Sunday, July 31, 2016

It's Finally Teen Week! (Final Post)


Camp is coming to a close and there are so many people we really need to thank.

I wanted everyone to know that we've been busy getting ready for the alumni day and I took a day off to go shopping for items on our final camp teardown lists. I unfortunately haven't been near a computer for the past couple of days until after 2:00 am, so I haven't been able to update the blog in awhile.

All of that being said, we closed camp with the breeze on our backs and some friendly clouds in the sky today. It was a little humid but I couldn't complain about the weather to much because it was better than the past couple of days.

The campers this week really have been an amazing bunch. So many of them have a history here at PSR and I fully expect to see some of them apply to be counselors, student lifeguards, flex staff, and cafeteria assistants next summer. There are so many great campers who I can see being staff in 2017 and 2018 here this week, I'm just hoping that our camp parents will lend me their children for 8 weeks in the future.

The staff are tired, but they are still pressing on. They're collectively a little younger then last summer, but they still tried there best every day to serve our campers and each other. I'm looking forward to closing camp down with them tomorrow, Monday, and Tuesday. Staff awards are coming up and we have so many great staff to choose from.

Finally, we have a network of parents and camp family that support us every summer without fail. I know exactly who you are and I am very appreciative for your continued use of PSR Camp as a place where people can come together to really learn more about Jesus every season. Some of you are rich, some are poor, some are pastors, and some are former campers themselves but everyone is working with us to increase the kingdom every year.

You are appreciated, I read your emails, suggestions, comments, and criticisms in our efforts to make camp better every year.

We'll see you next summer!


P.S. I hope you enjoy the photos!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

It's Finally Teen Week! (Wednesday)


Right after breakfast (which was waffles) the power went out!

The cities of Idyllwild, Anza, and Mountain Center were all without power for about an hour today, and it was a minor inconvenience for everyone at camp. Before our activities started at 10:30 am, the power came back on and we all started our morning classes.

We had a trip that went to the climbing gym in Riverside called Hanger 18 with the Ropes Course staff, and they had a lot of fun bouldering and belaying on the rock walls. We have a couple photos, but I'm pretty sure there are more on the website. You can see photos from each day of the session when you login to Ultracamp on our website.

Hanger 18: Wednesday

Hanger 18: Wednesday
 I really hope you all love the photos. It's one thing for me to say that your children are having fun but quite another when you're able to see it for yourself.

The Wakeboarding trip is in its second day, and the crew snapped a few photos for us to share with parents. Here's one of the pictures (below) of the wake trip campers out on the lake today. We sent out our camp photographers to take some video and pictures, and I think it all turned out pretty nice. I don't want to ruin the surprise, but some of the video was taken by a friendly flying drone that we were able to borrow.

Wakeboarding Trip: Wednesday
Those of us who were at camp shared a pasta bar for lunch, with breadsticks, spaghetti noodles, tortellini, white sauce, and red sauce. Pasta is pretty simple, but it takes campers a bit more time to concoct their lunches because of the different options.

I checked in with some of the boys before lunch and I met Ryan and Noah today, who have been coming to PSR Camp for years. I didn't recognize them at first because like so many others they've grown so much this year! It's really a privilege to see these kids become teens, and maybe even work here someday in the future. This summer we've hired over a dozen former campers who are here to pay it forward.

Maybe some of these campers will make that same decision next summer (2017) or even the year after that (2018).

Big Event: Wednesday
Not to skip ahead to far, but after dinner (Entrée was hot dogs, corn, and beans) and a short rest period tonight we had our final night our Outpost. The theme for the night was the sometimes you have to lose to win.

The boy accused of murder is found guilty, but at the last minute is granted a whole new trial because his lawyer takes on his burden and sacrifices her career to give him the chance to defend himself again. The lesson is about sacrifice, and how we can follow in the Christian example of losing something, so that someone else can gain a second chance.

Outpost Night #3: Wednesday
Sorry to skip ahead, I have to get up in a few hours and drive down to Hemet in the morning.

The campers generally had a good day today. The weather was about the same as yesterday, but the children seem to be adapting well. We had church outside this morning and the shade trees and water misters seemed to keep the pre-afternoon heat at bay.

As always were wearing sunscreen, taking breaks, drinking water, and shading in the shade as much as possible.



Wednesday, July 27, 2016

It's Finally Teen Week! (Tuesday)


It was an interesting day, definitely more interesting then yesterday.

Today our teens began to emerge from their shells, into the light when others were free to judge them, accept them, embrace them, or reject them; all of the things that teenagers (and parents) worry about. So far it's going okay, although the counselors, village coordinators, and myself are keeping close tabs on how the campers are beginning to respond to each other.

Yesterday we had a trip for the Nature activity that went to the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, and today the campers from the Team Water Sports visited Wet 'N Wild in Palm Springs. Both trips went off without a hitch and I think the campers who had the opportunity to go were richly blessed by the experience. I would say that it's just my own opinion, but I talked with the campers who went on both trips and they really loved it. Now, if only we had the money to build some waterslides and ocean aquariums at PSR Camp... how great would that be?

We also had a group of campers go out to Lake Silverwood this morning, and I woke up early to shepherd all of the trips out of camp. Every time we send campers more than 5 minutes away there is a substantial amount of paperwork, planning, and prayer involved because what's outside of my line of sight seems like it's less under our control. I am really lucky to have adults who've worked at camp for multiple summers on these trips and they seem to enjoy the trips as much (if not more) as the campers.

Today, the entrees for the meals were as follows:

Breakfast: French toast.
Lunch: Enchiladas, beans, and Mexican rice.
Dinner: Spicy peanut tofu, orange tofu, white rice, and a vegetable stir fry.

For a full list of what comes with each entrée, please see the post from Monday. Each meal comes with a slew of alternative choices or different toppings to add to each entrée. According to our parent surveys, our campers really love the food! I'm really happy that we're able to provide you menu options you enjoy year after year.

After breakfast we had morning worship indoors again today. I feel for parents who send their campers to PSR in order to get them away from the mediocre indoors, but camper health is the bigger priority for us and nothing ruins a week of camper faster than dehydration, sunburn, or other heat-related conditions.

Morning Worship: Tuesday
After morning rotations we dismissed to morning activities again, but today something a bit unusual happened. Some of the campers who switched yesterday wanted to switch activities again. We usually don't let campers switch multiple times because it's a headache for the office and usually we're calling the parents again to pay more or do another small refund. Almost all of the parents who we called again to switch activities told us 'no', so don't feel bad if that was you today.

Unless something drastic happens, we won't be calling parents to switch activities for a third time, and while that might make a couple campers unhappy it reminds me of a lesson I once learned from a previous camp director years ago. He told me that when children unwrap their Christmas presents and complain about their gifts, there's an opportunity to teach two lessons. 1) You can go out and order (or buy) the gifts they wanted or 2) you can teach them to be happy with what they have. I'm not a parent yet, but it's my hope that we can help these campers to be satisfied with a morning activity that comprises about two hours every day. There will still be plenty of opportunities to try new activities in the afternoon and during break periods, so here's hoping no one will want to switch again tomorrow.

Skateboarding: Tuesday

Cake Decorating Skills Test: Tuesday
Today after the morning activities I was handed one of the cupcakes in the photo above, and it was pretty good! I haven't had strawberry cake in awhile and it really reminds me of being a kid again. Cake decorating is full every summer but this is the first time I've gotten to sample any of the food created in this class.

After lunch we had a break, I actually went to my room and laid down for a few minutes before heading out to check on the campers in rotations at 3:00 pm. My phone battery died, so I was unable to post to Instagram, but it really looked like the campers were having fun and getting along. I sometimes think the campers are trying to be on their bests behavior while I'm around, but usually that wears off as the week continues.

After rotations we had big event, and it was a real teamwork activity. I hadn't played this game with the juniors or discovery campers and it just seemed to require more coordination then I had to spare. After a few minutes I had to resign myself to watching from the sidelines as the campers ran across the field time after time.

Big Event: Tuesday

Big Event: Tuesday
I think I skipped dinner, which is right after Big Event, to make some phone calls at the office. Before I knew it, it was time to lower the flag and head off to the evening program at the teepees. The second night of our Outpost Play focuses on doing the right thing, even if it's hard. 

The story picks up where we have a character who's trying to uncover the truth about a situation, only to discover that the boy she was hired to defend is innocent of the crime. The problem is that the only person who saw what happened refuses to take the stand in his defense because she's shy and worried about what will happen to her.

After the play was over for the night, Pastor Meshach talked with the campers and told them a story about someone who he knew that took the rap for a crime he didn't commit. It was a really powerful story, and all the campers were completely silent as they listened. It's a real blessing to have pastor Meshach here this week, the campers are really engaged with his talks and his energy.

When the program ended I could tell that the campers were really tired, and they all walked slowly back to their cabins to go to bed. Like I said, it was an interesting day at camp. I'm really looking forward to tomorrow and the blessings we'll be receiving as the session continues.



Tuesday, July 26, 2016

It's Finally Teen Week! (Monday)


It was supposed to be hot today, but something really cool happened instead.

From the south clouds started to appear in the sky and they threw shade (in a good way) over us for almost the entire day. We kept the campers indoors today as much as possible because the UV index was still high today, but the shade felt great!

We got up for breakfast at 8:30 am today, and the primary entrée was French toast, boiled eggs, & vegetarian patties. I could talk about the meals all day, but every breakfast always includes the following items in addition to the entrée: 8 different types of cold cereal, packaged oatmeal, four types of fruit juice, 2% milk, almond milk, rice milk, or soy milk, fruit, fruit cocktail, yogurt, granola, toast, bagels, cream cheese, peanut butter, jelly, and everyone has to have at least a half cup of water. In addition to entrée, we also served sliced fruit, tater tots, ketchup, salsa, and various other toppings associated with breakfast.

Breakfast really is the most important deal of the day.

After eating usually the younger campers try to do an activity before breakfast, but our teen campers are more interesting in hanging out and talking. They hang out until line call, when we raise the flag, and stand very silently at attention. They're probably the second most well behaved campers we've had at camp, and right now they're definitely the quietest bunch I've seen in awhile. I'm sure that will change as the week wears on, but for now I appreciate all the cooperation especially when it's time for everyone to put on sunscreen.

After line call we all went to worship in the Ponderosa Room, which was an indoor location. Usually we have worship outside, but today we had it inside to minimize the opportunities for sunburn. After worship with Pastor Meshach Soli we headed to our morning activities.

Cake Decorating: Monday

Tweens and teens always want to switch activities, some want to switch more than once. In order for this to happen, three things need to occur:

1) There has to be space in the activity they want to go in to.
2) We call the parents to see if the switch is ok.
3) The parents either have to agree to pay the activity fee or receive a small refund for the price difference.

Once it's all ironed out, most of the campers are happier in their new classes. The campers do their morning activities all the way until mail call, which is followed by lunch. The main entrée for lunch today was vegetarian chicken nuggets, scalloped potatoes, and mixed vegetables (steamed). Lunch always comes with a full salad bar with at least nine different salad toppings, three dressings, and two salad toppers. We also have fruit, cottage cheese, Jello, peanut butter and jelly, bread, milk, rice milk, almond milk, and soy milk, as well as white cake for dessert. For lunch the campers can also choose from 8 different flavors of soda, but these are not available for dinner.

After we're all full, it's time for a break to visit the store or just hang out more and rest until our 3 pm rotations. During the week, the campers get to experience the other activities we have at camp besides the one they signed up for in the morning.

Obstacle Course Rotation: Monday
The first rotation is from 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm and the second rotation is from 4:10 pm - 5:10 pm. If the campers are assigned to the pool rotation they are there from 3:00 pm - 4:30 pm, otherwise each rotation is one hour long.

I walked to the archery and ropes course rotations today to make sure the campers were having fun and the staff were on point. It's really easy for me to be proud of our staff, but these camp staff are very professional and easy-going. I would say 90% of them are still on task and have enough energy to keep it up through the week.

A great measure of everyone's energy level is the 5:15 pm group game on the field, which we call 'Big Event'. As you can see from some of these photos, the campers really played their hearts out in the hope of winning points to become our final 'Ultimate Cabin' of 2016.

Big Event: Monday

Big Event: Monday

Big Event: Monday

Big Event: Monday
After Big Event we have dinner (seems like we just ate) at 6:10 pm. Today the main entrée was build your own tostada bar, with beans, vegetarian meat, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, salsa, sour cream, onions, and much more. Each dinner come with all of the lunch menu options, with the exception of soda.

After dinner the campers have more time to hang out before the 7:50 pm line call where we lower the flag and dismiss for program. The Outpost program is a three-night continuation play featuring a cast of camp performers.

The first night of the play focuses on the plight of a seemingly guilty boy, accused of a crime he says that he didn't commit. No one really believes him until a stranger comes into town with a mysterious message and a retainer of $5 to defend the boy in court. The theme of the first night revolves around the idea that sometimes the right thing to do isn't always apparent, and that we have a responsibility to discover the truth.

Outpost: Monday Night
The first night ends with a cliffhanger, and the campers are usually pretty excited to see the second night of the play on Tuesday night.

After the play we all go to bed, except some of the adults who are planning everything that happens on the next day of camp. We'll probably be indoors a lot tomorrow (except during activity periods) so as to stay out of the sun. If the clouds come out again, we'll have a lot more fun tomorrow (between sunscreen breaks, water breaks, and shade breaks).



Sunday, July 24, 2016

Tween Week is Full! (Thursday - Saturday)


Apologies to everyone who reads the blog, the internet has been uncooperative and I'm sorry if not getting updates made anyone worried. It would be hard not to blame the heat, between 12:00 pm - 5:00 pm it's been hot at camp the last couple of days and it's affected a few of our services up on the mountain.

We've been keeping the campers indoors as much as possible, which shortened the amount of time we had to do some programs. Overall I think we've been pretty successful, but I'm going to hold my breath until tomorrow. Next summer I'd like to encourage parents to dress their campers in shirts with sleeves and shorts that are comfortable and come to the knee. It might not be very fashionable, but you never know what the UV index is going to be up here at camp and clothing is a great defense against the sun.

Beyond that, the past few days have been pretty uneventful. The heat generally removes my desire to eat during the day, but the food has been consistently wonderful (I've been told). For today, we had a continental breakfast in the cabins, the lunch entrée was mashed potatoes with Special K loaf, and corn, and dinner was create your own sandwich bar. I really do love the food, and according to our parent surveys, so do the campers and our guests.   

Today was the last night of camp so we handed out the big awards, so here's who won:

Cabin of the Week:
North Village (boys): Cabin Shoshone 
South Village (girls): Cabin Blackfoot

The award for cabin of the week is a pullover with a hood.

Ultimate Cabin:
Cabin Delaware (which is a girls cabin)

The award for ultimate cabin is a hat.

If you see your camper with a pullover or hat tomorrow, please know that this week it was really competitive and difficult to win those awards. Next week will also probably be bad when it comes to cabin awards, but this week the competition was a little fierce. I'll let everyone know how it's going.

I'm sure there's a lot more to say. I hope you've all been able to see the photos on Ultracamp. The campers really loved their week and I'm sure they'll tell you all about it tomorrow.



Thursday, July 21, 2016

Tween Week is Full! (Wednesday)


It was hot at camp and I think we managed the day just fine. I would love to say we did a perfect job but a saw a bit of red skin today at dinner. I know we have a few campers who are allergic to sunscreen, but we'll be looking for more shade opportunities for those campers tomorrow. It's going to be either side of 90 degrees, so not as hot but still warmer than usual.

Let's cover the entrees today quickly:

Breakfast: Build your own breakfast burrito. (This is my favorite breakfast, but I missed it!)
Lunch: Hot dogs and watermelon slices.
Dinner: Vegetarian tofu, white rice, and vegetable stir fry.

Don't forget, each meal comes with additional menu items. If you look at the Sunday/Monday post you'll see them all listed there.

Today we had another trip leave camp to Pole Position in Murrieta. All together it was 11 campers and 4 staff members. The campers loved it and I think the staff had a chance to drive the go-karts as well. We bought all of the campers a Pole Position t-shirt as our gift to them for going on the trip together. Tomorrow we have 9 campers going with 4 staff to Hanger 18 in Riverside for about two hours of bouldering around their climbing gym facilities. I've been to Hanger 18 ever since it was Threshold Gym and I really like the facility there. It might get a little warm indoors at Hanger 18 so we're going to take some extra water along on the trip just in case.

At camp it was just another Wednesday, with morning activities and afternoon rotations. We spent most of the day cleaning the camp for a special inspection tomorrow, and I barely managed to post on the Instagram @PSR_Camp during the morning. I'm sure our parents are glad to know that the camp will be extra clean this week, which is a challenge with 160 campers and 90 staff onsite every day. I have found plenty of trash on the ground from our guests and probably staff who are bit careless, but they're all working so hard that it's hard to complain about a few pieces of trash.

The staff this year are pretty amazing, and I'm really proud of all of them. So far we haven't had to dismiss anyone and most of them are really working to make camp the best it can be everyday. I'll post more about the staff after camp is over.

Please go online to see photos from this week. You can visit and login to your account to see photos that have been uploaded every day (or nearly every day).



Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Tween Camp is Full! (Tuesday)


Today started with a vehicle check before breakfast because our day trip for Team Water Sports was leaving to Wet 'N Wild (Palm Springs) after the morning line call. Every time a camp van leaves Pine Springs Ranch we have to do a full check to see if the car is in good condition. It makes sense when you consider that both the staff and the campers are someone's child, and we want everyone who leaves camp to get back safely.

We also had the 3-Day Wake Trip Camp depart today after breakfast. The wakeboarding trip checkout is a much longer list of required forms to complete and it takes several hours to make sure everything is ready to go. The group left before 10 am, which was a new early record. The trip staff were excellent at getting everything ready and they've called twice to let us know how well things are going (so far) at Lake Silverwood. I have been wakeboarding several times, but I've never really been able to grasp the fundamentals of the sport. I hope the campers have better luck than I did when I went back in 2001.

The breakfast entrée today was waffles, with various toppings (for a full list of breakfast items, please see yesterday's post). I skipped the waffles and had a bowl of mini-wheats before checking-in with the campers in the cafeteria. I would say that we had 9 boys cabins in high spirits and 8 girls cabins who looked well-rested. I can usually tell if a cabin was up late talking because they drag into breakfast and look tired, and being sleepy at camp can really mess up the entire day.

A couple of the campers looked like they were a bit tired, but nothing that gave me anything to worry about. The cafeteria is a great place for me to examine to general health and well-being of all the campers, and if I'm not sure I can always just ask. Did I mention that there are so many familiar faces this week! I know so many of the boys by name and more than half of these campers were here last summer. I also noticed at check-in on Sunday that we had 110 campers on the express pass list. These kids really know what camp is all about and I have my eye on of few of them to (hopefully) hire as camp staff in the future.

After we raised the flag I drove a van to Palm Springs to drop off campers at Wet 'N Wild. I couldn't stay with them (don't worry, we had 2 staff with them) and they arrived back safely at 5:20 pm. I saw a few of the boys during cabin check tonight and they all expressed to me how much fun they had. They had Subway for lunch while at camp the tweens had enchiladas, Mexican rice, and beans as the main course of a balanced meal. The campers received their mail right before lunch, and it was a record-setting amount of mail (by the pound). 

Usually after lunch I have the opportunity to spend time with campers during rotations, but today we had two important meetings about the trip tomorrow and the weather forecast for the rest of the session. The trip tomorrow is to Pole Position in Murrieta with the Small Engine Racing activity group and we have 11 campers going on the trip. This means we'll have 4 staff to meet and exceed the 1 to 4 supervision ratios for day trips, which is perfect.

If you've seen the 7-day forecast, we're expecting it to get hot at camp. In order to combat heat exhaustion, sunburns, and other heat related dangers, we've decided to 1) move morning worship indoors, 2) increase sunscreen breaks, water breaks, and shade breaks, 3) and monitor campers even closer for any negative signs associated with the heat wave. I will post updates related to the weather every day, and I'm really hoping for clouds and maybe some precipitation this weekend.

Once our meetings were done, I drove to Hemet briefly to add a driver to a rental van, came back to camp just in time for Big Event on the field. I'm entirely sure what the game was this afternoon, but the campers told me that it was called 'Turkey Run' and there was more laughter than usual as they ran all over the field. I was caught up in another issue during Big Event, and it wasn't something pleasant.

We had a camper go home today for bullying, which is the second time we've enforced our zero-tolerance policy this summer. I really hope that it's the last time we have to send someone home this year but we'll never hesitate to enforce the policy. One bully in a cabin can really ruin everyone's week, and I know for sure that no parents wants to hear that their child was threatened, belittled, or had a bad time because of another child.

The dinner entrée was tomato soup and grilled cheese, a camp favorite. That meals comes with the entire salad bar, chips, water, milk, plenty of things to choose from. Some campers had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with their grilled cheese, so a few may have overdone it on carbohydrates. It's probably not bad considering how much the campers have been running around all day today.

After dinner we had a bit of rest time before the evening program, and then it was time for bed. I went up to boy's village tonight to check on everyone again before sitting down to work on some more paperwork and administrative duties that have to be completed before tomorrow. Overall it was a good day, I am a little worried about the weather but I think moving more of the activities indoors should help. The Trailmaster hiking class may not be able to go out on Friday, and if they do go on their day trip I plan to probably send a camp administrator with them to ensure the success of that activity. We'll be evaluating the weather every day to make the best decisions for all the campers so that they'll have a great week at camp.