Archive for July, 2012

This Week’s Happenings 7/16-7/22

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

Yesterday (7/22) marked our one year anniversary of our arrival at St. Philips.  We left the states on 7/19/11, but because of some travel delays and long flights we didn’t actually arrive at our new home until the 22nd.  It has been a great year and we fill very adjusted in our new lives.  In the last year we have experienced so much, it has been wonderful!  It is hard to believe that one year has already passed us by and we still have those moments of "We live in Africa!".

In the last week we have had several bird sightings, both inside our house and outside our house.  One night I was in bed and Ben and Joe were just hanging out, when this little guy popped right into the house.  He hung out by the microwave for a bit before the boys caught him and released him back into the wild.

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Another bird in our house was this precious baby owl.  The people of Swaziland have a huge superstition with owls.  Because of all the witchcraft that occurs here, certain things are taboo…owls being one of them.  They think if an owl lands outside your house that someone is trying to bewitch you.  So you can understand the confusion and hysteria when an owl showed up at the hostel this week, right as several guests from Taiwan arrived!  To make a long story short, the bird was injured and so Joe sent a kid down to my house with the bird.  I got a call that said a kid is coming down with an owl, can you please find something to wrap it in.  I assumed the bird was dead and so I went for a trash bag.  When the kid arrived the bird was very much alive and I had to rethink my plan.  In the end, Joe and Katie drove the bird to Big Bend (town about thirty minutes down the road), to a guy who offered to care for the injured owl.  Quite the experience!

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Unfortunately, we had to dispose of Mikayla’s box car after this because the owl pooped inside it.  Oops!

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Here are a few of the birds we saw outside.

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Not birds, but I thought it was pretty!

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Speaking of experience, on Thursday Mikayla and I ventured out to watch some of our hostel girls compete in a National Dance Competition.  It was completely different from any competitions that I have been to in the states.  For starters each group competes doing the same dance. Secondly, the girls are all in traditional attire, which means they are topless.  At first it was weird for me to see primary students performing topless, but then I came to terms with the fact that this is part of their culture and sat back to enjoy myself.  Our group of girls won third in one dance and fifth in a second dance.  They did great and got to bring a trophy home to the school. 

On Wednesday, Ben headed to Jo-burg to drop three of our staff members (Sharon, from childcare, and two health care staff members) off for a trip to the US.  They will be heading to the AIDS 2012 conference in DC.  They were so excited and seem to be having a good time already.  Ben spent the night in Jo-burg that evening and headed home on Thursday. 

And just for fun, a picture to show just how quirky and creative my little girl is.  She turned her kitchen (which is really just a carry on suitcase) into a crib for her and her babies!

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Posted in Life |

DIY–Vet or Doctor’s Kit

Sunday, July 22nd, 2012

Since we studied the letter V this past week at our Toddler School I thought it would be a great chance to make the doctor’s kit I had been wanting to for Mikayla.  It was super easy with a little felt, hot glue and some Velcro.  I was able to make it during one of her naps and still had time to pick up and do some planning too! 

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Here is the vet office I set up.  I laid a scrap of fabric on the floor and then sat all of her stuffed animals on top.  Then I made a quick sign that said vet and laid out her doctor’s kit I made.

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Close up of her doctor’s kit.

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When you open it up this is what you have:  three Band-Aids, two white bandages, some Q-tips (that she uses as thermometers sometimes) and a tongue depressor.  Each piece Velcro’s onto the back bag and it Velcro’s shut so it is portable.  I also made a stethoscope out of some pipe cleaners by twisting them together.  They don’t have the ear pieces, but she doesn’t notice!

She was very excited to wake up from her nap to find this special surprise and has been playing with it all week!  I would say it was a hit that cost me next to nothing! She has even used it to "doctor" her baby dolls.

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Posted in Parenting |

Toddler School–Letter V

Sunday, July 22nd, 2012

We spent this past week learning all about the Letter V.  As we near the end of the alphabet I am realizing that the last few letters are really tricky to come up with creative ideas for!  But alas, we move on and here is what we were up to this past week.

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She sorted fruits and vegetables.  I wasn’t sure how she would do with this because we haven’t spent much time talking about what is a fruit and what is a vegetable, but she did great!

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She painted a paper bag vest with vegetable pieces.

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V is for vegetables!

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Her vet office for the week.  I will post more details on this later!

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V is for vine.  She glued a pink piece of yarn as the vine (we didn’t have any vine colored yarn) and then she matched up numbered leaves up with numbers on a vine.

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Daddy taught her all about what a volcano is and then we made a paper V one.  The lava is miniature v’s.

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Then we went outside and made our own volcano with daddy’s help.  She loved this and so we repeated it several times!

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And of course she had to get her hands involved and touch the lava coming out!

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V is for vase!

I had a vacuuming activity prepared for her where I would lay out several small letters and she would only vacuum up the v’s.  However, she is slightly afraid of the vacuum cleaner and refused to play.  We settled on vacuuming the couches together (although she still wasn’t a fan of touching the vacuum cleaner). 

I also gave Mikayla her first test this week.  We will sometimes practice writing letters, but I haven’t pushed it too much yet because she is still working on pencil grip and hand movement.  Each week I will show her how to write the various letters and if she is interested I will give her some practice time.  So this week, we went to the chalkboard with a package of letter flashcards.  I would draw a card from the pile and she would try to write it on the board.  For each correct letter she wrote she earned a sticker.  She LOVED this game and getting silly stickers all over her body!  We didn’t get to finish though because Sharon stopped by and she became way too distracted.  I think we had like six or seven letters left to write.  I am proud to say that she was able to write about 2/3 of the alphabet correctly.  Not too bad if you ask me!

I am trying to finish up the alphabet before we leave for the US and throw in a mini unit about the Olympics, so next week we will be combining the letters X and Y.  I am not crazy about it, but I also haven’t been able to find enough X and Y activities to fill up an entire week either!  So X and Y it is together.

Posted in Parenting |

This Week’s Happenings 7/9-7/15

Sunday, July 15th, 2012

In one more week we will have been in Swaziland for an entire year…so hard to believe that that much time has passed!

For the past three weeks, the teachers in the schools have been striking to try and get a pay increase.  It has been interesting and slightly different than the last strike they had about a year ago.  For two weeks the teachers were in the classrooms, but striking from teaching.  So basically the kids were just sitting in the classroom and doing nothing.  This week the teachers chose to strike from going to school, but the kids still went.  So now the kids are just at school being supervised by the head teacher (principal) and maybe one or two other teachers.  It is so hard for me to fathom this because it is so different from anything that would happen in the US.  Two days last week Cabrini kept our kids home and didn’t send them to school and we put together some small learning activities for them to do throughout the day.  The third day, the children were instructed by our staff to stay home, but actually snuck to school because their feared punishment from the head teacher.  I am not sure what the next week will hold, but after talking to one of the teachers from the primary school it doesn’t sound promising for the teachers to be teaching in the next week.

On Tuesday Katie arrived.  She was a volunteer who was here when we arrived last year and she has come back for another two month volunteer visit.  We are so excited to have her back and have enjoyed spending time with her in the last week.  Mikayla is really excited and hasn’t’ fully grasped that Katie has to work and not play with her all the time!

On Friday night we hosted a pizza night.  Joe taught me a delicious trick that I thought I would share when making homemade pizza dough.  After you roll out the dough, before you place it on the pan layer the pan with some olive oil and then put the dough on top.  Seriously, try it!  It makes the pizza dough rich and buttery tasting, plus makes it perfectly crisp on the outside and moist and chewy on the inside.  Thanks Joe for the tip!  Since Katie has a wheat allergy we also tried out a cauliflower pizza crust too.  I never got around to trying it, but it smelled great and Katie said it was tasty.  We finished off our glutinous pizza dinner with Mikayla’s Upside down cake from her Letter U study this week.

Earlier in the week I was busy typing something up on the computer and Mikayla wanted to brush her teeth.  Instead of asking me like she usually does she took the initiative to brush her teeth herself.  Aunt Chelsea would be proud!

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Sharon’s girls came in for a visit last week and stopped by our house for some play time with Mikayla.  Bayanza wasn’t too excited about having her picture taken though!

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On Sunday we finished digging out our garden and then planted some seeds.  We still need to buy more to plant, but it is a good start! And if all goes according to plan we will be harvesting vegetables from our own garden very soon!

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Posted in Life |

Alphabet Scavenger Hunt

Saturday, July 14th, 2012

I headed into the grocery store with Joe and Katie today while Ben stayed home with Mikayla today.  He was so clever and decided to do an alphabet scavenger hunt with her to present to me when I got home.  I don’t know how to upload the actual power point, but I can show you the images from it and captions!  Mikayla was so cute when she was going through each slide




A is for ash.


B is for boots.


B is for butterfly.


C is for chair.


D is for dog.


E is for "I’m pointing to an E".


F is for fencen.


G is for garbage can.


H is for house.


I is for Ice Cream.


J is for jellyfish.


K is for "I’m holding the letter K".


L is for Lemon Cream Cookie.


M is for Mickey Mouse.


N is for "I’m pointing to the letter N".


O is for onions.


P is for Pawpaw tree.


Q is for "I’m point to the letter Q".


R is for rocks.


S is for shirt.


T is for tree.


U is for under the umbrella.


V is for vine.


W is for water.


X is the x we made.


Y is for yellow on the bag.


Z is for zipper.

I hope you enjoyed Ben and Mikayla’s creativity as much as I did!

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Posted in Life |

Toddler School–Letter U

Saturday, July 14th, 2012

We had a fun week studying the letter U, despite not having very many words that started with U!  Here is a little bit of what we did in the last week.

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I taped a U to the bottom of the table and she colored it "under" the table.  She actually wasn’t as big of a fan of this activity as I thought she would be.

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Umbrella color by number.  She is getting much better at coloring and seems to enjoy it more each day.

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Letter U is for Uncle!  I realize that this doesn’t look like any of her uncles, but you get the picture.  We also spent time talking about who her uncles were and looking at pictures of them.

Letter U 022Umbrella number match.  She drew in raindrops based on the numbers next to her umbrellas.  I had intended for her to decorate the umbrellas, but by the time we go to this activity she was done!

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We made an upside down cake for dinner.  She got a big kick of flipping it upside down to reveal her pineapples.  She even held the mixer by herself for a bit while we were mixing up the ingredients.  I don’t typically like pineapple upside down cake, but this one was pretty tasty!

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Letter U is for umbrella with fingerprint raindrops.  She also underlined all the U’s on a letter page.  (She doesn’t press very hard with her crown so this one is a little hard to see.)

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Number match.  She counted the dots and then clipped the clothespin to the correct number.  I love that this game is so versatile.  You could use it with math facts, pictures/words, colors…the possibilities are endless!

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Capital and lowercase letter match.  I used paper clips with this one to change it up a bit!

Another fun activity we did was play "Uncle May I" like you would "Mother May I".  It was really funny because Mikayla wouldn’t say "Uncle May I?", but instead would ask "Please can I Uncle?".  She had a lot of fun with this! 

We only have four more letters left to complete the alphabet and will move onto the letter V next week!  I plan on doing something with the Olympics when we finish our letters.  If anyone has any good ideas I would love to hear them.

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Posted in Parenting |

Toddler School–Letter S

Sunday, July 8th, 2012

We had a very fun week studying the Letter S!  We still have a few activities to do this week that we will intersperse with our Letter U study!  Here is what we were up to this past week.

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I laid out our owls from a few weeks ago with letters on them and I would call out the letter I wanted her to find.  She would slowly walk over to the letter and "swat" the owls!  She had a lot of fun playing this game.  Could be played with any type of flash cards too.

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We researched starfish and learned a lot about what they look like and how they moved.  Then we made a starfish to hang on the window made from cardstock, cheerios, and suction tabs. 

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Letter S is for Stars.  She put star stickers inside an S and then counted out star stickers to match the numbers in the circles.

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I poured salt in a pan and then she made various letters in the salt.

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Then she decided Mickey and Donald needed to play in the salt too!

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She made a square man by gluing various sizes of squares together.

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Letter S is for slithering snake!

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For our food item this week we made scrambled eggs.  She pretty much did it all by herself.  I helped a little with cracking the eggs, but she did the rest…

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…even scrambling in the pan.  Don’t worry, I was right by her side the whole time!

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S is for straw and sticks!  We used old yogurt cups to make the three little pigs homes.  I used pink binder clips for the pigs and a blue one for the wolf.  She has loved retelling the story of the three little pigs over and over again!

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Here she is retelling the story.

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S is for sick…on Friday she wasn’t feeling well and so instead of having school we watched movies!  She is feeling much better now though.

Since we already did the Letter T at Thanksgiving, we will move on to the Letter U next week!

Posted in Parenting |

This Week’s Happenings 7/2-7/8

Sunday, July 8th, 2012

We had a very uneventful week!  Ben was busy with work stuff and worked a lot of hours this week, which left Mikayla and I to entertain ourselves!  We had a lot of fun studying the Letter S this week and spent a lot of time at the hostel.  The kids were off an on with being out of school (which is a whole different conversation) so we spent a lot of time at the hostel this week.  I also did a mini training with the hostel staff on quick reading and math activities they could do with the kids.  Here are a couple pictures from our week.

Two new birds for Steve –

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Two of these were swooping around the sky this week.  They were loud too!

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Bird from above sitting in the tree at a distance.

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Heard this guy pecking away in a large tree this week!  Obviously this is the bird’s backside.

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I looked out the window while doing dishes last night and just saw Mikayla hanging around!  What a monkey!

We have a busy few weeks coming up.  Ben will continue to stay busy with work as a lot of quarterly reports are due.  Katie, who was here when we arrived, will return on Tuesday for a two month stint.  Joe has some friends coming in the middle of July for two weeks and then his mom will be here in August.  We are also trying to finalize our plans while in the states.  Speaking of, anyone have fun ideas of things to do with Mikayla while we are in NYC, specifically Manhattan?  Or London?  Thanks for the help!

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Posted in Life |

Toddler School–Letter R

Sunday, July 1st, 2012

For the last two weeks we focused on the Letter R.  We had some minor interruptions and a massive fort (blankets over our kitchen table) that kept Mikayla busy and occupied so we extended our learning into a second week.

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We started the week by coloring the letter R to look like a rainbow.  I highlighted around different sections of the R and then she colored them in.  She is getting pretty good at staying in the lines. In the last couple of weeks she has started showing more interest in coloring.

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Rock letter match.  I gathered some rocks from around our house and labeled them with the letters of the alphabet.  The she matched them up on her letter puzzle.  She enjoyed this game, so I think we will keep it around for a bit.  I might even make some lower case letters for her to match to the uppercase ones.

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Her pencil grip is getting much better (as long as I help her initially) and she is improving on her fine motor in relation to her pencil strokes.  I was proud of her "R’s" here, especially since she didn’t trace them and wrote them on her own. 

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Rainbow number match.  First she glued on the numbers to the rainbows and then she counted the dots and matched them up.  I only had to help her with a couple of them.  So proud that she is finally starting to recognize her numbers.

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Trash rainbow.  On Friday when Ben was sick we walked around the mission picking up colored trash.  When we got back home we first sorted the trash by color and then I drew out a rainbow outline.  She glued the trash to make a rainbow.  The extra pieces that didn’t match colors were used as the clouds.

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Finished product. 

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As you can tell she was really excited about this project.  As we were walking around picking up trash she would tell everyone that we passed what we were doing.  And she continued to look for colored trash the rest of the day!

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We made it rain on different letters by using a squirt bottle and wearing our rain boots!

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Letter R in the shape of a rabbit.

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Rabbit lunch!  For the record, unlike usual, she ate every single item on her plate!  Incredible!

Other R related activities include:  making a name rocket ship using squares for the letter of her name, watching Ratatouille, having races and practicing running.  All in all it was a fun two weeks or Letter R!  This week we move on to the letter S.

Posted in Parenting |

This Week’s Happenings 6/24-7/1

Sunday, July 1st, 2012

Our week wasn’t too eventful, but we were able to finalize some of the details for our upcoming trip to the states.  Here is a rough overview of what what we will be up to while we are around. Please keep in mind that things are flexible.  The only thing set in stone now is our flight schedules.

  • August 18: Everyone departs Johannesburg in the evening.
  • August 19-22: We arrive in Newark that evening and will spend some time in NYC.  Ben will be working, and Mikayla and I are there for pleasure.  We are hoping to catch up with my brother and sister-in-law while we are there since they will have just moved to Boston. 
  • August 23-26: Everyone travels to Chicago for a Cabrini fundraiser.  We will be staying with Ben’s family that live in the southern suburbs of Chicago.
  • August 27-31: Ben flies back to NYC and then heads to Philly.  He will spend the front end in NYC for meetings and the back end (at least 29-31) will be at Cabrini college in Philadelphia.  Mikayla and I will fly out to Nashville on the same day and arrive at 8:30am.
  • September 1-24: Ben returns to Kentucky for a few small fundraisers and time with friends and family.  Tim and Chelsea are due to have a baby during this time and we are looking forward to snuggling with Baby Reid during part of this time as well as spending time with other family and friends. 
  • September 5-6: Ben will travel to St. Louis by car for a fundraiser there.
  • September 16-24(?): This last week is being left open for Ben for meetings that will develop in NYC/Philly/DC (or elsewhere).  Mikayla and I will still be hanging out with folks in Kentucky.  Mikayla and I will fly straight to Newark on Sept 24 to return home.  Ben will meet us there from wherever he ends up at the end of the trip.
  • September 26: Arrive back in Jo-burg in the morning.

So there you have it folks!  Let us know if there is something specific you had in mind while we are around.

As for the rest of the week…

We spent the week without the sisters because they were in Ethiopia visiting with other sisters.  There is another section of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart there; the sisters went there this month and then next month they will come here to Swaziland. We picked the sisters up at the airport on Saturday and said goodbye once again as they traveled to South Africa for a few days.  Mikayla was so excited to see them though and ran right up and gave them both big hugs!  It was really precious. 

Since we had to be in town to pick the sisters up from the airport on Saturday we decided to take full advantage of the situation and spend some time on a hike we have been wanting to do since we arrived in Swaziland.  You can read all about it here on Ben’s blog.  We basically hiked up to the top of Execution Rock and drove around Mlilwane to see some wildlife.  Here are a few of the pictures we took.

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Our view coming into the park.  Please note the two hippos just hanging out on the island!

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Close up on hippos.  The lighting is terrible, but you get the picture.

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At the beginning of our hike.  See that big rock on the left…that is where we went.

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Cheesing with daddy…

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And mommy!

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Our little hiker.  She insisted on walking most of the way.  We only carried her when the rocks were steep and plentiful!

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The wildlife around the rest camp is used to humans and so they are really friendly.  Here is Mikayla hanging out with a Nyala.

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Huge crocodile!  We were able to get pretty close to this guy! 

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And of course we saw lots of zebra!

Here are some bird shots from our visit.

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This is one of my favorite bird shots we have taken thus far!

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We also spent a lot of time at the hostel this week.  I am helping out with the afterschool enrichment program we run for the children.  It is a program that focuses on English, reading and math skills.  Basically I am just offering support and suggestions for ways they can make the program more engaging and meaningful for the kids.  Mikayla has even started taking part in the groups and joining the youngest group that is focusing on sounds and basic math.  She is becoming more independent at the hostel and runs off with the kids to play immediately.  Where a month ago she would have hung onto my leg at all times and made sure I was in her line of vision at all times.  She still has though moments, but more and more she gains her independence.  It has been really fun to watch her progression.  The hostel staff even commented on it the other day!

Ben did some cooking this week.  He made a really delicious meal with Impala steaks one night.  And then another night he made a grilled shrimp dinner that was super tasty.  He used Julia Child’s birthday shrimp recipe and it was delicious!  On Sunday morning I made Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls with a cream cheese frosting.  Mmm!  Who ever said you couldn’t eat well in Swaziland!

Mikayla enjoyed spending time playing with her baby dolls and princess dolls this week.  That is pretty much the only toys she wanted to play with!  We were also able to take some three year portraits one evening.  It was a very impromptu thing so her hair is a hot mess and the outfit isn’t what I had intended them to be taken in.  But she is still cute!  There is an album on Facebook with a lot of the pictures, but some of the best ones can be found here.

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