My Daughter Went To Sleep Away Camp

... and all I got was this lousy adorable generic postcard.

Well sure ... it DID answer the one question I ask her each day in the letters I send her. "Are you having FUN?" But holy heck, she should know that's a rhetorical question!

Every morning around 9:30 am I go online and check out the photos that the camp has uploaded from the previous day. I scan through hundreds upon hundreds of photos, looking for familiar faces. It never actually takes long to find a few of Riley. Always smiling. Always involved in some type of activity. Of COURSE she's having fun!

I then read the daily newsletter which details ALL that they've done in the past week ... They've been swimming every day, done arts and crafts, played music, and danced. They've gone down to the lake and paddled rafts, kayaks, and inflatable "adventure boats". They've sung songs, had a Shabbat Service, watched skits, participated in service projects. AND ... they've had team building games, trivia nights, gone to the cookery, and had "free play".

I'm quite thankful that the camp has such an amazing schedule for the campers that I can read about (and see) every single day on their website. However, based on Riley's note home I would NEVER have even known! The only thing I gleaned from her note ... is that they're not serving her enough crap and candy!

Well ... lucky for Riley, I have eyes in the back of my head AND I'm a mind reader! So when I dropped Sheridan off today for her ONE WEEK at Rookie Camp, I also brought a large care package for Riley. Which was left BEFORE I even got her note. Yeah, I rock!

Of course, now I can't wait to read her next letter home ... where she probably tells me that she's changing her underwear every day. And that she's NOT bickering with her sister.

One quick kiss and off she went.
I don't think we'll have any problems with this one being homesick!


Sometimes A Really Good Deed DOES Go Un-Punished ...

On my birthday seven weeks ago, I met up for coffee with my dear friend Anna. We had been forever talking about getting together since I moved to Virginia, though as you know, life sadly got in the way.

I'm ashamed to admit that despite chatting with her on Facebook, on our blogs, via texting and email, I hadn't seen Anna since her son's funeral nine months ago. However, I have often thought of ways that I could help her. To do something more than just sending her repeated love notes letting her know I'm thinking of her.

Listening to Anna talk that beautiful June morning put so many things into perspective. I re-lived her hell as she told the story again of that fateful night last September. I learned how families deal with grief. I laughed and cried with her, and followed her lead in the flow of the conversation, often kicking myself as I dared complain about the idiosyncrasies and moodiness of my kids.

It didn't take long to realize what I needed to do. In mere minutes of discussing my idea, we picked a date and planned for Anna to host a Stella & Dot trunk show ... where 100% of my commissions would go towards her son Jack's favorite charity, Samaritan's Purse.

Over the last month we worked closely together to ensure a profitable event. She sent out emails and invitations for the show at her house, as well as invitations on her blog and her Facebook page for an online trunk show.

Last Thursday, more than 40 beautiful ladies came to Anna's house to nibble, chat, and shop. And shop. And shop. And shop. In less than two hours I had never seen so many women push their way around a dining room table to try on the shiny jewelry or thrust order forms in my face. Nor had I ever felt such a warmth and gratitude from a group of women, who came to the trunk show to surround their dear friend with laughter, love, and their pocketbooks. And on a personal level, I've never had the opportunity to experience the pure joy of knowing true selflessness.

As of right now, Samaritans Purse will be receiving a donation of $1476.84. But it could be more! Anna's trunk show is open for another 2 weeks. So go ahead and add a little sparkle to your wrist. Your neck. Your ear. Your life.

And join me in Paying It Forward. Where doing what's right, feels so ... right.


What A Difference A YEAR Makes ...

Where DID the time go? On this day, EXACTLY one year ago, I was dealing with this ...

The third of four moving trucks. Delivering our belongings from all over the world. Literally.

In the past 367 days, we have done a monumental amount of "stuff" to this place we call home.

Built an almost 600 sq. foot deck.

Furnished the deck.

Put a back splash in the kitchen.

Paint bedrooms ...

Even paint the basement ...
though I'll spare your eyes on the rest of the basement
due to a toy explosion we had just prior to snapping a photo!

Of course, sometimes it took a LOT longer than expected to decide on a color ...

We've also bought a few accent pieces, had built-ins made upstairs in my sewing nook, painted a few more rooms than pictured, had deeper shelving built in the walk-in pantry, put in a sprinkler system, and re-did the girls closets. One of these days we'll even rip out our builders-grade landscaping and redesign our front yard.

Baby steps ... right?

Happy Houseaversary!


Straighten Up Girls ... You're In The Army Now!

Or at least it felt that way when I dropped Riley off today at camp. The all-girls, Jewish, sleep away camp where she'll be for the next THREE weeks!

Hidden in the mountains in Maryland, the 65 mile drive to the camp took just shy of two hours. Beautiful as it was, it would have been shorter (and far less windy) had my GPS not taken us on a 'long-cut' through the back-roads of the Maryland countryside. A mistake my daughter will ensure I never make again!

We had no idea what to expect when we pulled up to the camp around 1:30 pm. Certainly not the sheer amount of people (almost 400 campers). Nor the amazing welcoming committee (well over 50)! Like a well-oiled machine, the greeters directed us where to stop and unload our car, and then where to park a half-mile away to take the bus back to camp.

While Riley's bags were delivered to her bunk, we exited the bus and followed the singing and cheering to registration, where the staff took pictures of the girls, had us sign waivers, and where they signed up for additional activities. The girls were then sent to take their temperature. Record their weight. And get their heads checked for lice. Only then were they finally allowed to go to their bunks, meet their counselors, and unpack.

Riley knew two of her thirteen bunk mates as they are her two Jewish friends from her school, Girl Scouts, and softball team. The others are all rising fourth graders from around the tri-state area, most of whom had been to this camp before. As we were the last to arrive at the bunk, it was very clear that despite following the suggested packing list to a T, we had clearly under packed. Most girls had brought double the amount of clothes, shoes, hanging items, towels, and toiletries than we did. They brought fans. They brought food. They brought little mats to put down on the floor by the edge of their beds so they'd have something soft to stand on when they woke up. Oh, and don't forget the posters. Lots and LOTS of posters. So many of them that for a moment or two I wasn't sure if these girls were 9 or 19.

We headed a mini meltdown off at the pass by changing Riley's sleeping arrangement to be on the same side of the room as her two girlfriends. An issue I didn't think was as big as it was, until I saw Riley's lip begin to quiver and her eyes rapidly blink. But once everything was moved, unpacked and set-up in its new location, I had a happy camper who frankly couldn't wait for me to go. I snapped a bunch of photos, gave her a big hug and kiss, and left on my merry way.

Lucky for me, I get to make the drive back to the camp MUCH sooner than I'd like as I'll be returning NEXT Monday when I drop Sheridan off for HER one week stay at rookie camp.

At least we'll be far better prepared. With double the amount of crap. And a life sized poster of Taylor Lautner Taylor Swift.

What. An. Experience.


LOOK Up In The Sky! It's a Bird. It's a Plane. It's Potty Trained Boy!

So here he is in all his glory. 100% potty trained. Hallelujah. Amen and Amen! He is quite possibly the happiest 3 year old in town. Though not as happy as me, Mommy Dearest, who no longer has to change nasty, stinky doodies that have oozed up the back of the size 5 diaper for the last 3 years, 1 month, and 20 days. Not that I'm counting or anything.

(with his mouth full of junk food as a "reward")

Of course, he IS a little unorthodox in the way he goes to the bathroom, for he vehemently REFUSES to stand up to pee. And when he sits ... well, as you can see, it's not exactly how you or I would.

It's actually a very convoluted affair. First, Grady gets on the potty facing the toilet to pee. Then he hops off to turn around and poop. Finally, he turns back around to piddle a little more. And if you're a parent out there reading this, you're probably as grossed out as I am, as you KNOW that somewhere in the middle of this I should be wiping his tush BEFORE he's dragging it all over the toilet seat to change positions.

*ahem* ... yeah ...

Thankfully, for the most part, it's all landing in the toilet. That is, when he doesn't have the sudden urge to pee WHILE pooping. Because when that happens, it's game over for me.

See, Grady hasn't mastered "the tuck" ... so we've had an incident or two where he's been facing forward on the potty, and his impressively high stream has hit the shower curtain, wall, bath mat, and his shirt.

So far he's missed his head. Thank goodness for small victories.

But ... Send. More. Wipes.


Through The Looking Glass ...

Every morning, at 7:40 am, whether we want to or not, I drop Riley off at our community center pool for swim practice. Because Sheridan's practice isn't directly after Riley's, I make four round-trips ... adding pure joy to our morning as everyone piles into the car.

Sometimes we're all up early, and manage to grab a quick bite before we head out the door. Other times, with sleep still in our eyes, we begrudgingly throw on shorts and flip flops, and slowly saunter down the steps and into the car, bickering with each other as only the four of us can.

With as many hours we spend at the pool, it shouldn't come as any surprise that we Sheridan often forgets to grab her stuff on the way out. And who can blame her, as our bags are always overflowing with swim caps and swim fins, goggles, floaty devices, and sun block, water bottles, band aids, wipes, towels, and extra clothes. Oh and a smorgasbord of toys that have our last name plastered all over in a bold, black sharpie.

Frustratingly, despite sitting next to the kids the entire time at the pool, rattling off the litany of crap to ensure we are leaving with the exact same amount of everything we came, without fail we make our way to the "Lost and Found" box ... at least once a week.

Sometimes more.

And as I loudly mumble under my breath, yet again tearing through the large plastic box of lost chlorine stained t-shirts, diving toys, and broken goggles, looking for that elusive pair of children's purple swim fins that I know I'm never going to find, I slowly realize that this search has become just another metaphor for my life.

Since Matt's departure to Afghanistan, I find myself in a never-ending exploration ... with the "for" still remaining to be seen. A quest, made difficult for someone who's so self-sufficient and fiercely independent, to feel so vulnerable or ill at ease. I've never been the one to raise my hand and ask for help. A badge of honor that I'm not exactly proud to wear, though letting my guard down and admitting that I'm a little lost and a lot lonely, goes against almost every fiber of my being.

After almost a month of radio silence, I fear I'm at an impasse where I have so much to say ... yet, can't seem to find my voice. The voice that should so boldly be taking umbrage with the State Department over training prior to Matt's departure to Afghanistan, the lack of travel reimbursements, and horribly missed opportunities for families on unaccompanied tours ... (there's a whole lot of snark that I haven't even BEGUN to unleash). Or the voice who's been failing to document our hectic summer, the recent visit with my parents, the upcoming visit with my in-laws. And then there's the one who's only lightly skimmed over the important factors with the latest house painting updates, the girls successes on swim team, and Grady's recent potty training.

many pictures taken. So many stories. Though as I open and close my website, I'm saddened to see the weeks go by in between postings.

As time goes by I'll continue to search for whatever "it" is I fear I've misplaced. However, when it's finally turned in to the lost and found, would someone within my village or community please let me know? You'll know that it's mine because my name will be written all over it in a black, waterproof sharpie.

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