I’m going out on a limb and here and proclaiming that every kid should go to sleepaway camp. I mean it. Last year, I shared why I think it’s so important.

Next Monday’s HDYDI will focus on choosing the right camp for your family, but until then, here’s a glimpse of our older three at summer camp.

We make the trek to Arkansas each summer. Yes, there are camps that are closer, but this one we love. When our children turn eight, we pack up that trunk and send them east. Prior to camp, they choose their top 12 activities, from a list of over 100. When they arrive at camp, their counselors share their schedule and we usually hear lots of “oh yeah’s” upon spying that list. Those three things serve as their morning instructionals and the rest of the day they spend eating, making friends, tearing up camp in Mish-Mash (time of the day that they get to do anything they want!), competing in tribal competitions, enjoying special events, playing every sport imaginable and learning about God.

A little side-by-side from this year and last

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Camp according to WILL:

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Lacrosse:  “It wasn’t too bad, Mom. At least I got to play with John Paul every morning.” {I’m thankful they didn’t beat each other with the sticks.}
Basketball: “After playing with all those public school kids, Dad, it looks like I’m not going to be an NBA player after all.” {The dream ends, but the love of the game remains.}
Skeet Shooting: “Oh my gosh, I hit the first two! Look at my bruises! It was the MOST fun!!!” {Definitely our clear cut winner.}
Mish Mash: “My counselor really got me excited about wood working. I spent every mish mash in the woodshed. Mom, I even found a template for a gig ’em. Isn’t that awesome?” {He not only made that, but a wooden, painted Texas for my guest bathroom and a #25 for his brother. He was most proud of the Colts horseshoe, though.}

This was Will’s second year at camp. I so wish the crazy bag of life hadn’t prevented him from attending earlier, but that’s life. I have such fond memories of my camping days and it has been awesome to see them come full circle in Will. More importantly, I’ve been beyond impressed with his counselors. They really cared about our kids and it shone when we picked them up on the last day. I mean, look at Will’s smile above. Happiest kid on the planet. He was also awarded the F.I.T. Award, First is Third, for being the most Christ-like in his cabin. Proud Mom moment, right there.

Camp according to JOHN PAUL:

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Lacrosse: “Yeah, it was way cool to play. Can I play this fall at home? Can I, pleeeease?” {Fortunately, a good friend is gifting us all her boys old equipment! Guess it’s time to get the Lacrosse Mom sticker on the van.}
Archery: “I got a 9 on my target AND the one next to me (laughs hysterically).” {I expected nothing less.}
Smashball: “I could’ve played it all day. It’s so much fun.” {No idea what the heck that game is, but he loves it and I can’t argue with love.}
Mish Mash: “I pretty much spent all my time at the waterfront. I almost got kicked off the blob, because I kept trying to land on my feet even though they told me not to.” {Typical.}

This was year number two for John Paul, as well. In a crazy turn of events, one of his counselors ended up being the son of my high school journalism teacher. I KNOW. The even crazier part? I held said counselor as a baby before school began on several occasions while his mom set up her classroom. He was pretty popular among the yearbook staff. And, now he’s in COLLEGE. Hello, old. Even though both counselors were t-sips, John Paul looked passed the burnt orange and saw the goodness inside. He came back completely exhausted, tan, happy and still the biggest Aggie fan.

Camp according to ANNA-LAURA:

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Tumbling/Gymnastics: “That was my favorite class, Mom. I even learned how to do a back handspring.” {Excellent, now I just need to clear out all the lamps as she cartwheels through the house.}
Horsemanship turned Shoe Art: “The horses were too big. I was scared, so I painted rainbows on shoes, instead.” {I have to give her credit, she did it one day, realized her fear and asked to switch her schedule. Camp’s about problem solving, right?}
Tennis turned Volleyball: “I wasn’t really that good at tennis, but I’m much better at volleyball.” {I reminded her she’s never done either and she replied: “Well, I was definitely better at volleyball.” Fair enough.}
Tribal Competition: “That was my favorite part of the day. Our cabin got to play soccer!” {Her very best sport and she was elated that it was her cabin’s competition sport.}

It was Anna-Laura’s first year at camp. Admittedly, I had a hard time letting her walk out the door with Scott. We had just walked IN the door from the hospital after Luke’s surgery. She had a rough time leaving and was really freaked out about the swim test, required of all campers. Scott said she got in and out of the swim area three times before finally making her way across. She overcame a huge fear! When she hugged my neck at pickup she whispered, “I’m so glad you’re here, Mom. I’m ready to go home.” She had the sweetest counselors on site and they really took great care of her. Hats off to anybody who takes on that many 8-year-old girls. A funny ha-ha about Anna-Laura. Each of the kids had a camper store allowance. We told them they could spend it any way they wanted and as quickly, or slowly, as they desired. But, once it was gone, it was gone. All Anna-Laura heard was “shopping.” By Tuesday, the funds were gone. She lobbied for more via the camp office and I politely responded with a ‘no.’ She managed to survive until Saturday and I’m still trying to figure out what all she bought!

The camp is owned and operated by some dear friends of ours from Texas A&M. Scott and Scott were junior and senior yellboys together in the mid-90s. I love how we just pick up where we left off every time we see Scott and his wife, Secily. A picture for ‘ol Army…

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About ten minutes into the van ride home, this was our view. Well done, camp staff. Well. Done.

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Another awesome, awesome summer camp experience. I’m already looking forward to next year. That is, after I powerwash the camp footlockers.

9 Comments

  1. Jackie on August 15, 2013 at 8:12 am

    I have to agree with you about sending kids to camp – it is such a great experience! I loved going as a kid. I sent my son last year for the first time at 9 and he loved it. This year he went to 2 different overnight camps in the Austin area (we moved last summer). One was ok; the other was fabulous. As soon as I got there he said “can I come next year?”. Glad your kids had a great time!

  2. verdinalouisa on August 15, 2013 at 8:27 am

    Awesome! What great experiences! I bet Luke was happy to see them at home again!!

    God bless you all!

    V

  3. Jena on August 15, 2013 at 8:55 am

    I was a counselor at Ozark for 2 summers in college. I would send my kids in a heartbeat, knowing how the counselors are instructed to love on the kids and make the experience totally about them. In addition, even though it’s a non-denominational camp, I found the message and the way they present it is really in line with the Catholic faith as well (as compared to some very “Baptist” camps I attended when I was younger – there’s no “altar call” or pressure to “accept Jesus as your Saviour” pressure at Ozark). I would love to send my kids there when they get older (if we can afford it!!)!

    • Kathryn on August 15, 2013 at 1:20 pm

      Jena, how awesome! We’ve gotten some questions from friends as to why we didn’t send our kids to a Catholic camp. For us, Ozark has been a beautiful blend of faith, sports and the real world. I love their approach to spirituality (and I’m glad to hear your perspective, too). We start saving in September for camp 😉

  4. Bea on August 15, 2013 at 9:56 am

    I’m going to need Anna Laura to share with Ava as I’d love for her to go to sleep away camp next year. Fun!

  5. Anne on August 15, 2013 at 2:43 pm

    I would HIGHLY recommend The Pines Catholic Camp in Big Sandy, TX. My second oldest son was a counselor there this year (he’s a sophomore Aggie this year), and we drove all of the way from our home in Indiana to take three of our other children to camp there for a week. Thoroughly Catholic, and tons of fun. Just a suggestion if you don’t want to drive as far and want a Catholic camp. 🙂

    • Kathryn on August 15, 2013 at 2:46 pm

      I’ve heard awesome things about the Pines. Several of our friends attend! The beauty of living in Central Texas is that we have so many awesome choices. I’m glad to hear your son is enjoying his time there as a counselor. That’s when I learned some of my greatest life lessons!

  6. Carmen Fenton on August 21, 2013 at 9:06 am

    Hi Kathryn,
    I just had to comment. I love your blog. I was a camp counselor at Ozark in college and…wait for it…I’m from the Texas Panhandle. There aren’t many of us so I was curious which town you’re from. Anyways, thanks for sharing so much about your life. Love reading it all.

    • Kathryn on August 21, 2013 at 9:11 am

      Shut the front door! I’m originally from Dumas, moved to Amarillo when I was in high school. Thank you for your sweet words – happy to have you here!

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