I spent the best first day of the year with the Mooney sisters, Maggie, Molly and more camp friends. It has become our tradition to celebrate New Year's Day together with a camp dinner at Mellow Mushroom, doing our favorite things and writing Top 10 Lists together.
Taylor Porter was home from Colorado over break so I got to introduce her to my friends too.
I came home to a flooded apartment late night while both my roommates were away. Luckily our belongings weren't ruined but we couldn't live there while they redid the ceilings, walls and parts of the floor. Thankfully the Devoe's welcomed me in while I was homeless and made me feel at home.
I met with this group of 8th grade girls all year long reading Love Does and Cold Tangerines together. We traded presents at Christmas, wrote each other Love Tank notes and became better friends.
At the beginning of my Spring Break I met Maggie in Chicago and we visited some of our Camp T girls. We got to hang out with Rain, Nina, Megan and Katlyn in downtown LaGrange that night.
I visited my family at my parents house in Holland and got to be hipster with baby Lincoln.
I went up to Wisconsin with Sarah and Ben and their whole wedding party for a lake house weekend. We stayed in a cottage, ate family dinners, went laser tagging, played games and got to know each other better.
I went as a chaperone on the 8th grade field trip to Washington D.C. I wasn't sure what to expect but those three days were some of my favorites of the whole year. We went just about everywhere you can go in that city and had so many adventures. I had a blast hanging out with Wyld Life kids, making up a cheer for Bus Leia, making a harlem shake at Einstein, discovering weird things in all the museums, making a spontaneous trip to DC cupcakes, dancing at the hotel, getting to see Krissy and Fitzie, getting the ugliest pink cheetah sweatshirt ever and becoming friends with more of these 8th grade girls.
Ryan Ahlwardt came on YL staff in January and we continued having Campaigners every week and started having Clubs too. We grew deeper in our relationships with kids and Christ and new friends kept showing up. It started to feel like YL had always been a part of our community.
I spent a huge part of the second semester hanging out with our 8th grade Wyld Life girls. KCraig and I met with them on Saturday mornings as we read through the Story together and found other times through out the week to hang out. These girls became a huge part of our lives.
Jenna, Annie, MaryEllen, Linda and I drove up to Chicago to take Sarah and her mom Barbara to a chocolate cooking class as a bride-to-be-celebration. It was a quick trip but fun to be able to celebrate her.
We had to go pick up Linda's daughter in the suburbs and I realized that it was in the same town where Kat and Emily lived so I sent a couple texts. They were already hanging out with camp friends so they pulled up with all of these girls and I got to see Chachi, Ella, Nina, Emily, Kat and Grace-- they'd all become significant parts of my life in the next year.
Wyld Life had Clubs every other week and tons of kids from our Junior High showed up. I loved their excitement for the themes and how talking in small groups at the end was their favorite part. Having four leaders that are also teachers in the Junior High was a huge asset to our ministry because we were basically doing contact work all day every day with these kids.
We had our first YL love bomb at an 8th grade girls basketball game. With posters and face paint, we stood up the whole game cheering and clapping for all of the players. The team and the rest of the spectators didn't know what to think at first but were definitely glad that we came.
Haleigh Devoe and I went to the Taylor Swift Red Tour concert and made one of my dreams come true. At a pre-show event we met Taylor's mom and I got to give her a friendship bracelet and asked her to deliver a letter and friendship bracelet to Taylor.
We had incredible seats during the show and Haleigh and I freaked out the entire time screaming, jumping, dancing, crying and singing the entire time. It was easily one of the best experiences of my life.
Sarah and Ben got married and the most fun and casual wedding ever. From bouncing with the wedding party to gift bags at the hotel, throwing sprinkles to food stations at the reception, the best wedding band to a photo booth, this is one wedding we won't forget. I loved getting to be a part of it all and am so thankful for friends like Sarah and Ben in my life.
Bob Goff, author of Love Does, spoke at a church an hour away and I went with my friend Abby to see him. I tried to write down every word he said and then we couldn't believe it when he stood right beside us during the final song of the service. Bob gave me a hug, signed my book and took a picture with me. Dreams come true.
The CILTs of 2011 came back to Tecumseh for a third reunion of the kids of their summer. Evan, Mel and Arielle all made it back to lead together and we found we make some pretty good looking old people.
We had small groups at this reunion and shared mini life stories and asked each other questions. Getting to know this small group better was one of my favorite parts of the weekend.
My 26th birthday was one of my favorites yet. My birthday fell on a Saturday but Friday morning Malena, Erin, Julia, Kaelyn, Olivia and Maddy snuck into my room to leave presents and notes and then tie balloons and streamers to everything. It was a party for sure. They also got Bob Goff to call me and leave a birthday voicemail.
Maggie and Annie mailed me one of the best presents I've ever received-- a book filled with Top 10 Lists of Why I Love Sarah Wright written by all of my friends. It made me laugh and cry and so thankful for all the people in my life.
I was staying with Hendricks' sisters over break and they came to my pizza party birthday dinner with my camp friends. Sarah Briggs came down from Chicago for the night too because she's the coolest.
Sarah and I went to Quilt Camp in March and worked on a new quilt for my room. I love getting to spend time with Sar and Bethie.
We had a second reunion for the CILTs of 2012 and a small group of kids made it back for the weekend. We made a Harlem Shake video around camp, made up choreographed dances, played minute to win it games and wrote love tanks together. It was good to get to see these friends again.
It was another successful year for the Friendship Bracelet Club and one of my favorite sweatshirts yet. I love hanging out with these kids on Thursdays till 4 and helping them to spread that friendship bracelet love.
We had a Paint War Club with Wyld Life right before the end of the year. It was certainly a grand finale to our first year of Young Life.
Young Life finished the semester with a photo scavenger hunt all over Fishers that took us a wild adventure including a cannon ball into Geist. This might have to become an annual event.
I ran in the Color In Motion with my friends Jamie, Molly, Sarah, Alli and Amanda and then ate lunch together before we got all the color off.
After getting to know the 8th grade girls so well this year it was so sad to say good-bye to them at the end of school. Brookie made me a scrapbook of pictures of me with all of them through out the year and it was one of the coolest surprises. I couldn't imagine what it would be like to be away from them all summer and then to not see them every day at school next year.
I started Friendship Bracelet Season over Spring Break and continued knotting away until summer camp started. I surpassed last year's record of 54 and made 100 bracelets. Insanity. I don't know if I'll ever be able to top that again.
I came back to Tecumseh for another summer of living the CILTing dream. This year I teamed up with Alex Allison, Jamie Z and Sarah Mooney. I lived in Choctaw with the one and only Ellyn Hessong. From the start I was beyond excited to spend all day, every day with this group of counselors.
Session 1 was such a party and I loved this group of kids. The beginning of the summer is always exciting and I had a blast with them.
I missed five days in the middle of their session to go to Wyld Life but still grew close to so many of these kids. I remember building a fort in Choctaw, talking with Anna, Jill and Soph late after devotions, the best dance party of the summer, Jock Jams day, my favorite graduation song and heart to hearts with these girls.
It was one of my favorite weeks ever and I won't forget adventuring in the woods, laughing in our cabin, one on ones with these girls and dancing like chickens during club.
I worried so much about leaving Tecumseh during Session 1 to come to Michindoh and I'm so glad that I decided to come. Getting to experience this with these girls was one of my favorite parts of the whole summer.
My good friends Emily and Eric got married and I got to be a reader at their wedding. I'm a huge fan of both of them and loved getting to be part of their day. So many camp friends were in attendance and the whole thing was beautiful. There was also a flash flood in the field where our cars were parked which made things interesting.
Session 2 was filled with tons of enthusiastic, giggly, creative and quirky kids. I laughed so much during these two weeks, celebrated Madison's fake birthday, did 3 rounds of lice checks, slept out on the porch of the lodge, went trick or treating, rocked overalls, ate some canned foods, painted faces, celebrated the 4th of July with red, white and blue everyday and built some forts up at Gish.
Most of my pictures are of my campers because that's who I'm with all day long and the reason that I'm a counselor, but the people I work with are my support during the summer and some of the coolest people I know. I'm so lucky to call people like Nart, Bailey, Anna, Molly, Alli, Irene, Chrissy, Maggie, Mary, Annie, Liz Koch, Margaret, Finney Baby and Claire my friends too. They make camp special for the hundreds of kids that we play with all summer and they mean more to me than they know.
Session 3 is always extra sentimental because it's the last group of CILTs for the summer. This year Session 3 was extra special for me because I had connections with over half of them before it even began. This was also the session I spent the most time with because I worked their stay-over weekend and came back in time for devotions about every night.
Smoon, Jamie Z and I were so crazy by the end of the summer that we were looking for more ways to take opportunities and even went on a mud hike. We flew kites, played Fugitive and Dominican Chaos with our kids, traded favorite shirts and had a sleepover on the floor one night.
These kids and counselors taught me so much about myself and helped me to fall in love with Tecumseh for another summer. This is my favorite place.
These weeks make me think of Max the cat, staying up way too late talking, heart to hearts over the stay over weekend, a devotion on micro and macro morality, the speediest RFAJWD ever, mini team building instead of mini clinics, the crate game at Gish, Wacky Wednesday, an extended float trip, River Village Olympics and Zork and Bruce.
A group of my Wyld Life girls drove up to Tecumseh to visit me on one of my nights off. Janelle Dewolf drove up Julia, Olivia, Alli Sams, Alana, Molly and Maddy. I got to show them camp in action, we went to dinner at Chipotle, explored Purdue and played in West Lafayette till they had to head back home. It was so cool to get to see them in the middle of the summer.
After CILTs finished, Ellyn and I became River Warrior counselors and we got to have Kathryn, a DC counselor live with us. We had a band of crazy girls in Choctaw and had an awesome week.
Ellyn and I got to teach friendship bracelet clinic together and it was probably the best thing that ever happened to those kids' braceleting career. We made them learn the hardcore on day 1 and made life entertaining every day.
We found the Golden W in the trees by the zip line, won both of our Warrior challenges, won the Golden Toilet Seat for Clean Cabin, slept out in hammocks, ate some fire flies, walked back and forth between Villages, had one of my favorite devotions of the summer out in the Pine Forest and lived the dream together.
River collars, gold swagger
Week 8 I headed to Sharp Top Cove in Georgia with Young Life. This was my first time at this camp and I immediately fell in love with it. Hannah and I lead together again and had a mega cabin of Freshmen girls. Haley, Jenna, Marie, Alli Bell, Hannah, Ali, Kate, Brooke, Libby, Olivia, Sophia Lipka, Kyndal, Payton, Haleigh, Butler and Sophia Lauck.
These girls are Young Life professional campers at this point and we had a blast dressing up as Waldo, for Wolf Shirt Wednesday and Country Hoe Down Night. We were so stuffed in our cabin that Hannah and I slept on the floor.
One on ones during camp are some of my favorite moments.
I got to know the girls in my cabin so much better during our cabin times this week. I love how Young Life helps us to break down walls and be vulnerable with each other.
One of coolest parts of this week was getting to hang out with my friends Ella and Nina. They go to LT in Chicago with a ton of the girls from CILT session 3. Nina was one of the girls I met when I visited Chicago in the Spring and we couldn't believe we'd all be at Sharp Top together.
We'll never forget celebrating the birthdays of Kate and Libby by eating gutters, surviving the Sharp Top flash flood, Lipka's quotes, CoCo and JoJo the Party Starters, climbing trees, Yellow Team domination in the pool Olympics, friend crushes on Mary Margaret and Katie, "If you really knew me you would know" with all the HSE girls and the Cluckenator. It was an unforgettable week.
I came back to Tecumseh to be a Blazer counselor with Ellyn for the last week of the summer. I was pumped to see little kids like Erin and Abby that I became friends with last year. The last week of Tecumseh is beyond sentimental and the week was filled with adventures in nature discovery, dance parties in the CAC, lists of things we love, counselors crying anywhere at any moment, Sunrise Shades for the Choctaw girls, extreme hobo dinners, Academy Awards and "the last" of everything.
The summer ends with the staff banquet-- a celebration of the past 10 weeks and saying good-bye to our very best friends.
Smoon and I had one last adventure left in us so after the banquet we drove up to Michigan to surprise Nina, Kat and Emily at the Marco's lake house. They'd invited us to come but never thought we would actually show up. It was a quick trip but made my heart so full to see those girls again.
I never have much time for transitions in my life so of course I came back to Fishers that night for our second annual YL Amazing Race. About 100 of our kids showed up and it was an awesome kick off for the new school year. I was missing camp but so happy to be reunited with my YL friends.
Redford Wilde Dekoster was born August 12, 2013. I went up to Michigan right away to visit my newest nephew and the rest of the family. Linc was excited about baby and being a big brother.
Ellyn and I had a reunion with Indy area CILTs in the first few weeks after camp. I'd continue to hang out with these kids during the semester as we met up for dinner, thankful that we all live so close. I love getting to see how these friends take care of one another because their camp experience had such an impact on them.
I moved up to Fishers to be closer to school and Young Life but still got to visit my friends Rachel and Emily down in Broad Ripple. They're two of my best friends and I just wish that I could see them more often.
Rach and I also got to visit Coll, Chrissy, Molly and Mary-- four of our camp friends that are all going to Depauw. I'm thankful that camp friends are still my real life friends too.
I went to as many of the freshmen volleyball games as I could this semester. The entire team is part of Young Life in some way and I loved cheering them all on. They're not only awesome people but they're also awesome at the sport so it was fun watching them win all the time.
Showing up at the Junior High volleyball games and cross country races was another weekly occurrence.
I went to a bunch of the HSE football games to hang out with Wyld Life kids behind the bleachers, stand with the HS kids in the stands or cheer on the cheerleaders.
For the first few months of the Fall we met in the woods for Campaigners. Just a few miles outside of town, we were totally secluded out in the woods and would talk in circles around a campfire. More leaders like Sean, Jorge and Abby joined our leadership team and a new crew of freshmen joined the older kids.
KCraig was one of my best friends this year in Young Life and at the Junior High. She's crazy and nuts and I love her heart. Getting to lead and teach alongside her is such a gift and I'm better for knowing her.
Friendship Bracelet Club blew up in the new year. We had over 100 kids show up the first week and the group continued to be gigantic. Normally we drop in numbers after the first month but we're still regularly having 50-70 kids each week.
I love having bracelet pros like Sarah Jane, Lucy and Victoria back again and getting to know a whole new year of girls.
We invited Juniors and Seniors in Young Life to serve as Wyld Life leaders this year and have a group of ten kids that have really owned this new position. It's awesome to see them stepping up to serve and watching them become a close knit group.
We had our first Young Life fundraising banquet that marked a new year of Young Life in HSE. The amount of support we have from adults in this community is amazing. We wouldn't be able to do what we're doing without them.
I've gotten close with 8th grade girls like Maddy, Emma, Liz and Milly and love going out to dinner with them. Living in Fishers has made it so much easier to be available to show up in these kids lives and walk alongside them.
We took some of our HSE Wyld Life and Young Life leaders down to Kentucky for the regional YL summit. It was an awesome weekend of fellowship and growth and focusing. Choco sticks, a killer dance party, connecting with old friends and feeling inspired by Club talks were also highlights.
When Kraft came back from Montana to visit for a week we road tripped up to Purdue to see our old partners Arielle and Mel and a huge group of our old campers that are now Purdue students.
Wyld Life kids are still meeting about every other week and are still crazy, hyper and so excited to be learning more about Christ while having fun. From Camo Club at the park to Christmas Club on Halloween we're having fun no matter what we're doing.
Some YL friends kidnapped Brannt on his birthday to go play laser tag and eat Steak n' Shake at midnight. That was an awesome adventure.
Lincoln turned two and we celebrated up in Michigan with the whole family at his Bear Birthday Party. He's learning to talk, climbs on everything and is such a happy and helpful kid.
I'm still hanging out with the girls that are now Freshmen and love having adventures, dinners or Chick Flick Sundays with them. Freshmen year is a whirlwind and I'm glad I get to walk through the craziness with so many of them.
Sometimes we all hang out together but other favorite memories include tie-dying, dinners at Steak n' Shake, crafting together, going to breakfast on Saturday morning and taking girls to church.
I went up to Chicago and stopped first to visit camp girls in the suburbs. We'd all stayed in touch since CILTs and continued to grow closer. Getting to see them in real life again was beyond awesome.
I finally got to meet the real Max the cat too. Dreams come true. Pretty sure this might be the only animal I like.
I got to see a ton of DC counselors and CILTs while I was there. Reuniting with Tecumseh people during the year is one of my favorite things. I wish there was a way to freeze time while we're all together.
Then I spent the rest of my time in Chicago with Sarah and Ben Battaglia on the North Shore and adventuring into the city. We love stripes, Diet Coke, adventures, dessert, Harbor Master, pizza and just being together.
My 7th graders went to Camp Tecumseh for a field trip and I got to be there all week with both sessions. Getting to be a counselor and teacher at the same time is one of my favorite things.
I had a blast with the 7th graders, the HS counselors that used to be my students and the other teachers.
Kriger and I managed to eat cupcakes every single day and had so much fun being friends all week.
I made a visit to Purdue before heading back to Indy and got to see Maggie Shadid and Purdue kids like Lizzy, Claire and Karissa.
Whenever I was in the Purdue area I got to see best friends Sophie and Kat. Soph was a session 1 CILT and Kat was the Day Camp counselor that lived with Ellyn and I week 7.
Young Life continued to grow this semester with weekly Campaigners and Club once a semester. Hanging out with YL kids is always one of my favorite parts of the week. It's amazing to see how these kids keep growing in their second year.
The HSE Junior High is SO much fun. Most of the time I love going to work. My students rock. I'm inspired by other teachers like my friends Hodgin, KCraig, Trulock and Kriger. I love seeing kids in the hallway during passing periods and walking around the cafeteria during B lunch everyday. Dictionary Day and Spirit week make things even more fun.
We surprised Taylor Fischl at her musical "13" and all rocked the bows for her. She did a phenomenal job. Whenever random friends like Kayla came into town we all got together.
Even though I know that I'll be back at Tecumseh again next summer, I still get nervous about the application process as my campers apply to be on staff for the first time. I've been at camp while some of my CILTs were there for their interviews and feel like so many of our conversations go back to if they'll get hired or not. After six years of being a CILT counselor I'm still not sure how to help them not freak out during this process. I wish there was a way that everyone could get hired to work DC.
The FBC girls rock my socks off. I love that Julia Washburn says, "The games are the best part of my LIFE." Cecilia is a beast at every pattern. Izzy and Rachel love just sitting with me as we work on bracelets. We sold over 200 FBC sweatshirts this year, including some to 8th grade boys. We've made bracelets to donate to a mission trip in the Dominican Republic and to a organization fighting human trafficking.
Carolyn Kata came to town and I finally got to see Stephen Kellogg perform live. His songs Gravity, 4th of July, My Favorite Place and Satisfied Man are some of my favorites.
I competed in our school's second Amazing Race with Lexi, Emma, Liz and Milly and got second place!
Did I mention we Young Life a lot?
Normally I only friendship bracelet in the Spring but I've been addicted this semester and almost always have a bracelet in progress. Because I'm not stocking up for camp I've been able to give them out to Young Life kids and students.
My family was in Michigan for Thanksgiving this year. We celebrated the big meal with Nick's family, the girls went Black Friday shopping at the J Crew outlet and generally just being thankful for everything.
My 6th period was one of my most interesting classes of the semester. With 23 girls and 3 boys you know it's going to be a good time. They won the school wide fundraising contest for the library and got an all you can eat cupcake and ice-cream party. They colored me pictures and left me love tank notes and made me laugh every day. I'll miss them next semester.
December started with Mother Daughter Quilt Camp and I brought Julia and Alli Sams along to help with the Hot Chocolate Club.
Because of interviews I also got to see Grace, Chachi, Maggie, Molly, Emma, Sophie, Kat, Jamie Z and Mel during the weekend. So much Camp T love.
Bethie helped us make this awesome quilt as a surprise for KCraig. We're so obsessed with it that we kind of want to keep it but we know she'll love it.
Campaigners finished the semester with Love Tanks, something that's become a favorite tradition around here. I'm always surprised by who I get love tanks from in this group and love seeing these kids and leaders encourage once another.
One of my 7th grade bible study groups had a Christmas Party the last week of school to craft, eat and watch a Christmas movie together. I'm so pumped for most of them to come to Wyld Life camp this summer.
I can't believe I didn't know them just a few months ago when now I love spending time with them so much. Such ballers.
I took Liz, Elise and Maggie to the Toby Mac Hits Deep Tour. This concert featured so many of my favorite artists and they performed all of our favorite songs. Dancing and singing with them for three hours was beyond awesome.
Winter Break started back at Tecumseh for the 6th Annual CILT Reunion. Organizing this event is one of my favorite things and I anxiously wait for it as soon as the summer ends. All of the CILT counselors made it back along with 100 of the 120 CILTs.
I can't explain what it means to have all of these kids back together again. They mean more to me than they know and after spending two weeks with them they made a permanent impact on my life.
I love having all of these people together at once and getting to see kids from different sessions become friends. The reunion is short but these 25 hours are the best. After doing this 6 times I know that even though it's hard to say good-bye I'll keep being friends with these girls for years to come.
My family went on a ski vacation up at Crystal Mountain for a second time this Christmas. We stay in a little cottage there and spend all day playing, eating, skiing and hanging out together. I love getting to be with Lincoln and Redford and just being with everyone without distractions.
Katie, Nick and I carved powder on the mountain, only got lost once and didn't even get hurt. I love getting to be friends with both of them.
I made a spontaneous trip over to Chicago on the way home and got to hang out with Emily and Katlyn in real life. Mags introduced them to me last year but I never would have guessed that we would get so close.
Back in Indy I got to play with camp and Young Life friends right before we switched over to 2014.
Looking back at all these pictures and thinking about all that's happened in the past year is insane. I'm incredibly thankful for my life, the things I'm involved in and the people that my life overlaps with. It's easy to think about the negatives or worry about what might happen in the future-- but when I look back at my year I don't remember any of the bad. It's been an incredible year and I don't want to take it for granted. I'm excited about all that might happen in 2014.