Saturday, January 31, 2015


Well, weeks 7,& 8 here have been the most challenging yet. An older girl left our house two weeks ago to start University- (Congratulations Kenia!) -which is a fabulous opportunity for her, but as she packed up her few small items and said goodbye to the people and place that had been her home for 14 years, the sadness was palpable. Her absence has left all the older girls a bit emotional, and we now have four new small girls up from the toddler house, so more work with less people. Five of the little girls will be moving up to the medium girl house soon which is stressful to me. Why? Because it's a house of 80 girls ages 10-14. That's why. School is starting on Monday. A new year which many girls are very excited about and others are so nervous they won't make eye contact when talking about it and Suyappa just shakes her head very slowly at the idea of going back.

Last week Joey and Guy were throwing rocks and busted a pipe outside the Little Girl house so water was spraying everywhere for a good long while. Elena stuck a bead up her nose. One of my own small children had a pretty good meltdown about why she didn't get more food and a cookie while thirty hungry small girls waited for lunch and watched.

I found myself rushing the children through the daily routine. Less smiles as I tied nightgowns. More telling girls to stand in line and less hugs. After showers I brushed heads of hair faster and harder (there are 34 and dinner is soon you know). And it doesn't matter where you are. Everything new becomes old.

And in my life as soon as the new hits a routine I can do it fairly mindlessly. Some days, in America or Honduras I can do the whole day without even waking up. I have spent years rushing my babies out of diapers and cribs and  into independence. I have spent days here in Honduras on autopilot. Rushing to do the next step in my schedule just so I can do the next step in my schedule.It is so easy to let my attitude shift towards laziness and crankiness. Almost every sentence can begin with "I".

The other evening we were sitting in chapel of Wednesday night church. the sermon (rather long and boring) was lost on me. I sat there my mind wandering when it suddenly awoke to the way the sun was setting through the large wall windows in the church. As the light dipped it cupped each head in this silhouette.  Every child had black hair with a halo of golden light. And I watched the tiny particles of dust dip and swirl. Everything and everyone was bathed in this light. It was breathtaking and beautiful. It is the same light that was shining all day. I just noticed.

The next morning I sat in the playground and braided jet black hair. I went slowly. Everything new grows up. Everything old moves on. Soon there will be no more girls on the playground, they will all be in school. Five beds will be emptied and five bodies moved to a new house. And our five bodies will go back to our home in America.

But today we are all here.

The threat of it all ending isn't enough to make me enjoy today. I shouldn't savor today because one day I won't have it anymore. Love doesn't threaten like that. Love just gives.
We enjoy today not because it won't be here tomorrow, but simply because it is here today.

It is all such a gift. He gives such good and perfect gifts.
Yet today we are here with our broken pipes and broken children. Broken thought processes and crumbling priorities. Stressed out bodies stressed out souls.
Today is still a gift, wrapped in this crepe- paper thin light. Today the sun peeks up around the mountain and again whispers the promise:
Rest assured beloved- He is making all things new.





Sunday, January 18, 2015


New blog post request: Katherine Westhoff would like to know how the kids  are feeling about this whole trip. Honestly, they are doing great. The boys are happy and know the expectations and spend their days playing with many new friends. They are exhausted and dirty by the end of the day but are adjusting very well. Elena now is figuring out her place here as well, and is relaxing into our routine. Basically though, our kids are the same. Elena is still FULL of life and fun but still melts down periodically when she needs to share attention. Guy still forgets important things like shoes but remembers more important things like kindness. Joey still is following very carefully any direction and works hard and plays hard. Kids are kids. And what better why to give you a glimpse into their thoughts than through their journals?

Here are some pics of a few of Joey and Guy's journals! Captions below each.
Joey: December 6: "My whole family came on a plane to Honduras When the plane landed people clapped. I felt scared because it could have crashed. Next we walked to a building. There were a lot of people. Next we went up the escalator .I felt scared because I could of got lost. Then we went to the store to buy food. Then we went went to the orphanage."


Joey: Q: What is your favorite food in Honduras and why? A: "My favorite food is peanut butter and jelly. I like peanut butter and jelly because it is sweat (sweet). It is very very sweet."

Joey December 24: "I am excited for Christmas because we get to open presents and celebrate new life."

Joey: Question: What did you do today that was fun? (Joey edited it so it said 'NOT fun' then answered) A: I had a bad day because at the park the little girls were playing tag and three girls tagged me. I was mad because they cheated."

Joey: "The best part of my day was when I found two necklaces. One was red and one was white. I found them in the grass."

Guy:Q: What happened today? A: "Kensie gave me a picture."

Guy: Q: What was the best part of your day? A: "Kensie, Joe and I played tag."

Guy: Q:What did you do today? A: "I saw Kensie watching a movie. I gave her a lollipop"

Guy: Q: What did you learn today? A "I learned how to do the monkey bars."

 

Guy: Q: Who is your best friend? A "Kensie is my best friend because she smiles at me and we play tag." Side note: at least 12 entries are about this girl Kenzie. To broaden his entries I finally had to make a rule to try that Guy had to write about something else.

Guy: Q: What did you see on our walk today? A: "Pretty much nothing I just saw trees."

Guy: Q: What did you do today? A: "Dalia gave me a lot of chips."

Guy: Q: What did you do today?A: "I played with my soccer ball." Q: How did you feel? A: "I felt nothing."

Guy: Q: What do we celebrate on Christmas? A: "On Christmas we celebrate baby Jesus being born."



Well folks, there you have it. I want them to think 'big picture' about this trip and life, and instead I have journals about swings and football and trees and friends. It is perfect. I'll save them forever.

Love,
Kate

Friday, January 16, 2015


There are some of you, my friends, who want to hear how our family is doing. Then there are some who like to hear about the children here. Some like to hear about God and Jesus. And there are some of you who write me emails that say things like, “I need to know if you are wearing makeup and how often you shower and what clothes you are wearing and if you are getting skinny because you don’t eat anything or not because you eat weird things and what you do every day.” 
 So for those of you that fall into that last category- this blog post is for you. (Ahem - Abby) : ) 

This is what I look like almost every day: Greasy ponytail, t.shirt and jeans. Honestly, not too big of a switch from the United States. I am getting weird tan lines and start the day in slightly flared jeans then when the sun comes out I pull them up in one fold so the bottom of the jeans  are mid thigh height and walk around like that for the rest of the day. For church I wear a long skirt and blouse (yes blouse) and feel like a missionary from 1970 (I’m sorry missionaries from 1970). I packed too many camp t.shirts and not enough normal shirts.  We’re halfway through and it looks like I’ve brought exactly the right amount of pony tail holders. Here I am:




I didn’t wear makeup for weeks then I wore mascara one day. To quote my college roommate Beth, “I didn’t wear makeup for a month then when I put on mascara I felt like a clown.” Exactly. But when I arrived at the Little Girl House THIRTY little girls jumped on me and told me how BEAAAUUUTIFUL I was and how pretty (Que guapa Kate!!!) That was nice. So mascara it is. And it makes me look more awake. Which is good because I cannot force myself to drink the coffee. No matter how much sugar I put in it I can’t choke the sludge. 


Food is a different story. I am eating all the time. Because when a small child offers me a bowl of wheat and goats milk for breakfast or offers to split their moon pie or offers  for dinner flour tortillas with beans and butter, I can’t quite bring myself to say, “No gracias, I’m watching my carb intake.” So I eat everything.  And although the food is not amazing, breaking bread with 36 gracious, generous children is. And it is food for the soul. I tell myself.



What do we do all day? Short version: mop and play. Joe works in the woodshop and takes young men around to do the never-ending maintenance projects. Mainly plumbing related.  I take my kids and we are with the Little Girl House. I give out vitamins and drop them in the girl’s mouths and make sure they chew and swallow them then sweep/mop el comedor. I break up fights and tie shoes, I plan activities for all the girls. Walks, crafts, games etc. We eat lunch, mop, I home school my own kiddos, then I shower all the little girls, brush hair, lice check, get nightgowns, laundry, eat dinner, mop again, brush hair, play, go home-  shower my kids, dinner, get frustrated at the internet, get over it, kiss my four loves, go to bed. Here’s  some photos of our day. 






Elena was invited to a staff daughter's birthday party. Frozen!

Checking out some goats



Let’s see . What else? The sky is incredible. I’ve never seen more beautiful clouds or sun or rain or fog. It is breathtaking. The other evening there was a rain shower than a gorgeous double rainbow over the orphanage. Double rainbows amaze me. As if one band of spectacular color arching across the sky isn’t a gift enough. 

Other random details: 

-   - We don’t have cups in our house . I’ve been drinking out of a Nalgene for six weeks. I really really want a glass.

-   -Sometimes I go running. 

-   - For two nights in a row Guy has woken us up yelling for Mom or Dad.  Every time it is because he honestly thought his bed was shrinking.  Yes, I’m serious.  

-           

Love to all,

Kate









Monday, January 12, 2015

Good Morning!

I'm feeling rather perky this morning. Our internet cruises at 5.00am and bouncing around from page to page with only a few second delay seems SO FAST! I thought this would be a good time to upload some pictures for you all. Everything is well and good here.

Some news not captured in pictures:
-Last week Joe traveled to Teguc. the capital. He spent the whole day and visited the mall and large grocery stores and the airport etc. Do you know what he came home with for me? Everything Bagels and cream cheese. Seriously, the man of my dreams. I ate all five (not in one sitting) and hardly shared one bite. Amazing.

- Guy's shoes broke. Elena's shoes broke. My sandals broke. We must be pretty rough on our feet down here. It might be all the soccer, but more likely is all the walking.

-Elena told me yesterday she would like to have 21 kids when she's a mom. Number One will be named Zoey, Two will be named Molly, Three will be named ILoveYouSoMuch, Four will be named Christmas, Five and Six will be named Swing and Grass, she told me as she was swinging and looking at the grass. So that's her update for you all.

-Joey is our little Spanish policeman. I asked him once to help remind me to use more spanish when talking around our house. Now he frequently yells from the other room whenever he hears a conversation- Say it in SPANISH MOM!!! It's equally helpful and annoying. Also this kiddo has mastered monkey bars

- Guy can READ!! Turns out sending him off with an ipad phonics program is actually helpful! He is very proud of himself and we are too.

- Okay- some pics-
Love to all-Kate

We do a lot of mopping here. The dining hall (el comedor) and hallways at least three times a day. Elena is practicing being helpful :)

"Mopping" is first done by scrubbing laundry detergent into the walkway with brooms. This is the scrubbing stage.

Trigo and raw goats milk for breakfast!

Watching to goats roam about with our friend
Jésus.


The six older girls who work in the little girl house dressed alike one day and we did a photo shoot and I was able to print their pictures the next day for them. (Thank you for the printer again Robert and Deena Fowler!!) They loved  it.

Suyappa, Raquel, Kenzie and Guy playing in a sheet fort we made one rainy day.

Playing under the laundry lines.

Playing soccer in the eve under the laundry.

Guy and 
Jésus- He lost a tooth!


-

Tuesday, January 6, 2015



Today marks four weeks and six days of our stay here. One third done and I speak for us all when I say it has flown by. Each day feels familiar, the routine the same, the news the same, the food the same. Mornings at 5:30 are foggy and the mountain tops are still sleeping. At 8:30 the ridge line becomes visible and the perfect sun has declared day. There is the mopping of the floor and the rinsing of dirty mops and thirty girls lined up to pick up small pieces of trash around the yards. This being their long break from school, there is plenty of play time and going down slides backwards and playing jacks with rocks and marbles. 

Some days it is possible to get blinded by the singing and braiding of hair and hand clapping games, and for a moment I relate this place to a summer camp. Bunk beds and friends and little girl bracelets all the way up both arms. All of that just speaks to the goodness and happiness that is here. It is possible to forget that this is home. Home to thirty girls who have been neglected, abused, abandoned, left. Girls who have survived massive trauma. 

I caught Veronica’s arms right as she was going in swinging to Perla’s head. Perla had taken Veronica’s marble. The rage in Veronica’s body was so strong that her skin was hot. She broke out in a sweat. Her whole frame shook.  I remembered that her carefully tuned ‘fight or flight’ instinct was in full fight. For most of the day that is how she operates. Unable to turn off survivor mode she is unable to focus, unable to relax and believe she is safe. Suyappa is 7 years old. She wears the same dirty sweatshirt days in and days out.  It is her security blanket- along with miscellaneous toys and plastic bags and small scraps of paper that she carries about. Where she is so is a bag of trash. Except it is her’s. So it is a treasure.  Angela laughs too often for too long which is fine for an 8 year old, except if you listen closely she only has few words. She laughs in response to simple questions. I search her eyes to see if I have missed a joke. Sometimes her eyes are empty.
And I am not trained to deal with these small girl’s heart aches. I can barely speak the language. But I can say with my mouth and my body an important message that children need to know. I am here because you matter, you are loved.

All kids that live in this place know how to stuff. Everyone has a story and no one talks about it, so for years it is stuffed into the heart and deep in the brain until they become big girls who run away if I catch a tear in their eye. Esta bien. Esta bien. It is fine. It is fine. It is fine. So many days we don’t talk but we play and we sit and we color. We pass time in the slow incremental way that is only possible to notice when you have nowhere else to be. 

Last week we celebrated New Years Eve. We had tamales for dinner and at six was a firework show that some volunteers put on. We headed out in a line with all the girls and set out blankets and prepared to watch shooting light rockets. Many girls in the Little Girl house  watched this spectacle for the first time. One half loved it. The other half was terrified. There was hiding and shaking and crying and quaking. And not enough mamas to hold all the children. Angela was crying, holding her head and rocking back and forth. 

The Little Girl house left early and when we got back to the house we counted the girls lined up outside of their rooms. Angela stood with her back to the brick wall sobbing and peeing. I found the keys, took her in and showered her and dried her tears and dried her feet. I was filled with compassion as I washed her and God forgive me for all the opportunities I have missed to love my neighbor. 

And that night with fireworks and confetti New Year came. Every human loves New Years because we all know that we are talking about hope. And I have to believe in the hope of the promise that one day, all will be new. There will be no more orphans or pain or loneliness or poverty or life stories that cannot be told. 

And so we wait. And with the opening of the New Year I feel as though this 2015 should sit me down and give me a talk. A reminder. The exact same one   I give my children before every Sunday morning church service should work.
Okay, here’s the deal. This time is important. It might be long, it could get boring. That’s fine-try to learn. Sing if you feel like singing. Don’t bug your brother or sister. Try to listen with a quiet heart... God is here you know.”
  
And I’ll nod my head like a six year old, I know I know. 

I still always forget. It is possible to be sure of something and still forget. Then playing with Suyappa or Angela or Perla or Veronica or Elena in the yard there will be this pause in the chatter and I remember- God is here. And my heart then flips for joy that we get to be here too.