Lasker Pool

Lasker Pool
Central Park, summer 2011

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

What Seth Brought Home From Camp

Seth went to sleepaway camp for the first time this summer an exciting event for any nine-year-old, no? We packed up the requisite 14 T-shirts, 14 pairs of shorts, 14 pairs of socks, underwear, pajamas, sleeping bag, toiletries...even a beginner's fishing rod. And, after informing us that he would not be writing or calling during his two weeks at Fairview Lake, off my boy went.
Each day, every so often, I'd stop for a moment and wonder what Seth was doing at that particular moment. Making S'mores? Swinging in the hammock outside his bunk? Singing "99 Bottles of Milk on the Wall?"
As promised, Seth was completely imcommunicado during his two-week stint in the mountains. But once we picked him up, boy, did we hear stories! "It was awesome," Seth told me. "The best place ever!"
Seth regaled us with tales of the two beaversharks said to inhabit the lake, the old Rusty Knife camping shack where transients were said to sleep on occasion, the kissing snapping turtle that gave its affection to counselors and campers alike, and the teens who snuck out of their cabin at night and got caught. I'm pretty sure the last story was true.
After a couple of days of rest at home, we packed Seth off to day camp—much less glamorous than sleepaway, he assured us kind of grumpily. "I wish I was still at Fairview Lake," he complained. "Day camp is lame."
But Seth did bring home a memento of his gloried time at Fairview Lake.
Note: If you're sqeamish, you may want to stop here.
Okay, ready?
Here's what Seth brought with him: Head lice.
Here's the message that greeted me at work this morning:"Hi, it's Lindsey, from Day Camp Camperoo. Seth's fine, but we had a lice check this morning, and guess what? He's got them! So, if you'd like to pick him up and get him treated, that would be great. Otherwise, we'll keep him in the office all day."
So, the decisions began.
Do we buy the icky, stinky, chemical-laden lice-killing shampoo and hope to be done with it in one shot?
Try the natural route?
Bring him to Lice Enders for a $150-minimum nitpicking session (I kid you not)?
Head to Brighton Beach, where the nice Russian ladies get rid of nits for a few dollars less?
We opted for a partially natural, partially icky, stinky blend of treatments, followed by a buzz cut.
And we cleaned. Jeez, did we clean.
My husband did numerous loads of laundry. We washed two stuffed animals for each child, and bagged dozens of others, along with blankets, pillows and comforters.
The bags are not to be opened for two weeks.
We also treated my other two boys, who have shoulder-length hair, and combed everyone's hair with the special $21.95 Lice Enders comb, which is, apparently, far superior to the plastic comb that comes with the icky,stinky lice-killing shampoo.
After about 6 hours, we had clean sheet, clothes, towels and children.
And not a nit in sight.
Now, I'm not blaming Fairview Lake.
As a New York City parent, I'm all too clear that lice happen.
But the best camp ever?
Let's talk after I finish washing the comforters.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Sunday in the Cemetery

We had the unveiling for my mom recently, a custom in which a covering is literally removed from the headstone, signaling some sort of closure, or at least an ending to the mourning period. Not that there's ever closure—a word I've come to loathe—when a loved one dies, but that's a conversation for another day.
We started prepping the boys a few days ahead of time: "On Sunday, we're going to leave the beach house and drive to the cemetery in New Jersey where Nana is buried and have a small remembering ceremony. It's a chance to talk about her and think about her."
They nodded, apparently getting the picture. At least, we didn't get our usual stream of questions: "Who else will be there? How long will it take to get there? Can we bring the computer?"
It seemed odd that Jesse, who always has at least twice as many questions about a given topic than I can stand to answer, appeared so nonchalant about the unveiling. He considered Nana his special person in the world. He even wrote her a posthumous valentine last February.
But the emotional dam broke the night before the unveiling. After brushing his teeth, Jesse asked, "Mom, can I talk to you? Alone."
I guided him into my room, where, seconds later, he began sobbing.
Hard, uncontrolled sobs. The kind that come from a deep, deep place and can't be restrained. Even by the toughest, most in-control of nine-year-old boys.
"I can't go," he choked out the words. "I miss her too, too much."
I stroked his always-tangled hair and held his quivering little body in my arms. "It will be okay, Jess. I even think it will be a good thing for all of us to think about her and talk about her when we're together," I told him. "I know it's hard to believe, but it will be nice, even though it will be sad too."
"But I think about her every day!" he protested. "You don't know, but I do. I think about her and cry about her and miss her all the time. Sometimes, when Seth is asleep I go into her room and sleep there."
By now, I was sobbing too. I had no wise lessons, no words of comfort that could erase his pain. "I miss her too," I said.
I rubbed Jesse's back until he fell asleep, in my bed.
The next afternoon, we all huddled at the gravesite. The rabbi said a few short prayers, then spoke briefly but passionately, about my mom and the funny, energetic, engaged woman she was. He talked about her great love for her grandchildren, her kindness, her intellect.
Then we all placed small rocks on Nana's headstone—a traditional signal that we'd been there. My sister brought small alphabet stickers so the boys could spell out their names on the smooth, shiny stones before placing them atop the headstone.
After a long, noisy lunch, where the boys received much attention and many hugs from their relatives, we got back into the minivan for the ride back to the beach. I kissed each boy before I got into my seat, leaving Jesse for last.
"You're right mom, it was very, very sad. But also nice," he told me.
Then Seth threw up in the back of the car.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Not-So Wild Boys

It's always interesting to observe your kids and their attempts to negotiate the kiddie social network. So yesterday, in the face of high temps and humidity, we gave up on the beach and headed for the local indoor pool, where I can do laps and the kids can play water basketball.
My three are not known for being good losers or winners--despite our constant, umremitting efforts to instill the "shake his hand and say 'good game'" lesson. But yesterday, I saw progress.
A bit, anyway.
Kyle and Jesse hopped in on a water basketball game with two other boys. Taller, probably older, and considerably more skilled than my guys at stealing the ball and getting it into the net.
But they were kind of, well, punky. A bit obnoxious, a bit overbearing, crowding shorter-than-the-average Jesse (who was, literally, half their size) into the corner of the pool and then grabbing the ball from his little-boy hands. Ignoring the standard rules of fairness and whooping and crowing each time they made a basket against my guys: "We rock! You s-ck!"
What should we have done? Preemptively end the game? Take over and make sure everyone is playing nicely together? Slap the little brats?
Mick and I opted to see how our kids worked it out, staying closer to the action than usual and watching for early signs of an argument.
What we saw: Kyle and Jesse working together (!!!!!) to try to wrest the ball away from the b-ball brats. Kyle patiently and calmly explaining the proper rules. Jesse looking our way for reassurance and advice, while biting his lip to keep from losing his considerable temper. Kyle and Jesse helping a little girl who wanted to play by tossing her the ball.
And my kids getting slaughtered by the older, tougher, better players.
Amazingly, Jesse and Kyle managed to keep their cool throughout the game, until we lured them away with lap swim (I bribe them with a quarter a lap).
Over dinner (Jesse and his chicken fingers, Kyle and his new obsession of mussels marinara and roasted clams), I complimented my guys on their, wow, I think, maturity.
Kyle shrugged. "Yeah, you're always gonna run into jerks in life," he said.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Viva la France

Jesse came home from Cubs Camp (where, he proudly reported, he is no longer a Cub but has graduated to full-fledged Lion) a couple of days ago with a rather unusual request.
He needed a list of French words.
The reason? He'd bonded with three other young Lions who speak only French. "They're really nice, and they love dodgeball, but we can't really talk to each other," Jesse explained. "I mean, I have NO idea what they're saying."
So we drummed up a list of the basics: hello, goodbye, how are you?, what's your name?, let's be friends, and, of course, bread with chocolate.
Instead of tuning into the newest episode of Dragon Ball Z on Cartoon Network, Jesse actually spent an hour going over the words and phrases, lisping his way through them. We practiced again on the way to camp the next morning. He couldn't quite get the hang of 'au revoir," but his 'bonjour' was flawless.
After camp, when I queried Jess about his conversation with his young European buddies, he beamed. "When I said 'pain chocolat' they rubbed their tummies and said yummy!" he told me. "And now we understand each other perfectly!"
It was one of those moments that reminded me of how easily children bridge what we grownups often think of as huge chasms.
A smile, the toss of a ball, a mangled phrase or two and a shared love for sweets.
Perhaps that all it really takes.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Chicken Fingers are for Babies

It's been a while, no? Actually, more than a year. But the itch to blog has returned. So, here I am, with my emo boys. Who are more emo than ever.
Today it's Jesse turn in the barrel. Jess, the smaller and fiercer of my two nine-year-olds, has fewer than a dozen foods on his preferred menu. And most of them are white or beige.
In the not-quite-white-food category are chicken fingers. And Jesse is quite proud that he's become an elementary-school connoisseur of these in recent months.
Not the pasted-together-from-unimaginable parts McDonald's chicken fingers, but those served at restaurants, made from chicken breast and usually served on a plate. With lettuce.
The other night, while dining at our favorite thin-crusted pizza eatery at the beach, Jesse requested chicken fingers. I scanned the kids' menu and ordered the $5.95 meal for the 12 and under set. Reasonable, I thought.
Until Jesse's dinner arrived.
As the waitress set Jesse's plate down before him, his lower lip began to tremble.
"These are the baby chicken fingers!" he wailed. "I'm not eating these—they're for babies!"
The problem? The chicken fingers bore a deliberate resemblance to dinosaurs. Even more upsetting, the French fries were shaped like smiley faces.
Because Jesse has the appetite of a hummingbird, and because, well, I just wanted to eat my dinner and enjoy it, I called the waitress over and explained the situation. She promptly fetched Jesse the more grownup version of chicken fingers, which did not resemble any creature that ever walked on the earth.
Jesse dug in happily.
My husband shook his head. "Pathetic, aren't we?"
Then my 12-year-old flipped a plate of spaghetti on the floor.