Resource Spotlight: Preschool Fun from home!

Tessa here, with a few fun preschool resources that have been a lifesaver for us during this time! Chyella was loving her French preschool here in Toliara, and thankfully has been back in school for the month of October! During the “confinement” as we have called it here, we found these great websites for educational worksheets and videos! These links work for me here in Madagascar, but may not work for you if you’re in the USA—sorry about that! Just Google the names and that should work, and let me know if you have trouble 🙂

Thanks to my friend Jodie’s recommendation, we used Talking Letter Factory and Talking Word Factory videos to introduce basic alphabet and reading skills—Chyella watched these repeatedly last December and learned her letters–woohoo!

We worked through this “Letter of the Day” worksheet series from Preschool Mom twice! 

Great “Read the Alphabet” curriculum from This Reading Mama. We haven’t really tapped into all the resources here, but our favorite worksheets in this reading series are the “Color by Sight Word.”

And speaking of sight words, this whole series of “Meet the Sight Words” videos from the Preschool Prep Company has helped Chyella a ton with learning the blends and lots of new words.

We also have some favorite books—the Jesus Storybook Bible of course, and God’s Very Good Idea. This last one is a new addition and Chyella loves it!

Also, here’s a fun shot of Chyella trying a sidewalk chalk obstacle course we did–thanks to a friend, Caroline, for this idea on Facebook! 🙂

Recipe Thursdays: Chicken Pot Pie

This is one of those recipes that has evolved over time. It started with a turkey pot pie recipe from my friend and first Mada roommate Melody–thanks Melody! But we always used chicken. Hers had a biscuit topping, which was tasty, and then a few years ago I switched to a pie crust top and bottom. I also switched to that canned veggie assortment of peas and carrots . . . just to make life easier! But the main thing about this recipe is that it’s very forgiving!! It’s one of those you can use at the end of the week to get rid of extra veggies—that’s one of the reasons I love it! Here’s what I do:

Ingredients – Filling:

  • Five garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 chicken breast or pack of tenders
  • 2 T olive oil
  • any extra chopped, fresh veggies you want to use
  • 1-2 cups chicken broth (or water and bullion cubes)
  • ½ cup sour cream (or ½ cup heavy whipping cream + ½ T vinegar)
  • ¼ cup corn starch

Directions – Filling:

  1. Chop the garlic and onion, and begin to sauté it in a big pot with the oil. 
  2. After a minute or two, lay the chicken breast or tenders in the pot and pan fry them.
  3. Sprinkle salt and pepper, a chicken bouillon cube, and any spices you like. 
  4. Be ready to add oil or a bit of water to make sure nothing burns.
  5. Break up the chicken as it cooks. 
  6. Add any other fresh vegetables you’re including: chopped green beans, fresh carrots, chopped potatoes, chopped zucchini. 
  7. Once the chicken is cooked through and browned just a bit, add about two cups of water (and maybe another bouillon cube) or chicken broth. 
  8. Add the canned carrots and peas.
  9. Take ½ a cup of the hot broth out and mix in ¼ cup of cornstarch, and then mix back into the pot. 
  10. Mix ½ a cup of sour cream into the pot. 
  11. Turn off the stove and add the mixture to the pie crust in the casserole dish. 

Then, here’s the pie crust recipe I use. I almost always have salted butter, so then I just leave out the teaspoon of salt. Make the crust sometime during the day and then have the two “disks”—the dough balls of the pie crusts—in the fridge. 

Once I have the filling made, I roll out one disk, press it into the bottom of a 9×9 casserole dish, and put it in the oven at 190 C. After about 10 minutes, I pull the casserole dish out, spoon in the filling, and then roll out the other disk and lay it on top. Then I put it all back in the over for another 30 minutes or so. Sometimes I put on the top grill for a few minutes at the end to brown the top.

This is one of our favorites! Enjoy!

Things to Ponder: Chyella’s Concept of “English”

Our daughter Chyella is four. She is a huge talker. She goes to French preschool—or at least she did, before COVID-19. She also talks with Malagasy people as we visit them and go to church with them. She knows words in French and in Malagasy, and likes to practice. She has a category for the French language, and one for the Malagasy language. One day, we started talking about English. She learned a new word, and asked if it was a French word. No, I told her, it was just an English word that was new to her. She gave me a very puzzled look. 

C: Mommy, what’s English?

Me: You know, English. The language we speak here at home. What we speak all the time.

C: (still super puzzled) You mean French? 

Me: No—you practice French at school, and Malagasy at church. But English is most of what you know, everything we’re saying right now.

She shook her head. We repeated this conversation in some form or another for at least a week. She never got it. I’m not an early childhood development expert (if you are, please chime in! :), but I think I can imagine why she struggled with this concept. English is equivalent to just talking for her. It was a “does a fish know it’s wet?” moment for me. For Chyella, English is not a language to be learned or studied or practiced (as she does with French and Malagasy, because her exposure is more limited). It’s just talking. Removing herself from her daily speech to examine it is nearly impossible. 

I believe this same struggle is true for many of us who are white when we think about race in the United States. We’ve never examined our experience, stepped back from it and considered the role our race plays in it, because to us, our experience is the “American experience.” Race has nothing to do with it. We don’t even realize uniquely white elements of our experience. We don’t understand African-American struggles, but the depth and breadth of what we may be missing never occurs to us. We don’t often step back from our own and other Americans’ experience because we expect it to be our own. 

With the murders that have taken place in recent weeks and months—at least, those that have come to the attention of the news—and the protests that have followed, I have found myself in the midst of a powerful lesson. I’m humbled to admit that I haven’t learned this lesson before now, that I’m new to this conversation on racial injustice. When the protests and rioting started, I felt the impulse to reach out to African-American friends, to check on them and ask how they were doing. And then I realized—again, with shame—I hardly know any African Americans. Suddenly I realized—I don’t know anything about African Americans. How could I possibly, when I know so few?

Nathan and I are missionaries in Madagascar. We have the privilege of working among people who are culturally different than we are, and having many deep relationships with Malagasy people. We have worked for years on language learning and cultural observation. We have learned to enter every conversation with open ears and open minds, assuming throughout that we’re missing something, determined to reserve judgment and keep learning. That doesn’t mean we do this perfectly, but we have seen that regular and prolonged exposure to another culture has given us an incredible gift—we now know just how wrong it is possible for us to be. 

When we first came to Madagascar, we were enamored with the differences—it’s called the honeymoon phase on the culture shock continuums. Then, we developed some real relationships and found ourselves reveling in the similarities . . . this culture wasn’t so different after all! Humans are the same, the world over! Then, as time went on and language and culture comprehension grew, a deeper reality set in. We are different . . . very different in many ways. This is not a statement of value—different isn’t bad. But it is real. There are significant differences between American culture and Malagasy culture. If we ignore those, we will not be good missionaries. We will not share our message or our lives in ways that are meaningful here. We will miss huge swaths of what is happening around us. And the more we learn, the more we discover is missing or inadequate in our earlier understandings. The more we know, the more we know we don’t know.

This experience has changed the way we view life. We now have a growing instinct to listen first, learn first, expect to be wrong, expect to adapt. We are eternally grateful for the development of this learning muscle in our hearts and minds.  

And yet, here I am, failing to practice this discipline in my home culture. I’ve discovered a huge gap in my experience, a whole group of people I’ve lived alongside, yet ignored. And yet I’ve drawn conclusions, as if I could know. 

I’m determined to change this, to listen and learn intentionally to African American voices, to minority voices, especially those who are brothers and sisters in Christ. Even in beginning to listen, I’ve heard stories of suffering I can’t imagine—would not have thought possible. Romans 12:15 calls me to “weep with those who weep” . . . and yet I have brothers and sisters weeping and I’ve been oblivious to their needs. To friends of color who are reading this, I know you don’t need me . . . but I will be doing my best to learn to listen. To those of you who are white reading this, will you join me in learning? 

Friday Family Update: Birthdays and Busyness

This month has been busy! The distribution finished well—praise the Lord! We are so grateful for the selflessness and tireless effort of the pastors and leaders of the Toliara churches as they cared for their communities. 

We’ve continued our documentary-watching this month with an excellent one about the Civil Rights Movement: Eyes on the Prize. It’s long but has been eye-opening and very helpful for us.

We celebrated Chyella’s and Nathan’s birthdays this past month! Chyella enjoyed some play time with friends, and also helping Daddy wash the dog on her birthday! To celebrate Nathan’s birthday I ended up making a coffee cake that was really over-the-top . . . we barely made it through! 😉 

Jairus now has four teeth!! And he has already lost interest in crawling, and now is pulling up and cruising all over the place. He’s excited to get movin’ to keep up with his sister! 

This month our landlord decided to tear up all of a certain type of tree in our yard. We’re very glad, because these trees carry caterpillars . . . which, we were surprised to learn, are not super cute and cuddly but actually cause lots of itchies! We’ve gotten lots of beautiful new trees, and new grass will be coming in soon! The weather is starting to turn warm here, so we’re looking forward to planning some time away in the next few months—at least a beach trip! 

Friday Family Update

It’s Friday family update time again! 🙂 It seems in many ways like the days and weeks run together with the changes COVID has brought–I’m sure some of you can identify! We’re working through the Jesus Storybook Bible with Chyella in the evenings, and she’s really taking in the details this time through! Nathan and I feel similar watching The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross this month: we’re learning a ton too!

Some highlights from the past month–Jairus’ teeth came through! He’s got two front teeth now. And he’s still not crawling, but he gets around. He’s also given us about a week of normal sleep (5 – 6 hours straight)! That has been amazing.

Chyella is excitedly anticipating her birthday next week. She said goodbye to some of her best buddies here as they returned to England this past month, but she’s hangin’ in there. She’s still full of joy and energy as always! She’s gotten to try out tennis this month with some friends, and also play with our neighbors’ baby bunnies!

We were very thankful that a distribution project with Send Relief was approved this month, so we’ve been working with three of the local Toliara churches to provide some food for some of the most vulnerable. The churches and pastors have been working so hard to serve their communities, and we’re thankful we get to be a part! Chyella provided her counting and chalk skills to help us keep track of our measured out bags of peanuts and lentils. 🙂

Friday Family Updates: Work-Sheeps and the Midnight Cry

We’ll try to check in one Friday a month to give some fun family updates! Like many of you, over the last few months we’ve stayed in more, and developed some new family routines to help offset the monotony! Chyella has really missed the French preschool here. She’s definitely our little extravert, as between COVID and our trip to South Africa for Jairus to be born she has only attended the school about two months total! But she loves it and misses her friends there. We do daily “work-sheeps” to keep up her school skills, and a few weeks ago we had a play day with colorful liquids–took me back to my Montessori days!

Jairus is basically a bundle of cuddles and giggles. He’s a super fun baby, is VERY close to crawling, and seems to have a couple of teeth trying to pop through. He has challenged us in the sleep department, though. Chyella always has slept like a champ . . . Jairus has introduced us to what we call the “midnight cry” . . . and the 1am cry, and the 2am cry—you get the idea. But he makes up for it in the daytime with his abundant cuteness!

Nathan and I have been working hard on lots of projects for our work here in Toliara and also trying to make the most of this strange time. On the fun side, we’re watching through the Mission Impossible movies. On the challenging side, in light of what’s happening in the USA, we’re trying to learn and grow in the area of racial justice. We have a lot to learn. Be the Bridge has been an incredible resource for us.

Also, shout out to Nathan’s brother Adam who got married last month–congrats Adam and Lily! We were sad not to be present but were excited for them throughout the day and have loved all the sweet pictures. We’re so grateful for family and friends in the USA, around the world, and here in Madagascar–especially during this time.

Thanks for tuning in to our monthly family update!