Bibliophiles

We are quite happily raising a family of bibliophiles. WE LOVE BOOKS! We love libraries, we love other people’s books, and we love bookstores. Libraries here in Malawi are rare and poorly stocked, but thankfully we now have a great used bookstore in Lilongwe!

The lady who runs it loves baobab trees, so it’s named Baobab Bookstore, and the decor follows the name.

I think my girls have barely noticed the trees. There are books, and that’s all they can think about.

The bargain table books are 500 kwacha (68 cents), and most others are 1,500-3,000 kwacha (between $2 and $4). The selection is a bit limited, naturally, but really not that bad. And we’ve discovered some British authors we might never have found – like Enid Blyton, one of Abigail’s current favorites.

Today’s choices: a cross stitch book that will be useful in sewing class in the next couple weeks, the yellow storybook for Naomi, and The Wizard of Oz and a book on sharks for Abigail.

All done, let’s go home. Hello, family? Hmmm, lost them back in the bookstore…

Mondays

You know what happens on Fridays around here… here’s what a Monday looks like!

I was up bright and early this Monday – out to exercise and start the day by 5am.

I’m really enjoying the early morning piano times. I don’t spend the hour that I would want to spend practicing, but I play through a few songs and am regaining strength and familiarity in my fingers. Practice makes perfect!

We are considering painting a section of chalkboard wall on our porch, so Matt hung a dry erase board there as a trial run. I’m really enjoying it! You’re not going to see my barely creative handiwork on Instagram or anything like that, but I hear my kids talking about it throughout the day. That totally makes it worth it!

Matt leads the family in devotions over breakfast every morning. We are going through Long Story Short right now, and really enjoying it! You can see where we are at in Genesis – the brothers are just about to find out who Joseph is, and we are all waiting on the edge of our seats!

Not a part of every Monday, we spent some time this Monday working out some freezer issues. The inverter is not quite big enough to handle both the freezer and the fridge, so we have them on timers right now. There’s a bit of tinkering required to balance keeping both appliances the correct temperature when they have to share the electricity. But I think we got that sorted. But then, of course, one of the plug fuses went out, getting super hot, melting part of the plug… which we only discovered because Naomi tripped on the cord and unplugged it. So Matt changed out the whole plug to resolve that issue. I love having a most resourceful and helpful handyman around!

School! It’s what we do around here! One of Abigail’s favorite things this year is a geography book that has a corresponding CD of geography songs! She can sing all about the continents and oceans, sing all 15 countries of the Middle East, and now she even knows a song all about Scandinavia.

With Scandinavian music coming from my computer and from Abigail, Naomi decided we needed a Scandinavian dance… with a lady bug costume skirt. I couldn’t agree more – it was exactly what we needed!

School stops at 9:30 on Mondays so we can set up for playgroup. We host a weekly 7 and under playgroup at our house for the homeschooling families, which doubles as PE and social time.

Highlight of the week! Friends coming over!

We have a few snacks and drinks set up…

But mostly there are just packs of kids running around our yard. This is Nadia’s animal collection. There was a bunny, a kangaroo, a crab, a street dog… yes, these kids are growing up in Africa, as evidenced by the fact that an animal collection includes a “street dog.”

While the kids play, the moms get a chance to chat and drink coffee. Win-win!

But the time playgroup ends at noon, I’m looking for something quick for lunch. It’s usually scrambled eggs!

A laundry switch-around happens after lunch. We are experiencing longer and longer power cuts these days, so I have to do laundry when the power is on! Doesn’t matter if it’s a busy morning, or if I have 5 families of kids here – the laundry must go on!

Then Naomi and I are off the ballet. She wasn’t so sure about this class the first day, but she puts her whole heart into it now. It’s so precious!

The class is for 4-5 year olds (Naomi is almost 4, so they let her in), and the major skills they are working on are: paying attention, walking on tip-toe, leaping with straight legs, and skipping. Oh the skipping! I love it! Naomi is so determined! She’s about half way there… as in one foot knows how to skip but the other hasn’t figured it out yet!

Back home for a counseling/discipleship meeting. Naomi goes down for a nap, Abigail reads in the playroom, and I have a window to meet with some of the ladies in the church. I really enjoy these times. I can’t tell you about them of course, so you get this cute little picture of my basket garden!

Rest time is over and it’s snack time! Yes, I’m giving my daughter Fruit Loops while I eat a cucumber.

Back to school. We didn’t finish it all before 9:30, so we did the last hour outside in the shade.

Naomi does the playing part of school for us. 😊 And this face is in response to “You get to go the Kopp’s house for dinner tonight!”

With the kids delivered to the Kopps’ house, I got to go to dinner with this guy! Our date night trade off with the Kopps is a fantastic thing! I love talking with this guy, and I love getting to be his wife. I think of how great he is throughout the day as I see him having days just as busy as mine, usually busier, but every second Monday I get a dedicated opportunity to enjoy his company. I am one lucky girl!

Season(ing)s

It’s spring here in Malawi, and things are starting to grow! It’s also harvest time too. I know, I’m confused too. I grew up in Kansas where harvest time and most growing things were ripe mid-late summer or in the fall. I thought that when I moved to the Southern Hemisphere that I could just flip the calendar to know the seasonal foods schedule. Not so. I’ve had to relearn seasonal foods. I’m not an expert, but I’m starting to figure it out. The step after figuring it out is taking advantage of fruits and vegetables when they are available. So that’s what I’m trying to do.

Lemon juice and zest from Shannon’s lemons will become lemon bread this afternoon.

Leftover lemon/lime rinds…

became lemon vinegar for cleaning.

Great celery is a rarity here, so when I find it I buy it. We’ll eat some this week, but I’m stocking up in the freezer for soups and such throughout the year.

Our friends the Misomalis have a farm north of town, and they grow enormous zucchinis! I’m making most of what I get into zucchini noodles (“zoodles”) with a spiralizer, but I’m also freezing some and making zucchini breads and muffins – to eat and freeze. Looks like it’s about time to make some more…

The Misomalis also have great cucumbers, so we’re enjoying them in salads but also pickling some.

The MacPhersons sell eggs year round, so they’re not seasonal so to speak, but they are really great eggs. Especially soft boiled – yum!

And those tomatoes are from the Lloyd’s little garden, which is languishing in their furlough-absence, but producing wonderful “baby tomatoes” that the girls enjoy picking after ballet class!

That’s enough stockpiling for this week. Next week I’m in search of rhubarb to add to our freezer stock, and I might look into freezing broccoli too because it’s so good right now. Anyone know: do I need to blanch it first?

DAPP

When I first moved to Malawi, I brought all the clothes our family would need for the whole of our first term, which we expected to be two years. A few years later, I started making more of my skirts, the girls’ dresses, and even a couple of Matt’s shirts. After all, we do have some great, colorful fabrics here! But a couple years ago, I discovered DAPP. And I haven’t looked back.

DAPP is basically a large clothes-and-shoes Goodwill that gets entirely new stock every 2 weeks. It’s organized by style and by color, within the divisions of baby clothes, kids’ clothes, men’s, women’s, shoes, belts and ties, and household fabrics. Like any used clothing store, you have to do a bit of hunting, but I only slip in for 20-30 minutes every couple of weeks, and this time I easily found 2 nice pairs of slacks for me, board shorts for both girls, sandals for me, and Hello Kitty sneakers for Naomi. Last time I found 2 skirts for me, 4 tops for me, 2 pairs of jeans for Abigail, and a pair of Hello Kitty pajama pants for Naomi. Yes, Naomi is a bit obsessed with Hello Kitty, but she has never been disappointed at DAPP!

DAPP is completely restocked every 2 weeks. Over the course of the 2 weeks, they incrementally lower their prices so that by the end they are practically giving the leftovers away. It’s something like 100 kwacha for a bags of clothes the last day. Very picked over clothes, but really only about 14 cents. I like to go Thursday of the first week. Still great selection, and a really good price:

Conversions: 2,000 kwacha = $2.72, 4,000 kwacha = $5.44. And those are maximum prices. I paid less than 2,000 for most of the items I bought today.

DAPP is actually a non-profit aid organization. The clothes are all donated in Europe, shipped to Malawi, sold in retail stores throughout the country, and the proceeds go to fund aid work in Malawi. Smart and helpful!

So when you think of us missionaries over here, so far from favorite clothing stores, we’re really doing just fine. We like adventure, so it makes sense that we like this type of shopping! And by the way, in this picture Naomi is wearing a neon green Hello Kitty skirt – that she found at DAPP. 😁 She’s one happy customer!

Sewing Class

We are broadening our repertoire here at the Floreen Primary School. Today we started a sewing class!

My students were very busy working on their projects. I taught them to thread their needles…

And they worked on some practice stitches.

I showed them a sample that I had thrown together quickly, based on a great blog I follow, and then let them design their own.

Naomi knew immediately that she wanted to make a monster.

Abigail liked the flower idea, but went for a different style. Hers is still in process, but she’s doing great!

There Goes Another One!

We had a busy day yesterday with the team coming for dinner, but meanwhile, on the home front, we had a small victory. It was tooth pulling day.

A month ago our dentist friend, Estelle, had looked at Abigail’s mouth and told her she had 4 weeks to pull her wiggly tooth, and if she hadn’t pulled it by the 5th of September she would need to come in to the dentists’ office and have it pulled. Abi wiggled the tooth half-heartedly until… the 5th of September. I told her that morning, Ms Estelle is out of the country, so I can’t take you to see her – we just need to pull it.

She wiggled it a bit more. I tried to pull it but couldn’t get a good grip, even with a wash cloth. Matt tried and couldn’t get it either. You’ll notice in the first picture that the adult tooth has already come in behind the baby tooth – it’s hard to get a grip with that other tooth in the way! You might also notice in that first picture that orthodontics are in our future. There’s no way a mouthful of adult teeth are going to fit in that mouth! Sadly that’s already been confirmed by 2 dentists and 1 orthodontist.

Matt finally suggested tying a piece of dental floss to the tooth and just letting her play with the floss until the tooth came out. I get a little woozy about teeth, so I was all in favor of this happening somewhere where I wouldn’t see it!

So Abigail went off to rest time with a book and a piece of dental floss sticking out of her mouth. It took her all of 10 minutes to decide to just yank it out!

Two down, 18 to go. Someone bring me the smelling salts!

UCLA Team

For the last week and a half we have had 6 of the 15 member team from Grace Community Church staying at our house. They’re all part of the Grace on Campus Bible study at UCLA, and this is the 4th time that group has sent a team to Malawi. They come every year now for the first module of CAPA (Central African Preaching Academy) to help with student registration and to interview the students.

Tuesday night was our turn to have the whole group over for dinner, so we hauled everything outside and had a great time enjoying the cool evening with this team!

Rachael brought over some sugar cane, so Matt taught everyone how to “eat” it.

Eat isn’t really the word, because you chew up the pulp to suck out the juices, then spit the pulp out. Just imagine liquid sugar… which is exactly what it is!

The texture is about like chewing on toothpicks, but that doesn’t stop anyone!

Though it does take a while to get the knack of things!

Dinner was a hit, and I won the game. Anyone else play “the game”? It’s when you estimate food for a group, and you hit it perfectly. We had 20 people for dinner, at 2 tables, and we had 4 1/2 pieces of chicken left over – 2 at one table, 2.5 at the other. You don’t win the game if there’s no food left: you didn’t make enough. And you don’t win if you have lots leftover. You don’t even win it you have 1 piece leftover: that’s the “Christian piece” that no one wants to take because it’s the last piece. 😊 So 2 or 2 1/2 pieces of chicken per table is perfect. Everyone had enough and we didn’t run out! Yes, I’m a kitchen nerd.

It was fun to sit around and chat with this group, to hear what they’ve been learning and experiencing. Having interviewed some of the same students for multiple years, they are seeing growth in the lives of the CAPA students! They were also able to go to some of the students’ churches this weekend, and have been thinking through their experiences and pondering the ways in which they have seen God working – here in Malawi and in their own lives. You can check out the group’s blog here: http://malawi2017stm.wordpress.com.

As the sun set and dinner ended, the twinkle lights began to show in the trees. It’s hard to believe that there were no trees in the yard when we moved here! It’s such a nice space now!

No outdoor meal is complete without a bonfire, so we brought out the marshmallows and had some s’mores. We even had mice shaped marshmallows for the more Malawian s’mores experience!

We are thankful for the work this team is doing. They have conducted and transcribed 100+ interviews with the CAPA students this year. As the team finishes up the interviews and posts them online, you can get to know the students and hear their testimonies at: http://capa.prayformalawi.com/students

Family Fun in the Great Outdoors

We have “Family Fun Night” every Sunday, and this week we decided to have an earlier, outdoor version. So you could say we had Family Fun Afternoon.

The war memorial square is one of the only paved, open spaces in town for running and exercise, so we threw the bike and scooter in the car and headed to the war memorial. Matt ran along with Abigail, and I walked with Naomi… walked with her, pushed her, whatever. 😉

< 'm pretty sure that when this kid gets some real wheels she will be unstoppable. For now, she can hang out with me!

Abigail gave Matt a good workout with her 4km of speedy biking. He figures that once we get her a new bike, she’ll be faster than he can run. She almost is, and that’s saying something!

Another Family Fun time in the books, and fun was had by all!

Fridays

We are only 2 weeks into school, but I can already tell Fridays are going to be “that day.” You know, the day when you end up doing 18 things that weren’t on the schedule. I actually kind of like those days – you never know what adventure is coming next! On the flip-side, the homeschool mom part of me goes “Oh no! How will we ever get a full day of school in?!?” Thankfully Sonlight curriculum is heavier on the front part of the week and lighter on the last couple days, so it somehow all seems to work out… at least it has for the last couple weeks!

Today we did a bit of school, then we picked up Amy, Micah, and Sophie Temple, dropped off Abigail and Micah at their Institute for Excellence in Writing class, and headed to the stationary store with Amy and Sophie.

I had a lot of color copies to print and we are getting low on ink at home, so I just printed at the stationary shop. Two-sides printing is evidently very interesting for 3 and 4 year olds, because Naomi and Sophie were fascinated by the process. They even got good at making the sucking noise the printer makes when it pulls the page back in to print side number two. Who needs video games when you have a printer to watch?!?

I got my pages printed, had some little flip books bound, and laminated a bunch of cards. For some strange reason, lamination is inexpensive here, so we laminate lots of school things!

Pick up the school kids, drop off the Temples, back to the shop to finish printing. Rush home for lunch, dress Abigail as a ballerina, and we’re off to ballet class! As I sit on the decking outside the ballet studio and cross my legs, I’m reminded of a run in I had with a piece of chunky bamboo last night.

Yep, I broke a toe.

Abigail dances beautifully, and we head out to buy 48 eggs from my friend Shannon before heading home where some college girls are baking cookies. Did I mention we have 6 college students living with us? More on that great group later. Today, the important part was that they made my house smell like a giant, delicious chocolate chip cookie!

We finished up school for the day, and by that point, I was trying to figure out what I could make and get on the table in half an hour. Ramen noodles with tuna! My family loves it, and I spring for the good ramen with the little pack of dried vegetables, so I don’t feel guilty pulling that out on a Friday!

It was a busy day, but I’m pretty sure I had a better day than this guy did.

It’s always an adventure, here in Malawi. It feels normal to me now, like every day should have a little bit of adventure in it. My setting may be different – and adventurous – but my days probably sound familiar to many of you moms. Kids’ school stuff, get a few things printed at FedEx, a little grocery shopping, and kids’ activities. It’s the life of a mom. It’s my life, and I love it. I also love where I get to do it – my own little piece of adventure!