Sunday, July 22, 2007

Day 11 - Reacclimation

Kim's body clock is getting re-acclimated to Eastern Daylight Time, but her body clock is still probably set to somewhere over the mid-Atlantic.

Here are a few of the lessons that I've learned while staying at home during the past week:

No. 1: I now understand how damn frustrating it is to be getting out the door on time with all four kids fed, clothed, teeth brushed, hair brushed, no food on front of shirt, no food on sleeves of shirts from using them as a napkin, in their seats without bickering . . . only to learn that one of them has neglected to bring something of paramount importance to our destination.

Right now, I can't remember what the specific item was that was left behind. But, boy oh boy do I remember walking around the house, feeling the stress rise, and thinking, "all of this preparation, all of this coordination, all of the reminders, and it is unraveling because No. X forgot to get ________! Arghh.

No. 2: The Arghh is a good segue. Earlier in the week, the kids talked me into taking them to Scallywags Laser Tag. I agreed to take them, but knew that I wasn't going to play as No. 4 was a bit too small.

Then a friend suggested that I should go play tag with them. You'll have fun and you can make sure that G and G are getting along ok.

Well, I did go in and I had a blast. So, even though it wasn't fun that I had picked, as I got my mind in the right arena, I found that it was darn fun. Glad that I did it.

No. 3: Just like at work, I have to be responsive to my kids needs and requests. Bear in mind, I don't always have to do what they ask, suggest, or say; but I do have to respond to their requests - they deserve an answer -- even a "no" if that is the answer.

But, if the answer is a "Yes, I'll be there in a minute." I also owe them that follow-up visit to take care of the item.

No. 4: There is only one time that I have a struggle with having my kids sitting in my lap.

Normally, our kids will use both of us (the 'rents) as bases or safe locations or resting pods. Usually, I am happy (and honored) to have them sit in my lap. It says something about our relationship that they'd like to spend time near me, they trust me, they know that they'll be comfortable, and they know that they'll usually get some quality dad-time.

Except when I am trying to take pictures of something. During those times, I can feel the frustration rise.

No. 5: It takes a
mom and dad to raise kids.

There are others. I'll write them down later.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Day 10 - Back in the US

Kim and her sister arrived back in the US/Cincinnati today around 3:30pm.

More to follow. . .

Day 9 (US Friday) - Windfield Farm

This morning at about 11:55, the kids, some friends, and I talked about how Kim and the other travelers should now be wheels-up and bound for home! [and a little later, I received a phone call from Kim's mom that they were leaving a little late, but would probably be able to arrive back in the US on time.]

So as Kim was traveling today, we decided that we should also travel (ok, that wasnt the reason, but it makes a good segue). So we loaded up and went to my parents' farm.

At the farm, our kids were able to meet their second cousins (is that was cousins' kids are to each other?) And while my cousin and I were able to reconnect without missing a beat, our kids connected with no prior beat. Just great that the prior happens and amazing that the latter happens.

My best idea of the day (and possibly the week): the kids eat the pizza outside. The several spills were just asides, not the events they would have been in the dining room.

Kim will land back on US soil in about five hours, then a meandering path via Chicago to Cincinnati.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Day 8 (US Thursday) - Geocaching

The Geocache Titled "Kids' Rule" has been placed. No. 1 found the geocache on her own with the use of Mom's GPS.

She read on the GPS that she was within 5 feet and after a couple of minutes and one hint ("This area may flood."), she found it.

[For info on what in the heck Geocaching is, click on]

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Day 7 (US Wed) Whooped. Or Men and Women are Different

A link to of a picture of Kim in Mamelodi is here on the Go Mamelodi Mama's blog.

Stayed up late last night working, got up early this morning for our morning meeting, going all day, and swimming this evening. I'm whooped.

There is a reason that the design is for two individuals to raise kids.

I can't articulate it too well, but here is an example of one of the differences between men and women (and a bit of what our kids are missing this week):

Kim and I used to go hiking in NJ on a certain "mountain". From the top of the mountain, one could (on a clear day) see the Manhattan skyline. During the many hikes, we discovered that if I led, we would move the whole time, our hearts were pumping, and we got to the top a little sooner.

When Kim led the hike, we saw more nature, talked a bit more, and were better connected.

Both methods had their positives and taking just one would still make for a fine use of the mountain, but over the course of the summer, taking both methods provides for a better grasp of the mountain's facets.

This week, the kids are doing fine; their hearts are pumping, their getting good parent time, but I'm not able to provide the slow-down view of life that their mom provides.

Just an insight from a "do you want pizza again tonight" type of Dad.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Day 6B (US Tuesday Evening)

Part A - the Home Front: This whole scheduling thing is amazing. I do/have done quite a bit of scheduling of construction projects at work. I've done macro schedules of large projects that show (only) the start and finish times of mini-projects and I've done micro schedules that indicate down to the minute when work trains have to move through an area to ensure Monday morning rush doesn't get hit.

But this scheduling at home thing is a different animal. There is both an over-abundance of things to schedule and an under-level of "what am I going to do with these guys today".

I've come up with the perfect solution . . . I've double booked them for Wednesday. Two of the kids are supposed to do two seperate things with two different families. Try as I might to sync the schedules with both a Palm Pilot and Microsoft Outlook, I'm now being told by one of the electronic calendars that "this appointment conflicts with another appointment on your calendar.

I talked with a neighbor on the phone the other day and had a slow-dawn of why she and my wife talk so many times each day. It isn't just because they're friends -- it's because MS Outlook can't do what they must do. They talk to coordinate, to schedule, to compare notes about which kids need which color t-shirt for VBS, and if there is time remaining, to chat.

Part of me thinks that I could make this stuff more efficient, make it more timely, and make it "better", but Day No. 6 Dave thinks that might ruin the whole thing, make it more sterile, make it less human, and make a difficult task into lonely task as well.

Part B - The There Part: In Mamelodi, I imagine that even though only the second day of construction has ended, the Construction Teams are probably hitting their strides. At about this time, some members are calculating how much work they can get done before they have to leave. Others are beginning to ask the leaders how they can work longer hours. They are beginning to feel, "we're here, we've got a job that it before us, we can do more -- just let us."

Also about this time, some of the team members are just beginning to get the next, other side of the Construction - the side that those above will get at some point between now, the plane ride home, and after being back in the US for a week or two.

Sure the Construction Team built houses, provided a hand-up, gave some shelter to those needing to fill the base of Maslow's pyramid. It provided the conclusion to a goal.

But from the US-individual's view, the construction was not an end, but a means, a lesson, an ahaa!-moment. They'll remember the people that they built the houses for and after a while, they'll realize that those people were content, satisfied, and had an internal guidance that provided grace.

At some point, they'll laugh out loud, shed a mini-tear, or just exclaim "Crap! I get it! . . . Now how can I grab it and keep ahold?"

At least, that is what I did.

DAY 6A (US Tue) - 7 Deadly Sins

I don't know which Deadly Sin it is, but I'll admit that I have it.

It showed up on Monday morning when my four kids were in the correct-colored-T-Shirt for VBS.

It showed up again today about 30 minutes after the UPS man left.

On Monday morning, the kids had Vacation Bible School to attend. Kim was in the know and advised me that our kids should have orange t-shirts on for the first day. I don't know why each day has its own color, but it does. Here is the deadly sin part -- I was quietly proud and (hopefully) covertly superior as I looked at the other poor chaps whose Moms either did not have the same info that I had or didn't have enough time to find orange shirts.

I still have the pride (oh, that is the Deadly Sin that I am talking about, just came to me, duh) of knowing that I did well with the shirts. The silly parts are (a) man, there is a lot of competition and a ton of pressure to get everything just so. Just so one can depict the perfect parent, family, lawn, etc. (b) it shouldn't be that way as every parent has (I assume) the same amount of stresses and each parent knows that there is that stress at everyone else's house, but the competition is still there.

Deadly Sin No. 2 (for Tuesday): This one might be Gluttony, but it could also be Pride.

Today, the UPS man brought the yellow giant - a new vacuum cleaner -- a DYSON. [Man, do I need help.]

I don't quite know where I got the bug for a new vacuum, but after reading some things on the internet, talking to some friends, and ultimatley getting the new giant. I am (again) a proud head-of-household. I feel that I have conqured some of the dirt that we didn't even know was there. After about 8 minutes of using the vacuum, I have relieved our abode of about 1/2 gallon of dirt/dust/dust-bunnies.

Life is pretty darn good, if I can get this pride and gluttony in check and in moderation, I'll be able to chalk up the day and darn, darn good.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Day 5B (US Monday Evening) - Hot Day Today.

Listened to some music at Fountain Square today. It was hot, hot, hot. No. 4 Checks were a bit red. Afterward, went to the top of Carew Tower - wasn't nearly as stressful as I thought it might be (with 4 under 9-year-olds running around).

Best attraction of the day: Riding the escalators in the Tower.

Entire Lawn is cut!

Day 5 (US Monday AM) - Lawn Check

Cut the back yard for 12 (yes, twelve) minutes this morning before we had to rush back out the door!

Front Lawn: Check
One Side Yard: Check
Back Yard: 1/3 done (in the center)
Side Yard Two: Haven't seen it yet.

Insights - Day 4 (US Sunday)

Fear might not be the correct word, but for a bit of humor, its the one that I'm going to use.

Things that people that are currently in South Africa might have concerns (fear) about regarding those people they've left in the US:

Accidents - don't want any 911 calls, bloody noses, or missing houses upon their return.

Triumphs - don't want to miss any momentous occasions like first bike ride, first missing tooth, first solution of a differential equation while sitting on the potty.

Lack of Need - will everyone back at home do just fine without me? Ans: Anyone can fake it for a little over a week, but when things start growing in the kitchen because someone has left a half-cut pare on the counter and it is slowly turning to moosh, signs are being written on the wall. . .

Here are the real-life day-to-day concerns that the "stay-behinds" have in the US:

Laundry - Should I wash the red clothes with the dark colors (that contain some whites) or with other colored items (but just in cold water)? Ans: Create a stack of reds for (a) the return of the laundry-genius and (b) hope that those VBS-types don't create a "Red T-Shirt Day" later this week.

Coffee - Should I re-run water over the grounds to create the typical solution or should I go out now and make sure there's enough for the week. Ans: Both.

Clothes - Have we all left the house with enough clothing? Does everyone have shoes, dry clothes (or something from the Dad's trunk to wear)? Ans: see picture.

Food/Nutrition - Which child says that they'll eat a hamburger, but really takes just one bite and would much rather have a grilled cheese. Ans: the one that just spilled the chocolate milk on the red T-Shirt.

Toilets - Did No. 4 go to the bathroom before bed or will she end up going later . . . and where will later be? Ans: So far its been "YES!"

General - How are things going over there? Are you tired? Is it a good tired? What are you learning? Who has made friends with whom? Is the guava juice still really thick? Is everyone staying warm? How many homes have been built? Are the bus rides to the Township part of the fun as you have good chatting time? Has any one seen Raymond the Taxi Driver or Nancy the woman that wants a house? Did Tim drink less water on the Safari trip? Are you awake right now - getting ready for the day? Did you sleep well at your host's house? Are you finding that people are people and even on a mission-trip half way 'round the world, there are still some sticks in the mud? Do you find pity and grace in those situations? Did you remember to write your five favorite things of the day today? Isn't it great not having a cell phone? Isn't it great having completely new and completely different problems that require solutions? Is the moon out?

Quote of the day: [While listening to the Grease Soundtrack - you know the one they made a long time ago - when we were kids.]

"Dad, if you and Mom talk about it, I'd like to take acting lessons. With singing, too. Because I'd like that. Something where I could act, but I didn't have to kiss anyone."

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Day 3B (US Saturday Evening)

All the people in South Africa are probably not awake for Sunday yet, but are about 90 minutes from their alarms doing their jobs. So, it'll be Sunday morning when they wake up. If I remember correctly, they'll go to Sunday Church, hang around the church (play soccer, look around the hospice and school, and eat lunch) then get paired to go spend the night in Mamelodi.

This will probably be only the second time that Americans (and not to get too racey, but it'll be noticed there) specifically white Americans will be spending the night with in the Township. This will again (I'm sure) be a big deal.

There will be some awkward moments with the locals being good hosts and meeting the needs of their guests . . . and the American's being good guests and accepting the no-I-don't-really-need-that intangible gift. But by morning time, a rare, honest, and seared friendship will have been made. [Re-reading that last sentence -- it sounds pretty corny, but based on the interactions that I previously saw and the stories that I heard, that is what happens - I didn't stay the night in '06.]

On the home front, things continue to go well. We've managed to (so-far) make all of the appointments, dose out the correct medicines, and stay relatively clean, happy, and satisfied. It feels good knowing that I'm (heck, all five of us are) playing a small, support role to those traveling in South Africa.

The Score:

1-EA Minor I-Miss-Mom meltdown (occurred because "Mom took my mirror to South Africa and now I can't find it." - Best said with a voice that carries amazingly well from such a small frame.)

0-EA Major I-Miss-Mom meltdowns (that I can remember. Of course, I reserve the right to purge any Major, In-Public Meltdowns from my short-term memory).

Several-EA Why-can't-I-have-candy-for-lunch Meltdowns from No. 3 with an assist from No. 4.

1 or 2-EA Major Boy-I'm-too-Tired-to-Admit-I'm-Too-Tired-(or-Too-Grumpy) meltdowns from Nos. 2 and 3.

The front lawn is cut and the wind is at our backs. -D

Day 3A (US Saturday)

The day is more than half way through.

Here is View No. 1:

#4: Dad. Dad. Daddy! Daaadddy!!! I found a bug.

Dad: [Turning to look] Yes you did, would you like to throw it away or put it outside.

#4: No, I'm going to keep it.

Dad: [Quizzically confused, but still turning to get a camera] OK?!

View No. 2: This is the view one gets looking eastbound on SR 32 just before picking up a pink cowboy boot that's been dropped out of your own vehicle while driving westbound on SR 32. [Yes, I saw the boot after about three minutes search and on-purpose went back to the car to get the camera.]

Friday, July 06, 2007

Day 2 (US Fri)

This evening the kids and I went to the Y for Pizza and Swimming. As we arrived, a big cloud helped with the heat of the day, but put a damper on the swimming of the evening.

G is holding a globe beach ball that he found at the baby-pool. With that, we were able to show where you landed this morning (afternoon to you) and also where we are. M responded with a "that sure is a long way to fly over the ocean."

Things went pretty well at the pool, but I think that the some of the kids are a little sleep deprived and a little quick-to-grumpy. With any luck, a good Friday evening snooze should provide the perfect antidote.

After swimming, we arrived back home to discover that the small garage door was locked from the inside. Apparently for safety's sake, M also locked the front door as he left the house. . . Did I mention that we had eaten some not-amazingly-greaseless pizza for dinner? I had to double over twice while I waited for (well, hell, I don't quite know what goes on when you have such a huge (but relatively quick) stomach pain that makes you bend all over and . . . just . . . stop) for the pain to pass. But I did the right thing . . . I stopped . . . twice.

As all of the doors were locked and the neighbors were either on vacation or just out (so there weren't any other keys around -- no I still don't have one). Oh, did I mention that the keys to the van were locked away safely in the house - we took those in to make sure we had Y passes (otherwise, we could have used those).

So, I decided to take the back door off its hinges. After I took the pins out, I realized that the door had to be open to remove it from its hinges . . . No dice there.

In relative desperation, I surveyed the house for the screen that would be easiest to fix (and that protected an unlocked window). Fortunately, I was able to (thieves and robbers, please stop reading HERE) remove the screen to the kitchen from the outside and to have No. 2 crawl over the kitchen sink to let the rest of us in.

All is well in Cincinnati.


I just discovered that when you google "Mamelodi and Cincinnati" you get a wikipedia entry for Memalodi that mentions the largest Hospice in South Africa created by Charity and Faith church in South Africa and Crossroads Community Church in the US. See the link here.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

They're Off!

The second-weekers are off!

Kim and her sister met at a airport-local hotel las evening, received a huge amount of sleep, and were scheduled to leave for the first trip of their leg to Mamelodi, South Africa at 6:45am.

Along with my wife and sister-in-law, I have several friends that are also traveling to South Africa. There are several blogs that I am watching. If you're interested, here they are:

Trip's Official Blog - The Crossroads Community Church Blog site - Comments that you leave on this site with traveler's names will be printed for them to read - I remember looking around the walls at support notes - it'll make any of the traveler's days if you leave a comment for them and they read it on the hotel's wall.

Rachel's Shine-On Blog - A just plain good blog of the trip, insightful and entertaining. It'll warm your heart.

Go Mamelodi Mama's - A college and family friend also on the IT Team. Carole is in the middle of the whole thing.

Computers for Mamelodi - A site of found through Google - an IT SWAT Team's site

Krisiti Earl's Blog - A Go-Group Partner of Kim and Kirstin

This Blog (Orange Shirt Guy) - Views of the Support network for Go Mamelodi 2007. My view of the assistance that I must have received during my Go Mamelodi 2006 trip. And also notes to my wife, sister-in-law, and friends should they have the opportunity to log on during the trip.

A Thurston Back to South Africa

Did a cold ever keep you from school? When it did, did you find yourself looking at the oven's clock and thinking that your classmates were now moving to Mrs. Moulder's math class or back to Mrs. Lands for lessons on cursive writing?

Kim is currently traveling to South Africa and as I am staying back in the US, I am finding that I am having similar thoughts about Kim and her travels. Right now, she should be about 1/3 of the way across the Atlantic toward the southern end of Africa. If I remember correctly, her plane should be preparing to land on a small island off the western coast of north Africa in about 3 hours. I remember being able to look at the the different views provided by the plane's closed circuit television, seeing the runway lights and thinking "Boy that certainly does look pretty darn short for an airliner runway. I remember being told that the whole purpose for this island (and its almost-as-long-as-the-island-runway was to re-fuel long-flight airplanes.

No one is permitted to get off of the plane, but it does provide a middle of the night social experience . Of course, the smell of sleep permeates through the plane, but we tried not to think about that too much.

In about 4 hours from now, she and her fellow travelers will again be airborne for another 9 hours of flight. About that time, they'll again be able to use the on-board cameras to get their first glimpses of South Africa. It'll look a little like the US's southwestern US and a little like Europe (OK, that is not a really good all-encompassing description, but that is the best that I have right now).

Tomorrow morning, at about 8:10am, the kids and I will probably talk about Mom just-now landing in South Africa. We'll talk about how they've had a bath, gone to sleep, eaten breakfast, had an all-day baby sitter, eaten lunch, gone to dinner with Dad, gone to the library, gone to sleep again, and beginning to eat breakfast again --during all of those things that they've done, Mom has been traveling to South Africa.

Traveling to help others, to meet fellow travelers, and (this is the really ironic stuff) to be helped by those who (by "stuff-standards") have less than us.

Here's to the future chirp of the plane's rubber on the asphalt. And to the beginning of the life experiences and the life lessons.