Friday, August 29, 2014

Reading Aloud

Both John and I grew up in families that loved books.  We passed that love on to our kids.  One of the most enjoyable things I did with our children when they were young was read to them.  Of course, there were the books they ALWAYS chose which we had memorized and which sometimes got old.  
Uncle Duane reading to Erika, Alesha, and Daniel

Suzanne at one year old
As they got older we continued reading aloud.  The home-school curriculum we used (Sonlight) even included read-aloud books.  Since Niger has a siesta culture, every afternoon after lunch we would lie down as a family in the coolest spot we could find and read their read-aloud book.  We'd all listen and enjoyed almost all the books.

When I was a teacher one of the favorite times of the day for the students was when I read aloud to them.  I remember that being a favorite time for myself as a child as well.

What are the advantages to reading aloud and especially to young children? In an interview with Jim Trelease, author of The Read-Aloud Handbook, which I must admit I've not read,  he gives three reasons why reading aloud is important.

1.  "It's long established in science and research: the child who comes to school with a large vocabulary does better than the child who comes to school with little familiarity with words and a low vocabulary."  Why is that?  Because in the early years of school almost everything is oral.  The teacher talks a lot and the kids with the largest vocabularies are the ones who follow along most easily.  The kids with small vocabularies are lost from the beginning.

And how does a child develop an extensive vocabulary?  By being talked to and by being read to.  But in conversation we tend to use verbal shorthand and not full sentences.  Mr. Trelease says, "But the language in books is very rich, and in books there are complete sentences. In books, newspapers, and magazines, the language is more complicated, more sophisticated. A child who hears more sophisticated words has a giant advantage over a child who hasn't heard those words."

2.  Mr. Trelease says reading to a child also increases their attention spans which will aid them greatly in having a successful school career.  

3.  Reading aloud is a great advertisement for books.  Children who are read to will love books.  I understand that not every child who is read to will be a great reader, but perhaps they'll be better readers than they would have been without being read to.

I'd like to add a few thoughts of my own as well.
1.  A lot of children don't really like to sit still and cuddle with parents, but they will sit on your lap or snuggle close to you when you read to them.  So it's a sneaky way to get in some cuddle time with kids whose love language is not physical touch.

2.  The colors and drawings in books are fascinating and can spark children's imaginations.  As they grow older and get into chapter books without pictures their minds have already learned to draw their own mental pictures to go along with the words.

3.  Your baby hasn't got a clue what in the world you're reading to her about.  But she does learn to love the sound of your voice and helps her to create different sounds as she learns to talk.

4.  Mr. Trelease mentions that reading increases attention spans which is helpful in school.  I'd like to add that an increased attention span helps the child stick with tasks such as chores given at home and helps them to sit quietly for longer and longer periods of time at church.

5.  Mr. Trelease, my teaching experience, and curriculums such as Sonlight have all discovered that children can listen, understand, and enjoy books that are far beyond their own personal reading level.  So when you read aloud, don't be afraid to try reading something that you know is above their level.  (Of course, we aren't talking about reading college textbooks to six year olds!)

6.  If you have a new baby and a toddler or pre-schoolers, reading to the older children while you nurse the baby is a great idea.  It allows you to spend quality time with the older child at a time when he might be feeling displaced.  It keeps the older one near you so you know where he's at and what he's doing.  And it's an activity you can do with the older one that requires only one hand.

So, pick up a book and read to a child.  It will help them and I bet you'll enjoy it just as much as they do!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Baby Quilt for Tera

I got Tera's quilt pieced together in Niger, but waited to finish it when I got to the USA.  I needed to get batting and I wanted to buy binding.  I've made my own before, but it's a lot of work!

Last weekend I finally got around to buying what I needed....I'm not really a procrastinator, though some would argue with that.  I've just been kind of busy cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, and spending time with a certain adorable baby.  

So this week I finally got it all put together.  I had some issues with the bobbin on Suzanne's machine.  She said she's happy to know it isn't just her who has problems with it!  So some of the stitching on the back isn't quite right and I had to completely pull out one row of stitching. 
The back
 I just quilted it "in the ditch" but used a fancier stitch.  Then I machine stitched one side of the binding and hand-stitched the other.

I think the yellow binding finishes it off perfectly.  I'm pleased with how it turned out. Here is Tera Evelynne Hines modeling it.  She's wearing only a diaper today as it's pretty hot here in southern Ohio.

Friday, August 22, 2014

On Being Grandparents

Probably each of us have fond memories of our grandparents.  I may have fewer memories of my grandparents than some people have because I lived in Nigeria most of my life until I was 10.  My Grandpa and Grandma Gay truly loved each of their grandchildren.  Grandpa was the kind of grandpa who played with his grandkids.  He had a model train in the basement complete with mountains, towns, lights, whistles, train stations, trees, etc.  He'd sit us on his lap when he watched TV and showed us how to shoot paper wads with rubber bands at the bad guys on his favorite westerns.  We'd comb what little bit of hair he had and all the grandkids fought over who would sit by Grandpa at the table.  He said he needed a round table with a hole in the middle.  He'd sit in the hole and the kids could sit around the table and everybody would be next to Grandpa.  Grandma Gay was a great cook and spoiled us with all her home-made cooking.  Sadly Grandpa Gay died when I was 10.
My family with Grandma Gay
  I was kind of scared of my Grandpa Hall.  He was very strict and expected children to be seen, not heard.  But as he got older, he got softer and by the time I was an adult I had learned to see a very tender side to him.  My Grandma Margie, who was my dad's stepmother, was so sweet.  
My family with my Grandpa and Grandma Hall.  I must have been taking the picture.  I take no responsibility for the photographic poses of my siblings.
Every time we went to visit she had a little gift for us and sugared cereal that we didn't get at home!  That's the only reason I knew such things as Cap'n Crunch even existed.  As you can see, each of my grandparents had their own grandparenting style in keeping with their personalities.  

The same was true with my parents and John's parents towards our kids.  They each had their own style of grandparenting in keeping with their own personalities.
Grandpa and Grandma DeValve with their grandchildren.  Six more were later added to the number!  Suzanne is being held by Grandma and Daniel is in the green overalls.

One thing that all four of my grandparents and the grandparents of my kids had in common is that they faithfully prayed for their grandchildren.  I have often sat with my parents as they prayed together and named each one of their grandchildren and prayed personal prayers for them.  I know John's parents always did the same and John's mom continues to pray for each one. I also think grandparents frequently have such a special place in the hearts and lives of their grandchildren that they can advise them and speak to them in "heart-to-hearts" in ways that their parents sometimes can't.  They may listen to Grandma and Grandpa when they won't listen to Dad and Mom.

In Niger grandparenting is an extremely important role.  Our friends at church and at the office were more excited to find out we were going to be grandparents than they were when they heard our kids were getting married (though they were very pleased about that, too).  A few days before we left on vacation to come to the US to welcome our grand-daughter, our office co-workers called us into the conference room.  They had planned a little party with meat, bread, and soft drinks and presented us with gifts for Suzanne for the birth of Tera.  
We have an office tradition of collecting money for new babies and then going to visit the new baby and mom at their home and presenting them with the gift.  But I'd never seen them have a party like this and actually give gifts.  I was very touched.  In case I've never mentioned it here, I am VERY blessed to have such great co-workers!

Most Nigeriens are very involved in raising their grandchildren.  There are a lot of traditional taboos regarding 1st borns, though a lot of this is changing in big cities and among more educated Nigeriens.  Traditionally, and I've seen this a lot where we used to live, moms of 1st-borns can't say their babies names, so they call them by a nick-name.  The mom stays with her mom for quite a while after the birth, so the mom will nurse the baby, but the grandmother will do all the other care and the mother will act like she doesn't care about the child (this is definitely changing!).  Often when the 1st born is weaned, the child will go live with her grandparents.    

Nigerien grandparents have special nick-names for their grandchildren.  Now before you jump to the conclusion that these names are weird or incestuous, think about some of the weird pet names we use:  pumpkin, sweetie pie, honey buns, petit choux (used in French....little cabbage), etc.  OK, so a Grandfather calls his grandson "my friend" and his granddaughter "my girlfriend" and a Grandmother calls her grandson "my husband" and her granddaughter "my co-wife".
Bath time with Grandpa and Mommy

Nigeriens also live in community and the young husband brings his wife to live in the same settlement of houses where his parents live, so one set of grandparents is always right there and the second set usually lives not far away.  The grandparents are daily involved in their grandchildrens' lives and are kind of the built-in baby-sitters once the child is weaned.  If mom or dad need to work in their fields, go to the market, etc., grandma will always take care of the children.  It's not unusual to go into a compound and find everybody but Grandma and the kids gone.

I love being a missionary but, honestly, being away from my kids and grandkids and my parents is the hardest part of it.  Sometimes I wish we lived closer, like my Nigerien friends do. When I was younger I never knew what my grandparents and in turn my parents gave up in seeing their children answer the call to go and to take their grandchildren with them.  Now it is us going and leaving them all behind.  Either way, it's pretty hard.  We would love to be near for free babysitting, to see all their firsts, to celebrate birthdays, to go to their games and school programs, and to have Sunday dinners with them.  But, though we will be far away and miss so much of their lives, one thing we can always do will be to pray daily for them.  That's the most important thing my grandparents did for me, my parents did for their grandkids, and now that legacy has been passed on to us.  May God find us faithful.

Find Us Faithful
by Steve Green

We're pilgrims on the journey
Of the narrow road
And those who've gone before us line the way
Cheering on the faithful, encouraging the weary
Their lives a stirring testament to God's sustaining grace

Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses
Let us run the race not only for the prize
But as those who've gone before us
Let us leave to those behind us

The heritage of faithfulness passed on through godly lives


Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful
May the fire of our devotion light their way
May the footprints that we leave
Lead them to believe
And the lives we live inspire them to obey

Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful

After all our hopes and dreams have come and gone
And our children sift through all we've left behind
May the clues that they discover and the memories they uncover
Become the light that leads them to the road we each must find

LetsSingIt - Your favorite Music Community

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

She's Here!

Tuesday night we left Niger on Turkish Air.  I slept (fitfully) pretty much from Niger to Burkina Faso where we let off passengers and picked up more to Turkey.  It was an overnight flight.  We had a few hours in Istanbul Airport, so I got a cup of tea and a croissant for breakfast.  
Our flight from Istanbul to Washington DC was ok, just very long.  I slept a bit and watched four movies.  

Daniel and Kelly met us at the airport and we had a good evening and next day with them.  Daniel stayed home from work and Kelly hadn't started her fall teaching schedule yet, so it was nice to just hang out with them all day.

 In the late afternoon we went to a park near Reagan Airport and watched the planes taking off.

Just as we arrived at the park, Suzanne called and said she thought she was in labor.  Then just a little later (around 5:30) she called again and said her water broke.  So we went home, ate supper, packed, and hit the road.  By then rush hour was over and we drove through the night to Ohio (about an 8 hour ride....shorter when there isn't traffic, like in the middle of the night).  Kelly did most of the driving.  She was amazing.

My sister was with Suzanne and Theo at the birthing center and she kept me posted with texts.  Here is a record of the texts.

9:20 p.m.  We just got to hospital.

9:49 p.m.  6 cm, 3 min apart, 60 to 90 sec long

9:57 p.m.  She is doing awesome.

10:16 p.m.  Getting her 1st round of antibiotic and then getting in tub.

10:53 p.m.  Suz and Theo are in tub and we're just giving them privacy and space unless they need us.

11:30 p.m.  He (Theo) is tremendous.  In transition and feeling a little pushy.

12:02 p.m.  They (midwife/nurse) are great here.  No directive pushing.  Just what they call laboring down, but everything kind of stopped so doing some change of position.

1:30 a.m.  Well you may be here as things have slowed down some.  Slow and steady.  I'd say a very normal labor so far.  She is so tired right now.

1:42 a.m.  She is here!!  Born on the bathroom floor!!  Beautifully pink!!!

2:35 a.m.  They haven't done any measurements.  Right now holding skin to skin and Suz getting some stitches.  They do family time before the other stuff.

2:50 a.m.  She tore.  They now think that natural tears heal better than episiotomy.  6 lbs 14 oz.

2:53 a.m.  Yes.  She looks great!  Nice and pink.  Where r u now?

If you want to know the full birth story and all the details, you can read them on Suz's blog at Tera Evelynne:  Her Birth.

We finally got there at about 3:30 a.m., so she was only two hours old when we first held her.  She is so beautiful and I think she looks a lot like her mom, but I can see her daddy in her, too.  These pictures were all taken at 3:30 - 4:00 a.m., so if we look a little exhausted, we were.

I'm delighted that her name is Tera Evelynne....Tera after the name of the town where Suz grew up and which Theo got to visit just before they were engaged.  My middle name is Evelyn and my grandmother's and great-grandmother's middle names as well.  Tera's middle name is spelled slightly differently as you can see.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Rental House with Furniture

The day before we left Niger for our vacation, we worked on moving furniture into the house we had rented and had renovated.  By "we" I mean my friend, Beka, and a lot of staff from Sahel Academy.  So here are some photos showing the move and how it looks with furniture.  Unfortunately we didn't get as far as hanging curtains that day, making bed, etc., so I can't show you any photos of the final, final product.

Moving in the furniture:

Washing and putting away dishes.  We'll get more cupboards in the kitchen.

Hanging curtain rods.

Working on the master bedroom.

The living room looking from the kitchen door.  We decided to put the fridge in the dining room/living room right next to the kitchen.  If we put it in the kitchen it would have to be right up against a wall and would overheat with no air flow.

Living room looking towards front door.

Looking towards the kitchen....the dining room area.

The front of the house.  The owner has planted mango, citrus, and moringa trees.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

House Repairs

If you follow my blog, you probably remember the post I did here on house hunting.  You may wonder if we took that house or not.  Well, yes we did.  And God has really blessed us by giving us an amazing landlord who has done everything we asked and more.

Here are some before and after pictures.  The kitchen before.  A bit like a cave, don't you think?

When my co-worker, Beka, brought her husband along to see the house, he had the brilliant idea of knocking out the wall between the living room and the kitchen.  It doesn't make the kitchen any's still a small kitchen, but it gives it more light and air.  They also added a small window and a door that can be opened for extra light (the door in this picture would normally be closed as it will be a screen door). The landlord also added a sink and a bit of a bench.  We'll have to add in cupboards....that's not standard in kitchens here.  He also added a second light fixture and about five outlets.

And here is a before picture of the living room looking towards the kitchen.  All the windows had these metal shutters on them which work well as security bars and to keep out light.  But they don't do much to keep out dust.  And the windows didn't have screens on them, either.  The kitchen door is in the center of the picture.

An after picture looking towards the kitchen.

After:  The living room looking towards the kitchen door.  The little window is for air flow because the bedroom there doesn't have a window.  It will be used for a study, not a bedroom.

The living room now, looking from the kitchen towards the front door.  The hall leads to the bathroom and three bedrooms.

This is one of the bedrooms before.  Same kind of windows, fan didn't work, etc. He switched the windows with the other kind, changed the fans, and painted in all the bedrooms.

And here is the same bedroom after.  

And a corner of the front of the house showing the terrace which he tiled.  In the back is a store room with a covered terrace that he also tiled.  The washing machine will be hooked up out there.  He added a washing machine hook-up and outlet there.

So, what do you think?  (Once all the trash gets picked up!)