I noticed early on that Naomi is a mini-me. She looks like me, and has several of my characteristics. The strong ones! You know, the bossy, opinionated, independent ones. She excels me in some areas though, and I fully attribute her athleticism and great sense of humor to Matt. But in so many ways, she’s a mini-me. And then yesterday, I was reminded that I am a near photocopy of my mom. When I was 16 I saw a picture of my mom at the same age and thought it was myself. And so it makes sense that my daughter looks like my mom. Courtesy of my dad, check out and compare the pictures of Naomi at 4 years old, and my beautiful mother, Mary Beth Smith, when she was 4 years old:

Normal Life

After a couple days of adventures, we were glad to get back to “normal” life by the end of the week. Here are a few glimpses of the last couple days, in no particular order… just us, living normal life!

Abigail has been very interested in art, so we took a couple hours to go to Round and Square during our shopping trip on Thursday. She had some great ideas to go with her water paints, and then Miss Sue, who is the server and hostess at Round and Square, brought Abi a couple kids’ art books to inspire her. So fun!!!

Abi may be pursuing watercolors like her mom, but Naomi is trying a little photography, just like her dad! Not bad for a four year old!

Meanwhile, the last of the fields in town are being burned in preparation for planting. We’ve had 2 rains now, the last 2 weekends, and it looks like we will have more rain within the week. And yes, by “field,” I mean every available piece of land, including all verges and any land that someone else hasn’t already planted.

After a couple days of crazy, my sweet husband took us out to dinner. Not only that, he kept the whole family entertained the entire time! I love this guy! He started drawing a picture, and then we each in turn had 30 seconds to continue the picture and add to it.

We all loved it! It has so much of everyone’s personality in it, including “a baby sun and a daddy sun!” thanks to Naomi!

Our finished product:

Lastly: my tree. Each member of the family has their own tree in our yard. Mine is a flamboyant, and I love everything about it, especially this time of year as it has the most beautiful blooms!

Thanks for reading along and joining us in these normal but special moments of life!

Last Week

Things were a little too busy and chaotic to post much last week. We spent the week living in a half put-together house,

finding our toiletries in the hallway,

storing our laundry and all miscellaneous chairs in the living room,

and navigating the rearranged furniture in our rooms.

Meanwhile, we had all the white door frames throughout the house and all the tiles in the master bathroom painted with stinky oil paint, and then sprayed the interior walls of our house with Fendona, a crystalline version of permethrin.

And so we spent 3 nights sleeping in our tent, in our backyard, to avoid the various smells in our house.

Despite all the chaos, we had fun camping! Our family loves to camp! And it’s nice now to have so much of our house “finished” and back together. We are not quite done, but there’s light at the end of the tunnel!


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!

Inside, Outside Today

Today Abigail and I are watching Season 1 of Shaun the Sheep with a sick little Naomi. She’s doing better now, but it was a rough morning.

Naomi isn’t letting me go very far, so rather than jumping on that list of housework I need to catch up on, I’m sitting here looking at the housework: the accumulation of dusty winds, saw dust from woodworking, and fine powdery dust from plaster work… on my living room side table. Looks like someone was having a little fun with it!

It’ll keep for another day. Today I’m going to hold my baby.

Outside is another matter. Fun things are happening out there! Richard and Matt have mounted a stand for our soon-to-be-installed solar water heater.

And Ernest is building customized stands to hold our soon-to-be-installed solar panels! These panels will feed into our inverter, which can prioritize that the power we use first comes from solar, then from the electric company, and then from the back-up batteries, for all those hours our power is off (13.5 hours off yesterday!). The customized part is related to the pitch of our roof and maximizing sunshine reception with the best angle.

Fun, noisy things happening outside, and quiet, good things happening inside. That’s our world here at the Floreen home today!


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…


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!

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!