Monday, January 30, 2012

Random Thoughts and News of the Week

I'm sure you've all missed my thought filled posts, so here are a few things that have been swirling about in my head these past few days. I'm going to start with a few things that I find irritating in this country. Let's start with the cooking spray. In the states, I was too cheap to buy Pam, but even the off brand cooking spray did what it was supposed to do; it coated the pan. When I spray my can of Cook 'n Bake, I am always in for disappointment on many levels. Most of the spray ends up drifting around in the air, with only splotches of the pan getting anything close to a coating. The combo of the spray wafting through the air and the very strong artificial "butter" smell wafting up my nose is just too much for me. I don't like it.

Another thing that is irritating is all the power outages. We've been told many times that it is just a normal part of living out here, which is all fine and good, but it is annoying. It just is. In the states we have redundant power sources, which means that if one transformer goes down, there are other power sources still working just fine so you don't automatically lose power during every storm that passes through. It's not just the storms that cause the power to go out. Sometimes it's the wind, which is often heavy, but still it's wind. The other night I was hovering over our microwave trying to heat up some leftover taco meat for dinner. I'd start heating the meat and the power would go off. A couple minutes later it would come back on so I'd start up the microwave again. Then it would go off and I'd have to wait a few more minutes. I finally got our meal to a somewhat warm temperature before the power went off for good. I understand that this is normal for this country and especially for the area that we live in, but it just seems like something that could and should be dealt with, especially in an area that is hoping to attract a lot of tourists.

I do not like taxis and all their honking. I think this is mostly because I am still not a very confident driver, so when the taxi behind me starts honking, I'm not sure if I'm in doing driving wrong or if the driver is just trying to pick up new passengers

There are also things I like about this country. I like seeing the diverse groups of people inside each honking taxi; old women and young men, people with big parcels crowded in next to them and mamas with babies on their laps.  I like the play areas that are available in so many of the restaurants. They have bounce houses, video game consoles and more importantly, they have play area attendants to keep an eye on your kids! These play areas are at real restaurants with grown up food, not just at fast food joints.

I also like what living in this country has taught me. I can drive stick shift, something that was bringing me to tears still back in Michigan. I think it's easier to shift with my left hand than my right. I can be the passenger for over a month and then get in the driver's seat and make it all the way to town by myself with no accidents (just the incessant honking of the taxis!). I am cooking from scratch more than I ever did in Michigan and I like it. I've made empanadas, which are Mexican fruit pies, twice in the last week. I even cooked down the apples and rolled out the dough and used a plastic bowl to cut out circles. This is just not something I would have done in my old life. If I wanted a treat I would have gone to Wendy's for a Frosty or grabbed some Twinkies from Meijer. I wouldn't have made Mexican fruit pies!

Ok, that's it for my thoughts, now onto the news! We have a boy with a loose tooth and man oh man is he ever excited. Darin actually noticed for the first time today that one of Tyson's bottom middle teeth is coming in behind all his other teeth. After pointing this out to Tyson, our boy started wiggling his teeth and has been at it ever since. He has also eaten an apple and several carrot sticks in the hopes that his tooth will just pop out. It is not quite that loose yet, in fact it is not very loose at all, but we'll be working hard to get that tooth out before the back tooth comes in much farther.

Tyson's other big news is that he gets to go to church camp without the rest of us in February. They handed out the info at church yesterday and our boy is so terribly excited; so excited, in fact, that he started packing his stuff yesterday afternoon, which is great, but camp isn't until the last weekend of February. We stopped for some groceries at Makro yesterday, which is kind of like Sam's Club (but not) and found a sleeping bag for about $8, so we splurged for our boy. I honestly have never, ever known a kid who can get so excited about things that most people are just kind of ho hum about. The lovely thing is, even after the campout is done and his tooth is out, he'll STILL be excited about those things. He still talks fondly about events that happened over a year ago. I hope he never loses his enthusiasm for life.

Darin and I finished season one of 24 and are almost half way through season two. I can hardly stand watching most of the episodes. I get so annoyed with the characters and the decisions that they make, especially Kim, Jack Bauer's daughter, and President Palmer's ex-wife. Her lips bother me. It is fun to have a show to watch together at night, but sometimes I get so stressed out and then I have a hard time sleeping at night.

I went grocery shopping today without Darin. Jori came with me and we had a nice time together at Pick 'n Pay. Other than a crazy taxi honking at me for stopping to let pedestrians walk in front of me and having to slam on the brakes for a driver that must not have known how to use his blinker, the trip went great.

We've had a small herd of zebra hanging out around just outside of our fence the past couple days. Yesterday a lone blesbok joined their herd for a while. I love it when the animals mingle together. We did have a nest right outside our home school room with two little baby birds in it. They were Paradise Flycatchers. I say "were" because yesterday when we woke up the nest was empty and the mother and father were gone. The chicks did not look big enough to fly and I've never heard of birds moving their young, so I'm guessing they fell out of the nest during the heavy winds on Saturday night. We were all enjoying the nest and its inhabitants, so this was a bummer.

We've started calling Jori "Suzanne" as in Suzanne Geha, former Grand Rapids area newscaster. She is always stating the obvious, which is just what good old Suzanne Geha used to do on Wood TV 8. She'll share a little tidbit with us and we say "Thanks Sooze" or "I appreciate the heads-up Suzi G." Speaking of Suzanne Geha, whatever did happen to her? We moved before the whole story was out and now our inquiring minds want to know!

And that's all the randomness for now. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Wild Kratts reports

If you have kids that watch PBS, then you have probably seen or at least heard of Wild Kratts. Wild Kratts is a cartoon based on two real brothers, Chris and Martin Kratt. Tyson and Jori absolutely loved watching the Wild Kratts cartoon back in Michigan and continue to love watching the few episodes we downloaded off of iTunes. For Christmas, Darin and I bought them the series “Be the Creature”, which is a non-animated show about wild animals starring the Kratt brothers. We thought this would be a series the whole family could enjoy watching together, and after 2 episodes I’d say we thought right! Last week the kids wrote reports about the Wild Kratts, both the show, the Kratt brothers and how they like to pretend to be the Wild Kratts. Enjoy!

Jori’s report (punctuation added by me)
We lik to play wilthe krats. It is fun. Me and Tysin has ur batapack. I luve plaeng wiulthe krats. We se lots uv anumths. I luve luve luve plaen wilthe krats. Ha ha ha. My and Tyson lik to pretend that we dig for klams. It is fun digen for cklams. I lik it en a ruport.
(We like to play Wild Krats. It is fun. Me and Tyson has our backpacks. I love playing Wild Kratts. We see lots of animals. I love, love, love playing Wild Kratts. Ha ha ha. Me and Tyson like to pretend that we dig for clams. It is fun digging for clams. I like it in a report.)
Tyson’s report
Me and my sister play wild krats I pretend to be Martin Jori pretends to be Aviva. We got the idea from the real wild krats. We watched two episods of the real wild Krats the we played the two episods. The episods were Brown Bear and wild Dogs. We pretended to help dig a wild dog hole for 20 wild dog babies. Bears are omnivores. Lepords are seris (serious) predotors to wild dogs. There was a sick baby named marvoe. We seen lions when we were here in 2008. I’m excited to see the lion episode.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Random News of the Week

Hi from rainy, chilly South Africa! I know we aren't having the cold and snow that our friends in the Midwest and Washington are experiencing, but after so many days of temps around 100, the mid 60's seem very wintery to us. The sun has been hidden all day, so the lack of sunshiny rays and the slow drizzle of the past several hours make it seem even cooler out than it is. I'm enjoying the change from the ordinary and just enjoyed a nice cup of hot chocolate while sitting out under the lapa (covered patio area). We sent Tyson and Jori outside to play, Darin is reading a book and I thought I'd take some time to catch you all up on what we've been doing around here.

This past Saturday was probably one of the busier days we've had in the past few months. We enjoyed some down time in the morning, but then we packed up the whole family so Darin and his hard working buddy, Tyson, could finish up some work at the apartment complex they'd been at earlier in the week. It was interesting to see a totally different part of the city and it was fun to see what had kept the guys busy all day on Wednesday. Tyson and Jori ran up and down the stairs while Darin changed 3 light bulbs. It might not seem like a huge task, but with my fear of heights, there is no way I could have done the job! I'm proud of Darin and his willingness to get his hands dirty for the good of our family. After the light bulbs were all in, we packed up and headed to the second house we had house sat at for a birthday party. Jori's friend from church, Haley, was celebrating her 5th birthday with a swimming party. Haley's brother Caden is Tyson's age, so it was fun for Tyson to be able to swim and have a friend to play with as well. We all enjoyed some yummy snacks, cake and ice cream as well as the time visiting with friends. We had to leave the party in a rush because we were already late for our next event of the day, a braai with our cell group, and we still had to stop and pick up the meat we were going to grill. We hadn't met with our cell group in over a month, so it was nice to be back together again with a large portion of the group.

Sunday we headed back to Pretoria for church. The kids did a prayer walk outside during the service and I heard both Tyson and Jori's voices a few times. I guess my kids are a bit loud, or maybe it's the American accent that stands out. We had a pretty quiet afternoon and then went on a game drive after dinner. We had heard that a giraffe had died in childbirth on one of the farms close to us, so we wanted to try to find the body, but we are not very good at tracking dead things. We did see a lot of living animals though, including a large herd of kudu, waterbok, zebra, a huge herd of impala, some wildebeest and a tortoise that was walking on the path we were driving on.

For the kids and me, Monday started out with home schooling. I've been working hard to be better prepared for each day before it starts and so far it has made a big difference. I find that I am more patient and less stressed when I have a plan for each kid and have a basic idea of what I want to cover with them over the course of the week. While we were in Pretoria, Darin and I had a lot of talks about a variety of things and one of the things that we decided was that I would take over more of the home school duties and Darin would use the time that I was teaching to get more involved with Mama Cathrine, running errands, or doing other "busy work". That way I don't feel like he's just sitting around living the high life while I'm stuck with two kids who'd rather be outside playing! So Monday, while the kids are I were doing school, Darin headed out to Mama Cathrine to see how things were out there. He also stopped by to see Amos who had sent us a text message the night before to let us know that his sister had passed away. Darin was gone for most of the day, but not having him around definitely helps me to stay more on task with the kids, I think because I have to stand on my own two feet instead of turning things over to Darin when the going gets tough.

Tuesday was a lot like Monday, but Darin was home so he helped Tyson do a science experiment with magnets. After lunch we all headed across the road for a while. Darin and I snuggled some babies and Tyson and Jori played with their friend Fetsi. Then they kind of fell apart when we told them they couldn't swim and that was the end of our time across the road! Instead we came home, put them both in their rooms for a time out (My little sweet angel Jori almost bent my finger backwards as I was talking to one of the girls across the road. Never underestimate the strength of a 5 year old, especially if you have frail old lady hands like me!!) and then Darin and I watched an episode of 24. Did I already mention that Darin's family went in together to buy us the DVD's of the shows 24 and House. We haven't watched either of those series, so it has been a fun little treat for us at night, although I must say that watching 24 makes me very stressed out and it also makes me think that women on suspenseful TV shows are very, very stupid. After the kids had sufficient time to cool down and Darin and I had regrouped, we headed outside to play. We tossed a football around and played catch with a baseball. Darin had to head across the road to make a Skype call, but the kids and I stayed outside to enjoy the sun. Tyson climbed a tree, higher than he's ever gone before, while Jori practiced her soccer skills. I helped them both hook up their ropes (thanks again Grandma Willie and Auntie Bernice!) to make swings.

Now it's Wednesday afternoon. This morning I taught the kids about coins and their values. I think I talked a bit too much by the glazed look on Jori's face. : ) Our whole family watched an episode of the Kratt Brothers "Be the Creature" series, which was our Christmas present to the kids. As Tyson and Jori get older and more independent, it's easy to let them just go off and play on their own or watch movies on their own, but we've been trying to make a point of doing more things together as a family. We were supposed to have cell group tonight, but we got a call about an hour ago that only our family and one other person could make it, so that's been canceled. The kids are outside digging in a pile of wet sand. Darin is still reading and I'm listening to a bright yellow weaver bird peck at an upstairs window as I type up this post about our daily lives. We are so thankful for all the wonderful moments that God allows us to have as we are in this time of waiting. Sometimes our whole future seems so up in the air and out of our control, probably because it is so up in the air and out of our control, but we really want to make a point to treasure our time here and embrace today without worrying about tomorrow. What a privilege it is to be able to embrace each today in such a beautiful country!

What we are eating

I know that what we eat isn’t very exciting to some of you, but I figure that if we can make these meals out here, then they should be pretty simple for you all back in the states to make them as well. I spent a lot of time on the internet tracking down recipes while we house sat, so some of the recipes are from online sources. Others are from our Wycliffe cookbook and others are ones that friends have recently posted on Facebook. Nice that we have so many sources to draw from!

I have made this first recipe twice since being back at the farm. The first time it was kind of a mess, but still tasted good enough that the kids wanted me to make it again for breakfast. The second time it turned out much better. The little paragraph at the end of the recipe was one of the comments that someone else had made about it online. The first time I made the recipe, I followed her directions, but it was way too soggy. Darin, who has an egg allergy, ended up getting sick : ) The second time I only used 3 eggs and a little under a cup of milk and it turned out just about perfect. Darin was still feeling a little ill, but not so much. You might have to play around with the recipe depending on the type of bread you use.

Apple or Peach and Caramel Baked French Toast

·         1 cup packed brown sugar

·         1/2 cup butter

·         2 tablespoons water

·         1 (29 ounce) can sliced peaches, drained

·         12 (3/4 inch thick) slices day-old French bread

·         5 eggs

·         1 tablespoon vanilla extract

·         1 pinch ground cinnamon, or to taste

Directions

1.     In a saucepan, stir together the brown sugar, butter and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

2.     Pour the brown sugar mixture into a 9x13 inch baking dish, and tilt the dish to cover the entire bottom. Place peaches in a layer over the sugar coating, then top with slices of French bread. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and vanilla. Slowly pour over the bread slices to coat evenly. Sprinkle cinnamon over the top. Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.

3.     Remove the dish from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before baking to come to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

4.     Bake for 25 to 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the bread is golden brown. Spoon out portions to serve.

**I was very pleased with how this turned out. Like others have suggested I used 6 eggs and 1 and 1/2 cups of milk, and dredged the bread in the liquid before pouring the rest over. Because it is apple season, I used some Granny Smith apples in place of the peaches and it was DELICIOUS! The only reason I gave this 4 stars instead of 5 is because it was VERY sweet and some may not care for that. You definitely do not need syrup. I think using the day-old bread is key to avoid the sogginess others have mentioned.

I have only tried making this dish with apples as Darin is a little grossed out by the peach option. The second time around we softened the apples on the stove top a bit, which didn’t make a huge difference overall.
Dishes 2 and 3 were both hits with the whole family. My friend, Chanell, had links to both of them on her facebook page. They both looked delish and when we opened the links we found that all the ingredients were easy to come by out here, so that makes both of these dishes winners in my book!

Alfredo Sauce

·         3 tablespoons sweet butter

·         2 tablespoons olive oil

·         garlic cloves , minced

·         2 cups heavy cream

·         1/4 teaspoon white pepper

·         1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

·         3/4 cup mozzarella cheese

·         1 (12 ounce) box angel hair pasta

Directions:

Melt butter in medium saucepan with olive oil over medium/low heat.

Add the garlic, cream, white pepper and bring mixture to a simmer.

Stir often.

Add the Parmesan cheese and simmer sauce for 8-10 minutes or until sauce has thickened and is smooth.

When sauce has thickened add the Mozzarella cheese and stir until smooth. STIR FREQUENTLY.

While the sauce cooks, boil noodles for 3-5 minutes. (or longer depending on the noodles you use)

Place pasta on serving plates and spoon sauce over pasta.

We followed some extra directions Chanell had added to make the dish a little less fattening. We used less than ½ the olive oil and about half the butter (it was actually baking margarine) and instead of two cups heavy cream we did one cup heavy cream and one cup of milk. The sauce was still creamy and tasted like alfredo sauce should taste. We ate this with salad one night, and I think that having ranch dressing on our salad made the alfredo sauce seem a little bland. Once I finished my salad and just ate the pasta and sauce it tasted much better. The kids both really liked this, especially since I served it over mini-shell pasta.

Mini Frittatas

Ingredients

·         4 large eggs

·         1/4 cup half-and-half

·         1/2 teaspoon salt

·         Assorted mix-ins (such as shredded cheese, diced vegetables, and cooked and chopped bacon, ham, or sausage)

Grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Instructions

1.      Heat your oven to 350ยบ F and coat a 6-cup muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray.

2.     Whisk together the eggs, half-and-half, and salt in a medium bowl, then evenly distribute the egg mixture among the muffin cups.

3.     Add about 2 tablespoons of mix-ins to each cup, then sprinkle on a bit of Parmesan cheese, if you like.

4.       Bake the frittatas until they are puffy and the edges are golden brown, about 20 to 25 minutes. (If necessary, run a butter knife around the edge of each one to loosen them before removing them from the pan.) Makes 6 mini frittatas.

We had ham, bacon, cheese and some chopped onion in the fridge, so that is what we used for mix-ins. The kids loved being able to choose their own mix-ins (they did NOT choose the onion!)and I think that helping to make their dinner made them even more eager to eat their dinner! We used 6 eggs and 3/8 cup heavy cream and it made 12 frittatas. I’m not sure if this is because the muffin tin we used had smaller cups than a 6 cup muffin tin or what, but that is just what we ended up with. The frittatas got super puffy and poofed out of their individual tins, but still slid out easy peasy. We each ended up with three muffins, which wasn’t a super filling dinner because each frittata was very light, and if you do the math, we each only ate about 1 ½ eggs! Good thing I had decided to try out another recipe earlier in the day so the three least picky eaters in the family did have some other food to fill in the empty spaces.
The last recipe I made, the one that filled the empty spaces, was homemade stuffing. We bought the Wycliffe International Cookbook before we moved based on the recommendation of a few former international missionaries, including Darin’s Aunt Rose. This cookbook has very simple recipes in it and also tells you lots of substitutions to use in case you can’t find a certain ingredient in the country where you are living.

Homemade Stuffing

Fry:

½ cup chicken fat, butter or oil

½ cup chopped onion

½-1 cup celery

Remove from heat and add:

½ tsp salt

1 tsp poultry seasoning or sage

Dash of pepper

1 egg, beaten, optional (I didn’t add this)

¾-1 cup chicken stock or milk (used stock)

Pour over and toss lightly:

6-8 cups dry bread cubes

Bake at 350 in a greased pan for ½-1 hour.
I used a partial loaf of cheese bread to make the bread cubes and I think that made this stuffing more appealing to Darin who is really not a fan of stuffing under normal circumstances. I was fortunate enough to have poultry seasoning on hand because my friend Michelle had sent me a bottle in a package several months ago. I think my liquid to bread ratio was a little high, but I was just using the bread I had on hand and I’m guessing it was closer to 4 cups. It still turned out great, but just didn’t have as many “crunchy” bits, which are what Darin and Tyson both were digging for.

So that’s what we’ve been eating the past couple weeks. We’ve also had quite a few meals of frozen French fries or peanut butter toast, but we don’t mind eating light every now and again (and again…)


Saturday, January 14, 2012

Planes by Tyson

I got a paper airplane book from my grandma.  There are 2 small planes that are called glider, bug.  There are 2 big planes called jet,dart. 





I threw all 4 out of our upstairs window.  After that I threw them off of our water tower. 




I used my tape measure to measure how far I threw them.  I thought that my glider would fly the furthest but it didn’t the jet did.  I predicted that the dart would fly the worst but the bug flew the worst.  The chart below has data in it that we wrote down during the plane tests.  

                                              

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Work!

I(Darin) worked today for money for the first time in over 7 months.  When we left the US in June, I had no idea that it would be such a long vacation.  I’d say the first 2 months were kind of nice taking it easy, while our bank account still was looking somewhat healthy.  Once we got to month 5 and we were running out of money with nothing much developing yet with the gas station, I started to panic a little.  Because of my immigration status, I’m not allowed to work for anyone other than Sediba One Stop, the name of our station and the company that we are half owners of.  After talking with some people here, we realized that I could possibly find work as a “consultant”, with my employer paying me thru Sediba.  So I started to put the word out that I was looking for something part time.  After a month, I didn’t have any leads.  So I talked to someone at our church here about putting an announcement up on the bulletin board where others have advertised houses for rent or roommates needed.  The very first Sunday my notice was up, I got approached by a guy that I met briefly a couple months before. 
 
I have to tell you that I believe God was working some things out behind the scenes and we’ve only just seen some of His plan unfolding.  Long story short, another friend of ours had volunteered me to handle making popcorn and buying pop for 150+ people for a movie night at a church family camp back in September.  I reluctantly said yes, I thought it wouldn’t be too hard and would be a good way to meet some people and get involved at church.  Lloyd, the guy who was running the family camp, and for whom Jonna and I made popcorn for a couple hours that night, is the guy who approached me at church.  I truly believe that if Lloyd didn’t know me from that experience, he probably would have read my note on the board and not thought twice about it. 
Anyway, Lloyd is part of a group that owns and manages hundreds of apartment complexes in and around Pretoria.  They outsource all of the maintenance work to other people.  When he saw I had an engineering degree, he assumed I could handle some of the stuff.  He said I could start with some easy jobs and if it went well, I could possibly take on more work.  So today, I was responsible for going to an apartment building and changing all the light bulbs that were burnt out in the entry way and walkways.  I know, pretty simple stuff, but I’m at the point where I’ll do anything for a small paycheck.  Knowing that I couldn’t handle the job alone, I called up my trusty sidekick Tyson, to see if he would be onboard with helping.  He was SOOO excited and couldn’t stop talking about it before bed last night.  He found a pair of gloves that he could wear and he picked out a “work outfit” so it would be ready for this morning. 
I won’t go into all the details of the work, but we were gone for about 8 hours today.  Of that time, 1.5 hours was driving back and forth, 1.5 hours was initial reconnaissance work trying to figure out how to get into the building and where everything was, 2 hours was spent waiting for someone with a key to the electrical panel to come and unlock it so I could bypass a timer so the hall lights came on during the day instead of only at night, and that leaves about 3 hours of actually changing bulbs and running to the hardware store again cause we didn’t have enough new lights.  It was a good day, Tyson had a blast being my right hand man and met a couple kids living there, and I didn’t fall off the ladder. 
We’ve been home now for a couple hours, I am sore from going up and down the ladder about 100 times and I need a shower after having dead bugs rain on me multiple times from inside the light covers.  I still have to figure out all the payment details with our accountant, so we might not see this income for another few weeks, but I think I made enough to at least cover the gas to get back and forth, the McDonalds lunch with my buddy, and the Powerades we gulped down during one of our sweaty breaks.  Hopefully Lloyd will be happy with the work and I can make this a regular thing!   

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Random News from the past few days

It is Sunday night, just before 9. We have been home for 4 nights and this is the third night that we have been without power. It has been going off right when we are making dinner or soon after we eat and has been coming back on sometime during the night, so we're hoping it will be on again when we wake up tomorrow. 

The kids were playing with some modeling clay today and after dinner they were pretending to be on the show Ultimate Cake-Off, which we watched several times in December when we lived in the world of cable TV. They were being very serious about things. They are the green team and they are making a farm cake. Tyson made the grass (green and yellow, because some of the grass is dead) and a cow with a cow pie and Jori made the wall/fence that goes around the barn. That is all they completed today, but the competition will be starting up again tomorrow morning. I had them do a skills test, which is part of the TV show as well. They had to make flowers out of "modeling chocolate" to show off their cake making skills. Of course, their flowers won and they decided to sit Jacob and Joel from the blue team out for a one hour penalty. They were having so much fun and were getting along so amazingly well that we let them stay up a bit longer than usual. 

We bought a bug zapper. It's one of those tennis rackets that have an electrical charge so you can zap bugs in mid-flight. Tyson can hear the zapping noise even if he is several rooms away and will come running to see what poor insect just met its demise. 

Our little garden that my dad planted is still alive and actually producing vegetables. We have eaten about 30 beans and had some radishes as well. There are loads of tomatoes as well; cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, roma tomatoes and I think some regular tomatoes as well. They are still all green, but Tyson and Jori are really wanting some home made tomato soup, so hopefully they will ripen soon. Darin managed to coax one of two cucumber plants back to life, or at least it is not lying wilted on the ground anymore. We'll see if it ever produces any cucumbers. 

Our spell check is now set to British English instead of American English, which is a little disturbing. I am about 99% sure I spelled the word "modeling" correctly, but the computer wants me to spell it "modelling", which just does not look right at all. Color is also marked as a misspelling and colour is acceptable. So, if you ever notice some strange spellings in our blog or anywhere else, please excuse us.

We, or rather I, have been doing a lot of reorganizing of the house. We thought it was time for the kids to each have their own space, so Jori is now sleeping in one of the rooms on the other side of the house. She does not seem at all worried about being so far from us. I am far more worried about it than she is! We did give her a flashlight, so she can come get us if she needs us. She is very happy with her new space and Tyson is also enjoying having a place of his own.

Tomorrow our little home school is starting up again. I spent a lot of time online during December looking up different home school ideas and ways to make our day a bit more structured, so hopefully we'll get off to a good start tomorrow. I am really working on having a more positive attitude about this whole home schooling venture. I knew there was a chance I'd be teaching the kids longer than 6 months and really it is a great privilege to be able to spend so much time with them. I just might need Darin to remind me of that when I feel like pulling my hair out!

We are all glad to be back out here on the farm. We miss having a pool, especially since it's been so hot, and we miss having a strong internet connection, but I think we all just feel more relaxed to be back here with our own stuff and in our own space. So that is a huge praise as I wasn't sure how we'd transition back to living out in the sticks! 

That's all the news for now.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Heading Back to Hammanskraal

It is Wednesday afternoon and we are getting ready to head back to our South African home. We all went swimming earlier today and now the kids are soaking up a few more TV shows while Darin and I get all of our stuff packed up. It has been really hot here the past few days, around 100*F. It has been a total pleasure to have a swimming pool to swim in during the day and air conditioning to keep us cool at night.

We're planning to continue our "holiday" until Monday. We'll spend the rest of the week getting unpacked and reorganized, going grocery shopping, visiting with friends and getting ready to home school again. I was able to find some information online and I am cautiously optimistic that our second half of the school year will be better than the first.

We'll work on doing a better job keeping our blog updated as well. Tyson already has an idea for his next report involving paper airplanes, so stay tuned for that! Hopefully posting by email will work out easy peasy, but please drop a few comments our way so that we know things are showing up : )

Monday, January 2, 2012

New pictures AND video are up!!

We've put up a lot of pictures and even some video clips of the kids for your viewing enjoyment, so go check them out! Our pictures can be seen here and the videos can be seen here

We are really enjoying these last few days of "luxury" living. We've all been taking advantage of the swimming pool, watching more than our fill of cable TV and eagerly surfing the web. We don't have any plans tomorrow except for laundry and lots of swimming, so we hope it's as sunny and warm as it was today! 

Alrighty, don't forget to go and check out the pictures and videos! 

Leaving on a jet plane...but first:

Tomorrow I fly to Kenya. I am mostly packed, and starting to get excited. I know that Darin and the kids will be just fine, but the whole p...