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Tuesday, July 9, 2013

camp winniauguamauk 2013

July hit full steam ahead with a van packed to the brim heading in every which direction like spokes of a wheel from the center point of our house.  I haven't blogged for over two weeks because I have barely been home.  But what fun we have had.

The last week of July had us taking a trip just south of Boston for my Uncle's surprise birthday party.  It was really wonderful to see many of my family members I haven't seen in years, including my aunt and cousin from the west coast. 

Kathryn and Brian with Braeden and Michaela, Sandi the girls and Iwith my Aunt JoEllen
and her son Landon
 Our trip to Boston meant a very long day in the car for the kids (7+ hours round trip).  We stayed at Kathryn's house overnight, arriving back at 10 pm.  The next day it was off to summer camp at Camp Winniauguamauk for Ella, Maya, Michaela and I while Sandi had to begin her new clinical rotation up in Millinocket where she would be staying for most of the week while we were away.  It was a sad departure for all of us.  While it is true that there are so many more freedoms she has this summer than last, it was really sad to not have her stay at camp where we have always gone as a family

(I am going to work hard not to repeatedly comment on how it often feels unfair that we get to have so much fun while she is confined to a hospital OR.  There, I've said it and you can just infer it from all future summer posts that she is not in.)

Camp Winniauguamauk is a piece of sloping green tranquility on a pond in Brooksville, ME.  It is typical of summer camps with cabins, common areas, a waterfront, a dinning room and kitchen.  But what is not typical about it is the type of camp and community that we are lucky enough to be a part of when Sandi's sister, Trish, directs a Christian-based youth camp for 3rd-5th graders. 

If you don't have a good sense of who Trish is let me tell you that she is simply one of the most radiant people I know.  She exudes love, gentleness and compassion while also being full to overflowing with a carefree playfulness that is contagious. 

She is also ridiculously strong.

Not normally one for organized church activities, I adore this camp and everything about it.  It is a place young kids can come to learn about being good citizens of humanity, fair and inclusive, loving and connected.  This was the first year Ella was old enough to be a camper (with a family member such as myself on the grounds) and we convinced her cousin Michaela to come too.

While I was really bummed that Sandi could not stay with us, I was very blessed to spend the Sunday-Wednesday camp with the rest of her family.  In addition to Trish, Kristi was there with her two kids as well as Sandi's mom, Patti, and very close family friend, Auntie Di.  Also at camp for the first time was Noah (who is actually a cousin but who we think of more like a nephew) who was there with his dad, Uncle Buck, as his sighted aid.  (Remember them from last summer's equality parades?) There were also many other wonderful staff members- in fact,  I think there were more staff than campers.  That is some serious love and guidance spread among the campers.

My official title at camp this year was Camp Aunt (available for hugs, hair braiding, fingernail painting) and Inspector.  It was my daily duty to inspect and award points to cabins as they worked for special privileges.  I loved it in every way you might imagine. 

Maya, naturally, was my trusty assistant.  This meant she wandered around the camp with me, nosing in areas that were otherwise off limits.  She showed a strong tendency toward a career as Goldilocks as she wanted to try out everyone's bed. 

(For the record, this was Ella's bunk.)

Ella and Michaela weren't sure they wanted to sleep with their cabin or with me, but when we got there, they choose the cabin.  While this meant that they got very little shut eye over the three nights of camp, it made all the difference for them as far as being a part of the cabin group itself.   I was incredibly proud of these two.  They had the amazing Brittany as their camp counselor and she was the perfect combination of loving and fun.

Beds made, bags unpacked and ready to go meet the other campers.

On the first day of camp, Maya found these lady bugs outside our cabin. 

 Then she made a habitat for them in a Tupperware with perforated plastic wrap and some grass. She and her cousin, Makenna, made it their camp mission to care for these lady bugs.   They also made it my camp mission to want to pull my hair out as they kept misplacing the Tupperware habitat and imploring me to find it.

 There was a lot of work that went into feeding those lady bugs. 
 Kristi, also a Camp Aunt and Arts and Crafts leader, did this really cool project as the arts and crafts teacher: Sharpie tie dye.

All you need is a 100% cotton shirt, colorful sharpies and over 90% ispopropyl alcohol.  You dot the Sharpies on the shirt in concentric circles and make whatever patterns you want.  Then you take a dropper filled with the alcohol and carefully dot the color with the alcohol until it bleeds.  So cool!
Kristi did a second project that required the trusty camp support staff to cut several scanes of yarn into thousands of 8-10 inch lengths.  We literally spent  hours cutting yarn with some of us demonstraing our poor ballpark measuring skills.

Kristi, showing the kids how to mix the strands of yarn with glue and shape it over an inflated balloon. It was such a cool idea and her sample bowl was really cute.  However, the small bowls stablizing the balloons led them to roll, dumping gluey yarn globs in the process.  But some kids really got the hang of the basic basket making technique. 
 Unfortunately the weather outside was like being in your own personal rain cloud and the wet prevented the glue from drying. I tried to transport three rudimentary baskets atop balloons in my van and they were a sloppy mess by the time I got home.  Oh, well.  This could be a fun winter project. 

Uncle Buck is like a big kid in an adult body.  He and Maya speak the same language of silliness and they get along famously.

Possibly the highlight of camp, in addition to nightly campfire complete with super fun camp songs, is the water slide.  Simply a few giant tarps, some dish soap, a hose and a hill and you have the best slip 'n slide around.


Makenna decided she wanted to give it a try and I was flattered that she let me take her down a couple of times. She smiled big and after 4 or 5 trips, she was done.
Brevan, whose official camp title (he's one year shy of being old enough to be a camper)
was Water Slide Tester.
Can you imagine going down a water slide blind?  As usual, Noah makes it look easy.


 As I said, Uncle Buck is just a big kid. I love him for it.

 The great thing about the soap on the water slide is how clean you get.

You hardly need a shower when you're done.
Michaela and Ella both smiled so much I thought they might break their lips.  And while she did experience some homesickness, Michaela was often bubbling over with laughter.


Michaela was laughing hysterically at the Talent Show skit where one person hides behind another and the person in the back uses her hands to feed the person in the front.  

Camp is such a special, protected pocket of the world.  All three of the girls got to be so independent and self-sufficient.  Maya got to move around the grounds with freedom (Kristi and I tag teaming loose supervision over the two blondies) and Michaela and Ella were responsible to their counselor instead of their parents.  I could watch them blooming with this new-found freedom.
All packed up and waiting on the porch to say goodbye to everyone.  Maya needed something to do or someone to climb on.

 Good work girls!

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