Back from the Bush

Guys and Gals! {Okay mostly gals} Please forgive me for the majorly long pause on the line! We headed off to the game reserve for the wedding and I was completely certain I would be able to update you from the middle of nowhere, but I. was. wrong.

There was ZERO Internet connection and to be honest, I think that was probably a good thing. My phone died no less than five days ago and I still haven’t bothered charging it. And while I would have liked to have been instagraming photos of giraffes and zebras (don’t forget that is pronounced zeh-bruhs) I think getting good and unplugged for a few days is a good thing for anyone.

But would you like to hear a few highlights from the adventure so far?

K good because there are lots.

Before we left Bloemfontein, the Hubs and I capitalised on the presence of other adults and snuck out after the kiddies’ bedtime to see The Avengers.  Although that has very little to do with being in South Africa, we give it four thumbs way up, and I think it was so good it was worth mentioning anyway. Great laughs. But does the fact that I think I prefer watching movies not in 3D mean I’m getting old?

The trip down to Kwandwe, the game reserve where the wedding was held, was relatively uneventful. Remind me to write a post about travelling with small children sometime and I’ll give you the inside scoop on throwing nap time out the window and why any time is a good time for snack time.

Our time at the reserve, and the reserve itself, was amazing. The wedding was actually set in the bush — meaning the guests in attendance rode Land Cruisers out to a remote spot with an amazing view and not much else, where they’d set up a little scene on a hilltop with flowers hanging from the trees in glass bottles, champagne and canapes followed the brief hitching ceremony, and the bride and her father arrived in a Land Cruiser (think “Safari vehicle” if you need help picturing that) after all the guests were ready and waiting.

Penny (my new sister-in-law) looked stunning in a perfect-for-the-setting wedding dress that her mother wore on her wedding day. Vaughan (HH’s brother) looked very happy. And when the local ladies arrived in yet another Landy to serenade the newlyweds, the Bear busted out his own dance moves and demonstrated his impeccable rhythm.

The Hubs captured the day with some shots I am looking forward to showing you, but because of the internet issues we have pictures on a machine that can’t get online and a machine online that doesn’t have the pictures, and no way to remedy that right now. Dark ages, right?

In addition to the wonderful wedding and surrounding festivities we had a blast viewing game big and small on the 22,ooo hectares (a hectare is almost two and a half acres) of reserve there for the exploring. {Think ginormous.}

We had heaps of firsts, like seeing cheetahs in the wild for the first time, seeing an aardwolf and then another and another, and having a brilliant sighting of a lion and lioness. (The day the Hubs asked me to marry him we went for a drive on a game reserve with lions but we only spotted them under a bush resting and we could barely see them).

Hearing a lion roar for the first time may have been THE highlight. Besides the wedding.

We are now down at the coast – know where the movie The Endless Summer was filmed? And Friday we’ll head to Wilderness (near Knysna!) where we’ll enjoy more family time until next Wednesday!

Hopefully we’ll solve our idea emergency and I’ll be able to share photos with you soon!




Safely in the Deep, Deep South

It was a solid forty-eight hours of traveling. Yes, forty-eight. I spelled it out so you would be sure. Two nights trying to sleep on an airplane. A long London layover in between. A four (turned three-ish) hour drive from Joburg to Bloem at the end of it all. All I can say is, if you said a prayer for us, thank you. It was occasionally a little challenging, juggling the baby and the big boy and wanting to rest but needing to hold, but by God’s grace I would actually call that little trip across the pond amazing.


When I watched all the other parents on our flights who just had one kid to handle struggle to eat their meals while both the boys were sleeping peaceful-quiet and the Hubs and I were cutting into our smashing British Airways Chicken Curry and watching Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, (loved it the second time!) I felt kind of guilty.

But, I just kept eating.

The Hubs proved his Hero moniker all over again, of course. The Bear proved that he is undoubtedly the best-travelling-three-year-old in the history of the planet. And Tiger Tank proved that sometimes chocolate really can solve all your problems.

{I’d like to score another photo like this one of the Bear with Tiger Tank in Goo-Goo and Gammy’s garden here in Bloemfontein, but it’s a little too cool for this clothing option (remember it’s autumn in the southern hemisphere) and he doesn’t have those cherub curls yet. When dat baby gone get some hair?}

Since arrival we’ve basically just managed to get over jet lag and get a SIM card so we can at least have some (limited) internet access. And, we picked up a few essentials at Pick n Pay (my old grocery store/supermarket/happy place). I may or may not have been teary-eyed when the cashier asked me for my Smart Shopper card. I wistfully looked down the aisles with my sorrowful reply I don’t have one anymore…

Now why I still feel more at home in a South African supermarket where things are packed in grams and kilograms and prices are in Rand, I’m afraid I don’t know. Except I think maybe the American grocery stores purposefully try to confuse you so that you’ll spend more money sometimes. (I have substantial proof of this, but it’s a story for another day.)

The reunion with the grandparents has certainly been very special — the Bear is delighted to be back chasing cars around the patty-table {patio table} with Goo-Goo, Tiger Tank decided to take his first steps (in excess of three) walking directly to his Gammy just yesterday. I bought two boxes of chicken spice which I am very excited to stuff in a suitcase and bring with me back to North Carolina.

I’m hoping to post some photos of the excitement around here soon. With a little encouragement here and there for good measure. But in the meantime, I think I forgot to tell you about the Hubs’ first North Kakalaki family photo session, which I think went terrifically well. And I take ten percent of the credit, because I passed out the jelly beans. Here’s a link to the magical shoot. {The tractor shots are my favourite!}

Thanks again for your prayers, friends! More from the deep, deep south soon! (And we still have a wedding in the bush ahead of us!)


South Africa, Scotland and Skipping Shampoo

It seems like it’s been a while since I’ve given you a bit of an update on the goings-on for the Collie clan of late. And this bright and shining Monday morning, while I need to sit still for a few minutes between a load of laundry (or seven), a preschool run and hopefully a big old batch of DIY Granola I thought I’d scratch out the latest from this neck of the woods.

Uppee high on the list (as the Bear would put it) is the exciting, exciting, (did I mention exciting?), fact that we’ve booked flights for the Hubs’ brother’s wedding in South Africa. In May. We were waiting and trusting and hadn’t bought flights yet when HH “just happened” to look at flights last week and found tickets at a ridonkulously low price. Something like $3,000 for getting our whole fam to SA is a big deal. We were allowed to ‘book’ them and then take 48 hours to decide before paying for them, and when we checked the prices again Saturday morning they’d already gone up by $500. We were very glad we’d made that booking, and we promptly paid for our booking before we lost it.

I am very excited to have my feet on South African soil again soon. We leave a month from today! And we’ll be gone for nearly a month. As long as internet cooperates, I’m planning on taking you with us, so tell me — what would you like to see from South Africa when you’re (virtually) along for the journey?

We’ll be spending some time in Bloemfontein (yay!) and then heading down to the Eastern Cape for the wedding (hooray!) which is going to be lovely (whoo-hoo!) and on a game reserve (yee-haw!) and the Hubs is going to take pictures (yippee!)! I am stoked.


{Hoping to get a picture like this with the Tank in Bloem this time!}

In other news, Agnes is getting married. You know, if-it-hadn’t-been-for-Agnes-Tiger-Tank-would’ve-been-born-in-Mr-Potato-Head-Agnes. She has asked me about being a bridesmaid and about the Bear being a Ring Bear. (Oh. my. heart.) I have been praying that the Lord would make it possible for us to go (Scotland, July) and hanging on to hope, hope, hope! And it made me pause for a moment to consider that I think there have been at least a dozen weddings I’ve missed in my six years away, being on the other side of the pond (or at least in a different country) and unable to make it to each of them. In six of those weddings, I was asked to be a bridesmaid, and saying I couldn’t make it probably made me cry on each and every occasion. I’m praying, with seven being a special number of completeness and all, that this time I’ll be able to say YES!

{If any of you dear readers happen to be independently wealthy and want to pay for our trip to Scotland, you just let me know, mmmkay?}

In other other news, Tiger Tank is developing a delightful personality, giving really good hugs, and learning to sign things like “more” and “make that fan go round and round!” I think he now has eight teeth to his credit. And he knows how to use them. For biting, better than eating, I’m afraid.

The Bear is completely convinced that every toy in this house belongs to him. He seems to be developing into such a clever little creature. Very observant, quick-witted, full of laughs and charm. The baby-ness is totally gone. I occasionally mourn it…

I haven’t caught my hair on fire lately, but speaking of my hair, I decided to try going no-poo (meaning no-shampoo) and went the first round of it in the shower this morning. I’m doing a baking soda, vinegar, and sometimes brown-sugar-mixed-with-conditioner-scrub routine. Not sure what I think so far, but I’ll keep you posted!

Another thought, don’t forget that if you entered the Quiver Tree Giveaway and didn’t win, you still get a third off the price of a photo session (meaning a one-hour photo session is only 50 bucks!) and 20% of all the prints and photo products you order if you book within the next three months. That train leaves the station May 31st so you better get on board!

Lastly, I am more and more convinced that my faith is small. I’ve been challenged through all this faith-thinking to stop putting God in a box, and to deliberately and consistently ask Him to move in big ways. As Beth Moore once pointed out, am I afraid of making Him look silly…or me? More on that soon, too, I’m sure.

How are you? Any big news? Ever tried going no-poo? Have some advice?


When Nature Takes Over Again

I am an American, born to American parents who were born to American parents who were born to American parents. I don’t know that I have any African heritage in my history, though I feel adopted by that beautiful continent by virtue of my time there and my deep love for one of Africa’s sons. I ask for grace to speak about South Africa, and hope to do so with humility, because even after living here for two years, I remain an outsider, looking in. {Foreword side note: I wrote this post a few weeks before we left South Africa last year.}

I‘ve observed more of the complicated nature of the country of South Africa in my last couple of months here than perhaps in the past couple of years of living here. This could be because I have just lately been watching the news, or because we are travelling around South Africa and it is giving me the opportunity to see.

I have noticed a pattern throughout my travels in this beautiful country, and it is one that gives me concern for the country’s future. In different ways, wherever I look, I see evidence that nature is taking over again.


In Bloemfontein, the sidewalks and curbs are crumbling, and the streets are littered with potholes. In Johannesburg, buildings once great and sturdy sites for businesses, have fallen into complete ruin, not even safe for the homeless to live in. We travel the roads with concern, as some have fallen into such disrepair they are almost impassable. In many corners of the country, it seems infrastructure is lacking to fight the bush fires that break out, which means they ravage acres upon acres of land.

There are small and simple examples, too: The children’s play area where we were staying in the Drakensberg was falling apart and clearly not being maintained. Trash was being left outside and the baboons were having a rarely hindered field day.

It is evidence of a simple principle that applies to all of life: without discipline, nature takes over again.

My husband speaks of the South Africa he grew up in, and I see both joy and sorrow in his eyes. It is a place that once was and is not likely to ever be again. On our way up to the Kruger, we pass a picnic area. He tells stories of precious family holiday memories — he and his brother and sister would pile into the backseat of the family car early in the morning, and the family would travel for a while and then stop to enjoy the breakfast they’d packed at one of those picnic areas on the roadside.

A lot of things were wrong then, but some things were right.

Today those picnic areas are no longer maintained, and even where they are, it is not always safe to stop. The one we passed that sparked the story was overgrown with weeds, the table cracked, the cement benches crumbling. “No one will come to repair it,” he remarked with sadness. “And it will just fall into ruin.”

If I had to describe the situation in South Africa at present, I could only use one word: complicated. We had a very positive life experience when we lived in the Western Cape. It is the only province of the country ruled by a political party other than the ANC. When we are there, I feel hopeful about SA’s future.

But in Mpumulanga near Kruger National Park, in the Gauteng and Johannesburg, or in the Drakensberg in the province of KwaZulu Natal, there are so many signs of decay and disrepair, it is more difficult to maintain a sense of hope.

“My family used to take a drive through that valley, up that way,” my husband explains while we’re in the Drakensberg, “but I asked someone at reception, and the roads have eroded so badly, they’ve closed them.”

The truth is, the maintenance of a country takes discipline. To keep the roads in good form requires planning ahead, and hiring individuals who are qualified to build roads. But the political agenda of empowerment has meant that people without the skills and knowledge to successfully build or repair a road are being hired to do so. Thus, the roads that are being rebuilt are crumbling quickly — they have not been built properly, and trucks with oversized loads are travelling them because no one is taking the initiative to firmly regulate the trucking industry.

I understand the desire to attempt to even the playing field, and to give a previously oppressed people group a hand-up, but at what cost? The crumbling of a country? The oppression of another people group?

I remember Mandela’s very important words, spoken after Apartheid had ended and he was elected: “Never, never, and never again shall a people group be oppressed in this nation by another.”

I’m afraid I see evidence to the contrary.

To combat the forces of nature which seek to hinder the prosperity of a nation takes discipline. The discipline to successfully uphold the law in all cases. The discipline to budget and plan ahead for the maintenance of a country’s road and railway systems. The discipline to carefully protect the natural resources which are the country’s greatest wealth, be it wildlife or diamonds or coal (through regulation rather than nationalisation, I would humbly digress to note.)

It takes discipline to keep peace, rather than to pit one people group against another for the furtherance of a political agenda.

Without discipline, nature will succeed in taking back what was once hers. Roads will naturally crumble over time. People will naturally begin to blame one another for their troubles, and violence will be the result. Without discipline, laws will become suggestions or rules that only apply to some of the people some of the time.

Without discipline, nature takes over again.

Do you see evidence of nature taking over again in your own life? I’m planning to share more on this subject tomorrow.



{You can read part two of this post right here.}

Same Old Toys, Fresh Dirty Laundry

Back in the days when we called the sweet streets of Edinburgh home, we had this sweet little hand-me-down toy the Bear loved to bounce in. It played happy music and lit up and provided us with a place to put our seven-month-old bundle of squirm so that we could enjoy our breakfast in peace.

Except for one morning when the neighbor from downstairs came up to ask if we were bouncing a ball or something because of the noise. Clever Clogs Hero Hubs promptly invited her in to show her the Bear bouncing in his toy, and she immediately remarked {in a sweet North of England accent, no less} “Well it’s not so bad now that I’ve seen you!”


{Doesn’t the Bear look funny in this picture? Like his head is square or something? I don’t really think it looks like him, but he’s Seven Months and Happy! SpoRadically uSing caPitaLs is fun sOmeTimes.}

When we packed our lives into boxes headed for the southern shores of SA, we passed along the delightful toy (that had been passed along to us) to our dear friends Rob and Alice, who were expecting at the time.

So a wave of old memories crashed on my heart shore when we were staying with our precious friends last month and we plopped a new baby boy down in that same toy.


{Our wee Tank — ten days shy of seven months! His head seems a little less square. Well I’ll be.}

Be still my heart! So full of lovely memories! Like the time the Hubs accidentally broke that microphone because it went Bah-ba-doo-wah! over and over and over again.

While I was hunting down that old photo of the Bear, I came across this one. Which does absolutely make me melt. I think he might have a future as a boy band member. It reminded me of that big lovely kitchen … LOVED it!


{Bear-B-Que Sauce, 8 Months and some change}

And that reminds me of the sweet laundry shots HH grabbed of the Tank just a few days ago!


Seven Monthsies!


Almost eight!


We used fresh laundry for these ones, though. ‘Course.


And that sweetness reminded me of these pictures of the Bear in a Ceres juice box. Which is confusing because we took this in Scotland but Ceres juice comes from the beautiful Ceres valley in South Africa, where they grow lots of fruit. But it was cheaper to buy in the UK (at Costco) than in SA, so we drank more of this wonderful South African juice in Scotland than we did in South Africa.

Globalization, dju confuzzle me suntines.


Six Months’ Worth of Cheeksies!


These captured moments from every day life seemed like just another moment at the time. Another moment trying to find somewhere to put the baby so that I could get something done. Seeing them now, they are precious reminders to me from seasons that feel a million miles away.

I’m so glad we paused to grab the camera, to see, to take off our shoes. There is God-breathed beauty, even in the hum-drum monotony you might feel makes up your life right now.

We just have to {re-}learn how to see.


I Love This Picture

The Hubs has taken some B-E-A-UT-Tee-full photos over the past few months. In my humble opinion. But I haven’t shared too many of them here because, well, we been kinda busy and I haven’t gone fishing through his iPhoto library for a while.

These are some favorites from our last bit of time in SA.

Exhibit A. Isn’t this one great? So moody…makes me feel like I’m waiting for something.


And this one from lunch in Knysna one day. Not long before we left SA. Not necessarily beautiful, but special for a heap of other reasons. Why is HH acting crazy? He doesn’t exactly look like that in real life.


C. How can you not like this one?


D. Sigh.


E. One of my many favorites from the Kruger trip. Isn’t she beautiful?


But this last one?

This is an I-could-cry-I-love-this-one-so-much original.

Straight from the day before we left Bloemfontein…


Love it.

Gotta go find a tissue.