Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Jumping Ship

I'm moving the blog. To view the new blog, the new link is

Don't get left behind.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Right Now

Right now, I'm on a caffeine buzz and can't sleep. Granted, it's only 9:25 pm, but hey, we live in the boonies and pull an early bedtime, so I've already been laying in bed next to my sleeping husband for quite some time. I think the situation is exacerbated because it's also a guilt-infused buzz. You see, I sneaked the Pepsi off of which I am feeling the caffeine effects. We usually only have Pepsi on Fridays..pizza and 'coco-lala' (the three year old's interpretation) night. It's Thursday and I stashed one in the freezer and sipped it from a child's cup while giving Daisy her bath. Thankfully, Caleb doesn't read this or I'd be sunk.

Right now, Ezra's temperature is 97.7. Given that yesterday afternoon, it was 105.1, I am breathing easier and giving thanks. Somehow over the past four months, I've become something of an alarmist. A fever doesn't seem like a fever to me anymore. A fever seems to be hiding a catastrophe beneath the hot forehead and the creeping numbers on the thermometer. I feel like I lost my immunity when Daisy had her seizure. So, right now, I'm working on "Do not be anxious about anything..."

Right now, Elsa has passed the 'misbehaving' baton on to Ezra. Given that she had it firmly in hand for the past 2 months, it's about time she let someone else carry the torch for her. Ezra has taken up the slack with gusto and is quite the pill. Here's a typical conversation we have multiple times a day:
  Me: "Ezra, please pick up your cars."
  Ezra: "No, I won't do it."
  Me: "Oh. Do you want to rethink that response or would you  like some stool time to help you?"
  Ezra: "No, I don't WANT to sit on the stool!" (tosses a car for good measure)
  Me: "Okay. I can help you onto the stool or you can climb up there yourself. You have until my fingers get to five to decide."
  Ezra: "I don't LIKE this house! I don't like it forever!"
  Me: "Hmm. Well, you can go live at the workshop. I'm sure Lochama will share his mosquito net with you. But you have to take off your favorite blue pocket shirt. That stays in my house."
  Ezra: "Okay. I DO like this house. But I won't be happy!"
Good thing the boy has been sick the last two days. Otherwise. Otherwise. Okay, I don't actually have an otherwise. It's all hour by hour around here.

Right now, I'm reading the "Mitford" books by Jan Karon. I'm almost embarrassed but can't be because the things are just so darn well-written. Since I'm writing about 'right now' and this is what I'm reading, I can't substitute something more scholarly and smart-sounding. But there you have it. I LOVE FATHER TIM.

Right now, I have a box full of homeschooling books sitting in my pantry. Last week, I received one of two boxes of my Sonlight kindergarten curriculum. I put off opening it as long as possible but finally summoned my courage last night. Silly me. For someone who loves books, I should have known that handling all of those beautiful, brand-new books would have been enough to light the fire. I have "The Wizard of OZ" and Richard Scarrey's "Please and Thank You Book" and "The Boxcar Children" and about 30 other titles in my care that I now get to share with my kiddos. What was so daunting about this homeschooling stuff anyhow? (I'm sure it will all come slamming back, but please, let me have my little honeymoon here.)

Right now, I can't get enough of The Fray and Coldplay. I'm new to hop the Coldplay bandwagon, I never really went for the whole "it was all yellow" craze. But I like music that makes me feel something. And they do. I tried to go for that Owl City smorgasbord of ping-y sound, but to be honest, it makes me want to throw the ipod across the room. Too...happy.

Right now, my heart aches for our friends Nanuk and Marta. A few days ago we sent Marta to the closest hospital (about 6 hrs away) because at 4 1/2 months pregnant, she was losing the baby, but the presentation of the miscarriage was off and needed surgical intervention. We've not heard exactly how she's doing, only received a message that she lost a lot of blood and needed a family member to come to donate blood to the hospital's bloodbank to 'repay' the blood given to Marta. Right now, I'm again trying to learn the lesson of "do not be anxious about anything..." Marta and Nanuk have a 2 year old, Aster. I can really only get out "Lord, have mercy" before I stumble on what to say next.

Right now, the youngest child has Daddy all wrapped up around her tiny finger. Caleb is smitten with Daisy. He'd be embarrassed for me to tell you how many times a day he tells me "she's so cute." So I won't. But it's upwards of what you can count on two hands. He likes to take her in the evenings...after she's eaten and bathed and the top of her head smells like a new morning...and they walk around and look at the chickens and inspect the garden and check the overflow from the water tank to the sudan trees. Sometimes I have to go hunt her down to put her to bed before she conks on his shoulder. He has a hard time giving her up in the evenings.

Right now, my favorite thing the kids say is something they've picked up from Ezra's favorite movie "Cars". There is a part where Lightning McQueen has been dumped by Mack and is chasing another 18 wheeler thinking that he is chasing Mack. He catches up to the other truck and gets blasted--"I'm not a Mack, I'm a Peterbilt, for dang's sake! Turn on your lights, you moron!" (Yes, I did do all of that from memory. Just let me know if you'd like another selection from a wide range of Disney films.) Well, the kids are a little confused. They like to call each other "Boron". I have no intention of correcting them.

Right now, I'm consumed by questions regarding Africa and her problems. I wonder why the so-called answers only raise more questions. And right now, I fight a cynical heart. No, rather, I confess a cynical heart. And try to remember that for right now, the most important thing is more simple than all of the project proposals and aid dollars and dismaying displays of wasted money and the whys and why nots...it's simply, light a candle. Right now.

Right now, I'm tired. My caffeine is wearing off and I know that Daisy is going to be waking me up way too early. So, for right now, good-night.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Daisy at 8 months

I'm not sure what it is about chronicling a baby's first year in such detail, maybe because right before your eyes you watch a whole person come into being. The wonder of that can never really be quelled and begs to be shared. So here we go.
Daisy is a very rewarding little girl. It's like every part of her is saying "Thanks so much for bringing me into this world. I'm really enjoying myself here." For example, she eats like there is no tomorrow. I have yet to find a food that she doesn't like. The only time I have ever seen her spit something out was when she had her first taste of injera, which I can't really blame her. Until injera gets into your soul, it is not unlike how Paul Theroux describes it--'a damp old bathmat'--in his book, Dark Star Safari. No airplane buzzing to cajole her into opening her mouth necessary, she's like a little machine. And she smiles. A lot. She just likes looking at people, and positively lights up when Elsa or Ezra comes around. Plus, (my personal favorite), she says "mama." Yes, I realize it is just the sound right now. But Elsa and Ezra were stingy with their 'mama' sounds. They started out with 'dada' (terribly unfair, in my opinion) and went straight to 'papa'. I think 'mama' finally made an appearance sometime after they each turned one. But Daisy. She's discovered that
satisfying 'mmm' sound and is going to town. I've never heard it said with such enthusiasm. I love it.

She adores Elsa and Ezra, like I said before. She smiles with her whole body, the way only a baby can, when one of them comes into her field of vision. Elsa fully embraces her role as 'big sister' and is one hundred
percent forgiving and tolerant of the fact that Daisy is in fact, a baby, and not simply a smaller version of herself, as Ezra seems to think. As soon as Daisy started to go on the offensive and get into his things, Ezra
decided she was fair game and he was clearly justifiable in pushing heraway, picking her up to relocate her, or bestow on her the full extent of his annoyance at her baby-ness. Elsa doesn't like to hear her cry, and once
we started letting Daisy work out some sleep issues on her own, Elsa would howl from bed, "Mama!! Get Daisy!"

Daisy's favorite activities are splashing in the sink, watching Bauer swim, and sitting in Grandma's swing and watching the pigeons strut and flutter. She also has a thing about poles, so I'm thinking either a future in birds
(I'm blanking on the right word for someone who studies birds--where is Google when I need it?) or as a pole dancer. The jury is still out but I'm confident when the time comes that she'll make the right choice.
Papa calls her DeeDee. The way he says it I know will stick with her for all of her life. She'll be 24, 45, 72, and still recall "My Papa used to call me DeeDee. He's the only one." She smiles when she hears his voice calling hername.

Yesterday morning she officially started to crawl. She's been doing the whole scooting backward-rocking back and forth-going from knees to backside-thing for a couple of weeks now, and yesterday morning she finally put it all together. She saw something she wanted and went and got it. Look out, world. One day shy of 8 months, she's a full month younger than Elsa was when she crawled, and a full 2 1/2 months younger than Ezra (he carried some serious girth with him to maneuver, poor kid). This proclivity to grow up fast is something I'm going to need to have a talk with her about. I don't think I'll be able to stand for that.
Happy 8 months, little girl.

I'm not a crafty person

Yet, both of my kids are. In their own ways.

 Elsa eats up anything that has to do with paper, glue, scissors and crayons.
 The girl is seriously creative. Thankfully, she doesn't seem to hold it
 against me (not yet, at least) that I don't share her aptitude for taking an
 old sock and turning it into an elephant. But today I decided I should throw
 her a bone and dig out The Collosal Craft Kit. That's its name. Which seemed
 entirely promising to me, surely I could pull together some beautiful and
 interesting craft project from The Collosal Craft Kit. (On a side note, I
 did not purchase The Collosal Craft Kit. My non-crafty eyes would have slid
 right over that particular object in Target. My mother did, and I wouldn't
 be at all surprised if one of her 5 love languages is actually crafts.) It's
 all there...pipe cleaners, stickers, foam sheets, scissors, a tiny tube of
 glue (don't they know that preschoolers love glue?), balls of fluff, googly
eyes, sequins. I pulled all of the items out and was sitting in my own
 little personal craft hell. But I straightened my shoulders, certainly a
 little butterfly wouldn't get the best of me, right?

Oh, no. The little eyes don't stick, the balls of fluff meant to be its body
 only want to stick to MY body, because I'm half covered in glue, and there
are sequins stuck all over my table and pink fluff adhered to my fingertips
and the antenna won't stick on its darn head (which looks like it went
 through some ill-advised genetic mutation). I thought I was nearly
 done...Elsa was happy with her butterfly and was contemplating a whole
 butterfly family (Lord, help), when Ezra comes inside and sees all the
 hullabaloo and decides he, too, wants to make a craft. So we whip out a
 little dragonfly meant to be a magnet, but really it looks more like
 what's-that-little-green-guy's-name?--GUMBY. And the magnet curls up and
 Ezra doesn't care a bit because he actually doesn't care a wit about crafts.

 I'm saved because it starts raining. (Raining!) Big drops, each spaced about
 1 foot and a half apart, but enough for Elsa and Ezra to grab their umbrella
 and go gallavanting off into the rain. They like the rain. So I get to sit
 at the table and pick glue off of my fingers (the best part of the whole
 project) and contemplate never ever doing another craft in my entire life.
 I'll ask Grandma to do craft time when it comes time to homeschool.

 Elsa comes home to begin work on her butterfly family...the auntie and the
daddy and the baby to go with the already-finished mama...and I realize Ezra
is quiet and I don't know where he is. Daisy and I set out toward Grandma's
 house when I discover my other crafty child. HIS idea of crafty is holing up
 under the umbrella with toes sticking out, chugging syrup straight from the
 bottle that he swiped from Grandma's pantry.

What on earth, child?

Friday, October 1, 2010

It is a Sixth Sense

A few nights ago Elsa was sent to bed early for some infraction that I no longer remember the details of. I'd given her a choice of consequences--either she could 'pay' me with her dessert at dinnertime, or she could choose an early bed time. Smart girl that she is, she decided on the early bedtime. Although once bedtime rolled around and the consequence came to call, she conveniently forgot that she had been given a choice and became very upset at the injustice of going to bed without a bedtime story while Ezra was allowed to stay up and hear a story. When Caleb went upstairs to give her an extra hug and tell her goodnight, he asked her why she was so upset. Elsa's response made me realize I am fully a mother in every sense of the word:

 "Because everytime I do something bad, Mama always finds me!

Good girl. Now if only she'd remember that BEFORE the next time she decides to shove her brother in the dirt and sit on his head.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Do You Know What Your Kids are Doing?

It's an ominous question. The resulting answer can never be anything good.
Three examples:
 A few days ago I made a lemon meringue pie because we had guests coming and the lemons are exploding off of the trees and there is no better dessert at Omo than a lemon pie. It was a gorgeous pie. The meringue was perfect--light golden peaks, white valleys, the meringue thick but light. It was chilling in the refrigerator for the afternoon, I was sitting on the floor with Daisy in the living room. I noticed that the refrigerator door was swinging open, and got up to go close it. When I reached the door, I realized the reason that the door was open was because a certain three year old was standing in the fridge. Eating the meringue off of my pie by fingerfuls. I looked over at Caleb's mom, sitting in the living room, "Do you know what this child is doing?

We've recently acquired my kind of pet: Yertle the Turtle. He's tiny. He comes out once every morning to munch on a lettuce leaf, leave a tiny pile of poo for me to clean up, and then disappears for the rest of the day. I love him. His morning excursion is right at breakfast time. So a couple of mornings ago, I had placed Daisy on the kitchen floor to wait for me to finish getting her breakfast together and then went into the bathroom for a minute. Caleb comes in from letting out the chickens and calls me from thekitchen, "Joanna. Do you know what Daisy is doing in here?" I enter the kitchen to see Daisy, Yertle in hand, gnawing on his shell. Quite likely, she is the only child to ever have done her teething on a live turtle.

  I had a bad night last night. Daisy was up for hours and I didn't sleep much. So this morning, when Elsa and Ezra were out of the house for a long period of time, I really didn't pay much attention to it, I was more focused on enjoying the quiet house than peering through my hazy fog of tiredness to really wonder what they were up to for so long. Close to lunchtime, Caleb yelled over from near the workshop, "Joanna! Do you know what the kids are doing?" Uh oh. I walked over toward the shop and down to the water's edge. The Omo has flooded in the past two weeks and we have floodwater much closer to our house right now than the usual river's edge that is down a strip of grass and outside our fence. Elsa and Ezra were sitting in the canoe that we use to pole across the floodwater, fishing. Somehow they had gathered everything necessary--my broom to make a fishing pole, a long string for line, one of Caleb's major hooks that he uses for his perch line, and a frog. Which Elsa had baited on the hook by herself. (The child is fearless) Resourceful, aren't they? I meant to get a picture of the two of them with their makeshift fishing pole, but Caleb swiped their hooks before someone lost an eye.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Sick Baby

Let's start with the good news first: Daisy is fine. On the mend, getting better, looking good, fine. But we had some scares over the last week. We returned home from Addis last Friday. On Sunday night, Daisy woke up about an hour after putting her to bed and when I went to put her pacifier back in her mouth, I felt her head and she was hot. Her fever was 104.2. I got her up, we draped her with cold wash clothes, dosed her with Tylenol, and put her back to bed. I was pretty sure this was the start of malaria--she was 10 days post-exposure to being bitten in a high-malaria area where we stay the night on our travels in and out of Addis, and although she sleeps under a net, I don't have her on an anti-malarial. I started her on a treatment dose of malarone and she was basically fever-free all day Monday, until late Monday evening when her fever started to go back up. I was sitting by her on the couch as she slept, feeling the heat radiating off of her small head, when she went into a seizure. I yelled for Caleb and he came running from the workshop, Caleb's mom came running from her house, and none of us knew what to do. Any kind of head knowledge goes out the window when it's your own kid lying there. She stopped seizing after about 2 1/2 mintues and Caleb scooped her up, completely non-responsive. I know the term 'post-ictal non-responsiveness', but that does nothing to describe how it feels to look at your child and see all the life drained out of her. Come back. Come back to me. She revived after about 90 seconds, and Caleb took her to the bath tub and soaked her with cold water. At that point, it was about 6:15 pm, and we had to decide what to do. All I knew is that I could not be at home again if she had another seizure.

We decided to take her to the hospital. That is like deciding, if you live in Seattle, to take your kid to Northern California to get to a doctor. We left our house, got in our boat, drove upriver 25 minutes to where our car is parked, loaded our car, and started to drive through the night to get to the hospital. We arrived in the town where we usually spend the night around 2:30 am, and since Daisy was keeping her fevers down, we decided to rest for a couple of hours. We woke up at 5 am and continued on to the hospital, another 3 hours away. We got to the hospital in Soddo, a private hospital that has a number of foreign doctors and is home to friends of ours that we could crash with. We took Daisy to get lab work done, came back with a negative malaria smear and her CBC all over the place. In consulting with our organization's doctor in Addis, she becomes most concerned about Daisy's bloodwork being all out of whack, and suggests getting a repeat CBC done. It is common for malaria smears to be negative, but that doesn't necessarily mean that she didn't have malaria. We find out that the lab at the hospital is actually not all that trustworthy because of under-trained lab technicians, and so decide to leave the next day to drive a further 4 hours to Awassa, a town where hopefully we'll be able to get some accurate labs drawn. We both found it impossible to return home with the question hanging that something else might be going on with Daisy.

Wednesday afternoon we had a repeat CBC done on Daisy and it came back all clear. Her fevers were abating after finishing her malarone treatment and we decided to head home on Thursday, another 11 hour day to reach our house from Awassa. So this is how we take care of our sick children--when they are at their worst, we pack them in the car to endure 30 hours over bumpy roads. Good.

Despite the bloodwork scare, we are quite certain that Daisy just has malaria. The malarone treatment hasn't quite taken care of the malaria completely, and so two days ago her fevers returned and we started her on coartem. Her fevers have been lower though--running only 100 to 101 rather than the panic-inducing 104.

We're thankful for a lot of things in the midst of this scare. We're thankful that we could leave Elsa and Ezra with Caleb's parents. We're thankful for the NUMEROUS concerned doctors who gave us advice and help. We're so thankful for the friends who let us stay with them, in Soddo and in Awassa. And we are SO thankful for all of the prayers offered up on our behalf. We are incredibly blessed.

I have hated this experience. It has accentuated the extreme hopelessness I feel in the midst of one of the kids being sick, and how much I dislike being the one responsible for making the right call when it comes to their health. But here is what I hold to. On Monday night, when we were getting our car out of the shipping container where we park it, I walked over to wait at the house of the Icealandic couple who live on that compound. I told them what had happened, trying not to lose it, and Kalli walked over to a little box and pulled out a little index card. The card had written on it a verse in Icealandic, and Kalli read it to me and then got his English Bible and read it to me in English. It said, "The Lord is close to all who call on him, yes, to all who call on him sincerely." Psalm 145:18.

I tucked it in my pocket and carried that verse I could not read but knew in my heart for the rest of the journey.