Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Heifer Project

I know many of you are familiar with the Heifer Project, a terrific organization that provides livestock and small animals to needy families in developing countries. Families receive a good milk cow, or a goat, or a flock of chicks, then they pass along some of the offspring to other families, thereby spreading the blessings. When you donate to Heifer, you can choose which animals you want to "buy". You can learn more about Heifer Project at and see what they are doing around the world.

Erwin is the director of Heifer Project in Tanzania and a new friend to Mark. Originally from Vermont, he has been here for over 20 years and raised 3 sons. His wife just passed away about 3 months ago from cancer. Her funeral was one of the most inspiring tributes to a person I have ever witnessed. I had only met Esther a few times through Bible Study but I was surprised at the sense of loss I felt--I was never going to have the chance to get to know her the way so many others did. Their faith, their marriage, and their commitment to Tanzania provides a wonderful model for how life should be lived.

I wanted to share some of Erwin's message about some Heifer work from a trip he recently took. It's a wonderful view of how transformation can take place in the lives of people here and how the recipients of Heifer's blessings actively participate in that change.

We begin a half kilometre walk to our first farmer, Nicholaus Mwakabelele, who with his wife and three children live on one side of a dirt track, the other side of which has been constructed four fish ponds. Nicholaus is the village fish farmer motivator, a farmer volunteer who promotes adoption ofthe improved farming methods he has learned at a special, two-week training. He and his wife immediately take us across the track to view his fish ponds. They each measure approximately 14m by 12m. His wife brings some groundcorn to throw out over the water to entice the fish to the surface forviewing in two of the ponds. Suddenly the water appears as if to boil withthe activity of fish accustomed to regular feeding. As she describes how she feeds the fish with regular placing of manure in the small cages at thepond edge, her young child whimpers at her knees. Without stopping mid-sentence but lifting her daughter and beginning to suckle her, Mrs. Mwakabelele continues to describe the benefits which the fish have broughtto their family. A new red fired brick house has been constructed besidetheir older thatched mud brick house. Two local cattle feed behind the house, oxen which were purchased from fish sales. They have also purchased a plough, and are very proud of their achievements.We go behind the house to view the oxen, and Nicholaus and his wife bring out four trees which they want us to plant together with them as a memory of this day on which we have visited. We feel humbled by this demonstration of significance they have given for our visit, and their thankfulness for the work of Heifer.

Nicholaus describes how in 2003 after receiving training he began promoting fish ponds among three of his neighbours in his village and the adjacent village. Since then the project has expanded to 9 villages and 142 farmers.From 5 original ponds, there are now 207. Farmer group trainings have been successful, as members have learned by doing, sharing the heavy work of digging ponds together. Group leadership is also diversifying; one of their leaders recently returned from group leadership training, and another has attended training on tree nursery management, both courses offered through Heifer assistance. The larger portion of fish farmers are women who have seen this as a veryimportant project for nutrition and income for their families.

Before we are taken to visit another nearby farmer, Nicholaus tells us that he is relieved. Just last week the case which was raised against him was settled by his paying a fine. He spent two nights in jail in July, and made several trips to the district headquarters 30 kilometers away to try to clear this case. It was becoming too expensive for him to pursue, so he simply asked to be found guilty and pay a fine. The reason he was arrested was that he was implicated through his fish farming promotion, being one of many who have caused the water levels in the Ruaha River to decline seriously over the past few years. Of course this is misdirected zeal by the district authorities - there are several more direct reasons for this decline: from the accumulative effect of several consecutive years of drought, from the destruction by over-grazing and denuding of large areas of the Usangu Plains by in-migrating herds of thousands of local cattle, goats and sheep by Maasai and Sukuma from areas to the north, from the increased area of irrigated rice farming in the district, and from the denuding of hillsides and hilltops in many parts of the Southern Highlands which feed the headwaters of this great effluence. While there are so many who can take responsibility for contributing to this decline in water in the Ruaha River, there are few who could be so easily implicated as Nicholaus. He was an easy target, and it was cheaper to pay a fine and be relieved of the harassment of prolonged litigation. Meanwhile, his fellow fish farmers arepreparing an application to the district authorities in order to be allowed to continue their fish farming activities, their defence being that their water use is having a relatively minor impact on the declining watersources, and is a highly productive use of that scarce resource. Furthermore, out of the fish farming groups, village environmental committees have been formed in some villages, and are already starting to plant indigenous trees to safeguard the headwaters at the springs where the streams begin. The project holder and project supervisor both feel that the farmers will be heard and the impending restrictions dropped.

We walk back along the track through other small farms of Igurusi now dry, awaiting the rains. On the way we meet a young blind man to whom we are introduced as a fellow fish farmer. He beams with pride as we take pictures with him. We cross the road where several underemployed youth are just hanging about, and on to the farm of Eliabu Mwisa. We are astounded as we approach his mud brick house compound flanked on one side by huge ponds larger than we have ever seen constructed by hand. Eliabu is the one of the original farmers in the fish farming group, and is proud not only of his own ponds, but of those of his neighbours' nearby, one of whom is a crippled woman there leaning on her stick. He shares how his neighbours worked together to enable her to have a pond, how they assist her to harvest her fish, and to periodically replenish water in her pond. She approaches us and listens intently as we discuss levels of production and the importance of emptying the ponds regularly and restocking with appropriate numbers of fingerlings before the tilapia fish have reproduced in such numbers as to be too numerous for the size of the pond.

We visit a few more fish farmers, including the group chairperson who is a very energetic woman. We hear more testimonies and are gratified by the sharing and caring which has occurred within the group. We learn of their resilience in the face of adversity as some of the original farmers have described how they were derided at first, like Noah for building the ark. Once fish started to be harvested the derision promptly ended. We hear howthe fish farming has brought a number of other spin-offs such as the environmental protection of springs, the more intensive integration of livestock in order to better utilize the manure, and upon drying of the fishponds between seasons, the use of the pond sediment as rich fertilizer for the fields. We are inspired to hear from a woman that upon harvesting her pond it was the first time she had ever held Tsh 100,000= (about $85). We are impressed that the project is able to help people from all strata within the village - that it is not exclusive like some of the other livestock enterprises which Heifer promotes which may be too difficult forthe poorest families to manage.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Grease is the Word...

...and the ISM musical this year. Remember "Grease"? I do. It was 1979 and I was on my first date. My mom drove me and my friend Sarah and our two dates to the movies, 20 miles away. We rode in the very back of our Blazer so we could have some privacy. I got my first kiss.

My friend Karen and I were having a very silly IM conversation trying to remember those teen idols that we adored back in the day...Scott Baio, Leif Garrett, Shaun Cassidy, etc. When we wondered who the boys were pining after, Mark announced with absolutely no hesitation "Olivia Newton-John!"

Now that I've rewatched it I can see why. She was truly adorable (and pretty hot in the black satin pants). I always thought John Travolta was a bit too "Vinny Barbarino: (thereby dating myself seriously with that reference) and whole movie was a bit cheesy (and racy) but so much fun.

You probably won't remember Eugene from the movie. He was the nerd who helped Patty Simcox organize the dance show. The T-birds also tripped him down the stairs and used a joy buzzer on him. I only mention it because Cameron auditioned for the part of Eugene and found out today he got the part. It's a small part but he'll get to sing and dance in the final number and is a good start for a kid who is doing this for the first time. He has gotten lots of very positive feedback from his drama teacher about his abilities and is very excited. And I mean this in the most complimentary way--he does the "nerd" thing very well. When he competed in Destination Imagination he created a "nerd dad" character that got very good feedback. Those of you who know him to be pretty quiet and introverted would be surprised to see him acting so unselfconsciously when he's had the opportunity.

Congratulations Cameron! We're very proud!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving/Happy Birthday

So what does a Thanksgiving turkey look like in Tanzania? Pretty much like I imagine it did at your house (I'm referring here to the actual bird, not Dr. Jacobson, who is showing off his wife's amazing talents of cooking a giant bird while the electricity goes on and off all day). There was stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberries, squash, and even a green bean casserole! Pecan pie (pecans from the States) and apple crisp for dessert. We had a great time Thanksgiving Day with about 30 friends at the Jacobsons, then repeated on Saturday with another smaller group. On Saturday, Mark sat down with an extremely focused look in his eyes, determined to put away as much food as he possibly could. He finally stopped, saying, "Oh, I'm hurting now" and then got up for pie. It was a great first Thanksgiving here, very traditional and lots of fun!

Friday we celebrated Mark's birthday with a decadent cake from a shop called Chocolate Temptations. We got him a travel mug for his morning coffee (funny that we didn't pack one of the hundreds we had back in MN!). Here he is giving us a look as if to say, "There better be more than just a MUG!" Ava: "Quick, Mommy. Run and get the other present. HURRY!" Or maybe he's just a bit tired, since we're eating in the dark (no electricity).
But everyone was pleased with the hammock. I've got a great place for it at the new house--right on the veranda! Mark seems to have either a recessive or missed gene for relaxing from work--maybe when he hsees us all piled in he'll get the idea! The kids love to celebrate their parents' birthday and make a "fuss" over their dad. They tried to drag him around the house on the hammock, but found Mark to be a bit too heavy (maybe all that food from Thanksgiving!)

Bustani ya Wanyama (the Zoo)

Our house often feels a bit like a zoo...we're not the best at cleaning up after ourselves, and the noise level can get pretty high. But I'm starting to feel like an actual zoo...

Introducing the new puppies. Not technically ours, but I see the writing on the wall already. They are boxer/lab mixes and will be guard dogs for the school site eventually. Right now they are just completely cute and teeny eating machines. Moshi (Swahili for "smoke") and Rugby hopefully don't actually need to be vicious--people just need to think they are. Black dogs bother Tanzanians and the owners of the parent dogs have some very funny stories about reactions their boxer, ranging from fear of his size to believing he's part human because of his pushed-in face. Both parents were very good-tempered, but territorial, which is great. You can see the puppies both have more of a lab look to their faces right now. Within 2 hours they've completely taken over Sydney's food bowl and sleeping basket. Syd loves to play but is obviously put out at losing her basket. They'll live in a large kennel area during the day both here and at the site (sure they will, Carla. No really, they will. I'm serious about this) and will walk with the guards and be off-leash at night.

I tried several times today to get a pic of Kobe (Swahili for "turtle" and it's pronounced Ko-bay) but he's too shy and pulls his head in. Yes, he's a real tortoise I found walking down the road. They're pretty common out on the drier flats, but this guy was near our house, so we added him in. He doesn't require any attention, other than turning him back over if Sydney gets too excited. The kids love having him poke around the yard. Later in the afternoon we were able to catch him just a bit. It's funny, when we approach him, he hisses and hides, but when Syd comes up and tries to chew on his leg or head, he just keeps walking.
For the record, I don't really know if it's a him or a her.

Friday, November 24, 2006

I am Sick (and not from all the turkey)

OK, I can’t keep quiet about this. First of all, I should state straight up that I completely believe OJ Simpson killed his ex-wife and her boyfriend. I think the jury was blinded by a combination of being afraid that they would look racist and that horrible fascination our culture has with celebrities and athletes.
Who’d’ve thought that this could sink even lower? I don’t know where to begin with all of this—so I’ll just go straight to the horse’s mouth.

"This was an opportunity for my kids to get their financial legacy," Simpson said in interviews after the book deal was abandoned by its publisher. "My kids understand. I made it clear that it's blood money, but it's no different than any of the other writers who did books on this case."

HELLO?! It SO is different! For one thing, other people weren’t the actual murderers (and if you believe that OJ Simpson is really innocent, then you probably won’t want to keep reading). For another thing, other people wrote about the trial, or the arrest, or the evidence. They so didn’t write about how they “might” have killed people, and then gotten away with it in some sickeningly desperate attempt to stay in the limelight.

And the kids…I really canNOT get started on that. Actually, I think the whole situation was so horrible that I can see the children wanting to believe their father was innocent. But at least one of them is close to adulthood and I can’t believe that they would gain any peace of mind from a book that dredged up such painful events in such a terrible way. Why is this man allowed any contact with children? Plenty of us have been raised with no financial legacy, and have no illusions about leaving any wealth to our own kids, and have spent a great deal of our lives parenting in such a way as to provide a very different type of legacy for our children, one that I dare say will mean more and do more than cash. I suggest that Mr. Simpson spend some thinking about the legacy he already has given to those children.

"My kids would have been coming into a lot of money," he said, adding he desperately needs the cash because his retirement funds are dwindling.

Sad. I wonder, should I be writing a book? My parents have probably burned through my inheritance, I bet, and I’ve got nothing, either. Oh wait, I and MOST OF THE REST OF THE WORLD WHO ACTUALLLY GO OUT AND EARN MONEY AND MAKE IT JUST FINE!

Publisher Judith Regan has portrayed the book as representing "O.J.'s confession," and it reportedly contains a chapter where he explains how he could have committed the killings.
But the former football star says he didn't commit the murders. He said the book was ghostwritten.

"When I saw what he wrote, I said, 'Maybe you did it because they're saying the chapter contains things only the killer would know.' I don't know these things," Simpson said.

Simpson said Wednesday he never spoke to Regan until taping the TV interview.
"In the course of the interview I said, 'This is blood money and I hope nobody reads it,' " Simpson said.

I HATE bad liars. Lying is wrong, but really, if you’re going to do it, be consistent. If he desperately needs cash because his retirement funds are dwindling, why does he hope nobody reads it?! And it was ghostwritten? And he really didn’t know what the book said until just before the interview? Sorry, OJ, but are you really that na├»ve after all those years in the spotlight? Really? You never ONCE wondered what the book was about?

I also despise the glib way he talks about the whole event, even when it happened. From the beginning his attitude was so….wrong. His comments are insensitive, callous, cruel…I keep thinking about his children, who lost their mother, and have to watch their father carry on like this.

Simpson declined to say how much of an advance he received for the book, but said it was less than the $3.5 million (U.S.) that has been reported. He said the money has already been spent, including some he used to meet his tax obligations.
Simpson was acquitted of murder in 1995 but was later found liable for the killings in a wrongful-death suit filed by the Goldman family. Simpson has failed to pay the $33.5 million (U.S.) judgment against him in that case, and his pensions and his Florida home cannot be seized.

He said Fred Goldman has helped drain his finances with "frivolous lawsuits," including one he brought recently attempting to deprive Simpson of the commercial rights to his name. Although Simpson prevailed in court he said he spent $17,000 in legal fees.

Simpson, 59, said his NFL pension pays only $1,700 a month and the private pension he amassed during the days when he was a popular TV pitchman and sports commentator is being halved next month because he's had to dip into the principal.

Hmmmm…well, I’ve learned not to spend money before I actually have it. And, the median income in America (50% of the population is above and 50% below) is about $46,000 a year. I’m pretty sure that whatever “desperate” financial straits Mr. Simpson has found himself in, he’s better off than pleeeeeeeenty of his fellow Americans. I’d love to take a look at his house, his car, his wardrobe, his dining/entertainment expenses, his golf fees—in fact, I’d be more than happy to show him how to trim his grocery budget, how to cut clothing expenses for growing children, how to have a fun date without spending a lot—and I’ve got plenty of friends who do it better than I do. The murders aside, this is just another sad story of an athlete who was nothing more than what he could do on the field.

I probably won’t keep this on the blog for long—it’s really out of character for what I want to write about. But since I just came back from Thanksgiving dinner and was thinking again about all the blessings we’ve received and the things I still miss that I’m so thankful for in absentia…this is a sad sad reminder of a less than stellar aspect of our culture. Thank heavens someone finally had the common sense to pull the plug—unfortunately, it was the same organization that seemed to think this was a good idea to begin with. Can’t something be wrong just for its own sake, instead of waiting to find out whether “the public” approves or not?!

Note: Quotes are from an AP article online today.
© Associated Press 2006

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Freely you have received, freely give.

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. ~JF K

I admit it--I'm not very good about being thankful. Oh, I can always come up with all the things I'm really thankful for--and sincerely mean it. But I so often find myself thinking about things I think I don't have, or from a more negative perspective, which is frustrating and not at all where my heart should be. So often being thankful on a daily basis requires a concerted effort on my part.

Grace isn't a little prayer you chant before receiving a meal. It's a way to live. ~Jackie Windspear

But this Thanksgiving I am reminded every day of the blessings we have received. I could write pages about each one, but for now I'll just say "thanks." Without you, we wouldn't be us, and we are better because of you.

Our family and friends who email and call and give us an inside look at life "back home" and keep us sane way over here. And I will mention Karen in particular, for packing and shopping and organizing and listening and im-ming at all hours of the day and night.

Peace House Foundation, for allowing us to take this incredible life-changing journey

Peace Lutheran Church (Bloomington) and Trinity Lutheran Church (Hayfield) for prayers and financial support that give us daily strength and ease some worries

Rachel, Joe, Debbie, the folks from St. Stephen's, and the rest who have visited or stopped by on their way through town. You have no idea what a lift it is to see someone from "home".

Anyone who has sent chocolate chips, cereal, goldfish, fruit snacks, licorice and other very non-essential but wonderful treats!

All the new friends we've made and our faith community at ACC who have answered questions, listened to complaints, offered prayers, dinners, drinks, and friendship and have Arusha feel more like home every day.

Everyone who has supported PHF financially, prayerfully, or with their time and talents. You are doing amazing work!

In ordinary life we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich. -Dietrich Bonhoeffer

And in the spirit of other things I'm thankful for this week on a daily basis-

Good health--one of my biggest areas of concern and we have been blessed to have no serious issues.

Punctuality and efficiency--well, perhaps you can't appreciate it until you do without it. Which is also a blessing because you have the opportunity to see life in a startling new way. But there's something to be said for it, just the same.

The privilege of being educated, of being American, of being white, of being able to go through life and not have to think about these gifts I've done nothing to deserve.

Toilet paper, clean public bathrooms, consistently stocked grocery stores, checking accounts, cheese, cheap cereal, food variety, anonymity, Target, electricity, movies, the library, and good roads.

Having to learn a new language, being cut off from a world of familiarity and making a go of it with your family, new perspectives, great new food, email and Skype, international friends, finding out that "our way" isn't always the best way, learning to appreciate the unknown and unplanned, and being challenged in our faith.

Isn't it interesting that what I am thankful for in my former life tended to be things and what I am thankful for here are experiences?

And above all, God, from whom flow all our blessings, who has promised to work for good in all circumstances, and who provides the way and all that we need to follow Him. Both Mark and I have found increased comfort in this, now that our illusions of control are stripped away and we are faced daily with need on a scale we could never have imagined. In all, we trust in His love and His plan.

Let us remember that, as much has been given us, much will be expected from us, and that true thankfulness comes from the heart as well as from the lips, and shows itself in deeds.—Theodore Roosevelt

Monday, November 20, 2006

Ava, Ava, Ava

Ava loves her hair. And braids. So it was only a matter of time before the twain should meet. Yasini's daughter is home for break and agreed to give it a try. This is the end of day 3 so I'm giving it a day or so more before they're going to have to come out. It took about an hour to do.

And if you look verrrrry closely, you will see another change. Ava suddenly decided she wanted her ears pierced. Of course it didn't matter that I told her it was going to hurt. Now all of Arusha knows something happened in town today! :-) She recovered by the time we got home and was able to drag herself to the mirror to preen a bit.

She has also decided to (finally) eat her bread crusts and choke down cauliflower and green beans so she can be very strong and healthy and tall and "still a little bit skinny" because she loves running and her ballet class and wants to be good at both. Funny girl.

Happy Birthday, Mark

Saturday is Mark's birthday. The kids continue their obsession with this idea of a "golden birthday" as being something ultra-special (that's when you turn the same age as your birthdate). Imagine getting treated special because of a coincidence!

So last night Noah wanted to know when Dad's golden birthday was. I said it was a long time ago, and then added, "Back when he had hair." Noah took a good long look and then remarked, "Yeah, back then he might have been good-looking. Now he's realistic." Here's our "realistic" dad and husband with former President Mkapa back in July.
Realistic or not, we have been so blessed to have him as a father and a husband. It's also our 19th wedding anniversary this week--we've actually been together, though, for 25 years. How's THAT for realistic?!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

New Faces and News at Peace House Academy

Introducing Theopista Seuya, the first headmistress of Peace House Academy! As in the United States there are not a lot of seondary heads who are women so we are also excited to have her as part of the leadership team. Theo has been an English teacher for several years and the assistant head (where she assumed virtually all of the head duties) at a private school in Moshi. She has been working for PHF in Moshi on a part-time basis where she helps organize the scholarships paid to students in need in that area. Her interview significantly impressed the hiring team who overwhelmingly supported Theo as the best candidate. Theo's husband works for WorldVision. They have 3 children and another on the way.

Dickson Casmiri is our first accountant/purchaser. He is from the Moshi area and has just graduated from an accountancy institute here in Arusha. This is his first professional job. This was a difficult position to fill, given the financial responsibilities and the scope of the work required. Some applicants were just too expensive, others were clearly not trustworthy. The two finalists were split--one has good accounting experience but no purchasing, the other had purchasing but no accounting experience. Mark devised a great problem-solving task requiring both candidates to perform simulated job duties using an accounting program neither had used before. Dickson quickly showed himself to be the best candidate for the job.

Things are proceeding on the construction front, sometimes well, sometimes slowly. We are in the "short rains" season, but were deluged last week, causing a work slowdown and some damage to some foundations and water tanks. The inconvenience is offset by the realization that lots of rain and sunny warm(er) days means great crops and more food for the people.

A big thanks to those who attended and/or supported our annual Colors of Hope fundraiser. It sounded fabulous and we are anxiously waiting for our chance to see the photos and video that was shot here in October. Turnout was excellent and the generosity of so many people will definitely make a difference in the lives of children here in Tanzania.

We are anticipating the arrival in February of Project 640's return. This is a group of folks from the Chicago area who have given their heart and soul (and cash) to further our work. They were here last February and worked on the tree nursery and the banda and are returning for more fun and hard work. A group of 20 teachers from Minnesota, Mississippi, Chicago, and New York will arrive in June to share their expertise in curriculum writing and best practice methodologies with our teachers and students (and perhaps other teachers in the area as well). Another 640 group will show up in September. What a blessing to have so many who are willing to share their time and talents with us!

Of course, there's always room for more. Our volunteer housing is quite suitable for a longer stay! Karibuni wote (welcome to all!)


Now that we are living overseas, I have come to really appreciate certain aspects of American life. Our wretched foreign policy aside, and recognizing that our country is not at all perfect, I have nevertheless come to appreciate qualities such as efficiency, punctuality, toilet paper, consistent electricity, food variety, and a whole host of other things that we really use without a second thought.

But not Diet Coke. I love Diet Coke and I relished and appreciated every large one I got from Burger King or McDonald's. It wasn't just any Diet Coke, you see. I was especially fond of fountain Diet Coke. Or cans. Not bottles. It came with lots of ice. And free refills.

This is Coke Light (not "lite"). It's not the same as Diet Coke. It's actually Coke, but a "light" version, so it tastes more like regular Coke. Far be it from me to complain, though--I'll take what I can get. They've recently started bottling it here in Tanzania (about 75 cents for a 300ml bottle which is less than a can) so it has become much easier to find and I can get 24 packs at one of the stores (for about $15 so I ration myself carefully).

Look carefully, however. Canned sodas come from Dubai so the labels are in Arabic. I can only assume this says "Coke Light" but to me it looks like "Yes." But said with sneaky hiss, as in "Yssssssssssssssss, it's riduculous to pay that much for me but you know you want it, so buy me, drink me, fall under my spell" kind of way.

Accident? Or a nefarious subliminal plot hatched by Coca-Cola to keep me as their customer? Either way, it's working. I'm succumbing.

What the Kids are Doing

Here's Ava in her Swahili lesson with Mwalimu Lucia. She doesn't look like she's paying attention, but she's actually looking around for different colored objects and giving the name in Swahili. Her friend from Canada (Edmonton, so their big thing in common is that they lived near the 2 biggest malls in N. America) is Lucas, in the orange vest next to her. Just to give you an idea of the composition of the school--starting on Ava's left, D's family is from Israel, Lucas' dad is from Canada and his mother is from the Congo, A's mom is from New Zealand and his dad is Dutch, L's family is from Australia, and C. is Chinese, adopted by an American mom lastly hailing from Canda. Not pictured are 4 other children, who are Dutch, Indian and two new boys who are either New Zealand, Australian, or British.

The school, as I've mentioned, is very big on hands-on learning and focusing on the process as well as the product. Last week Noah had his first science fair. They had been studying solids, liquids, and gases, and had to design an experiment and display on something they had learned or wondered about. Noah's question was "Do some liquids trap more gas than others?" He poured water, oil, and soda into a bucket and measured how much gas (air bubbles) was trapped. It is very difficult to get him to change his mind or look at something from a different point of view once he's got an idea of how things should be in his mind. We encouraged him to bring his project in so that other kids could do the pouring, too. No. We wanted to take pictures of him doing the experiment at home. No. He very much wanted to do his poster at school, with no help. It was hard for me not to insist or demand otherwise (it's the mom/teacher in me) but I held back. After all, it was his project and should reflect his efforts, right? I mean, isn't that mantra we all chant to ourselves while we're interfering in our kids' work? (hee hee hee)

Here's Noah, realizing for himself that bringing in his experiment and having photos would have been a good idea--this is after he saw most of the other kids having those things. He was a bit disappointed (and frustrated because he wanted to go around and see everyone else's work instead of staying at his station) but he recovered and did a very nice job. I think that the experience will give him something to think about the next time he has to make a display. Part of their grade is a self-evaluation and he told us that he liked his idea but would do more "exciting" things next time, like having something for the kids who visited his station to do or see.

Don't lie on this one...anyone who has kids has had days when they look at their supposed offspring and wonder, "Whose kid is that? Certainly not mine!" Sometimes you can put it off to your spouse's gene pool, but other times you just gotta wonder.

And then there are those times where you may have actually found the "other family". Case in point...

This is Lui and Toren. They hail from Scotland and this picture does not do real justice to just how much they and Cameron look alike. Especially Lui, next to Cameron. It's not just the hair, either. Skin color, eyes, freckles, the Lego/Star Wars/book obsession--it's a package deal!