Saturday, January 30, 2010

Update from Africa

As some of you may remember, James and I were fortunate enough to visit Africa this past May. Upon our return I wrote of the most meaningful part of the trip - our visit to the Islands of Siankaba lodge in Zambia. We felt so blessed to visit the village and particularly the preschool headmaster, Malindi. We made a commitment to stay in touch and to support the pre-school in any way we could.

The details of our meeting with Malindi and our village tour can be found here.

Image how thrilled we were to discover that construction of the preschool has been completed to the point that Malindi can now conduct class for all 55 of his students in the new building!! This is where Malindi had taught the children for the past two years:

Take a look at these videos we found - of Malindi teaching his students in the new preschool! They were posted in December 2009, just 7 months after we visited.

We are absolutely 'over the moon' to see this dream come to fruition. Congratulations to Malindi and the children of Siankaba!!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Let's Talk About Pets...

If you are on Facebook, then you know that yesterday I got one of the biggest shocks of my life...

Our Jack Russell Terrier - Casey - has been suffering with a congested nose for the past few months. At first, she was sneezing a bit more than usual. (like many breeds, JRTs use sneezing as a defense mechanism) She and Carson are always going at it, playfully, so sneezing is often heard when they do. Anyway, for the past two months Casey's sneezes have been accompanied by big globs of green slime. Gross, I know. I am always in her wake with tissues to clean up the mess.

I took Casey to the local vet about 6 weeks ago for her shots and mentioned the nose problem. The first doc took a 'wait and see' approach. I went back in last week specifically to address the nose issue. She was prescribed an antihistamine and an antibiotic. The new doctor stated that Casey should improve within a week. If she didn't I was to bring her back in.

Yesterday, I brought Casey back to the vet. The doctor told me exactly what was going to be done: She would sedate Casey for 10 minutes, get X-Rays, flush her sinuses, take cultures and get blood work. Silly me - still had the prices from our Virginia vet floating around in my head. I ball-parked the visit to be expensive... I was bracing myself for around a $300. visit. Like I said, silly me!

Josie and I arrived to pick-up Casey around noon. I was presented with a bill totaling $866. That's Eight hundred and sixty-six dollars!!!! I was floored.

When we got home, I was still in a state of disbelief. I got on the phone to our Virginia vet and talked with them. Drs Greg and Andy Lindamood are two of the most trusted vets in our old home town. They make housecalls; they come in on weekends or in the middle of the night if you have an emergency; they are also equine specialist who have their own farm with plenty of animals. They weren't cheap. We loved them. We went over the bill for Casey. They stated that they would have done the exact same thing... the only difference was the cost.

So, I'll throw a few questions out here to try and understand... Is it because rents are higher here? Is it because Vets pay higher insurance rates in California? Are there a lot of lawsuits against Vets in California? I just don't get how nearly every item on the bill was just about double the going rate that we were used to... even inoculations.

We love our dogs, but how much is too much to spend on treatments for them? Is there even an alternative besides pet health insurance? Does anyone have reputable pet insurance that they could recommend?

Casey's still sneezing and I'm worried about what the next step might be...

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

New Year - New 'Do'

As many of you may have noticed, Josie has hair issues. In nearly every photo I have taken of her in the past 3 months, she has hair in her eyes.

We've been trying to grow her hair (bangs) out since we moved. I just love the look of a little girl with barrettes, bows or ribbons in her hair. I've purchased dozens of each in the past few months - to no avail. Josie cannot stand having anything in her hair for long. She removes pony tails, buns, hair clips - you name it. It doesn't stay put for long. Her hair is painfully thin. I've tried everything to make it look fuller... including an ill-advised 'layered' cut.

Well, we've given up. I took Josie for a haircut on Sunday and she is thrilled with it! I love seeing her beautiful eyes again and she loves the fact that there's no pulling, tugging or spraying of her head.

I think she looks a lot older. She's losing the sweet baby face that I have adored for the past 4 years...

Monday, January 4, 2010

A New Year Begins

When last I wrote, we were in the middle of our big trip back East. Our Christmas(es) were excellent! On Christmas Eve, my sister Claudine and I spent a few chilly moments making Santa's presence known for Josie. It was quite funny - Claudine in her nightshirt, coat and boots chucking snowballs in an effort to make 'reindeer tracks' in the snow on her front lawn. You see, Josie had spread 'reindeer food' on the lawn before going to bed. We couldn't have her think they hadn't seen or tasted it! Anyone who drove past her house around midnight certainly got an entertaining show!

Here, Maddie carries Josie outside to see the reindeer tracks in the snow (7AM Christmas morning)

Josie opens presents on Christmas morning with Pop & Grandmom, Mom & Dad, Aunt Claudine and Maddie

On Christmas afternoon, Suzanne, Greg, Zack & Liam arrived in Maryland from Philadelphia. I hadn't seen my nephews in 5 months and boy, have they grown! We enjoyed our traditional Christmas meal of Rib Roast and Yorkshire Pudding. My Mom makes the BEST Yorkshire Pudding - she was taught by my Grandmom who actually was from Yorkshire!

On the 26th my brother Chalie and his family arrived for the final Christmas celebration:

Cousin Liam helps Josie open her gifts

Our Nephew, Jack, is the ultimate Ravens fan...

Kate shows her gift from Aunt Claudine

My two sisters and me - what a crew!

My parents six Grandchildren

Maddie (15) and Zack (17) - when they were younger everyone thought they were brother & sister!

On December 27, after dropping James off at the airport for his return to CA, the girls and I headed up to Philadelphia to extend our visit with my sister Suzanne and her family. We took the kids to see the Christmas light show downtown at what used to be Wanamaker's. (Now its a Macy's). I have been going to see this show since I was a kid and it was a thrill to see Josie watch it for the first time. The show used to have 'dancing fountains' but those were done away with a few years ago. The show is now narrated by Julie Andrews and features music from the Nutcracker Suite and popular Christmas shows like 'Frosty the Snowman' and 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer':

We returned to Virginia on the 30th of December, in time to celebrate the New Year at my friend Jamie's house. Kids and adults both had a lovely spread and great company. Here, the little ones sit for dinner at their own table:

Here's what the 'playroom' looked like once all the little princesses were off to bed:

We returned home on January 1, 2010 - on the late flight into LAX. Not 12 hours later, James grabbed up Josie and headed off to view the parade floats from the Tournament of Roses parade. Maddie and Hailey (who came to airport with James to pick us up!) slept in, watched Harry Potter and eventually got out of their pajamas around 5PM.

Josie in front of the McDonalds parade float

The 'snowboarding bulldogs' parade float (Josie's fav!)

Hope the New Year brings happiness and health to all of you!!