As I mentioned last time we went on the annual All Church Retreat last weekend, at a beautiful camp in a river valley in the Hill Country. Complicating matters this year was a forecast calling for five to eight inches of rain and a flash flood watch, along with a mental highlight reel of a made-for-TV movie I watched twenty years ago about a summer camp bus that was swept from the road by a flash flood in the Texas Hill Country. I prepared for this eventuality by buying ponchos for the whole family. Because it isn't childhood if you aren't forced to sweat it out at camp in a four dollar sheet of plastic with a head hole.
Ryan took a half day so that we could leave early and hopefully get to camp before dark; in case flash flooding blocked the entrance to the camp I wanted to be stuck on the inside with all the s'mores ingredients instead of on the outside with the grouchy, disappointed children. As luck would have it the weather held and we used the extra time to stop for a beer tasting flight and some soft pretzels at a brewery about an hour from camp. We also took a few moments to admire the Howitzer on display at the museum near where we parked our car. I think all family fun church retreats should start with beer and guns. Hashtag Texas.
Here is the before picture we took of all the happy excited kids on the way into camp.
After we speed-unpacked the car, based on a tip from a friend that the big rain was a'comin', we ponchoed up the kids and headed for the lodge for some bedtime brownies and hot chocolate and benign neglect. Mr. Montessori (right) was extremely concerned that his "coat has no arms" and ultimately refused to wear it.
At bedtime that night James fell off his top bunk while insisting he climb down alone on a trip to the bathroom. He did something to his foot that managed to wake him up several times in the night until I gave him some ibuprofen and let him sleep with me. Charley and Wes had their own room this year. Mary is still Not a Fan of her sleep tent but settled quickly once she realized we were not letting her out. It was a late night for everyone but Charley managed to rally after his four bowls of sugar cereal and two hot chocolates
Wes disappeared shortly after breakfast and when I passed by this ditch full of muddy water on my way to orientation I found him. Later he started shivering so Ryan had to take him back to the cabin for a warm shower and some dry clothes (we forgot towels, so anyone who showered on this trip dried off with a fleece Lightning McQueen blanket). Later our friend showed us a washer and drier he'd found in the back of the kitchen and gave us super secret double dog permission to use it, WHICH WE DID AND HOW.
That afternoon I realized I hadn't laid eyes on Wes in a while and turned around to find him dragging this huge tree around the outside of the dining hall (once again soaking wet from playing outside in the rain all day with a whole pack of kids. I assume there was also lots of hot chocolate consumption, but I don't know because I was on an hour-long walk with a friend and Ryan was napping with the little kids CAMP IS THE BEST PLACE EVER).
Charley and his friend C spent a couple of hours dragging brush into the fire pit.
James discovered his love for the retro Big Wheel.
The swimming hole was down because of a problem with the dam, but this did not stop Charley and Wes from having some waterfront fun.
This probably would have been the year I let them swim to the raft, but they got to walk to it instead and it was just as exciting.
Their friends joined them after a while. Then the dinner bell rang and the walked back across the river and climbed up the swim ladder. Then had a few more cups of hot chocolate. With marshmallows.
AND THEN SOME S'MORES.
Charley roasted six marshmallows at once then put them all into s'mores then squirreled them away to a private little corner and ate every single one. Because the only rule at camp is there are no rules. Unsurprisingly he woke up with QUITE the hangover.
Then it was time for MY favorite part, the sing-a-long! A mix of John Denver, camp songs, and camp-vesper-like spiritual songs. I would do this every day if I could. Okay, I do do this every day in my car. DANCE, THEN, WHEREVER YOU MAY BE, I AM THE LORD OF THE DANCE SAID HE...
S'more time continued unabated. In the background a herd of glow-stick wearing kids was hurtling around the grounds on scooters. It was like a four foot tall rave out there.
Mary despaired of ever sleeping or eating on anything resembling a schedule ever again.
The next morning was sunny and muddy from two days of rain. As per tradition, they put out all the leftover food so that my children could supplement their sensible egg casserole with two kinds of ice cream, sugar cereal, cobbler, and hot chocolate with enormous pink marshmallows. Mary explored the fireplace in the dining hall while Charley and Wes finished their Buddy the Elf breakfast.
On the way back to our cabin she slipped and fell directly onto her back in a mud puddle and we had to change her into our last remaining dry clothes--James's shirt and a pair of pink sweatpants.
Next stop was chapel, where James became so irate about...something?... that Ryan had to take him out. Even though Ryan took him some distance away he was still screaming "I WANT MOMMY I WANT MOMMY I WANT MOMMY I WANT MOMMY I AM NEVER GOING TO STOP SCREAMING NEVER NEVER NEVER I WANT MOMMY" so loud that our pastor had to pause during the communion liturgy to keep from laughing.
He was asleep before we got back to the main road. Everyone was asleep before we got back to the main road. Camp is exhausting, but so fun and so wonderful. You feel loved the second you arrive (and the dining hall smells like brownies and is filled with friends) to the second you strap your screaming children into the car after chapel Sunday morning.
We stopped at Whataburger on the way home for lunch and were too fried to care that Wes wasn't wearing shoes or that everyone in the whole family was visibly dirty and disheveled (or that Wes's toenails were caked in mud hashtag Texas). This made it all the more hilarious when a cute couple and their sleeping newborn sat down next to us, much cleaner but definitely even more exhausted than us. Mary started screaming about something and I whisked her out of there with the quickness so she wouldn't wake the newborn and when I got back the mom looked at me and said softly "I cannot imagine having four of them. How do you...?" her voice trailed off. I promised her that it wouldn't be this hard forever, that big kids are pretty amazing and little kids are hilarious. And then a screaming fight broke out over some extra french fries someone found in a bag or someone touching someone else's leg or something.
We got home and threw everyone in the shower, forced them to eat some normal food, and then PUT THEM TO BED because DANG. Judging by the way I flaked out during my class on Tuesday I'd say we're all still adjusting to real life again after Spring Break. Which is why this post is four days late. AGAIN. Dang it.