Kiboko

There are not a lot of places for kids to play on play equipment in Malawi. Now, before you get concerned that my kids don’t get to play, you should know that they play ALL THE TIME, with things like sticks, bugs, dirt, sand, etc, etc. They love it, and so do I. But play equipment is a treat. So for a special family outing yesterday, we went to the Kiboko Hotel restaurant for lunch, because they have some play equipment. And not just any play equipment!

Yes! They have a Land Rover playground! It’s this awesome?!? I am told that the rocking zebra likes to run away with little girls though, so one must be careful! 😉

In addition to the awesome play equipment, they have great smoothies…

And wonderful banana pancakes!

To top it all off, we — all of us — decided to eat our lunch in the Land Rover, just because we could.

All fueled up, we’re off on another adventure!

Olympian Swimming

We have the unique privilege here in Malawi of swimming with our very own Olympian. Brave Lifa competed for Malawi in the Rio Olympics, and as a way to make a little money to get himself through college, he teaches some kids how to swim. Our kids!

Abigail started taking lessons this time last year, and she made quick work of learning all the swim strokes. She is now perfecting those strokes, gaining endurance, and soon will be learning tumble turns.

Naomi was too young to take lessons last year. Brave said kids don’t have enough muscle memory to really benefit from lessons until they’re 4 years old. Since Naomi turns 4 in just 3 weeks, she squeezed into the class this year. And today was her first day! Blow some bubbles, girl!

Abigail had just finished her lesson, so she volunteered to be Coach Brave’s assistant for the little kids’ class. He had her join in with the class and demonstrate form for some of the things they were learning, like the gliding position.

Naomi has always been fearless in the water, but today she actually got to do something with that bravery. Ah yes, pun intended!

We just love swim lessons! Brave, outside of being an Olympic swimmer, is a fantastic coach. The kids love him and trust him, and that motivates them to work hard. We are so thankful for this coach and this opportunity to see our girls excel at swimming. And it’s fun to boot!

Kids and Markets

I love raising kids in Africa. Life is laid back and out in the open. People laugh and talk to one another. There is color, nature, beauty, and adventure. It’s truly a great place to raise fun, imaginative, resourceful kids. There are a few things here, though, that I’ve had to think more carefully about than I would if I were raising my kids in the States. One of those things is the market. Abigail has been to the market before, but not for quite a while, and that only because she was in tow with the grandparents or with Mom and Dad running errands. It can be hard to take kids to the market: you have to bargain for everything, watch where you’re going, watch for pickpockets, and keep a close eye on the kids. I don’t have that many eyes! But Abigail is growing up, so today, for the first time as a big kid of 7, she came to help me shop at the Old Bus Depot Market.

Our goal was fabric in the chitinje market. We were looking for new curtains for the project room, a valance for the kitchen, shower curtains, and some fabric to make bags for the girls’ ballet things.

We got busy and found all kinds of things! Some of them we needed, and some… for fun! Most of the fabric here is $1/yard (MWK1500 for 2 meters), so sometimes I pick up fabrics I like but have no purpose in mind for them. Some will go back to the States with visiting professors, some will become skirts for me and the girls. It all works out. Don’t talk to my husband about this. He has very different ideas about fabric hoarding/loving. 😬😁 He’s probably right, so for the sake of my sewing shelves and the love of my husband, I only go to the chitinje market 2-3 times a year. Abigail, I would guess, takes after me when it comes to loving fabric. Me with a bent toward the style of the early 80s. I guess I was 7 years old in the early 80s, so we are right on track.

It was a successful trip to the market. Fabric-wise, we found something for every project we had in mind, and only 2 pieces of “ooo, that will be great for something!” Abigail chatted with the ladies, befriended a one-legged chicken under the tables, and had a great time experiencing more of Africa. It was fun to adventure with her, and we are looking forward to lots more adventures together!

Bones and Clinics

I haven’t said a lot on the blog about the medical system here, mostly because we haven’t been there recently. God has blessed us with good health, so generally we haven’t spent much time at the Dr’s office, but Abigail dropped a gas canister on her big toe and gave us a chance to document a visit to the clinic.

The offending gas canister was of the 9kg variety and thankfully not the 19kg variety. Abigail and I had been out to the gas company Thursday afternoon to get both a 9kg and a 19kg gas bottle refilled. The 9kg bottle is for our grill (South African: braai), and the 19kg bottle is for our stove/oven. Matt took the 19kg bottle out of the truck and rolled it to its spot, and Abigail decided to be helpful and take the 9kg bottle out of the truck. It fell straight in her big toe. If you know these bottles, you know that the bottoms are not round, rather there is a rim around the outside of the canister. So the full weight of 9kgs of gas and whatever the weight of the bottle itself was… all landed right on her big toe. Ouch.

She was brave. I’m sure it hurt a lot! Thankfully she was wearing sturdy sneakers at the time, and that probably saved her a lot of grief! I sent a message to a couple doctor friends, including our primary physician here in Malawi, Barrett Jones, and the consensus was that we didn’t need to do anything with it that night (5:45 pm and most clinics are closed), but could go in to see Barrett in the morning and get an X-ray.

So in the morning we headed to Partners in Hope clinic, one of the best stocked and staffed hospitals/clinics/pharmacies in town.

It’s an impressive building for Malawi!

Like Drs’ offices around the world, you spend a bit of time in the waiting room. These girls are good at waiting though…

so they asked for a couple soldiers (who live in my purse) and had an imaginary war. But they were on the same side… and I don’t know who the bad guys were. That didn’t seem to be an important part of the war.

It wasn’t long before we were called back to see Dr Jones. The girls know him as “Judson’s dad,” so he’s considered a friendly.

The moment of truth: broken or not?

It’s not. But the bone is bruised, so no ballet class this week, but she should be back to normal in a few days. When Barrett was looking over the X-ray, I asked him a couple vaccination questions. (I know, some people don’t like vaccines, but we live where all those diseases live, so we get them.) He mentioned that they currently had the MMR vaccine – which is pretty rare and very sought after here! – so I jumped at the chance, much to the distress of my girls. Procedure here is that I had to go pay for the supplies, pick them up, and then take them to the nurses’ station. Thankfully all these stops are in the same building, so I filled out insurance paperwork in lieu of paying, and headed to the pharmacy to pick up the vaccines. They handed me a small black shopping bag which contained an ice pack and 2 vials.

The girls were not thrilled at the prospect of getting “a poke,” but Abigail liked my reasoning that it was better to get it right away rather than wait and worry for a couple weeks. She volunteered to go first and get it over with. Those of you with kids will know that there’s a point, around age 7, when a kid suddenly grows up, seemingly overnight. This was that day for Abigail. Logical reasoning and self-control won out over tears and panic. You can see that she’s still a little bit concerned, but she handled it like a champ!

Naomi, however, is still 3, and no amount of logical reasoning was going to convince her that this was even remotely a good idea. She held my finger so tightly while we watched brave Abigail that my finger turned purple.

Sweet girl! She made it through and got her vaccine, though parts of it resembled wrestling a crocodile. Someday she will grow up too, but for now she just wants her mom. And I’m totally ok with that.

Photo credit to Abigail for that great shot of what it means to be a mom!

That was our clinic adventure! As much as we appreciate this great clinic, and as much as we like “Judson’s dad,” we’re going to try to stay healthy and accident-free for a while now!

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!

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!

Goodbye Priscilla!

Today was a sad day for our family. Our good friend, Priscilla, worked her last day with our family and will next week move far to the north to go to University of Malawi in Mzuzu. Priscilla has been part of our family for more than 3 years. She watched the girls for 4+ years while I taught Bible study, and then about 3 years ago worked full time for us when Martha was on leave for Timothy’s birth. After working full time for us, we realized this lady was a keeper. So she started watching the girls Tuesday and Wednesday mornings so that I could teach and catch up on other things around the house, like finances, blogging, etc. She also worked the afternoons and did all the housekeeping “extras” for us, like dusting the whole house, changing bed linens, washing windows, etc. We have loved her company, her diligence, and her friendship for many years.

The girls adore Priscilla. She played make-believe with then, served tea parties, read books with them… She was that rare find of a nanny who loves your kids, plays with them, and teaches them with kindness. Look at those little grommets! They wanted a picture with Priscilla when we went on a 3 month furlough a couple years ago, so they wouldn’t forget her!

Priscilla will be missed in our home, but we know she is making an excellent choice. She is extremely intelligent, and will be pursuing her degree in accountancy. We know she will do excellent work in her studies, and we are excited for all the employment opportunities that will open for her with such a degree!

She will certainly be overqualified to be our nanny, but these girls are growing up now. With Naomi in Pre-K and Abigail in 2nd grade, school fills our days and we no longer need a nanny. But for the next 4 years every time we drive north through Mzuzu, we are going to go find our dear friend Priscilla! This friend is a keeper!

Abigail Turns 7!

We had a birthday at our house!

Abigail turned 7 yesterday. She got roses, paper balloons, a sign, bunting, a Birthday Girl badge, and her choice for breakfast: pancakes. She was in 7th heaven! (Pun intended!) She also got presents.

A detective kit, her own collection of Arch books, an origami kit, and more books.

Naomi had helped me put the finishing touches on Abi’s cake. She kept returning to the fridge all day just to check and make sure the cake was still there!

The Temples and the Misomalis came for dinner and brought fun kid cards and little gifts, like tiny bunny erasers, hair bands, and homemade bracelets. The Misomali kids all wrapped their little gifts 7 times! I told Abi I was glad she wasn’t turning 35!

The cake somehow managed to stay in the fridge all day, much to Naomi’s surprise, and was a big hit. Abi had requested chocolate mint cake, so we had chocolate cake with green mint filling, and ganache poured in top. It was yummy! (Yep, I cheated a little on my diet and had a bite of Matt’s piece!)

We are so glad to have this sweet girl in our family. She keeps us on our toes with her encyclopedic knowledge of local wildlife and her voracious appetite for reading. More importantly, we have seen the Lord begin to work in her little heart and life, and pray that his grace and salvation would be poured out on her life. We love you, Abigail!

Splashing in the Puddles!

The dry season here in Malawi runs roughly from the end of April to the end of November. However we do live in the tropics, so every once in a while we get a day or two of rain in July or August. Like yesterday and today!

I would have expected about 15 minutes of light rain, but it rained fairly steadily for over an hour today! Enough that it was rushing down the gutters and pipes!

The girls begged to put on rain coats and go splash in the puddles of our driveway, so I sent them off to have fun. Matt had a little fun too and set up an impromptu photo shoot. Here's what I got:

And here's what he got:

Clearly he's a better photographer than me, and I happily enjoy the benefits of that all the time! ☺️

It was getting cold outside (69 degrees F when I took these pics), so I headed back to the warm kitchen to finish dinner and make some hot chocolate for my family.

We never know what surprises await us each day, so we enjoy them as they come – rain or shine!