Thursday, September 29, 2011

a cultural experience with how to cook hot dogs, and remembering to take plastic off them, for fear they will explode, and burn down your house, except that concrete houses don't burn very well, so you would have burned wood doorframes but a house still, which is much better than losing your whole house, but still, remember to take off the plastic!

(blog title courtesy of Amy, who will be very embarrassed that I actually posted what she mischievously typed while I was cooking dinner)

I had a 'dumb foreigner' experience today.

I'd been assigned to bring hotdogs for Michael's 
'End of the Soccer Season' party.
I've never cooked hotdogs here before.
No comment, please...we're just not hotdog people!

But when I went to buy those dogs,
I actually found smoked turkey ones.  
That's the only turkey I've ever seen here - 
other than the $50 under-sized Butterball at SM.

I thought our family might just give these healthier-looking ones a try!
So I popped open a pack for lunch today and quickly stuck them under the broiler.

As I sliced tomatoes for Coney Dogs,
I heard an ominous explosion.

I opened the oven to evaluate the damage
and found a hotdog sprawling in many pieces throughout the oven.

I yanked the pan out to cut some ventilation in the remaining dogs.
It was then that I saw what I had missed in my rush to get them cooked.

These dogs are individually plastic wrapped.

No wonder it popped.

why are they individually wrapped?  i haven't figured that one out yet... 

...not wrong...
just different...

Michael vies with the Green Team for the ball

I was thankful for the culinary lesson
so I knew to peel off the plastic before cooking those soccer dogs.

Go Michael! 

And thank you, Amy, for your invaluable contribution to today's post.

Monday, September 26, 2011

as bad as Egypt

  It’s feeling like the Plagues of Egypt with ants biting me in the bed, ants breaking into the flour bin, ants in the shower, ants coming in at the window, ants in the bath towels,  ants eating chunks out of the baking powder lid, and ants trekking in thousands across the floors.  They are becoming the bane of my existence.
  It’s as hot as Egypt, too. Just when I’m feeling ready for brisk fall mornings, I’m still waking up to glaring sunshine, and sweat-wringing, mind-baking heat.  Centralized air conditioning is only a vague memory, so why do I find myself day dreaming about it?
  Then there’s the humidity which has been right about at 100%, curling and frizzing my wildly untamable hair. Did the Hebrews have bad hair days in Egypt?
  The kitchen faucet fell off again, spewing water which runs in cool rivulets all over the kitchen counter, and even though I might be as frustrated as Moses, I honestly didn’t even hit it.
  There’s mold all over Amy’s t-shirt this morning just from being thrown in the laundry basket wet with sweat last night after Ultimate Frisbee.  The washing machine is not properly wringing the water out of the laundry, and the capris I put on this morning are stretched way out from dangling one too many times from a clothesline.
  Our Gecko Patrol Unit in the kitchen is obviously not eating nearly enough ants, but they’re still taking the liberty of distributing droppings all over the counters and shelves.  Did they have geckos in Egypt?
  My feet need to be scrubbed again; they are black with dirt and dust from the day.  They are as grimy as if I’d been trekking through desert sands.    

  I open my Bible to prepare for this week’s lesson with Michael:

Moses told his father-in-law about everything the Lord had done
to Pharaoh and the Egyptians for Israel’s sake
and about all the hardships they had met along the way
and how the Lord had saved them.
Exodus 18:8

Yes, there were hardships along the way, like the plagues and the heat and the marching across a dusty desert with thousands of unlikely hikers to lead.  There were water problems and pest issues, and dirty un-bathed feet, and where did they do their laundry? Not to mention fast chases by enemies hell-bent on their destruction.  

Just like me, God’s people then were prone to complain about the discomfort. 

Are you tempted, like me, to complain in the hard times?  All of this dirt on my feet is nothing compared to the revolting mess of my grumbling heart.  Wise Moses didn’t mince words addressing the attitude of thanklessness.

You are not grumbling against us, but against the Lord.” 
Exodus 16:8


Moses set a different example.  Instead of dwelling on the hardships, he focused on and talked about God’s goodness, and as a result, God was praised! 
Jethro was delighted to hear about all the good things the Lord had done for Israel
in rescuing them from the hand of the Egyptians.
He said,
“Praise be to the Lord,
who rescued you from the hand of the Egyptians and of Pharaoh,
and who rescued the people from the hand of the Egyptians.
Now I know that the Lord is greater than all other gods;”
Exodus 18:9-11

Will you practice that discipline of gratitude with me, and watch how it honors God? 
God is so good. 
This plague of ants is not a plague of rats inside my house, and the newest poison we’ve tried actually seems to slow the ants down.
God has gifted me with the beauty of the hot sunshine, drying our laundry on the line and ripening the tropical fruits we love to eat.  Because of the heat, there are no heating bills to pay, and a glass of ice water has never been more refreshing.
God is so good. 
That humidity frizzing my hair is just one of His many loving ways to keep me humble.
In His amazing goodness He has given me an incredibly capable and kind husband
who would fix that silly faucet in a minute
 if I’d just tell him it was broken.
He’s given me the luxury of a kitchen,
not to be taken for granted,
and the morning offerings left behind cause us to start each day
with freshly washed counters.
God provided bleach that takes out mold,
and He’s blessed us with plenty of clean clothes to wear.
So what if they’re a little stretched?
God is so good to have given me healthy feet. 
Though their dirtiness serves to remind me
of the impurities of sin dragging me down,
 these are the feet God gave me,
and His cleansing power is enough.
These are just a few of the good things He’s done for me.

Like Jethro, I would be delighted to hear 
about the good things He’s done for you today!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

in concert

Friday night was the first school music concert of the year.

Amy played with the 'Bandestra,'  
a mix of band and orchestra sounds,

playing 'Georgia On My Mind!'

and with the Violin and Flute Ensemble.
Amy, second from right

3 Violins + 3 Flutes = beautiful music!

Elise sang with the High School Vocal Ensemble.

Elise, second from left

All of these groups performed a wide range of music styles, 
and all of them seemed to be loving what they were doing!

Elise, third from right , with the entire Ensemble

singing 'This Is How It Feels To Be Free'

Thanks to their dedicated and talented music teacher, Mr. B,
and thanks to God, Who gave us voice and song to honor Him.

Michael's looking forward to performing in the next concert on that trumpet!

Friday, September 23, 2011


Balikbayan means 'back home'
(I think!  Am I right, my Tagalog-speaking friends?) 

 Balikbayan companies in the U.S. and in other countries 
provide the means for Filipinos living overseas 
to send goods back home to family and friends living here in the Philippines.

And crazily enough, we benefit.

These Balikbayan companies still (unlike the Post Office) ship goods. 
And any given box of certain dimensions costs a flat rate to send, 
regardless of weight.

Mark carries in a heavy Balikbayan box

This is the way that we 
(with lots of help from both Mark's and Barbara's wonderful sisters back in the U.S.!) 
have been able to ship curriculum for our homeschooling, 
items for Mark's work, 
and even Christmas and birthday gifts 
at $65-$90 per box, in about 6-8 weeks.

(YES, that sounds like a lot of money.  
But comparatively it's a very cheap rate, 
especially when we're shipping heavy books,
or parts that are unavailable here.
And you can see that these are pretty big boxes!)

Of all expats, we here in the Philippines must be the most spoiled because of this option.

Just a couple of weeks ago our family received a Balikbayan box from
our thoughtful friends, L&J,
(♥ thanks again, to you, friends! ♥)
who wanted to bless not only us, 
but also the neighborhood kids who spend time here.

Michael carefully opens the box as we all watch
Every time a Balikbayan box arrives, 
it feels a little bit like Christmas!
It's pretty exciting for all of us.

This big box was full of special foods we don't have here,

some tools for homeschool and for Mark's work, 
LOTS of craft supplies! :hop: to share with the neighbor kids,
and other very thoughtful supplies and surprises.

We have every reason to give thanks,
and Balikbayan boxes are just one more reason!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

lovely, friendly and charming

There is no more lovely, friendly and charming relationship, 
communion or company 
than a good marriage.  
~Martin Luther


This month we are celebrating 18 years 
of a lovely, friendly, charming communion...
Happy 18th Anniversary to us!

Two are better than one;
because they have a good reward for their labor.
Ecclesiastes 4:9

Monday, September 19, 2011

romantic walks

The City of Davao passed a new ordinance recently,
and it resulted in a 'new and improved' trash system.

What this means for our family is that since July 1st,
the garbage truck no longer picks up waste from our house.

Instead, we were asked to do the following:
1) Start composting our own biodegradable items, if possible

So for the first time, we've got our very own compost bin!
(Though we don't have a yard that's really big enough to support this monstrosity.)
My very smart husband bought a durable can, drilled holes in it, and to our mutual amazement, we've found that composting actually DOES work.  A full can of waste actually biodegrades in an amazingly short time.

And in this neighborhood, a compost bin in your front yard is just not an issue.

on our way to being green

2) Save our recyclables and give them to one of the many collectors who pass by

We like to give them to some of our friends,
like Michael, Josanne and Jocelle below.
They come by periodically with a rickety old bicycle and sidecar,
eager for any items we can share!

friends collecting recyclables

3) Carry the rest of your trash a couple of blocks up the street to the trash deposit area.

BUT, this can only be done between the hours of
6-9 PM.

why?  we have NO idea.  
this seems awfully arbitrary, and nonsensical,
but i'm sure there must be an explanation somewhere...

getting ready for one of our romantic walks...
Our kids tease us about going on one of our  
'romantic walks' 
as Mark and I gather the trash to carry it up the road in the dark.

Toting the orange trash can between us, we wend our way through the dim neighborhood streets,
often meeting multiple other residents who are on their way to or from doing the very same thing.
"Maayong gabii!' we say, and exchange smiles, 
sharing this task of trying to clean up the city just a little.

The trash deposit area, on the right just before the red car

The frustration is that when the trash truck comes to collect the combined trash,
the garbage men dump both biodegradable items and non-bio all into the same truck.

Remind me...why did we separate this stuff?

Well, at least we got a romantic walk out of it!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Elise and Amy have begun studying Tagalog (Tuh-gah-loag), 
the Filipino national language,
for high school Foreign Language credit this year.

Our family studied a bit of the local language, Visayan (or Cebuano), which is helpful in conversing with most people in the vicinity where we live,
but Tagalog is the more widely-used language throughout the Philippines.

Elise and Amy are studying with Ate Bebe, 

who is not only a fabulous teacher, 
but she's also a lot of fun!

 On Sunday, our friend Tata (above, with Amy) 
practiced Tagalog with them.
Tata loves languages, 
and she's eager to help them learn hers!

 Soon a couple of others came by to listen in,

and before they knew it, a crowd was gathered around, 
sharing ideas, challenging them with new words and phrases.

There's nothing like learning a new language
in the very place where the language is spoken!
What a fabulous opportunity to learn not just the words,
but also the culture behind the words.

“Language is the blood of the soul 
into which thoughts run 
and out of which they grow.”
Oliver Wendell Holmes

Monday, September 12, 2011

hear and learn

We hosted the weekly neighborhood Bible Club this Saturday,
a small group of 'mga bata' (children) who come together to learn and pray,
sing and memorize.

First we had a Bible study, using the Bible in Cebuano,

...and some English materials from Child Evangelism Fellowship.

Julie Mae reads God's promise from Hebrews to never leave or forsake her...

We sang songs in Cebuano: Jesus Loves Me and This is the Day
Kali is so excited to choose stickers for memorizing from 1 John 

We taught a craft - no-sew fleece pillows (click for a tutorial!)
 Though many fabrics are available here,
fleece isn't.
(Who needs fleece when it's 90 degrees?)
But we found some fleece-like blankets
which we cut up into pillow forms.

Our hope is to teach some skills these children could use to generate income

Amy helps get things lined up

A finished pillow

 We used cotton balls to stuff the pillows,
but a lower-cost option would be to stuff pillows
with either shredded plastic grocery bags,
or even snack wrappers that have been washed.

I never would have dreamed of that solution on my own,
but a Filipina friend suggested it - 
Filipino ingenuity at work again!

Arjay works on an entry for our artist competition, as we look for potential talent.
After a snack they enjoyed some playtime.

The rope swing is always a big hit!

And a few kids volunteered to do some weeding for us, not for money, just in thanks!

This thankful response is in itself 
 a beautiful testimony 
to how God's Word is influencing these young lives!

"Their children, who have not known, 
will hear and learn to fear the LORD your God..."
Deut. 31:13

what's for lunch?

We are one of those...ummm...
unique families 
who eats dinner together almost every night.

Not only that, but we eat lunch together almost every day, too.
Mark's office is just a few minutes' walk from our door;
 it's easy for him to join us!
How great is that?!? 
It's definitely one of the advantages in this place we live!

But that means that sandwiches and quick lunches are important.
(Especially to me!  With homeschooling I don't have much time to cook lunch...)

Lunch meats are not really the best option here,
and everyone gets tired of PB&Js at some point in their lives.

Our current favorite sandwich 
is made of
whole-wheat bread
liberally spread with cream cheese
and layered with fresh slices of tomato and cucumber

all sprinkled with McCormick's Italian Seasoning.
(hooray for G-mall and their great spice selection!)

And nutritious, too!
Whole grains, 
(tomatoes ARE fruit, right?)
 and veggies, all in one.

we won't talk about the cookies we had for dessert...
(THANK YOU, J&L for the special treat!)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

lazy Saturday afternoon

At least, it was lazy for me.

Elise is on the far left shooting, Amy's in the gray T on the far right

Amy and Elise spent the afternoon playing in a community basketball game.
I just watched and took a few pictures!

teams were composed of adults, middle school and high school girls 

Amy on defense

a little sibling rivalry

Elise kept getting in tussles over that ball.  
Soi won this one...

Elise, in the red shorts, hangs on to the ball while Joan laughs!
and Coach Krys won this one, even though Elise gave it all she had!

 A newly built structure in the adjoining neighborhood overlooks the school court.
A little girl was perched up there by the laundry, watching the game through the fence!

Amy comes in for a basket
Elise poised to shoot
There's a community women's basketball game every Saturday afternoon.
What a great group of ladies to compete with!