Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Ten Things About Today

  1. Nothing starts my day off quite like a kiss on the cheek from my husband and listening to him chat with my sweet-voiced 4 year old.
  2. I am pleased as punch with the attitude and effort my older girls put into their homeschooling.
  3. I finally broke through a plateau and am seeing the scale move in the right direction after a few weeks of eating a lot more raw, fresh fruits and veggies.
  4. We didn’t get any mail from Compassion today but I am eagerly awaiting a new, updated picture from Precious. (It showed up on my online account early last week.)
  5. I amazed my girls by reading the entire book Because of Winn-Dixie in less than an hour.
  6. It is 82 degrees outside and 84 degrees inside of our house right now.  Yeah, that’s hot!
  7. I turned a big pile of tomatoes from Grandpa into home-made salsa.  Not sure if I can really call it that because I didn’t have any cilantro to add. It is still yummy though.
  8. Black bean quesadillas and fresh not-quite-salsa is a great dinner for a steamy evening like this.
  9. My girls sure finish the post-dinner clean up in a flash when I tell them we’re headed to the beach as soon as they’re done!
  10. The kitchen and dining room are clean, so we’re headed to the beach! (So thankful to live less than 10 miles from a great beach!)

Monday, August 30, 2010

More Letter-Writing Ideas

As I read posts and replies on the Compassion blog, Compassion Facebook page and OurCompassion, I often read that people struggle with what to write about in their letters to their sponsored children. Today, I am going to share just a few ideas that may give you some inspiration. This post will focus on 3 F’s: Faith, Family and Fun.

Faith:

  • Share details about your church: How many people attend? Do you help with any ministries such as Sunday School? What touched you about the most recent sermon? What praise songs do you love and why? Does your church have a Worship team and what instruments do they play? What have your own children learned in Sunday School recently? Do you go to Bible Study or church activities during the week? Does anyone else in your church sponsor through Compassion? Have you shared the mission of Compassion with anyone in your church?
  • Share details about your personal walk in the Faith: When were you saved? How did you come to the Lord? Were you baptized and what was it like? Do you follow daily devotionals and what things recently touched you? What do you pray about regarding your sponsored child? What prayer requests would you like to share with your child? What problems have you had recently and how has God touched you during them? Where are you in your personal Bible reading and what verses have meant a lot to you recently? Has God answered a prayer for you recently?

Family:

  • Share details about your family: Do you have any siblings? Who are the members if your family? What are some favorite family memories? Do you live near any relatives? Have you gone to any family gatherings recently? How does your family celebrate upcoming holidays?

Fun:

  • Share details about fun activities in your life: Do you have any hobbies? What activities do you do that you enjoy? What things did you like to do for fun when you were the age of your sponsored child? What do your own children like to play?

It is important to remember that you do not need to send long, elaborate letters to your child. The stationary that Compassion sends when your child writes to you (or that can be found here) gives you just enough room for a couple of paragraphs. Choose just one or two of the above questions to answer and that should give you a couple of paragraphs. As an added bonus, send a photo or two that goes along with your topic. If you write about your church, add a photo of it to your letter. If you write about a hobby, send a photo to illustrate what you're talking about. If a Bible verse has touched you, share the verse with them!

Also, most of the above questions could also be asked of your sponsor children. They will be happy to know you’re interested in their life and you will build up a relationship as you get to know one another. (Keep in mind that it takes up to several months for a letter to travel from one place to another, so you may not get an answer to a specific question for a while.)

I hope this post gives you ideas for future letters. I highly suggest writing to your child at least once a month, not only to foster a relationship with your child but also to let them know that they are loved and very important to you!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

A Family Affair

We just finished up another round of letters for our Compassion International children.  I like to get the kids involved and this time my two youngest were happy to help with the photo collages we’re sending that focus on our summer activities.

HPIM3176 We uploaded some photos to Walgreens.com and were able to pick them up just a half an hour after the order was placed. Kaya worked on gluing the photos to the front and back of some cardstock.

I printed off some captions and lines for translation and glued those on and then Luna had a turn at decorating.

HPIM3179 I plan to send a similar collage for each season.  Each collage will be mailed in a page protector so that our kids can keep them safe and possibly put them into a binder or folder if they have access to something like that.

HPIM3181 Here is the finished round of letters and collages.  This group of letters was on the topic of sharing.  I told our children how many of our friends and family are harvesting their gardens and they are happy to share produce with us.  I listed a few Bible verses about sharing and told them how thankful we are to have the opportunity to share with them. Each letter was also personalized for each of our children, and we referred to things they’ve told us or asked us about.

HPIM3182a For Yishak, Yolanda and Precious, I had prints made of the most recent gift photos.  Many of these families do not have photos of themselves, so it is a nice treat to send them copies.  Our Bertille in Burkina Faso has a birthday coming up in November, so we are also sending her a card and a Noah’s Ark book along with some wallet size photos for her to share with friends and family. (I had already sent wallet size photos to our other children before we sponsored Bertille.) We sent her a $25 birthday gift earlier this month as well.

If you live near a Walgreens, I suggest setting up an online account with them and also signing up for their emails.  They send out a lot of great coupon codes for deals on photo processing.  They also offer freebies from time to time, like free 8” X 10” photo collages, etc.

One reminder for Compassion sponsors, it is really helpful if you are sure to write your child’s number as well as your sponsor number on every item you send to your children.  I will send all of the above to Colorado Springs in one manilla envelope and I use a paperclip to keep the bundles for each child separate.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Two Weeks In, So Far So Good!

This was the first summer since we started our homeschool journey that we took quite a bit of time off.  In years past, we continued to homeschool year-round, but cut back a bit on our table time during the summer.  This July, we were so busy that I didn’t have the girls sit down to organized or structured learning time.  The beginning of August was used to get many aspects of our home organized and recover from all of the activity.

So, last week I decided it was time to ease back into a schedule of organized learning.  I did expect a bit of foot-dragging and lolly-gagging, as well as some possible issues keeping Luna occupied while working with the older girls.  Thankfully, things went much smoother than I thought it might.  Granted, we are *easing* into it and we’ve had somewhat short days. That helps.

The girls have really enjoyed the Science experiments we’ve done a couple of times a week.  We’re using suggestions from 101 Hands-On Science Experiments by Phil Parratore.

 HPIM3169This experiment is called The Haunted Bottle.  When we do these experiments, I have the girls read through the directions and share their hypothesis of what they think might happen. I printed off one of the free notebooking pages for science experiments from Notebooking Pages and they fill in all of the information that  they can before we actually perform the experiments.  After we do the experiments, they share their ideas about why they think the experiment went the way that it did. Then, I will read the explanation and discuss it with them and they write the explanation (in their own words) on their notebooking page.  Luna sits in on these activities and has really surprised me with the things she picks up on.  As she was telling my husband about what happened during the Haunted Bottle experiment, I heard her say, “The air warmed up and made the nickel jump, cuz of thermal ‘spansion.” 

Another favorite activity from the last few weeks is a mix between Art Appreciation and Creative Writing.  We are studying Jan Vermeer this month and we’ve used his paintings as inspiration in our writing.  We all look at a painting and then write a short story to tell when we think is happening in the scene.  I say “we” because I have been doing this along with my girls and we all read our work after we’re done.  I was pleasantly surprised with the creative stories my girls were able to come up with and how excited they were to write and share!

We’ve also been sure to soak up the sun and lovely weather while we have it, and have been hiking many of the amazing trails that our area has to offer.

HPIM3172 Before long, we’ll have chilly temps and gray skies. For now, we will balance our structured learning with enjoying the great outdoors!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Saturday Afternoon Art

Yesterday, I decided to try a lesson from I Draw, I Paint ~ Watercolor  with my girls.  They had a great time and the finished paintings will soon be framed and hung up.

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I think they’re fantastic paintings!  I decided that I wanted to join in the watercolor fun, but I wasn’t up for painting an apple.  It has been quite a while since I’ve done watercolors, but I gave it a shot!

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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Weekly Wrap-Up

This week, my “baby” turned four and I can hardly believe it! It doesn’t seem possible that it has been 4 years since I had an amazing 24+ hours of labor at home, surrounded by my man, a wonderful doula and some amazing midwives. (I didn’t end up having a homebirth like we had planned, but it was still an incredible experience!)  Here are a few pictures from my labor.

Michelle%20and%20Jay%20(1) Jay was a great support for me.

HPIM0392This family picture was taken between contractions. 

In honor of her fourth birthday Luna had her first birthday party with friends, and it was great!  We are blessed with such a great circle of friends. Truly blessed.

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In other news, we got back into homeschooling this week and it has gone very well.  I was worried about how I’d be able to pull it off, now that Luna is old enough to sit down and do some learning activities too.  Thankfully, everything has gone smoothly this week! Luna is really enjoying the activities that she and I are doing together, then she is happy to run off and play while I work with the older two.  Nico and Kaya have done well this week.  I expected that there may be some dragging of the feet, but instead there was a lot of cooperation and great effort!

This week, we received another letter from our Precious in Ghana.  I am amazed at how often she writes to us, this is our third letter from her this month! In this letter, she tells us that she always takes our letters home and she keeps them in the gift bag I sent to her last year. We are also told that she is making good progress in her schooling and has been going to church early on Sundays.  What a joy she is in our lives!  I did see a few children from her project available on the Compassion International website.  If you search for children in Ghana, on the first page you will find Edward, Jessica and Doris from GH220. From our experience, that project has been AMAZING when it comes to sending letters, as well as photos when you send monetary gifts. Travel time for correspondence is also quick, 2-4 weeks from Ghana to New York. If you follow the link and end up sponsoring one of the cuties, please leave a comment and let me know!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Changes

This week, I noticed hints of the changes that are coming to our area.

HPIM3113On the hilltops, there are splashes  of orange and gold on some of the trees.  It is time to start taking stock of firewood and making the most of these Summer days, while we have them.

I’m also noticing just how fast my girls are growing.  My “baby” is turning four on Wednesday.  My middle, curly-girlie, is maturing before our eyes.

HPIM3069Isn’t she lovely?

Speaking of changes, I decided to make some BIG changes to our diets this week.  I used to be very strict about eating healthy foods, but things have been lax this Summer.  My kids have probably had more candy, sweets and treats this summer than in their past summers combined.  Coincidentally, we’ve had a LOT more attitude and negativity in our household this Summer.  I do believe that there is a correlation between eating fake foods and behavior  issues. So, on Monday I laid down some new rules.  Between meal snacks were limited to *mostly” raw fruits and vegetables.  I cut out most processed foods as well as HFCS and food dyes. The first day was tough on the girls, but by day two they had adjusted pretty well.  In the last 6 days, I have noticed a HUGE difference in attitudes and cooperation from them. I also set a limit to the number of foods each girls had on their “I don’t like it” list.  (It seems like every time I allowed another food to go on the list, there was yet another food waiting in the wings. It was getting out of control.) All in all, these changes have been great for all of us!  Will we cut out processed foods forever?  Probably not, but a period of detoxing and cleansing will be beneficial.

This week, we received letters from two of our Compassion International children.

Precious in Ghana (GH220) has her letters written for her by a project worker.  In the most recent one, she opened by saying that she hopes the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ reigns in our home.  Truth be told, I opened the letter when I was stressed and impatient and those words went straight to my heart.  It was like God sent me a message via a little girl and her tutor halfway across the world.  Amazing.  Precious also tells us that she is getting tall and cute. She drew Ghana’s flag on the back as well as a computer and filing cabinet.  She is so, SO precious.

Rodrigo in Bolivia (BO281) sent us another letter, even though we received one from him just last month.  It makes me wonder if his project is starting to switch to the reciprocal writing system.  Part of his letter reads:

I thank you for the letter you sent to me.  My family and I read it together last weekend. They were very happy for all you told us and knowing that your family is well.  We are all well with the help of God.  I learn a lot in school, my teacher is very good. I understand all she explains to us.  I like stories of old nations and towns.

I go to the project three days a week and my tutor is a very good person. She always supports me if I have problems in my studies.  On Sunday we go to church with my family.  We are always praying for you and your family. I love the photos you sent to me. Goodbye with a big bearhug to the family,

Rodrigo

Monday, August 9, 2010

Weekend Wrap-Up

On Saturday morning, I was cleaning off the front of our refrigerator and started thinking about how I really hoped to find a way to display the photos of our Compassion International children.   When we sponsored our first child, I stuck her picture up on the fridge with a magnet.  As our Compassion family grew from one to six, and as we received photos from the gifts we sent and drawings from them, the refrigerator started to look cluttered and unkempt.

So, the girls and I headed off to a Flea Market and some yard sales later in the day and I was so happy to find a set of new picture frames, each one slightly different, for a quarter a piece.

HPIM3111 Exactly what I was wanting at a price I couldn’t pass up!

I started writing another round of letters for the kids.  For this round, I am going to write about my experience at Kingdom Bound and the joy of seeing so many children find sponsors.  I’m also writing about our church’s baptism picnic, which was yesterday, and sharing the passages from Matthew about John the Baptist baptising Jesus.  I found some corresponding coloring sheets online and have to choose which one to send and print them off. My goal is to have all of the letters finished and have the package ready to mail by Wednesday.

I am looking forward to a week without a lot of pressing plans and places to be.  I plan to tackle some around-the-house projects that need some attention. I’d also love to (dare I say it?) relax a little. I hope you all had a great weekend!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

A Good Mail Day

Yesterday, on our way home from the last day of Summer Rec, I had a feeling we’d find a Compassion Letter in the mailbox.  I was thrilled to find a larger Compassion envelope tucked amongst the bills and junk mail.  In the past, the larger envelopes have held new photos of our sponsored children.  I said a prayer of gratitude and tore into the envelope to find this lovely photo.

scan0001 The picture shows our sweet Precious in Ghana with all of the gifts she was able to get with the $25 we sent to her for her birthday. She received clothing, shoes, sandals, a backpack, a new sponge, biscuits and soda to share with her friends in the project. In the letter, she thanks us for the gifts and tells us that she isn’t as shy as she used to be. She’s made more friends at the church during her birthday party.

Our family treasures the pictures we receive of our Compassion International children.  We feel blessed to be able to share some of what we have in order to bring some joy to these children. Precious’ letter says that she prays that God blesses us a thousand fold for what we give to her, and He truly does.

Speaking of mail, we were so busy in July that I didn’t get to writing two letters for each of our children, like I aim to do each month.  I felt a nagging sense of guilt as the days went by without getting to that second letter. It came to me, though, that even getting one letter in a month is more than many Compassion children get.  This recent post from the Compassion blog (entitled How I Learned To Stop Procrastinating and Get Back To Letter Writing) is a great reminder that, at the heart of it, children really just cherish every letter, note or card they receive.  When I have the time, I love putting together packages with letters and stickers. coloring sheets, activity books, etc. But, when it comes right down to it, our Compassion children really just want to hear from us.  A quick note on a card or even a postcard will bring smiles and a sense that they are loved.

If you sponsor a child through Compassion and you haven’t written in a while, please set aside ten minutes today and jot them a note. Tell them you are thinking of them and praying for them. Your effort will bring joy and a sense of worth!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Summer = Busy!

July proved to be a crazy month, full of activities.  In the hustle and bustle of it all, I had to prioritize my time.  Blogging took a back seat to things like laundry, cooking and cleaning.  Now that the Summer Rec program is done, it frees up a few hours every day and I hope to get back on the wagon of posting regularly.

Yesterday, we had the chance to go to Kingdom Bound for the first time.  It was, to put it simply, amazing! I was able to go for free because I was working a table for Compassion International.  I was lucky enough to win four tickets for the rest of the family by answering a “Secret Sound” game on the Family Life Network radio station. While the day started out with a hitch, getting a flat tire 20 minutes into our road trip, we managed to get it taken care of and arrived at the festival only two hours later than planned.  We were able to hit a few rides at the amusement park before I needed to report for my 3 hour shift at one of the Compassion tables.

I have set up tables for Compassion in much smaller scale, for my Compassion Sunday and at a homeschool curriculum sale.  Having had the experience of putting hours of effort into a event and seeing one child get sponsored, it was thrilling to witness many children finding sponsors at Kingdom Bound.  During my three hour shift, 10 children were chosen and many seeds were planted.  I was also able to talk to a few current sponsors about the importance of writing to their children regularly and I hope I inspired them to pick up a pen and send a note to their precious children.  At one point during my shift, I saw Shaun Groves whiz by in a golf cart and my heart skipped a beat.  I have a ton of respect and admiration for Shaun.  He inspires me to do more to raise awareness for Compassion.  I absolutely love the posts put out by the Compassion Bloggers when they travel to other countries and visit Child Development Centers and visit with sponsored children and their families. I have spent hours praying and daydreaming about being able to, one day, travel with the Compassion Bloggers. (While I don’t meet the requirements of having 30,000 blog visitors per month, I have a huge, HUGE passion for this organization.) I try to remember that, if it is God’s will for me to travel and meet our Compassion children, He will make it happen in His timing.

At the end of my shift, I met up with my family and rode a few more rides and thoroughly enjoyed meeting many wonderful brothers and sisters in Christ. Towards the end of the night, before the Toby Mac show, Shaun took the stage to speak about Compassion. I was standing there with goosebumps and tears streaming down my face. I can’t quite articulate how amazing it was, but I could feel the Holy Spirit’s presence and the air felt electric to me. Shaun’s words spoke straight to my heart, “If Jesus is all that you need, can you give up cable and support a child?” Yes!  It is possible to give up the things that society tells us are necessities. You can get by with a $20 Tracfone instead of a pricey iPhone! You can go without cable, new clothes, fancy cars!  Shaun asked people to raise their hands of they had decided that Jesus is all that they need and they could take on sponsorship of a child.  As hands went up, I dashed around the crowd with my fellow advocates and handed packets out. Not one person asked to look through the stack of children, they just took which ever child (or children!) were on top.  Again, goosebumps.

When I took the last few unclaimed packets back to the Compassion tent, I was giddy to see Shaun standing there. It took me a minute to gather my courage, but I finally squeaked out a, “Thank you, Shaun, for everything you are doing to raise awareness for Compassion.”  His trademarked smile was just as brilliant in real life and he was an nice as you would expect. I was able to get a picture taken with him, which really made my night.

shaungrovesYaaay! :D

All in all, it was a truly remarkable day.  I look forward to working  for Compassion at many, many Kingdom Bound festivals to come!