Step-dad Adventures – The Last Day of Camp

evans lakeAfter another fitful sleep, I awoke bleary-eyed and groggy-faced to yet another beautiful day, not a rainy day, like was predicted, cuz that would have totally allowed me to be in a foul mood.

However, lack of sleep, coffee and a generally bad attitude made me give the day the finger, anyway.

However, it was the last day for all of us.

The counsellors told everyone there’d be something special today. I feared that they meant we’d skin a beaver or fight a bear or have to eat worms. The boys, however, were still pumped over last night’s triumphant skit, and hell, they’d made fire, shot arrows, navigated in the woods and canoed halfway around the world, so they had the swagger of kids who could do anything.

It was really amazing to see. It wasn’t just the boys in my cabin. All the kids seemed to have a swagger, like they had thrown the One Ring into Mt Doom. They all looked forward to whatever was thrown at them today.

IMG_6668The surprise turned out to be a hunt.

For 3 hours, we’d run around in the forest and hunt each other.

Perfect! The Hunger Games at last! And I could shoot a bow better than all of them. The odds were definitely in my favour.

But, no, sadly, it wasn’t quite that simple.

½ the class was divided up into prey, let’s call them squirrels. They wore an arm band with little blue flags. Their job was to eat stuff in the forest. Not literally, which would have been hilarious and most likely deadly, but they had to find more metal plates with food items on it.

Next were the lynxes. They could eat the squirrels. Then came the big cats. Cougars. They could both the lynxes and the squirrels. At the top of the food chain, was man. He could kill anything he saw.

For the hunters, they had to actually tag their prey, taking a flag from them. For man, all he had to point his gun and say bang, you’re dead. There were also disasters that affect the forest. Fires, floods, a crazy moose… you know, the usual stuff.

It was all one big game of tag, really. The kids playing either prey or hunters, the chaperons playing disasters. Was their a message there? I dunno.

elmer fuddI managed to snag the best job. Man the Hunter. I was the only one who didn’t have to run around and tag people. I think the camp counsellors looked at me and thought, damn, if we get that bugger running around too much, he’ll have a heart attack and die. Better give him a gun. Or maybe I was the most red-necked-looking one.

Well, being a hunter of all things chased that bad mood away. Nothing like shooting some kids in the woods to lighten the day up a bit.

Unfortunately, these kids were good at playing tag. Really, really good. I had to run them down even to shoot them and some of them were just plain sneaky, using slippery rocks and mossy trees to escape the expert marksman. A few even banded together to hunt as a pack – though I’m pretty sure I saw some squirrels working with lynxes so I’m not quite sure what was going on. Not that it mattered, I shot them all.

There was also one chaperon who played Greenpeace and if an animal made it to them, they were safe for a while. But being me, I just hung out and shot them as soon as they left Greenpeace. Apparently I couldn’t shoot Greenpeace – though I did try. A lot.

Sweaty, exhausted and constantly on the lookout for the mad moose who could actually kill me, I raced around like I was… well, let’s face it, like I was 50. Hey, I did my best, but running up a hill and down a dozen times chasing cougars, well that just takes it out of you.

The Oldest got to play one of the cougars. The teachers had made it so the, ah, ‘more active’ kids were the prey and the quieter ones were the hunters. An interesting social experiment if you ask me.

At one point, I managed to catch the speedy kid from the navigation exercise, but he had fallen on the ground and was holding his ankle. I didn’t have the heart to shoot him so he stumbled off into the forest just far enough so I couldn’t shoot him, then stopped faking the injury and ran away.

There was a lesson to be learned there, I think.

We all came back to count our trophies (or kills or foodie plates collected). Once again, victory went to the girls, two of whom seemed to have eaten an entire continent worth of squirrels. (Oddly enough, I hadn’t managed to kill either one, heck, I hadn’t even seen them.) Good for them. Future Katnissesses there.

squirrelsHowever, it’s too bad the squirrels weren’t allowed to fight back. That might have made things really interesting.

But everyone had a good time, even The Oldest who was not as keen on killing everything as I was.

Then we had lunch, packed up, stuffed 300 bags into a clean horse trailer, and walked back down to the buses. Not having to carry our packs and sleeping bags in garbage bags certainly made everyone happy.

I have to tell you, though, some of those girls packed some serious bags. They were the size of small elephants and weighed as about as much.

losing itOn the way down, however, I actually yelled at a kid. The first time I actually yelled. He’d thrown a foot-long piece of an iron beam at his friend. It was a dead stupid thing to do and came close to clocking the other kid in the head. I may have used the ‘F’ word. In fact, I know I did. There was probably a better way to handle it, but it just came out.

But other than that, I had survived the ordeal.

The Oldest, though, had not only survived, but had triumphed with an amazing skit that I will probably talk about until the day I die. He marched far ahead of me, joking with his friends, in need of no adult support at all. He’d been to camp, he’d overcome his fears and he’d kicked ass.

I was super proud of him.

Me, well, no one died on my watch. That was the bar I had set for success. It was hit and miss there for a moment that I wouldn’t lose one in the woods forever, but everyone made it back alive.

So I count this as a success as well.

However, I’m not sure I’ll do it again.

the horrorOh the horror, the horror.





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Stepd-dad Adventures – The Last Rite

skitsSo after successfully navigating through the forest and finding our way back to the cabin, we were faced with a huge task. Come up with a skit. Write it. And perform it.

We had known about it since last night, but there really wasn’t much time to attend to it until now. Each cabin had been given these instructions. It had to be 5 minutes long. It had to include the chaperon. It had to have a girl as a boy or a boy as a girl (depending on the cabins). It had to have a foreign language in it.

Easy, right?

No, no it was not.

Worse, the teachers had told them it would be marked.

What the hell?

But it wasn’t my place to argue. In fact, I wasn’t sure what my role was supposed to be. Was I supposed to make sure the boys got the skit done? Was I supposed to help them? You know, use my vast experience with skit creation? Was I just supposed to sit back and let them sink or swim?

I chose something in between – I just tried to keep them focused. At least at the start. It took only a few minutes to come up with an idea, one everyone agreed upon. I have to say, that was a huge surprise. HUGE. I imagined hours of wackier and wackier ideas. But once they had a winner, I jumped on it and said, that’s the one!

TBH, it made absolutely no sense to me – having something to do with a guy called Billy Mays and selling an amazing new shoe – but oh how they all laughed and rolled around. That’s how I knew it was a winner even if all I could do was stand there, blinking and looking old and very confused (something I do very well.)

funny skitWhen they came back from supper, one of them offered to play the girl part and the next 30 minutes was a giggle-fest as they all worked on how a girl walked, talked and dressed. Sure, it was fun, but we now only had 90 minutes left.

I was about to step in, again to get them to FOCUS!!!, but as it turned out, one of them stepped up and took control. *The Oldest* had had enough. He wasn’t going to get a bad mark, by God, and began to write the skit. He assigned roles, listened to ideas, and made sure they all kept focused when they got too giggly.

It was like herding cats. But gradually a skit began to take shape.

I can’t tell you how impressed I was. For the same boy who didn’t even want to come to camp to take charge and produce, write, and direct a skit… well, wow, just wow.

By the time supper rolled around, the outline of the skit was ready and written. All that remained was the rehearsal. They managed to find about 15 minutes after supper and jobs to get a quick rehearsal in. Timing of who would come on the stage when was worked out. Who said what was finalized.

The Oldest had given himself the lead role, that of this Billy Mays character. He had a spiel billy maysabout how great the shoes were and why anyone would want to buy them.

And it was….


Damn funny.

And I didn’t even know half of the references.

I was given the role of announcer. Or introducer. I wrote out my own part and knew full-well it was 50/50 that I would remember any of it. No matter, I knew what I had to say.

“Welcome to the Home Shopping Network. We’re very excited to have with us Billy Mays, the inventor of non-stick underwear and doggie slider burgers. With him is his lovely assistant Goldilocks, who (up until about an hour ago) used to be a man. So please put your hands together and give Billy Mays a warm welcome.”

Oh sure, I was nervous, but I know what to do. Never speak to a room-full of people. Speak to one or two people in that room.

Then *The Oldest* took over, with Goldilocks assisting him and the other boys acting as angry customers. The crowd laughed and laughed.

Even when *The Oldest* forgot some of his lines, it only made it better when he got back on track.  I managed to rush off the stage and get a video of the whole thing, but modern ethics dictate that I not post it. It’s too bad, because you know what? It was a great skit.

snl skitIt wasn’t 5 minutes long, though, as that would have been a disaster (like an SNL skit that was funny for 30 seconds and then they’d go on and on and on and on.) It took about 90 seconds and that was enough. It was a hit!

The other kids all did a fine job on their skits, some better than others, and all of the chaperons did their part. In fact, most did far more than me, actively participating in the kids’ plays.

When it was done, The *Oldest* did something you don’t often see. He smiled. Like he’d done something good. No, something amazing. I was so, so proud of him.

Other kids congratulated him, his teacher went out of his way to say what a great job he’d done, and I so wished his mom, AKA The-prettiest-girl-in-the-world, could have been there. She would have been so proud as well.

The boys took a long time to get to sleep that night, even after the deadly ‘night walk’ that I had to do without a flashlight. They were so pumped that they’d done so well. They replayed the highlights over and over, laughing all the time.

Thus ended the best day at camp.

All that remained was something in the morning. A mystery event.

(And just for clarification, *The Oldest* is the name of our oldest boy that I use when writing this blog to protect his secret identity)

If you like this blog or want to read more about our adventures, please click the follow button. :)

Until the next blog, here is an SNL skit.





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Step-dad Adventures – Lost in Translation

Fears Realized

dark city

(By the way, google images of nightmares and that alone will keep you up at night.)

I have one recurring nightmare in particular. I’m lost and need to find someone. Fast. I run through streets, reading signs, looking for familiar landmarks, but no matter which way I go, the streets are different, the landmarks unfamiliar, the signs are constantly changing. I run faster and faster, but speed only makes it worse. Like in Dark City, everything moves around and I get more and more lost until panic overwhelms me and I wake up in a cold sweat.


So imagine how keen I was to do the navigating adventure. And that was only part of the horrors for the last part of day 2. The teachers had also decided, for punishment no less, that all the kids were to do a skit. In front of the entire group.

And get this, the chaperons HAD to participate.

lectureWhat the holy hell? Did they think that was going to be fun of us? Now, I’ve done my fair share of public speaking and I can get the job done, but not without a lot of anxiety. I’m not like my amazing brother who can stand in front of 200 students and do a pitch-perfect lecture, oh no, I have a hard time memorizing things so I usually go off the cuff, for better or worse.

I wasn’t even the most nervous of the chaperons. A few look terrified. And who can blame them? Did we sign on for this?

Ah, no.

However, first up, the navigation adventure.

I was pretty sure I couldn’t get too lost (though most of my nightmares start out the same way.) We were given compasses and told how to use them. For normal people, it’s super simple. We set our compasses to north, set degrees, then figured out which way we pointed.

compassFor navi-incompetents like me, though, it took about 100% of my brain power. Like teaching The Oldest math. Or doing my taxes.

Then, in groups of 5, we were sent on a treasure hunt of sorts. We had to find a series of metal plates that had directions to the next metal plate. We’d read off degrees and march the number of paces to find the one.

The Oldest had a plan. Read the plate, set the direction and then methodically march off the steps. All fair and fine, but what happens when there’s a house in the way? Well, we had to count the number of sidesteps we took, then redo those steps on the other side of the house.

columbusNow think of the error factor here. A few steps off either way and we’d never find the plates. We’d be like Columbus hoping to find freaking China.

However, one kid had the most brilliant idea. He was always full of energy, running around, leaping on things, and he thought, why pace it out? Run it out. Sooner or later, you’ll find the plate.

So the first one we did was with him running as fast he could in the general direction, while The Oldest would be meticulous and careful. I worried when I lost sight of the speedy kid as he raced into the forest and ran around like he was searching for his iphone, but most of the time, I was able to shout him back to the approximate location.

With his speed, and the more or less pacing by The Oldest, we found every one of the plates in record time. I was so pleased that I even let one of the other kids leave so he could hang out with another group looking for plates (a group of girls, so I totally understood that!)

Sure there were moments I’d lost track of everyone as they spread out into the forest like shrapnel from an exploding bomb. There were moments that the speedy kid misread his directions and raced in completely the wrong way. But we all managed to get back together and complete ALL the tasks. All of them. All.

Apparently no one had done that before.

I took complete credit, of course, what with my superior navigating skills and all.

Ok, I didn’t. I told the counselors the secret. “Don’t march out the paces. Get the direction right and guess the area and run around.  A lot.” And, hey, it’s that how Columbus really discovered America? He kinda went in a general direction and sailed around a lot.

outlookSo now I know how to use a compass. Sort of.

Like how I know how to use Outlook. Sort of. Now all I have to do is learn to read a map and I’ll be good to go off and be all Bear Grylls-ie.

Next up, after supper, was the skits.

Did I mention we only had about 2 hours after the last adventure (in our case, the navi-hunt) to prepare? Did I mention that the kids were informed that it would be a part of their marks?

Now I understood why The Oldest hadn’t wanted to come.

He knew we’d be ambushed.





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Step-dad Adventures – Fire and Water

Surviving the Elements

campfireIf someone told me I had to start a fire, I would say, sure, get me a can of gas and a match and I’m off to the races. In actual fact, as long as I have a match, some kindling and dry wood, I’m good. But there’s no way I could make a fire if all I had were 2 pieces of wood and a knife. Bear Gillis I am not.

Nor were any in our group. Everyone was given a bit of kindling, a book of matches and some dry wood. They had to collect stones to spread around the fire-to-be and extra kindling if they could find it, but that was it. Then all they had to do was make a fire.

Simple, right?

torchWell, not so much. No one knew how to set up a fire, even after it was explained to them. Being 12-13, I guess they pretty much knew everything about everything, so why listen?

The Oldest even had a cool idea that he could start a fire by making a torch in the middle of all the kindling. It didn’t work as well as it would have in minecraft, but little by little he (and all the other kids) went through a massive trial and error thing. You know, suck in smoke and choke. Stick your face over a fire and feel the heat. Hold a match too long and ouch!

Soon the girls in the group had a blazing fire going. That really miffed the boys, who worked even harder. Then the second group of girls managed to get something started and the boys went into panic mode. One team of girls getting fire going could be put down to a fluke, but 2?


campfire girlsDid they cheat and listen to the instructor? Did they have a secret stash of lighter fluid? God forbid they were actually better at this stuff.

The boys redoubled their efforts. Better designs were made. They realized that if they blew on the flames a bit, it would help ignite the fire. They built better structures that allowed the flames to grow.

And, despite one kid who kept blaming the matches, everyone got a fire going in the end.

They all were surprisingly ecstatic. I guess it was a primal thing. That smell of wood burning. The crackle of the fire. The sheer joy in making fire.

Plus no one set themselves aflame.

Oh how I wanted to tell them what they were doing wrong, how I wanted to reset their wooden structures and kindling, how I wanted to show them that all of them blowing on the fire just put the damn thing out. But no, they had to learn and learn by doing.

They had fun, though. And they learned a valuable skill. I think I had the hardest time not being allowed to meddle. (I am, at heart, a dedicated meddler.)

Next up was canoeing. Me and The Oldest got to be in the same canoe. Just the two of us. Man vs water. Well, man and a smaller man vs a canoe, really.

Now this is something I probably did at one time, but I’ll be damned if I can remember doing it. It’s pretty easy, once you get into the boat, but getting into that boat was our first big challenge. The silly thing rocked and then tried to slide away from the pier. Being sick, the last thing I needed was to be dunked into a cold, cold lake.

Plus I was pretty sure that would end up on a youtube video somewhere.

However, the Oldest and I managed to stabilize the boat, so we climbed in, got our paddles ready and headed out. He was in control, having said he knew all about canoeing (he’d done it once) and so we motored around the lake like pros.

canoeingAt least that’s the story I’m telling. If there’s a video out there showing us heading toward the weeds and the Oldest screaming at me to paddle less hard, well, that’s another old guy and his stepson, not me and him at all.

After the instructor was done with his instructions, we played a game. Tag. In a way, it wasn’t fair. I could out row them all, even in my feeble condition and by the time we began, the Oldest had worked out all the kinks in his steering. So we raced away from menacing canoes and tore past others trying to tag us until we were the only ones left untagged.

Then to show off, we rowed the canoe backwards towards the dock. I would have thought that would end in disaster, but somehow we made it work and even beat everyone else back there.

The Oldest beamed like a gladiator who just killed a giant from Sparta. It’s not often he gets to chance to excel at sports and on this day, with the sun shining in the blue sky and the lake as smooth as glass, he kicked ass and triumphed over his classmates.

simpsons in the woodsThat only left us with 2 things to do. One so horrible I still have nightmares about it. And the other, navigating with a compass (which I also have nightmares about.)

But those tales will be told next time.


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Step-dad Adventures – The Dreaded Night

Cabin Fever

sporesThe prettiest-girl-in-the-world has mommy-hearing. She wakes up if she hears sniffles from downstairs, if one of her children has a late night question, or if one should actually ever say mommy! in distress.  She will bolt out of bed as if hit by lightning. Me, I don’t usually wake up unless someone hits me with a Better Parenting book.

Not so on my first night in the cabin. For some reason, despite having the best group of boys, I didn’t sleep well. I woke up at the sound of every noise. Was there a bear? Was one of the kids sneaking out to TP another cabin? Were other deviants lurking outside our windows waiting to play pranks?

friday 13thAnd! Wait, wasn’t the movie Friday the 13th set in an abandoned camp?

Of course nothing happened, but it’s that horrible ‘middle of the night’ thinking that gets to you, you know, the type that makes you get up and eat a box of captain crunch without milk or dial an old girlfriend just to say hi or pee in the sink.

So by the time we had to get up at 7:30, I was already dog-tired. I slumped out of bed like an 80 year old going to a prostate exam. The boys, however, literally leapt out of bed. Most had chosen the top bunks and those that didn’t somehow managed to fling themselves out anyway.

We had a long day ahead of us. A 3 hour hike. 3 activities and then something fun in the evening. Little did we know what evil the teachers had planned for us in the evening (if I knew, I WOULD NEVER have gotten out of bed.)

grapesWe didn’t have breakfast duty, but they made us cabin chaperones perform like trained seals to see who got to choose from a fine selection of other jobs. I learned that I suck at throwing stuff at my face and catching it in my mouth. Who knew that this skill would be important? And being nearly last resulted in us having to do sweeping. Not a big deal, but I hated being up in front of everyone hoping to catch a grape in my mouth and not choke on it.

We got our jobs done quickly cuz I had an amazing group of boys (and worked my ass off as well to show them leadership by example and not yelling – that came later.)

Then we gathered for the great hike. The Oldest looked like we were about to bathe him in acid, but his friends were all keen and the weather was incredible. The forecast had been for rain, but by 9am, it was sunny and gorgeous.

As usual, the rules were given. Please don’t go off the trail, please don’t pick up stick or stones and throw then at each other. Please don’t climb on trees.  Please don’t whip other kids in the face with branches. You know, the typical hike stuff.

And within 10 minutes, all of those rules had been broken.

Now here’s the thing. The counsellors and teachers didn’t say much unless it was a huge breach of the rules, like someone slid down the hill (which some bright spark decided was a good idea) so I decided not to be the Bellowing Guy today. I was going to be all Zen-Joe.

Ohmmmmmm. Ohmmmmmmm.

IMG_6635The hike was a good one, and I got a chance to chat with the parent in charge of the more challenging cabin. Now there was a truly Zen guy. If the boys wanted to stay up to 3am, so be it. If they wanted to run around, no problem. If they wanted to make noise, sure, go ahead.  Just don’t bother the other cabins.

I think it was the right way to go. Had he gone all sergeant-slaughter on them, they would have rebelled and it would have been a nightmare for him. As it was, they LOVED him. They chanted his name and made sure he was included in everything they did.

Damn, I wish I could be that Zen. The Prettiest-girl-in-the-world has a knack for that as well. Me, I’m too much of a control freak not to want peace and quiet, rules to be obeyed, and  grey-haired 50 year-olds to be respected as if they were God.

IMG_6626But everyone made it back alive. A few kids twisted their ankles, a few got smacked in the face by branched whipped at them from the person in front, and a few decided that sitting and leaning out on the edge of a cliff was a fun thing to do, but that’s about it.

We all made it back.

I chalked up another Joe-success.

Now all I had to do was get through the next 3 events.


Oh and hey, if you’ve enjoyed this blog, please forward it to someone you like who could make me rich. Or, simply share on facebook. I need to get my numbers up a bit. :)


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Step-dad Adventures – Surviving Supper

Food Glorious Food


Food fight!

Not knowing what to expect at supper, I could only imagine the worst. 70 kids with food. Yikes.

But the camp had long ago figured out how best to manage suppers. One cabin was assigned serving and clean-up duty. That meant a cabin set the table, brought food to the table, got second helpings for the table when they needed them, then cleaned up afterwards.

food glorious

So NOT how it happened. No, please, sir, could I have some more.

The genius of this system was that you just know 69 of the 70 kids will want more. They’ll have had a busy, active day and will need refueling. So having them all stomp up to the front to get more food would be a nightmare. Also, getting volunteers to clean up afterwards might be like getting politicians to release their expenses.

Our cabin was up first. We all took our jobs surprisingly seriously. In fact, I later learned we had the perfect crew. One kid loved to make sure everyone had everything. 8 plates, 8 forks, 8 knives, 8 glasses. One ran around to make sure all the tables had napkins and condiments. One was super careful with the food. And the rest took directions well. Like me.

Then 70 odd kids poured in.

It wasn’t just the kids who served, it was also the adults. AKA: me. I could barely keep up with the demand. Not that the kids at my table – an assortment of girls and boys – were bad, they were just hungry. Ever seen a dog pack attack a rabbit? It’s like that. Only more savage.

Woe be (yes, I said, ‘woe be’), the one who gets in the way of a hungry 12 year old and a bowl full of pasta.

And the noise. OMFG!



Even been inside the Seattle Seahawks stadium? The decibel level is 136. A pneumatic riveter is 130. A jet engine is 140. Those kids must have hit 145. Loss of sanity occurs around 138 somewhere.

It’s funny how noise will ratchet up. It doesn’t start out loud, but one person has to raise their voice a little to be heard over the next table, then another person does the same, then a whole table has to do it, then the whole room and pretty soon the noise is deafening.

Forget about talking to the kids, it was all I could do to shout, “YOU WANT WHAT? MORE CHICKEN? NO? WHAT? NO I CAN’T GET YOU BEER.”

Afterwards, we cleared everything off the tables and cleaned up, my ears ringing. Then we had a little time to ourselves before we did the campfire thing. Being super cold and slightly wet, we didn’t have the fire outside, we all just sat in a big room with a fireplace. No songs. No marshmellows burning. No Smores (something I’ve never had). No scary stores.

Sigh. Color me sad.


This is what I could see

Instead we listened to the teachers for a bit, then played a game of flashlight hide-and-seek.

Now, of the 300 things they told us to bring, not once did they mention a flashlight. Most of the kids, though, were way smarter than me and brought one. I had to use my iphone which provides a nice bit of light if you’re looking for a sex toy under the bed, but useless for seeing a tree in the forest.

As chaperones, we were given the task of making sure the kids didn’t go out of bounds. Being me, I had no idea where the bounds were even after it was explained to me on a map. Twice. I have, perhaps, the worst sense of direction in the world, and in the dark, even with a flashlight, I am functionally useless. Like being a wingman for Channing Tatum.

However, no one died. Most of the kids had fun, though I’m pretty sure they completely ignored all the boundaries.

So I chalked the whole night up as another amazing Joe-success.

Next up on things to survive. Lights out. Everyone go to sleep. Cuz I was sure that wasn’t going to be a problem.


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Step-dad Adventures – The First Camping Trials

I Shot An Arrow Into The Air And…

archerThere was only time for only 2 trials after we’d arrived, unpacked and gotten ready for the last part of the day. I was delighted with my cabinites. One of the kids even started cleaning the cabin without being asked. I began to think this was going to be a breeze.

Then we were given our activities groups and most of my kids were traded away for a variety of other kids, including 4 girls.

Girls? The Oldest scowled at them like they were alien beings determined to steal his soul (though, in later life, he would come to realize they actually were exactly that.)

forestThe first trial we went on was the forest treasure hunt. We had to find trees, plants, pinecones and mushrooms native to this part of the forest.

It was about as easy as any task could be. Hello! We were, ah, right in the middle of a forest. We could just stand by the counsellor and point, “oh look, there’s a Douglas fir’, but no. For some reason, no.

As soon as the counsellor said ‘go!” the kids all shot off into the forest like officer workers at a staff partying trying to avoid getting stuck with the tip. The counsellor had told everyone had to stay within eye sight of her, but that lasted about 2 minutes before all but a handful of kids were simply gone.

I want to say I was all cool about it. I want to say I shrugged and was like the Buddha in an opium den. But this was my first trial and my first time as chaperone, so I did what any newbie would do, I tried to create order from chaos.

It took me all of 30 seconds to figure out three things.

1) I cannot create order from chaos no matter how loud I get.

2) I can bellow pretty loud. Who knew?

3) I quickly learned who I had to bellow at (and who I would be bellowing at for 3 days.)

However, I think I became that old guy that everyone hates.

“Hey, you young whippersnappers, get back here this instant!” “Dagnabbit, boy, stop licking sap off of that there tree!” “God in heaven, stop you’re leaping on slippery rocks, you’ll hurt…oh hell, are you ok?”

Then I realized what we really needed was a sheepdog. Maybe 2. Or a net.

But it all ended well. Somehow in a forest filled with trees, the group managed to find the odd tree on the list, one kid even carting back a log half his size to show the horrified counsellor a mushroom he’d found growing on it. More importantly, I succeeded in keeping to my only rule – No one dies (though there were a few epic falls on slippery surfaces.)

IMG_6616Then we were off to archery. With this one, safety was everything! The counsellor explained what the rules were… stand behind the line, notch the arrow behind the line, don’t turn around with the bow notched, don’t try to shoot your friends… you know, classic Robin Hood stuff.

For that one, I watched them like a cat watches a dog, my hackles up, my ears back. I had to bellow three times when someone turned around with an arrow notched so they could talk to their friends. I would have thought the counsellor would take care of that, but I guess it’s hard to see everyone all the time.

However, the last thing I wanted to have to explain to a parent was that their child was shot with an arrow. Me: “So, yeah, it’s like the latest fashion, a big stick through the ear. Like an earring.”

“Wait, isn’t an earring supposed to be through the ear, not IN it?”

Me: “Like I said, the latest fashion. The bleeding will stop in a bit, I’m told.”

“But he’s not moving.”

Me: “That’s normal. He’s tired. He just needs to rest. Now I have to go. If you need to get in touch with me, my name’s Sean Sommerville.”

katniss-motivator1Anyway, 4 kids shot at at time, aiming for a target about 20 feet away. Maybe 30. Most couldn’t get the arrow to travel far enough. Sadly, the few arrows that did would hit the target and fall to the ground. The arrows themselves barely had a point (for a good reason, me thinks) and most of the kids just didn’t have the arm strength to properly draw a bow. The best shooter turned out to be a girl, going all Hunger Games on her targets.

It was really quite impressive.

I even got a chance to shoot. Luckily no one had to bellow at me to keep the bow pointed towards the target, but I hadn’t shot a bow since I was 12 (when my brother and I would shoot arrows in our backyard. Ah the 70’s. Fun times.)

I was super keen to show them how it was done, though. I punched arrow after arrow into the target, but hit the bullseye only once. No one cheered. In fact, I don’t think anyone even watched me. They were all too busy talking to each other as if they thought I wasn’t the center of the universe.

However, more importantly, no one died. Oh sure we lost a good dozen arrows, we nearly broke a fence by having 12 kids try to sit on it at once and I’m pretty sure the counsellor needed therapy afterwards, but not a single one had an arrow sticking out of them.

I was a chaperone god! 2 for 2.

food fightNow, all I had to do was manage supper. Our cabin was first up as servers.

What could possibly go wrong with 70 kids eating food that was easily throwable?




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