Saturday, September 1, 2012

To Maine and Back in 7 days

The family just got off the plane and ate some Subway. We had a fabulous trip out to Maine for Family Camp. We started our journey with a successful short flight from CMI to ORD and then had a 3-hour layover in which we ate lunch at the Macaroni Grill, played for an hour at the play place and then spent 30 minutes in the H/K Admirals Club. Here X-man built himself a stool to match the girl's next to him and watched the Disney Channel in the Kids Room. When we got there they were playing Phineas and Ferb, but then something pre-teen girl related came on and X-man worked to try and relate... :-)

On the way out we stayed the night at the Liberty Hotel because our plane got in late in the afternoon on Saturday and camp didn't start until Sunday at 3 p.m.

At first I was like, "Whatever. Isn't everything in New England named after liberty?" Then we got there and suddenly MacTroll and I said, "Oooohhh yeaaaahhhh."We had read somewhere about this hotel. It's a remodeled prison! The prison held famous people like Malcolm X and Bill Baird (who if you ever were unmarried and had sex using contraceptives you should write a thank you letter to -- he helped give you that privilege. I'm writing mine now.).

It's a beautiful hotel that X-man was totally enchanted with. He loved that Clink, the restaurant, (the bar is called Alibi) had the original iron doors. MacTroll and I thought it was cute that the "privacy" signs had original jailhouse keys tied to a piece of thin material that said, "Solitary."

Plus, it had a lovely view of the city and the Tube.

We ended up going to bed early and getting up to walk down the street to Finagle a Bagel, which had another unexpected element to it... the bagel cutter. It's kind of hard to see here. But if you see the worker in the middle, in front of him is actually a spinning circular saw. They put the bagels down spaced a bit apart on that conveyer belt (where the staff is in the distance) and it takes it down the line. When the bagel reaches the saw it saws it in half and THROWS the bagel pieces down to that shiny metal block at the end that drops them into a medal bucket for the lady in the green shirt to prepare. Safe for allergies -- no. Super cool for a six year old who ran back and forth between the basket and the saw blade -- YES!

Then we got in the car and we drove up to Portland, Maine. It's a very boring drive that takes you up Highway 1 to 295, which isn't the loveliest of highways. There are lots of tolls. On the way though, MacTroll stopped in New Hampshire (which is a very short part of 95) in order to pick up alcohol sales tax free for the adult "Happy Hours" at family camp.

When we arrived in Portland, we ate at Silly's, which had tripled its space since were were there two years ago. This time, we ate out on the porch. The boys enjoyed milkshakes and sandwiches while I had a Buffalo Tofu salad.

After our bellies were full, we had some time, so we drove toward the water. There on the point just a bit north of the Old Port were some memorials and some historical markers.

It had warmed up and so MacTroll asked X-man if it was okay to put the top down on the Chrysler Convertible we got from Hertz. (We use MacTroll's travel points a lot for family travel so our flights, car and hotels were "free".) He looked adorable as the sun hit his head, even if we had to take some of our bags out of the back and put them in the seat next to him for the drive up to Kingsley Pines family camp.

I didn't take very many "scenic" photos of camp, so you don't really get an idea of what it looks like. For that I apologize. But basically, you drive in from the little town of Raymond on a long entry way that passes by a soccer field and a climbing wall and a high ropes course and a baseball diamond. Then you come into the center of camp next to the office and the lodge and the tennis court and basketball court. I am standing on the porch of the lodge (which is the game playing room and where adult happy hours usually take place) looking down on my favorite tree. It's a giant oak that shades all of the picnic tables where you eat each meal. If it's really storming, you eat inside the cafeteria, but that's boring. I'd much rather eat and overlook the lake.

I know a lot of people grew up with crappy camp food experiences (oh boy, was my Girl Scout experience one of those). But food at Kingsley Pines is pretty awesome. And if there's anything you're not thrilled with there is a killer salad bar at lunch and dinner, a lovely yogurt parfait bar and a cereal bar at breakfast and peanut butter and jelly is offered all day long. MacTroll really likes the eggs to order in the breakfast. George, the chef/cook, makes a damn good omelet. 

X-man developed a love for "oversized" games this time at camp. They had oversized everything. Chess was his favorite, not because he wanted to play "real chess" but because he liked to have pretend war with the characters. The bigger kids didn't understand his distress about playing chess -- the game. But I sat down played his version of war with him, and this is what I love about my kid. One team, knocked over the other team in a long drawn out war. And then two pawns, from different families fell in love and wanted their families to act better and get along and not hurt each other. At first the families feuded (like a 6-year-old version of Romeo and Juliet) but then the queens were swapping gardening stories and the bishops were marrying knights from different families and then all the pieces were mixed up all over the board and life -- was better than it was when it began with one kingdom on one side and one on the other side staring each other down. He took a mess and brought about peace.

Other "giant" game versions included JENGA (Holy cow, you could hear that mother fall from everywhere in camp), Connect Four and the program director was working on creating Scrabble (no lie). I told her about the giant Monopoly game in San José, just in case she wanted to check it out and rob them of their "world's largest" standing.

This is a photo of the waterfront from the sand volleyball court/ping pong area, where I spent most of my time at camp. :-) You see the big white thing in the distance. That's called the iceberg. It has climbing grips on one side. You climb up it and then you either jump or slide down the other side. To the left of it is the water trampoline with three different apparatuses attached to it. One is the big yellow log that you're supposed to run out to the end on. The other is a "walk the plank" log that you climb up and then try to get to the end of (it's about 6 feet up out of the water on the end) and in the back is the "blob." A small say 50 lb child crawls out carefully to the end and sits on a dot looking forward. Then a 180 lb mother or father jumps on a dot near the water trampoline and propels the small child out 10 feet or so into the water before the mother/father falls into the lake two. It is my most favorite item out there, and we did it a lot (all wearing life jackets, of course). I do want to note that on day 4, X-man made it all the way to the top of the iceberg BY HIMSELF. He STOOD UP (which most Dads admit they're too chicken to do, because it's really pretty high) and shouted, "I'm king of the world!" before he slid down the other side. No, he's never seen the movie, but it was pretty awesome. He was the only one in the 6-7 year old group to make it up there on their own during family camp this year.

They had some new things for us to try this year, because we actually had some wind! So MacTroll went out and learned how to windsurf. He's the one in the front learning how to stand up with Mark, one of the counselors, giving him the run down. Later, just so you know, the wind kicked up and pulled the sail over... with MacTroll on top of it, and he broke the mast in two. He didn't go out and try that again. But he did do an afternoon of sailing a sunfish. X-man and I learned how to paddleboard in less windy conditions, which was a lot of fun, particularly if you use a very stable windsurf board as your base. :-) It doesn't turn quite as well as an actual paddle board, but you are less likely to fall off. 


Each night from 5-6 p.m. the kids would have their "happy hour" with smoothies and a special snack down at the "Field of Dreams" while the adults did this... Not so bad, right? You could also sign up to take a "booze" cruise around the lake in the speedboat. 

Our accomodations included a rustic cabin that had electricity, a small, but warm shower, his and her sinks and two toilets. It's a cabin that usually has the 8-year-old girls in it for summer camp. So there were 10 bunkbeds and two counselor beds. MacTroll and I slept in the two counselor beds. This was mine. 

There was open water front with about 10 lifeguards for the kids to go out on the blob (without parents), if they wanted to. As the week went on, they scheduled other things during this time. For example, each age group had an assigned time (if the kids were 8 and up) to go tubing or out on the water banana. On Wednesday, it was the grown ups turn. So MacTroll and I both wanted to go. It was nice to know we could go out on the tubes and leave X-man behind and know he was watched over not just by the guards, but also by the parents that were there. It was also cool because rather than blobbing it, he decided to take part in the GIANT FOAM slip and slide the entire time. Seriously, he spent from 3:15-4:30 going up and down the hill. 

Each night at family camp they have a family activity after dinner. The first night was a "Never ever have I" night with a list of activities kids and adults might never have done. Here X-man "Never ever have I been a jedi master" uses the force to noodle joust. He also did a live version of Angry Birds, had a "snow ball" fight in August and made a duct tape wallet. 

The next night we had a trivia contest. X-man could have cared less, even though he totally could have answered a lot of the questions related to cartoons and Disney. As it turns out our table was made up of three families and one young counselor from Scotland. We won the trivia contest and each family got $20 worth of ice cream at the local ice cream place, the Mosquito. Since we were in Maine, MacTroll and I both got Moose Tracks ice cream. X-man told the guy he was last there two years ago and got strawberry, but couldn't remember how it tasted, so he tried it again.

The following night was a casino night. Here X-man bets on his elephant in the "horse races." He won and had a good time. MacTroll ruled the blackjack table. I wasn't excited about gambling, so I went and sat with a bunch of moms in front of a campfire. It was nice, because, honestly, besides one other mother, I never saw any of the other moms. The daily activities are broken down so that the kids go to sessions with kids their own ages. Sessions are one hour long and there are three of them through out the day. There are also four parent sessions EACH hour. So at 9:10 a.m. you could choose between volleyball, ceramics, yoga, mountain biking. And then at 10:10 a.m. you could choose between tennis, jewelry making, water skiing and sailing, etc. And I guess besides one other Mom, I never chose the same things as the other women because it was basically me and the Dads all week long. But it was nice to chat with them at the campfire.

It was also nice to see this happen. We don't get a lot of quality time with MacTroll given his travel schedule. So it was heartwarming to see in Maine.

During the last night at camp, we had a steak and lobster dinner cookout. X-man and MacTroll had their steak fix. X-man played with a leftover lobster claw, as he had when he was 4, but wouldn't go near the actual cooked lobster. The veggie options, which had been outstanding all week, had eggplant in it (I'm not a fan) so I had a giant salad and some corn on the cob. After we ate, we had Carnival Night. Here MacTroll shows Counselor Colin how to cover a big red dot in recycled Cds. Such a smarty pants. 

X-man totally sunk a shot worth 50 points at the "skeeball" table.

Then he took on Mikel from Spain in the arm wrestling competition while Mark totally kicked MacTroll's butt (all while Mark casually ate some cotton candy). 

If you're wondering what I did, I played volleyball every morning. I was 3-1 when I left. Then I sometimes played tennis or MacTroll and I took a canoe out into the lake or I went paddleboarding by myself. One day we had to go to Wal-mart and get a single thing of Tide to do laundry (machines were available for free) because X-man kept jumping into the lake whenever they were down at the docks in his full clothes. By Wednesday, I'd just figured out to put us all into our swim suits and forget underwear. MacTroll also did some rock climbing. And during the afternoon adults sessions, I will admit -- I sometimes freaking napped. It was awesome!

X-man already is asking if he can go there for a 2-week sleepaway camp when he's 8. Because then he gets to pick his activities for the sessions versus getting assigned to them. He said pottery was fine, but he doesn't like crafts. He also did tennis, tie dye, sailing, canoeing, boating, Nuke 'em, Gaga ball and made shaker bag ice cream. He really wants to do fencing, archery and ride the banana tube, but you have to be 8 to do all that. (By the way, the funniest thing all week was me getting on the "check your pants" round tube with MacTroll leaving four dads in their mid thirties to mid forties to get on that banana together. Four grown men on a giant banana tube being pulled behind a ski boat is really, really funny, especially when they look -- unsure about it.)

I told X-man we'd be going back for family camp again when he's in third grade. And then we'd talk about sleep away camp. What's nice is that by then... he'll have already been there three times, and he'll know where everything is and what to do. It was already really cool that some of the counselors were the same as when we were there two years ago (particularly my volleyball buddies David and Danimal). 

After our last breakfast at camp, we got in the car and drove back to Portland. There were no "free" flights available on Friday, so we decided we'd spend some time in Maine and take a "free" flight out on Saturday morning. We took X-man to the children's museum which was good for 2-3 hours worth of play. Here he makes a robotic arm try to pick up things in one basket and put them in another. 

Every children's museum has a grocery aisle, but do all of them have LOBSTER?

Outside was a pirate ship, that I'm pretty sure used to just be another lobster ship (there's one inside the museum, too). But they raised a Jolly Roger on it (which the kids could take up and down themselves) and put a "brig" in underneath. X-man found a couple of boys to go plundering with. But here, he's catching some lobster dinner for them in the red bucket. 

And, as always, a photo of my child looking smashingly ADORABLE in a firefighter uniform. Seriously.

And that was our vacation in a nutshell. The flight back this morning from Boston was uneventful, thankfully. We didn't get caught up in any weather at O'Hare (which is a first this summer). Now X-man is happy to be playing with his toys and the cats are snuggling up to us like they remember us. We had a wonderful new petsitter this week. Her name is Martha McFarland. And I'm happy to pass out her info to anyone. She lives in Savoy, but takes care of pets in the C-U area and is $12 for a 30-minute visit. Plus, she comes highly recommended by several staff members at Caring Hands Animal Hospital in Urbana. She had to come twice a day to help medicate Maya and give her an evening force feeding, and I think our girl is back to being her totally fuzzy, curvy girl self.

Now to get on with the holiday weekend by doing a LOT of laundry.

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