Sunday, July 26, 2009

Why do Children Suffer?

Five years ago, I became acquainted with the world of childhood cancer through the journey of a friend's little boy. He was just months younger than Little Girl, and the thought was absolutely staggering... if something like this could happen to them, it could happen to us.

This baby had a brain tumor, and after a long hard year of surgeries and treatments, he went to heaven. His family met many other cancer babies during this year, of course, and I followed their stories and prayed for those children and their families too. And one by one, I watched every single child die.

A few months after my friend's baby's death, I could take no more. No more links, no more blogs, no more following the stories of children with cancer. It was too hard. It was too sad.

Families who get thrust into that situation don't have that option. No matter how hard it is, no matter how sad, they can't just turn their head and say, "Nope, I've had enough, I'm not going to do this anymore."

But I could. And I did.

For four years I did. But now sick children seem to be facing me everywhere I go.

A girl I've gone to church with since we were children had a baby this week... a very sick baby. She's clinging to life right now... just barely. And suddenly I'm plunged back into the life of 4-5 years ago, where you check constantly for updates, and soar high when it looks like a miracle is occurring, only to be plunged to the depths again when things suddenly sour and prospects are grim.

But it's not just this little baby. There's beautiful little Kate McRae, whose situation reminds me so much of my friend's son's. And Small Stellan McKinney is not doing well at all this week. And have you heard of the terrible bus accident at FBC Shreveport? Young Maggie Lee Henson and her family are walking a hard road right now.

It begs the question why. Why must children suffer and die? It seems so wrong.

And it is wrong. It was never part of God's original design. When sin entered the world, so did death and suffering. It's ugly. It's wrong. But it's here nonetheless. Fortunately, it will one day be no more and we can all live forever in perfect health and happiness. But until that time, it's going to happen, and it could happen to any of us at any time.

So I guess the only question now is, what are we going to do when it does?

And no, I don't have an answer to that question.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Happiest Place on Earth

And it's not Disney World. (I know, I know, I'm a huge Disney fan, but this place even beats out Disney...)

Where is it?

The Ingalls Homestead in De Smet, South Dakota.

Two years ago, my mother and I took Little Girl there for her first visit. She loved it so much that when her birthday came around the next summer, she thought we should have her birthday party in South Dakota. It's a long way to South Dakota... a very long way.

When the kind folks at the Homestead heard of Little Girl's request, they sent some of South Dakota to her! How excited she was to receive a gift from the Homestead staff, a card, and pictures of her beloved kittens!

So when I told her this year that I was going back to South Dakota and asked if she wanted to come, of course the answer was yes! I was a little worried about taking her away from her mother so long -- we'd be gone a week after all. But she maintained that she wanted to go and so we went.

Was it as good as we remembered it being? Actually, it was better.

We spent large parts of THREE DAYS (and a night) on the Homestead, and didn't want to leave then. And as a result, I've come home with a Little Girl who is very knowledgeable about various aspects of pioneer living.

What can a little girl find to do on the Ingalls Homestead for three days? She can ride a horse... or a miniature horse... or a pony cart. Or all three, several times. Cuddle with kittens. Handle a team of horses or mules pulling a wagon. Cuddle with kittens. Pump water and carry the pail back with Ma. Do the laundry, pioneer-style. Cuddle with kittens. Wear prairie dresses with pinafores and sunbonnets and go to school. Ring the school bell. And cuddle with kittens. Go for a walk across the prairie at night. Pretend to be blind and let your friend play Laura and guide you as you walk. Spend the night in a covered wagon. During a thunderstorm. (Awesome!) Make corncob dolls (and corncob butterflies! lol) Twist hay, grind wheat, and make a jumprope. Oh, and lest we forget, cuddle with kittens.

I think by the time we left, she was a little TOO educated. At one point at the school, she wanted to leave to go back and see the kittens again (granted, we'd been there over an hour at this point, for a special session) and I told her sorry, there was nothing I could do about it. (You take a wagon there as the school is on the opposite end of the Homestead from the rest of the activities.) "I can't drive the wagon!" I protested as she continued to beg.

"I can!" she retorted.

Yes. She certainly could. After all, she'd done it numerous times already. Confident little thing.

And then she and her little friends, on the last morning there after our covered wagon sleepover party, wanted to do the laundry. We headed down, talking amongst ourselves, while the little ones ran on ahead. A staff member was always at the shanty to assist with the laundry so we saw no need to rush.

When we rounded the corner, we saw our four small children doing the laundry. One was scrubbing, one was rinsing, one was putting the cloth through the wringer, and the last was hanging up the clean cloths on the clothesline. The Homestead folks weren't there yet so our children had helped themselves, and astonishingly, were doing the laundry correctly and had formed their own little assembly line! I wonder what they thought when they showed up later that morning and discovered their nicely folded cloths all washed and hanging on the line? :)

Anyhow, it was a wonderful vacation and Little Girl can't stop talking about it. Thank you, Ingalls Homestead, for sharing Laura's land with the rest of us and for spoiling our little ones rotten.

We will be back!

A Collision of Literary-Inspired Media

Have you ever noticed that the chant, "Snipes, snipes, long-legged snipes" as heard on the Little House on the Prairie television show is remarkably similar to the chant, "Snape, Snape, Severus Snape" as heard by the Harry Potter Puppet Pals?

(If you haven't and are curious, you can hear the Snipes chant here (fast forward to minute 8:12) and the Snape chant here (at minute :30).

That's just one of the many things learned when traveling with two little girls to Plum Creek. Little Girl began chanting snipes, and her little friend Anna joined in with Snape. Too funny!

Monday, July 20, 2009

A Miracle for Rebecca

I've mentioned Rebecca here before. She's a little six-year-old girl in Uganda that I sponsor through Compassion International.

Most Compassion kids at such a young age are still having family members or teachers write their letters for them, or their letters are very obviously form letters. Not Rebecca. Oh, her teacher actually writes the letter, but it is clearly straight from Rebecca's mouth, unlike my other kids where the teacher is just updating me on the child's progress or activities.

And my little Rebecca? She's sweet. She's endearing. She's precocious. She abounds with personality that shines through in every letter she writes -- and she writes a lot!

Well, a few months ago, little Rebecca began asking me when I was coming to Africa to see her.

I can't go to Africa. The reasons are many. I very much want to see Rebecca, and my other boy in Uganda, Milton, also. But it just isn't possible.

But when I explained this to Rebecca, she informed me that with God, all things are possible.

This kid is really something. She really is.

So we agreed we would both pray about it and if God wanted it to happen, He would make it happen, but I also stipulated to her that God might NOT want it to happen in which case it wouldn't and we have to be okay with that, much as we may want things to be different.

She's not given up. Every letter -- every single one -- contains a comment or question regarding the issue of me coming to see her. She is convinced that God will make it happen, and she prays for it constantly.

I researched options. I wanted so badly to make it happen for her, when it seems so important to her. But I kept coming up against one brick wall after another. It simply wasn't going to happen. I understood that, but I implored God to make Rebecca understand. To do something to help her understand and be okay with it.

So do you know what He did?

About a month ago, I heard about a new site Compassion started up, called OurCompassion. It's sort of like Facebook for Compassion sponsors, and you can search by project and find other people who sponsor children in the same project as your sponsored child.

So I joined and almost immediately, I connected with a lady from Australia who sponsors a little girl in the same project as Rebecca. And lo and behold, she was going to visit her child THE NEXT WEEK.

I was all over that one. I asked her if she would look for Rebecca... and if she could find her, if she could tell her face to face for me how much I want to come but how I just can't make it happen. Could she somehow explain it to her?

She said she would ask the staff and meet Rebecca if it was at all possible, and that she was taking some gift bags to pass out to some of the children and would make sure Rebecca got one. Nice.

Even nicer? When she arrived at the project and asked about Rebecca and explained why she was asking, do you know what the staff did? They let my little Rebecca join this lady and her sponsored child for the entire day. This lady went to Rebecca's house and met her family. And her cows. ;) She gave Rebecca a Cabbage Patch Kid on my behalf. She took her out and about and spoiled her rotten for a day. She took tons of pictures, and even a video message from Rebecca and her mother to me, which I am quite anxious to see. I'm also eager to hear from Rebecca about what she thought about this visit!! I know that could take a couple of months though.

But I got some of the pictures last night.

Do you think she was happy about the little miracle God arranged just for her?

Seriously. A lady from Australia visits a child in Africa on behalf of the child's sponsor who lives in America, and God pulls this all together in the span of less than a month after being asked to make Rebecca understand somehow?

Only God.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Eight Cousins

I told Little Girl a few days ago that her new little playmate (my friend's daughter) Anna was her eighth cousin. I only know this because of my interest in genealogy, of course; they don't know each other because they're related, they just happen to be very distantly related and we know each other... Well, she was very excited about it, she squealed, "We're cousins!" and they hugged. And that was the end of it, it never came up again.

Last night, when with this same friend, Little Girl said she wanted to go to M and T's home. M and T are Little Girl's cousins on her daddy's side of the family, and Baby Boy is her only cousin on her mommy's side.

My friend, not knowing Little Girl's daddy's family, asked who M and T were, and Little Girl said, "My cousins." My friend said, "Ohhh -- how many cousins do you have, Little Girl?" and Little Girl promptly replied, "Eight."

"Eight!" I exclaimed. "You don't have eight cousins, what are you talking about!?"

Little Girl instantly became very upset. "But... but... but you said..."

My friend burst into laughter and finished for her -- "You said Anna was her eighth cousin!!!"

I did indeed.


Sunday, July 5, 2009

Overheard at Dinner...

Baby Boy: "Want ice cream."

My brother (his father): "No, you can't have ice cream yet, you need to eat your dinner."

Baby Boy: "I ate it!"

My brother: "Nooo... you haven't even touched your corn!"

Baby Boy, with a smirk on his face, took one finger and -- you guessed it -- TOUCHED his corn.

That kid cracks me up.

Little Shopaholic

On her 7th birthday, my sister said something to Little Girl about being seven.

"I don't want to be seven," she replied.

"You don't!?" my sister asked in surprise.

"I don't want to be seven," Little Girl repeated. "I want to be 18."

"Why?" my sister questioned.

"So I can order stuff," was the response.

Like mother, like daughter...

(She'd order stuff now if she had access to a credit card. Would you believe that last year, Little Girl went and asked my sister for her credit card? My sister was very surprised at such a request and went to see just WHAT she was up to. Little Girl was on the computer, on the Disney website, and had BOOKED THEM A DISNEY VACATION online -- all it needed was the credit card number to go through!!!)

Friday, July 3, 2009

Our Little Recycler

Last month, I was holding the longest skinniest 5 and a half pound baby I've ever seen in my arms and marveling at how very perfect she was, from her darling little nose down to her ten wiggly toes.

A couple weeks ago I rejoiced at every minute I could spend with a chunky little toddler with gorgeous golden ringlets, who entertained us all with her adorable antics.

And last week, I gasped as our little girl started kindergarten, and learned to read and write and add and subtract. (Well, okay, she could do that before kindergarten. But go with me here.)

Yesterday, Little Girl turned seven. How can it be possible? Why does time go so slowly when you're young, and so quickly the older you get?

Well, with birthdays come presents, of course, and since our little Earth Girl is constantly talking about recycling and coming up with such creative ways to recycle and re-use things that you'd think she was Ma Ingalls' little clone, you can only imagine my pleasure at spying a Paper Recycling Factory by Bill Nye the Science Guy at a local store. The perfect birthday present for Little Girl!

Let me just say that I'm glad I also bought her some things at Disney World while I was there with Baby Boy, or it would have been one bummer of a birthday.

We opened the Paper Recycling Factory up and got right to work.

Before we recycled paper, Little Girl was scolding me for some tree bark pencils she found on my old school desk, purchased from one of the Little House sites. "That wastes trees!" she gasped. I pointed out that regular pencils are also made of wood, and she gasped again. "But it wastes trees!" I said, "But we NEED pencils so we can write." She argued, "But we NEED trees so we can breathe." Yeah. She wins.

After we recyled paper, this same child moaned and said, "Let's just waste trees. It's easier."

That is how ridiculous the paper recycling factory was. Hours and hours and hours to make one little piece of paper that doesn't even look or feel like paper, with great amounts of manual labor involved.

We won't be making paper again.

Good job, Bill Nye. Your paper recycling factory teaches kids NOT to recycle!