Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas Carols, according to Tyson

We made it back safely from MN yesterday around 1 pm. Darin emptied the van, then got right back in it to go watch the Vikings game, which wasn't being shown on basic cable. Welcome back to real life.

Tyson loved listening to all the Christmas songs on the radio, at church and at school this year. It is funny to listen to him sing the songs how he hears them. For example, "Gloria in Excelsis Deo" is now "Gloria, shall we say-o, Gloria shall we stay-o". My favorite the last line of the "Jingle Bells" chorus. I mean, riding in a one horse open sleigh is fun, but "Oh what fun it is to write in soap and sleigh" has a certain charm, don't you think?

I can't leave little, I mean "I bigguh than you" Jori out either. She has been listening to Tyson sound out words, like b-b-b ball, and now goes around saying "My name is K-k-k Juh-O-wee". Makes me laugh every time.

*Update 12/30 I forgot my most favorite thing Tyson said over Christmas. On the movie, Monsters Inc., they keep calling in a 2319 (like a police code, "we have a 2319"). My sweet Tyson kept saying "we have a twenty three whah-wheen". Seriously, it cracks me up.

Time to go finish my laundry. I know! I am totally on the ball.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas in Sioux Falls

We hope you all had a blessed Christmas. We've heard that those of you in the Northwest are having some weather difficulties. My parents church in Lynden didn't even have a Christmas service today because of all the crazy snow. We enjoyed a wonderful service in Edgerton, once again hearing the story of Jesus' birth.

It is about 9 pm right now, and Darin and I are in Sioux Falls. This is the first time in 7 years we have gone "away" for our anniversary. It has been great so far and we know grandma and grandpa are enjoying their time with the kids too. We went to a movie around 5, called "7 Pounds" with Will Smith. I would definitely recommend it, even to my parents! It was so good, and of course I cried. I think I will watch it again on DVD someday so that I can really get all the tears out. Sobbing in a movie theater is not so great, but I always love watching a "weeper" in the comfort of my own home!

Tomorrow we are heading to Sioux Center, Iowa for some family pictures. We'll hang out at LaShawn and Kyle's for most of the day and might even head to the pool. Saturday we have a Christmas party around noon, and then we are planning on leaving around 4 or 5 and driving for about 7 hours, then finishing the drive on Sunday. So far, it looks as though the weather will cooperate and we should have a smooth drive home. We'll see...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Birthday, Jesus

It is almost 11 pm on Christmas Eve. I should have gone to bed a long time ago, but I didn't. We have been having a wonderful time in Edgerton. We celebrated Christmas with Darin's family last night. It was so much fun to see the kids get so excited. Tyson is the proud owner of a big kid bike (with a kickstand!) lots of new "doctor" stuff and all sorts of other fun things. Jori has already been busy setting up her new dollhouse and will have lots of fun with her new purse, books, tea set and more.

This morning we had cinnamon rolls. Tyson, Jori and Israel all got to blow out a candle for baby Jesus. I am eager to see how much Tyson pays attention tomorrow during church. We have been talking a lot about Joseph, Mary, the shepherds and all the other characters in the wonderful story of Christmas. We drove by Grandpa and Grandma Fey's church this afternoon and Jori kept saying "I want to go to the nursery". Hopefully she is still so eager when we drop her off there tomorrow morning.

We hope you are all enjoying time with family and friends and celebrating the birth of our Savior. Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Rules of the Road

For those of you who don't know, we are in Edgerton, Minnesota right now. We left Friday around 5 pm and after stopping in Madison, WI for the night, we got here around 2:30 pm on Saturday. It was NOT a fun ride. We kept calling Darin's family to see how the weather was by them, and they kept telling us "As long as it doesn't get any worse, you should be able to make it". It got worse. We still made it, but it is not a trip I want to repeat.

Today all the churches in the area were cancelled. We were under a blizzard warning for most of the afternoon. For some reason, we decided it would be ok to head to Darin's sister who lives about 20 minutes away. There is a reason they tell people to stay off the road during this kind of weather, which we soon found out. As soon as we were out of town, we had a hard time seeing the road. It was so windy and there were drifts in both lanes of traffic and the snow was blowing so much that all of a sudden we'd be in a white out. We kept going.

We were about 5 miles away from Daci's place when Darin had to find a driveway to turn into. Our power steering had gone out and the lights were starting to go out as well. It turns out a belt had come loose, probably from all the snow that was packed under the van from the drifts we went over yesterday. Darin and his dad braved the cold and ended up taking the belt off. The van started up, so we decided to keep driving. NOT a good idea. About a half mile down the road, the van crapped out. We were able to coast down a hill for a little bit, then we just stopped. So, now we were sitting half on and half off of the road. We couldn't get all the way off because we would have ended up in a snow filled ditch. We had NO heat and it got cold fast. We were all a bit concerned about the low visibility because if a car had come up behind us, they probably would have crashed into our van. Thankfully, Daci's husband, Justin, was able to come and pull us back to their house with his truck. We just had to wait for him to finish pulling a calf!

Darin and Justin were able to get the belt back on, but we are going to have to take the van in as the heat isn't working. Not ideal in this weather. So, if you are heading out on the road, make sure you listen to all those "worry warts" and have a blanket, water, food, flashlight, and whatever else you might need in case you get stuck somewhere. Better yet, just stay home!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Bible Memory Time

Tyson and Jori have been learning some Bible verses that we wanted to share with you. Jori is first. In case you can't understand her, check out Genesis 1:1 and Matthew 1:21.

Now it's Tyson's turn. The first verse he says is Luke 2:11. He then goes on with a slightly different version of the same verse.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Our week

I really don't have much to say, but thought I'd better give a little update, as I will probably not write much while we are in MN over Christmas. Yes, we are once again heading to Edgerton for the holidays. We are looking forward to meeting our soon to be sister-in-law, Jordan, and our new nephew Zachary, and seeing the rest of the fam.

It has been a pretty quiet week around here. I did go to the doctor on Monday and was told I have a "slipped" rib. I had been having some pain since Thursday night, and it kept getting worse. Monday and Tuesday were pretty miserable, but it is starting to feel somewhat better.

Darin has been staying busy at work. Innotec has been feeling the pinch with the problems in the auto industry, but we are thankful that his job is still secure. Tyson and Jori still seem a little confused about why daddy isn't home, as they did get quite used to seeing him most of the day while we were in Africa.

It has been cold and snowy here, so we have been spending a lot of time indoors. Makes me feel a little bit stir crazy, but it does keep our spending down! We hope that you are all doing well, even though we don't know who all of "you" are. Feel free to leave a comment sometime.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Watch out Batman and Robin...

There's a new super duo in town! Introducing "Tyson Jake" and "Jori Patty"

They look pretty menacing, don't you think. Their full names are actually "Tyson Jake Pirate Superhero" and "Jori Patty Pirate Superhero". I came up with the "Patty", but everything else was all Tyson.

If only all superhero's got along so well.

My friend Amy made these capes for the kid's birthdays this past summer. They are the perfect superhero attire.

These are their scary pirate faces, although Jori is about as scary looking as a fluffy kitten. I am so thankful that Tyson and Jori have become such great playmates. Yes, I do still hear the occasional blood curdling scream, which means that someone either got a chunk of hair ripped out or was just whacked on the head with a toy phone, but for the most part they just love to be together.

What happened while I wasted time on-line

Yeah, I am not going to hide the fact that I was being lazy when the following event occurred. I was upstairs taking a break from my most precious children, checking my email, reading random blogs, and other mindless things for about 20 minutes this afternoon. I was going to stay up there longer, but thought that I should really go downstairs, get the kids a snack, maybe play with them. You know, mom stuff.

So, I get to our main floor, hear Jori giggling, turn the corner into the kitchen and see black stuff on my floor. I knew exactly what it was. See for yourself:

Yes, my children had opened a lid that I assumed they would not be able to open and had grabbed HANDFULLS of brownie. Their messy approach to snacking left a trail of evidence on the kitchen floor. I could hear more giggling coming from the stairs. It was Jori, picking up crumbs that had fallen onto the carpet. Tyson was unable to make a sound as brownie was bulging out of his mouth. I told them to "GET UP HERE RIGHT NOW" and immediately made him spit all the brownie that was in his mouth into the garbage. He didn't seem too upset by this because he had already eaten a couple handfulls before I found out what they were doing. The pan was about 3/4 full. Earlier in the day the three of us had eaten the partial row-from that piece of edge down. The rest was scooped out by my children's grubby little hands.

That's what happens when you take the lazy path.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Merry Christmas

Ok, so I told Darin we ARE getting our Christmas letter out tonight, otherwise it will probably never happen. We might be sending it out in an email too, so I apologize if we bombard some of you, but we know some people do not follow our blog. Shocking, I know. If only they knew what they were missing out on. So enjoy and feel free to pass it on to anyone who may like to know what we've been up to.

I seem to have used up any wit that I may have possessed in writing on our family's blog, so we'll see how this letter turns out. I'll skip the whole "I can't believe another year has passed..." and get right to the good stuff.

2008 has been a great year for the Fey's. We have our health, a home, job security (for now), full stomachs, and the freedom to worship our great God. Having those 5 things puts us way ahead of many people here in our country and around the world.
Tyson finished up his first year of preschool and recently started on year 2. Once again, he is going to Jamestown Elementary 3 days a week and loves it. I think he would gladly go 5 days if they'd let him. Tyson is 4 1/2, (almost 5, he reminds us almost every day) and is still as busy as ever. Jori is now 2 1/2. She loves her big brother and misses him when he is at school. They really have become the best of friends.
Nothing much has changed for either Darin or myself. He is still employed at Innotec, though he just changed to a different division, and I continue to stay home with the kids. We will be have been married for 7 years on December 22.
This past year we were able to spend time with family and friends both here in Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin and even Florida. My parents were able to make the trip to Michigan several times this year and we were able to get together with Darin's family in May and July of this year. We have plans to see them again this Christmas. I made my first trip ever to Florida with a group of college friends. We had a great time together and are already making plans for another girls only vacation.
As most of you know, we spent the months of September, October and part of November in South Africa. Darin is fortunate to work for a company that gives its employees a 3 month sabbatical after the employee has worked there for 7 years. We have made other trips to South Africa and decided that it would be a great opportunity to introduce our kids to the country. We were so blessed by the 10 weeks that we were over there. We know that many of you were praying for our health and safety while we were gone, and we are happy to report that we had no problems while we were in Africa. Darin did get sick on the flight home, but technically, we weren't in Africa anymore, so it doesn't really count.
Our time in Africa was such a blessing to us. We met so many incredible people who are working to take care of orphans and those affected by HIV/AIDS and deep poverty. We were able to share their stories with many people back in the states and saw God working through that in a mighty way. We have been home less than a month and are now trying to grapple with how the things we experienced in South Africa should change our lives here in Michigan.
I couldn't possibly write about all the things we saw and did, but I'll give you a few highlights. Darin, my dad (my parents joined us for our last 3 weeks in South Africa) and I bungy jumped off the Bloukrans Bridge, the highest bridge bungy jump in the world, we played in a cage with baby lions, we fed and pet elephants-both big and small, we saw a lion eating a zebra in the wild and we rode on ostriches. Those really were awesome experiences. It was amazing to see the vastness of God's creation. I believe I speak for both Darin and myself when I say that we would gladly give up having done all of those things just to be able to go back and see the friends that we have made. Friends like Amos, Mama Rebecca, Mama Cathrine, and the Hardings are missed.

That's really all I have to report. With lots of love,
Darin, Jonna, Tyson and Jori

Knysna Elephant Park

On the beach by our condo in Cape Town, Table Mountain in the background

On top of Table Mountain

Saying goodbye to Momma Rebecca and Amos at our Africa house

Holding a python at Predator World

Friday, December 5, 2008

Happy Friday!

It is a snowy and cold day here in Michigan. Brrr. So, this morning, I load the kids in the van to take Tyson to preschool, get in the drivers seat and see that the dashboard is lit up. Strange. Well, it turns out somebody didn't turn the ignition completely off yesterday, and now the battery is dead. That somebody is me. Thankfully, we just joined a carpool this week, so I called one of Tyson's classmates and they were able to come get him. I was supposed to do pick up duty today, but that's not happening. I do feel bad, but am also thankful because as I mentioned before, I do not like driving in the snow. I am glad that Tyson could still go to school this morning. He would have been so disappointed if he had missed "Teddy Bear Day".

It has been a relaxing week here at the Fey's. We have been staying pretty close to home, although I did take both kids grocery shopping on Tuesday, which wasn't a pleasant experience, but it did take up the whole afternoon. On Wednesday night I went out for dinner with Sarah and Robin, two friends who have both spent time in South Africa. It was great to reconnect with them, share memories of the time we spent in Africa, and share all the crazy emotions we've had since being home.

For the past week, I have had a hacking cough. It's loud enough that Tyson can hear me over his sound machine as he's falling asleep. I've been tired all week from losing sleep at night while I cough and cough and cough. I have been taking lots of little naps on the couch and staying in bed as long as I can in the morning. Tyson and Jori have been getting along so well this week, just when I really needed them to keep each other busy! It has been fun seeing them grow closer together. Whenever Tyson is crying, Jori is right there to say "I give you a kiss and a hug. Dat make it all better, Wight?" You are right Jori!

Tonight Darin and I have our small group Christmas party. We can't wait! We are in charge of the "Not so Newlywed" game this year. Fun times. I can't wait to pass off our garbage gift, in the white elephant gift exchange. Good times.

Thursday, December 4, 2008


I apologize to anyone who happened to check out our blog earlier today. My friend Tiffany just called to ask me why I had a video of 2 men dancing on my blog, which was news to me. I had uploaded the dancing elves (or so I thought) this morning, but it never would open on our computer, so THANK YOU TIFFANY, and for anyone who happened to see the other video, sorry.

We'll be posting our Christmas letter soon. I know, I know. Last year we emailed it out, which some of you weren't so fond of and now we're posting it on out blog. Tis the season! At least I finally decided to put out some Christmas decorations today. Tyson kept saying "Jori, it's almost Christmas. Look at the snowmen in the kitchen!". I'm waiting one more year to put up a tree. Sad, but so much less stress for the mommy.

I hope this works this time...

Send your own ElfYourself eCards

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Our weekend

Just so no one feels bad for us eating turkey brats on Thanksgiving, I thought I'd tell you about the rest of our weekend. On Friday, Darin went into work for 5 hours. The kids and I hung out at home, colored, played, made books and did some other fun stuff. Darin came home and took Tyson out to run a few errands while Jori was sleeping. Around 5, some of our small group came over with their kids to just hang out and eat pizza. It was a lot of fun being able to talk more with them about our time in Africa and catch up on things we missed out on and the kids had a great time running around with their friends. We missed you, Hazards and Walters!

On Saturday we had a lazy morning. In the afternoon, Darin and Tyson went to Innotec to fill the vending machines. Tyson woke up on Saturday morning saying he couldn't walk. He was having trouble straightening one of his legs and was limping all around the house. We thought he was kidding, but after watching his leg give out a couple times we were convinced! He had been crawling around when he first got up, so he was pretty excited that he could walk again (slowly) and go help daddy "do the vending".

Around 4:30, we met Jason and Liz Cook, who stayed with us in our Africa house for 2 weeks, at McDonald's. The kids had fun playing in the play land and we had fun catching them up on people and places they became familiar with during their time in South Africa. Tyson and Jori were excited to see Jason and Liz again and on the way home Jori kept saying "where Jason 'n Liz at?".

We went to church this morning. I was in nursery for both services, but still managed to hear some of the awesome worship music. We have both really enjoyed being back at Evergreen as it was one of the things we missed the most while we were in South Africa.

All in all, we had a great Thanksgiving and a fantastic weekend. Now we are getting a ton of snow, which doesn't thrill me. I am really hoping that Tyson will have school tomorrow and that the plows will come through to clear the roads. My snow driving skills, while much improved from my first year of driving in Michigan, are nothing to brag about. So if you see me out on the road, consider yourself warned!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving with the Feys

It is 4 pm right now. So far we have had a wonderful Thanksgiving. We went to church this morning (Tyson sat through the whole service, Jori made it about 2/3 of the way through), had lunch, put Jori down for a nap, and have been enjoying a very quiet day of newspaper reading and football watching.

Since preschool on Monday, Tyson has been asking where we were going on Thanksgiving. When we told him we were staying at our house he said "But my teacher said we get to go somewhere!" We did have several invites to join different friends at their Thanksgiving feasts, but we decided to stay home and celebrate with just the four of us. Our meal was a bit unconventional, but we tried to make it as traditional as possible. Here's the turkey part of our meal

They were actually pretty good. Darin even said he would be willing to eat the turkey version from now on. We didn't have green bean casserole, but we did have some canned green beans. Here's our family sitting down to eat our Thanksgiving feast

*please take special note of Tyson's indian headband and the beautiful turkey centerpiece that he made at church.

While Jori was sleeping, Tyson and I made brownies. I am guessing that at least half the pan will be gone by the time we go to bed, if not more. Right now the kids are playing outside. Here are some pics for your viewing pleasure

I felt that Jori's outfit really deserves a close up

Thanks Auntie Rachel for the beautiful snowsuit!

We hope that you are all having a blessed Thanksgiving day.

Monday, November 24, 2008


We have been home for almost 2 weeks, yet it seems like so much longer than that. I think part of that is because we have not had any communication with the people we spent time with in Hammanskraal. Darin has sent a couple emails trying to get information on how things are going at Mama Cathrine's, but we haven't heard back from anyone. Hopefully we'll know something later this week.

We did send out some pictures to Amos, Mama Rebecca and Mama Cathrine last week, so I hope to hear when those arrive. We'll be sure to put an update on here as soon as we hear anything. I wish that it did not take almost 24 hours to get to South Africa and I wish that the tickets to get there were not as pricey as they are. I have already started thinking about the next time we'll be back there. I hope that it isn't too far down the road.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Hide it under a bushel-yes, please do!

Ok, so those aren't the lyrics many of us have grown up knowing. How's it supposed to go? Hide it under a bushel-NO! I'm gonna let it shine. So then, what's with the word mix-up in the title?

The other day, Darin and I were reading an article on-line about someone from his hometown who recently suffered a serious injury on Halloween. After reading the article, we decided to scan through the comments to see if there was any additional information. Here is one of the comments we came across from a person who calls him/herself "I love Jesus" :

Hhhhhhmmmm this is why I don't like this Holiday. To many accidents and it is satan's holiday anyhow. Not sure I have remorse for this person. Bar and Casino hhhmmm Probably from someone smoking & drinking??? hhhhhmmmmm Still will pray for his healing and quick recovery

Wow, what a witness. A man is in the hospital with severe, life threatening injuries and "I love Jesus" decides that this is the time to make a case against Halloween, smoking and drinking. I guess it's all ok, because this person is still going to be praying for the victim.

WAKE UP PEOPLE. I am a far from perfect witness. There have been many times in my life, especially when I was younger, that I got up on my Christian pedestal, opened my big mouth, and said things about a situation or a person without really thinking about what I was saying. I mean, I was a Christian and I was speaking out against bad, sinful things, so of course I could do no wrong. I am sure there are people out there who could even give recent examples of my doing this.

Now, I know the recent elections are a very touchy subject for many people out there. There are a lot of people who think that America is going to hell in a hand basket. I am a pretty apathetic person when it comes to politics. I don't do a lot of research, and this year I didn't even vote (shame!) so I am not going to even get into all the political stuff, but the things that I have heard some Christians say (or write) were enough to make me cringe. I mean, can you really say without a doubt that someone is or is not a Christian?

And when it comes to dealing with the issues of abortion and homosexuality, the anger and hate and ugliness that comes from the mouths of people who say they are only speaking God's truth is something that as Christian's we should all be ashamed of. I personally believe both abortion and homosexuality are sinful, but that doesn't mean its ok to hurl insults and tear down those who believe otherwise. (However, I think it is equally wrong that many left-leaning Christian's seem to have turned their back on these two issues and often seem to put down or criticize people who vote for a candidate primarily for these two things.)

I know that I do not speak up enough as a Christian. I am often afraid of what people will think of me. I also lack the confidence to say what I believe, because I am sure that the people on the other side of the issue will talk me under the table. I often hear Christian's say that we are losing our voice and that our concerns are not being heard. Maybe that's because too many of us are like "I love Jesus". Do we really think that we are advancing the Kingdom when we make comments like that? So please, speak up, but if you can't do it in love, please keep it to yourself.

Friday, November 21, 2008

It's a sin??

So, Darin was reading over my last post, and we got into a little "discussion" about smoking. The first time Darin read the post I had written that smoking was wrong. I later changed it to smoking is harmful and yucky. Why? Well, to me saying smoking is wrong is pretty close to saying it is sinful and I don't feel comfortable saying that because it's one of those things I don't have an answer to (among many other things).

So back to our discussion. Darin noticed the change in words and I told him why I made the change and he pulled out the whole "our body is God's temple" argument. So then I said if he is going to say that smokers are sinning for causing harm to their bodies, he should also be pointing the finger at people who choose to be in situations (like casinos and sports bars) where they are exposed to second hand smoke, which also has many negative effects. Darin thought my argument was weak because the person ingesting the second hand smoke wasn't actually doing the "wrong" thing.

So, what do you think? I am not so much looking for an opinion on whether or not smoking is a sin, but if we say it IS a sin, then is putting yourself in a situation (that is more for recreation/entertainment than something you really need to do) where you are exposed to second hand smoke also a sin?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


So, my four year old just said to me "I like cigarettes. When I am 5 then can I have some cigarettes?" Where did this come from you ask? Well, in SA we did stay at the home of a smoker, a wonderful person that my children really came to love who happened to smoke. There were a couple occasions when both Tyson and Jori saw this man get up to smoke and actually brought him a cigarette (no, this was not in any way encouraged, my kids are just resourceful and figure things out pretty quickly). So now Darin and I have the task of explaining to a four year old that smoking is not a good thing and is in fact disgusting and harmful. The frustrating thing is, there are other people in our lives that my kids love who also smoke. So we'll be encountering this whole situation again, trying to explain the harm and yuckiness of smoking without making our kids think (or say) that people who smoke are bad. I think I liked it better when the only thing he thought he would be getting as a 5 year old was a motorcycle!

Lately, I have taken notice of how much our kids are influenced by the people and things around them. Sadly, I have also noticed the negative influence that I often have in their lives. When I hear them speak unkindly to each other in a tone that I recognize as my own or when I hear them complain about things that I too have also whined about, I realize that they are paying attention to everything I do and say. I even realized the other day that I have been using the Bible, God's holy word, in a negative way. Hearing me quote God as saying "Children, obey your parents", as I am losing my temper or being harsh with my kids does not seem like the most positive introduction of God's word in their lives. It's more like a scare tactic "do this, or else God is going to be very angry". What a great parenting moment.

Since returning from South Africa, I have been reintroduced to the influence of culture on our kids. The Sunday paper was laying out and Jori grabbed the Toys 'R' Us ad and said "This a kids paper, not for you" and then she scooted off to feast her eyes on all the colorful toys inside. I told Darin to get it away from her as soon as he was able and throw it away. She's only 2! In Africa, we had no TV, no newspaper, nothing putting thoughts and images into our kids minds. It was nice. Tyson and Jori had 5 or 6 toys to play with, and they were perfectly content. There were a few times that Tyson asked about a toy at his Michigan house, but they never really whined or begged to have more things to play with.

Now we are back home and are just surrounded by toys. There are even more toys than when we left because the people who stayed in our house left some stuff behind (which the kids totally love). There is a part of me that wants to get out the big black garbage bag and just start tossing things, but they really do play with everything they own and always seem to notice when even the smallest item goes missing. However, as the parent, I know that I need to be the one that decides when enough is enough. They are both too young to decide this on their own. That's why I get to be the scrooge that sometimes says "No toys for Christmas or birthdays". That doesn't make me very popular with our families, but I know that there are times when it needs to be said.

In our basement, is a large Rubbermaid container that is filled, FILLED, with He-man figurines. Yes, He-man. They belonged to Darin when he was young and I have been waiting for the right time to give them to Tyson. I know he would think they are the coolest, especially since they were his dad's. However, when I was in the basement digging out winter clothes earlier this week, I saw that Rubbermaid container and I realized that not only do I not want more stuff strewn about my house right now, but Tyson is still too little for them. That's right, he's too little. My boy is still content to push a stroller around with his sister and pretend that our sofa is an airplane. He loves to play with his tools, or make food in the play kitchen. He's a preschooler. He does preschool things. I don't know how old Darin was when he got his first He-man, but I know he wasn't four! Yet I know that now there are so many 4 year olds playing with toys meant for kids that are older, because they are the "in" thing.

When I was growing up, I loved Barbies. I even made clothes for them and sleeping bags and all sorts of other stuff. I can remember playing with Barbies up until we moved to California, when I was in the 7th grade. And no, I wasn't playing alone. My friends were into Barbie too. Now, Barbie is being marketed to 3 year olds, and while there is NOTHING wrong with a 3 year old playing with Barbies, it does make me think, what will they be playing with in 7th grade? I am pretty sure Barbie was not a preschooler's toy back in the day.

So again, a random, all over the board post from Jonna. I am not even sure anyone is reading this blog now that we are back from Africa, and that is fine by me. Feel free to be a lurker if you want, I myself lurk on several blogs without ever making myself known. Just know that there aren't going to be any posts on bungee jumping or encountering wild animals, other than maybe a rogue squirrel. I'm just going to write about the day to day stuff in our lives, and if there isn't anything going on, I'll just be writing about whatever I happen to be pondering at the moment, which could be a huge mistake as I can get a little worked up, but it's who I am.

More Pics

I just finished putting the rest of the pictures on Picasa. Check them here.

Last night we watched our video from South Africa. It was kind of a disappointment. I am not the best videographer, ok I stink at it, but I was the one who was left home with the kids trying to "capture the moment". What that means is there is like 20 minutes of the same thing. As Tyson and Jori's mom, I love it because I like to hear the stuff they say, but really it isn't very exciting. I don't have the most steady hand, so the camera is kind of all over the place. Oh well.

The highlights are my ostrich ride, the lion eating the zebra, Darin bungee jumping and us interacting with the elephants. I also did a whole video tour of Mama Cathrine's (yes, I have been spelling her name wrong), and have some footage of the kids singing. Again, too much of a good thing, but I am glad we have it.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Check us out on YouTube

Darin has been busy putting some of our video clips on YouTube. To check them out, go to

then type "Tyson and Jori" (without the quotes) in the search box and you can see some of the neat things we encountered in South Africa. Oddly enough, when you type in "Tyson and Jori" you will not only pull up videos from our family, but one clip from Finland also pops up. It's not ours and I don't know what it is about, but it's there.

Sorry, there is no clip of my ostrich riding adventure as that was taken on our camcorder and we don't know how to upload that onto YouTube. Bummer.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Being Home

It's Sunday afternoon. Jori is in bed. Darin and Tyson are off watching the Vikings game at Monelli's. Jori and I may join them later for some dessert, but right now I am content being inside where it is (relatively) warm. There is snow on the ground. Yes, snow. Having just spent 10 weeks in 80+ degree temps, this is not really sitting too well with me.

We were so glad to be back at our church, Evergreen Ministries, today. We really missed the fellowship and teaching while we were gone. We were excited to see lots of people that we really missed while we were gone. Tyson and Jori jumped right back into their Wonder Years and Little Lambs programs. The only bummer is that I heard a lot of nursery volunteers have decided to back out, which is only a concern to me because I am the nursery director. Argh. Come on people. That will have to get dealt with at some point, but not today.

A few of the people that did know who we are and where we had been asked if we were glad to be back. That's kind of a loaded question in some ways. We are glad to be back with people that we know and good friends that mean so much to us. Tyson and Jori are excited to have their toys back and seem to be perfectly content being back in Michigan. It is just strange, while we were in Africa, they hardly ever mentioned anything from back home, and now that we are in Michigan, they hardly mention anything from Africa. It is sad to me that they already seem to be forgetting so much of what we did and so many of the people that we met. I know it's normal. Their kids, they live in the here and now. And really, if they were asking for things and people from Africa or were really sad about being back in Michigan, that would be really tough to deal with. It's great that they are so resilient.

It's not quite as easy for Darin and I. We have really come to love the country of Africa. We love the people, we love the atmosphere and the pace of life. I know that our marriage was hugely blessed by the time we spent together in Africa. While we were gone, we often talked and dreamed about one day living in Africa. And you know what, it really wasn't such a scary thought. Other than our friends and family, I couldn't think of any reason not to go. Now we are back home. We're trying to get settled in, still adjusting to the time change, still putting away a few final things that we kind of haphazardly unpacked. People have asked if we're happy to be home, and I really don't know what to say. I am glad to see friends and talk to family by phone, but I really feel so out of place right now. People can ask questions about what we did over the last 10 weeks, and I can try to answer those questions, but I can't really put into words what we experienced.

I am overwhelmed at being home and seeing so much stuff. I mean, it's everywhere. And being in this huge house after spending time with people who were living in houses the size of one of our bedrooms is kind of unsettling for me. It would be so easy, I mean so very easy, to just forget about everything that we saw and the people that we met. I could choose not to think about people who are living in situations that I have cried over and I could just jump right back into my life here. That would be easy. I think it is going to be much harder to live here, remember what we experienced in Africa and make changes in our lives because of those experiences.

Today we sang a song that has the line "dancers who dance upon injustice". We listened to that song a lot in Africa, and even though I had heard it a lot before going to Africa, it was such a different experience hearing those words as we drove past rows and rows of tin shacks. What does it mean to "dance upon injustice"? I am not exactly sure, but I think it is not an easy dance to learn.

So I know this post is totally random and rambling, but those of you who really know me should be able to make some sense of it all. I just have so many mixed emotions right now. I am happy to be home, but yet I am sitting here crying because I feel like in order to get back into life here, I have to let go of the life we were living for the past 10 weeks. I just don't want to slide back into an apathetic life.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Back to school

Today was Tyson's first day of preschool. He was SO excited to go back. This morning the whole family got in the van to bring him to Jamestown Elementary. In the car Tyson told Jori "I will be at my school for a long time, but then I will come home and play with you". Such love and concern for his little sis. It was nice that Darin is still off of work and could come along this morning. Right before we got to school, Tyson told us that he knew where his classroom was, so we could just bring him to school and he would walk to his room by himself. Sorry buddy, maybe next year.

We got to school and Tyson seemed to be wavering between confidence and fear. He started biting his fingernails in Africa, and on the walk down the hall he kept putting his fingers in his mouth, then taking them out again. I am sure he was feeling a bit nervous about being back. Then we turned the corner to his hallway and he said "Where's my locker", so I figured he was going to be just fine. There were already some kids waiting to get in the class, but they weren't from his class last year, so he didn't really pay any attention to them. Right when we got to the classroom Mrs D, one of his teachers, was just getting ready to open the door. She came out and gave him a big hug. Then Mrs. Hubach came out to welcome him back. She asked if he had been on a big airplane, but he kind of ignored her and went in search of his locker instead. I told her that Tyson is way more interested in the stuff going on here and now, than in talking about a lot of Africa stuff. I guess he's just too young to realize what a big adventure he was just on.

While Tyson was putting his stuff in his locker (Darin said he found it all by himself!), some of his friends from last year showed up. There were lots of hugs for Nathan and Isaac. It was neat seeing how excited they were to have Tyson back. We went in the classroom and Mrs. Hubach showed us a big list of questions they have been writing down to ask Tyson when he came back. I am so glad that his teachers have made sure to include Tyson in the class even while we were gone. I am sure that it will make it much easier for him to fit in and interact with the kids that he didn't know before. One of the questions that made me laugh was "Is there a McDonald's in Africa". Kids.

Tyson seemed to be getting right into the routine. It is such a blessing that he is not only at the same school as before, but he is in the same room with the same teachers and even a handful of the same kids. It is wonderful that he doesn't have to learn a whole new routine this year. I am excited to pick him up in an hour and see how his first day went. If I can get any information from him, I'll make sure to update this post!

Update: Tyson's first day back went great. His teacher said it was like he had never been gone. He was very curious about everything in the classroom, so for the first 20 minutes, Mrs. Hubach followed him around and answered all of his questions. One of his friends from last year, Aubrey, stuck with him the whole morning, giving him "help" and just being his friend. Thank you God for people who love our boy. Just as I suspected, Tyson was not overly eager to talk about Africa. He did answer a couple questions, and opened up quite a bit when he talked about his porcupine quill that he had brought along, but then he just shut down again. We didn't get much information from Tyson about his day. He was excited to show off the new "humunga" (harmonica) that he had received for one of his classmates birthdays. We hope that the rest of his preschool days go as well as his first day back.

Pictures, finally

Today I started getting some albums put together. There are a lot to go, and I'll try to remember to make a new post when I add the next batch, but for now feel free to check out our photo website

Hopefully this works! If not, leave a comment and I'll try to figure it out. Now you can pick and choose which things you really want to see and I don't have to send out albums to a bunch of different people. A win win situation. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Home again, home again, jiggity jog

Well, we made it. After the longest 24 hours of my life, we are finally home. We left for the airport around 9 on Tuesday night. We got on the plane with no problems. Tyson and Jori had both slept a couple hours before we left, so they were in pretty good spirits. Our flight from Jo-berg to Amsterdam was pretty empty, which turned out to be an even bigger blessing than we realized. Darin and Jori were in 5 seats by themselves, and Tyson and I had three seats. Actually, I had three seats as Tyson fell asleep on the floor and kept sleeping until about 2 1/2 hours before we landed. Jori also slept great. I was sleeping pretty well, but poor, poor Darin. Apparently whatever bug I had on Monday and Tuesday decided to pay Darin a visit in a big way. I was sound asleep on my three seat bed when I felt someone tapping my shoulder, hard. I looked up and heard Darin mumble something as he walked past me and continued down the aisle. I figured he just wanted me to know he was up so I could make sure Jori didn't fall off the seats, so I checked on her and laid back down. Then I checked again. Still no Darin. It turns out he was in the bathroom throwing up. Poor Darin. I'll spare you all the details, but for the rest of the 11 hour flight, Darin was either in the bathroom or totally sacked out, unable to even sit up. I am SO thankful my parents were on that flight. It wasn't so bad while they were sleeping, other than the tap, tap, tap I kept feeling every time Darin ran past me : ) However, once the kids were awake, it was no fun at all.

We arrived in Amsterdam with a very pale, weak and tired Darin. My dad and I got all of our luggage off and then my parents went with us to our next flight. We told the check in people that we had a sick person in our party and they managed to get us one row of four seats and a row of 2, so again, God was watching out for us. There is no way Darin could have sat in a seat for the next 8+ hours. At max, he could sit up for about 15 minutes, then he had to lay down again. We were really excited to see that there were individual screens on this flight. Watching Dora and the Backyardigans did offer some distraction for the kids. On the down side, neither Tyson or Jori slept the WHOLE flight. The last 3 hours were no fun at all, especially for me. Well, I guess I wouldn't have wanted to be sick like Darin either, so neither of us was having much fun. The kids were having a heyday, running back and forth between where Darin and I were sitting, which meant that I was also running back and forth to bring back which ever child would come with the least amount of screaming. Of course, they both wanted to be by daddy, who would have loved to be alone. Too bad for him, he also wanted to lay in the row of four seats and that only left room for one kid to sit by me.

Anyways, let's just say I don't ever want to be in that situation again and I'll get on with the rest of the story. We made it to Detroit a little before 2. Darin was feeling somewhat better, but was super weak from not eating. He sat with the kids while I hauled our luggage off of the belt and onto a cart and then we re-checked our bags for our last flight to Grand Rapids. Thankfully we had enough of a lay over that we didn't have to rush too much, but it was short enough that the kids couldn't get too crazy. We were all feeling pretty crabby and disgusting about now. All I wanted was a shower and some peace and quiet. I didn't get the shower on the last flight, but Tyson and Jori both fell asleep, so it was quiet.

We landed in grey, gloomy GR a little after 4. The view was depressing and matched the mood I was in. We tried waking the kids up, but ended up having to carry them off of the plane as neither was willing to cooperate. We got off the plane, got the kids in their strollers and headed into the airport, expecting to be showered in hugs and kisses. Unfortunately, we got in a little early, so no one was there yet (we forgive you Rachel and Jenna!). We got our luggage, and then saw our friends coming through the door. Seeing his best friend, Jenna, totally perked Tyson up. Both he and Jori took off running towards them and it was so cute to see them all hugging and laughing and looking so happy. It was wonderful to see Rachel again and know that we were finally home.

The ride home was interesting. I couldn't help but notice the differences between GR and where we had been living the past 10 weeks. I have grown used to seeing people everywhere. Always walking down the street, or waiting for a taxi or just sitting outside of their homes. I am also used to lots of sun and bright skies, lots of trees and open spaces. Now all I was seeing was lots of grey, from the color of the sky to the concrete of the buildings and the roads. We dropped off Rachel and Jenna, then started driving the last mile to our house. Tyson started to get upset, "Where is our house?" he kept saying. I guess the area didn't look familiar to him. We turned on to our street and Jori said "Is this our Africa house?". Sorry, honey, not quite. Then we pulled up to our house and Tyson had a big smile and Jori got all excited and said "Daddy, there your truck!!!". We went in and both kids started pointing things out like "there's our stairs" or "look, here's our table". Then they found the toys. Oh my goodness, were they ever excited. These kids who had been passed out less than an hour before were suddenly wide awake and running from one thing to the next. Darin had passed out on the sofa and doesn't remember anything from the next half hour or so. I managed to get Tyson to eat half a sandwich and Jori had about a third of one. That's all they wanted, which was fine by me. They both wanted to keep playing, but I told them it was bath time. Darin woke up, seemed very puzzled about what was going on, but headed upstairs with the rest of us. I dug out long pjs for the kids, got them clean, and then a little after 6, they were in bed. By 6:30, Darin and I had joined them.

We were all pretty tired. Tyson woke up to use the bathroom around 3:30, and then Darin decided to get up around 4 or 4:30 I think because he couldn't sleep anymore. He must have been feeling a lot better, because he ate a bowl of lucky charms and a whole can of soup. I slept on and off until 7. I couldn't believe how dark it was outside. I have grown used to seeing light by 5 or 5:30, so it just seemed so early still. Tyson and Jori both woke up a couple times, Tyson for the bathroom, Jori for help finding her peeper (pacifier). Tyson finally woke up around 8 and we went in to get Jori a little before 9. Right now they are playing with all of their toys, and Tyson is asking me for gloves so he can go outside. I hope he's ready to be cold.

I am not sure what I am feeling right now. It is nice to be done with all of the travelling and it is great to see the kids so happy, not that they weren't happy in Africa, but with all the travelling we did the last 2 weeks they've been kind of cranky. I am overwhelmed at the amount of all the stuff that we have. It is ridiculous. The funny thing is, I threw out a lot of stuff before we left, but apparently there is a lot more that could go. I keep thinking "do we even need this?". I don't even know where to start. We had missionaries living in our house the first two months we were gone, so I had packed up our clothes and toiletries. Now I can't remember where I put it all. I am just feeling overwhelmed. I wish I could just stay in my pjs, but I know I need to start somewhere.

In Africa, we were living. Here, we have a life. Does that make sense? Darin will be going back to work, Tyson to school. I hope to join a Bible study, we both have things we are involved in at church. We have clothes for all 4 seasons, along with the accessories like hats, gloves and scarfs. I am actually going to have to clean again. I opened the cupboard under my kitchen sink and couldn't believe how many different cleaning products I have. Mama Rebecca managed to take care of our whole house with Mr Muscle and Handy Andy. I have all these bottles of things and I still have never managed to keep our house clean.

We are home. We made it safely. Darin is feeling like himself again, and other than a headache, I am feeling fine too. We hope to stay up past 7 tonight, but I am sure there will be a family nap happening sometime during the day. Thank you all so much for your thoughts, prayers, letters and emails. We are so blessed to have you all in our lives. Please keep praying as we make this transition back into our lives here and try to figure out what God wants us to do with all of the things we have seen and experienced while we were gone. It's time to step back into my Michigan mommy role and dig out the winter gear for the kids. Til next time.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Our last day

Here is it, November 11, 2008. Tonight, just before midnight, we will be starting our long journey back to Michigan. Lord willing, we will be arriving in GR a little after 4 tomorrow afternoon. Darin, Jori and myself have all picked up some sort of stomach bug, so we aren't really super excited about getting on the plane. Hopefully Tyson stays healthy.

Yesterday we were able to visit Fenna's daughter Stephanie at the children's home where she works, Doulos Ministries. Doulos means servants I believe. They have a wonderful center with a small medical center to treat the children on site, plenty of room for the kids to sleep and a bunch of farm animals for entertainment. All but one of the children there were HIV positive, which was so hard to wrap my head around. They don't look sick, yet these children do not have much hope. Some of the children were orphans who will remain at Doulos, but most of them will either return to their parents or other family members when they have been brought back to good health and placed on antiretroviral medication for their HIV.

Being at Doulos took up a good part of the day. I wasn't feeling that great already yesterday morning, so by afternoon I was ready for a long nap with Jori. The weather finally cooperated and Tyson was able to go swimming in the Coetsee's pool. These last few days have been a real bummer weather wise. Little sun and quite a bit of rain. Hopefully our tans haven't faded too much! I went to bed early last night, so I don't know what everyone else did. They were probably up drinking 3 or 4 more cups of coffee or tea, as that seems to be the thing to do all day long.

This morning we headed out to do a little more souvenier shopping. We all had a few things we were still looking for, and after about 30 minutes Darin was able to get the price down to where we wanted, so then we were ready to head to the mall. My parents and Fenna went off to check out a few stores while Darin and I took the kids to pick out a special "Africa" outfit for each of them. No, it isn't any tribal garb, just something different than what we'd get in the states.

Now it is about 4:30. We are almost all packed. It is a good thing my parents are here and that my dad is coming out to Michigan in January as we may have to give them some of our things to take home. We did get rid of two big suitcases since being here, but we have picked up a few goodies along the way. I am so glad that Darin has mad packing skills. I just set out the stuff I know we still need and he gets everything else shoved in the suitcases and carryons. In just a bit, Darin and Tyson are heading to Pick N Pay one last time to get a few snacks. Then we'll eat, give the kids baths, put them down and wait until it is time to head to the airport.

I really can't believe we are heading home. Right now I am ready to be home, because I'm not feeling the best and we have just been moving from one place to another the last two weeks. If we were still out at our farm, I would be having a much more difficult time preparing to go. God knew that in advance, so I'm thankful for his guidance in planning this whole trip down to each detail. I wish so badly that we could have gone back to see all of our friends and the places that are familiar to us, as being here in Sasolburg does not seem like being in Africa at all. This is not the Africa that I would choose to live in and I can see why so many people want to leave this area. I just wish they all knew what they were missing.

So, we'll be seeing some of you soon, and others we'll be talking to by phone. I'm sure I'll keep blogging too, but writing about the squirrels in our backyard is going to be far less exciting that the possibility of a rhino attack. See you soon!

Monday, November 10, 2008


It's been a few days since I last wrote. We have been keeping pretty busy and moving around quite a bit. We left Graaff-Reinet on Friday morning and headed towards Bloemfontein, our second to last destination. We didn't have much planned for the day other than to get to where we were going, so that was kind of nice. For lunch, we stopped at a nice little restaurant in Colesberg. They had a big play area for the kids, with old farming equipment to climb on. The food was so good and I think we were all content to just sit and relax for a while. My mom and I even headed over to the Foschini's across the street and I finally found the jeans I had been looking for. We got back on the road, saw a few random baboons, monkeys and bok and not much else.

We arrived in Bloemfontein around 4. Our cottage was in a neighborhood, right behind the owners house. After getting unpacked and watching a show about lions on National Geographic, we headed out for some really good pizza. We got home after 7, put the kids to bed and played our last two card games. In the end, Willie was declared the big winner. We got up on Saturday morning with plans to hit the mall for a little shopping fun. On our way there, we saw a big farmer's market so we pulled in. They had a giant inflatable slide that the kids loved going on. It was a nice detour. Then we hit the mall, found a McDonald's, then got back in the van for the last leg of our journey to Sasolberg.

When we got into Sasolberg, we decided to stop at a Wimpy so our kids could run off some of their excess energy before we went to Fenna's house. When we did finally get here a little after 4, Tyson and Jori were so excited to find out that Fenna has two dogs. Poor little Dortjie(pronounced Dorkie with a rolled “r”) has been chased all over the house, grabbed at, kissed and hugged by both of the kids. The other dog has been kept outside, lucky guy. Last night after the kids were in bed, two different pastors stopped by. With each guest we had a full round of coffee and dessert. I don't know when we have ever had so much to drink.

This morning, we went to church with Fenna and Francois. We had the pleasure of watching the children's Christmas program. Yes, Christmas in November. School is finished here in December and then all the schools have a month of summer vacation, so they figured that the kids wouldn't be around much in December for practices and the performance. This was the only Sunday in November that didn't have anything else going on. The program was in Afrikaans, so we didn't actually know what was being said, but it was the Christmas story, same as always. After this service, we headed in to a township about 10 minutes away and sat through another service. Darin had the kids outside the whole time because they were a little out of control. It was nice for us to be back in an area that felt more familiar to us.

Now it is close to 4:30. Our kids are out on a walk, Darin is watching a poker tournament, my mom is sleeping and I am catching up on what will be one of our final posts from Africa. There are plans to go to yet another church tonight, but Darin and I will be staying home with our kids to get them to bed on time. Fenna's daughter is a nurse at a children's home near by, so we are planning on visiting her there tomorrow. We'll let you know what other fun we end up having.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

What is it? 11/6

So, I've always known that God has made some pretty interesting creatures, but today we got the low down on one of the most awesome, yet bizarre things He has made. Can you guess what it is? I'll give you some interesting facts to help you out.

This creature eats rocks to help it digest its food
This creature has a toenail that grows up to 7 centimeters (3 inches) long
This creature usually walks on its tiptoes
This creature eats its own eggs when it is lacking in calcium
This creature has two sets of nostrils

Do you know what it is?? Well if you haven't figured it out, I'll tell you. This amazing creature, that could have only been thought up by our creative God is the Ostrich. Today, after leaving Knysna, we headed north to Outdshoorn, the ostrich capital of South Africa. There are over 400 ostrich farms in the area, including a few that do tours and other ostrich related activities. We were about 10 km from Outdshoorn when Tyson started hollering that he had to use the bathroom. We saw a sign for a place called Chandelier Game Lodge about a km later, so we decided we may as well just check out the Ostriches here rather than making Tyson suffer for another 10 km. Thank God for Tyson's small bladder, because we had the BEST time.

As soon as we walked through the gate, Tyson forgot all about needing to pee. Right in front of us were a mom and baby zebra, a few bok, and lots of ducks and geese. We all headed right over to get a closer look. The mom zebra kept putting her head all the way through the fence, it was kind of like a corral, not a chain link fence. There was a sign that said “Pet and feed animals at your own risk”, so my dad started petting the zebra. How cool. Of course, I had to try it too. She was so soft and her mane was kind of bristly, but not really hard and prickly. I never thought I would ever pet a zebra, but now I have. There were a bunch of baby ducklings out on the pond, including one little yellow one that was swimming all alone. It was so cute. The kids loved seeing the animals, and we hadn't even started our tour yet.

The biggest reason that we had such a great time today was our tour guide. She had only been working there for 8 months, but I would have never guessed that. She was so patient with the kids, willing to answer all of our questions, and told us so much about the ostrich in a way that was never boring. Our first stop was a breeding pen. There was a male and female in one large pen, and right next to them was a pen with at least 20 ostriches, some adults, some adolescents. Darin and I both let the male “bite” our hands. Ostriches don't have teeth, so it didn't really hurt unless he happened to just catch a bit of skin. Both birds were right up next to the fence so we could get a really good look at them. They are pretty funny looking. I've always thought that an ostrich neck would feel like chicken skin, or like a roosters comb, but it was actually very soft. We learned that the female ostrich lays between 100-120 eggs during the egg laying season and that of these, 80-90 will hatch. The other 30-40 eggs are eaten by the female when she is low in calcium. The female sits on the eggs during the day and the male sits on them at night. Most birds sit on their eggs to keep them warm, but the ostrich sits on its egg to cool it down. It takes 42 days for the egg to hatch, and during the last two days, the male takes over all the egg sitting duties. When he hears the chicks calling from their eggs, he uses his breastbone to crack the egg and then chips away at it with his beak until the chick can get out. There are up to 16 eggs in the nest at one time, so he is one busy guy.

Next, we went into a pen with another pair of ostriches. We were hoping to pet some babies, which were one pen over, but none would come close enough for our guide to grab. She said she could not go into the pen because the male would charge at full speed, up to 60 km (40 miles) an hour, which makes it the second fastest land animal, second only to the cheetah. After he charged, he would then kick whoever was in his way and cut them with his giant toenail. So we didn't get to hold a baby ostrich, but they were cute. So we went in the pen with a pair of ostriches that only had eggs, not babies. We got to feed them pellets, pet them, stand on the egg (it can withstand up to 180 kg, or roughly 400 pounds) and learn more interesting ostrich facts. There were only 2 eggs in the nest, which was just a hole that the male digs in the sand. One of the eggs was actually just outside of the nest. Our guide said that the female pushed it out because she knew that there was a hole in it so there would never be a chick.

Now for some more ostrich trivia. Did you know that the when the ostrich hides its head in the sand, it believes that it cannot be seen? The male ostrich is dark with white feathers on the tips of his wings and tail. When he sits on the eggs, he digs his feathers into the sand to make them dirty so he is camouflaged from predators. Ostriches have membranes that shut over their eyes to keep dust from getting in them. They open and close side to side instead of up and down. They also have an eyelid that shuts from the bottom when they want to sleep.

Ok, next we headed over to a little arena and sat on some bleachers. The “jockeys”, which is what they call the workers who deal with the ostriches, caught a male named “Speedy” and put him in a little wooden blockade so he couldn't kick or run away. It was funny watching them catch an ostrich. 3 or 4 guys would run after one ostrich, corner it, then someone would grab the tail, and someone else the neck. Then they guy who grabbed the neck would slip a bag over the ostriches head. Once the ostrich can't see, it will follow where ever it is led. Speedy was a very nice ostrich. We all got a chance to climb on Speedy and give him a hug. We also found out some more interesting facts about the ostrich. Did you know that what looks like an ostrich's knee is actually it's heel/ankle? From that joint down is its foot, and while it usually stands on its tiptoes, it does rest on its whole foot at times. It looked really strange when it did. The knee of the ostrich is actually up where it's leg connects to it's body, or where you'd think a hip would be. If you pluck an ostrich feather too soon, the ostrich will bleed. You have to wait until the feather is fully grown before plucking it. However, if you don't pluck the feathers, they will fall out and some of them will not grow back in properly. An ostrich wing is actually like an arm. It has three joints, a shoulder, elbow and wrist, and there are also 3 little fingers hidden under feathers, 2 that you could see and one that is under skin. The male uses one of the fingers to help dig the nest. Our guide also demonstrated how flexible an ostrich neck is. She hooked one arm around Speedy's neck and pulled his head down and around with her other hand. There are 19 vertabrae in an ostrich neck and it can reach all the way around its body and peck at its own tail!

So, now we had learned all sorts of cool facts about these odd looking birds and we had been able to feed and pet them. All that was left now was to get on and take a ride. My dad went first. Two of the jockeys were holding on to the ends of the ostriches wings and my dad had to hold on under the front of the wings, wrap his legs around the ostrich's chest, lean back and ride. That ostrich was crazy fast. After about 10 seconds, the jockeys let go and PJ was riding that ostrich all by himself. It really was pretty funny looking. Then they told him to let go of the wings and slip off, a feat he preformed with great skill. Now it was time for the next rider. My dear husband was very disappointed to find out that the ostriches at this particular farm would not be able to accommodate his weight, so of course I had to step up and experience ostrich riding for the both of us. Once again I was wearing my flip flops, which would prove to be problematic. (Other times my flip flops have been an issue include the quad ride and bungee jump). I did feel pretty comfortable as I was told the jockeys do not let go of the ostrich for female riders, so I hopped on my ostrich, grabbed under its wings, wrapped my feet around its chest and away we went. Ok, this has been caught on video so I won't even try to lie about it. I looked ridiculous and sounded even worse. I was letting out little screams that sounded more like yips and had a look of terror on my face. I was trying to lean back and hold on and do all the things I was supposed to do, but then my flip flop started to fall off. So I unwrapped one of my legs and tried to wiggle my foot around to get the shoe back on. The jockey on that side said “put your leg down” and as I tried to do this, some part of the bird, it's leg or breastbone, connected with my ankle. So I'm yipping, with my face pulled back like I'm in a wind tunnel, the ostrich is tearing around and I am thinking for sure, these jockeys are going to lose their grip and I am going to get seriously injured. Then my flip flop fell off, I heard someone say “let go of the wings” and I was lifted off the beast, safe and sound. If you get a chance to see the video, you will hear my mom howling with laughter in the background. We watched it twice tonight and she was laughing so hard she almost cried. I am just glad I took the opportunity to ride an ostrich, ridiculous as I may have looked.

After hearing my screams, Tyson did NOT want to take a ride of his own, but Darin was able to get Jori to go on by promising to walk along beside her. She looked so cute. The ostrich the jockeys choose for her was really gentle and kind of plodded along, but it was still going fast enough that her hair was blowing backwards in the wind. After seeing that his little sis survived the ostrich ride, Tyson decided that he could do it too. He was so proud of himself and can't wait to show his friends the video of him riding an ostrich. My mom was definitely NOT going to ride an ostrich, so we left the bench area, walked down a fence line and then watched two of the jockeys race. Those ostriches were going so fast.

After all the ostrich fun, we had a little picnic over by the ducks and zebra. Then we got in the van and started making our way to Graaff-Reinet where we would be staying for the night. We were about 20 minutes down the rode from the ostrich farm when we had to make an unfortunate detour back into town. Poor Jori, who had been acting strange all day, threw up all over her blanky and in Papa's bag of cameras, papers and passports. Darin pulled right over, but it was such a mess we decided to turn back to the town of Oudtshoorn, which we had just driven out of. We pulled into a gas station, cleaned her up as best as we could, moved her to the middle seat, and were on our way again. Both kids ended up sleeping for a little over an hour, which was wonderful. Jori seemed to feel a lot better after throwing up, but was still looking pretty sad. I think we were all happy to pull up to our lodging for the night.

As soon as we got all of the luggage out of the van, my parents took off for town. There are several old churches and lots of Dutch architecture in this town, so they are happy as can be. Darin, the kids and I walked into town to get some medicine for Jori's fever and to look for dinner. Almost everything around here closes at 5, but we finally found a Spur that was open. So we ate, then went to the grocery store to get some pop. We ran into my parents in the store so we all walked home together. It is 10:30 right now, we're done playing cards and are getting ready to go to bed. It has been a busy, but very entertaining day. Tomorrow we head for Bloemfontein, the last night of our big trip to the Cape.

Downtown Knysna and the beach 11/5

As you can probably guess from the title of this posting, today we spent time downtown and at the beach. It was a very relaxing, vacationy kind of day. As an added bonus, the time spent downtown was without kids. Papa John graciously offered to keep both kids busy around our cottage so Darin could go to an internet cafe and my mom and I could get some shopping in. What a guy!

Darin dropped us off at the mall around 10. We decided to hook back up around 11 and then away we went. My mom and I had a great time. It was so nice to just walk around together, try on clothes, and just have a chance to talk. We made our way through the whole mall without making a purchase. I found a pair of jeans that I really wanted, but I needed a different size. The store they were at is in almost every mall in South Africa, so my new goal is to hit all the Foschini's from here to Jo-berg until I find these jeans. We left the mall and found some other stores to browse through. I found a dress for Jori to wear when she gets a bit older, but other than that, we left empty handed. We started going down some side streets poking through some boutiques, but I guess neither of us were seeing anything that we just had to have. We got a text from Darin and decided to meet up at the mall again for coffee. We finished our snack, and then I had one last stop to make before we headed back home. I made my way to a hairdresser to get my eyebrows waxed. It had to be done. You guys out there may not understand, but most of you ladies know that if I waited until I got back to the often dreary state of Michigan to get my brows waxed I would have a very noticeable white line below my brow. At least out here I have a chance to even out the tan on my eyebrows, although I have been hearing that Michigan is seeing some sun right now too.

Aren't you all feeling so much better now that you know how I spent my morning? We got back home a little before noon. Papa and Tyson were hanging out on the front porch together and Jori was taking a much needed nap. Those of us who had gone to town ate a quick lunch and started packing up our things for the beach. Jori woke up a bit sooner than we expected, so we piled into the van and headed out.

We got to the beach a bit before 1. It was a beautiful, sunny day, but there was quite a lot of wind at the beach. Wind and sand are not the most pleasant combination as you can imagine. We saw a bunch of people using big rocks as a kind of blockade from the wind, so we tried to do the same, only our rock was not wide enough to offer much protection. This didn't seem to affect anyone but my mom and me, as we were the only ones trying to lay out. The kids were running all over the place, Darin was wondering around the top half of the beach, and my dad was combing the bottom half for shells. My mom decided to join my dad, so that left me to keep an eye on all of our things. I was laying face down most of the time to keep the sand out of my eyes and mouth, so I don't know that I would have noticed if someone had sneaked up and grabbed one of our bags, but I did peek up every once in a while. Jori wandered up by me after a bit and I decided to bury her legs in the sand. She thought that was great fun. Tyson decided to join her a bit later. Darin came and helped me bury both of them so we could surprise grandma who was on her way back to our big rock.

After my mom came back and told us there was less wind where she and my dad had been, we decided to pack up all of our stuff and head over there. I wish we had gone their first. Not only was there less wind, but there were tide pools with all sorts of cool creatures, little caves for the kids to hide in, and a big rock to climb up. Darin, Tyson and my dad all headed up the rock first. There was a ladder bolted on to the bottom of the rock to help the beginning of the climb, so they all skittered right up. Tyson was having a great time being one of the guys. They were having so much fun that I decided to join them too. I am glad they told me to put my shoes on because the rocks up there were so sharp. Again, the combo of heights, water and my kids was too much for me. I did climb up to the top, but was so paranoid that Tyson was going to blow right off the rock into the swirling water below. I think my fear rubbed off on Tyson who started saying he wanted to go down NOW.

We climbed back down and headed to the tide pools. There were anemones, clams, a jellyfish, and more. The water in the tide pools was nice and warm, so Tyson was having fun splashing around in his private “pool for one”. Jori and my mom joined us and we tossed her in one of the tide pools too to get some of the sand off of her body. Then we headed back to where our things were and checked out a couple little caves. The sand in the caves was nice and cool and soft. Once again, it was amazing to see all the the hands of God have made. Really, who but God could make an anemone that closes itself up as soon as you touch it, or a jellyfish that looks like a harmless blob, but is able to defend itself, or rocks that look like castles?

We had been at the beach for over two hours and were all starting to feel a bit burned. So we packed up our stuff and started walking back to our van. Jori ended up having a major breakdown and I had to carry her up the hill. Fun fun. We made it to the van, piled in and headed back to our cottage. For the rest of the afternoon, we sat around outside and watched the wildlife that lives in the complex where our cottage is. There are so many Guinea Hens around here. I just love those birds. They are so funny looking and when they take off running I get the giggles. I managed to take a little video of them running, after my mom sneaked behind our cottage and scared a group of them towards me. There is also a small herd of Bontebok, which look pretty similar to the deer we see in the states. They are so tame that my mom managed to get within two feet of the baby and even Tyson and Jori were within 6 or 7 feet of it too. There are also some ugly looking ducks, pigeons, and all kinds of other birds that just come on our lawn and start squawking.

Being down here, you could totally forget you are in Africa. It looks so much more like somewhere in the Pacific Northwest, or even parts of Michigan. It is cooler here because we are so close to the ocean, and even the trees and grass are different from what we had up in Hammanskraal. I think it will make it easier to make the transition to being back home after spending so much time away from our “Africa House” and being in a totally different environment, but Darin and I both really miss OUR Africa right now.

It is just after 9. The kids have been in bed since 6:15. They were totally wiped out. We already played both of our card games, watched some news about the election, and now Darin and my dad are watching a Cricket game. Why? I don't know, but they are. Tomorrow we are heading to Oudtshoorn, which is famous for its Ostrich Farms. After tomorrow, some of us will be able to add Ostrich riding to our list of things we have done. From Oudtshoorn we head to Graaff-Reinet, where we will be sleeping for the night. The night after that we are staying in Bloemfontein and then we will go to Sasolberg, staying with Fenna and her family. Fenna is the niece of “Oma” Tena from our old church in Bellflower. Darin and I actually stayed with them the first time we were in Africa in 2002. Then, six days from tonight, we will be boarding the first of three planes that will be taking us back home to Michigan. Time sure is flying by.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

How we spent the election day 11/4

So, while those of you in America were busy voting and watching your TVs for the latest election news, we were out seeing the sights in Knysna and Plettenberg Bay. Ok, so you were all probably sleeping when we first got up, but we had a long and busy day. When we got up this morning, Darin called ahead to some places to make sure we could do all the things we wanted to do today. We were all ready for some real adventures and the day did not disappoint.

Our first stop was the Knysna Elephant Park. I missed my chance to walk with the elephants by Hartbeespoort Dam, but there were two elephant parks near Knysna so we decided to check one of them out. We got to the park a little after 10. We started by watching a short video about the elephants in the Cape and also about what to expect during our encounter with the elephants. Just before the video finished, Tyson kicked over a bench that was holding two plastic pails full of fruits and veggies that we had purchased to feed the elephants. We were off to a great start!
Next we boarded a trailer that was pulled by a tractor and headed out to see the elephants. We rode past a mom and her two year old baby. They were not going to be in the group that we were going to get up close to because the mom would have been too protective of her baby and that would have caused some problems. We got over to where the elephants were and all piled out of the trailer. There were 5 or 6 handlers out there and about 8 elephants, including 2 babies-a 9 month old and a 15 month old. There was a wooden railing and as soon as our tractor pulled up, all the elephants lined up behind the railing.

The first thing we did was take our pails of food and start feeding the elephants. It was so much fun. The two babies came out from behind the railing right away and were just walking around by all the people. Most of the big ones stayed behind the railing, although their trunks were long enough that they could reach quite a long ways to where we were standing. Tyson and Jori loved feeding the babies. They were both hesitant to go near the big elephants, which was fine by me. Jori wasn't quite as confident as Tyson, but if our guide took her hand she would go over to the baby and give it a piece of orange. The elephants trunk felt so strange when they would take the food out of your hand. It was kind of prickly feeling. It seemed to me that the elephants that got the most food were the babies and the ones with the longest trunks. The others were out of luck. There was one incident during feeding time. Two elephants were fighting over some food and they caused quite a commotion. It happened so fast that it was hard to tell what happened, but they ended up on the other side of the railing and were heading towards us. The handlers were right there pushing them away and getting them separated. The bigger elephant was pregnant and they herded her away from the people and the other elephants. This ended up being Jori's favorite elephant of all, the one she cannot stop talking about. Why? Because according to Jori, that elephant was in a “time-out”. I think we've all lost count of how many times she has brought up that elephant. She even talked about “that elephant in time-out” during her bedtime prayer. “Why that elephant in time out? He a naughty elephant.” Jori Jori.

After all the food pails were emptied, it was time to touch the elephants. We were told to stay away from the backside of the elephants. My first thought was “oh, they might poop on us”, but then I realized it was because they could squash us without much effort. Jori was pretty content to just be held as all the elephants were now roaming around and most of them were pretty big. Tyson was unaware of any danger, so we really had to keep a close eye on him. We got lots of pictures of us petting the elephants, touching their ears, feeding bottles to the babies, and more. As with many other things, having the kids there made it harder to totally enjoy the experience because you couldn't ever totally focus on the elephants, but it was still awesome. We were out there for at least a half hour and all had a great time.

We left the elephant park around 11:15. Then we headed towards Plettenburg Bay to grab some lunch. After a tasty meal from KFC, we drove on to Bloukrans. What is the significance of Bloukrans, you ask? It is the location of the highest bridge bungee jump in the world. How high is it? Over 650 feet, or the equivalent of a 65 story building. Are you wondering why we were there, or have you figured it out? Darin and my MOST favorite show is “The Amazing Race”. We love to see the contestants face challenges like jumping out of a plane, milking a camel, or riding on a bike that has so much stuff piled on it that the contestant can barely keep the bike up. One of the stunts that they have done on several seasons of the show is the bungee jump. How could we be so close to the highest bridge jump in the world, and not take the plunge??

We got to the check in area and were told that once you paid there were NO refunds, even if you decided not to jump. Darin asked if I was sure I wanted to do this and I foolishly said yes. So he paid for us both and it was time to get harnessed up. Of course we both had to make a pit stop at the bathroom first as we didn't want to pee our pants on the way down. After harnessing up, we joined our group of about 8 other people. I was the only girl in the group that was planning on jumping, although there were two moms who were going out on the bridge just to watch their kids. Our guide, Rhino (that really was his name), told us to follow him, so like sheep to the slaughter we all fell in line.

In order to get out to the jumping area, we first had to walk across a catwalk that was under the bridge. It was terrifying for me. It was a metal catwalk, but the bottom of it was like a fence that you could see through. I could hardly make myself take a step at first. I made Darin hold my hand and tried to look straight ahead. Every time my eyes decided to peek down I'd feel a horrible sense of panic. Then Darin said “I wonder how often they check this thing for rust spots”. Thanks honey. That is so reassuring to think about my foot falling through a rust spot while I am 650 feet about the ground. What a guy.

We made it to the platform and found out that Darin was going to be lucky jumper number 1. It was SO cold up there. Thankfully I had grabbed my moms sweatshirt, because if I had been up there in only my tank top, I might have had to head down before I even jumped. I went and huddled under a blanket next to the two moms while Darin was getting hooked up to the bungee cord. Then it was time for him to jump. Two guys put Darin's arms around their necks and walked him to the edge of the platform. 5,4,3,2,1 and off he went. There was a TV monitor where we were sitting, so I could see his face as he jumped and I could see his body dangling above the earth. It was so freaky, but just awesome. He'll have to tell you about what he was feeling, but when he was brought back up, he said it was great, other than the headache it gave him.

I ended up being the 4th jumper, so right after Darin got back up, it was time for me to get hooked up. I had to sit down while Rhino put some velcro things around my ankles/calves and then tied a rope between my legs and finally hooked it on to my harness. I wasn't really paying attention to what he was saying to me, and this would prove to be quite unfortunate. I was all ready to go. Two guys came and brought me to the edge of the platform. I was freaked. The one guy said “don't make it worse for yourself”, and then the countdown began. 5,4,3,2,1 and with a gentle nudge, I was free falling from 650 feet up. It was awesome, scary, exhilarating, terrifying, the coolest thing ever, and the dumbest thing I have ever done.

Within the span of two seconds, I had my eyes open, then shut, then opened them up again. It was amazing to look down and see the water, trees, rocks and hard hard ground rushing towards me. Then the bungee cord went taut and I was pulled back up towards the bridge. I was still doing ok, but then I went down and up again and felt the stuff tied on my legs slipping down. Did I mention that I was barefoot when I jumped? So here I am, being pulled up and down like a yo-yo high above the earth, and all that I can think about is that fact that my feet are about to slip through the bindings that are keeping me from falling to my death. I SERIOUSLY thought I was going to be the first fatality for this company. I am not a big girl. I have small ankles and my feet are slender. I was praying and saying “please Jesus, keep me safe” and at the same time I was flexing my feet, willing them to stay bent and not go straight. For surely, if my feet straightened and pointed up, they would slip right through the bindings and I would be dead. I knew that at any second someone was going to be coming down to hook me up for my ascent back up to the bridge (someone comes and hooks you so you end up in a sitting position instead of staying head down), and I was asking God to please send this person RIGHT NOW because I couldn't hold on much longer. Every once in a while, I would look around and think “it's pretty up here”, but then I would realize how far my fall to the ground was going to be and it was all I could do to not totally flip out. I am amazed by how calm I stayed in the moments before my certain death. Well, the guy came and got me, and when I told him to hurry because my feet were about to slip out, he just laughed. LAUGHED. The whole way up, even though I was now tethered to someone else, I still felt so horrible inside.

I finally made it back to the bridge and was reunited with Darin. He asked me how it was and I told him that the free fall was awesome, something I would love to do again, but I would probably never jump again because my feet almost feel out of the binding. He kind of laughed and said “oh yeah, mine felt like that too. I didn't want to tell you because I thought it would freak you out”. Huh?? You came back from jumping, told me how all sorts of bad things like getting a bad head ache, feeling like your face was being pulled off, and that you felt like you couldn't breathe, but you didn't tell me that you felt like your feet were going to slip out of the bindings???? If I had known that little bit of information, I could have asked Rhino about it and he could have eased my fears. But no, instead I spent almost a minute of my life believing I was about to die. Oh Darin.

While we were standing around, freezing, and waiting for the other guys to finish jumping, we did ask one of the workers if anyone's feet have ever slipped through. He also laughed and said “No, but if they did, you would still be tethered on to the bungee cord by your harness.”. Oh, yeah. And sure enough, when we watched the DVD of my jump, Rhino first ties up my legs and then hooks on the tether to my harness and says “you are tied on in TWO places”. If I had been thinking straight AT ALL, I am sure I would have realized this, but honest to God, in my mind, I was a goner. So, would I do it again?? You betcha. It was really amazing, other than the neck pain that I am now suffering.

While we were out on the bridge, my parents were watching our kids and trying to take pictures and video of us at the same time. It's a good thing that they were both there, because just before I jumped, Tyson stepped on a nail. It went right through his croc and into his foot. My parents both missed my big leap into space, but thankfully Tyson is ok. Darin and I weren't the only ones who ended up jumping. There was a small group going out after us and once we realized it wouldn't take over an hour, like it had taken for Darin and me to jump, my dad about ran to the cashier to pay for his chance to jump off the bridge. The kids were both screaming at him and telling him “Good job, Papa”.

After playing with elephants and jumping off a bridge, we decided to grab some groceries and head back to our cottage. It is just 10 o'clock right now, and even though there is election information on TV, my parents are both in bed and Darin is sitting on the sofa sleeping, just waiting for me to finish typing this up. Tomorrow we are planning to take it easy and head to the beach. We'll let you know how it goes.