If you want to have amazing help packing, ever, may I recommend making friends with a military wife?

My friend Megan has moved 22 times. She grew up military and she married military. She is a machine! I did not think so much could be done in such a short time.

And Naomi pitched in for a while, my neighbor, who is also an army wife. These ladies know packing.

And Kristine, my friend from church brought her daughter to take care of the kids, cleaned out my fridge, and figured out some how how to get all of the random breakable things that I've been afraid to pack into boxes.

Oh, and she brought a lasagna and garlic toast for dinner.

My friend Margarita showed me how much she loved me by trying not to cry and making jokes instead when she saw all the boxes. I'm going to miss this community, these women I see everyday. Even though I fully expect to stay in touch with them.

I am blessed with friends. I'm not sure I realized how blessed until now. Tomorrow brings even more people and the day after that even more. Which is great, because by body is far too distracted by trying to keep this baby in for a whole other month, while my cervix gets pounded to death, to be of much use.

Packing-Day 1

For those of you who aren't on Twitter and didn't hear yet, we have a house!

It's in the wrong place, which is why I hadn't looked at it before. It actually adds to Aaron's drive time every day, which we didn't want. But I reached the point where I realized that if the choice was between a place we all wanted to live that he was happy to come home to, with space to breath, vs. a tiny cramped hard to be in place that was closer, I'd rather have him happy to come home. Even if it meant driving farther.

So I went to look at it on Friday afternoon. Actually I called first and said, "I have kids. Please tell me now if that will be a deal breaker, so I can save myself the trouble of driving there, liking it, applying and being passed over again." His response that he hoped to rent to a family and has kids of his own was encouraging, so we got in the car.

It's got a big front yard, all grass and trees, pear, lemon, guava, with a wrought iron fence all around it. The house looks tiny until you get inside. Our landlord completely renovated it, thinking his family would live there a long time. He restored the original hardwood flooring, he put up crown molding, re-plastered, put in gorgeous tile work in the bathrooms...

It has two bedrooms, plus another little room behind the dining room that goes into an office with built in desk and tons of cabinets. This is technically the 3rd bedroom. I admit I was so dazzled by the size of the first bedroom and the hard wood that I thought there were three bedrooms plus the office and little den room. I realized my mistake when we went back again yesterday. But since this bedroom is the size of our current living room, with huge storage closets, I think I'm going to rig it with furniture and curtains so there is a boy side and a girl side that are private. The Boy can hang out in the den if he needs some peace and quiet to work on school or read. Because I'm so excited to be able to set a room aside, just for Aaron, that he can relax in in the evenings with french doors that shut and block out all the noise from the house. Back yard has a concrete patio w. built in fireplace that begs for all my planters to come live there and more grass and paths.

Here are the problems. It's street parking only, so Aaron will have to unload his tools at night so they aren't stolen. That's exhausting to do at the end of a hard day. Does anyone know of super secure ways to store tools in a truck? And we'll need to put in a storage shed or something to put them in.

Oh, and I have to find a fridge, washer and dryer this week because it doesn't come with that. More craigslist browsing.

The people we're renting from are a really sweet couple. He was a pastor's kid too. They have already offered to find out if we can talk to their church about The Charis Project. And we're close to friends that I didn't even realize lived nearby.

So it seems like all of you were right. God did give us a place. Thanks for your encouraging comments on Friday. I cried reading them. I think this place worked out so well for a reason. I still wonder if I chose right, I always second guess myself later. But it's done now, lease is signed, time to madly pack, and figure out if a lot of buff teenage boys is enough muscle power to move the piano.

Thank God for friends who offer to help and come bearing food and free child care.

I'll probably not be on much this week. Our moving day is Thursday. I just wanted to thank you all for your encouragement and let you know how things have progressed.

Oh and the ultimate good news is that Aaron got home safe. He's tired, he got sick up in the village and he's at work again this morning, But he's home! Now I have someone to torture with my constant running internal monologue about all these decisions. :) Kidding. Sort of. But it's such a relief to have him home.


Back to real life

Two weeks ago I felt strong, I felt like I could do this. I could find a place to move to, I could pack up everything, with help from friends who offered of course, and I could take care of all the regular everyday things as well.

That was before this baby head became engaged in my pelvis and started pressing against everything down there. That was before I cam up against, over and over again, "Well, there was nothing wrong with your rental application per say... we just had a stronger applicant, and the number of small children was a concern."

Because a 3 bedroom single family house is so much less appropriate for a family of almost 6 than a 2 bedroom apartment which is where we currently live? I swear, I have heard, "how will you fit that many people into this tiny space?" far too many times this month. I should show them pictures of how we fit into half the space now.

I am reminded suddenly that most people think of 4 children as a large family. I'm running into a form of discrimination I've never encountered before. I want to tell them about the orphanage where 10-20 children sleep together in one room. I want to show them the farmhouse my dad grew up in with 11 siblings. I want to shake them and say, "Just because other let their kids trash houses and color all over doesn't mean I'm one of them."

I don't feel strong anymore. I feel tired and defeated and ready to quit. I tell myself that really our place isn't that small compared to all the people we know living in 3rd world countries in huts. They would be ecstatic to have what we have. I tell myself that we can stay here another year, with the $100 rent increase and no space for Aaron to store tools or do any shop work and no space for the boy at all in a room with sisters. We don't "need" anything more, and we don't, and I am good at being content.

My mother thinks I am quitting too soon. I should "contend" for a new home. I should pack in faith expecting that a place will suddenly present itself before the end of the month, "in the zero hour."

Today I feel like just dragging my weary self up and getting to work on the regular everyday things requires all the contending ability I've got. Mailing packages, printing fliers, showing up at the thingy tomorrow so The Charis Project has a presence at the city wide Abolitionists Breakfast, (local people who combat human trafficking) since Aaron will be on a plane. These feel like my own personal mountains to climb, if I never even look at a cardboard box.

Some days just putting away the laundry feels like an act of faith. I think any weary mama can relate.

So I will get up now and put away the laundry, and get to work, and give what my kids need today. We'll see if there's anything left over for "faith packing." I have my doubts.


And the winners are....

So, the whole idea with having the kids at the orphanage draw for the winners was to have these really great photos to go along with this post so you could see the kids and the actual event.

I forgot that Aaron won't be back until Sunday and the upload speed at the few places he finds out in the middle of nowhere to be online for a few minutes is no where near adequate for sending photos.

So I'm just going to tell you who the winners are, and put up photos anyway next week.

Through a very complicated process I assigned every entry a number. I started with the comments that qualified as entries and then moved on to donations, making sure not to overlap entries from comments that mentioned donations. There was more but anyway, I worked hard to make sure it was fair and that I didn't miss anyone.

So, here are the winners.

The lovely bracelet from Wired Whimsy goes to... Lenae in GA.

The white Karen bag goes to...Katherine in CO

The striped Karen bag to Julie in Austin

The prize from Secret Agent Josephine goes to Nadia in Canada.

And the surprise gift from Thailand goes to Susan Quinn

I'll be notifying the winners of the local prizes by email since most of them don't blog, or even read this one I don't think. I know, shocking!

I want to thank-you all again and again for what you did. It's because of you that the kids are getting a truck this week and a safe ride to school.



We did it!

I was thinking yesterday about how the father of my kids was on the other side of the planet taking care of kids who don't have a dad on Father's day. Not only are we good with that, more time to find a gift for him, but I'm thrilled that he is the type of man who is teaching my children what a father should be, and who a father is.

He says one of the most stressful parts of his trip every time is to find good gifts to bring home to his kids. That makes me smile because he's already given them the best gift of all. He's faithful to all of us and I'm so thankful for that.

Also, the final tally is, you're going to want to brace yourself,



When I posted about this 2 weeks ago it was a last ditch effort. I did not think anything would come of it. I figured I would do my best and try, but I really didn't think we would be able to raise so much so quickly. I was wrong.

Thank-you so much for making me wrong.

$2000 of that came from Aaron's employer who started asking why he needed to take unpaid time off to travel to Thailand this month. So Aaron told him the short version and they decided to help out. How awesome is that?

And how awesome are all of you who tweeted and blogged and gave? Please give yourselves the biggest hug ever, from me. You make the world better.

Tomorrow I will post all the prize winners. I'm working on it right now.



Last day, almost there. Can we do it?

The total this morning sits at $5,504!

Do you think we can get the last $500 by the end of the day?

Closing time for the giveaway is midnight tonight. Which is about 2pm over there and Aaron should be just arriving at the children's home.

I am amazed that this has happened, and that so much has been raised so quickly.

Thank-you all.

If you can help, please help us with one last push today and spread the word that we're almost there.

Remember to link to this post here and go there to donate.


Announcing more prizes and an extension. *Update*


I just spent several minutes adding everything that has come in in the past week. We're at $4519! That's amazing! I'm a little emotional right now. I'm truly amazed and humbled that so many people have taken a moment to help with all of the other things going on in the world. That you would notice and care about these little kids, who have no political clout, and nothing to capture the world's attention blesses me so much.

And I think we can make it. We're so close now.

I'm extending the giveaway and deadline until midnight this Thursday June 17. We realized that even though Aaron leaves tomorrow night, he won't actually reach the orphanage until Friday. Thanks to Western Union, we can wire it all him that day in country.

We can do this people! I really think we can now.

So we have another fabulous giveaway. Brenda, the remarkably creative and sweet blogger behind Secret Agent Josephine got back to me this weekend and offered to donate a prize. She pretty much just offered anything in her shop and a few things that aren't listed there as well.

Aren't these adorable?

I feel completely unqualified to choose, so I asked Brenda to just pick something. I don't know yet what she will choose, but I know it will be awesome. (Ok, Brenda says that the winner gets to choose whatever they want. I so wish I could enter this contest. And you should know that the letter print above can be customized for whomever and whatever name.)

To enter to win a prize from Brenda please click on this link Project Buy the Orphanage a Truck and enter to win on that post. Remember every tweet, link, donation or facebook moment is an entry. Please leave a comment for each one so you can get all of your entries. except, donations are automatic entries anyway, don't comment about those if you don't want to.

Also, we have some prizes that are only useful if you live in SoCal, but I thought I would put them up here because I know some of you are nearby.

Generously donated by DoubleTree Golf Resort San Diego:

A round of golf for 4 people- estimated value is $200. (Mondays to Thursdays only, advance tee time reservations required.)

The Terrace’s CafĂ© breakfast for Two at the DoubleTree Golf Resort.

Also we have a custom made Pamper Basket with aromatic soaps, lotions etc.

and a few bottles of wine donated by the South Coast Winery in Temecula, recognized as the best winery in California for the second consecutive year. (My neighbor is a head chef there. If you ever go ask for Mike, he will make your mouth happy.)

To get one of these local prizes click on this link and make a minimum $25 donation. 

Every $25 will be automatically entered into a draw for these great prizes! The winners will be chosen at the orphanage Friday June 18. The cut off date to enter is Thursday June 17 at 12am pacific time. Winners will be notified a week following.

I love you all. Thanks so much for your help on this.


Love Thursday-This week's outpouring

First, a progress report on Project Buy the Orphanage a Truck. As of this morning the total donated is $3280. That's more than halfway to our goal of $6000. I'm blown away. I really didn't think this was going to happen short of a miracle. Now, I think it just might. You guys are the miracle. Thanks.

Those 40 kids have lost parents, lived through war, and all sorts of other unmentionable things. And now you guys are stepping up and taking care of them in ways that really make a difference.

Now for today's story. It starts with a little girl named Cordelia, age 4. Her parents sponsor one of the children at Charis Home. After this Christmas when you guys helped us buy them real beds and shoes and warmer clothes, her mom showed her the pictures of them. She wanted to know why they didn't get any toys.

Her mom tells me that what followed was a long conversation where she tried to explain poverty and how the kids were really happy to get beds and clothes for Christmas. Cordelia still thought it wrong that those kid don't have toys to play with.

So this is what arrived in the mail yesterday for Aaron to deliver next week to the kids who live at Charis Home.

Her mom and several other sewers got together and made 40 of these adorable dolls. One for each child.

If that's not love, I don't know what is.

Thank-you Joy for organizing this and to all of you who sewed dolls. I know some kids who are going to be thrilled.

Love Thursday is hosted by Chookooloonks.


Project buy the orphanage a truck. ****Giveaway****

In a week and one day Aaron will board a plane for Thailand. One problem, we still haven't raised the $6000 we need to buy a truck so the kids can get to school safely. (Please scroll down for the story. To learn more about The Charis Project please visit our website.)

So, in the interest of making things fun I started asking some friends of mine to donate prizes for everyone who helps us to reach our goal.

The first person I thought of was Christy from Wired to the Whimsy. I'm so glad for twitter, I would never have met her otherwise. She got back to me within seconds and donated this gorgeous bracelet that she was going to list in her shop.

Isn't it pretty?

Next up we have 2 completely handwoven bags, made by Karen woman on hand looms made of sticks. Like this.

These are the most comfortable bags you have ever worn. You'll have to trust me on this, but I've used a lot of bags, and this super wide woven shoulder strap distributes weight all over your shoulder and back and makes it feel like it weighs barely anything. They are really strong too. The Karen use them for work; to haul wood, tools, chicken feed, etc.

The pouch is really nice and roomy. I've used mine for everything from diapers to books to beach items. You can't wear this bag somewhere without someone stopping to ask you where you got it.

You can see why. Look at the detailed embroidery on this one.

I only have a detail shot of the fringe on this one, because I was shooting just before the sun went down and the others came out all blurry. But you can see the colors in it.

I hope to have even more prizes to add over this coming week. Please contact me if you would like to donate a prize. I will of course tell everyone how awesome you are and link to your store if you have one. :)

There are 4 ways you can enter to win one of these great prizes.

1. Post a link to this page on twitter.
2. Post a link on facebook.
3. Post a link to this page in a blog post.
4. Make a donation. (Size doesn't matter. Every little bit helps.)

(The Charis Project is a registered corporation in the state of California with non-profit 501c3 status currently pending IRS approval.)

Please leave a separate comment for each way that you enter to win and include the url of your post or tweet in the comment. Aaron will have the orphanage kids draw numbers as soon as he gets there and those comments will be winners.

 ****Super Special Bonus Prize**** 
 There will be a separate draw for everyone who makes a donation and Aaron will bring home a surprise prize that is somewhat customized to the winner. i.e. If you think it would be awesome to get working crossbow handcrafted in a tribal village that you can actually use to hunt squirrels for food, he can get you that. OR if you want something cool from a Thai street market, he can get you that too.

And now, to remind everyone why this is so important here is the original post telling why we need this so badly.


Imagine kissing your kids goodbye, checking their backpacks and school uniforms, and sending them on their way to school. You watch and wave and they head off down the road.

Only, you have almost 40 kids, and the road they walk 3-4 miles on, there and back, is a more like a secondary highway, with no shoulder, and no sidewalks, and this is Thailand where people drive, well, let's just say they believe that they are coming back again if they die and aren't as cautious as we in the west might think appropriate.

Then imagine one of your kids gets sick in the middle of the night and needs to get to a hospital. Only, you have no car that can take them. Instead you have to hire a truck and a driver to take you there, and back again later. This eats into your already very limited resources for basic things like food and water, not to mention medical bills.

Now imagine that one day one of your kids, on that road walking to school, is hit by a person on a motorcycle and has a broken arm. Now you have to hire a truck to get your child to a hospital, pay the medical bills and worry that someone will show up on your door and accuse you of negligence, since a child was injured in your care, and take away all your kids.

Except, we're not imagining anymore. This is real. A child really was hurt and this is a problem. The kids in the Charis Home walk to school every day on this road, and every day they are in danger of being hurt and everything we have worked so hard to build is in danger of dissolving if something bad happens to one of the kids. The government could just shut the home down.

We need a truck, something to use to drive the children safely to school, to haul rice, to get kids to the hospital. We can buy one for about $6000 US.

This has been a need for a long time, and we have been asking for help, but we haven't gotten very much response this time I'm afraid. So we're turning to you, dear internet, and all the people who are out there who care and can help spread the word.

It would be such an answer to prayer if when Aaron goes back to Thailand on June 15 he could take enough with him to purchase a truck, and end one of the biggest worries we have over the kids safety.

If you can give, please click the link.

(I know, how could this be safer? But it is. It's how everyone in Thailand gets around and it's way better than getting hit by a car. PS. These photos are from Aaron's last visit when he hired a truck for one day to drive the kids to school.)


I'm having a moment

Sometimes it feels like this weight that presses down. Worry.

The turmoil in Thailand.

Isreal and Hamas.

Oil spills.



28 days to find a new home now that we've given notice.

Will we be able to raise enough to buy the orphanage a truck?

So much work.

I get lost. I'm overwhelmed. My heart, it doesn't know how to deal with these things or even talk about most of them.  And the weight, like a lead ball sinks deep into my chest and buries me beneath it for a time.

I am bad at transitions. Amid the uncertainty of knowing it's good to move, I grieve. We need more space. We need to be closer to where Aaron works so he can actually be home before bedtime most days. We need to be somewhere where the boy is no longer sharing a room with his sisters and has space to play with lego again. But I will miss here. I will miss the friends, the green wide open play spaces, that there is almost always a child/friend for mine to play with. I will miss the familiar easy way we have fallen into with neighbors and community.

These are all names I am giving to these tears that seems to roll without ceasing today. Though I don't know for sure that any of them are the real source. (Hormones?)

There is so much good, I know there is.

But the tears roll anyway, and I struggle to understand them.
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