Letters from camp

My little love, Maggie, has been at overnight camp for the last two weeks across the lake from our cottage.  I sent her lots of writing paper and envelopes to send me notes.  Pippa is at the same camp, but as a day camper.  I charged Pippa with picking up notes from Maggie daily.  She was also in charge or smuggling in contraband.  A candy here a soda there…all pretty tame.  I had my nephew, also a day camper, make sure that Maggie stayed safe and away from boys.  Pippa’s best friend was on hygiene patrol:  braces clean and hair brushed.  It was an intense mission, but the kids loved it.

So every day Pippa brought me home a little note from her big sister.  The first day the note said she didn’t miss anyone at all.  Lovely.  Then the subsequent days, I would receive little bits of info.  Stuff about food, one about a cute boy, a few about a broken camera.  Then she went on an all-camp overnight trip off site.  The next day I received this:

In case you can’t read it…”the tramping trip was great.”  What the hell is a tramping trip?  Was my 11 year old daughter out tramping it up?  Drinking, wearing booty shorts and picking up boys?  I certainly hope not, but until I pick her up…my mind is running wild.  The daily letters might have been a bad idea.

Chasing a new record.

We left our priest in Portugal so that the girls and I could enjoy a glorious Canadian summer. My priest wanted to join us, but our dog is too old to travel.

We left her several times for a week, but for more than that…not a good plan. So, he bit the bullet and is on Piranha patrol.  Piranha doesn’t love my priest. She tolerates him when no one else is there. They are lonely together.  The other reality is that he had to work and he wanted his time off for European travel…plus we have a new goal.

Piranha is currently 16 years old. We recently read that the oldest Bichon Frise on record that lived in Europe was 17 years old. A new record is within our grasp! Piranha turned 16 in June. The vet claims she is in great shape for the shape she is in. She is blind, deaf and only has 11 teeth left, but she walks fine and she still eats. She is in no pain.

We could actually win this thing!  My dog just has to survive my priest caring for her for 6 weeks. Every time I FaceTime, she is crying.  She is always looking for me, but apparently settles down at bedtime.  I feel awful, but our new goal is giving my priest real drive and focus…keeping our dog alive.  Our puppy mill dog from Iowa could outshine all of those posh European relatives of hers.

Piranha is a fighter and I have to say, I always admire determination, even when it is in a dog.

Threatened Childhood…not here.

Recently,  I read an article that rated Portugal as one of the top countries in the world to raise children.  Initially, this article struck me as odd. My daughters would tell you that the children of Portugal, in general, can be pretty physical.   Both of my girls have been involved in minor altercations this school year, with my younger daughter getting into a serious beat down.

Of course, addressing aggressive children isn’t one of the main criteria in determining the value of a country for families.  I am sure they used some scientific way to determine that Portugal is an awesome place for kids.  Today, I witnessed a pretty solid reason.  It was the Day of Children in Portugal.  In towns and cities across the country, free festivals celebrated kids.

When I decided to take the girls to the festival, and some of their friends, I had loaded my wallet with small change to pay for rides, bouncy castles, the standard ‘fair attractions.’  When we arrived in the main square of Cascais, we were greeted by a serious party.  Balloons everywhere, music, bouncy houses, bikes, trains, skateboards, wooden stilts, homemade wooden board games…the list continues.  My children’s eyes were like enormous pancakes scanning the scene and preparing to conquer.  I braced myself for crazy.

They first saw a skateboard/scooter/rollerblade course and headed over.  Maggie has never rollerbladed before, but she waited in line and got suited up.  This included a hairnet so that there was no chance of getting lice from the helmet sharing.  This brought tears to my eyes.  I fear nothing more than lice (sadly, this statement is pretty much true).  The young girl who assisted Maggie was awesome.  She looked genuinely pleased to have my gigantic daughter lean on her and she was truly excited when she finally seemed to skate alone.

The girls won prizes at another booth and even planted pots of vegetables to take home and grow in their own gardens.  All of this cost me nothing.  NOTHING.  There wasn’t even vendors selling crap.  No food trucks.  Just tent after tent of free activities and games.

I was starting to wear down because normally I tell the kids that I will only spend so much money and then we leave. I didn’t have a good barometer as to when I should escape this festival because it was costing me nothing.  They ran from one cool thing to the next.   Maggie was even interviewed by a Portuguese radio station that allowed her to answer in English and praised her when she spoke the little Portuguese she knows well.

If today is any indication, children are celebrated in Portugal.  I didn’t witness one parent yelling at their child, nor did I see any kid acting bratty.  I am sure it happened, but thankfully I avoided anything that might mar my glorious afternoon.  People were happy.  They were enjoying a sunny day with their offspring.

The only downside was that I never found food to feed my kids because there were no commercial elements at all.  At first, I was thrilled to not spend money, but we did get hungry.   If my priest had been with us, he would have gone insane seeking out food….the man gets hungry.  We satisfied ourselves with some churros (Portuguese invention) and ate lunch like Euro trash at 3 pm.


According to Save the Children:

Top 10 Places Where childhood is least threatened

1 Norway
1 Slovenia
3 Finland
4 Netherlands
4 Sweden
6 Portugal
7 Ireland
8 Iceland
8 Italy
10 Belgium, Cyprus, Germany, South Korea