Monday, September 8, 2014


It is hard to believe our family was at the beach three weeks ago still enjoying summer vacation!  We had a great summer and there is so much I want to write about….which feels great!

This summer Betsie was blessed to have enjoyed two sleep away camps.  We started to entertain the idea after summer ended last year.  I asked friends what camps their children went to and we looked into every single one.  I am almost certain I was given close to ten different camp names between West Virginia and North Carolina.  I had no idea there were so many sleep away camps available so close!  At times I felt like it was a glimpse into my future of looking at colleges with her.

In the beginning the two main requirements for me was it had to be close to home and a single sex camp.  Betsie attends a coed public school and I thought for the summer it would be nice for her to enjoy just being with girls.  Right now the single sex option isn't as big of a deal as it will be when she gets older, but I also wanted her to pick one camp she can grow with and enjoy for years to come.

Betsie was so excited with the possibility of going to sleep away camp.  I think the timing was perfect for her too as we seemed to be exhausting out many of our local day camps.   She was so excited she even had a "glamping" theme birthday party (last October)!  Everything was camp, camp, camp to the point I was sick of thinking about camp.

Watched Parent Trap outside….

slept in the tent on the screened in porch

Betsie and her BFF since she was TWO!

I have to say, Betsie is a very independent child.  She has no problem going and doing and meeting new people.  She actually prefers sometimes to go where she will not know anyone and make new friends.  The fact she was going to go to sleep away camp and potentially not know anyone was fine to her.  But hearing that there was a chance her BFF could spend camp with her was exciting and probably somewhere inside comforting to her too!

After looking over the camps we narrowed it down to two…one really close to come and one about six hours away.

She was so excited to be able to attend camp, though as the time got closer she was getting a little nervous (she will not admit it, but her body language spoke volumes!).  The first camp was the week after school ended and was the one close to home.  This camp was a coed camp, so while her cabin was all girls, her day activity group was coed.  Her first camp experience was a great introduction to being away from home.   She enjoyed herself and met some new friends who also happen to live in the same town.

Camp #1

Betsie and her BFF

Betsie's bed 

Bunks all lined up….

Her Hogan (cabin)

Bath House


water trampoline 


Zip line

From a parents perspective the main drawback on her first camp experience was the fact I had no idea how she was….was she having fun, was she happy, was she homesick, etc.  They did not post any pictures on their Facebook or Twitter accounts or send pictures to the families.  I would check every day in hopes there would be one….but no.  I completely understand the kids are technology free while at camp and I think this is fantastic!   Technology detox I am all for it!  If she wants to write home, she has to do just that….write to us.  But in today's day and age I feel the camp could upload pictures of the campers to give the parents a piece of mind.  All the pictures I have of this camp are the ones I took on the day of drop off above!

The week seemed long without her being home, but before we knew it we were picking her up!  She was all smiles (and really tired!) and enjoyed telling us about her week.

Her second camp was in the mountains of North Carolina and involved a weekend get-away to take her there.  It was a fun weekend taking her to camp as we got to explore Asheville before dropping her off. Not knowing what the camp process was going to entail and if the grounds would be handicap accessible, we decide to let Anna Cate stay at home with Mimi and Poppy to enjoy some quality time with them.  While it is always a hard decision to divide up the family, it was the correct decision.

Betsie and Eli with Lauren (BFF) and her little sister Kiersten

Exploring downtown Asheville

"Before I die…." wall

Can you see what Betsie wrote? It's the middle one!

I had high expectations for this camp just from their emails and level of contact with us before she arrived.  So the bar was already set in my head.  To say they blew the bar out of the water is an understatement!  Wow…they set a new bar!!

The level of organization was incredible.  The minute we pulled up to the gate two bubbly young ladies walked over to the car to ask the name of the camper who was arriving.  Upon giving her name they told us the cabin number she was in, handed us some papers to review and placed a sticker on our back light with the number of the cabin she was staying in.  They said the gates would not open till 10:00 (of course we got there early!), but as soon as they did to pull through and stop at the top of the hill where they will remove her trunk to deliver to her cabin.  Stop right here….yes….they deliver that huge trunk to the cabin for us!  This is huge by itself as that thing is extremely heavy to carry, especially if I am ever to take her or pick her up from camp without Will!

As we waited for the gates to open we started to look at the papers they had handed to us.  One was a map of the grounds and the other three were letters written to the parents from the two counselors in her cabin, as well as, the village director for Betsie's village (Chippewa).  We even had pictures attached so we would know what they looked like before arriving to the cabin!!!  The letters were the most heart felt letters and left me a little teary eyed…I am not going to lie.  Knowing my daughter was going to be spending a week with these young ladies helped relieve any anxiety I was having.  Knowing these girls were praying for my child before they even met her really touched my heart.

Right on the nose at 10:00 the gates opened and we were driving through the camp.  As soon as the car started approaching the top of the hill all the counselors were yelling and jumping up and down and music was playing….talk about a warm welcome!  We pulled up, they took the trunk out of the car and placed the sticker on her trunk so they would know which cabin to deliver her trunk to later for her.  Betsie and I got out of the car and the boys (Will and Eli) parked and then went to the cabin to grab her a bed!  At the first camp we were one of the last ones in the cabin and Betsie didn't like feeling rushed (who could blame her) so we tried things differently this time.  However, the level of organization was so top notch that our arrival time would not have mattered here….honestly.

Betsie and I then went to check in, get a lice check (yes they even check for lice!!!), see the nurse to get her temperature taken and then headed to the camp store to pick up her items we ordered.  We were in and out of all these places in 15 minutes!  Then off to Chippewa Hill we went!

These cabins were really nice!!!  They had two toilets, two sinks and two showers.  This was a bonus as the first camp had a bath house which was shared with everyone.  Betsie was very excited about this change!  And there were no more than 10 campers per cabin versus 16 at the other camp.  After she was all settled we were able to take some pictures and walk around the camp before it was time for a parent meeting.  It was really nice of them to have a meeting for the parents so we could be informed of their week and also ask any last minute questions.  Before we headed to the meeting at noon, we gave our last hugs and kisses for the week!  The second time around was a little harder for me, but I knew she was going to have the time of her life….and I would be able to see her smile every day!

Girls being checked at the Infirmary

Camp Store

Betsie's Village

Will and Eli walking up to her cabin

So many in her age group for Starter Camp they had to take over a cabin 
in another village!

She got "toilets" first to clean, but thankfully it was the first day so they couldn't have 
been that dirty!

Clean showers!

And toilets!

Betsie and her BFF

Betsie and her BFF

The lake…look at that slide!

The lake from another angle…can see zip line and the blob!

The Chapel

the inside

Sign pointing to the prayer garden

Eli is up at the top and you had to cross this cute little creek to get to it

Betsie talking to her counselor Taylor and showing 
her what she got at the camp store.

The Pavilion with an outdoor fireplace

Every day I could email her (and I did) and they would print out the emails and give them to her at Mail Call.  She had to write to us…you know pen to paper….but she could still hear from us every day.  And the camp uploaded pictures to a parent site THREE times at day!!!!  Betsie had over 100 pictures with her in them from one week there!!!!  This was a huge plus for me!!!!  I loved being able to see what she was doing and seeing her beautiful smile!  Below are some pictures….

There are 80 girls under all these papers!!!

Paint wars!

Betsie and her counselor Taylor

Betsie LOVED the blob!

Council of Progress

Before Betsie left for camp (both of them), I gave her a journal.  I had pre-written a note to her every day she would be gone and asked her to write to me every day.  I wanted her to know I was thinking about her and missed her dearly!  I wanted her to know if she got homesick all she had to do was open the book and read my words to her and it would be like I was with her.  I loved reading her responses when she returned and it will be something fun to save and look back on in the future.  This way she was able to write things down immediately too in case she forgot something while she was telling us stories of camp in person.

I don't know who the week went by faster for her or me.  Before I knew it I was back in the car with my mom driving to North Carolina to get her!  The day we picked up Betsie and her BFF it was raining cats and dogs and then some!  However, I should have known that camp would have been so organized I would not even have to get out of my car (I think they spoil the parents a little too…not complaining!!!).   Seeing as it was nasty weather and we had a long drive home, I wanted to make sure we got to the camp early….and we did.  First car in line.  Which made it possible for the picture below!

My mom and I the night before we picked up the girls

Waiting for the gates to open and to see Betsie!!!

Fifteen minutes before the gates opened two "still" bubbly and drenched young ladies came to the car to give us a DVD of the week (yes a movie from the week!!!) and to tell us about check out procedures.  When the gates open I was to proceed to the luggage pick up area (it was very obvious) and tell them the cabin number and child's name.  They put all luggage in the car and then as I was driving up to the dining hall they were radioing up to them which campers to get ready by the door.  As soon as I pulled up Betsie and her BFF came running out…we said good bye and on our way we were.  In and out in 5 minutes!

Locating our trunks…

I love efficiency!!!  I love organization!!! I love this camp!!!

But the one who really has to love it is Betsie and she did.  For the first three hours the girls did not stop talking about camp.  They didn't stop singing all their camp songs and the camp songs for the village they will be in next year.  When they started singing next year's songs I asked if they wanted to go back and it was the loudest "yes" possible!  I think it is safe to say she had the time of her life!

I loved hearing all the new friends she made from North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida.  I loved hearing all the games they played.  I loved hearing about chapel and devotional time.  I loved hearing about their daily jobs and responsibilities.  I loved hearing her say how she enjoyed down time…we all need that.  I loved hearing every last detail and living camp through her eyes.  I loved being able to know what she was talking about as I had seen the pictures.

Betsie is a pretty amazing child and one who has had to grow up a little faster due to her role of being a big sister to her big sister.  She has learned independence starting at a very young age, as she heard, "one more minute" or "I'll be right there" many times as we were helping or tending to her sister.  With independence came responsibility.   As she became more and more independent we started putting more and more responsibilities on her.  Right or wrong, helpful or not, we did.  And we still do.  I constantly have to take that step back and see things from a different perspective and remember she is a kid and wants to be a kid.

The number one driving factor for me to want to send Betsie to sleep away camp was I wanted her to go and enjoy a week or two where she was "just Betsie".  I wanted her to be herself with no other cares or worries.  It's hard being a parent to a child with special needs.  It's also hard to be a sibling to one.  And I don't want to forget this.   So while she was at camp being Betsie, still growing in her level of independence and responsibility, she was also growing in her self confidence.  But most importantly she was able to just be herself!

And probably my favorite thing I heard from the backseat of the car was her and her best friend still talking.  I was a little worried about her and her BFF going to two of the same camps together, but this one they did everything together….day and night.  I was a little worried when I picked them up they might be sick of each other….but nope!  These girls have an amazing friendship.  They can meet new friends but know they always have each other.   I even complimented them on this in the car.  It is a true test of their friendship and I hope it always stays like this!

I know this post was long, but I just had to share from a parent's perspective how pleased I was with this camp.  When you go by word of mouth and know nothing it can be scary sometimes.  That is what I did.  I was sold from the their video online, the conversations I had with the director and from the words shared by a friend.

Will she be going back?  Yes she will…for two weeks next summer.  And Eli will be doing the Starter Camp for a week on the boy's side!  Now I just have to find a camp for Anna Cate, Will and I!!!

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