Friday, 25 July 2008

Sisterhood in Guiding

Remember I told you I was taking 2 other leaders, 11 Brownies and 1 Guide to the Science Museum in London for a Brownie and Guide sleepover?

Now forget that for a moment.

My darling husband surprised me this weekend just gone with tickets for Leonard Cohen's fantastically-reviewed tour, which we couldn't get tickets for but then he added a single extra date at a venue very near us.

Oh, you've worked it out haven't you? Same night.

Husband and I haven't been to a concert for years (I'm thinking Diana Krall was the last one and that was well before our son was born) and both he and I really wanted to go.

So I drew up my options:
  1. Ask my DC (district commissioner) if she would take over since she also has an overnight licence.
  2. Ask the Guide Guider if she would take over as she has a camp licence which includes indoor overnight - but she did just help out Brownies by doing camp with us so she's already been really helpful to us this year.
  3. Go on the sleepover and send husband to the concert with a friend instead - harsh since he wanted me to go too.
  4. Cancel. If we cancel now we get all but 10% back of what we paid to go, and with Gift Aid, we could afford to wholly refund the parents. It's not like I don't do a lot for the girls already and this would be the first event cancelled in four years as a leader so not like I do it lightly.

Well, my DC has come up trumps and agreed to do it for me. I still have to do the paperwork and parent meeting so effectively all she has to do is turn up and be in charge on the day/night.

True Sisterhood in Guiding - I am so grateful that we can resolve this to let me do a family thing but still let the girls get their special event. I am aware that I will now owe one massive favour in return!

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Pussy cat, pussy cat, where have you been?

My Canadian Guider friend came to visit and despite never meeting before, we just spent 72 hours together!

Together with her nine year old daughter, she came to our house on Thursday afternoon. We collected her at our local station - she saw my son and daughter before I saw her and called their names; despite knowing they were going to collect her, they still looked stunned that this stranger knew their names.

They stayed at our house Thursday night then on Friday we went to the nearby abbey, same place as we went with the Brownies a couple of weeks ago (I should link but I am too tired, you can track it down my links if you really want to!). The kids had great fun swinging from trees and clambering everywhere.

Friday afternoon, my husband took over looking after our son and me, Canadian Guider and our two nine year old girls went to London.

We stayed at Baden Powell House on Friday night - very weird, it was exactly a year since I went there with our Brownies for the Harry Potter book launch, and not only that, we got put in exactly the same bedroom, so I slept in the same bed I slept in 366 days ago!

Saturday we packed in loads: Buckingham Palace, Girlguiding Commonwealth Head Quarters, riding a double-decker bus, Pax Lodge World Guiding Centre, Tower of London, Tower Bridge, then off to our next place for the night - a Youth Hostel. We recharged a bit then set off to the big highlight of the trip - the Sound of Music in the West End.

It was sooooooo good, really loved it, but it was so hard not to sing along.

This morning, we went to see Big Ben, the London Eye, Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey (there was a service on so I couldn't show her the Baden Powell corner). Then we headed to the train station and my daughter and I left her and her daughter on the train when we got off at our station so she could continue on to her nan's house up north.

I had a really great time, and when you consider that during the 72 hours we were apart only during the Thursday night when they were in our spare bedroom and whenever one of us went to the loo, we got on very well for four people who had never met before. The girls were funny, they got on well too and got very giggly together even though they probably aren't that alike, my daughter being quite tomboyish and Canadian Guider's daughter being more girly.

She has another week in the UK, up north. Can't wait to hear from her when she gets back.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Recruiting

We have one leader hoping to have emigrated to Canada by Christmas (she was aiming for summer but doesn't have her paperwork) and another whose husband has started working in London and plans to move down there at the end of the next school year, so it's time to boost the leadership team while we are not yet desperate.

Here's what we plan to send out in the note going to all Brownies over the summer holidays along with info about the term's subs, and a couple of events:

Finally, we would like to ask if there is another adult, male or female, who would like to join our leadership team at XXXXXXX Brownies. You can get as involved as you like: take your adult leadership qualification, become involved in team planning, or just turn up each week to help us run the programme. With an active pack of 24 girls, we feel we need another leader/helper at this point. You get so much back from the girls, it is very rewarding, and everything new they get to try, we get to try too! Speak to any member of the team if you think you could help.

Hopefully that will bring forward a willing volunteer, if not we will start a parent rota but it's always better to have people who feel invested in the unit.

Monday, 14 July 2008

Tally

Ok, you know I don't do Brownies for the gifts. No seriously, there has to be a way less labour-intensive way to get gifts (suggestions on a postcard please!).

But so far this last eight days I have been given:

  • a bottle of wine and a little box of chocolates
  • a bottle of wine
  • a box of fudge and a thank you card
  • a bottle of champagne and a thank you card

These are all from parents of girls I took to camp - there are DEFINITELY less labour intensive ways to earn these gifts than taking 11 Brownies to camp, trust me on that. The champagne was from the family moving to Switzerland and was more for the last two years than for camp, but still.

I am quite overwhelmed and feeling very appreciated right now.

Since me and the other Guiders have planning meeting tonight, at least some of the above items will be opened

Friday, 11 July 2008

Smores


We had a fantastic Brownie meeting at our local campsite last night, held jointly with the Guides.

It was a two hour meeting and the time just whizzed by.

First the girls collected wood for the campfire, then we held a promise ceremony for one of our new Brownies, to let her mum get her baby sister home.

Then we worked on Aim Hi, one of the newest cross-section resources while the Guides built up the fire.

Among the activities:
  • the leaders covered their hands in glitter and shook hands with the Brownies, then once all of them had glittery hands, we pointed out the glitter was just like the germs you get on your hands when you sneeze then spread them around - we had lots of promises that they will wash their hands if they sneeze in them.

  • we laid down 19 card lily pads with only one safe route across. The girls took it in turns to try a pad and if it wasn't a safe one they "fell in the water" and the next girl got a turn. It was great to see the girls who made it across helping the others in their team.

  • they ran races with their arms connected at the elbows back to back.

On the night we did the bare minimum to get the badge, however there are still loads of great activities in the resources so we will be using it throughout next term as well.

Then we had juice and sandwiches (they are always hungry when we are outdoors!) and they all got American flag tattoos left over from camp (I took them but forgot about them).

Then it was time for s'mores. Now we have made these before, as best we can since you can't get Graham crackers or Hershey bars in the UK. Our previous version was made with chocolate digestives, which does taste good, but it was cool to make them with the genuine ingredients.

We all loved the crackers, the marshmallows were exactly the same as UK ones, but the Hershey chocolate wasn't a great hit with most of the girls, we felt it tasted like our cooking chocolate really and prefer Cadbury and other UK brands. But as s'mores, they were yummy.

After repeated s'mores and marshmallows, we had a quick badge ceremony; everyone got Aim Hi, and a Girl Scouts Council of the Nation's Capital badge from the Americans we have been corresponding with.

The camping girls got the county camp badge, a 1st time camper badge and - if they completed all the requirements - their Brownie camper badge.

A few got environment, wildlife explorer and a couple of other badges. And we gave a Brownie Guides around the world badge to the Brownie leaving us to move to Switzerland.

And that's it for the school year for Brownies. We have a planning meeting next week to sort out the autumn term and we have 23 out of our 24 Brownies returning in September, plus one new start who is the little sister of one of our former Brownies, so it will be a busy and fun term with topics (chosen by the girls) including Designer, Olympics and fairytale, plus community action and a rights badge, as ever.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Brownie camp - very long

The Guide Guider and family had done a brilliant job of getting tents up and there was only the big frame store tent and the toilet tent to go up when I arrived.

We had 7 tents in all: 4 tents for 4, 4 and 3 Brownies; 1 tent for the Guide Guider, her husband and two daughters; the toilet tent; and I got the first aid tent all to myself, which was great because I could wriggle around in the night without worrying about disturbing anyone!

The girls were in patrols: Florida, Texas and New York and had a rota for washing up, collecting water and orderly (anything that needed doing). Each patrol would wash up their own plates, then do their extra duty, when it was washing up that meant they had to do all the cookpots and the leaders' plates. There were three hot meals over the course of camp so we made sure those were spread on the rota so each patrol only had one lot of really dirty stuff to deal with.

Friday night they went off and did a wide game and came back with medals. We had hot chocolate, and then they actually settled down quite quickly and were quiet by about 10.45pm. In fact the camp organiser came to see us about 11pm to talk about something and we were all in our tents fast asleep!

The weather? Well, it was actually pretty good on Friday, though it did start to rain about 10.30 and didn't really let up. It was also quite windy.

They were awake about 5.30am so I told them to be quiet and (gasp) they were for an hour despite the Brownies who traipsed past our camp screaming about water a few minutes later. All up by 7.

Saturday they all had eggy bread and bacon for breakfast, plus cereal. We had free time first session so that gave plenty of time to get everything bundled up against the predicted bad weather.

Then rockets and frisbee golf - they loved the rockets, using air pumps and even water to send them into the sky. That was followed by crafts - really good crafts: a leather bracelet that you used letters to stamp your name onto, a little man made of 37 beads, an American pompom pet with a flag and a dreamcatcher. They did half in this session and half in another session later in the day.

Back to camp for lunch then a rest hour where they explored the woods around us - I don't really know what they were doing but I did hear the word torture at one point but no-one seemed to be in pain! It was raining but they just put their coats on and carried on.

Then they swam in the outdoor pool, the sun came out just in time which was lovely, though it didn't last too long. We made them all have a warm shower afterwards which warmed them up nicely. Back to camp, dried off and dressed, they did their second craft session.

That was when the weather really turned on us - we didn't see sun again! It got really windy, and one of our stoves was blown over, fortunately away from the tent and the cook, it did delay dinner though we didn't lose any, and the weather just got worse and worse.

The girls went in their tent and wrote postcards to the American troop who had sent us temporary tattoos, badges and some Girl Scout cookies. They also sent 3 little American flags, each patrol had one in their tent.

We had to eat dinner under the trees, with the wind blowing leaves at us - we just told the girls to eat faster! Then they had chocolate whip with Crunchie bits in, again eaten super fast. The wind abated enough to get quickly washed up then we put everything inside the store tent and we all went into our own tents to wait it out for a while.

I must admit, at that point, I was a bit lonely! The girls were all screaming in their tents and the Guide Guider was with her family. I hadn't brought a book as I'd assumed there would be no downtime - I am the kind of person that can't stay still without reading though so I ran to my car to see what I could dig out: a Rugby Visitor Centre guide to the rugby trail round the town and a High School Musical book from my daughter's storage box! So I took them - I will genuinely read anything if it's all there is!

We were waiting to see if the campfire was going ahead but unsurprisingly it was cancelled. We had decided to do something in the central part of the Guide Guider's tent (the biggest space we had since everything else was in the store tent!) if nothing else was happening but the camp organisers managed to get us an indoor hall and we had an indoor campfire - the girls had a ball but most were getting exhausted by the end.

We just went back to camp, grabbed toothbrushes, went to the loo then went back to tents, got changed and went to sleep. The rain was hurling down and we took down the toilet tent as we didn't think it would survive the high winds.

They were all asleep by 10.15 and I wasn't long after them. I still woke up at 5.30 partly because it was still really windy and really wet. We had to wake the girls at 7.40am as there was so much to do before the first scheduled activity at 10am - they had to dress, brush teeth, eat, wash up and pack everything except the clothes they were in, and that took two and a half hours even with 2 adults, a Young Leader and a Guide helping as it took forever to reunite them with all their things and get everything waterproof so the tents could start to come down.

Then they had low ropes, team games and climbing (the highlight for most) before lunch - it actually stopped raining for a while and we were able to eat lunch outside.

Then three parents arrived to help us break camp, they helped get the last of the tents down and us to push the trolley loaded with gear to the leader cars so we could get as much packed away as possible. Their help was absolutely invaluable and cut a good hour off the time it took.

I thought we'd lost the beautiful camp badges but I found them on Monday, inside my plate bag - not sure how they got there - so I will give them out at this week's meeting, last one before the summer hols.

All the parents bar three had arrived by 2.45pm (they listened to us when we said don't be late!) so I told the Guide Guider and family to get home while they could. All but one parent had come by 3pm (the official collecting time) so I walked up to my car with my daughter, the remaining Brownie, and her stuff. Her parents arrived at 3.15pm just as it began to lash down again so I threw her and her stuff at them and ran for my car!

A detour via the Guide Guider's house to drop off the kit that had been stored in my car, and we were done.

I haven't yet done the washing - I was too tired on Sunday night and instead watched the amazing last episode of Doctor Who and the fantastic Wimbledon mens final. I worked yesterday but I have managed to negotiate Tuesday off, so I will snooze once the kids are at preschool and school and do the washing.

So that's all the news that's fit to blog - my longest post ever I believe, I won't do it again. Much like Brownie camp!

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Camp store

My garage is now overflowing with vast amounts of Guiding camping stuff. The Guide Guider brought it over tonight.

Her car will be full of the tents, so someone else has to bring the rest: cooking equipment, food, first aid stuff and so on. I'll farm some of it out to Brownie parents but I'll bring most of it, it's only me and my daughter in the car so as long as I have us in the front and our own equipment in Cheeky's booster seat and to the side of it, I should be able to use the third seat in the back and the whole of the boot.

It is all becoming very real...
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