ALEXANDRA & ERIC SPITZ
When/how/where at camp did you meet?
We attended Camp JCA Shalom in Malibu, CA as kids and met in the Summer of 1993 when Eric was 13 and I was 12. We were camp crushes for two summers in a row.
Was it love right away?
Absolutely! We adored each other even at that young age. We even have a “Shabbat-O-Gram” that Eric had written Alex the first summer we met signed, “I love you, Eric Spitz”
What happened between you when camp ended that summer?
We lived about an hour away from each other but at that age it may as well have been across the country! Needless to say, we lost touch after that last summer of 1994. Fast forward to 2006 when I finally gave in and signed up for a MySpace account. I had always remembered Eric and his infectious smile and fun-loving attitude so I decided to look him up. I was still living in Los Angeles and I discovered that he was living in Miami. We were both in other relationships at the time but it was so nice to catch up over email. A year later, in June of 2007, he emailed me to say he would be in LA for his brother’s wedding the following month. We made a plan to meet for a drink (to be safe!) on Tuesday when he arrived in town. Drinks turned into dinner which turned into many more hours of laughing and catching up. We had both recently broken off the relationships we had been in so the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. We spent as much time as possible together over the next five days while he was still in town and by Sunday he had decided that he was going to move back to LA so we could be together. He went back to Miami, organized the move and on September 6th got in his car and drove cross country. We hadn’t seen each other since he had visited in July so we were both taking a huge leap, though it felt completely normal and as if we had been together for many years. We had a connection at 12 and the feelings came back instantly when we saw each other again. We were engaged about 10 months later and got married in May of 2009 at the only venue we could possibly imagine: CAMP!!! We had our close friends and family stay for the weekend and we enjoyed all of the activities camp had to offer. We transformed the camp grounds into a gorgeous, rustic wedding setting and could not be happier with how it turned out!
Will you send your kids to your camp?
There is no question and we cannot wait to! Many of our friends and family members also went to camp…it is a huge part of our lives. We attended our first family camp weekend when our son was 16 months and we can’t wait to do it every year until he is old enough to go on his own.
Eric and Alexandra Spitz currently reside in Orange County, CA with their 2 year old son, Jack and dog Lucy. Eric is an Account Manager for Air Products and Chemicals, Inc. serving the entire Orange County region. Alexandra is a Certified Parent Educator and Certified Newborn Care Specialist and is currently taking care of their son while running her new business, OC Mommy and Me, a program for new moms in Orange County with babies 0-12 months.
Folks — As much as I literally feel my heart pounding every time I hear a story about crazy fear-mongering, or outrageous overreaction to a very small threat, I realize that there is more to life — and even this blog — than just shouting, “But they’re WRONG!” (Even though they are! They’re wrong! I swear they are!)
So today, I’d like to ask you for a story that begins: “Nothing bad happened when my kid…” And then fill in the blank with something your child did, indeed, do that other parents might consider “dangerous.” Or even that YOU , at first, considered dangerous.
Maybe your toddler climbed the jungle gym officially designated, “Age 5 and up.” Maybe your 6-year-old went to the drinking fountain outside the playground gates while you stayed inside with your baby. Maybe your 8-year-old rode her bike to the library, or your middle-schooler met up with friends for pizza at dusk and “forgot” to bring his phone!
In short: Do you have a story that can inspire other parents to dip a toe into the Free-Range world? If so, please include the age of your child and, if possible, answer these questions:
1 – What activity did your child do?
2 – Whose idea was it?
3 – Why did you permit it?
4 – What was the upshot?
5 – Would you and yours do it again?
And if your children would like to write to me themselves, they are, of course, most welcome.
Check out some initial responses here.
I’m a mom of four, soon to be five, kids, after all. I know how to diaper a squirming baby, how to pack a lunch that will get eaten, and how to peel melted cheese off a formerly-lost permission slip. I know how to pack for a week away for a family of six, I know how to order for said children at restaurants so that they will eat the food, and I know how many bathroom stops to make per a given amount of highway mileage.
I did not expect to be so taken aback by my boys’ first experience at overnight camp.
Why, you ask? What have they said that was so shocking?
Granted, they haven’t even been at camp a week. Even if they wrote me letters (which who knows whether or not they have, despite all the envelopes they addressed and stamped before camp), I have yet to receive them. You’d think I’d have considered this before they left, that for a few days at least, I wouldn’t hear from them.
And maybe I did. But there’s a big difference between the abstract and the reality.
My boys are eight and nine. Even though I’m divorced from their dad, I’ve never gone more than a day without speaking to them.
At first, the silence pissed me off – yes, irrationally of course, because we don’t communicate telepathically. But now, as it starts to settle in, I’m thinking that this tiny bit of distance is good for both of us.
Let them be independent for a little bit – or as independent as you can be, when your mom packed your toothbrush and Marvel Avengers’ body wash. There are so many things I, as their mother, want to teach them, but surely one of them should be that it is okay to stand on your own two feet.
I don’t know exactly what they’re up to, or what they’re wearing, or what they’re thinking, but surely that’s a small hint of what the future holds as they set down the long road of growing up. And letting them grow up by letting go (a little!) is, perhaps, the best thing I can do.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m still checking the mailbox. But in my heart, I know they are okay.
Like this post? Read more of Jordana’s writing on Kveller.com.
I’d like to say that my wife, Cynthia, my son, Jonah, and I are enjoying a wide variety of family activities in the last few days before Jonah heads off to sleep away camp. That we’re having picnics on the beach, visiting museums, and attending performances of Shakespeare in the park. But the truth is we’re spending almost every waking moment packing and labeling. These twin chores seem endless. What to send with Jonah and how to make sure the majority of it returns with him has become an all-consuming job.
Jonah’s camp has graciously provided guidelines for what to pack, though they are more helpful in theory than in practice. Twenty pairs of socks, for instance, assumes that your average teenager – Jonah is fourteen – your average human being, for that matter, has ever succeeded in owning twenty pairs of socks that match. Some of the guidelines we are determined to ignore. So while four bathing suits are recommended, we’ll send at least twice that many. Given Jonah’s love of the water, we know he’d sleep in a bathing suit, in the lake, if he could get away with it. Which is to say, who needs to pack all those pajamas? The camp’s list also provides an encouraging glimpse into what Jonah will not get to do (only non-electronic games, i.e. board games); and what he will be expected to do, like regularly attend Friday Shabbat dinners (white tops, modest outfits).
But it’s the requirement to label everything we pack – from toothpaste tubes to flip flops – that is our most time consuming activity these days and also surprisingly expensive. Last year, my wife ordered labels and ended up paying fifty dollars for what turned out to be a rather small and unimpressive packet of personalized stickers. Of course, the cost wouldn’t be so bad if the whole exercise didn’t seem so pointless. Inevitably, Jonah comes home with some other kid’s underwear and a pink My Little Pony tank top.
This summer we have made sure Jonah has a more active role in the packing, in particular. We are wincing but saying nothing whenever he matches striped shirts with checked shorts. We had to speak up, though, when he insisted on taking his iPad. Camp rules, not ours, we informed him. Then we tried, mainly unsuccessfully, to explain to him how to play Monopoly. We are letting him take his old guitar, however. In fact, I have already labeled it. I affixed a small Jonah tag to a place where it is very unlikely to be spotted. With any luck at all, he will not only learn some traditional camp songs, but he will come home with a newer, better guitar.
When “Camp Gyno” came out last week I immediately sent it around to all my friends with the subject line – “Camp – Hysterical.” And at first watch, it is. The writing is fabulous, the actress is brilliant. The tie-dye t-shirts, string bracelets, totally authentic (full disclosure: it was filmed at Surprise Lake Camp – one of the camps we work with here at FJC). I am sure tampon creative execs are reeling about how this mom got it so right out of the gate and they still make commercials full of 20-somethings prancing around in white jeans and jars full of blue liquid to prove absorbency.
It was the nostalgia that got me. The commercial is an ode to every female camper, ever – a compilation of our story, our language, our history. Every bunk had a period guru – Menstrual Mommy, Auntie Flo. We all have a story of whispering in the back bathroom trying to learn to use a tampon so we could swim and no one would know. I always felt bad for non-campers. How the hell did they learn this stuff?!
The video deals with some really important themes in a minute and 47 seconds – being an outcast, gaining and managing popularity, and just talking to your friends about periods. Kudos to Hello Flo founder Naama Bloom and BBDO for that. I love how they talk in real language too. It may not be the correct language, but it is the language we use – “vag,” “gyno” – it is how we talk. It makes the “icky” accessible.
But as I watched the video a few more times, it got a little less funny each time. I started thinking: does this fabulous video send the wrong message in the end? It gives great insight into a teen girl’s first period experience. So why are we willing to take that conversation and tuck it away into a plain brown box? I am not really a women’s libber, but are we still so embarrassed that we can’t go into a store and buy a box of pads? Is it necessary to have them “discretely” delivered to our door every month? Do we really want to teach our daughters that they need to hide it away? Yes, it is hard at 12, 13, 14, 28, 42 years old to walk around with pads and tampons in your knapsack. Hard, yes. Shameful, no. I think that good parenting is giving your kid the tools to help them through hard things. Sometimes that tool is a extra pretty Vera Bradley pouch that you would never buy for a 12 year old, but will make carrying pantiliners that much less hard. If I can’t show my daughters that I can walk into CVS and buy a big old box of tampons as easily as I do shampoo and Altoids, how will she learn to do it?
The commercial starts out with campers having a dialogue about periods. They just put it out there. No shame, no pretense because camp is the place where kids learn to overcome fears, to have hard conversations, and gain independence.So I’ll be damned if I am going to throw that all away because periods are a little hard to talk about.
Who am I to rain on an entrepreneur’s idea? I am jealous that she was brave enough to go after a dream. (She probably learned that at camp too. She went to another one camp in FJC’s network, Camp Galil). I am always tempted to sign up for subscription commerce – I love new stuff and can be as lazy as the next person. If two days go by and I don’t order from Amazon Prime, Jeff Bezos himself delivers chicken soup to my door. But in this case, I’ll wear a red badge of courage on my sleeve. I learned how at camp. I’ll see you in the feminine hygiene aisle.
The Jewish values of Klal Yisrael and Am Yisrael speak to an idea of Jewish peoplehood and Jewish communal unity that are often described in the past tense, as some relic of days gone by. At Camp Tawonga, in this moment, these values are alive, and flourishing among the Jewish camping community.
This summer, Tawonga endured a tragic incident that claimed the life of one of our beloved staff members. This experience has been unbelievably sad and trying for everyone who is part of this large, loving and caring community.
When a tragedy strikes it is easy to shrivel up and shut out those around us. Similarly, when something happens far away, it can be easy to thank our lucky stars it did not affect us directly and move on. Our Jewish tradition teaches us to ignore this path, and to seek help when in need and to give support when those in your circle need it most.
From the moment that our community began hurting, grieving and being in need of help, it came. No one decided to simply be grateful that they could go on unaffected in their own lives; instead, they took the ideas of Klal Yisrael and Am Yisrael to heart and reached out.
Local therapists and grief counselors from our community and from places like The Bay Area Jewish Healing Center and Jewish Family and Children’s Services offered support immediately and came to our remote location to help us in a time of need.
Our “neighborhood” camps in California like URJ Camp Newman, Camp JCA Shalom, Ramah California, Camp Hess Kramer and many more – sent condolence cards, said Kaddish at their services and even donated to us one of their holy ark’s.
Camps from around North America sent messages of strength and condolence. In the midst of their busy summer seasons, many offered to send us their staff if they were needed. The Foundation for Jewish Camp and the Jewish Community Center Association, who provide support and guidance on movement levels across Jewish camping, reached out immediately to support us.
Many local rabbis were the first to call. Rabbi Dev Noily and Rabbi Chai Levy joined our community to lead services and offer support. Rabbi Levy wrote a wonderful piece after her time with us.
This entry could stretch on endlessly about the people and organizations that continually offer support to our Jewish community. We will absolutely reach out when we are able to express our deepest and sincerest gratitude to them all.
We read week after week in this blog about the transformative power that the Jewish communal experience known as summer camp can offer. We read about the joy, the fun and the lifelong bonds that are created. We learn about the incredible communities each camp creates for its campers and staff. Through the many contributors herein, we continually discover the larger community of Jewish camps across North America.
If the measure of a community is how it responds during times of crisis, our Jewish camping community is rock solid.