Friday, April 27, 2012

A Different Kind of Easter

We’ve made it through our first big holiday away from North America.  I was a little nervous about how we (read I) would do.  Easter has traditionally been spent at my parent’s house.  We have some pretty well-established Easter traditions.  Like, “I’ve been doing it that way for all of my thirty-something years and I like it that way” kind of traditions.  

So, when we found out that the missionary community here in our city usually has a big Easter weekend celebration, we decided it would be prudent for our family to participate.  About an hour from our home there is a place that was built about 100 years ago, for the purpose of providing a respite for missionaries.   A few families in our city plan a retreat weekend there for Easter, called "Fun in the Son."  There are all sorts of activities and you can participate in as few or as many as you’d like.  Each family rents their own cottage, so you have fellowship, but privacy too.  There was a kid's program each morning, which gave us adults some down time.  And, we got to know lots of families from lots of other ministries.  
We had a great weekend there and it was exactly what we needed.  I had 3 days of no cooking, which is a much bigger deal than it ever would have been in America.  We haven’t eaten out as a family since we got here in January.  With Isaac and Lily’s allergies, it’s just too dangerous for us to eat at a local restaraunt.  Which means, I cook every meal and with the absence of convenience foods and about 75% of what used to be my “normal” grocery items, that’s been a big, big stressor.  I feel like feeding my kids is almost as demanding as it was when I was a nursing mother.  So,  I was delighted for those days of no cooking.  

One afternoon, Ryan and Isaac went on a hike to an old volcano, while the girls hung out, Abe slept, and I read a book.  In the middle of the day I laid on a bed and read a book!  That felt pretty darn luxurious! 
We enjoyed a Good Friday campfire service and an Easter Sunday service with familiar songs and a beautiful reminder of why we’re here.  It was definitely good for the soul.  

Here's Abe, getting ready for the egg hunt using his borrowed bucket.  It didn't even occur to me to bring Easter baskets with us.  Our kids ended up getting their Easter goodies in these recyclable bag type things after I searched and searched for something more festive.  Next year, I'm going to try to find some sort of bucket to doll up, like this one.

Here we are waiting for everyone to get their turn at the egg hunt.  Each child got to find 3 eggs, which then had to be returned, because replacements can't be purchased here.  Another thing I didn't think to pack!  Something I loved about the weekend is that I could wear western clothes!  I think that this was the first day I'd worn pants outside of my home since we landed on the continent.

Here is my firstborn and once again, she's found her way to some sweet African child.  This little guy was rescued from a brothel and our girls have a big heart for him.  We're praying that God will reveal the best long-term family situation for little S.

One of the most humbling parts of this "rest home" as it's called, is this cemetery where former missionaries and lots of missionary kids who didn't make it to adulthood are buried.  Many of them came to Nigeria in the days when you left home with the expectation that you may never return.  I want to whine about leaving my conveniences, and then I'm reminded of those who packed their coffin as they boarded the ship.  The work they did in those pioneer days has laid a strong foundation for us to work with today.  We literally feel as though we're standing on the shoulders of giants.

The one low point in our weekend is that our room flooded.  One of our pipes burst and we came back from an afternoon of fun to find two inches of water covering everything.  My poor honey lost his Ipod in the mess.  We did however, get a significant discount on our weekend and some good laughs as we had a broom brigade of folks helping us clean it up.

Here's the volcano that Ryan and Isaac hiked.  While they were climbing it, a storm came, which was the first rain we'd seen in our 3 months here.  They got soaking wet and even had some hail in the mix.

This is the road we drove home on.  We're actually on the shoulder.  The higher ridge to the left of the photo is the road, but the potholes were so bad that the ride was smoother on the shoulder.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Love in an Envelope

I have to say that one thing that has been a huge encouragement to us the last couple of months has been the packages we’ve received.  When I posted the news back in February that we’d be able to get envelopes, I didn’t expect the influx of goodies that we’ve received.  It’s been such a blessing.  We’ve had a package almost once a week since then and every one of them has been met with cheers and smiles. 

I could use a lot of words and I would never be able to communicate all of the reasons why they bring such delight.  As I’ve said before, the fact that people remember us and that they are willing to share with us from their resources to encourage us means so, so much.  Not to mention, Easter is so much cheerier with some of those pink bunny Peeps!
In order to make things easier, I’ve decided to put a little package feature spot on the sidebar of the blog.  That way, I can keep an updated list of things that we could use, along with some basic reminders about how to mail packages.  It’s funny, as we explore more recipes and try to expand our options here with what is available, I’m constantly running into things I’d like to have.  The kids were missing breakfast sausage, that led me on a quest for sage.  Back to school time will have us wishing for new pencils and glue sticks.  Christmas baking will bring a longing for pecans.  So, I thought I would just keep a little spot that I could update without a dedicated blog post and folks who are interested in sending a package could then access it without having to scroll through the archives.  

Thanks so much to those of you who have sent packages. 

DIY Disaster

So, I haven't posted in a while.  There are no less than a dozen reasons why.  One of them is that Ryan and I managed to find ourselves in the middle of a DIY disaster.  We thought we'd take on a little project in our kitchen.  It started when I declared that we were going to replace the countertops.  I did this after spending no less than 4 hours in the kitchen one day when the old tiles kept popping off.  I looked at my husband and kindly explained that I was spending WAY too much time in that kitchen to be dealing with disappearing tiles.  He agreed.  17 years of marriage have made him a very wise man.
The picture above is one of the "before" shots.  Those white tiles on top of the cream cabinets are gone now.  We replaced them with some lovely floor tiles.  (Don't ask, it was the best overall option. And actually, we didn't replace them, we paid Joseph the plumber to replace them.)  The countertops looked really nice.  So nice, that we decided we wanted to plunge into re-painting the cabinets.  Ourselves.  Oh my word, what a nightmare!  We are no strangers to painting.  In America.  We have promised ourselves that we will never again paint in Nigeria.  Ever.  Labor is too cheap and time is too precious to try that again.
First of all, it took Ryan 3 trips to the paint store to even figure out how to navigate the basics here.  Then, he had to figure out where to buy paintbrushes and rollers, because they don't sell those in the paint store. We gave up on paint trays when none of the hardware professionals had any idea what Ryan was talking about.  Ryan brought home the brushes and rollers and we laughed because they were horrid.  But he'd gone to many stores and they all sold the exact same ones.  They were our only option, so we set to work.    It took about 5 strokes for us to realize that we were in trouble.  Ryan looked at me and said, "I wouldn't give this paintbrush to a volunteer to paint a VBS craft with."
Anyway, we persevered through the first coat and began the second and realized that we were totally in over our heads.  36 hours, and a huge mess later, he called in 3 different painters, got quotes on the whole house, and now we've been rescued from ourselves.  It's amazing, Ryan spent 3 weeks trying to get paint for our house only to be told that the colors we wanted weren't available.  The man we're using came for an hour, took our requests and money and came back the next morning with everything we needed.  All the Nigerians keep telling us that everything here revolves around who you know and we're beginning to believe it.  We know Johnny.  He knows paint.  He goes to the same shop Ryan had visited 3 times and comes out with gallons of paint that Ryan was unable to acquire.  Maddening!
Now, we're camping out on the floor of a vacant house on our compound.  Because the paint here smells so yucky that we couldn't sleep in our home.  Not to mention, 5 kids + wet paint = bad news.  So, we're schooling and sleeping in one house, cooking and eating in another.  It's fun, you should try it.
But seriously, I am encouraged.  We've had an electrician in all week as well and it's beginning to seem more personal, more like it's our house.  Things that bothered us are being updated.  And, I am seeing an end in sight.  If we could just get the nice people in Lagos to let us have our crate, we'd really be able to make it ours.  But, for today, I'll take some fresh paint, functional lighting, and fresh countertops.

Thursday, April 5, 2012


One of the things that I’m most struggling with in our new home is the fact that it takes FORever to accomplish the most basic tasks. Want to make pancakes? No problem, just whip up the batter using 12 different ingredients. Make sure you sift the flour to get rid of creatures. Oh, wait a minute...the pitcher of milk in the fridge is curdled because you’ve only had 3 hours of electricity a day for the last 3 days. So, just pull out the milk powder and mix up a pitcher of milk. Now, get out your maple flavoring and whip up a batch of syrup. Well, you get the picture.

Productivity looks very different here. I’m trying to adjust my expectations. Really, I am. I’m making progress. Little bitty baby steps of progress. I haven’t reached the point where it’s not maddening to me. But I will. Soon. I hope.

Anyway, one of the areas that’s been hard for us is getting our house in order. It’s no secret that our house has always been one of our hobbies. It’s been hard to see headway this time, partly because we are waiting for some of our house stuff that is on the crate. Partly, it’s because you can not just go out and shop for what you want. There is no Home Goods, no Rooms to Go, no Target. We have loaner furniture to use while we get our house in order. Our plan is to have our furniture made little by little. While we were trying to decide where to start, we found out that the bed we’re using needed to be returned sooner, rather than later. So, that made our decision easier.

We used a Pottery Barn catalog and Ryan drew a picture of what we wanted with measurements. Then, we met with a carpenter. After that, the carpenter had to purchase the wood. Then, the wood had to dry before the bed could be made. Finally, the bed was finished and the carpenter delivered it. Then, for 2 days we went around as high as kites from the smell of stain that permeated our entire house. Gotta love that Nigerian paint!

I have to say that we were satisfied with our first furniture order. Enough so that we gave him plans to make us a dresser and nightstand too. If those work out, we have a running list of “next” projects. It may take 18 months to gather what we could order in 2 hours at an American furniture store, but that’s part of the adventure, right? Oh, and just in case you're wondering (because I know some of you are) it cost us about 1/3 of what it would cost us to buy it from the Barn, so that's a good thing!

This was before we hung our mosquito net from those posts. It looks much more "Ernest Hemingway"ish now. I know you're jealous! Don't mind the little guy, this was his way of trying to get out of the way so that I could take the picture.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


Let me tell you, I am NOT a dog lover. I would never want one to be mistreated, but I have never wanted to actually own one. Of course, the kids have been asking for years when we could get one. I always told them they are welcome to get one as soon as they have their own place. I've lovingly explained to them that there are already a blue million people who need me and adding a dog is out of the question.

Then, we decided to move to Africa. Everyone told us that a dog is an asset for lots of reasons. My kids needed to something to look forward to in those months leading up to the plane. So, we promised them a dog. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Then we got here. And life was even more overwhelming than ever. I kept putting the dog thing off. I came up with lots of excuses each time they'd ask. There was always a really good reason why it would be better to wait just a little longer.

This past weekend, a puppy made it's way on to our compound. Fortunately, it got scared and ran off. Then, on Monday, he returned and the kids managed to track him all afternoon. They kept asking me if we could keep him. I kept telling them that they would have to ask daddy when he came home (thinking that Daddy would say, "No, we're not taking a stray puppy, we'll wait until we can find the right dog for us.) Daddy failed me. He fell for the puppy. My husband is such a sucker for the weak ones!

Anyway, next thing I know Ryan was bathing him, pulling no less than 50 ticks off, scrounging for scraps to feed him, and getting the number of a vet to visit the next morning. The kids quickly chose a name for him, "Snickerdoodles." I knew I was outvoted. I told them that we could keep the puppy only if the vet visit went well.

Ryan and the 4 oldest marched off to the vet with him yesterday and he passed with flying colors. So, we're now the proud owners of and approximately 8 week old "bush puppy." He's currently crying in the laundry room, where we've been making him sleep until we get a kennel.

They came home with various descriptions of the reactions they got on the way to the vet. Apparently, the guy they went to see is way back in the market area. So, after they parked, they walked a good way with the puppy through the streets. They were stopped over and over by people wanting to know what they were going to do with him. They were assured by many folks that they had a better dog they could sell them. Ryan said that after having the same basic conversation over and over, he wanted to just say, "He's our dog. He's going to be our pet. No we are not going to eat him. Yes, I know you have a better dog, but this is the dog the Lord has brought us. Thank you."

I have to admit, I'm impressed with him so far. He is great with the kids, he just follows them all around the yard like he's one of them. He doesn't bark excessively and he seems to be a smart little thing. Thankfully, we took our spring break this week, so they've had plenty of time to run from one end of the compound to the other figuring out just how brilliant he is. That puppy has certainly been treated like a prince these last 48 hours!