Sunday, September 28, 2014

There is a Time for Everything...

I've really debated with myself on whether or not I should write this post. But in the end I decided that there is the possibility I could help or encourage another mom, and that makes it worth any embarrassment on my part. Plus, I've decided to be real so I'll just go with that. 

I first tried potty training with Graham just after he turned 2. Two days was enough to show me that he wasn't ready. At the time I was facing the craziness of having another baby and moving to Africa, so I decided we would just wait. When we were finally settled in our new home in Mbale, I decided to give it another go. Graham was about 3 1/2. Right away, he started consistently going #1 in the potty. We were so excited and so proud! I was sure that in another few days #2 would click for him as well. 

To our horror, it didn't. As time passed, I started reading all the books I had on child rearing and searching the internet. I quickly learned I wasn't alone. Everyone was basically saying the same thing: "your child just has to be ready, and that age is different for everyone." I sensed in my heart this was true, but I couldn't accept it and I tirelessly worked with Graham on potty training. I explained. I offered rewards. I encouraged. I made a potty chart. I made him sit on the potty every day at the times he normally went. And, I'll admit, I got really frustrated and on occasion, really angry. And Graham kept going #2 in his pants.

After almost a year, we came back to the US for about two months. I decided that this two months would be a break from potty training. I let him wear a pull up when he pooped, and we never talked about potty training at all. For two months. It was a break both of us really needed.

When we returned, I decided it was time to try again. I started encouraging him and making him sit on the potty at his usual times again. And in a few days it clicked, one year after he was potty trained with #1, and at the age of 4 1/2. I don't think I've ever been so relieved. Or proud. Or happy.

It comes to this: kids do things in their own time. Your child may do some things early, and some things late. And that's OK. You really do have to stop yourself from comparing your child with other children. If you doctor says theres nothing to worry about (and ours always did), then don't worry! And I know now more than ever that God hears and cares about our every prayer. He knows and he cares, and he answers in the way he knows is best, in his timing. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014


I've been reading a ton this summer, as I usually do, and thought I would share those books which have stood out in my mind. 

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

I first read Krakauer's book Into the Wild and really enjoyed it. I had heard and read that Into Thin Air was an even more extraordinary story. I like to stick with fiction but this story was more interesting and incredible than most fiction. Krakauer is a journalist who enjoys mountaineering and took a job writing about Mount Everest for Outdoor magazine. He joined a group led by professional guides. Their trip up the mountain would later be known as "The 1996 Everest Tragedy." A terrible storm and other unforeseen circumstances caused many in their group to die, including their guide. 

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer

The title is a mouthful, but this book is a gem. The entire book is written as letter between various characters. It takes places just after world war 2, on the island of Guernsey, which was one of the Channel Islands that was occupied by the Nazis. The UK was never invaded by the Germans, but you may not know that the Channel Islands were. This book is a unique look into life in a occupied country accompanied by an interesting fictional narrative.

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

This book is similar to the Guernsey book in that it takes real historical events and intertwines them with a believable story. I loved this book. I had no idea that New York street children were rounded up, put on trains, and shipped out to the midwest where they were chosen for "adoption" in the early 1900's. This book also flip flops between this time period and another story taking place in the modern day, which I particularly enjoy. The author does an amazing job of paralleling and intertwining the two stories. 

Noteworthy authors:

Liane Moriarty. I honestly wish I could go back and read all of her books again for the first time. They are so good! Moriarty's books all take place in Australia, where she's from. The writing is just so clever and enjoyable. The characters are all modern-day, very realistic and funny. She's written six books and I've now read and enjoyed them all. My particular favorite is probably Three Wishes, which was her first novel.

John Grisham. Well, duh. But seriously. All of his books are so good. And right now I'm trying to read them all. My favorites are The Last Juror and The Testament. So far none of his books have disappointed me. Next on my list: Sycamore Row.

Any recommendations? 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Talk Like a Ugandan

If you want to come to Uganda, and I highly recommend you do, you need to learn to talk like a Ugandan. You may be surprised to find that just because two people speak english, that does not mean they can understand each other. So here are some helpful little ways you can change the way you talk:

When something surprises you, instead of saying "really?!" say "sure?!"

Don't say you want your food "to go." You want it for "take away."

Instead of saying "me too" say "even me."

Learn to say "sorry please" and "thank you please."

It's not a "diaper." It's a "pamper."

If you need to say "I just need to pick up my purse" say "I just need to pick my purse."

Now just add on your Ugandan accent and you're ready! It may feel strange at first, but you'll get used it. I have!

Friday, September 12, 2014


As a missionary living on the generosity of others, we like to give good news. Pretty pictures of our work, which is of course going better than planned. It's easy to censor what we put on blogs, newsletters, and social media to sound like everything is peachy keen. I guess though its probably easy for anyone to do that. 

But I really don't want to be like that. I want my friends and family in the states to see what our life is like here in Uganda. The good and the bad.

We've had a tough time in the past three months since we returned from the states. We've suffered two rather serious physical injuries. And we've said goodbye to three families we grew very close with over the past year. Throw on top some illnesses, tedious traveling, medical bills, difficulties at work, and power outages and the Allen family is dragging its feet a bit. 

Its really easy at times like these to look back on our life in the states and compare. And think life was just simple and predictable and easy. I miss that. But deep down even as I type those words I realize thats a lie. My life stateside wasn't perfect and I know that our difficulties would never be solved by running home. 

We are not giving up. Not by a long shot. We are committed. We knew it wouldn't always be adventurous and fun, although it often is. We see this for what it is: a rough patch, a bump in the road. It sure stinks while you walk through it, but you know God will get you through. After all, he certainly has before.

2 Corinthians 4:7-9, 16-18 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Back To School

On August 18th students returned to classes at Livingstone International University. On August 23rd we attended the convocation.

*side note: my kids sat quietly through the entire convocation!!

We have 25 new incoming freshman, and this is the first year that LIU has all four classes of students. In May we will have our first graduating class! We are so happy to see LIU's campus come back to life with the return of the students. I personally was very pleased to see all 5 of the girls I mentored this past year. 

Next week, Graham will be returning to school as well. I'll be homeschooling him for preschool this year. While I was in the states this summer I purchased Sonlight homeschool curriculum. I am also using some material that my amazing Aunt Rachel graciously shared with me. The kids and I will be very happy to step back into a regular routine. More pics and stories about homeschool to come!

Worshipping in chapel:

Here are Chad's 4 interns from this summer:

LIU's new students:

LIU's singing group the Melodies. They always manage to bring tears to my eyes!

Convocation speakers:

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Team Retreat 2014

Once a year our mission team gets away for a long weekend to relax, fellowship, and rejuvenate. Usually we go to Jinja, which is close and affordable. But our team has been planning for a long time to go to Kenya for our retreat this year. 

Rondo Retreat Centre is located near Kakamega, Kenya in the middle of the rainforest. Every year the Churches of Christ holds their men's and women's retreats there. I didn't get to go to the women's retreat this past year (having a baby who was too small to leave for a week) so this was my first time to go to Rondo.

This retreat was special because it was our last team activity with our good friends Vince, Joy, Elias, and Alegra Vigil, who have been in Mbale for 6 years. In less than two weeks they will be moving back to the US. It was really special to spend this retreat with them.

There was no agenda for this retreat, except for our meals. We played volleyball, baseball, and soccer. We played Heads Up, Nertz, and Spades. We talked. We sang. We ate. We hiked. We read. It was incredibly peaceful. The kids absolutely loved having the wide open lawns to explore and play in. I hardly saw Graham all weekend, he was having so much fun playing with his friends. 

We had a couple of not-so-minor hiccups on this trip though! The first night we were there Molly got sick with a stomach/fever bug. She slept very poorly the whole time we were there. And Chad slipped and severely sprained his ankle. 

A funny story from our trip: a large group of us went on an easy hike through the rainforest. At one point, the trail was absolutely covered with crawling safari ants (really large black ants that bite) for about 10-15 feet. We all walked across as quickly as we could, dumbfounded by the amount of ants. Riley Robinson (8 yo) immediately started yelping that she was being bit by ants. We all thought she was being overly dramatic, there's no way the ants could have gotten on us when we were walking so quickly! But a few steps later someone else cried out, "I have ants all over me!" Just then I felt a sharp bite on my arm. I pulled up my sleeves to reveal several huge ants! We had ants all over us, in our pants, shirts, and socks. Crazy!

Despite the TIA moments, this was a really special time of fellowship with our friends family.