Saturday, May 20, 2006

What a weekend...

Don went to Fifth Grade Camp this past Thursday. One of the adult volunteers at the school really enjoys spending time with Don, and was going to take him to camp, but he had to work. That left it up to me.

Most kids go by themselves, but Don needs an adult to help him handle the confusion and to generally give him confidence. They suggested a non family member so that Don would be more focused on the camp, rather than letting the standard family dynamics change how he acts. After all, we everyone acts differently among their peer group than with their parents.

I was fine with that because a group camp where I know practically no one is quite a bit out of my own comfort zone. Also, I have plenty to do right here at home.

So it wasn't with the best of attitude that I undertook this venture. I let Mary know that, too, but she said that I have to go... the big meanie!

To add to the confusion, she got called into work the night before. I was tired that evening, as well as being in a bad mood. Don was fussing about getting things ready. I just wasn't up to packing for someone else. I grabbed a few things I knew that we would need (film camera, new [cheap] digital camera, flashlights, etc.), and went to bed.

The next morning, I got all the boys off to the bus stop.

Actually, I got up early, took a shower, and helped Mary get them off to the bus stop. Mary had come home early so that she could help.

Don was easy to get up. I told him that he could stay home, or he could get up and go to fifth grade camp, and that if he missed the bus... well, there are a few chores that need to be done around here. Motivation is a wonderful thing, eh?

When Mary drove them to the bus stop (they were still late getting out of the house), I got a few things together. Then, I had to go out and check on the babies.

What I found didn't improve my mood.

Instead of locking them securely into the dog house, I used the board as an awning and left the waterer out there. During the night, some of the birds had gotten out and froze to death. I pushed the little dead bodies aside, put the checked for survivors outside the house, and securely locked them in. I told Mary about it on the way to school.

More confusion at the school. Mary stayed in the office because one of the students had managed to bump his face and knock two teeth clean out of his head. They eventually ended up driving him up to Traverse City so that the doctors could put his teeth back in.

But I got on the crowded bus with a bunch of noisy kids and too much gear (I can't function well with noise).

We made it to camp in one piece. The bus driver only had to stop a couple of times and call one kid to the front because he just couldn't keep his butt in the seat.

After some confusion, we managed to stake out one of the four bunk beds in our assigned cabin. Don slept on top so I wouldn't have to drag myself up the ladder. I got a pack of paper from the adult group so I could find Don't assigned group and see what his schedule looked like.

His first activity was capture the flag. I really expected that he would opt out, but he played well. He guarded the flag and had a great time. When he played floor hockey, he was the goalie. He does well when he has a well-defined function. He is creative in many ways, but there are other times when he really needs a well-defined role to function. I can relate, believe me.

He didn't want to go to the bb gun range. He was fussing about the noise, so I told him that the bb guns are air powered, and don't make much noise. He was OK with it, then.

Don doesn't want to shoot a real gun because it's too noisy. For all his pride in wearing my old field jacket (with our name on one side, and "U. S. Army" on the other side), he isn't likely to join because he really doesn't want to handle the weapons.

He did really well with the bb gun, though. He hit some targets and popped a balloon, which is really good for a first timer (and also really good for those old guns that are supplied by the camp).

Don wasn't too interested in riding the horses. I dragged him over there anyhow. He rode with the second batch of kids, and enjoyed himself. We might get him on Sarah yet. I'm not going to push it, but I hope he does because horses are really good therapy.

Did I mention that it was yucky rainy that day. Some kids were unprepared, and one of the adult volunteers ended up loaning one girl his jacket. Other than that, it didn't put a damper on things at all.

Well, there was one other thing. The kids were getting blown all over the lake when they were canoing and using the peddle boats.

Actually, they weren't being blown all over the lake. They were being blown all down to one end.

One pair of kids couldn't make it back. A couple adults went down there to help them get off of the shore, but it was a no-go. At that point, I asked for a paddle and a life vest. I went down to the canoe and hopped in (they were going to just pull it out and leave it at the beach, I think.) I kneeled in front of the seat to get it out into the lake, then tried to sit in the back seat.

Actually, I tried sitting in the front seat backward because the front seat is closer to the center of the canoe. I generally do that when canoing alone.

But that left the front end out of the water and the wind whipped me around and pointed me in the wrong direction.

So I kneeled on the wet bottom of the canoe and paddled it upwind to the livery area. It wasn't that far (it's a small lake), but it was kind of rough going.

That evening, everyone was tired. That didn't stop the normal boy type conversations in the cabin, though.

Of course, staying in an all male cabin has its advantages. For instance, you don't have to worry about putting the seat down.

Some of the boys had to run into the bathroom and shut the door in order to change clothes. I commented that if that bothered them, they were in for a bit of a shock when they hit the locker rooms in middle school next year.

The next day was much more laid back. There were only two activities. Don's first was Nukem (not Duke Nukem). It's sort of like volley ball, except you throw the ball over the net, and if they don't catch it on the other side, one person is side-lined. If they do catch it, they get a person back.

The final activity was canoing. Don wanted me to canoe with him (and I would have enjoyed it), but I figured he needed to be more independent. Also, I wanted him to canoe with the other kids.

He had never canoed from the back before, and he had never paddled much. He took to it like he was born to canoe, though. A lot of people commented on how well he did. He ended up canoing with three other people. The girl he started with wanted to use a peddle boat just as soon as one became available.

All in all, I am really pleased with how well things worked out. Don did very well -- not a single melt-down, and only a couple rough spots (like when they told him that all the canoes had to come out of the water). He participated, and he interacted well with his peers.

He met a few people from the other elementary schools, and will be seeing them all in the middle school. (One of the purposes of Fifth Grade Camp is to allow the students that were going to the three elementary schools to get to know each other before converging on the middle school.)

So after we cleaned up, packed up, and rode home, I got to rest all weekend, right?

Not on your life!

We went straight from the school to Cadillac so that Mary could pick up her new glasses and I could turn in my bi-focals for repair. The lines between the reading and regular glasses didn't match up. It turned out that they could fix it right there.

I picked up the photos from the Special Olympics and some other things. Some of the pictures came out very well, but some didn't. There were some problems with some of the Special Olympics pictures. I don't know if it was me, the lens, the camera, or the processing. I may be able to salvage some of the images. Some are actually really good images -- except they are somewhat blurry.

I also found out that we lost five of the six Indian Runner ducks. We also ended up losing half of the meat chickens. We went to the feed mill to see if anyone had failed to pick up their animals (we got extras that way one year). He told us that he will making another order in June, so we ordered another dozen meat birds and another six ducks. Meanwhile, we have two leghorn babies with the duck to keep him company. He had been alone, and was very unhappy.

I was not happy about the fact that I couldn't be there to get everything in order and salvage as much as possible out of the disaster. Mary did a good job, however. She even ended up using the blow dryer to pull a couple chilled chicks back from the verge. Those are tough little birds, for sure!

So, we have the 100 gallon stock watering tub, and the little four gallon tub in the living room. Mary had set it up as best as she could. This evening, I pulled the hay out and Mary replaced it with wood shavings. I found the sticks I had set up last year for hanging the feeder and waterer. The waterer is hanging in there now, but I still have the jar feeder instead of the trough feeder because they are small enough to get into the trough feeder and poop in their food (not that they mind eating it after that). I also found the chicken wire that I use for a top, and another lamp for heating.

But we got chickens in the house again. Blah.

Another lesson learned, I guess. We were asking two broody hens to keep 32 chickens and six ducks warm in this cold rainy weather. Next time I give babies to broody hens, I'm limiting it to a dozen birds per hen. I know that they can handle that because I have seen it a few times.

Today, I had to put the tractor wagon together. The spray grease didn't work (it came with the house), so I poked a hole in the can and kind of smeared it on the axle. Then, the little tiller leaked and didn't want to start. I finally got it started (still leaking like a sieve) and started tilling up the litter (hay well mixed with chicken, goat, and horse poop). I changed the oil in the lawn tractor, but it didn't want to start. We'll probably get it going tomorrow.

We are making one of those strawberry pyramids, but we're making the redneck trailer trash version. (Hey, we already have a beat-up Jeep XJ sitting up on old tires right by the driveway.) We have an old wading pool with a hole in the bottom, so we filled it with sand. We laid a ring of tires around the edge (on top of the sand), and will be putting sand inside that circle. One tire will fit on top of that. We will also lay some tires around the edge. All of the tires will be filled with a good mixture of well-mixed and well-composted litter, and will receive a single strawberry plant. Later in the summer, they will get runners and reproduce. next year, we'll have a decent patch. They are Ozark Beauty plants, which I believe are ever bearing. I still want to make a large patch of Dunlops. Those are what we always grew at my parents' place, and are the best I have ever tasted.

So we have lots of gardening to do. I managed to till a little of the poop in the coop, but by no means all of it. I need to finish that and haul it to the garden, where it will be put into tires that are laid artfully upon the ground (red neck raised beds). Mary had planted flowers over the grave of our faithful goat Spot and her dearly deceased doeling, so I'll put a square of tires around that and plant them with veggies. Maybe I'll plant some carrots and feed them to the surviving goats. Or, maybe I'll eat them myself -- after washing the coop scrapings off of them.

I posted three photos, but I am still going to post a gratuitous photo of the day. After all, the above three aren't gratuitous. They actually have something to do with the story.

Besides, I have to prove to myself that I still know how to focus a camera [grumble, grumble].

So, the gratuitous photo of the day is a bunch of crocuses that my mother planted at the cottage. I took it just a few weeks ago.


Blogger hisdearheart said...

Hmmmm--Friday sounds like a typical day at school, to me. I'm glad Don had a good time at camp. No meltdowns is actually a very, very good thing! And the opportunity to meet the other kids outside of school may be a "preventive" (or is that pre-emptive?) technique to counteract teasing next year. And tell Mary I relate to the "big meanie" role!

3:44 PM  
Blogger Nerd in the Country said...

Don is very fortunate because the people at the school are good at disarming the teasers. They have a 'circle of friends' program so that the other kids can volunteer to help. The kids that do the teasing are generally discouraged from doing so by peer pressure, or something like that. I'm not sure of the details, but it definitely works.

11:06 PM  

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