Previous month:
November 2014
Next month:
January 2015

Entries from December 2014

2014, What a Year!

As the year comes to a close it is time to start reflecting, or forgetting, what has happened over the past twelve months. It was a big year for us. Ups and downs. Mostly ups. I wonder if I can create a bullet point list of highlights of 2014:

  • The biggest event was moving to The Shire. Starting life on the farm and creating a system that can be duplicated to care for more children.
  • Acquiring farm animals.
  • Building our house out of mud. (We are still working on it. The girls floor was fixed, and the restroom floors as well. Benches were built, and are being built. )
  • Something not so good was we had a case of hysteria. Rough, but we managed to help her through it.
  • We also fixed and then had to sell our car, which left us car-less. 
  • Instead of a car (our van is being used at a nursery school run by our Kenyan partner Ali) we now have motorcycles. Cheaper, but less versatile. 
  • Our cow gave birth to a healthy bull. Also the rabbit gave birth a few days ago and a hen is sitting on eleven or so eggs. Thank God no humans were born on The Shire this year.
  • Mercy finished primary school.
  • I, Johnny, read 25 books this year. Not even half of what I read last year. The children have discovered the joys of the Kindle, consequently leaving me with less reading time. 

2015 will be the year of planting, watering, harvesting, and canning whatever we can grow.


I love Christmas...

Why I love Christmas.

It is funny really. I typed a long article to balance Johnny's annual 'Bah! Humbug!' post about his dislike of Christmas, and now I can't find it... It disappeared. In some ways, it is for the best, because I hadn't read Johnny's article before typing it, and after reading his, I realised, we actually wrote similar things. Though Johnny is ambivilent to Christmas, I still love it.

And I love Christmas mostly because I love people. Getting together, supporting eachother, stepping out of our comfort zones, singing, doing silly things, or things that would not be normal day to day, and making fun memories is a huge part of Christmas.

We are very fortunate that our children are growing up in Africa for the last ten years (all of their little lives) and... Admittedly we miss seeing our families' faces, but the reality is, we have no pressure to perform "Commercial Christmas Magic". My kids do not care about 'Santa'. They have no clue about the next fad on TV. They do not watch cartoons nor know of commercials. You might wonder how my kids can have FUN without any of those things? What makes Christmas different than any other time of year? Well, just like any child, mine anticipate Christmas morning... no... Christmas MONTH, as much as any other child. We spend the entire month doing various activites: Making gingerbread houses, eating forbidden sugars and sodas, and well... making memories with eachother. Even Johnny gets in the spirit of it all and does whatever the activity is for the day, even if it means climbing up to the top of the mountain lugging our heavy picnic lunch along the way... We drink white wine in the sun, make smores, play games, wear silly hats, and take bubble baths at a friend's house. We listen to music, watch movies, give the kids cash and take them out shopping for eachother, and just make some family traditions.

Each day as it gets closer to Christmas, I admit, my kids get excited about opening presents. They count down the days. But Christmas is still simple at our house. The gifts were chosen by the children for the other children. Common items include chocolate, tinned fruit, used clothes, and a book or two. I admit, it was fun. It was not overwhelming at all. Not only did we not have wrapping paper to deal with since we always use Furoshiki to wrap all our presents each year, but my kids felt like this was the best Christmas ever. No one ever has this wish list in their head that they hope Santa will bring them. It just doesn't happen. So there isn't any disappointment.

We spent our day making music with Fien and the Barrows. We ate some yummy food that they brought over. In fact, noone even ate my fudge nor my apple pie because the Barrows and Fien brought so much food! We even had a proper Tesco English Christmas Pudding with Rum Butter that Fien whipped up here at the Shire! It was a lovely day, and I am grateful for it.

I must admit I have loads of guilt for being on the receiving end of such a big 'gift' this year. My new piano is a HUGE thing. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. All of you people who came together and made that Christmas miracle happen...THAT is what Christmas is about. Not about the actual item/gift, but about the love you showed towards me and my family this Christmas.

Thank you.

Éowyn was so excited she got a soda and a tin of pineapple from her sister Edith. It just made her day. She also got a princess dress from her grandparents, shoes from her grammy and a poncho. She is one happy chickadee.

 

 


Bah Humbug?

It has become something of a tradition with myself to despise Christmas. Personally I feel it is the worst holiday, simply because it no longer resembles a holiday. Christmas is just an excuse to help corporations get in the black for the year, or at least for the month.

Anyway my biggest problem now is that I have been so far removed from the Christmas I do not like, that I've become, well ambivalent about the whole thing. The dislike as gone, and what is left is just annoyance.

I have to endure a bit of Christmas music, look at the tree, and suffer Kate's countdown to the day. The commercialization is pretty much nonexistent here in Kenya, and most people do not put a lot of stock in the day. We only watched two Christmas movies this year, and one of them was Die Hard. Can't go wrong with Die Hard.

No decorations, no lights in the neighborhood, no caroling, no parties (other than our own,) and best of all no expectations. 

I suppose that the pressure to give give and give some more during this holiday is why I really dislike Christmas.

Still I have enjoyed the food, drinks, and company this holiday season. Maybe like Scrooge I am being converted?

Nah. I still prefer Easter. 


Our To Do List for December


This is just a little list I found myself writing so I could keep up with all the things I need to do in the next week. It may not make sense to you, but I thought it a bit fun to post it so you can imagine all the 'little' projects we are constantly doing around here. The scratched off items are done! This is just a recent list I started this month.



  • Level Padock

  • Put a rail around the loft

  • smooth floors in girls' bedroom

  • smooth floors in bathroom

  • clear a path to the pig sty

  • clean grass out of stone pathways

  • replace water pipe behind house for neighbors

  • bury water pipe

  • install gutters on pig sty

  • install water tank on pig sty

  • Turn metal tank into a grill

  • Fix Fence

  • repair broken counter top

  • plaster bedroom floor

  • plaster bathroom floors

  • make cob bench on veranda

  • plaster cob bench

  • make cob bench next to house

  • plaster benches

  • finish earth bag rounds

  • build roof on earth bag house

  • fill in walls with cob

  • plaster walls with cow dung

  • plant flowers by the hut

  • put compost on pit latrine roof and cellar roof

  • buy pillows for loft and mud benches

  • build steps by roses

  • get a 33"X35" blockboard for table

  • Build shelves for kitchen

  • plaster walls in prancing pony

  • Fence area by stalls up to drive

  • Build a chicken coop 10'x10'

  • Buy 100 chickens

  • Build Cob bed in Hut

  • Dig a well or find water on The Shire

  • Clear a path to top of the hill

  • build a bath tub and hot water system

  • fix up inside of cellar, add shelves

  • build another store for animal feed

  • Plaster toilet floor

  • plaster toilet 2 floor

  • put handle on outhouse

  • get handles for drawers and install

  • install electrical switch for generator solar

  • buy hay

  • buy animal feed

  • fix clay steps with offcuts

  • weed strawberries

  • get rid of old futon

  • build cob bench on veranda

  • build bench for dining table

  • buy piano

  • buy chicken wire

  • collect rocks

  • Build dining table

  • plaster bathroom floors

  • put up bunk beds

  • dig pig hole for roasting

  • clean around house

  • wash lanterns



Dinning Out

When we first moved to Kenya, and when we had the ability to do so, we dinned out as a family once a week. The kids always looked forward to it, and I just love feeding people. Once we added all the extra members to our family it became difficult, nigh on impossible, to all go out. While the majority of the girls were off visiting friends and relatives we took an opportunity to eat Chinese. 

20141210_125353_resized

Unfortunately when the food arrived we were a bit preoccupied and failed to snap a photo.


Words

Sticks and stones will break my bones
But words will never harm me.

Remember that from way back when you were still a kid? I grew up as a fat kid, which means bullying was an everyday affair in elementary school. While I can't specifically remember throwing this phrase at a bully, I for sure thought it in his/her general direction. Thing is it's not true, the phrase that is.

Words mean a great deal to me, and others. Taunting, name calling, and verbal barrages do more damage to me than sticks or stones could ever. I am not sure if I am too sensitive, or have simply read too many words. However I became how I am, I am how I am now. Words hurt.

I am sure one of the reasons I sympathise with the homosexual community is that I have heard a lot of bad words thrown at them. When Kate and I argue over parenting issues, words are generally at the core. Funny thing is I don't really use many words myself. Not talkative, describes me fairly well. I am not shy, and can speak at length (just come hear one of my sermons.) I just like to preserve my words. Not that I always think before I speak. Kate can attest to that flaw in my life.

Not sure why I am writing this, but words do mean something. Labels we put on ourselves or others can either be freeing or restricting. On the other side of the coin some people do not put such value on words. Words do not harm them as much, and often they fail to see the impact their words have on others. I try to keep in mind that just because someone speaks something negative doesn't mean that that negativity is in their heart.

 

 

 

 


A Piano in House

When Kate gets it in her head to do something, it gets done. She raised money, found a piano, and had it delievered before Christmas.

IMG_3121

I have a new series planned for the blog, The Changing Face of Missions, and things like buying pianos is part of that change. Why should we settle for just housing and feeding orphans? Why not create a life, a family, that is worth living and having? Sometimes all it takes to make a life wonderful is something as simple as spending money on a piano.

IMG_3120

Soon these hands will start teaching our girls how to create music from this wooden box. I am positive they will love it. Several of them are musical, and they all love singing. 

Thank you for those who gave to this effort, and those of you who help us to not only feed and house these children, but help us in crafting a hopeful future for them. (and us.)

By the way the piano is a Kawai, maybe 20 years old, a level one, and brown. All you other folks working with orphans here in Kenya, we bought it from Bol Pianos. Check them out. I know you can't afford to buy a piano, neither could we last week.


Charged

Well I did it. Went to Nakuru yesterday and bought a new battery for my laptop. Was actually easy to find one. Found it at the very first place I stopped at. (For the sake of transparency  I stopped at a couple of other places first. Had to park the motorcycle somewhere safe and checked the p.o. box while I was there.) Paid 4,500 KES, which is about $49 U.S. dollars. So this morning, after charging it last night while we used our stored solar energy, I'm running a $50 test. Will it last? So far so good.

This test almost didn't happen. Andrew, our 16 year old son, decided to crank the generator and introduce his sisters to Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It is hard to leave this:

 

For my new laptop battery. At least I am pumping some tunes into my head at the moment.

Much has happened this past week;

  • Kate raised money to buy a piano!
  • Kate and I went to Nairobi and window shopped pianos. (Plus I got to eat at one of my favorite restaurants.)
  • The kids watched a Barbie movie, and Monty Python.

More happened, but it's hard to guage a reader's tolerance level for bullet points.

Almost Christmas. Not to worry my bah humbug post will arrive before then, and Kate's mushy gushy Christmas is awesome post sometime after mine.

Today we are off to Matthew and Michele's place for The Muppets Christmas Carol. 

I'm thinking I need to enjoy this sunny morning with a ride on the motorcycle to town.  See you later.


My 200 Word Excuse

Since moving to The Shire, our farm, it has become more and more difficult to write and keep up with social media and email. I miss much. Not because of all the work, instead the change in our electricity has wrecked havoc on my computing. 

 The Shire is completely off the electrical grid. Which means it is necessary for us to produce our own power. Which we accomplish with our solar system and occasionally our small generator. It works. The solar system gives us from four to six hours of electricity in the evening. Typically I turn it on around 6:45 after dinner. No refrigerator just lights, charging devices and t.v. Works well, with one small hiccup. 

No electricity in the morning. Which is of course when I like to write and do emails. My ageing laptop does not work on battery power anymore. (Though I will look for a new one here in Kenya as soon as I can.) Right now I am typing this on a Galaxy Tab 3, not so easy for one who grew up typing on keyboards. 

So when the lights come on in the evening, I'm ready to relax and watch some Star Trek. 

There you have it, my 200 word excuse on why I am posting less. 


A little campaign...

Ten years ago, I had to walk away from my piano in the States. It was the hardest thing for me to let go of as I embraced the journey to come to Africa.

Many folks are asking me to do this campaign to get a piano for our HUGE family here in Kenya, and I am delighted to do so. Here is the link so you can give and share.

Perhaps consider giving in honor of someone else this Christmas? I will gladly send an email to the person of your choice letting them know!

http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/a-piano-in-africa