30 October 2008

A Funny Piece of Niger News

Tim and I were chatting on line earlier today - when he said the most hilarious thing. If you've been following our blog for any time now, you know that Tim and the kids have started raising chickens. We've got one hen who is an egg layer, one who is raising chicks, a rooster and two young roosters that have survived from our first batch of chicks.

We've often lamented the fact that the rooster seems to know exactly where our bedroom window is and even before the sun rises, will position himself there and begin crowing for all he's worth. And contrary to what I had always thought - that roosters crow 5 or 6 times and then are finished for the day - this guy will go on and on - for and hour or longer, crowing every minute or so. We think he's trying to tell us he's hungry and to come out and feed him.

This morning, Tim said he was awakened at 5:30 by one of the young roosters... attempting to crow. And he said he woke up laughing, because the little guy was crowing, but he had it all backwards.

Try and figure it out for yourself...
What does "Cock-a-doodle-doo" sound like... in reverse?

Meanwhile, Rebekah Joy sits here in chilly Michigan, bemoaning the fact that she wasn't there to hear his first crow...

28 October 2008

Photos of Our Youngest -





22 October 2008

The Latest Addition to our Menagerie

Last Saturday morning, Richelle, the big girls and our friend Mary all went out to breakfast and then did the weekly grocery shopping together. One of our last stops was the the veggie stand... which is right next to the place that sells birds - of all sorts of variety. What you see is what you get, depending on the day. Last Saturday, Rebekah spotted a falcon crammed into a way too small cage, and decided that we needed to get the bird for her brother.

Ever since his owl, Silver, died several months ago, he's been talking about getting another bird of prey, but the opportunity had not yet presented itself. Since his Brendan's birthday is in just a few weeks, she felt that this was the perfect opportunity. She proceeded to convince her mama and then bargained the price of the bird down to an acceptable price... so we came home with a falcon.

Both Brendan and Tim were surprised, and overwhelmed, to say the least. But we think Brendan is delighted and excited. Tim's big question: "What about the chickens and the chicks?"

My response to that was that if he protects my gardens from the chickens (i.e. keeps them caged and not wandering around the yard, digging up my flowers and ground cover to find bugs), then he won't have to worry about the falcon getting ahold of his chickens. I'm still not sure that he believes my motives were entirely pure (i.e. the perfect birthday present for my boy), in bringing home this chicken predator...

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Predatory chicken policing or pet?

21 October 2008

Loving the Fall Weather...

We wanted to post a quick note, thanking everyone who prayed for Richelle and kids as they travelled back to the States. Except for a looooooong wait at customs in Detroit, the trip went very well, the kids were well-behaved little troopers, and they are already moved into the missionary house where they will be living.

They did miss the peak fall colors, but it is still beautiful, the leaves are falling, the sun is shining in a gorgeous blue sky with lovely cotton-ball clouds, and the temperature is in the 40s. Couldn't ask for a more perfect fall day! And, Richelle opened the fridge this morning to find that a friend had been to the house to leave her and the kids a treat... they haven't dug into it yet, but it has lots of raspberries all over the top! Yummmmmmmmmmmmm!

Please continue to pray for our family during our 3+ month separation... and thanks, in advance!

18 October 2008


Sunday is a BIG day - Richelle, Rebekah Joy, Jonathan and Elsie Mae will be boarding a plane to head back to Michigan...

...Leaving Tim, Brendan, Nadia, Anna and Victoria to hold down the fort here in Niger.

When you think of our family during this much longer than we like separation, please pray for us...

  1. For safety and smooth connections as we travel;
  2. For good health;
  3. For carpool and homework schedules Tim's trying to keep up with;
  4. For Tim as he has a busy studio schedule over the next few months;
  5. For our friends here who are pitching in to help;
  6. For a healthy mama and baby (preferably arriving sometime end of Nov/early Dec);
  7. For a quick and smooth passport/visa process for our new addition; and
  8. For God's sustaining grace as our family is apart.

Richelle and kids' flight schedule is as follows:
Departing Niamey at 11:50 PM, 10/19/08
Arriving Paris at 6:05 AM, 10/20/08 (5 hour flight)

Departing Paris at 10:20 AM, 10/20/08
Arriving Detroit at 1:00 PM, 10/20/08 (8 hour flight)


17 October 2008

10 Little Ladybugs

Home schooling with Jonathan these past two months has been a blast! He is enthusiastic, loves the cuddle time (although it can turn into wrestling time when Elsie inserts herself into the middle of things), especially enjoys computer times and is learning much more quickly than I imagined he would. He's already memorized 4 Bible verses (including the Golden Rule), recognizes and writes several letters as well as producing their sounds, understands number concepts and recognizes the script forms of numbers 1-10...

This is one of our favorite books (although he's enjoying reading about rockets and space, too). The "3-D" ladybugs, the colorful paintings and all the other little critters the kids get to name - this book has so many wonderful characteristics. We read it forwards as a pure story book (which is a little scary for the little ones as they think something bad is happening to all of the ladybugs) and backwards (when first learning how to count) and then forwards again when learning to count backwards, from 10 - 1. I've used this book to teach counting ever since Rebekah Joy received it as a Christmas present when she was 2 or 3 years old (Ladybugs are the subject of a family joke with her... from the time she was about 6 months old, she'd chased them down and eat them... and while that behavior has extinguished itself now, she says she can actually remember doing this... YUCK!). I'm pretty sure I can "read" it without even looking at the book any more! Jonathan loves it, as does Elsie Mae - they almost come to blows each morning as we practice counting with it - each wanting the privilege of holding the book on "their" lap. As you can imagine, our copy is well-worn. The binding is held together by packing tape - which is held together by more tape - and I've had to restrict general access to the book, trying to baby it along until the kids and I get back to the States and can buy another copy - which is a priority in our list of "things to do" once we get over jet lag!

Have any of you ever read or used this book in home schooling or otherwise? Do you have a favorite book to read? Let us know! We are always looking for good ideas!

10 Little Ladybugs was written by Melanie Gerth, and illustrated by Laura Huliska-Beith.

14 October 2008

Anna's Poll is Up and Running

Anna's poll is posted over in the sidebar... and as expected, it has to do with horses. Please take a minute to vote and let her know what you think.

October 2008 Prayer Letter

Our October Prayer Letter is out and posted on our ministry blog page, if you'd like to take a few minutes to read it. Just click on the top link in the side bar.

Sergers and Sewing Machines

There are some definite advantages to having daughters. Rebekah has spent this week learning how to use a sewing machine and a serger... and in the process is making dust covers for several kitchen appliances. She is measuring the material, cutting it out and putting the covers together all by herself. This is a huge blessing to her mama because this was one of those things on my "to-do" list that I thought I was going to leave undone!

Of course, Rebekah has just a bit of an ulterior motive, too. She REALLY likes the blue gingham check material we are using and in exchange for her work, she gets to keep the leftover material to use to make some things for her American Girl doll!

11 October 2008

Niamey Universal Tournament of Softball

Each year, on what usually ends up to be one of the hottest weekends of the year, is a weekend softball tournament. Tim has played in past tournaments - but this year Brendan also played for the first time. I'm sure we'll have some more photos in the next few days/weeks, but here is one of Tim and his team... the Nomads!

We've got one more full day of games tomorrow - and then it is all over for another year!

10 October 2008

Nadia's Naming Poll

Whenever we are awaiting the entrance of a new baby into our family, two primary and frequent discussion topics at the dinner table include: 1) Is the baby a boy or a girl (or twins...)? and 2) What will we name the baby? Of course everyone has an opinion - Victoria is still praying for twins this time around, even though we are quite sure there is only one munchkin in there!

Thus the reason for Nadia's poll that has been going on for the last several weeks. We've been discussing several names as a family (of course, it is Dad and Mom who make the final decisions...), but the names on the poll were a consensus of our favorite picks to date.

Here are the poll results, along with a little bit of an explanation why we like that particular name:

Timothy Paul - 17%
This is Tim's name - and we think it would be neat to name a baby boy after his daddy. If we chose this name, we'd call the baby "Paul." It is also a good Biblical name - excellent role models for our young'un to follow.

Paul Timothy - 39%
Here, we'd still be naming the baby after his daddy, but wouldn't be using the middle name as his given name... and we'd avoid some confusion as baby grows up (just ask Richelle's dad and brother, who both have the first name of Richard). And, of course, there is still the Biblical significance.

Caleb Stephen - 47%
Two incredibly faithful to the end Biblical men, something we pray for all of our children. Besides that, it sounds really nice, too.


You probably noticed that all of the girl's names we are currently considering are variations on a theme. Here's what we are thinking. As we've named all of our children, there has been a common "battleground" between Tim and Richelle. Richelle prefers names that are a bit unusual. Tim prefers what he likes to call "bread and butter" names. So we are always trying to find a compromise between the two - be it an unusual middle name, a slightly different spelling, etc., etc., etc. This is Tim's little sister's name, has good Biblical precedent, and after we started considering it, found out that is was also the name of a dear friend and our kids' favorite adopted "aunt" here in Niger. The only question has been how do we want to modify the name just a little bit... and how different do we really want the name to be? We are still very much undecided...

Mary Michelle Elysabeth - 15%

Mary Lynn Elysabeth - 17%

Mary Elysabeth - 73%

Since this was Nadia's poll, she wanted to make sure that everyone knew her choices. She was quite excited that her favorite names were the poll's winning choices, too. She likes Caleb Stephen for a boy and Mary Elysabeth for a girl.

Please feel free to continue commenting - no guarantee that we will take any advice or suggestions offered - but it is fun, interesting and informative to hear what people have to say.

And stay tuned for the next poll. It is Anna's turn this next time, so don't be surprised if it has something to do with horses!

06 October 2008

Doctor's orders???

That was the first headline that popped up on Yahoo today as I popped on line to check our email after lunch. Sometimes I don't know what to do with information like that... after all, we always have chickens, lizards (geckos, margouillats, chameleons, etc.,), hedgehogs, gerboas, turtles, desert tortoises, parrots, finches, sparrows... around at any given time. Since when have chickens been classed as an exotic pet - I know several farmers that would find THAT amusing! Any and all of these have been "exotic pets" at our house - depending on the latest passion of our children and what creatures have been convenient to catch. And, we most definitely have children under the age of 5.

Reading something like this used to either terrify me or make me feel guilty; after all, what parent wants to see their child suffer, especially if the suffering is preventable. However, I think I'm learning that as a parent, I'm not able to protect my child from everything, pain and suffering are inevitable parts of this life and avoiding all such potential "danger" doesn't really protect or teach them anything. I can either program robots who do what they are told because they've not yet realized or been given any other choice or I can teach these little people to begin thinking through consequences (I'm talking age appropriately, here), developing good habits and to choose obedience to remain in relationship and avoid painful consequences.

So while I appreciate the advice of medical personal, personally, I think I'm much better off investing my time in teaching habits of cleanliness for during and after playing with any of our menagerie of critters, providing supervision so that we don't find Elsie Mae sharing a snack of millet from the same feeder as the chicks, and trusting that their little bodies are building immunity the way God created them to while letting our children experience a wealth of activities (under surveillance) to enrich and broaden their worlds, teach them independence, help them learn to choose obedience and letting them learn to respect, appreciate and wonder at the magnificent and amazing world God has created.

Today at lunch...

...we were eating chef salads (rabbit food, as Tim likes to remind me!). Jonathan snatched up the eggs, meat, tomatoes and cucumbers right away - he's not so crazy about the lettuce. Finally, he looked over at his daddy and said: "Me need help."

Tim replied, "No. Say I need help."

"Me need help," was Jonathan's response.

"No, Jon-man. Say I need help," Tim repeated.

"Me need help." ... and so went the conversation for several additional exchanges.

Finally, Tim said in a slightly exasperated tone, "Jonathan, say it right. Say I need help."

To which Jonathan replied, "Ok Baaba. You need help."

We all burst out laughing! :-)


Anna came home from school on Friday all excited - she had been selected by her class to receive the "Bon de vertu," to be awarded Monday (i.e. TODAY!) morning. At École Alliance, they select a character trait that they choose to work on as a school - and focus on that trait for the next week... or sometimes two or three weeks. Most recently, their "vertu" has been assiduity (I personally thought it was a pretty good vocabulary word, too. How many people can recall the definition of assiduity to mind readily?) They take the character trait, define it and then discuss concrete examples of how they can demonstrate that particular trait in a classroom setting and then also elsewhere: the playground, in the car on the way to school, at home working on homework, at home helping their parents, out playing with friends, in the market...

So what have our children learned about "assiduity" the past couple of weeks? Well, here are some synonyms: application, attentiveness, constancy, diligence, indefatigability, industriousness, perseverance, persistence, steadiness, studiousness, tirelessness... They've learned that it is sticking with your job (whatever it is), until it is completed and done well. They've also learned that it is devoted attention and loyalty to your family and friends, even when it is hard and might cost you something. What valuable truths for them to learn, especially when at home, we add the Biblical authority in teaching truths such as:

  • Col 3:23-24 "And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ."
  • Prov 17:17 "A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity."
  • Prov 18:24 "A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother."

And frankly, of all of our children, I can't think of a kid who deserves this award more so than Anna. Our other school age children (Brendan, Rebekah, Nadia and Victoria) have all been blessed with the ability to learn easily, quickly, and for the most part, without significant effort. For Anna, math comes that way - but reading and especially the mechanics of writing, are both challenging. The reading skills are progressing with maturity (she is understanding grade level reading in two languages) - but the writing seems to be a continual battle - neatness, legibility and speed... even remembering the mechanics of how to form certain letters. And this is a skill that is often taken for granted in academic settings - particularly in the French system which requires much copying, note taking (even at the 1st and 2nd grade levels), memorization and dictation work. Even in her best/easiest subjects - math and english - she has to contend in this writing battle. While most of our children spend a maximum of one hour on homework a night - it is not unusual for Anna to keep pluggin' away... for 2 or 2.5 hours... and for the most part, without too much complaining or whining about it. She's such a relational person, she loves the one on one time with whoever (Mom, Dad, brother, sister, friend...) is helping/supervising her work.

Apparently her teacher and classmates have noticed this same diligence and attention to her work, as well as her attention and devotion to her friends, because she was their choice to win the award this week. And I just received the telephone report from her daddy - who went to the ceremony to see her receive her award... she was grinning "like a Cheshire cat!" Even that, in and of itself, is a huge step. Last year when she was selected to receive an award, she was so nervous about standing up in front of the whole school that she was on the verge of tears the whole time. I think Anna recognizes what an accomplishment this is for her, that she is pleased to see her progress and I'm praying that all of this will encourage her to continue to progress in her academic abilities, with assiduity.

We are ALL so pleased by your hard work!

"les Devoirs du Soir" by Madame Renée Theobald, done with palette knife.

02 October 2008

Chantilly lace and a pretty face and a pony tail hangin' down..."

Today was a very important first...

Since I'm leaving in just a few weeks, leaving Tim to do the single dad thing with Brendan and three little girls (Nadia, Anna and Victoria... two of whom cannot reliably fix their own hair), I decided Tim needed to learn how to at least fix a pony tail. He's been resisting, but this morning, I insisted...

I wish I had had working batteries in the camera - he did very well for a first try, the girls informed me that Daddy is much gentler than Mama, and now I know that at least he's capable to make sure the girls look presentable when they leave the house for the three months I'll be gone...

Now, whether I can be sure he'll actually do it? Well, I won't go there yet - I've still got two weeks to keep working on him!

Pony tail sketch by Brenda at "A Portrait from Photo."


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