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!  

March 31, 2017

Fighting for Joy. & What about Science?

Life

A "tent" where I found the kids listening
to their latest audio book "How to Train Your
Dragon: How to Be a Pirate"
The past two Sundays have left me feeling convicted and challenged. My besetting sin is complaining and grumbling, and I definitely notice it being inherited by my offspring---sadly. I have known for years that being thankful, doing everything without complaining and arguing, has been very hard for me. By default I want to express most annoyances I experience. "How else will anything improve?" I tell myself. Of course, this creates an extremely negative atmosphere in my home since homeschooling 4 children, in a third world country no less, lends itself to countless opportunities for annoyance on a daily basis. Not to mention, these annoyances are hardly within my control, or perhaps anyone elses. It's called life in a sinful world.

One of the reasons I write on this blog is that it's a way I can force myself to look at life through a different lens. When I let the days go by without much reflection on the positive, true, or lovely, all I see is what is going wrong (according to me, that is, which is hardly a good measuring tool to use).

Inside the "curtain tent" where I found my 2nd and 3rd grader reading
"My Father's Dragon" to each other.  <3
Writing on a weekly basis, forcing myself to reflect over the week, is helping shape my perspective. It's bigger than the daily grind: my daughter cutting out paper dolls instead of doing math, another child dropping their pencil for the tenth time, food being spilled, traffic slowing us down, messy bedrooms. All of that doesn't really matter. I have so much to be thankful for. One: because things are actually going considerably well in our home. We love each other. I see glimpses of the children truly caring for one another. I can honestly say that I am more in love with my husband than I was 13 years ago. And Two: even if everything was going wrong for us (humanly speaking), this isn't all there is anyways. I know a better place is being prepared for those who love Christ. I know that the disappointments we face on earth, aren't the end of our story. I don't want to live being robbed of the joy that He wants me to experience now. Joy in knowing Him now. Joy knowing that my eternity is secure. 

School

Making an edible cell: Jell-O and candies

Science has always been one of those subjects that I could leave. Over the past six years, I have put minimal emphasis on it. The thought of doing experiments, projects..... it just screams mess at me. This is all much to my children's dismay, because what child doesn't like doing science experiments and messy projects?

At the beginning of this year we made an "edible" cell out of Jell-O and different candies representing the organelles in a cell. (See in the photo above) I cringed at the whole thing.... and found it completely ironic that we're studying the human body and then eating this terribly sugary treat afterwards. So bad for us! Haha  Anyways, this remains one of the most memorable school activities we did this year. Then again, it could be just because they got to eat candy.... which isn't a daily thing around here as it is. There's definitely a place for hands-on experiments. 

Even though my attitude toward hands-on experiments and what-not is less than enthusiastic... I have discovered there's huge value in studying science (especially as a Christian). This is God's world afterall, and when we are exposed to and discover the intricacies within nature itself, it makes me more amazed at His handiwork.

We have used various resources over the years: Sonlight, Evan-Moor, Apologia for Young Explorers. Looking at the coming year, I'm already hoping to make it more about Science than I have in the past. We have always gone heavy on the Language Arts and History, so
 I'm thinking everyone will be ready for a change.


We were given this circuit panel with a book full of projects to do. My son has been fiddling around with it all week. It has been really fun to watch him make a "burglar alarm" and other little electrical activities.

On My Side Table

I'm still listening/reading to this book and still enjoying it. For me this book hasn't been a string of "Ah ha!" moments, but rather re-iterating thoughts and ideas I have and encouraging me to keep on keeping on.

This week I began What Alice Forgot. Definitely good so far, opening with a woman suffering a concussion and in her mind throwing her 10 years back in time.

March 24, 2017

Life



Life is full right now. Full of paper dolls, Lego space ships, fixing bikes, chalk drawings, reading books, practicing piano, and enjoying classic tv shows like Brady Bunch & Home Improvement.

Even though this lifestyle we call homeschooling can be hectic, loud, and messy.... I will never stop loving how much time we have to be a family. Today we aren't being stretched in every other direction. Perhaps a season like that will arrive one day, but for now, I'm enjoying the empty calendar...  We have time to host small group with friends from our church each week, and we have time to gather ladies together to study God's Word. We have time to grocery shop and bring meals to friends who are tired.

And even though that all sounds great as I write it down, those niggling feelings of discontentment still leak into my heart. The unmet expectations, anxieties, and fear are trying to steal my joy. And yet God keeps giving me a sentence John Piper is famous for,
 "God is most glorified in us, when we are most satisfied in Him."

Growing


These are called celosia flowers or cockscomb flowers. The generic name comes from a greek word that means "burning" because of the flame-like tip.

They are crazy! They are spiky, but feathery. They sit in a pot outside of my front door greeting people who enter our home. 



On My Side Table

I recently bought the book Teaching From Rest with the audio narration. This book has been on my radar for a couple of years already, but I hadn't yet felt like I wanted to buy it. As we near the end of our school year, and I'm spending time online looking for new resources for the next year, I thought it was time to take a look at this book.

Sarah Mackenzie, author of Teaching From Rest, is speaking words I can relate to right from the beginning of the book.

March 17, 2017

Battling Pests, and How We Do Bible Time Together

Life

If you're used to big box stores like Costco, it could be a bit of a shock to find that in Madagascar it's pretty normal to buy flour and sugar in one kilogram bags from a store. For those of us who bake bread on a regular basis, it means we are buying many small bags of flour each trip to the grocery store.

There is a chinese store not too far from my house, and I saw they were selling large 50 kilogram bags of flour. That's more like it! With a little bit of cost savings per kilo, I decided to buy one of these large bags and save myself from the hassle of buying many tiny bags each week.

It turned out that I just traded one slight inconvenience for another grosser one. The bag is already crawling with bugs, and their larva. So our baking routine now involves sifting every scoop of flour...

Up close and personal with the bug larva in our flour

School

We are at a pretty neat stage right now with our Bible time as a family, in that everyone is at an age where they can share the reading aloud and engage in some discussion. The best book I have found that really helps teach foundational doctrines is Leading Little Ones to God. I have looked at many devotional books, and none really come close to giving the types of age-appropriate explanations this book does. It goes over things like Who Is God, How to Become a Child of God, What Does a Child of God Do.... it gives explanations for glory, holiness, sin.... It's just a really great book.

As much as I have questioned including Bible reading as part of our school, like another thing that has to be checked off, I hope it is helping to develop good habits for life. I am praying that their hearts follow in due time--that part is not up to me.

Each of the kids has their own Bible, whether it's the full version, or a Beginners Bible. My 8-year-old son loves his NIV Adventure Bible. My 10-year-old daughter is working through a Kay Arthur inductive Bible study for kids on the Gospel of John and she's really enjoying it.

The kids always have verses they are memorizing. Some of my kids like to sing their verses, while others aren't so keen. It is quite amazing to me to see my young ones memorize longer Psalms or other longer whole passages. It also helps me keep my memory sharp as I listen to them recite the same verses over and over. My three older ones work on the same passages, and my kindergartener is working through Sing The Word from A to Z, which are 26 verses that begin with each letter of the alphabet. 

I have implemented various reward systems for memory work and it has been a great motivator over the years. This year we're doing a candy system *gasp* ! And I'm encouraging the kids to review verses (for rewards) to keep all of their work fresh in their minds. This also helps them review verses they didn't have perfectly memorized when they "passed" them the first time round. Again, this is an area where it's pretty rote, and I'm praying all of these "seeds" will take root in their hearts as they grow and mature in their own personal relationships with Christ.



Ongoing Projects




My husband and I spent a couple of evenings with a stapler and the fabric my daughters and I bought, and we recovered our sectional. I love how this turned out! The contrasting brown cushions with the lighter seat material really work in this room. And the fabric we chose for the seats is a light brown speckled pattern, so I think it will help hide dirt well. We hired a lady to sew the piece onto the armrest on the far left. I'm so glad we went with recovering it instead of making a slip cover, which we'd originally considered. I think we would have been constantly readjusting a cover and frustrated with how it sat. This looks tidy and fresh.

Growing

This Bird of Paradise is another one of my favorite flowers in my garden! This one I have in a pot on our back terrace and it opened literally overnight. So fun to see.


On My Side Table

My reading has slowed way down this month. I just finished My Life In France: Julia Child

Television programs have kind of taken precedent in my evenings.... it's just mindless, and I've enjoyed relaxing in front of the tv more, recently. I do have a growing list of novels I want to get into over the upcoming months however. 

Now, less mindless... I am involved in a ladies Bible study at my house by Jen Wilkin. There are about seven of us working through the Sermon on the Mount together and it's pretty heavy, so that is taking up some of my free afternoon moments. If you're looking for a Bible study to do, I highly recommend Jen Wilkin. Her book Women of the Word is so good at pointing us toward digging more in our Bibles for ourselves for the purpose of heart transformation. 

March 10, 2017

Cyclones, Being Indoors & a bit on Our History Studies

Life

In Madagascar during January through March, we usually experience a few cyclones. We live on the high plateau in the center of the island, so we aren't usually too affected by these storms. But we hear about the devastating events on the coastline, and our mission flies different relief organizations to bring aid into damaged areas. Cyclone Enawo is the first cyclone of the season, and this week we were watching its approach to the east coast of Madagascar. On the high plateau, cyclones bring lots of cloud, higher winds, and more rain. Now that we are accustomed to endless blue skies and lots of sun, this cloud-cover brings along with it nostalgia of living in the Lower Mainland in British Columbia. Gray and gloomy days are nothing out of the ordinary there!


Being cooped up inside while living on a tropical island feels just wrong. When we are so used to making outside our second living space, after a mere day of having doors and windows shut, it begins to feel rather 'cabin-feverish.' How did we manage 9 months of this in our previous life?

School

Over the years I have appreciated how Sonlight covers history and social studies. They cycle through world history and american history. Starting Kindergarten through Grade 2 they sweep through world history and cultures, and then in Grades 3 and 4 focus on American History, and then return to study the history of the Eastern Hemisphere in Grades 5 through 7. Through high school you can choose to focus more on American History or dive into church history or more world history. Even though we are Canadian, I enjoy many of the american topics we've studied over the years.

Currently I'm working through world history and cultures with my younger three kids.

We are using "Core A", typically to be used in Kindergarten. I chose this because of my youngest child, and I thought we could embellish the already rich curriculum to make it a bit more challenging for my 2nd and 3rd Grader. They are doing timeline work, and notebooking pages, answering questions in written form from the study guides included in the Instructor's Guide from Sonlight.

In these early years the read alouds usually don't correlate with the period in history we're studying, but starting at Grades 3, the readers and read alouds definitely add to the topics. I also love this aspect of our history program. It feels very cohesive and rich.

Ongoing Projects

I unofficially began working on my pre-furlough To-Do list by cleaning out my sewing desk, and reorganizing yarn, fabrics, and other crafty things in my closets.

As well, last weekend I took the girls with me to find fabric to recover our sectional upstairs. The faux leather has seen better days, for sure, so I sewed new pillows for it, and I will hire somebody else to help sew covers for the seats and the armrest.

While reorganizing my fabric closet, I found leftover sheer material for some curtains I had sewn over 5 years ago, so I quickly made some sheers for the upstairs school room as well. It definitely feels brighter up there now!