Wednesday, October 28, 2009


On Sunday we celebrated our sweet Gus with his baby dedication at our church. It was a fun occassion and we loved having an excuse to have most of our family here to celebrate with us. Our pastor has just finished a series on the book of James and steming from that God has moved our hearts as a church family for the poor. Last Sunday when we arrived at worship we found a real shanty town built on the stage. Apparently they had been raiding dumpsters all over the city to find the right pieces of scrap wood and metal to build a real life slum right up there on the stage with every detail complete all the way down to the broken bottles along the top of the wall for security (which, if you've been in many shanty towns, you know is quite the norm). This shanty will remain for a year as a constant reminder to us each Sunday of the reality of the poor. I thought it was an interesting backdrop for our baby dedication! Actually, quite fitting for our little Gus who is on his way to Africa!
Our newest hobby as a family are some pretty heated games of t-ball in our yard! Claire is actually really good and when she gets up there at bat she gets in the stance and shakes her little hiney - too cute. Ford takes a whack and runs in a big loop from home to second and back again a few times as fast as he can. Gus is mostly a spectator at this point but he is taking notes and . . .
sitting up! What in the world! He also got his first tooth yesterday! He is the youngest of all three to sit or get a tooth! What is up with that? He also grabbed a hand full of rice of my plate the other day at P.F. Chang and shoved it in his mouth! He has reached all the criteria for solids at our house (sitting up unsupported, doubling birth weight -he was 18 lbs 8oz yesterday . . . way more than double!, and grabbing food off our plates) so he has earned the right to take on a new challenge however he will have to wait for Kenya because I really don't want to deal with toting all the feeding gear on our journey across the pond! Besides he needs to keep practicing because sometimes he ends up like this . . .

We are packing, packing, packing here. We have about 5 more boxes to go then everything will be all packed up. Some of our wonderful friends are descending on our house early Saturday morning and between cups of hot chocolate and Krispy Kreme doughnuts will be loading our stuff in a truck and unloading it in our storage unit. Move out day :( We are both a little nostalgic thinking of when we first moved in this house almost 5 1/2 years ago. We were newlyweds and this house seemed to have way more space than we needed - we had a guest room and an office! Now we've got a kid in each of those rooms in addition to the one we have stowed in our room because we have run out! We have LOVED our first little home but just as our realtor reminded us - it is just sticks and bricks - we take the memories with us and that is what is important. This house has been a wonderful little nest for the birth of our family and we will always have the fondest memories of our time here. We are ready to move on though. We are ready for the next chapter . . .
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Thursday, October 22, 2009


Ford turned two on Saturday which is really strange since it feels like he was born last week. We had a wonderful celebration of him on that day. We went down to Calera to the railroad museum and rode the train to the pumpkin patch. He was so excited because he loves "choo choos" and I knew he would have a great time seeing the real thing. The weather didn't completely cooperate because it was really quite cold that day but we had a wonderful time despite some shivering and cold fingers.

We have a very strict rule of making a really big deal out of birthdays around here and making a point to really celebrate the birthday boy or girl! This was no exception. First let me say - I am new to trains. I am just getting the lingo down (there are lots of gaps mind you). I just realized they all have names just like My Little Ponies which is fun but also means that I have to remember Sky Dancer and Percy and everyone in between. We got to the little train depot and the kids went straight to play with the train table. Not long after, they were lured by the racks of "Thomas" train gear hoovering all around them. Ford locked in on a double engine and cargo car (train lingo gap here) $23.99. For a wooden train. I tried to interest him in the really cute single engine above in a fun green color for $12.99. Nope. He loved the black one. Rhett and I looked at each other and he smiled and said "It's his birthday." So he got the very cool black train to add to his small but growing collection of trains. He held one in each hand for most of the rest of the day and to bed that night.

We rode the train to the little pumpkin patch they set up. It was the perfect length for train ride with little kids. There were fun activities like fake tattoos, jumpy things and a hay stack. Basically the idea here is simple: throw a bunch of hay in a pile and let kids be kids in it. Super fun. Claire and Ford watched from the sidelines and bigger kids jumped and rolled in the hay. Then Ford had an idea . . .

Then he saw this other little kid in a preppy little coat. He decided to remind him that this was Alabama and we were in the country. I have no idea who this little boy was but Ford chased him around for a solid 5 minutes trying to throw hay on him . . .

The celebration continued that evening when we decided it would be fun to go out to eat (our days of running out to a restaurant for dinner are numbered) so we went to a Japanese Steakhouse. The kids had never been before so we thought we'd introduce them to this somewhat American tradition before we leave for Kenya. We thought it was a win-win. Lots of pre-dinner entertainment and kid friendly food. Perfect. Well, it didn't go quite that smoothly, of course.

They sat us at our table and after we ordered and finished our salad and soup they finished seating the rest of the people at our table who then started the process of ordering and eating their appetizers. They were a bunch of "singles" who ordered big fruity drinks and told the waiter TWICE they needed more time to look at the menu (seriously . . . chicken, steak, shrimp or a combination of those three - make a decision.) then they decided they wanted to look at the sushi menu. Meanwhile our crew was circling the drain. We expected by that time to be ooohing and ahhhing at the flaming volcano but that was still many, many minutes away. And as a rule we don't do well in public after 6:30. It was getting late. Enter Gus who had been his precious-little-easy-baby-self all day but now it was about his bed time and he wanted to eat too. I'm usually quick to "whip it out" in public (well not really - I have a really cute nursing cover I use) but the whole table arrangement at the steakhouse made me feel like I couldn't be discrete nursing so I took him to find a quiet place to nurse. While I was gone the "show" began. I came back to two very unhappy kids and Daddy.

Apparently all the knives and drama scared Claire and she was nearly in tears. At some point she had knocked over my chair and Ford was not having a minute of this strange guy in a big hat flaming things up in front of him. So we did damage control for a few minutes and managed to salvage everyone from the brink. Then they came with drums and singing and the pineapple birthday surprise for the birthday boy . . .

Ford didn't really appreciate it so much. Oh well. It really was fun looking back - even with all of the ruckous. Just very real moments with lots of little ones! Oh and Claire's fortune read: You will soon be traveling to a distant land AND Rhett's read: You will be traveling to a distant land for business purposes!

Next the celebration continued on Tuesday at the Pumpkin Patch for Ford's party! I realize Claire has on the same sweater - oops. We are wardrobe limited these days since we are weeks away from warmer temperatures. Anyway, we had a blast at the patch!

Sidenote: Do you like my babyhawk carrier? I love it. Gus slept in it the entire 3 hours that we were there. It is equally as comfortable for me too. I managed to pull off all of the mom responsibilites that come with a birthday party and the pumpkin patch with him sound asleep snuggled in his favorite place :) My sister in law said I was going to fit right in with all the moms in Africa! And you can pick all sorts of cute fabric combinations which is always fun!

Anyway, we rode ponies . . .

And sang to the birthday boy who prompty blew out his candles on cue . . .

I loved the cupcakes from Edgar's Bakery!

All the kids seemed to have a fun time!

Ford is so much fun and just a joy to have around. We love him so much. He brings so much life and fun to our family. I could never have imagined such a precious little boy would be mine.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Something to think about

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These pictures have nothing to do with this post. They are just cute.

Something has bothered me for the last several years: those mini-storage places. Once I was driving past one and it just hit me like a ton of bricks. As Americans we have so much stuff that we have to rent more space (outside of our already enormous dwellings) to keep it all. Not only that, but those storage places are NICE. Way nicer than the place that hundreds of millions of people on this planet call home. Seriously. The rent for one month storage costs as much most people in Kenya make in about 2 or 3 months. They are super secure and climate controlled. We air condition our stuff. Really? How messed up is that?

So know I'm in a pickle. In two weeks we are moving and we have to store our stuff . . . in one of those places. I'm rationalizing it because it is not our extra stuff it is actually everything that we own crammed in a 10 x 15 space. I'm not sure how I feel about it yet. I feel like I'm having a lot of rubber meets the road moments like that lately. I'm not sure why my furniture is going to be more comfortable than most people on the planet but it looks like that is what is going to happen.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

What all is involved . . .

Just in case you are wondering what all is involved in packing up your life as you know it and moving to Africa - here are some of the highlights . . .

Getting wills, power of attorneys and living wills done. (Thank you Thank you Neal Boortz for getting us a $10 per item discount by entering "Boortz" at check out.

Why a power of attorney? Someone has to be the go-to person here in the States for any banking, legal or tax issues that might arise while we are gone.

Insurance - there is a long conversation coming up with our insurance agency regarding just about every department in the company: life, home and auto. Get 'em all on the line.

Make 2 copies of above documents PLUS passports, birth certificates, marriage certificate, social security cards and immunization records for all 5 of us. We are leaving originals with one family member, one copy with another family member and another set of copies is going with us.

Changing mail officially to our "permanent U.S. address" which will be Rhett's brother. They can then sort through all of our mail and send us anything personal or important. Including my Christmas cards. I love opening my Christmas cards.

Opening a Capital One credit card that does not charge any "international fees" and opening a Capital One checking account that does not charge international ATM fees. This will save us a lot of money over the years. Details in this article.

Making lots of final hour doctor's visits. I think we have 7 between now and our departure date.

Order two years of contacts for each of us. $$$

Get vaccines necessary for us and the kids. $$$$ (this requires 3 separate visits to the travel clinic and several to the pediatrician)

Shopping consignment and off season sales for the next size clothes and shoes for the kids. I figure this will give me some time before I have to brave the open air markets to buy clothes for them. Hopefully by then I will be a little more culturally confident and have few friends who can go with me. I hear we can find crocs in Kenya. Sweet.

Upgrade to Medjet Expatriate. We have had Medjet for years and feel great knowing that a jet from Birmingham will come get us if we get sick and take care of us. Priceless.

Buy extra electronic things we might need: flash drives, portable hard drives, CDs, camera and computer accessories that will be difficult to find or expensive there.

Make "love books" for the kids with pictures of them with all of our loved ones and of them doing fun things with them. I also included pictures of our house and things like school, ballet, the park etc. so they can remember those sorts of things.

Enlarge pictures and mount on foam board. I decided to do this because I love being surrounded by beautiful pictures of our kids and family. Framed pictures would be prohibitive due to the weight of the frames to transport so I came up with this idea. Mpix will print enlargements and mount them on foam board. I can them fix them on the wall with adhesive or sit them on plate stands in our new house. Great way to decorate and keep family members and memories in our life and mind. I got my order today and they are fantastic. I had previously gotten some done at Wolf Camera and the quality was pitiful compared to Mpix. Highly recommend them for prints.

Order duffle bags from This is the best price I could find on big bags. This is a better use of our weight limit since the bags are so lightweight compared to suitcases. Buy 2 get 1 free.

Order Rubbermaid Action Packers from Other places have slightly lower prices but one place wanted $80 for shipping 4 containers. I got FREE super saver shipping with amazon so I got a great deal. These will be for packing items that could be damaged in a suitcase or duffle bag . . . printer, pictures, household items, books etc.

Closing various accounts, setting up turning off our utilities.

Get AAA International Driver's Licenses. We've been told these can come in handy for a variety of reasons.

Getting change of address post cards made from We will send these out to people with our Kenya address and U.S. address when we leave so people don't drop us off their mailing lists (remember how much I love my Christmas cards!). I also got some business cards printed with our information that are handy to pass out quickly when we meet someone who is interested in what we are doing.

Getting an accountant here in the U.S who can handle our taxes for us. Turbo Tax won't cut it this year.

I will do another post on the actual packing process. This list has worn me out and made me start biting my nails again from stress.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Some recent quotes . . .

"Mommy, God must not have told Noah about gutters. I'm glad he told us about gutters so now all the water goes in them and doesn't flood the streets like it did for Noah" - Claire

"I win!!" -Ford (he's not even two yet! - I think we have a competitor on our hands!)

"Ford you are a MANIAC!" - Claire

"I want a cookie" -Ford as we drive past Publix (Congratulations to them on a successful marketing strategy for children . . . free cookies - gets 'em every time.)

(me) Ford, go get your socks so we can put your shoes on.
(Ford looking down at his bare feet and thinking for a minute) Claire, I need socks! (already needs a woman to take care of him - bad sign).

"Mommy, can I go to Haiti with you to play with the kids who don't have a Mommy and a Daddy? Can we take our money and put it in their piggy bank so if they get hungry they can buy food so they won't be hungry anymore?" - Claire

Precious little coos - Gus (didn't want to leave him out!)

Thursday, October 01, 2009


This picture has nothing to do with this post but who likes a blog post with out a picture?? Anyway, for some reason our living arrangements in Kenya are so interesting to everyone! Ususally when we say we are moving to Kenya people seriously think we are living in a mud or grass hut. I have tried to debunk the myths associated with missionary housing (although there certainly are plenty of missionaries calling mud houses their home) because I want people to be able to see themselves living where we are going and doing what we are doing. So, that is why I've shared so much about our house and our new little town, Kijabe. And now after all that we've been evicted :) We found out that we won't be in the cute little duplex with a blue roof but instead we will be in the apartment in the "sitaplex" that our friends Erik and Amanda stayed in last spring and I posted pictures of then. I have heard this referred to as the "Hilton of all missionary housing" so we are thankful for the incredibly nice and new accomodations there that we will be able to enjoy. We are looking forward to a great sense of community with the others living in the building and the frequent flow of short term volunteers who often stay there. There are three kids who live across the hall from us and several others on that corner which we are thrilled about. We know our kids will love having others to play with - something we don't have in our neighborhood now.

We worked in Haiti several years ago at a hospital and I think Rhett and I have both had that image in our minds of what it might be like at Kijabe. In Limbe there were several missionary home or duplexes scattered around the property of the hosptial - connected by dirt paths and big tree filled courtyards. Everything was so simple and basic but SO wonderful. I remember thinking that I would love to live in that little room with a single bed and a fan. In my mind I've taken a lot of what Limbe was and transposed it on Kijabe but I am realizing that it is quite different. I had imagined the wide open spaces of Africa where my kids could roam free and my kitchen door constantly slamming as kids came in and out from playing outside with their little Kenyan friends. Maybe it will be like that but maybe not. Either way we are really excited about our new place and looking forward to getting there and checking it out for our selves. In a little over a month we will get to do just that!

Rhett's ID boards are on Tuesday. What a great burden it will be to have that over with! It has been nice having him on a "study" schedule which means that although he is in his office a lot he is still home way more than I ever remember him being here and it is great. Once the test is over he will be working 2 nights a week and will be helping me pack and get ready at full speed ahead in the weeks leading up to our departure. I certainly need it!
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Magic with scissors

A few weeks ago I ran into a local monogram shop to pick up a gift and was so excited to see a sign saying the "Silhouette Man" would be coming to their shop to do silhouettes later that week. I had been wanting to get some of the kids done before we left for Africa and couldn't find anywhere that was doing it. Apparently these silhouette artists travel around and you have to find one in your area.

Anyway, I took Ford and Gus in one morning while Claire was at school (because everything is easier with two - it doesn't matter which two - just two) to have their's done. When I got home and got them out of the packaging I noticed a little slip of paper with scripture tucked into each one. I thought it was really nice and a very interesting ministry for this gentleman to have. He sees literally hundreds of families in every town he stops in and has a neat opportunity to plant seeds in people's hearts with God's Word.

When I took Claire back that afternoon I mentioned how excited I was to have these done before we moved out of the country and that sparked a conversation about missions when I mentioned that we were affiliated with Samaritan's Purse. He stopped cutting and looked up with an excitement and told me that he had become a Christian through Billy Graham. He proceeded to tell me his amazing story of salvation . . . He was into lots of new age beliefs and very, very far from the God who created him. He met the woman who would eventually become his wife (she didn't know at the time all of his beliefs) and it sparked an uneasyness in his heart. He said for weeks he walked around with a heavyness and didn't know what was wrong but felt like something was just not right. He was walking through a department store one day and happend into the electronics department. All the TVs were on but the audio was off. On the screen was Billy Graham speaking (muted) and a 1-800 number at the bottom of the screen. He just stood their surrounded by all the faces of Billy Graham and that number and hit a breaking point. He started weeping and knew he had to call that number so he went to a pay phone, called the number and the person who he spoke to led him to Christ. What a cool story! It is so amazing to hear his testimony and realize how the Holy Spirit was working in his life and in his heart - preparing him to respond to the gospel that day at the mall.

I really enjoyed talking to him and when he asked me how he could pray for me I could tell he really meant it and really will be praying for us. I gave him one of our handy dandy prayer cards and I feel encouraged knowing that God placed him in my path that day, in a pretty unlikely place, and now I have a new friend in Christ praying for me and our family.
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Sweet little thing

Here are some pictures of Gus a little while back . . . he was almost 4 months in these. He is just as cute and sweet and wonderful as he looks.

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