Immersed

One of the ways I continue to bring love and light to the lives of my parents is by finding a way to blame them for anything amiss in my adult existence or any quirky behavior that I may exhibit. We’ve settled into a comfortable routine where they understand that anything that is unsatisfactory for me can somehow be traced to them.

For example, they were visiting recently and graciously offered to help us paint our great room. During the process of replacing all of the painted-over switch plates throughout the space, I ended up having to make four trips to The Home Depot. I kept somehow purchasing the wrong color switch plates – choosing almond instead of ivory – or bringing home the wrong size – choosing “jumbo” instead of “regular.” It was annoying that we were putting so much effort into painting the walls only to have the switch plates look wonky (to me, since I was the only one that cared about the switch plates apparently but whatever). When we still didn’t have switch plates on the walls three days after we were done painting, my parents may have casually suggested that, “Hey, Joanna, it doesn’t really matter if they’re different sizes! Or, different shades of ivory! Maybe we could just attach them! And, be done with this project! Also, maybe you should be less, you know… you sometimes if you get this hung up on switch plates.” That may not have been their exact words but their exasperation with my switch plate obsession was IMPLIED.

My response to them was something like, “Hey, mom and dad, my perfectionism didn’t just appear out of nowhere. My personality isn’t random! It’s called GENETICS. So, you really only have yourselves to blame about these switch plates. Which one of you caused me to be like this?” My mom may have pointed at my dad with only her eyes. My dad was quiet but I’m pretty sure he was mentally re-writing his will.

This is just how our relationship goes. Me, assigning blame. My parents, politely deflecting any responsibility for my neuroses.

So, naturally, when Bob and I went to join a church a few months ago but couldn’t because I had never been baptized, I knew immediately where to point the finger of blame while yelling, “J’ACCUSE!”

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This past winter, Bob and I discovered a church that we really, really liked. After attending services regularly for a few months, we decided to make it our church home and seek membership. Not surprisingly, since the church is a Baptist church, it came to light during our membership class that each congregant was required to have been baptized in order to join. The baptism had to have taken place following a believer’s profession of faith. This was an issue for Bob because, despite having been baptized as an infant in the Catholic church, his infant baptism wasn’t recognized by our new church since it was performed when he was unaware of its significance. That happened to be the very same reason I WASN’T baptized as an infant – because my parents believed that one should be baptized when one is cognizant of what is happening.

Therefore, despite having been raised in a conservative Christian household, I was never baptized. My older three siblings were all baptized when they were able to offer a profession of faith but never me. We just sort of never got around to it. Which, I can only assume is because my parents were so very, very tired by the time I was in high school. Things get missed, details get overlooked. I get it. I only have three children and I can barely remember their names some days. Also, by my teenage years, my siblings were all gone from the house and my dad was working out-of-state so I don’t recall attending church regularly.

As much as I’d like to place full blame on my parents for this religious oversight, I have been deeply aware over the past twenty or so years, that I was never baptized. I thought about it rather frequently. It had become this Thing that I knew I would have to rectify. That, someday, I was going to need to be baptized. I knew that it was missing.

Finally, I had an opportunity. As it turns out, there was another woman in our new church’s membership class in the same situation and, while Bob was willing to be baptized whenever, wherever, I was reluctant to be baptized in front of the congregation in that super big tub they have near the pastor’s perch. The other woman had the same reservations and asked the pastor if he would consider baptizing us outside the church. In true giving fashion, he said, “Absolutely. I will baptize you anywhere. River, lake, you name it.” We settled on the swimming pool of a close family friend of this woman, which turned out to be, quite literally, around the corner from our home.

So, that’s how, a couple of Saturdays ago, Bob and I came to be baptized, together, in the shadow of our favorite mountains, surrounded by our three children and our closest friends and family. It was lovely and memorable and meaningful. Afterwards, we all came back to the house to eat sloppy joes.

I am so happy to be baptized after so many years of thinking about it. I am so pleased that we have found a church that feels like a home. I am delighted my children will grow up, as I did, knowing the comfort and respite of a place of worship, of a relationship with God.

As we stood in my kitchen after the baptism, after such a momentous morning, after such a huge spiritual commitment, I looked at my parents and said, “This is all your doing, you know.”

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Camp Days

Bob is from New York which explains why he says so many things wrong. For example, instead of pronouncing “celery” the way it should be pronounced which is, “sellery,” he pronounces it, “salary.” This is… not correct and now the kids are saying it all wrong, too.

In addition to mis-pronunciations, New Yorkers apparently attribute different meanings to words than the rest of us. Bob and I had an entire conversation one time that went like this:

Bob: Guess what? My sister and her husband bought a camp. In the Adirondacks.

Me: A camp? Wow! That’s a huge commitment for two people that work full-time. How are they going to run it?

Bob: They’ll go up there mostly on the weekends and holidays probably.

Me: Oh. Is it a camp for boys or girls or co-ed or what?

Bob:

Me:

Bob:

Me:

Bob: A camp is a house, Joanna. Like, on a lake.

Me: So, they bought a cabin? Is that the word you’re looking for? A cabin in the Adirondacks?

Bob: No. They bought a camp.

But, this isn’t really about how Bob can’t say things right.

Our kids have been at camp this month! And, not the kind of camp that’s actually not a camp. The kind of camp where girls and boys go to do fun things. There may or may not be a cabin on the premises. Or, a lake. I’m not sure. I’m not from New York. I’m from Indiana.

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This past spring, I enrolled the kids in some half-day summer camp programs through our county’s parks department. We’ve never done camps before but Millie aged into some of the classes offered so it seemed like a really good time to start outsourcing our summer fun. Finding programs that all three kids could be enrolled in at the same location, at the same time took a whiteboard, an Excel spreadsheet and a logistics course from the local community college but I eventually figured it all out.

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The registration effort was well worth it because they are having a fantastic time. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect since this was our first ever camp experience but the program seems incredibly well run, the staff of high school and college student counselors couldn’t be nicer and the modest size of the classes makes everything seem super laid-back.

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The camps the kids are in run a half day where they spend three or so hours every morning running around, playing games or making things (With glue! And, glitter!) which means I have no problem letting them spend their afternoons in front of a screen. Absolutely everyone wins in this scenario.

And, after last month’s vacation, we really needed a win.

Plus, a morning spent at camp makes for an afternoon of spent.

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So, tell me. How is your summer going? How long have you known about these amazing camps? Why does Bob talk funny? And, most importantly, do you say, “pop” or “soda?”

North Carolina or Bust

We spent part of last week in North Carolina. We were supposed to spend ALL of last week in North Carolina but Bob and I quit our family vacation approximately 50 percent of the way through. We are quitters of the highest order.

A few days after school ended, we headed to North Carolina in search of a boat. Specifically, the USS North Carolina, which is permanently anchored in Wilmington. Bob had wanted to take the kids to see this battleship for years. So, we decided to make a vacation out of it and take a week to explore Wilmington and the surrounding coast. Friends and friends of friends had all expounded on the greatness of Wilmington and the close by beaches so we got pretty excited. I found a great suite in a lovely hotel in the ideal location with a big pool. We had high hopes for this trip.

Our vacation essentially ran off the rails before we ever drove away from the house. Since our destination was only about a six or seven hour drive, I waited to pack until the morning of our departure. In hindsight, this was an awful, terrible, lazy idea. I didn’t get a lot of sleep when I headed to bed the night before because my brain was running an endless loop of all the things I had to do first thing in the morning. Then, when morning arrived, the kids were up and completely underfoot before 6:00 because, vacation is very! exciting! when you are little. I spent three hours throwing things into bags, pleading for the kids to “just watch something on a screen somewhere else” and wondering aloud where in the world the swimming gear was. Finally, like some kind of Pavlovian response to the word, “pool,” I found the kids just… sitting in the car, buckled in and everything, so impatient they were for our departure. They sat there for an hour while Bob and I finished loading our belongings which meant they had plowed through all of the good snacks and most of the battery life on the Kindle before we ever pulled out of the driveway. This was a bad omen.

When we arrived in North Carolina, we found Wilmington to be a perfectly lovely place. The only problem being that the outside air temperature was essentially the same as the broiler setting on my oven. The days we happened to be there, the forecasted temperatures were in the 97-99  degree range. That’s not even the “feels like” thing that the news talks about. That was just straight, full sun, air temperature. It was so, so hot. I am a delicate flower when it comes to heat and humidity so I had started complaining as soon as we crossed the state line. The heat made everything we had wanted to do on our vacation that much harder since our hands kept melting off every time we touched the hotel doorknob. We still did things, even when the heat advisories suggested we shouldn’t, but everyone got hot and tired and cranky pretty quickly.

Also, it turns out, keeping everyone alive in the Atlantic Ocean is kind of tricky because there are just two of us and three of them. We hit the beach twice (once at 8:30 a.m. and once at 6:30 p.m. because of the heat) and each visit was not the relaxing book-in-hand, kids-digging-sandcastles-nearby vision everyone posts pictures of on Facebook. Henry, can suddenly swim just fine, wanted to go further and further out into the water, diving into waves, jumping through the surf and presumably swimming with all of the sharks North Carolina is hosting this summer. He’s a good swimmer but not a great one yet so supervision was required. Charlie spent most of his time in the shallow end, which, that’s the first considerate thing he’s done for us in awhile. Millie was just plain nuts. At one point, I watched her start to run down the beach, heading in the opposite direction from where Bob and I and the boys were all playing. I assumed she was exploring a bit and would turn around eventually but she just… kept going. Kept jogging down the beach. Like a three-year-old version of that Chariots of Fire scene. I watched with disbelief as she started to fade into the horizon and started frantically calling her name but by this point, she kind of had a decent head start. A man sitting next to us looked at me like, you better run, lady. So, that’s what I did. I had to break into a sprint to catch up to her because she just kept running and running. All of the running then made me sweat more so I loved that.

The little ones weren’t the easiest to manage this trip, either. Our last true family vacation was two years ago, when Millie was still 18 months old and Charlie had recently turned four. They were kind of just along for the ride last time and easily directed between activities. By this trip, they both had found their voices so there was this constant cacophony of opinions and demands and expectations and tears. It was exhausting managing what everyone wanted to do.

By the third day, we were all sweaty and sandy and chlorine-y and heat stroke-y and slightly sunburned and just kind of done.

Like a thought bubble appearing above our heads in a cartoon, it occurred to Bob and I that we didn’t have to actually STAY in North Carolina if we weren’t having a great time. We were the adults-in-charge and could decide to head home whenever we wanted. We had managed to fit in lots of beach and pool time, a great movie, some shopping, a trip to an aquarium, a civil war site at Fort Fisher and, of course, some time at the battleship. We accomplished a lot! The kids had fun! We missed our bed! Our decision to abort the whole mission was solidified when I checked my phone and saw that the high temperature forecasted for our hometown was around 72 degrees. So, we threw everyone in the minivan and hit the road for home after just a few days with no regrets.

When our neighbor wished us goodbye the Saturday we left for North Carolina, she was specific in saying, “Make some memories!” She certainly didn’t say, “Have fun!” Because she knows. She knows everything that goes in to traveling with three young kids. We took her wishes to heart and did just that – made some memories.

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As Bob and I sat on our front deck a couple of days after we returned, in the cool evening air, with the mountains in the distance, watching the lightning bugs blink, we both wondered why we had ever left.