In 2023, the DSouzas were busy making memories and are a little behind on updating our family and friends of the happenings.
Spring update from Lauren
The season had many firsts: Allie knitting a winter hat for her dada, making snow cones, making a snow fort with the big dump of snow that arrived, baking for a bridal shower in America, attending our very first wedding in America, making an easter banner, making Shrove Pancakes with a friend at church, tapping maple sap and preparing maple syrup from our tree!
Big dump of snow means staying indoors. But staying in America has taught us that people around us have learnt to have fun in every weather—be it sun or snow. Following their course, we have now taken baby steps to embrace the various seasons with joy. Thus, with the big load of snow we got, we made a snowman. Although one might think that it is quite easy to make a snowman, (well how difficult can it be to make balls of snow and stack them one on top of another, right?!), we have come to learn that it is not so. The perfect kind of snow—the one that sticks and holds its shape—is the one that is required to make the snowman. So, when we did get the perfect “snowman snow” as we call it, we made the snowman. It was a sight to see Mia rolling the body of the snowman, as big as herself tiny self, and pushing it using her back!
Lots of snow not only means fun, but also means lots of shoveling. Sometimes, we spent hours shoveling the alley road so that we could use the car. We also learnt that we need to keep sand in our trunk so that in the event that we are stuck on ice and cannot get traction, the sand helps. As you might have realized by now, yes, our car got stuck in the ice not once but more than 3 times this winter and we had help from kind neighbors and friends who help shovel and push our car out.
Fresh snow always brings in a lot of joy. The feeling of living inside a snow globe is something only one can experience. Words can barely explain the feeling. When I was in India, I read the book ‘The Lion Witch and the Wardrobe’ by C.S Lewis. In his book, Lewis captures the snow so vividly— “…(Lucy) she felt something soft and powdery and extremely cold…and snowflakes falling through her hair.” These words became real to me when we came to MN and experienced the snow. Fresh snow also means snow cones. Eddie made syrup out of fresh mandies (ask us for the recipe if you would like to make one yourself) which we poured over freshly collected snow (Now before you go yuck, let me ease your mind. We used a clean vessel to collect all the fresh snow 😊). These snow cones were a treat and brought joy on an otherwise gloomy, dreary, and cold winter day.
Towards the tail end of winter, we have what is called sugar snow. This the season when people tap their trees and get sap which is then boiled down to syrup. When one reads Laura Ingalls, it is natural to desire to experience the lovely things she writes about. Inspired by her writings we made maple candy and maple syrup. It is one thing to tap the maple sap and it is a whole another thing to make the maple syrup. When the maple syrup comes from a bottle on a shelf of a store, not much thought is given into how much work goes into making the syrup. But this year, we learnt that it is a laborious task. It takes about 1 whole gallon of sap to make a quarter cup of maple syrup. Yup, you heard it right, just 1/4th of a cup or lesser for a whole gallon of sap! The reduction process takes hours but that is not the difficult part. The last few minutes are crucial, for if we don’t pay much attention, we will end up with burnt syrup. We almost did that only, my heightened sense of smell helped me attend to the fast-reducing syrup. Thank you, God, for a good sense of smell!
MN winters are long. By the time March comes, people are done with the cold and are looking forward to spring. Just because one looks forward to it, doesn’t mean that it always comes as fast as we want it to; God has his ways of teaching his children patience. But these long winters can go by quickly when we are not simply cooped up in our homes but are looking for ways to share life with friends and family. Every March 14th is celebrated as Pi Day and one of our dear friends makes ‘Shrove pancakes’ with her family for this event. One of the days, in our conversations, she happened to tell me about that and the history behind ‘Shrove Pancakes’. Perceiving my interest, she invited my girls and I over and made them specially for us with the girls helping her. What a treat it was?! She even shared her family recipe with us that has been passed down for generations. We are truly happy for such moments which make life beautiful.
The season ended with Mia turning 7. We are grateful for her life and the joy she brings to our lives. Her silly smiles, her hugs, her songs, and more warms our hearts!
Fall update from Allie
In early summer, we visited Stillwater, Minnesota. According to statistics, Stillwater is one of the eight most beautiful cities in America. This remained unknown to us until later in the day. Thankfully, that day we did not have to pay for parking. It was free! So, we decided to stay for the day. First we crossed the bridge that joined Minnesota to Wisconsin where the St. Croix divided it. Then we went for lunch. We dined at the Only Café. I ordered a lumberjack fries thinking how exciting it would be to taste the kind of food lumberjacks in Stillwater used to have. As I waited for my order to arrive, I looked around the shop. There were many paintings. One was of A man driving a cart full of timber through the snow. After some time, I saw the waitress bringing a humongous tray of potatoes! I was so surprised that my meal was so big. I could only manage to eat half of it. Next, we went on the trolley. The trolley is a red bus that drives through Stillwater and gives more information about the city. As we drove through still water, I saw a beautiful cream-yellow house with white wooden lace on the edge of the house. The more we traversed Stillwater, the more I was convinced that it was a beautiful city. By the time the trolley ride was over, we were ready to go home. But we stopped at a park a played for a little while. The name of the park was pioneer park. By the time we left for home, it was four in the evening.
As the summer progressed, we went to Wednesdays at Wabun. This is an event at our church in which the church gathers at a park called Wabun. This event occurred every Wednesday from five to nine. I enjoyed Wednesdays at Wabun. I loved being outdoors with my friends for four hours. We kids played Sandman, Don’t Touch the Ground Tag, and more. There even was a splashpad in which we played when it was hot and even when it was cold. We especially loved the water. Every week, I looked forward to Wednesdays at Wabun. It was the highlight of my week.
This summer I got a chance to go to a really exciting amusement park called Valley Fair. My friends and I went there. A person sponsored the event for us, and we had such a good time. We went on some crazy rides, and some slow rides, and many fun rides. One of the rides was a roller coaster that took us upside on loops over a river. And another was called power tower. We went up so quickly, I almost felt I had no stomach. I did not even have voice enough to scream from the fright. Later in the day we went to the waterpark in Valley Fair and floated down the lazy river. I enjoyed both the crazy, and the calming; the scary, and the easy. The amusement park was so large that we could not do all the rides, but I am still thankful for the day at Valley Fair.
In late August we were invited to visit a family friend’s house in Michigan. We drove for fifteen long hours before we reached there. After two days of resting, we left for Niagara Falls. We drove till New York state. On our journey there, we went to Krispy Kreme Doughnuts. I was fascinated by the millions of doughnuts being made at once. The next day, we went to Niagara Falls state park. We walked around till we came to the viewpoint. I was amazed by the enormity of the falls. As the boat moved closer to the falls, I could hardly see because of the mist. The blues were so enchanting. Immediately after the boat ride, we left for Ithica, New York. Then, we went to Glen Watkin Gorge State Park. I loved the beauty of the little falls. I did not know that I would do the most exciting thing I can think of. We went behind the largest of the little falls! Finally, we headed back to Michigan. There we remained for another few days before leaving.
Later that week, I left for camp. This was my first camp experience. The name of the camp is Living Waters Bible Camp. It was a camp for middle school girls. I had a week of fun. I climbed a tower fifty feet tall, and then ziplined to the grass on the hill. I slept out when it was 50oF(10oC). We even went to a lake! It was all so fun. After a week of non-stop fun (and craziness), I came home.
Even though the summer was eventful, we still had time to garden. We planted lettuce, tomatoes, potatoes, green peas, zucchini, green beans, and cherry tomatoes. We expected to have a good zucchini crop, but due to mildew, our zucchinis did not do that well. Yet we harvested about ten zucchini from our crops. Our lettuce bore well. We ate lovely romaine lettuce from our garden a few times. Our tomatoes did not get a chance to ripen the fruit since the squirrels thought that the tomatoes belonged to them. Our potatoes were healthy plants most of the year. We harvested about fifteen of them. Green beans grew as if it were the beanstalk that jack planted. (It did not grow twenty feet in the air though. Only about three feet.) Beans are our miracle crop. Every time we harvest some beans we get a handful. Even though it is getting cold, the beans are still fruiting. Our cherry tomatoes are perfect little beauties. They redden soon and are good for salads. Mia loves to pop them into her mouth. In all our gardening, God has granted us a lesson. The zucchini taught us that we plant the seeds, but God gives the growth. Nothing we can do can change the will of God. The rest of the plants teach us that the Lord provides for our needs.
At the end of the summer, we went to the State Fair. The first thing we did was to look at the animals, then we went to the Moo Booth where I participated in a cottage cheese eating contest. I won some coupons and a bag even though I did not win. Then I got to milk a cow! Later in the day I got second place in a cheese carving contest, and eight place in the butter carving contest. We wound up our day by going to the CHS. There we saw a cow birth her calf. I was quite excited to see that. Her calf was a male. They named him Rufus. God has blessed us this summer through the way he has gifted us things we never imagined.
Year-end update from Eddie
Life as a student again is far different than life as a pastor. Instead of preaching seasons, semesters determine how we spend our time. At the time of this update, I have completed five of eight semesters of the program we came here for. I was encouraged by professors and friends to consider studying beyond the divinity program. So, I determined to dip my toes into the theology program. However, instead of doing the programs one after the other, I am working on doing both programs side by side and hope to graduate with two degrees in May 2025.
As a family, we have ventured out more this year. We stepped out more often, did more recreational activities, and generally took on more things while still having time for each other. We host and lead a small group; the ladies serve in the church kitchen once a week while I am in class, and Lauren and I assist in Sunday school while the girls are in some church program.
God has been kind to us this year as well. We stepped away from our home in Minneapolis for two breaks. We were invited to a trip to Michigan and New York in the summer. Over Thanksgiving, we were invited to Georgia. Both those getaways were a blessing to our family. Allie got to go to a girls’ summer camp and an amusement park, while Mia and Lauren got to go away to a mother-daughter retreat.
I got to preach four times this year at three different churches. It is a joy and a privilege to bring God’s word to his people.
Instead of posting pictures on this update, I invite you to check out Lauren’s Instagram page, where she surfaces now and then for picture updates.