Friday, August 28, 2015

I Am NOT A Public School Hater But...

I am NOT a public school hater. Totally not! But this week I present my:

 Top 5 Things I DO NOT Miss About the Start of a Public School Year:

1. Back to school night! This is especially a nightmare when you have more than one child, and a husband out of town. Total chaos! There's nothing like meeting your child's new teacher and saying (without saying a word), "I'm a mess! I cannot control my children. I'm sorry that they are making a mess of the classroom you worked so hard to make perfect. I'm trying to hold it together and I'm starting to sweat. I really don't even know what to say to you. I better get out of here. Good luck with my child this year! Bye."

2. All of those forms! I hated those! What a hassle! Especially for multiple children- insurance cards, social security #'s, emergency contacts...blah!

3. School Supply List. THE WORST! I swear every year I would spend $20 in gas running all around town scouring every Target, Staples, Office Max, and Walmart looking for a RED, 3-pronged, pocket folders with brass fasteners. And don't you dare think about getting blue! Oh, and don't buy your child anything special or super cute because it all goes into a community pot and she may not get that one back.

4. School lunches. Need I say more... The only thing worse than packing the same, monotonous lunch every day; is eating the same, monotonous lunch every day. Poor kids! No matter how hard you try at the beginning of the year to be creative and cute with it, it always ends up a sandwich, chips, and a piece of fruit. BORING!

5. The worry. Somehow it never got easy to send those kiddos off to school. For certain kids you would worry about whether or not they would fit in and make friends. You would worry about whether they would get picked on or sit alone in the lunch room. And for other kids, you just worried for the sanity of the teacher.

So, welcome back to school, everybody! I hope your first few weeks are going well : )

Oh, a few other things that happened this week in our family:

Cookie #4 Started Cub Scouts! Cookie #3 is so excited he can hardly wait to coach him through his Bobcat. Gotta love it! 

And Cookie #3 earned his Arrow of Light, the highest Cub Scout rank (I think that's how it's classified). I'm proud to say that he did most of it on his own, which is why I don't know the proper terminology.  So proud, of him...not me : ) 

And Cookie #2 had a monumental evening. Not only did he and his friend (mostly his friend) cook a delicious spicy, spaghetti dinner; he hosted his first "club" meeting. He wants to travel the world in the worst way. He and his friends are putting together an intense business plan in order to raise the money. It's killing me to stay out of it, but I am. I wish I could have recorded their first meeting. It was...intense. No other words. I have one passionate kid on my hands.

Friday, August 21, 2015

You Had One Job, Mom!

I burnt the cookies! It's been 10 weeks and today was the big day- CookieFriday was back! The "little" boys actually made the dough and I HAD ONE JOB. Isn't that a thing?...I only had one job (Yeah, it is. See the attached memes). I needed to take the cookies out on time, and I blew it! I hate burning cookies! The boys actually all got cookies from the first batch, it's my poor husband (who loves the cookies most of all) who gets the short end of the stick on this one. Well, you can't win them all.

Just for giggles

Other than burning the cookies, it's pretty great to be home. From one adventure to another; from the campfire to the schoolroom. And I love it! I have done a fair amount of stressing about the upcoming homeschool year but mostly because I needed to get organized. Now that I've had a week to get my books ordered and get the schoolroom back in order, I'm ready to go!

Did you used to lay out your school outfit the night before the first day? Of course, right? I would lay it out on the floor as if my body was inside. The new socks, the new shoes, the new ribbon- all laid out on the floor, in anatomical order. I remember one year I shopped all summer to find the perfect matching outfit. It was a complete set of pink and navy stripes with a matching skirt, shirt, cardigan, and scrunchy. I cute. I was sure to wear it again on picture day! Of course the new backpack was packed and ready to go with a new binder (denim cover, when I was at my coolest), equipped with neatly labeled dividers and finely sharpened pencils. I distinctly remember feeling the butterflies. I was excited! I loved the fresh new start. I loved the possibilities that a new year would bring. I can't remember if I was excited to learn but I think so. It was the whole package: new teacher, new friends, new books, new school supplies, and, of course, the new shoes.

With educating the kids at home, thing are obviously different. The new clothes, new school supplies, new teacher...not really a thing (although I do make sure we get hair cuts at the end of a shaggy summer). It's different, but no less special. For them, the excitement comes in checking the mail for the dozens of new books coming our way. It's exploring the supplies in the science experiment kit. It's brainstorming ideas for unstructured learning. It's not having to catch the 6:50 bus. It's planning field trips and other travel plans for the year. Just like public school, it's realizing the possibilities that a new year brings, just in a totally different way.

So, here's to the start of a new year and all of the butterflies, new shoes, and possibilities that come with it! Happy fall everybody!

Look who I caught waiting for the cookies : )

Mom is Back! Maybe next week she won't burn the cookies!

Friday, August 14, 2015

I Survived Summer Camp in the Adirondacks! Week 9

Top 4 lessons (because I'm too tired to write 5) I learned after spending 62 days at summer camp in the Adirondacks! (Thanks for the question, Trish)

1. Summer camp isn't a vacation

Owning a summer camp is a romantic idea; leaving home for the summer, owning a beautiful piece of land, and running a seasonal business. Don't be deceived, it's SO MUCH WORK! You have to satisfy the health department, the ACA (American Camp Association), staff, counselors, and parents...not to mention the campers! I've always been a people pleaser but that is a tall order! It takes a lot of work. Yes, you may have a more flexible schedule in the off season, but you're on 24/7 for 9 weeks! After working 9 weeks at summer camp, believe me, romance is the last things on my mind.

2. You don't always have to love it all to have a great experience

This seems pretty obvious, right? Think about's not always hugs and kisses. Sometimes it flat out stinks (figuratively and literally). There are dirty diapers and dirty dishes, tears and tantrums, accidents and mistakes; nonetheless, I would not trade it for all the money in the world. Why? Because the pay off is so great! The sweet moments are so wonderful, that they drown out the sour. This is 100% true of camp.

So, what makes camp worth it?...staying out late to sing campfire songs and catch a glimpse of a shooting star, girls that hang on to an embrace up until the very last moment because they can't stand the thought of being a part from their best friend for a whole entire year, earning a well deserved rank in an activity after working years to earn it. Totally sweet and well worth the sour!

3. Girls just want to be noticed, loved, and accepted

One of my favorite moments at camp was just a couple days ago when Randy was helping my aides move their heavy trunks out of their cabin to prepare for departure. The girls (ages 15-17) sat on the edge of their beds and wanted to chat. They started asking questions. They wanted to know how we met and about our family. They begged us to stay and tell more stories. Some of them expressed how they wished their parents would pay more attention. They said that they may not always act like they want it, but they do love the attention. Eureka! I guess I had always heard that but hearing it strait for a gaggle of teenagers really hit home for me. What a great reminder.

4.  Little things go a long way

The first week of camp I told the counselors that small and simple things can go a long way. It's so true! From the very start of camp I started leaving simple notes and treats on the pillows of my campers. You would have thought they had been given access to the internet! They absolutely loved it. They thanked me more than enough and before too long they were leaving notes and treats for me! My favorite was a bag of Sour Patch KIds with a hand written note saying, "We're so glad we're your... (Sour patch Kids). Isn't that cute!?! Better yet, the girls were rarely late for curfew, never neglected their assignments, and always treated me and each other with kindness. Now, I'm not saying all of that happened because of a bag of chips ("Thanks for chipping in around camp!") but it certainly didn't hurt. Small and simples goes a long way.

We are headed home now. It's a 14 hour car ride. The first hour I was just quiet. I would blurt out an idea, jot it down and then get tired and have to rest. I need a couple weeks to let it all process, that's for sure. But one thing I do know-we can do this! Sure, it'll be a lot of work; it won't be the vacation that some may think but we can do it. By small and simple ways we can create a environment of love and safety; one of acceptance and adventure. A special place that girls can look forward to with a yearning that nowhere else can satisfy.

And I survived my summer adventure!

Entrance into Banquet

End of summer Banquet was a grand event!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

A Little Like Hunger Games, Week 8

My Second Half Aides. Sweet Girls!

I had a super, proud mommy moment this week with Cookie#3. You see, #3 is my geography kid. Last year as a "for fun" project, he made a book of all of the flags of the world. He drew them by hand and labeled each one with it's country. So, how does this have anything to do with camp? Well, the large dining hall (the hearth) is adored with about 30 different flags from around the world. These flags actually represent the countries where past campers have come from. So, #3 and his Irish counselor came to the center of the dining hall full of singing campers and quieted the room with the raise of their hands. The counselor announced (in his thick Irish accent) that his "lad" would be naming all the flags. Cookie proceeded to spit out the names of those countries like they were the ABCs! Everybody was amazed, including me. He didn't tell me he was going to do this! You could hear a pin drop in that place. He hesitated on "Vatican City" and one other very obscure country but he named them all (in record time). When he finished, the place erupted! The kids went crazy. They burst into one of my favorite songs of praise, kinda like "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow." They say nobody has been able to do that for 7 years! You should have seen his face. Talk about a confidence booster! From then on, everybody's been talking about how smart he is. What a great moment for my young son (and his proud mom)!

The last 8 weeks have been an extreme challenge for me. I know my blog posts have focused mostly on the positives but believe me, there have been plenty of "uncomfortable moments". And by uncomfortable, I mean, moments where I've been pushed out of my comfort zone. I feel like my stomach has been in constant knots. It's been exhausting in every sense of the word: physically, spiritually, socially, and mentally. A lot is riding on this experience and this major decision. At various times of my life I have struggled with anxiety; I'm not what you call an easy going person. So, this whole experience has definitely put me outside of my comfort zone. And, boy, have I grown! I have learned about other countries, other religions, and another region of this great country. I have practiced patience, kindness, hard work, restraint, golf (he...he)...just to name a few. I have met some really wonderful adults and some outstanding young people! There is so much good that is going on here. I see a special kind of confidence in the faces of these children. They are very blessed to have this experience. There are little life lessons learned around every corner.

Last night was a special night. It's a night the kids look forward to all summer. The entire camp plays an "all night" man hunt type game (8pm-12am and 6am-8am). Let's just say it involves bad guys, good guys, buried cans, spies, jail...and lots of rules. I swear, at times I felt like I was in the Hunger Games (with out the blood and killing, of course). The kids get really into it and it was a blast. I was the leader of the youngest campers. We went tromping through the woods at night searching for cans. I was right with them and the environment was safe, but they experienced that fun kinda scared feeling. We would hide behind a tree and stay quiet to see who was passing by. Then we would run to the giant bonfire, take a break and eat a s'more. The kids all pretty much took turns being scared for a moment (a little "uncomfortable") but they did it. They did not give up; they succeeded and they helped their team. I know they came away from that experience a little braver; more willing to take risks and try new things. They did not give up. A pretty good life lesson if you ask me. It sounds a bit like the same life lesson I myself have learned while being here at camp.

Playing Smugglers!

I wish you could tell how massive this fire was. Marshmallow roasting was a challenge.

It's late. It's hard to believe I am starting my final week here at camp. I know quite a few of you have been following my blog. That's so kind of you to care. Thank you. It really did make me feel like I had a little team cheering for me. I thought I would ask if anybody had any questions? I have done a lot of typing and maybe you have something you'd like to know. I would love to answer it. Feel free to comment on FB or my blog.

Happy camping!