2014

2014 has come and gone. Time marches forward, and yet, no flying cars.

As my wrap-up post for the year, here are my top 10 memories/moments/milestones for 2014, in no particular order.

1. Baby Bennett 2.0! (Due in about 8 weeks. Yikes!)

2. Trip to America – lots of fun times with family and friends, and a chance to rest and refresh.

3. The Book! I had the amazing opportunity to work with a friend to write a book on a topic about which I have become quite passionate, and it’s being published in just a few weeks. I will be sharing more in the coming weeks.

4. Family vacation to Zanzibar. It was beautiful and luxurious.

5. Substitute teaching at an international Christian school here in Kigali for about 6 weeks. It was so fun to get to know the kids and share some love of British literature.

6. New friends – Ben and Susie Thomas (http://www.benandsusiethomas.com/) moved to Kigali. They are an amazing family serving in Rwanda, and they’ve been an essential addition to our community here. We love them!

7. Watching Freddy grow up has been humbling and beautiful. His physical growth, language development and personality formation has been a thrill to watch. I just love (most of) the minutes I spend with him.

8. Speaking of humbling experiences, in 2014, BB launched his consulting business, which included hiring and training Rwandan staff. We are learning more every day, and it’s been exciting to watch God work through this little project.

9. OWAS closed down! After a long battle, the Council on Accreditation revoked OWAS’ accreditation, and as a result, they had to declare bankruptcy and close.

10. We celebrated 11 years of marriage. What a joy it’s been to be loved by my sweet husband. It’s hard to believe we are those same crazy, idealistic babies that got married. And now we are almost parents x 2.

In 2015, I am looking forward to being in America for the birth of Baby Bennett 2.0, the book being published, a return to our friends here in Rwanda, a family reunion in Maine, and maybe some more African travel. Most importantly, I am looking forward to seeing how God continues to stretch us, challenge us and teach us more about him and his world.

Happy New Year!

Chaos

My life has been feeling a bit chaotic. I have to do lists written and typed in various places or floating in my head. It’s almost transition time again. So this post is going to be chaotic too.

The hard parts about this life we’ve chosen are always the unexpected. Transitions are so hard – one foot in and one foot out all the time. This year has it’s particular challenge in that we don’t get to spend a full year in Rwanda. Six months is way too short. I’ve barely gotten settled, and I’m already making packing lists again.

We will have about four months in the US, which months will be full of their own transitions. (I can’t remember, is having a newborn hard?) I can already see the effects of so much transition on Freddy – some good and some less so. It will be interesting to see how this life shapes him as he gets older.

It looks like our book may be published right about the time Baby 2.0 arrives. That seems fitting. I’ve been working a lot of side projects related to the book and adoption advocacy. It’s amazing to me that this has become such a big part of my life.

I think we might actually have to sleep train Fred (ugh, I hate that phrase). Bedtime has become extremely challenging. I’ve so enjoyed the freedom of nursing him to sleep and letting him decide when he was ready for various transitions (i.e. he started sleeping through the night on his own, etc.). But I’m so worn out, and nursing him for long stretches has become physically challenging for me between the lack of milk and my growing belly. I’m praying he just figures it out before this weekend. Otherwise, daddy sleep boot camp might be in effect. I’m fundamentally opposed to cry it out – we all have to do what we need to do, and that’s just not for me. So he’s going to have some long nights snuggling daddy, I think. We shall see.

BB has been in London for 10 days, and we are SO very ready for him to return.

11 Years

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We had our first fight as a married couple walking down the aisle 11 years ago. I believe BB wanted me to stop at the end of the aisle for a photo, and I said “I’ll do what I want. Don’t tell me what to do!” And not much has changed since then.

Yesterday a youthful yet wise friend asked me about when I am really happy here in Rwanda. I couldn’t answer well in the moment because I really had to pee, BB was texting me, and Freddy was melting down. But when I got in the car and Freddy had his snack, I knew the answer. The happiest thing in my life is my marriage.

I love what Rwanda has done for our marriage, and that’s not at all to say that our marriage was lacking in America. But being here has illuminated our weak points and made us stronger. It’s brought greater intimacy as we struggle through the loneliness, the fears, the doubts, the strange-ness of this palce. Clearing our schedules has given us so much time together. Raising our son together on our own and separated from all we know has given us an opportunity to create our own family.

Of course it’s not perfect and won’t ever be this side of heaven. BB still tries to tell me what to do (less often now), and I respond with unkind words. We have our disappointments in and with each other. Decisions are hard. Conflicts get ugly.

I can honestly say that I did not know what I was getting into when I got married. But I’m sure glad I did. And I’ve only regretted it a couple of times. Kidding. Not Really.

Love you BB! Happy anniversary!

 

Every Bitter Thing is Sweet

Today I’m delighted to introduce you to my friend Sara Hagerty. I met Sara indirectly through BB. Back in our days of adoption preparation, I spent hours on the internet looking for stories and glimpses into what life would be like with our brood. I stumbled upon her website where I watched a video summary of their adoption wait. I showed BB, who promptly replied, “hey, that’s Nate Hagerty (Sara’s husband)! I went to college with him.”

A fun small world experience led me to subscribe to Sara’s blog for the next year or so and be fed from her table of adoration. Sara’s writing is raw, honest and beautiful, and I’m so excited to tell you that now you can read it in book form! Her soon to be bestseller, Every Bitter Thing is Sweet, releases today.

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I was privileged to receive an advance copy of the book, and I’m devouring it. I find myself caught up in the hunger for more of Him as I read her story. Sara has a beautiful story (that’s still being written), much of which I can relate to – infertility, adoption, and then a surprise of fertility – but that’s not why it’s great.

Sara’s book brings to me an encounter with Jesus, and isn’t that what so many of us are looking for in life? Her words make me want to put the book down and pick up the Bible, singing praise to the one who brings water in the desert.

Enough from me – go get this book. You will be blessed, you will meet Jesus in the pages, and you will not regret it. You can order it here and be reading it in minutes (or 2 days if you are old school). Order by October 14 and receive a free song and devotional. Details here. If you are a visual person and need more convincing, check out this awesome video.

 

Cars in Rwanda

Last year we didn’t have a car. Cars are very expensive here, and there aren’t exactly car loans. A combination of too many Starbucks, law school and friends who won’t stop running races for clean water, means we don’t have an extra $10K sitting around to buy a beat up 1995 automatic Toyota Corolla. Last year we stretched ourselves with relying on public transportation, friends and taxis. It was freeing in some ways but also quite burdensome.

This year, we decided we needed a car to use more often so we’ve been renting one from a friend here. It’s been wonderful and, dare I say, life-changing. The freedom to move about without relying on others has lifted my spirits.

Of course, with cars come car trouble. To some, car trouble feels stressful and overwhelming, but I actually kind of enjoy car trouble in Rwanda. Rwanda is the very best place to have car trouble – everyone is an amateur mechanic, and everyone is eager to make a few bucks to help you out. It’s one of my favorite cultural experiences.

Today was no different. I drove BB to work, and he noticed the steering wheel shaking a bit. He mentioned that we should check the air pressure in the tires, and I promptly ignored him because I’m an egalitarian feminist in every way except that men are 100% in charge of car issues, killing insects and rodents, and taking out the trash. In all those areas, I submit.

Of course, an hour later, I could tell that my tire was flat. I was almost downtown so I pressed to a quieter street to pull over. The crowds coming by to tell me “sorry sorry,” and “you have a problem,” notwithstanding, I had quick help. Our guard (houseworker who watches the property, does yard work and opens the gate) came to rescue me after about 30 minutes. Once he arrived, and I was out of my car, we had a crowd of moto drivers and passers-by excited to help (and make a few bucks in doing so).

They all spoke for a while about the best course of action (repair or replace), and within a few minutes, they had a plan of action. My new friend John took off on a moto to investigate the cost of a new (used) tire. Another guy whose name I didn’t catch, was off on another moto to get the tools needed. The whole operation took about an hour, and I was on my way.

My one regret is that I don’t have many photos. My phone battery was dying, and I made the prudent choice to save battery in case I needed to call BB instead of videotaping the whole experience for social media.

 

Twenty Months

Fred, today you are 20 months old. Twenty months seems like a long times (especially when I consider that I haven’t slept for 8 hours straight in 20 months), but at the same time, it’s weird to think you haven’t already been here.

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You are a pure delight to your dad and me. We both miss you like crazy when we are apart, and you light up our days with your personality. At night, you sleep between us, and we stare at you in wonder that this little boy gets to live with us.

You love water – swimming, baths, showers, puddles, and buckets of water outside. It doesn’t matter. You can play in water for hours.

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You are very coordinated – whether it’s eating cereal with a spoon, kicking a soccer ball, throwing a tennis ball, or holding your crayon correctly for “colora.” Your language develops every day. You have new words each day and repeat everything we say.

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You love the music at church. You sing along, and when it’s quiet, you yell “Amen.” It cracks us up. You love playing harmonica and piano with daddy while he plays guitar too. You make song requests at night when I sing to you. You ask for “Row Row” and “ABCs” most often.

 

Dude. Let’s talk about your obsession with shoes. It’s the first thing on your mind when you wake up, and at night, you have to put all the shoes “night night.” Your first sentence was “shoes on,” and your first three word sentence was “blue shoes on.” You change your shoes multiple times a day, throw a fit if we don’t comply with the request, and try on our shoes all the time. You notice whether people are wearing shoes in books, and sometimes you insist that daddy and I change our shoes.

You LOVE playing outside, and you love watching the animals. You held a bunny this past week. You are learning to be gentle with the smaller animals, and you love to chase the goats.

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Most importantly, you just make your dad and me so very happy. We feel so privileged to watch you grow and get to know you. You are like us in many ways, and in other ways you are just your own Fred. We are so excited to get to know you more every day. We love you so very much.