Experience This

Finding My Way To Summer Break

By anneglisan in Experience This

When the ladies of Broadsheet360 last asked me to write a piece, I was able to tap into my saucy side with my foray into burlesque—which in case you’re curious yes, I’m still working the “parade, pose and peel” routine whenever the kids are away. However, this time I decided to tame down the shimmy and focus on my summer experience.

What might that summer experience be you ask? A jaunt to Paris? Poolside cocktails? Unannounced midnight shows by the latest hot band? No. No. And, sadly no. My summer experience has been leaning into my new lifestyle as a carpool mom. Let me tell you it’s been a steep learning curve.

When I first ditched my pencil skirts and 9:00 to 5:00 job, I sort of figured the best idea would be to manage the shit out of summer. That’s what I knew. Give me a project, like summer vacation, and I’d whiteboard it and deliver you an exceptional experience with footnotes.

Every hour of our first work-free summer was slotted out in color-coded pen. The calendar from June to August was chocked full of tennis, swimming, piano, dance, various camps for personal development and karate lessons. Don’t fret. My kids weren’t overscheduled. I worked in days, yes DAYS of downtime. Intermixed with the obligatory lessons and preplanned trips to the LEGO store and water parks were blank days on the calendar. Something my old “working for the man” self would have had a coronary over.

The thing is, as I distanced myself farther and farther from that driven working woman, I found myself enjoying the down days as much (if not more) than our scheduled days. Playing Uno and eating dripping popsicles on our back porch was, well, nothing short of profound.

How had I transformed my life so completely by blanking out a day, one day on the whiteboard?

Tasting this mix of popsicles and freedom made me desperate for more. What else could I offer my children to help them navigate a summer devoid of whiteboards?

The answer was simple—nature.

It so happens that I live in what some might call the nature capital of the world. Here in Portland, Oregon camping is the summer pastime. It starts the day school gets out. The hippies pack up their VW buses and families pile in to mini-vans packed to the roof with tents and coolers.

It also so happens that I’m not really a fan of nature. Don’t run to OSPIRG and put me on the hate list. I think nature is lovely—from a distance. I don’t want to pack a tent and hang with the hippies. I prefer to indulge in spa treatments and then watching the kids in the pool while I read a selection of books, oh sorry, I got distracted there for a minute about that idea.

Not to worry, nature found me this summer in the form of Trackers Earth. Trackers Earth offers outdoor adventure camps for kids of all ages. I’m not talking about a camp where kids run around in a park in matching tie-dyed tee-shirts. I’m talking about a true back to nature camp.

Blending theater, storytelling, outdoor school and the ultimate adventure quest, Trackers camps are designed to connect kids to nature, the land and each other.

My son, a huge Harry Potter fan, spent a week at Trackers School of Magic Camp, where he learned to divine weather patterns, forge for plants with healing properties and train to become invisibly stealth. My daughter, a huge Little House on the Prairie fan, spent a week at Trackers Wilders Homestead in the Big Valley, where she learned how to craft soap and candles, light a campfire, party with a fiddle and my personal favorite, put up preserves. Yeah, you bet I added putting up preserves to our whiteboard.

It was the ultimate nature experience for my children. They ran around dirty and free in the wild, while I drank a tall, cool glass of lemonade on my hammock. I picked them up each afternoon exhausted and utterly thrilled to show me the wand my son whittled by hand and the dried herbs my daughter picked.

It’s an experience we’re sure to repeat next summer. Now, I just need to whiteboard a noontime lunch date with my husband so I can get my shimmy on.


Anne Glisan is a suburban mother from the Portland, Oregon region. Due to the potential for other school carpool moms to avoid her should they know about her secret longing to be a burlesque performer, she's keeping this on the down low.

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