The email was from Allyson, a mom who attended our New Hampshire Retreat and who decided to jump in and do something she's always thought would be so good for her family. I'm SO excited for her (and jealous, I'll admit). Our day will come - we're saving up and waiting for the kids to get a little older then we're headed to Bulgaria to spend time with the orphans we raise money for each Christmas - and hopefully to many other exciting and eye-opening places as well both here in this country and abroad. And we've already found a couple ways to help others and learn from those we reach out to in this community
You certainly don't have to go to Thailand (like Allyson) to create the experiences you want for your family - you can create amazingly memorable experiences full of life-lessons for your kids on any budget in any location - the key is deciding what you want for your family and then making those things a priority and pushing through any obstacles to make what you believe is best for your family actually happen.
Anyway, here's what I got from Allyson - totally worth the read:
Dear Power of Mom Retreat friends! This is an email I wrote about the new adventure we are on. I wanted to make sure you all got it as YOU are a big part of the reasons we are doing this! Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all the words of wisdom and advice I received from all of you. It changed my life!
PS My blog is now working- see link at the bottom - all you pro bloggers out there just ignore my kindergarten attempt:)
We made it! It was a long trip, but I am happy to report that Charlotte and Ashton only cried once the entire trip to Thailand - a miracle since they basically missed an entire night's sleep, were severely jet lagged, and had to wear the same clothes for 3 days.
I'll give a little background info for those who are just hearing about what we are doing. In Nov. I attended a Power of Moms Retreat (highly recommend it-it was fabulous). One of the main things that I pulled away from the conference was that we need to be deliberate in the things that we want to teach our children. I have thought a great deal about what I want to be "deliberate" in as a mother. There are things that I have always wanted to incorporate into our family, but I never do anything about. Part of the reason is simply because I have been down in the trenches with babies, nursing, sleep deprivation, and moves. The other reason is because I have failed to sit down and take a moment to figure out how to implement it. If we are distracted in the day to day things, we let the long term goals go by the wayside.
I was reading an article called "How Will You Measure Your Life" by Clayton Christensen in the Harvard Business Review magazine. These particular lines stood out to me. "If you want your kids to have strong self-esteem and confidence that they can solve hard problems, those qualities won’t magically materialize in high school. You have to design them into your family’s culture—and you have to think about this very early on. Like employees, children build self-esteem by doing things that are hard and learning what works"
A little panic set in after I read that because while I still have a lot of little kids, my Samuel will be in High School next year. Half of his life I have been in bed sick with pregnancies:) He was amazing through it all, but I realized high school is just around the corner for him. That is when I took being deliberate seriously and Matt and I came up with our "bucket list" of parenting. On the top of our list was to have the children see a different side of the world-one that is a polar opposite of their itouch, xbox, homework-filled, sports-crazed, fast food on every corner life. Don't get me wrong, we love America, we are so grateful for all the blessings we enjoy, but we just wanted them to see what most of the children in this world live like.
After going through finances, it was a stretch, but we prayed about it and spent a lot of time thinking-weighing the positives and negatives and we decided to book it. Eight tickets to Thailand for almost a month. I don't know if I would have had the courage to do it except for a dear friend I met at the Power of Moms conference who shared how her family sold their house and moved to South America for 8 months. She said it changed their life. She gave me courage.
The children went door to door selling a hand sanitizer that my brother-in-law's company sells and they were able to raise money for the orphans (ownership of the helping the orphans). We gathered the many donations of items people brought over (thank you!) as well as the money, packed our bags, and we were off.
Korea was beautiful (and freezing)- our bags continued to Phuket, so all we had were what we had on. It was snowing, but the kids loved the Palace and many outdoor markets. New food, new culture, and definitely new smells. We had a lot of dry heaving going on.
Yesterday was our first day in the orphanages. The first one was called "Safe Haven" attached to the women's prison. They live in 2 rooms that are maybe 12 foot by 12 foot and there is nowhere to play outside. There were about 35 children all lined up in rows eating their lunch of rice and noodles. There was not an inch to spare in that room. They were about to take their naps, so we are going back today.
We then drove to the "Holland House" orphanage. We were very blessed to find it-with the many little roads throughout the city, with no street signs, we had a tender mercy as we ran into a lady that drove us straight there...
This is the part of the story where every wonder of doubt we had over coming and spending the money disappeared into thin air. I have been up since 3 am thinking about the day we had yesterday. We walked into the small orphanage and the children were also eating their lunch. I watched as my children almost instinctively picked a child to sit next to and help feed them their lunch. Sam and Brandon took some of the little boys and played football with them with the football they had brought. Ashton had no language barrier as he ran around playing with the other 3 and 4 year olds. Olivia was in her element as the children just wanted to be held and kept jumping in her lap and on her back. It was a true gift to be there experiencing this with our children. They loved it. The workers there who spoke very little English kept saying over and over again-"Children happy. Children happy." The children in the orphanage giggled and giggled, tackled the boys (they really are the same everywhere), and had such an amazing spirit about them. There really was a feeling of love there. They had about 4 workers who you could absolutely feel loved these children. Though some only had a t-shirt and underwear on with no shoes, they did feel love.
There was one little girl however that I can't get out of my mind. She is almost 2, but looked malnourished and half her age. She wouldn't move off of the helper's lap and she cried on and off the whole time we were there. I can't erase the sadness off her face. She is the only one who never engaged or even smiled. Through the broken English we learned that she had only been there 2 days. Obviously, she was dealing with the sadness of losing her family and being somewhere where she knew no one and missed her family. I kept thinking of that happening to my little Charlotte. Alone and confused as to where her family was. It was truly heartbreaking.
The children are so BEAUTIFUL. The Thai people are so gracious and kind. I had heard and read about how the Thai people loved and revered children, and it was no understatement.
We are off to go back today and bring more items and head to the grocery store to bring food that they had on their list. They get a little government funding, but desperately need donations to survive. They had run out of diapers and while we were there 2 of the children had an accident as a puddle formed around where they were sitting. They were obviously wearing underwear before they were ready due to the lack of diapers.
Some of you have asked if there was anything else you could do or donate. The answer is yes, yes, yes! They are desperate for money to buy needed goods. They also said the children have not been on an outing to the beach or aquarium etc. in 6 months-which means they have not left the orphanage. An outing like that costs about 2000 baht which is about $70. Anyway, if you would like to help more just let me know.
We love you all! I will start posting on my blog, which I never write on, as soon as I can get it back to English. All the words to make a new post etc are in Thai. The blog is www.carefreetimelessness.