12/31/09

Happy New Year!

I might be the only person on the planet who didn't realize that today was New Years Eve, until about noon today. I kind of lost track of time...and my calender I guess.

So, as you might expect by my unawareness, we have no big plans to bring in the NewYear. We might go hit a Taco stand for supper and play some games with friends ,until we decide to go to bed. I doubt we'll make it past 10. I realize how old and pathetic that sounds but we have kids that wake up early....NewYears day or not. The kids will be in bed at 7. We'll let them cheer and welcome in the new year early. I'm not about to begin 2010 with crabby hyperactive kids.

Come to think of it, we had a very uneventful NewYears Eve 10 years ago too. Which is odd given the whole Millenium thing. Its hard to believe how fast the last 10 years have gone by! 10 years ago I was enjoying my first pregancy ready to enter a new phase of life and a new Millenium. I was completely unaware that the first weeks of 2000 would bring us grief and heartache. That day doesn't seem very long ago but a lot has happened between then and now.
In the last decade:
I lived in 3 countries,
carried 5 babies,
said goodbye to 2 of them,
learned how to be a mother to my 3,
learned how to be a foster mother to 5 different children,
said goodbye to all of 5 them,
All that in 10 years! Wow. I wonder what the next 10 years will hold? I wonder what the next
one year will hold?

If I were to sum up this past year, 2009. I would say turmoil and miracles. A nasty church split and an even nastier family split have left me wondering how much more I can take. The stress, frustration, and sadness have at times been overwhelming. But as always, in even in times of stress there are always blessings and miracles. For those I am so thankful and filled with renewed hope and joy.

This fall God brought us to Mexico to return to the place and the children we fell in love with 4 years ago. We are SO very very blessed and thankful to be here. We can see God's hand in every little bit of it.

None of us has any idea what next year will bring. It may bring heartache and grief, it may bring stress and conflict , it may bring new opportunities, miracles and new blessings. It most likely will be a combination of everything. Personally, I'm hoping for more of the last catagory than the first. Whatever lies around the corner I know without a doubt that my God has already gone before me. He knows exactly what awaits us and I believe that each year he prepares us to face what lies ahead. Judging by all the tough learning I've done this year...maybe its something big.


So, to all my friends, family , blogland friends......HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! PROSPERO ANO!!

12/29/09

Heart wide open.

While scrolling through my facebook homepage I came across this quote on someone else's facebook profile.
I appreciated its message and thought I'd pass it on.

"... you cannot free yourself from a problem by shutting your eyes to it. To free yourself from a problem you have to acknowledge it and face it with your eyes and heart open."


It is SO important to keep not only our eyes open but also our hearts. In every crisis, situation or problem we can completely miss what God is doing by having a hard closed heart. When our hearts and minds are closed we are unable to learn and grow from each new unpleasant situation we face.

Even though it is usually difficult, we can use that time to seek God and lay bare before him our own hearts, plans and motives. Allow Him to spring clean and bring light to those dark corners in our life, sometimes things that we may even not be aware of. It is a humbling experience to be cleansed by the light of a Holy God but only by doing so can we truly be free.

It is when we are convinced of our own wisdom and righteousness.... we are most likely to fall. We ,on our own, can only look at any situation through the lenses of our own baggage. The lenses of fear, guilt, unforgiveness, shame, pride, bitterness, and even our insecurities distort our view. Only when we completely let go of our own agenda and allow the Spirit of God to work in us, can we be like Christ in that particular situation. Only then can our eyes be opened to what God is doing.

Closing our eyes, hardening our hearts, or sitting back convinced of our own wisdom are all ways to ensure that we will not be free. We will end up in direct opposition to what God wants to do through us and around us. The problem will grow , sometimes silently like a cancer, until it destroys us and those around us ....unless it is looked at, surrendered to God, acknowledged before others, and laid bare to be cleansed and forgiven. Only then do we loose the chains of bondage that keep us from Gods perfect will.

Lord, bring your healing, light and truth to the very center of my heart and life. Cleanse me of any thought, any attitude, any motive that is not purely of you. Give me your wisdom and your strength. Give me the courage to face this life with honesty, grace and love. Even when it hurts. Give me your eyes and your heart in this situation. amen.


"Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God. " John 3:19-21

12/28/09

A good reminder for mommies like me.

I don't know about other moms but I constantly battle the balance between chores and time spent with my kids. Actually, I need to clarify "time with my kids". I have no shortage of time with them. In fact I have a most definate lack of time without or away from them in any given day. We are together , frequently in a confined space, from the time the rooster crows (literally) to the time I chase them into bed. Even then, we sleep only feet from each other. There is no sending them on their way on the school bus each morning or dropping off at pre-school. I think that this is sometimes where the problem lies for me. I am surrounded by activity, chores, behavior modification issues, homeschooling etc. etc. for so many hours a day that I forget to stop and just enjoy them. I forget there is another whole aspect of parenting that includes spontanteous snuggles, listening to tales of conquest and adventure, stopping to smell flowers and all the things that make parenting more than just a job.
I am realizing how very intentional yet completely spontaneous that has to be. Thats my goal for this week. We'll see how it goes.
While here at the mission we are parenting in public 99% of the time. Moms know what a challenge that can be to our pride, our confidence and our nerves in general. I have started to slip into the ragged nerve frazzled mom role,more concerned with how my kids appear at any given moment than who they really are and what they actually need from me. That nervous twitchy mom starts to get paranoid and over reactive. I really don't like that person.

My resolve this week is to find my inner calm mama. The one who can untangle two little boys from a wrestling match gone awry without joining in the fight. The one who can genuinely smile at pews full of people as she escorts her wailing two year old out the back door of the church. The mom who can gently remind a chronically absent minded 6 year old to take his clothes off and put them on again the right way, preferably with the tag in the back and inside the shirt, without pulling out her hair in mind numbing frustration. The mom who can find the will power to turn off the super hero dvd and read her kids a book.



"Song for a Fifth Child.

Mother, O Mother, come shake out your cloth,
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing, make up the bed,
Sew on a button and butter the bread.

Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She's up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.

Oh, I've grown as shiftless as Little Boy Blue,
Lullabye, rockabye, lullabye loo.
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo

The shopping's not done and there's nothing for stew
And out in the yard there's a hullabaloo
But I'm playing Kanga and this is my Roo
Look! Aren't his eyes the most wonderful hue?
Lullabye, rockaby lullabye loo.

The cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow
But children grow up as I've learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs; Dust go to sleep!
I'm rocking my baby and babies don't keep. "


ok so I don't have a baby right now....or a rocking chair for that matter, but I do have dust...and kids. You get the point :)

12/26/09

More Christmas day.


Carmela and Ramiro. My little sweethearts.


Me (Tia Carla), Minerva and her mom. I was slouching down just to fit in the picture. I feel like a giant amazon woman next to them...and I'm only 5'7". It was nice to see mom (Italia) dressed up and looking happy for her children. She smiled and interacted with us as she graciously offered us food and watched her children open gifts. My compassion for her is growing.


I don't get to hug my girl everyday now that she has moved away from the chidren's home but I still plan on fitting in as many as possible. She was happy to the point of tears the whole time.


Minerva specifically requested that she get a picture with her Tio. She has been his biggest fan since we first arrived in Mexico. She enjoys her very big, very silly uncle.
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My favorite part of Christmas Day


Later in the morning, after we were finished with our own gift opening and family time, we set out to vist our other kids.
They were expecting us and were all standing by the road waving when we pulled up. It was so cute. They were all dressed in their best clothes and their mom had even saved some dinner for us. Pazole con mole, y pollo. It was a "muy rico" meal for them and I felt very honored that they were sharing it with us. They had also bought a jug of Coca Cola to pour for us. It was one of those moments when I knew we would most likely be very ill should we recieve the gifts offered but at the same time we were very very grateful for the gesture. Awkward decision. We prayed silently for protection as we chugged coke from grimy cups and exclaimed that the meal was delicious.



Minerva and Alvaro had seen children open gifts while living at the childrens home so they knew what to do, but the three little ones just held their boxes and smiled. Aili ended up opening two year old Louisa's for her eventually (Inside was a big snuggly stuffed puppy and a little backpack). Ramiro just sat grinning from ear to ear holding his pretty box. It was so cute! It gave me a taste of what it must be like to distribute the Samaritans Purse christmas shoe boxes. SO rewarding to witness. Just look at that smile and he hasn't even opened it yet! He just sat there giggling.

One of the most remarkable things was how excited the children were for each other. Alvaro was oohing and aahing over his little sisters doll dresses and his big sisters scarf and purse. They were so happy for each other and will undoubtable share everything they recieved.


Most of these gifts came from "stockings" sent down to all the kids at the childrens home from a couple of churches. Since Minerva and Alvaro left just before recieving theirs we were able to deliver them the gifts. We had to send back the cloth bags( the gifts came in)so we decided to wrap the gifts up in boxes. The donors were so extremely generous that between the two stockings we were able to wrap up a box for all 5 kids. I added a few things from our own toy stash and it came out just right. I also bought and wrapped up a few more items of clothing for the kids and bought a gift for the mom.
There were a few more big gifts that came in the mail for Minerva and Alvaro from their other sponsers. After a lot of thought, and discussing it will some others at the orphanage, we decided to save the other gifts (unopened) until they have a house to put them in. It would have just been too much considering the neighborhood and the complete lack of space to store "stuff". It would have been appropriate to open that many gifts at the orphanage but out in this neighborhood it would have just set them up for problems.

They will be getting a new house built in February!! They will have beds, chairs, a table, a door, a floor, and a propane stove! Just the thought of them all being able to sleep out of the dirt makes my heart happy.
We initially had no idea how it was going to happen, but God has totally provided a way to have a 2 bedroom house built for them this winter through IDT. It is a house building organization. There is usually a long wait list but there was a cancellation. A group is coming to build a house and they need a family to build for. We will still be very much involved with the build and I'm looking forward to "outfitting " the house for them. We will need paint, blankets, sheets, furniture, dishes, cutlery...we will be doing some shopping at the local market for the items. I want their house to be homey and a little oasis of some beauty. Can you tell I'm VERY excited for them?


This is one of the gifts sent in the stockings by a donor. We have no idea who sent the gifts but I would love to thank them.

Every little girl deserves to feel like a princess. The Belle doll came with a little tube of body glitter. Her big sis explained, as she rubbed a little on Carmela's cheeks, that it was to make her sparkly like the doll. What a smile when she realized that she and her doll would both sparkle! The doll came with 3 extra dresses too. I told her she was as beautiful as a princessa. She just beemed me a huge smile and said "Si!" (Yes!). She felt beautiful. Something as simple as a princess doll. Every little girl I know has some sort of princess doll. Usually boxes full rarely touched and stuffed into a closet. The ornate beauty of the doll was such a stark contrast to the dirt and signs of misery all around it. I don't think there will ever be a Belle doll so appreciated though. No, she doesn't need "stuff" to be happy but every little girl deserves to feel special, loved and to imagine beauty and parties in a palace....and because of a thoughtful stranger she experienced that. :)

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Present time!!


This year there was no piling the gifts under the Christmas tree ahead of time. In fact, there was no tree to pile them under. We stashed them in the car and pulled them out after the kids were asleep. I guess it's not completely true that we didn't have a Christmas tree. Can anyone see it? Its there among the pile of gifts.
We brought some things from home to give to the kids. I made a stop at the Parables book store before we left home and bought some books for the kids and a cd and book for Nathanael.
We also added a few little toys from the market here..
We were surprised at the gifts that they also got from Grandparents as well.
They had a very happy Christmas morning.


My best thought out gift....if I do say so myself.


I found this spiderman costume at "globos"( the outdoor market) in the middle a large pile of clothing.
SCORE.
It fits my spiderman obsessed little boy perfectly. He wore it ALL day. I had to pry it off today to wash it. I have a feeling it may be his new standard uniform for a while. Such a typical 3 year old thing. Little girls in princess dresses and little boys dressed as cowboys or spiderman.



Silas very much enjoyed the present opening time. He was so happy with every little thing he got...to the point of being obsessive. He has to have his new things in his sight or grasp at all times....even while sleeping. Its nice he appreciates them anyway :)
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Childrens Christmas Fiesta!


Last week a group of youth came down from Tijuana to volunteer at the orphanage. The man who lead the group, with his wife, actually grew up at this orphanage 30 years ago. They worked hard, served the kids and staff a big turkey dinner in the cafeteria and then to top it off they threw a party.
It was so fun for all the kids and us big people who snuck in to watch.
They had the music blasting , had tons of fun games for the kids to play and even supplies prizes and gifts.
Of course the fiesta ended with a very intense pinata.

Note to self: Do not let a two year old run under a pinata while it breaks open.
Once that pinata busts its every kid for himself and chicito ninos like Silas are very likely to get severely trampled in the carnage.


Kids enjoying balloons.



It was such a great way to spend a morning! The kids were off of school that day so the party gave the house parents a little big of a break and well as being a blast for the children. What a thoughtful gift. Thankyou Tijuana youth group!
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Game night in Casa 5


On Thursday evening we went to Casa 5 with everyones favorite game Pictureka, a box of Bionicle parts, and a few packages of microwave popcorn.



Victoria. We met her when we were here 4 years ago. She was in the nursery (cuna) then. Can you see the sparkle of mischief in her eyes? :)


Arnoldo enjoying playing with some bionicles.


Roman and Alex chowing down on popcorn. They are two peas in a pod. Not only do they match each other with energy and charm they even have matching ears. :) I guess they also share a love for popcorn, since these two ate most of the bowl!

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More Christmas Eve


Sisters Julianna and Eloisa enjoying each others company. There is a decade of age difference between the girls but they are so close. Its so nice for little sister to have someone looking out for her and a relative to love her while they are both at the childrens home.


Some girls in Casa 4 looking beautiful for Christmas eve.


Alejandro and his new football.


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Noche Buena



Here are a few pictures of our Christmas even festivities in Casa #4. Christmas Eve "Buena Noche" is the big event here. This is when they have their Christmas feast and open their gifts. They all dress in their best Christmas outfits and prepare for the event all day. We had the honor of being invited to join the kids in house 4 for the evening. The food was delicious. We felt so welcomed and included in the event.


A nina with her new baby. She was so cute! It came with a little bottle and she rocked and fed that baby like a little mama.


The house mother, her son and my hijos checking out Silas' new little soldiers. This house mom is the kindest most generous person I think I've ever met. She has some very serious and debilitating health problems of her own but she and her husband care for a house full of little ones. She never complains but always excudes peace and joy. Which is a complete phenominon to me with so many children to care for. She shows so much love toward each one of the children and has even found room in her heart to reach out and be an encouragment to me. I can always count on a big hug from her.


Our little Alejandro. We popped over to Casa 5 for a brief visit and to take our sponsor son his gift. He is new to the childrens home and I would strongly suspect this was his first Christmas surrounded by family, food and gifts. He was over the top excited. He reminds me so much of Roman , just bursting with enthusiasm and energy! He keeps his house parents on their toes I think. :) He is a sweetheart though and always has a huge smile for his Tia. Inside the bag is a Gold colored soccer ball and a Bionicle robot guy.

It was a late but very memorable evening.
On Christmas day we spent the afternoon in a third casa. House #1 invited us to share some more amazing food left from their Christmas Eve meal. It was SO good. We spent most of the afternoon visiting with them while the kids watched movies and played lego with the other kids there. I so enjoy being in the casa's and getting to know the kids and the "families" in each house. They have all been very welcoming to our family.
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12/24/09

Feliz Navidad!

Just wanted to pop in to wish you all a very Merry Christmas.
We are enjoying the afternoon off of work and resting up for an evening of Buena Noche festivities with the kids in Casa 4(one of the homes for Children here). I'm looking forward to a traditional Mexican feast this evening. Supper will be late but it will be worth the wait I'm sure. Each of the 6 Casa's are hosting a Christmas Eve dinner. I'm tempted to see how much I can eat in one evening and just start Casa hopping. They are all preparing something different. Its a big event and they've been preparing and buying food all week. After supper all the kids here open their gifts and stay up late. I will take a gift for each of my kids to open tonight as well. We will save the others for morning. We need something to do tomorrow. I'm sure they will all be up at 6 am regardless of how late we are out tonight.

Tomorrow we are planning to go visit Minerva and Alvaro's family. We have some presents to give them and promised we'd stop in on Christmas day. We will probably visit and give some gifts to some other friends in a nearby town as well. It will be fun. Other than that our Christmas day will be spent phoning some family members and enjoying the gifts we were sent.

Buying and giving gifts this year is so rewarding and fun. Its really amazing to give when it is a very appreciated blessing to someone else....not merely just an obligation or a tradition.

This year Christmas has been different in so many ways already but so far I think this Christmas season has been the most memorable and special ones we have had. Its just been such a different focus for us.

I do miss sneaking butter tarts from the freezer and sitting around a fire with my family. I miss my moms baking and the savory Christmas evening spread of hor duerves. I did manage to score some pumpkin pie though and bought the kids some wafer cookies today. :) That will have to suffice for this years Christmas sweets. I'm sure there will be lots of delicious food tonight...just different delicious foods.

Have a very blessed and joyous Christmas day!

12/19/09

our kids


We found our kids! On Friday we stopped by after our caroling excursion to check in on Minerva and Alvaro. We were also able to meet, for the first time, their three younger siblings.
"Tio" found them a couple nights before and reported their living conditions to me. He wanted to prepare me ahead of time for how they were living. He choked up as he told me that they lived in a tiny, cold, filthy, fly and rodent infested shack. They sleep on a damp mattress on a dirt floor. 5 kids, their mom and her boyfriend.
Nothing really prepared me to see these beautiful children in their "home". I can't even describe to you the inside of the house. All I can say is it makes the outside appear nice. The whole property is on the slope of a hill and I can't imagine what their floor looked like during last weeks rains.
They were thrilled when their Tio showed up in his car though....that someone cared enough about them to come find them. He said he'd never had hugs so tight or seen smiles so big.
I hesitate to even write about their home because I feel somehow I am betraying my sweet Minerva who deserves so much more. I was nothing but smiles and positive words while I was there. I would never let her see my heart breaking as I look at her home. I could tell she was embarrased and that killed me. The home she works so hard to keep. She cooks, she cleans and she cares for her siblings.

We have now visted them twice. Once while the mom and boyfriend were there, and this morning while just the kids were there.


Our beautiful and kindhearted Alvaro. You can see Romans soccer ball next to the house.
They don't even have a wash board. She washes all their clothes on a piece of broken cement set on top of a stack of tires. What a hard life. All the things we take for granted. Running water, hot water, a fridge, a floor in our house, beds, rooms, toys, food, a bathroom, showers, clean water, clean clothes. So much we don't even think to appreciate. So much this family lives without.


Minerva (right in pink) with her little brother Ramiro , sister Louisa and her mom. That boy is gorgeous! The biggest smile I have ever seen on a child.


Ramiro and Carmela. They are the sweetest kids. These two soaked up the attention. I sat myself in the dirt and these two both snuggled up on my lap. They just about started purring as I hugged them, caressed their hair and rubbed their backs. They were like little affection sponges.

This morning I came with some bags of food and some sweaters dug out of my kids cupboards. It gets cold here at night this time of year. It gets down to just a few degrees above freezing and it's a damp ocean air cold too. At night we all wear our fleece sweaters, pile on the blankets and turn on our propane trailer furnace to 15 degrees c. Last night I could hardly sleep thinking about those kids huddled up in the dirt. I laid awake thinking about which blankets I could spare, which sweaters my kids didn't need and what food I could take from my cupboards.

We are hoping to build the kids a better home before we leave. We have started looking into what it would take and getting the neccesary land information and documents. I wish I could pack them all up and bring them home with me this spring, but since running two different borders with 5 kids would be illegal, we will have to settle for doing our best by them while we are here.

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Caroling


This Friday afternoon we loaded up three school buses full of people and set out to go caroling. All the staff and their families split up into groups and set out to spread some Christmas cheer. We each had at least one guitar player and we sang our way down the dirt streets, through packs of stray dogs, over streams of flowing sewage, and into some of the poorest neighborhoods and migrant labour camps in the area. We came prepared for the event with bags full of stuffed turtles made by the women at our home church and stuffed by the kids this summer at VBS. We also came to Mexico with many small toys cleaned out of the toy boxes at home, saved for this purpose.



Once Aili and Roman figured out what exactly we were doing they got really into it. Roman was determined to give every person he saw one of those turtles...even the 14 year old gangsters on their bikes. He was so cute. It was their first real experience being in the camps and in these slum type neighborhoods. They have seen and smelled poverty since being here but this was one step closer to it.
I think it was very eye opening for them both. They talked about and processed everything they experienced for hours afterwards.


Some precious little ones getting Christmas gifts from some singing strangers.

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Fiesta!


The school had a Christmas party and rented two huge jumpy inflatable things for the kids. Santa also made an appearance at the event. Silas followed him around in awe,at a safe distance, but there was absolutely no way he would go anywhere near him. I tried my best to coax him into a photo Mexican Santa but with no success. Rosalinda makes a pretty adorable subsitute though.


The staff Christmas party and potluck is a big event. Everyone looks forward to glamming up, eating lots of good food and having a childless good time. The "outreach" ladies are looking fabulous.





Mexicans know how to have fun. Whats a party without two giant pinatas! It was a hilarious evening. We had one of the teenage girls babysit for the evening and had our first childless evening out since being here.
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