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I Want Camp

Considering the mess on my desk, and the muddle in my head, you’d think we were applying to college. My checkbook cowers beneath too many glossy brochures. My brain stews in conflicting data: dates, deadlines, and deposits, reputations and recommendations …

But it’s not college-application time — it’s summer-camp scheduling season. When I was a kid, that meant two choices: cot-sleeping at overnight camp or handball-playing at day camp. The most I learned at either was how to treat sunburn and skeeter bites.

Starshine Roshell

Times have changed. The summer-camp industry has exploded like a red ant hill under the trouncing cleats of World Cup Soccer Camp. Or like a failed soufflé at Kids Cook! Culinary Camp. Or like a rocket ship at Destination Science Camp.

These days you need a spreadsheet to sort out your kids’ endless options. Summer camps are a $12-billion-per-year industry, according to the American Camp Association (ACA), and there are more than 12,000 camps in the U.S. Unlike the offerings of my youth, today’s camps seem exceedingly specialized and impossibly — even unreasonably — fun.

Determined to cultivate kids’ hard-won confidence and spark their blossoming imaginations (or at least hell-bent on convincing the paying parents that’s what they’re doing), camps cover every conceivable interest under the searing summer sun. The ACA boasts camps for caving and clowning, fencing and farming, rafting and riflery. There’s rock rappelling, tap dancing, and “lamp working” (really?). There’s even a Secret Agent Camp, where mini wanna-Bonds learn stealth tactics, martial arts, and code-deciphering. All of which are invaluable in middle school.

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Enough for Two

You know the best thing about being an only child? There’s no math involved. No fractions required to divvy up the last piece of cake. No pie chart needed to see who got the most TV time.

Sibling-free, I got it all. All the love. All the attention. I got praise for the academic subjects I mastered, like French, and even those I didn’t, like trig. When there’s no competition, you get kudos for succeeding at arithmetic as simple as this: Love divided by one is one.

It wasn’t until I was an adult — and pregnant — that it first occurred to me that love might have a numerator and denominator. My husband and I worried how our beloved dog would cope with having a cooing, pink love-hog in the house. Isn’t it a crime to lavish affection on something and then ask it to share that affection with someone new? I asked our vet.

“Love grows,” he said.

“What does that mean?” I asked with a seriousness that should be reserved for conversations about heartworm and distemper.

“The heart expands,” he purred cryptically. He was one of those hippie earth-father vets with tons of his own kids and a fluffy, wisdom-indicating beard. “Love multiplies.”

Damn it! There would be math.

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My columns are collected in three lovely books, which make a SPLENDID gift for wives, friends, book clubs, hostesses, and anyone who likes to laugh!
Keep Your Skirt On
Wife on the Edge
Broad Assumptions
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