AG—5 years old

It is hard to believe we have been parents for five years. Ana chose a princess theme this year, and instead of a party with friends, we invited our close neighbors to eat a meal of Ana’s choice, and took cupcakes to school on her actual birthday.

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Here are some highlights from the celebrating:

1. You wanted a princess theme so we bought lots of stickers to use as decoration. Your large princess poster from Christmas served nicely as decoration on the wall.

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2. You wanted chocolate cake with peanut butter cream frosting. You had never tried peanut butter frosting, and I never suggested it. But that is what you chose, and I was happy to make it for you (I love that combination).

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3. I asked you what you wanted for your birthday meal and you requested Manuela’s Atomatada. “You know you’ve lived the majority of your life in Arequipa when…” That is Momma’s favorite Peruivan dish so I didn’t mind that selection at all.

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4. Since you didn’t have a party with friends, I told you I would make cupcakes for your class. You were so excited. I asked your teacher the week before how many students there were (thinking 10-12). She said, “28 and 2 teachers.” You were so excited, though, so I made 34 cupcakes! For you, it was worth it. But I was sick of baking cake by that point. Your cupcakes were chocolate with buttercream frosting and sprinkles.

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5. You received some nice gifts. Nadia got you some stickers and new glitter glue. Anita got you an Iberica chocolate bunny. Alex and Staci got you a brand new princess lunchbox. Gram and Pop got you a Rapunzel set for your dollhouse, and Daddy and I got you 2 new box sets of Junie B Jones and 1 box set of The Magic Treehouse series.

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6. After school on your birthday I had planned to take you on a surprise date to the 5 star hotel to swim with one of your gringa friends, Baylee (who turned 6 on your birthday). It was too overcast and cool so we went and ate together and got ice cream afterward. Here you are with your frsh fruit juice of maracuya and strawberry. Yum.

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P.S. That crown you are wearing in every picture came with a Barbie that Areli bought for you. You wanted to wear it for every birthday festivity. 🙂 You are such a girl!

Things about you as a 5-year-old:

1. You are so independent as a 5 year old, and I think that has so much to do with our lifestyle. You started going to school every day when you were 17 months old, you have learned to adjust to the culture of our family and the culture of Peru. You know 2 languages. You are constantly meeting new people whether they are visitors from the states, interns, other missionaries, Peruvians in the church, Peruvians just coming over to visit, etc. It is our norm, but when Pop was here, he commented on how independent you are. I can totally see it.

2. You are a great big sister. You love making Maggie laugh. You two have giggle wars when you are supposed to be going to sleep. You love playing “baby and momma.” You two have gotten married several times where you have been the novio and the officiant. Making a tent from every random blanket you can find is not abnormal.

You love asking to go to Cohen’s room when he has woken up, and you can get Cohen to cackle at you like no one else. He loves you so much. There are times when I need you to watch Cohen. You are already a wonderful baby sitter. Sometimes you say, “Mom, not again. I already watched him.” You are SUCH a big help to me with your siblings.

3. You still love art. Daddy asked you what extra class you wanted to take at school. There is dance, cooking, art, soccer. You requested art without hesitating. It doesn’t take you long at all to use a pad of paper. You immediately started making thank you notes to people after your party.

4. Princess Memory and Strawberry Shortcake Memory are 2 of your favorite games to play.

5. You have discovered The Incredibles. That is your favorite movie right now.

6. You are a fashion diva. You do things in your own artistic way (like wearing a scrunchie on your bicep as an arm band). You crack me up some days, but you are confident in “looking cute.”

7. You enjoy taking a bath with Maggie, but you have started requesting more showers. This is a sign that you are older.

8. Reading Junie B Jones with Daddy at night has become a bedtime ritual.

9. There isn’t a day that goes by that you don’t ask for ice cream or candy. You have a serious sweet tooth. You are also a bottomless pit. You will eat all of your lunch, eat a banana or apple 30 minutes later, want a peice of bread 30 minutes after that, etc. Your metabolism is incredible.

10. You seem to be built like me… short waist, long legs.

11. I always sing 2 songs at night, your request and Maggie’s request. This last month you have been requesting a song that you have made up. It is most always to the tune of “Oh God You Are My God,” but you make up the words. You refer to God as your King and Queen which I think is absolutely beautiful that that is how you see God. It is usually always a song of praise to God for who he is and what he does.

12. When you pray, you always pray for the kids that don’t have mommies and daddies and the people that don’t have houses or clothes. I used to wonder what bringing you to Peru would do to you. I am amazed at your worldview, and your compassion for the poor. You are such a beautiful example of this to me, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

13. You can’t wait to see your cousins and grandparents when we go to the states. You mention them a lot like you think a lot about them.

14. You love having a count-down calendar for special dates. You religiously mark the days off every morning.

15. You are such a beautiful young lady, and we are so proud of you as our first child!

ALL THE PICTURES ON FACEBOOK

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AG—5 years old

CT—11 months

You turned 11 months on Monday. I can’t believe we are a month away from you turning one! Since I wrote your 10 month post so late, I don’t have a lot to add. So I will go picture heavy on this one. Honestly, I can’t get enough of you. You are in the cutest stage. When people say, “Oooo, I just want to SQUEEZE ’em!” Well, I say that a lot to you in this stage. 🙂

1. You can officially climb the stairs. Big trouble when I forget to close the gate downstairs.
2. You are cruising more and more and enjoy walking with our help.
3. You love being outside (as most babies do). I put you in the exersaucer up on the roof while I hang laundry, and you love it.
4. A new favorite food for you is strawberries. You could eat an entire container in one sitting if I let you.
5. I looked up a new phrase today: “nursing strike.” Apparently, you do the exact opposite of your sisters when it comes to teething. You have been having some major teething issues, and it has resulted in you refusing to nurse (which you LOVE). Since I plan to wean you in this last month, you might just do it to yourself. You had your first cup of cow’s milk today because of it, and you liked it. We all know you need to add some more pounds. (huge wink)
6. Everyone here thinks that you are “GRANDE.” Etelvina calls you “Super beb.”
7. You have started calling Daddy, “Da.” That makes me smile.
8. You have taken a liking to chewing on crayons when you find them. I am not a fan. Your sisters get in big trouble when they leave them out.
9. We bought you your first pair of Big Boy shoes. They have Elmo on them.
10. You love bathtime with your sisters.
See this look? He thinks he is going to get the camera lens he sees dangling.

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What happens when you have two older sisters around.

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cruising at the baby gate. Good thing it is there.

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a close-up. Aren’t you just the cutest thing ever!

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McKinzie Three bathtime

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so sweet with those two little bottom teeth (I have a feeling that some more will pop out very soon)

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CT—11 months

Back to School 2012

March is back to school here in Peru. Ana started Kindergarten and Maggie started her first year of preschool. They were both beyond excited, and they both had a great first week. Ana loves school. I wasn’t worried about her. I wondered how Maggie would do, but she went and returned to the house just fine. She is such a little independent thing! They both go from 8:30 to 1:30 every day (Mon-Fri). It is a different world in my house. It has been quite some time since I just had one in the house. Cohen is now my little morning buddy, and I love it! I can totally remember having Ana and thinking, “How do people do this with more than one?” Well, two kids later, and I am THANKFUL to have one. I can actually get some quiet time in the morning while Cohen naps.

Here are some pictures from the first week. One pic is of all the books that I had to put clear, plastic covers on. This doesn’t include the notebooks and trapperkeepers! It took me forever. Their Christmas present from Pop and Gram this past year was monogrammed backpacks. Aren’t they cute? There they are on the first day. I cannot believe that Ana started Kindergarten, but she has been in school full-time ever since she was 17 months old. We are so proud of Maggie. She has taken the challenge, been a big girl (we got her potty-trained during the summer break), and hasn’t cried one time. It will be fun to see her speak more Spanish. This is where she will learn it. I told them the other night when tucking them into bed, “I know that one day you two will be able to talk about me right in front of me, and I won’t be able to understand.” Pretty soon, Maggie’s Spanish will surpass my abilities. 🙂

the books…

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I cracked up when I saw that my almost 3-year-old will have technology class…

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Can you see their names?

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If I have a say, they don’t get much cuter than this! (AG-almost 5 and MK-2 1/2)

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For journaling purposes, every day that Maggie came home last week, I would ask, “How was school? What did you do?” Her answer, “I had fun. I play in DIRT!!!” They have a sandbox and she thinks it is the best thing ever. Is this a city girl or what? She isn’t going to know what to do with herself when she visits the farm later this year. 🙂

Back to School 2012

CT—10 going on 11 months

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This is the first time for me to get this far behind on a month post for a child. Sorry, Cohen. I took the pictures, but life got the best of me on this post. I am still posting it before your turn 11 months! I have pictures of when you were exactly 10 months. The biggest news was that you met your Pop for the first time. He thought you were precious, and this was one of the most precious moments I captured of the two of you while he was here (you fell asleep in the taxi on the way home from playing all morning at City Toys):

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You are way past 10 months, but here are the things I want to remember about you from this stage:

1. You are a monkey. We have never had a child that constantly turns when having their diaper changed. I always thought it was odd that people had to belt their children down on the changing tables in public bathrooms. Now I know why! You are crawling, pulling up, and crusing all over the place. If there is a cabinet or drawer to be opened you will do it. You are a mess. Your favorite things to do that are against the rules are play in my kitchen cabinets, go in the bathroom (and you are known for getting into your sister’s training potty-yuck!), and into the living room buffet.

2. You are flirting with climbing the stairs. You can climb one. It is only a matter of time.

3. You are our least verbal child. Well… verbal in the sense that you are making out words. You only say Mama. But you can squawk and scream with the best of them when you want attention (this usually happens when you are out of food).

4. You are a pig. I have never in my life seen a child eat so much. When people say “boys are different” they couldn’t be any more correct in describing you. For example, you wake up and nurse. When your sisters eat breakfast, you join them and eat (this is only about 30-45 minutes after you have nursed) a little banana, an entire peach, a large egg yolk, and one slice of buttered toast. The saying “eating you out of house and home” is an understatement with you. You love just about everything we put in front of you. You especially like Tortellini soup, Ritz crackers, cheese, bananas, yogurt, and any juicy fruit. And you eat like a pig. You eat in fistfulls and your get food all over your face and ALWAYS in your hair. (see last picture below)

5. You are ticklish and flirty and love to giggle with us, BUT you can be so serious. Which reminds me of your daddy.

6. Speaking of your daddy… you look a whole lot like him right now. You are almost a mini-boy version of Maggie, and many say that Maggie looks like your daddy. I think you are super handsome. You especially remind me of your daddy when you look up at me with your eyes squinted and your nose scrunched.

7. You were sleeping through the night for months, but this past month you decided to wake me up a lot in the night. We are working back toward the all night schdeule again. You don’t act like you want to give up nursing. You are sure to end your day with it and start your day with it.

8. You go to bed at 7 if naps allign correctly throughout the day. You take 2 naps, one at 10 am and the other at 3. You do not sleep well when we are out so Sunday mornings at Naranjal are not good mornings for you.

9. You only like the bath for a little while, because you want to climb out after about 5 minutes.

10. I love your little head of boy hair. It has come in thick, and you have curls in the back. Gram gave you your first trim around the ears when she was here.

If I think of anymore, I will add them to the 11 month post. Here are some pictures from this past month…

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you at exactly 10 months when the coffee shop opened:

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and we didn’t have any water in this picture… (lovely!)

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CT—10 going on 11 months

Pop and Gram 2012

We had a wonderful time with my mom and dad this past month. For fun, here is the picture we took the last time my dad visited us in Arequipa in 2010:

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Here they are with those same girls on this visit (a lot has changed):

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And we happened to add one more in the mix for this visit. It was my Dad’s first time to meet grandchild #9:

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It was such a blessing to have Dad and Mom here. The timing couldn’t have been better with my Dad meeting Cohen. Dad isn’t a “baby person,” so meeting Cohen as a 10-month-old was just right. His comment in seeing Cohen, “Why can’t they all come out just like this?”

Grandparents are at the top of my list for things I miss. I love our life here, but it always makes me sad to think that we can’t make a weekend trip to see grandparents (that includes you too, Memaw!) or even have a weekend to ourselves and leave our kids with the grandparents. Skype is a huge blessing, but seeing them and hugging them and listening to Gram read or Pop tickle them, those are the precious moments. And we had lots of those.

We went to the park, visited a pool one day, took the kids to City Toys (a kids play area in the mall), watched movies, hung out with the church, and ate and ate and ate. 🙂 Greg and I always look forward to the marathon show we will watch. This year, Dad brought his HBO series of John Adams which we thoroughly enjoyed, and then they got us hooked on to the new series, The Firm. Oh, and I should add that Cafe Connection opened while they were here. It was neat for them to see the inauguration.

Dad and Mom, we love you, and we enjoyed our visit with you so much. Cohen is still warm and cozy in his clothes that Gram brought him, Maggie always talks about you being in the airplane, and Ana cannot wait for September. Greg and I are already talking our farm meal up… fried catfish, fried ocra, fresh garden tomatoes, hush puppies, Granddad’s slaw, and Granny’s blackberry cobbler. Can’t.wait!

For those that don’t have Facebook (Deborah Bills!), here is the album of photos from their visit… Facebook Album.

Pop and Gram 2012

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My TA Newsletter article February 2012:

This past week, in a Bible study with a searching friend, we finished the time of Jesus’s ministry in Mark 10. We have read the multiple stories of Jesus revealing himself as Lord over demons, disease, nature, and death. Sometimes Jesus asks the person with faith to not tell anyone what he has done for them. Sometimes, he instructs them to go back home and tell everyone what has been done. One of my favorites stories, the story of the demon-possessed man in Mark 5, is an incredible example of this:

As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you. So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.” (Mark 5:19-20)

Wouldn’t you have loved to hear his story? I cannot imagine. It is no wonder to me that the word used to describe the people’s reaction was “amazed.”

This past week, we had a really good conversation. Chapter 10 opens with the Pharisees trying to catch Jesus with a divorce question. From that encounter, Mark jumps to the little children and Jesus. But then comes a story that to me is the fireworks of Jesus’s gospel message: the story of the rich young ruler. Take a few minutes and read it again to refresh your mind

I asked my friend, “Was this young man good or bad?” The obvious answer is good. Jesus lists the commandments and the young man states that he has kept all of them since he was a little boy. Also, what exactly was the young man asking? Here he has come to Jesus. He calls him “Good teacher.” Throughout the study we have been answering the question Mark constantly throws in our face, “Who Is Jesus?” This man has obviously heard about Jesus and the good things he has done. I don’t think that he truly knows who he is after reading the outcome of the story, but he thinks that Jesus may know the answer to a question that many people still ask today, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” I think it is interesting that Jesus lists off the commandments as if the young man is tallying all of them in his head. How many want a check-list? Isn’t it easier for Jesus to just tell us what to do so we can check it off of our list? The young man thinks he is covered. He has been a good person keeping the commandments since he was a little boy. But no. That is not where Jesus stops. Jesus DOES tell him what to do. “One thing you lack. Go sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” We all know how the story ends.

So my friend and I talked. We discussed what exactly went on in this story. Now, I think that there is an entire sermon series on Jesus commanding us (not asking) to take care of the poor. Jesus does not tell the man to simply get rid of his possessions. He tells him to sell his possessions AND give to the poor. I think it is very important to emphasize that point. But to stress something else in this story, I want to ask, “What do you want from Jesus? What are you taking away from Christianity? Have you followed the commands? Do you believe in the ‘Good Teacher’? Have you secured your place in eternal life?” I believe that many can list off the things they have done to make sure they can answer that question with an affirmative. But “Have you been saved” is NOT the gospel message of Jesus.

Jesus asks the man to do one thing. The thing that has been keeping this man from truly doing what God has been professing throughout the Old Testament and through the message of the Christ. And after he has done that one thing, he is told to do what? Follow. Following Jesus is the theme that runs throughout the entire book of Mark. It begins with those fishermen that left their nets and happens to so many people touched by Jesus throughout his journey. The man goes away sad, and Jesus has one of his most incredible “teachable moments” with his disciples. They talk about the rich and how hard it will be for them to enter the Kingdom, but something clicks with Peter:

“Then Peter spoke up, “We have left everything to follow you.” “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied. “no one who has left home or brothers and sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields–along with persecutions–and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” ” (Mark 10:28-31)

What a promise! Accepting the message of Jesus is not checking things off a list. Accepting the message of Jesus is not simply believing in a “Good Teacher.” Accepting the message of Jesus is believing in him and choosing to follow him whatever the cost. Many believe. Few follow. Following is not easy. Even in Jesus’s encouragement of “a hundred times as much,” he inserts “along with persecutions.” He makes it loud and clear that he understands the cost, he will reward you for what you give up, but it is not an easy journey.

But Mark does not stop with this story. Chapter 10 ends with another blind man that Jesus heals. Unlike the blind man in Chapter 8, he immediately restores sight to this man. Everything is becoming more and more clear to the disciples. (God is a literary genius.) So at this point, my friend speaks up and says something that tells me she has been paying close attention. “Megan,” she starts, “Jesus doesn’t tell him to go away or go tell people back home. It says, ‘Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.’ ” My heart couldn’t have been happier at that moment. Mark was emphasizing the point that a person who truly knows Jesus will want to FOLLOW him. That, my friends, is the gospel message of Jesus. Whatever the cost.

(an addition that wasn’t in the article)

Something else clicked with me the day after I studied this. It is amazing how it takes my eyes a second time to see (like the man in Ch. 8), because I have grown up hearing these stories my entire life and not understood them correctly. NT Wright wrote a book called Surprised By Hope that talks about heaven being the here and now and not some place “beyond the azure blue.” It has radically changed the way in which I read the Bible and read about heaven when it is mentioned.

When Jesus tells the rich young ruler that it is easier for a camel to enter the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom I have always pictured the rich man standing outside the pearly gates and Jesus standing there saying, “I am sorry. You can’t come in here. You were too rich. Please step aside and allow the camel to come through, though.” “The Kingdom” was heaven, and “Heaven” was “that place up in the clouds where we try to go after we die.” Now that I think of Heaven as the Kingdom, but that Kingdom is right here on earth and was started by Jesus, I read this story entirely different. Jesus’s kingdom is about justice, well-being, taking care of the poor. Of course it is impossible for a rich man to enter into that kingdom if he is unwilling to sell his possessions and give to the poor. The man in this story has placed his “heaven” in his material things. In order to FOLLOW JESUS, one must be willing to give up the things that keep one from participating in the kingdom. The rich young ruler was not willing to let go and follow.

So the question is, “In order to follow Jesus, what do you need to let go of to fully participate in his kingdom?”

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January 2012

Meg’s TA Newsletter article 2012:

Chapter by Chapter

What an exciting January! We have so much going on, and to be honest, I don’t see it slowing down anytime soon. First, this September marks the beginning of our final year in the contract. Please be in prayer with us over the future of the work here and the future of where our families will be. Also, both families will be traveling to the states for furlough. The Smiths leave in early March and my family will leave in mid-August. We are excited to see our supporters and hug on some people we haven’t seen in quite a while.

CUDA seems to have started rolling, and it isn’t slowing down. I am elated that Alfredo Oporto, our brother in Christ and the first person we met in Arequipa, has taken the reigns of executive director. Kyle, Larissa, Greg, and I are all volunteers now. I attended my first library meeting early this month to discuss the future of the program. I was an expert volunteer called in to help with curriculum development for the reading literacy program. I cannot express how wonderful it is to see the Peruvians take charge of something that we began 3 years ago. Sustainability has always been our dream for this work, and with Peruvians in charge, that is the first major step to making it a reality.

We are planning a team day retreat. We have a long strategy document listing the goals and dreams we had for this work year-by-year. The elderships all signed on to it, and as a team, we are revisiting the document to pray and dream further about where we are and what the future holds. We can plan all we want, but his ways being higher than our ways becomes quite a reality when you can look back over four years of the ministry.

This month has also been a month of good-byes. Anna and Sakari, the Finnish couple that worked with CUDA for 4 months, left on the 21st. One of our friends that was associated with the mine here left on the 24th (we had a ladies Bible study group in English that she was part of). And, Rachel Steele is preparing to leave on February 15. Her two year commitment has come to an end. So, though sad to say these good-byes, it is a reminder to me that God’s story is full of new chapters and we learn to go with it.

January 2012