Prepping to Return to Ecuador

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m headed back to Ecuador with Compassion International in early May. My mother and I will be joining a group tour in Miami, and spend May 4-12 touring and visiting with Compassion churches and clients. I’m super excited, but have a ton of work to do beforehand. And, as you’ve probably figured out, I’m a major planner. So, in that vein, I took this week off of work, and have a whole list of activities to complete in order to be on track to travel in 2 weeks. Many of these projects include items for me to sew, and it’s my plan to blog about the major items separately like I’ve done in the past. For ease, this post is more of a catch-all list of what I’m working on, along with a few tips for anyone considering traveling with Compassion International.

What I’m Taking

Not much is different from my basic packing list this time compared to what I took back in 2015 (and talked about here). Major differences come in what I’m taking to my kids (and what Mom is taking to hers), and I’ll be blogging the full-picture of those gifts later. But, since my Mom is going with me this time, I’ve essentially freed up a ton of packing space in my bag – she’s packing the gifts for Gladys herself. This means that while I’m taking an excessive amount of gifts, I’ll still be able to reduce the overall number of bags I haul, which will help so much. Right now I’m looking at taking my largest rolling suitcase, my carry-on roller, and a backpack as my “personal item.” As always, there will be space-saver bags and some packing Tetris involved.

I’m also taking Days for Girls Period Kits to each of my/mom’s sponsored girls and for the home visit gifts. I first did this for home visits on my trip to Peru in 2015, and it was a huge hit. Since then, I’ve sewed so many of these and included them in OCC shoeboxes at Christmas, and stockpiled them for return trips with Compassion. I’m planning to blog about how I sew these, and the few modifications I make from the official Days for Girls Kit Patterns.

Gifts for My Kids

With three kids to pack for and my penchant for going overboard, it’s safe to say that I am taking a ton of fun things for each of my sponsored kids. Like I said, I’ll be posting a more comprehensive overview of what I’m taking them (mainly because I always find this sort of thing interesting as a sponsor), but I’ve listed a few highlights below. Look for the full post to drop later this week.

For Josué:

  • Sewing Machine (so excited for this!)
  • Sewing Notions
  • Quilt (Blog Post Coming)
  • Clothing/Swim Suit
  • Sewing Books/Patterns
  • Photo Book from our last visit

For Emily:

  • Quilt (Blog Post Coming)
  • Lots of Clothing
  • Sticker Book
  • Photo Book from our last visit
  • Soy Luna pajamas
  • Period Kit (Blog Post Coming)

Whew, I think that’s it. Have any of you traveled with Compassion International? How did/do you prepare?

Two Years Too Long

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Hello again, remember me? I’ve been away from this space for a minute (or two….years). Once, I wrote here frequently, documenting what I felt was worth sharing with the world on a fairly constant basis – and then, life happened. Cliché, I know, but it’s the simplest way to explain the absence. The more complex answer boils down to stress and stressors that I put on myself and stressors that were put on me externally. For a while, the writing lost its appeal, and my day-to-day didn’t feel like it needed one more “deadline,” one more “task,” one more stressor piled on it. I lost motivation to find the words and to make the time to post. Over the past few months, though, the writing itch has been inching its way back, and after dealing with several domain name issues, I’ve picked up the pen (or rather keyboard), and sat back down in front of you to share in this space once again.

I can’t promise the posts will be regular at this point. In all honesty, this is probably not the best time in my work-life to be picking the blog back up. I spend my day-to-day serving as a Rural Community and Economic Developer serving a 12-county area roughly the size of the state of New Jersey’ and the month of March is by far my busiest of the year with a major grant deadline, and 16 (and counting) grant applications to write. But maybe it’s because I’ve been doing all that writing – and will be continuing that writing for the next 3 weeks until the deadline passes, that I want to carve back into this space. This non-work related space, where I can write for myself.

I’ve spent the past few hours reading my back posts and remembering my voice. Remembering that I’m honestly very proud of the content I once put forth and that maybe, it’s time to give that another go. So, over the next few days, I’m going to be working on my archives. Culling posts that are no longer relevant, and relinking lost photos for the posts that I want to save. I’m also going to roll out a new archive system, which means you’ll be able to find those old posts – and posts like them- much easier. I’m also looking forward and planning what I’ll be sharing. Want a sneak peak? Here are just a few of the things on the horizon for the next few weeks:

  • Spring StrawBale Garden Prep – What year are we on again? 6?
  • Quilting – sew many quilts & quilted items (see what I did there?)

and the big one……

Are you ready?

I’m headed back to Ecuador in May! So of course, I’ll once again be sharing my pre-trip planning, and my trip once I return. The other fun thing I’ll be sharing leading up to my trip is the “individual tour” I took with Compassion International in the fall of 2016 – see the photos at the beginning of this post.

I’m looking forward to putting together several posts about the individual tour, and how it differed from the group tours I’ve been on in the past. For the 2016 visit to South America, I saw all 4 of my (& my mother’s) sponsored children and went to three different countries over a two week period. (and yes, I would absolutely do it again – in a heartbeat).

So, with a semblance of a plan in place, and a renewed desire to be back, I hope you’ll forgive me for my extended absence.

And I hope you’ll join me as I continue to navigate life with elephant grace.

 

Around Here – A 3 Month Update

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Around here I’ve been:

  • working to get this blog back up and running after some longstanding issues with my former web host. I’ve decided to revert back to using wordpress.com to host the site. Since I’m post less frequently, this is a more affordable option, and honestly, is the most reliable. I don’t have to worry about viruses, server problems, or random take downs. (hello months Feb.-May) It’s a tedious process, switching back, because the back-up import brought over all of my words, but none of my photos. So please bear with me, I’m slowly working my way back through the archive re-adding the photos.
  • sewing up a storm. I’ve got a big trip planned this fall, and several sewing deadlines to meet before I go. Expect to see several quilt posts very soon.
  • planning for a South American excursion. Yep! This fall (specifically early-mid October) my friend Jodi and I are venturing south for a two-week, three-country vacation to see 8 sponsored kids with Compassion International. We’ll be visiting Ecuador, Peru, and Columbia. It’s going to be a big trip, and I am so excited! (But we’ve got lots of planning still to do).
  • planting the garden. This is our 5th year to do a take on a straw-bale garden, and so far it’s amazing. I’m planning an update post for later this week to detail what we did differently this year, and what all we’re growing. It’s safe to say, though, that we’re just days away from the first big, juicy tomato – and that is gold!
  • working, working, and working some more. I’ve been traveling for work more recently (which is amazing, to be honest, and one of my favorite parts of my job) Plus, spring is typically a very busy time for us anyway, and now so is summer. We recently had several long-standing deadlines move up from December to August – so I’ve been tracking down all the info needed to meet these new deadlines, and doing my best to keep my head above water.
  • and speaking of water, we’ve been doing quite a bit of swimming, too. Dad and I downsized our pool this year from a 24′ above-ground metal pool to a 18′ “pop-up” pool, and it has been such a good move. We’re hoping to take a couple of years and put back some funds for a saltwater pool, but in the meantime, this pop-up Walmart pool has been great. If we get a few years out if it, we’ll be all set.

What all have you been up to the past few months?

Ribbon Tag Baby Quilt

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Several months ago a good friend of mine sent me a facebook message asking if I could make a ribbon tag quilt for her newest daughter. I immediately said yes, and began searching through my fabric stash for coordinating fabrics. This quilt would quite literately be a sister quilt to the Self-Sashing Quilt I made a couple of  years ago.

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This time, I opted for the bright versions of the fabric, laid out in an off-set brick pattern. The piecing went very fast, but the ribbon tag border turned out to be trickier than I expected. I ended up putting the quilt aside for several months before finishing the edge.

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When I finally picked it back up, I powered through – but I’m still not 100% certain it was bound the best way. For the edging,I used 5 different ribbons, in varying widths – each cut to approximately 8 inches in length. I folded the ribbons in half, and spaced them about 2.5 inches apart. I ended up just turning the edges under and running a hem all the way around the border. Matching the edges and making sure I got each ribbon secure took much longer than I wanted.

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For the quilting, I just stitched in the ditch along the brick rows. All in all, I’m really happy with how it turned out- and so is the recipient, though I’m not sure I’ll be making another one of these anytime soon.

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Have any of you made a Ribbon Tag Quilt? Is there a better way to finish the edges?

Ecuador Day 7: Final Day

Once again I find that I have no idea how to begin this post – or even the words to use to describe the amazing experience that was Ecuador. I know I left part of my heart in South America, and in all honesty, most days the trips I took there feel more like a weird, wonderful dream than reality. I got to see my sponsored children again. I got to speak with them, hear their own voices, give them hugs, and show them love in person. I held their hands in mine – and once again utterly left my heart with them.

There’s no way I could convey the full range of emotions felt from this trip in a single post – so, just as I did with my last trip, I’m attempting to share in a series, breaking it down day-by-day or story-by-story; but bear with me, these words are hard to write and even harder to share…

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First off, let me give you fair warning: this is the last of my Ecuador trip posts, and it’s a bit lengthy and photo heavy.

I started the day loading up the 7, yes 7, bags full of goodies, gifts, and my essentials (sunscreen lotion, swim suit, etc.) and heading down to the lobby for a quick breakfast at the hotel restaurant. You can read more about what I took to my kids here – but let me just say that the duffel bags I made were a huge hit and I’ll be making more of them in the future, also, they can totally be worn like a backpack (see photo below).

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7 bags of gifts – Christmas, Birthday, and Just Because all wrapped up in to one visit!

While all of the sponsors were gathering in a room below the lobby, the kids were arriving and having some fun with the baggage carts! The photo below is one of the jewels I got from Emily’s camera – and a big reason of why I take a digital camera to my kids and give it to them as soon as I see them – they take great photos! This is a tradition I’ll continue with each trip: I buy inexpensive digital cameras at Walmart before I leave home with the intention of giving each of my kids one of them. I also stock up on batteries and SD cards. The plan is to put 1 SD card in each of the cameras at the beginning, let the kids take photos to their hearts content, and then switch out the SD cards with new ones right before I leave. I then take their photos home & print them, and then send the photos back to the kids in the many letters I write them. It works perfectly. I got tons of photos, but never have to be behind the camera – it is so awesome!

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Digital Camera photo from Emily

 

Once we were all reunited, we boarded several busses and headed to the waterpark for our fun day. Emily, Gladys, Josue, and I got to sit in the very back of the bus – and had a blast during the hour or so ride. Ecuador2015Day7_ - 2

Once at the park, we sat down our things and played some games – Josue is extremely sporty (which I am not – by any stretch of the imagination) and I cheered him on for a while before we talked all of the kids into trying out the swimming pool. Gladys had never seen a pool before, but she took to it like a fish. It was task to get her out of the water at the end of the day!Ecuador2015Day7_ - 4
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After swimming, and a quick lunch at the park, we headed back to our bags and began giving gifts. (It also started to rain on us a bit – but a few sprinkles weren’t going to deter our happiness). The kids all loved their gifts – and the quilts were a huge hit.

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Gladys also loved, and I mean LOVED, the doll Mom sent to her. Can’t you just feel the excitement? Gladys is very, very shy. I don’t think she spoke more than a dozen words the entire time – but once we opened gifts she came alive. She was the most expressive of the three, I think. After each and every gift that she opened, she gave me a big hug. I have some of the sweetest photos of her from this time. You could tell by her face that she couldn’t believe this was really happening.Ecuador2015Day7_ - 9
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Also, note the “v” on the above bird – for months we thought Gladys went by her middle name – Valeria. We were wrong – as I found out on this trip. Oops!

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After all the hard goodbyes (always the worst part), our group went out to eat at a traditional restaurant that featured dinner and a show. It was a fantastic way to decompress and process all that we’d been through. The costumes and dancing were amazing, and I’m so glad I thought to take some video of the performances – it really was a great way to end the day.Ecuador2015Day7_ - 19Ecuador2015Day7_ - 20

Finally, we closed the trip with a 2:45 wakeup call in order to make our early morning flight back to Miami and then my connecting flights home. I was exhausted, but the trip was amazing. I cannot wait to go back to Ecuador.Ecuador2015Day7_ - 21

As I mentioned Tuesday, the Compassion Bloggers are blogging their experiences in Ecuador this week, too. To read more from the bloggers, click here. To find your own beautiful child to sponsor, click here.

Ecuador Day 6: Main Country Office & Meeting the Kids

Once again I find that I have no idea how to begin this post – or even the words to use to describe the amazing experience that was Ecuador. I know I left part of my heart in South America, and in all honesty, most days the trips I took there feel more like a weird, wonderful dream than reality. I got to see my sponsored children again. I got to speak with them, hear their own voices, give them hugs, and show them love in person. I held their hands in mine – and once again utterly left my heart with them.

There’s no way I could convey the full range of emotions felt from this trip in a single post – so, just as I did with my last trip, I’m attempting to share in a series, breaking it down day-by-day or story-by-story; but bear with me, these words are hard to write and even harder to share…

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Day 6 was easily the longest day of the trip – mainly because we were all super anxious to see our kids at dinner, but, before we could do so, we had a couple of other stops planned. We started the day by touring the main country office. Here we got to see the process of sorting and delivering letters, tracking student progress, and curriculum development. I also love going through the various project mailboxes and look for letters waiting to be delivered to my kids.
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After the tour, we stopped for lunch at a local pizza place – which took forever, but had some really great food. I ended up begin the last one to get my food, but it was worth the wait. After eating, we went back to the hotel to rest and prepare for meeting our kids. We gathered in the hotel lobby to drive over to the event space and set up our tables for the dinner with the kids.
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I had my own table for the dinner, since my group was going to be so large – and I decorated it with confetti and streamers. The kids ended up arriving 30 minutes later than expected, and let me tell you, we sponsors felt every second of it. On the plus side, this gave the event space staff time to get their wifi working – which meant that I was able to Skype home and let Mom talk to Gladys, so it was worth it.
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To meet our kids, our group leaders lined all of the sponsors up in order and one at a time, our kids came through the doors and met us. It was a cool way to do the introductions, and allowed for plenty of good photo time. I’m also very grateful for these photos – especially the one below – because I knew as soon as I saw my Emily that I’d be picking her up. My friend Jodi also got a great video of the moment – which is the best!Ecuador2015Day6_ - 5

I love, love, love that Ecuador does this dinner before the fun day. It’s nearly my favorite part. And this year they had a photo booth – which was such a fun idea! I don’t have any of the photo booth photos – I let the kids take them all – but I do have some other photos that capture the night perfectly. In fact, I have so many photos that it would be impossible to share them all without creating a blog post that is insanely long. So instead, I’ll just tell you some of my favorite moments:

  • Josue celebrating his birthday (which was 2 days later) with the ceramic cupcake I brought him
  • Opening the elaborate gifts created by my kids for me – including: a sculpted paper heart from Josue, Guava jam from Emily, and a balloon giraffe from Gladys.
  • Watching Emily and Gladys become fast friends
  • Hugs on top of hugs on top of hugs
  • Watching Gladys skype with Mom and take photos of my computer screen with Mom’s face.
  • Learning that Josue was competing in a reality TV dance show – seriously! This boy is so talented!

Some of my favorite memories are from this night – and I wish I could go back to it every single day. These kids, they are why my heart calls Ecuador home – and they are why I make every effort to visit as often as possible – to write as often as possible – and to send my love across continents. These kids will have a brighter future because of Compassion, and I am honored to witness it.

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As I mentioned Tuesday, the Compassion Bloggers are blogging their experiences in Ecuador this week, too. To read more from the bloggers, click here. To find your own beautiful child to sponsor, click here.