Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Baking Up Christmas Cookies with Just a Touch of OCD

Christmas is for kids, isn't that right? Crafting cards, and presents and homemade ornaments. And let's not forget cookies. Christmas just wouldn't be the same without cookies. 

I'm all for baking and creating. I love it. But, throw a couple/few kids in the mix and it's a horse of a completely different color. A very messy, noisy horse.

However, I strive to be a good mom and so I put on my big girl knickers and roll up my sleeves (both literally and figuratively), and get to work. 

First of all, a plan had to be made. 

A Pinterest board started and properly pinned upon. 

Recipe cards printed. 

And, very important, a spreadsheet created. 

And not just any spreadsheet, but a very detailed one that lists not only which cookies will be baked, but who will take part in the making of each one, by which day they should be completed, and whether advance prep is needed.

Then ingredients must be assembled and mise en place completed. 

Now, some people say that baking can be an excellent math skills exercise for children. 

Measuring and scooping and pouring and counting will prepare them for proper school work. 

I say that if God intended children to do math while baking, he would have given them the right mother for the job.

As it stands, I measure and pour and count ahead of time. This way the children can take part in the baking without adding to their mother's silver hair. 

(this may be why I still have only four silver strands)

('course it could also be why my bigger children find College Algebra to be so difficult--if only I'd let them do the measuring when we baked.....)

The kids seemed to enjoy the assembling and stirring and baking. Can I just take a moment to mention Janet's casual posing--that girl has a model inside her. And, Jennifer's dimple. Have you ever??

I divided the kids into groups of 3 and they're each helping with one recipe. This is a tradition my youngest daughter, Jasmine, started. Those who bake get a sneak taste of the baked cookies and the rest are saved for Christmas. Three children at once is about all I can handle. It gives them all a chance to do a part without having to wait too long between stirs or rolling out.

So far we've knocked five recipes off our list. Another will be done by the first grade boys tomorrow. They'll be bashing hard candy into chunks for stained glass cookies. They'll love that. 

I think I'll have them do the banging outside though. 

My poor nerves.....

Exactly Four Years Ago: Happy Birthday, Dad!
Exactly Three Years Ago: Christmas in Africa --a peak into our living room
Exactly One Year Ago: Busy Little Elves
(Almost) Exactly One Year Ago: The Santa Claus Drama

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Fabulous at Forty

There is something about birthdays that just begs for a bit of introspection and retrospect. No matter the age too, there is a feeling of time fleeing by. I've heard a 23 year old girl comment on how time was passing too quickly and her life was nearly over, and she'd done nothing with it yet. I wanted to pat her on her head and say, "you dear, sweet, young thing". My 60 year old uncle essentially said the same thing to me today on Facebook. Age truly is a relative thing.

Somewhere toward the beginning of the year I joined one of those online 'lose weight' groups. It was called Fabulous by Forty, and everyone in the group was close to turning forty and wanted to be at or close to their goal weight by their next birthday.

I was excited to do it, and it seemed a reasonable goal. 

However, I didn't quite make it.

Even though I didn't meet my aim, I still think my life is fabulous. Here's why:

My body may not be perfect, but it still works and it brought six children into this world, so that's a fabulous thing.

There may not be a string of letters behind my name, but there is a string of children--6 + 29 and counting. I think that's pretty fabulous .

I haven't made it to all the countries I'd like to (Ireland, I'm looking at you!), but I have lived in seven countries and visited four others. AND, I still have years ahead of me. I can still see the world!

My family is spread around the world and I miss them terribly, but I have friends spending the day and night with me today. We're gonna watch my favorite movie and eat cake, and it's gonna be fabulous!

I could moan about forty years gone by, but  instead I will look forward to the next forty-sixty years ahead of me. I just know they are going to be fabulous. (Pray for my 99 year old grandpa. He fell and fractured his hip just the other day)

Life is exciting and fun and full of adventures. It's FABULOUS!

(Mom and Dad, I hope reading the ponderings of your 40 year old daughter, doesn't make you feel old. I think you are both amazing and fabulous and I want to be just like you when I grow up)

Exactly One Year Ago: My Very Own Day
Exactly Two Years Ago: Santa Claus is Coming to Town
Exactly Three Years Ago: A Puzzle and a Prize
Exactly Four Years Ago: Happy Birthday to Me --an adventure story

Sunday, December 15, 2013

For Such a Time as This

Way back in August when I was taking my curriculum course, a friend of mine (also taking the course) mentioned that her teenage daughter, Vika, needed some volunteer time for her transcript and  asked if I would mind if she came to spend some time with us at the beginning of December. I said it was a great idea. I knew Troy would enjoy the company—especially if her brother, Andrew, also came.

Then I forgot about it. With all we’ve had going on, I’m not surprised, but I was a little embarrassed when my friend called again just before Thanksgiving to work out the details, I had to quickly think about a program they could help with. 

Not that it’s hard to come up with things volunteers can help with. Not at all. The kids are always in need of time and attention. We have things to build. Things to organize. Lots to do!

With Christmas coming up I was ready to get activities organized and kicked off for the month of December. 

But I had no idea how much I would need those extra hands.

The week Vika and Andrew arrived was crazy! One of our staff members lost her child, a nanny lost her father, and several nannies were down with colds/flus/stomach issues or had to stay home to look after sick loved ones. Yet another staff member was diagnosed with HIV and was told to take time off work to allow the treatment to begin working.  

Tom and Troy were still recovering from a bad cold and then I began to have symptoms. 

To top it off, this was our shopping week, which meant that Tom and I would be out of town for 2 days.

It was quite the welcome for Vika and Andrew. They were so sweet and jumped in to help with anything that was needed. Troy also pitched in wherever and whenever. 

They prepared meals, looked after the kids, supervised Christmas card painting, helped the girls make friendship bracelets and even clipped the nails on all the goats. (I think that is going above and beyond if you ask me)
I'm so grateful I work for a God who sees so far in the future that he would arrange way back in August that two volunteers would land on my doorstep during one of the craziest weeks we've ever experienced here at Kazembe Orphanage. 

And, by the way, for those of you who wonder (and maybe even worry) about this current generation, I’m happy to say there is definite hope for the future. I was so proud of these three teenagers.

Exactly One Year Ago: Not Quite Cinderella -- This details the work I did last year to outfit all our kids with shoes. We urgently need shoes. Click over to the Kazembe Orphanage website --and the how to help button to see how you can help. Thanks!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Tough Questions

Saturday is Family Day. Relatives come to visit the children and spend a little time getting to know them and establishing bonds.

Some relatives are diligent to come, some come every once in a while, and some come only rarely. Some don't come at all. You might remember me writing about how Queenie's dad used to come every Saturday. Then he just stopped coming. We assumed he had passed away--he was quite frail--but the truth was he had gotten a job in the capital city. A few months later he began to call every Saturday or Sunday evening to chat with Queenie. We appreciated the efforts he was making. Then he got remarried. He promised to come for a visit with his new wife to introduce her to Queenie, but that was the last time we heard from him. It's been a couple years with no word.

Peter and Beauty are siblings (the only other sibling set is Luke and Leah), and their father has been pretty good in recent months about coming to visit. Even though he didn't come this week, or perhaps because he didn't, he was apparently on Beauty's mind. 

Saturday evening, as I put the finishing touches on our dinner and the kids washed up the dishes from their supper, one of the nannies approached me to tell me that Beauty had some questions. 

She asked her nanny why her mom never comes to visit. Worried about the right way to answer, the nanny had come to me. I assured her she did the right thing and then shared with her what I was going to say so she could repeat it later should Beauty need extra reassurance. We need to all speak the same thing. I'll be teaching on this during our staff meeting tomorrow as well.

A few minutes later, Beauty came into the kitchen. She had a single tear rolling down her cheek. My heart broke in two seeing that solitary tear. I asked her why she was sad and she said, "My mom never comes to see me". I gathered her into my arms and asked her if she knew why. Then I explained carefully that her mother had been sick and died and went to Heaven (I'm not worried about the theology of that statement right now....) and her father wasn't able to care for her and Peter and feed them, so he found someplace where they would be well cared for and have a bed, and enough to eat.

I assured her that we, Tom and I (mommy & daddy), were her family and that the other kids are her brothers and sisters and that she isn't alone. I also told her it was OK to be sad and that she could come talk about it any time she felt bad again.

She hung out with me for a little bit in the kitchen just chatting. I asked her if she was sad about anything else and she said she was sad that Jasmine had left, and Zeger had left, and she mentioned a few others. Leaving is a constant theme in the lives of these kids, sad to say. I told her how much I missed those people too, and we talked about how some of them are coming back one day. Then I asked her if she knew who would never leave her. She answered, "Yes. Jesus." A few more minutes of chatting and she headed off to bed, seeming to be in better spirits. 

I'm not entirely sure I got it all right. I'm not sure there is a perfect way to tell a child that their mother is not around for them anymore. I am sure that the best thing we can do for the kids is be there and hold their hands and hearts as they mourn their losses, and set them back on their feet pointing toward the future. 

Please hold us in your prayers as we work to meet the needs of all our precious children.

Exactly Four Years Ago: Adventure on the Night Bus

Friday, November 15, 2013

Wearing my Schoolhouse Marm Hat

Things are busy right now.

Since Brent and Sarah left I have been trying to do some school with the kids each day. I do a one-room-schoolhouse type thing for about 45 minutes where I cover a bit of reading and math work trying to pull in all the age groups. We'll talk about time, have the preschoolers say the alphabet, the kindergarteners count by 5s or up to one hundred, and the first graders take turns quoting the ones addition table. We'll go over nouns and sound out some words.

We also sing songs together and I read a chapter from a book. It's not ideal, but they're getting some input.
After that united time, I assign workbook pages and/or activities for the remaining school time which the nannies can then supervise.

I still have to do my regular office work so it's been challenging to keep up with everything.

There have been some important deadlines to meet with working to connect with a new organization, register our future school (we plan to open officially in January) and keep up with records, payroll, etc.

We managed to get a newsletter out last week. You can see it  by clicking here. Take a moment to subscribe too, please.

Our new kittens have also taken up our time. Thankfully they seem to moving well to solid food, but for a while we were having to hand feed them milk. Newborns are tough!

Another big project on my plate is getting out our annual Christmas cards. I designed them and will be having the kids hand paint them over the next week (using homemade watercolors) so we can mail them out next Friday. I'm hoping to get about 100 done. If you have supported Kazembe Orphanage this past year, watch your mail box. 

I'm not complaining, by any means. Life is good and I'm happy with all we're accomplishing. But it does mean I have less time to do some of the things I love--one of them being writing.

I do apologize. I have several adventures to report--Tom falling off a ladder and the ensuing hospital visit is one for the books--and I will get to them eventually.

In the meantime, please feel free to read some of the past posts, and browse through the archives.

Exactly One Year Ago: How to Survive a Queue
(Almost) Exactly One Year Ago: Maggie
(Just Over) Two Years Ago: Africa Wins This Round
Exactly Four Years Ago: Chola

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A Little Hump Day Humor

I've started holding 'office hours' every Tuesday and Thursday for an hour each day. I sit in a little room off our main entry way, and I'm available if the nannies have questions, want to apply for wage advances or loans, or need to fill out forms. It stops 'hallway hit-ups' where I might be caught up in a project and someone approaches me with a request or lengthy question and because my mind is somewhere else, I'm unable to give them my full attention or even best attitude.

Yesterday I was in the little entry room and, as is often the case, Peter was hanging out with me. I'd finished with the few nannies who had come and so I was just reading. Peter was playing with my four color pen, which he'd figured out how to use--to his great delight.

Then, in the distance, across the courtyard, we heard one of the children calling out: "All the boys come! All the boys come! Calling all the boys!"

Something was happening. Something exciting!

Peter's little body quivered with anticipation. He quickly set down the pen and said, "Mom! I have to go!".

He ran out of the room and stood at the top of the steps leading to the courtyard.

Although he was out of my vision, I could hear the outstretched-arms in his voice:

"I'm here! I'm coming!"

But, across the courtyard came an answering call:

"We don't want you, Peter."

Now Peter's voice was tinged with bewilderment.

"But, I'm a boy. I'm a boy! See.....I have a......I have a....."

(I was a little worried at this point. What was he going to produce as proof?)

"I have a boy's haircut!"


I'm not sure what happened later, but Peter never came back, so I hope he was accepted into the group of boys and whatever activity they had going on.

Raising boys is always an adventure!

Exactly Two Years Ago: Peace Like a River
(Almost) Exactly Three Years Ago: Fab Friday Foto--another day, another snake

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Extra Time and Orphan Sunday

Seeing as this is Orphan Sunday, it's only appropriate that we spend our day bottle feeding two new orphaned babies that were left on our doorstep Friday evening.

Meet Potter and Ginny!

They're doing pretty well considering that they are far too young to be away from their mother.

A group of boys brought them to our door Friday afternoon because they were hoping we would give them some money. They wanted to buy notebooks for school.

As much as I sympathised with the boys, and even wanted to help, I couldn't condone catnapping. I asked them to go put the kittens back where they found them.

Later that evening, Troy found the kittens on our doorstep resting on a scrap of clothing.

I've thought about getting another cat, so we're going to make this work. It will be nice to have a cat or two in our house to keep the mice at bay.


This Sunday is also significant because Americans across the U.S turned their clocks back today. Like many of them, I have mixed feelings about this event.

When the U.S 'falls back' in November, we are eight hours ahead. This is nice in one way because it means when I get up in the morning my U.S kids are still up and it isn't all that late for them. On the other hand, if I need to complete any business with a U.S. office, I have to wait until 5 or 6 PM which is very inconvenient.

There is one question I have regarding this whole clock turning back thing. What happens to television programming? Do the clocks change right at midnight? Do they repeat a show? Or do they have an hour of blank screen? Or do they have a whole show chosen just to fill that extra hour? Or does the hour not even really exist? Is it all an illusion?

Please help me figure this out!

One last adorable peek:

Exactly Two Years Ago:  If You Give a Mouse a Cookie

Friday, November 1, 2013

We Have So Much Fun Around Here

October Birthdays: (L-R) Maggie--3, Naomi--2, Ephraim--3, Ana--3, Moriah--5, Beauty--6, Chola--9

We don't have to have a special holiday excuse for a party in October. We have nine reasons to celebrate. That's how many October birthdays we have. Not pictured are Luke and Leah. They just turned 1 year old.

We had a visiting Peace Corps volunteer staying with us for a couple days. He helped me by baking a cake and some sugar cookies so I could come in at the last moment and decorate our themed cake with buttercream frosting and Allsorts candy. I don't think we have this candy in the U.S. It is a type of licorice. I found it at the store last week and was so happy to find the perfect colors.

We didn't have any birthday candles (and I also didn't want a pockmarked cake), so we had Chola blow out the ceremonial candle.

After everyone had cake and cookies, we pulled out two huge trunks filled with costumes and let the kids go up one by one to pull something out and put it on.

It made for some very unique ensembles.

Chola brings to mind the 1980s movie Coming to America. He looks like an exotic African prince or Chief.

We had the music cranked up and the kids danced around the dining room and we played a game of freeze dance. Beauty came in second. Queenie (in the background) came in first.

Johnny was so excited to dress up like Superman. While he was standing on this wall the wind was blowing his cape, but we couldn't quite capture it in the picture.

 Here's almost the whole gang. A couple of the kids were over it by the time we got to pictures. I am so thankful for the variety of costumes and dressy items we have for the kids to play with. They had such a good time!


Of course Troy put together a costume as well. He threw this together in a couple of hours. He's the Pirate Assassin from Assassin's Creed 4.

As much fun as Troy has out here in the bush, he is eagerly awaiting the day when he can join his siblings in the U.S for even more cosplay.

This year my oldest five kids dressed up as characters from Alice in Wonderland. From left to right we have the Ace of Spades, the Queen of Hearts, Alice, the Cheshire cat, and the Mad Hatter.

They won first place prize at their church's Trunk 'n' Treat. They made those costumes from scratch using thrift stores. I'm so proud of them!

Related Posts: What is Missing?
                          Favorite Halloween Memory
                          Don't Try This at Home
                          Halloween Comes to Kazembe

Exactly Two Years Ago: Halloween Brings Out the Weird
Exactly Three Years Ago: Costume Fun
Exactly Four Years Ago: Beautiful Ham (we celebrated her sixth birthday yesterday)


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Never Presume to Assume

Even after all this time of living here in Zambia, I still get caught up by what people may not have been exposed to and therefore never learned.

Several days ago Joseph landed wrong on his leg while jumping on the trampoline. The nannies brought him to me immediately and I couldn't see anything amiss, but his knee seemed tender so I gave him some Arnica and then had them wait and see.

Later that afternoon they brought him to me again and said he'd been crying a lot. He really didn't want his leg messed with so I wrapped his knee in an ACE bandage and gave the nannies a ziploc bag of ice instructing them to wrap it in a cloth diaper and apply to his knee. I also gave him some Ibuprofen and planned to dose him every 8 hours to combat the swelling and pain.

A couple hours later I checked on Joseph while they sat in the dining room watching an Einstein Baby video. I was puzzled when I found a wet, cloth diaper tied around his knee on top of the ACE bandage. "Where is the plastic bag", I asked. It was sitting in the sink--empty--all the ice had been emptied into the cloth diaper and tied around this knee where it slowly melted.

I was tempted to be annoyed, but I realized they had never dealt with ice packs before. How would they know how to best use it?

A couple days later as I closed everything up for the night, I gave the bottle of Ibuprofen to the night nanny and gave her careful instructions on when to give Joseph his next dose. I even had her repeat them back to me to be extra sure.

I had forgotten something important though.....

The next morning when I opened the door for the morning shift, I stopped by the nursery to check on Joseph, and to collect the bottle of Ibuprofen. I don't like to leave medicines down in the nursery where a child could get ahold of them, or they could be given out indiscriminately, or perhaps go missing.

When I picked up the bottle the cap looked odd. I realized that the outside plastic cap had been popped off and was sitting askew while the child-safety mechanism was still on the bottle. It hit me instantly. I had never taught the nanny how to open a child-safe bottle before.

Medicines here are mostly dispensed in ordinary bottles, or tiny plastic bags. No child-proofing here.

Now that I knew my mistake I wondered if Joseph had even been given his medicine as I was told? Had the nanny wrestled with the bottle and given up when the top part of the cap 'broke off'?

I carried the bottle up to the house and Tom and I both tried to figure out if she might have been able to pop the lid off. We tried with all our might to get the lid off and failed. I decided to just wait and see how Joseph did so I didn't overdose him.

The following night I left the bottle down in the nursery again. This time I took time to teach the nanny how to open the bottle. I handed it to her and asked her to open it. She twisted and turned and eventually pulled the lid completely off--liquid flying across the room--but she'd gotten it off. I was shocked! Tom and I had tried with 'all our might' and yet failed. How had this nanny done it? The conclusion we drew was that we are afraid of breaking it. We will take it to a certain point and then hold back because we don't want to spill, damage or destroy the bottle. 

Also, Zambian women have really strong hands.

I did eventually teach her how to open the bottle properly though it took time. "Push and turn at the same time". She would push down. Let go. Then turn. Over and over and over. 

While we see it as a simple, mechanical device, it is mysterious to our staff members and so they can't 'see' how it works. It's just a lack of exposure.

It's not about smarts, it's about experience. I, for instance, have no idea how to plant, harvest, process, and prepare cassava. I could learn, but it would take me a while. 

It's a good thing I am here for the long haul. I have a lot of teaching and learning to do.

P.S. Joseph is doing just fine now. He is using his leg again without any problems. 

Exactly Three Years Ago: Where I Live (some things have changed, but it's close)
Exactly Two Years Ago: The Faces of Kazembe Orphanage

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Rainy Day Activities

This afternoon was rainy. It would be the perfect day to sip hot chai while reading a good book.*

However, when you have 28 children, lounging around is not in the plans.

I walked around the property and took a peek at all the activities going on.

On the front porch I found Tom and some of the older children embroiled in a Star Trek simulation.

In the dining room half the toddlers were busy sorting colored pasta. I have two different tri-color pastas so they can end up with three or six piles.

In the library the rest of the older children had scattered out our animal picture/fact cards. I've had these cards since my oldest children were toddlers. One night, when I was hugely pregnant with baby number four, I organized all the cards perfectly before finally going to bed at 11 PM. At 1 AM I woke up to the sound of childish giggles and found my 3 year old twins happily throwing the flash cards all over their bedroom. I was so upset I went into labor. True story.

Moving along through the orphanage I saw the babies in the playroom with Jane. A new nanny, we have been quite impressed with how well she is doing. Here she is pretending to make a phone call with Leah.

In the next section of the playroom was the rest of the toddler group playing with Duplos. Michael was doing more throwing than building, but he'll learn.

In the final playroom section I found the preschool group stringing pony beads on shoelaces. Later they wore (for a short time) the necklaces and bracelets they made.

Heading back up to my house I discovered a tag-along. Peter decided he wanted to hang out with me, so while I worked on the computer (and watched Junior MasterChef Australia) he colored and chatted away.

What do you like to do on a rainy day?

*Also, what are you reading right now? I'm currently reading Call the Midwife--Farewell to the East End (book 3) and Call the Midwife (the companion book to seasons one and two) and The Shining (a spooky read for October), and In Search of Lucy.


Remember that you can get a jump start on your Christmas shopping by visiting our Ebay shop. Aside from crossing items off your list, you'll know you are helping us all here at Kazembe Orphanage!

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

Almost Like Empty Nesters

I couldn't post Friday or yesterday (so many power cuts), so you get two posts today.

This week we had a few goodbyes.

First, on Wednesday we saw Troy off to camp. This is a first for him. It was quite an experience going over the packing list and making sure we had everything on it.

A very nice missionary family in Lusaka offered to host him before and after the camp since his bus gets in at such an odd hour. He arrived in Lusaka at 3 in the morning and then sat on the bus until daylight so he could catch a taxi to our friends' house. 
It's quite a leap of faith to send your teenage son across the country. We had to give him special instructions since we have been waiting for our new visa book for a year. It's been approved, but we haven't got the actual book. This means that according to our passports we have no visa. We just prayed no one would cause trouble for Troy in the middle of the night. He was fine. 

Our next goodbye was to Brent and Sarah who are traveling back to the States for the Holidays and to do some fundraising for support so they can, God willing, come back next year to teach again. We will definitely miss their hard work with the children. 

The kids will miss them as well. Poor little Nathan and Denny had big tears rolling down their faces as Brent and Sarah rode out the gate down to the bus.

We're hoping to welcome a new teacher very soon to fill in the gap. Please pray for this.

For the first time in a long time, Tom and I have been 'alone'. It's been a very interesting experience. With only the two of us for dinner  I had a chance to cook gourmet. I'm addicted to MasterChef Australia (even the Junior version) and have wanted to try some of the tricks and now I could. Above that is Beef Roast with a Soy Sauce and Onion reduction served with a Cauliflower & Carrot puree and sliced tomatoes with Basil Vinaigrette. Tom's plate also has homemade whole wheat bread.


Looking for a chance to get a jump on your Christmas shopping?

We have the perfect place!

Visit Grandma's Home Store and buy African items from right here in Zambia that will benefit Kazembe Orphanage.

Our coffee mugs and calendars are available for a short time only. The calendar goes all the way through May of next year, so it works with the school year.

There are also hobo bags (AKA book bags)--very popular wiith high school students, and all sorts of interesting knick knacks.

Exactly Three Years Ago: A Little of This and That

Exactly One Year Ago: Baby Updates

Monday, October 14, 2013

Another Birthday!

Our first ever newborn is most definitely not a baby anymore. She is officially a school-age child and has grown up so fast.

You can read her story here: Moriah Memory

Happy Fifth Birthday, Moriah!

We just got word that there is a two-week old baby, in the village, who just lost its mother to HIV. We haven't yet heard from the family, but we hope that if they do need our help that they come sooner rather than later. Pray for the baby either way.

Exactly Two Years Ago: Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? (Naomi just turned two! Where does the time go??)
Exactly Three Years Ago: African Travel Truths
Exactly Four Years Ago: Pardon Me This Moment (another baby post--'tis the season)

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Birthday Boys

We've entered the birthday season here at Kazembe Orphanage.

We had 4 birthdays in August, and one in September.

Because of all we had going on we just now got around to having a birthday party for those five boys, Joseph (2), Peter (4), Denny (4), Johnny (8), and Elias (9).

Here are a couple of the pictures:

Peter is always ready to smile for the camera!

And speaking of mugging for the camera:

Tom kept photobombing during the party.

In the pictures the frosting looks lovely, fluffy and yellow. But, I'm going to let you in on a little secret. I was super pressed for time and ended up baking the cake just an hour or two before the party. There wasn't time for it to cool down in order to have buttercream frosting. I quickly whipped up a batch of cooked custard and spread that over the cake. It was warm and yummy. 

Tom even said, "Hey! I think this is better than my birthday cake!" Which means I shouldn't have spent so many hours carefully crafting his. ha ha.

This month we have nine birthdays. November has two. For those keeping track, that is 16 birthdays in four months. The other 12 are spread over the remaining 8 months.

I teased the nannies that the reason for this is that 9 months ago it was rainy season and planting was all done. People got bored.

Somehow they weren't amused.....

I chuckled anyway. 'Cause I'm mature that way.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

My Weekend in Pictures

My Saturday was off to a flying start when I was awakened (I rest extra long on Saturday mornings) to the news that Jack had been hit in the head by a swing and had a large cut. Sure enough it was over an inch long and quite deep.
After bandaging his head with gauze to protect from the dusty road, I sent him off to the clinic with a nanny and that was that.

However, four hours Jack and his nanny returned with a fresh bandage, but no stitches. "They didn't have the supplies they needed", she said. But! They did send him home with antibiotics. Of course! I was so angry I was shaking and had to lie down. I made a phone call, tracked down a doctor (making sure he had anesthetics and suture materials) and took Jack and nanny back down.

I was told that we had to bring our own gloves. And then when we got there we were told we had to provide our own razor blades so his head could be shaved a bit. Fridah ran to the market for some blades and we were ready.

I'm just grateful we didn't have to come up with needle and thread--it's happened before!

Jack did amazingly well as three stitches were quickly put in. I let him play on the tablet and the colorful shapes helped to distract him. He did push the doctor's hand away after the first two stitches, saying he was all done.

I'm sure it won't surprise you that I had to ask for the third stitch. There was a gaping hole at the bottom of the wound but the doctor was putting everything away as if he were done. When I asked if he was only going to do two stitches, he said yes, but seeing the look on my face quickly amended to: "I can do another if you like!" Ummm, yes, please.

He was also released from the clinic without any bandaging at all (see the first picture), so I'm taking care of the wound myself.

The next morning as I walked around checking on things, I noticed a mama goat suffering and crying. I first thought she had broken her leg as she seemed to be struggling to stand, but then I noticed something that changed my mind.
A few minutes later, this little guy (or gal) dropped out.

I know understand why some people turn a little green around the topic of childbirth. I'll deal with open wounds and childbirth in humans any day of the week. I am decidedly not cut out to be a veterinarian!

Tom was invited to lead communion, or The Lord's Supper for one of the village churches today. At eight this morning he asked me to bake the communion bread. And, by the way, it needs to be done by 10. I had a recipe saved from the last time he led this type of service so I pulled it out and multiplied by four in order to have enough for up to 150 people. That is about 5 pounds worth of flour there! It weighed a ton as I kneaded it by hand. My biceps are sore!

The finished product all ready to go.

There were about 80 people in attendance. It was a very good service and they were thankful for Tom's help. Brent and Sarah accompanied him so they could see how this church operates.

Meanwhile, Troy and I led Children's Church. I pulled all the kids into action by having them come to the front and be different characters from the Bible. I would then ask the rest of the kids about this person. We're going through the Jesus Storybook Bible for the second time and are up to Joseph, so we only used characters leading up to that.
Above we have Abraham, Sarah and baby Isaac. (forgive the blurriness, it was hard to hold a wriggling baby)

Here you can see Jacob and his two wives. I'm glad the kids didn't remember that one of the wives was supposed to be ugly and call out this fact. That would have been awkward.

I was surprised by how much the kids enjoyed this little review. They love pretending and seeing the peers pretend as well.

In the midst of all this I baked three loaves of bread in the sun ovens and also made some banana bread. It's been a busy, busy weekend.

How is your weekend shaping up?

(Almost) Exactly One Year Ago: Signs of Summer (weird that this year we have rain already)
(Almost) Exactly Two Years Ago: Joy in the Morning
Exactly Three Years Ago: Physician, Heal Thyself

Friday, October 4, 2013

Flashback Friday-- People Still Do That??

Earlier this year I traveled to Kansas to visit a small town and do some speaking at a few different venues. This town is one of my favorite stops on my fundraising tours. I won't mention the name for a reason which will become obvious later.

I had to fly into a city nearby on a teeny-tiny plane. I surprised myself by not freaking out and though I was extremely nervous--I could see the pilots and wondered why they kept referring to their manuals (Don't they have this down by now?!?)--I survived. Whew!

My sweet friend and her daughter picked me up from the itty-bitty airport and we drove to the next town. On the way she told me that the arrangements for my lodging had changed a bit as my hosts (wonderful farmers that had hosted me the previous year as well, and become friends) had to attend a sudden funeral and would therefore not be at home after the first night.

Hospitable people that they were, they offered their home up still. They said I was free to stay there for the three nights I'd be in town. Even their pickup truck was available should I need it. Like I said, wonderful people!

The surprise for me came when they showed me around and did not leave house keys for me. Apparently the doors remain unlocked all the time! Say what?? 

I'm all for small town innocence and love the idea that everyone is looking after one another, but after all these years in Africa where we have gates, and walls, and padlocks, it's a little daunting.

Since I was staying in the basement guestroom, I asked if it would be alright if I locked the doors at night. They chuckled, but said that was fine.

I loved the wide open spaces that evening as I rested in the living room with wrap around windows that showed off the Kansas sky at its finest. 

However, when bedtime came, I walked around and locked each and every door. 

The next morning I woke up so well-rested, it was a delightful feeling. 

When I got upstairs I noticed that the driveway was empty. There had been a pickup parked there. Where had it gone?? My hosts had told me that they leave the keys in it cause, "if someone wants badly enough to steal it, at least they don't have to break in". 
Now the truck was missing! My first day alone at their house and I'd allowed their truck to be stolen!

I did not look forward to explaining this to my friend who was coming over to collect me for that day's speaking engagements. 
As I got things together for my breakfast I heard the garage door handle rattling. I hurried over to open it and found the farm hired hand looking at the door with a bewildered look on his face. "The door was locked", he muttered as he handed me that day's mail. I apologized for my silly insecurities. "Oh, by the way", he mentioned in passing, "it looked like a storm so we moved the truck". Oh thank heavens!! I didn't lose it!

I'm so glad that small towns like that still exist in the world. It's just a little too stressful for me.

Exactly One Year Ago: The Joys of Teaching & Knowledge

Monday, September 30, 2013

Who Ever Heard of Being Scared of Car Washes?

Warning! Long post ahead. Grab a cup of coffee and settle in. Amy's Adventures Continue!
When last we left our hapless heroine she had suffered anoverload of adrenaline and was now driving down to Lusaka after getting a good night’s sleep:

Getting those first two hours of driving, from Kazembe to Mansa, out of the way that terrible day last month was a good move. It meant that I was fresh for the boring stretch of driving. About an hour east of Mansa the road is straight, flat and fairly empty. Few other cars or trucks pass you, and the huts are scattered apart. This goes on for about 3-4 hours.

I kept myself alert by belting out the lyrics to Queen, or beating a rhythm on the steering wheel along with Muse, or crooning along with country legends. When we finally made it past the tough 4 hour stretch, Troy begged for a bit of quiet.  You know, something’s wrong when your teenager complains that your music is too loud……

Pulling out my headphones I began playing my audio book, Jayber Crow. It doesn’t really have a plot so if I leave it for a week or two I can still pick up where I left off. One lesson I learned with this book: When listening to an audio book on your mp3 player, make sure the shuffle option is turned off. When I first started listening to Jayber Crow I couldn’t make heads or tails of what was going on. Since it didn’t have a plot, I didn’t notice at first that I was jumping from chapter one to chapter 14 to chapter six. I ended up having to start all over again.

Anyway, back to my journey.

I had planned to make a stop around the six hour mark for lunch and then the nine hour mark for coffee. People kept telling me that I absolutely had to have coffee at a place called the Fig Tree Café about an hour and a half north of Lusaka.

First though was lunch in Mkushi. The gas station there has a toilet (fee paying, of course) and a little restaurant and convenience store. We could fill up, stretch our legs, and get a bite to eat. My first clue that things weren’t going to go to plan was when we pulled up to the gas pumps and the attendant  (all gas stations are full-service) couldn’t even be bothered to stand up and greet us or ask how much gas we wanted. 

Next I went to the bathrooms and found that they were filthy. The whole point of paying to use the toilets is that presumably they use the money to keep them clean. Not so much. I fought the guy collecting the money, but realized it wasn’t really his responsibility—and he probably has some sort of quota to fulfill.

Then we went into the restaurant and found about five employees milling about, but no one made eye contact or offered to take our order. Eventually we got someone’s attention and ordered some food.  I went next door to the convenience store for some snacks and found the radio playing so loudly the store could have been mistaken for a night club. The two cashiers there merrily gossiped away, completely ignoring me. 

At this point I’d had enough. I tracked down the manager and lo and behold I found him sitting on a freezer, swinging his legs and wearing a sleeveless t-shirt (AKA a wife-beater) at work! He listened politely enough to my concerns and told me how sorry he was, but even though I left my number so his boss could follow up, I’ve never heard back. It’s so sad that business is treated in such a slip-shod way.

There was no way I could eat a leisurely lunch now. I was too angry. So, I told Troy to get back in the car. We could have a break when we got to the Fig Tree.

Two hours later we saw the sign for the Fig Tree Café. Boy, was I excited!  I was ready for a break, and just knew the coffee was going to hit the spot perfectly. 

When we pulled into the small parking lot, I was surprised to see no cars. Then I noticed the sign. Open daily from 6 AM to 6 PM, Monday through Saturday.

Guess what day it was?

Yep. Sunday.

I could have cried. 

At this point I’d been driving since 6 AM and it was now around 3 PM. That’s 9 hours of nearly full on driving. I just wanted to get where we were going.

Finally at 4 PM we reached Lusaka. When I organized a place where Troy could stay while I took my week of classes I specified that he would have access to the two main shopping malls so he could hang out, watch movies, and use the internet cafes for social media and some school. The sweet family that offered to take him in said that was no problem. 

What I didn’t realize was that they lived on the other side of town, but they worked near this mall. So while I thought my driving was nearly over, I had a good ways to go yet. Before we hit the road again, Troy and I had a coffee at one of the coffee shops. I was exhausted and hot, so when Troy ordered an ice coffee, I ordered one as well. This was my first mistake. There was probably half a cup of sugar in there. This decision would haunt me later.

Once we’d rested a bit, I got directions to our new missionary friends’ house—located in a section of Lusaka where I rarely ventured.  I followed the directions carefully and found the missionaries’ house with no problems. They lived in a nice gated community (most houses here have large walls and gates for security) and I was sure Troy would be just fine.  

I now had to get back on the road and head to the place where my classes would be held--on the complete opposite side of town again. And this is where I made my second mistake. My instincts told me I should back track through the directions I’d followed till I came to a familiar section and then head south. It was a bit more out of the way, but I knew I could do it.

However, Troy’s host suggested I take a different route. He was very sweet and drew me a map. I looked it over and thought I could do it. Life lesson: follow your instincts. 

By now it was dark. I got out to the main road and followed the map until I came to a section of town called Woodlands. (There are no woods—not sure why the name…) Here was a roundabout. According to the map I needed to take the street to the left. Only trouble—there were actually two lefts. Instead of having four streets, this roundabout had five. 

So, as you can probably guess, I ended up on the wrong street. And this is where I made yet another mistake. Once I realized I was on the wrong street, instead of turning around, I tried to cut across to the correct street. Huge mistake!

I ended up driving up and down dark, dirty, unmarked and unlit streets. I saw countless sketchy nightclubs and car washes. Why on earth were there so many car washes? And what were they doing open at night? They must be criminal enterprises. Even though they were well lit, there was no way I would stop there for directions!

While there were many people on the road, I was hesitant to stop lest I be robbed or worse, and also, I realized that most pedestrians would use public transport and not know how to give directions.

In desperation I called Tom in the States. I can count on maybe two hands the times I’ve been lost in my life. Tom on the other hand has learned the beauty of using a GPS. I called him now in tears, “how on earth do you handle this feeling??” He chuckled and said you get used to it. His helpful advice was just to keep driving. I glanced down at my gas tank and figured with a half tank I’d probably survive. 

Finally I spotted a gas station and stopped. Not that I needed the gas necessarily, but it was a well-lit place where I could get directions. Naturally I desperately needed to use the facilities as well. Being so nervous wasn’t helping matters in that respect. Nor was the huge ice coffee I’d had earlier. Not to mention my blood sugar was in the basement as well. Note to self: Never, never, but never, drink sweetened ice coffee again!

After asking three different people for directions and getting the same answer (very important to do in cultures where they love to make you happy and will therefore say anything as long as you leave satisfied) I drove off down the road and after one or two more scary moments (I was nearly hit by a mini-bus & I had to drive through a dark and deserted part of town that is hardly recommended during the day, much less late at night) I finally got on track and back to a part of the city that I knew well. 

I pulled into the property where I’d spend the next week,  with my knees knocking and my stomach trembling, but I was safe. I’d been driving almost non-stop for 14 hours. 

Spending the next five days in a classroom would be a breeze after all I’d been through, right? 

Stay tuned….

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