Monday, August 13, 2012

July 2012

The month of July started off with a bang as our family joined in the Independence Day celebration in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. The town has the event at their small local airport and included guys jumping out of planes and parachuting into the crowd and a great fireworks display. It was a great time to hang with other Cookson families!

The following Sunday brought wilderness camp week. “Wilderness” is a chance for the high schoolers to get away from everything (including electricity, plumbing, and the opposite sex) and experience nature and hopefully encounter God. Melissa stayed at home with Kaylee and our middle school kids, but I got the chance to go out and lead a group of teenage guys. The boy’s camp was held at the beautiful Buffalo National River in northern Arkansas.

The location of base camp was a remote location on the bank of the river. On Sunday afternoon my boys and I were dropped off at a trailhead and then we had to make our way on foot for 2-3 miles before arriving at camp and that is when the fun starts. It hadn’t rained in a couple of weeks but it decided to start halfway through our hike! Once at camp we had to set up our own shelters using the materials we brought with us. It was interesting to see what the boys were able to come up with using branches, twine, and a couple tarps. The evening was capped off with dinner over the campfire and more rain.

Because of the remote location, we had to hike to get our water from a local spring and to pick up food that was delivered daily. On Monday my group was responsible for getting food and water for the whole camp. It was quite a challenge for my boys. We hiked a total of 10 miles and half of that was while we were carrying five gallon jugs of water and coolers full of food. It was a good exercise in learning how to work together and how to push through the hard things that come up in life. The whole camp was depending on us to come through and succeed in our task; giving up was not an option. Even though it was hard there was a great since of accomplishment that the boys and I felt upon completing our task.

The following days included hikes to Hemmed in Hallow, Big Bluff, and out of the park to make a short drive to do some rock climbing. On Thursday in was time to pack up camp and make the hike back to civilization. On the way home we stopped and made one more hike out to Hawk’s Bill Crag to wrap up the trip. We returned home to a pizza party in the gym where the boys and girls got to share with everyone about their camp experience. Wilderness was physically and spiritually challenging for my boys and is an event I look forward to being apart of next year.

The week following wilderness had two big events. First, we had another child placed in with us, making our home full again. We have enjoyed having this young man in our home and helping him get acclimated to life at Cookson. The second big event was the beginning of school. Cookson Hills school runs on a year-round calendar, which means that the kids only get 5 weeks off in the summer; however the plus is that those “missed weeks” get spread out through the year. The kids love the schedule because they only go to school six weeks at a time and then get two weeks off.

So July wrapped up with the kids going to school, getting used to homework (again), and sports practices. We are looking forward to the upcoming football games, volleyball games, and rodeo events as we have several kids who compete. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

June 2012

It has been quite a summer! It was so full that we haven’t had a chance to update the blog. So here is the start of a two-part blog post. Enjoy!

June began with the kids scrambling to get their projects and papers done to wrap up the school year. Of course, the end of the school year means graduation and saying goodbye to the seniors. The graduation ceremony was very well done. The small size of the graduating class allowed for a lot of personal touches to make the ceremony special for the graduates. This was a far cry from my graduation experience at one of the bigger high schools in Indianapolis! It was exciting to see and hear about the growth the graduates achieved while at Cookson.

After graduation it was all about our Cookson Family Vacation. Every year we are given the go ahead to plan and take a vacation as a Cookson family. As Melissa and I began planning our trip, we tried to think about what the kids would like to do. Like most teenagers, many of our kids are into music. So I came up with a crazy idea—to pack up the family in the van and drive to Kentucky for a four-day music festival. When we suggested the idea to the kids they were really excited about it. Well, mostly excited; several of them were concerned about the twelve-hour drive to get there but I guess we couldn’t blame them for that!

The festival we attended was the Ichthus Music Festival in Wilmore, Kentucky. Ichthus is a Christian music festival that has been going on since the 70s. Several Christian bands come out including big names like Chris Tomlin, Switchfoot, and the seemingly ageless Toby Mac.

To say that this was a big undertaking would be putting it mildly, but here’s how we pulled it off. We were able to load all our gear in a trailer that we pulled behind the 12-passenger van. We left early on a Tuesday morning and started the ten-hour drive to Louisville, KY. We had to stop in Louisville for the night because we couldn’t get into the festival till Wednesday. Thankfully our friends at Southeast Christian Church allowed us to stay the night in their mission’s house. Melissa’s parents met us in Louisville and took us out for a meal and picked up Kaylee, our 3 year old, who was going to spend her time with them in Ohio.

Wednesday we finished the drive to the festival and set up camp where we lived for the next four days. We camped in tents in a field and cooked over the gas grill we brought. The concerts started at noon and went nonstop till midnight. Despite the high heat and little shade it was a lot of fun; some of our favorite concerts included Switchfoot, Red, Chris Tomlin, Emery, Family Force 5, and The Almost.

Sunday morning we began making our trip back, but we made a swing up to Ohio to pick up Kaylee from Melissa’s parents and to stay the night before making the big trip back on Monday. To break the trip up, we stopped in St. Louis for the night at a hotel with a pool and let the kids have one last fling before getting back to Oklahoma. We made the final leg of the trip on Tuesday and we all survived!

Several parts of our vacation trip stick out to me. The first being the opportunity to share the concert/festival experience with them, which is something I really enjoy. Another bright moment for me was to see their excitement about going to new places. Several hadn’t been past the Mississippi river and a couple hadn’t been out of Oklahoma; so traveling that far was quite a new experience for them. They got to travel through 5 states, 4 major cities, and see national landmarks like the Mississippi and the St. Louis Arch. Melissa and I also enjoyed getting a chance to show the kids where we were from. Staying with Melissa’s parents gave them a glimpse into her childhood and a chance to see lots of embarrassing pictures! We also got to drive through Indianapolis, so they got to see some of my old hangouts (Skyline Chili!) including where Melissa and I lived and went to church in Danville before we moved to Cookson.

June ended with unpacking from our vacation and some days off to help us gear up for July; which you’ll hear about in our next post.