Thursday, September 29, 2011

photo of the day

some fun memories

I was looking through some photos this morning, and came across these two.  My cousin and brother came to visit us in DRC last year for christmas.  What a gift that was for us and it meant so much!  Because of adoption related delays we hadn't been able to leave the country (with all of us) for over a year and we were missing home.  They also came up to the orphanage with me.  Here is my cousin Katie, a bit of a Pied Piper.


And here is Damon, my brother, showing off the pictures he just took of the kids.  They loved that of course!   It was so special to be able to bring them to the orphanage, it is not an easy trip to make.  Damon, who is a helicopter pilot, kept reflecting that it would have been much easier to fly to the orphanage rather than take the very very bumpy slow road for three hours.  I agreed!



I recently reflected that on every single one of my 20 trips to the orphanage I have had someone come with me.  I never went alone.  Many times the visitors were from outside of DRC.  That's pretty special that so many people share the memories and love for the children that I do.

I am going to have some guest posts in the weeks ahead.  Hopefully I will be able to share more of DRC with you through these posts.  Thank you for reading along.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

babies, families, adoption, reunification and orphanages

Last night I wrote this post about a baby brother and his big sister that recently came to the orphanage.  I think one thing that is easy to do when it comes to orphanages full of babies is to think, "these babies need homes and families, can they be adopted?".  Now, some of the children at Save the Children orphanage have been adopted (our daughters included!).  But the majority of babies have families that want to take care of them, but currently are not able to do so.  I really feel like this is a subtle point when it comes to adoption, relinquishment/abandonment and poverty in the international setting.  Does a family in severe poverty want  the child that they are bringing to the orphanage?  Is the family bringing the child to the orphanage so the child will not starve to death, in the hopes that the situation of the family will improve and the children will come to live again with them.  I think we would all agree that an orphanage is not a place for a baby.  However, if the choice is between death and an orphanage, I think we would also agree that an orphanage is the better and obvious choice.  Temporarily.  

I heard from Tumaini manager this morning.  I had asked about the new little girl.  He actually had met the aunt when he was last at the orphanage.  And he said she was so very happy that Benjamin was doing so well and so thankful that his big sister would be well taken care of for a time.  Until.  Until the family can care for them again, and the children are big enough to not need formula and high calorie milk.  This is the role the Save the Children orphanage plays in children's lives.

In fact, I heard this morning that a sweet big boy we all love was taken home by his family. Yay!  A child reunited with his family.  I pray he will be cared for and treated well.

Do you want to be a part of keeping newborns alive?  Do you want to be a part of helping children stay with their families?  Join us as we partner with the Save the Children orphanage.


Sweet Benjamin

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

on becoming an orphan

One of the newest babies in the orphanage is a little baby named Benjamin.  I wrote about him here and here.  I met him on my last visit to the orphanage.  He was so very skinny.  Tiny thin hands.  Huge eyes standing out in his too thin face.  He wasn't tolerating his formula well, vomiting the entire bottle after eating it, he was too malnourished.  I worried about him.  If you go visit those two posts you will see the difference in him from July to September.  He is doing well.

His mother died after giving birth to him.  Like many babies that are born to women who die in birth, he was barely kept alive on watered down porridge.  He was near death from starvation and he was brought to the orphanage to save his life.

A child becomes an orphan when his mother dies.  You need your mother to survive.  The smaller you are the greater the need for your mother.  The fortunate ones have a "rich" relative that can afford to buy formula for the baby.  Or maybe they will find a wet nurse.  The majority of babies that find themselves orphaned at birth have only a small chance of living.  Yet, some survive and are brought to the Save the Children orphanage to be given a chance at life.

Benjamin was brought to the orphanage, and miraculously, he is living.  He is four months old and he weighs 11 lbs.  Pretty amazing I think, considering when I last saw him in July he weighed under 5 lbs, was extremely weak and vomiting his milk that he desperately needed.

When a baby loses his mother at his birth, he not only is orphaned but so are his older brothers and sisters.  Often, these orphaned children are taken in by extended family members.  Sometimes they are treated well, sent to school and fed.  Some are not treated so well.  They are not sent to school, fed regularly, and are commonly the house help or servants.  Unfortunately, new wives will add to the problem and treat the children unkindly as well.  Sometimes they become street children.  Sometimes they die from starvation, especially if they are young.  Here is a post I wrote about what it can sometimes mean to be an orphan in eastern DRC.

I don't know how many brothers and sisters little Benjamin has.  But I now know he at least has an older sister.  He has a 3 1/2  year old sister, named Nayenge.  She was starving, so the family begged the orphanage director to also take her in.  This has happened two times before since I have been working with the orphanage.  A newborn is brought in after the mother dies in birth and then shortly after the 2-3 year old sibling is also brought by family members begging the director to take the older sibling too.

The orphanage in general only takes newborns after their mother's have died.  But, if the director has the resources he will often accept the older sibling who is starving to death.  It is a sad and tragic reality.

Here is little Nayenge, with some sad little eyes.  She has already suffered so much in her short three years.  I can't imagine the fear, pain, and hopelessness she must feel.  


 She and her baby brother Benjamin need sponsors.  Are you interested in being their sponsors?  Here is our website.   Thank you. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

thankful

So, I ran across a note today, saying today is world gratitude day.  So, I want to stop and say thank you.  There are so many things I'm grateful for, it would be impossible to list them.  This moment, I'm thankful for my four children and my great husband.  For our nice home and lovely backyard with trees.  I'm thankful for running water, electricity, roads, a car, the library (I love that place!), laundry machines and dryers, leaves turning color, angels in spots of sun light, fire trucks, dry basements, security, the lack of compound walls, temperatures below 70 degrees, fall, friends, consignment children's stores, lovely preschools, kind strangers, new friends, family, trails to hike on, waterfalls, generous souls helping little babies live, hope, love of a gracious and forgiving God, and so much more...

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

the expected face of death

On my last visit to the orphanage, before we moved back to the states, I held a little baby girl that I expected would die.  I knew somewhere deep inside that hers was the face of death.  I remember whispering to her that day.  I whispered that Jesus was waiting for her, that it was okay.  That soon her pain and suffering would be over and that she would be home, truly home.  And completely and utterly loved.  Her name was Zawadi, meaning gift in swahili.


Zawadi, one week old and 3.5 lbs.  


She had come to the orphanage a little over a month before.  Her mother had died during birth and she was premature.  There was only a very small chance she would live and in most situations, babies like her would die immediately.  There are only three orphanages in that area of eastern DRC.  Two of those refuse babies, they are simply not equipped to handle newborns in the first place, let alone premature newborns.  The Save the Children Orphanage took her in, however.  She was less than 2 kgs.  She weighed 3.7 pounds.  The orphanage is next to a hospital.  They would do the same thing that the orphanage would do, they didn't have baby incubators or warming units.  The orphanage swaddled her in as many blankets as they could, they fed her full strength formula every 2-3 hours, and they took her temperature every hour for the first month.  And they held her.  All of this would have been impossible a year ago.  She would have died immediately.  A year ago, there was 2 mamas with 37 babies/children.  The babies were fed watered down formula three times a day.  They were left in their beds as the two women frantically ran around the orphanage doing the best they could.  But, in the end of May when little Zawadi came, it was a different place.  There was a chart on the wall for marking the times she ate and her temperature.  She was bundled and held close whenever possible.  Thanks to you, she was shown love and given food.  She was given a fighting chance at survival in the harshest of beginnings and places.

However, she didn't live.  I found out today that she died the day after I was at the orphanage.  I don't know how I wasn't told.  I think perhaps everyone thought I knew and that they had told me, it's also possible that death is expected, especially for a little one like her.  This whole time I had thought she was living against all odds.  We just received our quarterly updates on all the children with their photos two days ago and I eagerly scanned their photos.  Not only because I miss them all so much, but because I desperately needed to see her face, to have the physical proof that she lived.  I didn't find her face or her name on the list.  And I knew.  I knew she had died.

Sometimes, you do the best you can, and it's not enough.  Poverty is too extreme.  She was too little and weak.  She had been sick the days before I came.  When I saw her that day, I knew she was still really ill, and I talked to the doctor about their treatment.  It was too late.  They did the best they could, but she was an orphan (too much was already stacked against her), and one that was never expected to live.
If you read this post, you will read about the day I visited her in July.  I was worried about her and one other baby.  The other little baby, Benjamin?  He is alive.  My heart is grateful in the midst of pain.

It's hard to sit in my lovely house right now.  It's quiet and tears fall.  I want to rage against it all, against all the unfairness in this world, all the poverty and injustice.  The mothers that die in birth unnecessarily. Right now there is a fine hospital close to where I live.  If I was pregnant and was giving birth prematurely, I would go there immediately.  The labor would be slowed.  Or I would give birth.  If I started to bleed to death, the bleeding would be slowed.  Most likely, I would not die.  My 3 1/2 pound baby would not be sentenced to die.  She would be put in an incubator and warmed.  If she had an infection, cultures would be sent, tests would be done, she would be given the appropriate antibiotics.  Most likely, she would not die.  If death came to either of us, it would be completely unexpected and utterly shocking.

Death in eastern DRC is not unexpected.  You expect that if you are going to give birth you could die doing so, and it isn't shocking when it happens.  1 in 13 women die in birth (USAID report, 2010).  If your baby lives, you expect that that newborn could die, and you aren't shocked when it happens.  Infant mortality has improved only slightly from rates that were at 92 for every 1000 live births in 2007 (USAID report, 2010).   If your baby lives, you expect that your child could be one that dies, and though you mourn her death, you aren't shocked or surprised.  Under five (years old) mortality rate is 199 deaths per 1000 live births (Unicef, 2010).  DRC is fifth in line after Afghanistan, Angola, Chad, and Somalia.  It's expected.  Horrifically expected.

Some days it seems so little.  To give milk, to provide salaries so there are more mamas.  Sometimes it feels like you are giving a little small light of hope in a huge world of darkness.  Yet, I try to remember the other seven babies that came at the same time as Zawadi.  Seven babies that were going to die too.  Maybe they weren't so little, maybe they weren't premature.  But their mothers had died.  A death sentence.  Those seven little ones are alive today.  And they are alive because of that little light of hope.

I want to post their pictures.  The seven little ones that live with hope every day.  And I know that our work is not in vain.

Each of these seven little ones still needs sponsors.  Would you consider sponsoring one of them?


Francine (she needs one sponsor at $25/month) 




Esperance


Esther


Conseille


Mwamini


Furaha 

(I think picture taking was done at nap time!)  

All these sweet ones (aside from Francine) need two partial sponsors at $25/month or one sponsor at $50/month.  Please consider partnering with us and giving them a fighting chance.  

Feel free to email me at hmulford at gmail.com or visit our website at www.tumainidrc.org.

Thank you.  



Addendum:  I forgot a baby!  There are actually 8 babies at the orphanage right now.  I forgot Mugishu!








Wednesday, September 14, 2011

the smallest of heroes

I have been very humbled this past month by the number of people who have partnered with us to care for the children of the Save the Children orphanage, with both sponsorships and one time gifts.  Embarking on this journey about a year ago (and more formally about 6 months ago), was a very big leap of faith for me on so many different levels.  But one I had to do, and I trusted that God would provide if I took the step of faith.  Which He has abundantly, not only in provisions, but in the other members of Tumaini who are doing this with me (and who I couldn't do it without).  Please check out the contact section of our website to meet them!

Shauna, the finance manager for Tumaini


I've felt so privileged to work with the Congolese women and men at the orphanage who work tirelessly with little to do so much.  I have been honored to share in their joy as the little ones gained weight and conquered milestones, which are so commonplace here, but are extraordinary there given the circumstances of the past.  I also now am inspired and encouraged by those that have come alongside us and made these changes possible.  Lives of little children have changed for the better because of the work and dedication of so many (because of YOU!).  Prayer, encouraging words, dedication to sharing the message, giving resources and time, loving, visiting, donating money to buy formula, milk, and more mamas to love on the babies and children, raising awareness, sharing life-giving trainings, playing with the children, building walls, rebuilding the kitchen, helping children go to school, building beds, repainting cribs, bringing bumbo seats and crib toys, big kids toys, toothbrushes, cloth diapers, soccer balls, and the list goes on and on--all given in a spirit of love and hope for the small children of Kaziba, that they would thrive instead of living in neglect and starvation.

One of the lovely mamas, holding baby Zawadi

Cammie, sponsor and amazing promoter, with baby Gloire


I wish I could take everyone of you with me on the long, beautiful, bumpy drive to the orphanage.  I would take you through the crowded areas of the city, full of people, out to the hillside decorated with rolling hills full of banana trees and casava.  Then we would head higher and drive along the escarpment, a narrow road cut out of the rocky mountainside.  We would look behind us and wonder at the beauty of this place, so hidden and full of sorrow and also joy.  We would amaze at the green mountains and not wonder that the Norwegians had first chosen this as their missionary grounds so long ago as it probably felt so much like home.  We would drive through small villages and finally, three hours later,  we would come to the mission hospital nestled in the hills and we would drive behind it.  We would go to the small building that houses the orphanage. The kids would spy our white land cruiser and they would come running yelling our names and yelling "visitor" in swahili.  They would know to expect our bananas and cookies.  They would sit politely on their grass mats, quietly waiting for their banana.  The bananas dwarfing their little hands.

Beautiful Sabina

The drive to the orphanage.  



Some would climb up onto your laps immediately vying for your attention, others would stand quietly nearby.  Sifa would hang on your hand, Leblanc would beg to be held and thrown into the air.  Chito would come wandering up and hold out her arms and tears would come to your eyes, because you would know her story.  Or Moise's story of strength and perseverance.  You would know that you are looking at giants, at true heros, that have already faced so much in their little lives yet still hope, still reach out despite it all.  You would know that you have been a part of helping them believe again.  That their legs are strong and that they are walking because you too cared for them and helped the mamas feed them and hold them by providing resources to make it possible.  And when Chantal comes walking up to you, you will know that part of your heart will be left behind here too, as has mine.  And you might wonder "what if?," like I do so often, yet you won't linger there for long.  No, it would be too hard to think of the past, there are children wanting to play, babies wanting to be held and loved on.  Time to look forward to the future.

Safari with a papa, during a training.  

Babies and their beds.  



There are currently 36 children living at the orphanage.  We have full sponsorship for 26 of them!  That is amazing!  It has all been through word of mouth, from old friends and new.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart.  Thank you for sharing the story of these children and trusting us to help take care of them.

We are still looking for 9 full sponsors (or 18 partial sponsors), and one more partial sponsor.  The babies are the ones that are waiting for sponsors.  I will be getting new pictures and updates on them in a week, so now is a great time to sponsor one of the littlest ones.

As a reminder, a partial sponsorship is $25/month, a full sponsorship is $50/month.  This covers formula for the babies (a full month of formula for a baby costs the orphanage $70/month), powdered milk for the older children, and 7 more women to care for the children (in the past ratios have been 2 to 35 babies, now it is 4-5 to 36 children).   The sponsorship also helps cover the part time salary of the Tumaini manager on the ground in DRC.

Would you consider sponsoring a baby?  Or would you help us by spreading the word?  Would you consider sharing about Tumaini?  Feel free to repost a link to my blog or to our website.   Thank you.

Monday, September 12, 2011

"oh dear, now what?"

Our 27 trunks arrived two weeks ago from Congo (finally!).  There were some really practical reasons why I was happy they arrived.  One of the big reasons was financing three children in disposable diapers was about to become impossible, and I had about 100 cloth diapers in those trunks.  (Yes, we are cloth diapering three kids, it's not that hard really.)  The other big reason was that our double BOB stroller was shipped along with everything else, and I've been itching to take it out and explore.  In Congo, I would walk Natalie to school every morning, with the other kids in the BOB or on my back; it was my life, if at times a bit surreal.  It was also good exercise and a favorite part of my day really.  I've really missed walking with the kids.  We live on a really busy road that is also a truck route, so it isn't feasible to walk with all four (without the stroller).  So, today we set out.  We live in a very hilly and beautiful town.  It's hard to go anywhere without driving (or walking) up or down a hill (often steep).  It is green, woody, and there are gorges and waterfalls to make it a lovely location.  So, we set out today.  Natalie walking, two in the BOB and one on my back.  I decided to let Natalie choose the way.  Off we headed.  We started out strong, well, because it wasn't that steep.  We decided we wanted to go visit Mrs. M, a new friend and neighbor.  Except I forgot her street address, but I figured we would work that out.  Natalie picked a good route and then we hit her street and it was straight up.  Natalie, being her sweet self, decided she would help me push that stroller up the hill.  So she starts running and pushing, and I am heaving and huffing.  We didn't make it very far before I'm wheezing and out of breath.  Obviously, I am pitifully out of shape.  She looks at me and says, "oh dear, now what?"  I couldn't help but burst out laughing and so did she.

The fact is, it sort of sums me up right now, "Oh dear, now what?".   I find myself a bit lost and bewildered still.  The tears and sadness come at the strangest moments.  Yesterday, remembering the pain of 10 years ago, tears were close.  Remembering that pain, brought back other pain, other hurt.  Pain that is often, quick, and close for the people in the country we left behind three months ago, and for others around the world.  I looked at my little girls yesterday and tonight, and the pain comes again.  The loss they have experienced already, the sudden and harsh death of their mother while giving birth, giving life to them.  Preventable, unnecessary, severe death and pain.  The story of all the children at the orphanage.  Losing their mothers.  Would that my arms around them be enough, would that my love would erase the pain and ease the hurt.  Can I too carry this pain, this sadness?  Can I share with the suffering of others?  And what would be the cost of refusing?

My grandfather is still alive.  The rest of that generation of my grandparents have died.  He is an amazing, unforgettable man.  Not only because of the wisdom that he loves to give us all and laughter he creates with his stories, jokes, and crazy stubbornness, but most of all because of his love.  His love for us and for his wife of long ago (which he still talks about often).  He has suffered much.  He buried his wife and first love, when she was in her 30s after she struggled long and hard from cancer.  He was left with five little girls.  He lost two of those five girls, years later.  The suffering, the pain, is not far from all of us really.  He has seen much, suffered through much.  Yet.  He chooses life.  You hear it in his stories of those that went on before him, you see it in his attention to us his grandchildren and children, and you feel it in his love and concern for us.  Many years ago, when I was going through a hard time in life, he saw my heart.  He held me close, he offered me a safe haven.  When I went off to college, he sent me a large box.  When I opened it, I laughed.  It was full of crackers, cheese-its and wheat thins.  And a short note, telling me he had been worried I didn't have enough to eat.  

I think sometimes, I forget this small and hidden lesson.  I get overwhelmed and I start to worry and fret, and say, "oh dear, now what?"  When I think of my grandfather, I am reminded of what I want to be.  A person who forgives, who remembers, who works hard, who suffers, who perseveres, who listens and gives dignity to others by hearing their stories, who loves others simply and well.  A humble, simple man, that is not well known, but who is well loved by all who are privileged to know him.



What would my grandpa say, in the midst of the impossible and daunting that looms ahead?  
I think perhaps it would be "love well".  

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

optimism in Congo

For those of you who care about Congo, here is a great article about a project that worked and is working.  Please take a minute to read the article, it's short and easy to read.

http://www.theinterdependent.com/110831/a-vaccination-triumph-in-congo-offers-strategic-lessons

This is so encouraging because you cannot even cross a border in DRC without noticing the ravaging effects of polio on the population.  Men and women that had polio as children, are crippled.  Here is one man's story that touched our lives personally while we lived in Congo.

Also, notice the first paragraph of the story.

"After nearly 20 years of state failure and conflict, the Democratic Republic of Congo has become a difficult place in which to be healthy. Life expectancy is only in the early 40s for both men and women; 1 in 13 women dies in childbirth; and 1 in 5 children does not survive to its fifth birthday."


It's hard to read.  Really hard.  Life expectancy only in the early 40s!  1 in 5 children do not survive to their fifth birthday!  And finally, 1 in 13 women children die in child birth.  1 in 13 women.  Did you read that?  Can you imagine that out of 13 women you know right now, one of them would have died giving birth.  


90% of the children at the Save the Children orphanage have lost their mother because she died in childbirth.  They are the faces behind this statistics.  All those new babies?  Their mothers died giving birth to them.  They become orphans.  And they are alive today (NOT a part of "the 1 in 5 children not surviving to age five") because the orphanage accepts newborns after their mother's die in birth (this is not common for an orphanage, most do not accept babies, they are too expensive to care for and use too many resources).  This is what we are doing at Tumaini.  We are trying to join in the fight to decrease poverty in eastern DRC while partnering with existing structures and people.  We are a part of the positive optimism in Congo, too.  A small light of hope.


Please consider partnering with us.  



One of the nine sweet babies that need one sponsor ($50/month) or two ($25/month). 





when they get bigger

Our twins are little, and not affected by potentially (and unintentionally so) hurtful school assignments.  I came across this the other day and thought it was excellent and I want to hold on to it for later.

http://www.adoptionpolicy.org/Adoption_Awareness_Schools.pdf

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

and so now I own a flat iron

A lovely friend of mine (a fellow adoptive Congo mom, who came and lived in Bukavu for a few months to be with her daughter while the adoption proceedings finished) sent me a flat iron today.  I cried.  Not because of the flat iron!  I don't even know how to use it.  I didn't even know what they were until she told me about them last year.  And she knew that :).  The note that she sent in the package today reminded me to find a you tube video on how to use it.  I don't even own a hair blower (hair dryer?) or hair iron (what are those things called??)!

I was touched by her thoughtfulness.  She lived in Bukavu long enough to get a sense of my life there, of the challenges, the joys, the struggles, and the beauty.  She and I are very different.  I have no idea how to use a flat iron, she rarely went without one (and left it behind to be with her little girl in Congo).  But, we shared a similar love for a sweet little girl, that now calls her mommy and is about to turn two years old.   And she braved it out in DRC, never having lived overseas before.  I also had never lived overseas before moving to and living in DRC.  There is a deeper level that you can connect on with a person.

She visited the orphanage with me during her time in Bukavu.  She told her friends about her visit and she and her friends raised money for the little ones that were left in the orphanage.  And she continues to do so and continues to tell the stories of the little children of the Save the Children orphanage.  International adoption has it's challenges, and I struggle with what I fear will happen if there isn't more oversight in adoption from Congo.  However, I have been so blessed by the friendships of the amazing people I have met along the way.  Those that have been moved to not only open their homes and lives to little ones who did not have a chance to live in a family, but also advocate and support those left behind.

This is what Tumaini is about, not forgetting those left behind.  It is giving those children (that for so many reasons, most of them because they already have families) that live in an orphanage today, without a mother and/or father to care for them and love them, a chance (all of the children living in the Save the Children orphanage do not have a living mother).  It is about giving the babies food so they will survive.  And providing extra staff so there are women to hold them and nurture them.  It is about giving the older children milk, caregivers enough that they have time to play with them, talk to them, take them outside.  It is about giving the older children a chance to go to school that they wouldn't have had otherwise.  It is giving them all a chance to be a part of their communities and a part of the church, that is so deep and rich in that area.  It is about giving them a chance to grow in faith and love.  It is about giving all of the orphaned children we support, hope.  Hope for a future beyond today.  Hope that is only found when you are loved and you have food to know that love is real.  Hope that is life giving and lasting.

Would you consider partnering with us by sponsoring one of the children who does not have a sponsor?  Or do you know someone that might want to do so?  Would you consider telling others about Tumaini?

You can choose to do a partial sponsorship at $25/month or a full sponsorship at $50/month.

Our website is here.

More detailed information about sponsorship can be found on this post.

Children available for sponsorship are here.

And finally, if you do choose to sponsor a child, please let us know.  Either email me (my email is above right) or follow one of the contact links on our website.

Thank you.


This cutie pie is Bertin, he needs one more sponsor.  

Monday, September 5, 2011

in the midst of the unknown

I had a talk with a friend tonight which reminded me of times in the last year and a half when our lives were full of unknowns and we were faced with disappointments.  In the end of 2009, it had become clear to us that the little boy we had fallen in love with and had planned to adopt would not be a part of our family.  It's a very long story, and he still lives in an orphanage without a family, but the reasons why the adoption didn't happen are not a part of this post.  What's important to know is that we loved him.  I had piles of little clothes for him, I had a bed for him, he was our baby boy.  We felt so much loss when we stopped the adoption proceedings.  I didn't know which end was up anymore and it hurt so much that he was still at the orphanage.  It would have been wonderful if the adoption had fallen apart because he had had a family member come take him home, but that isn't what happened.

A couple months after this, in the end of February of 2010 we headed three hours out of town to visit an orphanage we had heard about.  We had heard about it before, but it was too far in our minds, so we had gone to the other orphanage.  It was a long hard drive, but that day changed our lives forever.  Not only did we meet our sweet girls, but maybe even more importantly, we saw the dire conditions that the babies and children living there were in at that time.  That led to a lot of sleepless nights and then it led eventually, to Tumaini.  And the kids lives are so different today.  I know what would have happened if we had never gone up there.  So, I will never regret not adopting little M., he wasn't supposed to be our little boy, it is clear.  I pray that one day he will be reunited with his family.  I know God has plans for him, and I know it doesn't involve being a part of our family.  And in place of all the angst and sorrow that once filled my heart, there is joy and peace.

So, this is sent as an encouragement.  If you are going through a time of unknown, of disappointments, of fear, of doubt, remember you are not alone.  Remember that there is a purpose in it all, and sometimes we don't get to see what it is right away, but that we are asked to trust and believe.  Today talking with my friend, I was reminded that if we saw it all today, we wouldn't have reason for faith.  God is faithful.

going for a hike in our new home

Thursday, September 1, 2011

motion detected automatic toilets, the bane of my existence

So, I have come to the conclusion (which I am sure every other person that has ever entered a public bathroom in the U.S. with a toddler/preschooler has also come to) that the lovely person who invented the "automatic" flush toilet never had a child.  Or been around a child.  Or knew any children.  Or been a child themselves.   Obviously.

The other day I went to Walmart with the four kids.  Now, the three younger kids are basically triplets (for all practical purposes), they are at the same level of potty training (or rather, not potty training), they talk about the same unintelligible speak, they climb the same (well, perhaps our congolese daughters climb better), and they fight the same.  They also love each other a lot, and I am pretty convinced that Isla sees herself as a triplet.  I know she did when we were fostering the twins that were her age last year, and it seems the same again.  In what matters to this story, I have 2 year old triplets and a 4 1/2 year old that just came to the states 2 months ago.

Back to the day at Walmart.  Natalie needs to us the bathroom.  Now.  So, we rush our way to the restrooms (how do you find anything in a Walmart, that is my first question).  I tell Natalie to hurry in by herself while I unbuckle the littles from all their belts (two were in the cart, one on my back).  Mistake one about to happen.  We hurry into the bathroom (me feeling guilty for sending the 4 year old in "alone"), with one squirming "two year" old under my arm, one on my back and one crying "wait ah me!".  Natalie is just shutting and locking the door to the stall.  And here goes.  I innocently say, "Natalie, I just wanted to tell you that these are the kind of toilets that flush automatically, so don't get worried if it happens, ok?".  To which---she starts screaming hysterically (as if there is now a monster in the toilet) trying to unlock the bathroom door and get out before it gets her.  As she is panically trying to figure out the lock, I am trying to calm her down saying it's okay, it would only flush, it's not going to hurt you (you know, all those inane things we say as parents when our children are acting, in our minds, irrationally).  The other two (one on my back, remember) are running around pushing stall doors open or playing in the low sink with the water (great).  Natalie is out of control at this point and I'm considering how to crawl under the bathroom door (with a kid on my back) to unlock the stupid thing when she bursts out.  Her face red, tears all over, she is doing the "gotta go" dance while continuing to cry and cling to me.  And what do I do?  Well, the only thing there is to do, pick her up and put her on the offending toilet.  Of course, I can't leave the two year olds alone out there, so I bring them in too and I shut the door.  It was a tiny bathroom.  Natalie refuses to let her self get near the toilet, I don't want to get peed on, and the other two on the ground want to know what is up with the toilet and start to put their hands in it!  Finally, she pees, somehow suspended above the toilet crying hysterically.  I'm am eyeing that stupid automatic flusher because I know that if it flushes, I and the littles will get peed on.  Thank God (!!!) it didn't flush.  Of course, I am laughing by now, and have to go too.  I can't even sit in the bathroom so I send Natalie and Isla out of the stall.  Mistake number two.  They are right outside of my door, but Natalie is freaked out enough she is convinced that the monsters that inhabit all the automatic sinks and hand dryers are randomly going to turn on and get her.  And she is afraid that toilets will randomly start flushing.  So, she begins crying again and yelling.  Isla joins in.  Somehow, I do what I need to do with a kid on my back.  The other is crying now too.  I manage to get out to the sink.  Trying to wash all their hands is a joke that I do attempt and that involves many reassurances that the sink is quiet and the water is not hot.  And finally we leave (dignity not intact anymore I'm quite sure).  And I'm pretty sure there was one other person in the bathroom that day that never came out, we probably freaked them out too much!

On the way home I think to myself, why why why automatic motion censored toilets?  Why?  Couldn't we just have a button on the floor that we push with our foot?

enjoying the farmer's market by the lake