Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Rats don't flush well

Well, we found the rat in the toilet. I don't know exactly what Joel did with him, but it might have had something to do with killing it and then flushing it. A few days later we noticed a really bad smell from the bathroom (that is the bathroom that I don't use anyways for other reasons; but now that there has been a rat in the toilet I really wouldn't use it) and I am thinking that the rat didn't flush well. Joel said he would take care of the problem and I haven't noticed the smell today. I am not going to ask him what he did to solve the problem. Maybe it went away because I ignored it long enough?

They tell us that there are more rats and I am kidding myself to think that this is the one and only rat in this house. So, we need to get some stuff to kill them. And we need to get a cat. I am thinking we need 3 or 4 cats or whatever it takes to KNOW that there aren't any rats in the house but Joel thinks that one is enough. We'll see.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Getting easier!

I realized that I should say something now that things are getting easier for us here in Kabwe. It is easy to notice when things are going bad; and also easy to ignore it when things are going better.

So, first of all, let me say that my washing machine is hooked up to water! Yay! I am so happy to be able to wash clothes without having to get the boys to haul water for me. I am just about completely caught up with laundry; but I do have a pile of mosquito nets (I hope I can wash them in the machine!) that need washing.

The electricity has also been so much more predictable for the last month. We usually have no electricity for 3 hours on Tuesday evenings and maybe Friday or Saturday evenings too. And then once or twice a week the lights might be out in the mornings as well for 2 or 3 hours. It has been wonderful! We still don't have water when we don't have electricity; but that isn't as hard now since we usually do have electricity and if we don't, we are almost certain that it will be back on in a few hours. We were already used to having no lights for a few nights a week; so this isn't hard for us at all.

We hired a guy to work in the yard 3 times a week. He has come twice so far and he is doing a great job. He just rakes up leaves mostly; there are lots of trees and lots and lots of leaves and I was worried about snakes or spiders. There is no grass to cut or flowers to tend to; but at this point I am just happy to have somebody to clean up the leaves for me!

We also hired a lady to help me in the house 3 times a week. She has been here once and it was soooo hard to have somebody else here (makes me almost sick to my stomach to think of her coming again tomorrow) but boy, we sure did enjoy having the kitchen clean and the floors mopped at the end of the day and I was able to spend the day doing school instead of the cleaning!

Everybody has been healthy except Jasper (hopefully he is better now) who left me a mess on the floor this morning from a really upset tummy.

Right now there are lots of flies which are driving me crazy. Yesterday we saw a rat in the house (yuck) which makes me want to get a cat. I guess it is pretty common here for people to have rats in their houses; but this is the first we have seen in our house. I have a hard enough time to deal with the pet hamsters that the girls are babysitting; let alone a real, live rat.

Oh, and other good news! Our good friends from Lilongwe, James and Lee-Anne with their 3 kids will be in Lusaka on Saturday so we are going there to see them for the day!

So, life is getting easier. While we are in Lusaka we will price a new fridge, freezer (when we get these I can start once a month cooking again) and some bookshelves and dressers/wardrobes. All of these things will help us finish settling in and help keep the house neater and more organized (which I need if I am able to get everything done that I need to each day!). I especially would like to have fewer places for rats to hide!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Life in Kabwe

It is hard to believe that we have been in Kabwe for almost a month! Time sure is flying by!
We are "enjoying" the summer heat, full force. I think that last year during the hotest part of the year we were at the lake. It was extremely hot but we had the benifit of being able to visit the beach each day if we wanted to. This year we have the extreme heat, but no lake so it might just seem hotter than last year.
Kaleb played the guitar in church this morning! He had fun and the piano player noticed that he has his own way of doing one of the songs, Shout to the Lord. I knew that this was Kaleb's Brazilian roots coming out...that is where we learned that song and I have never heard it played better than it was played in Brazil!
The household chores are taking their toll; we just can't get them all done. This house is much smaller than our other house, but is just harder to keep clean. You can sit in the livingroom and do nothing (we were sick for a few weeks so I know this for sure) and still be covered in dirt by the afternoon (it is so dirty; we have no grass in the yard so the dirt just finds its way into the house; it seems like it could bring a cool breeze with it). After the boys haul 8 big buckets of water from a bathroom (well, it is kind of a bathroom; there is running water; no toilet or shower...) to the outside room where the washing machine is to do just one medium sized load of washing, they don't have a lot of energy to do other chores. We also can easily do 2 loads of laundry a day after we finally catch up with our laundry (after not having a washing machine for 3 weeks I still have piles of towels, sheets, quilts and clothes that need to be washed) which is just a lot of work until we get the water hooked up in there.
We have been sick but now are all better! A few coughs and sniffles are still hanging on, but we are all well enough to go to church and do school.
Jasper is one of the most scary dogs in the neighborhood! He has a big bark and looks pretty fierce so we don't really worry about security here. Some teen boys were seemingly getting ready to use a slingshot on him one day but Joel saw them and chased them away. The problem here is that when people are really scared of your dog they might just throw some poisened meat into the yard to kill him. Sadly, our missionary friends' dog (Jasper's brother) was killed just that way a few months ago. Because of that we actually have Jasper sleep inside since we got here.
I started attending a Tuesday morning ladies bible study again. It is a small group and that is nice. It is also just a short walk from my house so I am away from home less than I was for our bible study in Lilongwe.
Joel has been doing a lot of traveling and he will leave again soon for another trip. I thought it would be harder having him gone but having my two almost grown sons around really helps. They made sure that the doors were locked up at night and that we always had drinking water (they would haul it from Babu and Bibi's)...two very important things! We don't have a car when Joel is gone, but we are close to friends and I know that if I need anything from the store I can get a ride from somebody.
I would put some pictures of our new house but I don't have any. It is probably just as well. ;-) When we were wanting to go to SeaWorld way back when Anna was 2 (almost 9 years ago!) we went to a timeshare thing to get cheaper tickets (not worth it) and one thing I remember the guy saying is how important location is. Well, this house might have its problems, but the location is great, so that makes up for a lot, I guess. When Joel is away I know that Lyle and Jetta are right across the street (in the Roth house until they return from their furlough; Lyle and Jetta are moving into their new house right next to us in a few weeks). Then just a few doors down are Babu and Bibi and just next to them was Dan and Tina (who left just the other day for 3 months in the US). It is nice having so many good friends so close. When I was sick Bibi and Tina sent food. When Jon fell down and scraped his knee he got a lesson on how to care for it and a bandage from Bibi. Joel loves to sit down and talk politics with Babu and until the Moyer kids left my children were in heaven being close enough to play together every day. Seth and Joshua were great frog catchers (they cought bucket loads and would take them to Bibi's to eat the bugs in her yard), Jon, Seth and Josh like to clean all the tadpoles out of her fishpond as well. Kaleb, Andrew, Alissa, Anna and Nadine love to play capture the flag. Nadine and Anna have become great friends and love to do lots of things that I don't even understand (probably the same types of things I did with my sister and cousin when I was 10!). Alissa, Andrew, Kaleb and Natalie like to play card games and board games and running games. They are all lonely already even though their friends left only 3 days ago.
Wow, for a blog post this has gotten long. I don't get a chance to post much anymore so hopefully this will catch you up on what has been going on here in Kabwe!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Zambia

Goodbye Lilongwe!

Saying goodbye at our last homeschoolers meeting in Lilongwe


Well, we have arrived in Zambia. It was a long trip (13 hours) but it was happily uneventful. The kids did great, Jasper did great...we had no throwing up after the first few hours.

We are in the process of getting settled in our new house here in Kabwe. We are trying to figure out when the power cuts are so I know when to cook and when we will have water. Right now the two main things that will make me happy are to have my washing machine hooked up and to get the big water tank hooked up that will allow us to have water even when the power is out! Well, if the big snake Joel saw outside stays outside, those things are all I need to make me happy.

Thanks everybody for praying for this move and please keep on praying! It is a big adjustment for our entire family.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Field trips

One of the fun things that our homeschooling group has done for the past six months is to attend field trips. We have gone on 4 field trips I think and my friend Lee-Anne gave me some pictures from the last two.

Kids visiting a nearby farm.






Kids very interested in learning about putting print on t-shirts (or pretty much anything else!).

A wonderful group...we will miss them all!

The last week

Today was the first day of our last week here in Lilongwe. I had Bible Study this morning. The first time I attended that bible study was just a few days after we arrived in Malawi; we were staying at Lee-Anne's house and she took me with her.

Later on in the afternoon we went to our last soccer class. There were only 7 kids there today but I think that they had lots of fun. They had a little soccer game and it was a tie score, which is a great way to end, if you ask me (and especially when Anna is on one team and J and J on the other).

Tomorrow we will have a cleaning/packing day all day long since our dentist appointment was moved to Thursday morning. Then Wednesday night the kids will go to their last youth group meeting. Thursday afternoon we have our last homeschooling group meeting. There are eye appointments for Friday morning and on Saturday I will go to my last bible study at Anita's house (our pastor's wife). Then Sunday (last church service and Kaleb's last time to play guitar during the worship service) and Monday (last volleyball for Kaleb) and then Tuesday we leave.

Time is passing! It is hard to believe that next week at this time we will be in Kabwe (if the trip goes smoothly).

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

soccer


Jon in action


Soccer class

Joshua trying to take the ball away from Anna








Every Tuesday we have Soccer Day...the best day of the year!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

No Fair!

You know, when you are a missionary you get really used to saying goodbye. It doesn't get easier really; but you do get more used to it. I have tried to have a sort of hard shell around my heart sometimes so I don't keep leaving pieces of it laying around in the places we leave.

One of the hardest goodbyes in our recent history was saying goodbye in Brazil. We didn't know that we weren't returning when we left on our furlough but it was still so hard to leave our dear, dear friends there. When we knew we weren't going back and Joel and I returned to get our things and say goodbye my friends and I decided that there would be no tears this time. I just polished of my old "heart shell" and was able to say goodbye without crying...until the car pulled out of sight of the seminary...I just broke down and couldn't stop the sobs from shaking me.

Another really painful goodbye for our family was saying goodbye to my family when we left the US to come to Malawi last year. It is always hard to say goodbye to my family...whether we are leaving the US, or they have visited us and we are dropping them off at the airport. But this time was of course especially hard because not only were we leaving all of our old time family people like Grandma and Grandpa and Aunt Jamie, but a very special new person in our lives...little Michael who entered our family and our hearts during our last furlough. It has been a year and we know that Michael is already a whole year older, but we all get excited when new photos are sent or we hear news of what Michael is doing or saying now. And to be honest, after spending a year and a half living with my sister my kids are having a hard time adjusting to life without their fun Aunt Jamie. Alissa is kicking herself that she didn't discover her love of math until after we left and now she is missing out on some fun math discussions with her aunt that she is never going to have with her poor math challenged mom. And we are really sad that we missed all the fun summer things with Grandma and Grandpa...like garden planting and the big corn freezing day!

Well, all that to say, it just isn't fair that after only one year here in Malawi we have to say goodbye again already. Who would have ever guessed that we could have made such great friends in such a short time. It has never happened to us before so quickly! Now we have just 3 more weeks before we leave Lilongwe to move to Zambia and it is getting hard to think about. Tonight Joshua and Jonathan were pretty quiet when they realized that they only have 2 more soccer classes before we leave. While they love playing soccer, it is mostly the fun of being with their friends that they enjoy most on Tuesdays (their favorite day of the year, they tell me). I am going to miss Tuesdays too! First my bible study with some great ladies who have been so friendly to me over the past year and then soccer class where the moms of the kids enjoy our talking and walking time as much as the kids enjoy their soccer I think! I am going to miss that fellowship a lot!

As we count down to the date of our departure I know that I will make sure the hard shell around my heart is firmly in place again. I hate goodbyes!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Dirty feet!

We have been using our phone to use the internet but for some reason it has been so unpredictable as far as price (once it cost more than a dollar just to open up the juno page...my phone ran out of units before I could see if I had any mail or not) lately. It was awful when we had people here who wanted to check their mail...I would have a $10 card put into my phone and they would use it to check mail once, call to check their flights and then the next day when wanting to check their mail the phone would run out of time already! So, yesterday Joel hooked up the old system that we used for getting onto the internet. It is a prepaid card and we can use it for a month now without worrying. We might only get it during the evening hours during the week (we'll see how it works) since it was cheaper; at least yesterday and today (the weekend) it has been on all the time. We have found that hooking it up to the new laptop has increased the speed so much; we thought the connection was slow (ok, the connection IS slow...but not as slow as we thought) but it is just our computer that was slow. So, things are better than they were! All that to say, did you notice that this is my 2nd blog today! Since I am connected all the time easily and the pages load faster, it is a lot easier to post than it has been!

Ok, what I wanted to say was, just a minute ago I noticed Joshua and Jonathan playing with their favorite toy (the collection of pop bottle tops that the kids have been keeping since we lived in Brazil). They have them all spread out in the school room (which is now a packing room since we are moving to Zambia in about 3 weeks) making armies or something. Anyways, I noticed Joshua's dirty feet. I am also doing laundry today and I happened to just notice all of Joshua's socks that he leaves laying around...the socks that he wore to church were laying in the hall right outside the schoolroom.

Isn't it funny how life moves on, people grow up and change and we sometimes don't even notice it? Well, I wanted to acknowledge that Joshua is growing up. It wasn't that long ago that Joshua didn't like people seeing his little feet. This started long ago...I don't know why; in Brazil he would want to wear socks with his sandles. He would take his socks off right at the swimming pool in Michigan and put them on the second he got out of the pool. We had to force him to sleep without his socks, telling him that his feet really need to air out at night. His feet always looked like feet that had been in water too long. But always pretty clean. :-)

Well, one of the things that we didn't pack much of when we came here was socks for the boys. I know that I bought socks for them before we came; but somehow I put them in our storage stuff instead of our packing stuff. So, Joshua and Jonathan had about 2 pair of socks between them. That didn't matter to Jonathan because he hates socks and only wears them during soccer class on Tuesdays. I had to buy each of the boys a pair of socks for soccer to keep up for just that day to make sure they had clean socks for that day since they had so few socks. This was hard on Joshua because, as I said, he loves wearing his socks. There were many days that this was a big struggle and at times I remember wondering if he would ever just get over this strange dislike of people seeing his feet. (I mean, he would walk from his shower to his bedroom to get his clothes in front of us without any shyness, as long as he had his socks on!)

Well, somewhere in the past six months that has ended for him. I didn't even realize it. He still wears his tennis shoes when we go out (vs. Jon who wears his sandles or slip on shoes) and wears socks with them. But as soon as he gets home he tears off those shoes and socks (and leaves them in the hallway in front of the schoolroom) and goes barefoot. He plays outside all the time with no shoes...in fact, I think he only puts his shoes on when we are actually leaving home for church or soccer or something. And now he has dirty little feet, just like a normal seven year old boy. :-) That makes me so happy!

A scary movie

I have never enjoyed scary movies. In fact, in Brazil when Joel and I would go to see a movie with friends I would get laughed at quite a bit for keeping my eyes covered most of the time. While this helps with all but the music (which is almost worse that what is on the screen) it does have a downside. The problem came when, in the back of my mind, I remembered watching a movie that seemed really funny with maybe a few tense parts. But such a funny movie couldn't be that scary...hmmm...why didn't I remember more about this movie? Anyways, I started to think it was a good movie for the older kids to watch with me. I decided to watch it again last night while Joel was out walking before I would show it to the kids. Well, it was really scary! Very scary and I could barely enjoy the funny parts! I finally just started fast forwarding through the scary parts (can't do that when Joel is watching a movie with me) with the intention of stopping and watching the funny parts and then seeing what happened by the end of the movie. Well, the next thing I knew the whole movie was done and I hadn't stopped fast forwarding at all! I hadn't enjoyed very many funny parts but I now was quite scared and Joel was out walking! And, worse of all, I had to go outside to feed Jasper and the movie had quite a few strange scary dog scenes.

Sigh. While I know that I won't let the kids see this movie I can't always decide on a movie based on how scary it is to me. I wouldn't even consider letting the kids see the Lord of the Rings movies because I watched a few moments once in Brazil and it scared me a lot! There were big bird things flying around and people running away and screaming...that was enough for me! However, once Joel decided that the kids would enjoy the movies and they watched them I found out that they didn't find them scary at all! It probably helped that they had read the books already. Once we got to Malawi they wanted (forced) me to watch the movies with them and I found that I really did enjoy them! (It helps to have a sympathetic child whispering what is going to happen before it does even though that annoys Kaleb to no end.)

Well, now that it is morning and the sun is shining through the windows it seems quite silly that I was scared last night!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

school

We are nearing the end of our 4th week of school. It has been a different year for me as I am not combining children together but teaching 4 grades. I remember what a big deal it was for me when I started teaching 2 grades...it just seemed like I couldn't get everything done in a day. Now I am wondering...What was I thinking then? Our last years I have combined kids because we were either packing up from life in Brazil, traveling around the US visiting churches or getting settled in Malawi. Then I realized that this method wasn't doing anybody any good so I had to make a new plan and, like I mentioned, we are in week 4 of that new plan.

Kaleb is in 9th grade and he actually does a lot of his work alone. Because of my own bad planning he is doing two science classes this year, Biology and Physical Science and I read that with him each day. He is studying The History of God's Kindgom and he does his history and Bible reading by himself and then on Friday has a big discussion day with Joel about it. They both love it and Joel has been very impressed with the books that were included in this Sonlight Core.

Andrew and Alissa are in 7th grade and are studying World History. We are actually (because I can't do anything the easy way this year) trying to get two years done in one year (World History I and World History II) so we have a lot of reading; but so far we are really loving it. They are doing General Science which will lead them into doing Physical Science next year so they won't have to do two in one year like Kaleb is doing.

Anna is in 5th grade and is studying American History. She is really surprising me as I see that she is a lot like her older sister (who is so self motivated and gets the job done!) when it comes to schoolwork. Anna likes to have a list at the beginning of the day and not only will she get her own work done, she will help me with Jonathan and Joshua's memory verse and Bible reading if I am running behind!

Joshua and Jonathan are in 2nd grade this year and they are studying World History. Again we are really enjoying the books and it is fun to see how their books bring up subjects that we cover more fully in Andrew and Alissa's year. They are using math-u-see for math and I really enjoy it; it is new for us. They are both coming along so well in reading.

We try to start our day by 7:15 when we all meet together and say our verses. The younger 5 children are learning a chapter each that they will be ready to tell us by week 6 of school and Kaleb is learning lots of individual verses that go along with his Bible lessons. Then we sing a song that will wake us up if everybody isn't wide awake and then I meet with the kids individually to tell them what to do that morning. When everybody is busy with math or workbooks or writing I start with Jonathan and Joshua in math, handwritting and reading. It seems to be a good method so far even though so often by the end of the day I feel like I should have fit more in!

Well, speaking of school, it is 7:05 and I have to make sure Kaleb and Andrew are awake and ready to go!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Hubert

We have been busy at school for the past 2 ½ weeks. I am teaching 4 grades this year so our days are very full, trying to fit everything in. We wake up early and sometimes school lasts until time to get supper ready. It is a lot of work but so rewarding and fun!

Well, Tuesdays are my busy day. The big kids all get their schoolwork given to them in the morning and Joshua and Jonathan have most of the day off. I leave for bible study around 9:30 and don’t get home until almost noon. Then our afternoons are spent at soccer class. Yesterday when I got home at lunchtime I found the whole house in an uproar! Ernest (our gardener) had found a wounded baby bird and kindly (argh) gave it to the children to care for. By the time I got home the kids had a nest all made up for the bird in an old plastic ice cream container and were giving it mushed up fruit and water out of a little eye dropper that they found in one of our science experiment kits.

Now, we do have some experience with injured baby birds. Unfortunately, we have never had one that has actually lasted the first night. I didn’t have very high hopes for “Hubert”. Hubert, by the way, is the name Andrew had picked out for Jamie to name Michael but she told him that she would feel awful taking away his favorite name, so she let him keep it for his own future children. (Wasn’t that nice of her?) So, now we have an injured baby bird with a special name. The kids were starting to feel invested in this bird. He was scared of them at first but by the time I got home from bible study he would sit on their hands and eat fruit off their fingers.

There was much discussion about how to keep Hubert warm last night. The ideas that the children came up with might have burned down the entire house, so we decided to just risk having him in his box in the girls’ closet with the door closed. I guess that the night was filled with children getting up and checking Hubert to make sure he was ok. Anna and Alissa were awake by 5:00am with him, feeding him and giving him water.

Well, for the past two days school has been a little bit halfhearted on the side of the kids. They are so busy feeding Hubert, taking him for walks near the other birds (so he can hear them chirping) and letting him walk around in the sun. It was funny to see him when they took him over to one certain part of the yard near a tree. He would start to chirp like crazy and we would hear chirping just like his; almost like he was talking to another bird! This afternoon the kids put him down by that tree and left him alone. They started noticing that bigger birds would fly over to him and feed him! They realized that there were two birds who would do this. They would fly over to Jasper’s food bowl, get some bits of food or water, and then fly back over and feed Hubert! We (ok, I’ll admit that by this time I was as invested as the kids!) all stood at the window watching for about 30 minutes. Then Hubert’s mom started leading him to the gate and before we knew it she had led him right under our gate and out into the road! We couldn’t control the dogs in the street so Kaleb ran and rescued Hubert and placed him closer to Jasper’s food area. After about 10 minutes or so his mom and dad found him again and led him over to a bush next to our yard wall. He hopped over there and has been there ever since. We aren’t exactly sure what to do now. I think their nest is outside our gate, but he can’t fly. We were torn whether we should bring Hubert inside for the night to keep him safe from Jasper (who keeps his distance when we are around but we aren’t sure what he will do tonight) or if we should just leave him with his folks. I think we will end up leaving him with his parents to take care of him. As attached as we are to Hubert, it seems like his best chances of having a life as a wild bird is to be with other birds and not getting used to having people care for him.

I have to say, I am very happy that we saw that his mom found him and fed him so we could hand his care back to her. The children were talking about building him a cage and keeping him as a pet forever!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

nearing a year!

We are in the middle of our 2nd week of school for this year. These are busy, busy days for me and I am trying to find a balance of doing everything to keep my head above water, or just doing what I can and still enjoy life outside of homeschooling and not worrying about what I can't fit in.

Some things that have been happening here in the last few weeks.

We have had lots of visitors from the US, Zambia, South Africa and the Philippines! It was a great time. At the same time I was organizing my books for school so my livingroom looked quite messy for awhile with stacks of books everywhere. One of the visitors became my hero when he and Kaleb fixed my washing machine and even more importantly, my popcorn popper! Yeah! I gave him my rice cooker to mess around with but they were unable to bring it back to life. But, happily, our guest from the Philippines taught me how to make rice without having it stick to the bottom of the pan or burn, so we should be all set.

Andrew and Alissa joined the youth group! They have started 7th grade so it was time for them to go with Kaleb. They both loved it and are looking forward to going again this week. Joel thought it was pretty hard to drop his daughter off at youth group and is wondering already how he will ever handle dropping her off at college!

Kids are still keeping me humble. As soon as I think I have it all figured out they show up in church with their jeans on backwards (Jonathan...and even worse is that I didn't figure it out until we got home!) or involve me in a huge drama over whether it is reasonable for me to expect him to find a pencil for math instead of using a pen (Kaleb; and we finally decided that obedience is the key here; and it doesn't matter if he thinks I am reasonable or not).

Mostly, though, the kids made me very proud as they handled all of the company (which meant that we were moving around every night; sometimes in one room, sometimes in another; and a few nights with all 8 of us in Kaleb and Andrew's room) and helped me with keeping the house clean and meals made. They are great kids!

It is hard to believe that we have been here almost a year already. It seems like a lot longer. At a bible study yesterday somebody said that they have been here since February and they still felt new. I was thinking about it and realized that I no longer "feel new" here! I know people and have friends and know who people are talking about when they discuss things. So, maybe this really has become home!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

August days

The days have been so beautiful. The mornings and evenings are still cool; I love that! It can be pretty warm during the day but some cloudy days stay breezy and cold. Perfect days for hanging clothes on the line.

Joel is in Zambia again. He is attending a missions conference and then speaking at a youth conference. I have only gotten a few text messages from him since he left so I am not sure how everything is but I am thinking he is really busy and probably having a great time.

We have company coming this week. Several people from our mission are here in Malawi to give a conference at the lake and our house is a good place to stay the night on the way there and back. Three ladies will be here while their husbands are at the conference to speak at a ladies conference here in Lilongwe. These folks are also bringing my school books (yeah!) so I am going to be busy organizing our new school year and probably starting school in the next few weeks.

Because of having many people staying here the kids and I have been busy cleaning and decluttering the house this week. Joel will arrive home on Monday (our 18th wedding aniversary) and we will have a chance to go out to lunch on Tuesday (his birthday) before he leaves again to the conference at the lake.

Kaleb is enjoying youth group, volleyball, and playing guitar in church. Andrew is growing taller and taller; he has passed Alissa (his first goal) and now measures himself against me each day to see if he has passed me yet. Alissa is one of the most self motivated people I know. She wakes up early and runs, washes dishes and does her math each day before I even wake up! Anna enjoys her friends (she loves people) and playing soccer on Tuesdays. She was the only girl when she joined and now there are as many girls as boys attending! Joshua is still missing his two front teeth but they are showing signs of growing in. He loves soccer and his favorite job is washing out the garbage pail for me when we change the garbage (I am glad because I hate that job). Jonathan is behind Joshua in tooth loss, but he is really enjoying reading. He says that Tuesdays are his "favorite day of the whole year" because that is soccer day. Anna, Joshua and Jonathan also love their Sunday School class and last Sunday sang in front with their class.

I am really enjoying my Saturday Bible study where we are going through Elizabeth George's book "A Woman's High Calling". My Tuesday bible study is starting back up this coming week and I look forward to seeing the ladies again after taking a few months off. Besides that my days are filled with housework, schoolwork (even during our break we do some school each day!), soccer on Tuesdays and I am still doing once a month cooking. Once a month or so we have a homeschooling meeting here at the house and have had a few field trips as well. In fact, yesterday we just got our homeschooling group t-shirts for the Lilongwe homeschoolers.

We miss everybody from home; last year at this time the days were filled with cookouts, swimming, card nights, and just fun days with family. We are especially thinking of Jamie and Michael as Michael nears his 2nd birthday. It is also my oldest nephew's 18th birthday in August...he was born the day before Joel and I got married! I think I must be getting old. I do have the grey hairs to prove it although I have recently learned of a hair dressers that does highlights so hopefully soon my age can be less obvious. (smile)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Stir-Crazy

I love popcorn. Every country we have gone to so far I have taken a Stir-Crazy popcorn popper with me. It is kind of bulky so I don't try to take it home with me aftewards but leave it with somebody and then get a new one before our next country. I can't remember who has my Indonesia or Philippines popcorn popper but my Brazilian popcorn popper was left with Lucia who was my popcorn buddy while we were there.

So, we have been enjoying popcorn here in Malawi for 9 months now with my latest Stir-Crazy popcorn popper. I remember when I bought it. We were at one of our wonderful Birch Run weekends with Jamie and Mom and at one of the kitchen stores I had to choose between a popcorn popper and an ice cream maker. The kids thought it would be an easy choice...and it was! Of course I got the popcorn popper (not exactly what they were thinking...)!!

Well, a few days ago one of my sweet children (I name no names) plugged my popcorn popper into the wall. In the US that would be great; but here it means an instant spurt of heat and light and a large popping sound...then the child comes running "Mom! I did something to your popcorn popper!" Sigh. After living with transformers for so many years I forgot to remind them about it this time.

After being extremely annoyed for a good five minutes I decided to plug it in and see what the damage was (but my experience told me the damage would be complete) and the little stir part started going around! I was so happy...we jumped up and down and hugged and ran and got the popcorn and oil and started making popcorn. We waited...and waited...and waited some more before we were finally forced to admit that while the stir part was not broken, the popcorn popper was not heating up at all. Kaleb told us that we should have known; the whole inside would be all melted together now. (sniff sniff...what a sad thing to have happen to my favorite popcorn popper!)

While I was not a grump (for long) because of the loss of my popper, I was not ready to listen to the well meant comments from the children. "At least you can still make popcorn in a pan mom!" "It isn't like you can't have popcorn again."

At soccer yesterday somebody told me a place that fixed their microwave so I might try to see if there is any way it can be fixed (which means I have to ignore Kaleb's 'completely melted inside' comments). Now I have the fun of looking forward to making enough popcorn for 36 people on Thursday on the stove! Sigh.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Pray for my friend!

My friend Corinne's 12 year old daughter was hit by a car while riding her bike last Wednesday. Please visit this site http://www.caringbridge.org/cb/viewJournal.do?method=executeInit and pray for Rachael (the daughter) and her family!

My mind and heart have been full this week.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Two more days!

It is hard to believe that Joel's trip to Zambia is almost over! He should be home late Saturday afternoon or evening (it is a 12 hour trip so it just depends on how early they leave and if there are complications on the road; a flat tire slowed them down 4 hours last time).

Joel has been gone since Friday morning so tomorrow it will be a week. I worried that I wouldn't sleep well while he was gone; that I wouldn't feel particularly safe in this house. We do have a guard who seems to be very careful while Joel is gone about staying awake and doing rounds around the yard to make sure all is secure. I have been keeping supplied with coffee and high sugar snacks!

I have been able to sleep pretty well...the only times it was hard was when Jonathan and Joshua wanted to share the big bed with me (because why in the world does Mom need all that space all by herself?).

Anna went to visit her new friend Janelle today. I guess Anna fell while they were playing and came home all banged up...her tooth almost went all the way through her lip, so she has a completely fat lip, sore on the inside of her mouth, a scraped up chin, a sore wrist and a gashed and bloody knee. She got another invitation from another friend for visiting tomorrow but I thought that she needed some recovery time.

Kaleb was picked up to go to youth group last night...I have to say, watching him ride away in a minivan full of teens (driven by a 19 year old) was kinda scary. It was dark and the roads are so bad here. They were going a very short distance, but we all know that statistics show that 79% (or something) of all accidents take place within 1/2 mile (or something) of your own home! (Isn't that right, Jamie?) Youth group ends at 8:30 and when Joel picks him up he is home at 9pm at the latest...so by 9:45 I was about ready to call my friend (whose house it was at) to find out what was going on. I didn't call because I KNEW that I would get a call if there had been a problem and it wouldn't really help Kaleb's standing in the youth group to be known as the kid with the worrier mom. So, the dad of the family (I was happy to see it wasn't the teen daughter driving this time!) dropped him off at around 10pm and I was sooo happy to have him home! Turns out that they had a huge game of capture the flag on the ABC campus and Kaleb had a great time. Actually, today when Anna was supposed to be home by noon and wasn't and by about 1:30 my friend called (same friend) to tell me that she had just heard that her husband had told me Anna would be home by lunch...was it ok if she stayed until 3pm instead...I had thought of calling earlier as well but didn't. I think that eventually I might get as good as my mom is about not worrying!

So, to sum up my week without Joel, we have been plugging away...doing our normal things in life. We walked to church on Sunday and found out that it only takes about 10 minutes to get there with all of us together. Kaleb was the only guitar player and I thought he did great! We have been busy in school (just a few things; we are in summer mode), cooking (today did several loaves of bread and made and froze pizza crusts!), cleaning and hanging around. I taught Jasper how to catch popcorn today (a skill that all self respecting dogs should master)...he just looked plain silly before with it hitting his nose and falling to the floor and him going diving after it.

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My heart and prayers have been with a MOMYS friend this week. A week ago yesterday her 12 year old daughter was hit by a car while riding her bike. She has been in a coma with very serious brain injuries since and the latest update tonight said that they didn't expect her to last the night. I am so sick at heart for her. If anybody thinks of it, please pray for Rachael (the daughter) and Corinne and Pete (the parents). Corinne has 12 children and I believe 6 grandchildren.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Setting the record straight.

Great memories - Remember the time we were throwing
apples at the cars? And that lady stopped and we ran around the back of the
house and Grandma was annoyed and Grandpa just laughed.....
The above was a response to my last blog entry from my cousin Kris. While I do indeed remember the day she is talking about, I think that her memory is a bit fuzzy as far as the details are concerned.
Yes, apples were thrown. But we did not throw them. Let's just think about the facts, shall we?
Kris, Jamie and I were over at Grandma and Grandpa's house spending a beautiful summer day, as we often did growing up. We were playing a fun game (I so innocently thought) of hiding behind trees whenever cars drove by. Once a car slowed down and stopped and Jamie and Kris started yelling for me to "Run! Run!" Well, I thought that this was taking the game a bit too far. Why run? Maybe we knew the person...maybe they wanted to ask a question...maybe they simply needed to turn around in the driveway. Why run? Well, the "Run! Run!" kept coming at me and so I ran with them around to the back of Grandma and Grandpa's house and in to the back room. By this time the driver of the car had pulled up the driveway and had come to the front door. What a scolding that woman gave Grandma! Throwing accusations around about children throwing apples as passing cars! I was confused until I saw Kris and Jamie's faces... They had been throwing apples at passing cars! Grandpa sat in the kitchen laughing with (or was it at) us as we hid in the back room until the woman left. Then Grandma shared some of the ear full that she had gotten with us! Yikes!
So, that is the true story of the day in question. I would never throw an apple at a car (I was always the well behaved one you know); not like two hooligans I grew up with!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Introducing Grandma and Grandpa

Growing up my own Grandparents played such a huge role in my life. We walked to visit them almost daily and their home was as familiar to me as my own. Certain things bring instant memories of our time there (frozen pizza, spaghetti o's, those orange push-up ice cream things, rubarb with big cups of sugar - I think that last one was a Grandpa thing; I am assuming now that Grandma never knew that we dipped our rubarb in the sugar until we were done and then dumped the sugar back into her big sugar container).

We had been talking about different types of rocks in science class with the bigger kids and that of course led to talks about how Grandpa found, cut and polished rocks. We named our dog Jasper because of my favorite stone and the kids love hearing about how I never could remember the name and would ask Grandpa, "What was the stone that I like best?" and he would tell me the name. How he died just shortly before I got married but I opened up a jasper necklace he had made for me at my wedding shower. Still brings tears.

Well, the other day I was talking about Grandma (because although she has been gone for so long now, so many things about her come to my mind; especially when we are playing cards or I am baking) with Joshua and Jonathan as they were going to bed. I told Joshua that I thought he looked like Grandma and they were full of questions about her. Jonathan wanted to know if Grandma went to heaven when she died and I told them that she had I thought. Then Jonathan and Joshua were a bit worried because they had never met her (which they think is extremely unfair...I agree with them!)...how would they recognize her when they got to heaven?

So, today we got out a dvd that mom had copied for me that Aunt Joyce and Uncle Bob had taken over 20 years ago...right before I went off to college actually and there is a lot of pictures of Grandma and Grandpa on it. Isn't it funny that after so long Grandma's house is still as familiar as my own?

Joshua and Jonathan were very happy to see the pictures and were very happy to know that now they would recognize Grandma and Grandpa in heaven. According to Anna it doesn't matter anyways, because I will be going to heaven first and will of course introduce everybody.

After we watched the DVD I got out my excercise dvd (I haven't used this particular dvd since we lived in Brazil) and attached to the inside cover was an UNO card with Draw 4 written all over it! The last thing that Grandma gave me was a deck of UNO cards and of course she included a bunch of the extra draw 4's to make the game more fun. I am so happy to find that I still have one of those cards.

Maybe in heaven that is how the kids can recognize Grandma...look for the loud room with all the people playing UNO!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

church

A few Sundays ago I was a bit uptight with Kaleb growing up and walking to church alone. It isn't a far walk but I still worried until he got home safely. Today I had to stay home from church because Joshua was still sick and had to think about Kaleb during the service for another reason. He was playing his guitar for the worship service for the first time at this church. Pastor Brian asked Joel if Kaleb could play and Joel was happy to let Kaleb; Kaleb was even happier! He really misses having somebody to play his guitar with. There were 3 guys playing today in church I guess; Kaleb said that they all had their own unique style. Joel said that Kaleb was like a different kid than we came from the US with. He has loved guitar for a long time; but to see him get up in front of a large church with no self conciousness or nerves was amazing, Joel said. Kaleb is really growing up.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Sickies

Isn't it interesting how different children are when it comes to being sick? Kaleb has always been a bit needy when he is sick; he wants to make sure that I know that he feels awful and that I am not off having fun forgetting about him. He was like this when he was really little, and interestingly, he is still like this! Anna, on the other hand, has always been a great sick kid. She just lays around until she feels better. Again, she was like that when she was little and she is still like this! It was especially noticable when she had strep throat right after Kaleb had it!

When Andrew gets hurt he always wants to go somewhere and sleep...he doesn't want anybody to look at the injury or ask him what happened...he wants to burry himself in his blankets and deal with it later. When he is sick it is the same thing; usually he forgets to mention it. Now, Andrew was not always like this; I remember when he was little and he would make the biggest deal (and the most noise) about any injury at all. When Andrew is sick he doesn't like to be cuddled or pampered. He takes such good care of anybody else when they are sick, however, that when Andrew is sick he gets lots of love and pampering from the whole family.

Alissa....hmmm...I don't think that Alissa gets sick very often, but whens he says she is sick you know that she is serious. She hates laying around and not helping and tries to get better as soon as she can so she can help me take care of the next sick one.

Joshua and Jonathan both were just sick with fevers and upset stomachs. Jon tends to just lay around and get better like Anna and Joshua tends to be more like his big brother Kaleb. He is very clingy and needy and wants to make sure I am taking good care of him...water is close by; his pillow, his blanket, his throw up bucket...

I do not get sick very often, but when I do get sick I guess I want everybody to be aware of the fact. :-) It seems like moaning actually speeds up the healing process as well.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Field Trip Day!

I wish I had a camera so I could post pictures of our field trip. It seems like photos would make it seem more official and I believe that this was our first official field trip! I would almost count our trip to Crater Lake, Oregon as an official field trip, but I don't know...it wasn't really for school.

Today we went to a nature center here in Lilongwe. Kaleb had to miss it because he had a stomach ache and Andrew didn't want to be the only older boy in the group so he skipped it too. In our homeschool group we had four of my children, Lee-anne's 3, Christina's 2 and Andrea's 3. The children seemed to really enjoy the tour which included a long walk through the wildlife center and stops along the way to see different animals and questions about the things that we were learning from the guide. We saw a 12 year old male crocodile and at the same time ran into one of the men from the UK who helps run the place I think who explained to the children in quite a bit of detail about how they actually know it is a male (the kids asked).

It was a hot day but it was a great field trip. We thought we might go back on a different day and arrange to help with the feeding of the animals. Then the kids can see a lot more of the animals than they did today. Overall, it was a great day!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Busy Tuesday!

Tuesday has turned out to be our busiest day. I have ladies Bible Study at a nearby home at 9:00am until 11:am. Joel picks me up and brings me home afterwards and we make lunch and do some clean-up and get Anna, Joshua and Jonathan ready to go to soccer class. We leave at 2:30 and get home between 4:30 and 5pm. Then we have to cook supper by at least 5:45 because on Tuesdays that is when the lights go out. We usually have our family devotions from 6:00 until 6:30 or so and then it is "hide and scare everybody witless" time until 8:00pm when the lights come back on.

Tuesdays, being extra busy, usually has quite substandard food. Usually mac and cheese for lunch and then bread and peanut butter for supper. Well, I would like to say that after 5 (or however many) days of cooking, today we actually had a good lunch and a good supper! The day started out with homemade bread for breakfast. Then at lunch we had baked chicken and rice with green beans. Then supper was goulash. That is 2 real meals in one day! The best we usually do is one real meal in a day and on Tuesdays there usually is no real meal (there is always food; but not a real meal, if you know what I mean). Buying pizza is expensive and there is nothing that really fits the definition of "fast food" here in Lilongwe. So, I am already reaping the rewards of our 5 (or however many) hard (and some not so hard) days of cooking! I think that tomorrow we will have stir fry for lunch and then chicken and rice soup for supper. Oh, and pancakes for breakfast.

Anyone else tempted to try the once a month cooking?

Monday, May 19, 2008

Done at last!

I have lost count as far as how many actual days we have been cooking since I started our once a month cooking experience. Today we pretty much the last day. We made bread all day. We ate some, gave some away and put 10 loaves in the freezer. Bread is nice since it takes so long to raise and then cook; we could do bread and do school at the same time. Alissa got really good at making bread and we all agree that her bread was better than mine. Andrew felt bad saying that but I asked him why it would bother me. First, I taught her (well, she did get some lessons from G'ma before we came here), Secondly, I love her so much I like that her bread is better than mine, and lastly, now I can say, "Hey, Alissa, go make bread!" How great is that!

So, today we did bread and Anna grated all of the motzerella cheese. Yesterday we chopped the carrots, cleaned, chopped, and cooked the green beans, chopped onions, green peppers and whatever else we saw sitting on the counter.

We are now breathing a sigh of relief and think that this is actually worth it! We already know what we are having for lunch tomorrow (and Tuesday is my busy day)! I have also figured out that I need to do things differently next month. I need to do veggies before grocery shopping day. I need to do bread day in the middle of the month along with tortilla day.

I have also thought that all of this cooking doesn't actually put me a head of where many people are in the states who eat normal foods available from the store. Tortillas, spaghetti sauce, sloppy joe sauce, pizza sauce, frozen veggies, cut up chicken, grated cheese...bread. But it does put me ahead of where I have been for the past 6 months! I can't wait to see if we end spending less money on groceries and if I find that I spend less time in the kitchen (now that the cooking week is over).

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Day Three and Day Four!

Yesterday was Day Three of our Once a Month Cooking experience! We got a lot done! I found out that I got way more chicken than I needed so Joel had 16 whole chickens to clean and cut up (I am so glad that he doesn't mind that job because it is one that I don't enjoy!) instead of 12. When I thought I bought 12 whole chickens I was actually wondering why I had gotten so many. I really only needed 9. So I was figuring out what to do with the extra chickens when I realized that I had gotten 16 chickens! Well, now we have deboned chicken in the freezer for soup, cut up chicken in the freezer for being fried, cleaned, whole chickens in the freezer for boiling, chicken breast cut and cooked and frozen for stir-fry and lots of extra bit and pieces of chicken in the freezer for Jasper.

We made and froze spaghetti sauce with hamburger in it and spaghetti sauce and pizza sauce without hamburger in it. Sloppy Joes, Taco meat, and browned ground beef to make goulash with.

That seems like a lot of food!

I also got another curtain up in the livingroom. We found out that the little hooks for the curtains are so expensive that I need to try to just hang them up with hooks every 3rd or 4th hook spot instead of every hook spot like I did in the livingroom.

The kids and I all watched the old Superman movies. Kaleb, after becoming hooked on Lord of the Rings, thought it wouldn't have enough realistic action in it, but he ended up enjoying it as much as the next guy.

Today is Saturday, day four of the once a month cooking (I wonder if the "once" in once a month counts for the entire week and a half that I am imagining that it will take us to cook all this food or if it is really supposed to be one day like I so ignorantly imagined?)

Today we decided to make all of the bread products. This also is tortillas for our two taco meals. We actually were able to get 1/2 of the tortillas done before lunch time. We found out that we don't eat as many tortillas as we thought we would (we had tacos for lunch) and we took a break from cooking after lunch. I hung up the curtains for the girls' bedroom, the little boys' bedroom, the diningroom, the schoolroom and the kitchen. They all look great even though they don't have as many hooks in them. I must say that for someone who is not good at picking out colors I did a great job in the girls' room! The animals and colors make it look like a soft jungle and the light green of the walls just look like lots of trees! It is very pretty! I told them that if Aunt Tina (from Zambia) were here she would paint trees and more animals on their walls.

Joel took Kaleb and Andrew to another soccer game and when he gets back we will all be going to a birthday party for Jason, the son of our friends James and Lee-Anne. Tomorrow morning Joel will be going to a conference near the lake and I will finish up the bread products that I failed to start today. This once a month cooking is really a lot of work, but I really do think that it will be well worth it as soon as we actually finish the cooking part! Oh, and the kitchen curtains look great! I mean, honestly, you would almost think that I knew how to choose things like that! I surprised myself! Although Kaleb said that the orange in the curtains (that I thought perfectly matched the orange collander that I hang on the wall for ease of use *and* decoration) was really red. I still think it matches.

Until tomorrow!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Day Two of once a month cooking!

It is almost 7:00 am of day two of our first once a month cooking experience in eleven years!

Before I list the things I plan/hope to accomplish today, let me tell you about day one.

We weren't sure when Day One would happen. It all depended on our money arriving and being able to go shopping. At the same time as our money came in we got a call that our curtains were finished! Joel dropped Kaleb and me off at the store while he went to pick up the curtains. I was in such a rush while picking out the fabric last week that I couldn't really remember what I had chosen, but seeing it again, I must tell you that it is really pretty. You would almost imagine that the person who picked out the curtains for the livingroom had a sense of what matches (and we all know that I don't) so I am relieved! A lot of people I know have curtains with just a single color but I have always liked colorful curtains (maybe because we don't go with very colorful paint...well, the paint is officially "colorful" since it does have color; but I mean it is not bright).

Back to the store. Alissa and Andrew stayed home with Anna, Joshua and Jonathan which made it easier to shop. I had a big list but Kaleb and I split it up between us and we finished our shopping for a months worth of groceries in less time than I usually take to get my normal weekely things purchased. At times I was embarrassed to actually put the things on my list in my cart...I mean, 24 bags of macaroni? That is a LOT of macaroni. And 12 (or was it 16?) whole chickens! Luckily Joel arrived when we were almost finished and took over picking out the chickens since he is better at that than me. I ended up just forgetting my embarrassment and piled everything I needed into 2 carts. I realized as I continued my shopping that buying this much stuff really did help me save money already! For example, I usually buy macaroni that is K$2.69 (US$1.79) instead of the macaroni that is K$2.29 (US$1.52) because I never buy more than 2 or so bags in a week (at least until I run out and then ask Joel to go back to the store to get me more). Well, buying 24 bags I realized that the US$.27 savings would add up! So, I got the cheaper macaroni (and we had some last night and it tasted great!) and saved US$6.48!

I am sure that you are getting the idea. We were a sight to behold...Kaleb was using his math skills and getting oil in the big jug instead of 4 smaller bottles and helping me realize which size flour we should buy (although I have to tell you, I went straight for the good stuff...no more buggy flour for me!).

As I was checking out I remembered Brazil where people would go to bigger stores to buy stuff for their little supermarcados. My cart looked a lot like theirs. Then I realized that many people here in Lilongwe come just for grocery shopping once every few months and then head back out to the bush and we might just look like we are doing that! We got no funny looks for emptying out the macaroni aisle.

We came home and put our things away to await Day two of the once a month cooking experience(that is today!). We then put up two of the curtains in the livingroom which just about killed my fingers as I tried to manipulate these tiny (but strong) wire hook things. Our biggest livingroom curtain needed 120 of them to hang up the curtain. You can imagine my frustration when I had finished and realized that half of the curtain was on right and the other half was put on backwards! Sigh. But we all agreed that they look great and they already make the room cozier.

Back to today! Day Two! Today Joel and Kaleb will go the market to get the veggies. They will also get ketchup and more hamburger (which they didn't have at the big store). When they get home we will begin cooking up some of the meals. I also hope to put up some more curtains today. Our problem with the curtains is that each curtain needs so many of the hooks that each curtain rod needs a certain amount of little hook catcher things. Our curtain rods just didn't come with that many hook catcher things so Joel is going to have to find some today. My friend Lee-Anne is coming over on Thursday for a homeschool group meeting and I will ask her to bring her camera so I can take some pictures of the curtains so you can see how pretty they are. I will take a picture of Jasper too so you can see how big he is getting.

Oh, besides the cooking and the curtains I have about all the laundry in the house to wash and hang up on the line to dry. I am sure that it will be a busy (and hopefully productive) day! I will fill you in tomorrow!

Well, there is one more thing I must share that doesn't really go under the heading of Day 2 of once a month cooking. Last night when I went to bed there was a huge lizard on my bed! It was long and had a big green stipe on its back! Now, Kaleb went and rescued me and he swears it was just normal gecco size but I totally disagree. That would have bothered me a lot, but not to the extent that I sat up in the livingroom until the boys went to bed so they could completely take my bed apart checking for the lizard nest that I had convinced myself must be hiding under my bed. Kaleb kinda grumped about it but sweet Andrew got into it and Kaleb had to help or look bad. The boys honestly didn't know why I would be upset at discovering such a great find as a striped lizard in my bed...I mean, they generally have to wander around outside before they find one. Sigh. I did not get a good nights sleep last night and I am afraid that neither did Joel as I pretty much stayed on his side of the bed last night trying to stay warm because there was no way I was going to cover up with the blanket that had a striped green lizard on it!

Ok, that is all! Day Two Begins!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The White Dog

Well, I suggested to Joel today that we should consider getting a cat. An expat here is leaving the country and her cat needs a home. I guess Joel is less of a cat person than he is a dog person because while he was out today he called and said that he found a puppy that somebody is selling along the side of the road. He said that the puppy looked like Jasper. I asked him to find out what kind of dog it is so he asked the man selling the puppy. "It is a white dog. " Ummm, ok...

I didn't get why a white dog would look like Jasper because Jasper is brown, so I asked Joel to let Kaleb look at the puppy. Joel is super smart but sometimes doesn't pay a huge amount of attention to details. I still don't know why Kaleb wasn't interested in looking at the puppy but I didn't get a good response. I thought of all the white dogs I have seen and couldn't picture a certain breed that would be sold here along the side of the street so I thought it might be better to just not get the puppy.

Well, a little bit later Joel called me laughing. He said that they met our friends (pastors here) for lunch and he was telling them about the dog and asked them if they knew of a breed known as "white dog". Then the pastors laughed and said that the man selling the puppy was telling them that this is a white man's dog...which in this culture I guess means an expensive dog.

It was funny that while they have no idea of the breed of this puppy they are absolutely certain that it is the perfect dog for any white folks who are living here in Lilongwe!

I am still hoping for the cat!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

A month's cooking in a day?

Can I do this? I want to find out!

Several years ago (about 11) I tried this. I didn't really like the recipies in the book so I just made food that I usually cooked. I remember how nice it all smelled when I was cooking it up. I don't remember how exactly I did this as I had a 3 year old and twin one year olds. Hmmm... Well, it smelled really good when it was cooking but somehow when I took the food out of the freezer on the appointed day during the month the food had lost a lot of its appeal. We ended up throwing a lot of it out.

Well, I am going to try again (maybe)! I think that it will be easier now because I have lots of helpers with the chopping and cooking and cleaning up. I think that I know more about cooking now so I will know to not try to freeze potato dishes. It might turn out ok. Also, we have more mouths to feed now and if possible less money to spend on groceries so I am just about sure that we wouldn't throw it away...like it or not!

We are storing our friends' freezer. They told us we could use it and I asked Joel if we could plug it in so I could see if I might save money doing the "cook everything in a month" method. I think that just making less trips to the store would be helpful with that. Also, I don't like to go to the store...it takes time away from school and there is nothing fun to buy there anyways. If we find that we like to cook just once in a month and the food is tasty, we might purchase a freezer like this so we can keep it up.

I like the idea of less time in the kitchen cooking and doing clean-up during the month.

I still have to use meals that we normally eat instead of the good freezing recipes so this time I will obviously only freeze the ones that will freeze well (like the spaghetti sauce or ground beef already browned).

We will see how it works! If our dog gets fat and the children get skinny during the next month I will know that it was a failure and go back to our old methods.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Bugs

Ok, have you heard the old joke about a missionary on the field for their first term throwing out their food with the bug in it, the 2nd term taking the bug out of the food, the 3rd term eating around the bug and the 4th term counting the bug as extra protien (or something like that...)? Well, I am on my 4th term as a missionary. Bugs should be easy by now, right?

Today I opened up this big bag of flour. We try to save money so I have started making bread and pancakes and desserts instead of buying bread, cereal or cookies. Ok, back to the big bag of flour. It is a huge bag. 10kg which is like 22 pounds.

So, Alissa and I opened up the bag of flour as we prepared to make 4 batches of bread. I was scooping the flour out of the bag and into my flour bucket when I noticed a black bug. Oops, how did that little guy get in there? Continued scooping...whoops...another bug? Hmmm...black ones *and* white ones...those white ones are kind scary because they blend in. Ok, just one more scoop and Alissa and I realized that there was no way we could use this flour. In Jakarta I used to use flour with bugs after I sifted it. Why was I able to do something on my first term that totally makes me sick to my stomach now? Try explaining that to your husband..."didn't you used to just sift the bugs?" "Well, yes...I did...but that was back when if I didn't sift the bugs I didn't have any flour at all. Here I can find flour without bugs so I don't want to use flour with bugs if I dont' have to." I don't think he was convinced. To be honest, I don't know why I used to eat stuff made with flour that had bugs sifted out of it. Well, on the other hand, I bet that my sister wouldn't have had to see 10 bugs in her flour before she decided not to use it! Of course, she could return her flour to the store...here they might just look at me funny and say, "What is the problem? Haven't you heard of sifting your flour? Why do you think they put that on the recipe???" Good question! But still...I don't care how long I have been a missionary, I am not going to use that flour!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Toothless!

I wish I had my camera! In one day Joshua lost both of his front teeth.

Speaking of teeth, my friend told me that her dentist told her (when she had 7 of her children with cavities!) that teeth (enamal) need time to rest (or recover or restore I guess); about 2 hours. If you eat anything or drink anything in that 2 hours the process starts again (breaking down of enamal). If this is true, it would explain why our children's teeth were fine in Brazil (where they only drank water and only had snacks (usually) at around 3pm). Back in the US they were sucking on pepermint candy a lot but even without that their meals and snacks were very unscheduled. Interesting!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

church

Does it seem to anyone else that Satan seems especially busy on Sunday mornings as we are preparing to go to church? I didn't notice it as a child although that doesn't mean it wasn't there; what I really remember is singing songs out of the hymnbooks for the 40 minute drive to church each week.


It only took me a few years of marriage to realize that Joel and I argued almost each Sunday morning! I also knew that it was my fault; I could almost feel myself becoming nit-picky and grumpy and annoying. I didn't know why I became like that; but I did. When I finally realized that this was a regular thing mainly on Sunday morning I started wondering why. I then saw that I was alowing Satan to use me; to disrupt Joel as he prepared to preach! Since then we have done what we could to make Sunday a more relaxing time where arguments don't belong. As we had children I had to plan ahead and have diaper bags ready, clothes laid out and shoes and socks sitting by the door so the stress of getting ready didn't give us something to argue about.

At the lake here in Malawi, church was just a stone's throw away and if the kids couldn't find their shoes they could just go without them. We each only had one church outfit unpacked too so finding something to wear was never a problem. Now we are in Lilongwe and suddenly today I realized that Satan might be looking for a foothold in our family once again.

The last two Sundays have been started with arguing and family frustrations as we look for shoes and figure out if falling down the steps in the yard (our yard has stairs)on a bike is reason enough to stay home; or if the real reason is because we still haven't found the shoes.

Today is the 2nd Sunday in a row where our attitudes have not been right and we seem almost eager to pick a fight. Satan used me in the past to cloud Joel's mind as he prepared to preach; I suppose now he can take his pick of our family; it only takes one to change the attitude of all of us pretty quickly.

Please remember to pray for us on Sunday mornings! Now that we realize again that this is a potential weakness for our family hopefully we can deal with it and be stronger than ever!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

school decisions

Life in the Molina household has been filled with discussions and debates and choices the last few weeks.

I have been a homeschool teacher since Kaleb was about 2 1/2 and asked me to teach him how to read. When he was 6 years old we found the curriculum that was a perfect fit for our family and have been using Sonlight Curriculum ever since.

Kaleb is going to be entering 9th grade this coming fall and life changes for a homeschool family when you have a highschooler, it seems to me. It suddenly became important that he had the right science class and that he finishes his mathbook on time. The letters "PSAT" have been tossed around lately and to be honest I am not exactly sure what exactly they mean for the future college student, but it must be important!!!

We live very close to an international, missionary school. Kaleb has been showing signs of wanting mroe of a challenge out of life and in my desparation to think of something I chose school as being a way he could become more independent. We looked into his attending ABC (the school I mentioned); even going as far as getting an application after talking to the headmaster on campus and checking out which vaccinations he would need.

I was just not feeling great about our choice. I mean, my stomach hurt when I thought about it but I thought that this might be normal for a mom who is disappointed that her direct part in the schooling of her son is finished. I was so disappointed at the idea of not choosing what classes he took along with him through highschool! I mean, it is almost like I put up with all the younger grades to finally get to highschool and then not be allowed to attend!!!

I didn't feel that this was a good enough reason to choose not to send Kaleb to ABC but after our meeting with the headmaster we realized that the three main reasons we were excited about the schol did not excist for him there. We were excited about him taking part in organized sports (nothing there), having music lessons or classes offered (nothing) and a math teacher that could actually answer questions (they don't teach anything past Algebra I and Kaleb took that this year).

So, this brings us up to the last few weeks of decisions and debates and choices. After all of this, we finally decided that the best thing for Kaleb is to stay home and study from Sonlight Curriculum again; studying the History of Christianity with his dad which will be a great challenge for him, I think. He will start taking Latin (unless he changes our minds before September; he wants Swahili) as well.

We occasionally attend an English service at a church on the ABC campus. They have a youth group and Kaleb is going to attend for the first time tonight. Friends of ours are starting a paintgun (I can't raelly remember what it is called) thing that Kaleb and Joel and maybe Andrew will take part in occasionally. We have heard about an ultimate frisbee game that takes place on Sunday afternoons. We are hoping for piano lessons in the future as well and Kaleb would love a way to continue with his guitar lessons.

So, that is where we are at right now!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

electricity

We get pretty used to having something like electricity; so much so that when we don't have it, it really annoys us! It is funny that here, where it is such a common occurance to have no electricity, it still can catch us by surprise when it goes out.

Our co-missionary brought the projector here today and so we told the kids that we could have a movie night tonight. We have no tv and while we do watch movies sometimes on the computer, it is a special treat to use the projector for a movie. We were preparing for it all afternoon. We cleaned the house, made sure that supper was ready early enough...we even had a really good supper...rice with chicken and lots of vegies. The children had a room inspection (we do that once in awhile to keep bedrooms clean). The girls had 100 percent, the big boys had 100 percent and Joshua and Jonathan had about zero percent. They didn't even start their room; I have never seen it messier. Tonight as they were going to bed, though, Jonathan came to me with disgust in his voice. "Mom, it is no fair! I know why our room stays so messy!" (he says standing in the midst of toys and crayons, paper, clean clothes that somehow won't stay in their closet, and two twin beds that they had made into a cool tent.) "The other kids put all of their clothes in our room when they clean their own room! Look at that! LOOK!" And he pointed at a pair of Kaleb's socks laying on the floor of their room. Yep, THAT is why they got a zero in room inspection. Life is so unfair for the underdog.

Anyways, we were all very excited. I made a banana cake and Joel even splurged and got some ice cream! It was quite the event at the Molina house tonight. Well, just as we were giving the vegies their final stir in the pan, bang, the lights went out. What! We had already gotten the projector plugged in and hooked up to the computer. The chairs were arranged...the children were already tasting the ice cream in their minds.

Now, our electricity goes out at least once a day. Usually twice a day and we usually say, when the lights go out, "Well, at least it was after everybody used the computer for math!" or "If it goes out now it will at least be back on before dark." We often have devotions in the evenings without lights and then sometimes if the lights are still not back on I will read to the children by flashlight (we don't have candles...).

So, why the surprise when the lights went out tonight? They were out for 2 hours last night in the night and this morning when it was time to get up and they had flickered during lunch (which is a sure sign they will go out soon).

It did give us something to work on, character wise. I reminded a very disappointed Andrew that the lights will be out either way; we can either handle it happily or grumpily. We all ended up having a good supper in the dark and planned on reading our book together before bed when the lights surprised us and came on again! Everybody cautiously sat quietly for a few moments...would they *stay* on? Then YES! They were on for good (at least for a few hours) so people quickly finished their food and moved into the livingroom. Andrew started dipping ice cream and cutting cake before the lights had a chance to go out again.

The next time that you turn on your lights at home, remember that something that we take for granted so often, like the fact that we switch that switch and the lights will come on, can really help develop our character, if we let it. (smile) By the way, the cake was delicious!!!

Friday, March 21, 2008

What we are up to

Well, I have found that now that we are people with a routine, life has become much less interesting to write about on a blog. I find myself thinking, what am I thinking...who wants to read about loose teeth and moving up to the next math book (some of the exciting things happening in our house recently)?

Oh, well...for those of you who are interested...(ready Mom and Jamie?)...

Joshua, Jonathan and Anna have joined a soccer class. I am really happy that they did; even though there might be other ways to learn to play soccer, I realized after we arrived at the first class that Joshua and Jonathan have never really had to pay attention to anybody before. Well, I mean in this certain type of setting. They pay attentiont to me (at times) but sometimes I have to grab their chin and force their eyes to actually look at me before they realize I am talking to them. I quickly realized that they didn't know that when the teacher was talking they were supposed to be standing quietly and respectfully listening. Anna did great, and even though she was the only girl in the class was really holding her own (maybe because she is a girl...she seems to automatically know how to pay attention to the teacher and could follow his directions very easily). After a week of practicing at home the next class went much better. I was proud at how they stood and listened to the teacher completely before they started to do what he told them to do.

Well, and as far as math books, Alissa did finish her 6th grade math book and is about months away from finishing her 7th grade math book. Kaleb went directly from 7th grade math to Algebra I but we are thinking that since Alissa has the time we might get PreAlgebra for her so the concepts are really understood (since once she enters the land of Algebra she gets a lot less help from Mom; not that she has needed any lately).

Andrew is growing taller! He is doing well in school as well and to be honest, reminds me a lot of myself in a lot of ways. One example is that when he breaks something (which seems to happen quite often) he just laughs and says, 'Don't worry mom' which makes me sooo upset! I wonder if I drove my mom crazy when I was a child.

Kaleb had his first Chechewa lesson (along with Joel). Joel amazes Kaleb with his memory. Joel says that Kaleb learns a language just like I do (which means that Joel and Kaleb will be driving each other crazy during this class before you know it) but the house is buzzing with the two of them trying to learn the most vocab the fastest.

The neighorhood is still not super safe, but we seem to be settling into what is normal here. Somebody climbed over the fence into the neighbor's yard the other day but their guard blew his whistle and he jumped back over. Joel was outside and actually saw this all happen (he quite often will help the guard patrol the yard for a few hours each night) and he ran into the street hoping to catch the guy. He said that he *thought* he was running fast, but the potential robber was waaay down the road into a cornfield before Joel even got a few steps outside our gate. The other guards standing outside watching all of this happen warned Joel to not come outside if it happens again because sometimes there will be 4 or 5 other robbers waiting to be let in the gate when their partner climbs over the wall and opens it.

The days are getting a little bit cooler. The other night it was actually cool enough for me to wear a jacket. I found our boarding passes from Atlanta in the pocket so I guess our trip to Africa was the last time I needed my jacket. And even then I actually didn't *need* it; I just wore it so I didn't have to pack it.

So, this is routine! Yeah! I love it!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The uses of a school room

Ah, a school room. How I have longed for one! Back in Brazil when our tiny little house was bursting at the seams with all of our books, I dreamed of adding on a school room! Just the idea of having the books in a place where they could stay during meals instead of having to move them around so often in the day whenever the table was needed for something else. And even better, a place where we could close the doors so whenever company came over the complete book chaos is not the first thing they would see as they walked in the door! I really thought I could have used a school room in the US when we stayed with Jamie, simply because of the amount of our books and the lack of space to keep them in. I felt bad that our books exploded all over her house, even though Jamie didn't care.

Well, at the lake we did have a place where we could do school, but it was not a place that we could keep our books, so every morning we would pack up our books and haul them over to the school room and do school there, and at the end of the day we would haul them back home. It did have its advantages...being away from the house made me focus more on school and less on things like laundry (ok, I didn't have a washing machine so I wasn't going to focus on laundry anyways) or other chores. the downside is, of course, that those chores need to be finished sometime and if they didn't get done during the day, they certaintly weren't getting done in the evening (when the lizards started falling from the ceilings...).

So, now I have a fun school room right inside the house! Hopefully soon it will have bookshelves in it so we can put all of our books in their proper place. We put a few desks in there (I did recently haul one of them out to the livingroom to do my puzzles on...) and put fun stuff on the walls (like the list of prepositions and all of the presidents of the US in order).

My question is this...why do I do school in the living room or the diningroom? Why do I give spelling words as I stand over the stove stiring the cooking pasta noodles? I guess having school at home is not the same thing as having a school in your home. I have never tried to copy a school setting so I guess I shouldn't be surprised that we don't really fit into the mold that uses one.

I love my school room but have found that I don't use it as much as I thought I would. We like snuggling up and reading on the couch...desks keep us so far from each other; it is hard for the kids to read over my shoulder if they can't lay across the back of the couch while I am sitting there reading. We find it is easier to do math and workbooks when we can all sit around and spread our papers and books on the diningroom table. I keep the seat next to me open for somebody with questions. I do love having the spot to keep all of my school books, though. And we usually try to haul the days supply of books from the livingroom back to the school room at least once every day.

Oh, and one more thing! We heard through the grapevine that there is a used bookstore in the city and the other day Joel took the big kids to check it out. Those of you who have seen my children in the library can picture what the bookstore looked like after they arrived. I guess that the owners (an older man and woman) were so pleased to see children enjoying books in their store...in all the years since they have opened it they were the first children to come and shop there and to sit (lay) around on the floor reading the books (which I guess was a good thing...at least it made a few people smile).

Thursday, March 6, 2008

A Thief in the Night!

Last night I didn't sleep so well. I was just dozing off when I heard some gunfire in the distance. The dogs of the neighborhood started howling to each other and I sat up in bed imagining the worst. I was peeking out of windows to see if our night guard was ok and still patroling the yard (he was). Joel told me he would stay up awhile so I could sleep...but I still couldn't sleep. Finally I think I fell asleep around 2:00am. At 4am I woke up to more gunshots and Joel was still awake so I decided that there was nothing I could do and fell asleep quickly before my mind got too busy scaring me to let me sleep again. As we understand it there is a police patrol that go around the streets of our neighborhood every night and they were the ones firing the guns at whatever bad guy they were chasing. I guess it is unusual for the bad guys to actually have guns (somebody could have mentioned that to me at midnight when I was wide awake in my bed...).

After our last break in Joel preached on Sunday about Christ returning like a thief in the night. That is how He is returning! Now, after having a thief at our house in the night, I know how unexpected it was. We were not waiting for him or prepared for his coming. We were, of course, prepared for his coming on the nights following his appearance. But I wonder...is the way I am now completely aware of the possiblity of a thief in the night supposed to be the way I am aware of the suddeness of Christ's return? Let me tell you, to actually be prepared for a thief takes a lot of time and diligence and attention being paid to things that before the thief actually comes, seems trivial. What things seems trivial to me now...but I will regret the lack of attention I have paid to them after Jesus returns? Movies, books, time spent with my children...teaching them their 3R's or teaching them about the most important things that last forever? Just something I have been thinking about.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Home Sweet Home!

Well, here we are at home at last!

I am so happy to tell you about our new house! This is not the next post I meant to put here. First I couldn't wait to tell everybody about Joel's trip to Zambia. I even meant to put pictures up, but turns out he didn't take any. Then I wanted to tell about our sweet puppy Jasper that Joel brought home from Zambia. I used to have some cute pitures of him, and maybe I can ask Jamie to post some for me. He is a little fluff ball even though I know he will eventually be big and scary looking. Then I wanted to share about the great time we were having with our friends Chad and Becca Zuber who visited us from their home in Tanzania along with their 3 kids and their dog (Jasper's brother) Buzz. Becca and I had dice tournaments outside at the lake every day and I have to tell you all that I was the final winner! Then of course I wanted to tell you about the break in that we had at the lake house. That was not fun...having somebody break into your home when you are sleeping is scary and it is very annoying to have somebody just take your stuff...especially when it involves all of your pictures for the past 5 months and your tennis shoes (and your favorite Sonlight bag...). Joel might be slightly more concerned for the laptop, the phone and the camera...but I will really miss the pictures, the shoes and my good old bag (is their a country song in there somewhere???).

Mixed in with all of those posts that got pushed aside for lack of internet access or time, came the cracked finger of Joshua's that just doesn't seem to be healing (and has me kinda concerned, even now, almost 3 weeks later), Kaleb's strep throat that he gave to me (and has had me sick for the past week) and Jonathan's first lost tooth! Now I will just fast forward to the present and tell you about our move to the city.

Several weeks ago we found this great house that was for rent. We came to the city to see it and decided to rent it; it was ready now, not like the house we have been waiting for. It is big enough (now actually seems almost too big) and even has a yard!! We had to wait awhile to actually move into the house because we had no furniture. After the break-in at the lake we decided to borrow some of their stuff until we could afford our own (or until the conference being held there in June, whichever comes first) so we moved here with some beds for the kids, a stove, a chest freezer (that kind of works as a very cold fridge that freezes veggies but melts ice) and a kitchen table with chairs. Our house echos and we keep getting lost going from the kitchen to the livingroom or the bedrooms (the house is confusing at first), but we are starting to feel at home here. I even have a school room!!! I love it, and I put up a big calender for March on the wall. How fun to have a room where I can hang school stuff up on the walls!!! We need to get a few big bookshelves for the room, but even now we are very, very happy with it!

Today our good friends James and Lee-Anne (remember, we stayed at their house over Christmas when they were in S. Africa) came by and brought us what they called a housewarming gift...we called it furniture!!! They brought us furniture for the livingroom, a bed frame for Joel and me, and a water dispenser so the little kids can get their own cold water without needing me or one of the big kids to open up the freezer to get out the jug of water (which after sitting in the bottom of the fridge/freezer is more like a block of ice most of the time). So we had a wonderful devotions tonight, sitting on real furniture in our livingroom, with our sweet puppy yapping outside the window (he wasn't allowed in because he messed in the livingroom earlier), thanking God for his provision and blessings in our lives. Thanking Him for bringing us home.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Real life begins again!

Joel returns from Zambia tomorrow! I can't wait to post about his trip and show some pictures of the training seminar. I hear that it was a very effective time of training for the men who went to Zambia to attend and I know that it was a great time for the teachers as well.

On Saturday morning we will go look at a few houses (we were told that the house we are waiting for won't be ready for 3 months), get some groceries, and return to the lake. We are so excited because Joel is bringing a puppy home to us! I will tell more about him when I can include a picture. Of course I won't have the internet connection while I am at the lake and I have no idea how long we will actually be there this time. There might not be an update for a little bit; unless I have a chance tomorrow night to post some pictures of the puppy and the training seminar.

I wanted to quick include pictures of a few of the grocery stores that we go to here. There is one store that is pretty good by what my standards were just 4 months ago. It is a smallish store but has a pretty good supply of things.




Two other stores that we go to quite often are called the seven-eleven (not like the one in the US) which has gas and a grocery store, and then one called foodzone. They are quite a bit smaller but seem great now if I don't get a chance to get to shoprite. When I first got here I was really thinking that there was no way that I would get used to shopping in such small shops, but really they don't seem so small now. The picture below is the seven-eleven which is right next to a little restaurant that we sometimes eat in our way back to the lake.






seven-eleven




Other news is that friends and co-missionaries from Tanzania, Chad and Becca Zuber with their 3 children, have come to spend some time in Malawi. They will be staying at the lake with us for a few weeks at least, so that will be fun.
Until next time!