Monday, January 27, 2014

life with 3 & other tales of chaos

So last night as we were getting the kids ready for bed Abishai decided it was an opportune time to have a "shart" blow up all over himself.  We immediately declared a state of emergency and rushed him to the tub because it was clearly a "seeper."  He clearly thought the incident was way funnier than I did but I must admit I appreciated the sweet smiles while I was elbow deep.  After getting him cleaned up and out of the tub I was searching around for a diaper and some clean clothes for him and got distracted with some life or death need (a bow for Evy's hair....yeah).  I should have known better than to get side tracked but when I finally reached for the diaper I noticed a stream.  Yep, took me a minute to realize that naked boy was peeing all over me.  His little hose quickly took aim at the clean AND folded pile of laundry sitting on the bed. So, that was awesome.  Jason just looked at me and we both started laughing.  At least we can see the humor in this ridiculousness (most days).

I figured it was time to update on this whole life with 3 gig.  I have become that mama who rarely has time to both shower AND dry my hair AND put on any make-up.  You have to choose carefully people. These watoto now completely outnumber us and there seems to never be a moment during the day where no one has a seemingly life threatening need. I feel like I am constantly multitasking but not really doing anything well.  But I'm trying to live in the letting go.  Being released of my desire to "get things done" is freeing.  In those moments when I don't care about the peas on the floor, the unanswered emails, and the endless to-dos I can enjoy the moment by moment chaos much more.  It is when I can embrace that this life is mundane, mind numbingly repetitive but fabulous and fleeting and going by too quickly.  I can actually appreciate the right now and not long for the past or the future.

So much has changed with the addition of our little homeboy. When we go out, especially in this neighborhood, people generally stare and think we are crazy.  Which would be offensive if we were not.  But alas.  Seriously though what is up with folks always commenting, "wow, you have your hands full," or "you sure look busy."  Why, yes, thank you, that comment is much more helpful than, say, opening the door for our cray cray caravan.  Sheesh. I do not need strangers stating the obvious. I know we are on the crazy train.
The girls' love their brother and it mostly irritates me. I know I should try to remember how sweet it is that they love to squeeze him and love on him but when I finally get him settled or asleep or quiet they see that as an excellent opportunity to pester him.  They love him so much that I have made a house rule that if the baby is happy and quiet you are not allowed to touch him or bother him. Seriously, why is it so necessary to go squeeze his face when he is sound asleep in the swing?  I also overheard them arguing over which part of his baby sweetness they were going to eat (Anni said she wanted his chubby arms and Evy wanted his face but suggested we throw his butty away "cuz it filled with nasty poop." True story). I might need to lay off the "I want to eat him" talk.  I know it is weird but backed up with science!

Also, can I just say we will never be on time again. I was never really an "on time" person even before moving to Africa and living there certainly did not help but even when I really try there is always some emergency situation right before we walk out the door.  And I also blame winter and the heinous monster that apparently lurks somewhere in our home and eats mittens, gloves, hats, and all matter of gear because every time I ask the girls to get ready they suddenly realize everything is "gone." I have just resigned that maybe sometime next decade we will be on time because I will not spend my time hollering at the kids just so we can be  few minutes early. It is too much so we are late. A lot.

There are of course sweet, sweet moments.
Case in point.
But this life with 3 is not for the faint of heart. I feel like since I have already lost any semblance of sanity long ago I can cope.  Thank goodness God's grace is enough everyday. I just have to remember to repent from believing that my worth is based on how well I hold it together. I fail. I yell. I cry. I hide in the bathroom.  I lose my patience.  I want to run away but thank God my worth in Christ is not based on my performance as a mother.  As a mama our work is never "finished" but Jesus' work on the cross is and while we try to chase perfection He smiles and reaches out to us again and reminds us "it is finished."  He is always with me, in me, beckoning me to rest in His grace and allowing that to seep in changes my heart, attitude, actions, and mind.  Even on the crazy days I don't feel or see it He is working.  That promise changes everything about mothering. There are no perfect mamas but His love is perfect and we can all rest in that today.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Hip hip swag

Anni was invited to be a part of a photo shoot for her Hip Hop class and these are my favorite images from the day of the shoot. Check out the Hip Hop swag....
work it out
back freeze
6 point
she tries to have the B-Boy pose but she just can't pull it off..
Excited for the next class to start up soon.

Monday, January 20, 2014

MLK remembered

"Everybody can be great...because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love." Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Talking about his dream; what was, what is, and what there is still to come. Praying for the courage to love Jesus so boldly and love others so deeply and asking for peace in our world. May we all love mercy and justice and live to serve God and others. 
Praying for a heart full of grace,

Sunday, January 19, 2014


Today we had the opportunity to join in on a surprise party for a friend. She is a woman whose life just bubbles over with Jesus' love. It was awesome to be a part of the celebration of her with friends. The girls loved the waiting and the big moment she walked in to many of her friends from near and far; people's lives she has touched in so many ways.
giving all the kids little blowers may or may not have been INSANE!
We arrived late but still way earlier than needed so we had plenty of time to catch up and help as much as allowed.  The apartment was buzzing and crowded and alive.  One of my favorite parts was this dear little grandma walking around the apartment and scolding kids. And no, I could not understand a word of what she was saying but some things just translate in context. The girl's loved playing and we all were force fed fabulous food.   Abishai was also passed around and snuggled by many (and I was told he needed warmer clothes many times). I just love that. I am constantly learning from other cultures about community and family and I feel so blessed. Happy Birthday to Lynn; a Godly woman I am privileged to know.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

a perfect capture

After the holidays we crashed at my parents lake house with out motley crew plus the Dill fam (J's sister, hubby, and their 3 boys).  We just relaxed, enjoyed chatting, exchanged presents, and watched the kids have a blast together. Auntie Jorie was pretty much on full time Abishai holding duty (I don't think she minded) and we kid wrangled and hung out together.  We often laugh that with 6 littles running around life is anything but calm but it is also very sweet.  We actually managed to get a couple acceptable self takes but this silly one is my absolute fav.
May we embrace and enjoy these moments.
Love you Dill fam,

Thursday, January 9, 2014


Our friends from Congo moved to Texas a few months back and we miss them so.  I have not shared much here about our friendship or their situation because I struggle to put words to it all.  And although I am a chronic over share-er their story feels sacred to me.  I know for sure their friendship marked our family in many ways.  Since they moved away Evy bursts out into tears at least once a week and whimpers, "I want to see Nyasoni." I am so grateful my children got to know and love them and I am so grateful for what they taught me; things you cannot learn in books or by hearing but can only learn by investing and listening and loving.
The arrived in the US last December and we were paired with them through World Relief because of our common language; Swahili.  We were to help them adjust to life here, translate at medical appointments, and make Chicago feel more like home.  We did our best but I fear they got the short end of the deal.  They taught us so much and as we learned about the incredible hardships they suffered and survived my daily grumblings were brought into the correct perspective. If you or I would have had to endure any of the pain and struggles she survived we would not be able to smile the way she does.  I often told her how brave she was and how if a Mzungu had to go through it all we would die...instantly.  She always giggled in her quiet and reserved way and I smiled.
During the past year we saw God work miracles and use modern medicine to work miracles of healing in her body. It was a privilege to be there for it.  In truth, there were also many times being their friends was "inconvenient"; many doctor appointments, many hours of waiting in different specialists offices entertaining my kids, many phones calls back and forth, many drives downtown, many times we felt annoyed with their lack of "getting" something, many times we had to drop our plans and help in some way but it was such a small sacrifice.  And in that I was challenged to think beyond myself.  That is so radical and needed for me.  She will always carry many of the medical issues and we are still praying for miracles of family and health but seeing her have access and get the care that she had been waiting for for years in refugee camps changed the way I see our role in the big and small things of justice.  Sometimes it can be easier to be about the big and avoid doing the small.  I want to empty myself to be used to bring His kingdom in physical, emotional, and spiritual healing sort of ways. Especially if that is a small thing like getting over myself and taking the time to hold someone's hand through a scary and difficult process.  I don't know how to do this other than to pray and just begin but I know feel closer to Jesus when I stumble upon really loving.  He held my hand though many dark places in my life, lots of times through many of you and I want to make myself available to do the same for others.  Being less selfish:  a lesson it seems God always wants me to learn because it is exceptionally easy for me to focus on myself and my situation and be apathetic about all else.
Sometimes loving people hurts. It broke God's heart to love us to the point of sacrificing Jesus and while I have never even begun to love as He loves when you love in His name you feel a glimpse of that joy and pain.
Before they moved Nyasoni was helping at our home a few days a week to earn extra money and to give me a break in the last months of my pregnancy.  Seeing her so often was awesome.  Evy would wait by the door when I told her she got off the bus and run to attack her with hugs when she arrived.  They would speak a precious mix of broken English and Swahili and Evy would boss her around at the park requesting pushes on the swing for the one billionth time. She shared with me that they were planning to move and we were both sad. I understood of course; the cost of living is so much lower and they had friends from a refugee camp they could live with there. Not to mention the winters in Chicago are no joke. They planned to leave about a month before my due date and she was noticeably sad to miss seeing our baby boy.  We both teared up and prayed together that the baby would come before she left. Because God is awesome and He delights in giving gifts to His children Abishai arrived 3 weeks early and the day before they left on a 7am long bus ride to Texas they were able to visit us in the hospital to meet him.  Before Jason drove them home and we said our goodbyes for now they handed us a few crumpled dollar bills as a zawadi (gift) for the baby and I think of all the baby gifts we received it was my favorite. Their friendship helped us through a year of readjusting to life and America and we hope we helped them see that God has big plans for them here.  We miss them and I pray our presence in their lives blessed them as they blessed us. So thankful our paths crossed & praying they cross again,

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

staying sane in Chiberia

It is beyond freezing people. Seriously, record setting, make you wanna slap yo' mama, bitterly ice cold. I'm trying to tell myself it will all be worth it in June but Gah! And if it wasn't already close to the apocalypse with a polar vortex being all the rage Chicago Public Schools cancelled school! Seriously. Never happened in my years teaching in the system mostly because the city needs the kids to be in school and out of trouble and unlike normal grown-up professions teachers usually are not treated with the respect  they deserve (ie they have to teach with no power (happened to me) and in other similarly heinous circumstances.  But I stand corrected CPS DID cancel school and for two days at that! So you know it is bad.

I have spent the last 48 hours indoors wearing a mix of Pj's and workout clothes (do you like how I wrote that as if this is any different from my norm? True story).  I ventured out to mail something today and quickly repented, ran home, and thanked the Lord for our heat.  As I have made abundantly clear I am not a winter person, never was and 4 years living on a tropical island where flip flops were my only shoes does not help this sun lovin' mama.  But I'm trying, like really I am. By now many of you may know about my slight love affair with ridiculous & unnecessary hash tags and when I heard "Chiberia" it was love at first text. I plan to use it until it is dead and buried. I thought I should reminisce about a few of our adventures in the arctic tundra known as the Midwest.  We boiled some water and tossed it outside in a science experiment of sorts and learned about why boiling water freezes faster than cold water. Crazy but true.
While J was shoveling the girls joined him to play in the snow.  The above picture could have ended badly but actually proved to be a genius move by Jason.  Alley sledding. I humbly suggest it become a winter Olympic sport
The girls and I even managed to make a snowman.  Now he was pathetic and about 1.5 feet tall because I am a wuss and Abishai woke up (yes, let's blame the baby).
By day 2 of no school it was getting weird up in here. photo3
But the girls and I decided we needed a talent show complete with a play, dance party (umm, obviously), art work and poem reciting. We did a rendition of Beauty & the Beast written by Annikah (with suggestions from all of us) on my laptop.  We even had make-up, costumes, set design, and props.  We take our craft seriously people.
Since Joy ventured out to visit we cast her in the demanding roles of 'Mrs. Teapot' and 'The Wardrobe.'  Evy was 'Belle's Papa' and she wore a Pocahontas dress backwards, brown pants, sparkly sequin shoes, and sported a blue mustache with pink glitter. The reviews are not in yet but I am thinking, "daring and bold" and "original and never before seen" will be some of the critics comments. So although I am looking forward to school starting again tomorrow and getting back to a regular routine I gotta say I enjoyed our lazy days inside.  We found ways to amuse ourselves.
Love from icy Chiberia,

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Hawa Images show in Chicago

So I suppose I should be all professional like and pretend I'm not super excited but I just gotta say I'm feeling a bit totally pumped to have the opportunity to show some of my photographs at a coffee shop this month.  For a gal that spends most of her day wiping butts and cleaning spit up off my neck it just feels a bit surreal that I am able to move forward with Hawa Images and make some of my dreams a reality.  I'm so grateful for the opportunity to develop my craft and learn and grow.  Please come by and check out some select images for sale! Any and all purchases are also support my upcoming trip to India with the International Guild of Visual Peacemakers (more soon cuz seriously soooo excited). If you are interested in purchasing any prints or greeting cards but cannot make it to the show let me know or visit my website.
So, join me for a latte at The Common Cup in our old 'hood Rogers Park, If you can brave SnowMageddon in Chiberia that is.  

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Christmas with family and tales of the current chaos

We spent Christmas Eve night & Christmas Day with my family in the burbs. Of course we were late to the service since my MO these days is a mix of ridiculous poor planning panic & last minute chaos. Case in point I did not even pick out "Christmas outfits" for the kids (or myself for that matter) until about 3pm on Christmas Eve and which point Annikah decided she would wear one of Evy's sweaters (cuz that makes perfect sense).  I instructed her to go upstairs to get her black leggings on and when she emerged from her room I noticed huge holes in the knee where the fabric had apparently disintegrated on its own since one Miss A had no memory of how it happened (to leggings that were less than 2 weeks old..ahem).  Evy also decided she wanted to wear her cowboy boots and there was no reasoning with her so we just rolled with it. Abishai pooped two minutes before we were planning to leave just to add some excitement to the mix.  No wonder I walked out of the house with only one earring in. Such is life.
Abishai loves his Auntie Katy
Jason Dad also joined us on Christmas Day since Justin & Annie went and had a baby on Christmas Eve :) (yeah for baby Charlie!!) so Bibi Rhoda had to jet plane it down asap. The girls showed their appreciation for having Babu around by pestering and tackling him.
My sister took the girls to see Zoo lights at Brookfield. It was crazy beautiful & chilly!
We made use of the wagon the kids got for Christmas (thanks Mom!) and sang carols to the animals and enjoyed the lights with breaks every so often to drink hot chocolate or eat guacamole.
I love that my brother's dog photo bombed this picture and that Abishai is completely NOT feeling it. Such is life. Not picture perfect but real and blessed.