Sweet Sam

Until the day I die, I will probably be saying, “It’s better late than never!” And this video about our sweet Sam is WAY better late than never. We hope you enjoy a few recent clips of our 6-month old, smiling, easy going, happy, second born Sam.

The first clip is of Charlie and Sam in their “tent” under the dining room table. The second is of Charlie and Sam showing off their silly evening antics at the dinner table – and how Sam has grown to adore Charlie, and Charlie loves to show off for Sam. And the last one is…well, you’ll just have to let him melt your heart like he does ours every day.

From Astronaut to Nurse

My parents, God bless them, never said that I couldn’t achieve greatness or shouldn’t dream big dreams. They instilled in me a confidence that fostered this. And I hope to do the same for Charlie and Sam.

When I was young, I had all sorts of dreams and aspirations of what I wanted to be when I grew up – Olympic figure skater, the first US female president, an astronaut, brain surgeon, lawyer, soccer player, and the list goes on.

I ended up becoming a wife, mom, and nurse. And I couldn’t be happier.

Happy Nurse’s Week!


A Toddler’s Perspective on Playing Catch [Video]

In case you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to be inside a toddler’s body, here ya go. We put a camera on Charlie’s head and played catch.


We learned that a simple game of ball-throwing involves a lot of falling down with both catching and throwing. And don’t worry, Charlie did not get hurt in the making of this video. Enjoy!

Papa’s House = America

IMG_3189Ever since we have been back in Zambia and increasingly in the past month or so, Charlie has been talking a lot about Papa (his Carlson grandpa) or Papa’s house. We hear such things as…

When struggling to put shoes on his big feet, he says, “Need Papa’s horn” – as in shoe horn.

Or we are building a train track and run out of pieces, and his American, not-used-to-any-lack self says, “Go grocery store Papa’s house buy choo choo track.”

Or if he doesn’t like what Derek or I have told him, he says, “Go Papa’s house,” as if Papa will take his side.

Out of the blue the other day, he said, “Decorations be broken Papa’s house…next week.”

We have told him that we will be going to Papa’s house, but not for a while. So, almost every night before bed, he says, “Go on airplane Papa’s house wake up.”

(As you can see, we’re still learning about prepositions and the many tenses of “be…” verbs). :)

This week, some teammates and friends of ours (Andy and Beth Rice) finished their time in Zambia and returned to the States. Most children here refer to older non-related adults as either auntie or uncle. But Charlie, on his own accord, decided that Uncle Andy was more of a “G-pa.”

G-pa and Auntie Beth stayed at our house for their last couple days, and then Derek took them to the airport. Charlie has been very curious since yesterday about where they are at each moment. He knows that they left in an airplane to go to America, so he tells us that “G-pa Auntie Beff go bye-bye in airplane Papa’s house.” Or when he heard a small propellor plane fly over our house yesterday and again today, he says, “Oh! There he is! There’s G-pa!”

But it occurred to me that, in Charlie’s mind and for all he is concerned, Papa’s house is America. And when people get on airplanes, they are going to Papa’s house.

Of course, all this coming and going of other people and us brings up TCK (Third Culture Kid) issues that we are learning to deal with. If you are ever interested in reading more, there was a fabulous 3-part blog that has been so helpful as we help Charlie work through the hello’s and goodbye’s and transition of life as we currently know it.

It is hard for an almost-3-year-old to understand these big concepts. But one thing is for sure. When we get on that airplane in a couple months, he will know that we are going to Papa’s house.

Our January – March 2015 Newsletter

IMG_0821 Happy Spring from Zambia! Here is our First Quarter 2015 newsletter (click here). Some of the highlights from this newsletter include:

  •  A summary of how our first three months back in Zambia have been going
  • Our quick trip back to the States and Canada this summer
  • Derek’s changing role from CROSS Project Coordinator to ACTION Zambia Country Director
  • Prayer request for a one-time $5,000 need

Thank you so much for all of your prayers and support!

5 Problems of a First-World Person in a Second-World Country

There are a couple realities about our lives: 1) We are from America and are used to all the amenities of living in a first-world country. 2) We currently live in Zambia, and this ain’t Kansas anymore, Toto. So, here is a glimpse into five ways we have had to adjust our thinking and living because of that. 

1. Garbage Pick-Up

Our garbage is “supposed” to be picked up on Saturday around noon. But in reality, it is anytime between Friday morning and Monday afternoon. There have been several times where we have missed getting our garbage collected, because we have been at church or hanging out with friends or something. People ask us why we can’t just set our bags of garbage outside out gate, in case the truck comes while we’re gone. Well, the couple times we have tried doing that, we come home to our garbage bags open and having been rummaged through (or in the process of being rummaged through) for any valuables (glass bottles, plastic containers, food, paper to help start fires, etc). Not only is that dangerous and bio-hazardous, it ends up being so messy, because the things people don’t want, like dirty diapers, get picked up by the dogs and strewn all over the street, which we then have to pick up.

So, consequently, we have gone up to 5 weeks without getting our garbage collected at times! As each weekend approaches, we wait with baited breath to see when, and if, our garbage will get picked up. 

2. Grocery Shopping

Going to the grocery store is “like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” I was just lamenting yesterday to Derek that one of our favorite cereals has been nowhere to be found for over a year. Same with Doritos and Fritos. Sometimes there’s canned tuna or popcorn or all-purpose flour or frozen corn or peanuts or limes or butter…and sometimes there’s not. It’s as simple as that. 

Mexican might have been what’s for dinner, but can I really settle for burritos without cilantro, which is out of season? And what about the chipatis (the terrible, oily cousin to flour tortillas), which are already molding on the grocery shelf? Once, we bought a bag of charcoal to grill kabobs. After the meat had marinated and the kabobs were ready, Derek opened the bag and found that all the charcoal was completely full of mold. One sign of having learned tricks of living here is to check all expiration dates, especially of dairy products, on the grocery store shelf. We have wasted so much money buying milk, yogurt, and cheese, only to get them home and find out that they’re all spoiled, even if they haven’t officially “expired.” Charlie was learning his food adjectives, like salty, sweet, sour, spicy, etc. Once, I gave him a glass of milk, and he said, “Sour.” I said, “No, milk isn’t sour,” thinking that he had mixed his adjectives up. Nope, it was definitely sour. Poor kid.

3. Getting Fuel for Car or Air for Tires

We have to buy a certain kind of fuel for our diesel Land Cruiser Prado, but not every gas station has this kind of fuel. And even the places that do have it sometimes don’t have it. Or if we need “pressure” in a leaky tire, many of the air pumps are either out of air (how does THAT happen?!) or are broken. You can see that a simple chore of getting fuel becomes…precarious and absolute drudgery at times. Will they have fuel today? Or do I have to travel around town to see who has fuel? And will any of those places have it?

4. Water

Our house has two hot water tanks – one on either end of the house. Of course, the one that supplies hot water to the bathroom side of the house has problems. Every couple weeks, we get something that we lovingly refer to as an “air lock.” We open the hot water tap, and we get air. So, we leave it running for hours on end – usually, an average of four hours – to push all the air through and get a steady stream of hot water running again. But when this happens at evening bath time for Charlie and Sam, Derek and I run back and forth from the kitchen sink to the bathroom bringing stock pots full of hot water to let the boys have a warm bath. For showers in the morning, some of the wimpier of us skip our shower, and some of the stronger of us just take a cold shower. Okay, okay, I will admit that I have been known on occasion to rather smell of yesterday than take a cold shower.

5. Power

Our power is not always stable. Since living in this house for 1 1/2 years, we have had 3 30-hour power outages, 15+ 8-hour outages, and plenty of 30-minute or an hour outages. Whenever the power goes out, we call the power company to see if they have anything helpful to tell us. We’ve learned that the words “load shedding” or “routine maintenance” bring hope, and words like “fault on the line” or “digging” or “transformer” are very, very bad. The latter words mean, “Find someone whose power is on and take all your perishables toothier fridge or freezer and make sure your phones are charged.”

Helping Charlie Understand Jesus’ Death and Resurrection

Holy Week is my favorite time of the year. On Palm Sunday in Zambia, the streets are flooded with groups of people from churches waving palm branches in the air as they make their way to church. Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis taught me what Maundy Thursday services were, which have become an incredibly meaningful occasion. And Easter Sunday has always been such an exciting, joyful day, filled with sunrise breakfasts, joyful singing, choirs, lilies, and (if I’m going to be honest) even colorful eggs and treat-filled-basket hunts.

Having very young kids means that we are at the special place of being able to create traditions that will shape how our kids remember Easter. With Charlie being almost 3, it seemed appropriate to begin tangibly showing him what “Easter” is all about. Thanks to Noël Piper’s idea in her book Treasuring God in Our Traditions, Charlie and I made a play dough mountain and tomb. I couldn’t find pipe cleaners to make the people, so we used Duplo Lego people to recreate the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection.

Charlie is a typical toddler, so he liked the hands-on-ness of this project. He also got bored with it pretty quickly during the story times, but he always came back to it later. And after the resurrection, he really thought that someone or something ought to be in the tomb/cave with the stone over it. So, I kept finding different Lego people in there or a donkey or other animal in there. It provided a great opportunity to remind him that the cave is empty, because Jesus came out of it!

I think that, for the first year doing this, he really liked the activity and will look forward to doing this again in years to come.