Wednesday, June 26, 2013

June 26, 2013 - On Forgiveness

Yesterday there was a big accident in our house (it might have happened on purpose but only God and Noah know for sure).  While I was helping Grace in the bathroom, Noah broke Buzz Lightyear's leg off, right at the knee.  Buzz is Grace's favorite, favorite, favorite toy and when she saw what happened she was totally crushed.  She cried at first, but it didn't last long. She was too devastated to cry!  She told him that she wouldn't be his big sister anymore and I heard her singing under her breath some words from the Taylor Swift song "We are Never Ever Ever Getting Back Together."  She was actually so sad and mad at Noah that she didn't want to be around him anymore.  

Even though he said he was sorry, she went upstairs and lay down in my bed reading magazines by herself for the next 35 minutes before she came downstairs again.  She didn't want to talk to anyone.  She kept saying "no big sister..." to herself over and over again.  It was heartbreaking.

My clumsy attempt at triage failed (the superglue actually made the repair much more difficult) so Buzz was given a long nap before Far came home for a surgical consult.  Buzz's full leg has been amputated at the hip right now and the chief surgeon is still working to save and reattach the lower leg (it seems a small piece of plastic was lost during the break).  We should know more by tonight.  But that is not actually why I am writing this.

When Grace came downstairs again she said, "I am really sad and mad and grumpy so I don't want to talk to Noah anymore."  

In that moment I decided to try and teach Grace about forgiveness. It is something I've been trying to work on with her lately (even just ordered a Berenstain Bears book to help!), but Grace has not had a big "a ha moment" in understanding what forgiveness is.  I thought THIS could be the moment. I give myself credit only for recognizing the opportunity.  The rest was all Grace.

Me: It is totally OK for you to feel sad and mad and grumpy for as long as you need to.  But at some point, I think you should forgive Noah.  

Grace: What is forgive?

Me: Forgiveness is when, even though somebody does something to hurt you or make you sad, you accept it when they say they are sorry and you stop being mad at them.  

Then she thought about it for a few minutes.  She mentioned her feelings again, I validated them again and mentioned forgiveness again.  Then she asked WHY she should forgive him.

Me:  If you forgive Noah, it will make you feel a lot better because then you can let go of all the sad and mad and grumpy.  If you keep those feelings inside they can make you tired and stop you from having fun and playing.  But if you forgive him then you let go of them and they are gone.  Then you feel better! 

Rose also chimed in and said, "And if you forgive him, you can forget about what happened too."

She thought about those things for another few minutes. And then another few minutes. Then she went over to Noah and she hugged him and said, "I'm still your big sister.  I forgive you."  

He hugged her back and she hugged him more and they ended up in a pile of hugs and giggles.  

To no one's surprise, I almost cried.

And here is the kicker:  even though Buzz is still broken and she told a lot of people about him yesterday, she is actually not mad at Noah anymore!  She hasn't blamed him once or talked about what he did wrong or anything.  She REALLY did let go of those feelings!

I am not sure if I am the only one who finds this to be completely amazing - but to witness my 4-year old actually understand such a mature concept was very powerful.  It was also a great reminder that maybe I could become a more forgiving person too.  I am sure I need some work, especially in the "forgetting" department!

So please excuse me if I am bragging a bit, but it was a very big moment.  I record a lot of things in this blog because every year it is published into a book for our children to have as a record of their childhood...and this is REALLY something I want Grace to remember when she is older.  It was a moment that I will never forget.

Let's just hope that when Buzz "wakes up" again, she can teach him to forgive Noah too!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

June 25, 2013 - American Apparel

Trouble is my business,
and business is good.

$1.00 or best offer

Thank you Auntie Tine and Uncle Kevin for our funny new t-shirts!

Love, Grace & Noah

Monday, June 24, 2013

June 24, 2013 - Third Time Around

We took our third trip to Zanzibar this past weekend, and went with another family.  We had a lot of fun staying at a very kid-friendly place near Stone Town.  It was an easy, fast, smooth ferry ride over Friday morning and we got to see a wee-bit of Stone Town before kids were exhausted and our friends arrived.  Friday afternoon/evening and all day Saturday we went from eating to the pool (and bar) to the playground on repeat all day.  We stayed in a lovely house that had 3-bedrooms and accommodated all 8 of us very nicely. Saturday night we even had dinner delivered to our dining room after the kids went to bed so that the adults could relax and enjoy :)  Sunday morning was lazy with rain, before a brutal (not fast, not easy, not smooth) ferry ride back to Dar.  We won't talk about my first experience being sea sick.  All in all a great weekend!  

Every time I go to Zanzibar, I want to go back again!  
Grace and Mattias (they hold hands by choice!) 

 They loved the trampoline!

Mattias - just hanging around!

Mamas and kiddos by the pool. What were the Fars doing?!  

 Good little travelers on their way back home to Dar.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

June 13, 2013 - Spotlight on the M Word

Malaria.  No, we don't have it.  But since it is on our minds a lot right now and I've mentioned it in my last blog, I thought I would share some data recently released from the World Bank.  Excerpts are quoted directly or summarized from here.

"With an estimated 10 million malaria cases in 2010, the World Health Organization considers Tanzania to be one of the four countries with the highest malaria prevalence in Africa, along with Nigeria, DRC and Uganda."  But new data shows that from 2007-08 to 2011-12, fewer children and malaria deaths decreased signficantly from 2006 to 2012.  So that's good news.

"Tanzania’s recent success in reducing malaria-related morbidity and mortality can be linked to a significant scale up of interventions aimed at preventing transmission of the malaria parasite, controlling mosquito populations, and improving treatment". 78% of children under the age of 5 slept under a treated bed night last year, which had more than doubled since 2008.  Many nets are funded and distributed by development partners in Tanzania like USAID.  There has also been an increase in households getting sprayed with insecticides.

So all of that is great news here in Tanzania.  We still get very stressed any time one of us has a fever or if we hear that someone we know has it (which has been quite a few people lately).  A malarial mosquito bites at night between 10 pm and 4 am, and that mosquito got infected originally by biting someone who had malaria.  So if our neighbor has gotten malaria then we get a little worried since we are more likely to share mosquitos with her at night...which is also why we definitely sleep under nets.

Problems that still remain here are that pregnant women aren't given proper antimalarial drugs and many children under the age of five are getting early diagnoses.  This is why malaria is still a leading cause of death amongst infants and children here. Another issue is that people are often treated for malaria with confirming that they actually have it.  In some parts of the country children are given malaria medication if they have a fever without any blood test to see if they definitely have it. 

If you are ever looking for an African cause to donate to - definitely look for programs that provide malaria prevention, detection or education (the education bit is key or people use them for other things - like fishing! - and then the nets are waster).  Examples are here and here and here.


Monday, June 10, 2013

June 10, 2013 - Classy

One of these days I will blog about something other than the kids.  Maybe.  But today we got their class pictures, which are very cute.  Except Noah's eyes are closed.  And a few teachers are missing from the photos.  But otherwise, cute!  There are a few doppelgängers in there...can you spot Grace & Noah?


Saturday, June 8, 2013

June 8, 2013 - Friends

Last weekend we had a little dinner party with some of Grace's best friends from school.  These four big girls have been close since last summer when we organized a play group everyday for them - you might remember their first photo together here.  Well, next year they will be all split up:  one family is going home to the US, and two of the other girls will be starting an international schools here in August (thankfully they are still in town!).  This dinner was meant to be sort of one last "hurrah" before moves and vacations and school changes.  You can see how silly they are!
After a fun time outside , we moved inside for a little dance party...which is why the Mamas are not featured with the Fars (and one small, sweet diva) below.
Noah plays by himself at school mostly, unless he is with Grace, but luckily one of the only other kids he does actually play with sometimes, Helena, will still be at school with him next year.  They love to give each other hugs and kisses, even if they don't look at the camera at the same time.

Thanks to Mama Freya for these great pictures. We so happy to have lovely friends here in Dar.

Friday, June 7, 2013

June 7, 2013 - Seasonal Changes

Things are changing in Dar these days.  I had an incredibly busy month in May working everyday, but that is over and hopefully I can get back to blogging (although 7 days into the month I'm only at 2 blogs...but the month is still young, right?).  

First and foremost, the WEATHER is getting awesome.  Our rainy season has ended along with insane  humidity.  The weather is so delightful and cool (in the 80s!) that people here have started to call it winter, although all the expats still call it summer since most of them go home to the summer months in America or Europe.  This month will be a bad month for malaria, as after the rainy season there are SOOOO many malarial mosquitos around.  We have started to take medication just for the next 5 weeks to prevent malaria (and hope that we didn't get infected before we started taking it) because we know a lot of people who have gotten it this season (total # of reported cases at our medical clinic is 5 times higher than the same time last year).  Once July hits, we can rest easy on the malaria front. I am just getting over giardia (parasite) and Grace and Noah have both had various infections during this rainy we hope that the amazing weather brings healthier days for us. 

Another big change is that the season of saying goodbye has begun.  We are losing a lot of lovely families to jobs back home or in other international posts.  There are two families in particular that we will be extremely sad to bid farewell.  Kristoffer and I are friends with the parents, Grace and Noah are friends with the kids.  It is painful to lose such winning combinations...particularly when we feel like we have just settled down into a happy "we have friends!" routine.  It is possibly the worst aspect of expat life.  All the goodbyes.  It certainly provides teachable moments and skill development in the kids: saying goodbye, expressing gratitude, keeping in touch, etc.  But still. Ugh.  And this year Grace's favorite teacher, featured below, is retiring.  We know we'll still get to see her as a substitute, but it is hard to imagine our school community without her.

Grace and Inge.  She will be missed BIG time!

A project with the World Bank that I hoped to get has predictably fallen through, so instead I am taking piano lessons again (after a 20 year break) and hope to find some kind of physical exercise that I enjoy and can actually stick to (been working on that one for about 25 years with no luck...suggestions?). I hope to keep working on our children's book (we need an agent! help!).  I will spend lots of time with the kiddos this summer and hope we come up with enough interesting things to do that we don't all go a little bit nutsy on this small peninsula.  Everyone else we know will be traveling at some point (or moving, as mentioned) before school starts up again mid-August, so we will really be enjoying a lot of good weather on our own. Some planned activities include potty training for Noah and learning to read for Grace. We also just bought a boat share in a small catamaran sail boat from some of our departing friends.  Kristoffer is getting really into sailing and I am hoping he will have time to show me the ropes (literally!). Wish us luck (especially in the not-getting-so-homesick-that-we-impulse-buy-$8,000-plane-tickets-to-go-home-for-a-month department).  

Today was the last official day of school, although thankfully the Nordic School is doing an extended 3 weeks of "camp" to get us through the end of June which starts on Monday.  

Grace and her great friend Mattias.  Today was "toy day" at school and guess who else brought Buzz?

Solveig is off to Denmark for the summer (It it looks like I forced them to take this picture but they ASKED me to do it after telling each other how much they will miss each other.  For real.)

Noah and Grace have changed a lot since their first days of school in August I would say.  Flashback to Grace to see a huge difference,  and to Noah who is certainly not a baby anymore.  They have had an excellent school year.

Happy Start of Winter Summer to you!

Monday, June 3, 2013

June 3, 2013 - Under the Big Top

Just as they did last year, Grace and Noah's school put on their end-of-the-year circus performance this past Friday.  It was a sweet show, including 6 minutes of Grace and her three besties being circus horses doing what their demanding trainer told them to do...with a treat at the end for their cooperation.  Noah's circus act - "cats and mice playing" - was adorable but was one mouse (or was he supposed to be a cat?) short as he refused to participate.  It was a little too close to his nap, and you know...there was a lot of papparazzi.  
He did get halfway into costume, with face paint!
But mostly just wanted to hang out with Far (this is after the face paint has been sweated off).

(I did warn you that it was 6 minutes long...and the minutes are a bit slow...feel free to eat your breakfast while you watch or something!)

Some still shots of the "fabulous horses" this year.  Grace LOVED all their preparation and had so much fun performing in "character"!

After she did her first trick...

The horses got a treat in the end!

 Everyone loves a circus!