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Baby Names

September 22nd, 2013 3 comments

I was going through some files on my computer and came across the excel spreadsheet Beth and I used to help narrow down baby names. I am sure you can guess whose idea it was to use a spreadsheet!  And in case you were wondering, yes it was color coded and included weighted averages to rank the names; it also listed name popularity and trends based on recent Social Security Administration information.

For some reason it was much tougher for us to pick boy and girl names this time than it was with Mikayla. (I wrote about picking her name a while ago.)  Looking back at the lists of names reminded me of all the thought that went into the process.

Even though we decided to find out the gender with Baby #2, there was initially some ambiguity about the sex so we had a boy name and a girl name. If we had had a girl, the name would have been Elsie Bellissima.  We liked the "throw back names" that were familiar but unique, but it was the middle name that has the most meaning as it honors two children we were close to who were taken well before their time: Bella Shoemaker and Simo Dlamini.  When the names were put together, it just so happened to be the Italian word for ‘Most Beautiful" which we thought was appropriate.

Other girl names we considered were:

  • Ainsley
  • Amelia
  • Arabella
  • Avery
  • Briley
  • Elsie
  • Gabriella / Gabrielle
  • Harper
  • Lindiwe
  • Macy
  • Madeline
  • Mallory
  • Sophia/Sophie
  • Sydney
    Obviously we did not have a girl so Baby #2 was named Maxwell Simo – a name we had originally picked before the gender confusion.  We liked the name Max from the beginning, and it also is a way of honoring Bella since Max is the character in her favorite book "Where the Wild Things Are."  We had always considering giving our child a Swazi name, and after the death of Simo last Christmas, we didn’t think about many other names.  The meaning of Simo is also appropriate.  It means situation/character(istic).  Since being born in Swaziland will be one of the qualities that makes Max unique, it is a fitting name.  And while a name can mean a lot, it is a person’s character that is most important.

In case you were wondering, here are some of the other boy names we considered:

  • Crosby
  • Fletcher
  • Hudson
  • Max (Maxwell, Maximus, Maximillian)
  • Micah
  • Paxton
  • Quinn (Quinton, Quincy)
  • Sebastian
  • Tate
  • Thaddeus
  • Theodore
  • Xander
  • Xavier
  • Zachary

And just because I can… here is a gratuitous shot of my kids:

River, Max at 2months 076

Categories: Family Tags: , , ,

Mikayla and Daddy go on a Photo Walk

September 14th, 2013 2 comments

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We are about to start a very busy month here at Cabrini.  We have a Medical Team coming in from Australia next week.  We close out a grant year at the end of September.  All of our major annual programming reports are due in the first couple weeks of October. And, we have a quarterly board meeting along with a strategic planning session scheduled.  On top of all that, we are doing a major database upgrade that includes launching a new system to keep up with all of our recent work in Social Services.  Needless to say, my spare time is going to be limited and my stress level will probably be a bit higher.

In light of the upcoming weeks, I wanted to make sure I spent some intentional time with Beth, Mikayla and Max.  So today, while Beth and Max were at a meeting, Mikayla and I went out into the bush behind our house to do a "Photo Walk." 

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Mikayla’s ability to actually compose a picture in the viewfinder has only developed in the last couple weeks.  Before that, she would just indiscriminately press the shudder button regardless of what the camera was actually point out.  Considering that, her skills now are pretty impressive.  All of the pictures below came from Mikayla.  Not to shabby at all if you ask me.  I think some of her flower pictures are amazing by anyone’s standard!

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Categories: Family Tags: , , ,

Family Pictures

July 5th, 2013 No comments

UPDATE: I made this blog post into a page so I can add more pictures along the way.  Please visit http://kickert.info/blog/pics/ to access the new pictures.

I wanted to upload a few high resolution photos in case people in the states wanted to get them printed.  You will need to click on the ones you want to get the full size image and then save it and get it printed where ever is easiest.

Let me know if there are others you have seen on facebook that you would like uploaded.

Max Arrives 027Max Arrives 041Max Arrives 048Max Arrives 086Max Arrives 089Max day 2 012Max day 2 016Max day 2 026Max day 2 028Max day 2 035

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Categories: Family Tags: , , ,

Boy or Girl?

April 25th, 2013 4 comments

Things have been busy since January.  We have had visits from my cousin Jana (and her friend Olivia) as well as from my Parents.  I went to Ethiopia (and Dubai) for a week in March.  And, Beth is progressing in her pregnancy.  But, let’s face it, if you want regular updates on the Kickerts in Swaziland, you have to go to my wife’s blog for that.

Now, back to that pregnancy.  The good news is that both mother and baby are doing great.  Everything looks normal and the pregnancy is low-risk.  That means we will probably be delivering in Swaziland if everything continues as plans.  All of that is great, and what really matters.  However, we have encountered some frustration with Baby Kickert #2. 

If you will remember, at the 16 week ultrasound, we saw "definitive" evidence that our new baby was a boy.  Here is the picture looking up between the legs.  That is definitely a penis.

Ultrasound-Jana-and-Liv-visit-075

So with that knowledge, we set out to decide on boy’s names.  It was a much more difficult process for us, but we ended up settling on a name everyone liked: Maxwell (Max) Simo Kickert.  It was great to have that decision out of the way…  that is until our 28 week ultrasound.

Here is the picture from that one (sorry it is not as clear because it is a scan of a printed image):

28 week scan (2)

For this picture you are again looking up between the legs from underneath, but the baby is facing the opposite direction.  Also, instead of seeing a penis, you are seeing the three lines that indicate a vagina.  Even more telling, is that when the doctor continued the scan up the body, there was no evidence at all of a scrotum.

Both doctors said that if their respective ultrasound stood on their own, there would be no question of what the gender was.  The problem is that each ultrasounds points in a different direction.

It is possible that the first image is actual of the umbilical cord, but when I look back at it, it certainly looks like a penis to me.  It is also possible that in the second image, the baby was positioned in such a way as to hide the penis. 

So where are we?  We really don’t know.  It could go either way.  We are leaning towards girl since that is what was indicated in the most recent scan, but we won’t know for sure until we have another ultra sound (some time in the next month).

Again, the most important information is that the baby is healthy.  But this ambiguity is frustrating.  We have gone back to the drawing board on names to try and come up with one of the female variety.  It has been just as tough as deciding on a boy’s name, but we think we at least have an idea for a first name.

We will keep you posted.  In the meantime, you are more than welcome to submit your own guesses based on your ability to read the ultrasounds above.

Categories: Family Tags: , , , ,

Catching up

January 6th, 2013 No comments

When I started blogging again several years ago, I rarely went a month without putting a post up.  Unfortunately, it looks like I got out of the habit and have gone almost 6 months with a post.  Whoops! 

Looking back at the last six months, it has been anything but uneventful.  In fact, there has been so much going on that it probably contributed to the blog-silence.  So, here is a quick run down on the big things that have gone down:

  • There has been a lot of traveling with the Cabrini crew – both coming and going
    • 3 staff members went to the states for the AIDS 2012 conference
    • Five "sisters in training" came and stayed with us for spiritual development
    • We had a fundraising trip in the states that all the Kickerts plus Sister Diane went on (more on that later).
    • The sisters have been all over the place doing "sister" work and taking some down time
    • We have had two short-term volunteer come and go
    • Joe has gone to the states for some time with Family
  • We were able to spend 6 weeks in the US and it was very busy time
    • I spent time in New York, Philadephia, St. Louis, Chicago, Nashville
    • It was great catching up with friends and family
    • I became an uncle on my side when Tim and Chel had their first baby
    • My grandmother passed away
    • We got to enjoy some down time together as a family and see the sites in NYC and London
  • We wrapped up our funding year and took some time to look at all the accomplishments happening in Swaziland
  • Simo, one of the twins we watched was killed when his house collapsed on him.
  • We found out we were pregnant!

If you really want scoop on what has gone on with the Kickerts in the last six months, be sure to go to Beth’s blog… she even does pictures!  http://beth.kickert.info

Video Dump

March 8th, 2012 No comments

Due to our poor internet, we rarely get the chance to upload videos.  So, here are three that we have had in waiting.

First up is Mikayla showing off her "Boing-a-hopping"

 

Next up we have Mikayla and I running away from the waves at Mission Rock during our trip to St. Lucia, South Africa:

 

Then, here is a video of Mikayla "reading" a book.  Technically she has it memorized from the Kindle, but I thought it was pretty impressive none-the-less:

 

And finally… just because I can, here are a couple of my favorite videos of Mikayla:

 

Categories: Family Tags: , , , , ,

2011 Year in Review (AKA: US to Swaziland in 5 years or less)

January 14th, 2012 3 comments

The coming of a new year gives us a reason to reflect on the year that was. Inevitably, we notice how fast time goes by and how, in a relatively short time, so much can change. That notion of mutability was amplified for us in 2011.

One year ago, my wife Beth and I both had jobs we loved. We lived in a comfortable house in a quiet sub-division where we knew our neighbors. We had a great support network of friends and family. We drove cars that were paid off. Our daughter had every luxury a one-year old could want. Heck, one year ago, there was probably snow on the ground, Christmas candy on the table, a Netflix movie streaming over the Internet and left over food from our favorite restaurants in the fridge.

Today, as I am writing this reflection, I am sitting in the dark because a summer storm has knocked electricity out. My whole family is sweating because it hit the high 90s today and the humidity is unbearable. My back hurts from cutting the grass with a glorified machete. Going to town today to get our mail and groceries meant 30 minutes on dirt roads through the bush and then another 10-15 on “tar roads.” We are still mourning the loss of our dog that was killed by a 7’ black mamba. Everywhere around us people are dying of HIV, TB and neglect.

One year ago we lived in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Today we live in Swaziland, Africa. And you know what? I wouldn’t change a thing.

In January of last year Beth was teaching, I was preaching, Mikayla was playing and life seemed normal. By March we had begun selling our stuff, saying the first of our goodbyes, making last minute arrangements and preparing for a huge transition. In July, everything we ever owned was either sold, stored, loaned out or in our suitcases and we would spend 72 traveling from the life as we knew it to the bush of Swaziland. A month later we had taken in two TB positive twins as foster parents, had experienced oppressive heat of the Swaziland lowveld, and begun to learn what it means to live in a new culture. By the end of the year, while still far from full adjusted, we had begun to accept our new normal.

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January in the States

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December in Swaziland

Suburbia to Savannah in a year may sound like an incredibly quick transition, but in reality it was the culmination of nearly 5 years of planning, praying and preparing. In 2007, Beth and I began to take inventory of our lives and started talking about our long term goals. Up until then, our lives had floated along a very positive trajectory; we were very happy with the way our lives were turning out, even if we weren’t overt about planning. But, slowly we realized that all the things in life we wanted to do could not co-exist. We could not commit to staying in Bowling Green to make a difference while also talking about pursuing Ph.Ds at distant colleges. We couldn’t talk about living overseas while also talking about living in intentional community with our friends. Simply put, we had to make a decision about which direction our lives would take in the coming years.

You would think a big decision like that would be difficult, but it only took one conversation over dinner to decide that at some point in our lives, while we raised our kids who were yet to come, we wanted to experience life outside the United States. I think even early on we realized that it was not important to have all the details figured out, but rather we had to know what general direction we were headed and then be faithful in pursuing it.

Over the next several years we researched opportunities, got in contact with people on the ground doing ministry, and gradually allowed our future to be shaped. It was a lesson in balancing intentionality with ambiguity. We had to learn how to stay on course pursuing a reality that we did not yet understand. We had to be bold in making decisions, but humble in allowing those decisions to change if needed. Slowly, as the details came into focus, we began planning for a life in Swaziland, Africa.

In July of 2010, Beth and I flew to Swaziland and met with over 20 individuals and organizations. Our goal was not to find a job, but to see what sort of work was going on and where we might fit into it. At the conclusion of the trip we were more confident than ever that we were on the right track in moving to Africa, but completely unsure of where we would end up. Once again, we continued planning, even if we didn’t know the details.

In October we were offered positions at Cabrini Ministries (http://www.cabriniministries.org)  in the St. Philips. The irony is that St. Philips is in the lowveld bush; that means it is in the middle of nowhere and ridiculously hot. We had intentionally avoided researching any opportunities in the lowveld because of the environment. However, when Cabrini offered us the positions, we realized that even if the location was not right, the place was perfect. It offered housing, paid a modest salary, was a safe place to raise a family, and provided the opportunity to live immersed in Swazi culture. Most importantly, it was a place where good work was being done that we could be a part of and the skills we brought were exactly what they needed.

In July 2011, when we finally arrived, we realized very quickly that the faithfulness and diligence of our preparation had paid off. When we began looking to live overseas, we wanted to be a part of restorative work that was driven by community needs and assets. We also wanted to head to place where we could be shaped as individuals and a family. We certainly found both. Here at Cabrini we are in one of the most forgotten areas of the country all of our work is dedicated to serving the needs geographically around us. We have an HIV infection rate of nearly 40% and nearly half of children under 18 are either classified as orphans or vulnerable children. In response to this Cabrini offers a full-service HIV/TB clinic and a child care program that includes 7 levels of care from comprehensive residential care to one-time needs assistance. Last year over 2,000 people received direct care or treatment support from the organization. One of the most phenomenal things is that most of our staff began as clients and have been capacitated to do the work needed. For instance, our current database administrator was left for dead on her homestead dying of HIV and TB and was slowly nursed back to health by our nursing staff. 2 years ago she had never seen a computer and now she manages a healthcare database that is more robust than what the government hospital runs! Of our 55 staff members, all but 3 are from Africa, and 44 of them are from within 25 miles of Cabrini.

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Cabrini’s Staff

In looking back at the transition we have gone through, it is easy to make things sound much more incredible than they really are. I can make the Kickert’s sound like heroes, but the reality is that most of the time, life is pretty mundane. On one hand crazy things happen here all the time (we have had two black mambas and a cobra killed within a couple yards of our front door in the last week), but then when I look at my actual day, I spend most of it behind a computer writing grant reports or doing IT work. Sometimes we spend 25% of our time without electricity, but we have decent access to internet. There are days where I may be in a national level planning meeting, only to come home and find that I have to chase cattle out of the garden. Last night Beth cooked cookies for the “Ambassador” to the EU (European Union) while I spent hours formatting report documents. I learned real quick that I can’t take myself too seriously.

A lot has happened in the last year, but all of it has been part of a dynamic yet consistent movement in our lives. Some people move overseas with only a few months notice; it took us 5 years. The hard part has not been the transition, it has been staying on course even when there isn’t a lot of action.

I have no idea what the next year or the next 5 years will hold for us, but I am confident it too will part of this direction we have been heading in for quite some time.

-bk

Thanksgiving in Swaziland

November 27th, 2011 3 comments

This has been the first holiday season that I can ever remember where I have been away from family.  Growing up, our extended families always lived far away and we only saw them a couple times a year, but when it came to Thanksgiving and Christmas we always committed to long drives and hurried schedules in order to make sure we saw everybody.

We knew celebrating the holidays in Southern Africa could be tough.  Not only are we away from family, but the Swazi’s don’t celebrate Thanksgiving. Instead of leaves changing, the coming of cool weather and football on TV, we have torrential downpours (when rain comes), 100+ degree weather and cricket on TV.  Plus, most of the traditional Thanksgiving foods are difficult or impossible to find.

BUT… instead of pouting about it, Beth, Mikayla and I made sure we had one of the most memorable Thanksgivings ever.

Thanks to the wonders of technology, we were able to talk with all of our families overseas (even though it meant waking up in the middle of the night, it was worth it).  Also, Beth was able to put together a lot of Thanksgiving themed activities for Mikayla including a song that we will try to post on YouTube when we get a chance.

As for having a Thanksgiving meal, our plans changed many times, but ending up being extremely meaningful.  At first, we tried to coordinate with several Westerners that we are close with to celebrate this American holiday.  However, due to schedule changes and other circumstances, no one besides us was able to attend.  So, we extended an invitation to the Swazis that we are closest with.  This included several of the mangers, the office staff, and a couple other people from the mission.

Thanksgiving, letter T 053

When it came to food, Beth in particular was able to pull off some culinary wizardry (I am sure she will post about it on her blog shortly).  Although very hard to come by, we tracked down a frozen turkey and some smoked ham.  We had traditional mashed potatoes and green beans as well as the most amazing gravy I have ever had (thanks to the sisters!).  We had apple sauce, homemade rolls, deviled eggs, a Swazi version of collard greens along with butternut squash, and of course some sweet potatoes.  The award for creative substitution came with a variation of homemade pumpkin pie that we made with butternut squash.  It was phenomenal and if you didn’t tell me, I wouldn’t have known the difference.

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By far the most meaningful part of the entire meal was being able to share it with the Swazis we are closest to.  We were able to explain the traditions and also express our gratitude to them for their support and assistance in our transition.

I was particularly struck by the unintentional symbolism that emerged.   In America, Thanksgiving is about spending time with family and we originally tried to replicate and share that with other Americans here in Swaziland.  However, what ended up happening was much more in line with the first Thanksgiving.  Tradition holds that the feast is tied to the Europeans celebrating with the Native Americas as a sign of gratitude for their assistance upon coming to the New World.  While the parallels are not perfect, the similarities were striking.  We are outsiders who are new here, and were were able to share our gratitude with those those who were already here as a way of saying thanks for helping us make the transition.

After dinner, we all sat around for hours and enjoyed each others company.  We introduced the Swazis to the Wii and as it turns out, they are pretty good at bowling!

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As the evening wound down, the tone became a bit more intimate.  Several of guys who were still around thanked us for sharing the tradition with them.  They also expressed the things they were thankful.  Esau, our maintenance manager, said he was grateful to be a part of something that was bigger than just the people involved; because we are doing important things, we can work together even if we don’t always agree.  Johannes, our agriculture manager said he felt most thankful when he could look back at all the hard work and see the fruits of his labor.  He also said he was excited to see how people from different cultures could come and make new creations with current things (he was talking about Dad’s sweet potato recipe in particular).  Mzamo, our HR Director, continued this theme by saying he was grateful for how Westerners could come to Swaziland and make things better without having to change the culture.

At the end of the day, I drove everyone back to their homesteads along with leftover plates stacked high.  It gave me new appreciation for the dedication it takes for these people to come to work every day walking miles (some up to 6 miles each way) through the bush.

Our first Thanksgiving in Swaziland brought many firsts for us (first holidays away from family, first time cooking a turkey, first butternut squash pie, etc.) and many firsts for the Swazis (first thanksgiving, first time playing wii, first time to eat many of the foods, etc.).

Looking back a day later, I certainly missed seeing all our friends and family during this time, but at the same time, this weekend did more than anything else previously to solidify the notion that we are in the in fact in the right place.

Now we just need to set up our Christmas Tree and get ready for our first summertime Christmas.

Happy Holidays from the Kickerts!

Feast or Famine // Bush Walk

September 11th, 2011 1 comment

Activity here in St. Phillips, Swaziland tends to come as either feast or famine: either there is a chaotic rush of things that need to be done, or there is absolutely nothing going on.  That not only applies to the work of the mission, but also to weekends.

My Saturday started at 6:30am (sleeping in for us) so we could get the twins ready to return to their homestead.  Then I had about a 45 minute round trip commute to drop them off.  Most of the day for Beth Mikayla and I ran was comprised of a trip into town to look at a potential vehicle to purchase.  During the day we purchased beds for the hostel, visited a home improvement store (which was a huge find for us!), met a family from the US, test drove a vehicle, stopped for lunch, found our mechanic was gone for the day so the whole trip was a bit fruitless, drove to the entrance of a game park (and saw impalas), returned the vehicle, went shopping at a new grocery store (also a big deal!), and picked up pizza.  Reviewing the day’s accomplishments though, we had to admit that all we achieved was purchasing a few things (most notably a hand-held shower head!), eating pizza, and spending 6-7 hours in single cab truck to do it.   Eish… even our days off are busy.

To compensate, we have tried to "achieve" a lazy Sunday here on the mission.  Sure, I have a few hours of work to do (Annual Progress Report for PEPFAR – US tax dollars at work), but most of the time has been just hanging out, eating, making cookies, playing wii, and a family walk through the bush near our house. 

Since busy work does not make for interesting photo ops, I wanted to post a few pictures from our Bush Walk:

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Mikayla posing in front of some season flowers along the road.

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And a picture with Mommy.

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Mikayla riding up high…

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… and riding not-so-high.

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Following trails through the open…

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… and through the brushy.

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Tree picture with Daddy.

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All tuckered out on the way home.

Categories: Family, Swaziland Tags: , , , , ,

My Daughter, the SuperStar

August 20th, 2011 1 comment

We are at about the one month point since our big move (depending on how you count it).  And while in general things have gone very smoothly, there is one area that has been especially impressive: Mikayla’s reaction to the transition.

We have known since early on in our daughter’s life that she was pretty special; she is incredibly good natured, adjusts well to change, and is always happy.  But, we knew this move of 9,000 miles, 7 time zones, and two hemispheres might be a bit much.  However, Mikayla has never waivered.  She has been happy, and spunky, and open to change, and has taken everything in stride.

Just think all that she has been through in the last 2-3 month.  She has:

  • Seen all of the furniture in her house slowly dismantled and given away.
  • Had nearly all of her toys given away or sold.
  • Moved out of the only house she has ever known into a borrowed room.
  • Had the few possessions she still owns packed, unpacked, and repacked countless times.
  • Put up with parents who were stressed, sad, anxious and excited.
  • Endured trips all over as we tried to cram in last minute visits.
  • Had her sleep routine totally disrupted.
  • Said to goodbye to all her family and friends.
  • Taken 72 hours to move across the world.
  • Flown on three planes for over 25 hours of flight time.
  • Been drug through more airport terminals than we can count.
  • Had to sleep in front of a ticket counter because we missed our flight.
  • Put up with her parents as they stressed about their travel plans.
  • Moved into a third home in less than two months.
  • Gone from a crib to a toddler bed to a mattress on the floor to a couch to a twin bed and back to a mattress on the floor.
  • Had to travel over an hour for any "quick trips into town."
  • Lost access to things like parks and play areas.
  • Been mobbed by kids twice her size because they are so interested in her.
  • Tried to figure out why everyone speaks funny.
  • Been kicked out of church (twice) and Sunday School.
  • Had to get used to her Dad working again and her Mom being home.
  • Traded the family dog for two new mission dogs.
  • Had two new family members introduced (the twins).
  • Been forced to share attention, food, and toys with these new kids.
  • Been kicked out of her room again.
  • Had to get used to taking showers instead baths.
  • And, has made all new  friends.

Yet, in spite of all these changes and struggles, Mikayla is still the same resilient, cheerful child she has always been.  She has not skipped a beat, has barely shown any jealousy and hasn’t even been cranky.  All of that is a lot for anyone to go through, let alone a two-year old.  Forget the "Terrible Twos," Mikayla has demonstrated the "Terrific Twos"… and did I mention she was a SuperStar.  I am pretty sure she has handled the transition better than we have!

Categories: Family Tags: , , ,