Friday, December 25, 2009

Hark the Herald Angels sing (v2)

videoHere is verse two of James' favorite (for now) Hymn, since a couple months before Christmas.  You'll note that Anna has picked up on some of it, too.

Merry Christmas!

Hi all!

Sorry to disappoint - there are no fabulous photos of our kids ripping into their Christmas packages just yet. We spent a lovely day today and had a very tasty, very merry Christmas in our new home. The photos will come. We woke up to our traditional cinnamon rolls and scrambled eggs with cheese (had to skip the lil smokies - so sad), then quickly opened stockings and got gussied up for church. Christmas and New Year's mornings are the best-dressed days of the year when everyone gets new clothes (not sure why!?). I did buy Anna a new 'fancy' dress (gaudy is definitely IN here), and the rest of us had nice clothes that fit, so off to church we went on foot for 8am service. There were 3-4 choirs (sorry I lost count), a good sermon on Matt. 2, and the 2-hr service ended with 18 men and women playing trombones, trumpets, and a French horn! They played a bit of Handel's Messiah and we couldn't help but sing along. So cool! And a little 'taste' of home for us.

We came home, did presents with the kids, Kent made salmon cakes and we all watched The Nativity Story together, took naps and woke up to Grandma's Roast Beef and mashed potatoes! Anna had three helpings!

This Christmas kind of bowled us over with many activities, no set traditions yet, lots of personal goals (like handmade gifts for everyone by yours truly and Kent getting us real couches!), but somehow all my planning and preparations couldn't make up for bad colds x 5.

So the next couple days you will see our Christmas photos and videos and hoopla.
We love you guys and miss you.
We are ready for a few days of REST!
Have yourself a fabulous time celebrating our Savior's birth!!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Sweet Side of James

Right around Christmas starts the hot, dry season of the year here. I'm almost tempted to make a big potato salad every Christmas, but it just seems wrong. I don't know if it was due to the sudden change in seasons, the sibling slumber party, or just the fact that he's growing like a weed, but James came down with a sniffly cold a few days ago. It never brought on fever, so we pushed fluids took an extra nap or two and kept on keepin' on.

Well, surprise surprise! Today I woke up with the sniffles. Sarcastically early this morning I said, 'Hey, thanks for sharing James!' Weak smile and courtesy laugh. I hopped in the shower hoping the steam would help me breathe and returned a while later to a little note on my doorknob in the shape of a flower:

Hi Mom,
I hoop you feel
beedr, soon.
(heart) James


It should be noted that this kid HATES handwriting, so this is quite possibly the longest sentence this first grader has ever composed on his own initiative. He suggested I hang it by my bed so I can see it every time I feel sick. How sweet is that? The sweet side of James is very sweet indeed! Sweet James, I'll take your colds any day!

Monday, December 14, 2009

On the Up and Up


With our new 'kinesthetic' teaching philosophy, Joel is doing really well in kindergarten. Here he listens to a story while climbing on the windowsill that overlooks our driveway/sideyard and watching the dog and lizards. Anna is, of course, right behind him. Wouldn't want to miss anything fun or important!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Monsoon

Okay, so when someone says 'monsoon' I think of East Asia, but there has to be better words than 'heavy rain' or 'thunderstorm' for what we experience. It is not only the fact that half the ocean dumps on our house an hour at a time, it is so loud we can barely talk to each other because of the noise on the tin roof overhead. We are very thankful each and every time the roof protects us from the rain! It is the end of the rainy season here and 3-4 times per week we get huge storms that wash topsoil right off our compound and into the drainage ditch and street outside our front gate. I've seen legos and shoes float by as well...

Yes, those are our ripening mangoes getting washed by the skies...

The center of this particular storm must have passed directly over us because the lightning and thunder were extreme! Once it made us jump and I'm sure one of our neighbors' house was struck by lightning (not uncommon here). We quickly unplugged everything we could. We found out the next day that it had blown out our first current stabilizer, so we have invested in lightning protection for the future. Now there's another thing I never planned on buying... There was also a ton of wind and the rain looked like it was going sideways at times. Now I'm learning the meaning of 'batten down the hatches'!

Hang in there Hoppy!


You can see why rainwater storage is efficient.

It's on our list of renovations to make eventually.

While I am not the fan of thunderstorms, they do make good reminders of the might and power of our Creator. It's no wonder traditional cultures here often have a monotheistic folklore of a powerful god. He has amazing power. Even more amazing through 'monsoon' storms is imagining Jesus standing up and saying 'QUIET!' ...

...followed by stillness.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Friday, December 4, 2009

Hilarity

As any parent will tell you, getting good pictures of everyone together can seem an impossible task. I have been known to take a few shots and resort to cutting and pasting smiley faces. True confessions. So it was time for the annual Christmas picture...

...and I fell victim to one of the classic blunders. Dress up three kids in cute jammies right before bed and expect them to sit and smile. Ha! This was like trying to stand up wet noodles. Seriously. Everything they did and said was SOO funny!

I think James might start crying from laughing so hard! I was tempted to use this because of Joel's sweet face...

Not quite the Christmas picture I was looking for, but you'll see the one I did get in a couple weeks. In the meantime enjoy this blooper reel (with obedient princess Anna patiently waiting with a grin on her face and both hands on one knee, pains in her cheeks from holding this smile and waiting for her noodle brothers to get it.) Not sure what look Joel was going for here... =)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

An aside...

Check out my article at Coffeegirl Confessions today. It's written to women in overseas ministry, but you can read it too. If you read last week's post on groceries, deliveries and home foods, you'll surely recognize some of it. Warning: Do not read on an empty stomach, it's about food. Just saying...

A Bed for Anna

It's been an interesting venture to design our own furniture for local carpenters with paper, pencil and tape measure (the metric side of course!). In a land with very few 'power tools' I designed a bed fit for a princess that was 'shooting for the moon' if you will. Three feet off the ground, yet short enough to have a mosquito net still hit the floor... Note to self: Next time you design furniture in Congo, DO NOT start the design process online at pottery barn kids...

With all due respect, the carpenter who did this is the best of the best here, and the lathe work does look really nice.

Head- and side-board getting coat after coat of white paint... And after 4 days of painting and drying on the front porch - installation day!

Hey, it can double as a jungle gym! Not.

Though I did design it to have play space underneath for those days when she wants to have a slumber party or curl up with a book. It'll be a while...

And a little later, we had a great night's sleep in her first real BIG BED! Some of you do not realize how momentous this is... We have waited, visited, cajoled and prayed for this bed to be finished for over three months, so it is cause for joy! Here is the princess tucked under the mosquito net and lovin' it! (notice the awesome prayer quilt made lovingly by a group of women in ministry at home - Hi ladies!)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Still Here

Just a quick note to let you faithful readers know that we are still here. And well. No, we haven't fallen off the ends of the earth, we just had a million little things around the house to deal with. Colds, minor theft, holiday prep and dog fights to name a few... This pile of tiny annoying things that seems to coincide with some of the most difficult times to be away from home - now.

There are always two sides to the coin, and it is not all doom and gloom here. The most spectacular news is that the bed we designed for Anna and ordered to be built mid-August was finally delivered Friday!! And Kent has lovingly been painting coat after coat of white paint on it for me and today it gets built and she gets to stretch out for once. So pictures of that happy moment are coming soon!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Delivery Day

We try to buy from local farmers whenever we can, but after 3 straight months of eating rice we were dying for a slice of bread! Something as simple as a favorite staple food can be the taste of home. We have African friends who have moved from a 'sweet potato' staple area to a 'plantain' staple area and craved their 'home foods'.

So we've discovered that wheat is Kent's home food (not shocking since his great-grandfather was a wheat farmer). I will never forget the day early in our marriage when I found his delight in freshly-baked bread still warm from the oven. The problem is that no one can grow wheat here because of the climate. In case you were wondering this is officially in the sweet-potato region, and their cousins: potatoes are my home food (there must have been a potato farmer in the family). You can bake 'em, fry 'em, boil mash or steam - I will be a happy lady. I'm so thankful good potatoes are grown here locally!

And today is a very exciting day because we are getting our second sack of wheat berries delivered from Uganda. Each month we get a few sacks of goodies purchased in Uganda on our behalf. These are things that can't be found locally, or that aren't even imported by merchants, and I thought you might like to know some of the things we look forward to on delivery day:

100 lb. wheat berries (after sorting out chaff, freezing the weevils, and grinding - we bake!!)

2 containers 'American Garden' Iodized Salt (don't take yours for granted!)

3 lb. raisins

1 lb. broccoli

6 semi-sweet chocolate bars (chopped finely for 'chocolate chips' or eaten straight)

2 containers cinnamon (local spices are: chili, nutmeg, salt - they flavor foods other ways)

2 containers sage (for Kent's Thanksgiving stuffing)

4 lbs. popcorn

10 apples (for my Thanksgiving sweet potatoes)

1 lb. butter (for the holiday, usually we get by with the 1/2 lb. we can make from fresh milk)


It's definitely different shopping for a month or two at a time, and buying everything in bulk. Because of all the foreigners coming through here we buy other staples here in bulk too:

5 liters olive oil

50 lb. sugar

50 lb. rice

100 lb. flour

16 lb. oats

No it's not Mr. Olsen's General Store on Little House on the Prairie, but we shop like it is. With the boys eating more than I do already, our grocery lists are only going up from here! What staple is your home food?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

FLA - The Sequel P.S.

I almost forgot the best part!

Yesterday Anna called wrinkles : sprinkles!
I like that better anyway

And she called bunk beds : bonk beds
Maybe Joel would agree since he has the bottom bunk...

First Language Acquisition - The Sequel

Several months ago I posted a bit about Anna's first language acquisition. She hadn't mastered her /k/ and /g/ or velar sounds. Two of you who are speech therapists assured me that this was totally normal. It was super cute while it lasted, which wasn't long. She quickly learned to form them in the middle of words (word-medially) and next she had them at the ends of words (word-finally). Last, but not least, she could form them word-initially. Are you digging these official linguistic terms? Yeah, my linguistic prowess is not what it used to be, but I digress... The aforementioned speech therapist friends confirmed that word-initial velars are often the last to master. Whew. She's 'normal'.

General progression went something like this:
"Tent, avotado in the sack"
"Tent, avocado in the sack"
"Kent, avocado in the sack!"

I'm still missing the 'avotado' days. (NOT the food I assure you!) And she DOES call him Daddy 99% of the time.

She is a chatterbox. Yes, sometimes MORE than Joel. We joke that she is made for facebook and twitter because whatever she's doing she is constantly telling you her status update! Thankfully, as I am a fan of QUIET mornings, she is too. Whew! But she gets really going by the time we start school. She sits at her little desk right next to mine and cuts, glues and colors for 2 straight hours. "I am cutting paper. I am cutting paper. I cut around the bowl. Look! I cut around the bowl Mom! Now I will get out blocks. I will get out blocks and build a boat." You get the gist.


She's made for school too. She is the first student to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. She likes to lead it, "I badulations to duh flag..." She was walking around practicing her 'badulations' for a long time before we figured out that it meant the 'pledge of allegiance'! And here I was trying to get her to say congratulations. It's truly unbelievable to me that at 9 months I had her hearing tested because she wasn't saying anything!

So, we seem to have moved from the gains in pronunciation, to the gains in vocabulary. Even though there are days when I'm feeling really done listening to more status updates, it still melts my cold heart to hear 'Thank you God for Mom' or 'Luv you Mommy'. Those are the 'it's all worth it' moments.

Hope I can hold onto those long enough to make it through the teens... each day has enough worry of its own.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Saturdays

I don't have fabulous stories today of amazing adventures, games or jokes. Today was a normal Saturday in Congo (you're probably wondering, and rightfully so, if that's really possible...). You know, it's the day to change the sheets, to buy and cook a little extra to cover Sundays, a huge pot of potato soup and some clean sheets. Nothing very noteworthy really. But this week, for the first time in seven years I didn't change any diapers. Now there's something to thank God for! There was nostalgia for me when the baby is officially weaned, when they officially move to a big bed, when they are officially too heavy for me to carry... but I'm really not going to miss diapers. Not. Even a little bit.

I was out shopping in the morning driving at 20 mph (2nd gear is my friend) over our bumpy dirt roads trying to avoid many motorcycle taxis with everything but the kitchen sink sitting on the back, when suddenly something caught my eye. From maybe 30 yards ahead I could see a foreigner. Strange. It was strange because they almost never just walk around (almost always it is easier to be driven in the company car with air-conditioning blasting and windows rolled up to keep dust and needy hands out). So there was some white guy in shorts. Normal for you, but strange here. Shorts are not worn here in general... okay, only for schoolboys. And short shorts are nearly taboo, so it was a bit shocking. I got over it after a good chuckle. And turned the corner a while later to see not one, not two, but 40-50 of them! This was a touristy shorts invasion nearly blocking the road. I have no idea where they came from (Italy?), but they obviously aren't from around these parts!

Really, it was a fairly boring (in a good way) Saturday!
Enjoy your Saturday!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Joel's Famous

Our previous math post made the official Math-U-See blog, and the image of Joel doing math upside down was deemed 'The Best Homework Picture Ever'! Check it out.

Cooking Cake in Congo

Kent likes cheesecake. He likes a rich dark gingerbread cake too, but we did that last year. So this year I wanted to make him a raspberry swirl cheesecake for his birthday. I know it's shooting a bit high, and I should probably have a talk with myself (again) about having more realistic expectations. I enjoy a bit of a challenge in dessert-creation. And besides, in a land of no cake mixes any cake of any sort will be work. Might as well be something different we will all enjoy. Not to mention the fact that we've just finished 3 other more traditional cakes off after 2 straight weeks of birthdays. We're caked out. Time for cheesecake! I really should have made it a full day in advance, but that was Sunday so tough.


In case you were wondering, there is no cream cheese here.

Hakuna.

None.

BUT… we had our yogurt spoil last week, and spoiled yogurt strained through cheesecloth (good to get rid of the alcoholic vinegary whey) for a few days ends up looking a bit like cottage cheese and tasting a lot like cream cheese. SO… I was prepared with my 3 ½ cups of cream cheese!


Now there are no raspberries here either.

Hakuna.

None.

BUT… the UN cast-offs shop has raspberry jam! And if you boil and whip jam you can get a sauce thin enough to swirl. Thank God for an old Kitchen Aid to do all this mixing and whipping!


I’m sure you’re seeing the pattern here… There are no graham crackers here for the crust, and usually British ‘digestive biscuits’ make a decent substitute, but I was out of them and so were stores.

Hakuna biscuits.

None.

BUT… Kent had a cup of cookie crumbs in the fridge from a failed dark chocolate gingersnaps experiment and with a few more cookie crumbs I found plus melted margarine and quick-cooking oats it morphed into a ‘real’ crust. SO… we had a chocolate-ginger-something crust!


You can see why there is never a short answer to “What do you eat in Africa?”


Other than changing most of the ingredients I did exactly what the online lady 'erin' said to do, even putting one egg in at a time and pouring the sugar continuously. I did end up beating the batter? a bit longer than I have before, but I think it made for a smoother texture in the end. Here it is in the oven!!! I’m always a bit apprehensive trying a new recipe with 4 substituted ingredients, but it’s equally as thrilling when it works!



We topped the edges with more raspberry jam sauce and stuck dark chocolate chunks around the edges (instead of those luscious fresh raspberries in the pictures), and drizzled Kent’s signature dark chocolate sauce over the served pieces. Now Kent would’ve been thrilled to have chocolate sauce all over any of it, but there is where we differ. True confessions. Now the ugly truth comes out... Kent would actually prefer a chocolate cheesecake, but...


I have a fruit-chocolate taboo,

which extends to yogurt.

There’s just something I detest about ‘sour’ with ‘chocolate’.

No chocolate frozen yogurt thanks.

No chocolate cheesecake thanks.

No chocolate oranges thanks.

Blech.

I enjoy chocolate in just about everything else. So I had some pretty selfish motives in shooting for a raspberry swirl cheesecake: This was made for me to be able to enjoy Kent’s cake without the chocolate and raspberry and yogurt touching. =)


And it was GOO-OOD!

Huh?

My apologies for a strange format of our blog these days. I haven't yet figured out if my techno-ignorant self deleted some important codes somewhere, or if blogger is having a really bad week. Please bear with us.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Happy Birthday to Dady

After traversing the globe and East Africa this year, Kent was looking forward to celebrating with a quiet day at home. Early in the morning he got to chat on the computer with his sister for the first time.


Yeah for technology! For mid-morning snack Anna delivered his first treat: Sugar free Extra dark Chocolate with a kiss) as he worked on his computer. While he worked, I was in the kitchen frantically working on a raspberry swirl cheesecake (see next post for the whole cooking story...). For now I'll just say, the cake worked - yay!

I include the second picture only because it shows how much help he had in blowing (check out Anna's cheeks!) out candles. Kent chose garlic cheese white sauce over penne and broccoli for his birthday dinner and we had sides of rosemary rolls (from pioneerwoman.com again) and ginger stir-fried green beans too. He treated himself to a Tangawizi (Ginger beer) that's really strong.



Proof that he got presents.


I brought all sorts of Cmas wrapping paper neatly folded in the suitcase, but somehow forgot the birthday paper. Hm. Who knew that making your own wrapping paper could be fun? James drew stars and bats for 'Dady' (and a token Cmas tree because that was the example of wrapping paper I had to show him), and the kids learned how to curl paper ribbons. Yes, you can curl paper (gently).


Bob the Builder seems to have hi-jacked Kent’s office and it is filled with tools and parts of things to help renovate this house. Needless to say, it is not very conducive to thinking, so our handmade presents focused on sprucing up his office. He got new curtains, matching desk dust cloth (made from one of those sheets we picked up from the 'Games I post), more dark chocolate (Swiss - 80% - with Tanzania on the label? Go figure), chocolate gingersnaps (that worked!)...



...and a decorated crafty can from the kids for pencils. (Anna DID eventually let go of the bag of cookies.) The kids did a nice job gluing fun pictures onto their cans, and Anna did a stellar job of cutting up a million tiny pieces to help. Cleaning up was another story...


Overall he deemed it a fun and tasty birthday!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Medieval Helpdesk

I post this for 4 reasons:

1) I found it funny.

2) It's filmed by a Norwegian Broadcasting Company and I'm somewhat Norwegian. Hey! It's just fun to listen to them speak and here the cognates with English.

3) For John, who knows what it's like to be the 'helpdesk'.

and 4) Because it makes me think about literacy. Being a literacy specialist in Africa I have first-hand experience to prove that we take our literature-rich environment for granted. While it's a funny look at modern help desks, it's also sobering to realize that there are remote regions where this could still happen today. Hope you enjoy!


Saturday, November 7, 2009

Games I: Space Bubble

As many of you know, our 3 little fair-haired kiddos are the only white people under the age of 20 in this town (and probably for quite some surrounding distance as well). There are a few other families usually here, who are currently in the US, leaving my mzungu (foreign) kids for this year. So... whenever we go out we attract attention, which is putting it mildly. I could hide in a burka and people would still know I'm the white lady with twin boys (that's what they keep saying anyway).

This morning started out with the boys normal morning walk. Only today they came across a family with a line of Value Village cast-off sheets for sale. Since I love to buy these for sewing things around the house (cheap, sometimes cute cotton? yes!) Kent stopped and looked. He deemed it worth bringing me back later. Well, the kids didn't want to be left home with nothing else to do on a Saturday morning, so all five of us ventured down the road on foot smiling, waving and trying not to be annoyed at so many pairs of curious eyes. We wound our way down into a residential area just 1/2 mile from our house and started 'shopping'. The more we stay in one place, the more the crowd has time to gather, and soon there were around 20 children hanging around looking at our 3.

James has become accustomed to this. It no longer scares him. The kids mean no harm. They're just curious. After all, we are aliens. And inevitably, there is some kind of game that begins whether children have a common language and culture or not. But as aliens, we don't know the right games (at least not yet), so new games are invented. For the next little while I will describe one of these unique alien games in separate posts, so you can get a feel for life here.

Game I: Space Bubble
The Space Bubble game involves the alien trying to get the non-alien into his space bubble. He wins by tagging (much like traditional 'tag'), but the alien is always 'it'. This is the game James was soon playing with most of the children in the road (between moments of dodging motorcycles) this morning. And lest you Eeyore-types out there think the kids are secretly terrorizing each other in this game, stand corrected. I assure you both aliens and non-aliens are having a blast playing this Space Bubble game. It's only the mortified mother-ship who doesn't enjoy it...

I didn't have my camera to show you the game in action, but I do have a previous example of the Space Bubble game recorded from a few months back when we visited the one and only playground in town at a nearby orphanage school. Here Joel swings inside his Space Bubble. He's not trying very hard to win the game...


In a really active game of Space Bubble, all players are in constant motion around/within the invisible bubble, which looks much like a kindergarten soccer game with 12 players mobbed around the ball roving down the field and back again.


I just had to capture this guy on top of the swingset.
Space Bubble apparently can be played in 3 or 4 dimensions...
Let's just say we have a tiny bit more sympathy for famous people dealing with the paparazzi. Tiny.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Anna in a Basket

Don't you just love toddlers? They are into everything and trying every new button they can reach to push. Fortunately, they are small enough to fit almost anywhere! Everyone has a picture of themselves as a toddler fitting somewhere strange, right? They look so cute sitting in the dryer, inside a truck tire, etc. Well, James fit into one of our packing boxes once. Joel fit into a laundry basket of warm laundry (who wouldn't like that?). And Anna chose a shopping basket.

Local artisans weave these baskets for common shopping. I think these are wonderful, but more recently plastic versions in bright colors offer a much more water-proof shopping experience. Anyway, here's my Anna-in-a-basket! So little, but not for so long...


I'm out of here. That's enough of that. (As you can see it was purple day.)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Home Renovation 101

In true European style houses here are traditionally built without closets. How else could those 4 kids get into the land of Narnia?? They needed a wardrobe! (or armoire if you will) Well, we have 3 bedrooms and no armoires built yet, so everything was folded and put back in certain boxes. I have nothing but admiration for the simplicity of an organized life without closets, but I just have to have somewhere to put those Christmas decorations and clothes that will fit the kid next year!

Life in boxes leaves something to be desired, because the item you need right away is inevitably at the bottom of the box! Some friends let us babysit 3 of their bookshelves, which in a matter of minutes were converted into a sort of 'closet' with stacks of shirts and pants for each bedroom.

Meanwhile Kent installed in our bedroom built-in shelving (currently housing my growing collection of cookbooks). With concrete walls it's not too complicated to drill in small supports, measure your boards, finish them and voila! shelving. It's far easier to line something up on the wall than to build a stand-alone piece that can never be exactly square (and may not look square against a slightly crooked wall even if it really is, in fact, square!)

Anna's room is by far the smallest at about 7 ft x 10 ft, and one day a design for built-in shelving across the short side came to me. Kent made it happen. I painted it white... a few times, and ta-da! Anna's closet:


Someday we may put a curtain or door on the front, but we're going for function first and I kind of like this look anyway. There was something really wonderful about hanging her dresses up instead of mashing them into another box! The hanging rod is fashioned of cheap PVC pipe leftover from our plumbing expedition and painted black instead of chalk blue/gray. Kent wondered, "So does getting the FIRST closet make up for getting the LAST bed?"

Yes, Anna is still in her PackNPlay. We've been working with the carpenters every few days for almost 2 months. My design was not as simple as it could have been. We were supposed to pick it up yesterday, but Kent found the unfinished pieces still laying around. We ordered it from one of the most talented woodworkers in town, and he does beautiful work, but he sets his own schedule... because he can.

The bed will happen.

Someday.

Now I just need to paint her walls...

But I'll save my saga with "blue lagoon" local paint for another post on another day!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

A Congo Birthday

Aside from music and the strength of relationships, one of my favorite things about life in Congo is the incredible fabrics! Local fabrics are brought from all over West Africa (I've heard it said that Dakar is the 'Paris' of African fashion...), and sold in 6 meter lengths (or 6 yards sometimes). With 6 meters, there is are endless possibilities for clothes. Combinations we've used: 2 boys shirts + 4 boys pants, long women's dress + men's dress shirt to match, or 2 women's skirts +headscarf + fancy shirt. Endless. I'm serious.
So here are the kitenge the boys picked out for my birthday:


And then they took me out to a new Indian restaurant in town. I'm usually not too thrilled about foreign spicy foods, but we have been there a couple times already and I was drooling over the possibility of yet another order of coconut curry chicken. It's slightly sweet, very creamy with a tiny kick to make it interesting. But it would already be interesting just for the fact that there are huge chunks of chicken breast, which you cannot buy here. So we hung out, drinking cold sodas and waiting for the creamy goodness to arrive...


It's here! The pictures may not do it justice, but I assure you it was delicious! (just ignore the guy with beer in the background) And I prefer posed pictures, while Kent, who obviously had the camera, prefers to catch people off guard.

...and as a tribute to his tenacity I post an action shot just for Kent. Anna and I enjoying hot cheese naan with our coconut curry:


One side benefit to Kent snapping pictures a mile a minute, is that we sometimes get some incredible shots. Anna was in the mood for posing, and this one is my favorite! Who needs presents?



Some friends came with us, Joey and Kathleen, and all the pictures we got with these wonderful friends look much less than wonderful. But they came, ate and had fun with us! (it's almost a good shot of our car sadly enough...)



Then we relaxed at home, enjoyed the day, and ended a light dinner with an indulgent 'Tres Leches' cake (inspired by thepioneerwoman.com). It's essentially a sponge cake soaked in sweet cream and topped with whipped cream, so it's not for anyone on a diet or anyone with a heart problem for that matter! But Kent went out of his way to make a fantastic cake just like I wanted - what a guy! After her first bite, our British friend called it 'gorgeous'! I agree.


The butterfat at its best:

Here's what Anna thinks:

Won't my mouth open a bit wider?

Friday, October 30, 2009

Third Culture Kid

Last week Joel had a simple assignment: Make up a city and paint a picture of it. We had just learned about differences between the 'country' and the 'city' and what kind of buildings he might have in a city. So Joel paints this:



I really like it, don't get me wrong. It's a Picasso-ish seaside metropolis with twin towers apparently (I guess those explanations of Sept. 11 really stuck from last month!) I think Anna even got in on the gray shading of the East Tower. Anyway, I hung it up and his last assignment was to name his city.

So, what do you want to name your city Joel?

Africa.

Africa is a continent. Are you sure that's what you want to name your city?

Yup. Africa.


So, here's the city 'Africa' by Joel, a true TCK (third culture kid). For those of you unfamiliar with this term, it is often used for children raised overseas where they are not entirely IN their passport culture, nor entirely IN their local culture, but somehow in a THIRD. One that is made up of other TCKs with a dash of different cultures and traditions thrown together. It has its inherent difficulties, but can be an incredible heritage. So why not a city named Africa?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Oh Happy Dog!

Okay Carrie, I know I am about 6 weeks late on keeping my promise of dog pictures, but better late than never, right? We are proud dogsitters of two puppies. I should know their breeds but don't. I'm not that cool. All I know is Kali is made for Norway, lives in the tropics and was bred to look like a lion. Most of our visitors are convinced she is part lion.

Above Kali lounges for James. She loves a good excuse to lounge. Oh look, it's sunny! Time to lounge. Wait! it's getting dark out. Time to lounge. Wow, my tummy's full. Time to lounge. You get the idea. Kali is a professional lounger. If only I could say the same...

And here's Moshi:

He is the opposite of lounging. Shall we say lunging? Twenty-four hours per day Moshi carries around one of 3 different chewable toys begging someone to throw it far and high. Okay, maybe only 22 hours per day. He has all the energy Kali doesn't. I've seen him nap a few times, but usually he's sticking his cute little nose in the front door begging for a playmate. He also loves chasing airplanes, which is remarkably endearing in a dog. I suppose it's not that different than chasing cars. He can do 3 laps around our house trying to get that plane before it's out of sight! Moshi will run laps with the boys, but our kids definitely prefer the patience and cuddles of Kali the lounger, aka 'Kali Kali Big Dog'.

No this is not a dead dog! She's lounging!
Anna made her a little more comfortable by sharing her beloved pink polka-dot baby blanklet (like we were worried about keeping her warm!). She really is one of the most sweet-tempered, patient 'lions' I've ever met! The boys quickly discovered how fun it is to put huge grasshoppers for a ride on her back. I think I saw her eat one once...

You know she's thinking, "Why do I put up with this?"

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Seventh Birthday

James had a great day on his birthday.
We decided to stick to routines and still have school, but snuck in a few treats and surprises along the way. Some mornings the 'men' in our family go for an early walk and stop by the neighbor's beignet shop on the way home to breakfast. Now, for those of you not living in New Orleans or elsewhere in la francophonie, beignet [ben-yay] are deep-fried chewy donut holes. The bagel-bites of donut holes?
You can imagine why that makes for a popular kid snack around town! So James got to skype with Grandma and Grandpa, and get fresh hot beignets for breakfast!


Anna will now model for you how we like to eat them best: Rolled in powdered sugar!
(James had already finished his when the camera was found. This is the coarse organic sugar from town here put through our wheat flour grinder once. It turned out halfway between 'American' granulated sugar and real powdered sugar. Close enough for me!)


YUM!


Here's the birthday boy eating his breakfast of champions... granola and yogurt... goofing off because the camera has appeared...



It's not like there are store-bought cupcakes to bring to your class snack time in rural African homeschool. So we made monster peanut butter cookies with pieces of chocolate bars inside. These were still warm for snacktime too... (I think Hoppy is jealous...)


Like my impromtu 'Burger King' crown? James did. Guess that's what matters!

In the afternoon once a week he has an 'extra-curricular' class with a friend. For his birthday they played all sorts of games that were new to James like:


...pin the tail on the donkey! And:

...a scavenger hunt in the yard!

One box of presents from 'home' didn't arrive due to airplane troubles, so in a heroic effort to compensate, Kent and I each wrote James a 'chapter book' with original titles like
The Story of James
detailing his first six years of adventures (the photos seem to be the best part), and The Pasmus*** family in the humorous fiction category.
Here he holds one book with one of the better camera smiles:

How have SEVEN years gone by? Where did this guy go?

My 7-yr-old little man loves Star Wars, LOVES loves Star Wars. After years of Thomas the Tank Engine cakes, we have entered a new galaxy. Last year I bought an X-wing and stuck it on top of his cake with star-shaped candles. Perfect. Well, there is no store in town with Star Wars toys and I have a decent secret stash to pull from, but when I asked what he wanted for cake (thinking chocolate or white cake...) he answered, "I want that one scene from Episode 6 where C3PO and R2D2 are walking in the desert just before they come to the big door." Whoa. Wait a minute. Why did I ask? We couldn't find their actual action figures, so I ended up printing C3PO from online and freehand drawing his buddy (held up by Candyland figurines!). So here's the sandy desert scene I could muster (hint: cinnamon sugar makes the right Star Wars sand color):


At his party: "James, your cake looks like a moonscape!"

"But it's not the moon, it's Tatooine, Luke's planet."

He's a hardcore fan. I doubt I will ever get the Candyland pieces back...

Happy Birthday to James!!!


In our family the birthday girl/boy gets to choose the dinner menu, and James chose macaroni and cheese with steamed carrots. So our friend went to buy carrots for me at the local farmer's market and came back with this:


It looks more like a weapon than a vegetable!
James and I had to laugh when I tried to fit it in the fridge! My friend said that she'd never seen anything like it, but that several farmers were selling them from different farms.
Was there something different about the rain last month?

Let's just say we had plenty of leftover steamed carrot. Singular.

In the evening his new best friend Amooti and family came by for cake and presents.

Seven years.

A beautiful mind. A kind heart.

And many more years to use them to his Maker's glory.

We love you James!