Friday, April 26, 2013

Happy Birthday

When I met Marie she was four years old.  At least that's what we thought.  Her mom had lost the documents she got at birth so we really had no way of knowing. When I came back and took her this year, she just looked older. I decided that she was probably around 5 by now.  Then she lost a tooth.  And my dental hygenist friend said that her six year old molars were fully in.  What?!!?  She's six!?!?!  She's wearing 4T clothes!  And she still can't count to 10! I started panicking a little bit.

Since I didn't know her birthday, I had to make one up.  I decided on August 8th since that was she originally came to live with me. It also gave her an age of 5 1/2 instead of 6, which I appreciated.

A few weeks ago I started the legal process for her adoption.  It will actually be a transfer of legal custody for a year and will then move to adoption.  When I met with the man from the Social Welfare office, he went through the steps that need to be taken, and one of them was to get a birth certificate.  I went with a Sierra Leonean friend and he just kept nodding to all of the steps, but in my mind I thought, "What are the chances that her mother is going to have a birth certificate!?!!?  She was probably born at home and mom already told me that she'd lost all of the information!!!"  When we got out of the meeting I called her mom and sure enough, she had no idea.  No day, no month, no year.  The next day she called me to tell me that she remembered that it had been a Thursday.  Awesome. Very helpful.

I went to her village to talk with the town chief. My friend was sure that he would have some information because he was literate.  I, on the other hand, wasn't convinced that just because the man could read and write he would remember when a little girl was born, several years ago.  Nevertheless we went.  And we were both right.  The town chief didn't remember when she was born, but he said that the TBA (traditional birth attendant) should have the records.  A couple hours later he called with the date.  April 24, 2008 10:45 pm.  This call came on April 19th.  My little girl was still 4!!!!  Yeah!!!  Also, I had a real birthday for her!! (I'm still confused about her 6 year molars, but I learned that kids can lose their teeth early....)

I started prepping her on what a birthday was.  We'd celebrated one of my teammate's kid's birthday a month ago and she remembered the song.  We started the countdown to her birthday...but I think she was most excited about the song.  The night before her birthday my roommates and I were decorating the house and I remarked that I felt more excited than I've felt for my own birthday in a long time!!  Valentina made a crown for her with a big "5" on the front.  We put up some streamers, balloons, and threw up a couple of signs.

The next morning I got up early to attempt my hand at making some donuts.  My sister makes them and they're amazing.  I had to do a practice one to realize that I didn't put enough oil in, and sort of sauteed it instead of frying it. Oops.  Also, my roommate found a staple in hers.  Don't ask.

When Marie got up we were excited for her to see the house all decorated and to wear her crown.  She woke up and looked around and said "For my birthday?"  Yup!! I remembered the torture of seeing the wrapped presents sitting on the kitchen table and the agony of waiting all day to open them.  I decided she should suffer as well (aren't I a good parent?) so I pointed out her gifts, told them they were for her, but that she would have to wait until later to open them.  It didn't really work though because she didn't ask about them again all day.  Maybe I was just an especially greedy child!!  We put her crown on,  and she started crying.  She wasn't thrilled about wearing it.  We snapped a picture quickly and then let her take it off. However, it only took a couple other kids being really excited about wearing the crown for it to quickly become the coolest thing ever.

The song. She loved the "Happy Birthday" song.  She was singing it to herself all day.  Sometimes before we eat, instead of praying we will sing a song that she loves called "Tell God Tenki (thank you).  At lunch time we were sitting around the table and she reached for all our hands. However,  instead of singing the song we usually sing, she started singing "Happy Birthday." Might have some work to do there.

Now my dilemma   I've lived here for awhile and have noticed a couple things.  It seems that either birthdays are basically ignored, or they're done up in a big way! (The party for a little one year old I know had music playing so loud we could hear it a quarter mile away). I wanted something in the middle.  It seems that everyone in this village knows Marie, so I knew that if I invited a few of her friends, I would quickly offend everyone else that I didn't invite.  I was also afraid of offending adults that I'm friends with.  I got some advice and decided we would just do a quiet little get together in the afternoon and that would be the end of it.  Well, the day slipped away from me a bit and evening time rolled around. We often have visitors in the evening, so I just prayed that we wouldn't tonight.
A girly dress for a girly girl

We made her special birthday dinner (pasta and tuna from a box) and then had her cake.  She was ready to move on to presents!!  She loved the presents but I think was equally excited about the unwrapping part.  After presents we watched Cinderella and then it was off to bed.  I'm still not sure that she really understands what a birthday is, but regardless we had a good day! :)  Thanks to everyone for all the well wishes you sent!!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Let's Have This One at Home!

I was talking to my friend yesterday when she mentioned that her daughter-in-law had been having labor pains since morning.  I asked where she was going to deliver and she said she was going to a TBA (traditional birth attendant)’s house.  “Can I come?? Can I come????”  I know I said that OB was not my thing. And it’s not. But I’ve only seen deliveries in the hospital and was curious to see how the majority of the women do it. (The vast majority still attempt to deliver at home, hence the reason the deliveries we do are usually complicated).  She said it would be no problem and would call us (I have two friends staying with me who also wanted to get in on the action) when the time was closer.
That evening we were getting ready to make dinner when my friend came by and said that he’d been told to direct us to the TBA’s house. The time was here!  We hopped in my car and headed over there.  All four of us.  Yes, I brought a 5 ½ year old to watch a woman giving birth.  That’s what happens when your mom lives thousands of miles away and your neighbors are both out of town.  Sure you don’t want to move over here Mom!?!??!?!  Fortunately Mari quickly found some friends at the house and stayed outside.
I walked into the house with a nervous feeling in my stomach. I hadn’t seen one of these in a house before and was wondering how this was going to turn out. What about the oxygen? How are we going to bag the baby if something goes wrong? What if the woman keeps bleeding?  I was comforted by the fact that this was the woman’s second delivery and the first one had given her no problems. (Incidentally her first child was also born in April….of last year.  I figured it was so close to the last one that things should still be pretty open and maybe this baby will just shoot right out). 
At 5:30pm we walked into the house and saw the woman lying on the bed. As we were invited to sit down with my friend on the foam mattress on the ground, I started watching the laboring woman. She was, for the most part, silent.  She even looked like she was sleeping at times.  What the heck?! This woman is just beginning her labor. We’re going to be here until tomorrow!!  We settled in….for a long wait.
Let the baby borning begin!  We met the TBA (who I realized I’d already met once when she’s brought a woman with a retained twin to the hospital) and mangos were served all around.  Women came and went and I strained to understand the fast talking that seems to happen a lot when a bunch of women get together......apparently in any country!  I was able to catch a little of their gossip but they were talking so fast that I will remain blissfully ignorant about which man sent away which woman, who has a certain witch’s curse on them, etc. 
The time moved.  Slowly.  I’ve seen quite a few women give birth here and I’ve learned the signs.  Sleeping in between contractions and merely sucking in  your breath a bit with each contraction does not mean that the baby is coming quickly.  Usually.  However when the TBA checked her, she said that head was far down and she would give birth before the sun went down.  “Say what?” I asked?  “Oh yes,” said my friend.  “This is what she did with her last one too. She bears the pain very well! This morning she was in labor all day and still did the cooking and the washing.  She’s strong!”  Apparently!!  I told them that if it was me giving birth they would know it!
As the sun started going down, one of my friends asked if they had lights. This got a laugh from the whole room.  One woman said, “the sun isn’t even down yet and this woman is asking if we have light?  She pointed to the lantern and said, “This is our generator.” 
The waiting continued. The sun went down and still no baby.  The room was hot.  The one small window didn’t provide a lot of air circulation and for some reason being in the dark with only the lantern for light just made it seem hotter. To be embarrassingly honest, it felt a bit like I’d stepped back in time (and into a movie) and was in the film “Gone With the Wind” when Scarlett is helping to deliver Melanie’s baby.  Except for the goats. There always seem to be more goats around here. 
After about 3 ½ hours of waiting things started happening. She was still SO quiet. Incredible! But she started moving more. And whimpering a bit.  And then just like that she was ready to push.  She gave a couple valiant efforts, but then said she wanted to eat.  We stopped everything and someone went and hot her some rice to eat.  I was marveling at how different this was than a delivery in the States, or even one in the hospital here. Stopping pushing to eat? Unheard of. J
After she’d eaten her fill she got back down to her pushing.  There was no shouting at her to push. There was no slapping her legs.  A comment might have been made that if she didn’t push well her boyfriend was going to go get another woman pregnant in Freetown.  (Probably not the most encouraging thought….) I was standing at the head of the bed and she kept reaching for me and asking “who’s that.”  When I’d say “it’s Emily” she would say “Hold me Emily!!!” at which time I’d grab onto her hand.  At one point she said, “Emily pray for me!!” I said, “I AM!!!!!”  After a few seconds I looked up and everyone in the room was looking at me.  “Oh you mean out loud?? Ok.”  Oops! J
After about 30 minutes of pushing, out came a beautiful baby boy.  Her first child was a girl so everyone was THRILLED that it was a boy.  They called the father who, interestingly enough they hadn’t even told she was in labor. If the father isn’t around, they don’t tell him until the baby is born.  The TBA delivered her placenta and then washed the baby off.  Within 30 minutes of her delivery we were all piled in my car to drive her home.
The whole thing was just incredible.  I get frustrated when women don’t come to the hospital to deliver here, because although we can’t do a LOT if we have babies in trouble, we can do SOMETHING. After seeing this delivery however, I understand better why women aren’t always eager to go to the hospital right away.  Aside from the fact that it costs more money and is not part of the tradition, it was also a much more relaxed environment than most deliveries at the hospital.  This is keeping in mind of course, that most of our deliveries are more dramatic for the sole reason that they’ve usually already tried to deliver at home and were unable, so the baby and/or mother is often in trouble by the time they get to the hospital. She was surrounded by her friends and family.  And everything went smoothly!!  This is what I was most fearful of. I know that the large majority of deliveries are perfectly fine. But I also know that Sierra Leone has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world.  And I didn’t forget that the entire time I was in that dark, sweltering room.  Women die in places like this.  A lot of them.  In fact, this woman had a 1/8 chance of dying while giving birth.  Not something I want to play around with!! But thank God she and baby both did great.  And I had a new experience!!  Good day.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Back in the saddle again.....

I’ve been back in my village for exactly one week now.  When I came, I talked with the administrator of the hospital and we agreed that I’d only work 3 days in the hospital instead of the 6-7 that I was doing last year.  This little girl is hanging around a lot and needs things like food, schooling, etc so it takes up a bit of time.  I'm also really interested in doing some outreach in some of the smaller villages, so it seemed like a perfect plan.  The OB ward got 2 new midwives while I was gone so they’re doing pretty good in terms of staffing.  I have a nurse from Chile staying with me until July (shout out Valentina) so she and I will be taking over rounds in Peds three days a week and then hopefully doing some work in the villages as well. 

I was a little nervous since it’s been about a year since I’ve been in the Peds ward.  On Thursday Valentina and I headed down to the ward.  It was eerily quiet with only 4 kiddos there (as opposed to the 31 that had been typical when I worked there 2 years ago).  So we went through the ward….malaria, malaria, malaria….snake bite! (African version of duck duck goose).

The kiddo had come in the night before after being bitten by a snake on his left hand. As I watched him, he was breathing pretty well but his arm was very swollen, up to his left chest.  Of course he had the stone wrapped around his hand designed to pull the poison out (while also providing a great vehicle for infection to enter).  I looked at his card, saw that he had had the “snake bite protocol” done and was now receiving antibiotics.  I decided that most likely he had been bitten by a cobra, as opposed a mamba.  Mambas are the more dangerous of the two, as they cause neurologic problems leading to things like respiratory depression, etc.  So I was encouraged by this kid.  It’s true, his breathing wasn’t great, but when people have been bitten by a mamba, their affected appendage doesn’t usually look too bad….it’s the neuro signs that make you know this isn’t going to turn out well.  So I told the father that I wasn’t surprised that the swelling was continuing and it still might get worse before it gets better. Then I left. The next day I was thinking about the kid and called a friend of mine to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. He went and saw him and put him on a stronger antibiotic.

On Sunday Valentina, Mari and I went for a little stroll and decided to stroll to the hospital to check on the snakebite kid.  We stopped in at the OB ward and I asked about the ambulance I’d heard that morning.  They told me that the woman had come and delivered but the baby was already dead at delivery.

Now before I go on, I need to tell you a little bit about my friend Valentina.  Valentina is one of those people with the soft, gentle, compassionate heart that I want to have when I grow up!!  As soon as she heard that the woman lost her baby, she was sitting by her with her arm wrapped around her.  She’s one of THOSE kinds of people. J

Next we headed to the peds ward.  As soon as we entered, I saw that the bed was empty. I knew it!!! I’d told Valentina the day before that I suspected the family would get tired of the slow progress of the kids healing and would take him to go try country medicine. (Experience is a great teacher).  His empty bed proved my theory correct.  Until the nursing assistant told me that no, in fact the child died a few hours ago. Wait. Say what!?! He died???  I did NOT see that one coming!  And that yucky feeling settled into the pit of my stomach. I’d told the father I wasn’t worried.  I'd been wrong.  Bleh. 

Next we headed to the Alpha Ward (the ward for malnourished kids) to check on a little 7 month baby that Valentina had befriended.  This is him. He looks like he’s 3 months or so. 

And he wasn’t doing well. His work of breathing was really high and he had a temperature again.  They had ordered nebulizers for him (breathing treatments) which he hadn’t received and there was some question as to whether or not he’d received his antibiotic the last 2 days.  I was annoyed.  This kid was sick!  The baby’s mother and father were both dead so he’d been brought by his grandmother, but she was so discouraged that he kept vomiting and having diarrhea, that she wanted to leave.  Valentina and I talked to her and convinced her to stay so we could do everything possible for the baby.  Valentina fed the baby his milk with a spoon without any vomiting (yeah!) and an hour later we left.  I didn’t have a good feeling about that kid. Valentina’s tears told me she didn’t either.

Yesterday was Monday.  The little baby was looking better! We went to the market and Valentina bought him some diapers and a few other little things he needed.  She spent most of the afternoon down there with him, making sure he got all his meds and his breathing treatments.

This morning I got up early to have my “Jesus time.”  At about 6:20am I was sitting by the window, when I heard a woman saying “Why. Why. Why.”  This is what they say when something hurts.  Then I heard another woman tell they “Whying woman” to sit down by my house.  “Oh great,” I thought. “Somebody is sick and was directed to the white person’s house cause they know I’m a sucker. Can’t they see that I just want to spend time with Jesus and don’t want to be bothered!??!?!”  I know right? Awesome attitude to have. What can I say? God’s still working on me!  A lot! J

I turned around and saw that it was the little malnourished baby’s grandmother. And she was crying. This isn’t good.  She told me that the baby had died and asked where Valentina was, “the one that really loved that baby.”  No!!  I cannot go wake her up and tell her that he’s died!!  But I did.  We went down to the hospital and Valentina helped the grandmother pack everything up and wrap up the body. The day before I’d heard the grandmother say that if she had 5,000 Leones ($1.25) she would just take a motorbike and leave. I ran back up to the house to get the money to give her.  When I got back down, a man came to inform us that in fact, it was going to cost 70,000 Leones ($16) because nobody likes carrying a corpse. I quickly did some math (probably poorly) in my head and decided it would be cheaper for me to take them back to their village than to give her the money.  So my car became a hearse and we all went to the village.

When we got back Valentina and I went to the Peds ward to see if rounds had been done yet.  As soon as I walked into the ward, I saw a big group of people crowded around one of the beds. Never a good sign.  We went over to the kid and he looked rough. He’d come in at 6am that morning (it was now 10am). His blood had been drawn but the results weren’t back yet so I ran down to the lab to find the results.  His hemoglobin was 6.6 which is low, but definitely not as low as we often see. Based on how bad the kid looked though, of course we needed to transfuse. I went to the family who was crowded around the bed and asked them all to go down and be checked for possible donation. We went through all the other possible causes.  He'd gotten his antibiotic, although we could give it again, so we did. His blood sugar was stable but dropping significantly so I switched his IV fluids around to try and keep his blood sugar up. Since we only had one IV, I talked with the nursing assistants about checking it frequently when we had to stop the fluid to give blood so it wouldn't drop too low.  Infection covered, blood coming, blood sugar stabilized, kiddo on oxygen.  Everything that I could think of was being done.

Valentina stayed at the bedside while I took Mari up to the house to get some lunch. I called a little bit later and the kids oxygen sats were down to 60%. (We want more than 90%). I ran down to the hospital to see if there was anything else we could do. He was getting his blood, they’d stayed on top of his blood sugar, giving him D50% when needed.  I listened to his lungs and there was all sorts of sounds going on in there, but he’d come in with that. I gave him some Lasix (a medicine to get rid of extra fluid you have in your body) just in case he was overloaded with fluid.  I also ran down to the OR to see if I could find a mask to deliver the oxygen instead of just the nasal cannula.  I found one with part of the hose cut off but thought I could jimmy rig it to make it work. 

When I came down, I saw the boy’s mother and realized it was someone I knew. I didn’t know her well, but when she saw me she stretched out her hands to me and said, “Emily, my child. Emily, my child.” She kept repeating it over and over.  I sat down with her for a minute and said, “We’re really trying for him!!”

The boy’s oxygen stabilized a bit and although I still suspected that this child wasn’t going to make it, I thought it would be a couple hours. I had made plans with someone to go look at a sick child in a nearby village and knew he was waiting on the side of the road to direct me to the house.  I told Valentina I would go see this child quickly and come back (in my mind to do the death vigil with the boy’s family). 

After going to see a boy who was 14 years old and was smaller than Mari, (EXTREME malnutrition) I came back to the hospital where Valentina told me the child had died shortly after I’d left.  Darnit! I thought I’d had more time. I asked if the boy’s mother was still around and went to her. She was lying on the ground crying and when she saw me she said, “Emily my child died! What am I going to do now? Emily. He’s dead. What am I going to do??” She repeated this over and over. Then she said, I need to go to the village, but the sun is warm.  I told her that I would take her family and her sons’ body back to the village in my car. Since they don’t allow the family to take the body unless they pay their bill, I paid the few remaining dollars and for the second time that day loaded a dead child into my car and headed to the village.

Today sucked. Am I allowed to say that as a missionary?  Maybe not. But it’s true.  It was a no good, very bad day.  Not all days are like this, but when Valentina and I got back to the house we realized that in less than a week we’d lost 5 kids.  Sometimes it feels like the death is suffocating.  It’s everywhere you turn. You can’t get away from it. But as we debriefed about the last couple days, we rejoiced. We were thankful that we got to be there with these women in their darkest moments.  We couldn’t do anything to take away their pain, but they saw our tears and knew that someone else was hurting with them.  So through the pain, we “tell God Tenki.”   

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Wow.  The last month or so has been so crazy busy!! Where has the time gone???  I’ll just get right to it.  Six days after the building team left, I was back at the airport to pick up a medical team, also primarily from my hometown area.  This medical team was a little special because coming along were my mom, my dad and my uncle.  It was their first time to meet my new little one! J  I think my mom might have brought 17 suitcases of stuff with her.  She came ready to spoil!

In addition to being excited, I’ll be honest and say that I was a little apprehensive about this team.  See…..we decided to camp this year.  In Africa.  During the hottest time of the year.  And when I say “we decided” it was really me, convincing them that it could in fact be done successfully.  And no one would get sick and die.  (Generally not the best thing to promise here).  They might have been a little apprehensive as well.  As we were driving up to the village, the thought definitely crossed my mind that if this goes badly, I may lose some very valuable team members.  For. Ev. Er.  (Name that movie). 

After a slightly hairy trip up to the village (apparently you’re not supposed to gun your vehicle to make it through a river when you have a really high load…who knew?) we were ready!  Because of some incredibly hard work by some of my teammates (shout out Pepe, Alejandra, Scarlett, John, Abdul and Adama) when we arrived the campsite was pretty much set up.  The village had divided the church into sections so we were ready to set up the clinic. 
The pastor used palm fronds to divide the church. This was our pharmacy.
This team was so awesome! I was so proud of them!  They took to camping like…someone who takes to something easily.  It was great to be able to be in the village and not have to travel an hour to and fro each way.  We got to spend more time with the community and more time together as a team. 
Over the course of the week we saw hundreds of patients.  This was the first time I can remember the providers ever asking to keep seeing patients at the end of the day!  They were so pumped and excited about what they were doing. 
I love when our nurses get to do new things (with the doc's supervision of course!) It's so fun!
One of our providers praying with her patient. I found that almost all my patients got their biggest smiles on their faces when I asked if I could pray with them. :) 

It was a great week! We didn’t have time for our extra beach day at the end of the trip like we often do, but we snuck in a “beach evening” after we traveled back from the village. It was a wonderfully relaxing time after stretching week.
I mean...please. Jesus is just awesome!!
The team left the next day but I got to spend the next week with a friend I’ve known since high school and her husband who added on an extra week in Sierra Leone.  We headed up to my village and they got to see where I work, what the heck I do, etc.  They were also privileged to get to see a surgery to fix the largest hernia I have ever seen. Seriously. It was huge.  Thanks to my friend who takes 1000 picures every day, I have the pictures.....lots of them.  But I won't.  :)  My friend’s husband (who isn’t medically inclined) observed this surgery and it was pretty funny to see how horrified he was that they cut off this patient’s testicle (which was very large and very damaged due to the hernia)……and just threw it into the garbage.  He kept repeating it over and over…”they just threw it in the trash! They just threw it in the trash!”  Ha! Salone J

Thanks Valentina!!!
While two of my friends were watching the surgery I took some others on a tour.  And they ended up donating their malaria free blood to a couple women in the OB ward that they couldn't find a donor for. You guys are awesome!! :)
Thanks Stephen!
We decided that we’d go on an adventure and explore the animal park that’s a couple hours away.  You may remember my last experience at said park was not too stellar as it involved me falling off the motorbike, seeing exactly zero animals, and ended with us sitting by the side of the road for a couple hours since they’d tried to fix one of the broken motorbikes while crossing the river on a ferry….and of course dropped one of the parts into the river.  Dude.

This experience was MUCH better! J  We decided we wanted to camp up there so that we would be able to be there early enough to see all the animals. When we got there we went on the “elephant walk” which probably would have been described better as a “nature walk” since I don’t think anyone’s seen an elephant there in….years?  It had been a long time!  But the scenery was beautiful!!!  That night we built a fire and roasted hot dogs.  It felt so familiar!! Just like camping at home.  It was great! Until the rain came (which incidentally also felt a lot like home)! My friends made fun of me because even though we heard the thunder coming and knew the rain was imminent, I still put more logs on the fire. Keep this party going!!!  It just felt so normal and I haven’t been camping in years!!!!  Fortunately the rain didn’t drench us too much and we woke the next morning, ready to see the hippos.
I have made fire!!!

I wanted to take Mari in the boat, but as I read the headline “New Mother Takes Small Child (who could not swim) in Canoe Along African River to See One of the Most Dangerous Animals in Africa. Canoe Capsizes and Child Dies” in my mind, I decided she’d wait and see the hippos when she was a little older. 
See the hippos?!?!?!  We didn't get very close.....but that was just fine with me!

After the hippos we packed up camp and headed back.  The next day we left to go back to Freetown and my friends left.  It’s been so so so great having so many people from home come and participate on the different teams!!  I love when people come and get excited about what’s going on in Sierra Leone. 
That being said, I’m really really excited to get into a routine in my village!  We’ve been up here for a couple days now and every day Mari says, “Where are we going tomorrow Mama?”  Nowhere!! We’ve done our travelling for awhile!!!  I’m really interested to see what my time here is going to look like. I am only working at the hospital part time and am praying about how best to spend the rest of my time.  (I have a feeling that being a mom will take up a lot of that time!)  My passion is still discipleship.  In the three days that I’ve been here I may have already gotten into a friendly debate with one of my friends down at the hospital about salvation by grace through faith alone that ended in me jumping up and down shouting “Jesus is Enough! Jesus is Enough!!!!”  Always so quiet and demure I am. J  I love it here. J

Monday, April 1, 2013

Thanks you thank you thank you thank you thank you!!!

This blog is long overdue, but I've been traveling so much the last couple of months that this is literally the first chance I've had to go through all my things that I brought and were sent to me over the last month or so.  And I. Am. Overwhelmed!!  The generosity with the clothes and books and toys and just goes on and on!! My mom brought a bunch of the cards with her and I sat down and read them and cried like a little baby.  Thank you so so so so much!!  I wanted to be able to send everyone a thank you card but the mail system here is...well...a bit broken.  So this is the best I can do.  I am so blessed by you all!!!
My living room was filled with books and puzzles, coloring stuff etc.  She's going to be the smartest kid ever!!!  This doesn't even show all of the clothes and toys and other things you guys sent.  But taking a picture of that would require me taking a picture of my bedroom which would shame my mother to death with its messiness room it is.

This is just Mari being cute after losing her first tooth.  I went into panic mode when I realized that she must be older than I thought and she's behind in school but thanks to you guys she'll be up to speed in no time!! :)