Sunday, June 30, 2013

Scout Camps

Last week was the week of scout camps. Aiden left early Sunday morning for Boy Scout camp up at Forest Lawn, and Conor and I left on Monday morning for Cub Scout camp at Verdugo Oaks. Conor is not a Cub Scout (yet), but I was asked by a friend who is the Camp Director for our local Council if I could come and act as the camp nurse, and the fact that Conor could come with me and participate with the scouts was a main motivating factor in jumping through all the hoops I had to jump through in order to go.

I had very mixed feelings about going, to be honest, and there was a lot to do to be certified and eligible for the position of Camp Health Officer, when I wasn't being paid. It took about a month of preparation and meetings and online trainings and certifications, during which time I was also dealing with sticky marriage-separation stuff, and trying to study for the nursing board exams, which I was scheduled to take the Tuesday after camp. But my friend was very patient and understanding with me, and so grateful, and as I began to see how much time and energy is devoted (for free, since all of them are strictly volunteers), I felt really humbled to be able to work with them all and to have the opportunity to serve with them.

Here is Conor waiting outside our house for our ride up to camp. He was so excited. We went up a day earlier than camp started so we could get settled in and oriented to procedures.

This is the Health Lodge, and became our home-away-from-home for the week. Thankfully, we were in this air-conditioned cabin and not in tents, because it got very, very hot during the week, and even though we were outside for daytime activities, I was so grateful to be able to sleep inside where it was cool.

Here is the teepee, where each den got to spend one night sleeping. Conor set his stuff up in there when it was his den's turn, but then changed his mind and hauled it all back to be with me. As I figured he would.

I tried to study during every spare moment. This is Sparky the Cat sitting with me. He's the camp mouser and does not like to be touched or held, but for some reason, whenever I sat down, Sparky found me and joined me.

Conor made so many friends, and even though he was a year or two younger than the youngest boys, everyone was so kind to him. He asked the Junior Staff (Boy Scouts who came up to be den leaders) if he could join in their game of Box Hockey, and they were good enough to even let him be goalie.

We had a great kitchen staff who cooked and cooked and cooked. The only time they stopped cooking was to clean and clean and clean before they had to cook again. Conor loved the mess hall and the mealtime routines.

This was our dinner the night before camp officially opened. It was a "Thanksgiving Feast" to thank all the staff members for their hard work.

The first morning of camp. Conor was so excited to put on his borrowed Cub Scout uniform and head to flag ceremony. My job began in earnest shortly after that. As the scouts arrived, they were sent to the Health Lodge for health checks. I also kept all medication and was responsible for administering it.

During the day, there were classes, helping the boys to pass off various requirements and learn new skills. I taught the First Aid classes each day to each den. Here is Conor demonstrating how to use a triangular bandage.

Each den made a flag that they carried to flag ceremonies. Sometimes Conor got to be the leader and hold the flag.

During Free Time, Conor would come back to the Health Lodge and sack out for just a bit. They kept the boys so busy from early in the morning till late at night.

There were many opportunities for swimming, which was good since the temperatures climbed to well over 100 degrees later in camp. The first two days, Conor wouldn't even get into the pool, which baffled me. Then he spent two days in the shallow end (for non-swimmers). By the end of camp, he'd gone to the lifeguard and asked if he could take the swim test, and he passed it! He jumped into the deep end and swam the entire length of the pool! I could not believe it. In fact, I didn't believe him, and had to ask the life guard.

I was kept pretty busy with First Aid needs. Thankfully, nothing serious. But I got to know most of the boys and they were all so adorable. I really grew to love them.

Here is Conor at the archery range. He loved archery, much more than he thought he would.

He got to try BB guns too, but found that it wasn't as much fun as he'd hoped. I think the guns required a bit more strength than the little guys had, so it was a bit hard for them.

The theme of camp was "Seeking Cub Treasures" so there were pirate touches here and there throughout the week. I loved this idea. They made a pirate "ship" and showed the Muppet Treasure Island movie on the mast at night time. The kids sat on benches and ate popcorn.

His name is spelled incorrectly, but it was a big deal when Conor got to move his buddy tag from Non-Swimmer to Beginner after passing the swim test.

During a craft session, the boys made Survival Bracelets. They LOVED it and Conor is still proudly wearing his.

During an awards ceremony, Conor was chosen for the Most Improved Swimmer award and was presented with the rubber duckie medal. He was so proud!

At the end of camp, he was chosen by his den to receive the den flag to take home because he was always on time to every flag ceremony and always in full uniform. Conor loves earning awards.

At closing ceremonies, twelve scouts were each awarded with an acorn token, symbolizing one of the twelve character traits of scouts. Conor was awarded for being Clean. Some of those boys were pretty grungy by the end of camp. Conor stays pretty clean by nature, but since he was sleeping in bed with me, I was also scrubbing his feet down at night. Because, well, gross.

It was a long, hot, very busy week. Conor loved it and made many new friends and is now excited for when he will officially be a Cub Scout. But no sooner did we get in the car to head for home on Saturday afternoon, then I turned around to find him sacked out. He was tired!

So was I.

But we got home and bathed and unpacked, and it was so wonderful to see Aiden, who had just gotten home as well (he earned 5 merit badges at camp and had a great time. He earned the Shotgun merit badge, which is one of the most difficult to earn, and he loved it so much), and Lyndsay, who had been home alone for the week.

My little campers together again.

They spent some brief brother time together before Conor had to go to bed, and Aiden had to pack up again, this time headed for a month in Arizona with his dad. But we'll keep this post happy and not dwell on the fact that we miss him so much already.

So, we did it. A week of Scout camp. The first day I was ready for it all to be over. I had so much on my mind. By the end, I was a little sad that it was over and that the boys were leaving. It was a great experience, and I know Conor created memories that will last him a long time.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Daddy's Girl

Father's Day. I love my dad every day, but my thoughts turn to him especially at this time of year. I think about the ways he has influenced my life, my character, my views. I love to think about my dad. When I was a little girl, he was a super hero. With his jet-black hair, people often said he looked like Superman. There was nothing he could not do in my eyes. Yes, he frustrated me at times with his teasing. He embarrassed me with his unapologetic pride in me in public situations. I still roll my eyes at his continual rhyming and impromptu song-writing and singing.

As I got older, I began to realize that he had very real struggles. I knew that he was not Superman, but rather, a mortal man, and his weaknesses have cost him dearly. I have watched him suffer in sorrow and regret. I have been pained by his choices at times. I have faced him, and forgiven him. I have watched him lose everything and rise again. Actually, he has taught me a great deal about how to pass through suffering. I have watched him take the Savior at His word and put his whole and complete trust in the Atonement of Jesus Christ. It has not made all things better yet, but it has made him better in every way. I know there are catacombs of sadness within his heart, but to be with him is to know only cheerfulness, encouragement, and optimism. His belief in me convinces me that I can do anything. He is the smartest, wisest, kindest person I've ever known in this life. He has been a spiritual anchor for me in this world. He has blessed me, and prayed with me, and held me, and wept with me, and taught me. He has done the same for my children. He and I are connected spirit to spirit. I am aware that he is not perfect. But he has been the perfect father for me. I cannot imagine being in this world without him.

I have two fantastic parents, but I like to think about what parts of me came from my dad.

Gardening, for sure. My dad taught me to garden, as a girl growing up in New Jersey. And every year I plant a garden for many reasons, but one of them is to honor his legacy. He has taught me many spiritual truths from the simple act of putting seeds in fertile soil.

I am an avid journaler because of my dad. Dad writes in his journal every single day. He never misses. I am not (currently) that faithful, but my love of journal keeping is a gift from my father.

Both of my parents are autodidacts. Both are readers extraordinaire. But I get my love of the scriptures from my dad. In fact, last week I ordered a used copy of a gospel study guide I'd heard of on another blog. It's an entire series of books that covers the entire Standard Works. I chose one volume to begin with, the volume on Isaiah. Isaiah is tricky for me, and because of that, I sometimes don't enjoy it. I realize that if I understood the symbolism and language better, it would make more sense and have more application to my life. I know that Nephi loved the writings of Isaiah. I know that Jesus Christ loved Isaiah's words. And those are good enough reasons to find out more, but for me, I want to love Isaiah because my dad loves Isaiah. I want to understand the things that are of deep importance to him, and he loves the writings of Isaiah. His example continues to inspire me.

I honor my dad this day. He has overcome great personal obstacles in life. He has achieved greatness in all the ways that matter. He lives a simple, humble, servant's life. His heart is tender to the spirit and to know him, really know him, is to love him.

What a privilege that I get to call him 'Dad'.

I love you, Daddy! Happy Father's Day!

Monday, June 10, 2013

They're Mine Again!

 Bad picture with my eyes half-closed, but oh, such a good day! The Last Day of School!

Every day of the school year feels like drudgery to me. Every single day, the same thing: wake up at 5:15am, cook breakfast, feed children, pack lunches, have scripture study and prayer, drive to the bus and drop Aiden off, come home and get Conor dressed and ready, and take him to school. 

Come home to an empty, lonely house and wonder about all the learning and experiences that are going on that I don't get to be a part of. I miss homeschooling so, so much! I want those hours with my children! But since I don't get to have them, I'm grateful for teachers that work hard, and I'm very grateful for summertime! Give me back my babies!

Conor finished 1st grade this year, which I can hardly believe. I remember thinking that when I finished nursing school, Conor would be finishing up 1st grade and that seemed so far in the distant future! And yet, here we are! He was accepted into the Magnet Program for 2nd grade, which will be on the same campus as he's been attending. So excited for him! (Why are his shoes untied -- from double knots-- every single day after school?)

And Aiden completed 7th grade, so only one more year until high school for him. Holy. Cow. This boy has begun to enter the Realm of Teenagerhood, if you know what I mean, but we're navigating fairly well, so far. Love this boy.

This was our Teacher Gift this year, thanks to creative bloggers who share their ideas. Simple and useful. Who can't spend money at Target, right?

And so, our summer has begun! We have some loose routines that we'll adhere to, like our Little Jobs, and some academic refresher work, and daily reading. I only have a few weeks with Aiden before he leaves to spend July with his dad in Arizona. Conor and I hope to do some art and science projects, and get back to his regular piano lessons, and go on some field trips. Of course, I'm still awaiting news of eligibility for the NCLEX (State Boards) exam, and studying a bit each day. But I am loving being home without huge school pressure and want to really enjoy this time with my children before I become a Working Mother. *sigh*

What about Lyndsay? Well, she's here. Sort of.

She was hired at a burger grill called The Habit shortly after getting home from college for the summer. So, she's been working almost every afternoon and night. She's learned very quickly and has had great reviews and feedback from both her management and the customers, and she mostly enjoys her job. She's learned so very much about Having A Job and all that goes along with that. I think it's a great experience for her. She's always made much more money doing other things, like babysitting, tutoring, and housecleaning, but I really think every kid should work in food service at least once. And I'm proud of her for getting in there.

And Dylan?

Oh, I miss that boy. It's been almost a year since I've seen him. But he started talking to me recently, which has lifted my heart to new heights. I write to him weekly and pray for him daily--sometimes hourly! He'll be a Senior this upcoming year! He's struggled in various ways, and I miss being a part of his life, but these years are only a moment. He's done tremendously well academically and is working this summer at Ace Hardware, so probably won't be able to swing a visit. But hopefully soon. And in the meantime, letters and prayers. And a phone conversation or two. I love him so, so much, and didn't expect this part of mothering him, to be sure, but we're okay.

So? On to Summer!