Saturday, February 27, 2010


Today my first born son turns 18!

It's a cliche but it really does seem like just yesterday when T.J was born in a little hospital in Mexico. He was greeted by our 19 month old twin girls.

He was a really cutie and a very good baby. This was helpful since by the time he was 8 months old I was expecting another baby.

I taught him early on to greet all the ladies with a kiss on the hand. Needless to say that was a hit!

In some ways he was almost too pretty. My second son was born when T.J was 17months old. This next son was all boy. People would take a look at our four children and comment that I must be glad to finally have a boy.

When he was three years old he pulled a table on top of himself knocking out his two front teeth. For the next 5 years he had that cute 'missing tooth' grin.

I could hardly recognize him in pictures when his teeth finally grew in.

Today he is a strong young man who would love to go into politics and who is passionate about history. He has a great sense of humor and a close friendship with his brother that is going to last a lifetime.

While he is idealistic and has very strong opinions (which teenager doesn't) I've been surprised sometimes to see his maturity come through as well. As an example: T.J is not an Obama fan. He has his reasons--don't jump all over this post if you disagree, please. But one day an email came round mocking Obama's healthcare planning using a picture of Obama as a witch doctor. Someone was laughing about it but T.J said that he didn't think it was right to send mocking emails like that because it drew attention away from the real issues. I was surprised and pleased.

I was sitting in the living room last night listening to T.J debate some topic with his dad. I marveled how God prepares children to grow up and leave the nest. Just a few short years ago T.J worshipped his dad and yet now, while he still respects his dad,  he feels strong enough and secure enough to express his opinions and disagree with him. He's ready to go out on his own now.


Happy Birthday, T.J!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Keeper, Sleeper, Weeper

I love to cook! This is no surprise to anyone who knows me IRL.

My favorite food to cook and eat is Indian. 

But I love, love, love reading up on new recipes and trying them out. I subscribe to a few food blogs and tag and bookmark good recipes whenever I come across them. Later on when I have time I try them out.

My family members have always been good sports about trying new foods. To help decide whether a recipe is added to the regular lineup or if it is best forgotten I came up with a simple system:

Keeper: Everyone loves the recipe and would love for me to make it often.

Sleeper: Not a favorite, but we could have it again one distant day.

Weeper: Never, ever, ever again!

Here are a few of the recipes I've tried recently along with our family's rating.

 I have heard about this recipe for years and was inspired to try it after reading about it on Deb's site: Smitten Kitchen. Nearly every recipe posted by this blogger is bookmarked by me and later tried if I have the ingredients.
Everyone enjoyed this very much and shouted out that it was a Keeper. Only Jasmine felt it should have the Sleeper rating because it was pretty time consuming to make--not hard but with the different times of rising and waiting it took a total of 3 hours.

I liked the look of this recipe because as I mentioned above I love Indian food and I make a really scrumptious chai tea that everyone loves. 
Unfortunately, this recipe did not make everyone smile. I may tweak this later and try it without the coriander and turmeric. The yellow color threw everyone off a bit. This sadly was declared a Weeper.

This recipe was exciting for me because while I love Pioneer Woman's Cinnamon Buns they are involving to make and messy too--totally worth it!--but still a big job for a Sunday morning. 
When I came across this recipe that does not require the yeast dough to rise first, I was so happy. In just over an hour I had a bread type cake that tasted quite close to Cinnamon Rolls. 
The family loved it as well declaring this recipe a Keeper.

I thought this recipe sounded delightful. A baked apple pancake with a custard middle and lots of cinnamon on top. Delish! The only problem is that my kids are not fans of baked egg custards or quiches and such. I knew this going in and still went ahead. I'm a big believer in presenting foods of all kinds and letting the chips fall where they may.
If you like egg dishes definitely try this. It was easy to put together for Sunday breakfast
We won't be having it again because it got the dreaded Weeper rating.

The thing I liked most about this recipe was how easy it was. It was all mashed and mixed in one bowl. I doubled this and baked it in a 6" x 13" loaf tin and it was perfect for breakfast. 
I added about half a cup of chopped dates to make it more interesting which prompted my son to issue it a Sleeper rating. Everyone else loved it and rated it a Keeper!

Don't go by our ratings though. Look at these links and let me know if you try any of them. Have  you found any new recipes lately?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Older Brothers--Who Needs 'Em?

We have a large dog. Harley is a Boerboel which is a South African breed in the Mastiff family. She is huge but a complete wimp. She's scared to death of the baby stroller, the Christmas tree, loud noises. Tom turned on the tractor a couple days ago and Harley ran into the house to crying to me.

Even though she is a complete wuss she is still pretty huge. She's as tall as the little kids and they have had trouble learning to get along with her. It doesn't help that the nannies are terrified of almost all animals. We've had to work hard with them about accepting animals and using knowledge and caution--rather than fear--to protect yourself.

The kids have made huge strides in learning to love and play with the dogs. Or we thought they had....

The other day all the kids were walking up to the dining room in a big group. Harley, excited about seeing so many playmates, galloped across the grass toward them. 

Johnny--3 years old

Johnny picked up little Moriah and held her up in front of him saying, "Here Harley...Moriah!"

Moriah--16 months old

Now, tell me, does this look like the face of a dog who would eat children?

That's a turkey bone--I promise!

I didn't have a big brother to torment me. I was the oldest so I did the tormenting.
What about you? What are your thoughts on big brothers?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Lend Me Your....


Annually either Tom or myself travel back to the States to update sponsors and raise money for our operating budget, needed equipment, or construction projects.

This year it's my turn. (Taco Bell Fresca menu--here I come!) I'll be visiting several cities in the U.S and showing a promotional video that Tom is putting together.

Every year we also print up a new brochure that highlights our family and the work we do at the orphanage and in the village. 

My dilemma is that last year our twin girls headed to the States for college and this year our oldest son will join them. I don't know what to do about the family picture we always put on the brochure. Do we only include the children that will still be working with us? or do we take a photo before our son leaves and then put thumbnail photos somewhere near the photo of the girls? or what?

  I hate to leave anyone off the picture. It feels like I'm denying the kids' existence if  they aren't in the picture. They worked hard to build this place and worked hard alongside us. And I feel cheated too, if truth be told; I gave birth to all six of those kids naturally, sans anesthesia, and I deserve to be proud of that fact! I can't imagine taking a photo with only 3 kids.

  On the other hand, if those older kids are no longer active in the mission's work we're doing are we committing fraud to have them on the brochure?

  What do you all think? Please give me your opinion.

P.S I updated the look of my blog and will be adding more fun stuff to the left side bar. Stay tuned.

P.P.S When I get to the States I will be holding a giveaway. Now we all have something to look forward to.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


Our Kids--Volume VII
Theresa came to stay with us the same day as Henry on Boxing Day, 2007. They are from the same little village about 1 1/2 hours south of us.  Theresa's mom died when she was 6 months old. There was never a father in the picture so her grandmother took care of her for a year before bringing her to us. The grandmother was worried that she would not have been able to look after her for much longer.


Theresa was one of the shiest little girls I've ever seen. She had a pretty hard adjustment learning to live with 'muzungus'. While we had been able to kiss and cuddle all the other new arrivals we had to give her time to adjust. 
My strongest memory of her first days/weeks with us was her sitting at the end of the dining room table. She would be eating her food but if any of us white ones walked into the room she would throw her arm over her face burying her eyes in the crook of her elbow.

 The kitchen staff still had a ways to go in learning about portion control.

Thankfully Theresa eventually came out of her shell and began entering in more to activities and allowing us to hug her and get to know her more.

She's still a very quiet girl who prefers to just get on with what she's doing and not have to speak much.


I had to teach the nannies how to encourage Theresa to grow up and be a big girl because with her cute little face and quiet demeanor she was getting away with quite a bit. I found out a couple months ago that the nannies were still dressing her when she was well over 3 years old. She would just act helpless and get out of work. I think this little face is going to be trouble when she gets older.


Every day she gets brighter and bolder.
It's wonderful to see the smile on her face!


Even though this photo is grainy because it was taken at night I had to include it because this is now classic Theresa. We had let the kids come out just before bed in their pajamas to watch some fireworks New Year's Eve. The look of delight on her face is a joy to behold!

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Friday, February 19, 2010

Fab Friday Foto--Volume XIII

Remember when I was talking yesterday about Tom visiting an island where no white man had set foot for 15 years?

Below is a picture taken on that trip. Tom is the only one wearing a hat.

Do you see anything else out of place?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Lake Mweru

A couple weeks ago we got to take a family drive up to Lake Mweru which is about an hour or so north of us. I and the kids had never been up that way despite living here for over 3 years.

Tom has been up there countless times. Long before we moved to this area Tom took trips up here and showed the Jesus film along with Campus Crusade. He even took boat trips out to the islands on the lake. One of them had not had white visistors for over 15 years meaning that for most of the children Tom was the first white person they had ever seen.

As we drove north I was fantasizing about what I would do when we got there--sit on the shore, sip a coke, gaze at the sheer beauty of God's creation.

The reality was a little bit different. God's creation took on a different form than I had expected.

The lake was gorgeous. The lonely fishing vessels out in the middle--peaceful!

The shore line though--not quite as pretty

Laundry washing and a broken down old boat.

An abandoned suitcase and a little baby all by his lonesome.

Ok, so the mom was about 10 yards away doing the washing.

Readers of this blog will not be surprised that one of the first things I needed to do when we got to the lakeside was to find a restroom. Well, we didn't quite find a restroom. It didn't even have proper walls. There were small gaps between the bamboo strips.

This has got to be the ricketiest facility I have ever used. It was sturdy enough but made me exceedingly nervous!

After deciding that we couldn't really sit and relax on the shore we headed for a restaurant for lunch. There weren't many choices but Havana Restaurant came highly recommended.

All dishes were served with Nshima. Nshima is a type of cornmeal porridge--similar to thick grits or polenta but without any seasoning. It is the staple food for Zambia and very important to them. If you ask them if they have eaten the actual term in Bemba is: 'Have you eaten nshima?' If they haven't had nshima then they haven't eaten no matter how much other food they've consumed.

We all chose the chicken except for Troy who chose eggs.

The white lump in the center is the nshima. It is stiff and slightly sticky. You pull of small lumps and mold them into balls in the palm of your hand and then pinch up bits of meat or vegetables to go with it. I almost never use the palm choosing to just use my finger tips.

I could only eat about a third of my nshima portion. It is really filling stuff!

My son however had no problem eating all of his and most of everyone else's. Teenagers!

All restaurants have hand wash stations set up so people can have clean hands before and after the meal. This towel was fresh but normally I air dry my hands because you have no idea how many people have used that towel before you.

This place was nice because they had liquid soap. Bar soap is as nasty as a used towel for bacteria.

The restaurant owners were so sweet and let us bring our dog in with us and even brought a bucket of water for her. This is unusual because most Zambians don't treat their dogs like pets but more like work animals.

The day out was great and relaxing. I'm grateful for these places that God has provided for us to 'get away' to from time to time.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

When The Saints Come Marching Home--The Remix

My internet connection has been troublesome. This may begin like the post with the same title but there is much more to see below.

Ok, I know this is a week or so late but I couldn't resist putting up these photos and bragging on my kids a bit.
 Holidays are pretty important to us because it helps to give us a connection to others around the world and our 'native' country. It is also a good reason to throw a party! We had friends in the States laugh because they said that our kids are sometimes more clued in to pop culture than they are. They had been chatting with us one day on Skype and our kids mentioned that they were excited about the Super Bowl and our friends thought "huh. Is that this Sunday?"

We plan a big party every year for the Super Bowl with lots of American goodies to eat and invite as many volunteers over as we can. Tom and I got back from Lusaka the day before the Super Bowl aired here and when I realized I had malaria my heart sunk. I hated to let my kids down but there was no way I could pull a party together with the way I was feeling. They assured me that they could do it all by themselves!

It was very interesting that while in years past we have had 6-15 people over for the fun this year only one couple RSVPd. At first we were a little bummed about that but afterward saw it was for the best. I am in the right photo--all bundled up against the malaria chills. That blanket would get tossed off when the chills turned to sweats and then pulled up again when the chills came back. But I did not miss out on the party!

Can you see the candles on the bookshelves? That wasn't for ambiance. We had a power cut all night and wanted to make sure the batteries lasted for the whole game.
Troy was so excited to cheer for the Saints. He dug into his dad's costume bag and came up with this. Did you know Tom used to be a clown?

For the last several years I have sucessfully cheered for the losing team. I was a little worried this year when I found out that not only me but all my family was rooting for The Saints. 

We can only watch the game about 18 hours after it shows in the U.S so we are careful not to watch TV, get on Facebook, check email or do anything that might reveal the score.
For this reason the kids couldn't get online to double check what the Saints logo looked like. This was their best guess. If it were a professional cake it would be fair game for Cake Wrecks.
 T.J and Jasmine made the dinner: Homemade Corn Dogs, refried beans and Spanish rice with cheese and sour cream. Troy and Timmy were responsible for the decorated chocolate cake. They all did a really good job!

We were all so excited when the Saints won!

I was and am so proud of the kids for pulling together this party and creating memories to last a lifetime!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety-Jig

When Tom was discharged from the clinic we had a few short hours to run around and visit a few shops before catching the bus. 

The large buses are the main form of transportation for rural, small business owners so they take inventory for their shops on the bus.

Tom was taking these photos for his website so he didn't really capture how very crowded the bus station is. Do you see the carpet rolled up there on the right?

Do you see that mattress folded and ready to be loaded on the bus?

Just a few short years ago all the buses had racks on the roof for luggage and they would be loaded using that balcony at the top of the picture. The problem with this system was that bandits would jump onto the bus as it slowed down on the road and then toss luggage down off the bus.

Using a book to show how narrow our seats are.

Sorry this one is blurry. I felt awkward leaning over my seat and photographing people. Zambians were recently socialists and still quite suspicious of photographs. Not the soul-stealing suspicion but more stealing state secrets suspicion.

 One of our nighttime stops. The woman on the left is selling peanuts in the shell.

Our trip home was pretty uneventful. We made the trip in 14 hours. Not too bad. I took Benadryl and slept deeply the whole time. About half way through the trip my back hurt a lot but that wasn't surprising seeing as I'd spent the previous night sitting up next to Tom's bed and was again sitting up all night. When we got home though it became apparent that I had come down with malaria. I am fine now and nearly all the way better. It was so nice to sleep in my own bed again.

Even Hypochondriacs Get Sick

Continued from yesterday's post:
Tom’s night was less than restful. Part of it was being wound up over his exciting evening but it was something more. He felt completely unwell and had a dry cough that concerned me. We checked out of the hotel and headed to breakfast at our favorite place where we can enjoy yummy American style breakfast and do our internet at the same time.
  We had hardly placed our order though when Tom felt so terribly that we jumped in a taxi and headed to the clinic.

  I knew Tom was sick but you have to understand that Tom is very much a hypochondriac so I also had a hard time taking his complaints seriously.

  What took place at the clinic was enough to give me a reason to chuckle:
Doctor: What symptoms do you have?
Tom: Everything! Everything is wrong! First I had a bad cold....I still have a cough...see, phlegm.

Tom: My urine is brown!! (sorry for TMI—it’s important to the story)
Doc: Well, does it hurt when you urinate?
Tom: (disappointed look crosses his face) ….no

When the doctor left the room Tom looked at me and said, "Just tell them to give me a nice big dose of morphine."
He then asked me to tell him where his kidneys were so he could point out that they hurt because they had completely failed!

The doctor decided to draw some blood and tied off Tom’s bicep with a tourniquet.
Tom: OW! I would never want to be a drug addict if I had to do that every day!

The doctor looked at me and said, “He’s feeling quite sorry for himself isn’t he?"

It turned out that Tom’s liver wasn’t functioning well—most likely due to the malaria. Malaria parasites attack the liver so it is really hard on it. The medicine to fight malaria is just as damaging. He needed to spend the night in the clinic and get a large amount of medicine in an IV. One of the medicines made his muscles all twitchy. He kept trying to get up and get off the bed. I’d put him back down and then a couple minutes later he was bouncing up again. It also made it hard for him to speak so he would move his mouth but nothing intelligible came out.

  I was so thankful we found this clinic. It was nice to be in a place where I could trust that the doctor knew what she was doing and they had access to lab work and good quality medicines. Of course I still hardly left Tom’s side because while I love this clinic, on my first ever visit there with my son the clinic officer (equivalent to a physician’s assistant, perhaps?) was surprised that he was only 15 years old. “But you’re taller than me!” he exclaimed. Not the kind of thing that inspires confidence in someone’s medical training.

  Another thing I was thankful for was that we had ‘just happened’ to be in the capital city when Tom got so sick and not in the bush. We had gone back and forth over whether we should both have gone down and especially after the immigration debacle we thought we had made a mistake traveling down together. Once Tom got sick we were so grateful that things had worked out that way. The thought of Tom being alone either in the bush or in the capital city when so sick was not worth thinking about. The fact that we were right next to the help we needed was wonderful. Isn’t it great how God works things out?

  When the effects of that one weird medicine had worn off and Tom was resting peacefully, I dashed out for some dinner and to let people know via email what was happening with Tom. I     took the opportunity to get my favorite food—Indian! I also bought juice for Tom to help his liver heal. When I got back to the clinic I found that the two IV bags had done him a world of good because he proceeded to eat half my food. Then he told me I had to order a pizza too.

  After a night of rest Tom was feeling much better. He still needs to take medicine for a while to restore his liver and watch his diet and we’ll have to repeat the test later. At the time of writing this he is stronger and nearly restored to full health.

Tomorrow: last episode of our Lusaka saga.

Friday, February 12, 2010

This Day Just Gets Better and Better!

Continued from yesterday's post:

Boy, were we ready for the day to get better. Living out in the bush there are a couple things we look forward to when we head to the big city: eating in restaurants and watching movies on the big screen. With all the hype built up around Avatar Tom was hoping against hope that it would still be playing to Lusaka. As ill as he was feeling he jumped out of the taxi and headed straight for the cinema as soon as we got to the shopping mall.

Oh joy! Avatar was indeed playing! Tom could have done a jig right then and there. Did I mention he’s a sci-fi fan? I was more interested in watching Invictus but was so glad to see Tom happy and feeling better (mentally at least) that I would have sat through all four Alien movies with him.

After planning when we would watch the movie we checked out a new restaurant. It looked like a really fun place which we would have enjoyed taking the children to. Just after we had ordered lunch a missionary we knew walked by. I glanced around and saw his wife sitting at a nearby table. I was so excited. Living so far out in the bush affords us little opportunity to visit with other missionaries. Being able to sit down and discuss, pray and fellowship with other missionaries is one of the things we miss most from our time in more populated areas.

  We had a wonderful lunch visiting with this sweet couple who recently started the adoption process of a little girl in addition to their four other small little girls. They are an inspiration.

  After lunch we did some internet work and then headed over to the travel agency. I will be visiting the States for two months in April and May. My oldest son is traveling with me but will be staying in the States to go to school. When I emailed our travel agent to book the tickets the prices she quoted me were shocking! Both tickets were double what I paid last year. I asked if she knew why prices had gone up so drastically but she couldn’t give me an answer.

  When we got to the office to make payment, I asked the agent to make sure that we got the missionary ticket so that we could get the extra baggage allowance it makes such a difference in what we can bring back with us in the way of supplies for the orphanage. She called the manager in a different office to arrange the tickets and found out that the price of each ticket came down by half!! I was so excited! When we go back to the States to fundraise for our operating and renovating expenses having a huge travel budget tacked on is not the way you want to start out the trip. What a day this was turning out to be!

Still on a high we passed by the bus station to buy our return travel tickets for the next day and then went back to the mall for our movie. I don’t want to say much about Avatar right now (maybe later) but it was worth watching.

Afterward, since Tom was feeling so much better he suggested that we go have coffee at an outdoor restaurant. They provided free wi-fi so he was able to type up his thoughts about watching the movie. I was thrilled to see him feeling better but also cautioned him not to overdo because malaria is notorious for hiding and then coming back with a vengeance. Truer words were never spoken as you will see tomorrow.

We were high in the sky on the rollercoaster ride but we were about to hit a steep downgrade. Hold onto your hats!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

I Can't Believe We Did That

Continued from yesterday's post:
I got up early the next morning hoping to get a jump on all our business. I made out a to-do list and made sure to put on there that I needed to stop by the pharmacy for malaria medicine for Tom as well as lozenges. His throat was on fire.

My first tasks were to go buy a bank check to take to Immigration and get the work permit extension form from Immigration and make sure of the hours of business. I got the form, confirmed that we could drop everything off at any time (though this turned out to not be true), and then found the bank we needed right next to Immigration. Perfect. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the bank had a computerized number system that would tell you what desk to go to and call your number when it was time. This was such a relief compared to the long lines, pushing and shoving and inefficiency that is found in many other banks. Of course people still have to get accustomed to efficiency as I heard a man commenting behind me, “This system is very cumbersome!”

Unfortunately, our account still has a mistake in it saying that we have to have two signatures to do any transactions other than deposits. Since we weren’t at our home branch there was no point arguing. It looked like Tom was going to have to get out of bed, sick or not.  I called ahead and told him I would bring his medicine with me.

 When I got to the pharmacy they said they didn’t carry the medicine we usually use. I bought what they had  and then called our doctor to get some advice and she suggested bringing Tom in for an injection of malaria medicine before starting on tablets because it would get him feeling better much faster.

 I got back to the hotel, settled our bill with the desk clerk (we have to pay ahead of time), and then got back in the taxi with Tom. We hurried back to the bank because we were really trying to get everything done before noon. At the bank they took the form we had to submit for a bank check and told us we could come back the next day to collect it. No! You don’t understand! We. have. to. have. this. today! After speaking to the manager he said it would actually be ready in an hour. We took this opportunity to head to the clinic and get Tom his injection. The nurse was very nice and professional which was a help since Tom hates needles.

 Once this was done we headed back to the bank to collect the check and then sat in the taxi to fill out the form for Immigration. Now, a little back story is necessary for you to understand this part:

  Every two years we have to renew our work permit to be able to work (for free) as missionaries. Last March when we renewed the permit they did not give us the usual 2 years which we attributed to the fact that our passport would expire in 2010 so they couldn’t give us a permit into 2011. Tom was away in the States when I picked up our permit and noticed that we had only received one year. All last year we looked at that permit, talked about how we’d have to renew it earlier than expected, renewed our passports a year early in preparation. Did all the prep work (including getting the letter from the Chief) and now were sitting in the taxi doing the last bit of work—filling out one tiny form.

  As I got to the part on the form that said: Date Permit Expires I asked Tom to read it out to me and he flipped open the little book and read the date for the umpteenth time: 3rd November, 2010! What?!? Not March 11, 2010?

  We have lived on this side of the world for nearly 8 years. We know that the U.S.A is the only one that does the date right with the month first. We use dates daily and correctly. How on earth did we mess this one up so badly?

  Now we were unsure what to do. Would Immigration accept our renewal forms a full 9 months in advance? We had a check already made out to the Immigration Dept. which was only good for 30 days. Would the bank take it back? After speaking to a supervisor and explaining our situation and throwing ourselves on her mercy she agreed to accept all the forms and payment but they would only process everything in August. What a relief! We made the payment and wrapped everything up by 12:40. Just in time for all offices to close for lunch.

 We were still feeling a little shell-shocked. How had we made such a massive mistake? Was the whole trip a mistake? Were we off God’s chosen path for us? We drove to a nearby shopping mall for lunch feeling quite downhearted. Surely things would begin to look up….

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