Monday, July 27, 2015

Summer magic

Yesterday afternoon we dropped Nate off at horse camp for a week.  When I was little, my favorite place in the world was girl scout camp.  Every year, in late winter, they would release the schedule for the following summer.  I would pore over it, trying to decide whether Crafty Critters or Woodswoman 1 had better potential for adventure.  I'd pester my parents to have the registration form in the mail on the first day that registration opened, so that I wouldn't get stuck on a waiting list or closed out entirely.

I went there every summer from the time that I was a Brownie (the summer after first grade) until I was a Senior in high school.  I started out going for three days, then a week, then two.  Later, I spent the entire summer there as a counselor.  It was the only place that was truly my own.  My Mom had gone there as a child, and later, as a counselor, but when I was there, I was largely on my own.  Other girls I knew always went with a friend or a tentmate already picked out.  But for me, a quiet, painfully shy bookworm, it was the only time all year that I was able to fully be myself amongst mostly strangers, without any of the the weight of expectations and past histories.

I did know some people there.  Occasionally someone from my own home troop or school would be there at the same time as me.  Eventually, after going for so many years, I began to make friends that I would see for just that one week each year, occasionally writing letters back and forth over the winter to keep in touch.  As I got older, the older sister of one of my good friends became a counselor, and I was completely starstruck.  But for the most part, my home and camp circles had very little overlap.  If I said something dumb, or fell on my face in front of a large crowd (this happened with frightening regularity - I'm not graceful) the statute of limitations for embarrassment expired the minute my parents picked me up on Saturday morning, rather than haunting me for the entire school year.

Also, although there were adults there, and schedules, rules, and boundaries to keep us safe, we were also left to our own devices to some extent.  For the first time in many of our lives, we did all of the basic chores that kept us clean, dry, and fed [most of the time we ate in a dining hall, but a couple of times each week we would cook our own meals at the campsite].  I would return home afterward with a certain smug satisfaction that if the power were to go out, I would probably outlive 70% of my classmates, and that my expert fire-building skills would be in high demand.

After high school, things changed, and I stopped going.  The camp has since been sold and now the trails there are quiet, except when the new owners are there four-wheeling or hunting.  But even today, the friends I made there are some of the most important people in my life.  Even if we haven't seen one another in years, within minutes we fall back into the same old easy rhythms of those long-ago summers.

I wanted all of this so badly for my own two boys.  I wanted them to get the high score in archery. To learn how to work as a team to paddle a canoe so that it travels in a somewhat straight line. To laugh until they cry when someone inevitably tips that canoe over in the middle of the lake.  I wanted them to meet the people (other than their own family) who they will turn to for comfort when they are in pain - the people who will always be there for them no matter what.  But most of all, I want them to have a little part of the world that belongs to just them, where they can have their own, separate identities outside of their ordinary, parent-managed life.  A Peter Pan fantasy where the only adults are 19 year-olds from America, and Columbia, and Australia, who are more likely to tip the canoe than to yell at you for doing it.

Both boys go to summer camp with boy scouts, but they go with their home troop, with the kids they go to school with and see every week for scout meetings.  With adults who are actual, legitimate grownups with mortgages and a healthy fear of malnutrition from eating nothing but peanut butter and jelly for a week straight. It's just not the same.  So each summer we also send them to another camp for some pure run amokism.  This is Nate's fourth year.  He goes to a day camp program there for part of the summer, and also does one session of overnight camp.   He didn't take to it right away, but he has had some amazing adventures.  Yesterday, when we dropped him off, all of the counselors knew him by name.  He has made one particular friend who has many of the same interests.  They spend the entire summer scheming to create a viable population of crayfish, and the entire winter looking forward to seeing each other again.  Last week, when he was there for day camp, his chosen special activity of the week was hiking.  I asked him if he'd seen anything amazing or new on one of his hikes, and he said "Mom.  I've been going there for four years.  I know everything in that place."

Mission accomplished.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Duke's Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Tuesday

Four and a half years ago, I was wasting time on the internet and found a puppy at the pound whose face was just irresistible.  He was a boxer-mastiff mix mutt, who they called Elwood.  I decided I needed to have him, and my husband, who is the sweetest man in the universe, actually spent the night in the parking lot of the pound, in December, in order to be the first one in line when he became available for adoption.  That little bundle of paws came home on his lap that day and changed our lives forever.

I like to say that he's the world's most expensive free dog.  As a puppy, we discovered that he has terrible food allergies.  We searched high and low for a food that wouldn't cause a reaction, even giving him, at our vet's recommendation, some ridiculously expensive food made from ostrich meat.  No, I'm not kidding.  Shortly thereafter, he dislocated his knee, but the vet decided that he wasn't a good surgical candidate, and we had to instead basically keep him immobile for 4-6 months so it could heal on its own.  Yeah.  A six month-old puppy.  Pardon me while I double over in hysterical laughter.  Eventually it did mostly heal, although he still has trouble going down stairs, and it gets stiff and sore in cold weather.  We found a food that he could tolerate.  And we got another dog so that he would have company during the day while everyone was at work or school.  For the most part, they were growing and thriving, and keeping us on our toes.

But then, last summer, we noticed a lump on Duke's side.  At first I thought it was just a big bug bite, but it didn't heal, and actually kept getting bigger.  We made an appointment with the vet and they did a biopsy by inserting a needle and extracting some of the material and sending it off to a lab for analysis.  It came back positive for a type of  malignant cancer which is fairly common in boxer-type dogs.  He was scheduled for surgery shortly thereafter.  On the day of surgery, the vet noticed another lump, further back toward his rear end, that she also thought looked suspicious.  They decided that it should be removed too, just to be on the safe side.

His recovery was difficult.  He had two very large incisions, one of which started swelling up with fluid.  He had to go back in and have a drain put in to relieve the pressure and allow the incision to heal properly.  The cone was a constant source of misery for him.  He had trouble getting to his food and water bowls, and up and down stairs because it was in the way.  For the next week or so he bashed it into every conceivable object in the house, including the humans.  He also decided that he couldn't possibly be expected to do his business if he couldn't sniff out the perfect spot with the cone in the way.  All in all, he was a pretty terrible patient.

But when the lab results came back after surgery, they were promising.  They thought they got all of the cancerous tissue, and said it that the disease was at an "early" stage two (on a scale of 1-3, 3 being the worst).  So, shortly before his 4th birthday, they gave him an estimated 60-month life expectancy.  Because larger dog breeds tend not to live very long, 60 months would be basically a full life span.  His hair grew back and the scars faded to a slightly less Frankenstein-ish appearance, and he was back to his old self before long.

A couple of months ago, he was laying on the floor in our TV room, in his favorite sunny patch.  Because of the way the sun was shining on his fur, I noticed a lump, halfway between his two old incision sites. I felt it, and there was definitely something there.  We took him in for his annual checkup and shots, and I showed it to the vet.  She agreed that it needed to be removed, but told us that because it was on the small side, his recovery should be easier this time.

Yesterday he went in for the surgery, almost exactly one year after the first surgery.  Everything went well and he was back home resting on his bed that night.

So far we're still not a fan of the cone.  He's still too drugged up to care right now, but he and our other dog, Abby, suffer from serious separation anxiety.  Because she's an idiot and can't be trusted not to pounce on his incision, she had to spend the night alone in their room without him.  She voiced her displeasure with this state of affairs by barking all.night.long.  None of us got a wink of sleep.  But we're so, so glad that he's home.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Mark your calendars: Horse Show!

On Saturday, August 1, at 9:30 a.m. Nathan will be participating in a horse show to cap his week at horse camp.  I don't want to post the address on here, but text me and I will provide it.

Also, during the week that he is at camp, he can receive email messages.  They print them out and deliver them to the kids at mealtimes.  Please let me know if you would like the email address.  I can also give you the physical mailing address if you would prefer to send him a real letter.

He is so excited!  He has been counting down the days for weeks now.  Told me last night he'd like to have a horse.  Sure, kid.  He can sleep in your room.

Court of Honor Update

Tomorrow (Tuesday) is Brendan's Court of Honor ceremony for scouts.  He'll be receiving his Life rank, and a handful of merit badges.  Unfortunately, this week also begins the first week of two-a-days for soccer.  Tuesday night he has (mandatory) practice from 6-8pm.  The picnic starts around 7.  Our hope is that we can pick him up from soccer and bring him over to the ceremony and make it there by the very tail end.  

So if you are planning to come, I'm sorry, but there's just no way I can guarantee how this is going to work out.  We would love to see everyone.  Maybe one of the grandparents can stand in for Bren and receive his awards on his behalf!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

This weekend (7/16/15)

Oh my god, I don't even know.  I've been leaving the house at 6am and getting home at 10pm all week and I can barely remember my own name.  Bren's camping.  Nate's . . . Nate-ing?  Whatever.

Bren's scout ceremony is Tuesday.  6:45-ish.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Boomerang Pets

When I was younger, I was really, REALLY into turtles.  It got a little ridiculous. So ridiculous that I apparently insisted on one of them making a cameo appearance in my Senior class photos:

One nice spring day, while I washing my car, I took that guy outside to get some fresh air and sunshine.  As it turns out, the whole thing about turtles being slow is a total myth.  I turned my back for just a few minutes, and he disappeared.  We looked everywhere.  We recruited all of the neighbors to check under decks and shrubs, and tore the entire neighborhood apart looking for him.  After a couple of days, I gave up and figured he was gone forever.  Since he was an asian species, I knew that the midwestern weather wouldn't suit him, and he was kind of inefficient at eating the food that I left for him in his cage, so I thought that there was a 0% chance he'd make it in the wild.

All summer there was no sign of him, until one day, in the early fall our neighbor called me over.  One of her students (she was a tutor) found a turtle in her driveway!  I was ecstatic!  He had been gone for six months, and here he was, less than 50 yards from where he went missing!  My personal theory is that he had some adventures to go on during the summer, but once the weather turned, decided "this is crap - I want my heat lamp," and came home.

We recently got back from a week at the beach.  While we were in a store there, my youngest son, Nathan, who is a lover of animals of every kind, found a cage full of hermit crabs for sale.  He decided that he HAD to own one, and asked us every fifteen minutes for the rest of the trip when he could go buy one.  He used nearly every penny of his hard-earned vacation money to buy the crab, and a cage and food for him.  We got a cute little guy with a shell painted to look like a soccer ball.  We took it home and let it out (under close supervision) to crawl around the kitchen of our rental house.  That thing could scoot!  And it was seriously determined; every time we would put it back in the center of our circle of humans, it would make for the nearest exit.

As I wrote last week, a couple of weeks after we came home, Nate was on his way to bed when he noticed that he had left the lid off of the still-unnamed crab's cage, and he escaped.  We tore the house apart looking for the little creature, but had no luck.  We decided to leave the cage on the floor, with the lid off, and with fresh water and food inside, in case he decided to come back on his own.  Every time I walked past that room I'd check in the cage, hoping to see a little soccer ball sitting there, but a week went by with no sightings.  Finally, last night, as Nate was getting ready for bed, he checked the cage and there he was!  Just like he'd never left!  

I was amazed and thrilled, because Nate is super sensitive, and takes the losses of our pets (we've had really bad luck with pets) hard.  He hadn't been too upset this time, but I think that's just because he hadn't entirely given up hope that it would come back.  And lucky for all of us (and the crab), his faith was not misplaced.

Last night, as we were climbing into bed, our older son says "Nate didn't put the lid back on the crab cage right."  He fixed it, and to be fair, it wasn't missing - it just wasn't locked down tight.  Unless he has supercrab strength, or opposable thumbs, I don't think he was getting out.  But I think maybe we'll get a slightly more secure cage.  Otherwise, part II of this story: "the crab who ended up in the washing machine because he was scooped up in a pile of laundry," is probably inevitable.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Pro tip:

Always choose the ice cream that matches your outfit.

If you have to ask how I discovered this, you don't know me at all.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Just another day at the zoo

Last night we discovered that Nate's hermit crab has absconded from his cage and is now wandering the house somewhere.  Tore the place up last night looking for him, but no luck so far.

So ridiculous.