Thursday, February 7, 2019

Stress and dental care

It is already a week into February and just about time for Darin to head off on another adventure. Tomorrow night he is heading to Ghana for a week and Kenya for a bit longer than that. He has a lot of meetings and conferences and might even have to pack a suit coat for this trip!

Tys and Jori have finished one month of home schooling. There are days that go really well, days that are pretty bad and days where I think "we did what we could". I'd say most days are like that. We have moved away from Easy Peasy in several subjects as they just weren't working for us for one reason or another. We are now doing Teaching Textbooks for Pre-Algebra, CK12 for Earth Science and I am throwing together a bit of this and that for US History as our kids do not have the groundwork that most US children get throughout elementary school and we've had to take time to figure out some of the historical figures and events that they *should* know about.

Hanging out in the middle of the rink
We are trying to liven up our home school days with adventures in ice skating and visits to local museums. We visited the Sammy Marks House last week, tomorrow will be our second ice skating excursion and next week we are heading to the Museum of Natural History. We replaced our library cards last week, which were stolen along with my purse a couple years ago. Now that we don't have afternoon homework, there is a lot more time to read. While our local library is not very big or well stocked, we can use our cards at other branches and hope to do so soon.

We are also doing a lot of swimming still, although we experienced a major setback when our pool sprung a leak and swiftly drained out, turning our yard into a swamp. Thankfully Darin made the time to get a patch kit and after a family fun day of tearing down the pool and another family fun day of setting up the pool, we are back in business.

If only you could smell it
I went to the dentist yesterday and discovered that my teeth were wearing down at the gum line NOT because I was brushing too hard, but because of grinding and clamping down my teeth. I didn’t know that grinding and clamping my teeth would make them wear down at the gum line, but that is what is happening. Nothing to do with my brushing; in fact, the dentist complimented me on my oral hygiene. So my teeth are wearing away because I am stressed, and with how rapidly they are wearing away I am guessing my stress level is pretty high. The thing is, I don’t necessarily feel stressed. I don’t think I have that much to be stressed about, but my new dentist friend has advised me that all the fillings and bite guards in the world are only temporary fixes for an issue that will not go away if I don’t figure out what I am stressed about and do something about it. In fact, if my nighttime teeth gnashing continues, my sweet new fillings could pop off my teeth. Fun.

Hard to smile when half of your face is numb
I used to write, a lot. I think I shared quite a bit about myself or as my mom called it “oversharing”. Over the past couple years my writing has slowed down. I still have a lot going on in my mind but putting it out there isn’t as easy. I am not 100% sure why this is, but have a few ideas; I used to feel a bit more hidden as most people reading this were in the states and I knew it was going to be a long time before I had to see anyone face to face, my kids were younger and the things they did that had an affect on me and vice versa seemed to be mine for the telling, I didn’t have anyone to talk to and really needed to get some stuff out in the open. I am finding lately that I miss writing. I miss the process of putting my thoughts down in writing, the thinking and working through and accepting my feelings. I miss connecting with other people who have gone through similar things. Maybe if I get back into writing, the process will help me pull back the curtain and see what things are lurking there that are stressing me out that I am possibly in denial about. I'll save my teeth, one word at a time!


Tuesday, January 15, 2019

When Darin is away...

It’s Tuesday morning. Darin is in Burundi; his first work trip of the year. Since Darin started traveling out of the country, we have discovered that Darin being away from home = something not so fun for Jonna and the kids to deal with. We have been without water, had lightning strike and destroy our Wi-Fi, and been stuck at home because of riots in the community.

Last night a storm came through and knocked out our power. This is not unusual and was not cause for much stress as the kids were both asleep and I had a little charger to run my fan. Then both kids woke up and said they were being eaten by mosquitoes and were too hot to sleep without fans. I set to work hooking up extension cords and fans to our solar generator; problem solved. Only the fans didn’t turn on. I basically told the kids to deal with it as it was very late, very dark and I was very crabby. For the rest of the night, often as I was about to drift off to sleep, one or both children would come into my room to use the toilet, complain about the heat, or apply more bug spray. I was less than kind as I do not like having my sleep interrupted and my power source had run out, which meant I had no fan to offer relief from the heat. The fan had also been blocking the noise of said children scurrying around the house as they tried sleeping on the sofa and opened the door to check on Nala. I woke up with a sore throat from yelling at them to please go to their rooms and just lay still and seriously STOP OPENING THE FREEZER to look for ice packs as the freezer needed to stay shut to keep it cold. It was not my finest night.

The power was still not on when we woke up. The freezer had started defrosting and water was pooling underneath it. I had another go at the solar generator as my phone battery was very low. I left a message for Darin asking him what I was doing wrong, but he had no solution. I then went out to try and start the gas generator that we store for Take Action in our garage. I have used it before but found that this generator also would not start. Again, Darin had no answer for me.

Once again, Darin is away from home and things are a bit chaotic. We are hoping the power will come on before noon, but this morning has still been a bit drizzly and we’ve been hearing thunder, so the power company might just decide that it isn’t worth fixing as another storm could be heading through.

Although our situation this morning is less than ideal, we have much to be thankful for:
  •          The swimming pool that kept the kids busy for an hour this morning
  •          A gas stove to heat water for coffee
  •         A fully charged computer that I can use to charge my phone
  •          Friends who will stop by to look at the generator
  •          A husband who stays patient when trying to explain complex things
  •          Kids who know where things are, like a little solar panel to charge the solar light!
  •         Bug spray
  •          Overcast skies and cooler temps this morning
  •          A brain that is awake enough to come up with offline homeschool work to keep the kids busy
  •          New mercies, the wisdom to say “I’m sorry” to my kids, and the knowledge that this too shall pass

* edited to add that it is now 2:30 in the afternoon. The power has come on twice only to go off again soon after we started school. Peet stopped in and got the generator to work (whoo-hoo), there has been more swimming fun, we did Bible and History offline and I realized I am not good at speaking “teen” and need to figure out how to make stuff interesting for them, and while we are a bit irritated with Eskom (Eish!!) we are doing just fine.

** now it is 6:20. The power has been back on for about 4 hours without going out! However, it is now raining again and there is thunder and lightning. We are hoping that the storm doesn't intensify enough to knock the power out again, but everything is fully charged, and it is cooler in the house, so we will make do!

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Start 'em up!!

Earlier this week, I told Tyson and Jori that we would be starting school on January 9. This morning, after listening to them complain that there was nothing to do, I moved up the start date to today.

We are using a program called Easy Peasy All-in-One Homeschool and Easy Peasy All-in-One High School. Both kids are taking the same classes, some at the 8th Grade level and some at the 9th Grade level. I am hoping this is going to work out and that they will motivate each other to work hard and do their best. I do have a bit of worry that my overachieving daughter will end up leaving her brother in the dust in a very vocal and not so nice way, but will be praying that does not happen.

We are definitely going to go through a bit of trial and error as we figure out which courses are just fine as written and which courses need to be supplemented. Tomorrow will be our first day of US History, which out to be interesting as Jori doesn't have any prior schooling in this area and Tyson thinks they talked about it in Grade 8 - briefly.

I want the kids to enjoy learning. I want them to be interested in what they read about and I hope they will ask questions and seek answers and not simply accept what they are told. I want them to be open to different ways of viewing history, I want them to connect what they read to their own lives here and now. (Check back in a few weeks to see if I still feel this way😊)

For now, we will be sticking to the basics; just understanding how the program works and easing back into a schedule. We'll also be enjoying our South African summer and our pool that is finally staying clean!

Monday, December 24, 2018

The year that was and the year that is to come.

As we prepare to enter a new year in less than a week, we look back with gratitude for the faithfulness of God throughout 2018, and with hope for His new mercies for the year ahead.

Tyson completed Grade 8 at Batho Pele Christian High School. It was a different kind of year for all of us. He made some friends, then lost them, then made them again. Socializing continues to be a battle for our boy and we are proud of the way he endured a lot of not so fun stuff this year and came out stronger on the other side. Tyson did well in school this year; he had a lot of projects that he really excelled in and a lot of tests and homework that he didn't do quite so well in. Tyson continues to love Nerf guns, Christian Rap, dancing, and having fun with his sister or his friends. He continues to love doing stuff with his hands, showing a lot more creativity than his parents and making a bit of a mess along the way.
Kids swimming in our pond...I mean pool.
Jori wrapped up her last year at Jabulane Christian Academy earlier this month. Jori had a good year in school, excelling in all of her classes and coming out of her shell a bit more in Grade 7. Jori loves listening to music, drawing, reading and also has developed a love of Christian Rap. She still depends on her brother a lot in new situations, but has been better about stepping out of her comfort zone. She is definitely living the preteen life of gabbing with her friends, painting her nails and worrying about what to wear.

Darin had another packed year with his work for Take Action Ministry, Busetsa Wood and Business Connect. Busetsa continues to grow, which means Darin continues to be busy delivering products, picking up supplies, managing payments and more. His role at Take Action was much the same as in years past, but he has passed on most of the day to day running of the Distribution Centre to other team members. His work with Business Connect, distributing water filters, really took off. Most days find him busy getting shipments ready, meeting with potential distributors, sending emails, returning messages and taking part in conference calls with people around the globe. This year Darin was privileged to travel to Rwanda, Ethiopia, Ghana, Zambia and 3 trips to Kenya and he already has a trip to Burundi planned for January.

Glass of Pepsi Max, Yearly Planner, Phone, Laptop, Headphones and a Big Smile!
Jonna: My 2018 was also busy. I continued to work with Take Action Ministry heading up the work with day care centres. I really loved getting to know the women who manage and work at the day care centres this year. The time and energy they put into caring for children every day is really amazing. They are not in it for the money, I can tell you that for sure. I loved stopping in at the different centres and being greeted by so many smiley little faces. It really was a joy to walk beside the centres and the women running them and see how much growth they experienced this year. Having Darin involved in so many things and traveling around Africa meant that I was also busier at home. Cooking, keeping our schedules in order and helping with homework (just not math!) rounded out my days.
Of course we still see this little lady and her family a lot too!
Visitors: In January, Grandma Karen came out with 3 ladies from Edgerton to see a bit of our lives here in South Africa. Papa John and Grandma Willie came in September and stayed for 5 weeks. They brought my niece, Kelsey along and she stayed on for another 7 weeks after they left. My sister Laurie joined her for the last 12 days here. It was a great experience having Kelsey here, for me and Darin, but especially for Tyson and Jori. They went from hardly knowing their cousin to being best friends.

As we wrap up 2018, we are looking ahead to a 2019 that will be quite different. At the end of this month, I will finish up my work with Take Action Ministry after being a part of the organization for 4+ years and start 2019 as a home schooling mama of 2 high school students!! Can you feel the excitement!! Honestly, I am eager and I find myself thinking about what I want the kids to learn and how to best go about teaching them, but it is also overwhelming. When I decided to move on from Take Action, it was not originally to become a home schooling mama, but to dive more fully into exploring options of care for children with disabilities in the Hammanskraal area. However, as the school year progressed and Tyson had more issues with bullying and some of the educational aspects of school didn't quite mesh with our family, we started to look into other available options. They were either too far away or too expensive, and so we decided to give homeschooling a try, only this time with a dedicated, stay at home parent - me. The disability stuff is going on the back burner for a time until the kids and I have a bit of a rhythm worked out, and I am feeling mostly ok about this. It will just be a big change.

Speaking of big changes, Darin recently accepted a new position as the Global Director for Business Connect. He started out as a local distributor, then took on the role of South Africa director, quickly moved on to Director of Southern and Eastern Africa, recently stepped into the role of Africa director and now has been given a new opportunity to work with small business owners worldwide, helping them develop their own water filter distribution businesses. This change will mean a bit more traveling and a few more conference calls, but if anyone can handle such a big responsibility, it's Darin.

We look forward to sharing more about these changes in the new year. Blessings to you all in this festive season!

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Build Them a Home Progress Report #7 has probably seemed like I fell off the face of the earth. I kind of disappeared off the blog for a while as I was busy writing in other places, but I am back with a new report.

Since the last time I wrote, we managed to find a few bits of furniture to make the house feel a bit more homey: a kitchen table, a few nightstands and some kitchen cabinets (two of which are being used for bedroom cupboards instead)! The curtains have been hung and the electrical work is 100% complete. Next week the builders will plaster one final outside wall and build a stand for the water tank.

Sweet Amo chilling.
Lenah cooking in the kitchen
Other side of kitchen

I honestly cannot say Thank You enough to everyone who has given towards making this dream a reality. We always loved visiting Amo and her family because we love them like family, but to be able to visit them in this house, where we can all find seating, where Jori and Johanna can go off into a bedroom to chat, where we can use the toilet and wash our hands all in the same room; it is the small things that are just amazing to experience with our friends.

She loves entertaining guests
When we stop in, Amo is so much more a part of the life of the family. She isn't tucked in a corner next to a pile of clothes or laying on a bed in one room while everyone else is in the living room because of space constraints. She has a prime spot in the living room on this sofa and when family members walk past and talk to her, she turns her head towards them. I can sit in the living room chatting with Amo while her mom sleeps down the hall after working the night shift and I can chat with Lenah while she cooks in the kitchen and it is comfortable and the atmosphere is relaxed.

I stopped over the other day and Jameson was home, working on rebuilding the outside shack for storage. I asked him how he liked the new house and in his slow manner of speaking he told me how great it is to not have rats all over and dust blowing in on everything and how much more quiet it is when sleeping. He is happy that his sister has a place to study and that they can all sit together in one space.
Mother and Daughter
We are hoping that as more donations come in we will be able to purchase a pump for the water tank and a hot water geyser (heater for you Americans reading this!) so that there will be a stable flow of water in the house and also warm water so they won't need to use kettles to heat bathing water. We also hope to replace their small two plate stove that has become a one plate stove after a burner stopped working, as well as purchase and install a sink in the kitchen and some more cupboards. Storage remains a huge need, so if anyone local has drawers or shelves or cupboards you are looking to get rid of, let me know!! 

Thank you all for partnering with us. Please keep sharing as the work isn't finished. You can give by clicking the donate button at the top right of our blog. If you prefer to pay by check, please contact us at and we can give you details on how to get that done. 

#SpreadtheWord #SharetheLove #BuildThemaHome

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Build Them A Home Progress Report #6

Hello All. First of all, to everyone who has given: Thank you, Thank you, Thank you. I am working on a note with words from the Baloyi's, but I am just not getting it done as fast as I would like. Please know that your gift has not gone unnoticed and your thanks is coming :)

It has been just over a week since I last posted and the changes in the house are amazing!! In fact, even though there are still some things that need to get finished up, including the final electrical hookup, the water tank/stand/pump to get water flowing to the house, and getting a kitchen sink, Amo and her family MOVED IN on Thursday!!! Darin went over this morning to hang curtain rods and took a few pictures as well.
Miss Amo waking up in her new house
The picture above might not seem like anything special. I post pictures just like this of Amo all the time when she is with us. However, this is the first photo we have of Amo in her own house where the room is light enough to really see her! The photo below was taken with the flash on, or we wouldn't have seen our silly little goose with her flowing locks (we were messing around with a wig)! The old house was dark and the light that was shining in came through gaps in the tin that shouldn't have even been there! When Darin showed me the picture above it just made my heart feel light.
Moza with long hair
The whole house has been tiled and, while it took money away from things that were more "need" than "luxury", I am SO GLAD we went ahead and tiled the whole place. It looks and feels so clean inside. The tiler also laid tile for the shower and around the bath. This is such an improvement over the bucket they have used for so long!


Tub and Sink. (Avocado Green might be out of fashion in some parts of the world, but NOT here)

Darin has been over at the house a lot; hanging doors, hanging curtain rods, and just being the wonderful Uncle D we all know and love. I went with him on Friday to see what the house was looking like. When we got there, Phineas, Lenah's boyfriend, was taking down the tin shack.

New house to right of shack.
I started helping Lenah sort through the piles in the house while Phineas worked around us. I have been in this house plenty of times. I have seen and heard the rats, I know there were often piles of clothes laying around as there weren't enough cupboards or cabinets to store things, I know about the leaks from the roof and the holes in the tin walls. I had never seen it all in the light of day. 

As I said above, the tin shack was always dark, with just one light bulb hanging between the rooms and fragments of natural light from the door and small windows. Grabbing a shirt and realizing that it was shoved part way into the ground to try and keep rats out and seeing that there was just as much dirt inside the house as outside were unsettling. But realizing how much mouse and rat poo was inside the house was heartbreaking. The floor was covered with it, and there was nothing the family could have done to stop it. Trying to keep a place clean when you are crammed in to a small space with no storage and no good lighting and no reliable water source is hard. The dirt and dust and piles all around might make you think we just had you all help a family of slobs, and this isn't the case. Our deepest desire is that this family will now be able to live in a home that gives them dignity. 

Amo sleeping on the front porch

Thank you all for loving this family!
We will be sure to post a few more photos when everything is done and the house is a bit more set up. This week we'll be cutting curtains to size and Darin is going to be trying his hand at building shelves using scrap wood from a Take Action connection. If you still want to help out, please use the donate button at the top of our blog!

Thank you for Spreading the Word. 
Thank you for Sharing the Love. 
Thank you for Building Them a Home!

Friday, July 27, 2018

Build Them A Home Progress Report #5

It is Friday morning. I am sitting in our living room watching Amo take 5 minute naps and then wake up full of energy over and over and over again. We are all enjoying our favorite little house guest, but are so excited for her to be in her new home with her family!!! 

Now it is time for an update, and also for another ask. Yes, we met our goal of raising $10,000 to #BuildThemAHome, but as with most building projects we have found some places where we underestimated the cost and other things that we forgot altogether!! So, if you were still thinking of giving, please do! You can use the handy dandy donate button at the top of our blog, or if sending checks is your thing you can: 
  • Write a check made out to: 1st CRC Edgerton
  • In the memo of the check write: "Take Action House Project"
  • Send to: 1st CRC Edgerton 120 Center Street South Edgerton, MN 56128
  • Send an email to Darin at so that we can keep track of funds as they come in and to give us a record of donations in case any mail goes missing!
The outstanding items and costs are as follows:
  • plumbing supplies - $150
  • stand for water tank (to provide water pressure to make indoor plumbing work) - $500
  • gas water heater - $200
  • kitchen cabinets - $300
  • interior paint (this is NOT a necessity, more of a "if you live in the area and have some paint to donate, please do!!)
Originally, we had planned to use a contractor, but to keep things a bit more low-key and to build goodwill in the community, Annah and her family really wanted to use local builders, plumbers, and electricians and not the contacts of the contractor. This made sense as they already stand out in the community because of their white friends! Everyone has done a fantastic job, but the builders didn't exactly follow the plan and the house is about 20 square meters larger than the original plans. In the end, this is going to be great, but it has thrown our costing a bit out of whack. A larger house means more materials for plastering, more wiring and electrical conduit, longer copper pipes for the plumbing, more tile, etc. Once the foundations were laid, there was no going back, so now we are just trying to make a plan. 
Side view: Kitchen door and current outdoor toilet
If we aren't able to raise additional funds, the family does have about $900 that they had started saving in preparation for building a home and we will find the money to make everything workable, but we are really hoping we don't need to dip into their savings. 

In their own words:

"The question we always asked ourselves was when are we ever going to build and how much money do we actually need to start. The answer to those questions was never and we don't have enough. We had actually saved almost R10,000 to start making the bricks, but that would only be the beginning and then we would have to stop."

"We are so relieved to be moving into a finished house and not only having a pile of bricks. For us to have a house like you have built for us would mean that we would all need to be working good paying jobs, like career jobs and not the kind of jobs we have. Now we don't have to build a house and can focus on saving for Johanna's (now in Grade 9) university fees and saving to buy a car so that we can transport Amo (this is becoming more and more difficult with public transport)."
Front of house
"It is amazing what is happening. People just gave away their money and some don't even know us but they did it because they have love in their hearts. You have taught us that love and you have made our dreams come true."

I will be sharing more from the Baloyi family in the next update. Right now, Darin is out picking up a few more bags of cement so that the outside plastering can be finished. The inside plastering is finished, the electrical stuff will be finished after the plumbing, which should get finished this weekend. The tilers are coming tomorrow and plan to finish tiling by Sunday. The window guy is coming to install glass on Monday. After that, the family will do a big clean from all the building mess and move in!! 
Dining room looking into kitchen
If you know of anyone who can help us finish this project well, please share this post with them. We are so excited to share photos of the family in their new house!!

Spread the Word. Share the Love. Build Them a Home.

Stress and dental care

It is already a week into February and just about time for Darin to head off on another adventure. Tomorrow night he is heading to Ghana for...