Although I have traveled, worked and/or lived in 46 countries and had more adventure in my life than you can shake a stick at, by far the most exciting experience of all has been the ordinary adventure of parenthood. I have always approached it with a sense of awe - but then again maybe that's because my kids are so awesome.
Thomas at N's farm (Northern Uganda)
Thomas is 13 now, and very excited to be a teenager. He was born in Brussels but has been raised since the age of 3 in Africa. He has lived in Uganda for most of that time, but also spent 6 months living with his dad in Ethiopia last year. In addition to English, he speaks good Dutch, moderate Frisian, and he loves studying French. He won the award for top academic achievement in his class when he graduated from primary school, and was also recognized then as cub scout of the year - both of these awards kind of blew me away as a mom, since Thomas is not at all presumptuous about his achievements. He's a polite and helpful boy who is always cheerful - if somewhat quiet next to his younger brother Lucas.
N and Lucas on safari @ Murchison Falls National Park
Lucas is now 11 and loves to start a story by saying "When I was a kid..." He revels in being our family clown. He is funny, adventurous, opinionated and intensely loving and loyal toward his friends and family members. Lucas is the one that other students elect as their spokesperson if there is a problem at school; he's the kind of social leader who turns his own passions into group activities; and for all his laughter he takes the world and it's challenges very seriously. After years of not wanting to leave the people he loves in Uganda, attending school in Ethiopia for 6 months last year helped Lucas realize how easy it is for him to make new friends. More than any of my kids, he's the one who is now craving new global horizons to explore. Like Thomas, he was born in Brussels, but has lived most of his life in Uganda. When you ask him where he's from, he'll tell you he's a citizen of the world.
Ben at the Uganda Wildlife Education Center (Entebbe)
Benjamin is our delightfully smart 4 year old, whose exuberance for life showed itself early on - he couldn't wait to get to the hospital to be born, but fell out in one push (no, I am not exaggerating) onto the bathroom floor at home in Kampala. Ben has known two homes since he's been old enough to talk, and for most of that time his two homes have been in two different countries. He's been flying without mom or dad (accompanied only by his older brothers) without incident since he was 2, and loves it. Ben has spent much of the past 1.5 years dressed as Spiderman, and never met a stranger. He is a very loving child who enjoys cuddling, giving hugs and being kind. Before Benjamin was born, Thomas and Lucas had hoped he'd be a sister... they are now happy that he wasn't, and equally happy that they eventually got a sister in another way.
Christine (front) with a family friend on Christmas at Lake Bunyonyi (SW Uganda)
Christine is the boys' 16 year old sister who started living with us last year. She is my partner N's niece who came into our care when her grandmother died 1 year ago. She had been in boarding school and really hated it, so I lobbied hard to get her transferred to a day school and now she lives with us. For Christine, life with us is her first time to experience a life with siblings and she seems to be enjoying herself. When she first moved in she was very quiet; I have enjoyed watching her become more confident and come into her own. Knowing that the boys and I won't be here for her last two years of high school, my goal as her temporary mom has been to make the time Christine spends with us as full of as many good memories and shared experiences as we can pack in. Christine was quick to take up the idea of writing something to post here, but poor girl... she's written her post at least 3 times and keeps losing it to power outages - one of the things the boys and I definitely won't miss about Uganda! :-(
Wearing our Humanity before Politics tees in Kampala (2006)
When I describe myself professionally, I always mention that I am a work at home mom. Keeping myself available to create a home environment where these awesome creatures can thrive and learn about life and feel valued has been an important aspect of my workstyle since they were born. I also employ a lot of techniques from my community work at the family level - we make our big decisions together, we talk a lot about what's happening in the world, we live better by far than many Ugandans but we are careful about what we spend. We tend to spend our extra money on travel and experiences instead of on stuff, and I think the impact of that lifestyle choice has been pretty good on them. When the boys and I have traveled in the USA, they've noticed and been turned off by the impatient consumerism they've often seen in kids there. They are grateful for what they have, and I know this because they tell me often.
On stage together in a holiday show at Uganda's National Theatre
I love it that each of the children in our household has a 100% unique personality, and that there's not a difficult one in the bunch. They all get along, we have a lot of fun, and they get and give a lot of love. They are awesome, and I hope you'll enjoy what they write here over the next few weeks.
P.S. - after I posted this Thomas and Lucas decided that they'd like me to prepare an interview for them to help them figure out what to write... if you have any questions you'd like to ask them about their lives in Africa, lemme know in a comment to this post and I'll include them!