Holiday Wrap Up

As we settle back into the normal pace of things, I look back over the holiday season with great joy in my heart. God has blessed with much more than we could ever ask for. Our first Christmas as a family was so wonderful, even if little Miss Ava didn’t like Santa Claus, it was still a wonderful time spent with family and friends. Loads of good food and even more laughs.

The Advent calendar was a nice addition to our Christmas decorations and we are really looking forward to using it again next year. Johan and I will then have memories of this year and the bible verses we read. Best of all, Ava will be able to enjoy the treats and activities along with us. Even though we plan on spending December in America, I plan on taking the calendar with us, minus the red board, of course. 
Christmas was spent in the Free States with Johan’s family. I really love going there and have spoken about it many times on the blog. Here, here and here
There were about 47 of us, aunts, uncles, oumas, oupas and cousins, lots and lots of cousins. We made the trip down with Johan’s brother Hennie and his family. 4 hours, 4 adults and 4 children under the age of 4. That was quite an adventure to say the least. 
I am very proud to announce that my Afrikaans has come along way and I can now actually enjoy and contribute to the conversations around me. Still only responding in English, but understanding much more. Singing Silent Night and the other carols in Afrikaans was a wonderful experience for me. Finally, I am starting to feel less as an outsider and more apart of the family. It’s a bit uncomfortable when everyone is relaxed, and then you see that they have to switch to another language just for you. 
These photos are from Christmas Eve at Johan’s cousin, Charl’s house. Not too many pictures of the food, as Johan and I were too busy stuffing our faces. The starter was mussels in a white wine and garlic butter sauce with fresh brown bread. I ate so many, Johan’s aunt came up to me and told me I needed to save room for the main course! Red faced, I had to admit I thought those were the main course. They were so good, I could have eaten the entire pot, and almost did! For the main course, we had beef and chicken shawarmas, in the States we would call them gyros. Yum. 
singing Christmas carols

part of the clan

I love this little person!

Me, Ava and Juan searching for Father Christmas (Santa)

Keira shouting for Father Christmas

Ava, not so happy with Father Christmas 

Santa gave Ava her first tea pot for Christmas!

Christmas Day was spent at Tannie Igna and Oom Hennie gorgeous farm house. There was so much food, I wouldn’t even know where to begin with what we ate. From beef fillet to chicken breast, a smoked tuna starter of some sort and so many salads and side dishes. Beautiful desserts brought by my mother in law. All of it was so delicious. 
love the ornaments in the weeping willow

all dressed in red. 

Ava with her Oupa, my father in law

Toasting those who had passed or were far away.
ps: That’s you, Charl and Lee

just chatting about our future… 
We spent New Year’s at Zebula, a game lodge / golf estate with three other couples. Again, way too much good food was consumed. A bit more alcohol and loads of laughter. Zebula was our first family trip away with our friends and their families. It made us feel like real grown-ups. With 8 adults and 6 children, we all got along surprisingly well. The house was perfect, the food was perfect and the company couldn’t have been better. Looking forward to our next holiday with these folks.

Can we get in the pool now, Mom?

The Girls!

loving my chalk board bunting!

Happy New Year every body!


Laid To Rest

Today was my first African farm burial. I thought it would be weird and creepy to take and post photos from today, but now I am disappointed I didn’t take photos. The whole experience was so moving. I wish I could share every bit of it with you.

Feisty old Oupa demanded to be buried in the cheapest casket they could find, so he was. It was a plain wooden box, with rope handles. The site was on Johan’s uncle’s farm, which was inherited by Oupa from his parents. A gorgeous farm where they raise sheep and sunflowers, amongst other things.

The warm African sun set the glorious scene.

Roughly a hundred people came out to watch the burial of this wonderful old man, who I hear was loved and hated by many.

Right before the ceremony started, farm workers from around the area, dressed up in their best, came around the edge of the house. About sixty.

There is still a lot of racist tension in South Africa. Daily, the news is filled with farmers being killed by their workers. The tension lying mostly with the “old” South Africa vs the “new” South Africa.

Seeing as Oupa lived the majority of his life in the “old” South Africa, I was shocked and moved to see a large amount of black people at the burial today. When they broke out in song, my heart swelled and the tears flowed. It was beautiful. One of the men said a prayer for Oupa in Sotho (one of our 11 national languages). I have no idea what he said, but you could tell it was from his heart and he meant every word. Crying right now thinking of that moment.

One of the younger girls stood out from the crowd and started singing a song in English which said, “Don’t worry, I am going home, where I will die no more.” Remembering that, always brings peace to my heart.

Later I found out one of the men had been living and working for Oupa for over seventy years.

I can understand a bit of Afrikaans. I don’t claim to be fluent. Church services are hard for me to follow. Church and old people. They use too big of words. So most of today I didn’t know what was said. What I do know is that I am so lucky to have married such an amazing and sensitive man, and to have married into such a loving and caring family.

Tomorrow we head back to the city and back to reality. Thankfully it is Friday and as always we have a super busy weekend planned. I’ll spend most if the weekend gearing up for a surprise party for one of my most favorite people next weekend, getting my hair cut and hanging out with some of my other favorite people. Ah, two whole days with Johan and Ava, just livin’ life!


Yesterday a friend’s Blackberry status said, “Everyone dies, not everyone lives.” The ironic part is, Johan’s grandfather, Oupa rather, passed away yesterday. At 92, this man had lived. He’d been a farmer most of his life in the Eastern Free States of South Africa, but he’d traveled the world, seen two World Wars and inventions like the telephone and first heart transplant, all things we take for granted.

I wrote about our last vist to Ouma and Oupa here, when Ouma had fallen and we went to visit her in the hospital. Only three short months ago and now Oupa is gone. I remember the day I first meet Oupa, at Johan’s cousin’s wedding. From across the lawn I heard a shout, “Where is that American girl? I want to talk some English to her!” I spent the next hour or so with him, hearing about his travels, telling him about my home. He flirted with me like you wouldn’t believe. At 89, he was still charming the ladies. 

I love how she is holding his hand – big tears!

My most vivid memory of Oupa is from our last visit. I wrote this in To Ouma We Go:

Ouma lay in her bed, thin, pale and weak. When she saw Oupa she started crying, she had thought he was dead. Lying in the hospital is making her lose her mind a bit. Oupa touched her face and told her she was silly, he wasn’t going anywhere. I thought I saw tears in his eyes. He probably won’t go anywhere. He will loose her, before she looses him. As I watched them interact with each other my heart swelled up. 

She is still in the rehabilitation centre and he was at the nursing home. Fortunately, she has gotten better. Unfortunately, we lost him to pneumonia. When Johan’s Uncle broke the news to her, he said it’s like she already knew. I think she did. 

Everyone dies, not everyone lives. Johan, Ava and I have a lot of livin’ to do. 

Speakin’ of living, we’ve been super busy lately. Celebrating friend’s 30th birthdays on the Vaal River, baby showers, Ava turned 9 months, won her first gold medal at the school sports day and much more. Here’s a few pics of what we’ve been up to. 

The Vaal makes me miss Lake Wateree/Norman and the many, many good times had there.

Ava and her Oupa

Sports Day 2011 – Mommy and Ava, taking up the lead!

Ava trying to eat her first gold medal!

9 Months – YAY!

Loves her new pool!

~live life to the fullest~


We are going to the States!

The Free State! Actually we went last weekend. Johan loves saying that we are going to the states! The Free State!

The Free State is a province in South Africa. Provinces are sort of like our states, but not really. Johan’s parents are from the Free State and most of his uncles and cousin still live there. I wrote a post about visiting his cousin Charl and his family, plus we saw his grandparents. Ooh and played with lions, you can read about it here.

This weekend we headed to the FS for one of Johan’s cousin wedding. The venue was gorgeous and the bride breathtaking, of course. Greta always looks beautiful, so it was no surprise that she’d made a stunning bride.

The venue

The Scheepers
Me, Greta and Ria
Ava and her daddy

I always get a laugh thinking about the time we were invited to his other cousin, Ria’s wedding.

Johan and I at Ria’s wedding. 

Johan and I were only dating at the time, and he asked if I would like to join him to his cousin’s wedding. I agreed and asked where it was, Paris, he said. PARIS?!? For a wedding?!? AWESOME. He gave me a look like I must be crazy. I even called my sister Amanda to tell her the good news. Me, Paris and the love of my life, for a wedding? Sounds perfect. I asked how much the plane tickets would cost… Then the laughter began and I was afraid he’d never stop. Not Paris, Parys in the Free State. Lost in the accent.

The good news, is that the bride and wedding was just as beautiful and fun as if we had been in the real Paris.

I actually love the Free State. Whenever we are driving there or through there, I get the same feeling I get when heading up I77, past Statesville, toward Hamptonville. It’s a feeling of belonging and yearning to stay forever. Unfortunately, it’s not my family we go to visit but, if I had to choose anyone else, it would be Johan’s family.

Ava turned 8 months last week. She is so close to crawling, that I think she actually made one tiny movement forward tonight. She is, however, a pro at moving in circles and backwards, rolling over and falling over. Ava definitely does not like to sit in her car seat or highchair.

Her daddy went out and bought the cheapest highchair made (without mommy), so I like to blame him for her not wanting to sit in it but, we have a Peg car seat, which isn’t cheap, and she hates that as well. So there goes my cheap theory. Don’t tell Skip. I need someone to blame for my child’s misbehavior.

I can’t choose which picture I love the most.

Maybe this one…

The sweetest thing!

Did I tell y’all I got to meet Al Gore? Yeah, the first year I was old enough to vote, I voted for him. It was awesome. I’ll probably tell you again at a later date.

Al, if you’re reading this, you’re the man.

In case you didn’t see it…

Skip, if you’re reading this, you are my favorite man. And I won’t let you forget that you promised to take me back to Clarens or to the real Paris.

Blogger, if you’re reading this, get a new iPad app! It’s almost 2012, bru!

On the way there. I just love Instgram.

Night ya’ll,


To Ouma We Go

On Saturday, Johan and I picked up his Oupa from the retirement home and took him to visit Ouma in the hospital. At 93 years old, he is still able to get around. Slowly, but surely. As we walked in, he spoke to everyone as we passed, especially all the ladies. Johan was holding Ava, and I was walking with him. He held on to me tight, like a proud grandfather.

On the 7th floor, we came to Ouma’s room. She fell last week, broke her hip and has been in the hospital ever since. After the hip replacement, she got a few blood clots in her lungs and is slowly recovering from both. 
Ouma lay in her bed, thin, pale and weak. When she saw Oupa she started crying, she had thought he was dead. Lying in the hospital is making her lose her mind a bit. Oupa touched her face and told her she was silly, he wasn’t going anywhere. I thought I saw tears in his eyes. He probably won’t go anywhere. He will loose her, before she looses him. As I watched them interact with each other my heart swelled up. I can’t even imagine losing Johan. Not even when we are in our 90s. When I looked up, I saw my husband holding our daughter with tears rolling down his face. My husband is sensitive and not afraid to show it. I love him so much.

After 60 years of marriage, Johan’s grandparents are still very much in love. He kissed her forehead and kept trying to make her more comfortable. He told jokes and honked her nose. She cried and tried to joke back. She’s in a lot of pain these days. 

After leaving the hospital, I realized just how fast life is going by. My youth is gone. I am now older than my mom was when she had me. I try to imagine her at my age. Where our family was, what we were doing. My grandmother at my mom’s age now. I try to look forward and imagine life as Ava. Of what her memories of grandma’s house will be. Of school, pets and first loves. I think a lot about the decisions I made as a teenager and even as an adult. The good and the bad. Try to figure out how to save Ava from the bad. Yet, I know she will have to learn her own life lessons from her own decisions.

Johan and I are in agreeance that we must live life to the fullest and always have something to look forward to. We don’t leave angry. We wake up with smiles in this house. We love each other, our family and our life. 

Despite seeing Johan’s Ouma in such a state, it was so great for her to meet Ava and introduce Ava to the rest of Johan’s family. We stayed at his cousin’s house, a beautiful home built over 100 years ago. His beautiful wife and their two gorgeous daughters welcomed us with opened arms, lots of great food, laughter, good wine and heated blankets! We really must visit them all more often. 

My favorite photos of the weekend:
Farm Life

I love Ava’s hand on her great-Oupa’s arm. Melts my heart.

Johan with his Oom Charl and family

Johan and his cousin Charl – almost everyone in his family is name Charl, even Oupa!

9 month old lions

Johan is one calm cat

Me, freaking out

The cat sensed it, then swatted at me with his paw and tried to bite my leg

So I was out of there.

Just another Sunday in South Africa

These are rare white lions, Charl’s neighbor breeds them. Not for hunting purposes, thank the lord.

So close, yet so far away.

These tigers were looking at the girls and licking their lips, not cool. Ava is not a morning snack, mister!

The van der Riet’s beautiful farm house

Yep, this one is getting printed, framed and hung on the wall!
For some reason I can’t get Fleetwood Mac’s Landslide song out of my head. 
Well, I’ve been afraid of changing
‘Cause I’ve built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Children get older I’m getting older too
Yes I’m getting older too, so
Getting older by the second,
Blair Scheepers