Saturday, September 29, 2007

Our Cooper is Broken

I've mentioned on our blog before that we purchased a Cocker Spaniel, Cooper, last spring in honor of our oldest son turning 12. I've told you of my reservations at being a dog owner, and of my lack of ability with animals. I've complained to you that my kids have complained to me when they've been asked to take Cooper on walks, to pick up Cooper's poop, and generally when they've been encouraged to bond with our puppy and do all those things (talk to him, roll around in the grass with him, throw a ball with him and the like) that kids are supposed to love to do with their dog.

When we realized that Cooper couldn't come with us on this adventure we absolutely didn't know what to do with him. He's never caught on to NOT peeing or pooping in our house, so asking someone to care for an untrained dog was kind of out of the question. We thought and prayed about it (yes, I prayed over my dog, or at least I prayed to have help to know what to do with my dog-God loves dogs too I figure and I didn't want to put Cooper in a place or situation that God would be unhappy with, so I prayed about it), and in the end I had no answer. Then, one day at church a complete angel from heaven named Kerri McBride came to me and said, "what can I do to help you get ready to go?". And I replied sarcastically, "you can help me find a place for our dog to live...". And she said in heavenly angelic tones "I'll take him. I've been hoping for a companion for our dog, but I don't want another dog of my own. This would work out great!". Heaven hears our prayers people, that's all I can say about this.

But, sadly, it appears our Cooper is a broken dog. You see, Kerri and I agreed that we would send her a trainer to help Cooper "finish up" his house training, and learn how to sit and stay and all that good stuff, while we were away in Africa. I paid for the trainer, bid Cooper a tearful farewell (yes, I did indeed cry as I left Kerri's house with Cooper inside and me walking down the road sans leash. As much as this dog has been challenging, I had determined to make him part of our family and felt sad to leave him behind) and boarded the plane for Joburg. Wondering daily how Cooper was doing but having total confidence in Kerri and the trainer I felt happy Cooper had a wonderful home and hopeful he would be a nice edition to the McBride family for a few months.

This has not been the case. Kerri, who IS the Dog Whisperer people, has had to bid us the sad news that our poor dog is appearantly broken. The trainer and Kerri both feel he was perhaps abused by the breeder we purchased him from. At best he was neglected to a point that he has not been able to housebreak. POOR KERRI I say. Her carpets have taken a severe beating, she's given Cooper her utmost attention and effort despite the fact that she has a house, two kids and a dog of her own, not to mention a husband to support as he runs his own successful business(es?). I am aching to make things right for Kerri's carpets, and aching to "fix" our broken dog.

Things kind of came to a head last week when Cooper ran off, probably not out of malice or anger but just playing around and lost his way. He was at one point hit by a car-though not injured badly-and Kerri had to again deliver sad news to our family.

This isn't fair to the guardian angel who came to my rescue at church that Sunday.

What to do for Cooper? If we cannot house train him then he simply cannot be in our (our Kerri's) house. But Cocker Spaniels are social dogs by nature, they want to be with "their family", so to keep him outside all the time is to give him a miserable life and to defeat the purpose of our desire for a dog. Not to mention the fact that Cooper IS our dog, and having committed to being his family it is a harsh reality to face that he cannot perhaps remain a Graham.

What a sad package of events. Kerri, if you come across this post please know how much we adore and applaud your efforts. Please know that in our eyes you are a saving angel of mercy who came at a critical time to help a worried me find a safe place for broken Cooper. Promise I didn't know he was broken. I thought I was the broken one; an incapable owner, not a broken dog. I'm so sorry to leave you with a package of worries all wrapped up in our darling little Dog.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Museum experience with kids

OK, going to any museum save one specifically designed for children (like Gateway Discovery) is a challenge with six little kids in tow (it isn’t really fair for me to be calling Mason a “little kid”, he is big, and getting bigger all the time. He is turning into a “guy”, but because he is MALE-yes I am gender generalizing here-and because he is 12, he counts as a little kid when entering a museum. Snot bubbles and body noises are intriguing to a 12 year old, not really museum stuff). But, sometimes you take them anyway, because you really want them to GET something out of it, even if that something is little. As their years increase and they really begin to ponder the world they live in you hope some of what they are exposed to will come back and –click-it will mean something and make their thoughts deeper.

For these reasons we ventured out to the Apartheid museum. It is a beautifully yet starkly designed experience which tries to speak in depth and detail to the rise and fall of apartheid. A fascinating place full of amazing information and a wealth of the human struggle in this land, it is something not to be missed by anyone traveling to Johannesburg.

It is also a very vast museum. The exhibits are large and informative. There is a lot to learn about the centuries which brought about the separation of whites from all others in this nation for so many hard oppressive years. It speaks also to the vibrancy and hope of a new democracy, one that is frankly still struggling to find its way and make its place in this world.

It takes hours to drink in all that is offered here.

My children do not last hours in museums. Sadly, they lasted just long enough to begin to see the resistance years; those years when apartheid was opposed through peaceful and even not so peaceful means. The part where people were harmed and killed for standing up against the hard law that separated them from the hope of a better life.

That is how far they got before they were finished.

We left the museum with kids in a puddle of tears, dropping baby wipes and pretzel snacks (I do not encourage taking pretzel snacks into any museum, but my little daughters are my alaby) in our wake. We ran through the joy of the fall of apartheid, the relief of Mandela’s release, the excitement of his election to the presidency. These highlights of the human struggle were seen at race pace, very literally, as we rushed Molly out of the huge metal doors that bid us to remember the struggle, her screams (have you heard her scream?) echoing through the smooth cement and stone corridors.

As we rounded the corner to the carpark, I looked back at the museum and wondered if they got anything from it. I did. So much so that I was a little resentful we were leaving. It’s o.k. of course. I live here, and I can come back and soak in the victory over oppression I long to see concluded. And I’ll bring my older kids. They’ll act bored soon into our second visit, but they’ll witness it. And hopefully they’ll remember it when those thoughts come years from now questioning the hope of our ability to rise above our base humanity. We’ll enjoy Mandela’s victory and watch his release from Robin Island. And hopefully they’ll take some of it with them.

But, Molly will clearly be staying home.

A Place for Peace

We recently toured the grounds of the Johannesburg Temple for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (for more info. go to What a peaceful setting, on a hillside in Joburg overlooking the rolling hills of this busy city. The grounds are calm and beautiful, with a lovely garden, a stream running through and other church buildings as well. It felt so nice to be there that we lingered too long, missing another stop we were going to make that day. Oh well, there is time for the world anytime, I'm glad we could leave the world behind for a while and walk through a little piece of Heaven.

The LDS faith holds to the belief that life continues after death, and that we can enjoy our family relationships in that afterlife, if we are willing to commit ourselves in keeping God's commandments, accepting Christ as our Savior, and following His example in how we live our lives. It is a faith of peace, a faith that promotes family relationships, a faith that solicites peace and encourages thoughtful living. It is a faith that encourages good will and good works, one that asks its followers to put Christ at the center of their lives and to put others ahead of themselves. Regardless of one's notions on this church, one cannot deny the goodness it strives to bring into this world.

Temples are a part of that goodness. They encourage reverence and complete devotion to God. The covenants made within them are of an eternal nature. They require strict obedience in keeping the commandments of God. They invite those who enter to leave the loud clammering voices of the world behind and to feel peace and reverence and hope.

What a gift it is to live in a city where such a structure exists. What a joy to invite my children to walk the grounds and step onto Heaven's doorstep for just a little while.

Well wishes...

Our little niece, Ruby, is fighting a serious infection and has been admitted to the hospital while we've been here. She and her older sister, Ella, both came down with ecoli, and Ruby's body is not yet through the fight. We are concerned for her and hopeful that, as her mom Amanda has said, the faith and prayers of those who love her will continue to be heard and felt. This little Ruby is truly the gem she is named for. Happy and content, enthusiastic and meek. I believe she is a strong spirit, and that she has a work to do; so my hope is real that her recovery will be full.

That doesn't make the fight any easier. I think my sister is a rock of strength right now. She sent an email to family and friends explaining the situation and giving a brief synopsis of health issues Ruby may face as she works to recover (these include possible blood transfusions and kidney dialisys, this is not light hearted medicine friends). As she described the hard, uncertain road ahead she just kept saying, "thanks for your prayers" and "we feel the Lord is with her". To express gratitude and aknowledge God in hard times shows intense strength of character and deep testimony. I feel blessed to be her sister. She expressed in her email that she wished she could hug those who live far away, and that it would be a strength to her. Mandy, I'll hug my babies in your absence, and pray the comforter will send my hugs to you that you'll feel my love and encouragement though distance separates. It hurts to be far away from you and your family and not feel I can support in the struggle. Helpless, that is the word for it. I feel helpless.

So our thoughts and prayers are definitely in Utah today. Not that they aren't there everyday, but just a little more fervent and a little more frequent today and through these days to come. Get well soon our precious Ruby. Be strong my lovely Mandy. Our love to all the Shirley's-you are gems to us!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Challenge

Here it is, pilfered off of Stacy Julian's blog. The challenge. Complete with nutritional and exercise guidelines not to mention "feel good" changes for your life (this is the spirit part of the whole mind, body, spirit must all be in balance part of the challenge.)

I used these guidelines last Summer for a month and truly did feel they were a help to me in every way. My clothes fit better, my muscles were stronger, my spirit was happier and my self discipline was strong (that is the mind part of the challenge, to develop discipline over self is a process which takes decision and intelligence...)

So-want to join me? How bout for the month of October? We can do it, can't we? Just for a month to start, then we'll see how we are doing come Halloween. Oh, and the best part of the plan; you take a day off of it once a week so you don't even have to miss all the Halloween goodies you like to enjoy, you just have to plan to enjoy them on your free day!

The idea is to love yourself just the way you are, but commit to becoming a better version of you, by throwing out anything (like a scale) that sends messages of guilt to your brain. Decide instead to fill your mental bucket with good, uplifting and motivational stuff.

20 Components, First five are a must:

1. Throw away or hide your scale.
2. Purchase, check out or borrow a good book to read from everyday. This could be a book either about realistic exercise or healthy eating/recipes. This could also be some other kind of “self-help” book (on creativity, relationships, goals, etc.)
3. Get at least seven hours of sleep six nights a week!
4. Replace negative self-talk with positive affirmations
5. Refuse to gossip or add negativity to any conversation (walk away or change the subject if it is spoken to you)

Exercise component:
Six days a week, twice a day. If you are doing aerobic/strength training in the a.m., then you walk in the afternoon/evening. If you are exercising in the evening, then you start each day with a brisk “fresh air” walk. Take one rest day each week.

6. 30 minutes of sustained aerobic exercise 3-4 times per week.
7. 20 to 30 minutes of strength training exercise 2-3 times per week.
8. 15 minute walk (outside) every single day, opposite your exercise.

Nutrition Component:
Food Summary
Six days a week, eat 5 to 6 portion-controlled meals a day. Three of these meals must be eaten sitting down and eaten slow enough to savor each food. DO NOT COUNT CALORIES.

9. Drink 12 to 16 oz of water upon rising.
10. Eat breakfast by 8:00 every day.
11. Correct issues with portion control. In other words, don’t eat too much!
12. Eat 3 fresh, unadulterated servings of fruit/vegetables daily.
13. Do not eat refined sugar (dessert/candy) six days a week.
14. One or less caffeinated/diet drink per day.
15. No fast food (Subway is OK)
16. Eat at least two healthy snacks each day.
17. No eating after 7:00 Monday through Thursday
18. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store for at least 80% of your budget/food
19. Participate in a FREE day, once a week. Eat whatever you want, however you want, in any portion you want and as often as you want!!
20. Drink a total of at least 3 glasses of water between meals each day.

Ok, that pretty much does it and I am in 100% -- how about you?
Please don’t feel you have to accept this entire challenge, if you don’t need to. But, take a good close look at your energy and outlook and then examine how you are spending your time and what you are prioritizing each day, then join in!

Porter's Patch

Every once in a while little things happen, and you realize just how big those little things are, and you are thankful that in this huge giant world where we can all feel a little like a spec of dust, there is a loving God who knows us and wants to help us.

This is a story about such a small thing.

The week before we left for Africa we made a trip to the pediatrician’s office for some last minute immunizations (I had forgotten Lucy’s 9 month shots; terrible mom I know…) Anyway, at the office I ask my doc to check out Porter’s eyes. I had noticed that he had started blinking differently, and I thought his eyelashes were irritating his eyes or something. Well, one look by the doc and we were begging our friend (and the dad of Porter’s best bud, Tate) Thom Dutson to have a looksee before we took off for 6 months to South Africa. The week that we left (6 days to take off) Thom kindly and generously picks Porter up from our neighbors (where he was hanging out while the movers packed our house), drives him down to the optometry clinic where he is an eye doc, and checks Porter’s eyes. Now, I cannot stress enough that this trip to Thom's clinic was a big deal. It was Thom’s day off, and I still haven’t seen a bill for the appointment (I’m watching for one Thom, we owe you big!). Turns out Porter has ambliopia, a very severe case of it, and needed corrective glasses and patch therapy in a big way. Same day, we rush Porter to Walcott optical and have him fit for these glasses. Thom quietly goes about the rest of his day, with a “don’t mention it” to my thanks and adulation.

Next, My friend and hero Holly Bludworth drives all over Salt Lake City to round up enough patches to get us through 6 months of South Africa (he wears a different patch each day, pretty handy really). She does this with her four little children in tow, while I run around like a chicken with her head cut off trying to sign closing papers on the house, drop off things we’d borrowed from neighbors and buying cups of coffee for the movers (don’t ask…). Holly’s response to my praise and adoration? “No big deal…”

Last, as we take off for Johannesburg, new glasses delivered by the hair of our chinny chin chin and Porter feeling like a Potter (Harry Potter that is) I realize one very important thing. This kid, being the gregarious social butterfly that he is, would have been squashed walking into his first day of kindergarten with a patch over his eye. Spending 6 months in, albeit primitive, but working eye therapy with mom keeping a close eye on, well, the eye, means that Porter’s need to wear the patch will have hopefully decreased (though not gone altogether) by the time he hits school in Dallas.

Somebody up there really loves that little kid. Maybe even as much as me.

Thanks to all the hands that helped in this little miracle/lesson for me. If not for the doc, for Thom, for Holly, I would have missed out on the chance to see just how interested a kind Heavenly Father is in the life of my little boy.


We finally found a way that music could be heard in the places in our house where we live. Til now the computer, our only connection to our iPods, has been in either the school room or the main bedroom-places where we cannot “partake of the good tunes” as we cook dinner or hang out. So, after spending more money on some kind of doc for the iPods to blast out to us we now have stereo-Thank Heaven for music!

On Sunday I was listening to said stereo and came across a favorite. All at once I found myself in tears, running to snag a pencil and write down the words. Of course, it is a love song. A cover of a John Lennon tune sung by our friend and fab rockstar, Pete Breinholt. The words are so beautiful to me, and right now as I hang on tight to my John and the new world of Africa and the old world of the career he has re-entered, and as I think of my grandparents whom I adore as they face health challenges and the looming separation that is inevitable for us all, these words just hit like the lightening that crashes through the Joburg sky during a thunderstorm.

Really, its about what we do with our relationships that matters. “Dhat’sit”-as the Joburgers say, Dhat’sit

Grow Old Along With Me
-by John Lennon

Grow old along with me
The best is yet to be
When our time has come
We will be as one

God Bless our Love
God Bless our Love

Grow old along with me
Two branches on one tree
Face the setting sun
When the day is done

God Bless our Love
God Bless our Love

Spending our lives together
Man and Wife together
World without end
World without end

Grow old along with me
Whatever fate decrees
We will see it through
For our love is true
God Bless our Love
God Bless our Love

The Reward

So, as many of you asked what my motivation was for making an effort to run away from fatKatie, and how Jessica was a part of that motivation, I give you the reward. This “Wicked Awesome” jacket, purchased on errand by J. for me, is waiting to be worn after a month of strict dietary guidelines (I’m going to post those by the way, and invite you to join me if you dare…) and some regular exercise. Got one run in this week, pathetic but a start. Also spent a morning doing push ups, tricep dips and jumping up and down. John likes to look at this work out website each mornig called crossfit; too hard body for me but at least they have a few things to get me started. I also purchased some serious water bottles which will be emptied and filled with sand to act as hand weights (yes folks, I am so out of shape that sand filled water bottles will be heavy enough). So far, I’ve turned down gelato (hazelnut, brought home by John from Hyde Park Mall on day2 of home school. This is the best gelato stand in the city, Can you believe I had that much will power? I can’t).

I’m serious. I’m gonna leave fatKatie in the dust.

And as for the race, Brook, you had a fabulous idea. I hate the thought of Robie Creek, always have, but my grandparents live in Boise and I’m dying to see them. I think I’ll try to make that the race.

Look for my strict dietary guidelines to come. Let’s just say they involve one free day, and that day on this week will be Saturday; the gelato stand is open and operating, and I intend to enjoy!

School is In Session

School is finally in session. We’ve pushed on through the first four days and, accept for day two (I was seriously ready to quit after day two) things have grown a bit better each day. We will FOR SURE be taking Friday off. I’m calling it a “teacher prep day”. I really need to mentally prepare for the jump from four to five days of school next week. Diagramming sentences, teaching the letter “D”, showing my 4th grader how to form a topic sentence and helping my 2nd grader learn about famous early Americans like Patrick Henry and John Paul Jones have been the highlights of teaching so far. The low lights would include doing nothing but school from 7:30 a.m. until about 4 p.m. and then doing nothing but school-or preparing for the next day of school-from 8:30 p.m until 10:30 or 11. Those low lights would also include being screamed at by my 4th grader when I gave her a writing assignment, being hit by my kindergartner when I proposed he didn’t know the capital letter “B” and being cried to by my 3rd grader when I asked her to read a chapter in her science book independently. Oh yea, and Molly drew all over the desks and Lucy didn’t stop crying for the first 3 hours on the first day.

I’m hoping our “hours of operation” seriously decline over the next couple of weeks. I’m really expecting my brain to kick in at some point soon and actually operate at normal human speed instead of super slow sleep deprived mother speed by the end of October. I’m sure that by the end of November this will seem a lovely experience to have with my children and by the end of February we’ll all be converted to home schooling and will continue it when we reach our new home in Dallas.

Yea, and pigs will fly by then too

Nope, I’m not a home-schooler by nature. That doesn’t mean I can’t do it successfully, nor does it mean I won’t work to enjoy it while I’m doing it, it just means its not my time allotment of choice. Given the number of hours I’m currently spending as an educator to pursue other things I’d definitely be a better athlete, a better scrapbooker and perhaps even an author (though LOTS of what the kids are learning this year has to do with grammar and composition, I feel lucky to have the review and hope it will help me develop better writing skills of my own…) I deeply love my children and I am deeply committed to their education; but I show that commitment in a ‘go help in the classroom, be on the PTA board’ kind of way.

Truth is, I’m way to social. I need a little interaction with adults now and then, and home schooling does not offer this. Even time spent with my favorite adult, John, is compromised because any chance to shoot the breeze or smooch sans kids around is taken by his correcting math papers for me while I highlight the heck out of the curriculum manuals for the kids’ daily lessons-crazy stuff.

So, how do other home school moms do this? Beats me! I know I’m a little slow and not highly talented, but I’m not completely lacking in intellectual ability. I feel I’m capable of accomplishing this home school task and remaining calm and somewhat able to feel personal fulfillment in the process. But how? At present I find myself thinking and breathing school every second of every day. I “escape” to the computer for a half hour at the kids’ bedtime in open rebellion against the hours of preparation I must face after they are off to dream land. I want to blog and read a book for heaven’s sake! How do other mother’s do this?

I know of a couple of moms who home school who conquer the world in their free time. They claim total liberation by not being “tied” to school schedules, which require their kids to be out of the house from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. They love the freedom the curriculum offers to have their kids pursue other interests during “regular school hours”. These women run Junior Leagues in their fair cities and head up small business too. Super human I am not, better leave those world conquering moms to their homeschooling pursuits. Hey, liberation to me IS having some of the kids out of the house during regular school hours. Who am I kidding? As much as I like my kiddos, I like grown-ups and free time to blog or smooch with my sweetheart. And I like my kiddos a ton. Enough to home school them; and that’s saying somethin’

Friday, September 21, 2007

Too Many of These

So, pretty much since the moment we began our move from Salt Lake I've been disregarding my personal health and diet. With very little time for exercise back in Salt Lake and even less opportunity here (safety is a huge issue, so running with John is pretty much our only option; and well, I haven't been taking it...) any muscle I had is now a thing of the distant past. As far as eating goes-check out the pic.- I've had way too many "sweets" here, from South African licorice (kind of like Swedish black licorice but a bit sweeter, I like all that sugar!)to chocolate made in Cape Town (SO WAY YUMMY) to donuts at the grocery store; if it looks good, I've eaten it.

Well, I knew that I was getting softer around the middle, and I am an intelligent person who has been in reasonably good shape at times, so I also understand that poor eating habits + no exercise + bad sleep patterns = fat bodies. And, well, I'm starting to have one. Just yesterday I was looking at myself in a swim suit, and there are some serious rolls in my not so serious mid section. And my back and well, backside, are like mashed potatoes with skin over them; gross.

So, Now that I've dug myself into this mess I guess I better dig myself out. I'm resolved to make a change, or otherwise when I get off the plane back in the states next February no one will recognize me.

It's time to bring the fat Katie back.

The fat Katie is the girl I see in the mirror every time I go shopping for clothes. She has, in very fact, sometimes chased me as I've gone running with my buddies in the early morning. Every once in a while she stands over my bed at 5:15 a.m. when my alarm goes off to remind me to get up and move my buns to a spin class or out on a run. She is a real person; the persona of my past, and she haunts me always. But sometimes I put her away. I stuff her in some closet in the back of my head and she waits there while I eat eclairs from the Cape Town Farmer's market and tell myself that she won't catch me for a while yet. When I'm eating the yummy lavender chocolate I remind myself that she hasn't been me for a long long time, so I have no need for restraint as I snarf down the bar.

Well, time to open the closet door and let her make her entrance. She reminds me of the metabolism I was born with, and that it will catch up to me if I choose to let my guard down. She's been in that closet far too long. Time for the fat girl to chase me through my work outs again.

Monday is the day, I'm working out the plan. Thanks to my sister Jessica I even have an outside motivation (I'll share that with you later). The only thing left before I execute is an event to work toward; that is my most effective tool besides huge rewards...any ideas? Next summer is too late from now, and I can't really train as a triathlete until after we've moved into our next house. Running and some very basic weight training (big water bottles filled with water or sand)are my only equipment. What I wouldn't do for my road bike!!! Boise girls, you've got to put in some miles for me, I miss my pedals and my helmet so bad I can smell them in my dreams. I long to ride the farm roads with you and somehow work up to make it to Emmett and back (I couldn't even make it to Eagle road with the shape I'm in right now:(

so, find me a race, preferably one that is run in, like, early April. Probably better take place in Dallas. I bet my most faithful reader, John, will be able to find me a race to work for...maybe the fat Katie knows of one, I'll ask her when I open up the closet door and let her chase me down.

Lucy's little shoes

Once upon a time, a very long time ago, a mommy waited – a little impatiently – for a beautiful baby to belong to her family. She worked and worked (along with her husband) to fill out papers, keep the house sparkling clean for social workers and keep the budget carefully so that when her little baby came home that mommy would be ready.

It took a long long time to find that little baby. Along the way the mommy stayed close to many people who helped her wait and pray for the day her baby would arrive. One of those people was her husband, baby’s daddy. Some of those people were her family, sisters and brothers and moms and dads who supported and listened in tough times.

Some of those people were her friends. Most of these friends were also neighbors to this eager mommy, and several of them went together to Washington on the mommy’s first ever “girl’s weekend”.

A girls’ weekend is a dream for a mommy like this. The invitation to enjoy the company of amazing women and to have the priviledge of listening and talking (this mommy does more than her fair share of the talking!) amongst them is such a gift. These women in particular had become some of the mommy’s heroes. Women who were strong and yet meek, capable and enjoyable, with large and wise souls and lots of laughter in their daily living. This mommy loved having a girl’s weekend with these girlfriends!

Seattle Washington is known for many things, not the least of which it’s upscale shopping. A beautiful coastline, finiky weather, fabulous architecture, all of these things were part of our trip. But the shopping brought this mommy these little tiny shoes. A treasure and a symbol of the baby that was coming. My favorite souvenier and my secret treasure.

This mommy saved those shoes in a place where she could see them. One day her little darling would wear them. One day a baby this small and this dainty would dawn those little shoes and be carried off in them; to church, on errands, anywhere her mommy went. And that was the key; when baby wore the shoes it would mean she was home, with mommy, where she belonged.

This little story definitely has a happily ever after. Baby did come home, more than a year after the little shoes were bought with my girlfriends in the shop in Seattle. After a move to a new city, more paperwork, more budgeting and more waiting, Lucy came to be a Graham, and then she became big enough to wear her little shoes. She’s been wearing them ever since, and recently I noticed that in the wearing they are getting worn out…it happens, I know. But I have such a silly connection to these little shoes because of where I was, and more purposefully because of who I was with, when they were purchased for Lucy.

How endlessly grateful I am that the friendships deepened during that trip to Seattle haven’t worn through just yet. Instead they remain strong, and they have beauty and character beyond any darling pair of baby shoes. These friendships have lasted the test of time and distance. These friends have been generous and true to me, have encouraged and strengthened me, even guided me in crucial times.

There is a saying that goes, “I hope my life is like the souls of my shoes, worn out in the service of others…” Truly this saying rings true for these friends; they have worn out their lives serving me through their friendship as Lucy has worn through her shoes.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Sisters Parting

That is what this statue is called. J and I saw it in the Botanical Gardens in Cape Town, and knowing her departure was looming I couldn't help but take its photo to help me remember how I should behave at our parting. With joy for my sister to go forward, even showing her the way forward with happiness.

Sadly, our parting was not so noble. I cried like a baby and held her like she was my child, my baby I had to give up to the world. It isn't that I feel I'm her mother, it is just that I have enjoyed experiencing Jessica; she is such a thing of beauty. Her perspective is fresh, her soul is good, her ideas are amazing and her talents overflow. To have her around my daughters, my children, has been such a blessing for them. To know they can watch her every move, and follow in her footsteps makes me happy; because I know her steps will be sure and they will lead her in a direction of joy and fulfillment and happiness.

You know, I was the first person besides my parents to see Jessa enter this world. She was born at home, quite by accident, and I walked in on the scene. She is no less beautiful, no less amazing then she was the first time I layed eyes on her. In some ways I can claim a closeness to her because of that experience, and my interest in her happiness is a little more fierce because I so clearly remember her little perfect body and the sound of her tiny quiet cry on that cold October night when she entered this world.

But at this time we must part. All good things must come to an end and now it is time for our good thing, Our Jessa, our J, to end her time in Africa and face the big world she lives in. We will miss you Jessa. We love you. As two sisters parting, I'm so thankful you are mine long after this adventure in Africa is over. With all my love I send you off, be happy and go the way toward your happiness my sister!


This will be a pretty short post because traveling to Pretoria as a tiny bit like hanging out in the very Deep South, seeing monuments built to confederate soldiers who died defending slavery and bigotry. I don't mean to be harsh about their loss, but the reality is in the end, when you stand for something that isn't right, don't you think it is a little silly to show off about it?

Pretoria is the capitol city of South Africa. The president's office and living quaters are here, and there are various monuments and sites dedicated to those who made this part of the world a living, working country. Unfortunately, many of those men believed that separating blacks from whites and giving whites great advantage over blacks was not only acceptable, but even God-ordained.

Our first stop was the VarTrekker monument. A huge neo-classical monument built in recognition of the dutch/boer pioneers who left Cape Town to settle inward, and in their pioneer journey had to overcome many obstacles; most of them Zulu. After suffering many defeats against these african warriors-and losing wives and children-these boer pioneers asked God to protect and to save them and let them be victorious in their efforts over the Zulu. They circled their wagons and in the end they defeated the Zulu army. Many many years later, the whites who felt they should continue in their victory over the zulu and every other black culture in South Africa built this monument, to remind the whites that God had protected them against the blacks, that God had given them victory, and that God had given them this country.

Now, I absolutely know that I as an American do NOT have an untainted past to present to the world concerning segregation, the defeat of indigenous people for the benefit of the white man or any of that. But, if I were to present to the world a monument I would probably not chose to present one that glorifies these low grade ideals. So, it is kind of sad that this is the big monument that tourists visit when they come to this nation's capitol. Aside from the beautiful view atop the tower, I was not highly impressed. Only sad at the narrowness of our minds at times to believe some are greater than others and that black is lesser than white. A good lesson for me to remember, not to monumentalize the times in my own life when my advantage over another has brought me prosperity, whether personally or as a member of my own nation and culture.

Time spent well

Time for Service

Jess, Bryn and I visited a local Salvation Army Orphanage on Sunday to hold the babies and help the nannies. We went there with a local friend and fellow church member, Charnell DuCoc. It was, of course, a humbling and uplifting experience to just for a little while to try to make a difference in the life of a child. The baby room reminded me so much of Lucy’s orphanage, and though I know that South African law prohibits Americans from adopting here, I couldn’t help but search the baby’s faces to see if one of them was meant to be a Graham. Brynley was absolutely fantastic with the babies; she smiled at them, held them, changed their diapers and just ministered to their needs with tenderness and joy. Jess was of course just as loving and affectionate. I felt sad I was so wrapped up in the babies that I never took a picture of Jessica with them, we only got a picture of her with Florence, the nanny who worked in their room.

It is kind of hard to describe a visit to an orphanage. This is the fourth I’ve been in. Two in Haiti, one in Vietnam and now here. It kind of seems dramatic to tell you “we visited an orphanage”. The sadness of the word is real. But the babies inside strive to be happy. Their world is small enough yet that their desire is to smile and be smiled at. To love and feel loved. They don’t yet have the carry the weight of their circumstance, and there is a grace in that which is hard to explain. Knowing what they will face, a visitor has a deep desire to take away their future suffering, but as you hold them for that hour or two, feed them warm bottles and change them into clean clothes you are just so wrapped with the blessing it is to be around these little souls that the gravity of their future is far away. You just want to love them.

Then you leave, and it all floods into your mind. The truth of their loneliness. The reality of their future. The sadness of their circumstance. It is all there; sitting on your heart and pushing out the tears. Once the hour of holding is behind you the days and weeks of remembering their needs is in front, and you go about your business a little differently for a while. More thoughtfully, more thankfully. Because you remember those smiling babies and the harshness of the future that awaits them.

That is why we must go back, and go back often. Perhaps in the helping we will experience change that doesn’t just last a few days or a few weeks, but true change that penetrates and lasts for eternity. We open our hearts to the truth that we must be willing to sacrifice and serve to lift those little lives out of the futures that now await them and into more hopeful circumstances.

I’m not changed yet. So I must return. And if one of those faces bares witness to me that another Graham waits to come home, I hope we’ll have the courage to listen and the fortitude to persevere until he can. So in the effort we can be changed again, and so he can be given the bright future intended for him.

But, probably, that is not the scenario. Probably it is just for us to hold and love, to minister and be taught by the babies in their cribs in the orphanage.

Cape Town Adeventures

Jess and I had a two-night trip down to Cape Town last weekend. I knew I would like Cape Town, some say it is one of the places you've just got to see before you die. All the joburgers (SA speak for people who live in Johannesburg) say it is the best spot for a holiday on the planet. So I had pretty high expectations for our visit even though I'd put virtually no effort into planning the trip (hi, can you say "please can we have a hotel room" just 12 hours before we arrive in the city?! Not a good cruise director on this particular vacation I'm afraid, sorry J.).

As we drove from the airport to the city center where we stayed the views began to intoxicate us. Majestic Table Mountain looming protectively over the city with harbors and bays all along a jutting coast line. Sun peeking through the clouds to send down spotlights all over the city. Colorful townships juxtaposed against Dutch colonial buildings. So many sights to take in, completely invigorating!

We went down to the Victoria and Albert Waterfront as soon as we had settled into our hotel. It is the tourist trap of Cape Town but that also meant that it was open past 6, with good restaurants and views. We shopped around and just walked through the harbor enjoying the sound of the water and the view of the mountain peaks. For dinner we had a smorgasbord of sushi, grilled fish and chocolate. We window-shopped and hoped that the morning would bring a visit to the "top of the Table".

Sure enough, we had bright sunny skies and headed straight for the mountain first thing. Taking a tram ride to the top we witnessed the glory of all creation; a view of the oceans and harbors along the very tip of Africa. It was truly breathtaking and kind of hard to describe. Imagine a jagged coastline that stretches not just out in front of you, but around you as well. Some little pockets between the mountains and the sea reveal pockets of city life. Foliage juts through the rugged rocks along the top of the mountain where we walk.

After taking the tram down we hopped a tour bus that drove us up the coast to the Cape of Good Hope. This is the tip of the continent, and it is a breathtaking site indeed. Our drive was so pleasant, along winding roads with the ocean to our left and coastal towns to our right. We stopped to watch a whale roll around on the ocean’s surface, giving us a show just for kicks. We stopped to hang out with a colony of penguins that lives at Boulder beach (these guys bray like donkeys, so for years they called them Jackass penguins. Now they’ve renamed them, something much less colorful like boulder beach penguins, but their bray gives them away!) On our return from the cape we drove a different route, around the other side of table Mountain along the opposite side of the peninsula. We saw colorful shack towns or townships along our way as well as the cove where Oprah and the Beckhams have a place; such a juxtaposition to see. Once our tour finished we did some serious shopping, ate a delicious dinner of sushi (best I’ve had in a long time) and took in “Hairspray” the movie. We were literally the only people in the theatre, so we loudly visited and talked through the entire film!

Saturday morning we visited the most incredible neighborhood market at Salt River. The Biscuit Mill Market has been around a while, and thanks to a tip from a fellow blogger and Cape Town native we got to hang out with the locals. We both felt the only way the morning could have been more perfect was if our sisters had been able to join us! After tasting the local chocolate (deserves its own blog post), buying hand painted and crafted porcelain for our mom and spending way too much on jumpers and dresses made by a local designer we sadly left the market. I so hope to get back there with my kids and husband to enjoy the “scene” once more!

Our afternoon was spent riding the double decker buses that let you hop on and off. Our first stop was Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, where we strolled in the shadow of Table Mountain for an hour. There are more plant species on Table Mountain alone than in all the Kingdom of Great Britain, so you can imagine the richness of these gardens and all they have to offer an ornamental horticulturalist such as Jess. She was fascinated by plant names, finding cousins to plants that grow in her neck of the woods and showing an amazing ability to understand and connect it all for me as I pointed and said “wow, that plant is cool…” She is quite an expert in all things growing and a fantastic companion in the garden.

Our only other real stop on the bus was to Camp’s bay, where we watched the locals body surf in the freezing water and picked up a terrific box of fish and chips to munch on the drive back to the city. Are you seeing a food theme emerge? Fish in all varieties and chocolate before and after, what a delicious vacation!

Our final stop was once again the waterfront, and then it was off to the airport and home again to Joburg. It was so fantastic to see John again, to tell him thank you for handling life with 6 so I could play with my sister. I can’t wait to share Cape Town with him and all our crew; hopefully when the summer has come to the Cape and we can spend time body surfing with the locals ourselves…it was such a privilege to enjoy this adventure with Jessica. Thanks for an amazing journey J.!


More amazing images from Capetown coming your way. Most of these great pics were taken by Jess, who is so observant. It is such a pleasure spending time with her because of the things she notices. Trees and the shape of their leaves. The formation of clouds and way their shadow casts images on the ocean’s surface. The beauty of contrast in the rock formations on Table mountain. She has an artist’s mind and the emotions to boot; incredibly happy and thoughtfully contemplative. Seeing the world with her is such a gift. Having her in my life a blessing from Heaven.

A girls' night Extraodinare!

While J has been here we’ve tried to take advantage of as many amazing South African experiences as possible. Recently we experienced one of my favorites so far; an evening with J. and my “big girls” at Disney’s Lion King; the musical. This musical has been in production for several years, and I’ve heard it was terrific. But well, I’ve seen the film, and I know the songs (my kids have serenaded me with them for years..) so I’ve been in no hurry to shell out the $50 per seat to sit through a live version of the DVD that’s sitting on my shelf at home.

Well, being here in Africa, I have heard this production is an absolute must see. So, in the name of creating family memories I agreed to take the girls and J. and to see if it was worth sending the men folk out to sit in the $50 seats on another night.

It is worth it.

First of all, this musical is African, and it is on stage in Africa, with African performers. The literal electricity coming from that audience was tangible; their hands clapping wildly and their enthusiasm heard through loud shouts and hollers. The opening scene involves all these animals congregating to view the latest heir to the lion throne (think the movie…baboon presenting the cub and all). Well, as the singing begins there are actors and actresses in costumes that are larger than life; literally. Playing elephants and giraffes and truly looking the part. As I watched and heard the cheers of the audience as each new animal came from the back of the theatre and proceeded to the stage I found myself in tears (can’t believe I’m admitting this), I was actually really touched by the fact that we have seen these animals portrayed on the stage out in the wild. That whole circle of life thing kind of made me weepy, realizing that the people watching this performance really do have a respect for the animals and wild that surrounds them.

The entire production was a privilege to witness. The performers, especially the woman who plays the part of Rafiki the baboon, were so skilled in their vocal abilities. It was a fantastic night. Add to that the company of my girls and my sis (and some yummy gelato at intermission), what a treat! I can’t wait to send Mason and Porter with John for their turn. Acuna Matada and all that yada yada will be rolling through the house for days and days, and I’ll listen with a smile and think of the fun of this evening and be glad for the serenade.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


OK I admit it, whenever I have to face a huge challenge I generally approach it first by being completely petrified by it. Instead of looking at the challenge, analyzing the way in which I will conquer it and then attacking it, I generally hide under my bed for a day or two and wish it would go away.

Well, homeschool should have started at least a week ago and, well, I'm hiding... while John paruses (did I spell that right)all the lesson plans I am engrossed in Harry Potter's last crusade and planning day trips and weekend outings with great vigor. This is me, feeling very afraid that I will not be able to manage the education of my children and the general rearing of them at the same time. This is me avoiding the fact that I must coordinate 4 different school grades within the course of each school day. This is me thinking, "o.k., how on earth am I to teach pre algebra and spanish when I clearly am not certified in any way to do so?!"

I'm kind of freaking out.

Don't tell my kids this fact. They think I am lazy, and pre-occupied with my book. They think we have seen an awful lot of South Africa already and are starting to complain with each new day of "We have another field trip! yippee!" from mom's enthusiastic mouth. But I don't think they know I"m scared. And I'd like to keep it that way.

Usually in past challenges the time under the bed in hiding is fairly short lived. We did, in fact, sell the house, pack it up, pack the bags and get on the plane to come here. That after a significant hide under the bed (I think I may have still been there on the day the movers actually packed up said bed...). I do usually come around and things generally go o.k.; not perfect mind you. I have no aspirations or expectations of perfection. But, with help from friends and unseen angels I usually come off o.k. I'm counting on that being the case this time around. As soon as I see Harry Potter through his last great adventure I know I'll be ready to face the homeschool challenge. Somewhere in the cosmic scheme of things this Katie Graham as headmaster of "the Blue Rhino Private School established 2007" experiment won't completely ruin my kids' chances of going to college, right? (the kids actually named our little school, with a coat of arms and school colors to boot)Or maybe it will. gotta go roll under the bed now, too bad this one's a little lower to the ground. With the lack of exercise and my stiffening old body it's becoming increasingly more difficult to hide under there...

Monday, September 10, 2007

Lucy, Come back!

Our Lucy Duc has, like the rest of us, endured a week of illness. Lucy has been, to say the least, difficult for me to comfort, and console. Part of this difficulty lies in the fact that since Lucy's fever struck she has become, well, clingy. Now, I'm all for comforting the sick and the weary. I'm fully aware of my responsibility as a mom to hold and care for my little ones when they are feeling low. I embrace that responsibility and I must say I think I'm even good at. But Lucy has not let me put her down in a weeks time, and for sure it is starting to wear. The sad feverish eyes look up at me. The arms outstretched. The cry inconsolable unless she is held in my arms, Lucy has only had eyes for me during this long and difficult illness. Where are her happy laughs and her peek-a-bo games? Where are the nights when she'd wrap her arms around her daddy's neck and "hug him tight, like this..."? gone, long gone and seemingly forgotten. The worst is that Lucy extends her need for mom's arms cuddled around her long past my normal hours of operation. I've had her asleep on my stomach so many nights Ifeel I've got a permanant indentation where she lays her head to rest. I miss my little Lucy for all the time i'm spending with her. Not used to a clingy kid and kind of ready for her sunshine to return...


One of the “must do’s” of living in South Africa is visiting African animals in their “natural habitats”. This generally means going through the many game reserves with your eyes peeled for animals so large you would never suspect them hard to see. South Africans do this often, spending lots of weekends in places like Pilansburg, Kruger National park or any of the many private game parks to get a good look at what hunters and safarians call “the big 5”. These 5; the lion, the water buffalo, the elephant, the cheetah and the rhino are hardest for hunters to capture and kill, so they are the animals one is looking for on these weekend drives through the bush.

Now, I have spent time in many many zoos. I’ve seen all these animals (save the African water buffalo) up close behind the glass. They are large and amazing creatures to behold in any setting. My expectations for seeing these animals out in the wild was really very low. Once you’ve seen them, you’ve seen them; right? I had no understanding of the excitement in the eyes of those telling stories about animals coming “so close you could touch them…” nope, I totally did not get it.

And then we took an overnight trip to Pilansburg. With John sick in the back seat, the kids rumbling around in their pajamas (early mornings are best for animal watching; so we left our little animals in their pjs and loaded them into the car) I had absolutely no anticipation whatsoever. Figured the kids would last about 45 minutes before they were ready for breakfast and their clothes changed; figured John wouldn’t quite last that long with a fever and kids who wanted to jump on and around him while he attempted to remain conscious, poor man.

Upon seeing our first rhino I started to get it. Catching a glimpse of the zebras in the bush helped me get it a little more. And by the time we saw our first elephant I got it for sure. This was amazing. This was thrilling. This was telling; and worth telling someone about.

You know, it isn’t really the majesty of the animals. They are majestic, and impressive and all of that. But it isn’t the animals themselves. It is the way the animals become part of their surroundings. It is the down right incredible lesson that God made them perfectly for the place where they live. He did it to help them, and in doing it the way he did He shows us more about some of the ways He helps us.

When you drive around the bush, high golden grasses all over, rolling hills and stubby trees to boot, It looks vast and pretty desolate. This time of year, as the grasses haven’t turned green and growing the scene is kind of bleak. Things look dead and well, empty out there. So, where are all those giant animals? Why in all the emptiness of those plains can the eye not see a ginormous giraffe or an enormous elephant walking about, doing its thing? Nowhere I tell you, they are no where to be seen; but then wait…

It is a little off in the distance, but there, on the hill, is a huge grey boulder; or not. Holy cow, that is an elephant! And what just moved in the field over there? Not a deer or a cat, but a black and white zebra; I swear he wasn’t there just a minute ago. Oh my gosh, he’s not alone, there are a dozen zebras in that field; right in front of my face. How did I not see them standing there, playing with their babies, eating the tall yellow grass? They are black and white for heaven sakes, and nothing black and white is in this vast and desolate landscape; how on earth did I miss them?

It is amazing to see that these animals, all of whom I have seen out of context behind the glass of a zoo cage, become more than majestic in their natural setting. They become miracles of creation. A lesson to us all the God did not make his creatures without giving them every advantage to have joy in their existence; camoflauge, the ability to live, to have a family, to exist under difficult conditions. He did it perfectly well, and because I’ve seen it I appreciate Him all the more (oh, and I appreciate those elephants and zebras more too).

I wonder what the miracles of my own little life have been; I mean it isn’t as if I’ve not noticed many of them. But I wonder if some other worldly spectator were given the chance to observe this creation in her natural habitat, what other miracles would they see? What are my stripes, the things that keep me from my enemies, the distinct gifts of nature that make my existence majestic and magnificent when seen by the observing eye?

I hope I become as keen to the creators gifts to me and mine as I felt I was that day in Pilansburg. I’m sure, for all the love He has for his animals in that park, He has no less love for each of us. Perhaps someday, if I look at it with more careful eyes and a desire to see these gifts given me in my own natural habitat, I’ll feel that same sense of wonder and awe I witnessed the day in the game park. I hope anyway, ,I really do hope.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

A Trouble Spot

I can't wait to absolutely lavish about our friend and driver Trust Shoko. He is an outstanding individual and has played a vital role in our comfort here in South AFrica. Just today I laid out some directions to a shop I wanted to visit. I had absolutley no clue if this shop was in a safe area and the directions made absolutely no sense to me, but Trust assured us he knew just where it was and took us straight to it. He is just absolutely top notch, absolutely

There is a trouble spot in our situation with Trust that I cannot reconcile at this point and I just don't know what to do about it. See, Trust takes us everywhere we go, even to places like McDonald's and the grocery store. And Trust lives to serve, seriously, so when we do go into the grocery store he insists on being helpful. Which means that he pushes the grocery cart. Trust is from Botswana, and he is a handsome black man. There is something so irreconsialable for me to have a black man pushing my grocery cart. It feels so pre-civil rights to me, so wrong for me to allow someone who I feel is my equal to do my "grunt" stuff. Trust doesn't see it this way, he actually insists that it is part of his job, and he wouldn't want others to see him "slacking" if he didn't push the cart. So I let him push. Even though deep down inside I'm thinking "Friend, you don't have to do this for me, I got it buddy!" I just don't know how to jump this cultural divide. It is hard enough that our dear friend Evie washes our clothes and mops all the floors. She is Xhosa, which means she is also black. She has worked in this home for over a decade, and she runs this house like clockwork (sheets changed on mondays, windows washed on fridays, floors mopped thursdays, laundry done every day...). Having a black woman mop my floor as I read a book to my daughter is another one of these trouble spots. Just don't quite know how to handle all of this. Throw in apartheid,and the fact that it was abolished and I kind of feel like I'm feeding the dead laws of segregation instead of liberating the captive and bringing fairness and equality to all.

It is a definate trouble spot in my African experience. I would for sure feel more comfortable if Evie and Trust were white and scrubbing my floors or pushing the groceries. Is that weird? wonder how I'll come to terms with this funny cultural cunundrum, for now I just feel I'm part of the trouble spots of post apartheid South Africa.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The latest Adventure

our latest AFrican adventure involves doctors, bed rest and lots and lots of medication. Every person in this household, save Mason, has been slammed with illness this week. It began with John; who for the last two weeks has had a cough due to what we thought were seasonal allergies. As the cough progressed further and further down his chest we became a bit concerned, and finally last weekend we realized this cough was something more than hayfever. John spent our weekend of sightseeing basically curled up in a ball in the back of our minivan. Feverish and coughing, John was not able to enjoy the awesome safari we experienced, nor did he try any of the waterslides or wave pool at Sun City (more on that later). By Sunday he was flat on his back, and we made a trip to the clinic to find he needed an antibiotic. By Monday at noon I was with him in bed-also curled up in a ball with shooting pains in my joints and muscles. My head felt like it would explode with pain at any moment, and I was incapacitated. Flu; that was the bottom line when I made my own appearance at the clinic Monday night. By Tuesday morning all our kids save Mr. Mason had fevers and the rest of the group including my sister Jessica were in a different clinic (one that could handle LARGE groups at one sitting…). Meds all the way around; thank heaven for tamiflu, that is all I can say (oh, and advil with codene…good stuff). By Tuesday night everyone was medicated, even Mason just in case, and John and I feebly attempted to celebrate our 14th wedding anniversary with a dinner out. This was indeed our weakest anniversary ever; as John basically lay across the restaurant table trying to enjoy my company while feeling like he was going to die. The diagnosis for his ailment was obviously incorrect, so Wednesday found him back at the clinic with-you guessed it-more medicine prescribed for his severe respiratory infection. As I write this Wednesday night we’ve had two daughters who never left their beds today (Madi and Bryn) two other daughters who ran around with their hands in the air for mommy to hold them all day (Lu and Molly) and two sons who went between perfectly fine and jumping off the walls to lethargically laying around complaining they weren’t feeling well. Poor Jess has been hit too, and had a nice long afternoon nap. I, who has had the blessing of tamiflu in the nick of time, am doing o.k. and managing pretty well-though I can feel right now that I should be sleeping instead of writing all about our ailments on this little blog…guess I’ll try that codene now, hope we are all better in the morning!


We visited Soweto this last week. Not enough time there at all, and we were without John too, so I’m happy to have an excuse to go back. Perhaps without the little ones next time. It is a bit of a serious experience to go to Soweto. To see the townships (shanty towns), the poverty and the ghosts of apartheid; that’s pretty heavy for little kids. I’m happy they were with us at the Hector Pieterson memorial though. This memorial is a museum which explains the events which led to the June 16,1976 shooting of innocent school kids who were marching in protest to a mandate made by the school board that they learn their jr. high subjects in Afrikaans. These protests were a very small part of the huge struggle for equal rights that had been going on within South Africa with very little of these struggles appaerant in the world community. With the shooting of these innocent students came the literal smuggling of photographs out of the country which illustrated the struggle. Within weeks of these shootings the international community was in an uproar over apartheid, and the sanctions against South Africa which so influenced the abolishment of apartheid began…

I have heard of Soweto many times, especially during my teenage years. As a community it embodied the oppression of the black population in South Africa. I understood that, and it was an emotional experience to see a little of the view from that side of the struggle for equal rights. When we go back I'd like to write more. For now suffice it to say I'm most thankful for those who fought the hard fight, who didn't give up and who had hope for a brighter future for their country, for their children and for their people.

Pictures at last!

Pictures! I can show you a couple of pictures of South Africa! I’m so excited for you to see a little of our experience here. John’s remote internet connection is our gracious host as we present a few scenes of Africa to you;

First, Lesedi, the cultural showcase I’ve already written about. We had a fabulous experience here, and as you can see Lucy was quite a hit. All the villagers absolutely loved her. They tried to get her to let them hold her (not on your life, Lucy has become quite a mama’s girl) and they were constantly calling her name (hi Lucy…yeabo Lucy…)

Pictures! I can show you a couple of pictures of South Africa! I’m so excited for you to see a little of our experience here. John’s remote internet connection is our gracious host as we present a few scenes of Africa to you;

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Happy Birthday to Grandma Noodle

Hi- We are just rolling in from a fantastic day of travel! We've seen fantastic things and enjoyed wonderful memories in the making and I want to tell you about all of it.

But not now.

Because right now I want to say Happy Birthday to my mom. She is celebrating today; September 1st (I love her birthdate, I can always remember it for some reason; kinda like May Day. A 1st for a bday is a good thing).

Mom, we love you beyond words. We love what you become each day as you face the many things that tug at your time and your heart. We love the way you fearcely stand behind the convictions you know to be true. We love the way you have absolutely laid down your life for the benefit of others, whether those others are your kids, your husband, your business, your "grand nephew" and little guy Alex, your parents, your neighbors, your siblings or the stranger you met on the street. You are consistantly and constantly reminding us of the truth that is "When you are in the service of your fellowmen you are in the service of your God."

And you make great zucchini casserole too. And you love to have all of your posterity under YOUR roof. And you love to have a manicure and a great haircut. And you love chocolate. Oh, and you love Dad too. All this and so much more.

You are completely worth celebrating.

As we live right now on opposite sides of the world I don't actually know if you'll see this little note before the day of your birth has ended. But, I hope as you go through that day something inside you will remind you that somewhere across the ocean there are many people who are thinking sweet thoughts of love and celebration with your name on them. And the sweet thoughts of grandchildren count for double; so that's alot of nice vibes coming your way...

Happy Birthday mom. It couldn't happen to a nicer gal. I love you with all my heart and all my blog too. Wish I was there to bring you a chocolate cake and sing in Swedish. But in honor of you we did learn a little Zulu, so perhaps when your next birthday rolls around we can sing to you in 3 languages. A small consolation to our absence to be sure, but it was all I could come up with. No matter what the language, the sentiment is the same; a truly happy day in honor of your coming to this earth and being in our lives is our wish for you on this September 1st!