Monday, October 28, 2013

The Life I Live

Apple Toss
I have been giving some of the guys at work a hard time about bringing me food (don't judge, I get hungry in the afternoons), not expecting that they ever will of course. One day one of them decided he actually would! He brought apples from his tree and gave me one. I took it out of the bag and saw a worm on the bottom so I bent down to shake it off into the garbage while my coworker was grabbing one from the bag. As I shook the apple, the stem (where I was holding it) broke off and the apple fell right into the metal garbage with a loud thud. From their perspective it looked like I had taken the apple and then chucked it in the garbage a second later right in his face. NO! I didn't mean to! I was so embarrassed! He was nice and gave me another one when I explained what happened, but I still get teased about that almost daily.

Light Wars
We were having a great Relief Society lesson one week, and in the middle our teacher put on a little video. Our RS president went to the back of the room and turned the lights off so we could see better. She played with them for a minute trying to figure out the whole half on half off thing, but it ended up just going all the way off and all the way back on. She gave up and just left them off. A minute later they came back on and she confusedly turned them back off. They turned back on shortly and a random guy walked in to tell her she was turning off their lights too. We were in a giant room that was just split by a divider so the lights were all connected and she had been turning on and off the lights in some other wards elders quorum! She was so embarrassed she just hung her head and ran back to her seat in the front. I couldn't stop laughing.

My friend made us dinner one night, which was delicious by the way, and served it with lemonade. A girl came over while we were eating and so he offered her some. She turned it down (crazy) but asked for some water. He poured some lemonade and held it out to her. This was the dialog that followed:
Girl: No thanks, I would like some water
Him: You can have this, it's good
Girl: I don't want that, I want water
Him: This has water in it. That's called compromising.
Ha! She ended up drinking the lemonade and liking it. Glimpse into a typical interaction between me and my friends...Its impossible to bargain with these guys.

One night Annalee decided she wanted to try hand stand push ups against the wall. Andrew held her legs and helped her come back up when she went down. Then they decided it was my turn and I needed to try. Well these body builder arms weren't quite ready for that...Half way into the hand stand I started laughing and tried to come down to compose myself then retry but Andrew grabbed my ankles and pulled me up. Because I was laughing so hard I couldn't hold myself up at all, so the result was Andrew lowering and lifting my limp noodle self by my ankles. It was funny enough from my perspective, and judging by the laughter from the rest of the guys it looked pretty funny from their perspective as well. I'd like to say that I redeemed myself later and did some on my own, but that's not true...I'm just going to accept that doing hand stand push ups is not one of my strengths in life.

Crepe Night
My roommate and I got together with some of our friends and hosted a crepe dessert night. I ended up making over 50 crepes and there were none left over! It was a fun night complete with delicious food, muddy buddy tossing, flour fight, and lots of laughing. MMM MMM good!

I have a deal going around that if they provide the ingredients I will make whatever they want. Its fantastic, I get free food that they get food without having to make it. Win win. Chris provided the ingredients and we had chocolate cake and Oreo pudding. It's actually really delicious. YUM!

I ran the Hit and Run 5K with some friends. It was a BLAST!! It is like the show Wipeout in 5K version...So much fun! I got destroyed on some of the elements and came out covered in foam and soaking wet, but it was definitely worth it! Also...I ran the whole way! Congratulations to myself.  Contrary to popular belief I am not a runner, so that actually is good for me ha.  Pathetic yes, but i'll take what I can. 

I found this taped to the lid of the dumpster when I took out the trash the other day.
Someone is a saint. 

This was on my pillow one night when I came home from a long day.
I have fantastic friends who pick me bouquets on their walks.
 A bouquet of misfits...its great! way better than real flowers ha
*side note...half the leaves fell off when I picked it up. hilarious. 

My classes are productive...this is what my notes look like...
Some days fully paying attention just isn't an option

We carved pumpkins for FHE last week.
I carved this shark with the assistance of my roommate Annalee. 

Grandma Sagers Halloween Party!

While I was making grilled cheese sandwiches my friend was making sausages.
This is what I found...sausages gone wrong. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

It is what it is

First I thought I'd start out with a few conversation starters I've been approached with that made me laugh...And no, I did not make up these gems.

Top 5 worst conversation starters of the week
5. I was stopped by an asian guy in a car who barely spoke enough english for me to understand him. He asked me where a building on campus was, so I gave him directions then went to walk away. He called out to me and said, "Hey you want get in? You have boyfriend?" Man, so tempting...oh wait. no.

4. One of my friends teammates (who i've never met) asked me after their game, "Hey did you take a test today?" do you know that? Who are you? "You sat by me and I remember because you are wearing a hat and girls don't wear hats." Oh...well actually I am in fact a girl and I am in fact wearing a this is awkward....

3. I was walking across campus minding my own business when a guy got my attention and asked, "Wait, did you want to talk to me?" (he asked it as if I had been trying to get his attention and he hadn't noticed, when really he was the one who got my attention). Well dang, how do you answer that one? I can't say no because that's rude, but I have nothing to say to him so if I say yes then what do I say? Tricky tricky. I ended up smoothly replying with an, "uh...what?"

2. I went over to one of my friends apartments and his roommate introduced himself, told me his name, and that he filed for bankruptcy. Again, I was left with a lack of response.

1. I ran into my brothers old companion at 7-11 one night. I hadn't seen him in about a year so it had been a while. We said hello and then he paused and asked, "So...did you go to your brothers wedding?"This is a bad enough question on its own, but the fact that it is now October and Gregg got married in January makes it even more funny. Yes, yes I did go.

Red Tie
My friend convinced his roommate (who I haven't met) that the fruit salad he brought to break the fast was made with sour cream. He wanted me to go and ask him about the sour cream fruit salad and see what he said about it, so I agreed. He told me it was the guy in the red tie behind us, so I meandered on over that way and stood next to him awkwardly waiting for him to finish his conversation with someone else. Well turns out there was more than one guy wearing a red tie standing behind us...that was embarrassing.

Mini Golf-Park Style
I went on a date one night where we went to play mini-golf, only we didn't go to Trafalga or any place like that...we went to a park at the mouth of the canyon. He had gone up earlier and dug little holes around the park and put paper cups in them and then stuck a glow stick in them as markers. We had to putt our way through the sand volleyball court, the playground, around the horseshoe pits, and down a hill. It was very creative and fun. I recommend this idea.

Welcome home Sister Jamie Sagers!!

Spent the weekend in California for a wedding and got to spend time with the Downs family.
Those kids crack me up! What a nice hat Zeb.

He put this headband on and asked me,
"Do I look beautiful?"

The sunrise on the drive home. Gorgeous. 
This little gal is such a cutie!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Happenings of my Life

So I don't really think that my life is all that interesting...but per request, I am going to continue telling stories of the random happenings that is my life.

Reading textbooks is not exactly one of my strengths in life. Quite frankly it's a huge struggle. So naturally i'm not going to want to pay top dollar for a bunch of books that I'm not actually going to read. Yet my darn conscience won't let me just not buy them; there is going to be one time in the semester that I'll need them...maybe...but what if I actually do need it...short story is I buy the books. One of my friends has three classes with me, so we decided to share books to save a bunch of money. I bought them (for great deals might I add) and then told him how much he owed me so he could pay me back. Simple enough yeah? He asked how I wanted to be paid, to which I responded "however, it doesn't matter to me". He said "How about quarters?" Ha funny...I wasn't about to take that sass so I told him that I actually only accept pennies and dimes. Okay good joke, goodnight, moving on. Well a few days later we are sitting in class and he pulls out this tub and plops it in my lap. $87 in pennies and dimes....sass came back to bite me. Darn. Thankfully he took it back and came back with reasonable bills, but for a minute there I thought I was stuck with a whole ton of pennies and dimes. I have to admit, he won that one.

It was just a typical day in history class; I came in, sat down, and started talking to my friends around me. I noticed a guy sitting by us was wearing a BYU soccer hoodie so I asked him if he was on the team. He said he was, to which I responded, "Wow, that's really cool! Great for you! Congratulations for being talented." Judging by the laughter that erupted from everyone around that was listening, I guess telling someone congratulations for being talented isn't a socially acceptable thing to say. My awkwardness strikes again. Gee dang it. I guess it wasn't too bad though because he is now my friend and the others are still willing to sit by me. (It's still undecided if this is because we are friends or they just like waiting to hear the next dumb bit of commentary I will throw out...either way I don't have to sit alone so no complaints.)

Creativity is part of my studies. As therapeutic recreation specialists we have to be able to think outside the box and adapt to various situations. In class we were doing an activity that demonstrated specific facilitation techniques. There are about 30 of us and we were all blindfolded. We had to find the rope in the middle of the room and untangle it. After that we had to form ourselves into a square. This is a little bit difficult when you can't see...we made what we thought was a square and said we were done. We did great! It was easily recognizable as a square, yay us. Then the professor said okay now I want you to perfect this square. We made a plan and put our blindfolds back on to put it into action. As we were about to start he added "oh yeah, and this time you can't talk" what? how are we supposed to do that? For the next few minutes you could hear coughs, moans, groans, squeaks, giggles, etc. We were trying to get each others attention without speaking but couldn't see what the moaner wanted us to do. It was pretty comical. Then out of the blue one of the guys in my class belts out "but can we sing?" I'm pretty sure half the people ended up on the floor laughing so hard they just collapsed. Our professor thought that sounded entertaining so he let us run with it. For the next few minutes we sung our way through improving our rope square. Let's just say there is a reason we are TR people and not music majors. But boy was that entertaining!

I went to check the mail and came back with only the paper filled with ads. I didn't want it, so as I walked past an apartment full of guys just sitting around I told them I got them something. I explained that I would sell it to them for a steal of a deal of only $1 and described the great specials inside and how much they would benefit from it. Their faces were skeptical as they laughed so I told that just because I like them I would even be willing to lower the price to 50 cents! Now that is a deal that you can't pass up! Amazingly enough they still didn't want it...I mean after a sales pitch like the one I gave they should have been fighting over it. So I went back to my apartment with ad still in hand. The problem of not wanting the ad was still present, so me and my roommate created a solution. They will thank us one day...

The sign says "In case you changed your mind, here are the  best ones..."

After one of the big storms our complex decided it wasn't worth it to clean the pool again...It glows in the dark...

I like to snack. That is a fact about me. It is a part of why I have been coined with the nickname of Fatty Natty for the past 2 years. (Don't worry, i'm not offended in the least by the name). But no shame, I will proudly eat my snacks and be happy about it. One day at work my boss was telling me something and then asked if there was anything else I needed. I jokingly told him not unless he had brownies or cookies hiding in his office. A few minutes later he reinforced the fact that he is an awesome boss when he came back with this and told me to enjoy...

If anyone tells you that you are too old to have craft time in class they are lying. I'm a senior in college and the first day of class we had craft time. It was fantastic. Here are the results.
*there was an actual point to the activity and we had a great lesson associated with case you were wondering.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Everything Imaginable

Apologies for taking so long to update with more stories. Updating my blog wasn't the first thing on my mind; I should have been better about it, but I wasn't. So, here are a million and one stories to make up for it. 

*Don't feel obligated to read them all at once, or ever. You can sit and read them all, read one or two a day, or just not read them. Your choice. 

Sights to See Around Ramapo
  • A child using a piece of grass to "floss" his teeth
  • A child making snowflakes out of tortillas while protesting against eating his meal
  • Super skinny 13 year old boy flexing and saying, "I'm ripped!"
  • A child telling me the fight started because "He was looking at me like I was the Statue of Liberty" --What?! What does that even mean?
  • Two boys in an intense argument. The debate...If Jesus can walk on water or not. 
  • All of the boys in my bunk making wishes that the buses will break down or a river overflow so that they have to stay at camp longer
  • My little man Juan beat boxing in the talent show. SOOOO good! And that isn't just me being biased, this kid has some serious talent!

One day we are all out having a great old time when out of nowhere the earth decided to mix things up a bit and it started raining like crazy. We had to run and try and find open spaces for our groups to hang out and continue their challenge period. The way it worked out I ended up sharing a open gym space with another mountain bunk (these are the 13-15 yr old behavioral boys with some autism mixed in) and the decision to play dodge ball for the last 15 minutes was made. 
Picture 10 or so teenage boys with behavioral problems throwing balls at each other, yelling, a few punches to the walls, counselors trying to clarify who is and isn't out, and basically just a lot of chaos and yelling. As this battle scene continues I start to hear opera playing in the background and try to figure out who brought in a radio and why in blue blazes they chose that station. After a speedy investigation I realize that it is in fact not a radio, but one of my kids with autism sitting against the back wall, stemming with a fork and a stick (which in his case meant twiddling them rapidly in the air while rocking back and forth) singing to himself. 
My two immediate reactions, 1) I couldn't stop laughing because he was singing opera in the background of dodgeball as balls slam the wall right next to him, and 2) I was amazed at how talented he was at opera. That as by far the best dodgeball period of the summer in my opinion. 

As mentioned above, some of the boys are full of compliments. The best part is that they are so genuine and sincere! They are so genuine that I still feel special every time even when I hear them go tell someone else basically the same thing right after. Some of the comments I received were unique though. A.K., the little sweetheart, always had some line up his sleeve when he saw me. Every time he would see me he would tell me I have really pretty blue eyes, and that he loved my braid (usually followed by a stroke of the braid). A few were a little strange but brought a smile, such as telling me I looked like Rapunzel (because a long braid I had). 
Some, however, were a little questionable...he told the supervisor of his area, "Natalie's eyes sparkles in the moonlight" and gave me a huge grin. Me and the supervisor exchanged puzzled yet amused looks and then I asked A.K., "Have you ever seen my eyes in the moonlight A.K.?" He just smiled and that was that. Caught in the act of giving false compliments. I appreciate them anyway! My goal is to one day be able to be as genuine with my compliments as these sweet boys. They have also taught me to give compliments more frequent and openly. No shame in letting someone know why they are fabulous!

There we were sitting in a circle, a nice afternoon breeze blowing, birds chirping, children smiling after having finished a phenomenal challenge period. They were answering the reflection questions I was posing so well that I could hardly believe it. I looked around, presented the next question, and received the most powerful answer I received all summer. It was an eye-opening response indeed, bringing things to a whole new level. 
As soon as the words were out of my mouth, Jordan, a nonverbal low-ish functioning camper who was sitting next to me, contorted his body and sneezed a sneeze like I have neither hear nor seen before in my life. This explosion sparkled in the air as it erupted in my face, ricocheted off my face onto my arm, and dripped onto the grass beneath me. 
After a moment of complete and utter shock from the entire group (at least those high enough functioning to understand what just happened), I looked at Jordan who had his ever present grin on his face, said a few words to wrap up the discussion, excused myself, and walked to the bathroom to clean myself up while the others rolled around on the ground laughing their heads off. 
In a sad attempt to console me, the other counselors assured me that they have never seen anything like that before and didn't even know sneezes like that were possible. Yes, thank you, I was able to gather that on my own the moment a wall of snot slapped my face. This physical phenomenon is one that I will probably never forget, and wouldn't be too heartbroken if I never saw again. 

Every night before bed we had bunk meeting. This consisted of everyone in the bunk gathering in a circle on the floor, reading the schedule for the next day, and taking turns telling our high for the day and hope for the next day while eating a cookie with some milk. One of my campers was always interrupting with random and absurd comments that we had to either ignore or redirect because they would get the others either laughing or arguing. 
One bunk meeting as I was reading the schedule he declared, " I found a tooth!". Really? Where would he get a tooth from? Ridiculous. Yet it honestly wasn't that out of place so ignored him and continued. Within seconds he interrupted again to tell us again that he had found a tooth on the floor. This time I said some passing remark to address it without even looking up and kept going. After stating for a third time that he had a tooth I looked up to find that he actually, in fact, did find a tooth and was proudly waving it in the air. What?! How did that get there?! I'm pretty sure all my campers from the previous session left with all the teeth they came with...
After finishing bunk meeting I had to convince my camper that the tooth fairy only brings money to you if it is your tooth, so it really wasn't a good idea to put it under his pillow for the tooth fairy. This kids is 13...I mean I know he has autism, but he was brilliant and could tell me everything about anything I asked about (or things I didn't) including atoms and molecules and all that stuff. How did he miss the part where the tooth fairy isn't real? I finally convinced him to hand over the tooth and threw it out while he wasn't looking. 
I'm still baffled as to where that tooth came from, and find it ironic that C.J., off all the kids, was the one to find it. It was kind of like the boy who cried wolf story, except that part where the boy learns his lesson about tricking people and saying ridiculous things, that didn't change. 

Meal times were always interesting times that definitely kept me on my toes. One afternoon at lunch my coworker excused herself to go use the restroom, leaving me alone with the 4 kids at our table. As soon as she was out of sight one of my campers turns to me as enthusiastically says, "Okay! Lets girl talk!". I was so caught off guard that all I could do was stare at him for a moment. The best response I could muster up was, "what?".  He responded with, "you know, like sharing secrets and giggling and all that stuff". I still had no response for him besides laughter. I do have to admit it was a funny joke, but too bad he chose to ask this girl to "girl talk"...I don't think I've ever really known how to do that. Maybe I'll learn how and we can girl talk another day Juan. Maybe... 

I like to do little drawings of random things. I drew on the back of my clipboard and some of the campers noticed. One of my boys asked if I could draw him something, so I figured out what he liked and drew him a picture of Bugs Bunny with his name on it. The next thing I knew he had sweet talked me into drawing him two more pictures except he wanted different names on them. He made specific requests and told me what names to put on each. Come to find out he wanted those for his mom and a sister. Well come to find out again he has four brothers and two sisters...that meant a lot of drawing for me in a short amount of time. But I couldn't say no after I had drawn one for some of the siblings but not all. The little sneak! In exchange I asked him to draw me some pictures and got a few gems. Between that and his pure excitement to give those to his family it turned out to be a fair trade. He even included a bonus poem for free! It reads;
Roses are red
Violets are blue
God made me handsome 
and He made you pretty too

One of my campers would talk about how pretty one of the girls on the dining hall staff was and how much he wanted to tell her that but was too scared. I didn't see the harm in him telling her she was pretty, so I would tease him and encouraged him to tell her whenever he would bring it up. He was so nervous though and couldn't bring himself to do it. He just kept saying, " I can't! I can't! I'm too nervous!" The solution? He needed to practice. So at lunch one day I told him, "Nelson, if you want to build up your confidence you should practice. Okay, so lets practice right now." He started nodding in agreement until he heard the rest of my sentence, which was, "Tell Jon how pretty he is". Jon was my co-counselor in the bunk who sat across the table. The look on Jon's face was priceless. Nelson laughed and laughed, but then he realized I was serious. I wasn't going to have him practice on me, so who better to practice on than Jon? Let's just say that that was one of the most entertaining lunches I ate in that dining hall. Nelson practiced telling Jon how pretty he is, and Jon pretended to act like a girl. Classic!

Some of these children lack a wonderful quality called tact. They say what is on their mind, which quite often should stay in their minds rather than be released to the public. I definitely heard plenty of instant enemy comments, but lucky for them I don't get offended and realized that I was working at a camp for special needs and behavior problems (AKA big lack in social skills is not uncommon) which meant it just supplied a good many laughs for me. 
For example, one night as I was getting the troops ready for bed and making sure they all brushed their teeth one of my campers announced, "Natalie, you're like a man in a woman's body!" What? Excuse me? He clarified by saying, "Yeah, because you have fun with us and play but also don't put up with our crap and say things like 'what did you say?' 'Do we have a problem here?' and when we are causing problems you are like 'Get up, were going outside. Now.' and things like that". 
I made the mistake of asking him why women can't say things like that which led to a slew of comments about how women are not strong and should listen to what men say and take orders from men instead of giving them, blah blah blah. I took that opportunity to remind him that the "men" I was giving orders to were 13 years old and my campers who I had responsibility over, as well as to let him in on some insight about how to treat women. Let just say we had a nice chat and after that his views of women were significantly improved and he had a chance to clarify what he had originally meant as a compliment. 

Western day roles around, so naturally I dawn my belt buckle and braid my hair into two braids instead of the usual one down my back. What I wasn't anticipating was the personal pet that I would gain that day. Tragedy struck in high ropes and my hair got caught in the ATC (the belay device hooked to my harness which makes it possible to hold the climber in the air and lower them slowly to the ground). I held on with one hand to my hair, maneuvered the rope and lowered the climber with the other. Once the climber was safely on the ground I unclipped, freed my hair, and looked at the damage. The end of my braid had basically been burned off and was now a fuzzy poof ball. It looked and felt like a little animal on my head, so for the rest of the day I had a personal pet dangling from my head. With a lot of conditioner it isn't fuzzy anymore, but I'll be getting a hair cut when I get home to even things out...

Night time routine can be a very difficult time. Some of these teenage boys aren't used to going to bed that early and especially not in a foreign place with a bunch of friends around. This sessions night time routines were very different from the previous two for my bunk. Early in the session one of my campers who acted all tough called me over to his bed. I was expecting him to ask me to turn on the fan, or get him a cookie, or something like that. Instead he caught me off guard by asking for a story. Huh? Like a bedtime story? don't really know any stories...He then told me it didn't matter, I should just make one up about anything and it didn't matter if it was any good. Well that wasn't happening; my creativity in that sense is pathetic. So I stumbled my way through Little Red Riding Hood (which I told completely wrong), said goodnight, and sat back down. The next night he asked for another, so I blundered through Goldilocks and the Three Bears. The following night I made up a new version of Jack and the Beanstalk. Oddly enough he actually liked my butchered stories and kept asking for more and more. Another camper picked up on the story telling business going on and wanted his share of stories as well. The night routine morphed into getting the kids into bed then I made the rounds and told bedtimes stories to the campers until either I got checked out or they fell asleep.
One night, after finishing a story, one of my campers asked me, "do you have kids?". I was confused, chuckled, and said no. He responded by saying, "Oh, well I thought maybe you did because you tell stories." He paused for a second then said, "Your kids are going to be really lucky. Thank you. Goodnight Natalie."
Good thing the lights were off so he couldn't see me tearing up. As rough and tough as these boys are, they all have a soft spot and really just need to be loved. Who knew that a bunch of 13-14 year old boys would love bedtime stories so much? I didn't anticipate this new routine, but it was my pleasure to tell them a story or two each night to help them fall asleep.

For some of the campers just putting on a harness in high ropes is a huge accomplishment. For others it is taking one step on the ladder then coming down, halfway up, or all the way. One camper that I was really close with never climbed in high ropes. Low ropes terrified him, and that is a foot off the ground. The last high ropes period of the summer was a big combined TLP climb of the sunshine tower. This is a climb that you cannot complete by yourself, you must use your partners to reach the top.
 As usual, AK was not planning on climbing, and for the first hour told me no, no, no, he was too scared. I readjusted our goal, promised I would be with him the whole time, and finally he agreed to climb! He was so excited about it and could hardly wait to get in a harness! I couldn't believe what was happening!! I hurried and got him into a harness and then got him tied into the rope. He told me he was very scared, but wanted to try anyways.
We started climbing and together, even through his intense fear and wanting to turn back, we reached the first platform, which was our goal. He gave my hand a big squeeze and then got down as fast as he could. He was beaming! I couldn't have been more proud of him! As we walked out of the woods at the end of the period he came up to me and told me that his high of the whole session was climbing with me and reaching our goal together. It was an amazing accomplishment for AK, and definitely one of my highs of the summer.

Some of these boys are smooth. Or so they think...One day after a fabulous challenge period with my favorite TLP (older boys with special needs but still typically a little higher functioning) we were chilling and talking for a minute before they headed off for their next activity. They started asking me what I like to do outside of camp which turned into really random questions that I had no idea how to answer except with laughter. Then out of the blue one of them asked if I was getting married. some point yes. They sure ran with that answer! They declared that they needed to find me a "Mr. Sagers" and started describing what my "Mr. Sagers" would be like. 
Fortunately for me, I don't have to marry who they described, because their idea of an ideal man for me isn't quite what I have in mind ha. Anyways, after quite a few descriptions of my future man, Josh, one of the boys, turned to me, looked me right in the eyes, and said "I could be your Mr. Sagers" and then smiled real big and sheepishly looked away. The others got all excited and started cheering and saying they could be my "Mr. Sagers" as well. They counted the age gap between us and tried to convince me that it wasn't that bad, just 5 years is all. Ha you sly dog Josh! Nice try, I'm flattered, but no go on that one.

I got pretty close with one of the teenage boys in a neighboring bunk and he would try to come and find me to spend time with me whenever he could. After a while he told me that I am like an older sister to him. He asked if it was okay if he called me sister, to which I responded, "only if I can call you brother". From then on whenever he would see me he would yell out "SISTER!!" and come running up and we would do our little secret handshake. He became very protective of me, and tried to spend as much time with me as he could. I know these kids bond with a lot of the counselors, but it was neat to have this connection and it made me smile every time he would call out sister and come running. 

One of the sunsets...its casual.

My very own personal pet. This picture doesn't really do it justice, but it's better than nothing

The back of my clipboard that sparked the drawings for my camper and his entire family.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A pictures worth a thousand words...

Booyah the computer is working! Here are some more pictures to help you understand what i'm talking about more. ** I am not allowed to post any pictures with campers in them...I know that's what you want to see, but I can't. Sorry.

Also, I guess I didn't do a good enough job with my last shout out, so I'll try that again...Shout out to Jake Morris for being the best! And more specifically all of the mountain counselors and the challenge team!! I hope everyone is pleased with the specificity :)

Two stories and then pictures!

Also disclaimer...if the stories sound harsh or like i'm laughing at the children, I'm not! I love these kids! They are just ridiculous and the situations are so funny that I laugh at that, not at the kids...

Twin Day!
Every day at camp we have a theme. Some days it is pirate day, twin day, tye-dye fridye, choose your tude tuesday, hat day, superhero day, etc. Well on twin day me and Sarah decided to be team Utah twins, so we wore our similar clothes. This meant we wore red basketball shorts, a white v-neck t-shirt, hat on backwards, hair in a braid, and even similar tennis shoes with tall black socks. Don't worry, we had comfort and a sweet look. Boom baby. Well I got to my bunk that morning to wake up my campers and two of the boys saw me, realized it was twin day, and ran to go find their red shorts and white shirts. They had to wait for the laundry to come back for their shorts, and all day long they kept asking "is it back yet?!" Finally when it arrived they dumped out the bag and changed immediately. They put on hats backwards (one asked if he could borrow one of my extra hats) and even tied their shoes to match how I tie mine. Then they told me they were going to go buy ice cream with their ramabucks (paper money they earn as a reward for being well behaved) but came back with gold beads instead saying, "We tricked you! We got beads for us so we can be extra twins!" then they put on their beads and handed me the extra set they had bought for me. So adorable! I was so lucky, I got to have 3 twins for twin day, and they made sure everyone at camp knew that we were twins. I love these boys! 

You Never Know
You never know what someone is dealing with. You never know what is going on inside. You never know why they are behaving the way they are. One of my campers, a thirteen year old boy who has recently started intimidating the other campers and causing problems in the bunk, had a rough night last night. He was doing great, and then out of no where started acting up and causing problems. He ended up having to leave the bunk for a while until he could calm down and behave. When he came back in it was time for bed so all the kids were laying in bed with the lights off. I heard him calling my name, so I walked over to his bed and he asked if I could go outside and talk with him. As soon as we got outside and sat down on the bench he gave me a big hug and started sobbing into my arm. Turns out he was acting out because he really misses his mom. He wants nothing more than to get a letter from her, but there is no way I can promise that she will write. It broke my heart to see him so sad! We had a nice talk, cried together for a little bit, I tried to cheer him up, and then we went back in and he went to sleep. Poor kid, he just misses his mom and doesn't know how to handle that. You never know what is going on, so be careful not to assume things and judge. 


This is my lovely walk from my cabin to the bunk I work with and to challenge every day.  Love it!

Oh what a nice grassy area...This is where I play games with the kids at challenge

Bed bugs....not a fan! Cabin heated, bugs gone, moving on.

Welcome to the Challenge Shack. This is the challenge teams office, fun stuff all around.

This is the staff hang out works

Staff hang out quarters angle two

Lake front. Looks amazing yeah?
This is the bunk I work in. Each side is a separate bunk, with 6 kids on each side.
The middle room that divides the bunks is for staff to store things. 

Inside the bunk where I work
Where I live. Hello Sarah.

Postman! We lower that rope ladder a bit and then they climb up the rope ladder and then there are two wires hanging that they cross. They stand on the lower one and hold on to the higher one and side step their way across. 

Pamper Pole! Climb up the post, stand on the platform, jump and touch the ball hanging. Fun!

Giant's Ladder! We lower the logs and the goal is to climb up to the top. This is a partner climb, and is really difficult because each rung gets further and further apart. I could barely reach after the first two ha.
Me and Sarah beasting the indoor giants ladder

I love my job. In between sessions I get to climb and have fun :)

The Nitro! Low ropes course where the team has to start on one box and swing everyone onto another box. Then we usually create a code of how many people we want on each  box and they need to figure it out. 


Monday, July 15, 2013

Just Another Day at Ramapo

Time off is very limited, so updating my blog gets forgotten a lot. My apologies. Here are more stories from the last two weeks...

First I need to give a shout out to my  coworkers. They are AMAZING! I definitely would not be able to keep my sanity without them. I am constantly impressed and inspired by conversations I hear between them and the kids and also the solid encouragement everyone gives each other. These people are the best!

One of the more popular games we play with out kids is called steal the chicken. One person stands in a hula hoop with a rubber chicken on the ground that they are protecting. The other kids are trying to steal the chicken without getting tagged. If they get tagged they run back and get a high five then continue trying to steal the chicken, but if they can successfully steal the chicken then they are in the middle guarding the chicken. One of my kids was playing with a rope one day while we were playing this game and was choosing to sit out, which wasn't like him. After a while he decided to join the game and starting trying to steal the chicken. He had come up with a different strategy, however, and had created a make-shift lasso out of his rope and was trying to lasso the chicken and drag it out. GENIUS! If only he knew how to make a lasso....his rope circle wasn't quite successful, but it was a great idea. Smart kid.

Say what?!
Some of our campers are a little on the strange side. One in particular, Andrea, is absolutely nuts. I cannot stop laughing when I am around him because he says and does the most ridiculous things! Yet at the same time I prefer to keep my distance because he isn't very fond of the world. He absolutely hates a lot of noise, especially crying. One night, as we were doing our minute of silence before entering the bunk, we heard a cry off in the distance and out of no where Andrea shouts (in a nasal Japanese accented voice) "KILL THEM!" What?? It was so random that I couldn't stop laughing. At another occasion he was talking about starting a genocide at the camp. He has also asked about multiple peoples allergies so that he can poison them...this kids has some issues. (He has not acted on those death plots, so don't worry). When he isn't talking about killing everyone, he is singing "Baby" by Justin Bieber. This one is still a mystery to me.

Don't Mess
So one day Andrea (the kids I was just talking about) decided he was upset and then he decided he wanted to tear apart one of the balls we were playing with. He got to sit on a crate and be silent for a little to think about what he did. Well after a little bit he decided he didn't want to stay on the crate anymore; he decided, instead, to run at me and throw his elbow into my back. One major factor that he didn't think through (besides everything else that is logical) before attacking me was the fact that all the other mountain boys were playing a game with me and don't take lightly to people messing with me. They all dropped what they were doing immediately and starting chasing after him saying "He hit you!!  I'm going to beat the *** out of him! He hit you!!" So I then had to chase all the other boys down and calm them down and convince them that if they wanted to help me they needed to come back to the soccer field and keep playing with me. It's nice to know they have my back though :) These boys wont let anyone mess with me, I have my own little team of body guards.

Sneak Attack
One of my campers with Autism was telling me a story at dinner one night. This was a grand old story about a princess locked in a tower with a forest surrounding it. Then one day there was a gallant prince...he paused the story to say "I know! I am the gallant prince!"...okay Will, you can be the prince ha. The prince cut down all the trees in the forest and rescued the princess from the tower. Then he gave her a kiss! *At this point in the story he lunged at me and tried to kiss me...uh nope that's not happening! The little sneak! He ended up kissing my shoulder as I dodged his advances and told him he is not kissing me right now. He then replied "but I just did!" with a big grin on his face. What a story Will....I think i'm going to get him to tell it to another counselor and see what happens ha.

TLP Transfer
The TLP boys are the older boys with special needs, but they are a bit higher functioning and have a little bit more responsibilities around camp. I LOVE these boys! They are hilarious! Every time I see them around camp they always get really excited and wave and say "Hi Natalie! How are you?! Do I get to come to challenge with you today?!?" They are the best! One of the boys told me the other day that when third session comes I need to "switch to TLP from the mountain because I would be perfect in TLP and we want to see you every day!" These kids just know what to say sometimes to make my day!

Endless Entertainment!
JD, one of the most enthusiastic campers here, came to high ropes with me the other day. He always greets me by saying "Natalie I'm so excited to see you! Smile for me Natalie, I'm so excited Natalie". He is great! So he is really scared of heights, but decided he wanted to climb anyways. He got to the top of the pole and stepped on the wire to walk across (with ropes hanging that you hold onto to make your way across) and immediately started yelling "Oh sweet mother molasses!! Where are you Natalie? I can't die like this! Don't let me die like this!! Sweet mother molasses! Sweet mother molasses!! Natalie are you smiling?" I was laughing so hard I was crying! Then when he would take a step towards the next rope (still being about 4 steps away) he would hold out his hand and try to summon the rope using his Spiderman powers. Well...that's not quite going to work out for you bud, but nice try! He tried to spiderman the rope to him every time, and every time I died laughing! Such a funny guy!

Pause the story
One of my campers was struggling to listen at night when we were putting them all to bed. He needed to put something away before he could go to sleep but didn't want to give it up. Because it was a safety issue we couldn't just let it slide. He was laying face down on his bed with his face in his pillow and would not listen to a word any of the counselors said. I walked over there to see if I could help and heard him mumble something about watching his monster show. I had no idea what he was talking about, but decided to try something. I asked him is he could pause his show for a second so we could talk. He then lifted his head up, gave a powerful poke to his pillow, looked at me, and said "okay what?". That really worked?? You've got to be kidding me! So I started talking to him and explaining why he needed to give me the small chew toy, and every time he got bored with what I was saying he would poke his pillow and put his head back down. I had to keep reminding him to pause his show because we weren't done talking yet. He would lift his head back up, poke his pillow, and continue listening. Apparently he was convinced he was really watching a show in his pillow...well good for him if he has that good of an imagination! And thank goodness there was a pause button on that pillow!
One of my campers returned to join our bunk during breakfast after being in the health center. In one fluid train of sentences he said, "Oops, I forgot to shower! *takes one bite of food and looks at something for a second* What is that smell??" Uh...that's you man! You just told me how you didn't shower and then asked me what smells bad....nice.

During the talent show that the counselors put on for the kids to show them ideas for appropriate acts and to get them pumped for the camper talent show that follows a week or so later, one of the music counselors played a piece on her bassoon. One of the mountain boys who has autism but is higher functioning for the most part pulled his shirt over his head trying to cover his ears and started shouting " I don't want to hear it!! I don't want to hear it! It sounds bad!" While the other counselors were trying desperately to get him to be quiet I was trying my best to get my campers to stop laughing while trying to control my own laughter. Awful audience etiquette, but dang was that hilarious!!

**I took  more picture of camp, but unfortunately the computers are having technical difficulties and I am not able to upload them from my phone at this time. Gee dang it. I'll post them once I get that figured out.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Story Time!

Alright, so now that I've given an overview of camp, I can begin telling the great stories!!

Charlie the Chicken
In one of the group I facilitate for there are a few boys about 16-17 years old with autism. They are fairly low functioning and less verbal. I taught them a game called Charlie the Chicken where you stand in a circle and pass the chicken behind your back while singing "Charlie the chicken, keep it moving, keep it moving" over and over again and the person in the middle tries to figure out who has the chicken. The game is a struggle with this group, but they love it! These boys are adorable, and now whenever they see me anywhere around camp they get super excited and start singing "Charlie the chicken keep it moving keep it moving" and dancing. You can barely understand what they are saying, but to me it sounds beautiful.

Treasure Hunt
With each group that comes to challenge I make an FVC (full value contract) which includes their expectations while at challenge and what they want to work on improving. Most groups include following directions, listening, being respectful, teamwork, etc. For my mountain boys we are focusing on following directions, so I drew a treasure map and pulled it out the next time they came to challenge. They are supposed to follow my directions (which includes listening, paying attention, and participating) in order to follow the map and make it to the big X which is high ropes, and ultimately good behavior. They LOVED it! I couldn't believe how much they actually liked it and how effective it is! Every time I talk about the map they all pay attention and start listening because they want to continue on to high ropes so badly. Success :)

...Days until....
My man James. He is the best! He is about 17 years old and is lower functioning, but is fairly verbal. His favorite thing to do is count the days. He counts how many days he has left at camp at least 10 times for me during each challenge period. He follows the same script every time and cannot be interrupted in the middle. The script goes like this:
one, two, three, four, five, six... (counting the days on his fingers until he reaches the right amount of days left) days until....pauses until I respond (my response underlined) until what?...until mom comes on the....on what day?...on the....on the 5th (if I get it wrong he says no until I get it right)...what?...the 5th...excuse me? what?...the 5th...yeah. and takes me....where will she take you?...home! and then I go to the shore for....for how long?...for 3 weeks! and then....and then what?...and then I come home on the 27th. and then...then what James?...then I go to New Hampshire...who is in New Hampshire?...Grandpa!!
This gets repeated word for word time and time again. The only thing that changes is the number of days until mom comes. Its hilarious!!

Free Fall
On a different note, there are many crazy things that happen here. Such as one of my campers being bored and frustrated (while I was dealing with another issue and who knows where the other counselors were) and deciding that it would be a good idea to jump off the deck...well that is a 12 ft drop. What the? why is that a good idea?? consequences followed that action. Luckily he didn't injure himself!

Oh really? Haven't heard that one before...
Nathan. Good old Nathan. Love the kid, but its a struggle. He is the camper that sits next to me at meals and drools all over the place and spills half the food he tries to eat. (I love shower time every night!) He has an obsession with crushing the milk cartons, so I have to take them away. Somehow he manages to still find them and has started sitting on them. Why? because he wanted to...who knows. Anyways, another obsession of his is history, planes, and boats. I have heard the story of the titanic at least 100 times this week. I don't know if he forgets that he told me already, or if he just thinks I would benefit from hearing it again, but either way he feels the need to tell me about it every chance he gets. So if any of you want to know more about the titanic, come to this girl! I know ALL about it.

Ahoy Matey
One of the low ropes elements is called the whale watch. It is a big plank of boards that is balanced in the middle. The challenges we give them will vary, but ultimately they are to balance the whole team on the board in various locations without it touching the ground. We call it our ship and they must ask the captain (me) if they may enter my ship before getting on. This is a fun and effective way to make sure no one is getting their toes smashed and keeping order. Dylan, a 12 year old boy with special needs, was in one of my groups this last week. He has a super high pitched voice and is a space cadet. He is wanders, talks to himself, and comes up with the most hilarious things to say. When it was his turn to get on the 'ship' he approached and I asked him "okay dylan, what do you ask me?" and he looks at me for a second, then happily says "Ahoy Matey!" haha well after I stopped laughing I responded and he then proceeded to tell me how much he likes my ship in pirate language. Finally he told me he would like to enter the ship, and that was close enough so I let him on.

A few of the harder kids at camp have been struggling with behaving (big surprise) so I decided to use a little trickery. I told them that I would write them a note, but I would only give it to them if they wrote me a note in exchange. This has two purposes, one it is creating a bond with the kid, and two it keeps them occupied and quiet for a little. I was expecting goofy notes and was honestly expecting them to have inappropriate content. Well to my surprise, they weren't like that at all! They surprised me and told me that they wished they could spend more time with me and how much they liked challenge with me. It was heart warming. One of the notes (picture below) was just one line, but it needed no more. Precious moments!

Dear Natili
You are my best friend

Is That Even Possible?
One morning began a little different than the rest. One of our 11 year old campers who is nonverbal and has a problem scratching, biting, and pinching when he gets upset (so you keep your distance) got a little frustrated while using the bathroom. This is what I found.

I didn't even know that was possible!!! I envisioned him karate kicking the toilet and it shattering or something. It was terrifying, but at the same time I couldn't stop laughing! That's kind of how things go here, its so ridiculous that its comical! What actually happened was he yanked the toilet off the wall and the lid of the tank fell forward landing on the perfect spot on the seat to shatter the bowl. Incredible!

Vampire or Not?
Ivan. My man Ivan. He is one of the most difficult campers here at camp. He is also in my bunk. He has a reputation...when I arrived I heard all the returners saying " oh Ivan is coming back?? good luck to his counselors" and stuff like that. He is a 14 year old challenge. He has a raspy voice that is incapable of being anything less than a yell. Well lucky me, I get to work with Ivan one on one because he wont respond to anyone but me. As the days progress I learn he has his heart set on marrying me, and is constantly telling me I am the prettiest counselor at camp and that I have very pretty eyes. He is adorable. But also a pain. One day he randomly handed me a piece of paper and said I needed to take the quiz and return it to him. Part two followed the next day. The quiz was to find out if I am a vampire or not...Here are the questions:

Have you noticed you have sharp teeth?
Do you eat people and/or meat a lot?
Do you like garlic?
Do you go to church?
Do you love the dark more than the light?
Have you ever killed someone? Don't lie
Have you ever had blood before?
Do you like crosses?
Do you love black and red?
Do you like bats/are you one?
Can you fly/teleport?
How old are you?
Do you know you are pale?

Off topic questions:
Has any boy ever told you that you are pretty?
Do you love me?

The results............I am a vampire human!! He is convinced I am a vampire ha! Oh these kids, gotta love 'em.