Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother's Day

Just a quick post before we leave for church.
My wife is a wonderful person, mother, wife, friend, and on and on.

Let me list some of the ways:

She spends most of her days providing for our family, driving an hour or more to work and back.
She actively instills our children with good habits, manners, and knowledge.
She holds herself to high moral standards.
She considers the feelings of others before (and while) she acts.
She gives me time to relax and just play a game at the end of the day. She even occasionally shares that time with me, even if there's probably something else she'd rather do :-)
She looks to some fantastic role models and takes lessons from them in order to better herself.
She puts others, especially our children and I, above herself.
She loves her family. This may just be a given, but you should see her face light up when she sees some video of Elizabeth from earlier in the day.
She runs our budget, even though that is a tough and stressful job all on its own.
When asked if she were to die today, what is the one thing she would regret not telling someone, and why hasn't she told them already, she said there are millions of things she hasn't yet told Elizabeth. She is and is going to be a fantastic role model for Elizabeth, and there's no woman I'd rather her emulate.

There's obviously tons of things I could write here, but really there aren't words to express my thankfulness that I have Tori as my wife.

Happy Mother's Day!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

We've Moved

Both our physical address AND our blog address have changed!

The blog is now:

Hope to see you there :-)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Baby limes and giant snowmen

Hi everyone!

Greetings from the great white north.... east. We got about 40 inches of snow at one time, about 60 inches over the past month, and I had a lot of fun. People around the Soltane community built snowmen, went sledding, and there was even a really cool snow fort (complete with a tunnel!). It was also cool finally understanding what a "snow drift" is, though it makes the roads quite tricky to navigate.

While it was cold outside, Tori was inside, roasting. You see, there is a bun in the oven, and she is the oven. The bun is actually a baby, which is the size of a lime right now, and has reflexes! That means if we poke Tori, the baby can feel it! Also, it will be able to hear us by the end of the week. Let the music begin!

Hope all is well out where this is being read!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Introducing Baby Evans!

I'll add a worded post later, but my time is about to run out on the library computer.

Picture One

Picture Two

Picture with Labels (you'll just have to trust us on this)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Greetings from Limestone, NY. I swear Tori jinxed it: she promised me snow on Christmas. I said "How can you promise the weather?" Of course we are predicted to get freezing rain. Meanwhile, TEXAS gets snow. Dallas/Fort Worth gets snow for Christmas, and earlier this year HOUSTON got snow on the ground. What are the odds. Oklahoma is getting a blizzard. New York gets freezing rain. I think snow is avoiding me!

Things are good up here though. Tori enjoys seeing someone get so much excitement from a sled. We decided to rent a car to visit Tori's grandma James and Aunt Cathy for Christmas, and we'll be headed back to Soltane a few days after Christmas. New Year's plans are soon to be made. Yesterday we explored Tori's childhood home: Salamanca, NY. It was cool seeing all the places Tori pointed out with specific memories. "Here's where I built that giant snow fort!" "I used to call 1-800-ABCDEFG on a payphone that used to be there to hear the Hooked on Phonics message!" "There's the hospital where I visited the emergency room like once a month because I was so accident prone!"

After that we went through Allegheny State Park to enjoy the winter wonderland scenery, and I found an awesome sledding hill. "One time I got a concussion and the doctor at the emergency room told my mom she had to keep me up all night, so we drove around here for a while looking for deer. Occasionally she had to pinch me to keep me awake."

So far the trip has been great, and it's been nice to have a chance to relax. I highly recommend that if you have to rent a car, go to Grand Sport Auto in Chester Springs... For some reason our car wasn't working with the computer, so they gave us a free upgrade from a Ford Focus to a Ford Fusion (nice car, by the way). Not only that, they bumped up our discount by an extra 5%, and threw in free satellite radio! Nice! We especially enjoyed the coffeehouse station. Singer-songwriter stuff.

That's about all for now. The scenery is great here. I wish it looked this pretty everywhere...

Best wishes this holiday season!


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Long Overdue Update

Greetings from Pennsylvania!

These past few months here at Camphill Soltane have been great. After living in one house for the first 3 months, we have moved to another house giving us a new perspective on life in this community. Our first house was on the residential side, as opposed to our current home on the college side. Here we live with 2 students, 1 resident (all three of whom have a developmental disability) , 1 other couple, their son who is a sailor but had to come home due to pneumonia, and an older woman who has lived in Camphill communities for many years. The atmosphere here makes us feel much more like we are living in a home than a house.

Tori is working in Soltane’s textile enterprise called “in good company” (Their store website is There are four residents that work there full time (two of whom we lived with at our first house) and four student interns that work there half days Monday through Friday. They research a theme called an “inspiration” (currently they are working on King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table). Then they design fabrics and different textile products to make with the fabrics. After that, they weave their own fabric, cut, and sew it into a unique product to sell at craft fairs, online, or for special orders. All of the weaving and creation of images is the work of the residents and students with disabilities. The coworkers support them and do much of the sewing. Tori enjoys the work and is proud of the products they make. The etsy shop is still just getting started, but we hope to have our bags and t-shirts listed soon!

Aaron is working in Soltane’s community services and with Soltane’s land work group. In community services, they do everything from collecting and sorting recycling from Soltane and the surrounding community to taking on odd jobs that people don’t have time for (cleaning up property lines, chopping firewood, shoveling snow & de-icing sidewalks, etc.). The land work group takes care of several things around campus from collecting and processing compost, raking leaves, trimming trees, and taking care of various fruit patches and orchards (raspberries, blackberries, apples, peaches, black walnuts, etc.). The land group even makes products with the community’s produce such as apple cider, apple butter, fruit leather, etc.

Working at Soltane has definitely been a growth experience for both of us. It is taxing at times both physically and emotionally, but also very rewarding. Soltane allows us to use our talents, learn new skills, and provides us with a sense of great satisfaction in that we are directly contributing to the growth of the students and residents we work with. We have also made new friends here that we are sure will be lifelong connections.

We hope all is well with you! Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


Aaron and Tori

P.S. I hope to upload MANY pictures and a few videos during our Christmas break which starts on the 20th.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Glenmoore is on the horizon

It's our last full day with the Fish family before we head to camphill, and I am excited to have a dresser soon. Living out of suitcases for the past 2 months has gotten old. News from the past 2 days: we've found an insurance company that is half the cost of the one we were going to use for the first 3 months of our stay at Camphill Soltane (before they pick up our coverage). We've also found out what house we will be living in on the campus, and that the houseparent we will be working with has 2 children! Tori was very excited to hear this because she had said multiple times that she hopes our house has children. I'm glad; the house will feel more like a home with kids :-)

We have our orientation on Saturday, so more will come once we are settled!

Sunday, August 23, 2009


We're here! We're hanging out with the Fishes, which is great fun.

The flight was good. I made friends with a lady in the terminal over our shared interest in knitting (which I learned how to do this summer and am about to finish my first scarf). There were some really adorable little kids near us on the plane who were pretty good.

John picked us up from the airport and we came back to the house and saw Laurie, Nana, and Eric (all of whom I was meeting for the first time). We went to dinner at Chili's where I taught them how to play coasters which is a game where you flip a coaster off the edge of the table and catch it midair and add one more each time. My mom is the rockstar of that game and taught it to me, but I think I may have beaten her best score last night when I got 13. I also tried Yuengling beer which was like a lighter Shiner Bock, very good.

We played outside with their two dogs for a little bit. The yard is nice and big and gorgeous. Then we played Bananagrams and then they taught us how to play 10,000 which is a dice game and lots of fun.

Jason and Dylan got home late (after 11) from working at camp. It was very exciting to finally meet Jason! Dylan's okay too, I guess :) We stayed up pretty late talking and hanging out in the kitchen.

Conclusion of day one!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Texas to Oklahoma to Texas to....Oklahoma to Colorado

I fixed the link to the picture albums, sorry.

I really tried to put lots of videos and pictures up, but it was just taking WAY too long, so there will only be one or two pictures on the post, but I'll link to the rest of them in my online albums.

I took LOTS of photos and recorded some video all along our journey thus far and so I will be posting quite a few of them on here (if you have very slow internet, I apologize).

I will begin with the first leg of our trip: Fort Worth to Denver!

We took two cars to Lawton (we left my old beater with my mom) and so our trip actually began in Fort Worth, but we were in separate cars and the camera was with Aaron. I got a sunburn on the way to Lawton because it was blazing hot and the Corsica doesn't have A/C so I drove with the windows down. We met up at my mom's in Lawton and dropped of the car. Then we headed for Denver. We drove west through Oklahoma and into Texas again, then further west and then turned north and proceeded to drive through Oklahoma again (the panhandle) until we finally crossed into Colorado.

It was a long drive, but it was a good one and spirits were high. We got to our friends' place around 3 or 4 in the morning. We visited for just a couple of minutes before passing out. It had been 2 years since we'd seen Thomas and Debbie and so we were really excited. The kids were so big and they had baby 3 on the way.

Our first day was kind of lazy/relaxing. We didn't do a whole lot except sleep. We visited some in the evening and had a nice dinner. There was lots of catching up.

Some of our awesome activities while we were there:
-going to the neighborhood pool
-taking a walk in a pretty walking park nearby
-babysitting :)
-playing Bananagrams (really fun, Aaron LOVES it)
-walking around downtown Denver
-dinners outside on the patio
-taking the kids to the park
-lots of hanging out and talking
-seeing the mountains (we didn't actually go, but they looked beautiful)

A couple of my favorite pictures:

The two rivers that converge in downtown Denver

Some pretty flowers from one of our walks

A picture I took while waiting for a train in Memphis, TX (on the road to CO)

More Pictures Here, Here, and Here

Monday, July 27, 2009

Monumental Update...coming soon :)

We are currently back in Fort Worth, TX for one week. We have been to Lawton, Denver, Lincoln (Nebraska), back to Lawton, and then here. We still have two more stops to make on our trip.

Something to look forward to: pictures! LOTS of pictures from our travels so far and clips (at least one from each time we crossed a state line).
This week will provide us with absolutely no have to's as well as an awesome internet connection so I will most definitely be updating this baby.

hint: look at the labels for this post and you will get a small idea of what we've seen/done so far

okay, so it wouldn't let me post all of them but here they are (babies, denver, family, food, friends, fun, plans, tejas, travels, vacation, wildlife, okies, corn, badminton, competitive sports, injuries, sleep, driving, night life, cooking, dessert)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Living the Nomad Life

As of yesterday at 1:30 PM Aaron and I are officially homeless (and unemployed) until August 26th. It was completely intentional so don't freak out and send money unless you really want to send money in which case we wouldn't turn it down :)

Yesterday began our two-month-long adventure. We will be traveling around and visiting (read: mooching off) our friends and family. We left our "summer home" that we were sitting around 1:30. Aaron headed to DFW airport to pick up my mom's roommate's brother who is visiting from Italy. I drove the old beater up to Lawton to leave with my mom since her car was stolen sometime in the very early hours of Friday morning. I got to Lawton about 4:30 and Aaron arrived an hour later. We said our goodbyes and hit the road Denver, Colorado-bound.

We left Lawton at 5:30 expecting it to take 11 hours. We arrived at the home of our friends the Lindbergs at 3:15 AM (mountain time) so we got here 15 minutes earlier than expected. Go us! We visited for just a few minutes and then went to sleep around 3:30 AM (but for us was more like 4:30 since we came from Central time).

We don't really have any set plans for our stay so far, so if you have any suggestions for what to do in the Denver/Boulder area let us know!

Monday, June 1, 2009

All moved in

I have a few moments before Tori gets home and we go to her sister's for dinner (with another of her sisters and her family), so I thought I'd update everyone.

We're all moved out of our old place in Fort Worth, and are now house sitting for one of my professors for a month while they are out around the country. We're taking care of their new kittens (Ozzie, Kati, Chewy, and Vanessa) and also taking care of just general things around their house (the yard, fish, plants, etc.). For the next month we will be doing that and working as much as we can to save up for the trip to PA.

Things look pretty good here. I've finished my summer course with an A, and am officially done with my undergraduate degree. We're all settled and taking the opportunity to relax and not have classwork over our heads. That's about all we have to report right now! It will be a sad month, with lots of saying bye to friends, but we look forward to PA.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

-insert celebratory dance here-

I did it, I am officially finished with my undergraduate degree. I'm seriously excited!

I just got out of my last final exam (which I totally rocked).

Aaron's graduation ceremony was this past Saturday and mine is this coming Saturday.

Lots to report here, but I'm going to go sell back my books and head home (maybe...depending on what I hear back from my boss about work tonight).

This post is to be continued.....

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Yummy Dessert

My mom makes this amazing banana split cake. It tastes like fluffy whipped heaven, and it's so rich that you can only eat a small piece. The down side is that even a tiny piece packs a seriously high calorie punch (and takes a little effort to make) . Tonight, I stumbled upon a wonderfully similar low calorie way to make it.

It began when I decided to use some more milk before it reaches it's sell by date in a couple of days. I used two cups to make a box of vanilla pudding. Then I decided to smash up the overripe banana sitting on the counter. Then I remembered that I had a tub of cool whip sitting in the freezer that's been there for a while. I popped it into the microwave and used the soften butter setting to thaw it enough to make it stir-able. Then I added the cool-whip to the banana pudding and viola! I let it set in the fridge since the cool-whip sort of dominated the pudding. After about an hour in the fridge we took some out and ate it. It's VERY good and immediately reminded me of mom's banana split cake.

So the plan is to use two boxes of pudding (to make it a little thicker) and put the mix into a graham cracker crust and top with a little graham cracker crumble. Just like mom's, only less guilty.

So, for those wanting to attempt:

2 boxes instant vanilla pudding
1 overripe banana
1 8 oz tub low fat cool whip (I use the generic albertson's brand)
1 graham cracker crust (or you can make your own with graham crackers and butter)
2 cups cold 2% milk

make pudding according to box, break banana into pieces and mix in using your whisk, add cool-whip, pour filling into crust, refrigerate for 1 hour, enjoy!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

I'm a Bad Blogger

Sorry for not posting anything new in about....3 weeks. It's been crazy around here. I will eventually finish posting about our vacation I swear.

I really want to update everyone (or the 5 people that read this regularly) on how we're doing.


We had a slight scare that Aaron wasn't going to be able to walk at his graduation. He found out about 4 weeks into the semester that he is missing a Psychology credit he needs for his degree. To make a VERY long story short: he took the CLEP exam, missed it by one point (according to TCU's standards, he was well above the college board standards), made an appeal, it was denied, he is now enrolled for a may-mester (3 week mini semester in May) course in general psych. He was told he could not walk at graduation, but appealed and is walking on May 10th with everyone else (if we can pay the summer tuition by the 1st of May).

Other than that school is going well for Aaron. He is very much enjoying his time as a crisis counselor at the high school and is by all accounts doing great there. He finished his honors project for the honors program and presented it on Monday and will present his departmental honors project today/thursday at their research symposium. He just needs to tweak his final paper and submit it by May 5th.

As for me, things are going well. I and a friend were selected by our department as Outstanding Undergraduate Students of the Year, which is pretty cool. We were presented with a certificate and what looks like two ashtrays (but is actually a trinket box/candy dish) at the UNT honors convocation. As a result of my award, I have decided to go ahead and walk at the UNT graduation on May 16th. I've got two big projects to finish before the end of the semester (one is due the 30th and the other during finals week). I feel good about them both and am so looking forward to graduation day(s).


After graduation, it's going to be pretty hectic while we pack up/sell our things in preparation to move out of our apartment. We're going to move our stuff to Aaron's grandmother's house. She agreed to let us store our stuff if we clean out the garage and make room (such an awesome deal!). We also need to go to the doctor and dentist to get checkups and have them fill out medical/dental histories for us to present to Camphill so we can get on their insurance. For the month of June we will be working and house sitting in the Fort Worth area.

We're going to a family reunion on July 4th and then on the 6th we're headed to Colorado to visit some friends we haven't seen in a of couple years. After that we'll visit my mom in Oklahoma, a short stop back in Fort Worth, Del Rio to see my dad and Phyllis, Houston to see Aaron's parents, then a stop back in Louisiana for our one year anniversary (we're staying at the Oak Alley Plantation B&B), then Alabama to visit my sisters and their families. After that a very long drive up to SW New York to visit my grandmother, then finally to Pennsylvania where we'll stay with Aaron's best friend's family for a couple of days before starting at Camphill Soltane.

It's going to be a very busy and wonderful summer, I can tell. Lots of time with family and friends. I'm very excited to see my grandmother. I haven't seen her since I graduated from high school and this will be the first time she and Aaron will meet. I'm also excited to visit Salamanca again (where I lived from age 3-13); from what I saw on google maps street view it hasn't changed much.

We've got a lot going on right now, but I'll do my best to keep this thing up to date. I'll get to the vacation stuff eventually (hopefully before I forget what all we did) :)

Monday, March 23, 2009


So I was wondering what to title this and that old song by Connie Francis is now stuck in my head (which I'm sure most of the people who read this will have no idea what I'm talking about-google it and educate yourself).

Last week was our Spring Break. Thankfully this year TCU and UNT decided to align their breaks. Last year I skipped a week of school to go to Seattle with our church group. I did end up having two weeks off, but it was difficult to manage.

This year we decided to take a road trip with some of our friends. Our friends Caity, Ed, and Scott drove down to southern Louisiana with us to visit another mutual friend, Austin. Austin was actually our RA (resident assistant) when we all lived in a dorm together. He graduated two years ago and is currently doing Teach for America (an Americorps program) in the New Orleans area. He lives in Laplace, LA which is about 45 minutes from New Orleans. He is also about an hour away from Baton Rouge. We left on the 13th around 7ish and got to his place around 430 AM on the 14th. I drove the entire way (go me)!

We spent Saturday and Sunday lounging around, doing a whole lot of nothing (which was EXCELLENT btw) and catching up with Austin. He's pretty bad about keeping in touch. We went out for lunch at a nearby restaurant, walked around his neighborhood, and found the absolute BEST snow cones on the planet. It's called Big Chief's and if you're ever in Laplace, LA you should definitely go.

Austin still had class that week so we had to find our own entertainment during the week. On Monday we drove to the Oak Alley Plantation for a tour. It's really gorgeous and the tour was interesting. Our tour guide looked exactly like a woman that used to work in the office of our dorm. The five of us split a mint julep at 11 AM and decided to blame it on the atmosphere (it was kind of tasty).

Then we drove to New Orleans for the day. We went down to the french quarter and had lunch at the alpine. The food was okay, nothing spectacular. It had drizzled all morning so we got a little bit wet walking around, but it wasn't too bad. We did A LOT of walking. We walked all around the french quarter, visited shops, got beignets and hot chocolate at cafe du monde, and strolled along the river front. We went to Harrah's and were completely at a loss as to what we were supposed to do. We decided to hit the penny slots and see who could make the most money with 5 dollars. I won 10 dollars and then gave it all back to break even. Caity won 5, Ed broke even, and Aaron and Scott both lost their 5 bucks (group loss of 5).

We then walked all around the mall to dry off (it had started to rain a little harder on our way to Harrah's). Our feet were hurting by the time we were done with the shops (and mine were wet because my chucks got soaked) so we sat down and took a little break. After some rest we decided to head back over to the french quarter for some dinner and a little pub crawling. After much walking and deliberation over prices we settled on Yo Ma Ma's. Their food was SO good. I got a chicken cordon bleu sandwich and everyone else got burgers. We all got baked potatoes dripping with butter, delicious. They also had very good frozen lemonade margaritas.

After dinner, we hit up an awesome karaoke club Cat's Meow (which I just realized has a 24 hour archive of web cam feed, thankfully we were there over a week ago). I dragged Caity and Ed to sing livin on a prayer and we were just not inebriated nor wild enough to be entertaining I guess. We were lame. Even though we weren't great, it was wildly entertaining to watch everyone else. Some were pretty good, others completely awful, but they were all more entertaining than us for sure. Caity swears that someone threw ice at us.... We had a couple of drinks (except Aaron who was DD) and then moved on to the Funky Pirate and listened to a live blues band. They were good, especially their guitarist. He was insane. One more drink and then we decided to head home. We kept threatening Aaron that we were all going to get totally wasted and make him drive us home, but really no one was even buzzed. We got home around 12:30 or 1 and hit the sack.

I'll write our Tuesday adventure another time since this is getting really long.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Scoop on Camphill...Finale

It's been a while since the last post. Sorry, but we've been pretty busy around here. We just got back from Spring Break (post on that to come later) and before that we had midterms.

Here it is, the third and final installment of our blogs on Camphill

I'll just go ahead and do the last one because Aaron has been a bit busy/stressed out lately (more on that later t00).

So, onto the final few questions:

"What about grad school?!"
Well, we're obviously not going right now. I hope to eventually get my Master's degree in Speech Language Pathology. I will have to take a few prerequisite undergraduate courses (4 or 5) prior to enrolling in a graduate program so it might take a little while. As for Aaron, he hasn't really decided what he's going to do next. He has really enjoyed working at the high school so far this semester and maybe will someday work as a crisis counselor. That's completely up to him. Our plans for the near future (other than Camphill) are a little bit up in the air at the moment. We've decided to keep our stay at Camphill open-ended. If we love it and they love us, we might stay for a second year (you can qualify for the Americorps grant twice so if we do decide to stay a second year we'll get the same grant again).

"Why aren't you getting a 'real job'?"
Prior to getting married I decided that I wanted to give back in some way. I applied for and was accepted to go on a summer-long mission trip to India last summer. However, I ended up staying due to my financial situation. I had a really nice-paying job that was helping me to also pay for school, and they definitely wouldn't hold my position for me over the summer. So I stayed and we moved the wedding up. We had discussed it and Aaron also wanted to serve others in some capacity, although he definitely had a desire to serve more locally. He's the home-body type and holds to the idea that we should serve here in our own country.

So when we weren't really sure what we were going to do after graduation and felt sick at the idea of starting more school up right away, we began searching for service opportunities. We found Americorps, but didn't see anything in their listings that caught our eye. Then I found which is basically an awesome search engine for service opportunities and news. We found the Camphill Soltane listing and it sounded perfect for us. We immediately loved the philosophy they have and decided to apply. It may not pay like a "real job" but it most definitely will be an amazing experience that cannot be duplicated in any other sort of setting. It's a way for us to serve others and grow (and it doesn't look bad on a resume by any means). There's plenty of time for "real" jobs in the future anyway.

"Will you be able to come back for _______?"
Honestly, unless it will somehow miraculously take place in Pennsylvania or during one of our holiday breaks, probably not. It's not that we don't care or that we want to miss out on things like graduations, weddings, birthdays, holidays, etc but we have made a committment to work 6 days a week, every week. We do recieve time off for holidays but even then it's not cheap to travel from Pennsylvania to Oklahoma and Texas. We'll definitely do what we can to visit, but it will most likely be on a long break and only a short visit with each part of the family. You're more than welcome to come visit us though! According to what I've read Camphill loves visitors, but be warned: if you plan on staying more than a day or two they'll put you to work :)

"What are you going to do after Camphill?"
Good question! That means we're not really sure yet. We're going to use our time at Camphill to figure that out for ourselves. Don't worry though, we'll let you know once we know.

I hope that this has answered most if not all of your questions. If you have any others or just want to know more about it, give us a call or shoot us an email.

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Scoop on Camphill...Part Two

Onto part two of our series on questions we receive about Camphill

"That's awfully far away, are you sure you want to go?"

In short, yes. We understand that it is in Pennsylvania and that yes, Pennsylvania is rather far away from Texas/Oklahoma. However, we wanted to get away from this area for a while. We're not saying it to be mean. We're not going away from anyONE, just craving a change of scenery. We actually decided that Camphill Soltane sounded amazing and wonderful and we wanted more information about it even before we knew that it was in Pennsylvania.

"Won't you be cold?"

Well, probably. Especially in the winter. However, I do have some experience with the winter up there (I lived pretty close to the Penn border in New York from ages 3 to 13). We'll have good warm winter coats, boots, gloves, earmuffs/hats, and scarves. It's all about layers. Promise we'll use our brains on this one ;)

"Are you crazy?"

I believe that this question was less a question about the sanity of our decision and more about the idea of willingly going to a climate that has snow. The answer, by the way, is no.

"How much does it pay?"

This is a VERY popular question from family. We aren't doing this for the money. With that said, we won't be left penniless afterward either. We have free housing and food the entire time we're there, plus after 3 months we'll have fully paid-for health insurance. We get a monthly stipend of $170 each. We won't have any bills to pay so we can save pretty much all of that each month.

We are actually going to be enrolled at Camphill as Americorps workers (Americorps is the same concept as Peacecorps, only you stay and work in the U.S. instead of going to another country). At the end of our time at Camphill we will have qualified for a full Americorps grant of $4,725.00 each for our year of full-time service. That grant can be used either to pay off student loans or toward tuition at an approved institution (there are lots of colleges and universities that accept Americorps grants). We have 7 years from the end of our service to use those funds.

Aaron doesn't have much in the way of federal student loans, but he can pay off what he does have and then use the rest toward his master's degree if he wants. I on the other hand have almost all federal student loans so I'll use mine toward those. Also, since we will be working in an Americorps program, our student loans will go into deferment just as if we were still in school which means we won't have to make payments on them and any time left in our grace period will still be there when we finish at Camphill. Most loans have a 6 month grace period after graduation and so since we're starting at the end of August we'll still have 3 months left once we leave Camphill before we'll need to make any payments.

I am very meticulous about money (I actually keep a hand-written ledger and budget). I'm also a good bargain hunter (not to brag or anything), and Aaron is a tightwad. Between the two of us we'll have plenty of money saved up before we ever leave for Pennsylvania.

We're so very excited about Camphill. We received our paperwork in the mail last week and I filled mine out the next day, but Aaron has been seriously swamped with school and work stuff, but already has a reminder set on his phone to fill his out on Sunday so we can mail them on Monday.

The next set of questions that I (or maybe Aaron) will answer are: "What about grad school?!", "Why aren't you getting a 'real job'?", "Will you be able to come back for _______?", and finally "What are you going to do after Camphill?"

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Scoop on Camphill...Part One

Here are the two most common questions we're asked about Camphill Soltane.

What is Camphill Soltane?

From their letterhead: "A life-sharing educational community for and with individuals with developmental disabilities"

Basically, it is a community for adults with developmental disabilities unlike any that we had ever heard of. There are two programs housed on the campus, the first is the Learning for Life program which is modeled after a liberal arts college experience. Students live on campus in large home settings and take classes (academic, fine arts, pre-vocational, life skills, and vocational) for 5 years. The other program is available to graduates of the Learning for Life program and it is the Community Resident program. This program is available for those that wish to continue on at/return to Camphill. It provides vocational training and a job either on or off campus. Residents also receive continuing education in life skills and are involved in planning events for the entire Camphill community (and they live in large home settings same as the students). Areas that they can work on campus include a bakery, weavery, a small store, and landscaping and gardening (they have an orchard, a garden, and lots of berry bushes).

It's not at all what you would imagine a residential community for individuals with developmental disabilities would be like. It's not a "institution" or "facility." It's truly a home and community for these people where they learn valuable life skills in an environment that meets them where they are. Everyone contributes to the community as they are able. There is nothing institutional about it. Each home really is a house and not a building. Each person is a respected individual and is encouraged to grow in their abilities. I cannot believe that I had never heard of a Camphill community before. It's absolutely amazing and I can't wait to become a part of it.

What Will You Do There?

Aaron and I will be working together and also seperately. We will live in one of the houses with about 3 other coworkers and 10 students or residents. Everyone in the house is responsible for helping to keep it clean and prepare meals (cooking, setting the table, cleaning up, doing dishes, etc.). Our job will not be to do everything, but to help others do. It might be instructing, demonstrating, assisting where needed, but the end goal is to provide the students and residents at Camphill with learning experiences that will enable them to become as independent as possible. We are there to instruct and help only as needed (as well as chipping in our fair share).

Aaron has applied for a position doing land and estate care. Camphill has 50 acres of land on which are a large garden, an apple orchard, lots of berry bushes, pear trees, and of course lots and lots of grass. He'll not only tend to the land, but he will be working along side residents whose job is land and estate care. Every now and then he'll also have some students that rotate through the different jobs on campus during the pre-vocational portion of their studies. He'll have lots to do all year round. He'll chop firewood and shovel walks during the winter and till, plant, weed, mow, compost, fertilize, and harvest the rest of the year. I know he'll enjoy it and hopefully he'll learn a lot that he can teach me so we can have our own garden someday.

I couldn't choose one program over another so I will be assigned to either the Learning for Life or Community Resident program. I will help out either during activities and classes for the academic program or I will assist in a work area on campus for the community resident program. I'll basically be there to help as needed. It may be that I learn to use the loom and teach/help others to use it as well or I may assist during a class if anyone needs help. I will also take turns cooking lunch during the morning for my house. Everyone that stays on campus eats all three meals family-style in their house. If a resident has a job off campus, they eat lunch at work on their break.

Coworkers are on a lunch rotation and so during the morning while everyone is either at work or in class, a couple will stay behind and prepare lunch. Breakfast and dinner prep is most likely also on a rotation, but will probably depend on which house you live in. In the evenings, there is free time until 9 for the students and residents. Sometimes there are planned community events and sometimes everyone just hangs out at home. We will kind of help to organize some fun stuff during this time for those that want it. T.V. isn't a pasttime at Camphill. Instead they play games, tell stories, read, or just talk and hang out with the people in their houses. Starting at 9 it is free time for the coworkers.

That is (in a nutshell) what we'll do each day.

Tune in next time when I answer questions like "That's awfully far away, are you sure you want to go?", "Won't you be cold?", "Are you crazy?", and the ever popular "How much does it pay?"

Baby Riley!

Today my adopted parents from church were blessed by the safe and happy arrival of baby number three. Baby Riley. It's such a pretty name for a very pretty baby. Hopefully we'll be able to go see her and mom this evening. I might get a picture of her up here if her parents say it's okay.