Monday, December 30, 2013

December Highlights

Fast forward.  It seems that is the speed we've been living in this December.  I was worried that I would spend the month pining away for Christmas with family and missing my mom.  While I have certainly had those moments, and even a few days where the only way to make it to dinner was to take a nap and have a good cry, I have largely been too busy to focus too much on the "I wishes." 

I have been working with the local guest house that our organization runs since our return from the States.  I spent my first several weeks learning lots about the operations, staff, paperwork, etc.  Early this month, the volunteers who had been helping us with the day to day operations returned to the States and I've been flying solo.  Well, solo with a whole lot of help.  Our national staff works hard and I have been very blessed by getting to know them better this month.  One of the highlights of my month was hosting a Christmas party for all of them.  At the advice of a colleague, I decided to play BINGO with them after our meal.  At first they were a bit skeptical, but when they saw that there was a pile of prizes, they were highly motivated.  In the end, they loved it and we had lots of laughs.  At first, they were very timid with their "bingo" announcements, but by then end they were yelling and jumping up and down.   The prizes were simple things like rice, oil, phone credit, and candy bars, but the reactions were delightful.     Unfortunately, I didn't have the sense to take the camera.  But, I do have lots of other pictures to share of this month's highlights.

 We have had 2 or 3 surprise rain showers this month and they were all very welcome.  The kids got right out in the middle of the first one and got as wet as if they'd stood in the shower.
 Our house was painted...inside, outside, upside down.  It was a nuisance while it was happening, but now it looks so nice.  The painters were amazing and it really was as pain-free as having your entire house painted could be.  

As soon as the paint was finished, we put up our Christmas tree.  We found what we thought was a good deal on an American Christmas tree at a local import store.  When we put it up, we were a bit shocked at how large it was and we became even more certain that we'd gotten a good deal.  Then, when friends of ours went to the same store and tried to buy it, they were told that the price was actually double what we paid.  Apparently, the cashier mistakenly gave us a significant discount.  Our house helper kept insisting that it was too big and that she had never seen a tree that big.  I think there is actually about 3 inches between the star and the ceiling.  Oops!

Every year, it is our tradition to eat "party foods" on the evening that we put our tree up.  Africa has made the foods a bit simpler, while making the preparation a bit more complex.  But, we make it work and the kids are happy.  I had hoarded some of the chocolate chips and cream cheese that we brought back so that we would have them for these sort of holiday treats.

Ryan celebrated his 40th birthday with homemade chocolate cake and a successful attempt at homemade potato skins.

 The two oldest girls participated in a British style pantomime the second weekend of December.  The story was Snow White.  Lizzy was cast as Grouchy Dwarf.  Abby had a key role as narrator 1.  They both had a great time and were able to make friends with a very diverse group of folks.  They had a great time involving a lot of hard work and practice.  They're already talking about next year.

Sister love, after show number 1.

Abby is taking home-ec this year and her baking unit happened to fall this month.  So, on top of all of the normal Christmas goodies, she's been contributing things like apple pies and yeast rolls to the table.

 We attended a Christmas party with some fellow homeschoolers in our city.  The kids did a white elephant exchange.  Let's just say, the options for cheap present shopping are significantly different in Africa.

The younger kiddos did some other games, while the older ones were busy thieving presents.  Abe got to experience a rousing game of musical chairs.

Lizzy and I were walking home from the corner shed store the week of Christmas and we paused to look at some kittens that a neighbor lady had in her yard.  Apparently, we oohed and aahed a little too loud because in the span of about 60 seconds, she had one boxed up for us to carry home.  I had promised the kids a kitten way back when we had to leave our last country.  I never had made good on my promise and I figured, why not?  So, rather than insist that we couldn't take the kitten, I handed the box to Lizzy and we headed home. She is a lively little thing and we're all enjoying her very much.  We decided that since she came so close to Christmas she had to have a "Christmassy" name.  The only one we could agree on was Joy.  

We did fit in one little Christmas craft project.  The kids painted some nutcrackers that I had picked up at Hobby Lobby while we were in America.  Things like this always remind me of the different personalities of my kiddos.  They can take 5 very similar pieces of wood and their finished products are so diverse.  

Both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day we shared a meal with a Nigerian friend who came for a visit.  It was good to visit with her and to catch-up on all of the folks we left behind.

On Boxing Day, we went to help some friends of ours who work with an organization called Feeding the Orphans.  They were having a Christmas meal with one of the foster homes they work with.  We spent the afternoon serving a meal and interacting with the kids.

Most of the children at this home have sponsors that help to provide food and education.   The day we were there they received their Christmas gift, which was a new outfit for each child.  They were happy to have pictures made.  Above is S, with her new dress.

Here are several of them with their new clothes.

As you can see Abe is sharing a meal with the boys from the home.  He had a great day. 

After the food came the dancing.  This fellow was a hoot.  So much joy in such humble circumstances!

These boys are holding new, handmade bears that a volunteer team had brought to share.

This gal was on the volunteer team we met that day.  The crazy thing is, she is from a town that is very close to where Ryan and I lived when we first married and we found out that she works with a college friend of ours.  It was so fun to hear that familiar Ky accent in the midst of all of that Ghanian English.

Those are just a few highlights of our busy December.  Our new guest house volunteer arrives in a few days, so I look forward to having our schedule calm down just a little bit!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Taking a Break?

The last few months we've been blessed by having a couple from our home church volunteering with our ministry here in Accra.  When we invited them to come, we thought we'd work together for 3 months.  Instead, they spent their first 6 weeks figuring the city out while we were in the States.  In hindsight, we can see how the Lord's timing was perfect in their visit.

They are leaving soon (too soon if you ask me!)  We invited them to come with us this past Saturday for a picnic just outside the city.  We had a nice time showing them the local botanical garden.

As often happens, when we try to get away, we sometimes become the center of attention.  Random people ask to take their photo with us, simply because we have white skin.  As we sat in the gardens, attempting to picnic, you would have thought we were animals on display at the zoo.  One mother actually brought her children to the edge of our blanket and pointed at us saying over and over "obroni, obroni" which is the local word for a white person.  At first I was friendly, but the longer they stood there, the more I was tempted to roar like a lion and lunge at them.  However, I figured that would not exactly be sharing the love of Christ, so I resisted.  Instead, as they chattered on about us, for no less than 10 minutes (HONEST TO GOODNESS), I looked at the lady who was with us and said, "If anyone ever doubts that folks who do what we do might need a break once in awhile, they need to live through a moment like this."

Here's a glimpse into our day:
 Monkeying around!
 Look mom, no hands!
 Africa's answer to the ice cream truck
 Random photo number one.  Some school teacher thought he needed a class photo with the white folks.
 Just our family.  Notice all of the ponytails?  It is so hot here!

 Africa traveling ice cream option #2.

Wow kids, look at the white people.  Let's take their picture.

 Ryan taking a picture of the people taking pictures of us. 
 By the time we finished the picnic/photo shoot, we were ready to leave.  We had 3 leftover bananas and 3 leftover apples.  We decided to share them with the 6 boys who were watching.  One each, right?  Nope, this is the point where we learned that apples are infinitely more valuable than bananas.  
Of course, no African outing is complete without someone trying to sell you something.  Necklace?  Wood carving?   Leather pouch?  You know you want it!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


This year marked 4 years in a row of celebrating Thanksgiving in a different country.  I think 4 countries in 4 years is a good record, next year I'd like a nice, boring repeat.  We'll see what the Lord has in store for us.

This year was a pleasant celebration.  We celebrated with our colleagues at our home.  Everyone pitched in and we had lots of delicious food.  We played some games and just enjoyed visiting.

Here are a few pictures of our Thanksgiving day.

 Some of the spread.  As you can see, we're finding plenty to eat over here!

 A little bit of America, here in Africa

 Playing with friends in the yard.

 The youngest of our attenders, trying to get close to the puppy.

 Playing "bingo for prizes."  It's not to hard to please folks as we get excited over little things like a jar of salsa, a chocolate bar, or a packet of tuna.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Party Like It's 1985!

A couple of weeks ago, I turned 40.  Next week, Ryan turns 40.  Our friends here thought that was too good of an opportunity to pass up and they threw us a birthday party.  They did reveal that they were going to have a party for us, but they didn't let us in on the theme.

We arrived to the sound of Cyndi Lauper playing in the background and the sight of our children and friends dressed in 80s style.  They had even been kind enough to pick up some 80s style accessories for us at the used clothing market.  It was a fun surprise.

Ryan and I were talking about the fact that the idea of an 80s party seems a bit silly to us.  Then we came to the realization that the 80s is to our kids, what the 50s was to us.  How can that be?  I have to confess that, in my opinion, poodle skirts and bobby socks make way better costumes than big bangs and neon leg warmers.

We're thankful for 40 years of life and pray the next 40 are as delightful as these have been.  We're also thankful for children and friends who put time and energy into celebrating with us!
 I really did spend lots of time playing on a Rubik's cube in the 80's, though I never mastered it!

 A true friend acid washes his own jeans and wears a purple and lime green windbreaker from the used clothing market to make your day special!
 I'm pretty sure the kids outnumbered the adults
 Our family.  Ryan was given that lovely jean vest to sport!
 The ladies
The whole clan. 
Girls Just Wanna Have Fun!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

1 Down, 3 To Go

For the four years before we left the States, our family used a curriculum called Tapestry of Grace for many of our homeschooling subjects.  We were involved with a co-op of other families that we kept pace with and we had lots of great times learning together.  I really like the curriculum and the philosophies behind it, but I had to abandon it as we were going through all of our transition.  I really missed it and the way that our family learned with it.

This year, we were able to return to it, with some modifications.  The  curriculum goes through a 4 year cycle of history and so this year we are studying ancient history.  Since we took time off to go to the States, we've just recently finished the first of four units.  In that unit we covered ancient Egypt,  ancient Mesopotamia, and the ancient Hebrews.  The kids finished up the units by completing research projects based on Jewish holidays.  In addition, we participated in a geography fair with several other homeschoolers in our city.  The kids presented on the country of Israel, which allowed them to extend their research on the Jewish culture a bit.  I forgot to take my camera, but did get these photos of their projects, after the fact.

 Here's Isaac with his sukkah, which is a hut like structure used by the Jewish people during Sukkot, or the feast of the tabernacles.
Lizzy made a peep-through diorama of a Jewish Sabbath meal.

Lily made a mobile about Purim and the story of Esther.