Monday, July 29, 2013

Our "Little" Camper!

Today, my sister-in-law and I took my nephew and Anthony up to Eldora to church camp.  This will be their 3rd year going.  I told Anthony that he could blog about it when he gets back.  Unfortunately I forgot to get him a disposable camera - so there will be no pictures - but I'm sure he will have many stories to share. 

This picture was taken with my phone camera - I left my other one in the car!  Anyway here they are with Jakob - he will be their cabin counselor.  Jakob was a member of the youth group Jon and I help with.  So the first camp Anthony went to without TJ I requested he be with Jakob.  I'm so grateful they honor my request - it makes this momma feel much better about leaving her kiddo at camp for four days!  Stay tuned for Anthony's post about camp - Friday!


So it's been really busy around here.  We continue to make progress with our tiling around the house.  We are hoping this week to have the egress windows put in and all the other outside work done!  Look at the progress we made this past week.

The guys came out to tar our basement walls.  Hopefully this will keep out any water!

Our job (the boys and me) was to scoop the rock out of the loader and into 5 gallon buckets and then give to Jon and Don down in the hole.  It was hard work, but the boys were helpful.

Anthony and Will taking their turn filling the buckets!

Jon and Don down in the hole making sure the tile had the right fall and then putting the rock on top to keep it in place.
We had to make sure the tar was dry before we could start tiling and Jon had to spray during the day so we did this all in a couple of evenings.  It was alot of work but it will definitely be well worth it when it is all done!  I believe we are both ready for it to be done - our yard has become quite the mess!  Oh well - less mowing to do!!
So my last post I talked about my camper being out of commission.  Well, FINALLY last Tuesday we were able to take it to the camper place to get fixed and by Friday it was DONE!!!  So Sunday we were able to get our camper up to the holding pen at the Iowa State Fair.  That in itself is a whole other story - one that is WAY too hard to type about.  I'll definitely tell you all about it if you want to know - just ask the next time you see me!  Just make sure Jon isn't around - he is still upset about it (but he gave me permission to tell people)!!  Here are a couple of pictures of all the campers waiting - hoping to find a spot next Sunday.  I tell you - it was good for me to go and experience this - for two reasons.  1.  It made me realize I am not the only crazy, super-psycho one about the Iowa State Fair.  And 2. It made me appreciate Jon even more for all he does to support my love for the fair!
The line at 6am waiting to get into the fair.

This is a picture of all the campers waiting to get a spot!  I believe there were just under 100 campers.  Want to know the crazy thing...all of these campers were here and parked all within 15 minutes.  I kid you not - if you show up 5 minutes late - you might as well come an hour later and miss all the craziness!  I had fun and now I can't wait for the fair!!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Coons and a Camper!

So, usually by now we have had the camper out and maybe even camped a couple of times.  However, this year - different story!  We knew it was going to be a crazy, busy summer so as of June we still had not gotten it out of the shed.  Well about a week or so before we left to go to Guatemala I was talking with a good friend of mine who informed me that she had gotten us camping reservations for the Fourth of July weekend.  Not only for just Friday - Sunday, but starting on Wednesday.  Which meant I needed to get the camper cleaned up before we left because we would be camping the day after we got home from Guatemala.  So, I was helping Jon get the camper out of the shed when I noticed a bunch of mud on the back of the camper next to the ladder.  I thought it was odd when I noticed little hand prints in the mud.  My first response was - those boys got in the mud and then decided to climb the camper - which I wasn't too pleased about.  But I looked closer and those hand prints were WAY too tiny to be any of my kid's!  Then I looked at the top of the camper and it looked like a lid of something was partially opened.  So, once Jon got the camper parked I told him about my findings.  He began to look it over and saw everything I did - and then he climbed the ladder.  He noticed holes all over the roof of the camper where coons had tried to get in!  I was instantly mad!!  Then I became nervous that maybe the coons got inside our camper - so I made Jon open the door to look inside.  Thankfully they only got the outside!  However, this meant now we needed to get the camper fixed before we could go camping.  I went ahead and cleaned out the inside and then we put the camper back in the shed.  (Maybe we should have left it out - I know it would have rained then!!)  Jon quickly got ahold of the place we bought the camper to see how much it would cost to fix it - then he called the insurance company.  We did everything they asked for and then waited.  We were hoping to get the camper over there before we left for Guatemala - so they could be fixing it while we were gone - but that didn't happen.  So we didn't get to go camping Fourth of July weekend.  We kept trying to get things moving on it, but it just wasn't happening, so I called another camper dealer.  Remember how much I LOVE the Iowa State Fair and how we camp there?  So it needed to be done soon.  The new place said they could do it and get it done by the time we needed it - so we decided we would take it there - only to wait some more!  Finally yesterday (Tuesday) we were given the OK to bring it over - so Jon took it over to have them start working on it!!  My only worry is that it won't be done in time to get it to the holding pen on Sunday!  I guess we will cross that bridge when we get to it!

Jon heading out!  All the other pictures of the damage the coons did are on the I-Pad.

Sunday, July 21, 2013


This past week we (more Jon) have been working really hard on our basement project.  The people came to structurally (fix) support our basement walls - now they shouldn't push in any more!!  Now that that was done, Jon could start his project -  to re-tile around the house.  We've had some issues and wanted to make sure everything was good to go before we finished the inside of the basement.  It started off Monday with taking the deck off.  That was a project all in itself.  The boys and I helped (as did Jon's dad).  Tuesday we finished that.  Then the rest of the week they dug out around the foundation of the house all the way down to the footings!  Jon's dad, along with my dad came over to help.  This was quite the job as well.  Once they got all that done, then Jon power-washed the cement - he did such a good job - if the cracks hadn't been there - it would have looked like a new basement!  After that we started patching in all the cracks in the foundation.  I tell you what - Jon has been so working hard on all of  this all week in the hot temperatures.  I have helped off and on, but between county fair and other various things I had on my calendar - I didn't get to help as much as I would have liked to.  I'm so thankful he was able and willing to do all the work.  Also, grateful our dad's were around to help as well.  We are hoping to finish up with filling in the cracks tomorrow - we only have the south side left.  Then by late tomorrow or Tuesday we are hoping the guy will come in to tar it.  Our contractor is also going to come to cut out for the egress windows.  He is hoping to come the following week to start work inside!!  It's a lot of work, but I know we will enjoy it when it's all over!!  Enjoy some of the pictures of all the progress we've made so far. 

I like this picture.  Jon is working hard while Charlie and Will are working out - doing their exercises!!

Anthony and I trying hard to take out the screws.  This deck was built when TJ was a baby, so some were harder than others to get out!

Anthony and Will carrying boards to the trailer.  The boys were pretty good help this day.

Don (Jon's Dad) and I working at getting more boards off - Jon really was working - he carried the heavy boards to the trailer too!
Here is all the lumber from the deck.  We are hoping to reuse some of it.
 Jon and his dad beginning the digging!

Jon had to do some digging the old, hard way - by hand - especially around the air conditioner.

This is the north side of the house all dug out and power-washed (I was gone on power-washing day).

This is the south side of the house!  This may be a redneck way of mounting the air conditioner - but it works!

And the east side of the house - there were some bad parts on this side.

Here we are filling in the cracks.  It was much easier to do by hand than with a trowel.
And this is the surprise you get on your camera when you ask Anthony to take pictures - it reminds me of something his big brother would have done!  Absolutely LOVE it!!

Saturday, July 20, 2013


Just wanted to remind all of you about tomorrow (Sunday).  Our youth group is sharing all about our trip to Guatemala!  Come to Central Reformed Church in Oskaloosa!  Services are at 9:00 and 10:45!   You won't want to miss this incredible service.  Hope to see you there!

No More!

Friday morning Will and I headed to DesMoines for his three month post-op eye appointment.  We got GREAT news.....his eyes are perfect!  AND he doesn't have to wear his glasses anymore!  He (as was I) so excited!  So no more road trips to Wolfe Eye Clinic - just visits with our regular eye dr.  I have to admit I will miss the way he looked with those glasses - he was pretty cute!  However, this will also be one less thing to fight him about!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

TJ's Ribbon

We finally got TJ's ribbon all decorated!!  The theme this year at the Iowa State Fair is  Happiness is...  So we titled our ribbon Happiness is...spending your "day-sies" at the Iowa State Fair!!  Our idea we thought was going to be easy and wouldn't have quite the detail and time last year's did.  We were wrong.  I believe since our design was so simple we thought it needed more.  We went back and forth on what to do and decided with the original simple design.  Our families all met to work on it.  I love how willing our families are to get together to do things that honor TJ.  Now onto the pictures (I tried hard to get a picture of everyone working on it - but that didn't happen - everyone did something even if there isn't a picture of them).

This picture was actually taken a whole lot earlier - the boys (and Matthew) are putting on the primer.

This was the before picture with our drawing to follow - thank you Angie for drawing this for us!  You did an amazing job!

Here we are painting.

More painting!

Again more painting! 

More painting!

And...more painting!

The finished ribbon!!  It is the same on both sides.  We decided to include our lady bugs again - it represents our family.  The five of us below in the grass and the one (TJ) up on the leaf.  We did this with the cone too!
I just want to give a shout out to my sister in law and brother in law - THANK YOU for letting us use your awesome shop (and everything else for the kids to play with) and for all the hard work you did on the ribbon.  I also want to thank my mother in law for providing us supper that night.  And thank you family for coming together and working on this to honor your nephew, grandson and cousin.  I know TJ would be proud.  We love you all!!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Color Run!

After experiencing the fun of the Glow Run - I thought it would be fun to do another similar 5K - only this time add more family members.  So I recruited my mom, sisters, nieces and the boys to do the Color Run.  Holy smokes was it CRAZY!!  There were WAY more people there than the Glow Run (and there was another run at 1:00).  The race was to start at 9:00 am, however we were towards the tail end of the line - so we didn't get to go thru the start line until 10:00 am.  The mob was so big it was hard to run - so we would walk - but then if you walked you almost got trampled on.  It was a challenge.  Along the course they had color stations where they would spray you with color (it was colored cornstarch).  There was blue, orange, yellow and pink.  Once you crossed the finish line you could take your packet of color and go out with the rest of the runners who had finished and throw up your color to get even more colorful.  We did get colorful and dirty - not as bad as some!  It was fun.  I think the boys had a lot of fun and I was so proud of them for doing it!  Here are some pictures of our crazy, fun day!

The boys ready to go!  (they had the bandanas to cover their faces with - they also wore goggles for awhile)

Our team - Color Me Healthy (my older sister wasn't able to make it)  Jeana, Hannah, Carson, Marilyn, Me, Anthony, Will and Charlie

This is just view of all the people who were there!

This was one of the color stations - yellow!!  You would run thru it while people would "squirt" you with color.  You didn't really want to take a breath while running thru this!

Here we are at the end! 

This was the color packet party!  It was crazy yet cool all at the same time!

The boys and I at the end!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Countdown Begins!

So for those of you who know me really well, probably already know what I'm talking about.  But just in case you don't, I'll tell is now less than 30 days until the IOWA STATE FAIR!!!  I can hardly wait!  I have always LOVED the fair.  You see growing up we showed black Angus cattle.  So we would take our livestock up to the fair and spend almost a week there.  We didn't have a camper and we usually got a hotel - so that meant when we showed up for morning chores - we were there until evening chores!  We spent a lot of time just hanging out in the cattle barns.  However, my younger sister and I always would venture off at least a couple different times during the day.  We had our usual spots we wanted to cover - spin art, the big yellow slide, the DNR building and so many more.  There are so many good memories of the Iowa State Fair - too many to tell about in this post anyway!

So now that I'm grown, married and have kids of my own - I want to give them those same kind of experiences.  Things are a little different - we don't show (yet!) and we have a camper!  I believe I have camped up there Jon and I's whole married life!  I can't think of a fair I missed.  Yep - that means I took a week old baby to the fair and went extremely pregnant!  We didn't always camper for the whole 10 days until more recently.  Once my brother-in-law and sister-in-law got their own camper and we had our own camper - we've been camping together!!  It makes our time even more special.  We have so much fun together.  We've made A LOT of memories - some the campgrounds are still talking about!!  Oh I must explain to you that we aren't the lucky ones who have a reserved spot.  We are part of those crazy ones.  You know the ones.  The ones who bring up their camper a week before you can set it up to put in a holding pen - just so you can be closer to the front of the line - which means you are closer to getting the spot you really want and not having to fight the other crazies behind you.  Just getting your camper in the holding pen can be quite the process - talk to Jon about it sometime!  We've had our camper in some interesting spots!

Finally, last year we got our prime spot - campers together with the awnings opening to each other, under a shade tree, close to the entrance and to more than one bathroom!!  Our goal this year - to get that same spot!  Which means we will need to be close to the front of the line!

The last three years I believe we have gone down to the fair almost all 10 days!  We usually take a day to do our school shopping, but depending on what's going on that night - we will go down in the evening.  Sometimes we don't get a lot accomplished when we go down - but usually by the end of the 10 days we have seen it ALL (and then some)!  We have so much fun together.  I wish I could share with you all that we do - but the list would be too long.  I'm sure people look at us and think we are crazy - two grown women with eight kids!!  But that's ok, because WE LOVE IT!!  The kids look forward to it just as much as I do - I wish I could say the same for Jon - but he just doesn't like it as much as we do.  So usually it's my sister-in-law, nieces, nephews, the boys and I that stay up there the whole time.  Jon and my brother-in-law come up usually on the weekends and sometimes during the weekend - depending on what is going on.

So, if it's been awhile since you've been to the great Iowa State Fair - give me a call - we would love to show you a great time!  And maybe if your lucky - a whole new outlook and appreciation for the fair.  Oh, and in case you don't know - the Iowa State Fair is August 8-18!

Here are just a FEW pictures of our time at different State Fairs!

Charlie, Matthew, TJ, Anthony, Katy & Will

What says family picture more than getting it taken in the pig barn!!

This has always been one of my favorite pictures - the boys doing Little Hands on the Farm!

Friday, July 5, 2013


I've tried a couple different times to sit down and tell you all about our experience in Guatemala - but I've been a loss for words each time.  It was such an incredible experience that it's really hard to put into words - I'll try my best.  So, in my last post I told you all about our mountains (obstacles) that ended up being anthills.  Well, I can honestly say every worry or concern we had about our flights or just being down there - were quickly put to ease.  God was with us the whole entire time.  It was absolutely amazing.

This was our group - 25 youth and 7 adults

This was the group I worked with and our family.

This was Jon's group and his family.

We built three houses right next to each other - the other two were just on the other side of those trees. 

Here the houses are all up with cement board on the outside and drywall in the inside.

This was a typical view of the mountain side - it looked like someone had laid a quilt right on top.

Mudding and sanding.

This is what the houses looked like after we stuccoed and before the roofs were put on.

We also put on little porches - these came in very handy when it rained.

This was the family that I got to help build for.  This was dedication day.

Here the kids are getting meds ready for the medical clinic we would be helping with later in the day.

More meds!

More Meds - I think Zach & Derek were a little hungry!

And more! 

On Med clinic days - we handed out many things to the kids.  They would quickly mob you.  I think Cody is telling them "no mas" - no more!

They loved to color!

Jon and I with Dan the missionary and Hermano Jesus - the pastor who would share the gospel each night of the med clinic.

Dan with his staff - Anya and Jody (and his son)

Another view - we would see someone in the fields every morning - hoeing.

Jon, Rick and Kip - they got the privilege to drive these vans - you will have to ask them if they prefer to drive in the USA or Guatemala.

This was our home away from home.  We stayed above in the white shed like looking building.  Below is the orphanage.
The first three days we were there we worked on building the houses for our families.  I was amazed at how quickly they came together.  The youth really did a great job.  Those days the little community (basically the families of who we were building for) made our lunch.  One day it was rice and beans.  Another was beans and rice.  And the other day it was tostados - with guacamole and chicken.  It was very good.  And for those of you who know Jon - he is a picky eater - he ate all of it!  The third day of the house build we dedicated the houses to the families.  Each group got to go inside the house and present the families with the gifts we had bought them.  Then Dan (the missionary) would gift them some gifts but start to turn it into more spiritual than physical.  And then the Guatemalan pastors would give the gospel message to each family.  While all of this was going on inside the house the rest of our group was on the outside of the house - praying, singing songs and reading scripture.  It was absolutely amazing.  The devil was definitely trying to ruin it - the biggest rain storm started up just after our first house - and with metal roofs - it makes it hard to hear what's going on inside and for all those outside to stay focused.  But he didn't win - all five families accepted Christ as their Savior that day.  It was such an amazing thing to witness.
The next two days after house building were complete - we did medical clinics.  We went to two remote villages - up in the mountains.  Dan and his staff, along with some of our youth set up this clinic inside of a school.  The people would come - get checked out and be given the medicines that they needed.  While all of this was going on the rest of us were outside playing with the kids and interacting with the adults.  It was easy to fellowship even though we couldn't speak the same language.  We quickly bonded with games and gifts.  Then once the medical clinic was over the room was set up for a movie - the life of Jesus - was played.  Once again we sat among the Guatemalan people and watched the movie.  After the movie was over our group got up and sang a couple songs and some of our youth gave testimonies.  That in itself was moving to us sponsors.  To see our youth pour out their hearts and to see others come along side them and comfort them - powerful.  Then we sang another song and went to go back and sit with the people again.  This was when Hermano Jesus got up and presented them with the gospel.  Oh how I wish I could have known what he was saying.  He spoke with such passion.  While he was speaking - we would be in prayer for the people.  Once he would give an invitation to accept Christ we would go out among the people - lay our hands on them and be in prayer.  This was so amazing to be a part of.  Each night was unique.  However, the second night moved me more.  The people would come forward and cry out to Jesus - they were pouring out their hearts and souls screaming out to Jesus to help them.  I believed it moved us all.  After the invitation and the prayer of acceptance we would get to go around and hug them all.  Their hugs were so real, genuine and loving - they would thank us - they were so grateful.  But in all honesty I think we were the grateful ones!
The last day we were there we had time to spend in the orphanage and then we went to Antigua to go shopping at the market.  Both were such a fun time.  I went down to the orphanage - I wanted to see what it was like but also to see the kids.  They had six little ones there - ranging from just a few months old to I believe 4 years old.  I didn't have my camera otherwise I would show you their precious little faces.  I got to hold Ruth - the little baby.  My heart broke for her.  Don't get me wrong - they are very well cared for there - but I couldn't help but think about her mom.  My heart yearns for TJ every single day - how I long to see him, hug him, hold him again - yet the mother of this particular child loved herself too much to give her the love and care she needed.  I just don't understand it.  I know that this same thing happens all over the world - but it was never more real to me than when I stepped foot into that orphanage.
Although all of these experiences were touching, moving and more amazing than I had ever imagined - our group devotions moved me and helped heal me just as much.  Dan had given us little devotional books to do for morning devotions.  Although this was a small little booklet - it was powerful.  It put my relationship with Jesus into perspective - it made it real.  It helped me to realize that I wasn't where I needed to be in my personal relationship with Jesus - that I honestly didn't have one for the last year or more.  But then group devotion time was just as amazing.  Dan taught us to read the Bible in a whole new way.  He taught us to make ourselves part of the story - to get wrapped up in it just like we do when we go to a movie.  He told us that it is the LIVING Word - to make it real in our lives.  We had read Bible stories that I've heard my whole live - however, this time I saw it in a whole new light.  It made me examine my life - it was powerful.  I wish you all could have experienced and witnessed all that we did on this trip - you would be forever changed - I KNOW I AM!!
On the way home someone asked me how this trip compared to my Africa trip.  It's honestly hard to compare the two since they were two totally different trips.  In Africa I feel like we walked along side the people - helping them.  And it was a trip I went on that I only knew one other person.  Don't get me wrong - it was an amazing trip, one I'll never forget - but I honestly think that trip put a spark in me for missions.  Because of that trip I experienced things I had never experienced before.  Giving me a new passion.  Which in turn made me want the youth to have that same feeling.  It led me to Brad & Tracy - which led me to Paradise Bound Ministries.  The Guatemala trip - took it to a whole new level.  I feel like every time we gave the people something physical - we turned it spiritual.  We built them a house and gave them gifts yet we shared Christ with them.  We played games and brought them gifts and medicines on med clinic days - yet we shared Christ with them.  And even at group devotions - we were shown who Christ is.  I have never seen Him more real and alive than I did on this trip.  It is something I will never forget and has changed me forever.  I hope to never be the same again.  I was also privileged to share this experience with my husband and our youth this time.  It was amazing to see the kids change throughout the week.  If you would have told any of us what we would have been doing over a week ago - we would have said you are crazy, I'm not going to do that.  However, now we know we can do it, it's not hard to share Jesus with people, it's not hard to pray and hug strangers - to love them.  This trip was absolutely amazing!  I know we are forever changed by it. 
Here's my plug:  If you would like to learn more about it, see more pictures and hear how it affected us all - we will be doing the service at our church (Central Reformed Church in Oskaloosa) on July 21 both at 9:00 and 10:45 am.  We would love to see you all there.