Showing posts from 2012

Getting in the holdiay spirit

Ok, so for those who are worried that I'm permanently damaging my children by not keeping sacred holiday traditions here in Africa...breath a sigh of relief. I made gingerbread cookies and we all decorated them. We have Christmas music playing (THANK YOU, Jen Rhoad--the CD you sent us years ago has the only holiday music we own!!!). And as of today, we have a very unique, African Christmas tree up and decorated. That's my favorite part of getting ready. Both Chad's and my parents gave us a special ornament every year, starting back in 1976 (stop doing the math right now!!!). There is so much history looking at all those special ornaments that have made it all around the world with us, from Africa, back to the States, and now out here again. Our house here has tile flooring, so I did loose my ornament from 1981 when Omara got ahold of it--but I suppose a little superglue on something 31 years old is fitting...some days I feel like I could use a little superglue myself. But …

Great day in nature!

I am not trying to brag, but let's face it. We live in an awesome place! It would be a shame, really, to do anything less than revel in it. So we revel as often as we can, and we had a chance to share it with a friend who works in Nigeria. God truly blessed us on one of our best mornings ever in the game park. Enjoy!

Walking on the wild side

While my brother and sister-in-law were here, we followed a brilliant co-workers' suggestion (THANKS, Annie!) and headed out the Crescent Island, in Lake Naivasha. It didn't originally have any animals on the island, until the filming of Out of Africa when they decided to cart the animals out to the island and then leave them there. Ok, so it's not the most natural of beginnings, but now it's gorgeous! And to hike around amidst the animals...amazing.

God or Mammon?

I had a very strange interaction with a Kenyan woman today while waiting for a doctors appointment with the 2 younger kids. It was in mall, and we were sparing the other patients by waiting (for an hours and a half) out in the hall. A woman in questionably-professional (read: skin-tight miniskirt and 5-inch heels) came out at "tea-break" and said Omara was so beautiful and clever. She asked if she could have Omara. Take her forever, she clarified. I laughed--what exactly do you say to that?

She then moved on to how young I look to be mother of 2. When I told her of the other 2 kids at school, she was really shocked and asked my age, and then proceeded to say 35 wasn't possible. "But then," she reasoned, "it's because of the money."

Excuse me?  "Because you're rich, that's why you look young." My first thought: I am NOT rich!!!! But then again, next to, I don't know, 80% of the country, I actually am rolling in the dough, and…

Term 1 down, 2 more to go

Friday was the end of term for Anya and Ethan at Rosslyn Academy. The kids all had the day off, and we parents had to go in for parent-teacher conferences (kids thought that was, not so much!) But I was glad for the chance to hear from their teachers how they were adjusting. Compared to the old days of preschool where I used to get notes home telling me what they ate and when they pooped...fifth grade feedback is somewhat less.

Anya's teacher says she's doing great--no surprises there! She has friends, she's sweet and thoughtful, she's doing great in every subject, and she got only 1 B. Spelling is terrible, but it always has been and she's about to hit the day when everything has to be typed anyway. Group projects are tough, but what can I say...she's my daughter! I've always wanted to just do it myself, too. Overall, way to go kid!!!

Ethan's teacher says he's doing great--a bit of a surprise! One of the highest achievers in the class, s…

First day of School...survived!

I watched the clock all morning long, just waiting until 1pm when I could pick him up. I was sure he had cried himself into an oblivion, probably passed out from the emotional overload! With fear and trembling, I went inside...and a happy, excited blond-headed little boy came running to me!!!! I had already decided it was definitely a PlanetYogurt kind of day, so on the way over to the mall, he told me all about school...there were lots of friends, and spaghetti but no juice, only water, and coloring and a playground. And he said he wants to go back tomorrow! Oh, me of little faith!!! Lesson for the day...I should have worried less, and bought more white uniform shirts!

First day of Preschool

I think of myself as an experienced mother. My first child has survived me for 11 years so far, and she seems to be doing well. I've done the first day of school a couple of times, and the new nanny even more times. And I'm not high on the "feeling" scale, so a few tears never bothered me a bit.

But I have to admit, I've been a bit nervous this time around. First, Isaac has had a lot of change in his little life, and he's just settling in here in Kenya. Because of that, he's been showing more separation anxiety fears than usual. You know, wanting Anya to stay with him in Sunday School, freaking out if he looses sight of me on the playground. Plus, it's a Kenyan school. He'll be the only 'mzungu' or foreign student, and while I love that, I'm also nervous because of the cultural differences in handling kids.

Well, today was Isaac's first day of pre-school. We toured the place on Friday, and he loved the look of the playground. He a…

Views from Nairobi's 'Burb

Urban = crowds and tall buildings and bad traffic and smog, right? Yup, that is urban Nairobi. Suburbs = quiet roads and cul de sacs and grass cut to exactly 1/4"? Not so much! Granted, we do live in a 'suburb' area called Westlands, which has much quieter streets and more single-family Western-style homes. But we went to a suburb area of Nairobi last Friday to celebrate the kids' teacher-development day off school...and found ourselves surrounded by a herd of 30 Cape Buffalo! Of course, the area is called the Nairobi National Park, but we're talking a genuine game park of wild animals only fenced on 2 sides, with 4 of the big 5 (they're missing elephants)! It's such an interesting juxtaposition to see East African grass-lands spreading out endlessly to the Ngong hills, grazing antelopes and zebra and ostrich...and then to turn around and see Nairobi's skyline rising above the acacia trees!

We had a great time driving around for 6+ hours, exploring gul…

Sunday Afternoon

Sundays can be a challenge, and yet Kenya is SIMPLE compared to other places we've been. Many a Sunday morning I've shed tears over the chaos, and then the guilt at not feeling more worshipful! For example, this past Sunday went for 2 1/2 hours. Another boy, probably 2 1/2 years old,  joined us for the first hour. We had never met him, but I think he was drawn by Omara's snack cup filled with imitation-Cheerios. His mother, wherever she was, felt no need to call him back! He felt quite free to crawl around under my skirt and between my feet, just like my own kids...since I needed another kid to manage, you know. Finally the older 3 (plus our add-on, thankfully) went to Children's Church--a wonderful part of church in Nairobi. Only it sent Omara into a full-blown screaming fit at being left behind. Exit momma right, with screaming child and curious stares, down to the mother's room, another wonderful part of church in Nairobi. Only this Sunday, the sound was too lo…

Anya's 11th Birthday

New city, new birthday! We had to explore options for celebrating properly. We settled on a coffee shop for hot cocoa and doughnuts. Yes, hot cocoa in's remarkably cool in the mornings, especially these days. We are at 5,500 feet, after all.

So anyway, we headed to the mall and descended upon a coffee shop. The kids got their own table, Chad and I had a semblance of quiet conversation, and we all enjoyed chocolate-glazed doughnuts and drinks (Chad and I opted for mocha instead, and the 4 kids shared 3 cocoas since they never finish). We even splurged and got Omara her own doughnut, because let's be honest...who wants to share chocolate goodness with a 2-yr old?

At the end of the morning celebration, Omara's clothes were permanently stained, our wallet was $26 lighter, and Anya felt special, which is really what it's all about.

We later had a BBQ with our co-workers to celebrate with them. And since we live on the guesthouse compound and this was the week…

On being back "home"

At one point in my life, I would have said most of Sub-Sahara Africa was pretty similar. Then I lived 3 years in Malawi, and I learned things there that didn't fit with my idea of the Africa of my childhood, so I decided my childhood perspectives had been wrong. But then I've moved back to East Africa, and I see that there really are some differences. We're much more closer to the 'home' of our childhoods here.

That being said, I keep feeling like I'm going to see old friends around every turn. Each time I drive through a parking lot, or walk through a mall, or even navigating the hospital halls, I find myself scanning faces, thinking I'll recognize at least someone!

I verbalized that to Chad a couple weeks ago as we found a parking space at the mall, laughing at how silly I am being. As we walked into the mall, we heard someone say, "Chad and Miriam????" It was our high school classmate, Kendra Woods' (now Stephenson) PARENTS who are still …

Smooth sailing, mostly

We've been here for almost 2 weeks now, and I'd say we're doing pretty well. We are unpacked, pictures are on the walls, we have all our major furniture and appliances...even found a waffle iron yesterday and feasted on waffles, eggs and bacon for dinner! Ethan was thrilled.

Traffic is as maddening as I knew it would be--no surprises there. We basically have to make our to-do list, and then cut it in half because it takes so long to get from A to B. I can't say it's fun, but it just means I do less 'shopping around' for things. You just buy what's available where you are that day!

The cost of electricity is crazy-high here. One person told me to plan on $400 per month. That terrifies me, as a notorious cheep-stake, so we're not using the hot water heater at all. The showers are equipped with these heating elements so that the cold water is heated directly in the shower-head. It's efficient, but I wouldn't call our showers long or luxurious! An…

Greetings from Kenya!!!

Please don't ask me to move countries again. The adventure of change is really over-rated, at least when you have 4 kids and two of them can't carry their own carry-on luggage!

But I have to say, it went SO much better than I was dreading. We must have made a pathetic sight--Omara on my back, pulling a suitcase and holding 3 other bags, Isaac on Chad's back, him pulling 2 suitcases and holding another bag, Anya with a back-pack on and pulling 2 suitcases, Ethan struggling with his backpack and yet another suitcase!!! But they only charged us 50% of the over-weight luggage fee, kind people had pity on us and carried bags for us, we found room for all the carry-on bags in the plane, the kids did well on the flight which was on time, all our baggage (14 pieces counting the car seats!) arrived undamaged, no customs charges, traffic wasn't too bad on the way home, and yummy pizza was waiting for us with our new team-mates! Really, I couldn't have asked for much more!

The …

Good Times Continue

The team continues to thrive, despite unseasonably cold nights, large spiders, and whole minnows for lunch. They have had a wonderful time in the community-all 16 youth are having the opportunities to share the full gospel and they're all getting the honor of leading people to Christ.

One girl was terrified when she was asked to share with the chief and all the others who wanted to listen. She was totally relieved when lots of women and children came to listen and the chief never arrived! She shared beautifully, and many responded. Afterwards she asked her translator why the chief didn't show up--imagine her shock when the translator informed her that the chief WAS there. She was the woman sitting beside her who was first to pray to receive Christ! I guess we forgot to mention that many chiefs here are women!!!!!

Today they went hiking in the woods, where they saw a Nile Croc (from a safe distance in the river!!!) and a hyena. Now they're at a community football (soccer) gam…

Alive and well in Malawi

Our team of 16 arrived safely, with all their luggage (a minor miracle in itself!) Since they brought me tortillas and cream cheese and other goodies to help with the cooking, I was exceedingly glad!

My role here is cooking, and it's going well. I've learned a few things, such as 2 cakes is too much but 30 scrambled eggs is not enough. Who would have known???? We've only had minor issues, such as the back seat falling onto the tray of lasagna, and my phone flying into the chocolate cake.

The youth are doing amazing! They're flexible and sweet and helpful and no one is complaining about anything. Grace Community parents, you should be proud!!! No one is sick, and they've all survived their first day of door-to-door witnessing in a high-density area of an African city, and that's no small feat. We are very pleased with how everyone is doing.

Time for devotions now!

Back from Kenya

I was in Kenya for another meeting these past 4 days. It brought back even more memories than my last trip, I think because we were meeting at a conference center right down the road from my high-school. The mist rolling down the mountains, the light drizzle that isn't really rain but is more like you're walking through a cloud, the freezing evenings around the fire... yes, I was still in Africa! But it's around 8,000 feet elevation and wonderfully like winter in the Pacific Northwest. We also went up to Rift Valley Academy to visit someone--it hardly looks any different after these 17 years, and I even saw a teacher I knew who is still there! As I stood there in the infirmary of my old high school, I was struck that when you say good-bye, you never really know if it's forever. Here we are going back to our high-school hangouts, something I never thought would happen. So who knows if the good byes that we have to say in the next few weeks are forever or not. I'm ho…

Ethan's Birthday at the Lake

Anya, almost 11 years old

Ethan, age 8

Isaac, 3 1/2

Omara, 20 months

For Ethan's 8th birthday, we went to the Lake for one last time. We arrived in time to have our freshly ground coffee overlooking the most beautiful lake in the world. The kids spent all day swimming, building sand castles, and running from waves. And we managed to return home with no sunburns!

Ethan made a super-cool sand creation by digging out the sand instead of building it up--told us it was an Indian. I could see the eyes, nose and mouth, but no distinguishing feather in the hair or anything. I asked him how he knew it was an Indian...he pointed to the dot on the forehead!!! Just one more way my kids are growing up with a whole different set of 'norms'!

Graduation Photos

Here are just a few photos of their special day. They worked so hard and sacrificed so much for the 3-4 years they spent studying--I got a little teary-eyed at seeing their joy!

Graduates, their wives, and the faculty

Us with Frank Banda

Chad goofing off with Maere

A typical graduation present--cocka-doodle-do (or kuku-loo-ku)!

The Calm before the Storm wasn't very Calm!

School is out. The seminary has finished. Most of our furniture is gone. June was supposed to be the bit of calm before the whirlwind of July--as in most things, it didn't work out exactly as I expected!

In the past 4 weeks, I've cooked more than I think I've cooked in the past 35 years of my life, combined. Literally! In the first 3 weeks of June, I made 10 chocolate cakes! Ethan had his birthday party early so classmates could come. We had each seminary class over for a last dinner. We had graduation dinner and graduation and the kids' teachers over and took dinner to our church's new pastor--twice, because they changed the dates on us without telling us!

Then I've been getting ready for the team who arrives in 2 weeks. Just this week alone, I made 4 batches of lasagna sauce, 4 of enchilada sauce, 2 kg taco meat, 1 kg refried beans, 4 loaves of bread, 6 batches of home-made cookies, 6 salad dressings, 6 pie crusts, and various mixes: brownies, cobbler, and corn…

Big Changes, Big Chaos

Most of the time, things here in Malawi remain in kind of a small-chaos state. Days that feel busy and exhaust you, but at the end of the day you can't really say what you've done. Or little changes, like 75% increases at the grocery store from day to day so you spend 3 hours going to all the stores trying to find the cheapest prices which may or may not be at the same store as you found them last week.

But over the past few months, we've been looking at some actual big changes in our lives, and it's caused a bit of big chaos! For those who didn't get our June prayer letter, let me explain. The mission has asked us to transfer to Nairobi Kenya, and we have agreed! Miriam will be working as the Medical Coordinator, helping arrange for medical appointments, giving medical advice via phone, email, and Skype, and arranging for medical evacuations if necessary. Chad will be working with University students in Nairobi. It's a good fit for both of us. Plus, Kenya has…

"No hurry in Africa" doesn't mean no Chaos!

We've had some problems with internet and our old computer no longer being able to connect to Google Chrome. As technology marches on in the Western World, we're stuck back here in Africa! Oh well. Same song, different verse I guess.

Anyway, I'm trying to catch up now. I had a whirlwind trip to Nairobi Kenya where I met up with a couple from our highschool we hadn't seen since 2004, had a killer Chai Latte, and stuffed my brain with too much information in meetings. But it was good, and everyone survived the week here in Malawi. Chad's a great dad, and he did great balancing teaching 4 classes and managing dinner and bedtime and 1 load of laundry (!), but I don't think it's something he wants to do very often!

I got home on Saturday at noon, and we left Sunday morning for Zambia. Several good friends of ours are at the 40/40 training camp 4 hours from here, so we wanted to stop in and visit with them. Do you remember my stories of 40/40 from our orientation …

3 years in the lives of our children

We have now been in Africa for 3 years. I know that’s a long time, though the time has flown by. But really, what is 3 years in the scope of my whole life? Hardly anything. But it has come to my attention just how significant it is in the lives of my children. Perhaps I should have realized that earlier, but somehow this has become normal life for us all, so I forget just how removed they are from what is normal in the US! Let me illustrate:

*Anya (age 10) was reminicing about America, and she said dreamily, "I had totally forgotten that you can turn the TV on and actually see something. That will be awesome!" (our TV is for movies only)

*Ethan (age 7!) stared at me in awe at the description of listening to music play out of the dashboard of a car, because he didn’t know what a radio was. The next day, he came in and excitedly reported that our friends have “one of those radio things that plays music in a car”. We obviously do not!

*While paying our electricity bill at the gas …

Update on Ethan

Well, Ethan's been taking the new medication for two weeks now. We're on Easter Break now, so we've held it for the last 2 days (and since I've said his name in exasperation about 20 times so far this morning, we're beginning to think that might be a mistake!). The meds, much as I hate to admit it, are working amazingly. His handwriting, described as "horrific" by the educational psychologist, has dramatically improved. The first day he spent 3 hours reading a book "for fun" and did his homework by himself while I went grocery shopping. For anyone who has a child like Ethan...that's really miracle-material! He complained of a headache the first day, and a stomach ache the second, but since then he has been complaint free. He's not been at all "zombie-like" so I asked him how he felt on the medicine--he said, "I really like it--it helps me behave better."

The only trouble we've had is with the insomnia, which I'…

Headed Home

The EEG went very well on Tuesday. Ethan wasn't wild about laying still and not moving a muscle (I almost reminded the technician it was an EEG for ADHD!) but he was a champ. They flashed lights in his face, made him hyperventilate, and generally tried to provoke a seizure. Ethan's only complaint was that I forgot the camera and couldn't document him looking like an alien with 23 wires coming out of his head! He insisted on leaving a glob of the sticky-paste on his forehead to show his friends back at the guesthouse!

From the hospital we went to McDonald's and then putt-putt golfing, yes WITH the glob of goo still on the forehead. Only it should be called putt-putt hockey when Ethan plays it...what fun is there in waiting for the ball to stop before hitting it again? And it's much easier to push the ball in the hole than to hit it! 10 holes took all of 5 minutes.

In the belief that all doctors are, deep down, good people (no offense, any of you busy docs out there!) …

Update from Miriam, Alone with 1 kid

I had the big face-to-face review with the psychologist yesterday. It was interesting, to say the least. I have to say, I don't think she got a good read on Ethan...he had trouble understanding her, I think she didn't always understand him. For example, she asked him to tell her what an island was. His answer? "A place where animals and sometimes people live, and fish make them." She was convinced he wasn't' "all there" with an answer like that. When I asked him later, he said, "You know, mom. Fish make them by eating the coral and as it gets digested it comes out as soft sand that makes beaches and islands." Gotta love Planet Earth!!!! But what are you going to do? Say too much, and you're just the over-involved mother. You know how psychs love to go there!!!

Anyway, she feels it's not straight-forward ADHD and she saw no evidence of 'hyperactivity'...proof that terror of her kept him rooted in his seat. Unless what we see…

Update from Chad, Alone with 3 Kids

Miriam, random updates from our life
1. After Anya came back from Daniela’s, Alisa came over and spent the night. I feel like I am Anya’s social coordinator. Isaac misses you and says he is ready for you to come back. I said that you were in South Africa and to that he said, “Want Mom” repeatedly. I think it was his attempt at a protest for being left home. Omara has been out-eating Isaac and Anya, maybe put together. She almost finished a stake on her own. So I have either been planning Anya’s social calendar, explaining the difficulties of long distance relationship to a three-year-old, or cutting beef in to cubes small enough that a bird could swallow them since you been gone.

2. The kids have been sleeping pretty good since you left. I am only getting up about once or twice a night and they are going back to sleep well. I feel like I have had a little rest.

3. That rat that chased you showed up again. This time it was dead. The smell was coming from the dryer and I was afraid it …

Good Feeling Gone!

Ethan had his 3-hour eval today, and he came out looking pretty roughed-up. I could hear most of the visit, and this psychologist didn't say anything inappropriate, but she was more of a stern teacher than a Mrs Doubtfire! He shed a few tears, begged to go home, but he eventually did everything she asked him to. But when she explained to me that we'd have to schedule a 3rd appointment to go over his results, things got weird. I don't even know how to describe it, other than she seem over-dramatic. Like she'd just spent 3 hours with a certifiably crazy kid and he was going to need some major help. All they did was math and reading and logic-type testing, so I don't know what she could have possibly see than required such drama! But she said the person he needs to see for medication management has at least a 4-month waiting period and no one else will do and I'll "understand why when we go over the results on Thursday." Several times I tried to get a li…

Back in Joburg

Ethan and I arrived back in Johannesburg, South Africa last night. We're here for 1 week, to see the pediatric endocrinologist who manages his growth delay, and for a comprehensive multi-disciplinary assessment for ADHD. I had a "pre-assessment interview" today with the lead psychologist. It was a little nerve-wracking at first, but it ended up going very well. She listened well, asked great questions, and I felt overall that she had an accurate picture of what we see at home and at school. Tomorrow Ethan has his big day of assessments. Her preliminary thoughts based on my description are a "classic case of significant ADHD" which didn't surprise me. We'll see how tomorrow goes.

Meanwhile, Ethan has been bouncing off walls and not sleeping and generally wearing me out. So much to see, so much to want! But then I have to take a breath and realize how much worse it could be--to appease him, I just had to buy grapes and sweet corn and promise him 1 game of…

American Bureaucracy

I had 2 errands on my to-do list for this afternoon. I needed to go to the Embassy and apply for Omara's social security number (sigh), and I needed to get my latest cross-stitch picture framed (yeah!)

I went to the embassy, through the metal detectors and the x-ray scanners and everything, juggling Omara who had to come too. I discovered I was supposed to make an problem, they helped me anyway. I was supposed to bring a copy of Chad's passport problem, they just asked me to scan it and e-mail it to them. I had applied before in South Africa but had never gotten her problem, they would call the London processing office, try to find it, and only resubmit the application if no number had ever been assigned, and then phone me with her number so we can claim her on our taxes. No charges. No one acted like I was stupid. The form I got on-line was still the same form they were using, and they actually recognized it and knew what to do with it. No o…

Late on the Upload--Christmas photos

Our Christmas photos look a little greener and warmer than many of you may have experienced! I've just put the best of each of the kids, who are growing up so quickly!

A trial of Coke

Since starting back at school after the break, Ethan has been struggling way more than he ever has before with attention, focus, and following impulse-control rules. Homework can take 2-3 hours to do 2 pages--Chad says Ethan's EXACTLY like he was as a kid, so there's hope, but it's tough to parent right now! His teacher has infinite patience with him and even she is at her wits end. So I heard about another kid who has significant attention-problems, and how the teacher has solved it all with buying him a Mountain Dew each morning--the caffeine acts as a stimulant, and just like ADHD meds, has the opposite effect on someone with ADHD. So in desperation, I thought we might try a similar experiment. I mean, if I could solve all of Ethan's problems with a coke every morning??? How great! So I tried it for several days, but kept forgetting to tell Chad about it, since he's usually out running during breakfast. So one day he come home from his run and asked Ethan why on…

Anguished English

There is much that gets lost in translation every day here. Sure, people make grammatical mistakes in English all the time. And look who’s talking—I butcher Chichewa on a daily basis! But it’s the small nuances that really crack me up. Especially in signs and shop names! Here are a few of my favorites from around town:
1. Iffy Hair Salon…not so sure about trusting my looks to that one
2. Shanty Construction Ltd…are we bragging about that??
3. S & M Weddings…run by a godly Christian couple who unfortunately happen to be named Sam and Mala!
4. Tile Shop: Great Quality at Beatable Prices…yes, I believe so.
5. White Crane Body Wash: leave your skin silky and tender. “After bathing, make you feel extra fragrant”…I always wanted my tender skin to feel fragrant!

Nothing New in the New Year

Ironic, isn’t it? How we get so excited about a new year, when really each day passes so much like the one before it. Same here in Malawi. We’re all doing well, but everything is about the same. Omara is talking more and more, running, getting into everything, and looks quite strange with 6 teeth on the top and 2 on the bottom. She’s learned the power of biting, though, and keeps her siblings in line. No more stealing toys from the baby! Isaac has days of going all day using the potty and being so proud of himself, and I think we’re finally getting somewhere. And then the next day… nothing but more laundry I have to fit in between power outages. I haven’t figured out what makes the difference. But no matter, he’s happy, and always muddy, and talking up a storm that is mostly understandable now. We praise God for that—it’s been a long time coming. Ethan and Anya are pretty much the same as always—surely growing up but so gradually that some days it’s hard to see the progress. They’ve d…