Sunday, December 31, 2017

Buh Bye!


I ain't gonna sugarcoat it... 2017 was... Eww!

With a healthy dash of... RUDE!

Some of the most hurtful circumstances we've ever walked through brought on by some of the most hurtful people we've ever experienced.

Just all around YUCK.

But we persevered.

We grew.

We learned.

Our familial bond grew stronger and stronger and STRONGER.

And we were drawn closer to Him and watched our faith deepen and strengthen.

Here's the deal though... when our Savior died for us - He never promised us Heaven on Earth. He never said it'd be all rainbows and unicorns.

Nope - matter of fact - He kinda warned and promised us that we'd have things like 2017 in our lives.

He urged us to count the cost cuz He said "The messy messes are coming... and they're gonna come in ways ya never expected."

And man did it ever and boy was He right.

We never saw that coming.

But the other thing He declared for us and promised us when He smacked death in the face 3 days after dying for us was this...

HOPE!

He gave us hope.

Hope for the future. Hope for new beginnings. Hope for rebirth. Hope for forgiveness and redemption in HIM.

Hope for 2018!

And it's with that hope in mind that we look back - with like half a smile - at 2017 and say "Buh bye!" as we look forward to 2018 with open arms, open hearts and full smiles.

And lots and lots of hope.

We're here 2018... let's do this thing!

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Under My Wing


"Daddy - come lay on the couch with me and let's watch the Orange Bowl!"

She only had to ask me once!

It was just a matter of minutes before her play-by-play ceased, her breathing relaxed and got heavier and she was snoozing...

I could have stayed right there forever.

I am absolutely loving the few days off from work with my crew. No work. No worries.

Staying up late.

Snuggling.

Watching every bowl game we can.


I am rarely in these pics on this blog cuz it's my own little passion project and I'm always clicking the pictures.

But I'm thankful Laura was able to get these few pics for me.

This little girl was a divine gift sent to heal a really broken pair of hearts!

She is growing up so fast...

But she'll ALWAYS be under my wing!

Friday, December 29, 2017

Two Times a Onesie


This little maniac doesn't care at all that his "new" onesie is bright pink!


He's just super stoked to get the hand-me-down from big sister Mebbie!

And hey... in Ethiopia that whole "pink for girls, blue for boys" thing doesn't even hold true!

Rock that onesie like the champion you are, Z-Dogg!

Thursday, December 28, 2017

And the Things I Draw Come True...


The goofballs got "Pictionary" for Christmas and we've been throwing down at night!


It's so cool watching these two doing their weird little sister mind-meld and tuning into each other!


And I love seeing what they come up with for their drawings!

But let's be honest - ain't nobody letting anybody win around this camp - and mommy and I are pretty tuned into each other as well...

For example... that's not a middle finger at all!

That's Laura's rendition of the Empire State Building and I guessed it in about 20 seconds!

That's right - we took 'em out TWO GAMES to ZERO tonight!


I love that we can get crazy competitive and nobody gets mad and we just have FUN!

2018 shall have many many more game nights!

Keep drawing girls!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Watch Your Mouth... It's POWERFUL!


I will run full on in to any opportunity to share with the goofballs about just how much our words matter.

About just how big of a deal it is to be able to communicate effectively and say what we mean and mean what we say.

How the words that come out of our mouth are a reflection of our hearts.

I just think these lessons are far too hard to learn in life and can come in forms and fashions that are hard and have long-term effects - so talking about them any chance we can beats learning things the hard way!

The past couple weeks we had a couple opportunities to highlight this stuff with the goofballs.

One of them happened when a bunch of neighborhood kids were hanging in our circle - and one said she "hated" one of the other girls.

Not on our watch or in our circle!

So proud of Laura on this one. She jumped into action explaining that we don't say that kind of stuff around here and that every single kid is welcome and loved and should always feel safe and wanted when they're at our house.

The girls were in total agreement with us and I was so proud that they didn't cave to "looking cool" in front of their friends.


Another opportunity for growth came a few days later with that ugly word "hate" again.

I was disciplining Meron AND Zechie for one of their routine spats - and admittedly I was kinda hard on Meron because she's older and in this case was clearly in the wrong.

In her anger she said to Laura:

"I think Daddy hates me and would choose Zechie over me every time!"

I... was... CRUSHED.

This is my girl we're talking about. My sidekick. My road dawg!

I pulled her aside - and with tears in my eyes - shared some hard truths with her.

I told her how I still remember where I was standing the night my mom first told me she hated me.

I remember where she was standing. What she was wearing.

I remember the temperature. The time of day.

I remember her tone of voice, her face.

A quarter of a century later... I remember.

I remember ALL of it.


I told her of the power that word carries for me and then I begged her to tell me she didn't mean what she said... that she thought I hated her.

I also told her i would never "pick" any of my kids over the other - that God gave each of them equally to me and they all mean everything to me.

We cried together and she said she didn't mean it and wouldn't use that word again - that she was just mad.

Then she said:

"Daddy... I'm sorry your mommy said that to you. I know you don't hate me - I know how much you love me..."
Rest easy that we are all fine now.

Honestly - it was probably just a kid thing and it probably came from that neighborhood kid using that word earlier in the week.

But for me - that word can't be tossed around cavalierly.

It's way too powerful.


We have had some great conversations since then about our words.

About how we should think before we unleash them from our mouths or our pens.

I explained how those words that flow out are a glimpse of what's in our hearts!
"for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh..."
Poor kids... they got themselves a daddy who is fixated on words. Obsessed with them and the power they come with.

Mightier than the sword is the pen and our words... I firmly believe that.

I also explained that sometimes - we ARE called to use hard words. But we need to be praying about them and really seeking God to put HIS words in our mouths in those moments.
"But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment."
Lord knows I have had enough practice with all of this during this past year!

Overall - this was a great lesson (for all of us)...

Every time we cross tough bridges and have hard conversations - I feel like we grow that much closer - and these past few days have been SUPER TIGHT with my girl Meron.

For that - I am forever grateful that God continues to give me the strength to run into these conversation with vulnerability, honesty, openness and authenticity.

Some may think a 10 year old can't even see that let alone appreciate it... I would disagree.

Goofballs - daddy loves you more than you may ever realize!

Let's always seek to honor Him with our words!

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

So Whatcha Whatcha Whatcha Want?


This was the crew heading out the door to go see a movie tonight...


I am sure this is probably a product of my influence... but I'm pretty sure that...


I'm raising the BEASTIE BOYS!


I love this crew more than one can imagine and I pray they never stop being WHO THEY ARE!

Stay hip-hop, little homies! STAY HIP-HOP!

Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas Traditions


I love that our crew got to get out today and do a little Christmas Day tradition we've been doing since way back when it was just three of us and Meron was carry-able!

It's a simple thing really - we bake up some fresh cookies and take 'em to people who have to work on Christmas Day.

We let the goofballs pick where they wanna go and they take it from there!


Z-Dogg chose the fire station nearest us. He was stoked to give those guys some cookies!


Then it was off to the police station that Mebbie chose - and she handed her bags of cookies through the bullet proof glass in there!

Our next spot was new to us this year. Meron chose the hospital.

So off we went - parked in the ER area and headed in (no camera in tow - didn't wanna be a HIPPA violator or something...)

Walking in - Meron said "I'm nervous..."

I said "Don't be - just be you and bring some joy..."

It was precious to watch her work. The guy at the counter was clearly tired and all about business. He said "Do you guys need to check in?"

Meron looked at me then looked at him and said:

"No... my family likes to make cookies and bring them to people who have to work on Christmas Day. Thank you for working today and Merry Christmas!"
I was a proud daddy for sure... and this dude behind the counter?

HE MELTED.

I totally think he needed that at that moment... he ran and brought two others up and told them why we were there and then asked if the kids wanted stuffed animals...


Then he came around to the lobby and gave them these awesome stuffed animals and his entire demeanor had changed.

He was smiling. Honestly... he looked like he had been hit by some joy!

We all thanked him again and wished him and the staff "Merry Christmas!"


The goofballs were super stoked that the animals said "Jesus Loves Me!" and they were kinda stunned that their little goal to bring some joy ended up getting them an awesome encounter and a stuffed animal...

I told 'em God is kinda crazy and really cool the way He works sometimes.

Walking back out to the car - I could tell Meron was happy about how well it went. They all were...

Super proud of the way they stepped out and just went to be bringers of joy!

Here's to hoping everybody out there had an equally awesome day full of love, hope, peace and family traditions!

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYBODY!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Breathing Again


You guys... you have no idea how much weight this picture carries.

Those snapping it thought they were just capturing us on Christmas Eve - and they were - but there's so much more.

As I ran up my favorite hill today - I couldn't help but scream a few praises to God for where He has brought us over the last year. And that picture is the proof of it to me.

See - last year at this time - while we never ever felt we should be "run off" from the "church" (term used loosely) we were attending - we had reached a place of heading straight in - drop the kids, avert the eyes, avoid eye contact, find seat, PRAISE HIM, hear a weak, weak message and then do it in reverse as fast as we could.

And it was taking a toll on the family.

So last night - to WANT to get to church early as a family - all enjoy some hot chocolate, smiles, hugs, great conversation - to raise our voices and hands in real worship - hear a solid, truthful message rooted in scripture - and then to take the time to wait out the line and snap a picture...

It was a healing moment for us.

Or rather a moment indicative of healing that had been taking place over the last 6 months or so.

I am beyond thankful we never let the hubris and arrogance of humans push us from God.

Oh it hurt us. It beat us down. It wore us out and at times almost broke us.

But HE is stronger than what they were bringing.

This picture is so much more than a Christmas Eve Eve picture.

It's a kick-off to a new year - one full of hope, energy and love!

Thankful to be breathing again!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Merry Christmas from Camp Hoffman (2017's DIY Christmas Card)


I know, I know - you were thinking "Tomorrow is Sunday - no mail - and no Camp Hoffman Christmas Card..."

We gave up sending physical cards years ago - cuz honestly - we're just horrible at it!

But we got one better for ya...

The DIY Camp Hoffman Christmas Card - 2017 Edition

So RUN don't walk to the nearest pair of scissors... and then WALK don't run (you're carrying scissors, silly...) back to your computer.

Print this bad boy out and follow the included cut lines to cut us out and hang us on your fridge or mantle!

It'll be like we're celebrating Christmas Day together!

We can't wait!

And this year's card is double-sided... so make sure and grab some Elmer's glue (don't eat it!) and glue these bad boys together and then get busy showing off your own ELF FACE!

From our Camp to yours - Merriest of Christmas to you and yours!

Friday, December 22, 2017

On The Rise...


Man... I love this little dude so much!

And I can't believe how big he looks right here - how grown he is!

Zechariah... you are my main man, my sidekick, my partner... my resident dude in Camp Hoffman to rally with me!

I am so thankful God brought you to our crew...

Stay crazy and wild, Z-Dogg... never change!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

My Goofball Squad


Man - you are looking at my absolute favorite trio of trouble right there!

These guys have been SO PATIENT - waiting for me to wrap up work this week so we could just HANG OUT and BE TOGETHER!


And tonight it was ON!

Family visit to the Y...

Pizza and cheesy bread...

Intense game of "Beat the Parents" (they won)...

Ice Cream...

And just being together!

No worrying about tomorrow's work schedule... no bedtimes... no rules... JUST FUN!


And then Meron fell asleep standing up!

Guys... tonight was a blast - and I look forward to a few days off to just be goofy, laugh, lounge around, play and have fun together!

My goofball squad is the best!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

The Calm (before the storm...)


This girl right here... she lives life at FULL SPEED AHEAD.

100 miles per hour!

All the time.

So catching her like this is rare. But when she sleeps - she does it like she lives - full on, hard core, all the way out!

I've learned so much from her about giving each and every day ALL YOU HAVE... recharging - and doing it again!

Thankful for that life lesson delivered from a 10 year old.

Don't change a THING about the way you do life, Meron!

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Lights, Camera... Elf in the Fridge!


I accidentally hit "video" tonight when we were setting up the "zElf on the Shelf" shot.

I love the thumbnail that was left from the like 3 seconds of video it grabbed... it makes me smile!

December around here is CRAZY as the house shifts into a backlot/production studio nightly for the elf shot.

But we love it and wouldn't have it any other way!


Here was tonight's final outcome - a little surprise elf-sighting inside the fridge!

These guys keep me cracking up!

Need to catch up on some of the silly, goofy fun? I typically post most of his madness on my Facebook page and we recently found out that the zElf has his own little spot online too at That Silly Elf... giving us a little peek into his world as well as his own Facebook Page from his perspective!

Stay crazy little elf homie dude... STAY CRAZY!

Monday, December 18, 2017

It Ain't All Festive Elves and Joy to the World...


I hate to be the bearer of the real truth - but it ain't always sunshine and rainbows 'round these parts. It's not always festive elves and joy to the world...

Believe 'dat!

And these two right up there - they're the ring leaders of crazy. They are so much alike and they are both blessed with the uncanny ability to drive the other NUTS.

And today was one of those days... 1st day of Christmas break... and before noon - at each other's throats!

I was warned early on - "Get ready... family meeting tonight."

And that's exactly what went down.


And let me just declare how much I love my family.

It's a LOT.

We didn't hesitate - jumped right into an official Camp Hoffman board meeting over dinner.

I want my crew so bad to know that it doesn't make ya any less tough to be vulnerable, honest, transparent and real.

And that's exactly what we were as we all shared our hearts and how we were feeling...

"It makes me SO MAD when he is so rude to me..."

"It makes me feel really sad when she is mean to me..."

"I get all anxious and stressed out and it kinda ruins the whole day when they argue..."
Whew...

Some deep stuff. Some tears. Lots of hugs.

Lots of reinforcement that our family is family FOREVER - that we have each other's backs - that we lift each other up not cut each other down and that we're in this game of life TOGETHER.

They wrestled with it - but finally gave in and let out their emotions and real selves... and I stressed that not only did that NOT make them weak... it makes them STRONGER than most!

I grew up shoving every single issue under the rug til the rug was just puffed up in the middle and everybody knew things weren't right - even when we lied and said they were.

And I want my crew to know nothing of that kind of life.


I brought these two together later and just stressed how important they were to each other.

I said "Zechie - do you wanna feel what a hug from your strong biggest sister feels like?"

He shook his head yes and grabbed Meron so tight with tears rolling down his cheeks.

Meron wrapped him up in a Mer-Hug and full on Meronated him.

This too shall pass... and I'll die trying to help them understand what God has given each one of us when He pieced our family together.

The night ended with smiles on all... and happy hearts for mom and dad!

Now back to festive elves and joy to the world...

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Missing Granny


I know a crew of goofballs who is missing their Granny!

And while we absolutely love living in Colorado - it's a bummer sometimes to have our closest family be so far away!

Thankful for a Granny who makes time to come visit so our goofballs can know what awesome grandparents look like!

We're thankful for you Granny - and we miss ya!

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Good Times!


I dunno how long it will last - this annual month of "Elfies" - but I'll tell ya what... I'm just gonna enjoy it while it's here!

I love spending creative time with my little homey - coming up with fun stuff to shoot and just being all around silly.

He's an amazing sport and I love that he spreads some joy and some smiles around!

Thanks Z-Dogg - for making awesome memories with me!

Friday, December 15, 2017

Mamma Elf


'Round these parts one might think my favorite elf is short, smiley and hides all over the house.

Nope.

While I love that crazy little guy - this elf right here is my absolute favorite!


Laura was lending a hand at the last day of school by helping deliver popcorn to classes and decided to throw a little festive spirit into it

I love her willingness to be goofy with us all!

And that TOE POINT up there?

She is all elf, all day!

Watch out folks... Mommy Elf is watching!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Soul Food


These two beautiful creations of a heavenly King are absolutely food for my soul on a daily basis!


Smiles... Joy... Love... Happiness...

They bring it daily!

Come and get yo' soul food, well well
Good old-fashioned soul food, all right
Everythang is for free
As good as it can be
Come and get some soul food


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle All the Way...


Tonight was the kindergarten Christmas show at Z-Dogg's school!

It was his first real show in front of all the parents and families... I think he was kinda nervous!


He was almost dead center up there... and he got into it - but not like he would in a "show" in our basement!

They were told to wear their "Sunday Best" and then they could "Christmas it up" a bit with hats or other decorations.


Z-Dogg brought the festive head gear and lights necklace while his buddy ABSOLUTELY OWNED the dapper look!


Way to be festive tonight Zechie... we enjoyed watching you perform!

Oh what fun it is to ride in a one horse open sleigh!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Media Mogul


I mean - dude is taking it to a whole new level this year!

He's becoming a little media mogul - showing up all over the place!


On this one he said:

"Time Magazine called to say that I was PROBABLY going to be named “Elf of the Year,” like last year, but I would have to agree to an interview and a major photo shoot. I said probably is no good and took a pass. Thanks anyway - I'll just make my own cover!"
He's running things!

What's next? A sports stadium named after him?

Wouldn't surprise me!

Wanna follow along with the crazy little maniac? You can track with him on his website at www.ThatSillyElf.com or on his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/ThatSillyElf

Stay crazy, Zelf! STAY CRAZY!

Monday, December 11, 2017

Even the Golden Girls!


I love that we were able to capture us all - including the Golden Girls!

Cuz trust me when I say these two furry humans are a pretty big deal around this place!

Big love to our golden family members!