Thursday, June 13, 2013

Home From Shalom

Mazel Tov! I was at Girl's Camp all last week and I am still recovering. Anybody else going? Our group was the first of the season and though we prepped for cold and snow, we lucked out with lovely weather.

If you are going too, let me share some encouraging words and tips. I LOVED going to camp as a kid. It's much harder as an adult. MUCH harder. I have nothing bad to say about my camp experience. It was great. Nothing went wrong. As a stake leader, I heard nothing but positive feedback from the young women and the ward leaders. People downright raved. I was so glad. I also got the inside scoop on my own ward—from Maggie and my friend who is the camp director—and everything went well for them, too.

But I don't like leaving my house and my kids for a week, even though my sister graciously traveled from Idaho to watch them at my mom's house. Christian ended up having to go out of town the day before I was leaving, so my sister was nice to help me in a pinch. I don't know how most people do it. I also don't love skits and singing or being in the hot sun a lot. It's just me. But I don't like it.

But when you're at camp you just do it. It's like getting into a cold swimming pool. So that's my first tip, jump in with both feet. And if you are the kind of person (if you are, I'm jealous) who likes skits and  singing rounds and doing dances and changing in front of people, and using the bathroom with people listening, and sharing brushes, count yourself lucky at Girl's Camp. To everyone else, you can do anything for a week.

The reason I don't like leaving my house is that I like creature comforts. I don't think I'm lazy, soft, or pampered. But maybe I am. I just wanted to be comfortable at camp. I took a cot, a pad, an extra blanket, and a thick roomy sleeping bag. (I don't favor the restriction of a mummy bag.) I was warm enough and quite cozy at night. I took Christian's big parka and I wore it in the mornings and at night. So take a coat. The rest of the time I wore a hoodie and a short-sleeved t-shirt (Mens Hanes V-Necks, to be precise, which resulted in a sweet V-shaped sunburn.) You will vacillate often between cold and hot. It's hot in the sun and cold by the lake. I wish I had taken more hoodies, because I wore the same one everyday. I took sweatshirts, but those are a pain to get on and off and you need pockets. You need pockets for chapstick (your lip balm should have sunscreen) and your phone. Your phone is against the rules, but you probably don't have a watch and you need to know the time. Take a watch if you have one. If you do have your phone, every now and then you can let a girl cradle it in her hands lovingly. But not too much. I also used the alarm on my phone, even though the sun woke me up every morning around 6:30.

There is no cell phone service at Mia Shalom. Know that. You can't use Google Maps or call your mom when you get lost looking for "Mirror Lake," which your husband accidentally wrote on your directions instead of "Electric Lake" which you know feels like the right place to turn but your husband knows you get lost easily so you trust his instructions even though, as it turns out, they were written carelessly.

Turn left at Electric Lake.

With my friend Josh, I worked out my clothing situation months before camp when Old Navy had a sale. One thing I hate about camping is changing in the morning when it's cold. So I came up with the concept of changing once every 24 hours, with the full-on change taking place at night. I figured I would sleep better in fresh, clean clothes and the mornings would be less dreadful for me. In order to do this, I had to wear sweats (because I was sleeping in them). So I took 2 pairs of jeans to wear traveling to and from camp, (I felt that wearing actual clothing was a nod to civilization I was first leaving, and then returning to.) and wore sweats the rest of the time.  The first night I changed into a nice clean pair of sweats—kind of retro ones with elastic at the bottom? I washed my face with night-calming wipes (no cold water! Do this for sure!), used some nice thick Cetaphil moisturizer,  and I went to bed.

In the morning I patted my hair. If you are thinking of cutting your hair into a short style that sticks straight up in the back, do it before camp. I didn't have to even think about my hair, for which I am grateful. So I patted my hair, put on tinted moisturizer and deodorant, and I was ready to go. I used a lash tint before camp, but it didn't work that well. I didn't wear make-up at camp because I didn't want to deal with it. You can if you want. It's up to you. (I would never wear make up if I didn't have to.) Then I was out the door to brush my teeth and be fed a delicious breakfast. I had packs of Crystal Light Energy which went down nicely with a jug of fresh, cold, mountain water. I also took a cooler of Diet Coke. If you are so inclined, do this. It gets cold at night so your drinks will stay chilled. Refreshing.

Our stake has an excellent Camp Committee and a downright angelic woman (Rachael, my Stake RS president, so it's not like she's just some lady with a lot of free time on her hands) cooked our meals for us every day and heated a potato in the fire at night for us to put in the bottom of our sleeping bag to keep us warm. She did so much and worked so hard, it actually made me feel like a jerk. I was called to the Stake YW Presidency just a couple months before camp so I just stepped in and it was all planned and Rachael had already been cooking and freezing crepes for me to eat at camp. Seriously, it was a real treat. I was lucky and happy. I didn't have to even start a single fire at camp.

But you may have to be that person who gets up and gets the hot cocoa going for everyone else. If you are, I salute you. You are going to Heaven, guaranteed. Try doing a full-on change at night, so you can just get up and go in the morning.  See if you like it.

Note: The one drawback to wearing retro sweats is that they don't provide much of a barrier against the splinters you get from sitting on wood all the time at camp. I still think it was worth it.

For shoes you need something you can slip-on quickly for bathroom trips. I took my old, fake Uggs from Costco. They did the trick. I also took some tennis shoes. But I wish I had taken better tennis shoes because I ended up going on the 2nd year hike, which was 6 miles. I only had fun cozy sleep socks so I had to borrow some real socks for the hike. I got blisters. Take real socks and a pair of real shoes. The problem is that your shoes get so dirty and ruined, so you don't want to take your good running shoes. But if you plan it right, you can get a new pair right after camp. That will be a treat to look forward to. A word of advice, it's pretty likely you will end up going on the hike. You can do it. I did it and I'm not a marathon-runner or anything. The camp is pretty gorgeous and the hikes aren't bad, even the long one. I had to pray desperately to catch my breath only twice. It's mostly level walking.

In terms of pharmaceuticals, take medicine. You might need it. I get lots of headaches and I spend a lot of time worrying about getting migraines so I had ibuprofin, benadryl, Excedrin Migraine, and 2 bottles of low-calorie Gatorade so I could do my new migraine remedy (that I heard about from a friend, who was also at camp) if I needed it. I needed it once. Here's the recipe:

2 ibuprofin
2 Excedrin Migraine
1 bottle of GatorAde

My friend learned this from an ER nurse and it has been working really well for me, if I catch the migraine early. The gatorade is really important. Remember that you are probably dehydrated at camp. Drink.

Another one of my fears for camp was not sleeping well. I've always been that kid who lays awake until morning at sleepovers. I didn't want that to happen at Girl's Camp because if I didn't sleep, I knew I would die. So I took Tylenol PM with me. I ended up taking Benadryl at night because I was a little stuffed up from allergies. Benadryl makes you a little sleepy so that helped. I slept great every night. A lot of people didn't and they felt terrible. I'm glad it wasn't an issue for me. Maybe I seem paranoid and drug-dependent, but it helped me have confidence in my well-being at camp. And, by the way, every one of my medicines was used and borrowed by someone at camp. So I was glad I had it. I also took dry shampoo, which I loaned to the girls but didn't use. It's probably a good investment if you have longer hair. I actually showered at camp using a mix of the cold showers and a bucket of hot water that Rachael warmed up for me. Take a towel and a wash cloth. I had to borrow. Take baby wipes, also.

 And finally, just be resigned to being that fun old lady at camp. You may not be as old as I am, but you are older than the girls—even if you just graduated from YW yourself. You aren't cool and you don't look good. You can't sing and do the camp dances with any dignity. So don't try. Let it go. The best you can hope for is to endear them with your enthusiasm and pluck. It's not a bad thing. It's kind of freeing, actually. Also, even though teenagers are intimidating, don't fear the girls. For some reason, camp is magic and they will be nice to you and know your name and want to hug you. Enjoy it! My natural inclination is to assume they don't know or like me and to be standoff-ish. But there is no need for this at camp. I promise. Be who you are and there will be girls who gravitate to you. Don't be scared.

You're probably a great sport and don't worry about things like sleeping and getting dressed in the cold. Good luck to everyone heading off to Mia Shalom.

Let me know how it goes!


  1. Wow, I am impressed! I will make sure to reference this next year, if I'm so privileged to go again. You should have told me about your "change at night" strategy! I think that's brilliant! I was really glad you were on the hike with me and you did look fashionable in that cowboy hat. I was a little jealous. I also came extremely close to chopping my hair off again, just for camp, but I survived somehow.

  2. this is a great report. it makes me really wish that your camp was actually our camp. i LOVED camp as a YW and i love camping still, but our stake is weird about camp. they pack so much stuff into the week (camp is from monday to saturday—WAY TOO LONG) and have the girls (ie, the ward leaders) do certification and the 4th year hike beforehand because there's just "too much other stuff they need to get done at camp." so, the non-girl's camp stuff. no hokey songs and campfire and read-alouds and mail (all major highlights of my camp experience), but plenty of rope courses from 8-4 in the blazing, humid virginia heat. but it's a very spiritual rope course, i've been told.

    anyway, i am totally coming off as a whiner, but it makes me feel better to know that most of the other leaders in some of the wards in our stake feel like the stake tries to pack too much non-essential stuff into camp and it wears the girls (and leaders) out really quickly. but apparently lots of the girls in the stake love it. (???) so i need to be a good example. but our stake demographics make it difficult for me to be enthusiastic, because we are an urban ward in the middle of a very rural stake, so lots of the girls in the other wards are used to camping and really roughing it, but the girls in our ward are born and raised in DC and haven't ever camped and it just seems like a really harsh transition. also, the no shorts rule in our stake bugs me too because it gets impossibly hot out here in the summer and doesn't cool off at night or in the morning and no shorts sounds like torture. i would LOVE to wake up cozy and in a hoodie and not in a sticky tent with mosquitos plastered to my face.

    i'm not even sleeping over so i don't have a reason to complain. haha. i have gotten out of camp for the past two years (last year i was ready to leave to go up and sleep over for a night but then the girls who went with our ward decided they'd had enough and begged the leaders and their parents to let them go home), and this year i was told they didn't want a pregnant person sleeping over at camp (don't have to tell me twice) so i'll just go up for dinner and moral support for an evening. last year it apparently got so hot (above 100 degrees two of the days) that an entire ward got worn out during all of the activities and left early, and then a severe storm (the infamous 2012 derecho) came through camp on friday evening and knocked out power and knocked down tents and trees, and STILL the stake was like "ok girls! let's power through and sing hymns and go back to our tents!" personally i think that heavenly father was trying to tell them that enough's enough but that's just me.

    sorry for the long-winded comment. i love camp and i have a testimony of camp but our stake's camp policies are making me want to poke my eyes out with a marshmallow roaster.

    1. Poor Hanner. You're pregnet. You don't have to do anything.

  3. Anonymous6:31 PM

    If you put the next day's clothes in the bottom of your sleeping bag at night they will be toasty warm for you in the morning instead of frozen and stiff from the cold.

    1. Good tip. They would smell like potatoes, too.

  4. Anonymous9:52 PM

    I loved this.
    I am slightly scared of girl's camp as an adult. I'm not sure why... probably because teenage girls make me nervous (?) like all of a sudden I'm back in high school (?) . Plus, the camping part. Eh.

    Thank you. After reading this I feel like maybe I could do it. Like jumping into a cold swimming pool.

    1. Don't be scart. If I can do it, you absolutely can do it.

  5. It sounds like you planned well for camp and pulled it off nicely! (My take away tip is to take sleeping meds with me next time I go!) Your camps sound quite different to ours. Is this a ready made camp site that lots of stakes use over the summer? We camp in tents, usually in a different public (but with our own field) camp or farm site each year within the stake boundaries. I'm not sure why shorts are frowned upon at camps where you are, they're practically the uniform for us and can often be seen paired with wellies because it WILL rain at some point during camp here, if not for all of it. That first shower and nap after you get home is the best!

  6. I really, really, really want to embrace your advice but I keep getting caught up on the fact that our Girl's Camp this year has no bathrooms. We will be hauling in 10 port-a-potties for our festivities. PORT-A-POTTIES. FOR A WEEK. 200 GIRLS. Needless to say I purchased my Excedrin Migraine last week. I'm also kick-starting my preparation with a Disney Cruise tomorrow. I feel good about it.

  7. Kacy, this post is so, so great.

    I took Excedrin Migraine last year like the vitamins they are: daily, and one was enough to keep me awake all day (so I had to take it early). This year I'll certainly be bringing more Pink Bev (though lately I'm really enjoying the Citrus-flavored Crystal Light Energy, I still call it Pink Bev) to get me through.

    I hate not being able to fall asleep at night. I took a cot, a foam pad, a sleeping bag, and a blanket last year, too. I don't think it's excessive for a leader. I also bring earplugs because when I'm the last one awake at night, trying to fall asleep, I just...hate the silence. So I block it out...with silence.

    (I just typed, "If I had to be a camp cook, I would have to," and then deleted it because I can't even make myself go there, not even in my thoughts.)

    One last thing: You know the tree on the ridge? The lone tree, or whatever, on the hike? There's cell reception up there.

  8. The only way I camp is if God makes me. And I was in charge of the food one time and a smug old man told me I was doing it all wrong, so I walked away and let him make breakfast for 100. Thanks, Priesthood!

  9. One year at girls' camp (as a leader) I lost my top on the water slide. I was a hit.

  10. This is my fourth year in a row going to girls camp as a leader and there are three things that get me through the week:

    1. My own personal stash of Diet Dr. Pepper
    2. Excedrin PM
    3. Great food (our camp cooks are professional caterers- I've told the higher ups that when the cooks finish their tenure my tenure will be finished too.)


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