Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Getting Ready

So today I have been spending WAY too much time on my computer. Then I decided I wanted to do a quick blog post on my packing progress so set Isabelle up painting. I haven't even started yet, just downloading pictures, and she is telling me not to look at her. Not a good sign. Doesn't she know that is universally known to be the words kids say when they are about to be in trouble? She has paint brushes and paints and knows how to use them properly but lately has other plans...

I think I need to get a finger painting set up since that is what she seems to want to do all the time.


Here is where I am so far...

I put like items in Ziploc bags. I have a power conversion kit but we aren't sure it can be used with our computers. Might need something different for that. And I bought Isabelle her own water bottle. I think we have enough for the rest of us already.

Shampoo, conditioner, etc. I bought new face wash since the one I use has a pump and I didn't know how easy it would be to travel with. Luckily my skin transitions fairly with whatever I use to wash it. I am thinking I will need more shampoo for the 3 of us (you know, no hair for John) but I do have travel sizes already. Do you think 2 travel sizes of shampoo is enough for 3 people for 3 weeks? I don't expect to wash my hair daily. I don't even do that at home. Although it sounds like we will have the opportunity to wash our bodies daily as cleanliness in such a dusty part of the world is a big deal. So maybe more than 2 body washes? Maybe I should pack a bar of soap instead?

The germ killing bag. Lots of hand sanitizers and wipes. Plus a little something to get stains out of our clothes while we are gone. Although apparently we can hire women in the village to do our laundry while we are there so if there is a particular mess we can get it washed.

I found a compact size with multiple sizes because, you know, it will happen in the village. I feel I am ovulating this week. What is the maximum that I would go after ovulating? 16 days? Yep that puts me exactly in the village with my period. Yeah me.

The doctor at the travel clinic said to bring extra toothbrushes because we might, out of habit, put them under the faucet while there and then we need to toss them. I think I got carried away. On top of the 4 toothbrushes we already use I have 10 extras with me. How absent minded do I expect us to be?

Drugs. I decided to buy new boxes of ibuprofen and children's Tylenol so that hopefully with customs there will be no question what I am bringing into the country. I also have Imodium, a first aid kit, hello kitty band aids, some propel water packets in case we need extra nutrients with our water and melatonin which is supposed to be a natural sleep aid. Might even try it on Isabelle on the air plane.

That is it so far. I know there is so much more to get ready but somehow I am feeling so relaxed this last week before the trip. Good thing too because John called me at lunch to say it just hit him. His freak out now begins. He has less than a week to finish up the kitchen re-do he is working on. Apparently it has been going very smoothly but today he started laying out all he had left to do and started panicking. I know I can be calm and encouraging to him as he was to me during mine. God is with us.

One more great story of how God is taking care of all the details.

One of the prescriptions we got from the travel clinic was for Zithromax. In case we get travelers diarrhea. Since we are out of pocket insurance people I called around to get the best price and the cheapest I found was $40. Each. Then I wondered if I could get samples and so decided to ask a doctor at our church about it on Sunday. Well she said that although she couldn't get samples of it for us she had done travel medicine and didn't think the Zithromax was the best choice and knew of a drug that was only $4 at Target which she thought was better and had taken when she traveled to Kenya a few years ago. She called in a prescription for us. And she called in a 500mg instead of 250 for me so that John and I could share one prescription. So we went from having to spend $160 to only $12. God is taking care of all the details. We are just going along for the ride.

So Isabelle went out to clean herself up several minutes ago and I have been busy typing and not thinking about what she is doing. I just turned around to see this:

Did you catch what I am concerned about?

Looks like I will be doing a little mopping of the hardwoods this afternoon. Praise the Lord for washable paint.

I wonder what she is doing now...Better go find out.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Africa Freak Out

For the past year and a half I have been thinking about Africa, saving money for Africa, talking about Africa, reading books about Africa. I am excited to go to Africa. Africa. Africa. Africa. This is my life. And now it is 11 days away!

While I have been getting waves of panic for the past month as I have realized how close it is getting, last Monday I went into complete freak out mode. I woke up with my heart racing about the financial part of the trip and just started piling on every other detail still to be managed the rest of the morning

What is there to worry about?

Money: I worked out a perfect financial plan for John's business early this summer but his clients didn't get the memo. One decided not to sign the job, the other signed later than we wanted and a third, while pretty sure will sign is still dragging his feet. All this has put us a month behind my original plan.

Packing: I haven't even started. I need more suitcases, want to buy one new one and borrow one or two. Can't even think of how many little things I need to pick up for the trip, bug spray, shampoo, hand sanitizer, laundry soap...what if I forget something??? Plus, we won't be able to do laundry for the first 10 days we are there, do we all have at least 10 pair of underwear??? There won't be a Super Target down the road!

Medication: I haven't filled our Malaria prescription yet but found out it and the medication in case we get travelers diarrhea is going to be around $700! (see above money section).

Me: I am anticipating getting my period while we are there. The last 2 cycles have only been 3 weeks long. Should I follow suit it will come as we arrive in the village for a week of pit toilet usage. Does this sound like fun?

Isabelle: The reality of how difficult this transition is going to be for her is starting to become apparent. I was just thinking as long as we are together she will be fine but I am starting to see how much she values being at home.

General: We are leaving the country for 2-1/2 weeks. Not only have I never left the country, I have never left home in general for that long. And we are going to work, not hang out and relax together as a family. Plus to share Christ with others, something I typically want to avoid. And this is sharing with people from a totally different culture than mine. What could I possibly have to offer? Can I just stand in the corner with Isabelle and watch? Give me a task but please don't make me talk to people.

OK I think you get the idea. Freaking out. Well since this is my year of prayer, I began the day there. God is good and just assured me he had in under control. He has not taken care of us up to this point just to let us crash right at the end. I spent the day reminding myself of this fact every time another wave of panic would come.

I discovered a new relaxation method that day. Grocery shopping. I ran out before lunch leaving everyone at home and just walked up and down the aisles thinking about the food I needed and meal plans. About half way through the store I realized my body had relaxed for the first time that day. I have always hated grocery shopping so it was an amazing place for me to relax but having something to focus on besides myself, something I know and feel in control of, was just so relaxing. I am going to try to remember that the next time I don't want to grocery shop. Maybe it will keep me from waiting until the pantry is bare.

Once I got home John and I were able to discuss each item separately and realize that they were all under control. I just need to keep them spread out and not let them pile up. I so appreciated that John remained calm and positive during my freak out, it really helped me regain a proper perspective.

And God has been good. My procrastinator friends have sent us more money, putting us above our $5000 fundraising goal! I bought underwear for John and Isabelle yesterday, Jake and I still to come (we are more picky). I found out we do qualify for a bit of a discount on prescriptions, don't know how much yet but anything would be an improvement. And John met with someone about another job that if he signs should easily take care of that month we are behind. God is there. God is good.

I am also reminding myself that women in the village in Kitui also get their periods. God will give me the courage and the words to say when we get there, He has been preparing us all year. Isabelle makes friends everywhere we go and even if she does feel stressed initially she will probably adjust faster than the rest of us, and come home speaking Swahili.

I have 2 suitcases out and an entire week to begin filling them up. Now that my freak out is over the excitement of this adventure we are about to embark on is returning. I can't believe we are so close. It really is happening. It isn't a dream I just talk about forever and never actually do. I am really going to Africa. I am really going to see new things, have new experiences, share Christ love with people on the other side of the world. It is really happening!


Friday, July 24, 2009

Camp Antie Nonny; My 100th Post!

This week was camp Antie Nonny. After having 2 glorious child free days last week it was my turn to share that gift with my SIL by taking her children. Actually she wasn't child free since she has a nursing baby. I have my limitations. :)

I thought I would do a nature themed camp since it is summer and Jake was all about nature when he was little so I have plenty of books and experience with nature. I started out pretty well.

Before they arrived I had Jake set up an animal obstacle course in the backyard:

First hop like a kangaroo:

Then crawl like a bear (on blocks and paper Jake put down.):

Slide like a seal down the slide:

Walk like an elephant:

Hop like a rabbit: (I had to create a few obstacles like this since Jake was more into the animal part than the obstacle part)

Walk like a chimpanzee over to the tire swing:

And crawl like a mouse under the swing:

Throw a lawn dart at the target: (this was upsetting to Jake because there was no animal with it but I just made him add it because I felt we needed more activities with this course.)

Then run like a Cheetah back to the chair:

And give Antie your triuphant look at the end:

That was fun and entertained them for about 20 minutes but by the time John finished that final round with me photographing the girls were all in their swim suits and playing in the just filled fridgid pool. John quickly joined in.

After lunch we headed out for the big event of the day. Kayaking with Jake.

They each went out twice and I think really enjoyed it. Round 2 Sofie picked a flower from a lily pad and then they all needed one. John gave his to me. :)

They are all so cute:

To round out the nature fun we had a hot dog roast in the backyard for dinner:

After dinner we went over to a park where our church was holding VBS this week. Since we grew up going to church camps we know that camp always needs a bible lesson.

They spent the night "camping" on the floor in our basement. I had ideas of setting up the tent but by the time we got home from vbs I was just ready to be done for the night. I got the sleeping bags set up and let them watch a video in bed.

The next day I did not get the camera out once so you will just have to use your imagination.

The plan was to go over to a nature center the next morning and wander trails, discuss what we saw and draw pictures in little nature journals I had made up for them. We needed to do it in the morning so that Jake could come with and help me because he is taking a dance class 2 afternoons a week this summer. Well none of us was moving very quickly in the morning and I quickly realized I was not going to rally myself let along the rest of the campers for this project and so it was abandoned. I considered some of the books I had pulled out that I could read to them for a nature theme and did even copy a maze for John to do out of one of those books but otherwise the nature theme was abandoned on day 2 for the urban experience.

Since I hadn't run to the grocery store for a pre camp food run I was out of lunch foods. I had planned to spend no money (you know, Africa) but have no will power and so packed everyone up for McDonald's. Afterward we dropped Jake at dance class and headed over to the club to play in the pool. Sofie had requested grandma's pool but I told her at Camp Antie Nonny we have new fun adventures, we don't do the usual boring stuff. I suspect Sofie would rather do what she knows but she, along with the rest, had a great time at a new pool. They did so well that I even managed to flip through an entire magazine, something I don't usually get to do when it is just Isabelle. Afterward we were all tired from the sun, I put in a video and then relaxed for a few minutes. After the video was more playing, dinner and then their parents arrived.

I am happy to report that although Julia did not blog about it she had a lovely time while they were gone reading a whole book, making herself breakfast and eating it, shopping and having lunch out with my mom.

All in all I would say Camp Antie Nonny was a sucess. Do you think we should try a winter camp???

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Camp Aunt Julia

Last week as Jake was preparing to leave for camp several of my friends with older children had facebook status' that read something like this, "Both girls are at camp and we have a week home alone." "Just dropped the older boys at camp and the youngest is spending a week in Chicago with Grandma and grandpa."

I was feeling a little jealous/left out so I called my Sister-in-law, Julia, and suggested she have camp for Isabelle while Jake was gone and then I could have camp for her kids the following week. Well she was all about it and so I am enjoying 48 hours without Isabelle or Jake.

What to do, what to do???

My first, and main, plan was to get control of the toy situation. I started on Monday and got all the toy sorting done. Tuesday I fine tuned our family room, hung some hooks and finished up that area, organized Isabelle's bedroom with the new set of toys I am leaving in that room and organized all her craft supplies.

Sitting at her Dora table on Monday the day before camp.

I found new places for all my books on the bottom two shelves (4 different random locations throughout the house, will I ever find something again?) and moved her toys down there right at the bottom of the stairs. Good idea or bad idea, we will see.

Those 2 black shelves will be hung next to the bookcase low enough for her to reach but above the weeble castle and hello kitty box. I would normally hang those shelves but the last time they were hung John and I weren't speaking when it was done. Hopefully it will go better this time but I have been asked not to do it.

How cute is that. All set up to play house. Jake will now walk out his bedroom door each morning and immediately lay eyes on Isabelle's kitchen. Is this wrong or just preparation for dorm living?

I didn't want to leave Jake totally out of the decor so I slid a chair, tv and the gaming systems into a corner all his own. He is shopping for his own x-box 360 (we currently have taken over grandma's old x-box) and hopefully this will be an acceptable location to play it. Since Isabelle does have a princess game for the Wii she enjoys I guess it isn't totally his own.

Over the past 4 years I have carefully tried to downplay Isabelle's presence in the lower level for Jake's sake. I have kept things in one corner or stored in another room to just come out to play and then go away again. The problem is she doesn't want to play down there when her kitchen is hidden in a little storage room and she has to haul all the weebles into the family room. So then we had lots of toys in her room but they were just getting dumped out all the time because I didn't have room to store them properly. So now her room is for books, games and dolls and the family room is for everything else. I am sure everything will still end up dumped out at times but hopefully with this new system they can be more quickly sorted and put away...By Isabelle! Hopefully Jake can live with it, if not it will be just another thing he can discuss in counseling someday.

After that I dropped some stuff at goodwill, the church and with John's mom. Then I called John to see if he wanted to meet me for coffee. As we were chatting at Starbuck's we decided to run to Home Depot to pick up some supplies for another project I wanted to do, that led to the realization that it was dinner time which led to the realization that we were on a date which led to us seeing Transformers at the theater. Turns out that movies are matinee price on Tuesday all day. Who knew? We might have to move our regular Thursday date night to Tuesday!

Today I had wanted to paint more of the furniture in the gazebo but by the time the weather was ready for me to work I just wasn't feeling it. I did paint 2 more blue squares in my office, now I just have to get some green paint and complete that project. It may be taking forever but each step is rewarding and when it is done I will really appreciate it.

Here is a shot of the new blue squares. Note Isabelle's organized art supplies under the easel, do not note the other junk on the floor.

What I did end up doing was making some phone calls to the IRS, Health Insurance Company, car Insurance Co and to re-order Checks. I know it doesn't sound like fun but while I did have to work through the phone ques on most of those they all ended up to be very rewarding calls.

I found out from the IRS that we can amend our 2007 taxes and potentially get back a few thousand dollars in taxes that we over paid (very long story full of my own laziness and stupidity). I can't wait for my accountant to return from vacation tomorrow!

And from the health insurance co I found out that the guy I talked to in May about how our travel immunizations would be covered wrongly indicated that we had a $500 wellness coverage which would pay for them. However, even though it turns out to not be true they may cover it anyway. They are going to listen to our conversation to see if he mis-represented or not. I assure you he did. I would feel bad if it wasn't for the fact that in almost 10 years of coverage we have never met our deductible and therefore never had a claim paid. I feel well deserving of $2000 in benefits at this point.

I also discovered that my car insurance won't go up this fall when Jake gets his permit, it goes up with the license.

And I battled wits with the woman I ordered checks from and dodged her fast talking that almost cost me another $20 in unnecessary fraud and identity theft insurance.

I Rock! And what a relief to have finally made all those calls I was avoiding.

John is now at fire training for the next few hours and I am feeling a spa night coming on...

Monday, July 13, 2009

Not Me Monday

It is time for full confessions of all the things I would never, ever do.

This past week I did NOT hit a parked car in the target parking lot. The poor guy wasn't sitting in his car at the back of the parking lot minding his own business when I clipped the corner coming around and hit him. I didn't hop out of the car and apologize profusely to the poor guy. Since there is no way that would happen, the phone did not ring moments after I returned home with our insurance company calling to finish up the claim. After being asked if I needed the name of a repair shop I did not tell him that we would be keeping the dent. He did not then ask me if I wanted an adjuster to come out and assess the damage and just send us a check for the difference after deductible. I am NOT still in disbelief that I am being paid almost $2000 for being so stupid that I can't round an aisle at Target.

I do not already have 2 other dents on that side of the van. There is not a dent from running into John's truck while driving INTO the driveway
(I did not buff the paint out of the dent with Shakolee's At Ease and you can barely see it.)

and there is not a scratch along the side of the sliding door from driving too close to his table saw.

And there is definitely not another dent on the other side from running into John's truck while pulling OUT of the garage.

If you want to know what other people are not doing head over to MckMama's place.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Swimming Lessons

This summer I had a goal: To get Isabelle comfortable floating around in the pool with some sort of floatation device on. I did not want to spend another summer unable to sit by the side of the pool reading a book because she was terrified of the water and needed me to go in. I did not want to be choked all the while I was in the water because she was so afraid of me letting go and drowning her. To me going to the pool is all about getting a little "ME" time while my children play. This is also what I think parks are for but somehow I am involved in her life there too but I guess that is a different story...

So despite this being "the year of Africa" and not wanting to spend money on any non-essentials, I signed her up for lessons at the club I work for. Thursday will be the last of 8 lessons and I can confidently say it was money well spent. She has loved the lessons and been very comfortable in the water since lesson one(so maybe it is her age rather than the lessons but since I paid the money let's pretend it is the lessons). The instructor has been very nice and Isabelle is great at following the instructions. She particularly excels at floating on her back with her leg and arms out, the girl knows how to relax.

Since I am trying to master this new camera before the trip I brought it with to the pool today. I also played with the program it came with a little and did some cropping and other small edits. So much to learn, so little time.

Today after the lessons we hung around. I had bought a swim vest for her for this weekend and she had used it a little in the lake but never really went out deep enough to test it out. So today I put it on her and tortured her by bringing her out deep and letting go. It took some time and a little slower release than I had in mind but eventually she realized she could trust the vest and started swimming around. She still stays quite close to the edge but is making some progress.