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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Stayin' Cool...Always Cool

We're experiencing something of a heatwave.  In fact, it seems we always come back to extremes.  We were last in the States for the winter of 2009-2010.  You remember it, the worst winter on record?  Now here we are back in the Midwest again, this time for the worst drought in basically forever.

The O'Tool kids love to swim, both because they are cool and to stay cool.  Of course, you can't just send small children to play in various aquatic contrivances all on their own.  So the job falls to Mom or me, the grandmas, or various aunts and uncles.  Since I am also cool and need to stay cool, I have frequently accompanied the children for safety purposes only.

This past week we were at Prairie Ridge Aquatic Complex in Ankeny.  It was so blasting hot that it didn't even feel good to be in the pool.  Uncle Tim and I parked ourselves at one end of the pool, mostly submerged and sheltered by the shade of the lifeguard tower.  Children's breaktime had just ended and my daughter Meredith made her way from the poolside chairs back toward our little refuge, aiming to prey on our peaceful respite.  Seeing her coming Despicable Tim and I needed to find cover.  The only way to effectively hide from a 6 year old in a pool is under the water.  So Tim dove and swam one way and I dove and swam another.

Not having much time to consider the surroundings I did notice that the pool was mostly clear to my right.  No one was in the middle of the pool, only along the edges.  This is important for me because I don't open my eyes under water, what with all the children who may or may not use the facilities before jumping in.  I didn't want to bump into anyone as I made my escape.  I was heading diagonally across the pool and stayed submerged until my outstretched hand touched the edge of the pool.

It's at this point the story gets a little embarrassing.  There at the edge of the pool was a young mother teaching her 18 month old how to swim.  Apparently she had been standing there, about 2 feet from the edge, arms outstretched, attempting to coax her child into the water.  Due to my diagonal southeasterly direction across the pool, I somehow managed to swim right past her without so much as brushing her leg as a warning that another person would be occupying space near me.  Upon touching the wall I sprung from the water for a deep breath of the sweet life-giving oxygen I had been neglecting whilst submerged.  And I sprang up right between her outstretched arms.  There I was, dripping wet and gasping for air, towering over this now frightened woman and separating her from her beloved youngster.  And to an outside observer not knowing that I had just materialized before her it must have appeared that she was about to wrap me in a warm embrace.

Fortunately a quick apology and mad dash for the ladder preserved any shred of self dignity that I so closely maintain.  But that's the hazard of being cool.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Something You Should Read

In such a dark world, it seems all we ever hear is the bad news.  So if you need some encouragement, please read this story about the Aurora Movie Theater Shooting.  What an AWESOME GOD!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Baca County Wildlife

It is our last day here in CO with Amber's family.  Yesterday we went for a drive as a family to see the old Litke homestead and get some GPS coordinate readings for Amber's uncle.  I, in particular, was looking for a tortoise.  They're practically my favorite animal.  While we didn't find any torti, we did run across a couple other reptilian specimens from this region.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Playground Progress

Brian and the teams have made some great progress on the playground.  From all we hear the kids are loving it.  Thanks to all who are helping make this a reality.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Guest House

Before leaving South Africa in May our main project had been completing the efficiency guest house.  When we were first laying plans for Restoring Hope Village we knew it would be necessary to build housing for all the teams and short-term helpers we have.  Our initial plan was to build one house for all our short-term needs.  But after we began cleaning the property in May/June 2010 we found that the 3 foundations already built were in great condition.  We had known they were there but covered with rubble as they were we anticipated that they would be worthless.  God provided these three foundations and saved us several thousand dollars and much work.  We just had to redo our plans for team housing.

After looking at our needs and comparing those to the 3 foundations we made the following plans.  The smallest foundation would become what we call and efficiency flat - a single room with beds, kitchenette, and sitting area with its own private bathroom.  We plan to use this for people who come for several weeks to several months and intend to take care of their own food preparation.  The middle foundation became a team bunkhouse that has two bedrooms along with two bath facilities.  The third foundation is a combo kitchen/lounge/multipurpose building.  It can be used both for teams as well as for normal Village activities when needed.

When our family left Welkom the shell of the bunkhouse and multipurpose buildings had been built, and the efficiency flat was almost finished except for the bathroom and kitchen.  Of course, anyone who has ever built anything knows the bath and kitchen are the toughest jobs.  Brian Niehoff has been working like crazy to finish the efficiency flat and the bunkhouse for teams that are at The Village this summer.  Squeezed into that is all his ordinary responsibilities, overseeing some of the duties that we left behind, and completing a good section of the playground.  We are so thankful for Brian's work in completing these projects.  If you'd like to send an encouraging note to Brian and Lois, please email them at

Here are a few photos of the inside of the efficiency flat.