Saturday, February 16, 2008

None of the Above




So, we haven't been blogging since we left Africa, but we sure have been busy. We hit the ground running last Wednesday night, finding out upon our arrival that two of our bags were left behind by some airline crewman. One of said bags contained ALL of our children's warm clothing. The next 48 hours brought lots of shopping so our kids wouldn't be living at Grandma's house-in the middle of a snowy winter-in their shorts and flip flops....

Then it was off to Texas for me, meeting John at the airport in Dallas (he left us in Salt Lake about 12 hours after we arrived to attend a manager's meeting in Pheonix). From the airport we retrieved our automobiles, hello sweet huge suburban! Then we met our realtor and began the hunt for our Dallas house....

we drove straight to the homes I shared with y'all (Dallas speak), and found that they really weren't the dream houses we had hoped. The house chosen most popular by my blog readers was the least bad option, but none were just right. This caused a fair amount of stress, mostly for our real estate agent, who then had to provide us with other options and lots of new information on where to live and what to look for. After a Sunday full of church going-in different parts of Dallas (it was SO GREAT to return to our old church congregation, we miss that ward family!) we felt we'd narrowed down our area search pretty well between Colleyville and Flower Mound Texas (Flower mound was where all the homes were that I previewed for you earlier).

One drive to Colleyville with our realtor on Monday ruled out that town (too tired, to grey) and we were back to scoping out Flower Mound. We walked into this house in the morning and after 15 minutes john and I both felt we'd found our home. "It feels like home to me" said John, and I must admit-though it lacks wainscoating, white kitchen cupboards and general color-it feels like home to me too.

So,what do you think? Can we make it ours? With horses out behind our property and a short walk to school, we hope the logistics of the home will suit us well. The kids' first words were "there are no trees" which also disapoints us, for sure. But, I have to believe our future eagle scout might be able to find a great eagle project in moving trees from the path of the developers who are knocking them down left and right and recycling them to new places out in our back yard; what do you think Mason? A good project for your eagle? Let's hope.

Let me know what you think. This house and how our furniture will fit inside it is about all I've been able to think about since Monday afternoon. A few months and some paint, not to mention a lovely little budget for minor upgrades (like a counter depth fridge) should make it seem more like "me" or, perhaps I should say, more like "us".

no, really it is more appropriate to say more like "me".

The house will still only be a house until we've had some of you in it. Friends and family are what make our houses homes. So do please visit. A great guest room awaits, with your own private bathroom including a shower-we'd love to have you soon!
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Monday, February 04, 2008

And the Winner is...

Thanks a million for all the feeback on our house buying options. It was really fun to see which homes you felt would suit us best, and why. Many of you had great insight and opinions that were really helpful. One of you said none of them looked right (thanks Betsy, for checking the blog ;) and some of you picked the house that John posted in his comments (the kids like that one too, wish it was in the price range).

In the end this home was the favorite. That's great, because our realtor feels it is overpriced, making it a serious option for our family. It isn't a perfect choice, and until we walk through these homes none of them are a clear winner, but it will be fun to see if all of you pegged the right corner of this earth for our family occupy.

Thanks again for all the input, we'll definitely post pics of the house we pick to call home!

Look out Texas, here I come...

This is my last post from Africa, for now. We will pack up the computer, spend the day with friends, and spend the night on a flight to London. Tomorrow we leave London for San Fransisco, and from San Fran we land in Salt Lake City. The next day John leaves for a BCG gathering in Phoenix, and Saturday before the sun rises I will fly to Dallas. John and I will meet there and in one week's time set up a life we can bring our family to. House hunting, finding a doc and registering for school are first orders of buisiness (the kids can't enter school without having a TB test because we've been living in Africa for more than 90 days).

The roller coaster ride is just beginning in the newest chapter of our life's adventures. Look out, here we come!

Packing up

O.k., I have officially learned that I cannot live life simply. Packing to come home has taught me this. After a week of putting books in boxes and clothes/curios/scrapbook supplies and other misc. items in suitcases, I see that raising a family for 6 months takes more that what we brought with us last August.

A lot more...

When John's brother came last December, he brought with him a new little carry-on suitcase that was John's Merry Christmas present. It was mostly full of gifts we purchased to give our kids for Christmas, and when Dean left we kept the little suitcase here, and packed a much larger one with curious and Christmas gifts to send back to the States with him.

When my parents came in December they each brought a large suitcase with them for just our family's things. One was also full of Christmas-that one went back home almost exactly the way it had come. The other we filled, like Dean's, with stuff we didn't need anymore. Another full suitcase of things we'd bought here (or brought here and were finished with) that we sent back.

Then John's mom came. She brought an empty suitcase, just so we could fill it again with our stuff and send it with her. Sadly, as I've written before, that empty suitcase along with her full one were lost in transit. Luckily they were recovered before she went back to the states. One more full suitcase of African stuff sent back with mom...

And then my friend Linda came to visit. Upon seeing that she had room to check one more item, we met her and her husband Jeff out at the airport on their return flight and sent them with a box-mostly full of books our kids have accumulated here-and asked that she mail it to Dallas when she reaches her home in Boise, Idaho.

And now it is time for us to pack up. Upon inventory, we have packed to the gills 4 boxes of books and school materials, 3 huge duffle bags, 3 black rolling carry on bags, 3 large rectangular suitcases, one hanging bag stuffed to the gills and a smaller duffle bag full of medicines and toiletries. We also have a back pack for each kid but Lucy-stuffed completely. In addition, we will carry on the plane 5 other bags; some full of the kids blankets and teddies, some full of vital documents, one full of jackets to hold back the winter weather we are going to. John will carry on his briefcase, and I will carry on a back pack full of diapers and sundries for the flight.

How we will get all of this luggage from here to the airport remains to be seen. In theory we will haul it in a little trailor pulled by the Bassets car, and fill up the back of Trust's blue van with the misc. items. Getting this stuff from customs in San Fransisco to our flight to Utah is actually my greater worry. And getting it all (including the stuff we sent on before us) from Utah to Dallas is still a trick that remains to be performed.

While living here in Africa I have seen people go without many things. They live with little and get by with a smile. They have less but seem to live more. I wanted to take that home with me. Too bad it took so many suitcases to do it.

A short school year ended

Our short Home School year ended officially yesterday, with kids taking their mid term exams. We had no sadness as we packed up the school room. Only relief.

I must say that this home school thing has brought about many introspections on my part. I've felt a bit like a failure on this front. Home schooling was cool for me for about, I think, three weeks. It consumed every moment either teaching, preparing to teach, or recovering from teaching. It took all my patience (and then some) to manage our little classroom with (beautiful adorable lovely) children who complained that they were not with other students, who cried when given math assignments, and who sometimes spent the school day drawing cartoons instead of learning (even with me ranting and raving, go figure!). Two little daughters crawling on the desks and screaming in the tile floored, cement walled school room to have me read to them or sing to them or feed them some food made our learning environment, at times, less than ideal. School in Africa was not a high light. It was an experiment with mixed to negative results. It was a failure in many ways.

And, for lots of the time we've lived here, I've felt like a failure too. I thought coming here that this would be a great chance for me to prove to myself that I can manage really tough things. A chance to be smarter, and to be organized. A chance for self discipline and a chance to bring my kids an opportunity for educational growth. Nope, it wasn't most of those things. Mostly it was me, struggling each morning to have a routine with the kids and struggling each evening to make myself prepare instead of sit up in my room with my husband (who incidentally has been home in the evenings for me to sit with) and blog or watch "the Office". I chose the latter most of the time. After a day of teaching I couldn't face a night of preparing to teach the next day.

I stunk at this aspect of our time here in Africa.

It's o.k. that I'm honest with myself on this one. And, no, I'm not being too hard on myself either. In the last 5 months I've learned that schooling 4 kids in 4 different grades with 2 toddlers and no access to a school supply store is not for me. I've learned that I want to be the mom that takes her kids to the orphanage and shows them the amazing exhibit in the great museum rather than the mom that teaches them division. And I've learned that my kids-while they wanted to sleep in my bed at night and have me cuddle and hold them more than ever before- did not need me to be their educator. They are healthy and socially adjusted, and they want a classroom full of students their own age and a teacher who comes with teaching aids, an overhead projector and awesome games that help them learn that very important division stuff. These were good things to learn, and I'm not real sorry that it was here in Africa that we learned them.

Home school isn't my thing. I've come to be o.k. with that. I hope that in the experiment I haven't impaired our kids' future education. I hope that even though this one has been rough they'll find their new classrooms and schools in Dallas a pleasant and challenging change and not an overwhelming realization that they are not prepared for the materials they'll be introduced to.

I'm a good mom even though I'm not a good home school teacher. I love my kids and teach them many things; most of them not written for me in a home school curriculum. I know that I don't need to feel guilt or self loathing-those feelings are kind of part of the package that is me, so I do have to push them aside and toss them in the bin when they come. But I know its o.k. that I can bee a mom that teaches her children without being their home school teacher. The relief I feel as I set the curriculum aside and pack our bags is o.k.-I'm an o.k. parent even though I'm glad that this chapter in my parenting is closed.

So, farewell Blue Rhino School. It's been interesting and educational for me, at least. Maybe when the kids have had a healthy dose of homework and note-taking they'll be more appreciative of their home school experience. Maybe they'll want to go back to it---

maybe, but probably not. Our home school year is ended, and I say good bye to all of it.

With pleasure

An Evening of Goodbyes

Our Friends Jan and Damen Basset had a little gathering in their home on Sunday evening so we could say good bye to church friends. It was nice to gather with others and to remember that being here, while challenging at times, has been rewarding. Jan has been a sister to me in every sense of the word, caring for our family, lending us her washing machine, showing me where the locals shop and being a listening ear. Truly her friendship and the friendships our kids have with her children are the best things we are bringing home from Africa.

Family from Far Away...

We had the chance to meet family here this weekend. Family we had never met before! This lovely girl next to me is Leslie Hadfield. Her dad and my dad are cousins. Our Grandfathers are brothers. Leslie and I, though attending the same family reunion every year in Logan Utah as kids, don't remember meeting one another. It took living across the world for us to meet. Crazy stuff!

Leslie is a Fullbright scholar (see, I haven't even spelled Fullbright correctly, and she is so accomplished that she holds the scholarship. Wish the intelligence genes had worked a bit more in my favor, but oh well). An accomplished student, Leslie is now finished research for her dissertation on Steven Bikko-a South African "black empowerment" activist who was killed over 30 years ago in a mysterious incident involving the police and his arrest. Leslie will spend most of her time this year in King Williamstown, but this week she happened to be doing research here in Joburg, so we met up and she spent the night and went to church with us this weekend.

Leslie has a quiet and reserved manner. A very kind girl, she is in my mind remarkable. This is her 5th trip to S.A., and she will be living here, with a host family, for a year-wow! I'm so pleased we had the chance to meet. So impressed with her direction and so glad she is my blood. I hope in all the chaos of our moving preparations her time with us was not totally random. Perhaps in our chaos we were a safe haven, family, when you begin a new adventure it is always nice to begin it with family...

it's nice to end new adventures with family too; I"m glad our end to this adventure has included new family from somewhere far away.