Friday, May 30, 2008

Fireman to the Rescue, Chet's Trip #7, and The Wonder That Is Olbas Oil

Well, I've pretty much felt like poop for the last four days, so I did a terrible job of keeping you updated. I think I had an ear infection or something... but more on that later. As a result of the delay, this entry will be somewhat lengthy. Sorry about that. Here are the updates...

Fireman to the Rescue

We had an emergency here the other night. I just knew something like this would happen when Chet was gone! I was just innocently going about my business walking out to the storage unit to put a box of diapers in it. I opened the door to the storage unit, and it hit me right away... that all-too-familiar smell. Unfortunately it wasn't smoke. It was the dead mouse smell! Are you kidding me?!? I knew they had to be newly squished rodents, because all the traps were empty just two days before... and because the smell wasn't too bad yet. I stood as close to the open door as possible while bending at the waist to see which trap was full. There were two. Disgusting! I set the diapers down and slammed the door as quickly as possible.

Okay, now what was I going to do? I know the Lord sometimes gives us challenging tasks and that He equips us to handle them. However, I was really praying that this was not one of those times when I needed to be equipped myself. I called and left messages for Randy Murray and Joseph Bonura to see if they could come by and help me dispose of the dead rodents and set new traps.

Before Randy and Joseph had a chance to call me back, Michele Murray called me because she noticed my number on their caller id. When I told her about my dilemma, she suggested I call her brother, Michael... aka "Fireman Mike". (He's the same fireman that directed the fire house birthday party Ladan went to a year and a half ago. He also goes to our church.) Great idea! He lives right down the street, and we figured that if he can handle burned humans, he could probably handle a couple of dead mice in traps. I called, and he and his wife came down right away. Praise be to God! I am not saying that lightly either. The church family is good for so many reasons, and I think this is just one purpose the Lord had in mind when he decided it was good that we live as part of a community.

In the end, this gives me just one more thing to add to my list of reasons I'm looking forward to my farm boy's return. I'm sure Randy, Joseph and Michael will be glad when Chet can do his own chores again too!

Chet's Trip #7

I've talked to Chet a couple of times since I was able to write in detail. Last weekend, Chet and Tom went to some villages to the west of Calcutta. They went back to Calcutta Sunday, and they left again on Monday to go to some villages to the east of Calcutta. They returned again on Wednesday, and they've been here and there in town since then. That's the overview, and here are some details.

In the first set of villages:
  • Chet and Tom went out with a few Bengali men. They walked about 20 miles one day to visit different villages. One village had about 70,000 people living in it. I don't call that a village. When they would reach the villages, Chet would get out his camera and start taking pictures of the kids and then show them their pictures on the digital screen. They thought it was really great. Then he showed their parents, and the parents were immediately drawn to Chet and Tom. This allowed them to start many conversations.
  • The people were VERY hospitable. The guys drank a lot of tea in the homes of various people they met.
  • Chet was able to preach to about 200 unbelievers. He also gave a short sermon during the worship service of one of the local fellowships (underground churches). There was apparently a drummer playing during the music. He played with each of his fingers and thumbs in addition to using the palms of his hands. Chet said it was amazing! Chet and Tom both said it was emotional to leave this group of believers because they felt such a deep connection with them.
  • The people were all very open to hearing them.

In the villages east of Calcutta:

  • Chet and Tom went out again with one of the Bengali men named Ani (sp?). Ani had been with them on their first round in the other villages, and he asked them if they'd come to some of the villages near his home.
  • The villages were much smaller and more like actual villages.
  • The people in general were a little bit more closed and skeptical than the people in the other villages. However, they were still very hospitable.
  • Somewhere along the way, Ani gave Chet and Tom each a garment that Chet described as "a tube of fabric that goes around your waist down to your ankles". I said, "You mean a skirt?" He was apparently wearing it around the hotel while I was talking to him during that conversation and said it actually was significantly cooler than even shorts. He and Tom wore them in the village homes some, but once they were back in the city, they did not wear them in public. I guess he's getting the full experience!
  • While they were in Ani's village, they met a 14-year-old girl and spent some time in her home with her family. At one point, the girl asked Chet if he wanted to go up on the rooftop. He thought she was going to show him some flowers or something. As it turns out, her sister-in-law was up there worshiping their Hindu idols. The girl invited Chet to worship an idol. He explained that he worships Jesus. She said she does too. Apparently it wasn't a good time to continue the conversation, so he left it for the moment. He went back to Ani's house and explained what happened. Then he took Ani back to the girl's house later that night to explain the difference between the way he worships ONLY Jesus and the way she worships Jesus along with other gods. She said that she would worship only Jesus too, but it was too difficult because her family was all Hindu. Chet was able to refer her to Ani and Ani's wife, who both grew up in Hindu families, saying that she could talk to either one of them if she wanted some suggestions for how to handle her family if she wanted to be commited to Jesus alone. Her sister-in-law was in the room listening to the whole conversation, so she was able to hear the Gospel too.
  • Chet was able to talk to Ani's church. It was a smaller church (I think he said it was made up of about 40-50 people). At one point, Chet asked the people to raise their hands if Ani led them to the Lord, and 12 people raised their hands. Then he asked them to raise their hands if Ani had discipled them, and every single person raised his/her hand.
  • At the end of a week with Ani, Chet and Tom both had a hard time leaving him and his family.

Since they returned to Calcutta:

  • Chet has taken a couple of naps.
  • He went to some neat shops.
  • The guys all went to William Carey's place. It was a bit of a jaunt away, and he said their guide seemed to be in a hurry, so they didn't get to see as much of it as they could have. It was actually the first thing he said wasn't as cool as he expected it to be.
  • They ate at a Pizza Hut with a local American missionary and his family. According to Chet, it was the nicest Pizza Hut he's ever been to. Everything was really clean, and the pizza was actually good (pretty shocking to both of us). As a bonus, the waiters would dance if asked. Hilarious!

In the next couple of days, they'll go to the market, do some hanging out as a group, go to church on Sunday morning, and pack up to and prepare to take off on Sunday night. Please pray:

  • for continued health and safety for the guys
  • that the Gospel will take root in the hearts of those who heard (or will hear) it
  • that the believers they met with will be encouraged and will feel better equipped to go out and disciple the people in their churches
  • for the 14-year-old girl in Ani's village (and for her family)

And the last update...

The Wonder That Is Olbas Oil

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I think I may have an ear infection or something. I basically had a fever for about a day, my ears were pretty sore and had lots of pressure on them, and my throat felt like people were making me swallow knives for most of this week. It was awful! I don't think I've ever had an ear infection before, so I can't be sure that's what it is. However, I've just treated it as if it was an ear infection, and it started to get lots better. I made sure to drink lots of warm water, took some Tylenol, consumed very few dairy products, and added a B and C vitamin complex and zinc to my regimin.

I sent the Olbas Oil with Chet in case he had trouble with congestion, so I had to go out and buy some more on Wednesday. In case you don't know what Olbas Oil is, it's a mix of essential oils like mint, eucalyptus, juniper, and a few others. This stuff is amazing! We use it for so many things in our house (pregnancy congestion, infant congestion, allergies, runny noses, sore muscles, etc.). I had a friend once who used it for an ear infection, so I thought I'd give it a shot. I put one drop in front of each ear and one drop behind each ear (under my earlobe). I laid down, and within 5 minutes, I felt all the fluid in my ears dripping away. This is exactly what my friend said happened to her! It felt fabulous!

I added a humidifier to the mix while I slept and continued to apply the Olbas Oil every few hours followed by a heating pad on the sides of my face, and today I felt SO MUCH better! My throat also feels better, probably since I don't have all that fluid draining down the back of it all day long. I'll probably keep up the Olbas Oil and the humidifier for one more night, and hopefully this thing will be kicked.

If you've never heard my running Olbas Oil commercial, here's your introduction. We're pretty convinced that every family should keep some in the cabinet. I'm sure there are many places to find it, but we get ours at Whole Foods. It's almost $16 for a bottle, but you only use a few drops at a time, so it lasts for a LONG time.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Chet's Trip #6

Well, Chet made it back to Calcutta. He and Tom had an amazing experience out in the villages. They got to preach the Gospel to 200 or more unbelievers, and the Indian pastors with whom they traveled explained more and are following up with these people. Chet also got to preach in one of the local "fellowships" (underground churches), which he said was awesome. Chet and Tom had such a great time in the four-village area they visited that they are hoping to do the same thing for a few more days in villages east of Calcutta.

My mom and I took the boys to see my grandma in the hospital tonight. She's not in very good shape and has some pretty intense bed sores.

I'll write more about how things are going when I hear from Chet again. In the meantime, pop on over to Amber's blog if you want to see a photo of Justus. He's super-cute!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Chet's Trip #5 and Justus Drew

I'm getting all kinds of fun phone calls these days! Justus Drew Burger, our precious little nephew, is here! Amber went into labor at about 10:30 last night, and Justus made his entrance to the big world outside at 4:41am, just three hours after she went to the hospital. It was a quick labor just like she had with Titus. Justus weighed 7 lbs. 3 oz and measured 20 inches long. He ate well right away, so lets pray that continues. Amber had all kinds of issues when she was nursing Titus, so we've been praying hard that things will go lots better this time.

I went back to sleep for a while after that good news, and about an hour after I woke up, Chet called. We got some business out of the way (updates on family news, final decision making regarding our will which I have an appointment to revise next week... you know, simple decisions (obviously kidding)). Then I got to hear lots more about how things have been going. Chet is having a REALLY great time! Here are some of the things he talked about:
  • He talked to Ladan about the monkeys that are everywhere in town, explaining all the tricks they do. It sounds like Chet has had some really fun conversations with the monkey peddlers.
  • So far everyone is healthy. Chet's not sick of the food yet and is enjoying trying all kinds of new things.
  • The teaching times went extremely well yesterday and today. Ryan and Chet each taught 4 sessions of about 60-90 minutes on their respective teaching days. The discussion groups went really well yesterday after Ryan's teaching. Today they didn't end up discussing as much of the teaching content, partly because they had a different translator today who didn't translate back into English as well as he could traslate English into Bengali. So there was a lot of conversation about the teaching topic going on, but it was in Bengali and very little was translated back to the guys in English. The discussion times were still very fruitful though because the men they were teaching had lots of questions about the Bible that weren't necessarily related to the teaching topic, so it ended up being more of a Q&A time today. Chet's overall assessment is that both days went extremely well. That means it must have been really good, because Chet doesn't use superlatives loosely.
  • Tomorrow, Chet and Tom will head out to a smaller town/village area with a couple of the Bengali men. They'll stay there until Sunday. They will go to evangelize with an interesting strategy. Apparently, Tom and Chet will kind of be the spectacles that draw the crowd. They'll act like tourists (which they kind of are) and start asking the people all about things that they see in the area. They'll move into questions about the faith of the local people. This is when their Bengali partners will jump in and begin moving the conversation to the Gospel and Christianity. They call this strategy "camel jumping" there, and apparently it's very effective at getting conversations started. It also allows them to get a good picture of where the people are and how they can explain the differences between their faith and Christianity.
  • The people are VERY friendly no matter what their income level or station in life. Chet said they are very open to conversation and have very likable personalities. They laugh a lot and talk openly. Chet said it's like a breath of fresh air because people don't hesitate to be kind.
  • Brian and Matt seem to be doing well in the remote area they're visiting. They've been calling the guys in Calcutta daily to touch base. Apparently, though, a series of events and circumstances caused the local authorities to suspect that Matt and Brian were terrorists, so they had to be taken in for questioning. All is well, and they're having good conversations with the people. They're still planning to come back to Calcutta on Saturday. As a result of this event, Brian has been nicknamed "Osama V."
  • Apparently, the hotel staff is really great. The guys have the same waiter at the restaurant all the time, and they were able to meet his family this morning. There is also a security guard outside the hotel that they've had some really good conversations with. Now I'm second-guessing myself. I can't remember if it was the waiter's family or the security guard's family they met. Either way, the people there are great, and they met someone's family.
  • He told me that I would HATE riding around in the car there. I'm sure he's right. He said the drivers get so close to other cars, cyclists, and pedestrians that he's not sure how it doesn't result in a pile of casualties every day. The people walk and cycle right in the middle of the road with the cars all zooming in and out. These people have to have nerves of steel!
  • Today was super-hot, and it was the first day that the heat bothered Chet at all. We got him some quick-drying polos for the trip, and he said they're awesome! I'm so glad! He said he pretty much is drenched all the time, but the shirts don't even show it, and they dry very quickly as soon as he comes out of the heat.
  • As far as the men they're teaching go, he said they are so faithful! They know the Quran, so they can effectively witness to the Muslims around them. And he said they don't even flinch when they share the Gospel, they know it so thoroughly and so deeply in their own hearts. He has found these men to be very endearing. They don't necessarily have the most sophisticated understanding of all the subtleties of the Bible, but they know the Truth and they share it freely.

In the end, he didn't have anything negative to say at all. I can tell that he's pretty much having the time of his life! I'm so thankful! Please pray for safety for all the guys, continued health, that the Lord would open the hearts of unbelievers to hear the Gospel, and that the believers (including our guys) will all be strengthened by this experience.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

And the Winner Is...

DAVID COOK!!!! Ladan was predicting all day that David Archuleta would win. I told him that he might be right but that I hoped he was wrong. (Sorry if you're reading this, Randy Murray.) Ladan responded, "David Cook is not going to win, Mom." Needless to say, he was a little bit surprised when it turned out that David Cook won... by 12 million votes. It's probably the first time this whole season that his predictions were off. Not bad for a three-year-old. Though it only lasted a few minutes, the two Davids provided a good example of what it looks like to win and come in second graciously. You can't actually call it a loss if you come in second out of 100,000+ people.

The other funny thing is that it seems as though Syesha Mercado (the 2nd runner up in the American Idol contest) has been traveling around with us for the last two days. Sometimes Ladan says she's his mom (usually when he doesn't want to do something I've asked him to do--as an attempt to basically reject my authority in his life... which he quickly gets over when I give him the stern look). Tonight I had to physically open the passenger door of the van and move a paper towel that was sitting on the seat so Syesha could ride to church with us. Nice. When it doesn't promote disobedience or disrespect I'm happy to encourage his imagination.

He's getting really good at identifying which letter a word starts with. And whenever he identifies it correctly he tells me another word that starts with the same letter. It goes something like this... "Mom, what letter does Lightning McQueen begin with?" The appropriate response is not to answer the question but to ask, "What letter does Lightning McQueen begin with?" He'll put on his thinking face for a minute and say, "Lightning McQueen begins with L, like 'lion'!" Then he gets a high five or some other type of encouragement that makes him smile really big and sometimes laugh with excitement. On the way home from church tonight (a quick 4-mile ride), he identified the first letter of bricks, firetruck, smoothie, David (as in Cook and Archuleta), and one other word that I can't remember right now. This type of activity probably makes up at least 20-30% of our conversation each day... and I'm never the one initiating the questions.

I've written several times about how Ladan has a really hard time talking to people who greet him. Well, just the other day, a senior lady said hello to him at the grocery store, and he looked her in the eye, smiled, and cheerfully said, "Hello!" I almost fell over. Then she asked him how he was doing, and he said, "Good," with the same smile and good eye contact. I could hardly believe it. She walked away chuckling, and he was smiling from ear to ear. Then he got a treat, a big hug, and lots of praise for doing the right thing on his own. It's really fun to see your kid do something well all by himself, especially when you know it doesn't come easily for him.

Gabe is starting to say more and more words daily, which is really fun. He's so stinking cute! He almost always leaves off the consonants at the start of a word. For example, yucky is "ucky", potty is "otty", banana is "ana". He says "mo" for no, which is really hard to take seriously when he's got his brow all furrowed and is giving the glare. He does say "shoes" pretty well, but it comes out more like "choosh" most of the time. He still says "Nanan" for Ladan and still runs to Ladan's room if he wakes up before his big brother. When he runs, his arms and hands flail around like noodles at his sides. I have to try to get video of that sometime.

He's really good at playing catch even with a small ball. At this point, he almost always throws with his left hand and is most accurate with that hand. He's getting quite an arm which may cause us to have to limit the types of balls he can throw in the house (yes, I allow my children to throw balls in the house). He shoots baskets with accuracy and consistency from up to a few feet away from the basket. He can go down steps without holding onto anything. He climbs to the top of Ladan's bunkbed with ease... when he finds a way to sneak into the room in the first place. Thankfully he's too scared to try to get down on his own. He loves to stand at the kitchen counter to "see" (usually with his hands) what I'm trying to do. He doesn't like it when I move the stepstool to the middle of the room away from the sharp knives because apparently that's not close enough. I do have to draw the line somewhere though.

His attention span is lengthening, which is nice because he can sit still for longer and wants to read more books. Five Silly Monkeys is his favorite right now. He brings it over to me, crawls up in my lap, and lays back with the top of his head right by my jaw. He's also working more on his fine motor skills and is starting to play more with two toys (one in each hand) acting like he's actually doing something with them (i.e. horses running toward one another, cars crashing or racing, a lion roaring at another animal, etc.). He enjoys trying to buckle the straps on his booster seat and tries to put keys in the door.

He'll be 20 months old next week, but he's still so tiny that he can wear 6-9 month shorts. Almost all of his shirts are 9-12 months with some 12-18 months thrown in... but nothing bigger than that yet. In general he wears 12-18 month pants and can still fit into some 9-12 month pairs. My biggest problem comes when I try to get him in jeans. He's too tall for his 18 month jeans, but it looks like I've dressed him in parachute pants when I put him in 24-month pants... probably because I have to put the adjustable waist on the tightest setting to hold them up, but there's enough fabric around his bottom to cover him twice. I'm thankful that summer is quickly approaching, so I don't have to worry about that. Hopefully he'll be big enough to fill out his jeans by the time fall rolls around again.

I guess that turned out to be longer than I expected. I was thinking yesterday and realized that I hadn't really recorded much of what the boys are doing on a daily basis. So there you have it.

Chet should be preparing to teach as I write this. He's planning to try to call in the morning (which will be the end of his teaching day there), so I'll let you know how it's going after I hear more.

And Saturday is the big day that Amber will be induced (by chiropractic adjustment rather than drugs) if she doesn't deliver on her own before then. Soon we'll have yet another little boy to love on! So many exciting things are happening in our family!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Chet's Trip #4

Chet called again just a little while ago. They're doing well. They took some time today to learn more about the culture and how to effectively evangelize (there's an American missionary there that they're working with). Earlier today, he went for a couple of walks (one with Matt and one with Ryan) to locate a few things in town, and apparently they had some fun conversations with little kids on the way. He said they were really cute!

Chet said that, as they were discussing their plans for the teaching times, everything changed from the original plan (which they knew was up in the air anyway). Ryan teaches the larger group tomorrow, and then Chet will teach on Thursday. I'm not exactly sure when or how they'll work out the small group plan, but that's when each guy will take a group to teach. Anyway, this is totally new territory for Chet. If you've ever seen/heard him teach, he always has more prepared than he's planning to say... just because it may be helpful. This is an excellent quality, but when you have no idea how to prepare, how it's going to go talking through a translator, or what questions people will have, it becomes a little disconcerting. I'm confident he'll do a great job, and apparently Brian thinks he'll do well (otherwise, he wouldn't have assigned him the task), but I'm not sure Chet's quite as sure as everyone around him. His main concern is that he wants the men they're teaching to get as much out of it as possible.

Thankfully, he's not freaking out or anything. However, I'd say it's definitely a good thing to pray about. Please pray that he will have clarity of mind, that the Holy Spirit will fill in the blanks where he would otherwise fail to clearly communicate, and that the men he's teaching will know what questions to ask if they don't understand something. Let's pray the same for Ryan as he's teaching tomorrow.

Matt and Brian should be on their way to the remote area (I'm not sure if I'm supposed to name these places, so until further notice, it's just "a remote area") if they haven't already arrived. Please pray for them throughout the week. And pray for the believers there. The church there is struggling and, from what I understand, is suffering some persecution. Matt and Brian will try to encourage and further equip them to face these uncertain times.

The guys haven't been able to check their e-mail since being in India, but they found a couple of possibilities that they may check out tomorrow. Chet will try to call again on Thursday if he can't get the e-mail thing to work in the meantime.

FYI--they're 9.5 hours ahead of Eastern time.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Building Schools in Sudan

A note from my brother. He and his wife have started an organization called His Voice for Sudan. If you don't know about what they're doing in Sudan, please read about it here and pray about whether or not the Lord is leading you to get involved.

Hey Everyone,

We are trying to raise some funds for the secondary school that we are building in Southern Sudan. I have posted some pictures of what the school buildings will look like. Bishop (our head guy on the ground) needs to get $20,000 asap in order to procure some materials before the rainy season.

If you, your church/organization, or anyone you know would be interested in giving to this project, please contact us at or visit the PARTNER page of our website for details on how to give.

Love Truth,
Jn. 17:3

Chet's Trip #3

I just got a call from Chet. They've been in Calcutta for about 14 hours. All their luggage arrived. He described some of the things he's seeing in the city. Here are some of the things he said:
  • There are people everywhere. Vendors selling random things throughout all the alleyways. Vehicles move so quickly and recklessly that it almost doesn't feel dangerous. He had a chance to hang out the windows of the vehicle they were in to take some photos as they drove down the road. Fun!
  • There is a dramatic difference between the poor and the rich. He saw a Rolex billboard with people living in shanties underneath it. Some people live in abandoned buildings, and right next door is an upscale condo building. There are families living in tents in the streets.
  • The poor people regularly grab onto the guys and ask them for money. They can't give them any money because the people in the streets would swarm them and not allow them to go anywhere. They would be followed everywhere they went. This is a hard thing to handle well, because Chet so wants to just give them some money. In addition to the beggars, there are many people who try to force the guys to allow them to work (i.e. carry their bags) in exchange for money. They have to be firm and do their own chores.
  • He said the city reminds him quite a bit of New Orleans (before Katrina). The architecture, stark difference between the rich and poor all living/standing on the same street, activity level, lower level of cleanliness, sounds, etc.
  • Their hotel is definitely not a chain. It's more like a mom-and-pop place. It has a very nice restaurant on the lower level. They have squatty potties in the hotel. We'll see how that goes.

Their schedule looks something like this:

  • Tomorrow will be another slower-paced day. They'll have some meetings, familiarize themselves with more of the town, prepare for teaching, etc.
  • Brian and Matt will leave tomorrow for a more remote area where the church is struggling. It's a 16-hour train ride. They'll return to Calcutta on Saturday.
  • Wednesday, Thursday and Friday will be teaching days. Chet and Ryan will do the main teachings on these days. All the guys will have opportunities to teach/lead smaller groups of men.
  • Saturday and Sunday will be slower-paced days. They might go to the market or do other fun things. They'll go to church. They'll look for opportunities to interact with unbelievers. And they'll prepare for next week's teaching times.
  • Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday will be teaching times again.
  • Two groups of two guys will go out to villages during these teaching days.
  • They're not exactly sure how the end of next week will unfold. They have some ideas, but their plans aren't settled.
  • They start the return flight on Sunday, June 1. They'll arrive here very late on Monday night.

So, please keep praying for the guys as they prepare to teach, go out to other places in the country, and interact with unbelievers. Pray also that the Lord uses this experience to help them grow individually.

More updates as they come...

Chet's Trip #2 and Crib Tents

Chet should have landed in Calcutta at about 11pm yesterday (our time). They had a lot to do when they got there--track down all their luggage and pray that it all arrived, exchange their money, find and get settled into their hotel, etc. I haven't heard from him since he should have been in Calcutta, but that's not surprising to me. I figure that since I also haven't heard from anyone at the seminary, everything is just fine, as they'd be calling me if his plane crashed or he ran into some other trouble.

I did get a message from Brussels yesterday. He hadn't been able to sleep at all on the plane by that point, but he did get to watch John Rambo (Thank goodness I got out of that one!). He said we should add Matt, one of the other guys, to our prayer list specifically. Apparently Matt, who's fairly tall, banged his head really hard on the overhead cabin in the plane. Chet asked that we pray that Matt is able to avoid "serious injury" during the rest of their travel! (Obviously joking, but I guess it couldn't hurt!) I told Matt's wife we should also pray that he doesn't get an unsightly bump on his head that would make it difficult for anyone to take him seriously... after all, the coneheads aren't exactly a well-respected group.

I took the boys for a long walk last night. For those of you who know where we live, we walked all the way from our home to the Target on Westport and Hubbards, walked around the store a bit, and came back home. It was great! The only problem was that there aren't great sidewalks on parts of Chenoweth and Westport. It only took about an hour and 45 minutes for the entire trip--a one-way walk took about 35-40 minutes. Not bad since I wasn't walking for speed or anything.

As for the crib tent idea, the only one I can find is absolutely hideous. It would be great if his crib was white or something, but it's not. There isn't a single white thing in Gabe's room for that matter. I don't know if I'll go for it or not. Hopefully my reaction to him climbing out the first time will be motivation enough to keep him in it... and yet I'm not exactly convinced that it's going to work. Here's the tent I found. If any of you have found or used any other crib tents, please let me know.

I'll let you know if/when I hear anything else from Chet

Saturday, May 17, 2008

And He's Off!

Chet should be in the air as I write. Yesterday we had a fun family day. We went to the zoo for a little while, finished getting Chet's bags packed, and ate taco pizza for dinner (something totally different than the Indian food he'll be eating for two weeks). In the middle of all that I got to go to see Cali, one of the girls from church, all dressed up for prom. Her dress is from the 1950's and was this really great iridescent green color. Isn't this a fun photo?!?

Once Gabe was in bed (which took a couple of tries because he was a bit cantankerous), I gave Chet a haircut, Ladan read his Bible story to Chet before he went to bed, and Chet and I watched a movie. I was glad Chet's bag was pretty well packed by Thursday night, because it was fun just to hang out.

This morning we took a few photos before he left.

If/when there are updates from the trip, I'll post them here. In the meantime, we would appreciate your prayers for the following:
  • The eight guys going on the trip and their families/fiances.
  • There will be two smaller groups (probably two guys in each of the two groups) going out into smaller, more remote areas of the country. Pray for their protection and that their time will be fruitful.
  • All the guys will have various opportunities to teach, mostly through translators. Pray that the translators will be able to accurately convey the information and that the guys will maintain their train of thought as they're teaching (especially as they'll have to stop every sentence or two to allow for translation).
  • Good health for all the guys (I sent Chet off with vitamins and acidophilus in addition to his prescriptions, so hopefully that will keep his immune system working well).
  • Pray that the Gospel will be clearly communicated to unbelievers they meet and that they will rightly divide the Word as they teach local believers and church elders.

And, please pray for me as I'm here with the boys. I think it's going to be a great time, but just as I was writing this message, I heard Gabe's doorknob moving around. He's supposed to be IN HIS CRIB TAKING A NAP! I just went in there, and he had climbed out (safely, thank goodness) and was playing with his toys on the floor. AAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!! I love his ingenuity and bravery, but this is just crossing the line. We may have to take some further safety measures. I'm definitely not ready for him to be in the big boy bed in Ladan's room, but it looks like he's not going to last in the crib as long as Ladan did either... unless I find some way to jail him in there more effectively. Good grief!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Rock the House

Tonight we (Chet, Ladan and I) were watching the American Idol results show. Ladan's favorites throughout the show have been David Archuleta and David Cook. He gets really into the show and says things like, "I like David Archuleta," "David Cook is a good singer," "I liked that song a lot," and even "That was NOT a good song, Mom. Did you like that song?" Well, tonight during the show, he was preparing for the run-down of David Cook's performance last night, and he said, "David Cook is going to sing, 'I'm Alive', and then he's going to sing, 'I'm Gonna' Rock the House'. David Cook is going to rock the house." Whatever! He's such a funny kid!

And apparently, he has a good ear for good music and great vocals, because his season-long favorites are the two guys who will sing next week in the finals.

Gabe's been having a bit of a hard time for the last week and a half or so. We're not sure if he's getting another set of molars or if there's some other issue going on. He's pretty cranky most of the time though, which isn't super-fun for any of us, including Gabe himself. He's had to have more discipline and has had to spend more time in his bed (which seems to be a relief for him in some sense). I'm hoping that we'll get back into a bit of a normal routine soon, which may help him. He's starting to use a few more words to express himself, so it's entirely possible that he's just frustrated that he's not able to say as much as he wants to. We'll see how it all unfolds over the next few weeks.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

My Time Over Yonder

Well, I just returned from Fort Worth, Texas... aka "Yonder". I flew down on Thursday to go to my brother's college graduation on Friday. It was so exciting! He's been working on it for a long time, taking breaks here and there for various missions and ministry positions. But he finished last week with awesome grades! He was part of the first graduating class at The College at Southwestern (at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary). His goal is to continue on to earn his Master's and PhD, so he doesn't feel like he's "accomplished the goal" yet... but I think it's fabulous!

I stayed in Texas until Monday. Chet was at home with the boys, and two guys from our church were so kind to each take one weekday night to stay overnight with the boys while Chet went to work. Chet had a really good time with the boys, and they had a lot of fun with him! Our home was in good order when I got back too, which was a huge blessing!

While in Texas, I:
  • Spent a good deal of time with lots of my family (my brother, Amber, Titus, my mom, my stepmom, and my two stepsisters (Katie and Allison))
  • Ate some good food (Central Market, Uncle Julio's, a picnic in the park, and a really fun Italian restaurant downtown, but I can't remember the name)
  • Went to REI (to get some things for Chet's trip) and IKEA (where I found a really fun road rug for the boys for only $15)
  • Spent some time walking around downtown
  • Made several trips to Target
  • Had my hair cut by my stepsister, Katie
  • Had some super-great conversation with my family
  • Read an entire book just on the plane ride there and back
  • Went to church
  • Visited Starbucks a few times
  • Was able to spend a good deal of time with Victor, the Sudanese guy who lives with my brother and Amber while he goes to school here in the states. He's hilarious, has a great laugh, and is really fun to be around.
While in Texas, I DID NOT:
  • Have to be concerned about anyone else's nutrition and meal schedule
  • Discipline anyone
  • Change any diapers
  • Sweep a floor that I just swept 40 minutes ago but is somehow strangely covered in Life cereal again
  • Have to be concerned with anyone else's sleep schedule or nap time
  • Wonder if it would work out for me to participate in any activity
  • Have to pack more than what I needed for myself and keep up with other people's belongings

It would have been so fun if Chet and the boys could have gone (and it would have been worth giving up the freedom that went with being there on my own), but it was a refreshing break, and I'm so thankful I could go.

As far as the commencement ceremony went, if I hadn't known I was in Texas, there would have been plenty of context clues to bring me up to speed. First of all, the faculty members and PhD students all wore black Stetsons for the ceremony instead of the typical berets (this was probably one of my favorite things). In the course of the ceremony, one of the faculty members used the word "yonder" to point us to the large grassy field where we could find our respective graduates after the festivities. And it would not have been complete without at least one Texas history lesson in the middle of the seminary president's address to the students. You might think I'm making fun of these things, so I better clarify. I actually thought it was awesome! It's great to be in a place (school and state) where people take pride in where they come from and are able to recognize these things as blessings from the Lord.

It was really fun to see Chet and the boys at the airport when I got home. As we were driving home I was telling Chet all about the trip in greater detail than I was able to use in our short phone conversations. The entire time I was talking, Gabe was in the back seat saying, "Yeah, uh huh, uh huh, yeah, yeah, uh huh...." and then he'd break into a little song. He was saying several more words than he said when I left, and Chet said he's pretty sure Gabe said his first sentence while I was gone also. It's crazy what 4 days will do in the life of a 19-month-old boy!

Ladan is getting so old too! He is so much fun to take along when we run errands and get things accomplished! We can chat about things as we go throughout the day, and he is a really great help in general! He's getting lots better about being patient as he waits for us to get him things he needs. He's starting to eat a lot better and is struggling less and less to eat what we provide for him. He has grown to be very hospitable to our guests. And he's been very quick to share with Gabe and others lately. His favorite stories are the stories of Zaccheus and Bartimaeus. He wants to read them all the time and always enjoys the part at the end of each story when we talk about what he learned (i.e. that Jesus knows his name, that Jesus knows where he is, that Jesus listens to him when he talks to Jesus, etc.).

I am so grateful for my family!!!! Chet leaves soon for his trip, so once we get him off and running, I'll have more time to focus my thoughts on finishing the family planning entries, and I'll try to post a few recent photos.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Loving Others Well

Yesterday I took Gabe to a follow-up appointment with his surgeon. That went well, and we don't have to go back. I was reminded again how much I like that doctor and appreciate his thorough care for our family, but that's not what this post is mainly about.

While we were waiting to see the doctor, the boys were looking at the fish in the tank. Beside us was a boy in his wheelchair. I couldn't tell exactly what his diagnosis would have been, but it looked like he may have had severe cerebral palsy. He couldn't move his head on his own. He had a tracheotomy. He couldn't swallow his own saliva... so his mom had to suction it out of his mouth with a motorized suction tube like those used at the dentist. He had a feeding tube. His body was disproportionate. He had beautiful brown eyes. I coudn't tell how old he was. It doesn't really matter.

Ladan didn't really pay too much attention to him until his mom had to turn on the suction device and dry his mouth out. This caused Ladan to look and wonder what the noise was... and then he noticed how different the boy looked and started to point some things out. "He's very thirsty, Mom." The boy's mom said, "Yes he is." Then Ladan asked with a very confused look on his face, "Why does he have blankets all over him?" I explained that he was probably chilly because it was cooler than it had been for a few days, so he probably just needed an extra blanket to stay warm. I learned the boys name at this point, but for the sake of anonymity, I'll call him "Joey" here.

I walked over and looked Joey in the eye and said hello to him. I touched his shoulder gently and told him it was nice to meet him. Then I made the mistake of asking Ladan to say "hello". Just the night before, we had to correct him for not saying hello to someone on the phone (realizing that it's important that he obey when we ask him to say something... even if he doesn't want to or feels like doing something else instead). This situation with Joey was exactly the type of thing that motivates us. There are just times when our kids (or we ourselves) don't really feel like interacting with people, but sometimes it's not all about us. It's about how we can make that person feel loved. Well, anyway, Ladan did not want to say hello. Then Gabe didn't want to say hello either. Tears started streaming down Joey's face, and he became very upset. I was heartbroken. I apologized to him and his mom, and then he was called in to be examined by the doctor.

When they went in, I talked to Ladan about why it's so important to be friendly to people. God calls us to love others, and this is one important way we can show people love, just by greeting them with a friendly smile... even when they can't smile back or say hello to us. I explained that God made Joey differently than Ladan, that God loves Joey, and that the noise of his suction tube might have sounded scary, but that it's just something his mom uses to care for and help him. Then we went over some possible things he could say to Joey if we saw him again before leaving the appointment. Ladan was quick to let me know that he wouldn't make a bad face (with a furrowed brow), but that he'd make a nice face (with bright wide open eyes and a smile). When I asked him what he could say, he suggested, "Hi!" or "See you next time!" or "Have a nice day!" He was ready, and he kept his eyes out for Joey.

Unfortunately, we didn't see Joey again before we left. But I was literally sick to my stomach thinking about it all. I so want to help my kids work through the fear and uncertainty of interacting with people with different ability levels or different appearances. I want to help them to find strategies for showing all kinds of people love. I could just take them down to the children's hospital and walk around talking about the kids and testing my own kids to see how they respond. But if they made "only" three kids cry before they got it right, we would have crushed the hearts of three precious children just so my kids could learn a lesson. I basically had no idea what I'd do to help them without using other kids with feelings as their training agents.

I called my cousin, Leslie, right away. Her third child (2 1/2 years old) has a rare chromosomal disorder (and I'm not entirely sure that they've really identified all of the other different things that are going on with his little body). As a result, he has many "little" things wrong with his body that all add up to some pretty major things. He has a feeding tube and he doesn't talk very much. However, he can walk and run around, and he learns new things every day. He goes to therapy a couple times a week. As a result, Leslie's two older kids are exposed to children with disabilities far worse than their little brother's. I asked her how she prepared Cameron and Amelia for these encounters. She basically answered by saying that, because they were sort of thrown into it all with Andrew, starting with his feeding tube at home, she didn't have to think of ways to help them. It's just part of their lives. However, she had some VERY helpful suggestions for me, and I wanted to record them here in case they might be helpful to you as well. She suggested:
  • Going to the local library to check out some books (that are written for young children) that show pictures of children with disabilities and various devices that help them get through life, using the books to talk through the different things we see (wheelchairs, blank expressions on kids' faces, children who can't swallow or move on their own, children making unusual movements, etc.). This is one way to help them be exposed to various situations without being put in a position to possibly hurt another child's feelings.
  • Talking to them about how God is good and about how God has a plan for these kids' lives... it just might be a different plan than he has for our boys. Then talk about how God has a different plan for EACH person but that He uses all of them for His glory.
  • When we pray with our boys at night, we could pray that God would comfort all the kids out there whose legs or arms (or any other body part) don't work properly and that He'll show us how we can love them well.

She was so encouraging and gave me such concrete help. I'm thankful! In addition to heeding her advice, we do simply just need to continue training our kids to obey when we ask them to do something... even if they don't want to do it. Not that I expect them to have already arrived in this area (at the ages of 3 1/2 and 19 months), but it is definitely my role in their lives to help them grow into men who know HOW to love other people. I'm praying that this is a powerful lesson for Ladan and that he will be quick to greet people in the future. To support his learning, I'm going to head to the library and do just what Leslie recommends.

If you have additional suggestions, please send them my way!