I tend to be a worrier, and one of the things I worry about most is my children. I suppose a lot of moms can relate to that. :-) I especially worry about how our life overseas is impacting them.

Am I giving them what they need?

I can't give them whole wheat bread and organic produce. I can't take them to zoos and parks and libraries and museums. We don't have a schoolroom full of educational games and craft supplies. They wear hand-me-down clothes and sleep on a foam mattress. I'm not saving up money for their college education. They don't even get to see their grandparents on a regular basis!

What if they miss out somehow? What if their education, or their emotional development, or their overall success in life is damaged by the choices I'm making for them in these early years of their lives?

I have to step back every so often and remind myself of what really matters. From my limited expereince as a mother, and my somewhat broader expereince as a people-watcher, I believe there are a few basic things that children really need. If those needs are consistently met, things will turn out okay . . . and if those needs are NOT met, it really doesn't matter how much organic granola they eat or how many educational toys they have. Right, ladies?

What our children really need:

1) Time. Ouch. That's a precious commodity, right? We have housework to do, languages to learn, people to minister to, a mission to fulfill, and we just don't have a lot of time left for our children. But our children NEED our time. They need to know that we care enough about them to give them time. And all that discussion about quality time vs. quantity time? Honestly, our kids need both. They need some special, focused, one-on-one time. But they also just need lots of time. Let them follow you around asking questions. Let them help you wash dishes or make cookies (even if it takes twice as long and makes a huge mess!) Take a few minutes to cuddle when they wake up from naps. Sit with them while they do their schoolwork, with a book or project of your own if they don't need your help.

2) Love. Well this one is easy! Of course we love our kids! But do they know it? How often do you say it? How do you show it? They don't assume that you love them just because you're their mom. They need to hear it with words, to feel it with hugs and kisses, to see it in your eyes and your smile when you look at them. Make sure there's no doubt in their minds that you love them like crazy.

3) Respect. This is actually the hardest one for me. I'm supposed to teach them to respect me . . . but at the same time, I need to respect them. They respect my authority, I respect their personhood and individuality. I am still learning what this looks like every day as I interact with my children. But I do think it's important, and becomes more important the older your children are. Although I have lots of dreams for my children, most of all I want to respect God's call on their lives and let them be all that He wants them to be.

So relax, Momma. You can give your children time and love and respect no matter where you live or what your circumstances are. Let's keep our eyes on the things that are really important.

I am still new on this journey of motherhood. Are there any older mothers who have words of wisdom for us? Keeping the right perspective on our children's needs is so helpful in the stress of everyday life!

Yogurt is one of my favorite foods to make from scratch. It's actually incredibly easy, and such a versatile food! It makes great breakfasts, snacks, deserts, and of course is the perfect baby food. It can easily be made from powdered milk - I actually prefer to use powdered milk because you can make it "richer" (I often use a ration of 3:1 for yogurt instead of the normal 4:1) and therefore a higher-protein food.

All you need are two ingredients - milk, and a yogurt starter. Yogurt starter can be a small amount of already-made yogurt, or it can be a powdered yogurt starter (which may not be available in your area, but can easily be mailed from the States). In our area, there are a few locally-made yogurt drinks available, and also a frozen yogurt snack, all of which I've used for yogurt starter. I've also bought a small amount of Labneh, a middle-eastern yogurt available in our bigger supermarkets, for starter. Of course a plain yogurt works best, but you can use flavored yogurt because you use such a small amount that it won't make a much difference. After the first batch, use a bit of your own yogurt (as long as it turns out well!) as starter for your next batch. This way you don't have to continually buy more starter.

Yogurt Recipe:

4 cups of milk

1/4 c. yogurt or yogurt starter

The simple instructions: all you have to do is heat up the milk to about 115 degrees, add the yogurt starter, and keep the mixture at that temperature for 4-6 hours. Not hard, right?

If I'm using powdered milk, I make a teapot of hot water, dilute it with cold water until it's the right temp, add the powdered milk, add the yogurt starter, and whisk it all together. If you are using fresh milk, you will have to be more careful as you heat up the milk, so that you don't scorch it and don't go above the desired temperature. If your yogurt starter is pretty thick, dilute it with a bit of the hot milk first before adding it to the whole batch, so that it mixes in better.

So the trick is figuring out how to keep your yogurt "cooking" at 115 degrees for 4-6 hours. In the hot season, our house is warm enough I just wrap the jar in a towel and set it in a warm place in the kitchen! In "cooler weather" I wait for a sunny day to make yogurt, then wrap it in a towel and set it outside in the sunshine. You do have to keep an eye on it and be sure to move it to keep it in the sun the whole 4-6 hours. If your oven has a "low" setting, you can set the jar in your oven. If your oven is well-insulated, it may also work to turn the oven on while you're making the yogurt, then turn it off and it will hold it's heat. Just be sure it doesn't cool off too much. The method that I've used in the States (no hot African sunshine here!) is to fill an ice chest with hot water and set the jar(s) down into the water to stay warm. You can check the temperature every couple hours and add more hot water as needed.

After 4 hours, check your yogurt. Tip the jar to see if it is still liquid or has begun to thicken. I have found that my homemade yogurt usually does not get as thick as American store-bought yogurt, but it should be somewhat thickened. It may be slightly separated, with a little yellow whey at the top of the jar. If it doesn't seem to be thick after 4 hours, let it go a couple more hours. Just remember that the longer you leave your yogurt, the more sour-tasting it will be. When it is done to your satisfaction, put the jar in the fridge, and you've got yogurt!

The big key to making yogurt successfully is the temperature. If the temperature drops too low, the yogurt culture will not do its thing. If the temperature is too high, it will actually kill the culture and nothing will happen no matter how long you let it set! It's best if you have a thermometer to measure the temperature of your milk when you start, and the temperature of whatever environment you are "cooking" your yogurt in. However, most of my yogurt-making days I had no such helpful device, so I only guessed. If the milk is quite warm but you can hold your hand in it without discomfort, it's probably about right. If it's hot enough to burn your hand, it's too hot, or if it's close to your body temperature (doesn't feel hot to the touch), it's not hot enough.

So that's how to make yogurt! Now what do you do with it? A few ideas -

 **I often flavor my yogurt with a tiny bit of a "Kool-aid" type drink powder. You can also use honey or fresh fruit.

**If you want a thicker (Greek yogurt) consistency, you can strain the yogurt. Line a colander or a strainer with a loosely-woven (clean!) dish towel, and slowly pour the yogurt into it. Let it set for a few minutes, then scoop it out of the towel back into your container. The "whey" that is strained off can be used in place of water or milk in bread recipes, or used for cooking rice or oatmeal.

**If you want to make a cream cheese substitute, strain the yogurt as above, but let it set in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. You can use this as a spread (sweet or savory, depending on how you season it) or use for making deserts. Not quite the same as cream cheese, but it's great if you can't get dairy products in your location.

Do you make yogurt? Any tips for a beginner? How do you flavor plain yogurt so that your children will eat it? Share your ideas below!

Also, don't stop asking questions, ladies! If there is a topic you would like to see discussed, or a question you would like to get our readers' input on, please drop me an email!

Today's reader question is on a medical topic. If any of you are medical personnel, we would especially love to hear from you! But let's all chime into this discussion with the understanding that we are sharing our own experiences and choices, not giving medical advice!


What do other people do for malaria prophylaxis, especially for their children?

My Answer:

We have been told by a doctor that since we are long-term residents of Africa, we should not use prophylaxis but rather allow our bodies to build up a natural resistance to malaria. Another doctor was shocked by this advice and instructed us to be on prophylaxis at all times. We have chosen a 'happy medium' that has worked well for our family. Our babies begin taking prophylaxis when I begin to wean them at 12-15 months old. Our whole family stops taking prophylaxis for a few months in the height of dry season, when the mosquito population is significantly decreased. Of course we take as many other precautions as possible, especially not spending a lot of time outside in the evenings.

We use proguanil, brand name Paludrine, which has few or no side effects and is reasonably priced. It is safe for pregnancy and children. I also recommend Malarone (combo of proguanil and atovaquone), which is more effective than proguanil alone, but also significantly more costly.

**Please be sure to do research or ask a medical professional IN YOUR AREA OF SERVICE. Many regions have developed resistance to certain medications, so not all drugs are effective in all parts of the world.**

What have you done for malaria prevention? Do any of you have natural remedies that have worked for your family?

I have enjoyed cooking and baking since I was a young girl, and because I enjoyed it I guess I always thought I was pretty good at it. There were certain things that I was good at - chocolate chip cookies, for instance, and from-scratch brownies. But in America, so many things are conveniently ready-made that we forget about all the things that we don't know how to cook. Suddenly I was dropped in a foreign country and needed to learn to make all kinds of foreign foods . . . and I realized, in the process, that there were a lot of familiar American foods that I actually didn't know how to make either!

So today's article is "what I wish I'd known" for those who are still in the preparation stage. If you are heading overseas in the next few weeks, disregard this post - and don't despair, you will learn as you go! But if you still have several months before you will be crossing the ocean, this article is for you! Here are a few things that I wish I'd learned to make from scratch in the comfort of my American kitchen, instead of experimenting and repeatedly failing with precious, expensive ingredients in Africa!

1) Yogurt. It's a great baby food, a good source of protein for all ages, a simple breakfast, a healthy snack, and a creamy cold treat on a hot day. If you haven't already made yogurt from scratch, you'll be thankful you learned how!

2) Tortillas. We're from the western US, so maybe this isn't applicable to everyone. But I've found Mexican food to be one of our favorite "special" treats overseas . . . which means I had to learn to make tortillas from scratch. It's a lot of work, but it's worth it!

3) Sauces. White sauce, cheese sauce, spaghetti sauce, enchilada sauce, alfredo sauce, BBQ sauce, tartar sauce, fresh salsa - you name it! I also include gravy in this catagory.

4) Yeast bread. We could buy decent white bread locally, but it sure is nice to have wheat bread occasionally. And to be able to make pizza crust, breadsticks, dinner rolls, hamburger buns, etc for special occasions. And a bread machine doesn't count, ladies, unless you're planning to have one in your new home! You have to be able to knead the dough by hand. :-)

5) Cake and frosting. Although I did a lot my of baking from scratch, for some reason I always used cake mixes and canned frosting. This became a problem when the first birthday rolled around overseas!!

6) Pudding. I'm still no good at making pudding from scratch, but I'm determined to learn someday!

7) Miscellaneous baked sweets. What are your favorites - cookies? Brownies? Pie? You (and your husband!) will be glad you learned how to make them from scratch!

8) Anything you normally make from a seasoning packet, a box, or a can. Think about the prepared foods you usually buy. Do you usually make guacamole from a seasoning packet? Have you ever made cornbread from scratch instead of from a Jiffy mix? When you make chili have you tried starting with dried beans and your spice rack instead of just popping open a few cans and dumping in a seasoning packet? What about making tomato soup from scratch instead of using Cambell's?

Those are a few things I wish I'd known before we moved overseas (although a couple of them I did know). Don't be overwhelmed at this list. Pick a few things that will be the most special to you and/or your family, and master those things first. You certainly don't have to be a gourmet chef before you cross the ocean! But it will help the transition process if you aren't learning to cook foreign food AND American food at the same time!!

Share your thoughts below, ladies! What did I miss? What do you wish you'd known how to make before you left the States? OR, what are you very thankful that you DID know when you moved overseas?