Archive for January, 2012

News From the States

Monday, January 30th, 2012

We got a very fun call from Tim and Chelsea last week (for those of you who don’t know Tim is Ben’s brother and Chelsea is his wife).  They called to ask Mikayla if she wanted a cousin to play with.  That’s right folks, we have another niece or nephew on the way.  Congratulations Tim and Chelsea!

The best part was during our conversation Mikayla looks at me and says, "Aunt Chelsea is having Baby Jesus"!  I didn’t realize Chelsea was that special, but apparently in Mikayla’s eyes she is.  Then today Mikayla asked if she could play with "that baby Aunt Chelsea was talking about".  I don’t think she quite understands what it means to be pregnant yet!  Even if she doesn’t fully understand she is really excited for her Uncle Tim and Aunt Chelsea and a new baby to play with!  And of course so are we!

Posted in Life |

This Week’s Happenings 1/23-1/29

Sunday, January 29th, 2012

This week has been filled with new and returning faces. On Tuesday the sisters had two adorable puppies delivered to their house.  Mikayla instantly fell in love with them and claimed them as her own!  She fought back many tears this week when we would take the puppies back to their house for bedtime and many anxious morning wake up calls to see the puppies.  She even gave up cartoons to play with them!

We also had another special arrival of Joe, Sister Diane’s nephew.  He will be at Cabrini for the next year (maybe two years) helping out with the agriculture programming, assisting in the office some and a little bit of everything else!  We had the opportunity to hang out with him some on Saturday on a day trip to Mbabane.  While there we did some shopping and even found a really nice park for Mikayla to play in.  Joe likes to cook, so we are going to work out an exchange where he cooks and I bake!

The kids also returned to the hostel this week after their summer holiday.  Mikayla and I took daily walks to the hostel to see all her friends and the puppies even joined us one day.  The after school program will resume soon so we will be once again helping out with that. 

Today we will be having a big lunch with Sister Diane, Sister Barbara, Joe and Janet.  I made my first angel food cake and it seems to have turned out okay; hopefully it tastes as good as it looks!  In the upcoming week we will be preparing for a mango/chili competition that Ben challenged us to.  Both are in season at the mission, so it should be interesting.  I am going to try and come up with some sort of baked item if you have any suggestions.

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Just hanging around in the mango tree, taking a break from all the puppy play!

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She’s in love!

Posted in Life |

Lady and Tramp

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

We have two new members to the Cabrini family as of this morning.  The sisters were delivered two tiny puppies as replacements for Boy.  Mikayla instantly fell in love and named them Lady and Tramp.  (Of course the name is pending approval from Sister Barbara who is currently in Australia.)  Mikayla has been playing with them and carrying them around all afternoon and evening.  It was the first thing she said when she woke up from her nap today!  Here are some quick snapshots for those interested.

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Mikayla and Lady

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Mikayla and Tramp

Posted in Life |

Who Says It Doesn’t Snow In Africa?

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

If you caught last week’s Toddler School post you will know that we studied the letter W and focused on winter.  I feel that it is important to continue to teach Mikayla about the seasons even if we don’t really have big differences.  Since it is winter back in the states and my friends have been posting all kinds of fun activities they have been doing with their kiddos, I couldn’t pass up the chance to jump in on the fun.  On Sunday we (by we I really mean me, but Ben was a trooper) decided to make it a winter fun day.

We began with a breakfast of snowman pancakes and bacon.  Mikayla had a blast using the sprinkles my grandma sent her for Christmas to decorate her snowman.  And if you look really closely, you will be able to see that she made two eyes and a mouth all by herself!  She had a blast and proceeded to make and eat three snowmen pancakes when she usually only eats one!  (Apology for the lack of shirt, but it is hot here so she only sleeps in underwear most nights.  We hadn’t gotten dressed yet!)

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We laid low for the rest of the morning and then while she was napping I hung up snowflakes all around the hallway and living room.  I have been secretly making these when Mikayla is cutting in her cutting box.  When Mikayla woke up we told her there was a surprise, but that it had gotten really cold in the house so she needed to put on a scarf and hat.  Her reaction was priceless.

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After she explored the "snow" we had a family snowball fight using marshmallows.  She thought it was hilarious to throw snow at mommy and daddy.  After our snowball fight, we built a couple of snow forts by stacking the marshmallows.

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Trying to catch the snowflake.  She actually got a little frustrated that they weren’t falling down for her.

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It took her a few minutes to catch on to the snowball fight, but in the end she understood to throw them and not hand them to you!

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Building a snow fort with daddy.

When we were tired of throwing snow, we moved on to building a snowman.  We took empty plastic grocery bags and stuffed them with other grocery bags to complete our snowman.  She lost interest pretty quick, so we didn’t actually decorate him. However, she was able to make the connection that she was dressed like her snowman we made last week all on her own.  She just looked up at her footprint snowman and said that she looked like him. 

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Our wimpy snowman – it is no Grandma and Grandpa Kickert snowman!

After all the snowball fun, we made some snow to play in.  We mixed 4 cups of flour with 1/2 cup of baby oil and mixed with our hands.  When we were finished we had a mixture that was a snowy consistency and could be molded fairly easily into snowballs.  Mikayla had fun using her Goofy and Donald Duck characters in the snow!

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Our final winter activity for the day was driving through a snowy scene on our Wii Mario Cart game.  She was not the best driver, but she still had fun!

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We had a fun winter day, even if it was 90 degrees outside!  She actually kept saying, "I am going to go play in winter now".  So sweet!

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Posted in Life, Parenting |

This Week’s Happenings 1/16-1/22

Saturday, January 21st, 2012

A bagel obsession began this past week.  It started by making Finding Joy in My Kitchen’s Pumpkin spice bagels.  They were super easy to make and very yummy.  When those disappeared in a day (we shared some with the sisters of course) I started pondering what I would try next.  The next day I was bored while Mikayla was napping and decided to try adapting her recipe into an apple cinnamon raisin bagel.  I swapped the pumpkin (which I used butternut squash in the first place) for some homemade apple sauce, added some raisins and about a teaspoon each of cinnamon and nutmeg for the spices.  I kept everything else the same.  They were also delicious.  Ben wanted some onion and garlic bagels, so while my apple ones were rising I used this recipe to make a plain bagel.  Before cooking I brushed with a watered egg white and then sprinkled on a mixture of onion flakes, garlic powder and coarse salt.  They were a little heavy on the garlic, but delicious!

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Garlic and onion are on the left and apple, cinnamon and raisin on the right

We also tried our hand at making hummus with our tahini paste we found over Christmas.  Delicious as well (even if it was a little lumpy since we don’t have a food process or blender)!  In the states we always bought hummus because it was relatively cheap and convenient.  However, making your own is just as cheap and probably healthier.  Plus, you can season it to your own personal taste buds…an added bonus!  We also made a maple bacon biscuit that was pretty tasty.  This one was definitely not healthy, but we love all things bacon!

It rained a lot on Monday so Mikayla got a chance to play in the rain.  Please excuse her lack of clothes, this was a spur of the moment decision.  In hind sight, we would have put her in her bathing suit, but oh well!  I think she loved it!  Turns out the rain was actually the remnants of a tropical cyclone (hurricane) in the Indian Ocean, no wonder it rained so much.  It ended up being cloudy and raining off and on for the rest of the week.  Not complaining though because it kept the temperatures lower.  I actually slept covered up with the comforter most nights!

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We also spotted a couple of new birds this week.  Anyone care to venture a guess as to what they are?

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This is the same bird as the first one, just a little cloudier of a picture and of course one is a male and the other a female.

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This guy was extremely hard to capture, but if you look closely you will be able to tell what it is.

On Saturday we headed to Matsapha (where the airport is in Swaziland) to pick up a long term volunteer, Janet.  By a strange twist of fate, she also happens to be from Kentucky.  We met her briefly during our first trip to Swaziland. She will mostly be helping at healthcare with the pharmacy, but I am sure you will be hearing a lot about her in the upcoming weeks.  Next week, Sister Diane’s nephew, Joe, will be arriving.  He will be here for at least a year, but probably two years.  I hear he is a bit of a computer guy, so now Ben will have someone to talk tech stuff with and I won’t have to fake acting interested.  I don’t really care that he set up a Linux box with an IMAP/SMTP server running over an 802.11g wireless network with WDS capabilities.

Sometimes daddy likes to play blocks with Mikayla, but we decided that he is not very good at sharing.  Every time Mikayla would take a block or knock his tower over he would get very upset.  Especially when he was trying to make the largest possible tower using all her blocks.

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Pushing Mikayla out of the way while building his tower.

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Look at that tower!  And don’t you just love the "capris" Ben is sporting?  In his defense, it was muddy and he was trying to stay clean.

Mikayla sported a couple of new dresses this week.  Some were hand-me-downs from very special friends and others were remakes of items in the house.  Check her out:

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This dress belonged to a very sweet young lady who lost her battle with cancer in March.  Her mother, Jennifer, gave us this dress just before we were leaving.  We spent a lot of time talking about sweet Bella on the day that Mikayla wore this dress.

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One morning I asked Ben to put a skirt on Mikayla and this is what he came up with.  He was in the kitchen and was feeling lazy so he just grabbed the Dr. Seuss apron that my friend Lara gave me for my birthday last year.  I think it works pretty good as a skirt too!

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Last, but certainly not least, is this fabulous hand crafted dress courtesy of Dacia and Callie!  It is actually the dress I used as a model for Mikayla’s two year old birthday dress (also made by Dacia). Callie has outgrown it, so in an awesome care package from our friends (thanks again everyone) Dacia sent it on to Mikayla.  It is still big, but we love it anyway!  Lots of years of wearing for this dress!

To end the week – who doesn’t love a spoon covered in chocolate icing to lick clean?

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An Interview with Mikayla

Saturday, January 21st, 2012

I was catching up on some blogs the other day and saw a really fun idea, but sadly I can’t remember where it came from.  It is a blog for a mom of a preschooler and she was saying how she is a terrible at scrapbooking (enter me)!  So instead of doing a traditional scrapbook, every so often she would interview her child.  She would type out the questions and answers and place on a fancy paper to put in a scrapbook later.  I thought this sounded fun, but decided to put a different twist on it.  I am going to try to interview Mikayla and capture it on video.  Here is our first attempt…I think she did fairly well.

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Posted in Parenting |

Toddler School–Letter W

Saturday, January 21st, 2012

Have you been missing my Toddler School updates?  Well, so have we!  We have actually not had "school" in several weeks and I have been itching to jump back into it.  Since it is winter back in the states and I want Mikayla to be aware of different seasons (besides just hot, hotter and hottest) I decided to do a mini winter unit and focus on the letter W.  Looking back on it I probably should have just done the Letter S for snow since most of our activities were snow related, but oh well!  Like most weeks I had too much planned, meetings came up or Mikayla lost interest, so we will continue with some of our winter activities next week when we begin our letter P study (penguins and polar bears).  Here are some of the fun winter things we did this past week.

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We first took snowballs and practiced spelling her name…

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…then we took those same snowballs and made a really large name snowman!

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Thanks to the Cate’s for their wonderful shape button donation I made this game for Mikayla.  At the top of each pipe cleaner (or ski poles as Mikayla called them) I attached a picture of a different shape. She then "laced" the buttons onto the correct one.  She worked really hard at this game.

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When she was finished she took the "ski poles" and went skiing…just like Grandma and Grandpa Kickert!

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To make this game I took empty toilet paper rolls and wrapped construction paper around them. Then labeled with a number and a corresponding number of stickers.  For this game she would look at the numbers (or count the stickers) and place that many snowballs inside (pom poms).  I know snowballs are traditionally white, but I didn’t have enough so we went with colored snow…who doesn’t love that?!

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This game is not winter related at all, but I have had it in my head for a long time now…I just needed enough empty match boxes to make it.  I wrapped empty match boxes in construction paper and then labeled the outside with capital letters.  The inside is filled with lowercase letters.  Her job was to match the two and complete the match box.  You could also use magnetic letters for the inside (matching capital to capital as well).  Eventually I would like to make a number set and as she gets older a spelling game with the whole word on the outside and letters on inside to form the word…but that is way in the future!

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Button snowman game.  She rolled a dice and placed that many buttons on the snowman.

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We went on a white scavenger hunt around the house and found white items to make a collage with.

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On this particular day she wanted to color, so I quickly drew a family of snowmen for her to color.

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Shape snowman – I gave her direction on where to put certain shapes to complete a snowman.

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Thanks to JDR and Brittany we had some winter gummies I was able to use this week.  She sorted the shapes and then of course ate a few!

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W is for winter – she made a winter scene using her finger and paint as snowflakes.

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A very odd looking footprint snowman.  She picked out the colors and items for his accessories!

I have a special winter activity planned for the whole family that I think will take place on Sunday. I will be sure to blog about it next week!

Posted in Parenting |


Saturday, January 14th, 2012

Do we have an obsession with Chacos?

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**Special thanks to Melissa and Maggie Jolly for the Chaco loaners for Mikayla!

**And also a special thanks to Chacos for hooking us each up with a backup pair!  And of course for making some fantastic shoes!

Posted in Life |

This Week’s Happenings 1/9-1/15

Saturday, January 14th, 2012

We had a pretty quiet week.  Ben worked a a lot and Mikayla and I played a lot!  She did request on several occasions for the twins to come play though. 

In the last week or so Mikayla has learned to gallop.  She thinks it is fun and so everywhere we go she gallops.  It is so cute, but don’t take my word for it.  Watch it for yourself!

In addition to learning to gallop, Mikayla has gained a new cooking obsession in the last week or two.  When I start cooking she pulls her chair over to the counter and gets a measuring cup.  Then she proceeds to "make dessert" with the spices on the counter and any scraps of veggies and what not that are leftover from my cooking.  She will spend the whole time I am cooking doing this and is so serious about it.  She even knows the names for most of the spices.  Most of the time the concoction is inedible, but she always tries it!  Here is her latest concoction.

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This concoction included matches, noodles, water, spices galore, some wild berries found on the mission, onions and I think apple peels.  Yum yum!

Sunday was Sister Barbara’s birthday, so on Monday we cooked her a meal of her choice which just so happened to be one of our favorites…MEXICAN!  We still had some chips and salsa leftover from our Christmas finds so we served those with black beans, rice, guacamole, chicken fajitas and homemade corn tortillas.  The corn tortillas weren’t truly authentic because we didn’t have the right kind of corn flour (it requires a special one), but they still turned out pretty good.  Ben said he liked them better than the flour tortillas I have made in the past.  We topped the meal off with some chocolate covered pretzels made by Mikayla (of course I helped a little).

On Tuesday night we had a big storm come through.  Probably an hour before it started raining we lost power.  And then the rains came!  It was actually so windy and rainy that the wind blew the rain sideways and into our house.  Mikayla’s room was flooded and our room got quite a bit of rain too.  We quickly realized what was happening and shut all the windows and then set to work to clean up the mess!  Lucky for us we didn’t have anything too valuable on the ground.  Mikayla had some books and a couple of toys lying around, but we were able to get them all dried out with only a few wrinkles.  Unlucky for us was that the power didn’t come back on for almost 24 hours!  Humidity + plus heat + no fans = HOT!  Since there was no power all day on Wednesday, Ben decided he would try his hand at cutting our grass with a "slasher" (similar to a machete).  He posted a video on his blog that you can check out if you are so inclined.

Back around Christmas I started reading Harry Potter.  I have put it off for so long for no good reason and finally decided I would give it a go.  And I am so glad I did!  Like my friend Catherine said to me when I started reading them, they are not the most well written books, but I still love them!  Just ask Ben, I couldn’t stop reading them until I had completed the series!  I read all 7 books in just over 2 weeks.  If you haven’t read the series yet you should really give it a shot.  Just a question though for all you HP fans…are the movies worth trying to track down to watch?

Friday morning turned out to be pretty exciting for Ben and not in a good way.  Mcamiso, one of our drivers, stopped by early to pick up our propane tank to get refilled and asked Ben to help.  When they tipped the tank back there was a cobra coiled up underneath it.  Luckily the snake was pretty docile.  Between Ben, Mcomiso, Socks (the dog) and some garden tools, the snake was dealt with swiftly. 

On a more warm and fuzzy note, Friday evening I made cookies for the “Ambassador” for the EU (European Union).  Never thought I would say that when I moved to the bush in Swaziland!

To all you friends out there with little kids, here is a fun cooking activity that your kids can help out with (or make completely on their own)…pudding pops!  Basically you make pudding (which they can practically do without your help) and then pour into a popsicle mold or ice cube trays.  Add a stick of some sort and then freeze.  The best part is that because they are pudding they don’t melt as fast and are way less messy!  Doesn’t mean much to you guys getting snow right now, but for us battling the heat at the moment it makes great sense!  Your kids can feel proud because they can make them on their own (with a little supervision of course)!  And like with any cooking, licking the spoon is the best part…just ask Mikayla!

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2011 Year in Review

Sunday, January 8th, 2012

This past year has flown by!  It is hard to believe that we are already in 2012 and my sweet baby will be three in less than four months!  Looking back on this year I think that the theme would be trips and experiences!  It seems that we took a lot of trips and did a lot of things with family and friends in 2011.  Here is a quick picture recap of our last year.


We played in a lot of snow and savored every minute of the cold since it would be our last for awhile!

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We played in more snow.  We actually had a decent snow season for Kentucky last year.  We ended the month with a breakfast themed birthday party for myself since that happens to be my favorite meal.

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We celebrated Dr. Seuss’s birthday in style this year.  My sister got Mikayla an early birthday gift of a the cutest Dr. Seuss dress and I made a couple of clips (Cat in the Hat and Thing 1 and 2) and we went to the library to see the Cat in the Hat.  We also did lots of fun Dr. Seuss activities at home.  Ben left for two weeks in Swaziland and Mikayla and I hit the road to Atlanta for some fun with our friends Catherine and Molly.  Ben also "stopped" working at Corsair this month. 

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At the beginning of the month I joined my mom and my sister and her kids for a circus in Bowling Green. Mikayla slept in her big girl bed for the first time and got her first hair cut this month.  We went to Dinosaur World with my mom and sister and her kids.  We also hosted an Easter lunch with some family and friends.  Mikayla really got into looking for the eggs this year.  For Mikayla’s birthday this year we chose to give her an experience rather than an actual birthday gift.  So we once again loaded up the car and headed to Chattanooga. 

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We hosted a candy themed birthday party in honor of Mikayla’s 2nd birthday.  I turned in my letter of resignation to my school home of the last six years, T. C. Cherry Elementary.  I said goodbye to all my loving students and packed up all my teaching belongings.  Ben took Mikayla hiking a couple of times while I was at work.  Ben is not big on birthdays, but we managed to have a pizza themed birthday party for him anyway!  Ben also slaughtered a chicken in our garage!

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We went strawberry picking at a local patch.  We visited a lot of parks in Bowling Green.  Mikayla and I took a final vacation with our friends Lara and Lylah.  We went swimming in her parents pool and hit up the Evansville Zoo.  Some of my sweet college friends and their kids (those that have them) came to Bowling Green for some fun at Chik-fil-A.  I also got to spend some quality time with my dear friend Catherine and her daughter Molly (same friends we went to Atlanta with).  We also took Mikayla fishing for the first time at my grandparents farm.

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We went camping with some of our favorite people from Bowling Green.  We moved out of our house and in with Ben’s brother (Tim) and sister-in-law (Chelsea).  We packed up, gave away or sold all of our belongings, said final goodbyes to our family and friends and got on an airplane for the biggest adventure of our lives – we moved to Swaziland, Africa.  After an adventure in getting there we finally arrived!

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We spent a lot of time outside playing in the cooler weather.  We hosted two malnourished, TB positive twins (Nosipho and Simo) for a month and helped to nurse them back to health.

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We continue to watch our "three kids" grow and play together.  Then we sent the twins back to the hostel after the school break was over.  We took our first "bush walk" through the bush in our backyard.  I also began teaching Mikayla Toddler School where we focus mostly on letters and numbers.  We went on our first safari drive and bought a handcrafted kitchen table.  We also started our obsession with bird watching!

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Mikayla and I spent a lot of time learning during our Toddler Time, baked a lot, tried out some new recipes and enjoyed family time.  We also celebrated St. Phillips with the St. Phillips Day Feast.  We went on another safari drive and saw a lot of giraffes!  We also got to experience what it was like to have your house swarmed by hundreds of flying termites.

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We went on a second "bush walk", which was quite different than the first.  Everything was green and grown!  We hosted our first Swazi Thanksgiving with a bunch of the staff members of Cabrini.  We also celebrated with the Cabrini staff for the Feast of Mother Cabrini.

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We did some holiday baking, including the famous cinnamon rolls!  We made cinnamon ornaments, gingerbread cookies and much more.  We drove through one of the nature reserves and messed up our new vehicle we had just purchased.  I joined the staff for an all staff overnight training in town while Ben stayed at home with Mikayla.  We traveled to South Africa for our first African Christmas.  Saw lots of animals at Kruger and enjoyed some tasty meals with Sister Barbara and Sister Diane.  We even did some swimming!  We got back home and hosted the twins (mentioned above) for another week.  We ended the year by celebrating New Year’s Eve with some new friends we almost bought a car from – Peter, Callista and their daughter Aviva.  We played Settler’s of Catan, ate some yummy food and watched some fireworks at midnight!


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