Wednesday, August 27, 2014

MIA Shalom YW Camp 2014 - Anchored in Christ

My friend Laurel is the best camp director, ever!

I got to go to Young Women's camp at MIA Shalom again this summer.  I can't even remember how many years I've gone but I want to keep doing it, forever.  I love being up in these mountains and feeling a little closer to heaven. Oh, my heart. There are no words to describe the beauty and feeling of this place. You have to experience it for yourself.

My current assignment at church is to work with all of the young women age 12-18 and their leaders in our stake. Young Women's Camp is my favorite part of what I get to do. As a stake, we work with Youth Camp Leaders (young women who are usually around 17 years old and ready to start their senior year of high school) to plan and run camp each year. This year we had a small group of 8 Youth Camp Leaders (we call them YCLs) and they were so impressive.  They stepped up whenever needed and just took care of things on their own.  This group of YCLs was beyond awesome.

The theme they chose for this year was Anchored in Christ.

Camp usually runs from Tuesday through Saturday but we chose to take the YCLs up a day early to get things set up, have some training and just enjoy the quiet of MIA Shalom before the entire 230 (or so) young women and leaders from our stake would arrive on Tuesday afternoon.

When we turned onto the road that leads into Shalom there was a whole family of potguts waiting there to greet us. I wish I had my camera, because I know you don't believe me, but they kind of stood there on their hind legs like potguts do, watching us drive by, and then they scurried away. I could almost hear them calling out to all of their potgut buddies who live on this mountain, "FOOD'S A-COMIN' GUYS!"

Here's a picture of the crew that were there to help set up on Tuesday:
 And a more accurate picture of what we were like:

These are the missionaries who live at MIA Shalom all summer long (I'm so jealous!) and help with the stakes who are assigned to the area we were in.
They were so great to work with and so cute to see together. They passed along important information such as: they caught a 300 pound bear in our area the week before so we needed to store our food well and travel in FOURS to use the Biffy (that's the name of the camp bathroom). FOURS, you guys. As in, wake up three of your friends if nature calls in the middle of the night. They also let us know that the water situation was pretty dire so we needed to "flush" the toilets with lake water, and only when it was, you know, really needed.  So the men who came up to be with our stake at camp all week got to do a lot of this:  
Aaron's pumping lake water into trash cans for us. He's the best. 

One thing that happened every day, without fail, was RAIN. Which I love, but it put a damper on some of the things that were planned for the week. After setting up camp and waiting for the rain to stop we took the YCLs to the Confidence Courses to do some training on how to run each activity there.

We had some more trainings and a devotional that first day and just did our best to stay dry.

The next morning we went on a sunrise hike up around the rim of the camp. See what I mean about being closer to heaven?

 At Lone Pine

Due to injuries that happened before camp, these two YCLs got to ride in "The Limo", a 4-seater ATV, on our hike.  

Shari and Karen (my incredible counselors) and two of our awesome YCLs 

After our hike and a delicious breakfast, the YCLs made some signs to welcome the buses that would be coming later that afternoon.

 Buses unloading

Our opening flag ceremony had to be held inside of this pavillion because of a serious downpour early that first evening.  Thanks goodness for the pavillion! We used it a lot this year.

One morning we had a man from our stake come up and talk with the whole group of young women and leaders. He shared some of his thoughts with us on light and darkness and the effect they can have on our lives. It was very thought-provoking and inspiring.

Each day began with a scripture study and was filled with various activities and devotionals. These included time to work on the skills needed to pass off different certification requirements,

Confidence Courses run by the YCLs,

a time that we call Golden Hour, where each group of young women rotated through three 20-minute mini devotionals on various topics,

and Waterfront, when each ward has time to get out on the lake in canoes (or, new this year - kayaks).

My cute Julia was a leader in her ward this year. 

Unfortunately, because of the rain, half of the wards in our stake didn't get to do Waterfront or Confidence Course time.  But they all handled it like champs and found other fun ways to make the best of it. The ward leaders are, without a doubt, what makes camp run so well for us. Their ability and willingness to be flexible helped things run really smoothly this year.

Every morning and evening we had a flag ceremony to raise or lower the United States flag as well as our camp flag.

 We did a few fun crafts with our little stake group, including making the signs seen below. 

We also spray painted white t-shirts and t-shirt bags (they are SO EASY to make! Just google it!) to match our camp theme or anything else that the young women thought would be fun.

Thursday night was Stake Night, where we all enjoyed some brownies together
and then listened to some thoughts shared by the men who preside over our stake. Later that night we had a program called Singing in the Trees, where each ward is taken to a grove of trees in the dark and then each group takes turns singing a song while shining their flashlights into the trees above. It's probably one of my favorite things about camp. I don't have any pictures because it happens in the dark. But trust me, it's amazing.

Speaking of pictures in the dark, I love lots of things about this next picture but mostly I love that I'm eating freshly fired banana boats while enjoying some conversation with a group of women I am lucky to count as friends.

Shari brought a 'Face-book' to camp.
I don't think I mentioned that the young women do not bring electronics to camp. No iPods, no cell phones, nothing except for actual point-and-shoot cameras. There is no electricity here, either. I think it's part of what makes camp awesome, although I know not everyone agrees with me.  I love how we can leave all of those distractions at home and just enjoy being a part of nature for a week.

Anyway, our camp's Face-book was an actual book with a picture of each of us in it. We could write down thoughts or inside jokes or whatever came to mind on anyone's Face-book page all week long. It kind of became a camp yearbook and everyone got to keep their page after camp.

Here's our stake group a few days into camp.

Each ward usually does their own cooking, but we had a breakfast one morning where we fed the entire stake. It was a lot of work but also a lot of fun.

Jen (our secretary extraordinaire) and Missy (the camp nurse) 

One problem at camp every year is mice and bats in the cabins. Lucky for us, Aaron knows Batman and had him come help us with the bat problem. Yes, that's right, we had Batman at our camp. Be jealous.  

I know this post is way too long but I'll tell you what - I had over 650 pictures I had to choose from and I narrowed it down to the ones in this post.  That was tough! Since a picture speaks a thousand words I'll stop writing for a minute and let you just enjoy some pictures of the people who made this year at camp the best, ever.

 Stake group, last day of camp

The week flew by much too quickly and before we knew it we were loading the buses on Saturday afternoon, headed back home to warm showers, electronic devices and our families.

I already can't wait until next year! But I will wait, and it will be so worth it.

**I need to give a huge shout-out to this guy: 
This is Ken, one of the two men who came up to help out with camp for the entire week! He became our unofficial camp photographer along with plenty of other responsibilities throughout the week. I wouldn't have most of these pictures if Ken hadn't taken them, so thanks a million my friend!  

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Back To School 2014

The elementary school crew

This school year creeped up on us quicker than any other year. Is it just me, or are summers getting shorter? This year I'll have kids in 5 schools - elementary, middle school, high school and two different colleges. That's kind of crazy.

Here's our sweet O, all ready for 1st grade.
When I picked him up after school the first day he asked, "Is every day at school going to be so LONG? It took forEVER for school to be done!"  The funny thing is, they're on an early-out schedule for testing and parent/teacher conferences this week and next. So the school day is actually just going to get longer. I'm sure he'll do great but I miss having him here at home with me in the mornings.  He's loving his teacher and enjoying eating lunch at school.

Our cute little Curly, excited for 2nd grade.
Curly gets to have O's kindergarten teacher for 2nd grade this year and we are thrilled because we love Mrs. P!  Curly was excited for school to start because she missed the math homework over the summer. What?

Hubba, our handsome 4th grader.
Hubba seems to get the new teachers for the last couple of years and this year is no exception. He was assigned to one teacher at the end of the school year, then it changed over the summer and now he's got a permanent teacher who seems like she'll be fantastic.

Princess is going to rock the 6th grade.
She got the teacher she was hoping for and is enjoying her new responsibility as one of the students who gets to push the button to play the national anthem over the intercom in the morning.

Cowgirl started school the day after everyone else because she's now in the 8th grade and the first day at her middle school is for 7th graders only.
She's taking some classes that sound pretty fun, like architectural rendering and a leadership class.  She's also excited that they will be doing The Sound of Music for the school musical later this year.

All-a-Boy is now a sophomore. When did that happen?
It is crazy to me to think that once Julia leaves for college All-a-Boy will be the oldest child at home. For most of his academic classes he is beyond the point where I can help any more. That's what happens when you have geniuses for children. I tell myself that all of my best brain cells went to my kids when I was growing them and it makes me feel a little better about my forgetfulness and lack of smarts.

Bring on the school year!