Third Strike at Summer Camp

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Categories Activities, Childcare, Frustration, Mommy Issues, Older Children, Time Management, WorkingTags , , , 4 Comments

summercamp“Specialty” summer camp logistics has been a nightmare that I can’t wake up from. I told you about the fiasco of our first couple of days this morning. Today was the final straw.

When I went to drop the kids off, I signed them into the full-day program and made sure that the counselors at drop off knew that my daughters needed to get to their cheer and soccer camps at 8:00. At that point, I was informed that this wasn’t an option on field trip days. Since the full-day campers and counselors would be offsite on their field trip, there would be no one available to take care of the children when the specialty camps let out. I could elect either to have the kids go on the field trip and skip cheer and soccer or I could find alternate care for the afternoon.

I wasn’t told when I signed the kids up for camp that specialty camps were essentially going to be incompatible with a work schedule. I specifically told the guy at registration that I was a single working mom, so full-day was a non-negotiable requirement. I’m sure that plenty of kids and parents elect to lose a day specialty camp over time at work, but poor J had already missed a day of cheer-leading on Monday. I wasn’t going to disappoint her again. Instead, I tried to do as much work as I could from my house with the kids there after I picked them up at 1:00 (having been late to work all week thanks to the search for answers at the Y). I was able to get some good focused time in immediately after they got home while they read, but by 4:00, they needed me to focus on them. I’m just so grateful that I have an employer who flexes to the unpredictable needs of two-career and single parents.

Even the coaches at the specialty camps were completely unaware of the conflict between full-day field trips and part-day specialty camps. I can’t help wondering how many coaches have had to stay late, over the years, on discovering that there was no one there to take responsibility for a subset of their kids when they were done with camp for the day.

I must say, in defense of the full-day program, that Sophia, the coordinator, called me as I was pulling out of the full-day parking lot to let me know about the field trip/afternoon care conflict. She apologized for not having mentioned it when we spoke yesterday. I’m embarrassed to say that I landed all my frustrations on her. She’s been nothing but helpful, and I called her later in the day to apologize for venting the way I had.

My daughters and I chatted in the car until shortly before 8:00, when I delivered M and J to their respective coaches. I then stalked YMCA staff until I located supervisors who were willing to talk to me. Specialty camp management was downright useless (except for Casey, who I mentioned yesterday).

The full-day management seemed to take my concerns seriously. They had obviously already discussed my frustrations. They listened to my concerns and recommendations for improvement. They promised to look into both systemic changes that they could implement and why I hadn’t received their weekly emails that outline what we can expect from camp. (There were emails!? This was the first I’d heard of them!)

I made sure that they knew that I had no complaints about the care my children were receiving, and that I’d had nothing but positive interactions with full-day staff. I was just flummoxed by the lack of communication, and the general not-my-problem attitude of the specialty camp administration. I reminded the full-day management that, while they probably get into the swing of things over the course of the summer, there are probably going to be new parents every week for whom the whole process is new and unknown. One of managers let slip that the specialty program doesn’t even inform them of which of the full-day children are enrolled in specialty camps in any given week; I think there’s clearly some federated organization pain going on, which is something I deal with–and try to minimize–at my own workplace.

I had originally thought we could push through the remaining specialty camps that M and J had selected and signed up for this summer, but I think it’ll be better for my blood pressure and the resulting home climate for us to call it quits. The emotional eating alone may be taking years off my life. The friend whose daughter is in J’s cheer camp and my daughters’ Girl Scout troop offered to pick my girls up early on field trip days so I don’t have to miss more work. I’m incredibly grateful for the offer, but she just shouldn’t have to make it.

I think it’s time to stick with the simplicity of the tried and true. Trying to make specialty camps and full-day care work together is like fitting a round peg in a square hole. I’ll leave those special programs to parents who don’t have to balance childcare with a work schedule during the summer. We’ll just stick with the full-day program at an elementary school location. These soccer, cheer, cooking and tumbling camps will have to be another set of things that J and M don’t get to experience because Mommy has a job.

On the upside, both M and J had a grand day. At one point, J’s cheer class happened to go outside to practice, ending up at the same field where M was working on soccer drills. The girls had an emotional reunion, and the coaches agreed to let M skip out of soccer early to visit J’s cheer camp for the week’s performance of the routine they’ve been working on. J, being the lightest kid in cheer camp, gets to be a “flyer,” the girl at the top of the pyramid. She’s giddy about M getting to watch her. I think that the counselors’ sensitivity to J and M’s relationship with each other and their willingness to think outside the box to nurture it shows that they don’t subscribe in the least to the uncaring culture of their management.

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Balancing Work, Home, and Mommy Guilt

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Working fulltime with two little ones at home is proving more difficult than expected. It’s been 8 months now since returning to work after extended leave, and I thought we had it all figured out. One thing we didn’t factor in was how busy and challenging my job had become in two years.

We’re doing everything right, or so it seems. Mr. Mama and I take turns cooking and we have someone coming in to clean the house twice a month. Mr. Mama does most of the daycare pickups and dropoffs while I help him get the kids out of the house. We tag team during mealtimes, bathtime and bedtime. We even have extra help from the Grandparents once a week and on the weekends.

Our morning routine is consistent. I usually wake up first to get ready for work and make breakfast. Then I get Little Mister and Little Missy, chang them and start on breakfast while Mr. Mama gets ready. In the evenings, I’m home 10 minutes before the twins which is enough time to warm up dinner. Then follows bathtime and an early bed.

Other things I do to save time and energy: pack my lunch 2 days ahead, write down daily priorities at work, write up weekly “To Do” list at home, set out the twins clothes for the week and set out my clothes for the week. Despite all that, we never see the neighbours, let alone our friends, and barely have time to catch up on the rest of the life.

As another twin mom put it, every day is organized chaos. I know this is for a short time only because the kids are so young. But that’s the sad part! Every day they seem to grow an inch and learn things at an exponential rate. And I’m too tired right now to enjoy it. That, my friends, is mommy-guilt. How do you manage yours?

Ambereen, mom to 2 year old B/G twins, is constantly striving to find some form of balance between all the aspects of their busy lives. Read more on her personal blog.

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Packing Lunches for Daycare, Times Two

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Categories Feeding, ToddlersTags , , , 26 Comments
[Ed: It must be organization week at HDYDI; I planned this post before I knew that RaJen was going to post on how to get out the door in the morning. I love accidental themes!]
Some of my friends’ kids go to daycares that provide lunch. What a dream! Maddie and Riley’s daycare is wonderful and amazing and near-perfect: the provision of lunch would push it to the realm of nirvana. Alas, we remain a step away from enlightenment, so every Sunday night, my thoughts turn to what I will pack the twins’ to eat for the week.
I’ve had almost two years’ of daycare Sundays to think about this, and, if I do say so myself, I’ve gotten pretty good at it. When the twins first got to an age that I needed to send food rather than bottles, I would spend time every evening thinking about what to pack for the next day; it didn’t take me long to realize that my time would be more efficiently spent if I would pack a few days’ worth of food at a time. For a while, I packed lunches twice a week. Now I’m down to once. I do it all on Sundays so for the whole week, I just have to grab and go in the morning. Sweet.
I figured I’d break my system down and share it with you, because only spending an hour a week thinking about this is truly one of my major sanity savers.
Here’s how it works. Every day, the twins get:
  • yogurt
  • applesauce
  • a “main course”
  • a crunchy snack
  • fresh fruit
I buy yogurt and applesauce in big containers and parcel out the individual servings; I’m cheap, and it doesn’t take that long. 
For main courses, I have a menu of items from which I choose each week. I plan two different main courses/week, one for M-W-F, one for Tu-Th. My staples are:
  • hummus on mini whole-wheat pita (two pitas per kid)
  • pasta with red sauce and “meat”balls
  • spanikopita (I buy frozen trays at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods; the trays contain twelve triangles, which makes three lunches of two triangles per kid)
  • quesadillas with cheddar and black beans (I cut one each quesadilla into four wedges, which is one lunch)
  • mac’n’cheese with peas
  • grilled cheese (half sandwich per twin)
  • spinach/rice balls (recipe from one of my Moosewood cookbooks; recipe available on request)
  • corn casserole 
  • spinach/rice casserole
I’ll mix it up sometimes with leftovers from the weekend, and I’m constantly adding/revising the main course list, but those are favorites. 
I also have a running list of snacks that I choose from. Again, I do two different snacks for the week, one for M-W-F, one for Tu-Th. Some favorites:
  • pumpkin seeds
  • sunflower seeds
  • dried fruit (raisins, apricots, blueberries, cherries, etc.)
  • plantain chips
  • fruit leather
  • popcorn (regular or kettle corn)
  • crackers (M&R like Annie’s whole-wheat bunnies)
  • rice cakes (sometimes with sunflower-seed butter)
  • carrot sticks
  • Veggie Booty
  • Pirate’s Booty (or the Trader Joe’s equivalent)
  • tortilla chips
  • pretzels
  • Snapea Crisps
  • crunchy green beans
  • edamame
  • graham crackers
On Sunday during the twins’ nap, I cook any of the main courses that need cooking. Then, after the kids go to bed at night, I pack everything for the week. I set out fifteen of these Snapware containers; five of them get filled to the brim with yogurt, five with applesauce, and five hold the main course. (I pack one yogurt, one applesauce, and one main dish each for the twins to share rather than an individual portion for each kid.) Snacks go in Ziplock bags, and fresh fruit is washed as needed and ready to pull out of the fridge or fruit bowl each morning. And that’s it. 
I hope this is helpful to some of you and not just boring. Share your packed lunch tricks and tips in the comments.
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