Thursday, November 30, 2006

Blog Tag

Some of you may be thinking I did not know there was such a ‘game’. Well I didn’t either until 2 days ago when I was tagged by the everyday mom. Apparently in this cyberspace game one has to divulge 5 things not commonly known about them. This could prove a difficult task as I feel my life is an open book, I am pretty forthright....I am who I am, take it or leave it. *Okay that one was for free….

….well here goes….

  1. I am an avid bargain hunter. I mean I love it! I get a thrill from finding a good deal…and a buy-one get-one free deal puts me over the top (I am a marketer’s dream)! Yes, while living in America I was a coupon user…I actually bought the Sunday newspaper for the coupon section (and the TV guide). I may have occasionally (often) spread out all the grocery store sale ads and made separate lists indicating bargains to be found at each. Yep, then I would occasionally (often) make trips to each store to obtain my bargains, all the while my husband would reiterate the fact that I was spending more on gas than actually saving on my bargains. Some call it frugal, even cheap I choose to call it stewardship….okay or dysfunctional.
  2. When I was 5 years old (give or take a year) despite my parents many warnings to not ride my big wheel down our rather steep driveway, I decided I would give it a try. The result- I came to a crashing halt…literally, my big wheel collided with an oncoming car. From that day forth I have never questioned the authenticity of guardian angels.
  3. I once gave my boss a proposal detailing why I needed a laptop computer. Only throughout the entire document I wrote ‘lab top’. The sad part is I really thought it was called a ‘lab top’. If it could get any sadder, my boss was (still is) the CEO of the company.
  4. I tend to lean toward the traditional, old-fashioned beliefs when it comes to dating…guy asks girl out, guy calls girl..etc. This stems from my very traditional mother who still believes dresses are to be worn to church and actually only started wearing jeans period, within the last 10 years. So mom, do not read any further……I abandoned my traditional beliefs when I initiated Rich and I’s first kiss. (insert ‘gasp’ here)
  5. I often have this vivid daydream that I am singing onstage, in tune, aloud with all my favorite music artists. I recently got my first big break onstage. I was in front of an audience of 2,000 performing my talent! I inserted a picture for you…

……I am the one with the pink hair and it was a crowd of 2,000 children. Oh, one day!

*Actually my ‘freebee’ is false. I wish I had such a carefree attitude but truth be told I care about what people think. In fact my primary love language is “words of affirmation” so commenter’s go easy on me. Michelle, is there a special prize for divulging 6 things opposed to the required 5?

I now tag Gayla, Mitch ....and Michelle to reveal her lingering 3!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Badge Test

When Skyler was 3 and we were living in E. Texas she attended ‘ballet’ classes at the YWAM base close to Teen Mania. I remember after every class she would emphatically ask, “Mommy, when am I going to dance like a ballerina?” Although she was quite darling in her pink tu-tu it would be sometime before she would star in The Nutcracker.

Well this year Skyler started “proper” ballet. With the passing months, I must say she is inching closer to dancing like a real ballerina. Mid-September was her big ballet concert where she danced beautifully to the song, Shepherd of My Soul. We celebrated afterwards with ice-cream and I went to bed thinking that was it….done for the year. I soon found out that was not the case. She was to learn a new dance for her first exam of many in her ballet future, the Badge Test. The test took place in November requiring her to practice and extra day a week taking us to 2 days a week.

In November, I received a notice with much underlining and bold detailing the specifications of her exam. She would perform in front of and be graded by judges.

Bolding read as follows:

  1. Her hair must be pulled back into a pony-tail and it must be a ‘pretty’ pony. Opposed to an ugly one?? Translation- it must be curled and no wisps were allowed!
  2. She must have clean ballet shoes. Use mentholated spirits….yea, I’ll use ‘spirits’ alright but not to clean the shoes.
  3. No underwear lines were to show through her leotard. So now I am supposed to try and find a thong for my 7 year old? Translation- don’t wear anything…..I know gross but it was bolded and underlined!

She would be scored according to all specifications and dance. If stellar marks were received she would be awarded a badge. Okay, what happened to ‘everyone wins’? They are 7 for heaven's sake. In addition to the extra afternoon lost from my week, the stress, and the extra prayer time for my already performance based, perfectionist child, I had to pay an entry fee of R100 ($15)…..what a deal! I must also insert, this is definitely new territory for me! I grew up a tomboy with 2 older brothers so anything pink and ballerinas were the last things on my mind!

Well the day finally came. Skyler arrived to her exam dressed according to specifications and sporting her highly flammable ‘pretty’ pony-tail. I was told I must wait outside, only the judges were allowed in the room. So after all I had been through I would not even see her dance….nice! As I sat there praying under my breath and completely stressed out her ballet teacher said, “This is such a nice introduction to the ballet exams, very relaxed and low key.” I had to restrain myself from not harming her!

Two days later (now we had to endure the stress of waiting) Skyler received a sealed envelope containing her results. With both of us holding our breath she ripped it open to find a shiny blue badge. As we drove home she said, “Mommy, I can’t wait til next year to get another badge!”

I think I need a year to recover…and I’ll take those spirits now!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

An 'African' Thanksgiving

We’ve had a wacky ‘holiday’ weekend. For starters it wasn’t a holiday. On Wednesday while cleaning out the garage Rich pulled down the Christmas tree box. The box ended up in the middle of the living room so up went the tree. We all dreamed of sugar plum fairies opposed to candied yams.

Thursday was business as usual…..kid’s to school, swimming lessons, errands, work…etc. We did manage to have pumpkin pie for dessert and I did some Thanksgiving activities with kids (what is T-day w/o handprint turkeys?) but no turkey and stuffing.

Friday I went shopping but not until 9 a.m., there were no crowds (most people were working) and nothing was on sale.

Saturday we joined 6 fellow Americans and 5 Africans for a ‘proper’ Thanksgiving feast. This is my favorite meal of the year and although my culinary skills are lacking I do make a mean turkey and dressing (Grandma’s recipe) so I offered to bring the bird! As the yummy dinner culminated 20 more Americans showed up…most with dessert in hand. You know how much I enjoy a good cup of coffee but when accompanied by awesome American desserts my enjoyment jumps to a whole new level. I definitely was in hog heaven….pun intended as I ate like a pig!

Sunday the Christmas decorating resumed. So our Thanksgiving was a bit out of order but all in all it ROCKED!

I will leave you with a question. I pulled out my Christmas music while decking the halls. I LOVE Christmas music and have some great CD’s…Harry Connick Jr., Jewel, The Nutcracker, even Elvis but I want some new tunes this year.

Help me out…what is your favorite Christmas CD?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

A Time for Thanks

Obviously Thanksgiving is not a holiday here although we will celebrate ‘American style’!

These girls will not have a 4-day weekend; they will not partake of a turkey feast on Thursday, they will not watch hours of college football and have leftovers for days to follow. I am not even sure if they have family to spend time with. Their T-day will be very different than ours although by the looks of the picture I think it is safe to assume there is much gratitude in their hearts this 'Thanksgiving'. For this we are truly thankful!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Clever Boy

Although there are 11 official languages in SA, English is commonly spoken by most. However it is British-English that is spoken so in some ways it does feel like we are learning a whole new language.

For example, a cookie is a biscuit and a biscuit is a scone. French fries are chips and chips are crisps. While driving you stop when the robot is red and the pram (stroller) is kept in the boot (trunk) of the car. The list goes on and on. Fortunately after being here just shy of 3 years we have learned the lingo pretty well.

After our trip to America last year Blake was quite enamored at the vocabulary differences. He loves to share with South Africans ‘the American way’ of saying things….although most times his 4 year old insights are a bit askew. Let me offer an example his Sunday school teacher shared with me……

Apparently they were talking about Noah’s ark one Sunday morning and a discussion on animals ensued.

Teacher “Let’s name some of the animals Noah took on the ark.”

Children “….zebras, giraffes, warthogs...….hippos….”

At the mention of hippos Blake’s hand quickly went up.

Teacher “Yes, Blake”

Blake “In America we call a hippo……a hippopotamus!"

Shame, what a clever boy, hey?!

Monday, November 13, 2006

New Animal Sounds

A recent ‘conversation’ with my almost 2 year old went something like this…..

“Tori what does a dog say?” “Wwwufff”

“Tori what does a cat say?” “Meeeeoowwww”
(look of pain on her face while saying the ‘ooww’ part)

“Tori what does a cow say?”
With lips pursed together……. “BOOOOOO”

I guess I don’t have to worry about Halloween as evidently it is the cows here in South Africa that frighten small children.

Friday, November 10, 2006


The week sure flew by and I must say I am glad it is over! It is 6:00 (RSA time) Friday night and I am already in my pajamas. That gives you and idea of the kind of week I have had and/or how pitiful my social life is.

I’ve also consumed a large cinnamon roll, had 3 cups of caffeine (I’ve been down to 1) and the most nutritious part of my dinner was a Kit Kat bar. To give you an idea of the rarity of the latter.…I typically only eat a candy bar a year. I guess I met my quota for 2006.

Nothing catastrophic has happened this week (other than the events on Capitol Hill), in fact there has been much good and blessing in it. I’ve just found it physically and emotionally exhausting thus perpetuating “one of those days” moods. During times like this when the sugar and caffeine high wears off I find that laughter usually pulls me out of my slump.

Years ago at a leadership camp, I was engaged in a ropes course element consisting of walking on a very thin rope 20 feet off the ground with only another very thin rope above me to hold onto. This was not a comfortable exercise for me whatsoever as I don’t enjoy heights. This being the case I asked my comical ropes partner (who was on the ground encouraging me) to do something to help me get my mind off the task at hand. Mr. Comedian, who many of you know, Matt Olson decided he would sing me a song. It went something like this… “Michelle, Michelle, fee, fi, fo, FELL”…followed by “Oops…umm…sorry!” He definitely got my mind off my fear although I laughed so hard I nearly plummeted to the ground.

I say all that to say, “Help me get out of my slump…..make me laugh?” Share a joke, your most embarrassing moment, a funny (short) story, a riddle…anything that might put a smile on my face and all those reading!

“Laughter doeth good like a medicine!”

Friday, November 03, 2006

Grasping Heaven

A few days ago Skyler (7), Blake (4) and I tried to imagine what is behind the pearly gates. I don’t recall how the conversation began but we soon found ourselves finding fun ways to tangibly describe heaven using our 5 senses.

“What does heaven LOOK like?” Besides streets of gold, angelic beings, and mansions, Blake had glimpses of huge theme parks with Superhero rollercoasters. Skyler saw endless fields of flowers and picturesque places for picnics.

“What does heaven SOUND like?” Melodious song, much laughter….perhaps what we won’t hear- children crying. My thoughts of grandeur included me singing on-stage and in tune with all my favorite musical artists.

“What does heaven TASTE like?” Of course this was a fun one. A long list ensued of all our favorite treats. And the best thing there were no calories to be counted…..only in heaven, right?!

“What does heaven FEEL like?” Hugs were exchanged in a pitiful attempt to sense what it will feel like to be enrobed in our Father’s arms.

We were having such fun ‘experiencing’ heaven on earth when Skyler quickly did the math. “Mom, we only did 4 senses!” Pause…thoughts of which one we left out…. and then the precious discovery. My favorite question…..

“What does heaven SMELL like?” If you have read my blog for any length of time I am sure you know what my answer was. Well, it wasn’t enough to tell them I had to let them experience this glorious smell for themselves.

I ushered them into the kitchen and made them close their eyes. They were giddy with excitement not knowing what to expect. I opened the refrigerator door, pulled out the package and unfolded the opening. With the room now redolent of coffee beans, I envisioned the streets of gold lined with Starbucks coffee shops. “I’ll take a tall, skinny, vanilla-latte, extra hot, please.” Wait what am I doing…this is heaven! There are no calories so forget the ‘skinny’, and heaven-size is Grande! The icing on the cake… is free!!!! Hallelujah! (insert voices of angels singing)

My benevolent vision was interrupted with screams of “EWWW.....gross!” Skyler yelled in disgust, “I should have known you would make us smell coffee…..Come on Blake.”

Alone I stood with coffee in hand, my meager attempt to describe heaven to my kiddos gone awry. I guess we will just have to wait and see…..taste, touch, hear and smell! Until that unprecedented day, may you experience a little bit of heaven on earth for yourself!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Back Online

Our internet has been down for 4 days….one of the perks of living overseas. It is amazing how much bigger the world becomes with technology failure.

Frankly, I went stir blogging, no emails, no MSNBC, no web cam, no sports (Rich added that one) AND I did not even see my sweet b-day post until today, Nov 1. Thank you for all the kind words and wishes sent my way. I feel like today is my b-day….so see Karen, I am dragging it out. You can send presents to PO Box……hee hee.

After the question, “What was it like to have a baby in Africa” (which will make for great blog fodder one day soon), the top question people ask me about moving overseas is “What has been your biggest hurdle or transition?”

My answer can be found in the phrase ‘This is Africa’ or more commonly known as ‘TIA’. Let me explain….

I live in a city of 9 million people. It is also considered to be the most prosperous province in all of SA and the ‘techno hub’ for all of Africa. Johannesburg is compared to NY and LA, although I personally think that is a lofty comparison.

I say all that to say, although I did not move to Africa to live a life of luxury I did have certain expectations of a city with such credentials. Oh, I have traveled enough throughout Africa and abroad to know I have it ‘good’ compared to many fellow missionaries. And I am grateful for things so easily taken for granted: running water, internet (most of the time), decent schooling for my children and not to be living in a hut (although pre-kids I thought it would be cool). But when moving to a county and city with such first world accolades I did not expect to be bombarded with so many 3rd world facets. Although after living in East Texas you would think I would have been more prepared. (Sorry, Kelly, Shanygne and Beth).

“What?” you ask….well for starters it took 3 months for our telephone line to be hooked up and that was with daily calls of hounding from my persuasive husband. After only 6 months we were able to open a checking account. And the biggest adjustment in this category is service and processes….both consist with great mayhem and disarray. SA is often described as a third-world country wrapped in a first-world package. So despite the ‘seeming luxuries’ This Is (still) Africa.

Even yet, I love my home, its people and its potential! To my petty complaints I say,“TIA”….you are still my country/continent of choice. There truly is no where else I would rather be….as long as we stay online.

See what happens with no internet….I gush with pent-up frustration.
Here’s to technology, especially when it works!

And Jen if you happen to be reading, Happy Birthday- you are a special friend and sis!