Saturday, September 26, 2009

The prince and princess hit the Ren Fest

I feel like I have lost my blogger mojo. I was too profound about all my Africa thoughts and now apparently I feel I have nothing to say about everyday life. Not that life has come to a halt, I guess I am just enjoying it and not analyzing it. Since I didn't want to leave you all hanging I thought I would give a little update.

Jake and Britta have now been "dating", "seeing each other", "going together", "whatevering" for over a year. They don't drive yet so can you really call it dating? Even when I was a kid I thought "going together" was a strange term. Since they live 30 minutes apart they aren't really "seeing each other" much. Of course there are probably many newer terms to describe their relationship but I am not sure any of them would be right either. So lets go with dating since it is the most basic term.


Last weekend was Britta's birthday so Jake decided to spend the big money on her. He got the day off from work so he could go to the Renaissance Festival with her and then bought tickets to this fancy 7 course dinner/show while there. Of course they dressed in costume. While reading his facebook page that week I realized she was dressing as a princess with her mom busy improving a dress they bought at a second hand store. Jake on the other hand only had his peasant costume that he wore to work. So I emailed everyone I knew with any sort of costume or costume access and was able to borrow stuff to create a princely costume worthy of escorting a princess.

This weekend is the Homecoming dance. Another exciting dress up event with pictures to follow. Although I felt in a little bit of a panic earlier in the week because Jake has ever so slowly trickled information on what is happening, I was reminded by a friend a few years ahead of me to enjoy this time because it goes quickly. And so that is what I am doing today.

The group he is going with are meeting for pictures at a lovely picturesque location followed by reservations at a nice restaurant, the dance and an after party at a friends home that goes until 1:30am. I think the best part is that he has found a group of friends so wonderful that I don't have to be worried about what he will be doing. He will make good choices, his friends will make good choices. The mom hosting the after party even called me this morning to assure us they would be supervising. And this was the idea of the boys planning the event! Love this group of kids. Love seeing my son make such good choices. Love, love, love having a teenager.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Tea Party

Enjoying tea in mom's new tea cup.

Me trying to be fancy with my photography. I notice Julia does crooked pictures successfully. I think I might be too crooked but it is still cute.

Close up of the tea cup.


Isabelle saw a pancake mix at the grocery store and wanted to buy it. What-the-heck I thought and tossed it in. We have been enjoying pancakes the past few days with it but it has gotten me thinking about the simple life. On the one hand pancake mix is incredibly simple. Add water to mix and pour on the skillet. Voila pancakes. So simple. But really are pancakes that complicated? Add water, flour, sugar, oil and an egg an you have pancake mix. We are talking about another minute of work. Why are we simplifying already simple tasks?


I am already bored with pre-school work stuff. See how easily I am distracted. Of course the fact that Isabelle wants to plan the curriculum might have something to do with my frustration. It is time to abandon the more structured stuff for the learning activities I am so much better at. Today we are weeding the garden. I am sure there will be some opportunities to learn something in there.

She LOVED the nature center program she did on Tuesday. Another child in love with animals. Apparently she kept telling the people about animals she saw in Africa and they thought she was just making it up as 4 year olds tend to do. No we assured them, she really had seen all those animals in Africa. Ha ha. I suppose they don't get that very often!


If you haven't seen enough of my Africa pictures I put 646 pictures onto a shutterfly web site. You can click here to see them.

Friday, September 11, 2009

What is my responsibility?

Someone asked John when we got home if we felt "guilty" about our life now that we are back. Interesting question. One I might have asked someone that had gone. One I thought I would have answered "yes" to before the trip. But guilty is the wrong word. Do I feel guilty that I have a toilet, water, food, education for my children, a home with more than one room, excellent health care, sanitary living conditions, a car, drive on smooth roads and interstates that can safely carry me all over the Twin Cities and the country. And best of all know that everyone in my extended family, friends and people of my community are enjoying those same luxuries. Do I feel guilty about all of that? It is what the people of Kitui dream of, should I feel guilty for having what they want? Maybe some would, but I don't. Yet there is a feeling. I feel very blessed by being born in this country and having the life I live today. I did before and more so now. But that isn't the right word either. It doesn't encompass my feelings about the people of Kenya and the poverty I saw. I believe the word for how I feel is "responsible".

I feel responsible to use my wealth appropriately. Responsible to look outside myself and see the rest of the world. Responsible to help those in need. Responsible to give more of my time, talents and, yes, money. Of course these aren't new thoughts. I have always wanted to be able to do that, but I don't always do that. I often want to give more. I hear of needs among friends, I meet missionaries in need of funding, friends going on missions trips, needs in Kenya.

I want to be generous but we live our lives thinking and planning for our needs only, not others. I want to wear a better brand of clothes, get my hair done more often, take more trips. I want a shed in my backyard, new siding on the house, professionally designed landscaping, a bigger master bathroom,... Because I want those things I will plan for them, save for them and someday have them. But do I plan to help others? Yes I give to my Church but I am talking beyond that.

The word for how I feel is "Responsible" and the question I keep asking myself is, "Am I using my wealth responsibly?"

Sitting in her living room.

Standing in front of the home where she is raising 7 children.

Entertaining guests on the "front porch".

The bathroom

Growing up in the slums.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Home via London

You don't think you have heard the last about this trip do you?

We had a 7-1/2 hour layover in London on the way back from Africa. Before we left John and I were researching the possibility that we could run into London for a few hours during our layover. While many people who had been there said it couldn't be done the internet assured us it could be and we would not be detered. We aren't world travelers, we won't be getting back to London for many years if ever, this was our chance. I didn't necessarily want to go tour a museum I just wanted to get into town, breath the London air, eat some food and get back to the airport.

Ultimately we decided that we would make Westminster our main priority. One other family on our team also went into town. They had lived there previously and said London has great signs and it was easy to get around and hard to get lost. After getting to Westminster together we decided to part. They wanted to go inside, we just wanted to look around they city. Already in the train ride to town we had spent about half of what we spent during the 2 weeks in Kenya and the cost to get inside Westminster is pretty high. The outside was very impressive. Actually Westminster Abbey which is next to it was impressive and until we got around the corner we thought that was the main attraction. The abbey was free to go into so we did get a little peak at what it might be like.

After parting from the other part of our group I saw a sign for Buckingham Palace and thought it would be a great second stop on the tour. It turned out to be quit a long walk but a great one. We made a few wrong turns sending us down charming streets that are just what your London dreams are made of, cute shops, brick roads, flowers and beautiful architecture. Of course we were thrilled to see a familiar sight in Starbucks and couldn't pass by without getting a little morning treat. It was a good thing. Everywhere we turned there was another fabulous thing beatiful scenery, gardens, statues and architecture, we finally had to take the camera from Jake because he couldn't stop snapping pictures of everything he saw.

We arrived from the back of the Palace and I saw a gift shop. I went in intending to just get a little $5 trinket but then I saw it. The royal china. I HAD to have a tea cup. Didn't I? Can you imagine a reason why I would not spend what turned out to be almost $60 after the exchange rate was calculated on a tea cup in London? Neither could I! Fabulous. My biggest regret is that I didn't buy 2. Isabelle was asleep in the backpack when I bought it but claimed it as her own as soon as she woke up and discovered it. Around the corner from the gift shop was the main gate to Buckingham Palace. Beautiful, exciting, thrilling. Breathing the air, pinching myself that on top of everything else we have just experienced we are now in London seeing all its amazing sights. Trying not to dwell on the extreme differences in locations.

I thought we might feel like crazy tourists walking with a camera around our neck and a child on John's back but on a Saturday morning in London apparently Everyone is a tourist. We were not alone with a camera around our neck walking the streets, I think we actually would have been out of place without one. If we had another 30 minutes I might have tried to drag my family another 1/2 mile to Harrod's but we decided it was just too far to risk missing our flight. We walked back through St. James Park. It was, again, a perfect English experience. We got back to our train station which was across the street from the big Museum there, forget the name, and the big ferris wheel they call "the London Eye". We grabbed a bite to eat at Quiznos (not exactly the pub food I was hoping for) and made it back to the gate moments before they started boarding. The best way to spend a 7-1/2 hour layover if you ever get a chance.

The pictures are in reverse order of our experience so if you really want to re-live it with us you have to start at the bottom. I forget Blogger does that and always download in order. Silly me.

This is actually a second Starbucks we saw on the way back to the train station. Note Isabelle has taken over possesion of my fabulous tea cup.

The Second Day of School

Somehow I got distracted by the excitement of meeting a friend for coffee on the first day of school and so never photographed Jake on his first day of high school. And being the morning person that I am, I was asleep when he left for his second day of school. So I guess that means I will be accosting him when he gets home today so I can document this ever so special second day of 10th grade. Thus you will all have to be a happy with a picture of my precious son on his first day working at the Renaissance Festival this year.

Jake has a busy and full year ahead of him. He is taking AP European History and advanced Language Arts. We decided he was probably not going to have a career in the sciences so he is taking regular Chemistry and FST(Function,Statistics, Trigonometry). He also decided one language wasn't enough so he added Chinese to his Spanish language class. Now this would fill a normal persons schedule but his school offers a zero hour class so you can go in early and take yet another class in case that is too easy for you. Both John and I agree we would never have even considered this option yet Jake never considered not taking a zero hour class. This gave him the ability to add Creative Food to his class schedule. I guess it is good to have one fun class. Next semester will be weight lifting.

Now you might think he would be rushing home to get started on all that homework but no. He tried out for the fall musical. Unfortunately he didn't get in (he is a great actor but still learning to sing), so he is going to be on the tech crew which I learned yesterday means he won't be home until 5pm each night. THEN, straight to homework followed by x-box.

The beauty of high school, I discovered last year, is that I am no longer involved in the day to day of his education, I simply remind him to do homework, try to get him to bed at a somewhat decent hour and occasionally check his grade online to make sure he is making it happen. Oh all those years of hard work are finally starting to pay off. Loving it!

Isabelle is not in school. She will start Kindergarten next year and at this point I am confident she will be going somewhere (I am crossing my fingers for french immersion) and I will not be homeschooling her. However, I have no desire to send her to a structured pre-school. Actually I have mixed feelings about pre-school in general. What is wrong with just playing and having fun until you are in 1st grade? Why put so much pressure on kids and parents to learn at such a young age? And don't get my started on the word "socialized". That said, Isabelle is interested in learning and I do believe in learning activities so I guess we are sort of combining them this year in a very loose, casual, unstructured way. The only way I like to do things.

Isabelle couldn't wait to do "school" this morning after I proposed it to her. As with everything it ended up being a mixture of things I thought of while laying in bed this morning and things I came up with while we were sitting there. I remembered as we were walking into the office that I still had the school calendar I used when homeschooling Jake. I felt like a rock star knowing exactly where I have been storing it for the past 7 years and pulling it right out. Isabelle enjoyed looking at it and putting one of the weather cards for today in the slot. We also practiced writing the number 1 and the letter A, made apple muffins (for "A"), tried a little addition (not ready), visited the library and painted. She loved every moment and wants to do more but it is time for mommy to get a break. We have all year to do this stuff.

I did sign her up for a drop off class at the nature center on Tuesday afternoons. We are signed up for the next 3 Tuesday afternoons and if we like it can sign up for the rest of the year. At only $7/week and 3 miles from our home it seemed like a no brainer. This is similar to the program Jake went to when he was in pre-school and I needed a couple hours a sanity in my homeschooling days. He loved it and I am sure she will too.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Fall Plans

I like to look ahead. I like to plan. I like to set goals.

Normally August is my planning month for the fall. I think in some unconscious way knowing that I would not have my planning month this year was part of my pre-trip panic attack. Yet I knew it would be futile to plan ahead. I didn't know how God would speak to me on the trip and where he would lead me when we got home. Something that was evident on the trip. I had decided to keep my little 7 hour a week job and told my boss to put me on the fall schedule before we left. Yet within days of being in Africa I knew I should quit the job which is exactly what I did when we got home.

As we have been home and have been processing our experience and wondering what is next for us I have had an unusual experience. I am blank. I have no idea what to do next. Yet I feel so peaceful about it. I have no fall plans. Isabelle isn't going to pre-school. I am not working. I am not in charge of any ministries at church. I am free to simply get up each morning, focus on my family, spend time during the day with Isabelle and be a homemaker.

You don't realize how busy your life can become until you come to a point where all your activities are gone. I did sign up this fall for a morning bible study with a friend. I have done many morning bible studies over the years but as I thought back I realized it has been 6 or 7 years since I have done one. One day I was a homemaker with my son in school all day and plenty of time to be active in bible studies and ministries while still having time for myself, my home and family. The next day I am driving my son 30 minute across town for school 3 days a week and supervising his online education the other 2, managing a commercial rental property, selling a commercial rental property, adopting a newborn baby, helping start a new church, heading up a women's ministry, leading the vestry, helping my husband run a business, close a business and then re-open a business with a new focus, getting a job, saving money for Africa and flying across the world. Someone stop the ride I want to get off!

While I have loved every single thing I have done over the last several years I am so excited for a fall of doing nothing. A fall to spend with my family encouraging their growth, teaching Isabelle, feeding and nurturing them. A fall to spend in my home working on long ignored projects, cleaning lost closets. A fall to spend with friends and extended family drinking lots of coffee, visiting lots of parks, sharing meals and stories and laughter and love. A fall to just stop and listen to God. To learn and grow as he prepares me for whatever is next in my life.

I would love to know what is next, I want to write it in my notebook, think about how I will make it work in my life, put it on the calendar, set goals around it. But that is not what God has for me right now. Sure I have ideas of what I might do next. Some dreams I have had for years, some new ideas, some that are so big they scare me. Maybe one of those ideas will be where God leads me next or maybe there is something entirely new in my future. For now I am looking forward to a fall of renewal and grateful for the opportunity I have to spend it caring for the people I love.