Thursday, October 18, 2012

Jack and Khalil (RIP)

Jack is among the few horses that were here from the beginning. His name still hangs in the little barn in its original place when WWR started their horse program some 25 years ago. Khalil arrived not too long after that. During the last 10 years that I've been here, we've relied on these two as our "A list" horses, the ones that could go out and handle the littlest day campers and the most terrified residential campers without us worrying over the results.

As they got older, their health started failing. Jack was nearly blind as a result of an eye injury a few years back coupled with cataracts, and Khalil had some pretty severe arthritis that made it difficult to get around. They had this whole past summer to mill about in the pasture at the little barn as a good long retirement, but on Monday was their time to move on.

They went down together and without a fight, clearly ready for this life to be over. As sad as it was, I saved as many of my tears as I could with the thought that they're better now. They get to be up in heaven now, where Jack can look around and see the beauty around him, and Khalil can gallop through golden fields with the horses that have passed on before them.

Life goes on. While the mares that were pastured with them aren't sure how to come in anymore without the boys to guide them, they'll soon have other horses moved up to keep them company. Their stalls at the big barn were filled during the summer with younger horses that will hopefully take their places along the "A listers." Whether it's the loss of a human or equine life, we must always look to the future and seek to raise up the next generation to be as great or even greater than the one before it.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Haven't Been Here in a Long Time

I would say it's about time I update my blog, but it's probably way past that time. I do plan on updating more often as I come across new adventures, but I tend to get busy with other things and forget. :(

So, I am back at WWR, and have been for over a month now. Wow! I can't believe it's really been that long! I'm LOVING it here, and picking up a bunch new hobbies, such as various things involving the milk goat I bought, and tanning animal hides. Who would have ever thought me of all people would enjoy tanning hides? Ah, well. I guess some people do change.

There's not really a whole lot to report. I'm getting into the swing of things here, and keeping busy with a couple of online writing jobs, including a book on fly fishing. If you do need to know anything about fly fishing, let me know. I'm about a third of the way through writing the book and already know way more than I ever thought I would about fly fishing.

The other job is ongoing and involves burlap. I recently got a shipment of burlap from the company I'm writing for, and will soon begin to make crafts with it and do DIY tutorials about burlap crafts. That should be a lot of fun, and my friends and family can expect to get a lot of burlap for Christmas, because I'm not sure what else to do with all of the crafts once I've made them.

On that note, I am beginning to try to sell crafts online. I have a couple pairs of feather and bead earrings that I made up for sale, and will eventually add other items, such as binder twine bracelets, which are popular around WWR, but maybe not elsewhere. We'll see, I guess. I also have 15 other pairs of earrings that I've made, but are lacking the actual earring piece. I'm waiting until I finish writing the book to buy them, so I can actually devote the time into making more of them. They should all be online by the end of November in time for people to buy them for Christmas.

Well, I have a whole pasture to go through and pull out all the wood and branches that are out there. We're borrowing a wood chipper from someone, so it's the perfect time to get the pastures cleared of logs and such, and have good use for the rotting wood. Back to work!

Just because I'm trying harder to get more pictures put up here more often, here's a picture of a saddle that was donated here years ago that we haven't been able to use. I cleaned it up, and put it for sale on craigslist. The money I get from it will help out with other expenses in the barn, like repairing the saddles we do use. I have some better pictures of horses and pretty skies and such on my other camera, so I'll try to get those in the next one.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Tough Choice

Life is full of tough decisions, and I feel like my entire summer was spent wrestling with one.

It started back in February when I heard about a full-time staff opening at Wildwood and my heart leapt inside of me. Before I had felt called to Honduras, I had been interested in having such a position. At that time, however, it wasn't available to me, and God had other plans for me first.

I went to Honduras and served there all last year, teaching Kindergarten. Then, I got hired on to work another summer at Wildwood as a wrangler. As the time to go to camp drew closer, I grew more and more excited, but started to feel somewhat conflicted, wondering if I could do both. Could I have my heart both at Wildwood and in Honduras? I wasn't sure.

It was about a week into the summer when I regretted going because of how much I loved it, and I wasn't sure that I could ever leave. I started to feel a freedom that I hadn't felt in months, not only to go out and do things without fear of being robbed, but to be who I am.

Whether from a lack of language or feeling uncomfortable expressing who I am for fear of what people would think of me, I had lost myself while in Honduras. I left it out of my blogs, but I had become depressed again for the last couple of months of being here, and it took a lot of effort to get through each day.

Throughout the summer, people would frequently ask me when I was returning to Honduras. My answer was always the same: August 8th, and I always felt a rise of anxiety about returning. I talked with a close friend about it, and she asked me what I would do if I didn't go to Honduras, and I expressed how badly I wanted to stay at Wildwood.

I eventually ended up going to my boss as well as the director, and it was more/less settled that I had a job there if I wanted it. At first I was ecstatic, but the more I thought about it and pictured it, the more of a dream it became, and the more sure I became that I wouldn't ever be able to work full-time at Wildwood. It was one of those "this is too good to be true so it can't be possible" feelings.

As summer started drawing closer to an end, my fear about returning to Honduras grew stronger, and I started to have the sense that I shouldn't go. People frequently asked me if I was excited to go, and I would honestly tell them I wasn't. When they questioned me further and I explained how I felt, they would ask why I was going if I felt that God was leading me away from there? My answer was simply that I had already committed to teaching another year, and I didn't want to let anyone down. Plus, with my emotions on high, I wasn't entirely sure that that's what God was saying.

The day before summer ended, I went on a trail ride with the other wranglers. I chose a goofy Arab named Dottie not only because she had become one of my favorites during the summer and I wanted to help her overcome her fear of jumping (caused by an inexperienced and nervous jumper on her earlier), but also because I had had a dream where we had been soaring majestically over jumps and it was glorious.

Before we left, I had a feeling in my stomach that something bad was going to happen on the trail, and felt like I shouldn't go. But, I forced the feeling down, attributing it to excitement and having not ridden all week, and off we went. Sure enough, I fell off one and a half times, and got hit in the neck with her head (still not sure how that one happened). I have plenty of nice bruises to show for it and am otherwise fine, but I definitely knew before we left that something was going to happen. And so it did.

I spent one night crying out to the Lord and praying, and that sense that something bad would happen if I went rose in me again, like before the trail ride. It was impossible to ignore, but I was still planning on going to Honduras at that point, and considering leaving at Christmas if things got bad again. At long last, I asked God if I should stay, and a peace washed over me. I was then able to calmly get into bed, and slept.

As I presented this to friends and family members, they were excited about me staying, but agreed with my decision not just based on that. I'm SO grateful to my friends and family members that were there to support me, listen, and pray for me.

Currently, I am in Honduras. I had already paid for 2 weeks of Spanish language school, and have a few items that I left here that are important to me. So, I bought myself a return ticket for 3 weeks from now, and will be starting up back at Wildwood almost immediately.

It's been sort of hard coming back. God was definitely with me. There was a miscommunication, and nobody showed up to pick me up at the airport. However, I was on the plane with a member of the church and her two sons (one of which goes to the school here), and they were able to make some phone calls for me and drove me to a friend's house who took me to another friend's house where I'm able to stay for at least tonight. A lot of the details are still up in the air about how I'm getting to Copan this weekend, but I trust that God will work all that out for me.

It's been hard because of how many people I've already seen that I'd grown to love, including the couple that I lived with, and one of my students. It did stir up some doubts in me because I did love teaching, but I know that God has me elsewhere now.

So, I guess that's it for now. I'll likely continue updating this blog, or else start a new one to chronicle my journey at Wildwood. Thank you all for your support, and for believing in me even when I didn't. I'll be seeing most of you sooner than expected! :)

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Saying Goodbye

For those of you who didn't know, I have been working at Wildwood this summer, literally since the day I returned to the States. It's been quite the ride, as I knew it would be. Most things came easy because of how many years I've already put in here, but there were some things that have definitely been harder than I expected.

Leslie and I started the discipleship program at Wildwood together after working a summer together. However, we went into it not really knowing each other since we didn't actually have more than a couple of conversations all summer. Despite that, we became friends quickly, and were sisters before long. Going through the ups and downs of a two year program and seeing each other struggle as God worked in us made us close. "Sister" barely begins to describe our relationship.

After the internship, I went to Honduras, and she stuck around Wildwood and did different things around the Howell/Fenton area. We got to see each other at Christmas and frequently exchanged Facebook messages, so our relationship didn't waver at all. During this summer, she was again working at Wildwood, but only for the first half of the summer because she was moving to Los Angelos, California to do another internship, this one at the LA Dream Center, where her heart has been for the last couple of years.

Although I knew she was leaving, I hadn't allowed myself to give it much thought, because it didn't seem like a big deal to me. She was going off and pursuing her dream as I had pursued mine. We'd still be closer than sisters, and we'd see each other again sometime. We had to.

Then the day of her leaving came. I felt anxious about the time that we hadn't spent together this summer because of being in different parts of camp and surrounded by so many other people. For one terrifying moment, I thought that I wouldn't be able to say goodbye to her because I was getting the horse campers ready to go on a trail ride and cookout for the next couple of hours, and she was leaving in one hour.

But, God is good, and she was down by the lakefront, right near our campsite. I was on the wagon with the girls that didn't ride and got out there quickly, so we were able to meet on the road to talk. I was in tears before we even got close. We held each other and talked for a few minutes. We told each other we loved each other, and she headed off for more painful goodbyes before she left on her next great adventure. We didn't say "goodbye."

The more I've thought about this over the last few days, the more I realize how different it is to be on the different ends of goodbyes. When I left for Honduras, it was sad, but I knew where everyone was. They were all in Michigan supporting me as I went off on my adventure. I knew where I was going and was excited about meeting new people and having new experiences.

But sending Leslie off was painful. Of course I love and support her, but it's hard to not know what she's doing or where exactly she is. I can't picture the people she's going to be with and the places she's going to. I know that God will take care of her and I know that this is where she's meant to be, so I need to keep trusting in God as she does.

I leave for Honduras in just 2 and a half weeks, when I'll have to go through another time of saying goodbye. I've always wished that I could live somewhere with everybody I love so there's no need for painful goodbyes, but I know that that's not the way life is. I have learned what home is. Home is God. Home is family. I have homes scattered throughout Michigan, in Honduras, and now in LA. I know that wherever people I love are, that is home, so I never have to be alone.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Kids Say the Darnest Things (during their oral exams)

Well, we had our oral exams today. They went a lot better than I expected. Some of the kids that I thought weren't going to do as well actually did pretty good, and the ones that I thought would do amazing did about as well as I had thought.

There were a few technical difficulties along the way, but it worked out well. I had 4 different people that talked to my kids, and it was nice just to get to see them for a minute while testing.

The procedure was fairly simple. I had a set of 8 questions for each child, and sent them in written form to the person asking. They then went through them one at a time. If the kid answered right away, they moved to the next question. If they didn't, I had them ask the question up to 3 times. When there was background noise interference or the sound cut out, I gave them a few more tries if they needed it.

As I said, most of them did pretty well. The problem, though, is that a lot of them just follow the other kids as we've been practicing in class, or someone else whispers the answer to them. Some of them had clearly studied and knew what the questions were, and what their answer was supposed to be. Others got confused as to what the question was, or just weren't really listening. I think some of them were just trying too hard, too.

I love my kids and am proud of them, but I just have to share some of the cute mistakes that they made.

Q: What is the name of your brother?
A: Your name is Daniel.
(This is totally understandable because we haven't gone over his/her/your/etc. very well, but it made me laugh nonetheless.)

Q: How old are you?
A: My name is 7.
Q: What is your favorite class?
A: My name is English.
(Sometimes, they just get caught up in trying to get out a complete sentence and don't really stop to think about what the right complete sentence is.)

Q: What do you see with?
A: Yes.
(She was completely confused on this one, so I tried to help her by reminding her it was a science question, and even gave her the start of the correct answer: "I see with my..." But, there was a communication failure there, and she turned to the person and answered "Yes.")

Q: What do you smell with?
A: I smell with my house.
(He might have actually said "nose," but it really sounded like "house" to me.)

Q: What color is a tiger?
A: Yellow.
(This made the person asking laugh, but it's actually the right answer in that one of the pictures of a tiger we use was colored yellow, so that's where he got that from.)

Q: What do you touch with?
A: How are you?
Q: What color is Luigi?
A: I am good.
(This is one of the kids that doesn't pay a lot of attention in class, and clearly does not do much studying at home. Which is sad, because he's a bright kid. What really kills me is some of the other kids heard the question about Luigi and were whispering the answer to him. I had thought it would be easy, but I guess not.)

Q: What is your favorite color?
A: My names pink.
(Another example of getting caught up on trying to get out a complete sentence without thinking about what the right words actually should be.)

Q: How old are you?
A: I am good.
Q: What is your favorite animal?
A: I am cat.
Q: What animal do you have at your house?
A: I am dog.
Q: What do you see with?
A: I am six... I see with 5.
Q: What color is your shirt?
A: I am... It is... I am green.
(She had a couple of the basic question/answers mixed up, but basically got the answer part ok. She's just really caught up on "I am." Her homework also reflects this when they have to make up sentences.)

After we were done with the exams, they got a special treat from one of my friends back home. She put on a finger puppet play for them and sang "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" with them. Although most of the boys had lost interest by the end, they did have fun watching and singing along. I got a video of them which I hope to get posted. I have a lot of videos that I hope to post... I should get on that.

Anyway, the hardest part was getting the rest of the class to be quiet. Sadly, I wasn't able to get the TV in the hall working because of the situation of the plugs, so I let them have some free time with options like Playdoh, coloring, reading books, or doing puzzles. I warned them right from the beginning that the normal discipline system was not in place today.

Normally, they get an "x" put on the board if they choose to break a class rule. Once they get 3 x's, they have to write a page of sentences, usually "I will sit and be quiet." But today, it was made clear that any talking would just get a page of sentences. After many threats, warnings, and pages handed out, I decided to go with bribery. It was near the end of the hour or so of testing, so they were starting to get antsy.

I pulled out the movie Toy Story which I had brought for them to watch in the cafeteria, and wrote "Toy Story" on the board. Another form of discipline I have in place is on Thursdays for music class. I put 5 to 6 music notes on the board, the number of songs they get to dance to if they behave. When they're not behaving, I erase the songs, one at a time. So, I did the same with the letters in the movie.

That seemed to work well, but they still ended up losing all the letters, mostly because I realized that we had too many pages in our last book to finish to enjoy a movie for the last class of the day. They sort of all had a meltdown when they found out they couldn't watch the movie. Partly because they wanted to watch it, but also because they were hot since the air had to be left off to hear during the exams.

I also wanted to just put on a movie, but knew it was important to pound out the last few pages, which were all pretty simple anyway. With the air cranking, I clapped my hands a lot and yelled "Let's go!" as excitedly as I could at that point, and they perked up soon enough. They got eager to get through the pages, so they paid attention and did their work quickly.

They finished right as class officially ended at noon, but told them I would put on the movie anyway. Over half of them stay for at least half an hour after class ends, and I have 4 of them that are there until the older kids are let out at 1:30. That sealed their happiness, and I got to enjoy a quiet afternoon of watching one of my favorite movies with my favorite children.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Last (real) Day of School

So, today was my last real full day of school with my kids. It's technically tomorrow, but we're doing oral exams/watching a movie for most of the afternoon, so it's not really a normal day for my kids.

Tuesdays tend to be easy for me, because I only have every other class with them, and one of those classes is Art, so it just ends up being kind of a fun day for them. Their Tuesday schedule is this: Bible (w/ someone else), Art, Lunch/Recess, Spanish (w/ someone else), Reading, P.E. (w/ someone else), and English. So half their classes are electives.

And this morning, their Bible teacher wasn't here in time to start class, so I started them with Art early. This being our last art class, I just let them free paint for the whole time. They always love that. Because things have been going well in art class with only a few things to clean now that I tape newspapers to their tables for them to work on, I usually find an extra paintbrush and will do a painting of my own in between helping them with various things.

This time, one girl told me to draw a flower, and another a heart, so I opted to make a flower with petals shaped like hearts. It turned out super cute, but that tends to backfire, because then all the girls want to paint something as cute as mine, and most of them are just not that skilled of artists yet. But they don't quite get that I've been doing this for like 3 times as long as they've even been alive, so they're not going to be as skilled as me. And that's ok.

But, overall it went well and we actually managed to get to lunch mostly on time. The rest of the day also went well, and we had a spelling bee at the end of the day. We've never done anything like that at first, so it took them a minute to catch on, but once they knew what I wanted and I told them they'd get prizes, they all participated eagerly.

I put all of their names on the board in the order that they're sitting in class, and then gave the first word to the first girl. Depending on their mistake, I would sometimes pause and let them try again. Especially with the letter "i." In Spanish, "i" is pronounced like we say "ee," so they would often say "e" when they were thinking "i." So I gave a lot of leeway with that one. If they made a few mistakes or definitely said the wrong letter, the word got passed to the next kid.

If they did get the word right, I put a star by their name. Once they got 3 stars, they got a mini marshmallow, their name got erased, and they were out of the game, but in a good way. Honestly, that started when one of the kids had 2 stars and I was still trying to figure out how to incorporate the marshmallows when she asked, "What happens with 3 stars?" Since I occasionally can think fast, I whipped out the mini marshmallows and declared, "You get to eat a mini marshmallow in the class!"

That's the point when it got really serious. Not only were they getting a treat, but they also got to EAT IN THE CLASS, which is one of the things that is forbidden in class, like running. It was funny to see them sit up straighter and eagerly try to get it right once there were marshmallows involved. :)

Even though we've NEVER done this before, they did so well that I ran out of the spelling words that I'll be testing them on in the exams, so I had to think of some older spelling words that they had until everybody got 3 stars and had won the game.

At the end of the class period, it was just Emy that had only 1 star, so I decided to dismiss the class. Since the marshmallows had actually been a random gift from one of the second graders and I didn't really want them anyway, I offered them 2 each on their way out for telling me something they had learned.

The point of the "tell me something you learned today" game is for them to tell me something from that day, but most of them give me random things that we haven't talked about in a while. But, since they're giving me things in English and then telling me what they are in Spanish correctly, I count it. I had one kid who's really good at math that told me he learned "sums." We didn't even do math today, so I asked him what 1 + 3 is, and it took him all of 1 second to do it in his head. This is the same kid that declared himself "El rey de sumas" last week, and I totally agree.

At any rate, everyone else filed out of the class while Emy sat and watched, sad that she had not been able to spell enough words right. Surprisingly, she didn't cry. The funny thing was that she knew a lot of them, but couldn't come up with the name of the letter, even when I had her looking up at the alphabet on the wall.

At one point, she was trying to spell the word "pig." She got the first 2 letters, but was stuck on the "g." I kept making the sound for her, but she would just repeat the sound back to me. I asked her "What is that letter?" but she couldn't come up with it. She then started drawing the letter in the air, which is when I had her stand to look at the alphabet, hoping she would be able to pick out the letter that she was writing in the air. She couldn't.

So, after the rest of the kids were gone, I sat her down at my desk and helped her sound and spell out some letters, using Spanish lessons to help her hear and make connections. With the word "can," she got the first 2 letters fine, but couldn't figure out that it was an "n" until I said "na ne ni no nu." Because the vowels are all pronounced the same no matter what, they learn by connecting different consonants to the vowels. As soon as I said that, she knew what the letter was, and wrote it down.

I gave her 3 stars on the paper, and then gave her a marshmallow. Then she got two more for telling me something she learned, and all was right in the world.

I don't know if she's a tad dyslexic or just very visual and had a hard time saying the letters out loud and remember the names of all of them. She does occasionally write letters and numbers backwards, so I'll have to keep an eye on her as we start up again next year. She's also one of the younger 5-year-olds, so it shouldn't be too much of a surprise that she's having some trouble.

So that was pretty much my day. After school I got to have a good talk with one of the camp staff that I'll be working with in a few weeks. Tomorrow we have our oral exams where the kids will have to talk to friends of mine from the States, answering a few questions that we've been practicing. This will not only show me that they know them as individuals and don't just chime in with the kids that studied, but will also help me see that they do understand and can be understood in English outside of the class. It's important to me that they understand English when people other than me speak it to them. So, that will be tomorrow. I'm sure I'll have some stories to tell about that.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Silent and Gifted Children

So, yesterday I was super impressed by the behavior of the kids at the school where I went to observe, and was nervous because the teachers from that school were coming here after recess. You can read more about that in my previous blog, if you haven't already.

Today, I started teaching after lunch as the two women arrived and found seats in my class. As I started with the lesson, I was shocked to find my kids to be SILENT. They were yelling out answers, but only the answers as I asked them. And when I was done asking the question, they stayed quiet until I asked another one.

It pretty much continued like that for the whole hour that the women were there. It was crazy. I would often see them glance sideways at the strangers who were watching them as they gave their answer, hoping that they were looking and impressed with their answers.

I was surprisingly not as nervous as I thought I would be as I started teaching. I just chose to ignore the presence of the other women and just made sure my kids looked extra smart and good. :) It took a lot of effort for me not to try to show up the other teachers. Your kids can sing 8 little songs in English? My kids can sound out the word "alligator." My kids are also starting on identifying the noun and verb part of sentences, which I'm really proud of them for starting to understand. :)

So, my kids were much better than I expected, and I was super proud of them. I'm also a little disappointed in the fact that they are clearly capable of behaving well, but they just choose not to every other day. Ah, well. They have some good days and some bad days. It comes with the territory. They still did pretty well after the women left, so that was good because the plans for the day weren't enough to fill the time we planned for, and I had them for another hour after that.

I just have to share one HUGE triumph for one of my kids. We were trying to identify good/bad sentences by the structure of the sentences, which was hard for them since they barely know the meaning of all the words. One pair of sentences was this:

The man sat.
Man sat the.

When I asked if "Man sat the." was a good sentence or a bad sentence, I got mixed replies, so I asked them "Why is it good?" or "Why is it bad?" I noticed Dennisito's face look especially intense as he looked at that sentence, and I knew he wasn't just guessing when he said it was a bad sentence.

So, I let him explain, and he managed to get out, "porque es no 'man sat the.' Tiene que ser 'the man sat.'" Although he couldn't quite explain why he knew it was wrong, it was clear to me that he knew it was wrong, and could easily see which one was right.

That was really encouraging to me. I can only hope that the other kids can start to get to that level by the end of the year. He's really smart so he tends to pick things up first, but it's a good indication that the other kids CAN learn it, too. They just need a little more time and practice. :)