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Babywearing themed party October 11, 2015

Posted by Judy in parenting.
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DD turns 7 in two days. TWO DAYS! That means if I don’t get this blog post about her 6th birthday party up in two days, it will be seriously old news!

Six year old birthday parties are a big deal at our house. It’s the first party where we do more than just invite friends to come and play and eat cake. Additionally, there’s a theme. Choosing her theme was super easy. She is my junior VBE (volunteer babywearing educator) and has always loved all things babywearing. She totally shocked me at age two and a half when she was able to get her doll safely into a mei tai, on her back, by herself! She also loves to hold her own babywearing meetings with an oftentimes uninterested audience (her brothers 😀 ) So, the decision to have her babywearing as the theme was easy. What wasn’t easy was coming up with activities and games that fit the theme. Thankfully, my friend Holly, who throws the best and most creative birthday parties, gave me some ideas to get the creative juices flowing! (Thank you, Holly!)

We sent out invitations a few weeks in advance.
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When guests arrived, they were met by this display, and the gifts were placed on top of the woven wrap
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(The painting on the right was a gift from hubby when he returned from a work trip to South Africa. I adore this painting!)

Since people tend to arrive to parties not always on time, I like to have a filler activity for kids to do while guests arrive. The activity was to decorate the tail of a ring sling, which would be used in a game later on in the party. I made two mistakes: 1) glitter. . . . enough said! 2) glue, unsupervised . . . . The younger kids ended up dumping massive amounts of glue, which meant that their ring sling tail was never going to dry. Alas. They had fun, so I guess that was still a win!

Once they had finished making a mess decorating, I tossed a basket filled with scarves, aprons and other random pieces of cloth into the middle of the room and said, “Quick, it’s an emergency! We have to get our babies in carriers, but we don’t have any carriers! You’ll have to made do with what we have!” Watching them try to figure out how to attach their dolls with the basket goodies was pretty entertaining.  In the end, they all managed to be hands free, not necessarily safe for the dolls, but hands free!

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For their efforts, the guests all got doll mei tais.

After this activity, it was apparent that the guests needed a bit of education on safe babywearing, so DD gave a little presentation on the different carrier types and how to use them. Something about doing it in front of friends rather than your siblings made it more nerve-racking, but she still did a great job!
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She also helped them all get their dolls in their new mei tais. Much better, right?

Addy, Kellyn, Nibaw, Maya, Lily, Darby, Sara, Emily

The guests all wore their dolls/animals/etc in their carriers for the remainder of the party. It was helpful to have their dolls in carriers, rather than in arms, for the next game: an obstacle course. Some kids dove right in and ran pell mell through the course, some so vigorously that they lost their dolls! Ooops! Other kids took their time and were much more thoughtful and careful. Everyone had a fun time, though. What kid doesn’t love to run around like crazy!

At this point, the party had been going for about an hour. My plan was that the decorated ring sling tails would be dry. They weren’t, so playing “Pin the tail on the ring sling” was kinda messy, but fun! In true “Pin the tail” fashion, the tails were all over the place! But one child managed to pin it almost spot on.
pin the tail

The final activity was weaving. Woven wraps are a type of carrier, that are, well, woven! 😀 Each child got a little cardboard square with yarn, and they got to choose strips of fabric to weave. This was better suited to the older girls, who were 8ish, and they sat and weaved for a good 20 minutes. Even though the 4 and 5 year olds struggled with coordination, they still were able to create a nice little woven mat.
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Once all of the activities were done, it was time for food! Coming up with clever babywearing themed snacks was not hard, especially since Babylonia happens to give MANY of their wraps food names.

We had wraps and cupcakes and a drink,
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and fruit and veggies and crackers.
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All in all, the party was a grand success, we celebrated babywearing, and everyone had fun!  That’s a win in my book!

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Pandemonium August 2, 2014

Posted by Judy in Musings, parenting.
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My family. Ah, my family.

They drive me bat shit crazy. Yep, you read that right: bat. shit. crazy!

Surprised? I imagine you probably are. Many of you, who I’m happy to call my friends, have over the years said what great children we have, how well-behaved they are, what a great mom I am, what amazing parents we must be to have such great children, etc. Generally, I smile and say “Thank you!” Today, I say, “But you don’t live at our house. You don’t see what I see.”

Pandemonium. Pure and utter pandemonium. All. the. time.

The toddler loves to shout and yell. It was cute when he was an infant. Now, not so much.

  • Add his loudness to the child who, when frustrated, becomes unable to use language and is thus relegated to screaming bloody murder.
  • Add his loudness to the other child who constantly shouts “NO!NO!NO!” when someone is bothering them rather than using calmer language.
  • Add his loudness to the other child who slams doors, knocks over chairs and is generally wild when frustrated.
  • Add his loudness to the parents, who, weary from all of the above anger and shouting, add their own shouting to the mix.

Add all of that together and you have pandemonium.

So you see, if you stepped into my house, you would be tempted to retract all of the compliments about well-behaved children. You would rethink whether or not you wanted to shower me with accolades for being a supermom. You would likely gather your things and make a hasty retreat from the pandemonium, bedlam and mayhem that seem to reign supreme.

Some of you might say, “Give yourself a break. Your family is dealing with the huge stress of cancer right now. It’ll get better.” Our house was bedlam-filled long before cancer popped up in my left boob. I’ll concede that the cancer makes it more stressful, because in addition to dealing with the mayhem, I’m also doing my best to, you know, not die. But, that doesn’t really change the fact that bedlam seems to reign in our house and that I’m going BSC.

Sometimes, who am I kidding, MOST of the time, I feel like grabbing my purse and Kindle and running out the door. I imagine myself having peace and quiet in some idyllic, secluded place for weeks, or months even. But then I realize that I’d return and everything would be the same, and the idyllic vacation would have been all for naught. So I don’t physically run away. I run away inside my brain. I wonder what we did wrong, or IF we did wrong. I wonder how in the world to change the behaviors. I wonder why we seem to be the only ones with children who scream and yell so much. I wonder and wonder and end up feeling like we have failed at this thing called parenting.

And then, the 4 year old will say, “Mommy, watch this!” and proceed to kick up into a head stand against the wall, and then push up into a hand stand. And I’m amazed.

And then, the toddler will run over, give me the biggest bear hug ever and plop a giant kiss on my cheek. And my heart melts.

And then the 7 year old reminds me in very specific detail of an event that took place when he was 2. And I’m astounded.

And then the 5 year old flashes her award-winning smile, the same one she’s been flashing since she was 5 weeks old. And I’m smitten.

And then the hubs plays some crazy game with the babes and they are all laughing and giggling like crazy. And I’m hopeful. Hopeful that maybe we didn’t mess up.

And then the bedlam starts up again and I want to run away again.

A friend posted this on FB just now: “Action is the antidote to despair.” – Joan Baez.   It was as if she posted it just for me.  I’ve realized that running away inside my brain doesn’t help. I’ve realized that I can’t change the behaviors of others.  I’ve realized that grumbling and complaining and being angry about my life doesn’t get me anywhere, except for maybe to the doctor’s office with high blood pressure. (And really, I’m kind of maxed out on doctor’s offices right now!) I’ve realized that the best thing, and really the ONLY thing I can do, is to change MY reaction to the BSC-making behaviors. I have no idea how exactly I’m going to do that, but I’ll figure out a plan tomorrow.  Today, I’ll revel in the fact the end of the pandemonium starts right here, with me.

I’d say coming to that conclusion is accomplishment enough for today.

Children February 21, 2014

Posted by Judy in parenting.
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Every parent thinks that their progeny are amazing, adorable, beautiful and smart. And really, that is how it should be. We should support and uplift our children and help them feel confident. Even if the rest of the world doesn’t think you have the cutest or smartest or most amazing children, it doesn’t really matter. We keep believing in our kids and instilling confidence in them.

Sometimes, things will happen that make you realize that, “Wow, my child is more intelligent than I gave them credit for.” Over the past 3 months, DH and I have seen this scenario play out several times with the kids. Within half an hour of getting the diagnosis phone call, we sat the babes down and explained what was going on. (For reference, they are 6, 5, 3 and 1.) We explained things in relatively simple terms: “There is something growing in my body that isn’t supposed to be there and it can cause alot of problems and it could make me very sick.” The older two asked lots of questions and we explained that yes, this could end in death. After about 20 minutes, their attention spans we exhausted and they ran off to do what children do. I figured they probably had a basic understanding but wasn’t really sure.

A few days later, I was talking to the 5 year old, trying to figure out what she understood.
Me: Do you know what I have?
R: Yes, you have breast cancer.
Me: Do you know what that means?
R: It means you could die from it.

I was so floored, that the conversation ended right there. She gave ma a quick squeeze, flashed her million dollar smile and ran off to play.

The 3 year old has a more simplistic understanding, but he is constantly surprising me with his ability to correctly use cancer lingo.
D: Mommy, when you have the lumpectomy, that means they are going to remove the cancer, right?
Me: Right
D: And then chemo will get any small cells that were missed, right?
Me: Uh, yes, that’s correct.

Floored, again.

Another time, we were talking about chemo, and the 6 year old was asking questions for which I did not have answers. (How long will you be on chemo? How many cycles will you have?) The 5 year old pipes up with:
R: Mommy, will you lose your hair with chemo?
Me: Yes.
R: Well, we have a scarf downstairs that you could use to wrap around your head. We’ll make sure it’s clean and ready for you to use.

Her empathy and ability to think ahead and create solutions floored me.

Just yesterday, I was sitting at the kitchen table, working on a table to help me weigh the different surgical options. (Stay tuned for another post with those deets and with an explanation of the chart.) Children are naturally curious, and they asked what I was doing. Immediately, the 6 year old came over and wanted to see. He was asking about the recurrence rate and what that meant.
N: So breast conservation gives you a 15% chance and a double mastectomy gives you a 5% chance.
Me: Correct.
N: Seems like the double mastectomy is better then.
Me: Probably true.
N: But then, of course, you wouldn’t have any breasts.

I don’t know why I was so surprised. He has proven time and again that his critical thinking skills are pretty intense. But, I was once again, floored.

The 5 year old wanted to get in on the conversation and give her opinion.
R: I think a single mastectomy would be better, because then you’d only have one fake boob.

That comment just made me laugh.

So I guess at this point, I should stop being so floored by the babes. It would appear that they have a very good understanding of what is happening and they seem to be processing it quite well.

I can’t tell you what a huge relief that is.

Drama drama drama January 9, 2014

Posted by Judy in Musings, parenting.
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Life in a family of six, in which four of the people are under age 10, is full of chaos, noise and unpredictability. Most days, things go pretty well. Then there are the days when mayhem reigns. This morning started out with the promise of a good day: the babes were in a happy mood and we made it to breakfast time without any meltdowns. Then, before DH or I knew what hit us, three of the four littles were crying their heads off and being totally irrational. Fortunately, the 6 year old realized that things were wild and he forewent his usual breakfast foolishness. Eventually, I got the Little Boss (15 months) calmed down by popping him into a baby carrier. The middletons (the 3 and 5 year olds) eventually ate most of their breakfast and skipped merrily off to play. Really, I still have no idea what all the wailing was about. But, whatev.

The rest of the morning went mostly uneventfully: the babes had fun at the babywearing meeting, the toddler went down for his nap without a hitch, everyone ate several servings of lunch and even said “This is so good, I want to have it again next week!”, and then it was time for school, which also went relatively well. Since we’d been cooped up in the house for a few days thanks to the snow and the ridiculously cold weather, we took advantage of the heat wave (18 degrees) and went out again after school time. We decided to hit the mall play area, got beverages at the coffee shop, and I stopped into Teavana and got a few things. I was so impressed with the babes while we were at Teavana. They behaved remarkably well, didn’t break anything and were quite patient during the half hour it took me to decide and purchase. We were all excited to go home and make pancakes for our pancake bar dinner.

While I made the pancakes, the babes got their baths and half of them decided it would be fun to have a screamfest. I should have known that the screamfest was only the beginning. Long story short . . . .the 3yo managed to slice his finger on the brand new and VERY sharp vegetable peeler. It sliced through his nail, and into the nail bed about a quarter of an inch. I don’t even really remember how we did it, but DH and I got his finger out and then I applied immediate pressure. DH took over while I finished up dinner. I realized it was pretty serious when after 10 minutes, it was still bleeding like crazy. It finally stopped after about 45 minutes of constant pressure. It also helped when the 3yo put his hand on his head. I took him to convenient care, just to be on the safe side. He’ll be fine, but, the little escapade threw a monkey wrench into our bedtime routine.

But wait, there’s more. After we’d returned from the clinic, I was walking through the kitchen and caught a glint under the griddle. I thought it was the flame and thought, “Great! I left the burner on!” I bent down to have a closer look, then inhaled sharply and jumped back. DH says, “Uh-oh, what happened?” I replied in a very dramatic whisper, “THERE’S A MOUSE ON THE STOVETOP!” The fact that there was a mouse running around on the stovetop was bad enough. (GROSS!) It was made worse by the fact that we’d already had a rather traumatic experience last week catching another mouse!

So now we were left trying to figure out how to catch this mouse, trying to wrangle four very tired children into bed, and I was trying to not pass out from the stress of the day and lack of dinner! Amazingly, we got the little humans in bed with no crying and everyone was calm within half an hour. Based on how our day began and ended, I would have thought that feat should have taken us at least an hour, or more.

Ooof! Drama! Drama! Drama!

Oh well, at least I didn’t have to think about breast cancer at all today . . . that’s a plus, right?

Flowers November 17, 2013

Posted by Judy in parenting.
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Yesterday, I read this blog post about parenting. It was tough to read because I could have written that post. Not word for word, but certainly the basics were there: the frustration, the anger, the constant frowning and grouchiness, children who seem to have picked up strange habits. I decided that I needed to make a change. I needed to start seeing the flowers rather than the weeds.

I saw my first flower today. I came home from my church job and the middletons (the 3 and 5 year olds) had all of the party streamers out and were decorating the house. My first thought was, “Nooo! WHAT are you doing?” I just shook my head and walked away, trying really hard to just ignore it. But, I couldn’t just ignore it. They were blocking off the whole house, we couldn’t move around. So, I told them it was time to clean up. Amazingly, the 5 year old cheerily started putting them away.

But wait, I still hadn’t seen the flower. I was still annoyed and scowling. I told myself, “Snap out of it!”, and forced myself to say something positive to the 5 year old.

“What pretty decorations you guys put up today.”
“Very festive.”

But I was still annoyed, so no flower.

Then, the 3 year starting crying that he didn’t want to put them away. “Waaaaaah” I really, really wanted to just be steely faced and say, “Too bad, these aren’t toys, they are going away.” Instead, I gave him 3 very short strings of streamers to use. Problem solved. He was happy and I didn’t have a giant mess.

The first flower just bloomed.

Instincts April 4, 2013

Posted by Judy in Musings, parenting.
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Last week, I slipped and fell down the stairs.
I was holding the baby.
It was horrifying.
It happened so fast and in slow motion.
I realized my instincts are terrible.

We recently moved into a house with hardwood and tile floors throughout. Our new rule is that you have to be barefoot or wearing rubber-soled slippers if you are going to be running around. I wasn’t running around, but clearly, my socked feet should have been wearing slippers.

The baby was on one hip, and I was holding a small box of toys in the opposite hand. I took one step down the second flight of stairs and slipped, landed on my butt, and then slid down the rest of the flight (6 stairs). Had the flight been longer, I’m sure I would’ve kept sliding as the only thing that stopped me was my feet touching the basement floor. As I was falling, I looked over and noticed the baby bending backwards and thinking “He is going to hit his head!” I also remember holding on to both the baby and the box for dear life.

I heard myself making a grunting sound as I fell/slid. I sat, stunned, at the bottom of the stairs, and I heard DH washing his hands in the bathroom upstairs. The baby started crying. I called for DH and he came running down. When I talked to him about it later, he said it was pretty terrifying to hear the WHUMP!. He was sure that both the baby and I had met our demise. Fortunately, neither of us was seriously hurt. The baby was just startled. I have a bruised tailbone and a healthy respect for slippery, wooden floors.

I have no idea why I held on to that crazy box to tightly. I DID consciously lean back to keep myself and the little boss from tumbling forward. But, I should have also let go of that crazy box and used that hand to support the baby. I’m realizing that my “protect the baby” instincts are just not that good.

That is a sobering thought.

Perfection November 3, 2012

Posted by Judy in Musings, parenting.
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I’m a perfectionist. I always have been and always will be. It’s part of what makes me a good musician. It’s part of what makes me a good seamstress. It’s the reason some of my students loved me while others hated me: I expected nothing less than perfection of them, or at least their best attempt at perfection. It’s a blessing and a curse, all at once, but it’s who I am, I don’t know how else to be. Seeing that perfectionism is found at the core of my being, it’s interesting that ever since becoming a parent, I haven’t really thought about being a perfectionist. That is, until today.

I belong to a local parent’s group that is pretty large. Some people I only know in passing, others have become my good friends, while others fall somewhere in between. Today, one of the moms sent me a little note on facebook.

I know i don’t know you that well, but whenever I see you, you inspire me. :)You seem to love being a mom so much it is great! It seems a lot of people I know with four young kids complain a lot about how busy/hectic life is….and you always act like it is the best thing in the world (which I know it is!!)….I just love your positive attitude!

What a lovely note to receive from someone, right? It totally made my day and made me walk around with this goofy smile on my face. Earlier in the day, I had two other encounters that, coupled with this note, got me to thinking about my parenting.

While at church this morning, I was talking with two other parents about my newborn. One parent was amazed that I had four babes and said, “I don’t think I’ll be following in your footsteps!” The other parent responded, “You are just amazing!” I just smiled. We continued talking and I mentioned that I never imagined myself having a small brood of children. I shared with them that while pregnant with #1, I recalled telling a friend that although I had enjoyed the pregnancy experience, I didn’t really want to do it again and was done having children. That changed the instant #1 was born. I remember thinking “Let’s do it again!” When I said that, another lady who does not have children said in a completely shocked manner, “Wow!” It was like she couldn’t at all fathom having that sentiment.

So I got to thinking about those encounters today. To me is seems like no biggie to have four babes, and I don’t really see myself as having it all together or exuding an overly positive attitude. I definitely don’t see myself as Supermom, a moniker DH uses often. I have high expectations for how things should be and what my parenting should look like. I expect that I should be able to have and stick to a daily schedule while having happily adjusted children that are obedient and polite at all times. When that inevitably doesn’t happen, I feel totally derailed, and then it feels like chaos ensues. Some days I feel like I’m just stumbling through, barely making it from one disaster to the next.

It would seem that others do not have this view of me. It would seem that I really do have it together much more than I think I do. It would seem that my perfectionist tendencies have been running in the background for the past five years, sabotaging my confidence making it seem like I was failing miserably at this thing called parenting. For the first time in my life, I’m feeling like I need to kick perfectionism to the curb and just enjoy this crazy ride called parenting. Enjoy the ride and believe that I am doing a good job and that I do have it as together somewhat.

So, maybe, just maybe, it’s possible that I won’t always be a perfectionist. It will probably always be at the core of my being. But maybe, just maybe, I’m starting to figure out how to not let it run my life and how to let it out in manageable doses.

I’m a perfectionist but perfectionism is no longer calling the shots.

The calmest toddler around July 8, 2012

Posted by Judy in parenting.
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Babe #3 is super calm, so much so that we gave him a middle name that means “peaceful”. When he was a newborn and infant, he was so calm that sometimes I would forget he was even there. He was totally happy to just lay on his blanket or under a little toy and look around. In fact, when we was a few days old and had to get blood drawn from his heel for the PKU and others test, he FELL ASLEEP and stayed asleep! Who falls asleep after having their heel pricked?!!??!?!?

Once he became a toddler and started talking and walking, I started to think that maybe he wasn’t so peaceful. The child just likes to yell, and he says everything in this loud, whiny voice . . . it drives me NUTS! But really, he still is calmer than the other two. So long as he’s happy, he’s fine to just play quietly by himself, and he’s pretty easy to calm down. For example. He was in his room at naptime, and was calling out for me. I was reading to the older two, so I just said, “It’s time to sleep. Go lay down.” His response, “Okay, mommy.” He closed the door and went right to sleep! I was floored! Who is this calm baby?

Anyway, we had an incident the other day that proved that he is definitely mega-calm. (He’ll be two next week) He and I were in my sewing room. As usual, I was busy working on a project, and he was playing with the little buckets and things that I have set up for the babes. I heard him whimper and complain, and asked what was wrong. He didn’t really say anything, just complained again. I asked if he’d bonked his head or gotten hurt. Still no words. I walked over and he was standing in his classic “I’m about to poop” stance. I asked if he needed to go potty, and as usual, he said “No!” So I quick picked him up anyway and headed to the bathroom. As I was getting ready to set him on the toilet, I noticed the cause for the whimpering . . . . .

. . . .

. . . .

He had a straight pin stuck through the side of his foot! It went in the bottom and came out the side!

“Oh my goodness! You have a pin in your foot!!”

The whole time he’s been whimpering and complaining. As soon as I acknowleged what had happened and moved to find a solution, he stopped whimpering and just snuggled in close to me. No crying, just snuggling. The other two would have been yelling their heads off at this point!

DH was outside, so I ordered my oldest to quickly get daddy. He came rushing in and then we came up with a plan on how to extract the pin. It took us a few minutes to get our supplies (q-tip, betadine, bandaid) and for DH to wash his hands. The whole time, not a peep from the toddler.

DH held him while I used the q-tip to cover the pointy part of the pin with betadine. We wanted to make sure it was clean before going back through the little guy’s foot. I grabbed the head of the pin and pulled it out. #3 cried for like 10 seconds. Once #2 came around and gave him a toy and comforted him, he stopped crying. I covered the pin holes with betadine and then put a bandaid on it.

And that was it. I don’t think I would have been that calm had I a pin stuck in my foot!

So, yes, I’m pretty sure we have the calmest toddler around!

Thankfully, his foot is fine, he’s walking normally, no redness or infection in sight!

Bumbleride Indie Twin Recall April 26, 2012

Posted by Judy in parenting.
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We’ve had our Bumbleride Indie Twin since July of 2009, and we have used it lots. Mostly it gets used for exercise. After I got it, I walked every weekday until November. We’ve occasionally used it for long outings (zoo, etc), but mostly for exercise and recently we’ve started using it for pre-bed-lets-calm-the-babes-down stroller rides.

I was curious to know what changes had been made between 2009 and now, so I checked out the Bumbleride website. Frankly, it wasn’t particularly informative in that regard. I did, however, discover that my Bumbleride has been recalled. Why did I not know about this? Grr! Anyway, it’s not anything earth shattering, something to do with the front tire. I’ve filled out the application to get the replacement part. But, just in case you have a Bumbleride, here’s the info you need.

All in all, we’ve been really happy with our stroller. The brake finally gave out last week, 2.5 years later, and one of the straps ripped out. Nothing earth-shattering, though. Kinda makes me wish we had a better excuse to get a new one=)

A very sick baby April 1, 2012

Posted by Judy in Musings, parenting.
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Today was a difficult day. We have some friends that are missionary doctors in Tchad in Africa, Olen and Danae Netteburg. They have a blog where they share interesting stories of people they’ve met and other experiences. Olen and Danae, Life under the mango trees. Lately, they’ve been dealing with a very sick baby. At first they thought it was malaria since that disease is quite prevalent in that area. But after 5 weeks of high fevers, weight loss, and no change after taking every malaria medication known to man, they are starting to think it’s not that.

This is how the blog post for today started.

“Alone.

Crap. Why am I crying all the time in this country?”

My heart was in my throat after reading that, and it only got worse as I read more of the post. Their 9 month old baby is very sick, and they have no idea what is wrong with him. Maybe some rare disease, maybe something autoimmune, maybe leukemia. Since Olen and Danae are the only doctors in that area, and they had no idea what was wrong with their baby, it was decided that he (Zane) should be brought back to the US.

Since I’m, of course, late on getting this post up and it’s actually now Sunday instead of Friday, more has transpired since Olen’s first post. Danae and Zane were able to get on a plane in N,Djamena and will be arriving in Washington shortly. The plan is to take Zane to a children’s hospital at the University of Maryland. If anyone has any contacts there or knows of a pediatric specialist or oncology specialist in that area, please send me a message so that I can pass that information on.

It’s hard to feel totally helpless. DH is especially feeling it. Olen has been his best friend since they were knee high to grasshoppers. You just want to be able to do something, anything. At this point, we are sticking with prayer. That’s the only thing we can do for them. So we pray for them, alot. Even our little ones pray for them and especially for baby Zane. If you are a praying person, please add them to your prayer list. Danae needs prayers as she is traveling with her sick baby. Zane needs prayers for healing. Olen needs prayers as he is back in Tchad with his other son, trying to keep it together and provide a sense of normalcy when life is anything but normal.

Thank you for your thoughts and prayers.