Firebomb Macaroni the Rhinoceros Beetle

Following up on the Big Five post, I have actually seen a "Little Five" list, where each of the traditional Big Five is replaced by an insect that contains it's name (ex. I believe "ant lion" replaces Lion).  One of the replacements showed up on our back porch this morning:  The Rhinoceros Beetle.

These little guys are not too commonly seen, and this is the first I've seen in Burundi.  I have no idea how he wandered on to our porch.  They have an impressive horn, but are harmless dirt diggers, and Maggie plucked up the courage to hold him.

The kids loved seeing him, and decided to name him.  Ben wanted to name him Fire.  Maggie wanted Bomb.  I suggested Firebomb.  And then Maggie suggested the last name Macaroni.

So we present to you Firebomb Macaroni the Rhinoceros Beetle.


Revising Africa's Big Five

Here's a post that badly needs a bunch of images, but our limited bandwidth is prohibitive.  Maybe I'll add some later, when I'm somewhere else.

We are looking at traveling to Kenya in a few months, and planning on taking the kids on a safari, which should be great, especially as they will be quite a bit older than last time, and more able to enjoy it.

If you have ever looked into safaris, then you are probably familiar with "The Big Five".  Everyone wants to see "The Big Five".  Tourist trinkets are often emblazoned with "The Big Five".  Different parks are valued on whether or not they can boast all of "The Big Five".

What is the Big Five?  It is lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants, and cape buffalo.  Why those?  As we understand it, it is a historical list from the days of big game hunters, because these five were the hardest to bring down on a hunt.

And we have adopted this list for game viewing.  The problem is that we are not trying to kill these animals.  We are instead deriving pleasure from watching them, which everyone should agree is quite another thing.  Therefore, we would like to propose a new list.

Elephants, lions, and rhinos are cool.  No doubt.  Even when not killing them.  The leopard however is elusive.  So elusive that we have decided that it is imaginary.  Even if it is not, so much disappointment is born by not seeing a leopard that it seems a bad fit for this list.

So the leopard is out.

Cape buffalos are ugly.  And mean.  And travel in herds.  So you can't get close enough to enjoy their ugliness, but they are easy to find.

So the cape buffalo is out.

Replacements?  We would like to submit the hippo and the giraffe.  Both are incredibly iconic.  Both are items of the earliest childhood imaginations, and seeing them in person does not disappoint.  And they are big.  So our revised list goes like this:

  1. Lion
  2. Elephant
  3. Rhino
  4. Hippo 
  5. Giraffe
You will not be disappointed.  At the same time, we would like to submit a couple other lists, because completing lists adds a certain satisfaction to almost any activity.

The Big Five Birds:  Africa's birds are truly awesome, and though you might not ponder it ahead of time, you should anticipate a good time seeing them.  The list:
  1. Ostrich
  2. Secretary Bird (huge 4 feet tall cockatoo-looking white bird)
  3. Grey-Crowned Crane (stately and 5 feet tall)
  4. Flamingo
  5. Stork (you can choose which one.  The Marabou stork is very iconic and stately, but kind of in an ugly way.  The Yellow-Billed Stork is a favorite of ours.)
And last, The Cute Five:
  1. Dik-Dik: these tiny antelope are about knee-high and always found in pairs
  2. Rock Hyrax: this little gopher-looking guy is the closest relative of the elephant
  3. Bushbaby: nocturnal tiny primate with giant eyes
  4. Meerkat: because of the Lion King, which really is an inescapable allusion for all safaris
  5. Warthog: it's cuteness is controversial (as in, Rachel disagrees), but when you see a little line of them running with their tales straight up, I think you'll agree.  And again, the Lion King.
So, forget the anxiety of leopard hunting and the disappointment of the Cape Buffalo and settle in for a safari list that truly satisfies.


Merry Christmas 2014

Can't believe the Christmas season is almost over again.  I wanted to share a few glimpses of our Burundi Christmas with you!  It was really a lovely month and we enjoyed the lack of commercialism, if not the lack of available stores to pick up last minute gifts in. :)

1.  The Christmas Tree.  I bought it at a garage sale in 2012 and this year we were able to assemble all 9 feet with our vaulted ceilings!  It was pre-lit but all the lights were burned out, so we restrung it. The kids really loved helping decorate the tree this year.  We'll collected a huge collection of ornaments from all over the world, and all through the last 35 yrs of our lives (ok, 35 for me and less for everyone else).

2.  Christmas cookies.  Cut out sugar cookies, molasses cookies, Russian teacakes, and thumbprints.  Only thing missing were PB kisses.  Thanks to Eric's sisters, we had lots of cookie cutters and sprinkles for my little helpers to assist with.  

3.  Wrapping paper.  I forgot to put any on the container, so I wasn't quite sure what to do.  Not for nothing am I the child of a teacher, though.  I found some brown paper that had been used to stuff a package, and we make some star shaped potato stamps.  Potato stamps, above mentioned cookie cutters, and tempera paint = afternoon activity PLUS gorgeous wrapping paper. :)

4.  One week before Christmas, we picked up a special suitcase in Buja!  Our moms had put together 50 lbs of gifts and treats to make our Christmas more special.  It arrived just in time with a group of visitors.  On top was a handmade tree from Shar the quilter.  There are little ornaments that the kids can pin on every day.  Hanging up on an extra curtain rod in the kids' room.

5.  Traditional Christmas Nutcracker puzzle.  I think Eric has put this puzzle together over 50 times in his life.  He can do it in about 30 min or so, all 500 pieces.  The kids actually really enjoy puzzles too, and with some help of putting like-pieces close together, they could start to enjoy a long standing McLaughlin tradition.

6.  The first gift of Christmas: a package Aunt Mariah sent in October.  We opened it Christmas Eve morning and enjoyed new shirts and puzzles for everyone!

7.  Christmas Eve dinner.  This followed the Christmas Eve service at our house but unfortunately Toby was throwing up the whole time so we didn't have time for picture taking.  Dinner at the McLaughlin household has always been snacks on Christmas Eve.  Here in Africa (also in Kenya) we save foods all year to bring out for the special snack meal.  Triscuits, summer sausage, cheese, hummus, juice and Sprite...Yum!

8.  Christmas Eve gifts.  We all got to open one gift before bedtime.  Maggie opened a Lego friends set and was totally excited....
... I thought I picked a Lego set for Ben to open as well but whoops!  It was actually a box of cereal.  He was no less excited to find the Lucky Charms. :)

9.  Christmas morning Lego assembly.  A classic from my own childhood.  With no adult help, Maggie assembled all 369 pieces.  And then did Ben's set for him too.

10.  Later on...We opened a few gifts on Christmas but then saved several to open one day at a time, which lasted us until New Year's Day.  It was great to slow the pace and the kids enjoyed a special gift each morning instead of all at once.  Once all the cereal had been opened we had a veritable American breakfast feast!

11.  And finally, Happy 9th Anniversary to my best friend and husband.  Carlan had the kids over for dinner so Eric and I could enjoy a dinner of Thai food to ourselves.

Merry Christmas and Happy 2015 to all!