Monthly Archives: March 2013

Easter Confessions

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I’m going to confess. I know this may disappoint some of you. I hope you will not think less of me, but this has been on my mind and I just feel the need to get it off my chest. So, here goes.

I did not buy new Easter dresses for my girls this year. I did not even consider the idea of new outfits this year, until a few days ago when the thought hit me. I did not even have to think or worry about what the girls will wear for Easter. And I LOVED it!!! It felt so good!

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love for my girls to look cute and have a new dress from time to time and even enjoy posting the Eater pic on Facebook, but this year it is different. I felt no pressure from anyone about having the right outfit. Not only did I not have to think about it, I did not even have to spend any money…and that makes me really happy!

Besides, when we lived in Abilene, it seemed you could not get the Easter dress thing right anyway. Everything is sleeveless and springy and there were times it was snowing on Easter. You buy the cute white sandals, or something similar, and it is too cold to wear them. Either you have to dig around for tights and another shoe option or you wind up with children that are freezing. At least this has been my experience. Not to mention then you have to have the bow that matches the dress and since it could be cold, and probably will be, you should make sure you have a sweater too.

But this year, y’all, it was so freeing! And I LOVED it! I kept thinking about all the parents who would be doing what I have done the past 7 years, and honestly, I did not envy them a bit. Maybe this is just my personality, not a get all dresses up kind of girl, although I do like it sometimes. But maybe more than that, I have come to think of things and see things differently.

You see, I have wondered, at times, about some of the children I have met while living in Swaziland. I wondered if they had more than one dress. I’ve wondered what they will do when it gets cold since the dress they do have is a summer dress. I’ve wondered if it bothers them that their dress is either too big it falls off the shoulders or too small it does not fit just right. Or if they notice the missing buttons or tears or that the zipper does not zip anymore. I’ve wondered.

I’ve wondered what they think of me and my children and family. I don’t really have a lot of clothes here, you can only bring so much when you move a family of five across the world in suitcases, but I have plenty, or more than. And I’m even the type to get in ruts and just want to wear the same things over and over. But I have options, as does the rest of my family. I’ve wondered.

There are times like this that I think how I could go do the norm (buy Easter dresses), but it just does not seem important anymore…for now…maybe even for later…who knows?! When I look around, things like that seem out of place, and well…small.

I’m not saying any of this to pass judgement. I love to see everyone’s cute little family pictures. In fact, I even took some pictures today, we just were not dressed in new outfits. What I am saying is that this year I felt so free! I felt Iike I had been released from some social norm duty. I realized how much time I did not spend thinking of new clothes and the weather and hoping I got them both right. It just felt good! And right, for where I am at this time. And I LOVED it!

And, besides the dresses, I did not even buy a piece of candy for my kid’s Easter basket. Yes, they got a couple little things (we saved back from Christmas) in a made up basket, but that part was nice too. Actually, Brad bought me some mint chocolate and I shared a piece with the kids, but it was NOT for them.

It is these kinds of things that I really love about living where we live, seeing life and things in new and different ways than what I have always seen before.

We have had a happy Easter so far and I hope that you have too (or will have, since I am much further along in my day than you probably are in yours…).

And who knows, maybe I will even put up an Easter picture on Facebook, before the day is over.

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Firsts

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On Sunday we had a fun day of going to “relax” at a local wildlife reserve. We have been there many times, but this time we had some firsts.

We arrived and went on a short drive to look at the animals before heading to the restaurant. I had always heard they had impala, usually a stew, but had never had it. I decided it was high time I try something new. So, I ordered an impala stir-fry. It was really good. I actually think it was one of my favorite meals in Swaziland, but that is not exactly saying much. It kind of tastes like beef, but I think it was better than the beef I have eaten here. And, if the impala once called the game reserve we were at home, I guess it was pretty local too! I have no idea where it actually came from, but it made me feel all good to think it was that fresh. Is that weird?

Just as we were finished eating, but before Brad had a chance to pay, we noticed a crocodile swimming our direction. The restaurant is located over/next too a pond, or some type of water. I grabbed the girls and the camera and we went to a little deck where we could get a better view. We have seen many a crocodile, and even swimming from far off, but never heading in our direction like this.

We watched a few minutes from the deck and it just kept coming our way. We were above the water, but if it wanted to, it could have certainly come up and decided we were a nice lunch. I was trying to video it and keep the girls under control at the same time. I mean really, it was coming right to us. Just as it got to us I decided we better step just inside a room off the deck. Ya know, better to be safe than sorry…even if you could get a cool video. Just as we went in the room (where we could still see) the crocodile decided to have some lunch. Luckily it was not us, but a big turtle that had been swimming close by. It just smacked it up! Seconds later, Brad walks up to join us.

I have a pretty crazy video of the croc heading our way and then us moving into the room. There’s some funny conversations going on, too. However, our free blog account here won’t let us upload a video and the file is too big for Facebook, too. Come visit us to see the video — and maybe the crocodile, too!

Pretty fun day!

Avo Tree Update

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Lately I have been thinking we should have more trees on campus.  I have been saving seeds to donate to the garden volunteers so they can use them as seedlings for the garden.  Then it hit me.  I could also be saving seeds that will grow into trees and not just plants.

I realize that growing a tree from a seed can take a looooong time, but if you never start, you will never have the tree, right?  I may not be around this place if and when a tree grows enough to produce fruit, but how nice would it be to have planted something so that one day others can enjoy the harvest?

As I was thinking about this and cutting an avocado, I was thinking about how much the avo tree that has already been planted has grown.  In 2010, my girls along with Brad’s parents, planted an avo tree they started from a seed.  See post and video here.

So, here is the avo tree update picture.  It has grown a lot.

Ellianna and the Avo Tree

Ellianna and the Avo Tree

 

Pictures of Maxwell

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Here are pictures of our new puppy Maxwell. See the last post to read the story.

Dreams Really Do Come True…Eventually!

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Many of you probably already know we got a puppy because Brad already posted a picture on facebook. It’s true.

If you want the short story: we have a dog. It is a four month old Jack Russell Terrier. His name is Maxwell, he also goes by Max.

Here is the longer version. (And it’s long)

For years, our daughter Ellianna has been wanting a dog. She has begged. She has bargained. She has tried to “prove herself responsible”. She has really wanted one. Brad and I are NOT dog people. We think puppies are cute, but have had no desire to own one and take on the responsibility that comes with it. We have discussed many times over the years if we should get a dog or not and why.

We kept landing on no for the answer. We eventually began to consider it based on where we live now. We have a lot of outside space and are home most of the time. We have all tile floors, which is no small thing with an animal living in your house…and potty training. So, we began to wrap our minds around us, as in the Carter family, getting a dog. We finally landed on, it would be nice for the girls to have a dog since they all really want one and we will try really hard to like it too. That is where we are right now. Trying REALLY hard!

We decided to “give” the girls a dog for Christmas, however, we were in the States. So, no biggie. We gave them some dog essentials like a leash (called a lead here) and a collar. And don’t forget the “how to take care of your dog” book. Perfect. We were all set.

Christmas morning came (the girls had NO idea we were even considering it) and the stuff was all set out to surprise them. Brad and I were all excited that we were totally getting the “best thing they could ever want”!! They had no idea why there was a leash, collar and dog book. I mean, none! They were clueless. They saw those things first and just went on with a bewildered look. They finally concluded the collar was for one of the stuffed animals they got for Christmas.

At this point, Brad and I looked at each other and instead of being disappointed, we realized we still had a way out. We were not as committed as we thought we would be. We could just go along with the bewilderment and move on.

But, in my heart of hearts, I could not do it. We finally just had to tell the girls we were going to get a dog when we got back to Swaziland.

I don’t know much about dogs, but I had heard and read that Jack Russell’s are like snake dogs. They will find snakes and then warn you or kill it or something. So, being a little concerned for my children who roam around campus, I thought this would be a good breed to get. I am of the opinion that if you are going to get a pet it should give back to you in some way. Chickens, eggs…cows, milk. So, this was the way this dog could give back to us, it would ease my mind and, in theory, help to keep my children safe if they came across a snake. I gave in.

I thought it would not be a hard job to find a dog when we got back to Swaziland. I had seen them advertised before we left. It turns out, I was wrong! I thought we would get one the first weekend we were back.

After searching high and low I figured out there were no Jack Russell’s in Swaziland. I called around all over and everyone kept telling me we would have to get one from South Africa. Really? Get a dog from another country!

I was beginning to think maybe a Jack Russell was not the kind of dog we should get. I searched some classifieds in Swaziland and found a King Charles. I got really excited, because for as long as Ellianna has wanted a dog this is the kind of dog she wanted. She saw a King Charles puppy once and that is when this love for dogs all began. So, I thought, no big deal. We will just get this KC puppy and go on. Well, after several email exchanges with someone, I figure out this is a scam. There is no puppy…and the guy emailing with me is in China. And I only thought South Africa was far away.

Next I found another type of dog. It turned out to be a scam, just like the first one. I’m not sure who would actually fall for this kind of thing, but I guess people do. Readers, be very careful!

After searching the animal shelters and many more phone calls, I finally found someone who had a Jack Russell…in South Africa. I was so excited I finally found one. It was mid-week, but after talking to the lady I just knew we would drive there that Saturday, get the dog and be done with all the searching.

The lady sent me a picture of a real dog, named Chocolate, and we all agreed he was cute and we would try to get this dog. After asking some questions we figured out we had to have some papers signed to get the dog across the border. No biggie, the lady said she would just take the papers and have the vet sign them and we could come get the dog.

Without going into all the details and multiple delays, the short story on this was the vet would not sign the papers until he got a rabies shot. No biggie, right? the lady would just take him in and get the shot and we would be able to go get him. Well, one problem led to the next and as it turned out, we had to wait for 30 days from when the dog got his shot so he could be checked again. So, what was going to be a weeks wait turned into over a month of waiting.

We had lots of disappointment and time to work on our patience over the past month, especially. It was hard, and good all at the same time.

Finally the day came when we knew the papers were signed. We set out to collect our dog, once named Chocolate. It was a long drive, about 4 hours one way. Much of the way there I was having like hundredth thoughts, or maybe even thousandth thoughts…like second thoughts, but much more than just second. I was still not sure I wanted to have a dog (read responsibility) join our family. But, it is for the kids, right?

So on we went, in the pouring down rain. We finally arrived and laid eyes on Chocolate for the first time. He was cute. So were the other 20 or so dogs these people had. They live on a farm and have several different kinds of dogs. We got a chance to ask questions and play with the puppy for a little while. The whole time we were there I felt like I did the first time I was bringing a baby home from the hospital. Like, someone is really going to trust me with this animal that I know nothing about. But, they were. We said our goodbyes and we were off.

The way home was much better than I expected, in some ways. The dog, now named Maxwell, was so mellow we kept wondering if something was wrong with him. Was he sick? We had never seen a puppy so calm. He did great. We even crossed the border without any problems…or having to show the papers. The thing that made the trip difficult was the fog on the road. We were driving through mountains where it had rained earlier, in the dark and it was so foggy you could not even see the lane next to you. Driving in Africa at dark is not the same as driving in the US after dark. Cows roam the streets along with other things. I just kept thinking that if a cow was in the road we were gonners. Thankfully, we made it home safe, but it was rough…and I was not even doing the driving. It was so stressful! But the dog was great!

We finally made it home about 10pm at night to find out the storm had also come to our house and the electricity was out. We also learned we should not leave our windows open if we are going to be gone for so long. Ellianna’s bed was completely soaked with water. We each got our flashlights and made our way in, but not without a commotion from some other resident dogs on campus. They wanted to make sure we knew they were here first and our little dog was not welcomed by them!

The first night Max did great! He was still calm and probably overwhelmed by the Carter’s. I mean, who’s not? He woke up the next morning and was a playful puppy. The girls have had a lot of fun getting to know him and trying to all be in charge of him. I think Annie thinks he is just a baby and wants to carry him all around. The other kids on campus have come many times to play with him and seem to have lots of fun.

The second night when we went to put him in his cage he cried for over 3 hours. This is the real moment Brad and I knew we had made a terrible mistake. What in the world were we suppose to do with a crying/barking dog? What was our flat mate going to think about us in the morning? I was so embarrassed to even think about it. Eventually, I put the dog outside, in the rain and prayed no other dog or other animal would get him. He cried for a few minutes, but then went to sleep. It was rough.

After some counseling from some very kind facebook friends, we learned we should just let him cry and he would get over it. So, the next night I was all prepared for misery. He did cry, but only for about 15 minutes. Much better!

In a bit I will be putting Maxwell in his cage for the night. Wish me luck! Hoping he learns to love it tonight!

Brad and I are trying really hard to learn to love this dog. He is fine when he is not barking and pooping and stuff. I’m sure it will happen, I hope it will. But, it sure does make me happy when I hear the squeals of delight and laughter from our three precious girls. I guess it makes it all worth it. Wish us luck!

Connecting the Dots

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Since January when we returned from the States, the church we have been attending has been changing. Many good things are happening and it is an exciting and growing phase. Because the church meets on campus, it has often not had many “outside” visitors. We welcome them, but for different reasons not many have come to be a part.

A little over a month ago, a couple that lives in a near by neighborhood showed up to visit. It was great to have them worship with us. Several people on campus knew them, but I don’t think they had been attending anywhere else.

The next week, they were there again. As a few weeks went on I began to connect some dots and find out a little more about these people. Since we first arrived in Swaziland in 2010, there was a particular name we prayed for each week, but I never knew who it was or what was wrong. After hearing more of our new friends story, I found out the person we had been praying for was the husband of the woman that came to visit. Her husband had been in an accident and was paralyzed for 18 months. During this time, the man’s brother came to live with him and help take care of him too. I’ve since learned the paralyzed man passed away in November.

For many months I have been searching for some kind of lessons or something for my girls. In August we had Ellianna signed up for an art class, but because of low numbers (as in she was the only one) it got cancelled. She LOVES art and was really disappointed. Since then I have not really found anything like it.

After some other conversations about the people that showed up at church I found out the woman teaches art class at her house, which is just up the road from us. In fact, there is nothing off-campus that is closer. I asked this kind woman if she had any openings in class and she invited Ellianna to join that week. Ellianna has gone for two weeks now and she really enjoys it. There is even one of the other staff member’s daughters that is in the class with her.

I have been so thankful for this opportunity and the graciousness of our new friend. She just says that she loves children and art and loves to do what she does.

A couple of Saturdays ago we went into town for a morning of errands. As we were out and about, we ran into this woman and her brother in law. It was fun to see someone we knew and make another connection. They even introduced us to another woman who we had heard about, but never had a chance to meet. It was a nice time of chatting.

Through the past several weeks, I have been wondering if these two visitors would stick around church or not. I certainly hoped so, but I just was not sure. As we were getting ready for church yesterday, we received some great news. Our friends had decided to get baptized. It was an exciting time. Not only was I glad they were back for church again, but now this!

God works in ways we do not know. Sometimes we don’t know that little encounters will lead to great things that we get to share in. And, by the way, I am in no way trying to say we had any part in the decision for these people to follow Christ. But, I’m glad we got to share in the joy of it. I hope that in the weeks to come we are able to get to know these new friends better. They seem to have a neat story and are great examples of giving up your own life to care for the needs of others. It was a happy day!