Thursday, September 27, 2012

We Love Babies of All Shapes and Sizes

round button chicken

As I said in yesterday's post, we deeply care for all babies no matter the type. The other day Tom came into the office and said there was a problem with two of the babies. I had to ask him to clarify: human or animal--like a funny game of 20 Questions. It was animal this time. Two of the baby goats had disappeared during in the night. We didn't know if they'd been left behind after the day's time of grazing up our hill, or been stolen, or what? Turns out, since they are so tiny, they had wandered into the storm drain.


One of our mother goats gave birth to triplets. Right away Tom noticed that the smallest kid had been rejected by its mother. We waited a day or two to see what would happen, but finally we decided to help nature out a bit.


We've been bringing Billie (Tom wanted to name her Billy, but she's a girl) into the house to get her bottle 4 times a day. The first day we did this, after Tom fed her, she began to wobble around the living room. She is very curious and wants to climb on every elevated surface she can find. In fact, one morning I was trying to do my Wii Fit workout but Billie kept climbing up on the little Wii Fit platform, which completely messed up my stats. Silly goat had to be shut up in the office with Tom for a while. 

Anyway, the first day she came in we lost track of her after a bit. We couldn't find her anywhere. Then we noticed something out of place under one of the chairs.

Hello there, little bitty, baby goat! Now when she disappears we know just where to look.


This picture makes me so happy because this is exactly what we want for the children growing up in our care--the chance to look after animals on a farm and thereby learn compassion and responsibility. Johnny looked after Billie one afternoon and kept her fed and happy.

Billie is doing so well now and is getting stronger every day. Whenever Tom goes out to the goat yard carrying the bottle of milk, Billie comes running up to him bleating and crying. She knows just who her 'mother' is.

I'm happy to be linking up with Like Mother, Like Daughter again. It's been too long!

By the way, don't forget to check out yesterday's post. The contest is still on!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Heroes and Villains

Tonight I'm a little sad. 

Why is that, you ask.

Well, for the next five days I will be home alone. As alone as one can be with 23 children, 16 staff members and dozens of animals, anyway. But, our small personal family will all be away--except for me. I'm staying here to hold down the fort.

I was going to be working hard on a project with a visitor who wants to help us with some rebranding, but that fell through for now, so I'll be catching up on other work. The nice thing about being alone is that I can do this work on the couch while watching any channel on the TV I want!! Hooray for that!

But, still a bit sad to be all alone. Any ideas on any special things I can do with my alone time?

So, why am I being left all alone?

When we were in Lusaka for our mini family vacation, Tom saw a poster that got him all excited. It was an advertisement for a fundraiser being held September 29. It is going to benefit the Elephant Orphanage in Lusaka.

Now, Tom wasn't particularly excited because it was a fundraiser--not that we don't care about elephant babies (especially orphaned ones), because we care deeply about all babies (more about that tomorrow)--but, because this particular fundraiser was going to be a comic book event. To be specific, a Heroes and Villains Ball.

Within minutes Tom, Troy and Jasmine had begun to dream, design and deliberate.

They have been hard at work these past few weeks crafting their costumes. As you probably know from reading our annual Halloween posts, this family takes their costumes seriously!

I know there will be plenty of photos to share of their time in Lusaka attending this Heroes and Villains Ball. I'll share them all with you and tell you all the fun details about not only the party, but how they managed to put together the costumes with mostly thrift store acquisitions.

But for today, I would like to play a little game with you:

I will give you three clues for each character, and if you are the first person to guess all three correctly, I will send you a pound of Zambian coffee.

Tom: trench coat, fedora, mask

Troy: purple pants, vest, green

Jasmine: red, knives, villain

This contest will run until Tuesday when I will reveal the costumes and the winners.

Have fun!

Exactly Two Years Ago: Snakes and Klingons

Monday, September 24, 2012

Ages and Stages

When we opened our orphanage nearly five years ago, there was one parenting challenge we didn't anticipate--the ability to tell exactly how old some of our children are.

Our policy was (and is) to only take in babies and toddlers under 2 years old. This was partly so that we would be able to help the most vulnerable of children, but also so that we would have a good chance to get the orphans we help off to the best start possible.

We were a bit naive to not realize that people might not always be completely honest with us about the children they brought to us for help. We had one family bring us their two year old daughter and say she was an orphan, but that's a story for another day.

When grandparents, cousins or aunts and uncles brought children to us, most of the time we had to take their word about the children's histories. Let me explain:

Babies here in rural Zambia are often born at home with the care of a traditional birth assistant. I've seen the paperwork on such a birth. It was a tiny 'receipt' about 2" square with the date and names of mom and baby. Not a whole lot of details. Even if a child is born at a government clinic the paperwork is pretty skimpy, and almost no one has an official birth certificate.

What all children should have is an Under-5 card which is basically a glorified immunization history card. However, if a child loses his or her parents, maintaining this card may not be the first priority of their relatives. Many of our children came without their Under-5 card and we then have to create one for them using the relatives' information to fill in the gaps.

Filling in the blanks is not always easy since birthdays are not high priority here so we couldn't always count on families to know the exact date. We do our best to question the relatives, but they simply don't really know. Even narrowing down the year can be tricky. Because of this, many of our children have approximated birth dates on their paperwork. I try to use the 15th as a marker for myself to remember that that particular child has an 'assigned' birth date.

Elias is one such child. He was brought to us in June of 2008 by his grandmother. We had been open just over half a year and he was our seventh child.We were told that he was 21 months old. With no reason to doubt his grandmother's word, we accepted the date she gave us: September 22, 2006.

He settled in perfectly to life at the orphanage and has, for the most part, been a pretty good kid.

Then, early last year he began to lose his baby teeth. By the beginning of this year, he had lost both his upper, middle teeth. I started to question his grandmother's account of when he had been born since, according to his teeth, he seemed closer to eight rather than 5 and a half.

I wasn't sure if he was just an early bloomer or what.

This summer, volunteers began to point out that his emotional development seemed to be older than the other kids as well. I saw an example of this just the other day:
Elias and Chola were setting the table in the dining room as I finished up dinner prep. I heard Elias call across the room to Chola to say, "Hey, Chola! Would you like to ring the bell today? I've rung it lots of times already". He was clearly giving up a task he enjoyed, because he knew someone else might really enjoy it too. I felt this went beyond 5 year old emotional development.

And now, I've been looking at pictures of him, and I can see how his face has really matured in the last few months. We even visited a dentist and she agreed with us that he is at least seven, but probably eight.

Now comes the dilemma. Do we sit him down and let him know he's suddenly jumped two years ahead and rather than just having turned six, he is now eight and the oldest kid? It seems to me this could be really confusing for a child still trying to tackle basic numbers.

I'm leaning toward just continuing to take each child where they are, and not worry about the number on their records, but rather meeting their individual needs--whatever they may be--and encouraging them to make forward progress.

What would you do?

I'm blogging along with other parents today at Fried Okra.

Exactly Two Years Ago: Walk Like a Man 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

My Favorite Color

Just over a year ago I bought my first smart phone. We had been without internet access for over three weeks and this was hindering our ability to do our job. 
Blackberry apparently was the fastest to the Zambian table because they are the only ones that offer an affordable unlimited internet service--so, Blackberry it was. 

It cost way more than I would ever have imagined paying for a phone--and certainly way more than I would have been willing to pay if it hadn't been a necessity so we didn't lose contact with the outside world again.

Anyway, all that to say when I bought it I was terrified I would drop and break it. As soon as I possibly could I bought a rubbery case from a street vendor. It was a bright purple which meant I would be less likely to lose it in the depths of my purse.

Earlier this year I found myself in Target shopping for a couple things I needed. Something you should know about me is that I am not a relaxed shopper. I'm a get in (with an organized list) and get out shopper. More than 30 minutes in a store and I get itchy. 

So, this particular day I needed to buy two things: a Kindle cover and a camera. For some reason my Blackberry's camera had stopped working and I just needed a simple, inexpensive point-and-shoot for taking with me on my U.S travels.

I took my Kindle out of my bag and tested cases until I found the first one that fit. Into my basket it went. 

Next I walked over to the camera counter, looked for cameras in the $50 range, took the first one I saw, and headed for the checkout stand. Job done!

As I sat in a Starbucks drinking an Americano (.....................Oh, Sorry! I got lost in a daydream for a minute thinking of coffee), I unpacked my purchases. 

And for the first time noticed I had ended up with purple in both cases!

I guess my sub-conscious wanted more of my favorite color. 

 It may have been an unconscious choice, but then I decided to make it a game. I could finish out my set by getting a purple wallet! My dark blue one had been nice but it was getting ragged. I decided to keep my eyes open. 

A few weeks later while Tom and I were on vacation in New Mexico we spent a couple very wonderful days poking away in antique and resale shops. Well, truth be told the days were wonderful, but I spent most of my time on benches outside said shops. Tom, however, was absolutely beside himself with pleasure. But, I digress.

In one of the thrift shops Tom found something he wanted and asked me to go bargain with the owner. The problem was, I didn't feel we were in a good bargaining position with just the one item. I cast my eyes around the shop quickly. There! Just near the door, was a purple wallet. What are the odds?

This is more purple than pink in real life

I love having purple accessories. It's like a party in my purse!

 Do you have a specific color you like to accessorize with?

Exactly One Year Ago: It's a Party! (an excellent recap post)
Exactly Two Years Ago: Happy, Smiling, Faces (AKA the day I almost got arrested)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Reading Our Little House in the Prairie from Our Large House in the Bush

Recently I've started reading to the kids in the afternoon, during their post-lunch siesta. For my whole life growing up, and for the whole time my kids were little, afternoon rest time has been a requirement. Most cultures in warmer climates have this built into their lifestyles, and it just makes sense. It gives the kids a chance to regroup after a busy morning, and helps to fight off any illness that may be threatening. It gives the nannies a breathing space. They have their lunch hour and a chance to sleep or at least rest too.

But, that isn't what I came to talk about today. So, back to storytime.

I chose to read the Little House on the Prairie books because we live in a similar rural setting to the Ingalls' family--farm animals, candles at night (occasionally), Pa having to go to a far away town for supplies, etc. 

The Little House on the Prairie series were some of only a few books we brought with us when we moved to Africa 10 years ago. I read them to my kids every night--many times by candlelight during a power outage. We did many of the things that were described in the books.

But, even more than the similarities, I chose to read these books to my African children hoping they would learn from the differences.

The first book in the series is Little House in the Big Woods. It starts out with Pa, Ma, Laura and Mary preparing for winter. They have to hunt, butcher and store food for the long days ahead. Soon the snow falls. The word snow means absolutely nothing to the kids. It is rarely even cold enough for jackets here. I will be doing an ice activity with them one day so they can hold cold ice shavings in their hands and get a better idea.

The other day I overheard the kids playing in the playground and they were pretending to 'prepare for winter because soon the animals will be all gone'.

My heart sang a happy song upon hearing that because it means that their imaginations are alive and well. I'm gonna keep doing my part to feed them. One day perhaps they'll see snow in person, and even if it's nothing like they imagined, their lives will have been richer for the dreams. And I'll have done my part in parenting them.

L-R: Johnny, Jennifer, Little ol' me, and Elias
Note: Jennifer was actually happy--I think she may have been concentrating.
 Another parenting part I play when I read is weaving little sermonettes into the story. When the book talks about Laura having only one little rag doll named Charlotte, but how carefully she takes care of her, I talk about stewardship and caring and responsibility.
When Pa mentions seeing a baby deer and how there will be no more fresh meat because the baby animals need their mommys and daddys to look after them, I talk about the importance of taking care of the animals around us and not harming them through over-hunting, or greediness. 

I'll admit to reading just a little louder at these times, hoping that my voice carries to the end of the room where the children's nanny is resting on her bed. Because I'm parenting the caregivers also, and there are lessons they can learn too.

Reading out loud to children is so important for vocabulary building, imagination building and life building. It's a tradition I'm proud to carry on as a parent. 

I've linked up with a Parenting blog party called The Parent 'Hood over at Fried Okra

Exactly One Year Ago: Birthdays and Reunions    Check out an update to Kanono's story here.
Exactly Two Years Ago: High Praise--our visit from a Cabinet member.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Witches Brew?--No Need for Eye of Newt

Whenever you have over 20 children playing, living, eating and sleeping together you will discover that any viruses that come to visit get passed around and around.

A simple sniffle or cough can last for weeks as it makes the rounds. And, when 5 or 6 children in a room with 12 children are coughing it can mean little sleep for anyone.

Thankfully I have weapons in my arsenal.

I don't like to use chemicals too much, and prefer natural ingredients that help the immune system to fight illness on its own.

So, here now is my cough and cold remedy. It works amazingly!

One 'problem' with this miraculous syrup is that the kids love it! I have to discretely ask the nannies who has been coughing at night so that I can dose the right kids. If I ask in earshot of any of the kids they will all begin coughing and clearing their throats.

 A second 'problem' I had was explaining to the staff members that this was not witchcraft. I had to explain carefully how the different ingredients worked to fight off disease.

So, here is the golden stuff:

First I slice 3-4 onions and pour a cup of honey over them. This needs to sit for 5-6 hours during which time the onions will soften and all the healthy goodness will seep into the honey.

Next I pour a cup of boiling water over a tablespoon of dried thyme and leave this to sit until it cools completely.

After I strain the honey/onion mixture and the thyme 'tea', I combine them with a cup of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar. I whisk in a teaspoon of dried ginger.

Lastly I add one final ingredient. This is the one that creates the most magic. The ingredients so far have been healthy and full of vitamin C and good stuff.

Now, this is the one that calms the coughing and allows the body to rest and recover. Whiskey! I buy a very cheap one--since I'm not drinking it, it doesn't have to have good flavor.

I add one cup of this and the job is done.

Whenever I hear a cough or sniffle coming on, I give this out. I don't even mind giving it out to kids who are coughing just because they want medicine too. It's full of vitamins and not bad for them at all. I give about one teaspoon for each year the child is, eg. Peter who is 3 years old gets 3 teaspoons or 1 tablespoon.

And, it works! This week Peter had a nasty sounding cough that kept him up at night. By the second night of giving this to him at dinner and then again at about 10 PM, he was completely better. I'll still give it at night for a couple days to keep him healthy.

Here is the 'recipe' I use. You can scale it down very easily.

4 medium onions
1 cup honey
1 cup boiling water
1 Tablespoon dried thyme
1 cup lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon dried ginger
1 cup whiskey

 Mix it all together and store in the fridge in a mason jar.

Cauldron and dry ice not at all necessary.

Exactly Two Years Ago: Just Another Ordinary Day
Exactly Three Years Ago: Hospital Visit

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Do More Than Remember

September 11 drew us closer to the world. All of us were touched by the events, whether personally or corporately. Nearly all of us knew someone who was there, or nearby, or who suffered as a result.

Before Africa I had never attended a funeral, I had never been close to anyone who had died.
Here in Africa all our friends were shocked by this revelation. Zambians attend funerals on a regular basis--but I wasn't the only missionary with this life experience--or non-experience. Life is generally pretty good for those of us in first world nations.

Two of my staff members are around my age--both have lost two children. I can't even imagine this. I can't imagine living with this pain. Sure, I've lost babies here at the orphanage in the last five years, but none of them were my own personal babies. I hadn't grown them inside my body--hadn't pinned my hopes and dreams on them. Sure it hurt, but it can't even compare to the pain my staff members have experienced.

The reality is that as a first world country, we generally have it pretty good. Even for those of us who have had loved ones pass away from illness, it has usually been in a clean, well-staffed hospital where they were given the best drugs and medicines available.

In third world countries, when a loved one dies, it is often on the dirt floor of a tiny home, or in a hospital that would be condemned if it weren't the only thing available.

Thousands of people died during 9-11, and while I don't want to take away from the magnitude of that loss, thousands more died around the world that week--from disasters, from pandemics, from wars. We joined them that day. We finally understood.

In the last several years I have grown up. Now when the news mentions loss in grand numbers, I feel it. It's not just a number. Each person stands alone in that crowd, and I see the hole they leave behind.

As we vow to never forget, let us also vow to always remember: There are thousands around the world dying right now--from disease, from poverty, from neglect, from terrorism, from hunger. We have the power to make a difference. Perhaps not for the thousands, but for one, or two, or twenty. Always remember! We can make a difference!

   Read the beginning of Peter's story here.

Related Post: The Days That Followed

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Another Edition of Seriously?!?!

Before I tell you what happened a couple days ago, I have to give you a bit of background. Recently we had to do a complete reshuffling of our staff due to conditions beyond our control. I keep meaning to write something about this and perhaps I will one day.

Anyway, the bottom line is that we have a new kitchen lady. She is very sweet, but quite out of her element. We've been training her for three weeks now and it's as if it's her first day. She's even made some fairly dangerous mistakes, like leaving the gas stove on without the flame. Still, we continue to work with her hoping one day everything will click. 

This is just to give you an idea of my frame of mind Friday evening as I worked to teach S. yet again how to prepare cereal for the babies. I was a little frustrated......

Now, I do take full responsibility for what happened next, even though I still can't believe it.

For the babies' cereal we cook rice until it's very soft, add sugar, milk and peanut butter and then each evening we take a bit out of the fridge and blend it for a moment with hot water. We use an immersion blender like the one shown below.

I demonstrated how to blend up the rice, and then proceeded to wipe around the blades with my finger to get every bit of cereal out. 

Can you see where this is going?

I had neglected to remove the blade section from the motor section and as I cleaned off the blades with the index finger of my left hand, my right hand unconciously tightened its grip--which put pressure on the button and next thing I knew my finger was being ground up!

The nice thing about serious injuries is that you don't feel pain right away. The bad thing is that you do eventually feel it. My finger had shallow cuts all over it, and the bone at the tip is most likely bruised if not actually broken. Ouch!

Aside from the pain, which has been intense, I feel so foolish. Who sticks their finger into a blade without making sure the power was completely off? Seriously!

Exactly One Year Ago: Jeepers Creepers
Exactly Two Years Ago: We're Always Trying to be Different

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Best Ending to a Difficult Day

Funny how quickly a day can change. My Monday started out with a breathtaking view, but by 5:30 I was ready to curl up on my bed and suck my thumb.

The day started out alright. We were winding up a weekend where we had some visitors stay with us, and we all enjoyed some fellowship and downtime. 

Tom and I had some community business to take care of yesterday, but first we tackled a hike through the bush to this spot:

This is the site of our future home. This will be the view from our living room window. Can you imagine??

After this inspiring start, we attended two separate meetings that didn't go nearly as well as we had hoped. Since our expectations hadn't been overly optimistic to begin with, this was a difficult thing to swallow. Both Tom and I were disappointed that we hadn't been able to communicate well enough to bring the effects we'd wanted.

Because the meetings ran long and we hadn't anticipated this, we didn't get any lunch. Working out in the bush meant we couldn't just pop into a MickyD's, and while this might be the best for our overall health, it also meant that our blood sugar was in the basement by 5:30 when we finally pulled into our driveway.

My disappointment in not having had things work out as I'd hoped and really feeling out of control, combined with my intense (& I mean INTENSE) hunger, left me feeling weepy and shaky.

I wanted nothing more than to collapse on the couch, kick my shoes off, and watch mindless TV. However, I knew better than to do that. What really gets my head back in the game, what allows me to control my environment, and what gives me a sense of accomplishment (aside from spending time with God) is cooking.

Hardly aware of what I was doing, I pulled my knife off the magnetic strip, grabbed an onion, a bell pepper, some carrots and  mushrooms. I chopped some chicken breasts that had cooked for a few hours in the sun oven, and boiled water for pasta. Then I whisked together a quick asian sauce. (Course I did all this while munching on a chocolate chip muffin, because I was STARVING!) In thirty minutes I had dinner on the table and my world was back on its axis.

chicken yakisoba

This is not my dinner, but it looked a lot like this. I found this picture on Pinterest at this location. 

What do you do to make a bad day all better?

Exactly One Year Ago: Guess the Secret Ingredient
Nearly Exactly Two Years Ago: Where Everybody Knows Your Name
Almost Exactly Three Years Ago: Adventures in Baby Care

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Road Trip Adventures

When our summer rush of volunteers died down at the beginning of August, Tom and I decided to take Jasmine and Troy on a special trip to Lusaka. Both of them had birthdays coming up and both had been carrying extra heavy loads these past several months. We wanted them to have a chance to let their hair down and relax and enjoy being teenagers.

Two of our Peace Corps Volunteer friends offered to stay at the orphanage to look after things so we could all get away as a family.

Tom got a good night's sleep and then we started off at 4:15 AM. Jasmine and Troy stretched out on the benches in the back and we were off.

Resting in a crate between Jasmine and Troy was our latest wildlife rescue--but more about that later.

After several hours of driving, I climbed into the back of the car and Troy took my place in the front as navigator and driver's assistant. Tom had just purchased a newspaper from a roadside store and so Troy read the interesting articles out loud. Between the unfamiliar local names and the political jargon it ended up being quite the workout for poor Troy.

Jasmine kept busy with creating 'friendship' bracelets. She has quite a collection on her arms--both her own designs and gifts from others.

We all enjoyed seeing crazy sights such as this incredibly overloaded truck. It's a wonder it didn't tip over.

We had been making great time and moving swiftly down the road, with only a glitch in 3rd gear to concern us, when the car just lost power completely. Tom was not happy as we drifted to a stop on the side of the road. We were only about 2 hours away from Lusaka, but it might as well have been the moon if the car wasn't working.

Not having any real idea what was wrong we decided to check and see if we were out of gas. A short side note--our Landcruiser has two diesel tanks. When one runs out you flip a switch and the other becomes available. We've had trouble with this switch before.

We pulled out our 20 L (5 gal.) jerrycan of diesel and created a funnel out of a water bottle. 

Troy and Tom worked together to get most of the diesel into the tank (only some ended up on the ground). We cranked the ignition, and Praise Be, we were good to go. This confirmed that the switchover button was broken. We headed straight for a gas station and filled up the working tank so we'd have enough to get the rest of the way to Lusaka.

The first thing we did in Lusaka was get the truck into the repair shop. Between the 3rd gear trouble, the tank switchover button and a few other broken items, our mechanic had his work cut out for him. Little did we know the problem was even bigger than we imagined.

But that is a story for another day. We were safely in Lusaka and ready for some fun. Stay tuned....

(Almost) Exactly One Year Ago: Dresses from Pillowcases
Exactly Two Years Ago:  Moments of Panic

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