Tag Archives: camp sebeck

a letter to my parents

Hey, party people!

Well, it’s been a week. How are you doing? You sound tired when I call you, but that’s probably what I sound like when you call me ALL THE TIME. I understand. Zone-parenting is hard. Three kids is a lot of kids. Three Mulder kids is maybe too many, but who would you trade? It changes by the minute.

I know. 


You’ve probably noticed by now that Gideon hates to change his clothes, Rylie needs to know what’s for dinner as soon as she wakes up, and absolutely NOTHING Abby says is true. Nothing.

If there is a map of the zoo, the grocery store, the park, Rylie would like two copies. If Ry wants a copy, then Gus does, too. If Gideon wants or says anything, Abby does twice as much or twice as loud.

I realized halfway home from Cleveland that I forgot to put the Frozen dvd in your van.

You’re welcome.

Have you bee productive? I mean, have you gotten the mail each day? Taken a shower? Fed the animals? I have. It’s insane, the amount of productivity possible without 87 questions and sticky hands at every turn. I’m finished with all my chores by 8:17 every morning and sometimes just go back to bed.

On the other hand, Curt and I are simply not as cute without our kids. People don’t smile at us as often. They CERTAINLY allow Gus to steal more candy from the bulk aisle in the grocery store than they allow me. My camera roll is empty because nobody cute is doing anything dangerous or messy or funny. Abe is sleeping out in the wide open living room- unafraid of nerf bullets, couch-jump-landings, or doggie-dentist imaginary play. Things are clearly out of control here.

It’s ridiculous. 


In other words, our kids are amazing. They make us come alive. We are so incredibly thankful or the rest these kids-only visits provide. LORD KNOWS, we needed the rest. Also, it rained and thundered and lightening-ed like Armageddon here whilst you were away- so thank you for saving our sanity from 2am children wanting to build an ark. But, we’re ready to see our punks again, to hear them laugh, and to have someone to blame for the dirt and confusion.

Please pack them up as best you can and head to St. Louis tomorrow. I’ll meet you there and send you on your way. I’m sure it will take most of the trip back to Texas to stop the ringing in your ears.

You are amazing, brave, loving, and perfect grandparents.

Drive safe.


your favorite daughter

Past CAMP SEBECK trips for our kiddos:

Ry in 2011

Ry and Gideon in 2012

Ry and Gideon in 2013




We leave tomorrow morning for our annual trip to Platte River in the Sleeping Bear Dunes.

My parents are picking up Gus and Ry halfway through the trip and whisking them off to the magical world of Pennsylvania. There are exactly two-hundred-forty-seven things I need to do before our van hits the highway. What does one do when there are 5 people and a kitchen to pack up not to mention bills to pay, emails to send, and a wayward chicken to corral and return to the coop before the house-sitter arrives?

One writes.

I found this post again last night and laughed so hard. Laughing alone at something you wrote is awkward but worth it. I hadn’t thought about that particular trip in a long time and reading about it again made me excited to get on the road. Then I laughed even harder when I couldn’t find last year’s letter to my parents and had to search ‘apache in august’ to get to it. I don’t care who you are, that’s funny. I read the letter to see how things have changed over the past year and I laughed some more.  Oh, my children. So cute. So incredibly high-maintenance.

It was a good night.

gus and ry

Mom and Dad,

I’m sure we won’t have much time when you arrive at the campground to debrief/prep for your trip with Rylie and Gideon. The kids will tackle you and Rylie will launch into the story about the birds (ask me later) and we’ll never be able to get a word in again until someone hurts themselves and or requires discipline… neither of which are great times to talk about  specifics of our child-rearing and safety philosophies. Let me just mention a few things that may save a life:

1. Ry naps. Gus can take it or leave it. I’m so, so sorry. My best advice to you both is take turns. Divide and conquer. Never let them see you cry.

2. I’m keeping Abby with me. This act alone should absolve me from any debt or disturbance I ever caused or will cause you in the future. You’re welcome.

3. Ry’s hair is now short and curly and so is Gus Man’s. The 4-year age difference makes it pretty easy to tell them apart, but just in case: Gus wears a hat 24-7 and Ry still has terrible breath. Also, Gus is usually missing or at the top of something very high.

4. Both Gideon and Ry are potty-trained… all day, all night, all the time. Please remind and encourage both of them to wear undies. At all times. At all times they should be wearing undies and at all times you should be reminding them of this.

5. Beware the phrase ‘Me Got It.’ This translates to ‘I got it.’ or ‘I can do that myself.’ and comes out of Gus’ mouth approximately 18 times per minute. When you hear it, drop what you are doing- immediately– and find him. I said immediately. Do not delay or attempt to talk him down. Get up and find him. It is never a test and it never ends well.

6. Both children will ask for ‘2 minutes’ at bedtime. As in, 2 more minutes, please? Except, 2 minutes is a completely fake number to them. Neither can tell time or count well. It’s a sham, a distraction, a way to break you down. Stand firm.

7. Prayers are said or echoed at bedtime. Meal-time grace prayers are generally discouraged at bedtime, but sometimes make their way in there anyway. It’s ok. Work with what you have.

8. Ry still hates jelly. Gus Man still loves peanut butter. Bagels are called ‘O’s’ and are acceptable at any meal.

9. Ry is now missing 1 more bottom tooth and 2 more top teeth. Still best not to bring up the whole tooth fairy sneaking in to your room at night and stealing things from you, though she digs the money-exchange idea. We’re getting there.

10. I will not be mad NOR ask any questions if you tell me you had to throw some of their clothes away. I will only nod knowingly.

I’ll meet you in Ohio in two weeks. I don’t think my phone rings here in the woods, so if you get stuck or need a translation… in the words of my father,

Good luck with that.

Also, thank you. We love you. We trust you. Have a fabulous time.


your favorite first-born,

Mary Kathryn

a list for my mother

Thank you so much for all your kind words Thursday.  I had no idea it would strike such a chord, but thank you.  It amazes me how much I still have to learn after 35+ years on this blessed Earth.

The two oldest will be headed to St. Louis this Friday.  Remember Ry and I went on the train last year to meet my folks coming up from Tejas?  Yes.  This year I’m driving because I am sure Chicago would swallow Gus whole if I tried to handle both of them alone with car seats and luggage.  So, in the van we go.  They’ll be at Camp Sebeck in Texas for a little over 2 weeks.  Let’s start praying for my parent’s now, shall we?

My folks are pros with my kids, but Mom has asked for a list of helpful To Knows.  Let me know if I forgot anything, ok?

Cheerios, Frosted Mini-Wheats, Greek yogurt, Cottage cheese, Pasta noodles, Peanut butter, Applesauce, Milk, Block Cheese, Pancakes

These 10 things will get you through just about anything.  There have been days when we’ve eaten pancakes for breakfast, lunch, AND DINNER and we are a better family for it.  Watch the sugar and food dye intake. Trust me: it’s not a fad.

Gideon likes peanut butter & butter, peanut butter alone, peanut butter & jelly.  Ry likes peanut butter only.  She’ll eat jelly & cream cheese.  Go figure.  I used to think those were weak parents… those that made 4 different lunches for 2 children.  But, I get it now.  I get it.

Gus wears a size 5 diaper.  We use Luvs.  You’ll need about 42 thousand hundred for the 2 weeks he’s with you.  This is because he finds the garden hose wherever he is and floods the poor nappy until it explodes.  Usually several times a day.  SuperKid has special powers.  Ry is potty trained.  All day, all the time.  You’re welcome.

Hide your power drill and put all soda pop higher than 48” off the ground.  Do it now.

Gus still naps after lunch for a couple hours.  Ry can take it or leave it.  It’s up to you.  But don’t put either one of them down after 2:35pm or you’ll be ringing in the new day with them both at midnight.  Ask me how I know.

Make Gideon put on his shoes.  They will come off.  He’ll come in for lunch wearing only one and wearing it backwards, but we like to be consistent with the rules.  He must be wearing 2 shoes when he leaves the house.

When you lose Gideon (and you will), look 1. At all water sources, 2. on every tractor/car/mobile machine you own, and 3. at the tool bench.  He will be there, quiet and content.  When your heart stops racing, put the bells around his neck and set him free again.  You will not lose Ry.  Ever.  You can’t.  She is closer than a shadow but with worse breath.

Speaking of which, both kids know how to and need to brush their teeth 2 times a day.  THEY MUST TOUCH ALL THEIR TEETH with the toothbrush.  Gideon will try to squeeze the toothpaste directly into his mouth.  We discourage this.

I’ve put 50spf sunscreen on both kids since they were born.  I have no idea why Gus looks like an Apache in August and Ry is still a ceramic doll.  They both still need sunscreen.  Please do not allow Gideon to apply it himself.  He often mistakes it for toothpaste.

Ry is missing 2 top teeth and 2 bottom teeth.  Do not, I repeat: DO NOT, bring this up.  Somewhere, in another childhood perhaps, Ry decided losing teeth was equivalent to burning at the stake.  It’s not something you want to discuss with a child who has trouble with basic vocabulary.

The kids are actually great at showing, telling, or miming what they are trying to say.  There are always a few gaps.  If Ry says “JOOS,” she means ‘juice’ or ‘shoes.’  If Gideon says “BOOP,” he means ‘float,’ ‘boat,’ or ‘poop.’  Best not to assume, with either child.

Ry’s hair is gorgeous and long and curly.  We try to wash it once a week.  The rest of the time, I put it in a pony tail as high on her head as I can get it and call it good.  Gideon’s hair is similar to goat hair: wiry and magnetic to airborne detritus.  We buzzed it for you.  Easier to get the peanut butter out that way.

If you determine the children need a bath, DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS ALONE.  Make sure both grandparents (and possibly some friends) are present and that your floor is sufficiently covered.

Bed time (8pm for both) is a “say prayers, tuck in, and shut the door” kind of thing.  No hour-long routine, no 18 stories, no nightlights.  They are sleeping champs.  Gideon does yell like a committed maniac for about 14 minutes and then goes through every vocabulary word he knows.  Every night.  Have no fear.  This is normal.  But Ry can’t share a room with him.  It stresses her out.  Honestly, it stresses me out, too.  Occasionally, Ry’s internal clock will malfunction and she’ll wake up at 3am.  You won’t hear her until she’s sitting at the foot of your bed, dressed and holding a bowl of dry cereal in her hand.  At this point, we kindly point out that the stars are still shining and it’s all been a big misunderstanding while pointing her back to her bed. Seven times out of ten, this goes extremely well.

And, really, well, that’s about it.

You’re going to have a GREAT time.

God bless you.


On June 3rd, my Rylie and I are hopping the Amtrak from Grand Rapids to St. Louis.  I’ve not told her yet.  She might absolutely lose her mind with excitement.  I may never tell her.

In St. Louis, my aunt will pick us up (AUNT REGINA, DON’T FORGET TO PICK US UP.) and we’ll head across the swollen Mississippi River to her very familiar home.

The next morning, my parents will walk through the door and my Rylie will forget who I am.  I’ll leave Sunday morning to head back to GRR while my parents hit the road with Ry for Tejas.  Exactly one month later, we’ll all meet in Pittsburgh for a family reunion and I will have to pry Ry out of the Sebeck truck to drag her back to Michigan.

My parents are amazing grandparents.  Mom is a 2nd grade teacher (thus, off for the summer), Dad is retired military and now works at home as a mechanic.  They have goats and tractors and pools and tents and puppies and horses and harmonicas.  There is ice cream in the freezer and M&Ms in the cupboard.  The kid has got some serious Summer fun ahead of her.

I’ve arranged for in-home speech therapy 3 times per week and my parents have found a local hippotherapy riding ring where Ry can continue her vestibular work while she’s away.  My parents have taken Rylie for extended vacations over holidays since she was born.  We talk to them by skype and phone multiple times a day.  We’ve all spent weeks’ worth of time in the car together travelling.  We are not strangers.  In fact, I’m not sure Rylie understands that we actually live 1,000 miles apart.

This is the ONLY instance I would consider being in different cities with my girl.  Her apraxia makes her expressively young, but internally I believe she has an incredibly old soul.  She is social-savvy, she is independent, she is charming.  It likely she has more friends than I do.  And my parents know her well.  The little things they DON’T know?  Well, maybe they don’t need to know.  Maybe she doesn’t need to come with a 4-page letter of instructions, warnings, and tips.  Maybe- just for a minute– I need to not be her mom/advocate/interpreter 24 hours a day and she needs to just be a grandkid on the farm.

This will be our longest adventure apart by far… it’s just how it worked out logistically.  I’ve no doubt I will suffer more than the child.  Actually, I think the the first week will be fun.  Less driving.  Quieter dinners.  Less emotional outbursts when socks are not appropriately applied to feet.  One less carseat to unbuckle.  The start of the second week will be a little weird, and then by Days 12, 13, & 14, I will likely spend a lot of time sitting on her bedroom floor crying because I am lonely and without purpose.  The end. 

Gus Man is going to be so incredibly sick of me by July, bless his little heart.

Do you remember you first big trip away from Mom & Dad?