No Purex for Them

They came home today.  The two oldest, DJ and Stephanie, returned from ten weeks away working at summer camp.

Not only did they come home, their clothes came home.  14 loads thus far – and counting.

I’m used to the laundry.  I kinda like it.  It signals the end of summer and a return to normalcy.

And yet, I am perplexed.

There was a laundry facility at camp for staff.  I know for sure that my girls used the washer and dryer provided for two reasons:

Frist, they told me.

Second, I unpacked Tide from both of their laundry bags.

Yes.  TIDE!  As in Tide’s in, dirt’s out.

How is it that my kids are using Tide and I am washing with Purex?  Not that there’s anything wrong with Purex, but man, would I like to smell like Tide when I walk down the halls at work.  But no, my ongoing cost savings strategy requires that I settle for the least expensive suds on the shelf.  And yet, my kids don’t!  And the worst part of it is, they charge THEIR Tide to MY credit card!!

I’m smelling like 13 cents a wash, and they’re walking around with a $.78 cent aroma.

It does not make sense.  The dad should be the one splurging.  They are not even 21 years old.  They don’t have steady employment.  I fill up their cars with gas.  I use generic toilet paper so I can afford their school tuition (and sometimes it hurts).  But they are ordering sodas with their dinners (while I drink water), Ubering (while I walk), and washing their clothes with Top-Shelf detergent.

I bet the college dorm room has Charmin!

Geeze.  I wish I was my child.  I’d live a more lucrative life!



The Kid Sabbatical

They left me.  Yep.  All three of my girls trekked down to Camp Seafarer for a full five weeks.  Today I pick up Michelle, and I am so, so happy.

When Lisa died seven years ago, in addition to drowning in grief, I developed a fear of being alone.  The thought of staying in our house without other human beings consumed me.  I worked to stagger kid sleepovers so that all wouldn’t be gone at once.  I did the same with overnight camp, picking one up before sending the next.  I was paralyzed by the mere thought of quiet.

When I turned 50, I assumed I was complete.  I am happy, understand my strengths and limitations and am comfortable with who I have become.  What I didn’t expect was more self-growth.  I thought my insides were pretty set – sort of like the gray hair – there was no reversing what had developed; it is what it is.

What I have discovered over the past month is that, even as an aging dude, I’m ever changing, ever growing, ever maturing.  Yeah, I have REALLY missed my kids over the past 36 days (not that I was counting) but this time apart has allotted me time to rejuvenate and to focus on areas of my life that I’ve somewhat neglected.

This past month I’ve been able to focus on my relationship with my girlfriend, Julie.  she doesn’t live in Raleigh so the ability to head to Charlotte or on vacation together has given us the chance to pull back the curtain a bit.  I’ve discovered she’s cooler than I had imagined.  And best of all, after getting to know me even more, she’s still taking my calls!

I’ve exercised, slept hard, read and watched my backlog of DVR’d CBS Sunday Morning shows (man am I old).  I’ve eaten dinner with a number of my buddies, visited my parents twice, and I even got a massage.

I’ve surprised myself this year.  Even at AARP age, there’s still hope to tweak my many imperfections and to face down my fears.  It isn’t over!

I have a long way to go, but it’s nice to know it’s not too late for improvement.

She’s Got a Job!

CSF counselor

DJ has a job!  Employed!  A tax paying citizen.  Well, I don’t think she’s gonna make enough to be a tax payer, but she will get a paycheck.

She’s going to work at Camp Seafarer this summer.  It’s a resident camp on the coast with a focus on boating.  I think she’s gonna have a great time.  She attended as a camper and loved it.

I worked at Seafarer’s brother camp, Sea Gull, back in 1988.  It was fun, but it was hard work.  I was the Head Counselor for the first 18 cabins – the youngest kids.

I have a ton of fond memories about the summer I spent down in Arapahoe, NC.  The Tuesday lunch of fried bologna and cabbage was not one of them.

Each week the campers had to write home to their parents.  One day a boy in cabin 1, he was six, sent a postcard to his mother.  He forgot to address it so the note was returned to camp.

The office manager pulled me in, “Danny, I think you have a problem.”

Because it was a postcard, we could read what he’d written.  It went something like this:

Dear Mom,

There’s these boys here and they’re talking about your boobies.


Apparently during rest period a couple of the kids were having some conversations about Mikey’s mom’s breasts.  I saw her on opening day – some of the counselors were also talking about Mikey’s mom’s upper half.  We were just smart enough not to do it in front of him.

One morning at camp I was awoken at 6 AM by the senior counselor in Cabin 2.

“Danny, where are you?”

He was in a panic.

“I’m missing a kid.  Christopher is gone!”

I sprinted to his duplex.  He was right.  Christopher’s bed was empty, and we’d checked the entire cabin, twice.

I ran to camp’s headquarters and instructed them to make an announcement over the camp intercom system.  Mind you, very few people were awake at this time of day and the camp was huge, over 1,000 people on campus.

Christopher Miller, please report to Cabin 2 immediately.  The loud-speaker blared.

I sent counselors to the riverfront just to be sure.  We were running in and out of the camp 1 cabins waking staff to get their assistance.

About 10 minutes into the search, the counselor from Cabin 4 emerged with our missing person.

Apparently he slept walked out of cabin 1 and moseyed down to cabin 4 in the middle of the night.  He jumped in bed with another kid, snuggled up and went right to sleep.

I never went to camp as a kid; I wouldn’t leave my mom that long.  I didn’t even particularly enjoy spending the night at Stephen Mozena’s house, and he was my best friend.

There was a younger camper that summer named Josh.  He was seven years old, perhaps a little young for a four-week stay away from home, and Josh missed his mama.  He’d tear up when his counselor would dip his green beans.  He’d sob as the camp would stand on the mess hall benches and sing the favored camp song:

Oh they built the ship Titanic and when they had it through

they said they had a ship that the water could not go through

but the Lord’s almighty hand said that ship would never stand

Oh it was sad when that great ship went down.

Come to think of it, that is an odd theme song for a boating camp.

Anyway, poor Josh cried and cried and cried.  When I wasn’t frustrated with him because he was blowing his summer and an incredible opportunity, my heart went out to him.

There were 200 campers under my direction so I tried to spread my time wisely hanging out with groups at a time.  But one day, I decided I’d spend the entire afternoon with Josh.  I asked him what he wanted to do.

“Danny, will you take me sailing?”

What Josh didn’t know was that I wasn’t a sailor.  I’d been on a Sunfish once, and it was three weeks earlier during staff training.  But it actually didn’t look that hard to me so I strapped our life vests on and we headed out to the moorings.  I signed us out, and we got on this two-man vessel.

The wind was strong that day, perfect for sailing. Well, perfect if you knew what you were doing. I did not. And I think it freaked Josh out when we capsized the first time. I know it did the second time. And the third time was just too much. The dingy came and drug us landlubbers in.

Interestingly, the next day was the first that Josh didn’t cry. Maybe it was because I shared with him about my hesitance to sleepover at Steven ‘s as a child. Or perhaps it was because he figured if he could survive the Sunfish with me, he could take on anything at camp. Who knows? But he loved the last week he was with us.

I think DJ is going to be a super addition to the Seafarer summer sailing staff primarily because she actually knows how to sail.




Making the Bunk


I didn’t go to overnight camp when I was a kid, primarily because my parents weren’t allowed to go with me.  But if I had, I’m fairly certain my dad would have tossed a sleeping bag on the bunk, patted my head and been on his way.

My girls have a different expectation when it comes to their camp “set up.”  No, it’s not a sleeping bag.  They prefer something that is less campy and more Ritz Carlton.

Each year I dig through the big Tupperware boxes Lisa stored in the attic full of the camp necessities.  I then lug a SUV slammed packed with the finest linens and accessories to Arapahoe, NC, for a month-long stay.

You haven’t lived until you’ve made the top bunk for one of my kids in a musty cabin at Camp Seafarer.

This year, DJ’s bunk was in the corner making it even more difficult to dress.

Step 1:  The dust mite cover – If your kid struggles with significant allergies, perhaps a better strategy than trying to get a dust mite cover on the top bunk bed is to send them to Manners Camp, which I assume is indoors.  Instead, my wife purchased a mattress cover that can keep fleas, tics, dust mites and bed bugs from nesting in the green, plastic, ½ inch thick foam my child will be sleeping on for 26 nights.  Last year they found a small snake in her cabin.  Dust mites – schmust mites.  They need reptile repellant!

Step 2:  The egg crate – Yes, the Princess and the Pea requires an egg crate to make her lounge area a bit more comfy.  I tried to put it under the dust mite cover – sort of zip it inside.  I took the mattress off the bed and laid it in the middle of the cabin.  It was like trying to wrap a 200 pound alligator in Saran Wrap.

I could tell the other parent’s in the cabin were a tad bit frustrated.  I could see it in their furrowed brows:

Stop hoggin’ the concrete floor dude!

What IS he doin’? 

Where IS his wife?

He’s actually laying on that nasty concrete.

An egg crate?  Seriously?

With 90 degree weather outside and 48 bodies in this unairconditioned single garage, I felt like I was participating in a hot yoga class.

“Dad, you’re cussing under your breath.  Be quiet; it’s embarrassing.”

“IT’S ANNOYINGLY HOT IN HERE AND THE DAG BLURNED EGG CRATE WON’T FIT!  Is that better?  Plus the woman in the green Espidrills stepped on my pinkie, and it hurt really bad.”

Step 3:  Pink zebra print sheets –  After returning the mattress to the second floor, I climbed up the ladder with one leg precariously perched on the bunk next door.  When I realized two campers who walked by may have briefly been exposed to my private parts which were partially visible out of the gap in my shorts from my awkward position, I quickly lowered my leg, kicking the mother underneath me who was squatted over the bottom bunk working to tuck her child’s blanket under her mattress.  She fell onto the bed in a front head roll.

“Sorry,” I said not stopping my quest to firmly attach the last of the four sheet corners.  That’s what you get for stepping on my pinkie.

She was ruffled – looked like she’d spent the day in training at Parris Island.

Step 4:  The Camp Seafarer blanket – “DJ, do you really need a blanket?  It feels like we’re on a lava pit in here.”

Apparently she did.

Step 5:  The stuffed animals and decorative pillows – I actually feel sorry for “Pink Baby,” “Special Blankie” and “Moosey.”  They’re going to die of heat stroke.

After stretching in positions I never thought would be, accidentally flashing a minor, and sweating like a camel in the Arabian Peninsula, the cabin looked remarkable.  We pulled out the matching laundry bag and set out her Lilly rug.

“You all set baby?”

“Yes.  You may go.”

Sunday Post 127: Through Their Eyes

For the past three years I have dreaded dropping my kids off at sleepover camp.  In fact, when Michelle said she just wanted to attend a one week camp this year, I jumped on board fast!

“That is fine with me!  Maybe Daddy and Michelle can do a special little trip while your sisters head off for a month.”  That’ll fix ’em.  I’ll take her to Disney World – we’ll see what they choose next year.

Lisa went to Camp Seafarer as a kid, and I work for the organization that owns the camps.  I know it’s a great experience in so many ways – independence, leadership development, new friendships – but four weeks away is a long, long time.  The house just seems so quiet and empty with them gone.

But this year, something was different.  For the first time since Lisa died, I was able to see through their eyes.  Instead of focusing on what I was going to miss, I was able to see what they were going to gain.  They were so excited!  They talked about friends they couldn’t wait to see, camp songs they wanted to sing and the skills they were going to master before coming back home.

DJ is a counselor in training this year and was fortunate to be chosen to work on her favorite activity, sailing.  Stephanie ensures me that she will achieve her Sunfish Master, a difficult certification for a kid who never sailed until last summer.

Both planned their outfits and shopped for their needed camp items.  They were quite independent in their quest to prepare for their journey.

And their dad, for the first time since I’ve been in charge of dropping them off on my own, was able to look beyond the dread 26 quiet nights and instead live vicariously through their joy.  My excitement for them took away almost all of my angst.

I wish I’d do a better job of stepping back and putting myself in their shoes.  Too often over the past three years I’ve been so wrapped up in my own selfish thoughts that I’ve missed seeing and celebrating the happiness of those around me.

I hope I’m beginning to make that transition – from selfishness to selflessness.  Check with me in three more weeks, I should know by then.

A Gift from Camp

When most kids return home from camp, they bring their parents something nice, like handmade pottery or an ashtray.  My child brought me pink eye.

Yes, Stephanie returned home from camp on a Friday afternoon about 3 pm.  By 5, her left eye was pinker than Frenchie’s hair in the movie Grease.  It lasted for five days.  On day seven, my left eye began to itch.  I sit here twelve days later still looking like I just returned home from a night out with Otis from the Andy Griffith Show.

Have you ever laid face down in a sandbox with your eyes wide open?  That’s what this feels like.

I’ve been through two and a half boxes of Kleenex, dabbing the goop from my pus filled corneas.  On the first day of my diagnosis, I had to have  two business meetings with people I’d never met.  I apologized for my tears – told them talking about work just choked me up a bit.

For seven of these days we’ve been on vacation – our annual family/friend reunion at a small resort in Capon Springs, West Virginia.  Imagine 200 people coming together who haven’t seen each other in a year or more.  The hugs, handshakes and pats on the back were flowing … except for me.  When they saw my eyes they gave a tacit smile and backed away as if I had Smallpox.

On Wednesday, Capon staff  hosted our annual BINGO game.  The guy in charge didn’t know I had the funk and invited me to be a guest caller – quite the honor at Capon Springs.  When I stepped up to the microphone, I pulled out a small bottle of hand sanitizer and publicly scrubbed myself before touching any of the BINGO balls.  Instead of calling out the letters B-I-N-G and O, I substituted B, Pink Eye, N, G, O.  I figured if I couldn’t beat ’em, I might as well join ’em.

My sister-in-law is an epidemiologist at Duke University Hospital.  She’s working on cures for some rare diseases.  I suggested she change her focus.  I mean there simply aren’t that many people who are going to be struck by an organ eating bacteria.  But everyone gets pink eye.  Why isn’t someone working on a vaccine for that?  I’m talking Nobel Peace Prize here. 

I’m thankful I wasn’t quarantined and that my family still allowed me to eat at their table in the dining room – although as far away from children as possible.  And I have to give props to one woman who hugged me after finding out of my temporary condition.  She said, “I’m a teacher, I’m immune to that junk.”

Teachers aren’t scared of anything.  She’d have hugged me if I had Eboli.

So today I started steroid eye drops.  My sclera is still pink, but I’m blinking faster than Lance Armstrong can pedal.  Maybe I’m nearing the end.

Sunday Post 84: Go and Grow

Someone recently told me that they had never left their eight year old child overnight. 

“Not even with his grandparents?” I inquired.

“Nope!”  She shared it as if it were a badge of honor.  It’s no badge.  It’s just weird – unless the grandparents are like kid killers or something.

I finally have all three of my girls back under one roof!  Tonight will be our first night in the same house since Sunday, July 15.  That is a long time. 

As much as I missed them while they were out experiencing the world, and as much as I wanted to go pick Stephanie up on her third week of four-week camp, I am so grateful that my kids had the ability to grow.  It’s no secret that I have limitations as a father.  There are simply things I can’t teach them.  But it’s not just because I’m a man and they’re girls.  Part of it is that I am their parent, and they’ll only listen so much.  Part of it is that I have a singular world view: mine.  And as right as it is, they need to compare it to others so that they can formulate their own ideas about how to live life.

DJ is becoming an accomplished sailor through her time at summer camps – a great confidence builder I think.  She certainly wouldn’t have discovered that talent in a family room with a landlubber.

Stephanie has developed incredible confidence.  I’ve told her for years how wonderful she is – but sometimes it means more coming from a 50-year-old camp director she absolutely adores.

Michelle battled homesickness – and won.  She was given the Most Determined award at camp.  Talk about making lemonade out of lemons.  She was recognized because she struggled and overcame.

I’m not sure she would have struggled or had the opportunity to overcome had she been at home sitting on the couch with me. I think I’m just a good dose of comfort for her.

Some of my happiest memories of childhood are from the weeks I spent in Florence, SC, with my grandparents each summer. I’d pump gas at Papa’s service station.  Granddaddy Tanner would take me for a Slurpee.  I remember making a masking tape and shoe polish covered lamp with grandmamma Ham, and I’d lay on Idee’s bed each morning and talk about life while she “put on her face.”

Oh the stories I heard. Oh the lessons I learned.

I don’t want my kids to be replicas of me.  They can do better.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but better comes from experience and experience happens away from my house. 

So let them go, and let them grow.  And then enjoy the heck out of them when they return.

Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah

Posted by Danny

Michelle just got home from camp today.  Stephanie is there for two more weeks.

Now a days, parents are allowed to email their kid at camp each day.  Yeah, you get to pay$40 which allows you to try to come up with something to write them every night.  It’s like that damn Christmas Elf that you always forget to move.  At 2 AM I awake – Dag gone it!  Forgot the emails!!

I have convinced myself that all of the other 598 kids will be receiving a daily email from their parents.  What if my kids are at rest period and have nothing from me?  It could be traumatic.  This is a huge summer stressor.

Year one I tried to write about my day.  It went something like this:

I went to work.  Came home.  Watched TV.  Changed underwear before I got in bed.  Hope your day was good.

It was painful for me to write.  It was painful for them to read.  I mean seriously, what do you write to an 8-year-old every day for two weeks?

I’ve made a few changes in my correspondence over the years.  Here are a couple of excerpts from my emails to Michelle in 2012:

July 15: When I left camp today I did not see many girls at tennis. That is good. Tennis is not a good thing to do at camp. You should not play tennis. Your friend might hit a tennis ball and it could land in your mouth. Then when I pick you up next Friday you wouldn’t be able to say, “Hey dad! I love you so much.” So do not play tennis.

Instead, I have a great idea for you to do at camp.  Go to the infirmary. Tell them that you want to be a nurse when you grow up. Ask them if you can put on a nurse’s uniform. Put it on. Then ask if you can give shots to campers. Find some campers.  Give them shots. It will be fun. You can make people well.  They will call you Nurse Michelle.

That is a better camp activity than tennis.

July 18:  These are some things I think you should not do at camp:

Go down the zip line (it is too tall), ride in a motor boat (they are too fast), shoot archery (the arrows are too pointy).  Instead try this:

Paint yourself red and go stand by the Camp Seafarer gate. When people drive up they will think you are a stop sign. They will slow down and stop.  That will make everyone much safer.  That is a fun and safe activity for you.

July 19:  Here are some things that I don’t think you should do at camp:

1) Do not go to arts and crafts.  Glue is sticky and could get in your hair.  That would be bad. 

2) Do not look for shark’s teeth in the shark’s tooth pile. Sharks are bad and can bite you.  You could bleed and go to the infirmary.  They could be out of band aids. That would be bad.

Here is a really good idea for you to do at camp today:

Go to the bathroom. Use lots of toilet paper and take the cardboard paper roll. Go to another bathroom and use lots of toilet paper and take that roll too.  Get some duct tape. Tape the two rolls together. Then put on khaki clothes. Go to the end of the pier. Look through the toilet paper rolls.  See if you can see what color the sky is. If you can, go tell your friends in your cabin. They will be excited to know the color of the sky.  You will be very popular if you do this.

July 20:  There is some stuff that I don’t think you should do at camp tomorrow. They are not fun activities.  Do not go on a jeep ride. You could get dirty if you ride a jeep. And if it goes through the woods, there could be a big bear, and he could eat you.

Here is a better idea for camp tomorrow.  I think it would be a good idea for you to go to arts and crafts and get some pink paint. Then paint your body and hair. Next go to the zip line.  Crawl to the top and oink like a pig as you climb the steps. DO NOT tell the counselors you are a kid.  Just oink.  They will think a pig is going down the zip line.  They will be amazed and announce it in the mess hall.  But never tell them it was you!  The next day paint yourself as a cow – they will be amazed again.

I’ve got to have some fun while they’re gone.

How! How!

Posted by Danny

Every spring for the past nine years I’ve headed down to Camp Sea Gull with one of my daughters for a Y Indian Princess weekend outing.  DJ and I started going with nine other dads and their daughters in 2003. 

Y Princesses is a father/daughter program for kids in first through third grades.  It’s sort of like scouts – but you can’t do any activity without a dad/kid pair.  You earn patches for service projects, hikes and campouts.  One time we sorted pasta at the food bank – had to wear hair nets.  I didn’t like that. 

Each participant chooses an Indian name.  I was Screamin’ Hambone.  DJ chose Shining Star – booooring.  Stephanie was more compliant – she went with Little Screamin’ Hambone, a name suggested to her by her Big Brave.  Michelle chose T-Bird, a nickname I’ve used for her since she was 2. 

Michelle was my last kid in the program and this was my last trip down highway 70 to camp.  I’ll have to admit when we drove out of the camp gates on Sunday to head home, I sort of had a lump in my throat.

I’m not sure why.  These are not particularly fun weekends.

My first two tribes had some of the snorinest people I’ve ever heard in my life.  I used to take two Tylenol PM, put in ear plugs and hold two pillows around my  head – and I could still hear them.  Cherry Point Air Force Base is right across the Neuse River from camp.  I’d doze off a minute and wake up thinking a F1 Fighter Jet was about to land on the cabin’s devotional table.  I was afraid one of those dudes was going to snort one of the little princesses right up into his nostrils. 

Ten dads in bunk beds – me on the bottom, a 250 pound dude in the bed above with the mattress springs sagging down – inches from my protruding nose.  It’s like sleeping in a medium security penitentiary. 

There was a curtain draping the bathroom “stall”, the floor grittier than the Mojave desert.  The toilet paper like wiping your behind with sandpaper.  I’m still raw from last weekend, and I only went once.

In year two, the organizers of this program bring in a special act called Snakes Alive.  As if pooping behind a paper-thin curtain with 9 elementary aged girls you scarcely know running through the bathroom isn’t enough, they top your experience off with coolers full of reptiles. 

“Which dads out there want to hold the python today?” the handler asks.

Every child raises her hand and begins pointing to her father.  “Pick him!  Pick him!”

My kids knew better. 

“Dad, will you go up?”

“I’d rather sleep in a single bunk with Mr. Brown for three months.  PUT-YOUR-HAND-DOWN-NOW.”

And to top it off, there’s the annual ride down the zip line.

The zip line combines all of my favorite things:  heights, cold water, standing in line, and harnesses strapped around my crotch.  (This video is not of me – but it is at Camp Sea Gull).

I have to be honest though, as much as I complain, I really did enjoy almost every minute I spent in the Y Princess program.  My best friends are the men I’ve spent weekends with – chewing on politics on a freezing cold night by a campfire – melting marshmallow goop dripping on our winter boots.  The individual time I had just driving to and from our outings with my daughters was priceless.  And the memories from Camp Sea Gull…wow!

I’ve heard of a dad who stood up at his daughter’s rehearsal dinner.  He looked his new son-in-law in the eye and pulled out his daughter’s Indian vest.  “Take care of my little princess,” he implored as he passed him the buckskinned garment.  I may just do the same.

How! How!  Big Braves; How! How!

Hiding Out From Child Protective Services

she looks fine to me

Posted by Jesse

I can’t believe this happened again.

I offer to drive the morning shift all the time (by “offer” I mean I stumble into the kitchen two minutes before departure time, sparsely dressed, one eye open, and grunt “need me to drive? no? cool.”) but Danny handles it almost every day. He says he enjoys the time in the car with the girls and I enjoy the extra sleep enough to believe him.

But once every two weeks or so Danny has an early meeting, and I get the morning shift.

Late in the spring we had one such morning. The girls were eating cereal and I was making lunches, when Michelle begin mixing tears with her milk. It should be noted that encountering her melancholy countenance in the a.m. is NOT a rare occurrence. It can be triggered by a frustrating bout with hair, a missing button on a skirt, or not getting the prize in the cereal box. Or, apparently, an upset stomach.

“I don’t feeeeeel gooooood,” she sobbed.

Uh-oh. Two things come into play here:

1) The Tanner family (Danny’s parents) and the Katsopolis family (my parents) handled sick days very differently. He likes to claim we weren’t allowed to miss school if we revealed a severed appendage dangling loosely off of our bodies. I like to tease that he was basically home-schooled since “sick days” meant any day he had gym. Both are exaggerations. Slight exaggerations.

2) I am not about to be the sucker Uncle who gets played! And, to be totally honest, I hate having to bother Danny when I’ve got “kid duty” because he won’t ask for help unless he really needs it, meaning he’s either got an important meeting or he’s taking his quarterly night out to socialize. I try to avoid contacting him if at all possible. His over-caring self would literally feel guilty that one of his girls got sick on a morning he wasn’t there.

So I did the thermometer thing. Normal enough. I inspected for unusually pale (or green) skin complexion. Other than her claim of not feeling good, I couldn’t see any obvious sign of illness. I worked at Camp Sea Gull for over a decade, and the nurses have told me repeatedly that a stomach ache with no other symptoms is usually just something else. Michelle probably forgot to do her homework and was dreading facing the teacher.

I cracked a few jokes, got a smile or two out of her, got the other two girls in on the “buck up, kid, you’ll be fine by lunch” routine, and we were off.

She threw up on her desk around 9:30 a.m.

If there were a place you could go to voluntarily be lashed with a whip, I’d have signed up in hopes of relieving my guilt.

Fast forward to last week. I’m on morning duty again, and again we have morning tears. This day Michelle is going on a field trip, so she’s picking out an outfit rather than wearing her usual uniform–a source of much consternation, since she has to choose between shorter-legged jeans (tapered? capri’ed? cuffed? what do you call those things?) that leave her a bit chilly or the longer jeans that will almost certainly get a bit wet. I know where this choice will go–Michelle HATES wet jeans. But she’s not happy being chilly either.

“I don’t feel good,” she let it be known. But–Stephanie can attest–there was no force behind this statement. No insistence. I was sure it was all about the jeans. I didn’t even take her temperature.

Her teachers did. She had a fever of 102. Though, I’d like to point out, that was a reading taken after being outside and doing some creek stomping, so I think when I am on trial my lawyer will be able to make a good case that you cannot prove she was actually sick when I dropped her off.

Regardless….don’t tell Michelle, but next time I’m driving the morning shift? She’s got a four-word “get out of school free” card if she’s smart enough to play it. Blame Danny–he’s the fool who leaves me in charge of these girls.


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