Friday, August 18, 2017

Our trip to America-byTyson Fey

Part 1
The first part of our trip was to the Huismans, our beloved friends. I’ve known their daughter, Jenna, my whole life. She is 5 weeks older than me and we have been friends ever since I was born. It took us 30 minutes to get to their house from the airport. The first thing we did was say hi to uncle Jon who was busy working on a neighbor’s roof and couldn’t come to the airport to get us. Then we ate and went to bed. In the morning, we got up and watched a show. And it was pretty much like that the whole time.

They had a pet snake named Leche. He was a milk snake. He ate baby mice that were frozen. It was cool to see him eat the mouse.

Another day we rode bikes to the ice cream place, it was called Ice Cream Alley. They had very good ice cream there!!! I got cookies and cream. We rode home on the path to get to our old house. It was so fun!!

 Some of the days we would do something special; I think the second or third day we watched Beauty and the Beast [the new one]. We also opened presents for our birthdays and I got a fidget spinner, a Lego set, clothes, a ball that bounces on water, and candy. It was so fun opening presents.

 Another time we helped with their roof by picking up the scraps, we got paid for that. We also picked up nails and every nail counted as a cent. We got like 1800 or 1900 nails but uncle Jon rounded it off and we got 21 dollars. I got paid 15 dollars for picking up scraps and 7 dollars for picking up nails.

 We also went to get some groceries at some different grocery stores on different days.

 We went to a bounce place called Airtime where you could jump on trampolines. It was so fun but we only went there for an hour. I was so tired after we were done. There was a rock climbing thing, an obstacle course, a flipping trampoline, a balance beam that you could fight on, and just some regular tramps that you could jump on.

Then on the last day we stayed there we went to a drag race. The cars were so loud!!!!!!!! Then after that we went to the back to look at the different cars. There was one called the black pearl, it had a jet engine. I got to go in a dragster that was owned by an 11 year old!! She drove that one on the track. We didn’t get to see the black pearl because it started to rain, so that meant that the race was over. Then came our last day we took pics with them, then they left to go to the lake. We stayed till Sunday at their house, then left for the Vangilders and Oarabile.

 Part 2

After our trip with the Huismans we met up with the Vangilders in Iowa. We had to wait for them to come because we got there first. Then they came and we said hi and all that stuff.

 We talked, ate and then they opened presents that we made for them. Then the kids went to bed and we told ghost stories. I got scared, but I managed to go to bed.

We also played a lot and had fun while playing. We would play outside and all that.

We then woke up ate and went to the lake that was there. We saw a dead fish, it was so puffed up and stinky from being in the water for so long, and we also went peddle boating.

Then we went home and we made a movie. The movie was about us hunting ghosts, it was so fun. We made it outside, in the basement and in the garage of the house that we stayed in. While we were making the movie, we heard and felt scary stuff, what I’m trying to say is that the house felt haunted.

We watched The Pacifier. Then went to bed.

On one of the days we went to this town called Amana. It was boring but I still had fun. What made it fun was that there was a sample at like every place we went to in that town.

The next morning, we woke up and then went to the park that was there. We went there to see fireworks and a magic show, the show was crappy, the fireworks were loud. It all took place at night. We also ate dairy queen, which was so good!!! Then we went to sleep.

The next day we said good bye and left for Minnesota.

On our way to my grandma and grandpa’s house we stopped to see Oarabile. We only stayed there one night, we stayed at her grandparent’s house.

Seeing her was so fun. I would follow her around on her wheelchair and pretend that I was sitting on it. It was so funny because she was laughing so hard. I had a lot of fun seeing her. I have to say it twice because it was so fun!!!!!!!!

 We then went to their house, and stayed there for an hour or so and then left for my grandparents.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Back in South Africa Again

It has been a long time since I wrote! We are safely back in South Africa. Our re-entry has been a little bumpy, which has kept me from writing sooner. We landed late Saturday night, walked into our house and found out we didn't have electricity. Our power wasn't restored until Tuesday afternoon, so getting on line and writing a blog wasn't really high on my priority list. Once the power came back on we were able to go and buy groceries. This was difficult as we were having car problems, which were only solved on Wednesday when we replaced the battery. We are thankful that was the only issue!

Being back here is good, but hard. When we were in the states it was easy to tell people "South Africa is our home", but home is not only a place; it is also made up of people and many of the people that make us feel "at home" are now far away. Like really, really far away. Yet we also have many people we love here and as we reconnect with them again, our hearts will start to feel a bit more settled.

Tyson and Jori slept over at friends last night and are staying again tonight. Seeing people they missed while we were in the states is the best thing for them right now as they are both missing their friends and family in America. They were old enough this year to really understand what they are missing out on by living on a different continent. Giving our kids an "alternative" childhood is an issue Darin and I continue to struggle with. We know that there are pros and cons to living overseas, and we have to keep giving this struggle back over to God, trusting that He knows and loves Tyson and Jori and holds the present and future in His hands.

Two funny observations since being back: the kids were in our bathroom and both said that the water pressure was low because there wasn't very much water in the toilet bowl after flushing it. At first it looked that way to me as well until I remembered that our toilet bowl is always that low. Toilet bowls in America are just way more full. In the grocery store, Jori was picking out a bag of chips. She had one in her hand, then put it back. She said she wanted to get the "big bag" instead... she had forgotten that in South Africa the one she had picked up WAS the big bag. No super sized snacks here!

I also kind of left everyone hanging without an update on my nephew, Sawyer. I am so thankful I was able to fly out and be with my family while Sawyer was still in the hospital. I arrived in Oregon on Sunday evening and stayed with my sister, Kristi, at the Ronald McDonald House (so amazing!) until Sawyer was discharged that Wednesday afternoon. I stayed at Kristi's house until Friday when Darin and the kids arrived from the reunion in Washington. It is amazing to think about where Sawyer was when I arrived that Sunday and the progress he made while we were in Oregon and that he continues to make even now. He is wearing a halo and vest to protect his neck as it heals, and will keep this on for another 2 months. He is in Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy and these will continue even after the halo is removed as he will need to work to strengthen the muscles that aren't being used at this time. Sawyer is really doing well, considering his injuries, but being in a halo isn't fun and he still has a lot of recovery ahead of him. Please keep praying!

I will get back to writing about our time in the states, and also have the kids writing about the trip from their perspective, so stay tuned!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Friends along the way

Between our time in Michigan and Minnesota, we stopped to visit two families with connections to South Africa. Our first stop was just outside of Iowa City, Iowa, a midpoint we had chosen as a meeting place with our friends, the Van Gilders. We met Tim and Athena soon after we moved to South Africa in 2011. Their family had arrived the week before ours, and with children of similar ages, a son 1 day younger than Tyson, a daughter 6 months younger than Jori and baby Zeke, we quickly became friends. It was a blessing to experience life in South Africa with another family from the states. We often had sleepover swaps with the kids, date nights with the adults and lots of Sunday afternoons spent together. The Van Gilders were also a huge blessing to our family when we moved to Tshepo ya Bana, often bringing special treats for the whole gang there, including Thanksgiving dinner!

We only had a few days with our friends, but it was great to catch up. As soon as they arrived, the kids were running around and catching up on lost time. We spent most of Monday at a local lake and everyone enjoyed swimming and hiking. Ok, the hiking was not such a hit and we barely made it back with all the whining and carrying on, but we survived! Our kids and theirs love the water, so Athena and I even managed to sit and talk for a little bit while everyone else cooled off in the lake. It was really cool how our kids just hit it off again. They watched movies and made movies; shot hoops and shot nerf guns at each other. The adults spent a lot of time talking and keeping the 4 year old addition, J, entertained.

On the 4th we went to the Amana Colonies. The Amana are like the Amish, but totally not. We ate cheese, sampled wine, ate meat and chocolate and missed out on taking our picture in a giant rocking chair, but still, it was fun. We went to the local 4th of July gathering that night, watched a horrible magic show, ran to DQ for ice cream, then came back and watched the fire works.

Wednesday morning the kids were all up early to finish their movie while the adults packed the cars. We are SO SO SO glad that Tim, Athena, Caden, Haley, Zeke and J were all willing to make the trip out to spend time with us. It was wonderful catching up with our American friends from South Africa!!

We left Iowa City and headed north towards Duluth, Minnesota to meet up with a special little lady who used to live with us. Many of you are sure to remember Oarabile and will remember that she was adopted by a family from Minnesota last year. There was no way we were going to be within driving distance of Pete, Lexi, Miss O and M and not stop to see them! It was amazing to see how far Oara has come. She has a power wheelchair and watching her drive it completely by herself was mind blowing. I could not stop watching her. She was also busy reading all of the letters on Darin's shirt and she can spell her name. Again we were just overwhelmed with the assurance of how God had a plan for this little girl and we are so privileged to be a small part of it.

The kids loved seeing their Oara again, especially Jori. It almost took me by surprise at first, but then I was remembering how often Jori and Oara would do things together when she was with us, so I shouldn't have been surprised at all. It was also so good to hear from Pete and Lexi how things have been since being back in the states and just spending time getting to know them more. We only had one evening and the morning with them, but we packed a lot in. Now we can picture things in their house and imagine Oara playing with her sissy there. Thank you for hosting us!!!

We are in Minnesota now visiting Darin's family and I will be writing about our time here soon. We are leaving here on Sunday and the time has gone by too fast. Again, we have packed in tons and will be leaving with so many wonderful memories to look back on.

If you could just pray for my family though. My nephew, Sawyer, was in an accident and has sustained serious injuries, including a broken neck. You can visit his caring bridge site here to find out more: Darin and his parents will be driving to Washington state on Sunday to head to a family reunion and I am going to also be heading west, but will be flying to Oregon to be with my sister and the rest of my family. It isn't what we had planned on, but I am SO thankful that we are in the US right now and not overseas. Thanks for praying.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

See you next time, West Michigan

Well, we wrapped up our final morning in Hudsonville earlier today and are now just outside of Iowa City, Iowa, waiting to see the Van Gilder family!

West Michigan, you were so good to us. Our time in the US has been so much more relaxing and restful and right this time around. I am not sure if we are just more settled into our South African life, if we planned the timing better (like arriving on a Thursday and having time to rest instead of Saturday night and heading out the door for a full Sunday like we did 3 years ago), or if we had our expectations in a better place, but for whatever reasons, this trip has been going a lot smoother. And you all know that when I say "we" I really mean "me" because Darin and the kids are just more even keeled than I am.

I will be posting pictures later, but I have been putting a bunch on Facebook and Instagram when I've had a few odd moments to do so. Our time was PACKED, but also so relaxed. I think it felt packed because it was just so good and full and filling and just right.

This time, rather than entering a grocery store and feeling like I was going to lose my marbles, I managed to go into Family Fare, Meijer, Target and Rite Aid without losing it. I did feel a bit overwhelmed with all the options and trying to just find a regular bottle of lotion and some underwear was almost my undoing, but somewhere along the line I have developed coping mechanisms. Go me.

I felt like a fun person. This was big. I had my moments when I could feel tiredness creeping in, but for the most part, I held it together like a grown up and just enjoyed the moment. Riding a bike to the ice cream store, painful but fun. Let's go a step further and ride around the old bike path that ends on our old cul-de-sac. I can totally do this AND talk to my old neighbor Cory without acting like a total psycho. Shopping in thrift stores, yep, it's my thing. Granted I thought Rachel left me a couple times and kind of felt a bit like I might have a panic attack, but I reigned it in. After all, Jenna and Jori were with me, so I could just lean into the little buggers when I was feeling anxious.

I even managed to be fun and nice to people other than the Huismans, which was a bit of a stretch for me three years ago. We had a great time reconnecting with people from Evergreen Ministries and old small group people as well. I even had a sleepover with my college girls and it was such a good time. Did I make myself sound like being mean to children and keeping the in their place was my goal in life?? Probably, but I think one of the reasons I managed this trip better is that I have learned to hold back in some areas and keep some vulnerable stuff a bit more protected as I am working through it in my mind instead of just throwing out a ton of verbal throw-up. The holding in process sometimes leads to other thoughts seeping to the forefront of my mind and out my mouth before I can stop them :)

I feel like I had my eyes more open this time. 3 years ago we were kind of still limping along a bit and feeling a bit sore as our original plans for moving to South Africa hadn't panned out and we were in a bit of a transitional time at TYB, so I was super focused on ME and MY NEEDS and LISTEN TO ME as I complain and compare and castigate you all. A real party for all involved. This time I feel like I had a softer heart. I think as I've inched closer to 40 I've finally matured a bit and have realized that everyone out there has a story and everyone out there has issues and struggles, high points and lows, and lots of people are doing really cool stuff - like being available to others instead of caring only for their own lives- and they haven't moved to Africa to do it.

We had planned to go to church this morning to say goodbye to a few folks, and I am super bummed we didn't make it, but we had plumbing issues and "plumbing issues" if you know what I mean and things just didn't go as planned. Three years ago that probably would have made me cry and rant, but we've all learned to roll with it. West Michigan, we will miss you. Your air smells so fresh, your grass is so green and your people are amazing.

Minnesota, we're coming for you, we just have a few things to do along the way!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Where has the time gone?

Six years ago we arrived in this country with you, our 6 year old boy and 4 year old girl. During our first week, we celebrated your birthdays; Ty-ty turning 7 and Jori turning 5. Our blonde haired, blue eyed babes, getting older, but still so little and sweet.

This kid.

Just like brother.
And now today, we suddenly have a teenager in the house. Tyson Alan we are celebrating you turning 13 today. Where has the time gone? No really, where has the time gone? How did you go from this little 7 year old boy to a young man? 

Today I watched you dance in front of a crowd of children and adults from our neighborhood. There was a time not so long ago that you would not have dared to put yourself out there, but lately your brave side is shining through. Whether it is dancing or putting out a fire with your mama. You know, a fire that you told me was going to get out of control, but mother knows best, right?

Our "little" garbage fire burned half the field!
You were so scared, yelling "We are going to die" as I yelled at you to get more towels to beat the flames. "We have to call someone, mom. We cannot do this ourselves." Oh buddy, you were so right. Thank God for our neighbor, Lameck, who ran out with some buckets and took on one side of the fire by himself while you and I beat the flames around the electrical pole with wet pieces of Nala's bedding. You were scared, but you did. not. give. up. You didn't. You fought through your fear and you stepped up and stamped out that fire.

This boy! Smart and Brave!
Sweet sissy. Turning 11 in 2 days; following after your big brother as you do in so many ways. Yet you are also becoming Miss Independent. You have spent more of your life in South Africa than you did in the US, and you are definitely our American-African girl.

This is your first year being at school alone and you have handled it like a pro. It wasn't easy for you as you have come to depend on your big brother more than you like to let on, but we see you there, shining your own bright light each day as your head off to school. 

Fierce and Funny
You have what some might call "personality plus". You are entering the moody pre-teen stage, which scares this mama too much, but your sweetness and spunk are what shine brightest. Your pjs have a hood with ears and you love to wear it around and call yourself "The Living Teddy Bear". The Living Teddy Bear loves hugs. And cuddles. And kisses. And lots of them!

I'm The Living Teddy Bear and I like Warm Hugs
As we get ready to head back the US for only the 2nd time in 6 years, I find myself thinking about the two of you and wondering who you would be if we hadn't moved here, but I don't think about it too much because I love who you are. Brave and Kind. Fiery and Sweet. I hope you will look out for each other no matter what continent we are on. You are spectacular on your own, but even better together. 

Brother and Sister. Best Friends Forever. 

Friday, June 9, 2017

Almost time.

It is Friday night, June 9. We are flying to the states in less than 2 weeks. Time is flying and it shows no sign of slowing down. The stomach flu is over, or at least we are hoping it is. Darin had a resurgence on Saturday night, but we think it was actually a case of food poisoning. Our dead mouse count is up to 6 as the kids found an already deceased rodent behind a kitchen cupboard last week. The other mice are thwarting our best efforts to kill them, eating crackers, cheese and peanut butter off of the trap without actually snapping the trap on themselves. Clever little buggers.

We are dealing with a lot of stuff right now, including a lot of pain in my family with the death of my nephews' dad earlier this week. It is hard to be away from family, but I am so thankful that this is the year we are heading home for a visit. It is time to just be together with those we love, away from the hustle and bustle here in South Africa.

We are looking forward to seeing family and friends, but there is also a lot of anxiety. Darin seems to be the most worry free, but that is his nature. I am recalling our last visit home and how some things did not go as expected and I worry that those awkward moments will happen again. The kids are showing their anxiety in different ways, with Tyson asking a million and one questions about all the things and Jori becoming quite sullen and moody; or maybe that is just her preteen hormones at work.

On the 16th Tyson will be turning 13 and on the 18th Jori will be 11. Where has the time gone? We will be celebrating on the 17th at Butterfly. I will provide cake, as Jori has requested, and will be asking friends to help with the rest, as even the cake making has me feeling a bit overwhelmed at this point. I'll do it for my girl though!

The 11th marks 6 years since we flew to South Africa on this grand adventure. There have been a lot of ups and downs in our lives and in our work. We came for 3 years initially, planning to be here for 5, and now year 6 is almost in the books. We don't know what God has in store for us, but we are choosing to trust and go forward day by day.

We look forward to seeing many of you soon.

Friday, June 2, 2017

And then it was June

These last few weeks have been hard. Now, we all have hard in our lives and some hard is like mind- blowingly painful and some is just the every day kind of stuff that piles up and buries a body under its weight. What is hard for one person might seem like a cakewalk to someone else. This is some of the physical, real life hard we've been dealing with. I might get around to posting some of the emotional/mental hard, but not sure if I can emotionally/mentally deal with it, so wait and see!

We still have mice. Yep. We've killed three (the bag'em and drown'em method) and thought that was the end of it, but we were wrong. Those who are left behind are brazen; running past us while we watch TV, chewing away at things behind kitchen cupboards while we peer at them with a flashlight; and they poop a lot. It's everywhere. It is gross. When mixed with their urine, it is messy and sticky.

**Update: 2 more mice have been caught and killed since I started this post. I repeat, 2 more mice have been caught and killed.**

We have had the stomach flu. Tyson went down first on Thursday night, but he recovered quickly.  Then we had Amo over on Saturday night and it was puke and poop-a-geddon. All over the sofa, multiple blankets and a few changes of clothing. It also got on Darin's face (don't ask), which led to him getting sick on Sunday night and feeling miserable until Tuesday. In between Amo and Darin, our washing machine broke, with a load of poo and puke covered clothes inside. While Darin was out buying a new washer, while feeling like crud himself, Tyson and I drained and carried out the old washer, finding lots of mouse turd treasures in the laundry room. Such a treat. I went to a meeting on Tuesday and ended up with such a bad case of the chills that I was shaking and had blue lips. It was sudden and strange, but I drove home and went right to bed. I've had a bit of a headache and some head cold symptoms, but no tummy troubles (yet). Wednesday after school Jori said her tummy hurt and sure enough, she was hanging over a bowl the rest of the night.

So in the wee hours of Thursday morning, Jori is on the sofa and we are in bed and the phone wakes us up just after 1. It's Amo's mom calling to say that Amo is having a seizure. While we are talking the seizure stops so we say we'll call back and check how she is in 10 minutes. Darin calls back and all is well. Then at 1:45, another call, another seizure. This one seems worse, so Darin heads out to act as hospital transport and support. At the hospital the seizure was controlled with meds and Amo's vitals all came back to normal, but she was admitted for observation. The hospital is never a great option for Amo as she doesn't receive proper care when she is there. Some of the nurses expect her to "act her age" and it is hard to get people to understand the severity of her disability and what she can and cannot do. Darin dropped Annah of to catch a bit of sleep at home (there are no beds for moms at the hospital, they sleep on the floor on whatever blankets they bring from home) and he made it back home and came to bed at 6.

Thursday was just a quiet sort of day, but heavy. Jori was on curled up on the couch, Tyson was busy with school work and wood working in the garage, Darin slept late after being gone all night. It was June 1. JUNE!!!! There is so much to get done before leaving South Africa and so much to prepare for heading to America. We visited Amo at the hospital and she was tired, but looking good. Hopefully everything will go well  and she will be discharged on Friday, but having her be in the hospital again just reminds us how fragile her little life is. We also know that her family is perfectly able to handle things on their own, but they are like family to us and you want to be around to help your family.

It is now Friday, June 2. Jori is back at school, Tyson is complaining that it is Friday and he shouldn't have to do any school work. Darin and I hope to get some stuff cleared out at the new Distribution Centre (DC). Yeah, I forgot to mention that over the last 2 weeks we've moved out of our old office/distribution space and moved to a better location in Hammanskraal. It is something we are happy about, but moving takes a lot of effort.

Afternoon now and I have been out most of the day. We did some quick work at the DC, and then I chased people around by phone and in my car to get paperwork from them that was due today at 2. Frustrating to say the least. I also made some deliveries of porridge and also a gas stove to one of the centres. The Take Action truck has been out of commission for over a month and our cars have both been getting a lot of extra use. We hope to upgrade our gray car when we get back as we need something higher off the ground. The roads to most of our centres are terrible and after 6 years of hard driving and dirt roads going to Tshepo ya Bana and now around town, the time is coming for an upgrade (we hope!!) After driving around I went back to the DC to leave our car for the driver to use, Darin picked me up and we went to the hospital. Amo was discharged at 3. So we took her and her mom home, then made it back to our place. I did a little computer work, then it was back out to pick up our car and now I am back at the computer.

Tomorrow night our kids have a sleepover at church. They both invited friends along. We will have Amo overnight as her family is expanding their house. Super exciting for them, but lots of work and mess and drafty spaces until it is finished, so we get some more time with Mozie Pozie! Family Frenzy after church on Sunday and then it all starts over again on Monday morning.

So we are over here, tired, sore, but still standing.