Saturday, January 30, 2010

MOPS Small Group Haiti Project

I've put off writing about this project because other than that we want to, we don't have any definite plans right now. But you can still be praying for our efforts, so here's my current hope.

1) We want to do what will be most effective. If that's collecting money, then we'll collect money. If that's collecting stuff, then we'll collect stuff. But while they may be able to purchase more stuff locally with money than we could collect and pay to ship (plus that would help rebuild the local economy and they could get what they really want rather than the random stuff we'd send), it's (quite honestly) not just about the people we'll be helping. It's also about changing the people who will be giving. And sometimes money is just too easy. So I guess my hope is that the "most effective" thing will be a combination of both stuff and money. But the bottom line is that I hope we will be wise enough find the most effective means of both helping the people of Haiti and changing our own attitudes and priorities.

2) We want to partner with an affected Compassion, International Child Survival Program Center. I've only recently become aware of the CSP, but for a bunch of mothers of preschoolers, I can't imagine a better or more suitable project than helping out a bunch of other mothers (or mothers-to-be) of preschoolers.

3) Our church is also attempting to partner with an affected Haitian church, so it is my personal hope that our CSP center will be close to our partner church so that any mission trips can have the dual purpose of visiting both. I would especially love it if our entire family (kids included) were able to come, but even if the kids "have" to stay with the grandparents for a few days, I'd love for VNB to come.

So how can you help? Well, right now, just pray for wisdom (and patience to wait until the situation has been effectively assessed). But eventually I'll update you and let you know what the _actual_ project ends up being and what you can actually do!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Creativity

So, as you all know, my son LOVES Thomas the Tank Engine (and all of his friends). Apparently the love of model trains is hereditary. VNB got it from his grandfather, and AJ got it from...well, both VNB and my mom (looks like it skips a generation here and there). One of VNB's first bonding moments with AJ was the week after AJ was born, sitting watching the trains run on the layout that VNB had made.

Ever since we got him a train table, he's had fun playing with the trains and making them run on the tracks, but things have changed recently. You see, initially, VNB would make a track for AJ, then AJ would play with it for a few days until it got destroyed (the number of days decreased dramatically once Joanna was mobile). Then, the fine motor skills developed a little and AJ started putting a couple of pieces of track together. It still took quite a while though before he made this:

(no, I don't know where his pants are or why he's posing like this - we'll say that he was attempting to climb onto his train table for the picture). No one helped him with it. Maybe he'd seen daddy do something similar....but this was all him.

So was this:


(that's our bed...not sure why the layout moved there except to be close to daddy's trains which live under the bed)

And this:


(notice the variation in height and the fact that there's actually a buffer at the far end. Not sure what would happen if the trains went the other way though - guess that's coming from all of the Thomas shows where someone almost falls off a cliff.)

And this:


(at Nana and Granddaddy's house - we didn't bring any of the ramps, so he couldn't make it elevated)

And this:


(notice Tidmouth sheds attaching to the splitter, which attaches to several other tracks, making a "yard" and including the airport/helipad)

But we knew that a) he was creative, and b) we had too much track when he did this:

video

It was a couple of days in the making, but he did every single piece by himself with no prompting from anyone. And that's saying something considering that Joanna is a master of destruction. After he completed that circuit and still had some track left over, he took a section apart and started extending it. If you know our house, at one point it went through the kitchen, in between the coffee table and "my" couch (the love seat), under the coffee table, over to the dining room table, around some chairs, then started heading back towards the playroom. It never quite made the circle, but that was ok because then it went from the kitchen, in between the coffee table and my couch, under VNB's couch, and under the dining room table. Then Joanna destroyed enough of it (and AJ got distracted enough) that it could all be put away. But it's started again from the train table, heading towards the dining room table.

I tell you what...I may be biased, but this kid is crazy creative and crazy smart to have figured out how to do all these things.

He's done others too when I couldn't find my camera. My favorite was the one that went from the train table to the piano bench (across open air) and BACK - and was a stable structure! Still not quite sure how he managed that one!

He's only just barely 3! Heaven help us learn how to harness that energy and creativity for good!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Arrrrg....

So Wednesday afternoon, I was sitting on the couch, reading a magazine with Joanna perched on my lap. She had grabbed a coupon that I'd torn out of the magazine and was in the process of scrunching and munching it, so I took it away, tore off a page that I'd finished reading, and handed it to her. She delightedly played with that paper instead, swinging it up and down while I read.

And then, she connected. The corner of her paper to my right cornea.

To tell you that it hurt would be a bit of an understatement. My eye was running, my nose was running, and it felt like she'd shoved all of my eyelashes up into my eye. I tried blinking it out, but a) it was hard to open my eye, and b) when I looked at it, it was clear that there was nothing in it.

So I called my sweet husband at work, in the middle of inventory prep (his busiest and most stressful time of the year, triply so this year as he's using a new system that he's never used before _and_ he's being audited while he does it), to explain that our child had just poked me in the eye with a piece of paper and it was clearly (ha!) not ok.

A quick call to our primary care doc told us to take me to an urgent care ($50 co-pay, but in Laurel) or the ER ($100 co-pay, but 5 min away). So VNB came home, thinking that we'd pack the kids up and have family day at the ER while I was thinking that I'd drive myself there since AJ was still napping and we had no idea how long it would take. So instead we phoned a friend and she quickly came from work (close by) to drop me off at the ER.

I spent a few minutes waiting to be triaged, then went immediately from there to the "Eye room" where I sat for about an hour and a half. Oh, occasionally a nurse would come in and ask if I was ok (which, seriously? I'm in an EMERGENCY ROOM...do you really think I'm ok?), and the lady came with her rolling computer station to check me in...but I got there around 4:30 and it was after 7 before I was actually "seen." I never even saw a doctor - it was a physician's assistant. And she did a fine job, and I know in the grand scheme of things my injury was minor, but still...

So she put some numbing drops in (and the angels sang for approximately 15 minutes), then some other drops, then she looked at my eye through a special filter thingy to see what the damage was.

This is the picture she drew to show me:

The black in the middle isn't my pupil inside the iris. It's the chunk of my cornea that Joanna ripped off.

So she put in some antibiotic ointment, then put a patch over my eye and told me to see the ophthalmologist the next day.

This is what I looked like:

After an eventful morning of hitching rides places with two carseats (and kids), our babysitter came over and I drove myself to the ophthalmologist. Don't worry - I stayed in the right lane the whole time and it was only like three miles away.

She took the bandage off, poked around in both eyes, declared that I was healing up quite nicely, gave me some antibiotic eye drops (which I have been consistently forgetting to use), and sent me home. My vision wasn't completely clear by then, but at least I didn't have the patch anymore (that tape was ITCHY!).

I spent roughly 18 hours as a pirate. What have I learned from the experience? Tape is itchy. Corneal abrasions hurt like the dickens and move you one step closer to madness (because it feels like there's something in your eye...but you can't get it out...because it's your eye that's "in your eye"...and really...it's usually frowned upon to poke those out). It's good to have friends who work close to your house and who have big cars. Some kids make the connection right away that you're a pirate and it's cool (when you have an eye patch), but most are mildly scared while also being very curious. So basically they can't stop staring with this slightly horrified expression while you try to explain that your eye has a "booboo" and needs a band-aid.

But it's also awfully sweet when your son (who cried all the way home from the ER because mommy was scary - well, until we said the magic words "who wants fries and chicken?" anyway) kisses your eye patch at night and again before you go to the doctor to make your eye all better!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Amplified Water Buffalo - COMPLETE!

Our church has a Saturday night service that I play piano and sing for. It's called "Amplified" because that makes it sound cool and because "Saturday night service" is a mouthful. Our motto is "Life Loud" with the assumption that we'd be living so for a purpose (i.e., Jesus), not just running around yelling all the time.

Well, before Christmas (at our only December service due to snow and other factors), I surprised the Amplified crew with a little challenge - provide a water buffalo through Heifer, International for a family somewhere else in the world (I think I've gotten the water buffalo out of my system now - I'm thinking Cebu next! Well, if Heifer lets you donate Cebus, that is...).

In the middle of the holidays, it only took our 25-35 people 4 weeks to accomplish the $250 goal. All while still giving (actually increasing) our regular tithes and offerings!

Why am I telling you about this? It's not like you can help since we're done. Well #1, I'm proud of our crew! #2 expect there to be more "Amplified" projects to help with! #3 because this was on my list of "current projects" when this idea presented itself, so now my list is shorter and I didn't want it to seem like after all that hype I'm not actually doing anything other than a few MOPS projects.

Because really this is all about making me look good. ;p

Monday, January 18, 2010

MOPS New Mom Bags

So here's one of the on-going projects that I'm currently involved with. Our MOPS group collects items, puts them in gift bags, and delivers them to our local hospital to be given to ladies who give birth there. The things we put in the bags are the following:

  • HomeLife or MomSense magazine
  • handmade knitted baby hat or "no-sew" fleece blanket/snuggly
  • Coupon for a free meal at our local Chick-fil-a
  • Card with information about MOPS and our meetings
  • Whatever else we have on hand to give them (samples of baby things, coupons for baby things, anything else that comes to mind)

We're trying to do this for as little money as possible, so one of our biggest needs right now is gift bags. We need medium-sized ones - big enough to fit a magazine, but not the ginormous ones like you'd put a diaper pail in or something. Typically we use "baby" looking ones, but anything generic would be fine.

We're also running a little low right now on the handmade items. We've got a stock of fleece from which to make some blankets and one of our mentors makes the caps in her spare time, but after that we'll need more fleece and/or more caps (or something else handmade). Just nothing too big.

If you're interested in helping out, just let me know!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Finding "My Thing"

So I've recently become a fan of a "little" site called "Stuff Christians Like." It's one of those places that's wildly hilarious to those on the inside and probably not at all interesting to someone who hasn't been a part of a Western institutional church for a while.

Today's post got me thinking about something that's been percolating in the back of my brain for a little while now.

This past year has had the usual ups and downs. Overall, I think that I've grown (in good ways) as a person, a wife, a mom, a musician, and an engineer (among other things). My home is (marginally) cleaner than this time last year (well....this time two years ago...this time last year I had a 3-wk-old baby), my marriage is stronger than ever before (not that it was ever shaky, necessarily, just that I think we're starting to hit our stride in terms of effective communication and sense of "team"), and I'm definitely _FAR_ more confident as a musician thanks in no small part to getting to "lead" worship at Amplified.

In any case, over the past year or so I think I've found those "things" about myself that I'm really and truly passionate about. The "things" that make me really tick. The "things" that bring me joy more than anything else (not including God, family, and friends). Those things are missions/service and "leading" worship (or at least playing piano and singing...I don't really care who picks the songs, what part I'm singing, or who's doing the talking between songs).

To that end, I think I'm going to include you, my three readers, in on the "service" things that I'm participating in. Over the course of the next few days, I'm going to start spelling out the various service opportunities that I'm currently participating in and including in each post a way that you can participate. Then I'll put links to those projects in the sidebar so that you can follow along.

Maybe you'll get hooked on helping others like I have. Really....it's like crack. Not that I've ever tried crack.

Edited to add: don't worry in-laws and...um....bloods? out-laws? laws? All you people who are actually related to me somehow...there will still be pictures of the cutest kids in the world too (just in case that needs to be explained, I'm talking about _my_ kids here). If nothing else, I fully intend to have them participate!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

How to Help People in Haiti

So by now everyone's heard about the ~7.0 magnitude earthquake that hit Haiti a few days ago just outside of the capitol Port-au-Prince. As someone who is very much impressed by the work of Compassion, International, I wanted to give you, my three readers, a synopsis of how you can help with their work in Haiti as they try to rebuild.

First off, the status of their various centers there is unknown at this time. They had a team from the Dominican Republic fly in yesterday, but communications are difficult, at best, so they only know that their country headquarters are still standing. They don't know if the building is still usable, just that it's still standing. They also don't know anything at this point about their local staff or the more than 65,000 Haitian children that are served through Compassion. You can follow their ongoing effort in many ways:

To facilitate their disaster relief effort, they have set up a special fund to which you can donate (no amount is too small!). To do so, click here or on the banner to the right. All funds raised in response to the Haiti earthquake will be used immediately to provide for Compassion-assisted children and families affected by this crisis. Any funds raised in excess will be stewarded by Compassion for additional and future disaster relief efforts.
  • $35 helps provide a relief pack filled with enough food and water to sustain a family for one week.
  • $70 gift helps care for their needs for two weeks.
  • $105 helps provide relief packs filled with enough food and water to sustain two families for two weeks.
  • $210 gift helps care for two families’ needs.
  • $525 helps provide relief packs filled with enough food and water to sustain 10 families for two weeks.
  • $1,050 gift helps care for 10 families’ needs.
  • $1,500 helps rebuild a home.
  • $2,100 helps supply 20 families with the basics for three weeks.
It is the plan of my MOPS small group to partner with (at least) one of Compassion's Haitian Child Survival Program Centers to help them re-establish their work once the immediate disaster relief effort has passed. To that end, we hope to get a list of physical needs that we could meet (e.g., maybe they lost their classroom set of scissors and that needs to be replaced). Since communications are still mostly down, we don't expect to have that list of needs for days or possibly weeks (so please don't give me scissors - that was just an example!). It may also end up that they ask that we just send money. When we know for sure that the needs are, I'll pass that along so that you can help.

Other organizations are assisting in this time of need as well. Be aware that the FBI is already reporting Haiti charity scams that have popped up since the earthquake. When you give, make sure you are giving to an organization with a good reputation. CharityNavigator.org and The American Institute of Philanthropy are two well-respected charity-rating organizations.

Having said that, other organizations that I, personally, trust are:
Lastly, even if you don't have a single penny you can give, you can always pray for the people in Haiti, both whole and injured - for courage as they face the coming days. Pray for those disaster relief teams that are there are or are forming - for health, safety, and success. And for those (like my friends Johnny and Jeanette) who are in the US but who are _from_ Haiti and who are still awaiting news from family there.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Birthday!

So 75 years ago today, Elvis was born.

But that's not important right now.

What's important is that _three_ years ago, AJ was born! At the same moment, a new mommy and daddy were born as well!

It's been an amazing, tiring, fun, wonderful ride watching this little person _become_. Today he has his own interests and habits. He can dress himself except for socks (and some shoes). Take care of his own potty except for the wiping and the dumping. He can build amazing train tracks. He's wildly imaginative (the CandyLand pieces have each been named - red is AJ, blue is Daddy, green Mommy, and yellow Joanna - and they've gone on some interesting adventures over the last few days....good thing too that he doesn't care so much about the actual game just yet since Joanna manages to eat at least one card every time the box is opened). He can sing mostly on pitch and gets about every-other word of the VeggieTales theme song now.

He is sweet and polite. He whines, but he's 3. He loves his sister (sometimes a little too hard), and he is so exuberant! There is no middle - he's wildly excited and chipper, or the world is coming to an end (a trait that he gets, sadly, from both parents).

He has his quirks - loud noises still make him cry uncontrollably (his pediatrician pointed out today that he gets over-stimulated very easily and it was like the angels started singing as the understanding rippled through my being). He still drools when he gets too excited. He likes to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for breakfast. If our next house doesn't come with a circle (e.g., kitchen into hall into living room into playroom back into kitchen), I'm not sure what he'll do.

And I now spend my energy looking for ways to teach him to be generous and grateful. My days seem to go from meal to potty to nap (to cleaning) in a never-ending stream....but somehow it's all good.

Happy birthday to my little man (and to Elvis, who really doesn't care that much at this point)! Thanks for making me a mommy!

Monday, January 04, 2010

Thanks!

I just went through and updated the kids lists off to the right. Thanks to everyone for being both generous and respectful of our wishes. We were very happy to come home from Christmas and AJ's birthday party both with less stuff than we went with (for our house anyway - the pregnancy center will be thrilled with your generosity!)! The kids still love their new toys, VERY much appreciate their new clothes, and you've got a mama and daddy that are still mostly sane since we didn't have to find homes for a bunch of new "stuff" (or figure out what kind of "stuff" to buy for each of you - I hope the water buffalo fits you as well as it has fit us this Christmas)!

We and our kids are very blessed to have friends and family such as you who understand that love isn't measured by the number of gifts to be opened. As AJ is learning from his VeggieTales Saint Nicholas DVD (and hopefully from us as well), "I can love because God loved me, I can give because God gave. Jesus' love is why I'm smiling, why I'm giving ev'ryday!"

Here's to a new year! May it bring great joy, not necessarily because we get everything we want, but because we recognize that we have everything we need (and more) and can therefore give to others!