The Highs and Lows of Camp.

In June, I planned my first ever Week Off Since Becoming a Mom. Or at least, five days straight of 9am-4pm Vacation.

Noah is finally old enough to go to our church’s fantabulous multiple award-winning summer day camp (where every week has a different theme and it’s complete kid wonderland and I’m a little jealous every morning when I drop them off), and therefore, I was going to have a week of bliss.  Or more likely, a week of work and catching up on all the life that a million Hey Mommys a day keep me from getting done. Still blissful.

But then I got sick halfway through the week. And I spent an entire day chasing down x-rays. And just like that, multiple days of my First Week Off were robbed from me.

But Noah had such a good week at camp. Like really – it had some sort of magical effect on him. He’s introverted and too shy/embarrassed to do ANYTHING in large groups. To the point that he adamantly refuses to participate in Sunday School in any way. March around the walls of Jericho? No thanks. Pretend to walk on water? Not gonna happen. And he’s so introvert-fried after church that he won’t speak to anyone.

Based on proportions, I assumed that camp would leave him unable to speak for hours – after all, his slightly-less introverted big sister had always needed recovery time after camp. There’s a lot of kids and a lot of activities.

But no.

Every day, Noah got in the car bouncing off the ceiling and telling me about all the glory of camp.

And then, on Thursday of that week, he won Camper of the Day – for being wise and participating.

AND THEN, on Friday of that week, he won Camper of the Week(!!) – for being wise and participating.

I was so stunned in this sudden U-Turn in my son’s personality that I began reassessing my school choices for him.

Would he do better in a classroom? Or would a classroom be like Sunday School? What sort of magical spells does camp use to turn my son into a bubbly, agreeable, participating model student? Could I hire his camp counselors to teach him to read? And algebra?

Because he did so fantastic and my First Week Off got snatched from me, I decided to give them another week of camp later in the summer. I was due to try again for my vacation – ahem, I mean – to let my children have another glorious week of camp.

On their first week, the theme had been Build Camp – specialized around Minecraft and Lego, something my children are amply knowledgeable about. Ali dressed up as Wyldstyle from The Lego Movie, borrowing all the components of my previous Wyldstyle costumes and blowing me out of the water at how much better she was at the Wyldstyle attitude than I.

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She won the costume contest, obviously.

Noah didn’t dress up that week because he didn’t want to go on stage. Participation has its limits, after all. But he was determined that he wanted to attempt this superior level of camp on the second week.

(And also we told him we wouldn’t buy him the costume he wanted unless he promised to go on stage. So there’s that.)

The second week we chose for them was Jedi Camp. They are not as knowledgeable about all things Star Wars – Chris had begun their Star Wars education earlier in the year, but hadn’t gotten very far yet. But he was determined to teach them everything they knew before camp began, so he combined the strategies of watching another movie and giving them cliff notes on everything they hadn’t gotten to yet.

“I had to tell them. I couldn’t let them go to Jedi camp not knowing that Anakin is Darth Vader.”

“Of course, honey.”

I didn’t care what he told them – I was just thrilled to retry an attempt at having my First Ever Whole Week Off Since Becoming a Mom.

I had caught up on a lot of work the last attempt, but this week filled up more with meetings and lunches and runs, but I had one Very Special Day planned. It would be Wednesday. It would be all day, requiring the use of an early and late camp pass for the kids.

I would be taking an epic adventure. It was to a stunning cave in North Alabama with unbelievable vistas that I was dying to photograph and explore. I recruited a couple of friends – Amanda the Frog Kisser and Not-Crazy Renee – even requiring that Renee get all day childcare. There would be no children getting lost in our caving adventures.

On Tuesday night, the kids were happily scrambling to make the last preparations to their costumes – Ali would be an unnamed but quite stylish Jedi, and Noah would become Darth Vader. I, meanwhile, was scrambling to complete my Epic Adventure Plan Details. They were hyper and giddy, I was happy and giddy.

We put them to bed early, as is the requirement to have enough energy during camp week. Everyone was fine. Everyone was happy.

Until 10pm, when Noah woke up crying. Chris and I looked at each other oddly. Our kids used to be wake-up-during-the-nighters, but it had been at least a year since that had happened. Chris hopped up the stairs and I listened as Noah’s wailing tale of woe drifted down the stairs.

“I had a bad dream about camp and Minecraft and Lincoln Logs!!!”

Chris calmed him and put him back to bed and came downstairs.

But then at 10:30, I heard the toilet flush. Which meant Noah hadn’t gone back to sleep.

This was when I began to suspect something else was afoot. Because Noah doesn’t sleep when he gets a fever. And I fretted.

I snuck into his room. And found that sneaking was not necessary as the kid was still wide awake. And emanating heat.

He rolled over and began talking maniacally. “I almost cried when I went to the bathroom because my neck hurt and it hurts to swallow. Hey Mommy, can you still think when you die?”

There’s not much more unsettling than your kid popping out with a death question when they’re running a 102 degree fever.

I gave Noah Tylenol, got him as comfortable as possible, and then texted my friends.

“I think Noah’s sick. I’m so so sorry. I will have to cancel our caving plans.”

Indeed. He woke up the next morning still feverish, and with every sign of strep throat. I broke the news to him as I was cuddling with him.

“Hey buddy. You’re sick. You’re not going to be able to go to camp today.”

His face crumpled into devastation. He began crying. Then he suddenly quit crying and said “I don’t think I feel like going anyway.”

We dropped Ali off at camp and then headed to the Pediatrician’s office.

“Well. It’s either Viral or Bacterial. I’m guessing viral.”

I really should have bet him money because I knew his guess was wrong. It was SO strep.

He left the room, came back, and said, ‘’Well how about that. It is strep!”

We received our shot and went home to spend the day binging cartoons.

Noah got off the couch after a couple of hours of quality Slugterra watching and asked to put on his Darth Vader costume and go outside for a minute.

And he just stood.

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And sat.

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And loped around in full-on Depressed Darthness.

It might’ve been the saddest thing I had ever seen.

Good mom that I am, I photographed and posted his sadness on Facebook. Because it was adorable sadness, after all.

And because of that, that Wizard of Camp himself, Camp Director Jonathan, saw the pictures. And when Noah and I went to pick up Ali, Noah 120% asleep in the backseat…

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Ali whispered to me, “Noah won.”

I whispered back. “Won what?”

“He won Best Costume on a Sick Kid. I have the medal for him.”

“That’s awesome!”

But she didn’t tell him when he woke up. She waited until we got home, where she found a gift bag and tissue paper and wrapped his medal for him into a glorious package. She brought it out on the porch for him to open.

And Depressed Darth was no more.

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He was healed right then. It might’ve been the giant shot in his leg earlier that day, but it was probably the medal.

Later that night, I told Chris, “I think we were tricked. Noah didn’t want to go up on stage, so he licked some kid with strep, then didn’t have to go on stage, still got his Darth costume, and WON. If he’d have actually gone to camp, he would’ve never won. Did you see the pictures? Did you see how many identical Darths there were? We’ve been PLAYED.”

Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t.

The world will never know.

And as for me, I will try again next summer for my First Whole Week Off Since Becoming a Mom.

The Story of Hosting Woes: A Cautionary Tale.

So two weeks ago was…stressful.

It wasn’t planned to be, insomuch as one ever plans a stressful week.

It all started at the end of June, when my blog / Picture Birmingham’s hosting company, HostGator, billed me for my annual renewal. I’d managed to talk them down last year to 40% of the list price, so it wasn’t so bad. But this year, it was back to the old rate.

Okay I better back up – actually this story starts in 2012.

Remember way back when … when I was known for my butt? Those blue jean posts went viral, and I was getting a crazy amount of hits on my blog, and it was crashing the regular ole’ server. In a blinding panic, I agreed to move my blog to a dedicated server, raising my hosting cost from $20 a month to $174 a month. It was fine, because I was getting so many hits that the increased ad revenue more than paid for that ridiculous bill. And after all, I was doing a butt service for the nation.

But after about three years of up-and-down viral traffic, mainly from that series of posts, people have realized that my information is outdated and have quit coming.

Or maybe everyone is tired of looking at my butt.

Whatev.

(For the record, I hope to do an updated denim post nearer to the fall, but we’ll see if I actually make it happen. They’re a lot of work. And I’ll need to find some volunteer butts.)

Anyway. So I don’t need that giant server anymore. I’m just a normal old blog, and the community of blogging is dying anyway, so I certainly didn’t need that powerhouse of a machine. And I certainly certainly didn’t want to pay my annual bill of over $2,000 to keep it going.

So I did what any normal person would do. I called my hosting company. I explained my situation. They agreed I didn’t need that much power. I asked them what solution would *best* fit my needs. After all, they have more data about me than I do, and they know more things about RAM and processing speed than I ever will – who better to tell me what I need? I figured they’d err on the side of too big, but hey – anything less than $174 a month would surely be a win, right?

Well. I talked to some delightful young man who recommended to me the “Snappy 1000” plan. For only $20 a month, this plan could CERTAINLY handle my website load!

Are you sure, young man?

Of course, ma’am! For sure. This site will take care of all your needs. Without a doubt.

So I agreed.

Sell me this Snappy 1000, young man.

I purchased the new VPS plan and requested that my hosting company move my crap from dedicated to VPS, then after ensuring* everything transferred and was working correctly, I asked them to kill my dedicated server and please refund me my $2,000.

* I did not ensure this very well. This was my mistake.

The very next morning, my blog began crashing.

People began getting an ugly errors the minute they tried to access either of my sites, and if a site did come up, it was soooooo sssssslllllloooooowwwwww.

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Nooooooo.

Pain.

Suffering.

Gnashing of teeth.

But I’ve been here before. Server problems can usually be rectified fairly quickly, especially if I offer to pay more.

I contacted my hosts.

Help! I need my sites to work! They’re not!

Hm. We can’t replicate the errors. They seem fine to us.

No seriously! Please! Let me pay you more! Just make my sites work!

Well. Hm. We will need to escalate this to another technician.

Two days went by. My sites were still crashing. HostGator didn’t seem to want to fix it or take my money.

So I finally picked up my phone and put it against my ear, willing myself to use that awful green call button.

Hold

Hi. How can I help you?

I tell my whole story.

Tech #1: Hm. I don’t see anything wrong. Let me transfer you to the escalation department.

Hold

I tell my whole story.

Tech #2: Oh yes. I see how your sites are running terribly slow. We need to fix this for you. Let me escalate you to level 3.

Wait for Tech #2 to write a Tolstoy volume of notes, then Hold.

I tell my whole story.

Tech #3: Hm. I don’t see anything at all wrong with your sites. They seem fast enough to me.

Well they’re not. Tech #2 agreed with me. Please help. I’ll pay more. I’ll do whatever. Just get my sites working.

Okay. Let me put you on hold and see what I can do.

Hold

Hold

Hold

….At the point at which I was one hour and fifty-two minutes into this phone call (I know. Soul-Crushing.) and still on hold, Tech #3 just flat-out hung up on me.

Or, rather, sent me into the pre-hangup customer survey.

I gave a long explanation on the customer survey about how I’d just flushed one hour and fifty-two minutes of my precious life down the HostGator drain just to get hung up on.

I complained to Twitter.

I opened a ticket.

I did everything I could short of making another phone call.

It was also around this time that I realized two of my posts, a whole bunch of comments, and some pictures had gotten lost in the transfer.

I’ll let you imagine how helpful Hostgator was in getting back my data.

Finally, On Day #5, at least I got a response from an honest tech. A response that made me want to cut my fingernails out with a dull butterknife.

VPS’s are typically used for developing and not hosting full-fledged websites. Downgrading from a Dedicated Server to a VPS is going to be a considerable difference, and I apologize that this was not explained to you.

<whimper> <squeal>

So yeah.

Whoever that delightful young man was in the beginning that sold me a Snappy 1000 and promised it was exactly what I needed – he is out of my Last Will and Testament.

During that week, I had a Picture Birmingham client who was trying to buy digital photos for a client of theirs. Each time he tried to access my site and it failed, he told me, “I can help you with this. It’s what I do.”

And each time I was all like,

“I have it under control. I am working through it with my host now.”

By Saturday, I took him up on his offer.

“Please. Fix me. Get me off of HostGator. It’s what you do.”

And he did. Beautifully, cleanly, and with an extremely unexpectedly nonexistent amount of pain. And now, to my knowledge, my sites are……working. Pretty perfectly. And I have the added benefit of a local company to take care of me and keep me from future woes. (Adopt-A-Press, if you need a guy.)

But despite a week of pain and Hostgator’s best efforts to make me say “Goodbye, cruel internet”, I didn’t give up. I came close, but I didn’t leave the web forever.

Only because of my love for you.

Short Stories From A Busy Week.

On Saturday, we went on the newish-annual Road Rally.

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This isn’t new for my family, as my Dad has driven in epic road rallies (like, China-to-Paris epic) and has created many slightly-less-epic road rallies for different groups pretty much our entire life. But last year was the first year he revived the practice to share it with our Sunday School classes.

It’s the most fun you can have on a Saturday morning.

When in creative mode, he and my Mom spend countless hours concocting a course on sometimes harrowing back roads (there was one road…that was decisively one-lane…but was meant for both directions of traffic…and containing many hairpin turns. And of course I had to meet a car coming the other way on that hairpin turn. Newsflash: I still have last-year’s-wreck PTSD.)

The way my Dad’s Road Rallies work is…

– You don’t know where you’re going,

– You don’t know how long it will take to get there,

– But you get penalized for being more than three minutes early or five minutes late.

He hands out directions and an overall average speed that you should shoot for, and from that, you must derive your arrival time. Oh – and all while answering sometimes very tricky scavenger hunt clues along the way (which is the fun part.)

This year, Chris had already signed up for a half marathon, so Not-Crazy-Renee was going to go with me (which would have, I’m certain, created a new Not-Crazy-Renee story), but her kids just had to get sick. So instead, we had an in-family insanely complex distribution of children, drivers, and navigators, as follows:

– I drove. My sister-in-law was my navigator. One of her children went with my Dad as a rally organizer helper, one of her children went with my Mom as a rally co-organizer helper, and one of her children rode with us. I had my two kids. And we had a two-year-old I’d never laid eyes on in my entire life – let’s call him Johnny. Mostly because his name was Johnny.

– My brother drove. My brother’s navigator was his friend, coincidentally the father to Johnny. They took my brother’s two-seater convertible, cruising along the back roads with the wind gently massaging their scalps. While we had four kids, one of whom said, less than a mile into the rally, “Hey how much longer is this gonna take because I’m getting bored.”.

– It is also worth noting that the reason my brother’s friend came along is so he could give his wife the day off. I would like to make sure that it is noted, dear Johnny’s mom, to not give Johnny’s dad complete credit for your day off. Although Johnny was a complete gem and adorable rallying companion, I had Johnny for 3 hours and 20 minutes of your day off while Johnny’s father was riding around in a topless car getting his hair tickled by the wind.

Now that we got that out of the way, spoiler: WE BEAT THE CONVERTIBLE DADS.

And yes, we got extra points for our tiny baggage (1 extra point per kid under 7 and 1 penalty for each kid over 7, giving a total of 2 extra points), but WE EVEN BEAT CONVERTIBLE DADS WITHOUT OUR EXTRA POINTS.

Because we’re spectacular.

(For the record, we came in second place.)

(But all that mattered was beating the convertible dads.)

By the way, if I can find the time, I’m considering creating a road rally that maybe would take the course of some of my favorite Instagram spots. Who local would be interested in participating?

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Thanks to my little tumble last week, I currently look like the cover of a Trail Running Magazine. Or at least what the cover of a Trail Running magazine SHOULD look like, if they were honest.

Trail Runner Magazine“You too can look like me – with a little trail running experience. And by little I mean VERY LITTLE.”

All of the bruising, which I am indeed proud of, is actually from internal injuries – that part of my arm did not hit the ground.

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Which makes me all the prouder.

…Because if I’m going to be injured, I might as well find something to get excited about.

(My elbow is feeling much better, although my physical therapist says my professional baseball career is over. My shoulder is slowly getting better. There are two directions that it gets VERY ANGRY about bending. One of them being the angle one must assume to take a shirt off. So that’s convenient.)

As far as my finger, the only thing I actually broke, it’s fiiiiiine. Other than being faced with the perplexing dilemma of what one does if they accidentally dip the tip of their finger splint in the toilet while they still have 8 days left of wearing said splint.

(A hefty scrubbing of antibacterial soap is what one does, in case you wondered.)

(Feel free to decline any dinner invitations to my house until I get my splint off next week.)

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I republished one of the only posts I ever deleted. It was a jewel – I just published it “too soon” originally, and deleted it two hours later out of fear/guilt. If you missed it originally (or if you just wanted to re-read it), you can give it a go here.

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Ali was disturbed when she realized her little brother had more wealth than her.

She wants to make money. This is very crucial to her long range plan of being very very rich.

So she asked me if I could please think of jobs she could do to make money.

I mean, I can give her all the normal kid jobs of unloading the dishwasher and sweeping, but more importantly, I’m thinking…

– Bring me breakfast in bed for the summer, .50 tip per day (.75 if you deliver it with a small piece of chocolate.)

– Learn how to perform a proper back massage and foot massage via YouTube, practice daily on your mother – .25 per massage.

– Read some parenting books and figure out how to get your little brother out of his narcissistic phase – $25, plus the added bonus of having a more personable little brother.

– Research recipes on Pinterest, create grocery lists, and teach yourself how to cook – $7 per meal.

– Write quality and original blog posts – $5 per post.

She’s already working on a prototype spreadsheet to track her receivables – clearly we still have some fee negotiations to handle.

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But regardless, my summer is going to be AMAZING.