By the beginning of the third day, these Wee3Kings had the routine down. Up, dressed, teeth brushed and out the door on their scooters. Dear Conner and Elizabeth - thanks for suggesting they ride scooters into the welcome - that's why we had them in the car and they were the SMARTEST idea ever. Co-chairs for the win.
The Wee260freshmen also had the routine down and were much more excited by 9am than on day 1. To watch the transformation of the freshmen is so fascinating no matter how many times you witness it - they all go from unsure to totally excited. THAT is what Fish Camp is about - getting you outside of your comfort zone, helping you gain confidence and surrounding you with 100s of other people that are also unafraid to act like crazy fools.
One of my favorite parts of camp is the Community of Respect program. Way back in 1997 this was just a 20 minute activity. Flash forward 20 years and this is a dedicated time each day of camp to talk about real topics in a setting that provides comfort and support. The co-chairs and counselors share real examples from their lives of times that they were challenged and had to overcome something. Defining moments can include a death, a failed course, a friend coming out, or a number of other things.
These counselors put so much out there to make sure that these freshmen (people they JUST MET) have the best start to their college journey. Goodness, makes me tear up just thinking about it.
This is done in between the silly and sarcastic... they are breaking down barriers while building up relationships. These were the only DG times I didn't let the kids participate and y'all... Radley was so mad at me! ha.... he couldn't understand why he couldn't sit with the big kids and do what they were doing. I told him, somethings needed to wait until he was admitted into A&M. He forgot about it quickly when he got to "run" the lull signs.
At one point, I decided I could probably leave and go have a nice lunch in the big town of Palestine without anyone noticing I left.
Also, the irony that my children needed things LOUDER? Ha!
So up until 10 years or so ago, each camp came up with a theme that carried throughout the entire week. Banners, hump-its (cheers to non-Aggies), shirts, decorations, etc... all centered around a central theme.
For example my Fish Camp history:
Camp Wedemeir Road Crew Warriors (Session B, Aqua)
Camp Severn Psychedelic Street Squadron (Session B, Purple)
Camp Morgan Pirates of the Lost Ark (Session B, Aqua)
Camp Carroll Raiders of the Lost Toy Chest (Session B, Purple)
Camp Carielli George Costanza's Big Top Bonanza (Session C, Purple)
Camp Guercio Stewy and Hutch (Session B, Yellow)
Now they make up TONS of different ideas centered around the camp name - they totally nailed my childhood with the Copeland Banner (this is the banner that ALL the camps see... so each camp wants to be the best. We clearly won.)
Although Radley had his own favorite...
One of the newer (to me) traditions at Fish Camp is the Yell Off. Think dance battle with words. Better yet - think Eminem vs anyone else. Ha! This is a horrific quality photo, but please note who is front row Joeing it....
You won't really understand any of this - but it's worth a watch. 2 minutes of sass and sarcasm with snark on top. I LOVE IT!!! Seriously, this is totally my jam.
After the yell off the entire session does a mini Yell Practice - Emersyn made a friend at camp named Emerson and she was also 7 and they were instantly obsessed with each other.
Fighting Texas Aggie Class of 2021 you stole my heart.
And this crew of fearless of leaders wasn't too bad either.
And this member of the Class of 2030 is ready to move in any day now.
At this point, everyone is a **little** tired. The day begins winding down which just means that the night is just warming up.
Which means it's time to party. The co-chairs get to be on stage during the mixers and the King kiddos got special permission to join them onstage.
Y'all. I cannot even a little bit explain the fear I have of these girls going to college. As soon as they jumped on to the stage and into the spotlight and heard the roaring thunder of applause from their amazing dance moves, a fire was fueled. Emmy came running over to me, "DID YOU HEAR THEM SCREAMING FOR US! We are FAMOUS!"
(Dear Jesus, please know that I do my best to make them humble. Please don't let fame go to their heads. Amen.)
This kid was less impressed. I'm not sure how many times he had to hear a college kid come up to the girls and tell me how cute they were. But he puts up with "the sisters" so well. He also gets to do big things that they don't, so I think it helps him handle their "fame".
Oh. And Justin was still the favorite.
I'm not sure how we stayed awake but we managed to hang on to the very end.
(Also, nice photobomb, Austin.)
On the last night of camp the freshmen are treated to a special campfire speaker .... themselves. They are lead into their camp rooms and sit in a circle told that they are going to hear from an amazing speaker. And then they wait until finally one freshman figures out that they are the ones that get to speak. One by one they find the courage to share their story. Sometimes it's light hearted, some times it's deep, all the time it is an honor to play witness to the next generation of Aggies realizing that Aggieland is a unique place. We are full of our fair share of problems... but we do a pretty good job of welcoming you in to the biggest craziest family around.
The girls fell fast asleep ...
while Radley hung on every word.
At this point, I'm not sure when I'll be back at Lakeview. So saying goodbye was bittersweet. This trip was especially meaningful because, well... kids. Y'all. I got to watch my kids go to Fish Camp. Who gets to do that?
I got to see them really "get" what being an Aggie means. For days after all of their games centered around something they did or saw or played at Fish Camp. They whoop when they are excited. They reenact skits and try to do the yells and have their Camp King bracelets on. They pick out their camp shirts to wear. They want to know when they will see Bayle and Nevins and Justin and Zack and Coach Conner and all of the Aggies again. They want to know if Camp King is going to do something when school starts. (Are we?)
I got to see them really become Aggies. Not just because it's where I went to school. Or where Ryan and I met. Or because I have that ring on my finger. I got to see them choose Aggieland. And that's a gift that I will forever be grateful for.
Being a namesake is hard to describe...when I was a freshman, I never would have imagined that a camp would be named after me. Twenty years later and it's happened twice. I'm not sure what I did to deserve the recognition but I am so grateful that I got to witness Fish Camp from this view. The person in the back of the room that just gets to soak it all in and hopefully make an impact in some form or fashion. I hope my words found meaning to someone. I hope they know that my office door is always open to them. Even if it's to just one person - I aim to make a difference. Because they have all made a difference to me.