Day Camp Micro-stories

My job as a day camp counselor ended a few days ago. I can’t even begin to tell you everything that happened over the summer, so I’ll stick to telling short little micro-stories about the fun and sometimes insane times I had with my campers.

Story 1: Fish hooks are for fish, silly

One of my kids got a fish hook stuck in his leg, if you can believe it. Here I was just sitting on my lifeguard stand doing my job when this boy comes running up to the stand. I half ignored him at first, because I was trying to focus on scanning (waterfront lifeguarding is the opposite of fun). But I heard him say something to the effect of, “Mumble mumble mumble in my leg.”

At that point, I looked down to see him clutching his thigh. “I got a fish hook stuck in my leg,” he repeated.

Crap.

I quickly had the other lifeguard take over total coverage for me while I dealt with the hook. Unfortunately, it hadn’t poked all the way through, and the barb was too big for me to pull out. His mom came to get him a little while later to take him to get it removed. He was back the next day. Tough little guy.

Story 2: The rocket

On the lighter side, a couple of my campers found an unwrapped (clean) tampon and had no idea what to make of it. “It’s like a little rocket!” my boy camper exclaimed with joy. I had the worst time trying not to laugh my butt off as I took it and threw it away. The best part was that I got to tell his dad about it at church that Sunday.

Story 3: In which I hurt myself

On Tuesday (fricken’ Tuesday!) of my last (LAST) week of camp, I somehow managed to get my toenail yanked off during a field game. Let me revise that. I somehow managed to get my toenail almost all the way yanked off. See, it was sticking straight up, hanging by the smallest of bits of skin on the left side of the base.

Are you cringing yet? Now imagine how I felt.

Of course, given that this was the last week of camp, I wasn’t at all willing to go home early. I loved my campers and I didn’t want to say goodbye before I absolutely had to. So I decided to stick it out. Have you ever tried hiking with your toenail torn off? Don’t.

For whatever reason, I wasn’t allowed to tell my campers what happened. So of course, that was the only thing they wanted to talk about. Eventually, I got fed up with the questions and told them that an gator got into the lake and bit my toe off and the hospital had to sew it back on. The kids didn’t believe me (I think), but they did mostly stop asking questions.

Story 4: Skipper

At the beginning of the summer, I resolved to not have these kids butchering my name all summer long. I’ve worked with kids before, so I know that “Susannah” can be both impossible for their minds to remember and hard for their mouths to pronounce. So I gave myself a nickname.

My group was called the First Mates, so I decided to call myself “Skipper.” After a week, the name stuck fast. As the summer went on, a few funny things came of my nickname.

First, one of my campers was mortified when he accidentally called me “Stripper” instead of “Skipper.” Of course, I couldn’t let that go, so I teased him until his ears turned pink and then let him off the hook. You should have seen the look of relief on his face.

One of my younger campers loved to play UNO in the evenings. He was a wild little guy, and every time he skipped me, he would yell “Skip Skipper!” at the top of his lungs. It was great to let everyone around us know I was getting trashed at UNO by a six-year-old. I have about ten different stories about this camper alone, but I’ll save them for another time.

Finally, one of my campers came up to me and said, “I have a gift for you.” I’m not sure what I expected, but it was not a five inch long brass plaque with the word “Skipper” engraved on it. 0712161928I was touched and a little confused, but I thanked her and gave her a hug anyway. I’m going to hang it on the door of my apartment when I get there in a few days.

That’s about all I have room for in this post. I’m sure I’ll think up some other stories to tell you about in the future. But for now, know that I had an awesome summer. I’m really going to miss my campers, especially the ones who came every day.

I should be posting a bit more regularly now that I actually, you know, have wifi. In about a week, I’ll probably have a post about my new apartment. Can’t wait to show you all.

 

Do you have any crazy stories from your summer? Let me hear them in the comments.

The Games I Used to Play

Is it me, or has political correctness gone a bit too far? When political correctness reaches the hallowed grounds of recess, then I think a revolution is in order.

Understand, I’m not just talking about ridiculously PC schools freaking out because a kid saw a gun in the clouds. I’m talking about games! Does anyone remember the amazing games we used to play when we were kids? My favorite part of the day when I was younger was recess or PE. It was the time when we could let go of all of our boring pretenses of maturity and be kids for a little while.

Now, all of that is on its way out. In 2013, a school district in New Hampshire voted to ban dodgeball. Dodgeball! They said they did it to discourage bullying.

Please.

Dodgeball isn’t about bullying. Dodgeball is about fun. I’m not sure what they were thinking when they decided that banning dodgeball would cut down on bullying. Although I’m sure that some bullying does occur during dodgeball, bullying can happen anywhere. It actually makes less sense that bullying would occur inside a structured and supervised game, than say, in the halls when no one’s watching. In fact, in my experience, most bullying I’ve seen occurs during lunchtime, not PE. Are they going to ban lunchtime too?

What I want to know is how crappy their PE teachers must have been to allow bullying in the gym during dodgeball. Honestly, it’s not hard to segregate teams so that they are equal. I’m not just blowing smoke here. I worked as an assistant to a PE teacher for three years. I know what it’s like to have students in a class who don’t like each other. The simplest way to fix it is to just put them on the same team. No possibility for bullying there. I’ve seen dodgeball bring kids together. At its core, it is still a team sport. When they’re the last one in on your team, it doesn’t matter how much you don’t like someone; you’re still going to cheer for them.

The article I read about said that the school district that banned dodgeball and “other human target sports” also said that they work hard to make sure that their kids are violence free. I’m not going to tell you that dodgeball is entirely safe. No contact sport is. I’ve been on the receiving end of a few dodgeball head shots myself. I’m okay… mostly. But it’s not hard to make the game safer. Outlaw head shots for starters. It’s a lame excuse, as I’m sure that it’s just as easy to get injured playing something like soccer or baseball. Personally, I’ve never received so much as a bruise from playing dodgeball. I have, however, had bruises larger than my hand from both soccer and softball. Actually, I had a concussion from playing soccer.

And what about red rover? You remember red rover. It was that game where two teams line up across from each other and then you call kids over and just clothesline them. Surely, that game was banned with the order to ban all “human target sports.” That means that there will be a generation of kids at that school that never get to play red rover. It’s an atrocity, I tell you!

One last problem I have with this banning of dodgeball is that one of the reasons that the school district gave was that not all students can participate equally.

*Sigh*

So what?! In what game can any two students participate equally? From baseball to soccer to freaking duck, duck, goose, every human being is on different level athletically. When did that become a bad thing? Some students will be weaker, and some will be stronger. That’s not necessarily a bad thing either. In fact, I think these games prove to be wonderful tools for teaching important life lessons. What better way to teach stronger students to stand up for the weaker ones, to protect them. What better way to teach the weaker students to grow stronger.

To a larger point, when did it become bad to be bad at a game when you’re a child? This is the time when you’re supposed to learn how to do things. With most of the things you do when you’re young, you’re going to stink at it when you start. It doesn’t matter whether it’s dodgeball or playing an instrument, if you don’t do it, you won’t get better.

Failure is a good thing. Without, we would never grow. I’m afraid that we’ve become a society that doesn’t allow people to fail. I can see it in all areas of life. At the top, our government bails out banks and car companies because it believes that they can’t fail or disaster would occur. At the bottom, stupid school districts ban dodgeball because some kids aren’t good at it. This politically correct idea that you can’t allow kids to fail because it will crush their precious self-esteems needs to go away. Look at me. I’ve failed plenty in my life, and you know what, it hasn’t hurt me one bit. I come back stronger and more capable every time.

Heck, even the Mythbusters got it when they said that…

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The Epic Story of the First Time I Used My Lifeguarding Skills

In a couple of weeks, I’ll be renewing my lifeguard certification, but this post isn’t about that. This post is about what you can do with the knowledge you gain when you become a lifeguard.

Two years ago, I’d just finished my lifeguard training. In fact, I didn’t even have my certificate yet. At that time, I was cleaning house every Friday for a family that went to my co-op. They had five kids, so they understandably occasionally needed a maid and/or babysitting. I did both. This family consisted of a baby, a 2-year-old, a 4-year-old, a 6-year-old, and an 8-year-old. About two years ago, I was busy cleaning one of the bathrooms when I heard this noise, SLAM! And then, “WAHHHHH!”

I stuck my head out of the bathroom to see if everything was all right. Uh, no. As it turned out, the 4-year-old had slammed the 2-year-old’s finger in his bedroom door. The poor little thing was holding her very bloody finger up and bawling her eyes out. It looked like the tip of finger was hanging off. Having just completed my training, I knew the finger needed fixing. I immediately scooped the child up and took her to her mother, who freaked out. She gasped, picked the little girl up, carried her to kitchen, set her down on the floor, and… fainted. Yep, that’s right, the mom caught one good look at the blood and passed out.

So I’m standing there in the kitchen, very acutely aware of everything that’s going on around me. I could sense the other children right behind me becoming grotesquely curious. I could see the mom out cold on the floor, and I could see the kid still crying her eyes out with a nasty finger slice. My mind was racing. “Kid, or mom? Kid or mom?” Who to deal with first? I went with the kid. I grabbed the nearest clean towel and wrapped it over the cut up finger. Then, I pulled a bag of frozen peas that the mom had already pulled out of the freezer and folded it over on top of the kid’s hand. She was less than pleased about this, but in no condition to complain. By the time I finished this, the mother had awoken.

We both quickly came to the conclusion that the kid should probably go to the hospital. I also knew, given the condition the mom was in, that I needed to go with them. So I helped load the baby and the still-screaming 2-year-old into the car and called my mom to come watch the rest of the kids. We immediately left, knowing my mom would be there in minutes.

So began the most perilous 15 minutes of my life as the mom swerved all over the road, broke many traffic rules, and did her level best to terrify me as we drove to the nearest hospital. Actually, I wasn’t all that scared. I was praying really hard that we’d all make it there alive, but I wasn’t too worried about it. This is mainly because I already had a lot to deal with. I was in the back seat leaning across the baby’s car seat to keep pressure on the finger of the 2-year-old, who was still screaming bloody, uh, finger. Of course, the 2-year-old’s screaming only made the baby start crying, which in turn made the mother even more frantic than she already was. During all of this, I managed to keep up a running debate with the mom on whether we should take the kid to local children’s hospital or to the slightly closer normal hospital. I convinced her that we should most definitely go the closest hospital imaginable so that I could get out of the stinking van so that we could get treatment for the kid faster. In retrospect, perhaps it would have been better if we’d taken the kid to the children’s hospital.

When we finally made it to the hospital, I told the mom to go ahead in and get the 2-year-old checked in, and I’d be in with the baby in a second. There was just one problem with that. I had no idea how to take a car seat out of a car. I stood there a moment until a woman parked beside us, who had observed me struggling for a good 3 minutes, finally offered to help. She (and her kid) laughed as she quickly and easily removed the seat and handed me the carrier. I felt like a dork, but I locked the car and went inside to wait until they called the little girl back.

And we waited. And waited. And waited, and waited, and waited. In fact, we waited for over 5 HOURS!!! Apparently, we had checked in during a triage nurse shift change and the hospital staff had lost a little girl with half the tip of her finger hanging off in the shuffle. In those 5 hours, the mother and I spent most of the time passing the kid and the baby back and forth. One moment I remember vividly was when I was holding the two year old. She was still whimpering after probably 3 hours of sitting there. I held her on my lap, rested my chin on top of her sweaty little head, rocked gently back and forth, and started singing. I softly sung “Jesus Loves Me” to her in my most soothing voice. Then she surprised us both by starting to sing it with me. You could hear the audible “Aww!” coming from everyone watching.

After 5 hours of waiting for them to let us in, I finally went up to the front desk and demanded to know why the guy with a light cough next to us had been let in, but the 2-year-old with a hanging finger was still stuck in the waiting room. They triaged us again, and then after maybe 5 more minutes, sent us back to a hospital room. We waited around ten minutes until a nurse came in, checked the kid, and then sent us to get an x-ray done. Because the baby wasn’t allowed in the radiology room, I went in with the kid. I held her hand down while they x-rayed it, and then got asked by the technician is I was the mom. I laughed and explained that no, I was the babysitter/maid, and the mom was outside holding the baby. She gave me a look which I took as a compliment, and I returned her look with one of my own: Yes, I know I’m a super babysitter.

After that was over, they sent us back to the hospital room and told us a doctor would be with us shortly. It was probably an hour before anyone came to see us because I had time to go to get lunch, get lost in the hospital, retrieve lunch, get lost in the hospital again, bring lunch back, and eat lunch before anyone came to see us again. By the time they did, the baby was sleeping, the 2-year-old was tired and a little loopy, and the mom had finally calmed down. So of course that had to change.

Finally, it was time to sew up the kid’s finger. Miraculously, there were no broken bones. A nurse and a finger-sewing-up-specializing doctor had arrived with lots of syringes and sutures. They raised up the table and had the little girl lay down on her back. The nurse held onto her lower body, and again, I was asked to restrain her. I held onto the arm connected to the hand being worked on. I’m not sure why it was a good idea to put me, a 16-year-old at the time, in charge of that, but whatever. The doctor stuck a needle into her tiny finger and started injecting numbing stuff, which was supposed to help the 2-year-old to not feel any pain. The kid had a different perspective, that they were killing her. Therefore, she resumed screaming bloody murder. Having had this kind of shot before, I can understand how she felt. I once had to get stitches in my toe, and that stupid shot hurt way worse the cut on my toe. But I digress.

I, of course, being the curious homeschooler that I was, watched the entire procedure. On the other hand, I vehemently encouraged the mom to not watch it. She was already unsteady on her feet, and I feared that she might drop the baby. During this procedure, I sat down on a stool with my knees underneath the table. Remember that bit. Eventually, the doctor finished sewing up the finger, and he bit us all adieu.

The nurse, oblivious as she was, wanted to get out of there, and probably just glad that the screaming had ceased, began to lower the bed back down to where it had been… Guess whose legs were still under the table? Yeah, mine. She lowered the bed directly onto my uncovered (because I was wearing shorts) knees. When I starting yelling and banging on the bed, she realized her error and pulled the bed up. I pushed away from the bed amid her profuse apologies. I stood up telling her that there was no harm done, although I now had a bruise and cuts in the exact shape of the underside of the table. The nurse made up for it by giving me and the 2-year-old popsicles. Yes, that’s right, everything, even nurse-inflicted bruises can be solved by popsicles (my mom still made me report it).

Finally, we all went back to the family’s house to relieve my mom, who had apparently gained the never-ending love of the remaining kids. After saying goodbye, we went home. After that, I think I took a nap.

Have you ever had something like this happen to you?

At Summer’s End

I spent this summer at an awesome place called Triple R Ranch. Great place, by the way, if you ever get the chance to go or send your kids. I worked as a lifeguard, a thoroughly rewarding experience. There really isn’t anything like getting to save someone’s life. However, now the summer is almost over, and I think I’ve learned a few things.

First of all, I am way less patient than I thought I was. I love hanging around kids, but sometimes they can really test your ability to stay sane. God has had to show me how to be patient even when I feel like diving into murky swamp water and swimming away to escape the whining kid in my canoe. Quite honestly, I’ve never prayed for patience before, but this summer, I did. Actually, I prayed for a lot of patience. Some days, I rarely stopped praying for patience. Luckily for those kids, I got it too. I know people say that “Patience is a virtue,” but up until this summer, my favorite comeback has always been, “One that I do not possess.” Well, guess what? I have patience now, and I’m going to try to put it to use more often.

Next, I learned that canoeing is an amazing workout. I think my arms have never been this strong before. There’s nothing like spending two to three hours every day paddling around a swamp and dislodging children from bushes to tone your arms. It really is amazing how many times different groups of kids can run into the same sunken log and get stuck on it. I discovered that the best way to get the most out of your canoeing workout is to paddle as fast as you can to get away from the water moccasin that you accidently passed by three feet away. It also turns out that kids don’t have nearly the same sense of urgency that I do to get away from said water moccasin. The first time we discovered the moccasin, one of the canoeing groups cheerfully told me that they had been only about a foot away from the snake and hadn’t noticed it. I’m sure you can imagine the smoke spilling from my ears. It didn’t help that the snake’s hideout was one of the most difficult spots to get turned back around. I swear, my blood pressure skyrocketed every time, I had the kids turn around.

I suppose the most surprising thing I learned this summer is that even though these kids can drive me nuts, I want to go back next year and become a counselor. I realized that there’s something missing when the only time I get to interact with the kids is when I’m at the pool shouting “Walk!” I want to develop a deeper relationship with them, like the wonderful ones I always hear the counselors talking about. Yelling at kids all day is fine and dandy, but I want to really get to know them, and I can’t really do that from a lifeguard stand.

Well, that pretty much sums up my summer. Swamps, snakes, kids driving me nuts, and tons of lessons in patience. It was actually a pretty good summer, if you ask me. I can’t wait to go back next year.

Now, there’s only that pesky thing known as school to finish with.