Tuesday, October 30

Labour of Love

Being a parent is definitely a labour of love. There are moments when you want to tear your hair out or run away and hide for a few weeks. Then there are others that melt your heart, when you get an extra big squeeze in a cuddle or like earlier this evening, when the girls were curled up in bed reading and giggling together.

It's hard work and there are ups and downs not just daily but hourly. It is definitely labour intensive ... but bringing up my girls (with Mark), is probably the most rewarding thing that I think I will ever do in my life. Our parents did it for us (thank you very much, by the way) and now we're doing it for our munchkins.

It's not just being a parent that falls in that category though. Having a husband/wife is similar. Making a good marriage requires constant hard work, on good days and bad ... 'for as long as we both shall live'!

Some friendships are also a labour of love. 

I have been blessed with some really good friends all over the world. Many of which have lasted for years without us actually being able to meet up face-to-face ... but when we do get together, we can pick up wherever we left off with no trouble at all and have a great time. There are other people who cross my path, who for one reason or another I don't click with naturally and the relationship just requires a lot of hard work. 

It may be that God has put them in my life for me to learn something from them, to grow my own character, to gain patience or a deeper understanding of how to love ... or something else. It may be that God has put them in my life for me just to be there to help them, to listen, to guide, to encourage ... for a season.

In those situations, on a good day, it is easier to see the bigger picture and be the person God wants me to be. On a bad day, when I'm tired, busy, frustrated ... it becomes all the more challenging. 

I don't think it is uncommon for anyone to have at least a couple of these friendships in their lives, I know I have. While I would like to report that I'm always a model Christian, gracious and understanding, there are times that that is so totally far from the truth (at least on the inside!) ... and I need to pray for wisdom in how to be a better friend to them. 

I'm choosing to learn from the more difficult friendships in my life right now, rather than avoid them (because there is always likely to be another one just round the corner), as well revelling in my good friendships to get the balance. It is something that I hope I will be able to model to the girls in time ... but we're all only human and unfortunately I know there will be times when we will get it wrong too!

Saturday, October 27

The Lull before the Storm

These last six months in the States were always going to be slightly crazy! From June onwards, I had a check-list of how things would run ...
  • My mum's visit ... check!
  • Mark completing his hours in the hanger ... check!
  • Weekend in Toronto ... check!
  • Mark passing his exams ... check!
  • Mark's parent's visit ... check!
  • Look-see visit (week in Dodoma, Tanzania)
  • Packing up our lives in Ohio
  • Flying back to the UK

There are only a few more things left to accomplish now. The craziness has seemed to intensify the further down the list we have gone, with the biggest three items saved til last. Although I knew they were all coming eventually, I have spent my time concentrating on each item at hand. 

Now I have no excuses, with less than two months to go before the final flight, I have to attack those final few things, there is no putting them off any longer! The end is most definitely nigh!

Yesterday, after some cooler weather here in Ohio, we enjoyed an Autumn day which was more like a hot summer's day back in the UK. It was in the 80's and so we went for a family stroll in a park we've never been to before ... to take a quick break and enjoy each other's company. 

It was a like a little piece of England. Walking through the trees and the rose gardens, laughing and joking together, made it feel like we were back at home ... away from everything. It made the impending whirlwind seem a million miles away, rather than just around the corner!

I have to admit that there are times, especially when there such huge things imminent, when I wonder what life would be like if we'd chosen a different path.

If we hadn't gone into mission ...
If we weren't moving across continents every few years ...
If we'd stayed in the UK ...
If we were living a comfortable life in the suburbs ...
If we hadn't followed the plan that God worked out for us ...

I always come to the same conclusion. While I don't doubt that we would have made a good go of it, been both comfortable and happy ... I know we would have missed out on all the amazing adventures we're enjoying right now. 

Given a do-over, I honestly wouldn't change any of it ... however stressful it's going to get! There may be times I have to remind myself of that between now and Christmas though!

Wednesday, October 24

Banoffee Pie

Living in Tanzania, the ingredients for 'cake' were relatively easy to come by. It did make having a cake on birthday's a little less exciting though ... when you regularly eat it all year round!

In order to make birthday's a little more special, I started to make friends a Banoffee Pie instead. A mixture of banana and toffee and total yumminess! My aunty used to make them for family gatherings when I was a lot younger and then when I was a student, we used to have them during regular weekly meals at church.

The ingredients weren't so easy to come by in Dodoma, which made it all the more special to celebrate birthday's and special occasions with! We used to get the digestive biscuits flown down on a MAF shuttle from Nairobi or brought out by visitors. Making the cream was also difficult, so sometimes we substituted a packet of 'dream topping' instead. (My mum would send them out in a little package in the post, along with the Angel Delight to make butterscotch ice-cream ... always an exciting parcel to receive!)

When I started adding recipes to this blog, it wasn't long before a few of my friends, especially those from my time in Tanzania, were asking about my Banoffee Pie. For one reason or another, I've only just gotten round to including it ... so apologies if you're one of those who have been patiently waiting! 

I have always thought it was an American recipe but now that I live here I realise it most definitely isn't, the majority of my friends have never heard of Banoffee Pie! Earlier this week we went round to a friends for dinner and were asked to bring dessert. I made a Banoffee for the first time in forever, which went down very well and my mother-in-law (who apparently doesn't do 'sweet things') enjoyed tucking into three helpings over the course of just one evening!

Here's the recipe ... the wait is over!!
  • 6oz Digestive biscuits - crushed (approx 12 biscuits) ... British 'biscuits' (cookies) not American 'biscuits', available in Walmart
  • 3oz butter - melted
  • 14oz tin condensed milk
  • 2-3 bananas - sliced
  • 1/2 pt double/whipping cream - whipped
  • A little grated chocolate (I put a lot on this last banoffee pie!)
  1. Boil sealed tin of condensed milk for 2 hours in a pan of water to make 'toffee' - cool before opening (make sure the water stays topped up and covers the tin. If you're living at altitude you may have to boil it for 3 hours!)
  2. Combine biscuits and melted butter. Press into an 8" pie dish. Cool in fridge.
  3. Spoon out toffee onto the biscuit base.
  4. Lay out the banana slices to cover the toffee.
  5. Spoon cream to make the top layer.
  6. Sprinkle the grated chocolate on top (I got carried away with the one in the photo ... I was chatting to a very good friend in the UK on the phone at the time!)
  7. Refrigerate until serving.

Tuesday, October 23

The Art of Marriage

Marriage ... a little word with a humungous implication. 

From the day you get married, it is something you have to work on for the rest of your life, through the good and the bad. And yes, I mean for the rest of your life ... not just until you can't be bothered anymore and want to move on to a different model. Call me old-fashioned but 'Til death do us part' really does mean that to me! It may have taken me almost 30 years to find my man ... but I'm planning on sticking with him FOREVER (sorry Mark, if you had other ideas!!!)!

A friend who recently got married updated his Facebook status, very wisely to read ...
"Marriage: Just been thinking...the idea of finding a 'soul mate' is akin to the idea of going around hobby shops seeking a pre-completed jigsaw puzzle. Both are oxymoronic, and both simply do not exist. Even if they did, surely the beauty of both marriage and jigsaw puzzles, is the process of building, piece-by-piece, something that is eventually to become a work of art?"
... he now has a lifetime to put that into practice!

It illustrates very well a course we were able to part of earlier on this year by Family Life, called "The Art of Marriage". While we have always thought we had a pretty good marriage, we learnt so much about ourselves and each other by taking this course ... and our marriage was subsequently strengthened as a result. Not only ours but those of the others who took the course, some who had been married just a couple of years and others who had been married 30+ years.

When we took part, it was quite an intense 24 hours covering all kinds of topics. Each session included a 45-60 DVD and then time for each couple to spend some time together (just the two of them) to talk through some questions and other things highlighted. In the every day hustle and bustle of life, when do you ever get the chance to take time out with your spouse just to work on your marriage, it was such a great opportunity. (I was quite skeptical  at first ... being cynical about cheesy American Christian productions but once again I was proved totally wrong!)

There is also a much more compact small group study covering the same areas and over the last six weeks or so me and Mark have had the opportunity and the privilege of leading our (adult) Sunday school class through the sessions. It has given us the chance to revisit some of the areas we worked on earlier in the year and hopefully encourage some of our friends to spend a little bit of time to think about and strengthen their own marriages!

We are very aware that putting ourselves 'out there', committing to life on the mission field puts us and our marriage even more on the radar for attack. Trying not to sound super-spiritual but just looking at the reality of the situation ... when you actively put God first and commit your lives to his work, the Devil is not going to like it. He wants you to stick your tail between your legs and go running home where you will probably be a lot less effective. One way to do that is to break down families and more specifically marriages. 

During this time of preparation, before heading overseas, we have been actively trying to strengthen our marriage and deepen the foundations as much as possible. So that when we do come under attack or even just hit little stumbling blocks along the way, we can stand strong together for the sake of our marriage, our family and the work we have been called to do. 

Think about giving your own marriage a little bit of 'work' sometime ... I can highly recommend it!

Saturday, October 20

Vaccination Time

Yesterday was one of those days on our mission adventure as a family that I'd like to be able to skip over or not have to include at all! However it was a non-negotiable.

When we've been preparing the girls for life in Tanzania, Abigail especially, we've been 'big-ing up' the warm weather, the new school, the African animals, being able to swim all year round and all the exciting things. One very unhelpful 'friend' recently said to Abigail 'You don't want to go to Africa do you?'. I was very proud when I heard she had responded very enthusiastically with, 'Yes, I do'!

Yesterday though, was one of the blips on the journey ... vaccination time! Getting a four year old excited about the prospect of having not 1, not 2, not 3, not even 4 injections but 5, was most definitely not something I was looking forward to. The reality was though, that it was just one more step in our preparation for the excitement that will follow.

On the drive there I was concentrating on the amazing Autumn colours, not knowing how either girlie would take to being treated like a pin cushion, I chose not to think about it. On arrival at the health department we were greeted by some stunning vistas, just a shame it was a little overcast!

But the real job in hand, was what took place in the two hours that followed. 2 injections for Mark, 3 for Naomi, 4 for me and 5 for Abigail. Unfortunately the girls were both of an age where their regular shots/jabs were due on top of the ones we needed for Tanzania ... so we rather proudly exited at lunchtime with a total of 14 injections between us!

In an attempt to make it vaguely exciting, Abigail got to chose her favourite 'Hello Kitty' plasters (UK)/bandages (US) to take with her and use, once it was over. We also took some yummy chocolate for them both to have and then let Abigail choose where we would go for lunch to 'celebrate' a successful morning!

In the end it was all pretty straight forward. Obviously the girls didn't really enjoy the whole experience but we got through it with no major problems, thank goodness. This morning Abigail went to pre-school as normal and when she got back she totally crashed for several hours. I guess her little body was coming to terms with everything that was pumped into her. If that's the only side effect, it was a relatively successful experience all-in-all ... but to be honest I'm glad we don't have to repeat it again in a hurry!

Wednesday, October 17

All Snuggly

I love this time of year. The days are still warm and sunny but the nights are a lot cooler and the mornings are crisp and fresh. Definitely indicating the shift between Summer, Autumn and Winter.

This week I've swapped over our lighter bedding for the thicker, more snuggly stuff and now it feels even nicer to curl up in bed at the end of a long munchkin filled day. Admittedly when you're warm and snug, curled up under thick layers of duvets and quilts, it does make getting up in the morning (or in the night when the munchkins are a-calling), that much harder.

Abigail and Naomi took great joy in curling up together in Abigail's bed with the thicker duvet on in the middle of the day, when I first changed them over.  This morning she didn't even want to get out of bed because it was 'too snuggly'. Most days, Abigail jumps out of bed declaring 'it's morning time', today she just called it out from under the covers!!!

I have always thought I sleep better, the more snuggly the bed and the covers, just because it feels so much more cosy. Mark is the same way. This winter however will probably be one of the last times we need extra thick layers for a while, so we had better make the most of each night's sleep. Once we get to Tanzania, the climate will be a lot warmer and while there will be cooler times in the year when we'll need a few more layers at night ... it won't be anything like we've been used to during the winters out here in Ohio. 

While I don't view this as a particular 'sacrifice', I know there will be times when it will definitely be something that I will miss while we live in Tanzania. It's funny that there can be such little familiar things that we take for granted while we have them but then totally miss when we don't. I guess these can often be the things that make us feel homesick on a bad day or just things that we appreciate more when we're on home leave ... but don't make any sense whatsoever to anyone else!

Tuesday, October 16


Once upon a time (isn't that how all the best stories start?) ... there was a single girl who loved to visit bookshops. She could spend hours and hours, visiting different sections, dipping in and out of books in all different categories, browsing subjects she was familiar with and those she wanted to learn more about. The bestseller fiction section was always part of the experience, checking to see how many books she had read, owned (ready to read) or would contemplate purchasing before leaving the store.

Fast forward 8 years ... and it is all a distant dream.

Initially, adding just the husband, who also loves books, meant that the visits to the bookshops became a joint experience ... occasionally passing each other in one section or spotting each other over piles of neatly stacked books ... or if the shop was on many levels, sometimes even loosing each other for large chunks of time! Thank goodness for mobile phones or we may never have found each other again!

Adding one, then two munchkins definitely changed the stakes! The time was much reduced (surprisingly babies aren't as interested to dip in and out of books for hours!) and then the effort required just wasn't worth it. Add the missionary budget and then moving somewhere where there are no bookshops ... you can see how things have changed!

Last week while we were away, I had withdrawn a fiction book from the library for holiday reading. Recently, there have been far too many other types of books on my agenda to read, so this was a real treat. While the ability for my eyes to stay open long enough to get any decent chunks in (surely I'm not the only mum with little ones, who if they aren't on the go and stop to do something, their whole body shuts down!!), I did enjoy getting lost in a book again.

I was reading Audrey Niffenegger's, 'Her Fearful Symmetry', which I'm still only halfway through and is incredibly intriguing ... but to be honest, I'm not too sure what I think about it! Back in my 'Bookstore Bestseller days', I had read her first novel 'The Time Travellers Wife' and got totally lost in it, so wanted to try her number two. If you haven't read it, 'The Time Travellers Wife' is an incredible love story written 'out of time' almost (not slushy!). I even got my husband to read it because it is SO clever and although reluctant at first he thoroughly enjoyed it too! It it one of my favourite books which I would consider reading again (that rarely happens as there are far too many others on my to-read list) ... and the movie wasn't too atrocious an adaptation either believe it or not. I'm usually quite cynical about them!

One morning on holiday, I was in the shower, contemplating life and day-dreaming about being in a book shop, surrounded by opportunities to read. 

The next day we visited Sandusky to pick up a few things at the shops and just after lunch as we left, spotted a huge book store across one of the vast and relatively empty, parking lots. Even though the girls were with us, we did a U-turn and thought we'd have a 'quick look'. An hour or so later, after tag teaming with the girls, who are now of the age where they were happy to get lost in books in the kiddies section (just needing one of us to keep an eye on them!) ... we came out again, one very happy pair of parents! 

We didn't actually buy anything for ourselves, but having that time to browse rows and rows of books was a little slice of heaven to both of us! Sometimes it's just the simple things in life that make us smile!

Saturday, October 13


Today I want to introduce Alison to you. We became friends during my first time in Dodoma, Tanzania (1999-2001) and we have stayed in touch ever since. Alison was a fellow teacher and we lived on the same compound. She has kindly written todays blog post.

Alison is originally from Australia and taught in Dodoma from 1998, for four years, where she met her British husband, Patrick. They have two children, Elizabeth (6) and Matthew (4) and are just coming to the end of their time serving as missionaries with MAF in Papua New Guinea. The photograph below shows me (2nd from left) and Alison (2nd from right) along with other staff from our compound during a fun Indian evening, back in 2001!

I am always making lists. Mostly so I don't forget something, but there is a great sense of accomplishment when you can tick off everything written on a list. Unfortunately that rarely happens with my "to do" list. 

One of my big problems is that I expect to do too much in the time I have available - if I happen to have an hour without the kids I want to finish the laundry, do the dishes, check emails, go shopping and then if there's time maybe even do some cross-stitch or read a book. If I'm lucky I might manage to get just one of those things completed and it's usually not the last two!

While on home assignment last year I made a discovery. Having expectations that are too high or unrealistic causes STRESS! If I want to reduce my stress I simply need to reduce my expectations. But for a person with high expectations, that isn't easy!

I would love to invite each family in our organisation for a meal. One family a week doesn't seem an unreasonable expecatation. But when you realise there are about 15 families living in town, plus another 12 living on outstations who occasionally pass through, that would take about 6 months to have everybody only once! Then there are families working with other missions and other people in the community who we have met through church or school and would like to get to know better. Plus wouldn't it be great to invite some national families as well? Because we have a hospitality roster to provide meals for guests and visiting staff, we already seem to have people two or three nights in a row for various reasons, even without trying to introduce a "one family a week" system. It might be a reasonable expectation but it is certainly unrealistic (especially if there are introverts in the family!). 

My biggest struggle is with expectations of time, but it also applies to the attitudes and behaviours we expect from our friends and colleagues. Next time something stresses you out - stop and think - were you expecting too much?

Yesterday I was stressed. My expectation of what I could accomplish in one day was far too high. It was to be my first "dedicated" day to start packing. We are leaving the mission field at the end of the year and I think I have about 4 weeks left to have our stuff ready for shipping. So far I have only packed one box - my son's car racing set - and sorted one shelf of books. Not quite the progress I had hoped, especially as I have just had two weeks of school holidays. Oh, the plans I had for getting started....but I decided spending time with my kids was more important (at least that's the reason I'm using to justify my procrastination!) 

So yesterday, after going to the market, and then doing my school planning for next week (I teach primary school two days a week) and the rest of the term (including organising the Christmas concert) I was going to so some packing, before spending the afternoon baking a cake, a batch of cookies, two slices and doughnuts for playgroup morning tea, toasting granola and making icecream. All before dinner time - and I still hadn't decided how to use some leftover chicken for dinner! In addition, on the spur of the moment because it was the only opportunity, I invited a friend and her kids over for afternoon tea. No wonder I was stressed! Did I accomplish it all? Of course not. Guess what got chopped off the list? - the icecream, the doughnuts, most of the school preparation and all of the packing!

So my attempts to reduce my expectations and therefore my stress haven't been terribly successful. But at least it makes me realise that I can only blame myself and shouldn't take out my stress on others! Isn't it good that God doesn't expect perfection from us before He can use us? His expectations for us are high, but not unrealistic - because He promises to equip us for everything He asks us to do.

Wednesday, October 10

Another 'Venture

Over the last week we’ve been fortunate enough to spend another week in our friends cottage up on Lake Erie (Holiday Time). This time we have brought Mark’s parents with us. With everything that is due to come over the next couple of months it has been a break we have been looking forward to. 

What springs to mind when you think of holiday’s or vacations? For some it is relaxing by a pool or the ocean and not moving until it’s time to go home. For other’s it’s visiting museums or famous landmarks. Other’s go hiking in the mountains. Other’s curl up with a good book or two. Everyone has their own way of relaxing or taking time out. Mine has certainly changed since become a mum.

We try to include a bit of everything with the girls, some things to keep them interested and to wear them out and others for us all to have fun and relax together. With moving all over the world and experiencing new places and people on a regular basis, ever since Abigail was really little we have talked about going on adventures instead of journey’s or holiday’s. Or in her own words we have been going on ‘ventures.

I don’t know about you but sometimes I find it can be difficult to get the balance between ‘doing’ and ‘resting’ and there is the possibility that you come back from a break feeling like you need another holiday! Especially when there are munchkins involved! We had a few things in the back of our minds to do while away this time. Places we wanted to revisit or show Grandma and Gramps and other things too. Plans are good but they always have to be flexible! 

On our first full day, we visited Put-in-Bay Island and on the return car ferry our van ‘died’. We literally had to be pushed off the boat and were then dumped on the dockside. While waiting for the tow truck, Mark worked out that the fuel pump fuse had blown and was able to do a quick fix until getting a replacement fuse, which was just as well because there were no garages open for us to be towed to anyway! 

Two mornings later with the fuse still intact the van once again refused to start. There was no reason for us to get stressed by it, it was out of our control and the garages were once again closed ... these things just happen. While we had had plans to go out and ‘do’ stuff we got to have a much more relaxing day, much like we had the day before. Going for a walk by the lake, visiting the play park, playing games and watching movies. Which was actually probably much more what we needed anyway. 

This break was more of a ‘venture than we were planning in many respects but as long as the van gets sorted by the time we need to drive home, it will actually be much more relaxing than we had planned too! I’ve found over time, that on occasion, God let’s ‘inconvenient’ things happen to us, so when we look at the bigger picture, it all actually works out a lot better! This has definitely been one of those instances!

Tuesday, October 9

Fashion Police

I have never been one to wear the newest and latest fashions ... to be honest, who is? I have always gone for smart, casual and what I'm comfortable with, not something that I'm told I should be wearing 'this season'. I don't think too much in my wardrobe warrants a visit from the fashion police either ... I guess I'm more a middle of the road kind of girl!

When I met Mark, I was 28 and had returned to the student lifestyle again. With the lifestyle came the fashion ... back in the jeans and t-shirts of my student days. It wasn't really my style but was a lot easier and cheaper when the focus was on the study ... I hadn't set out to hook myself a guy in the process ... thankfully he looked past the outward appearance!

One thing that you will have to look very hard for in my closet/wardrobe are skirts or dresses of any variety. For some reason they have just never been high on my list of priorities when I've been out clothes shopping. The only dress I'd worn since I knew Mark (until a friend got married and I was a bridesmaid) was my own wedding dress.

The last time I really wore skirts on a regular basis was back in 1999-2001 when I was living in Tanzania. Out there fashion wasn't a high priority at all, there were more important things in life and as a missionary teacher being culturally appropriate and accepted was much higher on my list. It's funny to think that soon I'll be back there again ... sporting a wardrobe on a daily basis that I wouldn't even consider here in the States or in the UK but that will feel totally normal, comfortable and not the least bit strange at all when I'm in Dodoma.

I joked with Mark a few weeks ago that the wife he now knows will soon become 'another woman' clothes-wise once we move to Dodoma next year. He won't recognise me walking down the street. To us it's much more important not to offend local people though ... we want to build friendships not drive people away before we've even started.

As the summer has recently come to a close I have made the most of all the clearance sales ready for the new stock in the clothes shops. We will need a more substantial (and appropriate) summer wardrobe and the stores are trying to clear out 'last seasons' stock ready for the jumpers and coats to fill their racks.

It has been perfect! I have bagged swimming costumes for the girls at $3 (£2) a piece and summer dresses for them that were almost $30 (£20) for just $4  (£2.75) or $5 (£3.25) each. Of course, when shopping for myself the item highest on my list of priorities, because there were absolutely none in my wardrobe, where long floaty skirts and I now have myself a little collection of them (see above) at a fraction of the original cost. I don't think I paid more than $15 (£10) for any of them and originally some were $50 (£35). (By the way the price conversions are very rough ... don't quote me on them!!)

I don't think I've ever gone quite so crazy at 'sales time' in my life but it couldn't have been more perfectly timed as we get ready for our new lives in Tanzania. I'm definitely all set skirt-wise anyway ... and if the fashion police want to come and get me, that's their problem!

Friday, October 5

Date Night

This week I got to go on a date with my hubby! It really is an unusual occurrence for us, as I know it is for other friends with young children. So definitely a highlight ... whatever we get up to!

When we were first married we tried to have a date night every week. We would take it in turns to decide what we the evening would entail. At the beginning we were students, so the evenings were fairly low-budget (or no-budget) but then when we finished studying and were earning real money, we were able to go out more for dinner or to the cinema or occasionally away for the night.

Then along came the munchkins and life was never the same again ... as I'm sure other parents can totally appreciate. Not only that but we lived away from family and good friends both in the UK and then here ... so date nights suddenly became few and far between. One of the sacrifices of moving around the world as a missionary ... having to find and trust people to look after your kids, building up the trust of the girls to be left with someone else ... and then having the money to actually do something.

We have been privileged to have a lot of friends and family from the UK come and visit us over the last three years that we've lived here. During each visitor's stay we have tried to fit in a date night of some sort as well. We've been able to have some meals out but there isn't much to do in town once you've finished eating so we often find ourselves walking hand-in-hand around Walmart afterwards! Just to maximise our alone time before reluctantly heading home and taking up the baton of parenthood once again! (We love our girlies, really we do ... but a couple of hours off, is wonderful too!)

On Wednesday, under a gorgeous sunset (see above), my hubby took me out on one of the most memorable of our dates yet! The first since in a couple of months, since our last visitor from the UK. We went to the County Fair to watch the Rough Trucks contest, using our free tickets from manning the gates earlier in the week! To top it all, Mark even bought me some deep fried oreo's ... a fair delicacy I had yet to try and which to be honest tasted really yummy!!

When you think of a 'date' with your loved one, this may not be the first and most romantic thing that comes to mind. It was however extremely cultural and a really fun evening. We got to see some good friends there and thanks to Grandma and Gramps, we had a few hours to ourselves, snuggled together on the grandstand! I loved having some hubby time in the amongst the hustle and bustle of everything else that's been going on ... not sure how he's going to top this one though!

Wednesday, October 3

Self Trained!

This last week my littlest munchkin has shocked and surprised me. Whereas we've spent hours (literally!) training her to sleep ... which by the way is still going perfectly and we're getting to used to uninterrupted nights of sleep on a regular basis, for the first time since she was born! It seems that in other areas of growing up she needs no help whatsoever!

Abigail has always been pretty quick to cotton on to everything, amazingly ... apart from potty training ... which was done and dusted finally at about 3 1/2 years. Naomi already at 17 months has now started (not always) asking to go to the loo. She points to the toilet (doesn't want the froggy potty), we sit her on the padded princess seat and she performs within a matter of seconds literally!

Had it been a one off, I wouldn't have thought much about it but over the last week she must have asked half a dozen times and hasn't disappointed us yet. She has the biggest cheekiest grin on her face and I think I probably have had one of equal size because I'm hoping that this time round potty training will be a lot more straight forward. So far at least, it seems she needs no encouragement, just wanting to be like her big sister!

I have to admit that when embarking on the adventure of parenthood, the single element that I really wasn't looking forward to was potty training. We tried everything with Abigail but she was an extremely tough cookie to crack ... further validating my fear of the whole experience. Naomi as always is doing the complete opposite to her sister, only this time it's working in my favour for once!

Here is a photo, not of Naomi but of Abigail at the same age her sister is now, with the abandoned froggy potty when we first got it. It almost looks like she's asking the question 'Will I or won't I be easy to train?' We know the answer to that now!!!! Why haven't I included a photo of Naomi our prospective total self-trained star? Because the one requirement she appears to have when 'performing', is to be totally naked on the toilet (yes, seriously!!) ... so I didn't think it was appropriate to include a photo of that! Only time will tell if this will be an ongoing habit for Naomi but while it lasts, I'm not going to complain!

Tuesday, October 2

World Geography

The Coshocton County Fair is on once again, Fair Time in Town. This is our fourth and definitely our final one ... given that in a couple of months we won't be living in the country anymore!

Abigail has been looking forward to it for months. We told her that when Grandma and Gramps came again we would be going to Fair ... so their arrival has been much anticipated as well! The rides and the animals are her favourite parts and she didn't waste much time jumping on the carousel with Gramps once we got to the rides section.

This year both me and Mark got to see it from a slightly different point of view. All the entrances are manned with people taking money for tickets and others stamping people's hands for re-entry. Our church, Coshocton Christian Tabernacle, provides volunteers to stamp hands at one entrance for the whole week of the fair. In return, the church are paid for helping man that entrance and the volunteers are given two free tickets for entry into the fair.

This morning we shared a 4 hour shift, stamping the right hand of everybody who came in with an orange stamp. It was a fun experience meeting new people who we worked with and then chatting to all kinds of fair-goers through the windows of their cars and trucks. There were cars with just one or two ... or trucks packed with people all coming to enjoy different elements of the fair.

It reminded me of when I used to work in retail (when I was studying, to save some money) and all the banter the went along with that. I had forgotten what it was like to have a couple hours off from mummy-dom to 'work' and I really enjoyed it. 

Random people were asking what my accent was ... because I'm not from round here. One guy asked me if I was Australian and when I told him I was from London, England, his response was 'It's all the same isn't it' ... er, NO!! I very politely told him we lived on the opposite side of the world from Australia and had completely different accents and tried to make a joke out of it, while thinking, 'DOH'!

It reminded me of some stories a good Australian friend of mine once shared, from when she was travelling through the States a few years ago. She was asked questions like 'Do you get the same movies as us? Do you just have them with sub-titles?' and 'When Australia declared their independence from England did you have to redefine the borders of your country?'. She was as dumbfounded as me today ... thinking ... we speak English, just like you and we live on an island, our nations borders haven't had to be changed!!!

When we talk about going to Tanzania, most people here don't know what or where that is, so now we say just we're going to East Africa to ease the confusion. Our experience has been that geography outside of the States isn't something that Americans are are too hot on. By the same token though, my American geography was pretty rubbish until I moved here. It's always been such a big faraway continent that I haven't needed to get my head around so I've enjoyed the chance to widen my horizons while we've lived here ... and widen those of the people I've come into contact with a little too!