How becoming chicken farmers enhances our third-culture parenting goals

IMG_5256A few weeks ago, our Dominican landlord unexpectedly passed away, leaving his responsibilities to his adult children. The sons decided that it was no longer necessary to pay the worker that tended to our large property laden with edible-tropical-vegetation and several dozen free-range chickens. They told us that they would remove the chickens or WE could start taking care of them. I saw the look in Trevor’s eyes and I knew his desire. He had talked about building a chicken coop for years. And so adventure strikes again. We are now the proud owners of 11 hens and 1 spunky rooster.

Here are some reasons why we think becoming chicken farmers fits in with Plank family culture:

1. No leash, litter box, or tank required. It’s not that we are anti-traditional pets, it’s that traditional pets don’t fit our nomadic lifestyle. Between traveling back to the US and exploring God’s beauty of this island, we are a missionary family on-the-go. These guys are cage-free so they are super self-sufficient. Luke 9:58

IMG_00012. Responsibility 101. It has become our 6 year-old’s before-school-task to feed the chickens, and our 5 year-old’s to collect the eggs. They are learning the discipline of early morning work, and the fulfillment that someone is depending on them. Proverbs 31:15

3. Respect your food. There is a moment of pride that comes with cracking an egg that you harvested yourself. Something is lost on those pristine grocery store eggs if they don’t have at least a little goo or a feather or two stuck to the shell. Psalm 128:2

4. Free-range organic eating. Before we a.) lived in a third-world country and b.) lived on a missionary budget, we were a much more health conscious family in the way of whole and natural foods. We had grass-fed beef, organic eggs, milk and yogurt, and were members of an organic vegetable co-op. Though the smaller size of poultry and the leanness to the beef leads me to believe Dominican meat is much closer to the way God made it than average American meat, and fruits and veggies don’t have half the shelf-life of their American counterparts (Re: no steroids, preservatives, GMO’s), there are still many foods that are just not accessible to us. It was a major sacrifice to our family values when when we could no longer provide the same kinds of healthy options. This is a huge way to implement some of those healthier options back into our diet. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

5. Educational. Well, I know I’ve learned a lot. We’ve learned about roosting, nesting, fertilized or un-, coops, coos, and feed. Aldofina next door taught us how to “candle” an egg to check for babies, and soon she’s going to teach us about the circle of life when she shows us how to…gulp…wring the neck of one that’s ready to be eaten. (Her favorite part, she says.) Proverbs 18:15

6. A family affair. There is an equally important job for everyone and we all have a vested interest. When we work together for a common goal, so many life lessons are birthed:

Teamwork.

Responsibility.

Respect.

Stewardship.

Keep learning.

Give thanks. Psalm 133:1

Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. Proverbs 22:6

Our next project is going to be building nesting boxes because the daily Easter egg hunt is getting old. Adventure on, my friends!

15 Ways to Celebrate Fall in the Land of Eternal Spring

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Although, we are not officially celebrating Labor Day here in the Dominican Republic, I still think it’s a good time to acknowledge the passing of Summer and the welcoming of Fall. Yes, school is in full swing, college football has begun, and people are Instagramming their pumpkin lattes. But other than those clues, it is hard to recognize the change in season from where I sit. Year-round luscious flora and average temperatures of 75 degrees earns Jarabacoa the nickname, “The Land of Eternal Spring.” It was easy to celebrate summer, with daily warm rays of sunshine and sandy beaches just a short drive away. And Christmas is maybe more commercialized here than the States, and since I’m from Florida I don’t know what a white Christmas is anyway. But celebrating Fall is just not the same. They don’t grow pumpkins or apples here, there are no Fall festivals, and college football and Thanksgiving are out for obvious reasons. And for a brief moment, I almost felt sad for myself. But I did what any good third-culture mom would do, scoured Pinterest for hours, and this year, I am determined to give the season of Fall a proper recognition. Here is my top to-do list of things for a Fall in the DR that don’t include changing leaves, hay-rides, or jack-o-lanterns. My expat friends, please join us, and everyone else can follow us as we cross off our Fall in the DR list @ #fallintheDR.

1. Roast marshmallows and make S’mores. Check check! See picture above.
2. Make caramel apples.
3. Have a real tailgate. Cheesy, maybe, but we will all don our Florida Gator gear for a mock tailgate with grilling and chilling, and maybe we will even teach the Dominicans how to play corn-hole.
4. Bon fire.
5. Nature walk and make leaf rubbings. If we use the right color crayons, you’ll never know the leaves are still green!
6. Plant a garden. Yesss!
7. Adopt an attitude of gratitude. Fall is a great time to reflect on our abundant blessings, and to memorize this verse as a family: Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever. (Psalm 136:1 NIV)
8. Read One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp. This goes with #7, and has been on my reading wish list for a while now.
9. Host a costume party. Excited to invite all of our expat-kid friends and some Dominicans friends, too, for a tradition too good to skip.
10. Drive-in movie. No, I don’t know of a drive-in theatre here, but if we projected a movie on the outside wall late enough in the evening, the air may be brisk enough to feel like Fall.
11. Make pumpkin pancakes. It’s a Plank Family tradition.
12. Watch fall movies. On the list: Hocus Pocus, When Harry met Sally, Rudy, Good Will Hunting, Scared Shrekless, and our all-time favorite, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.
13. Make fall decorations for the house. I have a board on Pinterest a mile long. You’d be amazed what you can do with tin cans, twine, and orange spray paint.
14. Make a Starbucks copycat Pumpkin Spice Frappe. We did this last year and it was heavenly.
15. Make Grandma Betty’s Monster Cookies. Last fall, my Grandma Betty passed away. One of my favorite recipes that she made every fall was Monster Cookies. If you don’t know what these are, they are like chocolate chip cookies with like 75 other ingredients from oatmeal to Peanut M&M’s and takes the world’s most gigantic bowl and superhero strength just to move a spoon through the batter. So, in honor of Grandma Betty, and because they are fabulous, Monster Cookies are the final thing on my Fall in the DR to-do list.

What’s on your Fall must-do list? Do you live in a tropical climate where you have to get creative to feel the season? Or are you getting ready for jean jackets and Fall foliage? We’d love to hear how you celebrate.

Happy Fall Ya’ll!

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Trevor and Kathy are independent missionaries in the Dominican Republic, and raise their own financial support for their family. If you’d like to be a part of the Plankenhorn family support team, click here to see where they are, and how you can help.

An Innate Desire to Belong

IMG_6880As a third-culture parent, I acknowledge the rich cultural gains that our kids inherently receive living a life outside the borders of America, but I also recognize their needs as small human beings to feel accepted and normal. Their daddy is a sports guy. He can relate to any other person on this Earth within five minutes of meeting them, if, they too, share the same affinity for sports. Second after college football, is his love for baseball.  So it works out great for us that baseball is the sport of choice in the DR.  Our firstborn, Luke, joined little league baseball at a local field just down the street from our house.  And, boy, was he ever excited.  I’m talking, “HOT DOG!” excited. Since we found out about the league at the last minute, his dad scooped him up from school and surprised him with the news and took him straight to his first practice.  Upon arrival, Trevor and the coach, whose name happens to be Bienvenido (Welcome), exchanged cell phone numbers and he tells him what time to return.

The field is right on the main road near our house, and there is only one field, not like the multi-field complexes I have seen in the states.  Our family had actually been there to spectate a few night games last fall for the local minor-league.  The field is torn up, the bases are made of burlap, and the chain link fence behind home plate is mangled and has holes.  There are not actual bleachers, but old and dilapidated concrete steps for sitting.  At street level, is an open-air bar where old and young meet and drink Presidentes out of 7 oz plastic cups. When we pulled up to pick up Luke after practice, we couldn’t contain our smiles to see the sight of our little Lukie engaged in a game of Dominoes (very popular here) with a group of other kids and his coach– at the bar!  (No Presidentes were involved, for all of you who were wondering!) Thank goodness we had just played as a family last week so he knew the rules! They were just finishing up the game, and they all gave high fives.  It was one for the memory books, for sure.  When we asked him how it was, he exclaimed, “It was great! I love baseball.  But for next time, I need a hat and pants and shoes!”  Of. Course. He. Did. I know it was a last minute plan, but how could we have thought that he would ever feel like he belongs without the uniform?  It is inevitable he is always going to be “gringo” or “Americano” or “rubio (blondie),” but if he’s going to be a part of something and truly feels like he belongs, he needs to have the uniform!  He’s always going to look different and talk different, but when he can put on that hat and those funny little pants, he has instant comrades.  On his second day of practice, his teammates shouted his name when he arrived, and one put an arm around his shoulders to lead him to the team.  Talk about melt-a-mother’s-heart.
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In this country, there are many reasons why the education system is ranked 2nd to last in the world, but one problem is that they require every child wear a uniform and they cost money.  It doesn’t take much to connect the dots between lack of education and human trafficking, so as a ministry we emphasize the importance of all of our kids getting their cute little behinds in school.  One family with four kids from ages 7-19 have not been in school for a couple of years, and the youngest has never started.  Yesterday we got the privilege to bless them with uniform shopping and new backpacks. The excitement was contagious as they tried on their new blue button-up shirts and khaki pants.  I thought about the fact that the education they were to receive is going to be crappy and lacking in a lot ways.  I can’t fix that.  But standing there in their little outfits I realized that Little Mama, all of seven-years-old, was no longer going to be waiting on the street corner all day long with that dazed expression like we’ve seen her so many times.  She’s a part of something now.

I think that’s how we are created, to have an innate desire to belong or to be a part of something.  I think God wired us that way so that we want to keep searching for something to belong. The Bible says that with Jesus, we can all have a citizenship in heaven. In fact, it says that as followers, we are royal heirs.  I think sometimes when we’ve made so many mistakes or been told by someone enough, we start to believe we aren’t good enough to be a part of something that fantastic. But I remember one time when I was feeling this way, someone told me  the part of Ephesians in the Bible that says we have been raised up and seated in the (trumpets, please) heavenly realms with Christ. Not a few levels below Him, but seated “with” Him, as in the air-conditioned (hallelujah!) Club Level where the VIPs get the special wrist band and the all-you-can-eat buffet and drinks. And that’s a pretty fantastic and important club to be a part of. My prayer for my own kiddos is that when the day comes and they don’t make the team or just don’t seem to fit in because their skin is too light or their parents sound funny when they talk, that they are comfortable enough in their God-given identities that it just doesn’t affect them.
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Trevor and Kathy are independent missionaries in the Dominican Republic, and raise their own financial support for their family. If you’d like to be a part of the Plankenhorn family support team, click here to see where they are, and how you can help.