"The Muffled Cries For Help From a Daddy of Four Beautiful Little Girls"

Monday, June 30, 2008

You Should Know The Truth

While I'm still grabbing my thoughts on our family's mission trip.
I've gone and distracted myself by...

...getting a puppy.

It's true. Two days after returning home, we hopped in the car and drove to the next state and brought home precious teeny tiny Cheddar.

We've never owned a dog before, so we're learning a lot. Evidently, they pee and poop and eat and sleep a lot. Who knew?

Cindy continues to be aloof (see here), hesitant to allow herself to admit that she is smitten by this little wad of cuteness. She refers to it as "YOUR dog" (when it pees on the carpet). But when no one is looking, I've caught her picking him up and holding him on her lap and petting him lovingly while sitting on the couch watching "The Bachelorette: The Men Tell All."

You can look forward to more pictures and stories about Cheddar, but here's one for starters so you can begin falling in love too.Cheddar is a Maltipoo, meaning a mix between his white Maltese dad "Casper" and his red Poodle mom "Reba McEntire." Since the word "Maltipoo" is in the same category as "Coochywoochypoo" and "Cuddlywuddlypoo" and "Kissywissypoo," I've been telling people he's a Maltese/Poodle mix. Sounds more manly, right?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Hola, Amigos!

By now, you're wondering if I'm still alive, what with all the reports of violence in Mexico with the drug lords and such.

Fear not. My dealings with the drug lords were quite limited. (By "drug lords" I mean the team nurses who distributed ibuprofen and band-aids like they were candy, and they rarely kidnapped or killed anyone.)

We've made it safely back to the States, and right now I'm sitting by the pool at our friend's place in Malibu. (I call it "The Bu.") It feels slightly surreal to be in such comfortable surroundings after the last week or more in a dry, dusty and unfamiliar place.

We succeeded in constructing a whole house together with our family of 6 with about 15 others. Three more house were completed by other members of our team as well. Seeing my wife and daughters shoveling sand, rocks and cement to make homemade concrete was actually quite satisfying. I anticipate that cleaning their rooms is going to seem like a breeze now.

The family we built a home for was 17-year-old Patricia, her husband Javier and their daughter Paola. Paola is about 14 months old and tastes like pure sugar. I ate her up each day. Just like my own daughters, sometimes she shrieked with delight and clapped her hands when she saw me, and other times she was quite unimpressed with my attempts at humoring her.

Before we arrived, the young family was living with Javier's parents in a smallish, but lovingly decorated home. The neighborhood was just an area of dirt-covered square city blocks with trashed dumped in various places. At one point, I witnessed a neighbor nonchalantly walk out of his home with a bucket and dump his trash in a pile across the street. It was fairly well occupied. In years past, we've built homes in new "subdivisions" that were popping up on the outskirts of town. Essentially, those areas were just large hills where they'd removed the trees and cleared out dirt roads and sold people a spot of land without water or electricity.

This year's site had electricity, which means that there were utility poles and wires running over the streets, and the residents somehow attach wires to the overhead ones and splice them to extension cords they bury in their yard going to their homes. Access to water is via delivery trucks that come to fill large drums for the family's various uses. Whenever we needed water for the construction process, we dipped a pail in the drums to scoop it out.

We brought our own purified water to the sites in Igloo coolers so we could safely drink without fear of retribution from our friend Montezuma.

Other than me hitting my thumb with a staple hammer and bleeding and crying, our family stayed safe and healthy. Well, Cindy did get sun poisoning, but the drug lords took good care of her.
My only dangerous moment involved this suspicious character.

I'll get around to writing more about the whole process as well as the fun that was had after each work day ended. It seems strange that so many people used up vacation time that they could have used to go to Disney World or Dollywood, and instead they built houses for poor families in Mexico. What makes someone do that? I can't wait to tell you.

Monday, June 16, 2008

We Don't Care If We Never See Another Shovel Again

I generally use a shovel to plant flowers or bushes.
I don't even shovel snow, because we have a snow blower (our driveway is the length of a football field almost, so I really have no other option...unless I want to break a sweat).

So given the fact that the entire work day was spent...
Shoveling sand and rock onto a screen to separate the two,
Shoveling sand into a wheel barrow,
Shoveling rock into a wheel barrow,
Stirring them together with a shovel,

...you can appreciate why Cindy and I won't be doing anything that requires the use of our arms for at least 4 or 5 days. In the States, you just make a phone call and the concrete fairies magically deliver wet concrete right to you door. Well, the fairies actually deliver to Mexico, too. We're just sadistic enough to give them the day off.

I understand it builds character.
Or bitterness and fatigue.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Animals Have Rinds?

Ah. What a wonderful day here in Mexico.

We had a chance to do a little shopping and eating some local food. This is so much fun.

Last year, we went to a restaurant that very generously set out a big basket of deep-fried pork rinds to gnaw on while you waited to be seated. Mmmmmmm. They were fresh. In fact, they were so fresh that the grease they'd been fried in was still wet and made the whole thing spongy in your mouth instead of the crispiness I'd expected. Either that, or it was undercooked. For the first time I asked myself, "What ARE pork rinds anyway?!"

Regardless, I took it back out of my mouth and fed it to a potted plant that was probably less concerned about food poisoning than I was.

Since I'm writing this in advance, I'm going to stab at guessing that my girls enjoyed the market and bought:

  • Mexican blankets or ponchos
  • Mexican gum and candy
  • Bracelets with their names woven in
  • Slingshots
  • Maracas
  • Nacho Libre mask
  • Papier mache tree with skeleton ornaments

Want us to pick anything up for you?

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Hail, Hail, The Gang's All Here

[continuing with the pre-written posts that may or may not be entirely, partially or remotely accurate.]

We've been here in Mexico for a couple days preparing for their arrival, and now they're here! Dozens of families flew into San Diego, and we went and retrieved them to haul them and their 7,489 pieces of luggage back across the border.

It's always fun to watch them as they come off the buses and see their new "home." It reminds me of Fantasy Island. I remember the ladies gingerly stepping out of that airplane on the show, holding their wide-brimmed hats and soaking in the whole new world they've just entered.

I just stand their grinning stupidly like Tattoo with my chubby fingers and squeezable cheeks, welcoming them to our tiny slice of Eden...and informing them where the hole in the ground is in case they need to poop.

Within an hour or so, they'll have their tents set up right next to ours, the children will be kicking soccer balls together and air will be filled with the sound of the air-mattress-filling pumps.

It really is just a large, flat plot of dirt that we're living on for a week, but we make it home. I always bring a section of green indoor/outdoor carpet that looks like grass to place in front of our tent like a front yard. It also doubles as a giant entrance mat which keeps the interior of the tent that much cleaner.

It might be the most valuable "extra" that I bring. Less valuable extras that enhance the quality of life in the tent/refugee camp include:

  • Artificial flowers for beauty
  • A couple of short tiki torches. I don't really light them, but it still feels that much more like Fantasy Island.
  • An inflatable sofa bed. I got it for less than $30 at LTD. Space-saving sofa by day; bed by night.
  • 62-inch HD TV. [Again, I'm writing this in advance, so I'm not 100% we'll be able to pull this one off, what with not having electricity and all.]
I can't wait to get back and have photos so you can see our idyllic life. If you want to see OLD photos in the meantime, my wife has some here on an old post.

Beans And Rice

I'm actually running to the San Diego airport ro pick up more families, so I can jump on the blog real quick and verify that indeed I DID have beans and rice at dinner last night.

We're doing great. We are healthy, safe, and have been "sleeping" to the sound of a few dozen dogs barking at night. That could get old real fast.

Real fast.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

While The Mariachi Bands Sings Us To Sleep...

It's Thursday night here in Rosarito, Mexico.
[Actually, it's the previous Saturday night in Indiana. I'm writing these posts in advance of our mission trip. Hey, they don't have to be accurate to be a good read. Did you ever read Oprah's selection "Million Little Pieces"?]

We're a little south of San Diego and little north of a herd of goats. As part of the "advance team," we're preparing for the arrival of about 100 short-term workers coming in a couple days to build 4 houses together.

I feel kind of like one of those pioneers who traveled west and selected specific places to establish towns and trading posts and Starbucks and CVS pharmacies. We have a few tents set up in various clusters, but in a couple days this place is going to be bustling.

I've done other mission trips before, and maybe you have too. But so you can get a taste for THIS particular trip, I want you to picture a small camp of tents huddled together. Several yards away, a deep trench was dug that now is covered with about 12 outhouse in a row. Beyond them is a roofless "building" that is nothing but plywood walls and a gravel floor. That's where we'll hang up large bladders of water and stand under them to take our showers.

No electricity. No running water.

But lest you start pitying us, let me assure you, we are probably having more fun than you are at this very moment. (Well, I guess if you're reading this at the very moment that I have toilet cleaning duty, then I'll grant that you may be having the most fun. But give it a few minutes and I'll be back to out-funning you again.)

We have a few days to get our ducks in a row before Monday when we actually begin making concrete and walls. Those will be easy posts to write in advance because I'm pretty familiar with the projects. However, writing about the next few days is going to be a total stab in the dark.

For example, it's just a guess, but I imagine that Cindy visited the bathrooms as infrequently as possible today and at least one of our children is sorely disappointed in the selection of clothes that her mommy packed for her. Also, we probably ate some beans...and likely rice as well.

When I get back, I'll do some statistical analysis and let you know how accurate these prophetic posts have been. Until then, I can't wait to tell you all the cool tthings hat I'm pretending will happen.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Maltipoo, Anyone?

So here's the deal.
Yorkies are making Cindy sneeze. While a YorkiePoo may only do that half as much, we just don't need that in our lives.

MALTIpoos, on the other hand seem to have no effect on Cindy whatsoever.

There are three offers on the table: a reddish-brownish-creamish one and a black one, both 3 hours away, or a whitish one in our same town. All the same price.

Can someone tell me the ins and outs of white dogs versus darker ones?

Also, feel free to help me make fun of the term Maltipoo for the mix of a Maltese and Poodle.

We're crossing the border tomorrow and somehow feel the need to make important pet ownership decisions while we're stateside. Or maybe we'll fall in love with a stray while in Mexico.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

I'm Not Really Making Fun Of My Wife

There are several things that make me laugh about my wife...in a good way of course.
Many of these smile-makers are related to the differences between women and men.

For example, in describing our friend Michelle to someone else, I might say "Michelle...she's our friend we're going to visit in California.

Whereas I just heard Cindy describe her to another friend on the phone:

Michelle...she's my friend I told you about who had perfect hair even when
she was on bedrest.

I don't quite know why, but I had to share it with you while the giggle was still rippling in my throat. Women are funny, don't you think?

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Unbearable Heat, Tornados, Flash Floods and Peanut Butter

I hate that I've been away from the blog for so many long stretches. I really do enjoy reading and writing, and when I find myself crunched for time and unable to do either, a little piece of me starts to die.

And when a little piece of me starts to die, I develop a rank odor.
And when the odor gets bad enough, I come back to the blog. Hold your nose.
Anyway, you were probably wondering about my air-conditioning.
Well, probably not, but now that I've mentioned it...NOW you are.

I believe I previously mentioned the condition wherein the pipe-y thing that goes from the big fan-spinny thing outside our house to the big giant hunk of metal in our basement gets covered with ice in the heat of summer. Evidently, that description didn't provide the AC repairman with enough info to adequately rectify the problem.

So he had to come out again two days later. It's working great now, so we're celebrating by having 90-degree weather outside, flash floods, and tornado sirens going off three days this week. (You should see what 600 kids do at VBS when the sirens go off!) I appreciate all your phone calls checking on our safety and well-being. Just kidding. No one called, not even my MOM, but it's St. Louis Cardinals baseball season, so I really don't expect to her to make important calls until after the World Series. Anyone who's ever talked to my parents on the phone during a Cardinal's game knows exactly what I mean.

"Hey, Mom, we just wanted to call to let you know that you're a
"Hold on, Son...
Paul! woohoo! Pujols just got another
homerun!!!...yes, Scott, you were saying something about grand mal
seizures? Wait a sec. I think they're changing pitchers."

So it really is best if we wait to have a natural disaster until November, don't you think?

Well, between the air-conditioning repair$, car repair$, $upplie$, reservation$ and further travel arrangement$ for our Mexico mi$$ion trip, we're pretty much eating peanut butter sandwiches for a while.

Actually...God is good, and he's provided for all our mission trip needs (and even some wants), so we are definitely getting jelly for those sandwiches as well!

Our youngest is counting down the days until we leave to go build that house south of the border, so I have that many days to write a bunch of posts in advance and set them to publish automatically in my absence. That way you can pretend like you know what we're doing at that very moment. How synthetically cool is THAT?

As with any mission trip, we thank you for your prayers. I'm so excited to know that in less than two weeks, a very happy family is going to be sleeping and cooking and enjoying their brand new home that my little girls hammered together. And another very happy family is going to be showering two weeks of dust out of our hair and sleeping in beds with mattresses in a house with air-conditioning while staying with 5 of our favorite people in the world in California before coming back home.

I'm so excited, I have to take sleeping pills these next few evenings. Otherwise, I'd be up all night clicking my heels together and doing several varieties of jigs.

Monday, June 2, 2008

No Cards Or Flowers Necessary

A few people have written me, expressing concern about my absence from my blog.

To calm your fears:

1. No, I've not been in prison for any crime that I did or did not commit.
2. I'm not being held hostage by a roving herd of rabid squirrels using my body as a vessel for storing their acorns.
3. I've not been in Puerto Rico campaigning for Hillary.
4. I'm not remodeling the East Wing of our palatial home.
5. I'm not on assignment for the CIA, and therefore I won't have to kill you for telling you anything I'm not supposed to reveal.
6. I've not been hiding in a cave in central Missouri writing my Manifesto.
7. I'm not hunkered down in my basement doing that Wii thing that determines your "age" by your level of fitness (however, that would be "97" if I HAD been doing that).
8. I'm not folding laundry.

So what HAVE I been doing?

1. Sneezing.
2. Writing a short booklet of devotions for members of next week's mission trip to Mexico as well as lighter reading material to hang on the walls inside the outhouses to entice people to visit them regularly.
3. Mowing...and therefore more sneezing.
4. Leveling some land to repark the camper in a place behind the house so it's less of an eyesore to the neighbors. (However, they DO still have to look at the OLD camper still sitting in the driveway waiting to be fixed up and given to friends, as well as the bikes and scooters left out each day, and the bunk bed ladder leaning against the persimmon tree and the tent set up to air out and the trays of annuals waiting for the sun to parch them further because we really have no intention of actually planting them.)
5. I've also been preparing for our church's VBX (that's VBS minus the "s" for "school" plus the "x" because it's like the coolest letter in any alphabet ever). I get to dress up like Indiana Jones and make cool things like a wall with a fireplace that spins around to access a secret passageway. I guess it's hard to describe, but suffice it to say that I'm having a ball. PLUS Cindy is helping lead the singing/dancing which a delight for all.
6. Growing a beard, which collects pollen and, yes, more sneezing. (Granted, growing a beard doesn't actually take any time out of my day. I just mention it because it makes me feel manly.)
7. Decoupaging a gift for a teacher. (Not manly. Maybe that's why I had to grow the beard.)
8. Oh, and watching all the season finales of our favorite shows. Unfortunately, I have yet to see the finale for Battlestar Galactica, so all of you avid fans (Emily) don't go spoiling it for me. I'm guessing that President Roslin is married to Bob Newhart and the whole thing is a dream, but I'm probably slightly wrong.

Really, it's been a crazy week or two. Lots of deadlines with work and home life in order to be able to get to Mexico next week. Add to that the fun of unexpected car repairs after seeing a monstrous car part axle-looking thingie hanging down below my car screaming at me "spend more money on me." AND an air-conditioner in our home that WON'T STOP RUNNING even though we've turned it off because it's 68 degrees in here and there is literally ice forming on the pipes (I don't know the physics of how that's possible, but it's true sadly enough). Evidently, that's a problem and it costs money to fix it. AND it costs money to pay the electric bill for who knows how longs it's been running non-stop before we realized it.

For those waiting to hear about our puppy quest, keep waiting. Allergies are holding us up further as we rule out breeds that cause our faces to swell up like casaba melons and sneeze like hyenas.

So, just be glad I've not been blogging, because I'd have given you some attitude and shown my ugly side.