Wednesday, March 22, 2017

A Birthday with Legos

I'm a little late posting about Caleb's birthday.

It was in January.

Caleb asked for only one thing.  So he pooled his money with money from both grandparents, and he had this box sent here.  It didn't arrive till February, but that didn't dampen his spirits.

In less than 24 hours, Caleb had constructed his tower.

And a rather tall version of Tree Beard.

Watching Caleb construct those creations while Lego pieces were scattered all over the living room floor, gave me some thoughts about people who know and follow Yeshua. 

These are a few ways I think we are similar to Legos.

We all need a good foundation.

We need to stay connected.

It helps that some of us are more colorful than others.

Even seemingly insignificant pieces are Significant.

And if you've ever stepped on a Lego, you know that sometimes people/life (or legos) hurt us.

Here's to not stepping on any "Legos" today.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Birthday jealousy

I went to two birthday parties last month for little girls in our neighborhood.

My neighbor *Jasmine had a party for her daughter who was turning 11.  Everyone dressed up, and then we got into three cars to caravan to a house they own outside of town.  There were 10 Americans (7 of those were kids) and 7 of our neighbor's family.  12 more of their family met us out there.

*Jasmine's oldest son and daughter-in-law live out there, but they "do life" in only three or so rooms, so the room the party was in was C.O.L.D.  The electricity wasn't working when we got there, but soon, it was all lit up and one kerosene heater was lit that the women and children hovered around.

I think the men went to the mosque next door, and then they came back later for the food.

There was sitting and visiting while the little kids played games.  Then a full meal of dolma (if you can't remember what dolma looks like, there is a picture at the bottom of THIS post.)

After more visiting, they brought out an impressive spread of desserts.  There was dancing, music, and eating.  I was told we drove out to this house because there was a "table" here.  They wanted to be able to put the desserts up on a table, and they do not have a table at their house in town.

I tell you all of that to really tell you about another party that occurred two days later in the neighborhood.

I knew there was a birthday party for the two daughters of the man that owns the chicken dukan, but we hadn't been invited.

However, once the party started, they sent an American over to tell Keira they wanted her to come, too.  

The music was loud, the girls were dancing, and the two "birthday girls" were having a great time!

*Jasmine's daughter is the tallest one in the back, and the "birthday girls" are fourth and 6th on the back row, if you start from the left

I visited with *Jasmine, my American friend, the aunt of the girls and the mother of the girls.

This picture was after the father of the girls jumped in front, crushing them all, and reducing them to lots of laughter.

Then my American friend asked the mother of the girls what day was actually their birthday, and she said that they were in December....

Was this a birthday jealousy party??

My American friend told her girls, "We only buy one set of birthday gifts a year, so if they have another party in December, we won't be buying gifts again."

And then as the girls laughed and danced around the room, my friend also said, "This is the most joy they get in their life.  This is all they have to look forward to," and I think she might be right, so why not schedule their happiness?

*Not her real name.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Taking a Chance

Usually dentistry is not something you would want to take a chance with.

However, if you've ever had a pain in your mouth, there is not much else you can think about, and you just want something done NOW.

A few nights ago, I was brushing my teeth, and out of the blue, when the bristles hit a certain area of my mouth, I cringed, got weak in the knees and my eyes started watering.

All I could think was that somehow I had gotten a cavity, and I needed to get it fixed soon.

Two days later, we were driving near the ballet studio, and I saw a dentist's office.  I asked Doug to pull over and let me run in and check it out.

It seemed legit.  Clean.  The receptionist spoke some English.  She told me the dentist had trained in Austria.  She was wearing braces he had put on her.  And it was clean.  Did I mention that?

That's a big deal!  I can't even describe the clinic I went to in Uganda to get my first pregnancy check-up.

Anyway, I asked if I could make an appointment.  And she said I could come back at 6:45 that night.

I had guests coming for dinner at 8, but I finished cooking as much as I could before I left, and Kylie finished the rest.  I took Karis with me so the doctor could see her and do a consultation on whether he could fix her slight issue with braces.

I arrived back at his office, and the night time receptionist does NOT speak English.  I pointed to my name in her appointment book, and she took us right in.

The doctor had a recent dental graduate assisting him, and both were very kind.

He looked at Karis first and made a plan.  He told me the plan and said we could come back in two days after thinking about it.

My turn.

I cringed as he blew air on my teeth to try and find the weak spot.

When he found it, he put a tiny camera in my mouth and put the image up on the screen for me to see.

(This picture was taken two days after my appointment, when I took Karis back to get impressions made.  This is a new dental assistant on the left.  The first one was a female.) 

But you can still see the screen.

 It turns out that I didn't have a cavity but an exposed root.

He polished my teeth before he put the protective sealant on, but the funny part was the polishing.

On this particular day, his water sprayer wasn't working well.  It flew all over me, all over him, all over the wall, and dripped all over the floor. 

So after two tries, he asked me to walk across the hall to another room, and he and she went back and forth carrying all the sanitized tools they had already opened and put on the tray.

The next chair worked fine, but it was cold in the room.

Polishing that I'm familiar with looks something like this.

The dentist puts some polish on the polisher and then starts it spinning.

Not here.

He took a metal knife and scraped it on the front side of all of my teeth on the top.  He would then start polishing.  He later repeated for the inside and then the bottom, inside and out. 

So my mouth was filled with the polishing stuff while he went to work on one tooth.

The funny part was that the proportion of water being sprayed into my mouth and the amount of water being sucked out of my mouth was considerably off.

My mouth got so full of water, that it started running over the left side of my lip, down my neck, into my shirt, and down my back.

I thought I was in the clear until he switched sides.  Then the water started running over the right side of my lip, down my neck, into my shirt, and down my back.

When I had gotten pretty good and soaked, the assistant must have noticed, and stuck a wad of kleenexes right below my chin to try to catch some of the liquid.  However, when the doctor moved again, she didn't think about moving the kleenexes to the other side.

Oh well.  I was laughing on the inside, so it was entertaining (and cold) to me.

Because Karis liked him and felt good about him, we're taking an even bigger chance on her, because we decided to go to him for her braces.

His English is just okay, but what I gathered from him is that he knows exactly how to fix her teeth.

That picture above was taken two days ago when he made the impressions of her teeth.

Today, Doug and Karis went to get x-rays of her mouth.  The dentist doesn't have this capability in his office, so he told Doug where to go in town to get that done.  We will take the x-rays back after the holidays.

Speaking of holidays, tomorrow is Newroz, and it's been raining off and on here for a few days. 

I may not have any big picnic stories for you after all, but we'll see.

Tonight, we're going to "take a chance" with the crowds and taxi to a large park where a ceremonial lighting of fires is supposed to take place to mark the beginning of the holiday.

Happy first day of Spring!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Everyone's a Winner

Two weeks ago, we had parent/teacher conferences at the kids' schools.  The Sports teacher hadn't realized it was going to be parent/teacher conference day, and he scheduled a soccer tournament for 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th graders for after "school."

Since the kids didn't have school, I wasn't sure how many would show up, but there was pretty good male attendance.  I asked the Sports teacher where the soccer facility was, and he said he didn't know??

I wanted to say, "Didn't you plan this?"

Anyway, he was getting dropped off by another teacher, and he said if I got to the school early, I could follow them.

I took Caleb and Karis, but I wasn't sure I could find it again if I left, so I stayed in the car and studied language.  I got out twice to take pictures, but "someone" gave me the eye that I should stop taking pictures.

This is Caleb's 5th grade (looks like all boys) during penalty kicks.

Karis was the only 7th grade girl that came until the last few minutes (she is running on the far right side), and then her friend (and partner from the science fair) showed up (in purple).
When you have such varying ranges, the results seem kind of natural.  8th grade got first, but surprisingly, 6th got 2nd, then Caleb's 5th grade was third, and last was Karis' 7th grade.

And similar to what you see where you live...everyone got a medal.  Craziness!
This stadium is obviously a different color from the yellow one where they played.  I drove Caleb here after his school game because he had soccer practice in about an hour, and it would have been too difficult to drive to where we live and back again.   (This is where Caleb plays soccer three days a week.) 

It used to be blue, but on this particular day, they were putting on a new cover.  Can you see the man on top attaching the pieces together?

It kind of fascinated me, so I watched for a while before I drove off.

Caleb's field gets a new cover;
no school because of parent/teacher conferences;
all soccer tournament participants get a medal...
everyone's a winner.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Selfies and Sweet Girls

*Note:  If you subscribe to this blog, you received this post by accident the other day with no words.  I sent it on accident.  Sorry.

People here LOVE, LOVE, LOVE taking selfies.  

In restaurants, in taxis, in the market, in the grocery store...wherever you can think of.

They also love taking pictures of and guffawing over cute kids.

Whenever we are out, Keira either gets her cheeks pinched, her face kissed, her photo taken (by herself or with a stranger), candy given to her, or any combination of the four.

Every Saturday, after her ballet class, a gentleman at a sandwich shop we dine in, goes to the grocery store next door and buys her something chocolate.  And the cook and waiter in that restaurant have both taken selfies with her.

I'm telling you, she has been a Trooper, with a capital "T."

I went to the mall two weeks ago to do some grocery shopping (because the big grocery stores are in the malls), and I had to run her quickly to a restroom.  As we crossed the center of the mall, she spied a Cinderella-ish carriage decorated for Valentine's Day.  I told her we could take a picture in the carriage on our way back.

When we returned, a young lady was having her picture made with the bear inside, so we waited.

However, when she was done, the young lady wanted to take a picture again,,,with Keira.  

We complied.

Then, she finally got her turn....with the one-eyed bear.

Of course, the pictures Keira doesn't mind taking are with her "big me" (I'm guessing that's the opposite of a "mini-me").

 She likes looking like Kylie.

Since I'm talking about my girls, let me share something the oldest two did for Doug and me for Chrismtas.  Kylie and Karis spent a lot of time and effort to make these decorations for our room.

They found cardboard, used an exacto knife, and covered the letters with scrapbook paper.

I think they are beautiful, and I love them in our room,
It surely helps beautify our cinderblock walls.

No shiplap here.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Tiny Dancer

I had the privilege one Saturday morning of watching Kylie teach a ballet class of 4 and 5 year old's.  

The teacher she usually assists called with a family emergency and asked if Kylie could take the class by herself on this particular day.

I went with Kylie to start and stop the music, so she wouldn't have to run back and forth to the computer, Karis went to help assist little ones who needed to go to the bathroom, and Keira thought she would go and just try out the class.

Kylie did such an amazing job.  She is a natural at leading. There were two moms that sat in the class because their kids were a little shy at times to participate, and that didn't seem to rattle her at all.  There were also a handful of undisciplined girls, and she handled them calmly, but firmly.  I was blessed to get to see her in action.

I looked at these pictures later, and saw how happy Keira was to be in her leotard, dancing around with girls her age.

The next week, Kylie went back to teaching, and we didn't mention it to Keira, and Keira was a little sad and said she would really like to take ballet.

So, the following week, I took her back and signed her up.  Kylie says she's easily the best behaved kid in the class, and even though Keira tells me how "loud" class is every week, she still loves going.

Now, we have three ballerinas in the family, and all three will be in the "Aladdin" production in May.

I'll let you know if I can get Keira to go out on that big stage, and yes, grandparents, I will make a video for you :)

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Science Fair Jitters

Did any of you get instant butterflies in your stomach when the words "science fair" were spoken at school?  

Maybe some of you are science geniuses, or science really excites you, but science was never my favorite or best subject. 

So, our kids happen to attend a school where, starting in 5th grade, they participate in the science fair every year until graduation. 

My oldest kept hearing me say, "You'll need to do such and such on your poster.  You need to have a hypothesis and a process, etc.," and she kept saying, "Mom, I don't think this is going to be like your science fair.  I think you're WAY over-thinking it."

So, I let it go.  

It's a good thing I did.

This was NOTHING like our science fair.

It was supposed to be held out in this courtyard, but the rain forced all the grades into different rooms of the school.  All the experiments running all over the floors created quite a mess!

In the younger grades, they only had to demonstrate something "sciency."  There didn't need to be a hypothesis or a sense of proving anything.  

In high school, even if the teacher had wanted those things, so many didn't know what to do, so the types of experiments had a wide range of effort put into them.

These are some of the high schoolers in the cafeteria.

The high school experiments that exploded with loud noises or extremely big messes, were put outside under a covering.

The kids presented their projects to the principal a week before the science fair.  She is a biology major, and she would ask questions and see if they were prepared. 

On the day of the fair, officials from both the American consulate and the Japanese consulate came, and whichever they liked best was chosen as the winner.  

No scientist judges here.

Kylie's project involved bones, their density, and what happens when soaked in different substances.  She and her partner chose something pretty easy and made the presentation look really nice.

When we took Kylie's pictures to be developed for her board, it was quite a fun process to watch.

When the pictures came out of the printer, an older gentleman would dip them in a bucket of water.

Then he carried them over to a space heater to dry them.

And just for even more fun, how about this advertisement for their photo-taking abilities, hanging on the wall?  Check out the ashes hanging from his cigarette!!

And how about these guys?

This definitely makes me want to take my children here to get them photographed.

Just kidding.

Now for Caleb.  He just wanted something to explode, and his partner wanted to do a volcano with Diet Coke and Mentos, so it was the perfect partnership.  However, since these two guys have the highest averages in the class, the teacher added a girl who is failing and a new boy who can't speak English.  

So basically, two did nothing.  One bought supplies.  And Doug and Caleb built the volcano.  Now for the tricky part...the explosion.  Even though Caleb's partner had seen the Mentos demonstration on youtube, he failed to realize that Diet Coke and Mentos are scarce here.

I will clarify and say I have seen Diet Coke, but it's only sold in cans.  Not 2L bottles.

We found Mentos GUM everywhere, but it wasn't until two days before the fair when we saw some Mentos tablets, and by then we'd already tried three different combinations of elements (based on what we could find) to create an "explosion" and settled on one with vinegar, water, food coloring, and baking soda.

There is no Home Depot or Wal-mart here, but Doug managed with a dish drain, some wire, and expanding foam to make the volcano.  Caleb helped him paint it.

The Japanese consulate really liked their experiment, and they won second place out of 5th-8th grade.

I did get a lot of laughs as I walked around listening to all the students explain their projects to Doug and me.  One 8th grader kept telling me about predators and "pree" in her science demonstration.  (She just didn't know how to pronounce "prey.")

And this poster gave me a chuckle as well.

Karis and her partner both have the highest averages in their class, so it was nice that the teacher paired them together.  They worked well with each other, and did a great job.

In case you are wondering, this is how tall Karis is compared to most of the girls in her class ;)
This lady is the science teacher for 5th - 8th grade.  My kids like her, and she's pushed them really hard this year.

Each wall of this room is a different grade.  Four walls.  Four grades.  Small classes.  What you are seeing here is part of 6th in the back and part of 7th on the left (Karis told me her 7th grade class has only 13 people in it).

This gentleman on the right is the high school math teacher.  He is Kylie's favorite teacher, and she has started to like science because of him.

As I said in my newsletter, Caleb's team of four won second place, and their prize was a hard back book.

ONE book.

A man from the US consulate also gave Caleb a magnet.

And now I have eleven months to get over my science jitters before we have to do this all over again.


Monday, March 13, 2017

Washed White as Snow

Now that it's starting to look and feel like spring, I thought I'd reminisce about our first snow on February 1.  It only lasted a few hours, but my kids thought it was pretty monumental.  All but one jumped out of bed quicker than I had ever seen, and ran downstairs, grabbing only a coat or sweatshirt to put on over their pajamas.

Keira rushed so much, she got her boots on the wrong feet :)

I wish I rolled out of bed looking like this.

Karis finally made it down, but she was still half-asleep, bless her heart.  The snow actually shows up the best on her dark hair and sweatshirt.

I also don't know how she got up later and the sky appears darker in the picture of her.  I'm sure it has to do with the skill of the picture-taker.  Or maybe the first pictures I took were when she came down.

I don't know.

I can't even remember what I ate for dinner yesterday. 

Snow apparently can actually transform our neighborhood to appear a little bit beautiful.

The used up hay and foam on our roof from our swamp coolers even looks a lot nicer covered in snow.

 Definitely not Norman Rockwell quality, but better than normal...

 EXCEPT for the chicken/turkey coop next door.  I took a peek over the wall of our roof just to see how the chickens were doing, and it still doesn't look any better down there.

This is it, folks.  This median shows the extent of our snowfall. 

It was sad and beautiful all at the same time.  But those of you who live in places where it "really " snows have the benefit of seeing what I could only imagine.  

A clean, blanket of fallen snow.  

It covers all the dirt, trash, and ugliness and everything becomes glorious.  Just like our lives, when He covers our sins and washes them white as snow.

What a sweet, visual picture and good reminder.

Hang onto that thought today.  If you are found in Him, all the sin, secrets, ugliness, and dirt of your life is covered by His blood.

And it's beautiful!