Friday, October 16, 2015


One of the things that we are really loving about school is the community that the kids are finding there.  That was really the thing that drove us to consider school.  Our kids were incredibly isolated with homeschooling in Africa.  This simply wasn’t a problem homeschooling in the States.  But, there were times during our first term, when our kids went 3-4 weeks without spending time with another child who was not a sibling.  We just didn’t think that was healthy and it wasn’t good for morale.  So, while it wasn’t necessarily our first choice in regards to academics or curriculum, we decided that for at least a season, we needed to put them in school and let the experience the community that comes with that lifestyle.  

Thankfully, the community at the school that they attend is really incredible and exactly what we hoped they would experience.  There is a strong spiritual emphasis and the adults who are investing in them there are encouraging them in many positive ways.  When we were in children’s ministry, Ryan and I always taught parents that they needed to be sure that there were other adult voices in their kid’s lives who would reinforce what they were trying to instill.  This is  because, like it or not, there comes a season in most every kid’s life where mom and dad’s word is no longer the most influential.  That’s the time when kids need people who care about them, that they have relationships with, who are not mom and dad.  We are glad that the kids have some of those people through their school community.

Another thing we like is that the school requires students to get involved in serving others.  All of the high schoolers are required to complete a minimum number of community service hours.  There are adults who coordinate some of these opportunities.  Lizzie is on a team that visits a baby home each week and Abby is leading a group of 6th grade girls in a weekly Bible study time.  These are great opportunities for both of them.

I also love that there is a real diversity in the population of students.  Just in Lily’s sixth grade class of 16 students, there are approximately 10 different “passport” countries represented, spanning 4 different continents.  In addition, because the school is K-12, there are a variety of ages represented and there is a real family emphasis that crosses grade levels.  

This past week, I was able to see a fun manifestation of that community.  The school hosts a big softball tournament every October.  Teams come from around the city and even sometimes from neighboring countries to participate.  It’s a weekend of community and fun and it is followed by a week of fall break.  In the week leading up to the tournament, they have Spirit Week, which isn’t something that unusual for schools to do.  I’ll admit, when I first hear about it, I immediately thought, “This is gonna be like 25 Halloween costumes in 5 days, what a nightmare!”  But, it ended up being fun for everyone.

What I loved about the way they did it is that each morning, all of the students, in every grade, lined up around a courtyard area and those who had dressed up marched around the square a few times while the others smiled and waved and took photos.  Because I was subbing in the mornings, I was able to see the daily parade and it was so much fun. On one of the days, each grade level picked a theme and the whole class dressed up according to the theme.    This was probably my favorite day to see how they all cooperated to pull it off.  

I wasn’t great about taking photos, but here are a few photos of their “Spirit Week” adventures.

One day was "fan" day.  Four of my five stuck to their KY roots and wore their UK blue.  Lizzie chose to go with a more literary take and joined with a friend to be Gryffindor fans from the Harry Potter series.

I was quite surprised when Abe's good friend from school showed up sporting Big Blue pride too!   No wonder Abe likes this guy so much!

Here are my 5 on class day.  Abby's class went with superheroes, Abby was Cat Woman.  Abe was a minion along with his classmates, their teacher was Gru.  Isaac and his class went with a Nintendo theme, Isaac took the part of Donkey Kong.  Lily was one of the dwarves as her class picked Snow White.  And, Lizzie and her class decided to be pirates (who don't do anything!) and they even had the ukulele and song to go with it!

Here are some of the junior girls representing  various super heroes.  I always knew Abby was a social kid, but these first 9 weeks of school have really proved that point!  

Thursday, October 15, 2015

September Highlights

September flew by at our house.  At Concourse speed.  Or, maybe it was the speed of light...whichever is faster.

Early in the month, we hosted a brunch for a couple who was retiring from many years with our organization.  Retirements here always fill me with joy at the marveling of a race well run, while also making me sad to see that kind of wisdom climb on a plane and leave us behind.  Every one sort of has their own strengths that we can learn from.  This particular couple was so kind to us during our first few months in Niger and inspired us to be diligent in language learning and to build strong relationships with the nationals here.  

At the end of August, I agreed to substitute teach at the kid's school for a colleague who needed to go out of country for some medical appointments.  She thought she would be gone for about 2 weeks.  In the end, my sub gig turned out to be 6 weeks long.  The good thing is, she only teaches one class in the morning and I was done by 9 AM and headed home for French Study.  But, adding that into the mix of language study made for some pretty busy days.  I had a great experience though and since the class was Lily's grade, I got to know her classmates really well.  They are a fabulous group of kids. It made me remember how much I love being in a classroom.  Maybe someday, I will get to return to the classroom setting for a longer season.  For now, it's back to the French books with renewed intensity!

September also brought Lizzie's 15th birthday.  She invited a few friends for a sleepover.   If you know me, you know that I love themed birthday parties.  In true teen fashion, Lizzie asked me to keep it simple, and so I did.  I created a photo scavenger hunt for the girls to do around our compound, did a trivia game about Lizzie for the girls to do, and I had ordered the new Disney Descendant's movie and the girls watched that.  I did theme the foods a tiny bit to go with the movie, but tried hard to keep it from being too juvenile, lest I embarrass my teen.  Other than that, they did their own thing.  

Lizzie is my fire hater.  So, when we handed her a "Malificent" cupcake with a flame blazing, let's just say we couldn't sing Happy Birthday fast enough!  At least I don't have to worry that this one will turn out to be a pyromaniac!

Parenting teens is so different, is it not?  There is a reason why there are umpteen million advice blogs written about parenting preschoolers and only a handful about parenting teens.  Those of us who are parenting teens are fully aware of the fact that we have no earthly idea if we're doing it right or not and we pray that we won't screw it up too badly!   I have great teens, but it's still a bit of a land mine on any given day.  I try hard to appreciate the positives, but I'm not gonna lie, there are days when I would give a pretty penny to go back to the time when goldfish crackers and sippy cups made me their superhero and a clean-up song brought them happily running to quick-tidy the living room.  But, ahem, that wasn't the point of this post.

Another September highlight was a visit we made to a friend's house.  We were  invited to spend the Tabaski holiday with a national friend.  Tabaski is an important time in the Muslim faith, when each family sacrifices at least one sheep based on their beliefs concerning the story of Abraham's sacrifice.  It's a bit like a city wide barbecue because all through the streets, people gather and share fires lined with roasting rams all day long.  The next day, the share the meat with others.  We went for a few hours, and enjoyed meeting his family.  They were very kind and together we shared the customary tea.  Then they used the same charcoal that the tea was prepared on to roast one of the sheep livers, which we also shared.   We didn't stay until our host's rams were done, but they did send us home with a plate full of entrails.  Later that evening, he also brought  some flank meat to our house.  Even though those flavors aren't what we are accustomed to, it was very kind that they were willing to share so generously with us and we were humbled by their hospitality.  It was also kind that they were patient with our slowly growing French.  We pray that our friendship with this family can grow in many ways as time goes by.

Here is the teapot, being heated

Our view while waiting for the tea.  Why yes, those are sheep heads and skins sitting next to us.

Our host was pouring the tea between these two cups to cool it and to create a nice foam.

"Hmmm, maybe if we walk over here and intently watch this nice line of cows going by, we will avoid offers of seconds on sheep liver."  

Roasting rams, not quite ready.

Our "to-go" plate of entrails.

There were some other fun events in September, including a silent pie auction/chili cook-off at the kid's school.  There were about 35 pies donated, and we didn't manage to win a single one of them.  However, the pecan pie we donated did result in a bit of a bidding battle and managed to bring the senior class about $20 in funds, so that was a good.  The evening was also supposed to include a game of donkey basketball.  Like, where people play basketball while riding on the backs of donkeys.  However, that got rained out, much to the kid's disappointment!

On the way to the pie auction, we did experience one other little delight.  We saw our first hippo!  We know they live all along the river that traverses our city, but this was our first time seeing one in the wild.  He was standing along the edge of a patch of grass munching away.  We were so busy oohing and ahhing that none of us got a decent picture.  But, I'm here to tell you, those puppies are BIG!