Monthly Archives: September 2010

Children’s Readers

As you know I am smack dab in the middle of teaching James and Joel to read well and love reading. For a Literacy Specialist, this is a little bit like being a kid in a candy store! James doesn’t really need any more teaching – just vocabulary, spelling and grammar instruction. Joel is starting to really pick up steam as he moves from sounding out every letter to remembering more and more sight words. It’s fun to see him growing and loving it!

Six months ago I blogged here a bit about books I love to read aloud to the kids during snacktime, and yesterday I had a lovely surprise of being contacted by the author’s grandson himself! You can find his comment listed below that post, or I can just fill you in here:

“I was happy to read your mention of The Happy Hollisters. My grandfather was Andrew Svenson, who wrote the series under the pseudonym Jerry West. The Hollister children were patterned on the real-life Svenson children: my father, aunts, and uncle. I know my grandfather would be delighted to know that his former fans still appreciate the Hollisters’ wholesome adventures and are now introducing their own children to the books. I know he would also be fascinated with your family’s travel adventures, since he loved to travel and incorporate his adventures into the books.

“I thought you might be interested to learn that we have just republished the first volume in the series — now in paperback, but otherwise identical to the original. If you like, you can read more about the project at our website (and see a photo of the family that inspired the books)

Here I thought I was enjoying some rare children’s book from the 50’s! In the summer after the third grade my family moved (which is big for a family that doesn’t. ever. move.), and my Mom found me 3 copies of different Happy Hollister stories to read over the summer. I think I read each one 2-3 times! Over the years I always kept an eye out for other copies of books in the series, and never found any. This year it’s James who’s reading them over and over! And I was thrilled to hear there are 30 titles in all! I hope they all get republished… =)

Off to start a school day!

Hodge Podge

On this blank canvas of blogosphere I will paint a hodge podge today. The things going on…

I felt that wellspring of creativity about to burst Saturday and had to make something (but wanted to finish in just a couple hours), so I made one of these! Super cute and super fun and now I won’t be stepping on legos and holding my breath in the dark anymore. Anna has been seen trying take out a baby tooth so she can have The Tooth Pillow come to her door.

We finally have our plane tickets! We will spend December with family and then move north to help teach at Trinity Western/CanIL. God is good!! I am praying we find good doctors.

We gutted our off-the-porch pantry, or larder, or mud room this week. It had been used for years in local-style charcoal cooking and the walls are pretty dark. I don’t know how much paint we will have to throw on it to brighten it up. But we will try. Kent has already built the shelving unit that will line one wall. It waits on varnish. I can’t wait to have a place to put things away!!

About 6 months ago we bought furniture. But it is not what you think. We didn’t go try it out in a store. We didn’t carefully flip through color swatches. We didn’t even look at a catalog. It is used furniture from a friend that was downsizing two countries away. You may ask, how it could possibly be more convenient or cost-effective to purchase something used from two countries away when we live right next door to a local carpentry shop?? Good question! Apparently furniture in this town is in such high demand that carpenters don’t have (take?) time to dry their wood. Furniture is built with hand tools, varnished and sold and it is only 4 months later when you look at your new table and watch the joints bend or disconnect entirely before your eyes, that you realize they used green wood.

There is a wonderful retired carpenter we trust. We asked him to build a bookshelf for Anna’s room.
He said he would love to…
if there was any dry wood to be had in town.
We asked how long would it take to dry?
For a Congolese? 6 months.
For a missionary? One year.

We soon realized our dream of real furniture, a place to hang our clothes and a straight shelf to hold our dishes, was either going on hold for a second year while we dried our own wood, or we would have to ship from another country. Just about then a possibility opened up to put them in a container (those huge metal boxes on ships, trains and semi trucks) that would be trucking its way over here in July. We agreed. Various delays. It was trucked here this week. It is even unpacked and sitting in our office building. But it has not ‘cleared customs’. So we are back to waiting (and praying for the customs officials).

This morning James and Joel went romping around the yard telling stories with their matchbox cars before schooltime. When I called them in for school James kicked his crocs off and they landed in the recently-hauled bucket of clean water to wash our dishes. (Yes, this is now over 2 months of incomplete kitchen sink.) The water could no longer rinse off dishes as it was now almost murky. So the boys had a little lesson in consequences and were late for school hauling more clean water. This is Africa after all.

Funny Baby

You probably don’t have time to sit around and read blogs, and I probably read more than I should, but The Pioneer Woman’s Funny Photo Contest lived up to it’s name! For a split second I thought about entering a funny picture of one of our ‘babies’ (don’t worry I do realize they no longer fit in the baby category). As I scanned a few folders of pictures, I noticed a theme…

Can you guess the theme?

Which one do you like best?

Where the Wild Photos Are

Just ran across a friend’s amazing blog, and couldn’t keep it to myself! Click over to read through fascinating and funny tales (it also helps that she’s a professional photographer)! LuAnne actually took the family photo you see at right. With a rich history and worldwide perspective (having visited some 60 countries!), she has lots of fascinating things to share.

I’d love to hear which are your favorite posts! This one from Uganda and this one from here make me seriously laugh out loud because they are so true! What’s interesting to you?

Weekend Getaway

Believe it or not this was the road on a good day. On our way home it was more like a mud pit. It left me thinking of Mr. Darcy ‘What is 50 miles of good road?’

A carepackage with candy necklaces made the trip quite tasty for some of us.

Joel + Termite Mound = Happy Climber

…now you know where whole trees go when they are taken over by termites!

We were staying with a couple who have lots of history working here. They have returned to help build up what used to be a huge mission station for this region. Everything was still pretty gutted after 2 years of military occupation. Rebuilding is slow.
Left us thinking about what we can leave behind.

It was lovely to listen to the different songs of birds we don’t here over the mosque next door and to stay up late learning to play Rook. Other highlights were getting to ride their little 4-wheelers and gorge ourselves on cinnamon rolls!

It is likely to be our last weekend away for a few months, so we thoroughly enjoyed it!

Corn Mush Diet

I got asked a good question about our life in Africa, “What is it about your African lifestyle that slims you down?” My first steps on African soil were 11 years ago this week, so in some ways I have forgotten what is different here.

The rain waters seep into this red clay soil, and the African way of life seeps into my own.

There are several things about life here that encourage weight loss (though to be fair I have to note it doesn’t work like this for everyone*): more walking, more sweating, more stress, less favorite foods, etc. If I want to eat pizza for instance, I make the crust from flour/oil/milk, I make the sauce from tomatoes/onions/spices, I grate the cheese, I cut up the fresh pineapple. It is all very ‘locavore’ and usually very fresh, but it is also all very much work! Because of the work it takes, and the core of laziness I have, I snack less. No quick easy munchies here. Farmer’s market without all the prepared goodies.

It seems the weight is proportional to the level of civilization you live at. In discussing this with colleagues, it was commonly expected one would gain the ‘furlough 15’ (15 extra pounds) by returning to the US. I know some people have avoided this with care, but if one weighed 120 in the US (don’t we wish), then in an African city one weighed 110 on average, and out in a village they weighed 100. Here we are somewhere between a city and a village.

In the US I can visit Starbucks for a chat, drive through any number of fast-food restaurants, and even the foods I put on the table are processed and manufactured often so that tortillas are not just wheat and oil. There are more options and there are yummy options and they are all filled with little things to make them MORE yummy.

In the big African cities I have seen, there are several meat options, always fruits and veggies and sometimes even imported varieties (how much is a real, crisp apple or few blackberries worth to me??). There are fewer ‘fillers’ in foods (but then your bread gets stale more quickly too) and fewer packaged foods. There are restaurants, but they are not drive-thru and don’t have huge luscious extravagance. The richest thing I ever splurged on was 5 handmade spinach raviolis in a heavenly gorgonzola cream sauce in Kenya (but the restau was owned and operated by an Italian).

In the few rural areas we have lived, extravagance is eating meat or using oil. In one place salt and sugar were even a splurge for people. The place I lost the most weight (and even heard of a colleague losing almost 40 lbs in one month!) was in the northern hills of Cameroon where we lived with a Cameroonian host family. They splurged and made us meat sauce to eat with our corn mush. Most families we know eat one large meal in the evening and cold leftovers or porridge for breakfast (usually nothing for lunch). Joel was just a few months old, nursing like crazy in the heat and I had him strapped to my back as we hiked up and down the hills visiting friends and churches and clearing their fields. It was physically exhausting just to accomplish basic life. Now why on earth was I ever enamored with Little House on the Prairie??! Hauling water. Scrubbing laundry. Hiking up. Hiking down. Hiking some more. I still think Jenny Craig really could be on to something with the ‘corn mush diet‘…

It is no wonder we have colleagues who have to work at keeping enough weight on. Add in a few tropical illnesses or a bout with malaria, and you start to think about how to gain weight.

And so it goes… weight = wealth here.

*For some, who would benefit from all the fat-free, non-fat, diet soda options in the US, they actually gain weight overseas where carbs are ever-present and diet soda non-existent.

A Note on Stress

Just a quick note to let you know we are here. We are well.

The longer note would go into how 2007 taught us our own limitations, and how to better manage our personal levels of stress. So thankful for those lessons! We use them everyday here.

I don’t exercise because I want to be stronger or fit into a certain pair of jeans. The African lifestyle slims me down just fine. I exercise because it keeps my mind sane. Doesn’t really make sense to me, but I know that my person needs it to handle stress.

Bible Study:
We started up a little community of English-speaking Moms here that doubles as accountability for keeping my nose where it should be and fellowship with people who get my life.

Okay, this wasn’t really in the textbooks on managing stress, but it DOES help! =)

I’m sure you’ve been in a season of life that was busy and stressful. Suddenly one day you look back and realize that you haven’t finished that book you started 6 months ago. The cross-stitch that never happened. The quilt blocks collecting dust in a stack. The art papers you never unwrapped. (A dusty TV doesn’t count unless it’s in the garage.) We need hobbies, especially when we’re stressed. Some small way to be creative and productive without lots of effort and energy. Those are mine (reading, sewing, cross-stitching) – what are yours?

As much as I love our little mostly-furnished fixer-upper, and our school routines and such, we have had a hard time finding ways to take breaks here. This homeschooling Mama must get out a bit more. And yet… There are no hotels. There are no guesthouses. No bed-and-breakfasts. There are no grandparents’ house a few hours away. It’s either thousands of dollars at a schmancy 5-star safari resort or camping. We have yet to discover somewhere we can go without A) spending over $800, B) traveling more than 5 hours each way or C) feeling we return more stressed out than when we started.

Another possibility has arisen for this weekend, and I have faith that it will not run into A, B or C! Some blessed people in a quiet town nearby have invited us over. So, after figuring out that I need a break, seeing only closed doors, a window opens.

See you on the other side of the window (i.e. next week!)

Off to pack up some hobbies to take along! Have a great Labor Day weekend!