Friday, March 29, 2013

Bronwyn's birthday bonanza

We’ve been thinking about Bronwyn’s first birthday ever since June when we got back to Fimpulu from the States. We believe that her life is special to us and we want to celebrate it! We also know that there is very little acknowledgement of any child’s birthday here. Many parents only know their child’s birthdate by looking at their under-five card. Very few children know when their birthday is, and none look forward to it. If it’s just another day at school or in the fields – what’s to get excited about? We saw Bronwyn’s birthday as an opportunity not only to create a special memory for her, but also to be a bit radical and counter-cultural (in a good way!) letting people see how crazy we are about our child and hoping that that might prompt some consideration on the part of the parents around us.

The party got started a little after two in the afternoon. We opened up the time with games. First, the parachute. We love this thing.

Next was balloon toss which was fun and funny.

The next game was tug of war. We would just like to warn ya’ll out there to never, ever pick a fight with a Zambian mama. These ladies are tough, and they WILL end you.

Next up came human pyramids which made everyone scratch their heads and wonder what planet we dropped in from.

Pin the tail on the Zebra was far more of a hoot than we expected. I guess getting dizzy in front of a crowd is just the ticket to turn certain kids into total hams.

After games we opened up the “stage” for presentations. There were songs, skits and speeches. The songs were sweet and custom-written for baby B and the skits were entertaining though a little random. (Good feeding practices for babies? I guess that’s a compliment to Bronwyn’s chubbiness and it taught the audience something at the same time!)

People had fun watching and laughing and clapping and singing along. I wasn’t even the only one taping it!

When the program started winding down, we took everyone into the Learning Resource Center to watch a dvd we put together of messages and vides from our friends in the states who were able to send them to us. I’m not sure what people were thinking as they watched videos of our friends and words of blessing flash across the screen. My assumption is that most people were thinking, “cool!” Jeremy and I, on the other hand were simply thinking about how blessed we are to have people who love us on TWO continents. Wherever we are “our people” are there. Jeremy gave a speech explaining to people that we do miss our friends and family in America, and we are sad that they couldn’t be here to celebrate with us in person, but we are equally thankful for the friends and family we have right here in Fimpulu. We thanked them for their love and for coming out to celebrate with us. 

And then we intro-ed the cake.

And that’s when things started to unravel.

We gave to the adults first to move the bigger bodies out of the overly stuffed room. Bronwyn was very kind as she watched her cake dwindle before her eyes. Not that she really knew what she was missing. I haven't really let her eat anything too sweet yet.

Once the adults had filed out of the LRC with cake in hand, the kids were invited to line up. I think “line up” to Zambian kids actually means, “please form a mob and push and shove each other till someone cries and then keep pushing to get to what you want.” The squares of cake were tiny little one inch squares, though you would have thought we were handing out pure gold. On a few occasions, Jeremy had to pull the plug, get everyone to back up and calm down so that no one got seriously hurt.

I had the bright idea of handing out the party-kazoo-things that we picked up for the occasion. This ultimate was worse than the cake! I assumed that kids would take them and pass them around and be overall congenial towards one another, but my casual distribution turned into a total stampede to the point that I feared for my safety and just ran. Jeremy and I took a five minute pow-wow inside to try to figure out why our well-intentioned party planning was turning our little guests into total crazies. Our older, wiser friends let us down easily. “Just stop. You’re not going to be able to pass these things out like you want to.” They were right, and while we were disappointed in the kids behavior, we were also disappointed that we didn’t forsee that happening and just avoid it all together. Oh well. Next year – games, program, NO GIVE-AWAYS. Everyone will go home happy.  

Once we were obviously done passing out cake and kazoos, kids went back to playing and laughing like the good-natured kids we know and love. We made our rounds thanking people for coming and showing us that they care. The outpouring of love for our family was really amazing. Given the number of cake slices we passed out, plus those who didn’t get, plus the others mingling around, we estimate that there were about 250 people total in attendance. We really were blown away.

Those non-Zambian people on the left there (where’s waldo anyone?) are John and Rosa, our friendly Peace Corps volunteers from up the road. Also with us was Cheng, another Peace Corps Volunteer who you won’t see in any of the pics because she as taking them all for us. We were thankful for the three extra pairs of hands as it made cake decorating, game facilitating and interference running easier.

All in all, the party was truly wonderful. Even though Bronwyn passed out in the middle of all the action after spending most of her time off in lala land, I hope she somehow got the point that this was all meant to make her feel loved. As I thought about how special the afternoon had been, I began to tear up. I just so wish that family could have been there to see it all and enjoy along side us. Jeremy took a moment to comfort my heart as only he can while we both held our sleeping daughter.

Baby girl, you are the apple of our eye and this whole crazy shin-dig was to show you that we think you’re swell. We hope that when you are older and can look at pictures from this day it will move you to tears as it does me. God has given you an amazing sphere of friends, both old and young, who are walking with you and waiting with bated breath to see what happens next in your fascinating little life. May you know our love, and the love of the Father who is the original dreamer of all these good and perfect gifts. We love you darling daughter, and always will. Hugs and kisses, Mom.

Monday, March 25, 2013

12 months, sigh

happy 12 months baby big girl!

I call this post 12 months, sigh for a reason. I'm feeling very sad that this will be my last "picture of the month" posting. I suppose I could take a size comparison picture of her every month for the next 18 years, but I'm suspecting that I need to cut the cord sometime. That and a single paper is getting kind of crowded. Perhaps I'll still do bi-annual photos so ya'll can marvel along with Jeremy and I at how fast and fabulous little ones grow. 

365 days ago today, and about this same hour, I was wondering whether the effort was going to be worth it. I was pretty sure this child was trying to kill me, and at 10:26 pm, when the labor was all over, she didn't even smile, or say thank you, or anything. Luckily, I decided not to hold any of that against her, and instead proceeded to slowly fall in love. Watching this little one grow first in my tummy and then before my eyes has been a beautiful reminder of the miracle of a child. Thank you Lord for this gift!

We celebrated her birthday with the village on Saturday which was a blast. Thanks to our dear friend Cheng Wong, (a 70 year old, Asian-American Peace Corps Volunteer!) we have approx 500 pictures to sift through and upload for your viewing pleasure. It was so much fun for us, we seriously can't wait to share it all with the rest of our friends and family! I have some other thoughts also on the significance of our little girl turning one, and I'll try to put all of these things down on "paper" as I get a chance. For now, I choose to revel in this day. Our baby is happy, fat, healthy, friendly, creative, adventurous, and cuddly. Her strong will is starting to show and her desire for independence and autonomy shows up at less than opportune times. But as I see the grace we've been shown in the first year of her life, I have no doubt that God will be faithful to guide us through this next phase of parenting adventure. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

when death is merciful

Yesterday, Bronwyn’s friend Robert died. Bronwyn started a friendship with Robert when I went to visit his mother and talk about feeding practices. (the culture of motherhood: fat babies part 3) Over the last several months, these two have become fantastic playmates. Robert, being a few months older than Bronwyn, would apparently call her name and one of his aunts would come ask for Winnie to come and play. I’d give her to Memory or Monica, strapping her onto one of their backs with a chitenge and wave goodbye, reminding the girls to keep her out of the sun and make sure she didn’t put anything in her mouth. Robert’s grandmother, Bana Louisa (mother to Louisa who is the mother to Robert) would always bring her back to me an hour or so later and tell me all the details. “She and Robert just played and played and played! Robert LOVES Winnie!”

Bronwyn & Robert back in November

We woke up on Friday night to a knock on our door. Bana Louisa’s grief-stricken voice spoke past Jeremy at the door and directly to me, the one still in bed attached to a sleeping child. Through groggy ears I heard, “Bana Winnie please we need transport to town; Robert has died and Louisa is in town with him and the family they are with has kicked them out because they fear the spirits if they keep a dead body in the house and its raining.” She had to say it three times before I caught on completely to what was happening, so fast was her speech to my almost, but not quite awake mind. Jeremy asked me if he should go, and all I had to say was, “if it were me in Louisa’s place…” Two minutes later, in the dark and the rain, Jeremy sped off to fetch a body, and I just cried.

As much as I am “pro-mama” in this place, and hate to speak poorly of anyone, I mourn the fact that there are certain women who simply have a hard time keeping their children alive. My friend ba Champo went through a bitter divorce last year after her husband left her because their first two children had died before the age of one. Bana Magoo, a woman who just completed her 13th pregnancy (one three, thirteen.) was sharing her obstetric history with me last month and revealed that her first five children had died. And sadly, Robert is Louisa’s second child, the first one also deceased. Blame and fault finding are difficult and dangerous roads to traverse, and in the middle of the night, as I waited anxiously to hear the rumble of the landi pulling back up to our house, I asked God why? Why do children keep being born only to be under-fed, under-medicated, under… gah, so many things… keep being born only to live short, helpless lives? I didn’t receive an answer to that question, but it did occur to me that allowing some of these children to pass away while small may be an act of mercy on God’s part. I cringe at that too, though I have seen the hurt eyes of small children who have grown old enough to perceive the neglect and abandonment conveyed through lack of food, prolonged illness and cold. A more emotionally developed child associates parental failure with unmet needs regardless of whether the failure is stemming from maternal ignorance or intentional neglect.

I know Louisa loved her boy. As we walked up the path to the funeral house, wails came from the front porch where sat Louisa, writhing in pain of the heart. As she saw us approach, she started to scream, “Roooooooobert!!!! Come see Winnie! Roooooooobert, come play with Winnie! Winnie is here, Robert, come play with her!!!” Over, and over, she called to her son to come back and play with his friend. Jeremy sat with Bronwyn to the side as I joined the women in the cooking shelter, huddled together in mournful union, listening to Louisa cry out in pain. Every time Louisa told Robert to come back and play with Winnie another tear rolled down my own cheek.

All the women I know who have buried babies, loved their children. The grandmother (Bana Louisa) asked me to talk to Louisa who had communicated that she would no longer eat - that if Robert was dead, she ought to be too. No, I believe Robert died not for lack of love, but because of a long string of actions that were palatable for his mother, but too much for his own small and delicate frame. Links in a chain that are cognitively misunderstood by these moms who aren’t reading articles from the AAP, having routine chats with a perceptive pediatrician, and following a dozen mommy blogs.

These things are gut-wrenchingly sad and equally complex. There are social, economic, educational, spiritual and traditional forces at work in every woman’s situation affecting her decisions regarding the bearing and raising of children. I’ve started ignoring anyone who gives a response to these intricate questions starting with “we just need to…”

The only thing we “just” need to do is pray. Beyond that, we proceed humbly, treating both mother and child with dignity, resolving to do our best, admitting that we are not the Savior, regarding each life as precious, and accepting that we may still get a sorrowful knock on the door in the middle of the night.

We’re still growing in these things, and we’re very thankful that Bronwyn is still oblivious regarding much of life. I’m not sure we’re ready to translate into toddler speak that which we can barely articulate to ourselves. I suppose we’ll cross that hairy ugly bridge when we come to it. For now I shall snuggle my baby till she can hardly breathe and give thanks for all those who have helped keep her happy and in my arms.

Friday, March 15, 2013

making friends

Bronwyn thinks Timo is awesome, and Timo is forever trying to figure out why this little girl won't leave him alone. Timo's mom and I find this all very humorous. We thought we'd share it with you.

Timo be my friend!

but I love you!

be my friend pleeeeeease!

daddy i need a hug!

it's ok baby girl, just keep trying

I'm still here Timo...

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

farm baby

 I am not a farm girl. I’m a descendant of farmers, have visited farms and appreciate farm folk, but I myself did not grow up with the farm life under my nails. The last six years have done wonders for my soul in terms of bringing me back to the basics: Hard labor produces abundance. A little dirt never killed anyone. You reap what you sow. Valuable life lessons.
As we raise our daughter in the context of farm life, I have stopped to think many times about her environment, and I have determined that farm kids are extremely blessed. There’s a lot of fun to be had out there, adventures waiting to be discovered. But more than that, I sincerely believe that farm kids have a different, even, (dare I say it?) a better understanding of the gospel itself.

Matthew 13:1-10 talks of the sower and the seeds that fell on rocky soil and those that fell on good soil. It talks of roots and soil depth and withering and flourishing.

1 Corinthians 3:9 tells us that we are God’s field.

Mark 4:26 says that the kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seeds on the ground.

Hosea 10:12 commands that we “sow for ourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up our fallow ground and seek the Lord.”

John 15:1 teaches us that Jesus is the true vine.

And John 12:24 teaches us that “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”

I wish I could have read these things through a farmer’s eyes long ago! I regret knowing that my eyes used to only glazed over certain verbiage that, to me, had no reference point and therefore little meaning.

I therefore LOVE the fact that my daughter is growing up in an environment where she is surrounded by the tangible display of these truths. She sees the farmers toil. She watches the seeds fall. She hears the prayers for rain and the thanksgiving for the harvest. Truths come alive on a farm. And I pray that those truths land on a heart of good soil teaching the wee one how to truly live.