Wednesday, December 31, 2008

December 31, 2008 - Ringing in the New Year

Kristoffer and I successfully traveled to Denmark the evening after Christmas, and spent our first two days celebrating Christmas with Kristoffer's family on his father's side. I hadn't seen his father, step-mother, or brother's family since our wedding, and I hadn't seen his step-brothers in at least two years so it was really fun. Everyone liked the African goodies we brought with us and Simba was given many lovely gifts from them as well.

On the 29th we left his father's and went to another celebration - his grandmother's 85th birthday!

Even though her birthday isn't actually for a few months, she wanted to have her party while we were all home for the holidays so that everyone would be together. My big belly and Simba's 2-month old cousin, Claudia, were big hits at the party. It was a really fun day and allowed us to spend good time with Kristoffer's extended family. We were received so warmly after coming home to Denmark for the first time from Kenya and we hope that Mormor Karen enjoyed her early birthday celebration. Below are all of us together, except for Kristoffer's aunt, Kitte, who is taking the picture.

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Kristoffer's cousin Klaus and his girlfriend Mette, who are Baby Claudia's parents, also gave me a little bit of practice with their little one which I loved. It is hard to imagine that in 9 more weeks Baby Simba will be the one in my arms!

After the birthday party, we went home to Varde with Kirsten and Hans and have been enjoying a few days of relaxation with them. Tonight the four (and a half) of us will celebrate the end of 2008 together, certainly an exciting year that we will never forget, and will welcome 2009 with all of the joy it will bring us.

On Friday we head back to the little island where Kristoffer was born, Als, to spend a little more time with his father and brother's family, and then we will visit our friends in Copenhagen for a few days before ending our trip back here in Varde on January 10th.

What a wonderful way to end this year and start the next...five weeks of fun, family, and friends in our home countries! We hope 2009 brings you many blessings and look forward to sharing ours with you through this blog!

As we say in Denmark: Godt Nytar! Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

December 25, 2008 - A Merry Mueller Christmas!

Kristoffer and I have had a wonderful time these last three weeks visiting our family and friends in the northeast.

We spent Christmas Eve Day at my parents house...

before heading to my sister Meghan's in the hopes that Santa Claus would visit all 14 of the Mueller clan...

The kids had a wonderful time together and all seem eager to welcome Simba into their "cousin club" as soon as s/he arrives...

Kristoffer also enjoyed a pick up game of basketball with his brothers-in-law today...

Mostly, it was such a treat to be so relaxed and surrounded by our American loved ones. We leave tomorrow night for two weeks in Denmark and can't wait to see all of our favorite Danes!

Merry Christmas from our suitcase to yours!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

December 13, 2008 - 28 Weeks Pregnant for Simba's Shower

Today it felt like Christmas came a little early! At 28 full weeks pregnant, my family and friends gathered for a surprise baby shower. My mom's camera broke so I have to wait for other people to send me pictures to post them, but it was a wonderful day! Everyone brought a book to help Simba begin an early love for reading. We also received a lot of adorable baby clothes and other gear - many of them animal themed! My family and friends were extremely generous, and several people traveled by road or air to get here to celebrate with us. It was especially exciting to meet my friend Sarah's 3-month old son, Luke, to receive a beautiful hand-knit sweater, hat and blanket made by my Mom (Simba's NeNe), and to get two of Kristoffer's favorite children's books from Simba's Farmor (Kristoffer's mom) in Denmark. We are so grateful to have such amazing friends and relatives, and our baby is very lucky to already be so loved!

Our trip in the US has thus far been great. Other than being a bit jet-lagged and waking up every morning at 4:30am ready to eat (that is lunch time in Kenya!), I am feeling really well. Our trip here, while long, went very smoothly and we have enjoyed relaxing with my parents, playing with Meghan's kids, meeting Christine's boyfriend and meeting my friend Joanna's 10-week-old son, William. We have also made great strides towards helping the American economy by shopping, but today's party was definitely the highlight for me! Tomorrow we are driving to New York City for a few days to see my doctor and visit my NYC friends, and after that my brother's family arrives from Chicago for the week of Christmas. It is so much fun to be home!

It is hard to believe that Christmas is still two weeks away, though, because we feel like we already have absolutely everything we could ever want!


Friday, December 5, 2008

December 5, 2008 - Happy Kenyan Anniversary!

December 6th, 2007 was the day that Kristoffer and I arrived in Nairobi after leaving the US on December 1st and traveling to WFP Headquarters in Rome for a few days. If you'll recall, we also spent a random night in Doha, Qatar! The irony of this anniversary is that December 6th, 2008 (tomorrow!) is also the day we arrive back in the US to begin our 5-week vacation and surround ourselves with family, friends, and home style food ( = Dunkin Donuts at the international arrivals terminal at Logan Airport the minute after we find and hug my father).

On any big holiday or anniversary, I am prone to stop and reflect on what has changed about my situation or how I have changed since the last holiday or anniversary...but in regards to Kenya, I feel like I have actually spent the entire year - largely through this blog and emails with my friends and family - reflecting on what has changed and the person I am now. So I won't bore you with a list because there are over 100 blogs you could go back and read if you really wanted to do that!

What I can say is that I think the very best part of this year has been the relationship Kristoffer and I have developed. Of course we were already in love and best friends and married and all that when we got here, but at the time we moved here we had only been married and living together for 5 months so there were still some kinks to be worked out! Without any family or friends besides each other at first, we came to rely on each other in a totally new way. We have learned that not only do we love each other, but we really, really like each other too! We communicate even better than we did before, we make each other laugh (in my case, often when I am trying really hard not to), we can anticipate each other's fears and needs, and we are always looking out for each other over here. We literally went from being a couple who mostly only saw each other on weekends or holidays for four years, to a couple who spends almost all of our time together. We have really made the shift, and I think it is a special and spectacular part of this year's experience for us.

At our goodbye party at my parents home last year my Uncle Tom said to Kristoffer that maybe it was a blessing to be taking our marriage so far away so that we could really develop a healthy foundation for the rest of our marriage. We thought that was a thoughtful and interesting thing to say, but it hasn't been until now that we really agree with and appreciate what he meant! We especially feel that what we have learned about ourselves and each other in this last year will be very useful as we tackle the new challenge of being parents. I can only imagine that in a year from now I will be reflecting on how much our baby has changed our lives!

Now of course having said all that, it would be the understatement of the year to say that we are only excited to get out of Kenya for awhile and see our loved ones. We are nearly desperate for a change of pace! Our plane departs in 11 hours and we are ready to go!

I may not be blogging as often as usual in the next five weeks but I promise to throw you a bone every now and again :)

Happy Kenyan Anniversary!


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

December 2, 2008 - The Dislocated American

There is a very interesting article in the NY Times this week, "The Dislocated American" about Americans who become expats, and how the happiness of the spouse of the person with the overseas job can pretty much make or break such a big move. We were warned of this and have actively tried to make sure that both of us were happy with our decisions and activities. Kristoffer has been my biggest advocate over here since the beginning (to get work, meet other spouses, etc.) because he realized that he would be unhappy with his great new job if I didn't find a life here. The article points out that sometimes it is other expats who provide the most amount of comfort because they know what you are going through! Check it out if you care for a quick, interesting read that tells you a little bit about some of the things we have gone through in the last year...

And while I'm on the topic, I feel a bit like a "Dislocated American" myself right now! As desperately as we want to and are ready to come home (3 more days!), my work deadlines appear to be flying at me in hyper-speed this week. My work is very dependent on other people giving me information at certain times, and when they don't it makes it very hard for me to get my job done, which is the situation I am in right now. Last night I had what Kristoffer is calling my "first real pregnancy night" because I was overtired, stressed about work, unable to eat, unable and unwilling to be consoled, and a general emotional wreck. He survived the night pretty well but it was definitely a little touch and go for a few hours! After going to sleep at 8:30pm, I woke up at 4:38 am this morning with my mind completely wired with a million things to do. I think I'll be happy when we are on the plane!

So I shouldn't even be writing a blog right now but since I have been staring at spreadsheets for the last 5 hours straight I decided that a few minutes of "me time" while I try to eat a sandwich would be a good idea. In my 27th week of pregnancy I have decided that there are quite a few things about being pregnant that I am good at...

• Sleeping
• Talking to the baby
• Getting food on my belly
• Lying down when I’m at home
• Dealing with pregnancy symptoms well and not panicking or over-reacting
• Tripping (only actually fell once, used my knees and hands to protect my belly)
• Taking my vitamins
• Thinking of myself as and visualizing being a mother
• NOT using the pregnancy against Kristoffer to get what I want

There are also some things that I am not so good at regarding this whole pregnancy thing...

• Eating regularly or healthily...alright, let’s just say eating altogether
• Exercising more than regular walking
• Taking breaks from sitting at my desk at work to stretch
• Finding safe, high-quality, nice-looking, affordable baby furniture in Nairobi

The good news is that the first list is longer than the second :) We will soon see which list "travelling very long distances" falls under!