Friday, July 31, 2015

A Boy's Paradise! Week 7

My boy and his summer play ground

About 12 hours after the boys arrived, Cookie#2 (13 years old) said that he was concerned. He told me that he wasn't having fun yet and that that bothered him because usually the first 24 hours are the best and it all goes downhill from there. Okay, I was a little concerned but reflecting back on my experience, I knew things would get better. It's been almost a week now that the boys have been here. I wish I could describe the joy that I see in their sun taned, dirt smeared faces. Cookie#2 now wears a permanent grin, always. I swear these boys are in heaven. They live on a little wooded beach about 2 miles from the girls camp. It feels like their own private island. They spend every day swimming, snorkeling, playing soccer, EATING, horseback riding, tubing, fitness training, canoeing, playing rugby, stand up paddle boarding, fishing, shooting, and so much more. The boys' counselors are amazing men. 2 are from Ireland and 1 from England. Their accents alone give them instantly "likeability" points. They are so attentive to the boys; super patient and lots of fun. Randy spends quite a bit of time down there as well, although I encorage him to give them plenty of space.

I see what this experience is doing for my boys. They are trying new things and making new friends. They are learning lessons about the natural consequences of their actions. Nobody is pestering them (like moms would do) to put on bug spray, so they are getting bug bites. Nobody is hanging up their wet towel, so they are cold when they get out of the water. Nobody is catering to their likes and dislikes, so they are learning to try new foods. I've been impressed with my ability to let them go. I don't see them all that often, but when I do I usually just take a glimpse and let them be. I heard that Cookie#3 got scared by a horse and cried. He didn't take his ride. But then he told his couselor that he would try again before the end of the summer. I think that's outstanding. And I think he will, too. I heard that Cookie #4 is a super outgoing, stud. He is the youngest, at 8 years old, but he has no trouble holding his own. He has made a great friend and is loving life. I heard that Cookie #2 is impressiving everybody, especially his counselors, with his knowledge of the wilderness, especially frogs and toads (which he is catching lots of). And Cookie #3 is apparently pretty decent at archery. They said he has great form. I miss my boys, but I'm just so happy for them. They will come away changed boys.

It's been heaven having Rand here. For the most part, he's just enjoying life. When I have some time we take walks or take a canoe ride together. I think we'll head out on a boat together tommorrow. More than anything, I just love having my best friend around. We are trying to catch up on 6 weeks of chats!

Our first canoe ride together

Yesterday we had the best time. We took a van of girls on a "motor trip." Have you ever been to Vermont? Well, you should! It's just one giant postcard waiting to happen. Picture it, green rolling hills with fields of green grases in the valley and an old red barn. Picture Charlie Brown pine trees mixed in with the birch trees and rugged stones masses. Oh, I know I'm not doing it justice. It's just beautiful. We took the van on the ferry over Lake Champlain. Just so many new things to see! I love that.

Downtown Burlington, VT. So charming!

Today marks 7 weeks at camp. Honestly, I'm starting to get tired. In 2 weeks I know I'll be ready to head home to my life (and my bed). But just as soon as I type those words, I know I'll miss it. I'll miss the fresh, cool air; all of the singing; and the sweet, happy faces. There's just a simplicity here that I will not find after I leave. I will take away treasured memories and a vision of what my future may hold. So, for the next 14 days I will savor every day. 


Swim Assessment Time

Friday, July 24, 2015

Things Are Getting Emotional, Week 6

This view is beautiful but this week I finally went out on the lake and it was breathtaking!

My feet stink, and I don't care. At home, I wash my feet every night before bed. It's just one of those things I do. I also answer emails daily, catch the news headlines, run errands, clean, cook, do laundry, etc. For the past 6 weeks, I have done almost none of that! And boy, does it feel great! It has been such a welcomed break! I actually feel like I live on an entirely different planet. One where you begin and end every meal with a song, where the time of day is dictated by a bugle not a clock, and where you can ignore the condition of your hair and makeup pretty much everyday (for the most part). Aside from phone calls with my family, I've had very little contact with the "outside world."  And I'm not really sure I miss it : )

I want to tell you about a pretty special experience I had this week. Every Sunday evening, the campers are required to go to some form of church. It is either Mass or Inspirational service. I went to the inspirational service and the counselors conducted a very sweet exercise. They invited the girls to sit in a large circle and asked them to close their eyes and keep them closed. They pulled a few girls into the center of the circle (opening their eyes, of course) and asked them to tap on a few girls' head that fit the following descriptions. They called out words like outgoing, empathetic, honest, trusting, leader, inspiring, helpful, and on and on. At first I pushed my chair back out of the circle, thinking I would just help the counselors but I felt a little awkward so I just closed my eyes like the rest of the girls and bowed my head a little bit. I sat and listened to the first few rounds. My eyes were closed and I was resting my chin in my hands. They called out a word, I think it was "encouraging." Unsuspectingly, I felt a tap on the head. What? Was that really meant for me? Somebody had maneuvered behind the first row of girls to come and tap my head? I felt so special. It was almost instantaneous that a smile spread across my face. I could not help it. It felt so nice to be recognized. And it didn't stop there. Word after word, I received a meaningful tap. I could not believe it really. How did these girls know me well enough to have such kind feelings toward me? I guess the simple smile, the meaningful hello, or the brief conversation meant more than I realized. I was lifted. I was genuinely happy. I even had a tear well up in my eye.

I was eventually chosen to come into the circle and be the one giving away the taps. It felt good to receive those taps but nothing compared to seeing the faces of these young girls as they were tapped time and time again by their peers.  The smiles could not be any bigger! Talk about life changing! They were singled out and recognized for being happy, positive, inspiring, helpful, kind hearted, spirited, and on and on. What a wonderful experience! This was all part of the vision for these young girls almost 100 years ago.

Camp is just emotional all around. Yesterday was parent's day. It's kind of like open house for school. Parents get to come and check out the "classroom" and see what their child has been up to. They walk around to their cabins and participate in campfire, etc. A special dinner was hosted for the parents and I was able to attend and meet a few of the parents of these girls that I have been "living with" for the past 6 weeks. Without exception, every parent had tears in their eyes as we talked about the growth of their child and their victories; whether on water-skis, horseback, or with friends in the cabin. That felt so good. So totally rewarding.

Speaking of feeling boys are almost here! They are staying overnight in Southern NY (I don't think that's how you say it). Anyway, they'll be here at lunch tomorrow! I wonder if I'll breakdown like some of the girls when they see their families? I have had a great time but definitely putting on a brave face at times. It will be amazing to have them here. I can share it all with them. I am just counting down the minutes!  And today is Cookie#3's birthday. He turned 11. I can't wait to give him a belated birthday hug and kiss.

In many ways I feel like I have made it. I have met my goal! I have survived! I really did view this experience like my own personal "Survivor." I have done something hard and I am so pleased.

The woods are absolutely beautiful here. Picture perfect with patches of ferns and mossy rocks everwhere.

Our final golf lesson! We had a great time. Wow, golf takes so much patience.

Awards Night. It was pretty spectacular. 

Friday, July 17, 2015

Starting to Fall in Love, Week 5

The charming tunnel leading to the waterfront. The tradition is to kiss your hand, touch the tunnel, and make a wish.

I wish you could see the stars tonight. I don't think I've ever seen such a huge sky of stars before. I feel like we're closer to the heavens here. So peaceful; so beautiful. I think I'm starting to fall in love with the Adirondacks.

It's amazing to think that today marks 5 weeks of camp. In some ways it seems like I just arrived and at the same time it feels like I've been here for months. I must say that it's starting to feel a bit like home. And what does that actually mean, "feels like home?" Well, it means you're comfortable. It means you feel accepted and valued. It means you're safe and happy. It feels so good.

I sleep on the lower bunk in my little bedroom. The mattress is thin and the wood under neither is obviously hard. Yet, somehow I love it. It feels great. I think the firmness is good for my body and by the end of the day I melt into that cozy little nook and immediately drift off. I'm separated from "my girls" by a series of decorated canvas curtains/shower curtains. It does the job. I have a lamp behind the head of my bed that provides just the perfect amount of light late at night or early in the morning. I have folded my beach towel beside my bed to act as a bed side rug (You'd think I would have learned from Andräa to bring my own rug). Late at night I turn on my cell phone light and stick it in the slats of the bunk bed above me and shine it down over me. I read my scriptures or write. It's cozy. It's quiet. I have lots of blankets because it can still get very cold here at night. My favorite is when it's raining. I can hear the gentle sounds of the rain and the rushing water in the stream down below. I guess you could say that I'm starting to feel "at home" and I'm definitely happy.

Some nights I go to bed exhausted. My mind is full of anxious thoughts and loads of self-doubt. But then I wake up the next morning, ready to go. I'm excited for the challenge of a new day and all it may bring. No two days are ever the same.

I can see why these girls love coming to camp, year after year. This is such a unique environment. The girls feel so safe; safe to be themselves. They revert back to being little girls. There is no worry of boys, make up, clothes, phones, school, etc. Everybody is happy, most all the time. It's kind of surreal and magical. Don't get me wrong, girls will be girls, but for the most part everybody is very happy. It is so energizing!

I have been working my tail off. Early on I considered throwing in the towel. It was just too overwhelming. It was too unfamilar, too lonely, too uncomfortable. But deep down I just knew I would never forgive myself if I didn't stick it out.  I needed to see what it was like from beginning to end before I made a decision about this. Wow. I'm so glad I did. I am having a blast. The cold nights, the warm fires, the camp fire songs, the 'smores, the sun bathing at the lake front...yeah, I could get used to this. And I think my family would love this new lifestyle. It's work, a lot of work! It's exhausting 24/7, and I don't know the whole of it, but it's so rewarding. There is nothing like it. I'm sleeping with a smile on my face every night.

I want to send a quick thank you to all of my friends in NC who have so very kindly helped to watch my kids. You have been such a huge blessing! Thank you from the bottom of my heart. We will have to think of a proper way to thank you all. And thanks to all of you for your support with kind FB messages, text messages, phone calls, and even a hand-written letter (Valerie Youngberg ❤️)! I can honestly say that I don't think I would be here without all of your encoruagement. Much love!!!

Let the count down begin. Just 8 days until my boys get here. And congratulations to Anna for passing her driving test! Here we go...

The waterfront

Wednesday mornings, golf lesson with the girls

Dining Hall set for Awards Night. Rustic elegance if you ask me

Friday, July 10, 2015

Bring on the Treats of Week 4

To eat or not to eat, that is the question. I wish I had a picture of my dessert from last night. Seriously! It was perhaps the most delicious strawberry shortcake I've ever eaten. The ladies in the kitchen used heavy cream instead of water in the biscuits. And that's the problem. I have not stopped eating since I got here. You see, they serve dessert after both lunch and dinner and I find it impossible to pass up! Rice crispy treats, ice cream, brownies,'s too much. If we're being honest, I think I'm replacing my family's hugs with dessert! Oh my...there will be a whole lot more of me to hug when they get here.

I'm super bummed...I planned on posting my top 5 pictures from week 4 but I can't get my photos to load. Booooooo!!!!

Pictures or not, it was an eventful week. Today marks the end of the first two weeks. That means we said goodbye to a small group of girls (who were sad to go) and said hello to the new additions. I'm afraid to commit but I think I'm going to try to learn the first and last names of all the campers. The girls actually have a game to earn points for their team (you know, kinda like teams in Harry Potter) for the girl who can name everybody's first and last name at camp. I was so impressed when the girls actually did it! 5 point to the Jolis Coeurs (that's my team). It means pretty heart : )

You missed out on my happy lice dance tonight! None of the new campers have lice! Isn't that exciting!?! We are currently lice free, as far as we know. That is a reason to celebrate! I also celebrated progress on my golf swing this week. Every Wednesday morning I have been taking a group of girls to a great local course for a golf lesson. What? That's so awesome. Last week we did putting and this week we hit some balls at the range. With a great tip about shifting my weight on my follow through I was able to make some improvement. I have a ways to go but the pro told me I was doing well : )

My favorite time of day is definitely camp fire. We actually do it in doors at the large fire place and if it's warm, even simply by candle light. The girls know a book full of songs. Some dating all the way back to the beginning of camp, 1920's. There are some classics that I know but many I am learning for the first time. It's such a wonderful way to close the evening. We end with a song of prayer.

I've started the count down to seeing my boys. It's 14 days from tomorrow. I can do that! I miss the hugs and kisses. Although I have met a lot of very nice people here, there is nothing like love. Love makes life worth living. I just can't imagine living life without love. It's the most joyous feeling ever. I can't wait for them to get here so can feel their love. I've texted Randy a few times saying that I need "my people." Isn't it beautiful that our families become our people. I'm so blessed to be a part of a family. I'm completely enjoying my adventure and can't wait to share it with them. Missing Anna a whole bunch : (

My people and me, circa 2008

Friday, July 3, 2015

Top 5 of Week 3!

An evening walk to the bridge

1. Summer doesn't begin in the Adirondacks until July 1st, really.

I was beginning to doubt that I was ever going to shed my 5 layers of wet clothing. Seriously, 5 layers! I have been told that July 1st is the first day we can expect it to start to feel like summer. So, yesterday was July 1st and it was rainy and cold but today is July 2nd and it's 75 and sunny. A perfect, not-so-hot summer day. It was a day late but it was worth waiting for; just beautiful! The forecast is warm and sunny for the next 5 days. And just in time for our waterfront, volleyball, slip and slide, greasy watermelon (?) 4th of July party! Fun stuff. Let summer begin!

2. Girls love to go crazy!

The campers have been here for about a week now. There are about 40 of them during these first 2 weeks. The first night I went to dinner with them all, I almost went into shock. It was a sight to see. The songs began at the start of the meal and did not stop for over an hour! I'm talking table slappin', sing-at-the-top-of-your-lungs type songs. A lot of their songs are originals to this camp. Every year, every cabin writes a song to the tune of a popular song on the radio. Some of these songs are super creative and come back year after year. Some only last a few minutes. Anyway, I think I had a mini breakdown after dinner. It was so overwhelming. I asked my fellow table mates if this was going to be a normal meal time activity...they said, "pretty much." Well, one of two things has happened over the course of the week, I've either caught on and joined in, or things have calmed down a little bit. Either way, these girls are amazing and full of energy. P.S. breakfast is a required quieter meal : )

3. Drama always exists in the kitchen.

That's all I care to say about that.

4. 15 years olds can be super sweet.

Like I said last week, I'm the aid mom. That means I help take care of the 15-17 year olds who are training to be counselors. This is one of my favorite things. It definitely fills that void to be a nurturing, care taker. We talk every evening and review their day. We talk about strategies to solve problems they may be having with their cabin kids. We also tackle assignments/projects together. I try to give them lots of praise and encouragement. They tell me I'm an awesome "aid mom" : ) I'm sure that has nothing to do with me making their beds today and leaving a goodie on their pillow. I'm such a mom!

My aids and me!

4. New Yorkers are definitely not from the south!

Okay, that's obvious, but I think I'm starting to figure this all out. You see, in the south, everybody waves to you. Even if they don't know you, they'll wave. You meet somebody new and they are instantly added to your list of friends. You did not have to do anything to earn this status, you are simply awarded the title of "friend." So, here with some of the local "north country" folks, it's the opposite. Upon arrival you are considered an outsider. The kindness, trust, and courtesy is reserved for a friend. In order to become a friend, you have to have done something to earn it. It's not just given automatically. Wow, what a difference. I'm much better off now that I've figured that out. That said, it's only a few of the older staff members I'm referring to. The kids are fantastic! And from all over the world. I love that. There are probably 6 countries represented this session.

I'm staying very busy! The weeks are starting to fly by; that's a good sign. Although I still get overwhelmed with the prospect of owning and running a summer camp; I'm less overcome with fear and anxiety as I'm starting to see things a bit more clearly now. I'm starting to break things down into smaller tasks and roles. Things are starting to make more sense. The jury is still out as to whether or not this lifestyle is right for me and my family. I say "lifestyle" and not "job" because that's what it is; a life long commitment and a way of life. My emotions are a lot like a roller coaster right now, one minute I'm having a great time and the next minute I want to throw up with anxiety. But I'm doing it! and I'm having a great life changing experience.