Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Mixing, Measuring and Monitoring Like a Mad Scientist

Between the newborn twins, the baby civet, and Maggie I am busy constantly mixing and monitoring formulas and weights and ounces, grams and millileters. It's a wonder I can keep track of it all.

The twins are easy. Their formula comes in a tin and as long as I make sure their bottles contain enough each day (they're up to drinking over 3 ounces now!) then they are good. They are healthy as can be and are gaining weight and eating and sleeping very well.

Tom's civet* has a fairly straight forward formula that it needs. Some highly pasteurized boxed milk, some added milk powder and a dropper-full of children's multi-vitamin drops.

I mix it all up and store it in the fridge for Tom to pour as needed into a rabbit bottle for the five feedings each day. Every few days we weigh him (the civet--not Tom) on our digital kitchen scale and recalculate the amount he needs. He is eating so well now that we don't have to worry as much any more.
*Unfortunately the smaller of the two civets did not survive.

Maggie is a different story. Her formula is highly complex. I have to carefully weigh and measure the ingredients (milk, sugar and oil) so she gets the exact balance of protein and calories. I was very excited to find, on our last shopping trip, two cans of a special mix of minerals that are supposed to be added to her milk. Children with Kwashiorkors have an imbalance of minerals--their sodium levels are too high and their potassium levels are low. 

 This special mineral mix helps to bring everything back into balance. We have never been able to find this until just now. In the past we had to do without it, but Maggie has been such a desperate case that I really wanted to get the minerals and Thank God we finally found some.

Maggie has now been moved from the F75 milk to the F100 milk. This one has more protein and still high calories. Her edema is completely gone and she is much more active, but her weight is still dangerously low and she still needs everyone's prayers for a full recovery.

Today she sat with us on the porch and her eyes were alert as she watched Tom feed the baby goat and the dogs play nearby. Jasmine took her hands and helped her beat out a rhythm and she imitated it.
I then took her hand in mine and traced a circle on it and walked my fingers up her arm while singing a little Teddy Bear rhyme. When I got to the top of her arm I tickled her gently and she smiled! She actually smiled! I would even venture to say she nearly giggled. It was a wonderful moment!! 

You can't see her smile because she kept pulling her arm up to cover her face, but see how it is shining out of her eyes? Maggie is not out of the woods, but she is showing great progress. Please keep praying!

Exactly One Year Ago: Landscape Gardening
Exactly Two Years Ago: A Favorite Halloween Memory
Exactly Three Years Ago: Fab Friday Foto--Volume Two

Friday, October 26, 2012

Fab Friday Foto XXXV

They are finally working on the road from Kazembe to Mansa!

 There are two small detours now, but they are so worth it because the work looks like it's being done properly this time around. In the past, the road work has consisted more of tar being painted over dirt-filled potholes. No joke. These repairs usually only lasted until the first couple hard rains.  With an actual steam roller at least blocking the road and perhaps even being called into action we are hopeful for a decent road sometime this decade. Hip, Hip, Hooray!

Exactly Two Years Ago: Comments Regurgitated #2
Exactly Three Years Ago: Who Needs Starbucks

No Shortage of Babies in These Parts

While I've been busy feeding and caring for two newborn babies, Tom has been busy with his own babies. 

Go check out his post about the Civets who are living in a bucket in our bathroom. Come back when you're done. I'll be right here.

Tom has been so good about feeding those babies with a tiny, doll-sized bottle (originally for rabbits) 5 times a day. He has done his research and is working with a couple wildlife sanctuaries and trusts to find a solution for them.

There is only one inaccuracy in his post. He mentions the noise those Civets make and compares it to the aggravating cry of a baby. He's wrong. It is. so. much. worse. It's like one of those wind up toys kids play with: the string is pulled and released and it makes a sound--WEEEEEEEOOOOOOUUUUUU over and over and over again.

It's the kind of sound that will land a toy in the trash mysteriously. 

This solution does not work with baby Civets.

I'm really proud of Tom for all his hard work with saving animals here in Zambia. Even if I don't care for the sound they make.

Exactly One Year Ago: Love Comes Softly
Exactly Two Years Ago: A New Experience for the Kids
Exactly Three Years Ago: Moriah Memory


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Picking, Purging, Preparing, Peeling and Planning--The Joys of Large Families

Update: I tried and tried to publish this last night, but it insisted on 'saving' instead. I eventually gave up and figured I would try again this morning. Then I began to get email comments from those who have subscribed to receive the blog by email. I thought that it must have published after all. Turns out, it didn't. So, if you receive this in your email box twice, that's why.
Blogger has been frustrating lately. If I weren't so tired I'd try to figure out another platform. Never mind....carry on. Enjoy the read.

When you have twenty-six kids the extra work is not limited to peeling 5 pounds of potatoes at a meal. When all those kids are growing--and some of them at fantastic rates--you have to keep up with the clothes. So many clothes.

We don't have big season changes so we don't have to switch out warm and cold weather clothing, but every 3-6 months we go through all the clothes and see what fits, what has been grown out of, what is worn out, what is ready for the rag barrel.

The big job starts with the nannies pulling off the shelves anything they think doesn't work for the kids anymore. Because they don't have a lot of experience with clothes sorting and purging I have them just pull off anything that they feel doesn't fit the children in their care, or that are looking shabby.

This round filled 3 large hampers.

I brought the hampers into the living room and, while watching Style Network shows, I slowly and methodically went through every item. Those that were in really good condition were sorted by size and gender onto my coffee table. Those piles represent newborn up to 3T.

I will take them from here down to our storage room which contains trunks of clothes separated by size. This is like a little mini-store that we can access as children need larger sizes or more clothes. This has been made possible thanks to donors who have given clothes, and volunteers who worked hard with us  to get everything sorted and labeled.

These are clothes that are in good but not great condition. These will be passed on to another orphanage an hour away. They will be very grateful for the clothes.

The exciting thing is that the clothes we receive are often gently used by families before making their way to us. Then our kids enjoy them and eventually they are passed on to even more needy children. That's at least 3 lives for the clothes. Isn't that fantastic?

Some of the clothes are beyond repair or reuse so I grab my scissors and turn them into rags for cleaning projects. I hate waste.

Any clothes that are in good condition but just need a bit of mending are tossed into this bag for my extra moments in the evening. I don't get to the mending bag very often (I'm not very good at it), but whenever I do I love it. There's something affirming and 'I am woman, hear me roar!' about it. Am I the only one who feels this way?

Tomorrow I'll introduce you to Tom's latest babies.

Exactly One Year Ago: Zambia's Day--Happy Independence Day!
Exactly Two Years Ago: A Walk on the Wild Side
Exactly Three Years Ago: Absentminded, Perhaps?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Dude, Where's My Camera?

So, if you remember my Wednesday/Thursday post I couldn't post any photos because though I searched high and low, I just could not find the camera.

Strike a pose, Luke!

I did the update minus photos, and a few hours later headed out the door for our shopping trip in Mansa.

I think Leah has added an extra two necks in the last week

On the way there I mentioned to Tom that I had been searching through the house for the camera and had no idea where it was.

Sophreen does a good job with the twins

A funny look crossed his face and he said, "oh, yeah! I know where it is...."

Maggie is doing much better. I have good news to share soon!

Do you have any idea where it was?

Peaceful baby

You'll never guess!

It's a Superhero pose! Up, up, and away!

He had left it in the goat house inside a bucket! I don't know why I didn't look there first.....

Exactly One Year Ago: Little Red Hen
Exactly Two Years Ago: My Rapunzel
Exactly Three Years Ago: Sun 'n' Slide

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Their First Shakedown

When Jasmine and Troy were down in Lusaka last month they found themselves at the mall having to kill time while waiting for Tom to finish up his errands.

At the mall there is an outdoor courtyard area upstairs with a cinema and a few restaurants. This is where Jasmine and Troy were hanging out. With nothing much to do they wandered around looking at posters and signs and anything that caught their eye.

Before too long they saw a poster at the entrance of the mall that bordered the upstairs parking lot. It listed the mall rules. No Smoking, No Guns, No Helmets, No Pets, etc. An unusual one was No Cameras. 

As they read the rule about no cameras, an idea occurred to Jasmine and Troy. They knew how they could kill time until Tom returned.

Have you heard of the Gangnam Style of dance? It comes from a music video out of Korea. Troy decided to do this dance on the bridge leading from the parking lot to the outside food court while Jasmine filmed him.

They filmed for a minute or less and just as they finished up, a security guard began making his way toward them.

He walked up to them and said, “You have offended me”. Jasmine and Troy were confused for a moment, but he further clarified by saying, “You have committed an offence”. He told them they had broken the rules by filming Troy dancing and that he knew they knew the rules because he had seen them reading the board.

They walked together over to the rules notice board and he pointed it out to them again. NO CAMERAS. “Now I have to take you to the office where you will face the penalty”, he said. At this point Jasmine and Troy were both more than a little nervous.  They’ve spent most of the last six years living in a tiny village out in the bush. Life in the big city is very different.

There was an awkward moment as they wondered how much trouble they were in. 

Then the guard said, “Well, I’m a little thirsty…….you could get me a drink”. There was another awkward silence and then Jasmine looking over at the rules poster, pointed to another rule: No Begging. 
 “What does that rule mean?” she asked. “Oh, ummm, that is to prevent the mall patrons from being bothered”. “Oh, I see”.

More awkward moments and finally the guard wandered away leaving Jasmine and Troy to breathe normally again.

When Troy relayed this story to me back at home, I asked him what he had learned from the experience. I hoped he had learned the importance of following rules.

“Oh! We already covered this”! Tom inserted. “Never read the rules, or at least don’t let anyone see you do it. And, pay attention to what time it is. It was the evening and a weekend and therefore the mall offices were closed, so he couldn’t have gotten you in trouble”. 

And this is why Tom and I make a good team. I teach the kids to follow rules, and he teaches them how to get around third world corruption difficulties.

Here I wanted to show you the video that started all the trouble, but Blogger & my internet are not getting along.

I fear my kids are going to find life in the U.S awfully boring. LOL

Exactly One Year Ago: The Tablecloth Looked Delicious
Exactly Two Years Ago: Your Questions Answered
Exactly Three Years Ago:   Munda Wanga

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Baby Updates

I apologize for the lack of photos with this post. I'm writing this in the middle of the night while up with the twins, and I canNOT find the camera. At six in the morning I will turn the twins over to the nanny and head out the door for Mansa and shopping. I wanted to make sure to get this update out to you though. I'll post pictures on Sunday.

First for the good news:

Luke and Leah are doing really well. They are eating between 2 and 3 ounces every 3 or so hours. At the moment Jasmine and I care for them one day and then a nanny the next day. It gives us a chance to get a full night sleep every other day and keeps our costs down as we are still working on our budget.

We've had some funny moments with them. The very first day the twins arrived I was undressing them and getting them into clean clothes. When I unwrapped Leah's clothing, there lying across her belly was the cut umbilical cord. Here in Zambia they leave about five inches of it so it was quite the sight. Jasmine and Troy both turned away immediately and began to gag. It was hilarious. Just tonight Troy changed Luke's diaper and was present for the passing of the cord. He shouted out, "The Devil!". LOL

The day the babies arrived, drawing on my extensive experience as a mother of twins, I told Jasmine we needed to quickly get some nail polish and mark one of the twins' nails so we'd know which was the boy and which was the girl. Then it hit me......Oh!

And now for the not so good:

Maggie is doing OK. Not great. Just OK. Please hold her up in your prayers. She is showing signs of depression. I don't know how much is from the grief she has to be feeling from being separated from her family and everything she knows, and how much is from her disease. Apathy is a symptom of Kwashiorkor and one of the reasons it is so difficult to treat. 

The first couple days she drank her milk well. Then, she began to refuse the milk and ask for nshima (the local corn staple food). We shouldn't give that to her because her body is not breaking down food and absorbing proteins properly yet.

Finally, I gave in and mixed milk and sugar into the nshima so that at least she would eat something. Unfortunately, after only a few bites of this, she gave up. 

At this point, we are back to the F75 milk. This is a high-calorie, low protein milk. She sips it all day long, but at least it's getting in her. The swelling is coming down slowly so that is progress, but she just sits around not playing or interacting at all. 

I've encouraged the nannies to hold her and cuddle her all the time to help her bond and feel loved. I slip down to the nursery when I can to hug and love on her. I have to be careful now though to avoid passing on any germs to the newborns. This is one of those times that I feel so inadequate to meet everyone's needs......

Goats are Babies too:
Billie is growing fast. She has started to eat from the regular goat feed so her bottle-feeding days are numbered. In the meantime though she still loves to come to us for her food. She knows who Tom is and recognizes his voice. The other day he was driving home up the dirt road that borders the goat field. He called out the window, "Maaa maaa". Billie answered, "Maaa?" and then when she realized it was him, she tore up the field chasing the car and bleating, "Maaaa maaaa maaaa". LOL

Now she has gotten even bolder and has started walking right into the house if the back door is left open. One evening we were all watching television in the living room when Billie just walked right in and made herself at home. She jumped straight up onto the couch and sat next to Tom.

Mama update:

 I'm tired. That is all. There is so much going on that I constantly feel like I am dropping six balls while juggling three. Tom pointed out yesterday that I had dark circles under my eyes. He further pointed out that was an unattractive look. He was just mocking one of those style makeover shows we had just watched, but it was true nonetheless. 

Pray for me to figure out what the true priority is for each day and to be able to focus on it. Pray that i can give my full attention to my loved ones when they need me. Troy and Jasmine have both mentioned that I rarely hold a normal conversation with them anymore--that I am all work, all the time. 

I know the Lord would not have brought these three latest children to our door if he didn't think we could meet the challenge. He will make a way.

Thank you for your prayers, and thank you to those who have helped and joined forces with us by donating. You make our job easier!

Monday, October 15, 2012

It's A Boy!

You heard me right.

It's a Boy!


It's a Girl!


 It's Twins!!!!  
(see how I combined blue and pink together there?? LOL)

Saturday morning, just before 8 AM, a mother of seven children delivered her eighth and ninth babies--healthy twins--a boy and a girl.

Two hours later she hemorrhaged and four hours later she was dead.

She left behind a grieving husband with seven children and two newborn babies.

Several women from the community brought the babies to us at 4 PM. They begged us to help care for the babies. When questioned about whether there were any other women available to help, they all vigorously shook their heads. We were the only option, they said. 

The babies' father is a welder by trade. In a tiny community like Kazembe, work is hit and miss. He will find it impossible to afford formula in order to bottle feed the twins.

The babies are so new that they don't even have names yet. When we asked the family what they wanted to do about that, they asked us to name them.

We promised we would give them Bible names.

Jasmine and Troy decided to name them Luke and Leah (Zambians pronunciation = lay-ah) so, technically Bible names, but extra fun for my geeky family.

Taking in twins is going to mean a big change here. Thankfully they can sleep in cradles for the first month or two and so the bed situation isn't an issue, but it is going to push our staff requirements up by a lot. Right now 2 women per shift (one at night) look after the seven babies ranging in age from 6 months to 24 months. Now we will need another nanny for at least the night, if not the day shifts as well, if Jasmine and I intend to get any work done.

Each additional nanny (we'd probably need to hire 3) costs $100 per month.

Milk for twins will cost about $120 per month at the beginning and about twice that before they are a year old.

If you have considered joining up as a monthly donor, this is a great time to start! Even $50 a month will make a difference in reaching our budget needs and will allow us to concentrate on giving Luke and Leah the loving care they need.

You can click on either of the Donate buttons on the left hand side bar, or click on this link to pay by Paypal

We are so grateful for the opportunity to care for these precious children and to partner with so many of you around the world. Thank you!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Friday Brings a Big Surprise

How this can possibly be Friday? Even my kids are confused. Where did the week go??

The week got off to a rocky start when I was knocked flat by a stomach virus. It was violent!
Tuesday I was shaky and once again relieved I work at home. I could work for an hour or so, and then collapse for an hour or two. Hooray for working at home!

Tuesday and Wednesday were my two teaching days. I do the training and teaching of the nannies and staff members on Tuesday and then on Wednesday I teach a Bible study to four of the nannies who have shown special interest.

Those are some of my favorite hours of the week. Even my physical weakness was set aside for that time.

Thursday was spent working on things I should have done on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

This brought us to Friday. Today. This morning.

One of the first things I was told by our handyman this morning was that a baby had been brought to the orphanage by her aunt. My heart sank because we just don't have any beds open.

The new boys' cottage is nearly ready but we are waiting on delivery of the aluminum roofing sheets to cover the roof. Since the rains have started we urgently need the roof to be done before we can move the boys in. Unfortunately, the roofing sheets are stuck on a truck somewhere between Lusaka and here.

So, when this new baby showed up at the door I didn't even want to see her. I knew my heart would break in two.

Upon hearing she was over one year old I encouraged the aunt to take the child to the Social Welfare office to apply for assistance with milk or food. Since this wasn't a tiny baby I felt she could eat and do alright.

A couple hours later as I helped Troy with his math lesson, Tom told me the lady had brought the baby back again. This time she had brought a letter from the local clinic which stated that the baby was severely malnourished and without our help would most likely die.

Now I had to see the baby. I couldn't avoid it.
I walked out to our driveway and came face to face with the sweetest little girl. She has the most amazing little eyes.

 Maggie's mother died on Saturday and her father died a couple years ago. I was originally told she was just over a year old. The letter from the clinic listed her as 19 months old. But, her paperwork (the Under-5 card which is a weight and immunization record) shows her to be 2 years old this month!

Even her aunt was shocked by this revelation. Maggie's family lived a couple hours north of Kazembe and only moved down here last week as the mother's health was failing rapidly. Maggie has eight brothers and sisters. No one really knew much about this tiny little girl.

The first thing that hit me was how swollen she is. Those chipmunk cheeks are not healthy. They are caused by edema from Kwashiorkor which is a type of malnourishment. Her hair was beautifully braided, but that didn't hide how sparse and orange tinted it was--also a classic sign of malnourishment.

You can see how fragile her little neck is. Because she is so weak she can sit up, and (I've been told) crawl, but she can't yet walk. As I stroke her back gently, her bones feel as fragile as a bird.

The moment I took Maggie into my arms, after a tiny bit of fussing, she snuggled right into my neck. She is such a good little girl who seems genuinely grateful for loving arms.

I've loved the kids' reactions to Maggie joining our family. The oldest children looked at her with very big eyes as I explained that her mommy and daddy had died and so Tom and I would be her mommy and daddy now and they would be her brothers and sisters. They all solemnly greeted her with: "Hello, Maggie".

Peter came up to her at snack time and stroked her leg saying, "nice, nice", as if she were a puppy or kitten. Then he looked up at me and asked, "where did you find it?". 

Because she is so, so tiny--only 6 kilos (13 pounds)--and is so behind developmentally, we wondered if perhaps she had come with the wrong paperwork. However, she has a full mouth of teeth.

Pray for her health. Her HIV status is still unknown. We'll be getting a test done as soon as possible so we can pursue the right treatment. In the meantime, we're treating her for the malnourishment with a special milk recipe and taking care of any hidden infections with a broad spectrum antibiotic.

This afternoon when she woke up after her nap on my bed, she was just lying there with her eyes open, looking around the room. I called to her softly saying, "Maggie". She said, "hmmm?" and turned to look at me. At that moment I realized how old she really is. She is old enough to be aware of her name. She is old enough to realize she is in a new situation. She is old enough to miss her mom. And at that point my heart broke completely and I wept. Pray for her to feel our love so her heart can heal.

You might be wondering how we solved the bed situation.We have temporarily moved two of our oldest boys into a room that used to be used for staff members and that has a bunk bed in it. It is right next door to a room where a nanny sleeps so they will be close to help if they need it.
We moved two of the 5 year old girls over to the preschool bedroom, and this freed up two cribs--one for Michael, who at six months had well outgrown his cradle, and for Maggie.

We hope to have the five oldest boys moved into their cottage soon. Pray for this!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Signs of Summer

There are a few ways we can tell it is summer around here. 

First of all is of course the heat. The stifling, exhausting, dehydrating heat. I asked Jasmine to help with a job today and she begged for us to do it after dark. It's hard to move in this heat.

And before you ask, I don't know how hot it is exactly. Tom bought a thermometer at a garage sale the other day but it says 90 degrees Fahrenheit. I don't believe it. Then again, perhaps I'm a wuss. LOL
Another tell that it is summer is the accumulation of flies. The closer we get to rainy season (and mango season), which is kinda part of our summer but not quite, the more flies there are. When the mangoes are ripe, Lord help us all! The flies are thick!!!

And of course the grass and trees are all dry and brown. The grass hurts the feet to walk on. I often dash out of the house without my shoes and get poked with a needle sharp blade of grass that hurts straight through to the belly. I still run barefoot though. (Mainly because I'm short, my feet dangle when I sit, and my shoes fall off, so when I stand up again I leave them behind and forget where they are. --My mom had the same problem.)

But, one of the big signs we are in the middle of the hottest, driest times of the year is the sudden appearance of ants. They are everywhere, all over the house, searching for water.

The other morning I had a yogurt and banana smoothie for breakfast while I read and journaled for my 31 minutes. At the end of the half hour this is what my cup looked like:

Look at all those ants. It's like gazelles at a watering hole. I almost feel sorry for them. Almost.

Exactly One Year Ago: Joy in the Morning
Exactly Two Years Ago: Holla if You Like Surprises

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Joys of Teaching & Knowledge

Every time I teach I'm reminded how much I love it. Right now I'm teaching a Bible Study for a few of the nannies (it isn't mandatory, and only four have opted to take it) and then I teach at our weekly staff meetings.

During the staff meetings I’ve been working through a book called How to Help Your Child Succeed. It is my second attempt at teaching from this book. The reason for that is that most of the staff members currently working for us weren’t here the first time I taught from it.

It’s a very small book with only a few chapters, but it takes extra time to cover the material because I have to teach what the words in the book mean before I can teach the concepts. 

For instance, for the past few weeks I’ve been teaching from one page that covers qualities that one might (or might not) want to foster in a child. Before deciding whether one would want to develop those qualities in a child, one would need to know what those qualities are.

Today we covered timid, versatile, creative, talkative, risk-taking, well-adjusted and emotional. When discussing talkative, I mentioned how important it is to allow children to talk as much as they want even if some of it is nonsense. This culture can be a bit of ‘children should be seen and not heard’ in some ways. I mentioned how a child might make up a story about seeing a purple monkey with red dots swinging by holding a baby. And how important it was to listen and let a child exercise their imaginations. I then asked if any of the children had told stories. They said, yes, Johnny (of course!) tells lots of stories. He even has said he wants to one day walk on the moon. 

This led into a discussion about fostering children’s hopes and dreams in what they could be when they grow up. 

In my experience school children here tend to have very practical aspirations on what they will be when they grow up. Boys—teachers, accountants, doctors, pastors, etc. Girls—nurses, sisters (kind of like nuns), teachers, etc. These are attainable dreams. You will almost never hear outrageous dreams like astronaut, pilot, circus clown, actor, dancer, or what have you.

I encouraged my nannies about how important it was to let a child dream. The likelihood that a child we care for will become an astronaut is on the skinniest side of slim, but how wonderful to foster that dream for as long as possible. 

With my own children I often used their dreams to help them learn more in school. I would get them books on the subject, tell them how they could use math in that profession, and do all I could to ride their dream while it lasted. 

As we talked today about astronauts I reminded them that one of the sponsors of our kids is an astronaut and even played a major part in the last space shuttle mission. I then mentioned in passing that Neil Armstrong had recently passed away.  I got the impression from their reactions that they didn’t really know who I was talking about. Sure enough, one of the ladies spoke up and asked if I was saying that people had really been to the moon. 

I was shocked!

Nearly all of the ladies working for us have graduated from high school. How had they missed out on such a critical, amazing, earth changing piece of history??

I spoke for several minutes about the mission to the moon, but since the internet was down I couldn’t show them any pictures or video. I’ll definitely be preparing that for next week’s meeting. I’ll also pull out any books or encyclopedia entries we have in our library.

Because of our forays down daisy paths of imagination, history and English language pronunciation we only managed to cover 7 words on the list of qualities. But, isn’t that the best part of teaching? I love it!

Exactly One Year Ago: Here I Am
Exactly Three Years Ago: Beauty and the Beastie
Also Exactly Three Years Ago:  I Nearly Died!
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