Wednesday, January 25, 2012

I'll fly away, oh glory

I just don't know if I'm ready to fly away to Glory...

Every time I leave my family I get this impending sense of doom.  Perhaps it is my natural negative tendencies trying to resurface.  But as excited as I am to be going on some adventure or trip, I drive myself crazy thinking that it could be my last and I will never see my husband or children again.

So much for my faith, my joy in seeing Jesus and my perspectives on life, death and eternity......

Then I get very frustrated with myself for a lot of the reason that I feel this way.  I feel this way because I am self centered and egotistical.  I mean, I really do think about how hard it would be for the kids and Eric to lose a mother and a wife.  I think about their pain, their sadness and the struggles that they would feel; the possible anger that they would have against God.  But the truth of the matter is, the first thought that comes to my mind is that they would forget about me.  Even worse, I think about how my children, Lucy in particular, might not even remember me.  And I think about getting replaced.
This is a pretty ugly side of me.
So this morning, since I will be gone tomorrow morning when they wake up, I sat on Lucy's bed, hugged her and played with her for a few minutes all the while praying "Lord, please help her to remember this giggly time".

I wish I weren't so selfish.  I wish I had more faith.  I wish I would grow up.

But in the meantime, I struggle.  
The good side is that it makes me enjoy them all more.  It makes me take in each little piece of them and it makes coming home all the more sweet.


I've known for a long time about friends - the importance of having good friends.  It makes a huge difference in life.  Contentment with where you are (in Ecuador, for example) can waiver depending on the state of your friendships.  This has come abundantly more clear to me with each passing day living in a foreign country.
At "home", friendships are still just as important.  They don't usually, however - until extreme friendship issues occur  - cause you to long for somewhere else.  Here, then do.  Any little flux in friendships, it seems, can change the sense of belonging, comfort and what is "home".
When talking to the kids about staying here in Ecuador or going home, there is a definite pattern.  When things are good with friends - we stay.  When things so sour - we leave - NOW.
But even more uncomfortable than this tossing and turning of decisions and security is the straight out pain.  We feel it so deeply for our kids.  
It is frustrating to think that Eric and I celebrate the day when our son comes home and says "Mom, Dad!  Carlos* didn't yell at me once today and he even gave me his onions!" (almost a direct quote - hey, the boy likes onions).  
*Names changed to protect the guilty.
Or when your daughter says "She might come over!  Do you think that means she likes me again?  Am I being a good friend?"
Or another daughter deals with a "friend" who makes you feel like a million bucks and her best friend ever one day and treats you like a piece of crap (and somehow has the power to have everyone else treat you that way too) the next......  I've been there before.  I don't need to relive those days, but yet I am.... through the heart of my child.
More than ever - partly because the issues increase with age, but partly because the issues have definitely increased with living abroad - I find myself on my knees praying for the kids and their friendships.
I pray that they never, ever hurt other kids the way they are being hurt.
I pray that they don't hurt friends the way I know I have in my past.
I pray that in their pain they will cling, grab on and never let go, jump into the arms of the only Faithful Friend we can always count on.
And that they will feel His arms wrapped tight around them and hear Him whisper "You are a beautiful friend.... I will always love you more than you will ever know."

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

a thousand words

A very talented and highly motivated friend of mine here, Mari (the woman exhausts me, just thinking about all she does) confided in me many months ago about a project she wanted to pursue.  After much praying she finally concluded that yes, this was something she should do - begin an on-line magazine called Inspired by Family.
Mari approached me about a month and a half ago or so, asking if I wanted to be a contributor - a bi-weekly "article" of sorts simply featuring a photo that reflected life.  I wanted to jump right on it, but decided that perhaps I should pray about it first - and talk to Eric.
Well, I'm on-board and yesterday my first photo was posted.
My biweekly piece is called "A Thousand Words".  I'm pretty excited about this project.  This type of photography is something I love - even more than doing portraits.  There is a lot of fun, depth and creativity in it.
Most of the posts will go with out written word, but some will have a sentence or two in explanation.  There are already several lined up in my head.  Now I just need to make sure to pull it off!
You can find the button and link to Inspired by Family on the right side bar.

Monday, January 23, 2012


Sick again.
Discouragement is tightening its noose.
The "Mother of the Year" is already long gone and it is only 23 days in.
Already a candidate for "Most Useless Wife".

I feel dark - but God says "let light shine out of darkness" (2 Cor. 4:6).
I feel weak - but God says "my power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Cor. 12:9).
His grace is sufficient for me.....and my family.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

the guy's birthday

The following is what I wrote while Cade was watching:
The birthday guy is really cute but still is a pain in the buttocks.  I like the word buttocks - it is a cool word and is a good description of that guy in the family - the one who had a birthday.
He had a rat attack him while he was sleeping and the rat very accurately nibbled off a chunk of Cade's hair at night.  His hair must have been full of diseases because we have not seen hide nor hair (excuse the pun) of the rat since.
He didn't think I was funny, but I thought I'd leave it in for posterity sake.  Some day when he is 37 and I have made this into a book, he'll have a good chuckle (or just think his mother is psycho).
The bit about the rat is regarding a mysterious section of hair (in front, of course) that is shorter than the rest and is in a very straight line.  Cade has stood his ground for over a week now that he doesn't have a clue what happened.  Eric and I are trying to casually slip questions into conversations about it, hoping that he might slip up and tell us what happened, but so far he is too smart for us.  He's still pretty cute regardless of his odd trim.
So the boy, this guy, the dog, our man - or whatever other title we use to refer to the best son in the world, just had a birthday on Friday.  Yes, Friday the 13th.... and nothing bad even happened!
Of course we had to start the day with cupcakes for his class.  Cade wanted "blue velvet" cupcakes (as in red velvet but blue instead....) with green cream cheese icing and gummi worms.  Not the cutest cupcakes ever, but the boy was pleased.  I think some of the other children were frightened.
I kept things rather simple.  I think Cade gets the shaft the most in terms of birthdays.  By the time all the Christmas stuff is done, Maddy's birthday, my birthday, and New Years all happens, I am ready for a break.  So when Cade's day rolls around, momma is not highly motivated.  So it was just cupcakes.
One of the boys in the class pointed out my shortcomings.  "Where is the ice cream?"  Yup, I'm a lousy, stinkin', no-good mother..... no ice cream.

Cade is another one of the Ackermann children who runs and hides as soon as I bust out the camera.  It is a rare occasion where I don't have to sneak or hunt him down to take a picture.  Here, I came to take a picture of him..... he disappeared instantly and even left his cupcake.
Then I thought I convinced him to stand beside the calendar and let me take a picture, as his teacher suggested.  I should not have counted.....
Ah, finally!  And with such a lovely smile:
The evening was, naturally, filled with T.G.I. Fridays fun.  Where else would we go?

This is the look I got when I asked if I could try a little bite of the birthday cake.
"Oh brother mom, I guess so.  But it better be small!"
The next evening (Saturday) we had a little party.  Cade wanted to watch a movie on the roof, but it was raining on and off all day, so we settled into the family room instead.  He wanted to watch Alvin and the Chipmunks Two - The Squeakquel (roll eyes, sigh and say "Oh help me Lord") and then wanted an Alvin holding a guitar shaped cake.  Sheesh.
I thought I could convince him to have a nice layered cake with a Alvin toy stuck on top.  That way he could have the toy, too.  Smart right?  He wanted none of that business.....which was okay because there was no Alvin, or any other chipmunk for that matter, to be found (thanks Renae for looking!).  So after several suggestions and some hours of thought, he finally settled on a baseball and baseball bat cake (thank goodness he had baseball that morning and had a good game!).  Much easier!
The bat is a little on the "cave-man club" side of things, but why mess with imperfection?
We had four families over with a total of 15 kids.
Taking a big breath...
and he blows out all the candles!
Maddy served the cake
and Lucy served the glow sticks.
The glow sticks, or at least 75% of them, were dead.  Didn't work.  Phewy.  I thought they'd be fun to have, especially outside on the roof, but since we didn't have the roof, I guess we didn't need the glowing.

Cade opened presents at the end and got cash and lego.  Those are about the two most perfect presents for that guy!  He was elated by all of it.
And finally, the last of the birthday events - Sunday at Casa G.  It was William's birthday on Saturday, so we celebrated their days together.  First the sitting around the birthday boys and tell them nice things.  Of course I cried when I talked....
And of course, Cade rolled his eyes when I cried.
Then we pray for the birthday people.
And then it is time for gifts.  Cade got Fruit Loops,
and a set of locks and keys.  Many kids may feel ripped off about these gifts but Cade is great.  He pretty much loves any thing he gets and has been thrilled - especially with the locks.  He currently is trying to lock up most everything he sees.
And then time for cake.

Debbie put trick candles on the cake so they kept lighting up again.  They are pretty fun but boy oh boy did it get smokey in there!
And now the boy is nine.  He has already reminded me that in one year he too will be in double digits and then in four years he will be a teenager.  Yikes!  Four years is no time at all!!  He has also informed me that we will be having a VERY large party that year as 1) he will be a teenager and 2) it is his golden birthday - 13 on the 13th.
He was pretty tolerate of his low-key birthday this year (he hasn't even got a present from us yet - I'm getting it when I go to Maryland soon), but he is certainly gearing up for the future.   I better be ready!

it hasn't even been a month

Yes, it hasn't even been a month so it isn't too terribly shameful that I am wrapping up the rest of our Christmas events now, is it?  
I've been busy, alright?
First, our Youth World Christmas party.  We went to some big huge restaurant and had a portion of it to ourselves.  The meal was complete with Ecuadorian Cultural entertainment.  Before we delve briefly into that, please notice in the photograph below, that Santa's reindeer are running away from a village and back towards the sled.  What exactly were they doing?
 Moving on.  Mostly there was dancing with each dance depicting something to do with the culture and/or history.  We are not quite sure what, as even the Ecuadorians in our group had a difficult time understanding Charlie Brown's teacher, who was the MC for the night.  But it was interesting none-the-less.
There was a lot of flipping of girls' skirts.  A lot.  And since these dances were about history and culture, it would seem that a good deal of this country's history and culture have to do with men chasing around women and women showing their undergarments.  Very interesting historical information.  A little too much information, if you know what I am saying.

 A few friends asked when I was going to go up and join the dancing - do my performance.  I told them that I forgot to put on my good panties, so I couldn't.
One friend, my darling prayer and walking partner, Katie, did get to go up and dance.  She was absolutely thrilled about it.  It was one of those situations where the group goes and selects people from the audience to participate with them - one of those situations when you are praising the Lord that your name card was placed further away from the stage.
 Just a note about gaining permission to post photos of other people....  I know that I should request permission to post photos of others.  In many cases I have.  In this case - absolutely haven't.  No way.  You seriously think that Katie would let me put this picture up here?
After much dancing were some musical performances while we enjoyed dessert.  Somehow I seemed to have deleted those pictures, but you've probably seen something similar before:  a posse of four, dressed in poncho-type stuff, playing guitars and pan-flutes?  Beautiful music but it all sounds the same?
Roberto (an Ecuadorian) and Eric decided to join the band.  Roberto played the glasses and Eric had is own version of the pan flute.
 Beautiful.  I would have strongly reprimanded Eric but since Roberto was doing it, it must have been okay.....

Next, the kids' school Christmas parties.  
Mia's class kind of had activities throughout the week.  The only one that I was able to attend was the Tuesday baking of cookies.  Her class broke into four groups and we went down to the home ec. kitchen and rolled, cut out and baked cookies.

 Several of the kids had never done this before - helped in the kitchen at all, much less roll and cut out cookies.  They loved it and were thrilled to participate.
Due to a shortage of cookie cutters, etc. the teacher asked me to bring mine in.  No problem!  Except for one thing:
See the sparkliness of the cookies?  Um.  Yup.  So apparently I didn't clean them after this project last year, so the cookies were rather sparkly.  The kids and I decided that it was most definitely edible glitter.
Her class also decorated the cookies the next day, went to the teacher's house for a party the day after that, and watched "The Christmas Shoes" on Friday.  Lots of partying, little education.

 Cade's party was a little lack-luster in my opinion.  Since he seemed to be having a good time, I didn't say anything.  But seriously, if you're going to party, then PARTY!  His was on the Wednesday before school was out.  I'm not sure what was wrong with Friday - the last day (and a half day) of school before the year ends, but hey, no problem it can be a different day.  Just seemed a little anticlimactic to me to go back to studying after the party.
 They had ice cream sundaes - and Cade was quite emphatic that we should bring peppermint marshmallows, so we did.
 And they opened their stocking presents as well.  Friday they did get to watch a Christmas movie, so they had fun with that.

Lucy's party was on Thursday.  Again - not on Friday.   Whatever.
I decided to make melted snowmen.  I had seen this on Family Fun, but decided to do it a little differently, and using what I already had.  I made cake balls out of left over cake made for Lucy's Awana party and dipped them in white chocolate, smooshing around the excess on the bottom.
The eyes and mouth are little blobs of chocolate that I piped, since you can't get mini-chocolate chips out here (or any sized ones, for that matter).  The hats are cut up pieces of gum drop, dipped in chocolate and  with the excess chocolate also smooshed around.  Once they were hard, I put them on the snowmen with a little extra chocolate.  Far from the cutest thing ever, but they did the job.
Lucy loved walking around, handing out her gifts for all her classmates. 
 She gave them excess ear-muffed and scarved lollipops (Mia gave hot chocolate on a stick and Cade gave the girls initial ornaments and the boys something that I don't remember.....)
 Someone gave bubbles.  Always a hit.
 Lucy and a friend thoroughly enjoyed blowing bubbles in each others' faces.
 Lots of food - that always makes a good party.
 And a little world ornament craft.
 There were several advent activities that we never completed, as the family went to the beach (since I wasn't there, there weren't pictures taken).  But the kids did draw pictures for our Compassion child
 and they did do sugar cookies.

 Those sugar cookies?  They are still sitting in our freezer, undecorated.  'Cause that's how good of a mom I am....  Feeling rather guilty for not getting that done, but I'm sure we will some day.  Just simply ran out of time!
One not-so-Christmasy activity occurred for a poor little neighborhood birdie.
 Apparently Maddy was just sitting and reading in her room when she heard a scuffle.  She looked to see what was going on and then frantically called Eric and I.  Apparently kitty went outside and got herself a little Christmas present of her own to play with.  She thought Maddy's room would be a good place to play with very frightened birdie.  So frightened that she pooped several places in Maddy's room in a short amount of time.
 Eric managed to save poor frightened birdie, but aside from just poop, she left behind plenty of feathers. Birdie didn't move for a long time outside, so we don't quite know if she made it or not.....

Then was the after-Christmas taking down of the tree.  I took it down on the 27th.  Never in all my days have I ever taken a tree down so early.  This tree, however, turned out to be like the first one (and apparently all real trees here) - a dried up, very prickly tinder box (remember the New Years photos?).  I thought it best to take the hazard down.
 There were a lot of remains.
 The final Christmas event was after Christmas.  We had another Santa Clause movie marathon with the friends who couldn't be at the first one.

Ordered pizza for dinner, had lots of yummy snacks, the kids watched the movies while the adults (correction - the women, as the men pretty much didn't participate) sat and talked.  While I don't condone  having many days of watching 5 hours of movies in a row, it was a pretty good time!

The next activity was intended to be a Christmas activity.  For some reason, however, we have pretty consistantly done it on New Years Day.  It usually results from my forgetting to do it and then thankfully remembering on New Years.  Its a good fit anyway - it is almost like a new years resolution of sorts... but much more personal and meaningful.
Years ago our dear friend Susie gave us a Jesus Stocking.  We hang it up every year.  The idea is to "give" Jesus a "gift" each year.  For example, in past, I've given Jesus the gift of prayer for the persecuted church, or more focus when studying His word.
We have a little journal that we write in each year, or the younger kids draw a picture instead of write (or just write on a paper).

 After we are done, we tuck our papers and journal back in the stocking.  Each year we also read what we wrote the last year.  And this past year we started to incorporate the Jesus stocking into our Easter activities as well.

 Finally, during the holidays, we were able to spend a little bit of time (not nearly enough, but we'll take what we can get!) with our friends who came here to visit family.
It was a very relaxed evening of pizza and hanging out - no more cooking for this girl.  I had had it for a while of large group cooking!  It was great to visit a little, see the kids enjoying each other, and know that we still have right-back-where-we-left-off friends whom we cherish.

That's it.  Now I am done Christmas 2011 (and some New Years stuff).
Now I can feel mildly proud of myself.