Thursday, May 26, 2011

Slave Castles, Jungles, and Crocodiles (May 7)

We woke up fairly early this morning to get an early start on one of the busiest and most jam-packed days of the whole trip, gallivanting around the Cape Coast/Elmina area of Ghana.

Our first stop was the Cape Coast slave castle, one of the few remaining castles in West Africa. Ghana has 3ish left: Cape Coast and Elmina are both used as well restored museums, while one in Accra is used as the presidential palace (odd way to use an old slave castle…). A few partial ones are scattered along the coast.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Wupatki National Monument (May 23)

We spent the night in Flagstaff so that we would have time to stop by Sunset Crater and the Wupatki National Monument in the morning. The visitor's center for Sunset Crater was very interesting. Rachel's favourite part was the seismometer—they had a pad you could jump on and it would record your own personal earth quake. 

My favourite part was a sign that said something like, "Whether the natives found it terrifying or fascinating, they no doubt wanted to find out what it was," as if the quality of being terrified rules out the possibility of being fascinated. I submit that it's possible to be both terrified and fascinated at the same time. 

Pokey the Tortoise (May 22)

We didn't have church until 12:30 in the afternoon. We were ready by 10:00 in the morning, complete with Rachel getting her hair curled by Grandma. Can you tell we've acclimatized to having 9:00 church? We hardly knew what to do with ourselves.

We took a few pictures of Rachel with her curly hair and then I sent the girls outside to play for a minute if they "promised not to get dirty" and then brought them back inside, literally, after a minute because they went straight for the dirt.

We love to see the temple (May 21)

You can't tell from the pictures we took (because we didn't take any) but today was wonderfully hot (not too hot but hot enough to warm the pool up quite a bit) and we spent hours by the pool. We didn't venture outside until after lunch, but then we spent a good solid five hours swimming. It was fabulous.

Children's Museum and more Russia friends (May 20)

We went to the Children's Museum in the morning; but barely. We made it there by 11:00, which was just in time for story time. They made an announcement to tell people where to gather for story time and since my girls love reading we headed on over. 

It was possibly the most boring story time I have ever gone to. As you can see my children were not very interested in the telling of the story. The staffer was standing on the complete opposite side of the room and read the book haltingly, without much enthusiasm. Rachel was polite enough to sit through the whole story. Miriam, on the other hand, tried to run away. Twice. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Un-cousins (May 19)

Arizona does not observe daylight savings and so even though they're right underneath Utah they're an hour behind Utah. That means that my dear children were suffering from a mild case of van lag—Rachel decided to wake up at 6:30 in the morning.

The upside was that I was able to work for a while before anyone else in the house was even awake. The downside was that I was on vacation and was up working before anyone else in the house was even awake. 

Fortunately, Aunt Marci babysits Barrett during the day and he was due to arrive at 7:30. Barrett is Andrew's cousin Therena's son. He turned four today, I believe, so he's just a couple of months older than Rachel. They met for the first time at the family reunion in October and were best buds; the minute they saw each other they picked up where they left off in October (ie. best buds).

Unfortunately, Barrett had to leave for preschool about an hour after he arrived.

Fortunately, Cyndle and Sterling, the children of Andrew's cousin Bethany, showed up soon after he left, this time providing playmates for both Rachel and Miriam. Rachel is two months older than Cyndle and Sterling is about six months older than Miriam. They had a grand old time.

They rode the "Ranger," a dune buggy of sorts (maybe; I don't actually know what it is...) with Uncle Rulon...

Through rain and hail and sleet and snow... (May 18)

I could live in Arizona. I don't think it's any secret that I'd rather sweat through the summer than freeze through the winter. And, seriously, we drove through rain and hail and sleet and snow to get to some nice, warm weather, which I find a little ridiculous since it's the middle of May!

I hate snow. 

I know a lot of people hate hot weather, but I much prefer jumping into a pool to cool off than shivering under the covers. And, as Uncle Rulon says, "You don't have to shovel heat!" 

Still here!

So, did you miss me? Or did you even notice I went on an unannounced sabbatical?

I wouldn't blame you either way.

We just got home from a trip to Arizona. We left on Wednesday and drove all day and then basically we just relaxed by the pool all day, every day...until today when we drove all day again. I've never been to Arizona, but that's where Karen (Andrew's mom) is from so she has a lot of family down there. We had a blast.

Or at least, I had a blast...when I wasn't working.

That's why I haven't blogged, at least, that's my excuse.

When I wasn't keeping my children from drowning I was working, working, working.

We took a ton of pictures and have a lot of stories to tell but for now I'll just check in before you think we dropped off the face of the planet or something.

Miriam has discovered the joy of apple juice. She's had it before, of course, but she basically lived on apple juice while we were driving. She has come up with her own word for it; it's a compound word: wawa-apples.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Бабушка Таня

Before I left for Russia I met a sweet Russian girl named Alla. She had recently moved to Utah from Russia to study English at BYU and she wanted to send a package home to her parents. Since I was headed to her hometown, I volunteered to take the package for her.

She was one of the sweetest girls I had ever met and completely put my mind at ease about moving halfway across the globe by myself. After all, she had just done it. She assured me it wouldn't be too cold in Voronezh since the weather there is about on par with Calgary, Alberta, and I had grown up there. She told me that her mom and dad were the kindest, sweetest couple and that they would take care of me if no one else would.

Of course, I had a host family set up for me—the family of a little boy, Alyosha, from the school where I would be teaching. They were such a young couple, though, that they said they were more like my host brother and sister and Alyosha was my host nephew. Thus it was that Tatiana became my Russian mother.

She wasn't a member of the church (yet—though both her children had already been baptized) but she would come to church almost every week. Sometimes I would sit next to her and sometimes I wouldn't but always there was a warm, motherly hug for me. 

So glad when Daddy comes home!

Rachel tip-toed into our bedroom early (well, was before 8:00) on Friday morning. She came over to my side of the bed and whispered,


Whatever she had been going to ask flew out of her mind when she noticed that there, beside me, was a snoozing Daddy.

"DADDY!" she screamed. 

She pulled herself onto the bed, hopped over me, and leapt onto her daddy, who was now very much awake. (That girl has lungs!)

Daddy helped the girls get breakfast and then we went on a family bike ride to the park. Both girls wanted to swing so I started pushing Miriam.

"Mommy—no push! Daddy push! Daddy push! Daddy push!" she told me.

Rachel had very much the same attitude. She kept asking questions, addressing no one in particular, and if I answered she would say, "I wasn't talking to you! I was talking to my daddy!"

Uncle Patrick stopped by in the afternoon to drop off a movie he had borrowed and he and Andrew had a grand old time swapping stories about Ghana. While he was there, Miriam uttered her first four-word sentence, which was: I kick my daddy. 

She raises vowels* like a farmer raises cattle, though, so all her vowels are very intense. Kick sounds like "keek." It's really cute (and kind of reminded me of Bartok on Anastasia).

When she had finished saying her sentence she walked over and kicked Andrew. 

The girls were excited for their gifts from Ghana. Andrew brought them some "mommy" dolls, complete with a "baby to their back."

Rachel's doll's name is Afua; she named the baby Miriam. Miriam's doll's name is Yaa and the baby's name is Baby. Both my girls are very original when it comes to naming babies. The mommy dolls had "birth certificates" of sorts on their backs so they were already named.

We've certainly been enjoying having our daddy home!

* There's this linguistic phenomenon known as Canadian raising, or as I learned it, Canadian vowel raising. It always made me think of barn raising for some reason; I'm not sure why. Anyway, Canadians raise vowels—which means that my little girlies say "bay-g" instead of "bah-g" when they say "bag" and I couldn't be prouder that I'm rubbing off on them!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Waiting for Daddy

As far as the girls knew, there was still one sleep left until Daddy came home. His plane didn't land until 10:09 PM on Thursday and he didn't walk through the door until just before midnight, so although I stayed up to wait for him there was no way I was going to let the girls do that! Instead they had a normal day without Daddy and went to bed with the promise that, barring any catastrophic event, Daddy would be home the next day.

Rachel went to school and Miriam played ballet.

Mutant Dandelion

Yesterday we went for a walk to visit my family. Rachel rode her bike horse named Phillipe. She wore the dress that Daddy picked up in Ghana for her. 

While we were in the front yard, I noticed an odd-looking plant. Its stem was as thick as my finger. I bent down to get a closer look and discovered that it was a triple-headed dandelion.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Blankey. Down. Bed.

So I never thought it would happen but today it finally did: one of my children asked for a nap. I've always read about people's children doing this but have never experienced it for myself. 

Miriam's been waking up in the night again. Haha. I think the only night she slept through the night the entire time Andrew's been gone was on Mother's Day Eve (a true Mother's Day Miracle). Anyway, she's getting her four canine teeth in right now and we all know how painfully slow a process teething is for Miriam. On top of that she's been sick. So, basically, we haven't been sleeping. That makes for a tired (and grumpy) baby, not to mention a tired (and grumpy) mommy.

Anyway, we just went on a walk to pick Rachel up from school and when we got home Miriam wanted to nurse. Again. So I fed her and when she was finished she said, "Blankey. Down. Bed."

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Dynamic Duo

Rachel asked me to tie her favourite blanket around her neck as a cape (or "cap" as she insisted on calling it). Her trusty sidekick, Miriam, soon showed up toting her favourite blanket and thrust it at me with a look on her face that read, "Whatever you just did for her, do it for me, too!"

Monday, May 09, 2011

Meanwhile, back at the "ranch"...

I realize this is no where near as interesting as Andrew's current adventures in Ghana, but here I go, anyway. This evening after we Skyped with Daddy (for the first time in well over a week, yippee!) I gave the girls dinner.

We had leftovers and fresh broccoli and cauliflower with ranch dressing. 

My girls love to watch Grandma get ready for the day. For some reason it's much more interesting than when I get ready for the day, probably because Grandma curls her hair (instead of throwing it into a ponytail) and puts make up on (instead of, well...not putting make up on). They find her whole routine absolutely fascinating  (I like to take the opportunity of having them entertained to work without having twenty billion demands thrown my way).

They have picked up on a few things, though. For example, Miriam has an acute fascination with "pretty eyes" and since I won't let her near mascara she's taken to dolling herself up with food. 

Tonight she painted her eyelashes with ranch dressing. Isn't she soooo pretty?

Third world field research = chaos (May 6)

Although we’re staying in an incredible beach resort, the whole point of this trip is to do actual work and research—we’re not playing all the time. This morning we woke up early and drove an hour east along the coast to the city of Takoradi, where we did some research for both of the projects we’re working on.

We first picked up a former bishop and current head of the Takoradi stake (or region?) Employment Resource Center, Bishop Adjei, who was to be our guide and navigator for the day, along with six young single adults who would translate for us.

I looked out my window and what did I see? (May 5)


The most intense market I’ve visited. Ever. (May 4)

Apart from being home to one of the largest university campuses in the country (the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, or KNUST, which is actually where we’re staying right now) and the palace of the Ashanti tribal king, Kumasi is famous for having West Africa’s largest market. And it is huge. Huger than anything I’ve ever seen.

Koforidua and Burro (May 3)

We left Accra again this morning to head north again (you can’t really go south…), this time to the city of Kumasi. On our way, though, we took a long detour on horrible roads to a smaller city named Koforidua, current home of an incredible social entrepreneur—the guy who invented Cranium, the board game.

Whit Alexander initially worked for Microsoft back in the 90s and was part of their Encarta team, which helped make digital encyclopedias really useful (helping Wikipedia out years before it even existed). He left Microsoft after a few years to start his own company, but rather than get into the dotcom craziness (which would later come crashing down), he created a board game (the ever-awesome Cranium) which eventually grew into a huge gaming franchise. He sold the Cranium corporation off a few years ago and decided to move to Ghana and start up a socially sensitive business.

Makola Market (May 2)

I woke up to history this morning—Osama bin Laden was finally killed by American special forces in Pakistan. Nancy already posted about it, and the ongoing debate on my Facebook page (which I can’t really even participate in, given the slow internet out here), pretty much sums up my feelings about it. Yeah he’s gone, but he hasn’t done much with al-Qaeda in the past few years and the branch of al-Qaeda he actually had influence on is tiny (al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and al-Qaeda in Iraq are largely unaffiliated, for example). He was evil, yes, but over the past decade our propaganda has elevated him to the status of a satanic demigod; the pure embodiment of evil. The endless war on terrorism will continue to be endless—there just won’t be a scary, universally recognized name attached to it. Oh well. And all the chanting of “USA! USA!”; kind of embarrassing. Again, oh well.

Unexpected General Conference and Tour Buses (May 1)

Rather than wake up super early in time for 9 AM church, we decided to sleep in (ahhh…) and attend at 11 AM at the stake center at the temple compound. Our original plan was to go to all three hours of church and then meet with any members who either had a vocational or technical (VOTEC) degree or were interested in getting a PEF loan to complete their tertiary education. We were going to ask the bishop to make an announcement during sacrament meeting so we could have lots of people to interview.

We got to church 20 minutes early so we could arrange all the details with the bishop, but to our surprise, the ward was already all gathered in the chapel. They were halfway through the Saturday afternoon session of the most recent General Conference, which they apparently missed when it was broadcast a month ago. This presented a big problem for our PEF/VOTEC research—they weren’t going to have sacrament meeting or normal church, and we didn’t even know if the bishop or any other leader was there to help us organize everything. Eek.

The Island (April 30)

Although I’ve been in the country for 5 days now, half of our group has been here for a lot longer. Six of the people in the study abroad came a few days early to stay with some village families in Pediatorkorpe, the final island before the Volta river meets the ocean (and henceforth known as the Island). Ben Markham, a BYU graduate and founder of Empower Playgrounds—the company that uses merry-go-rounds and swing sets to generate electricity for villages—has close connections to the Island, which has one of the early playgrounds. For the past couple years BYU students with the MPA trip have been going early to get a taste of rural Ghanaian life.

Mother's Day Ramblings

This morning when I asked Miriam what she wanted to wear she said, "Pink, pink, pink!" So I pulled a pink dress out of the closet (not that there's much else in there, colour-wise) and helped her into it. She flounced around, smoothed down her dress, and said, "Super pretty!"

She is feeling so much better. She ate and ate and ate today and I was so glad because she's hardly eaten a thing all week! The real way I could tell she's feeling better, though, is that she's started climbing things again. I caught her on the table emptying the salt and pepper shakers again (she disappeared while I was helping Rachel button her pyjamas).

Rachel showered me with gifts this week—she made a present at school (a thumbprint flower) earlier this week and today she made a gift at Sunbeams (a handprint with a poem) at church and after church she made a "surprise" with Grandma (a heart-shaped box that she painted) while Miriam and I took a nap.

Tonight while I was singing lullabies and cuddling my girls (and keeping the little one from kicking the big one and the big one from shoving the little one) Rachel nuzzled her head into my shoulder and whispered, "I love you, Mom!"

Sometimes I don't know what prompts her, but I love it when she tells me that for no reason. It was my favourite gift of all.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Nothing but a weed

A dandelion, you'll agree
Is nothing but a weed. 

It starts out yellow then bursts forth
With little puffs of seed.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Funny Rachel

Last night we were having a gourmet meal of boxed macaroni and cheese and canned fruit cocktail. We decided to go all out since Daddy's not here.

Rachel spilled some of her fruit on the floor.

"Oh, no—I spilled some fruit on the floor!" she said and then shrugged her shoulders. "That's okay. You can sweep it up later."

Then this morning Andrew called while we were still eating breakfast. Our phone calls rarely go well; he calls over the internet and the internet has been so unstable. He tried to have a conversation with me but the line kept cutting out so he finally just called and said, "I LOVE YOU!" really fast before the phone went dead. After I hung up the phone for the last time, Rachel said,

"Did Daddy go to Ghana with his school friends?"

The whole kitchen went silent. Grandpa, who had been doing dishes or something, turned to stare at me.

"School! She said school," I clarified.

Rachel still struggles with consonant clusters so school comes out sounding like a homophone of girl.

School = ghoul because she can't say "sk," and girl = ghoul because she can't say "rl."

Yes, Daddy went to Ghana with his school friends, but we'll just try to not have Rachel tell anybody that. Like, ever.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Happy, happy! Joy, joy!

Ever since Tuesday afternoon, Rachel has been practically perfect in every way. It's been so nice—she's been helpful and obedient and hasn't thrown fits. Lovely, lovely, lovely.

Last night when she was saying her bedtime prayer she prayed that "Satan won't come into our home."

We've had some pretty lengthy discussions recently about how when we make bad choices (eg. throwing huge fits and being disobedient and using unkind words) then we're making Satan happy and are inviting his spirit into our home, but when we make good choices (eg. being helpful and obedient and kind) then we're making Heavenly Father happy and are inviting his spirit into our home.

Rachel's been very concerned about having Satan in our home for the past few days and if she starts getting uppity all I have to do is ask her who she wants to please...Satan or Heavenly Father.

I'm so glad that she wants to do what is right, even though sometimes it seems that making the right choice is boring or hard or unfair, because choosing the right is really what makes us happy.

I know I have been happier the last couple of days and all the evidence I've seen indicates that she's happier as well. It's just so nice when I ask her to empty the dishwasher to have it happen immediately (and happily) instead of having it take all day (and involve several fits). It's nicer for both of us.

I remember my mom always saying, "You can _______ and be happy or you can _______ and be miserable, either way you still have to ________."

The blanks were filled in with anything from "do the dishes" to "sing in sacrament meeting" to "walk to school" or anything I didn't want to do. It was a good lesson to learn because as a grown up there are so many things that I do simply because they have to be done and not necessarily because I want to do them—especially now that I'm a mother—but I know that I can always choose to be happy about doing what needs to be done.

I also remember, years ago, coming across a scripture in D&C 123:17. I think eventually I may make a plaque of it and hang it in our home.

"...let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power..."

I think it's a good motto.

Blossoming vocabulary

We were lucky enough to get to talk with Bumpa (in Germany) and Daddy (in Ghana) today.

Miriam insisted that she get her turn to talk on the lo-lo. That's what she calls the telephone; I'm not quite sure why but it's either because we say "Hello" when we answer it or because she has a play phone with Elmo on it that sings "La, la, la, la! Elmo's world!" No matter the reason behind it, it's cute.

When she got on the lo-lo with Bumpa all she said was "Daddy?" over and over again.

When she got on the lo-lo with Daddy, about an hour later, she said, "Daddy? Daddy! Sick, Meme."

She's a little sickie girl. She has a horrible cough and was fevering all night long—her temperature was nearly 103°F when she woke up this morning, but it's since gone down. She also has a nasty case of diarrhea.

We're still nursing, though I'm thinking of stopping soon because she's getting a little too descriptive with her desires. During church on Sunday she was pulling at my clothes and asking for "nurh-nurh," which is normal for her. What isn't normal is that after I ignored her for a few minutes she started getting impatient and added a new word.

"SUCK!" she whined, "Nurh-nurh! Suck! Suck! Want! Suck! Nurh-nurh!"

It was a tad embarrassing.

As my mom said, either I need to wean her or she needs to stop increasing her vocabulary. 

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Cookies, Cubs, Kites

This afternoon the girls and I made cookies; I haven't made any kind of treat for the cub scouts in several weeks and they were beginning to question my devotion. The kitchen was certainly messier than if I had made cookies by myself but the girls definitely had fun helping so I suppose the mess was worth it. 

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Little Miss Polar Opposite meets a caterpillar

Due to her behavior last night...and this morning...and early this afternoon...Rachel was banned from friends, television, candy, and, according to her, "anything that's fun in the house." She's a little melodramatic, though, so you can rest assured that she was not banned from doing anything that's fun. She just felt that she was. For a while she didn't know what to do with herself and asked me to come up with a craft for her to do. 

Ordinarily this wouldn't have been a problem but I was trying to work and Miriam was awake and the idea of getting out glue and scissors and other such things while trying to finish working and keeping the baby entertained (read: out of the glue and away from the scissors) was a little too much for me. 

"I don't know if I can think up a craft idea right now," I said to Rachel.

"Yes, you can, Mommy! I know you can because you have a brain!"

Yes, child, as do you. 

Instead of managing craft timet I got the girls settled down with a colouring book and some crayons. Rachel helped Miriam "learn" her colours—she now knows pink, blue, and purple, which means we could teach her the complex idea that (blue + pink = purple). That might be asking a bit much considering she doesn't even know green from yellow or orange from black. 

Anyway, after Miriam went down for her nap and I had finished getting in half of the time I needed to at work, I took Rachel outside with me to move the recycling from the bin in the garage into the big recycling can so that we can move it into the street for pick up tomorrow. Usually this is Daddy's job but since he's in Ghana (and it's warm) we did it for him. While we were doing so we found some egg cartons and decided we would reuse them instead of recycling them.

We turned them into caterpillars and Rachel's been happily playing with them ever since.

Families are complicated

"How could you break my heart? How could you break my heart? I have a broken heart! How could my mom do this to me?" —Rachel, age 3
I hate everything in the world.

Of course that's not actually true, but I'm quoting plays again; that's a line from the Curious Savage that I've used before and most likely will use again. Most of all, right now, I hate being a mom. I hate it all the way from my paint-chipped toe nails to my split ends.

Tonight was fine up until bedtime and then it was horrendous but even as horrible as tonight was I don't ever want it to end...because when it does end I have to face my children again.

And I'm really not sure that I can.

How could you break my heart? How could you break my heart?

I have a broken heart!

How could my daughter do this to me?

—Me, age 25

Monday, May 02, 2011

Ding, dong Bin Laden's dead

Andrew, this is for you...since it's 4:00 AM in Ghana...and I just experienced history without you.

(Hahahahaha; it hurts, doesn't it?)

Wake up, sleepy head! Rub your eyes, get out of bed!
Wake up, Bin Laden now is dead! 
He's gone where the terrorists go,
Below, below, below. Yo-ho! 
Let's open up and sing and ring the bells out.
Ding Dong, the merry-oh. Sing it high. Sing it low.
Let them know, Bin Laden now is dead!

As Pres'dent of the States United, in the White House in the land DC,
I say to you, most regally,
And we've even verified it legally, to see...