Saturday, December 31, 2011

Tsunami 2011

Three days after Christmas, we took our students to our annual conference called Tsunami.  We learned there that this actually is the last Tsunami year, we have a new vision and new name, Ignition.  (I'm guessing it'll feel about the same to get ready for such a conference, though.)

This year's theme was Self-Less-Self.  It's a great theme, and a great way to begin a new year.  Wouldn't the world be a beautiful place if we all were selfless, just like Christ?  What a difference the Church could make if each one of her members was truly selfless.

Tsunami is very different than camp.  For one, it's only three days and two nights, but besides that, we're in a hotel instead of a cabin, in a public place instead of a private place, and don't have our schedules quite as packed and dictated for us.  That can be both a blessing and a curse, though, as sometimes we have to scramble to make sure the students don't get bored.  (See bowling pictures below.)  Tsunami also is huge -- 2000 people were at this conference, compared to the few hundred we have at camp.  Because of the size, there are always a few big names performing or speaking.  This year, among many others, we had Superchick do one of the evening concerts.  It was super cool :)

Overall, it was a success, and I enjoyed getting to know the students better and having an opportunity to worship the Lord in a different setting.  As usual, it was difficult for me to motivate myself to go; it seems having only a couple of days to unwind and settle down after the Christmas festivities gets harder and harder each year.  But God (as He always does) was faithful to me and each person who went.  No matter how our hearts may have been when we left for the conference, He had His will done, softening us and speaking to each person there.  I'm thankful to Him for his faithfulness and grace in granting us both safety and spiritual growth.
The whole group -- 16 students and four adults
Bowling--woo hoo!
Our amazing (and my sanity-giving) counselors Courtney and Jane.
That's SuperChick performing behind them -- they were awesome!
Pastor Rob and his wife :)
One more trip to add to our long list!
(And I'm sure there are many more to come!)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Eve

We had the quietest Christmas Eve morning I can remember.  We woke up and opened stockings (it was the only down-time we knew we'd have over the weekend), baked the last items for the Christmas meals, then headed over to the Feely's for a delicious bowl of soup.  

Our little guys made it into our stockings again :)  Tradition!
Each Christmas Eve, our church has a candlelight service.  It's really beautiful, and probably my favorite thing we do all year.  The praise team leads worship with traditional and new Christmas songs, our pastor shares a short word, a few light-hearted and heart-warming videos are shown, and then we all light candles and gather together outside to sing the first verse of Silent Night.  It really is quite special, especially since both of our families (and often times many friends) come to join us.

After the service, Robby and I went to my parents' home for our Vander Kooi Christmas.  This is a wonderful time, and nice and quiet compared to the big celebration with the whole extended family.  Mom (as always) cooked an outstanding meal, and with all the Christmas goodies, none of us went lacking.

After dinner, it's present time!  We (except for Mom and Dad) choose names, so we all had a nice gift picked out for someone.  Roger and I ended up having each other's names!  Camille got Robby for (I believe) the third year in a row, Chels had Camille, Robby had Carly, and Carly had Chelsea.  Fun, fun!  We all seemed to go over our price limit, but I suppose it's hard not to get caught up in wanting to buy the best gift ever for our sibling.  (Although I'm pretty sure the gift I received was the BEST!  A gorgeous red dress!  Thanks, Roger!)

Chels and Roger
Wearing the hats I gave Roger :)
Softball stuff!
Mom loved the bag Chels gave her -- it has a picture of all of us on it!
Another sun for Dad, and perhaps my favorite one so far
Just when we thought the gifts were over, Dad pulled out a new bike for the Beebs!
After such an exciting time, we all were pretty tired and found places to snuggle up.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Day

Christmas Day began early with the Feely's.  After a delicious breakfast, we listened to Jerry read the Christmas story and then took turns opening stockings.  We all received candy canes and oranges, as well as gift cards and other thoughtful items.

All of us went to church, then came back for lunch and presents!

After a wonderful time at the Feely's, we headed to the big Vander Kooi party where we played Greed (White Elephant) and ate lots of yummy food.  Fun!

It was a great time reflecting on the gift of our Lord Savior's birth and enjoying the blessings God gives us in our family and friends.

Oh, What Fun!

Like many of you, I am finally sitting down for the first time in what seems like weeks.  I'm not complaining, though.  This has been a marvelous Christmas season, which I know is truly not over.  It's only the second day of Christmas, afterall!

Instead of trying to remember where it all began, I am starting with today and working my way back as I have time.  Today, then, was wonderful.  Our fabulous friends the deGrassie's gave up a morning with their family and drove the awful drive from Bakersfield to Visalia to spend some time with us.  We had coffee and sat around playing with the kids, sharing the holiday news, and opening presents, which did not disappoint.  Here are a few favorite photos from the morning:

Opening presents and playing with the kids
These are probably my all-time favorite pictures of Anna.  She, as you may know, loves our cat Calla.  Her relationship with Calla has been, up to this point, purely long distance.  Today she was able to meet her, but as Calla is not the friendliest cat, we kept her at a distance.  Anna sat in front of the door having a grand time watching "Cow-la" and telling us all about it.  Anna also is sporting the adorable cat hat we gave her.  I was so glad she finally gave in and tried it on! 

Nick is growing so fast and is such a beautiful boy.  It was fun seeing him in person again, although the poor guy was not feeling too hot.  He still managed to be pretty happy, though.

The Girls
The Boys
Merry Christmas!
Love you, deGrassie's!  May God continue to bless you!

Thursday, December 22, 2011


Yesterday was the big day for my husband -- his 30th birthday!  The celebration began last Friday with many friends joining us for food and fun, and last night both families spent the evening in honor of Robby's day.

Friday was actually a combo birthday with him and our friend Darren, who also turned the big 3-0 this month.  About twenty-five of our Visalia friends gathered together to wish these boys a happy birthday.  It was a great time!
The chocolate cupcakes I made were delicious and looked pretty, too, thanks to Steph's piping skills
(and no thanks to the lame piping bag and tools I had her use). 

Thirty candles!
Make a wish!
Lots of friends...
Cristi (Darren's wife), Steph, Elizabeth, and Chels
Tiffany and Shannon with cute kiddos
Justin, Chris, and Steven
Staying warm in the cold!
Ben, Steve, Chris, Robby, Trevor, and Darren
And the fun continues into the next week on his birthday...
Birthday lunch at Henry Salazar's with the Feely family
And surprise!  We ran into my family down the street.  (Seriously, it wasn't planned!)
Yum...a Coldstone Cake!
(Note: These should be placed in the freezer, NOT the refrigerator!  My goof!)
Handsome guy in his new birthday shirt
Lucky him -- another wish!
Robby and Camille
Robby and Jeff
Robby's mom and Candace's mom :)
A birthday kiss!
Happy birthday, my sweet hubby!  To many, many, many, many, many more!!!