Category Archives: Summer Camp

Feet of Clay

Remember that one time when I said I was probably going to lose my marbles this summer? Well, I think it might have happened this last week. Specifically, three nights ago, when I had the shattering epiphany – possibly accompanied by ugly crying – that my slavish devotion to researching the shit out of every country we “visit,” finely honing my bulletin-board decorating skillz, and imposing random art projects on my children (who are not interested) and their friends (who are, bless them), is probably less about giving my kids a fun-filled-yet-highly-educational summer experience and more about showing the world that I really *can* do things with my brain and that I haven’t completely gone to seed in the years since I quit working full-time.

This is a lowering realization on several fronts. First, it means that those moms? The ones I sneer at for being all “craftier than thou?” I AM ONE OF THOSE MOMS. Argh. Second, as a lifelong feminist, I strongly object to the stereotyping of stay-at-home-moms as ninnies whose interests are limited to Kinder, Küche, Kirche. But apparently my own brain engages in precisely such stereotyping and is making me crazy because of it. Stupid brain. And third, FUCK I hate being so goddamn insecure about who I am or what I want to be when I grow up (and when does that happen, exactly?) that I feel like I have something to prove. To somebody. Maybe myself. Probably. Oh, and fourth, or maybe third-and-a-half: I’m an IDIOT, because it’s not like I have a fucking supervisor in this job. So, I mean, for whom am I performing? Who is supposed to be lauding me with praise for doing such an all-around swell job with this summer camp? Which I’m not even doing, given that I spend more time prepping each week than I do, say, interacting with my actual children. Not that it matters, because THIS IS NOT SCHOOL. THERE IS NO FINAL GRADE. I can’t “win” the contest to be, like, best mom or something, a contest that would make me cringe even if it existed, WHICH IT DOESN’T.

So: yay, insight into personal motivations!!! Boo, emotional breakdowns and crazy internal monologues!!! But the real question you’re asking is: What now? Or I’m asking it, at least. One thing’s for sure: this camp thing is going to be dialed down a couple of notches. We actually had a great week on France, links for which will be up shortly, but then we got a little bogged down in India, much like the British in the first half of the 20th century. Unlike the British, we only spent two weeks there, and the girls now kind of know what a sari is … and they can recognize Ganesha when they see him … and they might be able to tell you what the OM symbol means. Also they like yoga, but almost certainly have not retained that it is Indian in origin. Ditto yogurt. This coming week is supposed to be Mexico, and I’m trying to figure out how to do a lite version of that country while simultaneously prepping for the roadtrip we’re making at the end of the week, down to my sister’s house in Knoxville. (Or, as Sylvia pronounces it “Knoxpital.”) Maybe we’ll … eat quesadillas while listening to mariachi music, and then work on the great coloring pages sent to us by a friend doing a similar summer camp? Or we could visit one of the many mexican groceries in town. I dunno. Or we might just have “prep for epic roadtrip” week, and see if I can break my decade long streak of not packing until the night before we leave.

Speaking of epic roadtrips, I’m not even going to MENTION the children’s audio books I’ve gotten from the library for the trip. Or the totes cute three-ring binders I’ve spent hours making for each girl, filled with games and stories and activities to entertain them in the car. Or the roadtrip bingo cards I found online, printed out, and laminated. Or the car-organizational ideas I found on Pinterest.

It’s an illness, y’all. That, or I really need to get the hell back on the career path. Once I figure out just what career I’m pathing, that is. In the meantime, if you see me obsessively checking Pinterest or hoarding toilet paper rolls for future art installations, please feel free to tell me to Calm The Fuck Down. I probably won’t listen, but it might make me giggle.

Russky not so muchky

So as you *may* have surmised from my total lack of posts this last week, Russia was a bit of a non-starter. I had plans! Kandinsky art projects! Russian tea cakes! St. Basil’s Cathedral! But Ellie very politely said “No, thank you” to learning hello and goodbye in Russian, and neither of the girls were at all interested in the local Russian Art Museum (which I hear is wonderful, and I still want to go). Maybe it was because it was a holiday week or maybe we just needed a break. We played with our matryoshka dolls, watched Peter and the Wolf (both the Disney and the very cool short film version) and Anastasia and called it good enough. And then we watched some fireworks and ran through the sprinkler and did other 4th of July week things.

This coming week, however, is France, and I am optimistic that there will be more interest in the land of patisseries, le Petit Prince, and patriotisme. Also, Ellie and I were looking up French wildlife today, like you do, and found the little bugger pictured above, which is a garden dormouse and is so cute we both squee’d out loud. I mean, look at that! It’s like a miniature raccoon and a chipmunk had a baby! I’m taking it as a good omen.

Oh! and before I forget – be sure to check out the Camp Nellie Bly tab at the top menu – I’ve added lots of links and material for all the countries we’ve hit so far. And if there’s anything missing, let me know!

Dots from Down Under

Today was arts and crafts day at Camp Nellie Bly. And since we’re “in” Australia this week, I decided we could learn about aboriginal dot painting, which is extremely cool, fun, and kid-friendly. We invited some friends over to join us, which – I cannot tell a lie – can occasionally stress me out a little. Not the kids themselves, but my ability to keep them entertained. But this turned out to be really fun and not stressful, which is why I’m sharing it. Could be my meds working like they’re supposed to, could be that I’m getting the hang of this. Don’t know, don’t care.

Aboriginal Art DemoFirst, I blew my own mind by making paint. MAKING IT, y’all. It was like being God. Well, if God is broke and has no childcare, which is the situation I found myself in last night after the girls were in bed, and I realized that I had zero paint in the house and 5 children with whom to do a painting project the next morning. Chad is in Nashville on a business trip, so I couldn’t just run out to the craft store and grab some tempera paints. (Also because they make you pay money for those things, unless you steal them, but I haven’t stolen anything since that time when I was six, and I shoplifted a lipgloss from the drug store, and my sister ratted me out [THANKS, ELLEN] and my mom made me GO TO A PRIEST and confess my sin. Which is kind of hilarious if you know how not like that my mom usually is.) But then I remembered Pinterest!! Pinterest will save me! And sure enough, there were, like, twelvety-thousillion different recipes for making paint on Pinterest. Finger paints, face paints, interior wall paints (!), textured paints, you name it. I settled on this one, since it was simple (flour, salt and water) and chemical (cooked until it thickens) and sounded like it would work. It made about 2.5 cups of paint base, which I could then put in a squeeze bottle and squirt into the egg carton cups I’d cut out for each kid. Stop rolling your eyes.

Of course, once I’d made it I had to try it out. At midnight. Because I’m dumb like that. It worked pretty slick, using food coloring for the different shades I wanted. The handprint painting in the picture above was my finished project.  Continue reading

Hejdå, Svenska; G’day Australia!

The days, you guys. They are just packed. Newsflash: it is kind of a lot of work to plan a summer-long camp where you switch countries every week. I’m really wishing that I’d had this brainstorm back in, like, February or something, because for one thing, it would have given me something to focus on besides how much I HATE WINTER (it must always be capitalized), and for another, maybe I wouldn’t feel so scrambly every weekend. Or actually sort of all the time. Sweden week was pretty good, although I feel like it could have been better. I was out-of-commission sick one day, and we never did get to the Swedish Institute; nor did we manage to bake off the ginger thins dough we got at IKEA, or eat any swedish pancakes. My stepmom suggested teaching the girls Swedish massage, which is a GENIUS idea, but again: didn’t get to it. Things we did get to: dancing to ABBA, eating meatballs and swedish fish (separately; we’re not cretins), making adorable flower wreaths for Midsommar, reading Maj Lindman and Astrid Lindgren books, coloring dala horses and making Viking paper crafts, and increasing our knowledge of Thor. Which looks pretty good all written out like that, and probably definitely I should just let it go, but it didn’t feel very organized or coherent.

We’re still navigating the camp/play balance – after all, this isn’t really a camp, and all of their friends have other schedules and activities, and we dearly love our friends and want to see them as much as possible. My tendency is to immediately jump on any proposed playdate activity – Yes! Things for the kids to do! Socializing! The potential for adult conversation! Whooo! But then again, one of the supposed reasons for doing this camp thing in the first place was to give some structure to our days and weeks, and I think I haven’t been paying enough attention to that. I mean, we will survive if we only have one playdate in a given day, you know? We don’t have to spend the whole day out of the house. This week I’m trying to be more intentional about planning specific activities for each day and not over-scheduling. We shall see how it works.

So: AUSTRALIA! Yep, we’re going to the land down under. Where women glow and men plunder. Or so I am reliably informed. It’s already been a learning experience for me, as I would have sworn that Sydney was the capital of Australia. But no. Canberra. It’s like finding out Sacramento is the capital of California: a vague sense of being conned coupled with strong geographical embarrassment. Continue reading

Pippi, Flicka, Freya and all

First of all, let me just say that I maybe should have planned to spend two weeks “in” Sweden, because we could easily spend the entire week just on Norse mythology without ever eating one meatball or Dancing one Queen. We started off strong yesterday with brief introductions to Pippi Longstocking (via the cheesy but loveable 80s movie), the Tomten (via this picture book) and Thor and Freya (via my brain and the internet). Pippi was, of course, a big hit – who doesn’t love a crazy chaos-making redhead with a highly individual sense of style? Stupid people, that’s who. The Tomten was deemed slightly less awesome, until they associated him with Bilbo (the slightly adulterated Bilbo from the stories my mom tells them, rather than the echt Tolkien version), and then they wanted to know more. (Ellie wrote a cute little story about meeting a Tomten in the back yard one night and going on an adventure for her writing time today.)

Freya and Thor were chosen because both girls are big fans of The Avengers, so they sort of already know who Thor is, in a Marvel-comics kind of way. Also, I have always really dug the idea of Yggdrasil, the world tree (I mean, I got it tattooed on my forearm, for god’s sake) and I found a really lovely artist’s conception that I kind of want poster-sized in my bedroom but is also a good visual introduction to Norse mythology for kids: Continue reading

Sayonara, Japan; Hej hej Sweden!

Japan Week Collage Well. I do not know WHERE this week has gone. One thing about Camp Nellie Bly is that it’s keeping us ALL busy. In fact, Mama may need to dial it down on the research and presentation aspects of this here camp, because between teaching an online class, blogging, and camp prep I am spending pretty much every moment that I’m not with the girls attached to my computer. The problem is, I enjoy the shit out of researching each country. It’s unexpectedly fun to look at each place from the perspective of what my kids would find interesting or engaging. The nice thing about doing this when they’re so young is that I’m more interested in giving them a little taste of these places than I am in them retaining facts and figures. I know they won’t remember every capital or traditional costume, but I hope they will gain a sense for how diverse and colorful the world is, and how many different ways there are to be a citizen of planet earth.  Continue reading

And We’re Off!

Well, we’re two days in and so far we’re all still alive, so … WINNING. Things have actually been going pretty swimmingly, especially considering that the weather has been kind of shitty and the super awesome camp T-shirts I made ended up being women’s size medium rather than kid’s size medium, so I guess now they have super awesome camp nightgowns. We’re still figuring out the rhythm of our days. I can already tell that late afternoon/early evening will be useless for getting anything done, which makes now no different from any other time of my life since I had kids, and it only took one day of using the fabled chore chart to know that I was going to have to just suck it up and design one of my own. (More on that – probably more than you would ever want to know – later.) I’m also guessing that the day-of-the-week themes (make-it Monday, take-a-trip-Tuesday, etc.) may fall by the wayside, since what I’m really interested in is learning about the countries and having time with friends, and that doesn’t always jive with the theme of the day. But so far I’m quite pleased with how it’s going. Continue reading