Five Loaves and Two Fish, Mama-Style

I was blogging a lot when we first moved to Kenya; it was quite a therapeutic way to process the transition and also to let folks know what was going on with our family. Slowly, I stopped, as life on the mission field got quite busy and I tried to get back into a new groove with homeschooling, which had been reduced to rather bare-bones with the move. I’m still not where I want to be in terms of homeschooling, but our oldest completed his GED last year at age 16, so I’m somewhat optimistic that we’re moving in the right direction.

IMG_0518Blogging when our children were young was easy; there were so many sweet moments I wanted to document. And when there were challenges, they were the small problems of small children (which don’t feel so small when you’re a weary Mom to many Littles, so I don’t say that lightly!) Now that they’re bigger children with bigger problems and there is privacy to protect, it’s hard to know what to say and what not to say in this space. But, I suppose I can talk about me, so if you’d give me the grace to do so, I’d like to share some thoughts as we have just welcomed blessing number 9 to our family, baby Joanna (born in September 2015).

Being a new Mom again at age 42, after 4-1/2 years of thinking that I was done with babies, has been an interesting experience. I always knew that children were a blessing, but Baby Joanna really feels like one! They say you can’t spoil a baby, but she is held more and loved more than any baby before her. There are few times I feel compelled to just let her cry, but those times that I do, one of her big sisters comes to her rescue! Not only do I have many hands to help with the baby, but also many hands to help with housework and meal preparation. It is a totally different experience than coming home with our first, second, third, fourth, and even fifth children! If you are a Mom of young children now, I promise you, it is so worth the investment in your children as you teach, train, encourage, and equip them with practical life skills and an attitude of service. It is tiring while you’re doing it (believe me, I know!)…that precept upon precept, capturing those “teachable moments” of correction (which usually happen at the most inconvenient times, or happen so often that you feel you get precious little else done!). BUT, perseverance has its perfect work and it is a blessing to see the fruit of years and labor in the Lord.

No, our children are not perfect; I would never claim that. But, neither am I. Yet I cling to the promise of a word that was spoken to me many years ago now. It was during a “revival”-type church service where a guest preacher brought a fiery sermon and ended with a very meaningful time of prayer. I had gone without my husband, who was away on business, and with my 5 young children, aged about 9 on down to 1. I don’t know what compelled me to go, since the service started just about when I would have been putting the kids down to bed. And all Mamas know that you just don’t mess with bed time. I went anyway…seeking more of the Lord and needing some encouragement, if I remember correctly. I fully expected at least two of the children to melt down, but 9:00 came and went and the evening went on in prayer. I figured I’d gotten as much as I would get (though I can’t even tell you now what the sermon was about), so I slipped out of the back row and started making toward the rear exit with all the children. I remember silently congratulating myself on the fact that we were doing so without disrupting the focused prayer that was in progress. Then, the speaker at the front of the sanctuary happened to lift his head as I looked up from one of my Littles at the back door. Our eyes met. He spoke rather loudly: “I have a word for you today!” and suddenly all heads lifted and all eyes were on me. I felt like I could have melted into the floor–and wanted to! But he came to the back where I was and spoke many encouraging words about children and family to me. He even spoke specific words over each of my older children. I wish I could remember them now. Bu then he came to me. He spoke about my weariness as if he knew. And these are the words I remember…words that have echoed over the years and continued to encourage me when things have been hard: “You’re not Super Woman! You’re not a super wife. You’re not a super mother. But what you can’t do, God can.”

I knew it to be true. I still know it to be true. And it’s not just true for me–it’s true for all of us! No matter where you are in this journey of mothering–physically weary Mom of Littles, or emotionally weary Mom of older children, certain of the outcome of your efforts (which sometimes God mercifully allows us to be), or uncertain…know that God can. Like the little boy who brought five loaves and two fish to Jesus, and ended up feeding a multitude, bring your offering every day to Jesus and know that He will do with it what you can’t. Bring your tear-wiping, your hugs, your pats on the back, the Bible-reading, the encouraging (even if you’re discouraged yourself), the kindness when you feel irritable…the list goes on and on. We do when we feel like we can’t do any more. We invest in what seems like a lost cause. We give out of our emptiness. And God knows. He takes those feeble efforts and does what only He can. I’m still living that, but I know it to be true. It’s true for me, and it’s true for you. Press on, Mama.

Our First Visit to Uganda as a Family!

I’ll admit, I haven’t always enjoyed village life. At first, I struggled with the loss of my independence, having no car and not having much at all to do, particularly with the children (I mean, after all our “work” was done). I liked being able to jump in the car for an occasional outing to the local museums or parks. I certainly missed the local library. And I even missed grocery shopping and running errands, tedious as both could be with a bunch of children in tow. Although I had always been busy at home, village life took it to a whole new level. That was an admitted adjustment. But once I got used to it, I found a great deal of contentment in my circumstances and in my role as wife, homeschooling mom, and behind-the-scenes missionary.

Selling most of our possessions so that we could move to Kenya left us living a very simple life at first. That also took some getting used to. But by the time our small shipping crate finally came, several months after our arrival, I found that I didn’t really miss much of what was inside. Except the books, of course. I definitely appreciated having our small library once again, and certainly the added kitchenware was a blessing—even the Bosch mixer—but I had discovered that most of what I had considered “indispensable,” wasn’t. Village life…simple life…was growing on me.

Then there is the small-town feel of the village. I’ve always enjoyed rural living, but village life in Africa when you’re a mzungu is challenging. I can’t say I’ve ever been a fan of the village gossip, but it has been nice to know our neighbors and be able to keep abreast of what’s going on just by asking some questions of a few select people. At first we were an oddity among our neighbors and it seemed like half the village lived at our gate and gawked at us every time we stepped out the door. But, as with the other things, that too passed and now, though we’ll always be the wazungu, we’re left more or less to ourselves.

Since we’ve gotten a car and been able go into town a little more often, and especially since the coming of Nakumatt (*almost* a Superstore) about two years ago, village life has been a lot more bearable. But having more “things” available in town and easy access to them, has reminded me how much pull the world has. I have to remind myself that I don’t need more gadgets, the kids don’t need more toys, and our simple village market meals really are just fine, for the most part.

Recently we spent a couple weeks in Jinja, the second largest city in Uganda. Although it didn’t boast a “Superstore,” there were a lot of nice mzungu-style restaurants and a cheap-enough swimming resort along the Nile River that we got to enjoy a couple of times. Our days were spent in a very nice house on a YWAM base, where I did appreciate the convenience of a flushing toilet. But after all that, I have to say I was ready to go home…back to the village. I actually missed my choo (outdoor potty) because I was reminded that I did not miss cleaning toilets. I didn’t miss vacuuming carpets, either. I also appreciated anew the modesty of the village women.

One thing I found interesting was the YWAM dining hall. They serve three meals a day and it didn’t take us long to figure out that they don’t vary much from day to day. Breakfast was always a peanut butter sandwich with chai and a banana. Lunch was typically posho (boiled cornmeal, which we call ugali in Kenya) with a side of beans and plain pasta or potatoes. Supper was rice with beans, or rice with cowpeas, or (once a week) rice with meat, and a side of cabbage or sukuma (kale). Although breakfast got kind of boring, it was nutritious enough and…we got used to it. Lunch had a rather unusual combination of items (us not being used to eating beans or particularly pasta with our posho), but that, too, was filling and…we got used to it. Although in the village I’ve weaned us down to some simple meal options, we still have some variety when we go into town once a week or so, and we certainly didn’t eat the same thing every day. But I left the “big city” with a greater contentment about simple and repetitive meals, which I think was a good lesson for all of us.

We also picked up a new routine in Uganda. At the dining hall, they have a “bring your own” method of serving food, wherein every guest carries in their own plate and fork. There were basins set up just outside the dining hall with soapy water and rinsing water, where everyone exiting was responsible for washing their own plate and utensil. It took just a few minutes, but it amazed me that I never thought of doing such a thing at home. With dishes for 10 or more people, plus meal prep pots and utensils, washing dishes is a twice-daily chore that two children share and no one likes very much…it’s one of the few tasks that inspires grumbling at our house. We decided to set up basins in the sink so that everyone could wash their personal dishes after each meal, leaving only the meal prep dishes for chore time. With the reduction in overall dish-washing, we can assign only one person to the job, freeing up the second person for other tasks that might get neglected, and easing up the load over all. So far, I’m liking it!

Hannah and Joanna in Uganda. Joanna is three months old already!

Hannah and Joanna in Uganda. Joanna is three months old already!

Jonah's patience was rewarded as he got a Capuchin monkey to eat out of his hand! Very rewarding for our critter-loving son. :)

Jonah’s patience was rewarded as he got a Vervet monkey to eat out of his hand! Very exciting for our critter-loving son. :)

 

We went to Uganda to get our passports stamped, now that our 2-year work permits are approved. In Uganda, they actually keep your passports for this process, which left us stranded in-country until all was completed. It turned out to be a nice vacation for all of us, plus Marc and Nashon (our Kenyan brother) went out on some missions and looked for a future residence for our family.

Our plan is to continue to support the Kenya mission but share time with launching a Uganda mission. We’ll see how the Lord directs these transitions. For now, our two weeks away were very encouraging. Our fellowship’s deacon, Mzee Timothy, did an awesome job managing our food program for malnourished children and the medical needs in the community that the ministry supports, and overseeing the Sunday meeting. Our brother Lazarus, an overseer of our Bidii fellowship and an evangelist and teacher, went out regularly with one or two of the wazee (elders) from our Saboti church. Together, they continued to encourage and teach at the various fellowships and make sure that everything was running smoothly in our absence. A great test, which everyone passed with flying colors! God is good.

 

Family Happenings

Yes, we’re still here…just haven’t made time to blog. And I find that once I’ve been away from this space for a while, it’s hard to know how to get back into it. So I’ll just jump in with a few things by way of update.

We’ve been busy on the mission front, as usual, and hope to begin  updating the Kingdom Driven Ministries blog more regularly. If you hop on over there, you’ll see that we recently hosted a regional women’s meeting that was a real blessing, and we separated our overly-large home fellowship into three smaller congregations. (Exciting!)

We’ve leased a property a few kilometers from our current home, which is eventually going to house some livestock (cows, chickens, rabbits) as well as  additional crops (bananas, maize, and I don’t know what else). Milk and eggs are often hard to come by and a little more meat in our diet is not a bad thing. The property will also be used in various ways to benefit the brothers in our local fellowships.  We were  able to enjoy a little more family time than usual at year’s end, which was very nice, so Marc and the boys built some nest boxes and a rabbit hutch for use at the new place.

My intermittent frustrations with homeschooling here in Kenya are no big secret, though things have gotten somewhat better this academic year. I still haven’t seemed to consistently find time for Circle Time, especially for my Littles…and there are definitely things I want to work on in terms of both spiritual instruction and practical training.

2015-01-21 11.37.35For a number of reasons, during this week I asked my oldest daughter, Rebekah (who will be 12 on Friday), if she wanted to take the week off of school and be my “Mother’s Helper.” On Monday she helped me move around the furniture in our sitting room/dining area in order to better accommodate another missionary family (the Nafzigers) who will be moving in with us as of next week. Yesterday, I asked Rebekah to do a short Circle Time with the Little ones, and she did such a good job that we talked about making it a more permanent daily arrangement. We have the rest of the week to see how she (and they) like it. Meanwhile, having a consistent second hand to assist with home management and homeschooling has been a real blessing to me…maybe that’s why I have finally found time to sit down and blog. 🙂

 

 

 

Aaaand….we had pizza

As you might have guessed from the title of this post, we have a confession to make. Two weeks into our 30-day challenge to eat from our local markets…we had pizza. In discussing what we could and couldn’t get locally, Marc laughed and said something about how this could be a really great business opportunity for folks in our community–sort of like bringing the store to our door. We already have people selling us eggs, bananas, and avocadoes. Next step…cheese and tomato paste? So in the midst of lunch with Reagan (one of the brothers here), it came up that he was going to be making a trip to Kitale, and we jokingly mentioned the “store to your door” idea. Reagan jumped on it, as making some profit on a trip he was already making (enough to pay his transport) was very appealing to him. And the deal was done…we had pizza for supper.

So we briefly re-visited our goals for the Challenge to debate if the pizza decision was OK or not. Of course, there was the spiritual side of things, wherein we felt like local eating would help us to conform our appetites in a better direction. Though stoicism wasn’t our goal, in this regard, pizza was a bit of a disappointment. On the other hand, we do want to support the local economy, particularly the believers in our community. And so the pizza would be good on that score. And then there’s simply how good local eating is for our budget. On that front, pizza is a definite bust. All in all, we didn’t feel “guilty” for eating pizza once in the month, but I’m not sure it will happen again any time soon.

How about the rest of the 30 days? As was to be expected, our menus were not very varied. At about the third week, my enthusiasm waned as I was trying to prepare a “quick lunch” after a busy morning of homeschooling, and was lacking in most of the dozen or so ingredients that now formed the basis of our meals. Potatoes? Nope. Eggs? None on the shelf. Rice? Just had that for supper last night and likely would again that night. I don’t remember what we ate, but the good news is, I talked myself out of getting frustrated/discouraged about it.

For the most part, breakfasts were a plain coffee cake or mandazi (non-sweet donuts) with hot cocoa or herbal tea. Lunch was usually leftovers from supper the night before, rice, or kitheri (corn and beans). I tried to make our suppers somewhat more interesting and nutritionally balanced: eggs with tomatoes and peppers and a side of home fried potatoes, creamy cabbage and potato soup, homemade egg noodles with “faux cheese” (essentially a garlic-flavored white sauce) and spinach, or, once a week, stewed chicken with mashed potatoes. If none of these were available, we defaulted to rice and beans (usually eaten a few times a week, often with avocado). We even had dessert once or twice a week: pumpkin pie, sugar cookies, or what have you. The bananas that came to our door were always a good afternoon snack or a supplement to lunch.

And speaking of bananas, we hadn’t developed a taste for the “cooking bananas,” or plantains, that are readily available and cheap here. They are cooked while still green and are a pretty good substitute for potatoes. However, I never really put the effort into learning to cook them, until around week 3 of the Challenge when we harvested some from our backyard, and I figured it was as good a time as any. When I did a little research and found out how good they are for you, we started eating them more often!

I was pretty surprised that we could eat locally without resorting to ugali. Our supply of dry maize from last year ran out month or two ago, and we’re still a week or so from shelling what’s in the garden now, so if we were to have ugali we’d have to buy maize at one of the local shops. In this in-between season, maize is actually more expensive than rice. Though the Littles really like ugali, the rest of us just kind of tolerate it, so it was fine with all of us to eat more rice and skip the ugali  entirely.

The Littles were generally accommodating of the dietary changes. Those with more entrenched preferences in regard to appetite were a little more resistant and apt to complain, though that was minimal overall. We celebrated two birthdays during the month and I expected moans and groans over missing out on birthday pizza, but somewhat surprisingly, that didn’t happen. When Micah turned seven, I made a “breakfast pizza”–pizza crust with hashbrowns, scrambled eggs and “faux cheese” on top. On Deborah’s 10th birthday, we had her favorite meal: cabbage, cornbread, and potatoes. However, Marc allowed an exception to the “local food only” rule and we bought a bag of carrots at the village market to add to the meal, since that was a request of the birthday girl and seemed reasonable. As we neared the end of the 30 days, I heard no complaining at all. Everyone knew why the decision had been made, and maybe realized it wasn’t so bad after all. And so, it seems that we have consensus on moving this from a 30-day “experiment” to a more permanent way of life for the Carrier family. God is good!

 

Homeschooling in Kenya: years in review

We came to Kenya at roughly the mid-point of the 2011-2012 school year. Suffice it to say, between packing, moving, and settling in here, I was happy if we managed to do some sort of language arts and math on a daily basis. In fact, the only text books we brought with us on the plane were our math books. Almost all our other books were shipped by crate, which didn’t arrive until we had been here several months. And by then, hours of daily wash and other manually intensive labors (which we were totally not used to), as well as a near-constant stream of visitors, made schooling pretty hit-or-miss for much longer than I would have liked.

We started the 2012-2013 school year in September and I did so with some trepidation. I wanted to get back into our routine of having a daily Circle Time with all the children, which normally includes reading aloud, singing, Scripture memory, “Training Times,” and so on. This time of teaching, direction, and family unity had become a greatly missed element of our homeschooling day.  Unfortunately, I found that particular habit somehow hard to re-establish, no matter how much I wanted to include it in our day. I think we might have had a dozen “Circle Times” throughout the year.

I also hoped to get beyond the Language Arts and Math basics that had been our routine. Don’t get me wrong, we were all learning plenty of new life skills and growing in our character, not to mention (sort of) learning Swahili, so there was lots we were doing that had great value and didn’t fit neatly into my “plan book.” And we didn’t entirely neglect electives…but I definitely wanted to step things up a notch.

As such, Marc and I decided early in 2013 to hire a wash lady to come in six days per week. It freed up a big chunk of my morning so that I could  focus on nurturing, discipling, and homeschooling the children. Even so, I wondered where the time went each day. We never seemed to get to that long list of things I wanted to “do” with the kids, and I started to worry about those dreaded “gaps” in their education. Would we ever get back into that old routine that had allowed us to accomplish so much? It seemed that the answer was no. In the early part of 2013, we hosted a steady stream of visitors. Just as we were recovering from that, Marc got in a motorbike accident and wrecked his knee, which put some burden on the family to help him out with a lot of daily functions. However, it was also a great opportunity to learn to serve cheerfully and put our faith into practice. There’s nothing like “life lessons!”

A month later,  I thought we’d get back to “normal,” but it just didn’t happen. Even though I wasn’t doing wash daily, meal preparation and housekeeping were still labor-intensive. As well, we continued to welcome steady streams of visitors who needed medical or food assistance–and of course, that operated on their schedules, not mine.

I spent much of our 2013-2014 school year still feeling like we just didn’t have the time. We did better, that’s for sure, but still didn’t manage to coordinate Circle Time very often and were still not as organized as I wanted to be with electives. Isaiah was now in 9th grade and I found that while we had excellent resources to get through the elementary and even middle school years, there was a gap as we entered high school. We had Math covered, but Language Arts was wanting. I thought we could use a free online website that boasted a pretty good high school syllabus, BUT our Internet just didn’t cooperate, so that was a disappointment. We made do with some intensive reading and writing, a GED preparation handbook, and occasional Internet-based studies. However, near the tail-end of the year, we ended up having a visitor who brought a high-school level Language Arts series of textbooks, which was a real blessing. Even so, I figured we might as well wait until  the new school year to begin it.

I also felt like my Littles weren’t getting enough attention. The big kids were kind of on “auto pilot” with a lot of their schoolwork, but I had a first-grader who was quite a reluctant reader, a pre-schooler who was ready to read (and I just didn’t have the time!), and in general I felt that all my younger children could use more of my attention. But I (we) were doing the best could…which was a frustration in itself. What could we possibly change up to make our homeschooling and family life more like what I thought it should be?

We ended up taking several months’ vacation this summer–something unusual to our homeschooling routine, for the last several years at least. We somehow have ended up schooling almost year-round, with days or weeks of as-needed to accommodate whatever was going on in “life.” I wondered if the break would be detrimental; the kids have always needed to retain some semblance of routine and productivity or else we end up dealing with behavioral issues, “boredom,” and so on. Not to mention serious complaining and struggle when we do try to get back in the groove. But I definitely needed a break, so…several months off it was.

I picked a random date of August 25 to start our new school year. I went in with little preparation, other than re-reading key sections of my old favorite, Homeschooling Year by Year (Rebecca Rupp), and tapping some random notes on possible schedule changes into a Word doc on my Android. I also purchased a few Kindle books, as I hoped to start Circle Time again with some regularity and needed a fresh read-aloud that our children of many differing ages could all enjoy.

We’re now almost at the end of our second week, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how smoothly things have gone. We’re accomplishing the basics, plus Circle Time, AND even electives every day, plus keeping up with house stuff and the regular demands of missionary life, without me feeling overwhelmed or like something is being sacrificed somewhere. I’m not sure how long this will continue, but I surely hope it does!

In trying to figure out just what allowed for this change (and why we weren’t able to accomplish it sooner), I see two significant things having occurred: The Sweazy family moved in next door in April and have become an integral part of the mission. Wanda, in particular, takes care of the regular medical needs of the needy in our community–something that had previously fallen to me.  Not only that, but I made a concerted  effort during the end of our last school year (and over our 3-month break) to train my older girls (ages 11 and 9) in many of the labor-intensive food preparation activities that I take care of on a daily basis. Thankfully, they have done well and are excited about the responsibility, which has removed a significant burden from me. (Incidentally, the start of the new school coincided with the beginning of our “30-day Challenge” to eat locally, which means greatly simplified menu options that either the girls or I can prepare).

I also realized that during our previous years here in Kenya, dealing with baby Enoch was probably quite a bit more time-intensive (and emotionally demanding) than I had realized. Suffice it to say, he was a rather difficult baby until he began to be able to toddle around at about 14 months, and even afterwards had a temperament which made it hard to smoothly integrate him into our school days. Now, however, I am pleased to say that at three years old, he is much better trained, and even excited to be doing his own “school” (which usually consists of copying shapes or drawings, writing random letters, and “reading” lots of books).

And so, I find myself simply thankful for “new beginnings” and am looking forward to what the Lord will do with this next year of homeschooling on the mission field.

 

 

 

 

What’s New, with Pictures

This week I got an email from my sweet sister, wondering why I haven’t written her in a while. She’s worried because she hasn’t heard from me! I had to assure her, I just haven’t emailed because really, life has been quite ordinary. (Notice I didn’t say, “Normal.”)  Since our “ordinary” doesn’t leave a lot of time for things like blogging,  as I was downloading our precious few photos from the camera (haven’t kept up with picture-taking, either) , I figured I’d update the blog with a few pics.

IMGA0812

Apparently my fame as a cake-maker has spread far and wide after the wedding of Charles and Ester at our house. A few weeks ago, one of our neighbors asked if I could make cakes for a Catholic wedding, a local man and woman who have been living as “married” (and have two young children) but have recently become a part of the church and wanted to make their union “official.” The larger cake was for all the guests to eat and the two smaller cakes were for the priest and for the bride and groom. I’ve never been a professional when it comes to cake decoration, and doing the work without good tools at my disposal is even more of a challenge (I did the writing with a syringe filled with frosting!), but everyone was happy with the effort. IMGA0811

And I don’t think you’ve been introduced to our Kitty. She is her Daddy’s girl and almost always comes to sleep next to him at night. Enoch terrorizes her (along with our other cat, Tiger). During the day she often trolls around looking for food and can be very sneaky in getting her share. Her favorites are meat and milk. When the boys came back from market the other day with a kilo of beef for supper, Kitty sniffed it out and perched herself on top of the backpack in an effort to claim it for her own dinner. Of course, we easily thwarted her attempt and put the beef safely in the kitchen drawer until it could be prepared.

IMGA0808

Speaking of Tiger, he and Kitty tend to be very patient with Enoch’s love of them, I think because he also feeds them during meal times. Here’s a photo of Enoch sharing his breakfast mandazi under the table:IMGA0816

Oh, but wait! He’s still hungry himself…

IMGA0815

Finally, here’s a recent shot of Jubilee, our 4 year-old, wearing her kitambaa “the Auntie Jane way.” (Auntie Jane is our neighbor and she always ties her kitambaa this way, which is different from how I do mine, but it looks cute on Jubie!) True to her name, Jubilee is usually all smiles (when she’s not stubbornly insisting upon getting her own way, particularly with her 6 year-old and 2 year-old brothers).

IMGA0814

Those are all my recent pictures, and some of the more ordinary happenings of our every day. God is good, all the time!

Prince Charming

I know, every mother thinks her baby is the cutest, the sweetest, the most precocious. Our Enoch, having just turned two, is at that stage where his baby-isms have won the hearts of  everyone in the family. We’re always sharing little stories of “what Enoch just did” and laughing about his antics and ways of saying things. But he hasn’t just charmed us…it has become more and more obvious to me that many in our little village are quite taken with him.

Zay and Enoch

Enoch hamming it up with his big brother

Enoch regularly goes across the street to Silas’s shop with one of his older siblings to fetch morning’s milk and other needed items. Mama Sharon (Silas’s wife) often sends him on his way with a “sweet” or an extra mandazi. When Silas was visiting the other day, he chuckled as he told Isaiah about how Enoch came for milk while Mama Sharon was still asleep in their little room off the shop. Apparently Enoch, who knows which side his bread is buttered on, wanted to find Mama Sharon, so he toddled into the bedroom and touched Mama Sharon’s face. When she didn’t respond, he simply pulled back the covers and climbed into bed with her! Eventually she got up and went into the shop to get him his treat for the day.

Yesterday when our home fellowship met, I was saying good-bye to an older Mama who has just begun visiting with us. She speaks no English, so we haven’t gotten much beyond greetings and small talk. However, she shook my hand and then offered a hand to Enoch, whom I was holding. Surprisingly, she greeted him by name, and in response to her “habari” salutation (generally, “How are you doing?”), he properly responded, “Mzuri!” (“Fine!”) Her pleasure was more than evident, and she went on her way with a smile.

Florence couldn’t wait to take Enoch from me after our morning’s fellowship time. She asked to bring Enoch to her place, where (as I heard reported from the other littles) she washed his face, hands, and feet, then gave him some chai and a sweet. While there, he also got carried around by his favored Marie (Florence’s daughter, who is 13). Whenever Marie comes over to play, she more often than not has Enoch on her hip or is pushing him in the swing.

Many mornings as we begin our day, the neighborhood children come down the path on their way to school. If Enoch chances to be outside, he greets everyone by name: “Eh, Marie!”, “Eh, Dori!”, “Eh, Rosie!” And of course, they respond with giggles as they continue on their way.  (Marc and I were discussing the other day how multipurpose, “Eh” is. Depending on the inflection, the length of the syllable, and the accompanying facial expression or body language, it has a range of meanings. It is used to convey greeting, make general acknowledgement, or express surprise, indignation, and uncertainty, or even impart correction. I could probably write a whole post about, “Eh!” But I digress.)

Enoch also loves our neighbor, Mama Manu, who comes nearly every day to do wash. He is eager to “help” her and show her things he is doing, and his antics often, of course, make her smile. Her daughter, Nila (eight months younger than Enoch, but the same size) is his favorite friend. When she comes with Mama Manu, Enoch drapes his arm around her neck, tries to hug her, and gives her his books and toys to play with. Unfortunately, when she doesn’t respond to his gestures, he’s also been known to hit her with whatever book or implement he is trying to offer her. We’re working on that. Even so, Mama Manu is often found shaking her head over Enoch and I frequently hear her say, “Enoch, you are funny!” She even knows how to translate many of his Enoch-isms, which sometimes are English, sometimes Swahili, often a mix, and rarely perfectly enunciated.

But by far, Enoch’s favorite is our neighbor, Auntie Jane. Enoch is potty training, and these days he’s often found walking around without pants. I try to keep him in a long shirt, for modesty’s sake, but sometimes, his wardrobe is limited and we just go with the flow. I try to keep him in the house if he’s not presentable, but whenever Auntie Jane walks by outside, she usually shouts, “Wapi Enoch?” (“Where is Enoch?”) and of course, wherever he  is, he RUNS to the gate to greet her. And she always obliges by picking him up and greeting him (even if he is pants-less), and talking to him about whatever she is doing. When she comes to the house to visit, she often ends up engaged in a game of hide-and-seek with Enoch, who positions himself under the table or around the corner and asks, “Wapi me, Aunt Jane?” He regularly gets picked up to go over to Auntie Jane’s house, where she or Nyanya (“Grandmother”) make him chai or roast him some maize, one of his favorite treats.

IMG_0298

Enoch and Auntie Jane in the early days of their friendship. Even at 10 months, he wasn’t too young to enjoy molasses candy after she came back from the market.

Indeed, children are a blessing from the Lord. Watching Enoch thrive here in Kenya is just one more reminder of how fast these days fly by and how thankful we need to be for the way each one fills a special place in the family, and in our larger community.

 

Just Another Day

Yesterday Silas decided that we needed to board his new punda (donkeys) for the night, since he was out late with them and didn’t have time to bring them all the way to his own shamba. It made for an interesting night, as our new visitors attracted several wild dogs, who barked back and forth over the fence with our dog for quite a long time. (Or maybe it just seemed like a long time because I wanted to be sleeping and wasn’t.)

For some reason I ended up getting up much earlier than I wanted (not quite 6:00) and went into the kitchen to make my coffee. Unfortunately, we were out, so I settled for making myself hot chocolate. I sat down for some quiet time, then Jubilee (age 4, almost always the first one up) joined me on the couch. We went into the kitchen and started preparing a pineapple, scrambling some eggs, and putting bread in the oven for toast. Marc was up early, too, and he was going off to teach his weekly Kingdom Discipleship class, so I wanted to get breakfast ready in time for him to leave.

Deborah and Enoch went off to Silas’s shop to get our morning milk for tea, Marc and some of the kids went out chain the dog, open up the chicken coop, and get all the critters fed. Rebekah set the table, and (as is typical) Silas showed up just as breakfast hit the table. Even though it is our regular house-cleaning day (when most everything around the house gets done), Isaiah talked me into letting him go with Silas to run the punda on an errand. I asked how long he’d be gone (“an hour,” which in Africa is probably more like three) and gave him permission to go, provided he’d be ready to work at home when he returned. He put his scrambled eggs in a bag and ran down the path after the donkeys and cart.

The rest of us ate, cleaned up the mess, and sat down for morning devotions. After our family time, I mobilized the troops for work: Jonah and Rebekah cleared out the sitting room to wash the floor, Deborah stacked the dining chairs and prepared to do the floor in our eat-in area, Hannah started on the bathroom, and Micah and Jubilee tag-teamed on the dishes. I brought our small throw-rugs from the doorways outside and washed them, then brought out the large living room rug to beat and wash (using Isiaah’s pressure washer, of course!).  While I was outside, our neighbor (“Auntie Jane”) passed by and Enoch caught up with her at the gate. He LOVES Auntie Jane and he always makes her smile–especially now that he’s started saying her name (though more like, “Ah Jay!”) and asking, “Me go Ah Jay?” So of course he asked to go with her and she happily obliged. I figured he’d end up having chai with Nya Nya (“Grandmother,” Jane’s mother), and it would give me some good time to work without constantly looking around to see what the little man was up to.

Once I came in the floors all looked clean and dry, so I had the kids put everything back where it belonged and put several of them to work again on clearing out the veranda for a sweep and wash. Isaiah showed up and I had him empty out the kitchen so I could wash the floor in there (but keep in mind, clean is relative here in Kenya!). I started making some dough for mandazi (sort of a non-sweet donut that is commonly eaten for breakfast here). I needed to make a big batch for our house church meeting tomorrow morning. We used to have a fellowship meal on Saturday nights, but recently switched to early morning chai and mandazi on Sunday. Just as I started frying the first pan full, Silas showed up with a young lady in need of medical attention for her foot.

Just about everyone goes barefoot here, even when they shouldn’t (like when milking cows and standing in cow dung), so foot problems are very common. This girl had one toe nail almost coming off, with blood and swelling. I cleaned it up but knew she’d need some antibiotics as well. While I worked, I asked Isaiah to call our local chemist, who is an absolute God-send. She knew exactly what the problem was and could give me what I needed, but she wouldn’t be at her shop in town for about another hour (which was probably more like two or three; remember–this is Africa). I asked Isaiah if he wanted to go into town or have her ship it by piki piki when she had it available, but he was more than happy to get out of housework and run an errand for me. I asked the young lady to return at 3 PM, thinking that would give us way more than enough time to get what we needed for her. I made Isaiah a short market list and he went off with Jonah, who by now had finished his part of the work on the veranda. Turned out that everyone was done with their morning’s work and were begging to go to Auntie Jane’s, too. The only one staying home was Rebekah, who was anxious to read a book on the Kindle.

I continued to make the mandazi, thankful for the unexpected quiet.  Jubilee returned home once to fetch a plastic bag; Auntie Jane wanted to send me some sweet potatoes. She also reported that everyone was enjoying a snack of roasted maize. By now it was just about 11:30 and I had about half of the mandazi done. Rebekah was asking where everyone went (a sure sign she was bored). I asked if she wanted to take over with the mandazi, and she was happily agreed. By lunch time, she was finished and our count on the mandazi approached 100, which should be just about enough:

IMGA0787

Everyone came home at lunch time, but after all the maize at Auntie Jane’s, no one was really hungry. This meshed perfectly with my plans, which had not yet included any thought of food preparation. Realizing that no meal was to be had and most of the housework was (surprisingly) already finished, Deborah and Hannah started re-organizing the veranda while some other miscellaneous pick-ups got done. Isaiah and Jonah made it back from town without the medicine, since the chemist was late coming to her shop after all.

The kids bolted to our other neighbor, Henry’s, where he has a foundation hole that the community kids all love to play in. Unfortunately, that would mean that everyone would come home dirty, but I figured I’d deal with that later. Ever the engineer, Isaiah stayed behind to work on his most recent project–building a lap-sized weaving loom. In not too long, a piki piki arrived with the medicine–not too much before 2 PM. I started to bring in the laundry, as clouds threatened and the afternoon rains looked like they were coming. By 3:00, I had sorted wet from dry, started dicing vegetables for spaghetti sauce for supper, and then took a break to give the young lady her medicine. (Isaiah noted, with surprise, that she arrived just on time!) Deborah brought over one of the kids who was playing at Henry’s who had gotten a small cut on his toe, so I cleaned and Band-Aided it.

Marc came home from his class, I collected all the kids for afternoon jobs, boiled some water for a few necessary baths, and now I’m blogging as the spaghetti noodles cook.

Just another day here in Kenya…

Family Game Plan: Clinic Day

Up until now, my de-worming clinic effort has been conducted fairly quietly. (I wasn’t even sure that the majority of the children knew that there was something going on.) So today we finally had a “family meeting,” and I explained that I was going to be working at the church tomorrow to provide assistance to children and families in our community. I asked the kids if they thought they could do anything to help, and if they would be interested in serving. I was pleasantly surprised with the response, as they all agreed that they would like to be involved.

Of course, Isaiah and Jonah have already been of help, going to town to pick up supplies for me. They went on Tuesday to get the medicine and some rubber gloves. Today I realized that the older kids taking  tablets might want some water to drink, and we all agreed that a candy upon leaving would be a nice treat for the kids. So, the boys went back to town today to get a new pitcher (ours having lost its cover long ago and recently sprung a crack anyway), some paper cups, and bags of candy. Unfortunately, our neighborhood chemist was unable to procure the cups and there’s no where else in our village that has them, so I texted Marc a request to pick some up in town on his way home–he’s visiting a house church pretty far away in West Pokot today. I’m hoping that we’ll be able to get them, but if we have to resort to washing and re-using regular cups that’s okay, too; only a minor inconvenience.

So here’s the game plan we agreed upon: as people come into the clinic tomorrow, the younger children will act as “greeters” (all the African Mamas love greeting the little wazungu!). I’m sure blond, chubby little Enoch (age 2) will be a favorite. The trick will be keeping him out of trouble, so Rebekah is the designated greeter and “baby watcher.” Isaiah is going to staff the table and determine ages of children and the necessary doses of medicine. (Children under two take only half of the “single dose” bottle of liquid. If tablets, ages up to 4 take one, ages 5-12 take two, and 13+ take three). Rose and I will oversee and assist with medicine distribution. Deborah and Hannah will serve water to those who want it, and Jonah is the self-appointed “candy man.” If the littles start getting into too much trouble, they’ll either go outside to play or go home with one of the older kids (it’s particularly convenient being right across the street!)

Today I need to make up some sort of sign to announce the clinic. Publicizing an event like this is one of the challenges, as it really only happens through word-of-mouth, and I don’t know how effective we have been/will be with that aspect of it. However, from what I gather, things like this end up like Field of Dreams (“If you build it, they will come.”) I’m hoping that as a small number come in, it will attract others and the word will quickly get around. We’ll see…

The kids are already asking if they can come help with the larger clinic in the village center. That would be a logistical challenge, considering our family dynamics and the fact that the only method of transport is piki piki (motorbike). So that remains to be seen. But as to tomorrow, everyone is excited and ready to go!

Enoch goes to town

Enoch loves his big brothers’ Suzuki and when they go off to the market on it, he can often be seen staring longingly after them at the gate. When Dad starts up the Yamaha, he stands behind it and puts his hand to the exhaust or tries to maneuver his foot onto the footrest to climb up onto the seat. Occasionally, he puts on his shoes and dons a bike helmet, thinking that maybe someone will get the hint and take him for a ride. Aside from spins around the yard with his big brothers, though, his motorbike dreams have gone unfulfilled.

Until Monday.

He had his last immunizations in America just before we moved and I was advised that he could wait until age 2 to get further updates. Well, he turned 2 in June and so the time had come. I especially wanted to get his tetanus booster, as he is very active outdoors, often forgets his shoes, and there is the occasional rusty nail sticking out of a board abandoned by one of his big brothers, in pursuit of one project or another. There was the small matter of transportation into town, however, as we no longer have our family car. So it was decided that Marc and I would take Enoch into the village sandwiched between us on the Yamaha, after which we would hire a car into town to visit the doctor.

Enoch couldn’t contain his excitement as we prepared for the trip on Monday morning. As we made final preparations and left orders for the big kids remaining at home, he loitered around the yard and stood beside the motorbike…waiting…waiting…and finally, the big moment arrived! Off we went…

enoch going to town

It was a long, s-l-o-w few miles’ ride into the village. It had rained all the night before and the road was recently graded, so we slipped and slid our way along, with Marc occasionally putting his feet to the ground and walking us along. Enoch held on tight, his excitement never waning, his head turning from side to side to take in all the sights: donkey carts, sheep and cows grazing, chickens running across the road, lots of foot traffic, shops, and fellow motor bikes.

I breathed a sigh of relief when we dropped off the motorbike and crammed into a private car for the trip into town. Another vvrrrm was just as much an adventure for Enoch and the mini-mzungu got lots of attention.

I can’t say he enjoyed getting his shots, but I had packed a lollipop just for that purpose and it was a suitable diversion. Then we went across the street to another doctors’ office, where Marc had met up with Tonny (his translator) and Tonny’s wife. Jennifer has been having medical issues and the care she has received at the district hospital hasn’t really been adequate to diagnose and treat the problem, so Marc got a referral to a good private physician to try to find a solution. We hung out there for a while, then Marc and Tonny went to the Agro-Vet next door to get a rabies vaccine for our dog. (They have rabies clinics here, but only about once per year, and that was another issue that I have been thinking needed remedying.) Turns out that Marc could get the vaccine and do it himself (which is no problem for him, though I probably wouldn’t want to), but he had to buy 10 at a time, versus just the one we need. However, that’s still cheaper than having the vet come out to our place for a personal visit.

Once we were done at the doctor’s, the three of us did some shopping and picked up a few items we can’t get at the local market: ghee; vinegar; hairbrushes for the girls (can’t seem to keep tabs on our single brush, and they were surprisingly only 12 shillings each!); of course, pizza fixings for supper, and THIS for Enoch:

Camera(19)

At two years, two months, he’s the oldest Carrier baby to *not* be potty-trained, but he’s terrified of the outhouse and hiking out there when the need arises (not at all predictable at this age, and not very much notice, either) isn’t conducive to the process. So this little pot (at just over $1) should suit nicely.

Finally, a nice restaurant lunch for the three of us. Enoch was very chatty as we sat down to eat…this was a rare treat, to be sure. We all enjoyed the fish fillet, fries, and Fanta, and then we got back in a car to head for home. Another nervous (on my part) ride down our dirt road, and Enoch entered the house just about beaming. I think he wished he had more words to tell his siblings all about his days’ excitement!

The day wasn’t over for Marc, who vaccinated our dog and then made the rounds to our neighbors and gave all the local dogs shots as well. I mobilized the kids to make pizza–Deborah is our cheese-grater and Rebekah makes the sauce. I do the dough, and all the littles help assemble when the ingredients are ready.

Pizza…yum! A fitting end to Enoch’s adventuresome day.

Password Reset

Please enter your e-mail address. You will receive a new password via e-mail.