Wednesday, December 16, 2009

HR is 5 years old!

Our littlest turned 5 this month. She loves pink, giving hugs, singing, and chattering. We love her and are so thankful that she is in our family.

Experiencing a wedding...

Attending the village wedding on Saturday night was like jumping headfirst into a cultural lagoon. Traditions are abundant during this all-night festivity. What a great opportunity for us to observe and participate!

When we and our friends arrived (all pictured above were squished in our big red car!) they served us a lovely chicken tagine and then followed it with a beef tagine. They killed the fattened calf for this one. My friend said that they probably served 50 chickens to all their guests during the day.

The women proceeded up on the roof, into this tent. It was packed with maybe 150 women, probably all of the families of the entire village represented. Wow! We sat and waited for the bride to come. (I was informed that she was in town getting her hair done.)

And here she is! She arrived around 10 pm and walked in and sat on a silver throne waiting for her groom. There was a small dance rug in the middle where my cute friends let their hair down (literally) and had a ball. This is a fun night for women.

After the groom came and the pictures were taken, they left to change their clothes. She had 3 different outfits that she modelled during the night. While she was gone changing, the "tent occupants" watched a relative open the presents and announce to the crowd, for example, "Ruth, the aunt of the bride, gave 200 dirhams ($25). May God repay her." You want to hide under your seat if you give something lame or cheap!

This is the procession of the groom into the house, surrounded by male friends. The men sat downstairs the whole time while the women were upstairs. Patrick met the groom for the first time and offered his congratulations. The groom seemed pleased and told Patrick that he was thankful that his wife will provide domestic help. The bride and groom will live with the groom's family in a village about 15 minutes away.

Here we are! Usually the place for kids at a wedding is outside getting in trouble, so we left our other kids at home. H enjoyed herself and even said the next day, "I liked that queen." The bride was indeed a queen for a day, but is probably now on to other things like washing clothes and cooking chicken.

What an interesting look into culture...

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Happy Birthday Poppy!

Poppy enjoyed some cake today (so did her mama). It's fun for the whole family to celebrate Poppy's birthday every few months because everyone benefits from a freshly baked gluten free yummy.

H is such a cutie with Poppy and her other doll Kitty Rose (who was my childhood friend too!). She likes to dress her, feed her, and stroll her around. One day on the trip to the neighborhood market, H confided in me.

"Mom, when I get too old and don't want Poppy anymore, will you take care of her?"

The question caught me off guard and a flood of emotions overcame me. "Oh, yes...I would love to do that," I choked out. We continued to walk home--me with a grocery bag and her with her baby.

I think I cried after that. I can't imagine HR without little pink bows in her hair and Poppy. How I need God's grace and courage for every step of parenting. Sometimes I just want to sit with a cup of tea and just stare at my kids. Watch their noses crinkle, see their eyes beam, their fingers move, hear their voices laugh. I'm so thankful for each of them and I trust that the days will just get better. They are changing before my eyes.

So, when the time comes, I will be the one who puts Poppy in her pink dress and bakes her a birthday cake. Because even then, the mama and the rest of the grown crew will benefit.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

School days

Well, the little honey loves her uniform and her backpack, but hasn't taken a liking to Arabic school. She has a very nice teacher who allowed me to sit with her for the whole afternoon. And the next afternoon. And the next. One day Patrick stayed, one day B stayed. She did fine when we were there, but had a terrified look when we would try to leave and would even cry about it at lunch. So, we took her out and plan to try again in January. It is a bit intimidating to have a whole new language (actually, two languages) thrown at you and no one to comfort you (big cultural difference in how they comfort). But the Lord will give her the grace to handle it at the right time, not sure when that will be, but we will know when it comes.

Some cute "class memories"--

One day her seat partner had a delicious looking snack. And, to top it off, too much of it! She was eating and eating and it was time to clean up for something else. H, who hadn't said anything just eaten up her own food, looked slyly at the girl. She got up and came back to where I was sitting and whispered, "How do you say, 'Can I eat some of that?'" Cracked me up!

Another day as we entered the room she whispered to me, "Let's sit next to each other, so that we can hold hands."

Learning some new skills

A few years ago I wanted my boys to learn some skills. But how? How would I teach them to whittle some wood, tie knots, climb, do extreme sports....boy things? In the States you can join clubs or do classes. Of course, Patrick teaches them a lot, but I wanted a check-off list or something. We prayed and asked the Lord for help.

We discovered some things locally, like leather work and wood-burning designs on pieces of wood from the cork tree. Many things to learn from people here.

Recently, though, the Lord opened the door for them to join the Boy Scouts! Imagine that! They are in the Transatlantic council and are labelled "Lone Scouts" because there isn't a troop for them to join. Patrick is their leader. And, Boy Scout books contain skills--lots of them.

After an afternoon at school, J came in the door with a limping JP. Apparently, JP had stepped on a small piece of glass and J carried him home the rest of the way.

"Mom, mom," J sputtered after we checked JP's foot, "I would never have known how to carry him if I wouldn't have read it in my Boy Scout book."

There you have it! Thanks again God for your kindness to us.

J, a lover of monkeys and little brothers

Thursday, October 22, 2009

All I want for Christmas is my...

Friday, October 2, 2009

Four flights and a van

Most of our "crew" heading through the airport with carry-ons.

Forever the reader, B couldn't fit another book in her carry-on, so she carried it the whole way!

Our family on the first flight, looking fresh and waiting for the pop.

We had a wonderful, whirlwind time in the States this summer. On Monday Sept. 21 we boarded our first plane back home. Four flights and a van ride later we were back to our home. The kids were happy to be back. A friend of ours did a great job clearing our place of dust. But, "achoo, achoo," it doesn't take long for it to come back!

Medical updates

I was given a "Go in peace" command by my Infectious Disease doctor at my last appointment on Sept. 15. My lung cavity was smaller and I came off of the medicine. (yah!!) I left with an awareness of being in God's hands, He knows my beginning and end and gives me breath in-between. He has given me true peace through His Son, Jesus.

B has done well with her gluten free eating. I'm still figuring out how to monitor cross-contamination in a country that sells a lot of bulk foods and when the wind blows the right way, it may cover the split peas with wheat or put the noodles in the popcorn. I'm doing the diet with her and have noticed an increase in energy myself. I'm thankful for my Winfield friend who gave us lots of yummy recipes and poured blessings of GF flour on us!!

Patrick has struggled most recently with severe migraines. Will you please join us in prayer that the Lord would be glorified in the relief of these?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Just one of God's kind provisions

The kids need help with writing this year. I love reading good writing but don't always know how to teach it or grade it. I hunted to find a curriculum that would fit us and stumbled on a name on a homeschool forum that I like. "Bravewriter." She was offering a course that would produce a individualized writing plan for each student and once a month would offer feedback on each of their writings. Perfect!

Now if that wasn't ideal enough, the Lord blessed more. In talking with the woman who puts together the writing plan, I found that she speaks French and lived in Mor. years ago! So the writing plans for my kids were unique in that they covered topics like "How do you make mint tea?" Wow! Thanks Lord for going above and beyond what I could imagine!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Summer Snapshots

Cowboy J--I love the boots!

I love silhouettes. Especially of my kids.

JP had a pet grasshopper tied on a string. I love boys and their tricks.

And I love twirling princesses.

God's beautiful handiwork (observed by 2 tired but determined hikers!)

We have had a wonderful and busy time this summer visiting family and friends throughout the continental U.S. Remember that song, "From the Atlantic to Pacific, gee the traffic is terrific"--I almost feel qualified to attest that that statement is mostly true. We went from Cleveland to Oklahoma to Arizona, back to Oklahoma and now currently in Chicago. We thank the Lord for the people we have seen and hugged and eaten with and laughed together and gleaned from... I think that we know some of the greatest people in the whole world.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Enjoying the "rain"

Medical help where we live reminds me of a desert sometimes--cracked earth longing for some rain. Hurting people longing for some answers, some expertise care, or some money to pay for medicine.

I feel so humbled and thankful that our family has been receiving good medical care since we've been back in the states. Two of us had very specific tests done and we are enjoying the "rain" that doctors have provided us through the Lord's care.

My last post updated my last visit with my doctor regarding the valley fever. A recent email from my dr. indicated that my fungal levels are normal and the lung cavity has gotten much smaller. I'm allowing my cautious self to rejoice!

Our oldest, B, has had on and off tummy aches for a few years. This past year they really weren't that bad but because we were returning to the States a dear friend encouraged getting it checked out. We are so glad we did! After multiple tests and an endoscopy we found that she has Celiac Disease. She needs to maintain a lifelong gluten-free (no wheat, barley or rye) diet and her intestine will heal itself. While this will be an adjustment dietarily, we are so thankful to God to have a diagnosis.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The long awaited appointment

I carried my recent chest x-ray into the examination room. A bit nervous because Patrick and I had peeked at the film in the waiting room and my lung cavity appeared different. Bigger? We couldn't tell.

When the doctor looked at it she responded positively because there were no other cavities and she said that the cavity I had is calcifying, filling itself in. This was good news.

She quickly asked about other symptoms and reported that I was no longer anemic, which is good news too. She also said that the meds do supress the adrenal glands, but after I get off of them, they should "snap back." She said that I needed to continue with the meds for another 3 months to complete my year.

So the Lord has been kind to me in this matter. I am very thankful, though I still feel cautious. First, she didn't have my new x-rays electronically yet so she couldn't compare the size of the cavity last September to the size now. And second, for some reason my valley fever fungal titers weren't documented on the last blood test. These can tell if your body is still fighting the valley fever. In September they were 1:16. But now, the space just remained blank on the computer. Through these 2 measures, we could scientifically tell if the valley fever is being wiped out. So, I will email my doctor this next week to see if this evidence is now known.

I've come to learn that valley fever is slippery. So while my doctor was encouraging, it's important to have some hard facts along with the smile. You know what I mean? I remain cautious.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Leaving on a jet plane

Tomorrow, the first of our family--me and 3 children--head back to the states. I can't believe it! Patrick and the other 2 will follow next week as they finish up their responsibilities with a visiting group and get everything in place before our time in the states.

The first few weeks back will be spent with family, doctor's appointments, and regrouping. We look forward to seeing our Arizona friends between July 20 to August 14 and then our Chicago friends between August 20 and September 15. What a treat for us to be able to fellowship with you.

Please don't hesitate to contact us to set up a time to get together.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Tomorrow's the last day of school

Well, the kids have made it through 5 months of school! They have learned a lot about culture, got their feet wet in the languages, and got established in our new community. I think the positives outweighed the negatives.

I hear some good French accents when I hear them reading, they can do simple Arabic dictations, and cursive writing has improved (the appearance of the writing is really important here).

My boys are a bit rougher too. It's cultural. I remember when we first arrived 3 years ago and I heard of groups of boys that would run around with shards of glass and throw rocks at each other. I was scared for my little band of cherubs (!!)--would they be safe? I mean, how scary!

The other night we took a walk as a family and I turned around to see all of my boys throwing stones at each other. And they were having a ball! I turned to Patrick and said, "Yep, they've acclimated."

Health update

I have an appointment with my Infectious Disease doctor on June 23rd. I'm excited to have some more light shed on what's going on in my body--is the valley fever gone or at least controlled? is the lung cavity gone? While I feel hopeful, I feel sober-minded at the same time.

Here are my 2 biggest prayer requests regarding my health:
1) That the lung cavity will have healed up
2) That the doctor will take me off the antifungals

Both of these are huge requests. If the lung cavity remains, I may need surgery or a longer stint with the meds. If I stay on the meds, well, quite frankly, I don't want to stay on the meds. They cause me grief. I know that the disease is worse than these meds but my body is on overload. Most recently, I have wondered if my adrenal glands have been affected because of my back pain, fatigue, dizziness, etc. When something stressful happens, I feel no adrenaline rush coming from the inside. The body is fried.

I trust in our all-powerful, all-good, and all-wise God to work this out in His time and for His glory. At the same time, I am petitioning Him for the above.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

First things first

Patrick was encouraging the kids after lunch today to really get the most out of their Arabic class. "In fact," he said, "you could even study it in college and be really good at it."

JP, age 6, was listening intently and then spoke.
"First..."  His eyes were soft and curious.  "Can I play football in English?"

OK JP, you sure can.  First things first.
JP, my practical guy

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

gnisufnoc si loohcS

Sometimes school is confusing.  Take J for instance--he usually has French for 1 1/2 hours a day, Arabic for 1 1/2 hours, and Math for 1 1/2 hours.  They chose to do Math in Arabic too, so it's a good time to practice those comprehension skills.  

He did math homework the other night.  After he was done, the paper laid on the floor without a name for a long time, so I asked, "Hey Josiah, is this yours?"  Yep, it was.  He wrote his name and handed back the paper.

I looked.  He had written, "haisoJ."  I said, "Josiah, um, did you know that you wrote this, um, backward?"  

"Sure mom," he quickly said, "the teacher knows what I mean."  Oh yeah, I reminded myself, Math is in Arabic.   

Well, maybe school isn't all that confusing, maybe just the mom is confused (and hopefully not the future employer!).

Lovin' life

Friday, April 3, 2009

Back to school

Walking home from school

I think she looks darling in her school uniform.

Monday marks the first day back at school after spring break.  I don't think this creates "warm fuzzies" in my kids.  Would you pray for them as they reenter into their French/Arabic school?
--That they would know that the Lord is near
--That they would be bright lights for Him
--That the teachers would have much joy (they tend to spend a lot of time dealing with discipline issues which in this context is hitting and yelling) and that their students would learn (truly important for the next generation of our country)
--That our kids would desire to learn these languages and that God would give them love for others

Thank you for holding the rope for us!  

A day in the life of a spring breaker...

This past week has been spring break for our kids.  On Tuesday, we drove to a big city an hour north of us and enjoyed lunch at Pizza Hut.  Then we spent a nice afternoon at the beach.  It was truly windy (believe it or not, I was still wearing wool!) but the sun was beautiful.  Nothing like hearing kids laughing and the waves lapping.  Lovely.

Health update

My latest blood test showed lower than normal red blood cell levels.  I've been feeling OK, though tired.  Fatigued.  In body and soul.

Though today showed me a ray of hope--I had energy plus joy!  Someone must have been praying for me.  Patrick also bought me a juicer this week, so we have been enjoying a daily shot of carrot juice.  This has been good.

I'm curious if my current state of health is from the valley fever or if it's a side effect of the antifungals.  We plan to return to the states in June and I look forward to seeing my doctor (and hopefully hearing that the lung cavity is gone and being taken off of the antifungals).

Thanks for standing with me regarding these health issues.  I'm sorry that it's such a long road...for you too, the one praying.  

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Where's the beef?

In case you ever wondered--this is where we buy our beef. Either beef chunks or ground beef, this guy has some fresh stock. When I walk up to the counter to put in my order, I usually have to dodge blood droppings. I guess that indicates the meat is fresh.

A friend from another city here told me a funny story about her butcher. It was a warm day and the man was having trouble keeping the flies away from his hanging meat. So he brought out his bug spray and started to spray the meat! My friend was appalled! I can laugh because it occurred in another city. But with warm weather approaching, maybe I won't be laughing for too long!

Friday, February 27, 2009

We are all together again!

Patrick returned from his trip and we are so happy to be all together again.  I am thankful for the Lord's many provisions for us including visits by some of our local friends to see how we were doing.  But I am so grateful to have him home.  He's the best.

Traveling back with him was an American man who was a PT (for I think about 40 years) and will stay with us for 3 weeks.  The center that services young children with disabilities has been running for over a month now.  Three wonderful young local ladies are employed and helping the children with exercises.  Our PT friend is evaluating the children and instructing the ladies...they are so blessed by having him.  The Lord's provides bountifully, doesn't he?

I'm hooked...

A new supermarche opened last week about 5 minutes walk from our home.  It has typical things, and though it's "super" it is really small (like 5 short aisles).  But I am thrilled that they have these yummy olives!  I bought these 2 batches for about 35 cents!  

I found another "olive man" that sells these tasty treats but he is a 5 minute taxi ride and then another 7 minute walk to get to him.  Not that that is all that bad, but I'm tickled that I can get them fresh in our neighborhood.  Olives and dark chocolate are my favorite in-between meals snacks (not together though!).  Just one of the perks of living here...

Hair cuts

Here are some pictures of some new hair cuts by our hairdresser friend...

Miss HR gets some bangs.  

B opted for a layered look that looks super cute on her.

We all concluded that it's fun to have a hairdresser who is a 3 minute walk from our house and only charges about $2.50 for a cut.  

Saturday, February 21, 2009

While the cat's away, the sick!

Patrick left last Friday to go to Arizona for some speaking engagements.  He has been so encouraged to see friendly faces!  

We have stayed behind for these 11 days and to sum up our time I would say--kids sick on the couch.  They have passed around a few day fever and headache, sparing only H and me.  The Lord has provided for us though and we are excited that Patrick is returning in 3 days.  Hopefully I won't be sick upon his arrival!

Oops...I have to attend to a little "mouse."

Saturday, February 7, 2009

An 11 year old birthday boy

I can't believe that my oldest son is 11.  He is such a blessing to us and I pray that the Lord would continue to grow him to love God and others.  I'm a very thankful mom.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

New blood test results

Every two months I have to get a blood test.  I need a complete blood count and also a test which sees how my liver is functioning in response to the drugs for the valley fever.  The liver results were encouraging with normal levels.  However I noticed that my platelet blood count has decreased by 1/5 from 3 months before and my white blood cell count was low.  This is a side effect of the medicine.  My Cleveland Clinic doctor that I am emailing said that it's only borderline low, so I need to just keep following the normal routine with the medication.  She expects that I need to take the meds (fluconazole, 400mg.) for at least a year.

So, I will carry on.  I'm thankful for my naturopath friend in AZ who provided me with some vitamins and supplements that will boost my energy a bit.  I would appreciate your prayers for energy (I really need to pace myself or else I get wiped out), weight gain (I'm too low and can't seem to gain--another med. side effect and also probably adding to my fatigue), and wisdom as to how to spend my time well.  Also, that the cavity in my lung would actually close up.  There was some talk last summer with the Dr. that if it didn't close up and if I was still coughing blood, I would need to have surgery to get my lung resectioned.  I am so, so thankful that I haven't coughed up any blood for more than 2 months.  So, how I pray that it is healing up.

Also, another side effect of the meds is hair loss.  My hair has also been falling out slowly for a few weeks.  I usually only wash it like once a week or so and I think that has helped a bit.  You can't really tell right now, I've just gone from thicker hair to thinner hair.  Maybe my new hairdresser friend can help me out a bit!

Sometimes you just need to be yourself.

Our hairdresser lives right down the street.  She stopped by the other day and said that she'd love to give Hannah a free haircut. We set up the time and parted.

Hannah and I showed up at our scheduled time, but she didn't answer.  So we returned home and got involved in a card game with the boys.  I love having them home from school and want to soak up every minute of course.  The buzzer rang.  It was the hairdresser.  I greeted her (she's in her 20's and really sweet). Not wanting to leave the quality time with the kids I explained to her that the kids were on vacation and I was playing with them. She gave me a little smile, we rescheduled, and she left.

Then I laughed.  Two things must have been funny to her--first, the boys were swinging down the banisters and jumping down the stairs.  Did she imagine me playing that?  Second, most women here don't usually play with their kids.  They send them outside while they clean the house and cook.

Oh well.  Sometimes I don't have to do as the Romans do, I just have to be myself.

Friday, January 23, 2009

We're surviving!

We just completed the 3rd week of school. (I say "we" because you know a mom goes through it all with them!). There have been plenty of funny stories, laughs, tears, snack preparations (2 snacks a day!), and good talks on the walk to and from school. This has provided great cultural insights for us all.

The 2 big kids just received the results of their 1st semester tests and they passed (of course, it is 1st grade!). It's pretty humbling though when I need a "free translation" to read the teacher's comments. Maybe I should sit in their class too!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

First day of school

Our kids started at a Arabic/French school on Friday. They were put down a few grades in order to learn the languages and were happy to be placed together. They are making some great cultural observations and meeting kids. I'm sure that there will be good days and bad days but overall we are thankful for this school (about a 10 to 15 minute walk from our home).

B had some laughs about her achy legs due to the 1st grade desks. I guess that occasionally she stood up and stretched! Cracked me up. They've had great attitudes.

Can you see our kids?

I can't yet put into words the emotions that I'm feeling as the mom "letting them go," but I'm trusting God that this is a wise and good decision. May they be motivated to really learn these languages and love the other kids.

J's 9th birthday

I can't believe that this little buddy is 9 already! We sure love him.

We went on a little rowboat in a lagoon about 30 min. south of our place, looking for many species of birds. It was a fun adventure!

E made J a wood burned spider on a piece of wood from a cork tree. (Patrick saw the felled tree near our house and took E and their little saw to clop off a chunk.) Really cool!