"Either write something worth doing or do something worth writing."
-Benjamin Franklin

Monday, August 22, 2016


It's day four and the honeymoon is wearing off. I actually stepped out of my Sheraton Palace to see reality. My driver to CTL helped me see reality by explaining my surroundings a bit. Reality means dozens upon dozens of poor men and women walking the streets because they have no where to go. Reality means a man pulling down his pants on the side of the road and a stream of urine following. Reality means a car accident with 20 people in distinctly different tribal clothing surrounding both cars in the middle of the road... yelling and fighting. "Why don't the police come?" I ask. My driver Odunsi laughs, "well.... the police... no one trust them. They don't help." Then there were the crowded clumps of dirt designated as a "market place" with a random bonfire in the middle, food hanging from ropes, dirt, dirt, dirt, people, people, people. And the daring men running across the streets, or even walking. Never looking, full on deer in headlights sprinting. Reality is a woman with her baby wrapped on her back, a four year old at her side, and carrying something on her head, trying to get somewhere. My life juxtaposed. Reality is skinny, sickly dozens of cows being herded. A family in a tent on the side of the road. Another in a tin home. As big as my closet. People everywhere. I asked why, what are they doing? Odunsi told me they have no where to go. No jobs, not a good home. So they stand around on the streets.  This was all in the 20 minutes commuting to my work. No thanks. I have children to live for. I am getting a driver. Odunsi even agreed. This world. Nigeria. Is a hot mess. I can't even begin. I went back to SPF desserts where we sat down and ate whatever the H we wanted. I went back to two privieledged children and an educated husband. I went back to a mansion of a hotel room, fresh sheets and ten towels. I went home to Italian food, everyone calling me Miss and Madame and holding doors for me.

What is this life? I'm scared tomorrow. Not of what I will see or what they will do to me. But of how I will feel.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Abuja Week One-You Are Welcome!

We made it!

Thursday night: We left in a windstorm from my parents house with lots of tears and barely made our flight to Paris. 13 bags, 4 carry-ons, 2 kids, and a cat. Hope had some sedatives a few hours before and she went nuts on the flight. Note to self: Hope don't dope. About 20 minutes into the flight, with her eyes rolled back in her head, she started acting like a raging lunatic. She was biting through the travel carrier in the most ferocious way and got her teeth stuck. I had to pry her tooth out of the netting and then she bite through my finger in the process. It was all a little crazy but finally my sweet kitty returned hours later and calmed down. She literally almost bite through it enough to escape. We were grateful to be able to have her at least on the flight with us and not underneath. The kids were a little out of control the first flight. We were thinking Landon would fall asleep around 8 pm in his carseat, but he wasn't having it, and finally fell asleep for a few hours around 11 pm. The only way to get Cami to calm down when she was half asleep and her ears were hurting was to tell her a story about the "magical chocolates" of Paris. We arrived in Paris and had 2 hours to get on a tram, to the bathroom, fed Hope, go through the security lines, and run to our next flight. And of course, get chocolate. The first thing Cami said as she got off the flight (it was 2 am to us) was "I can't wait to get my Chocolate in Paris!" Thadda girl.

Friday afternoon Abuja time: When we got to the terminal, things got real. Waiting outside the gate everyone was either African or a military personel. We were the only white family getting on the plane. The flight was a miracle, both kids and the cat slept, and Landon played happily in my lap listening to my music when he wasn't sleeping. They gave us ice cream bars, french cream puffs, cookies lain with chocolate, we were loving the French service. Finally, 6 1/2 hours later we landed! As soon as we got off the plane, the thick humid air hit us. The infrastructure of the airport itself with it's leaks, mold, and broken tiles definitely looked third-world, but it felt like home at the same time. There were policemen lining the hallways with their brown barats and outfits, almost looking like loiterers as they sat, stared, slouched. We walked ten feet to customs and the policeman pointed us to go through the diplomatic line. A beautiful African-garbed native lady with a big bright smile on her red lips was waving at us from across the room. She ecstatically held up a folder with the State Dept seal. Tanner's co-worker with his suit and aviators on was also in the background. Patricia, in her bright blue dress, beautiful weaved long hair, and chunky royal blue jewelry gave us the traditional African hello with "You are welcome!" and immediately hugged my kids. So warm, so loving! The kids were cute and excited to wave at everyone. They really were amazing sports given their traveling state of exhaustion. All 13 bags were there. They check against your baggage label to confirm the bags go to the right person (no stealing bags here) and on the way out a bored and somewhat apathetic police officer barely glanced at my folder containing my 10 page cat paperwork I had to get processed for weeks. (okay then!) I think it helped that we had 4 State Dept employees helping us, 2 huge armored SUVS picking us up, and we kind of stuck out like sore thumbs when we stood outside of the airport. We weren't there for light travels and it was obvious. People were EVERYWHERE. Just sitting, watching, looking. Mostly men. Up in the hills, over on the sides of the streets. It was authentic Nigeria in those couple of miles coming home from the airport and i loved every second of it. Apparently it's outside of the "safe zone" so I will only see it again when we travel. Women in full African apparel with woven baskets on their heads full of fruit and vegetables, children running around their parents who were selling everything you can think of on the sides of the streets, many men with with sullen dark eyes staring as we drove by. There were cow herders with big sticks and skinny cows with great white horns running around the hills, live fish for sell, darling puppies just being held up for sale on the side of the street, fruits, meats, anything you can think of was basically being sold. Then, as we got more into the city, the African "country folk" you could call them dissipated and were replaced with men in their African dress with hats and long colorful tunics. That is a tribe called Hausa our local driver told us. Hope sat in Landon's nap and was just as entranced with the scenery as we were. We also saw this most amazing policeman who danced his way through the job. He was directing traffic but also putting on a full on dance show. As the driver said "you have to have fun with the work." Amen brother. Then we got to the hotel and the security came out in full force. They checked all of the vehicles (we were exempt I guess b/c we were diplomats) and had to clear every vehicle before entering behind these huge gates. The Sheraton was nice. Probably one of the nicest hotels in Abuja. I'll include some pics. We went through security and at that point I was really delirious. All I remember from there is checking into a mansion of a suite (Presidential oo lala) that is literally bigger than our previous place. It is 1800 square feet complete with two king-sized beds, three bathrooms, a kitchenette, a huge dining room and massive master bathroom. We were set. The housekeeping men (by the way, when you think Nigerian men, think TALL and STRONG, and when you think ladies, let pure beauty come to your mind. Their skin is flawless, their dress pristine, their mannerism proud and proper) were so cute and wanted to show us every room and have us gawk over it. Gawk we did. The kids went crazy. In a good way, running around from room to room, showing us everything that needed proofing within minutes (Landon: i.e.: phones/plants/anything in his reach) and Hope went with Mike to stay at a friend's house for a few days till our hotel is ready. She is in the best of hands, but I hope she remembers me! And doesn't hate me for leaving her! No pets allowed at hotel :(. We all went to bed I'm pretty sure at 12 and then the kids woke up at 1 and ran back and forth from corridor to corridor until 3 am. Tanner, the good soul, let me sleep. He said they were running laps around my bed for an hour and I didn't even notice. Dead.tired.

Saturday: I woke up earlier than everyone and ordered breakfast. And Cami ended up in my bed with Landon on top of Dad in the other. We ordered breakfast (let's just say sausage means hot dogs and cereal comes with hot milk. And the hot chocolate was questionably coffee-tasting, but Cami sure didn't complain). I went to the gym and enjoyed my pool view with colorful (and BIG) lizards hoping on the rocks. A cat ran by with a lizard in her mouth which motivated me nicely to keep at it myself. Then I ran upstairs, got ready, and we headed over to Harvard Compound where our sponsor Steve was waiting to greet us and show us around. Talk about a whirlwind, no time to even think! The compound was even more beautiful than I imagined it. As soon as the ginormous gates opened up, I thought, here we go! Cami exclaimed "that's the house from the pictures that I saw; that's our house!" Having a year to prep her has it's advantages. The playground was right in the center of all of the duplexes, and the stone houses have tropical flowers, lush plants, and even a green yard. It really is beautiful and authentic. Cobblestone roads and the best playground the kids could ask for! We pulled up to Steve's house (which shares a wall with us) and looked around. Lizards in the rocks, bananas on the trees, and our house next door with some serious construction going on. Looks like they are working overtime which is great news. Steve is a Nigerian-American and his wife is Philipino-American. Salt of the earth. Had a beautiful home all decorated from their last post in Kenya for 5 years. Steve is brilliant and kind, his wife warm and so hospitable. They made us delicious cuisine I could have eaten all day as well as some desserts. Cami and Landon loved their dog. It was so nice to get a tour of the house and see our potential layout. The preschool room is going to work perfectly. The house is huge. We were feeling super blessed. We chatted with them for awhile and then Cami anxiously pushed her way outside to the playground. The kids went nuts out there. If there is anything that is truth about my kids is that they love to play and explore. Within minutes families started coming out of their homes and introducing themselves and the empty playground was soon filled with 10-15 neighborhood kids just like that. Kids of all ages from 1-12. Ideal! Cami ran around with a girl named Lily who is also 4, and just like that they were friends. I honestly didn't keep track of my kids. There was no where for them to go to get hurt, no cars on the streets, and if a car did enter the compound it went slowly to its driveway. This is haven for my crazy Landon and going be just a blast for social Cami. There is another park above with basketball, pool, gym, playground and I didn't even get to it, but the kids did. I was too busy socializing myself! I met some many friends that I had already corresponded with, and because of it, it almost felt like reuniting with old friends. Just a huge blessing, there was no way to feel the least bit sorry for myself or alone on our very first day. A friend offered to take me to the store, we loaded up and drove the streets of Nigeria to a secured store with a gate and policemen, got the shopping I needed and even had the butcher make "mozzarella fingers" for me so my kids had their comfort foods like "cheese sticks"and learned that $100 bucks cannot go along way here. Good thing Costco and I became chums and my consumables will arrive in the near future A friend here mentioned you feel like a drug lord pulling out your Nigerian naira because the bills are in 1000s and that equates to about $3. Therefore, I paid about 40,000 N for my groceries and just kept counting the bills one by one like the gringa I was.

We went home and basically crashed. I made spaghetti with a pot I borrowed and some stuff from the store. We ate homemade bread from a neighbor. We got some desserts room service that were eh. We played, I cannot even remember to be honest. We took shifts napping b/c the kids stayed up super late. I was up with Landon until 3 am last night.

Sunday: Everyone woke up at 1 pm. Ridiculous I know. I can't handle it in the evenings.  Landon is up right now and it's 2:23 am. I have no clue what to do, other than wake him up early tomorrow. We had a good day overall, ate breakfast at 1:30 pm ha. Explored the hotel, went to kid playground, saw more lizards, some beautiful Nigerian artwork I want to buy, Cami gave high-fives and handshakes to so many (the people here just love her, I think she likes that. It's almost like she's a celebrity or something) came back, had a mini church where Tanner prepared a talk on peace and I did a lesson on charity. It was nice. We have a goal of finishing the Book of Mormon as a family by the end of Nigeria. That is a page a day in our big book that has questions and definitions, etc. I think that is manageable and feels good we can apply something new daily. As Tanner quoted today "learn of me and listen to my word, walk in the meekness of my spirit and ye shall have peace." no matter where we are or what we are doing, we can have access to that peace. Tanner works tomorrow and I feel so bad for him because he went to bed around 12. I guess it is better than my 230 going on 3 am. He just won't sleep. He fell asleep on the chair during our "church" and we were trying to keep him awake. He wouldn't even move he was so tired when we were changing him and getting his PJs on. We were hopeful maybe he would sleep through the night and catch up but at 11 am out he came with a huge tired smile on his face. I think it is a smug smile because he knows he can crawl out of his crib now whenever he wants. #trouble

So yes, this was super long and probably boring. But I figure it will be worthwhile to me to evaluate my emotions and feelings as we go. And capture the fun the kids are having. And the culture we are digging. YOU ARE WELCOME!!! :)

Friday, June 13, 2014

Trip to California June 2014

Cami and I have been waiting all year to go on our vacation to LA and see my Animo Inglewood class of 2014 graduate. Along the way, we packed our week with visits with friends, Disney, family, and the beach. It was a total blast and I frankly need a vacation from my vacation we partied so hard. 


Left early in the morning on our flight. Cami was more excited to go on the airplane than anything else I think! However, unknown to me, she has recently developed a fear of HEIGHTS. She went from elated cries of joy while taking off, to cries of worry and held my hand so tight when she saw the houses were getting smaller and the trees turned to green dots. We talked about it and how she didn't need to be scared. However, she was so funny and insisted on keeping the window down until we landed. What we can't see can't hurt us I suppose! 

When we landed, Aubs picked us up and we went straight to lunch. She was kind of persistent about a place in Irvine and it sounded good to me. Turns out, she was plotting. I went to the bathroom and came back to my table filled with my favorite people. Lauren, Ami, and Leah were there to surprise me! Ami and Leah had driven 6 hours that morning to meet up with us and go to Disneyland the next day! She originally told me that she wouldn't be able to make it, so it was such a shock and I was over the moon.

Later that night, we went over to Uncle Brennan's and Aunt Krista's for dinner. It was delicious and fresh, as was the company. I love discussing movies, books, anything really with those two. They are sharp, kind, and interesting. I love their kids.

Reunited BFFs!

This little ham Mackenzie is just a crack up. Looking forward to our reunion for more hang out time.

If only Cami had access to dirt like this at our house... 

Dirt pies for dessert. Yum.

Cami and Leah bonded (which was the point because we will force them to be best friends naturally).

Then we went home and hung out with Aub and Hunter for a minute and I was so dead tired it was off to bed for a fun day at Disney on Wed.


We woke up and Aubrey had packed delicious lunches. She's the best by the way. We headed out and got the most perfect parking. It is right by Disney in the parking lot where you just walk a block to the entrance. Saved us like 45 minutes at least. Bummer the next day it was full! Now we know.

We decided to go with California Adventure and it was less crowded. We could just enjoy the day and get everything in we wanted. Which was a ton! We met up with the Peterson clan, and even better, Rachel and Thomas came up from San Diego to join us!

Pure joy at Disney. 

This doggie we borrowed from a friend was genius and she didn't mind at all! 

Taking a break to evaluate next steps!

Cami was supposed to be napping and they kept reaching for each other to hold hands. Died.


She gave the bug a kiss.

Having fun at the splash pad.

Waiting for the ride!

They saved us awesome seats for the parade.

Parade time. 

Ami, this is my fav.

All together in Car's Land

Last ride!


This was the day for my long-anticipated reunion with my high school teacher friends and students. Cami and I drove up that morning to visit with Lipton and how good it was. I love that lady. She is the kind of person that makes you feel like a million bucks and her heart is the size of a watermelon. So full of love and vigor for life, she is a fresh breath of air in a smoggy LA!

To miss traffic we got to the school early and picnicked on a blanket while Cami ran around like a crazy person. It was a great plan because the students soon began filing in. Oh.my.goodness. So handsome, beautiful, and grown up. I seriously didn't recognize some of them. I love the transition 9th-12th grade it is truly shocking!!! I was ecstatic to see them, and for me, it felt like I never left. I am just full of so much love for these kids, they've changed my life for the better in incredible ways. 

Of course, it was bitter-sweet because Izzy and Denise weren't there. However, I am so proud of how their peers have dealt with the tragedy and embraced life and each other. I had a feeling that Izzy and Denise were for sure there in spirit to cheer on their friends. 

Kimberly, she is a gem. 

This kid is amazing. He had the option of choosing the gang life with his friends and most of his family. Opted out, rose above, worked hard, and will be starting his dream of being a firefighter. Love him. 

Sweet Itzel with Leslie.

Karla and Geraldine, some of my fav Juniors graduating next year!

Yesenia wanted to start the service club freshmen year and has been serving ever since. 

Cami loved meeting friends!

These two beauties arrived from Guatamala a few years ago and have been working their butts off to be successful. 

Claudia was Valedictorian and will be attending BROWN in the fall. She was constantly coming in for help and improvements on her essays. Even though she said my class was the hardest she ever took (yay!) she said she learned so much from it. Well she could learn so much from anything; her perfectionist work ethic is outstanding. 

Sweet Angela will be going to UCLA!

Evelin is Izzy's sister, my student who passed away. She gave a beautiful speech and lit up the place with her positive spirits. She is still struggling of course, but seems to know in whom she trusts. :) She's got a lot of faith.

Zitlalic I almost didn't recognize. What a beauty! She worked so hard in my reading class and grew like 3 reading levels in a year. I think will be going to Northridge this fall!

These two handsome ushers will be graduating next year.

Sadly these two kids were unable to graduate and got their GED. Came to support their friends and will be kicking themselves in gear this fall hopefully. 

Teacher Favs Lipton and Smith. 

Back for more at Disneyland! Even though it was insanely crowded with every teenager in the world there (school trips) we still managed to get so much in and had a great time with just me, Aubs, and Cami. 

Slightly scared on pirates.

Fetal position when unsure about the ride.

Feeding Disney Ducks.

Enjoyed so many parades!

Buzz Lightyear ride was a riot.

Cami was in the middle and in charge of spinning us the entire time while Aub and I tried to shoot. She was ruthless, no breaks and lots and lots of spinning! So funny.

Best dinner. Monte Carlo 3 cheese blend with Salmon salad. Couldn't even get through the Monte with the three of us.

Scary witch. Not a big fan.

These princess pics seriously melt my heart.

Sleeping Beauty gets a kiss no problem.

For some reason she is obsessed with these little guys.

Conquered Pirates!

Tarazan time!

Showing off for the princess.

She had that nervous/excited smile plastered on her face the whole time! I never get her to smile in pics! Curse you princesses.


Tangled show! Front row seats.

Look closely at our chose of snacks in the candy shop. We win.

Loved her pink horse. 

She rode on it all by herself. No babies here!

Was pretty much a recovery day. We were supposed to go see Anne/Clark/Mary but driving up again to LA just wasn't an option. :( So we rested up a bit and caught up on sleep and spent the day with our favorite Auntie and Uncle. We headed to the most beautiful beach I've seen in Cali. Near Laguna Niguel.

Hunter played with Cami in the water and sand and she sure loves him!


Tidepools had all sorts of creatures to discover.

"Tunnel!" As Cami would say.

Aubrey and Cami playing. 
Family Nap.

Later we headed to the pool for a double whammy. Hunter really wanted to take her even though she was like half asleep we thought, why not. She loved the warm water and there was a splash pad there that was a big hit. 

That night Hunter watched Cami while Aub and I went to see that new Tom Cruise movie. It was interesting, I liked it. Then we got pizza and yogurt. Called it a day! 


We woke up and drove to Westchester to go to church at my old church ward/building. Everything was the same, but I was surprised about how small the ward seemed! So many families have moved out. It was great to see old friends and catch up. Cami had diaper rash from all of her swimsuit playing the day before, and kept yelling "OWIE BUM" in the middle of sacrament, refusing to get near me because she thought I'd make her sit. Interesting way for ppl to meet her again. haha. 

She did great in nursery! Playing with friend Jack.

Lexi and Milo, a few of my old piano students. What cuties.

Friends at first (born weeks apart) and friends at last. Lucy and Cami.

Such serious hand holding going on 

Afterwards we went to Jenika's for a gourmet lunch and to hang out with her cute family. Her kids are adorable, they made me excited for a bigger family someday. 

We met up with Allison at the park, my friend from Teach For America and we had a good chat. Then, Anne and Clark met us and I drove Anne back to her sister's in Mission Viejo. I was so happy that she flew down to hang out that weekend, I miss her! 

We got back in time for a delicious rib dinner hosted by Aubrey and her mom in law, Pam. Pam and Paul are the best, they basically treat Cami like their granddaughter. They are just full of so much love. They brought her the cutest minnie dress in the world, another tutu dress, and some bubbles and candy. Spoilleeddd! They ate her up and she was so sweet to them, giving them big hugs and kisses when it was time for bed.


We packed up in the morning, got our rental car, and headed to Anne's sisters to pick her up for our last day of partying. We got to Huntington Beach, ate some delicious Super Mex food, and went paddleboarding. We decided to put Cami on the paddlebaord and try it out. She was great! Mostly. She kept calling it the "boat" and sat still until she realized she hated her life-vest. She refused to be consoled until I undid it 5 minutes from the shore. Holding on tight, we made it. Poor Clark and Anne dealt with some screaming the last little bit though. Ey ey ey. 

Afterwards we drove to the observatory in LA and enjoyed the view while Cami ran around.

You can see the Hollywood sign in background if you look close.

Then, we headed to my fav restaurant C & O's for some delicious Italian. I love hanging out with those two, interesting, authentic, and funny people. We celebrated Clark's bday over some lava cake, garlic knots, and chicken raviolis. Clark ran to catch his airplane and we met up with Anne at the hotel. 

Showered and crashed. 


Craziest morning ever waking up early and trying to find out where to drop off the rental car in the airport. Dumb rental guy told me the wrong info. We should have missed our flight, but miracles happen.

Cami was perfect on the plane.

Tanner picked us up and it was soo good to see him. Here were are with the vacation blues! :)