May 20, 2017

Birthdays, Playgrounds, Ferries

We are enjoying our second week in Canada. Happy not to have our heads spinning, thinking we should be sleeping!
We've visited Walmart, Costco, Old Navy.... so many choices, so many sales. :)
Last week, we celebrated my youngest's 6th birthday. This was his first birthday in Canada since he was born, which made it extra special. The grandparents were gathered around, as well as many aunts and uncles.




Playgrounds are a huge novelty! With the cool spring gracing the island and much of Canada, we were too cold to venture very far from the fireplace. As well, a constant drizzle kept things damp much of last week. There was one afternoon however, when an aunty wanted to take the kids to the playground. This was a huge hit of course!

After saving their allowance, birthday money, and gifts over the year, the kids were really happy to spend it on Lego products here. In Madagascar, the Lego selection is small, and fairly expensive. So they were thrilled to be able to afford some larger sets in Canada.


The next couple of weeks will be spent on the mainland, catching up with more family and friends, and our home church.

May 12, 2017

We're Here - and so is the Jet Lag


3:30am, beginning our first flight, 10.5 hours from Antananarivo to Paris

Day 1 in Canada at 5:00 pm, waiting for our second or third burst of energy
We arrived in Canada after a very long 35 hours of travel. It is so nice to be here, despite the jetlag and all the symptoms it brings along.... upset tummy, dizziness, uncontrollable nodding off.... my eleven year old has probably been the most affected by it. In previous trips, her body adjusted fairly quickly and easily... but this time the trip is taking a bit more to recover from, so she's been pretty discouraged, even letting me know she hopes not to feel this way when we go back home... I told her not to think about that right now.

With a 10-hour time difference, and basically zero sleep for 45 hours, the main order of business is trying to get our body clocks changed around. It has been super nice to have a few visitors around the house to distract us away from how tired we feel.

Spring has kind of arrived? The sun is trying to poke out now, but the temperatures are still way below what we're used to in Madagascar. There, we were already feeling the chill of the seasons turning to winter, as we saw the temperature dipping to 10 degrees celsius, we put flannel sheets on our bed along with a down duvet! Where we're at in western Canada, we're seeing lows of 5 degrees during the night, and highs during the afternoon aren't yet reaching 20. We are so thankful for central heating, a warm gas fireplace, and cozy blankets and slippers. Summer will be around the corner shortly, we hope!

May 5, 2017

Almost Ready

Digital Clutter ...... 
This week we have been shopping, cleaning, organizing, repairing, making checklists.... it's actually great to clean out closets and put away things that have been left for the past 20 months! Rob has been working painstakingly at cleaning off old hard-drives, trying to find out if we have back ups of important stuff. 

This digital age we live in might take up less space physically, but boy can we collect a bunch of junk, and COPIES of the same junk without realizing it. I wonder how other people manage all of the digital documents and photos and videos and downloaded files one can accumulate over the months and years. I made a quick Google search on digital clutter and I was suprised (yet not so surprised) to find full blog posts and websites dedicated to how to manage the digital clutter in your life.  hahaha.

My daughter got a digital camera for her birthday, and she is super excited! Thinking about managing all of her photos on our computer is putting me into a bit of a silly panic. And no, she doesn't need her own laptop at this point in time.


We are feeling almost ready to make this long trip back to Canada. Our minds are getting in the mode to be in an airplane for those transcontinental, transatlantic, and then second transcontinental flights.... I'm feeling panicky thinking about the long trip actually. It's so long! Ah.

We've been seeing friends, saying goodbyes to those who are leaving Madagascar permanently, and finding goodies for people in Canada. Emails are flying back and forth as we continue to plan dates for our summer.

A little ongoing knitting project I have at the moment.

It will be a touque, and it's kind of a unique project since I'm working on a circular needle and then double pointed needles to finish it off.

This, I haven't really done before!

Rob gathered up headphones and fixed ones that were broken..
I will shop one last time on Monday or Tuesday for items we need for our carry ons and then,
I think we're almost ready!

April 28, 2017

Life

My oldest daughter celebrated her eleventh birthday over the weekend, so she had her best friend over for a sleepover (a very special thing we've tried to save for birthdays). Watching these girls grow up together over the past 6 years has been special. I'm so thankful that my daughter has had this friend in her life among so many others who have come and gone.

I'm anticipating more busyness next week as the days draw ever nearer to our departure. There are many last minute things we need to do during the final days before we leave.

I plan to go through everybody's clothes, shoes, and sandals over the weekend and sort through, outgrown and outworn, clothes. As I'm doing this, we will make shopping lists of clothes for everyone based on what they need. With school finished for now, I also plan to go through our school room, put books back in their rightful place, toss old work we no longer need, and tidy up things have been haphazardly placed around the room.

This week I defrosted my large freezer, and moved the few remaining items into the small freezer in our fridge. 

The dog needs his yearly rabies vaccine before we leave.

I need to make a list of things to be mindful of, or "how-to's," for our house/dog-sitter.

The kids' rooms need a thorough go-through...... 

I have some shopping left to do for Canada at the local souvenir market. I'm sure other things will come to mind as we prepare to leave.

We are gathering photos and videos we've taken over the past 2 years to try and summarize (hahaha) our lives into 5 or 10 minutes. Preparing for furlough is a strange time of reflection over the last 20 months---what has happened? What has changed? What have we learned? How have we grown? What were the disappointments, the challenges, the highlights?

The ladies' Bible study I've been a part of for the last 9 weeks came to its end this week. Just in time for us to leave.. the group started out quite large (9-10 ladies), but just because of life and schedules, only 4 of us have been able to regularly attend. It has been a special time of studying God's Word and discussing it together, and praying that it transforms our hearts.


Growing

Lots of red in my yard right now. At the tail end of April we start to see the poinsettia plants begin to bloom. These amazing plants bloom all the way into September and October!


This is a Sphere Poinsettia. These get huge, 6 inches in diameter!


After some extensive looking online, trying to figure out what these red bell-like flowers are, I'm going to have to guess they are a type of Salvia plant, of which there are 500 types. In this family of plants, there's the African Sage, a fuzzy purple and white flower, which I have tons of in my garden as well. I think these red ones are Bonfire Salvia.

Most people would recognize this is a traditional Christmas poinsettia. In my yard it stands as a tree, over 10 feet tall!

On My Side Table

 Expectations and Burnout: Women Surviving the Great Commission
Two years ago, I had this book given to me by our Canadian member care couple who came to visit us.

I don't think I'm coming anywhere near what the authors call "burnout," but they link women's expectations (on themselves, and a host of other things), and not being able to meet these expectations, as the root cause of burnout.

April 21, 2017

Not Doing Things Solo


I wouldn't consider myself an outgoing person at all. Growing up, I felt shy and awkward. I was happy with my one or two good friends. These friends were by my side throughout my childhood and teenage years--a blessing to be sure. We went our separate ways once adulthood hit, and then I moved oversees. Nothing could have prepared me for "friend-making" in this context:  language barriers, cultural differences, church backgrounds, ideologies--not to mention the short-term nature of many coming through Madagascar. Making friends remains to be one of those tougher things. I have already said goodbye to three close friends in 5 years..... we have become the stayers, I think, after this short amount of time already.

Nevertheless, I think I have come out of my shy shell, since moving out of my childhood home. Getting to know people and asking them questions isn't as hard as I had once imagined when I was much younger. Over the years I have been so encouraged by Sally Clarkson's ministry. Her books have really inspired me in many different ways from: resting in my homeschool, bringing beauty into my home, loving my children, and especially building friendships. None of us were meant to do life solo. And even though the community changes often, I have been convicted from early on in Madagascar, to initiate. Stop waiting around for groups to form, to get invited out, etc.... just initiate. I have made some dear friendships over the years.
But I learned that I had to become an initiator if I wanted to have friends and fellowship for myself, as well as for Clay and the kids. 
-- Sally Clarkson "Desperate"
When I heard this message from a woman who I have grown to look up to and admire, I thought "Wow! She had to initiate? Why weren't people just flocking to her house to spend time with her?" If Sally, with all of her God-loving wisdom and years of experience had to initiate ladies' groups and friendships, than certainly, me, a young mom who feels inadequate and unsure most of the time, must initiate friendships also.

We have been blessed with a large English-speaking expat community, transient as they may be. God has placed lovely people within our sphere for a season. As discouraged as I may become when those announcements for goodbyes arise, I must trust that God brings people in and out of our lives for His purposes and glory. I have found great encouragement from a host of different people, and I hope that as new people enter our lives, we can also continue to welcome them with open arms and listening ears.

On My Side Table

      

April 14, 2017

Change of Scenery Ahead.... & Finishing School & A Recipe

Life & School

Every two years we head back to Canada's west coast for a couple of months. This will be our third trip back as a family, and the anticipation of the months ahead are in full force.

We are approximately 1 month away from making this big trip--

this time 4 airplanes and about 35 hours

At the beginning of this school year, I had planned to finish up in May so as not to bring any school with us to Canada. But it seems to happen that whenever I am about a month away from "finishing school," my brain has already checked out. In my head, we are already finished school. In fact, I'm already thinking and planning next year.

My oldest has finished grade five math already, and she completed her online Social Studies course just yesterday. I'm having to slow down my Kindergartener--who is already flying through the Level 1A Singapore Math book. His reading is also well at a grade one level. My middle two kids are also ahead in their maths and reading anything that interests them.

Upon my completion of the book Teaching From Rest, I was reminded again that it doesn't matter if we are checking off all our boxes, or completing every.... single..... worksheet or assignment. What matters is, that my kids' sense of wonder and curiosity is engaged, and I see them seeking after projects and subjects on their own. Which, Praise God, it is.

So for the next little bit here, until we depart, they will be on a "lighter" schedule. We will fill the day with plenty of piano practice, listening to memory verses we've learned this year, reading lots, and doing some copywork of their choice.

In the Kitchen

Spice Cake &
Cooked Buttercream Icing

I especially love this icing because of how smooth and creamy it is. The confectioner's (icing) sugar that I can buy here, isn't very fine and doesn't dissolve completely when I make icing. This method ensures a smooth finish, plus it uses regular white sugar---which I always have on hand anyways.

For the Spice Cake
(All spices are ground)

1/2 Cup Butter
2 Eggs
2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
1 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp ginger
1 1/2 Cups Sugar
1/2 tsp Vanilla
1 1/4 Cups Buttermilk or Sour Milk

Bring butter and eggs to room temperature before using.

Grease a 13x9x2 glass baking pan and lightly flour.

In a medium bowl, combine dry ingredients except sugar.

In a mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer and add sugar and vanilla. Beat until well combined. Add eggs one at a time, making sure they are well mixed in. Alternately, add dry ingredients with buttermilk, ensuring to mix thoroughly after each addition.

Pour into prepared pan.

Bake in a 350 C degree oven for 35 to 45 minutes.

Cool completely before icing.

For the Cooked Icing

Be sure to follow this method so your icing comes together. Allow yourself at least 45 minutes for this icing.
4 1/2 Tablespoons Flour
1 Cup Sugar
1 Cup Milk
1 Cup Butter, softened but not melted
1/2 tsp Vanilla
pinch of Salt

Beat softened butter with an electric mixer until basically whipped--a couple of minutes.

In a small saucepan, whisk flour and sugar together. Put on medium heat and add milk. Once it begins to thicken, cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat. Pour pudding into a heatsafe bowl and cover with plastic wrap, making sure the plastic covers the surface of the pudding. Cool completely.

Add pudding mixture, 1 tablespoon at a time, to the whipped butter, beating after each addition. Once combined, add vanilla and salt and beat for about another 2 or 3 minutes. The icing should be thick and creamy and ready to frost cakes or cupcakes.

April 7, 2017

Fullness & Messiness

Real life inside our home during a school week is full, and messy...

  • School books
  • Dishes & Snacks
  • Crafts
  • Readers
  • Lego
  • Lego... more Lego
  • Puzzles
  • BOOKS everywhere :)
I giggle inside when friends tell me how they can't believe how messy their house stays when the kids are home for school break. Yes, that's life with kids living in the house all day, everyday.

One thing that I'm so thankful for, is that we have a space dedicated in our home for the 'school stuff.' This doesn't mean that it doesn't get carted around the entire house, but it does mean that it all has its proper place when the day is over and done. I can leave the school space and go into a tidy living room, or into the kitchen and start the next thing.

I am fully aware that not everyone has such a setup.

I'm Thankful for this Space

Of course, not only is there just stuff everywhere related to school, but the attitudes flying around (mom included here) can also become quite a messy thing. If having my kids home and around me all day has taught me anything, not only is the house a mess most of the time, but our hearts are messy places too. We are all sinners and desperately need redemption by something other than ourselves. No matter how old we are, we are all battling our selfish desires, I'm reminding them; they are reminding me.

And on a more serious note, because stuff is simply just stuff...
It's Time To Go Home
I found this drawing online, after googling images trying to depict a believer's death.

For the past 2 years, friends of ours and fellow missionaries in Madagascar, have been journeying through cancer. The wife/mother, just a year or so older than me, gave birth to her fifth baby 3 weeks ago... after which time the doctors discovered the cancer she had been battling before the last pregnancy had spread through to her liver and was quite advanced. Yesterday she went to be with Lord; her suffering is over; her body is healed.

My heart is heavy, and our prayers and thoughts are with her family, her own mother who has been the caretaker of the new born babe, the granddaughter, and of course the other children and dear husband. We rest in knowing that God knows the rest of the story. He is good all of the time and knows exactly what He's doing.

On Our Side Table

The children and I started this book a week ago. It has been a great read so far!