you ask, did I get away from camp? Well, being a counselor was nowhere near the same as being a camper. Also, after being a camper for eight years, it was really hard to convert my thinking into being the one making the summer amazing for the little kids. I also wasn’t the most out-going of 16-17 year olds. I didn’t like calling attention to myself and acting foolish to get others to laugh. So being a counselor was hard. Working on the waterfront, however, was fabulous! I loved life guarding and teaching swimming lessons (still do!), and watching kids progress from the beginning to the end of the summer.

I wish for my kids to one day have the experiences that I did when I went to camp. My eldest, at 6, is only two years younger than I was my first summer away. I hope there is a way that we will be able to send her, and her sisters and brother, to camp too, in order to have them experience the wonderful feelings and friendships that I had as a kid.

I also (not so secretly) wish that I could find a way to go back to camp myself, in some kind of head staff position (waterfront director?), which could let my kids go to camp as well. Although I do feel like that would be cheating a little. Part of why camp was so good for me, was because my parents weren’t there. It was something I got to do on my own, without being so-and-so-s daughter. But still, wishing they can one day go to camp, and wishing I can one day go back! Any ideas? Win the lottery?

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Funny Kid Comments

13 Jun

Three year old son in the car “Five little monkeys jumping on the bed.  One fell off and bumped his head.  The mama called the doctor and the doctor said, ‘No more monkeys breaking their heads!'”  Doesn’t this make sense to you?  My boy knows the monkeys are going to jump on the bed some more, so he has a much better response from the doctor.  Do it, just don’t get hurt.  Pretty much sums up the way he thinks.

My Parenting Style

12 Jun

Lately I’ve been reading a lot about attachment parenting.  You know the type; hold your baby all the time; don’t let him/her cry, even if s/he wants to nurse 23 hours a day; use only a nice, quiet voice, even when your kid is DRIVING YOU CRAZY; oh, and nurse until s/he is at least three (or even, let him/her wean her/himself when ready, even if that takes until the kid is six).

So, yeah, that’s not me. I love my kids, and definitely have a very soft spot for the baby of the moment (read: she doesn’t talk back, have tantrums, run around the house “singing” at the top of her lungs, or leave a hurricane of toys in her wake), and try to do right by them.  But I don’t understand how “attachment parenting” people have the patience.  Or is it all a hoax?  Me, my patience is directly influenced by a)how much sleep I got the night before, b)how many kids co-operated so far this morning (or, alternatively, how many kids DIDN’T co-operate so far this morning), c)how many times I’ve ALREADY asked you to do something, and d)how many times I have already lost my patience today.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love my kids; I ADORE my kids.  I’m attached to them.  You know, I don’t want them to get hurt, and I try not to give any of them toys that have small pieces that the baby might swallow or choke on.  But come on. Never let them cry?  Who does that? My kids cry with regularity. They have tantrums because they didn’t get what they wanted, or they didn’t know what they wanted, or they didn’t co-operate until I lost it and walked away, and then they realized that they wanted me to help them with whatever it was that I was TRYING to help them with.  And you know what, after the storm has passed and they are calm and I am calm, I always ask them, “Was it worth having a tantrum over (fill in the blank)? Do you ever get what you want by crying and having a tantrum?” And I’ve got to say, I take so much pride in the fact that they ALWAYS answer “no.” Not one time has a child of mine gotten what s/he wanted by crying or having a tantrum. They get it when they ask politely, with a “please” and a “thank you.” I’m attached, people.  I’m just trying to make sure that my kids learn manners and proper behavior from a young age. I have this hunch that people will like them better if they can ask nicely for things, rather than demand them and then cry and scream until they get what they want.

Now this nursing thing.  I get it. The baby cuddles with you, you melt and love it, want it to continue forever.  Happens to me too. The problem is, the baby grows up. Oh, not right away.  But s/he gets bigger, starts walking and talking, and trying to pull your shirt up whenever s/he wants to nurse, or alternatively, asks to nurse.  My personal philosophy is, if s/he can ask to nurse in a proper, full sentence, s/he is too old.  And I love nursing the baby. In fact, this last baby may prove my whole philosophy wrong.  Because there is no other baby on the way, and I feel like I just want to nurse her forever. But, one day, when she is walking around, I hope I’ll look at her and say to myself, ‘this is a kid, not a baby. She needs to drink milk from a cup, like kids do.’ And I’m only looking ahead to when she’s, like, two. I have a three-year-old also.  And I can absolutely not possibly imagine still nursing him. He such a PERSON. His own person. An individual. Himself. I still hug and kiss him and love to cuddle him. But nurse him? No way. That is so for BABIES!

So, attachment parenting? Not my style. But the name sucks. Because, truly, aren’t we all attachment parents? I mean, we are all attached, right? So it’s the name that’s the problem.  Can’t we call it something else? Like “Crunchy, granola, never-let-go, never-lose-your-temper parenting?” Then I would have no problem counting myself out. ‘Cause attachment parenting is definitely what I do, just not by the current definition.

The Baby

10 Jun

I have four children.  Daughter #1 is 6 1/2.  Daughter #2, 20 months younger, is nearly 5, The Boy, 17 months younger than D#2 is 3 1/2, and then we have The Baby.  Our biggest age difference, she is 26 months younger than The Boy (that makes her 14 1/2 months).  And she is so so sweet.  Everything about her is delicious, she is always happy (except for the 5 minutes a day, maybe, that she isn’t), and she is just, The Baby.  Everything she does is wonderful, exciting, fantastic and perfect, even when she is naughty.  The “big” kids push my buttons and can get me SO angry. But she just looks at me and I melt.

Now, I know part of this is because she is The Baby.  She is just starting to say a few words, so even when she says no, it’s cute.  She can’t run away from my hugs and kisses yet, and she loves to be squished.  When I pick her up from her nap, and her head burrows under my chin and her skinny little arms wrap around my neck and hold tight, I simply melt.  There is nothing better than those few minutes each day. Nothing.

Part of this is the age dynamics.  The three older kids are within six weeks of being three in three years.  I loved all of their babyhoods, and was surprisingly good about documenting them all, but by the time D#1 was The Baby’s age I was already 2 1/2 months pregnant and already loving D#2.  When D#2 was The Baby’s age I was 6 months pregnant, loving them all, but tired. When The Boy was 14 months old, I wasn’t pregnant yet, but I wanted to be and the husband and I were in deep negotiations whether there would even be a fourth. So now, I find myself with The Baby, not pregnant, not wanting to be pregnant, and just able to relax and enjoy her every moment.  What a difference it makes.  Part of me wishes we hadn’t rushed with the first three, but at the same time, I know that if our time frame had been much different, The Baby would never have happened.

I know I still want one more baby. But I want a break first.  I want some time for the kids we have to grow and develop and have lots of attention and love.  I feel like I would like one more when The Baby is somewhere around 3 1/2.  That gives me a little more than another whole year to not think about being pregnant.  And our track record seems to be that when we decide to get pregnant, I’m pregnant the next day.  I know it doesn’t always work like that, and I AM getting older (I will be 35 in Sept)…but I somehow feel like when the time is right it will just happen. I know the negotiations will be much harder this time (the husband was pretty adamant that he was done after three), and I know I may lose. But in the meantime, I’m not worrying about it.  I drop references to #5 every so often, just to let the husband know he’s not off the hook yet, but I’m content to sit back and love The Baby and her siblings for a while longer.

And if I do lose, and we don’t have another baby, we will be getting a dog. Let it be known.

(but we all know that I will win, right? and we will eventually get another dog too. more on the dog in another post.)

Adventures in Language

5 Jun

Living in Israel has definitely been an interesting experience. If nothing else, it has really emphasised to me how children can come from the same environment and be so completely different.

Take daughter #1: She started in Hebrew kindergarten last year, with no Hebrew. By February, her teacher told me she understood everything but didn’t speak, by March she was speaking. In April, she was at a friend’s house with a baby-sitter, and when I went to pick her up the baby-sitter heard us speaking English, immediately switched to American-accented English and told me that she had no idea daughter #1 was not a native Hebrew speaker until I got there. Picture me swelling with pride. But…husband and I ask her to translate anything…and she can’t. She understands what it means, her brain just can’t make the leap to translate. It’s like her brain is keeping the two languages totally separate, and there is no crossing back and forth. She also has a hard time expressing her feelings verbally, so maybe it is all part of the same issue. Something to think about further.

We move on to daughter #2, 20 months younger. She started junior kindergarten this year, in the very same class, with the same teachers that daughter #1 had last year. By March her teachers told me she understood everything, but only a couple of weeks ago did they tell me that she finally spoke Hebrew in class, as if it was a big breakthrough. But…she had been speaking Hebrew with her friends, outside of school, for over a month by this time. I guess it was just a hurdle to be overcome, to get herself to speak Hebrew in class. She doesn’t care so much about speaking perfectly; sometimes, even I know her grammar is wrong (she will be talking about a boy but conjugate the verb for a girl, or the reverse), but she doesn’t care. She makes herself understood, and that is good enough for her, for now. Now, we ask daughter #2 to translate something for us…no problem. The English word is on the tip of her tongue. Her brain makes the connection with no problem.

Now take The Boy, 3 years old, in an English daycare, with a little Hebrew thrown in. One day, we were in his teacher’s house, after daycare was over. She is American, but speaks Hebrew to her kids, and only the eldest speaks any English. The Boy walked over to one of her sons, who was sitting and eating, and asked him “Ma Zeh?” (What’s that?) Not only did he know the words to ask what it was in Hebrew (which astonished me), but he instinctively knew that he had to speak to this boy in Hebrew (which astonished me more)! Amazing!

I am continuously amazed by my children. I have read studies about kids who are exposed to more than one language when they are small, and the fact that it actually makes them smarter, since their brains have to make different connections than the connections made in the brains of children only exposed to one language. So I feel lucky that my children have had the opportunity to benefit from this experiment (except the youngest, only 14 months, who spends all her time with me and only ever hears English, and who, ironically enough, was born here). Now I’m ready to go home. (Have I mentioned that at all?  Are you all getting the point?)

Tickets Booked!

4 Jun

I finally booked tickets to go “home” this summer!  We are going for six weeks in July and August and I can’t wait.  So happy to visit my parents and friends.  So happy to get out of the heat and humidity of summer in Israel. So wishing for our house to sell so we can just stay.  Oops.  Did I really write that?  Well, it is truly how I feel.

I’m looking forward to a number of things, many very materialistic, that I don’t feel I need to enumerate.  Let’s just say that life is much more comfortable in Canada than it is in Israel.  Not really speaking Hebrew adds to the confusion and annoyance of every day life.

This past winter I have been swimming with the local Master’s Swim Team.  I am looking forward to joining the local team near my parents’ place and being humbled.  I am not a great swimmer.  I swam as a kid, but never on a winter team, seriously, until I was 17, in College, and that team was open to anyone who wanted to join and came to the work-outs.  So I know I am not great.  But, honestly, sometimes, with the team here, I feel GREAT.  I am often the fastest in the pool.  There is one other woman who is definitely faster than me, but since I’ve gotten in shape, I can sometimes keep up with her, depending on the set.  It is really good for my ego. It is good for both of our egos that we are often the only two women, and we are faster than all the men.

But I know it is artificial.  I am looking forward to being in a pool with people who are good swimmers.  With whom I have to work super hard just to keep up.  I know this will help me much more than being one of the two fastest on the team helps me now.  One day, I will go to a meet and see how I really am.  But for now, I am looking forward to practicing with people who challenge me to improve.

I am greatly looking forward to hanging out with my parents.  I have a fabulous relationship with them, and sorely under-anticipated how much I would miss them when the husband I were listing the pros and cons of making the big move. Sure they annoy me sometimes, and give me advice I wish they would keep to themselves, but overall, I am a much happier person when I am close to my parents.

Seeing my kids hanging out with my parents.  Nothing compares to this. They adore each other. The kids are spoiled rotten and love every second of it.  Sunday is “Ice Cream Day” when we are with Bubbie and Zaidie, and I don’t know who enjoys it more. Having my parents come visit twice a year for 10 days is wonderful, and I totally appreciate that they come, but 6 weeks! Even better. My parents are totally hands on grandparents and can’t get enough of the kids. Although they do find them somewhat exhausting.

Okay, I need to do this.  Here are some of the totally materialistic, asinine things I am looking forward to:

parking lots that have enough room for the cars to park, and open the doors; driving a mini van with sliding doors; going shopping for anything and knowing what store to go to, where to find it, and if I can’t find it, understanding the written signs or being able to ask for help without feeling like an idiot; buying cheap books in English, actually, buying anything, cheaply; raspberries, blackberries, pineapple (they either don’t exist or are totally out of control expensive in Israel); cheap electricity (well, to be completely honest, I won’t pay for the electricity at my parents’ house, but I know it’s cheap); lots of hot water; and most of all, feeling relaxed because I understand the system and how things work.

Not looking forward to the medical system; it is much better here, but hopefully, my kids will have a healthy summer.  Not looking forward to the flights, by myself with four children aged 6 and under. I am crazy, but it is worth it to be home.

Not looking forward to being away from my husband for four weeks. But looking forward to the two weeks that he is with us and the fun stuff we will do as a family. We’re thinking a cottage in Lake George or Vermont somewhere for a few days. Maybe the Ben & Jerry’s factory, or the Cabot Cheese factory.  Lots of lake and swimming and playing in the sand.  And my brother and his wife and their little baby (my kids’ only younger cousin) are going to come visit for a few days.

Five more weeks. And two days.

Bring on SUMMER!

The Irony of My Life

30 May

Until about a year before I met my husband I was a rainbow-flag-waving lesbian.  My longest relationship before my marriage was with another woman.  She was firmly in the closet in many facets of her life.  I, the young kid, was all about telling everyone and being a part of the new generation of liberal-minded, accepting young people.  I begged her to tell her family about us.  Did she really think they didn’t know?  Who did they think I was when she brought me to Christmas dinner and to the summer cottage?  I pushed and pulled and tried my darndest to get her out of the closet.

Fast forward ten years.  She has outed herself to everyone (or at least to her family).  I, having amended my status to bisexual, am happily married to a man, with four children.  But the irony is, no one in my current life (save for my parents, the friends that they told once upon a time, and my husband) know that I have ever been with women.  I am now in the closet. The irony…

I want to raise my children to be part of the open-minded, accepting young people who I dreamed of when I was younger.  I want to be able to refer to my ex-girlfriend as such, rather than “my room-mate.”  Yet, my husband thinks that his siblings would look at me differently if they knew the truth.  Exactly what I was combatting in my youth.  Have I lost my courage and my convictions? Does it matter less now that I am in a “conventional” relationship?

These issues are all part of my current battles with the religious environment in which I have somehow managed to trap myself. It is a struggle to figure out how to get ourselves out of our current situation. But my husband and I both agree that we have somehow managed to arrive at a destination that we didn’t really plan on visiting, never mind residing.

I recently had the following conversation with my almost-5-year-old daughter:

She: “Mummy, I’ve decided I’m not going to marry I.”

Me: “Okay.  Do you want to marry someone else?”

S: “Can girls marry girls?”

M: “Well, girls can marry girls, but most girls marry boys.”

S: “I’m going to marry a girl.  I’m going to marry S.”

M: “Okay.”

I know this is a normal developmental phase.  But what if it isn’t?  What if my daughter really grows up feeling different from everyone because she “likes” girls instead of boys?  I want her to be the girl who knows it won’t be an issue, because her mother and father are open and accepting and don’t care who she loves as long as s/he treats her well and respects her. How do we get from where are we are today, to where we want to be?