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".