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What’s summer break without a little camping action? We have such a fondness for our KOA brand after their sponsorship of our RV Family Sabbatical last year! Last week KOA put us up for a couple of nights at their Branson, Missouri location after picking up our foursome from Kanakuk Summer Camp. It felt good to be back with the yellow shirts we know and love!

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Manager Angie Dickerson with new Branson KOA owners Greg and Karen Wright.

At the Branson KOA, you can expect super friendly staff who are there to help you from the moment you check in to the park. They will also be in the convention center serving up free pancakes every summer morning. This perk is a huge bonus for our large breakfast loving family!

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Not only did we love going for our complimentary morning pancakes, but our commute to breakfast was quite short. This was the view after walking out the door after stuffing ourselves- our home sweet home on wheels, Ally B. Our premium RV site was just perfect and we had a lot of room outside to sort through all of the kids trunks and bags after picking them up from camp.

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The Branson KOA is in a beautiful location just half a mile from all of the action on the main street. The pool was a well loved spot during our days there. Adjacent to the pool, was the beloved laundry room that I spent lots of time in getting all of the kids camp laundry done. I don’t know what I would’ve done if we were in a hotel with all of the stinky and wet clothes that they brought back with them! The KOA was the perfect place for us to regroup and unwind together before heading back home to Arizona.

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The Branson Main Street traffic is crazy! It is always bumper to bumper like this as most all of the live shows, attractions and restaurants lie along this road. Remember patience is a virtue and there are plenty of shortcuts from the KOA to keep you off this road! Branson is a unique family vacation destination known as the “Live Music Show Capital of the World.” I’m sorry to say that our family didn’t actually head to any of the shows this visit. KOA will recommend their favorites and can get you discounted tickets right there at the campground. Our family headed to Silver Dollar City Theme Park as well as did some go karting at the Track and mini golfing at the coolest Hollywood themed course we’ve ever been to! Check out my posts on the not to be missed Sunday brunch at College of the Ozarks and the tour of Top of the Rock as well.

 

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Our kids were not happy at all about going away to a month long summer camp in Missouri. They were not happy that we were separating them in different cabins at a camp where they knew no one. Many times I questioned our parental decision to send them off because life just feels better when our kids are happy, right? Sometimes we need to remember that as parents we do know best and trudge on.

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We knew that Kanakuk was the perfect environment for our kids to grow in every important aspect of their lives. In six short years, our foursome should all be off to college and my husband and I will be left with a quiet house. Being without them for a month was tough, but it’s better to start figuring out now what being apart looks and feels like, so when that time comes I’m somewhat prepared. If you want to read my post on all the reasons WHY we decided to send our kids to sleep away summer camp, be sure to read this.

Here are 5 things I learned from sending our kids to Sleepaway Summer Camp

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1. Camp affords personal growth through opportunity and exposure

Sleepaway camp is an amazing way for kids and parents alike to grow on many levels. We will never know what we are truly capable of by always remaining in our comfort zone. Our kids were able to meet others from all over the country (mostly the midwest and south) and learn from living alongside them. The campers also got to be mentored by cool young adults every day.  Where would they ever have a chance to form close relationships with high school and college students? They also got to try new sports and outdoor activities that they just wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do at home.

2. Modesty is Hotesty

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Every night we would scroll through the camp photo website (as parents of sleep away campers do) hoping to catch a glimpse of our offspring enjoying their time in the woods. Every day I would find myself being so impressed at the pictures of the teenage girls around the pool and the lake. Seeing all these beautiful young ladies modestly dressed not only in one piece swimwear but with sports bras and running shorts over them made this Mother smile. I grew up pretty conservative in Indiana and it makes me sad the lack of modesty in our youth today. Our daughter dear is back to her bikini wearing ways, as most of the girls probably are now that they are home. But, she has learned about the value of modesty and being appropriate around the opposite sex as she grows, not just from her preaching Momma. She told me that the counselors would tell them that Modesty is Hotesty and I just love it. All of the young men also had to wear shirts anytime they were around females, unless they were in the pool or the lake. Can I get a Hallelujah?

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3. I am Third

I’m sure you’re aware that we are raising kids in a Me society. One of the main reasons we were drawn to Kanakuk, was that it is a camp for teens to grow in their Christian faith. Their teaching of I am Third is exactly how we are trying to raise our children. God first. Others second. Me Third. To find a camp that strengthens our family values was awesome. We attend church, pray in our home and serve locally and on mission trips, but the power of our kids being surrounded by like minded believers in their peer group for a month was very powerful. They were super inspired by camp President Joe White and two of our sons even chose to get baptized before coming home. I am in awe. I had the opportunity to hear Joe talk a couple times and he brought me to tears with his words and passion every time. I’m so grateful for his love and guidance for this generation.

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4. It’s awesome to read handwritten letters from your kids

Even though our four are yet to have cell phones, they love their instagram and texting capabilities on their Ipads. No technology is allowed at camp, so it’s back to basic communicating. Not being able to talk to our kids at all was the toughest part of having them away at camp. Four weeks of only communicating through the mail.

How fun though to go to the mailbox and receive actual handwritten letters from your kids! It is surreal to receive a note from your daughter saying that she just went on a three day overnight canoe trip, sleeping in a tent while she had a fever of almost 100 degrees, but had a blast. One son wrote that he went on an overnight canoe trip through rapids that tipped his tin vessel and he and his cabinmate had to hold on to a log until someone came to rescue them. This was all before they climbed through a cereal box sized hole in a cave to sleep for the night. It was an awesome experience, he said. Whoa. Camp provided them with adventures and situations that built resilience and confidence. It’s difficult as a parent because I want pictures of all of the cool stuff they did and saw, but there are none. They have the memories and we get to hear their stories. It’s perfect and exactly how it should be.

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5. Dry Shirts Ain’t Hype

Ain’t no party like a K-2 party! This camp is crazy fun. Kanakuk had a themed party night every week and dance parties all of the time. The leadership counselors are high energy and everyone just has a blast. My reserved kids were not looking forward to this part at all, but they all came home talking about how much fun the parties were. At closing ceremonies, I was watching all of the campers letting loose doing the Whip and Nae Nae together for the very last time. It made me smile from ear to ear. The boys told me that the counselors would chant Dry Shirt Ain’t Hype- meaning get out there and let loose. Enjoy your life!

I receive absolutely no compensation for this post or recommendation of this camp. I truly love and believe in the experience that our family received and want to pass the blessing of it along to you, as a friend did for me. All four of my kids had me sign them up for next year before we even left the grounds. Perhaps we will see you there next summer!

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Camping season is upon us! How many of you are out there enjoying the great outdoors in your RV? We’re gearing up to spend July in dear Ally B, so I compiled a list of some handy ideas for making RV life perhaps a bit easier and less expensive!

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1. Most campgrounds unfortunately come with bugs. Bring along hotel shower caps to cover your dishes for your outdoor meals! Don’t forget your cute, water-stain resistant table cloth too!

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2. Use old comforter bags to store kids shoes while driving to keep dirt out of your motorhome!

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3. Buy (or make your own) shower lanyards for kids to take to the campground showers! We ordered ours off of Amazon!

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4. Keep your RV bathroom clean and toughen up the kids by sending them to the nice campground showers! Get plastic baskets for each child to take with them containing their own shower lanyard, pajamas and towel. Be sure to get a different colored towel for each kid too!

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5. Long day on the road? Put dinner in the crockpot to cook in the sink while you’re driving, so it’s all ready for when you arrive.

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6. Forget buying the expensive RV hangers! Cut a pool noodle in half and wedge on top of your hangers so that clothes don’t fall off in your closet while you’re driving.

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7. Make a clothesline out of rubber bands to dry clothes outdoors or inside your RV. This clothesline is amazing because it’s flexible and takes up no room to store!

Want to make one? Here’s how:

If using regular rubber bands, buy the thicker ones. Don’t get cheap dollar store type.
Use appx. 20-25 bands and make into a chain by looping end to end.

Make 3 chains of equal length. Holding one end of each chain together in your hand loop the end together in a large knot, leaving a grouping of 3 bands at the end for hanging.

Take the loops formed at the end of knot and hang over something such as a knob and begin to form a braid with the 3 strands, stretching braid gently as you go.

When you get down to about the last 6 inches hold the end loops together again and loop into another large knot.

Happy Summer! Happy Camping! What are some of your favorite tips when traveling by RV?