Thursday, June 26, 2014

Don't Ban Camp Body Talk

On the back of the first head shot I ever had taken, it lists me with my full name, that I'm 14, and 5'5" (I guess I grew that last inch and a half sometime later). I have a "fun and casual" style, enjoy singing, acting and writing poetry (really, 14yo me?!?), and have brown hair. I like love songs, and my favorite place at camp is the Mercaz Chevrah. Because my first "head shot" was taken at overnight camp, by my counselors who created "Heartbreak International," the modeling agency that my bunkmates and I were supposedly integral participants in together. The photo was taken during our bunk night, one of the best parts of camp as far as I was concerned, and developed into a black and white 8x10. And I've held on to this photo below for over 20 years.

This is the summer after eighth grade, when a disaster at the hair salon left me with much, much shorter than intended hair. My counselors had me take off my glasses for the picture--I wouldn't have contacts for another two years yet--and we all helped each other with our make up. I'm wearing the Jewish star necklace that actually spelled out the word "LOVE" if you looked carefully enough, and a white shirt with fake pearl beads sewn on, probably with quite a few missing. The sequined hat was mine too, and thankfully the black and white imagery tones it down. We probably went swimming afterward, thus the swimsuit straps in obvious view. I still had my bangs then. And only the beginning of the double chin I'd have forever after.

I think, and remember thinking then, that in this photo, I actually looked beautiful. That wasn't a thing that I normally ever thought that I could be.

Because by 14, you think you have so much already figured out. I knew I was bigger than everyone else. I knew my hair, especially in those summers at camp, couldn't be tamed once humidity was involved, and humidity was always involved. I hid behind my huge glasses. I was lucky to be done with braces by then, but it wouldn't occur to me to think that I had a pretty smile. I looked around at my bunkmates and saw endless beauty in all of them, but never any in myself. Until we got these pictures back, that is. 

A recent New York Times article talks about a new idea that no "body talk" of any sort is allowed at certain camps. Campers are encouraged to think less about their appearance, and find ways to compliment each other that don't involve discussing how they look or what they're wearing. I get their point, that kids can be cruel, and that there is already too much focus on our appearances, even from a very young age. But for me, camp was the one place where I could talk about my body and its perceived shortcomings in a safe, positive environment. 

Those girls and I learned to shave our legs together. There was one summer where we spent entirely too much time in just our underwear. We asked our counselors, who were not that much older than we were, the things we were too scared or embarrassed to ask our moms. We tried to look our best for Friday night "Shabbat walks" with boys, and walked supporting each other when those boys didn't ask. We passed around certain sections of Judy Blume books and we never, ever felt alone.

Maybe things have changed in the last twenty years. Maybe I was lucky to experience all of that magic. Maybe a ban helps overburdened kids in ways I can't comprehend. But I hope those kids still get a chance to see themselves as beautiful, somewhere along the way, too.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Night Before Overnight Camp

All packed up, 2013. 2014 will look very similar.

All her bags are packed, she's ready to go.
I'm standing here, outside her door,
I hate to wake her up, to say goodbye.


Yea, Jenny Isenman got it right when she said you're a Gen X'er who went to overnight camp "if to this day the song, Leaving On a Jet Plane makes you cry."

Well, she's not going by plane, but and I've had to modify the song a bit, but yea, Hannah's leaving tomorrow morning and I'm ready to cry.

It's her third time going, and you'd think I'd have this all down by now. In a lot of ways, I do. She was able to do a lot of the packing on her own, though it still required many hours of effort on my part (I still can't figure out why this takes so long to throw together). She knows what to expect, and I think this year the excitement of CAMP (that's how the word sounds in my mind, all caps lock), outweighs the nervous energy of it all. I know she's going to have a ball, and I know how important it is to me that she goes.

It's just going to suck for me. I'm going to miss her so, so much.


But the dawn is breakin', it's early morn',
The Traverse is waitin', dad's blowin' the horn,
Already I'm so lonesome I could cry.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A Love Letter to After School Care

recycled bottles.JPG
An aftercare art project made of empty water bottles

At the start of the school year, I confessed all over The New York Times Motherlode Blog that I was thrilled for my son Max to be starting kindergarten. Gone were the days of kids in different schools on different schedules, with different policies and different vacation days. And, gone was to be my guilt over being a working mom, not staying home with my two children for their earliest years.

Nine school months later I can say that yes, I do feel a lot less guilty. It’s not perfect, nothing is, but I’m happy with the current arrangement. My kids had a fantastic school year, and I’ve done well at work. I leave the house at seven in the morning and my husband takes the kids to school, then I usually arrive at aftercare around 5 pm for pick up, the best part of my day.

I used to arrive at daycare pick up, anticipating scooping up my bundle of joy and being smothered both by hugs and stories from a super fun day, only to at times be met with an unhappy child. Not because they hated being at daycare, but because they did. not. want. to. leave. I was ending the day and ruining all the fun. But by elementary school, kids seem to understand that the friends and games will still be there waiting tomorrow, and that it’s okay to go home. Now my children talk over each other in excitement to tell me all about their days.

But those days don’t end when school does, at 3 pm. Now, the most critically important piece to this juggle of mine is after school care. Both of my kids attend the same program, housed within their elementary school. In operation for nearly 40 years, their after school care program has grown every year as more and more families have working parents and kids need safe and enriching environments after school hours. And so here’s my next confession: I absolutely adore our aftercare program.

I know that the kids showing up at 3 pm each day aren’t at their best. They’re tired from learning all day, anxious to move around, and hungry for that after-school snack. Their aftercare teachers could easily stick the kids in a room with some board games, or have them run wild in the gym, but they don’t. They endlessly create new and exciting ways to engage them, whether through cooking, theater, sports, art projects or stories. Teachers plan theme months and field trips, and collaborate with outside programs to offer karate or pottery classes. They supervise and help with homework, and instill a deep sense of community among the kids across classrooms and grade levels.

Our aftercare program gets what it means to be a working parent, too. They don’t inundate me with emails and requests, but keep me informed through well-written monthly newsletters where I can get information on both my kindergartner and my fourth grader in one place. They tell me about the homework areas that might need extra help, and proudly share stories from the basketball court. The teachers form another layer of support for these kids, so that at the end of the year, it’s just as hard to say goodbye to them as it is the teachers in their regular classrooms.

We do a lot to say thank you to our teachers at this time of year, but my life wouldn’t work without aftercare. I’m so grateful for our program and the staff, their determination and innovation, and the love they clearly have for our kids.

Monday, June 16, 2014

June is Trying to Kill Me

My friend Stephanie listed all of the balls in the air. My friend Liz thinks we need to organize a union. It's worse than all that, friends. I think June is trying to kill me.

Okay, yes, I'm being a bit (very) dramatic. But I look at the last two weeks, and look at the next two weeks, and I kind of want to cry. Uncle. It's all too much. July looks like a peaceful dream in comparison, and I'll probably be bored out of my mind and creating things to distract me. Or I'll be curled up in the fetal position somewhere, shocked that I made it through June.

Here's what happened in the first two weeks, things that go beyond the ordinary:
  1. Hannah and Marc ran a 5K (Max and I cheered them on).
  2. We attended and I volunteered at the school Spring Fling.
  3. I found out I'm going to be blogging for work. That means no sponsored content here for sure! Whee!
  4. Max got his cast removed. Yay!
  5. We attended the aftercare ice cream social.
  6. Followed immediately be the temple dairy Shavuot dinner.
  7. We took my car in to have the air conditioning repaired.
  8. We spent a night in Hartford. We left the kids there and...
  9. We spent a night in NYC and saw a show.
  10. We rushed to get back to take Hannah to a party and Marc attended a synagogue meeting.
  11. It was stuffed animal and pajama day at school. 
  12. I got the last dose of a vaccination I'd needed prior to going to Israel, and saw my endocrinologist.
  13. We attended the fourth grade choir and instrumental concert.
  14. I found out a paper I wrote for work was "going viral" and wondered why my blog won't (probably because of posts like this one). 
  15. We attended the fourth grade biography project.
  16. We attended the kindergarten portfolio viewing. 
  17. We went to family services, took Hannah to two different birthday parties including a sleepover, and then attended a family show at ImprovBoston.
  18. We went to a Red Sox game and endured various degrees of sun damage, and made the annual epic pre-overnight camp trip to Target.
And as I walked to the train this morning, going in for just a half day so I could attend "kindergarten aftercare graduation" this afternoon and then following it up with an overseas conference call tonight, I came to the conclusion that June is trying to kill me.

Okay, yes, this is a lot of very privileged whining, I know. These are all good things. I'm very lucky and grateful, I promise. But more than a dozen out of the ordinary events in a two week span is a lot, and there's still two more weeks to go. There's the end of school, more parties and play dates, a dentist appointment, working from home and bringing the kids to work, a few more late conference calls, plus getting Hannah to overnight camp and for Max, Camp Grandma.

Which brings me to the light at the end of the tunnel. On June 30, Hannah will be away and Max will start camp. A new routine will begin. I really do think it'll be calmer.

It'll all go by in the blink of an eye, as summers tend to do.

And for now, I'll try not to think about how crazy September will be.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Stress and Strategies: Spirituality

It's time for a slightly different take on my Stress and Strategies series: finding time for spirituality. While I'd like to think that my religious or spiritual beliefs help influence and guide me through my days and actions, I probably don't give it as much time or thought as I'd like to when I'm running to the train or folding the laundry. Actually, my rabbi once gave a great sermon about how we should astound in and feel grateful for our ability to fold the laundry, and so that does cross my mind sometimes, but I think you get my point.

We celebrate Shabbat pretty much every Friday night, lighting candles, blessing the children and eating challah. We go to services fairly regularly, and I find I revel a bit in the singularity of the task of just sitting or standing and singing the prayers when I'm there. I try to focus on just being in that moment, which is something I struggle with doing, and sometimes I have more success than others. But I find it's rewarding to put the time and effort into it.

What about you? With all that we have going on, do you make time for a spiritual component to life, however you define it? Share you stress and strategies in the comments.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

If/Then: Decision-Making in a Musical Format

I loved "If/Then." Simple as that. It probably means that my Broadway palate is not as refined as others, but I'm willing to live with that label. It was the perfect show at the perfect time for me. "RENT," twenty years later. Well, not exactly, but close enough.

The whole point of the show is that even the littlest decisions have an impact on your life. The main character's life plays out based on one seemingly insignificant choice--to go with one friend or the other--and in one scenario, she becomes a career-driven city planner without much of a personal life, while in the other she becomes a career-stalled but emotionally-rich married mother of two. Neither path is without its joys and consequences, and her choices affect the lives of her friends as well (one couple in one scenario never meets in the other, another couple chooses to divorce).

I've written before about how I love seeing how people make decisions, and so a whole show on ramifications and pondering was perfect for me. There were so many great lyrics, too, and I haven't been able to stop the songs from cycling through my mind since the show ended. I think my favorite song was "You Don't Need to Love Me," which is performed by Anthony Rapp, but seeing Idina Menzel perform the powerhouse number of "Always Starting Over" was fabulous as well. When one character finds out about a pregnancy, the "wow, wow, ain't that some surprise" he responds with is just so perfect and on point, and the song that results "Hey, Kid" made me cry. "Some Other Me" imagines all of the possible other outcomes that could have occurred, and I know the line "some other me is a rock star" will come up in my mind frequently.

Marc indulged me and let me wait at the stage door after the show, and I had fun being a fan girl. I've been looking forward to this for so long now, and it lived up to all of my expectations. I'll be enjoying "If/Then" for a long time to come.

With Anthony Rapp

Saturday, June 7, 2014

It Doesn't Take Much

I'm sitting in a lovely, comfy, air conditioned hotel lobby while waiting for our room. No one needs me. This is happiness.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Tomorrow! If/Then

Tomorrow! Tomorrow!

(Yes, you should imagine me singing. In front of a mirror, while holding a hairbrush for a microphone if you must.)

Marc and I are taking an extremely quick trip to New York City to see the new Broadway show, "If/Then." I bought the tickets back in December and have been anxious to see it since I first heard about the new Idina Menzel-helmed vehicle. And then Anthony Rapp, who originated Mark Cohen in RENT, was also added to the cast, and my determination to see the original cast of the Broadway production grew.

I've always seen tours of shows or seen shows years after they began, except for a production of "The Little Mermaid" on Broadway, which, if I'm being honest, is not the same as seeing Idina Menzel. That was special too, as it was Hannah's first Broadway show, but this is different. Going to see "If/Then" is a pure, just-for-me decision. Marc just has to tag along, and try to enjoy it at least a little.

The show is similar to the movie "Sliding Doors," in that it shows the two directions life takes depending on one small decision. This is the type of thing I think about often (and I write if/then formulas in Excel all the time), and I know there will be moments where I'll be (overly) identifying with the characters. The soundtrack just came out this week, and I couldn't help myself and have already listened to it twice.

I can't wait.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Moments with Max

At the bus stop, getting ready for Field Day. A posed Max.

Tonight Max said "OMG" and "nailed it!" Future first grader arriving right on schedule.


During choice time on his "long day" (meaning he stays in kindergarten until 3 pm), he chose to play on the iPad. He surfed right over to and watched his favorite show, Wild Kratts. "So I don't have to watch it tonight, I already got it done," he said.


He actually helped pack for our trip this weekend, and followed all of my directions. Then he needed to "win" packing by zipping the suitcase shut. I didn't know there was winning involved in packing.

How Max would prefer to look in pictures.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014


I need closure.

Like, literally, I need closet doors and cabinets closed.

It makes me crazy to see things left ajar, or not even close to being shut, when it's such an easy thing to do. It should be automatic, like putting on your seat belt when getting in the car.

And while I'm making demands, I really like the lights turned off too. And the bathroom exhaust fan. How I hate the noise from that thing.

Isn't it amazing how silly little things can have such a big impact?

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Roads Taken

"Are you going to be famous?" he asks from the backseat. What I am now is not enough for him, and since hearing me on the radio a month or so ago, he thinks I should be famous. It's got to be confusing for a six year old. What's a product manager anyway? My mom is in the newspaper, on the radio, on stage. She must be famous.


It's always the same curve followed by a quick hill that makes my stomach flip. It's unnatural, or perhaps perfectly natural, just not meant to be a road. A row of trees separates South Street from the Mass Pike, and it's almost not enough of a barrier. You drive fast on this road.

A friend who worked at facilities management on campus told us how much the signs pointing to our university, placed strategically to be seen when getting off the highway, cost to maintain each year. It was something like three students worth of full year tuition. We thought it was so much money to spend, albeit necessary in that pre-GPS time. I know better now, all these years working with money, how much something costs. It's practically a bargain, that signage expense. I wonder, though, if that's just my jaded perspective, if it would still seem like a ton of money to the rest of them. We all took the same road coming in. The road looked different by the time we left.


There are other roads that had the power to make my stomach flip, sometimes with the same woods for scenery, sometimes the same curves. Driving to Chagrin Falls, Ohio. The road to my overnight camp, where you'd erupt into cheers passing through the gate at the start of summer, and wail in tears at its end. South Street not only leads to Brandeis, it also leads to Children's Hospital, where Max got his cast off this morning. It used to be a more general hospital, and was the place where I spent 10 hours shadowing in the emergency room while training to be an EMT.

Max wishes I was an EMT still, too. That would be better than being the non-famous person I am. I know a little about booboos, and that's helpful when he needs my Band-Aid expertise. But he would tell you that I am not an expert, not a professional.


"You can still be famous," he says. There's still time.

I'm not so sure. Roads have already been taken. Some were taken cautiously, some probably taken too fast. There have been curves. But at least I'm still traveling.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Monday Monday

I've had the sense all day long that I've forgotten something. Looking ahead, it's a bit of an odd week, and tomorrow's schedule is stacked. It's Field Day at school, but Max is (hopefully) scheduled to get his cast off in the middle of the morning. He's going to be wearing all three colors and helping the teachers time the events so that he can still participate for a while. I'm nervous about having to pull him out in the middle of the event, and even more nervous about his wrist itself, but it will probably all be fine.

Oh, and at the last minute, we decided to stop and buy some green hairspray, as Hannah is on the green team. Unlocking number one mom status, at least for now. 

Tomorrow night we have the aftercare annual ice cream party, followed by a dairy dinner at synagogue for the beginning of the Jewish holiday of Shavuot. I'm excited for these events, but also frustrated that I probably won't make it to Zumba, unless I get up super early. I really want to figure out how to do everything, and I hate being limited in choices. 

It feels like such a Monday. Wish me luck with all of our plans for tomorrow. 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Hannah on the Run

She did it. Today my baby ran a 5K. I'm so proud of her. It was hard, and she didn't enjoy every moment of it, but she was pretty damn proud of herself too. Her coaches and her teammates were amazing, and Marc did a great job of supporting her along the way too. I really hope she'll do it again.