For the past few weeks I've been spazzing out as I planned activities, gathered supplies, wrote notes and made sure as many kids were coming as possible. Then all of a sudden December 21st finally arrived. Smooney and I had slept over at camp the night before and we woke up ready to see our camp family.
The first hour is one of my favorites as everyone arrives. There are hugs and screams and running and more hugs. People are beyond excited to see each other. Many of these friends haven't seen one another in five or six months. I loved seeing counselors like Rachel, Ellyn and Alex back together again. The three best friends, three amigos, three musketeers.
Sar and Sar were the dynamic duo once again. We've been friends for years but working CILTs together last summer brought us so much closer. It's honestly been hard to have her so far away this semester and I wish we could just be real life friends all the time. Sar helps me to be a better person and I think she makes the world more awesome.
Because we invite all three sessions of CILTs to the reunion the kids don't all know one another. At first everyone naturally gravitates to their own session. Which totally makes sense. Seeing them so insanely happy to be back together is the best.
Ellyn got a sweet gift from Ally, an LN (Get it? LN... Ellyn...) tshirt that she freaked out about and then immediately put on. Ellyn and I quickly got busy filling our quota of #dailysarahandellynpics.
I was so excited to see friends like Grace who I've grown even closer to since camp and girls like Taylor that I've gotten to see pretty often at home in Indy. Taylor surprised me with a Theta Kappa Lambda (aka The Kokomo Longhouse) canvas that I'm obsessed with.
Watching all of these friends greet one another was the best. Every person was attacked with a swarm of hugs. Some of these CILTs flew across the country to be here. We had kids from Pennsylvania, Florida, California, Georgia and Tennessee not to mention Illinois, Michigan and all over Indiana.
I love the beginning of the weekend when you know that so much fun is just ahead. Even if there was no agenda at all, we'd still just love being together.
And you never know what adventures or shenanigans we'll end up having when the CILT Team is all back together again.
We played Where the Wind Blows to start things off. It's the very first time that everyone is really interacting and the loudest personalities from each group definitely shine.
The different sessions raced to make shapes with their bodies on the floor. It's fun to see who immediately steps up as the director and how they quickly revert to the roles they took on during the summer.
Then everyone got split up into teams for the rest of the afternoon and rotated through four different challenges. In one spot they had to identify counselors from last summer, in another they played classic camp games, in the third spot they identified objects that symbolized things from camp and with Alex and I they ran around the Lake Village on a photo scavenger hunt.
I love that when you start taking a photo it's inevitable that everyone else will jump in too. I started taking this picture with three girls and about thirty seconds later everyone was in the shot. This weekend we had 96 CILTs and 9 counselors in attendance.
Being back here with all of these kids actually makes my heart feel physically full. I love hanging out with Saaya and Soph and being friends with Emily and Chach. They made my summer one of the best ever getting to being one of their counselors was a privilege.
Our theme dinner was "Would You Be My Friend If I Wore This?" and the kids did not disappoint. The girls of session three...
and Session 1...
Friday night Sophie had sent us a picture while she was in Wal-Mart trying to decide if she wanted to get this cat shirt. When Smoon and I stopped by to pick up some things this morning we saw the same shirt and decided to get our own to surprise Soph. All three of us also just happened to bring overalls and snapbacks without planning it. Smoon and I changed in a different room than Sophie and then walked in and her jaw dropped open she was so excited.
Prince Henry is the Prince of Disney World so it was only fitting that he dressed up as the infamous Micky Mouse. Ellyn shrieked when she was him and demanded they get a picture right away. Molly and Taylor became official real life best friends and both looked so gosh darn cute in their outfits.
We played Taylor Swift during dinner and everyone was singing on their chairs and dancing around the room.
The Party Room is our headquarters in the River Village but tonight we definitely had a party together. By this time the different groups of kids were intermixed and everyone was having fun and barely remembering to eat dinner.
This theme is my favorite because everyone looks so absurd and fun and you never know what people will come up with. Taylor has been so excited about her kangaroo outfit, I loved Claire being a mime, Em had a sick badger nightgown and Alex and Rachel were that obnoxious matchy-matchy couple.
We pulled up pairs of kids to compete in a game after dinner. With random noisemakers they buzzed in to try to finish the camp song lyrics. Tommy was trying so hard to buzz in at the end of the line with the box of tennis balls and Paige and Glen just couldn't make any noise with their splash balls.
Then we pulled up more friends to play the equally awkward and amazing spoon and string game.
We're only a few days away from Christmas so everyone brought a gift for a White Elephant Gift Exchange. They took turns choosing a present from the fireplace and then opening it back in the circle. You could also steal someone else's opened gift instead of choosing a new one.
Highlights included a minion pinata,
Alex's fur coat from last summer,
and a vintage Friendship Bracelet Club sweatshirt.
Back over in Kampen each Session performed their cheer from the summer. This year was also special because this was the first time that every single session ordered clothes-- "I love Girsh" shirts for 1, black and neon green crewnecks for 2 and navy frockets for 3. It definitely helped make each group stand out.
We played the Human Ladder game across the whole room, a favorite of mine to watch.
Then we played the Newlywed Game, one of my favorite reunion traditions. Each session splits in half and goes to opposite sides of the room. We give them different categories and they write down the name of someone from their session. At the end they share their answers and if they match then they get a point.
They have to remember things like who was the funniest, best with the elderly, or most creative. We make them think about who has changed the most or who is the most addicted to social media. And we predict things like who will be on staff forever, become president one day or most likely to wrestle a deer.
Finney Baby and Adam showed up from Texas to visit for a little while. Finney was a counselor with us for half of Session 2 and those kids were so excited to see her.
The CILT reunion is for the CILTs but the counselors definitely have a good time too. It's hard to capture just how ridiculous Adam, Rachel, Molly, Jamie, KJ, Soaps, Ellyn and Smooney were all being.
One of my favorite things to think about all summer long is which kids from different sessions would be friends if they had the chance to meet. I think the world of both Gianna and Saaya and just had this gut feeling that they should and would and could be best friends. I made both of them eat ice-cream with me so they could meet. What do you know, they hit it off and realized they really do have a ton of things in common. I love when friendships like this spark.
Every year I put together a reunion movie with all of the pictures and videos of CILTs during the summer of 2013. For an hour we get to relive all of the best moments and it almost feels like we're back in those hot, long days again when we were oh so tan and always smiling. We may all talk about camp to our friends at home but no one can fully understand what a special experience it was except for these people. Watching all of those moments together is one of my favorite things.
The boys headed over to Whitetail for the rest of the night and the girls stayed in Kampen. We wrote love tanks next and the love tank bags filled an entire wall of the stage.
There were about 80 of us, the biggest slumber party you ever did see. I loved looking around and seeing all of these friends talking, scratching backs, writing notes, playing with each other's hair, eating snacks, laughing together and just being real life friends again.
All of the girls circled up for one giant devotion. It's always such a huge moment for me to sit in that circle and see all of them together. One of my favorite authors writes about how her friends are a net. If you think about the connections between people as ropes, then together you would form this huge intricate net. That net catches us when we need it and we get to carry others when they need it. That net keeps us connected. Because so many of us are woven into it, it's stronger than you could ever be on your own. My hope is that these girls and counselors will continue to be that net for one another. There is something so special about the bonds you make during CILTs and the way that those friendships keep growing even when you're back home. No matter what comes in the next couple weeks or the next couple years I want those girls to know they'll always be part of this family and always have this net to fall back on.
We woke up early the next morning to This Side, just like all those mornings in the Longhouse. Except for the fact that it was freezing and we were a little disoriented at first in this massive room with so many friends around.
We made it over to the dining room for baked oatmeal and Smoon, Moll and Jordan gave us some post breakfast trivia. How old is Kyle Linback? What's the quadratic formula? How many engaged people were here this weekend? Which sorority is Molly Henry in? What are the names of Sarah Wright's nephews?
Jackie, Anna and Justin came up to compete in a frozen t-shirt game. Each shirt was a solid block of ice and they had to beat and hit and pull and stretch the shirts until they could put them on.
They tried to breathe on it, hold it between their legs and put it under their shirts to warm it up. But hitting it against the fireplace seemed to be the most productive method (except for when Anna chipped off part of a rock).
Over at Kampen Jamie and KJ led us in chapel. They played all of our favorite chapel songs like Our God, Desert Song, Give Me Faith, We Won't Be Shaken, Your Love Is Amazing, Washed By The Water and a new one called I Am by David Crowder. She talked to us about the relationship we have with Christ and how we both are holding on to one another.
We played Norwegian Nose Dive and Bubblegum Pictionary.
Then had a glow stick dance party. Camp people are so good at dance parties it's not even fair to the rest of the world.
Our last super weird game was a race with Skittles.
Each pair was assigned a color to eat as quickly as possible.
Axton and Kathryn ended up winning the whole thing.
The morning flew by and soon it was time for lunch, our last meal together. We did every camp cheer we could think of and ran around taking more pictures with all of our friends. I love that pictures like this happen by the end of the weekend-- we've got girls from every session, people like Natty B who I see multiple times a week and friends like Paige that I haven't seen since CILTs. It's the sweetest thing to have everyone here together at once.
Session 1 even sang their graduation song up front. Smoon, Jamie and I sang it together the rest of the summer and still knew all of the lyrics.
I love the energy that everyone has. So many times kids talked about how this was just what they needed and they feel like they fell right back into being their camp self. You can't help but be filled with positivity and joy here.
At this point of the day I really wished that I could freeze time. I hate thinking about saying good-bye when we all just got back together again. Molly said we should all sing "Tecumseh" and give a prize to the person who started crying first. I won before we even got to the song.
I loved getting to see cousins Jackie and Paige together in action. I'm so glad that Anna Davlin and Anna Firmani became good friends this weekend.
Jill, Anna, Soph, Saaya and Paige were some of the main characters of my life during session 1 and I loved the moments this weekend when I got to be back together with all of them. I love that they take such good care of each other and build one another up.
I'm so glad that I've got Jamie, Smooney, Alex and Ellyn to do all of this with. Together we can spread out and build friendships with all of these kids.
Oh my gosh I love Claire Wendt. Heck of a girl. More daily pics with Ellyn which were expertly posed with the help of photographer extraordinaire Kerri Carlquist.
I'm so thankful that we get to have the CILT reunion each winter. This was the perfect start to our winter break and we all agreed that it just might be even better than Christmas. I'll miss all of these friends and we'll do our best to stay in touch and keep being that net.
Alex serenaded us with Butterfly Kisses for the third time this weekend, it's the song he would sing to Tommy every night in the Brova.
Last week Julia Dewolf asked me twice if I was excited for the reunion. In class all my students knew that I was coming back to camp for this. I've been counting down to see all of theses friends who mean the world to me. People like Sophie, Kat, Smoon, Jamie, Amanada and Anna who teach me about loving others and loving myself. They make my world brighter, make me laugh and make me wish we could just stay at camp together even longer.
I love Kerri and Taylor--their energy and love for this place is incredible. They both have the biggest hearts and would do anything for anyone.
When we were falling asleep last night Smoon asked if it was too cheesy to read "Puppies" to everyone. We're into cheesy at camp, but that story really is such a beautiful picture of CILT friendships. We're counselors because we love these kids and want to give them this experience and help them to grow but they also burrow into our hearts and change us. I'm who I am today because of all the different girls I've been able to know over the past ten years. I can't imagine not knowing them and having them as my friends.
We packed everything up and spent an hour just taking pictures and saying good-bye. A couple girls came back to say good-bye multiple times and I cried every time. Just like I could feel my heart fill up when they all arrived, it actually hurt as they all drove away. They each take a little piece of me with them.
I asked Taylor Fischl what she would want to remember about camp if this was the last time she was here. It's hard to put into words what this place means to us but she did such a good job of listing things that make this place incredible. She told me, "Laughing to the point of crying almost every single day, feeling God's presence so strongly everywhere I go, loving on those kids so hard, friends showing me how important I really am, being comfortable being 100% myself, seeing people completely transform throughout the week, getting kids to try new things and them loving it, constantly smiling no matter what, always having way more highs than lows, Tuesdays when cabins bond, losing my voice after two days but it being totally okay because it just shows I'm having tons of fun, how beautiful camp is, being able to walk up to anyone and become instant friends with them, powerful devos like the rock devo, and so much more. It's changed me so much."
The CILT reunion was everything I've been waiting for and more. I'm thankful for 25 hours of best friends and new friends, laughing and crying, dancing and scratching backs, being back at home with our second family.