Tuesday, December 14, 2010

New Beginnings

Today, my little brother Dana started Air Force Boot Camp in San Antonio, Texas. This marks my parents official introduction to military life. Suffice it to say, our hearts are now connected to the men and women in uniform that are far from home this holiday season, including my brother-in-law Joseph Ndjerareou, stationed in Bagram Airforce Base, Afghanistan.

In honor of Joseph and Dana I wanted to shine light on Operation Gratitude that sends care packages, scarves, candy and personal letters to the armed forces stationed around the world.

Thank you again for your prayers for Dana and Joseph. We look forward to seeing Dana at graduation in February and we're counting the days until we see Joseph next summer.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Must Have Stocking Stuffer

It's no secret I adore children's books. Long before I had Sophia, I've believed children's books are good for the soul. The simplicity of story telling, powerful words and beautiful illustrations, continue to be one of my favorite art forms. I'm thrilled to high light Rachel Isadora's work, it contains these best aspects with an African twist.

The Twelve Days of Christmas by Rachel Isadora is the classic song with gorgeous African visuals that speak for themselves. Five golden necklace rings. Eight maids a milking (goats.) The nine ladies dancing looked remarkebly Swazi, one of my former homes. Sure enough, Rachel spent 10 years in Africa some of that in Swaziland.

Delighted by this book I started looking up other Isadora books and discovered a couple were already favorites on my family shelves including:
At the Crossroads

I'm exceptionally thrilled to introduce Isadora's classic children's stories to Sophia. As an inter-cultural family, I'm always touched to find wonderful books to create a dynamic and visually diverse context. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

Saturday, November 27, 2010


This year a full heart look like. . .

My grandmother's lace table cloth, bringing a little of my history to a whole new tradition.

My great-grandmother's stuffing recipe & many turkey-strategy phone-calls home to mom.

Seeing loved ones in far away places (thank you Skype.) Banga in Afghanistan and grandparents in Iowa.

Celebrating little ones, this year Sophia's cousin and best friend in all the world turned five. (Sophia can't quite figure out how Hannah got to five before she did--it brings out her competitive side. She's happy for her cousin and the fact that we had cake and pie this year!)

Laughter with cousins all day long. (He ain't dead!)

Creating new traditions with Nate and Sophia (learning Nate prefers pecan over pumpkin pie.)

A table full of people this Thanksgiving. American's, Algerians, Chadians, Nigerians and everything in between. This year our Thanksgiving represented the very best of the essence of the holiday--a feast gathering strangers, becoming family simply through shared table and hearts.

Friday, November 12, 2010

This Woman Has A Secret

"Ahhh a little baby," I cooed this evening as an infant squawked nearby.
"Mommy, I want to see your little baby." Sophia told me, looking very sad and serious for a moment. "The one who went straight from your tummy, to heaven."

It doesn't matter how old you are, I believe, something in us delights in children. As our family mourns the child we won't meet this side of heaven, we're being introduced to a group of people who suffer empty arms, silently. I'm so thankful for groups like HOPEFUL HEARTS, my church's support group here in Dallas and brave women like Andrea, an infertility success story who took her painful journey to the web, both of these are shedding light into the pain of miscarriage and infertility.

It wasn't until this issue became personal did I realize how much shame and pain couples who are struggling to have children deal with. Self Magazine did an expose on it this fall, it's a MUST read for anyone who breathes. The stigma, shame and lack of research or options for this issue astound me. There is no reason that a couple should face this alone, especially when mind/body anti-anxiety is so vital for success. Please check it out and prayerfully consider how you can extend support and comfort to those around you.

"Infertility is where breast cancerwas in the 1970s—completely in the closet." Because no one wants to discuss infertility, "nothing gets done about it," says Lindsay Beck, founder of Fertile Hope, a program run by the Lance Armstrong Foundation in Austin, Texas, that supports cancer patients whose treatments threaten their fertility..

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Thank You Rangers!

Check out Sophia's video debut! If you've been paying attention, I've been talking about Sophia's recent fears and overcoming things that make her nervous. This little video made us all so proud, not because of her talent (of course I think she's a natural) it was how she worked to overcome her fears that thrilled us. (I'm seriously afraid she will never be my brave girl again.) Sophia became SO nervous when she saw the camera crew, but we knew she'd be disappointed in herself if she didn't try.

She started the morning by saying "get up Mommy, the Rangers need us!" She's a little passionate about her Rangers. Especially when they beat the 'hankies'. We're passionate about the Rangers--but we're even bigger fans of my college buddy Brandon and the team at You Plus Media. Thanks guys for making Dallas look so good!

The Streaker!

This is my daughter--my dare devil little girl! The one who would take a fall on the playground and shake it off like a pro. Other mom's would say they'd never heard Sophia cry. No matter what country or continent she'd find friends by barreling in without any kind of fear.

Flashforward to last week when me using the broiler caused a melt down like I'd never seen. "What happened?" Nate asked. "I made a tuna melt?" I said. Daily she's been freaking out when I turn on the stove, not just screaming or crying but running out the front door. The other day she ran out without a stitch of clothes on. She didn't care! That's not the only thing she's afraid of, a recent fascination with earthquakes and tornadoes is now a constant battle against every type of sound that resembles a siren.

I'm learning it's a phase, a natural part of learning about life. I do believe its a good survival mechanism. We've been praying with her, for her, over her coupled with lots of talking. We're learning healthy attitudes and behaviors toward storms and strangers. Our family definitely has fire plan now. Thankfully, Nate is home during this time but the fear is creeping into all our lives. I miss cooking with my little girl. This week, Nate made popcorn after she went to bed to avoid a scene. No alarms or anything, just the faintest hint of cooking smells. This time I was prepared. Taking a position by the front door, in a blink of an eye, I caught a frantic four-year-old trying to make a break for it! Sigh. . . I miss my super hero!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

"What's so alarming is that we took ordinary children and made them into liars, simply by telling them they were smart."
This line has haunted me for days. The author, Carol Dweck in her fascinating book Mindset, discusses two distinct paradigms for handling learning, life, and even relationships. One being that a fixed mindset where all feedback either proves or disproves how smart, pretty, likable, (the list goes on) we are.

In a fixed mindset there are only so many smart or talented people. The rest of us live in fear trying to prove we're part of the smart group. According to Dweck's staggering amounts of research, when a scarcity paradigm is implied to personal ability there are nasty and negative results. Children praised for their ability shy away from situations where they will not be shine. They believe if they're not naturally good at it the first time, it implies negatively on their being, therefore why try? Dweck exposes the mindsets in adults in multiple examples as well,

The contrary, the growth mindset is most easily explained in children who are praised not for their ability, but for their effort. These children receive commendation because of the time and attention they placed in overcoming a problem. They learn they're not defined by their failures or successes. They have multiple resources to draw from and failure is simply a natural part of learning. Dweck spends chapters elaborating on the quantifiable consequences of the mindset played out in every aspect of life. It's a fascinating look at much of life.

Personally, this book came just when I needed it most. As a mother of a dynamic, beautiful and intelligent four-year old. It's easy to act like your child hung-the-moon. But when the same little girl stops wanting to write her own name (something we've been doing for months) because other kids do it better??? Or as she puts it, "mommy it's not perfect." Admittedly, I was stunned and saddened.

Thankfully, I got a quiet afternoon to absorb much of Dwecks research and immediately changed my conversations with Sassy. Granted it's only been a few days but now we have an understanding of what her little brain is processing and how to change her (and my) focus from ability towards effort. I could go on and on about this book, but I also enjoyed the fact that it fit with much of my worldview and faith. We are called to work hard in all things, as if working unto the Lord. Effort is acknowledged, but we're constantly reminded that the results are in God's hands.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Happy Birthday Nathanael

1 Blessed is the man
who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
or stand in the way of sinners
or sit in the seat of mockers.

2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers.
Psalm 1:1-3

This weekend we celebrated my beloved husband's birthday. I can honestly say that although the year has been difficult, the celebration was genuinely joyful. The grace of the Lord has given us much to rejoice in, good friends and family, renewed relationships and deep, deep awareness of the glory and goodness of the Lord.

It's such a delight to celebrate a man who's heart belongs to God. We can rest knowing that regardless of what life brings our way, we prosper in the Lord. God is where our treasure lies, nothing more, nothing less. This year's forced us to change our ideas of what's important and I've been so grateful for Nate's encouragement and his pursuit of the Lord. Happy Birthday darling, it's a pleasure and a gift to call you husband and friend.

Proof Positive

Scrolling through pictures this weekend I kept getting glimpses of the patient, dotting father Nate is, in countless captured moments. I just had to share a few. No matter where we are in the world, daddy always makes an effort to spend time with his girls. I don't need any convincing that Sophia has a wonderful daddy but this is a tiny sampling of the devoted father, adventurer and gentle leader Nate is for his family.
Heading to the beach, Playa de Carma, Mexico

First Birthday Fun--Sophia didn't end up covered with cake--but daddy did!
Loving his long legged newborn!
Gymnastics class, Twisters Gym
Watching the seals in San Fransisco
Exploring the Louvre, Paris

Bath time, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Quiet moments, Wheaton, Illinois
Goofing off taking daddy to the airport, Chicago, Illinois
Walt Disneyland, California
Summer fun, Shueyville, Iowa
"Sledding", White Sands National Park, New Mexico

Playing catch, Moundou, Chad, Africa
Celebrating another birthday with his princes, Dallas, Texas

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Go Rangers!

Even though we're new to Texas--we became Rangers fans months ago. (Believe me you have to be a fan to go to an afternoon game in AUGUST.) It helps that we can see the stadium from our house. But nothing makes you a fan like beating the Yankees in October!! Thank you Texas!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The World According to Sophia

Nate: I have a bad case of the I don't wanna's this morning.
Me: I have a bad case of the I don't think I can's.
Sophia: I have a bad case of the when are we gonna play?

Sophia to checkout lady at Wal-Mart: My mommy is a great cook.
Friendly checkout person: Oh really, what does she make that you love?
Sophia: She puts butter on bread!

Wow! Never underestimate the power of butter!

Friday, October 08, 2010

On Second Thought

My number one fan (my husband) just informed me that my last blog was depressing. Personally, I believe this is more a commentary on what's happening in our nation than in our daily happenings. We're currently thriving in Dallas, but just so you don't worry here's some of the latest favorites!
Muir Woods
My latest Cali trip for my friends Renee's wedding we did a drive by San Fransisco tour to pick up her fiance (in from Virginia), a couple of friends and a marriage license. Rusty, (the groom) a nature lover, couldn't resist a stop at Muir Woods. I have to admit, I didn't think we could fully appreciate nature in the hour we had between errands. I was so wrong!! What a breathtaking moment. I was overwhelmed at the beauty and peace surrounding me so close to the city.

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going Home
It's been a little while since I've been on an airplane by myself. In fact, Sophia cried as we parted and wanted to know why she couldn't come with me? (I think she may be one of the youngest frequent flyer mile holders). I don't like to fly that much--but I love being forced to hang out and read. This weekend I picked this one up from the Maid of Honor who grew up in the California Mennonite community that takes center stage in the book.

It was a blast to hear Beth's own family humor and attitudes coming through pages. I can't say I LOVED this book, in fact the authors thoughts on organized religion struck me as sad. But it's a fascinating look at two very opposing world views and how they play out in a family. The author follows her personal beliefs into an abusive relationship then divorce and heartache while her parents modest "close minded" world full of quirky love and security is paraded out for comic relief. But in the end you can't help but love the Mennonite parents (I don't mean I want them for my own--it was a quirky and sheltered upbringing) But I'm glad I read it.

Thanks to new friends for warmly embracing us and sharing some great children theatre. It wasn't their fault that Sophia is my daughter and that anything scary like a witch or a snake (or lately boiling water--I'm not kidding she's afraid something on the stove will boil over so she freaks out when I cook) will make her head for the door. But she comes by it honest, when I was in high school I pushed my little brother onto the floor fleeing a Velocaraptor while watching Jurassic Park on the TV in the kitchen.

My little brother passes me all his audio books and most of the time it's interesting but not always a favorite. This one I listened to between Kansas City and Dallas and was AMAZINGLY surprised. This was my first Flemming book, it's creative, colorful and far more thought provoking than I expected.

Frugal Fall Food

After this month's depressing news on the job front, I gamely informed my husband that I'm changing my perspective. From now on I'm not going to see myself as a stay at home mom, but as a woman who's voluntarily withdrawn from the workforce so that others may have my position. Instead, I'm investing my energies into cost-saving ideas that will educate my daughter and stretch our budget. Today's task: Making croutons out of left over bread. Tomorrow: banana bread from brown bananas (they also make great smoothie if you freeze them) The Melrose Restaurant on Broadway in Chicago used to make a great Chicken curry salad with fruit and banana bread on the side.

As fall fast approaches it's time for soup. Recipes that are delicious and frugal since you can stretch canned food or aging vegetables. In my house I typically have to double the portion the protein. "Who ate all the meat out of this?" is a very common refrain in my kitchen.

Lea's Curried Tomato Bisque (Great with homemade croutons)
My cousin introduced me to her own invention of Smoked Turkey Leg soup. It's a traditional end of the month soup (meaning whatever you have left before pay day or left in the fridge/cupboard goes in the pot) the smoked turkey makes a WONDERFUL broth.

Pirates Invade School

Jack Sparrow makes surprise appearance this week at London school in answer of a 9-year old's request for assistance starting a mutiny. Thankfully he and his gang of pirates helped avert the mutiny. But it did make me smile. Just because Johnny Depp went out of his way for a little girl, I'll be checking out his next Pirates movie. (Ok maybe I'm over the Pirates franchise--but today's antic's will get me to put the next one in my Netflix queue!)

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Wedding at the Top of the World

Rusty Carter & Renee Roshar together with friends & family
were united in marriage at Glacier Point, Yosemite National Park. October 3rd, 2010
A wonderful reception was held at Wawona Lodge,
I'm so thankful to God for bringing Rusty into our lives and for the happiness that God has ordained for these two deserving people.


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