Thursday, June 21, 2012

Such A Great Day

I had a conversation with eight year old Caleb last night.

He's growing up.

We did not have a birds and the bees discussion. It's just that he is changing so much.

 No more adorable, little-boy jammies at night. Those have been replaced by soccer shorts or more likely whatever he wore during the day. No need to change clothes OR wash your feet before bed.

He's no light-weight anymore and you'd better brace yourself when he comes running. I have to remind him to take it easy on me. I'm a girl. Ease up.

His come-backs and one-liners have evolved into pretty accurate and timely bits of eight year old wisdom. Sometimes I find myself asking for his opinion or explaining unsettling world events until I remember that we should instead be discussing cereal choices for Monday's grocery list.

He can make a new friend in less than 30 seconds and I tend to stick close to his side in unfamiliar and awkward social gatherings.When did that happen?

He speaks up at restaurants, church services, funerals and doctor's appointments. There's no hesitation. If he thinks it, he usually says it. It's mostly endearing and nets him a few more followers. Other times he gets the look  from mom or dad.

 In our house, bedtime is the best time to catch me in....not moving. Hunkered down. Done. I get up before daylight and honor that sacrifice by going to bed before daylight disappears.

Caleb climbed onto my bed excited for our plan to outsmart the heat at the pool the next day. In this heat wave you do one of two things: Stay inside the air conditioning or go outside IF there is lots of water nearby to immerse yourself in.

After he did a few somersaults over my back and totally ruined my crease-free covers and shot a few nerf darts at my forehead, he became suddenly silent. Head down. Little belly hanging out over his soccer shorts.

"But I can't swim."

"That's okay, buddy. You'll get there. You know it's always a ton of fun. You can use your water wings for the deep end." (gulp......weight limit on those babies is 55 pounds and embarrassment limit is 6 years).

"I'll never learn to swim. It's too hard. I might as well face it." (He's always been a tad dramatic and pessimistic. I'm not like that at all.  

"You know what? (grasping for confidence where there is none) I think this is your year. Your summer. To learn to swim. I just feel it. You learned to ride a bike. It's the same thing, buddy. "

It was an epic mom speech. One that bought me some time.

We talked some more and he ended up laughing and shooting more darts my way before he left the room. He never mentioned it again.

And so today we went over the river and through the woods.....literally, nearly taking out one very large deer with my front end, to a pool that is tucked away at a nearby campground. I love it there because I can show up in a bathing suit and never run across a single, familiar face.

 This is important.

 Plus it is tucked far enough away as to be just comfortably full of happy swimmers, instead of knee to knee with sagging diapered toddlers and frustrated, dramatic-in-the-worst-kind-of-way mothers, yelling useless threats at their charges and needing at least three more yards of material to cover up all that they possess.

And today,

Caleb learned to swim.

I was unaware of his attempts at conquering this unlearned skill. My nose was in a book, counting on the lifeguard to perform a rescue if needed. Besides, it was a really good book and last night's discussion was neatly filed.

Two hours later I hear Caleb call for me.

"Mom, watch me! I think I'm swimming!"

He started his demo in the shallow end, sputtering and splashing all the waist-wading women. Then he moved beyond the rope towards the deep end, which is when I put the book down and stood up, in case the life guard was having an off day. I think ahead like that.

Soon he was swimming from three feet to five feet along the wall, just in case he really couldn't swim after all and needed to grab the side.

And within minutes he was jumping off the side into the deep, laughing, breathless, and shouting, "Why didn't anyone tell me my body would come back up automatically!"

He was so excited and completely exhausted. I had the life ring out at that point because he kept jumping and swimming and I was sure he was going to suddenly lose all muscle tone in the middle of the pool.

So I was right. It was his summer! And it's the beginning, not the end! Now I can read books at the pool guilt free! Such a great day.....

Monday, June 4, 2012

One Meal A Day

After meeting my three Compassion sponsored children from Kenya in March, I was happy, happy, happy to open the mailbox last week and find two letters, one from Mary and the other from Naituati!

Mary began her letter with, "Hello Julie, I am so happy to write to you just a few days after we met. I have been fine and I hope that you are fine too and that you arrived to your country safely."

In the letter, her grandmother, who Mary lives with, thanked me for sending her gifts and for including Mary's brother and sister as well. I remember Mary opening the backpack that contained gifts for her family. She kept laughing shyly and putting her face in her hands. Her smile was as wide as it could go. Her social worker who sat nearby kept explaining, "Mary is happy. She is just so happy!" Inside that bag were towels, cooking utensils, blankets and soap for her grandmother. For Mueni and Isaac there were clothes, school supplies, washcloths and an assortment of classic toys....jump ropes, matchbox cars, marbles and soccer balls!

  I stuffed it as full as I could get it. It weighed 15 pounds and dwarfed Mary when she put it on her back. And this was one of three backpacks she had to take home with her. Believe me, there was no complaining. Her social worker carried two packs for her as Mary stumbled and swayed down the path to her waiting bus.

 The letter continued with Mary writing that she had shared many of her gifts with her cousins and friends, "which made them very happy." It makes ME happy imagining the joy and pride Mary must have experienced to be able to share and give those gifts to her family and friends. They all have so little and share so freely. I saw it happen several times while in Kenya, children sharing at every opportunity.

"I have currently closed school for holiday (the month of April) and I am attending holiday tutoring for mathematics and English at my Compassion project and I am looking forward to perform better in them. I am looking forward to meeting you again."

Meeting all three of them again is definitely something I want to do in the future, when they are older.

One other interesting item on this letter from Mary was her drawing. She used a crayon and drew a goat, a fruit bearing tree, a house, a hen........and get this.....a TICK. I  did a double take on the tiny, oval shaped bug with legs coming out at the sides. It really does look like the ticks we have here in Maryland and other parts of the U.S. I had no idea there were African ticks! Going to go look that one up!

Naituati's letter arrived shortly after Mary's. She said she was so happy to have received two letters from me recently with "smart photos".  She is working hard in school and at home, and spends a lot of her time playing with her siblings, fetching water and washing utensils. "We use a lamp for light at night as we do not have electricity."

In one of my previous letters, I had asked her what she ate during an ordinary day. Her response....."In the morning I drink tea and eat food in the afternoon." This confirms what the social workers told me, that one meal a day is typical along with tea in the morning. I'm still trying to swallow the idea of one meal a day and it's not going down too well.

"Julie, my bed is clean and nice and I always remember you when sleeping and I pray for you." I can picture my sweet girl wrapped up in the fuzzy blankets I gave her, murmuring a prayer for me as she drifts off to sleep. What an honor. Incredible to think that we are connected in such a way, and through a God who loves us both so much.

Naituati also thanked me for the family gift I sent before I left for Kenya. "My sponsor, I love you for sending me a gift. I bought a dress and another sheep and I am so happy about it." So she has TWO sheep now which, as a Massai girl, must make her very proud.  The dress she wore on the day we met was clean and plain, obviously handmade. I hope she sends me a picture of her new dress!

Here's Naituati after pulling a jump rope out of her bag of gifts. She did not wait a moment to try it out! This girl smiled non-stop the entire day. Do NOT go by the standard photo from Compassion to try to discern your child's personality!

If you are a Compassion sponsor, sit down and write your child today! Your letter will speak loudly into their life....that they are loved and remembered.
I have a eye-opening story from my adventures in Kenya to share in my next post that illustrates just exactly what a letter or a gift from you translates in their heart. I share this story every time I get up to speak to a church or group. I will never, ever forget that moment......