Thursday, June 30, 2011

Lost in Translation




Our sons have been home with us now for 2 1/2 years (from Ethiopia) and occasionally we still get a good laugh over something Jayden says that just doesn't quite translate correctly.  Most recently, we were at one of Emme's soccer games and one of her teammates has very long hair - and she happened to wear her hair in pigtails that night.  She was quite noticeable on the field with her long pigtails floating around her head as she played soccer vigorously and competitively.

I happened to look away just for a moment, and our team scored.  The crowd erupted with a cheer and I looked back to see the celebration and high-fives on the field.  I turned to Jayden and asked, "Who scored?"  Pointing to the player with the long pigtails, he said "That hairy girl!"

I started laughing, quickly texted Jayden's comment to Jay who was at Maea's soccer game (so he could enjoy it too), and explained to Jayden that if he ever hoped to have a girlfriend, he should never use the word "hairy" and "girl" together.

This little "lost in translation" exchange reminded me of a similar incident when the boys had been home with us for only 7 months.  At that time, Jay was spending time each day with Jayden to help him with schoolwork and after a particularly intense session, Jay emailed me at work so I could enjoy Jayden's comments and document them for future laughs.  Every now and then, we still quote one of these sayings to Jayden and he smiles his great, big smile.



From July 2009: 

Jayden (8), spends a little time each day with Daddy reviewing basic math and spelling problems so that he is prepared for 2nd grade this fall. He has only been in America for about 7 months now, and although he has made incredible progress with language, there are still some concepts that are hard to grasp, and we still have language barriers that are quite entertaining!



There are so many funny statements or questions made throughout the day, that Jay has started writing them down so we don't forget these one-of-a-kind moments.

Here are a few of the exchanges Jay noted today ...


I pointed to the number 23, and asked him "What number is this?" After a long pause and deep thinking, Jayden replied "Triangle??????"

Here are Jayden's excuses for not being able to answer any of his math questions ...
"I'm dying" ...
"My teeth hurt" ...
"I'm tired, me sleep no big" ...
"My eyes are hot" ...
"I'm cold" ...
"My brain no work" ...
"My brain no charge".

Jayden is concerned when I write things down in a notebook. He questions, "Why you writing? Jayden no good?" I told him he was good and I was just writing stuff down that I thought was funny. He doesn't want me to write stuff down. I'm going to keep writing stuff down.

Calculator = Calcagator in Jayden Englishiopian

When trying to explain what the word "between" means, I drew stick people of Jayden's friends, Aiden and Quincy, and drew a stick Jayden in between them. He was concerned about why I chose to draw a stick Quincy instead of a stick Spencer. We moved on to the next question and I made a mental note to draw stick Spencers from here on out. Jayden still doesn't know what "between" means.

To Jayden, "hundred-million dollars" can be used in place of the word "very". For example, "This pool hundred-million-dollars deep" or "I swim hundred-million-dollars fast".

In a conversation about tornadoes, Jayden questioned, "Tornadoes faster than Jesus?" Commenting on a cartoon villain, he said "This guy no like Jesus."

Reading through Jay's notes from today, I laughed until I cried, and then I hugged Jayden and told him he was very good.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Why we love Sanibel Island ...





We love vacationing on Sanibel Island in Florida for many reasons, but one reason is that Sanibel and Captiva islands are two barrier islands with an unusual East-West orientation which allows for shells to roll up gently onto the shore without being battered and broken.  With our little shelling books in hand, the kids can now identify most every shell they pick up by name - from welks, to banded tulips, alphabet cones, and my personal favorite, the shark eye. 

 My personal favorite, the "Shark Eye". 
We have collected so many shells over the years, which we display in glass containers,
that the shark eye is the only shell I pick up and collect anymore.


(Do be aware though that if there is a living animal in the shell you pick up, by law you need to throw it back.  This includes sand dollars, sea urchins and star fish as well.  But there are plenty of empty shells to collect and fill your pockets with.)






In addition to the shells, there are all kinds of interesting sea specimens trapped in the tidal pools for curious kids to pick up and examine. 






We monitor the tide charts each day so we know when "low tide" is and we have learned from experience that for Sanibel, it's best to be walking the beach 2 - 2.5 hours BEFORE the scheduled low tide. 



The littlest kids love to pick up the teeniest tiniest hermit crabs they can find and compare them to each other.  At low tide this year, there were hundreds upon hundreds of hermit crabs, many of them sparring with each other, in the tidal pools.







The sand dollars were plentiful this year as well.  When they are alive, they are covered with short, bristly little "hairs" that they use to "walk" across the sandy ocean floor.  They usually bury themselves about 1/4" below the surface of the sand and you can find them easily with your toes. 




You can feel the "hairs" moving as you hold them, and if you hold one for too long, they turn your hands a bright yellow.  You'll rarely find a dead sand-dollar because they are so fragile and they break easily leaving small fragments instead of the whole sand-dollar.  The local beach stores have preserved and bleached sand-dollars and starfish for puchase as souvenirs.

 Sea Urchin















Walking the beach at low tide to discover shells and sea life is one of the kids' favorite everyday activities on Sanibel Island, with fishing a close rival!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Get the Scoop on a New Book for Summer

I just did another book review for Blogher Bookclub. If you are interested in getting the "scoop" on Terry McMillan's newly released book, "Getting to Happy", click on the badge below. (McMillan is the author that wrote the acclaimed book, "Waiting to Exhale" that inspired a movie version.) 

"Getting to Happy", by Terry McMillan.

BlogHer Book Club Reviewer


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Also ...  Don't forget to click over to my review site (www.family-from-afar-reviews.blogspot.com) to read about what I learned from Stephanie Hamm, mom of Mia Hamm (American soccer legend and Olympic athlete) and a conference call with the scientists at Gatorade's Sports Science Institute. 

I came away with a lot of solid tips and summarized it in a review called "Tips for Fueling your Child's Inner Athlete".



Leave a comment (and your email address) for a chance to win a $100 Dick's Sporting Good's giftcard.  One lucky winner will be drawn after June 30!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Kids helping kids by providing clean water!

Olivia travelled with our team last year to Ethiopia.  She's only 16 and she's got a big heart for children in Ethiopia and a creative eye for photography. 



It was a joy to have her on the team last year, and it has been fun to watch her develop her talent and skills in photography through her blog at http://www.astorytoldinpictures.blogspot.com/.


Olivia and her family sponsor a little boy at Trees of Glory care-point and she met him in November and he has stolen her heart - and her entire family's.  I know they think about and wonder about and pray about him every day after meeting him and hearing his tragic history.

Olivia was also with us as the care-point staff talked with us about their big dreams for the care-point and the 100 children currently in their care.  All of the children are destitute and many are orphaned and are living with a relative or neighbor.  Without the services of the care-point, these kids would not be enrolled in school, they would be malnourished and ill, and many of them would still be indentured servants for local livestock owners.  There are about 15 children that live at the care-point full time because they have no family and no care-giver and would be living on the streets.

At the moment, Trees of Glory cares for 100 children, with no running water.  But we want to change that, and once we are able to drill a well on the property, Trees of Glory expects to be able to serve 200-300 children!

Olivia has opened an online Photo Shoppe with her beautiful and creative photography images.  80% of the proceeds will go directly to fund the well project at Trees of Glory (the other 20% will cover her costs for shipping and printing.)  Her photos are a wonderful way to add some beautiful and creative custom artwork to your walls.  Please check out her Drip Drop Photo Shoppe HERE.

The name Drip Drop Photography was inspired by the fresh water well project at Trees of Glory!!

If you want to make a tax deductible donation directly to the Trees of Glory well project, go to www.hopechest.org, click on GIVE
Select Designated Gift and enter the $ amount of your donation
In the Reference Number, specify ET2119000
In the Notes Area, specify Trees of Glory WELL.

Our goal is to have the funds raised to begin drilling the well in November when our next travel team leaves for Ethiopia to work with the kids at Trees of Glory care-point.

Friday, June 24, 2011

My teenage daughters are concerned about their skin ... but not for the typical teenage reasons

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My daughters worry about their skin, but not for the typical reasons of most teenagers.  Yes - they have the typical teen concern for their complexions and they are hyper-sensitive about any pimples or break-outs, but they are also very vigilant about skin cancer, specifically malignant melanoma.

Unfortunately for them, they have inherited their high-risk for melanoma from me.

On Monday, at my regular 6 month check-up, this mole looked to have some slight
abnormality in the pigment layers and so my dermatologist removed it. 
We are ultra-cautious because of my past history with Malignant Melanoma. 
It is not uncommon for 2-3 moles to be removed at each semi-annual
appointment, just to be safe.


Although nobody else in my extended family (parents, siblings, cousins, grandparents, etc) has had skin cancer, I have had the dreaded (and scary) diagnosis three different times.  Three occurrences over the course of about 12 years, and according to my dermatologist, over that time span they were unrelated and were 3 individual, separate occurrences. 

My risk factors include my obvious light complexion with freckles, and my red hair.  The only other risk factor I can specifically point to is sunburns in childhood that caused blisters - a not so rare occurrence for anyone that is accidently too long in the sun.  Those blisters would usually occur on my shoulders or even my nose - and yet my melanoma showed up in areas that did not get sunburn exposure - my lower back, inside and outside of my thigh.

The only reason I mention this now is because of a recent conversation with my dermatologist.  For the most part, people are generally unaware that any new moles should be cause for concern and any existing moles that change should be cause for concern.  With melanoma (the most dangerous and deadly form of skin cancer) the earlier it is caught the better your chance of survival.  Early detection is critical.  C.R.I.T.I.C.A.L.

Malignant (which means spreading) melanoma forms in the pigment cells of the skin called the melanocytes.  Most times it spreads to the skin surface first and is detected as a mole.  It then spreads deeper into the skin layers and the blood stream - and then it can affect the lymph nodes and major organs; liver, lungs and brain.  This is why early detection is so important.  If a melanoma is detected early, it can be as simple as removing the mole, which removes the cancer cells.

My first bout with melanoma happened when I was 25 years old.  I had a small, dark mole on my lower back that seemed to change in size.  I was concerned enough to schedule an appointment with a dermatologist, who although he felt it did not look abnormal enough to be anything too serious, he removed it for my peace of mind.  THANKFULLY. 

A week later, he called me with the diagnosis of malignant melanoma and he already had an appointment scheduled for me with a surgeon.  The gravity of the situation did not sink in, and detecting this in my voice, he paused and said, "Karen, this is extremely serious and is a matter of life and death.  People die from melanoma.  If you make it 10 years without it spreading to your organs, you'll have a decent chance of survival."  That was enough to make the breath stop in my lungs and nausea well up in my stomach.  My mind reeled with his words .. death?!?! survival?!?!?  "I'm only 25 how can we even be having this conversation?!?!?"

Long story short ... the melanoma had not yet spread to any surrounding tissue, organs or lymph nodes and I had surgery to remove surrounding tissue below and around the site (in case there were any stray cancer cells), and emerged with a 6" long scar on my back and an intense fear of cancer.  For the next 10 years, I had full-body checks every 6 months to monitor moles (any changes in appearance) and chest x-rays to monitor my lungs for cancer (since that is a common area for it to spread). 

A few years later, we had our first daughter, and at that point, it really hit me as to how serious this brush with cancer was.  Now I had a daughter that I loved fiercely and protectively, someone counting on me, and my fear of cancer intensified.  Our precious second daughter arrived, and I was still getting check-ups every 6 months, and all was well.  At the 10 year mark, my doctor announced, "Congratulations, you are officially a cancer survivor and your prognosis is excellent!"  That was in  2003.

In 2004, a small dark mole appeared on my outer left thigh and I immediately scheduled an appointment.  A mole as small as this, usually is not cause for concern, but I asked my doctor to remove it anyway.  Melanoma - but no spreading to surrounding tissues.  I ended up with about a 1" scar.

In 2005, I noticed another small mole on my inner right thigh, this one about the size of the tip of a pencil lead.  But to me, the dark blackish/brown coloring was a tip-off.  Melanoma In-Situ.  Which means this one was caught so early that the cancer cells were only in the outermost layer of skin (the epidermis) and had not invaded any of the deeper skin cells.  I ended up with another small scar.

That was 6 years ago.  For 5 years after that last diagnosis, we stepped up my visits with the dermatologist to every 3 months and just this year, with no additional occurrences, we are back to every 6 months.

My dermatologist specializes in melanoma, and he carefully examines each mole with a special lighted scope that he holds against my skin and views each mole under magnification to see the structure of the pigment cells.  Any tiny abnormality that he detects, we automatically remove the mole, which involes a shot to numb the area, a quick circular cut with a scalpel about 1/8" deep, and 2-3 stitches.  A sharp pinch of the shot when he numbs the area, otherwise it's painless and I remove the stitches myself after 10 days.  Yes - it leaves a small 1/4", nearly invisible scar, but I count those scars as insurance against a future skin cancer.

A few years ago, it occurred to me that whenever I had a regular doctor appointment, they always asked me about any family history of melanoma because it can be an inherited predisposition, so I decided to bring my daughters in for a full body check.  Both of my daughters have now had 4 or 5 moles removed, and each of them have had 1 mole diagnosed as atypical or dysplastic - which means that there was some slight abnormality in the cells which made it likely to have developed into skin cancer in the future.  All 3 of us are extra vigilant about watching for any changes in our moles and at the slightest concern, we schedule an appointment with our dermatologist.

Emme had a small mole removed from her upper back about a month ago.
Although the mole looked suspicious, the pathology report came back clear.
 

The scar on Emme's upper chest (see blue arrows) is from the removal of a mole
that was atypical and was at risk for skin cancer.

Don't forget to check the scalp by drawing small sections
of hair back to methodically look for moles.  Maea's atypical mole was on her scalp.


My entire reason for explaining this is to bring your awareness to it - for you, your kids and your family.  My dermatologist mentioned that most people don't notice the early changes (because they are not monitoring or looking for changes) and with melanoma, by the time they seek medical care, it may be too late.  My first diagnosis was in 1993 (18 years ago).  My second diagnosis came 11 years later and my 3rd diagnosis came 1 year after that.  For the last 6 years, I have had several moles removed but none have been melanoma.

Moms - check your kids, check yourself, check your spouse and your loved ones.  If you notice anything that causes concern, make an appointment with your doctor or dermatologist.  It's better to be safe than sorry, and have it removed (and always make sure it is sent to pathology for examination).

Establish a baseline so you are familiar with your moles and can recognize any changes.  For me, the first thing I noticed 18 years ago was the darkness of the mole compared to all my other freckles, and that the size seemed to have changed.  For my 2 most recent occurrences, it was simply the dark color that made it noticeable to me.

Here's what to look for (excerpt from the PubMed Health website):

The primary symptom of any skin cancer is usually a mole, sore, lump, or growth on the skin. Any change in appearance of a pigmented skin sore over time is a warning sign. Also, watch for any bleeding from a skin growth.

The ABCD system may help you remember features that might be symptoms of melanoma:
  • Asymmetry: One half of the mole or lesion is different from the other half.
  • Borders: Irregular edges.
  • Color: Color changes from one area to another, with shades of tan, brown, or black (sometimes white, red, or blue). A mixture of colors may appear within one mole or lesion.
  • Diameter: The trouble spot is usually (but not always) larger than 6 mm in diameter -- about the size of a pencil eraser.
The key to treating melanoma is recognizing symptoms early. You might not notice a small spot of concern if you don't look carefully, so perform thorough self-examinations monthly, and schedule a formal skin exam with a dermatologist yearly.

Melanoma can spread very rapidly. Although it is less common than other types of skin cancer, the rate of melanoma is steadily increasing. It is the leading cause of death from skin disease.  The risk of developing melanoma increases with age. However, the disease also frequently affects young, otherwise healthy people.

The development of melanoma is related to sun exposure or ultraviolet radiation, particularly among people with fair skin, blue or green eyes, and red or blond hair.
Risks for melanoma include the following:
  • Living in sunny climates or at high altitudes
  • Long-term exposure to high levels of strong sunlight, because of a job or other activities
  • One or more blistering sunburns during childhood
  • Use of tanning devices
Other risk factors include:
  • Close relatives with a history of melanoma
  • Exposure to chemicals that can cause cancer, such as arsenic, coal tar, and creosote
  • Presence of certain types of moles (atypical dysplastic) or multiple birthmarks
  • Weakened immune system due to AIDS, some leukemias, organ transplant, medications used to treat illnesses such as rheumatoid arthritis

I don't live in constant fear about skin cancer anymore - but it has become a regular habit for me to monitor my skin for any changes - as well as my daughters.  Early detection is critical and if you notice anything that causes concern, schedule an appointment with your doctor and have it checked.  And feel free to spread the word to your friends and family by forwarding this post.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

So Much Good News to Report from Ethiopia

We got an outstanding update about 7 year old Webit, who attends our "Trees of Glory" care-point in Ethiopia.  A few months ago, Webit was rushed to the hospital with a severe infection that was overwhelming her fragile body after a "traditional healer/shaman" treated a bone deformity in her leg.  Webit was born with a deformity in her lower leg, and over time the bone continued to grow abnormally making it more and more difficult and painful for her to walk.  Her family took her for treatment by the local shaman and an infection set in, making matters worse. 

With perfect (miraculous) timing, Webit's sponsor family (Laura and Charlie Herwehe) was in Ethiopia for the adoption of their son, and they visited the care-point to meet Webit. 



Webit was carried to the care-point that day on the back of her older sister, and Laura contacted me as soon as she arrived home to tell me about their visit.  Webit whimpered and cried during most of their meeting due to the severe pain in her leg.  Laura was extremely worried about her condition, so I contacted Children's Hopechest who sprang into action.  Laura's church family and many sponsors immediately donated funds to fully cover her treatment and surgery at the hospital!

First, Webit's mother had to agree to treatment and surgery at a hospital - which she could not afford and she was not at all familiar with modern medicine.  Once she consented to treatment, we had to seek approval and permits from the local government to have treatment in Addis at the hospital.  Just in time, the approvals came through as her mother brought Webit to the care-point, near death.  She was rushed to the hospital, and everyone was worried that it may be too late and the infection may have overwhelmed her.

We were relieved to hear within a few days that the infection was being managed and that surgery was scheduled.  Since surgery, Webit has been living at the care-point full time so she can get the medical care, hygiene and healthy food she needs for recovery. 

After surgery, Webit at the care-point under the direct,
loving care of Simret, the care-point director.

Initial discussions with the doctor/surgeon suggested this may be a type of bone cancer and we waited prayerfully for news of the pathology report.  I am thankful to report that the pathology report shows there is no cancer in the bone deformity, the surgery was successful and Webit is on the road to a full recovery! 

Laura and Charlie Herwehe are also now sponsoring Webit's older sister who they met at the care-point when she carried Webit to meet them!  THANK YOU to everyone who has been praying for Webit and to everyone who donated funds for her treatment!

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I also received new pictures of the well project at "Kind Hearts" care-point today.  The entire project, including the drilling, pipework and water pump, is scheduled to be about a 30 day project, and we will continue getting updates as the work continues. 

For information about the need for water at this care-point (that serves 102 orphaned or destitute children) and the toxic, polluted river that flows near the property, please click HERE to read this post

Here are the most recent pictures as they capped the borehole.  The well is just a short walk down the hill from the main buildings and classrooms at "Kind Hearts".



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If you are interested in sponsoring a child at "Kind Hearts" or "Trees of Glory" care-point in Ethiopia, please contact me at kjwistrom@yahoo.com.  (If you are on the waiting list for sponsoring a child, I will be contacting you soon to match you with a child!)  Sponsorship is $34 per month and provides nutritious food, clothing, clean water, medical care, education and Christian discipleship for one child.  You can write letters to your sponsor child, and I travel to Ethiopia each November with a travel team of volunteers to work with the children and build relationships.


A recent photo of the kids at "Kind Hearts", proudly modeling their school uniforms.



I just received word that because the sponsor program is so well established and the feeding and education programs are in full-swing, both care-points will be enrolling more children by September!  "Kind Hearts" is planning to enroll about 50 more children (now that they have a fresh water well on the property!!) and "Trees of Glory" is planning to enroll about 40 more children (knowing that we are 1/2 way to having the funds raised for a fresh-water well at "Trees of Glory").

This will bring our total to about 150 children at each location!!!  (Just over 300 children in total!!)  Although we want to be able to serve as many children as we can, it's important that each care-point has their feeding program, staffing and classrooms firmly established so that they can fully serve the children in their care.  Both care-points are again at the point where they can expand and serve more children!!!

If you are interested in sponsoring a child, please contact me at kjwistrom@yahoo.com.  I will add you to the sponsor waiting list and then match you with a child as soon as they are enrolled at the care-points! 

Our travel team for November is already forming, and we will be working one-on-one with these kids in just a few short months!!  I would be honored to personally deliver a letter/photos to your sponsor child and take photos while we are in Ethiopia!!