Friday, December 28, 2012

snow day

We were only in Iowa for just over a day but when Anni saw the snow it was a must to go sledding!  Plus, we sorta felt like the snow owed us some fun after all the chaos it wrought on us during our journey Iowa-bound.  Can I just say I love this first photo of the watoto all dressed up! Right before it was taken Anni was whining "mama, I'm so hooooottttt in this" I guess that was the best smile for the camera she could muster under such extreme duress. Plus, with her cousin borrowed snow gear Evy looked like a boy. Too cute!
Snow is awesome
And driveway sledding is pretty fabulous too! Also, can I say that when an Iowans drove by and had to wait for us to clear off the road they smiled and waved (in Chicago I am pretty sure we would get flipped off and yelled at for street sledding). We decided to forgive Iowa for the treacherous road trip!
sisters on a sled
playing in the snow with cousins was a blast
But the cold was not appreciated by all.  And is it wrong that I love this photo? Don't worry Miss Evy Imani, sometimes winter makes me cry too.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

a Christmas with family

Christmas this year was markedly different from our festivities last year and both have a special corner of my heart all to themselves.
Christmas this year meant embracing some new traditions and appreciating some old ones.
It was being together with family and not taking that for granted.
It was celebrating with old and new friends.
It was eating so much delectable and abundant food I might be wearing stretchy pants for a few months.
It was dressing in shiny new sweaters and glittery skirts.
It was finishing our Advent celebration as a family, reading scripture and J and I smiling at each other when the girls could recite some of the verses.
It was lighting our last candle and blowing them out in our PJ's.
It was full of travel and falling snow.
It was wearing two pairs of socks instead of flip flops.
It was watching our girls taken with all the decorations and gifts under the tree.
It was giggling and being thankful for the gift of cousins all being together.
It was big smiles and bigger hugs to say thank you for special presents selected with care.
It was being blessed by seeing the thought that went into the gifts we received that are not meaningful because of the price tag but because of the people who know us and wanted to bless us.
It was crazy amounts of bright and crinkly paper scattered across the floor.
It was realizing I can be a bit harsh on the "we don't need anything" position.
It was watching my girls treasure carefully selected gifts and be grateful for them.
It was watching my oldest daughter so excited to have her own copy of God's Word lovingly selected by Bibi Rhoda.
It was a quiet prayer in my heart that she will always love His Word this much
It was being with my family and playing games and laughing at our drawing and acting (or lack thereof) skills.
It was cold bursts of air cooling the warmth from the fire every time the door was opened.
It was Auntie Katy being home and two little girls following her around cuz she is that cool.
It was racing to my mom's church from the city and making it just in time to worship together and sing Christmas carols (in English!)
It was getting to sit by Great Grandpa and his ever present green onions and being grateful for 4 generations together at the table.  It was simultaneously missing Great Grandma so much tears came easily.
It was the small stuff like a little glass angel for Miss Anni that she has been admiring hanging in my mom's car for years, now her very own.
It was the not so small stuff like opening a BIG box of gifts assembled by Bibi hinting at the message on the bottom...
It was the anticipation in air as a room full of adults waited for the moment the girls realized the note from my parents said: "We're going to Disney World!"
And it was the screeching with glee that soon followed.
It was sitting front row for a special performance of Cinderella.
It was converse sneakers and princess dresses.
It was remembering that in all the excess the message can get lost but only if we allow it to crowd the place in our hearts to remember, reflect, and be grateful.  We are so thankful we get to be part of Christmas in America this year and we are changed forever because of the gift of Jesus.

Monday, December 24, 2012

The True Light

We just celebrated a Christmas Eve lunch with our new friends that are refugees from Congo. I cooked up some African grub, we ate with our hands, we shared about our lives, compared cultural traditions, and we read from His Word in Kiswahili.
They shared more about being forced to leave their home with only what they could carry, walking miles for days without food or water, living in a refugee camp for seven years, losing their first born  ongoing medical difficulties, and not knowing where the rest of their family is right now. Loss and real hardship. And I kept thinking about what can be redeemed through brokenness.  Mine and ours.  As always God was speaking to me through them.
Christmas is about this.
The unlikely place, the story that seems too painful and difficult to be made new, the hope within His promises.   Christmas is about Him choosing it all for He knew what the plan was from the beginning.  Jesus being born into the dirty, sinful world in a seemingly insignificant place to redeem all creation.

We are new friends meeting together and not having much in common except Jesus and a shared second language. They need us to translate and explain life in the US and we need them to remind us a little of what we desperately miss now that we are back. God knew.
After this picture we joked and said they had to trade in the African stoic faces for the silly American "laughing" in pictures
IMG_0674  image001

"The One who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world." John 1:9
Merry Christmas friends and peace to you as we celebrate the True Light that shines no matter where you are on this earth.
Dare to hope with me,

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Happy Birthday Miss Evy Imani

When your birthday is 4 days before Jesus's you sorta get the shaft.  It is just the way life works, sorry girl! Our first attempt at an ill planned-last-minute-thrown-together-shindig was cancelled due to car issues and severe weather delays resulting in an exhausted Mama who would have just as soon stabbed my eye out with a dull pencil as bake and frost a cake.  But we still were able to celebrate our big 3 year old girl in a pink and purple train birthday party per her request (minus the bday banner and pink & purple balloons which lay unused in the other room because said Mama is so spacey and last minute).
Yep, it was haphazard but one little girl still loved every minute and cousins and family gathered to love on her made it special! Evy loves trains and chaos so it all worked out swimmingly.
my train cake attempt that is a bootleg version of a cake I saw on Pinterest (let's face it this was as good as I could manage since I am not a pinterest crafty gal)
what is a birthday without a dance party?
We also took our little girl to see the trains at the Lincoln Park Conservatory last week for her birthday because we heard there was a free flower and train show.
Miss Evy Imani, Happy 3rd birthday little girl! You love your teddy bear, bothering your sister, snuggling in the mornings, and your favorite phrase it "I do not like that, pee you!" and every time I try to tell you that is not a kind thing to say I can't stop laughing.  I do not have a baby any more (sniff) and you are one feisty  hilarious, sweet, stubborn, and funny girl.  I love being your Mama and am so excited to see you grow and what the Lord has for you next.  We have no doubt you will always take life on with passion and spunk!   Love, Mama

Saturday, December 22, 2012

a long trip to Iowa & a birthday girl

Miss Evy Imani turned three yesterday! The day started with some presents and some sweet sister bonding time when Annikah decided to do her sisters hair. So while the day started out like this...
It ended more like this...
We had big plans to arrive in Iowa and have a pink and purple train party for one Evy Imani.  But after yesterday's happenings the party will have to wait until today. 

Our day started with waking to discover we still had no heat in what was, by that time, our frigid apartment.  Our chattering teeth and frozen toes made us decide to take school on the road and leave for Iowa early.  Because in a very unlike me move I had actually baked the cookies the night before and already done the laundry (I know right).  We rallied and loaded the car quickly but the door was frozen stuck and after attempting to make it say uncle I broke the handle off. Yeah,  awesome.  

We hit the road and after about an hour on the road our used but new to us car completely dies kabisa.  So we wait on the side if the road deciding what our next move is.  We call my mom who comes to rescue me and the girls while Jason waits for tow truck.  The car gets towed to way overpriced repairman while we get the girls something to eat and by the time we drop my mom (driving another 30 minutes in the opposite direction) we get a call from Jason saying we need to drive to the repair shop and pick him up.   But the girls were pumped to see my mom and happy for the Bibi time!  We borrowed my mom's car to go pick up Jason but on the way my phone died meaning I had no name or address  of exactly where I was going and had to stop and ask kind people with smart phones to help a sister out.  Finally a guy at the gas station with yellow pages looked up car repair shops in Geneva while my girls run around like crazy throwing stuff at each other at the gas station. I called repair shops asking if they had a guy there waiting for his wife that came up a with a broke down van until I found the place. I wrote down directions and thanked everyone and we headed back out on our quest to find Papa (yes, we made up a song about it too!). We were reunited with J and after some discussion and prayer decided to continue on in my mom's car (Bibi saves the day) to Iowa.  It was at that point a four hour diversion   

We drove another 2 hours without incident until we hit some black ice and the sun set making said black ice way more adventurous .Then not 10 mins after stopping for potty break Evy announces "me have to poo poo" so after confirming this is indeed an emergency we exit only to realize roads are slick and dangerous and the nearest gas station is at least 3 miles away.  Evy then says "me no poo poo" so we head back on the road.   We get to Iowa only to hit bumper to bumper traffic. 
Seriously, we went 5 miles in 45 minutes and our borrowed car starts stalling out in the traffic.  More awesome-ness.  The girls are tired and hungry because we ate all the snacks I had packed waiting for the tow truck.   Our only saving grace was that we knew we could get off at Iowa 80 and eat, regroup, and decide if we would stay the night somewhere. The entire time we were were texting with Jason's family and getting updates and later we discovered the traffic we were sitting in was not green, yellow, or even red.  It was maroon.  I had never heard of maroon but we now know it means 'make you want to slap yo' mama traffic.'  We finally make it to the exit and start to get off only to see a back-up and a police officer screaming and directing people to stay on the highway!! We rolled down the window telling him we had small kids who were hungry and needed gas but he yelled and told us to get back on the road.  Even more awesome-ness.  Annikah starts bawling, then I call Jason's sister and start crying,  and then Evy says "hey why that guy so mean" and we all start laughing! This all inspired Anni to cry "this is the worst day of my entire life!" to which we started laughing again because we are pretty sure we know of a day in recent history that was much worse.  Evy screams " I want to get out of this car NOW!" but with no options we persevered on. 

 We kept going in one lane at 35 miles an hour and crept along closer.  We prayed and refocused on all the blessings in our trip.  We prayed for the "mean police guy" because we decided the only person that was hating life more at that moment was him.  We were grateful because we had passed at least 30 cars in the ditch and although we were creeping along and hungry we were fine. We also have amazing family that was sending us hilarious texts, drove to rescue us and loan us a car, and found places for us to stay for free should we need it.  Yep, we are blessed and although a four hour journey in the end took close to ten hours we continued on and made it by singing, laughing, more tears at moments, car games, and draining laptop batteries with excessive movie wathcing.  I never have been so glad to see the signs and smells the bizarre factory smells of Cedar Rapids. And this morning one little girl got her first glimpse of real snow in the sunlight!
 We are here now with family so bring on the Christmas cheer and make it strong!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

down town day!

Advent day #19 was a big one y'all!  We did school early and work late so we could head down town for Marshall Field (ok, I know it is Macy's now but I am still in denial) window viewing, the German Christmas market, a secret coffee mission, decor ogling, and lots of walking around the amazing city of Chicago at Christmas.
no one else at the windows: a Christmas miracle!
our bell ringers. I'd give 'em money!
best decor ever!
the TREE!
my favorite part of our day was our secret "mission": this Advent activity was for Anni to tell the person behind us that we would buy their coffee because God loves them and she wants to bless them.  She was so nervous but did great and got a big hug from the lady whose latte was on us.
we walked over to the Christkindlmarket too!
chocolate dipped rice crispy treat.....yes, please!
we love having family adventures together and Advent day 19 was pretty awesome!