School Collision


This year, more than ever, I’ve realized how thoroughly American our homeschool books are. No, I’m not saying that is a bad thing. But, it takes some creative teaching.

In Math (Math U See): “How many feet in a mile? How many pints in a quart? How many inches in a yard?”

“No, it isn’t easy like the grams and kilograms that we use every day. You’ll just have to memorize it.”

In Science (AiG’s God’s Plan for the Physical World): “What are some of the major appliances in your home? Your house is probably filled with electrical appliances, figure out how many hours a week they save you… Look at your refrigerator….”

“Well, we have a gas stove, that saves us a lot of time in not having to look for firewood. We also have a wash machine…but since we do a lot of the laundry by hand, and just use the spinner function…it doesn’t save much time, but it does save on effort. Remember the refrigerator we had when we were in the US…”

In Daily Five (First Language Lessons, Writing with Ease, Daily Trait Writing, Spelling U See, and Editor in Chief): “Do you remember the proper name of the state in which you live? Memorize your address. What are the Abbreviations in your address…st., ct., ave.?

“Well let’s write out our mailing address. And we’ll write out Grandma and Grandpa’s address.”


Overall, though, school has been going well. We are nearing the end of most of our books…at the beginning of April. So, we will have to take a long Easter break. After that, we’ll have to fill the rest of our time with “cementing the concept” type projects (it could also be called busy work). The boys have been doing lots of writing. They also have a big history project (I’ll post it when they are finished). And, they have been doing flash cards to cement their basic math facts.


deep waters

Two weeks and one day ago, I was sitting prepping posts for this website. I was taking pictures of the kids’ school books (a school post is coming), typing, and editing while breaking up fights between the boys, changing diapers, and cleaning messes. I burst out the front door to grab the escaping toddler, and looked over to see my “daughter’s” husband squatting under the chocolate tree (we have a chocolate tree in our yard…exotically cool, right?).

I immediately knew something was wrong.

My “daughter” had been showing signs that she would go into labor soon. They said they would call me when it was time. But her husband’s face didn’t look right. He said, “The baby is born. But he isn’t good, he wasn’t breathing. Your “daughter” isn’t doing well either.”

And just like that I was wading into the deep.

I half ran to my “daughter’s” house, and then carefully walked into the deep pool of sadness surrounding them. It is a hard thing to see a beautiful baby boy lying too still. It is a hard thing to hold onto my “daughter”, and cry with her. It is a hard thing to visit every day afterwards, and to sit, offering the only few words of comfort that I have. It is a hard thing to pray that she will not grow bitter, and that the deep will not drown her.

But I choose to believe.

I believe that if she clings to Him, who can give the only true comfort, she will find herself to have grown and changed in special and deep ways. As I face the hard and the deep, I am learning for myself that:

“suffering is part ofthe narrative, and emptiness and confusion often give way to new fullness and wisdom.”

Shauna Niequist Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way

*From what I’ve gathered, I think the baby died because of severe shoulder dystocia.

Mother Thoughts

I’ve found a quote that describes me very, very accurately. It’s a painful one.
“…Flaming Fire who burns through the thick masks and leaves the soul disrobed. I am naked and I am right ashamed. I know how monstrously inhumane I can be. Raging at children for minor wrongdoings while I’m the one defiling the moment with sinful anger. Hoarding possessions while others die of starvation. Entertaining the mind with trivial pretties when I haven’t bowed the head and heart in a prayer longer than five minutes in a week. My tongue has had a razor edge and my eyes have rolled haughty and my neck has been stiff and graceless and I have lived the filth ugly, an idolater, a glutton, and a grace thief who hasn’t had time for the thanks.” —Ann Voskamp

My natural default setting is to feel competent and able. I prefer to soldier on, just do it, and don’t complain too much. I figure that I can persevere through most difficult situations that come my way. That’s my default. That’s me thinking that I (with a big glaring I) can do it.

The reality that I so often find is that when I try to do it all on my own, I turn into a mean mommy. I often “rage at my children for minor wrongdoings.” I turn not only into a mean mommy, but a grumpy server of the disadvantaged (like I talked about in the last post). But, the scariest thing is that when I think I can do it all, I don’t submit and spend time with God.

Do you find truth about yourself in that quote? Are you like me and struggle to bow, “the head and heart in a prayer longer than five minutes in a week?” Are you willing to open up, and ask for accountability from someone you trust? Because I know that it what I need, and I figure that there are others out there too.

Keep a smile on your face.

A few weeks ago we had some guests that didn’t show signs of ever leaving.

The first night we happily fed our guests. We watched nature shows, and talked with them about the big-ness of the world. We held our breath when he smoked. We pulled out our sleeping mat and said, “sleep here, if you please.” We fed them breakfast in the morning, and expected them to head back home. We turned a blind eye when they foraged around the yard, picking fruit, and other things. We started counting the hours. And then it rained.
And then it was night. We scraped together another dinner, but smaller. We didn’t turn the TV on, but looked at pictures instead. We grudgingly held our noses when he smoked (and then when she smoked, and then when their kids asked for a puff). We pulled out our sleeping mat with heavy hearts. We weren’t too sad when they decided to sleep next door at our neighbor’s (empty) house where they could build a fire if they got cold in the middle of the night.
The next morning, we made breakfast. We wondered, “will they ever leave?” We watched them start to make their rounds around the yard, picking up nuts that had fallen from the trees. With grumpy hearts, Michael and I sat down to read our Bibles (true confession: it’s super incredibly rare that we ever sit down together and read, but on this day we did). Michael turned to me and said, “you better not read Romans 12. It’s a little too personal.”

So of course I read it. Here’s some of what it says:
“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering…
…if you’re called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don’t let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face…Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians, be inventive in hospitality.
…Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.
Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody…
Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness…” (the Message)

The family that stayed-on-too-long exposed us. Sometimes we convince others (and ourselves) that we rock this working-with-the-disadvantaged thing. We feel like we can see the beauty in everyone, and are good at helping the needy (in a way that doesn’t end up hurting them in the end).

That family is the exact sort of people that we are here to help. They define the word disadvantaged. She was 8 months pregnant. The two kids had the telltale stick out bellies that show they need worm medicine. Their clothes were tattered and unwashed. The wife and kids do not know how to read. The husband looks like he has chronic lung disease—maybe from smoking, maybe from TB. They have the pale skin of low nutrition. And, because they do the stay-on-too-long routine everywhere they visit, not many people in this community like them.

But, we did not serve them with a smile. Sure we may have smiled (through gritted teeth) when they we around, but our hearts were oh so definitely not smiling. We most definitely got irritated with them. We were depressed when we thought they would never leave. We showed only the bare minimum of hospitality. And we had a hard time seeing their beauty through the grime and smell. They messed up our little comfortable world, and our little comfortable routine.

It’s good have my heart exposed. It’s good to remember that it’s only, “with God helping you,” that I can serve others. No, I don’t naturally want to serve people I don’t like, but God working in me makes it possible.


[categories family life]

“Mama can I please have a whole apple all to myself.” said Jude.
To which I replied: “Uh. No. Sorry.”
‘Cuz I’m just that kind of mean mommy. Here in our jungle-y mountain home we have, miracles of miracles, started getting a small bag full of apples almost weekly. Michael buys several apples (they are quite expensive) from a new vendor at the market on the coast. They are like gold to us, so we eat them slowly, slicing them, and sharing them between the 5 of us. We never have a whole apple to ourselves. With lack the boys are appreciative.

Last year, when we were living within walking distance of 4 grocery stores we had a fruit bowl full of apples that was replenished weekly. The boys could have an apple (to themselves) any time they wanted. They only occasionally wanted. With plenty the boys were bored.

My point isn’t that it is good for kids to experience lack…maybe it is…maybe it isn’t. My point is that the things that we think of as sacrifices, the costs that we count up for our kids…those are the things that can be used in their lives to make them more complete and well rounded individuals.

As parents we all want our kids to appreciate the food that they have, the clothes that they wear, the houses that they live in, and to be grateful for the toys that they play with. We don’t want them to be so bored by having everything, that they never appreciate it.

It is tempting for me to try to shelter my kids…I can scramble and scheme to get them each an apple a day (and keep the doctor away). But, I am learning that it is okay that they don’t always get everything that they want. I am learning that sacrifices aren’t always all bad in their lives (or in mine).


“What is one thing that you have given up that has been hard to let go of? What have you sacrificed to live here?” she asked, leaning on my kitchen table with a cup of coffee in her hand.

I am not quick with answers to questions like that.
Maybe I just plod along, rarely thinking deep. Maybe it’s hard to come up with just one answer. Maybe I was just distracted with the Christmas cookie making. What IS the ONE THING that I’ve felt my fingers pried away from?

“I don’t know,” I answered. And then I stewed about it for a week.

Finally it came to me. It has been hard for me to give up ANONYMITY. Another way of saying it is independence, or people not caring what I do, or me time. It is hard when it feels like my life is the play that everyone is watching. Well actually, now that I say that, I like it when I’m the center of attention. So what is it exactly that gets under my skin?

I realize that it is difficult for me to give up anonymity, because I want to fritter away my “me time”. I wish no one cared if I played endless rounds of candy crush (as long as Ezra is napping and they boys are done with school).

I want to spend too much money without the crowd noticing.

I want to be able to take vacations without someone caring. In my “home” culture, people brag about their vacations on facebook. But, for us, living in a place where no one takes a vacation, it is noteworthy. Our coworkers are overstressed and overworked in a job that they feel cannot be given to anyone else (even for a few months of sabbatical). So when we took a sabbatical, or when we want to fly to another city to vacation for a week it is not taken lightly.

So that’s my THING. What is yours? What are the things that you have had to give up in order to be a better servant? Do you feel the chafe? Does the sacrifice wear on you? How do you let it go?


I’ve had seven posts in various stages of “done-ness” sitting in my drafts folder for over a month. I don’t know why I’ve had a hard time pushing send. I’ve decided it’s time to stop letting them simmer. They are done enough, even if they aren’t quite right yet. So here is me…pushing…send.


We had a nice Christmas. It was cozy, and we felt at home. Enjoying this Christmas showed the dual personalities that make up who we are as a family.

On Christmas Eve we ate pizza and roast duck with our coworkers (they made the duck, I made the pizza).
Christmas morning we opened presents in front of the lit Christmas tree. We enjoyed a Western breakfast.
Mid-morning we walked to church and enjoyed the Christmas service that they hold every year.
Like always, we ate Christmas lunch with hundreds of our mountain village friends. We enjoyed rice with various sauces. The boys happily heaped fish and instant noodles on their rice. Michael headed for the bitter greens. I reached for grated green papaya mixed with a dark coconut sauce. The boys told me that they were a little sad that there wasn’t breadfruit curry (Grey) or cassava greens (Jude) this year.
Evening was for playing with presents, and making a Christmas lasagna. I’ve included the recipe for my lasagna below.

Do you think Western style comfort food is worth the effort?
Cassava and greens takes less juggling, and planning ahead.

At another Christmas celebration I realized the importance of also eating my friends’ comfort foods. A lady asked our house helper, “do they eat cassava?” To which she replied, “Oh yes of course. They love cassava. They eat it all of the time.” I realized that we had, in a small way, made further steps towards belonging here. “Yes, yes we do eat YOUR comfort foods.”

What would YOU do? Would you eat locally all of the time? Would you put the work into eating comfort foods from your home culture? Or would you do like we do, and do a mix of both? Spaghetti sauce and noodles with a side of rice and greens.

RECIPE for Christmas Lasagna (with “lots of red sauce because that’s a Christmas color” —Jude)

Purchase pork in the city and grind it
Mix ground pork with approximate amounts of:
garlic powder
onion powder
fennel seed
small pinch of salt, pepper, and sugar.
Divide into 250 gram portions, place in freezer bags, and take to your friends’ house. They’ll store it in their freezer until you are ready to use it.

Tomato Sauce
1/2 kilo tomatoes (approximately), roughly chopped
2 smallish carrots, shredded
2 Garlic cloves
6 small Shallots
2 Tablespoons Tomato paste (purchased in the city, and brought to the mountains on the back of a motorbike)
Pinch of Sugar (or palm sugar)
Italian seasoning (or a mix of basil, oregano, thyme, parsley, and rosemary)
Olive Oil (2 liter bottle purchased in the city)
“Sausage” (brought up from our friends house 3 days before Christmas, sautéed the day it was brought up, and then made up into sauce the next morning)
Pound the garlic and shallots in a mortar and pestle (or use a garlic press). Sauté in 1 tablespoon of olive oil and a dab of butter (optional). Add tomatoes and carrots, and cook until soft, mushy, and the tomato skins are easy to remove (optional). Add tomato paste, sugar, and spices. Taste. Add cooked sausage. Bring to a boil, remove from heat, and cover. Let sit until night. Heat to a very bubbly boil. Turn off. Because we don’t have refrigeration we’ll repeat in the morning and evening until we need to use the sauce. Our Christmas lasagna sauce lasted for about 56 hours before using (the sausage wouldn’t have lasted from market day until we needed I made it into the sauce to “preserve” it).

4 cups of water
2 cups of powdered milk
2 tablespoon of vinegar
Bring milk to the just about to “pop into bubble” stage. Add vinegar. Let sit for 2-12 hours. Strain through a cloth dish towel. It makes about 1/2 cup of ricotta.

Layer lasagna noodles(purchased in the city, brought to our mountain home, and stored until we needed them), Tomato Sauce, olives (optional), crumbled Ricotta, and Parmesan(purchased on another island, brought to the city, stored in our friends freezer until Michael got it on market day). Top with parmesan.

Bake in an aluminum box on top of your stove. You might want to bake it along with homemade garlic bread. But that’s a recipe for another day.