August 13, 2011

Swim Team

This summer, with trepidation and angst, we signed Everett and Eli up for swim team. Practice every morning at 7. Meets twice a week.

Our summer traveling days were postponed with such a rigid schedule. The first meet fell on a Tuesday when relatives were in town. What a relief that we had so much support that first night! I had flashbacks to the triathalon from a few years ago. We had a little backpack with some snacks and a few chairs. The boys had a towel, goggles, and sported some new jammers (the real world would call these tight trunks). I felt prepared, but was amazed to see families rolling coolers into the meet. Kids racing's 90 outside and 95 inside...what's the group huddling around the wall for? And did I bring a permanent marker? For what?!

Then Josiah starts running a fever and my grandma looks at me and says, I'll go home with your Aunt and we'll watch him.

I felt like vomiting the entire time. By the end of the season I wasn't rolling a cooler into the meet, but I did know what the crowds were about (looking at what event the kids were swimming) and why I need a permanent marker (to write event numbers on our kids' hands).

We aren't raising the next Mike Phelps, but I think next summer we'll have a few more swimmers on the summer team again.

August 3, 2011

Blankets for Ethiopia

Months ago I emailed Karen about the trip in November. I thought that if I started planning early, I might not scramble in the last few hours with trying to cram everything into my suitcases (or pay huge fees at the gate because all of the clothes were stuffed into my backpack and it was too heavy). I wanted to help with the trip even if I wasn't going. The Hopechest team in Ethiopia gave Karen a list of items that would be most helpful to the children. Included in the list were clothes, school supplies, medical supplies, and blankets. I immediately thought of how wonderful it would be to bring a handmade blanket to each one of the children at the care points. Most people don't realize that temperatures at night drop to mid-40s during the winter months in Addis Ababa. Many of the children sleep on a hard packed dirt floor; blankets will be treasured by the entire family.

My grandiose plans of beautiful twin size rag quilts were tempered by cost and luggage restrictions. I also wanted to involve those of you who can't sew (or who unknowingly allowed your sewing machine to rust in a damp basement). A few years ago, I made our children little fleece lap blankets for Christmas. They were delighted to have the bright beautiful blankets for the car trip the next morning. And (here's the kicker) they were so easy to make. Making blankets for three children is far easier than making blankets for approximately 300 children. This is where you all come in. I have been thinking and praying about this venture for a few months, not knowing whether I'd be going to Ethiopia, but always certain I wanted to be a part of the trip in some way. After months of working things out in my mind and bouncing ideas off of people this is what I've cooked up:

1-We would like the blankets' size to be 4 x 5. Fleece comes in 60 inch width (or thereabout), if you buy 2 lengths of 1.25-1.5 yards, then it will be approximately 4 x 5 when you finish. Once you have the fleece pieces, you just lay them on top of each other and snip three inches down, one to one and a half inches, all around the perimeter. You should end up with something that looks like a 1983 fringey fleece--think Darryl Hannahesque. Then tie knots with those two snipped edges. You will end up with a blanket that has about 3 inches of fringed knots around it. We have figured out that one suitcase will fit about 15 blankets (in space saver bags). Usually, we make these blankets double thickness. If you can find fleece that is cheap and thin, then getting a solid and pattern fabric would be wonderful. Otherwise, getting a very thick piece of fleece and tying the edges will also be fine. If they will be doubled up, getting thinner fleece will allow us to fit the anticipated 15 blankets into our luggage. Please, don't stress about this! The kids will be so happy to receive these blankets. If I get some blankets that are 6 inches smaller and some that are 6 inches larger--I won't write bad things about you on my blog! I just want them to be approximately the same size. Imagine if one child gets a 5 x 7 and the next gets a 3 x 4! That's my main concern--bringing enough for everyone and making sure they are getting close to the same thing.

If none of this makes sense, email me or leave me a comment!

2-I have a big family and moving has afforded me so many fantastic, supportive friends all over the country. BUT, I don't have 300 people to ask for help. This is the second part of my crazy scheme (as my dad would say). I need you all to talk to your friends and families and ask for their help. Then get back to me with a blanket "pledge". I'm planning on having a blanket tying party and I'm more than happy to help you coordinate the same thing. This is a wonderful service project that even very young children can be involved in! My local group of friends will each bring their selected fleece to the 'party' and we'll have a blast eating, tying, and praying over these special blankets.

I have been so encouraged to see the reaction so far from family and friends. I hope many of you will get involved! This is another opportunity for you to offer help in a big, tangible way. It's also a wonderful way to make people aware of needs across the world, perhaps they feel uncomfortable with giving money to an organization, but would be willing to donate something. I want to thank you now, for caring enough to read this long post!

Lastly, a video that goes step by step-it's a little long, but if I really didn't make sense and you've never made one of these...this is the detailed video you want!