Sunday, June 15, 2014

Sweet Sixteen

I'm not sure why the good Lord gave me the privilege of parenting my favorite 16 year old, but I'm so glad he did!  She truly is a special girl (somehow I got 5 really special kids!)  In honor of her 16th birthday today, since we can't be together, I wanted to share 16 things that I love about my Abigail Grace.  Since I'm not in the same country as all of our old printed photos, you'll just have to trust me that she was one beautiful baby and a pretty terrific toddler too.

So here they are Abby, 16 things that make you my favorite 16 year old!

1.  Your love of shopping


2.  Your beautiful smile

3. Your sense of humor

 4. Your compassion

5. The kindness you show to little ones

6. Your "reasonable" thrill-seeking side

7. Your creativity and perseverance

8. Your willingness to try new things

9. Your love of family

10. Your uncanny ability to get your siblings to do just about anything.  It's good for them that you're such a rule follower!


 11.  Your love for the "least of these."


12.  Your amazing fashion sense (well, once you grew out of your DC Cupcakes t-shirt!)


 13. The energy with which you celebrate others


14.  Your unparalleled ability to sniff out a good cupcake, cheesecake, smoothie, frozen yogurt, candy store....


15. The loyalty you show in your friendships.


16.  Your patience with me, even when it means wearing matching outfits far longer than any child should have to. (And yes, your father and I will supplement your therapy bills someday!)


Happy Birthday Baby Girl!  I hope it's a great one.  I pray that you will follow hard after Jesus all your days and I'm so proud of the woman you're becoming.  




Thursday, June 12, 2014

Keeping it Real

It's hard to believe that it's been over 6 years since I started this blog.  When I did, it was for a singular purpose and that was to chronicle our adoption and our journey to Abe.  After we brought him home, I thought I would close it down, its purpose fulfilled.  But, I found, along the way that I liked blogging and though I've been erratic at it, it's been a great way for me to reflect on the events of our lives.  It's also helped me to see the goodness of the Lord through the crazy years we've lived.

I never dreamed, when I filled out the account information for blogger, that one day, I'd be chronicling our life in Africa, the death of my mother, or safari vacations.  It was about adoption.  Except, I don't know if you've noticed, but adoption isn't a topic that I've brought up much since Abe came home.
And honestly my friends, it's because our journey with Abe has been much, much harder than I ever dreamed it would be.  


For those of you who have written me over the last several years sharing your dreams of adoption and expecting me to be your biggest cheerleader, I apologize.  That wasn't likely the response that you've gotten.  When someone comes to me with great excitement about their decision to adopt, I typically have a very guarded response and I encourage you to seek the Lord and do what He leads you to do...  usually with a lot less squealing than you expected.  And, I'm sorry for that, I am.

It's just that we've realized something as we've pursued our call to parent Abe.  Adoption is hard.  It can be really messy.  And even though we believe it's a work of redemption and we have absolutely NO regrets about our choice to bring our precious boy into our home, it has been one of the toughest decisions we have ever made.

Since the early days after Abe came to us, we've faced uncertainty and struggles in parenting him.  From the start, it was obvious that he was wired differently and that he had behaviors that were absolutely exhausting to us.  But we believed that with time,  TLC,  good nutrition, and happy memories, it would be okay.  It wasn't anything that love couldn't conquer.

We had heard of kids who had attachment disorders and we felt so sorry for those parents.  I mean, we had struggles with Abe, but he didn't resist our touch or hide food or set things on fire.  After all, he was so charming when we were out and about, it was really only at home that we were facing these issues, so maybe we were over-reacting or something?  We could do it, we could manage, we just needed a little more time.  Yes, that was it, just a little more time.

But the reality is, time hasn't fixed it.  Over the last year, I've become increasingly concerned with Abe's behavior and the fact that in so many ways, he obviously still doesn't trust us.  It made no sense to me.  I mean, he was just 15 months old when he came to us.  He can't even remember life before our family.  Right?  That's what I told myself.

Last summer, I began to suspect that maybe we were dealing with some attachment issues, but as I began to read and ask questions, I decided that it was too scary.  I made a few inquiries, read a few resources, talked to a few friends, and then decided that I just couldn't go there.  I told myself, once again, that we just needed more time.  I would give Abe more structure and more love and that would do the trick.  Except it didn't.

On top of that, for years, I have known that if we had Abe evaluated for ADHD, he would definitely meet the criteria.  But, Ryan and I didn't see the need to get that label.  After all, we wouldn't medicate him and that was the only reason that we would need a label.  I mean, what kind of parent puts their child on those kinds of drugs?  Especially a 5 or 6 year old?  Only a lazy neglectful one, right?

But, this spring, when I went to the homeschool conference, I decided to just dip my toes in the water and attend a seminar on ADHD.  Just because, why not?  And what happened in that hour is that I walked out absolutely certain that my son was ADHD.  But more than that, I understood much more about the disorder and for the first time I realized that not asking for help was actually not the kind thing.  I understood that if Abe's brain was really wired the way that I'd just learned about, it was really more cruel to not give him the opportunity to try treatment.  So, I came back determined that when we came to the States in December, we would immediately begin to look for help.  That was my plan.  I just kept telling myself, I can do this until December.

But then, May came... a really hard May.  And one day, after a really, really hard day, I wrote to someone in our organization and explained the depth of my concerns with Abe and some of the typical behaviors that were so concerning to us.  I explained how these behaviors were weighing really heavily on our family dynamics and how I just wasn't sure that we could make it until December without some sort of resources.  And thankfully, she heard me.  She didn't just send me a book title or a web link to resources, which is all I expected.  She told me that it was time for us to get help.  We needed to know what we were dealing with and begin to look for ways to address it.  She told me that there was a place on the other side of the continent that did this kind of thing well and that she was going to do what she could to get us there.

It was humbling in so, so many ways.  We are givers, we don't want to burden anyone, that's not who we are.  Allowing mission dollars to be used so that we could buy plane tickets and see special doctors was humbling to us.  And yet, we knew that our family, our little guy needed help.  So we agreed.  Over the course of a few days, Abe and I tied up loose ends and packed suitcases with hoodies and blue jeans and we boarded a plane for East Africa.

We arrived about ten days ago and the next morning, we were taken to a great place, where doctors who have a heart for co-laborers serve them through their mental health expertise.  They spent about 8 hours with Abe and I over a period of two days.  At the end of that time, my fears were confirmed...Abe was diagnosed with significant ADHD.  In addition, they explained to me that Abe has an insecure attachment.   They've also thrown an Oppositional Defiant Label in there, though the more I learn and read, the more I believe that his oppositional behaviors are probably a manifestation of the attachment issues.

You can imagine my emotions.  They have swung from relief that I wasn't loosing my mind to guilt over why Abe hasn't felt secure with our family to grief over the fact that my little guy is so broken to fear that I am going to have to learn to parent in a whole new way.  It's been a rough couple of weeks.

 I knew that adoption comes as a result of loss and I knew the sad story we'd been given about his first 15 months of life, but somehow, I was naive enough to think it would all be okay.  I didn't understand that just because Abe doesn't recall that early trouble, doesn't mean that his brain and development weren't affected by it.  Once again, I'm reminded that we live in a broken world where children have to live through unspeakable trauma and sin is ugly and it has consequences that affect people, even when they are innocent.  My beautiful boy has suffered grief and loss and trauma that we will never know that details of, and he has needs that are beyond what we initially understood.

I  have so much to learn about how to love him well and how to guide him toward a place of healing.  As I've begun to read and educate myself, I've begun to understand that this is going to take even more energy and effort than I assumed.  But, I also know that we are the ones that the Lord chose to parent Abe.  It is not a mistake.  We have been given this ministry and we have the responsibility and the privilege to walk this journey with him.

So for now, Abe and I wait in East Africa.  The rest of the family will join us here in a few days.  The next couple of weeks will be spent learning how to parent Abe in a way that will better meet his needs.  We will get counseling and education that I pray we can be good stewards of in the days ahead.  We have to determine what sort of resources we need to walk this road with Abe and establish how we can gather them.

We are thankful for those who give to the Lottie Moon Offering so that we can be equipped to minister to others...even when those others are simply our 5 children.   We covet your prayers in the days ahead.  We have a lot to learn about "trust-based" parenting and how to balance all that we're learning with the many demands of our lives.  Just in the short time we've been here, as I've begun to apply some of what I'm learning, it's obvious that with two steps forward, we can expect one really ugly step back.   We are trusting that the prayers and encouragement of God's people can help to carry us in this leg of the journey just as they have along the way.


Friday, May 9, 2014

Rain, Rain, Go Away

We've lived in Accra for 13 months.  In those 13 months, I'm nearly certain that we have had a grand total of less than 25 days with rain.  The rain rarely lasts more than 2 hours and we've never had more than 2 rainy days in a row.  Until this week, when we actually had a week full of outside plans.  But, I'm not bitter.  Really, I'm not.

The good news is, the rain brings cooler temperatures, so when you're stuck inside watching movies and playing board games, you don't have sweat rolling down your back like you normally do.  Since three days this week were rainy, we have not been able to do all that we'd planned.  Instead, we've been doing lots of this...
 That's right, we've been playing lots of board games.  Here are some of our favorites and some of the ones we've been playing this week.  It's nice to have kids who are old enough to play games that we actually enjoy playing.  I do not miss Candyland, Memory, or Pretty, Pretty Princess (though I do miss lots of the delights that go with that age!)  The one on the top, Whoonu, is one of my favorite family picks.  It's not my personal favorite to play, but it's my favorite for the group dynamics it brings.  It works well with a variety of ages and is easy to teach and enjoy.  It's easily the most used game in our cabinet.  If you have kids and you don't have it, I highly recommend it.  

In between board games, we have been trying to get out for at least a few hours each day.   On Tuesday, we weren't too annoyed with the rain because we'd planned to go to the movies one day anyway.  The theater here is one of the few things that isn't ridiculously expensive.  It costs about 35 USD for our family of 7 to go on a weekday.  We usually try to see the family movies they bring in.  I'd say they average about one every 6-8 weeks, which is just enough for our family.  This time, we saw Rio 2.  I wouldn't have chosen it, had we had options, but we didn't.  Truth be told, I got really cold (which RARELY happens here) and napped through a bit of it.  But, the kids liked it and that was good enough for me.

Wednesday, we woke up to more rain.  Fortunately, it cleared fairly early.  Liz wasn't feeling great, so we decided to stick close to home.  We went to the central part of our city and visited the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park.  It is the site where the first president of Ghana declared independence from Great Britain.  It's the site of a colonial polo field, which Ghanians were forbidden to enter when the British ruled.  So, Nkrumah thought it was a fitting site to declare independence in 1957.  They have since built a small museum and a mausoleum type memorial.  The guide gave us a history of the period when Ghana gained her independence and described every 18x20 black and white photo in detail for us.  The kids were patient and it was at least moderately interesting.  The history was truly fascinating, the presentation was so-so, and the grounds were beautiful.  After that, we walked next door to the Arts Center where we told about 100 vendors "No, thank you, " amazed a few of them with our broken Hausa, and purchased a little side table for 16USD.  Lizzie eventually cried "uncle" so we headed home, but not before we stopped at KFC, the only western food chain in our city.

Here are 4 of the kids in front of President Nkrumah's statue.  He was known for the sentiment that Ghana was not to look to the East or the West, but forward.  I think that is why he is shown reaching forward.

 Here's his burial site.  Interestingly enough, this is his 3rd and final resting place.  And yes, Abe did manage to knock one of those cement pillars over.  Man, I love that boy and all of the trouble he manages to chase down.

Peacocks wander the park grounds.

 Here we are, beating the heat with a water break.  

 I wanted to include this picture because it's a perfect scene from our city.  The rule here is, if it stands still, it ought to be painted red, yellow, and green with a black star.  Tree trunks, shacks, walls, you name it, they'll paint it.  They are proud of their flag and their football (soccer) team, the Ghana Black Stars.


Thursday it rained all. day. long.  We just stayed home.   We played games, I napped and read, and we experimented with some sort of brownie which was pretty much a flop, but it got eaten.  I think brownie mix is the only baking mix that we still miss.  We've got great cake, cookie, waffle, pancake, and muffin recipes.  I can't even tolerate canned icing anymore, much preferring the homemade ones we make.  But brownies in a box...they are still like crack-cocaine to my sweet tooth.  

Friday, the sun finally came out to play.  It was a gorgeous day and everyone was feeling great.  We drove a little more than an hour to a nature reserve called Shai Hills.   There we spent a few hours exploring.  This area is a savannah-like ecosystem and has a rich history with the Shai people of Ghana.  They require you to hire a guide who rides in your car with you and takes you on walks from various parking spots throughout the park.  

The first time we parked, he took us to see a small group of baboons who were hanging out near the ranger camp.  We've seen a good number of baboons since moving to Africa, but they continue to fascinate me.  I especially love watching the mamas and babies.

Our second parking spot involved a walk into the ancestral cave where the Shai people hid during battle times.  Along the way, Abe spotted these millipedes and wanted Ryan to take their picture.

We climbed up into the cave and got close to a bunch of bats while the guide pointed out some different highlights and stories of the humans who once used the cave.

Our next stop was baboon rock, which was an area that was used to train the females of the tribe who were approaching marriage.  They, along with the older women who trained them, lived on the rock for 6 months before their rite of passage ceremony.  We used ropes to help us climb the rock.  Apparently, they didn't have that advantage.

Here's the view from part of the way up the rock.  Doesn't it look too pretty to be real?

The girls and their latest picture trend.  They have decided to LOVE everywhere we go.

Our guide got this one of our whole family.  I know you don't care, but when I see this picture, I remind myself of the promise that I've made to myself that I will not wear a ponytail one single day in America.  Seriously, if you see me out in a ponytail, I want you to say, "Girl, whatcha doing with that rattail on yo' head?  Save it for hot, steamy Africa where you got no other options.  We don't wanna see that mess."

All along the rock, there were these circular indentions in the stone.  The guide explained that the girls each made one during their training time because there was this certain rock that they had to grind into powder for their rite of passage.  They covered their body in it at some point.

Here I am going down the rock.  The kids were making some smart remarks about how they hoped I could make it.  I just cheerfully muttered a bunch of remarks about how I'd reeled in a 50+ pound salmon in Alaska, ascended Jamaican waterfalls, hiked in places they couldn't pronounce, and some other smart remarks to which they just rolled their teenage and nearly teenage eyes.  

Here are the kids checking out the spot where the women slept during their training time.  You can't see Abe because he had crawled way back in there. The inside was super slick, the guard said it was from the pommade they used on their skin.  I didn't go inside myself.  My older brothers closed me in the kitchen pantry one too many times during my formative years for me to enjoy those kind of tight spaces.  

We saw quite a few antelope along the road as we drove.  Ryan did a good job of navigating the road, though he did give us one good squeal in an especially vicious mud hole.


Because the guide was paid by the hour, per person, we waited until the clock had stopped to enjoy our lunch.  Here we are picnicking before we headed home.  You like that fine ride we drive?  Many people think it's a taxi, so we often get flagged down along the road.  We just wave and smile and folks stare at us in total disbelief.  It's quite amusing, actually.  Seriously though, we're so thankful for it.  We're also thankful to the Ghana police officers who pulled us over and insisted that we purchase those yellow reflective stickers, for safety's sake.  Because, you know, we wouldn't want to be unsafe.  

Monday, May 5, 2014

Staycation

For at least 6-8 weeks, Ryan and I have been very aware that we needed to take some down time for our family.  With Ryan's job + traveling, my guest house responsibilities, and just life in general, it has been nuts.  It used to get that way in the States too, but it seemed like there were some built-in breaks with life there.  Our culture offered abundant opportunities for road trips and long weekends.  We had multiple options for affordable getaways there including camping, visiting relatives, or cheap hotels.  We have really, really missed that.  Since last year's vacation ended up being a very emotional and frankly, sometimes stressful,  trip to the States, we have known we needed a chance to decompress and just have fun together.  We needed a vacation.

The problem was, we didn't want to spend the kind of money it would take to have a week of vacation here.  You see, we live in one of the prettiest places in West Africa.  There are abundant tourist opportunities here, but they come with a hefty price tag.  We have had no luck finding a clean and safe hotel with a private bathroom that will house our big family for less than about 250-300 USD a night.  And those folks, are nothing fancy.  If we want one with a pool, that has AC and constant electricity, we're looking at more like 400-500 dollars a night.  This is mostly because all of them would require us to purchase at least 2 rooms per night.  With our Stateside time just 9 months away, we simply haven't felt like we wanted to spend that kind of money.

To complicate things even further, we have 2 children with peanut allergies.  Because of their allergies, we also can't eat most of the cheap food options in our country.  Groundnuts (the local term for peanuts) are used in many, many things here and the understanding of food allergies is almost nonexistent.  So, it's nearly certain that if we stop at a chop bar, which is the local version of a drive-thru, we run the risk of a serious allergy attack.  So, we really need a place with a kitchen option or we have to eat at restaurants that are at a much higher price point.  For 7 of us to eat basic pizza or cheeseburgers and french fries, we're looking at least 70 dollars.  There are no value menu options.

Now, I'm not saying all of that to make you feel sorry for us.  At all.  We all have a limited income and all of us have to make choices about how we use it.  We could spend the money to take a beach vacation, we have simply decided not to use our money that way.  But, we knew we wanted to do something.  

So...we decided to take our first ever, STAYCATION.  With quite a few vacation days just sitting there, waiting to be used, we decided we'd make our own fun on a budget.  We chose to eliminate the cost of lodging, reduce the cost of eating out, and still have the blessing of fun and time with each other.  This week, we're exploring our area by day, and sleeping in our own beds by night.

Today we took a day trip to a beach about 90 minutes from our house, called Bojo Beach.  We had a fun time and we came home with only minor sunburns, which is always important to little ole fair-skinned me.  

Since we're fresh out of drive-thrus here in Accra, we made some homemade chicken biscuits, wrapped them in foil, and hit the road.


The drive out there went really well.  We left just after rush hour and half of the drive was on good road.  The second half involved us driving down a really rough dirt road and stopping every 10 minutes or so to stick our heads out the window and ask the locals if we'd gone too far.  They all just kept pointing for us to continue.   At one point, a shack called "Jesus in the Answer Metalwork" led us to a discussion of how the art of singing songs in tandem or in rounds seems to have been lost on today's youth.  And just to make sure our kids didn't miss out on that lovely worship option that so blessed us in the late '80s, we found ourselves singing one of our favorite Nigerian choruses in rounds.  I'm not sure they're going to beg to do it again any time soon, but they were good sports.  

After following the advice of enough pointing locals, we got to our destination. We parked on one side, where there is a hotel, and then we took a boat over to a sand spit, where we spend the day playing in the sun and surf.  

 This is the view as we were waiting from the parking side.

 Ready for a day at the beach!

 There were dozens of these little crabs crawling in and out of the sand as we waited for our boat.

Apparently, they save these big boats for the weekend, because...
 here's our boat and driver.

Here are the girls, headed to the ocean side.

The boys took the front.

We got there in time to watch this fishing crew at work.  Let me tell you, there was some serious strength involved in pulling in those nets!

There were so, so many sea treasures on the sand.  We found gazillions of "unicorn" shells, a good number of sand dollars, and lots of assorted rocks and shells too.

When I was pretty certain that I was nearing my sunburn threshold, we packed up, tracked down the boat driver, hopped back in the van, and headed back down the dirt road toward home.  Along the way we made and munched on sandwiches, while waving back at all of the waving locals, and oohing and aahing at all of the baby goats and naked children.  All in all, it was a great day and we're looking forward to staycation day number two, tomorrow.





Thursday, April 24, 2014

Ouch!

My husband is gone on a trip.  The day he left, I fell and did this to my leg.  It is honestly the worst boo, boo I've had in a long time.  Like ever.  I hit the ground hard.  My leg hit a stepping stone, then my face and chest hit the ground...hard.  Like, hard enough that I had sand in my teeth and the imprint in my forehead.  I felt so, so stupid.  The kids came running, the guard came running, my helper came running, and I was horrified.  And in pain.

To make matters worse, I was just leaving to go to the guest house.  That was a fun drive over, operating the clutch.  Then, when I got there, I couldn't walk without the hem of my skirt rubbing against it.  This led to me walking around with my skirt hiked up enough to avoid the wound.  One of the housekeepers saw it, as I was going to get ice from the freezer to put on it.  She knew the perfect cure.  She drug me into the laundry room, insisting that she is a wonderful "home nurse."  She grabbed a rag and a bottle of Detol (think Lysol.)  Then, she set about rubbing my wound clean with this wonderful germ killer.  I assured her that I was fine and that she could stop, but she kept saying that she wanted to make sure that she had killed all of the bacteria.  Honestly, I was wishing I had a stick to bite.  Finally, after about three applications, she decided I was clean enough and she let me go.  I'm glad she took care of me since I was flashing back to that episode of Little House where Charles leaves Caroline and she gets tetanus in her leg.    

I'm sure it will heal up just fine... especially considering the fine level of care I received!  Now, if I could just learn to walk and talk at the same time, that would be good.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Brilliant!

Are they doing this in America?


The whole "Share a Coke with______" campaign.  

I doubt it.  Because it just wouldn't work the same way.  You see, here in Ghana, and in many other parts of West Africa, people have many names.  One of them is always the day of the week on which they were born.   So, the bottle above is the name for a Friday-born male.  The other day, I got one that had the name Amma, which is a Saturday-born female.  So, with 14 names, you would cover almost the entire population of a city.  It's everywhere here.  On every bottle and on billboards all across town.  In my opinion it's brilliant.  

It reminded me of just one of the cultural things that has become normal to me.  I had a language tutor named Laraba, the Hausa word for Wednesday.  We have a gate guard named Kofi, the Twi word for Friday.  When we meet someone who has a name that we struggle to pronounce, they will sometimes say, "Just call me Monday" or whatever the English name is for the day of the week they were born on.  Not everyone goes by their day of the week name, but they all know it and consider it theirs.

   We have a friend who had a son a couple months ago.  I asked him recently if they were ready to reveal his full name yet.  He told me that they weren't.  His mother-in-law insists they wait a bit longer, until the baby is stronger.  They don't want to name him too soon.  I think it's considered a bad omen.  Seems strange to us, doesn't it?  For now, he remains Kofi, because he was born on a Friday and they will use his "day of the week" name until they do his naming ceremony.  Of course, not all tribes wait that long.  Some of them have their naming ceremonies at just a few days or weeks old.  

Really, the cultural differences are sometimes so subtle and so fascinating.  And sometimes, they seem really far out.  Until you hand someone a basket of colored eggs and try to come up with some intelligent explanation as to why you would dye eggs some bright color as a part of your Easter festivities.  Then you realize that it might be you who has some really far out traditions.  

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

He is Risen!

Our family was very excited to see Easter weekend come along.   Easter is always an exciting time, because we are so very thankful for the fact that Jesus is risen!  Our faith really rests on that one fact and if that weren't true, if Jesus didn't really conquer death, well, quite frankly, I'd still be living comfortably back in NC, shopping at Target.  But, since I sincerely believe that he desires a relationship with each of us, and since my heart is to do what I can to make sure that as many people as possible have the opportunity to know of his sacrifice, I'm living it up in Africa, privileged to be a very small part in His very big story.

On Easter Sunday, we decided to worship at an international church near our home.  We have attended there a few times, but not since we returned from America.  It feels more like American church than most churches we visit here.  We knew that most Ghanian churches would have very long services and quite frankly, I just really wanted to worship in a way that would fill me up.  So, we went to the land of 90 minute air-conditioned services where the kids had the option of children's church.  It was a blessing and I left with a song in my heart.

Last year, we celebrated Easter as "refugees" in a guest house in Nigeria.  This year, we were thankful to host Easter in our home.  We were able to share an Easter meal with some of our colleagues and it was a blessed time.  Abby did most of her planning, as part of a home economics assignment.  She did a good job and took time with a lot of little details.  Lily served as her assistant and together they pulled off a nice afternoon for all.

Here are a few pictures of our Easter weekend:


Dying eggs is one of those traditions that I insist on keeping.  I can only remember one Easter of my life with no egg dying.  This year, we had no problem getting white eggs and unlike last year, they didn't cost extra when we did find them.
  As you can see, Abe's first egg obviously required intense concentration.
 Lizzie is focused!

The thing about coloring eggs is that we have very few in my family who actually enjoy eating them.  For years, my dad took them off of our hands, but seeing as he's back in the USA, we needed another option.   This year, we decided to color them and share them with some Ghanian children.  They were happy to have them and we were happy to share. 

Here's the crew, after church.

 He is risen, indeed!


 Our kids enjoyed Easter baskets.  I must confess, I have been trying to think of an excuse to buy these beautiful baskets for a year now.  There is a vendor near my home that always has bunches of them tied in trees and blowing in the wind.  They are gorgeous, but I couldn't justify buying them.  But, sadly, our $5 Target felt baskets that we've used the last several years, couldn't handle the climate here at the equator.  The bottoms were all falling out because the glue wouldn't hold.   I found myself in need of some baskets and well, the rest is history.  I'm pretty sure these babies will last way longer than our cheap felt ones, and they only cost a few dollars more.  Nana and Pap sent some American treats for the baskets, which were thoroughly enjoyed.  Ryan and I had bought each of the kids a new UK shirt last fall, long before we had any idea they would be in the championship game this year and saved them for baskets.  They were all happy to get them.

The kids enjoyed an egg hunt.  Ryan's parents also sent us candy for that via a volunteer.  It was all chocolate though and I just knew we would have a bunch of foil covered chocolate puddles if I wasn't careful.   I decided to keep it hidden in the fridge.  Abby stuffed the eggs the night before and then put them back in the fridge.  We left them in there until just before the hunt.  The dads hid them quickly, the kids hunted them quickly, and then I had the kids put it back in the fridge when the hunt was over.  We actually had kisses that were shaped like kisses and rolos in their original shape.

Abby and Lily made a pinata.  We did one round with blindfolds and I thought we might be there all day.  We did a second round with bare eyes and finally got that baby busted.  The guard was nice enough to let us use his club, since we couldn't find our baseball bat.



Here's our youngest participant gearing up.  She wasn't so sure about whacking that thing.
 
Abe wasn't so reluctant.

Here are the pinata artists with an "after" shot.

 Repurposing at its best!

That's one beautiful bunny!