Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Christmas Highlights

We had a wonderful, low-key Christmas just the 5 of us! Thought I would share a few of the highlights.

Favorite Remarks

“Dad, I think Santa got stuck in the chimney and died.”
Mark, my 4 year old nephew

While swimming in 90 degree weather on Christmas Day Blake asked, “When is it going to snow?”

“I would give up all my presents if the sick babies we’ve been praying for could be healthy and home for Christmas!” Skyler

Most traumatic memory

Jennifer, Rich’s sister, 10 years younger recanted this Christmas horror when she was four years old.....Rich told her there would be no Christmas presents that year because Santa was killed in a car accident. Nice big brother hey?!

Favorite Pictures

I trust you all had a wonderful Christmas. I would love to hear about it! Won’t you comment on at least one highlight?

Friday, December 22, 2006

Silver & Red

No deep meaning like Hazel and Blue just my main Christmas colors. For the most part I like things to coordinate....there are a few exceptions in my decor that you will see.

The tree with white lights. I love stars as well!

The table--white with 3 kids..I know thus the reason no one is allowed to eat on it...hee!

A bit of a deviation from the primary colors

My African friends in holiday decor.

And of course, what would Christmas be without a Charlie Brown tree?

Hope you enjoyed now show us yours!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Simple Math

Me: “Tori say 1”
Tori: “Two”

Me: “Tori say 2”
Tori: confidently, “TWOOO”

Me: “Tori say 3”
Tori: “Two”

Perhaps she is a bit verbally (or mathematically) challenged but 1 out of 3 isn’t bad….especially when it is two!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Measures of Success

We were blessed with a wonderful vacation to the Cape (SA’s south coast)! Rich and I were there in 1996 and have tried to get back since living here to no avail until now. It is an absolutely gorgeous place where the Atlantic and Indian Ocean meet, with cascading mountain peaks and pristine beaches. Instead of boring you with our penguin, seal, and great white shark adventures I thought I would share a few points denoting a successful vacation!

You know your family vacation was a success when:
1) Your suitcase is filled with sand.
2) No cooking was involved.
3) The only clean clothes in your suitcase are the workout clothes you brought.
4) You managed to talk your husband out of the Great White shark dive he was so insistent upon doing.
5) The day after your return you choose to wear your baggiest jeans.
6) There is a family revolt when you share that the daily ice-cream eating contest has come to an end (thus the need for the baggy jeans).
7) You need a vacation (w/o kids) to recoup from your vacation.
8) Your brain is mush so it is difficult to make it an even 10.
Ahhh....I want to go back RIGHT NOW!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

A Wonderful Christmas Gift

Warning: Long in length but hopefully worth the read!

Two years ago today I received the most wonderful Christmas gift. It was a warm, summer morning in December, right here in South Africa when my sweet little Victoria Amira entered the world. I thought as tribute I would answer the question most often asked of me regarding living in Africa, “What was it like to have a baby overseas?” Here’s the short (ha) version…………..

The Shock Phase
Four weeks after moving overseas, changing careers, and starting a ministry I found out I was pregnant with child numero 3. Can we say “SHOCKER”! I hate to admit it but I wasn’t very excited in fact, I had some long conversations with God about His timing and plan (as if Rich and I had nothing to do with the fact that I was PG). I really did not know very many people at the time and knew nothing of the health care system here. I called my one friend who technically wasn’t really even a “friend” yet, we were still in the “courting phase”, to recommend a Gyn. I was also informed that in this country once your gynecologist confirms your pregnancy they immediately pull out their day-planners, do the math and schedule your C-section. Oh yea, I am very serious.

Upon meeting the greek man that would eventually deliver my newborn I tactfully shared with him the apparent revolutionary fact of natural child-birth. I did make mention that I am all for legal pain-reducing drugs though.

The Sobering Phase
I finally sobered up to the fact that this was both a good thing and a God thing. I chose my hospital as I had a choice of 2 for care and delivery. I decided to go with the one that didn’t have stark white walls making it feel like an insane asylum.

During my hospital orientation I was informed of my choice of rooms: a private room referred to as ‘the suite’ OR the general ward with 12 beds in one big room separated by sheets they referred to as curtains and 1 bathroom. It was a no-brainer…I chose the private room and refuse to call it a ‘suite’ as it wasn’t by any definition.

I also received a list of items I would need to bring with me to the hospital. There was a very long list for the baby and another long one for me. It seemed to be in a foreign language with listed items like- nappies, nappy wipes, cotton wool, ear buds, aqueous cream, etc. My one ‘friend’ helped me interpret the list and confirmed that I had to bring absolutely everything baby or I would need. The hospital did not provide “care” items. So much for packing light.

The Surreal Phase
December 17, 2004, I woke with the feeling that today was the day. I arrived at the hospital at 10:21 a.m., with much luggage in tow. My contractions were less than 2 minutes apart. I walked through the front door and to the delivery ward. There is no emergency valet and wheelchair service here due to the high number of C-sections….no one (except me) walks through the door having contractions. The sister in the delivery ward greeted me. RN’s are referred to as ‘Sisters’ here. Although, I was never catholic, having a ‘sister’ by my side through delivery made my experience feel all the more holy….that and the drugs. I immediately explained that this was my third child and she was well on her way would she be so kind as to call the anesthesiologist?! She gave me a patronizing look, suggested I get settled, have some tea and once she confirmed I was ready she would call for assistance. Our ‘disagreement’ went on for a few minutes, she was quite persistent I have a cup of tea (hello, I am here to have a baby not for a tea party) and I was quite persistent I get my drugs! She reluctantly called my favorite person in the hospital (the drug-dispenser) and admitted me.

Horror shown on the sister’s face when see found that I was 8 centimeters dilated and fully effaced. She frantically ran around muttering, “I don’t know how I am going to get everything ready”. I think she could have used a cup of tea (and drugs) at that point.

My doctor arrived with what looked like wading boots on….I wasn’t sure why he thought he needed knee-high rubber boots and quite frankly it made me a bit nervous.

10:40 a.m., my glorious moment had arrived…no not Tori, my anesthesiologist.

By 10:50 a.m. my lower body was numb, much to the sister’s delight I had my cup of tea and I was ready to take on the world or at least bring someone into it!

What happened next was nothing short of a miracle in my book… inexplicably one of the most precious moments of my life.

At 10:56 a.m. Victoria Amira Franzen, my wonderful Christmas gift arrived….pain-free I might add! What a truly surreal and heavenly moment to physically hear and see that little miracle that grew in my womb breathe her first breath of the outside world.

What started for me as uncertainty and progressed with much insecurity has now become 1 of the 3 most certain things I know and love. I could not be more grateful to God for His timing, His plan and His gift!

Happy Birthday my precious Victoria!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Holiday Traditions

I love how the Christmas holidays bring out fun, long standing traditions. I won’t be blogging for a while after this post as I am going on a MUCH needed vacation with the fam. That is a fun South African tradition (family vacations in December) I decided we must adopt. So I will share 2 of my favorite Christmas traditions and then allow you to share with various readers some of your own. That way reading enjoyment can continue while I am away….okay so maybe only 2 readers will miss my blogging while I am away (my mom and dad).

Last Sunday I took Skyler to see the Nutcracker ballet. This brings back fond memories of my mom and me traipsing off downtown Chicago to McCormick Place to see this special holiday performance. We would get all dressed up, my dad would drive us (not sure what he did during the wait time) and then the 3 of us would go out for a nice dinner afterwards. This happened years on end and for as many times as I have seen the ballet I still watch as if it is my first time.

What fun it was to share this special tradition with Skyler. She absolutely loved it and I got a glimpse of the joy my mom received by creating such a sweet memory with her daughter as I now am creating it with mine.

I am Czechoslovakian and Mikulash is a Czech holiday tradition. Mikulash is 'Santa' in Czech and essentially the tradition consists of hanging our stockings on Dec 5th and opening them the morning of the 6th. This is how the Baumruk family did it so when I took on the Franzen name, Mikulash came with it!

On Tuesday night cookies and milk were laid out for Santa and carrots for the reindeer. Before everyone freaks out and I get the “Don’t you know Santa is really Satan if you rearrange the letters speech!” My kids know the fat man in the big red suit with the long white beard that comes down the chimney isn’t real….good thing because we don’t have a chimney. They do however know about the real man that lived centuries ago whose name was Saint Nicholas. And that he loved Jesus and went around doing good things for people. I have a great book that tells the story so well and keeps things in perspective….also a traditional Christmas read in the Baumruk household. (Unfortunately, I think it is out of print.) So for them (and me) it amounts to harmless fun and a stocking chalked full of sweets. They were so excited the “Can we open our stockings now” banter started at 5:45 a.m. Good thing there was coffee in my stocking!

Well that is it for me! Now for your part….tell us your favorite Christmas tradition(s).

Monday, December 04, 2006

A Different December

The festive fun-filled month is underway….hard to believe. The tree is up, the Christmas music is playing, the presents are wrapped yet things feel a bit strange. December in South Africa is quite different than America's winter wonderland this time of year.

For one, it is summertime and it is HOT. With temperatures in the 90’s it sure takes on a different feel than the Mid-West winters I grew up with.

December 1st also denotes the end of a school year giving students a 6 week long holiday. So really November is the “busiest” month in my opinion. All the culminating school activities, parties, plays, and preparations for the holiday happen for us in November. So the hectic pace you are experiencing now is actually coming to an end for me (thank the Lord).

The weirdest thing of all is the fact that people don’t celebrate like ‘we’ do instead most go on vacation. It is summertime and schools are out so off to the coast people go. They put a small Christmas tree in the boot (trunk) of the car and they celebrate at a condo on the beach. By December 15, Johannesburg will look like a ghost town. Some businesses actually shut down for the month…..strange hey?!

Our Christmas holiday will be a hot, quiet one filled with lots of swimming to stay cool (homes do not have AC)……even Tori’s baby doll went for a dip to cool off.

That is my ‘strange’ holiday synopsis. What was your strangest Christmas holiday and/or memory?