I posted an entry on my food blog today about creating my own variation of the Somali stew, Maraq.

It shares a lot of my thought process in the kitchen and may even reveal a bit about my family. Don’t mess with us when we’re hungry.

It also includes my recipe… But we have no taste test until later…


Reflections on Camp Mosey Wood

Yesterday, Camp Mosey Wood celebrated its 75th Anniversary. Camp Mosey Wood is one of the remaining Girl Scout camps belonging to Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania, tracing its roots to the Lehigh County Girl Scouts, Bethlehem Steel and the mother of a “mature Girl Scout” who happens to share a mutual acquaintance with me.

I registered because I thought it would be nice to spend the day with my daughter at the same camp where she does her summer resident camp every year. She’s ten years old now, and we calculated that she’s done four summer sessions (one half week program, one “Baker’s Bunch” themed week, one “detective” week, and this year geocaching which ended a mere two weeks ago) and two winter sessions.

I attended camp Mosey Wood several times as a child, various weekends with my local troop including one in the winter where I clearly remember my adventures cross country skiing. I never had the opportunity to attend summer resident camp, and part of me always wondered what magic happens there.

Yesterday, I experienced a glimpse of it. The day surpassed my every expectation and like any good Girl Scout program it pushed me past my expectations. I am overwhelmed, proud and exhausted today as I think about the memories my daughter and I made.

Four of us arrived together for the day program. We carpooled with the daughter of one of the camp founders, camp name Bunny, and our mutual acquaintance. Bunny’s daughter is now near approaching seventy-five years old herself as her mother worked for the Girl Scouts before marrying. She stayed at the dining hall and the central green for most of the day, visiting with old friends and making new ones.

That left my friend, my daughter and I to have our camp adventures. Somewhere around ten a.m. we had already reached the archery course. My daughter worked with the actual archery instructor to make sure we knew exactly what we were doing. We all hit the targets! I forget exactly where mine landed but photos shall come…

What happened next is the usual conglomeration of crafts, tie-dye (my first time!), hiking, boating, eating, dining hall games… All items that gave me a glimpse into the life my daughter has when she’s at Girl Scout camp. Who can resist picking fresh wild blueberries off the bushes? Who can’t help but feel inspired by hiking paths created for gold projects? Who wouldn’t get excited by the prospect of a NEW ZIP LINE across the LAKE!

I watched in awe of my daughter as she kept checking on the older people, bringing Bunny’s daughter blueberries and helping them from place to place. I had never seen my tween so kind, considerate and empathetic.

I watched in awe of my daughter on the “s’up” board (stand-up paddle board). My friend and I struggled with a rowboat like a couple of drunken sailors as she zipped by us on her board, reaching the far side of the lake. When she eventually headed to shore, she ended up helping others get started because we were still in the middle of the lake spinning in circles… When we docked, I stood there and listened.

I suddenly knew I had to put on the bathing suit that hadn’t seen the light of day in eight years and go paddle boarding with her. I said as much to my friend and she replied, “Go ahead, if you want to.” And I didn’t want to, as much as my maternal instincts said this was a moment to share something with her that had nothing to do with what I wanted.

I changed, put on borrowed “lake shoes,” handed over my glasses and followed my daughter into the water. If you know me, you know I have balance issues thanks to cerebral palsy and my legs aren’t always reliable. Well, here I was, out on a lake, my daughter racing and gleefully barking orders. I can’t see. My depth perception is off. Kayaks, other paddle boarders, and rowboats surround me. I manage. I enjoy it. But in the end, I fell off (in part because my paddle was not adjusted to my height and because I never learned to use my paddle as a “third leg” for balance). That yoga has paid off because I did balance, but the line at the shore for the boards was getting longer so I headed to the dock. But I did it!

As soon as we got out of the water, my daughter threw clothes over her wet bathing suit and ran to the climbing wall. I watched in awe of my daughter on the climbing wall (and later the high ropes). My daughter climbed each of the three walls, the harder ones multiple times. I made it up the first two difficulties, no small task but again when I lacked in grace and coordination I compensated for with sheer stubborn will power. This was not enough for my petite thrill seeker so we headed to the high ropes course.

I have no idea why I ever thought high ropes would be something I should do. I did it. It was grueling in spots, but I never even stopped to catch my breath. I decided it would be easier to barrel forward than to stop and think about what we were doing. My daughter went first. I went second. When I reached the final platform when you jump, I looked to her on the ground. I reminded her that this was what Girl Scouts was about, pushing yourself and proving you could do it. And I jumped. I became a human piñata as the staff batted my ankles to stop me and put me on the ladder.

I laughed at my daughter as she bolted after grace from our spot in the back of the dining hall to the kitchen, performing her duty as hopper with the utmost efficiency and speed. She may have even gained a bit of a reputation for her skills.

At the end of the day, when my daughter had grown moody with disappointment that we couldn’t keep doing activities indefinitely, she turned to me and said, “Mom, I’m pretty sure you did at least three activities outside your comfort zone.”

I asked her to tell me which ones. She listed the “s’up boards,” the climbing wall and the ropes. She was very right. Maybe I inspired her as much as she inspired me.

The whole day reminded me why Girl Scouts means so much to me. I see my daughter meeting challenges and interacting with others of multiple generations and I can’t help but cry.

I spent a great deal of my youth being told what I could and couldn’t do and being teased for my limp and physical difference. I was about my daughter’s age when my junior Girl Scout leader saw me standing at the railing at our roller skating event. I didn’t have skates and I probably looked forlorn leaning on the edge of the rink. She asked me why I didn’t have skates.

I said I couldn’t skate. That I had never skated because of my legs.

I don’t remember exactly how it happened, but I know within a few minutes I had my rental skates and I was now clinging to the same wall from the other side because I had wheels on my feet. I imagine some adult must have held my hand and coaxed me out, because eventually I hugged the wall and made a lap of the rink. I spent most of my time “practicing” on the carpeted area where people put on their skates. But I had roller skates! And I hadn’t broken my neck!

My daughter may never know half my struggles, but thanks to Girl Scouts, she can learn the same lessons.





Parenting: Camp Mosey Wood never changes, always exciting, always emotional

Yesterday my husband and I took our nine-year-old daughter to summer camp at Mosey Wood. This will be her fourth residential camping experience, as she so confidently told us as we old people fought to recall in the car. She spent two years at Stone Wood unit, the first was for half-week camp (fairies in the forest, was it?) and last year was full week (Baker’s Bunch). Plus there was winter camp between the two, a very soggy experience that led to a moldy cough for several weeks after.

We have the packing down pat. It doesn’t hurt that I am a master of arranging the suitcase. I’ve also learned a few things from more experienced campers. The most brilliant helpful hint is to pack each individual outfit in gallon size Ziploc baggies. That way child can simply grab a bag and wear its contents, plus whatever remains unworn stays clean. I packed her dining supplies in her small backpack, which I placed in a larger backpack with her bedding and toiletries.

So she left with three pieces of “luggage”: One carryone suitcase, one backpack and one sleeping bag with bedroll. We loaded the car and headed to Target for the one item we forgot, bug repellent. Normally bugs don’t touch her, but in the woods… Well, those bugs are vicious. She attempted a ruse of hunger at Target café by claiming she was hungry when she just had lunch. I bought a picnic pack. They have grapes, apples, dried cranberries, cheese, almonds, crackers and a piece of dark Ghirardelli chocolate.

Now, when we left Target, my husband claimed to know only the back way to camp. Since Google Maps confirmed the distance as equal to the main highway, we took route 115. I had to hold my breath for most of the journey because it’s a “race weekend” at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, which is a few miles from the camp. Somehow we not only avoided race traffic, but we arrived at the race track when they didn’t have any of the detours in effect. They often make 115 one way to accommodate race traffic.

Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania run Camp Moseywood, and it’s the same camp that I attended for weekend troop camping. I never went to week-long resident camp, but I have strong memories about the place nonetheless. My girlfriends and even acquaintances have similar feelings.

We wound our way down the narrow road that led into the camp. It’s nestled amid state parks, a ski resort and a golf course. The first checkpoint resembled a wooden bus shelter. From it, a young woman with a clipboard and a smile emerged. She requested my daughter’s name, checked her list and announced that child would spend the week in Deer Wood.

Next stop was the parking lot outside the main pavilion.

My daughter approaching Fowler Pavilion at Mosey Wood

My daughter approaching Fowler Pavilion at Mosey Wood

We took child over to the first stop, the feet and head check. While daughter’s extremities are examined, I went to the medical table (and no allergy meds this year! No ear tubes to restrict swimming! Woo hoo!). Husband brought our pile of letters to the mail crates labeled the days of the week.

Every year when child returns from her head and feet check, I make the same wisecrack. “Do you have feet? And a head?” And every year she fails to get the joke. This year, her father came from the mail station after I made my comment and he repeated the humor. He still got a funny look. You’d think by now she’d be prepared for it.

Next stop: trading post money and unit photo. Every year the tears well in my eyes and I choke on the lump in my throat. Camper Release form. Bear protocol agreement. Every year I laugh at my own ridiculousness. Behavior pledge. My daughter grabbed a chocolate chip cookie from the snack station.

“Mommy, it’s still warm!”

“Let me try a bite,” I requested.

She held the cookie out to my lips and I nibbled it. She was right. It was warm.

My husband also found the cookies. When he took a third one, I yelled at him.

“Those aren’t for you!”

I was over my almost emotional outburst.

Finally, luggage tags. You have to tie colored scraps of paper to your items. They toss them in the back of a pick-up truck and drive from unit to unit. Campers walk, but luckily baggage is delivered to the unit house. Though sometimes, watching stubborn little girls drag suitcases from the unit house to the tents, over rocks and tree roots and other assorted forest obstacles, generates a hearty amount of frustration for all involved.
Deer Wood

Deer Wood lies fairly far from the lake and dining hall. To get there, one has to travel a tunnel-like path where the trees have grown over to create the feeling of a burrow. The burrow is large enough to accommodate the height of an adult, but barely. Various tunnels lead to various places, but we followed the signs to Bunny Hollow, crossed a rickety footbridge past that unit and reached Deer Wood. The unit house at Deer Wood had that typical rustic cabin feel, spooky and almost deserted before the adventures of the week fill it with a dozen-plus pre-teen girls. There was a stone fireplace on the exterior of the building and a saw horse rotting to the side.

My daughter immediately grabbed a thick rotting stick and started smashing it against the saw horse, explaining that she had fairy tools to make. Many fairy houses needed constructing. Two other sets of parents and two British camp counselors sat at the picnic tables. One child in a brightly polka dotted sweatshirt was an experienced camper like my daughter. The other, waiting with her younger sister, father and her mother who I can’t understand because she mumbles, was new to camping and to this place and shifted her weight nervously from leg to leg.

I almost yelled at my daughter to stop needlessly smashing wood pieces when the nervous little girl joined her and also started smashing wood. Obviously, this was important work and I needed to keep my grown-up mouth shut. The truck arrived. My daughter ran forward to grab her sleeping bag and her backpack, an oversized green sac covered with patches from a previous Girl Scout. I could see that her suitcase remained on the truck and would be one of the last items unloaded. This made my daughter fret. Nothing like excitement to get a nine-year-old to act like an aggravated hornet.

She dragged her suitcase halfway across the unit, flipping it several times. My husband asked me where I had gotten the suitcase. You see, camp destroyed child’s previous suitcase. It came home so broken we had to use a knife to open it. She received a new one for Christmas, but there was no way I was letting her pack a brand new suitcase for this torture. The suitcase she had came from my husband’s grandmother who’s dying of cancer. She’s too week to leave her bedroom, so she won’t be needing a suitcase for her next trip.

My daughter finally relented and let us take the baggage to the tent. Tent seven. Child swore she knew which tent it was. First we stop at nine, then eight. Finally, we arrived at seven. We made her bed, with bed roll AND thick sleeping bag since August has started unseasonably cool. We reviewed the basics: sweatshirt under your pillow in case you get cold at night, spare flashlight batteries are here, empty backpacks for the day’s activities are here, this side of your suitcase has shorts, and this side of your suitcase has long pants.

Most importantly: Put your dirty socks and underwear in one of your empty Ziploc bags. Anything filthy and stinky, put in a different Ziploc before throwing into the laundry bag. It’s camp, so if it’s only a little dirty you may need to wear it again. You have three pairs of pants. If it’s cold, you may need to re-wear.

We meandered to the latrine and to the unit house. On the walk there, child revealed that she didn’t know if she was ready to stay here over night.

“Spare me the drama,” I told her. “You know how this works.”

We arrived at the unit house and I tell her that her father and I are leaving. She responded with a pout.

“Who’s going to walk me back to my tent?”

“Not us,” I told her. “The path is right here to go back and I’m going back.”

“But I have to have a partner,” she protested.

“I’ll go with you,” the experienced little camper said. I hadn’t even noticed she was there. She happens to be my daughter’s tent-mate. When we left the tent, I swore she was lying on her cot reading The Sisters Grimm.

They left. Seriously. No goodbye. No hug. Just gone.

“HEY!” I yelled. “See ya Friday?”

My daughter ran back to me and wrapped her arms around my waist and pressed her head against my belly.

“Bye, Mommy.”

That’s better.

It's not a good photo, but that's how quickly she left

It’s not a good photo, but that’s how quickly she left