Thursday, May 10, 2012

El Cajon Daddy Reports on Camp Marston's Family Fun Day 2012

(Note: This is a guest post by El Cajon Daddy!)

I have to admit that I was feeling really lazy when I awoke this past Sunday. It had been a long work week, we had been out late at the drive-in movie theater the night before (The Avengers was awesome!), and I just wanted to turn over and return to my slumber. But then I remembered something: We were going to YMCA's Camp Marston for Family Fun Day--an open house of sorts that allows families to explore all of the wonderful activities the camp has to offer to kids and teens during the summer. I drank a couple cups of coffee to wake up then got ready to head out with El Cajon Mama and the kids.

As we made the hour-or-so drive to Camp Marston, the familiar sights along the way quickly brought back wonderful memories of our family's time together at Halloween Family Camp the past few years. Halloween won't ever seem the same unless we are shooting arrows on the archery range, canoeing out on Lake Jessop, and taking hikes with Program Director (and all-around good guy) Simon Hansen. Halloween Camp is something we now eagerly look forward to each year, and the inviting atmosphere and friendly staff members have always made us feel like we are a part of the Camp Marston family.



The first thing we saw after signing in were delicious cookies compliments of Camp Marston's stellar kitchen crew. The food at camp is so good! After helping ourselves to a treat (or two... or three), we hurried on to the archery range at our son's eager request.


We passed by the camp's famous juggernaut of a climbing wall. However, given our son's urgency to get his hands on a bow and arrows, there was no time to dilly-dally. Besides, given that we had just filled our tummies with cookies, it was probably a good idea we chose to skip the wall for the day. I have a feeling El Cajon Mama will scale to the top this upcoming Halloween--something she's done for two years running.


The path to the archery range took us over a cute little wooden bridge under the shady cover of trees. Our daughter was so happy to see acorns scattered about at every turn, and she slowed down our progress because she kept stopping to pick them up. The wonder children see in the world is amazing.


Ah! Ye Olde Quiver & Bow. We made it at last! After listening to directions from the staff member overseeing the archery area (safety first!), we grabbed a couple bows and started launching volleys of arrows toward the targets.


Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating a little with that "volley of arrows" description. But our son managed to hit the target a couple times, which was a big success for him! He insisted on doing it all on his own, too, so even though the process of loading an arrow, aiming, and firing away was a bit arduous, it was quite an accomplishment when he was able to nail the target--even if it wasn't anywhere close to being a bullseye.


After we had our fill of archery, we headed over to Lake Jessop to do some canoeing. It was such a lovely day that we took our time and paddled around the lake multiple times. There was one moment when I thought we were going to tip because both kids shifted their weight at the same time, but thankfully we made it back to the dock with nary a drip of water on us.


One of the coolest new additions to Camp Marston since the last time we visited is a slingshot range where you can fire paintballs at targets. If you weren't careful and pinched your painball too tightly, it would explode as you released it. I saw a couple kids get splattered with paint, but I'm happy to report we remained unscathed.


We walked around the lake before heading back to the main camp area. Our son got "in trouble" (okay, he wasn't in that much trouble) for throwing rocks and twigs into the water.


Plenty of bugs were out and about, and the kids wanted to stop to take a close look at some very neat-looking beetles we came across. Our son also wanted to bring a "really cool" pillbug home with us, but we explained to him that the little guy would probably be sad to leave his home at Camp Marston and we should let him go.


My wife isn't a fan of tetherball, but that's likely because she's rather short. For those of us who fell into the "tall kids" category in elementary school, tetherball was one game in which our height definitely gave us an advantage. Short people just can't compete when it comes to playing against tall folks. I witnessed a fellow dad quickly claim victory over his son in a "friendly" game of tetherball, which is no surprise given that he had a good couple of feet on the kid. I decided not to dish out the same type of humiliation for my boy, so I let him enjoy playing tetherball on his own. He mainly did karate chops as the ball came toward him. Hi-yah!


There is a small wading pool of sorts near the climbing wall that our kids fell in love with because they were able to play with toy boats. You would think that something so similar to their usual bathtime activities wouldn't be so exciting, but racing those little boats around may have been their favorite thing at Family Fun Day. It's like when kids get an amazing toy for Christmas and just want to play with the box. Oh, and speaking of bathtime, our daughter almost took a spill into the pool on a couple occasions as she reached for the boats, but we caught her in time. One of the other kids wasn't so lucky, and he was thoroughly soaked after taking an unexpected dip into the little pool.


As for my favorite activity of the day, the award goes to making s'mores! What's camp without s'mores, right? Roasting marshmallows is always fun, but when you couple them with graham crackers and chocolate, the result is nothing but bliss. Yummy!


The afternoon wore on very quickly, obviously because we were having such a nice time. We decided to burn off some energy (and s'mores calories) by kicking a ball around on the camp's lower field. I had a good indication that my son was getting tired when he lost the ability to kick the ball all the way to me, so we decided to call it a day and head home. We bid Camp Marston farewell and hopped in our car so as to hit the road.

As we were driving away, our son and daughter both waved goodbye. We asked them if they were looking forward to returning at Halloween and they both answered with an affirmative. Within minutes the two of them were sleeping, surely dreaming of the happy afternoon they had enjoyed at Family Fun Day. Thank you to Camp Marston for hosting such a wonderful event!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Family Fun Day: Camping With YMCA

Life has been hectic and stressful for quite a stretch now. It's been hard just keeping up with the simple things in life. For instance, I'm proud that this weekend, my husband and I barely caught up (for once) with the constantly growing mountain of dishes and laundry in our home.

Sadly, we are already getting behind on those chores all over again. Thus, as you can surely imagine, I haven't had time to do much of anything non-work related, which definitely includes blogging. The thing is, even though I haven't been blogging, I have been thinking about it and how I miss it.

So, here I am. I am happy to say I've gotten a nice kick in the rear inspiring me to post something new at long last, and that kick came in the form an invitation to YMCA's "Family Fun Day" on May 6th. This free event for San Diego families will give children and parents a taste of the "Overnight Camp" experience.

Taking place at Camp Marston, one of the Y's three Overnight Camp locations, your family can spend the afternoon together, trying out many of the fun activities that the camps have to offer. Below are the details in case anyone else is interested in making the trip out to Julian:

     When: May 6th, 1:00-4:00 pm
     Where: YMCA Camp Marston, 4761 Pinehills Road, Julian
     RSVP to: Darin Borgstadter, dborg@ymca.org
     Website: http://camp.ymca.org/

Let me be clear in saying that I wouldn't be excited about sharing info about Camp Marston unless I had good reason, and that reason is that I love it!

For the past three years now, my family has attended the YMCA Halloween Family Camp, which is also held at Camp Marston. Family Camp is a little bit different from the Overnight Camp experience, because rather than just children attending, whole families can participate with people of any age.

My husband and I first took our son to Family Camp when he was two years old. That first year, he  was obviously too young to participate in some of the events like climbing the tower or doing archery, but we still had a blast just enjoying time outdoors and as a family.

The second year we attended, our son was big enough to try out archery with some assistance. He wasn't very good at it, but he still had a good time trying.

And, this past year when we attended for the third year in a row, our son was able to do everything, including attempting rock wall climbing and BB rifle shooting. His favorite activity is definitely archery, though, and he was sure to let us know he didn't need any of our help.

Just as we've seen our son grow more independent with each passing year at Family Camp, I am sure that he will be very excited and ready to participate in Overnight Camp as soon as he's old enough. Scroll down to see some pictures from our past years at the Camp Marston.

YEAR ONE:
When my son was two, we spent a lot of time just exploring the grounds.

He was enamored with pulling a boat around and around and around this little pond.

Group hikes are always lots of fun.

I have a friend that says, "A family that camps together stays together." I agree!

Discovering rocks along the trail.

Our "city boy" son enjoys nature.

YEAR TWO:

A camp counselor helps our son try out archery for the first time.

The counselors are all top notch, by the way.

Safety comes first! The kids learn all of the proper safety rules.

This year we had a new hiking companion: our daughter!

Exploring was twice as fun with two times the kids.

YEAR THREE:
The cafeteria food is great! No joke!

Our son thinks the bunk beds are the coolest.

Our son made a new friend with a cabin mate!

Our daughter enjoyed some mancala in the game room.

We tried canoeing for the first time. All aboard!

Archery is our son's favorite activity.

He wants to do it all on his own!

Archery is also one of Daddy's favorite activities.

Our daughter couldn't do archery yet, and so she blew bubbles instead.

Our son on the range!

Ready to check out his target.

Grandma even joined us this year. Here she's walking our daughter to the cafeteria.

Grandma even attempted to climb the Tower!

Our son made it pretty far this year, but he already can't wait to see how far he makes it next year.

El Cajon Mama made it to the top for the second year in a row!