I had a most wonderful and memorable Mother’s Day weekend. There was no spa in site. Nor a gourmet meal. Although we did eat well, and I didn’t have to clean up a thing. Our kids did all of the cleaning for five meals in a row. Enthusiastically, I might add.
I don’t recall my kids whining or complaining once in the two days we were gone, and they played outside happily all day each day without asking for IPads, TVs or XBox.
Where is this magical, electronics-free land where kids clean up and moms don’t cook? As close as Julian, a quick 1 hour drive from East County, at the 92-year-old Camp Marston.
Some of my best childhood memories were made at a similar YMCA camp in Texas. Our days were filled with horses, hiking, sailing, swimming, archery, rifle shooting (yep!), crafts, songs and friendship. I’ve thought many times that I would like my children to experience the same type of fun in the great outdoors, and last weekend they did. We ALL did!
YMCA Camp Marston in Julian is much like the Y camp I loved many years ago. In addition to its overnight camp program, Marston offers “family camp” four times a year when the whole family stays in a lodge cabin together and participates in a variety of activities including canoeing, archery, target shooting (with BB guns instead of .22s!), games, crafts, climbing wall and more.
Our very good meals were provided in the camp dining hall and served buffet style. The camp cook told us that they prepare 98% of what is served and even bake their breads from scratch every night. During Mother’s Day Camp weekend we enjoyed sandwiches made with that fresh bread, yummy lasagnas and pastas, wonderful salads, a spectacular fresh fruit buffet, sausage, eggs and cooked-to-order pancakes.
YMCA camp strives to teach kids about responsibility, so campers are responsible for cleaning up their own mess. This was possibly my favorite part of each day.
Now, I realize that not every mom is a “camper.” But the beauty of Camp Marston is that you do not have to pitch a tent, pee in the woods, freeze in the cold or swelter in the heat, cook a meal, organize activities, etc. You and your husband might suffer a bit in the single bunk bed, but your kids will love it and you’ll have heat, a fan, a clean bathroom with showers just steps away and activities to keep the whole family entertained for the weekend.
At 5 and 7, our children were the perfect age for family camp. We met many lovely SoCal families, some with older children, some with younger. Most had attended family camp numerous times before. Those experienced family campers came prepared to fish Lake Jessop with their own fishing poles and bait. Many also came prepared to participate in the annual talent show. Next time we’ll be ready for both!
The next family camp will take place over Memorial Weekend, and it’s already sold out. If this type of outing seems like fun to your family, be sure to register early for the upcoming Halloween or Thanksgiving family camp weekends. Maybe we’ll see you there!