Monday, January 26, 2009

You know your husband loves you...

...when he uses HIS Christmas I-tunes gift card to buy a whole season of YOUR fave TV show so that you can watch it in the African bush...

LOVE him.

(Sunda took this picture)

On our way back home

Sunda, why are you crying?

You say that you miss Michael? And Bundy? And David and Kent and Kyle? And the kitty cats? And the COWS?

Me too Sunda. I understand.

Well, listen. We're going back to Zambia in just over a week! And then you'll get to see your friends again. Does that make you happy?

'Nuff said, Sunda. I agree completely.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A day in the life...

...of Zambian missionaries (home on furlough)

People ask Jake and I all the time: "What does a day look like for you guys?"

I sort of answered that question by posting about a day a few months back. I'll try to answer it even better as we get back and get settled into our new roles and our NEW HOUSE! Woo hoo!

But, for now, I realized that today represented very accurately what we do while we're home on furlough.

7:45- Get up and get Sunda breakfast. Do the dishes that are in the sink.

8am-While Sunda is eating breakfast, Jake and I fill out a financial questionnaire sent from our ministry. Our goal is to try and determine how much support we need to raise and ultimately trust God for.

9am-(It was a LOONNGGG questionnaire) Respond to emails from co-workers and supporters.

9:15-Speak with our insurance company about our Stateside coverage and Sunda's package.

9:30-Start breakfast for Jake and I. Jake starts laundry. Sunda plays with Uncle Cody (who is fortunately off from school today!)
Sweep and mop kitchen floor

10am- Jake and I eat breakfast and respond to more emails regarding our Zambian work permit and where we should stay in Jo-burg.

10:30-Upload 100 pictures to Walgreens for Auntie Jenn's scrapbook!

10:45-Find our immunization cards and figure out what immunizations Sunda, Jake, and I need. Get directions to the Allegheny Health Dept. and call for information. Jake folds laundry (Sweet, sweet man).

11:15-Shower. Get Sunda dressed and ready. Finish up some housework.

12pm-On the road again!

12:15-Downtown Wellsburg, State Police Office. I need to get my fingerprints taken AGAIN to try and get my teaching certification. (My fingerprints were illegible the first time and lost in the mail the second...grrrr.)

12:45-Mail out fingerprints.

1pm-Start for the Allegheny Health Department for all of our immunizations.

2pm-Arrive and park. Wait in line for endless forms. Sunda charmed the whole waiting room.

3pm-Find out that Sunda has to get FIVE shots. Poor girl.

3:30-Sunda gets her shots after eating lunch from Arby's in the waiting room. She's a champ and doesn't even get upset until the 2nd or 3rd shot.

5:00-After fighting Pittsburgh traffic, we stop to get some (much deserved) ice cream for everyone!

6:30-Arrive back to Wellsburg. Sunda makes it very clear that she is not interested in being awake. We put her to bed. I guess tomorrow will be an early day!

The rest of the evening was spent making some phone calls and writing up a description of the process of our adoption. It's been really nice to have such a nice, quiet evening!

We're not this busy everyday. But we also don't get home [from church, bible studies, or meetings] so early all the time! The truth is: Everyday is different and usually happens on the fly. Sometimes we feel like we've been really productive and other days we feel like all we've done is talk to answering machines and chase endless paper trails. As crazy as Africa is, it feels good to get back there and have a little more stability and structure in an otherwise fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants life

Friday, January 16, 2009

A day late...

Yesterday was the "baby blog shower" of my friend: Ashley. The idea was to surprise her by having a blog posted about her (in honor of her soon-to-be baby boy) when she logged on to check everyone's blogs. Isn't that creative and fun!? I love the idea. Unfortunately, I'm sending out a "Happy Belated Shower" card because we were in the car ALL DAY yesterday, traveling from Florida to West Virginia. But, I just COULDN'T let the opportunity pass without giving a shout out to Ashley.

I met Ashley during my freshman year of college. Freshman year of college was a difficult, transitional time for me. Jake was at a different school, and I felt lost at WVU. My music program was really HARD and everyone that lived in my dorm was constantly out partying. Praise God, Campus Crusade for Christ was there to fill that gap that my home church and friends had left. And one of the best parts about Campus Crusade was....Ashley!

She is a couple of years older than me, and she spent hours being friendly to the new freshman class, driving us around in her clunker, and being available for rides, coffee, whatever! Because of the love and kindness of her and other leaders in the organization, college started to seem less and less like a dark pit of despair, and more like a great opportunity!

My sophomore year, I had the distinct blessing of being in Ashley's bible study and being discipled by her. Our Bible Study consisted of quite a few girls I have since lost contact with, my best friend Jenn, and Ashley...and we held it at Jenn and I's house in downtown Mo-town. I grew so much during that year! Ashley's trademark was that she was always open enough so that you felt comfortable talking to her, but never judgmental or serious. She was a REAL influence in my life (and I know she was in Jenn's life too) during that time.

Ashley was always talking about being content in singleness. She was the poster girl for learning how to let God be MORE THAN ENOUGH for her. I don't know how two people could've been more thrilled about her relationship with Patrick than Jenn and I were. Watching someone walk out faithfulness and contentment, and then getting to see their hopes and dreams was a witness and a shining example to all of her disciplees.

When Ashley married Patrick and moved to Texas, it was definitely bittersweet for us. I, however, am a firm believer in letting people go when necessary, and never making them feel guilty about it. So, I cried at Ashley's wedding and then was SO HAPPY for her.

I check her blog from Africa and made Jake take me to town 3 times the week that I thought for sure she was going to post about being pregnant. She surprised ME at Sunda's "shower" earlier this year, when we first got home.

So, I am thrilled about Ashley and Patrick's baby and only wish I could be around to meet him.

Love you Ash...anytime you wanna move to Africa...I would love to be in your Bible Study again!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Good thing I'm not in charge of the universe....

because I can't even handle a 3-year-old.

All I have to say is this: I used to be one of those people who had lots of opinions about parenting and would be fairly quick to criticize (silently, in my head) when I saw parents who didn't do things "right."

Then I started to pour my heart into this child who has become my light and my joy. And I've been able to care for her, and feed her, and fight the government for her, and read to her, and discipline her. And go to bed at the end of the day satisfied that she was safe and happy.

And then she began to approach her 3rd birthday. And she is still just as much of a delight. And she is even more fun to be around. And she has more personality than I ever imagined could be present in such a small person. But, she also tests...and tests...and TESTS. And tests again just to make sure that you haven't changed your mind. And while she won't sit on my lap and watch a movie for more than 30 seconds, she will beg to be carried while I am doing anything that requires two hands. And she will run away from me with tears in her eyes yelling, "No Mommy...NOOOOOOO!!!" when I tell her that she indeed cannot have ANOTHER cookie. And she will wait until we have pulled on the highway before she states, "Sunda has to go potty...again."

And now, I go to bed wondering, "Did I say anything but "No" today?" "Am I making some colossal mistakes that will reflect upon her later?" "Is she going to feel like she grew up with the strictest parents in the world?" "Are we being strict enough?

I wonder if it's like, the older they get, the more you question, "Am I doing the right thing?" My mom used to say that anyone can care for and feed a baby, it's when they start walking and talking that it gets challenging. I think that both are challenging. But I have definitely been turning heavenward lately and saying, "Lord? What am I supposed to do? What is the right thing? HELP."

And the Lord has been reminding me of the way that He disciplines us. He doesn't roughly pull the bottom out from under us at the first sign of our rebellion or questioning. He reminds us gently of who He is. He woos us back into obeying Him because it's not only the RIGHT thing but the TRUE thing. However, He's never manipulated. He never goes back on His promises because we state our opinions and wishes loudly. He just remains the same. And welcomes us back when we stray. And He isn't afraid to show us who the Sovereign One is.

So, maybe tomorrow I'll skim over the little rebellions that tend to make up quite a bit of my lovely daughter's day lately. Instead of reprimanding her or disciplining her every time she strays from the path that I "think" is so clearly laid for her, I'll just stand firm. Refusing to be manipulated, but willing to extend grace. Willing to extend as much grace as neccesary as long as she still understands who the boss is.

Instead of saying "No!" over and over, maybe I'll just try, "I love you." I don't think it will make our day perfect. It probably won't make others stop and wonder at my brilliant parenting skills. I don't even know if the top Christian parenting books would agree. But I'll let God work that one out. My wisdom and knowledge and strength haven't really ever worked. I'm glad His does.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Girl's "ethnic" Hairstyles

Warning: This is a hair post.

There really just isn't a whole lot of easy-to-follow explanation online about doing ethnic hair. And there isn't a lot of photography documenting different styles either. Broadcasting Sunda's hairstyles is definitely not the purpose of this blog. But I thought that maybe if I posted some pictures and explanation, it might help someone else who is searching for something before they lose their mind.


Here's some simple steps, taken from what I've learned so far. (Which, admittedly, isn't a whole lot. But it's something.)

1.) Buy a moisturizing shampoo/conditioner specifically meant for "ethnic" hair (which is the "correct" term, by the way.)
2.) Use the shampoo/conditioner as often as you absolutely need to. Keep in mind that need means that the hair is DIRTY. If the hair is not visibly dirty, wash it about once a week.
3.) When washing, rub the shampoo into the scalp and then work through the hair, gently pulling the hair outward to loosen and stretch it. (Makes it easier to comb.)
4.) During the times when you're not washing the hair, wet it thoroughly before attempting to comb.
5.) To comb, seperate the wet hair into 4-8 sections. The more sections, the easier it is to comb.
6.) When you're ready to work with an individual section, make sure it is wet enough (you can use a detangler meant for "ethnic" hair, or just a spray bottle filled with water and a couple drops of conditioner.)
7.) Work some "grease" through the individual section. I use "Indian Hemp Oil." I don't know how popular this product is. But it works for us.
8.) Start combing. I actually start at the root and comb outward until you hit tangles. Then hold onto the hair from the scalp and get out the tangles from the end.
9.) Repeat until there are no more tangles. (Good Luck!)

Easiest Hair Style:
-While hair is wet part it into EIGHT sections (a part down the middle and three down the head.)
-Use small rubber bands (in the hair section at the dollar store) to section off the hair.
-One at a time, work through the sections until they are combed.
-When you finish combing each individual section, tie it back in with the rubber band.

This will at least keep it sectioned off enough to keep it from matting up when they sleep.

This is the most important thing I've learned about Sunda's hair:


It is a mess. And it just makes it harder to comb. Which involves tears. And fights. You don't want that.

After you figure out how to get it cleaned, combed, and healthy, you can do just about anything. And it all becomes pretty self explanatory from there.

Here's what I did to Sunda's hair tonight:

I separated it into three big sections and combed each section. Then, I braided each section about 1/3 of the way in and attached the braid with a rubber band. I gathered the rest of the hair in that section and tied it with a decorative hair tie. TA DA!!!

As you can probably imagine, the hairstyle is not the difficult part. It's the getting them to sit still part that is unbelievable. I'd love for someone to help ME out with that one.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Multicolored Princess

Jake, Sunda, and I drove to Cocoa Beach from Oviedo tonight to have dinner with Phil and Sharon (our Overland Mission directors) and some other Overland friends. It was a lovely evening spent eating homemade guacamole and grilled onyx (I don't know...but I think it's from Africa-it was really good.) Sunda was SO excited to see Keiro that when told she would see him when she woke up from her nap she promptly laid her head down, closed her eyes, and fell asleep. If only that would work everyday...

As I was helping to clean up after dinner, I noticed it had been quiet for quite some time. No loud childlike noises coming from the kids' room. I walked into the bathroom to find this:

A close up:

Yesterday, when we were at Downtown Disney we saw dozens of girls walking around in princess dresses, complete with upswept hair and glittery makeup. There is a special salon that "makes over" the girls so that they can look like their favorite Disney princess. A cute idea. I don't mind quoting my mom who mentioned that some of the parents might have "more money than brains." But, the girls definitely looked adorable. On the other hand, who needs a $250 Disney Princess makeover when you can get something SO similiar in the bathroom with your six-year-old friend as the makeup/wardrobe artist? See, my daughter is simply exercising a lesson in frugality and Do-It-Yourself-ness! (A good lesson for a missionary kid anyway).

Right in line with princess behavior, Sunda has taken to screaming whenever anything resembling an insect lands in her general vicinity. Oh girlfriend. We've both got a rude awakening waiting for us as we enter back into the rainy season!

Speaking of Zambia...Behold! Our little cottage in the woods!

Yeahhhhhh!!! So exciting!!! There's even a little addition on the back that houses the bathroom and shower. Which means that the room that would've been the bathroom can now be used for a big closet or a small space for Sunda's "room" (option B being the more likely one.) This is absolutely amazing and makes the thought of life in Africa appealing even from my comfy couch in sunny Florida. Can't wait to get back there!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Five Weeks of Playing Catch-up

It's so intimidating to try and explain what's been going on when you haven't done it in awhile and you are very behind. As in ----->ME<------ Let me try and give you a LONG (and still inadequate) synopsis.

Oh, holiday season. How I used to love thee when I was a nieve and silly teenager, content to flit through the house on two weeks off from school, helping with the Christmas cookies and doing my gift shopping at Walmart. I can just hear myself sighing and rolling my eyes every time my mom stomped through the house in an uproar because she misplaced the tinsel. Times have changed. Now I am a mom. And a wife. With responsibilities (many imagined). Now I force myself to do silly things like make more Christmas cookies than anyone could possibly eat and stay up until 3 am wrapping presents. I think African Christmases, while not as glittery and festive, are slightly better for my (and consequently my husband and child's) mental health.

I digress. And get waaayyyy ahead of myself.

This is what I did for Thanksgiving:


What's that? Looks like I started a fire? Involving Thanksgiving dinner?


I may or may not have accidently set my dear MIL's oven on fire and almost burned the house down. It was not the smartest thing I've ever done. It will also remained burned in the memory of my inlaws as the "day the daughter-in-law almost burnt down the house but was saved by the fact that the dear father-in-law went out and bought a new stove and installed it so that the apologetic and sheepish daughter-in-law could get Thanksgiving dinner on the table by 5 o'clock." Bless them. Really. Even my mom said, "If that would've happened in our house everyone would've been screaming at each other and it would've taken two weeks to install a new stove." Gotta love them Schwertfegers. So glad I married one :)

Shortly after that fiasco I started preparing myself for Christmas. People talk about those who don't have good priorities and who get mixed up in the baking, the gift-buying and wrapping, and the visiting and forget to remember the Reason for the Season. Those people are talking about people like me. That's why God sent me to Africa. So that I wouldn't have a choice but to SETTLE DOWN over Christmas.

Really? It was a joy to be home. It was SO good to be with our family/friends and let Sunda experience Christmas. But it's all so much. By the end of the day, Sunda had a crazed look in her eyes and just kept saying, "Open 'nother present, Mommy?" It was just such a good lesson to me about how much work it takes to produce the Christmas that I'm "used to." I think my standards will definitely lower in the future. Mainly because it's JUST NOT ABOUT all that stuff.

So grateful for these people:

And these:

The day after Christmas we loaded up the car and started out for Florida! We left West Virginia at 2:30 in the afternoon and arrived at my mom's doorstep at 8am the next morning. We kept thinking that we would stop...but we were too excited. We thought for sure that Sunda would sleep the WHOLE way there. You know what happens when you "think for sure" that a kid is going to do something.

This picture was taken in Georgia. At four o'clock in the morning. Don't know if you can tell by her scrunched up face, but she is definitely and completely...awake. And I am holding an energy drink in my hand. The first one I've ever drank. It made me feel like I was having a heart attack. From now on I'll just rely on the 16th verse of "Herman the Worm" to keep me awake on roadtrips.

After arriving in Florida, we visited with my family and then set off the next day for our ministry's "One Tribe" Conference. It was held in Cocoa Beach and was so well done. A truly a life changing event. It made Jake and I both itch to get back to Zambia. The conference was 4 full days of kick-you-in-the-bum preaching and awesome worship. It was wonderful. We're so grateful for the family that we have with everyone who works with Overland Missions. Sunda stayed for the first two days, but then Gramma Marsha and the fam came and rescued her. She got to spend the next two days at the beach, and then at home...getting spoiled by Gramma.

Sunda's favorite "Overlander." Our director's son, Keiro.

After a delightful New Years Eve spent on the beach, Jake and I rushed back to my mom's house so that we could wake up with Sunda the next day. Since then, we've been enjoying our time with the Florida family. It's been so wonderful to be with my mom, Riki, Henry, and Jayne. I'll post a picture of all of us as soon as I get one.

Notice the mom cut? I finally succumbed. The ponytail was driving me crazy.

As for Sunda, she's been blessing us everyday with her delightful, loving self. However, this soon-to-be-three-year-old has also been displaying her strong and opinionated personality quite often these days.

A rare occurence in Sunda-world lately. There's just too many questions to ask to waste time napping during the day or sleeping through the night!

Every picture I have of her is in motion. Bless her heart. Love that girl.

After all of that, let me say this: We're officially returning to Zambia on February 5th. We'll be in Florida for another week and then we're off to speak at a youth retreat in PA. After that it'll just be packing, and preparing until we leave for another year of living the dream. Can't wait to get back to Zambia. I hope it misses us as much we miss it.

Thanks for sticking with this MONSTER post. I promise I'll try to keep up more often!