The Vacation where we shared a towel.

With three (!) busy summer work schedules and a house under construction, an actual, proper vacation was shoved to the back burner this year. Having spent the better part of the last year working 6 & 7 day weeks, I wanted needed a few days off. With school related activities starting just a few days after Edie came home from camp, I knew we needed to make the most of those last free days.

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Catching up.

Since I last visited this space, we have had a few adventures.
Going to pick up Edie from camp was the first.
After last year’s camp closing ceremonies, Edie announced that her goal for this year was to be recognized for archery at the closing ceremony.  Which she was.  Her face as her name was called for that was absolutely beaming.  She was quite proud of herself, as were we. Is there anything better than seeing the satisfaction of your child’s face when they hit a goal they set for themselves?  She was also recognized for Dance & Lacrosse.  She was surprised by the lacrosse recognition as she doesn’t care for the sport.  I told her she didn’t have to like it to be good at it, but wasn’t it nice to know that if she wanted to play it she’d be good at it?  She was only slightly sold. 
There was a dirt road involved on the way home.
We are fans of detours that include dirt roads, especially when they include ice cream as well, which this one did.
When we got home, I had her dump her trunk down the laundry chute so I could wash everything.  My basement smelled like someone had been bathing in a pond for 3 weeks and then left all her towels out in a rainstorm.  Which pretty much was her story.
While I was switching out the loads from the washer to the dryer Saturday night, I happened to glance over and see something wriggling in a spider web that didn’t look like it belonged there.
Turns out, it didn’t.  It was a baby Eastern Ringneck snake. The tiniest little snake you’ve ever seen.
Edie really wanted to keep it, but Pat wasn’t sure if it was eating the tiny worms we brought him/her.  Also, when all of Edie’s pals came by to see her the one day she was home between adventures, the little bug catcher the snake was in didn’t get properly closed and we woke up to find Ringo gone.
Hopefully it’s made it’s way out of my house.  But if it eats bugs, then hopefully it will stay out of my eyesight.
As soon as I got Edie’s camp laundry done and my basement smelling like a basement again (a big improvement over pond water believe it or not), we took off for our last family adventure of the summer.
We headed down to the Outer Banks of North Carolina to visit our friends the Dorbads.
19 month old Lincoln is cute as can be.  He also had a nasty cold he was more than generous with.  His poor mum came down with it while we were there and while Edie complained of a sore throat for a few days, I think I managed to zinc her up enough to head it off. 
I had totally forgotten that when you have a 19 month old, that’s pretty much all you do all day.
Although they are awfully cute and entertaining.
We had some great beach weather.  It was in the 80’s and thanks to some offshore winds, the water was ICE cold.  After sitting in the sun and ‘getting warm’ as my mother used to say, it was refreshing.
Also, how nice is it to get in the ocean in August and have goosebumps from the water temperature?

We wandered down to Jennette’s pier one day so Pat could fish. 
While he was up there on the pier, Edie girl & I sat on the beach nearby. We had a most fabulous chat over a coke (her) and a beer (me). 
Daddy got to fish, Edie got chocolate ice cream AND a coke and I got to sit on the beach and read not quite an entire book all day, which we all considered perfect. How to top a day like that?

By heading even farther south to Cape Hatteras National Seashore the next day.
That was the view to the left of us down the beach. 
How sweet is that?  I adore Hattaras island and that particular stretch of coastline for just that reason.
The umbrella in the distance marked the set up of a young couple near us for the day.  It was so deserted she chose to sunbathe topless.  (One of us was horrified, one of us was amused and one of us thought good for her because I’d surely burn in a most unpleasant way in some uncomfortable spots if I did that.)
We went for a stroll to collect shells and to get away from all the people.

I couldn’t help but notice that Sandy McSandster, my daughter’s beach alter ego, lives on.
That child has some sort of magnetic attraction to sand.  When she was smaller and would come in from the beach completely coated in sand, I chalked it up to her being a baby, a toddler, three, four, etc.  But now she’s 10.  And still leaves a heavy trail.  I’m surprised there’s any sand left on Hatteras Island, because the inside of my car is completely coated, as is my beach bag, the cooler and I have no doubt her entire suitcase. 

At one point, we let her go into the cooler for something, where she proceeded to coat everything in there with sand as well.  Seriously.  One hand in to grab and everything after was coated.  That beer is fresh from the cooler, after she was in it. You should have seen the one she handed her father.  He took it into the ocean to clean it off. 

I guess she’ll never outgrow it.
Which is okay, because I happen to know 40-somethings that have similar traits.  She’s in most excellent company.

Despite the fact that my child coated everything in sight in sand and our hosts were under the weather, it was a great trip.  The day we spent at Hatteras was one of the most perfect beach days I’ve ever had.  It was 80, barely a cloud in the sky, the water temp and the breeze just right.  And I got to spend a day with those two with no outside distractions besides my book.  (I’ve been plowing through “Game of Thrones”, having watched the entire show the first week Edie was at camp, I picked up the books and am now on the fourth one.)
We spent the week without television and internet.  That was week two for me, unplugged and for Edie, week four.  (She was completely unplugged while at camp.).  It might be habit forming. 
We came back Friday afternoon.  Saturday I taught a pickling class for Market Central.

We pickled peaches, green beans and cucumbers.
It was a good class if I do say so myself.
I had planned on using the Ball Pickling Mix that is all over the market this season for dill pickles.  However, due to a small oversight, there was no pickle mix on hand for the class.  A quick flip through the stack of canning & pickling cookbooks I had brought along and we selected a new one – from my trusty Food in Jars Cookbook.  We just so happened to have everything it called for on hand and so we went with it.
I’ll let you know how they turned out in a week or so when I open the jar I carried home.  I’ve yet to make anything out of that cookbook or from her websites that isn’t good, so I felt safe trying that out in a class, untested.
I do need to brag that I completely guesstimated on the amount of brine to make for those pickles and turns out my guesstimate was just enough.  Not only did I pull it out, I pulled it out perfectly.
I’m good like that.
I can’t say the same for the amount of peach brine I made, there were several quart jars left over that students took home with them.  No one seemed to be too upset about that, as the pickled peaches were a huge hit just on the smell alone and as I pointed out, when you have leftover brine, you can use it to do another batch.  I shared the recipe I came up with as a happy discovery to much rave reviews, which felt pretty darn tooting good as well.
So now we are home for a good while – school starts Wednesday and we need to settle back into that routine.  The weather today – grey, drizzly and cool – was slightly conducive towards that end.  I cleaned out the fridge and found a forgotten jar of bread & butter brine, but I also happened to have a few cukes on hand and some jalapenos from the garden that I threw in, so there was a batch of pickles made today while I was baking bread with the sourdough starter Leni shared with me.  None of us have unpacked from the beach yet – heck, Edie still has bags sitting around with camp gear all over the house, thanks to the fact that she’s slept in her own bed exactly 2 nights since we picked her up over a week ago.  It’s good to have her home, it’s good to be home and it’s good to have a few more days to collect ourselves before it all starts back up again.

In the mail.

We are just over the halfway point of Edie being away at camp.
She’s been gone exactly 11 days.  We got one letter the first week she was gone.
She has since mailed two more notes and a list of things she needs sent, ASAP.
Four pieces of mail, one “I miss you” in the bunch.
Oh, and this:
One of her target practice sheets.

Not a bad little shot, is she?

Home again.

 Yesterday morning, we picked Edie up from camp.  Three weeks ago, that amount of time seemed so long.  Somehow, it flew by.  I didn’t get everything accomplished that I wanted to, but I also knew that it was quite likely that was going to be the case.  There were roadtrips to be taken (3 in one week), concerts to be attended (2, with a third being turned down), friends to be visited with, a house to be cleaned, canning and sewing to be done and much quality time to be spent with my husband.
We knew when we decided to send her that this would be a really great experience for her.  As an only child, she spends a good bit of time alone during the summer.  She goes to various day camps, but she still has a sizable amount of unstructured time on her hands.  Summers are tough and I think they are even tougher for an only child.  She generally is bored to tears by the beginning of August and so the last 3 weeks before school starts are brutal around here.  Most of the fun, creative day camps are over with the end of July and  it seems everyone clears out on vacation. It’s her & us.  And it’s hot.  By the time the first day of school rolls around, she’s so happy to see the big yellow angel, she’s singing Hallelujah. 
Her first letter from camp said she was having an okay good time.  She asked us to please send candy and she included specific instructions as to how this was to be packaged and sent.  Over the course of the 3 weeks she was gone, we got exactly 5 letters from her.  Each one sounded like she was having more fun than the last one. I kept hearing how it was good we weren’t hearing from her – that meant she was doing well.   She wrote about how she was enjoying archery.  We got a letter from her counselor, telling us what a joy she was to have and how she was doing well with riflery.  I immediately started thinking that she was going to take care of that little squirrel problem we’ve been having.
When we arrived at camp yesterday, she ran out to meet us and burst into tears. She later told us it was not entirely because she was happy to see us, but rather because she wasn’t quite sure she wanted to go home. Our already sweet, way cool, confident girl had blossomed. Oh yeah, she likes to shoot things. She’s a little bit good at it too and is willing to consider some target practice on the squirrels that have been giving me trouble. She gave us a tour of camp and showed us where they did yoga.  Her dad, who’s been doing yoga with her since she was a wee one asked very excitedly, “Did you do yoga?”  She shrugged and gave us a very nonchalant, “oh yeah”.  Later, during closing ceremony, when she was recognized for her excellence in yoga (as well as crafts and drama), we giggled about her coolness.

That’s the inside of the ‘craft’ cabin at camp.  It seems our sweet gal not only learned how to shoot things, but also got to play, supervised, with power tools.  And in her own, very cool way, is taking it all in stride.  There is a whole list of things she learned to do, not just shooting things, but horseback riding, how to play tennis, how to deal with outhouses and pond bathing for 3 weeks.  She grew on both the outside AND the inside. She definitely has a new, bigger perspective on life that is amazing to see.

Will told us we’d get sick of camp stories around December.  We’re on day 2 of camp stories and already Daddy is rolling his eyes….we only have 11 more months of hearing them before we can drop her off again.  Because yes, she’s already waiting for next year.
And quite frankly, I’m looking forward to another 3 weeks with my husband.
Summer camp may be the best thing ever invented.

Sleepaway camp.

Sunday, we dropped Edie off at camp.  She fought the idea of 3 weeks away at camp at first.  Admittedly, I had my reservations too.  Although I tried not to let her know that.  I knew it would be good for her.  I knew it would be good for me.  It’s been a big subject of conversation around here.  Uncle Kevin told her that he got sent to camp when he was her age and he was terrified, and then, about 2 hours after his parents left, he realized it was the best thing they’d ever done for him.  She heard a few stories like that.  She seemed to warm up to the idea.  She at least stopped bursting into tears at the mention of camp.

We’ve heard about this camp as long as we’ve known Will Smiley.  He went there every summer starting about the time he had been Edie’s age.  And then he worked there for another 10 years or so after he was too old to be a camper anymore.  It was a formative experience in his life and he really wanted to share it with our girl.  I’ve said here before that Will & Mollie are the sort of friends you consider family, no matter how often you see them.  Not only did Will want to share camp with Edie, he helped make it happen.  And then, to help ease mama into not having her gal around for 3 weeks, insisted we come visit with them at Granny’s cabin at Smith Mountain Lake.

That’s the view from the dock.  We showed up and Will had the boat ready and waiting for us.  Breakfast, lunch and dinners were made without me having to do a thing.  We had a few lovely days of just doing nothing but playing.  It was divine.  Will kept us up to date on what Edie was doing at that very moment, since he knows the schedule there inside and out.  (Sixteen summers at camp will do that to you.)  Abigail talked about how she thinks Edie is so lucky to be old enough to go to camp and she cannot wait until she’s old enough to go with her in 2 years. 

A friend had asked if we could dog sit this week, so when we came home from the lake, we came home to a dear old, stubborn dog eager to see us.  I miss my girl, but I’m so very grateful to our friends who have all stepped up to help ease me over this transition.  I know she is having a great time – as we drove out of camp on Sunday, we saw her bopping down the hill with one of her cabin counselors, taking her allergy meds to the office, and I could tell, she was already settled in.  When we dropped her off and I made her bed, there as a little girl her age in the bottom bunk next to her, with that “We are going to be friends” look on her face as she looked at Edie.  You know that look.  She had a Harry Potter book under her bed, so I’m pretty sure they will be. 
I’ve been asked numerous times, what am I going to do while she’s away?  I have alot of uninterrupted time on my hands, time where I don’t have to worry about dropping what I’m doing to go pick her up or go take her to do this or that.  I intend to work on my business plan.  I want to do some serious house cleaning and purging, including the princess lair, while she’s away.  (She actually left me a list of helpful ‘cleaning options’.)  There is the chicken house project, a few sewing projects to wrap up, some canning to be done, and most importantly, lots of quality time with my husband….

I think I’ll be okay.  After all, it’s only three weeks.

A new pocket for purple moose.

When Edie was days old, our dear friend Anne presented her with a small stuffed purple moose that went on to become the toy that we couldn’t go anywhere without.  You know the kind.  She still sleeps with purple moose, although after getting lost in the covers of her big girl bed more than a few times, she’s tucked him into the pocket of a large pillow I made her, so she always knows where he is. 
When Edie was ready for a big girl bed, her Uncle Gil so kindly gave her one taking up space in his attic and included this lovely white coverlet.  It had belonged to one of his family members – Great Aunt maybe?  I can’t recall.  After many years of wear though, it started showing it’s age recently.  See?
It’s just given out in great big spots. 
Edie is off to Camp Lachlan on Sunday for the next three weeks.  She’s a bit nervous about this – three weeks away from home and she won’t know anyone.   Knowing she was going to want to bring purple moose along, I cut into the old coverlet yesterday and made a new travel pillow, with a pocket,  just for purple moose to go to camp.  I thought it would be a nice touch of home for her to have with her.
He is now ready for camp.  And she’s getting there.  Knowing she will have her most trusted companion in her beloved old coverlet has helped.  (I think shopping Monday for her toiletries, new trunk and picking up her new personalized stationary helped too.)
And I actually started AND finished a project in one afternoon.  Must have been the fact that the AC upstairs by the happy corner made that the most pleasant place in the house. Any excuse to stay up there…..

Writing Camp.

When I tell people Edie is going to writing camp, they often misunderstand me and think we’re sending her to horseback riding camp.  And they like to share stories of their camp days with me.  No, WRITING, as in the Charlottesville Writing Center.  As in, she’s writing stories. 
Edie is alot like me – she’d rather spend her summer curled up with a book than doing swim team  or anything that requires a good bit of physical activity.  Our neighbor runs the writing center and when I heard about camp, I thought it might be something Edie would really like.  Last summer was her first summer to go and she loved it.  We noticed a difference in both her reading and writing abilities after her attending, as did her teachers at school.  She requested to go again this summer and so last week she did just that.
There they are on the first day of camp.  It was held in one of the art galleries downtown.  There was a mystery theme this year – it involved a missing painting and the writing center supplied a few prompts for the kids, like a list of suspects complete with mug shots and rap sheets.  Each story had similar elements – like a letter to someone and a mention of an enchilada, but the talking cat and superhero piranha were definitely creations of their own.  The kids were detectives and their stories were solving the crime.

The last day of camp, parents are invited to a reading.  The kids were encouraged to come in detective costume, and after convincing Edie that she really didn’t want to wear my long camel hair coat on a Virginia in July 90+ degree day (not to mention it’s really too long for her), I managed to talk her into her Picasso dress – after all, she’s undercover investigating art theft, yes?  Because no, I was not running out to buy her a trench coat and she would definitely be more undercover as an art fan than she would in a trench coat anyway.

Last year’s reading ended up on one of the local TV stations and included an interview with Edie.  While she didn’t get that kind of glory this year, she still thoroughly enjoyed camp this year.  She definitely is engaged and inspired the entire week.  This past spring, she started making books for us – collections of her ideas, stories, poetry – self published, one of a kind treasures.  And she has her own blog.  That was something we felt we couldn’t say no to, because of the creativeness of it, but we did have our concerns about internet safety.  So, it’s one of those super top secret blogs, one you have to be invited to view, one you have to have a password to view and mama gets full approval of who gets to see it.  (Pretty much anyone she wants to share it with, as long as she has your email address to send you the invite.).  I never cease to be amazed at her creativity.   The next few weeks of her summer are designed to foster and encourage that – she’s doing a week of camp at the Cooking School and then a week of art camp. And then, she’s doing three weeks at Camp Lachlan, because sometimes we all have to leave our comfort zones.  It will make her a better writer, yes?