To Market, to Market…

One thing we’re getting used to is going to market every few days instead of doing big, infrequent shopping trips (we’ve been pretty used to shopping in bulk!). Marc has been running errands to get things set up at the house, taking care of miscellaneous business in town, and meeting with folks here and there, so whenever he goes out, I give him a small list. We’ve quickly realized that it is highly impractical for me to go to market with all eight of the children, given the long distance on little legs. As well, market is pretty busy and I think it would be a challenge to keep track of everyone and do the business at hand. So, if Marc is not available to get what is needed, “Auntie Jane” has stepped up to help out. She is  one of our neighbors and she has been more than helpful in showing us around, helping to fetch water, and…going to market for me.

Here’s today’s list:

caroti–carrots (1/2 kg)


pilipili–peppers (6)

siagi–butter (1/2 kg)

mayai–eggs (18)


nanasi–pineapple (2)

chungwa–oranges (6)

nyama na ng’ombe–beef (1 kg)

maziwa–milk (1 l)


I’m not sure about the availability of vinegar and molasses (molasses wasn’t listed in the Swahili/English dictionary–not a good sign); I will ask Jane when I see her. With everything that I have on-hand, I’m hoping this will be enough for at least 5 days (more if we’re lucky).

Measuring everything in metric units is something new for me, as is dollar-to-shilling conversions. It seems EXTRAVAGANT to spend upwards of $1,000 shillings with each trip to the market–but that’s only about $12. With transportation costs and a small amount to compensate Jane, we spend less than $20. I’m hoping that two market trips per week will be sufficient for our needs, and I’m sure we’ll do an occasional “town trip” for bulk items like flour, cornmeal, rice, and so on–so I’m hopeful that $200 or less will make up our monthly grocery budget here. At this point (having been here just over two weeks), it’s hard to tell if that is realistic–but I’m hopeful.

We should be planting soon, which will bring in our own fresh produce and reduce our costs even further!




Differences between America and Africa, in pictures

I enjoyed spending some of our first few days in Africa talking with our neighbor, Patrick, and his wife, Lois. During one conversation, Marc and I were sharing with Patrick about the wonders of dishwashers (yes, just put the dishes in, press a few buttons, and they’re clean!) and clothes washers. He was amazed that such things were possible. Indeed, the many differences between America and Africa are striking. I was amused to see a pictoral representation of this in a grade-school workbook that we are currently using in our Swahili studies:



Although here in Africa our family has a home and some amenities that are not typical of the native Kenyan, at the same time we are striving to integrate into the community such that we are not obviously “set apart.”

Though one might be tempted to feel sorry for these folks, that they can’t enjoy so many of the conveniences that we have as Americans, I actually think that a simple life of non-accumulation is to be envied. After all, Jesus said that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Likewise, I believe that worldly attractions often blind us to the blessing of Kingdom simplicity. Unfortunately, from what I perceive of Africans thus far, they instead covet the American life and strive to imitate it in as many ways as possible.

Lord, give us eyes to see and hearts to receive the Gospel of Your Kingdom. Let us enter by the narrow way and help us to willingly set aside all those things which hinder us.







“Do you have a Cooking Stick?”

Before moving to Kenya, we’d spent at least six months trying to transition our diet to something simpler, knowing that we would not be making a lot of fancy recipes once here. We tried our hand at making chapati with vegetables and other foods that we would have available at our local markets. One food that we did not try out was ugali, a known staple. Isaiah had visited Kenya with Marc in the Fall and came back with nothing but complaints about ugali (because they don’t even make it with any salt!). However, it didn’t take long for us to realize that any dinner made without ugali is really considered just a snack.

So, yesterday a neighborhood girl came to show me how to make ugali–which is really very simple. You boil water, add cornmeal until it “looks right,” (pretty thick, indeed) then cook it until it is not too sticky to touch. It ends up like dry mashed potatoes. But before showing me the art of ugali, she asked, “Do you have a cooking stick?” Which apparently was essential, because when I showed her my fancy American cooking utensils, you could almost see her turn up her nose in disdain. She went home to fetch a cooking stick, and after eating ugali (to the delight of all the children minus Isaiah), she returned with a gift just for me:

Because you can’t make ugali without it, apparently!

Check out these pics if you think your house is a mess…

Granted, our house has not always been neat-as-a-pin with eight active, homeschooling children constantly involved in projects and play of one kind or another (sometimes the daily AM and PM chore times don’t come fast enough for this mama!). Even so, as I’ve looked around our house the past couple of weeks, I’ve come to the conclusion that the chaos has reached new heights. We moved from our house to my father-in-law’s, while simultaneously sorting through our possessions to pack our shipping crate and backpacks/suitcases/bins for the trip to Africa in (gulp!) just a week and a half now. Here are some recent photos (which, for the record, show MUCH IMPROVEMENT over just days ago):

Boxes (and stuff) to be sorted in the living room
In the dining room: filling and labeling boxes to be packed in the shipping crate
Finally, some organization! Suitcases, bins, and backpacks in the master bedroom.
The baby is still having fun in the middle of it all!

Switching up the Routine

We’ve had a good routine for many years now.It helps us meet all of our goals and objectives for our family and attend to all the practical things that need doing. Even the littles know what to expect each day, and for the most part things move along pretty smoothly.

So you can understand how uncertain I was about changing things, when somehow the subject became a matter of family conversation. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?

My oldest wanted more flexibility with how he used his time. I could concede that he is pretty responsible and would be able to manage things fairly well independently. My second son was good with the routine, though he recommended a minor change. He is, however, highly distractable when it comes to school work, so I was sure that totally independent time management would probably be an epic “fail” for him.

My personal concern with freeing up the schedule too much was that it would be chaotic in general, and that specifically, the littles wouldn’t have the structure that they needed. Also, I didn’t want everyone to be going their own way and miss out on valuable family time. Not to mention that I figured it would be a micro-management nightmare for me, trying to make sure that everyone was getting done what they needed to get done and not just wasting time.

So, after much discussion, we compromised and came up with something that everyone seemed happy with. We will begin our day with family Bible reading and prayer, then have about an hour to do morning jobs and either start school, read books, or enjoy some free time. Breakfast at 9:00 for everyone, followed by Circle Time (everyone participates). Between 10:00 and 12:00, the older children are free to do their schoolwork or have free time, with the stipulation that either Language Arts or Math must be done by lunch time. After lunch, the littles nap and I do something school-related with the big kids, then they have the afternoon to complete their independent work and enjoy whatever free time is left over. Afternoon jobs can be done “whenever,” as long as they are done by 5:00, at which time we’ll do something together as a family (read aloud, play a game, or whatever), and then make sure the house is in order and supper underway for Dad’s arrival home at about 6:30.

I still plan on managing time and tasks for the littles, of course, but I like having some “checkpoints” built into the routine so that even the big kids can manage things better and I have less worry that things will spiral out of control.

We’re on all of day two with this new schedule, and so far, so good. I’m optimistic that this will work fairly well for our family. If not, we’ll keep on tweaking it. On a positive note, my second-oldest is doing surprisingly well with getting his academics done–he’s finished his math in record time both days! Don’t know if this trend will continue but I hope so.

Snack Ideas?

My repertoire of recipes is dwindling as we work our way through our food stores. One of the challenges is always “snack time”–that time of the afternoon when we’re three hours from lunch and about three hours until supper.

Before our $20 per month grocery budget was instituted, we would often just grab some saltines and peanut butter for snack. Now, I don’t buy crackers…and if I do splurge on peanut butter, we usually have PB&J for lunch or use it in a dessert (one of our favorites is peanut butter pudding). A while back, we got a bunch of dried figs, so those made a good snack, but now they’re almost gone. Occasionally I make potato chips or corn chips, but frankly by mid-afternoon I want a rest from food preparation and the accompanying kitchen mess.

So…when looking frantically for a fast, healthy snack idea the other day, I unexpectedly stumbled upon the idea of Puffed Wheat Berries in my More-with-Less cookbook by Doris Janzen Longacre. All you do is heat a little oil in a pan (I use coconut oil if I have it), add wheat berries, and shake the pan over the heat until you don’t hear any more popping  sounds. After the wheat was pleasantly warm and puffed, I added a little soy sauce and some seasoned salt. Yum! Everyone has a new favorite (easy!) snack.

I would LOVE some more easy snack suggestions that use simple (staple) ingredients. Leave a comment if you have any ideas.


September’s Most Popular Search Terms

To be quite honest, I don’t pay much attention at all to our Web stats. Occasionally I check to see where folks are linking to our site from, and even more infrequently I actually pay attention to the search terms that drive traffic here. Just in case you were curious, here’s a short list of the most popular terms (besides “Values-Driven” and “Values-Driven Family”) that led people to visit

If you’re interested in Growing to be Like Jesus, feel free to use the code BLOGSPECIAL to get it at 40% off. I’ll leave the code active for one week!)

There you have it…what brings YOU to our site? 🙂

$20 per Month Grocery Challenge

Early last month, my husband dropped a bombshell on me:

“I want you to stop grocery shopping until we leave in February.”

Ummm…no. Can’t do that. Are you crazy?!

Well, that’s what I thought…not what I said. I heard him out.

His concern is that once we move to Africa, it’s going to be very shocking for all of us (especially the children) to go from our rather “abundant” diet to a much simpler menu. (Think ugali, which my twelve year-old still grimaces about because “they don’t even put a little bit of salt in it! It’s just corn that has the texture of clay!”) Not only that, we do have a ton of food in storage, plus the garden, and…what are we going to do with it if we don’t use it up before we move? Finally, wouldn’t it be great to save up the extra money from the food budget and use it to pay for our airfare, or to fund additional missions work?

All good points, I had to concede. Still, I couldn’t envision spending only $20 a month on groceries. What about milk? Butter? Cheese? (I love cheese!) We can’t even buy diapers (though I use cloth sometimes), household cleaners, and hygiene products for $20 a month, never mind some of those things we would need to supplement our food storage items.

So, after discussing it calmly and rationally, I realized that Marc meant $20 on food only. So the other things would be additional expenses. Whew! Maybe we can do it…

It’s been about a month now of eating out of storage and the garden. I spent about $5, on a pound of butter and a gallon of milk. Granted, I still had some butter in the freezer, and now I don’t. So we’ll see how our budget looks in the coming months as I use up a lot of what I have. But you must understand how much we have! We don’t actually keep our food stores in our 1400 SF home; there’s no room. We keep it in a back bedroom at my father-in-law’s house next door. Here’s just one photo:

And that doesn’t show the utility shelf of home-canned and commercially canned goods–also quite an ample supply. We have a large family and wanted to have an “emergency” store of food–and even at the recommended 30-day supply, that’s a lot of food! So we had purchased a bunch of buckets from Emergency Essentials quite a while back when they were running a sale. We were using them a bit for regular food preparation, but not much. Well, now is the time to use it up as much as possible! Pictured is rice, wheat, pinto beans, black beans, and oats. Our canned and other dry goods include tuna fish, spam (yuck, but the kids like it, and we wanted some non-perishable protein on the shelf!), canned chicken breast, salmon, some fruits, beans, yams, pickles, tomato juice, yeast, powdered milk, and some pasta. And I’m sure that’s not a complete list. From the garden we have the usual crop, which we’re eating fresh and canning or freezing as well.
Given the size of our food storage, the $20 per month grocery challenge probably isn’t “do-able” for the average family. But we’re going to see how we do until February. I’d like to post some of the recipes I’ve made but that’ll have to wait for another day. So far, everyone has been happy with the meals (except for one soup, which had too much spice for the children’s liking). And I haven’t even resorted to ugali!

Like Mother, Like Daughter

While putting the girls’ laundry in the machine this morning, I found this:

It’s a little blurry, but hopefully you can tell that it’s my 8 year-old’s “to-do” list. Only difference between me and her is that I like to cross items off my list, and she prefers check marks.

Oh, and I don’t very often have a visit to the “gift shop” on my list. 😉

If a Mom Notices Water Under the Refrigerator…

If a Mom notices water under the refrigerator,
chances are she’s going to pull it away from the wall.

If she pulls it away from the wall, she’s going to see all the gunk underneath it that’s been accumulating for much too long.
So she’s going to get a towel and some cleaner and wipe up under there.

If she stops and thinks about how long it’s been since she’s cleared the dust from around the coils,
then she’s going to get out the vacuum cleaner and crevice tool to clean up down there.

And as long as she has the vacuum out, she makes quick work of the rest of the kitchen floor, which never got swept up after the children came in from outside.

And since she finishes vacuuming at the threshold of the living room, she takes a quick look around and decides to keep going with the vacuum. After all, it’ll only take a few minutes.

Then she looks in the boys’ room and realizes what a mess they left it. Upon closer inspection, she realizes that if she threw away just a few things and vacuumed, it would look immeasurably better.

So she does just that, and decides to keep going with the vacuum down the hallway.

And then she realizes she hasn’t seen the toddler since she left the kitchen. So she returns to the kitchen, where the water puddle on the floor reminds her that she never did find out the source of the leak under the refrigerator……

Inspired by real life and “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” by Laura Joffe Numeroff.