Our Full Sunday

Camp Flag RaisingWe all look forward to Sundays at Rockbrook, and for several reasons. First, Sundays are a day when we get to sleep in; the rising bell rings and we wake up at 9 instead of 8am. After our active week, a little extra rest this morning was a good and well-appreciated thing. The treat continues when the girls can come to breakfast in their pajamas, essentially roll out of bed, put on a sweatshirt or robe if it’s feeling chilly, and shuffle to the dining hall through the fog (both literally and figuratively!). This morning, in addition to the eggs, bagels and cream cheese, fruit, granola and yogurt, we enjoyed sweet Krispy Kreme donuts, another Sunday tradition at camp. Rick even had a tray of special gluten-free donuts for the girls who required or preferred that.

About an hour after breakfast, at 11am, the Hi-Up campers (10th graders) presented their flag raising ceremony out on the hill. Raising the flag ceremonially, including reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and singing America the Beautiful has been a long tradition at camp also.  The whole camp dresses in their uniform and then creates a u-shaped formation around our flagpole. Today the sun was bright making our red and white uniforms look great on the green grassy hill.

Immediately afterwards, everyone walks silently in a single file line to the outdoor amphitheater for our weekly “chapel” assembly. For us, this is a moment of calm in our week to reflect a bit about core principles, values and ideas, rather than a religious ceremony of some kind. The campers themselves select a theme and then design a program that usually includes songs, poems and stories that illustrate the theme, with some time reserved for Sarah to add her thoughts. Today, our theme was “Special Places” and the girls talked about what makes certain places more special than others identifying the importance of friends, feeling at ease, and fond memories. They said special places don’t have to be fancy or far away; they can be your back yard or a special tree. Sarah read the book Our Tree Named Steve by Alan Zweibel which beautifully describes that exact idea! I’m sure the girls enjoyed thinking about where their special place or places might be.

Our Sunday lunch, which is always something special, was another impressive presentation by Rick, the Rockbrook chef and kitchen manager. Beginning early in the morning, he made pan after pan of homemade lasagna, baking the layers of pasta, marinara sauce, ricotta and mozzarella cheeses. With heaping bowls of salad and bread to complement, there was nothing but rave reviews about our midday meal.

Sponge Relay GirlWatermelon GirlAn all-camp event for the afternoon is another typical Sunday activity at Rockbrook, and today we held an exciting tournament of games and relays, the “Red Bird Olympics.” First we divided all the campers into three teams, being careful to distribute the age groups, and then gave each team a bottle of washable paint to identify/decorate themselves— one red, white, and blue (The 4th of July is just two days away after all!). Take a look at the photo gallery to see how that turned out— everyone had their team’s color painted on them somewhere, maybe just a stripe on an arm or across a cheek, but in some cases much more!

Every camper participated in at least one of the relay events. Two were about careful tossing and catching: one with raw eggs and the other with water balloons. Girls on the same team would toss, and if successfully catch, they would step back to toss again from a greater distance. This continued until only one pair remained successful. Another challenge had the girls searching for a piece of gum hidden in a pie pan full of flour. We had a crazy sponge relay where members of each team raced back and forth carrying a soaked sponge, transferring water from one tub to a smaller bucket.

One station was the lake where we held 3 different relays. One was an exciting greased watermelon race that required the girls to propel a greasy watermelon through the water without using their arms or hands. The second involved transferring a t-shirt from person to person after swimming a distance, and the last involved girls covering themselves with shaving cream and then sliding down the water slide.  All three were definitely silly, but also crazy exciting to watch.

In fact, that’s a good part of the fun— cheering on your teammates as they tackle the challenges of the games.  The girls made up cheers for their teams, jumping and screaming in support. The cheering was absolutely wild during the “human knot” event.

In the end, we weren’t sure which team actually “won” the Olympics because we didn’t keep score. I suppose we could have, but how would that matter? Like so much at Rockbrook, for these games too, the fun was in the doing not in the measuring of what’s done.

After dinner and spending some time signing up for a new set of activities that will start in the morning, all the girls grabbed their crazy creek chairs or sleeping bags and pillows to head down to the gym for a movie.  We first danced to a few pop songs while everyone was arriving, watched a fun animated short film called Presto, and then enjoyed the Pixar feature film Inside Out. Gathered together and relaxing this way was a nice close to our very full day at camp.

Camp Color Girls

Happiness Has A Special Place

Sundays at Rockbrook are a wonderful mix of relaxing, contemplative, messy, and wild. We broke with our “normal” schedule of activities and trips, of course. We began with a rising bell at 9:00 AM, sleeping in a whole hour later, to stagger right to breakfast. The campers indulged in skipping morning chores and finding Krispy Kreme donuts waiting for them on their tables.

While some would argue that sleeping in is the best part of the Sunday schedule, I love the flag raising on the hill conducted by our oldest campers, the Hi-Ups. We begin by circling around the flagpole, and today we were met with a warm breeze and sunshine. In line with tradition, the girls pledge allegiance to the flag and then sing “America the Beautiful” before filing to chapel in respectful silence. The CA’s, who use the last cabin on the walk to chapel to plan the end-of-session Banquet, all stand in front of their secret space to guard it.

Today’s chapel theme was “Special Places,” and it was camper-led, from the programs’ art to the agenda inside of it. The Junior and Middler campers used the week to plan which songs, speakers, quotes, poems, and stories to include. One camper brought tears to our eyes as she spoke about happiness as a special place, in light of the normal ups and downs of life. Many talked about why Rockbrook was theirs: They can be themselves, are relieved of the pressures and routines of home or school, and make long-lasting friendships.

We followed this low-key morning with a hearty, thanksgiving-style lunch. (There was turkey, cranberry sauce, lima beans, potatoes, and tofu for the vegetarians. Everyone loved it so much that we sang our special song of appreciation to the cooks!) Good thing the girls had bellies full of food… After rest hour, we surprised them with a special scavenger hunt that had them zigzagging all over camp looking for clues to win ice cream for their cabins!

The campers eventually settled in the gym, in front of a giant screen, for movie night after an epic shaving cream fight. Surprisingly clean after such chaos, the girls brought their coziest blankets, stuffed animals, and pillows. They squealed in celebration when they found out that we were watching Moana and sang along to the soundtrack. Full disclosure, after I left to retrieve their nighttime snack, I could hear them singing from the other side of camp. Sunday ended on the perfect note when everyone came together at the end for our “Goodnight Circle” routine.

Don’t You Ever Worry About a Thing

Sometimes at camp, I ask my girls what their schedule is like at home. Their answers amaze me: their days are jam packed with school, sports, and other activities. My campers are in high school and, as high achievers, I am really impressed that they are able to balance everything and still have time for friends and fun. Still, there is a lot on their plate: between basketball, dance, really challenging classes, and other pressures, many say they get stressed.

They view Rockbrook as a break from that, and Rockbrook is uniquely suited to providing a less stressful environment. At camp, I think we take a step back and look at what really matters, and have patience with the rest. It’s a place where a camper doesn’t have to worry about being reprimanded if she is five minutes late to an activity. Instead, she is greeted with a smiling face and excitement. It’s a place where we wear costumes and do crazy dance moves without fear of being judged. It’s a place where ‘perfect’ doesn’t really matter, but being a good friend does. Without the stresses of our outside lives and with a really loving and supportive community, girls feel profoundly comfortable to try new things and get close with people.

Sundays at Rockbrook really exemplify this. We take things a little slower on Sundays. After the girls’ dance last night, everyone was exhausted, so the extra hour of sleep was greeted with joy. We then ate Krispie Kreme donuts for breakfast (a camp tradition!) before going to chapel. The juniors and middlers led chapel this morning, and we all reflected on the theme of “Playfulness.” We sang songs like ‘Zip a Dee Do Dah’ and girls shared their thoughts on playfulness and how they think about it at camp. It was a perfect way to spend the morning before a delicious muffin break and tidying up our cabins.

After that, we had Assembly on the Hill. This is a time for the entire camp to come together and honor cabins with the famous ‘Mop Award,’ or a prize for the cleanest cabin. We also honored girls who were outstanding in the categories of Spirit, Manners, and Bend-a-Back, which means going the extra mile for a friend. After, we watched as the counselors had an old-fashioned water balloon toss. The middlers won!

We have a good amount of down time on Sundays, and everyone appreciates the chance to have a break and hang out for a little bit of time. Bop It has been big in my cabin this session, along with Trivial Pursuit and playing drums. During a stretch of time today, my cabin of fifteen-year-old girls spent time playing together in the creek. Every cabin has something that brings their cabin together, and it is nice to have a little bit of ease in the schedule so we have time to hang out with no rush of going somewhere else.

This afternoon, we had an extra long rest hour (such an important part of the day!) and then it was time for Miss RBC. Miss RBC is basically a talent show where each cabin puts on a skit for the rest of camp. Girls get very creative—the CA’s played drums and interpretively danced/sang to Eye of the Tiger. Senior 4 rewrote the lyrics to ‘Hush Little Baby,’ singing, “You’re going to follow the cardinal bird.” Middler 4 ended up winning—they did a time traveling skit that went through the decades starting in the twenties. They sang songs and did dances from each decade—it was incredibly impressive! Everyone in the audience was wide-eyed and clapped wildly after the performance!

For Miss RBC, we don’t use outside music or flashy lights. We just need the stage of the gym and a lot of imagination. I think there is something beautiful in the way we are completely captivated and entertained even without all of the distractions we usually would have at home. It is such a simple event to put on, but everyone enjoys performing and celebrating others’ talents.

After dinner, we had a barn party as the twilight activity! Girls could choose to walk down to the barn, play with the horses, eat a Popsicle, and watch the drill team perform! The drill team is comprised of girls who love riding, and they were able to synchronize their moves—it was quite a performance! Afterwards, the drill team members got Dolly’s, an extra special treat!

After a wonderful day of relaxation, it was time for movie night! Girls look forward to this every Sunday night. They bring down sleeping bags and pillows and curl up next to their good friends and watch great movies. Tonight, it was Zootopia! Every age group loves this movie, and many had not seen it before!

Tomorrow, we will return to a normal schedule, which is great because we get to continue doing so many activities! Still, today was a needed day of relaxation. Camp is winding down. Next Thursday, we will be back in our normal lives, back with all of the worries, joy, and support that come with that. What we have learned at camp, though, does not need to stay at camp. Rockbrook teaches us to slow down and reconsider what is important and what is not. We stop worrying about how we are perceived, and we realize that perfection is not the expectation. The biggest lesson I hope we take with us when we leave these mountains is simply: I Am Enough.