Thursday, December 31, 2009

December 31, 2009 - A Family Interview

Lisa: Kristoffer, it is almost the new year and I want to write a reflective blog. What was the best part of 2009 for you personally?

Kristoffer: Having Grace. Seeing her grow. Every minute it seems she can do something new.

L: Okay, and what was the best part of 2009 for you professionally?

K: That the rains finally came to Kenya because it will help alleviate the current emergency drought situation.

L: Do you feel you’ve changed at all in 2009?

K: Yes. For some reason I take myself more seriously now. I feel I can handle any situation, professionally that is. I became a father, which is a huge change in a man’s life. I feared it a little bit, but then I realized that you can learn it as you go.

L: Do you like being a father?

K: Yeah, it’s great…especially the older she gets.

L: Do you have any hopes or wishes for 2010?

K: Many. Do you want them all?

L: Yup.

K: A published children’s book, a healthy child, a marriage that continues to get better and better, to beat my German rival in squash, to deliver food on time for 700,000 children to eat, to develop a carbon credit project related to energy saving stoves, to find a new job for the end of the year, to travel to new places – see a bit more of Africa specifically, learn French, and….I guess that’s enough for now.

L: Wow! Sounds like a big year ahead of you. Now Grace, what was the best part of 2009 for you?

Grace: silence

L: Do you feel you have changed at all in the last ten months?

G: passes a little gas

L: Alright…what about a wish for 2010?

G: A – dook – a –dook – a – dook – a

L: I’ll take that as: “I hope I can walk soon.”

K: And you, crazy wife?

L: Well obviously 2009 was all about Grace. And travel, I guess! We’ve been to the US and Denmark twice as well as to Spain and a bit around Kenya. Grace has been on 18 international and 2 domestic flights in less than 11 months! What a year!

K: Do you think you’ve changed at all in 2009?

L: I actually think I’ve changed A LOT! I think I’m a bit more flexible and easy-going, not such a slave to plans (although I still love them!) and not sweating the small stuff so much. I have a good sense of the “big picture” and I am trying harder on a daily basis not to take things for granted. Becoming a mother is the single biggest change I could ever dream of going through. I just love it and I am really, really happy. And I am so happy that Grace is such a happy girl. I feel very lucky in that way. She is the best.

K: That’s true, she is sooooo cute. What do you wish for 2010?

L: I definitely wish for good health for the people I love, a more stable climate, and peace on earth. You know, all the good stuff! But on a smaller scale, I hope that the new year will bring an improved schedule of eating and sleeping for Grace. I hope that we will find out sooner than later where we will move to next so that I can start doing research on our next life. I also hope that Kenya gets its act together because the closer we get to the 2012 election without more peace and reconciliation, the more likely it is that there will be tribal conflict even worse than the last time. Finally, I hope that I learn something new – like how to play the drums we bought when we moved to Kenya – or that I do something incredible – like climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. I am not na├»ve so I doubt I will accomplish both of those things, especially given Grace’s sleep issues, but I do hope to make something new and interesting happen for myself in the coming year!

K: That would be great if we could climb Mt. Kilimanjaro together!

L: I think so too! We just need a babysitter or two to come from Denmark or the US to stay with Grace for a week. Hint hint…anyone out there? Sometime around September perhaps?

K: I think that should end the blog.

L: Unless Grace has anything else to add?

G: sleeping

L: I guess that’s all! Out with the old and in with the new.

Happy New Year!

Kristoffer, Lisa & Grace

Sunday, December 27, 2009

December 27, 2009 - My First Christmas

We have been in Denmark for a little over a week and have been celebrating Christmas for days. How could a ten-month old girl like me know that this holiday would be so fun?!

Christmas Take 1 (22nd of December): at Farfar's house

I helped Far decorate the tree...

and then I picked his wallet before Christmas dinner because I need to buy a right shoe!

Mama and I were matching in our red and black outfits...

and my finger fell even more deeply in love with my nose.

Christmas Take 2 (23rd-25th of December): at Farmor's house

I love, love, love to read books. I'm doing it all the time. This was one of Far's books from when he was a kid. "Hans and the Beanstalk" (Mama thinks Hans is the same as Jack!).

My "cousin" Leander came from Germany with his parents to celebrate Christmas. He is 4 months old but is almost the same size as me...can you believe that?! At least I can still out crawl him.

He was really fun to play with!

Farmor is also fun to play with everyday. She makes me laugh :)

Once again, when nobody knows what to do with me they just give me a book and I am happy for quite some time. What more does a girl need?

It is very snowy in this Danish land. An African baby like me would really be in trouble if I didn't have the right gear.
Mama and Far went sledding with Leander's parents, Mirja and Tommy, while we decided to take a mid-day nap. More important than my passport, this makes me officially Danish! Who knew that sleeping outside in the cold would be the best nap I've taken (possibly EVER)?!

And Mama and Far seemed to enjoy sledding down and climbing back up the hill behind Farmor's house. They were laughing so much!

My cousins Nikoline and Josefine also came to Farmor's house for Christmas. Nikoline was so good at entertaining me.

We left cookies and milk for Santa and a carrot for his reindeer. My cousins were skeptical that he would come, but Mama promised that he would find me!

The best part of a Danish Christmas is dancing around the Christmas tree when all of the candles are lit. I almost fell asleep before this happened, but I hate to miss out on a good party and managed to stay awake. It was so beautiful and special - I will never forget it.

On Christmas Eve we opened so many presents! This was one from my cousins: a new outfit!

I loved the new "laptop" that Mama and Far gave me. I have seen them use their computer so many times that I knew exactly what to do.

And I had a lot of fun opening my new train set from Nene and Pops. I wish they could have been in Denmark for Christmas too.

On Christmas morning we woke up to find that Santa did find us indeed!

I was so happy when I woke up on Christmas morning. It was the never-ending holiday!

Everyone had fun opening their stockings - Santa doesn't usually bring stockings to Denmark so it was a real surprise!

I liked playing with my new Little People dollhouse and blocks.

It was perfect that it snowed on Christmas day! We all went outside to play. My fleece was not waterproof so I had to sport a black plastic bag. I wonder if I've ever seen my Far so happy as he was playing in the snow!

They even stuck me inside a snowman!

And Far tossed me up so I could come down with the snowflakes.

Uncle Rasmus and Josefine came inside a little while after I did, but Far and Nikoline stayed outside for a long time and finished the snow people AND a super snow igloo!

Josefine and I opted for reading instead.

Christmas Take 3 (26th of December): at Gert and Kitte's house

The day after Christmas started with a drive around in my new wagon.

And then we went to Gert and Kitte's house to celebrate Christmas with Far's aunt and uncle and cousins. We gave Oldemor her Christmas gifts. She can be very silly.

Speaking of silly...Hans cracks me up! He is always trying to teach me to do more things like stand by myself and walk.

I got to meet my new cousin, Mads. His mom is Far's cousin Aja. He is one month old and is an extremely beautiful baby. His Mormor was happy to show him off.

The grown-ups tried to take a picture of me with Claudia, who is 14 months, and Mads. It was going well until I decided that I really wanted Mads' binky (sut) and pulled it straight out of his mouth. He is still pretty small and didn't like my idea of fun so he started to cry and that screwed up the picture. Sorry everyone!
We also found out on this day that I have another new "cousin": Han's daughter Tina had a baby boy the morning after Christmas! I hope maybe I can meet him some time this week before I go back to Kenya.

Phew! That was a busy couple of days. Today the house was quiet again. Just Mama, Far and me with Hans and Farmor. We went to the swimming hall and I had fun in the wave pool. Then we were at home reading and playing the rest of the day. This is the best Christmas vacation I could have imagined!


Saturday, December 26, 2009

December 26, 2009 - Merry Ten Months!

Many Christmas photos to come, but for now just this...


Sunday, December 20, 2009

December 20, 2009 - Good News/Bad News

The good news is that Grace is having a good time in Denmark so far...

The bad news is that yesterday she learned how to pick her nose...


Thursday, December 17, 2009

December 17, 2009 - Holiday Happiness

I realized yesterday that some of my recent blogs have been a bit "down in the dumps" and that is not a good thing, especially at this time of year! Despite thieving Kenyans and Grace's high fever, there are many things that make us happy this holiday season. Here is a small list of some of the small things that make us happy; see if you can match up which bit of happiness belongs to Kristoffer, Grace or me (hint: some are tricky because they might belong to more than one of us)!
  • Books!
  • Playing squash
  • Watching the TV show "Glee"
  • Playing peekaboo
  • Dancing to the song "Do They Know it's Christmas?"
  • Drinking cold ginger ale
  • Wearing nothing but a diaper
  • Season 7 of the TV show "24" (thanks to Brooke and Dave for that!)
  • Nice, not-thieving Kenyans who provide roadside assistance to broken-down Mzungus
  • Swimming
  • Getting ready for Grace's first Christmas
  • Food that is delivered on time for the start of the January school term
  • Not getting stung by a scorpion
  • Really nice neighbors who provide early morning advice on having a baby with a fever
  • Rotating around in circles on the floor
  • Learning a few weeks ago that the By Grace Orphanage received an extremely significant grant from the United Nations to improve their conditions as well as provide services and necessities to over 300 orphans (more on that to come in another blog)
...and the #1 thing making all three of us very happy is that we will be in Denmark tomorrow morning, where rumor has it there is a bit of snow waiting for us!

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

December 15, 2009 - 300

For our 300th blog, Kristoffer has requested that I crop and repost the picture he took of the hunting "fish eagle" because he thinks that it is much more impressive than the uncropped version I posted on yesterday's blog. Sheesh - tough crowd. Here it is:

Grace has been sick with a high fever for the last 24 hours. After a very tough night, we spent the morning at the doctor's office and getting some tests done. She does not have malaria (thank God) and they ruled out a few other possibilities, leading the doctor to conclude that she just has a virus and should be well enough to travel by Thursday night. Seeing your child sick and not being able to fully comfort her is definitely the hardest part of being parent so far. We are hoping for a good night's sleep tonight so that we can have a good day tomorrow getting ready for some Danish holiday cheer.


Monday, December 14, 2009

December 14, 2009 - Surprise Scorpion & Baringo Breakdown

Over the weekend we visited Lake Baringo in the Rift Valley. We stayed at a tented camp on an island in the middle of the lake; it was not the fanciest tented camp in Kenya but it was very comfortable, and so peaceful and relaxing. We really enjoyed some quiet time as a family away from phones, TVs, internet, traffic, shopping, etc.

We drove about 4 hours north of Nairobi and then took a 10 minute boat ride (a big row boat with a motor) out to the island. When we go to the camp we saw a list of their activities and noticed that water skiing was one of them. Then we saw this crocodile swim by the lake right outside our tent and decided that water skiing on a lake in Kenya is never going to happen in this lifetime:

It was really hot and Grace took a VERY long nap shortly after we arrived on Friday afternoon:

This was the sunrising right outside our tent at 6 am on Saturday morning:

Grace is a fast crawler these days and loved playing by our feet as we sat on our patio for morning tea/hot chocolate:

She also LOVED all of the birds that we saw! We were visited by these small birds on our patio and in the main dining room of the camp, but there were also hundreds of types of birds living on this island:

Sunrise #2 on Sunday morning:

Reason #2 not to go water skiing: this sweet little hippo chomping on some grass outside our tent (not to mention ALL the other hippos in the lake):

We saw lots and lots of beautiful birds (and some ugly ones too actually):

On Sunday morning we took a nice boat ride around the lake and saw some of the local people:

This is a small village that we could see:

The local people are from a tribe called "Njemps" and they are mostly fishermen but also have some cows. These are not the sickest looking cows we have seen in Kenya, but they certainly don't look too healthy:

There are many hot springs in this area because of all the volcanic rock:

This bird is called a "fish eagle" and here Kristoffer captured an incredible picture of it just before he grabbed a fish. These birds mate for life and we saw this one and its partner hunt:

On our boat ride we saw quite a few crocs and some hippos, but we saw this baby croc just before we finished:

So the weekend was great. We went swimming in the pool - which Grace loved once again! - and took lots of naps because of the heat. I got bit by one mosquito which I am praying did not give me malaria. What a Christmas gift that would be! Overall, it was a wonderful getaway weekend...BUT there were two tough moments.

Tough moment #1 happened when we got back to our tent after dinner on Saturday night to find a scorpion inside our tent that looked like this:

We assume that these deadly creatures are fast, so we started to freak out a little bit, but Kristoffer was able to smash it before it moved. I have never heard such expletive vocabulary come out of my husband's mouth before! After all, we are on an island essentially in the middle of nowhere with no electricity at night, so if we (or more importantly Grace) were to be stung/bit by a scorpion...well, we were making ourselves a bit sick thinking about the outcomeof that situation. We thoroughly checked the rest of the tent before going to sleep...but we were both really paranoid and maybe didn't sleep that well!

Tough moment #2 (although not nearly as scary as #1) came on our drive back to Nairobi on Sunday after breakfast. Our car had started to act a bit funny just as we were arriving at the lake on Friday, and by the time we were leaving on Sunday it was acting even worse. We were hoping to get to the next major city before anything crazy happened, but we really only made it an hour down the rode before some warning lights came on and the car essentially died. It would turn on fine, but would not go into gear or pick up. Neither of us know ANYTHING about cars, but luckily when we moved to Kenya my parents bought Kristoffer a "Cars for Dummies" book which we keep with us at all times. I was able to use the book to troubleshoot and figure out that we were out of "automatic transmission fluid (ATF)." We belong to a roadside car assistance club (like AAA in America) and so I also called them and had a mechanic talk Kristoffer through how to check things out. He confirmed that we needed ATF or we weren't going anywhere!

Luckily for us some REALLY NICE KENYANS (said in capital letters because my spirit is renewed to find out that they are out there!) stopped on the road to help us and called a guy who worked at a gas station 10 km away (6 miles) to bring us some ATF. Once he came we were able to get on our way after the mechanic in Nairobi talked us through what to do over the phone. We were so happy that these Kenyans helped us and didn't try to take advantage of us. What a relief! Of course, the whole process took about 2 1/2 hours in the blazing heat. We are very lucky that we had some food in the car for Grace and plenty of water for all of us because we were somewhat in the middle of nowhere and the whole situation could have ended up much worse than it did. We got home around 4:30 pm which made it a very long trip after leaving at 10 am, but Grace was such a good girl the whole time.

I think Kristoffer and I have learned something important while living in Kenya: don't panic! When you are in a stressful situation, try to be calm and optimistic and problem solve instead of being angry and negative and stressed. We worked as a team and came out of both "tough moments" just fine.

Now the task ahead of us is getting ready to depart for Grace's first Christmas in Denmark AND her first really COLD weather: we leave Thursday night and can't wait to see our Danish family!