Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Catching Up: December

December was a busy month (when is it not?), for us personally as well as for the camp. At the beginning of the month, our family, with Jhon and Laura's help, put on a special "appreciation dinner" for the camp staff and their families. It was a fun evening, and we enjoyed getting to know the family members of our employees. Later in the month, we did a small gift exchange with the staff, complete with coffee and Christmas cookies.
We had a turkey dinner and pies for dessert
Camp Bellevue staff
Rusty and Jhon drew each other's names for the staff gift exchange!
There were a couple of Christmas activities for the kids in the camp's after school program. Just before the kids went on their Christmas vacation, we had an afternoon of cookie decorating. Laura and I made and baked over 100 sugar cookie cut-outs, and then we had each class come to the kitchen to frost and decorate their cookies with candy sprinkles. And then eat them, of course! The kids had so much fun. Afterwards, I frosted and decorated the remaining cookies and made plates for each staff member.

The Tabacundo Church of Christ (which meets at the camp) hosted a special dinner just before Christmas for the kids in the after school program and their families. There was a devotional, a time of self-introductions for the church members and the families, followed by a dinner of meatloaf, rice, and salad, with chocolate cake for dessert.
The church fed nearly 200 people that night!
Also, during the month of December, we were blessed to have Randall and Renda Story volunteering at the camp. Randall, an ex-forest service guy, helped trim most of the trees on the property, and even cut down a few of the more problematic ones. Renda helped out in the after-school program, did some substitute teaching up at the Hacienda of Hope school, and blessed us with her wonderful homemade bread (she loves to bake!). They were both such hard workers and really gave of themselves to help the camp in whatever capacity they could.
Putting the Landy to work felling a tree
The Storys
Alex finished out baseball season. At the awards ceremony, his coach told us that, although the Quito Youth Baseball League doesn't give out awards for "most improved player," if they did, he would have given it to Alex. We are so proud of him!
"Boston Red Sox" team picture
Of course we spent a lot of time getting ready for Christmas.
We decorated our tree...
... and modeled silly Santa hats.
We saw Santa...
... twice!
We went to our homeschool group Christmas party
We decorated sugar cookies...
...and made candy-cane reindeer ornaments for the tree.
On Christmas Eve, the Marcums drove out to our house and we had a lovely lamb dinner (a tradition from the Stephens' side of the family) and gift exchange with them. The Storys joined us as well.

The holiday table
All the cousins in their Christmas shirts from Nyanya
We spent Christmas Day with just our family. It was such a relaxed and peaceful day spent opening gifts, having pumpkin cinnamon rolls (a big hit -- I think they will become a Christmas tradition!), playing with our new toys, and watching movies.
Merry Christmas!
Opening stockings
Santa brought a special gift that was too big to fit down the chimney, so he left it in the Landrover!
It was the Millennium Falcon! All the boys were so excited -- all four of them!
After Christmas, we moved immediately into "work mode," getting ready for two North American groups that were due to arrive around the first of the year. There was shopping to be done and food to prepare, and all of this as I was nearing the 8 month mark of my pregnancy and had been recently diagnosed with "moderate preeclampsia."

One of our groups, from the East Hill Church of Christ in York, NE, arrived on the 30th. They spent New Year's Eve here at the camp, and we had all the kids from the orphanage over for a hot-dog cookout and sleepover. The East Hill group planned some special activities for the kids, and they all trekked down to the village after it got dark to wander the streets and see the "old men" on display. (A New Year's Eve custom in Ecuador is to burn the "old man," a type of scarecrow, stuffed with straw, sawdust, or newspaper, and fireworks. This signifies the end of the old year.)
Alex helped Jhon make an "old man" for the camp.
The boys with the old man. The sign reads, "My name is Don Camp, and we wish you a Happy New Year!"

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