family vacation

Sitting out on the back porch on vacation with this view right now…ahhhhhh…

back porch

There is something special about getting away from the routines and chaos of daily life to relax and reflect a bit. And to do that with my family is an even sweeter gift.  We roadtripped with our girlie and her fiance…10+ hours of bonding in a car, sharing snacks, telling stories, napping…good stuff.  Then met up with my parents, my little sis and her fam for even more familial togetherness.  We have seen shows, ridden the duck boat, dined out, cooked in, shopped…there have been late night conversations and early morning jogs.  Often in the busyness of life, my sis and I share “status of the fam” updates on voicemail for each other, filled with brief overviews of what and where everyone happens to be. So, now that the 12 of us our sharing this sweet vacation home, I can provide the “status” here…currently we have 2 nappers, a tv watcher, a reader,  7 at the pool and me.

Instagram and Facebook have been overflowing with great pics this summer of families doing life together…reunions, travels, sports, picnics, bbq action and more…I’ve been quick to add my own adventures, as a way to capture the moments I wish to save as memories.  This summer we celebrated my parents’ 70th birthdays! Gosh…70 years of memories and no social media to store all of those “instants” from their past…there are polaroids, photos and even a few reels of slides maybe, but nothing as instant as uploading from their phones during their childhood or early days of parenting and grandparenting. So, they share stories…and demonstrate the fine art of “memory making” by living in the moment – being willing to plop on a Krispy Kreme hat for late night donuts…learning how to text and use facebook…making the early morning coffee to share on the porch…throwing a baseball around with a grandson…and SO.MUCH.MORE.  My sis and I, plus our hubbies and kiddos are blessed to have parents that still hold hands and patiently support one another in all they do…who have demonstrated what it means to live life well.

Thanks Mom and Dad for sharing your vacation time with all of us! Thanks for showing us the value of family. Happy Happy 70th Birthdays to you both!

Family Collage

reflections: Kozefò Team Trip 2014.

IMG_0252It is just a little over a month ago that we traveled as a team to Port au Prince…and yet it already seems like a lifetime ago. So much was shared in such a short time – with the full range of emotions flooding our minds.  At the time, it was difficult to share many details, as we were simply living in the moment, savoring each interaction with each other and with the students and staff. Upon returning home, life picks up right where it left off…work demands, family needs…laundry, dishes and well…just life! So now, as I pause and reflect back, it is clear that God is orchestrating this entire adventure.  This was my 7th trip and with each one, I learn how little I know…my eyes are opened to something new each time.  I never really know what will be up next…and yet I wait…and I trust.

Here is what I do currently know.

All 46 current students are sponsored.

Generous donors are stepping up to provide daily meals and plenty of water for all of the students.

The rent of our building has been covered for the next 6 months.

The staff we have in place are amazing – God-loving, caring, passionate, creative individuals that keep things running.

Textbooks and uniforms are being ordered.

A classroom on the rooftop will allow us to open the door to 15-20 more students in the fall.

Another young student has joined us on-site full time, given circumstances that were keeping him from his full potential.

The Apparent Project and Heartline Ministries are organizations doing great things in Haiti and we will continue to support and promote their work.  (Haitian-made jewelry will be available for sale at the 5K…and the Heartline Guesthouse provided an awesome safe haven for us each night during our stay!)

Kozefò Board Members, family and friends are sharing their time and talents to keep this school operating.

I am completely humbled by it all. Take a peek into our adventures on this video (thanks to Graphic Design Intern Laura!) Consider joining us at the annual 5K happening August 9th! [Free t-shirts included if you sign up today!]  Contact me if you would be interested in sponsoring one of our new students – updates coming in September.  Thank you ALL for your continued support and encouragement.

wanting more.

Does the desire to want more ever end? It is summer in Minnesota , the glorious few weeks we get with beautiful weather to be outdoors…I am wishing that I could have joined my pals for a walk last night…or a weekend up north at Melinda’s cabin…or at a ballpark or soccer field to watch my nephews…or floating on the pontoon at my parents (in fact they both celebrated their monumental 70th b’days this summer and I was not able to join them.) So many places I wish I were.  So many things I wish I were doing. I want to sit on a backyard patio, or around a campfire, or lounge on a floatie in the middle of a lake.  I want to read books for fun-to watch late night TV-to sleep for 8+ hours.

The past couple of weeks have been a whirlwind, with work projects, grad school, Kozefò planning/processing.  My brain is overflowing. I am exhausted. There are moments when all I want to do is quit it all…move to a remote location and relax in a hammock by the beach.

But no, I will persevere.  I will write the 8 papers, create the 3 presentations, map out a professional development plan, draft non-profit by-laws, check and respond to email, load the dishwasher, fill my vehicle with gas….

Because that is what we do.  We keep moving.  One day at a time. One project at a time. We survive. My adorable little sunroom office space cannot hold me…I have moved to the family table with all of my piles…

life at the moment

In the midst of it all, there have been little moments of wonder and fun.  My dear bride-to-be daughter came home for a week of vacation. [A super sweet gift, since the hubby is in NoDak, taking care of the parentals.] We have squeezed in wedding-planning conversations, dress shopping, and dinner dates. Such a refreshing change of pace to discuss menu options, flowers, and wedding attire…as opposed to the issues of budgets, conciliation, and maltreatment.

dessert and dress shopping

So really, when all is said and done, life is a constant balancing act…of doing what needs to be done and doing what we choose to do.  I may always want more, but such is life. Ultimately, we will never be fully satisfied until heaven. So I continue, to keep on keeping on.  Hope your summer days are filled with more of what you WANT to do and LESS of what you have to do.

98% happy.

Gosh, what would that look like?  98% happy? Not really even sure that I can plop a percentage onto my happiness level.  Could you?  Do you think that most people we meet are in the 90+ range? Probably not.  What does happiness really even mean? How do we achieve it…how do we savor it?  Here in the good ol’ US of A, I believe that happiness is often equated with success or leisure or freedom or maybe even nice weather! (Especially in the north country where we are sure giddy about the warmer days.)

And yet, this sweet student in Haiti, dictating her letter to her School Sponsor in Creole to an interpreter, who then translated  it to English for our interns to record, expressed her happiness at 98%…

98 percent happy

[Hello, Thank You! I love you a lot. I am happy that people are visiting me. I am happy 98% (the 2% is that I can't see you!) I also like to swim and play with my doll.  I am very excited for the doll!  This has been unforgettable, so thank you!]

I want to be 98% happy.  I want to enjoy the people that are in my life.  I want to view my life moments as unforgettable.

Instead, I often find myself living anxiously, wondering what needs to be done next…doubting…or fretting…over very silly things.  There seems to be this pressure to always do more, be more…and yet life would be a bit more peaceful if I simply slowed down long enough to enjoy the moment…to relax enough to show up to work in sneakers and a baseball cap occasionally…to let the homework assignment wait and simply watch a movie with my husband. (Yep!  Did BOTH of those things today.)

When we visited our school in Haiti last month, we had the opportunity to share letters from sponsors to students…and for them to return a few words back to their sponsors. The interactions were sweet and humbling…building relationships with these students is my MOST FAVORITE part of this work in Port au Prince…so to extend those sweet relationships between students and sponsors fills my heart with 99+% happiness!

sponsor letters

Take a peek at sweet Ruth Lasseur and her mama…this is the young lady that Bob and I sponsor, followed by her gracious letter to us…

Lasseur Ruth and Mother

 

responsible

[Dear Sara & Bob, I am happy & I will work harder to satisfy you more.  I would like to see you face to face to thank you for everything you do.  At home I look cooking especially when my mom is sick.  I also like doing housework.  At school I listen carefully to the teacher when she explains to be successful & when I grow up I will be responsible of my family. I would like to thank you for the support.]

Seek a little glimmer of happiness in your day…or put a little happiness in someone else’s!  These chicks sure filled my heart a bit today.  (For those of you sponsoring students, keep an eye on your mailboxes…letters are going out this week!)

the more I learn, the more I need to know.

bible verseIt is funny how life works.  The more that I dig deeper into something,  learning, pausing to question…I discover that I really know so very little.  If someone would have told me three years ago that I would be supporting the work of a primary school in Port au Prince, I would have said “Me? Seriously? What do I know about running a school in Haiti?” And yet. Here I am, muddling through the process of paying the bills (via wire transfers, a detail-oriented treasurer, Facebook Messages and Google Translate,) discussing class configurations and staffing decisions with an orphanage director, coordinating fundraisers to pay for rent, salaries, textbooks, uniforms, food and water…who knew?  And with each discovery and plan, comes additional questions and wonderings…should we be accredited? how do we get accredited? where can I buy a water jug dispenser and how much will it cost? what will be the transition for our students needing the next level of instruction? and on and on and on…

The same can be said for my professional life here in the US.  I have been teaching and leading for quite some time…just beginning my 25th year.  You’d think I’d have it figured out by now.  But no!  I have knowledge, experience and insight in quite a few aspects of learning…but I have even more concerns and inquiries now, then I did when I first began with 32 bright-eyed first and second graders in a bilingual classroom in Southern Cal.

And so, I dig a little deeper…reading, listening, studying and trying to improve my craft. Realizing that life is just one mighty long journey of learning and growing.

Well, it is time to do a little homework for class tomorrow…another day to work the brain cells…another day to realize how many additional things I really do not know…another day to add more books/articles/research to my reading list.  Good thing, there is time for evening walks along the Charles River and seafood dinners with pals!

class

river walk

 

 

thoughts from my sis.

My sister is stepping in today as a Guest Blogger, sharing her thoughts on our recent trip to Haiti.

Feel the love.

Lori and her boys

Flying into Port au Prince I had so many thoughts spinning through my head, but the heaviest on my heart and mind were my boys. How would this be for them as they took their first trip back to the country of their birth? (Eli having no memories, since he was so little when he came home, and JP having so many, since he lived there until he was 12.) As we landed at the airport, all the anxieties I had disappeared and I was just covered in peace. It was a peace that only could come from God. I felt at home and was so grateful that the boys were able to experience this huge part of who they are with their parents and sisters with them. I also was so grateful for the little village of people that we were traveling with. I could tell God had woven us all together to experience this trip together. The fact that our dear friends the Georges were there by our side in this country that means so much to us was priceless.  They were there when we began the process to adopt each of them,  prayed for them as we waited, and have  loved our boys unconditionally from the moment they met them. Also in our group of travelers were my sister’s dearest friends and their kiddos, who I have respected and adored…two of the families were excited to soon introduce their kids to their brothers who they would soon see!  Also in our group, was my precious niece Breelynn, who has such a heart for this country! Seeing her with her cousins in that airport, I was just so grateful that the week ahead they could all share together.  Leading our group was my sister who has truly become part Haitian, as her work with the school and teachers have brought her to Haiti numerous times to do the work that God has called her to do. She joked that she was tour guide/activities director (picture Julie from Love Boat) but not only did she keep us organized and everything flowing beautifully- she was the glue that held us all together. She was the heart and soul, the friend, the child advocate, the face of Kozefò, the communicator, the resource for the staff there, the spiritual guide, but most importantly to the boys and I she was an auntie. I believe her heart for this country started with a love for my boys. The way she has honored them by being a light in their country is something that we can never even begin to thank her for.  As we first all gathered at the airport ready for our adventure, I had no idea all that we would experience and how our hearts would swell. This trip has changed me in incredible ways, but mostly my heart as a mom.  Seeing the orphanage for the for the first time with JP and Eli by my side was priceless. Telling Eli all the stories that I remember of him there and hearing JP tell his stories of all his memories was precious.  They both loved being there among the kids and both seemed so joyful to experience this. JP was off right away-connecting with Rock-Papa Rico, chatting with the boys, talking to the cooks and Miss Nahomie, and checking out every nook and cranny. I was able to walk the neighborhood with JP and it gave me a glimmer of his life before I met him. We even spotted on a wood plank underneath one of the beds that JP had left his mark on years before, as JP was written over and over again in pen. I think seeing this space filled with classrooms and children in uniforms gave both of the boys such pride that there is life and hope and light in a place that they once called home.

at the PAP airport

prayer time on the roof

Schlechts and Georges

Avalon and girlies

Faith and Charleston

cousins

Haroldson fam

Pearcy fam

Sadly, we don’t have any information about Eli’s birth family and I worried how my sweet Eli’s heart would be when we went to meet JP’s birth family. JP was so nervous and wasn’t sure that he wanted to go. He wasn’t sure what he would say and was worried about his Creole. He was able to process a lot of his feelings with Breelynn and really wanted her to come with us as we loaded up the van to see them. It was a long, hot, bumpy drive, but soon there was the vision of Guerline in her pink floral dress standing in the middle of the cavern covered road with a JP sized smile across her face. She jumped in the van, covered my cheeks with kisses and sat on my lap as we headed towards her home. We all piled out and hugs were given and the vision of her embracing JP warmed my heart. It was such an odd feeling. As JP’s mom, I just yearned for her to embrace him, to show him love and to prove to him that he is valued and loved by her. There is a respect and love that Guerline and I have for one another that is unexplainable.  We both know that JP is exactly where he needs to be, and we both want him to live the life that God intended for him.  Evelore was quiet and sweet, but  so excited to see her brother. Then little Fritz came out. He is 3 and JP had never met his half brother. He was quiet and shy, but JP surely made connections with him. JP seemed so happy, but yet nervous and not knowing what to do. He was heart broken that his oldest brother Junior was not able to be there. It is Junior that he had the most memories and closest bond. JP gave all the gifts out that we brought for them and we all looked through some pictures and then all of a sudden…Junior showed up!  It was pure JOY on JP’s face as he held his brother so tightly. Tears flowed and our hearts were full!  It was truly a reunion like no other and man do they look alike!  JP’s nervousness was gone and the rest of the visit was filled with fun and laughter and lots of love! As excited as I was for JP to be reunited with his brother, I worried about my sweet Eli as he was looking on and soaking it all in.  Eli adores JP and looks up to him and JP is the only brother he knows!  How would our little Woodchuck feel about it all? As all of this was going on, our witty little Eli was singing God Bless America and marching in a circle saluting. Oh that dude can bring JOY everywhere he goes.:)  There was a moment when Guerline took JP down the road to meet people in their neighborhood that I started to panic a little bit and think she better bring my boy back! :)  But, she was just a proud mama wanting to share him with all around. They came back and JP looked at me and said, ” Mom are you ready to go?” He was ready, he was grateful, he was happy.  A few days later, Guerline came back to the guesthouse to see JP before he left. She took 3 tap taps to come and see him. I have to say I was emotionally drained and not ready to have time with her, but was grateful that she took time to see JP. We sat and talked through some hard questions. It was very healing and yet so hard. She talked about how JP would hide in the mango tree, so that he wouldn’t have to go to the school, she talked about him causing trouble as a little dude, and when I asked her what she wanted to know about his life here she said she didn’t have any questions. That hit Scott so hard emotionally. I told JP to tell his mom how wonderful he was doing in school, how he plays soccer, basketball, and track. How involved he is in his church and how important his faith is to him. JP just shook his head no. :(  No matter how old you are or what your family situation is all you want is your parents approval and pride. Scott and I couldn’t be more proud of who JP has become and for the person he is!  What a privilege it is to be his parents!  Guerline told us at one point that night, “God knew JP’s destiny,” and she is “so happy that we are his family.” Hearing those words from her were a gift. God knew JP was supposed to be a Schlecht, and I am so incredibly proud to be his mom!

JP and Guerline
JP and Junior
JP birth fam
JP fam

Nine years ago, as I walked up the steps of the airplane with Eli in my arms, bringing him home, I never would have imagined that his adoption would bring about a chain of “God-led moments” that brought JP home; Vaniesa and Sebee home; a school and feeding program started; my sister would be known as Madame Sara and she would know every student’s name, as well as their stories; a well-known English Institute would be created there; Stanley and Davensly would be coming home to Woodbury and Oakdale; friends and family would be sponsoring students to go to school there; we would witness a Spektak that was filled with songs, skits, speeches, dances, and creativity; that parents would come to celebrate their students; and that this group of people that I would travel to Haiti with would become family to me!

Schlecht fam
Team Kozefò 2014

the spectacular spektak.

What a day.  Not really sure that I can even begin to articulate all that I saw and experienced today.  Our school hosted it’s first ever Spektak: (defintion) “a visually striking performance or display.”

Students arrived in their Sunday best.  Teachers had planned and prepared a fab program…waaaayyyy better than we could have ever imagined!  Decorations were hung…chairs were set out.  There was singing and dancing, skits and games….followed with refreshments.  The space was overflowing with complete JOY.  Kids were standing taller, parents were beeming, teachers knew that they had done well.  There were speeches once again, and words of thanks expressed.  We Americans left hot, exhausted and filled to the brim with pride.

Allow me to show you a glimpse into the events of the day.

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