Monday, June 18, 2012

Birthday Weekend O' Fun

On Friday night, the birthday fun began. Darin and I tried to sneak into Tyson's room to put up a few streamers and balloons, but he sat up and caught us in the act. All day long he had been asking "How many more hours til midnight?" because that was when he would officially be 8! Tyson woke up bright and early on Saturday morning and came into our room to let us know he was now eight years old. The rest of the morning was pretty uneventful as Darin had to go to town, so the kids spent most of their morning watching movies while I made an extra batch of cupcakes and waited for the sun to pop back through the clouds.

Around 1:15, Darin drove back up to the house and let me know we needed a new clutch for the car. Then around 1:30 our guests arrived for an afternoon of birthday fun! We invited the Van Gilders to celebrate with us because their family also would be celebrating 2 birthdays this weekend; Tim's (the dad)was the same day as Tyson's and Caden's was on the 17th, sandwiched right between our kids. The sun was finally back out, so the adults enjoyed sitting outside, having some grown up conversation, which is always a treat, while the kids jumped on the trampoline, climbed the water tower, and played with toys inside. We had some snacks and the wonderful birthday cupcakes (funfetti cake mix and whipped frosting, courtesy of Grandma Karen!) and then we let the kids open their presents. They ran around and played until it was time to head across the road to celebrate with our friends over there. We had plenty of cupcakes and were able to share with everyone except the babies. Only little Neo realized he was missing out on something good. After sharing a treat and playing together, it was time to head out for a game drive. Thankfully the Van Gilder's vehicle is big enough for all of us to fit in as ours was out of commission. We saw a lot of kudu, 5 giraffe across the river, herds of blesbok and impala, some warthog and a few wildebeest, which made it a very successful game drive! Then it was back to our house for some soup and homemade rolls (thanks Athena!) and a little more time to play before it was time for our friends to go home and our kids to go to bed.

On Sunday, we were able to go to church because our neighbors were kind enough to let us borrow their car. Normally, it wouldn't have been a big deal to stay home, but our good friends, the Streckers, were moving to Austria the next day and we really wanted to say goodbye to them. We also had plans to go to lunch as a way to celebrate the kids' birthdays and Father's Day as well. We had a lovely church service, were able to hug our friends and wish them well on our journey and then we headed to the mall for lunch. We decided on Spur, which we had really not been huge fans of until we found out that the steak roll is quite a nice meal. For a special treat, we even ordered dessert. Yum. The kids had fun jumping in the bounce house and playing video games. We headed home after lunch and decided to let the kids open all of their cards and a few birthday presents. Thanks so much to everyone who sent a card. Tyson and Jori both love getting mail and it was so special for them to each have a stack of cards to open. Grandma Karen had brought some presents along with her, including some new DVD's. Tyson and Jori spent the next hour watching old episodes of The Smurfs, while Darin and I read. Then they played with their new Lego's and My Little Pony until bedtime. Darin and I waited til Jori was asleep, then decorated her room with streamers and balloons. She must have been very tired as she didn't wake up at all. We went to bed and planned to sleep all night, but Jori woke us up at 10. She had heard a mosquito in her room and had somehow missed her door while trying to come and tell us and ran into the brick bedroom wall instead. She had blood all over her hands and all above her eye. It looked TERRIBLE, like stitches worthy, but once Darin managed to get her cleaned up, we saw that there was just a tiny little cut right under her eyebrow. Phew!

Monday morning arrived, bright and sunny and, dare I say it, warm! My SIX year old came and crawled in bed with me. She started talking with me and said "Whoa, I sound like a ten year old!" Ha. For breakfast, we pulled out the Lucky Charms Grandma Karen brought and gave each kid a bowlful with a candle. They were thrilled. While we were outside hanging laundry we saw two rhino right outside our fence! I am sure they were there to wish our girl well. The birthday girl wanted to watch Home Alone, so we got that set up for them. After watching the movie, they ran off to set up "traps" in Tyson's room, then they wanted Darin and I to pretend to be bad guys so they could catch us in their traps, just like in the movie. Good times. After lunch, I pulled out the covered wagon models I'd been saving (thanks Grandma Willie) and the kids set to work painting all the wooden parts. There was a lot more time spent running around outside, jumping on the tramp and playing upstairs, then they decided to watch Kung Fu Panda 2 until bedtime. Jori said she thinks it was the "funnest birthday ever".

So ends the 2012 edition of the Birthday Weekend O' Fun.


Monday, June 11, 2012


One year ago today, we loaded up our trusty minivan for one last time and headed to the airport in Grand Rapids. We were able to check in our 14 pieces of luggage without any problems and spent time with friends, waiting for our plane to depart. I can still remember tripping over my carryon when Rachel called me back for one last hug and one more chance to squeeze my abnormally small and frail hands. We then walked through security and started a journey that has looked much different than the one we started plotting out on our living room floor on Elm Avenue in 2009.

Today, we are still living just outside of Hammanskraal in what was supposed to be our temporary residence. This farm and the surrounding area has been such a blessing to us. As Laura Ingalls Wilder said, "We who live in the quiet places have the opportunity to become acquainted with ourselves, to think our own thoughts and live our own lives in a way that is not possible for those who are keeping up with the crowd". I have found this to be true in so many ways and am so thankful that God in His goodness (and our generous landlords) has made it possible for us to spend this past year in this "quiet place".  

Today, we do not live off of the profits of our business, but off of the kindness of people who believe in us and in our dream to live here in South Africa and come alongside people who are already doing a good work in this country. We have been blessed to get more involved at Tshwaraganang (Mama C) and Tshepo Ya Bana (across the road). We have met new people through our work with both of these organizations and, even though we still have a lot to learn, we feel like we have learned how to do good and be a blessing instead of always coming in with our own plans and agendas.

Today, instead of making long term plans for the schooling of our kids, we continue to cobble together a mishmash of lessons in an attempt to keep up their education. This morning we started learning about the Oregon Trail and the pioneers who traveled upon it many, many years ago and remembered starting our own journey to South Africa 365 days ago. With so much of our future up in the air and out of our hands, we don't know if we'll be enrolling them in a local school midway through the South African school year or if they'll be starting 1st and 3rd grade back in Michigan.

Today, my hands are cold as I type. I dread the setting of the sun as we won't be able to pop outside to warm our bodies. I remember arriving here just over a year ago and having these same experiences; mornings that I can hardly drag myself from the warmth of our bed, hanging laundry with gloves on, lugging around a hot water bottle all. day. long. Instead of totally hating the cold I find myself wondering if we'll have the privilege to "endure" another South African winter, or if this will be our last.

Today, we don't have the answers, but I know we'll need to make a decision soon. I'm just thankful that it doesn't have to be today.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

I almost made it the full year...

We've been here just a few days short of a year and today I had the unfortunate experience of touching an electrified fence. OUCH! I've closed the gate at our neighbors 100's of times without any problems but this afternoon my hand must have slipped because I felt a huge zing shoot from the fingers on my right hand, through my chest and out my left arm. Darin saw the whole thing and was kind enough to laugh at my misfortune. What a dear. 

In other electrical news, one of our light bulbs exploded today. We came home from church, Darin flicked on the switch and CRASH! The sound of glass shattering and hitting the tile floor was all around us. We aren't sure why it happened, but we hope it won't happen again!

Friday, June 8, 2012

A Glimpse into our Week

I think most people in the US are busy wrapping up the school year and getting ready to enjoy the summer months, while here in South Africa our kids just started school again on Monday after a 3 week break and we are definitely feeling like winter is here. Darin left for a meeting yesterday morning and it was 34ยบ F out, which may not seem so cold to many of you, but when you remember that we don't have central heating and our brick and tile house doesn't really lend itself to warming up quickly, you might start to feel a little bit sorry for us.

Darin is in charge of school this morning. He is teaching the kids fractions. I am thankful he is around to work on math with the kids as it is definitely not my forte. Have I ever mentioned before that I took Math 100(basic math) at Calvin and it was not uncommon for me to get a D on my tests? I am definitely not a math brain. Tyson and Jori tend to take after their dad, but from what I can hear, fractions have them a bit flustered.

Jori has said some funny things this week. Both of our kids have colds right now and she was giving Darin a little commentary on all her ailments. She said she had the coughs, the sniffles and the sleeps. Darin had never heard of anyone having the sleeps, so he asked her to explain. "Well, I yawned 21 times during school."

On Sunday, Jori and I were in the same bathroom stall before church. She said "There are 5 ___ in here", but I could not make out what she was saying. "There are 5 ___in here". What? "There are 5 buns in here." Even hearing what she was saying did not clarify things for me as we were the only 2 people in the stall and I had only counted 2 other women in the bathroom when we came in. Finally, in a slightly exasperated tone she said "You know, 5 toilet paper buns".  "Oh, you mean rolls." I can see where she'd get the 2 mixed up.

Happy weekend!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Kids' reports

We headed back to school this week. On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday we spent our class time working on reports about when Grandma Karen and Israel were here in South Africa. The kids both had a lot of fun talking about all the things we did and the memories we made. 

Enjoy their take on things!

Me and my Grandma and Israel by Tyson

We went to the Rhino and Lion park. We saw a marabou stork which I called an ugly dork. Israel pretended to be an ugly dork. We saw pigmy hippos. They had very sharp teeth. There was a reptile park. We got to pet baby lions. We played with them too.

                We also came back to the Big Swing my buddy signed me in for the zipline. I liked going on it again. My uncle got to go on he loved it. My sister Jori got to go on to she also loved it. My grandma did not want to go on but I asked her!

                On the last night she was here we had a sleepover. First we watched a movie and had candy with it. The candy's names were snakes alive, smarties chocolate ones, and sour enerjelly babies, popcorn, Mirinda pop. My parents had to stay in their room. WE stayed up late. They played games without me cause I felt sick but after a while I felt better then we told ghost stories. Then we told funny stories. Then when we woke up early my grandma cuddled with us.

                Me and my uncle plated with Legos and made Robots out of them. It was very fun. We named some of them. Their names were Beetlebot which Israel created. He thought of a name for one of mine Caterpillar.

                Me and my uncle and my dad went to Amos' shop but the games didn't work cause the power went off so insted we bought a sweetie with our 50 cents that's how much the games cost. The 2nd time we came the games worked cause the power wasn't off so we didn't buy a sweetie.

We had a great time with grandma and Israel.


Jori's report

This is all aboot me and my Grandma. I went to Kruger wath my Grandma and mom and dad and Tyson and Israel. We saw Ellufents. We saw lions. We saw bufulloe. We saw cheetuz. We saw a dead cumellen (chameleon). We saw Black Muma (Mamba) that wuz dead cause a bred (bird) dropt the snake. We allsoe went to the lion and rino parek. We saw chetus then we saw wild dogs. Then we peted babe lions it wus fun.

Wen my Grandma was here on the last nite we had a sleepover. We had ckandee. Frest we woocht a move. The move pozd (The movie paused) my mom and dad trid to fix the move it didn't wrok sow we went to the room. We pllad gamez. The ckandees names wor snaks alive and enerjellebebabeve (enerjelly babies) and smardese. Then we went to bed. My Grandma sllept weth us in the morneen.

Allso when my Grandma was here we jumped on the trampolen and sumtimz my Grandma jumpt me. It was fun. Sumtimz my Grandma trid to crac me opin the gam was collth (called) crac the egg. The gam was fun. She woocht me jump sumtims.

We went to the zipline the big sweeing was next to the zipllin. I wint on the zipllin. It was fun. I coodent (couldn't) run off the boord. It was my birthyday pressint.

It was fun with tham.  

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The rest of the week

Ok, I think I had gotten up to Sunday night in my last post, which brings us to…

Monday, May 28. We all woke up on time and headed out the door around 9 for the Hartbeespoort Dam. The ride to the dam was uneventful and we made it safely there a little before 10. We got out and walked to the scenic overlook. It was windy and being cold did nothing to improve my spirits. I am not a fan of going to the dam as it is high up and the kids like to hang over the railing and it makes my stomach do a million flip-flops. We took some pictures, and after checking out the green goo they were cleaning on the not-so-scenic side of the road, we piled back into the car and headed to Chameleon Village.

 If you have never been to Chameleon Village, I do not really know how to describe it to you. It's like a giant flea market with loads of vendors and tiny stalls all crammed under a giant tent. You will quickly notice that many of the vendors are selling the exact same items and they all want to give you the "best price" for "you my friend". Some of them will follow you up and down the aisles as you try to take in all the options and start thinking of what you might like to buy for yourself or what you'd like to buy for someone else. If you stop at a stall and look at an item, or, heaven forbid, you pick up an item, you will be followed around by a vendor with that item telling you they will give you the best price and insisting that you come back to their shop to make a purchase.

We have been to Chameleon Village on numerous occasions and it can still be a bit overwhelming at times. Grandma Karen had never been there before and I am thinking she would be glad to never make a return visit! We finally stopped to eat lunch so that she could just sit and try to think about some of the things she had seen and what she might like to buy without the pressure of all the different vendors shoving stuff in her face or asking her to name her best price.

After lunch, things were a little less chaotic as we all had a better idea of what we wanted to come home with and there were also more tourists milling around, which took some of the pressure off of us. We gave the kids each about $6 US and told them they could spend it on whatever they wanted. Those two blonde heads were flying up and down the aisles, talking to vendors, negotiating prices and changing their minds no less than 50 times. Our little Jori was an especially astute shopper and was determined to get the most for her money. She was making the vendors laugh at her small size and big ideas, but she did come away with a lot of little treasures; a necklace with 2 hearts, a butterfly necklace, a beaded bracelet and a small beaded flower. I tried to give her a lot of freedom to make her own choices, but was trying to steer her away from so much jewelry as I was pretty sure she was going to want something she could play with. I was right, but it was a good lesson for our little shopper to learn. Tyson used his money to buy a large beaded spider and a small beaded chameleon. He had R10 left to buy his own bottle of pop the next day.

Grandma Karen made a lot of purchases and Israel made quite a few as well, but I won't say a thing about them as I don't want to spoil any surprises! I came away happiest of all as I found a nativity set made from banana leaves that had so many small details on it. I found it, brought Darin over to do the negotiating, and was able to give the vendor a big thumbs up when I walked past and he told me my husband had just made me a nice purchase. I also found a beaded owl, which sucked me in with its giant wire eyes. It makes a lovely accompaniment to the beaded guinea hen that my parents bought me in Cape Town a few years ago. Darin didn't come away empty handed as he found a wooden statue of an old man with a big belly that he just had to have. Tyson keeps saying "You made a fat choice", which is a very good thing according to our boy.

After a long, and somewhat stressful and overwhelming day of shopping, we headed back across the dam and made our way home. The kids and I ran into Jubilee to get some groceries while Darin, Karen and Israel went on to Mama Cathrine's to say goodbye to her. After getting back home, Karen and Israel went across the road to help with the dinnertime routine and spend some more time with the kids. We had potato soup for dinner and, once the kids were in bed, spent some time talking about more grown up things. So ends Monday.

Tuesday-We did not have a lot planned on Tuesday. Darin and Tyson had to go to Mama Cathrine's as new fencing material was going to be delivered later in the week and there were preparations that needed to be made for that. On his way out of town, he dropped me off across the road to get my baby fix. Jori kept her Grandma busy with lots of jumping on the trampoline and playing cards and she had fun playing with Israel too, which is a lot harder to do when the two boys were together.

After we were all back home, we decided to head a few doors down to Tamboti Lodge to have some dessert. We ate out by a picnic table and the kids were so glad that they ALL got to order their own desserts and no one had to share. After dessert, we dropped Karen and Israel off across the road to say their goodbyes. This of course, did not happen, as a very persuasive Mama Mina said that she would not say goodbye until Karen came back the next morning J

Tuesday night came around and after eating a light dinner, the 3 kids and Grandma Karen kicked Darin and I out of the living room and started their movie night/slumber party. They had three big packages of candy and a bottle of Mirinda(orange pop) to keep them company while they watched Despicable Me. Darin and I were relegated to our bedroom where we started a new season of 24. About 45 minutes, mouthfuls of candy, pop and popcorn later, Tyson came running into our room saying he was going to throw up. Thankfully he did not actually do so, but he did have quite a tummy ache from eating so much party food. Around this same time, the kids' computer started acting up and their movie watching time was done. They moved into Grandma Karen's room where Tyson fell into bed and covered his head with the blanket. Grandma, Israel and Jori sat on the bed and played games and told silly stories. Tyson finally started feeling better and the three kids entertained Grandma with their ghost stories until they all got tired and finally fell asleep around 9:30.

Wednesday-Morning came bright and early for Grandma Karen as Tyson and Jori woke up at 5! Grandma cuddled with them on their mattress and Jori fell asleep while Tyson wiggled next to her for the next couple hours. Quality time!

Darin took Grandma and Israel back across the road around 9:30 to spend some more time with the kids and say goodbye. This is never a fun thing to do as those little ones have a way of just working their way right into your heart. After saying many goodbyes, everyone came back home and Grandma did some more packing while the kids played, argued and played some more. The late night and early morning was definitely catching up with them! Thankfully they did manage to keep themselves busy for a while so the adults could visit and relax out in the sun. It's always hard when you know you'll be heading to the airport soon and you're trying to just slow time down and enjoy being together.

We headed to the airport around 2, stopping to pick up some Rooibos Tea and Biltong(South African style beef jerky) for Karen to take back to Minnesota. After running around between terminal A and B a bit more than we had planned, we finally had everyone checked in and were able to sit down for an early dinner together at Mugg and Bean. Then it was time to say goodbye, which is always the worst part of any visit. Grandma did a great job of holding it together until she was in the security line. Having Tyson holler out "Why are you crying?" helped put a smile back on her face. Israel was looking like he could fall over asleep at any minute, which is probably a good thing when you're getting ready to begin a 18 hour flight! Then it was time to go. Our kids held hands as we walked back to our car and kept saying that they were probably going to be crying in their beds.

Grandma and Israel, we are SO glad you were able to come and visit us in South Africa. Thank you for being so interested in our lives out here and stepping right in and helping out in so many different ways. We're so glad we could share these 3 weeks with you and hope that you have lots of good stories to share with everyone back in the US. We love you!!

Build Them a Home Progress Report #3

Wow, wow, wow!!! We are only $50 away from reaching our goal!! Thank you to everyone who gave over the past week. The house is really taki...