Monthly Archives: August 2010

Another Day in Paradise

Another day where we have far more avocados than 8 people could ever eat.

Another day where our neighbors celebrate at the highest possible decibel level (this time it’s a wedding, and what’s not to celebrate about that?).

Another day of thunder rolling over the ridge, echoing off the hills in the east.

Another day of bright colors and songs that make you dance.

Another day where everything in our yard grows inches per day (weeds and seeds alike).

Another day with the privilege of serving the under-privileged.

A day sewn in faith, hemmed in prayer.

Another day full of Grace.


Gotta love the French for coming up with a beautiful way to say something as normal as ‘daily‘.

The daily norm, the quotidienne, over here seems unworthy of blogging to you all. But every so often it dawns on me that what I now consider ‘normal’ for our life and work here, is not what most of you consider ‘normal’. Here’s today’s random bit of normal.

Kent is almost home after a 10-day journey to Eastern Europe. Every time he leaves inevitably something vital breaks. I think the machines in our house must feel his absence. They know the genius is gone from the house and decide to take a vacation while they can. Quick! The simpleton is in charge, time to play! Makes me feel a bit like the substitute teacher trying to keep relative control of the ruthless teenaged mechanisms in our household.

So this time the TV monitor gave up (which works for listening to music, but not for watching anything).

And the water pump, which allows us hot water.

I’m not complaining. Heating kettles for bucket baths and watching movies on my computer are not suffering or anything. I felt pretty good finding new solutions to keep up our movie night routine.

I also felt pretty good managing to speak to our guards in Swahili, and understand about 80% of what they said to me (they were probably speaking nice and slow for me =) they are such nice guys that way).

I now know I am a pretty exhausted single parent. I have NO idea how those ladies on TV, who single-handedly worked 2 jobs and raised 6 kids, survived. I need more sleep, but I sleep less as I know each wail for a drink of water or lightning strike in the distance is ultimately my sole responsibility.

Last night at 4:30am I decided to get up and cut our connection to the city grid. I’m one of those people who sees the flash of lightning and starts counting the miles. One, one thousand. Two, one thousand. Three, one thousand… At four the windows start shaking with the CRACK of a peal of thunder. All the previous ones were between 8 and 15 miles away. But four is plenty close for me! Time to shut off the grid. Our house isn’t high enough to be hit directly, but we’ve lost some equipment in the past when our neighbors were hit just because the grid gets super-charged.

So I cut the power and stood to watch the light show by the back hallway window. Suddenly our neighborhood was struck, and it is always more amazing when you happen to be watching out the window! My cheek was pressed to the right window of the back door as it started shaking violently with the very essence of power. I heard a loud zapping/buzzing and ran to check that our colleague and guest hadn’t seen any arcs in her room (where we have in the past). She was worried for our power system being blown. We went and checked it out. No smoke. Lights working. I was so thankful to be up to disconnect the house just in time. Being a light sleeper has finally paid off!

The kids did great through their first week of school. It was good for us to return to familiar routines. Anna loves running for the cookie jar at snack time and munching on top of the desk while I read (Alice in Wonderland for this month) before recess in the yard. The boys ramble off to their new friend’s house next door in the lazy afternoons and all is quiet while Anna sleeps (or sings) in her own bed.

They grow up so fast! Joel is doing great in his reading. Some invisible switch must have flipped over the summertime, and he is motivated and doing great! He even thought the first couple ‘cat sat on the mat’ books were too easy! Anna has learned to spell and write her name. James has his 7th loose tooth! Bye bye little babies… hello big kids! Each phase has fun parts of their own.

There’s a chicken squawking in the backyard. The neighobor’s hen is lost again. Our guards are great chicken-wranglers. It really is an art that takes practice. They convince it to fly back over the wall. Hopefully the right wall…

With the rain pouring down at 6 this morning it is cool, humid and cloudy. It might as well be a snow-day. The rain turns the roads into slick mud that might as well be ice (except that ice doesn’t get ruts that can drown a semi truck…). So everyone pretty much freezes in time, hanging out wherever they happen to be. The meetings can wait. The classes can wait. The job will wait. Church can wait. Everything waits for the end of the rain (which is usually less than 2 hours btw). If you want the road to yourself or feel like singing a solo in church, go out anyway. Today I expect our workers will show up an hour or so late. Makes me want to sit in my bathrobe and drink hot chocolate with marshmallows and soak in the slow morning slowly. Rushing doesn’t really pay here anyway.

And our days roll on. A funny jumble of quotidienne.

On titles

Just for the record…
I think I have failed to explain that we did not choose the title ‘tenfootfamily’ because we love feet. I once found this adorable family blog around the theme that they all loved coffee. Cute coffee cups artistically scattered around their lives contributed to the theme in the sidebar. Drink yumminess. Fill our cup. All sorts of language to illustrate their theme.

When we decided to blog (all of TWO years ago!), we decided right away that we weren’t the open-sharing-of-full-names kind of people. (I’m not judging those of you who are btw!) Nor were we the kind that like to dub our family members with bizarre initals DH, DS, DD. Makes for troublesome reading if you ask me! Nor did I like giving them some other web identity (though I considered it, it really doesn’t lend itself to the theme of FEET very well): then Stinky Feet said… and Twinkle Toes replied… then Soccer Cleats really lost it. I find it pretty hard to follow these blog posts, as I will never remember by the time I’ve scrolled past the key terms in the sidebar which kids they are talking about.

So, despite my temptation to go overboard about feet, you will not find tons of feet pictures. I know some people are not fans of feet… =) With five of us, there were only so many choices: fivenosedfamily, teneyedfamily, fiveheadedfamily… And we’re linguists, so we can’t help but love the double entendre of tenfootfamily. There we are. Over on the far side of the sea… but not really by the ocean.

Back to School: The Students

Our homeschool tradition is that the first hour of our first day of the year is spent taking the obligatory school pictures. Hair gel, chairs, collared shirts and all. You all would laugh with us if you saw that the fancy clothes lasted all of 20 minutes and all three were barefoot during the whole photo shoot! The backdrop is Kent’s Costco fleece napping blanket over the front porch grill. Given all that, I’m happy with this year’s school pictures. I took seven or eight of each kid and got at least one serious and one guffaw from each of them.

(His Uncle John face…)

Tears of resistance, despite the blue blalarina dress
(yes, the same one she’s been wearing since she was 2!)
But brothers with funny faces saved the day:

Then we all had to make funny faces, and the results are some of the best photos ever!
You can enjoy them now in the margin at right. =)

Back to School: The Setting

As stressed as I felt to get everything done earlier than usual this month, God graciously reminded me that last year I was flat on my back the month before school. And when we finally started the school year, the kids’ desks and chairs weren’t finished yet! We made it through just fine (and they were built within a week or two). So this year is so calm in comparison! Here is a peek at our schoolroom ready for our big First Day of School!

There may be random holes in the concrete walls. The cupboard may be slightly leaning to the left as the wood continues warping. The sign with Deut. 11:1 is hung with tooth floss and the letter Ww has disappeared, but we are ready for school. And all this wacky place is mine, and I am so blessed to have a space to call my own. Not borrowed. Not on loan. Our schoolroom.

We have three languages to get learning. The kids already speak some Swahili with the neighborhood kids and with our helpers at home, and now that James and Joel are reading in English we will begin French lessons. It is our grand experiment to see that all those language development theories and research are right (or not) that a child succeeds further in a second language when he/she is grounded and reading in the first language first. Should be interesting to see how close we can all get to trilingualism.

So we are diving in (to Second Grade and First Grade and 3-yr Preschool, that is).


Last night we had one of the biggest thunderstorms I can remember.
It was a blow-your-roof-off storm.
Being the light sleeper I am, I woke up as the claps of the thunder drew nearer. The whole thing lasted more than two hours! There was probably 24 inches of rain, and I was so thankful for the roof holding out! The thunder was so loud it shakes your bones.

We have friends whose house was hit in the past and cost them thousands of dollars to replace their electrical equipment. I sat up and watched in awe at the power of my God. He could split the earth in two with a word. He can take down people, trees, buildings, anything in a moment. We are so small.

As a child, I always heard ‘the rolling thunder… thy power throughout the universe displayed… then sings my soul… how Great Thou Art!’ I agreed that all of creation is beautiful handiwork. I would sing with gusto, convinced that the song really complimented God on his artistic skill. His ‘Art’ is great! But the fact that HE is Great, and Mighty and Powerful is better yet.

The storm traveled over the ridge behind our house and eventually faded in the distance. It left with one last strike of lightning striking VERY near. FYI, it is an involuntary reflex to jump 12 inches from your bed or chair when lightning strikes 50-100 feet away, even if you are mostly asleep. I had such fun watching God put on a light show that rivals the most advanced pyrotechnics!

How Great Thou Art!

P.S. Kent was stopped by a storekeeper friend yesterday saying he saw us on the local television broadcast of the graduation ceremonies last week. How random is that? TV??

Room to Romp

About a YEAR ago some of you asked to see how we painted the boys’ room…
Well, better late than never, right?

For the artsy types, here’s the scoop:

I saw some really cute Dr. Seuss rooms online, and we are major fans and own every single book and read them often and have half of them memorized… So we all agreed on water and their room had originally been painted in water-based aquamarine like the rest of the house. I had someone slop up at least one layer of thin whitewash because we all looked seasick with blue/green walls everywhere. And the result was a kind of splotchy sky color. We decided to keep it with the whole water and sky theme and I think it works (and was less work!)

Just before we moved in, I visited the paint store and from their pallet of 20 colors brought home a few for the purpose of mixing. I had seen this denim blue color I liked on a pottery barn bedroom, so I went to mixing black into royal blue oil-based paint. The fumes are pretty bad, but the walls can be washed! Might come in handy in a boys’ room… It wasn’t quite as dark as I was going for, but works fine. My painting implements were a falling-apart brush and a few Q-tips. Yes, I freehand paint with Q-tips. Didn’t have a lot of other options.

We had raised bunk beds made (which you don’t see because the boys didn’t make their beds and it’s summertime…) covered in a special-order floor-to-ceiling long mosquito net. I sewed the first one from two nets myself, but will try to pay a tailor from now on!

Then we needed closet space. We used Action Packers for a long time, then upgraded to a borrowed bookshelf, and finally built custom shelves to fit our needs. The mahogany here is a gorgeous color and this stuff had beautiful grain (you can almost see in the last picture).

Handy PVC pipe for a rod and voila: closet! It is a larger, more complex version of the one we built in Anna’s room if you remember. Anyway, the boys decorate with occasional sea creatures or road maps – you know, to make it feel like home.

So there is the view from the doorway (with beds to the left). For curtains I added a strip of Congolese kitenge to expand on the secondhand Martha Stewart Living white linen tabbed panel curtain that wasn’t quite big enough. It is looped over a length of rebar painted black. Only the fancy stuff for us! =) The orange fish are only construction paper and won’t last forever, but may outlast the boys’ interest anyway. The only last thing we haven’t finished is the glow-in-the-dark constellations on the ceiling from the Seavers and planet vinyls from Missa Lobba! =) It’s a mini-Dr-Seuss-ecosystem! (if you exclude the rebar and PVC pipe…) =)

They have a gray cement floor, like most of our house. I think a few years back it had a dark green cement veneer, but that has worn off in most places. They have their preschool cars and trains map/carpet on the floor until we choose a more ‘sophisticated’ carpet next time we leave the country…

It works well and the boys like it and that’s really what matters!