kitten merriweather

when your child calls crying because they miss you and you are a continent away and unable to do a single thing about... you tell her to get a kitten ;)

this little beauty (definitely the pick of the litter) was on hold until we were home from ecuador. i didn't tell mary claire because no way could i handle the constant bombardment of "when is the kitten ready?" or "is the kitten ready?" parents know what i mean.

so to ease the "missyous" we told her about the kitten over the phone. and just like magic, there were no more tears. 

a kitten solves everything! 

everything except the fact that she is still the last person on the face of the earth without a cell phone. (that's what she claims and i am starting to believe her)

jeff and i cannot budge on the subject. many years ago, a very wise woman (janice wood) gave me one piece of advice. i was taking over her fourth grade classroom for twelve weeks while she was on maternity leave. i remember it like it was yesterday. she said, "remember one thing! say what you mean. and mean what you say."

think about it. that might just be the biggest challenge for parents and teachers. let your yes be yes and your no be no. when we say it is time for bed... it is time for bed now. not thirty minutes later. janice wood's "one piece of advice" has played through my head for twenty years now.

the picture below is because she brought up the subject again. 

this picture is me saying, "stop and smile or i am adding six months!" i admit, the cell phone issue has been exhausting. 

good grief, a new kitten is way better than a phone!

and she's off

father's day passed and i didn't take a single picture! that's worse than the one i took on mother's da.  jeff opened tie after tie. a generic gift, but one he is always in need of.  jeff also asked for his workshop to be organized as one of his father's day gifts. no kidding, we could have been on a reality show. he is a tool hoarder! so seven of us tackled this job together. it turned out to be the best afternoon, because most of our talk was about our  vacation. bennett and i are ready to leave today and return a day before school starts ;) 

anna katherine and i are still sharing a car, which is a lot harder than it sounds. we added car shopping to the end of our day. 

then we packed up our youngest for church camp. three kids and i still get nervous sending my kids to camp when jeff and i are not among the chaperons. 

beach trips really make me nervous. five hours of free time on the beach. in myrtle beach. rip tides, child predators, a DHEC water advisory, too many episodes of dateline...{deep breath} God's got this!

 the hardest part for mary claire was saying goodbye to her new kitten. the hardest part for me is the feeling of empty nest that i will have this week. {deep breath}  a kitten makes everything better ;)

a thank you to the chaperons ~ before the trip even begins!

welcome home

when i am told to "not drink the water or eat anything that could have been washed in the water,  i don't. i even keep my mouth closed in the shower. yay me! five four trips without a single sign of sickness. until the ninth day of my fifth trip. the night of our tour day would be the night that i would make up for all the other trips.

maureen got sick as well. however, she knew at the first sign of illness  you should hit the bacteria with everything in your medicine bag.  i wasn't so quick. one hour after i felt kind of weird,  i was violently... no really, violently throwing up.  i will spare you the gory details, but my eyes were swollen completely shut. who knew you could throw up from your mouth and nose at the same time... gory detail, sorry! this gave a new meaning to multitasking!

 my teammates really showed me the love! jeff rarely left my side (at least i think so) 

and because i sat on the shower ledge for what seemed like forever, maureen made sure i had a private, clean bathroom.  

it was 30 hours before i could stand up, walk or eat a bite of food. it was four days until i felt completely like myself. it is driving me nuts wondering where i went  wrong. i definitely did not "drink" the water. 

after a long, but uneventful flight home, jeff and i were so happy to see our kiddos. even though they are all adult sized, it still feels like you are seeing your little ones after being gone so long.

our welcome home included two broken cars. the touareg is one step from being pushed off a cliff. bennett's truck is always in need of a part. and MY car had two flat tires.

i read that only 8% of people in the world own a car. boy are we fortunate! because a car where we live has become a necessity. all of us sharing jeff's company car has been a reminder of how fortunate we are! 
our series of misfortunate events are just speed bumps along our journey. our mission trip was amazing! when people ask me how it was, it is hard to put into words. on some trips God allows you to  take part in the planting of His seeds. on this trip God allowed us to witness a harvest of His work. i never imagined i would see so many answered prayers on one trip. God is good... all of the time!

see you later!

as we all said HELLO summer, we also said a few goodbyes (or see you laters!) our children's school is located in the same town as a large air force base. they have always enjoyed meeting new classmates who transfer in each year. as great as it is meeting them, when the time comes for their family to relocate, saying goodbye can be tough.  

several years ago, one on mary claire's best buddies moved to hawaii. they still write each other letters. real letters with real stamps! who imagined stamped letters would become a lost art in the days of email and text messaging.

this year, her little friend group said, "see you later" to sydney. 
sydney has been a bright spot in the hallways of WH. she is an encourager with a sweet disposition and very athletic! 

on the very last day of school, the girls enjoyed lunch and a quick photo session on the football field!

thankfully sydney isn't moving that far away. compared to hawaii, one state over is practically next door. i loved over hearing the girls planning trips to visit her! 

see you later sydney!

quechua wedding

i was able to join our team to machachi because a wedding i had on june 4 was moved to the fall. so to be able to attend an indigenous quechua wedding on the same day was a double blessing.  i volunteered (and begged) to be in the group attending the wedding. 

we dove deep into the quechua culture that day. words cannot express the awe we felt. 
lynn and i were up with the roosters loading our backpacks for an entire day. if we needed food or water, we would need to pack it. we were supposed to leave the hostel at 8:00. however, the friend we were traveling with didn't know the location of the wedding. at 9:10 all six of us hopped into a five passenger car, that felt more like a four passenger car.  we had to be a sight in that tiny car. backpacks, water jugs and a bag of food.thankfully i was high on motion sickness medicine, so i could enjoy the experience. 

we got lost so many times, lynn said it felt like a comedy movie. all of us crammed together, making u turns and dodging traffic. our trip should have been set to music.
we we arrived, things got so awesome. we started with a processional to the church. the bridesmaids, family, friends, maybe a few strangers, either walked or hopped into trucks.  
the sweetest translator carried our food and water.
i mean really.... how cool is this!
we assumed the church was right around the corner. we learned not to ever again assume :) it was up and down a mountain. i understood the need for stuffing people in the trunks.
i wouldn't have wished for anything different. we were experiencing raw culture... and it was fascinating.
we made it to the church a little dusty and a lot excited. the church was in a tiny section of a small town. 

when i looked around, i noticed that no one was frantically hurry around or stressing about the details. despite it being a half an hour after when the wedding was to start, everyone was relaxed as they could be.  the bride nor the groom had arrived yet and still everyone seemed so carefree.

while waiting outside, i met some adorable children. elizabeth, annette, and nancy quickly became my buddies. they loved posing for pictures and seeing themselves on the back. any free time was quickly filled with these little ladies rounding up every group imaginable.

the bride arrived late according to how americans view time. however in ecuador, the timing was perfect!

when i peaked inside the church, i loved what i saw. the ladies had decorated everything themselves. take a close look at the streamer! it was toilet tissue! how awesome is that!

the church was crowded! this picture is before the two buses arrived! fire codes kept running through my mind. i think we were over the limit 100+ people ago.

i sat on the floor by the stage. 
by this time i had made several new friends!

after feeling a little claustrophobic, i followed out the first set of bridesmaids. i watched the rest of the wedding from the back of the church. (near a fire exit :) 

pig skins and popsicles were being sold outside. i was loving this wedding more by the minute!

 back inside, the ceremony was still taking place. how long was the ceremony you may ask? how about THREE hours! this was traditional for their culture.
 i am fast forwarding through so many things! the video below shows so much more.
 we passed the wedding chairs as we walked back to the reception site.
 the cake made my mouth drops! 
fourteen layers!
 it had been hours since we arrived. the gift ceremony is a tradition.  each guest walks to the front and presents the gifts to the bride and groom. the couple opens the gifts and thanks each person. i am guessing another two hours before dinner and cake.  our (scheduled) taxi had arrived so we missed a lot of the reception. 

what a blessing it was! most likely a once in a lifetime kind of thing. 

i couldn't put enough pictures on this post to get the full feel for the wedding. this short video will let you jump into this culture  too.

and the music. this is traditional ecuadorian music. i wasn't sure about the birds at the beginning. our translator angie assured me it is purely traditional. 

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