Wednesday, November 28, 2012

church dedication and volunteer babies

We had the chance recently to attend a church dedication ceremony in the neighboring village. We are good friends with the head elder there and he asked us if we'd attend the program. Towards the end the master of ceremonies said a special welcome to their visitors, primarily those from foreign lands - i.e, us. They thanked us profusely for several minutes for coming to this country to serve and for giving of our time and our selves voluntarily. The cuteness came in the last few lines though when the speaker said, "And we also welcome you, volunteer baby. Thank you for your commitment to service. We are glad to have you with us, our dear, volunteer baby." Asleep at the boob, Bronwyn was clearly touched by the kind show of appreciation. We did have fun calling her "volunteer baby" for the rest of the day.

Here's the family pic we took before the event - The Sir. Madam, and Volunteer Baby.

8 months

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I recently read One Thousand Gifts by Anne Voscamp which has helped me practice the discipline of giving thanks in so many areas of my life. Instead of mentioning everything that I'm thankful for under the sun – the smell of fresh rain, Bronwyn’s first tooth, laughter of kids on the front porch – I’ve tried to focus on the few things that matter the most and that are representative of this season of my life. I uploaded some pictures recently and came across one that sums up what I’m most thankful for this Thanksgiving. 

In the forefront I see a baby girl who is so happy and contented with wherever she finds herself. A floor and a little lion toy is all she needs. She teaches me about unconditional acceptance of people, flexibility in all things and how to find joy in simple pleasures. For this precious child I am abundantly thankful.

Standing at the chalkboard, I see Jeremy teaching a theology class to a group of people. I am thankful for a husband who was courageous enough to leave home and pitch a tent in the middle of nowhere in response to God's calling. I'm thankful now for his leadership of our family as we do this work together - the work of knowing Christ, making him known and being agents of common grace to those around us. 

Sitting on benches, I see a group of people who no longer call us mizungu. To them we are Mr. Jeremy and Bana Winnie. We are friends and peers. Bronwyn is treated like their daughter. Together we journey together. And I give thanks for them always.

There is much to be thankful for, but it is the intentionality of being Christ to people that makes this life worth living. As my friend Ann says, "For all we see is Christ, and in Him all is GRACE."

Happy Thanksgiving, all.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

the culture of motherhood: fat babies part 3

My fat baby journey continues. (Catch up on the story with fat babies one and fat babies two)
I determined not to let my own insecurities about what to feed my baby totally paralyze me. I’m trying new things with Bronwyn, making an action plan for her food sources and thanking God for giving me enough grace for today. I’ve also decided to draw on what little knowledge I have to help encourage the women around me. We have a duty to build each other up, even when we feel weak. My neighbor lady Louisa is a well-intentioned mother, just like me. Last week before I went to town with our HBC clients, she gave me K20,000 and asked if I’d buy her a box of custard for her 9 month old baby Robert. I took the money but spent most of the morning in town trying to decide whether any baby should consume custard. I looked at the ingredients and saw that custard really is nothing more than cornstarch, salt and permitted flavorants. Eww. I assumed Louisa had seen custard somewhere and decided that that would be a good filler for her growing baby and that he would probably enjoy the sweet taste. I ended up not getting her the custard but instead showing her the box that we had in our kitchen (warm custard makes a nice pudding-like desert, and Jeremy and I like it!) and we talked about the ingredients. First I had to explain what an ingredient was and then I explained the difference between baby food and custard. We defined carbohydrates, vitamins and proteins. We talked about essential building blocks of a baby’s body. I encouraged her that there were foods in the village that could help her baby grow strong, and not just feel full. We listed some examples together and Louisa was encouraged by how many of those food items were in her fields! Bananas! Mangoes! Peanuts! Soybeans! Nutrition! As I spoke words to encouragement to Louisa, I spoke them to myself. “Food is available, Bethany. If she can gather these things and feed her baby, so can you! Your babies can grow fat together!”

Louisa was very thankful for the mini nutrition talk and returned the favor by giving Bronwyn a ten minute speech on how the life of a mother is very difficult what with drawing water and carrying the baby on her back and cooking food and cleaning. She told Bronwyn that it was her duty then to be a good girl and by nice to me and take care of me when I’m old. Haha. Bronwyn just sort of looked at her which prompted the comment, “I don’t think Winnie speaks Bemba.” “That’s ok,” I said, “She doesn’t speak English either.” To which Louisa replied, “I think she must speak Greek.” Well wouldn’t that be handy!
Anyway, I’m thankful for my encounter with Louisa and the healthy reminder it was that we – the women of the world – are in this together!

Friday, November 9, 2012

doesn't your dad do this?

Hi my name is Bronwyn and my dad kills six foot long forest cobras that are rounder than my fat little thigh. Mom tells me he’s pretty awesome, but it seems like no biggie to me. Doesn’t everyone’s dad do this?

Happy Saurday everyone.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

the culture of motherhood: fat babies part 2

A while ago I wrote about taking Bronwyn to the growth monitoring clinics to have her weighed. (the culture of motherhood: fat babies part 1) Well now that she's old enough to eat solids, I find that we're in a whole new phase of the fat baby adventure. We took Bronwyn to Lusaka two weeks ago to get her influenza booster and I took that opportunity to talk to the pediatrician about feeding. When Bronwyn turned six months old, we started dabbling with some solids here and there, but I was really feeling unconfident regarding how much to feed her and when and what and so on. I had been comparing my baby to all of the other six to nine month old babies in our village, most of whom are significantly smaller than Bronwyn and wondering whether my lack of strategic and intentional feeding practices over the last month was going to turn my baby into an under weight, skin and bones child. When her weigh-in showed a mere one tenth of a kg weight gain, I freaked out and unloaded every concern possible onto our ever-patient pediatrician. Dr. Marsden gently allayed my fears and even pulled up the WHO growth charts for breastfed babies and showed me that not only is my child NOT wasting away, she is in the 84th percentile for weight – which, furthermore, is even up 3 percentiles from her six month check up. Hearing it that way made me feel better. (Though I’ll admit there is something in me that wants to see her in the 100th percentile… I blame Cornell for my percentile obsessions.)

But then the doctor started talking about blending different foods to make baby food (with an electric food processor) and putting the purees in ice cube trays in the freezer. Jeremy and I listened, but didn't get into the fact that do not have a a freezer, a microwave or an electric anything. We have a hand crank food mill that we've played with but its actually harder thank you would think to get things small and squishy and baby food smooth. That and waking up every morning and procuring a pumpkin or other suitable food and then boiling it and then mashing it and trying to feed it to baby B is actually really time consuming and difficult. We never wanted to do this, but we’ve actually started buying jars of baby food in town and giving it to her bit by bit. I feel like I’ve been driven into a closet with my baby feeding methods because I can’t rightly suggest to anyone else that they follow my example. The cost of store bought food is prohibitively high for all other moms in my village. I want to set a good example, I want to be able to share knowledge with my fellow village moms, but the truth is that I’m probably as random in my feeding patterns as they are. The only difference is that I know enough about food groups and growth charts and all that jazz to actually stress out about it! I’m doing some research and talking to my pocket of experts and hopefully will make sense of how to feed my baby and what advice to give others. In the mean time, I’ve been duly humbled and have once again been driven to my knees, seeking wisdom and grace from the one who always provides.