Monday, May 30, 2016

Love gift

It's here.  The end of our Minnesota years.  The end of residency.  The end of a beautiful chapter.  I began packing my boxes today!  All day I have asked myself "donate or keep?"
Donate or keep?
(Nora, 10 months)
Seven years ago I moved to Rochester, Minnesota and started this blog.  Blogging for me has been sporadic at best but today is a day to write.

It is not quick or easy to pull yourself up from a place that you feel deeply rooted.  Good-bye is gradual and hard.  I began my good-byes several weeks ago when I gave my going-away talk (or love gift) to Side By Side, my medical wives Bible study.  I shared what God has done in my life during my time in Rochester.  

This is my love gift:

Great Expectations

You Might Live in Minnesota  if…. (from Twin Cities Daily Planet)

You have worn shorts and a parka at the same time

Down south to you means Iowa

You have ever refused to buy something because it’s “too spendy”

You find 0 degrees F “a little chilly”

Your local Dairy Queen is closed from November through March

Someone in a store offers you assistance, and they don’t work there

The word, “Vacation” means going up north past Brainerd for the weekend

You can drive 65 mph through 2 feet of snow during a raging blizzard, without flinching

You see people wearing hunting clothes at social events

You design your kid’s Halloween costume to fit over a snowsuit

Seven years ago I moved from Arkansas to Rochester and I didn’t understand any of those things.  I had never known a Minnesotan, never seen a snow blower, never used the term "hot dish" and never heard of Side By Side.  But I had great expectations and ideas of what I was getting into.  I was prepared for the reality that I would be stranded on the side of the road in a snowstorm with no mom, dad or husband to call.  I would have to sustain my children on breast milk alone and make a flag with my red underwear and car antenna to wave until a friendly native came to our rescue.  I looked forward to darling furry hats and awesome winter boots and hoped for a new crop of super awesome quirky northern friends. 

Will was beginning his 7-year residency in neurosurgery.  And moving to Minnesota with our two babies, two cats and a dog was the biggest and bravest thing that we had ever done as a married couple.  He had just finished medical school at the University of Arkansas and we had a 2 year old and a four month old.  We left everything familiar in Little Rock – our home, our church, both of our families and our friends.  That’s the same story for many of you. 

Will and I grew up together in Little Rock, Arkansas and dated through high school.  We were both raised in Christian homes and had been largely sheltered in a Bible bubble most of our lives.  My daddy was a conservative preacher and made church-life the highest priority in our family. 

We got married our junior year of college and we were babies.  As a baby married person I had lots of expectations.  I expected that we would be the cool married couple of our college friends, I expected lots of sex, I expected that Will would be a nerdy doctor, I expected he would make good money, I expected that we would have lots of babies, I expected to take those babies on a blowout trip to Disney World after residency. 

Within the first month of moving to Rochester we attended a neurosurgery department dinner and one of the resident wives, Lori Daugherty, gave me a card with information about this Bible study for doctor’s wives.  Yes, SO in, no hesitation.  I was on a hunt for friends and I felt like this could be the beginning. 

And it truly was.  My first friends were in the summer study I attended that year.  Those first years require so much help and encouragement as you gain your bearings in a new place.  Thank you so much to Cari Ekbom, Steph Schmitt and Mary Beth Hoover for taking the time to lead and encourage us that year. 

I’ll never forget filling out the paper work for Side By Side and putting down 2016 as my graduating year.  I had the latest graduation date of all the newcomers that year and I couldn’t fully wrap my head around the 7 years that we were going to spend in Minnesota.  We had purchased our first house a few months before and also purchased a mini-van.  In those first few months I was thinking, what in the world is happening?  All of this is so very grown-up and adult.  I was a mother of two people, with a mortgage and a mini-van living in Minnesota.  I thought I had just graduated from college.  All of my senses were completely confused.  And then it snowed in October.  It took me a good two winters to get my feet under me.  It was truly a culture-shock experience. 

Now I want to devote a portion of my love gift to Robin Morgenthaler.  What an instrumental part you have been to my time here.  In February of my first year here Robin called me and asked me to meet her for coffee.  I did not know her but I said ok.  She invited me to be a part of the Side By Side Executive Board as the Southern Regional Director.  They needed someone from the south to represent the south.  I was from the south and the pickins’ up here are slim when it comes to southern girls so I ended up with the job.  Truthfully, I wasn’t sure I was the right person for the job, and I’m still not sure I’m the right person for the job.  I felt small and ill-equipped in comparison to the leaders I was standing by – Robin, Heidi Sems, and Deb Zeldenrust at the time. But Robin, you have pushed me and encouraged me year after year and I am so grateful for your friendship.

God has used Side By Side to bring about major change in my life.  I mean He really turned things upside down. And I want to try to share briefly how that happened…

During my fourth year here, my small group was studying Radical by David Platt.  I wasn’t really liking the book.  The author was kind of in my face and it bugged me.  I had just had my fourth baby and I just didn’t want to think as hard as he was asking me to think.  We were studying in the book of Matthew chapter 19 where a rich man comes to Jesus and says I’ve done all these things right in my life, now what must I do to have eternal life? and Jesus says sell everything you have and follow me.  Our group was discussing this passage and David Platt’s book was challenging us to think about what it really means to use our money to honor God.  And it was a difficult discussion to have because money is a tricky and uncomfortable thing to talk about. 

I had read this part of Matthew before but that day it was like I was seeing it with new eyes.  The Spirit struck me with the reality of how much I was like the rich man – willing to do all the churchy things but still remaining in control of my own life, blinded by my pride, looking good on the outside but not truly following the footsteps of Jesus.  Without actually saying it, I was saying look God, I go to church every week, look God I went on mission trips in college, look God I was a virgin when I got married, look God I don’t drink or swear, look God I read the Bible every day.  I’m doing all these Christian things! What more could you want from me? Why do I feel like I always come up short? I was ashamed and repulsed by the idea of being like the rich man. I was so much like him and so little like Jesus. My life centered around me.  Enough, I thought.

Later that year Robin invited me to the Devoted Hearts women’s conference hosted here at Autumn Ridge.  Jen Hatmaker spoke and it rocked my world.  She talked about the wealth we live in compared to 98% of the rest of the world.  And as a resident, I needed to be reminded that I had so much.  It’s easy to get stuck on what I don’t have.  And Jen’s words that stuck in my head were “do something”. Quit waiting around for your “calling” and do something.  In other words, start truly following Jesus now.  Love the way he loves.  Care about what he cares about. 

Will and I had already been talking about what would be the next move for us after residency.  We were both hoping to go somewhere warmer and closer to family. But all of this stuff that was stirring inside my head and heart I was dumping on Will and it began to shift our thinking about what was next.  The option of going overseas to a mission hospital came up.  I can only explain it by the Holy Spirit’s work in my heart and leading me to the point of saying, “God, whatever you ask, I’m in. Follow you? Seek you first? Love you with all my heart, soul, mind and strength? Yes absolutely.  I’m all in.”

And there was urgency about it.  So immediately after the Devoted Hearts conference the opportunity came up to start a new church in downtown Rochester called the Gathering.  We had attended Calvary Evangelical Free Church for four years and they needed a team of people to plant this church so we jumped in wondering what in the world we were doing.  But God has moved and worked in ways there I could never have planned.

So in the Spring of  2014 Will went to Tenwek hospital in Kenya and God opened his eyes to the opportunity there and the possibility of our family moving there.  He came home from that trip so excited to share with me what he had learned and experienced – the need for a neurosurgeon there, the opportunities to serve, the importance of the work that was being done at Tenwek.  At some point a switch flipped and Will and I both realized that God was asking us to serve him in medical missions.  He was asking us, “Are you willing? Are you willing?” Not are you good enough, not are you tough enough, not are you spiritual enough but are you willing.

We went to Tenwek as a family this past spring.  It was a whirlwind experience with our family of six, and it affirmed that that indeed was our next step after residency.  I think I was more gung ho about moving there before I ever visited.  Now that I know what to expect I’m thinking oh my goodness… are you sure God?  I can think of a lot of other people that would be better at this than me.  Homeschooling makes me want to cuss.  My sister is a homeschooling, breadbaking kind of person.  Send her God!  But truthfully all these doubts come from my own insecurities.  The God that is leading me is unwavering.  He continues to ask me, “are you willing?” and the simple answer is yes, I am willing.  I am willing.

So now I see that moving to Minnesota was all in preparation for what was to come. We are getting ready to move again – somewhere warmer but definitely not closer to home.  Our family has grown from 4 to 7 while in Rochester.  We have Liam who’s 8, Hayden is 6, Harper 4, Charley 3 and Nora 5 months.  In the summer we will all move to Tenwek Hospital in a town in Kenya called Bomet.  We will be part of the 2-year post-residency program with Samaritan’s Purse.   I still can’t believe that I am saying these words.  I have said before that I would never live overseas.  And I have also said that I would never homeschool.  The little list of expectations I moved here with 7 years ago has been revamped.   I still think that someday we will take that trip to Disney World but for now God has set us on a new path that we couldn’t have dreamed up for ourselves.

There are so many people here that I love dearly.  You have seen me through this whole story and loved me through it.  You have walked with me through a long list of highs and lows – my father being diagnosed with cancer, the birth of 3 of my babies, the loss of one baby and post-partum depression.  You have cooked me meals, written me notes, shoveled my driveway, jumped my car, hosted my showers, prayed for me, held me accountable, babysat my kids and so much more.  You know I’m a hot mess much of the time and that I am an unlikely missionary but I have received nothing but encouragement and support from you.  I am extending a formal invitation to you to come visit me in Kenya.  My door is always open.  

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Challenges and good-byes

We said good-bye to Edna today.  Since tomorrow is Good Friday today was her last day.  She left the apartment shiney clean.  Liam drew her a picture of our family and Hayden gave her a rubber band bracelet.  They were dragging their feet when I asked them to do something to thank her so I had to dish out a big mommy lecture about thankfulness on them.  I wanted to thank her someway and asked around to see what would be appropriate.  I was told she would probably appreciate food items for her family the most.  So we gave her a big bag of rice, some beans, and a bag of salt.  I'm thinking it would be nice if we were a little more practical in our gift giving back home.  The next birthday party one of the kids goes to I'm sending them with a bag of beans.   

I was asking Edna yesterday what her mornings were like before she came to our house.  She told me she wakes up at 5:30, milks her cow and then takes the milk to use for her morning cup of chai.  It helps her get her day started.  Kinda like our morning coffee.... except cow teets required.  Then she gets her older kids off to school and showers, gets dressed, and mops her floors.  Her children leave for school at 6:00 am and don't get home until 6:00pm!  After she drops her 2 year old off with her mother-in-law, she walks an hour to get to my house!  She works from 9:00 to 4:00 and then walks the hour home to then cook and clean for her own family.  It fascinates me to hear about how she lives.  There are similarities between us but lots of obvious differences too.  I have often wondered what in the world she really thinks about me and my family.

We've had a couple of days with challenges but they seem pretty minimal after hearing about Edna's daily challenges.  

Charley woke up yesterday with her arm chewed up by some kind of bugs.  We aren't entirely sure what is happening with her.  We thought the bed bug problem was fixed.  After a new mattress and new bedding she appeared to be clearing up but we took a step backwards yesterday morning.  Her arm was welpy and swollen and she kept saying "my arm hurts" and clawing at it.  Liam also woke up with his face and arms chewed up.  So now we suspect something going on with his bed.  Wondering if it could be scabies? 

The kids didn't let it slow them down and they spent yesterday running around with friends and reading the new books they borrowed from the White's house.  We had pancakes for dinner and then walked across the lawn to the Bemm's house.  Chuck Bemm is a pediatrician at Tenwek and his wife Amy is a nurse.  They have 7 kids, 3 biological and 4 adopted here in Kenya.  Super fun family.  My kids are contsantly wanting to go over to their house to play with their kids and see their pet  bunnies and rabbits in their backyard.  Chuck and Amy looked at Charley and seemed to think it was an increase in the bed bug problem not scabies.  We've been giving her Benadryl to help with the itch.

Today she looked a little bit better but it is still bothering her.  All the kids were wonky today, fussing about a whole bunch of nothing.  

My day-to-day existance is similar at Tenwek to what it is back in the states as far as spending my time and energy taking care of kids - feeding them over and over and over, breaking up fights, disciplining, reading books, keeping them clean, etc.  I wonder what would ministry look like for me here?  Not entirely sure but I know it would be a lot of mothering.  The wives here spend the majority of their time homeschooling, taking care of their homes and children, and supporting their husbands.  That's not to say there aren't ministry opportunities but it will look alot different for me than it will for Will.  He will go to the hospital everyday with distinct opportunities to help people and share the gospel.  I pray for eyes to see the opportunities around me as I go about day-to-day life.  

We had dinner at Carol Spears' house tonight.  She is a general surgeon at Tenwek and is also the assistant director of the residents.  I talked with her about Side By Side for a little while and she sees great potential for it here.  There is a need for some kind of outreach for the Kenyan women married to residents.  She gave me the name of a person that would be interested in talking more about it and I hope to connect with her tomorrow sometime.  

A friend from home just sent me this email and I so appreciated it:

Praying for you all daily, Psalm 115:1 "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto your name give glory, for your mercy, and for your Name's sake." That you would have ears to hear His will, open hands to do His work, a heart and desire to be obedient in whatever He may call you to today, and JOY in your efforts for the Kingdom! 

Thank you so much to everyone that has been praying for us during our time at Tenwek.  We are so encouraged and have certainly felt God's hand over the past weeks.  

Really a surgeon?

Tuesday, April 1
Yesterday we had a long morning.  I know if we moved here for a longer period of time then we would have more structure to our day with school but some mornings here have been hairy.  Liam was not cooperative or respectful so he spent a chunk of his morning copying Bible verses down in his room.  

I had chai with Edna and then we all went outside with a blanket to read by the trees for a while.  This is becoming a favorite thing to do because one, the weather is beautiful - no Minnesota chill in the air.  And two, people are always walking around the compound and will stop and visit/play with us.  

The Tenwek community is so unique.  You certainly aren't plopped in the middle of Africa to fend for yourself.  It's a very communal feel here - many families living, working and serving together.  I have enjoyed so much getting to know the other women here, hearing about their lives, how God brought them here and what is next for them.  

For lunch we had our new friend and neighbor Claire over for tacos. (not the little Claire that Hayden's been playing with)
Hannah, Charley and Claire hanging out in the hammock

I always tell Will that for all I know he's not really a surgeon.  I've never actually seen him do anything surgeony.  He could be doing dishes in the cafeteria for all I know.  He is a gifted dish-washer.

After lunch Claire and I threw on some scrubs and walked up to the hospital with another friend to see if we could catch Will at work in the OR.  Erin Mitchell had generously offered to watch my kids so I could have a chance to see Will operate.  

We had planned to watch Will operate on a patient that was scheduled for some kind of spine surgery along with a simultaneous leg amputation.  Yikes.  A c-section would have been more my speed.  But that guy's surgery got pushed off so we saw Will do the last part of another spine case.  The patient was awake which gave me the willies.  He had a spinal so he couldn't feel anything but he would jump a little sometimes when they were operating.  God did not design me to do medical things.  Ick.  Will was overseeing the residents do most of the surgery so I didn't really get to see him in action.  But I think I saw enough evidence to confirm that he is indeed a surgeon.  

After our long morning yesterday we got up this morning and walked to Beth White's house.  She and her husband Russ have lived at Tenwek for 18 years.  I met her at church on Sunday and she offered for us to come look through her book shelves for children's books.  So each of the kids picked a few things out.  She also sent a huge bucket of Duplo blocks back with us so between the blocks and books the kids were happily occuppied for the morning.

Liam has been wanting to eat chicken and fries at the hospital canteen so Will came and picked him up for lunch.  The girls and I had ugali and sukuma at home.  I tried to make them eat it and they were pretty bothered by that cultural experience.  

Hayden had another playdate with her friend Claire, and I spent the afternoon getting ready for guests.  We had invited the Mitchells over for dinner to thank them for being such great hosts during our stay here.  They have become good friends and we look forward to staying connected with them after we leave.  I had brought two giant boxes of Kraft mac-n-cheese from home so I made that up for an American feast with fruit salad and baked chicken nuggets that Edna helped me make earlier today.  Love her.

Hard to believe we are coming to the end of our second week here!  

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Daddy time

Sunday, March 29, 2015

On Friday morning Amy Bemm, a super cool lady here, took the older kids and me up to the hospital for a tour.  At one point we went to the OB wing and saw where babies are delivered.  A baby had just been born and she was there just minutes old in a warmer.  The kids’ eyes were huge taking everything in, but it wasn’t the sweetness of the newborn baby – the mom had been moved over to a different bed that we couldn’t see, but the bed she had been in still had the remnants of giving birth on it.  We walked on and then there were most certainly questions to answer – what in the world was going on in there? Giving birth, my dears.  It ain’t always pretty.

Will came home Friday night and we had the whole weekend together.  We have been looking forward to having him home with us for a couple of days.  He has worked hard all week and will write soon about some of the work he has done at the hospital. 

Outside of the entrance to the hospital grounds

His schedule here is totally different than back home.  He walks up to the hospital around 7:00 and we usually catch a glimpse of him before he leaves.  Then many days he is home for lunch sometime between 1:00 and 2:00. 

The main meal of the day is typically eaten at 1:00.  So our house helper Edna will cook a bigger meal at the beginning of the day that we eat for lunch.  Then for dinner we will warm up leftovers or just eat a sandwich.  It’s such a better system than we have in the states!  It eliminates that awful 5:00 hour - when daddy isn’t home yet, the kids are crazy and you’re trying to get a full meal on the table.  Genius. 

Will walks back to the hospital after lunch to finish his workday.  He has been home every night for dinner around 6:00 and then bedtime.  For all my peeps back in Minnesota, you know this is absolutely out of the ordinary.  The time we have had as a family has been one of the greatest parts of being here.  I’m wondering… will all this togetherness get old?  For this two weeks, no.  On the flight home, yes. 

Edna had made spaghetti sauce and breadsticks for us so I just boiled some pasta and we had an easy dinner.  Then we watched a movie on a borrowed portable DVD player from one of our neighbors.  The kids loved having some time to veg.  I was so tired and fell asleep while they were still watching.  Super Dad got everyone tucked in without me. 

On Saturday morning Liam went with Will to do rounds.  Pretty cool that he is able to do that.  The girls and I baked some snickerdoodles and then we all walked up to the doukas, or little shops, to get some mangos and bottled cokes.  The kids all got Fanta or Sprite in a glass bottle and it was a treat.  I could eat a mango everyday.  Yum! 

 Liam and Will in front of our apartment on their way to do rounds

Saturday night we had been invited for “supper club” to the Galats.  It was us, the Mitchells, and another visiting couple.  The Galats have a brick oven and they made some delicious pizza.  Charley ate 5 pieces!  I contributed some Ranch dressing from home and cookies.  Besides the great food, the company was even better and I felt like I received some valuable advice.  I’ll share more on that later.

We got up early today for a fancy breakfast at Barbara Pinkley’s house, a sweet long-term missionary lady that lives close to us. And then we all walked up to worship together.  The church is a pretty even mix of missionary families and Kenyans.  I liked how they had open prayer request time for the whole congregation to share requests and praises.

Three things stuck in my brain as I left that morning: 
First, a man got up to pray and said how thankful he was for the privilege to be at Tenwek.  It is a privilege.  That is a small statement but it rang in my ears.  It is a privilege.  I think I’ve spent the first week too much inside my own head – thinking about what I have and don’t have to eat, or what I wish I had brought from home, what conveniences from home would make things easier, etc.  The privilege of being at Tenwek had been pushed to the back of my brain.  I needed the reminder of what a privilege God has given me.

Second, the pastor touched on how everything we have belongs to the Lord, none of our money or things are actually ours, we are stewards of them.  All these things I have heard before.  But the reminder sat heavily on me.  Will and I carry debt with us that is not only from college and medical school, but also from irresponsible spending.  Budget is a dirty word that I usually avoid.  But going to Africa will shine a light on your excessive living real quick.  I have changes to make when I get home.  But if any of you ask me how my budget is going when I get back, I will pretend I don’t know you.

Third, there was a verse written on the back of a bunch of the kids’ t-shirts at church, a verse I have know since I was a little kid:  Matthew 6:33 “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”  Now it’s buzzing in my head.  The Spirit is pressing it on me…seek FIRST His kingdom, seek FIRST His kingdom, seek FIRST His kingdom.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Homemade goodness

Thursday, March 26

So one thing I can do from scratch is pancakes.  Made those again this morning.  The kids layed a blanket out on the back porch by the garden for breakfast and thought it was a treat.  It is fun to talk about this garden as if it is my own, as if I put my hands in the dirt and planted the basil and sukuma.  Have I ever done this? No.  Well not really.  Unless you count the year we moved to Minnesota and I was trying to be Minnesotan and planted two rows of peas.  

Edna came in this morning and added some more homemade goodness to our lives.  I asked her if she could do something with rice and beans for lunch and she said "yes, and I make tortillas."  Yummy delicious homemade tortillas. I hug her and I'm pretty sure I'm invading her comfort zone.
Edna and her tortillas

Hayden wanted to host a tea party for her friend Claire today so we called her in the morning and scheduled the event for 3:30 this afternoon.  Hayden cleaned up the living room, helped me make real tea with cream and sugar and laid out the table.  For snacks we busted out some American treats - graham crackers, jelly beans and Reese's peanutbuter cups.  After tea they played Spot-it and made rubber band bracelets. 

Hayden has thrived here.  She seems comfortable meeting all the new people and has made friends easily with the missionary kids and Kenyan kids.  She loves all the food we've eaten and the slower pace of life here is totally her thing.  I'm really proud of her.  The only thing she has struggled with is sleeping.  Every night so far she has had major anxiety about bedtime.  She worries about if she will be able to sleep or not, what she will do if she can't sleep, what to do if the power goes off in the middle of the night, etc.  She cries and worries and wears herself right out.  I keep telling her the nights will get easier and easier but if you ask her what she thinks of Kenya she will say she likes the days but not the nights.

Claire and Hayden
I pray for God's blessing on my children and thank him for their resiliance.  They have all had their ups and downs.  Liam struggles with the lack of structure to our days.  If you know Liam, you know he is a fast-paced kind of guy.  Harper has fallen and scraped herself up everyday.  It wouldn't be so bad if she hadn't gotten up in the middle of the night when we first got here and opened every single bandaid I had brought from home.  We have bummed bandaids off of other people daily.  And Charley... she is winning the battle against bed bugs.

Night night, sleep tight

Wednesday, March 25
Since we arrived at Tenwek Charley has had little red bumps/bites all over her face, arms and legs.  (don’t freak out, grandparents).  Smaller than mosquito bites, but not itchy and doesn't seem to bother her.  After the first day I thought that maybe she had gotten into chiggers in the grass or something.  I wasn't super concerned but it started progressively getting worse.  All of the other kids had been rolling around in the grass and climbing trees but not getting the same bites.  Turns out after asking around and finally looking at the bed she has been sleeping's bed bugs.  So.... yuck.  Poor sweet Charley girl.  The housing people came and took the old mattress out and brought us a new one so hopefully that problem is fixed.  I am taking her sheets and pjs over to a house that has a hot water washer and dryer.  At least it's not measles, right?

We took the morning easy, had chai, played in the sandbox with some of the other preschool age kids and chit chatted with all of the Kenyan ladies that watch them while their moms are teaching the older kids. 

It poured down rain after lunch and everyone was happy to see the rain finally come.  The kindergarten through third grade had PE in the field in front of our apartment so Liam went out and played freeze tag in the pouring rain with them.

During the little girls rest time Hayden had a playdate with her new friend Claire.  Claire's house is about a 5 minute walk on the other side of the compound so I just walked her over.  

For dinner we had been invited to the house of one of the longterm missionary family's here, Ben and Jenny Roberts.  They live in a nice house and Jenny is a really great cook so it was a treat to be there and spend time with their family.  They have 3 boys, 13 and under, and Liam really likes to play with them.  We had hamburgers on homemade buns with baked beans, potatoes and apple cake.  Yes please.  

I have been trying to rest in the afternoons but didn't get to today.  By dinner I was SO exhausted.  At one point, Jenny asked me if I had any hobbies and my brain could not compute.  What are my hobbies?

I have so much buzzing around my brain right now that I feel like my thoughts aren't clear.  Is this what God is asking of me?  Am I capable of commiting to years here?  Am I willing?  Will has a niche here as a doctor but what would my niche be?  Homeschooling? Really? Cooking from scratch? Bed bugs? What are my priorities?  What time is it? How many kids do I have?

Night night, sleep tight, don't let the bed bugs bite.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Getting into a groove

Tuesday, March 24
I got up today and tried my hand at chocolate chip pancakes.  The kids all agreed that they were just as good here as they are at home.  A little piece of normal.  A man named Joseph came to my back door with fresh eggs.  I bought a tray of 30.  He uses the egg money to support the orphanage where he works. 

The missionary kids here are all homeschooled and do their school work in the mornings until lunch at 1:00.  My kids count the hours until all of the other kids will be done with school and they can play.  They each have kids their age here to play with and they have made fast friends.  

In the mornings I am going to try to have them work on what little bit of school work they brought from home.  They are only missing six total days of school so it's not much.  They are also going to keep journals of their time here and keep up with reading.  

Liam reading in a tree outside our apartment

We took a blanket outside and sat under a tree to do some school work.  There are 4 or 5 first graders that meet for school in the house across the yard from us.  They came running out of the house and started running around in circles in the grass.  Liam ran over and said, "what are you doing?"  They shouted, "Having recess!" So Liam had "recess" with them.  They basically ran around in circles and up and down the hill.  And had a blast.  Who needs playground equipment?

Edna took us up to a little douka, or market, to buy some fruits and veggies today.  I just asked her to pick out whatever she thought we needed.  We got onions, tomatoes, carrots, pineapples and sweet bananas.  

I asked Edna what she usually eats for lunch at home and she said ugali, which is like a porridge made out of corn flourand water.  She made some for us for lunch today along with some sukuma wiki which is a kind of greens that grows in the garden behind our appartment.  I also made a box of Kraft mac-n-cheese.  Lame I know.  I should have made the kids try something new.  Next time.

After naptime we walked over to the Mitchell's house for tacos.  Hayden met a new friend over by their house named Claire.  They are both in kindergarten and quickly became friends.  They are already planning future playdates.  The power had been out all day and came on briefly for dinner but then stayed out.  We still enjoyed the night in the dark and are so thankful for our new friends here.  Erin and Eric have been so generous to spend time with us and feed us.  We are not a small family so I know extending a dinner invitation to us is no small offer.  

Today felt kind of like what a normal day here might be like.  I am so thankful to be here and to have this experience as we consider what's next for our family.  I feel grateful, tired, unsure and happy.