Discouraged

Ever have one of those days where everything just seems to hit you all at once? That’s what Thursday was for me.

First, I was stressed over what was happening with Alex at his new school. Apparently, he made life pretty miserable for his teacher last week, leading the school to question if the class they had put him in was the best one for him. He came home on Wednesday with two notes written in his school notebook, one from the 2nd grade teacher, explaining some of his behaviors and why he wasn’t going to be in her class anymore… and the other from his new teacher, the Kindergarten teacher. Ummm, okay, so 2nd grade wasn’t working out, so they decided to move him back two grades? As it turns out, when Rusty went in to talk to them, they told him they felt like 1st grade was too full, and there were already 4 kids in 1st grade with special needs or learning problems or something, so they didn’t want to add Alex into that mix.

I’m really fine with Alex being in the Kindergarten class. As I said before, I’m more in favor of holding kids back than pushing them ahead, especially in the beginning. I just wish the school had explained to us the situation from the beginning (the correct class for his age was full) and let us decide whether we wanted him to be a grade ahead or behind so we could have avoided this mess. To me, it’s not really important what grade he is in — he is there to learn Spanish and for the social interaction. Academically, he is way ahead of the other students in Kindergarten, so I will probably have to send stuff from home for him to do so he doesn’t finish early, get bored, and cause problems for the teacher and the other students.

I’m mostly frustrated because I feel like Alex has already earned himself the reputation there as being a problem child. The school has asked us to have a neurological and psychological evaluation done on him. They suggested he might have ADD or ADHD. I’m not denying that might be a possibility (although I do think that high-energy boys are often falsely labeled such), but I do feel like they are being awfully quick to start requesting testing when he hasn’t even had a chance to adjust to this new environment. After all, he hasn’t been in a formal school environment for a year and a half, he’s immersed in a new language that he can’t yet communicate well in, and he was put in the grade ahead of where he should be. And they’re surprised when he has trouble adapting?! I’m not excusing some of his behavior (much of it was totally unacceptable, whether or not he can communicate well, and we had some pretty serious talks about it on Wednesday night), but I do think that once he adjusts and knows the routine, the expectations, the rules, and above all how to communicate his needs and problems, the acting out will diminish.

So, I was feeling anxious about all that, and then Rusty started telling me about the meeting he had with Kent and Josh the day before where apparently it came out that there had been some criticism as to his performance leveled at him by some folks on the medical campaign. I think it is interesting how people can come on these week-long campaigns, people who don’t even know you or have a vested interest in you or your ministry (i.e. they are not personal supporters or from a supporting church), see one aspect of what you do, and then feel like that somehow gives them the knowledge and the authority to critique you personally or how you are doing your job! Are missionaries the only ones who deal with this, or does this happen in other professions? I am sincerely asking — this is not a rhetorical question! I have been thinking about it all day, wondering if this happens to other people in other jobs. We don’t claim to be perfect, we still have much to learn (we haven’t even been here a year for goodness’ sake!), we make mistakes and bungle things up daily and probably will continue to do so for years to come! I guess it would just be nice if people would take the time to know us and understand our unique situation and the team dynamics we are working with here in Ecuador before being so free to offer up their criticisms.

I probably just need to grow a thicker skin. There will always be critics. I know this.

Also, Rusty left on Thursday for a weekend trip to Kumanii. We went to the bank to take out some money before we left — he needed cash for the trip, and I needed to pay the ladies who help me around the house. And none of our cards would work in the ATM — we tried his bank card and mine, as well as a credit card from a different bank and could not get money out with any of them. Which probably signifies a problem on the Ecuadorian bank’s end, or a problem with all international cards. Still, it was frustrating. And on the way out of town, Rusty called to inform me that he’d been pulled over for “speeding” (going 2 km. per hour above the speed limit) and given a $90 ticket. Really, Ecuador? Really?!

Sometimes, it’s the compilation of little daily annoyances on top of all the major stresses of living in a foreign country (learning to speak a new language and adapting to a new culture for instance) that just make that first year or two abroad so difficult. And sometimes, it just seems to come at you all at once, like waves relentlessly crashing over you, making it hard to catch your breath. After Thursday, I was grateful for a peaceful weekend at home, for crackling fires in the fireplace each night, for “Downton Abbey” with my sister last night, for a long nap this afternoon.

And I’m looking forward to our family vacation at the beach next week!

A Little Break

I’ve taken a little break from the writing project for the past couple of days, for several reasons:

  1. After spending all week at home with my kids, I sort of feel like I’ve run out of things to say! Not really true, of course — I have lots on my mind, lots I want to and could write about, but at the end of the day, I am usually just so tired that all I want to do is veg out in front of the TV or my computer, not think about putting words to some of the thoughts rattling around in my brain. It has been raining a lot this week, so every day, I would think, “Tonight would be a nice night to build another fire after the kids are in bed, and just relax in front of it,” but then after I got the kids in bed, I couldn’t even muster up the energy to actually get the fire going.
  2. On Thursday night, the older boys had a sleepover in my bed. They watched a movie on my laptop before they went to sleep, so I couldn’t use my computer during their movie, which is usually a good time for me to write. I could have gone out and used our desktop Mac or even Rusty’s old laptop, but I decided cuddling with my boys and watching “Cars 2” for the 542nd time was more important.
  3. Yesterday, we spent the afternoon at my sister’s house. We celebrated Jana’s fifth birthday with a Hello Kitty party and TONS of kids (just including cousins from both sides of the Marcum’s family, there were 13 kids, plus there were a few from Jana’s class at school). It was a crazy fun time, and after everyone else left, we stayed for a sleepover. After we got the kids settled and asleep, we watched a movie, and by the time it was over, it was late and cold, so I just went to bed.

Rusty will be home TONIGHT, and we are all so excited to see him. I am so very thankful for all the folks from the States who come and make sacrifices of time and money to bless Kumanii and the people along the Cayapas, but I’m also thankful that we don’t have another short-term group on the calendar until June! 5 groups in 6 weeks has been a little much for us with such young kids.

Do the Next Thing

Do the next thing. It’s been my mantra for the past few days. When I would rather give up, give in, stop trying, I make myself do the next thing. When my kids are bickering and whining and sassing and I just want to run away to a quiet, peaceful place, I take a deep breath and… do the next thing. Sometimes, it’s the only way I get through the day.

Strong coffee helps too.

I make the coffee. I make breakfast. I change a diaper and then change it again almost immediately. I help kids get dressed. I resolve sibling disputes. I reply to a few important emails. I read and teach and answer questions. I make lunch. Now — naptime, and a coffee break with my sister, a much needed respite. Then… I build block towers. I kill a spider. I make dinner. I clean up the dishes. I play Mario Kart. I supervise toy pick-up and getting ready for bed. I read stories. I give kisses. I sing a song.

The kids are in bed, and I wish it was over, but it’s not. I pick up Legos and put away books. I lock the doors. I observe the ants near our front door, trying to figure out what they are after. I conjugate verbs in the imperfect subjunctive and wonder if I’ll ever be able to use this language in normal conversation. I check email and there is a text from Rusty — they are having a wedding at Kumanii tomorrow and want to make a wedding cake. So I search online for a simple white cake recipe and email it. It’s now time for bed.

Tomorrow: Rinse and Repeat. Do the next thing.

One of Those Days

It’s just been one of those days — despite all of my good intentions.

I feel like I’ve been trying to shake the cobwebs out of my head all day. I’m sluggish and tired. The constant rain doesn’t help this feeling. I love the rain, but it does make me want to curl up in bed and read a book all day, which is basically NOT going to happen when you have littles in the house.

I’m trying very hard these days to yell at my children less. And today? Today was an Epic Fail in that department.

We did do school, and had a rousing Nerf gun battle after lunch (the activity from the jar), so I suppose that counts for something. And story-time was very sweet with all the boys participating. Even Benjamin sat quietly while I read “The Little Red Caboose” — he has really gotten into books these days.

On days like today, I need to celebrate the small victories and just let go of everything else. I know that, but it’s still hard to do. I’ll be back tomorrow with the Stay Awake Challenge.

 

Here We Go Again

Rusty is in the bedroom packing his things — clothes, sunscreen, bug repellent, the satellite phone. He heads back out to the jungle tomorrow for a week-long medical campaign. Seven nights he’ll be gone this time, the longest stretch he’s ever been away at one time.

This week we had together sure went by fast. Here’s to hoping this next week goes by just as fast. Say a prayer for his safety this week — and a prayer for my sanity while you’re at it.

Now I’m off to try to get some sleep. I’m not doing very good at being intentional about my z’s! For the second night in a row, I’ve stayed up past midnight, after saying I wanted to try to be asleep by 11 p.m. Oh, well. Maybe I’ll take a nap tomorrow.

The Stay Awake Challenge: Week 1

Week One is about sleep. (You can read the entire challenge here.)

It seems kind of funny to be talking about sleep when you’re trying harder to stay awake. But think about it… isn’t it easier to be present, to enjoy being with the ones you love when you are well rested and not grouchy from lack of sleep? This is something I certainly need to be more intentional about. I used to be quite the early-to-bed-early-to-rise person. But then college happened. And then I married a guy who likes to stay up late and is a self-described very “un-morning person.” So over the years, I have gone from being a person who likes early bedtimes to one who stays up far too late. When I had a job (you know, the kind that actually pays money), this usually meant that I burned the candle at both ends, staying up late the night before and then getting up early to go to work and then trying to “catch up” on sleep on the weekends. Obviously, this was before I had children.

Oddly, having children did not cure me of my habit of staying up too late. I know it has that effect on many parents, but I have found through the years that I really cherish the time I have in the evenings after the kids go to bed — it’s time to work (clean, bake, write emails or pay bills), but also time to just relax (read, write, watch movies with Rusty, scrapbook). I’m usually having too much fun to go to bed early, so I stay up late and then get woken up at first light by my children who have yet to learn the art of sleeping in.

I like sleep and I need sleep, and I need to be better about making sure that I get really good sleep. And I know that one of the best ways to do this would be to go to bed earlier (duh!) because let’s face it — I’m probably not going to get to sleep in past 7 for a few more years at least. I would like to try to be in bed each night by 10:30 with lights out by 11:00. Looks like I already missed the mark tonight!

Here are a few photos related to sleep and bedtime routines:

sleep1Here are the older boys, all tucked in and ready for bed, each showing off the special things they sleep with each night. I usually put Benjamin to bed first — he takes his bottle and then goes to sleep on his own without any fuss. Then I read stories to the older boys, and after they brush their teeth, I tuck them in, turn out the light, and sing them a song. A favorite is “Sweet I Know,” which has become my lullaby song for them — it’s the song I sang over all three of them when they were babies and I was rocking them to sleep.

sleep2Alex and Stephen each choose a story, and I read to them before bed. Then we read a Bible story. We have amassed quite the collection of children’s Bibles and Bible story books through the years! Usually, we work our way through one and then choose a new one. My personal favorite is The Jesus Storybook Bible.

sleep3

One of my favorite ways to wind down once I get in bed is to read. Last year, I started using a Bible-reading plan on YouVersion, trying to read through the Bible in a year. I got very side-tracked with all our travels, our international move, and then just trying to adjust to life in a new country once again. So at the beginning of this year, I picked my plan back up and started trying to make Bible-reading a daily habit once again. I have found that I really enjoy reading at night just before I go to sleep! I am using The Message and reading the Bible chronologically. YouVersion offers all sorts of customization options for your reading plans, and it tracks your progress and sends little reminders to your phone and email, all features I love! I still find it a bit weird to be reading the Bible on my iPhone. It doesn’t feel very “authentic” for some reason — I guess I am old-fashioned that way. Oh, but it sure is convenient, so I’m trying to get over the weirdness!

Well, since it is already half an hour past my “go-to-sleep” time, I guess I’d better head to bed. Sweet dreams, everyone!

One Day Down, Six to Go!

Rusty left early this morning and called mid-afternoon just before they were to get on the canoe to head upriver. It’s the last time we’ll be able to talk by phone until Saturday. There is no cell phone service at Kumanii, so we are basically out of contact when he goes out there. We do have a satellite phone for emergencies, and I am able to send him short text messages for free, so at least there is that. I don’t know why, but having Rusty out of cell phone contact just makes him seem so much farther away. I have a hard time sleeping at night when he’s not here, which usually means I stay up entirely too late. Not exactly the best thing when you have three little ones who are up by 6:30 or 7:00 the next morning.

Yes, I am a big baby. I know there are women out there whose husbands travel and are away from home a lot more than mine is. I know there are people who parent solo all the time and not just occasionally. I know a week really isn’t that long. But, when you’re at the very beginning of it, it can seem like an eternity.

I spent the afternoon working on our year-end report. There are so many “paperwork” type projects vying for my attention right now… from this annual report on our work and ministry, to a backlog of expense reports so we can be ready to file our taxes in a couple of months, to our New Year’s mailout, to our quarterly newsletter. And I would much rather be doing other things like blogging or organizing my kids’ books or setting up my craft room. So maybe if I can get some of these big projects knocked out this week, I can take the time to do something I enjoy later.

For now, I’m off to try and get some sleep!

The Week Ahead

Well, at 20 minutes to midnight, I suppose I had better get in my writing practice for today. I am waiting for one last load of laundry to finish so I can send my husband back to the jungle tomorrow with clean clothes. Meanwhile, I am doing constructive things on the computer like designing our New Year’s card, while Rusty is watching Tim Hawkins videos on Youtube.

Rusty will be gone a week this time, from Sunday through Saturday, with the last of the three construction groups that have been working on the new meeting hall at Kumanii. Then, we get to enjoy having him home for an entire week (woot!) before he heads back out for the February medical campaign. I have just been trying to take it one day, one trip at a time. Somehow, we will make it through. It isn’t easy on any of us to have him away from home so much, but we manage. Grace for the moment, that’s my mantra right now.

I have some projects I am hoping to work on this week while Rusty is gone. Some fun, some not so fun, but at least it will keep me busy in the evenings after the kids are in bed. Maybe I’ll also have time for a Harry Potter marathon!