Sunday, November 16, 2014

Our Haiti Mission Trip. I didn't see that coming.

It smells like bug spray.  We must be camping, or in Haiti.   There are similarities:  lack of electricity, lack of internet connection, and lack of potable water.  This is my first mission trip. I’ve been involved in many ministries but never before have I paid to travel to a foreign country to help others.  

I didn’t see it coming but when my kids jumped at the chance to go on a mission trip to Haiti with Poverty Resolutions, because they wanted to help people, I was both surprised and full of joy at their desire.  Although all of the kids wanted to go we decided that I would take Josh, our 16 year old, and Caroline, our 14 year old, since we had no idea how we would pay for it.  Immediately the three of us were all-in.  

Fast forward about two months.

Saturday and Sunday.
After a day of travel, we’re there. The sweating began and didn’t stop until we got back to the states.  Shortly after my alarm went off on our first morning in Haiti, a rooster started crowing outside of our bathroom window.  I’m not sure why, but he never came back on subsequent mornings.  Maybe he was somebody’s dinner.  There was large pig that we passed every day on our way to and from our work site.  By the end of the week he wasn’t there.  Maybe he was someone's dinner too. 

While I was shopping for supplies for this trip I decided to buy some first aid medicine and equipment and throw in some of what I had at home including: a thermometer, tweezers, Benedryl,  Band-Aids, bandages, Neosporin, anti-itch cream, etc.  On Sunday, the first full day at the resort, we were swimming in the sea during our break time and Josh Stepped. On. A. Sea. Urchin.  After wiping off his foot I counted eight imbedded spines from it.   He was in a ton of pain which, thankfully, decreased significantly after a few minutes.   Josh is the one who discovered Stinging Nettles when first moved to Germany when he was 8 years old.  

I tried to get the Urchin-Spines out like I would a splinter but they kept breaking off and I couldn’t grasp them.  One of hotel staff, who didn’t speak English, smashed lime guts all over the wounded site and told us to wait.  No further instructions.  His foot started to get red and swell so I gave him Benedryl and texted my husband to see if he could Google whether or not I had to try to extract the barbed spines.  After many texts and a phone call the consensus was that I could leave them in but it’s recommended to use shaving cream and a razor to smooth the tips off and then the skin will absorb them.  Google said he should be fine as long as he doesn’t get an infection.  Yes, try to avoid having to seek medical care in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. 
Got it.

Monday was first official work day.  We had a day of rest on Sunday because that’s what the Haitians do and we wanted to be considerate of their culture.  Volunteers either chose to play with kids at the orphanage or help build benches.  I pretty much have the whole how-to-play-with-kids thing figured out and I really wanted to learn how to do something so I went directly to the benches to get my hands on a drill and some screws.  Our group built three eight foot benches on the first day and five more on the second.  By the second day I knew the design of the bench and how to put it together.  I learned how to use a power drill to pre-drill holes for screws, change drill bits and tips, and screw and unscrew with the drill.  At home I can barely finish chewing a piece of food before someone needs me for something, and in Haiti, I. Finished. Something.  

Tuesday and Wednesday.
The church/school where we had VBS.
One of the other team members arranged to have a Vacation Bible School for the kids in the local village while we were on our trip.  VBS is something I’ve volunteered for many times and I wasn’t eager to volunteer for yet one more.   However, I thought I could help with the intent to learn to how to organize and run a VBS- something else I could learn how to do. Now I know how to pull a two day VBS for 200 kids out of a suitcase.  


The Boy Who Shared His Food
The pivotal moment of our trip occurred on Wednesday afternoon.  As a few of us sat outside at the orphanage one and two year old children sat at the table on the porch eating their rice-and-bean lunch.  Tim, a 16 year old team member, asked one of the boys how it tasted and then he mimed his question hoping that would translate to the toddler who only spoke Haitian-Creole.  Immediately the little guy scooped up a generous spoonful of his meal and offered it to Tim.  The boy never gets seconds and he offered some of what he had without hesitation.  It was the perfect picture of heaven where there is a ton a food and everyone shares.  The antithesis is a picture of hell where there may be a ton of food but everyone fights over it and no one eats.  Heaven was portrayed right there in that Haitian orphanage.  

One and two year old children are sent out to the porch from nap time where they sit and wait for lunch. 

Thursday brought another new experience.   As a retired nurse I was interested in Haitian medical care so I went to the village medical clinic with another nurse and his wife who were also part of my team.   We watched a doctor treat many patients in the tiny, unpretentious, cinder-block building.  Common complaints included fever, heart burn, and high blood pressure symptoms.  One 34 year old woman came in from the mountain.  It must have taken her hours if she came by foot down a rocky mountain path on the hot sun.  She said she has six kids and her baby was at the orphanage.  
The Medical Clinic
The Wonderful Doctor

The Pharmacy

One of four exam rooms.
Because I have six kids I felt a connection and I asked which orphanage her baby was in.  The doctor translated that her child was at the orphanage where our team was helping...where I was holding babies and playing with kids the day before.  I asked her what the baby’s name was.  She said Ashley.  Ashley?  Beautiful Ashley.  I saw her yesterday.  My teammate next to me had a picture of her on her camera in her hand.  Would the mom want to see the picture?  Would she want to know her baby was okay?  As my teammate and I looked at each other wondering, the doctor assessed and released her.  She was gone.  

The children in the orphanages are destined to spend every day in the orphanage until they become an adult.  Nannies take care of the kids but they come and go and they are not moms to the children.  They are care takers.    
That night I found out that Haiti will start letting Americans adopt Haitian orphans next year.   Our family went through the entire adoption process a few years ago but we moved out of the country before we had children placed in our home.  Maybe we can adopt Ashley.  Maybe we can adopt Samuel or one of the sets of twins.  Or maybe Baelan.  He is the sweet 5 year old I held and played with that day who loved the attention because normally be he just stands or sits outside on a slab of cement with no toys and no mom.
The next morning was our last work day.  We had one hour at the orphanage.  I waited for the nannies to bring Ashley out but they never did.  I don’t know why.  I spent a few minutes playing with Baelan and he just wanted to sit on my lap and play with my cell phone.  He cried when I had to get up to go.  Did you know that it’s possible to fall in love with a child who isn’t yours in less than 24 hours?  It is. 


After a day of travel and a lifetime of memories, we’re home. 

 If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one.  ~Mother Theresa

How can the poorest country in the Western 
Hemisphere get out of poverty?   

Monday, July 21, 2014

Homeschool Graduation Program Template

In my last post  I told you that this post would be called, "The Perfect Homeschool Graduation Program Template."  Ha.  Wishful thinking.  This is just one example of a Homeschool Graduation Template and worked almost perfectly for our family, but since it may not be exactly right for your family, I took out the word perfect in the title.  We only lived in Germany for about a year and there weren't local homeschool groups having a high school graduation ceremony.  It made the most sense to me to have our own.

Here is an example of the agenda that I printed for the event. 
(Mine were printed on my favorite color paper, blue.)

Music.  I played Pomp and Circumstance and Luke walked in wearing his cap and gown and a big grin.  At the close of the ceremony I played Free Bird by Lynyrd Skynyrd.  People unexpectedly got up and danced! 
Invocation.  Our wonderful, goofy, loving friend Jessie gave the invocation where he thanked God for Luke's life and the event that we were there to celebrate.

Message from Mom.  I spoke about what it was like to homeschool Luke and then told him there were three things I wanted him to remember.
           1.  He is a leader. 
                  This is part of my speech:  Theodore Roosevelt said citizenship in a republic is hard work, it takes strong character, someone who is responsible, courageous.  These are qualities that mark a masterful people.  Luke they mark you:  hard-working, strong character, responsible, courageous, physically strong, daring, and to quote my friend Laura, 'you have skills.'
          Roosevelt firmly believed that one learned by doing. It is better to stumble than to do nothing or to sit by and criticize those that are “in the arena” he explained. “The poorest way to face life is with a sneer.” It is a sign of weakness. “To judge a man merely by success,” he said, “is an abhorrent wrong.” The famous paragraph from that speech, reproduced below, expressed the standard by which he judged himself and others:  

       It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.

      Parents commented about loving to watch you play soccer because you put your heart into it.  You give your all on the field.  Billy Graham said that courage is contagious.  When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are stiffened. You have a heart for doing what is right for our country and for knowing the foundations and laws and continue to uphold them and challenge the wrong.   Luke, you are the man in the arena.  You are a leader.
2.  I love him.  I encouraged him to use the gifts, skills and abilities that God gave him to do His will.  1 Tim 4:12  Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.
3.  God loves him.  More from my speech:  I rejoice in the young man you have become.   I treasure the time that we had together in school and as a family.  I regret the times that I yelled at you, was impatient, didn’t understand you, and when I was wrong.   I am sorry.  I wonder if our relationship would be better if I had sent you to school and had chocolate chip cookies waiting for you when you got off the bus.  I hope that my failures show you that you need a Savior and that there is a God and he loves you.   I hope that through my failures you saw me relying on God to get me through.  I hope that through my failures you see that nobody is good and that we all need a savior.  My hope has always been that you would know Jesus as your Lord and Savior.

Father's Blessing.  Steve spoke about it means to be a man.  We use the Modern Day Knight program with our boys and high school graduation was the next milestone to celebrate for Luke.   Steve blessed him as he entered into manhood.  He presented Luke with a REAL sword! 



There are five things that Steve told Luke a man should do:

1.        Accept responsibility

2.       Lead courageously

3.       Reject passivity

4.       Expect greater things from god

5.       Love selflessly 
Valedictory Speech.   I really wavered on whether I would require Luke to give a speech.  The recommendations I saw online were to either mandate it, or let the graduate choose because it's his day.  I chose to exercise my authority, and bow to the pressure of doing what's expected, so Luke was required to make a speech.  Apparently in public schools the administration must approve of the valedictory speech, but that's where I deviated.  I had no idea what he was going to say.  It turned out well, I think.  He gave a warm, charming, short speech saying that he was glad he was homeschooled (yes!) and thanking his friends and family for their role in his life.

Presentation of Diploma.  My high school graduating class had close to 1000 graduates so we sort of ran across the stage and grabbed our diploma.  Since we had just one graduate I presented the diploma to my son and actually read it.  Yes, I read it out loud.  I think that was a result of spending 20 years in the Army and being accustomed to having military orders read at every promotion and awards ceremony.  I realized later that wasn't necessary.  Just hand him the thing and move on. 

Benediction.  Neither Jessie nor I really knew what the purpose of the invocation or benediction was.  I just knew that they were customary at events like this so I asked him to perform them.  He did a splendid job!   He blessed Luke at the end of the ceremony using humor in a way that only he could.  Thank you Jessie. 

Life of Luke.  This was the best part of the program.  It was a surprise for Luke.  I asked some of his friends to roast him.   Yes, I got the idea from my cousin.  We had lived in Germany for less than a year at the time of the graduation but there were at least 4 friends of Luke's that he'd known for 3- 8 years!   So, 4 of his friends and one of his brothers roasted him.  It was hysterical.   The level of humor and creativity was off the charts. 


Josh is our second oldest and ALWAYS has people laughing. 
He did a great job roasting his brother!

Recess.  After the program, which lasted about an hour, we had a great time socializing, eating cake and wonderful German food at the Bauhaus Kastel. 

Before my son's graduation I searched and searched online for a template I could copy.  But I couldn't find one.  As soon as the ceremony was over I discovered a wonderful website with a homeschool graduation template and much more.  It's another great resource for homeschooling high school
I would love to hear what your family does for
homeschool high school graduation!!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Perfect Homeschool Graduation Ceremony

The only high school graduation ceremony I remember attending was my own.  I don't remember most of it.  After deciding to have a high school graduation ceremony for my oldest child, who has always been homeschooled, I had to come up with a plan

We live in Germany in a military community where, for some reason that I can't figure out, there are very few homeschooled high schoolers.   So, my high school aged children were not in homeschool coops and didn't really participate with the homeschool group that my younger children do.  I had to do something on my own.

Last year my cousin, who's son is not homeschooled, went to a homeschool graduation ceremony for her son's best friend. 

She said it was awesome. 

Awesome.  That's what I wanted too.

I've never been to a Homeschool High School Graduation Ceremony.  So, why did my my cousin say the one she went to was awesome?  What made it awesome?  What did they do?  And, the real question was could I copy it, or some of it, and have an awesome ceremony too?

Before resorting to total copying, I Googled "homeschool high school graduation ceremony."  I didn't find much.  So, I tried Goodling related topics but I couldn't find anything that gave me a template for what to do.  I like templates.  I was getting frustrated.  So, I asked my cousin to tell me what the ceremony was like that she attended. 

She's a superb writer.  It's what she does for a living.  So she described the evening in a way that I could picture it.  It was awesome because it was personal and shared with close friends and family.

Setting was the family home.  Son walked in to "Pomp and Circumstance" wearing a gown and Mickey Mouse ears.  He is a "theater person" my cousin said, so The Ears were not unexpected.  Mom spoke about the homeschool years with her baby which was a happy-tear jerking speech.  Dad said a few words.  Valedictorian spoke.  Mom gave the diploma. Then the theater-friends roasted the graduate which was, of course, hilarious because...They. Are. Theater people! Then food.  Families hang out and have a great time socializing and celebrating!

Let the copying begin!

I would have loved to copied the part about having the ceremony at my home.  Trouble was we were moving from Germany to Virginia at the same time our son was graduating and the only time we could have the event was after the Army moved all of our household goods out of our home and gave us temporary mattresses to sleep on until we moved into the military Guest House.

I decided to have the event at a restaurant, have the ceremony first, and then who ever wanted could stay and eat (no-host) or just hang out. I would have preferred having everyone at our home and providing food for them.  Another option would have been to have it at our church and cater the food.  That just seemed much more logistically challenging and a little boring to me.  We ended up at a German Bauhaus (brew pub).  That was a once-in-a-lifetime setting.  The podium was a beer barrel.  It screamed "authentic-German."

We added an event unique to our family which involved my husband presenting a sword to my son.  After I give you the template for our commencement program I'll tell you a little bit about what we did during each segment ; hopefully, it will rival my cousin's description.   One can hope. 

While it may not have been "perfect," it was perfectly extraordinary for our family.
Look for "The Perfect Homeschool Graduation Template"
coming next!