Monday, December 6, 2010


You know how it goes... take time...

stop and smell the roses...

drink in the sweet moments...

treasure up all these things in your heart...


The French use a different word: profiter, from the same root that we pull the word 'profit'. Make the most of every opportunity. Well, we are being given an absolutely HUGE gift to spend Christmas across the world with our family, so we will be doing just that - savoring.
It will be a bit of a shock to go from summer to winter, from flip-flops to snow boots in 29 hours, but we want to make the most of it!

You will likely not hear much on this blog for the next month,
but know that we are wishing you the Merriest of Christmases!
We hope this season is filled with True Hope for you and yours!

Savor something good,
even if it is just sunlight on snow.
All good gifts are from Him,
the Father of Lights.

Blessed Advent!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Photologue: Lake Albert

our first glimpse of Lake Albert

The road down the escarpment was steep...

...and the flatlands near the lake were pretty muddy!

Waiting for our paperwork to get processed, many people gathered around to see the 'white kids'. One mother even passed her baby in the window to sit a few minutes on Joel's lap. Our guide told us if the kids shook our hand, they would refuse to wash it all day long...

In the boat. Seeing fishermen pull in their nets.

He's not hiding from the camera, just bailing some water...

The man.

...gotta love all the faces!
(Thank you Rachel for the sunglasses!)

We love our little water proof camera, but it got a little fogged up over the lake.
You can probably still see this guy having lunch right by the road!

Winding up through the Ruwenzori mountains!

This was taken minutes before my first time ... how to say this... Let's just say the cow in that back right corner didn't make it to the pit stop and we needed our windshield wipers for much more than rain.

It was long, but worth it with this waiting on the other end:

swimming with friends on the shore of Lake Victoria...

playing, eating, sleeping and playing and eating and sleeping.
(Thank you Menda for everything!)
A great time was had by all!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Travelogue: Lake Albert

Our trip across Lake Albert was very enjoyable.
It's a fascinating place!
Sorry - no hippos in sight...

Here's the play-by-play:
The first leg of the trip was in a car with a cousin of a friend who is also the head of a local NGO. He was wonderful to talk to! He has so many interesting ideas about why things fail here and how to help them change. We really enjoyed the ride into his hometown, meeting some of his friends, and hearing about his work to help the physically disabled people in this region gain tools and experience to live well in their own homes with their own families. Right where they are. Working with what they have. Instead of lamenting and importing what feels lacking.

He drove us to a private beach location where we transferred bags from car to boat, used the outhouse and gooped up on sunscreen. We had hoped to 'set sail' (it was really a motorboat) before the sun got hot, but we ended up embarking at 10:30am with the sun already heating up. The cool wind made the trip gorgeous! The water was somewhat warm, we all buckled up in our deluxe life jackets complete with reflectors and whistles. The kids, of course, had to try out the emergency whistles... Yep, they work!

There were three people sitting across the boat and three benches to sit on. Kent and I sat on the first one, then the three kiddos in the middle and three local ladies behind them. In the middle of the trip I could understand the ladies were debating about which of our boys was the eldest or whether they were twins. I cleared up their misconceptions and shared our gingersnaps. What else could I do? Joel had just reached in the water and accidentally soaked one of them with his splashing.

Anna was hysterical when she sat down and felt the boat rocking. She was inconsolable until allowed to grip my hand with white knuckles. Once the motor started and we had wind and a view she shouted nervously, "I love this!!" You will get a kick out of the pictures we took of her in her sunhat, shades and life jacket gripping my hand for dear life. The boys are seasoned travelers by now I guess. They seemed nervous the days before, but were excellent and confident when we got to the boat. We all had fun spotting different water foul. We tried not to be concerned that the 'copilot' of the outboard motor was occasionally bailing water. What could I expect from a handmade boat? I knew we were in the best possible hands and left it at that.

We lost an hour somewhere in the middle of the lake and it became high noon. Amazing that all that warm water will travel north to Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt!

I've never seen a lake that had bits of floating vegetation everywhere. Lots of lily pad-like things. And the occasional pretty purple flowers. Fun to see all the dugout fishing boats too. Up to this point our trip was really glorious (not only because we always travel better in the mornings). I shouted over to Kent, "People pay big money to go boating on a day like this!" I felt like a yuppi crossing Lake Washington. Our 2-hour tour across the southern tip of the lake only took 1hour, 40 minutes and there was little wind to splash us. The country we were entering is, generally, much more organized and wealthier, so I mistakenly assumed it was clear sailing from here on out...

First of all, when we beached the dugout boat... yes, I say 'beached' because we got in at a 'real dock' and now landed in a lily pad marsh on a patch of sand... there were no signs or buildings. There were a couple of enormous trucks (lorries) full of bottled water and other goods for transit and eventual sale getting loaded one man at a time into a much bigger transport boat. They were handmade boats the size of a city bus, and couldn't get very close to shore. So laborers were hired to cart 2-3 boxes of goods on their heads from the back of the trucks into the warm lakewater chest deep where someone would drag them onto the boats. Quite an interesting sight really.

Anyway, once we were beached, the only way out involved a foot or two of lakewater and lilypads. No big deal in your swimsuit among friends, but disconcerting with 3 kids, 6 suitcases and 30 strangers. Some of the laborers came right over to lift us out. That didn't look like a good option to me. One of the local ladies told them "Hakuna pesa" (no money) over and over, so I assumed this hauling of people was a paid position. Kent climbed over the suitcases and was able to jump to the sand more or less. James and Joel followed. One of the kind ladies lifted Anna over there (who resumed her freaking out now that my hand was not attached to hers anymore), and there I stood in the boat gently rocking in the lapping waves.

So I did what I have seen my courageous mother do many times, rolled up my sleeves (pants in my case) and jumped in with both feet! =) It felt nice on my feet actually. I tossed my shoes to dry land first. I think I shocked those 30 strangers. Unfortunately, the immigration process waiting for us had nothing better to do all day and took a long time and was not friendly in the least. But soon enough we were piled in a taxi sedan and driving toward our destination. We were by this time about 2 hours later than we wanted to be.

Our route took us through a portion of game park, or wildlife preserve. It was fun hearing the driver's stories about seeing the lions sleeping on the road at night. We saw gazelle and other deer-like thing in abundance. I would want to live here if I was a lion too! But we didn't see him with our own eyes. Just his meal for tomorrow. We also saw a mother warthog with her babies next to the road. The car drew closer and she just took off, leaving them to fend for themselves! What a mom.

We wound our way through the Ruwenzori Mountains, which reminded me a bit of the foothills of the Cascades and more closely the mountains in northwestern Cameroon. People would work the land at a 60 or 70 degree angle, which amazes me! Lush green hills with wide dusty dirt tracks sliced through steep valleys. It was beautiful!! There were even a species of evergreen - in the tropics! Apparently, these mountains do actually get snow occasionally in April. Who knew?

We arrived to meet our bus connection to find that it had just left. Our options were staying the night and waiting a day, hopping a small van taxi or hiring our current driver to continue on. We opted for the last option after a quick stop to buy more water at a real grocery store! Pavement and grocery stores - civilization itself!

Alfred the taximan was nice. Kent and the kids sacked out for a nap in the back and he and I discussed life in the front seat as we drove. There are few drivers I am comfortable with as a front-seat passenger, but Alfred was good! He knew the roads well and that helps immensely. He knew when we would see road construction and truck after truck rolled by with Chinese sprawled across the front. He knew when to gun it and make up the time. He was careful with his car and I appreciated it.

It took us a long time. It was a long afternoon. We didn't pull into town until well after dark, just in time for rush hour traffic! And he didn't know the unlit roads well in the city. I began to pray that God would somehow guide us there without even ONE wrong turn as it was really late for the kids. We called our friends for directions as we neared their house. We couldn't find the Total gas station they referred to, but decided to pull off the road a bit to get better directions. As it turns out, the road we were sitting on was the very one we needed! We found their house and minutes later were chowing down homemade lasagna and taking hot showers! Not one wrong turn!!

Driving ourselves last time took about 16 hours, which for us is best spread over two days. This time with the boat over the lake we were hoping would take only 12 hours. We ended up taking 14, but were really slowed down by the whole missing-the-bus decision. Anyway, we are glad to have done it at least once! I probably still prefer the airplanes in 68 minutes or less to be honest. And I won't say I'm sorry we didn't see any hippos or crocodiles. I didn't really want to anyway. We waved to them all the same!

Pictures will come once my better half returns in the camera cord! =)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Big Eight

Sorry not to post much more about the fun party and celebration we had today for James. I can't believe he's 8! Sounds so old to me. In just 10 hours we are attempting to traverse this portion of the globe which will involve not one, not two, but three different taxi rides, a boat trip across Lake Albert and a bus trip across the Ugandan midwest. Should be an adventure any way we slice it! So, to catch up on James' big day, see my facebook photos over there. And to catch up on our trip, I will post updates just as soon as I can!

I'll wave to the hippos for you!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Sese Fo

She sits quietly flipping the pages of her illustrated Bible for children.

Crowded faces behind peer over her shoulder to peek at the pictures they never had.

The big people stand up.

Sing stuff.

Sit down.

Pray something.

She kicks her muddy shoes on the bare-board pew just in front of her.

You see, this is church.

But it is not church as I have ever known it.

This is church in a foreign language.

Our kids are learning Swahili, but we haven't pushed French yet. We usually attend the French service, and while it is all well-known to Kent and I, we know Anna isn't getting much. She has started to recognize songs and try to sing them. Last week we sang a familiar tune:

"Je suis fort, fort! Oui plus que vainqeurs
par le sang... de Jesus!"

[translation: "I am strong! More than conquerors because of the blood of Jesus!" Okay that sounds weird in English, but it sounds good in French, trust me.]

I didn't realize until we got home that Anna was singing (at the top of her lungs no less) this same tune. "Sese fo, fo. we nanana" She's making sense of something and proclaiming it from the rooftops. I have to admit, as a linguist who loves languages it was a little disturbing to hear her murdering the French, but she's only 3. James, at almost 8, can sing all the words and those of a few other songs as well, but he'll never outsing his vociferous little sister. =)

The girl has volume I have never known. Opera future? maybe. She's right there with Olivia the Pig. Yesterday we talked about the Nutcracker and ballet and she promptly donned her Fancy Nancy tap shoes and tried a tap routine. She really only slipped those two times because the shoes were on the wrong feet. Dancer?

Whatever she becomes, I pray everyday she knows and understands where real strength comes from. For now we'll go with 'Sese fo!'

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Races

One lazy Sunday, I heard lots of laughing on the back porch.
I went to investigate (as any mother would because sometimes laughing is synonymous with trouble).
But this was not the case.
No, this laughter came from cheering at ant races.
Yes, you read that correctly.
Ant Races.

You may recall we have had a year of battling with biggie-sized ants in our kitchen. Since the back porch has been doubling as the kitchen these days (basins for washing dishes, charcoal burner for long cooking), we stack dirty dishes out there. Presto! No ant problem in the kitchen. They're all outside. There is a Congolese genius to traditional construction of a cooking house separate from the residence.

So the boys were watching these ants do their thing around our breakfast dishes. The stacked basins for washing became like a track, and I have no idea why but the ants would go around and around and around. That IS funny. Can you find the lead ant in this race?

I love that my kids don't need video games, noises or flashing lights to enjoy playing. I always avoided battery toys when they were tiny (not only for my own sanity, but because I wanted their little brains to get well-exercised in IMAGINATION).
I love the look of wonder on their faces as they discover things all around them,
and create little castles,
Little universes that help make sense of their own.
Filled to the brim with imagination.

The Divider

It can look like a Great Barrier Reef, this massive division separating one world from another. To build that bridge and learn that language is so slow and so much work, most people don't bother. But the Body of Christ is to be a symbol of unity across barriers. We have immense chasms of differences and yet we are one Body.

I was sitting in church last week trying really hard to listen to a sermon in Swahili. This past year we have become really comfortable with the young - urban - professional - youthgroup French service, but the life of the church is really conducted in Swahili, so we are trying. My side of the barrier sounded something like this:

... Matthew 11 ... ... ...         ... ... ... ready ... ... ... ... he/she/it is praying ... ... ...                ... ... first... ... ... Jesus ... ... ...          friend of mine from my village ... ...                  ... ... always said he was really strong (lots of laughter) ... ...                   ... people look for him when someone doesn't pay them back...          ... joy ... ... many people ... ... ...                 ... ... like that ... ...                ... praiseworthy ... ...

Doesn't make much sense, does it? I'd love to claim that I had to take 13 different children at different times out back to the outhouse, but it's not true. The kids occasionally distracted me with a request for water, but in general there were many lost minutes of nothing but noise to me. Hard to subsist on jumbled pieces that don't make sense while you wait for the blanks to be filled with understanding that seeps in at a snail's pace.

Kent was able to fill in most of the meaning I missed on the way home. Apparently, it was a great message about following John the Baptist's example of humility. Ironic.

You may remember the experience I related in of attending Obedi's funeral where his mother, in her early nineties no less, sat in the dirt next to his coffin. I was confused at first that one of the younger sisters was talking right into her ear. I thought maybe she was hard of hearing until I listened for a louder clearer version of Swahili to find the sister was translating into a local language! This grandmother needed a translator to attend her son's funeral.

And left me wondering, how many people in this country are sitting in services hearing messages that are more 'blank' than meaningful? How many grandmothers who come have a limited understanding of Swahili like I do?

Oh that God's Word would bridge the gap and fill in the blanks!

This is why we came.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Children's Readers

As you know I am smack dab in the middle of teaching James and Joel to read well and love reading. For a Literacy Specialist, this is a little bit like being a kid in a candy store! James doesn't really need any more teaching - just vocabulary, spelling and grammar instruction. Joel is starting to really pick up steam as he moves from sounding out every letter to remembering more and more sight words. It's fun to see him growing and loving it!

Six months ago I blogged here a bit about books I love to read aloud to the kids during snacktime, and yesterday I had a lovely surprise of being contacted by the author's grandson himself! You can find his comment listed below that post, or I can just fill you in here:

"I was happy to read your mention of The Happy Hollisters. My grandfather was Andrew Svenson, who wrote the series under the pseudonym Jerry West. The Hollister children were patterned on the real-life Svenson children: my father, aunts, and uncle. I know my grandfather would be delighted to know that his former fans still appreciate the Hollisters' wholesome adventures and are now introducing their own children to the books. I know he would also be fascinated with your family's travel adventures, since he loved to travel and incorporate his adventures into the books.

"I thought you might be interested to learn that we have just republished the first volume in the series -- now in paperback, but otherwise identical to the original. If you like, you can read more about the project at our website (and see a photo of the family that inspired the books)"

Here I thought I was enjoying some rare children's book from the 50's! In the summer after the third grade my family moved (which is big for a family that doesn't. ever. move.), and my Mom found me 3 copies of different Happy Hollister stories to read over the summer. I think I read each one 2-3 times! Over the years I always kept an eye out for other copies of books in the series, and never found any. This year it's James who's reading them over and over! And I was thrilled to hear there are 30 titles in all! I hope they all get republished... =)

Off to start a school day!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Missing: Garbage Trucks

Pop over today to read what one of my colleagues wrote about my experiences in garbage and recycling in Africa.

Lots of things seem broken,
but there is always a way to fix them.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Hodge Podge

On this blank canvas of blogosphere I will paint a hodge podge today. The things going on...

I felt that wellspring of creativity about to burst Saturday and had to make something (but wanted to finish in just a couple hours), so I made one of these! Super cute and super fun and now I won't be stepping on legos and holding my breath in the dark anymore. Anna has been seen trying take out a baby tooth so she can have The Tooth Pillow come to her door.

We finally have our plane tickets! We will spend December with family and then move north to help teach at Trinity Western/CanIL. God is good!! I am praying we find good doctors.

We gutted our off-the-porch pantry, or larder, or mud room this week. It had been used for years in local-style charcoal cooking and the walls are pretty dark. I don't know how much paint we will have to throw on it to brighten it up. But we will try. Kent has already built the shelving unit that will line one wall. It waits on varnish. I can't wait to have a place to put things away!!

About 6 months ago we bought furniture. But it is not what you think. We didn't go try it out in a store. We didn't carefully flip through color swatches. We didn't even look at a catalog. It is used furniture from a friend that was downsizing two countries away. You may ask, how it could possibly be more convenient or cost-effective to purchase something used from two countries away when we live right next door to a local carpentry shop?? Good question! Apparently furniture in this town is in such high demand that carpenters don't have (take?) time to dry their wood. Furniture is built with hand tools, varnished and sold and it is only 4 months later when you look at your new table and watch the joints bend or disconnect entirely before your eyes, that you realize they used green wood.

There is a wonderful retired carpenter we trust. We asked him to build a bookshelf for Anna's room.
He said he would love to...
if there was any dry wood to be had in town.
We asked how long would it take to dry?
For a Congolese? 6 months.
For a missionary? One year.

We soon realized our dream of real furniture, a place to hang our clothes and a straight shelf to hold our dishes, was either going on hold for a second year while we dried our own wood, or we would have to ship from another country. Just about then a possibility opened up to put them in a container (those huge metal boxes on ships, trains and semi trucks) that would be trucking its way over here in July. We agreed. Various delays. It was trucked here this week. It is even unpacked and sitting in our office building. But it has not 'cleared customs'. So we are back to waiting (and praying for the customs officials).

This morning James and Joel went romping around the yard telling stories with their matchbox cars before schooltime. When I called them in for school James kicked his crocs off and they landed in the recently-hauled bucket of clean water to wash our dishes. (Yes, this is now over 2 months of incomplete kitchen sink.) The water could no longer rinse off dishes as it was now almost murky. So the boys had a little lesson in consequences and were late for school hauling more clean water. This is Africa after all.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Funny Baby

You probably don't have time to sit around and read blogs, and I probably read more than I should, but The Pioneer Woman's Funny Photo Contest lived up to it's name! For a split second I thought about entering a funny picture of one of our 'babies' (don't worry I do realize they no longer fit in the baby category). As I scanned a few folders of pictures, I noticed a theme...

Can you guess the theme?

Which one do you like best?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Where the Wild Photos Are

Just ran across a friend's amazing blog, and couldn't keep it to myself! Click over to read through fascinating and funny tales (it also helps that she's a professional photographer)! LuAnne actually took the family photo you see at right. With a rich history and worldwide perspective (having visited some 60 countries!), she has lots of fascinating things to share.

I'd love to hear which are your favorite posts! This one from Uganda and this one from here make me seriously laugh out loud because they are so true! What's interesting to you?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Weekend Getaway

Believe it or not this was the road on a good day. On our way home it was more like a mud pit. It left me thinking of Mr. Darcy 'What is 50 miles of good road?'

A carepackage with candy necklaces made the trip quite tasty for some of us.

Joel + Termite Mound = Happy Climber you know where whole trees go when they are taken over by termites!

We were staying with a couple who have lots of history working here. They have returned to help build up what used to be a huge mission station for this region. Everything was still pretty gutted after 2 years of military occupation. Rebuilding is slow.
Left us thinking about what we can leave behind.

It was lovely to listen to the different songs of birds we don't here over the mosque next door and to stay up late learning to play Rook. Other highlights were getting to ride their little 4-wheelers and gorge ourselves on cinnamon rolls!

It is likely to be our last weekend away for a few months, so we thoroughly enjoyed it!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Corn Mush Diet

I got asked a good question about our life in Africa, "What is it about your African lifestyle that slims you down?" My first steps on African soil were 11 years ago this week, so in some ways I have forgotten what is different here.

The rain waters seep into this red clay soil, and the African way of life seeps into my own.

There are several things about life here that encourage weight loss (though to be fair I have to note it doesn't work like this for everyone*): more walking, more sweating, more stress, less favorite foods, etc. If I want to eat pizza for instance, I make the crust from flour/oil/milk, I make the sauce from tomatoes/onions/spices, I grate the cheese, I cut up the fresh pineapple. It is all very 'locavore' and usually very fresh, but it is also all very much work! Because of the work it takes, and the core of laziness I have, I snack less. No quick easy munchies here. Farmer's market without all the prepared goodies.

It seems the weight is proportional to the level of civilization you live at. In discussing this with colleagues, it was commonly expected one would gain the 'furlough 15' (15 extra pounds) by returning to the US. I know some people have avoided this with care, but if one weighed 120 in the US (don't we wish), then in an African city one weighed 110 on average, and out in a village they weighed 100. Here we are somewhere between a city and a village.

In the US I can visit Starbucks for a chat, drive through any number of fast-food restaurants, and even the foods I put on the table are processed and manufactured often so that tortillas are not just wheat and oil. There are more options and there are yummy options and they are all filled with little things to make them MORE yummy.

In the big African cities I have seen, there are several meat options, always fruits and veggies and sometimes even imported varieties (how much is a real, crisp apple or few blackberries worth to me??). There are fewer 'fillers' in foods (but then your bread gets stale more quickly too) and fewer packaged foods. There are restaurants, but they are not drive-thru and don't have huge luscious extravagance. The richest thing I ever splurged on was 5 handmade spinach raviolis in a heavenly gorgonzola cream sauce in Kenya (but the restau was owned and operated by an Italian).

In the few rural areas we have lived, extravagance is eating meat or using oil. In one place salt and sugar were even a splurge for people. The place I lost the most weight (and even heard of a colleague losing almost 40 lbs in one month!) was in the northern hills of Cameroon where we lived with a Cameroonian host family. They splurged and made us meat sauce to eat with our corn mush. Most families we know eat one large meal in the evening and cold leftovers or porridge for breakfast (usually nothing for lunch). Joel was just a few months old, nursing like crazy in the heat and I had him strapped to my back as we hiked up and down the hills visiting friends and churches and clearing their fields. It was physically exhausting just to accomplish basic life. Now why on earth was I ever enamored with Little House on the Prairie??! Hauling water. Scrubbing laundry. Hiking up. Hiking down. Hiking some more. I still think Jenny Craig really could be on to something with the 'corn mush diet'...

It is no wonder we have colleagues who have to work at keeping enough weight on. Add in a few tropical illnesses or a bout with malaria, and you start to think about how to gain weight.

And so it goes... weight = wealth here.

*For some, who would benefit from all the fat-free, non-fat, diet soda options in the US, they actually gain weight overseas where carbs are ever-present and diet soda non-existent.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A Note on Stress

Just a quick note to let you know we are here. We are well.

The longer note would go into how 2007 taught us our own limitations, and how to better manage our personal levels of stress. So thankful for those lessons! We use them everyday here.

I don't exercise because I want to be stronger or fit into a certain pair of jeans. The African lifestyle slims me down just fine. I exercise because it keeps my mind sane. Doesn't really make sense to me, but I know that my person needs it to handle stress.

Bible Study:
We started up a little community of English-speaking Moms here that doubles as accountability for keeping my nose where it should be and fellowship with people who get my life.

Okay, this wasn't really in the textbooks on managing stress, but it DOES help! =)

I'm sure you've been in a season of life that was busy and stressful. Suddenly one day you look back and realize that you haven't finished that book you started 6 months ago. The cross-stitch that never happened. The quilt blocks collecting dust in a stack. The art papers you never unwrapped. (A dusty TV doesn't count unless it's in the garage.) We need hobbies, especially when we're stressed. Some small way to be creative and productive without lots of effort and energy. Those are mine (reading, sewing, cross-stitching) - what are yours?

As much as I love our little mostly-furnished fixer-upper, and our school routines and such, we have had a hard time finding ways to take breaks here. This homeschooling Mama must get out a bit more. And yet... There are no hotels. There are no guesthouses. No bed-and-breakfasts. There are no grandparents' house a few hours away. It's either thousands of dollars at a schmancy 5-star safari resort or camping. We have yet to discover somewhere we can go without A) spending over $800, B) traveling more than 5 hours each way or C) feeling we return more stressed out than when we started.

Another possibility has arisen for this weekend, and I have faith that it will not run into A, B or C! Some blessed people in a quiet town nearby have invited us over. So, after figuring out that I need a break, seeing only closed doors, a window opens.

See you on the other side of the window (i.e. next week!)

Off to pack up some hobbies to take along! Have a great Labor Day weekend!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Another Day in Paradise

Another day where we have far more avocados than 8 people could ever eat.

Another day where our neighbors celebrate at the highest possible decibel level (this time it's a wedding, and what's not to celebrate about that?).

Another day of thunder rolling over the ridge, echoing off the hills in the east.

Another day of bright colors and songs that make you dance.

Another day where everything in our yard grows inches per day (weeds and seeds alike).

Another day with the privilege of serving the under-privileged.

A day sewn in faith, hemmed in prayer.

Another day full of Grace.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Sunday, August 22, 2010


Gotta love the French for coming up with a beautiful way to say something as normal as 'daily'.

The daily norm, the quotidienne, over here seems unworthy of blogging to you all. But every so often it dawns on me that what I now consider 'normal' for our life and work here, is not what most of you consider 'normal'. Here's today's random bit of normal.

Kent is almost home after a 10-day journey to Eastern Europe. Every time he leaves inevitably something vital breaks. I think the machines in our house must feel his absence. They know the genius is gone from the house and decide to take a vacation while they can. Quick! The simpleton is in charge, time to play! Makes me feel a bit like the substitute teacher trying to keep relative control of the ruthless teenaged mechanisms in our household.

So this time the TV monitor gave up (which works for listening to music, but not for watching anything).

And the water pump, which allows us hot water.

I'm not complaining. Heating kettles for bucket baths and watching movies on my computer are not suffering or anything. I felt pretty good finding new solutions to keep up our movie night routine.

I also felt pretty good managing to speak to our guards in Swahili, and understand about 80% of what they said to me (they were probably speaking nice and slow for me =) they are such nice guys that way).

I now know I am a pretty exhausted single parent. I have NO idea how those ladies on TV, who single-handedly worked 2 jobs and raised 6 kids, survived. I need more sleep, but I sleep less as I know each wail for a drink of water or lightning strike in the distance is ultimately my sole responsibility.

Last night at 4:30am I decided to get up and cut our connection to the city grid. I'm one of those people who sees the flash of lightning and starts counting the miles. One, one thousand. Two, one thousand. Three, one thousand... At four the windows start shaking with the CRACK of a peal of thunder. All the previous ones were between 8 and 15 miles away. But four is plenty close for me! Time to shut off the grid. Our house isn't high enough to be hit directly, but we've lost some equipment in the past when our neighbors were hit just because the grid gets super-charged.

So I cut the power and stood to watch the light show by the back hallway window. Suddenly our neighborhood was struck, and it is always more amazing when you happen to be watching out the window! My cheek was pressed to the right window of the back door as it started shaking violently with the very essence of power. I heard a loud zapping/buzzing and ran to check that our colleague and guest hadn't seen any arcs in her room (where we have in the past). She was worried for our power system being blown. We went and checked it out. No smoke. Lights working. I was so thankful to be up to disconnect the house just in time. Being a light sleeper has finally paid off!

The kids did great through their first week of school. It was good for us to return to familiar routines. Anna loves running for the cookie jar at snack time and munching on top of the desk while I read (Alice in Wonderland for this month) before recess in the yard. The boys ramble off to their new friend's house next door in the lazy afternoons and all is quiet while Anna sleeps (or sings) in her own bed.

They grow up so fast! Joel is doing great in his reading. Some invisible switch must have flipped over the summertime, and he is motivated and doing great! He even thought the first couple 'cat sat on the mat' books were too easy! Anna has learned to spell and write her name. James has his 7th loose tooth! Bye bye little babies... hello big kids! Each phase has fun parts of their own.

There's a chicken squawking in the backyard. The neighobor's hen is lost again. Our guards are great chicken-wranglers. It really is an art that takes practice. They convince it to fly back over the wall. Hopefully the right wall...

With the rain pouring down at 6 this morning it is cool, humid and cloudy. It might as well be a snow-day. The rain turns the roads into slick mud that might as well be ice (except that ice doesn't get ruts that can drown a semi truck...). So everyone pretty much freezes in time, hanging out wherever they happen to be. The meetings can wait. The classes can wait. The job will wait. Church can wait. Everything waits for the end of the rain (which is usually less than 2 hours btw). If you want the road to yourself or feel like singing a solo in church, go out anyway. Today I expect our workers will show up an hour or so late. Makes me want to sit in my bathrobe and drink hot chocolate with marshmallows and soak in the slow morning slowly. Rushing doesn't really pay here anyway.

And our days roll on. A funny jumble of quotidienne.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

On titles

Just for the record...
I think I have failed to explain that we did not choose the title 'tenfootfamily' because we love feet. I once found this adorable family blog around the theme that they all loved coffee. Cute coffee cups artistically scattered around their lives contributed to the theme in the sidebar. Drink yumminess. Fill our cup. All sorts of language to illustrate their theme.

When we decided to blog (all of TWO years ago!), we decided right away that we weren't the open-sharing-of-full-names kind of people. (I'm not judging those of you who are btw!) Nor were we the kind that like to dub our family members with bizarre initals DH, DS, DD. Makes for troublesome reading if you ask me! Nor did I like giving them some other web identity (though I considered it, it really doesn't lend itself to the theme of FEET very well): then Stinky Feet said... and Twinkle Toes replied... then Soccer Cleats really lost it. I find it pretty hard to follow these blog posts, as I will never remember by the time I've scrolled past the key terms in the sidebar which kids they are talking about.

So, despite my temptation to go overboard about feet, you will not find tons of feet pictures. I know some people are not fans of feet... =) With five of us, there were only so many choices: fivenosedfamily, teneyedfamily, fiveheadedfamily... And we're linguists, so we can't help but love the double entendre of tenfootfamily. There we are. Over on the far side of the sea... but not really by the ocean.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Back to School: The Students

Our homeschool tradition is that the first hour of our first day of the year is spent taking the obligatory school pictures. Hair gel, chairs, collared shirts and all. You all would laugh with us if you saw that the fancy clothes lasted all of 20 minutes and all three were barefoot during the whole photo shoot! The backdrop is Kent's Costco fleece napping blanket over the front porch grill. Given all that, I'm happy with this year's school pictures. I took seven or eight of each kid and got at least one serious and one guffaw from each of them.

(His Uncle John face...)

Tears of resistance, despite the blue blalarina dress
(yes, the same one she's been wearing since she was 2!)
But brothers with funny faces saved the day:

Then we all had to make funny faces, and the results are some of the best photos ever!
You can enjoy them now in the margin at right. =)

Back to School: The Setting

As stressed as I felt to get everything done earlier than usual this month, God graciously reminded me that last year I was flat on my back the month before school. And when we finally started the school year, the kids' desks and chairs weren't finished yet! We made it through just fine (and they were built within a week or two). So this year is so calm in comparison! Here is a peek at our schoolroom ready for our big First Day of School!

There may be random holes in the concrete walls. The cupboard may be slightly leaning to the left as the wood continues warping. The sign with Deut. 11:1 is hung with tooth floss and the letter Ww has disappeared, but we are ready for school. And all this wacky place is mine, and I am so blessed to have a space to call my own. Not borrowed. Not on loan. Our schoolroom.

We have three languages to get learning. The kids already speak some Swahili with the neighborhood kids and with our helpers at home, and now that James and Joel are reading in English we will begin French lessons. It is our grand experiment to see that all those language development theories and research are right (or not) that a child succeeds further in a second language when he/she is grounded and reading in the first language first. Should be interesting to see how close we can all get to trilingualism.

So we are diving in (to Second Grade and First Grade and 3-yr Preschool, that is).

Monday, August 9, 2010


Last night we had one of the biggest thunderstorms I can remember.
It was a blow-your-roof-off storm.
Being the light sleeper I am, I woke up as the claps of the thunder drew nearer. The whole thing lasted more than two hours! There was probably 24 inches of rain, and I was so thankful for the roof holding out! The thunder was so loud it shakes your bones.

We have friends whose house was hit in the past and cost them thousands of dollars to replace their electrical equipment. I sat up and watched in awe at the power of my God. He could split the earth in two with a word. He can take down people, trees, buildings, anything in a moment. We are so small.

As a child, I always heard 'the rolling thunder... thy power throughout the universe displayed... then sings my soul... how Great Thou Art!' I agreed that all of creation is beautiful handiwork. I would sing with gusto, convinced that the song really complimented God on his artistic skill. His 'Art' is great! But the fact that HE is Great, and Mighty and Powerful is better yet.

The storm traveled over the ridge behind our house and eventually faded in the distance. It left with one last strike of lightning striking VERY near. FYI, it is an involuntary reflex to jump 12 inches from your bed or chair when lightning strikes 50-100 feet away, even if you are mostly asleep. I had such fun watching God put on a light show that rivals the most advanced pyrotechnics!

How Great Thou Art!

P.S. Kent was stopped by a storekeeper friend yesterday saying he saw us on the local television broadcast of the graduation ceremonies last week. How random is that? TV??

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Blessed Sabbath

May you know Rest this day.

Drink of God's goodness and trust in it.

Today I praise him for:

Living room couches (see above!)

Healed ear aches

Smiles and kisses of this sweet girl

Shining sun

Eyes to see it

Toddler whispers




Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Room to Romp

About a YEAR ago some of you asked to see how we painted the boys' room...
Well, better late than never, right?

For the artsy types, here's the scoop:

I saw some really cute Dr. Seuss rooms online, and we are major fans and own every single book and read them often and have half of them memorized... So we all agreed on water and their room had originally been painted in water-based aquamarine like the rest of the house. I had someone slop up at least one layer of thin whitewash because we all looked seasick with blue/green walls everywhere. And the result was a kind of splotchy sky color. We decided to keep it with the whole water and sky theme and I think it works (and was less work!)

Just before we moved in, I visited the paint store and from their pallet of 20 colors brought home a few for the purpose of mixing. I had seen this denim blue color I liked on a pottery barn bedroom, so I went to mixing black into royal blue oil-based paint. The fumes are pretty bad, but the walls can be washed! Might come in handy in a boys' room... It wasn't quite as dark as I was going for, but works fine. My painting implements were a falling-apart brush and a few Q-tips. Yes, I freehand paint with Q-tips. Didn't have a lot of other options.

We had raised bunk beds made (which you don't see because the boys didn't make their beds and it's summertime...) covered in a special-order floor-to-ceiling long mosquito net. I sewed the first one from two nets myself, but will try to pay a tailor from now on!

Then we needed closet space. We used Action Packers for a long time, then upgraded to a borrowed bookshelf, and finally built custom shelves to fit our needs. The mahogany here is a gorgeous color and this stuff had beautiful grain (you can almost see in the last picture).

Handy PVC pipe for a rod and voila: closet! It is a larger, more complex version of the one we built in Anna's room if you remember. Anyway, the boys decorate with occasional sea creatures or road maps - you know, to make it feel like home.

So there is the view from the doorway (with beds to the left). For curtains I added a strip of Congolese kitenge to expand on the secondhand Martha Stewart Living white linen tabbed panel curtain that wasn't quite big enough. It is looped over a length of rebar painted black. Only the fancy stuff for us! =) The orange fish are only construction paper and won't last forever, but may outlast the boys' interest anyway. The only last thing we haven't finished is the glow-in-the-dark constellations on the ceiling from the Seavers and planet vinyls from Missa Lobba! =) It's a mini-Dr-Seuss-ecosystem! (if you exclude the rebar and PVC pipe...) =)

They have a gray cement floor, like most of our house. I think a few years back it had a dark green cement veneer, but that has worn off in most places. They have their preschool cars and trains map/carpet on the floor until we choose a more 'sophisticated' carpet next time we leave the country...

It works well and the boys like it and that's really what matters!