29 January 2015

REWIND! Our America Trip in Photo Review

We bought a new fabulous camera as soon as we arrived to help
us document all the exciting and mundane events in our 10-week visit.
Our kids met a lot of great new friends at a ton of brunches, lunches, dinners and playdates.
We did a December road trip down the Oregon and California coast.
2,500 miles in 10 days, but our kids continued to be super travelers!
We stopped every few hours to stretch legs at various beautiful spots.
Fred and I loved driving through the redwoods (literally and figuratively)
Outside of Oakland looking back at San Francisco while we waited
to meet up with one of the dozen or so people we met up with on the trip
Innocent go to dip his feet in his first ocean in sunny San Diego

And Gretchen played in sand for the first time
We went ice skating with some friends, which Innocent loved,
but this was the happiest Wesley was during the whole experience.
When we got back home, we went with cousins to cut a Christmas tree.
We ended up with a slightly taller tree than this one. 
We were blessed to be in Oregon for the warmest, sunniest winter I can remember,
so the boys got to spend a lot of time at the Newberg playground.

Christmas was a really special time for the kids.
They didn't get out of the sled for the better part of the morning.

Wesley (our future engineer) got a toolbox for Christmas.
He's still carrying it around a month later.

After Christmas we went to Eagle Crest for a week of actual non-working vacation with my parents.
It was really helpful for us to have that break in the middle of our visit.

Innocent and my dad did some swimming lessons while we were on vacation.

The boys got to play in snow and use their Christmas sled.
Most of our extended family members came up to Eagle Crest on the last day.

We got to have a small celebration of my grandparents' 60th wedding anniversary.

Some wonderful friends paid for the boys to go to the dentist, which they actually enjoyed!

We did a lot of presentations on this visit, including at a few
 new church contacts, like Chehalem Baptist.
A presentation in Astoria to a group of my grandmother's friends and neighbors
 at which Wesley made himself a center of attention...as usual

Our whole family climbed the Astoria Column!

Gretchen saw and was seen by many friends and family, and accomplished crawling, walking,
first four teeth and some first words, like "uh-oh" and "daddy".
Many friends contributed to meet several one-time financial needs, like a new laptop for me!

Thanks to all the friends who had us over, prayed with us, gave money, spent time with our kids, offered skills and space and time to make our visit wonderful!  See you next time!

23 January 2015

Wrapping Up! 10 Days Until Liftoff!

We're nearly on our back to Tanzania, to work and life and home.  This trip has been incredible, but were feeling that the time is right to return to "normality."

If you're hoping to see us before we go, here are a few last chances:

January 24th, 3pm, Lahash House (4850 N Vancouver Ave, Portland)
We will be showing photos and telling stories about our work in Tanzania.

January 26th, 6pm, Lahash House (same as above)
We are joining the Lahash community at their regular Monday night potluck.  Anyone is very welcome to join us.  The theme is Burrito Bowls!  mmm...

January 29th, Last day in Portland
I'm coming into the office for some meetings on Thursday, so it's literally the last chance to lay eyes on me for you Portland-ers!

February 1st, 9am, C3 Church in Lake Oswego
We're possibly going to be doing a short presentation, but at least popping in to be with them in worship.  We have to run out right after, though, so if you want to see us there, make sure we know you'll be there!

February 1st, 10:30am, C3 Church in Newberg
Our last event before leaving, we'll be sharing for about 20 minutes at their service, and are free for lunch after.

Then we're off!  I guess if we have any friends in NYC who want to come have coffee during our layover, we'll be hanging out at the airport from about 5:30am until 8am!

14 January 2015

2 Things I Love About America & 1 Thing I Love/Hate

What I Love

Driving through the redwoods
1. Driving
I must love driving if I've put my family through over 3,500 miles of road trips in the past two months: 2,500 miles down the California coast to San Diego and back up the freeway, then later to Central Oregon and up to Eastern Washington.  The well-maintained roads, cheap gas prices, drive thru food and coffee and free audio books from the library have made nearly every day of our road trips a pleasure.  Our kids are fantastic travelers, even in their car seats, so there’s been very little crying.  We have two more small overnight trips: one to Astoria and one to Hood River.

2.  Collaboration
Acting casual during a Lahash staff meeting
I haven’t spent a lot of time in the Lahash office, but those days are full of meetings.  I totally understand that many people find meetings dull and counterproductive, but as one who works from a home which is more than 10,000 miles away from my coworkers, I so appreciate the opportunity to exchange ideas and brainstorm with my Lahash colleagues.  Also super valuable are the phone conferences with our Mama Maisha co-founders, the Grahams.  Being able to talk freely on a good connection without signals dropping or awkward pauses makes it so easy to compare ideas and make decisions.

What I Love/Hate

Convenience food
First, a confession: I am eating and feeding my family convenience food.  My boys have probably eaten their weight in chicken nuggets in the past two months.  It’s a little bit of a chicken-and-egg thing; convenience food enables me to GoGoGo! all day long and feed my kids within minutes of arriving back at my parents’ house.  (God knows how many days I’ve reached home in Shirati after a whole day on a bus willing to pay dearly for a bag of frozen chicken nuggets.)  On the other hand, if I know that it will take at least 90 minutes to make dinner for myself and my family, I am far more likely to wrap up a meeting or a project to get home in plenty of time.  If I only used a drive-thru or a bag of frozen processed something on those rare occasions that really required it, I could have a love-love relationship with convenience food.  Unfortunately I allow those conveniences to override my best judgment of what my family and I should eat.  Ironically, most of the time I’m in Africa I am dreaming about the amazing food I will cook when I reach America...ugh….  Another example of not giving my best intentions the energy and resources they need to succeed.
Eating garbage (not the diaper)

Let me close with an epiphany I had a few days ago.  I've often felt sorry for myself because *sob*I don’t have many good friends in Shirati.  I've often asked people to pray for me in this respect, but I just realized that many of the women who are praying for me to find a good community of friends never really get time to hang out with their own community of friends!  Everyone is so busy, especially moms of little kids, and super especially moms of little kids who also work or home school.  If you have a mom of little kids in your life (or in your home!), push her out of the house to go get coffee or happy hour with a friend.  Ladies, let yourself be pushed out of your house, sans kids, to get a little community, a little time to just be you in an honest, healthy way.  Laugh a lot, cry a little and be blessed!