29 June 2012

Stocked Up and Hunkered Down

Here we are again. Stocked up and hunkered down. Well, almost. Mikey and H should be back any minute from their morning meetings. But once they’re back safe at home, we’ll officially be hunkered down.

Every year it seems, there is a reason to stock up and hunker down. Or more than one reason. But this year’s (first?) reason has arrived. Today and tomorrow there are rumors of protests to kick the Prez out of power. Now, we’ve been down this political unrest road before and we’re pretty much anything but worried. Usually there is a big buzz about some upcoming event like when the President was indicted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes or when the country was voting for separation. Our worst experience was when Vice President Garang was killed in a helicopter crash seven years ago, but that was on our first visit and we never had a chance to stock up for that event but we did hunker down and I nearly lost my life to cabin fever (just ask my husband!).

Generally in these situations I feel that it’s best to make preparations to stay at home for a few days should we need to. So I buy some extra flour and make sure we have fresh fruit and make sure I have enough ingredients to make cookies every day should the need for cookie-therapy as a treatment for cabin fever arise. You get the point. The essentials. Then we play it safe and see what happens for a day or so. And usually what happens is a big fat nothing, if I’m honest. Except that time that I mentioned Vice President Garang was killed. That was ugly. And it was even an accident (well, depends who you ask…)

Anyway, even the U.S. Embassy is taking big precautions, warning citizens to stay in the central part of the city and not venture out over the bridges to the other areas of town.

Oops.

We live across the bridge in another area of town and I ain’t about to pack up my family and camp in someone else’s house just to (probably) watch nothing happen and then come back home wishing we’d just stayed here to begin with where the kids can splash in their lil’ pool and I have all my cookie-making essentials nearby.

Presumably they give this warning so that citizens are able to reach the airport in case the need for evacuation arises. Which would of course, pose a small problem for us, because if something big broke out, then the first thing they do is close the bridges, blocking our route to the airport, obviously. And we’re good swimmers, but I’m not sure the Nile would be a good idea and anyway I am not leaving this country without my children’s baby books and they’d certainly get ruined if I had to swim with them across the Nile. If only we’d purchased a rubber dingy of our own so that we’d have a way to cross the river…

Am I kidding?

I’m not sure.

We could always drive to Ethiopia, I suppose. That is, if our car would start, which we’re never quite sure about. And if our car would make it. And if anyone would be selling diesel on the road to Ethiopia. But then we’d have issues because Mikey doesn’t currently have his passport… it’s in an office somewhere in some visa process. That would also make flying out of an airport or entering another country a little difficult. “Would you accept this old faded and creased copy of my passport sir?”  Hmm… wouldn’t be good…

Ack. Do our lives sound a bit complicated? Cause they sure do feel a bit complicated at times. And a bit depressing too, if I’m honest.

Anyway, here girlie and I are at home (hurry home Mikey and H!). She is snoozing, oblivious to all the political junk flying around this city while I am searching Twitter to see what the youth (at least the educated, techy youth who have the ability and desire to tweet) in the country are saying at this moment. Currently, it seems the Muslim prayers have ended and protests have broken out in one part of the city (very far from us, Moms, okay?!). Tear gas, etc, used to break it up. Oh my. 4000 people they say? Can it be true?

Oh! There is Mikey and H now…

Out of Danger (Colorado Springs Fire Update)

The fire in Colorado Springs is far from put-out, but the winds have died down and I don’t believe any more structures are in danger.

Over 300 homes were burned, including the home of one family that we know. They were out of town and didn’t have a chance to pack a thing or get their car out of the garage. We are praying for them.

The campus that is one of our homes was also spared. The fire came within about two miles, but never got closer. The residents (our friends!) are allowed to return in the morning, although they are still on evacuation notice in case the fire would change direction again. It is probably super smoky and covered in ash, but it’s standing and we are so thankful.

You can check out some crazy before and after photos of some housing areas that were affected here.
And then, as one friend affected by all this reminded… squeeze your loved ones a little tighter today… they are what is important.

27 June 2012

My Heart

My heart is currently detached from my body and is now residing half way around the world in Colorado Springs. My family is lucky they even got fed today, I am such a zombie.

Wildfires are raging in Colorado  just two miles from our campus/community that is one of our three (earthly) homes.

My heart is THERE.

My heart is with my friends who have left their homes behind and evacuated their families to other locations while they wait to see what the fire does next.

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Yesterday the fire looked like this.

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Today it looks like this. Over twice as large. I look at that map and see the grocery store we shop at. I can see my friend’s homes. I can see our campus. I can see the library we go to.  I see the park where I took portraits several months ago. I see it all.

Words like ‘epic’  and ‘unprecedented’ are being used. The thing is a monster and the weather is the perfect storm. Oh, Jesus.

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(pics taken from Gazette.com)

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The Air Force Academy Chapel. In danger today. Oh my.

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Pikes Peak is under all that smoke.

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Can this even be real?

It’s so strange to be so far. In some ways I suppose I should say that I’m glad to be away during this disaster. But in other ways, my heart is there is such a strong way that I feel like I just wish the rest of me could be there too. Experiencing this together. Walking through this with my dear friends.

But I’m far. And so I scour the internet for any updates. I scan the maps for movements. I check Facebook to see where people have ended up and how they are faring. You might call me crazy. And you might be right. I can’t help it. For a girl who normally only reads news from People.com (Star Tracks, anyone?) this is quite a change.

In other news, literally, another of our three homes (the one my body is currently residing in here in Africa) is also in the headlines. Political junk is going down here and just adds another level of stress and worry (Sorry Jesus, I know You told me not to worry… I’m trying!) to our already kinda crazy and insecure livelihood in our home on this side of the globe.

And my conclusion, in the end, is that I just wish Jesus would come back already. Can I get an amen?!

25 June 2012

The First Rain

Each year, I note the first rain. I don’t know why really. Probably because we, uh, live in the desert and rain is a rare occurrence. I was about to say it’s lovely when it rains also, but I’m not certain about that one.

This year we’ve had several days of sprinkles but last night was the first real rain.

By now I am hyper-sensitive to changes in the weather while I sleep. Mostly to wind because wind means a haboob (dust storm) and a haboob means get up and turn off the coolers and close the windows and shove towels under the door and hope tomorrow is a day your house helper is supposed to come because the sky and therefore, your house will soon fill with orange dust.

So this morning at 3am I awoke to wind. I immediately looked out the window for signs of a haboob. The signs were there, so Mikey and I made our rounds. But as I lay back down for a few minutes, I heard something else. It was definitely the sound of rain drops! So I got back up and started a whole second set of rounds. I went out on the balcony to bring in the chair cushions and make sure the sandbox was covered. Under my sun shade it felt like a cool mist, but when I stepped out from under the shade cool wet drops were falling steadily on my skin. Refreshing. I stood there for a moment enjoying the early morning quiet and wetness of our normally busy and dry city.

Then I went back inside, turned on the light in the bathroom and checked my skin in the mirror before I laid back down in bed. I learned a long time ago that the rain isn’t always clean. But last night I didn’t have mud drops instead of rain drops and I didn’t have to take a shower to clean myself off after standing in the rain. Glory!

We expect more rain to come soon… and more haboobs, unfortunately… this year there have been a crazy amount of them. Lately, there have been more dusty days than not! Blech.

24 June 2012

Homemade Foaming Hand Soap… Organic!

In this earlier post when I went on a rant about skincare products and how bad so many of them are for our bodies and health, I said I’d show you how I make my own organic foaming hand soap.

So, a little later than I had anticipated… here that is!

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Here is what you need:

1. Pure Castile Soap

2. An empty foaming handsoap bottle (I just purchased one from Aldi and dumped out the handsoap that came in it but most houses probably already have these sitting around.)

3. Water

4. Measuring cups. Or not. This isn’t exactly a science.

Now, the measurements depend on the size of your handsoap bottle. But a general rule is about 4 parts water to 1 part castile soap. (For me, that’s about 2 oz. castile soap and 8 oz water.) Pour them together in the bottle, give it a shake and that’s it.

That’s it!

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If you like, you can add a few drops of essential oil for fragrance.

Now, please note… this isn’t the silky super-yummy smelling hand soap you are probably accustomed to using, like I was. It’s a bit of an adjustment to get to used to the feeling of it.  It definitely doesn't have a luxurious feel. But as much as the kiddos and I wash our hands daily in this dusty place… I feel good knowing they aren’t getting any funny chemical on/in their skin each time they have to wash up.

Also, we do occasionally have to give it a single shake before I pump out some soap, it does tend to settle a bit.

The other good thing? You can purchase a 32 oz bottle of castile soap for around ten bucks. That makes about 16 ten ounce bottles of hand soap cost only about 60 cents each. Beat THAT, dollar store!

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Happy foaming!

21 June 2012

Homework

We’re trying to do more workbook stuff with H these days. (Although these photos were taken before his recent haircut…) He’s a bright little bugger. Sometimes he loves his ‘homework’ and sometimes he is NOT interested at all.

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The times he is into it, it is SO fun to sit with him and watch him try, learn and succeed! We mostly do letters but lately we have also been working on coloring inside the lines.

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Should he be able to do that by now? We’re working on it…

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The crayons tucked behind each of his ears are my favorite…

This boy is the best!

19 June 2012

Problem Solving, Two Ways

Sunday evening we spent quite awhile in the car and we had the windows down instead of using the A/C, like we normally would.

Sweet N was quite bothered by her hair blowing in her eyes (she has since been given a bang-cut!). So we attempted to keep her hair out of her eyes.

I call it: Local head coverings, in two ways…

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The first is the female variety of head-covering.

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Pretty darn cute. But it quickly failed.

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So here is attempt number two! Male variety of head-covering in these parts…

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Very cute and very functional!

16 June 2012

Vocabulary Lesson

I love these lessons. My boy has a lot to teach you today…

belt latches

These are called “belt-latches”.

chew nuts

Not cashews, but “chew nuts”.

constructions

These should be instructions, but he says “constructions”, which some cases (like Transformers or Legos)… almost makes more sense!

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He spots “cup folders” everywhere! And thinks it’s nifty to use them.

hot dog hummus

In Colorado, several months ago… he said this was “hot dog hummus”. That’s the best!

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And in the hose on the balcony, he often has to get out the “wrinkles”.

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“Spongee cord” which also makes a lot of sense…

Toast

And finally… this is “toast”… whether or not it has seen the inside of the toaster! Usually he asks for his toast not toasted. Ha!

14 June 2012

Snack Magnets

Sometimes I get tired of the ordeal it is to feed two small kids. At snack time I would generally my precious offspring two or three choices off the top of my head and they would whine about the options. But they’d eventually choose after I would threaten to take away snack time altogether. So I’d serve my reluctant snackers. They’d complain, play, get distracted, make  a mess… you get the idea. Then when it’s all said and done I have to do dishes (again), wipe the table (again) and sweep the floor (again) to avoid an infestation of ants in a matter of minutes. And maybe they never ate anything in the end anyway and so I know they’ll be begging for a snack ten minutes later. I often got frustrated because I feel my kids are unappreciative of all the effort I put into feeding them healthy food!

It wears me out.

So I had this idea. Or I saw a similar idea online? I honestly can’t remember, it’s terrible, I know. I hate to not give credit where credit is due, that is if credit is due… which it probably is! Somewhere!

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Snack magnets!

I used Google’s image search to save photos of the snacks we most often have on hand. Fruits, veg, peanuts, raisins, popcorn, fruit leather, muffins, etc. I printed them on cardstock, dug out this old clear contact paper I kept forever and covered the food photos with it. Then I found some magnets left over from some failed project and glued them on the back. Easy peazy.

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I put the magnets of the snacks currently available at kid eye level (and explained to the children that the magnets are NOT for removing or playing with). If we didn’t buy watermelon this week or if the muffins are gone, I just put those magnets up high out of sight and they aren’t an option until they are available again.

These are all healthy real food options that I’m happy for the kids to eat.

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So now at snack time I just ask them what they would like. They excitedly bound over to peruse all their options available to them and tell me their choice.  Then I serve.

AND THEN… this is the best part… they eat it quickly and HAPPILY because they chose it!!!

It’s amazing.

Another wonderful surprise is that one day my girlie chose to eat a hard boiled egg. I have wanted my kids to eat hard boiled eggs but have never been able to get them to and I quit trying. But one day she chose it for her snack and she ate the whole thing! Little willful stinker will only do it when her Mama doesn’t ask her too…

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This day Sweet N was sooooooooo happy (and ridiculously cute) with her watermelon,

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and H happily snacked on his popcorn.

Glory!

12 June 2012

Flashback

Last summer we went to a nursing home to visit Mike’s Grandpap. I remember the visit well and it was a sweet time together with him and Grandma.

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The kids were so content there.

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And had some fun too!

But the thing I STILL think about often is this adorable little interaction sweet N (about 18 months at the time) had with this cutest old resident. The sweet lady was taking a stroll down the hall with one hand on the railing. My girlie watched her for a minute and then walked the same way down the other side of the hall.

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They’re watching each other. So cute.

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But on the return trip down the hall, N took the lead! She walked with two arms behind her back.

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And the old lady watched her, and then mimicked the wee toddler and walked the same way following her.

Have you ever seen anything cuter?!  I loved it then and I still love it now! Simple minds and simple pleasures.. the two of them together…

11 June 2012

My Daughter, the Carnivore

My girlie is crazy about meat. I mean, before she was old enough to discern meat from other foods she would scarf down meat and scoff at the other foods being offered. I promise you that my girl does NOT get this trait from me.

I mean, I like meat alright. But usually only if it is the boneless and skinless variety. I don’t really know how to cook meat with bones or skin and I don’t even really know how to eat it. My kind husband often peels meat off bones for me and puts it on my plate as if I’m a baby myself, which I really appreciate.

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He did that for me this evening, when we were having a nice local meal with friends.

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In the middle is fuul and it’s SO delicious to me., especially at this restaurant. It’s the local staple that is sold everywhere from on the street to fancy restaurants. It’s made from smashed fava beans mixed with tamia (aka falafel to the rest of the world), tomatoes, onions, oil and local goat cheese (feta). There is tamia up on the right, the local bread on the top left. Two plates of dips (one VERY spicy and the other some variety of tahini) and of course two plates of…

CHICKEN!

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I’m almost helpless with a chicken leg. To me it contains about two half bites worth of meat. And even that meat usually has skin on it, which is not ideal. But look at this girl.

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I don’t know how she does it.

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She has no fear of all that unknown animal part stuff and just digs right in.

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It actually kinda grosses me out looking at these pictures.

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Oh my word. Who IS  she?!

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Are you done now, my cutest little carnivore?! Then put those greasy hands up and let’s go wash all that yuckiness off them!

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Once she was done eating she made herself right at home in the restaurant.

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Jumping around

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and hanging out with the man taking money.

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Meanwhile, her brother was doing this.

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