on the needles

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Video of Lesly!

Steve uploaded this short video of his meeting in Guatemala at the Children International center with Lesly and another sponsor Barbara's child Marelyn. You can see Lesly sitting on the bench with her mom Aura. Even though this is just a short, random video (Steve says he will upload more!) it is so exciting to see Lesly "in action" so to speak.

So for the doubter's out there (I always hear from people who suspect this is all a scam.):

Lesly and Marelyn

My sponsor kids are REAL!

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Jhonny's Income Generating Project

Yesterday I showed you Hermelinda's story of poverty. It's depressing and sad and as of yet has no clear solution.

Now let me give you some good news! One poor family now has a new source of income, thanks in part to my blog readers!

These are the photos I got of Jhonny's Income Generating Project that I funded through the proceeds of the stash sale I held a few months ago. So if you bought some yarn from me, take a look and see what I did with that money. And pat yourself on the back - you helped give a whole family great hope for their future!

Children International calls these Income Generating Projects. I think they should call them Hope Generating Projects!

Jhonny shows off the new equipment that will enable his family to start their own business. Jhonny was especially grateful for the new refrigerator. He wrote:

"I am happy for your help...We didn't have a freezer and now thanks to you we have one to keep the chicken and the sausages, so that they don't go bad and we don't have to ask our neighbor to keep them for us as we used to."

Can you imagine not having a refrigerator?

Jhonny's mother Fanny was so happy about her new kitchen equipment! She told the field workers that she would "seize the opportunity to to do her best and to be able to support her children in the best way possible". She said:

"I didn't expect this, it is a big surprise for me and I want to thank the sponsor for all the support Jhonny receives. God bless you!"

In addition to the new fridge, Jhonny's family also bought some large cooking pots, a fryer and a propane tank to run the fryer. Jhonny told the field workers:

"My siblings and I will keep helping my mother in everything we can. This is very important to us and I would like to tell my sponsor that we will never forget this. Thank you so much for caring for my family and me."

Check out that fryer!! That thing kicks ass!! Jhonny's IGP plan is for his mother to cook foods such as french fries and fried chicken which they plan to sell at sporting events. I think it's a great idea! It's almost guaranteed to be a success. And it will allow Jhonny's mother Fanny to work from home which is important since she has eight boys to care for. (I'll bet the boys are really enjoying all the fresh food and cold drinks from the fridge and the french fries as well!)

Jhonny wrote:

"These things will serve for us to prepare food to sell. Delicious french fries with sausages to sell!"

Jhonny with his mother Fanny, his twin Joe David and his step-father Pedro. They all look really happy. Jhonny says:

"The money will be used for our education and the family's expenses."

The field workers also emphasized that Jhonny's parents have the goal of saving money for their children's schooling. I think that's fantastic!

Jhonny is twelve years old and lives in Ecuador. His family income is up to $200 a month. I think that is showing a small increase already and will probably get even higher once they really get under way with this business.

Jhonny wrote:

"My mom says she is very grateful and that God bless you and your family always. Thank you so much! God bless you and big hugs to you."

Jhonny and I always say "big hugs" to each other. He's such a sweetheart. I hope I can meet him and his family someday. Jhonny often tells me he very much wishes that we will meet each other someday.

Jhonny with his brothers in 2008. Only two of his other brothers have sponsors, Jhonny's twin Joe David (behind Jhonny in the white shirt) and Anthony (in front on the left). I'd love to find a sponsor for his four year old brother Jhon Michael. He is the little boy in the center of the picture wearing overalls and sitting next to Jhonny. This is a really close, wonderful family and it's been a great experience getting to know them.

Now I am looking forward to the next report which will let me know how their business is going. I've also asked Jhonny to tell me all about it in his next letter. I'll share that with you whenever I get an update.

I'll end this post with a quote from American writer Albert Pine:

What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others and the world remains and is immortal.
-Albert Pine

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

This Is What Poverty Looks Like

Let me take you on a tour of Hermelinda's family home in Guatemala, courtesy of Steve. These are still photos taken from the video he shot for me.

The trail leading up to Hermelinda's isolated home - 200 steps up a very steep hill.

Hermelinda's father Victor holds her two year old sister Marlyn in front of the tin sheets which comprise the walls of their family "home".

The kitchen. Hermelinda's mother Dorca cooks here over a fire in the open air.

Hermelinda's family in a photo from 2008 that I got from Children International. Mother Dorca holds baby Marlyn, Hermelinda next to her mother in a purple skirt, Yessica and Victor holding little Dulce. Since this photo the family has added one more child - I think a boy. After that birth Dorca had her "tubes tied". I think this was a smart decision for the future of her family.

This is the "pantry". A large barrel I assume is for water storage that hopefully will keep out the worst of the bugs, animals, rain and dirt.

The "bathroom". This looks like it is also in the open air with a curtain for privacy.

The family stands by the "front door" in 2008.

The "bedroom". The family has two metal bed frames for seven people.

The "living room". Hermelinda's family also sleep on the floor here.

Hermelinda's isolated home and extreme poverty readily explain the rarity of her smiles.

Hermelinda waves goodbye to me through the camera.

I have Children International looking into options to try to arrange better housing for Hermelinda's family but it is a problematic situation since they are essentially squatter's on the land that their "home" sits on. If I provide them with new materials to build a more secure structure there is every likelihood that the owner of the land will kick the family out and keep the new house to rent out to people who can pay. The only other options will probably be to buy them a piece of land (likely to be out of the range of what I can afford - thousands of dollars) or to attempt to relocate them to a rental (hard to see how they could afford to rent anything but possibly a move to a less isolated area may enable me to set them up an Income Generating Business). Anyhow - the housing situation outlook remains rather bleak.

In the meantime I have sent a special needs donation and have asked CI to enquire about portable household items the family could use - bunk beds, cooking utensils, furniture etc. - that will help make their situation better in the short term and can be moved with them if they can get into a better home.

The good news is that in addition to Hermelinda, Victor and Yessica also have sponsors. Please - if you can - consider sponsoring little Dulce:

or Marlyn:

Sponsorship is $22 a month and the aid this family gets from sponsorship is literally the difference between life and death for these kids. Without the food, medical and schooling help I don't see how they could survive. Contact me at the email link in the sidebar if you think you can help.

If you can't commit to a sponsorship please consider donating to one of my Income Generating Projects for some of my other families over at Aura's House. Donations seem to have slowed down so I really need your help!!

I'd also love to give out some surprise gifts to anyone who donates so please email me or leave a comment and let me know if you do!

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Monday, April 27, 2009

I Decided to Make it 18

Meet Stefany Valeria my 18th sponsor child.

18 is a much "rounder" number than 17 don't you think? (Yes, I know that 20 is even rounder than 18...don't give me any ideas!)

When I saw my little namesake something about her just spoke to me. That's the way it is sometimes. :)

She is nine years old and lives in Ecuador. My other three sponsor children in Ecuador have been so great that I was more than happy to add another. I think that Stefany is new to the CI program because this is the only picture in her account. My daughter saw her photo and said, "She is beautiful!" I think so too. :)

Stefany's situation is not as dire as many of my other sponsor children - at least as far as I can determine from the Children International report. She lives in a concrete (probably cinder block) house with a concrete floor and roof. They do have running water in the home but still have to use a community toilet. So I assume the water is only for the kitchen. They also have a portable gas stove for cooking and metal beds. So at least they aren't cooking over an open fire and sleeping on the floor like many of my other children.

Stefany shares her home with her mother Rosa and a one year old brother Edgar. Her father abandoned the family. But I assume she may have a step father since she has a much younger sibling. They get by on $180 a month.

I can't wait until I have a chance to exchange a few letters and get to know Stefany better!

In crafting news - I finished my Cobblestone and it got a great reception from Hubby. I'll have to get him to model it for some photos. The 90 degree weather we are having should make that pretty fun huh? ;) I always seem to finish up my sweater projects just in time for summer. Sigh.

I know I have been totally neglecting posting my FO's. I seriously have finished tons of things! The problem is getting photos taken of them. I don't have my own camera and Hubby always has some crazy funky lens on his or has it on some weird setting. That makes it hard to take photos while he is at work. I just don't have any spare brain space to devote to figuring out what is going on with Hubby's camera at any given moment. I am very much a point and shoot type gal. Maybe I just need my own camera. Something simple to use but that takes really good quality photos. Any suggestions??

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Update on Lesly's Roof Project

One of Steve's photos of Lesly.

Aura's House has posted this update on the status of Lesly's Roof Project:

“What great news … $553 has been raised for Lesly and her family. We’ve transferred the funds to our agency in Guatemala, and they’ll be coordinating the repairs to the home with Lesly and her family during the coming weeks.

I look forward to sharing updates on this special project as soon as I receive them!”

Lesly and her mother Aura

It's fairly humid in Guatemala right now so I'll bet Lesly and her family are looking forward to that new roof!

Lesly and her famous "Cheshire Cat" grin.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Cobblestone Pullover and Hermelinda*

*Aka: I hate trying to come up with clever blog post titles.

So last night I finished up the knitting on a Cobblestone sweater for my Hubby. I just have to kitchener the underarms and weave in the rest of the ends. So I'll be all done by tomorrow probably. I really like the sweater and want to knit one by myself but I'm a bit put off by the wraps on the short rows. I can do them just fine when I am knitting traditional stockinette but something about the garter stitch in the round seems to be throwing me off. The problem is not doing the wraps themselves - that I get! - but what to do with them on the next row...the whole picking up the wraps thing. I followed the instructions in the back of the magazine and think I understand what they want me to do - but the results aren't so pretty. Am I just being overly picky (it's been known to happen...) or is there something I don't get about the technique or some mysterious tip that would help them look better?? Helps!!

I used Rowan Yorkshire Tweed Aran - sadly discontinued but I literally have bags and bags of it. I used "Muffin" which is almost the same shade as the Brooklyntweed original. I love Yorkshire Tweed. The colors are so awesome and it is just so woolly. I admit it's sometimes not so fun to knit with though. Knitting it straight out of the skein/ball is a pain. It loves to stick to itself and tangle up which slows me down. I finally re-wound the skeins into "cakes" and it helped the problem some. The yarn is also rather rough and will give you rope burn if you knit for any length of time. It's also heavy and hard on the wrists when you have a whole sweater on the needles all at once! But still - I do love it. :)

Has anyone tried the girly version of Cobblestone? (I forget the name of the pattern but I know it's around here somewhere...*rummages around*) Thoughts?

And for your amusement (because I hate posting without photos)...here are some photos of Hermelinda that I somehow never posted when I got them last year.

She is doing her typical Hermelinda pose, looking like she is in hostage negotiations. (You know where they make the hostage hold up the current newspaper to prove that they are still alive...)

I think she's adorable whether she smiles or not, but it had become a personal mission to actually see her smile.

Thanks again Steve!!

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Monday, April 20, 2009

What a Wonderful Gift!

A smile from Hermelinda!

Isn't she the sweetest thing you ever saw?

These are the pictures that Steve took for me while he was in Guatemala. I have never seen Hermelinda smile before! It really transforms her. In other photos I have of Hermelinda she looks shy and unsure. But I feel like in these new photos you can see her real personality. I can tell she is still very shy but I hope that she will continue to gain in confidence and her personality will have the chance to blossom. The increase in self-esteem for these little girls is one of the best effects of sponsorship.

Hermelinda with her family at the CI center in Guatemala: (I think Steve was making silly faces at them in this sequence. :) )

Hermelinda's family are: her father Victor, mother Dorca, oldest brother Victor (11), oldest sister Yesica (8), Dulce (age 4, being held by her Daddy), and youngest sister Marlyn (2)peeking out behind Yesica. I don't know the baby's name but I think it is a boy. As of the last report I had Dulce and Marlyn need sponsors.

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Friday, April 17, 2009


Lesly is getting a new roof!!

Thank you!

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Almost As If I've Been to Guatemala! (Another Great Big Ole Post)

So, in addition to the recent visit from Meaghan and Franklin from Children International (which was totally awesome btw!!!) I also have some other great sponsorship news. One of the other "super sponsors", (my name for the group of CI sponsors that I hang out with online - hi all!!) Steve is currently on a trip to Guatemala to visit several of his sponsor children. I think he has somewhere around 25 kids! Anyhow, Steve very, VERY generously offered to meet with some of my sponsor children as well. Hooray - the next best thing to seeing them myself!

Steve was able to meet with Hermelinda:

and Lesly:

He took lots of photos for me (dying to see them!) as well as video!! I'm so thrilled I could burst.

Steve travels all over the world visiting his many sponsor children so he has a unique perspective on poverty and the potentials of sponsorship. His descriptions of his trip have been so thoughtful, entertaining and insightful. I feel like when I go to Guatemala myself someday (please!!) I will feel more prepared for the experience.

Steve sent me the following email about Hermelinda and gave me permission to reprint it here.

Hey Stephanie,

I met Hermalinda (not sure of the spelling) today, along with her 5
siblings and both parents. Your child is painfully shy. Maybe it was
seeing this guy she´s never met nor knows anything about. Her parents
did their best to coax a smile or two out of her. I´ll be sure to
send the still photos upon my return.

I took some video too. Unfortunately, the walk from the town to their
place did not record. I screwed up and feel terrible about it. We
were ready to leave when I realized my error, so I went back and took
video of their home, the family, and their neighbors. Unfortunately,
I was not willing to make the trip from the beginning. Be advised
that their place is on a hillside, and the walk is not for the faint
of heart. There are probably 200 steps to get there. If you plan to
visit, you might want to train on a StairMaster or something!

More importantly, Hermalinda´s home is a metal corrugated shack. The
temperature in there during the summer months must be sweltering.
From what I can tell, they do have some access to electricity. That
family needs a fan badly!

They are poor. Very poor. The trail to their place is strewn with
garbage, and many of the steps are uneven and little more than rocks.
This is no environment for small children. Actually, this is no
environment for anyone. I don´t know how human beings live like
this. I can´t imagine what a predicament they´d be in without your
help. Your are their Godsend. That is their message that I´ve
recorded, and I hope to somehow figure out how to post it for you.
Failing that, I can make a DVD and send it to you.

I can try to fill in some of the blanks later for you if you have
questions. Right now, I´m a little beat and need to grab some dinner
and prepare for tomorrow.

Again, thanks for your efforts with that child. God knows she needs


This email made me sad but also excited that I have an opportunity to make a difference. Fortunately I had already funded a special needs project at the beginning of April for Hermelinda. The family had requested the following:

1 metal bed
1 chest of drawers
2 sets of bed sheets
2 bedspreads
1 poncho
1 pair of shoes
1 pair of jeans
1 blouse
1 pair of stockings
3 underwear

Now thanks to Steve, I know that they also could use a fan. I will be sending extra money for a fan if they don't purchase one with the money I have already sent. I included some extra money already and asked that they buy something special for Hermelinda since her birthday has just passed. I know that the money has arrived at the field office but I don't think they have had the chance to take Hermelinda's family shopping yet.

Lesly's special needs project is still up over at Aura's House. Only $98 to go!

You can read about other "super sponsors" at these blogs:

Heather runs a sort of "super sponsor collective" blog at Children Are the World where she posts about her own sponsor kids as well as those of other "super sponsors" like Efrain, Mack, Victor, Alice and Barbara. (Did I miss anyone?)

Heather has also set up a fundraising site for small projects for the families at: Firstgiving where she has just finished funding the very first project!

Heather also gets her children involved in sponsorship and you can read about her little sponsor Jaden here.

Skye blogs at Life, Love and Happiness - when she isn't on the Children International's homepage that is!

Robyn shares stories and great photos of her sponsor kids at robynapplause.

The official Children International blog is at here.

You can see and read about all of Steve's sponsor children here.

And of course my Hubby blogs at our crafting site Flaming Lotus Creations and posts updates about our sponsor kids as well. He just sold his first set of coasters for our sponsor kids! (And I was serious about him taking requests.) :)

I'm sure there are more great "sponsor blogs" out there... (and you all thought I was the only one!:) )

Phew! Another huge long post. What has gotten into me? :)

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Something You Might Like...

I know most of my blog friends are from the knitting side of my crafting life - but I thought you would still enjoy seeing this:

It should be fun and a great source of inspiration. Check it out!


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Maica's IGP and Other Updates...

These pictures aren't great - maybe they were taken with a disposable camera?- but they will give you a good idea of Maica's IGP project in action.

Here's Maica and her mother posing at their food vending site. They sell the food they cook as street vendors. The umbrella makes the job more comfortable and attractive.

Man that food looks good! I don't even know what it is but I would totally eat that! I hope that if I ever get to go to the Philippines I will be able to sample some of Maica's mother's cooking.

Serving a customer.

Maica says that she helps her mother serve the food in the morning before school and then she helps after school. She also helps by washing the dishes. I don't think she has to work there all the time. I think she just helps out as much as she can. It sounds like the whole family pitches in together.

Maica's family income has doubled since I started her IGP. I can tell in her letters that she feels happy and proud of her mom and in how she helps out. Maica was always a good letter writer but I think this project has also brought us closer together. I think she sees me as a "real person" now and someone who is a friend. That makes me happy!

Aura's House update:

Ana's Project: $1100/2770
Nyslin's Project: $169/550
Zoila's Project: $230/824
Joey's Project: $200/723
Lesly's Project: $295/393 (only $98 to go!!)

Fundraising is getting there - slowly but surely. I'll be very excited when the first project is fully funded!

In other fund raising news...

My Hubby has been making some things to sell in our Etsy shop in order to raise funds for our sponsor kids and their Income Generating Projects. He's made some coffee/tea mug sized quilted coasters and who knows what he'll do next. He will probably take requests if you ask him. :) I know some of you have been hoping he would turn some more pens and nostepinnes. The weather is finally warming up so maybe we can convince him to get back out there and fire up his lathe!

In health news...

Turns out that the mystery virus that felled me and my daughter last week was Fifth Disease. The tell-tale rash has appeared and now my poor daughter has super pink cheeks. (It actually looks kind of cute on her. But then, doesn't everything?) Fifth's is no fun to have as an adult. I don't recommend it. The joint pain can be severe - in my case I really felt like I had been hit by a mack truck. And this effect can linger for months. Months! Cripes! So I guess that explains why I just don't feel back to 100% yet. Bah!

In crafting news...

In my continuing quest to finish projects that have been lingering...I have finished the sleeves on my Debbie Bliss sailor coat. Now I just have to sew it together and knit the collar. Which I will do just as soon as I can get the pieces blocked. Which I will do just a soon as I can find my double pronged pins that I like to use for blocking. Drat! Where have those little buggers gotten to?

I'm nearing the end of the pile of "to be finished" projects (otherwise known as UFO's). :) Pretty much everything that is left has been put in a timeout while I consider frogging. I'll probably frog all of it it. So many things were started when I was a new knitter. So at this point, I either no longer have any interest in the project or my knitting has improved so much that it would come out looking like it was knit by two different people and cobbled together. Yuck.

So there you go. Now you are all caught up. Pat yourself on the back if you made it this far with this long, long post. You are obviously a trooper - or maybe just really really bored at work? Whatever, I thank you for hanging in there. Lol!

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Monday, April 06, 2009

Jester the Ping Pong Champ!

Well - I am finally feeling better from the nasty whatever-it-was that I had this weekend. At one point I had a temp of 103 which is pretty bad for an adult fever. :( Anyhow, I'm better but not all better. Good enough to keep my appointment with the people from Children International (says the Dr!) - thank goodness.

Also, as if right on cue to cheer me up I got some letters today from three of my sponsor kids. I think I was in sponsor kid withdrawal because I hadn't heard from any of them in about three weeks. That's a long time between letters when you have 17 little correspondents. :)

So today I heard from Jester. He lives in the Philippines and is 13 years old. He is the boy in the grey shirt.

Jester and his mother and brothers outside their home.

Jester's oldest brother (in the white shirt) is too old for the sponsorship program. His second oldest brother Jerome does have a sponsor but his youngest brother Jericho does not. We sponsored Jester when he was featured in an article that Children International did about children who had never been sponsored and had been waiting a long time. Jester had been waiting two years. One of my children saw the article and asked to sponsor Jester so now Jester is one of my kids sponsor children (although I also write to him). Jester was the first boy we ever sponsored.

The last time we heard from him he was practicing ping pong (table tennis) with his coach and hoping to be chosen to be on the school team. Well, Jester had good news for us today in his letter. He made the team and they won the tournament! Yay! He got a trophy and a certificate. Doing well in school and school activities is really important to my sponsor kids because most of them realize that an education is their best opportunity to move up in the world. Successes at school also give them a good dose of self-esteem and some recognition in their communities. So we are really proud of Jester!

I hope to be able to fund Jester's IGP sometime within the next few months. Currently his mother works as a maid in another city and so Jester lives mostly with his Grandmother. Jester's mother is hoping to start a clothing retail business. I think if she is able to do this then she would be able to live at home with her kids which I know for a fact Jester really would like. His father abandoned the family a few years ago and the few things that Jester has said about that have really let me know that it was a painful blow to him. So having his mother around would be a huge thing in his life. I know how valuable it has been for my kids to have me around!
As far as my crafting goes - there has been pretty much zilch in the past few days. I've been way too wiped out. I'm working on the yoke of a Cobblestone sweater I knit for Hubby so I should have that done just in time for summer. LOL! I did get Hubby to take photos of all those other finished projects that I mentioned but picky me didn't like any of them so...it's a do over. Whenever we have time that is!

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Friday, April 03, 2009

Zoila's Birthday Gifts

Here's the latest update on the fund raising at Aura's House:

Ana's Project: $1056/2770
Nyslin's Project: $169/550
Zoila's Project: $190/824
Joey's Project: $137/723
Lesly's Project: $266/393 (only $127 left to raise!)

All of the totals have gone up and as you can see, Lesly's project is getting close to completion!

I also privately funded Hermelinda's special needs project this month. Her family lives in an isolated area in rural Guatemala so they wasn't a large enough community for them to feel like they could set up a sustainable Income Generating Project. I will share the pictures with you when I get them in a month or so.

Right now, here are the most recent photos I have of Zoila. Her project still has a way to go before all of the money is raised.

Zoila is the smaller girl with the shy smile. I'm not sure who the other girl is - probably a cousin. I sent Zoila a gift of some money for her birthday recently and these are the photos I got back showing me what had been purchased. Zoila turned eleven on her last birthday. She always seems younger to me in her photos because she looks like such a petite little thing.

It looks like she was able to buy some clothing items, a chair and a foam mattress. I'm always happy to see mattresses purchased because I don't like the idea of children sleeping on the ground with nothing soft to lay on.

Speaking of bed... I'm off to lay back down. I feel like I might be coming down with the flu or something because I'm achy all over. I think that it is probably actually just the effects of the weather lately. When it goes up and down, from sunny, warm and dry to gloomy, cold and wet and then back again - well I get to feeling achy. Anyone else get like this?

Ugh. A pox on this weather! (Old fashionedy curses work the best in these situations, don'tcha think?)

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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Oh My Goodness!

So guess what! Yesterday I got a phone call from the regional director at Children International saying that she was going to be in the area next week for conferences and that she and one of her colleagues would like to stop by to meet me! Oh my goodness!

I was so surprised! Frankly, I'm just really glad that I wasn't majorly rude when I answered the phone. (I hate marketing phone calls so when I see a phone number that I don't recognise I usually don't answer the phone in a very polite tone of voice. And I hang up pretty quickly as well.) So - that would have been a bad first impression, huh? :)

I asked if she would like to stay for dinner - so in addition to cleaning the house like crazy over the weekend I will also be praying that I don't burn the food or something!

Seriously though, I am so excited to meet some actual "Children International People" and I can't wait to tell them all about my sponsor kids.

Wish me luck!!

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