Summer Camp ’13 – Week 5

Week 5. “The Wall” week. Actually, wasn’t too much of a wall for me, I saw it more of a “Thursday” week. You see, every Thursday at Camp gets kind of ridiculous. Mostly Thursday nights. The counselors, kids, and really everybody is really feeling the exhaustion of the week and we all get a little goofy. Counselors start letting sentences slip out of their mouths that they would not have let slip earlier in the week, there is a lot of laughing, kids often make a very abrupt (positive or negative) turn from their behavior, and things get crazy. For instance, remember Ohio Adventures week 3 with the huge rain issue? Or last week the two guys who had been at each other all week suddenly got along amazingly? Well, this week had another amazing Thursday, and the whole week was kinda Thursday-ish. Plus, I had Science II (older kids). Hooray Science!

The kids (three girls and four boys):

MT has some solid OCD and germaphobia and is absolutely a know-it-all. If you do not agree with “fact” that he states, he will respectfully argue with you, but will not actually accept your argument at any point. But, he was very self-sufficient and helpful in a lot of instances.

NM got to camp with no interest of being here. She has a sister who would absolutely be a camper and so she looks to the camps she goes to as an opportunity to “get away” from that and “act normal”, but absolutely has a few camper tendencies of her own. It was entertaining to watch her try to continue to force herself to not enjoy camp while she clearly was.

MR is awesome. Low on the spectrum or Asperger’s and such a sweet, patient, go-with-the-flow, never complaining, happy camper. Just a joy to have around, really. Sometimes he would start conversations with his tribe mates, but mostly he was quiet.

JL is another awesome camper. Extremely helpful, very high functioning/self-sufficient, very nice and conversational, and excited to participate in the activities. She was so great to have in the tribe.

JA is very able to entertain himself and (because of that?) has little to no interest in participating in group activities. He loves exploring the forest and looking at rocks. In fact, all week, he carried around a 10+ lbs back of rocks (from home) that he just loved to share with others, and the other campers were super interested in them! He did frequently say mean things, but would always follow it up with “just kidding”, like we were supposed to know that he was kidding.

SA was the youngest of the group and she was pretty funny. Teeny-tiny girl who ate a LOT of food (probably high metabolism from meds), but was fortunately not too picky about food. And she is absolutely obsessed with the Holocaust, not really clear why… But she was fun to have around.

EI was a very interesting camper. He had definitely been trained that if he complained or resisted enough he would get his way eventually, but we really try to avoid that here at camp – train them to accept that not everything goes your way in the real world. So that was a fun struggle all week. It absolutely appeared that he knew how to push buttons and manipulate the system to his advantage, and I believe that he understood a lot more than he tried to let on that he did. When he showed up on Monday he had no interest of being there and had to spend the first few hours in the office with the directors to calm down, but then by the middle of dinner he accepted that he was not going home, and began to participate well. On Tuesday and Wednesday, he was relatively delightful, although had very poor manners. He had a pretty rough day on Thursday, but I think we brought him around to actually enjoying camp.

So, Monday. We get ready, the kids show up, we talk and play with them until everyone has arrived. Being Science camp, I decided to make oobleck again (corn startch and water, non-newtonian fluid, etc…) to play with while we waited. Got to see EI throw a little bit of a fit and just go to spend some time in the office while he realized he was not going home and NM say, repeatedly, how unexcited she was to be there. With all of the tribe (except EI) together we came up with our Tribe name – The Crazy Mad Scientists – and our expectations and consequences, then went up for dinner. After dinner we did some initiatives (team building exercises), and they were decently successful. JA did not want to participate at all because we were just standing in one spot to do them, not walking around (plus, I bet he was having some small transition difficulties), but eventually came around with a little chatting and walking around on his own. The tribe was extremely successful on the teeter-totter: a platform balanced on a log that they must balance with all of them on it. Sitting down, they managed to keep it balanced for four and a half minutes (until EI just stepped off for no apparent reason)! After initiatives, we went up to the “lab” to do some science for the day and played with vinegar and baking soda and balloons before the Monday night campfire and bed.

Tuesday morning, we drove down to Columbus after breakfast for our big trip of the week. We spent the day at COSI (Center of Science and Industry) like last week, enjoying the exhibits, seeing a show on Chemistry with some sweet explosions, and enjoying some air conditioning. I got good kids to walk around with all day – MT and EI. They were very into the exhibits, checking them out thoroughly, not going crazy fast, and understood a lot of it. JA’s group apparently were through the entire museum in the first hour, but our Jr. CIT did a good job keeping him and MR occupied the whole time we were there. The Chemistry show was a big hit, like the Fireworks show last week – blew up a soda bottle with liquid nitrogen, used a banana to hammer a nail into a block of wood (liquid nitrogen, again), and made some big explosions with different chemicals to get different colored flames. Awesome. After a day there, we drove a little north of Cbus (as I am told Columbus is abbreviated) to camp out at Alum Creek – a lovely camp ground. While I supervised the kids erecting their shelters for the evening (there were not enough tents for us to take with us), my co-staff cooked our dinner of Philly cheesesteaks. Fortunately, we were able to take pack-outs from the kitchen, which was super helpful and easy. After dinner, the Jr. CIT and I took the tribe on a little night hike around the camp ground, to pass by a lake and a pond and just be moving around. This was one of the few times that JA was super excited, because we were walking around in the woods. The sunset was beautiful and the most exciting part, for me, came when we arrived at the little pond. Just as we came up the hill a 16” or so fish jumped a good foot out of the pond to catch some food. It was SO COOL! The whole walk, the tribe was getting along well – which was awesome. Last week, as I mentioned, there was a lot of bullying type behavior, or at least not being nice. We had some negative attitudes this week, but they never took their frustrations out on each other, which was such a relief for me. The night was interesting. The mosquitos were thankfully nowhere as bad as they were last week, but we did have a few visitors. The girls were not too excited by the presence of daddy long legs and other bugs in the leaves, so SA and NM moved to sleep next to the campfire/cooking area next to the van. As any experienced camper knows, not always the best idea, if you’re not interested in meeting raccoons. Sure enough, we had some furry bandit visitors in the middle of the night which freaked them out a little. But, we all made it through.

Wednesday morning, we started the day off with some French Toast and bacon, packed up our campsite, and headed back towards Cbus to check out the zoo! The Columbus Zoo is definitely way better at keeping the attention of kids with ADD/ADHD than the Cleveland Zoo, but dang is it large, and sorted by continent. It took all morning to get through North America, and by then a bunch of the kids were already tired. No particularly memorable experiences at the zoo, besides the presence of a baby gorilla, which most of the kids did not want to see (WHAT!? Who doesn’t want to see a baby gorilla!?), and JA was excited all day to see the Okapi – a “forest giraffe”. We left around three so we could get some dry ice from downtown before returning to Camp for dinner, showers, and an evening of activities. We dissected owl pellets that night, which got lots of attention from way more kids than the time I tried to do it last week, which made me very happy. The kids found some pretty sweet skulls, and JL, JA, and NM all wanted to check out a second pellet! We also did some dry ice demonstrations before heading down to the campfire. The kids got to sleep in their cabins that night and I was OR with my boys and no problems.

Thursday was quite the day for us and EI. After breakfast (oddly enough, French Toast, again…) we took a drive to the Ohio Bird Sanctuary for the morning. First, we started a little later than we intended to because EI had not brought down everything that he needed for his day, even after I reminded them all repeatedly. When he rides in a car he “NEEDS” his Walkman (when is the last time you saw a Walkman?) and comic books and letters, so he would not get in the van until he had them. So, after trying to persuade him in for ten minutes, I ran him up to the cabin to grab it and ran him back down. Then, on the way, EI had some sort of digestion issues and just blew chunks right in the van (which his mom told us at the end of the week he just does sometimes). At the time, he had been listening to music on his Walkman and was working on a letter to send to his mom. Both, of course, were then covered in his vom. He was so focused on multitasking these things that he had not been able to tell us he needed to toss cookies (well, mostly sausage…). So, we pulled over, got everybody out, cleaned it all up (gloves!), took him to a Rite Aid we were fortunately adjacent to get some new, clean clothes, and had to throw out the letter that had vomit on it (which really upset him, unfortunately). Then we had to convince the kids to get back in the van, which was particularly challenging for JA, but we got them all in. and got to the Sanctuary with enough time to spend about 20 minutes looking at the birds before having to drive back to camp. Thbbt. I really wanted to get to look at the birds for a while, and hike the trails. I’ll just have to find a chance to go back. When we got back to Camp, we had some major issues with EI. We had to go straight to lunch, but he wanted to go back to the cabin to change, which he couldn’t just accept that we would do that right after lunch because we had rest. So, he cooled off in the infirmary, I grabbed some fresh underpants and socks for him, and we got him to lunch. My co and I spent rest detail cleaning his CD player to make sure it would work and wasn’t covered in his vomit. After rest, we were going to the pool, EI just refused to go. He has been back on his “I just want to go home” cycle since about the time we had to throw away his letter, despite offering repeatedly to help him write a new one. (The one that go thrown away was a check box letter or something that he could fill out.) So, after a long period of talking to him, we managed to convince EI to get into a van to go to the pool (long after the bus of campers left), under the conditions that he did not have to go into the pool area and he did not have to have fun. He focused on reminding us that he wanted to go home, he did not want to go to the pool, and he did not want to have fun. So, the staff in the van had a delightful time making sure that the van ride was no fun for him (just saying that there would be no fun in the van, mostly). Then, he sat under an awning for three hours, reading comic books, while everyone else played in the pool. When we got back to camp, we took everybody to shower and then camped out for the evening in the middle of the field. Well, it almost went smoothly. As we got off of the bus to go up to our cabins, EI decided he did not want to cooperate, again, so he started yelling about wanting to go home and call his mom and insisting that he go home right then (physical impossibility that we had been telling him was impossible for the past twelve or so hours), and on and on and on. Getting frustrated and making all kinds of amusing noises and refusing to move from a chair and performing the most amusing punch sequence I have seen – just a quick burst of punches from both hands. Kind of funny, he never actually hit us, even though I had seen him actually hit his mom on Monday. Maybe he thought we would actually hit back or something. So, I left him in the office with the directors to get the rest of the guys ready for camping by the fire pit. It is a tremendously easy campsite, but great for star gazing, which was our hope. And then “Thursday” really kicked in. During dinner prep, SA was unceasingly insistent that we “NOT BURN THE MAC ‘N’ CHEESE!” There would apparently be major consequences if we burned the macaroni. Thankfully, I succeed in not burning it. After a while, Kestrel brought EI out to join us for the evening, and he was somewhat cooperative, only wandered away a little bit, trying to go to his cabin when he wasn’t supposed to. Just pushing us to see how much he could get away with. Frustrating. The Jr. CIT and I took the tribe on another night hike in camp before the night’s campfire, while my co was busy with EI, and JA really appreciated that and enjoyed the creek part at the end. Then, we were back to the campfire for the evenings performance, where I got to lead the most enjoyable Rattlin’ Bog I have ever sung. It’s a really fun repeat after me song that can get really fast. After the fire, we started getting our kids settled down for s’mores and bed. During the settle time, EI did a very Thursday thing, which was very touching and funny. He said to me that he realized he had a bad day and that he hoped tomorrow would be better, and he apologized for getting as frustrated as he did! So touching. I told him that I really appreciated that and maybe he should also apologize to the rest of the tribe and the other counselors. He went to apologize to both of them, but then told them that he felt he only needed to apologize to one of them. Plus, he tried bargaining for me to write him an exact duplicate of the letter we had to throw away, which I barely looked at because it was covered in vomit. So funny and kind of adorable. He proposed it like “How about this: You copy the letter that I threw up on? Deal?” and stuck out his hand for a shake. And then wouldn’t accept a counter offer. Funny only because it was Thursday night. Then, after s’mores, we lay under the night sky and gazed at the stars, which cooperated beautifully. We saw a bunch of constellations and even several shooting stars! It was great. I ended the camp out by telling a 70 minute story. After the first half hour, I’m pretty sure the rest is just for me, if the kids even make it thirty minutes.

Friday morning went well, breakfast, cleaning up camp, and then we built a GeoDome! (Remember those from OE?) It is basically physics, so, I thought it could apply. The tribe actually built one of the best GeoDomes I have seen yet, and they really liked climbing on it. NM was super excited to learn how to lash because I taught her a little bit on the Tuesday camp out, but this was a great time to practice and she did a great job with it! JA did not want to participate, again, but I managed to convince him to help out some by assuring him that it was OK if he did not do it perfectly the first time because everything takes practice. After the Dome, we had lunch, and after lunch EI had another fit about wanting to go home or call home and not be there and not have fun, etc… So, I left him in the office, again, to take care of everything I had to take care of for the afternoon because we did the Ropes Course! Four different tribes were up for playing on the RC – Science II, Leadership, Ohio Adventures, and National Trip, so we could have had a ton of kids up there, but luckily the other camps did not send all of their kids up. It was another awesome ropes experience. EI actually did a really good job listening to the instructions in ground school for doing transfers and such, even though he did not actually make it up on the course. JA also had no interest in going through school or anything, so he stayed on the ground, but the rest of the tribe did a great job of pushing themselves and I was so happy about that, and very excited to meet them on the zip platform. Right after the ropes course, it was time for dinner in the orchard – so nice to have a picnic out again after several weeks with indoor meals for various reasons. After dinner, we made ice cream (cinnamon and mint, using fresh mint leaves) in plastic bags and set off dry ice bombs – so much fun! Well, until the dry ice bombs scared the bejeezus out of a camper, not ours. Then, SongFest where EI had an amazingly happy time, talking to the person who comes and sings for us, participating in the songs, and saying that he was happy he was here and that he wanted to come back! What!? That, right there, is the absolute magic of Camp. Camp magic, nothing quite like it. Hopefully he will come back and have an even better time. Then, I was OC, so I got the whole night off to make awards for our tribe. And eat pizza. And get and give massages.

Saturday morning, here at last. But, actually, this week went very quickly. Fetched our kids for breakfast (the extremely sugary Saturday morning breakfast of donuts and pastries), after which we cleaned up the lab space and returned to our cabins for showers, packing, and cabin cleaning. EI insisted on not showering because he only showers in the afternoon. When I tried to tell him that sometimes you have to try new things, he just opted for “Does not compute. Does not compute”, even though he clearly understood what I was saying to him. He tried to trick me into believing that he had showered by just standing in the changing room part of the shower stall, but realized his plan would fail when I told him I would smell his hair when he came out. Sigh. At least I got him to wash his face. After getting everything packed up, we rejoined the rest of our tribe for processing of the week. We had them make a “Here and Now Wheel” where they write down four things they feel right now and expand on one of the words with a sentence or two, and got some of them to share. And there were some pretty good feelings. MR, who did not share, wrote he was feeling patient, because he had been so patient with his tribe mates through the week, which just made me so happy he was in our tribe. After the Wheels, we did Back Scratchers. I think I mentioned Back Scratchers at the end of in-service, because we did them then, but I had not done them with campers yet, because it is an unfortunate opportunity for bullying. This group had been nice to each other, so I figured there was a very good chance it would be a successful activity, and I definitely think it was. I have an awesome new back scratcher. I did not look at it until we were done with the day, but EI wrote something that just touched my heart. I’m not sure if he meant it sincerely, but I’m going to because to think it isn’t would hurt too much. “Love him” was all he wrote. Then, it was up to the dining hall for introductions, awards, and potluck lunch (it was raining again), which all went very smoothly. No late parents or anything. NM was staying for the weekend, through until next week, so I hung out with her during lunch and had, what I hope was, a really fruitful discussion about normalcy and loving oneself and others for who they are, not the (quite frankly boring) “ideal” set out by society. As a young teen girl, she is really feeling pressure from everywhere to be “normal” and struggles with wanting to “act normal” sometimes because she has an autistic sister and such. But, it was a very respectful and deep talk and I am so glad that I hung out with her for lunch. After the chat we played Pokémon Sorry. She also does not like girls because she sees them as particularly vicious perpetrators of forced normalcy, bullied normalcy really, and does not like girly things because of that (fitting into the “feminine ideal”, I would see it as). But, about 15 minutes after telling me this, one of the counselors brought out a bunch of nail polish to paint the nails of one of the other girls staying for the weekend and NM jumped at the opportunity to get her nails painted – a bright, sparkly silver none-the-less. It amused me. I absolutely wish her, and all other teenage girls, the best in this fight for personal identity in a society that really messes with their self-worth and self-efficacy. Then, all of a sudden, the kids were gone and it was time to clean up.

The staff had a super fun night over at the lodge nearby – dancing, eating, socializing, watching the sunset, talking about the week past, the week to come, and anything that wasn’t camp.

Whoops, sorry, 4k words again. See you next week!

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