Saturday, July 24, 2010

Head for the Hills

It's that magical time again. The time when you've finally evicted the stinky and disreputable civilization that had evolved in your kids' gym clothes during the school year, and are now working on eradicating the criminally insane squatters from those same kids' sleeping bags.

Can you smell it?  It's camp season.

In this house, we've been sentencing one kid or another to summer camp for the last twelve years. I assure them it's because, as city kids, they need the chance to breathe fresh country air once in a while. And yes, I continue, fresh country air does smell like a horse's powder room. If nothing else, they appreciate the smog a little more when they get home.

Having raised equal numbers of Scout Campers and Girls' Campers, however, I can tell you from experience that the two events and their participants have just one thing in common, that being the word "camp".

Nothing else, from preparation to execution to debriefing, even occupies the same orbit.

Let's start with preparation. My girls usually begin shopping for camp in February, and it takes longer for them to complete their list than it took the Almighty to construct the mountain they'll be camping on.

A typical list of essentials for Girls’ Camp reads something like this:

*Bug spray



*Industrial size toiletry bag

*Shoes for hiking

*Shoes for sitting around the campfire

*Shoes for if it rains on the other shoes

*Different shoes for if stuck-up Chelsea Brinkerhoff shows up at camp with the same hiking shoes as mine and then tells everyone I got mine in the kayak department just because her feet look like they were made by Mattel



*Journal with matching gel pen

*Camp cot because I am SO not sleeping on the ground

*Hello Kitty stickers for Beehive aged Secret Sister

*Jolly Rancher jellybeans for Secret Sister

*Lip gloss for Secret Sister

*Justin Bieber trading cards for Secret Sister

*Hair doo-dahs and sparkly nail polish for Secret Sister

*Hand written notes of love and encouragement for Secret Sister

*Eight pounds of mini Reese’s peanut butter cups – NOT for Secret Sister, seriously, don’t even ask

*Photographic memory to capture every snotty look, gossipy remark, and sinister act of deliberate ignorage perpetrated by fellow campers

*Color coordinated Rubbermaid bins to store everything

On the other hand, my sons usually have no idea they're even going to camp until we drop-kick them out of the Yukon into the church parking lot. Their camp list is completed at a gas station while en route, and includes the following:

*Duffel bag filled with Starburst and beef jerky

When the girls arrive at “Camp Celestial Marriage”, they’ll find the campsites linked together by clotheslines spray painted silver, from which glittery pictures of all the world's temples are suspended.

Each ward will have been assigned a temple, an Article of Faith, and a scripture out of Nehemiah, and all of their camp décor, skit scripts, and “singing in the trees” songs will be based on these topics. At the end of the week awards will be given to any campers who have not re-worded their scripture to include a line about leaders who force girls to hike being thrust down to the pit of endless woe and eternal aggravation. Tears will be shed.

Meanwhile, the boys are unloading their gear at “Camp Fartsalot,” and already they have run into trouble. It seems that, among twenty-seven scouts, five scout leaders, two bishopric members, and a dad who fell asleep in the back of the pickup, not one has remembered to pack a change of underwear.

This is not the problem. The problem is there are no Council reps around to document the whole thing and sign off on everyone’s “Nasty Bum” merit badge. In the true spirit of scouting, the men and boys valiantly sit down on their duffels and begin a hearty lunch of Starburst and beef jerky, confident that the merit badge guy will mosey along some time before the end of the week.

Day one at Camp Celestial Marriage is progressing nicely. All the hair within a 20-mile radius has been French braided, the Beehives have begun their weeklong effort at driving the Laurels to homicidal distraction, and there has only been one slap fight, for which the leaders apologized, and have promised not to repeat.

Everyone has finished toll painting their inspirational wall hangings, which are displayed with boutique-like elegance throughout the site. Bumper sticker philosophies now beam down on anyone passing up the trail toward the “showers”:

“Happiness doesn’t pour from cloudless skies. It comes from learning to dance in the rain.”

“You’ve got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything.”

“If I ever find out who ate all my mini Reese’s peanut butter cups I will stick your French braided head in the latrine.”

The scouts (having finally received proof from the council guy that they really do have filthy laundry habits) now set off to begin earning additional merit badges. Each boy has a list of those badges he has not yet received, including such testosterone-intensive requirements as “Knitting”, “Puppy Hugging”, and “Life as a Mama’s Boy”.

Leaders are breathing out threatenings that if the scouts don’t earn these merit badges while at camp they can just forget about earning them back home, as they, the leaders, would rather front for Yanni than set aside valuable scout meeting time to work on them.

After all, there are only so many good ice-blocking Wednesdays available during the summer, and the scout meeting schedule is booked solid.

Being naturally predisposed to obedience and remembering what anyone says for longer than the time it takes to pass gas and blame it on the newest kid in the troop, the scouts solemnly heed the counsel of their leaders and immediately trot off to the archery range to earn their "Acupuncture" merit badges.

This will be followed up by the “Watch Where You’re Standing” merit badge, the “Here, Just Glue That Cut Together” merit badge, and the coveted “For Crying Out Loud Don’t Tell Your Mother How You Got That Scar” merit badge.

This is the only award that is actually the size and shape of a body cast. It’s a very useful merit badge.

Eventually, of course, it will be time to go home. After a lovely testimony meeting where there is so much bawling the lower campsites are washed into the ravine, and where the Laurels finally reveal the location of their Beehive hostages, the happy residents of Camp Celestial Marriage retire to their tents, and for the first time in five days, begin to question the wisdom of avoiding “those gross showers” and opting to tidy up using lemon scented Handi-wipes instead.

When the priesthood brethren arrive in the morning to help the girls break camp, they will conclude that, rather than face federal bio-weapons charges for bringing those tents back into the city, they should wrap the whole lot in C-4 and blow it to kingdom come. As veteran Scout Campers themselves, the men are completely in their element; some of them keep explosives in the glove compartments of their mini-vans.

The boys, of course, are sunburned to within an inch of their crusty adolescent lives. This is a good thing, as they are also so unfathomably dirty they were carrying several micro-organisms which, had they not been neutralized by frying that top layer of scout epidermis, would have upon arrival back in town mutated into such a powerful communicable disease as to wipe out the entire West Coast by Labor Day. So California will have had a narrow escape there.

Some time around noon on Saturday, all of the ward’s youth will spill out of well-ventilated SUVs onto the church lawn, where they’ll be hosed off via industrial water truck.

Their remaining camping gear will be placed into hazardous waste containment units and shipped off to an undisclosed bunker for scientific study and eventual demolition, and Camp 2010 will be officially over.

After yet another decontamination shower and a comprehensive raid of the refrigerator, the kids will fall into a post-adventure coma and not wake up until it’s time to start destroying the house again.

At which point their mothers will earn the “I Can Swear in Six Languages” merit badge.

That one’s my favorite.

Originally published in 2009, but revised and declared timeless by all three voices in my head.


Hel said...

I'm looking forward to earning my own motherhood badges.... that swearing one sounds particularly interesting.

Will you sign me off on my "Resisting the urge to bean my child with only 3 hours sleep"?


Kristina P. said...

I'm glad you republished this, because it made my day.

The girls there do the classy french braids, huh? We tried to look like a prison gang and do the cornrows. I can totally shank a sistah.

And Camp Fartsalot sounds like a Tuesday night around here.

Becca said...

I think this was the forst post of yours I ever read. And you know what? I love it still. And you, even more.

Gina said...

Ice blocking... that is a purely southwestern LDS tradition. I suggested this activity to the ward here in FL and they looked at me like I had monkeys on my head.

Well written. It totally reminds me of my girls camp days.

MommyJ said...

I agree with all three voices in your head. We had girls camp this week. I was so disappointed that I left early to bring the baby home and I didn't get to eat cake cooked inside the skin of an orange. And gosh darn it, I also missed the omelets cooked inside a plastic bag the next morning. Having a baby makes you miss out on all the fun.

Lara said...

I have served in Young Women for the last 4 years and have managed to not go to Girls Camp once in that time. Probably grounds for excommunication.

This year it was during the opera, last year they released me before camp because I was moving. The year before that I was all set to go, much as I didn't want to, and then my grandma died and I had to go to her funeral instead. And the year before that Sophia was still nursing and too old to take with me.

You're welcome for that.

I will probably have to go next year. I will start packing now.

MarieC said...

My husband and I both laughed so hard at this, we cried! However, we do have to point out that no self-respecting Boy Scout would go to camp with out a lighter and a can of aerosol deodorant for entertainment around the campfire.

Kazzy said...

Hilarious, again. LOL It has gotten to the point in my house, that when my husband and kids come home from scout camp and I reluctantly greet them at the door, my husband puts up his hand to me, as if to say, "Don't ask what they did." So now I don't.:)

My boys go this week, so it will just be the two of us around here (with the occasional pop in from my adult son). And it's my anniversary. WooHoo!

Baby Sister said...

That's my kind of camp! Resses Peanut Butter Cups here I come!!!! :D

Cheeseboy said...

This is a republished piece? Thank goodness, because I would have been ticked if I had missed out on this one!

Congrats, you have just received an award:

First blog post that I have shown my wife that is not mine that she has laughed out loud at. Ever.

I will try and get a button for this award made up ASAP.

This part made me laugh the hardest: "*Justin Bieber trading cards for Secret Sister".

I will never understand that secret sister BS.

My wife is YW President and she is headed to her 3rd YW summer camp next week. Fortunately, it is a ward one, so this is what she always plans: They go (all 7 girls in our ward and their 7 leaders) to a cabin, play cards, laugh, maybe go for a hike and then come home. It's just like a big party.

L.T. Elliot said...

Man, I've missed your delightful wit! This was so deliciously hilarious, I read it aloud to my husband, who emphatically (and proudly) admitted to earning all of said merit badges. ;)

Miss you. You're excellent.

Rebecca said...

This is the first year that I have sent a daughter to girls camp, and by golly, she DID start packing in February! I have endured months of whining that she doesn't have all she needs for camp even though it is in the garage for her to get herself.
I think I like taking boys to camp better. So much easier!

Braden said...

As a chronic, inveterate, eternal skeptic of being in the great outdoors, I am glad you posted this. Every year at this time, I am forced by my leaders to attend both these kind camps and murmur "Why do we do this..." and the answer is clearly that we do it so you could write the quintessential post on the subject. I'll remember this at YW camp next week.

MarieC said...

Our ward's YW got back from camp last night, and of course, several of them were invited to the stand to talk about the week. After reading this (and weeping with laughter) last night, my husband and I were trying to keep straight faces while the family in the pew in front of us gave us dirty looks. The theme for camp this year was "Happily Ever After," and several girls made reference to learning that they are beautiful on the outside AND on the inside.

Heidi said...

Thoroughly enjoyed this!! Motherhood badge...LOL!

Theresa Rodriguez said...

That about summed up our girls camp. :)

Christy said...

I laughed so hard I woke up Hubs!

Christy said...

Did you know that I never actually attended girls camp? Being from a non camping family I never understood why the crazy leaders wanted me to go sit in the dirt for 4 days. I thought it was the Mormon equivalent of a vision quest...every year my dad would go see the girls off at the church and come home "surprised" that I wasn't attending. Hello!!! I'll go if you go Bishop!!

Garden of Egan said...

One of the all time best posts ever DeNae. It was this post I read last year that I fell in love with a non gay way of course!
I read it to our ER doc who happened to be going up to scout camp after his shift. He made me copy it down so he could read it that night in front of the campfire. I kid not.
So your famous in Island Park.

JoeinVegas said...

Only six?

T said...

I'm still stuck on Chelsea Brinkerhoff... we have one of those in our stake... only she's not a mattel footed snob (that I know of) her name is actually Chelsea Brinkerhoff!

My boys have spent 1/2 of their summers in sleeping bags - the girls are too young for camp but ManOfTheHouse works with the YW program... and thus we have been gifted many matching notebook and pen sets for camp readiness :)

here he is, an eagle scout - and he seems to not know how vital they are... go figure.

The Crash Test Dummy said...

hee hee hee hee

We skipped the temple crap and toll painting this year. Helk, we didn't even certify any of our girls. What good is it anyway? Seriously? Especially when you can go see Tarzan instead.

But the camp Fartsalot is still going strong around these parts.

My favorite part of this post was the fact that three voices in your head requested it. ha ha ah

You're such a kook! LY!

Your verifier say odloties. You are an odd lot, that's for sure.

AS Amber said...

Yay! This was one of my favorites! I agree with all the voices in your head.

Having never been to a scout camp I'll have to take your word for how it goes down. However, being a seasoned veteran of Girls' Camp, I can tell you that your description is spot-on and I LOVED every second of it! I I have never gona back as an adult, though. I keep hoping I'll get invited one of these years!

The Atomic Mom said...

Brilliant! However, I remember girls camp as a camp wasn't much on the spiritual side back when I went, which was ok. I distinctly remember my first year shelacing cow pies for centerpeices, not even kidding.

veronica said...

How did I miss this post the first time around? This is most certainly a classic and should be revisited each and every summer from now until forever.
Listen to those voices. They know what they are talking about.

Marianne said...

I should know better than to read you while I'm at work. I actually snorted out loud while trying NOT to laugh out loud.

Thanks a lot!! :-)

seashmore said...

The three voices are right. I always look forward to "hearing" what the four of you have to say.

Screwed Up Texan said...

My friend who happens to be over in Spain at the moment sent me this and may I just say I laughed out loud which is really hard for fellow members to make me do. Especially blogging members. But girl you hit this one on the spot--so real, so refreshing. Fortunately, I never could tell when some ignorant chica was making fun of me at girls camp. Which was probably all the time.

Jami said...

How on earth have I not ever commented on this? Every year I share this with at least one mom who is having a breakdown about one or the other of these camps. Thanks for helping me laugh at it all.