Thursday, October 25, 2012

Weather Permitting

That's not a phrase you hear up at camp. We don't make plans around the weather; we make plans...and we do them. So, when we were getting ready to come up to Camp Caritas and we noticed that the week was looking very wet, my response to the kids was, "Doesn't matter. It is what it is, and we don't let it stop us."

That doesn't mean, of course, that I was any less happy when it turned out to be an absolutely gorgeous day at the beach yesterday. I was thrilled! The forecast had been for a very rainy day at Bodega Head, but turned out to be sunny and warm...and beautiful!

While the kids were wandering around the headlands with their teacher-naturalists, I walked around with our site director, Katie. We were both hoping to spot one of the many gray whales that pass along this stretch of the coast. I'd never seen a whale in my many trips to the ocean over the years, so you can imagine my excitement when Katie spotted one for us. At first we saw it spout water a couple of times, but then we saw the tail fin and got really excited! The entire time we watched this whale, we were treated to a soundtrack of seal pups that inhabit a small island right off the coast. What a wonderful moment!

Later, as the kids were piling back onto the buses for our ride back to camp, Dominic yelled out to me that there was a coyote nearby. I was about the only person who hadn't seen one yesterday. I was determined to get a picture of one, so I ran over to where he'd been spotted and managed to track him down just as he was getting ready to pounce on his prey.

And then there was Peaches! Now, I'm not normally a big fan of the small dogs; I love a dog I can wrap my arms around. But Peaches was just the sweetest little puppy ever! She's a four-month-old Teacup Chihuahua who was out on a leash for the very first time. She had actually been abandoned by someone and wound up in the care of the woman we met walking her at the beach. Both Peaches and her human were kind, gentle souls.

I've created a Flickr set for all of my scenery pictures from my week at camp. I'll be adding to it as I go through all of my photos, but you can find the set here: Camp Caritas Scenery 2012.

If you've never been to this part of Northern California, you really need to do yourself a favor and visit places like Bodega Bay and Occidental. It is one of the most beautiful places you will ever see.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Wheels On The Bus

Where to begin to describe the adventure that is the bus ride to camp. How about with a question..."Why?" Why does every class insist on torturing the teacher with "The Wheels on the Bus"? Have the eighth graders been passing that down every year? "Oh, Miss McMillan just loves this song!" Or is it just the fact that they're on a school bus and they just can't help themselves? In any case, I'm happy to report that this year's rendition didn't last very long thanks, in part, to our driver Richard.

The singing began before we even got out of the parking lot! As the bus was passing the office, it erupted with the sounds of "The Wheels on the Bus", much to Mrs. Wilson's amusement, I'm sure. But Richard had not yet given the kids the bus rules, so he stopped the bus before we even reached the street. He waited until everyone was quiet before beginning.

Well played, Richard. Well played!

As usual, I sat at the front of the bus, making sure to have a seat all to myself. Hey, there has to be some benefit to being the only teacher on the bus! Because it certainly isn't peace and quiet (even though Mrs. Wolf was kind enough to provide me with ear plugs before we left!)

In the seats near me were several boys who spent a great deal of time talking about football...when they weren't singing showtunes. Remember The Lion King? And would you like to take a guess which of our boys started singing "Oh, I just can't wait to be king!"

It was shortly after that brief musical interlude that these same boys started grilling me about all the movies I've seen lately (or, more to the point, haven't seen). "Hey, Miss McMillan, have you seen We Bought a Zoo?"


"Seriously?! What about Big Daddy?"

Is that the one with Adam Sandler?



"What?!! Well, how about Toy Story 3? You must have seen Toy Story 3!"


"What?!! How could you have not seen Toy Story 3?! I cried buckets watching that one!!"

Sorry, Charlie. I haven't seen it yet.

"Well, write yourself a note right now...'I must watch Toy Story 3!' "

I should point out that I sat with a notebook during the entire bus ride, taking notes on everything I heard to make it easier to share it with everyone.

I wrote myself a note to watch Toy Story 3.

While this conversation was going on:

  • Jesse noticed that his mom was driving by us on the freeway and yelled out, "Hey, it's my mom! I see my mom!!"
  • Kelly recited the entire opening to the show Ghost Adventures.
  • Sarah and Maggie were playing some game called Mash right behind me.
  • A card game was being played two rows back.
  • A conversation about some weird teen singing group was making the rounds.

It was about this time that we passed Six Flags Discovery Kingdom and the kids got very excited. I even heard one of the girls say, "Instead of Caritas, let's go to Six Flags!"

Ok, by me! Shorter bus ride!!

For some reason, just driving by Six Flags led to the singing of a series of commercial jingles, starting with Six Flags and the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, and then moving straight into reciting favorite commercials like Taco Bell.

It wasn't all fun and games and fast food jingles, of course. We had a grammar lesson on the bus! You can thank (or blame, depending on your perspective) Kayla for teaching her classmates the Helping Verbs song, which they started singing even before we left school and then again about an hour into our drive.

The quiz will be held on the return ride home.

Confession time. I'm not very proud of this, but the kids weren't the only ones singing this year. This was definitely a first for me...I try not to encourage this behavior. But when Charlie started singing the theme from the television show Friends, one of my all-time favorites, I just couldn't help myself. And then he moved right into the song "Soft Kitty" which is often sung on the show Big Bang Theory. And while we were singing "Soft kitty, warm kitty, little ball of fur..."


"Moo! Moo!!!"

And then the best question all morning came from Maggie directly behind me: "How do you put up with this every year?!"

I'm still figuring that out, Maggie.

It was about that time that the bus stopped at some railroad tracks which led Sarah to ask me, "Did you put your feet up?"

No, why?

"You're supposed to put your feet up when you cross railroad tracks or you'll have bad luck!"

That's a new one on me.

"Miss McMillan!!! How much longer?!" (This, of course, is just another version of "Are we there yet?")

Catie, it's only 10:30.

"That doesn't answer my question!"


At one point during the ride, I actually wrote in my notes, "there hasn't been as much singing as I had been threatened with." Big mistake, BIG mistake! I had barely dotted the "i" in "with" when the singing began. And it didn't stop until we arrived at Camp Caritas. I'm sure I didn't help matters when I got my Flip camera out and started taking video of all of them. Oh well, at least the musical selection was quite varied. Songs included:

  • Call Me, Maybe (of course)
  • Raindrops Are Fallin' On My Head (oh, that Charlie!)
  • Camptown Races
  • She'll Be Comin' Round the Mountain
  • Silent Night (hey, don't ask me! Although it was nice of Lauren to add an "Amen!" at the end)
  • The Cats in the Cradle
  • I Want You Back 
And then there was a brief Beatles interlude:
  • Hey Jude (Na, na, na, na-na-na-na!)
  • Yellow Submarine (I used to like that song)
  • I Am the Walrus (seriously?! Ku-ku-ka-chu!)
And then it was the dreaded (or is that "dreadful"?!) "It's A Small World!!"

I get hazard pay, don't I?!

To finish out the musical portion of our adventure, we heard:
  • One More Night by Maroon 5
  • We Are Never Getting Back Together by Taylor Swift
  • Baby, Baby by Justin Bieber (seriously...hazard pay!)
  • Boyfriend - also by Justin Bieber
  • What Makes You Beautiful by One Direction
I think I'm understanding why I woke up with a headache this morning. 

Well, the kids are beginning to return to camp after their first major hike of the week. I need to get myself ready to get back out there and take more's time for gaga ball!! 

A Little Quiet Time

Behind the Main Lodge
One of the benefits of being an early riser is the quiet time in the morning before the chaos of the day begins. At the moment I'm sitting in the entry to the teacher's cabin so as to not wake either of my roommates for the week. It won't be long now before the camp begins to wake, so this will be a fairly quick post.

We arrived here yesterday safe and sound (well, relatively speaking. My sanity will remain in question throughout the week.) The drive up was non-eventful as far as weather and traffic were concerned. But we arrived to find the camp rather soaked, as you can see from the first picture I took of the grounds while the kids were getting to know everyone. For the most part, rain was pretty much a non-issue yesterday. We had some rain showers during the afternoon, but they never lasted more than a few minutes at a time.

A Moment of Sunshine

That would change, of course. Luckily the heavens waited to open up until after our campfire last night and after the kids had already gotten to their cabins and were getting ready for their first night's sleep here at camp. My goodness did it pour! I walked around the grounds to check in with a few of the cabins and by the time I returned to Day House (the teachers' cabin), I was drenched! All part of the experience. :)

Today, while the kids are off on their first big hike of the week, I will have plenty of time to go over my notes from the bus ride and fill you in on that part of the adventure. But we are here, we are safe, we have had lots and lots of fun and laughter, and we are oh so happy for our San Francisco Giants!!!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Here We Go Again

Once again, I'm preparing myself to head off to camp with my thirty-six seventh graders. We leave school tomorrow morning for five days of what promises to be an amazing experience, albeit a rather wet one. Here is the latest forecast for our week:

I'm sure the bus ride alone will be an adventure, complete with its own soundtrack. Stay tuned for my next blog post which will describe in excruciating (or highly entertaining) detail the story of how Miss McMillan Got to Camp.