Showing posts from 2011

A look at some numbers

300: Number of poopy diapers we’ve changed in the last 15 weeks, which averages out to 20 per week, or 2.8 per day. How do I know this? In South Africa I bought 3 packs of 100 small, scented “diaper bags” to throw away the toxic waste that seems so unending and to keep our bathroom from being dangerous to our health. They lasted just over 3 months. We’ve really got to get Isaac potty-trained!!!

1000: Number of kilometers that Chad has run in the past 12 months. That man can keep a new-years’ resolution! I tease him that even his hobbies have to be goal-oriented, but I guess it works for him. When he started running again in January, he decided to try for “a million meters” for the year, and this morning he got his final 6k. The only problem? Next year I just know he’ll have to beat his record.

249: Number of species of bird Chad has seen since July. One more to go for him to meet his goal for the year. Did I mention anything about his hobbies being goal-oriented? Malawi has a lot of c…

And the holidays are upon us, I guess

I spent last Friday night at an out-door Carol-Sing picnic in the heat of the African evening. It was wonderful to sing Christmas carols in the moonlight while cooling down after a hot day…everyone should get to experience a steamy holiday season!! And with no TV commercials, no radio jingles, and no malls, I’m feeling quite unstressed about the upcoming season. Of course, it didn’t even occur to me to start the advent calendar until the kids pointed out that we’re already 7 days late. We’ll get Christmas stuff out this weekend—what’s a few more days when it seems so out of place!?!

Chad finished his term last Friday, not a day too soon. It was an exhausting term with teaching 4 classes. We tried to celebrate with friends at a new hamburger joint, but it didn’t go so well. Isaac was crawling over the booth walls to interfere with other people’s fancy dates, they gave the kids balloons and within minutes I was getting pummeled by all 4 of them while trying to carry on a conversation wit…

The Rest of the Family

I gave you all an update on Omara last week, but didn't talk about the rest of us much. Since the internet is actually working and the power is on, I thought I'd let you know how we all are.

Anya is thriving, as always, though she has started showing increased impatience with the numerous petty rules their school has. Maybe it's our "baggage" from having attended a petty-rule boarding school ourselves, but Chad and I find it hard to be supportive of dumb rules, too. Especially in a country where basic living is difficult--mandatory meetings 2 hours after school gets out when it's taking 14 hours of waiting in line to get fuel???? Come on!!!! Anyway, we've figured out how to define the teeny-bopper years. It's the stage in which girls have teen-aged attitudes about childish things. Case in point? She said after watching Alvin and the Chipmunks 2, voice dripping with too-coolness, hand on the hip and hair flipped back, "I thought the Chipmunks were…

Baby's growing up

I now have a 1 year-old! Funny—1 seemed a lot older on my first child than my fourth. Omara is still very much a baby in some ways. I look forward to no diapers, to her feeding herself, getting herself dressed, not needing to be held all day long. But then again, we’re headed in the right direction! She’s chattering non-stop. Not much is coherent, but at this rate she’ll be talking before we can understand Isaac! She’s taken 4 steps, though she still prefers the crawl. And she’s just as cute as she ca n be.

It’s been such an exhausting last month, I spent too many days last week thinking how I should plan a party and then knowing that I didn’t have the energy for it, and then feeling like a terrible mom as I wondered how easy it would be to fake some pictures so she wouldn’t know she never got a 1-year party! But Friday morning a co-worker texted us all that she felt like having a get-together at their house “just for the fun of it.” I know it was God, protecting my heart from more gu…

1 Day to Go!

I can't believe Chad will be home tomorrow! All in all, it's gone better than I expected it would. Yesterday the kids woke up as holy terrors, consistent with it being a Sunday! I had true fear and trembling about taking them all to church, but I had committed in my spirit that I needed to show them how important church is, so off we went. And after a pep-talk in the parking lot, they were amazing during the whole service!!! All 4 of them! Thank you, LORD! I find few things more frustrating than getting us all ready for church and then missing out on the whole service because of bad behavior, so they really blessed me by shaping up. Of course, that's not to say there weren't hard moments in of the list would be Isaac climbing off the potty while I answered the gate and peeing on my bed instead, or maybe the incident where Isaac tried to steal Ethan's lunch, Ethan wouldn't let him, so Ethan ended up with a fork stuck in his scalp, hanging down betwee…

Flying Solo in Lilongwe

Chad is off to South Africa for a meeting and then dermatology appointment. Because of the flight limitations, it's going to be a whopping 12 days of me and the 4 kids flying solo! I admit, I cried all the way home from the airport. I wanted to suggest that the IMB should send all of us wives to a spa to recover from this meeting, but since there's hardly enough money to pay for fuel to do our jobs, I doubt that will happen! I comforted myself to sleep last night by planning a get-away to a bed-and-breakfast for just me once he gets back. In a 1600 sq. foot house with no sound-proofing, it's the only way I'll ever get to sleep past 5:30am for YEARS to come!

Yesterday I kept myself busy by chasing children from one mess to another. In my 16-hr day, I pulled Omara away from playing in the toilet, confiscated a machete from Isaac, changed 4 poopy diapers, taught Isaac the lesson that "It's not ok to sit on your sister's head," found Ethan after he ran aw…

Ethan's South Africa trip update

We mentioned some things in our prayer letter, but let me take a moment to update the rest of you on Ethan's follow up with the endocrinologist. As background info, our kids are all small, but they've all stayed true to their growth patterns. They usually hover between the 3rd-20th percentiles. No problem. Except suddenly, Ethan almost completely stopped growing between Dec 2008 and now, making him fall from the 20th to well below the 3rd. We were seen by a pediatric endocrinologist in July of last year, and it was determined that his Growth Hormone (GH) levels were normal, so we waited and prayed.

Despite reassuring growth between last July and November, Ethan's growth velocity (cm/month)for the year as whole was slow enough to have him drop further off the growth chart. After much discussion, the endocrinologist finally convinced me that it's time to start GH treatment. I was really resistant, because it's such a big step. It's expensive, we have to travel to …

The benefit of the doubt

A good friend has impacted our lives forever. We won’t mention any names (Luke Safford!!!) but he introduced my husband to bird-watching. Things will never be the same. Case in point? He’s now documented 150+ species since he started 2 months ago. Granted, this is Malawi, one of the best bird-watching places in the region. But still, I assure you 150 species represents many an hour spent with binoculars out in the fields, or hunched over the “Birds of Sub-Saharan Africa” book which I bought him in a moment of weakness! To his credit, he usually takes at least 1 kid out with him. He’s bound and determined to turn them into bird-watchers too, though it’s yet to take.

But this is all just in introduction. See, the real story is that we took a volunteer team to Zambia last month so that they could safari in the game park there. We camped (in tents) at a wonderful site, despite a friend questioning the wisdom of camping near a game preserve in Africa (something about lions and leopards, I…

Back to routine

The kids are back in school and we’ve all adjusted pretty well. Ethan adores his new teacher, and she has been very sweet and patient with his distractibility. So far so good for grade 1! Now that doesn’t mean homework is any easier—how can a child take over an hour to write out 8 spelling words????

Anya is in grade 4, and it’s been a harder adjustment. I’m not sure why—her teacher is great and she’s with most of her friends again. Her first day of class she came home dancing because the teacher doesn’t assign homework, they just have to finish what they didn’t finish in class. Despite her joy, I had a sense of impending doom. And I was right…she has homework every day, because she never finishes anything during class! When I tried to talk to her about it, she said with pure disgust, “I know mom—it’s teaching me ‘responsibility!’” (insert teeny-bopper attitude here). She has projects to work on over weeks, and she waits until the night before. She has tests to study for, and she can…

Ponderings of an American far from home

Our summer full of volunteers is over now, and we're slowing getting back into 'normal' routine. The first couple meals I cooked for just our family seemed ridiculously small, but we've adjusted. But seeing all our friends and visiting with so many Americans has made me realize I've forgotten some things. Nothing major, just small stuff that made me realize I've been away for kind of a long time.
1. Americans smell really good! Our volunteers were tough-cookies, with no prissiness in any of them. Yet even these down-to-earth ladies who were willing and able to walk for miles in dirt and sit on mud hut floors and eat goodness-knows-what in the villages would come in from showering and smell like heaven! It made me realize that smells are very culture-bound. Now, I realized the minute I stepped off the plane that body odor is most definitely viewed differently by different cultures! But, for example, the dish soap we can get is scented..."smells ammonia fres…

African roadtrip

4 adults and 4 kids under 10 in a 7-seater glorified minivan, along 3300+ kilometers of African roads. Dream or nightmare? Believe it or not, it was wonderful!

We wondered if we would ever leave Lilongwe at first. The Zambian embassy was closed the 2 days before we were set to leave, so we had to get our visas that morning. I almost cried when their photocopier was "out of toner" we had to drive around town to find a place to copy our passports for them! Meanwhile, Chad was trying to get a letter from InterPol saying we hadn't stolen the car, and the police station's printer ran out of ink. Really--you can't make stuff like this up! But we finally made it out, and boy was it worth it!

We saw lions with a fresh kill, elephants from just meters away, zebra and giraffe and hyena in South Luangwa Park, Zambia. We went to a mall and had milkshakes in Lusaka (ok, not the absolute highlight of the trip, but still!) We were struck dumb by the beauty and magnitude of Vict…

We're still here!

Where to begin!?!?! It’s been so long since I wrote, and so much has happened! We’ve been super-busy, and super-happy with all that’s on our plates this summer.

Volunteers from Missouri came out in June. One woman, Annie, is a PE teacher, so we held sports camps for 4 days each week for 2 weeks, using 2 local churches to help with organization and management. Ok, so there wasn’t much organization OR management, but there were lots of kids! Annie did a great job going with the flow, corralling kids as much as possible, and letting the games morph into something neither we nor they had ever seen before. But they loved it! She taught them ultimate Frisbee, and several different tag games, and of course, there were lots of soccer games. The younger kids enjoyed a version of “Duck, duck, goose”---it ended up being more appropriately titled, “tap, tap, whack” since the signal to give chase was really more of a hearty slap to the head! We also ran into a translation issue...the word for ‘to t…

End of school Chaos

We are still here, despite what it may seem. When I look at our schedule on paper, I can’t always figure out why I’m collapsing into bed in an exhausted heap each night. But it has been an absolutely crazy, busy month and it’s not looking to calm down any. Chad has lots of extra things with the end of the school year, and the kids have their recitals and sports days and awards ceremonies. The volunteers, who are doing great, still need help with errands here and there. The clinic is busy and chaotic. Our phone is out and has been for almost 4 months now, and there is no fresh milk in the city because they’ve run out of labels to put on the milk jugs. Seriously?

But we’re having fun with lots of people around all the time. The girls have quickly figured out they can dish it back to Chad, so they’re keeping him on his toes. We had the graduating students over for dinner last night and they feasted on tacos and pizza and chocolate cake—all 3 were first-time experiences for many of them! …

Betty Crocker-free zone

I am greatly benefiting from being here, surrounded by the amazing cooks in our mission. They share all their recipes with me, and I can’t believe how simple it actually is to make most things. I've had my problems. For example, did you know that garlic salt and garlic powder are not the same thing? And that mapeline can not be substituted for vanilla? But overall, it's been "a piece of cake." Now, I’m not saying I’ll continue to roll out tortillas or strain curdled milk to press out my own cream cheese when I no longer need to. But to whip out a cake with hardly a second thought? Awesome!
I do have a question, though, for all you chemistry buffs out there. Take the following recipe for Wacky Cake (try it, it’s amazing!)
3 c flour 2 Tbsp vinegar
2 c sugar 2 tsp vanilla
½ c unsweetened cocoa 2/3 cup oil
1 tsp salt 2 cups cold water
1 ½ tsp baking soda

Mix first 5 ingredients together well. Make 3 wells in
the powder: in 1 well, pour vinegar, in the second,
pour vanilla, in…

2 year anniversary

It’s April 7th. Exactly 2 years ago today we landed, jet-lagged and emotionally exhausted, in Malawi. We walked down the stairs off the plane and onto the tarmac. Anya stretched out her arms, turned in slow circles, and declared in awe, “home, sweet home, sweet home...”. At the same time, Ethan collapsed spread-eagle on the ground and wailed, “I just can’t take any more!” And Isaac took it all in stride, like there was nothing out of the ordinary happening. Now there are times I resonate with how Ethan felt that morning. But for the most part, it’s flown by with relative ease. Seriously...2 years? It hardly seems possible!
I don’t want to pretend that it’s been easy. A couple things have been particularly challenging. One is just missing family, knowing that our kids are growing up and they’re all missing it. A second thing is the sea of ‘angst’ I find myself floating in most of the time: having so much more than others, and wanting to help, but knowing that so many well-intentio…


Life goes on with predictable unpredictability. Omara has hit 4 months, smiles like crazy, laughs every now and then, and has rolled over once. She loves her maize cereal, though I'm not sure how much actually makes it down her throat. She has entirely rejected the pacifier (yeah!) in exchange for her thumb--whoops. I sucked my thumb until I was in 4th grade, and I thought I might actually escape having a thumb-sucker myself! That appears not to be the case. I think it's why she sleeps through the night though, and to be honest, I'll take the fight to wean her from the thumb in 3 or 4 years over exhaustion right now!

Chad's done with his quarter and has a whole 4 weeks off. In that time he is going to an evangelism community outreach weekend in a village up north (it'll be great but no vacation!) and a week-long mission meeting, as well as reading up to prepare his lectures for next term (Revelations!!! Yikes!)

The clinic is going fine--we had a 9-yr old girl die of …

The pain of powerlessness

Agnes, our beloved nanny, has children the same ages as ours. She started working for us when Isaac was just 5 months old, and her son Clement was just 3 months. Perhaps it's the working-mother thing, but my heart went out to her immediately, knowing how hard it is to do the juggling necessary to make ends meet. Clement was hospitalized several times that first year, for malaria and asthma and double-pneumonia and measles! Every time the phone rang at 4:30 or 5am, I knew he was sick again and she was taking him to the hospital. I didn't even know about the children's ward's 70% mortality rate then, but I still knew enough to start praying! I didn't know if I would survive the stress of that first year of Clement's life, let alone if he would!

But he did, and he's now a healthy, active 2 year old--talking circles around Isaac and already potty-trained! And then, as I was starting to get big with Omara, Agnes tearfully confided that she was unexpectedly pregna…

3 months and still golden

Omara is 3 months old already! I can hardly believe how quickly time is flying with her baby-days, perhaps because she remains so easy to accomodate. She smiles more, laughs and coos, and is unsuccessfully trying to roll over. We found vaccine for everything except pneumococcal (pneumonia), and she's 5.25kg (11.5 lbs) and ready to start malaria preventative meds this week, if we can find any (of all annoying things to have shortages of!)
Meanwhile, the other kids are doing great also. Anya continues to thrive at ABC Academy, where she's on the swim team, in ballet, and in the choir. Her teacher is great, and her confidence has never been higher (that brings it's own host of challenges, but better that than the alternative!). Ethan has settled into the routine of real homework (yes, in KG) and is reading like a champ, whizing through math, and continuing to charm with his great smile and adorable owl-hair. Isaac is back to hearing English and Chichewa, so he's slowed dow…


My professor in Nursing school, affectionately known as "Ma Barker," had a favorite saying: When you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebra. The meaning? Common diseases happen commonly. A patient with nasal congestion is much more likely to have a cold than Wegener's granulomatosis. Obviously! But I had a thought yesterday, as I reviewed my textbooks in some clinic down-time. What if you live in Africa???

There is a whole host of diagnoses that aren't even on my radar because they're such 'zebra', and yet here a fever is more likely to be a potentially fatal malaria than a virus. A sore knee is often septic arthritis. I've seen chicken pox for the first time in my career (!), and I have to think about diptheria, measles, and tetnus as possible diagnoses. Stomach "bugs" and coughs could be caused by all sorts of nasty worms that I can hardly think about, lest I get nauseated. (Did you know that one of the common parasitic worms travels thro…

Omara updates

She's sweet, she's calm, she sleeps all night--so far, I've finally gotten my 'easy' baby! Omara is 2 months old and already over 10 pounds. Her newest trick is a toothless grin to show off her dimples. It's always such a milestone when they start to smile, since it's the first evidence of her acknowledging me as anything other than a food-source!

I started back at the clinic this week, and was a bit nervous about leaving her. It's gone so well, though. She's taking a bottle like a pro for that one feeding, and she and Ms Agnes are getting along great. I've had moments of wishing I hadn't asked God for a chance to work in a clinic again--like when my first patient reported loosing his "voice and legs" suddenly. After I convinced him the laryngitis and legs probably weren't connected, I had to work for 15 minutes trying to figure out what he meant by the fact that his knee joints were numb (he had quad weakness, making his knees…

2011 already?

I’m sure I’m not alone when I say it’s almost inconceivable—Y2K was just the other day, wasn’t it? Anyway, the calendar tells me it is indeed 2011, though the New Year slipped by with little fanfare by us. The rest of the missionaries got together to party, but we (the youngest) bowed out and went to bed early. I tell myself it’s because no one else has kids who wake them up the next morning at 5:30am, but I was left with a distinct feeling of getting old! We’ve started the new year by getting ourselves ready for success, just like I’m sure many of you have. You know what I mean…the typical resolutions. We’ve committed to exercising together 3 times a week, I’m working on being better at reading to the kids before they go to bed, rather than watching videos (the power being off several nights this week sure has helped!), we de-wormed the kids. You know, the typical new year stuff! We had a great visit with Miriam’s family, though it’s left us battling some homesickness now that they’r…