Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Advice of an MK (Missionary Kid)

James, Joel & Anna are still traversing the globe emotionally and socially. Physically we have lived in the same United States for over a year now, but only settled for six months and still missing what feels like home: Africa. Some days the red dirt and smiling friends are far from their minds, but other days they wake up and want to sing in Swahili and plan a trip. Anna misses airports. What a strange thing to miss. Their whole lives have included travel, so there is a strange thing missing now.

We had the privilege to get to know another family just as they were heading out. Opposite direction. It was wonderful to be able to share a love of Africa and her gorgeous people with someone who just understood. As part of a writing assignment James decided to give advice to his new friend soon leaving for the motherland. I found some of his advice profound:

From One African MK to Another
by James, the African

Because I am an African missionary kid myself, I'd like to provide you a bit of advice before your upcoming move.

Play in the dirt.
Mold houses, monsters, ornaments, figurines, etc. out of the red African clay. You can have a lot more fun in the dirt.

Play with every kind of bug! Interestingly, they make fun pets, and if you use them right, toys. My brother liked to trap two moths and pretend they would 'fight' with each other. He called it "Moth Wars". It's hilarious.

Learn the language better than I did and have fun playing with African kids, because they know all the funnest games and things to do there. In choosing your friends, money, skin color or houses totally don't matter.

The trees there are awesome to climb.

Watch out for rabid dogs. They can kill you with one bite.

Eat piles of mangoes for me!

I chose a verse for you that helped my family when we first moved to Congo:
"The Lord replied, 'I will personally go with you Moses and I will give you rest - everything will be fine for you.'"
Exodus 33:14 NLT

I hope you take my advice and love being a missionary kid in Africa.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Out to Coffee

We have been on the move for about 9 months now, and the waters are beginning to recede. We can see the grassy knoll up ahead. He has carried us and made our path into flat, dry ground that is easy to walk on.

I didn't have much time for filling you all in here, but thankfully got to see so many and 'do coffee' to talk about all God has been doing in us and in you since we last met. It is good.

And if we were 'Out to Coffee' right now, I would continue singing. Singing the song that is his Faithfulness and Love for us in the here and now. These are a few of the verses of our song:

That when Joel needed men's sized extra wide sneakers for his new PE class, they just happened to show up at the missionary barrel in just his size.

That when James was feeling alone, some new friends from Co-op just happened to call and invited him over for the day.

That when Anna needed closure with her best friend from Congo, ticket prices were cheap, we traveled safely and laughed and cried for a week.

That when Kent needed a reliable car, desk, ladder, etc. we found them all right away on craigslist for less than they are really worth.

That when Kim unpacked the random boxes from storage, the random bags from the missionary barrel, and the random suitcases of our gear, 14 years of stuff started to 'match'!

That Kim's dream of working with Congolese refugee women here in Dallas will start tonight as a church right in our neighborhood just happens to have such an outreach.

It is a good song.

I hope you can sing it with us.

Maybe write a few verses of your own.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Previously on tenfootfamily...

What do you call those little clips from your favorite show that catch you up quickly on important plot developments? They might be annoying to some, but useful to others. The reason you missed our plot developments from the past 4 months has been that we didn't write them down. We were too busy living them. But I will give you the "previously on..." sequence to catch up those who like it.

Seeing that my last post was the kids' Back-to-School pictures...

Anna had a great beginning to Kindergarten and is much more comfortable with addition facts and reading these days. James is doing great with 4th grade Calvert. This is his first year with a correspondence teacher, transcript and grades, so there is more accountability to get least favorite subjects finished well. He went from a few painful sentences to writing a 3-paragraph essay on his own. He continues his grain-free, allergen-free diet and is doing well. Joel used to think of Spelling like pulling teeth. No. Fun. He is kinesthetic and Spelling is visual. These days he is acing Grade 2 Spelling thanks to All About Spelling - which emphasizes letter magnets on a white board (Check it out if you are looking for kinesthetic-friendly options.) Just ask him if he likes school. He will say, "Y-E-S!"

At the end of September, I had the pleasure and joy of co-teaching a workshop for Congolese Literacy Experts and Translators to become checkers for publication. I had previously been the only certified checker in our organization and it was wonderful to pass the baton to so many. Lots more detail about this in our next newsletter! Our 4 years in Congo was quickly coming to an end and we wanted to make the most of it.

In October, we started soaking up all the things we loved most about our home in Congo. We played more with our doggies. We ate more pineapple. Kim sang more often in choir. We spent more time with friends. We took one last week off in Uganda and started bringing out our luggage for "the move". We were blessed with the mamas choir deigning to sing and pray over our living room. Part of me wanted to videotape everything, but the greater part of me just wanted to relish in the goodnesses God had given. I didn't want to miss a minute behind a camera (or on a blog...?).

November started out mundane enough, if anything is ever mundane in Congo. It brought the selling of our household items, packing and storing of others. Arranging for the absence between our departure and the arrival of a new family to live in our house. We scheduled my last Ladies' Bible study, Thanksgiving with friends and the kids' Fall Music Recital for the second-to-last week in November, but they were never meant to be. The town erupted in unrest Tuesday that altered everything about our last moments in our home. Most of our expat friends evacuated with their children. Our last chances for goodbyes were gone before we knew what happened. God kept us safe. Perfectly safe in a bubble of peace passing all understanding, but it wasn't easy. You will hear more about this one day when we are ready to write about it. We joke now that our 4-year-term ended with a bang. :)

We spent the first half of December visiting supporters in France where we studied, and where our Joel came on the scene, in 2003-4. We walked off the plane with a mountain of luggage, no coats or socks and only sandals for shoes. It snowed 2 feet that night. We felt like displaced Africans. We found warm clothes eventually. And enjoyed warm fellowship. We ate our fill of fabulous cheese and chocolate. We made it to the grand ole USofA and back to Gramma's house for Christmas. It was lovely. And COLD.

We quickly moved all our earthly belongings (except for the 2 boxes we forgot at Gramma's house and the 4 barrels we kept in Congo that is...) into the same furlough house in Oregon we had in 2002 and 2007. Some of the upgrades we left behind were still there! After 6 days of frantic unpacking and repacking, we left for a ministry retreat in California. Here we had time to breathe. Time to think again. Time to grieve the home and life we knew in Congo. Time to realize which country we came from. Reverse culture shock is always a bit overwhelming. It comes in waves when you expect to understand someone or something. But you don't anymore. It has changed. Or you have changed. Lots can change in 4 years...

So we are "home"!

We are just not "at home" yet.

Friday, September 14, 2012

School pictures are here!

Trying to keep it serious with our wonderful teacher Katie.

Here are a few 'outtakes' of this year's school pictures. With Anna in Kindergarten, we have three full-time students!

Having a stellar 4th grade year so far,
our almost 10-year-old James looking dapper
(and growing up too fast for Mom's taste!).
I have the same teeth in my old 4th grade picture...


Last year was the year of no teeth for Joel, but this year they are coming in! Joel has recently taken up reading chapter books for fun, is the best coloring kid in the house and loves learning multiplication (believe it or not):

 Anna is really enjoying Kindergarten, but speeding ahead in math. She must have some math genes from Grandma... :)

There's our winning lineup for the year!
It will be an interesting school year chopped in half by an ocean and travels far and wide. Katie's help last spring and this fall are such a fun help for us all! The kids are all working on their French - we'll see how far they get before we visit! 
I'm so cliche, I admit it - they grow up too fast!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

A Heavy Load

I tread slippery bumps up the muddy hill.
Dogding piles of washed up garbage
Discarded bags
A broken shoe.
The road is messy, muddy and slick.
It's hard work.
I feel ready to fall at any moment.
But I enjoy the crisp morning air and bright sunshine.

A woman ahead of me struggles under a heavy load.
Many gallons of water for her family weigh her down.
She bears them on her back.
And cloth wrapped around her forehead to hold it.
She grunts, bent over under the heavy load.
I pass her easily, without that burden.

Time freezes for an instant.
The gospel illustrated before my eyes.

We walk a broken road.
Under a heavy load.
He takes the burden upon his own back.
He grunts and groans under the strain.
The Mender of brokenness carries our load.
While we walk freely.
Our path is not easy.
Still full of garbage, bumps and slick with mud.
But the burden is light.
We are free.
We can walk easily.

I tread the slippery bumps up a muddy hill.
I am free.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Day In the Life

It's been a couple years since I chronicled an average day. This was yesterday:

3:32am  Wake up coughing (between dust and charcoal smoke this isn't uncommon).

3:45am  Almost back to sleep when 2 shots ring out on main street a few blocks away. Probably the police keeping order.

4:02am Dive bombed by a stealthy mosquito who snuck into our net somehow. I zap him with my bug racket and try to go back to sleep. Again.

4:28am  Our mosque next door calls everyone to wake up at top volume. I think he has new speakers. At least he only takes about 2 minutes (unlike the patterns of last month!)

4:44am  He shouts it out again. I'm beginning to give up on the idea of any more sleep.

5:00am Finally back to sleep for one last hour before the day begins.

6:30am Dressed, up, meeting with employees. They want to work early today and leave early to fight long lines of parents trying to sign their kids up for school by next week.

7:30am Fried eggs and papaya made for breakfast. Headscarf donned to head out to my choir rehearsal (which 'starts' at 7:30, but I usually go around 8).

8:30am Walking and greeting my way down slick muddy streets stepping over the discarded plastics of the world. Finally get to church to find that no one is rehearsing today. I surmise it is not rained out, but probably they are traveling to sing for some event somewhere.

9:00am Back home to see that the kids get their schoolwork started. Katie, the wonder teacher arrives to help. Anna needs to finish a subject or two before leaving for her art class. Joel and James dig into school at home. James learns to cross-multiply fractions while Joel takes 30 minutes coloring elaborate pictures on his Greek mythology assignment.

9:30am Anna and I head over the muddy roads in our car. It's about a mile away, but roads aren't safe over 15 mph. The parking lot is small and full, so we pull into the weeds right outside the gate. We arrive just in time for art class.

11:00am Anna enjoys a magazine-collage decorated box project, which doubles as a game she can play with her brothers. She loves the sandbox at recess and the little toy horses she brought along for the occasion. Next to 3 preschoolers, she looks pretty big these days.

12:30pm We drive home for lunch, hear about the boys' day, and enjoy homemade bread and soup before a busy afternoon.

2:00pm The boys head next door to deliver invitations to their friends to come to a last weekend of summer party tomorrow. They stay and play with friends, building shapes and toys out of local clay.

2:30pm Anna and her bff Brooke learn cool French ballet terms in the living room with their fabulous weekly ballet lesson by Jennings.

3:30pm A colleague and friend, Maryanne, arrives to help us print, copy and collate 22 books that are 200-pages long! James has fun calculating how many pages we will need. The power has been off for 2 days and isn't likely to return. Given that Kent's class starts Monday, we need to use our own generator and printer to get the books ready in time. We think we can do it in about an hour.

4:30pm What were we thinking? Piles of paper are strewn all over our living and dining room. Four of us are working non-stop and an hour later we have barely finished 25% of the book!

6:30pm That big pot of beans is perfect to feed extra workers tonight! We all dish up a bowl of beans and top it with sauerkraut, cheese and yogurt while we keep working on the books. The table is too full, so we let the kids have a 'picnic' on the floor.

7:30pm No power also means no hot water. So between sorting papers, I heat water for the kids' bucket baths and they finish chores in time to read some Dr. Suess and Narnia before bedtime. After they are all tucked in and asleep, Kent drives our friends home. It's rainy and muddy for walking and not very safe to be out alone at night.

8:00pm While he's out, I dish up the food and tea for our night guards and feed the dogs their dinner. One last glance at Email adds two more urgent requests to the morning's work. But that's tomorrow.

8:30pm Our generator has now been running for 12 straight hours (on ONE tank of diesel). It is fabulous. We finally let it rest and turn off electronics and extras overnight, leaving only the fridge and security lights for the batteries to manage all night. Kent and I debrief the day and watch a few minutes of Downton Abbey Season 1. I'm so tired I barely hear the mice outside our bedroom window.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Celebrating Joel

Joel has always loved that his birthday usually coincides with summer vacation! He spent his 1st, 2nd and 5th birthdays at the Kenyan coast, and was thrilled to get to spend his 8th there too! After all, 1+2+5 = 8.

The day started quietly. Our family tradition is that on their 8th birthday each kid gets a full-sized Bible of their own. Here Joel reads the dedication Kent wrote to him in the front:

The morning was spent at a sort of Vacation Bible School with lots of friends. Perfect birthday for our social Joel, or what? :) He planned out his travel wardrobe to save the blue Lego Star Wars shirt for the big day!

The hotel surprised us with a small cake at teatime. We ordered a large one at lunch to share with his friends, specially made without flour or sugar, so it was disappointing to have a surprise cake we couldn't eat. But he took it all in stride, and didn't mind having more people sing to him!

 At lunchtime we ordered up a big pile of 'hedgehogs' (what we always called at home 'criss-cross mangoes'), which is Joel's favorite fruit. We flew in a few small boxes of 100% juice and added that to the blue-colored club soda to make a 'Blue Splash soda' without the Sprite (corn syrup) - more about foods later!
He ate to his heart's content:


Then the singing, clanging began and the floral chair and special-order cake arrived! It was gorgeous chocolate banana-peanut honey cake covered in honey-vanilla whipped cream and decorated with 8 sticks of mango chunks and Enjoy Life GF Mega chunks. The best part is the huge grin on his face:

As a bonus, it was the best cake I had eaten at this hotel in several years. They are not famous for desserts... So many people asked for the recipe and wanted a bite! The hotel felt bad about our food restrictions and only charged us about $8, half what you pay for the smaller, less tasty cakes! Here's the inside view:

No kids seemed to mind a less-sweet cake. And it might have been the first birthday party where no one left with a sugar high!
His friends lined up with plates right away! :)

We brought out the presents after the cake and singing. This one had been carried across the world to Congo and then back across Uganda and Kenya in the suitcases of two other MAF friends just to be there for him on his special day. Transformers!


This is one of several presents smuggled into the suitcases of colleagues all the way from Grandma and Grandpa's house. The most anticipated was his Star Wars Lego set of Ewoks, but I didn't get any stellar shots of that...

Super Joel, we love you and
had so much fun celebrating your first 8 years!

Friday, July 27, 2012

GAPS Diet Anniversary

We spent our GAPS-Diet anniversary on vacation at the beach. Somehow it is hard to believe we have been grain-free for a whole year! The following is an abridged version of our one-year overview. Go here to the 'Our Diet' tab for the whole enchilada. Or if you have lots of time to read, go here for all our GAPS-SCD links.

We originally started GAPS for the health of James and I, but the other three have seen benefits too. Kent, Joel and Anna were never feeling sick, but they are healthier and stronger now for having gone through GAPS. In June, the three of them added potatoes back in without any trouble, so they are officially coming off GAPS gradually. Next will be sweet potatoes, fermented millet porridge, sourdough and eventually rice and sprouted grains (maybe by Christmas?!).

In the past 6 months, I have been able to discontinue blood pressure medication and daily antihistamines. For the past 20 years I have taken daily antihistamines to control my running nose. These are no longer necessary.

As a primary schoolteacher with a weak immune system, I was prone to getting colds and developing secondary infections every time. If only I had a dollar for everytime I was diagnosed with sinusitis or bronchitis (or both)! My second year teaching I think I took 12 different courses of antibiotics. I was on antibiotics more than half of that year! Ten years later, our GAPS journey has changed all that completely!

During our 2nd month on GAPS, I got a cold I couldn't kick. As usual, it turned into bronchitis, and I took antibiotics as usual. The 5th month on GAPS, I got a cold and was able to fight it off a few days later without getting infected! (This had probably happened twice in my living memory.) The 9th month on GAPS I got a cold, but fought it off within 48 hrs. The 11th month on GAPS we traveled internationally (gets me every time!) and as expected, I got bronchitis a few days later. I doused myself in bone broth and slept lots. I upped my doses of probiotics and FCLO (fermented cod liver oil - in capsules!). And 8-10 days later it was gone! Finally I don't have to be envious of people with an immune system!

The biggest gains in James' healing happened in the first 4 mos. on GAPS. But the more subtle changes we see a year later are just as significant. He has very few Asperger's meltdowns - maybe 1-2/mo. where they were daily or more often than that a year ago. He regained all his auditory processing in the first 2 mos. His allergies seem gone. He hasn't needed antibiotics of any kind in 14 months. His sensory processing troubles with tactile under-responsiveness are gone, fading gradually over the past year. They have left in their wake a few gross motor issues we can now address (basically re-learning to keep your balance when you've been mostly numb for 4-5 yrs or longer). The last pieces of tactile numbness have faded in the past month or two.

This week we're preparing for another homeschool year. I found myself taking down the labels on his workboxes. I made them in desperation, searching for answers, 3 years ago. We haven't needed that familiar structure and routine for months. A wave of nostalgia hit me like I was putting away the last of the baby's pacifiers. My baby (10-yr-old baby) has outgrown his Asperger's supports. Whether we technically still qualify for a diagnosis is really not important. James is feeling and doing great! The bulk of the work we have left to do is in social skills and organizational skills, but I can't think of too many 10-yr-old boys who have mastered both of those already...

We are so thankful for the healing protocol of the GAPS Diet (and for SCD too!). They have served us well. I am a bit nervous about re-introducing starches and sugars, but we'll get there as they say in Swahili: "pole-pole" (step by step, or slowly, carefully).

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Home Again, Home Again

Well, we made it home sweet home to Congo!
There were only two times that I thought we must be on Candid Camera or in a bad movie - maybe Home Alone Strikes Back? But we made it home.

Thanks to all who were praying for a safe, productive, restful holiday.

It was all of those!

And more.

God blessed us around every corner.

I'll leave it at that for now.

With a picture that seems to sum it all up: