Monthly Archives: July 2013

Modern Mommying Goes to Camp

First Published in the Tri-Town Transcript

Boxford Topsfield Middleton —
The Baird Facts
By Esther C. Baird
Regular Readers may recall that last summer we allowed our then eight-year-old daughter to attend her first overnight camp.  It was only four nights, and it was run by our church. Further, one of my friends was the director and she sent me reassuring text messages and photos throughout the week – mostly of my daughter eating candy – but a candy-eating child is a happy child. 
So this year, we allowed her to attend a full week of camp on Lake Winnipesaukee.  This camp had hundreds of kids of all ages, acres of land, bonfires, islands, horses, motor boats, hiking, a mess hall, a camp store and . . . no good friend on staff who’d send me updates.
But I was cool with that. My daughter was ready, I was ready. 
So we drove her up, made her bed, helped her organize her clothes and books and pre-addressed, pre-stamped letters, and then we took a tour.  The lake waters were pristine and the views were incredible. 
We knew a few other campers and, as we meandered around, my one friend whose son was back for a second year said, “See that boat house?” 
She pointed to a building at one end of the beach. “That’s where the webcam streams from.  You can catch glimpses of your kids when they swim.”
I smiled politely.  “You mean when you stare at your computer watching your son paddle around when you should be relaxing in your parental freedom??”
(She had previously admitted to such shenanigans when her son had camped before.)
She smiled back at me, unapologetic.  “Yep.”
Whatever. I had been sending my girls to grandparents and babysitters and day camps since they’d been born. I’d miss them, and I might even fret a bit, but a webcam?  I’d be surprised if I remembered to glance at it, let alone figure out when our daughter was actually swimming.
She swam at 3 p.m. 
I know this because, that first day back in Boxford, I managed to watch some other girl who was not my daughter swim for about 20 minutes only to finally see my own daughter and friends appear.
I texted my fellow camp-moms.  “They’re on the cam!”  It was like the Olympics and our children were competing . . . as kids at camp. 
I grabbed my iPhone and took pictures of my laptop screen that was streaming our children and began sending the blurry photos to grandparents and my husband.  “They’re swimming!” 
My mother texted me back, “I can see her!  Is her bathing suit new?”
My one friend grabbed a screen shot of our girls and labeled it with their names and put it up on Facebook, while my other friend replied frantically, “I’m at work!!  I’m at work!! I can’t see them.”
I texted back, “Get the app!! Watch them on your iPhone!”
It was as if they’d invented cold fusion.  The whole world hung in the balance while our nine-year-old daughters did what nine-year-old girls do on any given day, at any given camp, during any given summer. They swam. 
Later that week we saw lights from the fireworks display and flicker of the evening bonfire. One afternoon I watched a riveting game of duck, duck, goose.  Really, you should have seen how fast this one girl ran when she was the goose . . .
Ok, I get it, Modern Mommying . . . eye roll.  But I loved the peeks I got of my daughter, still alive, still healthy, and clearly happy.  I loved it so much that, on the pick up day, I marched down to the beach with my daughter and we watched ourselves, on my iPhone, appear in the beach cam, then I took a picture waving at . . . myself. 
I guess some of you might accuse me of not relaxing, of being quasi obsessive.  Let me know when your kid goes to camp with a webcam. 
Until then, I’ll just smile and reply, “Yep.”

Let Me Chew On That

By Esther C. Baird
First Published in the Tri-Town Transcript

Boxford —
I think addiction is a strong word.  I mean, I have some friends who vacuum every day.
I have other friends who can’t sleep unless their kitchen counter is clear of debris.  One girlfriend is obsessed with the Olive Garden — that can’t be normal, right? 
My chewing an entire pack of Trident gum every day is no different.  Strawberry Twist and Tropical Fruit are my two favorite flavors.  The splashier and brighter and zanier the package, the better.  Plus it’s sugar free, which I’m pretty sure means it’s practically a vegetable.  
Why gum you ask?  Let’s see . . .
Road trip often?  Yes I do.  What better way to endure the I-95 torture corridor while listening to the Sound of Music for the billionth time, than to chew it out.  
Dance shows, school concerts and piano recitals to smile at?  Plenty.  And when the third grade recorder program threatens to undo the very fabric of my soul, what better release then a refreshing Tropical Twist of happiness? 
Dinner for the Rest Of My Known Life that needs to be freshly and lovingly prepared? 
Roger that!  But I can wile away the chicken chopping, pepper prepping hours with a bit of Watermelon Bliss.
So, yes, gum.  I have my reasons. 
Which was all well and good until I dislocated my jaw a month ago.  Now, I’ll have you know that I’ve always had a loose, clicky and somewhat troublesome jaw. But this time was different.  It went out and stayed out for a good 24 hours and when it went back in, my teeth didn’t really connect anymore. 
I bit the gum-flavored bullet and saw my dentist.  He prodded and pulled and asked me things like, “When I push here,” big squeeze to my highly inflamed jaw muscle, “would you say that’s a little or a lot of pain?”
A lot.
Then he looked at me and then said.
“Would you like a stick of gum?”
Ha ha.  A regular comedian.  
“I realize,” I said in what I hoped was a calm and measured tone, “that perhaps the gum isn’t helping.  But I’m not sure,” my voice might have wavered a bit, “if you fully understand my gum, uh, habit.”
He laughed politely and smiled and then his face turned immediately grave. 
“But seriously, all kidding aside . . .”
I was not going to hear what he said.  I saw road trips and long, grey, snow days, and swim lessons flash before my eyes.  I saw the next two decades of lunch making and dinner prepping swirl in front of me.  I saw it without gum and I shrank into the dentist chair. 
“ . . . .you really need to give up gum.”
It was too much to bear.  I hadn’t been able to properly eat a solid piece of food in weeks, but all I could imagine was the drive home without gum to chew while I pondered my sad, sad, state.
Obviously, I needed help.  So I did what anyone in my shoes would do, I polled my Facebook friends.  I explained that I needed a new gum substitute.  Immediately. 
I received back a long and creative list, but really only cigarettes, chewing tobacco and a snuff-like packet that contained coffee grinds allowing you to ‘brew a cup of coffee in your own mouth’ fit the bill.
I’m not totally crazy, so cigarettes and dip were clearly and obviously out.  And I’m already highly caffeinated, so to brew any more coffee, in my mouth or otherwise, would probably make me explode. So I went cold turkey.  No gum at all.  And my jaw felt so, so great.   It was wonderful to eat chicken again without nibbling it like a squirrel.
So there you go.  Easy to quit.  And if you’re a happy-ending Regular Reader now is your cue to say farewell.  See you next column!!  (I’ll just go and discreetly spit out this piece of gum while you say your goodbyes.)