Sunday, December 27, 2015

2015 Books

My goal for 2015 was to read 40 books. I didn't quite make it, I've finished 36 and I have 2 that are not quite finished yet. Here are the books I enjoyed the most this year. 

The Lake House by Kate Morton
I love everything by Kate Morton. She is one of my favorite authors. I anxiously awaited this book coming out. It was everything I've come to expect in a Kate Morton book: a complicated mystery, lots of jumping back and forth between time periods, and interesting places and characters. I highly recommend The Lake House.

Circling the Sun by Paula McLain
The Paris Wife is the first book I've read by Paula McLain. I enjoyed it so much that I decided to read her newest book: Circling the Sun. This book is historical fiction depicting the life of Beryl Markham, a famous pilot. Beryl grew up in colonial Kenya, and worked most of her life as a horse trainer. She lead a fascinating life, and this was a fascinating book!

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
I love books about World War II. In fact I'm kind of addicted. And let me tell you, this is a really good one, although it's fiction. It tells the tale of two sisters fighting for their lives in occupied France. The younger one becomes involved in smuggling downed British pilots across the border. The other helps orphaned Jewish children find new homes and forged papers. This is a must-read for anyone who enjoys this genre. 

For the Love by Jen Hatmaker
I discovered Jen Hatmaker this year. Where have I been? She is so funny! I loved this book. It was hilarious, encouraging, heart-warming, and insightful. If you're a Christian mom, you NEED to read this. 

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
This is not a new book at all. It's an old book that I hadn't read before. I really enjoy books from this time period (such as Jane Eyre), and I was so happy to discover one I haven't read before. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and then watching the BBC miniseries afterwards. 

The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson
This isn't a new book either, but it was recommended to me by a friend. This is one of the funniest books I've ever read

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Baby Finn - 6 Months Old

We, all 4 of us, really cherish this baby. He is just a joy. Life has certainly become a bit more complicated by adding a 3rd, but wouldn't trade it for anything. We are just having a blast!

Here is some of the latest on Finn:

He is our smallest baby by far. He is wearing some 6 month and some 9 month clothes. 

He sleeps on his tummy and is a great sleeper, although has recently started nursing in the middle of the night again. 

He loves to play in his exersaucer, but it makes him tired. He likes to play sitting up or on his tummy. He can hold a toy if we put it in his hand. 

He sucks his fist to go to sleep and pretty much sucks on it all the time. That's why he's usually pretty content without a toy. 

He has the loveliest smile and cutest dimples. His brother and sister can always make him laugh!

He is exclusively breast fed, but we'll be starting some solid foods soon. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Not Enough

In Mbale, we are surrounded by need. We are also surrounded by worthy projects and ministries. When we first arrived, we had to make a conscious effort to stay focused on what God had called us to do here. We were asked to help with lots of things, lots of good things. However, if we were to try to meet every need, we would burn out quickly. Not to mention, there is just not enough time and money to go around.

Still, we do what we can to help those in need around us, especially those we are working with us and for us. But even then, it sometimes feels frustrating to not be able to do enough.

For example, recently we had all of our worker and their families come over for a appreciation lunch. We do this once a year for the 3 guards and 2 housekeepers who work for us. One of our guards has 8 children, including a 1 month old baby girl. His children ran and played all over our compound, all wearing hand-me-down clothes from my kids, and all frighteningly thin. They seemed happy and healthy though, I argued with myself. When we sat down to eat, all of his children had plates heaping full of food.

And then my heart almost broke when his boys got up and asked for seconds, and each devoured another heaping plateful.

I know that this lunch was special to them and that they enjoyed it. I know that the salary we pay their dad pays for their food, shelter, and school fees. But they are still hungry. They are still needy. We do what we can, but we can't do enough. On this earth we can never do enough to help the broken and the hurting. We simply have to do what God calls us to do in the name of Jesus, and know that Jesus is enough. He is enough for each of us.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Home Service

Here in Mbale many of our service people travel from house to house to get business, instead of having a permanent store location in town. I personally love this. With an infant and a toddler in tow, I really appreciate people who will come to me, so that I don't have to leave the house. 

However, this feature has a downside too, and that is lack of privacy. We already give up a lot of our privacy by having full-time guards and housekeepers. This is, by the way, perfectly normal here, but I'll write about that another time. Americans love privacy, did you know? It's so normal there, you probably don't even realize it. 

But anyways, with our specialized service people coming right into our yard and into our house, we give up a bit more of our privacy. But I'm generally okay with that, because I'm used to it. 

Here our some of the people we love who go door to door:

1. The Veggie Man. Our Veggie Man lives on Mount Wanale about 45 minutes from Mbale. The climate there is cooler and he can grow some things that won't grow at lower elevation. Plus he caters to mzungu (white person) taste. We love to buy lettuce, strawberries, and broccoli from him, and we can't get these things in the market. 

2. The Veterinarian. Our vet travels by motorcycle. When we had our dog fixed, he did it right in our yard. No joke. 

3. The Dairy Man. Our milk is delivered to our house 3 times a week by a Dutch dairy farmer. It comes fresh and raw, and we pasteurize it ourselves. 

4. The Carpenter. Our carpenter is a also a pastor, and generally a really nice guy. He builds nice furniture, but is also happy to do small repairs. We give him work whenever we can. 

5. The Electrician. We need work done from a good electrician fairly regularly. The power here is very unreliable, and so we have a battery back-up system. And electrical fires are common here, because it's common for the power to surge. There are just a lot of electrical issues here. 

6. The Exterminator. Okay so I guess everyone's exterminator comes to their house. But I'm willing to bet that you don't need an exterminator as often as we do! We are almost constantly trying to keep roaches, rats, ants, and termites at bay. 

Now I just need my groceries and mail delivered to my house and I'd never have to leave!

Friday, December 4, 2015

Molly's 3rd Birthday Party

I don't want to brag, but I think I've gotten pretty good at hosting birthday parties that include lots of people. The main ingredients are: LOTS of food, sodas, a few fun decorations, and some kind of craft. This year Molly said she wanted purple balloons for her birthday, so I kind of went with the purple theme. We also had some Daniel Tiger coloring pages, because that's her favorite TV show. Molly was really into the whole birthday thing this year. She blew out her own candles and opened her own presents. It's of course very bittersweet for me because I'm proud of how much she's grown, but heartbroken that all signs of "Baby Molly" are gone. 

I love that our community here in Mbale is so diverse. My kids play with kids ages 1-13, from several different nations. They really do have some wonderful friends and we were thrilled that so many showed up to celebrate with us. 

Monday, November 30, 2015

Molly's Birthday Questionnaire - 3 Years Old

1. How old are you? Three.

2. What makes you happy? I'm just happy.

3. What is your favorite animal? Pony.

4. What is your favorite food? Strawberries.

5. What is your favorite thing to do? Paint. Play with markers.

6. What is your favorite TV show? Daniel Tigers is my favorite TV show.

7. What is your favorite movie? Daniel Tigers.

8. What is your favorite color? Purple.

9. What is your favorite song? Santa Claus song.

10. Who are your friends? Lilly.

11. What do you like to do with Mommy? I like to paint.

12. What do you like to do with Daddy? I like to play blocks with Daddy.

13. Where is your favorite place to go? I like to go to church.

14. What is your favorite book? Santa Claus book.

15. What do you want to be when you grow up? Dancing Show.

16. What is your favorite bible story? Santa Claus.

I would need 3 or 4 pages to tell you how special our girl is to us and how much we love her. I can't believe she is already 3 years old. She is fearless, loves to be outside, will eat anything, and she plays with all her heart. We are very proud.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015


I can hardly believe it, but Graham is in kindergarten! There were no tears here. I am just SO THANKFUL that Graham gets to go to kindergarten at all, and that I don't have to homeschool. It's all thanks to the Tyler International School. We are seriously so excited to be a part of it.

TIS has 12 students ages 4-13, and 3 teachers. Graham's class is pre-k and kindergarten and there are 6 students. His teacher, Miss Malinda, is very sweet and also very experienced. I am already so pleased with the progress he's made!

It's been a bit of an adjustment in our family for Graham to be away most of the day. Especially for Molly. She was very disappointed that she doesn't get to go to school too, and she misses him a lot during the day.

We are very grateful to our good friend Ty, who came to Mbale to start an international school two years ago. He is making it possible for people like us to live here without homeschooling. His school is blessing so many families in Mbale. 

Finn - 3 Months Old

Well, keeping up with monthly posts doesn't quite seem possible with a third child! However, I'm still trying. 

He's growing!

We all love having this baby around. He is incredibly sweet and smiley. Our first three weeks in Uganda (Finn was 3 weeks old when we arrived) were not so sweet. Finn was very fussy, and I had to hold him pretty much all day. Then I unlocked the secret to his happiness and started laying him down to sleep on his tummy. Almost immediately he started sleeping 10, 11, even sometimes 12 hours straight at night. Success!

Since then things have been much more manageable, especially with big brother starting kindergarten. Now that Finn is 3 months old I'm starting to feel like my old self again. Those first 3 months are just hard, right?

Finn is my smallest baby so far. I don't know how much he weighs, but he is wearing size 3-6 month clothes. Molly was already quite a chunk by 3 months.

Oh yes. We love it. 

Graham and Molly love having a baby brother. They are (mostly) very sweet to him. They love to hold him and try to make him smile, especially Graham. Graham loves to talk about all the things he's going to teach Finn to do. And he talks a lot about how they are going to share bunk beds. I still have to watch Molly carefully around Finn. She loves him, but she's still a 2 year old. I once caught her trying to put a small lego in his mouth. Yikes!

We are very very thankful that God has blessed us with this baby. He is so handsome and sweet, we are just as in love this time as we were the first two times!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Finn Christopher Allen

It's been a few months since I've written on my blog, and I wonder if anyone still reads it. But this is a great way to keep track of my kids' milestones and I really want to keep doing it.

On June 16 at 1:53 am, we became a family of 5! Here's the story:

As with Molly, I was scheduled to be induced a week before my due date (because of some of the issues I had when Graham was born). I went to the hospital at 6 pm on June 15. The midwife planned to give me medicine overnight to prep my body for labor. However when I got hooked up the monitors, they discovered that I was already having contractions 5 minutes apart, although they weren't painful. And I was dilated 3 centimeters. So the midwife decided to go ahead and start pitocin. 

For the first few hours, my contractions continued to be pain-free and I watched TV. The nurse came in periodically to turn up the pitocin. Suddenly, very suddenly, I had a very painful contraction. I immediately called the nurse and told her I was ready for my epidural. But it would take a while for the anesthesiologist to arrive. I was in hard labor, vomiting and writhing in pain. Finally he arrived and I got the epidural - sweet relief! I started to doze a bit. 

I've never before delivered with a midwife and I really liked it. I quickly reached 10 centimeters, but the midwife didn't ask me to start pushing. She took everything really slowly. I actually then dozed for about 30 minutes. I woke up suddenly, ready to push. I pushed 3 times and he was here! They put him directly on my chest and ended up leaving him there for several hours. The nurses did everything they needed to do to him right there on my chest. My mom and Chad were in the room for the delivery.

He weighed 8 pounds 1 ounce, and was 21 inches long. He had the most beautiful dimples! And we immediately noticed his long fingers and toes. 

Graham and Molly LOVE having a baby brother. They actually argue over holding him! They both love to kiss him, sing to him, and touch him. 

I will upload pictures later, and I have lots more to tell about the last few months, but for now this will do. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Graham's Birthday Questionnaire - 5 Years Old

This is the questionnaire I'm going to use for our kids each year on their birthday. You can see Graham's questionnaire from last year here. His answers are a lot longer this year. I sure can't believe Graham is already five!!!

1. How old are you? Five.

2. What makes you happy? When I turn five. And I like to play legos all day. And if I'm bleeding I put a band aid on. And when I'm grown up I'll put a band aid on myself.

3. What is your favorite animal? Giraffes and chimpanzees and birds.

4. What is your favorite food? French no dogs with bread. And my favorite soup is tato soup.

5. What is your favorite thing to do? Ride on an airplane. And my favorite airplane is the one that has a little tail on it and it goes up up high.

6. What is your favorite TV show? Daniel Tiger and Mighty Machines.

7. What is your favorite movie? Cars and Planes.

8. What is your favorite color? Green and blue and pink and red and yellow and orange and red and blue and green.

9. What is your favorite song? ABC's.

10. Who are your friends? Jackson and Lilly and John Mark and Riley and Grace and Joseph.

11. What do you like to do with Mommy? Do school.

12. What do you like to do with Daddy? Go to work. And play games.

13. Where is your favorite place to go? To our old house. And this house. And Mimi's house. And Nonnie's house.

14. What is your favorite book? On The Moon.

*Seriously, I have read On The Moon about 200 times. Graham has it memorized word for word.

15. What do you want to be when you grow up? I like to be a soccer player.

*Which, coincidentally, is what Graham's 12 year old friend John Mark wants to be.

16. What is your favorite bible story? David and Goliath. 

We are really proud of our big boy. He has really changed and grown a lot in the last year! He loves to do school, play with friends, swim, play outside, play games, watch cartoons, and look at books. He's a wonderful big brother. Here are some of my favorite pictures of Graham from the last year.