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Countdown to the slumber party

In just two hours — TWO!! — five little girls will descend upon my house to join Olivia for her big birthday sleep over blowout. What was I thinking when I said yes to a slumber party for that many 7- and 8-year-olds?!? It sounded like a good idea at the time, but now, as the bewitching hour approaches, I’m starting to wonder. Our plans to set up the big backyard water slide are on the rocks as the clouds settle in. We’ll see what we do instead. Crafts? Games? Singing? Tune in tomorrow to see how things worked out, how many girls had to get picked up by parents in the middle of the night, and how many of us get any sleep at all.

I did not fall off the edge of the earth

In case anyone is wondering why I haven’t been blogging regularly — as if I’m that important — here’s the deal: It has been the craziest June ever. We seem to have at least two events double-booked for every night of the week and weekends. I cannot wait until Friday when school lets out, even if it means I’ll be working from home with all three children circling around me

Last Thursday, which is right around the time I last posted, we had four, count ‘em, four events on one night: baseball, Scouts, dance recital dress rehearsal, and a core team meeting for my retreat group. Since we are not in a position to hire a small staff to assist us, something had to give. We gave Scouts and the retreat meeting the old heave-ho and kept the other two because, when it came down to it, those were the commitments that most needed to be kept. Read more

Talk about being good sports

So here we are, six sweaty but dedicated moms (I’m second from left), doing what we need to do to help our daughters become confident, well-rounded young women by taking them on a Girl Scout “Camporee.” No one told us that this particular camping trip was going to require more than 24 hours in sauna-like conditions in a woods infested with ticks — we had to pull the nasty little critters off of three out of six girls. The tick-to-girl ratio was not good, but we survived, even if we didn’t always do it happily.

Looking back, it was actually a lot of fun. The moms did a lot of laughing and the girls did a lot of learning. Actually, I think we all did quite a bit of learning on this outing. We learned that no matter how bad it sounds from the warnings on the label, DEET is our friend. And that’s coming from someone who never uses bug spray. I was dripping with DEET by Sunday morning and proud of it.

The campers return home

So we made it through our brief camping trip none the worse for wear. OK, maybe a little the worse for wear, but that was to be expected. Considering the fact that the temperature was in the 90s and we had to sleep six girls and six moms in a smelly, dirty “nature center,” complete with a dead mouse found upon our arrival, the trip went amazingly well, at least from my perspective.

I went into this trip with only two previous camping experiences behind me, both of them Girl Scout trips and both of them horrendous in my memory. They are the reason I have declared on more than one occasion that my idea of camping is staying at a Motel 6 or its equivalent. Visions of mud-covered sleeping bags during that rainy tent trip still dance in my head whenever I hear the word “camp.” But I knew when I signed on to be a Scout leader that camping would be in my future, so I decided to go into this with a let’s-wait-and-see attitude, and it served me well. Read more

The hunt for a dunk bag

Olivia and I went out tonight on a quest for a camping “dunk bag,” which, if you’ve never gone camping — and unfortunately I have — is a mesh bag that allows you to allegedly “clean” your dishes by dunking them first in a bucket of cold soapy water and then in a bucket of cold un-soapy water. Not quite the same as the super-sanitizer setting on our dishwasher.

So we headed back to the dreaded Wal-Mart once again, the second time in one week, in search of the required dunk bag for our upcoming Brownie camping trip. As much as I hate the store, I am always drawn there by the promise of finding weird stuff cheap while also being able to pick up fresh strawberries and bananas. When Dick’s Sporting Goods Store starts carrying produce, I’ll shop there instead. Read more

My little vegetarian

I always figured that at some point one of my children would probably decide to give vegetarianism a try. I don’t know why. Maybe because I’ve told them repeatedly that I  was a vegetarian for a long time and that if I wasn’t cooking for a family of carnivores I would be a vegetarian again. Maybe because none of them really love meat — except for hot dogs and bacon, which seem to exist in their own food universe. Maybe because I knew that one day the issue of killing animals for food would eventually strike a chord with someone in my clan. Bingo. Maybe number three wins.

Olivia decided this weekend that she wants to be a vegetarian, which, I have to admit, filled me with pride. The fact that she would even take the time to consider not eating meat made me look at her in a new light. My little girl is still a little girl, but she’s a little girl with a lot going on in her head. That’s never a bad thing. So I encouraged her and tried to explain that even though being a vegetarian is a noble choice, it is not an easy choice. We live in a meat-centered society, with meat-loving friends who don’t like to see us going against the grain. Would she be ready for that? Read more

A different kind of pilgrimage

Tomorrow Olivia and I will head to that mecca of materialism, the American Girl Store on Fifth Avenue. We’re doing lunch at the American Girl Cafe, catching a 90-minute live show on the American Girls, and, of course, shopping. Should be interesting, especially since it’s our Brownie troop trip for the year, so we’ll have five girls and five moms traveling as a pack. Yes, we’ll be one of those slow-moving tourist groups that used to annoy me to no end when I was working in Manhattan and just trying to move down a sidewalk quickly.

After our American Girl adventure, we will try to balance our material pursuits with something a little more spiritual — a visit to nearby St. Patrick’s Cathedral. When I was there during the Christmas season, Chiara was in no mood for spending time at the individual shrines to various saints that line the sides, so I’m hoping I get at least a few more minutes to take in the scene at what was once my regular stomping grounds, back when I covered Cardinal John O’Connor’s Sunday Mass on a rotating basis with the rest of my fellow Catholic New York reporters.

We’ll have a full report on our day in NYC, so check back if you’d like the scoop on all things American Girl.

Let’s leave the penguins out of this

We were sitting on the metal bleachers at Noah’s Little League game the other night, and Chiara, in typical fashion, was spinning and climbing and falling and giving me agita, as my grandmother would say.

I turned to her and said (in one of my shining parenting moments): “You are a pain in the butt.”

Without missing a beat, she turned to me and said, quite seriously: “I am NOT a penguin butt.”

Chiara, 1 – Mom, 0

Chiara has left the building

Third time’s a charm, they say, and in our case the third time (aka Chiara) had better be a lucky charm because she’s going to need it with her wild, in-your-face, take-no-prisoners behavior. I don’t know what it is that makes Chiara so willing to push the envelope where her older brother and sister did not, but I do know that the girl has got more chutzpah in her left pinky than most people have in their entire bodies.

Last night Chiara, who will not turn 3 until July 21, decided to exit the house via the garage and mosey on around the corner to the backyard where Dennis was putting lawn furniture back on the deck. I’m amazed that she opted for this route and did not, for example, decide to wander down the street or into traffic. I’m sure if she had any idea that those last two options were even feasible, she would have gone for it without a second thought. We’re thinking about building a moat around the house, but that would just be a gift to her, one more challenging obstacle to figure out between breakfast and snack time. Read more