Living, Learning & Loving La Vida Nueva

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Racing Through Mokhotlong

Ellee and her new BFFs

Four weeks ago, when the World Race team arrived in Mokhotlong, we had no idea how they would nestle into our lives and hearts and leave us wishing that they didn't have to move on!  It's been such a treat to have them here and enjoy living our lives together.  Today they left Mokhotlong to journey on to another country where I know they will be a blessing and I pray they will also be blessed.


It is such a treat for us to have other "makhoa" (white people/foreigners) around.  For me, it's sweet to have friends close in age -- despite our obvious gap in life-position, I really do belong in that generation -- to have around.  Most of our friends here are a good deal older than I am.  Also, it warmed my heart to see some of the girls jogging around Mokhotlong.  They had to be adding to my stereotype of the "white girl runner" in town.  Nearly every day I jog and nearly every day I receive the same questions about what I'm doing and where I'm going.  Now at least people here can see it's not just me; we are all weird!

For my kids, it is sweet to have big kids they can look up to.  They loved going up to the mission house to hang with the team during their off-times.  I sometimes had to hold them back to allow the team some solitude.  It's great to have people you can trust to look after your little ones.  I know we'll be hearing stories from Kyle and Ellee for weeks and months to come of all the fun they had with the team.

We enjoyed lots of dinners together.  As I can't easily accommodate twenty guests in my home, we made a meal schedule up and let the team choose which meal suited their cravings best.  It was a great way to get to know each of them on a more personal level.  Sadly I didn't get a photo of the first meal, which was Cracker Barrel chicken tenders and the fixings.  But the rest we did document, including tacos, pizza, copycat Chick-Fil-A, and spaghetti.  The spaghetti night was a big hit for five hungry guys and two hungry girls and they killed three pounds of pasta, as much meat sauce as I could fit in my big blue pot, and two big loaves of bread.

Pizza night
Movie Night
Jono's Table Setting Skills
Taco Night
Games after Tacos
Faux Chick-Fil-A

The Spaghetti Crew
Spaghetti Night
Rudy Night
S'mores in the Cave

So long World Racers!  May your journeys be fruitful and may your lives shine brightly for Him!  Thanks for brightening our lives for a time.  We will miss you!

~Abby

Friday, October 27, 2017

Sadie Kate Turns 2!


Stop everything.  It all has to stop.  I don't want to accept it.  I can't handle it.  It's thrilling and devastating at the same time.  I am wild about my Sadie.  I want to bottle her sweet little potbellied, whipsy-haired, scrunchy-nosed, tiny-toed self up and never let her out.  I am excited that she's turning two!  Two is fun!  Three, four, five and six (and that's as far as my experience goes) are fun, too!  But I hate losing the babyness in the midst of it.  I love babies.  I have this love/hate relationship going on with my kids and their constant growing and changing and moving on to the next stage.  They are stinking persistent, I tell you.  No matter what I do, I can't make them slow down.


Two major highlights stand out in my mind when I think about this year of Sadie's life.  Firstly, we took a beautiful, relaxing, l-o-n-g road trip to Cape Town in May.  It was really a stunningly gorgeous city and we enjoyed trying to hit the highlights in five days.  I know she won't have any memory of it besides the photos she sees, but to be able to say you visited Table Mountain and the Cape of Good Hope is still bragging rights for life.  In typical Sadie fashion, she did wonderfully on the very long car ride to and from Cape Town and it was a joy to have her with us.


Secondly, in July, Sadie Kate and I sneaked across the Atlantic to surprise our family and friends with a little visit home.  I booked us tickets in June when I learned my grandfather had been diagnosed with leukemia.  It was my hope to see him before he passed away, but we didn't make it in time.  I rest assured that I will see him again in glory.  Even so, we got to visit with my family as well as some of Jonathan's family and it was a very sweet time.  Because Sadie was still under two, she was free and taking her with me wasn't really an option because she was (is) still breastfeeding.  Plus, I knew I couldn't leave Jonathan for so long with all three little people.  I was so unbelievably proud of Sadie during all the travel as she was an absolute angel baby on our total ~40 hours in the air round trip.  I can honestly say she didn't cry a single tear.  The comments from other passengers on her disposition were numerous.  Even as we landed back in Johannesburg on our way home, so incredibly dizzy and exhausted, she remained happy and smiley as we shared a milkshake before boarding our last fight to Durban.


 I loved taking her to my grandparents' houses, the pool, the zoo, the lake, to lunch and for walks around my parents' neighborhood.  It was like having my very own doll baby to dress up and play with for three weeks.  Having time to just spend with her was special and an experience I'll always cherish.


She's jabbering away constantly these days with fairly audible words and small sentences.  She absolutely loves to visit our neighbors, help herd the neighbor's sheep into their pen, play in the sand and dirt, and just generally be outdoors.  I wash so many Sadie clothes.  She gets so dirty and has such fun doing it.  She cut all her teeth without much complaint; she eats just about anything we give her.  She loves coffee and we regularly make her decaf in her sippy cup.  She loves pretzels and chocolate chips and eggs and pancakes and oats.


Her favorite things are her baby, her taggy blanket, and a bumblebee blanket which was a gift for Kyle before he was born.  She likes to rub the ribbon tags on all three of these things.  When she falls asleep, she has two hands full of tags.


She loves breastfeeding more now than ever and I'm completely unsure of how I'm going to manage to wean her.  I limit her to three times per day.  I need to wean her, I plan to wean her, I kind of want to wean her, it's just going to break her heart.  We ditched the paci a couple months ago which was painful but manageable.  But this, this is much bigger.  I really have no idea how it's going to happen. Pray for me.

I'll never forget the balmy, warm night Sadie burst into this world.  It was wild and wonderful.  I've cherished her so deeply after the agony we went through during her pregnancy.  A wise woman (Hi, Mom!) kept telling me she thought Sadie would be sweet and easy after the difficulty I experienced with her pregnancy.  And she was right.  Sadie has been the sweetest and easiest yet and I'm just crazy about her!


Happy birthday, my darling girl.  You are Mama's treasure.  I thank God for you every day.

~Abby

Monday, October 23, 2017

Cause to Celebrate!

I know, I know.  I've been neglecting the blog again.  I had every intention of trying to keep up with it better this year.  But, I've been plagued with fatigue and headaches and honestly, I feel like I'm just trying to keep my head above water a lot of the time.  Two doctors appointments and lots of blood tests have rendered no concrete answers to my situation.  I'll spare you the details of all my attempts at helping the problems, but I'm hopeful some super supplements recommended by my sister-in-law will be the right thing.  They should arrive in three weeks when my parents and little brother come!


In the meantime, school continues with Kyle.  We are enjoying first grade together and he's a sweet and clever little student.  Our school routine is still pretty low key, but we're continuing through the basic necessities.  He is reading wonderfully and last week he finished the 108th lesson of Reading Made Easy, completing the book!  That's a pretty big accomplishment for a 6 year old, so a cookie cake was in order.  Really, any reason to celebrate is a good excuse for a cookie cake.  We also really enjoy our read aloud time; currently we are working through Charlotte's Web.

The tie though....


This month there is a World Race team here in Mokhotlong.  While we don't have any official connection to World Race, we always enjoy having the teams through here.  Visiting with other Americans isn't something we get to do often.  This month the team consists of 20 ~20 year olds.  My kids love walking through the neighbors' yard and up the hill to the mission house to annoy visit with the team in the afternoons.  Because we just can't accommodate all 20 of them in our house for more than a movie night, we are doing a dinner rotation over the course of a couple weeks.  So far we have enjoyed some Cracker Barrel and pizza.  Coming up this week is taco night, Chick-Fil-A night, and spaghetti night.  Some familiar cuisine is a welcome change for them after a month in Swaziland and nearly two weeks here in Lesotho.  From here they will continue on to Asia and then to South America before returning back to the US next year.  I am trying to pump them full of chocolate chip cookies, brownies and cakes to last them for the months to come.  It's the least I can do, really.

Will try not to be so quiet in the coming weeks and months!

~Abby

Saturday, June 17, 2017

One Down, Lots to Go!

Yesterday Kyle completed his kindergarten year!  We are so proud of all the skills he has learned this year.  It hasn’t all been smooth sailing, but overall we’ve had tons of fun!


Last day of school

First day of school

Started at the table, ended by the fire because it is cold!

We started each school day by praying for an African Unreached People Group.  AIM has created cards, much like playing cards, which represent African UPG’s and give a small description for each.  Then we did a daily devotion, practiced a weekly memory verse, and read a Bible story.  Throughout this school year, Kyle learned 25 Bible verses and we completed one and a half children’s Bible story books.


We then did math, practiced handwriting, and did reading.  We finished math with about 15 lessons remaining in his book.  They were all review anyway, and I am content having done 145 lessons.  He completed almost the entire Reading Made Easy book which I anticipated taking us two years to complete.  He really has this reading thing down.  He also completed one and a half of his “early readers”.  I started the year with one goal: teach the boy to read.  I believe I accomplished my goal!  After reading, he would copy two or three sentences from the story in Reading Made Easy.  

Sometimes Kyle stays up too late Sunday Night Sleepovering with Dad and Monday morning is a drag.


I had hoped to do a lot of reading aloud and it just didn’t happen.  We did read aloud a number of children’s chapter books and we managed to read through a book and a half of the Uncle Arthur’s stories.  I hope to find more really good read alouds for next school year.  We started quite a few which were recommended, but the vocabulary was way more advanced than I thought he was understanding and he seemed totally uninterested.  The ones we did find which were on his comprehension level, he loved. 

Copy work from early in the year



We baked plenty of cookies, colored plenty of pictures, and took plenty of walks.  We played plenty of games!  Over all, I am very pleased with how his first year went.  I have some work to do, getting my girls to play quietly without interrupting us.  But I believe we can find a decent routine after a couple months' break.


So proud of my boy!  In celebration of all his work, we had a little party with a few neighbor boys last night and, of course, baked a cookie cake to share!


~Abby

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Coffee with a Friend



Ellee turned four last week.  I am totally crazy about this girl.  She is so feisty.  She keeps me on my toes and stretches me far and wide.  But she loves generously.  She doesn’t ever withhold a compliment or word of affection if it pops into her little head.  She really is sugar and spice and I love her for it.  I hope she always keeps her spunk.


There are a million and one things I could share about her.  But I really was struck last night by how accepting and kind she is to anyone.  I went to get her from a neighbors’ house and found her sitting at their kitchen table, sipping coffee and munching chewy Basotho bread.  She was talking the ear off our neighbor’s shepherd.  It is winter, so the shepherd is back in Mokhotlong to be out of the harsh environment of the rural mountains.  During the summer, he lives alone way, way out in a small hut.  However, it is safer for him to spend winter here, because he has more access to heat sources and doesn’t run the risk of freezing to death if it snows.  During the winter, the shepherd goes off in the morning with the herd and doesn’t return until sundown.  When he gets the sheep and goats back into their corral for the night, he goes to the house kitchen for supper, which he typically eats alone.  He eats a massive portion, as he hasn’t eaten all day, and he isn’t shy about shoveling it in for that very reason.  After supper, he goes down to his own small house beside the corral and sleeps, only to do it all again tomorrow.  He does this routine every single day without exception.  He doesn’t speak a bit of English but that didn’t deter Ellee.  She was just jabbering away about how hungry he must be because he’d been gone all day.  And something about the sheep and goats and I don’t know what else.  I couldn’t help but smile at how opposite it looked, little Ellee with her french braided blonde hair, pink jeans and light up Minnie Mouse shoes in the chair beside a man who couldn’t be less like her.  The shepherd, although friendly, is very rugged.  He dresses in very traditional shepherd garb.  His clothes are well worn, his beard is scruffy, his thick blanket and heavy rubber boots quickly indicate that he spends his days quite isolated while he watches the herds graze on the hillside.  I would honestly expect Ellee to be a bit skittish around him.  Obviously I am wrong about her.  She left with me saying how he is her friend and she would finish her coffee tomorrow with him.  She didn’t want him to eat alone.  I don’t pretend to know or understand all the cultural morĂ©s here.  But I’ve heard and seen enough over my years here to know that shepherds are not generally accepted as friends by non-shepherds.  They do their jobs, but they are quite a separate part of society in most cases.  Not to Ellee though.  She hasn’t lived long enough to pick up on those social boundaries and I am glad.  

I hope she never allows her friendliness to be contained by social groups.  I hope she will always befriend the outcasts or those who are viewed as different or less important.  I hope she never cares if someone is black or white, rich or poor, educated or not.  I hope she always pulls up a chair and talks about life with another gentle, friendly soul.  I hope she never quits enjoying coffee with a friend.  I hope she never changes.
(Table Mountain, Cape Town RSA)

~Abby

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

It's Beginning To Feel A Lot Like Christmas.....


..... Except it's the beginning of May!  Winter is moving into Mokhotlong and I feel something like a bear preparing for hibernation.  It is funny how quickly one can forget how cold cold feels.  Sometimes it feels cold in my bones.  And we are only just beginning.  I’ve brought out my scarves, puffy vests and long socks.  My trusty sheep skin slippers are my long lost best friends.  We’re getting reacquainted.  The warm drink stash is dwindling and we need to restock.  I’ve baked lots of goodies full of ginger and cinnamon in the past few weeks.  A pot of apple butter simmered on my stove for hours and I discovered apple butter pancakes this weekend.  I’m never looking back!  Chili was on the menu for supper last night.  And a running headband/ear cover is on my buy-when-down list because…. brrrrr.

 

It’s been cool at night for the past month or more.  We began layering up the baby in early April.  The evolution of heat sources here is comical to me.  Typically when it starts cooling off back home, we just bump the thermostat up a bit and continue with life.  When it starts feeling cold during the day, we switch out our closets to winter clothes and continue on with life.  But here, without central heat, it is a much more detailed process which, after a few years of practice, we have down to a science.  

We first begin by warming rice socks.  Our bedroom is the coldest room in the house, so for weeks I’ve been bringing hot rice socks to bed at night to help warm up the sheets.  The kids rooms are notably warmer, so they just bundle up and snuggle in no problem.  The baby doesn’t stay under covers very well, so we dress her up like the Michelin man before bed.  She is currently wearing either one heavy sleeper and a sweatshirt or a lightweight sleeper under a heavy sleeper at night.  Then we slip her into a sleep sack before bed.  We did mittens for a cold, wet week.  For right now, she’s been sleeping mitten-free, which is obviously her preference.  


A couple weeks ago, when it started getting below freezing nearly every night, we broke out the hot water bottles.  These things rock!  We own three but need more.  For right now, the kids get them for sleeping.  I boil water in the electric kettle and then pour it into the hot water bottles, leaving space to press air out before screwing on the lid.  Then we tuck the bottles into their cute little covers and stick them into the kids’ beds before bedtime.  They retain heat so well, the bottles are still warm in the morning.



This weekend, I brought out the electric bed heaters which go beneath our sheets.  They aren’t expensive to run, really, but electricity isn’t cheap so we try to hold off on using them as long as we can.  But enough is enough.  I have one on Kyle’s bed and one on our bed.  I’m too nervous to have one on the girls’ beds because I don’t really love the idea of electricity running under their sheets.  So the girlies can have the extra water bottle and rice socks now that the big people are finished with them.  


When we return after our trip this week, we’ll start running the wall heaters, which really help to heat Kyle’s and Ellee’s rooms, and the anthracite stove.  We need to get some more coal and fix our chimney before we can start the stove.  Those things are on our short-term to-do list.  Jonathan and our neighbor guys are burying the new pipes to the tank in our yard as I write.  We also have to reinsulate some other pipes which needed replacing.  I think you could call this “winterizing” the house.


I have winter goals of working on my hand embroidery and reading good read-aloud books to the kids.  We are looking forward to a school break after a fun first year for Kyle!  And we are expecting a brutally cold, possibly snowy winter.  There was heavy snow last year while we were in America.  Although I would love to see some good snow, I’m hoping this year it doesn’t knock the electricity out for a month!  Nevertheless, we’re armed and ready with candles and lamps, our coal stove and gas oven so we should be able to manage with or without electricity if necessary.  

~Abby

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

All About Sani

Well before we moved here, we heard about Sani Pass.  We heard that it was dangerous and scary and that is gives young people gray hair.  Google confirmed all those accusations.  It truly is a treacherous journey when we drive down that direction.  Because the vast majority of you won’t ever experience it yourselves, I thought I’d describe it in detail here.  Just for fun.  


It takes about an hour from our driveway to the top of Sani.  The road between here and there was literally a piece of work the first few times we drove it.  The Chinese had come in and were busy blasting, carving, chipping and chopping away at the mountains to make space for a decent road.  We once were stopped for over an hour waiting to pass because they were blasting ahead.  Before, the road was narrow and unpaved.  Now, the road is smooth, wide and, although windy, easy to drive.  

At the top of Sani is the Lesotho border post.  It is very small and the folks who work there are almost always inside by a fire playing cards.  It is very relaxed and they know us now.  The top of Sani, at approximately 10,000 feet elevation, is chilly even in summer.  In winter is it bitter cold.  The fire inside burns nearly year round.  We stamp all of our passports and pile back into Rocky.  The law states that only 4X4 vehicles are allowed to travel the pass.  Rocky qualifies.  Jono switches the gear box into low range and puts on the difference lock.  There are reasons for this which I don’t fully understand and/or don’t fully want to explain.  But basically it makes Rocky safer to drive down the steep road ahead.  A sign requests that right of way be given to ascending vehicles, as it’s harder to stop and go as you are traveling up.  Many spots in the road are not wide enough for two cars to pass, so you must be aware of oncoming traffic.  


We start down.  Oftentimes you can see far into South Africa with an unobstructed view.  Other times there is a layer of clouds hanging lower than the mountains, which makes it look like a big white blanket is spread across the lowlands.  And occasionally there is fog which means you really can’t see anything.  That doesn’t feel too good.  But we really aren’t nervous.  We turn on some Toby Keith to bump down so our singing voices sound like his.  We figure if we go over, we go over.  What can we do?  We need groceries and want fast food.  The hairpin turns begin immediately.  I believe I've counted 14 major turns with a number of other twists and turns along the way.  They have names like: Suicide Bend, Reverse Corner and Hemorrhoid Hill (gross).  The rapid turning only lasts a few minutes; we drive slowly and carefully.  The road is narrow and there is no guard rail.  Not that it would help if there was one; it’s a long ways down.  A few of the turns are a really close call and Rocky’s tires are closer to the edge than we’d like to admit.  There are small water falls coming from all directions.  Water is coming out of the rocks.  In the wintertime, that water is frozen solid in places that never see the sun.  It is then two foot long icicles. 


When the quick turns are over, we wind down and around and down and around another bumpy 20 minutes to the South African border post.  The road here is essentially a ton of large rocks packed hard into the dirt.  It means a lot of jerking around in the car.  The kids ask why the road is so bumpy.  And how much longer do we have?  And say things like, “Daddy, I just hit my head.”  We drive through a number of streams along the way.  We go fast to try to clean off Rocky.  Free car wash.  The border post provides a much needed bathroom break after all that bumping.  If we’re lucky, we see baboons hanging around high on the rocks above the post.  If we’re unlucky, they chase us.  Just kidding.  Although they are quite aggressive, they do keep their distance.  We stamp our passports again, this time with temporary visas for South Africa, and continue on our way.  There is another 30 minutes of very bumpy, windy road ahead.  The lower area of the road is extremely muddy, which is so dangerous when it is raining (or just after).  Just this past week, we were slip sliding all over the place trying to drive it.  It’s awful.  Rocky very nearly got stuck and we were a little too close to sliding off the edge for comfort.  It’s still very high, even though we are way past Sani pass.  Going over would be a big problem.  We really wish they would pave this part of the road, but alas, it is unlikely.


Sani is a huge tourist attraction in this area of South Africa.  It is known as the most precipitous (highest climb in shortest distance) pass in Africa.  People pay good money to take a guided tour up and down it in one day.  If you want to spend the night at the top, you can pay a hefty tourist rate to stay at the Sani Mountain Lodge.  Because Sani is an attraction for tourists, thrill seekers, bikers and others, it is unlikely that much will be done to change the rugged appeal to the pass.  It can be annoying to pass so many touring vehicles when we are trying to get to the grocery or a doctor’s appointment.  We also know it is exactly four hours from our porch to the McDonald’s parking lot, so we’re aiming for lunch time.

We can typically accomplish Sani in about an hour.  Then it’s another two hour drive to the nearest large city, Pietermaritzburg.  That drive is absolutely stunning.  It reminds us of Tennessee or Kentucky.  Rolling hills and large dairy farms.  Lots of ponds and lakes are sprinkled around.  The road is smooth and the scenery is lovely.  We’re over the worst of it and on our way to french fries.  It feels good.

~Abby

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Wanderer

As a child, I used to love to visit my grandparents' house.  As an adult, I still get just as excited.  When I return to that log cabin set beautifully atop a mountain, memories of summer days and winter nights come flooding back.  Having spent a career in the Air Force, my Oma and Opa have collected a variety of unique items which decorate their lovely home.  I enjoy looking at the paintings and carvings from foreign lands.  The house itself is warm and welcoming, but most of all I love the memories I have from many visits over the years.  


The smell of strong coffee fills the house in the mornings.   Slowly but surely family arises and gathers for a simple breakfast.  Some have slept at the Big House, others at the cottage on the backside of the property, some even camp in the side yard in a pop out camper.  Mornings are spent on the front porch if it’s warm outside, or in the sunroom if it’s chilly.  When breakfast is cleared and put away, a family walk is on the agenda.  We spend a lot of time walking and exploring the land surrounding the house.

There is a pond on the bottom of the property where we go to feed the fish.  Walking down is easy, but walking back up is always a feat.  When I was small, it felt like such a long ways.  Now I realize it isn’t that far at all.  We climb trees and inspect moss and collect flowers for a table center piece.  In the heat of summer, we enjoy picking blackberries.  


Games begin on the front terraces during the late morning and after lunch.  Three legged races, bocce ball or softball with plastic bats and plastic balls are included in some of the fun.  We spread quilts on the lawn and enjoy each other’s company in the shade.  The beautiful lawn doubles as a driving range, where Opa practices his long-range shots.  We take rides in the golf cart and hunt for lost golf balls.  Sometimes, if it’s too hot or too cold, we venture down into the basement for more games or a classic movie.  I remember watching Lion King and Riverdance the most.  Those are two of my very favorite movies even now.  I almost always tear up watching Riverdance now because it takes me right back to my childhood in Oma’s basement.  



Summer nights are spent playing outside games.  We love to play flashlight tag.  We dress in dark clothes, set boundaries around the yard, and run to hide in our best spots.  My dad and my uncle often begin the hunting.  Fireflies light up in the dark and crickets are making noise all around.  We do our best to not giggle as they walk right past us. 
  
During the holidays, the house bustles with people moving about preparing for a big family get-together.  Some set places at the tables, while others are assembling the food on the buffet.  My Oma is a great cook and an even better hostess.  The air is so chilly outside, but sometimes I go out on the front porch swing while the dinner is being prepared.  There is plenty of space to spread out inside, but I enjoy sitting outside and breathing in the fresh mountain air and gazing at the starry night.  There seem to be so many more stars above that mountain than anywhere else.  

When the night is over and we all head to our designated sleeping spots, I enjoy replaying the day’s events before falling asleep.  It never gets old being there.  It’s the perfect place to visit, relax, eat and have tons of fun.  


Months ago, I saw an add for Wanderer Bracelets with coordinates from your favorite place.  During this stage of my life, I certainly feel like a wanderer.  I also feel as though I'll never feel completely at home anywhere again.  I've left pieces of my heart in lots of places and I'm only just getting started.  That specific place holds such cherished memories for me, I decided to order myself a Wanderer Bracelet with the coordinates from my grandparents' front porch.  I love knowing a little piece of my heart is with me even here.




~Abby