Saturday, May 31, 2014

The second seven days.

Keeping up with the #100happydays posts! I write the paragraphs as each day happens.

May 25: Today is Eduardo's birthday! He will get another mention in my Compassion Joys post at the end of the month. We got Eduardo as a correspondence child in late January, and are still waiting on a letter from him. He will, however, be getting a special (slightly late) birthday gift from us. Kim over at Three Little Larks is currently in Honduras (she got there yesterday) and she took a bag for Eduardo for us! We sent him a Spanish Bible, some candy and gum, a pocket knife with a verse on it, some pens and pencils, a small notebook, and a leather cord necklace. I hope he likes everything! Thinking about Eduardo getting his present makes me happy.

May 26: I found a bunch of paperback books at the used bookstore to send to my kids! Everything was 20% off for Memorial Day, and I had a little bit left on a gift card, so I only ended up paying like a dollar in cash. I got some Spanish easy readers for Julian, Sandier, and Michel, two books for my knowledge-seeker Victor (one on important African-American scientists, and one on the US Presidents and their pets), plus a Batman activity book for Caleb and a Swahili alphabet picture book for me !

May 27: Bible study was really, really good tonight. There were just four of us, and it was nice to sit closer together and talk. I really enjoyed it. Also, on a more superficial note, I got my hair cut on this day, and I always have them wash my hair because it's very relaxing. I can't afford to get a massage at a spa, but I can afford the extra $3 to get my hair washed by someone else (I only get my hair cut every 12-18 months, so it's not like I'm getting it done all the time!) Is that weird? Probably. But it really is relaxing!

May 28: Today was Tasya's birthday! As my first sponsor child, she holds a very special place in my heart. I hope she had a wonderful day. When she was a little younger, I always got lots of letters from her starting in January telling me that her birthday was coming up soon. It was so cute! I haven't heard quite as much from her since we had those letter writing changes- her center seemed really affected since they are in such a remote area- but I hope she writes soon telling me about her birthday.

May 29: Today I got the chance to talk about some really great causes with several random people! I went to the dentist this morning (and saw a duck outside, exciting) and had the friendly, familiar hygienist that I like. She commented on my purse, which is a really cute tote bag from Freeset. They empower women who were once forced to work in the sex industry in India. Now they make bags and bracelets to support their families. Parts of the bags (like the handles and some of the decorations) are made from old saris! I got a new Freeset tote this week, and lots of people have commented on it- giving me the chance to tell them about Freeset! Then when I went to the Dollar Tree to look for something, I picked up a bunch of birthday cards for my kids. I apologized to the sales girl because it's got to be annoying to scan so many of those things, and explained that I have lots of sponsor kids. She asked what organization they're with, and she told me that her family sponsors a child in Thailand! So cool! Talking about things I love made me happy. And so did the duck outside the dentist's office.

May 30: I had the day off today! I didn't have to do anything, but even though I did a lot of nothing, I feel like I still accomplished stuff. If someone says I wasted my day, I can say "I folded clothes, washed towels, did the dishes, cleaned out my car, and updated my car registration. And vacuumed." Accomplishing things makes me happy, because there are some days when my pain levels or my stomach cause problems and I can't get much done!

May 31: I feel like today was a hard day. I felt like crying part of the time, for no reason. People got on my nerves. Etc, etc. I'm having a hard time thinking of something happy, and I'm sorry about that. Um, I guess I can say that I'm happy that I got to have a cookie with lunch today, because I have been wanting a cookie lately. And I wish I had another one....or several.

Well, that ended on a happy note, did it not? Even if some days are a struggle, it's important to count your blessings and name your gifts. Hopefully next week's post will start AND end happily. : )

Friday, May 30, 2014

Compassion Joys: May

There have been so many blessings to name for the month of May! I'm linking up with Jill at Compassion Family- click the link below to check out her blog, and other posts from sponsors who have Compassion Joys to share!

 Compassion Family


This month we received quite a few letters, including first letters from Kevenel in Haiti and Caleb in Uganda, plus letters from Elisha, Bonifas, Said, Mishel, and progress reports from all three Tanzanian boys!


This month, Tasya turned 12, Eduardo turned 16, and Bonifas turned 9! It was a busy month for birthdays!




New Kids!

We got THREE new correspondence kids this month! Little Anahi in Honduras showed up on my account just in time for my birthday, and about a week later there was a request for many, many correspondents for a large group of kids in Colombia! We wound up with Julian and Michel there! And, as an extra treat, Julian attends the same center as children that my mom and Hannah received from the same batch of kids as well!




New Sponsors!

My friend Ashley has asked a few times about becoming a correspondence sponsor, and this month, she made the call! She and her family now have a 7 year old boy in Haiti named Shelot, who is just a little bit older than Anell! I'm really excited for them, and hope that they hear from Shelot soon! : )


It seems that I've had many opportunities to share about Compassion over the past several weeks, with sales people and library patrons and even people at the dentist's office. I'm not usually super outspoken about talking about Compassion on the fly like that, but I'm really thankful that I had the opportunity to share with these people. Maybe seeds have been planted and someday they might become sponsors or support Compassion's other initiatives, like the CSP program!

Fun Gifts!

I've just got to share that I have found quite the haul throughout this month, and have picked up a TON of stuff to send to my kiddos at excellent prices! Here are some of the highlights:

  • Spanish books (a non-fiction book about the planets, and some easy reader storybooks)
  • Activity books with stickers
  • Educational activity books 
  • Early elementary-level writing paper, for practicing letters and numbers
  • Drawing pads
  • Teacher packs of princess stickers
  • Cartoon character sticker pads (Minnie and Dora, and the Dora ones have some Spanish!) 
  • Great deals on folders
  • Cardboard stencils (we can't send plastic ones, but I found some cardboard Lisa Frank stencils in the party aisle at the Dollar Tree!) 
  • Tons of cute birthday cards (nice leftover cards from popular companies) and a graduation card for Carlos, who is graduating in November

Monday, May 26, 2014

Sweet Greetings from Uganda

Mail Call Monday once again! I know I won't be getting any mail today (it's a holiday) so it's safe to do an early post!

Last week, shortly after my last Mail Call post, I got another letter from Caleb in Uganda! It made me happy because I got it after I finished up at the dentist. I came inside to take a nap, stayed awake long enough to read the letter, and promptly fell asleep. : )

Caleb's letter was an "about me" form letter, which is awesome! It's a rare treat for correspondents to get these intro letters. Caleb's was full of lots of helpful information. His mom is 44  (I had trouble reading her name) and his dad is 56- older than my dad! And his name is Edgar Johnson, which is not what I would expect in Uganda! He also has a 4 year old brother and a 17 year old sister. Their names were hard to read, too, but it's AWESOME to know the genders and names of Caleb's siblings. It can take sooooo long to find that out through exchange of letters with some kids! Caleb's best friend's name is John Mark, and his favorite subject is Social Studies. His favorite color is blue (I approve), he likes football, and his favorite Bible story is the creation story. The letter asked Caleb if he could visit anywhere in the world, where would he go and why. He said the airport, because he wants to see the people who work there! In the free writing section of the letter, Caleb shared that he really loves spending time with his friends John Mark, Emmanuel, and Joseph, and he likes going to Sunday School. He also said "I am so happy that you chose me to be part of your family," which just melted my heart. I love this kid! Two letters from him and I just think he's awesome. Caleb has a birthday coming up in August, so I am putting together an airport themed coloring book for him! : )

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The first seven days.

I've been having trouble finding little joyful things in life lately.  I don't think I'm really having a depression episode, there have just been so many tiny, stressful things worming their way through my brain and heart. I've been looking for a way to do better about counting my blessings (the "1000 gifts" app didn't really work out for me), and I do ok with keeping up with blogging projects. Shelley over at Unforced Rhythms of Grace posted recently about finding happy little things every day for 100 days, and being sure to share about them. Since I saw her post, I've been seeing the hashtag #100happydays pop up in other places, but I'm still crediting Shelley for giving me the idea to participate, since I heard about it first from her!
I think it would be challenging to try to do an individual post each day, so instead I'm going to do a weekly post. That way there will only be a few entries to read (and write) rather than a hundred. I'm starting at the beginning of the week, Sunday.

May 18: Got a new cell phone. I really didn't want to count this because of all the drama I had to go through to get it (facebook friends may have noticed my mini-rants recently about how my 7 month phone just completely gave up on me over the weekend), but I really am happy about it. We were able to work out something affordable, I got an iPhone (which is kind of exciting in itself), and going to get my phone meant I got to spend some unexpected time with my mom this weekend. That's always a bonus!

May 19: After a crazy night at work, I got a message from Hannah sharing some photos of her little boy with me. I decided to send him one of my stuffed animals from a favorite movie, Ratatouille, because she had mentioned recently that he really liked it. I love my rats and hunted all over Disney World two years ago, and this plush Remy is the only thing I found- and then I just put it on my dresser and left it for two years! Little Juanito really likes Remy, though, and seeing happy pictures of him with his new friend definitely made me smile!

May 20: I usually work Tuesdays, but this Tuesday I was off. I do have to make up that time later in the week, but it was nice to have a day where I basically just sat watching Netflix and writing response letters to my kids. So on this day, my little break in routine made me happy.

May 21: Some of my favorite patrons, whom I haven't seen in a long time, came in to the library on this night. One was a family that I really enjoy talking to (particularly their teenaged son, who is always excited to see me so we can talk about Star Wars) and another was a really sweet patron whom we haven't seen in about six months because she had a traumatic leg injury around the holidays. Chatting with them really brightened my night- and it was really good to know they were all doing ok!

May 22: My mom brought me peanut butter M&M's at work. I can't say this was a good day. A lot of random, frustrating things happened, but seeing my mom and getting a treat helped to cheer me up. Then when a really big, frustrating thing happened after I got home from work, I ate my peanut butter M&M's and felt a little better.

May 23: We saw ducks behind the library when we got off work! I know they're just ducks, but I wish I could have taken a picture. There was a car coming, though, and I couldn't stand in the road to take a picture of the ducks making their way toward the woods behind the library. I don't know why, but ducks make me happy!

May 24: We spent the day at the farm! Brandon's grandparents have a farm a little over an hour away from where we live in Louisville. His parents and one of his brothers were staying down there all weekend (Mamaw and Papaw Jones moved to Louisville full-time a few years ago when Papaw's health got worse.) We picked up another brother, Stephen, and headed down to join them for the day. I go to sit out in the sun for a long time, watched most of a movie, hung out inside the house for a little while, went for a long and sunny walk, and then went out for pizza in what used to be an old jail house (they preserved the hole below the gallows- or is that the actual gallows?- and put plexiglass over it. Very creepy. And you can eat inside a cell. It was a good day. The sunshine and family made me happy.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Just a little bit.

So, the Haiti jewelry fundraiser is over. Actually, I kept the jewelry a few days later than I was supposed to. And then I couldn't afford priority shipping for the leftovers, so it will take a few days longer for them to get back to headquarters to be doled out to the next fund raiser. Anyway. As I was writing the check this morning for the amount that I was sending them (I had to send a certain amount per piece, and I got to keep the rest) I felt myself becoming frustrated. One reason for doing the fundraiser was to raise the money for my next trip by paying off my debt from my trip to Tanzania. It's kind of a lot. More than I've ever spent on anything else, I mean (besides college.) And some days it scares me, even though I'm not being pressured to pay it back and my wonderful and generous benefactor is not charging me interest. But I really, really want to take care of it, because my entire life is essentially defined by debt at this point- student loans are essentially what is keeping us from becoming parents, because we are pretty awesome at managing our money otherwise and we don't use credit cards and stuff. I just want to get rid of it. And I want to be able to go on my next trip. I want to go NOW. I miss Tanzania sooooo badly, but I also want to go to Indonesia and India and Haiti and Kenya and everywhere else my kids live, and wherever the Lord leads.

But there's also a more urgent reason I did the fundraiser. Half of what I raise through any partnership with Apparent Project goes back to the moms and dads in Haiti who made the stuff. Haiti moves me. Haiti made me cry when I heard about the earthquake. It made me confused when I learned that people are still living in tents, years afterward. It made me love when Ashley and Scott brought Anell home, that wonderful day at the airport. I love Haiti. I care about what happens there. And my heart breaks for the moms and dads who can't feed their kids. My eyes well when I see a new baby at Children of the Promise, brought in by a relative who can't do enough to keep them alive. I want to help, and the Apparent Project fundraisers give me a chance to do that without putting any additional strain on my wallet- instead of giving my own money, I'm sharing neat things and wonderful stories with others, who are in turn able to help these parents by purchasing these bracelets, earrings, necklaces, and, last year, Christmas ornaments. I help a country I love, and I help others learn a little more about the world.

Writing the check this morning made me sad, because my totals were nowhere near what I wanted them to be. I sold six of the 50 necklaces they sent me. A fairly healthy number of earrings, and maybe 20ish bracelets out of 75. I was ashamed of the amount I was sending, and frustrated with myself for not trying harder to get more of that jewelry sold. Sell it at a discount, do more advertising, pester my facebook friends with even more blog posts and status updates. I felt like a failure.

But there's something more important I need to keep in mind. If I hadn't asked to do the fundraiser, I wouldn't have had the chance to share Apparent Project's mission with my husband's family at Easter. I wouldn't have had the chance to share them with the folks who came and read my blog post about the fundraiser. The $189 that I raised for AP wasn't much to me, maybe because it just feels like a drop in the bucket, compared to both the challenges that the people of Haiti face, and the mountain of debt I'm working to pay off. But the old cliche is true: every little bit helps. The money isn't going to go to one individual, but it will go right back to pay all the artisans who work for Market Haiti (that's the name of the group that AP facilitates in Haiti- they make the stuff, send it to the US, and AP distributes it and makes it available for fundraisers and stuff.) When stuff doesn't sell, they suffer. So we helped. It may not have been much, but it helped.

I can't pass up an opportunity to share more kids who are waiting for sponsors. Since we're on the subject, how about praying for these kids from Haiti who are waiting for sponsors? Is God calling you to expand your world by connecting with a child in another part of the world, and helping him or her rise out of poverty?

Lanndra is 7 years old, and her birthday is March 30. She lives with her mom, and she enjoys playing with dolls. Families in Lanndra's region who are fortunate enough to find some employment usually make an average of $37 per month. 

Ismael is 8 years old and his birthday is November 26. He lives with his mom and dad and he enjoys listening to music and playing group games. Families in Ismael's region who are able to find some employment usually make an average of $19 per month.

Ritchana is 8 years old and her birthday is September 2. She lives with her parents and two siblings, and she enjoys art and playing house. Families in Ritchana's region who are able to find employment usually earn an average of $53 per month. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Outgoing Mail

It's been a while since I've done an Outgoing Mail post! I just finished putting together a packet I've been working on for about a week, and I'm not quite ready to go to sleep yet, so I thought I'd come upstairs to the computer and write about it. : )

For me, there are a wealth of things to write about in the month of May. My city has the Kentucky Derby and the Derby Festival at the beginning of the month. I have my birthday in the middle, which gives me a chance to tell a fun story about when I was little, or tell a bit about my friends (who come over for dinner around my birthday.) There's also Mother's Day. I shared a little bit about each of these things in my most recent letter to the kids! Here's a sample of what I'm sending out this week- some minor tweaks were made here and there, depending on which kid I was writing to. I'll use Tasya's as an example.

Hello Tasya!
I hope you and your family are doing well. My family and I are fine. I am really happy because I got to see my cousin and his family recently. I haven't seen my cousin Chris since my wedding, which was 4 years ago! Chris, his wife, and their two children came up to visit and go to the horse races that I have told you about. They stayed with my grandparents. While they were at the races, my mom and I took care of their daughter Brooklyn. She is so cute! She just turned 1 year old in April. She is a very sweet baby. 

My country has a holiday called Mother's Day, and it is always celebrated on the second Sunday of the month of May. This year, that was my birthday! On that day, we saw Brandon's mother at church, and then we had lunch with my family- my mom and my aunt were both there. Mother's Day is a day to honor our moms, grandmothers, aunts, stepmothers, or other important women in our lives. Tasya, I would love to know your mother's name so I can pray for her. My mom's name is Karen and Brandon's mom is named Denise. 
Brandon and I were able to visit the zoo in my city last week, and it was so much fun! It was very busy that day because many schoolchildren were visiting. I always enjoy seeing the animals. This time I really liked seeing the gorillas. My friend Ashley and her son Anell were able to come meet us at the zoo, and we had a good time together! Anell is making a lot of progress since he came home to live with his mommy and daddy last summer. He is getting big and strong- he is taller and he is very good at running! He is also learning to say more words. I love spending time with him! He is a special boy. 
Tasya, you know I am praying for you every day. Do you have any prayer requests to share with me? I would like to ask you to pray for my mom, as she is working very hard and has a lot of responsibilities at her job. I hope to get another letter from you soon, Tasya! 
Lots of love, 

This letter was kind of on the long side of what I usually send- I noticed that when I typed the letters up (the girls' letters were hand-written and then I decided to switch to typing!) that some of them just about reached the bottom of the page. Usually I have a smidgen more room than that. Anyway, I was able to cover quite a bit of ground pretty easily! I shared about my family and my culture, which the kids all respond really well to. I tried to make a connection to them and their families by asking about their moms' names (which is something I want to know, anyway.) In several of the letters, I asked the kids if their country had a holiday like this. I know that Mishel has written about both Mother's Day and Father's Day in Peru! I was also able to work in a fun story, a follow-up to another letter or letters (an update on Anell) and included a prayer request and a prompt for the kids to share a prayer request with me. Pretty sweet! We also have three new correspondence kiddos (more on them in this month's Compassion Joys post!), so those kids got an introductory letter instead of this one. Two of our new kids are from Colombia, and it was nice to write to them that I have a friend who is originally from there! My friend Daniella is Colombian. I shared the name of her hometown and asked the kids if they knew where it is. In my personal experience, the kids are always excited if you know a little bit about their country or culture. I think in a way, it makes them feel important! And known. Being known is a good feeling.

There are lots of fun and exciting goodies going out with these letters! I've put together a list of what I'm sending out, but I forgot to take pictures! Oops! Maybe next time.

*All the kids are getting a photo of me. My four or five newest correspondence kids don't have a photo of me yet, and the other kids have older photos. I wrote on the back that it would be fun if I got a new photo of them soon, too! I know a few of my kids are due for an update! : )

*Three of them (Anahi, Kevenel and Julian) are getting a birthday card, as they have birthdays in June and July.

*Mary and Victor are getting Jesus Calling devotionals. I have been able to send a different Sarah Young devotional to the both of them in the past, and Mary wrote back that she really liked it and read it when she was struggling. I hope she likes this one just as well! It was called "40 Days with Jesus: Celebrating Peace in His Presence."

*Mishel, Patricia, and Sharifa are getting monogrammed journals that I found at Michael's. They're pretty patterns and sit right at 1/4 inch thick, which is perfect! I wish they had more letters for some of the other girls!

*Tasya, Anahi, Brenda, and Michel are getting butterfly-themed paint with water books, which were on clearance at Michael's for 50 cents each! They are usually only a dollar, which is still a great buy!

*Caleb, Prayer, Bonifas, Elisha, and Jayid are getting dinosaur-themed paint with water books, which were also on clearance

*Said, Bonifas, and Elisha are each getting an envelope of photos from our time together in March. I made sure to print some of the photos I have of the kids by themselves- I thought they would enjoy having them!

*Sandier, Julian, and Kevenel are getting safari-themed sticker books

*Eduardo and Carlos are getting postcards from the last time I visited the aquarium, which have cool jellyfish on them!

I'm going to have to head out looking for more boy gifts sometime soon- and come to think of it, with this last batch of letters, I am running a bit low on girl stuff, too! I found a hidden stack of dollar coloring and activity books at Walmart the other night, but most of what was left was Hello Kitty and Dora the Explorer. I was very pleased to find a Batman one in there, which will be great for Caleb because it has some crossword puzzles and other activities in it, and he writes his letters in English!

Sweet Greetings from Haiti, Uganda and Tanzania

Mail Call Monday makes Mondays a bit more tolerable! : )

This week was pretty awesome, letter-wise! I got three letters, two of which were first letters from some of our newer kids!

The first letter I received this week was from Kevenel in Haiti! This was our first letter from Kevenel.

I received an "about me" from Kevenel, pretty quickly considering we just got him as a correspondent last month! Several other folks who asked for correspondents around the same time also got kids from Kevenel's center, so I'm thinking he might be part of a larger corporate sponsorship, and they got all the "About Me" letters ready to go out right away! It's nice to have this info, even though correspondents don't usually get introductory letters!
Kevenel's letter stated that he has a mom and a dad- in fact, his dad wrote the letter for him! He has a sibling named Dukens who was born in 2003 (I'm guessing that's a brother), and then there was a child named Richelor that has the same birthday as Kevenel- apparently he has a twin! His favorite food is mashed beans and vegetables, and his favorite color is red. He is enjoying learning French in school, and his favorite worship song is "Almighty." Kevenel's favorite Bible story is the story of Joseph, which is one of my favorites as well! His favorite game is soccer, and under "what I like to do most", he said he likes to sweep and water. I'm sure he's very helpful to his parents!

Kevenel is an extra special blessing to me because of his birthday. Kevenel shares a birthday with my dear friend and mentor Betty who passed away shortly after I returned from Tanzania. Betty adored my sponsor kids and loved hearing about all of them and reading their letters. For weeks after she passed away, I checked Compassion's website for girls named Betty, and found several, but although I would have loved to honor her by sponsoring a child who shares her name, I am unable to do so financially. I was so happy and touched when I found Kevenel on my account, who shares Betty's birthday. 

The second letter I received this week was also a first letter, this time from Caleb in Uganda!

Caleb was a surprise anniversary present- he showed up on my account on January 2, which is mine and Brandon's wedding anniversary! It was great to finally get a letter from him! 

Caleb shared that his family is doing fine, and he hopes that my family and I are doing fine, too. At the time he wrote the letter (it was not dated), he said that it was the rainy season and people were busy planting crops like beans, maize, and cassava. Caleb says that his mother helped plant them, too! He was getting ready for exams at the time the letter was written, and he asked for prayers for good grades. He then said he loves me very much and he will continue praying for me and my family. At the end of the letter, Caleb said that he was thankful for the letters I send, and he enjoys reading them "every day!" I'm so glad that I got this letter from Caleb- so often, writing consistently to a child  you haven't heard from yet can feel like you're writing into a void. It made me smile to see that Caleb re-reads my letters! I have heard other sponsors say their kids have told them this, but Caleb is the first sponsor child I've had who ha said something like it! 

The last letter I received was from Said in Tanzania!

Said's letter was written at the end of February, about two weeks before I met him! I am really looking forward to seeing his first letter written after that meeting (and the letters from Bonifas and Elisha, too.) Said's letter was free-form, and he shared that his daily activities are going well and he was able to buy some things like sugar and a school uniform with a small gift we sent last fall. Said's letter wasn't rich with detail, but it was very sweet, as he addressed me as "beloved" about six times. He must have been excited about our impending meeting! 

Said's letter also included a copy of his progress report from Compassion. At the center, he's learning dental hygiene, good behavior, and Bible studies, in addition to carpentry! I saw some of the carpentry classes (and the resulting products) in Tanzania, and those boys do some amazing stuff! I didn't receive a progress report from Said last year, but I did in 2012. I would like to ask you to pray for Said's studies, as he has high aspirations (he wants to be a doctor) but his grades are not so great right now. Since he wrote about a high placement in his class last summer, I am thinking that a few things may have factored into this- like his sister's passing, the time his family takes to plant and harvest crops at his grandmother's farm, and the time he must have missed school when he broke his leg and then had surgery. In my next letter I will send him some encouragement about his schoolwork! I know that he has a lot going on and sometimes it must be a challenge to study outside school! 

I can't wait to read everyone else's Mail Call Monday posts! 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Help my friend get to Rwanda!

Earlier today, one of my favorite authors (Jen Hatmaker) posted about the opportunity to win a trip to Rwanda with her and several other storytellers. The trip is with the International Justice Mission (amazing people) and Noonday Collection (their partner, which is one of those awesome opportunities where you can shop for a good cause.) I didn't feel like this was the right opportunity for me, as much as I desperately want to go back to Africa, but I was sooooo excited when I saw my amazing friend Ashley has entered the contest! If you've hung around this blog long enough, you have heard of Ashley- she is mommy to my little buddy Anell! I'm very happy about this, and I want to recruit everyone I know to vote! Voting ends May 28, and at that point the people holding the contest will be narrowing the field down considerably and going from there. So we have two weeks!

You can vote every day! To vote, go check out Ashley's blog post. She has a link there that will take you to her individual voting page, where you can read her story and words of wisdom, and see the most adorable picture of her and my buddy! I love them so much! I know how supportive many people in this community are of sending folks on missions-minded trips. This is a great opportunity and doesn't cost a thing! : )

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Juggling for Beginners

If you had asked me when I started my sponsorship journey in 2010 if I ever envisioned myself writing to 18 kids, the answer would be "heck no." For one thing, at the time, there was a limit on the number of correspondence kids you could have (three.) For another, I don't think I was confident in my ability to keep up with that many kids. I don't have nearly as many sponsor kids as some other people I know, but to others, even a small-ish number like 6 or 10 might seem a bit out of control! Recently I saw a post on a facebook page for letter writers (sponsors and correspondents) where someone commented something like "how do these people keep up with all these kids?" I thought it might be fun to do a post talking about how I keep myself organized, and offer a few pointers to those who might want to have more kids to write to, but are a little intimidated by it.

It would probably be easy for many people to come up with reasons not to write to so many sponsor kids. Here are a few common concerns I think people have.

The problem: 
If you like to go all out with your letters, sending an entire packet each time you write to your child, then writing to multiple children could definitely get expensive. Stationery, extras like stickers and activity books, and postage all add up pretty quickly. Back when I had 8 sponsor and correspondence kids, a Christmas package with letters, cards, and a small activity book for each child cost almost $10 to mail to Colorado!

The solution: 
There are a few ways to save money while writing to sponsor kids. If you're really strapped for cash, the best thing to do is to send online letters exclusively. The only thing this would cost would be the price of internet connection- and if you don't have a computer or the internet in your home, you can go to your local library. Writing online letters using the letter-writing tool is completely free and easy to do. Compassion takes care of printing the letter for you in Colorado and mailing it from their Global Ministry Center. You can also attach photos to the letters for free- and the kids absolutely adore receiving pictures.

What are some other ways to save money? If you like sending birthday cards to your kids, check out boxed cards. Individual cards are about $0.50 at their cheapest, but you can get a box of a dozen cards for around $4-5. My local Christian bookstore often runs specials where you can get a box of cards for free with each boxed card purchase. They also have get well cards, cards for encouragement, and others that would be great to send. I also buy inexpensive Christmas cards in post-holiday sales and save them for the following year- cards that were already cheap are even cheaper! Compassion has a neat program where we can send Christmas cards to be distributed to the children who don't have sponsors, so I always buy as many Christmas cards as I can!

Sending additional gifts to our children (anything that isn't a letter) is not a requirement, but it sure is lots of fun. If you want to send extras with your letters, don't feel like you have to spend a lot of money. The kids don't care. I love finding deals on items to send to my kids. Keep your eye on clearance sections and "dollar spots"- these are absolute treasure troves. Party stores and party supply aisles in big box chains can also provide some fun things to send, such as small notebooks or coloring books normally used as party favors. If you are a coupon code hunter like I am, it might be worth checking out websites like Oriental Trading when they're offering free shipping. You can buy items in larger quantities (such as dozens and half dozens) for great prices per piece, and have them delivered to your door. They also have a great clearance section! And don't underestimate the value of small things like post cards and photographs. I can select photos to print online and have them ready to pick up from my local pharmacy within minutes- and they always have coupon codes as well. I am the kind of person who definitely doesn't have any extra money to spend on lots of gifts for my kids, but because I'm really careful about my spending and I keep my eyes peeled for great bargains, I am able to send at least something, whether it's simple like a postcard or sticker sheet, or something more elaborate like a journal or activity book, with just about every handwritten letter I send.

Finally, there's the postage issue. Of course, if you're sending extra items, you can't do that through a computer. My recommendation would be to get a hold of some USPS Priority Mail flat-rate envelopes. These are just magical. No matter how much you cram in there, or where you live in the United States, it's just $5.95 to send one. And as a bonus, they're guaranteed to arrive in Colorado in 2 days, they carry $50 in insurance, and they come with free tracking! This is a great price compared to what it would cost me to send the same sized envelope, either first class (which would be slower) or priority (which goes by weight.) You don't even have to go to the post office to pick one up- you can order a quantity of envelopes on-line for free, and just fill them up as you go. Take them to the post office to pay for the postage, and they'll be on their way!

The Problem:

How do we keep track of all these kids? Surely it must be pretty crazy trying to keep track of so many letters, incoming and outgoing. What if someone gets forgotten?

The Solution: 

There really is no one good solution. We all have different systems! I know some folks who write really often, and some who write quarterly. I know of one lady who has many, many more correspondence kids than I ever will, because she wants to do her part to make sure that all the kids receive letters. Some folks do an introduction letter, then just reply to the letters they receive, and maybe write for important holidays and birthdays. Some people have a system- they'll write to all their girls on even numbered months and all their boys on odd numbered months. It can take some tinkering, but eventually you'll find a method that works for you.

Personally, I try to write my kids twice a month with printed or hand-written letters (I do them all at once) and then I respond to any letters I receive with the online letter-writing tool. That way I don't have to worry about remembering what they wrote about by the time I'm ready to write letters again!

There are some other organizational tips I've picked up since I began sponsoring. At first, I kept all my letters from my kids in a box. After a while, I was running out of room in the box, and I had too many kids! Then I tried dividing the letters up by child and putting them in binders. But I had way too many binders. Finally, I've settled on organizing my letters by when they're received. For example, I took all the 2013 letters out of my kids' binders and put them in their own binder. I made tabbed dividers for each child I received letters from that year. Now I just have a few binders, rather than more than a dozen (one for 2010-2011, and one each for the years since then.) I'm also planning on making a binder for my kids' info- just having a little info sheet in there for each of them. Michelle at Blogging from the Boonies posted one she made a while back, and I've found it to be really helpful! Click here to check it out.

One more tip: I keep a master list of all my kids' names and sponsorship numbers in a convenient location for when I'm writing letters. I just made up a word document and typed each name, number, and birthdate. Then I dragged the names around until I had them organized by birthdate- that way, I could easily check the list and see who has an upcoming birthday. When I get a new child, I can just add them into the list, already in order! I keep a printed copy in my clipboard, which is usually where I work on my letters, but I have it saved on my computer so I can bring it up whenever I need to.

The problem:

Time, or lack thereof, to write letters is a concern that every sponsor has at one point. I have many friends who have sponsor children, who make comments like "oh, I haven't written to them in forever. I just don't have the time!" While I don't agree with that statement 100%, there are definitely things that you can do to address this issue.

The solution: 

The first and most obvious solution, like with the issue of money, is to write your letters online. Just for the sake of argument, I set up an online stopwatch and timed myself, from start to finish: I opened a new tab, went to Compassion's website, logged in, clicked "write to my child", chose a child, picked a template, wrote a letter, skipped the photos because I don't have any I want to send right now, and hit send. From start to finish, it took me 4 minutes and 48 seconds. If I wanted to, I could have copied that exact text and sent it to all my other kids, just taking a moment to change the names (and change Victor's letter to "stepmother.") Here's the letter I sent:

Hello Mary!
I hope you and your family are doing well. How are your studies going? I know you are a very good student and always try your hardest. Have you done any music competitions recently? 
I want you to know that my family is doing just fine. Everyone is in good health and we are enjoying the weather here. It is bright and sunny most days. We had a fun weekend a few days ago. In my country, Mother's Day is celebrated on the second Sunday in May. This is a time when we honor mothers and other important women in our lives, like grandmothers and aunts. We went to church that morning, where we gave a gift to Brandon's mom. Then we met my family, plus my aunt, cousin, uncle and grandfather for lunch. My grandmother wasn't able to come with us, because she wasn't feeling well, but later in the day she felt fine. We had a good time spending the morning together. I am very thankful for my mom- she is one of my best friends! And I really love Brandon's mom, too. She has accepted me as her daughter. I know many other countries celebrate mother's day. Does Kenya have a holiday honoring mothers? When does it take place? Mary, I would love to know your mother's name so I can pray for her. My mother's name is Karen, and Brandon's mother's name is Denise. 
I hope I get another letter from you soon, Mary! I always love reading your letters. You know I am praying for you every day. Do you have any prayer requests to share with me? I would like to ask you to pray for my mom, because she has been working very hard and has a lot of responsibilities at her job. 
I love you so much, Mary! I'm glad we're friends!
Lots of love, 

Nothing too complicated, yet very personal and informative. I talked about my family, shared a prayer request, asked questions for Mary to answer, checked in with her and her interests (she loves to sing) and made an attempt to learn more about her life, plus addressed a current event. In less than five minutes! I know people who work full time jobs or have small children who take a lot of time and energy to wrangle. I think that writing letters is one of those things that in your brain, you think "I don't have time for this," but if you really consider it, you do. How many times have you thought "I don't have time to write a letter," but find yourself wasting half an hour or more on facebook? That's one thing I'm really bad about- I'll get on there and wind up spending way more time than I intended. Then I'll see a Buzzfeed quiz and get distracted by that, come back to FB to post my results, and boom, I'm back on facebook, sucked into the vortex for another 20 minutes. It's amazing. We also find ourselves "wasting" time playing games on our phones, binge-watching television programs, and things like that. We have time for things like letter writing- we just don't want to take away time from these other things in our lives. And it's ok. No one says that you need to set aside an hour a week to write a letter. But maybe 4 minutes a month? Just maybe? That way, your child would receive 12 letters a year- much more than many of the other children in their projects. On average, kids will receive fewer than 5 letters from their sponsor each year. A dozen would be like striking gold!

I know many sponsors who write their letters similar to the way I do- I first think of a primary topic (like Mother's Day), and sit down and type up a letter. Then I just change the names and other references for each child. I can get 17 letters together pretty quickly, usually while I'm working on something else. Sometimes, you can leave out a bit of information when writing to a younger child- this makes writing some letters go by a little bit faster. Other times it depends on the specific child you're writing to. Recently I wrote to my kids about our visit to the zoo last week. Many of my kids already know about my friend Ashley and her son Anell, who met us at the zoo. They received letters from me before Anell came home, asking them to pray, and then I sent a letter about the airport party. So in my letter, I told them a little bit about how my buddy is doing- I mentioned that he is getting taller and he is learning more words, little things like that. The youngest kids are fine hearing "My friend Ashley and her son Anell met us at the zoo. Anell is 5 years old. He is so much fun to be around!" And that works well for my newer kids, too, who may not know who Ashley and Anell are. The point is, you can definitely type up a letter and just change the references for each child. It makes things so much simpler. You can also save time by writing to your child when you hear from him or her. If you go ahead and write a letter while it's fresh in your mind, you don't have to go looking for it later on (and you don't get to make the excuse "oh, I'm going to wait until I find that letter so I know for sure what it says.")

I think that these tips work well for any sponsor, whether you have one child or two dozen! Are there any other issues you encounter while writing to multiples? What other pieces of advice could you offer to people who are considering picking up correspondence kids but might be a little intimidated?

Monday, May 12, 2014

Sweet Greetings from Peru

It's Mail Call Monday! I've been away from my house all day, but I'm going to go ahead and post this on the assumption that there is not a letter (or five) waiting in my mailbox for me...if there is, then I'll definitely have something to post next week!

This week I got a letter from Mishel in Peru!

Mishel says that her family is doing very well, and that on her school break, she went to "the farm" with her parents. She helped her mom with chores like cooking and washing dishes, and she also kept up with her school lessons. Mishel asked again what my family was doing for Easter- this letter was from mid-March. Since she has asked about Easter in her last few letters, I have a feeling that she really likes this holiday! I hope my Easter letter was exciting enough for her. : ) I love how Mishel always ends her letters with "I say bye with hugs and kisses." I hope that some day I am able to see Mishel in person!
Mishel and Carlos should be receiving their gifts I sent through another sponsor soon. The Compassion Peru trip ended yesterday, and I'm guessing it will take a few more weeks before the kids receive them. Carlos actually lives in Lima, which is the city where the country office is located. Mishel, on the other hand, lives on the other side of the country! I can't wait to hear from them- and it would be super exciting to see pictures of them wearing some of the things I sent! I know I sent Mishel some headbands with little bows on them, but I can't remember if I ever found a necklace or bracelet for her. I sent Carlos a leather cord necklace with a small medallion on it that had a Bible verse- we found several on clearance at Lifeway last year and snatched them up to send to Carlos, Eduardo, Said, and Junior, my mom's boy in Honduras! 

Saturday, May 10, 2014

If you're bored.

Sometimes I think about the fact that this blog is titled "Me and Mr Jones," and 99% of my posts are not about myself and my husband. Sponsorship is the most important thing in my life right now, and it's definitely the biggest thing I have to talk about, but I do want to keep calling this a personal blog, rather than just an advocacy blog. Personal posts are probably going to be few and far between, though, because there's really not much going on in my personal life! I stay home during the day, work short shifts at the library in the afternoon, and watch movies with my hubs when we're both off work. The end. When we are parents, though, and have more of a life, I'm sure there will be  more to talk about!

So I'm going to try to rejuvenate this blog with more personal posts. And since tomorrow is my 26th birthday, here are 26 things about me.

  1. I have never really liked my birthday. When I was a kid, we celebrated it with my extended family on Derby weekend- early. Then, my birthday is usually really close to Mother's Day weekend (this year, it's on Mother's Day.) When I was little, I kind of felt a little neglected on or around my birthday (and the fact that I didn't have birthday parties like the other kids didn't really help.) Now that I'm older, and still pretty childish at times, I throw my own birthday parties. I just have my friends over for dinner and movies, but it's still important to me. And we always have a lot of fun and I laugh so much that I make myself sick. 
  2. Birthdays still aren't that exciting to me because I thought by this age, I would be a parent. And I haven't finished my degree and I'm still working the same part-time job I've been doing for 9 years. Getting older is frustrating, especially when life is going much differently than you expected. 
  3. If I could have any animal as a pet, it would be a walrus. Second choice would be a red panda. 
  4. I've had pets since I was born, and I'm still not 100% used to living in a house without dogs. We were supposed to have a dog by now, but our yard isn't fenced in, and Brandon comes from a family that believes dogs should stay outside. And I can't live with that. I mean, I will cry during a movie if it shows a dog outside in the rain. If I ever get Brandon to the point where we could have a dog and keep it inside, I would like a big fluffy one. Maybe a chow chow, but they aren't all that cuddly (even though they look like they would be.)
  5. I'd really like to live on a mini farm. Our house is nice, but we both would like to have a bit of land. We want to be able to host family get-togethers at our home. Brandon wants space to play basketball, badminton, and other outdoorsy games, and I'd like a big backyard with room to roam. Maybe a few goats to keep the grass trimmed. And trees. The trees we have now just serve as a barrier between our property and the noisy freeway. Also, we can't really have many people over because there's nowhere to park! Spending time with family is important to both of us, and it's hard to do that at our house. Maybe someday we'll find an affordable place on a quiet street with plenty of room for cars and basketball and stuff. 
  6. I love superheroes. I don't know what it is about them. I love the part about fighting for justice, and it's made extra exciting by superpowers or awesome gadgets and sweet costumes. Sometimes I just get in a mood where I need to watch all my superhero movies. Batman is my favorite. Even if I'm not watching a Batman movie, just seeing some really cool Batman stuff (like a particularly awesome costume, or a piece of Batman jewelry) makes me a little giddy. When I was watching Parks and Recreation on Netflix, I thought the character of Ben was pretty annoying, until he bought himself a Batman costume on "treat yourself" day. It was the best one I'd ever seen, outside the actual movies. And that makes Ben ok in my book. 
  7. So many things about high school were terrible (for everyone, not just me), but there is something special about the euphoric feeling of being out with a friend or two late at night, riding in whatever car you could afford, and listening to some specific songs really loudly on the radio. There are some songs that just sound better at night, you know. Anyway, sometimes when I hear them, I think of how happy I was in some ways, and it makes me a little sad and nostalgic. Life is better now, but sometimes, things were fun back then. 
  8. I didn't learn to drive until I was just about to start college. I went to take my permit test on the day I turned 16, and failed the eye exam. I went and got contacts (with an updated prescription) that afternoon, and even had time to go back for my last few classes at school, but I never made it back over to the testing place until right before high school graduation. And then I waffled about taking the driver's test until that fall. 
  9. I still don't drive on freeways or in unfamiliar areas of town. It makes me nervous. 
  10. Sometimes Brandon teases me about this. Like "if you want to be a mom, you need to learn to drive around town- what if the kid has a doctor's appointment? You can't always get someone to drive you." When I first talked to him about going to Tanzania, he asked "how are you going to do that when you can't drive around the town you've lived in all your life?" I said "well, I won't be driving there, will I?" Ha. 
  11. Since I went to Africa, I think about travel all the time. I want to go back to Tanzania, but I also want to go other places, too. I wish we had the money so I could do it. I'm hoping my next trip will be to India. 
  12. I have a fascination with a few specific countries, and India is one of them. It started when I saw movies like "A Little Princess" and "The Secret Garden." There's something super white about the fact that my first exposure to this glorious country was through novels and films set during colonial times, but that's the way it is. I love the food, the clothing, the colors, the music, the dancing, the holidays, the spiritual aspects (though I don't follow the same religions), the architecture and art. Just love it. 
  13. I also love food. Which opens me up to being picked on because of my weight, but honestly, sometimes I just can't eat because of some health issues I have. Food is fascinating to me. I love reading about it, watching it on TV (in competitions like "Top Chef", not just slow-paced cooking shows), and trying new things. I will try just about anything, except food that used to be a body part. My library system has a few thousand cookbooks (I've searched), and I have read at least 85% of them. Sometimes, if things are slow at work, I'll generate a list of every book with the 641 call number, and check to see if I've missed any, or if there are any new ones that just haven't appeared on feedly yet. My favorite things to make are desserts, because they make people happiest, but my favorite ingredients are onions, mushrooms, cheeses (all kinds), and, recently, cranberries.
  14. Politics are exciting to me, except for the part with all the lying, cheating, and lobbying. I'd like to be a senator if I didn't think my super-powered moral compass wouldn't just explode and I'd wind up having a nervous breakdown. 
  15. I use pinterest a lot. Primarily for planning the rooms of my future children, and staring at food. 
  16. Speaking of my future children, I love toys. I'm glad that I have friends with kids now, because that means I get to buy toys for them. Sometimes, if I'm shopping at Target early in the morning, I just check out the toy aisles my myself. I miss being young enough to play with toys and shop for them without it seeming weird, and I think one of my favorite things about eventually being a parent is playing with my kids. Because I basically am a big kid. 
  17. This year for my birthday, I had to ask for sheets, because mine had a big rip in them. And I got sheets. And I was excited about it. And that's how I know that I am old. 
  18. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night with what I think is a great idea for a freelance article, and I'll even get up and make a few notes so I can work on it the next day. By breakfast, though, I've changed my mind. I don't know if it's because I'm second-guessing myself. Or maybe I realize that whenever I get published (I've written a few pieces that got printed in the paper, usually under a pseudonym) I obsess over online comments. And that's no good. 
  19. Sometimes, when we have a long car ride and Brandon says he doesn't want to listen to the radio (or we're out in the country with no radio signal), I sing, for my own amusement. I know lots of songs, but I usually need accompaniment to remember the words. The songs I know by heart, with no background music, are almost entirely Disney classics, and "Total Eclipse of the Heart." Plus lots of David Bowie. 
  20. The last time I rode a ferris wheel, I pulled a New Testament Bible out of my purse and held onto it with my eyes squeezed shut. 
  21. Speaking of ferris, my first real life celebrity crush was Ferris Bueller. Adorable. Prior to that, as a very, very young child, I kind of wanted to marry Kermit the Frog. 
  22. I admire Jim Henson so much that if we ever adopted an infant, and Brandon gave the OK, I would name a son Henson. At least as a middle name. I mean, when such a large portion of your childhood revolves around one person and his ideas and creations, they can become sort of a hero. 
  23. The only time I've ever touched alcohol is when someone gave a puppy a glass of beer at a picnic, and I took it away from him and poured it out to replace it with water. 
  24. My Barbies used to have Motown concerts when I was a kid. Teacher Barbie played the part of Diana Ross, because she had the prettiest eyes. And I assumed Diana did, too.
  25. If someone brought me a fuzzy duckling right now and asked if I wanted to keep it as a pet, the answer would be an emphatic "YES." Baby ducks are the cutest. Grown up ducks are ok, too.
  26. I'm hoping to get a lot done this year- specifically, pay off my smallest student loan (and my Tanzania loan) and get enough money together to get some furniture in one of our spare bedrooms (hello, IKEA) so we can hopefully start filling out some applications and head toward parenthood. 
Thanks for indulging my weirdness. I hope you at least had a chuckle along the way!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Derby Day

Last Saturday was the Kentucky Derby. I live in Louisville, and it's the thing that everyone knows about us. You think of Kentucky, you think KFC, maybe bourbon, and horses. As a lifelong Louisvillian, I have mixed feelings about the Derby. I'm so used to it, and the Derby Festival, that it's not really that exciting anymore. I can count on one hand the people I know who have actually been to the Derby (I know a few more who have gone to the Oaks, which is the race the day before.) It's fun seeing other people excited about it, and it's nice that the rest of the country pays a little closer attention to us and has nice things to say, rather than the rest of the year when it's all jokes about being barefoot and toothless or whatever.

My dad, my aunt, and my cousin went to the Oaks. My dad made their hats, and my cousin's got featured on the local news' facebook page! I think it's really pretty. 

My family has a few Derby traditions. For as long as I can remember, we've celebrated my birthday with my dad's family on Derby day, since my birthday is just a few days or a week after that (the Derby is held on the first Saturday in May every year.) Mammaw usually grills burgers and I get to pick dessert. This year I asked for Coke cake, because I am now old enough and wise enough to realize that it is a thousand times better than a giant cookie with my name on it from the mall (cookies are still good, but really, you can't beat Coke cake.) Then we watch the race. We draw names for the horses for a dollar, which is funny because my family is basically all Southern Baptists, and they don't usually go for gambling. My mom won the jackpot this year! I think I've won it once. And then after presents and the race, we all go home.

Personally, I think that some of the other stuff that goes on in our city during the Derby festival is a little  more interesting than the Derby itself. The kickoff event is Thunder Over Louisville, which is the largest fireworks show in North America. Over 800,000 people attend on average. They have a special guest who presses the button to start the show- sometimes it's a "local hero" or some other deserving individual. One time it was started from the international space station! Then there's lots of music (pop, rock, and soundtrack stuff) and 20 minutes of fireworks. Then end the show with a display designed to look like they've blown up one of the bridges on the Ohio River. I hear I went to Thunder as a toddler, but that was just once or twice. The rest of my life, I've just watched it on TV. As soon as the show was over, we'd mute the TV and wait for the sound to travel out to our end of the county. I tried to do that this year, but Brandon turned the volume back up on the TV, and I couldn't hear it anymore. We also have parades, a steamboat race, concerts, a mini marathon, and a bunch of other stuff. I really like writing to my kids about the Derby festival- it's something fun about where I live, and I always send them a photo or two of the fireworks from a local news website.

This year's Derby was kind of exciting! My cousin Chris and his family (his lovely wife Amanda and their kids Justin and Brooklyn) came up from Florida to go to the Derby. I haven't seen Chris and Justin since I got married- four years ago! Brooklyn just turned 1 in April, so I hadn't even seen her yet! Chris and I spent a lot of time together growing up, because he lived at my grandparents' house for a few years. After he moved to Florida, we didn't see each other or talk much anymore. I'm so thankful for Facebook, though! It's been wonderful reconnecting with him over the past few years- and I get to see pictures of him and his family all the time!

Going to the race is an all day event, so my mom and I were going to watch Brooklyn at my house until they got done that night. They all stayed at my grandparents' house, so when we went to pick Brooklyn up, we took some pictures of everyone in their fancy Derby outfits (the fashion is a really fun part of the festivities) and I got to show my Tanzania pictures and souvenirs to my grandparents. After that, we took Brooklyn over to Lifeway, where my mom works- she had to show her off! We had fun playing with an Easter clearance toy for a while, and everyone got to see how cute Brooklyn is! Then we picked up lunch and headed back to my house. We had a nice afternoon playing with toys (both mine and Brooklyn's), and I got to watch TV with my mom while Brooklyn napped.

My Star Wars collection is so vast that it includes adorable baby toys.

After naptime, we picked up my brother and headed out to my other grandparents' house. Brooklyn was very excited to see the horses there. They have two horses (one of whom is a certified wild mustang, adopted from the mustang program out west), a pony (my buddy Archie, who is a week older than me) and my mammaw's pride and joy, Wilbur the mule. Chip and Archie were kind of close to the fence, but they didn't come all the way down to see us. Brooklyn was thrilled nonetheless. She makes cute little noises when she sees animals. She kind of pants like a dog, and she makes a little hissing noise (like "tsss"), as if she's trying to call animals over to her! We just stood watching the horses for a bit- she had her arms out and stared at them intently, going "tsss" every few moments. It was so cute!

After dinner and watching the race, we came back to my house to wait for Chris and Amanda to come pick Brooklyn up. She got to play with my rabbit Gimli up in his room. He didn't mind her at all, and he just hopped around her while she played with some of his toys (most of them have jingle bells in them.) Every time he came close enough, she just reached out and patted him gently. She was so good with him! We had a really fun time, and I'm hoping they all get to come back up here this summer!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Sweet Greetings from Tanzania

It's Mail Call Monday again!

This week, both of the letters we received were from our little guys in Tanzania, Bonifas and Elisha! They were school updates with report cards attached!

Bonifas' letter says that he's in 2nd grade. His school is 3 km from his house, and he walks there. His uniform is black, his teacher's name is Machina, and his favorite things about school are reading and playing. His favorite subject is math, and after school, he likes to graze his family's cattle. According to his report card, Bonifas is learning personal hygiene, "social trip", word of God, and football at the center. He is doing pretty well in his school subjects as well. He has Cs in history, geography, and English, and Bs in Math and Swahili! 

Elisha is also in 2nd grade. His school is only 1/2 km from his house, and he walks there as well. His uniform is blue and white, and his teacher is named Mary. He likes to study, and hi favorite subject is math. After school, he likes to sweep! Elisha's letter was written about three weeks before I saw him, and he shared that the weather was very rainy where he lived. He also drew pictures of an airplane, a tree, a bus, a mug, and a soccer ball. According to his report card, at the center Elisha is learning the following: cleanliness in general, dental screening, and HIV/AIDS prevention; standard seven motivation ceremony (I don't know what that is, but it's listed under "social"); and under special events, "cluster games competition", Easter camp, and AIDS day are listed. Elisha's making Bs in English and math, and has an A in Swahili! 

I'm so proud of both of these boys! When they grow up, Bonifas wants to be a teacher, and Elisha wants to be a doctor. I hope that I am able to sponsor and write to them for a long time, so I can encourage them to pursue these dreams. I know they can do it!