Monday, July 23, 2012

Surprise! School holiday starts today!

Ana and Moses were dressed in their uniforms and ready to go... but the Home of Love van never came... apparently nursery school children start their holiday today! A week earlier than anticipated... they must have run out of sugar at the school...

So, suddenly, I have the four kids at home, without any forethought about how to occupy their time - a MUST for Moses, especially!

So, out come my favorite activities: any Melissa and Doug activity (today it's the playdough set and Write-a-Mats) and any Usbourne books (central to our homeschooling).

My goal is to set up a resource room at Home of Love with such activities to promote literacy and educational play after school and on the long holidays (nursery students will be on holiday now for 6 weeks!). We have the luxury of such wonderful educational resources for our children, yet Home of Love has, so far, worked hard to survive and there has been no extra money for books, games, and structured play activities. Pray that we can come up with what we need to create an organized resource room for our children! :)

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Wheat free mango whoopie pies with pineapple filling

I may have overdone it buying pineapples on the roadside today... (hmmm... 6 pineapples, really?!)

And I'm reading an Amish book...

So I decided to make whoopie pies, using ingredients that I need to use up anyway: posho (maize flour), mango puree (yes, from our crazy mango season), and pineapples.

And, our summer guest is allergic to wheat (my new diagnosis for her - congrats!)... So NO wheat!

1 sticks unsalted butter melted (I substituted Blue Band margarine)
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
1 cup mango puree
1 tablespoon mixed spice (includes cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, etc.)
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cups millet flour
1 cup posho

Mix it all together, dollop onto cookie sheets, bake at around 350 degrees for around 10 minutes.

The filling:
250mL plain yogurt
1/2 cup grated coconut
1 cup crushed well drained pineapple
Around 2 cups icing sugar (powdered sugar)
I added extra corn flour (corn starch) to help thicken the filling without sweetening it any more.

Create a sandwich with two cookies and the filling and there is a fantastic dessert using all local ingredients!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

My four kids

It's an eternal goal to get a photo of my kids, or, in my even WILDER imagination, a new family photo... ;-P Well, here's one! Too bad I had to sit them in front of a movie to get them to sit still enough to get them all in the same shot! ;-P

They watched The Amy Carmichael Story - a 30 minute animation by Christian History Institute about that amazing missionary woman - if you don't know her story, you should read about her! Amazing and inspiring!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Good eats... Gulu style

I'm not a food blogger... but I really wanted to share what I made for lunch today! One of the many many wonderful things about having Elizabeth here for the summer is that all she eats is produce (only a slight exaggeration!) so that has encouraged me to make new things with fresh produce. Plus, being pregnant and so tired in third trimester has made me a little more interested in making sure that we all get good nutrition. Gracie's a hard one, at times, because of her dietary needs and chewing/swallowing issues. But here was today's raging success!

I made cottage cheese - still tastes like ricotta, so I made it herbed - here's how:

- around 2 liters of milk brought to a boil (or near boil), salted, a little butter in it.
- turn off heat and add vinegar (or any acid) and leave it to sit for 30 minutes.
- drain through piece of cloth in collander and gently press over 30 minutes or so.
- add heavy cream, or in my case, I beat up the skin from the top of the milk after I boiled it with some extra milk and some butter to try to make cream. Still not perfect, but, we're in Gulu!

For herbs, I added: oregano, pepper, garlic, olive oil, and thyme. Anything would work though.

I put some of this herb cottage cheese in the center of a perfectly ripe avocado and Noah and Grace couldn't get enough of it!

The other dish is raw collard greens or sucuma wiki, intended for me, the pregnant mama! I soaked the sucuma wiki overnight in vinegar to clean it. Then I made a marinade:

- chop up one onion and garlic clove
- squeeze one lemon over the onion and set aside
- cut up the sucuma wiki and massage with salt
- add olive oil and a little honey to the marinade
- add sucuma wiki to marinade and mix together.

The kids even ate this salad - although Noah is still chewing on sucuma wiki like a mouth full of green chewing gum and Gracie had trouble with the bigger pieces...

Monday, July 16, 2012

Interrupt the regularly scheduled programming...

(My view of Gulu street from the coffee shop - shops across the way, a brief moment with very little traffic (I didn't want people think I was taking a photo of them specifically). This is one of the main roads in Gulu and one of the best ones too. And, yes, that's our faithful little car! We praise God for this car!)

I'm sitting at a coffee shop in Gulu and thought it could make for an interesting post. I don't get out very often and right now I'm out so that I can study Acholi... so I should get back to that quickly. But, for life that seems normal to me now, I thought some might be interested in reading about a simple event like getting OUT of the house to do something that many of you do every day (or week) - sitting at a coffee shop on my laptop on the wireless internet!

Gulu is somewhat flooded this morning - there must have been some significant rains early morning somewhere uphill from us - the roads were swollen with mud and muddy water as people made their way to work and school. Most pedestrians tried to walk on the pavement, leaving very little room for the crowds of bicycles, motorbike taxis, and cars. It is a dreadful thing to splash a pedestrian (you have to pay them $1-2 for soap if you splash someone!) so I drove very carefully to skirt around the puddles and people.

I wanted to see if I could find black paper and cardstock for a craft with Home of Love, so I stopped by the "stationary store" (what Americans would see as a hole in the wall that carries office supplies) that is owned by a woman who has been a friend of ACTION since the beginning. No luck. So I waded through muddy water to another stationary store... no luck. I'm glad I wore my flipflops instead of Chacos today!

I gave up, not wanting to spend my precious Acholi-study time on visiting every stationary store in Gulu, and stepped into the coffee shop (after parking on the wrong side of the road, which is fine), first checking to see if they have power and internet (never a given). Yes, but unfortunately, the outlet I chose isn't working... 'sigh!' At least there's internet.

I look at the menu but, before setting my heart on something, I ask what they have today. It's never a given that there will be a given item on the menu. In fact, some days, there may only be a few selections. Other days there may be the full menu available for purchase. You just gotta ask, "what do you have today?"

While sitting here, there was a commotion on the street, which we have full liberty to stare at openly. Street children wander by, looking for a tender heart. Old ladies bearing burdens twice their weight on their heads plod down the road to the market. A street cleaner is sweeping the gutters. The parking lady eyes my car and writes up the invoice which I will pay when I leave (1500 shillings - around 50 cents).

And my African tea arrives - spiced black tea with milk and lots of sugar. So back to studying...

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Lasagna - the missionary way

It struck me today how far I have come in 10 months of living in Northern Uganda. First of all, I must remember that when we first arrived, we didn't know where to find anything. We didn't know the inside scoop on who sells what where. So that severely limited our selection. Secondly, Uchumi wasn't open ("big" supermarket that we can usually count on to have either sausages or "mince" meat [ground meat].

But, I also wasn't used to cooking entirely from scratch with the local materials with my tiny stove and local seasonings.

But today I put together a rather delicious lasagna. Yes, lasagna. Something I craved for months here, but today put together quickly with what felt like limited effort. We have some boxes of lasagna noodles in the pantry from Kampala, so I did NOT have to make my own pasta, which certainly saved me a lot of time. But otherwise, I made the tomato sauce and ricotta cheese from scratch and invented a yummy recipe on the fly using what I happened to have today: greens and okra from Josh's garden, unripe tomatoes which Noah picked (argh!), chicken sausages, eggs, various Italian styled seasonings, onions, garlic, AND a chunk of cheese from Kampala.

It was delicious! And it never occurred to me that I was making it all from scratch... life has changed! :)

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Delays based on American standards... are not delays here

(Aerial view of 3 engrossed girls - Gracie, Ana, and our friend, Mercy - coloring [or, in Gracie's case, trying to eat markers].)

We've been interested in figuring out Moses and any "delays" he might have (from American standards). It's taken a while and now as he is blossoming before our eyes, we see a fine motor delay and language delay. The school system is very different here - perhaps the topic of a whole separate post in months to come. But they don't learn much in the "nursery" school years, so much of his delay can be attributed to a lack of early-childhood education and stimulation. (This is not a critique of Home of Love nor the school - this is simply how things are done here and we are comparing him to our rather advanced American 4 year old who just tested at a 2nd grade level!)

But as we thought about his speech and comprehension delay, we compared his life to that of life in the family. In the "Children's Home," he spoke with adults very little. No adults read books to him and in a crowd he could easily not pay attention any time there was a gathering. We see the same delay in all of the little ones at Home of Love. They can easily get away with very little adult interaction and they barely speak to each other as peers except to antagonize each other or play, which requires no significant vocabulary.

The staff at Home of Love is very interested in creating a resource room where they can read to the children and play educational games!

Today, I started the beginning of "catch up" education with him - he was confused at first and then forged ahead with abandon, crying when I called it a day! He followed almost no instructions without me putting my hand over his and coaxing him to listen to me, demonstrated no comprehension, and just enjoyed tracing letters. But he had fun and it was a start! Interesting to me that he has no concept of what sound the letters make, that letters spell words, etc. I believe this is a result of rote-education where the children simply repeat back without any comprehension.

Incidentally, family worship is interesting as we get four children with tiny attention spans to sit and listen to Bible readings in Acholi and English and demonstrate some comprehension... fun times!

On understanding orphan statistics

Sunday, July 8, 2012


We live in an era of missions unlike any other.

Missionaries through the centuries have followed God's leading into certain physical death. They packed their few belongings in a coffin, bade permanent farewell to their families, and traveled for months to reach their destination for a few months or years of feverish proclamation of God's word before their ultimate demise.

There was no Skype, no facebook, no email, no phonecalls. Letters took months to reach loved-ones IF they arrived at all.

Today, in Northern Uganda, we have electricity at least 40% of the time. We have a solar set-up to provide a little light and charging when the power is out. We have a little dorm fridge to keep milk cold. We occasionally can get meat and cheese. We (this month) can get yogurt all the time.

And, Josh takes trips to Kampala periodically to meet with our missionary team leaders. Kampala has nearly everything. Yes, I had nori, rice vinegar, and sushi rice brought from the USA by a visitor. But, besides my wild ambitions of making california rolls for Father's Day, we are truly living in a global era of missions. And even the california rolls are remarkable - travelers leave the USA with bins full of goodies and arrive in our home in Northern Uganda 3 days later... with bins full of goodies.

All this waxing eloquent is to give you a list of some of the luxuries that Josh brought up from Kampala this week - I thought you might find it interesting and remarkable!

- clothesline
- frozen tilapia filets
- tiny amounts of various fresh cold cuts and a wedge of Camembert
- 5 pineapples (great place along the road between Kampala and Gulu to get cheap delicious pineapples!)
- a giant jackfruit (same fruit area)
- a white board
- amarynth flour
- oats
- a can of Pringles
- a large bottle of vanilla extract and five bottles of lemon juice

You can see that our luxuries range from actual luxuries to every day staples that aren't available in Gulu. We can't buy these luxuries all the time, but what a treat a few times a year!

Friday, July 6, 2012

The baby complex

(I want to blog a bit about Moses since his adoption into our family is somewhat unique: adoption from an orphanage that we continue to be fully involved with, living in his same community with his same friends. There is little written about "these types" of situations, so I pray that by sharing some of our journey with Moses, maybe I can encourage other families who are in this unique situation!)

Moses was the baby at Home of Love. In fact, at the age of 4-5 years, he only lost the nickname "Baby" a few months ago when he started being called "Oyuba" (part of his Acholi name).

Now, suddenly, he's the second oldest in a family of almost five children.

He smothers "Baby Noah" (as he calls him) with way too much brotherly love and attention and loves being big brother to him. But we have had major breakdowns over one simple thing: getting dressed. Yes, the mean mommy that I am, I make him put on his own clothes. I help with buttons and tight collars and zippers. But the 4 and 5 year olds in our household need to put forth a good effort to dress themselves.

After the first few weeks of novelty wore off, this has become a source of insecurity for Moses. He loves helping like a big kid with clearing the table, setting up for meals, caring for Noah (!!!), gardening, and everything else under the sun... except putting on his shirt.

So... I have spent hours holding a weeping half-naked child who finally relents and puts on his own shirt. It has given me the opportunity to snuggle, hug, and love on him. It has given me the opportunity to stand firm and not be manipulated. It has given me the opportunity to be consistent. And it has taken everything in me to not reach over and tug that shirt over his precious head. I have to remind myself that my job is to teach him to respect and obey me and learn to trust that I know his limits and won't ask him to do something beyond his abilities. Just like our Heavenly Father!

Don't worry, we find other ways to lavish attention and love on him... we're quite an affectionate family!

"Baby" has started saying, in a lilting half-swallowed accent, "May I have more please?" and "May I -excused- please?" and "Thank you!" spontaneously on his own as he grows in leaps and bounds. He and Ana share inside jokes from being at school together. And he loves making Gracie laugh and "talk." What a precious addition to our family!

Even when he's half-naked.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Moses' first visit to Home of Love

Noah and Fortunate having fun

I have spent the last five weeks in the home mostly. Making sure that I'm home every time that Moses is home. We've had some very interesting times of adjustment and as this amazing kid takes everything in stride, he also has been trying on different things. Now he's on to crying about little things like Ana does. Makes a mama struggle since I'm 90% sure he's crying because he forgot to take his shoes off before his pants and now his pant leg is stuck, but maybe, just maybe, he's crying about something greater than that and I'm just not understanding...

His (and our) language is coming along well - although, we're still struggling with basic communication, let alone more complex topics!

Josh playing football with the guys (Moses in the "smart" orange polo).

We finally ventured to Home of Love as a whole family yesterday. We (I?) were a little worried about how he would react and whether that would cause even more insecurity. I needn't have feared! He wanted to wear his "smart" clothes ("pa gang lega" for church), so I let him. We went as a whole family at a time when all the children would be home and we went armed with balls to do some "structured" play time.

Moses had a blast, the other children had a blast, the mamas/aunties who were there all sat down with pregnant me to watch the group playing. What a wonderful time! Moses came home nearly giddy and definitely full of happiness. It is a testimony to the love and care that Home of Love gives our children that our Moses is so eager and happy to visit! Praise God!

Ana, on the other hand, asked me if we had to leave Moses behind or if we got to bring him home with us still. And displayed her insecurities full force... guess I forgot to reassure her in my concern about Moses!

Gracie ALWAYS loves Home of Love and sure enjoyed seeing ALL the kids playing in the field!

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