Monday, December 31, 2007

The one bad thing about having extremely hot summers is that when winter comes, it feels really cold. We have officially acclimated. When we moved down here, I pretty much ditched all the warm winter clothing. Who is going to need ski suits, mittens and wool socks in Mexico? Well, we probably won't see any snow where we are, but everyone has been wishing for wool socks this past month!

I found a good fabric store in Guasave and went hunting for poncho material. Of course you can't buy patterns for ponchos here (you actually can't buy patterns for anything here. Tons of fabrics, no patterns.) -- once again, thank goodness for Google. Christmas morning, everyone was tickled pink and toasty warm! New polar fleece sarapes and thick fleece stockings.

Pumpkin Cheesecake? Oh, yeah.

Sarah and I share a love of good cheesecake. I think it's hereditary. Anyway, the year she turned 10 she made her first "real" cheesecake (not from a mix) for her birthday, and with that a tradition was born. Every year we experiment with tastes and styles to find that perfect blend. Well, this year, I think we outdid ourselves. Unfortunately, I can't take very much (if any) credit for it. I just Googled.

We brought a couple of cans of pumpkin down from the States when we came home. With them we made a couple of the traditional pumpkin pies (which were very much a hit here, I must say!), but another friend brought a couple more cans when she came home from furlough, so I was blessed with pumpkin. About a week before her actual birthday Sarah said, "Mom, do you think we could make a pumpkin cheesecake?" Hm. Yeah, I thought we could. Rather than just take an existing recipe and tweaking it, I thought I should Google "pumpkin cheesecake" and see what was out there already.

Here's what I found.
The Marbled Pumpkin Cheesecake.
Lovely and tasty!!!

I think we've found a new holiday tradition.

It turned out so well the first time, I'm actually making another one while I type. Smells yummy. Of course, as with most things I bake here in Mexico, I had to adjust the recipe to items available and affordable.

Here's the recipe as I made it:

Sarah's Swirled Pumpkin Cheesecake

2 cups white flour
4 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp Cinnamon
1 tsp powdered ginger
1/4 tsp powdered cloves
1/4 tsp powdered nutmeg
mix well in 9" deep dish pie pan

combine 2/3 cup vegetable oil and 3 Tbsp milk -- whip together with fork and pour over dry ingredients in pie plate. Mix well and form into a pretty crust pressing into place across bottom and up sides. Bake at 400 degrees 10 minutes. Let cool.

I've used variations of this basic crust -- without spices -- for years in pot pies and fruit pies alike. I hate rolling out pie crusts. The original recipe called for crushed gingersnap cookies. I have no idea what gingersnaps are called in Spanish or if I could even find them if I knew. This crust turned out perfect!

2 packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
4 eggs
1 cup pumpkin pie filling

Beat together cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until creamy. Add 3 eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Set aside 1 cup of mixture for swirling. Add one cup pumpkin and the last egg to the mixing bowl and beat well. Preheat oven to 350 and place pie pan on large cookie sheet (unless you like cleaning cheesecake drips off the bottom of the oven.) Carefully pour the pumpkin mixture into the pie crust. Now, for the fun part: swirling. The recipe said to blop the white cheesecake mixture into 6 blops and then run a knife around the pie gently to swirl. I didn't do it like that. Starting at the outside edge, pour a pinwheel shape, very slowly, around the edge and toward the center. With that done, take a toothpick and starting at the center gently and slowly pull to the outside edge (visualize with me here) at 12 o'clock, 3 o'clock, 6 o'clock and 9 o'clock. Stick the toothpick in your mouth, grab another toothpick and starting at the outside edge, pull gently to the center at 1:30, 4:30, 7:30 and 10:30. Viola! Marbled. Stick the other toothpick in your mouth.

Now, open the oven door and CAREFULLY slide the cookie sheet into the moderately hot oven and bake about 55 minutes (or until the center tests done). I hate to cut the center to test it, so what you want is poofed on the edges and fairly flat in the center, not jiggly at the center (under done) and not cracking around the edge (over done).

I don't intend to share many recipes here, but when something tastes this good, it's a shame to not share! Disfrutalo!!!! (enjoy!)

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Women's Bible Study at Our House

I thought I should put in a picture that doesn't involve weird food or weirder animals! We actually do interact with people in our ministry here! :^)

This is a picture of our women's Bible study group that meets every Thursday. Right now we're studying the life of Abraham.

What a great group of sisters! Hmm...let's see, I think I can name everyone around the circle: (this is an accomplishment for me -- I'm really bad with names!) First of all, there's me. Red shirt, red hair. To my left is Hermana Maria (hermana means sister. In our part of Mexico, Christians refer to each other as "hermano" or "hermana" so-and-so.) [Cultural digression: We've noticed that frequently people are called by their title here, rather than their name. For example, little boys are called "nino"(no en-yeh on this website, sorry!), my cousin's name would be Prima, not Amanda. My Uncle Jack would be Tio and depending on who was talking to me, my name might be Tia, Prima, Hermana, Mama, Sobrina, Nina, etc. but not Abuela! That's your Mexican culture lesson for the day. Guess it's a reflection of the importance of family relations to the Mexican people. I'm sure there's a Biblical application there somewhere, but I'm too tired to dig it out. Maybe tomorrow.] Anyway, Hermana Maria runs a small abarrotes (shop) in Boca. Next is Hermana Tita, a great woman and a real "kindred spirit". Next to her is Annette who is an American student from the school of ministry in Boca. She graduated in October with Doug. Then there's Lina and Jessica, Cris (the associate pastor's wife), under the blankie is Jassiel (don't know if I spelled that right, but he's adorable!!!!), then Norma, Cheli (you can only see her legs), Karely...oops. I almost made it all the way. One sister I can't remember; she's Ramona's daughter. Then there's Carla (in the corner where you can't see -- she's a single mom living with her mom and dad.) Next is Ramona and finally Armida, who is Andrew and Evie's Sunday school teacher. Well, I did better than 90%!

We had a great study. Like I said, we've been studying the book of Genesis We took a week off though, because Cris asked me to share a little about training children. As you can imagine, there's more info there than I could cover in an hour. I really had to pray about it to be able to share competantly (in Spanish, no less) what God had for these ladies. You can see from the picture that we have several generations represented in our class. Four, to be exact. I really felt at a loss as to what to teach. Sure, I have experience in the child-rearing department, but I wouldn't consider myself an expert. Just a fellow traveler, I guess. But Cris really wanted me to share with the ladies, and I felt strong confirmation from God, so I was pretty much outnumbered! ;^)

After hours of prayer and Bible study and re-reading some of the parenting books that Doug and I valued highly when the kids were little, I felt relatively prepared. Here's the "nut-shell" version: A lot of the time, we just want our kids to behave well, play nice, be respectful, but the Bible teaches that if we teach our children right behaviour, but never train them to have right attitudes, we've missed the mark. They will be what Jesus called the scribes and Pharasees: hypocrites. "You wash the outside of the bowl, but inside is filthy." Basically: God wants our children's hearts. I was convicted!!! Apparently, it went well and was understandable, because the ladies all participated and several said they were blessed. Well, I was certainly blessed by it myself!!!

Doug and I hope to start a couples' study after the first of the year using the book "Shepherding a Child's Heart". One of our friends in the States has offered to buy the books for us in Spanish, so we won't have to translate them ourselves -- wa-HOO!!! What a blessing! Just have to figure out how to get them down here now! Where there's a will...

Do pray for the up-and-coming generation in Mexico. You may say that youth are bad in the States, but you've never seen anything like this. Believe me. At Sarah's quince anos, I literally held the muchachos (teenaged boys) away from the cake with a wooden broomstick while the other ladies served the cake to the adults first. It was almost funny at first, but honestly I couldn't keep them back more than the few minutes it took to load the platters for the servers. They behaved like spoiled 4 year olds -- that weighed 200 pounds! Ridiculous. Anyway, Cris and I have been praying about capturing the heart of the children of Boca. It may be too late for most of the teens and the young adults, but there is still hope for the boys and girls of 10 years or less. Pray that God would give us (the church and our family, too) wisdom in dealing with the youth here.

Well, I'm tired. We just got home from the church's posada. More obnoxious teenaged boys. They stayed on the outside for the most part, but showed up at the end of the evening saying, "I want cake!" Yeah, deep down I love 'em, but that doesn't mean I don't want to find that broomstick and bean 'em with it! :^) Bless their hearts.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Just One of Those Things

A funny thing happened at Wal-Mart today. First off -- yes, there is a Wal-Mart here. Isn't it everywhere? We have to drive about 2 hours, but it made for a special for the kids. Wal-Mart isn't the bargain shopping adventure in Mexico that it is in the States. In general, prices are about 30% higher across the board. Some imported items, specifically electronics, are closer to 50% higher. Ouch. We try to avoid purchasing a whole lot at Wal-Mart. Most of the things we need can be found in the local mercado and some things we buy north of the border and import. Coffee, for instance. And instant pudding.

Today though, we bought something. I'm not saying exactly what the something is, because the kids have access to the net and we would like it to be a surprise. The item itself isn't that funny, nor is the fact that we paid way more than the item is worth. The funny thing about it is the receipt. It's written in invisible ink. Seriously!!! I kid you not! The ink used in the little printer-thingys fades away. We know this from experience, because about a year ago our then-landlord tried to get us to pay a bill we had already paid. We had the receipt -- but it had faded until you could just barely read the amount. Still, this isn't the really funny thing. The really funny thing is that the checker told Doug, very nonchalantly as if this were a matter of course, "The [product] has a one year guarantee, but you need the receipt showing the date of purchase and the ink will fade away after three months, so you need to go get a copy of the receipt before it fades." Pause. Blink.

OK, so they know that there is a problem, and their solution is to tell the customer to copy the receipt? Why not buy better ink? So, I sigh, shake my head and copy the receipt. Is that enabling? I think I'll just call it cultural adaptation.

Monday, December 17, 2007

More Mexican Wildlife Stories

One of my favorite animals here in Mexico is the pelican. I used to stand on our balcony (in the house we rented last year) and watch the birds soar in formation 30 feet above the ocean's surface and then suddenly plummet to the water in search of food. Sometimes as many as 30 of these creatures would fly by in an evenly spaced line -- spectacular!

Unfortunately, not everyone here appreciates these powerful, fish-loving birds as much as I do. To the local fishermen, they are in the same category as rats and stray dogs. Several times during the year, we find wounded or dead pelicans on the beach. Most of the time the best thing we can do is end things mercifully.

We actually tried to help a pelican with a broken wing last summer. The kids affectionately named him Bill, and we did what we could. I did learn several things in the pursuit of medical attention for Bill. First of all, if you have a broken wing (or more likely, a broken arm, leg or finger) and you are seeking first aid, you need to go get an x-ray. Neither the urgent care clinic nor the veterinary office has this equipment. I know now where the rayos-x laboratory is. A good thing to know with our crew, I think! Secondly, I learned that there are organizations in the States who are willing to pour thousands of dollars into the "Save the Pelican" cause. I was willing to transport Bill to the vet, give him antibiotics, set and bind the bone, and hunt fish for him, but when the majority of children in our area survive on less than $5 per day for food and necessities, I couldn't bring myself to allow an organization -- even a really neat, honest organization with lots of money -- to dump 5 grand into air lifting a brown pelican from Los Mochis to Florida for specialized medical care. I guess I'm just not that much of a bleeding heart afterall. I got him comfortable, treated the infection and sent him on his merry way. I heard later that he had ended up at Esteban's mom's house begging fish and then adopted a restaurant down the beach and hung out there for scraps. Quite the oppotunist!

But, as I said, I'm willing to do what I can. Not all the injured pelicans we find on the beach are mortally wounded and not all are cause by mean people. A couple of weeks ago, Sarah and I were walking on the beach when we found two pelicans in distress. Apparently they had been fighting and the younger of the two had most definitely lost the battle. (Graphic description follows -- PG13) The young brown's neck was obviously broken and he was very dead. The older, white-headed pelican was, however, very much alive. The problem was that the young, dead pelican's long neck was hopelessly entangled in the live pelican's beak pouch. There was no way that the live pelican would survive long with a dead pelican attached to him. Already, the stray dogs had begun to circle. He looked a little perplexed, to say the least. My experience with pelicans has been that they are a bit surly. Sarah says I'm not being fair, because every one I've dealt with has been injured in one way or another, so of course they would be grumpy. All I know is that their beak packs a powerful WHOMP. And they have quite a reach! So, my mission was to disentangle a dead pelican from the live pelican without causing further damage to his already torn pouch (or to myself!) in the process. Shortening a long story: I went to the hotel (near where we were) and borrowed a machete. Then I threw my jacket over the live pelican and had Sarah hold him down while I removed the dead bird's head -- necessary, believe me.

I wish I had another photo of him untangled, he was definitely a beautiful fellow! But he took off the instant he was free.

Not even a nod and a thank you! What cheek! :^)

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Just Another Wednesday...or NOT!

So -- I'm sitting at the kitchen table sorting through photos on my laptop. Lunch is over, the kids are out and about, Doug and Esteban have gone to Guasave to get some building supplies; overall, the house is calm and peaceful. It never lasts long.

I heard a "pop" sound. My first thought was, "Hm. That air rifle is as loud as a 22." My second was, "Who asked permission to use the air rifles?" Just as my brain formulated that brilliant question, there was a second "crack", because it really was a CRACK rather than a POP. We moms of boys can tell the difference, eh? The second pop/crack got me out of my seat so that I could look out the front window. What I saw headed me out the front door.

The police were parked in front of the house and there was a huddle of guys (including some red-headed boys) all around a big brush pile across the street. As soon as I saw Caleb with his air rifle and the policeman with his 22 handgun, I knew what was up. It's something we keep our eyes open for, since we live where we live. We have snakes. We have really big snakes. Some of those snakes are poisonous, but even the non-poisonous ones are hunted down and killed when they pass 4 or 5 feet long. I trotted over to the brush pile (of course, my camera batteries were charging, bummer) to see what was up. Sure enough, they had cornered the second largest rattlesnake I've ever seen.

Apparantly the officers were doing their normal drive-by when they saw a big snake slithering across the road in front of our house. He tried to swerve to hit it, but it got away and headed for the bushes. The guys jumped from their truck and shot twice with their 22s. (That was the CRACK I heard!) Then Caleb had come running with his air rifle and pegged it. Finally, Ramon reached in and whacked its head with Andrew's machete. Definitely a group effort, but Caleb was really excited about the prospect of a rattlesnake hide to tan.

Turns out, rattlesnakes are extremely easy to skin. I even prefer them to fish -- once we took the head off. Sorry, I know that once they're dead, they're dead, but the suckers move for ages even with the head OFF. I just couldn't handle it with the head still on. (Side note: there is a slight danger from a dead rattlesnake. The mouth holds some venom, so it really is better to behead it.) So, Caleb cut off the rattle and the head, I skinned the snake and then I was left holding the...snake. Pretty gross, but in all honesty I expected it to, grosser (is that a word? It is now.)

A couple of the boys wanted to cook it up for supper. I actually decided that I didn't want to deal with it, so I chucked it into the brush. Wouldn't you know, it got caught, so we had a dead, skinless-headless-tailless rattler hanging from the top of a brushpile right beside the house. No way that was going to fly. The boys said that they would reclaim the critter from the tree, so I headed in to check the internet to see what I should do with the leftover snake. [Editor's note: After reading this to the crew, Jessee corrected me. They did not offer to reclaim the snake from the tree. They were told to. We must be precise, eh?] I found a couple of great sites. "Everything you wanted to know about...the Western Diamondback but Were Afraid to Ask" -- very helpful site which I figure I'll be visiting often, our family being what it is! I think I'll have to keep it off-limits from the boys, though, because it has information about hunting and capturing rattlesnakes. I'm not sure I want them to have that much information at this time. What is that saying? "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing"? 'Nuff said.

By the time I had gleaned what I needed from the net, the boys had pulled Snakey down from the treetops. I was now prepared to clean and freeze him. Once again, I was surprised at how easily the cleaning went. I had to hose him off well to get the sand off of him (that's what I get for tossing it up in the tree -- what goes up, must come down, you know.

Meanwhile, Caleb was trying his hand at scraping the snake hide. (I found the instructions at "Brazos River Rattlesnake Ranch") After about half an hour, he had completed about 6 inches. Slow going. I gave my "anything worth doing..." speech, but Caleb has heard it a few times. His concern was that his friend Mike was over, and they wanted to play Mech Warriors. So, we have a green snake skin in the freezer; right next to a plastic container labeled "Rattle snake". Now that's something I've never had in my freezer!

Doug just messaged over saying that they were on the way home. I asked him to pick up a couple of kilos of carne asada. It would be the equivalent of ordering out for pizza -- but significantly cheaper -- after a rather tough day on the homefront. The only meat I have in the freezer right now is rattlesnake. I can kill one, skin one, clean one and freeze one, but I don't think I can eat one today!

Friday, November 30, 2007

The Graduate

On October 28, we celebrated another milestone in our family. That was the date of Doug's graduation from Calvary Chapel's School of Ministry. He's been a student of the school since October of last year and graduated with 3 other American students and 3 Mexican students. Wa-HOO!!! Congratulations, Darling!!!

What a year! The students' schedule was grueling. Getting up at 5 a.m. for group prayer, classes from 9 a.m. till 3 p.m. and an average of 10 pages (written, front and back) of homework, plus ministry activites and outreaches, cultural adaptaion, and "KP duty", made for some extremely busy, full, long days. Doug had the added challenge of living off-campus and being the head of the family, too. AND in the middle of the school year, he took a month off to build our house and move into it. Yep, we had a crazy year!!!
It was awesome that God provided a way for Doug to get Bible and leadership training. He's been leading our family for 16 years and we led youth group for about 4 years, but there's just something "special" about having a certificate to hang on the wall stating that, indeed, you've finished the course and earned the degree. It's something we could never have done in the States simply because of my lack of "marketable skills" -- my two areas of expertise are education and social work; neither of which earn enough to support a family of 8 and pay for seminary! Just one more way God confirmed His plan for us to live in Mexico! Rest in the Lord, wait patiently for Him, and He will give the desires of your heart!!!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Sarah's Birthday Party

Well, she's not 15 yet, but last Friday we celebrated Sarah's Quince primaveras (literally, 15 springs). She wanted to celebrate a little early because three of her best friends are leaving for the States in the next couple of weeks and won't be here for her actual birthday.

For those of you who have never attended a Mexican 15th birthday party, let me tell you -- go to one! There is a reason why parents of girls here begin to plan the party when their daughter is 10. They also begin to save up money so they can host the party. Just picture a wedding -- without a groom. We started planning in August and scraped the money out of last two month's grocery allowance (we ate a lot of beans last month!). It was one of those things that starts out as just a "small family thing" and mushrooms everytime you turn around.

This is me trying to find the lightbulb that wouldn't work in the swag. Never did find it, but it didn't seem to bother anyone!

Seriously, God provided in amazing ways for this celebration. The dress was given to her by a friend who got married last year. We removed the sleeves and Sarah did some embellishing with lavender ribbon. One of our neighbors had tons of ribbon and such left over from her daughter's wedding -- which just happened to be just the right color -- and loaned us all her white Christmas lights. I baked for a week before the party making cookies, carrot bread, pineapple upside down cakes, chocolate cakes and -- of course -- Jello, so that there would be enough desserts for everyone. In the States we serve cake with ice cream. In Mexico, we serve cake and Jello. We were only inviting the church and a few friends, but here the whole town turns out for events like this. Sarah decided (with coaxing from her friends) that she had to have a tiered cake. Apparently, it's tradition. As her friend, Karen, said, "The two most important things in a quince anos are the dress and the cake." So, Sarah worked an extra couple of days to buy a cake from a lady in Palos Verdes. Turns out, I was glad she did. It really made the difference at the head table.

Another really neat thing God did to provide for the celebration involved the ladies of the church. I'd been told by a couple of different ladies that you absolutely HAD to serve some sort of supper. But after a lot of prayer and agonizing (on my part, Sarah wasn't stressed about it), I finally had to tell Sarah that there was just no way that we could provide a supper for 200 people. One of my friends suggested a potluck, and I was going to talk to some of the ladies about helping to put together a supper when we got back from our furlough. However, this is a fishing village. And there have been almost no fish this year. No one has any money, and I just couldn't ask them to contribute to something as (to me) frivolous as a birthday party. In the States, if you don't have the money for a huge party, you don't throw a huge party (well, maybe that's not always true, but generally speaking it is). I just figured we'd keep it small and simple and serve lots of desserts. Apparently, the ladies (while nodding in agreement and saying "Yes, certainly a dessert-only party is fine.") were planning a coup. I was shang-haied while walking down the aisle at the end of the service and asked how I'd like to serve the food. "What food?" I asked. "Well," said Pily, "the sisters got together and made a small supper because you really can't have a quince anos without it." Yep. I cried. I still am a little misty about it. Ok, I'm a lot misty about it. It just reminded me of my friends back in Oregon. A lot. Sniff.

Ok, so you've been waiting to see what the Quincenera (that's what they call the birthday girl) looked like. Hold on to your hat...

Sigh. My little girl isn't so little any more. Deeper sigh.

I've assigned her a writing assignment/project for the rest of the "semester". She's going to create a blog all about her Quince Anos, so I won't bore you with all the details. I'll just link to her site when she gets it all together. Meanwhile, here are some more pictures of our big night...

This is the beginning of the procession. Evie and Damaris are carry the basket of recuerdos. (Little keepsakes made of seashells.) Yes, Sarah is oficially taller than I now. I managed to stand on a hill in one picture with her -- then we were just about even!

The ceremony was held in the church yard. There were about 100 people there during the actual ceremony -- more showed up afterward for cake and games. All told, I think about 250 people came and went during the evening.
Here are Doug and Sarah standing at the head table. I just had to have a picture of the desserts. I heard from everyone that they were delicious. Honestly, I never got to try them! I'm definitely going to have to re-do the chocolate-peanut butter concoction on the right. It turned out looking lovely -- and all the ladies were oohing and ahhing about the chocolate cake, so my guess is that it tasted as good as it looked! How can you go wrong with peanut butter, chocolate and cream cheese?

One last photo of my little girl.
I'm so proud of her!

My Late Birthday Present

I want to share a picture of my birthday present. Yeah, I know; my birthday was over a month ago. That's OK, though. I'll keep celebrating!

Seriously, I've wanted a brick oven for over a year. When I mentioned it to Esteban, he said that his wife and her mom wanted to make one for me for my birthday, but they didn't know if I would like one or not. I was totally surprised! Esteban said that they had an ulterior motive: they want pizza!

Esteban, Vasilia, Doug and I went out for tacos about two weeks ago and while we were in town, they bought 200 ladrillos for the oven. Then last Tuesday, Lupita and her husband came over to start working on it. I haven't gotten a chance to use it yet -- been a little busy with Sarah's party -- but I'm really excited and looking forward to trying it out!

I've been wanting to bake breads and such to sell on the weekends, but my indoor oven is small and gas is expensive. I thought that a brick oven, which is much bigger and uses wood for fuel, would be a good investment. In this oven, I can bake 6 pizzas at once. Too bad we don't have a Papa Murphy's Take-n-Bake nearby!!!

I originally planned to put it in the front yard next to the water spigot. It seemed like a good place at first, but after I sat in my "thinking spot" (a log in the front yard) drinking my coffee and contemplating the future of the world (deep subjects for early morning, I know) I decided that it wasn't such a good place. Our front yard isn't all that big, and I wanted the oven to be good sized and to be able to build a work station and maybe an attached BBQ. It would end up taking up all of my available garden space. Plus, when cars drive by, we get a lot of dust thrown up, and I wouldn't want to be baking bread in a dust cloud AND if the dust blows that way, so would the smoke. I was pretty sure that Doug wouldn't be very happy having smoke pouring in the front windows while the oven heated up. Therefore, we built it in the back yard. I have visions of a large outdoor baking area, BBQ, palapa (like a big gazebo with a grass roof) and seating area with picnic tables. Possibly I'll fulfill my dream of owning my own restaurant afterall! Hey, it could happen!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

We had a little visitor at our house day before yesterday. I was getting into the car to run to the market when I caught a slight movement out of the corner of my eye. Since I was curious, just a kid at heart, I hopped out of the van and went over to see what had just crawled under the water tank.

This little guy, the crab -- not the Andrew -- had wandered over from the beach. I sent Andrew and Jessee back down to the beach to reunite him with his family -- quickly...before Doug got ahold of him and roasted him over an open fire!

It's Greek to Me!

I took this picture while we were on furlough in the States this fall. The kids are generally pretty good about taking time in the morning for their personal Bible time, but while we were traveling it was sometimes difficult. Occasionally a Bible was misplaced in the van or who-knows-where and one child or another would have to borrow one to read. Believe it or not, this photo was not posed.

Caleb and Jessee were reading (borrowed) Bibles at Grandma's house. When I looked closely, I noticed a couple of things about the Bible that Jessee (on the left) was reading. First of all, I saw that it was upside down. I was just about to comment to him about the fact that he was being deceitful, when I saw that it was also Hebrew-Greek. I had to take a photo before I called him on it.

It turned out that the Bible was a factory second that Grandma had gotten for a really good price because it was bound incorrectly. Jessee was really reading the Bible -- in English, upside up!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Still Building

Well, two weeks ago we began construction on the second level of our house. We're making progress! We made the floorplan so that we could build small portions at a time, as funds were available. It's the way people build in this part of Mexico. You get a little money, buy what supplies you can, build until you run out of supplies and then wait for more money. It's a pretty good system, if you think about it. We've lived in partially finished houses for the past 10 years. It's just one more way that God was preparing us for the mission field!

Eventually, this upstairs will be our living room, but for now, we're thinking about putting the 4 boys up there. I envy them the view, but the room would suit them better than Doug and I...and I wouldn't have to move all the books upstairs!!!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

English From the Roots Up...FINALLY!!!

Ok, homeschoolers, here's a question: have you ever bought a wonderful curriculum item and been so excited to get it home and to use it, and brought it home...and had it sit on your shelf for 5 years? Now, I'm not talking about the Abeka Kindergarten Art program that I spent $200 on and brought home and was immediately repentant. No offense to Abeka curriculum users. I obviously like the looks of it, or I never would have bought it. I just couldn't use it. It wasn't "ME". What I'm talking about is that book or resource that you've looked at and researched and tested and saved for and then, finally, purchased -- just knowing that this class was going to really work with your kids. But you never did it. "English from the Roots Up" was that curriculum item for me. Who knows why? Maybe it started looking a little "teacher intensive", or maybe my kids just weren't quite ready. Or maybe I just kept having little ones, so I didn't really feel like starting something new when I was exhausted and nauseated all the time. Well, I tend to be a little perfectionistic, so I think my biggest problem was wanting to do a really good job, since the class looked so good itself. Whatever the reason, I purchased the book in 1999 and never actually did the class...until this year.

To be totally honest, I'm not actually doing the class this year either! My 15 year old daughter, Sarah, wanted to do a class on word origins. Being the cheapskate, er, uh, frugally-minded mom that I am, the lightbulb flashed over my thick skull and viola! She has her curriculum, and the 5 younger kids get a new teacher -- who actually gives homework assignments!!! gasp! Sarah's doing such a fantastic job! All I have to do is keep her supplied with notecards and colored pens and occassionally rebuke the odd brother for disrespect. I now have an hour a day when I can do grading and recording grades without interruptions. Woo-Hoo!!!

So -- now how do I feel about English from the Roots Up? I love it! The kids, ages 8 through 15 are absolutely enjoying the class -- even with homework assignments -- and we've been playing Rummy Roots a lot and the two little ones are making a Greek and Latin root word BINGO. Sarah comes up with neat ideas for assignments. She's so creative! Very cool! The kids are noticing that a lot, well, actually ALL of the Latin root words have Spanish equivalents. Go figger! Maybe the Spanish will move along faster, too? Hay que esperar y orar! One can hope and pray!!!


The cats are not really allowed in the house. All the humans around here know that, but someone really ought to explain it to Gus-Gus. He's not the only one who sneaks in, but he's the most...adventurous of the crew. Fortunately for him the pan was waiting to be washed and not waiting to be served! We might have ended up serving "gato asado" for supper!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Andrew's Birthday Cake

Last Friday was Andrew's 10th B-Day party! His actual birthday is tomorrow, but I told him to not get too excited because we weren't sure we were going to let him turn 10. He's just fine at age 9. I've been making cakes for...hmm...a long time. Nothing too fancy; just birthday cakes and baby shower desserts and such. I can't see shelling out a lot of money for a fancy cake if I'm able to make something that will work. Anyway, I've had my share of flops (several cakes have had to be held together with toothpicks) and accidents (usually involving a toddler who got curious) but nothing compared to the challenges I've faced while trying to bake cakes here in Mexico. Eesh! Part of the problem is the ingredients; we use boxed milk here and the powdered sugar has a different consistency. Another issue is the oven; there is no temperature guage and no insulation. But I'm learning to deal with or work with those. The one thing I haven't been able to figure out is the climate. It is just hot here! While I was trying to decorate Andrew's cake, the sun was fully on the window right in front of me. Well, I knew from experience that everything had to be cold (remembering a cake last summer in which the top layer had to be attached to the bottom layer by several skewers to keep it from sliding off!), so I had frozen both layers separately, chilled the frosting, made the pudding with only half the required amount of milk, chilled to almost freezing and worked fast. So I was almost finished when the top layer began to shift and the pudding filling began to ooze down the side. AAAARGH!!! The guests would be arriving any minute, supper was needing attention and I had chocolate pudding running down the sides of what was supposed to be a white cake. And then I remembered -- someone had given me a bottle of Hershey's syrup when we were in the States and I had it hidden in the door of the fridge. Vi-ola!!! A quick swirl around the outside and another layer of white frosting around the bottom (ostensibly for decoration, but really to keep the pudding and syrup from running off the platter and onto the counter) and no one can tell that it wasn't supposed to look that way in the first place! Judging from what was left, everyone else thought it looked good enough to eat! When the party was over, the cardboard platter was practically clean enough to reuse (well, sort of!).

Monday, November 05, 2007

Our House on the Beach

Depending on your basis for comparison, our house is really big or really small. We've begun construction on the second story, so soon Doug will have his workshop. I'm looking forward to that; today he is welding in the living room.
How much space do we need anyway? I would say that I need a little more room for my books, but other than that, our little home is sufficient. Of course, as the kids get bigger, we seem to bump into each other more often; I have been feeling lately like my "personal bubble" gets invaded frequently, but I think maybe my bubble was a little too big to begin with. Personal space is smaller in Mexico than it is in the States. People tend to stand a little closer while talking to each other. I think that the kids have adapted to that change, but I still struggle sometimes. The size of people's homes affects the size of their "bubble", I think. In our area, the average home is only a couple of hundred square feet. By that standard, our home is certainly "muy grande". It certainly doesn't feel "really big", but it is cozy and "homey".