Well, we did it! 10 moms, 40 kids, 3 days in the wilderness. It was awesome.
Okay, it was crazy, but it was still fantastic. We all met up at a camp our church has built about 3 hours east of us. Somehow we were actually early getting off in the morning, and even after a half hour stop at a McDonalds for a stretch and a play, we still arrived first. The campground was beautiful. Seven different group sites have been cleared out, with picnic shelters at each one. Our site was right across from the pavilion, shared by all the sites. At the pavilion there is a fully stocked kitchen with fridges, freezers, stoves, and everything you might need to prepare food for large groups. Plus there are toilets and showers (not that I could actually grab a shower myself, with three little boys running around everywhere!)
I picked a place for the tent and set it up while the boys ran back and forth, revelling in the freedom of nature. Before long the other moms began arriving, including my good friend from back in Toronto and her four boys. They truly were the guests of honor for Colin, who asks about once a week when we can visit "Jacob from Toronto."
No one in the group knew everyone; it was a mish mash of moms that my friend and I invited, as we hoped to build a group of moms with the same parenting style and adventurous spirit we possess. As it turned out, it was a great mix. We also tried to ensure that there was a good mix of ages of kids, so that everyone would have someone to make friends with.
It was three days of fun chaos. There were no real plans, which I think the kids especially loved, giving that in two weeks they will all be back to the rigidity of a school schedule. Mostly the kids just ran around with each other, going for a swim, playing in the dirt, running in the forest. Apparently poison ivy, which abounded in the uncleared parts of the forest, takes 72 hours to show up, so we'll have to wait and see how many kids fell victim.
Each mom paired up with another to bring the food and prepare one meal, which meant that for 4 other meals we were off the hook. It was a great setup which eased the constant burden of feeding 40 hungry kids.
At one point, the camp director's wife was talking with some of the kids. She asked them what they thought of the trip:
Barb: So, what do you think of camping with just mom and all these kids?
Boy: It's awesome! It's the best camping trip ever! So much better than the Father/Son camp!
(Father/son camp is a yearly church tradition when the boys are a little older, starting around 8 or 9 years old.)
I think two things contributed to this feeling: 1) the lack of scheduling and 2) our personalities. We were laid back, letting the kids explore on their own rather than hovering over them every second.
During our second night, we faced a rather formidable storm, and more than one worried husband called up to warn us. I don't carry a cell phone, so James had to hide up his worry and hope I was fine. What was interesting was that these 10 women, all with strong, independent personalities, are all married to worrier husbands. Now, understand, I don't say that this makes the men weak at all. In fact, if a relationship is going to work, it is best that each partner complement the other, having strengths where the other has weaknesses, and attitudes that work with each other. At any rate, we survived the storm, even if it did mean packing up wet tents the next morning.
And so this adventure comes to an end. My friend Lori and I, who organized it, hope to make it a yearly tradition. I'll be in for sure, and hopefully at least a couple of the other women had a good enough time to want to return! We'll see next year, I suppose.