Monthly Archives: November 2011

Rabies & Balloons… Except Not

Over dinner just now our family discussed just how wild a day we have had, and Kent asked, “Are you going to blog about this? Because if you don’t, I will!” You see, I had a peaceful, quiet extra Sabbath day of rest in mind. Today is national election day. Voters are out in large numbers and exit polls seem to sound positive about the experience. None of our regular folks were coming here to work all day and the house would be quiet. I thought I might even wear pajamas all day!

Except not.

Very late last night one of our friends came by on a motorcycle taxi in a frenzied panic because his 7-yr-old daughter, Deborah had been bitten twice by a rabid dog. By the time he told us the whole story the dog had been on the loose in his neighborhood ‘across the tracks’ 12 hours, and had bitten 16 people! We sent him to the hospital and told him to return right away if they didn’t have treatment in stock. He was so scattered, he forgot his daughter’s middle name. I would have too. It sounds like one of the little friends she was playing with on a placid Sunday afternoon was bitten in the head and was already showing dangerous signs of rabies. Who knows for sure if it was panic or rabies, but neither are good. And the dog is still out there.

In case you hadn’t thought of rabies as anything other than a shot at the vet for your pet, it is alive and real, killing 100% of its victims slowly in a matter of days, weeks or months. I am not a huge fan of vaccines, especially for non-essentials like chicken pox, but rabies?!! I praise God for the science that created that vaccine! It saves countless lives. Unfortunately, it costs about 10 times the normal family’s monthly rent. Take your monthly rent/house payment and times it by 10. Pay that ‘out of pocket’. Would you do it? Of course you want to save your child’s life! But how do you pay that off when cash is required, there are no banks or credit cards? Congo has a friends-and-family network for such a time as this. Works beautifully! Well, we hoped as they didn’t return last night that he found treatment at the hospital.

Except not.

He was back with little Deborah this morning. The hospitals don’t stock it. It is not a very stable vaccine, needing to be kept cold (nearly impossible here!) and is therefore expensive. We were able to make some calls and verify that there was indeed a supply in town that would be available tomorrow morning. Deborah will get her shots. We are all thankful. My Mama heart was very proud of my kiddos all praying for her and for the medicines to be found, and then making her snacks and drinks while she listened to the men calling all over town, working for her life. The teeth marks in her upper arm are very real! Sadly, by the time they left the dog had been on the loose for about 20 hours and had bitten 23 people (that they know about) – many of them children.

Without any workers today, we had hours of handwashing dishes, cleaning floors, etc.

Except not.

All these tasks require WATER! Our water tanks are empty today and we are using large bins of water hauled over from a friend’s house. The boys pitched right in and we finished most of it before 9am – in time for school! Meanwhile, James discovered a large rat we trapped in the pantry. While we are thrilled to kill another one (8-9″ long without the tail), we overlooked his passing for probably 24 hrs and had a stinky trap to deal with (to be fair, the boys in the family had a stinky trap to deal with…) =).

SO not a lazy day off! It was time to teach school.

Except not.

We still had to eat! In between instructional moments, I cracked 41 eggs, chopped 6.5 onions, baked a double-batch of raisin cookie bars, baked 2 quiches for tomorrow, made 2 salads, brewed two cups of coffee, heated up leftovers, gutted and sliced up a huge papaya from our backyard, made a thermos of tea for our night guard, and a pot of rice and meat for him as well. How ever will I do it when they are teenagers?! It’s probably not more than most busy Moms, but I felt a bit like I was on a roller coaster. Or maybe one of those funky carnival rides where you don’t know which way you will turn next…

We tried to decorate our tree too. We got the lights up yesterday and were looking forward to pulling out a few favorite ornaments…

Except not.

We took them to the US last Christmas, and the best ones didn’t make it back into the right storage box, so they are MIA. Mommy fail.

This evening Joel was on duty as ‘dinner helper’. In searching for a replacement bottle of gummy vitamins he found a huge bag of skinny balloons stashed away from Kent’s balloon-making days. You didn’t know I married a balloon artist?? It was Kent’s introduction to missions – making balloon animals for kids. He’s pretty good too! So Joel convinced Kent to make him a ‘light saber’ balloon. Anna quickly ordered up pink poodle.

Except not.

After the 4th attempt popped, we resigned ourselves to the fact that these balloons sat in a box for one year too long and were basically worthless.

Except not!

Anna discovered that by tying 8 long pink balloons together at one end, she could make an ‘octopus’! And the rest of the evening was spent making various octopi, sting rays, and jelly fish in various balloon colors. Maybe we’ll hang THEM on our tree! =) Anna’s two favorites were white and pink, and at least one was named Princess. Why not Princess the Pink Octopus?

When life gives you popped balloons… make an octopus!

So our not-at-all-lazy day at home today turned into some kind of carnival ride full of twists and turns. And I’m so proud of my kids taking all those left-turns in stride! Two months ago, a day like today would have included hours of emotional meltdowns. Today we rolled with the punches. We took the left turns. We hauled our water. We helped our friends. We were content in every kind of circumstance. I’m just so thankful.

Got any old balloons? You know you should make an octopus! And smile.

My First Exit Poll, and Other Stuff that Happened Today

OK, it wasn’t a real exit poll, but I was very interested to know how the voting went today, so I asked the night guards when they came on shift.  I was able to ascertain that:

  1. There were MANY people voting.
  2. They ALL got a chance to vote.
  3. There were no problems at the vote whatsoever.

I imaagine some places in the rain forest might have had more logistical issues than we had here, but so far, this is a major non-event.  We’ll see what happens when they announce the results. 🙂
In other news, one of our workers knocked on our door last night, as his daughter had just been bitten by a dog presumed rabid.  I say ‘presumed’ because it hasn’t been tested, and because the community has no intention of trapping it and boxing it up for 10 days to see if it dies. I mentioned that this course was advised, but there seemed no interest.  After biting some 23 people (probably mostly children, like this one), the community wants it dead as quickly as possible –which I understand. The last rabid dog (some time ago, and not here, but close enough to be known of) bit some 60 people. I was told that at that time an aid group donated the vaccine (some $600 for a full treatment, per person), without which people probably would not have either access or means to buy it (the father of this one girl just moved out of a house he was renting for $13/mo. into his own, making a major difference in his ability to make ends meet).
Last night he took her to a clinic, then passed our house on the way to another. He had been told (rightly) at the clinic, that his daughter needed the rabies vaccine, but that he didn’t have any.  So he was on his way to try a couple hospitals.  I sent him on his way with fare and prayers, and asked him to return if he didn’t find the vaccine.  He didn’t, but returned in the morning.  So this morning, on a national holiday (for the elections), we got to chase down possibilities to treat his daughter.  Fortunately there were a number of helpful and sympathetic people, who helped find out where a stock of the vaccine was.  But it wasn’t open today (did I mention it was a national holiday?), so we’ll go there tomorrow.  But she did get to leave with clean wounds and a pink Hello Kitty bandage, which she seemed to appreciate. And her dad got to vote (I hope!).
Anyway, I thought that the political and medical events of the day were a very interesting juxtaposition of reality, that shows that the things a day brings are not necessarily anything like what you might fear or expect.  But God is gracious, and He provides in our time of need.

Busy Boy Goes to School

Several of you have busy little boys like our Joel. He preferred motion to stillness from the womb! Once he learned to walk, he never stopped.

So when it came to schooling, I knew we would struggle with a conventional 6-hour-desk day of learning ( you may recall…).
Here’s an update on how my kinesthetic second grader is doing at his desk:

– The older we get, the better time we have had being able to focus for short periods sitting at his desk. Good thing too! The older we get, the more material there is to cover!

– To ease his issues with focusing for longer periods, last spring (end of First Grade) we slowed down his math. He is no longer a full year ahead of grade level, but he is less frustrated and more confident. With a summer birthday, just turning 7, he is extremely young for Second Grade this year, so we’ll see where that goes.

– One way we continued to get him enough physical activity, was to have him run laps around the house between subjects. We never skipped his recess time, and it was mandatory to spend recess outside unless it was raining. Then he could play Wii inside. I also used to divide up his math page into 4-5 sections. We called it ‘Travel Math’: #1-5 sit in the bathtub; #6-10 on the couch; #7-15 in the hallway and #16-20 on the top bunk. He loved this funny way of doing his math practice in so many ‘weird’ places!

– Joel’s reading really took off over the summer and while he doesn’t LOVE it obsessively like his brother, he is a good reader and enjoys reading for his little sister. This fall I began to notice he would read something well on one page and get distracted halfway through a second page, his voice trailing off while his mind was on the pictures or something else. We are not sure if he inherited the ADHD tendencies, but we have taken him off all dairy to see if his focus improves. So far, it seems to be working (3 weeks now).

So my not-so-little Busy Boy Joel is able to sit for an hour at a time through a normal school morning and complete his work without stress and frustration!! This is so exciting to me. Part of this success is due to ‘just growing out of the wiggles’ and part of it could be cutting dairy foods. I don’t really care which, as long as it works and we can get some work done!

Not surprisingly, his least favorite subject is still handwriting, and his most favorite subject is science (hands-on experiments!).

Busy Boy SITS in School!

One More Thing…

I almost forgot! To go along with the fascinating sermon on the Fall and it’s effects… I did happen to notice that right in the midst of the part about the serpent, a wayward bat lost his footing in the rafters and flew two circles over our heads trying to get himself back to ‘bed’.


Practically the same to me!

Caught three R.O.U.S.s on our back porch last night in Kent’s homemade bucket trap. Rodents of unusual size? Oh, they exist! No, they weren’t the very-real bush rats that are 3 feet long, but they were big rats. BIG. When it grosses out a Congolese person, it’s big. Just sayin.


Yesterday at church we heard a fascinating take on the Fall. There were several points that stuck in my head – maybe you will also find them thought-provoking:

– All in the Family:

From an African perspective, family relationships define most everything and the terms, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, etc. are used often in the broadest possible sense. There are, of course, rules, but I don’t have time to explore the glories of anthropology right now. This sermon discussed the entire story of the Fall calling Eve ‘our grandmother’ and Adam ‘our grandfather’. Putting them quite literally in our direct lineage brought the whole thing much closer to home.

– Not Even:

The pastor described ‘our grandmother’ telling the serpent what God’s Word said about the forbidden fruit. She not only told the serpent the rule: ‘not to eat’ but exaggerated it: ‘not even to touch‘. Oh, how easy I find it to exaggerate! Guess it runs in the family… =) I know the absolute Truth, but I like to enhance it a little to make myself look better.

– Conflicted Desires:

The last thing that stuck with me, was his perspective on the curse our grandmother incurred. She was cursed with painful childbearing and the desire for her husband. I’ve always thought of that as a desire to be more powerful or controlling, but never that desire to be loved and needed beyond normal reasoning. He explained this curse as the reason we see a battered woman return to her husband again and again. Even if she is beaten and abused, she will come home. Even if her husband has been horrible and absent for a year or more, she will take him back. Yes, marriage should be preserved with forgiveness and perseverance, but this powerful desire to belong and be loved can make one do crazy things. I know there are times that I look to Kent to supply what only God can.

Well, I promised you ‘several’ things and gave you ‘three’…

There I go with exaggeration again!

Birthday Week

This week James had a great 9th birthday and I had a wonderful time turning 25 again. =) (For some reason, Anna kept calling me 25. She just knows that when my ‘number’ changes, hers is soon to follow and she can’t wait to be 5!)

So here’s the birthday boy wearing a crown in school (I know, I’m so mean making him do school on his birthday. But in ‘the real world’ people still have to go to school too!):

eating his favorite lunch (roasted steak and fried cabbage):

He loves reading mysteries right now (Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Box Car Children, etc etc) so we had a Mystery Party where the kids had to gather clues around our yard to find missing letters to this code and solve the Case of the Missing Birthday Candles. It was fun. And Anna and Joel got to help cut out question marks…

Lots of fun opening presents. This is a book of hard mazes and he’s focused not bored. =) Eventually he put it down and opened up all the legos, new Wii game, etc.

What can I say, my son is from Eugene, OR. He loves tie-dye and has asked for it for years. Grandma finally found one and sent it over and he put it on immediately! The requisite blowing of the mystery candles (recovered near the crime scene):

It was a 9×13 two-layer almond-banana cake with Cran-raspberry jam for filling. The honey-marshmallow frosting didn’t do the right thing, but we poured it over the top and moved on. For a ‘sugar-free’ cake, some people thought it was too sweet! Honey and fruit are pretty sweet. James loved it, which is what counts.

– – –

Then it was my turn. I was treated all day like a queen. Kent made me coffee with real cream (brought by my friend Suzanne over from Kenya!), scrambled eggs and bacon! I had LOTS of help opening gifts:

Yes, most Congolese living rooms come fully-equipped with a sink. =) The kids made the fancy bows out of magazine pages, so I wanted to keep them all!

Kent made me a fabulous pumpkin pie, but it was still in the oven. So we toasted our sparkling juice (‘spicy juice’ according to Anna):

Notice that lovely water filter behind me. Love that thing! It magically turns sludge-water into clean water! Then the kids got ready for bed and came back for pie. The leftovers the next day were the best!! My helper blowing out my candle with me. (The extra pie filling made some cute little heart-shaped pies too!)

See that gorgeous wood grain on the table Kent made? Love it. Now off to plan one more birthday for our house! =)