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.
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.
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.
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?
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!
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.
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I'm an average girl--scared to death of creepy crawlies--who somehow ended up in the bush of Africa, building and running an orphanage. I now have 28 foster kids. In addition, I have a wonderfully adventurous husband and six kids. Due to the crazy passage of time, only one is left with me and five are working and/or in college in the U.S. Life is crazy, exciting, often scary and never, ever boring.