Friday, March 30, 2007

Dog Pile

Originally, I wanted a photo with the precious little girl in the striped sweater pictured below. There were about 100 other African children around so we went off to the side. Spotting the action these girls jumped in for the shot.

After reviewing the photo we decided to try another one without the flash but it was too late. The "whities" were spotted doing something and soon children came from everywhere. It was like someone yelled, "dog pile", in Zulu of course. As you can see I am beginning to topple over.

If there were a third photo it would be of me on the ground and 100 children on top of me.

So much for being inconspicuous!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Hot Rod

I often pick up and pray the prayers of Stormie Omartian’s book Power of a Praying Husband (prayers for a husband to pray over his wife) over MYSELF (see I really am selfish).

The other day I came upon this opening and I thought it quite a funny way to think about our specific design

“Your wife is like an automobile. She may be high maintenance like an Italian sports car. She might be as refined and expensive as a German luxury sedan. She may be solid and sturdy like and SUV, or delicate like a Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance show car (whatever that is). She could be an efficient six-cylinder type, or be a faster but costlier V-8 model. She may be dependable in all kids of weather like a four-wheel drive or she may have no downhill traction control at all, even on a good day. Whatever she is, whether she is tiny like a compact car or full-size and beyond, she needs fuel to make her run smoothly.”

So I read this to Rich and asked him what type of car I am. He got a smirky little smile and said something that will be kept between us as husband and wife and then continued with, “No way am I going there…it is a trap just like when you ask “Am I fat”…….there is no right answer”

So I thought it would be fun to find out what type of car my blogg'in friends are with an explanation of why you or your hubby chose that make and model! Here is your chance, let us know….do you have a fine interior, fabulous sleek lines or a roomy trunk? Hee!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Tuesday Morning with Tori

.......and Skyler and Blake! The kids are on a 3 week holiday from school. I love how they refer to it as holiday here….holiday for whom? Seriously, I do love my kids being around, I love the casual mornings, I love being in PJ’s until 10 am. and I would love to say I love sleeping in but 6:00 a.m. hardly equates to sleeping in.

I always try to have some special things planned for the kids and a reward system of sorts to keep us all sane and me from barking orders all day. The system I came up with is fun and working well so far but it has only been 3 days so we will see if it stands the test of time.

Skyler has been sick and with Rich away we stayed home from church on Sunday. The kids begged me to start some of the ‘activities’ I have planned for them. So being the good mother that I am (hee) I pulled out a fun/bible one from Heritage Builders. If you do not know about HB I strongly recommend you perusing their site as their resources are phenomenal…very practical and easy to use. I subscribe to their free e-newsletter and get a fun bible based activity each time. I also use their family night books and my kids love them. Okay enough with the commercial….

So we sat down and started our activity. I gave Tori her own things and her own little place thinking that would keep her busy…HA! It lasted 2 minutes and then she was all over me. “Me seet Mommy” which equates to “Me sit on Mommy” but it really means “Me climb all over Mommy”. I carried on, managing the monkey now on me, until Blake needed help, and then the monkey, assist Blake, contort my body in 10 different ways, answer Skyler’s bazillion questions thing just wasn’t working. Blake soon lost interest and I got tired of saying, “Would you please listen?” By the time we got to the principle of the lesson we had all had it and I came up with a principle of my own….Never home school! Of course I did not say it aloud because you know what happens when you say “Never”?! Seriously though, how do moms home school multiple children esp. when they are little? And this activity wasn’t even an academic one it was a fun one.

I may hold a teaching degree but I don’t think it qualifies me for home schooling. I don’t have the patience degree also required.

So we'll resort to the usual games, dvd's, easy crafts, and ROOMTIME the rest of the holiday!

Don’t worry I’ve scheduled in 'teacher’s break-time' or should I say ‘blog-time’!

Monday, March 26, 2007

Our 'Nevers'

Prior to having kids I was quite judgmental. I can’t remember how many times I uttered the phrase “I’ll never do that or let my kid’s do that” while watching other parents dealing with their children. For those of you nodding, Uh Huh and waving your bibles saying “preach it sister” you’ll probably also agree you’ve done all the things you would never do with your kids….and more!

Well confession time….. here is one more of the things on my long lists of I will never that I recently did. Number 56 on the list was absolutely no Superhero, Hello Kitty, Barbie or Nick Jr. character bedding and bedroom paraphernalia of any kind. Okay so Nick Jr wasn’t on the list as I did not even know such a channel existed prior to kids. Anyway you get my drift. Toys, occasional t-shirts, underwear and PJ’s of such characters were okay but an entire bedroom outfit…no way! How tacky…hee!

The girl’s room has always been a pretty yellow and Pottery barn green with PB butterfly bedding and curtains to boot. Blake received the safari room with stuffed animal trophy heads, faux fur duvets, a cheetah throw rug and denim blue coordinating sheets and curtaining. Adorable right! I thought so. Love the trophy heads…have a look...

Well a friend of mine just gave me ALL of her 9 year old son’s Spiderman bedding, curtains, huge picture, and a rug for Blake. The tell me what 5 year old boy would not be ecstatic?! So out with the trophy heads (boo-hoo) and in with Spidey.

My thought if it makes him happy and it is free what is one more Never turned Did It!

What are the nevers that you have given into or if you don’t have kids as you watch those of us that do what are your nevers? Be honest…this is a safe blog space!

Thursday, March 22, 2007


Rich- Remember after having Skyler how we would ask ourselves “What was life like before children?”

Me- “Yep”…..anticipating a sweet memory to follow.

Rich- “That is what I now say about your blogging… “It is hard to remember what life was like before blogger & franzenfam!”

Me- Sheepish smile

So does this mean I am a blogoholic? “Hi, my name is Michelle and I am a blogoholic!” Anyone else want to join my support group?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A Day of Hope

Today is a public holiday here and my internet is back up after being down for 24 hours. Both vivid reminders that I live in Africa.

It is Human Right’s Day and is observed on the same day as the Sharpeville massacre of 1960 that took place here in South Africa. 69 (African) people were massacred by the apartheid police in one of the most gruesome violations of human rights in South Africa's history.

You may not know much about my beloved country unless you watch Oprah, listen to Bono, or paid attention in geography class. In 1990 a man affectionately known by many as Madiba was released from prison after 27 years of imprisonment. Not long after he became the first African president of the RSA and is credited as the father of democracy for this nation. FYI this is a good thing to remember if you’re a game player as it is a Trivial Pursuit question…answer- Nelson Mandela.

South Africa is no longer under the abuses of apartheid yet a new umbrella of despair torments many of its people especially its children. One of poverty, crime, extreme abuse, and hopelessness.

Many people around the globe are working feverously to bring awareness and aid to these people and many bring with it the precious truth of Christ’s love.

In the busyness of your day would you take a moment and say a prayer for the precious people of South Africa, especially the 40% of the population under the age of 18. They are in desperate need of a healing touch and are awaiting their day of hope.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Tuesday Morning with Tori

I enjoy my mornings with my baby girl. We have tea time together however I drink coffee, we do puzzles, we play outside, we read books, we watch Barney or Blues Clues and we watch mommy type on the computer. I figure the latter is teaching her tech and admin skills for later on in life. This helps minimize the guilt that I am working (or blogging) instead of giving her my undivided attention.

This morning my little darling awoke rather early…5:38 a.m. to be exact. Now that she is in a big girl bed it gives her access to the rest of the house. So she climbs out and wakes up big sister Skyler (they share a room). They in turn laugh and play which granted is much better than fighting but their loud voices ring through the hallway waking everyone else in the house.

Since my precious pumpkin decided to start her day so early she was quite the crab when it came to mommy time (aka—other kids off to school, daddy gone, subsequently only mommy left).

I left her to have some alone time with Barney while I grabbed some admin time on the computer and when I return to check on her this is what I found.

My little mop top fast asleep. She remained zonked on the living room floor for an hour and a half.

How come she can get up so early and nap whenever and wherever she wants yet the rest of us who involuntarily got up so early have to press through and remain pleasant natured til bed time? Just doesn’t seem fair!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Lassie Come Home

Sunday started out as a lovely day. We went to church and stopped for a quick bite to eat on the way home with some friends. We ate outside as it was beautiful picnic weather and the kids could play. As we arrived home ready for Sunday afternoon naps (aren’t they the best) our dog Zoë did not eagerly greet us as per usual. Turns out Zoë was no where to be found; somehow she got out of the gate and was gone. Now before I describe the trauma that ensued let me give you some background on homes and dogs here in South Africa.

Our home along with most is surrounded by brick walls and an electric gate. Not making it real easy ‘to get to know the neighbors’. It has a security system that is widely marketed in various points around our house. Some homes even have barb wiring at the top of their walling and there are those that really mean business and install electric fencing. I don’t suggest the latter with 3 small children and yes, there is a story or more appropriately said, a shock, behind that statement. Each home has at least one guard dog in most cases you will find two or more. Notice I did not say pet. Most people don’t keep dogs as pets but as security detail. This helps me set the stage for my next statement…Zoë was obtained for her scare tactic not to be the warm cuddly animal that sleeps at the foot of the bed. Admittedly, I am not a pet lover. I do like Zoë but I like her best when she is outside and keeping the ‘baddies’ (SA term for bad guys) away. Although for clarity sake my kids would tell you otherwise. To them she is a their childhood pet, you know the one they don’t feed, walk, or clean up after (aka poop in the yard).

Back to where I left off…insert picture of kids in hysteria here. Oh my, the tears, the beginnings of a eulogy (Skyler of course) etc... Come on, it is a dog—one that everyone fought over when having to take care of her…okay insert sensitivity here. “Don’t worry dad will find her or she’ll get hungry and come home; is there food in the dish (need I even ask)?”

I laid Tori and myself down for a nap while Rich took Sky and Blake to look for Zoë. Don’t look at me that way; I said a prayer for Lassie to come home prior to heading off to ZZZZ land. Unfortunately…..I mean fortunately my nap was interrupted about an hour later with the return of our precious German shepherd. Someone had picked her up and turned her into the vet down the street. ....obviously she isn't too scary!

My favorite statement and one that proves my point, I’m not insensitive just HONEST, by my 5 year old son with a twinkle in his eye, “Skyler, do you think if we wouldn’t have found Zoë we could of got a new dog?”

Sorry Zoë you’re no Lassie but glad you came home!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

A Visit from the Tooth Fairy

One of my daughters is gaining all her teeth and the other is losing them. Blake is the only child with a full mouth of teeth and he is not too happy about it.

Skyler is my “Words of Affirmation” child. She is forever writing little cards and notes to us and her friends. I find notes stuck in my bible, she adds notes to Blake’s lunch box, daddy receives them on his desk and even Tori gets little pictures. It is quite sweet. If the notes are reciprocated it goes a looooong way! This is how Skyler receives and gives love, she feels valued and special when verbally praised.

She even leaves notes for the tooth fairy….a new addition from my childhood memories of the never seen, tooth stealing, money giving, winged lady. Yesterday’s lost tooth was left by the side of Sky’s bed in a plastic baggie, on a pillow with the following note:

“Thank you for all the money you have left me for the teeth I have lost. And please don’t forget to leave money this time. Thank you!” Skyler

I thought the 20 rand the magical lady (that is a nice way to think about myself, a magical lady…you never know what is up my sleeve..hee) left would be a welcomed wake up surprise but Skyler was a bit perturbed that the tooth fairy did not take the time to write her back. As if I don’t wear enough hats now I have to be a note writing tooth fairy.
Do you think I can put that on my résumé?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

A Night at the Oscars

(Insert picture of Tom Cruise dressed in an Armani black suit) “And the winner of Kool Daze photo contest goes to…..(drum roll) Michelle Franzen and she takes not only first place but second as well!”

Lights flash to me…insert pic of me waving my hands in front of my face as if I am batting flies away, mouth hung open in disbelief and eyes moist with tears of sheer joy….

“I am just so overwhelmed; I never win anything. First, I would like to thank the Academy, my parent’s for their wonderful upbringing, Kara Stevens for sending us the much coveted Dr. Pepper, my wonderful husband for the hours he encouragingly stood by me while I shot, deleted, shot, deleted… (insert background 'wrap it up music' here) And most of all I would like to thank my Lord and Savior! I love you too” (me reciprocating the fans screams of “I love you” from the crowd)!

Oh sorry, I must have drifted off after reading Karen’s Winner’s post today. Here are the winning photos.

1st place- Cheers to Karen's photo contest

2nd place- I'm a Pepper, you're a Pepper, wouldn't you like to be a Pepper too?"

In addition to my vivid imagination, and humble nature I guess you could add competitive. Thanks Karen, you made my day!

Monday, March 12, 2007

13 years ago....

…my husband married an awesome woman (and a humble one). Hee!

Being it is our wedding anniversary I started a jog down memory lane. A beautiful Saturday in March…okay I spare you and sprint to the finish! I thought about my wedding day. Where I absolutely despise my choice of fashion, colors and décor (in fact, I’ve purposely lost my wedding album so there would be no witness of my horrible fashion sense) I still love the man, the ceremony and the reception.

My nostalgic ‘jog’ to that wonderful dreamy day also revealed something quite alarming and that probably should not be admitted. Since I have already shown security in my self-esteem based on my opening statement I will go ahead and set myself up for ridicule and verbal bashing. My memory jaunt turned to my wedding party you know the one that is always filled with your life-long, best friends. Well let’s start with Sohailah, now I do keep in touch with her albeit via blogging. My friend Mary, we send each other Christmas cards and exchange emails twice a year. Then there is sister in-law, she is married to my brother so we keep in good contact. My best friend and college roommate for 4 years, we haven’t spoken I think since my wedding although I did send her a lovely wedding thank you for what I am sure must have been a vase. As for the other 3 involved, I am having a hard time even recollecting who they were. How horrible is that?

And the guys that stood by Rich on this special day, he has kept in good contact with every single one! Okay wait a minute, I am the social one and he is the introvert. Or perhaps I am the shallow one and he a good friend. Ugh…I will definitely need an extra dessert with dinner tonight!

So much for the beautiful tribute to my husband and our amazing last 13 years, eh? I did journal a prayer this morning along the lines of gratitude for those amazing 13 years. And to continue to become the wife, mother, friend, minister and daughter the Almighty intended me to be so the next 13 years supersede any and all expectation. That shows some growth in the shallow category hey?

Happy Anniversary to my wonderful hubby; love your shallow, humble yet honest wife, Shel!

Friday, March 09, 2007

One Last Tip....

…since we are on the subject I thought I would leave you with one last safari tip. So when you have those extra greenbacks required to make your way to my side of the world you are fully prepared.

This would be along the lines of what NOT to do while on safari.

It clearly states in the information you receive when entering the park that under no circumstances should you get out of your vehicle. The reason would seem obvious…there are hundreds of carnivorous animals that aren't picky about their meat. You are equipped with numerous phone numbers for qualified people to assist you in a “get out of the vehicle” type situation. So what did we do when we had a flat tire while on safari? By ‘we’ let me clarify…what did the men in our party do when we got a flat tire? They got out of the vehicle and changed it themselves.

This tip would be especially important when 30 minutes prior to the flat tire just a few kilometers away 2 cheetahs took down and zebra and then a pack of lion chased the cheetah away to enjoy their striped dinner. (True story)

Angry, hungry cheetah….lion on the prowl….2 large men on the open savannah….hummm

So I guess my tip would be to stay in your vehicle or bring along a praying wife and mother!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Safari Sanity

I thought I would bring some clarity to the African safari experience as some of the comments from yesterday’s post mentioned “bet your kid's thought it was great”, “how cool”… “my boys would be in heaven”...

Having spent over a decade working in Africa (many short-term trips prior to moving here full time) I’ve been on many safaris. For that I am thankful but I’ve also learned a few things. Where there is some euphoric state one finds themself in when locating animals in the wild the 3 hours cooped up in a car driving around to find those animals can provoke temporary insanity. ESPECIALLY when children ages 5 and under are cooped up in the same vehicle. Thus the reason this was our first trip to Kruger for such an extensive safari experience involving our kids. And quite frankly, I would have probably waited a few more years had the ‘deal’ not been so great and Rich’s parents here.

Typically the best game viewing is early in the morning or at dusk. Meaning you get to the park when gates open and in our case that was 5:30 a.m. Now you know I am not a morning person but when that euphoric state kicks in I go into ‘driver’ mode and by golly we were at the gate at 5:30 a.m. The travel mugs full of coffee helped with the wake up call.

So imagine 4 adults and 3 children under the age of 8 all crammed into one vehicle at 5:30 a.m. and the intention is to remain that way for at least 2 hours but likely it will be more like 3. Sound like heaven now?

Here is where my learning comes in. Most important lesson learned, if at all resist the euphoric state and just don’t do it with kids ages 5 or under especially if one of them is a rambunctious boy. It is like a drug that starts out with an awesome high but quickly leaves you sick and in a delirious state (not that I would know personally but so I have heard). But if you just cannot resist there are 2 quintessential components that must accompany your trip if there is any hope at all of easing the inevitable delirium. I reiterate these are MUSTS!

One, bring LOTS of snacks. Not one or two items but a boatload and the unhealthier the better as it prolongs the enjoyment and buys you more viewing time. And I am sure it is goes without stating that drinks must accompany the snacks however don’t overdo it on the drinks unless you have a bathroom onboard. To date, I have never seen an RV drive through the parks so the likelihood of a bathroom, other than the bush where the wild animals dwell, is highly unlikely.

Two, bring a portable DVD player with headset and more than 3 hours worth of viewing entertainment. Listen to me when I say the poor eyesight this may cause is worth the peace and quiet that this is sure to create for your hours of game viewing. Aren’t glasses these days inevitable anyway?

These are tried and proven tips that I just tried and my kid’s proved. We had relatively enjoyable game drives thanks to snacks filled with sugar and transfatty acids and hours of unhealthy movie viewing at an eye to screen distance of 12 inches.

Safari Franzen style anyone?

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Wild Wednesday

Some nice friends of ours gave us their timeshare which afforded us a special visit to Kruger National Park with Rich's parents for some superb game viewing. I thought you might enjoy a gander at the African Wild (I also really like this slide show thing)…….

Monday, March 05, 2007

Back to Reality

We are nearing late afternoon here and I don’t know how your day is going but I feel like this……

Or perhaps more like this…..

I wish a nap was in order!

Rich put his parents on a plane bound for civilization yesterday. What a great time the past 3 weeks have been with Jackie and then with Ron here as well.

Our greatest “American miss” is being so far from family (that and Starbucks-hee) Fortunately, and you’ll understand my choice of wording as I explain, we have never lived close to family even while living in the States. Rich’s sister, Jen attended Teen Mania’s internship for a year and then went 5 hours away to University so we had her around those years but that is the closest we ever lived to fam. I say ‘fortunately’ in the sense that I believe because we were never close in proximity it made our overseas move a little bit easier. Now we pray we will see them as much as we were able while stateside. And we have been blessed with visits from my parents, Rich’s brothers, and his parents! In fact Jackie has been here 3 times (and I think every time gets harder for her—the heat, the bugs, the water...)

We understand it is a sacrifice on so many fronts to visit us and it makes us all the more grateful. I am so happy to have wonderful families- blood and in-laws.

Now back to reality….or off for a nap (oh, how I wish)!