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!

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!

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!

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!

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!

The Boys

We have some great dogs. Simba is 1/4 Rhodesian Ridgeback and 3/4 Great Dane, and came to us as a little puppy almost 8 years ago. A few years ago, Simba got a “wife,” and they had 2 litters of puppies. The “wife” moved to America with her family and the puppies went all different directions – except Samson, who came to live with his dad.

Samson moved in and, at 6 weeks old, promptly moved his dad out of basket and bowl. He’s been the boss ever since! But who wouldn’t love this face?

Answer: any Malawian. Malawians don’t like 1) dogs, 2) big dogs, or 3) black dogs. These guys are the perfect security pair. And they love and are loved by our girls.

In fact, one of the girls’ favorite games is Follow Simba. One day I found Naomi sitting on the steps in the garage:

“What are you doing, Omi?”

“Following Simba.”

“Where is he?”

“Sleeping under the car. I’m waiting for him.”

Now that’s dedication!

My Little Shopping Helper

Warning: this blog post is full of 3-year-old cuteness! 💕

Every Thursday afternoon I run all our errands and go grocery shopping. Today was Naomi’s turn to come with me, while Abigail got to spend some special time with Dad. We picked up our friend Ashley and into town we went, where every street vendor wanted to sell us strawberries!

But first, since this is special “Naomi and Mom Time,” we went to my new favorite place, Round and Square.

To say that she likes the Chocolate Cloud Cake would be an understatement! The sugar high hit before she finished the piece of rich cake, so we left the rest. Yes, we walked away from some of the best chocolate cake ever… the gleam in her eye and the increase in energy, chatter, and giggles were warning enough!

Off to Akbanies culinary store next. My little helper was better than a shopping basket in the narrow aisles.

She even paid for her items and collected the receipt!

These stores look beautiful and shiny, and yes, they have wonderful things in them… with better selection than most people think we have in Africa, but this is still Africa! Ashley and I were talking about Naomi being born in Malawi, and we decided that since the term “African American” was already in use elsewhere, Naomi would have to be considered an American African. The term fits her perfectly – she feels right at home in this country of contrasts!

Part of the goal for the day was to show Ashley a few of the lesser known stores in town. As Tutlas was just around the corner, we stopped by to show Ashley the largest selection of spices in town! (And they had thyme! Yippee!)

Last up, our mainstay grocery store: Chipiku. I do about 80% of our shopping here, and even have my grocery list organized by aisle. The girls like it because I get them a little Energade (like Gatorade) and I let them ride in the cart. The cart is such an important part of shopping for them that they have serious culture shock when we go to America and they see signs on shopping carts that say kids can’t sit in the cart! We live dangerously here in Malawi!

After 3 hours of errands and adventure shopping, my helper and I are tired and ready to head home. Our last treat of the day was to drive home into a beautiful African sunset.

Cheap Lunch

At $1.23/pound, crocodile tail is the cheapest meat in town. We usually eat more beef, chicken, fish, and pork, but every once in a while we have crocodile. Like when my 6 year old asks for it.

And in case you have the idea that we go hunt crocodile, skin it, and eat it, I'm sorry to disappoint you. We buy it at the grocery store!

There aren't a lot of recipe blogs that tell you how to cook crocodile. A few years ago I found a few adventurous cooks who gave some great pointers and came away with this: crocodile is like pork. Cook it quick and fruity. So until today I've done just that. Barely defrost, cover in fruit chutney, and fry in a skillet or grill it.

Today, I decided to do a quick sear and finish it in the oven. Power is off (no defrosting), and we don't have much chutney. So, a little experimenting.

This shot give you a good idea of the cross-section of the bone in crocodile tail, as well as the rings of fat that run through the meat sections.

The verdict:

It passes the 3-year-old test! We decided it is good with mustard, and really great with homemade barbecue sauce!

My favorite part? The timer. Seriously. My hands were full with 9 crocodile steaks and two kiddos, so I told Siri to set a timer for me:

Just another lunch in Lilongwe!

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.

IMG_5234

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. =)

IMG_5240

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!

IMG_5244

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!

IMG_5246

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.

IMG_5250

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!