Friday, August 31, 2012

guess who turned six today?

our oldest little girl who is anything but little; Miss Annikah.  She clearly made her desires known for breakfast in bed and us "singing while I am still in my bed."  She knows what she wants this one.  The occasion called for some birthday cake pancakes (a new recipe I found on pinterest). Per her wishes....
Well, she thought it was pretty awesome.
After some errands we made it up to Lake Geneva and enjoyed a mermaid rainbow themed cake that actually turned out much better than my previous cake attempts (only took me 6 years to make a cake that does not fall over or melt).  The best part was that Anni got to be with family on her birthday this year.
To my dear first-born Anni Joy, Happy Birthday sweet six year old girl.  We love you.  You are full of life and a kind and compassionate girl.  You are silly and amazingly creative.  You love to draw, dance, write stories, and do cartwheels.  You dream big and always have time to pick flowers and make new friends.  You are also stubborn and emotional and too much like me some days.  Good thing God is not finished working on either of us.  Your faith inspires me and your sillyness reminds me not to take things so seriously.  Forgive me for the many times I fail to love you like Jesus but please know that your presence in my life helps me understand more of God's goodness, His Grace, and His perfect love. I am so thankful God chose of all the mamas in the wide world for me to be yours.  May God continue to protect and keep you and grow you into the girl you are becoming. Happy 6 years and counting Miss Anni.
Love, Mama
P.S. Could you stop growing up please!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

where I am at

Physically: Chicago.  After much travel, amazing hospitality, and being loved and spoiled we are finally in Chicago again.  And then all at once I am hit with both relief and angst with a wee bit of terror thrown in.  We live here now.  There is so much but as I sit here in a rare moment of quiet (except for the cars racing outside our window and the guy unloading a truck and yelling in the alley) I cannot think I how to adequately update or explain what is up with me or us for that matter.  Sure, I can list what we have been up to but if asked how we are doing I am still not sure. I feel wrecked and overwhelmed.  And it is not even because I am known for my teeny flair for the dramatic.

Nope, it hit me: we are starting over again.  And yes, some of the faces are familiar, the language is known (as an aside can I just say that functioning all day in your heart language is a gift, never take it for granted), and we did after all live here for most of our lives. But it is still a start over.  And I completely underestimated how picking up our lives from Africa and relocating thousands of miles away again would kick our butts. I cannot really sum up the emotional energy that was required in leaving Tanzania and returning to live in the states for a time.  Any attempt to do so leaves me babbling like an idiot and in tears.  I cannot sum up the thoughts and prayers and pleas that fill me mind everyday; How it feels to enjoy going out for a meal while at the same time thinking of so many of our friends who never can.  How I am so enjoying watching my girls experience life in America and at the same moment terrified of them embracing all this culture preaches.  How another family is moving into our home and how in the very same millisecond I am profoundly grateful God is bringing them there and intensely sad we will not be returning to once again live and love in that neighborhood.  How I am flooded with choices here and rather than give me freedom I feel overwhelmed and unsure.  How I get an email from a friend on our island who took the computer class at Pamoja and learned to use email and wanted me to know and how that makes me put my face in my hands and sob.  How every time Annikah looks at me and asks "when are we going back?" I want to say "yeah, when?"  I cannot really encapsulate how I feel except to say I am a disaster about it all.  Really.  Maybe words will come with time and reflection and maybe they won't.  But either way I am here and when I am quiet enough to ask God about it He laughs and reminds me that yes, we are here for now. This is what He wants and there is much we have to learn and much we have to share.  There is healing for us and others and new calling and exciting things ahead.  There is also difficultly that may look different but is also meant for my sanctification if I can only embrace what God wants to teach me.  Trouble is I am a slow learner.  Always have been.  And that is why in the wee hours of this morning God reminded me of His Grace.  Of my identity firmly rooted in Him. Not where I live or what I do. I am a child of God.  I am blameless in His sight.  Not because of anything I have ever done or will ever do but because One who is blameless died in my place.  So I do not need to have all the answers; or let's be honest people; really any of them, I just need to show up  and rest in His Grace.

And now I entrust you to God and the message of his grace that is able to build you up and give you an inheritance with all those he has set apart for himself. Acts 20:32

And even when I do not know how I feel or what to do with it I can seek the One who does know me. I am known. You are too. And that is amazing.

O Lord, you have examined my heart
    and know everything about me.
 You know when I sit down or stand up.
    You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
 You see me when I travel
    and when I rest at home.
    You know everything I do.
 You know what I am going to say
    even before I say it, Lord.
 You go before me and follow me.
    You place your hand of blessing on my head.
 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too great for me to understand!
 I can never escape from your Spirit!
    I can never get away from your presence!
 If I go up to heaven, you are there;
    if I go down to the grave, you are there.
 If I ride the wings of the morning,
    if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
 even there your hand will guide me,
    and your strength will support me.
 I could ask the darkness to hide me
    and the light around me to become night—
    but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.
To you the night shines as bright as day.
    Darkness and light are the same to you.
 You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
    and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
    Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
 You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
    as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
You saw me before I was born.
    Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
    before a single day had passed.
 How precious are your thoughts about me,
 O God. They cannot be numbered!
I can’t even count them;
    they outnumber the grains of sand!
And when I wake up,
    you are still with me!
words of life from Psalm 139

Grace changes my life.  Everyday and in every way.

Monday, August 27, 2012

'don't miss it don't even be late'

Pics.jpgfair collage.jpgedit
My siblings and I grew up watching (or being forced to watch) any and all classic musicals.  I guess that is what happens when your mother was a theatre major.  But like many things I scoffed at when I was young and stupid (ok, so now I am just old and stupid) I actually have come to appreciate the level of cultural knowledge and background these classics gave me growing up.  I will never think of a state fair without hearing my Dad break into "our state fair is a great state fair, don't miss it don't even be late" from the 1945 classic State Fair. I also vaguely remember a scene about singing to an incredibly huge pig. So when Jason's parents suggested we all go to the Iowa State Fair I was so excited I admit I almost peed my pants and much to everyone's dismay started singing.  We drove to Des Moines and spent the day at the Iowa State fair.  It was a first folks and it was awesome.  Family adventures, mullets, jorts, fried things on sticks, oversized animals, apple cider donuts, a butter cow, tractors, and way too many sweaty people crammed into one place.  What is not to love?
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"oh, that is why it smells like poo poo" My children are very astute and observant.
in the kid's area they go to be farmers
there was a building where the kids could SEE baby chickens hatching and live animals being born. Yeah that part was intense!  I cannot even imagine how they know and can time all that.  I can barely time using the veggies in my fridge before they go bad. We all saw a lamb being born and in case you did not have a front row seat to watch every detail they projected the birth on huge flat screens all over the building (poor mama sheep).....this was Jason reaction...
Silas later reflected "my favorite part of the day was when the sheep hatched out of it's mama." Too cute!
of all the attractions at the fair Evy & Joshua LOVED the hand dryers in the bathroom....hilarious!
Jason decided to get the full fair experience he had to try the most twisted, disgusting yet intriguing thing on the menu....fried butter (only in America!)
and speaking of butter....
We saw the famous butter cow! I may have squealed a tiny bit.
the fair was HUGE and there was lots to see and lots of walking. By the end of the day our troops were a bit exhausted.
I can confirm that "our state fair is a great state fair, don't miss it don't even be late!!" Jason already started making fried snickers plans for next time.  If you have never been: Go! If you have been spill what your fave experience was...

Sunday, August 26, 2012

cousin reunion snapshots

Over a month ago (I know I am stellar at being up to date) we hung out in Iowa city for a few days for a cousin reunion with Jason's family.  It is a new tradition that has started in recent years and all his cousins get together.  And we finally got to be there! We got to catch up, laugh together, watch our kids play, and share about this family and the legacy handed down.  It is an awesome thing to realize that the people in your family are also people you would chose to be friends with. Blessings.
the first night we let Miss Anni stay up late to see the Tanzanian and the American teams make their entrances during the opening ceremonies of the was pretty fabulous to see the look on her face as she cheered both countries on.
coffee at the farmer's market
new babies make everyone lose their "cool"
There was an art station for kids at the farmer's market...guess who painted 3 flags?
and guess who mostly painted herself?
silly face girls
my fave part of the reunion was a time of worship and sharing. I think every single person cried.  And laughed.  And was profoundly grateful to be together.  We all committed to being real and not playing the 'game' of telling the glossed over, easy, facebook version of our lives. God was glorified through our weakness and we saw and heard about His power in our lives.  That is a  legacy we want to pass on.
geez, reproduce much? We sure have a lot of kids when you line 'em all up like this.  It was chaos to be sure but the kind that makes your soul full and your praise flow.  God is so good to allow me to be a part of this family.

Saturday, August 25, 2012


Anni's Party, Family Camp 249.jpgedit
We are back in Chicago!  I have been mostly couch surfing due to a nasty stomach-flu bug, the details of which I shall not divulge here.  But I can share that camp was awesome! We had heard the tales of yummy food you don't cook, zip line adventures, family assistants, and teaching from God's Word.  We got to experience it all first hand this year with about ten other families from Chicago plus Jason's sister and their family.  Let me just say the rumours are true!  Each family is assigned a family assistant that helps your family with the kids, meals, and in general made me want to throw her in our car and take her home with us!  The food was way better than any camp food (or most food I can cook at home I might add), there was night time zip lining, tree climbing, canoeing, swimming, eating breakfast in the woods that included something called "heart attack toast" (yes J went back for seconds), archery, paint-ball in the woods for the guys (think happy Jason), horsemanship class everyday for Anni with friends, pony rides for Evy, a kayak trip for J and I sans watoto (thanks to our magical family helper named Miranda), and great teaching from God's Word.  We spent time unplugged and outdoors together.  And that is always a great thing.
The drive out there was beautiful...
Anni's Party, Family Camp 221.jpgedit
the heavens declare His goodness
Anni's Party, Family Camp 235.jpgedit
there was no cell coverage for hours and we could not even find a gas station.  Luckily we found this little outhouse in a park.  The girls were pumped until they opened it and it was NOT just a hole in the ground.  They miss the squaty pottys of Africa.
family camp collage
Anni loved the trampoline and she braved the huge waterslide!
family camp2
fam camp3
J & I even got blobbed and did some blobbing. And I have the sore on my elbow to prove it.
Anni's Party, Family Camp 465.jpgedit
Anni and her friends in her "little dudes" class. My girl is so big...sniff..
Anni's Party, Family Camp 449.jpgedit
the queen of the pony ride (I think her record for one morning was 12)
archery (2)
We also tried our hands at archery and Jason and I got in a little friendly competition and shall we say: I smoked him.  He even up'ed the stakes and asked for the target to be moved further back and much to everyone's amusement we threw out tons of smack about who would win.  In a dazzling Katniss Everdeen-like display of wicked awesome archery skills I still beat him again (yes, humility is one of my gifts:).   And yes, one of our love languages is trash talk!
Anni's Party, Family Camp 380.jpgedit
Papa teaching his little girl
Anni's Party, Family Camp 404.jpgedit
our fun date night; climbing a waterfall and Mexican food out and doing both with Jason.
Anni's Party, Family Camp 409.jpgedit
fam camp4
camp fires and releasing a lantern the last night of camp
Anni's Party, Family Camp 605.jpgedit
Our overall assessment: VCBC was awesome! Who wants to join us next year?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

so now we are here

We sorta need a roving map with moving dot to keep track of us these days. But for now we are at camp. And not just any camp.  An awesome family camp with tons of friends from Chicago and "magical" family helpers that disappear with our girls for hours so we can do things like take a shower, read a book, or do an afternoon kayak trip.  Yeah, it is that cool.  Plus we have been doing lots of this....
God is good and we are breathing in the Iowa fresh air before we head back to the smog of Chicago (which I also happen to love). Praying your end of summer has a similar view,

Friday, August 17, 2012

memoires of water rides, near puking, & over tired but happy kids

We are still moonlighting as Iowans and soaking in time with family (2 more days). We even made our pilgrimage to the Iowa State fair this week (more on that when I can gather my thoughts and excitement into something coherent...for now let's just say J and I had mullet and jort spotting contests, the results of which are being hotly contested...). The day after the fair we all loaded ourselves and our children-folk in the car and headed to an amusement park in Des Moines (it is way more do-able than Six Flags and with less dressed alike folks making out way more family friendly as well.  The rest is family legend.....
Some things that merit remembering about our crazy fun day...

- I am forever grateful to you, Adventureland (and Bibi and Babu who treated the kids) because Evy and Anni slept in this morning until 8:25am and 9:05 am respectively....and that folks... has never happened before!
-Right out of the gate we adults convinced all the kids above 3 to ride a coaster of the head banger and super fast variety resulting in Annikah alternatively laughing and then screaming in terror and crying.  Thus, she chickened out the rest of the day and would not ride any other coaster even when rewards bribes of ice cream where thrown out. Yep, she punked out...maybe next year!
-Babu led the charge of riding every water ride in the joint at least 4 times each even though the morning temps had me wondering when fall arrived and no one informed me!
-Jorie repeatedly answered "I have no interest in that at all" when I relentlessly nagged her to join me on puke inducing roller coasters.  But Bibi and Babu impressed with their fearless-ness in riding most everything (although the gauntlet was thrown down in a "no hands" challenge and only Babu emerged victorious). 
me and J at adventureland
-Despite eating fries, onion rings, pizza, and guzzling at least 200 ounces of free fountain soda Jason and I braved every puke coaster and made them scream "uncle."  We did this without yacking I might add (unfortunately the girl 2 seats down from us on this ride did not share our fate). Adventureland was awesome! I say a new family tradition might have been born....