Wednesday, June 30, 2010

World Exploration at Home

(I'd love for this stack to be higher, but in preparation of our move in three weeks, most of our books have been packed.)

After eighteen years of parenting and thirteen years of homeschooling, I can say that one of the things that has defined our family is our love of reading. Having grown up on too much TV, I had to exercise my mental muscles early in my adulthood and develop a taste for good reading.

I always say that you can tell a lot about a person by what's on his or her bookshelves. Perusing ours, you'd find a variety of literary interests, including foreign and US politics, military history, economics, marriage, parenting, biblical apologetics, sewing, decorating, etymology, the Middle East, biographies, cooking, nature study, and others.

A favorite pastime of ours, and one that has greatly solidified our family unity, is reading aloud. I can remember the "olden" days of our parenting when our big girls were small, the boys were smaller, and Gabriela wasn't formed yet. At the time, the girls had a king-size bed in their room that they shared. In the evenings, after bath time, Craig and I would pile onto the girls' bed with all four children and have our "Family Reading Time" before bed. Craig would read and I'd nurse the baby (Graham) as together we'd explore foreign lands, read stories of strength and character, learn history and geography, and have our faith reinforced by the lives of missionaries and martyrs who stood their ground to honor the Lord at any cost. All of this took place without ever leaving home.

We've come to treasure these special times, which are more sporadic these days with varying schedules. Of course, we still have our normal read-aloud time in our homeschool schedule; but our Family Reading Time sometimes gives way to other activities. It used to be that this time was chiseled out of our Monday evenings, but multiple changes over the past couple of years have found us groping for moments to relax together on the sofas with a good family read-aloud.

Just as restricting junk food and providing healthful alternatives trains a child's appetite to crave what is good for him, so abstaining from lesser pastimes that distract and steal time, and providing stimulating, challenging books whets the child's appetite for good reading, helps him learn to focus his attention, and encourages critical thinking. There have been times when I've doubted whether one or another of our children would ever develop a love of reading, but daily, line-upon-line exposure to this regular part of life -- as regular as doing the dishes or making the bed -- has proven an effective tool for encouraging all of the children to enjoy the world of literature.

Early in our homeschooling, when I was devouring every book I could find to learn how to navigate the home education waters, I read a very helpful piece by Michael and Susan Card. In it, they shared their daily homeschool lifestyle and explained the importance of keeping interesting books on a low enough shelf that even small children could learn to appreciate them. They encouraged parents not to worry so much about the risk of damage to the books, as much as the sad possibility that keeping them out of reach would discourage a love of reading. My obsession with the condition of my books is difficult to overcome, but I've taken baby steps to make books readily available to young hands. Incidentally, I've discovered -- unintentionally, of course -- that the length of time it's taking me to get over this obsession is directly correlated with the growth and maturity of our children. We no longer have tiny, destructive hands in our home, which enables me to freely allow access to any and all of our books to all family members. To mothers of small children, though, I say, "Go ahead and allow them now!" (No double-standard intended.)

A couple of days ago, I read a wonderful blog post on the importance and benefit of reading aloud to our children. Lindsay at Passionate Homemaking is a beautiful example of a godly young woman pursuing biblical womanhood according to the Titus 2/Proverbs 31/I Peter 3 model in her home. She is a true Daughter of Sarah. I strongly encourage you to grab a cup of coffee and spend some time perusing her blog. She is doing a marvelous job being Christ's ambassador in the blogosphere. I urge you to then gather your family around the dinner table or on the sofa, or pile onto the bed, and enter into the world of Family Reading Time. You'll never regret it.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Mother of Invention

"She gets up while it is still dark;
she provides food for her family"
Proverbs 31:15

I am ashamed to say that I've neglected my grocery-shopping responsibilities lately. I've gone for last-minute incidentals, but it's been several weeks since I've gone on a bona-fide pantry/refrigerator/freezer re-stock mission. We're moving back to the States in less than one month, so I could use that as an excuse. I wouldn't want to end up wasting food in the end. Still, we must eat in the meantime.

This morning I got up (long after sunrise) wondering what nutritious breakfast to fix for our family. Craig had already begun his Sunday morning Bible study and discussion with Caelyn, and the other children were allowed to sleep (super) late after yet another Tolkien movie marathon last night. I had such a happy feeling as I figured out what to prepare, but oh, the pickin's were slim.

We were out of bread, so I started with a batch of four loaves to accommodate Craig Grayson's 27 PB & Js that he'll request this week. While the dough was rising, I moved on to muffins. I began with a basic muffin recipe from the Bread Beckers, but rather than just using wheat, I started snatching random grains from the pantry. I ended up with a combination of hard red wheat, kamut, spelt, flax, and millet before remembering that I could have used my Ezekiel mix. Oh well. Maybe tomorrow. To that, I added shredded carrots, a spoonful of ginger, and some chopped dates. I opted for a streusel topping, but I should have had one of my expert helpers handle that part, as mine turned out dry and not quite sweet enough.

Anxious to see what delicacy I was concocting (and, I'm sure, a bit curious to see how I was making something from what seemed like nothing), Caelyn joined me for the remainder of the preparation and contributed fried eggs (in a drizzle of olive oil, of course, with only a little pat of real butter). Mid-process, I discovered that we also didn't have enough cheese to go around, so I used what few tomatoes we had left for salsa (albeit sub-par), and brought out the remainder of our Texas caviar to garnish the eggs. We never missed the cheese.

Morgan and I went for coffee and groceries this afternoon, to no avail. I did get some coffee, but the stores were closed. Bummer. Just when I was planning to make this for dinner tonight. Affordable beef tenderloin is definitely something that I'll miss about living so close to South Africa, and I've been saving it in the freezer for when I finally got up the nerve. If only I had all of the accompaniments... We'll have to wait until tomorrow, I suppose. You know the saying about good things. In the meantime, necessity will have to do some more mothering in our kitchen.

**Recently, I had a couple of requests for our Texas caviar recipe. It originally came from a dear friend whose husband was once Craig's battalion commander in the Army. We've since altered it a bit, so here it is, from Morgan's memory (since we left in behind in the States), in case you're interested:

Texas Caviar

1 16-oz. can black beans (original recipe used black-eye peas)
1 small jar pimientos
1/2 onion, chopped (I prefer red and/or spring onions)
1 whole bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz. black olives, sliced
hot sauce, to taste
1 8-oz. bottle Italian dressing (better with Ken's light Caesar dressing, not creamy)
dash of salt and pepper
optional: 1/2 cup, or so, whole kernel corn (Morgan and I differ on this, but Caelyn's on my side)
optional: a bit of chopped tomatoes

Friday, June 25, 2010

Mama D's Pizza Apron

I love food. I love Mexican food. I love, love Greek and Lebanese food. I love, love, love Thai food. I love, love, love... well, you get the idea. I love to eat good food from all over the globe. It's even more enjoyable when it comes straight from our own kitchen, as I've mentioned before.

I'm really grateful to my parents for not allowing my brother and me to be picky eaters, and instead nurturing in us an appreciation for a variety of foods. I have pet-peeves aplenty, and a picky eater is somewhere very close to the top of that list. Parents today just don't get it, and I have a very low tolerance for guests who allow their children to pick over food and waste what, by God's provision, our blood, sweat and tears have brought to the table. I once thought these parents were terribly lazy; but on closer inspection, I realized that they exert far more effort in succumbing to their child's every whimsical craving than if they were to just take a bit of time to insist on the consumption of balanced meals.

I've had my share of battles with one of our children, in particular. But to this day, the boy knows that once he's enjoyed his meal his way, he'll be consuming that gargantuan pile of tomatoes he cast aside on his plate. And he does.

But I digress. The point of this post is to show off my new pizza apron. Never mind that it says "Basmati Rice" and "Produce of Pakistan" on the front. When I examined the rice bag in my hand as I approached the trash can, I thought, "Recycle. Vintage. Italian." I had this vintage-looking red floral fabric that I scored rather cheaply last year at a huge one-day fabric sale in Pittsburgh. (Sue, was it the Salvation Army?) It came to mind immediately. (It reminds me of a quilt that I've kept from my childhood, only in a different color.)

The girls and I like to make homemade pizza and calzones, so I decided that this would make a perfect pizza-making apron. It brought to mind an old Italian cookbook my dad still has. The title says something about "Mama D", although I don't remember the full title. Well, my name starts with "D", and I'm a mama who loves to cook Italian food...

SIDEBAR NOTE: I was going to type "Voila!" Then I thought that I should use Italian, so I checked the translator on my computer. From French to Italian, the translation is "Ecco". I checked this against English, and all it means is "here". That just doesn't have quite the passion I intended to convey. No wonder we English speakers have adopted so many French words. They say it better.

I included a loop for a hand towel, since I wash my hands more often than a surgeon when I cook. I get so upset when someone mistakes my yucky hand towel for a dish towel during clean-up (which is on-going). I find myself looking for the towel all over the kitchen. It's a mess. You know, dead skin and all...

I'm just going to swallow my pride and confess that I bailed on a much more ambitious pocket idea. The fabric kept puckering when I'd try to insert a between-layers pocket. Ugh! I must conquer it, but I had to give up. That one detail was stretching this hour-or-so project into something much longer and less fun.

Anyway, I suppose if I'm old enough for fabric from my childhood era to be considered "vintage", I'm old enough to be called Mama D. This isn't exactly a "diva" project, but I like the "mama" feel it has to it. Sadly, we're planning to order pizza tonight, rather than make it ourselves. Soon, though.

This is my only finished project this week, other than mending a skirt for Morgan (finally -- that patient darling) and a pair of jeans for Craig Grayson. I've nearly finished a pair of shorts for Gabriela, but I'll post those when they're all done (hopefully next week). I may even have a bonus item to share that Gab's been working on. She's been so diligent.

Don't forget to visit Amy and see what others have sewn this week.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Always An Adventure

In Moz, almost any road trip becomes an off-road adventure, at least for part of the ride. On Friday, we traveled north to Inhambane Province to allow Caelyn to complete her four open-water dives required for scuba certification.

On our way, we encountered many items of interest. One in particular was a procession of people marching in honor of "Chama", or "The Call", which refers to a call to unity. I don't have any more information than that, but we learned that these folks were marching all the way to Maputo.

A little over half-way to our destination (normally a six-hour drive), we ran into a road block. Some construction trucks had been abandoned at the end of the work day, leaving the road impassable to vehicles without four-wheel-drive capability. Our only recourse was to take a detour, which is no small undertaking on this continent. The queue of vehicles had grown considerably as we sat at the roadside contemplating how best to handle the situation; so we followed behind several other adventurers and headed into the bush. The lead vehicle suffered a flat tire, which brought our line to a halt temporarily.

Sitting in a vehicle in the middle of the Moçambican bush at night, having heard countless stories of car-jackings by bandits, I pondered our vulnerable state and was reminded of God's sovereignty. As I tried to imagine the worst-case scenario and my own helplessness, I experienced the peace that can only come from knowing that God is indeed in control.

"You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.

You hem me in—behind and before;
you have laid your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?

If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,

even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.

If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,"

even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,

for darkness is as light to you."

Psalm 139:3, 5-12

Thankfully, we were soon on our way and reached our destination unscathed. The next morning, I was anxious to get out onto the veranda to bask in the glorious view of the valley leading to the beach, before heading there for Caelyn's dives. After a cup of coffee and some breakfast bean cookies, we were all ready to pile into the van to get her to the dive shop in time to suit up.

Graham, too, was awed by the spectacular view.

We found that the van couldn't maneuver the deep soil of the steep driveway, so we managed to push it to the lower, flat portion.

Caelyn is so funny.

Our second attempt at moving the van was unsuccessful, as well. In situations like this, I console myself with thoughts like, "Nothing lasts forever" and "We won't still be in this spot next week". I busied myself by watching a butterfly while the guys tried putting stones beneath the tires for traction.

I took a peek to see how the guys were coming along. They had to first dig some of the dirt from around the tires. I'm so glad that I'm a girl.

Gabriela was laughing at me, saying, "Mom! We're stuck in the dirt and you're looking at a butterfly!" Everyone must have a "happy place" in times like these.

At last, help arrived to pull us out, which also wasn't without difficulty. Caelyn was in danger of being late, so our "help" took some of us ahead to the dive shop while most of the guys stayed behind and waited for a tractor. It was some time before they eventually joined us at the beach, where we waited... and waited... and waited for Caelyn to dive.

Morgan was first on the beach when we arrived.

People watching in Moçambique is an interesting pastime. This family was so fun to watch. The children splashed and played while the mother collected water. I'm told that salt water is used just as we use fresh water -- even for coffee!

Can you see our baby girl? She's third from the right, heading down the beach to meet the boat. With the peace only God can grant (Philippians 4:6-7), I was not anxious about this.

Finally, the guys arrived at the beach, just in time for Craig to join Caelyn on her second dive. This really meant a lot to him. He was amazed that I was able to be so calm. Although he has dived before, he was somewhat apprehensive about Caelyn's diving. What a special treat it was for them to do it together.

While we waited, Sheri and I enjoyed some girl talk while the boys and Morgan amused themselves and Kenyon sat and talked with Gabriela. During our time of leisure, I looked up at the water just in time to see a water spout from a whale. I sat, stunned, momentarily before speaking up. No one else had seen it, and I wanted to be sure. I've never seen a whale in my entire life. (Sea World doesn't count.) When I again saw it surface, I mentioned it to the others. Kenyon, being a natural skeptic, insisted that I was mistaken. I just sat quietly until all had the opportunity to see for themselves. This was a really big deal for me. I'm so thankful to have witnessed it.

The divers reported later that they had seen humpback whales on their outing, so I'm assuming that this may have been the same kind. I really don't know. This is as far as it came out of the water.

Here are Henrik, Caelyn, and Craig returning with the rest of the group from Dive #2.

Our lodge

Back at the lodge, we ate egg-salad sandwiches that the children prepared for our trip, and I had one of Gabriela's fabulous Greek salads. She has been Caelyn's salad dressing apprentice, and I wonder how many eleven-year-old girls make salad dressing that is this good! Honestly, it should be bottled and sold.

After dinner, we played a few games, including Balderdash. I like to think of myself as reigning champion of this game, but alas! Craig has taken my title. The look on Caelyn's face was priceless when she, in the role of "dasher", read my definition for "googol". It was somewhat disappointing, however, to learn that of our entire group of ten, I was the only one who remembered what this is. I thought this was universally taught. In fact, I remember when some of my children learned this term in math.

On Sunday morning, we again headed to the dive shop so that Caelyn could complete her last two dives. When we arrived, the hot topic was the whale shark that was very close to shore. It is somewhat visible in this photo, but it's the best that I could do. There was a man snorkeling nearby, and he swam over and grabbed onto the tail fin. This got me thinking about what others call a "bucket list". I've never seen that movie, so I prefer to call it my "Scavenger Hunt of Life" list. I'm not sure if I really want to grab the tail fin of a whale shark, but I certainly have a new longing to do some sea kayaking after seeing several people doing that over the weekend.

While we hung out at the dive shop, eating lunch and chatting with another family from Maputo, Gabriela befriended their Jack Russell Terrier, Freckles. Normally, this would bother me, but hey! I'm a dog owner now! Not only that, but I'm also now the mother of a certified scuba diver. Congratulations, Caelyn!

(If you'd like to see more photos of our weekend, click here.)

For several weeks, I've been participating in Bits of My Weekend with Michelle and friends. With our upcoming move back to the States, my time will be very limited, and it'll be all I can do just to maintain my own blogs and the sewing group that I join online each Friday. So, please do visit Michelle and her friends. They have many interesting things to share. For now, at least, I must take my leave from it, but it has been great fun to participate.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Lists Really Help

I really mean for this to be a turbo post. We're literally walking out the door to head six hours north for Caelyn's open-water dives to get scuba certified. Still, I don't want to miss linking up with Amy and Friends.

I made this messenger bag from a Noodlehead tutorial a couple of days ago, and it was FUN, FUN! I used an old pair of Eddie Bauer capris and a pair of my son's outgrown cargo shorts, as well as what was left of some Amy Butler fabric. Here's how I plan to use the final product:

Also, I made this case for Gabriela to carry her drawing supplies, with which she is nearly inseparable. I detest the binding step of any quilt project, which is partly why I had a temper tantrum and stopped quilting in the spring of 2002. For that reason, I've omitted photos with close-ups of the sloppy details. Still, our jovial little girl is plum tickled with her new case. She kept showering me with compliments as I was making it, not realizing that it was intended for her. At one point she said, "I don't know what that thing is supposed to be, but it is SO cute!" I love her.

Monday's finish was another clutch. Check it out if you haven't already. Sorry to rush! I gotta go! Have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Practice Hospitality

For years my dad and I have dream-talked about opening a quaint little family restaurant. In Daddy's version of the fantasy, one portion of the establishment sells ice cream. He has spoken of unique details, such as having the children work with us, delivering lunches to local business people and home-bound senior citizens. In my version of our dream, the restaurant has a homeschool room in the back and I divide my time between hospitality and teaching the children. A little reading nook, complete with our very own favorite barista (Dave), would top it all off.

The primary hindrance to our extended-family dream of becoming restaurateurs has been the fact that we have lived away for so many years. Now that we've decided to move back to Pennsylvania (in five weeks) -- and now that Daddy's retired -- the next obstacle to this goal is my unwillingness to be involved in any enterprise that would bind me to one particular location. (Once a nomad, always a nomad -- at least at heart.) So, I don't know that we'll ever really go through with it.

In the meantime, we do love showing hospitality to others in our home, sharing recipes with friends, and just plain enjoying good food and fellowship among just the seven of us. I always say that you can't truly bond with someone unless you can share a good meal with them. By "good", I don't necessarily mean extravagant -- although I wouldn't refuse that. Eating is basic to our survival, and I believe that we remove a barrier and become almost vulnerable when we sit down together and "break bread".

Our Graham tends to be quiet, compared with the rest of us who almost compete to steer most conversations. However, he really opens up at the dinner table. In the relaxed environment of a family meal, he drops his guard and lets us in on the profound pondering of his heart. We are often amazed at the depth of his twelve-year-old insight. If we were all scattered in different directions at dinner time, we'd miss this blessing.

The Bible has a lot to say about showing hospitality, and in our "Martha" culture, we've redefined and misapplied this ancient call. (Don't get me wrong -- if I had the time, resources and skill to become the "black" Martha You-Know-Who, I would jump at the chance!) Still, I believe that many of us are plagued with fear that we will fall short of some unrealistic standard based on externals.

"Share with God's people in need. Practice hospitality." Romans 12:13

"... and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the saints, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds." I Timothy 5:10

"Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling." I Peter 4:9

"We ought therefore to show hospitality to such men so that we may work together for the truth." 3 John 1:8

The heart of these admonitions is service. Jesus "did not come to be served, but to serve", and we are to joyfully follow His example. He has promised us:

"And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you truth, he will certainly not lose his reward." Matthew 10:42

We may never own a restaurant or start a Food Network show (which has also been mentioned in our dreaming), but in the meantime we can humbly serve one another in love and extend a welcome for others to join our table.

I'll leave you with a recipe for the yummy baked, stuffed apples that the girls made for lunch yesterday. (Yes, lunch.) What a joy it is to have children who delight in being productive in the heart of the home! (Caelyn was kind enough to quickly write it down for me.)

"Whitlock Girls' Baked Apples"


8 Golden Delicious Apples
Assorted Dried Fruits
Brown sugar or Sucanat

* Use an apple core get-'er-out tool and pit each apple (bottoms out as well). Put them in a 9" diameter pie pan with ¼ C hot water in the bottom of the pan.

*For the filling, measure 2 C of oatmeal, 2 tsp cinnamon, chopped dried fruits, 3 T flour, 1 ½ - 2 C sucanat (or brown sugar), and ½ - ¾ C melted butter into a bowl. Mix with a fork.

* Pack filling into each cored apple and sprinkle remaining filling over and around the apples. Bake at 350˚F for 30 minutes. The apples should not be soft like apple pie, but tender enough to penetrate with a fork or knife.


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Time Well Spent

"She selects wool and flax
and works with eager hands."
Proverbs 31:13

I thought I'd start this post with what I did on Monday. I am honored to have been invited by Penny to join a swap in which we make these adorable little gathered clutch bags and trade with a partner. Fun, eh?

There is one aspect of this easy-to-make project that has held the upper hand with me, but I'm determined to perfect it. So far, I've had two practice runs -- one for Caelyn and one for me. Mine is the one shown here. It matches my birdie sling. I've decided that Morgan should have one, too, as she's not really a "bag" kind of girl; but she does need a place for a cell phone and lip gloss -- and when we return to the States, she'll be needing a space for that long-over-due driver's license.

I like that there's plenty of room to have separate spaces for my Moçambican, Swazi, South African and American currency, as well as things like my international driver's license, credit cards, etc.

Yesterday we had the grand privilege of meeting Craig out for lunch. On our way there, I had to stop at the petrol station and fuel up. As we sat awaiting our fill-up, we saw a few Moçambican women pass by with their wares for sale on top of their heads. This is a normal sight, but this time they were carrying sugar cane. Our existence here has been very typical to ex-pat living, and this just won't do for Graham. He has such a longing to get involved on a more intimate level with the culture here, but his mother, Suzie Safety, hasn't relinquished that kind of control. So, seeing this opportunity to appear to be more lenient, I suggested he take some money and follow those ladies. Morgan offered to go with him, and they managed to score two generously-sized sugar cane sticks for 10 meticais (29 cents). That's almost like the penny candy from my childhood, only not as sweet!

I love their relationship. It's so sweet that Graham would share with Gabriela. And gross, depending how I choose to look at it. I think this builds a good case for allowing boys to carry pocket knives; but in the end, it was our experienced empregada who properly peeled it for them.

Later in the day, this adorable face came to me and asked, "E'ma (Hebrew for "mom"), may I sew??" Tell me, would you refuse this face? OK, I often do deny her requests, being immune to her cuteness. However, she knows that it just tickles me that she's so eager to sew. Setting aside my own pursuits (but only momentarily), I agreed to help her work on the skirt she's making from an old pair of denim capris. We put "The Sound of Music" on the desktop computer so we could watch and listen with busy hands.

I included extra photos because Morgan is practicing photography (since I've never read the camera manual), and I thought I should include some of the practice shots. Thanks for bearing with me. I really like this one of the pins against the denim with Gab's cute little fingers.

Tier 1 finished; three to go.

In keeping with my report of the day's productivity, I wanted to include this:

What do meatballs have to do with sewing? Well, Caelyn made them so that I could be free to remain at the sewing table with Gabriela. These ended up in a delectable lentil soup. I really am blessed to have such skilled and industrious children!

After dinner, inspired by our movie, Craig played a wide variety of praise music (and a bit of old jazz) and gathered the children around the computer to sing along. It was such a fun, spontaneous moment. As they chose songs, I decided to start on a project that I've wanted to make for Gabriela. I didn't end up finishing it last night, but here's the work in progress, exposed threads and all:

To my quilting friends: I don't normally buy panels, but I really like this fabric for what it is. I thought it would be great for this particular project.

Monday, June 14, 2010

A Very Full Weekend

We had quite a few bits this weekend. Our "baby", Gabriela, turned eleven on Friday. Time does fly. I cherish every moment that I see her playing with dolls or coloring or building a Playmobil town.

With a little help from the Master Manipulator (no need to mention any names), she settled on going out for a sushi dinner. (Score!) After dinner, we returned home for an old Carey Grant movie a la download.

On Saturday, Henrik came to give Craig Grayson and Caelyn a scuba lesson. He's getting them ready for the upcoming open-water dive. Sadly, we learned on Sunday that Craig Grayson's asthma will prevent him from continuing. This was very disappointing news for him. It actually made me cry, as I know that this is a big goal of his. He has worked very hard preparing, and he does really well.

I can't imagine what it's like for him when he has an attack and can't get enough air. The thought of this happening 18 meters underwater -- and the danger of ascent under such conditions -- is really frightening. I'm sad that he'll be unable to reach his goal, but as Craig said, "It wouldn't be right for us to say, 'He died doing something he loves.'" It's just not worth the risk. Maybe he can become my mountain biking buddy when we return to the States...

Doesn't he look cool in his get-up?

Caelyn, too, is really doing a fantastic job. Some of the things they have to do would scare me, but she's handling it all very calmly, keeping her goal in sight.

On Saturday evening, we had a farewell dinner for Mindy and her family. We've said good-bye to five families in one week. Very sad days these are.

The children and I prepared French dip sandwiches, carrot salad, Greek salad, roasted brussels sprouts, and the best part of the meal: chocolate chip brownie pillows. What would life be like if Southern Living had never been published? Really? I talk a lot about eating nutritious food -- and I mean it! Still, it's nice to get naughty with food occasionally, and southern people really know how to make that happen. Who else would think to squish brownie pieces into the middle of chocolate chip cookies?

After dinner, we watched the US vs England "football" match. I must say that I certainly hope that no American spectators in Johannesburg will take the vuvuzela back home and start a trend there. It would change sports as we know it in the Mother Land. Imagine constantly feeling as if you're being attacked by a giant swarm of killer bees. I don't think the commentators would stand for having to compete with such an awful sound. It distracted me for the entire game and made me want to leave the room. Please do click the above link and prepare to lobby against it.

Gabriela wore the World Cup shirt that Henrik gave her for her birthday... all weekend long!

Was Craig praying here? If so, I wonder if he mentioned the screaming tantrum he had already performed.

I will miss Mindy so much. She has helped me through my times of culture shock, assisted in the red tape of crossing the border, loved my family, prayed with me, translated for me, shown me where to get the best deals, and reminded me of the importance of accessorizing even when the environment seemed to suggest otherwise. She's been a good friend. And her tortilla soup is the best ever!

The most exciting part of the weekend for me was celebrating 18 years of holy matrimony with the best person I know. Sunday was our anniversary, and although we didn't do anything out of the ordinary to celebrate, I felt every bit as excited to be Craig's wife! Sharing life with him has been the biggest blessing, and I look forward to as many more years as the Lord will give us together.

See how others spent the weekend here.