How To Pack for Your Kid’s Summer Overnight Camp in 10 minutes or Less? Read On!

Check! Check! Check!
The Overnight Camp Packing List

Let’s start with last year. How NOT to pack. Last year for overnight camp, we spent a week sorting through. Picking out. Labeling. Labeling. LABELING. Stocking up on countless Ziplock baggies in various sizes. Driving to giant stores with lots o’ things to purchase stuff. Then, sorting all those items into the Ziplock baggies and labeling those baggies with Sharpie after Sharpie after precious Sharpie…. 6 pairs of socks in this baggie. 7 shirts in this one. 8 undies here.

With the precision of a surgical team preforming Rhinoplasty on a budding Hollywood Star, my son and I worked together, Check! Check! Check!, following to the detail the holy grail of the Packing List prescribed by the Camp:

Pre-addressing envelopes for all of the witty, heart-felt letters he would write to his family whilst away. Gathering age-appropriate novels he would read cover-to-cover whilst in rest-time. Selecting the perfect journal in which he would scribble his deepest thoughts about his daily, life-changing experiences.

And, my favorite, running around looking for an appropriate “musical instrument, optional” – would a toy accordion displaying our proud Polish roots suffice??? (If yes, insert into Ziplock baggie and label “Musical Instrument”)

All hundred-billion, expertly-labeled baggies later, we carefully placed all check-list items into giant duffle bag – Check! Check! Check! A masterpiece of packing agility and ability. He would survive!

And now…..Cut to this year. The “10 Minutes or Less” program……

Yes, a year later and much, much the wiser, yesterday I, literally, wandered into my son’s room while he was off at a haircut. Opened a drawer. Looked for the grubbiest, grungiest, darkest, most sad looking items. Grabbed them one by one. Made little piles. Yup, that looks like about 6 shirts… Yup, 3 pair undies. … Yup, a toothbrush…Yup, yup, yup.…And tossed them all in a free-form super-jumble into his giant duffle and…….. voila! Packed in 10 minutes or less without a Sharpie or Ziplock in sight!

No age-appropriate novel, no journal, no pre-addressed envelopes. No booklight, no nothing but the extreme basics. And, seriously, no optional musical-instrument this year– he can just grab a blade of grass and blow, my friends….

For, you see, last year, of the 7 t-shirts packed, 3 were actually worn. Of the toiletries so painstakingly sorted, only the toothbrush was used, maybe once. Of the pre-addressed envelopes hand-written so he could send hilarious, campy-anecdotes to grandpas across the land – yeah, right.

He played from 7am-10pm each day, falling into bed exuberantly exhausted each night. He got dirty. Really, really dirty. He avoided the shower (bar of soap came back completely intact, gasp!) and became a wild, mountain urchin whilst away.

And, a year later we see, that’s exactly why we send him.

Namaste & Happy Packing! -OM

Disclaimer: No Ziplock Baggies were harmed during this packing tornado. All Ziplock Baggies were rinsed and happily re-used.


A Mom's Commencement Speech. Oh The Places You’ll Go – Dream Big, College, The Moon! But Learn How to do Your Laundry and Pitch a Tent, Too.

If I were to give a commencement speech tomorrow at my son’s 5th grade graduation, I would start with the usual, blah, bler...reach for the stars. Never give up. Follow your dreams.

But then I’d get into the real nitty gritty. The important stuff that is vital that we moms and dads across the world pass along to our kids. Stuff that colleges and offices and funky Google campuses don’t teach.

Stuff that can get lost with these over-scheduled kids of ours who can play Rachmaninoff on a flute and bend a soccer ball like Beckham, but don’t know how to use a can-opener. 

Who teaches our kids how to use a can-opener? 

We do.

I’d say something like:

Be nice.
Use a brush. Don't get lice.
Learn how to load a dishwasher.

Be nice.
Save your money.
Donate some money.
Learn how to use a vacuum cleaner.

Be nice.
Hold open a door for a person.
Hold the hand of your mom sometimes.
Learn how to use a lawn mower.

Be nice.
Babysit an infant.
Babysit a toddler - twice.
Learn how to use your noggin when it comes to the opposite sex.

Be nice.
Complement the cook.
Clear your plate!
Learn how to not to have-to-have someone ask twice.

Be nice.
Put down the screen.
Pick up your passion.
Learn how pack your backpack for a hike.

Be nice.

Pitch a tent solo.
Sort your socks solo.
Pack your lunch solo.
Clean your room solo.

Be nice.
Be nice.
Be nice.

P.S. My son thought this was sucky -- "Nice inspiration, Mom! I know how to use a lawn mower!" 

Namaste & Three Cheers to all the graduates! –OM


Top 2013 Sunscreens for Us and Our Kids – Yes, Use It Every Single Day and then Get Outside!

Sunscreens up the Wazoo!
If you’ve ever spent the morning chasing around your kids with a tube of what they think is toxic slime and what you KNOW is good-for-them, cancer-blocking, good old sunscreen, then we are, indeed, truly connected in a way that only an exasperated parent can be.

THANKFULLY, we here at our house are growing out of that phase.

But even if you’re not, it’s good to really know, and CONFIRM, that all that sprinting and dodging and wrestling every single morning before school or camp is worth every single effort.

We and our kids must wear sunscreen every single day! And our dermatologists and all studies continue to heartily agree......

Here are three top lists for sunscreens for 2013, each with their own unique take and favorites:

Parents: 9 Best Sunscreens For Kids – If you can get past the advertising pop-ups - arg! - and into the meat of the article, this is a good list targeted towards little kids. And I always figure, if it’s good for the little ones, then it’s extra good for us adults who grew up with baby-oil, tin-foil reflectors and NO sunscreen. The horror!

SafeMama: 2013 SafeMama Safer Sunscreen Cheat Sheet – This green gal has done her homework. Her chemical free homework, especially. Excellent list of sunscreens with very thorough information on all of the confusing terms.

Environmental Working Group: 2013 Best Sunscreens – Their mission in life is to protect the consumer, so this is a GREAT place to start. 182 sunscreen brands met their criteria this year, with a notable 13 Badger products making the list.

So, see you out there in the sun on your hike, bike, kayak or maybe for just a little bungee jumping off a bridge or two..... slathered in sunscreen and wearing our hats!

Namaste & Three Cheers! –OM


How To Avoid Cougar Attacks! Whether The Cougar is A Feline Or a Recent 50+ Year Old Divorcee, Be Prepared! (I Couldn’t Help Myself…)

Outside Magazine recently posed the question: How do I avoid Cougar attacks?

To which I automatically replied in my head and, inevitably, on Twitter: "Avoid Thursday nights at the local watering hole."

(Thank you. Thank you very much….)

For, as we all know, there’s the fuzzy, enormous, kitty-cat Cougar, complete with sharp teeth and tail, who has seen a recent, tremendous resurgence in numbers all over the United States. (NYTimes.com “A Glamorous Killer Returns”)

And then there’s the 50+ year old divorcee Cougar, complete with sharp teeth but no tail, who can be spotted visiting her dermatologist once a week and roaming through Happy Hours at your local hot-spots all over the United States.

So take a minute to brush up on your Cougar 411s. So that you're prepared in the event of a face-to-face encounter with either one of these hungry gals. Read on!

Q: What does a Cougar look like?
A: If the Cougar is a Cat: Light brown fur. Long tail. Smaller than a lioness, bigger than your dog.
A: If the Cougar is a Divorcee: Light brown, all-over body tan. Long fingernails. Thinner than a celery stalk, bigger hair than a New Jersey housewife.

Q: How do I spot a Cougar?
A: Cat: Alas, Cougars usually spot you before you spot them. Always be aware when hiking. Look for posted signs from local authorities for recent sightings.
A: Divorcee: Alas, Cougars usually spot you before you spot them. Always be aware when frequenting an expensive bar. Look for posted scratchings from previous prey on the men’s room’s walls.

Q: What do Cougars prey on?
A: Cat: Deer, elk, bighorn sheep, wild horses, beaver. And, unfortunately, domestic sheep, which ultimately gets them into hot water with the ranchers.
A: Divorcee: Hot, young, buff, cute, handsome younger guys. And, unfortunately, married men, which ultimately gets them into hot water with the irate, diaper-changing, stay-at-home-moms.

Q: How will I know if a Cougar is stalking me?
A: If the Cougar is a Cat: Chills running up and down your spine. A vague, uneasy feeling.
A: If the Cougar is a Divorcee: Chills running up and down your spine. Maybe an actual hand on your thigh. A vague, uneasy feeling.

Q: So, then how do I avoid Cougar attacks?
A: Cat: Travel in groups. Cougars tend to shy away from larger looking, noisy prey. Bring the dog as an “early warning system.” Remain calm and speak in a confident voice.
A: Divorcee: Travel in groups. Cougars tend to shy away from man-packs and like to single out their prey for deep conversation about art and muscles. Leave the dog at home – she might kidnap it. Remain calm and speak in a confident voice about your 20 year old, hot, model girlfriend who’s coming to meet you any minute.

Q: And, if I am actually attacked?
A: If the Cougar is a Cat: Fight.
A: If the Cougar is a Divorcee: Run away!

Namaste & Three Cheers! –OM

For more on how to avoid the Feline Cougar: Outside Magazine

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