A day, a Wednesday.
Would you rather have good food and poor service, or poor food and great service?
Trick question. I vote for great food combined with great service. We got one of the two this week.
One of the first things I would do, were I a camp director, would be to ban the use of kitchen and dishwashing staff wearing headphones while interacting with campers.
I married a camp kitchen worker. Her mischievous smile in line was one of the tiny things that added joy and spice to a mundane part of the day. It took nothing extra. Just a willingness to connect with others on the job with personality and spirit.
And there’s a bond that forms in the back kitchens when you’re forced to compromise over radio listening, as opposed to everyone being on separate earbuds in their own little private worlds.
At the least: not when interacting with the public. There’s something that slowly sucks the life out of air when you’re interacting with people who are trying hard not to make eye contact and using headphones as a signaling mechanism that ‘I am not available for friendly communication on any level and in any way, which includes smiling.’
I believe there were hash browns, chicken eggs, tofu, oatmeal, and muffins.
I ate an oatmeal and a hashbrown, plural.
This is a really sad incident with a sad ending, but I’m going to tell it because you need to hear it.
I have told our children: play hard, get dirty, scrape yourselves up.
They can start doing their own laundry and we can afford plenty of bandaids.
Do anything to your head or your spine.
No brain or spinal injuries. I feel strongly about this.
It felt good to have our 19-month old absorb this philosophy already. I had previously forbidden him from doing somersaults on the 4th floor window ledge; a stern command I gave that made sense to me, if not him and everyone else.
Go find something slightly less dangerous,
- and I should note that I am slightly rearranging facts here again to fit the narrative I want to tell, because I did not actually tell him this, and I was not actually with him when the incident I am about to tell you took place.
He was with his mother, a girl who is frequently good at dangerous things, and sometimes not so skilled at being a triage nurse. So what happened was
- and I should tell you ahead of time in case you’re getting excited about what is about to happen, that he did not get attacked by a moose. That is another story for another time -
The short version is this: You know the skin underneath your upper leg that everyone, aside from triathletes and people who exercise too much, have?
Some people have more of this fatty skin than others on their thigh. If he was in Alaska and he was a whale, the Inuit might call it ‘blubber.’
It is cute blubber, I have to say.
So what what happened is, he was apparently playing with a friend, a friend who was a bee. I do not know the bee’s name, but they were having fun I would guess, and in the midst of their playing, his friend flew underneath him playfully, and got lost.
Where did he get lost? In the folds. The folds of blubber, of fatty tissue that all non-triathletes have. Mr. Bee was flying around and got caught in a fold of fat that closed around him as he was flying, and as our son was kicking his legs around playfully.
When living creatures encounter danger, they usually go into fight or flight mode. For Mr. Bee’s sake, I wish he had gone into flight mode.
But he didn’t. He fought. With his stinger. He plunged his stinger deep into the fat of our son’s leg, and then with a final gasp...
Our son valiantly screamed, and then cried, and recovered over a period of days. He is fine.
Mr. Bee is not. He’s dead. Sad. Sometimes you gotta run, not fight.
Don’t fight if you’re going to end up dead, unless it’s for a bigger cause than yourself. And choose your friends carefully, because some of them can be dangerous, especially if you’re a bee and they’re a little boy with a lot of fatty tissue on the backside of their upper legs.
I watched my sister-in-law Meilani reading a one-page black-and-white photocopy of a camp schedule to a nephew and niece, ages 19 months and almost three years old.
They sat with her, happy and absorbed, toys all around, ignored. The toys ignored.
Reading a single page of text-heavy paper with their aunty. Laughing, pointing, squealing, absorbed for precious minutes in interacting.
They had her attention.
It’s hard to overestimate the value of giving kids conscious, focused attention.
I have to remind myself every day, as I get distracted like everyone else and try to escape that focused attention by throwing toys and easy entertainment at them. There’s a time for that too. But still: reminders. #reminders
I loved watching those moments.
My mom is a wheeler-dealer; a talent that many people might not peg her as having. But she is. She is sincere and straightforward and nice and empathetic...and also knows how to keep nudging and pushing people into giving a better answer than their original. As in: “Well yes, the ceramics class is full...but I suppose we could set up another table so you and your grandchildren could join too.”
Ceramics and then Giant Swing. The Giant Swing is another very difficult activity to describe. Essentially, it’s a swing that is huge. You might say it’s giant. You get hoisted up into the air 40 or a hundred meters or so, attached by a climbing harness and a piece or two of rope, and people pull you higher and higher, and when you’re ready, you pull a little smaller rope that releases you and you...swing through the air in a side-to-side arc that is...giant.
The idea is that it’s fun. Several years ago, I did it and screamed so loud and for so long that I lost my voice for several days. Seriously and literally.
Becca also made fast friends with one of the instructor guys. They had a little meeting on the ladder and just really hit it off, and they were so cute just standing there talking, for a long time, while the rest of us were waiting to swing. On the giant swing.
I like having good salad fixings. Ingredients that make it extra good for me are kidney beans, sunflower seeds, and non-soggy tomatoes that are cut correctly; that is to say: with a sharp and SERRATED knife.
I’ve been having Ejvindr help clear the tables after meals. He wasn’t sure what to make of it the first time, but once he figured out what the process was, he loved it.
He gets to drop the dirty silverware in a giant tub filled with water and other dirty silverware.
He gets to help stack the plates and bowls in the back by the dishwashers and tell them thank you, although they will sadly be too absorbed in their earbuds and in one case, an especially gigantic pair of over-the-ear headphones, to realize that he’s telling them ‘thank you’ in his garbled and semi-intelligible way. With a big smile.
And most importantly, he gets to dump leftover water from the cups into a five-gallon bucket filled with waste liquids, and then stack the dirty cups, upside down, into trays. The trays are arranged in a grid, with little slots for each cup to go upside down. Sometimes he forgets this. Idiot. I remind him, and he figures it out. It’s awesome. He’s very proud of himself.
People offer to help. They helpfully come up and try to take a stack of dishes as I have him in one arm, carefully helping me carry that stack of dirty plates, bowls, silverware, cups to the back, and I say no. No. The point is not that it’s more efficient, or effective, or easier, or faster. It’s none of those things.
It’s more fun.
And possibly he’s learning something valuable about helping out and being part of a collaborative community. I don’t know.
It’s just more fun.
When it’s bright outside, I like to wear sunglasses. I typically try to stick to glasses that are constructed out of very poor plastic and are in garish colours. If they cost over a dollar or so, then they are overpriced. If they are freebies from some company’s marketing team, even better, and chances are I can easily rub their logo out in twenty seconds and I’ll be good to go. Becca is good at helping hook me up with these types of sunglasses. It is a skill.
She found six pairs of these sunglass types in children’s sizes, and gave them to all seven of the cousins, including our three. Well...six pairs of sunglasses, seven kids. The 19-month old got stuck with some old adult-size rejects of ours. Sad. We got a photograph of all seven squirming their way around in various contortions as they looked rico suave cool with their cheap shades.
It would be truly terrifying to own expensive sunglasses.
Johannes went waterskiing.
There was crashing.
There was improvement.
There was never quite getting up.
And there is next year and next time.
Sometimes it’s valuable to learn that you can crash and still survive. That was a good thing he learned, and I am proud of him for going through the terrifying process of learning that. The actual skill part will come at some point. Probably. Or maybe not.
But he is trying.
He is improving.
And he is giving his best in the face of fear.
That is what I ask.
When a person is getting pulled behind a boat, and they crash, then it’s legally required that somebody on the boat hold up an orange flag to let everyone else around know that there’s somebody who wasn’t skilled enough to successfully complete whatever activity they were doing, like waterskiing, and that nobody should probably run over them because they’re treading water while they wait to go again, although they might be crying and not ready to go again because they’re eight-years old and waterskiing is a very terrifying experience.
My dad is very good at holding up an orange flag and holding an infant and simultaneously heckling both the boat driver and whoever the boat driver is pulling.
Mud runs are one of the coolest things ever. The mud is only a small part of it. The best part, besides the glitter. We made all our children go, including the 19-month old, because. Because. Because because! Because it’s fun, and he shouldn’t have to miss out. This made sense to us, thought not to all present, especially as this particular Mud Run was a timed competition, and some were planning on winning it.
Our team’s name, coined by our oldest son, was “The Super Slow Sloths.” A team was never named more appropriately. We slogged through mud, over walls and barricades, dogpaddled through a pond, rolled through glitter, slid through sudsy slide, ran down a steep dusty mountain, and finally swam a short sprint in the lake. The latter was terrifying. No joke. I had Ejvindr, who was lifejacketed up, but I was wiped out and barely made it to shore intact. #ironman I doubt my heart rate has come close to what it was during the final leg of the swim. Terrifying.
Loved it. So fun. Also grateful to have a wife that supports the involvement of our children in these activities from early ages and doesn’t take the easy route out of not doing them.
I don’t know what we had for supper. It might have been calzones. I don’t think they that terrific. I think I slipped mine to my three-year old niece, who wanted a third.
There’s a bunch of safety stuff at camp that’s super important to them, like...let’s see.
Oh yes, adults are required to wear life jackets if they’re playing on the water toys.
And there’s safety stuff that’s not such a big deal to them, like not having railings on 4th floor staircases and decks where small children are staying.
And also doing s’mores on the lakeshore beach at night, with 50 sharp skewers waving around in a small space with hot marshmallows, young children, and fire. Johannes was surprised and disappointed they didn’t have dark chocolate available.
Fortunately, the night passed with no eyeballs on sticks. So, it’s definitely safe. #blackswanevents
That was a day.