My poor sweet dad drove me all the way to My-Mom-Has-Cancer-Camp today. I was so anxious to see the ninos that I leaped out of the car and ran all the way to the lodge. (I can run if I don't move my arms. If I run with my hands down at my sides. It looks pretty neat. I say I should run any chance I can get while I can. Even if I look like Napoleon Dynamite)
When I dropped the kids off on Sunday, their first task after depositing their suitcases and gear off in their cabins was to meet at the main lodge and make name tags for themselves, with the name you will go by that week on them. This is a big camp tradition - making a nickname for yourself. Heck, I even had this tradition myself my first summer as an EFY counselor. By mistake, I hadn't been ordered a name tag. So I got someone's old name tag and put a new name on it each week. My friend Thad was in charge of naming me each week for 8 weeks. One week I was Disco Diva. Another week I was CK One (Cool Kar One). One week I was Karate Hottie (no, I do not know karate). It was AWESOME. Nobody knew my real name. And it was a blast.
Anywho, some of the kids and all of the counselors had given themselves names. Artichoke. Batgirl. Ghost Ninja. Thor. So the kids thought hard and came up with names for themselves. Sadie decided to be Twilight (after Twilight Sparkle from My Little Pony). Dylan decided to be Roblox (some dumb video game).
Micah's counselor turned to him and said, "Sooooo, what do you want to be called this week?"
At this point, I was praying silently. Please don't let him pick something really girly like Diamond Tiara and get teased all week long.
Micah turned to him with derision. "Duh," he said sarcastically. "Sanderson..." [This isn't our real last name. If you know me, insert my real last name here.]
"Oh! Um, are you sure? Most people choose their favorite food or cartoon character. Like, what's your favorite cartoon?"
"Well, you could be Scooby Doo!"
"No. I'm Sanderson. That's the name I want."
"Are you sure?"
And the kid proceeded to write "Sanderson" on his name tag and decorate it with stickers. I said a quick "thank you" prayer. Sanderson is better than Petticoat Princess or something.
That kills me. Duh...Sanderson...
Pretty soon the kids were so excited that my sister, mom, and I were like, "Um, okay, so we'll go then...um, love you? See ya? Can you give me a hug?"
Fast forward through lots of pain pills and lots of tears, and I was running with my hands down by my sides to the lodge to see my kiddos. I ran into a group of guy counselors on the path who were kind of directing traffic and saying goodbye to the campers as they left.
"Hey," they said, "Whose mom are you?"
"Dylan, Sadie, and Micah," I said, grinning like a drunk.
They looked at me with blank stares.
"Oh, I mean...Roblox, Twilight, and Sanderson."
"SANDERSON??? WE LOVE SANDERSON!!! Your kids are so awesome! But Sanderson, he's the BEST!!"
Another counselor came wandering up.
"Hey, Captain America, this lady is Sanderson's mom!!"
"Sanderson??" said Captain America, chuckling. "We love that kid. Everyone has a Sanderson Story."
I looked from face to face. "Oh no. Was he nuts? Was he really over-emotional? Did he tell people he would kill them?"
"What? No! He is so cute! He says the funniest stuff! He's my favorite kid in the whole camp!"
So I picked up my really smelly, really dirty kids, bawling and hugging them so hard. ["Ow, Mom, your chest is really hard...It feels like hugging a rock..."] As we gathered their stuff and made our way back to the entrance of the camp, every single kid we saw, and every single counselor, hugged and high fived all my kids, but when they saw Micah, they yelled, "Sanderson! Sanderson!!! Dude, we love you! We'll miss you so much! You ROCK!!"
It was NUTS.
I loved it.
Stories I've heard in the long car ride home: They pulled pranks on each other. Sadie didn't have any girls her age, so she was put in the cabin with 12-year-olds and those girls doted on her. Dylan had only one other boy and one guy counselor in his cabin, and like 12 beds. So he and his friend made an elaborate fort to navigate through and to sleep in for the whole week. They canoed, swam, did archery, did obstacle courses, got rained on HARD, and made really great friends. Oh, and they did lots of arts and crafts. I can't wait to get their little disposable cameras' pictures developed (yes, those still exist). Dylan was given the Best Archer award. Way cool. Sadie was given the Sweetest Camper award. That's my girl. Micah was given the Spanish Award.
I can feel another Sanderson Story coming on, can you?
So everyone was given a camp shirt that could be written on. Like, the other campers would sign your shirt, right? So apparently, Micah would write gobbledy gook on peoples' shirts. Unintelligible signs and slashes and curliecues. And the signees would look at their shirt and say, "What did you write?" And Micah would importantly say, "It says such-and-such. It's Spanish." In all seriousness.
On the ride home, we stopped at a Scenic Overlook of the valley that's right near the camp. Pretty, right?
We also stopped at Craters of the Moon, because I had promised my kids that I would let them buy stuffed animal puppets that we had seen there on the way to camp, but only if they didn't cry and ask to go home. I did not want to make that drive more times than necessary. Since they did brilliantly well, I had to pay up. And I made Dylan pose in an astronaut hat for good measure.
They were so dirty and disgusting, you guys. I asked Dylan if he brushed his teeth at all the whole week.
"Yeah," he said, "Twice."
When we stopped in Hailey to eat and to gas up, I went into the gas station and bought fingernail clippers, a toothbrush, and toothpaste. I brushed Dylan's teeth hard core and cut his nasty dirty fingernails. I just couldn't stand it. We ate dinner at Mom and Dad's house, and I made all of them wash their feet and trimmed their dirty nasty toenails, too. And Micah's fingernails. He was in hysterics. He HATES me to trim his fingernails. He says that he "can't feel anything" when I cut them. Dad was cuddling him when I was done and he was wailing, "I can't feel anything! I'm SERIOUS!"
Everyone has a Sanderson Story, indeed.
I'm so thrilled with Camp Kesem (That's the real name of it. There really isn't a banner that says, "My Mom Has Cancer Camp" hanging at the entrance). There is one in almost every state. If there's not one in Oregon, I swear on all that is holy that my kiddos will return to the Idaho Camp Kesem every year until they turn 16. I'm going to milk this for all it's worth.
Because even kids whose moms or dads are in remission can go to this camp for FREE until they're sixteen. And guess who will be in remission next year?