Friday, December 31, 2021

My Kids' Favorite Books of 2021

We got busy last year and forgot to write about our favorite books of the year, but with an unexpected extra week of Christmas break because their teacher is home sick, I actually remembered to get the kids to write about their favorite books of 2021. 

Haylee has had a kindle for several years now, which she bought herself with chores and birthday money. Taylah and JJ's reading lives were changed earlier this year when we made a plan with them to do a certain amount of chores to earn kindles for themselves as well. They completed all of the required chores, and got new kindles when some guests came to visit. We have kindle unlimited, and I also subscribe to Bookbub, which sends emails every day with kindle deals for books in the genres you choose. Those two things help us to do a lot of reading around here without spending a lot of money.

Below are each kid's favorite books they read this year, typed up themselves in their own words.

Haylee, will be 14 years old in 2 weeks:

Summary: In their (Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger) sixth year at their school, Hogwarts, they learn about the enemy (who is an evil, power-wanting, murderous wizard...and has no nose) and his past and the only way to conquer him, which they then attempt to do. (It is all much more interesting than what I have meekly described here, so just read it).

What I like (very important): The themes of friendship, love, pain, betrayal, and death combined in a 542-page book is a large part of it. 
In a more minor sense, I particularly enjoy the humor (#fredandgeorge), Ron and Hermione’s fights, and the super twisty, sometimes heartbreaking, thoroughly planned out, UNPREDICTABLE plot.

Summary: Everything. Norse. Explained. Bliss.
From the major and minor gods and the major and minor foes to the gods’ backstories and the creation of their earth. AND STILL MORE! (And it may include a couple detailed punishments inflicted on the lesser gods BUT don’t let that teeny detail deter you, dear nerd.) Read it and grieve with me over the unfairness of Loki’s punishment. 

What I like (still important): Mr. Russo explains everything nerdily Norsey with neat nerdiness organization, thoroughness, AND SO MUCH FUNNESS! You won’t regret reading this book, I promise! Especially if you’re a Thor and Loki Marvel fan like myself. :)

A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare

Nota Bene: Oxford School Shakespeare is by far the best. On the side of EVERY page, there are definitions and clarification for every word and phrase that is said in Shakespeare’s beautiful yet difficult language. There is even a synopsis about the play, a list of the leading characters, an about the play, a short biography of Shakespeare, and pictures from the actual play performed in the 90’s! Don’t be intimidated. 

Summary: Unhappy lovers, some magic flowers, revived love! Sounds thrilling! Actual outcome: Read to find out! 

What I like (yes, very much so): It’s utterly amazing and I love it. The language is beautiful, the plot is...something out of this world, and the characters are well thought out and beautifully displayed. Well done, Shakes! 

Summary: Sophie Foster, already a telepath at 12 years old. Let’s add being an elf from a whole other dimension onto that, shall we? 

What I like (incredibly important): It is pretty humorous, full of adventure, and a confusing plot, which I also admire. There are also some tears, which tops if off nicely. Read it!

Nota Bene: This book is FUN, not just chapters of lecture-y words telling you to step your teen game up. 

Summary: The title may sound cringy to you, but the book truly is not. Seven better-than-tips to lift your spirit, help you with family and friend bonds, have school sufficiency, and to live life to its fullest, with you at your fullest. I suggest you take a look!

What I like (hehe): All Mr. Covey writes is relatable, actually helpful, uplifting, and fun to read. There are small sections from other teens telling their stories which is very encouraging. Again, there is humor. I honestly could not read a book with no humor. 
Thanks, Mr. Covey. :)

Taylah, just turned 12 years old 2 weeks ago:

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter thinks that he is completely normal. That is, until his eleventh birthday, when he discovers that he is a wizard. For the whole year, Harry works to save both his friends and himself, find and keep safe a weapon, while trying to defeat the greatest, most evil Dark Wizard of all time. I've read the first 5 Harry Potter books this year, and I loved them all. They are funny and have a lot of action in them.

When two teenagers, Grace and Boone (otherwise known as “Jack”) meet and become best friends, they discover something that they didn’t know to be humanly possible. I love all of the Miller's Island Mysteries books because they're mysteries and they're adventurous.

13-year-old Penelope Gilbert was a legit normal girl, until she wasn’t, with the fact that she turned into a stapler one day during class, which resulted in the rest of the year being full of adventure, death, love, and discovery. I like that they're traveling a lot of places and there's a lot of action.

Firegirl by Tony Abbott

A story about a girl named Jessica who has been badly burned. She is bullied and made fun of by everyone, except one special person. It made me feel sad for her, but then happy for her that he wanted to be her friend. This book teaches people not to judge others by their outward appearances.

Just Believe by Tarina Marcinkowski

Just Believe is a heartbreaking story about a little boy with cancer, and his brave parents who fought for his life. This book made me cry several times as I read about this family's struggles. I don't agree with all of the things this family believes, for example: they think people become angels when they die, and the mom talks about praying to Mary. But even so, it's a great story that I really enjoyed reading.

JJ, 9 years old, will be 10 in March:

Summary: Nicholas Herriman was a normal boy until he found a trunk that contains magical objects. 

I like the book because:
1. I love books about super heroes.
2. Because I like powers that come from objects, not powers that come from people.

The Boy Who Painted the World by Melody J. Bremen

Summary: A boy was abandoned on the street when a girl named Jade comes and takes him in.  Choosing the name Indigo, he leads on to be a famous artist.

I like the book because: 
I like art and THIS boy named Indigo is ten but becomes a famous artist.
And I am kind of thinking about becoming an artist myself.
And it’s a really good book!

 The Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez by Adrianna Cuevas

Summary: A boy named Nestor Lopez who can understand and communicate with animals moves to New Haven. With an animal army he has to defeat a tule veija.

I like the book because: 
I like animals.
And Nestor Lopez can understand them.
And there’s lots of animals in this book

Dr Snow Has Got To GO! by Dan Gutman

Summary: A new science teacher starts teaching the school. With A.J. at the lead, the kids get him to show his true colors.

I like the book because:
I also like science. 
I also like surprising stuff.
And this book is very surprising.

Little Witch by Anna Elizabeth Bennett

Summary: A small girl named Minikin is a witch. But she wishes she wasn’t because no one likes her.  

I like the book because: 
I like little witch because it’s such a magical book.
And I love magic. It’s as if you’re in another world.

And Abraham, 5 years old, will be 6 in April, wanted to share a couple of his favorites as well. I have typed what he told me about each book:

Yeti Spaghetti by Samantha Hay

(We've read this one to him a million times.) I like it because there are yetis and they're trying to steal food, and then the yeti makes spaghetti for the food contest.

Cock-a-Doodle Moo

(This is a lift-the-flap educational book featuring lots of things from a farm, which he's had for a few years now.) I like that there's a lot of food in it that I want you to buy me. 

Looking back, we apparently also forgot to do this in 2019. But if you're interested in seeing their favorite books at younger ages, you can see their lists for 2018, 20172016, and 2015.

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

My Top Books of 2021

 I have to admit, this has been a very unimpressive year of book reading for me. In past years, I've read as many as 40-50 books in a year, and this year I only managed 21. I blame it on a combination of a really hard year in multiple ways that left me without much heart to read, and my newfound love of learning Greek on Duolingo. I now spend a good chunk of the time I would have spent reading on Duolingo instead, and I don't think that's a bad thing. I'm really proud of how far I've come with my Greek in the past few months!

I realize that even though this is a low year compared to others, it's still 21 more books per year than I was reading before I decided to resume reading for pleasure a few years ago! And that's still great! Honestly, any reading is better than no reading. I still enjoy doing most of my reading via audiobooks while I'm running, doing laundry, driving, or showering.

I also read to the kids every night at bedtime, alternating between the boys and the girls (Josh does too, so one of us reads in each kids' room each night). I spent almost the entire year reading through The Green Ember series with the boys, and have just recently started a different book that will be on my 2022 list. I read more grown-up books with the girls; this year we covered Fahrenheit 451, The Little Prince, Seabiscuit, and we're about halfway through with a biography of C.S. Lewis. But this year the girls and I have started frequently having "chat nights" instead of reading, so we haven't gotten through as many books together as we have in the past. It's totally worth it, though.

So without further ado, here are my top five books of 2021:

Becoming Elisabeth Elliot by Ellen Vaughn: This is a fantastic biography of a woman I have long admired. What I loved most about it was that it didn't just show her as the perfect missionary woman that most of us think she was, but it also showed her struggles. It was profoundly encouraging to me as a missionary, but would be a great read for anyone.

The Spy and The Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War by Ben Macintyre. This is a true story of a cold war era spy, and it was really hard to put down! I loved it even more knowing that it was all true.

Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard. I admit I knew pretty much nothing about President Garfield before reading this book. It was really interesting to learn about him as a person, his presidency, and all of the other well-known people whose lives intersected with his.

The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D. This is one of the most highly recommended books for foster and adoptive parents, and I honestly have no excuse as to why it's taken me this long into adoptive parenting to read it. I was surprised to find that it is really helpful for so much more than just adoptive parents, and the majority of his work has been with war veterans or people who have experience some other kind of trauma. Highly recommend.

Me, Myself, & Bob: A True Story About Dreams, God, and Talking Vegetables by Phil Vischer. I enjoyed this book so much. Our family has been VeggieTales fans for over a decade, and it was fascinating to read this history behind our favorite vegetables. Did you know that Phil was a pioneer in the computer animation field? Phil is also really funny, and I found myself laughing out loud quite a bit. 

Honorable mention:

The Green Ember series by S.D. Smith. I'm just including the whole series as one "book." I read this series to the boys at bedtime this year, and they are just so good. Read them with your kids. You will enjoy them as much as your kids will, I promise.

Books I didn't like:

The Oregon Trail by Francis Parkman. It's the actual journals of someone who crossed the Oregon Trail, which I thought I would love, having grown up playing the iconic game in elementary school. But it was honestly just so boring.

That Sounds Fun by Annie F. Downs. I wanted to love this book. We are both enneagram 7's, and I was at a point where I felt like I needed a reminder of how to find the fun in life. If you're familiar with Annie Downs, you probably know that she got famous from hosting a podcast. I just cannot for the life of me understand how this happened, because I found her voice so difficult to listen to that it was honestly really hard for me to persevere with this audiobook. Also each chapter is just some story about a thing that happened to her, and then a lesson that she learned from it. That was interesting for about the first 5 chapters, but after that it started to get redundant and boring.

The Dearly Beloved by Cara Wall. This book is well-written and good as fiction books go, but it's about two men who are pastors, and the overall message of the book is just so unfulfilling. I feel like the main takeaway from it is the profound emptiness of liberal "Christianity" (I put it in quotes because, although we call it Christianity, there was no Christ at all, one of the pastors didn't even believe in God). The story lines of infertility and learning to cope with having a severely autistic child obviously hit very close to home for me, and were moving and well-described. And then it ended so abruptly, still feeling so empty from a Christ-less hopeless so-called faith. I am so glad that true Christianity is so much more than how it is described in this book. I'm so thankful for the hope and peace Christ offers us.

Now here's the full list of everything I read this year, organized by category: 

Nonfiction - Biography

Becoming Elisabeth Elliot by Ellen Vaughn
Me, Myself, & Bob by Phil Vischer
The Oregon Trail by Francis Parkman
Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard
That Sounds Fun by Annie F. Downs
The Spy and The Traitor by Ben Macintyre
Dolly Parton Songteller by Dolly Parton
Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand
Boone by Robert Morgan

Nonfiction - Other

Brainstorm by Daniel Siegel
The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben
The Body Keeps the Score Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D.
The Bible - I read through the Bible this year using a plan on YouVersion called "Reading God's Story: One-Year Chronological Plan."

Fiction - Adult

The Dearly Beloved by Cara Wall
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

Fiction - Kids

The Green Ember by S.D. Smith
Ember Falls by S.D. Smith
Ember Rising by S.D. Smith
Ember's End by S.D. Smith
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

December 2021

As both December and 2021 end, and we look towards 2022, I kind of want to hyperventilate. We are almost exactly 6 months out from our 6 month trip to the US, and there is just SO MUCH to do to get ready to leave! We have to renew Josh's and all the kids' passports in Lilongwe, lots of tests, paperwork, and public access & search and rescue practice to get Rey ready to return with us, and of course lots of packing and cleaning and whatnot. 

It's hard to decide how much stuff and clothes to pack vs. how much we'll buy once we get to the US. I know we'll probably be buying a lot of clothes while we're there, but we also have some stuff that I know we'll want/need to bring. And we're already going to have SO MUCH stuff we have to buy to furnish a place to live! It stresses me out already when I think about all of it!

We started the month with our usual homeschoolers' meet-up. The kids and I all enjoy these days with our friends so much. We just hang out for several hours in a beautiful place and the kids play while the moms sit and chat.

We went on a long drive and short hike with some friends to Likhubula Falls on Mulanje mountain. The water was SUPER cold, but we were also super hot after the hike, so it felt good. We brought picnic lunches and had a good time there. Some friends who had been there before (and, unlike us, knew how BIG the swimming hole was) actually brought a whole inflatable boat and paddles for the kids to paddle around in. Jude loved that so much! The teens were jumping off a small cliff, and I never in a million years expected Haylee (our most risk-averse child) to join in and jump, but she DID! I was so proud!

Poe is growing like crazy, and is such a happy, silly pup. He's not much of a guard dog yet, but hopefully his sheer size when he's full-grown will be enough to deter any potential thieves, and he'll continue to be a sweet family dog. He doesn't live at our house, but next door to us at the house where we park and where the guards hang out. There is a Malawian family who lives over there, and Poe loves hanging out with them. In the picture above from early in the month, he was 4.5 months old and only 2 pounds less than Rey. I'm sure he's passed her in weight now!

We've been doing our advent ornaments during family worship this month. I made these several years ago, and we enjoy using them each year. We go through the Old Testament and notice how each story points us forward to the coming of Jesus. For a few years now, I've begged Josh to write down what he says each night so we could make it into an advent devotional to share with others, but he's always too busy with other stuff. This year, I've recorded each night's lesson, and I'm typing them up myself! I hope to have an advent guide finished and ready to share for others to be able to use next year! I thought about also having some kind of scanned printable version of the felt ornaments... please let me know what you think about this whole idea!

Abe has gotten really into LEGOs this month, and the boys have been playing with them so well in their room. It's rare that their playing doesn't quickly devolve into fighting, but so far with LEGOs they have a good quiet time together for a long time! Hallelujah! I had our local tailor made this large drawstring bag for the LEGOs a while back, and while it doesn't completely contain the LEGO mess, it has been so much better than them dumping baskets of them all over the floor all the time!

We celebrated Taylah's 12th birthday this month! She's such a tender-hearted soul, who has had fun learning dance this year from an expat friend, spends a lot of time swinging and singing on the front porch, and I love that she still unashamedly loves playing with baby dolls.  She and Haylee have so much fun together being loud and silly, although she deeply longs for a best friend besides her sister. Her birthday was, however, in her words, "the worst birthday ever," because of the next picture:

We said goodbye to Macie, who had been staying in the house next to ours for almost 3 months, ON Taylah's birthday. Bad timing, I know. She wasn't supposed to leave until closer to Christmas, but with the new Omicron variant spreading, we thought it was best for her to just get on back to America just in case. And Taylah's birthday was the first available flight out of town. We all enjoyed Macie's time here, but Taylah and Macie got really close, and it was very, very hard on her to say goodbye. It was even harder because Taylah and I both got very sick for almost the entire week before Macie left, and because we didn't want Macie to catch it right before she traveled, we isolated from her for pretty much her whole last week here. It was not at all how I would have chosen to end her time here, but it was what it had to be.

Speaking of the new Omicron variant, cases in Malawi have quickly risen, and by Christmas we were having about 1,200 new cases a day. But there have thankfully been hardly any hospitalizations and deaths with this wave. South Africa is already past its peak cases per day, and it seems that Malawi is already at or possibly past our peak as well. The good thing about a virus that spreads as easily and quickly as the Omicron variant is that it also dies out just as quickly. Life in Malawi has continued pretty much as it had been, with mask wearing only being enforced in the larger stores.

We have a family tradition of going on a trip in December instead of giving Christmas gifts. We've never done Santa, and the memories and the experiences of a trip feel like a much better investment than a bunch of toys that will clutter up our house. So the week before Christmas, we packed up and headed to our favorite place on Lake Malawi for a few days. We hiked, kayaked, swam, napped, and ate delicious food to our hearts' content. It was incredibly refreshing for all of us after such a difficult year.


We continued our Christmas Eve morning swim tradition this year for the 8th year (if you count last year's playing in the sprinkler, which was all we could do because the pool we usually went to was closed because of covid). This is my all-time favorite tradition of ours. It actually started when we lived a few hours from our parents in Kentucky, so we would stay in a condo halfway between their homes (they live about an hour apart) for Christmas, and the place we stayed had an indoor pool. It's been so fun to continue that tradition here, but outside! We heard about a lodge in town with a pool that day guests could use, so we headed there to try it. After having to wait 30 grumpy, sweaty minutes for them to clean it, we had a great morning playing in the pool! It was so refreshing, because it was SO HOT outside.

Matching Christmas pajamas has also been a longstanding tradition of ours, which I've had to really get creative with since we moved here. Even if I wanted to have some brought from the US, they aren't seasonally appropriate for us here, where, as I've said a few times already in this post, it's HOT in December! Last year I had our tailor make pajamas from cotton from the market, and while they turned out cute, I realized that the kids really needed a fabric with more give to it in order to sleep comfortably in them. So this year I found a jersey knit duvet cover at the used clothes store that worked perfectly for the tailor to make into five pajama tops! He made the shorts from green cotton from the market. I am so happy with how they turned out!

We have a simple Christmas morning tradition of opening stockings and then having a big breakfast with enough leftovers that we have the same thing for lunch, too. We've adopted the British tradition of Christmas crackers, and we enjoy doing them at breakfast and wearing our crowns all morning. At bedtime, we do our last advent devotional as part of our family worship.

As much as we love our Christmases here, I have to admit we are all really excited about having a COZY instead of SWEATY Christmas next year with all of our extended families!

We don't have anything else planned for the last few days of the year except for our annual New Year's Eve living room slumber party, so I'm going to go ahead a hit publish on this month's recap! Please let me know if you made it all the way to the end and enjoyed it!

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

November 2021

 November is drawing to a close, and I just thought it would be fun to recap some highlights from our month. You know, for posterity's sake.

We've had between 0 and 5 new cases of Covid a day this month in Malawi, which means that it's been basically non-existent here and life has been pretty much normal except for a few places that still make you wear masks inside. We haven't had the mask debate/issue that the US has had; everyone just wears them without a fuss. We just at the very end of the month got news (as did the rest of the world) of the new Omicron variant. It hasn't been detected here yet, but the US has already put a travel ban on foreigners coming from Malawi and many other southern African countries. Don't worry though, it doesn't apply to US Citizens. Macie will be able to get back without a problem in December, though she'll probably be leaving a little earlier than planned just for good measure.

We said goodbye to Eric and Stephanie Chapman, who had been here for a month running clinics and Eric led the Founder's Conference for all of our partner church pastors and their assistant pastors. The picture above is of Stephanie leading our women's Bible study at Gospel Life Baptist Church on her last Wednesday here. It was great to have them here.

This is just a watercolor picture that Jude did during school this month, and I was so proud of it. He really loves art and is doing so great in school with his tutor, Grace.

After the girls both suffering from some illnesses and injuries for a few weeks, we got back into running. We started with a couch to 5K plan that sort of went off the rails when they got sick, so for the last couple of weeks we've been going back in the plan and trying to build endurance again.

My friend Becca put on a ladies' brunch for the expat women of our town, Zomba, and it was also a virtual farewell for our Dutch friend, Marieke, who left last year and was supposed to return for farewells earlier this year, but hasn't been able to because of Covid and life. It was a nice time for us all to get a little dressed up and pretend to be fancy for a few hours! There are 10 nationalities represented in this picture! I love our multicultural community!

Josh has gotten really into chess recently. Our colleague, Isaac, is really good at chess and brought a board to the office for them to play a few moves at a time during the breaks of Shepherd's Academy (which Josh has also been busy with this month, with students here all month and teaching every day). Josh didn't like getting his butt kicked at chess, so he's been brushing up on his skills, and by the end of the month it took Isaac significantly more moves to beat Josh than it did the first time! Ha! I still don't think Josh has beaten Isaac yet, though. (Correction: Josh says he has beaten Isaac once!) But as a result, he's also been teaching JJ and Abe how to play, and they are both surprisingly good at it! Abe can think 2 moves ahead, which is super impressive, especially for a 5 year old.

I got the joy of being at the hospital with Isaac's wife, Susan, while she gave birth to their first child, Jedidah. It was a fascinatingly different experience from giving birth in an American hospital! I'm so proud of Susan and how strong and amazing she was, and she's already a wonderful mother. I told all the hospital staff that it was my grandbaby, since Susan calls me mama. I don't think they knew what to make of that! Ha!

We took our family Christmas card pictures last week, and while I'll save the good pictures for Christmas, you can enjoy this outtake while I was testing this location. Family pictures are always like herding cats, but even Josh said this was our least stressful picture day yet. It helped a lot that Macie was with us and could take the pictures for us, instead of me setting a 10 second timer and running back and forth a million times. We've made a bit of a tradition of going out for lunch at our favorite Zomba restaurant, Casa Rossa, after pictures, and that is always fun. I insisted we include our dog, Rey, in the pictures this year, and she was so good that she may have earned a permanent spot in our family pictures!

This was the second year that we took our mission staff and their families on a safari at Liwonde National Park as a way to say thank you for all of their hard work and sacrifice through the year. Now I know a safari sounds extravagant, but when you live near a safari park, it's actually incredibly inexpensive. Much cheaper than going to a zoo in America. Even so, most Malawians don't go to the park, and none of our staff had been before our trip last year. It's a really fun day outing, and we had lunch at a lodge nearby and got to swim in their pool for a while after lunch, which was great on such a HOT day!

These were the stars of our safari! We pulled up and parked our jeeps about 10 feet away from a whole pride of lions sleeping under these small trees. The best I could count, there were about 3 females, 5 half-grown cubs, and one male. And a half-eaten warthog. Gross. But at least we could know they weren't hungry! They really didn't care a bit that we were there, they were just chilling with their full bellies and trying to stay cool. It was so cool to see.

We had a great Thanksgiving this year. We celebrated with just us and Macie. A cool front came through the night before, and it rained all day Thanksgiving day, which was WONDERFUL. Usually Thanksgiving is brutally hot, so the cool rain was a delight this year. I'm going to miss a lot about Malawi when we are in the US next year, but I'm not sad at all about skipping hot season here. Josh smoked a ham and two chickens (we like to make enough that we can live on leftovers for the rest of the weekend), which meant I used the oven very little, which also helped to not heat up the house too much! The ham was amazing, and will definitely become a staple of our Thanksgivings here.

I made... a bunch of other stuff. Sweet potato casserole (but with butternut squash, because sweet potatoes here aren't great), rolls, deviled eggs, brussels sprouts with bacon, pecans, and cranberries, fried apples, and two chocolate chess pies. Oh and Josh made the green beans. He has somehow perfected green beans, and no matter what I do, I can't ever do them as good as he does, so he's our green bean man.

We had a huge lunch, and then sat around in food comas all afternoon enjoying the rain. It was awesome. At 4pm, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade started, and we watched that live on the computer as we ate leftovers and pushed back bedtime until it was over.

The day after Thanksgiving is always our day to put up our Christmas decorations and decorate our tree together. All of our ornaments have special stories and meanings, and I love opening the ornaments and remembering with the kids the memories behind each one. You can tell how cool it was by the fact that I wore JEANS on this day! That's just crazy this time of year. It was so wonderful.

I just loved this picture of these two putting the star on top of the tree. Santa hat, Batman shirt, and swim trunks. Welcome to Christmas in Malawi.

The girls and Jude have been going to youth group with some other missionary kid friends at a friend's house for over a year now. Some of the older MK guys lead it, and Macie's been teaching it the last few weeks. We love youth group and that the kids get to grow in their faith together. Grace goes with Jude, and he sits good and listens to the devotional part, but he isn't usually interested in playing the games with the others. Thankfully our friend's house has a lot of fun outdoor things to do, and he and Grace have their own fun too.

There is a farmer's market in Blantyre on the last Saturday of every month, where different crafters and such set up booths for shopping. There is a small selection of food, and also live music. I've been once before, and I thought it would be a really fun girls' day out for Macie, my girls, and me. We had a good time, and bought several fun things! Notice their clothes... it was still cool. Glory hallelujah.

Rey also got to go along on our girls' trip! She hasn't been out in public much since we moved here 3.5 years ago, and I've been trying to find some ways to start getting her out again in preparation for our trip back to the US next year. She was pretty skittish with all the people at the farmer's market, so it was very good for her to go, and I'll need to take her back again. I've been contacting businesses and trying to get permission to take her to some places, but there are no service dog access laws in Malawi, so we're at the mercy of the business owners. Unfortunately most Malawians are very afraid of dogs, especially large black dogs, so there isn't much openness about it. But she really shined while we were eating! She just lay under the table and was so good, just like she'd been trained to do.

Well, that's a little recap of our month. I'd love to make this a regular thing on the blog, but I'm not going to commit to that, because remembering to do "regular things" is hard for me! But please let me know if you read all the way to the end and you would enjoy it if I made this a regular thing! :)