Monday, March 24, 2014

The Littlest has a Birthday

Yesterday was our youngest's birthday. He was excited, oh so excited, to be turning "free" and the look on his face when the grandparents gave him the riding fire truck was enough to melt the coldest heart! 
And last week we went to court and a judge told us what we already knew: these two boys belong to our family. Now their birth certificates have our names on them and this terrible, wonderful thing called adoption is official.
Our family couldn't be happier to continue this journey together.
(Birthday breakfasts with candles are one of those family traditions we couldn't wait to share!)

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Boys' Birth Village Africa #9

On the morning after we got back from our short safari to Murchison Falls, the hubby and the biological kids left to fly home on our original return flights. We did not have visas for the boys yet, so I stayed with them to finish that up. We went to the U.S. Embassy that day hoping to hear that our paperwork was all wrapped up and that the visas would be ready as early as Wednesday. Instead, we heard that because of computer problems there at the embassy, they had no idea when we would be able to go home. This was a blow and probably the lowest point in my journey. But we were reminded just the day before by a dear older and wiser man of the faith to "Count it all joy!" and that line just kept running through my head. How could I count it all joy if I was stranded in Uganda for who knows how long without my hubby and three of my kids?
I really can't answer that question for you, but I can say that God sent so many things to comfort my heart in the next few days: the sweet boys crying for their daddy and their siblings, friends at the guest house sharing their snacks and time and sodas and flashlights and love with us, and then finally the embassy calling to unexpectedly say, "Come today! It's Wednesday and it's all worked out!" And we were promised our visas at 4pm on Thursday. Hooray!
So Thursday morning we rose early to head out to the boys' birth village. After that we went to the embassy for the visas, the guest house for dinner and our one small bag and then off to the airport for a crazy flight home through London. 
I am most blessed among women.
Here is the hospital where the boys were born. Not many of the villagers are born in a hospital, so this is a unique part of their story.

This is the church where the boys' father preached before he passed away.


And the little brick building on the left is where the boys' lived with their birthmother and father for the first few years of their lives.


This is the boys' grandmother's house. Seven people live in this four room mud building.

This is their kitchen and cow.

I was blessed beyond belief by visiting the boys' birth village. To stand and pray with their birth family members is a memory among my most precious.  We hope to go back and visit some day and share with their birth family how continually blessed we are by their sacrifice and love.


Sunday, March 9, 2014

Schooling

You might be asking yourself: is this mom still schooling her kids?
And yes, the answer is yes. It's a little crazier with five than it was with three, but we're still learning around here and here's what it looks like:
After breakfast, sending the hubby and the youngest girl off to work and kindergarten tutorial, clothing the little boys and getting them busy with some learning play in their room, the two oldest come to the school table for daily sheets.
They pull out their notebooks and find something like this on the white boards:
*They copy down the date and our day's schedule. 
*They copy our daily verse (we're working through a set of verses I chose about love--God's love for us, our love for Him and our love for each other)
*They copy and fill in the blanks a sentence from our household pledge.
*And they copy and correct a grammar sentence that is usually taken from the previous day's history lesson.
Our household pledge developed because I heard that my niece had a kindergarten classroom pledge. I liked it and determined that our school needed one too. And that would also make it a pledge for our house and family as well. I borrowed from my niece's classroom pledge and from the Message's 1 Corinthians 13. Here is ours:
"In this house I pledge to love in every way. I will always use kind words. I will not complain or argue. I will not brag. I will remember Jesus, his death on the cross for me and his rising again. I will obey right away, all the way and with a good attitude. I will try hard. I will not give up! I will be patient with everyone, including myself. I will not get angry quickly. I will be thankful for what I have. I will always look for the happy side. I will turn to God with fears and questions. I will look for ways to serve and encourage others. I will hug and kiss my family members regularly. I will say yes as often as I can."
This is laminated and rests on the shelf beside our school table for easy access while we are learning. And yes, it is wrinkled because it was fought over one morning as the two were trying to use it to fill in the blanks for their daily sheet. We're a work in progress here!
In history we have been covering the reformation. I have loved being able to talk through the ups and downs of this time with the kids. This time has often turned into more of a Bible lesson and that is perfectly fine.
Our math is Saxon 5/4 and has been great for the kids. I love the fact that they get plenty of review with every lesson.
Their science, grammar, creative writing, literature, art and choir is all homework from the tutorial they attend all day Monday. I love the way that we have a very manageable amount to cover daily.
While we're schooling, there is always a lot of back and forth with the little boys, with the youngest girl on Wednesdays when she is home all day and with whatever else is going on in our crazy house. (This week we had a new dishwasher installed, the family room ceiling painted, raffia everywhere from where I was making brooms for a ballet clinic and various other craziness.) But we usually manage to get at least to their independent work before it's lunch time ---11:30 and then time to run get the youngest girl from her tutorial---12.
So there you have it.
Happy Schooling!


Monday, March 3, 2014

Murchison Falls (Uganda #8)

I left the Uganda updates here with the last one on the reptile village and the oldest's birthday. That put us into our second to last week in Uganda. By that time we had completed everything except the last interview with the U.S. Embassy. We were waiting for the embassy to fix a glitch in their system so that we could fill in a certain online form. 
So, it was the perfect time for a safari, right? With one other family from the guest house and our fearless driver, we headed up north to Murchison falls. After traveling most of the day over bumpy, dusty roads, we arrived at the beautiful falls. 
It is hard to describe the beauty and power of the entire Nile river crashing through this narrow gorge.
It was overwhelming!


We were told to make our hike around the falls quick because if rain found us by the falls, our bus would not be able to make it to the next stop because the rain would too badly wash out the dirt roads!
So we soaked in the beauty with a brisk hike and then headed to our next stop:
the boat ride down the Nile to the bottom of those same falls.

A small ferry took our bus and many other cars across to where we met our boat.

hippos

two of the boys enjoying the breeze and the views

bird nests drilled in the side of this cliff

elephant!

We were told by our driver that we couldn't say we had seen the falls until we had seen both the top and the bottom! Here's our proof that we truly saw the falls!

When we finished our boat ride, we made our way back to the bus. The bus driver opened all the windows and the door so that the kids could climb back on the bus. Our bus driver apologized that he had to keep the windows closed during our boat ride--the baboons would get in the bus and steal our stuff! Just then a huge baboon jumped in through the driver's window, grabbed our bag of sandwiches that were literally a few feet from where our oldest boy was standing and jumped back out and ran away! I had to laugh, but I was also mad! There was no where to just "pick up some food," and that baboon had taken our dinner for the next day! After that I was determined to get a good picture, so I just walked up to another baboon (not the greatest of ideas; they are pretty unpredictable animals), but I got a good shot of the baboon anyway. There were baboons everywhere!

Sunset from our lodge on the Nile river

The next morning we woke before the dawn to take our bus on a 2 hour drive through the Murchison Falls park. We saw many different kind of antelope,

beautiful views

and the only remaining thing that I desperately wanted to photograph after our boat ride the day before:
giraffes!


These are the crested crane, the Ugandan national bird.

I highly recommend visiting Murchison Falls park; it was beautiful! The kids enjoyed our little whirlwind trip, and we hoped that letting that be one of the last things they did in Uganda would be helpful. We returned to the guest house the next day after nearly 10 hours in the bus! (2 hour safari ride, ride to another lodge for lunch and then the ride home through night-time Kampala traffic) The hubby and the biological kids rose the next morning (Monday) and said good-bye. They flew home with our original return tickets. The two new boys and I would follow them the following Friday. We were all sad to see them go and very eager to join them in America!