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May 29 2014

Notes From a Mom Who Used To Be Bullied

By at 1:48 pm

mean-girls

From 7th grade through 8th grade, I was bullied.

In 7th grade, I started at a new school and made friends quickly with a popular group of girls. With wonderful friends and good grades, I thought I had made it. But just as suddenly as we all became friends, it quickly shifted to “Mean Girls.” It was weeks before my Bat Mitzvah and each girl in our group stopped talking to me, wrote nasty notes to me and would hang up on me when I called. I was left feeling helpless and wondered what I did wrong to provoke such a response. This is where irrational thinking set in.

My grades began to go down and I started to dread going to school as I would hear their whispers and laughter, all directed at me. I felt betrayed. I also started to feel scared as I was left with only a few friends, which can feel deadly when you are in middle school. I never spoke of this at home as I was embarrassed and did not want my parents to know. This was the beginning of years of self-doubt. Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 30 2014

How My Son Finally Opened Up About His Little Brother With Special Needs

By at 11:25 am

big-bro-of-special-needs

The first time I remember talking to Oscar about his younger brother Saul’s special needs, he couldn’t have been more than 5 years old. Definitely still in preschool. There was something–though I can’t remember exactly what–that Oscar thought Saul would like and he said, “Saul is going to do this!” and started flapping his hands and bouncing up and down. I lost it. I couldn’t believe my sweet little boy was making fun of his younger brother who has Fragile X, which is a genetic syndrome and the cause of intellectual disabilities that can include learning problems, autism, anxiety, sensory, and behavioral issues.

As a parent, my biggest fear was that Saul was going to be subject to a lifetime of cruelty from others who didn’t understand his condition, but I didn’t think this cruelty would begin in our own home. I yelled at Oscar–I can’t recall exactly I said–and his face fell. He said, “But Saul will be happy and that’s what he does when he’s happy.” I realized then that he wasn’t mocking his little brother. He was simply acting out the happiness he anticipated from Saul. And I had yelled at him for it. When I agonize over all of the mistakes I’ve made as a mother to three children, this incident always cracks my top 10.

Saul was diagnosed on the first night of Hanukkah in 2007. He was just 1 1/2 at the time. And in the six years since, our family’s life has, often out of necessity, revolved around Saul’s treatment and care–from countless early intervention classes to a variety of therapies to special schools. There are places and things we can’t do together as a family. And at home, Saul’s needs sometimes seem to take priority ahead of those of his “typical” siblings–his twin sister Beatrice and Oscar. Read the rest of this entry →

Feb 24 2014

When I Finally Developed My Daughter’s Camera, Her Photos Took My Breath Away

By at 1:53 pm

ORLI7

It began, as so many things do these days, with a nudge that turned into a whine. Ima. Eeeeeemmmmaaaaa. When are you going to charge my camera for me?

Orli, my older daughter, has her own camera, a small Fisher Price deal that takes relatively fuzzy pictures–especially given how crisp digital images are these days–unless the light is absolutely perfect. I thought buying it was a mistake.“Why are we giving her a camera that doesn’t even work well?” I wondered, at the time.

It was late last spring, and Orli was in that strange space pre-school age children get into when they are anticipating a sibling they desperately want, and yet, on some level, understand will upend their lives. She wanted a camera. Very, very much. And so we got her this guy, with its sturdy, drop-me-I’ll-be-fine thick plastic walls. It is pink and white. I hated it. Read the rest of this entry →

Feb 17 2014

Free Stuff Alert: Labeling Packs for School & Camp from Label Land

By at 2:03 pm

label land camp/school pack giveaway

Attention all organized parents (and those who desperately wish to be organized): if you’re sending your kids away to camp this summer or to school in the fall, labels are your best friend. Repeat: labels are your best friend.

Label Land is a leading provider of customizable labels, offering labels that are clear, can iron or stick on in a snap, stay permanently affixed, and are easy to read in any situation. From clothing to bags to shoes, they’re here to make sure your kids’ stuff winds up back at home and not in the lost and found.

The good news? We’ve got three of Label Land’s School/Camp Packs to give away to three lucky winners. The School/Camp Pack includes:

- 100 iron on labels (white label with black text)

- 30 medium waterproof labels

- 2 bag tags

- 14 shoe labels

To enter the giveaway, fill out the form below and we’ll choose a winner this Friday, February 21st. Good luck, and happy labeling!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Feb 13 2014

Jewish Day Camp was No Problem for My Daughter with Special Needs

By at 3:52 pm

How My Daughter with Special Needs fits in at Summer Camp

As part of our month-long series dedicated to Jewish Disability Awareness Month, Sally shares how a Jewish Day Camp diligently worked to make sure her daughter with special needs could attend and thrive.

“Ah-lay-ah-chickee-changa.” This cheer, from Ramah Day Camp in Nyack, New York, is heard often in our home, taught to us by Adi, our 7-year-old daughter.

Adi, who has sufficient speech and language delays and sensory issues to warrant attending a special education school, attended Camp Ramah last summer and experienced one of the highlights of her life so far. Her experience at Camp Ramah, with typical children in a typical edah (unit), was also a highlight for us because her joy was infectious. She was receiving the Jewish education we desire for her–skills, knowledge, and a sense of belonging in a community where Judaism in integral, joyful, and awe-inspiring.

This experience is not one we take for granted. Adi is a wonderful, happy, and inquisitive child who, quite honestly, couldn’t be successful in any existing dual-language Jewish day school, so we never really considered this option. However, we want her to be a knowledgeable Jew who knows that her participation in the Jewish community matters. Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 1 2013

Let’s Talk About Tikkun Olam, Y’all

By at 9:51 am

shutterstock_106055141

With the exception of the occasional “y’all” that always elicits a chuckle, I think I have shed most of my Texan idiosyncrasies since I have been on the East Coast for over a decade now.

I do still cling to the music though, and once I drop my kids off at daycare in the morning I blast my country music until the windows rattle. To me, country music is about real life, love and loss, patriotism and simple pleasures. There are sagas of cheating lovers, brawls in honky-tonks, and heroic tales of our soldiers. Country music is my escape. One song will make me laugh out loud while the next will bring tears to my eyes. That’s country and I love it.

Country music is also filled with references to God and while the lyrics sometimes clash with my Jewish perspective, I appreciate the faith of the artists and the reminder that despite my hardships, there is a Greater Being looking out for the ones I love. But sometimes I hear a line from a song and I think to myself… hold up, that is definitely not Jewish. That was my reaction to a song I heard for the first time the other day as I was driving to work. Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 1 2013

Baby Sister Writes a Letter to Her Brother at Camp

By at 9:57 am
orli writes letter to brother at camp

The letter-writing baby herself.

When Jordana heard that one of her sons was homesick at camp and missing, of all people, his baby sister Orli, she quickly banged out this poem from Orli to tell him it was okay to miss her and that she was proud of him… and he’s been better ever since. Future at Hallmark, perhaps?

DEAR Z,

I know I’m just a baby, and everyone thinks I’m cheeky –

But look at me! I learned to write! I am SO DARN SNEAKY!

I took the books down off the shelf, and reading took no time!

And look how amazing I am now: I even learned to RHYME! Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 25 2013

The Kids Go to Overnight Camp & Mom Freaks Out

By at 9:40 am

woman crying in bedMidnight, and the moonlight painted a white stripe across the bottom of the bed. It was a quiet summer night.

It was only if you listened closely that you could hear that most tell-tale of all camp-related noises: the muffled sounds of someone trying to hide that they were crying.

My husband raised himself up on an elbow in bed. “Wait a second–are you CRYING?” he asked me.

Um, well, yeah.

“Seriously?”

Um, well, yeah. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 22 2013

Overnight Camp is About More Than Just Having Fun

By at 12:19 pm

roasting marshmallows over fireMany, many people posted a link on Facebook to a Huffington Post Parents blogpost entitled, “Open Letter to My Daughter, the Camper.” In the piece, which is certainly nothing if not loving and fun, the father writing gives advice to his first-time overnight camper daughter. He tells her the proper way to roast a marshmallow, to try new things, to be herself and–repeatedly–to have fun.

This blogpost was a lot like a marshmallow in many ways–sweet and delicious, if ultimately insubstantial. I really don’t mean to come down like a wet blanket over the parade. But my boys are leaving for three weeks in a few days, and I find that I’m thinking about this a lot: what are my hopes for them? And what should their hopes be for themselves?

It’s the longest amount of time my boys have ever been away from home–and that’s saying a lot. I divorced their dad when they were toddlers and the boys have done the back-and-forth divorce vacation tango for more years than they haven’t. Moreover, it’s the first time they’ve ever been away without at least one parent within yelling range. That’s a big, big deal–both for me and for them. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 11 2013

Summer Vacation is No Picnic for a Child with Autism

By at 9:59 am

child in hammockSummer vacation is upon us.

All over Facebook I see statuses of parents dealing with school being out. Grateful posts about not having to pack lunches quickly turn into posts about the hassles of shlepping kids to baseball practice or kids being underfoot saying, “I’m bored” 600 times a day and in between happy vacation photos and day trips and amusements parks.

In other words, the stuff of life. Or at least the stuff of life when you are a parent.

As the parent of a special needs child, I recognize these irritations but honestly, I also do my share of eye rolling when I read stuff like this. It’s tough not to shake my head when some parents’ biggest problems are that they cannot decide how many pairs of flowered underpants their kids need to pack to go to Jewish sleep-away camp for two weeks. It sometimes makes me cringe when I read stuff like this, not just because I think of friends who struggle financially and aren’t in the position to be able to pay to send their child to be cared for by others for two weeks. Or those, like me, whose kids just can’t participate in things like summer camp, because their needs are so specialized and they just need more attention and care than they can get in most summer programs. Read the rest of this entry →

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