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Aug 26 2014

A 12-Year-Old Weighs in on Jewish Camp in the Colorado Rockies

By at 10:25 am

camp-ramah

Kaspar M. Wilder, 12, is a published poet, National Latin Exam Gold Medalist, a mythology buff, and all-around science fiction geek. She was diagnosed with Asperger’s, Attention Deficit Disorder, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder while in early elementary school. She recently celebrated her bat mitzvah by leading services at Temple Beth El in her hometown of Portland, Maine.

For the past four summers, Kaspar has been a camper at Ramah Outdoor Adventure (ROA) in the Colorado Rockies. Kaspar has participated in ROA’s Tikvah Program for campers with disabilities, both as a participant in the Amitzim edah (division) for campers with disabilities and, most recently, as part of the camp’s inclusion program.

Ramah Outdoor Adventure has become her second home and, according to her parents, has been a big part of her everyday happiness and success. Kaspar hopes someday to become a member of ROA’s tzevet susim (“horse staff”). Below is her take on life at Ramah Outdoor Adventure. Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 15 2014

If You Think Toddlers Are Bad, Just Wait For the Teens

By at 9:46 am

Two-adolescence

I remember a day back when my older daughter was 2.5. We’d had a perfectly lovely morning at the library–story time, one of her favorite activities–and we were headed home for lunch. We walked down the stairs outside the library and all of a sudden, without provocation, she sat down on the grassy area and refused to get back up. I asked, I told, I begged, and then finally, in frustration, I walked away towards the parking lot and threatened to leave her there.

It was definitely not my finest mothering moment. When I told my mother the story later that day, she said, “The toddler years are the first adolescence.”

I didn’t really get it at the time. Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 7 2014

Five Reasons to Stop Saying the B-Word

By at 9:36 am

bullying-eraser

When I received a call that my 5-year-old son was being a bully at camp, I felt as if I had failed as a mother. Outrage quickly followed the humiliation, as I imagined a scenario in which my child would intentionally bother another child. By the time I arrived at camp at the end of the day to collect him, I had worked through an entire spectrum of emotions, but I vowed I would listen to his explanation and try to contain myself. There is always another side to the story after all, and at the risk of sounding defensive, I know my child. And he is not a bully.

From the conversation I had with my son, I gleaned that there was an altercation during a soccer game and both boys had been aggressive. When the other child tried to take the ball my son lashed out and was sidelined. He was remorseful and assured me he would try harder to get along with this particular boy in the future. Together we reflected on alternative ways that he could have reacted to the situation and how he might control his anger going forward. I then informed him of what the repercussions would be if I ever heard another discouraging report like this again.

Now that I have had several days to ruminate on the situation, I realize that the main source of my angst is the word bully itself, and I think it is time we reevaluate the usefulness of this term. Below are five reasons I think we should stop using this word so haphazardly. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 24 2014

No Hatred in the World Can Take Away My Son’s Jewish Pride

By at 10:04 am

anti-israel protest

“Mom!” my son calls. He sees me coming over the hill. It’s clear he has been standing there since the last day of camp began, waiting to see me. It’s been a month: he’s taller. He hugs me, tightly, and I feel his love in my ribcage. I feel my own love for him beating in my chest.

We drive home in our comfortable, air-conditioned car. My son is exhausted, but talking a mile a minute in a voice made hoarse by weeks of nonstop chatter. He sprinkles Hebrew in his conversation. He sings songs, leans forward to share new details he hasn’t told us about yet. His face and his happiness glow.

My son has come home from Jewish camp with new pride and joy in being Jewish. Some would say it’s an epic case of bad timing. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 23 2014

Are My Kids’ Tantrums All My Fault?

By at 10:09 am

Ice-pops

I love those afternoons when I arrive at camp pick-up after a long day of work and my children come running, faces smiling, eager to jump into my arms and share their accomplishments of the day.

Yesterday was not one of those days. Instead, when I arrived at camp for pick-up I found both 5-year-old twins crying.

The older twin is hardly a mystery. He struggles on some days, particularly after a late night, because he no longer gets a mid-day nap. He is also a very picky eater and admittedly not fond of camp food, though I serve a variation of the menu (chicken nuggets, mac and cheese, or hot dogs) every night at dinner and he rarely complains. These factors, combined with the summer heat and too little water throughout the day, make for a cranky little boy. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 16 2014

My Daughter Came Home From Camp a Vegetarian

By at 11:20 am

Vegetarian

Every time my daughter goes away to overnight camp, there is something different about her when she returns home.

The first year she went away, she came back practically self-sufficient. I was so impressed at how well she took care of herself. I didn’t have to remind her to brush her teeth. She didn’t need any help in picking out her clothes. She even made her bed without my asking for a short period of time—and then she went back to forgetting how to do it altogether.

Last summer, she got into the car and had something important to say. I could tell that there was a big announcement on the horizon. She had a look like she knew something that we didn’t know. I could tell she was taking a moment to enjoy that with a satisfied smile on her face. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 8 2014

Five Reasons I’m Sending My Son With Autism to Sleepaway Camp

By at 11:11 am

jana-special-needs-camp

Typical parents are rarely surprised when I tell them Benjamin goes to sleepaway camp–at least not after I clarify that it’s a camp catering specifically to children with special needs.

“It’s really structured,” I’ll explain. “Lots of staff members have special ed degrees and work in the field during the year, and there’s a really high counselor-to-camper ratio.”

While the special ed speak convinces most people (or bores them into believing) that I know exactly what I’m talking about, there is one population I’m not fooling: fellow autism parents.  Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 3 2014

I Wasn’t Cool at Camp, But I’m Sending My Son There Anyway

By at 11:19 am

I wasn't cool at camp, but I'm sending my son there anyway

I’m holding my breath for 11 more days.

My 9-year-old, Noah, left yesterday for 12 days of sleepaway camp.

This morning the cat didn’t get fed until 7. Noah’s 6-year-old brother, Sam, was the first one up and put on music to stave off the quiet. I found myself, after the breakfast dishes were done, listening to the washing machine on spin.

It’s going to be a long two weeks. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 2 2014

What Happened When My Middle Child Went to Sleepaway Camp

By at 11:11 am

schoolbus

My 9-year-old just went off to sleepaway camp for the very first time. On the flight down, she was all nervous smiles and excited chatter. But after an hour of standing around with a growing number of kids she didn’t know, waiting to get on the bus to camp, her excitement dwindled. Tears began to well in her chocolate brown eyes, her lower lip trembling, and her whispering pleas of “please don’t leave me mommy” tugged at my heart.

Yes, saying goodbye is hard, but there was a part of me that couldn’t wait for that bus to hit the road. Of my three daughters, Ruby is the one I need a time out from the most. She crosses my boundaries more than the others, sauntering into the bathroom while I’m peeing, unwilling to break a hug or conversation until asked–no, begged–a hundred times. She is emotionally demanding, excitable, and thrilled one minute, anxious and frowning the next. Her amazing brain leaps from one subject to another, stringing it all together by a thread so quickly it’s easy to lose track.

Finally, the bus driver gunned the engine. Ruby waved goodbye through the tinted window and I waved back, praying she wouldn’t cry all the way to camp. The bus pulled away and…yes! My older daughter left for camp a few days ago and with Ruby gone, that left just the 3-year-old at home. When you have three kids, dealing with just two of them is totally manageable; having just one around is like a mini-vacation. Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 19 2014

Drag Your Kids To Summer Camp

By at 11:20 am

archery

I recently read a New York Times article about one woman’s unfavorable experiences in summer camp and laughed out loud.

Like the author, I was not much of a joiner and hated sports. I also disliked getting dressed and undressed in a roomful of strangers. My first summer, I was the only girl still wearing undershirts so I’d change clothes in the bathroom. (Not that I fooled anyone. And most of those gals didn’t really need bras, either.)

I sucked at anything involving a softball, volleyball, golf ball, basketball, fencing foil, or bow and arrow. And unlike some other kids who might have also been less than stellar athletes, but who discovered at camp that they enjoyed drama, music, dance or even carpentry, I didn’t. My favorite “activity” was shiur during which we learned Jewish subjects. Unlike most kids (but also like the writer of the New York Times piece), I actually liked school. Read the rest of this entry →

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