Thursday, October 23, 2014

All This And A Trip to the Beach

How often do you take a moment to stop and appreciate the beauty that is all around us? I do that quite frequently while I'm at camp, but especially when we go to Bodega Head! In fact, if I had to choose a favorite day during my Caritas week, it would have to be Wednesday. I just love being able to sit and listen to the ocean for a good long while.

The kids get this opportunity also; it's called a solo sit. At some point during the morning, each hiking group will find a special place to stop. Each student will then find their own quiet spot to sit and reflect, perhaps write in their journal or, in some cases, do some drawing. I can't imagine a more beautiful spot to have this special opportunity!

You know you're going to have a good day when the first thing you see upon arriving at the beach is a beautiful halo around the sun.

There is always plenty of wildlife to behold while we walk around the headlands: seagulls (of course), pelicans, cormorants, seals, the occasional whale (I've not seen one yet), hawks, cranes, and the occasional coyote (we didn't see one this year, but there was a beautiful Balto-like dog in the parking lot when we got back).

Lunch is usually brought to us out at the beach: Caritas' own version of pizza delivery! Each student gets their own mini pizza (cheese or pepperoni), apples, carrots, Chex Mix, and plenty of water. It's probably the best lunch of the week. Of course, everything tastes better when you eat it at the beach with lots of great friends!

Just Another Tuesday

Day Two is in the books! And the teacher was allowed to sleep through the night once again. Either that or they tried to wake me up and I was just so far beyond exhausted that it wasn't possible. Unlikely.

After a breakfast of pancakes, sausage, and hash browns yesterday, the kids were off for their first long "hike". Take it from someone who once climbed Half Dome in Yosemite: what they do isn't really hiking. It's more like a long walk with many, many, MANY stops along the way. I opted to stay behind and enjoy some quiet teacher time. Around lunchtime, however, I opted to take a walk around camp and found myself down at the Outdoor Chapel. It's a beautiful place to sit for awhile and just BE. On Friday we'll have our prayer service that all of the kids participate in. It's always quite lovely!

The kids had a lot to say about their day upon returning from their hike, and they're always given an opportunity to debrief with Mateo. I noticed that it usually seems to be my kids doing all the talking, and it's all so wonderfully insightful! I've had several people come up to me and tell me how wonderful my students are. I wish I could take credit for that, but they came to me that way.

After the debrief, it was time for electives which meant...gaga ball! Oh, archery and arts and crafts are also possibilities, but the biggest crowd always heads to gaga ball. I do hope everyone remembered to bring clothes they wouldn't be terribly sad about losing. Trust me, you're not going to get this mud out! If you need further proof, check my photo blog later.

We had two surprise visitors during our electives time: Father Paulson and Mr. Sweeney. They drove up to see the kids and check out the camp. I think they both approved, especially after I showed them the Outdoor Chapel above. They both ran up all those stairs, by the way. I stood at the bottom thinking to myself, "Seriously? Where's the escalator?!"

After hiking around camp and running up the stairs at the chapel, Father Paulson decided to play some basketball with a few of our boys. Dude! Our pastor's got game!!

Tuesday is a fairly easy day for the teacher. Between the five-hour hike and their evening activities, I was able to get some work done and try to do a little bit of reading. I say "try" because my eyes just were not cooperating with me. They kept closing! I may have to wait until this weekend to try and finish the last Harry Potter book again.

Tuesday's turkey dinner was quite tasty! Now, before you get too excited, please don't think, "Nice! Thanksgiving at camp!" We had turkey slices along with carrots, mashed potatoes and gravy. I haven't been very successful at getting my meal group to eat their vegetables, but I'll keep trying! But trust me when I say that no one is going hungry. Everyone is allowed to eat as much as they'd like, and if they don't particularly care for the menu they can help themselves to a fabulous salad bar or make themselves a PB&J sandwich.

When everyone has finished cleaning up their table, they head off for their evening's activities which include a serendipity and then the night hike. A serendipity is meant to prepare the kids for the activity that follows, which, in this case, was a solo hike in virtually complete darkness. [Don't worry, the "hike" is usually not much more than 30 feet or so, and they are completely safe. Well, there was one group that was accosted by a group of raccoons, but rest assured, all creatures great and small walked away from the experience unscathed.]

The night hike is a wonderful opportunity for kids to face and conquer their fears about darkness. I'm sure they'll have plenty of stories to share with everyone when they return from camp.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Another Year, Another Bus Ride

I always find it rather amusing that students look so forward to the bus ride. I mean, the buses aren't very comfortable; we drive through some rough, windy roads, some of which smell really bad. I mean, seriously! And while I will try to teach my students to focus on the journey in life, not the destination, this journey really is all about the destination: Camp Caritas!

Now, I know my students were uber-excited about going to camp this year, but you'd think they could wait at least two minutes before starting with "Are we there yet?!" We hadn't even gotten onto Brandon Road when I heard, "1...2...3...


Oh, it's going to be a long drive.

And you'd think they could have waited at least five more minutes before the next one. And you'd be wrong. Thirty seconds later, "1...2...3...


Really, really long drive.

At least they waited about five minutes before starting the singing. This led Natalie to yell out, "No! No sing-a-longs! NO!" Sorry, kid, but that's like trying to put a stopper in Niagara Falls. 

"Oh - on a prayer!"

And, no, that wasn't just the teacher praying for quiet. Two or three songs later, they changed to a loud, rhythmic chant:


And I mean LOUD! I was surprised our bus driver didn't say something about the volume. Maybe he's not a Giants fan either. But, seriously...the Royals? Is it just because they're not the Giants? And how in the world was Rachel able to read her book through all of this!? I so envy people who can do that. And next to her Natalie was she managed to do so on an incredibly bumpy bus, I don't know. 

After they were done with the chanting, they went back to singing. The first song sounded familiar, but I couldn't quite place it. And then Natalie yelled out, "NO!!!!" and covered her ears.

Oh, right..."Let It Go." Delightful.

Shortly after someone started singing "Conjunction Junction" (seriously? Even the teacher doesn't want to do grammar on the bus!), I stood up to remind the kids in the back of the bus to remain seated while the bus was moving. Before I could say anything, Kevin called out, "Miss McMillan, you should sit down. It's not safe to stand." 


I believe it was right after this that the following conversation took place:

Rachel: "It's gonna be a long bus ride."

Me: "It always is."

Laura: "We could make the tires blow out and make it even longer!"

Katie C: "How is that productive?!"

Not two seconds later, the bus driver pulled over to the side of the road. Laura got very quiet, probably wondering if she jinxed us. A number of items, sleeping bags and what-not, had fallen into the aisle and he just wanted to keep the aisle clear. But for one brief, shining was quiet.

Moment's over. "I can show you the world..."

About 10:00 we were approaching Six Flags, and I just waited. Because every year...

Can we go to Six Flags?!!

Every year.

So, you know how you never want to tempt fate by saying something like, "Wow, my car is sure running great"? Well, the bus ride version of that is, "Hey, no one's singing!" I just rolled my eyes when I heard that and said, "Dude! Don't poke the beehive!" Sure enough, this led to a little Whitney Houston:

"And I...I...I...I...I will always love you!"

I kid you not.

At least they moved on to some Adele after that. And another rendition of "Are we there yet?" Then I heard, "Yo, McTeach! Do you have a diaper?"

Wait...did you just call me "McTeach"? [And then the second part hit me.] I guess I should be more concerned with the diaper part, right? I was told, "Don't worry. It's just truth or dare."

Don't worry. Right.

That was when Natalie asked Celeste, "Do you have a hippopotamus I can borrow?" Celeste asked for a repeat of the question a few times, probably due to the bizarreness of the question. The brain just doesn't know how to process hippopotamus questions.

It was at about this time that we noticed a beautiful rainbow arching across the road we were traveling on. When I heard someone call out, "Ohmygod, we're almost at the end of the rainbow," I wanted to laugh but then I looked out the window. We did, in fact, seem to be getting closer and closer to it!

We'll return to our regularly scheduled programming after these brief commercial messages. I don't know why...then again, I never do...but they started in on a few commercial chants, like "Ho, ho, ho...Green Giant." And "Red Robin...Yum!" And let's not forget the obligatory "Bah-da-bum-bum-bum...I'm lovin' it!"

Great, now I'm hungry.

One thing I'll say about this class, at least they waited an entire hour before starting in with "The Wheels on the Bus." But I knew it was coming; it's as inevitable as the change in seasons. I'm fairly certain, however, that this class added a few of their own verses, or perhaps I've just never heard the entire song (sometimes the voices in my head yell loudly enough that they block out certain songs). I had never heard the line, "The teacher on the bus goes shush, shush, shush." I certainly enjoyed it, but I'd love to know whether or not they made it up.

After Abby led the crowd in a resounding rendition of "If You're Happy and You Know It", Julia and Celeste seemed to take over for awhile with every cheer they've ever learned. And I mean, EVERY...CHEER. There were several that I'd heard before, "Bazooka Bubble Gum," "Boom Chick-a-Boom," but the one about the "little baby bumblebee" led Natalie to call out, "You realize that a 'baby bumblebee' would be a 'larvae', right?!"

Despite the fact that I've made this trek for seven or eight years now, nothing can prepare you for the smell that bombards the bus as we enter farming territory. Wow! At one point I heard someone yell out, "It smells nasty!" Shortly afterwards, Rachel asked, "Why does it smell so bad?"

I pointed out the window at all the cows.


As we got closer and closer to camp, the more frequently the bursts of "Are we there yet?" occurred. After one particularly loud outburst, I let out a rather loud, "Ugh!" This was met with, "1...2...3...

We're sorry, Miss McMillan!"

I have to admit, that made me smile.

Time for one more very brief conversation before we arrived:

Rachel: Wow, Miss McMillan, what a difference! It was, like, all roads and then, boom...forest!

Me: Those are bushes.

Rachel: Still!

Yeah, I know. After that, they saw the sign for CYO Camp and it was all over! Non-stop screaming from the time they saw the sign to the moment Mateo hopped on the bus to welcome them. I just wish I could get them this excited about grammar! Hey, I know...Grammar Camp! How much fun would that be!

Tuesday Morning

Which way will you go?
Good Morning from Caritas!

It's a rather chilly 45 degrees here this morning, and it's not much warmer than that here in the teacher's cabin. I'm hoping we can get someone here to check the heater sooner rather than later! In the meantime, I have my laptop to keep me warm.

I'm still working on my bus ride post; it's gotten rather long and I was sufficiently brain-dead enough yesterday to make writing a bit more challenging than usual. I will finish it later today when the kids are off on their first long hike of the week.

One thing I might not have mentioned before now is that if there are any issues during the night, from sick kid to troublemaker to homesickness, they will wake me up to let me know. Rest assured, I slept through the night...well, for the most part. At least no one other than myself woke me up last night!

Before I leave to walk down to the lodge for breakfast, I will tell you that I have seen nothing but smiles. Lots and lots of smiles! The kids are having a wonderful time, and so am I!

Sidenote: Last night after dinner, Katie C. discovered that there is a clock in the lodge. This made her very happy. "Ha!! I found the clock!! I will be able to check the time!" I don't think it dawned on her that she won't be able to take the clock with her on hikes, and I certainly didn't mention that to her. She's happy...that's all that matters.