Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Goodbye to the Adventure

The adventure is over, but the relationships aren't. That is what I realized as I packed up the rest of their room today. The precious time we had with Victor Chongkon Yusuf and Dennis Daudi Lengishon in our home is over for now. But the fact that they will always be a part of our family will never be over.

They could not take everything with them back to Nigeria and Tanzania. They had to make some hard decisions. Victor left his trade mark plaid coat since it didn't fit him anymore, a reminder that he grew 4 inches and gained 30 pounds of muscle while he was here. I will hang it in the closet and the next time he comes to visit, I will make it into a vest!

Dennis left his beloved "cowboys boots" and his hat, which reminds us of his love for Walker, Texas Ranger and for anything western. He had to choose between the boots and a heavy Chemistry book so we were not surprised that he chose the book. I told him we would keep them here for him to wear when he comes back.

Also in the closet will be the slippers. There's just something comforting about having some of their possessions remain with us- just like my other kids who went off to live their lives but left some of their "stuff" at home.

Today I'm thanking God that, although the adventure is over, the relationships are not.

This is the last post I will write for this blog. Thank you, loyal readers and those who occasionally stopped in. It has been a pleasure to share our year with you.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Hellos from Africa and Honduras Part III

We have heard from both Dennis and Victor- it was so great to hear their voices. Dennis surprised me so much that I couldn't think of anything to talk about until he hung up! But how wonderful to know that they are with their families and friends once again. We miss them so much. We are home from Honduras now and I will have one more post to finish off this interesting year with our African sons. But for now, one last look at Honduras----

We went to the dump. Well- very close to it. The first picture shows one of the side businesses of the dump area. In Honduras, they do their recycling backwards. All trash is deposited in one huge dump that is hidden behind a gigantic terrace. Then the poorest of the people (including children) who live nearby sustain themselves by sorting through the trash. First they are looking for food. Secondly, they are looking for anything that can be sold: plastic, metal, paper, etc. You can imagine the stench, the filth, and the hopelessness. But in the middle of this horrible place God has blessed a small ministry called Love, Faith, and Hope (Amor, Fe, Esperanza). They offer education, showers, and food along with their love, faith, and hope. The pastor's wife was so thankful to receive our gifts of school supplies, nursery supplies, musical instruments, and clothing. We got to see the facility but not the children because the only day Caroline could take us was on Saturday. God is working mightily through this ministry to what the culture considers the "least of these." It was a very humbling experience.

We went to the orphanage. When we entered, Caroline was greeted by name and surrounded by children who vied for her attention. This is one of the places that she had taken her students on the mission trip last March. Boredom is a real problem in these places, so the arrival of visitors was a welcome bright spot in the day and we were bombarded with kids wanting hugs and attention and the opportunity to show off!

The last place we visited was the home of one of Caroline's wealthy students, where we had been invited for coffee. This beautiful home was by far the nicest place we visited while we were in Honduras. The mom asked us where all Caroline had taken us, and was appalled that we had not seen much beyond the school where Caroline works except for places where God is reaching the poor through His people. But that is the way we wanted it.

We will be processing our trip to Honduras for a long time.

We will be missing our African sons forever.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Two Feeding Centers in Two Days

Here are pictures from Manos Extendidas from yesterday. We were there when the pre-school children were eating, and we were able to give some new shoes to the teacher and helper who works there. They were very appreciative!

Today we went with Caroline's Spanish tutor Lourdes. She and her husband run a feeding center from their church (he is the pastor) where they have an outreach to the poor kids in the neighborhood. We helped prepare the meal for 43 (pancakes and fruit), serve it, play with the kids, listen to the Bible lesson, and helped them take baths and pick out new clothes.

We were very impressed with this ministry and know that God is doing wonderful things through Lourdes' loving leadership.

Then we came back to Caroline's school and hosted an American Barbeque for the 11th graders who wanted to come! What a great day!

I did hear from IRIS that my African sons are at least in their own countries. Now hopefully they will send their American mom a facebook message!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Honduras Hiatus

Well, I've been thinking about and praying for Dennis and Victor as they headed home. I have asked them to let me know (typical mom fashion) via facebook as soon as they can when they get home but have heard nothing yet. As soon as I hear from them and get some pictures at home, I will write a final entry in this blog that has been dedicated to our year together. But right now, I want to use this blog to post some pictures of our time in Honduras so far. It has been......awesome. Hard to describe in words. Maybe pictures will be more effective.

Bullet highlights (ps- pictures are backwards- sorry)
* Sunday- Micah House. (discipleship ministry to street boys) True sacrificial ministry in the name of Jesus. Rescuing lost boys and putting them on the road to service to God and a practical skill. They have 12 young boys and 20 older ones. We attended their church service (in Spanish) and experienced true worship.
* Monday- Academia los Pinares with Caroline. We hung out in her office, met lots of students with obligatory kisses on one cheek, took a walking tour, met her favorite people. After school, we went to see the statue of Christ that overlooks the city from a National Park.
*Tuesday- we met Erick (our Compassion child that we sponsor) and his family. We were invited to his home, where we shared the gifts we had brought for him and he lovingly shared some momentos with us that he had made. I'm still processing this. What a humbling, precious experience. In the picture, Erick is seated in front of me with green shirt.
*Wednesday- we went to the Manos Extendidas Feeding Center. Still processing this too. Oh my. We were able to bless the workers and the children with donated items that our church sent (as at Micah House). One of the poorest areas of the city, these homes were built after Hurricane Mitch by the people that lost everything in that disaster. Many are single mom families that struggle just to survive. The food that these children get is many times their only meal of the day.
*Tomorrow- we will help a friend of Caroline's who is setting up a new feeding center and host a North American Barbecue for her 11th graders.
*Friday- we will come to school for the 1/2 day (the student's last). Caroline and I are the scheduled special music at the end of the year staff devotions. (!!!?!!) Then we have a trip to a tourist spot in the afternoon.
*Saturday- Love, Faith, and Hope Ministry to the kids at the dump.

I'm sure I'll be writing more and sending more pictures, but this gives you an idea what is happening. God is working! God is blessing! God is teaching! Please keep us in your prayers.

Now if I would just hear from those African sons of mine.............

Friday, June 4, 2010

Home from Michigan in Eight Phases OR Cars, Vehicles, and Automobiles

Phase One: 8:00 am-William volunteers (?) to take Victor and Dennis on a quick (?) driving tour of downtown Chicago via Interstate 94. Highlights according to V and D: (after much thought- not sure they were awake) seeing the White Sox Stadium and being able to say they saw Chicago. Okay...........

Phase Two: 9:00 am- Cindy, Dick, Christina, James leave Holland after a lovely breakfast at the Windmill restaurant where Sam and James got free military coffee (Memorial Day) and baby Natalie let Grandma spoil her some more.

Phase Three: 11:00 am- both cars meet up in Joliet for lunch (remember the time change before you judge how early we needed to stop for lunch). We try to ignore the incoming clouds, lightening, and rain as we eat our Steak and Shake.

Phase Four: 12:00 pm- Dick's car decides to throw a rod, burn up an engine, crack a head, or something else in "car-speak" that I didn't understand -- in the pouring rain-- RIGHT NEXT TO A REST STOP!!

Phase Five: 1:30 pm- After MUCH discussion and SEVERAL phone calls, and several, it was decided that Dick would wait for the one AAA tow truck that was working on Memorial Day and would tow him to Davenport. Too bad he only had room for one rider. Really really too bad. Picture (above) four adults sandwiched into the back seat of a Toyota Avalon. James got to drive (his car) and Victor got shotgun (longest legs). Moines. Comments overheard: "This is my favorite part of the trip." (Dennis) "My body is numb from the waist down." (William) "Dennis- are you as close to the door as you can get??" (William) "I'm feeling nauseous- can I please get up off of the floor?" (Christina)

Phase Six: 6:00 pm- Cindy and group arrive in Des Moines. Cindy gets in Christina's car and heads back to Davenport to pick up Dick. Sure wish I had known that she needed brake work done before I got in her car. But hey, at this point we were running low on options and beggars can't be choosers. Simultaneously, James and William take Victor (just shoot me, I hate long rides) and Dennis (I forgot my toothbrush and haven't brushed in 3 days) home and bring back my Honda to Christina's house. William goes home to Ames, James stays in Des Moines in preparation for his month at National Guard training which starts June 1.

Phase Seven: 9:00 pm- Cindy picks up Dick (who has had three hours to look around at a Toyota dealership- not good) in Davenport and heads back to Des Moines.

Phase Eight: 12:oo am- Cindy and Dick arrive in Des Moines, pick up Cindy's Honda and head for home. Yes, we both had to work the next day. Yes, we were very thankful to be home. No, we were not upset because.................Dick had purchased an extended warranty which was about to run out. He was the happiest owner of a broken down vehicle that you will ever see!

Bonus Phase: The next day, when he found out that the Toyota dealer would not honor his non-Toyota warranty, he hooked up to the car trailer, found an extra driver (thanks David), drove back to Davenport, brought home the broken car to our favorite mechanic Rick, and also brought home..................the car he picked out to buy while he was waiting on me!!!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


What a great weekend! I'm going to let the pictures speak for themselves. Of course Natalie Renee was the star of the show and I'm sure we spoiled her with all of our attention. Dennis was up for holding her but Victor said "No, thanks."

The boys (all 5 of them) played a lot of lawn games- mostly this one with the corn bags. They played so much they wore holes in the grass with their feet!

The weather was perfect and the beach was cold but fun. This time it was Dennis who said "No, thanks."

The guys all LOVED the go-cart racing. Notice the look on William's face compared to the one on Dennis'! I'm sure he had no idea what was going to happen, but he sure had fun once he figured out what the gas pedal was for. He listened carefully to the rules and was quick to point out to the people that ran into him that they were not following them!

Next time- our 17 hour trip home from Michigan!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

African Teachers, African Students

I can't resist some bullet point highlights of our evening with the Nigerian and Tanzanian teachers that spent 2 days at Atlantic High School and are here to escort the 60 IRIS students home in two weeks. Here goes:

*Mr. Mpinga (TZ) was delighted to hear me say his name correctly. (Thanks for the lesson, Dennis!)
*Mr. Anyam (NG) amazed us with his grasp of American politics.
*Favorite picture- Dennis teaching Mr. Anyam computer basics. Loved it.
*Mr. Mpinga running from our overly friendly dog.
*Both teachers taking turns jabbing each other with friendly "digs" about this or that. We were all unsure at first if they were serious or teasing. Hopefully we didn't laugh in the wrong places!
*Mr. Mpinga sharing with us how he hoped to entice an American woman to be his second wife. (First one is still living, mind you!). Not entirely sure if this was serious or not.
*Mr. Anyam declared the meal delicious after he mixed everything together on his plate:spaghetti, lettuce salad with 2 kinds of dressing, and fresh fruit. Hmm- not exactly what I was expecting...
*Genuine friendliness and interest in our culture and our family. What a privilege to host them for just a few hours. They both are either working on or hold advanced degrees, made great sacrifices to be away from their classes for 3 weeks, and possess extra-ordinary intelligence. We enjoyed their visit very much.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Countdown to June 4

Less than three weeks to go......

Here's a quick run down on our remaining schedule for this 9 month adventure.
Week One:
Dennis got his computer questions answered by brother William last night. Now he has virus protection! (see picture) Dennis didn't really think the sign would keep out any viruses so they had to download something from the internet. :) He also has his bike broken down and it is weighed and measured for a box. Victor may want to take the golf clubs...........
Also this week I am hoping to get some help in preparing the house and yard for more guests from Tanzania and Nigeria. They are the teachers who will be escorting the students home and they will be dining with us Friday night. Other things on the calendar- state track in Des Moines, a special soccer team night, and a youth group party.

Week Two:
District soccer game in Perry. Going away party here at our house. Final exams. Possible community service at Bible camp. Trip to Michigan with siblings to see new niece over Memorial Day weekend. This will be a mini vacation complete with golfing (real and miniature), cookouts, and beach time. Of course we will also take turns holding baby Natalie!

Week Three:
Is really only 4 days by the time we get home from Michigan Monday night. On the agenda: the zoo, visiting Dad's office, shopping, packing, finishing memory books, printing pictures, saying goodbyes to family members, and trying not to cry.

You can see why I may not get another post written until after my African sons leave on June 4. Hard to believe this adventure is coming to an end.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day

Samuel is in Michigan with his beautiful wife and daughter. Christina's job keeps her at church on Sundays. Caroline is in Honduras. William is on the way to California to see his girlfriend. James is on the road with the National Guard. I heard from each of my children via letter or phone call today and I appreciate that SO much. But the children that let me hug them today in person, and who joined me at the Mexican Restaurant for my Mother's Day meal were boys that I share with other mothers that live on the continent of Africa. Thank you, moms of Victor and Dennis, for sharing your sons with me for a year. And thank you, Victor and Dennis, for making this Mother's Day special just by being here.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Parents Take a Road Trip

Our first grandchild was on the way, and so were we!! Thursday morning, Victor and Dennis dropped off clothes, books, supplies, and food at Grandma and Grandpa's before school in preparation for 3 nights and 4 days of living away from home while we headed to Michigan.

Between soccer games (2), team meals (2), show choir concert (1), Sunday School, church, and youth group (1 each) and a day with the cousins, I'm not sure how much time they actually spent there. But they did at least sleep in the basement of the comfortable house which is conveniently 1 block from the High School.

Back home on Monday night, we compared baby stories at the table.
--Samuel (our oldest son) has already changed more diapers than his father and baby Natalie is only 3 days old, which is an indication of different generations and other things.
--Victor's mom was given several months leave from her nurse's job when her children were born. Then a maid was hired to take care of the baby. Victor's dad did not share in the baby care because he has a job that has transferred him several times, making it necessary for him to live apart from his family for weeks at a time. Victor hopes that he will be able to keep his family together when the time comes for him to be married, but their are no guarantees.
--In Dennis' tribe, the men have nothing to do with the babies unless they have been educated. When asked where he would like to live when he has a family, Dennis replied, "That is a decision that will not be for me alone to decide." Wise young man.
--Samuel and Bethany have divided the household chores from the beginning of their marriage, and baby care will be no different. We are very proud and blessed to observe this wonderful couple glorify the Lord in their relationship- though it is very different than how we did it- it seems to work for them!

We loved meeting our new granddaughter, but it is good to be back home. We missed our African sons! Next time we go to Michigan (in 25 days and counting), we are taking everyone!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Fishing, Golfing, and Biking and the Bucket List

How many experiences can we fit into the next six weeks? You might think that is a lot of time, but consider that soccer practice lasts until 6:00, there are two soccer games per week, and there is a lot of studying and homework that needs to occur. And then there are graduation parties, concerts, youth group, community service, and you begin to get the idea that six weeks is not very long.

Of course we have a bucket list. A bucket list is a list of things that you want to do before you "kick the bucket". In this case, it is a list of things that we want to do before Dennis and Victor return to the continent of Africa. In SIX WEEKS.

We are making progress. Dennis has his computer purchased and is learning to swim. Victor has ridden a horse and has started buying gifts to take home. We have a trip planned to visit our oldest son and his wife in Michigan so we can see Lake Michigan and meet our newest family member. We've cooked Nigerian and Tanzanian foods. We've played in the snow!! We've been to college football and basketball games, ridden in a combine, and met all of the relatives.

Someone from church gave Dennis a bike and he is learning to ride it. He wants to take it home with him! Victor discovered an old set of golf clubs on the porch and set up a couple of holes in the yard to practice. He has a golf date planned with a buddy from school who knows more about golfing than mum! We went fishing tonight- still counts even though we did not catch any fish! I'm marking it off the list anyway!

Still to be accomplished: visiting the nearby big dairy, going to the zoo, observing an operation (Dennis), shopping for gifts to take home, and trying to fit in as much as possible to the allotted suitcases. Oh my. Add crying to that list. I can't believe they will be gone in only SIX WEEKS!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Prom- Bullet Point Style

Here is what I know about their prom experience so far:
*Decorating was both frustrating (decisions left to the last minute, less than cooperative committee members) and fun (judging by some of the pictures)- Victor
*Decorating took too much time from class work- Dennis
*Suits are uncomfortable- Dennis
*I will be happy to iron our new shirts- Victor
*I'm kind of glad I went- Dennis
*Yes, I had a lot of fun- Victor
*This corsage cost how much??- Victor
*No one tripped on their way across the stage during the Grand March (the only part of the evening that I actually saw).
*Both boys looked absolutely dashing, and knew how to hold their arm to make their date feel secure (one of my pet peeves which I was worried about because I forgot to talk to them about it).
*Both boys lasted for the entire evening (morning), stayed home from church, and woke up hungry.
*Both boys are relieved that it is over and that mom will stop discussing endless details that they don't understand.
*Best part: Playing the football game at the Y (Victor); The Dance (Dennis)
*Something surprising: The expensive gifts at the end of the night (Victor); How much space my date's dress took up in the car (Dennis)
*Something not so great: Nothing (Victor); All the class time that was wasted last week (guess who?)

That's all I've got for now- maybe more later as I continue to try to drag details out of them. Next up: 6:00 AM soccer practice tomorrow morning, followed by a game 1.5 hours away!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Escape to Africa

We finally got to see Dennis in his Masai clothing, and see his happy Masai dancing, which is actually jumping (really high jumping!!!) What a treat to see him singing the Tanzanian National Anthem along with four girls from his country, and to see him talking like a pro in front of about 50 guests from eastern Nebraska and Southwest Iowa. What a joy to hear Victor talk about living on the farm, sharing his life with an older brother at our house, and hear him talk with fellow Nigerian Samuel in three languages! The event was the IRIS (Iowa Resource for International Service) regional party in Council Bluffs yesterday.

Other highlights: LOTS of Atlantic friends, teachers, and relatives who came to support; Victor's special award (you'll have to ask him what it was- let's just say it has something to do with his charm.........); Dennis' dancing with the other Tanzanian girls; Dennis' sandals that he made from a motorcycle tire; arriving safely with Joloff rice and Matoki (made with plantains) in crockpots; getting a door prize which was a purse made from a lizard- head, feet, and all!!

We couldn't have been more proud of these wonderful young men. I smiled, cried, and took lots of pictures, which is what a mom does best!

Sunday, April 4, 2010


Thursday was the first day of April and also our very first serious soccer game.
We may have watched one or two nieces' games as they were growing up- but those were more social events than anything else. However this is serious, folks. Now we know the difference between forward, midfield, and defense. We are beginning to understand the foul system and the running clock. We are starting to comprehend the rules....... But not enough that we know how to yell intelligently. During my high school's inaugural wrestling season, the coach held a meeting to instruct the fans how to intelligently yell encouragement (and keep a watchful eye on the referees), but I guess my friend's "Soccer for Dummies" book will have to suffice for this sport. That and the helpful comments from more experienced soccer parents: "It's ok- he has to keep both feet on the ground when he throws the ball in." or "That goal didn't count because it went above the net." or "Don't worry- it's fine for the goalie to use his hands." I'm afraid we demonstrated our ignorance quite well during that first game. I guess we really need to read that book.....

Dennis and Victor, however, were totally in their element. They seemed to be everywhere at once, keeping track of their own team and also their opponents. Dennis (midfield) has amazing footwork- the other team resorted to triple-teaming him in the second half. Victor (forward) has an amazing kick and scored our only goal. I was so proud. Now I just need to learn how to take soccer pictures!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Lasagna, Liver, and Rice

Victor's birthday is March 29 (same as mine!) but we took advantage of spring break last weekend when the college boys were home and celebrated early with the family. At our house, the birthday kid gets to pick out the food for the special birthday meal. Victor chose lasagna, liver and onions, and apple crisp. Victor, the parents and the grandparents enjoyed the liver. Dennis, William, James, and Christina enjoyed the lasagna. We all enjoyed the apple crisp and our family's traditional angel food cake!! Victor was adamant that my birthday not be overlooked, insisting that I also have a special plate, help with the blowing out of the candles, and take turns with him in the gift opening ritual. Gotta love that boy, liver or not.

And now a story about Dennis. He is pictured above holding a partial bag of raw rice. I've been trying for 7 months to cook rice the way he likes it. I've asked for help from my Puerto Rican friend, looked up recipes on the Internet, and tried adding a little oil. I've tried long grain, short grain, white, brown- you name it. (Ok, ok, I've been pushing the brown rice but hey- I've never served them minute rice in any form!) We are experimenting with recipes for an IRIS (Iowa Resource for International Service) event on April 11 where we are to take Nigerian and Tanzanian dishes. So I found an oriental kind of white rice and decided to give it one more try, since both of the dishes we want to make for April 11 include rice in the recipe. Joy of Joys!!!! After the meal, Dennis said, "That was good rice!" I happily replied "Hallelujah!!" His response--"AMEN!" Gotta love him too!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Spring Break!

Eagerly anticipated by all, spring break signifies the beginning of spring, right?? A break from school, the beginning of the downhill slope towards the end of the school year. At the Nichols house in SW Iowa, there were a couple of interesting dynamics that made spring break a little strange this year. First of all, Mom's school did not get a spring break. Hmm. How do the boys get to do exciting things when Mom and Dad have work as usual? Answer: College sons have spring break at the same time! Yeah! Secondly, IT SNOWED AGAIN! What??? Answer: Find something new to do inside!!!

So Victor and Dennis spent the first day of their spring break working to prepare a local Bible camp for the summer season, (assisting brother William), and the second day horseback riding thanks to brother James (see pictures). All activities occurred either before or after soccer practice, of course. First game is April 1, UNLESS IT SNOWS!

Saturday, March 13, 2010


Well, the snow is finally melting. Not gone, but definitely melting. Each day the landscape changes as the warming temperature sculpts the snow drifts into ever-shrinking shapes and turns our driveway into a muddy mess. (Picture is not at our house. Ours is definitely worse and you can't buy gravel with gold!)

At the Nichols home, Victor and Dennis have learned a couple of lessons about Iowa after a snowy winter:
1) It's not a good idea to wear those new shoes outside during the BIG MELT. (Lesson: Wear old shoes. Carry new ones.)
2) Shoes worn outside during the BIG MELT leave little chunks of dried mud on the kitchen floor the next day. (Lesson: Put shoes on just before exiting house or be prepared to sweep.)
3) When we have exhausted all of our ways to complain about snow, we just change the focus of our grumbling to.........MUD! (Lesson: Iowans love to complain about the weather!)
4) Even if the calendar tells us that the first soccer game is April 1, the soccer field is also subject to the BIG MELT and is waiting for some BIG SUN! (Lesson: Indoor soccer stinks.)

Welcome Spring!!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

It seemed fitting that we have a family picture taken against a background of snow this year, since there has been so much of it to enjoy (?) and to show off to our new family members. We are thankful for Victor and Dennis who have added so much to our family, for the precious time we have with them and with our children scattered across the land, and for Michelle, who took this great picture and many more!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Definitions of Prom

3 according to the American girl; dreamed of since elementary school, planned for all year, dates manipulated for months and daily shared with friends, (read the word D R A M A), and of course SHOPPING!

4 according to the African boy; unknown big event to be endured in uncomfortable clothes with someone of the opposite sex that jumped up and down, squealed, and announced it to the world when he said he would go with her (read C O N F U S E D and S C A R E D).

The dates are decided (see above) so now it's time to think ahead a bit about the rest of it.

Issue #1:
Fancy Clothes.
Answer #1:
Thrift store suits that my husband is already looking for.

Issue #2:
Answer #2:
One son has a double date. Still working on the other one. Maybe his date has a car.

Issue #3:
We haven't even discussed flowers or schedules or.......the GRAND MARCH. Never mind. We'll take baby steps to avoid more confusion.
(read N E E D T O K N O W B A S I S).

I'll keep you updated.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

High School Wrestling/College Basketball

It was a big sports week for us (what else is new)! Our nephew competed in the State Wrestling Tournament on Wednesday and of course we had to be there- yelling our lungs out from the balcony to the far corner mat- knowing that he couldn't hear us but yelling just the same. Well, those of us with the last name of Nichols were yelling. Dennis was busy analyzing each move and counter-move. Victor was trying to keep his legs from cramping after the long ride to Des Moines and the small chair he was sitting in while quietly rooting for one of his favorite "cousins".

Then on Saturday we traveled to Ames to see the Cyclones play Texas A&M at Hilton Coliseum. It was actually a good game even though ISU lost. James came over from UNI and William took time from his research assistant job in the Ag Engineering department to join us for lunch and the game. (a sacrifice we did appreciate- Will doesn't really enjoy basketball all that much, and was seen snoozing during the first half). He wasn't snoozing during the halftime show, though. The dunking demonstration was a hit with all of us, especially Victor, who has been working hard at perfecting his dunking skills. As usual, Dennis watched carefully and had intuitive insights about several players when the game was over.

On the home front, we are managing two sports at once as Victor finishes up basketball and informal soccer practice gets underway for both boys. Up to now, we have been teaching Victor and Dennis about American sports. With soccer, the roles will be reversed and we will be the learners! Bring it on!!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Day Nichols Style

Our family Valentine tradition (in addition to the things that my husband and I do for each other) is to have a special meal that includes eating on china, special heart-shaped desserts, favorite entrees, and homemade valentine cards for the children. This tradition was started from necessity when the children were small and funds to buy gifts were even smaller. So my gift to my family was this special meal. Actually, it is a continuation of something that my grandmother did for all her grandchildren on this special day. She had dozens of small cupcake tins that were shaped like hearts and she made each grandchild a small Valentine's cake- even when we were in college. Somehow I inherited the small tins and I have loved passing down and elaborating on the tradition.

Enter my African sons.

I told them I was making a special meal and I banished them from the kitchen (which of course only made them more curious!) I made heart-shaped pumpkin pies instead of cakes because they don't really like cake. I thawed 4 gigantic T-bone steaks and heated sweet corn that I had frozen in summers past when it was fresh. I baked their favorite biscuits and threw in some baked potatoes, decorated with Valentine napkins, candy favors and chocolates (not their favorite), and wrote mushy cards with decorations and heart stickers. I was so excited! I was showing my love in the best way I knew how and I had gone to WAY too much work for a Saturday lunch. Of course we took a picture to document the important occasion.

But........I think they thought I was crazy. Turns out in Tanzania Valentine's Day is only for lovers according to Dennis. And Victor was concerned about the fact that the big vase of roses in the middle of the table (thanks to my husband) was going to make it so he couldn't see me at the table --so we had to move them. Maybe they were just embarrassed. Maybe they were just being guys. Doesn't matter, because I had fun and they learned about our tradition! And THAT is Valentine's Day Nichols Style!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Winter Shows Off

I've never seen so many kinds of precipitation fall from the sky in one winter. It seems as if winter is showing off: "Look how many ways I can complicate your life! Look how many reasons I can give you to cancel school!" But there is also this: "Look how beautiful the trees are when God flocks them all in white frost!" And: "Look how pretty the icy trees are back-lit by the sun!"

Ok, ok. We see the beauty, we appreciate the fact that we have no control over the weather, we give credit to the One who does have control, we take extra precautions when we venture out, we reschedule our lives and accept that we will be spending part of June at school. BUT ENOUGH ALREADY!!! My husband jokingly told Victor and Dennis this morning that we were going to have to send them home- we can't take any more of this and whoever we have offended is going to get them back! I'm glad they laughed.

Dennis was delighted to see the sun Sunday morning- we all felt a tiny glimpse of hope. But alas, by the time church was over, we were back under an overcast sky, the wind had switched, and by nightfall the snow had started again. Almost every day he asks me, "When is the snow going to melt?" All I can say is that each day we are closer to spring. I'm not sure he believes me anymore.

One good way to boost our spirits is to serve others. Both Victor and Dennis are always willing to do that, and last week was no exception. We organized some other kids and picked up branches- casualties from the ice storm- and chipped at ice for elderly folks in town for 3 hours in the cold and wet. (see picture) They were real troopers! And it helped that the kids were having fun throwing snowballs by the end of the day.

Victor has been wanting to walk on frozen water, so on the way home from our clean up project (since we were already wet and dirty), we stopped at a nearby lake to walk on the water. We took a quick picture to record the event and hastened home to get out of our wet socks!

The snowball fight (and our wet feet) signaled the end of our ice storm day home from school. But not the end of winter, I'm afraid. Good to know the sun is still there, even though we can't see it!