Tuesday, May 29, 2012

New family dynamics

(I needed a break - so the kids watched "Signing Time" after dinner when Josh had to be out for a meeting. It was really neat to see them all interested in the same thing. AND it's great for Moses' English language development. If anyone ever sees these DVDs at a yard sale or other, we love the DVDs and would love to share them with the school and our future ministry to children with disabilities and their families!)

It's amazing how one child can change family dynamics so much! Moses is an easy-going happy guy. He's not an emotional roller coaster ride like Ana. He's not a high-energy independent like Noah. He's not a high-needs entertain-me like Gracie. So he adds one more dynamic to the family and balances out some of the dramatic personalities that we have. He and Gracie haven't spent much time together, so I was quick to allow him to take Gracie on a trip around the house (his backpack loaded with treasures). I only had to rescue Gracie once from the front step (she wouldn't have tipped, but still made me nervous!) and he's old enough that he learned from that and didn't try any more steps with her. Gracie loved the attention and movement. She thinks he's hilarious when he sneezes, so that's really been their only bonding point so far!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Gotcha!

Like Daddy like son!

We had a small dinner celebration with our teammates (the Riegers) - I made lasagna (haven't had that in nearly a year!!!) and chocolate cake with caramel topping and the Riegers brought LEMON cake from a MIX! Ah! the small pleasures in life!


This adoption is so different from Gracie's... in so many ways!

Josh has known Moses for years. We've known him as a family since November. We have spent a lot of time with him and he has even lived in our home for a few weeks. So we aren't bringing a complete stranger into our family, like Gracie was. Neither is this our first child, like Gracie was. We are still living, playing, working in the same places that Moses has spent every day of his life. In fact, HE is more comfortable in many of the settings than we are!

We got word Friday night that we could show up at Home of Love Saturday at 10:00am to take Moses home. What beautiful timing! We had wondered for so long how and when we would find out that we could bring him home. But bringing him home on the weekend gave us time as a family to relax together, let Josh be a significant presence and set the stage before we plunge into our first week together as a family.

When arrived at Home of Love promptly at 10:00am and Bosco was just behind us. Home of Love appeared deserted - we have NEVER seen it so quiet and still. As we unloaded the kids from the car, Moses rounded the corner, alone, looking so very "smart" in a nice play outfit and his black school shoes. He was very serious but immediately stuck with us and Ana stuck to him like glue. These four-year-olds understood what was happening!

We found everyone gathered in the meeting/eating structure, waiting for us, solemnly. We greeted and Bosco gave introductory words and we realized that this was a small event and we were going to have a chance to talk with the children and staff about what was going on. We were so grateful! Josh and Bosco gave spur of the moment speeches, focused on the centrality of adoption in the Gospel/Bible. They gave reassurances that their "brother" Moses was still going to be around, still in school with them, still playing with them, but would belong to our family now.

It was a beautiful time of sharing and reassurance and it was beautiful to see the concern that the children had for Moses. One of the mamas really seemed to understand and gave a beautiful talk to the children as well. It hit me during that time, that this was really happening! Moses was really coming into our family!

I gave out the cookies that I had baked for the children - so glad that I had taken the time to do so because that small token meant a lot. Then, our FOUR children disappeared as the other children dispersed. As Josh and Bosco talked amongst themselves longer, our children all went directly to the car, clinging to each other, apparently eager to start their new life as a family! What an amazing show of affection!

The kids have been eagerly awaiting for Moses to occupy his bed, so this was a big event! Yes, the Dora decals will be shifted around and more appropriate boy decor put up (glow in the dark stars for Moses and jungle animals for Noah), but we wanted Moses to be part of that and we're waiting for the girls' bed to be made.

BUT, it was tea time, and you can't leave during tea time. So I coaxed the children to come back and eat some porridge. We didn't delay long and they were quite happy to get in the car and head off into the mid-day heat together as a family!

For our "family adventure," we went to Uchumi (the only supermarket in town) and shopped as a family. Moses' first time in such a supermarket and Ana's favorite place, so they had a blast! The store was out of flour (yes, these things happen all the time, even with staples like flour, and are quite expected) so we ran to another store (a small Indian-owned shop) to get flour for all my necessary baking.

I spent the rest of the day cooking and baking for dinner with the Riegers, our teammates, as the kids went crazy with their excitement to be together!

There are going to be some significant days of adjustment ahead of us. Moses is coming from an unstructured life to a very structured life. We have many rules, he has known very very few rules. We have many expectations, he has never had expectations placed on him. He was the baby at Home of Love, here he is maybe the second oldest (and he sure loves being Noah's big brother, that's for sure!). He barely knows his letters and can't write his own name, his peer, Ana, reads at a 8 year old level. BUT, he is a helpful, caring, and kind-hearted boy who is going to be such a great brother to his siblings!

Josh and Uncle Bosco (the social worker) shared with Home of Love - all children and staff gathered promptly at 10:00am for our arrival!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Tomorrow...?

After months of waiting for the “next step” and weeks of chasing paperwork and juggling schedules of the very busy local child-welfare official and our social worker (who is the administrator for ACTION Gulu AND the head social worker at Home of Love AND just finishing his last term of a degree program!)… it looks like tomorrow might be bring-Moses-home day! Praise God!

Our kids have been pretty good about “when Moses joins our family.” I was worried that the constant waiting and unknown might be difficult. But they’re missionary kids. All the younger two have ever known is the uncertainty of being missionaries – when will we go to Uganda? When will we go to the USA? When will we see Mimi again?

Our concern also extends to the other children at Home of Love. Moses is the first adoption at Home of Love. The children have seen other children reunited with extended family members when the home situation became stable enough. But they have never seen one of their own be taken into the family of a missionaries that they all know and love. They have never seen one of their own be singled out in such a dramatic way.

So, tonight, in a tiny attempt to show them our love for ALL of them, I’m baking cookies for all of them. Tomorrow, when we show up as a family at Home of Love, we’ll give them cookies and take Moses away from them into our family forever. Sounds trivial, but it's one small attempt to show them that this is reason for all of them to celebrate for their "brother!"

Will you pray for everyone? Pray for the Home of Love children who will be processing this event. Pray for Moses as he is so excited to join our family but may not realize the full implications of being in a family. Pray for the rest of our children as they make room in so many ways for another four year old. Pray for all of us as we continue to spend time with the Home of Love children and staff in just the same way, except now Moses will show up with us as a Rattin and not a “Home of Love child.”

Josh got the privilege of sitting Moses down with the Matron (Lucy) and assistant social worker (Ruth) this week. As he held Moses on his lap, he watched Moses’ tiny smile grow and grow as Moses started to understand that his dream of being part of our family is becoming reality. I think this is a memory that Josh will always cherish!

I won’t wax eloquent in this post about adoption. There are so many excellently written books, articles, and blogs about adoption. All I will say is that we are so privileged and humbled to make it part of our lives and to be adopted by God as FULL HEIRS to the kingdom with Jesus Christ!

We’re eager to start this new season of life with Moses!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The lifelong quest for less chaos


Life in ministry tends to be chaotic… we’re dealing with human nature, after all!

So, we have a constant quest for organizing our household to minimize chaos in at least one realm of life. We have had bookshelves made, with custom measurements to help us get more organized. We try to learn from everyone’s household, especially households with lots of family members. The children constantly thwart my efforts as I make systems to complicated for the 20 month old to follow. He’s not quite ready to sort items into the appropriately labeled bin… maybe next month. :)

So this month, I bought a huge basket in the market from the basket man, Alex. It’s really a pretty basket and it’s huge… so on impulse, I emptied all my not-nicely-sorted-bins of toys into this one huge basket. And it’s working! The children are all able to comprehend “throw ALL the toys into the basket.” Even the big trucks and balls fit into the basket. I keep art supplies separate (another eternal quest – Ana is QUITE the artist and goes through SO much paper – right now it’s all in bins – ideas welcome!); books, puzzles, blocks, and toys in sets are separate in our homeschooling closet in bins with lids (which we brought from the USA) and the children have to ask to get those activities and clean them up before they go on to another one.

This huge basket is in the living room, looks pretty with the lid on when company comes over and by the time Daddy gets home, is an “easy” clean-up at the end of playtime, and doubles as a basketball game (smart thinking, Ana!)… A good solution for this stage of our lives!


So why is this missionary doctor blogging about organization? If I can’t organize my house, I cannot venture outside my home for ministry and expect to have a peace-filled home. If I can’t keep my home organized, I can’t expect to be satisfied with people helping me in my home. If I can’t figure out ways to let my children succeed at helping around the house, then I can’t expect to train them. And that, after all, is the point of being a parent: training and sheparding our children’s hearts!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Different culture, different priorities

(ACTION Gulu's Jesus is the Truth Nursery School lined up for morning exercises.)

We've been sending Ana on the Home of Love van to school - now that she's used to it, she enjoys time with her friends outside of school, the children certainly enjoy Ana's presence (what other children get to ride to school with a 4-year-old mzungu?!), and it saves us some scheduling headaches. But, Uncle Joseph forgot to pick her up this morning for school. This, the day that Josh walked to the bus park at 6 something in the morning to catch a bus to Kampala. This, the first day of my single-motherhood for a few days.

So, I debated... do I pack the kids into the car and drive her myself or do I wait for Joseph to come back from the school to get her? Either way she'll be late for school. Late for school = mortal sin (in the back of my mind, apparently)!

For the sake of relationships (letting Joseph serve us even though it meant that she would be even later to school than if I took her), I waited at home for Joseph. And off she went, perhaps a good half hour late for school, after a good long greeting and short conversation with our friend Joseph.

Late to school is NOT a mortal sin here.

The Acholi culture has a long history of placing a very high value on education. They have made unique decisions as a tribe throughout their tumultuous history in order to ensure education for their children and themselves. They have long recognized education as key to advancement in this world.

But, there are different priorities. For instance, our teenagers didn't go back to school on Monday as scheduled with the beginning of second term... why? Because their odi (peanut and sesame paste) hadn't been ground yet and they needed to take it with them for boarding school (now, they go to school relatively locally - my question: why didn't they go to school on Monday and check in on the odi after school?).

They didn't go to school on Tuesday. Why? Because there had been no electricity on Monday at the mill, so their odi was still not ground.

In my mind, why would you miss TWO whole days of school, the beginning of the new term, for something that, with a little creative thinking, did not have to supercede school attendance?

Our young friend, Monica, showed up during dinner last night, asking for school fees. Two days into the term. She just had school holiday for three weeks, why didn't she work on that situation during holiday? She has known for the last three months that she would need to find money for school by May. I warned her two months ago that we could not pay for her schooling this next term and that she needed seek sponsorship elsewhere. Needless to say, I've been waiting for her to show up asking for school fees, because thinking ahead is not part of the cultural mindset. You deal with the problem WHEN it arises and not beforehand. Why concern yourself with a problem that has not appeared to bother you yet?

Us mzungus like to ask "why?" because the obvious answer doesn't seem to make sense in our schedule-driven life. Why didn't you buy supplies before you ran out? Why didn't you leave the house until the meeting was already supposed to be starting? Why did you show up three days late for school?

Well, there's almost always an answer... but don't expect the answer to make sense to a Westerner either! ;-P

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother's Day

There is no Mother's Day widely celebrated in Uganda, so this day came and went without ceremony, Hallmark cards, church recognition, sales to entice customers in stores, or special greetings.

But Josh remembered! So that's all that counts!

He made breakfast (woohoo!) and woke Ana up to make me a card (which meant that Ana's face was NOT the first thing I saw when I opened my eyes this morning but rather I awoke on my own after sleeping in a full 10 minutes - YES!). We went to church 45 minutes late (feels so terrible, but the service was just getting started!), the kids did slightly better than usual sitting through the service and Josh did the bulk of that work. The sermon by the guest speaker was terribly unBiblical BUT the pastor (our friend Peter) corrected the errors afterwards for the congregation in the most gracious but straight forward manner we have EVER heard!

We took a little drive to debrief that sermon and the "comments" by Pastor Peter and then went to a local hotel for lunch. We asked for a table under the mango tree in the yard so that the children could play while we waited for our food. Just before the food arrived we realized that we were out of money because the gate man had asked us for "an advance" to help with funeral costs for his daughter-in-law (or some relation like that) on our way to church that morning. Always an adventure in the Rattin family!

We figured out the money situation, ate a yummy meal, the kids took good naps when we got home while Josh and I drank Kenyan-style chai tea on our front patio with a gentle rain cooling the afternoon. In the evening, Josh ran out to the store to get ice-cream (we had seen it there yesterday so were pretty sure there would be some) and we made ice-cream sundaes and wrestled the kids into bed...

A pretty typical day, but something about Josh remembering the day and making extra effort to save me some work made everything a little more tasty and relaxing... made me go ahead and ask him to get ice-cream... made me ready to tackle tomorrow with new resolve to spend more time in God's word, to get my eyes fixed on CHRIST instead of myself and the daily struggle of training and sheparding these precious children.

Happy Mother's Day, dear mothers. I pray that your eyes might be fixed on eternity on this day. That God would bless you with a focus on what really matters in life. That as you are celebrated and honored, as you are saved from a little of your daily work, that you would be able to take a moment to be renewed by Christ and find your worth in GOD.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Home of Love love


Lucy, Home of Love's matron and my closest Ugandan friend, often states that Home of Love is truly a home of love. When I ask her any question about how the children will respond to something, she responds that they love each other and they love God. I'm always probing with typical mzungu questions, "How do the children feel when the other children go to visit relatives and these ones have to stay behind?" "How do the children respond to a child who has disabilities?" "Is it okay if these children receive something and those ones do not?" etc. etc. And she is right - they respond in love, for the most part!

They are still children and still have some jealousies and sadnesses. But, we have been amazed at their resilience, their love for each other, and their love for those who are even more vulnerable than they are!

They have not gotten bored of Gracie yet. They find her antics amusing and look on her with such fondness. I rarely find her left alone in her wheelchair. They will pull her up to the table near them and offer her paper. Or they'll gather around her to keep her company.

What a gift!


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Ministry fundraiser


An artist-friend of future ACTION Gulu missionaries (Rich and Joy Sayer - look 'em up on facebook!) has generously designed a t-shirt/hoodie to benefit ACTION Gulu! All profits will go to our ministries (desperately in need!) - encourage your friends to buy one! Father's Day... graduations... birthdays... probably too late for Mother's Day but they do come in lady-colors too, so... :)

Click on the picture to go to the website!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

My mangoes... your tomatoes...


There is so much about our life here that is so similar to any of yours, with a different flavor.  Part of my motivation in writing on this blog is to share more about missions on the personal level.  Make missionaries abroad more approachable and real.  Hopefully help to reveal that God’s calling is for each of us to serve us where He has placed us.  The call to missions is no greater in status than God’s call on YOUR life.

So the abundance of mangoes in our yard is not unlike the abundance of tomatoes or grapes or apples that many of you will be thankful for in a few months (but will have to deal with despite your thankfulness)! ;-)

Our two mango trees started dropping mangoes quite a while ago – tiny green mangoes, followed by larger green mangoes in a large enough quantity that I was able to make a batch of green mango relish (yum), followed by a steady supply of mangoes enough to feed all the guards in the area who would stop by before and after their shifts to gather mangoes, followed by an avalanche of bright yellow juicy fibrous mangoes that rain down at night with defined kurplunks outside our bedroom window.

Our first surprise is that, even behind a fence, the neighborhood felt at liberty to help themselves to the mangoes.  We gladly shared, but finding strange men gathering mangoes in the yard at all times of day was not acceptable so we had to get more strict and require a grant of permission before someone could enter our yard for their midnight snack.

Secondly, the avalanche of mangoes took us a bit by surprise when the last week of April (after watching the evolution of mango buds to flowers to fruit since early January) brought a sudden wealth of mangoes.  The market is saturated.  Our Home of Love children never begrudge a box or bags of mangoes.  Every visitor to our house left with a bulging bag of mangoes.  But after awhile, it became obvious that I needed to actually deal with these mangoes on a larger scale to make use of the bounty that God provided for us!

(Here is the yard after an hour of gathering, several of the full buckets not included in the picture.)

These mangoes are a local variety that are very fibrous – delicious, but hardly the kind that you can cut up into neat little cubes for a lovely fruit salad.  Rather, they are the kind that you rip open, slobber all over, inhale the juicy pulp, and require all consumption to be OUTSIDE of the house. 

So, friends introduced us to their method of extracting the golden nectar: pressure cook the mangoes whole just until the pressure rises, then, mash the whole mangoes through a strainer/colander.  The juice flows out with some pulp but the fibrous strands stay attached to the seed.  Finally, given our lack of chest freezer or large scale canning (we have a tiny freezer and 3 1L canning jars), I am reducing the liquid down into a thick puree.  The result: a lovely stock of mango puree perfect for reconstituting into Gracie’s thickened liquids! Perfect, since we’re running low on her thickener (she has to drink thickened liquids due to a swallow disorder). 


(I used every pot in the house 5 or 6 times today and only got through 1/4 of the mangoes that I need to process!)

Of course, we’re also getting mango juice, mango sorbet, and mango cookies out of it (etc etc!).  In fact, Ana and I dream of making a large enough batch of cookies to take some to Home of Love (that’s A LOT of cookies!)… so our entire week is going to be full of mango processing adventures in between our other adventures of life and ministry!

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