Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Uneaten Lunch and 3rd Grade Math

Back-to-School week has gone well.  It's been tiring, but we've survived and everyone is still happy with their new classes!  To really kick off the back-to-school feeling for me, there's already been the lunch that has returned to me at 3:15pm uneaten, in pretty much precisely the same state as I packed it at 7:15am.  Ah, yes, I remember.  This is what the school year feels like!


I am not even exaggerating when I say that I spent 1.5 hours on Monday night filling out forms by hand for my 3 public elementary school kids, who are attending the same school as last year and we haven't moved!  Sweet mercy, somebody put those forms on-line and give me a box to check that says, "Our information has not changed"! 

Homework has been manageable so far and doable even from the couch:

Although there was once this week when I was looking at some stuff my 10 year old wanted to show me about his class and my 3rd grader rattled off a math question she wasn't sure about.  Usually I can answer those without skipping a beat, but this time I was like, "Whoa, repeat that question!  What?"

I give you our 3rd grade math:

"A turtle crawls up a 12 foot hill after a heavy rainstorm.  The turtle crawls 4 feet, but when it stops to rest, it slides back 1 1/2 feet.  How many tries does the turtle make before it makes it up the hill?"

Don't you just love a good story problem?!!


I was playing hide-and-seek with my 4 year old today while her older siblings were at school.  I hid first and it took her a little while to find me.  Then she hid and giggled from her hiding spot totally giving herself away.  I pretended to look for her, knowing all along where she was.  Once I finally "found" her she told me, "Mommy, you're supposed to make noise while you are hiding in hide-and-seek.  That's how you play the game.  Like you are suppose to laugh or make funny sounds!"

Guess I missed that aspect of the hide-and-seek rules!


One evening as I was tucking my kids in bed, I opened the closet in the boys' room and began hanging their clothes for the next day on their closet doors like I do before every school day.  Sometimes if I set out a shirt for one boy and the other boy has the same shirt, I'll just grab that shirt for the other boy, too.  They end up matching but it's really just from laziness on my part, it's easier to just think up one outfit and have it work for both boys.  

But, this evening I paused as I was doing it and looked at my 1st grade son and asked, "Do you like being dressed like your big brother?"

His answer was hilarious!  He said, "Yes, because then if I get lost, you can just point to him and say 'I need to find a boy like that, only smaller.'  


Happy Long Weekend, Friends!  I think after getting our kids to school on time  5 days in a row we've more than earned a 3 day weekend!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

50 Years Later

Today is the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" Speech.

So how far have we come as a nation in 50 years?

Dr. King's dream that "little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers" is achieved in my home, anyway!

And for that I am so grateful!

But, we still have a long way to go.

Another part of Dr. King's speech brings true pain to my heart:

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by their character."

Because I have that dream, too, for my four children, but I fear that dream will not be reality for them.

May each of us do our part to get there.  So 50 years from now race is not an issue.  We are people, all of us created in the image of God!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Getting Out The Door Easier

Sometimes it's the little tips that can really make day to day life with kids easier!

Often I'm curious about how other moms do things like feeding their people and wash.  I think that's why I've loved Works for Me Wednesday over the years.  I don't have as much time as I used to for going through the tips every week, but every once in a while, I do find a gem.  Something typically so simple yet full of the wisdom that only comes from having lived it.

Whoa, so that's a heavy lead in for my super basic tip I'm sharing today.  But, do you want to know what's working for me lately, making my chaotic life just a little bit easier here in the season where school and activities are kicking off again right smack dab in what is always the the hottest month of the year?

Reusable water bottles, pre-filled with water and waiting, ready to go inside my fridge.  Enough water bottles for all four of my children plus myself!

We've only been doing this a few weeks and honestly I have no idea why I didn't do this sooner.  No more rushing out the door to get somewhere only to have 4 children decide they are dying of thirst and must get some water for the car ride and thus wait several minutes that feels like billions while various children attempt to fill water bottles from our fridge dispenser but mostly just manage to get water all over the refrigerator door and kitchen floor!  Really the whole thing made me so close to going back to disposable bottled water stocked in the fridge.

But, then I saw these babies on Amazon:
the girl version: 

and the boy version:

I bought one of each set to have spares.  They are super cute designs, BPA free, dishwasher safe, and have already been dropped more than once by my crew and not one has broken!

Also, what is certain to secure my award of "Mom of The Year", I grab a cold water bottle for each of my kids and take it with me to pick them up from elementary school.  Considering my younger ones have to wait with me for 15 minutes while my oldest finishes safety patrol duty, it certainly cuts down on the whining if I have a cold drink for them!

A key thing to remember and perhaps the only downfall of the water bottles I've found: they do not wash and refill themselves!  But, when you force yourself to do it, it is much better to refill the bottles and restock the fridge late at night when all is calm and quiet than filling bottles when you are 5 minutes late somewhere!

***Disclaimer:  I was not compensated to endorse this product and am recommending it because I truly use it and am happy with it.  I am an affliate and will earn a very small (think fractions of a penny) portion of the sale should you purchase something with my Amazon link.***

Find more Works for Me Wednesday tips here.

Monday, August 26, 2013

First Day of School Photos

I managed to get all 4 of my children to school today!

The positive:  Everyone had a good day and is happy with their teachers and the friends in their classes!

The negative:  I STILL did not get a moment to myself as Little Girl's first day of Pre-K was a short day (her typical day is only 3 hours, so you can imagine a short day!) and for the 1 hour and 15 minutes she was in school I had to attend a parent orientation/coffee at her school.  It was fun to catch-up with other moms at the preschool and hear the school rules and policies for the 7th year in a row, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't longingly think about all the errands I would have loved to run without kids or the spaces in my home that I wanted to organize with uninterrupted time!  Oh well, that day will come.  Just not tomorrow or the 2 days after that.  I'm beginning to fear I've filled too much of the time all my kids are away at school with volunteer jobs!  But, there are more important things in life than a perfectly organized home!

On to the first day of school photos.  Bless their hearts, all 4 of my children let me pick out the outfit they wore on the first day (I did give my 5th grader the choice of "collared shirt" or t-shirt and he chose "collared shirt" -- that's my boy)!  Nobody complained, they all popped out of bed and dressed quickly!  Let's just hope the 2nd day of school is met with the same enthusiasm.

First Day of Fifth Grade:

 First Day of Third Grade:

First Day of First Grade:

First Day of Pre-K:

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Reality and Schedule Are Setting In

You guys will be so proud of me.  After my whiny post last week about not being ready for school to start again, I've put on my big girl panties and actually faced reality!  My calendar is updated, my email inbox is cleaned out for the first time in probably 8 or 9 months, and I've even rolled out of bed a couple times this week before 8am!!  But still, nobody point out the reality that I have to pack 15 lunches next week.  I'll do it and perhaps even include a lunchbox note complete with a joke, let's just not think too much about it, mkay?
Our 4 year old Little Girl is playing on a soccer team for the first time this fall.  She had her first practice this week.  I walked her up to her coach to introduce her, after we'd told the coach her name and he told her his, I said to Little Girl, "He's going to teach you how to play soccer."  To which she loudly, confidently replied to me and her coach, "I already know how to play soccer!"

Overconfident, much?

Here she is in all her humbleness:

('course she's not wearing the soccer shirt she really wanted!)

She ran and kicked and ran some more for the 1 hour practice (they had 6 or 7 water breaks during that 1 hour) and when the practice was over and the coach told the kids they could go, she ran over to me and asked loudly, "Do I get a trophy?!!"  I'm thinking maybe somewhere along the way in our talking about soccer she missed that it was more than one event, but rather a season that lasted a couple months?!!  Anyway, she puts in 60 minutes of practice and is like, "Where is my trophy?"!  To her question, "Do I get a trophy?"  I was like, "Um, not for that!  But, at the end of the season after several practices and games, then you will get a trophy."  You gotta work for it Big Stuff!


Today we had Meet-the-Teacher at the elementary school and once again we are so blessed that all 3 of my elementary aged kids have phenomenal teachers!  One was even a finalist for teacher of the year for our entire super large school district last year!  I realize my "Letter To My Children As They Head Back to School" post from yesterday may make it sound like I send my kids to a minefield every day and in many ways elementary school today is a minefield of sorts.  But, I am so thankful for the tremendous teachers and leadership at our particular public elementary school and they work very hard to make the school atmosphere pretty great!


Speaking of schooling, this article on "Homeschooling Your Public School Kids" is a good read.  It describes a concept that we strive for in our home with our kids who go to public school.


My poor 3rd child is six and between Mother's Day Out when he was two and then 2 years of preschool and kindergarten, so 4 different years of school, he's ALWAYS had a teacher that either his older brother or older sister or both had.  

I thought this year, his 1st grade year, was the year he would finally not have a teacher one of his siblings had because the 1st grade teacher my older son had retired and so did the 1st grade teacher my daughter had.  

But, today when we went up to see the class lists we were surprised to see that the teacher my older son had for 3rd grade had moved to 1st grade and she is going to be my younger son's teacher!  I am thrilled!  She is a great, very sweet teacher and is actually one of my older son's favorite teachers ever.  Thankfully my 3rd child doesn't seem to care that he's living in the shadow of his older siblings, and as I've told him before, "Be glad your big brother and big sister are good kids that teachers like so they don't start you off with a bad reputation just by being their little brother!"


 Happy Friday Friends!  I am celebrating our last official day of summer break by taking all 4 kids to the dentist for cleanings -- fun times!!  Try to contain your jealousy!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A Letter to My Children As They Head Back to School

Kids, as you head back for another school year, here are 2 things I want you to remember:

#1.  You were created in the very image of God.

#2.  So was everyone else.

That's it.

You REMEMBER those 2 things and ACT as if you know them deep in your heart and I believe you will have mastered elementary school, mastered life, really!

If you remember that you were created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26 and Genesis 1:27) then it can roll off your back when someone out there tries to make you feel small or less than.  Know that your self-worth comes from God, not anyone else in this world.

But, just as you have been created in the likeness of God, so were the girls who tell you that you can no longer be in the "Cartwheel Club" at recess and the boy who always gets in trouble for misbehaving and the one who smells funny and the one who speaks no English and the one who dresses differently and the one who celebrates different holidays than our family does and even the teacher who speaks sharply to you for talking in line when you were not in fact talking.

All of them were created by God in His very image!  Learn to think of them like that, treat them like that and all other knowledge and skills pale in comparison!  This is why your Daddy and I send you to school, public school in particular. 

We can teach you to read and write and multiply fractions at home, but the loving people that are different than you, people that are hard to love, even, and developing the courage to make good choices for yourself even when others around you are making different choices?  Well, that stuff we can pray over, discuss, and encourage, but that stuff we cannot teach you at home, you must really live it to learn it.

Will it be hard?  And will you mess up a lot?  You bet!  There are adults who have not/will not ever grasp these 2 important concepts.  But, we want you to wrestle this stuff out now while we can be your soft place to fall, while your meals are still being cooked for you and there is no rent for you to pay!  

Is it hard for us as your parents to watch you go through hard things that we cannot fix for you?  Absolutely!  But, we are trusting that God is going to use those hard things to refine you.  Just as we can look to some of the tough times from our own lives and know that they made us better people, closer to God.  "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." James 1:2-4

How do we know you will be okay at school without us with you?  Because God Himself is with you!  "It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31:8.

Precious 5th grader,
Precious 3rd grader, Precious 1st grader, and Precious Pre-K child, know that you are so very loved and we are so proud of you!  We can't wait to see the work God is going to do in and through your lives this school year!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Making Time Apart Easier for Young Kids

When we took our oldest 2 kids to the Dominican Republic for a mission trip our 6 year old and our 4 year old got to go to Nana and Papa's house.  They had a blast, went tons of fun places, and drank chocolate milk every day (or so they've told me many times since they got back, to which I reply, "I'm happy you had chocolate milk at Nana and Papa's house, but if you had chocolate milk every day at home then it would not be a special treat when you got it at Nana and Papa's house." -- blank stares is all that answer gets me!). 

I knew they'd be very well cared for with my husband's parents, but I worried they'd get homesick.  Especially our Little Girl, who joined our family 19 months ago via adoption from Ethiopia.  This was the first time I'd left her overnight and unfortunately it had to be for a week this first time, but I did feel she was ready and that staying with grandparents she loves and is comfortable with and having a brother stay with her would all help.  But, I had my prayer partner praying over the situation and had been praying myself for months because there was the potential for it to go badly.  I mean this is a little girl who has had the experience of losing her first family forever and I worried she'd think we'd left her forever.

So, in addition to praying, I talked to her a ton about it.  To the point that she finally got very firm with me and said, "I KNOW that, Mommy!  I KNOW you are coming back!"  And all I could think was "Praise God" for that confidence because that must only come from Him!

And I also made these:

A dollar store gift for each of the kids to open every day we were gone with a tag attached that counted down the days until we'd be back.

Over the top?  Maybe, but I think it works to make the time apart just a little easier on the little ones.

Don't worry, I do not intend to send them with gifts for each day when they go away to college!  I just plan to go with them, move right into the dorm -- kidding!

Find more Works for Me Wednesday here.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The View From My Stationary Bike

A few months ago, my husband decided to buy a stationary bike to be able to get in some cardio exercise for himself late at night.

I was not thrilled that then the bike found it's home in our bedroom.   Oh the attractiveness!  But, seeing as how we don't have an exercise room in our house and as long as there are children dying of malnutrition in this world we do not plan to add on an exercise room, function had to trump decor.

I was also not at all planning on using it myself.  I was all, "I prefer to run or ride a bike outside and you know actually GO somewhere rather than riding and riding and STAYING in the SAME place!"

or because I'm so adventuresome and like to keep things exciting, for my cardio I'll do the SAME exercise DVD over and over again for years IN MY LIVING ROOM!  (If you mute the volume, that Jillian Michaels - 30 Day Shred just does not get old, with the volume it gets old in about 6 minutes!)

But, lo and behold this summer because it's approximately 400 degrees outside and also to actually GO somewhere in my exercising I'd have to trail 4 children along behind me, I've found myself riding that exercise bike! 

I do like that I can read a book while I ride, which I totally can't do while running or following along on the 30 Shred video!  But, the view is the same every single time.  

This is what I see while I ride:

My dog laying on my bed relaxing and staring at me!  

Happens Every! Single! Time! I ride that exercise bike, even if she is not on the bed when I start, she notices me get on the bike and settles herself there on the bed to MOCK ME.  Really, while I'm huffing and puffing and sweating and pedaling there is nothing more annoying than this view of my dog super comfy and lazy on MY bed!  

Honestly, can't she find anything productive to do with her life?  Maybe we could rig up a treadmill right next to the stationary bike and I could hold her leash and make her at least trot alongside while I ride?

Find more Wordful Wednesday here.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Just Don't Say, "Back to School"!

We have one more full week left of summer and honestly I am just not ready for it to be over!  Thinking about all the logistical details of 4 kids in 4 different classes/grade levels and all the balls I'll be expected to juggle to get people where they need to be when they need to be there with the things they need to have like lunches and homework and agendas signed by me, all makes me kinda hyperventilate just a little!  So, let's just pretend for a few more days that it's not happening!

I would like to say how thankful I am that our school allows you to pay a flat fee and then all your child's school supplies are delivered to their classroom, no running around looking for just the right kind of ruler/brand of red pens/specific color of folder that is on the school supply list!  And considering I'm in back-to-school denial, it's awesome to just skip those school supply aisles completely during my Target shopping trips!


Recently I noticed my 6 year old son and my 4 year old daughter playing dollhouse together.  "Well, that's VERY sweet!"  I thought.  

But, upon closer look, while Little Girl was pretending that the Mama Zuzu Pet was tucking in the baby Zuzu Pet,

My son had this double-sworded guy scaling the outside wall of the dollhouse:

Ah, gender differences!


Recently overheard around here:

Little Girl said this week, "When I grow up I want to be Nana's mom."

Nana is my husband's mom but will also be his granddaughter someday if Little Girl grows up to be who she wants to be!


 Happy Friday, Friends!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

What is Love?

I have a friend who is an adoptive mom and she shared with me recently that very often her little boy who has been home over 2 years, tells her, "I don't love you, Mommy."

It's a painful thing to hear for sure and a scenario that is even more complicated in the dynamic of a child who is still testing his relationship with his adoptive mom.

But, what creates a lump in my throat every time I think about it is what my friend replies back to this little boy every time he tells her he doesn't love her, "That's okay, you don't have to love me, but, I love you very much and I always will!"

That, my friends, is unconditional love, only made possible by Jesus shining so brightly through this dear woman of God!

And it reminded me of this post I published on October 5, 2011 (the 4 year old I spoke of is now 6 and the Ethiopian daughter is now home and KNOWS we are her family!):

Recently as I was putting my 4 year old son down for a nap, I kissed him and said, “I love you.” He said, “I love you, too.” That exchange happens often, but then he asked me a question that stopped me cold.

“Would you love me even if I didn’t love you?”

It was a good question. A big question for anyone to ask of another human being, much less to come from a 4 year old.

I began my answer to my little guy like many parents probably would, "Of course I'd love you! No matter what, I'll always love you, even if you did not love me."

But because we've been in this process to adopt a little girl from Ethiopia for over 2 years, it's something we've talked about for so long that my 4 year old son probably does not remember life before adoption was a regular family topic of conversation, I was also able to illustrate it for him like this, "You know (insert name of our Ethiopian daughter here)? She doesn't love us right now, she doesn't even know we are her family, but we love her, right?"

And oh how we love her! How we desperately want her home with us!

But, we do not love her because she loves us.

We love her because she was created by God in His image and because hers was the picture He predestined to have flash up from an email onto our computer screen that wonderful referral day.

We love her because that is how God first loved us, when we didn't love Him.

"In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another."
1 John 4:9-11

"We love because He first loved us."
1 John 4:19

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Hair bands For My Daughter's Kinky Curly Hair

I posted a while back about our haircare routine for my Ethiopian daughter and I realized that I forgot to share about the hair bands I use.  When we first brought our daughter home, I tried out several different types of hair bands and had terrible problems with the bands breaking, typically a few minutes after I'd somehow managed to wrangle the hair into some sort of puffs or twist style.  It was really frustrating!

Finally in desperation I asked for advice from someone with much more experience than me and she told me that all the leave-in conditioner and oils that are typically used on kinky curly hair can saturate hairbands and cause them to break easily.  Thankfully she was able to recommend some rubber bands from Sally's Beauty Supply that do not break!  They come in black or assorted colors.  I've used them for well over a year now, and they work SO much better than all the others I tried at first!

Here's a picture, they are Proclaim brand:

I realize that to many people hair bands may seem like an extremely minor life detail, but I'm here to tell you as a white mama of a black little girl, having hair bands that do not break easily is HUGE, especially in those early days caring for a newly adopted child!  Ever heard the saying that sometimes it's the little things that finally put you over the edge?

Find more Works For Me Wednesday here.

Monday, August 12, 2013

The "Soccer Shirt" Little Girl Picked Out

I took my 4 year old Little Girl to Academy today.  She is starting soccer soon and needed some soccer shorts.

I tried a few pairs of PINK - had to be PINK - shorts on her and they swallowed her, fell right down or had to be clinched so far they ballooned like clown shorts.  She is apparently too tiny for many of even the girls XS size shorts!  While I make it my mission to find XXS pink shorts there in the Academy Sports and Outdoors, Little Girl decides she needs a SOCCER SHIRT!  I knew we had a bunch of t-shirts to practice in and that she'd get a team jersey so I was not at all on the hunt for a soccer shirt, only the shorts.  But, if there's anything I've learned in the short 19 months I've gotten to parent Little Girl, it is that when she sets her mind to something there is not much that can stop that train.

So, I let her look around a bit for a "soccer shirt" while I identified exactly 1 pair of pink XXS small shorts in all of Academy.

Little Girl ran up to me as I was rummaging through the very back section of a rack.  "Here it is!  I want THIS soccer shirt!" she gleefully (read: loudly) exclaimed!

It took me a few seconds to get out from behind all the clothes and when I caught a glimpse of her "soccer shirt" I died laughing (and so did a man in his 40s shopping near me)!

I give you Little Girl's dream soccer shirt:

And holding it up so you can really appreciate the ensemble:

A yellow sports bra!  Is what she picks as her "soccer shirt".

Sweet mercy, somebody hold me, I am never going to survive this girl as a teenager!

As it was, she was not at all happy with my answers of "No, that is a bra and you are not old enough for a bra!"

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Ziploc Bag Packing, Shower and Tooth loss Drama

My 2 oldest kids have been at overnight church camp for 2 nights.  See!  I DO send my kids to camp, a little, if you count sleeping on air mattresses at the church and getting to go on crazy field trips like laser tag, as camp, which our church totally does for 3rd through 5th graders.

The kids needed swimsuits, pajamas, and extra changes of clothes because they were going to have some messy fun.  I organized everything in Ziploc bags for them, which is my new favorite way to pack:

I did all our stuff in Ziplocs first and then put it inside our suitcases for our recent mission trip to the Dominican Republic, mostly to keep out the bugs, but it made for so much less digging through the suitcases which I always hate!  Not to mention I could squeeze the air out and get the stuff really compact.

I just KNOW my 10 year old son felt really cool in his roomful of 30 other boys when he opened his bag at camp and all his clothes looked like this:

I did find a kindred spirit, though, when I giggled to another mom of a 10 year old boy at camp drop-off that I'd packed my son's clothes in Ziploc bags, she said, "ME TOO!"  And then she lamented that when her son went away for 1 week camp earlier in the summer she had clearly labeled each Ziploc with the day the outfit was to be worn on, you know, so he'd fit in with the day's theme, like Hawaiian Day.  But, she noticed from the pictures that he wore the outfits on the wrong days!  Honestly, we moms are doing our best for these boys, but there is a level of cluelessness that even a Ziploc and a Sharpie marker cannot cure!

I am fully expecting my son to come home with only about 30% of the stuff I sent him to camp with.

How much do I love that my 10 year son stuck a book into his bag at the last minute?!!


So, I've had a few days with just these 2 superheroes:

Which is fine!  They are THE BEST of friends without the older siblings around to complicate things!  Seriously, they have been so sweet to each other, it's like they get that there is no other kid around to play with so they'd better work it out!  Those 2 are my extroverts who prefer a playmate to playing alone. 


Did you notice anything different about Little Girl's smile?

She lost a bottom tooth yesterday!  A bottom tooth she desperately needed to lose because the permanent teeth have already come in behind it.  She's scheduled to have some bottom teeth pulled at the dentist on Monday morning, so praise God for one less she'll have to get pulled!!

It's a crazy story, though, the tooth loss.  I needed to drop the big kids at camp in an hour, we'd just gotten home from some errands where the 2 little kids were terrible, so they were sitting in some "think about it time".  I was doing some last minute packing for the big kids and simultaneously making dinner to feed everyone before heading to the church.  I sent my 7 year old daughter upstairs to shower because they wouldn't be showering for the 2 nights at camp and I figured better to go freshly showered.  She started screaming that there was something wrong and water was spraying all over the bathroom.  I raced upstairs and sure enough there was water everywhere!  I fixed the shower sprayer issue just as my 4 year old little girl started SHRIEKING from her spot in "thinking time" downstairs, "I broke my tooth!  I BROKE MY TOOTH!"  I raced downstairs to her bloody mouth.  She handed me the tooth and I was relived to see it all intact and not at all broken, but had just come out like it needed to!

But, really, the chaos?  Couldn't we just shower and lose teeth without all the drama?!

Happy Friday, Friends!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

What she did over her summer vacation . . .

Something very special happened at the end of our Dominican Republic mission trip.

Our 7 (almost 8) year old daughter was baptized in the Caribbean Sea by our church pastor on the last day of our trip (which was our rest and relaxation day on the beach).  It was not something we planned on doing before going on the trip, but our girl has been accepting and understanding more about Jesus and the truths of our faith over the past year or two and we have had a some conversations about when she might be ready to be baptized and she kept saying maybe around the time she turned 8.  This mission trip was a great thing to help my daughter practice the part of following God that is hard for all of us, but definitely kids, that is selflessly serving God even when it's hard or uncomfortable for us.  

We had one morning early on in the trip where my daughter was not really wanting to work on the construction job our team was doing, it was hot (and it WAS and No A/C where we were working in an open air church!) and she wanted to do something else, anything else.  But when the whining started I began praying and I gave her some space.  I think God did a work on her heart during that time, because after a little while she came up to me ready and eager to work with a completely different attitude.  I was really impressed to see that she that she had the maturity to put aside the self-centeredness that young children often have.

When our pastor announced on that last morning that another lady from our trip was getting baptized, my daughter decided she was ready too.  We talked to our pastor by the pool, he said he doesn't typically do baptism counseling poolside, but when God leads, you go with it!  He agreed she was ready.

Here she is on the beach shortly before the baptism (10 days shy of her 8th birthday):

We are so proud of her for taking this next step in her faith and can't wait to see what God is going to do with her life!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Great Motivation to Clean Out

I've found some great motivation to get rid of clutter in our home is visiting a 3rd world country.

I felt the same way when I returned from Ethiopia 2 years ago, looking around my house and wondering why exactly we have SO MUCH STUFF!  And now returning from the Dominican Republic it feels much the same.

This week it's clothes, ruthlessly gone through.  Four large garbage bags.  One trip to drop them off for donation.

Yet, we still have plenty to wear!

While in the Dominican Republic we met people with so much less than most of us in America but with more joy than most of us, too.

One can't help but start to thinking, whose lives are really better?

They may not have electricity or water they can drink from their faucets or 2 cars per household, but I saw thankfulness and love shining bright from so many of the people we met.

Our kids from our church noticed it too, without any of us adults pointing it out.  One 15 year old American boy commented during our trip, "They have less than anybody I know back home, but they are happier than most people I know."

Monday, August 5, 2013

What can kids do on a mission trip?

I shared yesterday that I'd just gotten back from a family mission trip to the Dominican Republic with my church.  My husband and I took our 10 year old son and our almost 8 year old daughter (the 6 year old and 4 year old got to spend a week being spoiled at Nana & Papa's house).  I love the concept of serving alongside my children but when they are younger than teenagers it can be challenging to find things they can do to serve people in need.

From my recent mission trip, here are some things I learned that kids can do to help others:

Light Construction work
My 10 year old using an electric saw, with close adult help, of course:

My 7 year old sanding the desks our group made:

Several of the kids from our church painting a wall in an open-air church in the Dominican:

Help put on VBS for local children

Our group of 38 split into 2 groups and did VBS at 2 different sites for 2 days.  Each site had around 100 kids attend.  The VBS was for kids in a very impoverished churches who would otherwise not have an opportunity to attend VBS.

Look at all those precious children!  There was a hill out in front of the site I was at and Dominican children were literally carrying their younger siblings on their backs up the hill to get to VBS!

Our American kids were able to help act out Bible stories.  And help with games and crafts:

We made animal visors and salvation bracelets

Entertain kids who are waiting to see the doctor during a medical clinic 

We had a pediatrician in our group and a nurse, so we were able to provide 2 medical clinic days.  The kids in our group were a huge help entertaining the kids who were waiting to see the doctor!  And with 100 patients waiting to see 1 doctor, there was a lot of waiting!  But, the Dominican children didn't seem to mind because they were soaking up all the attention they got as we colored with them and did puzzles and bubbles.  I had one child in fits of laughter when I attempted to read her a Spanish children's book with my horrible mispronunciations!

Kids relate really well to other kids, so having kids in our group was actually an advantage many times.  And kids serving kids is just such a beautiful thing, it's worth it to get creative to enable it to happen!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Family Mission Trip 2013

I know, I know.  I've been MIA around here for a while.

I've been with my husband and 2 oldest kids on a family mission trip with our church.

Where in the world did we go?

Well, not Ethiopia this time, although portions of this trip reminded us of our beloved Ethiopia and we did need our passports to travel and could NOT drink the water there.

It was a shorter plane ride, though, but to a land of great beauty:

But also great poverty:

The Dominican Republic!

(Right next to Haiti if you're geographically challenged like I am.)

This was the first ever family mission trip for our church.  Thirty-eight of us went, with exactly half, nineteen, of those being kids ranging in age from 4 years old to 17 years old.  It was a week-long trip.  There was a bit of pressure for it to be a success so it could become an annual thing, with possibly even more than 1 trip next summer for families in our church to serve.

Nobody knew exactly what to expect.  We just knew we wanted to serve and love those in need and we wanted to do it right alongside our kids.

And we did!

It was a great success, with the lady who ran the organization we served even commenting that she was worried we wouldn't get any work done with all the kids in our group, but boy was she surprised, "Your kids know how to WORK!"  she exclaimed at the end of the week.

We built desks and bookcases for a school that serves children too poor to otherwise attend school and delivered them, we built church pews, we conducted 2 medical clinics, we put on VBS two days for 2 different local churches (our team split up with half at each site), we babysat children so their parents could attend a marriage seminar, we delivered food to needy families, we ate with local families sharing our testimonies with them, we delivered supplies to an orphanage and spent about 4 hours loving on and playing with the kids there.

It was a busy, busy trip with so many stories I'll have to spread them out over a few blog posts.

But, I can say, I'm glad we went and I'm thankful to attend a church that believes in sending families on mission trips, kids and all!

Seeing our American kids serving those Dominican kids was a beautiful thing! 

And seeing the times when the cultural barriers and language barriers and socioeconomic differences melted away and the kids just played together was priceless!