Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Sending Kids to Camp

Adam drove a bus full of kids and youth up to camp on Monday morning.  
Adam and I both grew up going to camp and we highly value the deep impact it can have on one's life. Camp takes them out of their routine, out of their comfort zone, and they are challenged to try new things, make decisions on their own, and perhaps, have a new view on life.
Specifically, Christian camps, can have a tremendous impact during the formative years.

We both talked about how we would make a point to send our kids to camp.

And then we had a kid old enough to go. 


7 years old?! 
That's old enough to spend the night away at camp?!

For the sake of fun, here's a picture of me going to camp for one of the first years.
I'm the girl in the back wearing blue.
And yes, it really was called Pee Wee Camp.
My mom took 5 of us girls and dropped us off.
Our Rainbow Brite and CareBear sleeping bags.
I still remember the homesick wails of girls throughout those 2 nights.
And the girls that were so excited to sleep in the top bunk.....
and then those same girls that fell out of the top bunk in the middle of the night. 
I remember it being really hard to sleep.

Thankfully, Landon was super excited to go to camp. 
(He went last week)
No hesitation whatsoever, even when we told him we didn't think any of his friends from church would be going to the camp he was going to that same week.  I asked him if he still wanted to go. He looked at me, rolled his eyes, and said, "Mom, I'll just make friends with the other kids in my cabin."

I have a new respect for parents sending their kids to camp. 

I didn't get weepy when we dropped him off. That's just not my style.
But I did have a few internal moments of,
"How can this possibly be a good idea?!"
"This is NOT a good idea!"
"There are over 20 7-9 year olds in this cabin! And 2 counselors?! Two male college-age guys that have probably done very little childcare!?! I have trouble keeping track of my THREE children sometimes! How are they going to watch TWENTY kids?!??????"

And I quizzed him:
Me: "Landon, if they ask you if you know how to swim, what are you going to say?"
Landon: "No, I don't know how to swim."
Me: "But what if you see the cool water apparatus things and you want to go on them, but you have to know how to swim."
Landon: "I just won't be able to go on them since I don't know how to swim."
Me: "Whew. Ok. Good."
(Repeat....multiple times)

He was so excited though.  
He had packed most of his items with little instruction from me. And he did quite well.

Admittedly, I lost some sleep the next few nights he was away.  Wondering if he was sleeping good. Concerned that since I had sent him with some allergy medicine to take at bedtime that he might be too groggy to get up if he had to go to the bathroom and he might wet the bed.  That could scar him from wanting to go to camp again......forever. What if the other kids weren't being nice to him? What if he wasn't being nice to the other kids? What if he got lost? What if he got seriously injured? 
They would've called me by now......right?

But I didn't hear a word for those 3 days.

When we picked him up, he bounded in, excited to see us, and excited to tell us about his week. 
He talked much of the 40-minute ride home.
His favorite part was the Zipline.
His least favorite part was that I hadn't signed him up for the entire week.
He spent the majority of the snack shack money we had allotted him and he readily admitted that he didn't eat any vegetables the past 3 days.

 Here's a few pictures I took from his camp's Facebook pages:

So, as an encouragement to those sending their kids to camp.
Or to those that know it might be something coming up in the future. 

Just do it. 

Don't be what holds your kids back.
Don't let your apprehensions and anxiety rub off onto them.

Obviously, some kids will struggle more than what Landon did with being away from home someplace new. We know we had it pretty easy.  But as parents, we can set the pace and the attitudes in our home.  If we present camp (or other things) as an exciting opportunity - and not a scary new option - they will sense some of that.
Camp gives them the opportunity to spread their wings a little, test their decision-making, and learn about their faith away from their parents.  Plus, they generally have an enormous amount of fun.

And I assure you, as a former camp counselor, although childcare may not be a very deep item on many of their resumes, they are genuinely interested in caring for and investing in our kids.  At Christian camps, they are primarily driven by the chance to share the love of Jesus with kids. Most of them are foregoing better paying summer jobs so that they can get up in the middle of the night to take kids to the bathroom and sing funny songs with motions.  Being a counselor was one of the most stretching and rewarding times of my life.

And being a camper was right up there too.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

2015 Summer Bucket List

A rainy day and an unexpected Thursday without me going to work has lent us the chance to finish our Summer Bucket List.  Let's get 'er done!

  And most certainly a big part of our summer, but not going on the Bucket List are things like having pool parties, staying with grandmas and grandpas, playdates, Strahm family vacation, and mom and dad going to Mexico on a missions trip, 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Hosting an International Student

One adventure we embarked upon this past year was to host an international student in our home.
It started off last summer when an opportunity presented itself to host a student from Spain for 6 weeks.
We thought, "Why not?"
Well, it went pretty well, so when we were asked about hosting a student for the school year, we at first said, "no." Sounded like too big of a commitment for us. And we are busy people.

Then we were asked again. We prayed about it.
And an opportunity to host a student from China came and we agreed to it.
And then it fell through.
We kinda decided we were OK with that.
Then several weeks later we were called about students from Taiwan needing host families.
We said, "Sure, we'll see if this pans out."

And a few weeks later, Kenny arrives at our house.

 Kenny arrived pretty timid about his English speaking. He rarely spoke at the dinner table in those first few months.  Eventually, he began improving. He finally started asking what things were if he didn't understand and he was willing to make mistakes in his speaking.

Tate was reminiscing just the other day about the time when Kenny asked if we were going to have a "snake" that night. 
"Uh, no, I don't think so." I replied. 
After he expounded a little more it dawned on me that he was asking if we were going to have a "snack."

Kenny had not learned vocabulary for a lot of animals. Luckily, we have children's books and animal toys that we could quiz him with.
His English improved quite a bit over the course of the year while he was here.

We also got to teach him other things:
How to drive a tractor
How to tie a necktie

 He also experienced holidays with us:
Kenny was a Stormtrooper to fit with our Star Wars theme.
Christmas might have been a bit overwhelming.

We also were able to take him to our nation's capital with us:

And we celebrated his 16th birthday with him!

Kenny was a great fit for our family. He got along great with our young boys. 
I can't imagine that all teenage boys would be able to tolerate that. :) 

Hosting an international student has been a good experience for our family.
But I'll be honest, it is initially a stranger moving into your home. 
And you need to help him, teach him, get him to school, clean up after him, and feed him. 
And then feed him some more. And then some more.
(Remember, he is an active teenage boy)

Our boys have learned about another culture. 
They have come to care for someone from another part of the world. 
Those are good and important things.

But we also felt deeply that this experience and placement was from God.
Without putting Kenny's personal story out there, we felt from the first days that he was in our house that there was something bigger going on. Something more than just a cultural experience.

Our main goal of hosting a student was to share and show the love of Jesus Christ that we have come to know. 
It was on our minds and our hearts, but it wasn't something we wanted to force. 

In February, Kenny went on a Sr.High Winter Retreat with our church.
The boys and I stayed home. 
As I put the boys to bed that first night of the retreat, I felt the Holy Spirit prompting me to pray with the boys for Kenny to understand the Gospel and be open to accepting Jesus in his life.
This was the FIRST time I had ever talked or prayed about this with the boys.

Later that night, Adam texted me and said that Kenny accepted Christ.
Kenny had a lot of questions after the main session and Adam had the opportunity to explain the Gospel to him. Kenny wanted to invite Christ into his life.
I told the boys the next morning and their little jaws dropped open.
Watching him share his decision with the church congregation on that next Sunday night, 
I knew that our hosting him was an opportunity that God was using. 
We just had to be willing.

Kenny flew home to Taiwan last Sunday.
But he plans to return to us again at the end of August for his Junior year.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Family Visits

So fun to have family in town!

My brother was in GR leading his youth group on a service project week here.  Him and his group stayed at our church, but his wife and two kids came and stayed with us for the week!

They were the first ones to try out our new "guest quarters" in the basement!
Once we put a few more touches on the area, I'll post about it.

Here's a peak at our week:

A Trip to the Zoo

They were pretending to be cavemen
That bear is thinking AJ looked like a tasty treat!

Ice Cream Garage
They were still working on the new mural while we were there.

Kinley LOVES her some ice cream!

A Trip to get Michelle's ears pierced!
We took 5 kids into the little Claire's Shop. Luckily, the store was empty and the one worker was equipped with suckers and an excellent attitude. So honored and giddy that I got to be with Michelle when she got her ears pierced!

Garage Sales
Michelle and I both have an excitement and appreciation for neon signs pointing us to people's houses where they are willing to sell their belongings to us.
Found 2 new bikes for the boys!

We also swam in the pool, played outside, ran around at church, watched Paw Patrol, took naps, and had a super fun time hanging out with one another!

We also saw my Uncle David, Aunt Janet, and Audrey as they came through town on their way up north. Fun to have a quick visit with them. 

And later in the week, we were also treated to a visit from my brother Dan and his girls as they came back down from a week at Silver Lake. They stopped and had dinner with us.

Family. Thankful to have a good one.

School's Out for the Summer!

School's out! 
(Ok, it was over a week ago)

Lots of end of the year parties and events. And I'm somewhat convinced that very little learning goes on the last 2 weeks of school. But both boys got excellent report cards.

Can you believe I forgot to take a picture of Kenny's last day of 10th grade?!?!?!?! 
Don't worry, he will get an upcoming blog post all of his own. 
He leaves tomorrow morning to go back to Taiwan.

We have yet to make our Summer Bucket List. We are open to suggestions as to what to put on it. 
Give us your ideas!
Here was last year's:

Monday, May 11, 2015

Mother's Day

I felt very full this Mother's Day. The love bank was overflowing! 

Adam does a really great job at coordinating efforts with our young boys on spoiling me and treating me nice. Last weekend while I was hosting showers at the house, he was kicked out several times and had to find ways to stay busy with the boys outside of the house. He ended up taking them shopping and they picked out a lovely skirt for me. 
Imagine the scene: a man in the women's department with 3 young boys as they debated which maxi skirt to get me. Makes me smile. 

They also picked up a re-fillable movie theatre popcorn bucket for me while they were out. This has been deemed the BEST present EVER by me. Flowers? Eh. Jewelry? Eh. I have a strong affinity for movie theater popcorn. This bucket is re-fillable from May 1 through September 30. We don't see movies very often, but you don't have to see a movie to get it filled. :) 

They gave me the skirt on Saturday night at dinner and then they kicked me out of the house and told me to go shopping and pick out the rest of the outfit. Adam's mom usually send me a little money to do something with. I'm not always good at using it. But this year, I did. I bought a shirt, shoes, and jewelry to finish off the outfit. I felt pretty cute (or at least, well-coordinated) on Sunday. :) 

I also got extra hugs on Sunday and breakfast in bed. 

I was also excited that I was going to get to see my mom on Mother's Day! I don't think I've done that since I've been married! Sundays aren't an ideal time to fit in family gatherings for someone that works at a church. But our new pastor is a supporter of having the evening service off to allow for family time on special days like this. So, as soon as church and Sunday school were over we hopped in the van and drove 2 hours to my Jackson side family gathering. It was at my aunt and uncle's house. They live in the country on a hobby farm: cows, horses, goats, dogs, cats, donkeys, pigs, and peacocks (and probably some animals I didn't list)! The boys had fun driving a tractor, trying to sneak up on peacocks, feeding cows, and running laps around the house. Here's a few pictures from the day: 

Me, my mom, and my grandma

Showers and Graduation

Had 2 bridal showers at our house in 1 weekend! So thankful to have a house that can accommodate gatherings easily! Both were for Jaime, Adam's sister, slated to get married this September. 

Here's some pics from the Curtis family side shower: 

The bride and her momma.

Aunt Leigh snapped pictures for the Willis side shower. Just imagine a princess/castle themed event on a BEAUTIFUL Sunday afternoon. 

Adam's dad also flew in from Colorado to walk in Western Michigan's graduation ceremony that weekend. He started the degree 42 years ago. And decided to finally finish it up this year! It's never too late! We had a family dinner to celebrate. 

A full weekend of family!