Monday, December 31, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Most Americans would  have thought our kids were deprived on Christmas - total gifts for the whole household plus 1 visiting child. But try asking anyone in our household the real reason for the season!

We had a wonderful Christmas season - lots of nights going to see Christmas lights, hot chocolate on colds evenings, a couple of Christmas plays, Christmas parties and the kids participating in their first Christmas play! We hosted Christmas this year and we had both sides of the family over along with friends for a grand total of 61 guests through out Christmas Day! Somehow, I survived it, totally enjoyed the day before collapsing and putting up my feet at midnight when the last guests left! The kids had a wonderful time, really got into all the traditions, and totally appreciated the meaning of the season. I was so proud of big brother who could not come up with even one gift idea - he told everyone who asked that he really had everything he needed! Those were proud parenting moments! His main concern was to ensure that an orphan he helps sponsor had enough food for Christams. It is my deepest desire to teach my kids to appreciate all their blessings and not yearn for the newest toy. Mommy started a new tradition where they only open a couple gifts on Christmas Day and then I stagger giving them the other gifts - that way they really appreciate the gift and know exactly who gave them each gift. The kids have  been so precious and are really treasuring their presents.

Gifts for 17 kids almost buried  the Chrtistmas Tree!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Who is Watching you at the Election Booth Tomorrow?

I admit I am a political junkie - I am the nerd who reads the complete voter guide, reads arguments for and against all propositions I am being asked to vote for, researches people/organizations behind the propositions and keep a mental record of campaign promises made and campaign promises broken. I like to think that I am pretty deliberate and take my privilidge to vote very seriously. All that aside, for me the election tomorrow and all other past and future elections are more than a hobby, but a reminder, that I will stand before a Holy God and give an account of every single action I take - and I tremble at the thought! One of my favorite bloggers, a true woman of substance and a passionate lover of Christ and defender of those without a voice articulated my thoughts so much better than I could ever have articulated them regarding what the election tomorrow means.

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Bi-Annual Update!

How the time flies! I can't believe fall is almost here! Last time I was in these woods, it was still Winter!So, what have we been up to? Celebrating birthdays, mother's day and father's day and enjoying our Summer break. Though we did not take our annual camping trip, dad extra ordinaire more than made up for it by taking the kids to the exploratorium, the space center, the aquarium, the zoo and countless trips to the train station to look at trains - and even a time or two of riding the train! Sometimes, I take for granted just how good of a dad he is, until the  kids tell me how many people stopped him to commend him for taking 4 young kids on his own to the various activities.
Mother's Day breakfast - courtesy of two lovely boys who were too anxious to wait for daddy to wake up! Menu: turkey sandwich, day-old re-warmed chicken and apple juice!

 I cannot believe I now have an 8-year old! I am totally enjoying all the ages my kids are in. I can have long conversations with my oldest as he continues to ask deep questions about all things science and God. The twins have come a long way in speech acquisition and they can tell me all about their day, stories they "read" and they are always making plans for family fun days. My funny chatterbox baby girl blows everyone away at how well she speaks at three years old. She wakes up talking and goes to bed talking! The kids plan sweet surprises for mommy's and daddy's birthdays and for mother's day and father's day and really work hard to make sure we have super special days!
piano recital

Super star big brother: loves third grade, his teacher and friends and still loves, loves math. One of his most exciting days this Summer was a trip to Barnes and Nobles to buy a third grade math workbook - you would have thought he was getting the newest coolest toy! He voluntarily spent all summer working on the workbook so that in his words, he could be prepared for third grade! He is a teacher's dream student - obedient, wants to please the teacher, careful in his work and very kind to his peers. He is always called upon to help new students in his class to acclimate to the new school and he still has his special group of friends from kindergarten! He still enjoys wrestling with the kids and nearly gives his mommy a heart attack as he thinks up new games to play with them - like getting the kids to slid down the stairs on a blanket. He is so very compassionate and the plight of the orphan is dear to his heart. He has started recycling bottles and cans so that he can use the money to help orphans. He took three big bags to the recycling center and was so proud of his $8 payday! He is always asking how much food the $8 can buy and is anxious to take the other bags he is filling up for recycling. I am praying I will be able to take him on a mission trip next year. He still enjoying soccer, karate and  piano and did really well during his last recital.

Baby boy: the happiest kid on earth - he is such a goofball and is always laughing, dancing and being all around silly. He loves, loves preschool and he is finally at par with his peers in speech. He still gets Occupational Therapy for his gross motor skills, though he will soon be graduating from OT. He loved swimming this summer, but he surprised me at how cautious he was if his swim teacher was not around. I thought he would be my little fish, but he would not swim without his life jacket if he was not having a swim lesson. I guess he did not trust mommy's life guarding skills!  He finally started soccer and boy, does he love it! On his first day (after a month wait since he got his uniform), he woke up at 6:00 A.M, dressed himself up right down to his shin guards and cleats and by 6:30 when I came downstairs, he was trying to get himself breakfast! He played with such gusto and all he talked about was how he won! Never mind that at 4 years old, they don't really have teams and don't keep score! His labile asthma seems have gone away and he now seems to have just the garden variety asthma. I love his pulmonologist who takes an aggressive approach in treating his asthma and really takes the time to educate parents and includes them when coming up with a treatment plan. I am so thankful for health insurance! His monthly asthma medication costs almost as much as the whole family's health insurance premium!

Baby girl: my most compliant child and just so delightful. She loves dance, music, gymnastics and is such a wonderful little helper. I am trying to include her in some simple kitchen duties - something she totally enjoys and is so proud to be mommy's helper. She loves going shopping with mommy, has a wonderful flair for fashion, is such a girly girl and loves all things dress up! She is sweet, funny, compassionate and is always the first to volunteer to help! She loves preschool and is tickled pink that she now has homework! I find the school experience for girls and boys to be so different! Girls seem to be so catty and into their little hierachies at such a young age! My mommy heart breaks when my sweet beautiful baby girl tells me about some of the mean things the other little preschool girls say. Right now, she misses some of those social cues and so it does not really faze her, but as she grows older, things will be more difficult. I fervently pray that God will lead her to sweet friends and protect her little heart. Mommy just fought an epic 8-month battle with the school district trying to get her speech therapy. We now see light at the end of the tunnel, but I hate that school budget cuts and apathetic personnel makes getting services so difficult. My heart goes out to those kids who need services, but whose parents don't know where to begin in a huge bureaucracy to advocate for their kids or who are not even aware of the services provided. This really lit the fire for me to take the steps to become a Court Appointed Special Advocate to help be the voice for children without a voice or anyone to advocate for them.

Mommy's baby: oh baby girl, baby girl: she sure keeps us on our toes! She is so, so smart, that it sometimes gets her into trouble! She taught herself the alphabet, colors, shapes and numbers by age 2 with a little game she was playing and continues to astound us at how she is such a sponge for knowledge. She has an amazing memory and we have lost count of how many words she can say - her grammar and sentence construction are so beyond her years, we have to remind ourselves she is only three. Sheis  half princess, half tomboy and waltzes down the stairs in the morning announcing the princess is at your service. She ushers in visitors by welcoming them to her castle and then does a couple of cartwheels! She is funny, sassy, kind, loving, compassionate, has a beautiful smile, bosses her older siblings and has made mommy and daddy dust off their books on raising a strong willed child! She came from being the world's easiest baby and toddler and a month before her 3rd birthday, she decided being an easy child was over-rated! She does not do anything in small measures, so the challenges were interesting to say the least! We like to kid ourselves that it was our consistency and a unified front that have made her turn the corner, but as she does all things, I really think she just as suddenly decided that testing her parents was not all that it was cracked up to be! We are now in a sweet, sweet, sweet period where she is back to her delightful self, but she reminds us that parenting never gets easier - only the challenges change!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Children are a Blessing from God.

The other night, I met a dad who was grocery shopping with his 6 young children (who looked to be 7 and under) and I felt such a sense of kinship! Normally, when I am out with all the kids, I have lost count of the times strangers stop me to tell me how full my hands are! His kids were so delightful and well behaved and I made sure to acknowledge him as a person and not simply as a parent who had his hands full! During our brief conversation at the checkout stand, he made sure to mention what a blessing children are (and I heartily agreed) and that though his family buys a lot of groceries, God has been good and all their needs are always met. I wanted to shout hallelujah in agreement, but I think I would have scared the clerk! I think navel gazing is so ingrained in the American psyche, we lost sight of the blessings in front of us. Today's parents are the byproduct of the self-esteem focused parenting model where children were raised to think the world revolved around them. Then, when they grew up and became parents and all the sacrifices that entails, that must have been a shock to their systems! No wonder it is so rare to hear parents sharing the joys of parenting, but it is so commonplace to hear parents complaining how hard and tiring parenting is! Our parents had more kids and fewer gadgets to make their lives easier but they seldom wasted precious time lamenting how hard their lives were. To them, we were blessings and they simply got in the trenches and mothered us joyfully.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Messianic Worship!

A couple of weekends ago, the family had the opportunity to attend a Messianic Jewish Conference in Southern California. This was a 3-day family event with break-out sessions for classes during the day and 3-4 hour long worship sessions in the evening. To say the conference was amazing is an understatement! Every time I meet someone who has been to an African worship service, they always comment on how lively "African" worship is. I guess they have never been to a Messianic Jewish service! The 4 hours seem so short and leave one yearning for more! Not exactly like my last 4 hour church service in Kenya where almost everyone was comatose from boredom! One of the classes during the day was Jewish dance and those who took the classes would dance during the worship service in the evening. The dancing, tambourines and waving flags all made for an amazing worship service. That, and the fact that the scriptures really come alive to a Messianic Jew who praised God from the deepest recesses of their soul that the Messiah already came and as they sing with real heartfelt cries to God petitioning Him to open the eyes of their loved ones to this truth.

Conversion to christianity usually means alienation from Jewish family and friends who view you as joining the enemy - some families mourn as though you have died. Teen converts usually get sent to see a shrink and it causes their families great grief. The Church has a long and tragic history of persecuting Jews in the name of Christ almost leading to their anihiliation - save for God's promises and prophecies in the old testament that must still be fullfilled. So for a Jew to learn that a loved one has joined the "christians" is almost like a slap in their face. The current Replacement Theology prevalent in many church denominations results from this history as open anti-semitism in the church is no longer politically correct.

They had a wonderful kids program which allowed the grown ups to soak in all the teaching and both adults and kids learned a few more Hebrew words! Big brother asked if we could return to the hotel where the conference was as they had so many kids activities! He assumed the hotel had set up all the kids games and bible lessons! Next time someone wants to experience amazing worship from the depth of one's heart, they need not travel to Africa - check out your nearest Messianic Jewish congregation!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Somber Reflections

On of my New Year's resolutions was to be more "present" with the kids and infuse more fun into our daily lives. I am so sad about those opportunities I have missed to fully connect with the blessings the Lord has entrusted me with when I am tired after a long day at work and I simply go through the motions during our evening routine. I am not sure how many times I have skipped pages of a book a child has requested I read, because this is my 7th book I am reading that evening or a requst for just one more kiss or to be a tickle monster and all I can think about are the dishes waiting in the sink, a kitchen to be cleaned and all that is involved in managing a household with four little ones. Or the times I have declined an offer from the kids to join them in dance or song, or paint or simply be silly. I spend way too much time in correcting and training and not enough time capturing the hearts of my kids and creating memories that can only happen if I am fully present. I really don't want to simply be the mom that trained up my kids in righteousness, but who never seized every request to engage in their play world. Because, lets face it, though I like a clean and neat house, the things that make the best memories are those moments we stop and let a child know they matter and we really care about them - even the hundredth pretend tea party, the story with a million "and then" that never seem to end and watching the same cartoon a hundred times and remembering to laugh at all the silly jokes!

All the things that seem important on my to do list appear silly when you read of a mom with empty hands after loving her child with lavish abandon for 2 years and 8 months and never, ever leaving his side. A mother who counts it all joy without a murmur of complaint every second God granted her with her precious child, even if it meant quitting her job, loosing her marriage and being housebound with her child who could not leave the house for the 2 years and 8 months of his life. Through every trial and tribulation, she counted it an honor and a privilege to minister her child. Baby Tripp's life and his mother's courage, love and sacrifice have spoken so deeply to my heart - to create magic in the mundane, re prioritize those things without lasting significance and more purposefully show my kids in word and action my all consuming love for them.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Tough Re-Entry!

We have been back for a week and I just cannot seem to shake the jet lag - which is funny since I normally never suffer from jet lag and I was totally fine in Kenya! As soon as I sit down, I am out! On my second day back, someone came by to visit, and I could not summon the energy to keep my eyes open! Not my most hospitable time! Three weeks without having to worry about housework, cooking or work and then having to jump into all that almost immediately must have gotten to me!

The kids totally enjoyed their visit and keep asking when they are going back to Kenya! They were totally spoilt - a smile bought them everything mommy and daddy said no to! Kids who had never had soda or gum before were having them everyday! Re-entry for them has been interesting - no longer can they  leave the house unsupervised because there were so many people to look out for them and shock of all shock, they have to walk everywhere because they are not countless people offering piggyback rides!

I missed the point of vacation which is rest, and tried to give the kids as rich an experience as I could and scheduled activities for everyday! We racked up some miles with visits to places like Giraffe Center, Ostrich Farm, Village Market, Mamba Village, a Coffee Plantation, Lake Nakuru, Masinga Dam, Ndakaini Dam, and of course the highlight, a Safari! The kids were totally amazed at all of God's creation and it was so cute each making claim to their own animal! The lions gave us amazing shows and would come real close to the tour vans. We could not have asked to stay at a better tented camp than Ashnil Mara - the customer service was amazing and they were not fazed at having a large group of 42 and all the different requests a large group makes! The manager was the ultimate professional and consistently came to ask me if there was anything else they could do for us! He even arranged for an amazing hot lunch by the river with the hippos after our tour drivers dropped the ball and forgot to order our packed lunch for one of our game drive days. And best of all, the waiters knew all my kids by name, would give them piggy back rides and would always anticipate their needs and as soon as I went to the buffett to serve one of the kids, I would come back to the table and find they have already served the other munkins! They took me to the poor house as in all my previous 6 trips to Mara, this was by far the best customer service I had ever received and I wanted the waiters to know as much! Sarova Lion Hill in Lake Nakuru, a total anticlimax in terms of customer service after Ashnil, but their food was great!

Christmas was so simple this year - church service and then lots of food with family and friends. Nothing like having over a hundred people for Christmas lunch - the fellowship and laughter was so amazing. And not having to worry about getting the right gift and the right wrapping and all the other worries of a commercialized Christmas!

Trying to live out James 1:27 to support widows ~ we went unannounced and the surprise on this precious widow's face was priceless. And most humbling of all was that she with almost nothing scrambled to make us a meal even as we insisted that she not bother herself. She delighted in serving us her best - even though she had nothing to spare.

New Year's Eve was so unevenful - fast asleep in a hotel and could not even muster the energy to go watch fireworks in London which were supposed to be amazing.

I must have looked haggard on our return as a kind police officer approached my girls who were skipping and giggling to tell them mommy had had a long flight and to be good to mommy as she got the luggage! He then helped me hold their hands and go look for the daddy and the boys who were just anxious to go home and had walked ahead of us!

December revolved around food, family and friends and I am now back to training for my first 5K run - my new girth requires it! Nairobi has lots of eating options and we especially enjoyed dinner at tthe Tribe Hotel. My vegetarian niece even found a place that rocked her boat - and finally cleaned up her plate after a delicious veggie burger at Holiday Inn. She had been surrounded by meat lovers and she had been barely eating for two weeks. We also enjoyed a knock off Starbucks at Java House and the kids again charmed the waiters and we got excellent customer service.  It is always interesting to me the regional adaptation of foods - who would ever have thought of finding french fries in an Indian restaurant?  But that was in keeping with Kenyan's love for french fries. Kinda like my chinese friend who needed to come to America to learn numerous "chinese" dishes she had never heard of in China!