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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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The Full Suburban: As summer hurtles toward its end, a big transition looms

By Julia Ditto The Spokesman-Review

This is Julia Ditto, reporting live from the trenches of never-ending summertime. I am currently sitting in my quiet home office, typing out this column in the narrow window of time I have carved out for myself by bribing my daughter Jane to entertain her little brothers for two hours.

Once they return home, it will be nonstop, kitchen-open-for-business, have-you-done-your-chores-yet, mom-will-you-play-a-game-with-me, when-can-I-have-screen-time, he-hit-me-first-no-I-didn’t chaos. Please send help, or at the very least, chocolate.

This is a big summer for our family, as we’re getting ready to send our first child out into the big, wide world of college. Physically, we’re doing great: I am the number one customer on target.com, buying out all the laundry bags, hangers and shoe racks in an attempt to be The Most Prepared Mom Ever to Help Her Daughter Move Into Her College Dorm.

Emotionally, however … that’s a different story. I broke into huge, racking sobs the other day when I was driving somewhere with Lucy, Jane and their friend, and ABBA’s “Slipping Through My Fingers” started playing on the radio. The friend, who had nodded off to sleep in the back seat, was literally scared awake by the sound of my crying and was probably more than a little terrified to see the normally sane Mrs. Ditto singing along with tears streaking down her face.

“Schoolbag in hand, she leaves home in the early morning, waving goodbye with an absent-minded smile. I watch her go with a surge of that well-known sadness, and I have to sit down for a while. The feeling that I’m losing her forever, and without really entering her world. I’m glad whenever I can share her laughter, that funny little girl. Slipping through my fingers all the time, I try to capture every minute, the feeling in it, slipping through my fingers all the time.”

I defy you to look over at your daughter in the front seat and listen to those lyrics without crying. Pulling over to get a McFlurry is also an appropriate response.

But believe it or not, getting a daughter ready to leave the nest isn’t the thing that’s been consuming most of my energy this summer. Just about all of my bandwidth has been taken up by planning “girls camp” – an annual five-day church camping trip where 260 women and teenage girls in our area get together to connect with God and nature, sleep under the stars, swim, eat ourselves sick, learn new skills, make crafts, strengthen friendships, play games, and laugh our heads off.

For the past two years, I have been one of a handful of women in charge of running this camp, which is kind of hilarious when you consider the narrow range of my camping skill set.

Whenever I am asked to do something like this, I always wonder if I have been mistaken for my husband (Captain Outdoorsman) or my mom (The Camping Queen of the Universe). But alas, it was me they asked to do it, and it was me they were stuck with – the woman who couldn’t put up a tent on her own if her life depended on it.

There were a few things I learned during this camping experience:

1) The PA system is never going to work. It just isn’t. No one wants to hear about the porta-potty cleaning schedule anyway, so just get over it.

2) Even a supposedly sealed bag of fun-size candy bars can get wet inside if it sits in a puddle of melted ice long enough. You cannot lay the candy bars out on a paper towel to dry. They will never be the same. Let them go.

3) Outdoor showers, while refreshing, do not offer the most consistent water temperature imaginable. Mitigate this fact by lathering up during the 20 seconds when the water turns hot, and then when it suddenly shifts to arctic-cold, step out of the shower and just lean your head inside for a brisk hair-washing experience. Continue doing the hokey-pokey as necessary, because that’s what it’s all about.

And with that, my two hours are up. The sound of little boys fighting is inching ever closer to my office door. Julia Ditto signing off now, ready to begin another shift of endless summer fun. And FYI, Twix bars are my favorite.

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