Summer Camp

6 Jul

That feeling when you realize you haven’t written anything on your blog in seven months. Oops.

Anyway! I went to summer camp. And boy was it a doozy.

Michaela is in an all-girl Boy Scout troop. She loves it. She’s made great friends, developed skills she wouldn’t otherwise (setting up a tent, starting a fire, knife safety), and had the chance to serve as a leader (which she’s great at, obviously). And while Scouts isn’t my thing, I love it for her.

The thing about being in an all-girl troop is, you need an adult female chaperone for all activities. Including the week-long summer camp the troop goes to in the mountains near Lake Arrowhead. This year, when I was feeling particularly frustrated by work, I thought, “Screw it! I’ll take a week off and volunteer to be the female at camp.”

Reader, that was… Well, mistake is too strong a word. But there were definitely moments where I regretted volunteering to chaperone.

The camping itself was fine. I had a roomy (but dusty and bug-filled) canvas tent on a platform to sleep in, and a cot with a thin mattress. I set up my camp chair outside and my mosquito net inside and was generally comfortable. The weather was nice (but very cold at night, in the high 30s/low 40s, making me happy for my warm sleeping bag and the three layers of clothes I slept in each night). The scenery was beautiful, with big trees and clean air. The food was decidedly mediocre but included in my fee and cooked by other people.

We drove up on Sunday and on Monday, I had a mental breakdown. I was just so far out of my comfort zone and Michaela was being very teen-y (not nice) and I had some challenges with the other chaperones… It was just too much. As I was holding in tears in the cafeteria during breakfast service about what a terrible mistake I’d made in going, I decided to flee. Once the scouts went off to their various merit badge classes, I got into my car and drove into Lake Arrowhead Village, found a coffee shop, ordered a chai and a croissant, and spent the next few hours working and regathering my patience.

When I went back to camp, I was in a much better place mentally. From there, each day got better (until they didn’t; we had a doozy of a Thursday and Friday). Michaela had a good time, and that’s the most important part for me. We left on Saturday morning and I have never been so happy to take a warm shower and lay in my comfy bed as when I got home that day!

In hindsight, I feel like I got the full camp experience. Homesickness, pride at overcoming it, laughs and nice time outdoors, lots of hiking (I was averaging about 16k steps/day), sleeping in a tent, etc.

Would I do it again?

I guess?

At least if I ever volunteer again, I’ll have a better idea of what to expect!

Happy New Year!

2 Jan

As I get older, I’m noticing how much faster time goes. It feels like it was just 2020 in some ways — I guess because that year was so awful — and yet it’s now 2023. This was our third Christmas without my mom. The third year of COVID. The third year of my 40s. Hmph.

But 2022 was also more kind than the years before it. We traveled a lot (9 countries plus our epic Route 66 road trip), which is my favorite thing to do. Michaela continued to thrive in school and Scouts. Mike’s business continues to chug along, with him finding success and happiness in the professional realm. I got a new team added to my department (bringing my total direct reports to more than 30), and it’s work and people I’m excited about. COVID continues to rage, but I didn’t have to spend all my time on it.

We spent New Year’s Eve with our friends who live a few houses down the street. Gotta love a gathering where the commute home involves a 1-minute walk. We had dinner, played board games, and toasted to East Coast midnight. The following day, we went for a family walk in the morning and later that same family came over for dinner (I made this amazing tomato soup and this delectable cake).

I didn’t make any resolutions, per se. I’m going to try to keep doing the stuff I know I should (exercise, floss, meditate, spend quality time with my family, drink water, etc.) and to stop doing stuff that doesn’t serve me.

I’m hoping 2023 will be a kind year. Kind to me, to my family, to my friends, and to the world. We certainly need it.


14 Dec

I’m not sure how it’s been so long since I last wrote anything here. Obviously I need to get some updates going. But today I want to highlight a big milestone that happened earlier this week: Michaela turned 13!

For her birthday, she wanted a trip to the mall with a handful of friends followed by a sleepover at our house. I borrowed a friend’s minivan so I could take the girls to the mall in one car. I gave them spending money and a time limit and then settled in for a chair massage and time reading my Kindle while they roamed the mall. A couple of hours later, we headed home for pizza, presents, and cake (chocolate with chocolate mouse inside and a rainbow on top). When Mike and I went to bed at 10:30, they were still giggling and having a blast. The girls told us later they went to bed around 1:30 (after unloading the dishwasher and sweeping and mopping our kitchen!). They were all up around 8:30, when Mike made purple pancakes at Michaela’s request, along with bacon and fruit and juice. They played a board game, took pictures with Michaela’s Polaroid, watched videos, and did teenage girl things. The last girl went home around 1:30. Michaela said it was exactly what she wanted.

For her actual birthday, we had my dad and brother, and Mike’s cousin Maggie and her boyfriend, over for dinner (and more presents and cake). Michaela’s menu choice? Rotisserie chicken and Caesar salad from Costco. Gotta love a no-cook menu!

Being a teenager, we officially gave Michaela a phone. No more tablet and Chromebook only for the little miss!

Michaela is a smart, strong, sweet person. She was selected by her school to be a peer ambassador and to give tours to potential new students. She’s senior patrol leader in her BSA troop and is thriving as a leader. She has straight As, including in honors math. And, most importantly, she has a big heart and an eye towards making the world a better place.

(In fact, her friends told me that she told them not to get her gifts. When they insisted, she told them they should buy geese and ducks from Heifer International, a charity that seeks “to end hunger and poverty in a sustainable way by supporting and investing alongside local farmers and their communities.”)

Michaela is also a teenager. She can be surly, she does not enjoy waking up early in the morning, and she’s quick with an eyeroll or exasperated sigh (I have no idea where she gets that!). But it’s fun to watch her grow and change, and I’m so excited to see where the world will take her.

Happy birthday to my favorite kid!

Happy Mother’s Day

10 May

The other day, Mike asked Michaela what she’s excited about as she gets closer to 7th grade. It kind of sent me into a tizzy. Seventh grade. Seventh grade?!?! That’s, like, big kid stuff. Where did Michaela’s childhood go? When she she get so old? When did I get so old?

It’s the kind of thing I wish I could call my mom and talk to her about. What was I like when I was going into 7th grade? Did I push her away when she wanted to give me a hug? I wish I could share with her that Michaela got straight As — again — and that she’s thriving in Scouts and that she’s nearly as tall as me.

I feel like I didn’t really become an adult until my mom died. I thought I was a grown up, but I wasn’t. I always could run back to my mommy for comfort or a listening ear or a friend.

Mothering is hard. Mothering without my mother is hard. It doesn’t entirely fill the void, but I feel thankful to many good friends who are excellent examples of motherhood. And to have Mike, who is an amazing parent, and Michaela, who is turning into a great human being who makes me very proud.

Growing Up

25 Feb

With one semester of middle school under her belt, Michaela is thriving. She received awards from her P.E. and elective teacher and, with a 4.1 grade point average (her honors math class is weighted), she made the highest honor roll at school.

That’s part of why Mike and I gave the okay when Michaela expressed an interest in makeup. Last weekend, Michaela and I had a girls’ day that included a trip to Sephora. She was interested in eye shadow and blush; the makeup artists walked us through the different options (powder, crayon, liquid). Michaela had a definite opinion about what color she was interested in and ended up picking out a palette that had a nice mix of subtle colors. For blush, we got her the same shade I wear — something that never happened for me, given that my mom was white and fair skinned and I’m quite brown-skinned. We topped it off with makeup brushes, mascara (I couldn’t help myself), and some sparkly lip gloss. It was super fun!

When we got home, Michaela applied a full face of makeup and looked gorgeous. Not that she needs makeup to be pretty. She definitely doesn’t. But it was fun to see the subtle change in the way she carried herself. I’m thankful she has a good head on her shoulders; she’s worn the blush and lip gloss to school but has mostly kept it pretty natural.

I didn’t think I’d be the kind of person who was buying my 12-year-old makeup, but apparently I am. That being said, Mike and Michaela went to Best Buy the other day and Michaela was checking out hair straighteners. I am definitely not ready for that!

January 2022

27 Jan

January 2022 has had a real March 2020 vibe, don’t you think?

After working way too much during my Christmas vacation, I also worked way too much in January. The state kept changing schools guidance for COVID and doing things like dropping hundreds of thousands of test kits and masks on us. So it’s been very busy!

We’ve managed so far — and hopefully this doesn’t jinx it — to stay healthy. Although I now wonder, anytime I have a headache or am tired or my nose itches or I couch, if I have COVID.

Michaela was able to go to 6th Grade Camp, which felt like a miracle. The week was not without bumps (that’s an understatement), but Mike and I were glad she had the opportunity.

Mike’s been busy with work and busy with some big home projects. We (he) replaced all the old windows in our house with new ones. We (he) ripped down the patio cover in our backyard. We bought new exterior doors and will begin installing those when we’re done with a deck building project that’s now underway.

Today’s my mom’s birthday. It’s very strange that this is the second birthday she hasn’t been around to celebrate. I thought it would be easier than last year, but it’s actually been way harder. I’ve done a lot of crying today.

In other news (quite a transition, I know, but what can you do?), I bought a robot mop. It’s like a Roomba that mops. It’s bringing me a lot of joy. Our house is always dusty because we live on a canyon — and lately because of all the house projects — and we’re DIY cleaners, so anything that can take a little work off my plate is a win.

Hoping February is more robot mop, less mope.

Golden Birthday

20 Dec

Michaela celebrated her golden birthday last week. She turned 12 on 12/12!

On her actual birthday, Michaela was in Borrego Springs at a campout with her BSA troop. The girls sang her “Happy Birthday” and she had a banner to hang on her tent and a birthday headband. Mike and I drove out in the morning with donuts and noisemakers, which were a big hit.

That night, knowing she would be tired from sleeping on the ground in the cold the previous two evenings, we kept it very low key. She wanted to go to a buffet dinner (which I was not excited about, but it wasn’t my birthday), so we did that.

The following Wednesday, which is a half-day at school, Michaela walked with two friends to the local ice cream joint. When I arrived to pick her up — because, duh, moms are NOT allowed at tween birthday celebrations — she seemed to be having a blast.

Then… because all that celebration wasn’t enough… She went to a paint-your-own-ceramics place with her bestie from Scouts on Friday night. The girls painted and then grabbed dinner and Coldstone. I read my Kindle and had dinner alone, checking in on them every couple of hours. It was nice for all of us!

Michaela loves scouts, can set up her own tent and make a fire, and is also into gymnastics, pop music, arts and crafts, and all things on YouTube. I’m proud to say she is smart and kind. She’s thoughtful (even if she’s also very typically sassy towards her long-suffering mom) and independent. And even when she’s driving me crazy — which is often thanks to hormones and tween angst — she remains at her core an outstanding young lady who is destined to do great things.

Thanksgiving 2021

2 Dec

I long for the days of traveling over the Thanksgiving break. In past years, we’ve spent Thanksgiving in Spain, the Philippines, and Costa Rica. Now, thanks to COVID, we haven’t traveled internationally in two years.


We had a nice Thanksgiving!

We spent the Sunday through Wednesday before Thanksgiving at a cabin in the mountains with friends. It was very autumnal, weather-wise. We went for long hikes in the crisp fall air, tromped through piles of leaves, made s’mores and drank hot cocoa. We played board games and laughed and hung out. And, in the case of me and Mike, mostly didn’t work, which was a welcome break.

For Thanksgiving itself, we had Mike’s cousins over, along with one cousin’s boyfriend. My dad opted to spend the day alone and my brother worked, so it was just the seven of us. Mike made a delicious turkey and all the sides (stuffing, green bean casserole, scalloped potatoes, cranberry sauce and rolls from scratch, pie) and we had a pleasant evening together.

Mike and I were laughing. I’m 42, he’ll turn 44 this week. So to the cousins and boyfriend — who are all in their 20s — Mike and I are very old. I like to think we’re old but not totally un-hip, but Mike assures me to them, we’re practically dinosaurs.

As time passes (thankfully, my mom is the only one we’ve lost, of the bio parents and step-parents), we’ll hit a point where we’re the eldest generation. And that’s truly crazy to contemplate.

Alone Again Or

18 Oct

My mom didn’t have many good friends, but the ones she did have were dear to her. One of them, CJ, shared with my mom a love of music and many adventures, and my mom actually lived with CJ and her family for a bit in high school.

CJ and my mom kept in touch via occasional phone calls and more-frequent-than-calls emails. So when my mom died, I emailed CJ to let her know.

CJ, who lives in Utah, came to San Diego last week and invited me to dinner and to a concert by Love Revisited, the current version of the band she and my mom adored. It was a no-brainer to say yes (even if it was weird to go to an indoor concert).

Spending time with CJ was like being with my mom in a lot of ways. They have the same sense of style and some of the same mannerisms. It was a reminder of how much friends in our young adult years help shape who we become. At the same time, CJ made my mom — who was very… unconventional — seem pretty “normal” in some ways. (Let’s just say the late ’60s and ’70s were a tumultuous time and she has the stories to prove it.)

The show was fantastic. The band sounded great and, having grown up on the music (this song, “Alone Again Or” may be familiar to you), I was pleased to see people people enjoying and appreciating their legacy. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say it was very bittersweet. To be sitting there with my mom’s friend, not my mom, was hard. It will go down in the record books as the first concert at which I’ve cried.

September Milestones

26 Sep

I turned 42.

That’s actually not very exciting. It was a nice day, but nothing special. Mike took me out to breakfast, we opened gifts after Michaela was done at school, and then we divided and conquered — Mike and Michaela to her Scouts meeting and me to the parent-teacher foundation meeting. Very middle age.

Mike and I celebrated our wedding anniversary.

Lucky #13. We didn’t really do anything special.

We hit the one-year anniversary of my mom’s death.

Which was… okay? I worked, so it’s not like I spent the whole day being sad. In some ways, it feels like she died yesterday and in other ways, it feels like forever. My dad and brother aren’t really inclined to do thinks as a family, so we observed the occasion separately.

We finished Route 66!

Well, kind of. Technically, Route 66 goes from Chicago to Santa Monica. This summer we started in western Missouri, so haven’t done Illinois or eastern/central Missouri. We stopped the route in Barstow (CA) and drove home, planning to do the San Bernardino-to-Santa Monica part in the car (because who wants to drive through LA traffic towing a 30-foot-long Airstream?).

This month, we made it happen. Michaela had a day off school so we made a long weekend of it. It was lovely. We went through Claremont (where I went to college) and visited some of my old haunts. We stayed on the beach in Venice. We walked our feet off in Santa Monica. Definitely my favorite milestone this month.