Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Dresses made from....Pillowcases?

I first heard about pillow case dresses from one of my readers. I went to the blog called Little Dresses for Africa. I loved the concept, but hadn't done anything about it. 

Many times in Africa, little girls are treated like second class citizens. Having a way to show them God's love is wonderful!

Then a missionary in Lusaka told me that she had been sent a large box of dresses but she didn't know where to distribute them. 

I decided to pass them out to the daughters of our staff members. The perfect time was when we had one of our volunteer teams out here.
One Saturday morning we gathered all the little girls together in our courtyard. I told them how much Jesus loved them and that he wanted them to know how special they were. 

We then called the girls up one by one and fitted them with a dress. After finding a dress that best fit them, we held up a full length mirror so they could see themselves. 

One little girl, who had probably never had the chance to see herself in a mirror, actually gasped and covered her mouth in shock. I cried at how such a simple thing could give so much pleasure.

After fitting all of them with dresses (or for the taller ones--tops), the U.S team members pulled out bags of hair bands and bows and covered the girls' hair with bling. They looked so pretty!

The dresses in the picture above were all sewn by a couple different women. Each dress had a pocket sewn into it and the pocket held a picture with a note from the seamstress. It was so special.

Check out the little girl with the long-sleeved pink shirt. She is the daughter of our laundry lady. Just like her mom, she is extremely shy. The entire time we were together, I could not get her to crack a smile. She almost looked like she was in pain.

Finally, I told her I was bound and determined to find her smile. I told her I bet it was hiding in her belly. I crept closer and closer and eventually tickled the smile right out of her. 

This grin made my day. 

I'm hoping to gather 200 dresses by next summer so we can do a huge program of passing out dresses in a village near us so we can let a whole bunch of little girls know how much God loves them. I can't wait to see this happen!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Weighty Issues

I wrote earlier this month about my trip down to Lusaka with Jack. He had been struggling with stomach issues for months. Multiple times a day he would fill his diaper with the most offensively odoriferous load. Every time we took him to the clinic, they would prescribe a new antibiotic. His stomach was hugely swollen but he wasn't gaining any weight. This wasn't due to poor appetite as he ate everything in sight.

Since I was traveling to Lusaka with our volunteers I decided to take Jack down too to a clinic with better lab facilities. It sure was challenging traveling with a 16 month old again--especially on public transport--and especially one with 'stomach issues'.

The good news is that we were finally able to get all his tests done and have a consultation with our doctor friend. She told me that all the antibiotics that Jack had been given had wiped out his good bacteria. Basically, all the food he was eating was passing straight through without his body having a chance to absorb nutrients.

In order to fix this Jack needed to drink buttermilk and/or yogurt instead of milk and take probiotics and vitamins to build up his bacteria load.

Four weeks later Jack is doing much better. He's learned how to alk and even though he's still quite small for his age, today we weighed all the kids and found out that Jack has put on a kilo (over 2 pounds)! that is as much as he gained in the whole last year. Such good news!!

You can read about how Jack came to stay with us by clicking on the 'Exactly One Year Ago' link at the end of this post. Read to the very end...

In related news, Joseph has also gained weight. He now weighs over 3 kilos (over 6 and a half pounds)!

We do have one problem with him. He does not do well with normal baby formula. When Joseph first arrived, he didn't drink well. Our latest volunteer team had brought two tins of formula with them. It claimed to be nearly as good as breastmilk so I gave it a try. He immediately drank it straight down.

Once he was eating well, I tried giving him the regular formula, but he threw it right up. I've since tried giving him soy formula and he does fine with that. Trouble is, we can only get that formula in Lusaka. At least we can find something for him. I'm glad we have options....

This was a good day!

Exactly One Year Ago: A Baby with a Grin to Die For

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Sundays in My City--Alliteration

AKA My Day in Pictures

Delicious Donuts

Wonderful Waterfalls

Fun Friends

Beautiful Baby
There is a story to go with the above picture. Joseph was wearing that particular onesie as an apology to Tom. What could a newborn possibly have to apologize for? Well, let me tell you what happened.

It's no secret that Tom is not a baby guy. The fact that he is my co-worker in this life of saving babies makes him my personal hero. But let's get on with the story.

When I sat down next to Tom on the couch to watch TV, he was not crazy about the fact that Joseph was sharing the space with us. I promised Tom he was just drinking his bottle and would be no trouble at all. Famous last words.

Five minutes later, after Joseph had drunk his first ounce of milk, I sat him up on my lap to coax up those precious baby burps. Seconds later, Joseph began retching and gagging a bit. Before I could react, up came every last bit of milk. And, of course, the projectile vomit hit the most likely target. All down the front of Tom's shirt. Joseph's aim was so perfect that his own clothes were still perfectly clean. Tom just got up calmly to go change. He didn't even shout.

So, as Joseph's Tee proclaims: Tom totally rocks!

Unknown Mami
Now, go forth and check out other Sundays around the world courtesy of Unknown Mami.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Sun Kissed Bread

Last week I told you about our solar ovens. We are just as excited as can be about using our sun ovens because now we've learned how to make bread in them. 

Can you imagine? Eating bread that cost you only what you had to spend on ingredients? It's like magic!

Our friend Gail was part of the team of volunteers that came out in July. Her special project with us was to teach us how to bake bread using whole wheat. To accomplish this, she brought with her a home mill and a Bosch mixer.

We bought a 50 lb sack of whole wheat and within minutes the mill had produced fluffy flour with every last bit of the grain included. No sifting out the bran, no chunky bits. It was bread-ready in what seemed like mere moments.

During the month that Gail was here she baked scores of loaves of bread--all different types--and they were so delicious. After she left, we had trouble with the transporter who brings our gas bottles from Lusaka so we quit baking to conserve energy. Now with solar ovens at our disposal we were raring to go!

Trouble was, we had forgotten exactly how Gail had done the process. I've baked bread before but my process involved a lot of kneading and adding flour. The beauty of the Bosch mixer is you can work with a much softer dough for better results.

Tom and I got started one morning using the cookbook Gail left behind. I handed him ingredients and he dumped them in. At the end we had a very soft gloopy dough. I admit to crying a bit at this point. Not knowing what else to do, we put them in the baking pans, left them to rise and then when the dough had doubled in size we put them in the sun ovens.

After an hour, the bread had risen even more and looked good. We used a matchstick to create a gap between the glass and rubber seal to let out some of the moisture (which slows down the heat by stopping some of the reflectivity), but it looks like we may need a bigger matchstick.

For some reason the bread didn't come out perfectly. We had 2 loaves in each of two of the ovens and 1 in another. The single loaf came out alright. The others had height and tasted OK, but the tops had sunk in.

We were a little disappointed. We even left two of the loaves in for over 4 hours trying to get them to turn out better. They were definitely more cooked but still didn't have that lovely domed top.

The bread tasted so good we were determined to give it a try the next day. This time, after we added all the ingredients, we let the mixer keep going for 5 more minutes. We then left the bread in the bowl to rise for 30 minutes, patted it into five loaves, set them in bread pans and let them rise a second time for 30 minutes. The bread felt much better as I worked with it and when it had risen the second time, the tops were gloriously high.
We also angled our ovens a bit better to catch more rays and only placed one loaf in each oven at a time. After only 2 hours the bread had baked perfectly!
We're kinda bad scientists because we changed so many variables at once so we don't know what didn't work, but we sure know what did work. Take a look at the fruit of our labors! And, remember, this is from solar energy! Free energy! Can't beat that!

Exactly One Year Ago: Fab Friday Foto--Mofwe Lagoon sunset

Friday, August 26, 2011

Two by Two

Earlier this month I finally got my hands on a toy I've been wanting for years. A hand carved Noah's Ark set. 

I've seen them for years at the little markets in Lusaka but they always asked outrageous prices. This time the vendor wanted $80 for it. I told him I was willing to pay $20. He refused. No problem. I walked away. I've waited this long, I can continue to wait. For the next hour or two, as I explored the market with Meg, this same man followed us around and kept making lower and lower offers.

No, $20.
No, $20
No, $20
Finally, he got down to $25. 
Seeing his willingness, I did my part and came up to $22. Sold!

I love that the pieces are a mix of African animals like lions, hippos, elephants and crocodiles.....

and farm animals--things we have right here: ducks, chickens, and rabbits. My favorite pieces are the turtles.

The first time Tom and I showed this toy to two-year-old Peter, Tom said that the Noah and Wife were Mommy and Daddy. Somehow this didn't quite work for Peter as he began calling them Jesus and Mommy. 

Tom also thought there should be a baby Peter to match the mommy and daddy so he called the  turtle Baby Peter. The name stuck and now as Peter digs through the animals he hunts for Baby Peta. One of these days we'll have to set him straight....

The entire time he played he just wanted to put the animals in and out, in and out. Once they were in and the ark was closed, he began pushing it around the table with a 'vroom vroom' sound. I had no idea that the ark was equipped with an outboard engine.

Playing with the kids is one of the perks of my job. I love it!

(Almost) Exactly One Year Ago: For the Win

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Important Facts

I have four interesting things to tell you today:

Firstly-- Joseph has gained weight! I repeat, Joseph has gained weight! It is only 100 grams (3.5 oz) but it is something!!
He's eating like a champ now. He also sleeps really well. It won't be long before he is chubby. Can't wait!

Secondly--Guess who is a self-soother? Joseph is!! He found his middle fingers and happily occupies himself with sucking on them when he is bored or approaching sleep time. Of course this means he nearly takes out his eyes each time with those long fingers but that's a small price to pay for a peaceful baby. Right?

Thirdly--If one cleans off one's desk and makes progress at chipping away at the avalanche of papers, folders, correspondence and other items that seem to find their way to one's workspace, one might uncover a forgotten stash of Belgian chocolate. 

Look at that loveliness!

Finally--If you take a look below you will find links to articles written last year and the year before. Walking down memory lane is fun!

Exactly One Year Ago: Forgiveness vs. Consequences

Exactly Two Years Ago: Jack Fruit

Do you have any interesting facts for me?

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Our New Baby Boy

 Wednesday a group of four people visited the orphanage to tell me about a 2-day-old baby who had lost its mother during childbirth. I sent them home with a baby bottle and a tin of formula until I could pass by later in the week to see the baby myself.  They told me the name of their village and gave me a phone number. This was the only 'address' I had.

When I set out for shopping on Friday, at the back of my mind was that later in the day I would be meeting a tiny, little baby. I had to protect my heart. I'm a sucker for bitty babies. While this is a good thing since my life's work is caring for babies, I have to be careful not to let it cloud my judgement.

After wrapping up the shopping and errands, we started off for home. I knew the general area of the village so we drove slowly looking for a group of people and a newborn baby. Lo and behold, it turned out that the family we were looking for lives directly opposite one of our Peace Corps friends. This turned out to be a good thing.

As soon as I climbed out of our LandCruiser I was surrounded by a group of about 20-30 people. One of them was holding a huge bundle of blankets that contained a tiny, little baby. It took a good bit of unwrapping of layers before I could even look at the baby's body to determine the physical condition. The first thing I looked for was the umbilical cord. I didn't find it--I found a fully healed navel. 

"This is not a 3 day old baby"! 

"Yes, you are correct. The baby is five days old. No, one week old. No, wait, the mother died last Thursday." 

So, that made the baby 8 days old.

I tried to make sense of which family members belonged to the little guy but eventually gave up and drove over to the nearby clinic to look over the paperwork for the mom. What I found out there was that the baby's mom had died of hemorrhaging. One very good bit of news was that she had tested negative for HIV. That means her baby stands a really good chance of making it. He also had a decent birth weight of 2.9 kg. (@6.5 lbs).
  Looking over the paperwork did raise a few questions. The father had told me that aside from this newborn baby, they had a 2 year old and a five year old. The clinic paperwork showed three pregnancies in 1996, 2000, and 2002. 

Finally, deciding I'd gathered enough information, I went back to the family and spoke with them about our foster program and made sure they understood that we would be taking responsibility for the baby until he is 18 years old and finished with his education.

After this conversation, I went over to speak with our Peace Corps friend. She confirmed the story about the mom, but added some extra details. Apparently, this young woman (in her early 30s) had 11 children. The first birth was in 1996. So, in the last 15 or so years, this woman gave birth 11 times. No wonder she was exhausted. Poor woman!  Our friend was very glad that we had been able to come get the baby. The father of this large family is just a farmer. He barely grows enough food to feed his family; taking care of a tiny baby without a mom is really difficult.

Bottom line: We now have a new baby!

Joseph is now 9 days old. He is quite thin--he only weighs 2.5 kgs (5.5 lbs)--since he wasn't fed properly for the first week of his life. He also has some type of bacterial infection--possibly staph. Because he didn't get regular feedings Joseph is not good at drinking from a bottle. He tires quickly when sucking and forgets to swallow allowing the milk to run back out of his mouth. 
We are giving him daily antibiotic shots and feeding him every two hours. He is getting better each time at drinking.

Any baby, under the age of 6 months, here in rural Africa, is quite fragile. Expectant mothers don't get the nutrition and care they need. Hygiene is poor during and after birth and there is so much waiting to attack their delicate immune systems--even if they do manage to dodge the HIV threat.

Please pray for Joseph as we work to get him fully adjusted, bonded and healthy. He is a sweet, and handsome little guy and I'm already a little bit in love.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Fab Friday Foto: Late Breaking News

This just in.......

It's a Boy!

Details at Eleven (AKA tomorrow's blog)

Exactly One Year Ago: Boss Woes

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Baby, It's Hot Outside

It seems like, for the past couple months, every other Facebook entry was talking about this unusually hot summer everyone has been experiencing. We haven't been experiencing quite the same heat wave since we have winter this time of year. But, since we can swim year-round the sun is our constant companion for better or worse. 

One of our biggest goals as orphanage directors is to find ways to keep our operating costs down and provide the most reliable services. Up until recently our options for cooking were electric or natural gas energy. Many times the electricity was out or too low a current to operate an electric stove. Natural gas is a natural (sorry) solution, but the only problem is that we have to bring the bottles up from Lusaka. We have a transporter that we work with, but he is not always reliable. Our final option is charcoal but this is a serious cause of deforestation in this country and we really try to avoid using this option.

One compact package
Tom has been researching using solar energy and has even worked on his own design but found it difficult to come up with the raw materials. This was why he got very excited when he found a company called Sun Ovens. They are a small company that builds portable solar ovens that are affordable. The ovens are so portable that they can be taken on as luggage on a plane. That's how we got them over here. Our latest team brought them with them as check in luggage.

Very portable for packing,carrying & storing when not in use.
I was skeptical, but like a good wife I listened and supported Tom in this new idea. Then, after we had ordered the ovens and were just waiting for the team to bring them over, I came across an email with a link to this blog post. I got very excited about the possibilities. Tom just rolled his eyes and said, "But that's what I've been telling you for months". I guess I had to hear it from a woman. LOL
We ordered pots and bread tins with our ovens and all that packed right into the oven for easy transport.

It's fun to have these space-age looking contraptions sitting in our driveway.

The oven gets up to between 300 and 350 degrees (Fahrenheit) after just 30-60 minutes in the sun  

Our first 'meal' was a vegetable stew. We threw a few veggies and some beef stock into the little pots and within a few hours everything was cooked and delicious. There is a bit more work involved with a solar oven than in using a crock pot or slow cooker since the sun oven needs to be moved every 30 minutes for optimum heat but, as Tom says, "The food tastes better when it's free".

I've cooked chicken, curries, soups, lentils, cakes and more in the sun oven. My cakes still need tweaking (remember the Dr. Suess cake?), but I'm looking forward to the experimenting and practicing. I'll let you know how things go.

Do you think you would ever consider using a solar oven? I never thought I would, but this is an exciting chapter in the Adventure of My Life.

Sun Ovens is not paying for this review. We did get a non-profit discount, but this review is completely my own opinion because I simply LOVE saving money.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Pressures & Planking & Plus-Ones

As the last visitors of the summer left yesterday, it felt weird to have an empty house again. I've spent the last few months keeping very busy and not having a chance to just be.

The moment I walked back up the hill, after waving goodbye as the bus pulled out of our village, I collapsed on the couch and could feel my body releasing and letting go. Immediately my throat developed a tickle and my bones began to ache. Whatever adrenaline was keeping me going over the last couple months seeped away and I could feel the strain my body and spirit have been under. I now have to allow myself to be. To release the pressures and let myself think and feel.

I do have a ton of work to catch up on. Some seriously missed deadlines are weighing on me but I will let my worries go and simply work hard each day to the best of my abilities. The rest will have to sort themselves out.

I've recently been made aware of a trend that is crossing the globe. Perhaps, it has been around for a while--trends do take their time reaching us out in the African bush.

Anyway, while taking our visitors to our special place, I decided the waterfalls made the perfect backdrop for planking.
Troy showing us how it's done
Wesley Collin--one of our visiting volunteers
Yours truly.


As I wrote this blog post four people came to my door to let me know that a woman has died during childbirth in a village about 45 minutes from here. Her baby is now 2 days old. The baby was too little for them to bring with them so I need to go to them. Trouble is that Tom is now out of town for a few days--he accompanied our visitors to Lusaka to see them off at the airport. I decided that I will pass through that small village on my way to Mansa on Friday. I hire a driver for that shopping trip whenever Tom is away.
In the meantime, I've given the baby's father a tin of milk formula and a bottle. I've given him careful instruction and I hope he and the grandmother will be able to look after the baby until I can get there. Our beds are actually full and we'll need to build new cribs to take in a new baby but God will provide as he always does. If we add this new little one to our 'family', we will have 22 children. Whew!

Exactly One Year Ago: Life in Africa

Sunday, August 14, 2011

SIMC: Birthdays, Birthdays, and more Birthdays!

With 21 kids in residence, it's bound to be someone's birthday nearly every week. We had a team of volunteers out here this week so I asked them to bring a few presents for four of the kids so we could hold a joint party for them. 

With all we had going on we didn't get to hold a proper party but we did serve cake after dinner one night. 

For reasons that I'll have to tell you about another time, our cake turned out lopsided. We began calling it a Dr. Suess cake. Then since we had some colored sprinkles provided by our visitors and it began looking better. Then we pulled out the birthday candles (also sweetly provided by our guests) and by happy coincidence they were perfect for the cake. Starburst candies (also provided by....yep, you got it!) gave the finishing touch.

 Peter was first up--he turns 2 on August 27. He was so excited he kept patting his cheeks and grinning from ear to ear. After I helped him blow out his candle (we lit one for each of the kids), he was presented with the little tow truck from the movie Cars. He loves cars and trucks (I'll have to tell you a story about that soon) and so he loves, loves, loves his new toy.

Denny was next. He turned two on August 11. He was quite uncertain about it all. I helped him blow out his candle and he also got a Cars character. He got the race car--Lightning McQueen, I think.... Afterward he went and sat down and let Nathan play with it. I think all the singing and excitement was a bit much for him.

Next, Elias had his birthday song. For his present, he got a supply of art things--markers and pads of paper to nurture his artistic side. Look at Johnny pursing his lips--practicing for his turn. :)

In the middle of singing 'Happy Birthday' to Johnny, the power went off but we lit his candle, sang to him and then lit more candles so we could see to cut and eat the cake. Just a normal day in Africa.

Unknown Mami

Now, hop over to Unknown Mami's blog and see what's happening in other cities around the world.
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