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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

My life as a reality show, or how I almost got trampled at YMCA day camp sign-up

For the past two summers, Dylan attended a really nice JCC (Jewish Community Center) summer camp. Every morning she got picked up on a school bus. Every afternoon she was dropped off. She became a terrific little swimmer, made some great friends, and we loved the Jewish aspect. We don't do a ton of Jewish stuff at home (though we're trying to do more), so it was nice for her to get the exposure to Shabbat, traditional prayers, etc.

That said, this camp wasn't cheap. When it was just Dylie, we could kind of justify it, but now that Max is old enough for camp (OMG, Max is old enough for camp!), it was going to be astronomical. Additionally, we rented a house in Michigan for the summer and are planning on leaving Thursday evening, so we'd be paying for five days/week and only getting four. The final nail in the fancy camp coffin? It's kind of far from the house. The bus ride was close to one hour each way due to traffic and multiple pick-ups, and that just seems crazy. That's where the YMCA camp came into play.

It's not fancy, but it's within walking distance. The swimming program is phenomenal, and the staff has a lot of overlap with Dylan's after-school program, so I know a lot of them (and I love that program). It's also so, so, so much cheaper than the fancy camp. Like, saving us about $3000 a summer cheaper. The only problem with the YMCA camp is that the spots are incredibly limited. And, because it is such a great deal financially, there is a lot of demand. Add in the recession, and you end up with a sign-up scene that rivals a discount store on the day after Thanksgiving.

So, here's the story. Sign up was this past Monday at 7am. My friend Kirsten heard that we had to get there early, so we met at 5:30. There were already about 30 people there. Some parents had arrived as early as 4:30!!! There were parents in camping chairs, parents with laptops, and lots of parents who clearly had not showered prior to showing up. (One mom snuck over to where we were sitting to show a note to her friends. The note read: "The guy next to me smells SO BAD.")

Things were kind of fun from 5:30 to 7am. Granted, it was too early to be out and about, but I was sitting with a great friend, had a latte in my hand, and it was an adventure. Once 7:00 hit, though, the morning went to hell in a handbasket. The layout of the YMCA made it very difficult to determine who arrived first, and no one had thought to hand out numbers, like at a deli.

The program for Max's age group is called Kiddie Camp, and that is by far the most competitive program. There are only 80 slots for Kiddie Camp, and only 40 of those are for the AM program, which most people wanted.

It is impossible for me to completely explain what happened Monday morning at 7am, but there were shrieking women, sweaty and overwhelmed staff members, and just mass, mass chaos.

I'm happy to report that both kids made it into their preferred programs, but it was an incredibly stressful morning. I think that one woman in particular came very close to hitting me, but luckily, her child is a Monday/Wednesday/Friday camper and Max is just doing Tuesday/Thursday.

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