August 12, 2015

camp chronicles: tiny dancers

This year marked 21 years since I first went up to my camp in Huntsville, Ontario. 21 rather formative years, that have seen me go from a nervously excited 14-year-old volleyball camper, to a confident 33 year old, excited to arrive with her sweet family. As you may have gathered from past camp chronicles, I love this place! There's something about the air, the space, the water, the stars, the sunsets, and the people that just make it such a special home away from home.

Over the last few years Lady A and Lady M have become increasingly comfortable there, and this year was easily their best one yet. They began to gain a little more independence - being allowed to go from the dining hall to another coaches' cabin without Cal or myself taking them there, for one thing. It's amazing what an open space, filled with people who will care for them, and no cars zipping by can do for a child's independence!

The family of coaches and kids who come up this week every summer are like no other. They're the group of friends who you see once a year, can always pick up right where you left off, and feel a comfort and familiarity that makes you feel at home instantaneously. We share much of our time catching up, sitting around the campfire, participating in happy hour (our brilliantly created daily activity to gain extra time together), and rehearsing our spectacularly choreographed coaches dance! Seriously, we have moves like you've never seen (and never will...)!

The leadership camp I teach is awesome. Though we were missing one of our teaching team again this year, Rene' and I did our best in her absence! (We missed you, Trishy!). We had a diverse and interesting group of campers who hailed from Russia, China, Iran, Ontario and Quebec, and as always it was fascinating to watch the group gel and work together over the course of our week. These kids always surprise me in unique and incredible ways - through their experiences, their thoughts and their ideas. Throughout the year I am always teaching adults, so I sure love my foray into the world of teenagers once a year. (Hopefully they're sufficiently preparing me for when Ladies A & M hit that stage...).

Though the best part of this summer was watching my girls. Yes, there was the independence, but they also challenged themselves in new ways that made me extra proud. Lady M braved one high ropes element last year, and this year she climbed a different, more challenging one, and also tried the climbing wall and the zip line! Lady A tried a high ropes course for the first time, and tried the climbing wall too! (My nerves put a limit on her trying the zip line...maybe next year for that one!). I loved watching their sense of curiosity come out, and seeing their determination as they attempted each new challenge, even though my heart might have been racing a little bit... Also, Lady A's harness was the tiniest, cutest little thing I've ever seen.

Beyond that, they both did Dance camp this summer. One of the benefits of coaching up there is that my girls can participate in any camp they want throughout the week (and there are a lot of choices). Though Lady M was leaning toward badminton camp this year, she pulled a last minute switcheroo and chose to join her sister in dance camp. This particular camp is fuelled by one incredible instructor who manages to take a group of girls - with very widely ranging dance abilities - and create a show at the end of the week that is spectacular. My girls did two of the dances in the show - lyrical and musical theatre - and the smile on my face was as big as the gym they danced in. And they haven't stopped singing the song "Best Summer Ever" in days...

Lady M is the kid who jumped off a stage into Cal's arms about two years ago when she froze at her dance recital in front of 40 people. To see her get up there and shake her groove thang in front of about 500 people was amazing!

Lady A, much younger than most of the kids out there, stole the show. She watched her sister and counsellor for the moves, and tried so hard to keep up, all the while with a giant grin on her face. Watching my kids, and the other coaches' kids in this dance was just the best part of an already great week.

From new found independence to first canoe rides (Lady A); high ropes experiences to unplugged family time, this week at camp is my favourite of the year.

August 11, 2015

summer in the south: road trippin'

On June 30th, after a journey of nearly 5 years, I attended my final M.Ed class, with my support squad in tow. Presenting my research with my mum, dad, Calvin, Lady M & Lady A in the room was fabulous. They've been my cheerleaders through every stage of this journey, and I was happy to share the celebration with them as they've earned it as much as I have. Immediately after class, we hopped in the car and my family of four headed south.

It had been three years since we last had the girls in Florida to visit my extended family who live there. Though Cal and I had each been down separately, Lady A had only just learned to walk on her last visit. Seeing as she now runs, talks a mile a minute and is prepping herself for kindergarten this fall, she had changed a fair bit since her last visit!

Having only flown the kids down there before, driving was to be a new adventure for us. We set off with excitement, and made it to Erie, PA on night one, thanks to our late start. Lady A stayed awake until we crossed the border in Niagara Falls, and Lady M - determined not to miss a moment - stayed awake until we pulled into our hotel in PA. The next day proved to be a little more eventful with the stomach flu hitting Lady A just outside of West Virginia, so we stopped a little earlier than planned that day in North Carolina. Feeling much better by morning, we pulled into Ormond Beach, Florida the next evening. The kids were amazing in the car - reading, watching movies, playing various car games, and only asking "are we there yet" a handful of times. (Impressive, because they like to ask that question on a 20-minute drive!). Much of the time was passed with Lady A listening to Taylor Swift, Fight Song, Call Me Maybe and Stompa through her headphones while singing loudly, to the tune of Lady M frequently asking "Lady A, could you PLEEEAAASSE sing in your head?".

We spent a little over a week in Florida, and it was wonderful. Always nice to reconnect with our family down there. From family dinners to trips to the beach, 4th of July celebrations, plenty of swimming and shopping, we had a great time.

My method of travel is "don't plan too much", as I like to just take each day as it comes. The rest of our lives are so scheduled between work, school, after-school activities, etc. that it's nice to just come off schedule for a bit and enjoy the freedom of loosely planned adventures.
Fun at Daytona Beach
Shoe Shopping!
4th of July, Lady A
4th of July, Lady M
The only thing we did have scheduled on our trip was one day at Disney's Magic Kingdom. Our girls had been to Downtown Disney before, but we decided at 6 & 4, it was the perfect time for a park. And it was. Lady A went on her first ever rides (beginning with the Peter Pan ride, and Ariel's 'under the sea' ride, and she was hooked! We made the choice to stay on the Disney property for a night too so we could make the most of our day passes. That allowed us to head back to the hotel in the later afternoon, go for a swim and relax for a bit before heading back to the park for the electric light parade (which I'm sure hasn't changed since I was a kid) and the beautiful fireworks display. The next morning we got up and went for another swim, visited the gift shop, then headed back to Ormond. A great first experience for the girls, and Disney still feels as magical to me today as I did when I went at their age.
Cal & I at the Disney resort
The girls checking out Cinderella's castle
After a couple more days, we began our drive home. Normally everyone feels a little sad on the way home, and is just eager to get there, but we had one more thing to look forward to. One of my best friends has lived in North Carolina for several years now, and we were planning to stop there on our way home. So we drove to Winston-Salem where we were greeted by my sweet friend Elana and her hubby, Blake. It was awesome to see where they live and work, and we squeezed in a NASCAR museum, visit to the Richard Childress Racing shops, Richard Childress winery, and Rescue Ranch. All in a day! We spent two nights there before heading on our merry way once again.

My lovely Shme & I 
It was a whirlwind two weeks, but was so relaxing and fun. We got to catch up with so many people, enjoy the sunshine, and take our kids through a number of States they hadn't seen before. What a great way to kick off the summer of 2015!