Monday, December 31, 2012

Milestone Monday, New Year's Eve Edition

Happy New Year's Eve! I plan on keeping all the babies up until midnight tonight to ring in 2013!            
The babies have a good week. They are all still sweet as can be and plugging right along developmentally. We're proud of every single little accomplishment, no matter how insignificant it may seem.  

Joel has started feeding himself alone, albeit a bit messily.
That blur is Mercy's hands clapping and she's singing. Such a big girl.
 Remember how Helen was a dying, frail baby? (The only reason this picture of me is coming to light is to show you her condition...)
Helen in August
Well, she's exploded. It's like she's not the same child.
Helen now
Christopher's in the same boat. Just huge now. So huge that he moved into the big boy's room.
Angel is crawling all over the place!
Marissa is standing alone! No steps yet...
Maleele is sitting like a big boy!
Raymond learned how to pound it.
Anna baby is also crawling!
Aaron is sitting so well!
Cathy is officially walking and living at Haven 2!
Jonathan is sitting AND has two new teeth!
Steve sits!
And sweet Traci finally took the plunge, and now all she does is walk. She's so grown up.
Thanks for celebrating with us as they grow!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Being here has always been especially hard for me around the holidays. There is just something a little depressing about being halfway around the world from your family and friends on a day when so many are gathered closely with theirs. It’s sad opening up your computer to find the weathermeter on your desktop showing snowflakes in Oklahoma while it’s a balmy 85 degrees or so here. It’s weird that I could have gone the entire day without seeing any indication that it was a special day.

And as much as I hate that I do, I find myself longing for those things that make Christmas Christmas in my mind. I long for snow and crowded malls and Christmas music on every station. I long for a Christmas break and my mom’s Christmas goodies and Russian tea. I long for Christmas lights and wrapping paper and sitting by a fire (that’s inside a house). I long to be with my family opening presents instead of attempting to do it over a very spotty internet connection.
I have a dear friend who sends me an e-mail and prayer every Saturday. She sent me this last week that totally hit me: I pray for your heart during this time of year when you are stripped of the things that give Christmas its sentimentality.  I pray that you would focus of the amazingness of a King who would deign to leave His place of reign and willingly take on the form of one of His lowly creatures to dwell among us. This was such a needed reminder for me about where my focus should be.

I’ve always been challenged and intrigued by a line in Psalm 73. I love the whole psalm, but verse 25 reads, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.” Nothing?? Really?? During a time when I find myself desiring a whole lot on this earth,  and having to force myself to not feel sorry for myself constantly, I’m struck by the boldness of this declaration. Another translation reads, “You’re all I want in Heaven! You’re all I want on earth!” Oh I wish I could live like that, so single-minded and focused on what truly matters. If I did, it wouldn’t matter where I was for Christmas or who I was or wasn’t with. Instead, I find myself too often desiring the temporal instead of the eternal.

Today, Christmas had a forced simplicity. If it had been possible for it to be any other way, I’m afraid I would not have had it be so simple. But I’m thankful it was. I’m grateful that the materialism was stripped away, and the focus was on a Savior who entered this world in the humblest of ways. I needed the reminder.

We spent the day cooking and preparing a special meal for our aunties and babies. And that was it. When the meal was over, that was that. Life went on as if it were any other day. 
In preparation for today’s meal, yesterday I had some of the babies help me make sugar cookies to serve. We had so much fun, and we were able to kill two birds with one stone. Fun for kids/task accomplished for me!
Charity, Peddy, and Betty help cook

Kurt and Maureen
The whole gang (even Helen helped!)

The dinner for the aunties and babies went well. We had rice, chicken, potatoes, soup, and greens. It was delicious, and they loved having a special meal. Kathi did ALL the work while we attempted to help her. But when you've cooked for the masses your entire life, no one gets close to doing things as well as you, so we just let her shine :). She's unbelievably gifted.

Serving the aunties
The first shift eating
Christmas dinner
As silly as it seems, I really love having the babies wear holiday clothes on the day they were intended to be worn. It just makes me happy that one day out of the year, those Christmas outfits they are always wearing anyway will actually be relevant. The aunties and I pulled out all the red and green wear, and anything that said Christmas. We had to stretch a bit on a few, but they all at least had a touch of Christmas colors on them. I got a few pictures of a few of them before they bathed, but the rest had already changed!

Anna baby


Emmanuel and Joy with Auntie Vi


Prince and Princess



Christopher's outfit was a bit of a stretch, but he is a rockstar and an all star.

Chabonwa, gaining weight by the minute



Mercy, unsure of all the red around her

Busiku, the happiest reindeer of all


Memory and Melody



So Christmas has come and gone, and now those outfits will go on to be worn the rest of this year on random days of the week. And I'll smile to myself whenever I see them and love the constant reminder that Christmas is about more than the gifts and hype, but totally about the love. THAT we have plenty of around here.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Pure Bliss

Well, on a day that can only be described as pure bliss, our party went off without a hitch. In perfect Zambian fashion, the party that was to begin at 10 a.m. and end at 1 p.m. (as announced on the radio for the weeks preceding) didn't even really begin until 1 p.m. It was perfect. 
Peddy and Charity help bring out the balloons.
I'm relatively new to this cooking over an open fire thing. They gave me easy jobs
like putting the rice in the boiling water and stirring things.

Best Friends Forever
Hard at work cooking rice, chicken, soup, and greens.
George, Bright, and Jason help bring the cooler for drinks.
They were sorely disappointed when their best friend Benja didn't show up for the party.
While we were still busy cooking and organizing, the babies started streaming in from all over.
Lydia was our 4th guest to arrive (after Love, Beauty, and Twaambo), but the first one I saw coming up the road.
She just ran to me and threw her little arms around my neck. This big girl walking up the road with all her aunties and cousins is this same girl that I thought many times over would never make it:
I mean, it brought tears to my eyes to watch her run and talk and play and be a big, thriving girl after where she had been.
And it just kept getting better. I'm surprised I wasn't hoarse by the time the day was over. Every new arrival went the same way: baby walks up path, I sprint to greet him or her and family, I figure out which baby (now totally big kid) it is, I scream like a little girl. Every single time. Occasionally this scared the little ones, but they got over it quickly! 

Cynthia was one of the original 8 toddlers I found when I first moved here. She was a timid, shy, quiet little thing then.

She's blossomed into a beautiful little girl, full of confidence and charm.

We all have babies that are especially significant to us for one reason or another. Kathi always loved Gary so much, and they had fun catching up!

He also loved being reunited with his old "brothers" from Eric's House.

Matty then
 This little boy, our tiny Matty, that didn't want to grow or gain weight for awhile, is HUGE.

Matty now
Masuzyo, one of our babies with Down's, is a smart, sassy, talkative little thing now.

Look how small she was then!
And I have no idea how these little babies, Yvette and Yvonne...
...turned into these little girls! I was simply shocked.

The aunties were ecstatic all day, whooping and hollering at every old face! Here they are fighting over who got to hold Nathan.


Finally, it was time for the program to start. We set out the food, a few remarks were said (in which I may or may not have gotten teary), and then we feasted. The babies came first, followed by the women, and lastly the men. We ate until we were full, which made me happy for some of these kids who may not get enough to eat every day.
After eating, it was time for a group picture, which went about as well as a group picture of children aged 2-8 usually goes.
Some made it in the picture, others didn't!

Next it was time for the receiving of gifts. Kathi and I and some of the older kids made Christmas goodie bags containing a couple of sweets, a package of cookies, a bag of jiggies, and a small toy. They each also got 2 books and were able to pick out one stuffed animal. You could tell most of them weren't used to getting to choose something, so oftentimes it ended with us selecting for them.

After some closing remarks and 3 speeches given by families of our babies, it was time for them to go back home and time for us to get back to the babies we still have. I think they all left happy and full.
Grace and Cintia walking home with their new teddy bears.
I wish I could go through and tell you every story of every baby. Each one of them changed me in some way, taught me something, softened me somehow. I'm a better person because of them, and I am so grateful God continues to allow me little glimpse into who they are now. It is humbling to remember what a small part in their lives we play. They go on after us and no longer need us the same way, but we are forever changed. I hope they are, too.