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Soundtrack of our first year in Gabon

These are the songs that I played almost nonstop this past year. If you have time to listen, I included links to the songs. If not, the lyrics most important to me are quoted in my explanations below.

Passport Home by JP Cooper
This song was shared with me by my sister-in-law Alia. So one reason I love the song is because it makes me feel closer to Alia. Also, the lyrics are beautiful. The theme of passport and home really resonant with me and my lifestyle. I like the idea of the person you love being your passport to getting home.This song also makes me think of when I return to my parents and siblings and the families my siblings have made, and how they always welcome us back. They're our guiding light to the idea of America as our home.

You're the only one who knows 
every weakness I've exposed 
and I can't believe you chose 
to see this through.

You're my passport home, 
my guiding light, my hand to hold.

Runnin' Home to You by Grant Gustin
This song evokes a few m…
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Swing sets for School children

Everywhere I live, I like to get involved with volunteer work. Sometimes it's with my church or at my kids' school or in the community. You're my friends—you all know this about me. One project I have been involved with here in Gabon is helping a friend put swing sets in at public schools. In November, my local friends and I pooled our funds to put in a swing set at this school. 
See? There is really nowhere to play.

My friends and I were able to place this swing set there. From an American mindset, thinking on the large playground structures we have at our schools, it seems so, so small for a school with so many children. 

But when I visited the school on the swing set's first day of use, it was clear that the students did not think it was too small. (And wow! What a difference it makes to have that back wall painted!)

For most of these kids, this is the first time they had ever slid down a slide or swung on a swing. There are no public playgrounds here. Nothing at t…

Thanksgiving: Turkeys and Turtles

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you in the United States! I hope you were able to spend a relaxing day with those you love.
For those of you who are not familiar with Thanksgiving, it is a holiday that for Americans falls on the fourth Thursday of November. On that day, it is typical to play or watch American football, watch parades, and eat a very large meal with your family. Almost all businesses are closed on that day, and the government and schools are closed. It is a day to express gratitude for everything we have.
I have celebrated Thanksgiving every single year of my life, but only recently have I been the "senior female" for the day. Perhaps it is sexist, but in my experience usually the women cook the turkey. (Thanksgiving meals tend to center around a turkey.) So, for most of my adulthood, I have been in charge of side dishes or pie, and I am quite good at those. The very few times I have been responsible for the turkey, I've taken the easy road and only done tur…

So much to say

When there is so much to say
But words can't be found
To express what is wanted to be said;

When there are so many feelings felt
That it feels impossible to untangle
What exactly made you sad;

When experiences have lingered
And memories rehashed
So frequently that it's hard to remember;

When there is so much to say—
So much—
So much so that nothing ends up being said,


Nothing at all.
So perhaps there was never anything to say at all.

A mother's shower

A mother's shower: Not to be confused with a baby shower

Oh, boy. I stink! I’d better grab a quick shower.

“Jill, I’m going to shower. Can you keep an eye on Gordon in the bath? Thanks!”

I'd better be quick.

Come on, water! Get warmer.

Ahhh, finally. That feels nice. Wait, what's that noise?

“Mom, I can’t get the hot water to stop on the bidet.”

“Do you mean can’t get the water to turn cold or you can’t turn it off at all?”

“I can’t get it to turn off at all.”

“Is it shooting out all over the floor or just in the bidet?”

“Just in the bidet.” 
“Okay, thanks for telling me. I’ll figure it out when I’m out of the shower.”

Where was I? Okay, shampoo. Quick, quick, quick. Oh, not again.

“Mom, I don’t have any more clean underwear.”
“Yes, you do. It’s in the laundry basket in your room waiting for you to put away on your shelves.”
“Your clean clothes are in your room. In the corner—in the laundry basket.”

Okay, rinse. Conditioner. Better hurry! Well, here's another one.


The other side of perfect

I get asked a lot how I manage with four kids. I have a number of friends with more kids than I have, but I have many, many friends with fewer kids or no kids. And it is pretty common to hear "I don't know how you do it!" Recently a friend joked about the "magic mom juice" I must be drinking—I'd love to get my hands on something like that. 
I share a lot of happy pictures of us online for my friends and family to see and for me to have a record of to look back upon, because those are the moments I like to remember. There is also the thought that someday my kids will be online, and I don't know that they'd like to see the bad moments that they've (hopefully) grown out of by then.
But we have bad moments. We have bad days. If I wanted to be negative, I could even say we've had bad weeks and bad months. Stretches of time where I couldn't get one kid to stop biting a sibling. Stretches of time where I couldn't get another kid to stop hit…

Elementary school stories

One of Jill's assignments this evening was to write an approximately 200-word story. The teacher had a variety of images, and each student got to select one to use as a prompt for his or her story. Jill asked me to help her with her story, but I told her I couldn't, because at the last school meeting, the parents were all told to stop helping their kids so much. Apparently, helpful parents like me were doing too much of the homework and when the students were asked how they got those answers, they couldn't say how. We were told one of the reasons why our children don't receive letter grades is so that they can feel willing to try, because they're not afraid of failure. The teachers would rather our kids fail on their own while trying to solve the problems than to turn in perfect answers without learning how and why those were the right answers.

Sounds reasonable.

Jill compromised and decided that if I couldn't help her write her story (*cough* write her story f…