Saturday, September 24, 2016

We'll get back to Sri Lanka in a bit, folks.

So last Sunday, our kids went to their first day of First Grade.

Which is crazy, because I'm fairly certain it was just a few months ago that they looked like this:



Alas, now they are six and half, and ready for First Grade.

We'd never really planned on being a Homeschooling family. I mean, there were several things we both liked about the idea of homeschooling, but never really gave it serious thought until we prepared to move here.
Last summer as we were getting closer to our move date, we learned Dave's work would pay for a fantastic private education for our kids, starting in Grade One. They would not pay for Kindergarten. We looked into it ourselves, and it was literally over $10,000 for Kindergarten.

Over ten grand. 
For Kindergarten.
Um, no thank you.

So we decided I would homeschool for Kindergarten, and we had a great year! I've got a long, long, long post in the works about our homeschooling year. But for First Grade, both the kids have been eager to try a "real school", so we went and visited a few of our choices. We landed on a British/English school that we all four really like. The principal is hilarious. The Head of Primary Education has a fantastic outlook on early schooling. The teachers are sweet. It's a great school. 

Last weekend, I was a mess. Like, a legit mess. Saturday I slipped away into the bathroom and Ugly Cried four different times. I could not believe my days at home with my babies were over! It's gone so fast! 

But Sunday morning I rallied and put on my brave face, and got us up at the crack of dawn (only a slight exaggeration, we have to leave for school by 6:45am to be there for it's 7:15am start time!), made a healthy, protein filled breakfast for my Littles, assisted with getting their uniforms on, and out the door we went!

They both did great at drop off, and with that a new chapter began!

Then at pick up, when our son saw me, he ran into my arms and sobbed. Poor guy! He had had a rough day. Turns out he had just missed me/home too much, and had cried four times. 
Hearing this about broke me in half. 
We talked in the taxi on the way home, and the further the conversation went, the more I realized it wasn't that he didn't like school, it was the separation from me.
Sister had a great day! Said she was a little sad being away, but mostly did good.

We had afterschool snacks once we were at home, and tried to focus on the fun things about this newest adventure.

The next morning, Brother was a mess before we even left the apartment. Crying, saying it would just be too hard to be away.
In my gut, I knew Day 2 is too early to pull him out and homeschool him, but in my heart, I wanted to scoop him up and hold him all day long!!

We made it to school, and I was hugging him and telling him how brave he was! And that they had music class that day! And the day would be over soon! And I'd packed fun things in his lunch! 
And he was crying.
Finally I asked him again if it would make a difference if he were in class with his Sister (earlier he'd said it wouldn't), and this time he said "yes!", so I approached A's teacher and asked if there was anyway she'd be willing to take him in her class as well. She took one look at his tear-soaked face and agreed. 
GOD LOVE HER.
So, he was doing alright when I left that second morning, in line with his twin.

One of the reasons David and I liked this school so much was it's claim to focus on the individual student...and they sure held up to that even just two days in! The school technically has a "twins must be in separate classes" rule, but they waived it for us, as they felt L would settle better this way.
I'm so grateful for this.

(I mean, I totally understand the rule when you have a set of twins that won't socialize with other kids if they are together, but honestly that's never been our kids. They do really well to make their own friends and branch out, but they DO like to know where the other is, and take comfort from that, especially in new settings.)

When I picked up that day, both kids reported they'd had a good day, and L said he was ready to come back the next day with a happy face.

Whew!

Cut to the next morning: tears again.

Pick up that afternoon: happy!! Likes school! This day I even got a recording of him saying he likes school, so I could play it for the next morning. 
*pats self on back for being so smart with this trick*

Next morning: weeping, gnashing of teeth, desperate cries of "I'LL MISS YOU TOO MUCH!!!"
*kicks own ass for thinking I could fix things so easily*


Listen, I can be a tough chick when I need to be.
In this last year alone, I've been hella tough a number of times...

Need to sell my house, cars, put the majority of our things in storage, and move across the globe to a Country we've never been to and know no one? 
Sure, I can do that. 

Need to walk a block and hail my own cab whilst having a cyst with torsion rupturing inside my person?
On it. Not easy, will whine later, but CAN DO IT.

Need to get tough with some driver whose creeping up on my feet while I'm appropriately crossing traffic?
No problem. I can bang my fist on that driver's hood and say "what's happening here, man?" in Arabic, and stare the driver down.

I can be tough.

Areas I am not tough...
Too many to list, but at the top of that list is walking away from my crying babies.

I full on SUCK at that. 

Leaving my crying son at school the last four days of last week was reeeaaallllyyy hard for me. I cried each day on the cab ride home.
Bless Hussein's heart...I know it's so awkward for him!

But I tell myself that this is just a transition, and transitions are often hard. And I remind myself that he's been truly happy when I pick him up, and that it's not school he does not like, it's the separation...so he can handle school, and will adjust to the separation.
And I pray for him...pray for comfort, and peace, and strength. I pray for the other kids to be kind to him and for his teacher to show him empathy.

And then I come home and anxiously clean and walk on the treadmill and run errands and just generally busy myself until it's 1:30pm and I'm hopping in the taxi again to go pick them up.
And I pick up two happy kids that have had great days at school, and are talking a mile a minute about all that they did and learned that day, and all the fun they had with their new friends.

It will get easier.

Our next hurdle will be transportation.

Our plan had been to hire Hussein for the first week, and then switch to the school's bus.

But those plans got kicked to the curb on Thursday afternoon when I stopped in the bus office to set everything up and learned it will cost just under 600KD (nearly $2,000) for our kids to ride the bus.
That caught me off guard...I'd heard the buses were kinda expensive, but that is like stupid expensive. 
And then I learned that the pick up time is 5:50am. 
Almost an entire hour earlier than when we're already leaving - which feels reeeaaallllyyy early already to us.
We just do not wanna do that.

I also learned the kids won't be getting home until 3:15pm and that's with school getting out at 2:00pm.
Our free time is already taking a HUGE cut with this new school adjustment...our afternoons seem so short before it's bed time! And we can't really make a later bedtime with such early wake-ups.

So.

We're looking at buying a car.

I know.

I swore we weren't gonna buy a car here.

But hey, I also swore I would never drive here, and I already broke that before a year was even up. 

But we can purchase a car for the same price we'd pay for the bus for the next eight months! I mean, economically speaking alone, it just seems to make sense. Plus the time issues.

Gah. We'll see what happens.

I know there are mommas out there in Aleppo and other areas of the world, just trying to keep their babies safe from bombs, or trying to make sure their families have food, or kids with cancer facing daily pains and fears...and my "problems" pale in comparison to those! 
Thank you Lord, for that alone =)




Saturday, September 17, 2016

Sri Lanka Post 3 - Elephants!!!


Next up on our tour was Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage...


We were SOOOOO excited about this part of our trip! We'd researched the orphanage before we booked the trip, and were so pleased to learn it's well kept and the elephants are cared for with love. We knew it would be depressing to visit if the animals weren't cared for! Kandy really takes pride in it's elephants, and we were told by several people that the workers in the orphanage love the elephants more than their families =)


Within our first few steps inside the orphanage, we saw an elephant...Sister was SO excited!



We went up a little hill and some workers called A over to visit an elephant. Our animal loving girl just wandered over there like a moth to a flame...



...up close and personal...




This sweet elephant let us pet her, and I don't know if you can see A's expression here, but she is in awe!!!




Our family with an elephant! L was a little nervous, but still pretty excited!




We wandered over a bit to an open area where a bunch of elephants were grazing...






So surreal to be so close to them! There were a handful of orphanage staff around to make sure you didn't get in the middle of what the elephants were doing, but other than that, it was like we were all hanging out together...elephants and people...crazy!


It started to rain a bit here, but we could not have cared less!



Next we went over to a feeding station and the kids took turns feeding this elephant some fresh fruit...










Watermelon, pineapple and banana...with the rinds and peels and all!













Next up was feeding time for the baby elephants! This is a big attraction at the orphanage, twice a day...once in the morning and once in the afternoon. We were there for the afternoon feeding, and by the time we made our way over to that area, it was pouring! Luckily our little Oregonians didn't seem to mind...




A baby elephant getting his milk in a bottle!







Each baby drank about five bottles...





This little guy just decided to lay down and roll a bit in the leaves and rain...






A baby elephant walked RIGHT passed us, and Sister even got to reach out and touch him!! 







And just when you thought it couldn't get any cooler...we RODE ONE.

For reals.

We got to meet Monika, a 34 year old elephant who took people for a stroll down the river.

Sister and I were up first...



Sister was extremely excited, and not at all nervous. I was a teeny bit nervous...I mean, what if Monika just decides "nope. No more. Today's the day I go rogue. Today's the day I make a break for it in the river, no matter who is on my back..." but mainly I was just IN AWE...I was taking an elephant ride with my daughter down a river in Sri Lanka!! 










Monika was so sweet, and Sister and I kept telling her "good job" and thanking her =). 
















A giving Monika a big hug when our ride was just about over...







Next up were the boys...



















While the riders and Monkia are in the river, her handler walks a pathway along side. We learned there are 20 words in "elephant language", and her caretaker would call out to her as we walked along. 







...and she'd lift her trunk to "pose" when he called out to her to do so...






They'd asked if we wanted an elephant shower. Sister and I adamantly turned down the offer, but David and Brother were all for it! 
Brave boys!

So, towards the end of their stroll, the caretaker gave the request to spray the boys, and Monika obeyed!
















My wet, brave, elephant riding boys...







I mean...AMAZING. Simply amazing.


After saying goodbye to Monika, we went back to the van so the boys could put on some dry shirts, and then went to find some lunch.

We walked around some outdoor markets along the way...













Sugee led us to a fantastic restaurant, with the most amazing view ever...












A late afternoon lunch on the river banks, watching elephants bathe themselves...


...amazing.



We were leaving the restaurant and the kids were like "hey take our picture with this elephant statue!" 
We just took your pictures on top of an elephant, but sure, next to a statue as well =)





video

Then when we were heading back to the van, this happened...



Hold up just a bit...elephants have right-of-way...






Such an incredible afternoon!!!

 One we'll never forget to be sure.