Monthly Archives: July 2010

Back to School

I’m sure you are hearing this popular marketing phrase all the time, but over here we are not. I’m just finally packing up last year’s mess of work to unpack the new books for 2010-2011. James will cruise through Second Grade. He thrives on learning and if we can’t find him we’ve stopped asking, ‘James, where are you?’ and starting asking, ‘James, what are you reading?

Joel will move from Kindergarten into ‘real school’. At his age I was bawling my eyes out in fear over having to stay at school the whole day and actually EAT there! It’s totally different for him. I suppose that’s almost always true from one generation to the next.

Anyway, thinking about this new school year has me battling fear again. This time I’m not so scared of eating with strangers, or even how to organize myself to teach a classroom of 30 busy little people, but rather how I’ll crack the code. What code? The secret code to teaching Joel more effectively. What could be worse than a Literacy Specialist and Certified Teacher who can’t teach her kid to read? He is a tactile/kinesthetic learner and that is like a foreign language to me. My one tactile habit in life is touching all the fabrics in a fabric store, but apart from those few minutes I often feel stuck in trying to help something ‘click’ for Joel.

Anyone out there with tactile/kinesthetic experience – do share!
So far we have done lots of:
arranging things on the carpet (alphabet in order, numbers 0-100, forming complete sentences, etc.),
jumping on or touching these cards,
dramatic reenactments,
jumping jacks after each page read or each math fact said.
One thing our homeschool manual suggested he thought was lots of fun.
‘Fishing for facts’
(with his lovely assistant of course).

A ruler for a fishing rod, yarn for line, and a sticky magnet for a hook make this easy for anyone to create. In this case Joel was reviewing his colors and shapes. He would fish for them from couch to carpet (I tagged each one with a paperclip so it would cling to the ‘hook’) and once he caught one he had to name it!

… I mean, blue triangle.

Did I say he loved it?

Now, if only I could get him this excited about handwriting or books!

P.S. I know some of his hesitancy is due to being young for his class, and that part of learning to read involves individual development as well as pedagogy.


I don’t have anything creative to say, but wanted you all to know that I finally FINISHED my living room upholstery sewing project today!!! And there will be pics. Three slipcovers, 15 buttons, one pillow and one seat cushion are DONE! After many months we finally have a furnished living room we can all enjoy. Of course, now all I can think about is the stenciled wallpaper I want to paint.

Thank you for your encouraging words. I was motivated to persevere because I knew you were waiting with me for this day. Eating one peanut M&M for each finished seam helped too…

Looks like Anna is really into sewing!

Or was she in it for the candy??

She pulls my pins out as I go and carefully sticks them back in the ‘tomato’ pincushion. She puts the foot down or up for me and turns the sewing machine on or off as needed.

She also sang loud random songs in a bizarre melange of languages that almost hurt my ears…

A Paperclip in Time

When something ends and another thing starts it always feels to me like a paperclip in time. You can feel it coming, often uncomfortable as things are changing, then the big week (or day, or hour) arrives, and something else begins with the paperclip slowly fading in the rearview mirror. I guess the technical name is milestone and I might have had one too many temp jobs as the office copy girl in college, but I still like paperclip.

Well, we had our paperclip in time in June as we celebrated James finishing First Grade and Joel finishing Kindergarten. That week both of James’ front teeth fell out. (Finally! I’ve been waiting for that gray tooth to be gone for 3 years! No offense Kaitlyn… we love you. =))

Back to the days of toofless grins! =)

Our school mascot is Hoppy the Frog.

So we all wore green as our ‘school color’ and had a green party with Hoppy’s favorite cupcakes!

(note the locally purchased cute china! with God all things are possible!)

Then the kids got little certificates and baby froggies. Kent, I mean The Principal, picked some quick flowers in the garden for the Teacher and her lovely Assistant. =)
Pink cosmos from our yard…

It wasn’t your ‘typical’ cap n gown graduation, but we had fun.
My primary goal for this summer was to completely finish our living/dining room. Our experience so far with local artisans has been less than splendid, and I’m probably being picky, but it’s just better for me to do it myself. So in the above picture you can see the wall I just painted. Not teaching left me so much free time! I also chopped Anna’s hair:

My lovely assistant painter:

Think she has drama in her future?

The paint brushes before and after:

The rough cement walls sort of rub them down to a nub.
They cost $1 and you get what you pay for.

Anyway, I have 1 more cushion to make, 1 more to sew a slipcover for, and 3 zippered pillowcases and a whole lot of buttonholes before our couches are officially finished. I already bought all the fabric, cording, zippers, etc. and have a lovely Janome sewing machine.
I really have no good excuses.

Given that I only have 5 weeks left of summer (ack!) I have made myself a little deal to inspire and motivate. I will not blog another word until I get them done! I’m hoping that will only mean 1-2 weeks away from the blog. You are probably all off on fabulous vacations anyway! I may post a picture or two and I let Kent know he could take over if he wanted…

I will still get your comments if you want to cheer me on.

See you soon! I’m off to build my house! (proverbs 14:1)

Day Finale of Critters: Misc.

I love the word ‘Misc.’
Junk drawer.
Conglomerate. It’s fun to say.
I used to have a folder of documents labeled ‘Misc’.
Drove Kent crazy.
Still have ‘Misc shortcuts’ on my desktop.
Love ‘Misc.’
Something that doesn’t fit in a category? Just throw it in Misc.
Well, here is my Critters: Misc. =)

We have ants of every shape and size, but I bet you do too.

So big you think they’re roaches in the kitchen.

So small you can’t feel them walking up your arm.


Geckos too.

We have dark brown field crickets who, for some bizarre reason, get into our shower drain pipe and occasionally come for a visit. I still have NO idea how they can fit through the small drain holes… Not my fave.

And possibly the most random thing in this ‘Misc.’ folder:

Can you guess?

It’s not technically a ‘critter’.

We came upon it in a national park in the rainforest.

Small elephant skull.
The boys don’t look too impressed.
There was great debate about whether it was a young elephant skull or an adult pygmy elephant, but his teeth weren’t all in.
It’s all in the dental records.
The rangers have a ‘no shoot’ policy until a wild animal puts a human life in danger. Apparently a few weeks earlier this little one had charged people several times, so they finally had to do it.
It’s a huge skull!

Day 12 Critters: Cockroach

I like to talk to things.
In a good way.
My little roses.
My avocado green KitchenAid mixer.
I named my car in college.
Hey, I even named my little ivy plant.
But there is really no cute diminuative for these suckers.
No getting around the ugliness of COCKROACH.

(I didn’t take this picture myself),
but I have seen them on a regular basis since moving overseas.
Thankfully only twice in this house (and the first time was before we moved in).

As it turns out, I had an ingenious allergist in Oregon find out that I was extremely allergic to them. Now I can have a legitimate excuse! =) I’m curious if there is a relation to dust-mites… Okay, back to the bug-which-shall-remain-nameless… We have seen the 3 inch variety that will chew through 3 layers of ziploc bags to get my Peanut M&Ms and we have seen the tinier variety up close and personal. Very. Personal.

We were invited to a fancy lunch at a businessman’s home in our neighborhood last week. The business must be doing pretty well because they had some pretty fancy things. They played some nice Tanzanian praise music DVDs for us while we chatted and the kids played with their little daughter until the food came out. Anyway, I’m almost done with my feast of roasted beef, fried bananas, and something resembling coleslaw on a pretty porcelain plate when one of these jumps up for a nibble! Ack!

The thing I think I hate the most is how they dart around and you can’t quite smash them on the first couple tries. Thankfully I was about finished eating. I did eventually use a fish bone to fling IT to the floor and squish him with my shoe. Having to share my lunch with likes of IT was a first for me.

It was Anna’s first success on a squatty potty too, but that’s another story.

Everyone has their phobia. Mine is definitely spiders. Kent’s is definitely these. While in the forest I struck a deal with these bugs that just might help you out on a camping trip:
I stomp loudly, you get out of the way.
I don’t turn on lights, we both pretend you’re not there.
You don’t show your face, I don’t squash you.
I am allowed to repeatedly remind myself that you are more afraid than I am.
I have the right to strike with a shoe if you break any rule.

We can coexist at a tolerable level, which for whatever reason cannot happen when there are more than 6 legs involved…

Day 11 Critters: Moth

Joel is a lover of all creatures great and small. On one of our trips where baggage weight was an issue we did not bring many toys. But Joel started a tradition we affectionately call ‘moth wars’ (you know, like Star Wars minus all the aliens and light sabers but with a lot more wings…).

Moth wars started right here:

Joel came in one afternoon holding a wiggly flapping moth saying,
“Look Mom! Look what he does when I tickle him!”
Gently flicking the poor thing, he flapped that much harder.
Fear just never crossed his mind…
His next discovery was that one in each hand was like a little fight and thus began the game of Moth Wars. I don’t know how you tell who wins. He always let them fly away after a while.

We quickly learned the difference between a butterfly and a moth (wings up or wings down?), but you would never be able to guess by their colors or patterns! In the rainforest we saw some of the most beautiful butterflies ever, but here at our house there have also been some incredible moths! One had light blue and orange lacey patterns that reminded me of an Indian sari fabric. Unfortunately I didn’t run for the camera that day.

But I did once. This is not a great picture as I was too chicken to get any closer lest this Mothra fly up into my face. I had a jug of paint on the front porch (which used to be our paint shop) and one morning I reached for the paint and saw this behemoth (pun intended) staring up at me.

I’m estimating a wingspan of about 7 inches. There supposedly exist moths up to 11 inches spread wide, but 7 was plenty for me to stand back. Guess he just thought a yellow jug was a pretty stealthy place for a yellow moth to snooze the day away…

I didn’t really feel like painting much that day anyway.

Day 10 Critters: Mukobe


This flamboyant gecko on steroids is technically an agama lizard who apparently comes in several colors that get brighter for mating purposes. This guy is hanging out on the average tree trunk in the rainforest (that doesn’t even fit in the picture), but more often we see them scampering up the cement walls that surround our compound to bask in the sun.

The word here for them is ‘mukobe’ (MOO-CO-BAY). We see mukobe everyday. Brightest of blues, basking in the sun. I’m almost used to 12-15 inch lizards hanging around… as long as they recognize who’s boss.

Day 9 Critters: Rhinoceros Beetle

Thanks for the feedback! Critters are back unanimously!

This lovely little lady was found on our front porch.

She looks harmless enough until you realize she is 3-4 inches long!

(Yes, those are small ants around her on the ground. Look here for a cool rhino larvae pic...)

The females don’t have the big rhino horn, but definitely take a second to check out what her hubby looks like!

She seemed to only walk along baseboards, so I’m curious where she ended up.
A few weeks later we found her again (or her twin sister) just inside the dining room.
I gently ‘showed her the door’, and 5 minutes later she came walking back in!
She had skirted the front porch and returned.
Must have been a bad day…

Day 8 Critters: Okay, not really

After so many days of the creepy crawlies, I have noticed a marked decline in comments posted here. This must mean that you are now:
A) determined to check back after the bugs are all gone,
B) scared speechless,
C) waiting with bated breath for a few more buglies or
D) really busy with real life.

Whichever category you fall into, I should warn you that I still have 4-5 pictures of critters to share, but I can take it if you are really done and would rather see Anna pictures. Really. I can. So please take a second to vote: YAY for more critters or NAY for bugs and back to normal life!

These aren’t critters, but they did block our road not too far from here. If I had to carry around such huge horns I might choose the middle of the highway too… These are the breed that many herdsman keep around here and over in Uganda. Very distinctive… And very in our way!