Okay, thanks to Kingsley Pines, I am now a HUGE family camp fan. I loved it. I spent 4 hours away from my child a day... where he was off with children his own age for 3 hours (not consecutively) and one hour with all the big kids. And every other minute of the day we had choices to do together as a family OR we could just choose to do things together on our own.
Each day had 3 - 1 hour long sessions. The grown ups got to pick activities (there were usually 3 or 4 listed) while the kids had designated ones. Day 1 for X-man was space science camp. He spent the day using science to blow things up (think vinegar and baking soda, mentos and diet coke, etc.), including a paper rocket he made himself. As he's become quite the little Ms. Frizzle fan lately, he thought this was pretty much the best way to spend the day ever.
Until Day 2 came along... and he spent it playing water games, making sandcastles and jumping on the Blob (a water trampoline) in the middle of the lake. 4 kids... 2 counselors. I could hear him screaming, "Announcement! Cannonball!" As he leapt into the water.
Day 3 was pretty cool too. The kids made their own popsicles, maracas, went frog hunting and got to get suited up in their life preservers again -- this time to go on the super fast ski boat, where they each got to take turns pretending to be captain and telling the driver where to go.
Day 4 was, sadly, our last day. X-man was ready to go play some more water games, make ice cream (which is so a CARE meet up I'm going to have to do) and go down the slip and slide.
Each day for parents included activity choices like volleyball, rock climbing (on a wall), chipping and putting, basketball, tennis, water skiing/wake boarding, jewelry making, yoga, swing dancing, high ropes course, low ropes course, ceramics, archery, circus skill practice, art, mountain biking, tubing, rope swinging into the lake, hiking, sailing, kayaking, canoeing, water polo, etc.
I tried a couple things I'd never done before including water skiing and rock climbing. I loved the rock climbing, but didn't really appreciate getting dragged behind a boat. I finally stood up while on a "boom" (a metal bar that sticks out the side of the boat) that they use to help the kids get started, but after spending 3-5 minutes doing that, I decided, it really wasn't all that much fun. Tubing, however, was another story. The last time I went I was 14. I was on an old time tube that was doughnut shaped. I fell through and my lifejacket got caught. It was scary... but this time, it was like the lazy boy of tubes. All I had to do was hold onto the handles. I laughed and screamed and giggled through the whole thing. It was awesome. I also scheduled one session on Days 2, 3 and 4 for Loosey-only quiet time. Some days I napped for an hour. Other days, I just sat in my room reading or on Facebook.
I also played volleyball three mornings while I was there. I hadn't played really since high school. But it was fun. My team won 2/3 games each day. Day 2, we played 4 on 4, but on Day 3 and 4, Counselor David from Florida and I whooped ass as a 2 on 2 team. If you see me, I'm covered in bruises all up and down my legs and arms. I have two skinned knees and I'm pretty sure I pulled my right tricep, so I'm a little slow when putting my hair in a ponytail... But it felt great. Now I want to find a volleyball league. Too bad it's too late to find a sand one around here. :-) What was most amazing was that I had NO BACK PAIN through any of these activities. None. Not a bit. Other stuff hurt... but not my back. And it was the good kind of hurt.
The food was really pretty good, too. At breakfast you could pretty much guarantee that you'd have eggs of some kind with potatoes and some kind of breakfast meat each day. But you could also get custom eggs made for you in the kitchen (MacTroll is a sucker for omelet bars!), a yogurt parfait bar with four different kinds of yogurt, lots of fruit and some pretty good granola; a steel cuts oatmeal bar with lots of fixings; a row of different cereals to choose from and a bunch of variety of breads and bagels to toast with different jellies, butters, etc. to top them with. Sometimes there were cinnamon rolls or pastries, too. There were also at least five different kinds of non-soda beverages at each meal. X-man was particularly fond of following in the big kid footsteps and mixing the grape with the lemonade at every meal.
Lunch was usual lunch fair... hamburger and french fries day, make your own sandwich, hard or soft shell tacos and pizza days.
Dinner went all over the place. Usually there was a chicken and a fish option with some kind of roasted or grilled vegetables. There was always a salad bar that kicked ass. Seriously, there was all kinds of fresh veggies and fruits at every meal. Lots of vegetarian options, too. Tofu and soy milk were available for those with special needs. And he'd cook special side dishes for families with allergy issues.
The last night was a giant cookout with Maine Lobsters, steak, ratatouille, hot dogs and hamburgers. Lots of corn on the cob, rolls, etc.
Every day there was a snack at 3. It was usually frozen grapes or popsicles of some kind. Then every night there was a special dessert like strawberry cobbler or this cookie and chocolate bread thing that came off a bit like a brownie got loose in a Nilla wafer factory.
We didn't starve -- and I'm kind of sure that even though my pants fit, I'll have some work to do getting back to my goal weight area. :-)
Our cabin was in the "little girls'" camp. The youngest children who attend the camp during the kids-only part of the summer start at 8 years. So, they stay in groups of 10 with one or two counselors living with them. They have two toilets in their cabin, two sinks, a small shower and electricity. That means, X-man got to sleep in the top bunk of one of the five bunk beds in the room. It was handmade, so they had put 12" sides on it to prevent kids from falling out of the bed. MacTroll and I ended up pushing the two counselor beds together. :-)
But he had somewhere to charge his iPad. And we didn't have to make any mad dashes through the woods to get X-man to a bathroom in the middle of the night (which I really didn't want to do). And, unlike all the times we tried to camp in the backyard, X-man knew there was no other sleeping option, so the kid just dragged himself up into his bunk, put his head on his pillow and was out every night by 8:30 p.m. Eastern Time. That's 7:30 at home. He was up every day at 8 a.m. excited and ready to go. But there were nights after dinner when I wondered if he was going to make it to the evening activity. He always managed to find a second wind.
The other nice part about the cabins were that they were strangely bug free. I didn't see a spider or a mosquito the whole time I was in there. They also came with two big box fans, so we could cool down, since the weather was unseasonably warm (91 and sunny each day and 75 at night).
Outside the cabin was a community fire pit, so on Wednesday night, we brought out our s'mores supplies and shared with the other families in our neighborhood. The other common area bathrooms were complete with automatic flush toilets (no lie), brand new sinks and faucets, plenty of soap and antibacterial gel dispensers and automatic paper towel dispensers. They also gave us a list of wireless passwords so you could get online, no matter where your cabin was. Sans blague.
And this brings us to the people -- the people, were mostly east coasters outside of the two families from Utah. Lots of folks from New York and New Jersey, a few from the D.C. area, a couple from Maine. Most of the Coughlan family that owns the camp comes in and uses the second week of family camp as a kind of informal family reunion at the camps the family patriarchs bought in 1984. Now various cousins share ownership of it. They were all very nice people.
On the last night of camp, the kids were running around from carnival attraction to carnival attraction. I couldn't STOP X-man from putting whipped cream pies in counselor Conor's face. I figured as long as counselor "Danimal" kept handing them to him, I'd let him go a while. Anyway, I stood in the field and looked up at the big trees and wondered how many groups of people they'd seen participate in the last night Carnival and how it might have changed since the 1960s.
The best thing about family camp is that you pay for everything up front. Once you step on the property, you don't pull out your wallet for anything. Unlike a Disney vacation, where you would pay for airfare and hotel and a meal package... and then pull it out for stuffed animals and toys and special excursions. Everything was covered in your payment. The price for the Sunday night through Friday a.m. was $695 per adult and $340 per child (over the age 4 and up). It included food and lodging.
On our way out, they gave us a list of the families with e-mail addresses, so we could stay in touch and send pictures. Plus, they gave us a pre-registration for next year. The only problem -- X-man's kindergarten start and my school start are the same week as the first week of their family camp. Another family there had pulled their child out of first grade for the week. Maybe for first grade, but definitely not for kindergarten, with us. And, well, if I'm at Eastern working on a second master's degree, I'm less likely to want to take off, too. I was disappointed, but I know if it ever works out in the future, we'll be back there in a flash. I wonder if some day X-man will want to return there just to go to summer camp for a couple weeks.
It also has me looking at other family camps in places closer to home like Wisconsin. I'm having some difficulty finding some that aren't basically family bible camps. That doesn't really jive with our family, but I did find a Y one outside of Milwaukee, which does have some possibilities. :-) If anyone's interested there's a 4-day weekend one Memorial Day and a 4-day weekend one Labor Day 2011.