Wow! It feels like ages since we last talked! I guess it's true what they say: Time flies like the wind. Fruitflies like bananas. (That's a joke. It works better if you say it instead of see it. Now go use it on someone else.) There has been a lot that has happened in the last month, so here's a quick overview.
First up - Easter. Do you know what happens at Quaker Cottage during Easter time? The Easter Bunny comes to visit, that's what. It's actually really funny. The volunteers all fight for the chance to be the one to dress up, and this time, I won. Truthfully, it was a pretty easy fight because I was the only one who actually wanted to do it. The job was simple (or so I thought). All I had to do was don the costume and hop around briefly outside the cottage so that the kids could see me. What I discovered was the costume was like something out of a nightmare. First, I slipped into one of those white disposable coverall suits with the hood like what you would see at a crime scene except this one was torn and had dirt smudges on it. Then, I put on my giant cardboard ears. And finally, I covered my face with the most frightening bit - a hand-drawn bunny face mask. So yeah, it was creepy, but the best part was that due to unforeseen circumstances, I would be hopping around the garden of Belfast Castle - a very public space. The first time I did it was great (cough). I put on the costume and proceeded to wait for our kids to show up. This felt rather uncomfortable because I could just imagine what went through the minds of people on just a regular visit to the castle. They would come down the steps, look around for a bit, glance in my direction, and then stop. "Oh my goodness! Look at that creepy bunny man standing over there in the corner!" Thankfully, the kids arrived, and I started hopping around while at least six people took pictures of me. That was just the first day.
On the second day, I had a group of random kids who wouldn't leave me alone. They kept following me, saying things like "You're not the real Easter Bunny!" My costume must have had enough of this abuse because suddenly my face popped right off. The elastic band keeping my mask on had broken, and I had to rush to fix it before our kids showed up! I was able to fix it just in time for the kids and a double-decker bus full of tourists with cameras to arrive. Both days gave me plenty to laugh about, but my favorite moment was when I passed a bench where three good looking girls about my age were sitting. They pulled out their cameras, and I put on my best hopping pose. I expected at least one of them to give me her phone number, but I guess weird bunny guys aren't what girls are into these days.
The following week, I was extremely blessed because my parents and Shane and Amanda came to visit. The sun stayed out for nearly the entire trip which was phenomenal, so they really didn't get an authentic Irish experience. Unfortunately, Shane and Amanda went off on their own adventures, so I didn't see them for long. My parents and I went everywhere around the island and took in many fantastic sites. There are picturesque views around every bend of the road. I did have fun (not) helping my dad learn how to drive on the left side of the road. Although he did an excellent job, it was really too bad that I am still too young to rent a car. I could have at least given him a break from all that stressful driving. If you want to know more about our trip, either check out my picture album on Facebook or ask my parents or me about it directly.
I can't believe it, but it has already been four months since our last residential at Quakers. We leave for my third and last one on Tuesday. We all expect it to have some serious challenges particularly because of one family. But like always, we just work with what we've got and improvise when necessary. Sadly, because it's time for residential, it also means that we just finished our week of leaving parties. Another group has finished their full year with us, and heavy hearts were had by all. It's never fun saying goodbye to any of the families. It doesn't matter if the kids were horribly difficult to manage, they always leave a mark. I find it really neat to see how they children act on their last night up. Sometimes there is nonchalance or indifference, but it's absolutely heartbreakingly wonderful to see how much Quaker Cottage means to child when the tears flow. On Thursday, we said goodbye to one boy who is Tough with a capital T on the outside but is anxious and confused on the inside. More often than not, he is angry, but he's angry because he doesn't know how to be sad. Well, on Thursday, I saw a boy full of sadness who couldn't cry because he doesn't know how. That was hard. Like I say each time we say goodbye, I'm really going to miss those kids.
Have you ever played Chubby Bunny? If you haven't, you should, but only with kids, otherwise it's just gross. The goal of the game is just to fit as many marshmallows into your mouth as possible while still being able to say chubby bunny. We played this with our Thursday group, and it was hilarious! They started putting in the marshmallows one at a time, and up until about four marshmallows, everything was fine. At this point, many of their mouths were full, but they were wanted to keep going. I looked down at the really quiet, shy girl sitting next to me, and suddenly, an enormous stream of saliva comes dripping out of her mouth. It kind of shocked me, and I figured she was going to be completely embarrassed. But as the others started to reach the point where they could no longer close their mouths, the same thing started happening to them as well. Seeing them all sit there with bulging cheeks, marshmallows overflowing, and saliva dripping from their lips, I couldn't help but burst out laughing.
Yesterday, I was both punched in the shoulder by a clown using physical comedy and kissed on the cheek by another. The Festival of Fools is happening in Belfast at the moment, so Becky and I decided to check it out. We saw a silent clown called Fraser Hooper who was absolutely hilarious. I had tears at times. If by any chance you have the opportunity to see him live, I recommend it. Now, back to getting punched. I found myself in the front row for this act, and as the guy was searching the audience for someone strong, his gaze landed on me. He brought me forward to lift an object up to the top of a ladder for him, but to test my strength, he had me punch him in the shoulder. So I gave him a tap which clearly wasn't hard enough because he turned to me and gave my shoulder a hefty jab. He then proceeded to give me various silly tasks and had frolick and dance with him. I was in my element up there! Moral of the story is don't sit in the front row or else a clown will punch you.