Summer of the Self-Rescuing Princess

In my dreams, I could be a Princess, and that’s what I was. Like most little girls, I believed nothing less than a Prince could make my dreams come true. — Loretta Young

We are trying to raise our little girl to not need a Prince, or any man for that matter, as the only way to make her life whole.  Just like E.D. Kain points out, I am also excited about Pixar’s summer release, Brave.

So I was already excited about this movie before the latest trailer, but now I can barely stand the thought of waiting until June 22nd to see the 13th Pixar film.

For one thing, Princess Merida looks tough and fiery, and we finally get a strong female lead in a Pixar flick.

This is awesome for those of us with young daughters who need all the good role models they can get, even animated ones. I’ve told my daughter similar stories, of princesses destined to be married off to some knight or other who become knights themselves instead.

At home, as it has been released to the public, I’ve gradually exposed Katelyn to the film, to the point that she was already recognizing the film’s initial film poster even before she had seen the film’s trailer.

 While my wife sheepishly admits to not necessarily wanting to turn our daughter into one of the acolytes of the cult of the Disney Princess, our kid has nonetheless become a devotee.  As such, the release of Pixar’s latest this summer, has given me the opportunity to show Katelyn that princesses can also kick rear end and take names.  After all, a long while back, when Katelyn asked me which was my favorite Princess, she was totally confused when, instead of answering “Snow White” or “Cinderella”, I answered, “Leia”.

Yes, granted, we should not be necessarily looking to film to find strong female role models for Katelyn. At least however, she realizes that in something like Sleeping Beauty, it’s not Aurora who carries the bulk of that narrative, but rather Prince Phillip and the three Good Fairies.  (Aurora is only on screen for about 18 minutes!) But after seeing how much she enjoyed Tigress in the latest of the Kung Fu Panda films, we get how much she will like a strong-willed proactive character with an entire movie built around her.  Seeing her respond even more excitedly at the prospect of finally “meeting” Princess Merida in Brave, has both my wife and I reconfiguring our plans for our little girl’s upcoming 5th birthday in May.  With a big wedding of a family friend scheduled for around the same time, putting our own plans for Kate’s real-time birthday celebration on hold, we’re gearing up to try to do something instead, around the film’s release in late June.

Granted though, Pixar is just bit late to the party, as Dreamworks’ Shrek quartet of films basically got it right about the self-rescuing princess concept in the first film (and please excuse the Finnish singing, even while my point is made…):

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War Horse and the Untrusted Source

For some time now, I had been wanting to share some thoughts about Steven Spielberg’s film War Horse.  With the Academy Awards tomorrow evening, it seems appropriate to revisit the film, which I saw over my Winter Break, shortly after it had opened.  At the time, there was some exigency to my desire to see the film.  I had read the book to my students, and I, frankly, expected a few of them to go and see it in the theater close to my school site.  I figured it wasn’t a bad idea to read them the novel.

As a teacher who makes it a point to do Read Alouds with my classroom throughout the school year, I first became intrigued by the film after having read bits and pieces about the Tony Award-winning stage play of the same name, in particular, it’s use of full-scale horse puppets in the production. (For whatever it’s worth, I am excited that the play is coming to Los Angeles and I hope to catch the production at the time.  From what I’ve seen of the puppets involved, it’s definitely worth trying to convince the wife to go see it:)

 

Impressive.  The puppetry blows me away on film.  I can’t even imagine what it might be like on stage.

But last Autumn, when learning that Spielberg was planning to release the film over Winter Break, I learned that the source material for both the film and stage play was from a 1982 book by British author Michael Morpurgo.  It was at that point, that I made plans to get the book and read it to my 6th graders before they went home for Winter Break.  Having never heard of the book prior to that time, I was excited to possibly add it to the collection of memorable Read Alouds I have used in my classroom.

I wasn’t disappointed.  It was not the best book I’ve ever read to my classroom by any means, but it was one of the few books I’ve read to my class about warfare in general, and it enabled me to introduce some background knowledge about the First World War that most students generally lack.  It’s not taught at the elementary grades (although it could be taught by the end of a school year, if a conscientious 4th grade teacher decides to keep moving forward after the California Missions and Gold Rush era and not just stop after teaching both…) and what the students do know about World War is generally centered around the Second World War.  Even then, I am beginning to get questions these days asking me “who is Adolf Hitler?”…

So War Horse offered me its share of teachable moments while I read it.  I was also impressed that the book was able to suggest the intricacies of trench warfare and the historic shift from horses to mechanized combat without needing to be graphic, making this ideal for the tween audience for whom I must choose my Read Alouds.  And after teaching the students the elements and importance of point-of-view, it offered an even more unique take on its story–it’s told from the perspective of the horse, who is the main character of the novel, Joey.  The book tells of his travels from his birth, and the humans whose own lives interchange with his:  from the pre-Great War English countryside, to the camp of the British Army cavalry to whom Joey’s sold, and then to 1914 France, to its green fields and a French farm, and then, as the tale reaches its climax through the remainder of the book, the setting becomes the muddy Armageddon of trench warfare.  Through it all, as the characters interact with Joey, Joey’s internal thoughts process these words and drives the story forward, and we get the unique perspective of the horse as being inherently neutral, in that the war itself was not something the horse sought, only how Joey could try to survive what the humans around him were managing to do to each other.

Without giving away too much of the book’s storyline, what struck me the most was the manner in which Morpurgo created circumstances that while, in some respect, would normally appear far-fetched to a cynical cuss like myself, are situationally organic deriving from the manner in which the narrative unfolds.  I enjoyed how it was able to create situations that had a plausibility about them in order to bring its story around to the full circle that Morpurgo intended.  It made sense to me.  The characters, from Joey, to his first owner, Albert, to Captain Nicholls, the German hospital orderlies and artillerymen who encounter Joey when he’s capture, a French girl and her grandfather who care for Joey, and Joey’s horse comrade Topthorn, and, finally, the British Tommys working at a veterinary hospital, all of them make those particular types of character choices that move the narrative forward, but also don’t appear to be logical stretches that can defy believability and ruin a plot’s outcome.

I thought to myself that I would definitely be curious about what Spielberg could do with this material.  But in reading about the book was adapted for the stage play, there had to be some changes to the way the story was told.  For starters, how do you present a play when the narrator’s internal monologue was from a horse?  I wasn’t the only one.

Having read the book, it is clear that a film or stage adaptation will have a different flavor for a couple reasons. The first is that the element of horse narration will be lost. The second is that as a children’s novel much of the brutality of war can be easily glossed over with simple lines that summarize briefly battles, death, and animal brutality. But in a film version, a picture is worth a 1000 words, and the pictures of these war sequences will have a different flavor in color than with simple words (from the perspective of a horse).

And so the final product will admittedly be different from the initial 1982 packaging, and I can imagine that being ruined in many ways, or hopefully under the hands of the respected director Steven Spielberg, and the Oscar nominated screenwriters Lee Hall (Billy Elliot) and Richard Curtis (Four Weddings and a Funeral) the final project will be it’s own masterpiece.

After the anticipation of reading the book to my students, when Winter Break arrived, and we had discharged the inevitable family obligations around Christmas, a family movie day meant a trip to a theater that was showing both Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked as well as War Horse.  I was fortunate that day that my wife understood my desire to see the latter, so she excused me from the torture of the former, and I sat down to watch the film.

As with all Spielberg’s films, it is beautifully photographed.  But I have to agree with film critic Andrew Pulver in The Guardian:

Spielberg is presumably attempting to infuse his film with a fairytale, fabular quality – but all he does is provide it with a directorial straitjacket, with the audience instructed (through insistent camera angles, nagging music, and strategised lighting) exactly what it’s supposed to be feeling at any given moment…[i]n the end, while you can’t doubt Spielberg’s commitment to telling a putatively heartwarming and emotion-wringing tale, War Horse is just too calculated to do what he wants to do.

He has the entire arsenal of film-making at his disposal, but can’t seem to snap out of a now-habitual mode of vitality-erasing, dewy-eyed affectation. There are flashes of the old genius there, but not enough. If only he would loosen up.

I actually could forgive the sins above, had Spielberg chosen to trust this original narrative. Understanding that the director went back to the book for the film’s story line, rather than the stage play, he nonetheless saw fit to add one sequence that wasn’t in the original story, about two young German deserters (but it works) and make specific changes to Albert’s (Joey’s original owner) wartime role in the story (from an orderly attached to a veterinary unit to a British infantryman who suffers from a poison gas attack), disrupting the organic plausibility that stretched the novel just a bit, but made sense in terms of the story’s outcome.

Realizing that this was Spielberg’s first film about the First World War, it seemed like he intended to add every component associated with that war into a single 2 1/2 hour time period.  He needed to back off and trust his source material.  He did not.  This was one giant experience that I was being told that I was supposed to like, but as much as I tried to jettison my knowledge of the book in order to allow myself to go over to the film’s story, I couldn’t, for the very reasons I preferred about the book:  the book’s storyline had a logical sense to the plot’s progression.  The characters discover each other through situations that follow each other.  While both the film and book find their denouement through a reunion, the film’s content to treat it miraculously, while the book is able to hint at the miracle but treat it matter-of-factly, even adding an element of suspense and pathos to the miracle that Spielberg’s film was only able to achieve in Captain Nicholl’s tragically ill-fated cavalry charge against a German bivouac guarded by machine guns.

While the film, in Roger Ebert’s words, was made with superb artistry, I have found it hard to give it the accolades that others have given it (Oscar nomination).  I am left thinking that the film is being heralded because of who directed it, rather than the quality of the storytelling that the film actually brings to the screen.  While a beautiful film, its effect is not unlike artificial sweetener.  Sadly, while Morpurgo offered up source material from his book that hinted at Sugar-in-the-Raw, Spielberg chose to instead give us a Costco-sized box of Splenda.

Speaking Murican

“I personally believe we developed language because of our deep inner need to complain.”  — Jane Wagner

If you sit in our teacher’s lounge long enough, you’ll hear the complaints.  So I avoid it as much as I can, even though occasionally I must enter the lounge to use the copier at lunch time.  And on this particular day, I had to use the copier for some last minute homework.  Thusly, I heard it, from the one person at our school who constantly confirms that old adage about opinions being like rear ends–we all have them.

But not all of us share all of them out loud–and some of us is not the one of us at our school who does so out loud.  As a result, here it came:  “You know, this is America, and we speak English in this country, and everyone should be made to learn it!

I gather up my stuff and try to quickly leave.  Since I wasn’t a “part” of the conversation, I can avoid having to participate in it.  But I acknowledge to myself, the inherent ignorance of the statement, reminding myself that the U.S. Constitution establishes no official language for the country.

“…there is a persistent tendency to blame any missteps to bilingual children on early exposure to two languages…well-known variations in the onset of rate of language acquisition among monolingual children are ignored…the decline in literacy skills, the object of so much concern and discussion at every educational level, is forgotten when even slightly substandard performance in these areas is given by bilingual children.  Unfortunately, because bilingualism is almost always considered a major contributor to such difficulties and may even be considered a source of a range of behavior problems, parents and educators alike tend to be very quicky in deciding to eliminate one of the languages when problems arise.” — N.S. Goodz

Ah, that must be it.  Our lounge opinionator must have that insight about why speaking “The Spanish” supposedly produces so many naughty undesirable kids at our school.  Right, got it.  Believe or not, after a number of years where I teach, I still find it surprising to find out that you can find casually professed ignorance at a place where education is supposed to be the main thing.

Meanwhile, our school is currently processing re-designation paperwork for the English Language Leaners in our classrooms.

Since I was at 6th grade camp last week, and only in my classroom for a day on Tuesday before needing to run some errands involving my little girl yesterday, I at last realized that I needed to sign the paperwork in order for the 3 kids from my current group of 6th graders eligible to be re-designated as Fully English Proficient (or F.E.P.), to gain that status.

Our school usually has a little ceremony tacked on to a Citizenship Assembly towards the end of the school year.  The students’ names are called, and they all come up and get a special little certificate, which, I know, has to warm the heart of the one-who-knows-all at our school:  these kids can officially now speak English!

So it was last Spring, as we sat towards the back of our Multipurpose room at last year’s re-designation ceremony, that I sat with a group of last year’s 6th graders.  As the kids’ names began to be called to go get their certificates, one of my kids turned to me and asked what was going on, i.e., what did it mean to be “re-designated”?  As I began to process how to quickly and quietly explain the process, I was beaten to the punch by one of his classmates.  In many ways, his explanation was simple, elegant, and to the point, at least with regards to the political climate in certain parts of the country these days.

Without missing a beat, S.D. quipped, “It means those kids are no longer Mexican!

This is How We Bungalow

As we finish breakfast, the staff scrambles about, leaving the kids alone for a brief moment while T. heads upstairs to find out what time our final meeting with the Camp Director and Assistant Director will take place this morning.  She heads upstairs, and I glance at the kids for just a moment, and I have an idea.  I race up the stairs to the camp’s offices, and walk over the railing overlooking the dining hall, facing down towards the kids.  I can’t resist, and break into full Facist Dictator mode (no salutes, just lots of crossed arms and chin up, nodding.)  I get the goofy affirmation from the students I was seeking.  T. comes out of the Director’s office.  I give one last salute and I head on down with her.

In my respects, my little “Mussolini” act sort of symbolizes what the choice of this week-long outdoor school means for the kids from our school who have attended this particular camp these past two years as opposed to the camp previously used by the ancien regime previously serving as our 6th grade teachers at our school.  The previous camps attended by 6th graders were at a much higher elevation, often in the San Bernardino National Forest, and did not offer the amount of activities that our current choice of camp offers.  The teachers were also expected to carry the bulk of the instruction, as opposed to the camp counselors at these other sites.  Quite often as well, the 6th grade teachers would go up alone, or send a surrogate, and were not necessarily in the best position to provide instruction that a trained outdoor instructor could give to the kids, much in the manner that our school’s kids received these past two years.  6th Grade Camp became something that teachers tried to avoid, particularly since the teacher who booked the camp each year had no intention of actually attending camp herself, missing out on time spent with the kids on a learning experience beyond the classroom.  Suffice to say, when she retired, the end to many of her practices both in and out of the classroom went with her.  As such, we have this new Outdoor School we’ve been using these past two years.

As a matter of fact, on my way home today, I stop by my wife’s school, and run into one of her teachers, who was a student teacher at my school, and therefore went to the old 6th grade camp.  She is genuinely surprised at how much the event has changed since the time she left.  This is not the week that she remembers from her student teaching time.  I am there, as she was, with the kids, but as I noted earlier today, I am a spectator to their experiences rather than a participant.  That’s a critical distinction, particularly in that I couldn’t begin to provide a quality outdoor instructional experience with my own limited knowledge.  I could try, but it’s far better for these kids to have it from instructors who know their stuff in this area better than I do.   Having now seen this particular program in person these past two years, first on a 5-day week and then on a 4-day, and getting to know the Camp Director as well, our time spent this morning discussing our suggestions for bettering the program–from praising the nurse to suggesting an organic farming experience in a garden setting–have more of a meaningful impact on us, as opposed to a teacher merely booking 6th grade camp, not going herself, and then being shocked when the kids aren’t necessarily taking away what you hoped they might.

As one of our school’s former principal’s might put it:  is this the best thing for kids?

So as I walked down the steps from the Camp’s office towards the door, after my little show on the balcony rail, I think to myself what this past week probably meant for these kids.  We’ll be back with them on Tuesday, a week closer to state testing, but with a week-long list of memories in these kids’ heads as well.  It is inconvenient to be away from home, I admit, but the point of the week shouldn’t have been for the teacher’s convenience, even if the Camp tries to provide the attending teachers with amenities like the room we stayed in, internet access, and a role as an interested observer and friendly face for our students.  This week is not themed for convenience, rather it’s aimed at roughing it.  Certainly, the rain, the cold, and the subsequent snow was part of that very experience.  It was the owls that circled at night, and the bunny that greated us every time we headed back to our cottages.  Unlike my little pretend dictator, nothing of what was done this past week, was meant to be done for my benefit.  It was for the greater benefit of our kids.

I doubt our old grade level predecessor ever truly understood it.  Or, perhaps she once did, but stopped caring.  Hearing the kids sing the “Bungalow” song” on the bus ride home, we know the week went the way it should have gone.

———–

As a final aside to 6th grade camp, I plan on asking my students to share their own thoughts about 6th grade camp with me.  I will post some of the best of those comments at some point next week after the long holiday weekend…

Food Waste Postscript

We wait to meet with the counselors for one final time, but in the meantime, there is one final meal to be served to the 6th graders. Last night, Pizza Night, the kids score zero food waste. This brings their total to 3 meals of zero food waste, passing last year’s 6th graders, who could only manage 2, and only then on the final full day of camp. Still, last year’s class had two boys, AD and JC, who would range around the dining hall eating up stray bits of food. All week, my partner and I would talk about how useful both boys’ iron stomachs were in competitions like this one, especially when, last year, the chef prepared Caesar Salad dressing that was a bit heavy on the anchovies, and only AD was able to stomach more than a tablespoon.

Fortunately, neither boy was needed at breakfast. The kids hit the Zero goal for the 4th time in 7 tries. Then the Camp’s Assistant Director engages the 6th graders in a pep talk over the importance of how food waste doesn’t waste just food, but the labor and natural resources that went into the production of the food. I consider how useful this lesson might have been at the beginning of the week, but at the least, the kids are finally getting the “why” of the competition they’ve engaged with themselves all week.

Now it’s off the Hitching Post for our final debriefing. I can’t wait for the bus driver. Actually, I can wait for the bus driver. T. And I both hope he remembers how to get back to L.A. County…

The End of Yuban

“You just fulfilled the first rule of law enforcement: make sure when your shift is over you go home alive. Here endeth the lesson.” — Malone, The Untouchables

I have shoved reluctant clothes into the suitcase, drinking the last bit of Yuban I will have this week.  I wonder how, especially after how good the coffee is at the Resort’s restaurant, and how good the Camp food has been for the students, why I’m left drinking Yuban that is older than the organic food movement in general…

Our bus driver will be the same we’ve had on Tuesday, which means we’re either going to leave in a few hours, or not.   But there is still one more breakfast, and one more meeting with the Camp’s counselors to discuss the week.  As I type this, I still have to fill out the teacher evaluation form on my experiences for the week, and I puckishly consider noting that I want the same French press coffee that the counselors get–and I am even willing to pour more water on my clothes to get it!

But I’m not.  They’ve done a nice job of giving the 6th graders a memorable experience this week.  My partner and I have been here merely as spectators to the festivities.  When we get back to school next week, we’ll be back in charge of stuff again, and with state testing coming up, this past week will be quickly be in the rear view mirror.  But as rear view mirrors go, hopefully it will be on the vehicles that she and I will be driving, not those of our hapless bus driver.

Regardless, it’s time to go home first.

Fire Watch

“Our last night on the island. I drew fire watch.”

Private Joker, Full Metal Jacket

Tonight meant dinner with the Camp’s Director in the Resort’s on-site Steakhouse, ostensibly as a way to “apologize” for the leaky roof in my original room.  Being happy that I was moved, and now with clothes that were fully dry, this gesture was wholly unnecessary, in my opinion.  On the other hand, 8 ounces of filet mignon later, again totally unnecessary, I considered ways in which I could have other things happen to my luggage for a free dinner, should I come back to 6th grade camp next year.

It looks like my partner, who is the grade level team leader for 6th grade, is already hoping to book 2013 now, to give us the choice of dates going forward.  As we don’t have to share space with another school, this camp gives us some measure of exclusivity, in that we don’t have to share with another school unless we book in that way.  Certainly, the past two years of experiences have put to death any notion about some of the nightmares I had heard of their time in past 6th grade camps.  The counselors handle nearly all of the kids’ instruction and activities, and our job is merely to be the friendly face from home, the interested observer, as well as taking the kids for a hour in the afternoon, when the counselors change shifts.

Unlike yesterday, when the rain meant inside activities for our hour, and we were more concerned with staving off hypothermia among the kids as well as ourselves, today’s sun means we can take the kids out to the grassy area in front of their cabins to run them a bit. We choose to play dodge ball and crab soccer.  In the meantime, we learn more about the kids’ afternoons, as a number of them went on their long hike today.  Of course, one boy, L., from T.’s class, is full of his story about falling out of his canoe out in the cement pond.  But then he embellishes the story, talking about losing consciousness and not remembering how he fell in.  I then learn that he turned an ankle the day before but after spending some time with the camp nurse, felt well enough to participate today.  I had L.’s older brother years before, and remembering how his brother had been with me, with respect to how he treated the girls in my class, and coupling that with the camp’s nurse, an attractive younger girl, and it all makes sense.  He’s crushing on the nurse.

At this point, one of my girls, A., takes a soccer ball off of her face.  T. and I initially think her nose is broken, if not bloody, but fortunately for her, she’d managed to deflect it enough to have it only glance off of her eye.  Still, it hurt, and she heads over by her cabin door to sit things out.  Meanwhile, the nurse, who is trying to make sure that L.  is OK.  We immediately direct her over to my kid, A., who shows the nurse that she can tough it out and is fine.  L.  sees the nurse, and back come the stories about his apparent loss of consciousness, with his friend trying to explain to the nurse that L. had amnesia.  She is a very patient person, very soft-spoken and empathetic, so she listens to what they have to say, eventually talking to one of my other students to confirm what really happened in the canoes.  But L., seeing that he’s got yet another chance to bond with the camp’s nurse is walked back to up to her office upstairs in the dining hall, no doubt considering himself the luckiest boy in the world.

“Um, no”, I think, since I’m the one getting the steak dinner with my teaching partner, while the kids are getting a pizza night.

Dinner turns out to be well-worth the time drying my clothes from the leaking ceiling.  It is easily one of the better steaks I’ve had in recent memory.  (Pity that the distance is too far from home to take Amber for an evening;  a chance to bring her here would have to involve some doing…)  We spend two hours discussing camp, life back home, life at camp, and camp next year.  The Camp Director, after now dealing with him for 2 years, seems like a genuinely nice person to work with to try to bring a unique experience for kids who haven’t necessarily been given much in the way of unique experiences in the neighborhoods around our school.

When our dinner ends, and fortified for the cold, even with the roaring campfire, my partner and I head off to watch the final night’s campfire and cabin skits.  You can tell just how much the kids are both enjoying this final communal time as well as how little in their tank they have left as the counselors run them through songs and skits.  But overall, despite my own misadventures with the cold and the rain, it was never about me in the first place.  My memories are nothing compared to what these kids will take home with them tomorrow.  Just like I remember my own camp experiences from 1974, these kids will likely do the same with their own memories.

It’s time to pack my stuff and get ready for one final night of watching the lamps outside my window creep into my room as I try to sleep.  But I get to go home tomorrow as well.  I’m too old to be homesick, but not too old to want to be at home.  It’s time.

Tonight’s Mystery Meat is Steak!

“How hard is it to decide to be in a good mood and be in a good mood once in a while?” — Say Anything

The other night we had spied two owls on their nightly hunt.  This morning, as we walk out to see the 6th grade groups and again when we walk back, a bunny is out.  It fits the tone of the day.  Whereas yesterday was cold, wet, and eventually snowy, today’s weather, while cold and windy, is brilliantly sunny.  It is a beautiful day.  Even I, who is as far from a sun worshiper as a person can be, is totally taken in by the desire to just sit in the sun–provided we can find from shelter from the wind, that is.

Still, this morning is far better than yesterday’s ordeal.  Windy yes, but a good, sunny day.  For those who know me, that I’m pleased about all of this is saying something significant.  But it will get better.

My teaching partner and I, after watching today’s group of kids try archery, walk up to the Camp’s reservoir to observe the canoeing.  These kids are having a bit more trouble negotiating the cement pond, but they gamely flail away, ensuring that they’ll have to go back and change out of wet jeans when they’re done.  T. and I then laugh, when we overhear one of the counselor’s walkie-talkies:  one of our kids has accidentally left behind jeans and underwear outside of the shower area.  The comment:  “Um, one the campers is walking around without pants and underwear right now” seemed like just the perfect commentary about the past 24 hours.

Finally, the Camp’s Director pulls up in the camp electric cart.  T. has money for him from several of the kids who had wanted to buy a camp sweatshirt before we leave tomorrow.  We talk a bit, in particular about my suggestion from earlier in the week that we “steal” the cart to go off in search of coffee and junk food at the shopping center just off the freeway.  Yesterday, after sharing this idea with our principal during her visit, we see that the cart had a boot that gets secured to one of the tires.  We learn from the Director that they’ve lost more than their share of carts to theft, so the boot was most definitely needed to avoid that situation.

More importantly though, he offers a ride!

We get in and hang on, as he roars down the foothill to their lower pond area, where one of our groups was getting their Environmental Studies lesson in Aquatic Life Science.  We arrive, admiring the view from the area–the camp has an active sheep farm on site, along with “guard” llamas–when the Director asks T. and myself how we muddled through the previous night.  He mentions the kids’ dinner meal (traditionally pizza on the final night), before then adding that the Resort feels bad about my experience with the roof leak last night, and that they want the Director to take T. and I to dinner at the resort’s steakhouse this evening, on them.

Free steak.  Nice.

Of course, you don’t say “no”.  We say “thank you” many times, instead.

It is sunny today, and things are good.

Pointless Acts of Eating French Toast

There are remnants of last night’s snowfall still on the ground as we walk to the Hitching Post for breakfast…

We can see the kids are tired, as they were kept busy late last night.  This morning’s meal will be French Toast.  Once again, as they have been all week, the 6th graders get the obligatory lecture from one of the counselors about the benefits of eating organically grown food.  Still, looking at the large amounts of bacon they serve at each breakfast, I can’t help but wonder if these kids will wind up with cancer nonetheless.  It’s not that neither my partner or I disagree with the thrust of their comments, it’s just that they manner in which they’re hitting these kids with this info is more sledgehammer than scalpel.  As an aside, it would benefit the kids more if they could see where this food was grown, or if they were to work in a food garden to understand the concept of organic rather than to merely “tell” them.  Show, not tell.

After the meal is finished, despite the best efforts of one girl to help another at her table finish her French Toast in order to minimize the food waste, the Camp’s counselor in charge of this morning’s meal decides to nitpick the 6th graders by scooping up random bits of cereal from the floor, which prompts one of the cabin counselors to ask, “Really?”.  A discarded butter pat is also added to the waste, and the Head Meal Counselor gleefully announces that the waste amounts to 3 ounces.  The kids are shut out this morning, as apparently they’ve been too successful in avoiding food waste last night and yesterday morning.  I turn to the girl who had helped her friend finish her French Toast:  “You finished that French Toast for nothing–NOTHING!

Looking at the Bright Side of Night

There is something to be said for having a coffee maker right on your writing desk, even if the coffee tastes like something from pre-drug cartel Columbia.  Still, after watching cold liquid flowing over things last night, to see some hot liquid flowing in my room is a welcome sight.

While I fancy myself a curmudgeon though, there are points when even someone like myself just didn’t want to have to have a reason to complain anymore.  Last night was it.  With wet clothes hanging around my room, and after watching several of the kids on the cusp of hypothermia yesterday afternoon after their experiences in the rain, the appearance of snow last night was pretty much the last straw.  Nah, I wasn’t interested in watching it.  I was cold and wet, heading to a room, that while warming up, was filled with cold and wet clothes I had to dry out.  I was done.  I skipped the final evening activity simply because I didn’t want to go out in the cold anymore.  Nevertheless, I spent the bulk of my evening periodically glancing up at the ceiling to see if any more leaks would spring up.  We go home tomorrow.  I’d like to have reasonably dry clothing to pack back up.

For whatever reason, I wind up with the oddest rooms at this place.  Last year, we stayed in the adjoining ranch house next to these cottages.  I struggled to get a full flow of hot water in my sink all week, and on the final day, the shower gave out, forcing me to take a bath using a coffee cup.  This year, I wind up with the leaking room, which was frustrating.  Then the Camp staff gives me the room next door to my old one, making me worry about the roof for both of the cabings.  But, this will have to do.  After my teaching partner helps me “steal” the original room’s desk and she leaves for her evening, I glance around a room looking to see what it has to try to size up my situation for these final couple of days:  A refrigerator in the closet, but no hangers.  A stolen desk.  A heater that needs to be turned on immediately.  No heater in the bathroom (which the other room had had for some reason) but a better sink.  And all the towels from my two rooms, since I now had to mop up the floor after racing back and forth trying to move my stuff without getting it rained and snowed upon.

At 3:30 a.m., I discover the final aspect of my new room.  I likely wake up from a normal R.E.M. cycle, and immediately grab my smart phone to check the time.  Did I set the alarm?  I did.  I set it, but I quickly go through the menu to make sure I didn’t inadvertently change the time zone or something.  It is quite bright in this room, even with the lights out.  I realize where it’s coming from:  I am sitting smack by the resort’s restaurant’s parking lot, and the big light is right by my window.  Unlike the other room, which had them, even though it faced away from the parking lot, this room does not have the blackout window shades.

I throw my head back on to the pillow.  The room is warm.  I don’t hear drips coming from the closet.  And I am dry.