Author Archives: Allison Cohen

Allison Cohen

About Allison Cohen

After 15+ years working at Newsweek and various other magazines Allison Cohen traded in PowerPoint to promote the power of camp as the Director of Marketing & Communications at the Foundation for Jewish Camp and One Happy Camper. Allison’s love for Jewish camp – and a rockin’ song session - started in fourth grade at NJ Y’s Camp Nah-Jee-Wah followed by five summers at URJ Camp Harlam. Her two daughters have a deep appreciation for her extensive lanyard and string bracelet skills and the fact that the ingredients for s’mores are a staple in their pantry.

The Soundtrack of My Youth

Camp_0002Every summer “my camp” posts their Top 10 song session songs. And each year I look at it in great anticipation and then amazement that eight out of 10 are on my list of ultimate camps songs. The others, I have come to know and love from my camp visits every summer.

Each song – whether it by written by Pete Seeger, James Taylor, Debbie Friedman, or long forgotten color war generals – has a special spot on the soundtrack of my youth. It never fails to bring me back to a dining hall song session, standing on a bench, or a campfire belting it out, arms around my besties.

At 9, 10, 11 years old I didn’t understand the politics behind “Where Have all the Flowers Gone” or “If I Had a Hammer.” All I knew, was I just couldn’t get enough of them. Well, Pete Seeger, thanks for the memories for me, my bunkmates, and Jewish campers wishing everyday ended with a campfire, a guitar, and s’mores.

To everything there is a season – except maybe for the soundtrack of my youth, I’ll keep that in heavy rotation all year round.

Posted on January 28, 2014

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Blurred Lines: Why Miley is Still a Hit in My House…Sort Of

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keep-calm-and-talk-about-it-NEWI am sick of hearing about the VMAs and Miley Cyrus. Yup – she got on stage in a latex bikini, twerked with Robin Thicke and stuck her tongue out, a lot. Lady Gaga was wearing a mermaid thong get-up and lots of others dressed, danced and used language in a way we may not want our 11 year olds to replicate. Get over it. They are entertainers – provocateurs – in a world where 15 minutes of fame is now measured in a 6 second Vine. We are parents and this is where some of the hard stuff comes in. Stop the mass whining and start the real discussions.

What did we expect from a show celebrating the art of music videos on a channel that doesn’t even play music videos anymore? As I see it – the whole goal of the show to raise awareness of MTV- and they are going to do that by pushing the envelope, as they do every year. Otherwise we would be writing blog posts about how they have lost their edge and aren’t connected to their core audience (which, by the way, is 18-34 year olds).

Whenever something happens that requires dealing with some tough parenting issues, the blogosphere goes crazy. Sure – the show was rated PG and the content was more risqué than that. To be expected from a channel that isn’t Disney. I watched bits and pieces of the show, and was more embarrassed for myself that I had to Google “twerking” (I was getting it confused with duffnering and couldn’t figure out why twitter was going nuts) than I was for the entertainers.  I went to bed feeling every one of my 41 years. My kids didn’t watch, but by 10 am on Monday they had seen plenty of GIFs and YouTube videos that probably were edited to make it worse than the actual performances.

So, while making Rainbow Looms, we had some great conversation last night. We talked about what “sexy” means to a nine year old, how it doesn’t equate to pretty, and what makes it bad and good. That led to talking about what is appropriate behavior for our family (and how short our shorts can be) and who our role models should be. I told them about the counselors that were the first responders and revived Ethan Kadish, those that ran into a burning bunk at Camp Simcha to get the campers out safely. We talked about the firefighters in the thick of it fighting the California Rim Fire. We talked about their counselors, their teachers, their coaches, their Sunday school aides. The people that shared services with them this summer, talked them through getting up on waterskiis for the first time, cheered on their goals and helped them through some friendship issues. Hopefully, when the girls are making decisions, they will look towards these people, not someone dressed up as a teddy bear.

I am not going to point fingers and say that Billy Rae should throw a sweater on his daughter or wire her mouth shut. I wouldn’t want him to come into my house and question the parenting decisions I have made over the years. Miley works hard and has done so her whole life – voice lessons, acting lessons, dance class, working out and probably lots more. She gave up a “regular” childhood so we could plop our kids down in front of a “wholesome” show when we needed to cook dinner or catch and extra few minutes of sleep on a Sunday morning.  In essence, we created her. We bought the concert tickets, the t-shirts, the dolls and that damn guitar (that I still can’t figure out how to shut off) with her face plastered on it. Coming of age in a digital world isn’t easy for anyone, let alone a child star. The tools for adoration are instantaneous.  When The Beatles hit the stage or Mick Jagger perfected his swagger, there was a clip on the 5:00pm news and a picture in a magazine a month later. Today we turn to social media as quick to love as we are to hate.

As someone who struggles to get up in front of a roomful of colleagues for a formal work presentation, part of me wants to congratulate Miley for having no shame and for having the confidence to get up in front of millions knowing very well that for everyone that is going to love her, many more will pan her.

Online, on TV or in a newspaper, our children are going to see and hear things that are inappropriate. Our children’s own actions, words, grades, tweets, photos and attire will disappoint and hurt us as much as they make us proud. Billy Rae came right out with a tweet supporting his daughter. We all support our children in ways we see fit. Some of us will choose tough love, others will take the “I’m your best friend” route and some will try to fix everything for their children. For me, I can only arm our children with the knowledge and values I think are important.  How will they act upon it?  I’ll have to follow along on Instagram.

Posted on August 27, 2013

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

The Red Badge of Courage

Camp_0103When “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.

Posted on August 5, 2013

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Sisterly Love

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Camp_0323I had a lot of dreams and goals for my kids when I sent them to camp.  They are both so comfortable in their own skin, I wanted a place that would continue to make them feel like that when they were in the middle of mean girl/middle school stuff. I wanted them to have those friendships that ran so deep, you can barely stand to be apart from each other.  I wanted them to read by flashlight, not care when their feet touched the bottom of the lake, feel like I did when they celebrated Shabbat under the trees.

I wanted them to be part of a community that was their own (living in the same town and going to the same temple where their father and I grew up … I am imagining it can get a little old).  Learn how to make decisions and deal with the consequences when I am not there to help put the pieces back together. One thing I never thought about was how their relationship as sisters would grow.

Over the past three summers, they have embarked on the incredible journey of camp and as my younger daughter has joined my older daughter, I have seen an incredible level of friendship and sisterhood develop between the two.  Camp strengthening their relationship just wasn’t on my neat little check-off list of things to talk to a camp director about.  Yet, it has been an incredible thing to watch.

I have been very careful not to tell my older daughter to check-up on her sister, especially the first year or so. I hadn’t wanted to put the pressure on her or make her responsible for her sister’s good time.  They are very close at home.  Not telling secrets in the dark (though I think that will come), but happy to cheer each other on at softball and soccer games, be each other’s favorite playmate and genuinely miss each other when they spend the day apart.  I mean, it isn’t all rainbows and unicorns, they’ve got the fighting over clothes thing down pretty well and one is always making the other late for school.  Though when I glanced at their camp cubbies, it was hard to tell who’s was who’s – even though they are a few bunks apart – the clothes seemed to be shared much happier here.

This is the first year they are both at camp for seven weeks so I was a little worried how we were going to give both of them the proper individual attention they needed at visiting day.  Worry not necessary.  They had sat together and planned the day for us – they even had a rain plan (which included lots of ice cream of course). They knew all about each other’s visits to the infirmary and bug bite care. The counselors told us how they check up on each other at every meal.  As we were getting ready to leave visiting day, my nine-year-old had a mini-melt down – not ready to see the day end.  As I comforted one, I overheard her big sister making a plan with the counselor so she could come put her to bed later that night.

I am excited for their return and to see the closeness that has developed over another three weeks. No one will understand the post-camp funk better than a real sister experiencing the same thing. They’ll come home speaking almost a different language filled with secret jokes and song lyrics.  Last year, I almost felt like a stranger in my own home after they returned.  Good thing I will have trunks full of laundry to keep me busy!

Posted on July 31, 2013

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Home Sweet Home

Throughout the school year, my daughter’s Instagram feed is filled with posts from friends  - “#campzipcode is my home,” “100 days until I’m HOME” and “meet me at HOME #campzipcode.” And it makes sense – as a parent, you probably spent hours picking out the perfect camp for your family.  You talked to the directors and other families and probably most importantly, made sure the camp values matched that of your own. Camp is a place where we send our children to build their identity, create memories and friendships. When I see these posts and hear that my kids feel that camp is their second home, it is almost like they are giving me a blue ribbon that says “Job well done, Mom, you picked the right place for me!”

There has been a lot of camp talk in the media lately that, honestly, makes me cringe and want to look away. Recently the NY Times ran a piece about care packages and of course, there’s that piece about visiting day whose name I can’t even bring myself to type.

If kids see camp as their second home, why can’t we – as parents – respect that and not try to undo what camps try so hard to create? Why do visiting day and care packages become a way to outdo each other? Why do we feel the need to break all the rules, and win our kids love with the biggest candy tower? Are these the values we are looking to instill in our children – score more goals than the kid next to you, I hope you get more turns on the pottery wheel and your clay bowls are bigger than the kid in the bunk above you?

If another kid came into our home and behaved the way we do when it comes to camp – I can only imagine what would ensue. We have all asked our children not to bring ‘that kid’ home after school. In my house – like most homes – we set rules and expect our children and their friends to abide by them. We don’t have many rules (I am on the verge of teenagers so I am sure they are coming) – be kind, be inclusive, be honest, don’t eat chocolate on the couch, get your homework done before Oovoo-ing with your friends…  Yet, when a camp sets similar reasonable rules we set the example for our children by hollowing out deodorant bottles as a hiding place for candy.  OMG – there is a gummy bear emergency in Bunk Aleph!  Think about the position you are putting your child in when they find the hidden candy or even worse, a hidden cellphone in a sock.  They need to “hide the contraband” from the counselors they are supposed to respect and look up to and ask their friends to keep secrets.

We will never stop running towards our kids on visiting day.  When we scope out places for our tents and blankets on Visiting Day do we put cracks in the community that our children created? Do we need to cover their beds in candy towers, Rice Krispie ice cream cones and dozens of Sprinkles cupcakes? At camp we encourage kids to discover new parts to themselves and make new connections. Why can’t that apply to their relationship with their parents too?  It need not be about the loot. The kids just want us. Our full attention – so they can show off their favorite places in camp, introduce us to 200 of their new best friends and tell the stories that make this magical place of camp, their second home.

When parents hide cellphones in socks and balloons in between the pages of magazines trying to get around the flat care package only rule, they are taking the staff (remember the staff – you asked a million questions on how they are trained, where they come from etc) away from doing what they are supposed to be doing – creating a community, facilitating learning, cheering on your child as they accomplish something new.

This is their other home, and the camp directors set the rules – we expect the kids to follow all the ones at camp, not just the ones they like, right? Like at home, the rules are there to keep them safe and happy. Camps directors spend hours analyzing camper photographers, deciding if they should allow packages or determining how to communicate with parents. The sooner we learn to respect those rules and decisions, the sooner we can expect to enjoy some of the magic from our campers summer homes to seep into our own.

Posted on July 23, 2013

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A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

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Copy of 110707.CampJRF.-326By now, you have read our post “Why I Hate the Photographer at Camp”  but parents still seem to be pouring over the thousands of camp pictures posted everyday with intense scrutiny (yes, we are guilty as charged!).  They say a picture is worth a thousand words.  Before you pick up the phone to call the camp director, take a step back and be careful you are not putting words into your kid’s mouth this summer. Be grateful for the smiles, the glimpses of the back of heads and the one time you may actually see siblings together.  Here are some re-interpretations of the worst case scenario running through your head while hitting refresh, refresh, refresh.

Yup, he probably just missed a jump shot or he is debating who is going to win the World Series with someone not in the picture. Not every kid is going to be smiling every second of the day.  You sent him to camp to gain independence.  That means figuring out the bad stuff with the good.

She just got back from a morning hike, and was required to wear jeans (you know, to protect her from the wilds). Don’t fret, she saw the sunrise over the lake from a mountain top and made breakfast over a campfire.  The best morning ever. Or her friends were all wearing jeans so she borrowed a pair for the skit they are doing in the talent show that night.

Obviously this hat is the favorite.  And when he is running out of the bunk, eager to start the day, he grabs what is easiest, the one on top from yesterday.

MY DAUGHTER LOVES TENNIS. IT IS HER LIFE.  BUT I NEVER SEE PICTURES OF HER PLAYING AT CAMP!  She is at camp to try new things.  There are probably a bazillion pictures of her doing stuff she can’t do at home.  Now that’s pretty cool.

Instead of freaking out that he hasn’t unpacked or can’t find his cubby, think how awesome it is that he has a friend that he can borrow from. You sent him to camp to build lifelong friendships – sometimes that starts with borrowing a t-shirt. Most likely, he was supposed to wear a certain color for a team something and his bunkmates t-shirt was just that much cooler.

ALL MY DAUGHTER’S FRIENDS ARE IN THE PICTURES ON THE LAKE, WHERE IS MY KID?!?!?  It was probably her turn to waterski – she learned a 360 that day.  She may have had to go to the bathroom or decided to be buddies with her little sister that day.  How proud are you now?

I SENT 17 TOWELS FOR SWIM AND 10 FOR SHOWERING, AND HE IS USING THE SAME ONE FOR BOTH… EVERYDAY!  Yeah, this one is annoying and that towel probably does smell terrible.  Be glad that you are not the one that has to wash it.  It will probably get lost before it comes home.

IT’S SHABBAT AND MY KID IS NOT SINGING.  DIDN’T THEY TEACHER HIM THE WORDS. OMG, SHE MUST FEEL LEFT OUT. Have you ever experienced Shabbat at camp?  It is pretty powerful.  Look around him – the scenery, the guitars – he is just taking in the moment.  A pause in a hectic week.  And if he doesn’t know the words the first week, he will by next Shabbat.

MY KID IS ON THE END OF THE GROUP PICTURE. DOESN’T SHE HAVE ANY FRIENDS?  I DON’T RECOGNIZE THE KIDS SHE IS WITH.  You told her to jump in any picture she could, didn’t you?

Feel any better? No? Me neither, I guess I’ll just sit on my hands so I can’t call camp. I promised my husband I wouldn’t be “that mom”…

Posted on July 3, 2013

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Putting the “Refresh, Refresh, Refresh” to Good Use

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On Wednesday, my kids went analog. They hopped on the camp bus, leaving behind a trail of Instagram photos, Vine videos and Kik messages.  But just because they have to sign out of their digital life for the summer (and thank G-d they do!), doesn’t mean that I have to unplug completely too.  So instead of standing in the card aisle at my local store trying to find silly cards for them, I am going digital.

postcardLast summer, my eight year old came home with a bag filled with unopened letters.  “I was too busy doing stuff. It was just too much to read, and I can’t read your cursive anyway” she explained. Even though it seemed like too much, obviously, I would go down in history as the worst mom ever if there wasn’t a stack of letters waiting for them when they arrived at camp and a letter at every mail call after that. The one-way email to camp is great – and each morning as I commute to work I try and find a new way of saying “Daddy and I went to work yesterday and then out for dinner.” Yet, as convenient as it is, I feel the need to send something a little more personal. With the help of a few new apps, my letter writing just got a little more creative – and a whole lot easier for me and my happy campers.

The photocard apps are my new best friends.  On vacation? Voilà – a picture of you in front of the Golden Gate bridge, on a postcard, is delivered to camp in 2-7 days.  Last day of school pictures that didn’t make it into the trunks?  Pop it out on a photocard from Red Stamp to hang right on the bunk wall.  Just a few clicks, and you have a completely customized postcard from wherever you are.  There are a slew of options with different price points, features and platforms. These are my favorites thus far (no actual stamps required!):

Postcard Star: This made me a very cool mom last summer.  I bought the pictures from the camp website, uploaded them onto a postcard, and then let the app print, stamp and send.  The kids get pictures of their bunkmates while they are still at camp.  A little instant gratification. The app itself is no frills, making it easy to send individual postcards. The cards print nicely and get to their destination quickly. Set up an account and you can buy postcards in bulk.

Postcard on the Run: Simple to use – pick a photo from your phone’s camera roll, pick a border thickness and color and add your signature using your finger.  There is even an address finder feature and you can add a GPS map to the card.  The only downfall – the message is only 200 characters.  I guess that could be a plus in some situations.

Red Stamp:  The most sophisticated option I have found.  I sent a few of these this weekend to my girls and their friends.  There is a great selection of modern templates for every occasion with options to add photos or just customize text. “BESTIES” fit in nicely with my last day of school pics, I had a lot of fun with the mustache templates and there is even grouping with pop-out photos. For an extra 99 cents, you can purchase a premium template to use over and over again.  The app lets you save addresses and send the same card to multiple people. You even get an email when the card goes in the mail. There is a desktop version available as well.

Now, if only I could figure out how to make the everyday of my life without them sound as exciting as what they are doing!

Posted on June 28, 2013

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Packing Tips, Tricks, and Things That Aren’t on the List

As you would imagine, the staff at FJC has packed and unpacked a lot of camp trunks – as campers themselves, parents of campers, and of course, as counselors. This is no small task.  Parents, I know that over the next few weeks you’ll be packing up your happy campers so I’ve come to offer some help (unfortunately, only via this blog, not literally).

By now, you have picked out your trunks (they may look big now because they’re empty, but just wait) and ordered your name labels.  I spend weeks thinking about the piles of clothes hoping that if 0457_110811-FJC_x46I wish it hard enough CampMinder or Bunk 1 will figure out a way to pack your bags for you, not just schedule a pick-up. But of course, that never happens.

First and foremost, be organized! If you really knew me, this would make you laugh – really, really hard.  I don’t know how to be organized – except when it comes to packing for camp. So, here is the best of my advice and those from my colleagues, wrapped into a nice care package for my fellow parents out there:

  1. Live the list.  I take the camp packing list and create an excel file, then I add all the “must-haves” my kids come home “needing” year after year. If it is your child’s first summer, talk to other camp parents about their kid’s favorite clothing items, games, bunk decorations, etc. that you may not think of or know about.  Each camp has certain traditions and “nice-to-haves” that aren’t on the official packing list and some items that may be prohibited at one camp are all-important at another. (For example, my girls love their Crazy Creek chairs and other camps don’t allow them).  I also mark down what items I send more of than the list asks for – somehow four bathing suits just doesn’t seem to be enough.
  2. Read carefully.  Make sure you really read the list and the parent handbook before your start packing. Many camps only allow one-piece or tankini bathing suits for girls, or ask for special clothing for Shabbat.  Make a note of your camps technology policy and plan accordingly.
  3. Label! Label! Label!  There are a zillion different options out there – sew-in, iron-on, stick-on.  Figure out what works best for you (confession – I just use a Sharpie– a black for most things and a silver metallic for dark items). Make sure everything including all shoes, sports equipment, and towels have a name on them.  It is shocking that one sneaker can find its way into a Lost & Found bin, or that kids don’t recognize their lacrosse sticks when a camp director holds it up from the front of the dining hall.
  4. Talk to other parents.  Seek out parents and ask about what their kids wear at camp.  Many camps are in the mountains or by a lake, making mornings and evenings cool.  We have seen many kids wear rain boots and Uggs to breakfast with their sweats and PJ bottoms. Some camps have post-Shabbat dancing with crazy costumes. That doesn’t mean run out and buy stuff – look around your house for fun wigs and crazy t-shirts, they always come in handy. Each camp is different so find out what clothes the campers at your child’s camp wouldn’t leave home without.
  5. Pack with your child.  Make sure they know exactly what is going in the trunk and what isn’t.  If there is a favorite item going to camp with them, make sure they know where to find it and drill into their heads that certain things need to come home. Also explain to them what isn’t allowed or if there are rules for certain items (such as electronics) that are going with them.
  6. Make it easy for everyone.  At some camps, the trunks arrive early, counselors unpack for the kids and voila – your kid is ready to go the second they step off the bus.  Others, you do the unpacking when you drop your kids off.  Either way, a little pre-thought goes a long way.  USE ZIPLOCK BAGS.  I pack all the socks in one, shorts in others, t-shirts… This way, whoever is doing the unpacking has a little less work to do and nothing is floating around in the trunk. If your child needs a special outfit (Shabbat, banquet, whatever) pack that in a separate, labeled Ziplock bag so they know where to find it.
  7. Get sock laundry bags.  These could be one of the best camp inventions ever.  Teach your child to put their socks in a smaller laundry bag and put that right in the camp laundry. Then on laundry day, they are not sorting and pairing up socks with 15 other kids. (Perhaps they will use this extra time to actually write you a letter…)
  8. Under bed storage.  Some camps suggest you bring under-the-bed boxes or plastic drawers.  If you send them, pre-pack the boxes how you envision your child using them. I also pre-pack the shower caddy, toiletries, whatever I can.  I show my kids what is where and how I packed the extras like soap, shampoo, shoelaces, and sunscreen (again make sure you are protecting the things in the trunk from leaks by using Ziplock bags).
  9. Batteries.  Don’t forget to pack lots of these essential little items – and show your kids how to change the batteries in their flashlights and fans.
  10. WE WANT COLOR WAR! Pack a shirt in each color of the color war/Maccabiah/Olymics team that the camp has.  This way your child doesn’t have to search around when color war breaks (I never had anything green and always ended up on the green team). I send some face paint, bandanas, and mustaches in different colors as well. Party City has a great section with all sorts of fun stuff by color if you want to send some extras.
  11. Costumes.  You may be told to send your child to camp with a costume for a special event but I always also pack a white t-shirt and a Sharpie – instant costume for any occasion.
  12. Be organized! Organization really starts the day the kids come home from camp.  Make a note of what got used and what didn’t.  If half the sweatshirts are still folded just how you sent them or the socks are still paired up and white, don’t send as many the following summer. I make note of what I need more or less of and leave it in the trunks so I find it each spring (consider it a love note to yourself).

Well now that I’ve shared some packing wisdom with you, I think it is time to get off my tush and take this advice.  Anyone want to come help?

Posted on June 4, 2013

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy


Copy of 110707.CampJRF.-353My first summer at Camp Nah-Jee-Wah, when I was going into 4th grade, my mother promised me Capri Sun Juice pouches in my lunch every day the following year if I wrote every other day.  Seemed like a great incentive before I left, but once I got to camp and realized rest hour was for playing jacks and cootie catchers, I didn’t really care about the silver pouch of fruit punch. I had lanyards to make and bunk-mates hair to braid (and let me tell you, both of those skills have made me a really cool mom!). I wrote about four letters that summer.

Well, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and now I struggle with getting letters from my own kids while they’re at camp.  My nine-year-old is a great letter writer, but my older one – not so much. She sends me the names of her counselors weeks after I met them on visiting day and borrows check-off stationery from her friends. So how do we get our kids to write? Here are my suggestions…

  1. Create your own fill-ins.  I send 2-3 Mad Lib-style letters for my kids to write home with the first few days of camp.  This way, I get the info that I need to picture them having fun at camp. Who is in their bunk?  Are they on a top bunk bed?  Who sleeps on the bunk above, below, next to them?  Where are their counselors from?  What activities are new at camp this year? Did they check on each other? You get the gist. (I save the templates from year to year and just print a new batch for that summer.)
  2. Send pre-addressed envelopes. This year my little one asked me to take a stack of stationery, address the envelopes and put stickies on them so she knows how many letters she should write to each of her grandparents, aunts/uncles/cousins, and a few friends.  Hmm, why didn’t I think of that!?
  3. Print pre-addressed labels. I create address labels for them to use so they not only have an idea of who they need to write to, but it’s easy for them to do so.  I give them the amount of labels for how many letters each person is expecting.
  4. Make sample envelopes.  Since letter writing is becoming a lost art, I put a sample envelope in with their stationery so they remember to include (and where to put) their return address and a stamp.
  5. Choose your stationery wisely. I’ve never met a stationery store I didn’t like, but the cutesy stationery isn’t always best. My nine-year-old has big loopy handwriting so standard fill-ins and postcards aren’t always the best. This year, we made personalized pads on VistaPrint.  We have a few fun fold-overs from years past, but this way she gets something fun and the room she needs to tell her stories.
  6. Keep it together.  I try and send my kids’ stationery organized in a plastic sleeve from Staples.  One goes with a lapdesk, my other with a big storage clipboard. I also include some fun pens – sparkly, smelly, twisty – as incentive to write.  It all comes home as a big mess but at least that shows they’ve been rifling through!

I am going into this summer with low expectations about what and when they’ll write.  But that won’t stop me from hunting down the mailman and sending pictures of their letters to their bunk-mates’ parents to fill them in.

Posted on May 31, 2013

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