Monthly Archives: January 2012

Overheard at our table…

James on homemade ketchup:

“Wow Mom! This ketchup tastes great!

It tastes so tomato-ey…  I bet this is the ORIGINAL recipe!”

Tomatoes in ketchup?

Happy thought indeed! (to borrow an Elizabeth Bennett phrase)

The next day from a guest…

“These peanut butter bars taste real, like they will put meat on your bones… What flour is in them?”

“No flour.”

“No flour at all? But how do they get so light and fluffy?”


I find it hard not to smile to myself when people are astonished that food tastes REAL. It is real.

Sad to me that real food, whole food, isn’t easy to find… couldn’t we all just move to the French countryside?

And I’m so thankful for farmers and gardeners who work hard to grow and make real food.

Peanut butter bars recipe here.
We skip the cocoa and use raisins for ‘everyday’ cookies.

Keeping up with the Jameses

Most parents who homeschool seem to want one of two things: To give their child all the good parts of a ‘normal’ education (without wasting their time on the stupid parts), or to unschool them and let them follow their own interests and motivations to in-depth studies of just about anything. These are gross over-generalizations, and we could get into details, but let’s not. We are fans of the idea of traditional school – as long as it involves Truth, just in case you were getting worried.

The one thing that both Kent and I struggled with in our school years was feeling bored. There are only so many days you can sit in your sixth grade honors class watching the substitute teacher mispronounce the weekly French dictation. One day I logged over two hours of doing nothing while my teacher tried to deal with discipline issues. I have vivid memories of watching in utter disbelief while she (into her 60’s) actually tried to chase down my unruly classmate – a hyperactive 12-yr-old boy. Around and around the room they went. The rest of us got little but entertainment out of many a school day.

(Insert Disclaimer here: I do recognize that social development is not a waste of time, and do not promise to homeschool forever – one year at a time.)

All that to say, one of my motivations for educating our children well is not wasting their time. Childhood is short enough already.

All three of our kids are ‘smart’ and often I feel it is less my job to teach, than to direct their energy and get out of their way. We’ve been too easy on them allowing them to answer things orally instead of writing things out (and complaining), so the rest of our year is going to be ‘writing intensive’. The first day of school in ‘writing instensive-land’, James was going to earn a game of chess with his Dad after school as a reward. He happily wrote all morning long.

We came to Greek mythology, and it was time to study the contest between Arachne and Pallas Athena (both good weavers and proud… you can probably guess who lost and was banished to spinning webs…).

“Oh Mom. I already read it.”

“Really? When?”

“Last week sometime.” (and proceeds to describe every detail of the story)

“So, how far did you read?”

“To the end.”

“You finished the Greek mythology book for the year?”

“Yep. And the American history book too.”

The speed, voracity and accuracy with which he reads, no devours, history and math books scares me. He has corrected me on the details of Old Testament history! He reads it super fast and then can recall every detail. Freaks me out. I have to remember that God has great plans for these gifts and I need to direct here and there and then just get out of the way! Looks like he also stole the Roman history book off my desk this week and finished it when I wasn’t looking.

Not sure what he will do with a head full of history and math, but I suppose we don’t really need to know yet… During his Asperger’s diagnosis last year, they told us he was “charming and very bright” but his scores (as is normal) were vastly varied. Working memory: 90, Visual processing speed: 135, etc. With the improvements in his diet and the elimination of quite a few distracting sensory issues, came a faster clarity of thought (still pauses before multiplication/division facts) and less difficulty focusing during school.

He finished his afternoon jobs/chores, and curled up on the couch with a book about traps to set for a chess opponent.

At the big match of the day, they enjoyed setting up our new hand-carved African soapstone set. They began playing. I could tell Kent was wanting to go easy on James. At some point, he bailed on that plan and tried to save his game!

James played him well into the end-game and was 1-2 moves from a stale mate when he lost. Kent is no casual chess player; he played on a chess team (albeit years ago). There I admitted it. Kent lettered in chess. James blew him out of the water and challenged him with a real game at age 9!

I think both of us will have to have supernatural wisdom in raising and keeping up with James.


It’s a French word, you know: source. We borrowed it.

Here it can mean the ‘well’ or ‘spring’ that drinking water is drawn from. Even if local folks have city water pipes (they provide brown water about 50-60% of the time), they often continue to haul water for drinking/cooking from a more trustworthy source.

This month the preaching roster at our Congolese church has been focused on provision. Last week was about God’s provision of manna in the desert. Kent was asked to preach today on Exodus 17 and the provision of water to the people. As he was preparing his sermon in between linguistics sessions, deadly cholera was making it’s way into town.

Apparently, there was a cholera epidemic here in the 1970’s that killed tens of thousands of people. Entire families disappeared. It is not a small thing that cholera is ‘back in town’. People have been tracking it through different locations for some time, and it has now arrived. This morning sandwiched in between announcements about the youth mission trip and choir leader’s meetings, there was also a page-long infomercial about hand-washing, vegetable preparation and other ways to avoid cholera. Seems we just got through the pervasive ‘un-ease’ about elections and now this?

It was the perfect time, as it turns out, to think about the ‘Source de vie’ we have in Jesus. Moses struck the rock and the people had the water to live. Not just any dirty water. Pure water. Life-giving water. They got life. Paul later explains that Jesus is that Rock. He is struck. We get life. For something that pure, we have to go to the Source.


I am trying to do 10 minutes of deep pressure/holding with James each evening. I don’t always feel like following through, but he reminds me. And it’s good for both of us. It’s been two weeks and this pseudo-poem as been swimming in my head lately:

He eagerly scrambles into my arms.
They can hardly hold him anymore.
A boy barreling full-speed ahead toward the teen years.
Proud to be as tall as Mom’s shoulders.

But we have ground to recover.
We must go back before we go forward.
His eagerness reminds me of his toddlerness.
The ruffling of the blond hair.
The holding was necessity then.

But we forgot.
He ran.
He went numb.
He forgot the feeling, the loving.

I try to hold him tight enough.
To squeeze his numbness out.
Feel this holding.
Feel this loving.

You are loved.

And my arms go numb.
Numb with the holding.
Taking on his numbness, I begin to feel less.
He begins to feel more.

It is a daily gospel.
He who takes on our numbness.
So we can feel.
So we know we are loved.

Muck & Mire

The fun ‘feet’ blog picture we’ve been using as a header has bothered me for a few reasons. Don’t get me wrong – it’s cute and fun, but it was taken during a lovely vacation at the beach in Kenya. And while, I like to look at it and remember our lovely vacation at the beach, our life here in Africa does not boil down to a vacation on the beach.

And it’s not in Kenya.

Let’s just be abundantly clear, life in Congo is grimy, dirty and full of bugly realities (as many of you notice on facebook). I had to remind the boys to wash their hands this morning before breakfast because they had been touching an almost-dead rodent. When we wash these feet, the tub turns brown with dust and mud for a moment. Life is messy.


In every way.

Life is messy anywhere in the world because of humanity. People hurt each other. Lies. Hypocrisy. Selfish gain. Vain conceit. Here we add to those mud, bugs and life without vacuums or wipes. Messiness of another layer. Speaking of layers, most people here put curtains over their bookshelves because the dust accumulates so pervasively that a book can be ruined without ever being used. I store our future school books inside two XXL Ziplocs in a sealed plastic trunk.


What better blog header than mud?

Mucky reality.

And a pineapple in our backyard.

And a friend’s brightly colored skirt.

There are gorgeous things that come out of the mire!


It’s been a couple months since I shared our diet and progress here. People often ask, “What do you eat?” “How long will you stay on this diet?” “How is James doing now?” I’ve updated ‘Our Diet’ page with details about what is going on – now that our family has been completely grain-free for 6 months. I also listed lots of links of other bloggers posting stellar grain-free recipes. I could not have survived this year without their help!

Here are some of our highlights:

**My allergies to egg, avocado and almond are completely gone (I suspect my reactions to black bean, and milk powder are as well, but I haven’t yet challenged them.), and I can eat them everyday without any reaction at all. My occasional insomnia and heartburn are also completely gone. I’m able to take fewer antihistamines for airborne allergies.

**Our family has only had one cold in 6 mos and none of us needed antibiotics.

**James continues to feel more and more tactile sensation each week. He has regained the ability to hop on one foot easily, and the coordination to run faster than his brother again! He got a trampoline for Christmas and spends time on it everyday.

**His eczema is 95% gone. He has grown 3 inches, lost 12 lbs. and has much more energy.

**He is also much less ‘stuck’ in routine. If we change the schedule for our school day, he doesn’t mind – just goes with the flow (which hasn’t happened for about 6 years!).

**The days of emotional meltdowns are not our ‘normal’ anymore.

There are no words to thank God enough for James’ progress this year! Last night I held him wrapped tightly in a blanket (still loves deep pressure!) next to the Christmas lights.

He began to tear up.

Such a sweet spirit.

He said he was just so happy.

And so sad at the same time.

I asked what the sad part was.

He said, “I’m sad that I didn’t feel this or like [being held] for so many years.”

I think he can see now that he was missing out on the emotional connection that goes with cuddling for most kids. He stopped cuddling around age 3 – he didn’t like to be touched. He grieves that now 6 yrs later, which is a healthy thing to process.

Looks like we have a few years of cuddling to catch up on!

Remembering 2011

I didn’t take this time of holding the ebenezer, remembering the year as He laid it before us, last year – we were savoring a visit with family in the US… Sad that the last backward glance at a year of living and loving was here in 2010. Two years later, our life here is SO different!

But how to quantify that?

What was 2011?

If I had to choose one word, I would have to say 2011 was a monumental year for Kent, this work and our family.

The year language development work exploded here in Bunia with 10 different language communities.

The year Kent became a Linguistics Consultant and helped teach a graduate-level tone course.

A year of long-sought-after solutions for our son’s health.

The year we entered Autismland, and found our way.

Another year of taking homeschool ‘on the road’, moving, packing, settling and moving again.

The year I learned to quilt!

The year Joel finally lost a tooth (actually 5 teeth are now missing at once!)

The year we dared to go 100% grain-free.

The year Kent started commuting on a motorcycle.

The first year we really grew our own food.

The year we finally understood our sweet James and watched him come out of the fog.

The year we finished renovating our tiny kitchen.

The year our living room doubled as a ballet studio.

Another year to enjoy this beautiful, bug-filled country (only 1 bat, 4 grasshoppers, several crickets/cockroaches and several hundred ants and mosquitoes made their way into our house this year – much fewer than previous years!)

The year we had to learn how to cook and eat all over again.

The first year of my life that I crossed food allergies OFF my list!

The year Joel became a great reader.

The year everyone began learning piano, French and Latin in earnest.

The year Anna started and aced kindergarten math.

The year we grew close to Congolese friends.

The kind of friends who make you want to sit on stools around the cooking fire all evening ‘chewing the news’ as they say in Maasailand.

A year to taste and see that the Lord is good.


A year of paperclips on our paper timelines.


A year mixed of storms and clear skies.

A year rooted in His steadfast love.

A year to hold fast to faith in Him who works all things for good.

A year that could have broken us,

but strengthened us instead.