Thursday, November 13, 2014

Guatemala (written by Jordan)

For the past 10 months, I have been preparing to lead a team of 11 to Guatemala to drill a water well in a local village. Our trip was the last of 4 mission trips our church committed to in 2014, and as we prayed for each team and heard the amazing stories from their return, I grew that much more excited about this trip. I had no clue what to expect, as I had never been to central America, nor had I been on an international mission trip, let alone led one. I was anxious, but extremely excited.

On Saturday November 1, myself and my team met at 5 AM at our church, loaded up 2 vans and headed to the airport to begin our journey to Guatemala. We arrived in Guatemala City, got our luggage, proceeded through customs, and met 2 of the most amazing guys I have ever had the opportunity of knowing; our hosts, drilling engineers and  staff members of Living Water International, Rudi and Manuel. These guys loved their country, their jobs and the Lord, and you could see it in how they lived their lives. 

After meeting we loaded into the van’s for our “short” 1 hour drive to Antigua, Guatemala. Although, we were unaware that November 1st is a national holiday for “The day of the dead”, where all Latin Americans go and celebrate their loved ones since past, which meant that our 1 hour trip turned into a 3 ½ hour trip. Yikes!

The next morning, we woke up, went to eat breakfast at an incredible restaurant in town and went to a local bi-lingual church in Antigua.  It was such a treat to be lead in worship in both Spanish and English. It was something I will never forget. After church we headed back to the house, had lunch and packed up the van and truck for our drive to Nueva Conception, where the local village is located. The trip was roughly a 3 hour drive, which we came to realize was because nobody in Guatemala drives over 40 mph. But it was nice to take our time and enjoy the amazing local sites (volcanoes, mountains, local plantations, etc.). Once we arrived in Nueva Conception, we checked into our “hotel”, which was basically just a bunch of rooms with beds in them (and a few bugs), but they at least had window A/C units... which come to find out, my room was one of the only ones that actually worked. My roommate and I learned really quick to keep that knowledge to ourselves, lest we have a coup.

The next morning we woke up early and headed about 20 minutes down a dusty old country road to the village that we would be drilling in named Las Pampas. We arrived to the school that we would be drilling in front of and were greeted by all of the amazing people of the community. We were quickly ushered into the school open air auditorium for a welcome ceremony, where the locals told us how glad they were they we had come, and how long they had been praying for this. It was quite the pep rally.

Our team was divided into 2 groups, 8 drillers and 4 hygiene teachers. As the hygiene team started meeting the locals and inviting them to their classes, my team started to prepare the drill rig and site for our work for the next 4 days. The first day was our exploration day: we would drill to about 200 ft in order to explore the soil/rock samples to find the best and cleanest water depth. The village did have a well that they had dug, but it was around 40 feet and would easily get contaminated by waste and pollutants. Finding water isn’t a problem in Guatemala, the water table is about 7 feet down, but finding clean Agua Pura is the real challenge. It took us all day to get down to about 180 feet. We would drill 5 feet and take a soil sample and preserve in a ziplock baggy. Once we got down to a safe depth, Manuel laid all of the bags out and reviewed the type of rock at each depth. He concluded that we would drop our pipe 160 feet in order to get the best water quality. We headed back to the hotel, had a late diner and crashed from exhaustion.

The next day our plan was to bore out the hole to about 7 inches all the way down to 160 feet. This process took a lot longer than expected. As it turns out the ground was a lot harder and rockier than expected. We had to slowly drill each 5 foot section, and about half way down we realized we had broken our drill bit. Luckily we had an extra, but that meant the slow process of removing all pipe, replacing the bit, and drilling back down again, which was very slow and tedious. After another long day, we headed back to our hotel for a much needed nights sleep.

The plan for the next day was to prepare the pipe and drop it down to depth, and then pack the cavity around the pipe with gravel to help with stabilization as well as filter out sand and dirt. The first 40 feet of pipe is perforated and allows for the water to be absorbed into the well. As we dropped the pipe we didn’t realize that some of the hole had collapsed around the perforated filter section, not allowing for the gravel to drop down and protect the screen from sand and dirt. Unaware, we dropped all 160 feet of pipe into the ground, and started to flush the well out with an air compressor. We quickly realized that the perforated pipe was clogged and was not going to allow water to flow properly. After about an hour of discussion between Rudi and Manuel, and hearing the word “problemo” way too many times, Manuel told us that there was a possibility that we may have to start all over again and re-drill another hole. Although this was frustrating news, we were ready to do whatever we needed to do to complete our goal. Manuel said he had one idea that we would try first. We would drop the drilling pipe down inside the pipe and once we got down to the perforated section we would flush with clean water to try and push all of the debris out of the screen, and allow for the gravel to settle around the pipe. By this time our hygiene team was there watching, and we took advantage of an incredible moment to gather our team, the Living Water team and all of the locals together and pray over the well. We prayed in English and Spanish and asked God to perform a miracle and allow this long shot to work. One of the local pastors in the community came and we all prayed in faith that God would do an incredible work. After about 3 hours of flushing, and adding more gravel, it was decided that it had worked and could now properly flush the well. We left instructions for the locals to make a concrete slab form and create a concrete base for the well to sit in, and we headed to the hotel.

We arrived back for our last day at Las Pampas to a completely formed and cured concrete slab with the pipe sticking out of the middle. It is incredible to see the ingenuity and talent of these people. We spent the rest of the morning flushing out the well, and cleaning the rig, equipment and drill site. After lunch, we had an incredible dedication service with the entire community filled with prayers, thank yous, and songs. We packed up and dropped the drill rig at the next drill site for a group coming back the week after next. 

These guys have the most amazing job. We came in for one week and experienced, in my opinion, a trip of a lifetime, and Manuel and Rudi get to do this all over again in a couple of weeks. How rewarding!

The next day would be our final day and was designated as a tourist day in Antigua. It was an amazing time, visiting some incredible sites in Guatemala, with a group of amazing people, both Guatemalan and American that I had grown to love as brothers and sisters!

I am glad to now be home amongst my family, but I will never forget the connections that God gave me on this journey. I cannot wait to see these people again someday, and if not, certainly again in heaven!

Click here for pictures

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Halloween 2014

For several years now, Kate has wanted to be Jasmine for Halloween...but each time we tried on a Jasmine costume, it was waaaaaay too itchy.  Last year, we even purchased a Jasmine costume and then st the last minute, Kate chose something from her dress up clothes because she just could not wear that itchy thing!
Well, this year, she thought ahead.  She picked the least itchy Jasmine costume out there and we got a leotard to wear under her outfit for extra security.  And it worked!  

Reese's costume journey was equally emotionally weighty.  She told Nana for several weeks that she was going to be "that doll like Kate has that has white hair".  After a while, we finally realized that she was talking about LaLaLoopsy... but once we bought a LaLaLoopsy costume - she changed her mind.  She wanted to go pick out her very own costume, so Nana took her shopping one day.  Although there were many costumes that I thought she might connect with, she had her own idea: she was sure she wanted Rapunzel... mostly because of the wig.  Although the movie isn't one she particularly loved, she was certainly in love with the Rapunzel costume.

From day one, Avery knew what she wanted to be for Halloween: a Native American, but certainly NOT Pocahontas.  She did not want to be confused for a princess since her sisters were both Disney Princesses.  

In the end, each girl got what she had dreamed of for Halloween, complete with flowing wigs that absolutely made the costumes what they were.  

We trick or treated with our neighbor friends.  Avery went with her girlfriend ahead of the crowd and had a blast... they skipped lots of houses and went to the ones that looked most fun.  Kate was determined and focused.  She knocked on every door without skipping any houses.  She was proud and overflowed with candy at the end of the night.  Reese decided that the house decorations that she had loved all month were super scary.  Her daddy took her home and let her hand out candy to trick or treaters and that was the absolute best answer for her.  She owned that job and had a blast all night.

Three girls with three beautiful personalities... all with their own Halloween experiences!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Kate's 6th Birthday

Things I'll Always Remember About My Birthday Week:

-Mommy brought me a cookie cake at recess
-Nana brought me Chick-fil-A at lunch at school.  Nana gave me a birthday crown.
-I got to be on Birthday Book Club.  I picked out a book for the library and I told the school that I turned six when I was on tv (on the morning announcements).
-At night, we picked out my cake at HEB.  I looked at all the
cakes and picked a chocolate cake that looked like a pumpkin.  I wanted Chick-fil-A again and since it was my birthday, I got it!
-On Saturday, we went to The Storybook Cottage.  First we looked at the dresses and I picked the dress I wanted.  I picked it because I liked the color.
-Then we painted our nails and we got to pick out pretty tiaras and I got one that said "Happy Birthday!" and I got to wear a pretty bracelet.
-We had a fashion show.  I felt shy but I had fun.
-Then had a tea party and made a cupcake.  It was yummy.
-We made a picture frame.  I sat by Lana and Allie and then we opened up presents.

My friends liked dressing up and eating cupcakes.  I liked having all of my friends there because they play with me.

Click here for pictures of the week

Love, Kate

Monday, October 20, 2014

State Fair Of Texas 2014

(written by Avery, who is the #1 fan of the State Fair of Texas)

Every year I look forward to going
to the State Fair of Texas because I have so much fun doing all of the different things there.  When we got to the State Fair of Texas this year, the first thing we did was look at tractors.  Then we went over to a barn.  At the barn we looked at Gypsy horses.  Gypsy horses are big.  After that we saw a dog show called "Splash!"  "Splash!" made me laugh.  I thought the dogs in it were really cool.

Then we went to a petting zoo.  (My favorite were the baby goats.)  Next we went to a show called "World on a String".  It was a puppet show.  Then I bought my own marionette.

The next day my m om, my dad, and my sisters went home.  I stayed an extra day.  And then I went on a 6 hour trip home! (Four hours to Lockhart and 2 hours to Houston!)

I can't wait until next year!

Click here for pictures

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Mario Bonding

Towards the end of the day recently, Jordan came into our room with great purpose and told me, "Well, it finally happened.  All of my years of practice as a child, and all of the parenting we've done up until this moment... it all came full circle today when I dropped the girls off at school.  When she was getting out of the car, Avery asked me, 'Daddy, when I get home today, will you help me beat level 2 in Super Mario B

They spent the afternoon playing Super Mario, making lists of characters, and even creating a cartoon about Mario and Luigi.

We're all so thankful for the years of practice Jordan put in so that he and Avery could bond over turtles, koopa troopas, and Bones.  Like father, like daughter!

Click here for pictures of the week

Monday, October 6, 2014

Important Things from Last Week

Each girl had an important week, for their own reasons.  Avery keeps a list of "Words of the Week".  Here they are, to explain our week:

Avery, Catalina, Playdate, Early Dismissal: On Friday, we had early dismissal... and you guessed, it, a playdate with Catalina.

Kate, Cast, Cast-Free: Kate's big week to get her cast off finally came!  She celebrated by picking her own outfit (long sleeves!) and swimming.  We also celebrated her birthday a bit early with Nana, DD, Amelia, Amanda and Kyle at The American Girl Cafe.  What a special day it was!

Reese: This week Reese had her turn being the leader in her classroom.  There is a very special "Leader" cape that the leader gets to wear and she did a super job being the super leader.  It was such an exciting privilege that she couldn't take her nap... she had to stay awake so she could tell me all about it the second I walked in the door to get her!

Author Visit, Library, Books, October, Creativity, Reading and Math: Exciting things from day-to-day school life.  An author came to visit and inspired Avery, the girls learned about the character trait Creativity for the month of October, and day to day school work, especially in math and reading, kept the girls busy.

Improved: I had a parent teacher conference with Avery's teachers this week and they were super complimentary.  I came home and told Avery all about it and apparently the word that stood out most to her was 'improved'.  Way to go, Avery!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Kate's Journal

For extra Kindergarten practice at home, Kate keeps a journal.  Here are several entries from her book:

*I wear a bag over my cast in the tub.
*I am playing at the SmartBoard (at school).
*I can open my own milk at lunch.  I like to buy the tray.
*At recess, I play with Alex.  She is a Never-Die Dragon and I get bad guys with my cast.
*I am playing Barbies with Avery.  She is pretending to be my Barbie horse.
*Me and Reese are playing baby dolls.  Reesie is the mommy and I am the teenager sister.

Click here for pictures of Kate's journal and the week.