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Setting Up House

We have been embarking upon a new adventure over the last month. We bought a house and have been slowly setting it up. It has been fun, exhausting, stressful and joyful all at the same time. Most of all, we are so grateful for more space and a little place to call our own.

There are some fun things that amaze me about this house. It feels like we really spend our Days Around the Spinney now as we have a little one-acre wood. It’s not the Hundred Acre Wood, but it’s certainly sweet enough for us. It came with a fly through bird feeder, hand made by a previous owner, now named Nel’s Nest. The house was built by a boat builder, so it harkens to my father who is a boat builder as well.

Nel’s Nest
I think the dents came from someone ramming into it with their ride-on mower.

As we get settled in, I hope to be back in business mode slowly but surely. I still have to set up my workspace, which will be a dedicated little nook in the house, but I’m making progress. And it’s safe to say that we are happy to be in one place now, together.

Until next time, <3 Kate

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Remember that time in 2020

I wanted to take some time to reflect over this year as it closes. So here is our “Remember that time…”

  • We had to say goodbye to our friends and loved-ones in Dubai much sooner than we anticipated, even while being in the same country during the lockdown. Our children weren’t able to play with their friends and we weren’t able to have a final goodbye the way that we wanted. We tried as best we could to see each other over the gate to say goodbye. We are so grateful for all those who did that, and who cherished time with us in our home and then over zoom in those final weeks. Man, we miss you guys.
  • We had a baby during the pandemic, and Etienne was able to come to the hospital and be in the operating room, just days before they stopped letting husbands do that. My doctor, Dr. Jennifer, delivered 3 out of 4 of our babies, and we love her so much! Our friend, Crina, helped watch the kids while we went into the hospital and they spent a one-of-kind day together. Our kids loved it and her!
  • I spent the rest of the time in the hospital alone with Katie recovering from the C-section- I’m so grateful to the nurses who served and helped me and for zoom- where I could check in with my husband and kids at home often. I was definitely ready to come home at the end.
  • We packed up our stuff and sent it in a shipment. Then we lived in our villa with only a few pieces of furniture, waiting for a flight to open up and to be able to repatriate before Etienne’s entry expired.
  • Etienne also finished his work of 18 years with MLC from home and didn’t get a final goodbye with his amazing company and friends there.
  • A flight opened up! And we went on a long flight to O’Hare with a one month old and 3 other children under 6 during the pandemic and the lockdown. We felt so safe in Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the midst of the pandemic, but when we reached O’Hare it felt like the Wild West. It also felt like Alida was licking everything in sight as we were waiting for our luggage and finding our rental car.
  • We drove up to the UP of Michigan right away, and somehow we made it after such a long flight and it being the middle of the night.
  • My sister organized a stay for us to quarantine in the woods and we were so grateful to Erin and her family for their help! We watched Spring come in May when we arrived and saw the last snow melt! Boy-were we cold!
  • We started life here in the woods- adventuring together, enjoying nature, and for the first time being able to breath that we were finally all together in the US. Amazing to see that the Lord provided all that he did, when we didn’t know how it would be possible. We are so grateful still to all the people that helped us!
  • We spent 4 months with my generous parents- taking up their house! They were so kind to let us stay. We cooked together, went to Mini-Golf once to play and then the rest of the summer weekly for ice cream, quilted, made tallow, enjoyed their beautiful garden and raspberries, we went to Lake Superior and all over the place adventuring, we picked blueberries, went to Tahquamanon Falls to see Kim and the boys (got brilliantly surprised by them once before that too while we were quarantining!). We spent beautiful time with my sisters and brothers and got mountain bikes and went into the woods to do that for the first time ever! It was amazing and so fun. All in the midst of the pandemic.
  • I started a little business and started to dream of what I should make- I couldn’t close the lid and just kept creating. I got to start a little shop for my parents and I on Etsy and we are still going!! I’m so grateful that we can continue to be creative together even 6 hours apart now.
  • I was amazed by the support of my friends with my little business! Angela, Chrissy, Lisa and Susan, Anna, Barbara, Michelle, my sister Ann, Kimberly, Vicki, Jordan (my oldest friend!), and Lyndsey! They gave me ideas, encouraged me in what I made, engaged with me over social media when I was totally bummed out by it (even when it doesn’t seem like it) and I’m just so grateful for their support!
  • I got to have conversations with Dad weekly about tallow and games, I’ve loved being so close this year and getting to do that. I’ve learned so much and learned to appreciate even more.
  • I got to have conversations with Mom weekly about quilts and runners, and we get to share a passion together. I’m learning from her and loving it!
  • We moved down to Chicago, to a place we had heard about years before and to join a church that the Lord led us to, what a treasure to be with the saints here. We have loved getting to settle in and get to know people, and we can’t wait until we can be together normally and enjoy it even more!
  • Etienne works in downtown Chicago, but somehow is able to work from home in the extra room. And that has made our transition a lot easier during this time as we repatriate and learn a new place. We are so grateful to have had all this time together. We always said in Dubai, it would be nice to have a little more time in the midst of the hustle and bustle. Well, we got it!
  • Some of our friends from Dubai actually made it to Chicago! Lisa and Hannah, and all of the Lims! It was such a joy to see each other, spend time, picnic, walk and talk, and to say a proper goodbye to each other- knowing that we were in a good place to be able to do it again, Lord willing!
  • We have been adventuring around Chicago land preserve to preserve. What a blessing to enjoy the nature that God created. To do it together!

Some remember that time of the kids:

  • Alida was a bit afraid of people having been isolated for so long during the lockdown and then coming over and seeing people again more regularly. We have come a long way since May!
  • Barnabas started really reading this year and I have to hide books from him that I want to him to read for school time or that I wanted to read as a read-a-loud so that he doesn’t breeze through them before it’s time! While providing him with more books of course!
  • Shiloh started filling into her heart and expressing it more, having words to say about it. I often feel the way Marmee must have felt about Amy (in Little Women). She is my favorite heroine having daughters and wanting them to see the good that they can put into the world, and the Source of all good.
  • Katie was held the most as an infant because we had more help around us and we were at home all the time.
  • Alida is the pretender: a blue puppy, Daniel Tiger, Superwing’s Jet, a Honey Badger (my personal favorite, but the one that scares Katie the most).
  • We started cooking and baking together as a family with Auntie Kim and with Raddish kids.
  • Barnabas started in his passions for birds and animals- really enjoying drawing and coloring for the first time.
  • Shiloh started to learn how to read and is loving it! She loves to read her first book to people with stories like “Pat”.
  • Alida started to learn and build more often, we regularly find her sitting somewhere concentrating on an activity she chooses and it is such a delight to see.
  • Katie started to sit, crawl, sing, talk, and is engaging with all of us. We are learning more about this new little girl the Lord brought into our family.
  • The kids got to see and then experience snow for the first time! How amazing to be in winter!
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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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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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