Friday, September 30, 2011

Dare to Dream

It probably comes as no surprise that I often catch myself thinking about what it would be like to meet our Compassion International children face to face.

We love all of our children around the world deeply and they are regularly in our thoughts, our conversations and our prayers. But, out of our ten children, it is with our first sponsored child that we share the strongest bond. It isn’t that we’re choosing favorites, you see, but through regular letters exchanged between us and the fact that she has been in our family the longest, Precious is ever so precious to us.

I’ve taken her project (GH220) under my wing and have worked hard to find sponsors for children that attend that center. I pray for these little ones by name as well as the project staff.

Months ago, on the Compassion website, I saw that there was a sponsor trip to Ghana planned for June 2012. You know that feeling when you desire something so badly, you can hardly put stock into dreaming it may actually come to pass? That is how I have felt every time I thought about going to Ghana.

I have prayed about it. I know that many of my friends have prayed on my behalf, too. But, to be honest, when a flicker of hope would flash in my heart, I would find myself snuffing it out. I lacked faith ~ not faith that God *could* do it, but faith that He would.

As a family that gets by on a single, modest income, the biggest hurdle to landing on African soil is financial. God provides for our needs, but money doesn’t just rain down to give us our every desire.

Yesterday, I received an email with the subject that said, “Precious Would Love To Meet You.”

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Hope flickered again in my heart. Then, I quickly doused it.

Yet, there was a nagging thought. A conversation that came up when I was in Colorado wandered to the experience of visiting the field. I admitted that I had never been to visit a Compassion project but how I prayed about it often, that God would open a door and allow it to happen. The person I was talking to told me I should contact some people at Compassion and see what might happen. I jotted down the info I was given but never acted on it.

After receiving the email yesterday, I couldn’t escape the feeling that I needed to shake off the doubt. The song “I Dare You To Move” randomly came to mind and played through my head. This afternoon, I took a deep breath, took a leap of faith and sent out an email.

With one click of the “send” button, I shook off the shroud of impossibility. I cast away the shadow of doubt and opened myself to the thought that it may actually be a possibility. Who knows if anything will pan out with the contact I was given? But I have taken a step of faith.

God may open the door for me to plant my feet on African soil, to wrap my arms around our sweet, precious Ghanaian girl. After all, He is a mighty God!

From here on out, I will be open to the possibility. I will dare to dream. I’ll be praying for those doors to be opened and for the hurdles to be swept away.

Even more than that, I have penciled the trip onto my calendar and plan to pick up the paperwork needed to secure a Passport. After all, a dream is just a dream until you put actions behind it, right?

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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Thursday’s This & That

Around the house… there is the cozy feeling that comes with everyone being inside on a cool and rainy Autumn day.  Jay is working on drawings for his upcoming job and the girls are laying low after a few days of having friends over.

Outside… Autumn’s beauty can be seen even though it has been raining off and on for a few days.

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I am thankful for… a prospect of a job that should get us through the Winter months.  Since Jay has gone back to being self employed, we were really hoping that he would be able to sign a job that would last through the winter, which is usually slow for carpenter-contractors.

I’m also thankful for recent events that have brought our family closer to God.  Like most people do, we find ourselves drifting from time to time.  Our faith remains, but sometimes we aren’t as active as we should be in pursuing time on the Word or in prayer.  “Stuff” gets in the way. It is always refreshing to be reminded that we need to turn to Him.

Some highlights of the week… A local paper printed a story that I shared about our sweet Precious in Ghana and how she has forever changed our perspective.  You may have seen the Precious Perspective post that Compassion International posted on their blog. The paper’s story was similar but had a bit more information on what CI does.

IMG_8458 I’ve been contacted by a few people who read the story and I pray that the message reaches those with an open heart.  (If you’re here after seeing my story in the Pennysaver, I would love to hear from you!  Feel free to leave a comment below or connect with me on Facebook or through email!)

Another highlight to the week was serving together with my family, cleaning and organizing a little shop run by my church.  People donate items and they are offered for free for those in need.  Those who can pay are free to pay whatever they can for the items they take.  My husband has been blessed with a knack for organization, so he really helped the project along.  The girls were also eager to clean and organize.  It really was wonderful  to work together as a family and help as we could.

Overall, it has been a week for learning and growing.  I am most thankful for the lessons we are being taught. 

How has your week been?

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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

He is in Control

This past week and a half has been full of wonder for my husband and I. More times that I can count, we’ve seen some sort of common theme run through our day or have had one “coincidence” or another lead to the blessing of a wonderfully orchestrated opportunity.

One example, in the last week or two, the topic of alcohol has come up a number of times. Maybe we are sensitive to this more than others because of my husband’s past history and the fact that he struggled with alcoholism. So, as we’ve dealt with neighbors’ drunken hooting and hollering and have noticed more and more people that we know drinking with increased frequency, it has been a topic of quite a few of our conversations. We’ve been concerned about those that we’re seeing take this path, but we had also fallen into a somewhat judgmental and condescending attitude about it.

On Sunday afternoon, my husband had to run an errand and he suddenly felt directed to go to an AA meeting. Not because he had any desire to drink himself, but because of the recurring theme of our week and the fact that he felt like he could use a bit of perspective and maybe a change in attitude. It “just so happened” that he was in the right place at the right time that evening, and he was right on time for a Sunday evening meeting he had gone to many times before. In fact, it was at that particular meeting several years ago that he befriended the man who ended up bringing him to the Lord.

The topic called that evening was “coincidentally” about attitude.

During the course of the evening, Jay reconnected with many old friends from the rooms and also met some new ones. During a conversation with a new member, Jay happened to find out about a nearby rehab that needed someone to come and speak. Jay had been really wanting to get back into some sort of outreach ministry. Given his past story, he has a great testimony for those who have had issues with addiction.

We sit back and marvel at a series of events that led to our change in perspective and Jay’s opportunity to reach out and possibly make a difference to those who are struggling with alcohol issues.

Amazingly enough, this example is just one out of probably a half dozen different circumstances where we have seen or felt God’s presence and direction in our lives in the recent week or two. In fact, last night, we received a random phone call from an old friend that we had been talking about more and more this last week. I’ve been feeling led to pray for this friend who I missed so much. When he called last night, as Jay and I were in the kitchen talking, I could only laugh and shake my head at yet another “coincidence”.

Another instance that Jay and I laughed about ~ I was involved in a discussion online and was about to post a reply that was fueled by emotion and worded in a stronger way than was necessary. All of a sudden, Google Chrome totally crashed. It has never done that on this computer. Chrome remained down long enough for me to take a breath, rethink my need to respond and walk away.

As I sit back and think through the events of the last week, I know that God is making himself known for a reason. We are having very hard times with my step-daughter Nico. We haven’t seen her in nearly two months and we can’t seem to connect by phone, yet we know that she is taking a path that concerns us. It would be easy to let this consume my thoughts and wreck my emotions as it has in the past. Watching friends and family teeter on slippery slopes and drift from their path with God is difficult. Yet, when I start to feel anxiety and panic creep in, there is this message.

Don’t you see My hand in your life? I am here. I am in control. I know the beginning from the end. Fear not for I am with you.”

The tension is replaced with the peace that passes all understanding. I am reminded that my part in this is to hide God’s word in my heart, to pray and to be obedient.

He will take care of the rest.

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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sunday Praises!

Now, normally, I visit Youtube on Sunday mornings to pick a video to share.  I didn’t do so this morning because I was struggling with some neighbor issues that carried over from last night.

Truthfully, I was very frustrated with some inconsiderate behavior that has affected our family’s ability to enjoy quiet evenings and restful slumber.  I allowed my annoyance to grow and grow to a point where it was really just about all I could focus on.

Then, we went to church.  Just like on so many Sundays before, the words spoken by my Pastor were like direct arrows to my heart.  Wisdom, peace and direction came my way and I hope to utilize some suggestions the next time we are kept awake by blaring music, drunken whooping and firecrackers.

My praises today are for the way that Sunday morning teachings always seem to set me straight and direct my path. I am so thankful for my church and my church-family.

I also want to praise the amazing way the sponsors from Compassion International project GH220 in Ghana have come together to provide a financial gift for that Child Development Center.

I am amazed at the $250 that was raised!  What a wonderful gift for this project that does such a great job!  I plan to call in the gift tomorrow afternoon, so this is a last call for anyone else that would like to pitch in!  Clicking the widget takes you to a secure payment site that accepts credit/debit cards and Paypal.

My thanks to everyone who donated so far!  What a blessing!

Happy Sunday!  I’ll see you tomorrow for another Mail Call Monday post!

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Saturday, September 24, 2011

Too Good To Wait!

I thought I might hold on to this until my Monday Mail Call post, but I just can’t do it.

In June, a sweet young lady named Mary-Catherine went to Ghana. (You can read about her trip on her blog GhanaBound.) I had met Mary-Catherine through social networking and I asked if she might have room in her luggage for a small bag of gifts for Precious.  She did and I was able to fill a gallon sized ziplock bag with some things.

I wanted to send a small purse, but after looking through the stores, I decided to make one for Precious instead.  I found colorful fabric on super-sale and dragged out the sewing machine for the first time in quite a while.

I was pleased with how it turned out, lined with purple fabric and even an inner pocket for small items.

For Precious, I also picked out a cross necklace and earring set, a yellow handkerchief (because yellow is her very favorite color), a small ball, a kaleidoscope, a box of crayons, pencils, a few sharpeners, a toothbrush and a kitty beanie baby.

For her two sisters I sent small stuffed bears, angel necklaces and a toothbrush. For brother, a small stuffed bear, some matchbox cars and a toothbrush.

Yesterday, this wonderful picture came in the mail.

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While the exposure of the photo is a bit off, we can see how excited the kids were with their gifts. We even get to see the newest addition to the family, a baby sister born this spring.  Best, of all, the look on Precious’ face. 

In the two years that we have sponsored Precious, we have been blessed with many extra photographs of her. (Some projects don’t have regular access to a camera, but it is obvious that GH220 does!)  Through the years, we have watched Precious grow physically, but we have also seen a growing of her confidence.

I picked Precious out of the sea of children on the Compassion website, because of the scared and shy look on her face. The first few pictures we received had the same sort of look.  Face turned down with shy eyes looking up at the camera.

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Then, last year, we started noticing a change.  Her head was held higher, her gaze into the camera was more direct.

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Yesterday’s photo revealed the most confident and happy Precious we’ve seen.

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I teared up in the driveway, walking back from the mailbox. You know, we don’t do any of this because of what we get. We feel that the Lord is leading us to think outside of ourselves, to do what we can for others, to give without the expectation of receiving anything from it.  But, the bottom line is that I do receive feelings of overwhelming happiness and joy from the connection that our family has with these children.

Getting this photo seriously made my day!

As we kick off the first weekend of Autumn, I hope that you find joy, peace and blessings with your family! Enjoy!

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Friday, September 23, 2011

Links I Love!

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It has been a while since I have shared some links with all of you.

Topping the list of favorite posts from the recent week, was this gem from JD of Compassion Can.  Go Ahead and Assume I am 100 Years Old  Isn’t that something?

I also wanted to share, once again, a link to the OurCompassion website.  I firmly believe that the OC community is just wonderful and being an active member will inspire you in your sponsor-child relationships. Be sure to go to “Community” and check out the “Journals” where the discussions happen! Post an introduction, too, so we can say hello!

For five minutes of creative fun, my girls loved the Draw a Stickman link.

This little guy named Stephen is such a charmer.  I have watched his video a half dozen times at least.

Lastly, this video which had me in tears.

Grace Finds Hope from Compassion International on Vimeo.

What links did you really like this week?  Please share!

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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Fun With Photos!

If you are a Compassion International sponsor, by now you have probably heard all about the wonderful new features that were recently added to the online letter writing tools.

We now have the ability to log into our CI account and when we click the link to write to our sponsored child, we have the option to chose from an assortment of neat stationary. Even better, we can also upload and send photos!

This is how the letters look after they are printed at the Global Ministry Center in Colorado!

In the past, the average sponsor usually sent just a couple of pictures to their child each year, if any at all. In this day and age, people just aren’t getting pictures developed like we used to. While I tried to send photos a couple of times a year, as our Compassion family grew to ten children, letters with photos included were becoming less and less.

The new letter writing feature opens up the door to so many opportunities!

You could take a picture of your family members holding a picture of your sponsored child. This could help your child to understand that they are considered a part of the family. Also, showing that their photo is in a special frame might make them to feel extra special.

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I like to use the free Picnik site to add text and designs to pictures. You can also use the site to resize, if the image files are larger than the maximum 4MB accepted by the letter writing tool.

Using Picnik, I turned this sunset photo into something a little more special.

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This photo would be a great addition to a letter where you mention the area around your home or where you describe what you think when you see a beautiful sunset!

Many of our children ask about our church, our town and my daughters’ friends. This new letter writing tool makes it easy to, not just talk about those things, but show them as well!

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Compassion children might enjoy seeing a picture taken at your local library.

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Photos of you or your children with friends would give sponsored children a glimpse into your lives.

With the new letter writing feature on the Compassion website, you can really connect with your child in a new way. Remember, though, to be mindful when sending pictures. Steer clear of images that may show immodest dress or may over-accentuate the differences of our homes. (If we ever send pictures from inside our home, I am sure to crop close to the subject. Our home isn’t large by American standards, but I know it may seem like a mansion to our children who live in one room structures.)

Have you used the new tool yet? What sorts of photos did you send to your sponsored child?

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Monday, September 19, 2011

It is Monday! Mail Call!!

Every Monday, I like to share a little from the letters we’ve received from our Compassion International children throughout the week. These letters bring such joy to our family and I have to admit to doing a Happy Dance at the mailbox when I find one of the much-anticipated cream envelopes waiting for me.

Last week, we received three letters.

The first was a form letter from our Precious in Ghana.

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This form letter was created to share information about the Summer break from school. The little tidbits we learn help us to get a better understanding of Precious’ day to day life.

We learn that, while at the project, she reads, writes, draws, prays and plays. At home she goes on errands, plays with friends and cleans bowls. While reading this, I catch myself daydreaming about our lovely girl playing, imagining her playing Ampe with her friends and siblings.

Ampe is a very popular game in some African communities and our family looked it up on YouTube to see how it is played.

At church, we are told, Precious sings, prays, learns God’s Word and dances. My mind drifts to images I have seen of African churches where the praise includes whooping, clapping and celebratory dancing.

Listed under the “Other” column, we learn that Precious also likes to watch TV. I wonder where she watches and also what kind of shows are available in Ghana. In the drawing section on the back, she drew a house with a chair and TV inside and also a larger picture of a television with two people on the screen. She also dre a teee, a book and some sort of fruit.

Next we heard from little Madina in Uganda.

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The letter opens with a greeting and then, “I love you and pray for you.” My heart melts. In the letter, we are told many things about Madina, including the fact that she likes to share and play with friends. She enjoys school. She also shares a long list of community helpers and tells us that she might like to grow up to be a medical worker that treats children and old people. Madina also shares that she likes going to the project center and she learns Bible stories, prays, worships and memorizes verses. At church, she likes to sing in the choir.

A letter from Mkapa in Tanzania also came for us this week.

mkapaface “I love you so much and I greet you in the name of Jesus.” Cue the lump in my throat. Makapa told us that he and his family really enjoyed the letter I wrote about hummingbirds this spring. I sent along a coloring sheet of a hummingbird hovering near a flower and he “liked it so much”. While the letter was short, the first sentence was so sweet that he could have just written that and I would have been happy. What a sweet boy!

Did you hear from any of your sponsored children recently? If so, I would love it if you would join our Mail Call Link-Up! You can share your recent Mail Call blog posts by clicking the button below. (Remember to put the blog post title in the “Name” box when you do!) Or you can tell us about it in the comment section below!

(Also, be sure to check out today’s post on the Compassion blog! Then share it with your friends!)


Share the Mail Call Link Up on your blog! get the InLinkz code

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sunday Praise

This video is an old favorite by now.  Shaun Groves performed this song in a hotel bathroom while on a blogger trip to Guatemala. Now, I listen to this song daily as I get my Third World Symphony fix. The album has been a soundtrack to some much-needed healing in my life.

I am so blessed to share that $200 has already been raised for a Project Gift for GH220.  (The ChipIn widget takes a little time to catch up.) This Compassion International child development center hosts our Precious and over a dozen other children that have been sponsored by my friends and faithful blog readers.  One day, one day, I pray that I’ll be able to step foot in that project and meet the sweet children with faces that I recognize.

If you would like to pitch in a little toward the project gift, the Chip In widget below will take you to a fully secure donation site that will accept Paypal and credit card payments. Thank you to those that have already given!

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Saturday, September 17, 2011

Calling all “Precious Connection” Sponsors

In the past, a number of my wonderful friends and blog readers have gathered together to sponsor children from Compassion International project GH220. Sweet children like Cephus, Florence, George, Kenneth and Emmanuella have all been sponsored. Hannah, Evelyn, Agartha, Emammuel, Prince and Priscilla have been given the news that they were chosen.

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Bisease Wesley Methodist Child Development center is a wonderful center. They are dedicated to writing letters and sending photos to the sponsors. It came to mind that I would love to send a Project Gift to this center. Compassion has a minimum set on the Project Gifts of $100. We’re not in a position to do this on our own, so I am asking if anyone else would want to pitch in a little to send a gift.

If anyone is willing to donate a little, this ChipIn widget takes you to a secure donation site that allows you to send Paypal or donate by credit card.

We can work together to bless this wonderful project!

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Friday, September 16, 2011

Red “Letter” Day!

I have been waiting for this day for quite a while!

Compassion International is breaking out their new and improved Letter Writing Tool on their website!

With this amazing new tool, U.S. sponsors will be able to choose from 36 different colorful letter templates.

We will also now have the ability to upload up to three photos and attach them to our letters!

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Here is one of the letters I created while I was taking part in the testing of this new tool.  As you can see, we can add two photos that are in landscape format (horizontal) and one in portrait (vertical).

As we were shown on the OurCompassion website a week or so ago, these letters are going to be printed in high-color at the GMC in Colorado.

I just love this new feature and hope that it inspires many sponsors to sit down and write to their sponsored children! In coming posts, I will be sharing ideas for letter writing topics and interesting photos to include in letters.

If you would like to try out this new tool, simply log in to your account on the Compassion International website and click the Write My Child link!

I would love to hear what you think about Compassion’s all-new Letter Writing Tool!

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Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Glimpse of Ghana ~ Part Two

Have I mentioned how much I love OurCompassion?

Another member of the site shared this video tour of the GH232 Child Development Center.

Video Tour of Compassion Project in Ghana from Compassion International on Vimeo.

There are also still many children available for sponsorship from this project, with many of them having video introductions on their Compassion pages.

I am thoroughly enjoying this new video initiative and I will be sure to share any others that are found!

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Glimpse of Ghana

Some of you may know, my heart is in Ghana.  In addition to the adorable video introductions for some of the children in Ghana’s GH232 project, a member of  OurCompassion also pointed out this great video of the GH231 Child Development Center.

Compassion Child Development Center GH231 from Compassion International on Vimeo.

I do hope that one day I will be able to travel to Ghana to visit our sweet Precious and her family. I am praying that a door opens up before the June 2012 Compassion trip.  But, in the meantime, this video helps us to get a mental picture of what Precious’ project may be like.

If you’d like to sponsor a child from this project, Little Abena is available!

What do you think of the new videos that Compassion has been putting on their website?  I think that are wonderful and really help us to create a connection with the children and the project!

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Mail Call!

(Whoops!  I typed this post up yesterday morning and forgot to publish it!  Usually it is Mail Call Monday, but hopefully this is better late than never!)

Every time I make the trek to our mailbox, I wonder if we will be blessed to find a letter from one of our Compassion International children.  Those letters bring us such joy, a connection with each beautiful child in our family.

This past week brought a letter from our sweet Bertille from Burkina Faso.  Thanks to the HeART for Compassion watercolor paintings I created in April, I was able to send out financial gifts to several of our children.

We found out that Bertille bought a new dress and pair of shoes with the gift we sent to her.

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Isn’t she so beautiful? While I am happy when our children buy things like food, mattresses and livestock, I am also so blessed when they buy something that helps them feel special and fancy. 

Have you heard from your Compassion International sponsor child recently? I would love to hear about your letters!  Please feel free to share in a comment, or if you’ve published a blog post with your letters, you can link up below!  (Remember to write the name of the blog post in the “Name” box!)

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Saturday, September 10, 2011

Saturday Snapshots

Well it has been a fun and busy week!

We had our first homeschool co-op meeting of the school year and we spent some time walking and looking for animal tracks

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Thanks to the recent rains, we found many tracks in the mud.

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We went back to our church and the kids worked on Nature Journal entries.

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We also learned about local wildlife.

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At home, we witnessed our last Monarch emerging from its chrysalis.

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After a rainy and dreary Wednesday, we were awestruck by an unusually brilliant sunset.

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Thursday wasn’t rainy, but a walk through the woods provided evidence that we’d had plenty of rain.  There were thousands of mushrooms of every shape and size poking up through the decaying leaves.

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On Friday, we had out annual Not-Back-To-School picnic.  We are blessed to have a wonderful homeschooling community in our small town and we all had a wonderful time.

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The children enjoyed running around and blowing that “unsocialized” myth right out of the water.

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Our week, in a nutshell, was great.  I have been feeling better by the day and everyone has enjoyed getting into the Autumn routine.

How was your week?

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