When you work at OSSO there are two different shifts.  One from 7:30-12 and another from 2:30-6:30.  Because we were there the week from Christmas and New Year’s there were some changes and parties mingled in, pretty fun to be able to join in on those things.
Between shifts and celebrations we were able to explore a little bit of Cuenca.  It is such a pretty city!
I’m just going let these pictures stay in their jumbled up order for this post and explain as we go…

We rode around on that double-decker bus {above} one day.

I noticed a beautiful white chapel on the top of a hill in the distance.

And it happened to be our final destination with this view:

Check out that sprawling city!

I loved all the red roofs.

Much to Lucy’s chagrin, there were a LOT of steps to get to the top of a hill nearby…and low and behold, at the top was another cool swing.  I think they like swings in Ecuador 🙂

It catapulted all of us out over that beautiful city.

One of the days we visited the cemetery where a couple of the kids from OSSO have been laid to rest.

We got to hear their stories and it was pretty humbling.

A couple of pictures from OSSO that don’t include any of the kids…

This is how it looks from the volunteer house:

The Tias threw a New Year’s party for all the residents…and us too 🙂

They had all sorts of games figured out:

One of my favorite memories was one of the games where they had some of our group dance.

Lucy was one of the lucky dancers and she loved it.  The OSSO kids were pretty excited about it too.

One of the things they do in Ecuador for New Years is burn effigies of all kinds of things.  Some are super heroes, some are politicians…but I think most are effigies of themselves.  The idea is to burn the “ano viejo” (old year) and it symbolizes burning away the bad things from the past year and getting ready for a new beginning. 

These effigy things were for sale all over the city…ready to go for New Year’s Eve.

So the Tias had some effigies ready to burn at OSSO and we had a little bonfire.
The OSSO kids aware enough to be excited about it were pretty excited.

(This OSSO New Year’s party was the day before actual New Year’s Eve, not sure why but everyone was pretty excited.)

There are some other New Year’s traditions that are so different and interesting.  We had a guy volunteering with us from Peru and he was able to translate a lot and also tell us the similarities in traditions in Peru (very similar).  I loved being a part of all that New Year hoopla.

In other news at OSSO, along with reading books, playing with blocks, LOTS of walks around the complex (pushing the wheelchairs) and lots of soccer games (our kids pushing those guys around in their wheelchairs and everyone very excited about the whole deal, our kids helped draw all kinds of pictures with them.

Loved this one that someone made sure included Claire as a super hero:

(Christian, Martin and Laura were all pretty good at getting their points across…and Christian can actually write pretty well, and draw a little too.  But these pictures were helped to be drawn by our kids.)
Dave was SO awesome being Iron Man with them one day as they were fed their soup.  Some of those kids were so darn delighted with him and his acting and special effect noises (he made my heart swell up right along with theirs…I love that man.)

So this was the picture they were pretty pleased about the next day:

Back in the city we checked out a huge open-air fruit market:

A taxi ride to dinner one night:

Some of the unique fruit we tried:

Each of those pods (above and below) are pretty tasty with huge seeds in the middle of them.

That one above tastes like sweet balls of cotton at first until you get into it.

A little shopping for souvenirs to bring home:

Back at the volunteer house…I want to remember this kitchen and all the food we made in it…

…and bleaching the fruit:

The weather was so interesting.

It was sunny and nice every morning and then it poured rain most afternoons.

One afternoon pure hail pelted down after a gloriously sunny morning:

New Year’s Eve church at a Spanish branch.

I talked about our Sundays back HERE, but this is one I will always, always remember.  So many thoughts flooding my heart that day thinking of the whole Plan on earth and how it relates to those kids at OSSO and life in general.

After church I started to get pretty sick.

Everyone kind of had a turn with this 24-hour bug and Dave and I got it about the same time…right in time to celebrate the new year.

So we were snuggled in bed with the worst case of the chills I’ve ever had that night, but luckily my girls had my camera and took some pictures from their perch they found on the roof of a nearby house.

SO many fireworks!

A side-note…our neighbors (and my kids too) had been begging me to make texas sheet cake ever since we arrived.  They love that stuff.  So it was on the agenda for New Year’s.  I was too sick by then to make it but my girls did, following the recipe exactly.  And this is how it turned out:

That may look ok in that picture, but it was not ok.  I guess different ingredients sure make a difference!

We set aside some time on our last day to do a painting project.  OSSO had requested some help to paint over graffiti on their walls so we got to work scraping:

 …and painting.

 Something so satisfying about a fresh coat of paint.

Elle and the dads…as well as Martin for a little while…helped paint the front while we painted the back.

This was when our ankles got attacked ferociously by some mystery bugs…that gave us some itchy souvenirs for the rest of the trip.  
Also on the last day our family had the opportunity to do one of our shifts at the orphanage next door.  It is run by nuns and is filled with rambunctious kids ages 4-7 writhing with activity (no special needs…again, no pictures of the kids allowed).  Those kids want to hug and snuggle and shove and run and jump and they were pretty darling.  They were a crack-up all trying to fill their pockets with play-doh “plastilina” (which they thought was the best stuff in the world) and pieces of a Jenga game we brought.
Dave made some giant bubbles for them and had them in the palm of his hand.  They couldn’t, for the lives of them, let those huge bubbles float through the air, they HAD to pop them and had so much fun running around glorying in those things.

That night, our last at OSSO, was one of my favorite memories I’m holding on to forever.  I mentioned that this whole thing took a while for Lucy to warm up to.  But that last night she opted to stay with me while everyone else went out to get something to eat after their goodbyes.  We wanted to help with one last night of feeding and brushing teeth.  Here’s the paragraph I wrote in my journal that night:

I hate goodbyes and
in some ways I hoped to just slip out and not let them know we were leaving,
but Martin somehow made me realize he was asking about airplanes and when we
would leave (doing a flying motion with his arm…it’s amazing how he can get his point across), and Laura motioned folding her arms and bowing her head…so we said
a little prayer with those valiant, wonderful people, and then did a cheer with
all our hands in the middle til we meet again. 
There was something so beautiful about that
moment Lucy and I got to share together in that dimly-lit room…just a bare
light bulb hanging from the ceiling and encircled by four wheelchairs and Christian sitting on the floor…shrunken legs tucked underneath him, smiling up at us
with all his might.  I hope Lucy and I
will ever forget that night and how it felt to be there.

So grateful for the opportunity we had to be part of that organization for a week.  It has changed our hearts forever.  As with anything like this, I think those doing the volunteering get more than those they are working with, which almost feels selfish in a way.  But I do think those wonderful OSSO kids’ hearts changed a little bit that week too.  I know they felt our love.  Hoping we can keep sending it…getting ready to send them a little package of love from the desert.


  1. I hope you don't make your blog private as a result of all the negative commentary you get. I enjoy reading and appreciate the openness with which you share your life with us. It gives me ideas of ways to serve, help, and make my family better. Thanks for your example!

  2. Thank you for sharing that sweet journal entry. What a beautiful experience for you and Lucy. I love the goodness you share with others and the example and light you are to all of us. Thank you!

  3. WOW! What an amazing experience, not only for the OSSO children, but for you and your family! I have been looking up info. all about OSSO now and hope to be able to volunteer with my family someday! Thanks for sharing your experience with us, your family is a true example of following the Savior! PS I can't wait for you to hug your son in just 2 weeks, wow!

  4. I love your posts and thank you for sharing your life with us. A previous post mentioned the need for ñ. On a PC you hold down the Alt key as you type 164 on the number pad. It doesn't work with the numbers at the top – not sure why.

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