This week of August contains multiple milestones ranging in emotions.  Today, a joyous one — our 10-year wedding anniversary! Hard to believe I met Dave at grad school 14 years ago and we’ve been legal for 10.


And yesterday a bitter-sweet one — the first day of school. There is such excitement and happiness, but also some sadness as you think about your babies growing up.  Lauren got on the bus to 1st grade yesterday and Landon started Pre-K.  Apologies to Landon for no official ‘first day’ photo.

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And 5 days ago one of the saddest — the anniversary of Dad’s passing.  This is the first year of this new milestone and I hate that it was added to the calendar, but I’m thankful to have spent time with family in Dayton for the day.  Thank goodness for silly cousins who always lighten the mood.

from Blair the photographer 185 big_5x7 8.17.14 Cincy cousins

One of my favorite photos taken 10 years ago today.2004_August_21_wedding_ceremony(6)


It’s been 3 weeks since I’ve returned to my home in Hudson and my ‘normal’ life.  Before leaving on the trip, I couldn’t imagine how long 5 weeks would feel.  I couldn’t imagine how the kids and Dave and Sable would take the separation.  It felt like it would be an eternity.  But you know what?  It wasn’t.  Not even close.  It was more like a blink of en eye.  And now that I’m back, there are times that it feels like I never even left, like the trip to Africa was a dream.

The prep work we did before the trip had a module on ‘reentry’ and it was again repeated for us when we got back.  While this term is more for someone who spent a significant amount of time out of the country, like a Peace Corp Volunteer or a multi-year international assignee, there were parts of module that resonated with me and I definitely experienced some of the reentry issues.  I was beyond excited to be home with the kids and Dave … and at the same time I was also in a funk.  A combination of jet lag, not feeling motivated to return to my regular job, missing the travel, missing my CSC friends, and missing the independence that came with life as a single gal who didn’t have to cook or clean 🙂

How have I broken that funk? Lunches, Dinners, and Drinks with friends; cramming a whole summer-full of activities with the kids into a few weeks; virtually chatting with the CSC team (and planning mini-reunions already!); and placing mementos of Africa all over the house.  Sepia photos from Zambia and South Africa were printed, framed and added to our ‘International Travel’ wall.  Whimsical animal oil paintings are up in the kids rooms. The Zulu warriors have a home on the 1st floor near the wood chess set with hand-carved animals as the pieces.  The ostrich egg is on the mantel. And lots of Amarula has been drunk!  I’m searching for a local distributor, but no such luck yet. If anyone in the US finds some, let me know!

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Victoria Falls

At the conclusion of our safari adventure, we hopped a charter flight from the airstrip outside of our lodge to the other airport in Kruger National Park — Nelspruit.  From there, we caught a direct flight to Livingstone, the airport closest to Victoria Falls on the Zambian side.

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Leaving Thornybush

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Our 4-seater flight from Thornybush to Nelspruit and the other passengers (backs pictured here) were from Solon and Sandusky. Small world!

The airports in Nelspruit and Livingstone were larger than the one-room Hoedspruit airport and actually had gates and baggage claim, but shared the same laid back approach to not checking liquids, not removing shoes, deplaning on the tarmack and having everyone walk out together to board.

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We arrived at the Royal Livingstone Hotel, one of 2 hotels within walking distance to the Falls and located within a small National Park.  The park doesn’t have any predators, but there were lots of impalas, zebras and monkeys wandering around the hotel.  They were even less phased than the animals on safari and you could walk within a foot or two of them.  Lots more animal selfies ensued.

The first night we took a sunset cruise on the Zambezi river and saw lots of hippos and a big croc.

The next day, Thursday July 17, 2014 we had a packed day planned as it was our only full day in Zambia.  We started with a walking tour of Victoria Falls where you could stand at the top and touch the water.  There are no barriers erected of any kind!  The Falls themselves run along the Zambia and Zimbabwe border on the Zambezi river.  The Falls are called Mosi-Oa-Tunya — the smoke that thunders — in the local language Tonga.   And from Wikipedia: “While it is neither the highest nor the widest waterfall in the world, it is classified as the largest, based on its width of 1,708 metres (5,604 ft)and height of 108 metres (354 ft), resulting in the world’s largest sheet of falling water. Victoria Falls is roughly twice the height of North America’s Niagara Falls and well over twice the width of its Horseshoe Falls. In height and width Victoria Falls is rivalled only by Argentina and Brazil’s Iguazu Falls”.

But unlike Niagra Falls, the water falls into a gorge about 300 ft across so you cannot boat up to it or go to the bottom of it most of the year.  You can stand across from it (and get soaked) and walk to the border of Zimbabwe.

After the walking tour, we took a tour by helicopter to see the full scope of the Falls which you couldn’t really see on foot because you were too close.  That was the best part of the day for me and it was pretty amazing.  We could also see hippos and elephants playing in the Zambezi River upstream. In one of the photos, you can see little white houses along the river bank.  That’s our hotel.

Our final stop of the day was at the Lion Encounter, which could be a really cool thing depending on when you go.  They ‘walk’ lion cubs age 3 months up to 18 months.  We arrived a few days after they retired the 18-month-old cubs and introduced a new set of 3-month-old cubs.  They were cute and cuddly, but not what we had expected.  It was more like a taking a walk and having some house cats playing off in the distance 🙂  You can see pics of the bigger lions they have and what the program is all about on their website.

We ended the day with sundowners on the deck of the hotel that overlooked the river. The sunsets throughout my entire 5 weeks in Africa have all been amazing.

7.17.14 Zambia sunset (6)

We left Zambia at 10:30 am local time on Friday  … flew to Joburg … flew to Atlanta …  flew to Dayton … picked up the kids … and drove to Hudson …. arriving home nearly 38 hours later at 6 pm Saturday local time. My African adventure is officially over!

7.19.14 Back home

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The beauty of Facetime

It’s just 4 short days until I see the kids again, but in reality, I’ve ‘seen’ them almost every one of the 30+ days I’ve been in Africa via the beauty of Facetime. Here’s what my view of life back home has been like. Technology is amazing, isn’t it?

Back on the Home Front – Part 2

The photos via email, Facebook and WhatsApp continue to pour in from our wonderful sitter, Kelsey, and my dear friends back in Hudson who are definitely making things easier on L & L (and Dave)!  I don’t think you realize how much I appreciate the notes and pics that keep me connected back home. From swim meets, to play dates, to family cookouts, to a Carnival organized by Kelsey and her other friends also nannying this summer, and a visit to Columbus, these kiddos have been super busy.  One more week in Hudson before Grandma takes over while Dave flies over here.  He arrives on Saturday!

Hover over the pictures for descriptions or click them to see full size.



Back on the Home Front

I’ve been gone for 12 days now … the longest I have been away from my kiddos and I miss them beyond words. I’ve been away from Dave and the dog for longer periods of time, but it doesn’t mean I miss them any less!

I count myself lucky for the technology that is available as I have been able to FaceTime with Lauren and Landon most days, trade a Viber text message with them or email Kelsey who is doing an amazing job keeping the kids and house together during the week.  And through WhatsApp, email and Facebook, I’ve been receiving pictures from my sweet and wonderful friends who are helping fill the void of me being gone by taking them on playdates, inviting them to birthday parties, and hanging out at the Winston Manor Pool.  Dave has also been super-dad and filling the weekends with Back on the Home Frontlots of activities.  Thank you all!!!

An assortment of the fun the kiddos have been having the past 2 weeks.

Happy Father’s Day

A big shout out to all the Dad’s out there and most importantly to one of the coolest around, Dave! Instead of getting a day to himself to relax and be celebrated, he gets solo parenting duty. Knowing him, though, he didn’t bat an eye and has something fun planned for the kiddos.


Dave and the kiddos at our favorite ice cream shop the night before I left.

So if you see Dave around today or in the coming weeks while I’m away, buy him a beer, he truly deserves it!

Final Preparations

I’ve been mentally packing for my trip to Africa as soon as I learned of the country and dates of my assignment.  I’ve been making lists on my computer, on my phone, on random scraps of paper … I’ve been ordering steadily from Amazon and Zappos and returning just as steadily.  I’ve been pillaging my friends closet’s like I’m back in college.  All of this ‘stuff’ has been piling up in a corner of my bedroom, so Monday night I consolidated all the ‘must pack’ lists, added to the growing pile in the corner of the room and set forth on what seemed like an impossible task to get it all into a suitcase, a duffel bag, plus a carry-on back pack. I honestly don’t know if I’m overpacked or underpacked … one entire bag is devoted to non-clothes items, many of which we’ll give away once in country.

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On Tuesday I put the final touches on all the items I’m prepping for the kids while I’m out.  We have count down chains made (I got a knot in my stomach when I saw just how long 38 days looks in chain-form!), I recorded audio books, made a photo book for each kid, created a ‘good night kiss from mom’ jar for each (thanks Pinterest!), and stashed cards and gifts for those days when they are just missing me.  The “Nanny binder” is filled with everything from medical authorizations to recipes I usually make to places for Kelsey to take the kids this summer to a master calendar of all the activities.

Kid prep

I have 24 hours before I actually leave, but I didn’t want a mad scramble on my last day … I want to enjoy the time with Dave and the kids!

PS — A huge thank you to those who sent me bracelets — I have over a 100 in my bag — and this photo is just a small sampling of the cool bracelets and pencils you all made and donated!

Rainbow looms

#ibmcsc south africa