Monthly Archives: January 2010


Well, I haven’t forgotten you all, I assure you. There seems to be a limit to how much ‘creative juice’ I get each day and lately I’ve been sketching the wall-paper I want to stencil on our living room wall, among other things of course! Pictures will come I promise.

So why is it that I only have one poem, one story or one drawing that can come out of any given day or two? Then I feel spent.

Just a reminder of earthly limitations I suppose.

So Monday was a drawing,
Tuesday was a poem,
Wednesday was day sick in bed (just a cold)
Thursday another drawing,
Friday, a cooking creation
and here we are at Saturday once again for a story.
In this case a boring one about how I have nothing interesting to say! =)

Despite all this talk of artfulness, my primary focus has been on getting the kid’s schooling into a good routine again. We got really sloppy after the holiday break and started school whenever we got around to it. So we are getting our ducks in a row and sitting them down at 9am sharp! This after they have finished their checklist of 10 ‘jobs’ each morning. So far it has been lots more time and energy for me, but lots more happiness and productivity for everyone.

We past milestones this month of one year in Africa (my how time flies when you’re having fun!) and school mid-year exams. James is still reading us out of house and home. Currently reading a Biography of Jackie Robinson, Happy Hollisters Mystery book #2, and working on the Chronicles of Narnia. This Wednesday we learned column addition where you have to add 4-5 numbers in the hundreds together. I did much of the first page with him, and sent him to his desk to do the last word problem on his own. He came back a few minutes later with no work, just an answer. I checked it and it was right. He had added 390+240+152 in his head! (782) Be proud Grandma! So this is ‘modified’ First Grade…

Joel is doing well in Kindergarten. He’s learning to jump rope, read, color in the lines and is recently very interested in being a librarian or veterinarian. We finally found his lefty kid scissors and his cutting skills are doing much better! Anna is still the singing, artsy one who is currently spending her time on ponies and princesses. Apparently Belle and Cinderella are the better ones…

We measured them and they have all 3 grown at least an inch since the start of school in Sept. James and Joel have each gained a couple pounds this year, Anna not so much. I think it is normal that they would be thinner here (I know I am!) with tropical heat and not so many snack foods or fillers in foods. But don’t worry, I’ll keep track to be sure they get enough.

Off to a hopefully restful Saturday, after I cut a friend’s hair and fill up a few buckets (our house is low on water this week). Rest does seem to ‘fill my buckets’ so I can be creative again. Hope you get some good bucket-filling rest too!

Kitchen Remodel

For those who haven’t already checked this out on our facebook page…

Over Christmas break we had the ambitious goal of tiling our kitchen floor and countertop. Sounds do-able for a week off according to HGTV, right? Well, we were pretty clueless about what we were doing, and there is no Home Depot with help around each corner. Bonus: No extra stuff to spend money on! Drawback: Little to no expertise to draw on, and little to no equipment. We had picked out tile in November, and sketched out what we wanted, but making it happen is always more time-consuming than you think it will be…

Most cooking is done by charcoal outside the back door of the house, so a big glamorous open-style kitchen is not to be found in Africa thus far. This one happens to be about 10 x 12! Should be quick to tile, right?

We’ve learned that apparently ants are capable of digging through concrete. I suppose if they can consume entire trees it should not surprise me that they managed a little tunnel over 30 years since this kitchen was originally built. There was actually quite a lot of that corner missing…

And here’s our finished product on ‘moving day’ (moving the fridge, stove and stuff back into the kitchen from the dining room that is). No more ants! Lots more light! Shelves, drawers and sink to be finished soon, but a real countertop! So here’s more of our process:

Acid washed floor, ready for cement, planning out the tiles.

We measured the center of each wall and used my handy black craft yarn to determine that these hand-crafted cement walls do not have a square corner to start our tile with…

Mixing cement apparently requires sand. Good thing there was lots of it where the kids played. Just needed to be washed…

One the cutest sand-washers:

Actual tile going onto the floor!!!


White cement acts as grout. Here Kent cleans it up with a little ‘help’. =)

The next day when all was dry and done, he laid down our huge UN tarp purchased locally and assembled the kitchen counter/cupboard (which was too big to bring in finished). So here’s the first coat of paint on it…

It should also be noted that Kent went to great lengths to get rid of those pesky ants! After cementing their tunnel shut, they dug right through again within 48 hours! The next day he got them good once and for all with the help of pouring poison in their tunnel, recementing and layering with silicone! Ha! Get through that! We haven’t seen more than one in the last 2 weeks! We are the champions! =) (ok. really it was all Kent!)

Now I don’t have to dread the kitchen. I can enjoy it! Thank you Kent!


Several people have asked what I made each of the kids for Christmas… With trimmings untrimmed and school underway again, I thought it was about time you got to see the pictures. First, some background: After moving from house to house for a few years we had a bizarre assortment of bath towels in varying states and shapes. The ones we were given at our wedding more than 10 years ago are still around, but used as bathmats for now. We bought some nice ones given for someone else’s wedding when they moved out of Africa in yet another shade of blue. And then Wycliffe’s linen closet gave us nice new ones last year. Anyway, every time I would have 3 kids rotating through bath times (which can personify the word chaos), I would be scrambling around the house in search of towels and often end up grabbing a bright beach towel or just dry one off and use the same towel again on the next one – gasp! This is a house with no linen closet to date, one closet total to be exact, which houses mostly medicines and other things that must be ‘out of reach’. So some borrowed bamboo shelves hold all the sheets, towels and table linens in our bedroom. True colors for you!

I saw a really neat ‘how-to’ blog post and adapted her directions for cute lined baby hooded towels, to cute lined kid-size hooded towels. Even cooler, those towels that were someone else’s wedding gift? They matched the kids’ bathroom tile! AND they are part of a set with oversized hand towels as well as itty bitty ones (still bigger than a washcloth). Why on earth anyone would need three things smaller than a towel in the bathroom is beyond me. But it worked really well for me to use one oversized hand towel for the hood and we can still use the itty bitty ones for guests to dry hands. Should work. So I knew which blue towels I wanted to use for the boys, and then we happened upon some sheets for sale and there was a cute striped pattern that matched. It was like God put that sheet there just for me! It was a twin fitted sheet with the Value Village tags still on it. Fitted sheets are really hard to come by overseas, another American invention, so it hurt a bit to be cutting up such a useful sheet (then again, I didn’t have a pair, just the one). Good elastic is hard to come by too, so I pocketed that part for another project and cut the sheet to bits, kicking myself all the while for not splurging on a rotary mat and cutter while I still had my high school Fabricland discount… I wasn’t sure how my machine would handle terrycloth, but it was a non-issue. I love this Janome, thank you Mom!

Lots of sewing and wrapping later. I got this:

…which is pretty much priceless.

And it reminds me of this from 4 years ago, ages 3 and 1:

So there is the story of the handmade boys’ gifts.

As for Anna, she has been trying to wear her brother’s old castoff bathrobe that is much much too big for her (and covered in race cars among other boy things – snails? puppy dog tails?). So I had in mind to make her a bathrobe. Sounds simple enough. One of our friends in town had experience with this – go Kathleen! – so we were off to the piles of bargain bin towels along the market street to find a couple towels that could be remade into a bathrobe for Anna. Once again, God provided. We found not only a cute towel, not only a beach towel (lots of room to work with!) but a Winnie-the-Pooh and Piglet beach towel! For $4. Can’t beat that! Then we paired it with a soft white one someone had cast out for paint spots. We were able to work around the paint spots and had lots left over. Anna is in love with pockets these days, so I threw one of those in too. It’s nothing like flawless workmanship. Nothing. I promise. But using the boys robe I was able to copy the design more or less. Sewing without a pattern usually works for me, but when she unwrapped it I still had no idea if the sleeves would go past her elbows or not! Anyway, Anna finally has her own Piglet bathrobe (and it fit!… and she likes it!):

Piglet IS the best one you know. He’s pink!

Even cooler is that everyone now knows where their own towels are, and can hang them up or get them down independently.

Peace for a busy Mom?

Three Years of Grace

Our Anna Lynne was almost Annalynne Grace,

and after three years I’m still a bit undecided. Little late I guess.




Here’s to three years of Grace in the precious smiles and laughter of a beloved beautiful baby daughter! For her entire first year I used to kiss her cheeks with grateful tears in my eyes because she seemed too good to be true.
But she’s still here and she’s real.
And I still feel that way.
God is so gracious.

The Story

Yes, I am only caught up on blogging through Christmas Eve… please just deal with it. It would’ve been nice to share all this via my mobile blogging on my Blackberry or iPhone, but alas, don’t own one and couldn’t do it anyway from here, so you will just have to think back about 10 days to the holiday festivities…

On Christmas Eve the youth group held a service of their own, which was very cool, with various choirs:

As you can see the church was decorated extravagantly with balloons and even a Christmas tree with flashing lights. While I would never think to decorate my home this way (as I come from a totally different context), I do find it very pleasing in its own way. I don’t view this as a shabby attempt at imitating Western decorations (and don’t want you to either), but as a beautiful extravagance lavished on the God they love with the best they have.

The program included readings and of course, drama! There were actually several dramas, but the first and foremost was the Christmas Story set to instrumental Silent Night.
Here the shepherds come to worship Jesus (someone borrowed a baby brother, and he was silent the whole time!) No dolls here!

Then from the back of the church, the Magi wound around following the Star. Not sure if it was all part of the drama or not, but there was only one light bulb lit right over where Mary and Joseph sat…

And as we have seen in every Congolese rendition of this Story, Herod and his soldiers play a key role. This doesn’t usually make it to an American church play. No one wants their preschooler dressing up as a tyrannical bad guy. But it IS a real part of the Story. Here, Herod sat in the background up on his throne, bodyguards pacing in front of him with weapons drawn (electrical tape over sticks), soldiers jumping at his every order. And this play ended with the soldiers marching home victoriously after Jesus’ parents flee to Egypt and the innocent babies of Bethlehem are slaughtered. (They pretended on the unsuspecting front row of the audience, which illicited the necessary screaming sound effects!)

The drama of the Story we saw several years ago in a rural village ended with Herod’s death, as that is the end of the direct threat on Jesus new life.
His freedom to return to his people.
The freedom he one day shares with us.

Overall I was really glad I went, and thankful for all the work the youth put into this 2-hr service!
(More Christmas pics coming soon)


Since I know many of you don’t have pineapple growing in your backyard, and because I find them gorgeous and interesting as plants… I will share the little I know about the pineapples growing in our backyard. Now this is one tropical fruit I can’t get enough of!

So a young plant looks like this. Kind of like teenagers: gangly, awkward and all legs. (And there’s my fancy feet in garden shoes. And now is where I should do some really cool connection with our ten-foot-family having two feet in the garden, but I’d rather go eat breakfast than spend forever blogging this morning sorry. =) It’s the thought that counts!)

Note that the older the plant gets, the more spiky the outer leaves become, and I’d venture to guess this is good protection for a fruit-bearing plant on the ground.

From the top down the baby pineapple that starts as a cluster of leaves in the center. Love the neatness and order of these leaves. Creative yet organized.

Then those little creatively organized leaves grow bigger. And bigger. Ever so slowly…

And you can start to see that fruit underneath at some point. You should probably know that having a border collie trying to catch his beloved frisbee doesn’t work so well for growing pineapples and those spikey outer leaves may just get trampled and broken. And as any good horticulture major will tell you, no foliage means no food for the plant. Dead plant = dead fruit. And on the off chance that you are wondering as I was whether this above yellow one is already ripe at such a young age, it’s not. I’m told this is a different variety of pineapple than the others, which is why it is more yellow in both fruit and leaf.

So in our own efforts to protect fruit and leaf:

…we tied the leaves up (leaving room for said border collie to run past without breaking off leaves) with the ribbing leftover from a worn-out shirt. Why not?
Whatever it takes to get luscious fruit! YUM! We eat it fresh, make sweet-n-sour sauce, skewer it, put it in fruit salad, etc. What’s your favorite way to eat pineapple?


You can probably guess that candycanes haven’t really taken off in Europe.
And if they haven’t taken off in Europe, they don’t really make it to South Africa.
And if they don’t make it in South Africa, we can’t usually find it in East Africa.

So we were pretty excited when someone gave us their old candycanes (carefully kept frozen all year they crack, but taste good). This particular awesome friend also mailed us mini-marshmallows!! It’s funny how I would never intentionally seek out these sugar-laden American traditions while living in the midst of them. They just sort of happen whether I buy them or not. But over here a candy cane and marshmallow turn my wimpy homemade cocoa into a faint memory of ‘Mint Mochaccino’ under Seattle skies. Candy canes were a whole new experience for Anna!

…obviously requires intense concentration!

…finger-lickin’ good! Wait…

James: Hey look at me! Do I look like a wookie?

Thank you friend for giving us a taste of home! Yummy!