Wednesday, December 29, 2021

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!

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