Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Isabella Grace

Ah sweet Bella! My baby is officially two! Now, I am really not prone to saying,"my how time flies." Most of the time, I feel like it has gone exactly as fast as I needed it to. Slow enough to really enjoy each stage with my kids and fast enough to make me really appreciate it. For some reason, on Bella's birthday, I had a "my how time flies" kind of day. It's just that, I have been thinking a lot about what we were doing on that day, two years ago, (mostly sitting by the phone and waiting for updates about Bella and about her birthmom who had a very difficult post-pregnancy hospital stay...and then...counting the minutes until we could hold her.) and it just doesn't seem that long ago. It feels like...dare I say it...yesterday.

And then, I look at Bella and she is so big, able to communicate all she needs to, so opinionated, so independent in the ways that a two year old can be. And I can hardly believe it. My how time flies.
What a sweetness she has added to our lives. It's funny to think about what life was like before and, even though, at the time, it was full and rich with our precious Hope, it is now fuller and richer with Bella. She captured our hearts in her own special way and has delighted us with her own take on life. A quieter, more introspective, observant take...although no less distinct or captivating. She is a lover of shoes, her blanket, bananas, baths, puzzles, purses, and dollies…in that order. She's a sucker for slapstick humor and the only child I've ever known who throws a fit in a tasteful and dignified way. Her sparkly eyes and easy smile light up a room and her sweet disposition gets her showered with more kisses and squeezes than any child should be required to tolerate.

It has been so fun, in the last few months, to watch her language increase exponentially every day. She is still really quiet but we have started to figure out that it isn't because she doesn't know words. She surprises us often by identifying something that we had no clue she knew how to say. Her nature is just to be quiet and observe. And she has taught my overly articulate self about the value of that. Bella reminds me that to be passionate about something doesn't mean you have to be loud (who knew?!?) and that a quiet spirit can draw people in, in a different kind of a way that puts you at eye level with people and causes them to rest for a bit and settle into the moment.

So there you have it. I am smitten with this little girl. This one who came charging into our lives two years ago and instantly settled herself in our hearts, as if she had been there all along. And I am overcome with gratefulness for the gift of Bella...cause she is just that.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Santa'a Helpers

It seems that there are some Christmas elves hard at work tonight. Since we are celebrating Christmas tomorrow as a family, before heading down to Texas, we had quite a lot to accomplish today. Let me ammend that. Loren had quite a lot to accomplish today.

He took on the challenging task of making the doll bunk bed that Hope asked for this year for Christmas...the ONLY thing she asked for...besides the money for the kids in Africa (see my ealier post about this). The bed is going to be absolutely adorable, but since the plans didn't come in the mail until Tuesday, it has made things a little more down to the wire than we had hoped.

This brings me to the really cool part of the story. We have great friends. We really do. And so it shouldn't have suprised me at all to see some of the guys, the ones Loren has long-standing plans with after small group on Sunday nights, show up at our house while we were putting the kids to bed and offer their help. They have been in the garage now for a couple of hours...sanding, sawing, and laughing...a lot. I can not even begin to tell you what a precious gift this is to me. Not just that they are helping, but that they came. I am so glad that Loren has these kinds of friends. They serve each other, they challenge each other, they have way too much fun together, and they have a genuine affection for one another that runs deep. It does a man good to have friends like that.

So, thanks know who you are. Thanks for helping with the doll bed. Hope's eyes are gonna light up tomorrow. Mostly, thanks for being the kind of friends who show up for stuff like this. You are a rare a good way...but also in a weird way. I'm not gonna all can be kind of weird sometimes.

p.s. pictures of the bed are really is soooo cute!


For all of you anxiously awaiting pictures of the bunk bed for Hope's dollies. Here they are. I know you have been holding your breath. I love how it turned out, though. Kudos to

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Hard Things

There are so many lovely things about adoption. I could talk all day and into the night about the beautiful way that God works and the way that his hand is on it all. In fact, I have done that often. Our stories of adoption are pictures of his grace and his provision and his power. They really are.

But, there are some hard things, too. One of those is the grief that my babies are bound to experience…have already experienced, in Hope’s case. Today, Hope told me that she was so glad I was her mommy. She has such a sweet heart. A beat later, she said, “but I wish you looked like me.” I do too, frankly, not because I don’t believe that God is working out his own plan for her in our little family, but because I know it would be easier for her sometimes if I looked like her…easier for all of us. Just eliminate the pain, right?

But then again, I know it isn’t my job to eliminate all of her pain. As frustrating as that can be (I mean, what mom wants to watch her children suffer), I DO know that God placed her in our family. And, because he says he has good plans for her, for all of us, I know that it means that her suffering is meant to “bring about a glory that far outweighs them all.” As hard as it is for me to understand, my God was there as both my kids were conceived, loving them in the perfect way that only the Father can, and allowing them to be born to parents who loved them, but because of that, would place them for adoption…knowing they would hurt because of it. He also planned for my womb to be closed and for us to begin the processes of adoption at just the right time so that Hope Olivia Liywalii and then, Isabella Grace, would become a part of our family…knowing that we would, at times, hurt for them and with them.

The thing is, this part of the story…this pain… is no less beautiful than the other parts. It is messier for sure, harder guaranteed, but it is not out from under the protection of his hand, no less orchestrated than all the rest of it. So, what am I to do with that? I pull Hope up on my lap and assure her of the things I know to be true. That this was not all a mistake, that God has a wonderful, unique plan for her life, that it is okay to be sad about looking different than me, and that I could never have planned this crazy journey any better…that she is a beautiful gift of God’s grace and provision and power in our lives. Then, I let her scamper off to play and have a little cry in the shower…cause these truths don’t make it hurt any less.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Gone Country

We are so countrified! Last night, as Loren brought in a load of wood that he had freshly split and started a blazing fire in our wood stove, I sat opposite him in the chair, mending his red, full body, long johns. (He tells me this is called a union suit.) Which, along with our two hound dogs and the vegetable garden in our backyard, led me to declare, "We are sooooo countrified!" It's true. And I'm kinda proud of it. Is that weird?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


I have so much to be thankful for. Seriously, it is overwhelming to even think about making a list. I also know, though, that much of it is all about perspective. There are those who could look at any number of things in my life and be thankful that it wasn’t theirs. And that’s okay. Because my journey is just that…mine. It is the path God has lead me down…for the sake of…me. For the sake of revealing himself to me in order that I might live right in the rich abundance of his love.

I am so thankful that he doesn’t always give me what I ask for. What a mess I would have made of things by now. And so, this song, by Nicole Nordeman, seems to most accurately capture my own feelings of gratitude this Thanksgiving. May we be blessed to know that, in our abundance or in our need, he delights to be our Living Water, Our Daily Bread, Our Light, Our Refuge, Our Peace. Happy Thanksgiving!


Send some rain, would You send some rain?
'Cause the earth is dry and needs to drink again
And the sun is high and we are sinking in the shade
Would You send a cloud, thunder long and loud?
Let the sky grow black and send some mercy down
Surely You can see that we are thirsty and afraid
But maybe not, not today
Maybe You'll provide in other ways
And if that's the case . . .

We'll give thanks to You with gratitude
For lessons learned in how to thirst for You
How to bless the very sun that warms our face
If You never send us rain

Daily bread, give us daily bread
Bless our bodies, keep our children fed
Fill our cups, then fill them up again tonight
Wrap us up and warm us through
Tucked away beneath our sturdy roofs
Let us slumber safe from danger's view this time
Or maybe not, not today
Maybe You'll provide in other ways
And if that's the case . . .

We'll give thanks to You with gratitude

A lesson learned to hunger after You
That a starry sky offers a better view if no roof is overhead
And if we never taste that bread

Oh, the differences that often are between
Everything we want and what we really need

So grant us peace, Jesus, grant us peace
Move our hearts to hear a single beat
Between alibis and enemies tonight
Or maybe not, not today
Peace might be another world away
And if that's the case . . .

We'll give thanks to You with gratitude

For lessons learned in how to trust in You
That we are blessed beyond what we could ever dream
In abundance or in need
And if You never grant us peace
But Jesus, would You please . . .

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Hope is awesome!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Thoughts on Christmas and the Problem of Clean Water

On Saturday I saw a video that said that Americans spend roughly 450 billion dollars each year on Christmas. 450 billion! Then, it said that it is estimated that 10 billion dollars could solve the entire world's water problem. Clean water for everyone for a fraction of what we spend on Christmas.

It stirred something in me in a deeper way than those kinds of statistics usually do. I mentioned it to Loren and we talked about doing Christmas differently because of it.

Then, Sunday morning, instead of the usual cartoons, PBS ran a "Feed the Children" commerical. Hope was watching and said, "Mommy, why are that boys arms so skinny?" So, I told her that he was hungry and didn't have enough food to eat. She got big tears in her eyes and said, "We should help them. We should give them our money so they can buy food." Then she ran in and asked Loren to work some more so we could have more money to give to them.

And so we got to have a great discussion about ways that we can give sacrificially. We talked about Christmas and how we might do things kind of different. She's all about it. This hasn't been a passing thing for her, either. She has been praying for the kids in Africa (Malawi is where the kids on the video were from) and talking about this a lot. Which led to this video. Her idea was to write all of her friends letters and I thought maybe this would be quicker. So...a message from all your kiddos...sorry for the poor video quality.

Halloween Fun!

We had a really fun Halloween. Hope had been counting down the days and it finally arrived! Ever since she was in Loren's cousin's wedding a couple of months ago she has talked about being a bride for Halloween. She would pick something else for a while (she wanted to be a skunk at one point) and then come back to it. Ultimately, it was the dress that sealed the deal. We found one that reached all the way to the floor (a must for a bride) and she was sold. She made a beautiful little bride and she really relished traipsing all over town in that little dress.

Bella dressed up as Little Red Riding Hood. Her hair is just now getting to a length where I can braid it and so her two little french braids completed her ensemble prefectly. She was definitely not as into the costume so it usually didn't last for long. Oh, but the suckers...the suckers are her favorite...which is good. It leaves the chocolate for me!

It was a great day and night and we made some great memories. I know when the girls are older they may not remember a lot about it, but it is one of those days that I think will stick out in my head when they are all grown up. It also brought back lots of memories of my own trick-or-treating days. I wonder what some of my earliest costume choices were. You know what? I'll bet my mom remembers.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Make a Joyful Noise!

I was privy to an impromptu dance party tonight, accompanied by an original piece of music, preformed by my precious Hope. Here’s a bit of it for you.

Hope: (singing a catchy little tune) I love you, Jesus. You are my server. In heaven, you are our server. Jesus you are my server.

Amanda: I like your song Hope. What does that mean? How does he serve us?

Hope: (looks at me as if I should know) All the food….up in heaven. He serves us the food and when we run out of tortillas he sneaks away and makes some more.

(This part probably stemmed partly from an earlier conversation we had about what heaven would be like and how there would be a great banquet...and also from the fact that we have been out of tortillas for two days now.)

Amanda: Well, you’re right. He did come to earth to serve us. But now, we serve him and in heaven we will serve him forever.

Hope: Okay. (starts singing again) Jesus, you are my server. You died on the cross for me. And so you are my server.

Amanda: (ding…the light goes on) Hope, do you mean Savior? Jesus is our Savior?

Hope: Yeah…server

Amanda: Oh. It’s Savior. Saaaaavior.

Hope: Oh. (singing again) Jesus, you are my Savior……

She's right, though. His whole life was about being our server...Praise God!...I am so unworthy. And, you know what else? It may not be theologically accurate, but I have a feeling that, in heaven, Jesus would be the kind of person that would sneak off and make tortillas if we ran out. That sounds like him.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


I don't see how I have neglected to mention the medical drama that ensued in the Kolman household in September. In the middle of September, at the second Young Life club of the year, Loren got frostbite. This might seem normal if it had #1. been snowing, or even cold for that matter, #2. if he had been ice climbing or #3. if we lived on Mt. Everest. Unfortunately, none of those things were the case and so it was very not normal. The story goes something like this:

Loren and the rest of the Young Life leaders had planned a super fun night at club where the kids would meet at one place and then play a kind of city wide game of spotlight. They had to make it to the high school without getting caught by a leader. When everyone got to the high school, Loren had promised them root beer floats. It sounds fun, huh? It was. Everyone made their way to the high school and when they got there, Loren started scooping up the ice cream for the floats. Pretty early on in the scooping, his trusty scoop broke. No problem. Loren decided he would just scoop with his hands. "Oh...wait a minute...with his HANDS," you are probably thinking. Let me just stop here and say that every time I have told this story I have always said emphatically, "First of all, I would never, ever, accept ice cream that had been scooped up by someone's hands." Apparently, high schoolers do not have these same convictions and so, scoop after scoop, my darling husband served between 60 and 75 high schoolers that night.

I asked him later if it hurt when he was serving. "It hurt a lot at first," he said, "but then after a while it just went numb and I thought...'sweet, now it's no problem.'" (Insert disbelieving eye roll here.) Things got bad quickly after he stopped serving. Once his fingers, incredibly white and hard as rocks by this time, began to thaw there was serious pain. I knew it was bad when my husband, who is known to have a seriously high pain tolerance, said to me, albeit very calmly, "Wow! I'm in so much pain, I'm nauseous." Not good. At 11:00pm that night, when it still wasn't better, and his fingers had swollen to twice their normal size, we started to search the internet for frostbite symptoms. It didn't take us long to confirm that was what it was.

That whole week it hurt A LOT and was very sensitive to the touch. The four fingers on his right hand turned a deep dark red and then started to turn white and increasingly numb. (I should also mention that we left a day and half later to drive to Pennsylvania where he and Hope were in his cousins wedding. There is nothing like a 24 hour road trip to soothe frostbitten fingers.) When we went to the doctor after our trip he was almost assured that he would lose the tip of his middle finger. Yikes! Here is what his hand looked like.

Shortly after that visit to the doctor, that white skin started to look more like blisters. He had a lot more feeling in them than he originally had and we became convinced that he wasn't going to be an amputee after all. The skin started to peel. Oh, I wish I had pictures of that. It was really sick but also really cool in a sick kind of peeling skin after a sunburn only the skin was a lot thicker. And, only a month later, it looks like he is pretty much all healed up. Here is a picture of his hand currently. You can just barely see where the skin is a slightly different color. He has brand new baby soft skin on the tips of his fingers now and he says they are super sensitive...not in a painful way, just in a weird way where he feels things more intensely.

So, there you have it. Loren is a medical miracle. Seriously, this little episode has taught me two incredible things...the lengths to which a man will go to keep his promise of ice cream to a bunch of high schoolers. As silly as it was...okay as insane as it was...I still see it as evidence of the kind of love Loren has for these kids. It's the kind of love that will take a hit if it means that some kid has a good time and, because of that, comes back to Young Life, and because of that, will hear about Jesus in a way they never have, and because of that, just may get to know the greatest love they have ever known. It's all worth it then, right? I know what Loren would say. "Yep, it is. What's a couple of fingers?"

It also reminded me of the power of prayer. I can honestly say that Loren wouldn't have minded losing part of his finger. He was kind of nonchalant about it all. But, it wasn't like he was looking forward to it. We prayed, our small group prayed, other friends prayed, our church body prayed, and, miraculously, he fingers were healed. I am not overstating here. It didn't look good and then, all of the sudden, it did. God hears. He heals. He is still in the business of miracles.

And so it occurs to me...the kind of love that cares about seemingly inconsequential things like ice cream and fingertips is a powerful kind of love. It is an intimate kind of love that doesn't just do the minumum required. It's the kind of love that inspired David to write, "Taste and see that the Lord is good." Which, in some similar way, is what Loren was offering when he scooped up ice cream with his hands.

Monday, October 13, 2008

My Perfect Day

I am officially 32 and I had such a great birthday. It included so many of my favorite things…my favorite breakfast, flowers, lazing around in my p.j.’s for half the morning, coffee with a friend outside in the beautiful sun talking about important things, my husband cleaning and doing odd chores I had casually (and some not so casually) mentioned over the last few weeks, rummaging through antique stores with my family, calls from family and friends (including two particularly lovely renditions of “Happy Birthday” from my wonderful parents and my sweet friend, Amy), a lovely dinner at a restaurant, presents, a COOKIE CAKE! complete with candles and a message inscribed just for me (see photo below), and the Homecoming football game. My husband did good…really good. It was a great day. Thanks to all of you well-wishers and to those of you who celebrated me in various ways throughout the week. I am truly blessed!

As a side note: One of the odd jobs I asked Loren to do a while ago was to cut down an enormous tree that was in our front yard. It blocked our walkway and I didn’t really like it that much. So it happened that while I was getting lunch for the girls, I heard the unmistakable sound of a chain saw and walked out to see him in the middle of cutting that sucker down. Is it weird that I wanted to destroy a living tree on my birthday? Maybe it is my version of a mid-life crisis or something. Later when I opened the birthday present Hope had picked out for me at one of the antique stores, I found she had chosen a sweet miniature decorative tree. She says the two had nothing to do with each other, but I’m not so sure.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Here's to Autumn...clink!

We drove to Delta last weekend for Loren's grandmother's funeral. We will all miss her very much, but, because of who she was, it felt more like a celebration of her life than anything. She was a remarkable woman, but she modeled humility and patience and, most of all, contentment. It was such an honor to know her and to see how she lived her last years in joyful appreciation for all that God had blessed her with.

On the way there, we got to see the aspen trees changing colors all along Monarch Pass. If you haven't experienced that,'s too bad cause I didn't take any pictures. Left the stupid camera at home, dang it! It is breathtaking, though. There are thousands of aspen trees, in groves, situated within all these Colorado evergreens (which, of course, remain green all year in case the name didn't give that away) and come September, they just burst into flame. The mountainside is covered with what, all of the sudden, looks like a patchwork quilt of fall colors. It is amazing. Then, as quickly as they come, they disappear.

I was so glad that we happened to be driving through there because I had really forgotten all about the aspens. There are people who come from all over to see the them. They get out and take pictures and drink up the beauty of it all and here they are in my backyard and I just forgot. I'm really not trying to be profound here, though you are welcome to insert your own little lesson about enjoying the beauty around us, etc. Mostly, the trees were my first real clue, my wake up call, that it really was Fall...hmmm...I just decided to call it Autumn...doesn't it just sound prettier?

I love this time of year. I love the smells...leaves burning, fireplaces going, the can't-quite-put-your-finger-on-it smell that comes along with the crisp, cool air. I love the sights...turning leaves, kids outside all the time, pumpkins patches, kids playing football and soccer. I love the tastes...vegetables from the last harvest in the garden, finally ripe apples and pears, cider, soups and stews. I love it all. It is probably my favorite time of year, even though, for us, it always seems like the busiest time of year. Maybe it's beauty is compensation, in some way, for all the hustle and bustle that comes along with it in our house. And even though it is busy, we manage to take time out to enjoy what is happening all around us. For instance...

Hope is playing soccer this fall and, let me just tell you in the most objective way I can, she is GOOD. I'm serious. If you read my posts last May you may remember the timidity, the tears, the drama of soccer. She seems to have gotten over all that and is playing her little heart out. I just sit out there, all open-mouthed, with ridiculous tears in my eyes the whole time because she is all over that field. She is scoring goals right and left and it is a joy to watch. And it's not a joy because she scores goals. That is inconsequential to me, though I would never offend her by saying so. The thing is, I see her come alive out there. I can sense her little heart, fully engaged, full of joy and I can tell that this is the same heart that will be her gift to the world. Whatever she finally decides to throw it into, for the sake of Christ, will be her offering...her way of inviting those around her to experience His abundant life. Oh, I can see it and I could just weep for joy at the thought of it.

Can you see the huge smile on her face?

We also went, again this year, to the beautiful orchard that some friends of ours here own. Unfortunately we were a bit late for most of the apple picking, but we did get a few and we got some sweet pictures as well. We are determined to go earlier next year. Thankfully, another friend with a few apple trees came to the rescue and we got a big box of them. We are all set to make some apple sauce and apple butter...yum!

When is it that they start caring about the brown mushy spots in apples. Bella doesn't seem to mind.

Hope is using the apple picker here like a pro.

I could just eat this girl up. She is the sweetest thing...even when she doesn't have apple juice on her chin.

You need to notice that in this picture I am confidently wearing a shirt that, earlier that morning, had caused someone to ask me, "Oh, Amanda...when are you expecting?" That's right folks, she said it. I mean, come on! It's the style, right? RIGHT? Am I right? If she only knew how hilarious that was on so many levels. Oh well!

Mmmmmm...freshly picked apples. I climbed up in the tree for those bad boys!

So, all fashion problems's to autumn. Enjoy! I know we are!

"The Art of Mending" by Elizabeth Berg

Here is a favorite quote from this beautiful book by Elizabeth Berg. Read it if you get the chance...the book, not the quote...but, while you're here you may as well read the quote, too. It's not that long. Here it is:

As for mending, I think it's good to take the time to fix something rather than throw it away. It's an antidote to wastefulness and to the need for immediate gratification. You get to see a whole process through, beginning to end, nothing abstract about it. You'll always notice the fabric scar, of course, but there's an art to mending: If you're careful, the repair can actually add to the beauty of the thing, because it is testimony to its worth.
There. Isn't that beautiful?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Joy of Adoption

It’s funny. I haven’t really talked all that much about adoption on my blog and yet it is such a huge part of my family’s story. I think it is because it has often been hard for me to put accurate words to the experience and it’s hard to feel like you fall short in describing one of the most important things in your life. I shudder to think that someone might misunderstand this most intimate of experiences. And then, to try and describe it in a literary world where there are no gestures or facial expressions or tears in the eyes to drive home your point. It’s just harder.

After all, how do I explain the bittersweet experience of seeing your child come into this world attached to another mother and yet fully yours? The experience of sitting on a hospital bed with your baby’s birthmother, each of us holding one of her tiny hands and fully grasping the glorious uniqueness of this moment…and then, one knowing she has to let go? How do I explain the ache I get leading up to my children’s birthdays, wishing I had memories of holding them in my own womb, and yet not desiring, for a moment, that their stories were any different? How can I even begin to tell you what God has revealed to me and continues to reveal to me through the beauty of pain and struggle, the beauty of adoption, the beauty of our multi-colored family, the beauty of birthmothers?

Ahh…the birthmothers. How do I explain how an experience that shatters the hearts of these beautiful women brings an irrevocable joy to my own? How in their brokenness I get to see a reflection of Christ? What I wouldn’t give for that to be able to take away the ache in them…the ache in me for them. How do I make it make sense that every new achievement by my children brings about twinges of guilt as I acknowledge the fact that two beautiful women are missing these moments so that I can have them. “Greater love hath no man than this…”

Mostly, I wish I could explain the miracle that God worked in our lives when he took these children, who were separate from us, and placed them within our hearts. The fierce love that was immediate. The miracle of that instant when we became parents of babies who were not our own and the understanding that it brought so unmistakably that they are His, and are never our own.

Right now, I am sandwiched in between two very special dates. September 7 marks the day that Bella’s adoption became final…a little more than eight months after we brought her home. October 4 marks the day that Hope’s adoption became final…almost ten months after we took her home. On these days they were declared official Kolmans, and the true heirs of our vast fortune (suckers!). On these days, the courts made official what we felt in our hearts from the moment we laid eyes on them. We were a family. Both days, we were surrounded by family and friends and were filled with thanksgiving and a deep rooted sense of joy, which comes from our belief in God’s goodness.

We are deeply grateful that God has chosen this specific path for us. We really are. We know that we were uniquely equipped for this purpose long before we ever were ready to have children. We are humbled by his grace and his abundant blessing…by his good plans for our lives. Our children, just like anyone’s children, are a reminder to us of his love. We see his heart reflected for us in the passion and enthusiasm for life that fills Hope’s spirit and in Bella’s sweetness and the tenderness of her heart. He declared us a family long before the courts ever did and even before we met our sweet girls. No doubt, he dreamed our little family up before the foundations of the earth and promptly declared, “It is very good!”

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Treasured Gifts

Last night I had a very special delivery. But first, let me give you a little background.

Even though lots of people know me as Amanda, there is a significant portion of the people in my life who call me Mandy. My parents nicknamed me Mandy when I was born and so that’s how I’m known to all of my family and to the people I grew up with. When I went to college, all of the stuff on my admission paperwork said, Amanda, that being my proper name and all, and I figured one day I might want to be known as Amanda (when I was a professional of some sort...insert eye roll here) and so I just didn’t correct anyone when they used that name. It was never that I didn’t like Mandy…I just saw it as a strategic career move at the time. I wish I was kidding, but I’m not. All of the people that I have met since entering college call me Amanda…including my husband. They think it’s weird to hear my family call me Mandy. My family thinks it’s weird to hear people call me Amanda…so formal! I like them both.

I do have a couple of friends here who occasionally call me Mandy. I like that and I think it is because, Mandy, always sounds so intimate to me, since the people who call me that have known me forever. It feels kind of like a term of endearment.

Not too long ago, I found a laundry bag that had been given to me as a high school graduation gift by my youth pastor and his wife (shout out to Kenny and Cassie Stanteen here). Cassie had it embroidered with my name, Mandy, on it. I have kept it all these years, even though I haven’t used a laundry bag in ages, opting for the more matronly hamper instead. Since Jen, one of the friends who calls me Mandy, has become quite the seamstress in the last year, I gave it to her one day and said, “I wondered if you could do something with this…maybe a purse or something.” I think I might have even said it was “no big deal, something simple,” or something along those lines. Of course, this is Jen we are talking about and I seriously should have known better.

Over the last few months, she has spent countless hours (I am serious when I say it was probably close to 100) on this bag. She has done it and redone it, sewed it and then pulled out all the stitching to start again, lovingly fixed the original, fraying embroidery, taken trips to Pueblo to find materials, including a darling piece of blue floral fabric that lines the inside, done and redone it again, and, in her own words, she, “almost threw up on the way over last night” to give it to me. Silly girl. I love it…not just because it is perfect and so much better than I ever would have imagined it on my own. I love it because it was made by my friend, who loves me extravagantly, and who somehow managed to weave that message in every stitch. It is the truest of treasures made by one of my truest, treasured friends. I love it, Jen, and I love you!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Traveling Mercies

I was lucky enough to find really cheap airline tickets to Texas and so the girls and I took off to Wills Point to see the whole family. Flying is so much better than driving, especially when I have to do it by myself. But, if you have children, you know that traveling of any kind is always a chore. Here is what it is like to travel via airplane, alone, with my two girls. I'm not writing to tell you about the horrors of it. On the contrary, I think they are actually pretty good, comparatively speaking. But, that doesn't mean it's easy. Here is a little bit of what we dealt with on this particular trip.

1. Getting two little girls through an airport is an experience in and of itself. Let's add to that the fact that now it costs a billion dollars to check even a single bag. So, since I am unwilling to pay any more for something that is so costly anyway, I chose to roll my suitcases through the airport. Correction. Hope rolled her own little bag, offering enormous help to me since Bella would rather wander aimlessly than cut a straight path to our gate. She occupied my one free hand, as I used it to either balance her on my hip or hold tightly to her own chubby little hand. (For those of you wondering why we didn't simply put her in the stroller...I bucked the system and opted out of the stroller because, quite frankly, it sometimes seems to be counterproductive to me. Rolling a suitcase with one hand and trying to steer a stroller with the other is always frustrating to me and I figured we would just take advantage of Bella's ability to walk and take our time getting to our gate. It worked out fine.)

2. One of the comics on "Last Comic Standing" made me think of this, so I can't claim credit for coming up with it, but, it still proved to be true for me so I will share it anyway. You know how there are always those people that come on a plane after you are on and situated and, despite all your good faith in our fellow man, you think to yourself, "Please don't let them be sitting in my row." For me, it is more about wanting my space...wanting my kids to have space. This time, though, I realized that I am that person. People watch me get on the plane with my two adorable children and I know that they think, "Please don't let the lady with the two kids be next to me." I really don't blame them, though. After all, they don't know how brilliant my kids are and what a privilege it is to share even a bit of life with them. :)

3. Bella won't be two until December so you know what that means...a free ticket! I am incredibly grateful for that, but let me tell you, we pay dearly for that ticket. In the real world, no one in their right mind would try to contain a twenty month old child on their lap for the better part of two and half hours. In the world of airlines, that is apparently a perfectly reasonable expectation. I consider it very lucky that Bella slept for an hour of our ride even though that meant that one whole side of my body went completely numb from trying not to stir. That hour was also the prime opportunity to learn that the combination of your sweat and your baby's super soft hair laying on your skin feels like someone is scrubbing you down with a brillow pad. I'll take it over crying, can't wait to get down, flailing baby anyday, though. I just choose to think of it an exfoliating treatment for the crook of my one numb arm.

4. Finally, Hope has become somewhat obsessed with death in recent weeks. It's not as horrible as it may sound. We have had a lot of great conversations about God and about what happens when you die. But, because of this obsession, it means that Hope worries a bit about flying. To her credit, she hops right on the plane without a fight. When we get on, though, she immediately pulls out the instructional card in the seatback pocket and "reads" (i.e. studies all the pictures) it cover to cover. She asks animated, detailed questions about how she should brace herself if we land in the water and where, exactly, the handles are that she has to put her hands in if she needs to use her seat as a flotation device. Then, she holds very tightly to me during the take off, somehow managing to plug her ears at the same time, and doesn't let go for the first ten minutes or so of our flight. If we are on a small plane (and we often are since we fly out of Colorado Springs a lot) she is even more nervous because you can feel every turn the pilot makes. These turns cause her to ask, rather loudly, "Are we going down, mom?!?", no doubt making everyone else nervous, too. She relaxes after a while and then, to my surprise, she braces herself for the landing and laughs hysterically when we finally touch the ground. I haven't decided if this is a laughter born out of immense relief or if it might be a telltale sign that she is, as we have often expected, an adrenaline junkie. Either way, flying with Hope is quite the experience.

My kids are great travelers. They really are. We have asked them to go places, and to do far more than the average kid ever has to do, as far as traveling goes. They are great about it, and it is almost always some kind of an adventure. And, when I really think about it, traveling is all about adventure, right? I'm sure some would say that a trip to Wills Point, Texas, doesn't really count as an adventure. Those people have obviously never traveled there with my kids.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Carried Away

I am pretty sure I have obsessive tendencies. Case in point. I get obsessed with songs. My trip to Walmart last week, with their soothing selection of 80’s ballads playing overhead, reminded me of a certain obsession I had in jr. high with Richard Marx’s Right Here Waiting for You. Golly I loved that song! I still do! For a while, in fifth grade, it was Glory of Love by Peter Cetera. (Thanks to Karate Kid 2) If I go way back I can also remember the obsession I had with Sandi Patti’s Upon This Rock. That was in 2nd grade and yes, I know, I had odd tastes in music for a 2nd grader.

For as long as I can remember I have been prone to get stuck on one song for a period of time…a song that either speaks to my situation at the time, or something that just has a beautiful melody, or thought provoking words, or a combination of any number of things. Then, the obsession starts. I begin to listen to the song over and over, memorizing every note, and word and nuance. Sometimes it’s simply for the sheer beauty of it and what that alone does for me. As of late, though, because the songs seem to be rich with meaning, I listen and sing it over and over as a way to somehow etch its particular message onto my heart. Okay, here is where it starts to get really weird. There are weeks when I listen to that song, and only that song, over and over in the car, no doubt driving my kids totally wild. Here is a funny side note. I don’t really do it when Loren is in the car. That is likely due to that little part of me that knows it’s kind of insane. I honestly don’t think he knows that I do this…until now, of course.

Recently, I found a new song. It’s by Watermark, and, no doubt, one could argue that they are an obsession of mine in and of themselves. But, it’s because their music consistently seems to be a real reflection of what I am feeling or what it is I want to feel. I can’t tell you how many months of my life could be catalogued by their songs. This particular song, Friend for Life, is a song I have skipped over for a while, because it wasn’t familiar to me and I was more into some of their other songs. But, the other day, I listened to it and, in an instant, it became my new obsession. Take a look at the words to the chorus, though, and you might understand why. They are full of such meaning.

Wash over me, til I can’t be seen
Living Water, swallow me
Deepest River, wash me clean
Jesus, Savior more of thee
Jesus, more of thee
Come and ruin me with Your love
So no other is enough
Come and leave Your mark on me
Jesus, more of thee
Jesus, more of thee

Even writing them now, something wells up in me that I can’t fully grasp. I can’t explain why the picture of being completely engulfed…waves crashing over until I can’t be seen, sounds inviting to me. In fact, I feel like a great deal of my life has been custom-built around the very opposite be seen. But it does sound inviting to me. And over the last two weeks, as I have listened to the words of this song, I have begun to long for this level of surrender in my life. I know that being swallowed up sounds like death. In fact, it is. But, while the chorus of this song calls us to surrender and die to be ruined by his love so that nothing else satisfies, the verses tenderly remind us that the One who calls us took our pain, is our friend for life, is the One who hears our cries, the One who saves us. It reminds us that he is most definitely worthy of our trust.

I know, at least in my head, if not always in my heart, that more of Jesus equals fuller, richer, more abundant life. Things that come naturally to Him….things that he just is. More of me is just…well…me, and the things that come naturally to me…like selfishness, and pride, and timidity, and criticalness. And who needs more of that?

I guess I would put it this way. I have definitely dipped my toes in the Living Water. I have also been known to venture out beyond the shore. I have even, a time or two, ridden a wave by his grace. But, am I ready to surrender to the raging river and allow myself to be carried away? That’s the pull, the tug, the undertow that I’m feeling. God, make me brave.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

And So It Begins...

It’s been a big week for Hope and it’s only Wednesday! On Monday, she had her first day of Pre-K. Most of her little friends are starting Kindergarten this year and Hope wanted to go to school, too. She is so smart and has already been learning so much that I thought it sounded like a great idea. So, she is going three days a week from 9-11:30am and, so far, she loves it. When I went to get her after the first day and asked her how it went she said, “At first I didn’t talk much cause I was nervous, and then, I met a friend, and I started to talk more.” That sounds about right for Hopie. When I took her today (actually, all of us got to take her today. We walked, cause it isn’t far, and Hope rode her scooter with her backpack on her back. It was about the cutest thing I have ever seen!) she went straight in and one of her new friends, Grace, said, “Come here, Hope. Come sit by me.” That was the second cutest thing and just about the best thing a mom can hear when she drops her kid off on one of the first days. Here is a picture of my little girl heading to school.

Then, yesterday, Hope lost her first tooth. You may remember my angst over this earlier in the summer (see The Permanent Press). I wasn’t ready, then, for my baby to start losing teeth. Apparently, the tooth wasn’t ready either. It hung on, literally, until yesterday when, with only a couple of wiggles courtesy of my friend (and dental hygienist), Renese, it popped right out. Hope loves sticking her tongue through the window her missing tooth has created and her little jack-o-latern smile couldn’t be cuter. See for yourself.

I know I am supposed to be more sad about all of this, but…the truth is…it is all kind of exciting. Oh, believe me, I have moments where it feels like it is going too fast and I wish there was some way to slow it down. (again, see The Permanent Press) But, even back then, I had a sense there would also be a great deal of joy. At least for now, I am really feeling good about this stage of Hope’s life. I think partly it is because, in looking back, I feel like we have made the most of our time in the last few years. I am unbelievably blessed to get to stay home with my kids. It’s not always easy but, in being given the ability to do that, I was given the gift of time. I have gotten to experience nearly every moment of Hope’s precious life and I have gotten to enjoy her at every stage. This one is no different.

Some of my sadness was because it felt like there wouldn't be as much meaningful time with Hope once she was in school. I’m not sure that’s entirely true, though. I mean, it’s true that she is not physically with me as much, but I feel like the time I do have is more filled with conversation and interaction. Hope is at this great stage where, even though she doesn’t need me AS MUCH as she used to, she still chooses to spend time with me. She wants to read and help make dinner and talk about her day and ask about mine. There is a give and take in our relationship that hasn’t been there before. She is experiencing some of the world apart from me and then we get to talk about that experience and learn from it. It’s a whole new element of parenting and it's really pretty far!

So, for now, I’m gonna stop insisting that I feel sad about it all the time. I’m sure I will have days, especially as her school days get longer and longer, where there will be plenty of sad to go around. But, for now, I am just gonna continue to enjoy the stage she is in and work myself up to enjoying the one that is to come.

P.S. Bella is adjusting well to being at home alone a little bit. The first day, she was a little perplexed by Hope's absence and didn't quite know what to do with herself. Today, though, she went straight to Hope's room and started playing with all of her toys. She had a sneaky look on her face as she got out all the dishes and served herself up a nice little tea party. I caught her mid-party with this goofy little grin on her face. I think she'll be fine.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Our Time at Oakbridge #4 - The Big Picture

One last day at the beach before we left sunny California.

This post has been a long time in coming. It’s not that I haven’t thought about it. It’s just that I’ve been looking for the right words to really sum up our time at camp…to really put a finishing touch on all that I wrote about our time at Oakbridge. It was such a great time of learning and of stretching and of being filled that it seems hard to accurately sum up. The best way, I guess, is to talk about some of the big picture, life-altering kind of stuff that I took away from our time.

First, and maybe my most tender blessing, was how I fell even deeper in love with my amazing husband. It is always a gift for me to see Loren living out his passion, and our month at Oakbridge was no different, except maybe in regards to the intensity of it all. He is passionate about teenagers and their walk with Christ. So, as I watched him pour his life out, sacrificing his own wants and needs for theirs, in the name of Christ, it resonated with me in a deep way. I want to live that way. My admiration for Loren deepened with every day and, without being too weird about it, I have decided that watching your husband glorify the Lord with his gifts is about as sexy as it gets.

Secondly, I learned about community and the gift it is to be known. I met some wonderful people and was so encouraged by their experiences and the way that they live life. And it was so good to be with other people who are also immersed in this ministry and to hear their stories. But, at the end of the day, there is nothing quite like being known. I missed those I have come to rely on who know me best and can predict what the expression on my face means, what missing quality time with my husband does to me, and who know when I really need to chat. It is, apparently, a rare thing to have friends in this way, and I couldn’t help but learn what a blessing it is while I was away.

This last one is a bit hard for me to articulate. Initially, I was going to write about how I felt like I had really missed out on some time with the Lord. When we went, I anticipated having a lot of down time, and thus being able to really dig in and be with the Lord in a more intense way than I feel able to in my daily life. It didn’t really work that way. I did have down time (see post #3 in the series), but I felt busier than I expected because I was pretty much solely responsible for taking care of and entertaining the kids. I also tried to be involved in, as much as I could, the work Loren was doing, so that took up a good deal of time, too. So, initially, I beat myself up pretty hard(something I could win my own gold medal in) for not being more focused, more intentional with the Lord.

But now, as I look back on the month, I find it impossible to say that I missed out on God. The fact is that I encountered him each and every day in unique and transforming ways. I did not study his word like I wanted, but I was seeing it lived out every day. I didn’t make enough of an effort to learn more about his character, but I ended up learning anyway about the depths of his love, and his power, and his persistence, and his charm. In fact, I’m glad that I didn’t stay inside too long, studying, while God’s work, his heart, his passion, was happening all around me. Then, I would have really missed out. Don’t get me wrong. I know that his Word is powerful and that studying it is one of the most important things I can do. This is not a fact I have trouble recognizing. What I tend to have trouble with is seeing him at work all around me. I am, too often, unaware of the bigger picture and this month afforded me the opportunity to see the variety of ways that he reveals himself just because he desperately wants us to know him. And, in the end, I would not have missed THAT for the world. I mean, I hope that if Nicole C. Mullen (you know my affection for her, right?) came to my house, that I wouldn’t sit in my room listening to her c.d’s. How much more so with the Lord?!? (Please don’t over analyze this. I understand scripture’s importance…really I do!)

All in all, our assignment was as much a gift as I thought it would be. There is so much more, so many more details that I could share, and would be happy to share with each of you individually, but it is all really just pieces of the bigger picture. And here is the bigger picture. My family experienced the Lord at Oakbridge…through each other, through our fellow partners in ministry, through creation, through the Word that was shared, though the faces of jr. high kids whose lives were changed…and the list could go on and on. And so, for the month of July at Oakbridge in Ramona, CA, to God alone be the glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Comforts of Home

As much as we have loved our time here at camp, we’re all starting to feel ready to go home. It isn’t for any reason in particular…just a feeling that we need to go home. There is something beautiful about that, though. After all, in a world where people are always moving on and looking for something new, there is something heartening about knowing that the place God has carved out for us in this life is exactly where we want to be.

Hope has certainly done her part in making it painfully apparent that she is ready to be home. She is extremely emotional this week and when I can get past all the silly stuff that it seems like she’s upset about, what really comes out is that she misses her friends, and her dogs, and her home, and the routine we have there. I can relate to that. I really can. But, despite my efforts to be understanding, I have found myself irritated at her a lot. She has been hard work this week…plain and simple. It’s been hard to get her to obey and to do what she knows she needs to do. Her discontent has been a breeding ground for all sorts of bad behavior and I have struggled to get a handle on it. She seems so fickle in her feelings towards me, too. One minute she is dissolving into tears over the tiniest thing and the next all she wants is to be held.

Hope cried herself to sleep last night and it made me really sad. We had a really rough day and bedtime wasn’t any better. But, after I put her to bed (not too kindly, I should add…I won’t be winning any awards for mother of the year with that bedtime routine), I sat and read Romans 8 and prayed and journaled to get a little perspective. And I did. It’s funny how much my kids open my eyes to my own sin. Spiritually speaking, when I find myself away from "home", that place with the Lord where there is rest and the comfort of being known, discontent is always lurking right around the corner. That discontent has always been a breeding ground for sin and the thought of my fickleness towards God in those moments fills me with shame. Unlike me, though, he never acts irritated. I know without question that I am hard work, but he is so quick to forgive even when I struggle, like Hope, to do what I know I need to.

Perspective granted. And then, it was no struggle to do what I knew I needed to do. So, I went into Hope’s room and woke her up because sometimes, what we have to say just can’t wait until morning. I snuggled in next to her and told her I was sorry for being mad and for not being more understanding. She never even opened her eyes, but she whispered, “I forgive you, mom.” I needed her forgiveness so that she and I could start fresh, and it graciously reminded me of how God is always quick to grant forgiveness. Then, we snuggled in for a few more kisses and I love you’s and, at least for a while, we were home.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Out Time at Oakbridge#3 - Down time

I know it looks like we have a crazy life here at Oakbridge and that is partly true. There is a lot to do. The nice thing is, because the girls and I don't have specific responsibilities, we get to pick and choose what we want to do and what we don't. That leaves us with a lot of down time and we have become experts at making the most of it.

We spend lots of our time at the pool. We generally go every day, at least for a little while, which is great because both Bella and Hope LOVE the water. Hope has mastered all sorts of tricks that she is eager to show anyone who will watch...campers included. She does front and back flips and has even figured out how to do three front flips in a row without taking a break. That girl amazes me. She is doing handstands in the water and likes swimming with her "tummy touching the bottom." Her most favorite thing to do, though, is to jump off the diving board. She even surprised me by going off the high dive once. She is freakishly coordinated in the water and we have a lot of fun diving for stuff together.

Bella is on her way to being just as fish-like in the water as her big sister. She has figured out the floaties and so she feels very independent in the pool. This is a little scary for me, since she just goes right off the edge without any warning. She loves going under the water and is constantly throwing her head back and floating on her back. This is so funny to me because it is such her personality. Hope has never been interested in floating on her's not exciting enough.

Hope catching her breath in between death defying tricks.

While we both love the pool, Bella and I both have a great appreciation for soaking up the wonderful California sun. She loves to curl up with me after a while in the pool and warm up.

I took this picture cause Bella had put the goggles on and looked so funny. By the time I got the camera out, though, she was over it. I thought it was the funniest picture, though, and had to share it with you.

We also spend a lot of time playing in our cabin and with the new friends we have met. There are nine other kids here so it makes for quite the crew when we are all together. I'm not totally sure this fits under "down time" cause it doesn't feel much like that when we are together, but it is fun for the kids and they have all gotten along really well for the most part. Hope has started mentioning more and more lately that she misses her friends at home, though. I know how she feels!

This is Brennan and Hope. Brennan's dad works with Loren organizing all the workstaff. Hope and Brennan are the same age and really enjoy playing all sorts of imagination games together.

This is Bella playing out on our deck in the castle. She looked so pretty on this day and I just had to get a picture of her looking so grown up.

Finally, we do get out of the camp property some. We have been into town a few times and this last weekend we went to downtown San Diego and walked around for a while. A week or so ago, the other moms and I took all the kids to the beach. It was a very welcome interruption in our regular camp schedule. We had a lot of fun, despite the fact that getting ten kids to the beach is no picnic.

It turns out that Bella is a little beach bum. Having an 18 mo. old baby at the beach is tricky business, though. Sand was in every possible place on her body, but she loved the warm ocean water and she LOVED digging in the sand.

So there you have it. We have ample down time and I am thoroughly enjoying spending some quality time with my kids. We have had lots of laugh out loud moments and lots of tender times. I have a real sense that we are making some serious memories here and I love that. We have about ten days left and I am looking forward to what those days will bring.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Our Time at Oakbridge #2 - The Adventure

One of the things that Young Life camps do so well is provide kids with a week of adventure. Each camp is a little different as far as what activities are offered, but trust me when I tell you there is never a dull moment. The girls and I get to participate in a lot, but watching is almost as much fun. It is fun to see campers having the time of their lives and discovering the unique person God made them to be. Here are pictures of just some of the activities.

You can't really see him in this picture, but Loren is up there, on the high ropes course, guiding kids through the tightrope walk. In fact, he was up there for almost eleven hours, on a 3x3 platform, as every camper made their way through the course. It is always a highlight of their week as they are challenged and encouraged by their leaders and by their fellow campers. It really breaks down walls among campers and it physically demonstrates the trust you have to have in Christ. No matter where you are in your walk with Christ, the lesson of the ropes course is a good one. No matter how well balanced, or strong, or smart you are, if you don't have a harness(Jesus), you're not gonna make it.

On day three, we have the All Camp Water Olympics. This is such a gift to our kids! They have all these gigantic blow up, bouncy things that are also filled with giant slip and slides and a slide that you climb up and swoosh down. There is a window of about thirty minutes between the time they set these up and the time that campers converge on them and we make the most of it. Both the girls are wild about water...they must take after their mama. (In case you are wondering, yes, I slip and slide, and no, you will not see any pictures of it.)

On night two there is a carnival during dinner. We have barbaque and then the campers can play all sorts of games where they win tickets which can then be redeemed to do all sorts of crazy things to their pie them in the face (hence the picture), send them to the dunk tank, give them a hairdo made out of shaving cream, etc. It is really all designed to set the leaders up to be approachable and to make them heros. Oh yeah...there is also cotton candy and snow cones, which makes it another highlight for me and the girls.

Here is a leader at the carnival getting a bucket of water dumped on them by a camper at the "Splash Zone."

Hope thought it looked fun and managed to get enough tickets to send her daddy there. Here she is holding her hammer that she used to send the bucket full of water over...

right onto her dad, who was a very good sport about the whole thing.

This is such a small little bit of all that goes on in the way of adventure. There are also mountain bikes, a rock wall, a dodge ball/paint ball tournament, a Mission Impossible event, Glow in the Dark capture the flag, a dance party, and so much more. It is definitely a month full of adventure for my kids and I'm afraid we're gonna have some withdrawal when we come home. We are used to being entertained from the moment we get up until well after bedtime. Anyone want to volunteer to put on some spectacular events for us when we get home...just to bring us down slowly?

Coming soon...the post about all of our down time and what we do when we choose not to go to some of these activities and instead do whatever we please! Be prepared for lots of pool pictures...that is where you will almost always find us when we aren't at prepared activities. Yeah for the pool!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Our Time at Oakbridge #1 - Is This Really Our Job?

Several people have asked for pictures of our time here in Young Life Land and, until now, the prospect of trying to find a few pictures that give an accurate accounting of our time here has seemed intimdating. I think that's because there is no real way to sum up all the parts of camp in one post with a few pictures. So, I've decided to attempt my first ever “blog series.” (Is there a better word for that…probably.) So, this first one, called, “Is this really our job?” is about all the weird ways we get to dress. We, in Young Life, like to take the verse that talks about becoming fools for the sake of Christ to the next level and we do it all in style.

Before the pictures, I have to relate one specific story to you. I was sitting at a table with other Assign Team members at dinner during "Tacky Prom Night" (more on that later) a few days ago and we were eating. One of the ladies looked across the table and started cracking up. She said, "Is this really our job?!?" We all started laughing as we looked at what she saw...a bunch of middle aged people dressed up...some of us in old prom attire (not the cute stuff, either), the kids in their princess costumes(that's the best we could do in the way of prom attire for toddlers), a couple of people as superheros, and one as Wendy, as in the mascot for Wendy's Burger Chain. It was quite a site.

So, here are some the costumes we adorn at camp and their perfectly legitimate explanations.

This is our family at the "tacky prom" night, which is the last night of camp. At Young Life camp the last night is the one where you dress up fancy and have steak. But Wyld Life camp is for junior high kids and they somehow feel less of a need to get all dressed up...or even shower in the case of the boys. We do still have steak but the dressing up part is a bit less refined. I thought our family looked particularly dashing on this night. Can someone say Christmas Card?

The quality of this picture isn't great, but I think you get the idea. This is Hope in her superhero outfit. The whole theme of the program is superheros and so on one day everyone is asked to come in their own superhero gear. Hope calls herself "Thunder Lightning." I wish I had a picture of my own getup. I didn't really have anything so I pinned a blankie around my shoulders and declared myself "supermom"...always prepared in the case of blankie emergencies.

This is less of a dress up picture and more of a "look how cute Bella is" picture. Actually, this is at the "Birthday Dinner" that we have...hence the hat.

Finally, this is Hope with Wendy and the Burger King...the arch enemies of superheros Captain Caffeine and Fireball. (Just ignore that sentence if it seems to make no sense me, it does.) Though you may not recognize him, Loren is the Burger King and this should have been a picture with both the girls, but Bella would have none of it. She screamed from the time we came near them until the time they left. She is learning a hard, but necessary lesson about what a freak her dad is.

Believe it or not, this is only a little taste of the weirdness we encounter and get to be a part of every week. It's awesome!