Easter in 2011 felt quite normal, actually. It began with keeping 2 girls in their bedroom so that I could take photos of the Easter Basket moment.
I ran down to a market and found these cute baskets and Annie helped me decorate them one afternoon. It was such fun. All the sweet treats and reminders of home from friends that came the weeks before Easter also made it really special. Thank you so much, friends!
Family photo attempt I--Annie's mouth full of candy.
Family Photo attempt II--Annie attempts a smile with her mouth full of candy
The weekend before Annie's last week of school, Little Elly had an open house where we could come see all the amazing things the kids have been creating and learning.
Here the girls wait outside our apartment in their adorable dresses from Mer and her mamma (thanks Sherlin ladies!) for the short trip to Little Elly.
This is all Annie's artwork!
Don't be jealous of Annie's talent...all of the children's artwork looked strangely similar. I think when she doesn't do it perfectly (or at all) the teachers just do it for her. (Something I DON'T love about here.) I think it is because parents put a lot of pressure on teachers to see results and performance from their kids. Pity for these teachers, I LOVE it when my kids color outside the lines...
A few of Annie's classmates
(Harshith (Annie calls him Hah-shit), Vedah, Abeer and Parvathi)
Annie's pronunciation on most of these is actually quite good. :)
Lilsy and me chilling on the mats in the classroom.
They were very upset to see me sitting on the floor.
It has been playing for five full days now, and our house helper tells me it will continue for five days more. It started a few days before Sunday but reached a climax on Easter afternoon and with our myopic eyes, we thought it might be an effort to kill our Easter joy. Or maybe to honor SaiBaba, who died recently. But no. They say it is to honor Ganesha.
There is a temple nestled back behind buildings just behind our apartment that is 600 years old. People make pilgrimages there. It is so close and I hear it every day, but never at this height and frenzy. I imagine what it must have been like 30 years ago in the middle of the jungle that is now our neighborhood. It was all undeveloped.
I went out this evening to take photos (coming soon) of the festivities. The women in bright saris carrying offerings of flowers, coconuts, ghee and incense in bowls and on their heads. Bands and drums playing. They are celebrating, dancing in the setting sun. The drummers aren't so bad. But the blasting music that I can't understand from 5 am until well after 10 pm is almost suffocating.
I think this might be what part of hell will be like. Music so loud, blaring, garish, ugly, unintelligible. I know most everyone else understands the words, but for me it is noise. Noise with shrill voices and loud drums and electric guitars (no, it's not 80s rock...). It is noise so loud that closed windows and fans whirring on their highest setting and washing machines and my own blaring efforts to drown it out do nothing to block the unending barrage that plays constantly.
I have always thought myself a visual learner. Perhaps a kinesthetic learner. Never an auditory learner. But I find I am far more sensitive to the noises around me than I used to be--maybe because there are so many noises here in this big city of millions.
It is so funny to end a sweet week of VBS where he provided all and more than our needs; to celebrate his resurrection and the way it turned death and a fallen world into a place worthy of renewal and able to receive redemption and to begin turning back that entropic clock that has been running it into ruins practically since time began. It's funny to come off a high like that and be so incredibly negatively affected by...music, of all things. Music. Even the dogs howl more pathetically than usual. We are all afflicted. We are all affected by this darkness. Even if it seems like we're dancing in the light.
Thanks to my brilliant sister-in-law and her incredible idea to make her kids stay in their rooms in the morning until 8:00, we've started our own efforts at early morning kid control. Our girls wake up around 6 or 6:30 (PAINFUL) and Jonathan has started telling them to stay in their room quietly until 7:30!! And while it was rather a rocky start...they've started doing it! Okay, sometimes they fight and we have to break it up, and sometimes I go in there at 7:30 and everything is EVERYWHERE, but sometimes it ends up like this:
(It's a tea party, duh!)
a messy tea party.
And this morning I came in and Annie was reading Lily Noah's Ark.
Thank you so much to all who volunteered to take a meal!
At present, we have two church members supporting one meal each, another couple that we know here, and three of y'all to cover the six days of meals. We are so grateful and overwhelmed by how quickly people jumped to take on meal sponsorships. Thank you all for your open hearts and open hands and thank you for caring about these precious kids.
Enjoy a few photos from our time so far!
Can you find Annie in this photo?
Lily enduring her LEAST favorite activity: cheek pinching
Imagine one room, tile floors, 20'x15', two ceiling fans, no furniture. Now imagine 50 to 60 children, ages 2 to 16, (many from Hindu backgrounds) and about 5 adults...sometimes more, sometimes less. Plus Annie and Lily. Who make everything more, shall we say, eventful.
That is our VBS program. I'm not sure how all these kids heard about the program, because the majority of them don't attend Agape, but they are all precious and they come faithfully and participate so diligently. Many of them walk by themselves and arrive early to sit and wait. Yesterday, one little girl showed up (she couldn't have been more than 6) with two small children on each hip, one about Lily's age and one not quite walking. One of them was her sister, the other not even a relation. Whenever they cried, she got up and whisked them out of the room. She had a precious spirit and a servant's heart that I would love to emulate, this 6 year old who did her "duties" cheerfully and without complaint.
We spend the first 30 minutes of each morning singing some songs in Tamil. They are beautiful. Some are hilarious. Like the one with the chorus: "Boom Boom Chacalacka Boom Boom Chac." Seriously. Then we have an hour-long lesson followed by an hour of games, then review, then lunch. I teach the little ones: ages 2ish through 10ish. Yes. 2 through 10 years old, same room, same program, same games, same activities. They all listen like I were telling them where to find barrels of candy and chocolate. They answer my questions with such enthusiasm and respect. And they memorize a new verse each day. Happily. And are thrilled to recite it on their own. When we are finished with the lesson, we play a game, which they love, and then usually do some sort of coloring project. For 20 to 30 minutes, 2 year olds through 10 year olds sit quietly and color without complaint, without fighting over crayons or getting into trouble. And then they show me their work with the most sheepish smiles, smiles that beg for encouragement and affirmation; smiles that hope for a compliment. And of course I tell them they are all beautiful and they did a wonderful job and they go away so happy.
It's so rewarding, it's almost easy.
But it's not easy.
My kids are super crazy the entire morning. Often crying hysterically while I try to teach the lesson because they have to hand out crayons and they don't want to share them or because they just want me to "whole-nee" ("hold me" in Lillianese) and they cling to my knees and go through my carefully organized bags and cry and well...it's not easy. It's rewarding. I'm glad these little girls are learning to be a part of the team. (emphasis on "are learning"...present progressive) but please pray for us if you think of it. This is day two. We still have Friday, Saturday (yep, Saturday), Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday left! HOW!? He provides. And the time each day is sweet, albeit hard. Like Tom Hanks said in "A League of Their Own": "It's the hard that makes it great!" I don't know about that, but the hard (the impossible) sure does make it more evident when the Lord fills you with his power instead of your own. I cannot believe I've already done two days!? This weak vessel has been used by Him--but only by his grace. And I feel that if I think too long about the next 5 days. :)
One more thing: If you are interested in supporting this ministry, we have two dear ladies who come each day to cook the lunch for these little ones, some of whom might not have lunch waiting for them at home. It's a simple meal of vegetables and rice. But it is filling. And for 1500 (about $30 U.S.) we can feed all the children (usually between 50 and 60) and the adults with some left over. Let me know if you're interested. So far, we have three meals supported, but 1500 is a sizeable sum in this community.
Thanks for reading. Thanks for praying. Thanks for caring.
Not quite sure why it happened so fast with this one, but it's poppin'.
I was 18 weeks on Friday and feeling more like more-than-18-weeks.
And this little one flips around and butterfly kicks all day long! It is so fun. I love my little live-in friend. I've never been good at chronicling the growth of my belly--I find it rather embarrassing--but people have been asking (asking, I tell you!) for photos of the baby growth and since I am almost always in fairly loose-fitting, modest clothing in this culture, you don't really get the full effect in most every-day photos.
Plus, let's be honest, most photos that go up here are of my children.