Sunday, February 24, 2008

Late Teethers

N will turn 7 in April and just barely got around to losing his first tooth today! He's been running a high fever for the last couple of days so we stayed home from church together and did the whole string around the tooth and doorknob routine and several other antics in attempt to get it out. It didn't work, but we had a great time spending time together and laughing.

Noah ended up pulling it out by himself with a string attached and wanted to clean it off first thing since the dentist told him that clean teeth are worth more to the tooth fairy. Funny that he didn't care to worry much about his dental hygeine until the tooth was already out of his mouth.

Many of his buddies at school have already lost 4 or more teeth. The poor guy has been waiting patiently for months for his turn to sign the "I lost a tooth" board at school. Monday will finally be his day! What does the tooth fairy leave for teeth these days?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Howdy Y'all!

Here in the desert, school isn't out for President's Day, but we get two days off when the rodeo comes to town. Here's X and his best buddy all dressed up for their last day of preschool before the rodeo break. Usually, the cowboy look doesn't do it for me but this picture melts my heart.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Happy 75th Birthday, Grandma!!!

We had a fun weekend with my family (mom, dad and two out of 6 siblings and grandma) at our house to celebrate Grandma's 75th birthday! We ate, talked, ate, played some games, ate, watched Matt and Dad work on the pavers, and ate some more. Here's Grandma with one of her favorite desserts: a Thrifty ice cream cone.
Grandma is young at heart. She says that age is just a number and she only feels like she is in her 50's anyway. For example, at the dinner table, she proudly announced that she really likes Maroon 5!
Here's a shot of my littlest brother, Jared. He was a good sport about being put on BBQ duty even though he had never done it before. My kids love it when he visits-probably because he is less than three years older than my oldest child.

My Dad Rocks...and Paves!

We haven't lived in the same state as our immediate families in the 14 years since we've been married. We always look forward to their visits. For my poor Dad, his visits usually involve helping us out with home projects. At our last house, he poured and finished an rv pad for us. He poured it on a Tuesday and we found out the following Friday that we were moving. =( He also came to stay with me when I was very pregnant with X, Matt had already transfered out of state and I was left behind with three kiddos and a house to sell. I made a list a mile long of things that needed to be done to the house and my Dad got every last item on the list done. Thanks to him, X was only born 3 weeks early and not 6 or 8. At our current house, Dad has helped haul tons of dirt out of our back yard and built a retaining wall. On his next trip out, he poured and finished a patio. You get the idea...

Recently, when we were putting together plans for my parents to come out and celebrate Grandma's 75th birthday at our house, I told my Mom to tell Dad that I promised to not put him to work this time. Then, some friends of ours offered us an extra pallet of pavers that they had leftover from their driveway. My poor Dad...

Here's the project in the preparation phase. Matt really enjoys working
with my Dad and always learns alot from him.
Coming together

All Done
I have a porch!
We are really enjoying the paved area. I come out and sit on the porch in the shade and watch X ride his scooter while I open the mail here in the mornings or sit and chat with my neighbor while our kids play in the afternoon. It really looks great and we have received many compliments. It is so cool when people ask about it to be able to say, 'My Dad did it!' Thanks, Dad! We love you!!!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Heart Day!

My sweet husband got up extra early this morning to pick these up for me. He told me later that he has never seen so many men at Walm*rt so early in the morning in their pj' it.

We had this for dinner with the kiddos. I love how easily kids are entertained.

Same food + different shape = excitement

Monday, February 11, 2008

Email From Noah's Primary (church) Teacher...

We had a great class yesterday. I was telling them a story from the New Testament about Jesus healing the blind and lame. I asked if they knew what "blind" meant. Of course they could tell me that. I then asked what "lame" meant. Noah raised his hand and I called on him. I could just see the gears working in his mind as he tried to come up with the words to describe it. He finally said, "It means to be not cool". I kept my cool and we talked about that being a phrase we use now days and what lame meant in the story.

Later I was telling my family about it. We all got a good laugh and I said, yeah I don't know how Jesus could cure "not cool". A son answered "he would give the guy sunglasses". Our whole family got to enjoy the bible story yesterday. Thanks Noah.


Saturday, February 09, 2008

Girl's Day Out

It really is too much fun having a daughter.
This morning Audrey's friends and their moms got together to see this movie.
We arrived over an hour early to find that only 8 other people would join us in the theatre before it started. Early into the movie the moms were screaming and dancing in their seats and the girls were happy to join us. It really is the only way to see a concert. About 1/5 the cost and it feels like you are there and you don't have to fight the crowds or pay $15 to park! It's a little sad that my girl is growing up but this certainly beats Barney!!!

Monday, February 04, 2008

A Boy and A Bird

Peaches is really A's bird but Noah has really become attached to him(?) lately. He loves to take him out of his cage to watch tv and give him lots of love. Recently we gave his cage an extreme makeover and it now looks like birdie Disneyland.

This picture cracks me up. M was reading The Little Red Hen and N insisted that Peaches should be involved in the fun and would appreciate the book because there were birds involved. I love how N is holding the bird so he can follow along. That's my boy!

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Latest From Half the Sky...

Update on China's Spring Festival Storms
Here’s an update on conditions and needs at the institutions we've been in contact with. We’ll provide further information regarding these and other orphanages needing help just as soon as we have it. In general the needs are for fuel, food, disposable diapers, warm clothing and bedding. Prices are soaring because no goods can be shipped and cold weather has destroyed all winter crops. Half the Sky is responding to the emergency by getting funds directly to the institutions in a variety of ways.

Beihai, Guangxi – Although ill-prepared for the bitter cold, the institution has so far managed to keep the children warm and fed.
Changzhou, Jiangsu – suffered the largest snowfall in Jiangsu Province. Several buildings have collapsed. But the institution rushed to prepare for the cold and the children are fine. UPDATE: The orphanage now reports they are running out of diapers and need 750 diapers per day for an estimated 10 days.

Chengdu, Sichuan – is experiencing the coldest winter in memory. They need a large room heater, diapers, shoes, socks and winter jackets. UPDATE: Chengdu repeats their request for a large heater and disposable diapers. They also request 80 warm quilts.

Chenzhou, Hunan – still facing the most difficulties of the orphanages we’ve reached. They’ve had no electricity or running water for 8 days and there is almost no possibility that power will be restored before New Year’s Eve (the 6th of February.) Because of the blackout, the hospital is closed. 20 children are ill and being cared for by institution staff as well as they can. The banks are closed so staff is contributing personal funds to buy food, coal and diapers. Prices are skyrocketing as all roads to Chenzhou remain impassable. UPDATE: The largest hotel in Chenzhou is running on one emergency generator and townsfolk who’ve been without power for days have filled all rooms and lobbies. There are very few places in town with even emergency power now. Hopes are to get some electricity by next weekend. UPDATE: The 20 sick children are being cared for by doctors from the local hospital (which is closed.) They are receiving IV's and medicine. Shi assures us that the children will be fine and that they will recover. They will feed the children and keep them warm no matter what. There is still no power. Families in Chenzhou are now rationed and can only buy 4 packages of noodles per family. The Civil Affairs Bureau delivered 3 sacks of rice to the institution. The are using candles but the cost per candle has gone from 20 cents to 5 yuan per candle. They are using coal to keep warm but the price of coal is skyrocketing. Two old people at the institution died. There are 800,000 migrant workers trapped in town that can't get out to see their families for Spring Festival. They expect another heavy snow tomorrow. We are in daily touch with the orphanage. They know that everyone is thinking of them and determined to get them the help they need.

Chongqing – warm and well, despite the terrible cold. UPDATE: Temperatures continue to drop - request warm blankets and floor mats.

Chuzhou, Anhui - has both water and power. Only public transportation has failed. HTS nannies and teachers are walking to work. They are leaving home extra early to be there for the children. UPDATE: Reports that their industrial clothes dryer broke down two days ago. They've tried to repair but it is still not working and they have no way to dry clothes and diapers in the cold. They ask for purchase of a new dryer and for disposable diapers.

Fuzhou, Jiangxi - lost power for a few days but now it is back to normal. The snow stopped a couple of days ago but now is falling again. The directors and HTS staff have gathered all the children into one big room to keep them warm. They’ve bought New Years clothes for the children and will have a party no matter how bad the weather. This year, however, the foster parents will stay home to keep the children safe. The institution has enough food and water. They want us to focus on those in more serious trouble and ask us please not to worry.

Gaoyou, Jiangsu – Despite incredibly heavy snow, the children are warm and well.

Guangzhou, Guangdong – This city is truly unaccustomed to cold and it is getting more difficult to find necessities to keep children warm. They ask for 30 space heaters and warm bedding.

Guilin, Guangxi - has two broken HTS heater/air conditioners in the Infant Nurture rooms and they’ve asked us to replace. The rooms are very, very cold. They ask for more soft matting for the floors and also snow boots for our HTS nannies who’ve been slipping and falling in the ice and snow as they come to work. They are so ill-equipped to handle severe weather.

Guiyang, Guizhou – has seen ice, snow and now sleety rain. They need disposable diapers and some help buying food. UPDATE: Power is intermittant. They repeat the request for diapers and now understand that HTS has okayed the purchase.

Haikou, Haikou – Even sunny Hainan Island is experiencing a chill. The orphanage request a clothes dryer to keep the children in clean warm clothes.

Hangzhou, Zhejiang - Because of snow, they've been unable to get vegetables for several days. They request a subsidy to purchase food at higher prices and also ask for disposable diapers.

Hefei, Anhui – reports that they have everything under control and the children are warm and well-fed. UPDATE: The orphanage now realizes they will soon run out of disposable diapers. They ask for funds to purchase 7500 diapers.

Huangshi, Hubei – is in desperate need of disposable diapers. They ask for funds to purchase since goods can’t be sent to them right now. All heater/air conditioners have stopped functioning. They need quilts and warm clothes for the children. Several HTS nannies have fallen on the ice on their way to work and they need medicine to treat cuts and bruises.

Jiujiang, Jiangxi – had another heavy snow storm last night. Pipes have burst and the five boilers are broken. They are unable to bathe the children and are having trouble keeping them warm. They need quilts, bedding, warm shoes and space heaters. They need medicine for infant coughs and colds.

Lianyungang, Jiangsu – is doing the best they can despite the lowest temperatures in history. While they still insist we help others first, they do request winter jackets for the children, warm mats to cover the floor and bottles for babies with cleft lip/palate. The last item we’ll have to ship from Beijing as soon as we are able.

Luoyang, Henan – all is well. They are accustomed to the cold.

Maoming, Guangdong - This is the coldest, wettest winter in memory, but they have warm clothing and electricity. They ask for warm floor mats, 12 space heaters, warm blankets and some help purchasing food.

Maonan District, Maoming, Guangdong – In the sunny south, they have never seen this kind of cold and damp weather before. It’s been a month with another month in the forecast. They need space heaters. Local citizens have donated warm clothes and blankets for the children.

Nanchang, Jiangxi – asks for warm floor mats and disposable diapers. They need a working room heater. Their electrical supply has been sporadic and with only a small generator, they’re not confident they can continue to provide heat to keep the children warm. UPDATE: Their boiler for hot water supply has broken down. They ask for funds to purchase a new one.

Nanjing, Jiangsu – continues to manage, despite the heavy snows. They would like 200 children’s blankets but insist that we look after others with greater needs first.

Nanning, Guangxi – is experiencing its worst winter in 48 years. They are doing their best to weather the storm but could use 6 large space heaters,86 warm quilts for our Family Village and disposable diapers. Like many places, they are having trouble finding affordable food right now and would appreciate a subsidy to help through this difficult time.

Qingyuan, Guangdong – Again, the lowest winter in history. Constant rain. The children all have colds and sniffles, no matter how many padded layers they wear. They ask for 7 space heaters and 55 padded jackets. UPDATE: With HTS funds, they have purchased 110 sets of quilts and padded jackets but have been unable to find heaters anywhere in Qingyuan. They are going to try to send someone south to Guangzhou to find heaters.

Sanya, Hainan – all is well in this southernmost tip of China.

Shaodian, Henan - HTS supports a Family Village here for children orphaned by HIV/AIDS. Due to the heavy snow and bitter cold, the children suffer from chilblains on their hands and feet. Water pipes have frozen and they are now able to get water only a few hours a day. Food costs are rising. Power supply is intermittant. They request heaters and cream for chilblains as well as a subsidy for food.

Shaoguan, Guangdong – needs disposable diapers for 27 babies. They need 3 large room heaters and warm mats for the floors.

Shaoyang, Hunan -has seen heavy snow every day for 20 days.There is sufficient water and, for the moment, there is power, so the children are warm despite daytime temperatures of -3C.However, 5 of 6 power poles have been downed by weather.Only one stands and the institution fears it will fall as well, leaving them without electricity.Much of the rest of the city is already dark. Children and caregivers continue to work and play together.High school students are cramming for exams and trying to ignore the cold.Everyone prays that the power pole will continue to stand. They request space heaters, warm clothing for 60 children and shoes.for the big kids.

Wuhan, Hubei – is having a very hard time finding affordable food, “even cabbage.” They ask for food subsidies for the Family Village, 20 space heaters and 50 warm quilts. Heaters are working but there is no water for bathing. The local community has offered to take children in for the Chinese New Year and the institution feels this may be the best decision to keep them safe, so their requests are only for the Family Village.

Wuzhou, Guangxi – is enduring bitter cold. They need warm mats for the floors, disposable diapers, warm clothes and shoes for the children.

Xiangtan, Hunan - has had snow for the past 10 days. The main water pipe is “broken again.” There is no water for cooking right now but they do have electricity, coal and blankets. They are still able to buy food but prices have gone way up. Not all of the HTS nannies can get to work every day. They are keeping the programs going as well as they can and make sure that at least five nurturing nannies are there with the babies every day, along with the institution’s caregivers.

Xinyang, Henan – is accustomed to the cold and all is well. UPDATE: It seems first information on Xinyang did not come from director of institution. Today's news is not so favorable. It has been snowing since January 10 and temperatures are the lowest in history. Some heaters are broken. The institution has gathered all of the children together in the largest HTS activity room to keep them warm. Due to the weight of ice, the roof has cracked and there are leaks into some of the HTS activity rooms as well as the nurseries. They are installing a "temporary toilet' on the same floor as the big activity room so children and caregivers don't slip on the icy corridors and stairs. They ask for disposable diapers, winter clothes, cream for chilblains for the children's hands and feet. HTS staff continues to walk to work through the snow and ice; there is no public transportation.

Yangchun, Guangdong - reports a need for space heaters and hot water bottles for 88 babies at two sites.

Yibin, Sichuan – It’s a snowy day but it feels like the weather may be getting better. They’re not sure. They feel the county-level institutions are worse off than they are so the ask us to consider helping others before them. They keep the children warm in the bright rooms that HTS created and they say everyone is well so far.

Yiyang, Hunan – still has electricity but the water has been shutting off and on. They have stockpiled food for the children. The greatest challenge is for the nannies to get to work. Because the buses are down, they must walk on icy roads.

Yueyang, Hunan - has no electricity. The one functioning power generator is being used in the children’s dormitory. They are relying on coal heat but the price has tripled in recent days. They are running out of food and have applied to the local Bureau of Civil Affairs for funds to buy more. Our HTS nannies have been walking for hours to get to work, often slipping on the ice, “even though they try to be cautious.”

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Has She Been Born Yet??

For the first time in 2 1/2 years, I certainly hope not.

You may have already seen on the news the millions of folks in China who are trying to reach their Chinese New Year destinations but are stranded in train and bus stations because of the weather. Severe winter storms are hitting areas of China that just are not prepared to handle them and people are suffering. It made me sick to my stomach yesterday when I realized that Meili may be one of them.

Jenny Bowen, of Half the Sky (a charitable organization that works to improve the lives of children who live in China's orphanages) sent out an email yesterday that outlined some of the challenges being faced by some of the orphanages that she has been in contact with. The picture is pretty grim: No electricity, no water for cooking and bathing, no coal for heat, food supplies running thin, no transportation, nannies having to walk as much as 4 hours in icy conditions to reach the children, staff digging into their own pockets to go out and find food for the children and prices rising because of the disparity between supply and demand. The orphanages that have been contacted are asking for the basic necessities of life, including disposable diapers because the cloth ones that they are accustomed to using will not dry in this weather. My guess is that the orphanages that work with Half the Sky are probably in better shape than the ones that don't which means that things could be even worse for some of the children out there.

Half the Sky has set up an emergency relief fund here if anyone is interested in contributing. The least we can do is say a prayer that the weather will cooperate and that the SWI's will be able to keep the children warm and fed until they can get the help that they need.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Catching Up

Let this day go down in history as the day that our family upgraded from a 19 inch television!!! We held out as long as we could, folks, and we endured many shameful chastisements from friends and family members who wondered what on earth we were waiting for.
Here's the before picture:
And since the new entertainment center arrived ahead of the TV,
here's a picture to put things in perspective:
Ta Da!!!!
What blows many of our friends away is the fact that we also just got cable for the first time. It's a whole new world for our family. Is it ironic that the first thing I chose to watch on cable and on the new tv was Little House on the Prairie???