Thursday, November 3, 2016

A Perfect Beach Day

Unless, of course, you're the poor kid who got sick on the bus. If you weren't, then you got to experience an absolutely beautiful, picture-perfect day on the California coast! It was even warm enough to walk around in short sleeves.

And the wildlife that we got to see was amazing. Unfortunately, I missed the whale that most of the groups got to see, nor was I fortunate enough to see the coyote that Mr. Caban saw. But I did see this:

That, my friends, is a Great Blue Heron! I kept trying to get a shot of him with the blue crest showing on the top of his head, but he seemed suspicious of me for some strange reason. There were many other strange creatures there today...but I brought them with me on the bus.

Besides the delicious pizza lunch at the beach, I think today's favorite activity was jumping in the ice plant. It's bouncy! And it's an invasive species, so the naturalists let them have some fun with it.

I spent some time on my own today, just enjoying the sun and the sounds of the beach, from the waves to the foghorn to the colony of seals out on the Rookery (in the center of the picture on the right). They sure do make a lot of noise. A joyful noise.

Tonight we will begin finishing up our Camp Caritas experience. As I'm writing this, the kids are in their cabins packing their bags and, hopefully, cleaning up the cabin. I wish you all the best of luck with laundry this weekend. Might I suggest that you hold your nose while pulling items out of your kids' bags.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Tuesday at Camp

For a day that started with a beautiful sunrise, Tuesday sure ended with a bang. For so many reasons! Lots of sick kids around camp this week, mostly from another school, but I had a couple of issues to deal with last night (don't worry, if you didn't get an email from me it wasn't your kid).

After their day-long hike yesterday, they had a little bit of freetime and then it was time for electives. There are usually three or four different electives, gaga ball being the most popular. Usually. This year they offered pumpkin carving as an option and about half the kids decided to participate. That's why, when you see my pictures of yesterday's gaga ball game, the ring isn't packed. I'm sure it will be today.

The gaga ball pit looked much more like a swamp...or a very muddy lake this year thanks to all the recent rain they've had up here. Now, I want you to take a moment and imagine yourself standing in about six inches of mud water, and continue imagining yourself play ring-around-the-rosy in that muddy water. And let's not forget how ring-around-the-rosy ends: We all fall down.

Into the six inches of mud water.

And now, you probably don't need (or want) to use your imagination and think about where all that muddy water is getting.

After a little bit of mud wrestling, it's time for everybody's favorite activity: Hug the teacher. In her fairly clean clothes. I just put my camera up and they'll stop running at me and pose.

That's one point to the teacher.

Not everyone has that advantage, however, and children start chasing children around saying, "Give me a hug!" It's only funny if you're a bystander.

Until you get sprayed with mud as someone goes running by you.


As we were walking back to one of the bathrooms where the kids would be hosed down, I heard one of the kids ask about the blow-up barricades that were set up on Coyote Field. I explained that it was for that night's activity, the best game ever! (which I can't tell you about) Christian argued that there couldn't possibly be a game that was better than gaga ball.

Just. You. Wait.

After a yummy turkey dinner (I do love mashed potatoes and gravy!), it was time for one of the most powerful experiences of our week at camp. It's top secret...can't tell you about it, sorry. But my kiddos were amazing!

Actually, that's been a common theme during our week. I've had so many compliments about our students from both site directors, the teacher naturalists and cabin leaders, even the other teachers here. That's always great to hear!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

A Halloween Bus Ride...Sure, No Problem

Greetings from the Day House, aka the teachers' cabin. The kids are out on their first big hike of the week and I am enjoying a few moments of relative peace and quiet. I say "relative" because I'm sharing the cabin with the four teachers from St. Isidore. They are NOT a quiet, but loud. Fortunately, I know them really well as I used to work at St. Isidore, and we've all been having a bit of fun.

While the kids are out hiking, I generally stay in my cabin to try and get some work done. So...about that bus ride. We knew before stepping foot on the bus that it would be a different experience than any of us were expecting, what with having another school on the bus with us. It felt really awkward, but it didn't take long until my kids were singing and laughing. Jazzy having her ukelele on the bus definitely encouraged lots of singing.

LOTS of singing.

The songs varied from "Little Einstein" and "Let It Go" to some of the classics like "We Will Rock You" to, heaven help me, "Jingle Bells." Let me say that again...

Jingle Bells.


It was about that time that I heard a fairly quiet, "1..2..3.." That's never followed by something good. In years past it's been followed by the dreaded, "...Are we there yet?" Not this year. This year it was followed by a wonderful round of "Happy Birthday to Nicole!"

There were several different versions of the "Repeat After Me" song, most of which I didn't really catch. One had something to do with Tarzan and then, of course, there was Bazooka Bubble Gum. I didn't turn around during most of them because I assumed I knew the loud, screaming voice that was leading the cheers.

I was wrong.

Oh, Sutton. There goes my image of you as a quiet, peaceful child.

And there goes Emma putting on her ear muffs trying to quell some of the noise. "I don't think that's going to work, Emma."

Emma: ~sigh~ It doesn't.

After one particularly rousing repeat after me cheer, I heard Christian call out, "Sorry, Mr. Joe!" I'm sure Joe, our bus driver, appreciated it, Christian.

You know how there are some phrases that just don't seem to be in a language you're acquainted with, mostly because it's just that confusing? I had to have Aidan repeat his question to me several times before my brain processed that, yes, he is indeed asking you a question about "impossible graffiti."

"Miss McMillan, this is the bridge with the impossible graffiti!"

The next time you're driving over the Benicia Bridge, take a look to your left and you'll see what he's talking about. Unless you're the driver...If you're the driver, then eyes front!

And yes...this all happened before we reached the Benicia Bridge. This may have also been the time I reached for the Excedrin.

Around 10:00 I received a text from Mrs. Wilson saying, "R U there yet?" Ok, seriously? First of all, we've only been gone about 45 minutes. Secondly, text lingo? Really?!

Right after that began the Hamilton portion of our trip. Somehow this led to a conversation about death, which I realized only after someone shouted, "Why are we even talking about death?!"


The answer followed fairly quickly, " ' know...the guy's dead."

I assumed they were talking about Alexander Hamilton. Or maybe it was one of the skunks we passed by in the middle of the road.

You know what you don't want to hear on a bus ride? Besides "I don't feel so good"? You don't want to hear the question, "Miss McMillan, is this dangerous? I don't want to explode."

Mostly, this year was about singing on the bus (although not one verse from the dreaded "The Wheels on the Bus" rang out, thankfully). But not one instance of "Are we there yet?" which totally surprised me. Okay, okay...Mrs. Wilson did ask and I may have thought the question a time or two myself, but no one actually verbalized it. Shocking!

Friday, October 30, 2015


It's early Friday morning as I'm writing this. It is very quiet outside. It's really quiet in the teachers' cabin also...I seem to be the only one who wakes up at 5:00 every morning. I guarantee that will not be the case tomorrow morning, however. I may not get out of bed all day!

Yesterday was quite a long day for everyone, teachers included. The kids had their second long hike of the week, followed by electives (but not gaga ball) and CLEAN UP! After their electives they have about an hour to pack, clean their cabin, AND prepare their "gift" for Celebration. Each cabin prepares a skit or a song that celebrates their experiences at Caritas this week. After dinner, they present their gifts to the entire camp. It's always a lot of fun, especially when the naturalists who act as emcees are as funny as Joey and Max were last night!

After the skits, the entire camp sits in a circle on the floor for the candle pass. When you receive the candle, you get to say whatever you'd like about your week at Caritas and what it meant to you. It's a very reverent and peaceful activity. And long! When you have about 80 people in the circle, each taking a minute or two to talk, it can be a very long evening. And did I mention we were sitting on the hardwood floor of the lodge.

A very long evening.

But my students handled it beautifully, speaking their minds, sharing what Caritas has meant to them. Most kids from all three schools mentioned Wednesday night's New Eyes serendipity and how much closer they feel to their classmates after that experience. That serendipity really is one of the most powerful moments of the entire week.

And now it's Friday. Our week here is almost complete. But we have a lot to do before we get on those buses around noon. Everyone has to be packed and have their baggage out on the basketball courts before breakfast. Then the kids will prepare the various parts of our prayer service which we will hold in the beautiful outdoor chapel. After the prayer service, we will have some class time where we will talk about how we will take what we have learned and experienced this week back with us so that we can continue to live "Caritas style."

After that, it's lunch, goodbyes, and get on the bus!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

What's This Wet Stuff, California?

When we first got to Bodega Head yesterday, it was a little misty followed by a little drizzly. And the huge, crashing waves roared like nothing I'd heard before on a Caritas Wednesday. The surf was so high that the naturalists even decided to forego the customary walk down to the beach. It just wasn't safe. Here's what it looked and sounded like when we first arrived:

Bodega Head

But that didn't bother us...there is always so much to do and see while visiting the coast. In the video, you can hear somebody saying they saw a seal. There were several of them swimming around in the wild water. At one point I was fortunate enough to see one of the seals jump out of the water...I'm sure my excitement could be heard for miles around. Unfortunately, no one else saw it happen. So, you know...if a seal jumps out of water and only one person sees it, did it really happen?

Of course, I could have asked a similar question an hour or so later when we heard one of the naturalists talking about a whale sighting. Several groups started walking over to where the whales had been spotted, so we hiked over to join them. There were a number of kids yelling, "I see one! I see one!" but it always seemed to happen when my back was turned to the ocean.


Surprisingly, even though it was misty and drizzly most of the morning, it definitely wasn't cold. It sure looked like it should have been, but it was actually a bit muggy. But by the time we left...

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Is It Naptime Yet?

Another Tuesday at camp has come and gone. Hikes were taken, banana slugs were kissed, and apples were eaten by the bushel. Meanwhile, back in the teachers' cabin...


Yes, a much-needed nap was being taken...not planned, but taken nonetheless. Normally, while the kids are out on their first big hike of the week, I stay in my cabin and get some grading done. Well, this year, as the tech coordinator, I don't have any grading to do. So I brought my best friend, Kindle, with me this year. I was so excited to have some time to read! I think I may have read three or four pages before...


Oh well. Maybe tomorrow.

As for what the kids were doing, I'm sure they'll have plenty of stories to share about their hikes - both during the day and at night. Each day here at Camp Caritas has a theme. Tuesday's theme was connections. Kids are challenged to look for connections amongst themselves and between life at camp and life back at home. For example, those who did the challenge course yesterday made connections about working well as a team, no matter what that "team" might be.

And then, of course, there was gaga ball. After a long day of hiking through the forest, nothing says relaxation quite like slinging mud at each other. There are other electives - archery, arts and crafts, and, new this year, improv - but most everyone wants to get into that gaga ball pit. While I was standing at the pit taking pictures, one of the other teachers cried out, "Ack! I got a drop of mud on me!!"

Really?! That kid who just walked by had mud in his TEETH! There's some perspective for ya.

And now that you have that picture in your mind, let's talk about the food. Yesterday we had pancakes, sausage, and hash browns for breakfast. Yum! Last night was pasta night which included the most delicious bread sticks! I was surprised I didn't hear about more tummy aches last night based on the rate of consumption of bread sticks.

Maybe it was just me.

Today we'll be getting back on buses to drive out to Bodega Head and spend the morning in the beach environment. And it looks like the weather is going to hold up for us. 

More later...

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Nothing Says Love Like A Bus Ride

Day House
Ah, the quiet stillness of the early morning at camp. So very different than the noisy chaos of the bus ride to camp! Before I regale you with my tales of woe, let me first tell you that no teens or pre-teens were harmed in the making of this episode.

Our adventure began before we even made it onto the bus. I received an email from camp saying that our bus wouldn't be arriving until 9:45, instead of 9:00 or 9:15.


So I sent the parents on their way and said, "If you want to see your kids off, just be back by 9:45. The bus arrived about five minutes later, at 9:15.


Our bus driver was kind enough to allow us to wait until 9:45 before leaving just in case parents were able to make it back.

And then we were off in our Mercedes of buses! (Thanks to Mrs. Dewes for that description!)  I have to say, it's pretty cool to be the one on the bus watching everyone in the school waving you off...especially this year for me, what with teaching all of the kids in school. But we'd barely made it past kindergarten when I heard, "1...2...3...

Are we there yet?!!!"

Oh, it's going to be that kind of bus ride. Fabulous.

Now, normally the first song that seems to make the playlist every year is "The Wheels on the Bus." (I wonder how many times the bus driver has heard that one!) But not this year. The first song, for some reason unbeknownst to this teacher, was "Little Einstein." Rest assured, this was followed quite quickly by "The Wheels on the Bus." I mean, we hadn't even gotten past the office!

Some of our other entertainment before we even got onto the freeway:

  • Bazooka-zooka Bubble Gum
  • 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall (at least they didn't sing the entire song like the brother of one of this year's campers did a few years ago)
  • You Are My Sunshine
  • When I See You Again (okay, I actually sang along with this one)
  • All About That Bass
  • The Barney Song (seriously??? He's a dinosaur...isn't he dead yet?)
At about 10:10, I found myself asking, "Is someone humming the Mario Brothers theme?! Five minutes later, at 10:15, someone yelled out, "Everyone! Let's play the quiet game!!" (did anyone else catch the irony there?!)

10:15 and 30 over.

Oh, but what a blissfully quiet 30 seconds it was.

A few minutes later, someone yelled out, "Are any of you people planning on taking a nap? Because now would be a really good time!" I wonder if this was the same kid who wanted to play the quiet game. Oh, and no one responded to her nap question...I don't think anyone but me heard her! Instead, someone started singing "Frosty the Snowman" October!

Then came the portion of our bus ride where kids started noticing things outside of the bus:
  • "Denny's! We should go to Denny's!!
  • "We're going to Napa! Yay!!"
  • "Six Flags! Ohmygod!!!" (this was followed by the chanting of "Six Flags! Six Flags!"
  • And then, of course, every year someone says, "Miss McMillan, can we go to Six Flags?!"
Every. Single. Year.

About the time we hit the Lakeville Road, some of the kids seemed to invent some new sort of game called "The last time I was on this road." It went something like this:
  • The last time I was on this road...I was going to a wedding.
  • The last time I was on this road...I was with my grandma. didn't last long.

But it was followed by me asking a question I don't think I've ever uttered: "Who's singing 'It's Raining Men'?!"

Finally, we made it to Petaluma and I heard someone say, "In, like, 30 feet, a McDonalds is coming up!" And the crowd goes wild! I don't know's not like we were going to go through the drive-thru. And, oh, by the way...I never did see the McDonalds. We did, however, see a Starbucks which led to the chanting of, "Starbucks! Starbucks! Starbucks!!"

No, it wasn't me.

Other random statements from our ride:
  • "I don't have the measles!" (Good to know, kid...good to know.)
  • "Are we there yet?!" (I should have been keeping track of how many times I heard that one.)
  • "This bus is amazing!" (I know, right?!)
  • "Are we almost there?" (I should, of course, include this in the tally of "Are we there yets."
  • "Miss McMillan, I'm feeling very car sick right now!" (Well, that's not what you want to hear!)
We interrupt this blog post for a public service announcement:
The next time you're driving down the road in the Mercedes of buses, take a video of the kids...and make sure they see you doing it. But if you have sensitive ears...or just probably should, you know, not do that.
This was followed by the chanting portion of our program. It followed this pattern: "I say 'Cari-' and you say '-tas'!" "Cari-" "-tas"! You get the picture, right? Here were some of the other chants:

  • I say "pumpkin spice" and you say "latte"
  • I say "Sponge" and you say "Bob"
  • I say "Patrick" and you say "star"
  • I say "Mister" and you say "Crab"
  • I say "Taylor" and you say "Swift"
  • I say "quiet" and you say "nothing" (clever...but didn't quite get the response he was looking for)
  • And my favorite: I say "Miss" and you say "McMillan"

Thus ends the tale of yet another Camp Caritas-bound bus ride. And now...the teacher needs a nap.