Friday, September 25, 2015

A Little Debbie Moment

I looked across the room and saw this box of “Little Debbie” snack cakes, purchased for Cookie#2’s scout camp out. But something was different about Little Debbie; she was wearing a mustache.  “Wow, Little Debbie Company, you’re really going out on a limb with a marketing stunt like that. That’s a very interesting strategy,” I thought. I honestly didn’t think too much about it (which is weird in and of itself.)
It wasn’t until hours later that I got up close to the box and realized that this facial hair was the creative addition of one of my kids (no doubt for even a moment who it was; the same one who draws faces on all of the eggs in the carton and defaces most of my magazines). What a turkey! I won’t show the other box that made sweet, Little Debbie into more of a devil child.
So, my lesson for the day is: Enjoy the Little Debbie Moments. Pretty soon the moments will be gone and life won’t be nearly so entertaining. Gotta love those kids!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Bon Voyage or NOT!

Will life ever calm down? Well, I kinda sorta thought this would be my weekend. I'm on a plane headed for LA to set sail on a weekend cruise with my husband and the adults in his family. Such fun, right? I had grand plans to get my hair done and toes painted but that didn't happen on accounting of fighting a cold (and my nerves, which always get in the way when leaving my children). Of course I had a few other things to catch up on before leaving: laundry, grocery shopping, church assignments, school know, all of that busy work.


So all that's done...will I be able to find the calm I'm desperately seeking? Apparently NOT. Aside from still fighting my nerves (darn nerves), I just heard somebody talking about a Tsunami advisory off the coast of California! Okay, that has to be a joke! Nope, sure enough; there was an 8.3 earthquake somewhere in the ocean and now a threat of a tsunami on the California coast. Can this really be happening? That is so NOT calming!


Is it coincidence, you tell me, that as I sit here in the smooth air over Oklahoma (I think), and read this timely quote in a book about one of my favorite females ever, Abigail Adams. This quote is in reference to Abigail's sea voyage from America to Europe to see her husband after four long years of separation, "Far worse than the storm was the dead calm they encountered several days later, during which the ship idled motionless with not a breath of wind to fill the sails. The enforced stillness made Abigail philosophical. 'I begin to think that a calm is not desirable in any situation in life. Every object is most beautiful in motion, a ship under sail, trees gently agitated with the wind,  and a fine woman was made for action.'" 


What a profound statement and I believe it's true. When do I feel most beautiful? When do I feel of greatest worth? When do I feel the most satisfied and contented? When I am doing! When I am serving; whether in my home, at church, or otherwise. Abigail is right, the calm is not desirable. It actually seems pretty boring, now that I think about it. "In motion" is where I want to be. 


A cruise would have been nice. And maybe a few days of peace, quiet, and adult-time would have been enjoyable. But I am convinced that the storms of life are what keeps life interesting and reveal true beauty. Who wants to read a book (uninterrupted), poolside on the Lido deck, sipping frozen lemonade anyway? Not me...well, on second thought, DARN!




Friday, September 11, 2015

Think of the Masterpieces!

It's probably been 20+ years since I've done nested fractions. Well, I did it today. Just for fun?, not really. It was to help a child, but it was actually pretty fun. I was thinking hard; using a part of my brain that I haven't used in a long time. I had a friend say the other day that she was jealous that I have the opportunity to learn alongside my kids. Sometimes it's hard, sometimes I feel stressed, but I do totally love it and it is a marvelous reward.  

This week, as required by our literature curriculum, my son and I finished a book called Freckles. It’s a beautiful story about a boy who knows almost nothing about who he is and where he comes from. It’s Freckles’ journey to find himself and to find love, of all kinds. Along the way his strength of character is revealed in both brave and tender ways. Freckles earns the trust and love of all those around him, most importantly that of his special “Swamp Angel.” The story takes place in the Limberlost Swamp of IndianaGene Stratton-Porter made the Limberlost come to life for me. She described the outdoor "study" that Freckles created for himself using Wild Rose, Dogwood TreesWillow, St. John’s Wort, Goldenrod, and Ferns. Her impeccable description of the various flowers and shrubbery made it almost life like. Ilonged to step foot into that outdoor sanctuary. I could image the cool, moist air and the earthy smells. I could almost hear the chirps of the birds and the murmuring of the insects. I want a space like that of my own.

It was no surprise to later learn that Stratton-Porter was in actuality a naturalist and a bird photographer. This was her first passion. In fact, she only ever wrote her fictional work in order to compensate her publishers for the money lost on the non-fictional records, which she loved best. She weaved her life's passion into her work. And, wow, is it inspiring!  

Do we weave our passion into our lives’ work? It may not be possible to walk away from the full time job when we have a family to support and a house payment to make, but how can we make our lives’ work reflect our passion? Is that possible? I wonder if we were to encourage our children to pursue their God given interests and talents when they are young, would they be able to spend their lives realizing their dreams and passions? I wonder. What a happy, inspired place this world would be? Think of the masterpieces!

I write about “living your passions” a lot. Perhaps I’m trying to convince myself that I’m not crazy for going after one of mine.  That I’m not crazy for selling my home, leaving my comfortable, traditional life style, and aspiring to create my own little magical, outdoor sanctuary for children to enjoy. Well, if I am, it’s too late. I’m already on the way.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Trailers or Hats, Anyone?

My adorable, dreamer of a mother
Have you ever known a dreamer? Not a daydreamer…but somebody who dreams about big ideas? My mom is a dreamer. She thinks up an idea and then goes for it. Who else’s mom do you know that goes around town, spying old, broken-down trailers in somebody else’s yard so she can approach them and ask to buy it off of them; just to take it home and rip out of the floor, replace the electrical, reupholster the seat, to either turn around and sell it or enjoy it herself? I would venture to say that you know very few people like that. Well, I live with another one of them. He happens to be a 13 years old boy, who is full of dreams and tenacity. He’s extraordinarily passionate. He will do nothing unless he absolutely believes in it. Everything must have meaning, answers, explanations, and purpose. He will not accept the answer, “just because.” He also doesn’t really accept a “no” answer unless there is a pretty great reason why. So, he is absolutely obsessed right now with the idea of creating hats. What?!? Hats? Yes, he wants to recreate hats from different eras and different countries. Hats that are no longer in production. Oh, and vintage camping gear like leather backpacks (no big deal). He has spent hours and hours sketching some really beautiful things. Doesn’t this sound like a great idea? Totally realistic, right? A perfect way for a 13 year old boy to pick up some extra cash. What do you do as a parent? He thinks that he is actually capable of building hats that people would actually want to buy. He has never sewed anything in his life yet he refuses to believe that he can’t make it happen! My husband and I have listened (Rand has been much more supportive than I have). We have talked through the finances, still no easing up. So, what to do next…

Anybody know a good seamstress???

Friday, August 28, 2015

I Am NOT A Public School Hater But...

I am NOT a public school hater. Totally not! But this week I present my:

 Top 5 Things I DO NOT Miss About the Start of a Public School Year:

1. Back to school night! This is especially a nightmare when you have more than one child, and a husband out of town. Total chaos! There's nothing like meeting your child's new teacher and saying (without saying a word), "I'm a mess! I cannot control my children. I'm sorry that they are making a mess of the classroom you worked so hard to make perfect. I'm trying to hold it together and I'm starting to sweat. I really don't even know what to say to you. I better get out of here. Good luck with my child this year! Bye."

2. All of those forms! I hated those! What a hassle! Especially for multiple children- insurance cards, social security #'s, emergency contacts...blah!

3. School Supply List. THE WORST! I swear every year I would spend $20 in gas running all around town scouring every Target, Staples, Office Max, and Walmart looking for a RED, 3-pronged, pocket folders with brass fasteners. And don't you dare think about getting blue! Oh, and don't buy your child anything special or super cute because it all goes into a community pot and she may not get that one back.

4. School lunches. Need I say more... The only thing worse than packing the same, monotonous lunch every day; is eating the same, monotonous lunch every day. Poor kids! No matter how hard you try at the beginning of the year to be creative and cute with it, it always ends up a sandwich, chips, and a piece of fruit. BORING!

5. The worry. Somehow it never got easy to send those kiddos off to school. For certain kids you would worry about whether or not they would fit in and make friends. You would worry about whether they would get picked on or sit alone in the lunch room. And for other kids, you just worried for the sanity of the teacher.

So, welcome back to school, everybody! I hope your first few weeks are going well : )

Oh, a few other things that happened this week in our family:

Cookie #4 Started Cub Scouts! Cookie #3 is so excited he can hardly wait to coach him through his Bobcat. Gotta love it! 

And Cookie #3 earned his Arrow of Light, the highest Cub Scout rank (I think that's how it's classified). I'm proud to say that he did most of it on his own, which is why I don't know the proper terminology.  So proud, of him...not me : ) 

And Cookie #2 had a monumental evening. Not only did he and his friend (mostly his friend) cook a delicious spicy, spaghetti dinner; he hosted his first "club" meeting. He wants to travel the world in the worst way. He and his friends are putting together an intense business plan in order to raise the money. It's killing me to stay out of it, but I am. I wish I could have recorded their first meeting. It was...intense. No other words. I have one passionate kid on my hands.

Friday, August 21, 2015

You Had One Job, Mom!

I burnt the cookies! It's been 10 weeks and today was the big day- CookieFriday was back! The "little" boys actually made the dough and I HAD ONE JOB. Isn't that a thing?...I only had one job (Yeah, it is. See the attached memes). I needed to take the cookies out on time, and I blew it! I hate burning cookies! The boys actually all got cookies from the first batch, it's my poor husband (who loves the cookies most of all) who gets the short end of the stick on this one. Well, you can't win them all.

Just for giggles

Other than burning the cookies, it's pretty great to be home. From one adventure to another; from the campfire to the schoolroom. And I love it! I have done a fair amount of stressing about the upcoming homeschool year but mostly because I needed to get organized. Now that I've had a week to get my books ordered and get the schoolroom back in order, I'm ready to go!

Did you used to lay out your school outfit the night before the first day? Of course, right? I would lay it out on the floor as if my body was inside. The new socks, the new shoes, the new ribbon- all laid out on the floor, in anatomical order. I remember one year I shopped all summer to find the perfect matching outfit. It was a complete set of pink and navy stripes with a matching skirt, shirt, cardigan, and scrunchy. I cute. I was sure to wear it again on picture day! Of course the new backpack was packed and ready to go with a new binder (denim cover, when I was at my coolest), equipped with neatly labeled dividers and finely sharpened pencils. I distinctly remember feeling the butterflies. I was excited! I loved the fresh new start. I loved the possibilities that a new year would bring. I can't remember if I was excited to learn but I think so. It was the whole package: new teacher, new friends, new books, new school supplies, and, of course, the new shoes.

With educating the kids at home, thing are obviously different. The new clothes, new school supplies, new teacher...not really a thing (although I do make sure we get hair cuts at the end of a shaggy summer). It's different, but no less special. For them, the excitement comes in checking the mail for the dozens of new books coming our way. It's exploring the supplies in the science experiment kit. It's brainstorming ideas for unstructured learning. It's not having to catch the 6:50 bus. It's planning field trips and other travel plans for the year. Just like public school, it's realizing the possibilities that a new year brings, just in a totally different way.

So, here's to the start of a new year and all of the butterflies, new shoes, and possibilities that come with it! Happy fall everybody!

Look who I caught waiting for the cookies : )

Mom is Back! Maybe next week she won't burn the cookies!

Friday, August 14, 2015

I Survived Summer Camp in the Adirondacks! Week 9

Top 4 lessons (because I'm too tired to write 5) I learned after spending 62 days at summer camp in the Adirondacks! (Thanks for the question, Trish)

1. Summer camp isn't a vacation

Owning a summer camp is a romantic idea; leaving home for the summer, owning a beautiful piece of land, and running a seasonal business. Don't be deceived, it's SO MUCH WORK! You have to satisfy the health department, the ACA (American Camp Association), staff, counselors, and parents...not to mention the campers! I've always been a people pleaser but that is a tall order! It takes a lot of work. Yes, you may have a more flexible schedule in the off season, but you're on 24/7 for 9 weeks! After working 9 weeks at summer camp, believe me, romance is the last things on my mind.

2. You don't always have to love it all to have a great experience

This seems pretty obvious, right? Think about's not always hugs and kisses. Sometimes it flat out stinks (figuratively and literally). There are dirty diapers and dirty dishes, tears and tantrums, accidents and mistakes; nonetheless, I would not trade it for all the money in the world. Why? Because the pay off is so great! The sweet moments are so wonderful, that they drown out the sour. This is 100% true of camp.

So, what makes camp worth it?...staying out late to sing campfire songs and catch a glimpse of a shooting star, girls that hang on to an embrace up until the very last moment because they can't stand the thought of being a part from their best friend for a whole entire year, earning a well deserved rank in an activity after working years to earn it. Totally sweet and well worth the sour!

3. Girls just want to be noticed, loved, and accepted

One of my favorite moments at camp was just a couple days ago when Randy was helping my aides move their heavy trunks out of their cabin to prepare for departure. The girls (ages 15-17) sat on the edge of their beds and wanted to chat. They started asking questions. They wanted to know how we met and about our family. They begged us to stay and tell more stories. Some of them expressed how they wished their parents would pay more attention. They said that they may not always act like they want it, but they do love the attention. Eureka! I guess I had always heard that but hearing it strait for a gaggle of teenagers really hit home for me. What a great reminder.

4.  Little things go a long way

The first week of camp I told the counselors that small and simple things can go a long way. It's so true! From the very start of camp I started leaving simple notes and treats on the pillows of my campers. You would have thought they had been given access to the internet! They absolutely loved it. They thanked me more than enough and before too long they were leaving notes and treats for me! My favorite was a bag of Sour Patch KIds with a hand written note saying, "We're so glad we're your... (Sour patch Kids). Isn't that cute!?! Better yet, the girls were rarely late for curfew, never neglected their assignments, and always treated me and each other with kindness. Now, I'm not saying all of that happened because of a bag of chips ("Thanks for chipping in around camp!") but it certainly didn't hurt. Small and simples goes a long way.

We are headed home now. It's a 14 hour car ride. The first hour I was just quiet. I would blurt out an idea, jot it down and then get tired and have to rest. I need a couple weeks to let it all process, that's for sure. But one thing I do know-we can do this! Sure, it'll be a lot of work; it won't be the vacation that some may think but we can do it. By small and simple ways we can create a environment of love and safety; one of acceptance and adventure. A special place that girls can look forward to with a yearning that nowhere else can satisfy.

And I survived my summer adventure!

Entrance into Banquet

End of summer Banquet was a grand event!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

A Little Like Hunger Games, Week 8

My Second Half Aides. Sweet Girls!

I had a super, proud mommy moment this week with Cookie#3. You see, #3 is my geography kid. Last year as a "for fun" project, he made a book of all of the flags of the world. He drew them by hand and labeled each one with it's country. So, how does this have anything to do with camp? Well, the large dining hall (the hearth) is adored with about 30 different flags from around the world. These flags actually represent the countries where past campers have come from. So, #3 and his Irish counselor came to the center of the dining hall full of singing campers and quieted the room with the raise of their hands. The counselor announced (in his thick Irish accent) that his "lad" would be naming all the flags. Cookie proceeded to spit out the names of those countries like they were the ABCs! Everybody was amazed, including me. He didn't tell me he was going to do this! You could hear a pin drop in that place. He hesitated on "Vatican City" and one other very obscure country but he named them all (in record time). When he finished, the place erupted! The kids went crazy. They burst into one of my favorite songs of praise, kinda like "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow." They say nobody has been able to do that for 7 years! You should have seen his face. Talk about a confidence booster! From then on, everybody's been talking about how smart he is. What a great moment for my young son (and his proud mom)!

The last 8 weeks have been an extreme challenge for me. I know my blog posts have focused mostly on the positives but believe me, there have been plenty of "uncomfortable moments". And by uncomfortable, I mean, moments where I've been pushed out of my comfort zone. I feel like my stomach has been in constant knots. It's been exhausting in every sense of the word: physically, spiritually, socially, and mentally. A lot is riding on this experience and this major decision. At various times of my life I have struggled with anxiety; I'm not what you call an easy going person. So, this whole experience has definitely put me outside of my comfort zone. And, boy, have I grown! I have learned about other countries, other religions, and another region of this great country. I have practiced patience, kindness, hard work, restraint, golf (he...he)...just to name a few. I have met some really wonderful adults and some outstanding young people! There is so much good that is going on here. I see a special kind of confidence in the faces of these children. They are very blessed to have this experience. There are little life lessons learned around every corner.

Last night was a special night. It's a night the kids look forward to all summer. The entire camp plays an "all night" man hunt type game (8pm-12am and 6am-8am). Let's just say it involves bad guys, good guys, buried cans, spies, jail...and lots of rules. I swear, at times I felt like I was in the Hunger Games (with out the blood and killing, of course). The kids get really into it and it was a blast. I was the leader of the youngest campers. We went tromping through the woods at night searching for cans. I was right with them and the environment was safe, but they experienced that fun kinda scared feeling. We would hide behind a tree and stay quiet to see who was passing by. Then we would run to the giant bonfire, take a break and eat a s'more. The kids all pretty much took turns being scared for a moment (a little "uncomfortable") but they did it. They did not give up; they succeeded and they helped their team. I know they came away from that experience a little braver; more willing to take risks and try new things. They did not give up. A pretty good life lesson if you ask me. It sounds a bit like the same life lesson I myself have learned while being here at camp.

Playing Smugglers!

I wish you could tell how massive this fire was. Marshmallow roasting was a challenge.

It's late. It's hard to believe I am starting my final week here at camp. I know quite a few of you have been following my blog. That's so kind of you to care. Thank you. It really did make me feel like I had a little team cheering for me. I thought I would ask if anybody had any questions? I have done a lot of typing and maybe you have something you'd like to know. I would love to answer it. Feel free to comment on FB or my blog.

Happy camping!

Friday, July 31, 2015

A Boy's Paradise! Week 7

My boy and his summer play ground

About 12 hours after the boys arrived, Cookie#2 (13 years old) said that he was concerned. He told me that he wasn't having fun yet and that that bothered him because usually the first 24 hours are the best and it all goes downhill from there. Okay, I was a little concerned but reflecting back on my experience, I knew things would get better. It's been almost a week now that the boys have been here. I wish I could describe the joy that I see in their sun taned, dirt smeared faces. Cookie#2 now wears a permanent grin, always. I swear these boys are in heaven. They live on a little wooded beach about 2 miles from the girls camp. It feels like their own private island. They spend every day swimming, snorkeling, playing soccer, EATING, horseback riding, tubing, fitness training, canoeing, playing rugby, stand up paddle boarding, fishing, shooting, and so much more. The boys' counselors are amazing men. 2 are from Ireland and 1 from England. Their accents alone give them instantly "likeability" points. They are so attentive to the boys; super patient and lots of fun. Randy spends quite a bit of time down there as well, although I encorage him to give them plenty of space.

I see what this experience is doing for my boys. They are trying new things and making new friends. They are learning lessons about the natural consequences of their actions. Nobody is pestering them (like moms would do) to put on bug spray, so they are getting bug bites. Nobody is hanging up their wet towel, so they are cold when they get out of the water. Nobody is catering to their likes and dislikes, so they are learning to try new foods. I've been impressed with my ability to let them go. I don't see them all that often, but when I do I usually just take a glimpse and let them be. I heard that Cookie#3 got scared by a horse and cried. He didn't take his ride. But then he told his couselor that he would try again before the end of the summer. I think that's outstanding. And I think he will, too. I heard that Cookie #4 is a super outgoing, stud. He is the youngest, at 8 years old, but he has no trouble holding his own. He has made a great friend and is loving life. I heard that Cookie #2 is impressiving everybody, especially his counselors, with his knowledge of the wilderness, especially frogs and toads (which he is catching lots of). And Cookie #3 is apparently pretty decent at archery. They said he has great form. I miss my boys, but I'm just so happy for them. They will come away changed boys.

It's been heaven having Rand here. For the most part, he's just enjoying life. When I have some time we take walks or take a canoe ride together. I think we'll head out on a boat together tommorrow. More than anything, I just love having my best friend around. We are trying to catch up on 6 weeks of chats!

Our first canoe ride together

Yesterday we had the best time. We took a van of girls on a "motor trip." Have you ever been to Vermont? Well, you should! It's just one giant postcard waiting to happen. Picture it, green rolling hills with fields of green grases in the valley and an old red barn. Picture Charlie Brown pine trees mixed in with the birch trees and rugged stones masses. Oh, I know I'm not doing it justice. It's just beautiful. We took the van on the ferry over Lake Champlain. Just so many new things to see! I love that.

Downtown Burlington, VT. So charming!

Today marks 7 weeks at camp. Honestly, I'm starting to get tired. In 2 weeks I know I'll be ready to head home to my life (and my bed). But just as soon as I type those words, I know I'll miss it. I'll miss the fresh, cool air; all of the singing; and the sweet, happy faces. There's just a simplicity here that I will not find after I leave. I will take away treasured memories and a vision of what my future may hold. So, for the next 14 days I will savor every day. 


Swim Assessment Time

Friday, July 24, 2015

Things Are Getting Emotional, Week 6

This view is beautiful but this week I finally went out on the lake and it was breathtaking!

My feet stink, and I don't care. At home, I wash my feet every night before bed. It's just one of those things I do. I also answer emails daily, catch the news headlines, run errands, clean, cook, do laundry, etc. For the past 6 weeks, I have done almost none of that! And boy, does it feel great! It has been such a welcomed break! I actually feel like I live on an entirely different planet. One where you begin and end every meal with a song, where the time of day is dictated by a bugle not a clock, and where you can ignore the condition of your hair and makeup pretty much everyday (for the most part). Aside from phone calls with my family, I've had very little contact with the "outside world."  And I'm not really sure I miss it : )

I want to tell you about a pretty special experience I had this week. Every Sunday evening, the campers are required to go to some form of church. It is either Mass or Inspirational service. I went to the inspirational service and the counselors conducted a very sweet exercise. They invited the girls to sit in a large circle and asked them to close their eyes and keep them closed. They pulled a few girls into the center of the circle (opening their eyes, of course) and asked them to tap on a few girls' head that fit the following descriptions. They called out words like outgoing, empathetic, honest, trusting, leader, inspiring, helpful, and on and on. At first I pushed my chair back out of the circle, thinking I would just help the counselors but I felt a little awkward so I just closed my eyes like the rest of the girls and bowed my head a little bit. I sat and listened to the first few rounds. My eyes were closed and I was resting my chin in my hands. They called out a word, I think it was "encouraging." Unsuspectingly, I felt a tap on the head. What? Was that really meant for me? Somebody had maneuvered behind the first row of girls to come and tap my head? I felt so special. It was almost instantaneous that a smile spread across my face. I could not help it. It felt so nice to be recognized. And it didn't stop there. Word after word, I received a meaningful tap. I could not believe it really. How did these girls know me well enough to have such kind feelings toward me? I guess the simple smile, the meaningful hello, or the brief conversation meant more than I realized. I was lifted. I was genuinely happy. I even had a tear well up in my eye.

I was eventually chosen to come into the circle and be the one giving away the taps. It felt good to receive those taps but nothing compared to seeing the faces of these young girls as they were tapped time and time again by their peers.  The smiles could not be any bigger! Talk about life changing! They were singled out and recognized for being happy, positive, inspiring, helpful, kind hearted, spirited, and on and on. What a wonderful experience! This was all part of the vision for these young girls almost 100 years ago.

Camp is just emotional all around. Yesterday was parent's day. It's kind of like open house for school. Parents get to come and check out the "classroom" and see what their child has been up to. They walk around to their cabins and participate in campfire, etc. A special dinner was hosted for the parents and I was able to attend and meet a few of the parents of these girls that I have been "living with" for the past 6 weeks. Without exception, every parent had tears in their eyes as we talked about the growth of their child and their victories; whether on water-skis, horseback, or with friends in the cabin. That felt so good. So totally rewarding.

Speaking of feeling boys are almost here! They are staying overnight in Southern NY (I don't think that's how you say it). Anyway, they'll be here at lunch tomorrow! I wonder if I'll breakdown like some of the girls when they see their families? I have had a great time but definitely putting on a brave face at times. It will be amazing to have them here. I can share it all with them. I am just counting down the minutes!  And today is Cookie#3's birthday. He turned 11. I can't wait to give him a belated birthday hug and kiss.

In many ways I feel like I have made it. I have met my goal! I have survived! I really did view this experience like my own personal "Survivor." I have done something hard and I am so pleased.

The woods are absolutely beautiful here. Picture perfect with patches of ferns and mossy rocks everwhere.

Our final golf lesson! We had a great time. Wow, golf takes so much patience.

Awards Night. It was pretty spectacular. 

Friday, July 17, 2015

Starting to Fall in Love, Week 5

The charming tunnel leading to the waterfront. The tradition is to kiss your hand, touch the tunnel, and make a wish.

I wish you could see the stars tonight. I don't think I've ever seen such a huge sky of stars before. I feel like we're closer to the heavens here. So peaceful; so beautiful. I think I'm starting to fall in love with the Adirondacks.

It's amazing to think that today marks 5 weeks of camp. In some ways it seems like I just arrived and at the same time it feels like I've been here for months. I must say that it's starting to feel a bit like home. And what does that actually mean, "feels like home?" Well, it means you're comfortable. It means you feel accepted and valued. It means you're safe and happy. It feels so good.

I sleep on the lower bunk in my little bedroom. The mattress is thin and the wood under neither is obviously hard. Yet, somehow I love it. It feels great. I think the firmness is good for my body and by the end of the day I melt into that cozy little nook and immediately drift off. I'm separated from "my girls" by a series of decorated canvas curtains/shower curtains. It does the job. I have a lamp behind the head of my bed that provides just the perfect amount of light late at night or early in the morning. I have folded my beach towel beside my bed to act as a bed side rug (You'd think I would have learned from Andräa to bring my own rug). Late at night I turn on my cell phone light and stick it in the slats of the bunk bed above me and shine it down over me. I read my scriptures or write. It's cozy. It's quiet. I have lots of blankets because it can still get very cold here at night. My favorite is when it's raining. I can hear the gentle sounds of the rain and the rushing water in the stream down below. I guess you could say that I'm starting to feel "at home" and I'm definitely happy.

Some nights I go to bed exhausted. My mind is full of anxious thoughts and loads of self-doubt. But then I wake up the next morning, ready to go. I'm excited for the challenge of a new day and all it may bring. No two days are ever the same.

I can see why these girls love coming to camp, year after year. This is such a unique environment. The girls feel so safe; safe to be themselves. They revert back to being little girls. There is no worry of boys, make up, clothes, phones, school, etc. Everybody is happy, most all the time. It's kind of surreal and magical. Don't get me wrong, girls will be girls, but for the most part everybody is very happy. It is so energizing!

I have been working my tail off. Early on I considered throwing in the towel. It was just too overwhelming. It was too unfamilar, too lonely, too uncomfortable. But deep down I just knew I would never forgive myself if I didn't stick it out.  I needed to see what it was like from beginning to end before I made a decision about this. Wow. I'm so glad I did. I am having a blast. The cold nights, the warm fires, the camp fire songs, the 'smores, the sun bathing at the lake front...yeah, I could get used to this. And I think my family would love this new lifestyle. It's work, a lot of work! It's exhausting 24/7, and I don't know the whole of it, but it's so rewarding. There is nothing like it. I'm sleeping with a smile on my face every night.

I want to send a quick thank you to all of my friends in NC who have so very kindly helped to watch my kids. You have been such a huge blessing! Thank you from the bottom of my heart. We will have to think of a proper way to thank you all. And thanks to all of you for your support with kind FB messages, text messages, phone calls, and even a hand-written letter (Valerie Youngberg ❤️)! I can honestly say that I don't think I would be here without all of your encoruagement. Much love!!!

Let the count down begin. Just 8 days until my boys get here. And congratulations to Anna for passing her driving test! Here we go...

The waterfront

Wednesday mornings, golf lesson with the girls

Dining Hall set for Awards Night. Rustic elegance if you ask me

Friday, July 10, 2015

Bring on the Treats of Week 4

To eat or not to eat, that is the question. I wish I had a picture of my dessert from last night. Seriously! It was perhaps the most delicious strawberry shortcake I've ever eaten. The ladies in the kitchen used heavy cream instead of water in the biscuits. And that's the problem. I have not stopped eating since I got here. You see, they serve dessert after both lunch and dinner and I find it impossible to pass up! Rice crispy treats, ice cream, brownies,'s too much. If we're being honest, I think I'm replacing my family's hugs with dessert! Oh my...there will be a whole lot more of me to hug when they get here.

I'm super bummed...I planned on posting my top 5 pictures from week 4 but I can't get my photos to load. Booooooo!!!!

Pictures or not, it was an eventful week. Today marks the end of the first two weeks. That means we said goodbye to a small group of girls (who were sad to go) and said hello to the new additions. I'm afraid to commit but I think I'm going to try to learn the first and last names of all the campers. The girls actually have a game to earn points for their team (you know, kinda like teams in Harry Potter) for the girl who can name everybody's first and last name at camp. I was so impressed when the girls actually did it! 5 point to the Jolis Coeurs (that's my team). It means pretty heart : )

You missed out on my happy lice dance tonight! None of the new campers have lice! Isn't that exciting!?! We are currently lice free, as far as we know. That is a reason to celebrate! I also celebrated progress on my golf swing this week. Every Wednesday morning I have been taking a group of girls to a great local course for a golf lesson. What? That's so awesome. Last week we did putting and this week we hit some balls at the range. With a great tip about shifting my weight on my follow through I was able to make some improvement. I have a ways to go but the pro told me I was doing well : )

My favorite time of day is definitely camp fire. We actually do it in doors at the large fire place and if it's warm, even simply by candle light. The girls know a book full of songs. Some dating all the way back to the beginning of camp, 1920's. There are some classics that I know but many I am learning for the first time. It's such a wonderful way to close the evening. We end with a song of prayer.

I've started the count down to seeing my boys. It's 14 days from tomorrow. I can do that! I miss the hugs and kisses. Although I have met a lot of very nice people here, there is nothing like love. Love makes life worth living. I just can't imagine living life without love. It's the most joyous feeling ever. I can't wait for them to get here so can feel their love. I've texted Randy a few times saying that I need "my people." Isn't it beautiful that our families become our people. I'm so blessed to be a part of a family. I'm completely enjoying my adventure and can't wait to share it with them. Missing Anna a whole bunch : (

My people and me, circa 2008

Friday, July 3, 2015

Top 5 of Week 3!

An evening walk to the bridge

1. Summer doesn't begin in the Adirondacks until July 1st, really.

I was beginning to doubt that I was ever going to shed my 5 layers of wet clothing. Seriously, 5 layers! I have been told that July 1st is the first day we can expect it to start to feel like summer. So, yesterday was July 1st and it was rainy and cold but today is July 2nd and it's 75 and sunny. A perfect, not-so-hot summer day. It was a day late but it was worth waiting for; just beautiful! The forecast is warm and sunny for the next 5 days. And just in time for our waterfront, volleyball, slip and slide, greasy watermelon (?) 4th of July party! Fun stuff. Let summer begin!

2. Girls love to go crazy!

The campers have been here for about a week now. There are about 40 of them during these first 2 weeks. The first night I went to dinner with them all, I almost went into shock. It was a sight to see. The songs began at the start of the meal and did not stop for over an hour! I'm talking table slappin', sing-at-the-top-of-your-lungs type songs. A lot of their songs are originals to this camp. Every year, every cabin writes a song to the tune of a popular song on the radio. Some of these songs are super creative and come back year after year. Some only last a few minutes. Anyway, I think I had a mini breakdown after dinner. It was so overwhelming. I asked my fellow table mates if this was going to be a normal meal time activity...they said, "pretty much." Well, one of two things has happened over the course of the week, I've either caught on and joined in, or things have calmed down a little bit. Either way, these girls are amazing and full of energy. P.S. breakfast is a required quieter meal : )

3. Drama always exists in the kitchen.

That's all I care to say about that.

4. 15 years olds can be super sweet.

Like I said last week, I'm the aid mom. That means I help take care of the 15-17 year olds who are training to be counselors. This is one of my favorite things. It definitely fills that void to be a nurturing, care taker. We talk every evening and review their day. We talk about strategies to solve problems they may be having with their cabin kids. We also tackle assignments/projects together. I try to give them lots of praise and encouragement. They tell me I'm an awesome "aid mom" : ) I'm sure that has nothing to do with me making their beds today and leaving a goodie on their pillow. I'm such a mom!

My aids and me!

4. New Yorkers are definitely not from the south!

Okay, that's obvious, but I think I'm starting to figure this all out. You see, in the south, everybody waves to you. Even if they don't know you, they'll wave. You meet somebody new and they are instantly added to your list of friends. You did not have to do anything to earn this status, you are simply awarded the title of "friend." So, here with some of the local "north country" folks, it's the opposite. Upon arrival you are considered an outsider. The kindness, trust, and courtesy is reserved for a friend. In order to become a friend, you have to have done something to earn it. It's not just given automatically. Wow, what a difference. I'm much better off now that I've figured that out. That said, it's only a few of the older staff members I'm referring to. The kids are fantastic! And from all over the world. I love that. There are probably 6 countries represented this session.

I'm staying very busy! The weeks are starting to fly by; that's a good sign. Although I still get overwhelmed with the prospect of owning and running a summer camp; I'm less overcome with fear and anxiety as I'm starting to see things a bit more clearly now. I'm starting to break things down into smaller tasks and roles. Things are starting to make more sense. The jury is still out as to whether or not this lifestyle is right for me and my family. I say "lifestyle" and not "job" because that's what it is; a life long commitment and a way of life. My emotions are a lot like a roller coaster right now, one minute I'm having a great time and the next minute I want to throw up with anxiety. But I'm doing it! and I'm having a great life changing experience.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Top 5 in my first 2 weeks

Top 5 things I've learned in my first two weeks of camp:

1. It's very nice to show up at meal time and have the meal cooked, served, and cleaned up for you. I could get used to that!

I've been working with the kitchen crew to plan menus, work out schedules, and get organized. We passed health inspection with flying colors! I didn't do anything to help with that but it was exciting none-the-less. #SoManyLawsInNYState

2.  I still remember how to swim!

This week we had to take a swim assessment. I was kinda freaking out about swimming in the freezing cold lake. Okay...I was definitely freaking out. It was so cold that it took my breath away when I jumped in (like Lake Cd'A in June). Anyway, by the time I got in and started swimming I realized how much fun I was having. It's been a long time. Maybe I'll do a polar bear plunge with my campers this year. #FunToBeAKid

3. I will sleep a lot better when there aren't two escaped murdered on the loose somewhere nearby.

I didn't really let this get to me too much. Although I did pretty much walk into every cabin expecting to see two scary guys in there. I did find a little comfort in the fact that we hired security guards to walk through camp all night with big dogs. Well, now that one guy has been shot and killed (just 18 miles down the road) and they are in hot pursuit of the other, I think I'll sleep a little more comfortably tonight. #OneDownOneToGo

4. LICE is real

So, I have learned over the past couple of days that we should totally expect to see lice at camp this summer, and every summer. I thought it was just one of those things that happened every once in a while but...NO! They say kids come to camp with lice! What? seriously! I had no idea. I guess it has to come from somewhere. Today when I was making beds I had to alternate which end of the bed that the pillows go on so that the lice don't jump from one to the other. YUCK! Needless to say, my hair will be up a lot this summer. Oh, and lice don't like greasy hair, so you're not supposed to wash. Wow, where am I??? #NoSharing

UPDATE: We just completed lice check. 1 case of lice! And I helped clean the girls head. No fun. She now has to be brushed out everyday for 2 weeks. What a pain! I'm going to be itching all night long.

5. You can find good people everywhere

This has been such an amazing social experiment for me. It's pretty wild to step into a situation where you leave your life and family and go live and work with people you don't know. At first it's lonely and intimidating but people are really great. I was having a sad moment and one of the young adults came up to me out of the blue and said, "You're going to be the best aid mom. They are so lucky to have you." Wow, that was so nice! It made my night! You can definitely find good people everywhere.

I miss my family. I try not to think too hard about them. When I see pictures they look so big. How can they really have grown that much in 2 weeks! I hope they made cookies today. It's Friday, after all. Thank goodness my amazing mother is home helping to take care of the kids. What an angel! I love her. And I know the kids are having a great time. Only a month until I get to see my boys. I can do it!
Mom and Cookie#4

I was asked to be the aid mom. The aids are 15-17 years old. I went flower picking for the bouquets. I'm looking forward to being their "camp mom."

Friday, June 19, 2015

Summer Camp, Week 1

Last night I slept with my window opened to the sound of the poring rain. It wasn't as cold as it has been; I slept without my sweatshirt and my socks.  I'm still sleeping with 3 blankets on my bed though. They say this is typical of a early summer in the northeast. It will warm up, they say. For now I wear my rain boots for half the day (everyday) because the rain or the thick dew would leave any other shoes soaked. Good thing I followed the packing list! The cold hasn't bothered me much, especially because of the nice, warm indoor fires we have enjoyed.

My roommate is a sweetheart. She's quite a bit younger than me but we get along well. I was anxious to make a genuine connection with somebody, and I did with her. We stay up late and share about our lives. We have our own small room which is part of a larger cabin; it's nice. She's a world traveler with lots of interesting stories to tell. We have about 5 other international counselors, which adds a really nice dynamic and most definitely supports the original camp vision of promoting peace and understanding throughout the world.

One of my main responsibilities here at camp is working with the kitchen staff to make sure all runs smoothly and efficiently. I don't have a ton of kitchen experience but I do know how to troubleshoot and problem solve. You know I've started many spreadsheets collecting data about quantities, waste, expenses,etc. I'm kind of really enjoying the challenge. I 'm doing some office work as well. It's one more week until the campers arrive and things will get crazy. I'm looking forward to that. For now the staff and counselors are getting certified in CPR, RTE, and some in Life Guarding, to be ready for the children to arrive.

There is a lot to this! I've had to talk myself down from a few anxiety ridden thoughts. I know, I'm an adult but that doesn't mean it's easy to leave your home and your family, make friends, start a new job, and everything in between. I think I'll be able to relate well to the first time campers : ) I miss my family but so far so good. We Face Timed last night and it was great to see their loving faces. It helps that I have a rock solid husband who can handle just about everything. He's the best. I miss his hugs.

My mom arrives this week to stay with the kids. I'm so thankful. I'm hoping they have a wonderful time together. Today is CookieFriday. I'm pretty sure that the kids will be baking cookies back at home. If they've forgotten everything else I have ever taught them like table manners, how to make their beds, cleaning up their messes; I'm pretty sure they haven't forgotten how to make cookies.

A beautiful day at camp

Friday, June 12, 2015

You're Doing What!?! Mom's Summer Camp Adventure

Today is the first day of the most adventurous thing I've ever done. I guess a few other thing make the list (like getting married and having kids), but this is right up there at the top. Wanna guess?...No, not skydiving; no, not free climbing; no, not sailing around the world...I'm going to summer camp! For 9 weeks!  But that's not the whole of it. You see, for about 2 years now my family and I have been researching the opportunity of owning and running a summer camp. You know...Parent Trap style with cabins and fishing and swimming, etc. In fact, we have gone beyond the research phase and have jumped in with both feet! We sold the house (which we redesigned and remodeled a few years ago) and downsized, big time. We've simplified our lives in order to be prepared financially for when the perfect opportunity presents itself; these things can happen quickly. We decided our final "homework assignment" would be to actually try the role on for size. Although I have been a girls camp director for the past 6 summers, that was only a week long camp. I really haven't had the chance to experience the entire summer. So, I'm off!

I'm heading to a girls camp in Upstate New York. This is the part of the country where camping begin here in the US.  We visited this particular camp last fall and it was absolutely gorgeous! A dream, really. This camp is on the lake, so the girls get to spend the summer swimming, water skiing, sailing, fishing; along with all the other traditional camp activities. It's an international camp, attracting girls and counselors from all over the world. At almost 100 years old, this camp's history is rich and steeped in tradition. I love the priceless photographs of the girls in their bathing suits in the 1920's! And it all began with a young camp leader and her vision for what the world might be if we could all get to know one another. She believed that if girls from all over the could come together and become friends, the world might catch on. What a visionary woman!

I have something in common with this inspired camp leader; I, too, believe that children can change the world. She is a perfect example; she did! In starting her camp, she has changed the lives of countless numbers of youth. She has provided opportunities for learning, trying, failing, leading, playing, helping, meeting, loving, exploring, accepting, discovering, and on and on. In reality, it's bigger than even that. It's much more than just one life being changed. I agree with a wise woman who once said, "When you save a girl, you save generations." Think of the possibilities!

So, my journey begins. I'm excited, mostly. I'm nervous. I'm sad to leave my family (although my husband and boys will join me the last 3 weeks). But mostly I'm ready to begin this ultimate adventure and see if this camp lifestyle is for me and my family. I will plan to post updates on Fridays, if you care to join my journey. Let the camping begin!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Finding Your Passion!

 My mad scientist dissecting a lightbulb. Cookie#4, 2015

Did you know that Thomas Edison took naps on a table in the middle of his laboratory using books for pillows? Seriously! He wouldn't eat or sleep until he absolutely had to. He would awake in the middle of the night with an idea and get right to work. He was madly passionate about his experiments and as a result was one of the most prolific inventors of his time; holding over 1000 patents (singly or jointly). Amazing! Something inside of me stirs when I encounter a passionate person like Thomas Edison.

I find myself attracted to passionate people. I love their energy. There is something special about someone who finds that something that they CAN NOT NOT DO! You know the type- those who are incredibly busy running carpool, managing meal time, kissing scraped knees, coaching little league, proof-reading homework, putting up pony tails, and on and on; but still have time to compose, write, design, photograph, build, invent, sell, dream. That is so inspiring to me!

What makes people so different? Why don't we all have that passionate "Thomas Edison Trait?" Well, I think we do! We may have set it aside, lost it, or perhaps we have been discouraged and have given up but that doesn't mean it's not there. Our challenge: To find it! Not that we're all going to quit our day job (although I'm thinking about it) but we can at least inject an added burst of joy into our lives. Our passions, hobbies, and talents make us interesting. They make us different. And pursuing them gives us energy. There is a reason why those carpool running, meal making, proof-reading moms, can do it all AND persue their passion- they are energized by their creations. Now, please do not misunderstand, we all love our children and are passionate about taking care of them first, but we need to have a creative outlet to keep us charged up.

So, let's do it! Start a club. Host a party. Create a business. Join a team. Start a blog. Choose a hashtag. Purchase supplies. Draw up plans. Eliminate distractions. Let's find that certain something we can't live without. Go!

Friday, May 29, 2015

Dreaming of a Castle in Scotland

The other day I walked into a conversation between my husband and my 13 year-old son. My son posed the question, "If we discovered that we were gifted a huge, old, beautiful castle in Scotland, would we move there?" What a great question, right!?! I guarantee when I was 13, I wasn't thinking past the cute boy in my homeroom class, let alone living in Scotland! If you knew my son, you would know that this actually isn't an unusual thought for him. He loves medieval European history and Scottish history in particular. The surprising thing to me was my husband's response. You see, I probably would have said something like, "yeah, that'd be cool", and then moved on with the laundry or whatever else I was doing. But not my husband. He began to ask questions. Questions about the castle, the location, the proximity to other things. Questions about school, church, and community. They explored the possibility of attracting tourist and maybe even inviting our whole entire extended family to live. The conversation lasted for some time as they discussed many "what if" facets to the question. How awesome is that man I married! He granted my son permission to dream. Permission to dream about adventure. Permission to dream about risk. Permission to dream about possibilities. And for a brief few moments, in his mind, my son was packing his things, saying goodbye, and beginning his adventurous new life in Scotland. It was probably the next day that my son told me that he was going to save all his money to pay for plane tickets to visit Scotland for himself and my husband. He explained the currency exchange rate and how things would be less expensive there. I just hope they plan to come back for the rest of the family!
My amazing husband turns 41, and my youngest cookie turns 8! I love my family!

Friday, May 22, 2015

They Say You'll Miss This

Cookie#4, ca. 2007

When my kids were young I would wish the days away waiting for them to grow up. They say you'll miss these day but it's so hard! It's exhausting! The days are monotonous; running one right into the other. The nights are long and it seems you'll never catch up on sleep.  It can be lonely and depressing; a time full of self-doubt and frustration. No wonder it seemed like somedays I was just holding my breath, hoping to survive one more day.

My baby just turned 8 yesterday. I am starting to see my family grow up. Some days I do wish to hold those small babies again but I'm mostly just grateful to watch them grow and to begin to see some of the fruits of my labor. I have a few words of encouragement to all those moms out there with little ones, just keep going! It'll be worth it! It may not be glamorous day in and day out but you are doing a great work! Sometimes all you can muster is to get yourself out of bed and be there. Sometimes that's enough; just being there! The smiles aren't always real. The enthusiasm isn't always there. It will come. Just keep going! Every diaper you change, every meal you prepare, every bath you give is a blessing to your child. Just in meeting those simple, basic needs, you are laying a strong foundation for that little human. They are blessed. They will love you for it. They will have all they need to flourish and grow. That's huge! It seems so simple but I have learned that by small and simple things, great things shall come to pass (Alma 37: 6-7).

So give yourself a break! Recognize your worth! You are blessing your family more than you could ever realize. And in turn you are blessing the entire world : ) Moms are so awesome!

Cookie #4, age 8, 2015
All ready for his baptism on Saturday. So proud of this young man.