Monday, July 30, 2012

Iowa Girls at Heart

I just got back from an amazing trip to Burlington, Iowa.  You're probably asking how much fun a vacation to another corn state in the Midwest might be, but it was a great weekend.  I actually spent the majority of my childhood in Iowa.  After living in Winona Lake and Evansville in Indiana, my family moved to Sioux City, Iowa, when I was just starting preschool.  My baby brother was born there -  a true Hawkeye!  So going back to Iowa for the weekend felt a bit like returning to my roots, and who doesn't need a little country peace and quiet once in a while!?  Needless to say, it was just what the doctor ordered.

My best friend/sister from another mister (Deanne) and her sister (Amanda) picked me up on Friday and we drove the six hours to Burlington, Iowa, a small town just across the Mississippi from Illinois.  Deanne's entire family lives in Burlington - aunts, uncles, and both sets of grandparents.  We stopped at her grandparents' house on her dad's side (the Landes clan) and then went to visit the Martins, her mom's parents.  After I spent the entire day at camp and made a six hour drive, I was exhausted and we basically went to sleep when we got back to her other grandparents' house.

Saturday we were all up bright and early to get ready for a canoeing trip down the Skunk River.  We went out to her grandparents' farm in West Point (about 25 minutes away from their house in town), loaded the canoe into the truck, and took it down to the river.

Cohen's grandpa and I trying to lower the canoe down the embankment so we could get it in the river.
The canoe trip ended up being an interesting adventure.  A long trip turned into a shorter one when we realized the river was really shallow from the recent drought.  We kept getting stuck on sand patches and Deanne and Amanda had to wade into the water and push us off the sand.  We ended up pulling the canoe out early just to push it up another steep embankment in patches of poison ivy, then Deanne and I had to hurdle an entire bean field to get back to truck so we could go pick up the canoe!

The rest of the day was spent playing with puppies on the farm and exploring Deanne's grandpa's "workshop."  His workshop is a huge two-story warehouse filled to the brim with old machines, cars, tractors, tools, and practically anything else you can think of.

Exploring the workshop/warehouse.

One of the reasons we made the trip to Iowa was to pick up Deanne's old 1963 Ford Fairlane.  The car has meant a lot to her over to the years.  She would pick me up in that car everyday during our junior year in high school and we drove that car to Fort Wayne to see her baby brother, Brice, the night he was born back in 2006.  She stayed with her dad and grandparents back in 2008 in Iowa and took the car with her, but it was time to bring it back to Indiana.  Unfortunately, after searching the car, the house in town, and the workshop, the keys to the Fairlane were no where to be found.  She was a little disappointed, but we found out it needed new brake lines (among other things), so she plans to make another trip in a couple months to work on it and hopefully drive it back.

Saturday evening was filled with a historic tour of downtown Burlington including a beautiful view of the Mississippi and exploring Snake Alley and Crapo Park.  Back at the house, we ate popcorn, watched movies, and spent time with Deanne's family.

The view of the Mississippi River in downtown Burlington.
We were up early again on Sunday morning for breakfast with the Martins.  After a meal of eggs and french toast, I took family pictures of Deanne and Amanda with their grandparents and we headed out to meet up with the Landes family after church.  We had lunch (a Landes family tradition) at Mazzio's Pizza and then left to head back to Indiana.  The entire weekend was a much-needed vacation from the typical chaos of life and an awesome time with my best friend.  I hope it won't be my last trip to the little town of Burlington.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Taking it All In

We have had a very unpredictable Week 6 at camp with the weather.  It rained every day this week, but we still managed to keep campers outside on Monday and half of the day today.  The kids are still continuing to grow and learn each day and it's hard for me to believe that we only have two weeks left of camp.  This week, the kids have enjoyed getting muddy on the slip 'n slide, learning how to use chopsticks from a St. Mary's international student, using a paint/soap combination to make art on aluminum foil, and looking forward to our field trip on Friday to a swimming pool! 

The summer will be coming to a close before I know it.  All these Sundays spent at the beach and days spent at summer camp will be a memory and I will be starting my second and final year of graduate school and my new job teaching English composition at IUSB.  (School starts August 27th!)  And then very shortly after that, I will be saying "I do" and Justin and I will be taking our honeymoon and starting our life together in our new apartment.  So many things to look forward to -- God is good!

This week has been a productive one with wedding plans!  One Monday, Justin and I went to pick out a flower girl dress together.  (Our adorable flower girl is Caileigh, the five-year-old daughter of our friends, Joe and Tonya).  Justin and I found a dress that is fit for a princess and Caileigh agreed.  Today after camp, I went to the bridal shop to try on my wedding dress to see what alterations need to be made!  I never get tired of seeing the dress I picked out for Justin and my special day.  I can't wait to pick it up in August and see the final result after the alterations have been made.

This weekend I'm getting ready to head to Iowa with my best friend (and my maid of honor), Deanne, and her sister, Amanda.  The purpose of the trip is to pick up Deanne's 1963 Ford Fairlane from her grandfather's house, but it will be a nice (and much-needed!) mini-vacation for the three of us.  I'm looking forward to just relaxing and spending time with good friends.

In between the usual busyness of life, I am trying to work on some art projects, read as many library books as I possibly can, share many date nights with my sweet fiance, work on constructing a syllabus for the class I will be teaching in the fall, and remembering to thank God for the life he has given me. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Past & Future

We just finished up a fun (and long) week 5 of Recess.  I've had a good week with the kids even amongst the storms and unbearable heat.  On Tuesday, we took the kids on school bus (that felt like it was 200 degrees) to Coveleski Stadium in South Bend for a tour of the facilities.  While I adore baseball and would have normally loved a field trip like this, it was entirely too hot and miserable to enjoy it.  The kids were all feeling bad from the heat and couldn't even sit in the plastic chairs at the field because they felt like they were on fire.  Wednesday we had storms during the day and had to take shelter inside the church for awhile.  The kids didn't mind -  we played their favorite game, silent ball, until the rain stopped.

On Wednesday, Justin and I had another premarital counseling meeting with our wedding officiate and good friend, Lowell, and his wife, Katie.  We had dinner together downtown at Fiddler's Hearth and had great food and conversation.  Justin and I are having our wedding ceremony and reception at the Scottish Rite in downtown South Bend, but neither Lowell or Katie had seen it before, so we took them over to see the building after dinner.  They really wanted to see the inside, so the four of us went and buzzed in at the front door hoping someone would be there.  Not only was someone there, but the two men who greeted us showed us the chapel, the reception area, and then proceeded to give us an entire tour of the Scottish Rite building!  It was fun to see and hear about all the history contained in that building.  We found out it was built in 1927 and was the largest building in South Bend at the time.  I'm so glad Justin and I chose to have our special day there!  And our wedding will be here before we know it.  I know I say it all the time, but I can't wait to be his wife!

One of my favorite photos of Justin and I.  This was during my junior year of college.
 Yesterday I did something that I have never done before - spent 6 hours in a movie theatre.  My best friend is a Batman fanatic and couldn't wait to see the midnight premiere of "The Dark Knight Rises."  She drove all the way from Fort Wayne to see it with me, Justin, and our friend, Josh, at Showplace 16, but of course we had to get their early to avoid lines and get good seats.  We got there around 9:30 and, as it turned out, were the only ones in our theatre until about 30 minutes before the movie started.  But it was worth it; nothing like sitting in a movie theatre for 6 hours making memories with friends!

My best friend, Deanne, and I have known each other since we were 12.  We went to middle school, high school, and college together (and shared a dorm for 4 years) and got our first apartment together as adults after graduating from college.  We've had some awesome, wonderful, crazy times together, and next weekend we are planning a road trip to Iowa to pick up her 1963 Ford Fairlane from her grandparents house.  I'm not sure if it will top our week-long spring break in North Carolina during our senior year of college or our trip to Boston last August, but it will definitely be an adventure. 

Also, the preview for the latest issue of Bewildering Stories came out this week and my poetry is featured in it!  Check it out here:

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Sand, Sun, & Painting with Tennis Balls

I have a new (and wonderful) Sunday tradition with my friends - weekly trips to Lake Michigan to spend the day at the beach!  Today was yet another lovely day at Lake Michigan with my good friends Meredith, Jennae, and Josh.  (Justin couldn't come since he had to work).  It was definitely a hot day, so my time spent laying out and reading a book was limited and I spent most of the time in the water cooling off.  Good conversation was had by all as well as a tiring trip out to the sandbar and back!

This past week was our fourth week of Recess!  On Tuesday, we took the kids to WNDU for a field trip and received a tour of the station by meteorologist, Mike Hoffman.  The kids had a blast, especially when they got to stand in front of the green screen with the weather forecast behind them.  The week was filled with fun activities including relay races using foam pool noodles, lots of swimming, and painting with tennis balls.  We hung a white sheet outside the youth building, put the kids in rain ponchos, and let them dip tennis balls in different colored paints and throw them up against the sheet.  One of my kids was showing me his baseball windup as he threw orange tennis balls up against the wall - he was pretty good!  When I asked if he played little league, he said he really wanted to but he couldn't because his mom couldn't afford to sign him up.  It broke my heart to hear him say that; every kid should have the opportunity to play sports.

Mike Hoffman encouraged the kids this week to pursue their God-given talents and abilities, so we had the kids journal during reading time on Wednesday about what they wanted to be when they grow up and how they thought they were going to get there.  I had several kids aspire to be super stars, dancers, and singers and I had a scientist, an MLB player, an NBA player, and a little girl that wanted to work at the mall.  I just hope I can keep encouraging these kids to go after their dreams and not let anything hold them back from reaching their full potential. 

Justin and I spent the evening together Thursday night after Recess for a much-needed date night.  It might sound boring, but lately we've been having our date nights in Elkhart just to get away from the familiar scenery of South Bend and experience something new and different.  I visited the Indiana University South Bend at Elkhart campus for the first time and am so excited that I will be teaching English there in the fall!  We had dinner together and then walked the Elkhart River Walk together and talked about our upcoming wedding.  I can't believe I will be married to Justin Andrew in three short months.  I feel like we've waited forever for this, but it was worth every minute.  I love our life together.

This week starts week five of Recess.  Staying enthusiastic in the heat isn't always easy, but we will be taking a field trip this week to tour the South Bend Silver Hawks stadium!  It should be an exciting week at camp, except I can't wait until we are finished reading How to Eat Fried Worms during our reading station.  If only I could bring in one of my favorite Stephen King novels for reading time...  :-)

Monday, July 9, 2012


So this week marks the mid-point for Recess - four weeks down, four to go.  I can't believe we're already halfway done!  I have gotten to know these kids so well over the past couple weeks and the kids have really gotten to know each other.  One boy in my group never talked or interacted with any of the other kids, but today I saw him running around the playground, jumping in and out of the pools, and laughing with two of the other boys in my group.  There is so much to be thankful for as I watch how these kids have learned and grown over the little time that I've known them.  Oh, but we still have girl drama, lots of girl drama.  I had one girl spit on another girl on Friday - what's that about!? 

I am so thankful that we have had a cooler start to the week today.  I don't know if I could have handled another hot week like last week.  We had melting crayons in the parking lot - enough said!

I am so proud of Justin and how much he is keeping up with this summer.  (We are trying to save money for our wedding, new apartment, etc).  He is working at Recess everyday, working a regular job, going to summer school in Elkhart, and is trying to volunteer at the high school youth group meetings every week.  He is a busy man and hasn't been able to help out as much with wedding plans, but I did manage to get him into Office Depot with me on Saturday to print our wedding programs!  I designed them myself and I think they turned out great!  Justin even had the awesome idea to print them on three different colors of cardstock - yellow, orange, and red to go along with our fall theme.  Did I mention our wedding is three months away?  Can you tell I'm excited!?

Justin and I are moving into a new apartment together in October following our wedding!  Our good friends, Lowell and Katie, own a campus ministry house (college students/interns involved with Impact Campus Ministries live there) and have a two-bedroom apartment ready for us to start renovating on September 1st!  Justin and I toured the apartment a couple months ago and instantly fell in love with it.  Lowell and Katie have brought so much love into the house and I can't wait to start working on it!  The old tenant had cats, so the first thing we'll do is replace the carpet.  We will also be painting, repairing drywall, and eventually moving all our stuff over.  I can't wait for Justin and I to start our lives there together as a married couple!

The fall season is going to be busy for both Justin and I.  Justin will be attending classes for his LAST semester of college before graduating with a BS in psychology and a minor in religion.  I will be Professor LaFollette at IUSB Elkhart teaching my first ever English composition course, starting my second and final year of graduate school, and putting the finishing touches on our wedding plans.  And, of course, there's the renovations/move to our new apartment and going on our honeymoon!  Did I mention we booked our hotel for our honeymoon!?  Thanks to my good friend, Amanda, for getting us an amazing deal at a hotel in Chicago - I can't wait!

God is doing so many awesome things in my life this year.  I can't wait to see where he takes Justin and I.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Sweet & Sour

I got to go to two of my little brother's baseball games on Tuesday in Lakeville!  I love watching him play and he even got to come back with me and stay at my place afterward.  I love our little visits, even if it's for a short period of time because he has baseball practice/games all the time.  (Did I mention I love baseball!?)  Baseball has been such a huge part of my life growing up.  Not only have I played softball since I was old enough to stand, but I traveled all around the United States with my family as a kid attending my older brother's travel baseball games.  Now I'm watching my little brother play high school and travel ball and I can't believe how fast the time has gone!  When did my baby brother turn into a high school sophomore!?

So in the time that Justin and I have been together, our families have been able to avoid meeting each other.  (My little brother has actually met Justin's family on several occasions when he would come to visit me).  On Wednesday, my family (mom, dad, and two brothers) came over to Justin's mom and dad's house and we all had lunch together.  Justin was very nervous, but I think it turned out to be a great get-together.  There was laughter and, of course, plenty of stories about us when we were kids from our parents.  I'm so glad this happened now and not at the wedding which is 3 months away!  As Justin keeps saying, "doomsday averted."

This week at Recess has been almost unbearable.  With the heat advisory, I've been in survival mode all week.  Fortunately, my group got to go to Central Fire Station on Tuesday for a field trip (and a break from the heat) and they had a blast.  (I'm not going to lie, I think I had just as much fun as they did!)  A fireman took us on a tour of the entire building and then the kids got to climb through one of the fire engines and try on some of the equipment.  It was a good day and two of my kids told me they wanted to be firefighters after we left!  I looked in the rear view mirror on the way back to the church and saw 12 kids with red plastic firefighter hats with elastic chin straps...oh to be a kid again.

Photo: Our Recess kids got to visit the Central Fire Station yesterday and today.  I think we may have some aspiring firefighters in our midst.
My Recess kids enjoying their time at the fire station.

I can't believe we are finishing up the third week of camp.  On Tuesday, one of my boys was crying because he didn't get picked during a game.  Another kid in my group went up to him, put his arm around him, and said we could play the game again later and that he would help him work on his art project.  It was so sweet to see him speak kind words to a fellow camper.  Jesus is at work here!  During faith station today, my kids were asking tons of questions about Jesus while we ate Sour Patch Kids to show how God can change people.  (The candy goes from sour to sweet, just as God can change us into something new!)  I'm so happy to see these kids so engaged and ready to learn every day.   

Monday, July 2, 2012

Movies, Friends, & Writing

Okay I admit it - I saw "Magic Mike" on opening night.  I went with three friends to Showplace 16 in South Bend to see it just to find out that they were sold out!  But we didn't give up that easily; we managed to order tickets over the Internet on our way across town to Movies 14 in Mishawaka.  Was it worth the $8 or driving like crazy to get to the theater on time for the 7:50pm showing?  I guess you'll have to find out for yourself.  :)

This past weekend served as catch-up for me from the week.  I never feel like doing anything productive after Recess, so everything seems to pile up on my days off.  Justin and I went to the Farmer's Market and picked up some lovely fresh fruits and veggies and I did laundry, went grocery shopping, and cleaned my apartment.  Where is all of this productivity during the week!?

Yesterday was spent at Rocky Gap Beach in St. Joseph, Michigan, with some awesome friends.  The water was perfect and the beach was beautiful.  Despite a headache that plagued me all day, it felt good to just relax, swim, and enjoy great company.

My sweet fiance making sandcastles at the beach.
Today I was back at summer camp with the kiddos.  I think we all suffered from heat stroke today with the heat index, it was terrible!  I only had 7 kids in my group today.  Looks like some parents thought it was too hot outside for their kids and they were probably right!  Despite the heat, we still managed to finish our book, "My Father's Dragon," play tag in the sprinkler, enjoy pool time, play on the playground, make lava lamps, and work on art projects.  I'm hoping tomorrow is a cooler day!

July 4th is coming up on Wednesday and I'm grateful for the day off.  Justin and I have been together for four years (and have been engaged for almost a year) and our families have never met or even talked to each other, so Justin's family has invited my family over for a cookout on Wednesday for lunch.  I think we are both nervous, but I hear it's better for them to meet now than at our wedding in October!  I'm sure it will be a fun meal with the LaFollettes and the Samsons.  :)

I've been working really hard lately on submitting my writing to various literary journals and magazines in an attempt to get published.  I heard back from a web-zine last week and they have accepted two of my poems for publication!  I'm so excited.  It's just a start, but it's definitely reassuring as a writer to hear that someone else appreciates my writing!