Saturday, May 29, 2010
When we went camping, one of the parents who came to chaperone was Christy, the wonderful person who gave me the gift of Stella. Lady, Stella's mother, is dying of lymphoma and decided that she didn't want her mom to leave her home, so she stowed away in the van and ended up camping with us. It was wonderful to spend time with her.
Lady, Chrisy, Stella
Christy's tent was broken and she planned to spend the night in her van. No Way! I fixed up the couch that folds out into a bed in the camper for her. When we were finally able to hit the sack, Lady jumped into bed with Christy, and Stella jumped into bed with me. At some point during the night, I woke to find Stella sound asleep on my feet, and Lady curled up sleeping in my arms. At daybreak, Christy woke up with Stella in her bed, and I woke up with Lady in mine. It was very funny!
Stella started her Therapy Dog training last spring.
She almost passed her final exam, but she greeted the evaluator by gently mouthing her hand. Mouthing is an automatic failure, so now she needs to retake the final exam this coming fall (and pass) to be formally certified as a Therapy Dog. However, she already works as a Therapy Dog and is very good at her job.
When my 84 year old aunt, with breast cancer, bone cancer, and a broken arm was visiting, Stella did not leave her side.
Christy's daughter, who played Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, had to have some extensive surgery on her shoulder, but she still wanted to come camping post-surgery. She was still taking pain meds, and when she looked tired or pale, I would invite her into the camper to take a nap. Stella would curl up next to her and keep her company while she slept.
She can be a complete Wild Child, but when calm and comforting behavior is required, she knows it and is such a good caretaker.
She has also decided that she has another job. I was worried about letting the chickens roam free because I was worried that she would chase them mercilessly, as she has a very high prey drive. However, she recognized her role as care-taker immediately. She likes to herd them back to their house, or just hang out with them under the shade of a tree. They have grown fond of her and will sometimes follow Stella around.
She loves to pester poor Tex, but they also love each other and are total cuddle buddies.
She is such an awesome girl!
Saturday, May 29, 2010
We had a great time on our end of the year camping trip. It was hot - in the mid-80s during the day, but cooled off into the mid-60s at night, so it was ideal swimming weather. The children spent a lot of time at the beach and out on the catamaran one of the parents brought along. We had a very pleasant evening night fishing one evening, and an evening swim the other evening. We also got a good booming thunderstorm on the second afternoon; I love at least one good thunderstorm on a camping trip with the children so they can see that you can not only survive one, but also enjoy it. The children got to spend some time in their tents playing cards, etc waiting it out, and I got some quiet time for me - woohoo!
Children played music...
Tended the cooking fire...
Enjoyed snacks at the marina, went swimming, and just generally had fun. Everyone was cooperative at least most of the time and got along well with each other. They did not want to leave and are already excited about the camping trip next May
This is what poodles look like after camping with children for 3 days.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Camping With My Class and My Camper
My camper IS more comfortable than a hotel. It is clean to my taste, all MY things are in it, I can prepare my own meals, all of the furniture is comfy, poodles are permitted, and no one has ever smoked in there. It has a fridge, large freezer, range, oven, lights, and a heating system for cold weather camping that I can use when I am not hooked to electricity with the addition of a microwave and AC when I can hook to electric. I love it!
The only thing that gets cooked in my camper on the school camp trip is coffee!
I do have a Dutch oven with it's own tripod for the camp fire, but I don't bring it on this trip because even though it is a large Dutch oven, it isn't large enough for the amounts of food we cook. Instead, one of the meals that the children make for dinner is a foil dinner. They cut up vegetables and meat (if they want) and wrap their custom made meals in aluminum foil after lunch. I put all of these in Big Daddy to slow cook until dinner. Clean-up is very easy. We also wrap potatoes up and slow cook for baked potatoes. Corn, we just soak while it's still in the husk, then throw the whole kaboodle in the coals to steam.
This year the children also want to make pancakes for one breakfast, bacon and eggs for another, quesadillas or tacos for a lunch, and sloppy Joes for one of the dinners. When they want to cook messy stuff, I make sure I have children who are willing to sign up for the cooking and children who are willing to sign up for the cleaning. There are vegan alternatives for each meal.
For desserts we will have vegan cupcakes (which we will cook today at school) the first night to celebrate the summer birthdays, and the second night we will have s'mores.
I will be taking 23 children ranging in age from 10 - 12.
The children have to haul water from the artesian well up the hill for clean-up after each meal, so I do try to keep things pretty easy to wash, but not TOO easy because one of the things I want to foster in them is a sense of adventure, accomplishment, and independence. As much as possible, I want them to do the work of out door living so they know they can do it. We go every year, so by the time they are in 6th grade they are very good at it and help show the younger children the ropes.
I do have parents coming to help chaperone. They can sign up for various time slots throughout the day. That way, there are enough people that various groups of children can be chaperoned at base camp where they love to play badminton, the beach, out on the lake on a boat, on nature hikes, etc.
The children set up their own tents, but if they need a little help, the parents make assist. However, I encourage them to let the children do as much of all of the work on their own. The parents are always amazed at how much the children can do!
Parent chaperoning base camp
The park is about an hour from here, so it isn't a huge hardship for parents to drive up to join us for a couple of hours, yet it is too far away for children to wimp out and decide to go home if they feel a little homesick.
All of these photos are from last year since we haven't left yet.
We always have a great time regardless of the weather, so I know we will have fun again this year.
Monday, May 24, 2010
Except for the last minute items and after a weekend of shopping and packing, the camper is packed for the end of the year camping trip with my students. Today I took half of my sixth graders shopping for the groceries supplies, enough to feed 30 people 2 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 2 dinners, and snacks for each day. Tomorrow I will take the rest of the sixth graders shopping for the supplies we didn't get today. The 6th graders have waited 3 years to get to be the shoppers and they are always so excited about it. They have been sadly counting down... "This is our last Monday at Antioch School." "This is our last camping trip with the Older Group." Poignant moments.
The children tent camp, but I bring my camper - it is base camp headquarters where the food, first aid supplies, etc. are kept and also my quiet, cozy refuge after the children are all tucked in, tired and overstimulated and ready for bed.
Camp Headquarters is now packed to the gills, although the bulk of the food, the fresh produce, is in the refrigerator at school waiting to be packed into coolers right before we leave on Wednesday morning.
Many of you have met Mike's and my classic camper in an earlier blog, the sweet little antique. This is my luxury camper with hot and cold running water and a shower. It is rigged to run on gas or electric; I will be using the gas this trip since we do primitive camping at the lake.
Trunk filled with outdoor cooking supplies, the kitchen tent, chairs, games, activities, and recreational equipment
You can't see very well, but Big Daddy Fry Pan is monsterously huge. It can cook pancakes, eggs, etc. for many people at once. The kids love cooking with it.
Ever nook and cranny,
or every crook and nanny, as my father used to say,
is packed with food to feed
the hungry hoards.
It is really amazing how much I can fit in there!
Bathroom with shower and tiny tub
Quiet meditation and centering corner
Excited poodle who loves camping
After not getting out of the mid fifties and raining for 2 weeks, the weather has been forecast all week to be in the 80s during the day and mid sixties at night with mostly sunny skies. However, today, they put a chance of thunderstorms in the forecast for Thursday and Friday. I don't mind a thunderstorm, as long as all of the children are off the lake and back at base camp so I can send them to their tents. It adds an element of adventure to the trip. When it is cold and rainy the whole time, it gets wearing. So, all in all, it is looking like we will have good camping weather.
The children have to start the fire, do the cooking and cleaning, as well as keepthe campsite clean, so tonight I have to make up the chore lists for 3 days so different chores can be alternated between the children over the duration of the camping trip. Of course, it's not all chores - they get to hike, boat, fish, play, swim, and hang out at base camp - big fun!
Friday, May 21, 2010
I don't want to sound like a whiner. It seems like this is a really bad time for my friends. I just found out that my friend, Jeanie, has just been diagnosed with stage 2 cancer of the pleural lining of her lungs. It seems that the breast cancer that seemed to be so effectively treated 3 years ago, metastasized. She will start aggressive chemo on Tuesday.
Jeanie has been a friend for many years, since our children were 3 years old and in dance class together. Those 'children' are now in their mid-thirties. She was the kindergarten teacher at the school where I still teach. She had retired 3 years ago, and almost right after that was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Jeanie has a couple of things in her favor; she has an effervescently optimistic attitude and a wonderful sense of humor. All of the things that made her the most warm, loving, humorous, effective, kind, patient, and over-all fabulous kindergarten teacher are the very things that keep her strong. But I know, after years of taking care of my father while he underwent chemo and radiation treatment for lung cancer, that she has a tough journey ahead of her.
I will be right there pulling for her, but I have to admit that I am scared. I looked up pleural lining lung cancer, and it is being called mesothelioma. My aikido parter of many years, the man who shared every belt promotion and the trials of the mat with me, died of mesothelioma after a two year battle with it. My father lived for 3 years after being diagnosed with lung cancer. I am trying hard to keep my thoughts as positive as Jeanie, but tears jump into my eyes and my throat clenches up if I spend time thinking about it.
I am hoping and praying that Jeanie will come through the other end of her treatments and recover to be a strong and healthy person again. I am determined not to dissolve into a puddle of tears and to be a strong warrior against cancer side by side with her.
Pardon my language, but cancer sucks.
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