Monday, July 13, 2015

Sunday Funday: Add in the Male Staff

Meet Joel.
This pic arrived to me via text a few weeks ago with the following request from The Princess: "Please make cookies for this guy. He hand scooped my campers' poop out of their severely clogged toilet."

That poor, unsuspecting boy. Without hesitation I sent cookies back to camp with her after she romped around the chain with the girls in the rain. Mid-week she sent me a video of him thanking me as he oversaw the ropes course. Later that day I received this text:

"Joel ate your cookies and goes: 'Ughhh they were so good! Can I meet her?! Can I marry her?!'"

I blushed.

The next day I received a Facebook friend request from Colin. Not knowing this young gent from Adam, I looked to see if we had any mutual friends. Lo and behold, he works at Chippewa Ranch Camp too. I accepted.

Later in the day I received this one: "So your new friend on Facebook, Colin, says: 'Kahley's Mom has got it going on. She has two blogs? Wow. She's so deep. OH MY GOD! Bacon wrapped onion rings? She's just fantastic!'"

Meet Colin.
I spit my coffee out a little. That song..."Stacy's Mom?" We play that station on Apéritif Fridays because it strikes an acceptable balance between country, Eminem, Nicki Minaj and classic rock so all family members remain in the kitchen and engage in Friday antics.

So when she asked if Colin and Joel could join in on Sunday's fun, the answer was a no brainer. I simply couldn't wait to meet my fan club. It's just a shame that when the introductions were made, I tripped on my shoe, fell into Joel, my mouth smashed into his bicep and naturally, he had a white T-shirt on, so I schmeared red lipstick all down his sleeve.

Kahley's Mom most certainly does not have it going on, but they met the real me in the first 5 seconds. We were off to a stellar day. In due time, I got to know the real Joel and Colin.
Along with the girls, they are as sweet and quirky as the best Chippewa internationals I've ever met.
And that's some really, really big shoes to fill. Some gals from New Zealand, both now married, forever hold a most special piece of my heart. The international staff contributes to the magic of Chippewa. As campers our kids met young adults from around the world and learned about other cultures. Now as a counselor, Kahley is making international friends for life.
These kids come to camp to experience America. 
Yes, the summer job is a means to that end, but when we invite them into our home to hang out with us, we are really giving them a glimpse into how we live. What we do. How we interact.
We wasted no time. Since the kids ate lunch in town, we immediately headed out on the boat for some Sugar Camp fun. Scotland in the house!
Colin and Nicole live on opposite coasts from one another, but it only takes about an hour and a half by car to get from one side of Scotland to the other. That's a shorter ride than for me to go see my mom. Colin shared a little insight on our way out to the beach. "Did you know that the entire population of Scotland is about half a million people less than the entire state of Wisconsin?"
I just stared at him dumbly. No - I didn't know that. And it took me quite awhile to get my head around it. With 12 million people in Chicagoland alone, I'm thinking I'd rather like the absence of humanity in Colin and Nicole's home country.

We swam at the beach for awhile, observing some universal facts. Playing "chicken" in the water spans the globe and generations. It is forever fun.
Put a boy in a lake and he will find an underwater treasure.
Lake weeds make great necklaces.
We made our way back to the cabin, and one by one they showered. Kahley provided the boys with her own worldly lesson:
The turban towel wrap.
I hollered downstairs to them when dinner was ready, buffet style, in the kitchen. I truly expected them all to grab a plate and head out to the deck or back downstairs to eat. But one by one, they filled a plate and took a place at the table. They all sat down together and chatted over dinner.
Like real human adults.
In fact, the cell phones hardly came out the entire day, and when they did, it was for this:
And who's to argue an effort to capture life's best little moments? Not I.

All day and into the night they talked to one another. Engaged. Laughed. Made memories. They took the fun outside and at one point the dock morphed into an all out dance floor. Hopefully our neighbors can tolerate a night of interrupted peacefulness for a "cheerleader you ring my bell" song.

Or some such thing.

The boys owe me a performance of the lip sync they performed the first night of camp. You can bet they'll be invited back so I can see the act. Not to mention that they are all just so sweet, funny, entertaining and genuinely good people. The kind of people I love.

I've said it before, and I'll say it forever. Overnight summer camp is one of the best experiences you can offer young, impressionable kids. It teaches them so much more than you can ever imagine, and my kids continue to thrive in the camp environment. It's a legacy that I hope continues with my future grandchildren, and I know my kids will look back fondly on their days at camp, grateful we opted out of travel sports teams and expensive family vacations. Their camp families help Mr. Musky and me in shaping their life views, independence, perspectives on the world, important character traits, and ability to live in unique environments with people they'd otherwise never even interact with.

And to the staff Mums and Dads abroad? Be proud. You all raised amazing, kind, grateful people who make my heart go pitter patter. Before they all left everyone thoughtfully and sincerely thanked Mr. Musky and me for hosting them. Back at camp, Nicole gave me a big hug, stood back, stared into my eyes and declared: "I love you, American Mum."

I melted on the spot.

XOXO,
Jen



Thursday, July 2, 2015

Adventures in Global Camp Counseling

The texts start in on about Thursday from The Princess, who's the riding director this summer at Chippewa Ranch Camp.

"Mom, Can I come home on Sunday?"
"Sure."
"With a few other people?"
"How many?"
"Just three."
"Sure. What do you want for dinner?"
"Vegetables."

And I'm thrilled. I love the fact that I can see her every week this summer, and am a little tickled that she thinks we're cool enough to hang out with versus carousing around town. Maybe she's over the "town thing." I'm just happy she'd rather be with us and craves vegetables.

Her friends are all sweet...relishing in soft carpet replacing sandy wood under their feet and anticipating "proper" showers, as they like to call them. We enjoy talking with them all, learning about where they live. Did you know that in South Africa the power goes out every day for a few hours? From the demeanor of the South African, it's as annoying as it sounds.

Last week's request involved an all day boat ride with Taco Salad as the entrée. I'm happy to oblige, and so is her dad. I also whipped up some guacamole, mango salsa and "Waldo's Dip," and planned to highlight it all on Apéritif Friday. But the best laid plans are oftentimes thwarted...
We started out by asking how many of them boated before.
Two had, one had driven a boat, and one declared herself a first timer.
The pressure was on to ensure they all had a great day off work. We headed out for an afternoon of fun in the sun.
We stopped along the way...
...so they could test the waters on Stone Lake.
Swimming to the giant stone and standing in the middle of the lake is a rite of passage of sorts on the Sugar Camp Chain.
Kahley's friends passed with flying colors.

Back on the boat and sufficiently cooled from the refreshing water temperature, they kicked back as we made our way to Sand Lake, home of Camp Menominee -  the boys' camp on the chain.
"Mom, Dad, get us close so we can crash their waterfront!"
"No - that's against the rules." That Dad's a stickler.
"Come on!" they all cajoled. "The boys drove a boat over to Chippewa during pre-camp, snuck inside, walked all the way back to the stables and actually took selfies with OUR horses! In the dark! It was so creepy! Let us get them back."

I swooped in to the rescue, telling him it wouldn't hurt a soul for them to swim out to their slide. So with a grunt and "for the record" dismissal of himself as responsible regarding any legal action, he obliged.

That Christie. She wasted no time power swimming to the raft and crowning herself Queen of Menominee.
The others caught up as the sweet water director at Camp Menominee sauntered down to the dock to make sure everyone was safe, even though it was his day off.
I wasn't born yesterday, Gent. I'm guessing you wanted a closeup view of the bikini show on your beach.
Word travels lightening fast when squawking girls emerge out of the water. Suddenly the boys came out of the woodwork, their Lazy Sunday not so lazy after all.
Meanwhile, back on the boat, good ole' eagle eye...
...er, Mr. Musky piped up. He'd been looking at his phone all afternoon, and worried about the 20% chance of a rain shower.

Northwoods weather is wonky. In fact, earlier in the day Kahley said her new friends were so confused about it, they had trouble determining what clothing to pack for the day. Mornings require long pants, sweaters, and a cozy blanket for coffee sipping. By 10:00 the sweater comes off, and by noon it's bathing suit and coverup time. 3:00 requires as little clothing as possible, even in low seventy degree weather, because the sun is so hot. But once that sun starts setting over the treeline - quite late in the day, I might add - it's time for the pants and light jacket again.

And the rain? Shoot. The forecast changes hourly. When there's a 50% chance of rain, it oftentimes scoots around us. And if it does happen to shower, it passes through quickly and the sun comes back out. The boats will clear out for 45 minutes, then they're all back out there playing around again.

So despite the fact that someone was very concerned about what his apparatus of intelligence advised, I didn't worry. If the threat of rain was imminent, it would be brief and we could likely move to another part of the chain to avoid the sprinkles.

"Hon. We are going to get wet."
"No we're not."
"Yes. We are."
I lifted my eyes to the northern sky, and the horizon demanded my full attention: a huge band of rain threatened us, and we were at least 30 minutes away from home.
"That's OK. It'll be an adventure." I was simply having too much fun with the girls.
"Um, no. It's not. It's definitely not OK."

Good grief. Our Captain turned Crabby Daddy, and I knew he was not going to be much fun for the rest of the day. We called out to the girls to make their way back to the boat, and I willed the bad weather away.

But Mother Nature was having none of it. The wind picked up, and the girls, on a high from crashing the boys' waterfront, were oblivious. He jacked the motor into its highest speed and I started stowing what would fit under the seats to keep things dry. I called out for all the electronics to put them under the steering consul, where it's relatively waterproof. I told the girls to hunker down - we were going to get wet.

Then I poured Mr. Musky another glass of wine. I knew he needed it.

It didn't rain. It DOUNPOURED! At one point, I thought it was hailing, the pellets of rain were smarting so severely. I offered the girls to come under the tarp with me, but Mr. Musky put the kibosh  on that idea. We needed their weight in the front of the boat as we sailed through the shallow channels. So they bravely wrapped their towels around them, ducked their heads between their knees, and weathered the storm.

For the record - there was no lightening or thunder, so we plowed ahead. I think any form of electricity would have surely thrown my husband over the edge and we would be in divorce court right about now. Or we would have tied up at the nearest neighborly dock and knocked on their door, asking for refuge.

Oh the horror.

At one point, I simply couldn't help myself. I grabbed my phone out of the wet-proof safety spot and went to work. I love how my dear husband is hunkered down in his lobster shirt, protecting what's dearest to him in that moment.
His glass of wine. Heaven forbid watered down wine. But what I love most? He smiled. He actually smiled in the face of disaster.

Poor Nicole - her first boat ride was likely not what she expected, but there's no doubt it'll be memorable. I can hear her future self now. "Yeah, I've been on a boat. It sucked. I went from steaming in the sun to being forced jump into frigid water just to climb a slimy rock, then had to swim out to a slide. The kicker? I got pelted by rain and froze my toes off. A real blast."

The rain didn't let up on the ride home. In the end, the girls made the most of it, proving that whatever mother country one hails from, universal nursery rhymes make the best of any wet situation.
We safely arrived home and the girls happily jumped into a "proper shower" which means it's clean, hot, with solid water pressure and they don't have to wear flip flops. They all noshed on our boat food at the kitchen table. Sufficiently warmed and fed, they curled up under warm quilts and napped for hours in the basement.

Come back later this summer for another installment in Adventures in Global Camp Counseling. I'm happy to be their tour guide and director, and Mr. Musky enjoys the role of captain. Additional mischief surely awaits.

XOXO,
Jen