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!

He’s Back!

Naomi woke up this morning yelling “Dada! Airport! Dada! Airport!” She was a little disappointed that we went to church first, but all was forgiven when we got to the airport.

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The (“secret”) sign was out and ready! Naomi was a little distracted from Dad Watch by all the people at the airport who were taking pictures of the girls and their sign. =)

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And then all of a sudden he was here! Abi chattered away trying to tell him about the last nine days within 9 minutes. And Naomi tried to keep up: “Dada! Hi Dada airport. Fweooooo! (airplane noise) Hug Dada, hi!” The long wait was over – Dad was home!

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As happy as they were, I might have been even happier! (See the little photo bomber in our picture?) It is so nice to have Matt home! On Wednesday we will have been married 8 years, and while things are ok when we’re apart, they are great when we’re together. I’ve known for almost 10 years that I would rather go through the worst things in life with this man than the best things in life with anyone else. In God’s grace, we have gone through some difficult times, but the life that God has given us has been filled with far more of the best things. I am truly blessed to be married to this man!

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I heard from several people over the course of this week in comments or emails about how “brave” or “strong” I was. I didn’t feel especially brave or strong this week. I felt that I missed Matt, but I also felt that life just continued fairly normally. We are missionaries, but I’m a mom, and a wife, and a church member, and a counselor, and a home-maker, and a friend, and a daughter. The wife part was different over the last week and a half, and some of the mom part, but the rest of life and all my other roles continued normally.

I think that sometimes, just because we’re missionaries, I want to spiritualize everything we do – or at least how I portray it. In chronicling these last 9 days, I’ve had to set aside the temptation to spiritualize things. I just didn’t have time every night to make things look all godly and perfect! =) But I did want to share about what my life looks like from day to day. It is filled with all those normal things: homeschooling, grocery shopping, telling my girls to stop fighting over who gets to play with the blue ball. My roles right now revolve primarily around raising our girls, freeing Matt up to do more things at the church and CAPA, showing hospitality, and helping the women at our church through counseling. Only one and a half of those things sound “spiritual” enough to write about in an official missionary newsletter. But really, they’re all spiritual and whether or not I’m fulfilling the roles God has given me is found in the hows and whys of what I do. I’m not Amy Carmichael, or Gladys Aylward, or Elizabeth Elliot. I’m Rachel Floreen, and I want to follow what the Bible tells me to do as a wife, as a mother, as a church member. Do I aspire to great things? Yes, and right now the greatest things I can do are raising two little girls to love the Lord. And being delighted to do whatever I can to help my husband. And visiting people in our church who are sick. And helping women to biblically navigate the troubles of life. My life, like the lives of so many moms, is lived in the “small” things. But those small things are good – so very good! – when you get to do them to please the Lord.

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Unlike many of the moms who will read this blog, I get to do those small things in Malawi. It’s home for us, and we are so happy to be here – especially now that Matt’s back! I hope that these 9 days have given you a glimpse at what normal life is like for me and the girls. Thanks for following along!

Abi’s Great Day!

Today is Abi’s day! I took pictures of her all day, and am going to let her explain them all to you…

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I wake up at 6:45am. I laid down my buddies to make my bed. These are the buddies that I sleep with: Molly Bunny, Coconut (the monkey), and Gus the Duck.

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Also when I get ready in the morning, I brush my teeth.

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I cleaned up my shoes today!

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I caught a frog and brought it to show to Mom. It’s tiny! Here’s a picture of it.

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See the tiny black speck on the duck? That’s the frog! I saw it opening its mouth 2 times. It’s got a tiny mouth.

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We spent the morning playing with Priscilla. So fun! Look what Naomi is doing! She’s putting that hat on Priscilla’s head. I’m reading a book and explaining the pictures to them.

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Lunch time is hot dogs with pears and apples. Yum! I like ketchup on my hot dog. So does Naomi.

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This is my favorite book, The Legend of Luke. I read it during rest time.

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I love to dance at ballet. So fun!

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This is my friend Maggie in the picture. We look a little bit alike, but don’t get confused – I’m the one with the buns in my hair.

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On our way to the library to get some more books!

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I love reading! This is at the library.

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We painted a secret sign for Dad! Mom made the picture look fuzzy so Dad can’t read it until he gets home!

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I’m excited to have Dad come back! I love playing with Dad and can’t wait to do it again! Dad went to America. So sad! =( But he’s coming back on Sunday!

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Thank you for reading about my day!

Grocery Day

Grocery shopping day, and Naomi is ready! One can always use an extra pair of shoes with a day as busy as we had!

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I woke up having forgotten that I had 13 meters of fabric spread around our living room. Priscilla had washed and hung it to dry yesterday, but even with using the full clothesline it was still a little damp by the end of the day from being folded on itself at several points. So it spent the night getting out the last dampness in our living room. It was a strange site to wake up to though! I folded it up and set it by the door – it was going with us today…

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Breakfast was a family favorite – oatmeal. With a new not-favorite – chewable dewormer. Think bitter pepto bismol. Thankfully we only had to take these at breakfast and dinner today and we’re done. The girls didn’t balk at all, after a brief discussion of what worms are and why we don’t want them.

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School first before grocery shopping! Abi loves school and is especially good at memorizing, so we recently added catechism with corresponding verses. It’s been great, and especially fun because we have songs to go with every catechism and verse! Dana Dirksen put together the songs into 6 albums, and is in the process of producing the same albums in several different languages – including Chichewa!!! The first album in Chichewa is already finished, so once we’ve mastered English, we’ll work on the same catechism and verses in Chichewa!

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Once school was finished, it was time to get ready to go out. This is how I usually dress when we go out. Malawians dress up to go to town, so I put on makeup, and try to dress nicely. It’s hard work to do the shopping here, and I have 2 little kids in tow, and it’s hot; so my go-to item of clothing is a maxi skirt. It’s modest, stretchy, and not suffocating. Add a top that dresses it up a little and we’re good to go.

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Most Malawians don’t use car seats, but we always have. I pray we never get in a bad car accident here, but if we do, I want every chance possible that these sweet girls will be safe!

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First stop was at the new mall close to our home. Business in Malawi is almost entirely transacted in cash; however, our cell phone company is starting to change that for us! We can put money in our “mpamba” account and then through our phones pay our electric bill, water bill, cell phone bill, and even wire money to someone else’s phone/account. After years of carrying wads and wads of cash, and adding more stops to our grocery shopping day so that we could pay all our utilities in person, this new services is SO NICE. They have nice chairs in the waiting area too. =)

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On to see the Swan Man. For those of you who have followed our blog for a while, no, I still don’t know his name. But he’s still a good tailor, and I took a picture just to show you why he’s called the swan man.

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We’ve been to see the tailor frequently of late, so much so that he keeps pretty and sparkly scraps to give to my girls now! =) Last week we dropped off a suit of Matt’s to be altered, then a few days later half of the cushions that go on our wicker furniture so they could be recovered. We couldn’t drop them all off, because we still had a couple people who would need to sit on those chairs, like the ladies who come for counseling. But we dropped all the rest of the cushions off today (and there’s the 13 meters of fabric sitting on top of the cushions), and should be able to pick up the first batch on Saturday. We’re cushionless for 3 days, but it’s ok.

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From the tailors we made two quick stops: an electronics store to buy a new watch battery for Matt, and a sewing supply store to get some more elastic. We didn’t quite have enough to finish the second set of bedsheets the other day, but we do now. And some pretty shiny red trim for some skirts, and …

And then we drove to the far north end of town to a shop called Carniwors that specializes in meat. By this time we were getting a little tired and very hot, so the Abi and Naomi got granadilla and pineapple “spicy juice” (carbonated). And I let them ride in the cart while I planned out the menus for the team of 8 that is coming to stay with us in just over a week.

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Oh yes, my FBC friends who are coming next week. Yes I did. Think pork – you’ll love it. When else will you get to eat it? And for $1.25/pound, it’s a great deal!

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Finally, with a large ice chest full of meat, we made our way home. We had gotten all the miscellaneous errands accomplished, with only the actual grocery store yet to do. But that would have to wait. Peanut butter sandwiches and a nap were necessary first!

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The girls lay down and both slept for 1 1/2 – 2 hours. I headed into my room and turned on the window box fan and the mister outside the bedroom window to enjoy a little evaporative cooling. I have the greatest husband and he makes some pretty fantastic things! Ahhhh! 

And I found a little friend on the window sill. Little, as in, only about 1 inch long. We’ve seen several of these little praying mantises in the yard lately, and thanks to my inquisitive 5 year old, we’ve looked them up and know that they are actually babies. Various kinds of adult praying mantises can be 1-4 inches long, but you know it’s a baby if it doesn’t have wings yet – like this one.

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After nap time, we were back to grocery shopping, at an actual grocery store this time! Abi is my list checker, and does a great job of keeping me on track. Today she commented “Mom, why are you buying things that are not on the list? You should just buy what is on the list.” Hmm, good point. Thanks. But I’m pretty sure you want toilet paper, even if I forgot to put it on the list. =)

The reason she knows it’s not on the list is because I keep my shopping lists in order of how we walk up and down the aisles in this store and she tracks with the list to know where we’re at in our shopping. I know, it’s nerdy, but it saves so much time running back and forth, especially when shopping with little ones. Even nerdier: I have a series of 4 shopping lists that I cycle through each month. Today was the Week 1 list, when I buy all our meat, milk, cheese, and frozen vegetables for the month. Next week will include a month’s worth of dog food, the following week all the tea supplies for our staff for the month… It just works out better to divide that stuff up and plan to buy in bulk when I can. And because I have a large chest freezer at home, I can.

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Check out is always a little harried. I had 2 “trollies” of groceries today, so I had to put all the groceries on the checkout counter – but not any faster than the cashier could scan them because it’s not a very big counter! I also kind of keep an eye on whoever is packing my groceries into bags or boxes on the end, as it’s not uncommon for the tomatoes to end up on the bottom, and the dish soap to be bagged with the yogurt and they both leak. Paying for it all takes a bit of time too, as I have to count out the money, then the cashier has to count it all out too. Because it’s all cash. And the largest kwacha bill we have is currently worth only $1.38. So, just imagine paying for all your groceries (and those of a visiting team of 8) with $1 bills. It takes a little time and attention. Not to mention I have 2 little girls who need a little attention too. Thankfully, there’s a TV hanging at that end of the store that always plays the National Geographic channel. It’s always interesting, and evidently a bonding experience too!

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We got home just before 5pm. Whew. Mission accomplished. The girls colored while I put all the groceries away and made smoothies for dinner. Like that cup Naomi has? I think most people just throw those cups and lids away after they use them, but I held on to it after a trip to Jamba Juice when we were in California in 2014. Still going strong!

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The girls did great today. They were both super helpful, very cooperative, and didn’t complain! I’m not used to taking both of them with me, as Matt has set aside a couple hours on Thursday afternoons to spend some undivided time with one or the other of the girls each week. We trade off every second week, and it’s know as Abi and Dad Day, or Naomi and Dad Day. But this week, Abi declared that it was Abi and Naomi and Mom Day. I love it. It was still special as compared to all the other days we have been together this week, and still worthy of a special title!

Sharing, Caring, and Bed Sheets

Tuesday morning brings Priscilla back to our house at 7:30am, so the girls spent their morning coloring, building train tracks, and reading books with her. I was starting to feel the pressure of a backlog of items that needed to be sewn – and the very strong desire to run away from the taxes I probably should have been finishing up today – so I tackled a couple more urgent mending jobs and then immersed myself in a fun sewing spree.

I spent about half the morning with this friend. I have a very old singer sewing machine also, and today they sat side by side as I moved back and forth between the two, but this overlocker machine is fantastic. Matt was pretty skeptical when I registered for it on our wedding registry, and rather shocked when we got it! I’d never had a “fancy” sewing machine before, but after almost 8 years of good use, I can’t imagine sewing without it!

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Today’s fun sewing project also had practical value: bed sheets! Abi had come with me to the old part of town a couple weeks ago to buy fabric to recover the cushions on our wicker furniture, and I think it was she who discovered the sheeting material. She fell in love with the purple stripe, and when I showed her the matching solid purple (her favorite color), she did a little dance and laughed out loud! So she now has a purple fitted sheet and a striped top sheet.  And she LOVES them!

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The other set of sheets is queen-size to replace an old set that was becoming brittle and too thin. But the fabric that I found for that set is amazing. It’s the (blazing brilliant!) white in the first picture, but it’s some of the best sheeting material I’ve ever seen. It’s solid, medium weight, with a smooth almost velvety feel. Think high-end hotel sheets. And the fabric cost me half of what I would pay to buy a mediocre set of sheets in America. My time counts for something, of course, but I did make 2 sets in about 2 hours, so I think I’m ok with the time!

I also ran over to see my friend Susan again. The medicine to treat the bacterial meningitis continues to work, and she was up on her feet to meet me at the door today! She had finished all the books I took her on Saturday, so I brought her 3 more books, and a little loaf of banana bread that we had made yesterday.

The afternoon was back to more routine things – Abi and I did school while Naomi slept and Priscilla cleaned out all my kitchen cupboards. About the time Naomi woke up, I started working on dinner, because I knew I needed a little extra time today. I made a triple batch of rice and Spicy Beef with Peppers stir fry, to keep one batch for us and send the rest home with Carol for her family this evening. Carol works full time and has spent the last 14 months caring for one family member or another, herself included, as their family has experienced injury and illness almost continually during that time. The Lord has chosen a serious path for this family for this time, and I have known the blessing of not only being able to help in small ways, but also to be able to see the Lord strengthen their faith. We love this family so much and it hurts to see them suffer, but we too must trust the Lord, entrusting our friends to Him.

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Then after dinner, this happened:

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Naomi threw a dish towel over a little side table, and Abi and I were joking with her about setting the table for tea, when Abi ran off to the play room and returned with play tea set. They played for a couple minutes, then Abi had to go to the bathroom. I sent Naomi to the playroom to find a couple missing tea set pieces, while I made some tea and filled the milk pitcher and sugar bowl. When Abi came back, her eyes got big and she jumped around and yelled “We’re not playing anymore, Naomi! This is REAL tea! I’ve always wanted to do this!!!”

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So they had their little tea party. Two cups of rooibos tea apiece.

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They were very careful and didn’t spill a drop.

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It is nice to end the day with a cuppa. =)