Sunday, December 30, 2012

A Christmas Story

On 'Christmas' morning the kids woke up to see presents piled under the tree and stockings hung above the buffet window. Their reactions were a bit low key. We got up early and lay in wait with cameras at the ready to catch their surprised and excited faces, but I don't think the kids have quite enough experience to know how excited they should be. In one way it's nice that they aren't all focused on the presents, but as parents (and big brother and sister) we would have loved a youtube worthy reaction. --Maybe next year.

While they ate breakfast I explained that Santa had delivered their presents, but would only be back in the afternoon for a party. They'd have to wait until after their afternoon rest to be able to open their presents.

When the children came up after their naps, they found the dining room reorganized and set up for the party. First thing the kids got to do was choose a Christmas hat to wear.

We then served them cookies that they had helped to bake throughout the month. We had chocolate chip, almond shortbread, oatmeal raisin, peanut butter, spiral bakes (or Dr. Suess cookies--as I like to call them), sugar cookies, cinnamon bun cookies, peanut butter balls, and snickerdoodles!

They got to choose any two that they wanted. I didn't want to give them more because SUGAR HIGH!
They had the rest of them the next day. I loved watching them carefully choose the cookie they wanted.

They even chose cookies and milk for Santa to have.

Finally Santa arrived! The kids were quick to tell him about the plate of cookies, and Santa played along by pretending to eat. (A beard that large makes gobbling cookies difficult, you know....)


Then we started taking the individual pictures.

Some, like Naomi were very uncertain--if not downright scared.

Peter usually smiles for photos like a pro-- I think he was not quite sure what to do.

Michael almost unmasked the hero



Janet surprised us all. She is normally quite shy, but she jumped right up on Santa's lap and flashed her gorgeous smile.

 By the time it got up to the big kids, Santa was getting really tired, as you can imagine.


 You can see all the rest of the Santa photos at this link

After picture time Santa passed out stockings for all the children.

All the kids were very grateful!

The babies enjoyed their new plastic cars.

The bubble kits we got were fun for everyone.

We're so grateful for the four ladies in Dallas who sent over a huge box filled with Christmas goodies including stockings for every child--even including Luke and Leah. We are also grateful for those who gave stuffed animals during the spring that we held onto and included in the kids' stockings. We had enough to make personal choices that would suit each child.

Christmas was made possible this year due to your generosity! You made 26 children very, very happy!

I think this smile says it all

A big thank you also to Jasmine and Troy who worked very hard helping to pull all the Christmas magic together. I'm so proud of them!

How was your Christmas? Tell me your favorite moment.
 If you wrote about it online, leave me a link in your comment and I'll come visit.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

With So Much Love.....

Download a larger size of this photo here

I'll be back on Sunday to share photos of our Christmas Day!

 Have a wonderful day and enjoy your families and friends.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Busy, Little Elves

Last year we sent out Zambian crafted cards and included a hand or footprint of each of the children. I wanted to step it up a little this year. Thanks to Pinterest I got inspired!

We started by painting and imprinting the footprints of all the children 2 years and below onto Zambian crafted cards.

Then the older children colored on and around the footprint to turn it into a robin. I loved the way they turned out. I'm so sorry I didn't capture a picture of the finished product.

Lastly they signed their names at the bottom. Our little elves managed to produce 130 cards which were all (except for 5) mailed out by December 6th. Hoorah! If you were one of the very special people who helped to support Kazembe Orphanage this year you should have one of these lovely cards in your mailbox any day now. Please let me know if you've received yours.

Tomorrow  Troy, Jasmine and I will be taking a family day. We are going to hang out on the computer to chat with family and friends around the world via Skype and Facebook. Come and see us!

Exactly One Year Ago: The Little Elves Were Out in Force
Exactly Two Years Ago: Christmas in Africa
Exactly Three Years Ago: One of My Many Inspirations  --Happy Birthday, Dad!!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Santa Claus Drama

As many of you know, Tom has been down in the capital city working as Santa at many different shopping centers, private parties, and events. One lady has even hired him to surprise her child on Christmas morning. This is helping to raise funds for the orphanage.

When Tom was planning the trip I decided to help him get some publicity, so I posted an ad on a Facebook page that caters to missionaries in Zambia. I thought perhaps some of them would like Tom to come help out at parties they might be holding for their charities.

When Tom found out what I’d done, he said with a chuckle, “Get ready for hate mail”. Even though I know not everyone is a fan of Santa, I was sure he was wrong, but he wasn’t. It only took about an hour before a letter landed in my inbox.

A long-time missionary here in Zambia was shocked and outraged that we would even consider having Santa be a part of our Christmas.

She had some valid questions and concerns, and I know many people have the same questions about how a Christian household can be OK with including Santa in the Christmas holiday.

I thought I'd address some of the issues as I see them. I don't claim to be an expert nor do I feel that these decisions are right for every household. However, they are right for this one.

Doesn't Santa detract from the real meaning of Christmas? 
Won't finding out one day that Santa isn't real cause the kids to doubt Jesus?

This whole month we are keeping Jesus up front and center. We have the Jesse Tree and the manger scene. We talk about what He brought to the world every day. He is the reason for the season. 

Santa is just a fun guy that helps deliver presents one day a year. 

Though some worry that when children learn Santa isn’t real they will discount the Truth of Jesus, I just don’t see that happening. 

By the time the kids are old enough to start realizing the truth about Santa, they will have experienced for themselves the Truth of Jesus and He will continue to be Real to them.

There is something special about children getting to enjoy their childhood and to let them believe in magic. It all ends so quickly. They all grow up eventually. All too soon real life will be here for them. They will have to deal with reality and there is no going back from that. Why not let them enjoy make believe for a while?

I really like the way this lady explained the 'mystery of Santa' to her daughter. I'd prefer it with a bit more of a spiritual approach, but it was very good.
How will you explain to the children that Santa never visited them before they came to the orphanage? How will you explain that he doesn't take presents to the other children in the village?

Again, a good question. 

But, I’ll take it a step further. 

How am I going to explain to them why God allowed them to come live with a loving family with a mom and dad, and aunties, and friends around the world, when so many children around us have no one? How will I explain why they get to eat 5 times a day when so many children around the world struggle to get one meal? How will I explain how they have a bed all to themselves with sheets and blankets while the children in the village share a bamboo mat on a dirt floor with several siblings? 

How am I going to explain that for some reason their original moms and/or dads were taken from them?

Those are seriously tough questions. One day I am going to have to walk with them on a journey of discovering Who God Is, and while not all their questions will be answered, they will be covered and coated in a gifting of grace and faith. 

In light of all this, I feel the whole ‘you mean Santa isn’t real’ thing is going to be minor.

We plan on taking the older children to visit the hospital when Tom gets back from Lusaka so they can share some joy with others. It's important that that kids learn to share their blessings with others. Seeing that not everyone is as blessed or fortunate, will help them to grow up more grateful and compassionate.

As I explained to my kids as they were growing up, Santa Claus is based on real historical characters that cared for others and showed love for those less fortunate. As long as we are showing love, and learning generosity we are honoring the One who inspired Santa to begin with. 

And, for me, that is the most important thing!

What say you? On which side of the Great Santa Debate do you fall on? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Exactly Two Years Ago: Pretty Paintings to Make You Smile

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Celebrating Christmas

This Wednesday we had our annual Christmas staff party.

I began the planning for this much earlier this year to allow the staff time to prepare for the secret friend gift exchange. At the end of November everyone drew names to see who they would be buying a gift for. As the bowl went round the table, I heard comments of "no pants this time". If you remember from last year, we had set a price limit and so most people ended up buying 2-3 pairs of underwear as their gift. I challenged them to put more time and effort into their gift by spending time thinking about the person and what they personally might like.

I even gave them some ideas for homemade gifts, but tried to be a bit vague as well. I didn't want them all to end up with the same gifts. They all voted on a price limit of K15,000 (@$3).

 On the day of the party Jasmine, Troy and I moved the furniture around in the dining room and set up for the party.

Under each chair we tucked a couple presents. One was a foil envelope, purchased at the grocery store,  filled with bits and bobs for the children of our staff members' households. The next was a little gift bag that had candy, toiletry items, a devotional book, and a special little something. We had received some Avon items from a lady in Texas, and I saved them just for this day. We also got a package from some ladies in Dallas and they had packed a few stockings for our nannies. Since we had 19 staff members to prepare gifts for, I deconstructed the stockings and divided the little gifts, candles, note pads, pretty pens, nail polish, etc. between the gift bags so everyone got something.

I had plans for a fun game with these.

 We served a fruit juice punch and cookies. I learned my lesson from last year when some ladies picked the largest cups and filled them to the brim and others didn't get any at all and this time I pre-filled the cups.

For cookies we had four types: peanut butter, chocolate chunk*, almond shortbread, and spiced oatmeal raisin.

*chunk not chip, because we chop our own chocolate bars

Another lesson from last year was that most people didn't eat their snack at the party. They nibbled a bit on the cookies and drank the juice, but they like to save the cookies for later. I provided sandwich bags so they could take their snack home.

Once everyone was settled with their snacks, we did the gift exchange. This year the theme seemed to be housewares, clothes and shoes. No homemade gifts--we'll get there one year--but there seemed to be more thought put into it.
One funny thing that happened was one lady received her gift of coffee mugs AND the change from the K15,000. Everyone seemed to like that. She counted out the bills proudly and tucked them in her pocket.

After that we played a game with the gift bags. It is a gift passing game which I learned about on Mom's Toolbox. You use a specially written Christmas story that employs the words LEFT and RIGHT over and over again. Every time the participants hear those words they have to pass their gift to the left or right. No none knows which gift they'll end up with at the end.
This eliminated the possibility that anyone would think anyone else had been singled out for the best (or worst) gift. --Another lesson learned from past years.

The game was really funny as people struggled at first to know their lefts and rights. A few times we had to pause the game when somehow one person would end up with two or three presents in their laps.It was fun.

Then, we played a final game: Musical Chairs! No one had ever heard of this game before and they loved it!

I played fast-paced Christmas songs and everyone laughed and laughed as they danced around and ended up in each others' laps. A few of them said this was their favorite part.

It was a very nice, and rewarding Christmas party. How will we top it next year?

Related Post: Secret Santas

Exactly Two Years Ago: The Birthday That Won't Quit
(Almost) Exactly Three Years Ago: The Reason for the Season

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Pictures of Christmas

I'm so excited! A sweet lady in Dallas named Donna sent us this Fisher Price manger scene. It sits in the dining room so the kids can see it every day. If you saw all the grubby little fingerprints all around it, you'd know how grateful I am to have a child-friendly manger scene.

You might notice one or five items missing. Baby Jesus will only arrive on Christmas morning. The three kings and their camel are on their way.

There they are! When Tom first told the kids that the Kings would have to make their way slowly to the stable, my eyes glazed over a bit. It takes commitment to make sure a fun tradition like this takes place every day. Tom noticed my reticience and assured me he would take full responsibility for it.

So, where is he then?? In Lusaka, that's where! And who is making sure to move the Kings every night? That's right!

I've only forgotten to move them once so far. It was when I had them up on top of this painting. My explanation to the kids was that it was such a hard climb up there that the Kings and their camel needed a rest. 

Here are my favorite traditions this year. The wrapped Christmas stories which we do every night before dinner. The kids nearly have Twas the Night Before Christmas memorized by now. Often we'll wind up with singing a Christmas carol or two.

And, this year we are doing the Jesse Tree. Every day before lunch we read (or tell) a Bible story of the characters, and/or events, who have made up Jesus' genealogy. Then we hang an ornament on the mini tree representing the story for the day. You can see the 10 commandments--boiled down to the two most important as Jesus taught--and Joseph's coat of many colors, hanging on its own little pipe cleaner hanger.

The kids have really been able to learn so much about the true meaning of Christmas this year.

Monday, December 17, 2012

My Very Own Day

Today is my special day. 

I'm celebrating it in my own way since Tom and the kids are still in Lusaka. Troy and Jasmine will be getting on the bus tomorrow, but for now I'm having some alone time.

All day I've been preparing gift bags for our staff Christmas party on Wednesday. I'm fairly excited about how the party is going to go.

Now, the living room is clean, my candles are lit, the Christmas lights are twinkling on my angel-themed Christmas tree, and I'm just relaxing and chilling out.

I've popped a big bowl of popcorn, and made a comforting rice pudding for later, which I'll eat along with a birthday glass of cheer.

Playing on the DVD machine is my favorite birthday movie. (5 points if you know what that is)


Today is the last birthday I'll have before a milestone birthday. A big birthday. A 'can-be-divided-by an-even-number' birthday. A birthday that rhymes with Lordy, Lordy, as in, "Look who's turning..."

I don't feel too badly about it.

Life has been full and good. (I say that as if I've been diagnosed with a terminal illness. Ha)

But, there's something about approaching a big birthday that gets you thinking.

What should I try to do in my 'last' year?

I don't think I'll do anything as cliche as a list containing the same amount of items as years, or trying to lose that amount of pounds--though that's not a bad idea.

I'd rather focus on becoming Fabulous at 'any age', or being healthy enough to run a 5K without stopping.

With my birthday so close to the New Year, it's easy to make resolutions at the same time. I've had some bouncing around in my head for a few weeks now.

But, would you have any you'd like to suggest for me?

As I get ready to enter the new phase of my life what should I do or accomplish?


Funny thing about my age. My daughter wrote me a message on Facebook saying that she has forgotten how old I am turning, and to her I'll always be 35. The interesting thing is that my first memories of my mom as being a real person--not just my mom--is when I was between 10-12 years old, which would have put her around 35 years old. So, in my mind she has never aged from then on. I guess that makes us the same age now. Ha ha!

Exactly One Year Ago: Santa Claus is Coming to Town
Exactly Two Years Ago:  A Puzzle and a Prize
Exactly Three Years Ago: Happy Birthday to Me

Friday, December 14, 2012

Not Quite Cinderella, But Close

Now that I had the kids clothes all sorted and in order, it was time to deal with shoes. Kids feet grow! Did you know that?? Yeah. Especially when you feed them well. And then new kids start walking and they need shoes. It's never ending.

And I love it!

Tom, Jasmine and Troy left for Lusaka yesterday, so it was the perfect time to pull out all the shoes and get organized. First up I carried a trunk of shoes from the storage room, and added a bag of shoes just donated by a lovely German family, and a box of Crocs sent over from Tennessee. Some of the shoes were adorable. There were even two pairs of Spiderman shoes. You know those were going to be popular.

First thing I did was to pull up a handy dandy chart that would help me in determining the shoe size each child needed. I wasn't looking forward to trying multiple shoes on 20+ kids was not my idea of fun, so I used a tape measure to get an idea where to start.

After lining up the shoes by size and gender to make it easy to find what I was looking for, I called the kids in one by one. I started with the oldest children so that in case they had outgrown an otherwise good pair of shoes, they could be passed down to another smaller child.

Some of the kids really needed shoes. Their toes were poking through the sole. Crocs have been amazing for us--durable and water- & weatherproof. However, even they eventually wear out.

Here I asked Peter to show me how he felt about his broken shoes, but he is too used to hamming it up for the camera. He couldn't stop smiling to show me his pouty face.

I measured each child's foot and then compared it with the chart to decide where to start my search for a suitable shoe. Some of the kids had very wide feet better suited to Crocs, and others had more narrow feet and did better in a sandal.

Of course every boy that walked in zoomed right in on the Spiderman shoes. Even those that are usually very quiet, perked right up and told me how much they wanted those shoes. They each took it pretty well when they turned out not to fit.

I got Nathan excited about camouflage shoes and told him he could be a soldier!

Please ignore the dirty leg--we play hard around these parts.

I convinced Peter that Dallas Cowboy shoes were even better than Spiderman--and because he's three, he believed me! (I do love the Cowboys, BTW.--They're my team.)

See, new shoes make a boy happy.

Even Maggie got shoes. I want her to feel a part of the big kids even though she's still not walking. She is even smaller than our year-old babies, but I want her to strive to be more grown up. That's why I had her get new shoes too. It was hard though because her feet are TINY! I finally found some baby sandals that fit. I instructed the nannies to not let her use them when practicing walking, because she needs to feel the ground beneath her feet, and the sandals are not very supportive. However, she can wear them when coming up for meals. It will be just something more to help her grown.

In case you're wondering who finally ended up with Spiderman shoes, it was Jack. They fit him perfectly!

And in case you're further wondering, this is his happy face. Ha ha.

Exactly Three Years Ago: The Accidental Missionary

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Movie Magic & More

The other day as I finished dinner preparations the kids all filed into the dining room for their dinner. I don't think I can properly convey the noise that 23 preschool children fresh off the playground can make as they file into a cement building. Let me just say it is LOUD.

In the midst of all this chaos Johnny walked up to the counter that divides the kitchen and dining room. He called over to me as I chopped vegetables at the island.

I could barely hear him over the din:

"Mommy, I wanna something something lucky dips."

"Sorry, what was that?"

"I wanna something something looby pips."


Finally I asked Johnny to come into the kitchen. He stood next to me and I leaned over to hear him better.

"Mommy, I wanna give you love's true kiss!"


"Ok, sweetie, how about I give you a hug?"

Any guesses which movie he's been watching?


The other morning I was looking after the twins during shift change. It was early in the morning and a few of the children were gathered around the cradles with me.

Luke was fussing a bit so I was settling him down.

Peter said, "Look, he's like Spiderman!" I tried to figure out what he meant by that.

Then he showed me:

"His hands are like this!"

A moment later Peter said, "Now he's a bad guy".


"His hands are like this!"


Even Jasmine has been picking on poor Luke. She pointed out that he looks like a comic book entity called The Watcher.

What do you think?

Poor Luke is gonna develop a complex if this keeps up.

Exactly Two Years Ago: My Girl Can Kick Your Tail
Exactly Three Years Ago: Super Story part two

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Santa Does Cosplay?

Cosplay = Costume Play

One of my favorite traditions that we're starting this year is to have a box full of wrapped Christmas books. Each day a different child gets to choose and unwrap a 'new' story for me to read to them just before dinner.

A few days ago, Lizzie unwrapped Arthur's Christmas. Remember Arthur the anteater from PBS?

This particular story involves Arthur trying to find a present for Santa. He goes from store to store and keeps seeing Santa in different locations and particularly notices Santa in various restaurants. He eventually gets the idea that Santa obviously LOVES to eat, so he makes a few different dishes which he has cooked himself (with dubious success) to leave out for Santa. The ending of the story has him finding a note left by 'Santa' thanking him for the food, and mentioning his awesome sister, D.W.

I had forgotten how this particular story went and so as I read it I wondered how the kids would handle the idea that there could be more than one Santa.

I'm not a huge fan of perpetuating the myth of Santa although I do love the ideas of St. Nicholas and giving and sharing.

However, my husband and teenagers love the magic of Christmas and the fun that kids can get out of it all.

It's a fine line we walk.

Anyway, back to the story. So, the kids had noticed that the Santas in the story all had slightly different outfits. They wanted to know why the clothes were different. Then when one in particular was quite skinny they wanted to know why.

At the end when 'Santa' leaves a note, Johnny's eyes were big as he asked if Santa had really left the note. We talked about how D.W had been really nice to help out Arthur. But, they weren't ready to give up the idea that Santa had really been in Arthur's house.

When they again brought up the fact that the Santas in the story had worn different clothes I decided to discuss it a bit. I asked the kids if Santa was real or a character from a story. A character from a story they all agreed. (I'm not sure they actually understood what those words meant though)
 Then, I asked, when Peter dressed up like Obi Wan, or Chola dressed up like Batman at Halloween, were they really those people or just wearing a costume? They laughed and agreed they were just dressing up.

So, I said, sometimes people like to dress up in costumes.

Johnny's eyes got huge. I was ready for the penny to drop, and truthfully not sure I wanted it to.

"So, Santa likes to dress up like Santa?!?"

Ummm, yeah......that's it. Story time's over!

Exactly Three Years Ago: A Christmas Card

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Making a List & Checking it Twice

I'mma not gonna say that your lists aren't good and all, I'mma just gonna say that my list is the best of the year.

(please tell me you know what I'm parodying.....if not, find someone between the age of 18 and 24)

This year, as a new Fundraising idea, Tom will be making appearances in Lusaka as Father Christmas. So far he has three appointments scheduled. We anticipate that he will be fully booked the closer we get to Christmas--forward planning isn't a high priority here.

Tom's first mall appearance is December 15. He'll be heading down a couple days before that to get ready. Jasmine and Troy will go with him--they're hoping to see The Hobbit--so they can have a bit of free time and fun. They're excited about attending a youth group as well.

Because Tom will be away for 2 weeks we're going to have to skip a shopping trip. Due to timing of everything our next shopping trip after tomorrow will be next year.

In between this one and the next we have a staff Christmas party, Christmas for our family, Christmas for the kids, and New Year's Eve, plus one month's worth of meals.

I'm trying to keep calm about the fact that if I don't do a comprehensive enough list we could RUN OUT OF FOOD.

It's not really all that bad. Really. If we get desperately low I'm sure we can call the store manager and ask him to send supplies up by bus.

The main thing we'll run low on is  fresh vegetables.We can always 'eat local', but that will limit us to cabbage and collard greens and I like just a little bit more variety in my produce.

Jasmine and Troy can also bring up things from Lusaka if anything is missing. Tom will be here sometime between Christmas and New Year's Eve. He can bring anything we're missing. I can always take the bus down for a day trip like the olden days if need be.

So, once again I'm being melodramatic. But, the truth is that today I have to make a shopping list that (mostly) covers all our needs for the next four weeks. I'm also gathering to be photocopied all the coloring pages and activities that the kids will need for Christmas Fun!

You might be wondering what we'll do for Christmas since Tom will be playing Santa down in Lusaka on or near Christmas Day. We've decided to celebrate on December 28, which will give Tom time to get home. The good thing about having preschoolers is that they have no idea what the date is. We just told them when the countdown started and that was that. I'll write more about the things we're doing with them this month later.

I guess I can count my blessings and be glad for the fact that I don't have to face Christmas traffic, right?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


Update on Grace: This morning I was finally able to get Grace's arm x-rayed. The good news is that it is not broken. It seems my suspicions may be correct. I believe that one of the nannies probably picked Grace up by her arm--whether to lift her out of her crib, or over a puddle or down some stairs--and pulled the ligaments around her elbow. The swelling was down some this morning and she was beginning to use that arm. Hopefully it will be all better real soon. You can believe this topic was covered (again!) at staff meeting.

Look at how chubby! It's a pleasure to hug her now that she is all soft and squishy!

 Maggie is doing so, so well!! She is over 7.5 kilos now (@ 16 pounds) and eating everything. She crawls and plays and talks. The other day in the nursery she crawled to me and then took my hands to walk the last couple steps. That kind of effort would have been out her reach one month ago. It is such a victory to see her so healthy and happy.

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving! Yes, I know if is well past Thanksgiving and everyone is looking forward to Christmas, but I want to reflect on my Thanksgiving! It's my favorite holiday of the year and I didn't get to write about it yet!

After rushing home from Lusaka the Tuesday before Thanksgiving I quickly unpacked the goodies (including pecans and dried cranberries from a specialty store!) and got to work in the kitchen. Then came two of the happiest days of my life as I cooked, and chopped, and stirred, and baked and mixed.

Poor Jasmine came down with malaria on Thursday. She still managed to make a cornucopia out of bread dough and an apple crumble pie. I'm so thankful for her creativity!

Even though it was just Tom, the kids, one guest and me we still cooked a ton of food. We had a 9 pound turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn on the cob, pickled beets, cranberry cornbread muffins, and bread rolls. This was followed by 4 desserts: pumpkin pie, pecan pie, apple crumble pie and cheesecake--all topped off with whipped cream. Delish!.

Troy made the pumpkin pie. Aside from the pecan, it was probably my favorite. I'm so thankful for how much Troy has grown up these last few months.

I was especially thankful we have a gas stove as the electricity must have gone off 20 times--each time for only about 5-10 minutes, but it could have been a disaster for a roasting turkey.

Did all of you have a good Thanksgiving or is it already a distant memory as you press forward toward Christmas?

Exactly One Year Ago: A Moment for the History Books

Monday, December 3, 2012

Tomorrow, Tomorrow

Remember when I said that I would update you on Maggie's progress tomorrow?

Well, tomorrow has yet to come. I'm so sorry.

Yesterday the bugs were horrible. Horrible. Horrible!

I'm not talking about computer bugs. I'm talking about the real life, creepy-crawly, winged & flying, incredibly annoying bugs.

Last night while we ate dinner we encountered a minimum of 12 different bugs. They dive bombed our food. They crawled all over us. They got tangled in our hair. They ticked our noses. And lest you misunderstand and believe that this was taking place around a campfire in a forest, was our living room--our living room that has screened windows and closed doors. I have yet to figure out how they get in. But, get in they did.

And it was all too much for me. I couldn't concentrate on anything other than holding onto my rapidly disappearing sanity as I swished and (inadvertently) squished what felt like thousands of bugs from my airspace.

Getting my iPhone and downloading photos and organizing them into a Thankfulness post was not at the top of my list.

Then, today came and I got busy tackling my very large (and growing by the minute) to-do list.

All my happy progress came to a halt when the nannies brought Grace to the door. A couple days ago we noticed that her hand/arm seemed to be hurting her and had some slight swelling. I examined it and couldn't see any specific trauma. It didn't appear to be broken. We waited to see if it was bruising or if it would resolve itself. This morning it was obvious nothing had improved.

So, it was off to the hospital for an x-ray. Only trouble being that there was no electricity. Grace and I sat on the sidewalk (I didn't want to sit too close to other patients) and tried to stay out of the sun. I'm only just over an episode of heat exhaustion from our last shopping trip and made sure to keep Grace and myself fully hydrated.
We managed to see a doctor (the only one on duty for the entire hospital) after a two hour wait, but since there was still no power I decided to head home so Grace and I could eat lunch.

The moment we got home the power came on. I had the nannies feed Grace while I repacked our bags with activities and snacks and lunch for me. We hopped into the taxi and headed back to the hospital. When we got there we found out that power was back off again!

I settled in to wait and see what would happen. I ate my chicken soup out of container while cuddling a dozing Grace. When she woke up she ate my leftovers and drank some water. This all seems pretty ordinary, right? I thought so. However, our fellow patients didn't agree. We had quite the audience for all this. People found everything Grace and I did very entertaining. Some days this bothers me, but somehow it didn't today.

About an hour after getting back to the hospital I heard the power come back on and had hopes we would actually get the x-ray done. Unfortunately, the x-ray technician called me in to say that the electric company was not providing enough power to run the machines. I'd have to return tomorrow.

So, I'm sitting on my (nearly bug-free) couch recovering from today and hoping for a better tomorrow. A tomorrow when I actually accomplish much of what I set out to do. A tomorrow when I can finally share my Thankfulnesses with you. A tomorrow where we can fix Grace's arm. A tomorrow that actually arrives.

Exactly Three Years Ago: My Crazy African Life

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Big Battles, Sad Losses, Joyful Wins

Today is World AIDS Day again. Two years ago I wrote a post about how HIV & AIDS affects the people in the community around us. It is still incredibly relevant.

Last year I wrote about Morgan, our shopping helper. Every week or two when we went to Mansa he was there outside Shoprite waiting to collect our bags and help us get the big job done. 
About 8 weeks ago he confided in me and told me that he had finally gone for HIV testing and was found positive. I asked him if he had gotten the medicine he needed and he said yes. I also asked if he was taking it on time and properly. He again said yes. 
Then he told me his white blood count. A normal, healthy person should have at least 4500, Morgan told me his count was 326. I hoped and prayed the medicine would begin to do its healing work.

Two weeks later when we reached Mansa we were informed by Morgan's friends that he had been admitted to the hospital. We went to visit him to find out what he needed. The nurses told us he needed iron pills and juice. We went to get it and delivered it the next morning, but he had already been discharged and we had no idea where his house was. 

Two weeks after that we once again saw Morgan at Shoprite. He was moving much slower than usual, but promised me he was taking his medicine. We gave him some extra money so he could buy some healthy food. I also gave him some tips for home remedies that would help keep him healthy. I looked forward to seeing him at the next shopping trip to check on him.

The next scheduled Mansa trip found me in Lusaka so Tom made the trip alone. When he got to Shoprite he found out that Morgan had passed away the day before. That was a sad day. Another young man whose life was snuffed out way too early.

Morgan is not the first employee we've lost to HIV/AIDS and sad as it is to say, he most likely won't be the last.

We've lost too many babies to this pestilence. Each and every time it is so very painful. It is especially hard when the babies and children had no choice in the matter. The disease was passed to them. I wish it weren't so.


All of this would be too difficult to bear if it weren't for the victories we do win from time to time. One of our little boys who came to live with us in 2008 has HIV. When he came to us he was tiny, his body was frail and riddled with tuberculosis. Not only were his lungs affected, but he had a huge abcess on his neck. It took weeks of painful treatments on two different ocassions until it finally healed completely. Now, aside from being small for his size, you would never know this little boy has HIV. After a few years on the ARVs he is pretty much never sick. We don't know how long he'll survive, but we do know that his life is way better than it would have been otherwise.

We don't know if Maggie's parents died of HIV/AIDS, but she is another life saved. I'll tell you more about her progress tomorrow.

The fight against HIV & AIDS is not an easy one. Please read my post below to learn more. Together we can and will make a difference.

Exactly Two Years Ago: World AIDS Day
Exactly Three Years Ago: No One Told Me

Thursday, November 15, 2012

How To Survive a Queue

This is a fairly typical line, or queue as it's called here, at the ATM. Every time we visit Mansa we have to go to the ATM twice because of our daily limit. This means standing for 5-50 minutes (or more) in line each day.

Once we get our money we may have to go inside the bank to pay our internet bill. This entails standing in line yet again for at least 30 minutes. 

To pay almost any bill in this country means standing in a queue somewhere. And this means developing queue standing skills or at the very least survival tactics.

When we first moved up to this area there was only one bank. The ATM was often out of service which meant extra long lines. Also, there were fewer businesses and agencies available for paying bills so many of them had to be paid at the one bank. One day Tom waited in line at the bank for about an hour with no progress. He then called home and had me send our gardener to stand in his place in line. Our gardener served as Tom's proxy for 3 hours that day and eventually came home when the bank closed without him ever reaching the counter.

One of the only ways to survive long lines is to switch off and just act as if you have nary a care in the world. This used to be very difficult in the 'olden days' when we had no car and had to travel by bus to Mansa. The bus would arrive in Mansa anywhere from 9-11 and then turn around and head back by 1 or 2 PM. This made for a few very stressful hours as we tried to get everything done. Ending up in one of those seemingly endless queues were enough to make even a saint cry.

(And in case you hadn't noticed yet....I'm no, yeah......)

Here are some of the tactics I've employed. 

1. Read a book. Those who know me know this is a no-brainer. I nearly always have a book in my bag for this very reason. Now with the Kindle I actually have dozens of books! Hooray!

2. Surf the web. Smart phones have made life in queues so much more tolerable. You can read emails or see what your friends are up to, and even whine about how long you've been in line.

3. Play mental games. If I tired of reading whichever book I had with me, and before the days of digital entertainment in phone form, I would time the minutes that it took each cashier to help each customer and then count the people in line and then calculate the estimated time it would take until I reached the front. I would congratulate myself and give myself 'points' if a customer completed his/her business within my estimate. 

4. Compose blog posts. Guess where I came up with the idea for this one?

5. This is an unusual tip but it is highly necessary here: Stand at a 45 degree angle to the person in front of you. Let me explain. Zambians don't pay much attention to 'personal space'. If you stand directly behind and parallel to a person, the person behind you might get real up close and personal. Standing at an angle means you can actually carve just a little bigger space around yourself. I also like to see ahead and behind me in the queue. I feel a little bit safer. It's the same reason I choose my table carefully in restaurants. I need to keep things in view. Tom calls it the 'Too Many Bourne Movies Syndrome'. LOL

6. Keep your perspective. Everything will eventually get done. Maybe not on our timetable, but it will get done. If the bus leaves you behind, then you get to stay in a hotel. Fun! If it takes 3 days to pay your electric bill, well, at least you have electricity. Very few things can't be gotten through.

7. Keep your sense of humor. Look around for funny signs. People watch. Whatever it takes, chuckle at something.

8. Talk with a fellow queue-sufferer. Even if the conversation consists of "Ah, this queue is long." "Yes, it is long." "What is the problem with these people?" "Ah, yes, it is a problem." "Development is needed." "Definitely it is needed."
At least time passed during that exchange.

9. Breathe through your mouth. This doesn't always come into play. But, when it's needed, It. Is. Needed.

Have I missed any tips? Do share!

And pray for me as I stand in queue after queue this week repairing or replacing our poor lightning struck appliances.

Exactly Three Years Ago: Chola --an Our Kids installment

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