Reading this blog post from Jason Johnson reminded me that I never followed up on camp. It seems like it's been much longer than two weeks since camp but hopefully I can remember everything I wanted to tell.
The number one thing that I took away from camp is similar to the point of the linked blog post.
They're all human.
The foster parents, adoptive parents, foster kids, and adopted kids are just people. They don't stand out in a crowd. They're just kids and parents. Kids that do things for attention, that need love and correction. Parents that love, that get frustrated, that correct, and then love some more. It was very eye opening for me to look around and just see people. There are no super-powers needed to be a foster/adoptive parent!
On our drive to camp (about 4 hours) I told Andrew that if the camp wasn't nice enough we would have to go stay in a hotel. I wasn't going to spend 3 days without air conditioning. I'm a sissy, I know. I was impressed though and we had a blast.
The camp itself was wonderful. The facilities were clean and beyond my expectations. The camp grounds were beautiful and offered much. The staff was friendly and interacted well with adults and children alike. Our cabin was a large one with two sides. On our side there were 9 sets of bunk beds and a large bathroom with multiple showers and stalls. The A/C unit worked really well too! On the other side of our cabin was another large family.
Each day started with breakfast at the cafeteria. The food was good (for camp food). Then there was a "pump it up rally" in which they tried to get everybody moving and dancing. For any of you that know the Shipps remotely well you know that this is not our thing. I actually offered the kids $1 each to dance. Gabe was the only taker at first but eventually a few others joined in. This may have been the furthest out of our comfort zone that we got the whole time. After that we had activities. We signed up for crafts one day and archery the next. We also spent a lot of time at the covered sandbox with the little ones. After lunch there was a short rest time. Both days we took a little drive so that AnnaMae would actually nap. After that was swim time. We had the choice of the nice big pool or the lake with a water slide. There was also a blob and kayaking but our kids were too young for that. They were also too young for the ropes course and zip line.
After a little time for cleaning up we had dinner and then a short worship time all together. After that there was more time for pool swimming. The last night they had "Buckner State Fair." There were carnival games and prizes and a few "rides". Ok. Maybe THIS was the thing that made me most uncomfortable. 8-10 men on motor cycles taking the kids for a short SLOW ride around the circle and a big all-terrain type truck for kids to ride in the back. These were both terrifying to me!
We met some wonderful people. Everyone there was of course a foster or adoptive family. We were definitely the odd ones out since we don't have a placement yet. We were so glad we went though. Aside from the sheer fun of it all, we were able to talk to and connect with parents that have done what we're trying to do. Of course I met more people and talked more than Andrew did...
There was a lady that has been a foster mom for 40 years! I can't even begin to imagine the number of lives she has touched!
There were families that went straight to adoption. One that just finalized with their 5 year old a few weeks before. You could see how much they were delighting in being parents for the first time.
There were families that have fostered-to-adopt and added to their biological families to make one BIG happy family.
There were many older couples that were doing foster care only. One couple was there with their 25 year old son with Cerebral Palsy and their 2 or 3 young foster daughters. And a few other older couples that had adult children but were fostering babies and young children.
There were group homes represented and one little boy that kept flirting with AnnaMae, playing with Gabe, and generally giving his foster mom a handful. I could all too easily imagine him in our family.
There were other large families with older high-school and college aged kids that were fostering and adopting younger children. We loved seeing these older kids tote around their younger siblings lovingly.
There were many more too. I think there were somewhere around 200 people there. It was a wonderful experience. The kids can't wait to go back next year and neither can I. But hopefully by camp next year we will have added to our family.
We continue to wait patiently for what the Lord has in store for our family. I constantly remind myself that us not being chosen by a caseworker isn't just because the caseworker flipped past our already large family. It wasn't that they just didn't like us on paper. It's because God knows the right children and the perfect timing for us. His plans are perfect.
We are blessed by all those we met and by this whole process. Our eyes have already been opened to new things and we wait with excitement and anxiousness to see what else we will learn along the way.