Thursday, August 28, 2014

Now we get to repeat the whole shebang for the next 34 weeks . . .

Well, I don't know about you, but I am exhausted! 

The back-to-school week has been great because each of my 4 children has come home happy every day.  That, my friends, is a blessing I do not take lightly! 

But, sending my children to school each day, picking them up, and handling all the behind the scenes logistics (think packed lunches and laying out clothes and reading various information sheets sent home from teachers and filling out multitudes of forms and running to the store for last minute supplies we just were told we need and supplying snacks for an entire class and signing agendas and helping with homework and nagging children to hang up backpacks and clean-out lunchboxes -- all times 4 kids!!) has taken every ounce of energy from both my husband and I!

The good news is, we have a long weekend to rest up, recover and regroup.  And I do remember this exhausted feeling every school year and the wondering just how we'll manage to repeat the whole shebang for the next 34 weeks, but then it gets easier.  We adjust and fall into a routine and before you know it, it is Christmas!


I've been working through cleaning out my kids' closets for a couple weeks now.  Really, it is shameful how many clothes they have! 

I hope I do not ever forget this little boy we met in Ethiopia a few weeks ago with nothing but a ripped, tattered shirt!  It makes me angry at the injustice of it all.  Why should my children have so much stuff and that boy so little?

 My husband and I have been working on some big plans to help about 150 kids we met during our trip to Ethiopia.  The logistics are still being worked and we are asking a lot of God, but He can do big things!

Back to the closets, I'm ruthlessly getting rid of things and just took a huge bag for donation.  But, I decided to better organize my boys' clothes, I really wanted another shelf or two in their closet.  My husband was understandably thrilled with my suggestion (not really, because I was not offering to build the shelves for myself), but he was a trooper and found some wood in the garage and measured and cut it to fit some support brackets we already had. 'Course it helps that he has the cutest little helper!  The 7 year old loves to build things, so he has become my husband's apprentice on anything handyman related.

(Feel free to be astonished by that organized garage shot.  That is honestly an after picture, you should have seen that garage before we cleaned it out 2 months ago!!)


One day after school my kids built this house out of their Kapla Blocks:

What I really love about their house is that even with all the space in that large house, the two children are sleeping squished together in one bed!


 Have a wonderful Labor Day weekend!

Half-Past Kissin' Time

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

If you give a kid a camera . . .

My 11 year old son has a new interest in photography.  He is taking it as an elective at school next semester, but for now he hijacks my camera and when I download pictures I have surprise gems like these pop up:

Monday, August 25, 2014

First Day of Kindergarten, 2nd Grade, 4th Grade, and 6th Grade!!

Look what I did before 7am:

FOUR nutritious, homemade, hand-packed lunches! (The 6th grader has graduated to a brown bag lunch, too big for a lunch box, apparently.  That or he's just getting out of the chore of cleaning out his lunch box at the end of the day.)

Really those lunches ought to be accomplishment enough for the day, I should have just gone back to bed, but oh no, there was so much more to be done!

Like getting these four out the door for their first day of Kindergarten, 2nd Grade, 4th Grade, and 6th Grade:

A friend told me today that she had a time getting her two children ready for school and said she didn't know how I did it with four kids.  "ONLY BY THE GRACE OF GOD!"  I told her, and it's true!  Each and every day I get to witness God's hand at work because clearly my husband and I are outnumbered and so God must show up in a big way in our house every school morning! 

I am thankful everyone had a really great first day!  The kindergartener didn't get in trouble which is amazing and my new middle school student was able to get his locker opened between each of his 8 classes!

Just don't ask me how long it took to drop them all off or pick them all up.   Or how long I spent filling out a multitude of school forms times 4 kids!!!

Okay, ask.  Really I want you to ask.  Because otherwise you'll be all, "What did you do all day with all four of your kids in school?!!  Wow, you must have so much time on your hands now!"

1 hour 15 minutes to drop them all off.  That includes the hoopla of parents hanging out a bit with their new kindergarten kids on the first day and attending an info. coffee with the principal at the middle school.  Does not include getting them ready for school time.

1 hour 15 minutes to pick them all up.  This number will hopefully go way down, but there was a big delay with elementary school pick up today, they were trying out a new strategy for releasing the kids to parents and even though I got to the school 15 minutes before it let out, I didn't get to pick up my kids for 40 minutes!  They are going to do dismissal differently tomorrow and I pray it is much smoother!

And then 1 hour 45 minutes filling out all the school forms tonight!  My hand is still cramped up!  Dear school district, where are the on-line forms?  Are you trapped in 1985?

But, we have the first day under our belts, and I am truly thankful that my kids are in excellent public schools, all four with wonderful teachers, and they are poised to learn a ton this year and not just book knowledge, either!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Combination Lock

I promise to post more about our Ethiopia trip, there is just so much to say and not enough time to write!

And meanwhile life is happening fast and furious over here.

Tomorrow our oldest child goes to orientation day at the middle school where he will start school on Monday.  

I already got the pre-recorded call from the school today and an email with the same message informing parents "This is a day for your student to get to know his/her new school better and to begin to form relationships with teachers and their peers. They don’t need nor do we want parents shadowing them. As a new middle schooler, we want your student to begin depending on themselves, rather than their parent, to navigate middle school and this is a safe environment for that learning experience."

Not that I was planning on "shadowing" my kid tomorrow, but it was fun joking with my son that I was sad that I couldn't go with him now and follow him around all day!

Tonight, my husband and I gave the boy a crash course in the fine art of opening a combination lock!

You know right - left (pass the first number) - right?

It can be tricky!

It took the 11 year old a few tries but he's got it down now.  Another life skill we can check off the box of things that we have taught him!

We may have shared many stories with the boy of our days of school locker woes.

Middle school!  It's the beginning of a new era for us all.  Somebody hold me!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Celebrating with My Girl

A few months back when I asked my daughter what she wanted to do to celebrate her 9th birthday, what she wanted most was not a friend birthday party or tons of presents.  What she wanted was to go away for a night at a hotel with me.

Just she and I.

So that's exactly what we did last Friday night.  I dropped off my younger 3 kids to my husband at work a bit earlier than he'd typically leave and we were off for our special mother-daughter getaway.  We stayed in town because we didn't need elaborate scenery, just a pretty room, a fun pool, and time together which we could find in our own city without a long drive.   We had dinner by the pool, swam until after bedtime, played a new card game back in our hotel room, cuddled up to read a little Anne of Green Gables, and slept in the following morning with no loud siblings waking her up, we had a nice breakfast in the hotel restaurant, and then hit the pool for more swimming before checking out and heading home.  I even went down the pool's waterslide with her multiple times!

It was pretty perfect, certainly memories I'll treasure!  And as a bonus, the whole thing was cheaper than most friend birthday parties would have been!!

She was pretty pleased with our fancy breakfast at the hotel:

Happy Birthday Sweet Baby Girl!  What a blessing it is to have you as a daughter!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Meeting One of Our Sponsored Kids in Ethiopia

While we were in Ethiopia, we got to meet one of our sponsored kids.

Tsion is 12 years old.  Her father has passed away and her mother is sick.  Tsion was sick, too, before an amazing organization called Lelt Foundation stepped in to help her.  Now she is a happy, healthy 12 year old girl who was one of just a few children recently selected to attend a semi-private school because she is so smart!  We give money each month to help provide food, medical care, and education for Tsion, and we exchange letters.

Recently Tsion wrote me "If I had super powers, I would create a medicine to relieve all HIV sufferers all over the world of their pain."  Reading that I just wanted to hug her!

It is important to me that the children we sponsor know how much we care about them and that we not only send money but think of them from America and pray for them.  I want them to know they are loved, by us and by God.  So, it is huge when we get to meet one of our sponsored kids in person.  I think it adds a whole other big dimension to the relationship to get to see each other face to face!  We met one of our sponsored boys in Ethiopia 3 years ago and this trip we were blessed to get to meet Tsion!

Oh, happy day:

Our oldest son, my husband, Tsion, and me:

Family that will never live under the same roof, but family none the less!

It was so wonderful to get to see her, to hug her, learn more about her, and get to tell her how proud we are of her!  She is such a sweet, sweet girl.  It is a privilege to be a part of her life!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

What Time Zone Is It?

My lack of much blogging this week is absolutely related to the fact that my body has no idea what time zone it is in.  Since returning from Ethiopia, which is 8 hours ahead of my home time, I have this exhaustion that hits at 8 or 9pm every night, a time that is typically a high-energy time for me as I am a night-owl.  I am also waking up at 5am every day, but since I am not a morning person by nature I really just have no idea what a person is to do at 5am.  Maybe I should just start blogging at 5am!

Nearly the whole time we were in Ethiopia I had no trouble falling asleep at night but I'd wake up around 1am wide awake and not be able to go back to sleep for hours!

But the sleep woes are a small price to pay for what was such an amazing trip!

Walking into a care point in rural Ethiopia to see so many children lined up singing for us is something I will never forget!

Playing soccer with this happy band of giggling kids is one of my favorite memories of the trip:

And this monkey eating an ice cream cone?  Priceless!!
 Although he is a very naughty monkey because he stole that ice cream from a little girl eating outside at a restaurant.  But, the waiter brought her another one.  And the monkey ate that thing just like you or I would, first licking the ice cream on top and then eating the cone -- truly amazing to watch!!   In Ethiopia, monkeys run wild and seem to be like squirrels are to us where we live.  It was just us outsiders that were mesmerized by the monkeys, the locals were like, "So what?  We see them all the time and really they are just pests!"

But, the reason we went to Ethiopia and the reason we'll keep going back and keep giving to reputable organizations helping people in Ethiopia, is illustrated by this:

You don't come face to face with children like that and not leave changed.  In the words of my 11 year old son when asked what he thought about his time with the children in the sites where we hope there will be care points, "It makes me want to help them."

Happy Friday Friends! 
Half-Past Kissin' Time

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Back From Ethiopia

I know it has been ages (so maybe only 12 days?) since I wrote my last post about meeting our youngest daughter in an orphanage in Ethiopia on August 1, 2011.  Well this year on August 1, 2014, my husband, our 11 year old son, and I boarded a plane bound for Ethiopia!  When we left that land after our 2nd trip there in December 2011, flying home with our new 3 year old daughter, an orphan no more, we left pieces of our hearts with the children there with the 5 million remaining orphans, the children living with malnutrition and tremendous poverty.  We knew we'd be back.

I have so many emotions and thoughts around our latest trip, but not many real words right now, those will come.  For now let's just say, those pieces of our hearts we've been missing?

We found them right where we knew they were, in Ethiopia: