Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Break the To Do List Shrunk.

This Christmas break was the most relaxing one I can remember for a long time. We were able to read, sleep late, hang out, and enjoy each other. The kids really enjoyed playing together and we had just enough to do that we didn't have a lot of the squabbles that we sometimes do. The kids and Ian went hiking one day with some friends, and we had a few low key playtimes as well. We did some special baking and worked hard on finishing our Christmas projects before Christmas came around. We also accomplished a lot of things that had been on our to-do list. I was so proud that I remembered to take pictures of them. They weren't big or important items, but it is nice to have them out of the way.

I care for the furniture and household goods that SIM supplies to those coming to serve for less than two years. This spring, I brought a few items home that were fairly sturdy but had seen better days thinking I would refinish them before our vacation this summer. A refinishing job, which I have done before, is all well and good in the US, but here, without Home Depot, I discovered rather quickly that I was at a loss. I needed Ian's tools, which are never located in our garage, and inside purchasing knowledge that I didn't have. I knew he was too busy to work on my very un-urgent project, so the dresser and side tables have sat in our laundry room, in our hall, and on our back porch for the last six months. Over break, Ian finally got tired of having old furniture around and took it upon himself to sand and paint the dresser I had started in May. It looked great! I was so thankful for his expertise! And we were both glad to get the dresser off the porch.

Another project Ian worked on this break was putting up a rope swing for the kids in the front yard. They have had hours of fun on it already! It was a great idea!
We also bought a second hand desk for the girls' room. Previously, they only had a table to work on. Without the storage space of a desk, their table and surrounding floor were a a constant disaster area. Now they have a place for everything and two months later, the room is still clean! YAHOO!!! As an added bonus, the table was returned to its original purpose holding laundry. No more folding clothes on top of the freezer for me!
In further efforts to organize "the messy girls' room" as Tom calls it, we moved a set of plastic drawers into their bathroom. Again, this has made a HUGE difference in their ability to keep things neat. Formerly these drawers were in their closet holding doll clothes, but the doll clothes have found another home and Kay's dresses were starting to get too long to keep it underneath much longer anyway. Now we don't have daily piles of hair ribbons, elastics and barrettes on the floor!

Last year we had a gardener that was very enthusiastic about lettuce. While the four beds seemed a bit TOO enthusiastic to us, we did enjoy the fresh lettuce. Unfortunately, due to scheduling difficulties, we no longer have a gardener, so this year we were on our own. Ian built a garden in our front yard and we planted tomatoes and lettuce, and even some red peppers in a pot. To keep the lizards and birds from eating the seeds and tiny seedlings, we covered the bed with screen until the seedlings were big enough to survive on their own. Here is a view soon after we planted. Now Ian has thinned the rows and transplanted some of the crowded babies to other areas. The plants look great! Hopefully it won't get too hot for them before they are able to produce. We did start late... but even if the heat rises, we have a plan...

AHHHHH. Nothing like checking off some items from the to-do list!

Celebrating in Several Languages

As with many churches around the world, our church reserves one of the Sundays before Christmas for the children's Christmas program. Each age group spends weeks preparing a special presentation which ranges from a simple song for the younger crowd to self written skits or elaborately choreographed dances for the older ones. The day of the program all the children were given festive hats to wear. Here is one of my friend's beautiful little girls in the grand entrance parade down the aisle.Our church has a wide mix of people in it from countries all around West Africa to Europe, the Americas and Asia.
Kay is one of several English speakers that go to Sunday school each week. In fact, the 6 English speakers that attend Sunday school are all in her class! For this reason, for the last few years her class has decided to sing a song in English. I try to find one with simple, repetitive words that all of the class can learn quickly. (Did you ever notice how many Christmas songs have complicated vocabulary and how few use repetitive words!?) Because so much of the education system here is orally based, the children have amazing memories and their ability to pick up other languages daily puts me to shame! The day of the program, the children were all given festive hats to wear. Here are Kay and her classmate, Bright, leading the singing of the English song. In addition to the song they learned this year, they sang last year's "Go Tell It on the Mountain." Each student also memorized one verse in the Christmas story. So together they were able to recount the scripture retelling of Jesus' birth. Kay was happy that by accident, she was given the same verse she memorized last year. When you are memorizing in a second language, you need all the help you can get! She did a great job! We were proud of her!
Here are two more of Kay's classmates and our near neighbors. They are Swiss and speak French at home, but are also fluent in English.
After the program's successful completion, the kids run outside to celebrate with snacks, juice and little gifts.

The Best Christmas Gift of all...

Our family was blessed with an abundance of good things this Christmas. We had fun playing croquet together after my parents sent us a new set. We spent vacation watching lots of fun family movies that various members received. Tom produced beautiful magnets for his sisters. Of course, chocolate of various shapes and sizes was found in stockings and wrapping paper.
Kay was really excited about the sewing boxes that she and Heidi received this year. They had fun putting all the sewing notions into the different little compartments.

All the kids loved the sleeping bags they got from Grammy and Papa... so warm and fuzzy!

The new keyboard was also a big hit. Heidi practices diligently and is getting really quite good. Kay loves to find the songs already programed into the keyboard and dance to them.

But the favored present of all came from Auntie Beth... No camera can capture her rapture at getting...


Stocking shots

Here are the traditional Christmas morning in pjs with stocking shots... usually I escape, but I was some how caught and Beth escaped this year. Curses, foiled again...

The better to see with my dear...

Kay's teacher approached us about the middle of last semester to let us know that she and various others had given her class basic eye exams with the traditional eye chart. Four exams in a row with various people had resulted in the conclusion that Kay could only see to the second line with one of her eyes! This came as a big surprise to us; we had just had her at the doctor this summer for a check up- complete with eye exam. We are thankful for the number of services that are now available in Niger; and that an optometrist is among them! Ian took her to the eye doctor, and though the process wasn't quite the same as in the US ( it was a bit slower due to a month long vacation between the two eye appointments), Kay is now a proud member of the family four eyes club. I love this picture of my precious Kaylo. She has such a tender heart and loves to encourage others. She is also the one that keeps me on my knees as I watch her struggle being the middle child with strong emotions.