Thursday, May 26, 2016

Summer 2016 Bucket List! Fun ideas for your little ones!

At the beginning of each summer, me and my children set out to make a bucket list of activities that we would like to accomplish for the summer! It really gets me excited (probably a little more than them) and it ensures that we have a plan for the summer. I often have great ideas, but if I don't make a solid plan....let's just face it....this Momma won't get it done! So, this is my plan and I wanted to share with you all...Enjoy!


THE GREAT OUTDOORS 
1. Ride bikes and make sure to discover new trails. For an amazing day trip for biking visit the Tammy Trace

2. Discover a new zoo! 

3. Take a nature walk or hike through a state park. 

4. Visit a U-pick farm. This year I will be bringing my kids to a U-pick Blueberry Farm (this is an annual summer tradition for us). Check out the Blue Harvest Farm near Covington, LA. I have visited various U-pick farms throughout Louisiana and here is a list of farms throughout Louisiana

5. Go camping (even if it's in your back yard!) and have a family game night. 

6. Move it Monday! Or actually move it any day! Pick an exercise for you and your kids to do together! (yoga, swimming, biking, backyard races, obstacle course, game of soccer, etc.) 

7. Try Geocaching. If you haven't done this before...give it a try! Download the Geocaching app and beginning exploring your community for hidden treasures. 

EXPLORE YOUR COMMUNITY 
8. Take a road trip for the day! Louisiana has so many great places to discover...do a little planning and surprise your kids with a fun day!  

9. Visit a historical site. This summer I want to explore the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park which is near New Orleans. They have some nature trails that I know my kids would like to explore.

10. Pack a picnic and discover a new place in your community to have a picnic lunch. 
I guess it is time to use those vintage picnic baskets that I have been collecting over the years! 
11. Visit a Spray Park near by! We actually have two spray parks near by....Bayou Black Rec Department just opened up a new spray park and you can find them on facebook! There is also another great spray park in Bayou Vista. These spray parks are both $5 or less to get in and it provides lots of fun for the kids! 

12. Go tubing or canoeing down a Louisiana River. Check out the Tiki Tubing along the Amite River. 

13. Visit a Farmers Market. I love that the city I live in has a farmers market every Saturday morning and we also now have a farmers market every Thursday afternoon. Stopping by the Rienzi Market is definitely worth it! 

14. Visit the State Capitol in Baton Rouge. Did you know that our state capitol is the tallest state capitol building in the United States? Go to the observation deck on the 27th floor and check out the beautiful view. If you are not into historical buildings, but in the Baton Rouge area go and visit Mike the Tiger at LSU! 

15. Take a visit to Laurel Valley in Thibodaux, LA. My kids spend a great deal of time here each summer! My son, Jacques started going to Laurel Valley weekly in the summers when he was just a little boy. One of his favorite things to do was to meet up with "Uncle Danny" (as he would call him...and he still does!) and retrieve eggs. Now Jacques is almost 9 years old and he is still going to retrieve eggs and hang out with "Uncle Danny". They truly have the sweetest people who work and volunteer there...they will make you feel at home! 

16. Visit Insta Gator Ranch & Hatchery in Covington, LA. How about holding a baby gator? Well I know for sure my kids will love this place! During our day trip to the blueberry farm, we will stop at the gator farm also! Its all in the same neck of the woods! 

17. Visit a children's museum. Discover a new children's museum in your community. Louisiana has some great children's museums and one I would like to check out this year is the TREE House Children's Museum in Alexandria, LA. We have a little cabin in Tioga, LA (which is near Alexandria) and when I bring the kids to the cabin this summer...we will check out this museum. One of the things I love the most about our local children's museum is the awesome summer camps they offer...be sure to check out Thibodaux's Bayou Country Children's Museum summer schedule. 

18. Complete a project at your local Lowe's , Toys R Us, Michael's, or Home Depot. Did you know that many of these stores offer free or very low cost activities for kids during the summer? Check out their websites for more information! 

19. Visit a garage sale and purchase some books for summer reading! 

20. Go to a Dollar Movie! Did you know that the Movie Theater in Morgan City offers super cheap movies in the middle of the week / during the summer time! 

21. Bowl for Free! Check out Kids Bowl Free website for more information. 

22. Career Day for kids! If you can make it happen...see if your child can explore a career they are interested in for the day! My son wants to be an architect when he grows up (just like his grandfather!), so one day this summer I will arrange that he gets to visit his grandfather at work and go out to a few job sites with him. 

IN YOUR BACKYARD
23. Swim a lot! If you don't have access to your community pool or a neighbors in ground pool...figure out a way to get your kids swimming! Making sure your child can swim and getting them experience around water is truly one of the greatest gifts you can give them!

24. Glow in the dark hide in seek or glow in the dark dance party! They have lots of glow in the dark ideas on Pinterest....Just do it...Have fun...Your kids will never forget this! 

25. Plant flowers or a garden. 

26. Do a science experiment! Allow your kids to search online for a fun science experiment that they would enjoy doing outside. 

27. Host a summer time party for friends in your backyard. 

28. Fill the back of a truck with pillows and blankets and go star gazing! 

ALL ABOUT THAT FOOD 
29. Make Sand Pudding! Yes...try this recipe

30. Take a Doughnut Tour! Yes...you heard me correctly! I actually just took my kids to the Krispy Kreme Shop in New Orleans and they really liked it! They were able to watch the doughnuts coming off the conveyor belt and being glazed. As my son says, "Rob's still has the best donuts though!" Truth is....we sure do have an amazing doughnut shop here in Thibodaux and I really haven't found a place that compares! Well, Mr. Ronnie's in Houma runs a close race! 
31. Have an ice cream cone or snowball from a unique place. One place that is on my list this summer is Hansen's SnoBiz in New Orleans...after all in 1939 Mr. Hansen was the first to invent the ice shaving machine! This place is a staple in NOLA and a must try! 

I am also wanting to try these super stuffed snowballs that can be founded at Brooke's Sno World in Houma, LA or at The Crawfish Boss in Lafayette, LA. 
This is a Chantilly Snow ball from The Crawfish Boss and it is stuffed with cheesecake, strawberries, blueberries, soaked in wedding cake cream syrup and topped with whipped cream! I mean....people!!!!! Too good to be true!

32. Allow your kids to prepare dinner and serve the parents! For added fun...invite the grandparents over or cousins and have dinner outside. 

33. Make root beer floats! Oh so yummy! August 6th is National Root Beer Float Day (who would have thought it had it's own day!) 

34. Have a Family Fondue Night! Yum!

35. Treat your kids to a Soda Night! Make sure to purchase various glass bottles of different types of soda or pop from the store...and allow your kiddos to have a taste testing party! And don't plan to get much sleep that night! Ha! 
36. Visit a Candy Shoppe! 

37. Make a summer time drink or homemade Popsicles. I plan on making raspberry lemonade slushies for my kids this summer. 

BUSY @ HOME
38. Start a collection or continue one. My son collects baseball cards...my daughter collects shopkins....so I am sure this collection will get organized and continue to grow further over the summer. 

39. Set up days to just do arts in crafts! 

40. Make a memory book or scrapbook of summer memories. 

41. Have a family sleep over in the living room. 

42. Have the kids write letters to family members and put them in the mail! Yes...that is correct...snail mail! 

43. Teach your kids how to properly set a table and actually let them use fine china! Yes...dig out your china and let them use it! You only live once...use the china! 

44. Pick an activity or craft from Pinterest and actually complete it! 

45. Make a 4th of July craft. 

46. Buy journals for the kids and give them fun writing prompts. 

47. Play school! Allow your kids to set up a classroom under the carport or somewhere spacious, take out the chalk board, print some worksheets from online, and just go all out. 

48. Play truth or dare...Kid Style and all G rated! For great ideas on truth or dare games with kids check out Pinterest. 

SPREAD KINDNESS 
49. Have your kids participate in weekly acts of kindness. It can be as simple as bringing the neighbor a desert, ordering food for a busy family, writing cards for children in the hospital, paying for someone's coffee, etc. 

50. Come up with a family service project for the summer! It could be putting together a care package for the troops. Having a garage sale for a family in need. Cleaning out closets and donating items to a non-profit. Be creative, but challenge your family to go above and teach your kids the importance of giving of oneself. 

I really hope you have enjoyed the ideas. I hope you feel inspired to go out and do! Go make memories and have a wonderful summer! 


Vera

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Red dirt stains...

I have so many red dirt stains...


Stains on my heart. Stains on my mind. Stains on my clothes. Stains on my shoes. Stains on my backpack. Red dirt stains everywhere. I never want them to leave me. I want them to stay forever. 

On Saturday, January 3rd we met up with the rest of the team in jinga as they were passing through and heading to Mbale! It was great to finally see them, but I was so sad to say goodbye to our missionary friends in jinga! But, I know I will be seeing them again soon!

Our team consists of 12 people (including me) from the thiboduax / Houma area! Some are medical people, some here to teach and preach, some here to minister in prayer, some to play with the children while medical missions are going on, some to work on the new buildings that have just been built - but all of us share the heart for the orphan and the needy with the main purpose of sharing Jesus with them! 

It's honestly humbling and I just don't know how to quite put everything I have seen into words! I don't know how I will ever do it justice! But, I will keep trying! 
I pray I can explain these red dirt stains for you all. I pray my message can convey the huge needs here. It will take a few blog post to explain everything, so consider this only part I !!! 

So, as I walked onto the grounds of the Kekebu Village in the district of Budaka and I heard the sounds of the African children and village people singing in their native tongues in an open air brick church house - tears filled my eyes and my heart leaped in joy. I couldn't get off that bus fast enough. I looked around the bus and noticed one of our team members - Ronnie Mablie eyes completely full of tears! The feeling is so unexplainable - it's something no pictures or stories could ever prepare you for! It's something that is personal for each person and I know now what my husband and family has been talking about! The sounds of the children singing to us as they greet the Mzungas (that word is Luganda for white people), the intoxicating smell of stinch, the sight of the children's faces as we got off the bus, the touch of the first Ugandan child to my hand, oh every sense was on over load for me. My heart was on overload - you can't possibly come to this place and not fall to your knees in prayer. They treat our team like we are royalty and it is a common practice for them to bow down and kneel at your feet whenever they greet you. First of all I am not anything special. I have a heart for these people so I raise money all year for them, but that doesn't make me a celebrity in any means. But, to these beautiful Ugandan people they want to show how thankful they are for us - so they bow down to us! At that moment I wish I spoke their language because I would have told them "it should be opposite - I should be bowing down to you." When you have people in such great need and they bow down to you - that just does something to your heart - well at least mine. It made me think of God - and when we are in such need and all we know is to bow down at his feet and pray - it brings him such joy and an overwhelming since of pride, love, and desire to bless us even more! That's how I feel - they appreciate us so much - it makes me want to work harder, fight harder to spread the message of refuge 127, and never complain that I am too busy to make a difference in these great people's lives!! 
(When we arrived we had church in here! In Africa - you dance and sing in church - and nothing like what us Americans do in church! Basically, you get down!! The children sing and dance and then the adults get up and sing and dance! Even the African men can move and grove their bodies - it's really something to see! Lol!! Me and my sister in law Mandy have been practicing, but can't seem to move our bodies like them!) 
All the village kids and orphans piled into the front of the village church! God is ever present here - you feel his presence in every place you walk!! 

Each day of the mission our days are split  - first part is prayer and church service and second part is serving the needs to the village and orphan children. The site we are at is the original site Mandy and Shay (my brother in law and sister in law) visited many years ago when they first traveled to Uganda. It's in the middle of a village, surrounded by small huts, small brick houses, a village church, various buildings for the orphans to live in and eat in, and some school houses for children of the village and orphans. 

After church service, I have been working with the Ugandan doctor refuge 127 hired, another team member - Paula who has been a nurse for 30+ years, and Elijah who is one of the Bishops sons who is currently in medical school in Uganda. I will need to do a blog post about the Bishops family - because they are all amazing people and I have fell in love with them all! The bishop is over various orphanages and boarding school sites and is a pastor to multiple churches throughout east Africa. I have been dispensing medicines, working with a translator and listening to the needs of the people. My heart is to serve people. I never get tired of serving people  because Jesus doesn't. The lines of people waiting to be seen never seemed to end. They came early in the day and waited and waited and some were not able to be seen the first day. That was heart breaking, but we are here all week to serve. The first afternoon - I made it a point to learn all the Ugandan medicines that were being used - another language - completely different medications than America - but with God he makes all things possible! I was in a very small closed in room with no air condition and medicine all over! It was a hot mess - literally!! So, two team members helped me organize everything in alphabical order so when the doctor spoke to me in Luganda I would know what medicine he was referring to! Also, the way they write scripts are completely different than in America! So, I had to learn that to! It was a crazy first day, but I learned an incredible amount that day. Before long - I was starting to see the same patterns of illness in Uganda - the same complaints over and over! Sadly, they didn't realize that the majority of their medical problems are due to the lack of clean water intake and improper nutrition. Their is no sanataization what so ever!!!!! They have no access to toilet paper so you can imagine how bathroom time goes. Then they go and eat and they have no forks or spoons - and everyone in the village eats with their hands!! 

The pharmacy! The small hot room where I meet with hurting people - not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually also! 

I can write a post about all the needs of this place, but I can't get caught up in the American ways of doing things. Because in America we have access to everything - a doctor when we need, medicine when we need, clean water, clean clothes, food - so naturally we don't go to God first because we don't even think twice about these things - we just have access to them! This experience has taught me that just because god has blessed me with access to so many luxuries - I should never put that before God. He must be my first consultation before a doctor. 

Today I got to speak to the village people and the orphans and I told them that - when the medicine runs out, or the money runs out, or the food runs out - they have to remember that God is the great physician, he is the great provider, and the supplier of all things! 

I know this place has stained me forever, but those stains will be a reminder of why I have to keep pushing and why I have to keep working harder and harder to raise money for refuge 127. 

The next few post will be more about the work we are doing here and what God has been doing over this trip! 


Psalm 63 "oh god, you are my God; early will I seek you; My flesh longs for you in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water." Mandy read this one morning before leaving for the orphanage - she had opened her bible and this was the first thing she had read. Water is something you can't live without and so many adults and children here don't get enough. They do have a water well, but it's questionable on how clean the water really is from there! Another stain to my heart, but another purpose for refuge 127 to look into! 
Thanks for following along! Love y'all! 

Vera

Friday, January 2, 2015

What is your definition of poverty?

Hey guys!! 

Happy 2015!! Hope you had a wonderful new year! I sure have been having a wonderful time in Uganda even though I haven't quite gotten use to the bugs or food! But, I have so many stories to share with you guys and many are probably wondering why we traveled up earlier than the rest of the team - so I will share tonight! (FYI - I am now with the rest of the team and this post is posting late due to not having the best access to wifi!) 

So, in my last post I shared that we are in jinga, Uganda - which is a city in which a lot of American missionaries live in or near.
(The Nile River) 

 Many come for short term rotations and some stay for years and some a life time! It's a beautiful city that is located on the Nile River and it's home to a great deal of poverty. But, let me explain that topic for a minute. Poverty. Poverty in American standards and poverty in Ugandan standards are two totally different things. The average fair wage in Uganda per day is about $4 dollars or 10,000 shillings. That is the fair wage and a well enough wage to take care of your family. Some Ugandans fall well under that fair wage - some times earning only $1-$2 dollars per day. 

But, let me explain a little further - have you heard the saying "it takes a village to raise them!" - well I think that must have really started in the villages of Africa! Village people take care of each other. They are all family!!! They take care of each other's needs!! So, while I was passing through a very remote village that was only accessible to man by either foot, bicycle, motorcycle or atv (4 wheeler) - I had this understanding that to the American eye - everything around me was poverty but to the Ugandan people of that village they had everything they really needed! I am certain they desire more and desire to often get out the village (well some don't - even if they had the money!), but they have what they love surrounded by them and it's not material things! They were surrounded by their family, shelter (although it wasn't up to our standards), children had a school near by, and they had basic food and an area to prepare it! These children were not orphan although to the American eye they appeared to be very neglected! Because the areas are remote and transportation is expensive - it's hard for people to have access to any of life's necessities. I have noticed the parenting and raising up of children from Uganda to America is truly another world of difference!! I haven't found much of anything alike what so ever! (I will later in the week write about the differences in culture and parenting - because they have much to learn from us and we have much to learn from them!) Yes they don't have the nicest clothes, but if you lived near red dirt everyday I can promise you before long you would be very dirty!!! 
(This is what I had To wear in order to ride on the atv - and when I got off the atv I was completely covered in red dirt - even places I had multiple layers on!) 
(Sorry for the scarey picture, but it's just to show how much the red dirt gets on you - and is so hard to actually get off even after you shower/ bath!) 

So what was our connection to jinga, Uganda? Well - thanks to social media my friend Lacey was able to meet a dear missionary family through Instagram and Facebook. They started communicating in may and months after that - god told Lacey she would travel to Uganda up early. It didn't really make sense to her at the time and she knew she couldn't travel by herself and when she expressed this to me - I told her - I would definitely travel with her early. Then we thought - can two girls travel to Africa alone??! Well, given my husband just traveled here last year - he suggested we travel with at least one guy! So, me and Lacey asked our friend mike (aka "our bodyguard" ) - we are all blessed to do ministry together and serve on the refuge 127 board - so we were so eager to learn more and explore places of Uganda the team members haven't traveled to before! 
(This is our sweet missionary friend - Vicki   - who has moved to Uganda 6months ago with her husband and three children! We meet up for the first time and spent the week with her - it seems like we have been friends for years!! I have no doubt that god had a purpose for us meeting and I can't wait to see how our friendships will continue - all for the sole purpose of seeing lives changed through Jesus Christ! 

During our time in jinga we got to visit some amazing non-profit organizations - sole hope (check them out here www.solehope.org), arise Africa, and amazima! Look them up - they are all amazing and doing great things! 

(One of the coolest things I have ever done - went down to the source of the Nile and yes we walked to it!) 

Here are some pictures of my time in jinga and the non-profits that we went to visit and learn about. Learning about life, culture, how non-profits are run - helps us to be able to help refuge 127 even better - so I am truly thankful for this time. 
(I can't even handle the cuteness of the set of twin girls I got to love on for a little while! Their mother died in childbirth and they were left with an aunt and they arrived at sole hope - which is not an orphanage but a medical clinic for jigger removal but they are an awesome organization and they will find a special place for them!) 

This is the guest house we stayed at while in jinga - which is own by arise Africa and we met up with another sweet missionary friend- Dacia who is over one of arise Africa's babies homes. Just a quick side note - babies homes is another name for orphanage. 
(This is the guest home for arise Africa that they rent out rooms for any one needing a place to stay while visiting jinga) 

Here are some pictures of sole hope:
Sole hope's man mission is to treat a very preventable condition - jiggers! Sadly, they still have such a large problem in various villages of Uganda and sole hope meets that problem head on! They can do jigger removal in their medical clinic or they can travel into the villages and do the removals there!  Besides removing the jiggers, nursing them back to health, they also make shoes for all children who have had jiggers. 
Here is one of the Ugandan ladies who works for sole hope and shoes the shoes together. They make shoes from old jeans and old tires!! 

(I love the jigger removal jeep they use!) 

(Jigger removal in action) 

A jigger is a bug that gets attached to the skin and lays eggs which there for causes more bugs, so it's important if a child gets one - to have it removed before it spreads! The only way it can get really bad is if the child is neglected and no ones removes them (bathing and having clean feet won't get the jigger out - it has to be removed!) The removal process is fairly simple - it's done by using a safety pin! The organization told me that man doctors have come by and tried to use fancier things for removal, but they always go back to the safety pin!! 

This is a very serious case of jiggers!! 
If you notice the volunteers at sole hope - charts everything and marks where the jiggers are around the feet, hands or knees. It can take all day sometimes to remove. This kid had over 700 jiggers! Many people in remote villages believe that jiggers are cause by having a voodo curse on you and they will neglect the children and leave them to get worse! Isn't that awful! Their is a lot of witchcraft and voodo here, so sharing Jesus can be difficult in some areas! 
The handmade shoe shop at sole hope! Got some for Juliette and my godchild Cc!!  

These are all children who are currently at the sole hope medical clinic and they are recovering from the jigger removal and being nursed back to health! Once they are better they will go back to their village and will have learned how to remove jiggers, be equipped with a safety pen for removal, have new shoes and will also have access to follow up care to make sure they are jigger free!! Isn't that awesome! All because this is what Jesus would do! They also share the gospel with them while there! 
Here are some sweet friends I meet at the Arise Africa babies home! These girls are beautiful and they are taken care of so well! 

The first three in this picture are triplets! They are well feed here and well bathed (they get 3 to 4 baths a day)!! 
I also got to visit amazima - which is the organization started by Katie Davis! We also got to learn about Farming Gods Way! 
This is where they teach bible studies and serve lunches on Fridays and Saturdays to the village children! 

So, that is a recap of some of the things I have been doing for the first week! But, I am now with the team working the purpose of our mission! I can't wait to share on that!! 

Love y'all! 

Vera 
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