Thursday, February 28, 2013

February 28, 2013 - Changing of the Guard

Word on the compound lately has been that our Day Guard (DG) has some character traits and behaviors to be concerned about.  We've never been 100% comfortable with him and there have been a few issues that have raised our eyebrows.  But we could never prove anything and wanted to give him a chance.  Same with the new concerns: can't prove anything, but that queasy feeling in our stomachs has been getting stronger.  Luckily we learned this week that many security companies rotate their guards every 6 months as a matter of policy, so that nobody gets "too comfortable", if you know what I mean. We used this new knowledge to request a similar policy with our security company.  And so without having to explain our suspicions about the DG, we got a new DG today.  His name is Peter, and I like to think of him as DG3 (you can be reminded about what happened with our first DG here).

Let's see how it goes with Peter.  Maybe third time's a charm?  We'll give him 6 months to find out.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

February 27, 2013 - One more birthday blog...

I realize that I am shameless.  My apologies.  This video is not very interesting of Grace...she acted very shy when her class sang birthday songs to her during ring time...and she wouldn't take her fingers out of her mouth!  So weird.  But anyway, it is a cute video of her class anyway.  Nice to hear kids singing so nicely in Danish...and they threw me a bone with the English "Happy Birthday" too. Grace said when I wasn't there later there was also some birthday singing in Swedish and Norwegian (she is getting much better in both of those languages as well!).  Anyway, maybe this one is just for the grandparents...but I promise it is the last blog about Grace's birthday :)  Honestly.


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

February 26, 2013 - She's Got a Way

Our Amazing Grace is four years old today and after six months of wanting to be 4 like her slightly older friends, it was a very BIG day! 

From waking up to a trail of balloons leading to her birthday presents...

to raising the Danish flag, being sung to by her class and sharing chocolate chip cookies with everyone at school...

to having a playdate with a good friend and all her new stuff...

to her birthday pizza dinner with a chocolate heart cake...

to goofying around with Mama...

to building her new "big girl" Legos with Far (and a slightly bothersome little brother).

She was just as good as she gets.  And this sappy Mama still can't quite believe - even four years later! - that this wonderful, witty, wise, charming, challenging, clever, bright, beautiful, stubborn, sweet little girl actually came from Kristoffer and me.  

I told her at bedtime that when she born 4 years ago it was one of the very best days of my life.  She told me, "It was also a happy day for me!"

If you can imagine that the following pictures are set to music, please *hear* the song "She's Got a Way" by Billy Joel as you look at them.  Because even though it is a romantic love song, any time I have ever heard it in the last four years it has made me think of Grace.  Especially today.

Happy 4th Birthday, Super Girl!  You are so loved.

She's got a way about her 
I don't know what it is
But I know that I can't live without her 

She's got a way of pleasin' 
I don't know why it is 
But there doesn't have to be a reason...anyway 

She's got a smile that heals me 
I don't know what it is 
But I have to laugh when she reveals me 

She's got a way of talkin' 
I don't know why it is 
But it lifts me up when we are walkin'...anywhere 

She comes to me when I'm feelin' down 
Inspires me without a sound 
She touches me and I get turned around 

She's got a way of showin' 
How I make her feel 
And I find the strength to keep on goin' 

She's got a light around her 
And everywhere she goes
A million dreams of love surround her...everywhere
(exhausted...but 4 years old!)


Monday, February 25, 2013

February 25, 2013 - Almost Four

Yesterday was Grace's 4th Birthday Party!  It was a great success, which we knew because as we ate dinner last night Grace recounted all of her favorite moments from the day with true joy and gratitude.  Grace's party theme was Hello Kitty/Hearts (made possible by Target and Michael's when we were in the US!). Even though Grace likes and plays with most of the 24 kids in her class, we decided to keep it small (for the benefit of the birthday girl) and just invited the little group of 4-year-old girls. So we had 6 guests for 2 1/2 hours and invited their parents to come for another half hour at the end to have a drink with us in celebration of Grace.  We were grateful to have Rose and Kennie on hand to help the party go smoothly.

The day started off a bit rocky, as Kristoffer and I were both hit with food poisoning 12 hours before the party was to start.  We didn't sleep much during the night or feel very energetic during the day, but we rallied on behalf of Grace and hopefully nobody ever knew we were not at 100%.  The only thing that might have greatly suffered was our picture-and-video-taking.  I didn't catch all the great moments, but here are a few.
Lunch table for 8 kiddos? Check!
Birthday Girl (and her brother) dressed and relaxing before party time? Check!

To begin with, there was lots of jumping on the bouncy castle.
And then, there were freeze pops :)
The "craft" portion of the party - which actually turned out to be the main event - involved everyone making a necklace or bracelet and then decorating her own jewelry box for it.  We also had some heart ornaments to be decorated as well.  The girls were so focused on their projects and had a great time.

 Next came a full lunch.  Grace's favorite?  Spaghetti with meat sauce and cheese and broccoli.
We planned for a dance party but there wasn't too much time for that.  After a little bit of free play, the kids got to decorate their own heart-shaped cupcakes and we sang Happy Birthday to Grace in English and Danish.   

At the of the party there was an obstacle course (designed by Far, but sorry no pictures!) around our house AND Grace's favorite teacher, Inge, stopped by as a surprise for the birthday girl.  What a treat!
Grace's biggest request was for very special goodie bags.  We delivered on that, personalized and all with everything Grace wished for.  But no pictures of them :(  As the party started to wind down, she and the girls were full and happy and tired.
And she had a sweet moment of calm with her Far (who might be looking just a bit nostalgic that his Simba-baby is such a big girl now! Why do you think I'm behind the camera?!).

And so, tomorrow is her real birthday.  I said to her this morning, "Grace, it's your last day to be 3!  Is there anything you want to do before you are 4?"  You know what she said? "No, Mama!  I'm ready!"

Sigh. That makes one of us.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

February 19, 2013 - Weirdest Night Ever

Last night was a really bizarre one. The story is prefaced with the note that we have a lot of power issues here. There are 3 phases of electricity running into our house, and only one of them is any good. Our generator is set up to automatically turn on when even one phase isn't working fully. This means that we are on the gennie allllll the time these days...or at least it feels that way at about $10 an hour for diesel to run it. Tis the season.

But last night the situation got weirder at around 9 pm. The generator was on, Kristoffer and I were about to watch a show.  Suddenly a fuse blew and we had a blackout. It is pretty weird to have a fuse blow when you are already running the gennie, especially because we hadn't turned anything on or plugged anything new in. We went down to investigate: we turned the gennie off, flipped the master switch in the fuse box back on, and turned the gennie back only to have the fuse blow again. And again.  And again.

The benefit of living next door to your landlord is that you don't feel too bad calling her at 9 pm when you have a blackout. She sent her very handy son over and also called an electrician immediately. Between the three of us (and really I mean the two of them...I wasn't that helpful!) we were able to isolate which fuse was the problem and got power back in most of the house; we also told the electrician to just come back in the morning.  It seemed to just be our outside security lights that were not working.


Come to find out that there was a new night time security guard (NG = night guard) on duty. It was his first night at our house, and actually we suspected that maybe he plugged something in to one of the outdoor outlets and blew the fuse in the first place. But then little red flags started popping up in my head that we've never had a problem with our security lights the entire year we've lived here and now suddenly with the arrival of a new NG they don't work?  Stranger things have happened in East Africa than security guards having elaborate plans to rob a house.

We also have three panic buttons, including one that the guards are supposed to keep around their necks all the time.  Kristoffer noticed that the new NG was not wearing the panic buttom.  Another red flag.  So he told him that he had to have it around his neck at all times.

Now with our paranoia fully intact, we went into partial lockdown mode. Made sure all windows were closed (even though there are bars on them, somehow the screens made us feel safer?), all four doors to the outside were locked and double bolted, inside doors were also locked except to the kids and our bedrooms.  We were thankful for 3 security dogs and hoped for the best.

Then Kristoffer's phone rings at 10 pm and it is the security company saying that someone has pushed the panic button and could Kristoffer please go out to the gate to let the backup team in.  Well...THAT was also fishy because if the guards are planning an attack then of course we don't want to go outside!  But Kristoffer seemed to think that the NG misunderstood him and pressed the panic button instead of just wearing it.  He got the NG to open both gates for the security team (at night we are double gated!) and then went out to sign off on us being fine.  Fine, but thoroughly weirded out.

There was no raid on our house during the night, thankfully.  But when we woke up this morning we had no water because the water pump was powered by the fuse that is broken.  Maybe it wasn't the NG after all...maybe it was just the water pump having the breakdown.  And so maybe all of our worry was for nothing.  But we tend to err on the side of caution here.

At any rate, there is an electrician here today to try and fix the busted fuse.  And we are trying to decide if we request a new NG or give the guy another chance.  We are ever so grateful for such a kind and responsive landlord.  She's really amazing.

Electricity, security and water problems all at once? Just another day in the life!

Friday, February 15, 2013

February 15, 2013 - Festelaun

On Friday February 8th, Grace and Noah's school celebrated the Nordic holiday, "Festelaun", which is similar to an American Halloween.  The children get dressed up in costumes and historically go "begging" for treats.  There is a different aspect than in the US, though, because the children participate in beating a barrel with a stick until it breaks and all the goodies (in this case, goodie bags) fall out.  Think: pinata! In the "old days" the barrel used to have a live black cat in it - they believed the cat represented all of the evil spirits, and would you know...bash it to death basically to drive the spirits away.  Luckily our kids just had homemade paper cats on their barrel.  Times have changed :)

So on Friday our very own Butterfly Fairy and her brother Superman were all dressed up and melting along with their classmates in this crazy heat, but they had a very, very fun time at Festelaun.  (Far even participated with a costume sort of matching Noah's!)

Noah's class was the sweetest, most gentle group you could imagine.  They were using the stick to drum on the barrel instead of trying to bash it.  I think eventually one of the teacher's just broke it open!

Grace waited patiently in line, over and over again, and had many turns to bash the barrel.  She did a good job and had so much fun.  Although, she was concerned about her headband falling out when she was swinging for the barrel :)

Grace and her girlfriends