Little Miss Mags

I try to avoid just posting gratuitously cute pictures of my daughter on our blog, but I realize it's been almost a month, so here goes. :)

First picture: Now with 2 teeth! Both are on the bottom--you can see them just above the glare on her lower lip. We can feel the top left one, too, but it has yet to show itself through the gum.
An aspiring Obstetrician? This was taken not long before she walked into the bathroom and threw one of my scrub caps in the toilet. Now we keep the bathroom door closed.
Opening up birthday gifts--it was fun to celebrate as gifts arrived throughout the month. This, if you can't tell, is a swimsuit. Obviously.
Showing off her tuft of hair. While still not a LOT of hair, she now has enough to keep a barrette in for a few minutes.
She brings us (and many others) so much joy every day with her sweet smile and little giggles.
Here she is, waving bye bye in front of our house. She now waves, claps, puts things into and takes things out of, says "nana" for banana and "no" randomly, walks all over, and can point to her head and shoes. It's amazing how much our little girl has grown this year!


Another Umoja Story

As part of the experience of going to Umoja Children's Home as told below, I heard a remarkable story.

In the picture of all the kids, in the back, just to the right of man in the blue stripes (which is Joseph, who delivers the eggs) is a tall thin young man named Lawrence (we call him that for the sake of anonymity, and because I can't actually remember his name). He is from way north Kenya. Last year, Lawrence came to Tenwek and had heart surgery. He then returned to his home, which is a perennially dangerous and unstable place. I guess he decided he'd had enough, and he and his friend (standing right next to him) walked back to Tenwek. That's a long way. Like at least half the north-south distance of the country. They got here and eventually found a home at Umoja.

You may notice there are not many older children in the picture. This is because when they get to secondary school (high school), most places are boarding schools, and thus the teens are at many different secondary schools, and weren't there when we visited. Lawrence and his friend were, however. Why? Because they had never gone to school, and so on coming to Umoja they had to start in Standard One. That is, the first grade.

I'm not sure what all strikes me about his story. I think it's the desperation. But which requires more desperation? Walking half of Kenya to find a more livable home? Or being 15 years old, humbly sitting in a classroom full of 6-year olds, learning your ABCs?

Eggs and Orphans

About a week ago, we had the privilege of going to visit one of the orphanages in the area. There is a man named Paul Jarrett visiting Tenwek right now--he's an OB-GYN who has spent six month/yr here for a number of years. He has been unable to come for the past few years as his wife battled and ultimately died from breast cancer, but he is here now for 2 months. It has been fantastic to have him here, and I have benefited greatly from his knowledge and mentorship. He and his wife, Marty, started a number of orphanages around Tenwek in the past 10 years, and how that he has returned he's been making a point to visit each one. We went with him to Umoja Orphanage, which was a great experience.

The orphanage is only about a 15 minute drive from here and houses around 20 kids, aged four to about 16. The children all greeted us with handshakes, then we got a tour and sat down in the dining hall for a program. They sang some songs, and had speeches to welcome Dr. Jarrett back and express sorrow for the death of his wife. Then we took tea, and Julie Banks (who had come with us) taught the kids a song.
Joseph, Paul, and the chicken coop
One of the ways the orphanage tries to support itself is by raising chickens and selling the eggs. Maybe most of you aren't aware of how we get our eggs, but we actually buy them from a man named Joseph who comes to our door every Tuesday. We found out that Joseph is in charge of Umoja orphanage, so all the profits from our egg purchases come to support this orphanage. It also means that we got to meet the chickens that provide us with yummy eggs every week. Makes me want to buy more eggs to support such a good cause. :) We hope to return to Umoja soon and spend some more time with the kids. Every egg we eat is a reminder.

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress..." --James 1:27


She-Coats And a Pair of Suits

After church this morning, our pastor (a Kenyan) wanted all the men to meet. There were only about 12 of us, half wazungu (white men) and half Africans (all Kenyans plus a Nigerian). A longtime member of the church announced a couple weeks ago that he was leaving. He was no longer strong enough to make the walk to our church was going to be at a church nearer his home.

Thus, we needed to visit him at his new church and bring him some gifts, so that the people at the new church would know that he was valued by his old church. So, we were meeting to discuss what gift should come from the men. (A separate gift will come from the women and also one from the youth.)

Pastor: I'd like to hear some thoughts on ideas for his gift.

Kenyan next to me: I think we should get him a coat.

Pastor: A coat? Like a blazer?

Kenyan: No, a coat.

Pastor: Ahh. A he-coat or a she-coat? (At this point, I understood they were talking about a goat, and felt fine that I hadn't understood, since our Kenyan pastor initially also thought we were talking about an article of clothing.)

Kenyan: (without hesitation) a she-goat.

Pastor: That is a very good idea. Other ideas?

Missionary: How about a walking stick? Isn't that a sign of respect for older men?

Pastor: Yes, it is.

Missionary: Is he old enough for a walking stick?

Pastor: Yes, he is. Me, I am not old enough. I can still jump the river.

Another Kenyan: How about a pair of suits? (i.e. a dress suit)

Pastor: These are all very good ideas.

Jason: How much would each of these cost?

Various Kenyans: A good she-goat with a small calf is about 3000 shillings ($35). A walking stick is about 200 shillings. A good suit maybe 3000 shillings.

In the end, we decided that the pastor will visit him this week at home to assess what his needs are, but if needed, we will try to get all these gifts for him. I was extremely grateful for our Kenyan friends, as I would have had no idea what an appropriate gift for such an occasion would be.


And...She walks!

After months of cruising around on our furniture and walking while holding on to Mommy or Daddy's pinkie finger, Maggie finally let go, one week after her first birthday.

She now walks all over the house and is sure to be causing more trouble soon! This morning she took one of my scrub caps out of my coat pocket, walked into the bathroom, and promptly deposited it into the toilet (thankfully, a "clean" toilet). This is only the beginning, I know. :) She's also taken to walking out the front door and down the sidewalk. Wednesday morning she tried to follow Eric to work. So cute!


Happy Mother's Day

This morning, Eric left at 8:15 to practice music with the worship team for church, and Maggie and I headed to breakfast at another missionary woman's home. As we sat around enjoying eggs, danish, coffee, and fruit, she asked those of us in attendance to remember something special our mothers had done for us or taught us over the years. Many special memories were shared around the table. This is what I shared:

When I was 8 years old, my father died. I didn't appreciate then what my mom must have been going through, now left by herself with an 8 yr old and a 6 yr old in a city with many friends but no family. I don't think I truly appreciated it until Maggie was born last year, and I started to realize how hard raising children was, especially if Eric wasn't around to help. She decided to move us to Phoenix from St. Paul to be closer to family (her twin sister). She packed up our entire house and sold it, and made plans to move with no confirmed job. As we sat around the table one of our last nights in Minnesota, she reminded my brother and me that we needed to "bloom where you're planted." God had a plan for moving us to Arizona, and He would be with us wherever we went.

Although I wasn't always excited about blooming anywhere other than where I currently was, I was reminded of that phrase over and over, as we moved to Arizona, and later Indiana and Wisconsin. When I was old enough to choose my own locations (and felt sure I would pick a place and stick with it), I moved to Minnesota, then California, then Michigan, and now Kenya. Each move, that little phrase has popped up in the back of my head. Bloom where you're planted. As Eric and I prepare for a life overseas, one of a certain transient nature, I am reminded that God plants all of us in different places in our lives, but expects us to bloom in each one of them. Indeed, He sends rain and sun wherever we go. Thank you, Mom, for that timely lesson taught to a scared and temperamental little 8 year old.

I am also thinking about Mother's Day last year, when my mom came out to meet her 1 week old granddaughter for the first time. I couldn't have made it through those first weeks without you! We miss you so much today, but look forward to seeing you in less than a month! Love you, Mom.



As most of you likely know (and some incredibly better than I), Nashville and the surrounding areas of Tennessee have experienced record flooding in the past week. This is not Missouri. I've never known Nashville to have significant flooding. Because this happened simultaneously with the Times Square bomb scare and the BP oil spill, very little news has been devoted to it, but through facebook and other means, we have been hearing a lot about it.

Thankfully, the homes of our family members in Nashville are undamaged (though my aunt and uncle's backyard was apparently part of the giant lake). However, countless others were not so fortunate. The pictures are amazing. The whole thing makes me again feel very far away. I got to visit the other night with Steve Cochrane, another Nashville missionary here in Kenya, and he didn't even know anything had happened.

These are the best pictures I have found (Thanks Nato). Below, downtown Nashville, which is on the Cumberland River (which should be 60 feet or so below the nearest road), sitting in a giant lake.
Looking across the river from downtown at the Titans Stadium. The sign for Riverfront Park (which is at the top of these terraced steps down to the bank where I have seen countless concerts) is just barely becoming visible again.
The parking lot of Opry Mills mall. The nearby Opryland Hotel also has some amazing photos that accompany its flood damage.


The Animals of Lake Nakuru

As posted elsewhere (in the setting of a slight misadventure), I spent the last week at a medical conference in the city of Nakuru. One of the perks of this was when I got to head out with our hosts (Jim and Alice, a missionary couple who live there in town) and fellow traveler Alyssa (who also has some pics up) to the National Park at Lake Nakuru. Just a few pictures to share the afternoon.

Above: it must have been that time of year. Lots of animals had babies. Here is a mama baboon watching her baby learning how to climb.

Below: what Lake Nakuru is known for most is the thousands and thousands of flamingos that follow the edge of the lake almost all the way around. (You may have to click on the image to get a more magnified view)

Above: I liked this picture because it shows the incredible density of wildlife, here with a rhino, cape buffalo, eland (the largest of the antelopes), and zebra, all in one photo.

Below: We stopped and ate lunch overlooking the lake from "Baboon Cliffs", which is apparently named so because of the "baboon menace".

Above: the single biggest highlight of the drive was when we crested a hill to see an open field with a total of 22 giraffe standing together out in the open. Whoa.

Below: Jim and I by the lake with the flamingos (and near some of the ever-intimidating cape buffalo) when the car refused to restart. One of the battery cables had severed. In true bush fashion, we were able to repair it with a band-aid, some spare electrical tape from another wire, and a plastic clothespin that Jim had found earlier on the ground.


Happy Birthday, Maggie!

It's hard to believe that exactly one year has gone by since our sweet daughter Maggie entered the world, kicking and screaming, on May 1, 2009. She was 8 lbs, 11oz, which felt huge at the time, but today she clocked in at 22 lbs 6oz, and 30 inches long. What a year it's been. She was just a few hours old in this picture.Now, one year later, we had a few friends over for a little cake party. Maggie usually loves 1-being the center of attention, 2-music, and 3-eating. Somehow, the combination of all three of those together was a little too much to handle, in a classic 1 yr old reaction. We'll let these pictures tell their own story. :)

Mommy made up a yummy chocolate layer cake with pink frosting...the #1 candle was pilfered from a previous 1 yr old birthday party here (Maggie is the 4th kid to turn one in the last 4 1/2 months here!)
Note the somewhat wary look on Maggie's face. Also note Elise Cropsey hovering in the background, who, as soon as the "Happy Birthday" song finished, ran forward to blow out the candle.

Maggie's reaction

Even the presentation of birthday cake couldn't stop the tears....

Although, when Mommy put a piece in her mouth, things started looking up....
Hmm, not so bad...
Going at it with gusto....
And finally, a smile. :)
Lastly, some gifts...Grammy and Grandpa Tim sent Maggie her first baby doll, and Great-Grammy sent a handmade quilt to go with.