Monday, October 29, 2012

Does It Snow In Kenya?

Passports are in place, plane tickets will be purchased within days, and we're making our packing lists. We're going to Kenya!!

a photo from the Tenwek Hospital website
I'm so excited my hands are shaking as I write this. We've been talking and praying and dreaming about it for so long that I cannot believe the time has finally arrived. (I wrote about it in February in this post.) God has thrown doors wide, wide open and we're busting through because there is no way we're passing on this opportunity.

We've watched over the last few months as things have fallen into place to make this trip possible. Okay, we haven't just watched, we've had to push in some cases. I'm so thankful to be married to man who has a strong vision and whose desire to make that vision happen is just as strong. He met with many people and had long phone conversations to make this come together. Pete had to make sure that there would be US board certified physicians in Kenya to oversee his work and then had to work hard to make our trip a part of his residency training. And he (and God!) made it happen. Half of our time away will count toward his training, which means his time in residency will only be extended one month this summer.

the arrow points to where we'll be living
We're still nailing down our exact travel dates, but we'll roughly be gone January 13 through March 8. Those are the dates that Pete has open. He'll be working at Tenwek Hospital in Bomet, Kenya. Tenwek was founded in 1937 by World Gospel Misison, the same organization I spent a year and a half working with in Honduras in 2002-2003. The hospital is well-established and is known for offering high-quality care to many who can't afford it. (Their gynecology unit has 72 beds!) They also train Kenyan doctors and nurses who then go out into other parts of Kenya to serve small communities. There are lots of great photos on their website if you click HERE.

Tewek Hospital
We'll be traveling under Wold Medical Mission, a part of Samaritan's Purse, which was established by Billy Graham's son, Franklin Graham. They take care of all of the travel details like flights, visas, Pete's medical license in Kenya, our apartment, insurance, and so on. While Pete works in the hospital, I'll be exploring daily life with Ella and Sam. I hope to befriend other women in the area (missionaries, doctor's wives, and nationals) and tag along on everyday trips like shopping at the market and going to church. I also hope to check out some of the local schools to get an idea of what the school system is like for future teaching opportunities. I'm also curious to see what school might someday be like for Ella and Sam. So much to do in two months!

in Bomet, Kenya
Some of you know our long-term plans but some of you do not, so here they are. Pete will finish residency in late July of the coming summer. Then he hopes to work in the area for two years while we pay off school loans, find a large organization to work under, and prepare to move to Africa. There may be another exploratory trip in there, too, as we're not exactly sure which part of Africa we'll be going long-term. We have lots of questions, but we hope the trip this winter will answer many of them.

hoping to see a few of these
 I've been waiting years to go abroad with my family. Practically my entire life. I've known this would be my path since I was very little, but I sometimes can't believe I actually get to do it. Now I have a strong, determined husband and two amazing little ones that will be traveling with me. How am I so blessed?

Ella talks about going on a plane to "Acita" after Christmas to see zebras, elephants, and giraffes. I hope she gets to see those things and so much more. One thing I can promise she won't be seeing, though, is snow.

our little man in his passport photo

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Hello, Sven!

Last night Pete & I went to Sam's Club for a few things at the beginning of our hot, weekly date. While walking back to the frozen food section, we passed a big bin of ginormous stuffed animals. After great deliberation, we decided to buy the puppy for Ella. I had been looking for cozy pillows for her room, and this puppy seemed even better than a few random throw pillows. What's even better was that it had a little (very fixable) hole in it, so we got a discount! (Dave Ramsey would be so proud we asked for that.) We named our big guy Sven & let Ella wake up next to him this morning. She was thrilled!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A Simple Reminder

I was cuddling in bed with Ella this morning when she looked at me and whispered, "You're the best, Mom. Jesus loves you." Simple words spoken with sincerity can go deep. It's good to be reminded of that, especially from a three year old.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

In the Kitchen

Tonight I'm working on a cake that I think is going to be adorable. I'll just say that it's very pink, through and through. I've been lacking lately in posting photos of my cake creations for you. I'll see if I can fix that this weekend. Saturday and Sunday will be spent rewriting parts of my thesis, so I'll surely need a break from deep thinking. 

Along the lines of cake...but far a recipe I came across two or three months ago. It's a recipe for baked oatmeal I found on the Sugar Free Mom website. (I know, I know, it seems odd that I love anything with "sugar-free" in the title considering all the sugar I use in my cakes on a daily basis, but how else am I going to lose these baby pounds?) She has so many great recipes I want to try. I've made these countless times already. I usually make a double batch and freeze half for later. They are perfect for grabbing on the go (like when we wake up late and have to rush to get Ella to preschool on time). I like to make them with different mix-ins like blueberries or dried currents. The recipe can be found HERE. I recommend putting the mix-ins right in the batter rather than on top. Yum!

Now it's back to the pink cake! It's late (10:30pm) but this is one of my favorite times to work since I know I won't have little hands reaching across the table for pieces of fondant or jars of sprinkles. I can pop in a movie and work work work. Tonight I have The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which I've seen before. Pete & I saw it at our favorite theater downtown shortly after Sam was born. Very shortly, actually, since I remember still being on pain killers. I was very relaxed. It was lovely. But that's beside the point. Ha.

Most of my baking is done at the kitchen I rent downtown, but sometimes these really detailed fondant cakes need a lot of time, so they are brought home. 

I'll work on getting cake photos posted soon. In the meantime, enjoy the end of the week!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Apple Fest & All Things Autumny

Apples! Every year we make the trip from Duluth to Bayfield, Wisconsin for Apple Fest. It's one of our favorite events of the year. Pete & I have been going since we met, so this was our seventh consecutive Apple Fest together, Ella's fourth, and Sam's first.

We arrived in town just before the parade started. I've mentioned it before...I'm a huge fan of parades. They just get me. I love that everyone waves and cheers and dances a bit to the marching bands. Honestly, how much I enjoy parades can get a little ridiculous. And now I get to share them with the little ones!

Sam was snug as a bug inside his stroller. He did not like the sirens at the start of the parade so Daddy covered his ears.

Oh no! I just realized we didn't get a picture of Pete with his cheese curds. Without exception, cheese curds are the first thing we buy every year. Pete offered to by buy mini donuts for me as we passed a stand, but I insisted we had to get those fried, cheesy pieces of heaven first. I don't love them as much as Pete, but it's pretty close.

Then we got the mini donuts.

The parade is so long at Apple Fest that we watch part of it, get something to eat, watch some more, walk a little, watch a bit more, and check out all the art vendors. It's the best time to see the art since the booths aren't crowded.

These were the greatest hammocks we've ever seen and they're made by a family just 20 minutes north of Duluth! Canvas outside, fleece inside. Yes, please. Tree to Tree has an online shop HERE.

After the art vendors, we helped ourselves to more apple goodness.

Could I love these two any more? Nope. I couldn't.

As per tradition, we bought kettle corn right before leaving to drive out to the orchards. If you know Pete, you know he's a guy who never does anything halfway. Go all out or don't bother. Therefore, I should have expected this when I sent him to buy the popcorn. Good grief! The bag is nearly as big as Ella! She was in heaven.

I love the little town of Bayfield. Little towns are my favorite. I grew up in one, so I can imagine what life is like there. Even as the main streets were packed with people, we managed to find a quiet alley for a stroll.

We also found Pete's favorite bridge. It's easy to miss. It sits between two streets lined with houses and is surrounded by trees. This is the gorgeous view of what sits below.

My three loves on the bridge.

We asked a stranger on the bridge to take our family picture, and it turned out not to be a stranger at all! It was Reid, a young guy who went to the church where Pete & I met years ago. We got to meet his wife of two months and catch up a bit. It was a unexpected interaction. I love those.

Then we drove out to the orchards. Bayfield is surrounded by them, but we go to the same one every year. We have a photo of Ella in an apple basket when she was Sam's age, so we were set on capturing the same image of Sam. Miss Ella wanted to be in the basket with him, which would have been adorable, but I think we would have returned a broken basket to the orchard owners. She was happy as a lark, though, when we piled apples around her in the grass.

Sammy on the top & Ella (3 months) below. I love how similar they are!


Yesterday Sam had his 4 month appointment and weighed in at 14 pounds 13 ounces. I wasn't at all surprised to learn that he had gained 10 ounces since his appointment 2 weeks ago since he was a nursing machine last week. He couldn't get enough! I think most of it went to his cheeks. He has the softest, pudgiest cheeks of any little boy I've met. I cuddle them a lot. A LOT.

Next on the list of appointments for our boy is an appointment with the eye specialist next week. That's expected for any baby with his diagnosis. Just need to make sure his little peepers are healthy!

In all regards, he's doing amazingly well. Sam's PT and OT are happy with his progress. He's lifting his feet in the air and playing with his hands, holding toys, turning his head when he hears a bell, and smiling a whole lot. We continue to do a little physical therapy every day in simple ways, mostly through how he sits in his bouncy seat or is positioned during tummy time. Little things can make big differences in his physical strengthening. We're so proud of how he's moving ahead!


We've been enjoying fall around here! It has certainly turned cooler and the leaves are letting go of their branches. (It even snowed last week, but we'll pretend that didn't happen. At least it didn't stick.) Ella helped me make apple decorations for the mantle and we collected leaves for a leaf garland to hang on the mirror above it.


And finally, last week Ella had school pictures. We got up just a bit early in the hopes of avoiding a mad dash out the door in a disheveled mess. We were successful! Her pigtails even made it through the whole morning at school. Her teachers told me at the end of the day that she was really excited about the pictures. The next day she told me she wanted to do them again! Ella sure loves having her picture taken. But we kind of knew that already, didn't we?

Friday, October 5, 2012

Sammy's Superheroes!

The day finally arrived. Even though I was super tired after two days of wedding catering (500 cupcakes & two multi-tier cakes) and a quick recognition of my own birthday, I woke up before my alarm. The capes were ironed, shirts set out, and snacks packed. We had been looking forward to the Step Up for Down Syndrome Walk for many weeks. I wanted to soak in every detail.

While Sam was taking his morning nap, I surprised Ella with her "Super Ella" costume, as she prefers to call it. First I gave her the gold sparkly shoes (from a thrift store in Wisconsin), then the tutu (made by mama and hidden in a bag until the big reveal), and finally the shirt and cape. Once the outfit was put on and paired with tights, Super Ella ran around the house, hands in the air, alternating between ballerina twirls and leaps off of furniture.

Next, Sam was dressed in his tiny onsie and cape, matching tights, and red socks. The boy was born to fly!

Daddy next. Daddy's costume was one part his everyday work clothes and one part Superman. I made a shirt for him to match Ella & Sam and attached a long cape to hang out his shirt. The glasses came from Uncle Jake. Personally, I think my man made a pretty hot superhero.

I had no idea what to do for my own costume. I'm not down to my pre-Sammy weight, so things I had on hand didn't fit. I ended up making a dress from a tank and blue fabric, putting on a cardigan, and tossing a cape over it all. It did the trick just fine.

Before heading to Canal Park to meet up with the rest of Sammy's Superheroes, we decorated the wagon with signs and ribbon, attached balloons to Sammy's stroller, and had a little chalk party in the front yard to fill the remaining time. Then we were off!

We arrived at the event filled with excitement. Music was pumping, bouncy houses were jumping, and kids were running everywhere!

Ella loves mascots. Look at Champ, my alma mater's Bulldog, sporting the Step Up t-shirt. So proud.

Teams had signs and matching t-shirts, but our capes seemed to set us apart from the rest of the crowd...until the Horns arrived.

Our dear friends Eli, Krista, and Caleb came in style.

The boys compared superhero notes.

And then the walk began! Daddy & Sammy led the way.

Ella helped Papa Scott with Luther.

And with Gracie.

And eventually Gracie took over Malena & Maira's stroller.

Ella's friend Ava got to be a part of our team! She was a little shy at this moment, but I think she had fun riding in her wagon with little brother, Oakley.

 Ella shared her wagon with cousin Malena for a little while.

Ang's cousin Megan had a turn to cuddle Sammy.

Look at all the people! We walked from the DECC to the Canal, along Lake Superior, and back. For most the walk, the weather was warmish and sunny.

In Canal Park we stopped to play a take a few pictures.

Here's part of our team. Not everyone made it into the picture. We had such a great time with everyone!

Daddy with his little superhero.

And mama with her superhero.

And two crazy superheroes together. (Pete may look short here, but he's 6'1". Eli is just that tall.)

My friends, we had an amazing day. I was overwhelmed with good emotions as we stood surrounded by crowds of people who are living with and loving on beautiful people with Down syndrome. I'm learning everyday that one extra special chromosome makes our world brighter.

We are so very, very thankful to all of you who supported Sammy's Superheroes. We never imagined we would reach $1,742. AMAZING!

Thank you to Eli & Krista for some of the great photos above!

Just because he's so darn cute, here's one more photo of our little superhero.


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