Sunday, December 25, 2011

"Apwoyo matek!"

I made the most delicious Christmas stollen I've ever made! I found dates and raisins in Gulu so we enjoyed the bread for breakfast this morning, sipped our Via coffee (thank you!), made a quick milkshake (horray for electricity and my blender!), and got the children dressed in their Christmas best in record time. We drove to Home of Love with the plan of meeting the rest of our missionary team there and walking to the local church. The local church never opened its doors... (???)

So Josh led us in a service which was just perfect for our large "family!" Then we ate a meal that Candis prepared at home and brought to us (wow!) and the children played on familiar ground. We had a cake (Jesus' birthday!) and some small gifts from our directors. Finally, exhausted, we headed home with yet another part remaining to our Christmas day - stockings for all the children!

They were a little surprised and mystified but soon caught on to unwrapping all the little presents - the best, of course, being match box cars from Mimi and Papa in the States!

Little Moses, full of life and enthusiasm always, kept saying "apwoyo matek!" (thank you very much!) in this goofy voice.

They hit a sugar high and then the end-of-Christmas-day mania. Once we corralled them all to bed, they crashed and were snoring before we hardly even could turn out the lights. What a treasure to have these two precious boys with our family this year for Christmas day!

(Snoozing on Baba Josh - when this little guy lets his defenses down, he's a real snuggle bug!)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve finds Josh unusually sentimental. I'm the sentimental one usually. But Christmas Eve holds so many memories and traditions. Christmas Eve in the States has involved a Christmas Eve service that we have usually been heavily involved in with the music, Josh's sister's birthday (usually celebrated at Jessi's prime time: midnight, after the Christmas Eve service!), lots of delicious food by Josh's mom, and a sense of family togetherness.

This year is different - so very different! We had to keep reminding ourselves that it's Christmas Eve!

So here is how we celebrated Christmas Eve. Josh took the day off to be home with us, which was so nice, although we kept way too busy with the kids to actually enjoy each others' company!

We had a good old fashion water-play-time-in-bins and rowdy water fight - perhaps a first for our visiting boys, but they figured it out soon enough!

For dinner, we had chapati burritos - again, perhaps not our boys' favorite food since they had never had anything like that before, but I gave them some other food once they had at least tried it. The rest of us loved it (and the dogs enjoyed the boys' leftovers! I guess the dogs are tired of Acoli food too?). I served Fanta which the kids went crazy over. For dessert we had ICE CREAM! It was a very enjoyable meal, even if it wasn't my mom's traditional beef stew, Russian tea, and stollen or Josh's mom's vege pizza, spinach puffs, italian beef, or any other of the delicacies that she is surely making this weekend.

We wrapped stocking presents for "our" five children tonight. Tomorrow, our "plans" (we live in Africa, so you never know what will ACTUALLY happen!) are to attend church in the morning at the church where the Home of Love children go each Sunday. After church, we'll join the rest of our missionary team and two other Home of Love children (older boys) at Home of Love for Christmas dinner. I'm taking a snack to have after church (crackers, avacado, boiled eggs, biscuits, chapati) and our director's wife will run off to heat up dinner and bring it back to us at Home of Love. In the evening, we'll open stockings (the boys have never really received any gifts on Christmas, so they don't really understand what's in store tomorrow! fun!) and we have one game for the family that we'll open. Later in the week we'll have a Rattin family Christmas to do more American type things and have an excuse for a private family day.

It's a different Christmas, but promises to be full of blessings as we celebrate Christ's birth!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Children for the Holidays

In Uganda, there is a law that the childrens’ homes (orphanages) should empty out over Christmas holiday. That means that the social workers work very hard at finding a relative to take each child during the holiday. For some children, this serves as a trial run to see if that living situation might become later a permanent one. The social worker will make an assessment visit to see how the child is doing. If the relatives show a real interest in the child and the child does well, eventually that child might be “relocated” to the relatives. To date, this has been one of the highest priorities from the government regarding the placement of children. This has been especially pertinent in the years immediately following the war when many of the children in orphanages were actually displaced and not orphaned. It took a long time to find the scattered families and reunite them. For other children, perhaps they were ill and very young and the extended family was not equipped to care for a particularly vulnerable child.

So, this year at Home of Love, all but 3 children were able to join a family member for the holidays. The oldest boy is a street boy with significant issues and was not suitable to stay with us and our young children. The other two are the two boys that we currently are hosting. We are hosting them so that the Mamas at Home of Love can have a break. They are TIRED and they spend a lot of time away from their own families to care for our Home of Love children.

It has been an adventure, to say the least!

This is the first “mzungu” home that the children have ever seen, let alone stayed in. So, we had to explained through everything: electricity, outlets, gas stove (my worst fear with all the kids!!), mzungu toilets, bathtub, what water is safe to drink, don’t open the fridge (our poor fridge really serves as a cooler so we open it as little as possible)… The boys have actually done great with all those new things.

What they are struggling with most (or am I?) is orphanage behavior that is not appropriate in a home and a family. Grabbing for things, hoarding, throwing food on the floor, manipulative behavior…

And of course, there’s the language barrier. My Acoli has really taken off in the last two days! But I do feel bad for the boys who can’t communicate effectively with us. Our teenaged Acoli helpers have been around but I do long to communicate directly with the boys.

Pray with us that they would feel the love of Christ despite limited communication! Pray that I would be patient and tolerate chaos J! Pray that everyone would be safe (two injuries in two days so far…)!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The great jackfruit adventure

In the market, I bought a knife dedicated to this adventure to save my one and only knife from the stickiness that is...

Josh brought home a huge jackfruit. Our Acoli friends decided that it was not quite ready yesterday, but today... today was the jackfruit day!

I am SO grateful for our Acoli friends who managed the jackfruit for me! This extremely sticky but yummy fruit is a lot of work to prepare! For Americans who are averse to any food that requires substantial work, jackfruit is NOT the fruit for you (hence why I am so grateful for our friends!).
The flesh is so very good raw, but, having some time, some friends to wrangle children while I cook, and some Acoli teenagers who are amazed at what I can do with a gas stove instead of charcoal, I wanted to try my hand at making jackfruit chips.
ALSO yummy! NOT healthy for you! A little tumeric, salt, and water thrown into the oil while frying and here's a simple but delicious way to cook jackfruit.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Skill #253: Wild dog handling

The dogs that came with the house are still alive and present. So we finally found a vet (or so we think) to come see the dogs. When Josh went to the vet's office, he was told the vet was out and then suddenly they produced this other man, so we're not sure if he is a vet or not... such is communication most of the time!

The dogs do not trust us much (they have clearly not been treated well in the past) and we don't trust them much. So we have hardly ever touched them. Keep this in mind....

Josh called me two days ago and said that he had found a vet and that this man could come right then to see the dogs. Do I want Josh to come home or am I okay without him? I thought I could handle it, especially because I had two teens with me who could watch the kids while I dealt with the dogs.

I started looking for the dogs. Bob (the male) was in Josh's "new" office - he's not allowed in there, but likes the shade, cool tile floor, and the isolation. Bob is pretty sick. So, I closed the door and left him in there. At least Bob is contained and I know where he is.

Now, Sala, the female dog... She is so skittish and scared that when I try to pet her and she just whimpers and runs away. She was nowhere to be found. The guy at the gate for the compound said that he saw her run toward the other houses, so I took a little walk... no luck. She walked into the yard a short while later and so I tried to tie a rope to her collar and she freaked out. And I freaked out so she got away. 'sigh'

The vet arrived soon thereafter and he examined poor Bob. He decided that Bob needed three injections for three days. Ok. Then he asked me to "restrain the dog" while he injected him. WHAT?! I'm a doctor, I'm a mom, not a vet, not a wild dog handler. I asked for his advice on "restraining the dog" and he just looked scared of the dog. 'sigh' So I used my most sweet comforting mommy voice, got behind him, and held the base of his skull as if my life depended on it so that he couldn't get his head around to bite. For a terrifying 30 minutes... no really probably 3 minutes, but it felt that long... the vet nervously injected Bob while Bob growled, snarled, and tried to evade my death grip on his skull. Finally, Bob, recognizing that he was overpowered by mommy-doctor-wild-dog-handler, just laid down and gave up.

Then Sala... I could not catch her, try as I might. So, after asking 10 different times, 10 different ways if there were tablets to deworm her (instead of injections), the vet said that there were tablets to deworm her. Great! Bring those tomorrow!

Day 2: the vet returns. Josh stays home to meet him to do the dog handling. Bob suffers the indignity of more injections with less snarling and is still friends with us. Sala eats all the meat (the precious meat!!) and leaves the tablets... argh! Then, the vet informs us that he needs to inject her still with a second medicine... WHAT?! argh. Josh corners poor trembling Sala who never growled or tried to defend herself and she gets an injection. It's 9:00pm and her pills, re-disguised in yummy food, sit uneaten. Shoulda given her the second injection. Again... communcation problem!

Day 3: hopefully will be less eventful! Already Bob is perking up, eating again, and wagging his tail to see us come home.

Side note - the rumor is that Sala had puppies this past year... oh brother! here I was hoping she was spade...yikes....

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

O come let us adore Him

O come let us adore HIM,
O come let us adore HIM,
O come let us adore HIM,

Monday, December 12, 2011


I've been struggling to make Christmas season feel like Christmas here, in the heat, away from the commercialism of the North American stores and culture. It's refreshing in one sense, but I'll readily admit that I miss Christmas season! My mother-in-law and I could together keep the Christmas season going for months! :)

But I made an advent wreath (still in progress - photo above) and the kids and I make Christmas crafts once I find craft supplies that are affordable. A friend has been feeding us Advent readings (thank you, Gina!) and I had a good enough internet connection to download sheet music for Josh to play guitar Christmas songs. I've been playing Christmas music non-stop on my computer - we're already about tired of my few Christmas albums (haha!).

I think I have a nativity set on the container that is now in Kampala (good progress!!) but will not probably arrive here, let alone be unpacked by Christmas...

BUT, I found brown sugar and ginger, so I should be able to make gingerbread (not to mention all the REAL ginger - haha!). And I have a stash of toilet paper tubes to make crafts out of... I just miss North American Christmas - plain and simple!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

WHY parent?

It came to me in the night that I didn't explain WHY we expect obedience, trust, respect, truth, and happy hearts from our children. WHY do we discipline? WHY do we rebuke? WHY do we interfere when they are hitting another? WHY do we comfort?

We believe that God sent up the family to show the Gospel to the world. I could talk about that for a long time, but down to parenting... We are to teach our children to obey, trust, respect, tell the truth, and have happy hearts to teach them to obey God. If my child learns at an early age that she does not have to respect authority, it will be so difficult for her to respect God. If my son learns as a toddler that my instructions are just suggestions, how will he hear God's words, the words of the almighty creator sustainer?

It's our job to teach children from the very moment they can comprehend so that they learn how to interact with our amazing Savior and gracious Father. It's our responsibility. When I tire of it (and I do!), Josh reminds me that THIS is why God made me to be a mother. Not for the joys of motherhood (although those joys are SO great!). Not for the snuggles (and those are so sweet!). Not for the easy days (those are so few at this stage in our young family). Not for the obedience (and that is so rewarding). But to TRAIN our children and usher them into a right relationship with God.

So, the children at Home of Love, likewise, need this training and this very well might be one reason that God has brought us here!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Mama Modeling

The mamas at Home of Love are at a training this week, so during the day, older teens have been brought in to watch the children. The first day, half of the teens slept under a tree and the other half looked bewildered as the younger children ran wild. Today, over the course of a LONG day, I noticed a change in them.

Most of my time is still spent hanging back so that I can observe what is done culturally, what is appropriate, and learn how to behave myself. When it comes to children, it's difficult for me to allow some things to pass. So, through many discussion with Lucy, the matron of Home of Love, she has given me full reign to parent the children at Home of Love as if they were my own. Well, I don't take it that far (yet), BUT, I was certainly stepping in today.

Breaking up fights... lots of fights.

Talking to children about not fighting, hitting, or kicking each other.

Hugging, snuggling, kissing the crying ones... wiping those tears away.

Trying to figure out WHY a child is crying.

These are all things that are not routinely done by the mamas, so the teens have not seen this type of mothering modeled for the most part. Through the course of time with me, two of the girls started doing similar things and I was so proud of the maturity that they showed. They could have ignored it and let the kids fend for themselves. They could have yelled harshly. But I saw them tenderly hold a crying child, take a fighting one aside to talk to, and demonstrate in several other ways that they had a tender love for the children instead of a duty to keep them from killing each other.

I am, by NO STRETCH of the imagination, a perfect mother. But I do shower my children (and others!) with affection and expect obedience, respect, trust, honesty, and joyful hearts from my children. It will be interesting to see what happens at Home of Love as parenting is modeled by us and by families that are joining our team in the next year!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The cow path

I chose carefully which side of the rift to perch the car on in our descent. Some holes in the road are best tackled by going directly through, others by trying to straddle with the car wheels, and others by avoiding all together. I apologized to my riders as we bounced over the ruts, rifts, holes, and dry streams like hyper children at a party. I plunged into the ditch, to avoid a pile of dirt and rubble that had been dumped in the middle of the road for a future road-repair project, and emerged victorious on the other side.

I squinted at the cow path and glanced at my companion. She nodded nonchalantly, pointing with pouty lips to a tree, no… to a rock, no… to the goat?

“So I go there?” I asked, just to clarify. Babra nodded. I swallowed. “Does she remember that we are in a vehicle?” I thought to myself. I dove in, trusting that some other car must have done this in the past. I cringed as the branches scraped along the roof and sides of the van. We emerged into a circle of huts. Relief to be in an open space with clean-swept, hard packed dirt underneath our wheels was quickly replaced by concern that a car was perhaps not supposed to be in someone’s home.

Babra was unconcerned and pointed to a fence. From the open car window, she greeted the mzee who was relaxing under his tree. He grunted his appreciation for the polite greeting. She pointed again to the fence. I saw an opening. An opening that was just the width of my van. An opening threatened by a piece of barbed wire on one side and a solid tree on the other side. I scooted the van around through various non-skilled maneuvers in order to approach the opening as directly as possible without using a hut as a launching pad. Feeling like a wimp, I finally asked Babra to jump out and pull the barbed wire out of the way. She complied and gave the fence post a complimentary tug as the van did its part in shoving it aside. I plunged in.

A lady carrying wood as big as multiple small trees on her head detoured off the cow path into the tall grass between two trees to let us pass. I smiled and greeted, hardly daring to take my eyes off the path, let alone lift a hand off the wheel to wave.

We emerged into another homestead. I focused so hard on not running into children, chickens, and goats, that I only later realized that I passed under a low clothesline to my parking spot. I was eager for this journey to end, so I jumped out, pulled a collapsible wheelchair out of the back of the van and left the one year old and two four year olds in the back seat briefly to go get Stephen. We found Stephen sitting in the front of his auntie’s home and, in my eagerness to retrace my steps (I was nervous that I would not figure out how to turn the van around), I loaded him into the van more quickly than a mzungu should.

We waited some minutes until Babra returned to the van and we were off again. I took out someone’s clean laundry (sorry!) and a stump (sorry car!), but succeeded in not scraping the bottom of the car at a point in the road that neither Josh nor I had succeeded in the past.

When we finally got back to Home of Love, Stephen’s beaming smile was reward enough as the children called his name and eagerly waited for me to open the door. I pulled out the wheelchair, lifted Stephen out of the van and he was wisked away before I could even settle him properly in the chair. I had a better understanding of why Stephen, with spina bifida, was left at home every day all day when I thought of the time, energy, fuel, and car damage that had gone into this trip just to bring Stephen to play with his friends. I prayed that this small act of love would show him Jesus’ love.

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