Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Today I decided...

Today I decided that sleep deprivation is a mindset. I can refuse that mindset if I want to. And I want to. I am perfectly fine (truly) and will sleep through the night again someday.

Along with that revelation, I decided that I am honored and blessed to care for my healthy, happy baby. Anytime of the day or night.

I decided that Sunda deserves the utmost of my patience and humor. Especially when her sister is being impatient. It’s not Sunda’s fault.

I decided that walking around stressed because of having a few full time jobs makes me look old and haggard. I’m only 26. I’m not old and haggard. Mascara helps this effort. So does refusing to be stressed. Your lack of planning does not constitute my emergency.

I decided that my husband being away is a great time for me to concentrate on Jesus, my girls, and myself. And to give myself pedicures and watch Friends marathons (I decided I’m not tired, remember?)

I decided that joy is a decision. Contentment is a decision. Love is a decision. And grace is a decision. It will be abundant in my life.

It's cool to be able to decide that. Good thing I can rely on God for the follow through...

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Baby Foodie

Let me tell you about this baby of mine: She LOVES to eat.

I should’ve realized it from the very beginning when she was furious every 2 ½ hours on the dot. Forget trying to push for 31/2-4 hours between a feed. This kid was serious about mealtime.

Around 3 months, she started staring longingly at everything we were eating and drinking. And at 4 months, she was reaching for it and shrieking. Nowadays, we have to have something for her to hold, suck on, or drink during mealtime, or else we would have one angry girl on our hands.

The first time I gave her rice cereal, she literally attacked the spoon. I couldn’t get it in her fast enough. Now that she is eating solids, she hasn’t met a food that she doesn’t like. She doesn’t make a face, she doesn’t spit it out, she just swallows quickly and opens up like a baby bird, begging for more.

Because of her quick adjustment to and her apparent longing for food, I started Kya on solids during her 5th month instead of waiting for the traditional six months. What can I say? I’m rebellious like that ;)

So far, she has tried and loves apples, bananas, pears, peaches, carrots, butternut squash, avocados, and sweet potatoes as well as rice cereal. I wish I could say that Kya’s love for food has developed because I have been making her baby food with my own hands and adding love to every “from scratch” serving. But alas, I think she’s just a baby foodie and would eat baby food out of a jar, off the floor, or otherwise.

I have really been enjoying making her baby food, however, and I’m really excited for the next two months when I can start experimenting with different combinations and dishes. Just wait ‘til she has teeth! Homemade baby finger foods fill me with excitement! Baby omelettes, baby pancakes, and baby veggie sticks! Baby yogurt parfaits, baby pot pies, and baby pasta dishes! The combinations are endless! (Does this make me a weirdo?)

I don’t have much time in my life. Really. So, this is how I make baby food:

When I grasp a rare minute, I take a large batch of the fruit or veggie of my choice and peel and chop it I stick it in a pot with a bit of water and put the cover on. Usually, I then get distracted by some other job.

When I get another minute, I boil the food until it is soft enough to fall apart when I try to pick it up with the fork. I try not to add too much liquid while cooking so that I don’t have to drain any off when it’s cooked. Then, I get distracted again because someone has called or knocked on my door or needs me RIGHT NOW. So I put the cooked veggies/fruit in the fridge until later.

Later, I put the food into a mini food processor and puree it smooth. Sometimes I have to add some water or milk (especially in the case of sweet potatoes) to make it a good consistency.

I never strain anything. I take the pureed food and scoop it into ice cube trays and freeze them. When they’re frozen, I put two or three cubes into individual Ziploc bags (Thank you packages from America!) and label them. I’m thinking it probably takes me 30-45 minutes for a batch of baby food that yields enough for 10-15 meals. So, I spend about an hour a week making baby food. I’m sure it will get a bit more labor intensive when I start combining more things and making finger foods. But right now, it’s easy-peasy.

I don’t have a microwave, so to thaw and reheat the food, I boil the tea kettle and pour the hot water into a bowl and put the small Ziploc bag with the food inside. Then, I am just extremely wasteful and snip off the corner of the Ziploc bag and squeeze the food into a bowl (keep those packages comin’!) I really dislike washing out Ziploc bags. Bad missionary. Bad.

I have this theory that because the food is not always a perfect consistency that it will be easier for Kya to adjust to eating more finger/”adult” food when the time comes. This may or may not be true. Or she’ll probably just really like to eat and it will be easy because of that. And then I can pretend like it was because of my genius baby food that saved me loads of money. (We’re talking 15% of the cost of jarred baby food in Zambia…WHOA.)

For the record, Sunda is also a great lover of food. This particular picture features beans and nshima (nshima being the staple food of Zambia.) Some of her random food loves include: Marmite and toast, hummus and veggie sticks, Nutella with ANYTHING, and anything that involves eggs or bacon.

Friday, July 2, 2010

What should my 4-year-old know?

Most of the people that I've had contact with lately will tell you that I sound like a broken record about my concerns for Sunda's education and myself as her teacher. It's a lot of responsibility! My latest thought is that I wouldn't put my children into any school (private/public/Christian or otherwise) that didn't have goals, a mission statement, and a philosophy of education. So shouldn't I be developing those things for myself? I mean, I AM the principal, administrator, and head teacher of the Schwertfeger Children Academy.

Fortunately, I have a lot of really cool friends who know A LOT about kids and education. So, I'm not alone in forming my goals. In fact, those friends are probably the very reason that I want so desperately to be informed and intentional about my kids' educations.

This year, I started the SONlight 3/4 year old curriculum with Sunda. The curriculum itself is basically a very informal mix of Bible lessons, fairy tales, poems, classic kids' books, and activities designed to encourage imagination and a love of reading in your child. It's great. Sunda and I have spent countless hours reading since January. She has gone from not being able to sit through a picture book being read to sitting through 5 or 6 long, involved stories and begging for more!

But me, being the overachiever that I am, thought that maybe I should add a little more to her Kindergarten prep. A little number recognition, perhaps? Some simple phonics? Maybe some pre-writing skills? Before I knew it, I had amassed a pile of "School Preparation Skills" books and we were going at it with a vengeance.

This led to a couple big problems. First of all, Sunda was NOT interested. She became a different child when I brought out the "workbooks." Fidgety, disobedient, and pouty. She had to be heavily encouraged to just follow my directions. And she didn't portray any of the skill sets that I thought a child of her age should be able to display. (The book says 3-5 after all! And she's older than 3! So she should be able to do it! RIGHT?!) She would rather doodle in the margins that follow the lines. Would rather beat on the book like a drum than count the colorful items inside.

I started to think that there was a problem. That I was a bad teacher. That maybe Sunda was a little behind. That I wasn't giving her the best opportunities by teaching her myself.

All the while, I BELIEVED in the concept of experimental learning. We do it all the time. It's just that I thought I ALSO needed some concrete proof. Something that I could hold up and show the world: I homeschool my child and she is really clever!

(The first pump of a borehole well in a village that's never had a reliable water source!)

Just as I was kind of realizing that I probably needed to just give her some time, some experiences, and some TLC, I came across an article that asked this question: What should a 4-year-old know? "Yes!" I thought. "That's what I need! Someone to tell me exactly what my 4-year-old should know!" You can imagine that reality smacked me when I realized that I have been way too worried about all the wrong stuff. I may have shed a few tears as I got through this article and felt the weight of the world lift.

So, here it is:

1. She should know that she is loved wholly and unconditionally, all of the time.

2. He should know that he is safe and he should know how to keep himself safe in public, with others, and in varied situations. He should know that he can trust his instincts about people and that he never has to do something that doesn't feel right, no matter who is asking. He should know his personal rights and that his family will back them up.

3. She should know how to laugh, act silly, be goofy and use her imagination. She should know that it is always okay to paint the sky orange and give cats 6 legs.

4. He should know his own interests and be encouraged to follow them. If he could care less about learning his numbers, his parents should realize he'll learn them accidentally soon enough and let him immerse himself instead in rocket ships, drawing, dinosaurs or playing in the mud.

5. She should know that the world is magical and that so is she. She should know that she's wonderful, brilliant, creative, compassionate and marvelous. She should know that it's just as worthy to spend the day outside making daisy chains, mud pies and fairy houses as it is to practice phonics. Scratch that-- way more worthy.


My child is 4 1/2 and can just barely count to twenty. She knows her alphabet, but can't write her name. She's not even close to knowing how to read. She doesn't know anything about the names of planets, presidents, or dates in history. And she doesn't sit for much except for the stories that I read her and an occasional "Wonder Pets" episode.

Aside from the times that we spend together reading and exploring (about two hours in the morning), she spends from 8am-6pm playing outside (independently) with her friends and by herself. And here are some of the things she DOES know:
How to make a fire and cook on it.
How to plant a seed and harvest it. And what plants produce what veggies.
How to wash clothes by hand and change her sister's diaper.
How to wash a truck and help her Daddy fix his motorbike.
How to do a front flip on the trampoline.
How to apologize when she has the wrong "attimood" with her friends.
How to bathe and put lotion on herself.
How to make scrambled eggs and every ingredient that goes into a cake.

She understands family dynamics and why she looks difference than Jacob and I. She makes up elaborate, detailed stories and shares them in front of groups of people. She greets about 20 people by name every morning.

She can PREACH up a storm and makes up her own worship songs regularly. She prays for people when they're sick and regularly informs me about what God expects of us.

Needless to say, our schooling has taken a little bit of a different slant these days. We're going to be spending a lot less time with workbooks and some more time doing the stuff that Sunda loves to do, with a bunch of learning naturally thrown in.

And if she can't read by the end of this year...that's okay. That's why it's great being the principal of your own school. :)

Friday, June 25, 2010

My Internet Finally Works!

Look again at the blog I posted this afternoon to see the pictures. They wouldn't load until now. Gotta love Africa Internet!

My husband's coming home tomorrow! (He's been gone all week on a trip to South Africa to see Germany/Ghana play in the World Cup...maybe he'll give us recap?)

Tired Mama

I live here:

Surely one of the most beautiful views in the world.

I have an unbelievable husband:

Not to mention, two beautiful children, a fulfilling ministry, and loads of amazing friends.

And yesterday…I wanted to leave it all and go sit poolside somewhere, with a magazine and a Big Mac (don’t judge).

I didn’t want to teach Sunda to count. I didn’t want to pick up smashed cookies from the carpet. And I didn’t want to bounce Kya until she fell asleep. I wanted to say, “Beam Me Up, Scotty!” and be gone. For a few hours, at least.

Sleep deprivation will make you think crazy things.

And to top it all off, when I got the kids to bed and looked forward to a long, hot shower, there was no hot water. I had waited too long. The fire had gone out and the water was cold. Blah.

This morning, I determined that I would disappear for a few minutes. I changed, dressed, and fed Kya and then strapped her into her chair with a toy. I helped Sunda dress, got her some juice, and put a cartoon on. And then I closed the bathroom door and took a scalding shower and ignored the fact that Kya was fussing and Sunda was yelling for me.

Sometimes you just have to do that.

That shower made me feel like I can put in another 5 months without complaint. It’s the little stuff.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Beautiful Baby

If you haven't done it yet, you should check out Overland's website. I just posted a staff blog today about our trip to the village last week.

Think her eyes will stay blue?

Monday, June 7, 2010


(While in the shower together)

Sunda: Mommy, what's that lumpty-dumpty part?"
Me: Excuse me?
Sunda: This part (grabbing my upper thigh)...why is it bumpy?
Me: I wish I knew, Sunda. Ask your baby sister.


(While doing school in the house)

Sunda: Mommy, Auntie Fridah and me are the same color, but we don't look the same.
Me: That's true, Sunda.
Sunda: Me and Auntie are black and you are white.
(I put on a sad face)
Sunda: Mommy, don't worry. It's because when I came out of my mommy's belly, I went outside right away. You came out of your mommy's belly and stayed inside too much.


Sunda is obsessed with all things marriage and weddings. I think maybe she watches too many princess movies. She insists that she's "married" to her friend Keiro, but she informed me that they decided not to kiss at their wedding because that's only for Mommys and Daddys. (We had a long talk about this.) However, she must be frustrated with this decision because the other day they were watching a cartoon together, and the cartoon cats kissed.

Sunda (pointing at Keiro): See! The kitty cats kissed, but YOU won't kiss ME.


Every morning, we have a time of worship from 8:30-9am. Often we take time to pray for each other in the morning. Sunda loves to pray for people.

Her prayer for me this morning:
"Jesus, Help Mommy to have energy and to feel good, and help Kya's teeth to come in well." (SO perceptive.)

and then,
"Mommy, will you pray for me, that I won't be afraid of any giants or snakes?"

She then proceeded to pray for our friend Jamie, who's pregnant. Jamie told me that she prayed this:

"Lord, Please bless this baby and help her to come out soon. Sort her out and make her come out nice and clean."


There are a million more hilarious things that she says every day, mainly based on the fact that she doesn't miss a trick. She catches everything anyone says and often turns it around so that we are REALLY careful about what we say in front of her!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

And God said...

"Let there be LIGHT!"

Since the Overland Mission's base began back in 2004, we have functioned on generator power. The generator was turned on from 9-12 in the morning and from 6-10:30 at night. We couldn't use things like hair dryers, washing machines, or clothes dryers because they drew too much power. We had to do computer work in the evening because the internet only worked when the generator was on. We always went to bed at 10:30 because that's when everything shut down. The generator was good, but electricity would be better.

We have been in the process of contracting "Zesco", the electric company in Zambia, for 3 years. For over a two years now roads have been cleared, holes have been dug, and deposits have been paid. YESTERDAY it bore fruit. It was a momentous occasion when at lunchtime the generator shuddered to a stop and the lights flickered back on with magnificent silence! We have electricity! Bring on the lights in the middle of the night, the TV, the hair straightener, and the washing machine! Bring on comfort! Bring on a Western lifestyle!


As much as we are thrilled to have electricity, there's a part of me that mourns the technology. It was so nice to read a book at night with a headlamp, instead of watch TV. It seemed so simple to be forced to do something outside the office in the afternoon. I'm used to planning my life around the generator times. And I'm used to walking around with wrung out, handwashed clothes and messy hair. I kinda like it.

But I really like being able to turn on the light in the middle of the night to change Kya's diaper. I REALLY like that. I suppose I can get used to everything else.

Overland director, Sharon Smethurst, sent out the following update last night, and I thought it was beautifully put. It's true that for now and forevermore, when I go looking for a lightswitch, it will be there. (Until the power goes off due to loadshedding, which happens up to 3X a week... Maybe I won't put my headlamp away after all.)


Every people group has amazingly rich qualities and traditions that capture our imaginations when read in books or seen in history and national geographic channels. If I could single out one of those captivating qualities in the African nations it would be the simplicity of their many languages. Not in terms of grammar or eloquence but their ability to express logic derived from the simplest things found all around us. E.g. In trying to resolve a conflict you might hear "When two elephants fight it's only the grass that suffers", or, when an NGO worker concluded her report of the need for electricity in the many villages she'd been operating in she said "so at night, when the woman went to look for the light switch, it wasn't there" (this picture made more beautiful when you understand that she was talking of villages with huts made of mud and grass roofs). I can never get tired of listening to the African speech. So it is in that spirit that I want to make a very, very momentous announcement for the R14 Base. After 5 years of operating under the lights of costly and limiting generators we are pleased to say "that tonight, when we go to look for a light switch, it WILL BE PRESENT". We are now connected to power lines and have 24 hour electricity. The God of our forefathers is indeed AWESOME! Thank you for your support, love and faith through all the many different phases of Overland!

Sharon Smethurst


This short article is something I wrote and posted on our ministry website: If you haven't checked it out, you should! There's tons of blogs and articles posted weekly by Overland missionaries on the field, and the website gives great information about the ministry in general. Let me know what you think!


As missionaries, we talk a lot about sustainability. In fact, we talk about it so much that it occasionally seems an elusive concept. What does it mean? How do we get it? To what extent do we expect it to function?

The definition of sustainability is simply this: Having the capacity to endure.

As Christians, we talk a lot about endurance. Running the good race. Enduring to the end. Fighting the good fight of faith. Enduring to see the finish. We know that we have to position ourselves before the Lord and before the Body of Christ in a way that ensures that twenty years from now we will still be declaring our faith with unabashed abandon.

At Overland, we know that we must position our ministry in the same way. The projects launched today should be positioned so that they can endure, thereby truly making a difference for the people they serve.

Sustainability could also be defined as development. Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs (

The LIFE Project wants to meet needs in the village. But we want to do it in a way that empowers the future generations to continue the work instead of binding them to a system. Sustainability is why we use recycled objects as toys and supplies for our schools. It’s why we ask for donations for consumable supplies. It’s why we require a small tuition from every child attending the preschools. Sustainability is why we are praying for an individual/church sponsor for every village. A small contribution toward each school on a monthly basis would allow the village schools to continue towards sustainability, and towards education, for years to come.

On a totally unrelated note, this is the "lunar rainbow" at Victoria Falls. It happens once a month during a full moon, at which time you can see a rainbow in the dark at Victoria Falls. Beautiful!

Monday, April 12, 2010

I'm 4...and already smarter than my mom

Sunda is hilarious.

On Sunday, Jake and Kya were napping and Sunda was watching a cartoon. I sat down on the couch to put my feet up and flip through a magazine. Sunda saw me sit down and immediately said, "Mama, can you read this book to me?" If you're not a mom, you can't imagine the range of thoughts that go through your head at this moment. The first reaction is: "Awwww, man...I just sat down." The second is, "Of course I will, because I am terrible if I don't." Somewhere down the line is, "You know what? It's not going to kill her to continue doing what she was doing for a few minutes while I flip through this magazine and shut off my brain. We'll read it tonight before bedtime." Eventually, that's pretty much what I told her. I must've used the words, "I'm just going to relax for a few minutes." Great idea, but not right now. Mommy needs a few minutes. "Fine." She conceded.

Not five minutes later, Sunda asked me for some juice. Usually, she can manage to pour it for herself. So, still attempting to remain on the couch for as long as possible, I said to her, "Why don't you get it yourself? You can even pour some for Mommy too." "No Mama," she said. "That's a good idea, but I can't get it right now, because I just need to chillax for a few minutes." Touche. Punk. ;)


Amazing that she has picked up so many of my habits. I notice that our relationship works very similarly to any other kind of relationship. When I drop what I'm doing and pay attention to her, she drops what she's doing and pays attention to me. If I answer her the first time she calls my name, she answers me the first time I call her name. I am not advocating some kind of liberal parenting style that says that we should be friends to our kids first and foremost. No ma'am. I still believe fully that I am in charge, and that what I say goes. But mutual respect goes a long way too.

Yesterday Sunda "helped" her Daddy fix the truck in the warehouse. She came back to the house filthy. Before I could turn around she was on the bed, cuddling and cooing Kya. I said, "Sunda, did you wash your hands?!" She looked up at me all like, "you are so slow."

S: "I washed my hands with soap, and I took off my pants so I didn't get your bed dirty."

Oh great, of course you did.

M: "By the way, Sunda, do you know where the diaper cream is? I can't seem to find it."

S: "Yes Mommy, I've seen it, here, I'll show you." (She went right to it and pulled it from an obscure place in Kya's shelves of clothes. Okay, so she probably put it there in the first place.)

I can't wait for her to show her little sister how to be as helpful and delightful as she is. :)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Walking with the Lions

We have had such a blast with “Nene and Pappy Schwertfeger.” It truly is a gigantic blessing to be able to share our lives here with some of our dear family. I’m sure that our family and friends have spent the last four years wondering, “What in the world is it like where they live?" Finally, some of those questions have been answered!

I am always telling people what it’s NOT like where we live. “No, we don’t live in a mud hut.” “No, we don’t eat elephant stew for dinner.” “No, we don’t walk around with the lions and cheetahs.” Well, it turns out I have been proven false on that last one…

Yesterday, Jacob, Sunda, Nene, and Pappy headed to Chief Mukuni’s “Lion Park.” We had heard about it before and knew that it was a big tourist attraction. We also thought that it would be kinda lame and pretty expensive. So we ultimately marked it off of our “to-do” list. But yesterday, because of Overland’s good relationship with the Chief, some of the guys thought that maybe we could get into the park at a reduced rate. I stayed home with Kya (who wasn’t at the top of her game after a looonnnggg Easter Sunday), and the rest of the family took off to see the lion park!

Unfortunately, the park staff refused Jake and the crew the reduced rate we thought would be in order. Jake and Jack (a co-worker of ours) argued and argued. Nothin’ doin’. So, gutsy man that he is, Jack decided to walk over to the Chief’s “palace” to see if he was home and would personally grant permission for free entrance. It turns out that the Chief himself was on his way to visit his own park and not only let everyone in for free…but took the tour with them!

My 4-year-old stood very close to a pack of lions who were lunging at the fence (she was, obviously, on the other SIDE of the fence.) She was terrified, and was convinced by her Daddy to get a picture near them…practically strangling Jake while the pics were being taken.

My husband, who has always loved cheetahs, got to PET a cheetah. Yes, friends. This is not your typical, heavily insured zoo. This is a park that lets you pet the lions and cheetahs (for a fee.) And if you get eaten, then, well, you got too close!

The Chief generously extended an invitation to all Overland staff this weekend. He offered the option of either taking the “elephant safari” (you get to ride an elephant!) Or “walking with the lions”, literally going in the lion’s cages and petting them. Jake said that I could go with some friends on Sunday and that he would stay with the girls. I’m afraid the activity choice isn’t up to me though, as Jake’s offer was posed like this, “Why don’t you go on Sunday? If you want to ride an elephant, that is. There’s NO WAY I’m letting you go in with the lions. Sorry.” Don’t worry, hubby, I don’t have a big desire to pet Mufasa anyway.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

My Saving Grace

I have to say, getting used to the busyness of two children has been an adjustment, but Kya herself has not really been much of a challenge at all. I was really prepared for and expecting the worst, according to some of the horror stories I’d heard about hormones, sleepless nights, and difficult feeding. But, God has given us so much grace and I feel like, more than anything, I’m hitting a stride.

However, it wasn’t always like that. I’ve put off writing about this for a long time, but it’s appropriate now, I think. One of these days my thoughts won’t be so extremely sentimental, but for now they are. That’s just how it is 
There’s a book that we regularly read to Sunda called, You Are My I Love You by Maryann K. Cusimano.

These are my favorite lines:
I am your parent; you are my child.
I am your quiet place; you are my wild.
I am your calm face; you are my giggle.
I am your wait; you are my wiggle.

I am your way home; you are my new path.
I am your dry towel; you are my wet bath.
I am your dinner; you are my chocolate cake.
I am your bedtime; you are my wide awake.
I am your finish line; you are my race.
I am your praying hands; you are my saying grace.
I am your lullaby; you are my peekaboo.
I am your good-night kiss; you are my I love you.

Just after we moved to Overland Missions and started 3 months of intensive missions training, Jake took a short trip home to the States. I was on my own for three weeks working full time as an AMT student, taking care of Sunda, and getting used to living in a tent. It was the first time I’d been left alone with my daughter for such a long stretch, and I was more than a little intimidated.

You see, it took me a little while to get used to being a mom. And at that point, I wasn’t sure that I was that great at it. It was a decision for me. Every day was a walk of faith, a process of trusting the Lord, hoping that at some point I’d feel like the mom that I so desperately wanted to be.

One evening, after a long day of lectures, I picked up You Are My I Love You to read to Sunda as I put her to bed. We’d read it many times before and I was always struck by the meaning in the words, even though I wasn’t sure I fully comprehended them myself.

I said this line aloud: “I am your finish line; you are my race. I am your praying hands; you are my saying grace.” For some reason, my tongue slipped. Instead of “saying grace,” I said, “you are saving grace.” I broke down. The truth of those words struck me so suddenly. Sunda was then and continues to be my saving grace. She has brought me out of selfishness and pride and taught me how to walk in humility. She has helped me to understand love as an everyday decision that, once walked out, becomes feeling. Because she’s very strong-willed and not at all fragile, she’s given me grace to learn how to be a mom to her. She continues to smile with me, laugh at me, present arguments to me, and rain love down on me in spite of my shortcomings.

Since Kya’s been born, Sunda has grown up before my eyes. She understands things I’ve never taught her and has a backbone I’m striving for. The other day, when I let the tears run down my face just out of exhaustion, she rubbed my back and said, “Mommy, when you’re sad and you cry, you have to ask Jesus to help you. And then you have to stop crying. Let’s go make some cookies.” Good idea, Sunda.

I’m so grateful for my creative helper. My strong-willed fire ball. My first born who has really taught me that being a mom has very little to do with giving birth. Thanks, baby girl. Sorry…BIG girl.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Things I Know...

...That I can't be THAT African. I heard a big truck drive onto the property early this morning and thought, "Oops, better get the trash out...must be garbage day."

(Just FYI: We burn all of our trash in an incinerator. There are no garbage trucks in Zambia.)

...That one of my favorite parts of the day is cleaning up the house after the girls are asleep. It's just so satisfying to pick up baby dolls and binkies and tea party remains and burp cloths. And know that it all starts again tomorrow.

Does that make me weird?

...That if you go to bed late because you were watching a movie, the Universe will conspire against you to make sure that both of your children cry all night long. You should've gone to bed earlier.

...That if I can shower, feed everyone, and not have poopie diapers laying around the house by 10am...I'm doing pretty darn good. (Okay, so far, I've only gotten to 10:30..I'm getting there.)

...That my standards of productivity have changed dramatically. But somehow I feel like I'm getting more done now than ever.

...That newborns don't understand the importance of updating your blog. Sorry.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Birth Announcement

Kya Grace Schwertfeger was born at 6pm on January 23, 2010

She was 2.79 kg and 50 centimeters long at birth. (Or, 6 lbs 1 oz. and 20 inches, for us metric illiterate Americans.) (Myself included.)

Mother and Baby Kya were very happy and healthy after a normal birth, even considering a loooonnnggg two days in labor. She was worth it!

This is Kya about 3 hours after birth:

THIS is Kya about 10 hours after birth:

Why is my baby canary yellow? That’s what I was asking at 6 o’clock in the morning! It turns out that Kya was affected with a fairly rare form of jaundice called “newborn blood incompatibility jaundice”, caused by a mom who has O+ blood and a dad who has A+ blood. When the baby gets the dad’s (A +) blood type, there is a clash of antibodies in the birth canal that causes the baby to become jaundiced very quickly after birth. That is why Kya was yellow, and that is why we were rushed to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit when she was about 12 hours old.

Fortunately, I was able to stay in the unit in order to feed Kya. She spent 2 full days on what is called a “Billi-bed”, which is an incubator with a special light that treats jaundice. She also received two intravenous doses of a special antibody that destroyed the jaundice in her system. We weren’t allowed to take her out of the bed to hold her or even feed her. I expressed milk into a bottle and then stuck my hands into the incubator to give it to her.

After two days in Intensive Care, we were released to go home because Kya had improved so dramatically. Her “biliruben”, which is the number that indicates the severity of jaundice, was practically normal. We were allowed to take her home as long as we continued to keep her on the lighted bed, which we rented from the hospital. For the first two days she was home, I was allowed to take her off the bed to feed her, but had to place her directly back on it to receive the light therapy. There was a 6 day lapse between the first time that Jacob got to hold his baby girl (Saturday, when she was born) and the second time (Friday, when she came off the bilibed.) You can imagine he wasn’t thrilled with THAT arrangement. And I think (besides the worry) that is the hardest part of having a baby with jaundice. Not being able to hold and love on this brand new, amazing child!

The potential effects of severe jaundice are serious and scary. An extremely high biliruben can cause extensive brain damage and harmful seizures. Treatment is usually blood exchange therapy, which is a traumatizing procedure consisting of multiple blood transfusions. We are so grateful to have been cared for the way we were. The medical staff was excellent. Kya’s jaundice was caught early and treated quickly. And although it WAS very serious, she will suffer no damaging effects.

Jacob and I’s future children are at risk for the same problem. Anytime that you have a combination of the blood types that we do (Mom is O+, Dad is A+, baby is A+) you have a potential for blood incompatibility jaundice. It is fairly rare and has variables other than the ones I’ve mentioned here, but it is a real possibility. It’s also easily avoidable. The baby can be tested at birth for high biliruben levels (as any future children born to Jacob and I will.)

I wish we would’ve known we were at risk. But I know that there are thousands of other things that could be a problem and could be tested for at birth. You just can’t prevent everything.

It was definitely a learning experience.

Lesson #1: To be an advocate for myself (and my family) and trust my own instincts. If I hadn’t mentioned something to the nurse it could’ve been hours before my midwife did her rounds and discovered Kya’s jaundice.

Lesson #2: To stand on what I KNOW to be true, even in the face of uncertainty. God is good and faithful and has our joys and tragedies at the forefront of His heart. He protects us, heals us, and comforts us, regardless of the circumstance. And He works everything together for HIS glory.

We spent 3 weeks in Johannesburg after Kya was born, and we have been back in Zambia for 2 weeks now. My mom has been with us for the last 2 weeks and it has been a pleasure and a blessing to have her company (and HELP.) Who knew that you needed your mother the most right at the exact time that you are mothering the most?

I wish you could be here to cuddle and kiss Miss Kya. She is an absolute treasure and we are thrilled to be a family of four. And just to assure you that she is no longer 6 pounds OR yellow:

Kya at 5 weeks on February 27 (9 lbs. 1 oz and rosy pink!):

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Glowing...or something...

I haven’t written very much about being pregnant on the blog. It’s not because I haven’t had a particular experience, or that it hasn’t been all-consuming. It’s just that, when someone is pregnant, especially for the first time, it seems to be all they talk about (me included.) I just think that people must get tired of hearing a woman talk about being pregnant, especially since millions of women have done it for thousands and thousands of years.

Overall, I have really enjoyed being pregnant. I love the almost constant kicks and nudges that I feel. I love watching elbows, knees, and feet move across my belly. I love the way I look pregnant, I don’t feel fat or unattractive…just a bit larger and more ungainly than usual. I love that I’m doing something really important just by taking care of myself. And I love knowing that the love of my life and I have created a little person that will be a source of joy and hope to us and hopefully to the world as well.

On the other hand, I don’t like having limitations. I don’t like saying, “I’m lightheaded, I’m just going to sit here for a bit” (a consequence of the low iron). I don’t like having to eat just because it’s time or because I don’t feel well. I don’t like being so hot at night that I have to sleep with the fan directly on me and can’t touch my husband or any covers. I certainly don’t like having to excuse myself to the bathroom every 30 minutes. In my head, I want so badly to be the strongest pregnant woman that ever lived. And that has not been my experience. If anything, it’s been very humbling to be pregnant and have to go slower. To sit down more often. To sleep more. To stop for snack breaks. All of those things that are permissible because you’re pregnant, and which make me crazy to have to rely upon. I’ve had to get over it. Probably has been really good for me. I’ll have to get over it again when I have a newborn and need all the help I can get from anyone who will give it to me. Good times.

These last several weeks have felt like a scene out of a movie for me. I’ve never felt so content, relaxed, and happy. I’ve gotten over needing to apologize for being a bit behind the 8 ball. I laugh easily and am enamored with my wonderful husband. It’s not that I’m not usually happy, it’s just that joy doesn’t always bubble up this freely. I feel like I’ve given myself a break. A big one. One that I probably should’ve given myself years ago. And I like it here in break-land. This Type A/B Personality may have just crossed into a Type B-. For awhile at least.

Will I feel this good after the baby is born? Will it be this easy to laugh at tomorrow, forever? Will I feel fraught with worry as soon as there’s another little person to care for? I’m just trying to keep in mind that while I may very well have stumbled upon a change of mindset, I could feel very different in a few weeks. Maybe I can just remind myself of how much nicer it is here in 37 weeks pregnant land.

And they said I would be miserable. Depends on how you look at it. Dizzy, hungry, have-to-pee. Sleepy. Achy. And never happier.

Amazing Provision

(Sorry! Once again, my pictures REFUSED to load. Arggggg!)

One of the things that Jake and I love about Overland Missions is that we often have the opportunity to sit under amazing men and women of God and just LISTEN. Our directors are linked with some incredible people who have just been there, seen it, and done it…twice. We love getting the opportunity to gather at the annual conference (which we will miss this year ☹) or sit in on the missionary training courses at the base and just glean from those who have walked the walk for more years that we’ve even been alive.

One of those people is a pastor named Vaughn Jarrold. Vaughn pastors a Vineyard Church in New York State. He and his wife ministered all over the world as missionaries, prophets, traveling evangelists, revivalists…etc. for YEARS before they settled down to pastor the church. They have five children. All five were born on a different continent.

Pastor Vaughn commands respect because of who he is and the anointing he carries with him. He doesn’t even have to open his mouth to get offered a hot cup of coffee or a comfortable chair. You just WANT to serve him. I first noticed this as we’ve gathered with in churches and in Christian circles. But I can’t help but wonder if he wouldn’t walk into a bar and get the same treatment.

Okay, so he is a 6 foot 5 Englishman with huge shoulders and a shock of red hair. Not typically someone you’d mess with in a dark alley. But his size is negligible when compared to the message that he speaks from experience.

This is one of the stories that I carry with me:

Vaughn and his wife were walking to Israel because they felt like it was where they were supposed to be. They were brand new Christians, had just gotten married, and had nothing to their name. They had been traveling the U.S. together when they really committed their lives to their Lord and decided that God wanted them in Israel. They had no money and no resources, so they decided to get there anyway they could.

I don’t know all of the details, but I know that they were so broke that Vaughn got angry with Wendy for writing a postcard to her mom. They couldn’t afford the postage. They slept in a tent that they would put up anywhere they could and ate what they could manage to get ahold of. One early morning they were walking into a city. It was cold and they hadn’t eaten breakfast. Vaughnn said to Wendy, almost jokingly, “Ya know what I could go for? A couple of hardboiled eggs.” They were his favorite breakfast, and a treat he hadn’t had in awhile.

Vaughn speaks about the difficulty of having so little that you start to question God: “Are you really providing for me?” “I can’t even EAT when I want to. How is this provision?” Of course, it adds another dynamic when you have a wife or family to provide for. It’s one thing to suffer yourself, but to watch your family suffer with you is heartbreaking to bear. You question yourself and the Lord and wonder why He would ever call you to do something so crazy and uncomfortable.

A couple of blocks later, Vaughn and Wendy decided to sit for awhile on a bench. Vaughnn noticed that there was a paper bag folded up in the corner of the bench. He reached for it and opened it up. And burst into tears. The paper bag held six, still warm, hard boiled eggs.

When Vaughn told that story to my AMT Class, I watched the tears streaming down his cheeks. But before he even got to the end of the story, I was choking back my own. I was crying by the time he told us that he had a hankering for boiled eggs. Because I knew what the ending was going to be. I KNEW that those eggs would be some where, waiting for him to find them.

They always are.

Vaughn ended his story with this Scripture: “I was young, and now I am old, and I have never seen the righteous forsaken, or their seed beg for bread.”

I don’t know if I’ve ever connected more immediately to a passage in the Bible than this one. My heart screams out to God: You mean, NEVER? In my WHOLE LIFE? I won’t be forsaken? I won’t be forgotten about? And my children won’t be forgotten about? And there will always be boiled eggs?

Yep. Always.