day camp · slice of life

I’m Tucking This in My Desk for a “Rainy Day”

There are many times each week when I wish I could hit the “reset” button on my parenting. It’s rare I feel like I’m getting it right. But yesterday? Yesterday was one of those times when I felt like I might not be falling as far short as I sometimes feel as though I am.

Yesterday, Isabelle and Ari returned from eight days away at my parents’ house. They took my children to their house to give Marc and me the time and space we needed to transition to our new home. (FYI: We moved from Harrisburg to Lancaster on June 21st. My parents knew it would be less challenging to unpack, work, and close on our Harrisburg house without having the kids around. Not only did they take them to their house, but they enrolled both of them — Yes, even little Ari! — in day camp for the week.) It was amazing to have the ability to do what we needed to do without having to entertain and care for our children. My parents deserve a medal. But this post isn’t about them. (Sorry, Mom and Dad!)

My father handed me an envelope not long after my parents arrived at our Lancaster home. “These are from Isabelle’s counselors,” he told me.

Click on the image to enlarge.

I opened an envelope and found two different notes from Isabelle’s counselors printed on note cards. Both were sweet notes expressing how much they’d miss Isabelle since she was leaving the group after just a week. However, inside one of the cards was a index card for Marc and me. The index card not only gave me a glimpse into Isabelle’s life at camp, but one sentence written on the index card turned me speechless. The counselor wrote:

She is one of the most polite kids I have ever met.

Who? My kid? I adore my daughter, but sometimes she can be a bit gauche. (Let me be honest, I did joke around to Marc, later in the day, that I couldn’t imagine how the rest of the kids were behaving if Isabelle was considered the politest.) We teach Isabelle to have good manners in and out of our home, but I don’t always see the transfer of our teaching.

I was touched – truly – that her counselors took the time to write Isabelle notes after a week of knowing her. More than that, I was moved one of them took the extra time to reach out to us — parents living over 100 miles away — to share some reflections about Isabelle. If I could look that counselor in the eyes, I would tell her that her note truly blessed me. When you’re slogging through the daily highs and lows of parenting, it means everything to have someone tell you your kid is treating others kindly. I would never have known if it hadn’t been for her note.

I’ve tucked the notes in my desk drawer. I told Marc I am going to pull out the index card anytime I’m having a challenging parenting day. Because, apparently, I am getting more right than I think I am.

day camp · speech · swimming

On Determination & Grit

When Isabelle was little — and words were beyond challenging to utter — I noticed she would keep practicing. Isabelle wanted to understood so she kept trying. To hear her now, you’d never know she was diagnosed with CAS at 27 months old. Even today, on the occasions when her mouth can’t say the words her brain is thinking, she perseveres.

Isabelle joined swim team this summer. It wasn’t a try-out swim team. While everyone wants to win, the coach assured me his goal for Isabelle was to help her become a stronger swimmer and to do her personal best at swim meets. Both of those goals were met when swim team ended on July 6th. She shaved time off her freestyle and backstroke times every time she raced!

On July 9th, Isabelle started day camp. I pushed her to take the deep water test since I knew she could:

  • Swim across the pool (from deep to shallow) without touching
  • Tread water for 15 seconds
  • Float for 15 seconds
  • What I didn’t know — until after the first time she failed the test — is that she didn’t pass because she didn’t keep her head down to breathe. As a seven-year-old kid, she doesn’t breathe properly when swimming freestyle. Rather than complain (Safety first!), I asked if she could swim backstroke across the pool. That request was denied. She’d have to swim freestyle and breathe properly (to the side rather than lifting her head) or she wouldn’t pass.
  • After she failed for the first time, last Thursday, I told Isabelle I was proud of her for trying and that she didn’t have to take it again. (After all, you can’t learn how to do side breathing overnight.) The next morning, Isabelle grabbed her swim team swim cap and told me she would try again.
  • And she did.
  • She didn’t pass again — even while wearing the swim cap.
  • I learned she didn’t pass for the second time when we were writing in her line-a-day notebook. She had been holding it in for about five hours. But when Isabelle told me, she didn’t seem sad. Rather, she seemed determined to try again. In fact, she requested a lesson with her swim coach (which I set up for this weekend).
  • Today, Isabelle didn’t pass for the third time. She told me she was going to try again tomorrow. She’s prepared to side-breathe as best as she can. Seeing as I know she will most likely not pass again, I wanted to talk to her about how she might need to try again and again and again before she will be given the green light to go into the deep water during free swim. So, I read her Ashley Spires incredible book at bedtime:
  • My favorite line — from Isabelle — when she saw the girl toss a broken prototype over her shoulder was, “I can’t throw away the pool.” No, she certainly can’t.
  • I don’t know if Isabelle will pass the deep water test — due to the side-breathing she hasn’t perfected — this summer. Taking a deep water test again and again, rather than giving up, is incredible. No matter what the final outcome, I am beyond proud of Isabelle’s determination to keep trying to pass the test.
  • day camp · slice of life

    ‘Twas the Night Before Day Camp

    “Have you gotten any writing done since you got home from the conference?” my husband inquired last night.

    I smirked. “Barely! Isabelle only had two school days left after the conference. I’ve had almost no time to myself for over a month. Not that that’s been a bad thing. We’ve had fun, but I have hardly had any time to work on the revisions for my manuscript.”

    “Well, at least you’ll have time starting Monday,” Marc said.

    “I sure will! Five days a week should be plenty of time to get revisions done and to start on some new writing,” I replied.

    Starting tomorrow, Isabelle heads off to day camp for the next four weeks. That’s five days a week for six-and-a-half hours a day. I NEED this time to devote to my writing. However, I’d be lying if I said I’m comfortable about sending her off to day camp tomorrow.

    Let’s be honest. I’m worried.

    Preschool didn’t have me this concerned. I knew she’d be taken care of by capable teachers.

    But day camp is another thing. Day camp is a huge adjustment for any kid. (Maybe that’s why my parents didn’t send me to day camp until I was seven. Hmmm…) There are sunscreen and bug spray she needs have applied. There are swimsuits she needs to be changed into and out of. There are personal belongings she needs to keep track of. There’s staying safe at free swim! All of these are things I’ve either overseen or helped to take care of for the past five-and-a-half years. And tomorrow, my kiddo is on her own. (Yes, I know there are counselors, but they’re teenagers in charge of 15 five-year-olds!)

    This afternoon, I spent the day doing what I do best when I am nervous about something. I get organized.

    I laid out Isabelle’s clothes. (Normally she picks what she wears, but tomorrow is picture day so I chose.)


    I took her on a tour of her backpack so she’d know what she was taking to camp. I explained how she was to get dressed and undressed for swimming. (Sit on a towel, not the ground. Place wet bathing suits into a Ziploc when finished. Let me know if I need to send two towels in the future since tomorrow I’m only sending one.) I showed her a laminated picture chart of the items she was to bring home with her. (She is a people-watcher who will be more interested in what other kids are doing than in packing herself up at the end of the day.)


    I pulled her curls into a tight slop-knot tonight so it would be easier for me to put her hair into a ponytail tomorrow. (She was shocked the counselors wouldn’t be willing to remove her bow, which she always wears, and tie her hair up in a ponytail prior to swim.)


    I made her lunch.

    She requested half of a tuna sandwich for tomorrow. (BTW: She rarely eats tuna fish. That said, I complied with her odd request.)
    She requested half of a tuna sandwich for tomorrow. (BTW: She rarely eats tuna fish. That said, I complied with her odd request.)

    I even put her socks in her sneakers.


    And yet, I am still worried. Thankfully, she seems as cool as a cucumber. (I guess that is good. Either it means I’m doing a good job hiding my nerves or she’s oblivious to how much she’s going to have to do on her own!)

    I know she will be less than ten minutes away. She will be fine.

    And I will be fine too. Perhaps more than fine. Maybe by Tuesday, I’ll even be productive.

    —-Updated at 5:00 p.m. on 7/18.—-

    Isabelle had a great day at camp! She came home with all of her belongings (Thanks to the help of one of her counselors!) and ate nearly all of her lunch.

    Proof of what was eaten! (BTW: I knew she wouldn't eat the tuna sandwich.)
    Proof of what was eaten!
    (BTW: I knew she wouldn’t eat the tuna sandwich.)

    I'm going with a lunch I know she'll eat tomorrow: YOGURT!
    I’m going with a lunch I know she’ll eat tomorrow: YOGURT!

    I nearly had a heart attack on the car ride home when Isabelle told me she jumped in a bounce house — after some coaxing from adults — when it rained this afternoon. (We’re a no-bounce house family since they’re one of the leading causes of emergency room visits for American children.) She knew she wasn’t supposed to do it, but she told me, “I was careful.” While I appreciated how careful she was, I reminded her that she didn’t want to spend her summer in a cast (or in a cast after having surgery) so I asked her not to go in it again. Even though she promised she’d be careful, I ended the conversation by asking, “If you get hurt in a bounce house and land up in a cast, whose fault will it be?”

    Even though she promised she’d be careful, I ended the conversation by asking, “If you get hurt in a bounce house and land up in a cast, whose fault will it be?”

    To which Isabelle responded, “Mine.”

    Hopefully, she’ll make a smart decision. But just in case, I emailed the head of the camp to ask that the counselors redirect her to another activity the next time the bounce house is a choice. I already received an email back stating: Not a problem – I will speak to the staff

    Not a problem – I will speak to the staff tomorrow and let them know to direct Isabelle to another area in the play room. Whew!


    Other than that, it was a great day!