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Around the Spinney

One thing that we really love to do together as a family is to read and listen to good books. When our first two children were 4 and 2, our favorite story to listen to was “Winnie the Pooh.” We had the physical copies of the book and we also had the audiobook version with Stephen Fry as Winnie the Pooh. (I would recommend this version to anyone- the voice actors bring the characters to life so beautifully.)

I cannot count how many times we have listened to and laughed at A.A. Milne’s timeless stories. Winnie the Pooh was my favorite lovable and huggable bear all throughout childhood as well. And of course, that is why my business is called “Around the Spinney.”

I have always loved the story of Chapter 3, “In which Pooh and Piglet go hunting and nearly catch a Woozle“. Pooh is joined by Piglet as he walks around and around in a circle, tracking something. This is one of my favorite paragraphs in the story:

“There was a small spinney of larch-trees just here, and it seemed as if the two Woozles, if that is what they were, had been going round this spinney; so round this spinney went Pooh and Piglet after them; Piglet passing the time by telling Pooh what his Grandfather, Trespassers W, had done to Remove Stiffness after Tracking, and how his Grandfather, Trespassers W, had suffered in his later years from Shortness of Breath, and other matters of interest, and Pooh wondering what a Grandfather was like, and if perhaps this was Two Grandfathers they were after now, and if so, whether he would be allowed to take one home and keep it, and what Christopher Robin would say. And still the tracks went on in front of them…”

This feels like one of our days as a family- walking together, determinedly but in a lolly-gagging sort of way. Trying as best as we can to cherish our time together and to pass on thoughts, wisdom, and well-wishes to one another. Not really knowing where we are walking to, but knowing that if we do it together we will enjoy the journey.

More on our favorite stories soon!

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Relationship over Resource

While we were in transition, I missed our stuff a lot. I missed all of the resources that we have accumulated over the years for homeschool and playing. But what I realized over the last few weeks is that these things cannot replace me with my children. They are just tools, that can be used well or poorly. They don’t babysit, they don’t teach by themselves, and they don’t bring peace upon each of their hearts. Often, they frustrate when they have to be shared, they bore when the kids realize how quickly the satisfaction of playing with them is finished, they actually crowd our lives and our relationships. We get all of these feelings when we elevate our things above what is actually important. In reality, they can delight at times, but that delight most often comes in the context of relationship. What brings those things to life is when we play with them together, when we share them in common as a family.

There was one thing that we had through all of these months of transitioning back over Stateside, that was our relationships with each other- our essence of family. No matter where we were, we were there together. And the dynamic ebbs and flows of each of our relationships together were always there, sometimes with others watching or being involved with us. Now that we have the resources back, I don’t want to forget that the relationships are always first. Because I want my children to understand that to be true, I want them to care for each other and be able to communicate well instead of being wrapped up in their possessions. I hope that I will be able to share more posts along the way of how we are able to do that as a family. And I hope you can too.

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God’s Faithfulness

I don’t have much time to write these days and that is probably a good thing. Little blurbs will pop into my head, but I’ll forget what I wanted to say by the time I get a chance to sit down. There’s honestly not much sitting down that goes on without someone asking me to read a book, or someone pulling my hair (Katie likes to do that a lot), or someone asking me to pretend with them. And that, as I said, is a good thing. It feels messy and crazy sometimes, but it is all so good.

But I did quickly want to share about God’s faithfulness before I forget what I wanted to write.

More than 2 years ago I typed something into the Google search engine: “Green areas around Chicago”. We had started to talk and pray about moving to the States so that we could stay together in case something ever happened to my husband’s job. With two different passports, the chances were high that it would be difficult for us to move quickly together in an emergency. So, that was part of the reason I typed that into the search engine.

Somehow I was immediately on a page looking at parks in Palatine, IL. I thought, “Wow- this looks really nice.” The other reason I had searched for this specific thing is that I had been craving some open fresh air, green lawns (maybe rolling), and nature. I had been in the desert for 8 summers and my heart was ”hartseer”. Literally “heart sore” in Afrikaans. After seeing the pictures, I realized that I had gone about my search backwards. So I redirected my search that afternoon to look for a good church and I found one guess where? In Palatine.

Well, 2 years go by and we are in the States looking for a job and a place to live and the Lord opens the doors to move 15 minutes away to the rolling hills that I saw and the church that I found.

Today, I was thinking about this and praising the Lord for his goodness. Not because the results of my internet search were a sign or a promise or a certainty- I never felt that it was and day by day through this transition He has been teaching me to trust Him no matter what happens. Instead, I was praising the Lord because He was so good to show me his kindness in the intimacy of my relationship with Him. And that is something I will always remember and that I know he will use to stir up my heart in thankfulness and praise to Him.

I love that each time I ask my son to pray in the morning after we read the Bible together and before we start our school day he prays, “Father, Thank you for giving Pappa a job and for giving us this house.” It is such a lesson for me to keep praising my Heavenly Father for all that He provides. To remember and recall all that He has done in my life- in physical provision, and even more in spiritual provision. Praying that you have some time to recall these things in your own life today, whether or not you have seen them before. And that the Lord will tune your heart to all that He is doing and how good He truly is.

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It has been a busy month with my husband accepting a job, sorting out the details of moving, and then actually doing it. When I think about it, I am very grateful that our transition to the US was ordered by someone other than ourselves. Thinking about the details of it all, we would have never been able to perfectly plan everything that needed to happen. But there is One who knew and who did.

We found out that we could all move to the States in January, almost a year and a half after starting the process through paperwork submittal, but even longer when you consider the conversation and prayer that went into it.

In February we began to think about packing up our house because we knew our little baby would come in April.

Meanwhile, we were hearing news that Covid19 was actually a bigger deal than everyone expected.

April 2020: many things were happening in Dubai which made it easy and hard to have a baby in the pandemic. We were receiving the best health care from my favorite doctor, who helped me through 3/4 pregnancies. We felt safe as the government was doing an excellent job in the midst of the pandemic. But of course, our parents couldn’t fly in to help like we hoped they would be able to and so that was very difficult. Thankfully, we had wonderful friends who helped and all came right when we met our little Katie girl.

After having our little one, our thoughts and prayers shifted to being able to fly to the US and move before our entrance would expire. And by God’s grace, we were able to fly out mid May.

And then we spent four months catching our breath in the beauty of the Upper Peninsula reconnecting with people that we hadn’t been able to see in person in years, our family was so supportive and we are so grateful for the soft landing they gave us. And for the miles that they traveled to say hello at a distance.

And so begins the next stage. I admit that there is fear associated with being in a foreign country, even when it isn’t actually foreign to me. But for 10 years I was building a life in another one. I knew the way it works and how to figure things out. And now we are learning how to do everything again. But we are excited that we get to do it together.

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After almost exactly three months and our friends’ help we were reunited with our dog Nellie yesterday! We took the two little girls with us on a day of road tripping to and from Chicago O’Hare in order to pick up our favorite little fur ball. It is so nice to have a little piece of home back with us. We are reunited and it feels so good!

The little ones keeping busy as we waited outside of Emirates Skycargo
Best Friends!
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Picnic Time

“When I was growing up, kids would go outside and play all day and invent things. And my brothers and I pretended our picnic table was a ship one summer. Our bikes were horses, and our trees were forts. We turned everything in the world into make-believe.”

Mary Pope Osborne, Writer of The Magic Tree House books

As I write this, it is raining outside. I can hear the rain drops pounding on the roof of the three-seasons room in my parents’ house. I can hear the wind blowing through the large trees in the forest behind the house, and in front of the house cars are speeding through puddles on the road. After living in a dry desert for a long time, these rainy days are really quite special. Seeing the ground saturated with water, feeling the warmth of summer cooled, experiencing the quiet of a quintessential rainy day. It’s a settling experience for which I am grateful.

I am also quite grateful for a summer where I can sit outside with the kids and enjoy the sunshine instead of hiding from it. We have really been taking advantage of the opportunity for nature walks and picnics since moving back home in May. And I’m realizing how important it is to keep our van supplied with a picnic blanket that can be taken anywhere. My next goal is to find some regional guide books to have stashed in the car for these trips so that we can identify more on our nature walks.

In the meantime, I’m working on some special nature walk picnic blankets to sell in the Etsy shop so keep posted! As you can see above, our kids are pretending that our homemade picnic blanket is even more than a mat to enjoy some nourishment on… it’s a backyard fortress to fight mythical and imaginative creatures from.

Hoping you’re enjoying the sun, the clouds, or the rain wherever you are today!

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My Little Workshop

When we moved to the States in May, I had no idea that 2 1/2 months later I would be creating and making during my spare time. Usually, I don’t have the time to do that between homeschooling and taking care of everything while my husband is at work. And that is especially true while having a newborn. But this is a very different season, and I’m grateful that I do have the spare time and it has been so fun!

My mom set me up with her little “Seweasy” table, a spare sewing machine, and an ironing/cutting board. Between school, during naps, and whenever I’m inspired, I’ve been able to sit down and create some things. I can even take a little break and enjoy a nice Keylime La Croix from my table fridge, haha!

Beginnings of a Shakespeare Table Quilt that I made

Check out my Etsy shop for some of the finished products!

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Unlikely Homeschool

Growing up, I can’t even tell you if I knew one person who was homeschooled. It wasn’t common where I lived. And while I didn’t personally know anyone who was, I was always quick to talk about how homeschooled kids were so “weird,” if it came up with my friends. I also really loved school, I loved academics and I was close to OCD about my assignments, grades, and extracurricular activities. So, needless to say, it wasn’t the path I saw myself taking when I had children of my own.

When I moved to Dubai, I had no idea how much my life would change or that I would be raising kids there. After nannying for some of my friends, I became a preschool teacher and quickly realized how important school was in Dubai. At that time, people would place their children on waiting lists to get them into the school they wanted, even before birth… When we were pregnant with our oldest son, many people asked us where we had registered him for school, but we couldn’t have registered him because we didn’t even know what gender he was until he was born. As we time went on, it became less intense. More international schools opened up, and it was no longer a scary, “what if my kid can’t get into the school we want because of a waiting list?” situation. But it was a situation for us because every school charged tuition and it became apparent that school was just to expensive for us.

Thankfully the Lord had started working on my heart even before we started our family, during my time teaching preschool. I started to realize how much the parents were missing who were dropping their kids off at our school everyday. Even then, I had thoughts of, “if I were able to stay home with our child, then…” And so slowly the idea of homeschooling came into view. I was also aware that homeschooling might not be an option for us if I needed to continue working, and so we were always in between deciding. The deciding time came when we realized that financially if we sent our son to school, I would have to work to help with the school costs. My whole paycheck would go to his and then his sisters’ schooling. I could either teach other kids or I could teach our own while we scaled back on other expenses as a household. And so, we became homeschoolers.

Now, this is my 4th year homeschooling, and my 3rd year formally homeschooling, meaning my oldest son is now in 2nd grade. And I have to tell you, I’ve never learned so much in my life. I have definitely had days where it was hard to get up out of bed, but more and more, my days are these little treasures in which I get to learn with my kids. And I’m so grateful that this unlikely homeschooler became one. Because the time I am given to know and grow with my kids is absolutely irreplaceable. So more on homeschooling soon, but for now- that is the beginning of our story, or a small part of it.

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A Bit of Background

Almost ten years ago, I left to move overseas. Initially, my senses were overwhelmed as I walked out of the airport and found myself in a new country. However, I quickly learned that I could find many comforts from home in the United Arab Emirates, the hub between East and West. While this was true I still deeply missed my family and friends, who could not be imported.

My plan was to spend 9 months there and to return home, but the Lord had another plan. After being there for a few months I was introduced to a man who a year later became my husband. A year after that we got pregnant with our first child and now 7 years down the line, we just had our fourth. Although roots don’t hold well in the sand, Dubai became my home because it was where our family started. Neither my husband nor I had a real desire to move away and we loved being in the middle of our childhood homes and family, South Africa and the United States, and being a part of such a wonderful church in Dubai.

Because my husband and I were from two separate countries, friends would always ask us where we would want to move next. But neither of us really felt called anywhere else so we really didn’t have an answer. However, while we were living in Dubai we saw many of our friends separated because of having two different passports and no residency permanence in their spouse’s country. So after much prayer we found ourselves applying for my husband’s green card, which took almost a year and a half to get. Fast forward to the global pandemic of covid19, and we are so grateful that we started the process when we did, it was truly the Lord who led us according to his timing. We got my husband’s IR1 visa in January, had a baby in April and prepared to move as soon as we could with country shut-downs and travel restrictions. By God’s grace, we were able to move to the US in May.

All of our luggage and three out of four children at Chicago O’Hare
Munising, Michigan. Miner’s Castle Overlook

The next steps are uncertain as we wait for the Lord to lead us, but we are so grateful to be safe and to be together during this time. We always knew moving would be culture shock, and the pandemic has definitely added a different twist to that experience. But every day we are grateful that the Lord provided a place for us to be together at my parents’ house. And now we are awestruck as we are living in a forest, so different from the desert we left. There are beautiful trees, rainstorms, bird calls, chipmunks, cool breezes, and flowers growing everywhere around us- it is a special treat for us as a family. So come along on our adventure around the spinney and we’ll definitely share some laughs together.

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