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Entries from March 2015

14 Children Facts from our family..

Éowyn Grey (Below). She's five years old and just 28.2lbs as of yesterday~ she is a petite package of cuteness and can always be found wearing a princess dress. She loves to learn and enjoys reading, already, like her older siblings. She was born in Kenya in our home with the help of my late midwife Judy Stewart on a grey December day. Eowyn is just sweet. Enough said.

Emma Caite is 8 years old. She has beautiful, big, dark brown eyes that seem to suck you in. She is an all or nothing kind of soul. She is sensitive, very affectionate, and tends to be every visitor's 'favorite' because she loves deeply and adopts people quickly. She is a cuddler.

Butterfly Annsely Brooks age 11 (below) started talking at 6 months. She always seems older than she is. She loves writing for fun and has an entire world created in her mind with its own language and maps. She is very balanced on horse back and bicycles. She reads all. The. Time. She's lived in Kenya since she was one year old.

Edith Awino age 12 (photo below). Edith tries anything. She eats bugs if you ask her to. Her first experience with a swimming pool, she just dove in and started swimming like her sisters as if she were a natural born swimmer. She did the same with riding horses. She has the sweetest singing voice and a great laugh. She was 4 when she became ours seven and a half years ago.

Makena Adelle age 14 (below). Mak or Kena is a kenetic learner. She played with string as an infant tying it around everything. Now she is a talented crocheter. She loves DOing things, has an artistic eye behind the camera, and a deep love for animals. She loves drawing on skin and doodling. She is becoming a nice flute and piano player, too. Petite for her age, she and Butterfly are often thought to be twins.

Beatrice Nyawira, BeeTee, just turned 15. She is petite like Makena, which made Makena feel normal, and they thought of each other as twin sisters. Beatrice stole Makena's heart and all of the children's hearts in the house when she moved in 7.5 years ago. Beatrice smiles and laughs, a lot. She is the valedictorian of her class in school, and she has a bio-sister who also lives with us. Beatrice is a fan of Jaden Smith, and she enjoys hoolahooping and jumping on the trampoline.

Teresa Awour age 15 is quiet and adorable. She is polite and tidy! I love that she keeps her things neat and helps others do the same. She is fifteen and only joined our family 5 years ago, but without realising it, we were helping our future daughter with food and essentials years before she became ours. I was looking through old photos on our laptop and found one of Teresa as a tiny little girl about 7yrs old holding up bags of food with a smile. It touched me to know I was making a difference even before she stole our hearts.. She makes my heart happy.

Mary Awour age fifteen (see below). The moment Mary moved in we knew this girl had spunk. Mary gives things her 100%. She sings, dances, and is animated. She wins at poetry competitions and gets singing solos at school. She has a big heart and a strong personality. She is always talking, even in her sleep. She is a dramatic person who often times needs a lot of attention.

Andrew (below right) if you haven't noticed, I am going UP in AGE order, but not school grade order. Andrew just turned 17. He was 'made in Kenya' back in 1997 in a village called Molo. We returned to the USA planning a home birth, but we had no home! So Andrew was born in the loft of a friend's house. We moved back to Kenya when he was a 1st grader (home school) so he grew up here in Kenya. Andrew is a 'Mr. Fix it.' He takes after his grandpa, my dad, Dr. Sam Showalter. He loves mechanics, and enjoys working on cars. He is currently apprenticing at a Land Rover Mechanic shop here in Kenya. If I need anything done around the house, Andrew will do it. He is smart and is just an all around good person.

The irony of this shared photo of Andrew and Sarah (below) is that our next in age child Sarah Muthoni, is also age 17, and was born in Molo... which means that she was a newborn in her mom's arms around the time I was living there and pregnant with Andrew. Chances are, we met in that small village. What a crazy world. Sarah is a hard working girl with the brains to match. She is always top in her class and the best at everything she puts her mind to. In fact, if I need a job done, I can always rely on Sarah. I love her to pieces. She is good at Taekwondo, net ball, zumba, and academics. She is always by my side helping in the kitchen.

Mercy Anyango age 18, ninth grade. Mercy has changed the most since moving in with us over 7 years ago. She went from being unable to open her arms nor look a grownup in the eye to being outgoing and confident. She is the teacher's pet at school. Already she is a prefect at her new high school which she is attending on a full scholarship due to her excellent grades. Mercy LOVES doing Zuma. She's quite good! And most of all, Mercy likes to write stories and plays. She has a gift. She likes playing jokes on folks, too!

Mildred Awino age 19, (see photo below). "Milly" as I like to call her has a wonderful personality. It was painful for her to lose her mom 7 years ago, and her wounds were more fresh than our other girls' making her transition into our family that much more bitter/sweet. She had to care for her ill mother so she missed a lot of school. She is in 10th grade now and has grown into a beautiful young woman. I love singing with Mildred and listening to her laugh. I like the way she turns her feet out when she walks in a sort of shuffle. Milly has a bright smile that makes my heart happy! And she is great at milking our cow June!

Sarah Apiyo age 20 (see below). Sarah also missed a great deal of school and is in 10th grade. She is quiet and honest. She never tattles on her sisters, but when there is an issue, I know Sarah will tell the truth. She plays the recorder in her high school and helps around the house when needed. She is a peace maker and has a great laugh.

Grace Mugure (below) our eldest age 20 also was not allowed to go to school as a youngster due to being in an orphanage that forced her to work as a maid. She is in 10th grade as well and is focused on graduating so she can be more than a physical 'model' for young girls, but a real model in all areas of her life. Grace loves fashion. I love that about her. She is self aware, which means she smells nice and looks smart. She is good at playing the recorder in her high school. She likes dancing especially tap and zumba. She wants to model. I adore her.

 

 

 


A Pesa (Money) Post


Part of living abroad and working in the nonprofit sector is fund raising. From the beginning Kate and I have been hesitant to employ traditional methods to raise money. You know stuff like, mailing fliers, constant pleas for money or we might die, promising blessings and 100 fold returns, guilt, and any kind of manipulation. We have not always succeeded in avoiding attempts at manipulation, but we have tried. Funny thing is when we try to get someone to give, it rarely works.
 
Instead our main "fund raising" strategy is to simply share the needs, what we are doing, and who we are. There are a number of people who help us frequently, and we are grateful. Some folks give once a year, once a month, or even quarterly. Love it. The children are proof that it is working. (Ironically Kate is at this very moment lecturing the children about attitude because their attitudes often stink.)
 
Currently we need $500, or $600 would be even better, for paperwork issues. I cannot really get into details here, but it is time to renew and government being government they need money. This being Kenya I was only told about this on Friday. I need to file this paperwork no later than Wednesday.
 
We also need to feed, clothe, and otherwise care for these children. 
 
It is planting time, and we need seeds and a bit more digging. A chicken coop needs to be built. Plus I got this idea for a rabbit pen that would be great for the rabbits and provide meat for us. 
 
The beginning of the month is coming up, which means salaries. We have two single moms who work for us and a man who helps out on the farm. Great to be employing them, plus day labor pretty much any day we have the money to pay.
 
Kate's 40th birthday is this week. We want to have a party and invite people over. Food and drink, fuel for the generator, and a cake wanted, not necessarily needed.
 
I have learned, the hard way, that we cannot make it on our own. Personally, and hopefully you will see some posts on it soon, I believe we are part of the changing face of missions. Part of that change is giving to people and projects with low overhead and demonstrable results. That's us. We are cheap, and I can show you kids that are better off now, than they were. (More children need help, and we are working towards finding sustainable ways to assist more in the future.)

Goodbye Dry Season, I Hope

Water fell from the sky today. Commonly known as rain. Not too much, but enough to actually get the ground wet. Mud actually stuck to the bottom of my shoes, and we slipped in the car on the road. Good times.

One of the big lessons that living in Kenya has taught me is; to try and live life more in tune with nature's cycles. You know, the seasons. We do not have winter, summer, fall, and spring here in Kenya. Just the wet and dry seasons. The fact of if it's raining or not raining has just as big an impact on life as the four seasons I grew up with.

There is no washing of the car during the dry season.

Bathing is not a daily occurrence during the dry season. (Once every three or four days.)

Water has to be rationed. First drinking water, then cooking, then hand washing, teeth brushing, and so on.

Dust becomes a part of you during the dry season.

Just try running down to the village during the dry season on the motorcycle without any eye protection.

You remember all those times when you were a kid spraying ant hills with the hose, and wonder why your parents did not scold you for wasting water.

If it is yellow let it mellow.

This particular dry season felt drier to me. Maybe it is the change of scenery. Now that we are living on The Shire the lack of rain is more pronounced. We have to feed the animals more since most of the grazing is gone. There is no green grass left. The place is really brown. Trees are looking worse for the wear, and there are no flowers. Water is harder to find. Thankfully a neighbor down the road drilled a well this year, and so we plus our neighbors have been able to get water via 20 liter buckets carried on a donkey's back.

It has been hot.

When it rained today it felt fresh, almost like the first flowers of spring. Not that we have any flowers yet, but still the dust was washed away. It cooled down a bit.

Now let us hope that the weatherman is wrong, like he normally is, and this is really the beginning the rainy season.


O.M.G.

Unfortunately I cannot tell all our stories here on the blog. Some exciting, hair raising adventures. Others bone chillingly scary. A few so depressing, that I wonder how I keep going. There are some happy ones that I just can't talk about because of privacy concerns.

Once upon a time we had a wish list here on the blog. Stuff we wanted or even needed that could be shipped to us here in Kenya. Part of that post was a line asking the shippers keep the declared value of the box as low as possible, since we paid a customs duty based on that amount. It does not matter that it is a gift, we still pay. The government objected to that line and charged me a fine for lost customs revenue. Not cool. That was the day I started to pay more attention to what I posted on the blog.

A number of our children are now online, and sometimes might even see this blog. Naturally that hampers my ability to talk about them here.

So if you really want to hear the juicy tales, you gotta come for a visit in person. I cannot promise a tell all, but I guarantee excitement.

 


Meet Dolly

For those of you who do not know it, we got a car!! It all happened rather quickly. An anonymous donor bought us an 18 year old Land Rover.

We chose this particular car because we know its life story, and we know its last 8 years maintenence record. "Dolly" as we call the car was owned by only 2 people, the most recent being well known Land Rover mechanics who also happen to be my friends. Knowing everything about the car made it a good buy! With that said, it revolutionised our day yesterday and today since we got it.

We managed to haul 12 bales of hay, 8 20 liter cans of water, our kids got ferried down to a friend's for a bath, we went shopping, etc.. all in ONE day. Doing that without the car would have taken days.

'Dolly' took our bio fam (since they are finished with school early) to Lake Elementaita hot springs. It was our first family outing in AGES!!

We swam with pelicans, pink flamingos, ducks, and lots of little fish and many local Maasai. It was such a sight seeing the Maasai women washing their clothes in the hot water and throwing their brightly colored wraps on the bushes to dry. The fish were fun, too, jumping over us as we swam!

Then Makena Brooks had to go to hospital for a minor operation. She stepped on a thorn three weeks ago. It broke in her foot, and we did not know it was still in there pierced all the way through. (See the type of thorn below.) After our swim at the lake, we noticed it was abscessed. So Dolly came to our aid again! We were able to go to hospital without much fuss! If this had happened just a couple of days ago, it would have been far more complicated. Makena had a local anesthetic for the thorn removal and is fine now.

 

 


A Series of events

Today started early with me walking through the bush with my 5 bio-children hoping to not cross wild buffalo! We took a public van to Nakuru where the kids went on with some other home schooled children to a coop meeting, and I spent the morning running errands on foot in town.

Johnny and I spoke in the afternoon at our East African Women's League. I think it went beautifully! We talked about what we do in Kenya.

Then my friend Jessica who sold us our Land Rover brought the car there so we could drive it home! And we DID! It went smoothly, and over the rugged terrain like a Land Rover should!

When we arrived home, we found 3 of our 10,000 liter watertanks had been literally picked up by a massive dirt devil and dropped in various places on The Shire. Two crashed into and broke our perimeter fence. There is some damage to the tanks, but hopefully only on the top at the seams. They are guaranteed for 15 years, but I don't know if they include weather issues like this! At $700 each tank, I can't afford to have one broken. The small twister also took off the roof of the Cow stalls and Andrew's bedroom window! Plus other damage was done to the stall structure as well.

I am just grateful the children and animals are ok. Captain Jack Sparrow, our pony, was quite frightened by it all and needed some comfort when I got home!

My day ended with a lovely, long talk with my friend Fien. It was just great chatting with her...

It has been an eventful day, to say the least!


Exiting news!

We are excited to announce that without any warning, an anonymous donor decided to buy us a car. It is a refreshing surprise. We are getting a 1997 Land Rover from a friend. It will take a couple of weeks to get the money this side and in their hands, but soon it will be ours.

Our family has struggled without a car. Taking a sick child to hospital on the back of a motorcycle is not easy. I know from experience.

I appreciate our motorcycles and how they help us, but I have had several accidents on mine, and I can also see how unsafe they are. I feel so excited to be able to take our family out in the not too distant future!

This vehicle has only been owned by 2 people. The first owner was a car savvy man who was the Headmaster of a very posh school here in Kenya called Greensteds.

The latest owner is the son of my friend, a mechanic, and specialises in Land Rovers.

While doing our research, we learned that 70% of all Land Rovers ever made are still on the road!

This particular car is 1997, 110, 300TSI. We are getting new tires with it as well. So exciting.

I am not sure why my computer mirrored the photos. Strange. But it is a lovely car. We named her "Dolly." So when she returns safely from her adventures, I can sing, "Hello, Dolly!..."

 


I Saved Some Water

I did my part for water conservation yesterday. (If you follow Kate on Facebook then you are aware that we are experiencing a water shortage as we wait for the dry season to end.) I bathed using only a third of the water I would normally splash on myself. In fact I had enough left over to wash my underwear.

Honestly it was a bit of a shock, the left over water that is. All that water I've been wasting. (Though in my defense we do recycle the water from the shower.) It is the little things that we do which can make a big difference. 

When we first moved to Kenya and started experiencing issues with water supply it drove home our attitude towards water. We grew up twisting a faucet and water coming out, always. Even hot water. Now we have to be more proactive in procuring our water, and make sure we have enough to hydrate our fourteen children. 

Currently we are working towards expanding our storage capacity. New tanks will be purchased this week, and several other ideas are in the works. A recent visitor proposed digging a trench across the property to collect runoff water from the hill.(He does it on his farm with great success.) Actually seems like a pretty decent idea. I might try a shorter length first to test it out. Others have suggested a well, that is a big project that starts with a geological survey. Not there yet. There are more, and keep the suggestions coming folks. Before the next dry season we will be prepared, and able to grow food out of season.

 


Let's tiptoe around this subject...

I am not afraid to talk about taboo topics. Here in Kenya, pregnancy, sex, mensus... they are all hush hush topics. And obviously, they are a part of every day lives and need to be addressed...

Especially since many women in Kenya struggle to buy feminine hygiene products. In fact, each pad costs 20 cents. When a person makes $1 a day or less, that means 5 pads for one heavy period day is all her earnings.

Some women resort to using rags, blankets, cotton balls, and even pumice rocks to catch their flow. Many women admit they have missed work or school due to being on her period and not having pads nor tampons.

Recently, I visited a village where I spoke to 55 women about the issues we deal with as a woman. It was a wonderful, successful meeting, and I distributed over 55 menstrual cups to women in need. Here is a short 1 minute video.

http://youtu.be/fp_IAIPzilk

A menstrual cup is reusable, environmentally friendly, and a healthy option. It is a silicone cup that is inserted like a tampon. It is not absorbant, but instead, lets your blood flow naturally making it a healthier way of managing period flow. It is easily emptied by pouring it into a toilet, rinsing it, then reinserting it for 12 hours of leak-free periods of time.

For more information, you can visit www.Lunette.com or just google videos on youtube!

In the mean time, I am teaching women how to use them in Kenya with a huge success rate! Plus, I have 10 menstruating women in my own home! We have to deal with all our trash, and ALL of my girls use cups! Whew! That is good for their bodies, clean for them and the environment, and helpful for us financially, too.

 

 

 


School News

Some may or may not know that two of our orphans-no-more have done so well on their KCPE exams, they received full scholarships to prestigious boarding schools here in Kenya. Enoch Bandi is attending Starehe Boys, and...

This is our daughter Mercy. She has lived with us 7 years. She is a prefect already in her new high school. I don't love the idea of boarding schools, but in Kenya they are considered THE thing. They are the bees knees, the cats pajamas, and Mercy is very proud to be attending one due to her excellent grades. She is home with us during her mid term break, then she will return back to the school for three months, then home a month... and so forth.

Our 8 other orphans-no-more live with us and attend a local day school. They are all top in their classes and doing well. Some want to attend boarding schools, too, but I really like the family dynamic and influence family has in their lives. Their grades were not quite high enough to be on a full scholarship like Mercy, so for now, they attend school near The Shire. Again, GOing to school is a big deal since it is not free. I once home schooled the girls, but to them, going to school is a privilege so they begged to return.

Now my 5 bio-kids are home schooled. That is going well. Of course, I love higher level math so I am having fun with my two high-schoolers Andrew and Makena. Butterfly is in 7th grade, Emma Caite is in 3rd, and Ėowyn age 5 is reading, writing, and learning 1st grade math.

Of course all children are learning life skills. I am quite proud of the way they have adjusted to our more primitive life on the Shire. We hand wash clothes, cook with fire, and don't have electricity for 22 hours each day which means no appliances. (We turn it on for a show each evening after the dishes are all washed up).

Having no water is our biggest challenge at the moment. Andrew has been fetching 40 liters of water from our friends a few miles away. But we usually use 800 liters each day.