Category Archives: Life

My Sweet Annie

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It is hard to believe my sweet Annie turned 5 today!  Wow!  It is always a little shocking when one of my children have a birthday, but something about my baby turning 5 years old is hard to believe!

I’ve though a lot, over the past few days, about the day Annie was born.  About how Aunt Carrie and Bobbie came for a visit and stayed with the other girls so I could go on a walk.  And it worked!  Later that afternoon I knew for sure I was in labor and sure enough we got to meet Annie for the first time.

We did not find out the gender of our babies before they were born, so each time it was a fun surprise to find out…and especially to find out we now had 3 girls!  How FUN!

We enjoyed all the excitement that comes after being introduced to your baby for the first time and the first time snuggles.  My parents had not arrived and were still on the way to meet her.  Luckily, they arrived around midnight and got to meet Annie for the first time.  And I’m so glad they did.

We did not know it then, but it turned out that Annie was very sick!  Sometime in the middle of that night, a nurse came into my room and told me that Annie was not allowed to leave the nursery so I would have to come down there.  A nurse on duty was watching Annie closely and noticed that something did not seem quite right.  They had called in the doctor to observe her and run some tests

Long story short, she had some kind of infection in her blood.  She was very, very sick.  After talking to the doctor sometime after she was well and had come home, he told us if it had not been for modern medicine, she probably would not have made it.  I’m so thankful for the nurse who was working that evening and noticed something was not right.  I’m also very thankful for all the doctors that worked together to treat Annie.  I’m thankful God healed Annie and has given her to us for this time!   She is a really great blessing to our family!

We had some birthday fun starting yesterday when we went to Hlane Game Reserve.  It has rained here a lot lately and the roads were pretty muddy, but we still had fun.  We got to see elephant, rhino, and hippo among other animals.  It was a beautiful day and we had fun.

Today we celebrated some more.  One tradition we have is the birthday person gets to pick where they want to go out to eat.  Annie picked a place called Spur, which is where we almost always go, because she wanted to get this special birthday meal.  It is a kids meal that comes with an ice cream treat and a toy.  And, on your birthday, they sing to you…and she really wanted that!

We just had a family party at home.  The girls were so sweet about helping to make Annie’s day special. They gave her a few presents they bought…a pack of gum and a chocolate bar.  Caroline gave her one of her dolls and some clothes to go with it because Annie really wanted a baby with curly hair.  She also made some pretty sweet cards.  Ellianna made a little coin purse because Annie did not have a place to put her money and she wanted something.  Ellianna also knitted a scarf for Annie too!  They were so generous and thoughtful!

We also had some cake, of course.  I have this crazy thing I do for my kid’s birthdays. I see some fancy cake and think, “I can make that”.  And then I try and it does not work, but I still do it!  I am probably the least crafty person ever and for some reason I still think I can do it.  This year was no different.

I saw a cake the other day and wanted to ty it.  Annie wanted a red and green cake with Christmas trees.  Yes, I know it is April.  I got this idea to try the cake I saw using the colors she wanted.  And I convinced her she would like something besides Christmas trees.  So, this year her cake was a polka dot (on the inside) cake.  It did not work like I wanted it too, but it worked okay.  It tasted good and we enjoyed it.

Annie has been such a joy to our family the past 5 years.  She is funny, sweet, thoughtful, smart, energetic, loud, beautiful, helpful, caring, a momma’s girl to her core, and much more.  She enjoys being read to and is learning to read too.  She has a contagious laugh and is a smiley giggley girl.  I love her so much!  I’ve learned a lot from her and I knowI will continue to do so.  I love having conversations with her and love the questions she asks.

When I think of Annie and all of her sweetness, I think how thankful I am for her!  I’m thankful for so many things about her, but I’m really thankful we have her.  Not all mommas get this long with their babies.  I’m thankful and I’m praying for many more wonderful years together!

Annie

Annie

Annie's Cake

Annie’s Cake

Birthday Scarf

Birthday Scarf

Brad and Annie

Brad and Annie

Polka Dot Cake

Polka Dot Cake

Annie's 5th Birthday

Annie’s 5th Birthday

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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

 

I Did It

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Funny, true story.

Before we moved to Swaziland I was doing some research about homeschooling and some other interests of mine.  I came across this blog of this lady that was from Texas and was living in Swaziland with her family.  She homeschools and her kids are involved in things like ballet and piano.

I was so happy to find this because I did not want to move here and feel like we were so isolated from the rest of the world besides what happens on our campus.

I began reading here posts and eventually commented to ask where her kids take lessons.  I know, like who is going to answer a question like that.  I’m sure I seemed like a crazy person or something.

Well, just as I expected, I got no answer.  I actually did not really know how to tell if I got an answer because I don’t usually comment on blogs.  The blog had not been updated in a while so I just figured maybe she did not keep up with the blog…because I have a few blogs I have started and not kept up.

On Sundays we go out to eat.  We usually go to the same place each week.  It is located in a “nicer” part of town where more “American” type people shop.  Okay, not just American’s, but Europeans and such.  I have thought many times (maybe based on something I read on this lady’s blog) she might frequent this part of Swaziland and how I would just look for her.  It really was just a passing thought, but a thought.  I mean, it is not that hard to notice a white person in Africa.

Well, as we were sitting having our lunch yesterday, I looked up and noticed she was coming in with her family.  I know, I sound like a stalker.  I told Brad he would not believe this, and then went on to explain all this to him.  I really wanted to go talk to her so I could find out where her kids look lessons.  I just did not know exactly how to start that conversation.

“Hi, do you blog?”

“I think I know you from somewhere.”

“Excuse me, but….”

After much debating and encouraging from Brad (even begging that he would just go ask her) I finally got up enough nerve to go over to her table and strike up a conversation.

I’ve noticed that since arriving in Swaziland, I have felt the need to start a conversation with “I know I’m crazy, but…”  So, I just went with that and kept on going.  (I REALLY wanted to find out where her kids got lessons!!!)

She probably thought I was some crazy lady.  She did inform me she had commented on my question on her blog, I guess I just did not figure out how to know.  And, she was really sweet.  We are now facebook friends (that says a lot right) and she has been so helpful in giving me some contact info for some people.  There is a group of homeschool mom’s that meet together too.  I’m looking forward to making other connections.

So, while I was inside making a fool of myself, my kids were outside on the playground playing with some kids that were from Dallas, TX.  They told me all about the conversation they had with them…finding out where they were from.  Pretty cute.  I did not tell them about my conversation.  And in case anyone is concerned, the place we eat every week is not a fast food restaurant.  They have playgrounds even in some restaurants here.  One of the reasons we choose this place to eat.

So, I did it!  And I’m glad I did even if I did seem a little crazy!

 

Storm Damages

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I sat down to write about the big storm that we had here on campus a week or so ago and realized Brad had already done a gret job on the African Christian College website.  Please read here and there are lots of pictures too.

I quick overview is a storm cam through unexpectedly on a Tues. evening.  It caused a great amount of damage and left us without electricity or water for 4 days.

We have been very busy since then trying to get things back in order.

Our internet continues to give us fits.  It makes blogging difficult which is why I have not been updating the blog lately.  I have tried several times…but then I just walk away frustrated.  Maybe someday it will get all figured out and work the right way.

We are doing well.  I’ve got several things to write about to fill you all in on what has been going on (besides the storm, because life does go on).  Stay tuned for coming posts…internet willing!

We miss you all and are thankful for the kind words of encouragement we receive.  Thanks for keeping us in your thoughts and prayers.

One of Those Days

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Today was one of those days…but not like the regular “one of those days”.  It all started two days ago.  You may recall we have been waiting for the goats on campus to have their babies.  We knew September was the expected month and so we have been checking often.

Two days ago the first momma delivered twins.  We missed it by about an hour, but we were excited to see them fresh out of the oven.  They are so very cute.

We knew another momma was going to deliver soon.  We went into town yesterday and like any good goat would do, it had her babies while we were gone.  Twins again. This goat was a little different though.  A few days before she had her babies something happened to her legs and she won’t walk.  Our friend Spencer, the goat expert on campus, told us he was concerned she might have a problem delivering the babies.

It turns out he was right.  She got one baby out and then was not able to get the other out for a while.  That goat was born with a lot of problems and did not make it through the night.

The mother, for some strange reason, was not being very motherly and was not really taking care of her other baby either.  It would not feed it and it was very weak.

This is where today picks up.  There are two more goats that are expected to deliver any day now.  Since we have missed the first two deliveries the girls and I (okay, really just me) decided we would just pack up our school stuff today and just do school at the goats…in hopes of getting to see a baby being born.

So, we did just that.  Packed our stuff and headed to the goats.  As we were looking around we noticed the goat born the day before was not looking so great and hardly breathing.  We talked to our friend Spencer and he told us it would probably not live 30 more minutes if it did not get fed.

How could we possibly let that goat just sit there and not try something?  So, the Carter girls went to work…fast!  We made a bottle, with the help of our friend Nancy, out of the finger to a rubber glove and a coke bottle.  We got some (cow) milk and in hopped Rachael (that would be me) in the goat pen to rescue the goat.  Well, it seemed like it would be that easy.  I’m glad no one was there except for my girls, to see me “hop” over the fence to get the goat.  I did eventually get the baby and get back over the fence (and did not even split my pants).

We immediately tried to feed the baby goat, but it would not even suck. We had to just squirt the milk in its mouth.  It was so weak it could hardly swallow.  After trying right there at the goat’s pen for a good while and baking in the sun, the girls were getting hungry for lunch.  We decided to take the goat home and the girls fed it while I fixed lunch.

We let it rest after lunch and then later in the afternoon we got it to feed it again.  At this point some goat milk and a bottle was delivered to us, but since the baby was not sucking we just kept with our handmade bottle.  Ellianna did a great job taking care of the goat…in its final hour.  Not too long after the milk was delivered to us the goat died.

But it was also about that time we found out we also needed to feed the twin goats that were born first.  The mother is not producing enough milk for them and they are needing more food.  So,we set aside the dead goat and went to get one of the twins to bring home and give it a bottle.

After it drank as much as we could get it to drink…and a couple more children that came to the scene later, we returned it and got the other baby to feed.

After all the goats were safely back where they belong, I had to then ask another student here what they do with dead animals.  He told me to take it to this other guy and he would take care of  it for me.  So, at this point  I am DONE with the dead goat.  I had to move it after it died because it was laying on a towel and I needed it and it was already getting stiff.  DONE for sure!  I actually met this guy as I was walking to my house and said to him, “I have a dead goat on my porch.  Would you mind to come and get it?”  He very kindly came and…I guess took it to goat heaven.

The girls seem to be fine with it all.  We knew there was a good chance the goat would not make it, but how could we not try to help???

Our friend Spencer said the babies need to keep being fed and do not need to stay out in the cold.

So tonight, I have two goats sleeping in a box inside my house.  I have given them both a bottle and will feed them again.  Hope they like to sleep as much as I do!

And…we are still waiting on more baby goats anytime now.  We did not finish all our school today, but maybe it can count as science.

Goats were not the only other living/non-living things we saw today.  Here are some of the other nature things we encountered: cows out on campus, a huge bee of some kind, a gigantic grasshopper, a dead frog, some unusual birds, a ladybug, and ants (in my house).

It was just one of those days…

3 Months

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Three months ago today we left Texas to begin a new life in Swaziland.  It is hard to believe we have already been here this long.  A few days later we arrived at our new home located on campus at African Christian College.

Overall, things have been really great.  Although I guess we are settled, we are still learning new things everyday.  We are still adapting to a new way of life and doing things…everything really.  I am so thankful we have this opportunity to live life in this totally different culture.  It is crazy at times, but WOW are we getting some great life experiences!  I’m blessed to be able to do this with my sweet family right here with me.  I wouldn’t trade that for the world.

Great and wonderful are words I use often to describe our experience here so far.  And it’s true.  It does not mean there are not difficult times.  They have not been often, but I do have frustrations, I do miss my family and friends and some foods from home.  But life here is so much more than the few moments I’m grumpy.  Let’s face it, I was grumpy at home sometimes too.

I’m sure I have said something like this before and I’m sure I will say it again, but I wish everyone could and would take an opportunity to live out some big adventures in life.  Yes, it’s risky, but every bit worth it.  Sometimes I have these moments where I think, “huh, I live in Africa” and honestly I don’t know if I have fully wrapped my mind around that yet.  The advantages our family is gaining far outweigh the “sacrifices” or the frustrations of being in a different place.

Just the other day my girls were telling me about playing at some other kids house that day.  They told me about how the mom got 3 chickens and cut off their heads, how they helped hold one of them and carry it a bit.  And the crazy thing is this did not seem a bit weird to them at all.  We eat our meals sometimes and talk about that this chicken use to live in the chicken coop, but now it’s dinner.  I know people back home raise chicken for meat and then eat it too, but this is a bit different for us.  And we used to have chickens too.

I love that my children go around the house singing in some other language…and I don’t even know what it is.  They are exposed to so many.  We know several non-English songs, but some of them I don’t even know which country it is from.  I love that in normal conversations we talk about different countries in Africa like Zambia (where some of their close friends are from), Botswana, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique, Kenya, and South Africa.  My children talk about countries I did not even tell them about…and they know things about them.

I love all the culture we are exposed to each day.  I love the beauty all around us!  I love getting to be with people who are so different, yet alike in many ways.  I love the children here on campus and I love trying to have conversations with them.  I love it when they come to tell Auntie (me) the memory verse they have been learning.  I love when they come to tell me what lesson number they are on in their reading lesson book.  I love when everyone gets my girls names all confused and switched around…then they just call them “that one”.  I love that we get to live on a small communal campus and that we have our own house.  I love that Brad’s parents are here and my girls can just go see them when they want to, or get a chance to ride to town with Papa (which usually involves ice cream).  I love the singing and the voices I get to hear almost daily.  There are many things to love!

I can’t seem to find the proper word to express and encourage you to take a step of faith, to get out of the boat, to think outside the box, to live at least some of your life in a different country.  I just love it.  Don’t get me wrong when I say this, but I’m not the “All American” type of girl.  Yes, I am thankful for our freedoms and for people who keep me safe and Mexican food and all that, but to me the world is so much bigger than that.  I don’t exactly feel this huge culture shock here.  I feel so normal (in a weird kind of way).  I don’t feel there is the whole “keep up with the Jones'” kind of thing here.  I have heard about a book that some people are reading, and I don’t remember the name, but it is about living simply.  Isn’t that something many of us keep striving for.  Well, it’s pretty easy here in Africa.  Especially when you come with just a few bags (okay, well, 15, but for a family of 5 that’s not too bad, right?)  We live very simply, yet we have more than most around us.  Maybe that excludes the King’s wife’s palace that borders our campus.

It seems that so many of the things that concerned me at home, whether stupid or not, are not really an issue here.  I don’t worry that I wore the same skirt last Sunday that I am wearing this Sunday because I wear it almost everyday for chapel too.  I don’t have to wear make-up here, but at home I would not want to go out in public with out it, or at least I would not feel right.  I don’t dry my hair here unless I am really cold.  It is winter.  I have never in my life not dried my hair because I always thought my natural look did not look good.  I’m not saying that my natural look looks great, but I am saying that here I do not worry about it.  I am learning to embrace it.  It just seems that all the things that seem to bog us down or make us feel bad for some reason or another are not issues so much here.  I feel so free.  Maybe it’s just me.

All this is to say, I would really encourage you to look further than what you are always accustomed to and comfortable with.  The world is a much bigger place than where you have “always” lived.  I am not even saying you should move to Africa, but I would encourage you to live an extended period of time in a foreign place.  It will change you and your outlook and maybe even what you think is important.  The whole typical American mindset can cloud my head at times.  It is nice to be able to find a place to catch my breath.  I hope that someday you can do that too.  It is refreshing and delightful and there is a whole world of opportunity just waiting.

Bottom line is — I love living here.

Growing Up

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This weekend our family went to Hlane Game Park to celebrate Ellianna’s 8th birthday.  We had a lot of fun.  We thought we would get to see a lion (one big animal we have not see yet), but were disappointed to find out children under 6 were not allowed into the part of the park where there are lions.  How would we exactly explain that to our 4 year old.  Sorry honey, but I’m just going to stay back with you while the others go and look for the lion(s).  Not gonna happen.  So none of us went.  And we did not see a lion.  But we did get to see many other fun things including a group of rhino, hippo, elephant, giraffe and a horn bill bird to name a few.

Ellianna really wanted to have all her friends over for a birthday party too.  On Sunday (her actual birthday) we invited all the campus children over for cake and ice cream.  It is always fun to have the children in our home.  We had fun celebrating Ellianna and getting to be together with all her friends here.

Our family has been really blessed to have Ellianna to do this journey we call life.  She is fun, creative, inquisitive, clever, funny, sweet, helpful, beautiful, smart, imaginative and wonderful!  She is one determined little girl, which can be very good and difficult all at the same time.  I am really excited to see what all Ellianna will be when she grows up.  I pray she will use all her gifts to change the world and continue to make it a better place.  If you know Ellianna you know she is pretty special.  I’m so thankful God has given her to us for this time and I hopeful for many more great years with her.

I’ve been thinking lately as I think about my baby growing up not all parents get this much time with their children.  We are really blessed.  Each day is a gift and I hope that I can remember that…even on the days I want to pull my hair out.  We are not guaranteed any amount of time with our children and as we celebrate another year of life with Ellianna I also remember sweet friends who will not get to celebrate another year or another birthday.  Children truly are a gift from the Lord and I want to always treasure that gift in my heart!

Happy 8th birthday, Ellianna.  We love you and are excited to be part of your family!  I love you to the moon and back again…and always will!

Library Day

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I have not forgotten about the blog, I promise.  I guess I have just been busy.  Yeah, that’s it.  We have been pretty busy.  There are lots of things happening around ACC.  A new semester has started and we have new guests on campus.

A few weeks ago our family went to the public library…like in Manzini.  It was an adventure and I guess the first time we ventured out into “downtown” alone.  I had asked many people since we have been here if anyone knew about the library and no one had ever been there.

We are big library users…like 70 books at a time library users.  At least we use to be.  And I did have a system of how to keep up with them all.  So, anyway, I was very interested in checking out the public library here in Swaziland.

I have to say I was pleasantly surprised at what I found.  We went to survey and ask questions and see how we could get library cards.  Nothing is ever easy here, but after we talked to several people at the library we left with some papers to fill out and bring back.

We had to go and get passport photos taken so they could use them for our library cards.

Today we actually had all our stuff ready and decided to go and make it official.  It was an experience.

We took in our papers that we had filled out…and figured out we had done it wrong.  We were told it would not cost money, but then today we were told we basically had to pay a deposit…that we would get back, since we are non-Swazis.  Who knows about that one???

After waiting for Brad to go to an ATM machine while the girls and I hung out at the desk and reading all the posters on the walls about AIDS, he finally returned…only to find out we did not really have to pay for each person, just our family.  We had filled out our papers wrong and stuff like that, but finally we got it all settled.

We decided to wait there and look at the books while they processed our cards.  After about 30 min. of looking they came and found us and gave us all our very own library card.

Each person is given 3 library cards (pieces of paper) and you can only check out 3, yes 3, books at a time.  So we quickly made our selections and went to check out at the front desk.

We made this trip in the afternoon and the library was filled with school children.  They were everywhere.  We are getting use to people looking and staring at us these days.  Sometimes it’s a mutual thing.  As we were waiting my girls were sitting and reading books.  Several times some of the school children would come over to them and try to talk to them.  Annie talked to them.  Some kids blew kisses from between the bookshelves at them and people stared at them and talked about them the whole time we were there.

On our way to check out, a table of girls called Annie and Ellianna over to them because they wanted to feel Annie’s hair.  They asked if they could touch it and so they all wanted to feel what it was like.  They asked Ellianna her name and after about 5 times of saying it, they got it right.  A girl asked Ellianna if she could be Ellianna’s friend.  As soon as Ellianna said yes, then they all asked if they could be her friend too.  I smiled and the next thing I know a girl was telling me she loved me.  It was all sweet and funny and strange and normal all at the same time.  And my girls had the strangest expressions on their faces.  They were a little confused.

Okay, so back to checking out.  I’m pretty sure we were some of the only people who have checked out books from the library.  They had to go and get the glue stick to put in the little page where you stamp the due date.  You remember.  Think back with me…before computers.  Remember the card where you sign your name and your due date is stamped on that little page.  Well, that is still how it is here.  So, we give them our cards and books and they don’t know what to do.  And neither did we.

After we got that part all figured out I noticed the box where they keep the cards when you check out books.  There were only like 5 other people who had books checked out.  Really.  Like 5!  Our family with our 15 cards like tripled the amount of cards in their box.  I think I might know why though.  The consequence if you don’t return your books on time is that your name and picture get published in the newspaper.  I have heard no one has ever really seen it in the paper, but I am thinking it’s because no one has ever checked out books.

So, the library is pretty random, but definitely better than nothing.  At home on our library days my girls would come home and I would hardly hear them the rest of the day because they would be so interested in reading their books.  (No, I did not go everyday.)  However, with the limit of 3 books per visit, we will have to plan to spend time just reading at the library.  We might even go and do school there some days.

It was fun.  I’m glad we are “official” members of the Swaziland Public Library.  The next time I go I am thinking of asking if I can get any special “deal” for being a teacher and get to get more books.  I’m mean, I will return them cause who whats their name and picture in the newspaper?  Okay, I actually think it would be kinda cool to make it in the newspaper here but I don’t believe it will really happen.  We will see.  I have been known to have overdue books before…and that was when I could renew them online.  Wish me luck!