Sunday, June 28, 2009

Boy vs. Water

At the beginning of the summer, my son was afraid of the water. He knew he couldn't swim. So, when we went to the pool during the first week of June, he wouldn't come out of his life vest unless his father or I had a tight grasp on him. And don't even think about the diving board.

But for the past four weeks we have spent every afternoon at the pool at the YMCA taking swim lessons. Everyday I sat there in a little patch of shade trying to avoid sunburn and sweating like an Englishman in the desert.

Every week, my little man's confidence grew along with his skills. Having some free-play time before and after his lessons really helped too. Trying to show up the other kids by doing handstands, flips and cannonballs can boost any kids confidence, you know.

But no matter how hard he tried or how fast he kicked, every time his instructor let go of him, his little bum would sink like the Titanic, and he would end up desperately treading water until he remembered he could touch the bottom.

But one day during the third week of lessons, something clicked. It was his turn to push off the wall and swim to his instructor. He sighed, whined about how far away she was, then the amazing happened. He pushed off, kicked with out bending his knees, and zoom! He was off! He reached his instructor in no time and was very surprised when he looked up and realized what he had done. After that there was no stopping my little buddy. And the icing on the cake, the cherry on top of the sundae...... he passed the swim test on his final day of lessons. My little guy swam the entire length of the pool, with no help, without stopping or touching the bottom of the pool. And he proudly wore his orange wristband as he played in the shallow end of the pool with all the confidence of a kid twice his size.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Secret Life of a Camp Wife

Hi. My name is Jennifer, and I am a Camp Wife.

Hi Jennifer!

Some days I really wish there was a support group for spouses in my position. My husband has a great job that provides us with an amazing place to live and raise our kids, great insurance and benefits, nice perks and wonderful friends, but in the summer I might as well be single.

My husband works from 7:45am to midnight or later from Sunday afternoon to Friday evening. True, we can go to the camp and hang out whenever we want, but we can never have him to ourselves. There is always something happening or someone who needs him for something. He isn't even guaranteed peace to finish a meal some days.

I am very proud that he has worked his way from grass crew to assistant director. I can never brag enough that he has helped double/triple/quadruple the number of people that come to the camp, or that he has helped transform the camp's summer program from an antiquated 1950's style program into a premier leadership camp of the 21st century.

However, because of the time commitment that is required of Russel, the kids and I can very easily feel left out and abandoned. And over the years I have unconsciously created some coping mechanisms....(green are good ones, red....not so much)

emotional distance -- even before the summer starts, I can feel myself pulling away, cocooning myself in preparation for the summer hibernation. I will withdraw into books, TV shows, whatever, to not have to face the fact that the camp will steal my best friend.
overbooking -- during the summer, especially now that the kids are older, I find something for us to do. This summer it was four consecutive weeks of swim lessons, soccer camp, church camp for Julia and camping with the grandparents. For me it is work, work, work. Carpool. Showers Every Night. with no time to go grocery shopping (not that we need a whole lot, but still.... deodorant is important. I can't have my husband smelling gamey at work. We aren't European!)
dry-erase markers -- our new best friends are the dry-erase markers! We discovered a few years ago that (DUH!) you can write on your mirrors with dry-erase markers and it comes right off with no problem. Granted, after a few layers you have to wash with some Windex, but that's not a big deal. Now I can keep my prayer list right in front of my face to help me remember, start a shopping list as items run low, and write love notes to my absent husband and mysteriously get notes back in the morning! (OK, so that was a little melodramatic. Sometimes I am still awake when he gets in and we get to snuggle before I start snoring. And most mornings I have to get up before he leaves to get ready for work.)
the notebook -- one year, before dry-erase markers, we kept a notebook by the bed. If there was something on my mind that I was afraid I would forget to tell him, or knew that I wouldn't get a chance to be alone with him for a while, I would write it in the notebook and leave it on his pillow. Then when he got a chance he would write back. This one wasn't near as effective as the markers, but a good idea. And now that both kids can read, somethings are better left where little eyes can't, we might be pulling the notebook back out in the future.

So, thanks for listening. I'll be back next week.
(polite applause and everyone heads to the snack table)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Chickenpox, Part Deux

Everyone remembers how when they were little their parents would try to get them infected with the chickenpox:
"Susie has the chickenpox. Better get the kids to her house, maybe her little sister is still contagious and will give it to them. You know it's better to have the chickenpox when you are little. You'll die if you get it as an adult!"

While there is some truth to that, I don't think adults can die from chickenpox. It's just more likely to be more severe and a lot more embarrassing and inconvenient!
If our parents knew then that getting chickenpox as a child meant that you would most likely get shingles as an adult, they would have kept us in isolation throughout elementary school.

All of this dialogue is preface to this: Remember how I have been saying my summer is kinda stressful? Well, guess what is one of the main triggers for shingles besides a weakened immune system? STRESS!!!
And so the other day when my left leg, only on the back side between my butt and my knee, felt like it was asleep from 5pm on Sunday afternoon until I went to sleep that night, I was a little worried. That's not normal, right? My first thought was a pinched nerve. If it's not gone in the morning I can just go to the chiropractor and get it straightened out. Then I thought, well, I am on birth control pills. What if it's a blood clot? I don't know what those are supposed to feel like, and all I know is that my leg doesn't feel right so it could be that. Then the imagination really got going and thoughts of MS, fibromyalgia, spinal surgery & walking canes started dancing in my head, and I finally calmed myself by deciding that if I woke up Monday morning and still felt the tingling, I would call the doctor.
And I did.
So, I did.
And when I got there and explained to her what was going on, she just looked at me for a minute like, "And......?"
My response was "Yep."
But I knew this wasn't right, and I wanted to know what was going on.
So, she did the exam. No rash. Good pulse in the groin, knee & foot. Leg muscles working fine (I could stand on my toes & my heels.) One more question, have you had chickenpox?
Why yes doctor, I have. A pretty nasty case too. Have the scars to prove it.
Aha! Well, she says, then this could be shingles. It's very early on, but a lot of people can feel the tingling-type of pain before a rash ever appears.
(Oh, crap. I remember when my grandparents had shingles, and they were doped up pretty good and still hurt like crazy! Plus the oozing rash, gross. And not to mention it's contagious and my kids haven't had the chickenpox vaccine yet!)
But, she tells me that the treatment is very simple, especially when you catch it early, and the side effects of the drug are next to nothing.
Awesome! give me the drugs!
Know what it is? Valtrex. Yep. the Herpes drug.
Oh, you didn't know that chickenpox is a form of herpes? Well, surprise!!! and shingles is just the re-emergence of the dormant chickenpox virus.
So, here I am with chickenpox, part deux. And taking the well advertised Valtrex three times a day. (yes, I have to carry it in my purse to work with me so I can take one at lunch) And off and on my left leg, only on the back of my thigh, will get tingly. But it hasn't become painful, and there is still no sign of a rash. So, I will stop feeling like a slut taking a drug for an STD, and just appreciate the fact that this will work and keep me from the torture of shingles.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Heyup me duck!

Hosting people from other countries gives you the opportunity to learn new things and experience the awkward.

The second week of the summer, our family, along with the Teasley's, hosted two soccer coaches from England who came across the pond with Challenger British Soccer Camps. Liam (short for William) is from Nottingham and has a pretty thick accent. Lisa was always asking him to repeat something he said so she could try to figure it out. Jonathan (Jono) is from Doncaster and was a lot easier to understand.
The guys taught the kids some great stuff, and we had a blast showing them all things Southern/Covington/the Camp.
Sweet tea did not go over very well. They like their tea hot (boiled) with milk. Lisa tried it and said it was actually pretty good. I haven't been brave enough, or cleaned my kitchen enough, to try it yet.
The heat was a big shock! The hottest it gets over there is about 60oF. So the first couple of days outside in the sun was pretty draining on them. And is there any polite way to say, "You know, you might want to buy a stronger deodorant while you're here in the deep South." I couldn't think of one. So we just smiled an stood up-wind!
The Camp really impressed the guys. They said they don't have anything like it in England, that they know of. The unlimited food in the Dining Hall, gianormous slip-n-slide, and high ropes course were the highlights for sure!
We learned that if you are in England and you hear someone say that you are a little "camp," then you might want to double check your sexual orientation, because they think you are gay! This got a big laugh when the staff wore their new very cool pink tie-dyed shirts that say "Life is Camp" on the front. Of course we knew "camp" meant "summer camp," but you can see the confusion......
We were trying to get a grasp on how the size of the UK compared to the size of Georgia. The guys explained to us that you can drive from one side of the island to the other in about 3 hours, and from the top to the bottom in about 9 hours. So, then we explained that to drive from here to Arizona without stopping takes almost two days!
We treated Liam and Jono to El Charros their last night with us, and since the only Mexican food they have had was Fajitas, they decided to try my favorite the chimichangas. Loved them!
The guys were kind enough to give us some parting gifts. They gave Lisa a book on how to decipher the language in Derbyshire (Liam's home-county) titled "Heyup Me Duck!" This is the common "hello" to women in that county. It also helps you figure out what they are saying by teaching you their phonics. Like, th is most often pronounced as an f . . . . so, Jonathan here, is Jonafin there. Things--Fings, and so on. Lisa, being a Spanish teacher, got a big kick out of this. She loves languages and all their little intricacies. For me they had a book about British History with lots of full color illustrations and photographs. I had told them that I was a big British Literature fan and loved all things England. Now I have a quick reference guide, and the pics help me feel like I've been there (almost).
So, we said goodbye to our "foreign exchange soccer coaches" and wished them well in the next town. But of course we were secretly hoping that their stay with us would be the best!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Jaded & Bittersweet

So, I had a mini-meltdown in church today. Had to go to the bathroom because I didn't have any tissues in my purse and then refrain from bringing out a roll of toilet paper with me to wipe my snot and tears.
This flood of emotions hit me from my blind spot like a mac truck on the interstate, but I can tell you now how it found me..... (this is your 'get a tissue' warning)
I know families are not supposed to have favorites. We are supposed to love all our kin equally, right? That's a lie. We are human and we are flawed and selfish with our own likes and dislikes. Some people we get along with and some we don't. Well, I've always considered myself to be more like my mother's side of the family than my dad's. They were/are sweet, kind, generous, loving, non-judgemental..... all the things families are supposed to be. And I was one of them, a Bearss/Bennett. Directly. By blood. The other side was fun when I was little, with the fishing trips and yard sales. But as I got older, I started to see the manipulation, guilt trips and favoritism creep in to my world. One of the other grandkids was always better at something than you were. You never came to visit enough like they did. If you didn't eat something that Grandma had made, you were intentionally trying to hurt her feelings. You get the idea...... And when I was old enough to be able to decide for myself when I would visit, the visits became fewer and far between.
But now that my dad's parents are living in my parents' house, I have been forced to spend more time with them and have come to notice things about them and myself that I hadn't before. Or maybe that I hadn't wanted to see before.
Like how Grandma and I eat our breakfast exactly the same: crumble the bacon over the grits and the eggs and eat them all together. How Grandma and I both have to clean the crumbs off the table around us after we are done eating. Lots of little nuances and quirks that are the same but aren't glaringly obvious until you spend a lot of time with that person.
So, I have been forced to see that despite how hard I have denied being a Hampton/Almond in the past, I AM one of them too. Directly. By blood. And you can't run away from that.
(Yes, I know that this self-denial falls into the judgemental and favoritism categories that I was denouncing before, and I do catch the irony of it, so don't rub it in. This is where the mini-meltdown part of my day comes in.)
This weekend I got to see a whole new side of my Papa. The mean, hurtful, bully side. And while at first I was just seriously pissed off that he had emotionally tortured my mother, I later started wondering..... is he just getting crazy in his old age (90), or is this who he really is? Has he been putting on a show for all these years and has just now gotten where he doesn't care to hide any more?? Is this one of those personality traits that has been passed on to me and so far I have been successful in keeping it locked up inside me? This was the thought that scared me the most. That one day I would become like him, how he was this weekend.
I was sitting in church during worship with all these thoughts swirling around in my head when the dam broke. Tears streamed down my face and I had to go outside because I could feel the sobs coming. And as I stood outside staring at the pastures across the street from our church, trying to pull myself together so I could go back inside, I heard the Lord say to me: You are not their child. You are Mine. You will become who I am if you will trust Me and follow Me. You don't have to give in to your DNA, because I have adopted you and made you My own. Of course this made the tears flow even more, but also gave me a peace that I hadn't felt for some time.
So, now I have to choose to love the parts of my grandfather that are like my heavenly father and forgive the parts that are not. (crap.)
But doing this will make me more like the God who saved me from myself. And that's the person I want to be. The person He sees. Not the person I think I am or am afraid I will become.