Friday, September 28, 2012

It Takes a Village

"It takes a village to raise a child."  It's an African proverb that I was never particularly fond of it.  I'm not sure if it was my strong distaste for Hillary Clinton who titled her book with it.  Maybe, in reality, I'm like so many American women who have fallen into the self-sufficiency trap.

When I look at my peers, I see that often we have had a tendency to consider any need for help from others as a negative thing.  I am parenting in a time when people know better than to correct other people's children.   Most of us don't expect or welcome the input of others into our parenting strategies or decisions.  People are often afraid to be transparent about their child's struggles and weaknesses because it might tarnish our "good mommy" reputations.  We don't have a community parenting mentality.

Enter Africa.  Before we came, I insisted that I would hire a part time house keeper.  No more.  After all, I don't have an affection for cleaning toilets and I'll gladly give that away.  However, I imagined I would cook,  teach,  maintain laundry, run errands, and I would spin all of the other plates I'd always spun.  I would transfer my suburban American mom mentality to this place.  Wrong.

Little by little,  demand by demand, crisis by crisis, I have given away bits and pieces of my control.   And I've been able to see that it's not necessarily a bad thing.  In fact, it might even be a good thing.  Because now, my children have a lot of wonderful people investing in their lives.  Though they may be hired to cook, or clean, or run errands, they are all contirbuting to our lives.  They know our children's names, they pray for them when they are sick, they bark at them when they are trying to climb the water tower.  It's a good thing.

Here are just a few of the precious folks who are part of our "village."

Here's Mister James who keeps our fuel cans fuel of petrol, buys our 50 kilo bags of flour, gets Abe's bike tire repaired at least every third week, and exchanges our minerals so that I can enjoy my ice cold Coke when I'm ready to jump off a Hausa ledge.

Sweet Sarah, who comes three days a week and cooks for us.  

 These amazing cinnamon rolls would be just part of the reason we love her.  Her lasagna, fried chicken, calzones, and constant smile help too.

 Not to mention the fact that this little guy comes riding on her back.  We'd keep her around just to see that smile!

And Naomi.  Oh, how we love Naomi!  This woman has so, so many reasons to despair by our American standards and yet she challenges me every day to laugh, give, and be grateful.  Just this morning, shucking 100+ ears of corn together lifted my spirits.  She is amazing!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Traveling Europe

As I mentioned before, this year we are doing a world geography focus for some of our school studies.  This particular curriculum focuses on one country a week and then suggests a weekly cultural focus night to celebrate/demonstrate some of what we've learned.  Our first continent is Europe and though we haven't done all of the celebrations, here are pictures from a few of the countries we've visited:

 This was our visit to Switzerland where we celebrated the end of winter, in good Swiss tradition.
 We made and ate "old man winter."  I was thinking as we made this how very loved we are because so many of the special touches were from people we love.  The chocolate chips in the cookie came from Grammy.  We can thank the Freelands for the Hershey Bar that serves as his bowtie.  A shout goes out to the Mangums who supplied the Hershey kiss eyes.  And, let's not forget the amazing buttercream icing which is in my recipe binder as "Laura Shaw's Icing Recipe."  Thanks for that contribution Ms. Shaw!
 We ran a "William Tell relay" and listened to the overture too.

In honor of the Netherlands, which we studied the same week, the kids found they had a shoe filled with little goodies.  The biggest hit (literally) was definitely the punching balloons we'd brought to use as stocking stuffers.  I didn't realize they'd never really had these before.  

 We visited France, complete with a view of the Eiffel Tower.
 We dined at a Parisian street cafe, complete with a four course meal.  (Don't tell my kids that their decorations look a little more like Luigi's Pizza Pit.)  You do what you can with what you have!

This last week, we studied Germany, the homeland of Fairy Tales.  The kids put on their own production of Hansel and Gretel.  Abby narrated, Lily was Gretel, Isaac was Hansel, and Lizzy had 3 costume changes.  I think she particularly shined in the part of the witch!

This may have been one of my favorite parts.  This was just after Gretel put the witch into the oven.  Which is really the wood cubby that provides a passageway from our pantry to our hearth.

Here's Lily presenting her project on Hansel and Gretel, which was her favorite of the three fairy tales she read that week.  She still hasn't recovered from Rumplestiltskin.  Apparently little men insisting on gold and speaking in riddle terrify her.  Who knew?

Our dinner that night consisted of soft pretzels, though I'm pretty sure the Germans don't cover theirs in pepperoni and parmesan to make them a "main course."

Here's Isaac presenting his composer report on Handel.  That guy was pretty interesting.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Birthday Fun!

This past week, we celebrated Lizzy's 12th birthday.  Lizzy is my social girl and she really wanted to have a sleepover.  This was our first birthday party here as the others have not felt the need to have a friend party this year.  I can tell you that giving a birthday party here is a lot more challenging.  I was desperately missing Michael's, Dollar Tree, Party City, and Target.  Not to mention, having to pre-make all of the party food since Tyson and Bagel Bites are non-existent.  Fortunately, we had it soon after a trip to the capital city, so we were able to pick up some paper products and goodies there.  Many things that we would have had in the States we just did without and, nobody missed them!

Though it took a bit of work, the party ended up being lots of fun.  We had a mystery theme and all of the girls came with an assigned role.  We played a whole house version of Clue and they moved as partners to different rooms where they found the clues which led them to solve the mystery of who killed our beloved Joe Bird's sister... Flo Bird.

 Here are the suspects/detectives:  Madame Magenta, Mrs. Terra Cotta, Violet Vonderplum, Ms. Flora Fauna, Countess Tangerine, Barroness Von Blueberry, and Mrs. Mara Chino.

Here's the birthday girl, about to bite into her cupcake.  We had a cupcake bar and each girl decorated her own cupcake.

 Abe was quite happy to decorate his own cupcake too!

 Here's Lizzy on her actual birthday, a few days later.  She enjoyed sporting the birthday glasses that Nana sent her.
 We waited until her birthday to give her our gift.  You can see, everyone was excited to see what she got.

We bought real ice cream for the first time since we moved to Africa.  When we can get it, it costs us about 5 to 6 times what it would cost us in the States (which is why we waited 8 months to purchase it!)  Lizzy requested it and we caved.  I'm not sure who enjoyed it most, but we were all licking up every last bit.

We are so thankful for Elizabeth and the 12 years we've had with her so far!  This past year has been a tough one for her, but she has tried hard to keep her chin up.  We know that God will use all of her struggles to grow her in even more amazing ways in the years to come.