Friday, December 31, 2010


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look what we made and FINALLY got around to hanging on our wall. And J did not fail us on his quest for a cork board in town. After gathering some pictures, yarn, fabric, paper, and a few thumbtacks (harder to come by then one would think) we picked a high traffic area (but one that avoids the steamy chaotic mess of the kitchen) and hung it up. We settled on the hallway just outside the kitchen and; of course, low enough for little eyes to see (but high enough to aviod Miss Evy's path of destruction).

Our Loved Ones Map. Where you are and how we miss you so. It serves as a reminder that you are with us here too. We tell stories about the time you said "this" or we went "there" together and we can pray for you because distance does not have to mean we forget.

PS. Please send us a picture of YOU so we can include you too!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

just saying

....I think it helped! J checked first thing this morning to see if Illinois won last night. I could really care less about most sports but since this involved dressing Evy up in cute clothes I was game (pun intended). Plus, we are always Auntie Katy fans (we think we saw you on the little downloaded highlight reel we got)!!!
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Meet our lil' Illini fan.

and for all those Illinois fans out there.....I-L-L.......go on resist...I dare you......

tea party

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A rainy morning meant a welcome quiet day at home for us girls (Anni goes back to school next week and our vocational school is closed this week in preparation for the big grand opening celebration next week). With all our free time we decided it was absolutely necessary to throw a tea party. First, there was the invitations, the attire, the pudding, the cookies, the juice, and the music to attend to. And then there was dressing, accessorizing, dancing, sipping, tasting, sharing, and giggling. Yep, we embrace our girly-ness around here.
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we are still not sure who invited the naked party crasher?
Happy Tea Party!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Our first pinata was a success! I was inspired after seeing a friend's awesome turkey pinata and decided we could do that! I documented every step since I must say we were (ok I was) pretty proud it worked out. My formerly urban self is getting craftier by the minute and I must say to all those who are thinking "that looks too intimidating" (or am I the only one?) just try it! Really the mess is half the fun!! And we used only things we had around the house (newspaper, flour, water, a toliet paper tube, balloons, paint, ribbon, yarn, and bought some bags of candy to fill it.
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We choose Angel if for no other reason then to finally convince Miss Annikah Joy it was an angel who came to announce to Mary that she would bear a son NOT a fairy as is oft mentioned in the retelling by aforementioned fairy loving girly-girl. What I did not account for was humidity here and that the pinata would take almost 48 hours to dry. Luckily we started it on Christmas Eve morning so by the 26th we were painting, decorating, and finally whacking away. Anni was a huge fan of the decorating part and I gave her complete creative license. Thus, our angel had a necklace, pink pieces of hair, a purple and blue robe, and lots of glitter. She said his smile is "a little silly cuz that is how God made him."
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the watoto wadogo got first hit
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then after 3 rounds and Mika breaking it open Jason could not resist taking his swing
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and the best part...
I think we stumbled on a new family tradition....

Monday, December 27, 2010

our Christmas in pictures....

On Christmas Eve our house soon became visiting central (we thought we might get a break after the party but actually I think people knew it was our siku kuu and what do you do on special holidays? VISIT!). But amidst the chaos we made lots of cookies, ice cream, a pinata (pics to come), and sat with those who stopped by to chat. One girlfriend even came over and asked me to join her at a wedding later in the day (I politely turned down the invitation :) explaining that we would celebrate at home for Krismasi.
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cookie making in what can only be described as "the oven" of our kitchen. But worth every drip of sweat!
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On Christmas morning we left the house at 6:40 am to attend a local church with the family that lives with us. The small, unfinished building was dark, dusty, and incredibly hot but it was awesome to be among those here following Him and celebrating His birth. The walls were decorated with bright kangas and handmade fabric flags adorned the ceiling and everyone was decked out in their best attire. Even though the number of people celebrating Christmas is very small here we felt part of the "church" worldwide. Pretty amazing.
everyone in their Krismasi best
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After getting home we decided we need to escape our house and get some family time so we headed out and drove around for a bit blaring Christmas music, singing, and enjoying the AC in our car. Now that I type that it sounds really lame but for us seriously it was a blast. Then we headed to a hotel to swim and have lunch. Swimming on Christmas is fast becoming a tradition and we embrace it completely.
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this is how I felt about eating out too!
We also got to Skype with family and open a few gifts (we are still awaiting some packages too...yeah!). There were some tears (mostly from me).... We love you all and miss you so.
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We locked ourselves in the only room with AC, pumped it until we were adequately chilled, ate home made ice cream and cookies, and watched Christmas movies.
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And we read the story of Christmas: of the miracles, of the danger, of the fulfillment, of the rejoicing, of the worhsip, and of the joy. And then we opened the bag to reveal baby Jesus. Great Krismasi.
a glimpse of church here.....

And Anni getting her Krismasi on......and you see why we silenced the cheap lights we bought here after one day

Friday, December 24, 2010

tumesherekea. kabisa.

We celebrated. Without a doubt it was ridiculous and complete chaos. Paula stopped counting after 85 people arrived (although it seemed to me there were at least that many children:). But after everything was over; the last package of pilau given out, the last mat swept off and folded up, the last watoto shooed away, and all the dirty dishes staked carefully we got the girls in bed and finally sat down, had a cold soda, and talked. We decided it was crazy chaos to be sure but not the kind that makes you want to bang your head against the wall just the kind that requires you to fall into bed with sheer exhaustion. It was the best party we have had yet! Or at least that is our review...we'll have to make our rounds this week and ask our friends how it went. So far this morning 4 neighbors have already stopped by (the first at 6:45AM!) and early reviews say it was a great shindig (and they will tell you if it was not, trust me). Although we did get pointers that we should have had plain white rice for those who don't eat pilau or meat (we did not even know that was possible here) and we ran out of drinks (120 bottles was not enough) but live and learn.

The day started with epic henna (I say epic because it took about 3 hours longer than expected) but by 3pm even Lusi and Anni were henned up and ready to party! People started to trickle in and bring their mats about 5pm. We had games and face painting for the kids thanks to the help of some team members (Asante!!). The shule watoto did get the courage to sing and I was pretty crazy proud of them. The kids all hunted for treasure hidden in the shamba. Jason's good friend MC'd, we both gave little speeches, and Jason prayed before we ate together. The eating itself was pretty impressive and my girlfriends get Rock Star awards for organizing everyone, helping with hand washing, set up, distributing the hot sauce, and clean up. Yeah, it was as insane as it sounds. After everyone was throughly stuffed Jason set the projector and laptop up to show the sinema bubu (my new FAVORITE Kiswahili words- silent film or literally "mute cinema"; isn't that great!) which was really just a PowerPoint of pictures. But sounds WAY cooler when you say sinema bubu! There were a few pictures of our pre-island life: our families in America (everyone gasped when they saw our grandparents and we told them how old they are-they loved it), my classroom and students in Chicago, the city, Jason pre-beard and working in an office, and the biggest hit of all; SNOW (for many this was just a wild Wazungu rumor until now and they LOVED a short clip of us sledding in REAL hard core MidWestern winter). Then we showed about 20 minutes of pictures we have taken of all of them over the last 2 years. This was by far my favorite part just looking around at everyone smiling and laughing and pointing to each other when their pictures came up. There was uproarious laughter as each picture flashed across the wall and even though there were over 200 pictures that never got old. After giving out the last of the cookies and food everyone made their way back home in the dark. Lots of smiles, thanks, and "God will bless you" wishes. It was a lot of work and we are hoping for some quieter days ahead but celebrating with everyone and sharing the Joy we have at Christmas blessed us and we pray our neighbors and friends as well.
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the ladies chatting
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the girls were awesome during the party...we were so grateful! Anni sat with all the other kids and scooped pilau into her mouth with her hand. She had a blast!
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face painting was a HUGE hit!
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the man folk
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treasure hunt tasks to get the map
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the girls actually looked at the map instead of just running through the shamba so they were the ones to actually find the correct banana tree and begin digging for the treasure! Go girls!!
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Yes, sweet, sweet full of candy and treats
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chakula time!
men eating
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sinema bubu watching

Merry Christmas from our little island to you and yours, where ever you are this Christmas may it be filled with Love, Peace, and Joy that only Christ brings.

Thursday, December 23, 2010


While I have been known to lament how we miss the red cup and how we long for a sled riding day with family or a stroll on Michigan Avenue with twinkling lights aglow I must say living here is a gift. For many reasons.

We get to do Christmas on our terms. No competing messages of buy, consume, look better, get more. No guilt about what you "should" be doing or buying or cooking. While we will always miss a good stroll through a decorated mall just before Christmas I have realized that stuff can drown out the real longings of our souls. That may sound trite but for me it really is true. Here we cannot rely on anything external to "get us in the Christmas mood" and really nothing besides time reflecting on the gift of Jesus should be able to do that. For me being here can either be a sad time of missing family and friends and all things familiar or I can choose to believe God knows what He is doing. That there is much for me to learn. Much sweetness and joy for our family waiting for us to grab hold. Much for me to cherish about being here for Christmas.

Christmas is not about what you get or even give. If there are glittery decorations everywhere and holiday music playing or none at all. Whether or not there is snow outside or sweat inducing heat. No, it is about the Creator of the universe deciding to come rescue His creation through a small baby born in difficult circumstances in an obscure part of the world. And that is the miracle. Worthy of joy, contemplation, anticipation, gratefulness, and celebration. And with very little hype here we are forced to really think about what that means. For us. For the world. We will celebrate with our friends and neighbors today at our home (and are praying the power comes back on as right now I am writing using precious generator time and we made a sideshow of pictures we want to share with everyone). We will play games, eat pilau off communal plates, and share in celebrating Krismasi, Evy's first Birthday, and the shule watoto (they will sing if they get the courage!). Yesterday was all preparation; we brought 25 kilos of rice, 9 kilos of meat, too many veggies to count, 100 packages of cookies, 100 bottles of juice, and so many spices our entire house smelled like cumin and cinnamon last night. Celebrating with our neighbors is quickly becoming a tradition for us and we pray it will be a time of sharing and laughing and loving and eating and Joy.
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Anni & the kids from shule decorated the invites..I love that the people are wearing kofia (the men's hats) and headcoverings in all Anni's drawings
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party prep is exhausting...just ask Evy
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And I am finally getting around to sharing our new family tradition. I decided a while ago we needed an advent calendar up in here. And we knew one mailed from the states would more likely have globs of melted chocolate than angels behind each door once it reached us. Nope, we had to make do with what we have here. First I stole some of a friend's idea and made it our own (partial theft is actually how most of my crafty ideas originate) and went to work on creating small bags made out of kanga (the cheap local fabric that is used for everything and anything). I sewed small varied shapes of ornaments and then took the Christmas story in Luke into chunks for each day and wrote some questions and prayers. Using those verses I made little people, symbols, words, etc for each day and sewed (and hot glued when I got tired...which was about after 3) them on the ornaments I stuffed with local cotton. Then I hid each ornament in a bag and Anni wrote the numbers of the days and we attached them to each bag. Every day we search for the correct number, open the bag, reveal the ornament, guess about the part of the story we will hear today, read it together, answer questions, pray, and get chocolate! We started a bit late so around these parts baby Jesus may not make his appearance until the 27th or 28th but we are loving our advent calendar. Especially Miss Annikah who never allows us to forget to hang the ornament on a local craft tree made from banana leaves I bought in town and then quickly consumes her two M&M's (searched out and bought specially for the occasion). It is a sweet reminder of the anticipation and excitement of God with Us, of the miracle, of the Joy, of Krismasi. advent calendar, shule party prep adn bags 039.jpgedit
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Krismasi Njema!!