Monthly Archives: June 2013

Letters To My Kid At Summer Camp, Part Three

Today’s letter is the first one I ever sent to my kid at summer camp.

Although technically, it wasn’t camp. But it was pretty much the same thing: the first time he ever went a way for an extended trip, when he spent two weeks at his grandmother’s apartment in Paris.

(I know! Nice, right? Too bad it’s only a 300-square foot studio, and she’s not willing to put up anyone bigger than a 10-year-old…which was my kid’s age when I sent this to him.)


Subject: Re: Paris

Date: July 1, 2010 6:59:13 AM EDT

Xxxx [again, not his real name]:

Thank you so much for the update!  It is very good to get emails from you.  I was also relieved to hear that you fixed the problem with the flip video.

Now I have a problem that I am hoping you can help me with.  Since you’ve been gone, no one has left their underwear on the bathroom floor.  You might not think this seems like much of a problem, and when you left for Paris, neither did I.

But to my surprise, I have discovered that if I don’t have to remove dirty underwear from the bathroom floor every evening, my life feels strangely empty and lacking in purpose.  I have tried to leave my own underwear on the bathroom floor and then remove it later, but it’s just not the same.

I spent most of last night lying awake in bed trying solve this problem, and I have come up with two potential solutions.

First, would it be all right with you if I took some underwear from your bedroom and left it on the bathroom floor for a while before picking it up and taking it to the laundry room?  Before you answer, consider the fact that — and I am not certain of this, but I strongly suspect it — for my life to feel truly purpose-driven, the underwear must be dirty.  Which means I will have to make one of your brothers wear it around for a while beforehand (I would wear it, but I am too big; and I would ask your mother, but she is too picky about her underthings). I assume you would prefer that Zzzz wears the underwear and not Yyyy.

If you do not approve of this, there is a second option.  I believe that if I take the phone into the bathroom at the usual hour of 8pm, call you, and yell at you to come pick up your underwear, my life might feel just as meaningful as if you and your dirty underwear were actually present.  Given the time difference, I’d be calling at 2am Paris time.  Would this be all right?

I realize it is something of an imposition to call you in the middle of the night, but to make it worth your time, while we’re on the phone I could also yell other things — not just the obvious “Xxxx, will you PLEASE hang up your towel?” but also things like “Get your shoes on!”, “Seriously, you HAVE to get off the computer now!”, “Stop touching Zzzz!”, and “Are you listening to me?!  What did I just say?”

Thanks in advance for helping me with this.  You are a good son.

I hope you’re having a great time!  Has Grandma taken you to see the view of Paris from the steps of the Sacre-Coeur yet?  I know I can’t pronounce that name, but I believe I spelled it correctly.




Tragically, this may be the end of the series — at least until my kid gets to camp next week and I start sending him letters again — because while I have more of them, the quality tails off pretty dramatically after this.

But you can always re-read the first two! They’re here:

Letters To My Kid At Summer Camp, Part One

Letters To My Kid At Summer Camp, Part Two

And if you’re hungry for quality reading material, there’s always The Chronicles of Egg series! Which you can purchase by clicking one of the links under “Get the Books!” on the right-hand menu. Or, for more information, click on the “About The Chronicles of Egg” link on the top menu.

Or just email me and ask for a free copy. I probably won’t send you one, but you never know.

Posted in Best Adventure Books, Best Middle Grade Books, Best Middle Grade Series, Chronicles of Egg, Less Than Completely Serious | 3 Comments

Letters To My Kid At Summer Camp, Part Two

 The first Letters To My Kid At Summer Camp went over well enough that I’m raiding my archives (and exploiting my kid) for another one.

This is from two years ago, and it contains what I like to think is some very valuable career advice.

July 25, 2011

Dear Xxxx [still not his real name],

[Mostly dull opening paragraphs redacted; they included a discussion of the camp’s policy of forcing newly arrived campers to write a two-sentence-minimum note to their parents, which was then scanned into a computer and emailed to us as proof that they were still alive.]

Candles. I understand, unless I misread your handwriting once it was scanned into the computer, that among your activities is “candles.” I assume this refers to the making of candles and not, say, the lighting of them, which seems like it would get old in a hurry.

Now, look here: this is fine so far as it goes – you want to make some candles at summer camp, I won’t stand in your way – but I have to strongly caution you against falling too deeply in love with the candle lifestyle. Candles as a means of illumination – and, by extension, a marketable consumer product – have been obsolete for well over a century. Personally, outside of Hanukkah and birthdays, I have not used a candle since the mid-1990’s, and offhand I struggle to think of a single personal acquaintance who has not similarly switched over to electric light, usually exclusively.

What am I trying to say here? Only this, and please forgive me for being blunt: there is no future in candles, son. If you don’t believe me, do a Google search on “Top Careers in 2020,” which is approximately when you will be entering the work force. You will find “Candle Manufacturing/Sales” near the rock-bottom of the list, sharing space with such dead-end, dustbin-of-history occupations as “Blacksmithing” and “Screenwriting.”

I want you to have fun this summer. I do. And if candle-making floats your boat, have at it! Go nuts! Just don’t get too attached. Because in the long run, candles will only break your heart.

Also, I understand you can change your electives at the midway point. Do they offer accounting in the second half? Think about it. I’m just saying.

Anyway… I love you and miss you. I am also jealous of you. Not so much for the candles, but the kayaking and the sailing. And also the part where you write “the sleep situation is fine.” I wish I could say the same. Your mother can be a very trying bunkmate. And your brothers…eeesh. Don’t get me started.



Click here for Part One of Letters To My Kid at Summer Camp…or click here for Part Three.

Posted in Less Than Completely Serious | 7 Comments

Letters To My Kid At Summer Camp

It’s been a while since I posted. Partly, this is because writing books, while a fine way to make a living, has the unfortunate side effect of decreasing the amount of time I can spend writing blog posts that have absolutely no financial value whatsoever.

Mostly, though, it’s because I haven’t had any good ideas for blog posts.

Sadly, that’s still the case. But in honor of my oldest son’s imminent departure for summer camp, I thought I’d dig into my archives and post the following letter, which I sent to him while he was at camp last summer.

If you enjoy reading this kind of thing, please post a comment to that effect — if there’s sufficient interest in my continuing to exploit my family for material, I’ll post others.

August 3, 2012

Dear Xxxx [not his real name],

By the time you get this letter, over a month will have passed since I dropped you off (nauseous and underfed, but really, whose fault was that?) at the airport departure gate.

Which means I have gone an entire month without writing you a single letter.

I apologize for that. But it has been quite a busy month. As you may know, the Olympics are currently underway in London, and when I was driving back from dropping you off at the airport, it occurred to me that at 41 years old, I am not getting any younger, and this may be my last chance to represent my country in an Olympic event.

So I spent the next three weeks in intensive training at the U.S. Olympic Center in Colorado Springs, hoping to secure a spot on the national judo team.

I was unsuccessful.

And I can tell you this: it stung. Words cannot express the pain of seeing your dreams collapse into dust, even if they are dreams you only had for a couple of weeks.

Also, judo itself is painful. Some of the other fighters are pretty merciless, even in practice, and the fact that I was not an “official” member of the squad—and so was facing them not in the practice ring, but in the parking lot as they walked to their cars at the end of the day—meant that our bouts usually ended in a few seconds, with a submission hold resulting in loss of consciousness.

At least, I think that’s how it went down. I kept waking up in the parking lot, to the sound of cars pulling away, and with no short-term memory of the previous several minutes. (Here’s a fact, by the way, that might surprise you—in my experience, the women’s judo team is much more ruthless in combat than the men’s team, especially if you startle them while they are holding a set of car keys).

So that was a tough three weeks. After it was over, I went through a period of soul-searching. Judo had been my whole life, at least for the better part of July, and once it was gone, I felt a yawning emptiness that I didn’t know how to fill.

For some reason, it didn’t occur to me to fill it with letter writing. Sorry about that.

Anyway, I’m in a much better place now. And I’ve learned a lot, too—about the value of hard work, the wisdom of letting go, and why you should never challenge a martial arts expert to a fight in a parking lot.

What else can I tell you? It turns out it was a mistake to rent your room out to the elderly Uzbek man who smelled like rotten cheese. His check bounced, and when we confronted him about it, he skipped out on us. So, lesson learned. But we can’t get rid of the rotten cheese smell in your room, so I guess in a manner of speaking, he’s still with us.

Zzzz [my youngest son; also not his real name] has been difficult lately. I now think that among our family members, he is more likely than Yyyy [my middle son; ditto] to end up in jail. His soccer camp counselors think so, too.

Your mother—as she may have already told you—will not be contacting [Xxxx’s friend]’s mom about the summer reading list, or mailing you the appropriate books, because this is the kind of thing that you are old enough to be responsible for yourself. There will be plenty of time to read the books when you get home, unless you blow it all playing Ipad Monopoly or watching Storage Wars.

I hope you are having a great time! We miss you.

Love, Dad

(Click here for Part Two of Letters to My Kid At Summer Camp.)

Posted in Less Than Completely Serious | 12 Comments