Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Heart contiued

We met our Compassion kids at the Saturday school they attend. This is a school were they go to learn about God and other things. The kids came in and were very shy. We talked to them through our translator. Our translator was actually a Compassion International graduate (more on him later). We met our kids and were able to visit with them for a bit. Then we decided to go visit each of their homes. As we were walking to the car, Kaylee said "I recognize her clothes." I didn't know what she was referring to so I asked her to clarify. Kay then said that she recognized Betelehem's sweater. I passed it off as nothing...

So we made our way to Betelehem's home. Eight of us got into a very small taxi (think mini-cooper size). We drove down several paved and dirt roads and ended up (in the only word I can think to describe it) in a slum. There were "houses" which were really just tin rooms built continuously down a dirt path. There were lots of narrow dirt pathways that had houses on each side. It was like a maze of dirt and tin. There were puddles of stagnant water everywhere. There were dogs walking around. There was trash everywhere. There was a smell that I assume was just garbage.

We walk down a narrow dirt pathway that was probably 4-5 feet wide. We reached Betelehem's home. Her mother came out to greet us. She was a lovely woman who was very quiet. Our translator asked her if we could come in her home. She said yes. I went in. It was one room that was no bigger than 10 foot by 10 foot. In this room alone, they sleep, cook, do laundry, and just be together. Betelehem's father passed away so it is just her, her mother and a little brother. There was not much in this home. There were no beds, no furniture, not anything that we would consider a staple. The floor was just dirt. I stood there amazed at how little they had. I knew that the kids in the Compassion program were poor, but I had no idea what the conditions were really like.

We did bring gifts for Betelehem and her family. Some fun toys, candy and toiletry items as well as beans, rice, sugar. I am so glad that we took these things. Betelehem's face just lit up when we told her these things were for her.

Right before we left, I asked if we could take a group picture. I also took a picture of Betelehem and her mother to send back to them. As we were leaving, I asked if I could give them a hug. It felt so good to hug them and make that physical connection.
Us and Betelehem and her mother. The 2 gentleman in the door are our
guide/translator and the Compassion director for that area.

God is amazing. Here we live a life where we do not have to worry about most things. They live a life where they always have to worry. I pray for our Compassion kids more diligently now. I pray for each one and their families. It is so hard to think about what they go through on a daily basis.

A note on Betelehem's sweater... When we got home from Africa, Kay went to her room and got her bookmark that has Betelehem's picture on it. The day that we met Betelehem she had on the same clothes that she had on in her Compassion picture. This is probably the only set of clothes that she owns.

Next will be our visit to Erymite's home as well as a challenge for you...


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Heart

My heart has changed in the last several years. It really started in the spring of 2007 (funny how you can look back and figure out when things begin). God was really working in my life and in Ryan's. He was working in some pretty sneaky ways.

One of the ways that I can pinpoint was a specific Sunday at our church. Sunnybrook had partnered with Compassion International. The church had a special Sunday were the message was geared towards helping others, towards changing your way of thinking. We went into church not knowing what was about to happen. After the service we walked out and were greeted by 300 faces. These faces were Compassion children who were up on a chain link fence. These children needed help. The children lived lives that none of us could even fathom.

Our family chose to sponsor 2 children, both from Ethiopia. We took our sponsorship packets home, completed the information and were excited about "sponsoring" our new kids. We prayed for our kids and sent them little treats with letters. We felt good about what we had done and didn't expect to ever know what it really meant.

Fast forward to December 2009.

When we went to get Grace, we spent a week in Ethiopia to get her visa. When we were planning the trip, Ryan, the kids, and I both hoped that we could meet our Compassion kids. Ryan contacted Compassion but it didn't look like we would get to meet our kids due to time constraints. Disappointment washed over both of us. Then God stepped in.

Since Grace was over 2, she had to be tested for TB. She was tested and actually tested positive. This meant that she had to have chest x-rays which then meant that we could not go home when planned. We had to stay in Ethiopia an extra 4 days. God works in mysterious ways, yes.

Since we had extra time in Ethiopia we were able to meet our kids. We not only met them, we went to their homes and met their mothers. Did you read that...WENT TO THEIR HOMES AND MET THEIR MOTHERS. Crazy. This thing that we had been doing for a few years, sending $38 to an organization to help a child, had turned into a face to face meeting.

To be continued...

Monday, March 22, 2010

Improvement

Well, we have had some improvement in the "smiling for the camera" department. Grace, until Tuesday of last week, would not smile for the birdie. Anytime I would get out the camera, she would hide her face, run or just not smile. We would have to tickle her or pretend to "get her" to get her to smile.

Then last week, while on our National Lampoon's Oklahoma vacation at the USS Batfish to be exact, she decided to flashy me that toothy grin. Ever since then, she smiles for me when I get the camera out. Of course, she then wants to see "Gracie" in the camera. Glad that this step is done. She is definitely much cuter when she smiles, but aren't we all???
At the USS Batfish, need to tweak it just a bit.

Better!

There we go!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Tea


Today I was making some iced tea and it hit me again. The memories of my Pappy (my grandfather). You see, he died when we were in Rwanda. Actually, he died on the day we met Grace for the first time. Amazing isn't it, how God ushers out one life and brings another life in. Seeing that we had just arrived in Africa there was no way for me to go back for the funeral.

Over the last few months, memories creep in. It usually is something that is specific to my Pappy. Tea for instance. He drank tea every day. Tea and water were the only things he drank. He would have a big old glass and when it was empty he would hold it up in the air and rattle the ice that was left. Anyone around would know that Pappy needed a refill and whoever was around knew that they were to get the refill for our patriarch as he lounged on the sofa.

Another memory that came this week was from the blooming of daffodils. My grandfather was an avid gardner. He grew iris and day lilies from the time before my mom was born. He competed in state competitions and took great pride in his yard. He was always trying to teach me about different plants and the soil that they grow in but unfortunately I have a black thumb. Every time I see an iris I think of him and I always will. Iris season is just around the corner...

The first few weeks even months after coming home with Grace were so full of her and our new family. Trying to learn about her personality, her likes/dislikes. Learning with our big kids about the new lifestyle we had taken on. All of this has kept me busy, kept my mind busy.

Spring is coming, flowers are blooming, our life is now in an easy pattern. Memories are starting to flood. He loved my kids. Kay was his first great-granddaughter. Cannon is named after him. He would have loved Grace's stubbornness (that is definitely a Parrish trait).

Memories of me and my Pappy come and then the fact that I didn't get to say goodbye. I know that he is in Heaven now. He is not in pain. This all makes me happy. But it all seems unfinished to me. I hate that I missed being able to say goodbye. How bittersweet life is sometimes.
Pappy and Cannon in January 2009. He loved this kid!





Saturday, March 20, 2010

Sickness..yuck

Some kind of stomach bug has hit the Smith household. Well, it hit the Smith RV first (remember the National Lampoon's Oklahoma vacation)? You want to know cramped, try taking care of a vomiting little boy in an RV bathroom which is one foot away from the RV couch/bed which is less than 6 inches away from the bunk bedroom of your 2 sleeping girls. Crazy. At least he didn't have to run very far to make it to the porcelain god.

We headed home early from our trip so that Cannon could rest in the comfort of his own home. He recovered nicely. The kids still wanted to go to Camp Mimi B so they headed out on Thursday morning. I sent them not knowing that this was a contagious sickness. Ryan thought he had food poisoning from the glamourous food of hot dogs.

Then after I did the kid swap and headed to lunch, I started to not feel well. I proceeded to not feel well all through Thursday night and into Friday night. Only this morning do I even feel a bit better. I had to even break my lent with a cup of vanilla ice cream from Braum's on Thursday night. Whenever I am sick, ice cream is the only thing that even helps a little bit. It is a curse, I know. Before when I have been sick, I have powered through and not caved into the ice cream. But this time was different. I was so sick.

This morning about 2am, I heard a sweet little voice by the side of my bed. "Mama, my stomach hurts." Great, I thought. Here we go... I sent Kay back to bed hoping that it was all psychosomatic. She is the type that her stomach hurts even if you talk about throw up. An hour later she was back... So we got out the makings of a pallet and the big green bowl. I am sure you all have it, the throw up bowl? Well, ours is the 88 cent variety from Walmart. It is huge and does it's job very well.

Kaylee made it through the night without getting sick. She got up this morning and wanted to go watch some tv. I thought, yeah! she isn't going to get sick. Wrongo.. About 15 minutes later, I hear "mama!" and I knew what was to come. It is mid morning now and she is feeling pretty bad. Poor thing.

There are only 2 innocent souls left who haven't gotten the bug. Ryan and Grace are on standby and we are praying that they do not get sick. It is snowing here, yes it was 75 yesterday. We are supposed to get 12-22 inches of snow over the next 24 hours. That in itself is crazy.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Day 4 ... End came to soon

Well, we had our trip come to a screeching halt this morning. About 2:30am, Cannon came in and wasn't feeling so well. He was sick until around 8:30am. We then started to get around a bit but he still was green and not doing well. We decided to give in and come home.

Half way home, Grace got sick. We think that hers was just car sick (time will tell later this afternoon). Nonetheless, throw up is throw up. I have had it all over my hands and my shoes today. There may have been some gagging going on by me.

Ryan is taking the RV back as we speak. We missed some fun activities today but we will just plan them for our next National Lampoon Oklahoma vacation. It was a lot of fun and we made some great memories!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Day 3 - kid friendly


Grace dressed up as a firefighter

After our wonderful night full of train track dreams, we packed up the old RV and headed to Seminole. The Jasmin Moran Children's Museum is located there. What a morning of child friendly fun! This truly is a great stop complete with a train to ride and castle maze. We spent hours playing here. So much that stop 2 was omitted. The Oil Museum (as in gas crude oil) worker was out to lunch and the kids were tired so we will hit this stop on the next go round.


The kids in the supreme court. Grace is definitely guilty!

From there we went to see Ryan's grandparents who live in Shawnee. The last time we were there, Cannon was 3 months old and Kay was Grace's age. A long time ago... We chit chatted which is always nice and we also got to bottle feed some calves. The little girl cow was 2 weeks old and the little boy cow was 5 weeks old. I have never been that close to a bovine before. We got to love on them and see how cute they really are. The kids weren't real sure about this but Ryan and I loved it. Ryan even let the boy cow, Carlos, suck on his fingers like a pacifier. (gross!)

We have setup camp at lake dirty bird. We cooked hot dogs and smores and have settled in for the night. Ryan is really digging this RV living. The kids are in heaven. Me, I need a bit more space. So we will see what our future holds.


Grace having her first smore. She didn't like that it was so sticky.

Day 2...Natives, Italians and Americans

Day 2 of the National Lampoon OK vacation didn't start very well. We drove from our special RV spot to Ft Gibson, not just the town, but the actual fort. According to their handy dandy website and sign outside the fort, they were to open at 10am on Sundays. 10am came and went and no one was there to let us in. We walked around and looked at some old soldier homes and a mess hall. It was really neat (educational) to peek in the windows and see how men lived back then. These particular soldiers were to help oversee the native americans on the Trail of Tears. We moseyed back over to the entrance to the fort around 10:30 still no one was there to let us in. So we left. We didn't get to see the actual fort or the actual cannon inside. Oh well. Ryan said that we need to write a letter to the OK State Park office...we will see if that gets done.

We then headed to Cannon Road (yes, Cannon Road). This was the road that led to the dam of Ft Gibson lake. The kids tried to learn how to skip rocks and Grace thoroughly enjoyed throwing rocks in the water or at least that is what Ryan told me. I was in the truck reading a book. Too cold and too wet for this mama.
Stop 2 of Day 2 was full of historical education. The Cherokee Heritage Museum is located in Tahlequah, OK. The museum was probably one of the best put together ones that we have seen. Ryan said you can tell the Cherokees have come into some money (aka casino cash). The outdoor Ancient Indian Village and the settlers village were very realistic and really gave you an idea of what life would be like then. Our outdoor guide had on an authentic native american outfit. I pointed this out to Kaylee who said "yeah, but his shorts are from China." He had on a pair of the mesh gym shorts under his deer skin attire. Too funny.
From there we went to see the USS Batfish. A submarine used in the early 1940's. Ryan was in heaven. I thought it smelled funny. The kids were on a side each. Educational, historical and lots of confined spaces. G is working on her posed smile. It is a work in progress. Also, a new word for her is "torpedo."
Day 2 ended with a stop in Krebs at Pete's Place. Krebs is known for their Italian food. Italians came over in the early 1900s to work in the coal mines (didn't know we had coal in OK). Pete got hurt working in the mine so he started selling Choc beer. He thought cheese, olives, and bread went well with beer. And that was the start of this restaurant. It was very good and Ryan enjoyed the leftovers today. Note: good thing about an RV, you can bring your leftovers because there is a fridge.

We setup camp in McAlester by some railroad tracks. Nice Clark, let's pick the fanciest spot for our RV. Don't worry, the hum of the trains rocked us all to sleep.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Day 1 of the National Lampoon's Ok vacation

This morning started with a hint of excitement in the air. The truck was packed and the kids were strapped in. We headed towards Tulsa. Our first stop on the National Lampoon's OK tour was the Tulsa Air and Space Museum. This was a great place (highly recommend it). Old planes, new planes, space shuttle, lots of hands on exhibits. The museum was not to big that you felt overwhelmed but pertinent stuff for both kids and adults.

K & G in some some sort of jet fighter plane

Cannon as an astronaut

The highlight of this trip was something totally not air or space related. They had a magician at the planetarium. For an extra $2,we got to view some mediocre magical entertainment. The guy really wasn't that bad. Both of the kids were asked to be helpers and they got a wand out of the deal so they were happy.

Our second stop was to get our home away from home during our trip. We headed to Claremore to pick up the old RV. It is actually not old but very nice. Lots of storage, no funny smells. Sadly, no pictures of this stop.

Our third stops included a family split. Ryan, Cannon and Grace headed to the JW Davis Arms Museum. This included 50,000 guns that were all one man's collection. Can you say hoarder? Ok, maybe just a little OCD. The boys and the girl enjoyed this stop. Kay and I got to go shopping (thank goodness, I would have been bored out of my mind looking at all of those weapons). Downtown Claremore called our name and we got to go antiquing.

We then headed over for dinner at the Hammett House. This was surprisingly good. Lots of good old southern food on the menu. Their pies have even been featured in Southern Living (at least that is what the sign on the wall said). This place was a total score for the fam. All were happy and since we have an RV, the leftovers are in the fridge!

We are now parked at our spot for the night somewhere near or around Porter, OK. Kids are all tucked in. The girls are in a bunk bed, Can is on the pullout couch and Clark and I are lounging in a full size bed in our own master suite. There is even wi-fi at this here trailer park. Talk about living the good life.

Tomorrow's agenda is still a secret. The hints are something about a fort and outside. Hmmm.


Friday, March 12, 2010

Holiday Road

We are off tomorrow on the 1st ever National Lampoon's Oklahoma vacation. Ryan, I and the kids are taking off and touring the state of Oklahoma. Why you ask? Spring break of course. I put Ryan in charge of a small family trip and this is what he has come up with. He is very creative that way. We are all very excited! Especially when we get to see the largest ball of twine and the biggest belly button lint collection. Approximately 750 miles and 5 days... This trip should provide some lasting memories and lots of laughter. I am praying for no tears, sibling arguing or poopy pull-ups.

If you follow us on twitter or are our friends on facebook, we will be updating often :)


Monday, March 8, 2010

Coming along...


100 days ago

We have been home with Grace for 81 days and had her with us for 100 days. When you look at the numbers it seems like such a short amount of time. However, we feel like she has been with us forever.

She started speech therapy this week. Currently, her vocabulary is 20-30 words (including family names). Now, let me say that not all of the words are crystal clear but she does use words for specific items/places, etc. Just this past week, she has really started to talk alot clearer. She is trying new words and can understand just about everything you say to her. Her comprehension of English is really phenomenal. Now we just need to get her talking more. I know it will come.

Relationally, Grace is doing wonderfully. She is still VERY attached to Papa and prefers him. I did have a few days where I started to get jealous of their attachment. Not that I didn't want her to be attached to Ryan but that she would show me the same love. Mama just wants a little lovin' after all of the hard work I put into her daily life. She does like me and asks for me when I am not around. So that too is coming slowly but surely.

Kaylee and Cannon continue to amaze me. They have been so great with Grace. I really thought that we would see some sibling rivalry by this point, but none to be seen yet. Cannon is in full big brother mode and several times a day we hear "no, no Ya-Ya" come from Grace's lips. Grace calls Cannon "Ya-Ya." At first I thought that he wouldn't like the new name but now that is how he references himself when he is with Grace. Kaylee is our little mother hen. She loves taking care of Grace and always wants to help. "Ya-ye" and "didder" are Kay's new names. She loves them of course.

Grace's favorite things to do are to have a tea party and to play dress up. Every day at some point she has on some random dress up clothes. We gave her Kay's dance recital costumes and she LOVES them! She gets into Cannon's dress up too which is always good for a laugh.

Darth Vader/Football Player/Jazz dancer

Health wise she is also doing better than expected. She did have some issues but almost all have been cleared up. I think that just getting her on a well balance diet and on vitamins really did so much for her little body.

We are so blessed to have Grace in our family. She is affectionally known as "a pistol, stubborn and hard headed." She definitely fits in to the Smith clan. To those of you who feel something stirring in your soul and aren't sure what it is, I ask that you pray about adoption. There are millions (yes, millions) of little Gracies in this world. Some here in America, in Africa, in China, in Russia... every country has orphans. We are all called to take care of these orphans (James 1:27). Just start praying and see what He does. I bet He will amaze you!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Above the fire place

One of my dreams since I was little was to have a family picture above the fire place. I think that it completes a home. I don't know why this has been a "dream" of mine but it has. I love looking at the picture and remembering that day, where we were, and how old the kids were.

Our first family picture, though we didn't have a fire place to hang it above, was taken when Kaylee was 3 months old. She was all squishy and round. She actually smiled for the picture. I remember how nervous I was during the shoot thinking that she wouldn't smile. Kaylee was what we affectionally called a high maintenance child (aka she cried alot).

Our next picture was taken when Kaylee was 3 and Cannon was 8 months. We traveled out of town for this one. It was August and it was hot. We went to the photographer's house up in eastern OK and he had a gorgeous back yard. Cannon was great and smiled for the pictures as did Kaylee. It didn't take long for us to get a good shot which was good since we were all sweating.

Our last picture was taken the summer of 2007. We were visiting Big Cedar Lodge for Ryan's birthday and Father's Day weekend. Kaylee had her front teeth missing. She was in kindergarten. Cannon was a big 3 year old and enjoyed being in the middle of all the flowers. This is the picture that hangs above our fireplace now. I look at it every day. I love it.

Since our last picture was taken, our family has grown by one brown eyed little girl. When we returned home from Rwanda, I knew that we needed a new memory to hang above our fireplace. So today we had the pleasure of having new family pictures made. Margo, one of the best photographers ever, met us for a fun (and windy) photo shoot. Grace wasn't the most cooperative little girl. She really enjoyed hiding her smile and being distracted by Papa's buttons. But all it takes is one good picture, right?

I am excited to see this picture and have the memories of today. I am looking forward to hanging a new picture above our fireplace of our family of 5. Though I can't help but think that something (or someone) is missing.

Monday, March 1, 2010

So...

I purchased some new products to try out on Grace's hair. I used some today, how does she look?

Ha, I just couldn't resist! Actually, that is part of Cannon's attire for school tomorrow. March 2nd is Dr. Seuss' birthday (or something like that) and his class is dressing up like their favorite Dr. Seuss characters. Cannon is going as Thing 2 or as we like to call him "Chocolate Thunder." Pics of Mr. C to follow.