Wednesday, August 31, 2011

our five year old.

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opening special presents selected with love by the best Papa around.
Happy Birthday Anni Joy. You are...well....awesome and we are privileged to get to be a part of your journey. We are so proud of the little girl you are and the big girl you are becoming.
We love you Annikah Joy. xoxox, Mama & Papa

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Big girl time!

Last minute Sunday morning I decided I needed to flee the island. And Jason seconded the thought. I guess it was a build up of when J was gone, Ramadan, unending needs, and general weariness. I needed a break. Like the kind of break where you can wear pants and no head covering, eat Western foods, and NOT be "Mama Annikah" for just a day. I also knew Eid was coming and there was tons of visiting and an obscene amount of baking in my future and a day of down time before all that sounded too good to be true. We also needed to check in at the social welfare office and follow up on a letter that we never received. I invited Annikah to join me since she had no school and I thought it would be fun bonding time just for us to celebrate her birthday. She loves traveling and was all about a couple days of "big girl time" even if it meant riding the puke boat and waiting in an office all day.


We had a great time together and I remembered that Anni is amazingly fun to hang out with. Us girls lived it up! We rode tuk-tuks, chilled at playgrounds, shopped at a real grocery type store, ate out, painted toenails, and stayed up late telling tales, making faces, and giggling. I was super pumped about getting an iced mocha at a coffee shop there but their espresso machine was busted. But I was committed to reading my book while sipping some sugary caffeine goodness and I am a resourceful girl. In a stroke of genius or an act of desperation I found another restaurant that did have an espresso machine that was working and then brought my shot into the coffee shop and begged them to fix the iced mocha. Every employee in the joint was laughing at me but I simply explained that we Americans like our coffee. They all agreed, made me my drink, and I was one happy Mzungu.

Anni got a special free birthday meal at our fav South African chain restaurant and at the whole staff came and sung Happy Birthday to her. I watched my little 5 year old be shy and embarrassed but at the same time loving the attention (she is truly a mix of J and I) and I had tears in my eyes thinking about what an amazing kid she is and that it is pure blessing that I get to be her Mama. Just being together without an adorable (but demanding) toddler or the chaos of needs at our home reminded what an amazingly sweet, kind, hilarious, patient (she rode the dala dala for over an hour, walked a mile, and waited in the office for 2 hours without complaining once....and Yep......I'm bragging), and amazing little girl we have. I needed this time just with Anni.

I almost forgot we were in East Africa until we got in the taxi to head to the airport and the car was literally smoking. We were assured during the four stops along the way to pour some unknown liquid in the fuel tank that everything was fine and although a smoking taxi does not inspire confidence a few years here has taught me to trust...inshallah... it will work out. After the fifth stop even our driver gave up and flagged down a friend who offered to take us and our stuff the rest of the way. They had extra room in the car even though they had just picked up a goat to slaughter the next day for Eid so we piled in with our bag. And us and the goat happily rode the rest of the way to the airport. We arrived 10 minutes before our flight and still made it!

We had so much fun just exploring and hanging out together and I cannot help but want to hit the pause button on these moments.
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Big girl time will definitely be in the works again!

Monday, August 29, 2011

around here siku hizi....

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siku hizi.....means "these days" and I especially love this oft used phrase because when said really fast it sounds like "squeezy." Always makes me giggle. And I thought I would post some recent pictures of visits with friends. It is almost siku kuu and anyone who reads this blog knows that means it is time to party here!! Ramadan is just a few short days and a moon sighting away from being over. Everything about life here is different during Ramadan. It is hard to describe I guess but life just changes for one month. Completely. We have been visiting and hanging with folks a lot since no eating during daylight hours does give everyone lots of time to hang out. But not this week. This week is crazy busy with a swirl of buying and making new clothes, gathering and cooking special foods, and preparing for 4 days of celebrating Eid. Think week of Christmas chaos only with no snow, roosters crowing instead of Christmas music playing, visiting everyone you know, and shopping and eating at the market all night long. But I am ready....or as ready as one can be for impending chaos.....
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Annikah and the band of watoto that seem to follow us around everywhere (one stowing away in my car without me knowing and hiding for 2 hours...yeah I almost had a panic attack when we discovered her!) have joined us on several visits. I am never really sure how every outing turns into a parade of people and a smash of bodies cramming into our car but that is life.
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The kids all love holding the njiwa which literally tranlates to dove but these birds look more like peigeons to me. Nonetheless, two little girls I know LOVE them and any chance they get to go visit the house with the birds they are there!
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shule,anni and Lusi, painting, evy 026.jpgedit
Evy with "my baby girl"...she is getting big!!

Also, I am thanking God because he heals. Even when I ask for healing in my doubt and I am blessed to get to see His hand work. A little girl we often visit was sick again last week and we went to be with their family because that is what you do here. On our visit I asked the mother if I could pray for the little girl since she had not eaten or drunk anything in 4 days. She said I could and then after going back a day later to check in she is doing much better!
Here comes Eid & Annikah's 5th Bday...exciting times!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

mapacha

..means twins and both my children seem to have one these days. Whether it is "cooking" together (pretty impressive little local cooking stove the older kids set up with coral rock and an old tin can), playing house or school, chasing each other, dressing up, taking care of babies, pestering chickens, finding and collecting sticks, coconut husks, and rocks, picking passion fruit, or general silliness they always keep busy.
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I'll say it again.... the stuff of childhood grows well here.

Friday, August 26, 2011

bugs rule!

Just ask these kids......

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Thursday, August 25, 2011

big plans...

Miss Anni has some for her coming birthday. Turning five AND the end of Ramadan are big reasons to celebrate and we are planning people! I cannot believe my firstborn is already five. As I say often sometimes the days go by so slowly but the years seem to fly be. Anni Joy has decided her party this year will be the best Barbie Island Princess party EVER thrown here (and probably safe to say only). But still we like to dream big. And although I am not a girly girl I must say I usually appreciate the Barbie stories and movies over anything Disney Princess since at least the main characters seem to have more aspirations in life than marrying the handsome stranger and singing to animals about said handsome stranger. And this Mama was happy she did chose an "island" theme- should not be too hard to pull off since coconuts and shells abound around here and mangoes are cheaper than ever. Plus, amazingly the only other American family we know close by happened to have the movie, the doll, and the book which are being studied daily for inspiration at our house. The "Barbie in a cake" might be a little harder for this Mama to tackle but I will try (and that is what You Tube is for right?). Here is some of the preparation in the works....

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This fabric is at the local sewing fundi being transformed into a blingy dress thanks to some money Bibi sent and we stashed away for just such an occasion (and bonus= ridiculous fancy dress up dresses are PERFECT for Eid celebrations here)
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what would a party be without invites? Each with a specially selected shell and addressed by Miss A.

Since Anni's school will be closed for the end of Ramadan and Eid she got to celebrate early with her class. Here is everyone showing of their candy and pens today....Anni got to dress up and wore a special crown her teacher made for her (she is the barely visible Mzungu in the middle:)...Yeah!
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Just the beginning of the Bday festivities y'all......more of the Barbie birthday party of the year to come......

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

"I have two birthdays!"

nnikah is telling everyone she can about this fact. She has been asking a lot of questions over the past few months and I have overheard many a deep spiritual discussions while J is putting her to bed like "How can God be in heaven but still hear me?" "Why can't I see Jesus?" "How does He know when I pray?" It is pretty amazing that she is really processing this stuff in her four year old heart and mind. Of course right now, J and I are the authorities in her life. I am overwhelmed when I think about how much she trusts us, how much she needs us but I also know how good He is and how much He has given us to share with her. I also know for certain there will be many days she will test us, distance from us, disobey us and that too is part of her path. (memo to self) I need to trust my Father with all of that too. She prays and sees answers and she believes and she wants to follow Jesus. That is amazing.


We have been reading this Bible storybook to her every night and I must say I am usually not a fan of Children's story books that make Jonah getting swallowed by a fish seem like a fun adventure or leaves out the carnage brought by God and only focuses on Noah and his boat-o-fun animal friends. And do not even get me started about everyone always being white in all the pictures....I digress. But I must say we love this version and have enjoyed reading it together. It asks questions, it allows some stories to be sad because, well, they are, and points to God's BIG plan from the beginning.

So if you ask her these days "how many birthdays do you have?" she will susinctly report two. Ask why and you will hear something like....
"because once I was in my Mama's tummy and then I came out of my Mama's vagina and that was one birthday and then when I growed up I choose to follow Jesus and I had another birthday"
First, can I just say I love how her answer always somehow includes mention of my girly bits. Second, I adore that she is already "growed up." It was July 7th and we will always remember that because it was our 10 year anniversary. A really special day. The day Annikah Joy chose to follow Jesus.

God regenerates and changes hearts one by one and although we see faith as important in our family and central to how we can love and forgive and thrive we knew that our children must choose for themselves who they will follow. Anni has faith like a child and although the world may discount that Jesus valued it highly. She prays and sees answers and she believes and she has begun a journey that while difficult is amazingly rich in blessing. She wants a relationship with the God of the universe and her creator.
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After her tearful prayer and lots of talking we took some pictures (at Jason's request because he always wished he had a picture of that moment in his life) and then I suggested we plan a birthday party of sorts since she loves the story of Nicodemus being born a second time. The party was an after thought to make sure no bribing was involved of course but once it was suggested that we mark this special occasion with a little family celebration she was pumped!
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first there were decorations......pictures of Jesus healing a man... "because he rubbed some dirt in his face," smiling hearts "becuase Jesus loves hearts", and pink houses "because I like pink and purple houses" and "our family because we love God."
And what is a party without cake?... a pink cake because "Jesus loves pink cake" apparently.
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It is an amazing privilege to watch our precious little girl choose for herself this day who she will follow. We are celebrating new life!!

Monday, August 22, 2011

singing & dancing girls

So I have had these videos for-EVER but have not had internet long enough to upload but all that changed yesterday!

Miss Anni sings the Kiswahili equivalent to "99 bottles of beer on the wall" only it is only bottles. No beer people....forbidden. But one must understand for full enjoyment of this video that
chupa= bottle and chupi= undies


the girl does not appreciate us laughing for sure. I love that she whips out the booboo face and crossed arms in a matter of seconds.

And Miss Evy is quite the dancer. Anywhere, anytime, any music she hears...she....MUST ...dance! This is a string of videos but worship music to Lady Gaga the kid has got moves!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Papa is back!!

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...and when Papa is gone we miss him so. There are 3 very excited ladies in the house right now because Papa made it home safe! And he brought with him gifts including but not limited to a new play tent for Anni and co., new chupis for me, and a REAL turkey Subway sandwich from the Muscat airport!! We are oh so happy he is back!!
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Thursday, August 18, 2011

reminders of grace

I am in a better place these days. Maybe it is because I had a chance to vent and cry and talk and pray with a sister here. Maybe it is because the social worker is finally answering her phone and while she still has no answer at least I can celebrate some communication...small steps. Maybe it is because I had a great day with 4 South Africans that are here on vacation and volunteered to give up a day of precious beach time to come to my house and treat and buy medicines for the stream of our neighbors who heard a few Wazungu doctors were around. Maybe it is because after 2 funerals in 3 days I had a great visit out in a village with kids climbing trees and chasing chickens and I remembered there is a lot about this place I love. Maybe it is because I took a few days to fast ('tis the season after all) and it allowed me to put my focus where it should be. Maybe it is because J is on a plane as I type and I miss him. A lot.

Mostly though I think I just needed a few days and a few reminders that what I see is not all there is. God is good and His ways are not my ways and I am always thankful for reminders of His grace where ever they can be found. And although my feelings often take over and reduce me to a whiny and blobbering mess I know that His timing is right. I was so encouraged through friends, a call from J, a conversation with a woman at the hospital, a comment here from a stranger in cyberspace, a dream about a friend here, even a cheesy email forward that I usually delete before reading the subject line. God works in the infinite and the seemingly finite.

Yesterday I spent nearly 6 hours at a clinic with my friend who is pregnant. Two days ago I woke up in the early morning hours with this overwhelming feeling I had to pray for her. That morning I got in the car and drove to see her because she was still on my heart. She was not there but I met her husband who said she had been sick and feeling really bad since the night before and we made plans to take her to the hospital the next day. Long story short I decided that instead of waiting all day at the government hospital where you may or may not be seen and if you are seen you may or may not be actually examined and then you may or may not be given the correct diagnosis or medicines we would try to go see this Russian doctor who everyone says is great at treating women. I called and she had just arrived back in the country and would see us! We got on the list and waited and waited while people came in to the clinic with various ailments. One man with a wound on his foot that had obviously been bleeding terribly for hours and as I watched him limp in and drench the floor where we were waiting with his blood I thought about how much God has protected me from that I am completely unaware of. How many times His hand has been over situations for my children and family and how many times I have focused only on the stuff that could be better instead of the stuff that is a gift. After a consultation and 6 different tests we found out my friend does in fact have some issues that without treatment can affect her health later and the health of her pregnancy. She apologized many times for taking so much of my time and that it was “pesa nyingi” (a lot of money…which in the end all in all cost about 26 dollars with medicines included). She thanked me again and again and called a friend to say she had received such good care. I explained that truly God had provided and we should only thank Him. And we did. I drove her home and we explained everything to her husband. We made plans to go back to the clinic in 2 weeks for a recheck. As we were talking she grabbed my hand in sincere thanks. That made everything worth it. It was a good day. When you feeling stuck in your head and sorry for yourself I highly recommend stepping out and loving someone else in the midst of their hurt. It helps and it heals and it reminded me I have so much to be grateful for and that I do have so much joy to share. God is good and faithful even when I am a whiny sad mess. And this adoption journey is still completely on hold and out of my control and I will walk through it even though I would rather hold my breath and run. I will trust there are gifts waiting to be opened and invaluable lessons to be learned along the way. His ways are higher than mine, His thoughts higher than mine. A good reminder of Grace that came just at the right time.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

outnumbered..

prison island with doro and kids, evy with austria shirt 048.jpgedit
.....is what we were for sure when Doro and I took our broad of 6 children to this place. Again. I know, I know more pics of the small island a boat ride away that hosts us for the never-gets-old joys of sand castle building, shell and starfish hunting, and turtle watching. We needed a day away from the house and during Ramadan your options are severely limited so over the weekend we decided to flee and take a boat for a day trip together since our hubbies are enjoying the comforts of the first world (not that we are bitter or anything:). It was a great day (if you do not count the first hour and a half that both my girls screamed and cried without ceasing due to a sunscreen in their eyes incident). Fun in the sun never gets old.....
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fun at the beach .....except the 2 on the left due to aforementioned sunscreen in the eyes incident
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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

girly time

So us ladies did what any respectable girls would do when left to their own devices without any Papa around.....we got glammed up, slathered some pink icing on anything in the joint, invited a friend, and had a tea party!

anni at tea
evy at tea party
but we only act like proper ladies some of the time......
tea party, evy drawing on herself 044.jpgedit

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Anni loves weddings!

wedding, time with davin and erin 015.jpgedit
See....



maybe it is loud dancing, the chance to dress up, wear make-up, and be with friends. Whatever it is the wedding lovin' Anni is back!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Hakuna furaha bila uchungu..... there is no joy without suffering or pain.

still no word from Dar about our adoption. I called Thursday and the social worker was rude and said she had no news yet and to call back Friday. I called back Friday and their phone had no service all day. So still I wait. Part of me wants to board the next ferry and go over there because; after all, my American need for immediate gratification is alive and well and part of me thinks I should be patient and wait until we hear more. I have been praying for answers, for peace in the midst of no answers, for wisdom, patience but the thing is I am just tired. Spent. I feel as though I have nothing else to offer up or give. Like crawling in the emotional and spiritual fetal position and telling the Almighty I cry "uncle." Just make it stop. But He doesn't. Life continues on. And He is silent or at least I don't hear a darn thing right now. Here is where I tell myself 'but His Word is always alive and speaking and all you need' but even as I type that it feels like a "sunday school" answer, one that I have given a million times but right now just don't want to hear. I am processing what this all means. But I do know there is more to learn in this all and I can trust. But trusting is a verb more than an emotional state these days.

I am surrounded by people from when I wake up until when I fall into bed on most days but I feel so lonely right now. Like no one understands. Like no one could possibly get this crazy situation and season He has called us to now. And how I desperately wish I could just talk to girlfriends that "get me" and drink margaritas and eat too much spicy food and that would make everything all better. But I can't and I will stop whining about it (ok, soon-ish I will stop whining about it). And I miss J because he gets it or more of "it" and despite everything we are always in this together and that makes me profoundly grateful. And even when you are taking people to the hospital, cleaning and cooking, having visitors, visiting others, helping with inevitable issues and problems that arise, and exhausted because J is not here the girls continue with their fighting, yelling, throwing food, and dramatic outbursts regardless. And then the power goes out. Seriously. I just need to breath deep. I was watching a movie under my mosquito net while nursing a diet coke last night and there was a scene with a mall. And I cried. Pathetic. Because I desperately longed for that mall; to spend a day being anonymous and just doing things all for me and my family and in the same small instant I felt disgusted by everything a mall represents; materialism and consumerism that robbed me for so long of searching out what really quenches the places inside me. In the same split moment. I have issues. But the thing is I would never trade my issues. They are mine and refining and painful and joyous. Now that I have seen here, there will never be the same to me. Figuring out what all this means is wicked hard.

I feel like I am wrestling with God and although giving up never sounds like the right thing to do I must admit it is on the top of my emotional to do list everyday lately. Pack it up and get the heck outta here. Because if I am really honest a lot of days living here is really hard. It sucks actually. And not just the no real milk or reliable power kinda stuff. This place is hard on our marriage, on our kids, on our definition of ourselves, our minds, and on our faith. It was easier to believe something when we could compartmentalize it and keep it in the 'Sunday stuff we do' realm and never come face to face with issues that see it tested. daily. I have no answers and all my pat answers about why God does what He does have been blown away in this life. But that has been a good thing because a deeper dependence is required. a refining. Sure, we have more language now and we understand more of the culture but so many days I feel discouraged and exhausted. Like no matter how long I live here I will just never "get it." And every time we figure something out everything changes. Enter guilt.... I know we suffer nothing compared to those around us. Just yesterday I sat next to a neighbor on tree stump in her desperate pleas via phone to her mother in law to beg her husband not to divorce her for the third and final time because she has no where to go and a 8 month old baby. See, I am a total whiny punk! But to be honest, this spoiled suburban white girl struggles too. I think about why God brought us here often. Whenever we leave this place our biggest souvenirs will be raw spirits, broken and contrite hearts, and a new sense of our need and dependency. And in that He is changing me. And living so much of my existence outside of what feels "normal" to me has made me forget what normal is to me, or at least completely redefine it. Like I am desperately clutching onto to something that I no longer can even describe. And that is a painful process.
But Hakuna furaha bila uchungu..... there is no joy without suffering or pain. It is not like this place created new areas of weakness but it did strip away comfort, fluff, and distractions I used to hide my weaknesses in. And an open sore demands attention. I am redefining me, us. But like I told Annikah yesterday just because something is difficult does not mean we should retreat and declare defeat. Maybe I told her that because I needed to be reminded of it.

And just because this life is some days really hard it is also somedays rich with blessing. I know that for sure. God reminded me of that last night. He reminded me with a girl friend who stopped by yesterday just to greet me right before the breaking the fast meal and, in seeing the chaotic state of me and my children, stayed late to help me cook for my girls and get them in baths before leaving to head home for her meal. Because to the Waswhili "shida siyo mtu moja." A Proverb meaning that a problem is never one person's problem, it is shared. That was an unexpected blessing. But I should have learned by now that is how He works. Still I was grateful for the reminder.

Then I talked, well tried to talk, to a dear friend back home on Skype and although she could barely hear me I could hear the noise of her kitchen, her kids wondering in, crying and impateint for breakfast and it reminded me that some things are the same everywhere. I needed that too. This ride called motherhood is rough but amazing too. Then I got emails from another dear friend navigating an impossible foster care situation stateside and I was able to get out of myself and have my heart burdened for her and her family. Another reminder I am not the only one struggling and fighting to have peace in the everyday and being stretched beyond what I think I can bear. In praying I felt He gave me this verse for her.

"For the Lord your God is living among you.
He is a mighty savior.
He will take delight in you with gladness.
With his love, he will calm all your fears.
He will rejoice over you with joyful songs." Zep 3:17

But maybe it was for me too.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

boo-tay dancing caught on tape

This video makes me laugh. Hard. Anni has mastered the African hip and butt shake.

yep. they got moves and boo-tay dancing to the clean up song no less.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Game day!

Last week before J left there was a parent's meeting at Anni's school followed by a game time run by some Korean visitors. It was really important to Anni that we all went because game days and Wazungu wageni are BIG people! But it started at 2pm which is prime nap time for Evy and the ONLY time the girl is still all day so also dear to me so we formulated a plan. Anni took the bus at 10am with all the students and then I rode the bus with the rest of the parents at 2pm and the entire way I sat on half a broken seat and part of a busted oil jug trying not to grimace in pain. My butt is so not hard core! J and Evy came later and joined in on the games. I even let the smack down for the balloon pooping relay and J's team pulled off a victory in the tug-of-war. Anni was at school from 10am until we dragged her away at 6pm- it was that fun y'all! Investing in this school has blessed our family and it was awesome to spend the day connecting with parents, teachers, and kids (and winning some prizes too)!
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Go yellow team!!
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crazy game for the Mama's...we had to hold onto to each other and the goal post while the kids tried to pull us off mostly by tickling...weird but really fun!
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us girls watching the games
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Anni & her boy crush/best friend sporting my prize
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Papa holding it down for the Fathers!
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the Mama's were serious about winning!

more Wazungu up in here

we have had lots as of late. The folks from Chicago kicked off what ended up being the month of the Wazungu. We had Ginger and then two ladies from Texas who wanted to check out our island. And I am just now in my lonesomeness finally updating about our awesome visitors! It was busy but refreshing to have some 'Mericans around these parts for a few weeks. They visited with us, brought some American goodies (Asante!!), helped at Pamoja, blessed our girls, went to a wedding, checked out local food, prayed, hit the beaches, and hung out. I miss these ladies...ladies that I did not know before they set foot here. God is good in creating friendships wherever we are and I am excited to see what is next for them........Karibuni tena!!
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us ladies out on the town
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Wazungu dancing it up at the wedding! I love Evy peeking through.....
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introducing Ginger to some local juice