Monday, July 22, 2013

July 22, 2013 - 30 Months

I know it is one of the sillier things that I do as a Mom - acknowledging milestones like half-birthdays and the like - but people in the world do plenty of sillier things than that anyway, and  I feel I am not totally alone out here in the world of "being obsessed with my kids."  Believe me - if i was really silly I would still be doing monthly updates with their pictures that say "Today I am 51 months old," because I honestly still do THINK that on the 22nd (N) or 26th (G) of every month since they were born.  I really do.

But anyway, today Noah IS actually 2 1/2 years old.  We notice this because his behavior and language and personality are either emerging or changing a lot these days.  He is napping for less time during the day, and if he naps too long will actually be up until 10 at night (a phase we have still yet to go through with Grace!).  He is mostly potty trained and talking a lot more in English and Danish, and even some in Kiswahili (like he prefers to count in Kiswahili for some reason).  His favorite song to sing is definitely the Tanzanian National Anthem.  Or Mamma Mia.  He is very physical - wanting to jump and climb and run and be a total dare-devil (he's wearing a helmet, below, for a reason - trust me!).  He has a good imagination, and in that way I think he is emulating Grace a lot.  He loves loves loves books (yay!  I remember when he didn't care for them much at all!) and adores his sister.  He sometimes plays WITH other friends instead of just near them, but mostly he plays alone or with Grace.  He can be shy with people who are not on the inner circle. He is very silly and sweet and snuggly.  Still.  And he usually has one (but sometimes 2 or 3) tantrums or complete "terrible two" meltdowns a day.  But he turns his charm on very quickly when the moment passes.  Thankfully.     

Anyway, at 2 1/2 I know I still view Noah as my baby in many ways...because isn't it always that way with your youngest?  But I do actually know that he is not a baby anymore - he is a real boy, a big boy, a growing boy.  But still, my boy.

Happy 2 1/2, Noah Dean! 


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

July 17, 2013 - New Man in My Life

I know you probably already think we are spoiled with a housekeeper/nanny who works for our family full time. And we are.  Even if that is the status quo around here and even if we have way fewer Tanzanian staff then everyone else we know, we are still spoiled.  It is a luxury we will definitely miss whenever it is that we are not here anymore.  But since our days here may or may not be numbered (job security, oh job security! where art thou!), we decided to up the ante on our spoiled-luxury.  

And to backtrack a bit, we have had a variety of different attempts at having a cook in the last several years:  

  • first full time (mentally unstable) housekeeper in Nairobi was also supposed to be a cook but she was pretty awful (and also mentally unstable)
  • next part time housekeeper was also a part-time cook and was OK at that, but nicked a few things that didn't belong to her and in general lost her willingness to work hard over time
  • third attempt in Nairobi was our once-a-week cook who made 6 meals in one day that we froze and ate throughout the week.  She was decent - but a big personality to have around, and also we missed eating anything FRESH.
  • fourth cook: a great guy here who was a  really good cook but was WAY too overbooked and did not make us his priority.  He stopped meal planning altogether and would send me badly timed text messages with ingredients to buy, and would then not show up to cook.  It made my blood boil and we've been separated for a few months now.
This brings us up to date, and our newest effort is a man named Christopher (for real) and he has been cooking in our neighborhood for different hotels or families for the last 15 years, although he comes from Malawi originally.  The family he worked for for 3 years just moved and I was lucky enough to be the first one to interview him and offer him a job. He had quite a few interviews and offers, but we mutually picked each other I guess. He will work for us full time and will do most of the shopping, cooking, cleaning the kitchen/dishes and if he has time might help with the ironing.  This also frees Rose up to spend more time with the kids IF/WHEN I get a new or more full-time job (for which I am always on the lookout).

I know - it sounds ridiculous when I read it.  I even feel a little guilty as I am typing it out.  But I actually dislike cooking, am not particularly good at it, and it especially stresses me out to do here where you can't get what you can get at home and have to go to 4 different stores to find the ingredients you need.  So now that is his job.  We're only on day 3 so I should not sing his praises yet (I've done that before!  It always starts out great, right?!), but he is just a very nice man who communicates well and can cook.  What's not to like?!  Also when he and I went to the three stores together on Monday, I realized that EVERYONE who works EVERYWHERE knows him by name and was happy to see he has a new boss, etc.  He has good street cred, which is always a plus in my book.

So even if we are on our way out of the country in February (which, again, may or may not be the case) we can at least enjoy our last opportunity to be spoiled rotten.  Let's just see if his chicken pot pie is as good as the last guy's!


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

July 16, 2013 - Picking out a Pikipiki

In Kiswahili, a motorcycle is called "pikipiki" and Grace and Noah's school has a large fleet of cheap, Chinese plastic, ride-on "pikipikis" (like the one below, only all black/blue/red/gray with no fancy stickers or amenities) that our kids love. Some time back when Kristoffer went to South Africa he brought one home for the kids because it was so cheap there.  And they love that one too.  It makes for great, classic kid-fun now that Noah is tall enough to ride it.

The only problem, actually, is that we have only had the ONE pikipiki.  At some point last week it occurred to us that our kids would be much happier to play outside if we had TWO pikipikis so that they could play together.  We know what store (a bit of a distance away) sells them so decided to take the kids on a field trip there (to the oldest indoor "mall" here).  But first, we told them that it is not Christmas or their birthday so they really don't need to get a present, but we think it would be fun to have one more at our house.  So, we said if they wanted to help buy the pikipiki with their own money we would go get one.  They agreed.

When the kids cracked open their banks for the first time, out spilled a lot of Tanzanian coins (as expected) and also, as a complete surprise to us, some Tanzanian cash!  I asked Grace, "where did you get all this paper money?" and she said, "Rose!"  So I was pretty curious to ask Rose about that when she returned.

Everybody put their cash and coins in a bag and we went to the store.  The pikipikis were indeed more money than we wanted to pay for cheap, Chinese plastic but we just really felt that they (and we) would be so happy with another pikipiki.  Luckily they had all that cash and we chipped in the rest.  (I think it was $15 more expensive than we would have paid for it at Target or Walmart at home). 

We brought the pikipiki home and once we sorted out which kid would ride which pikipiki, we basically haven't seen Grace and Noah since except for meals and bedtime.  They LOVE playing together outside and are having so much making up all kinds of games and pretend stories with those pikipikis.  Totally worth the money (and why, dear God, did we not think of this before the first two weeks of summer vacation when they were rotten and fighting all the time?!).  Best cheap, Chinese plastic we ever bought.

And also Rose came back!  So I was very eager to ask her about the cash!  She told me that when she first started working for "mzungus" in Nairobi, another Kenyan housekeeper told her that if she finds money in the clothes when she does the laundry that she can keep the money.  Finders Keepers!  But, she always felt that it was wrong to do that because it would be like stealing.  So if she finds any cash in OUR pockets or clothes when she does the laundry, she puts the money into Grace and Noah's piggy banks!  Which explains the mystery money (about $25) we found.  And, also it was a nice reminder that she is not only hardworking but also honest.  Yay for Rose and yay for our pikipikis :)


p.s. in case you haven't caught on yet, it is just really fun to say "pikipiki," which is why at our house we only say "motorcycle" when talking about a big bike that grownups ride.

Friday, July 12, 2013

July 12, 2013 - We Like to "Potty"

That's Right.  Potty training is on here in the Welsien house.  On Saturday we started the "3-day potty training method" with Noah (which is a "cold turkey" method).  I will spare you the "crappy" details, but I will say that he is doing really well and, while he isn't without accidents completely, I would say that the method was a good fit for him.  The common belief that boys are harder to train than girls is not holding true in this family.  

When Rose gets back from Kenya she will be SHOCKED because we planned to do it when she returned and was around to help, but when he started taking his diaper off and going to the bathroom on the floor we decided that time was of the essence.  And, some day in the not-too-distant future, Noah will hate me for sharing this picture.  (But Someone has to keep the therapists in business!)

He looks like a mini-man, now, doesn't he?!


Thursday, July 11, 2013

July 11, 2013 - Playdates. African Style.

A typical Tuesday morning play date here in Dar es Salaam.  Too much fun!


Sunday, July 7, 2013

July 7, 2013 - Holiday Out

For every 50 blogs Lisa writes I should at least write one. Writing about my job on a public blog may not be career-promoting, but something interesting actually did happen at work the other day…over lunch.

I eat lunch with a few of my colleagues at this very local place outside and around the corner from the office about three times per week. I pay almost a dollar per meal and then 60 cents for a large bowl of fruit. We sit among regular Tanzanians, and it is very relaxed and I only had a stomach problem once from eating there so it is completely safe. Anyway, I had an interesting experience at this very place the other day. Oh, the place is called "Holiday Out” because it is across from the Holiday Inn hotel (which now actually is called something else, but that doesn’t matter).

First: Do you remember when you were a kid and couldn’t finish your meal, and your parents would tell you to think about the starving people in Africa?

I don’t want to get into the definitions of food security, stunting and food consumption scores here but the argument never really made any sense to me. Okay, one should appreciate every meal but leaving a quarter of my Danish potatoes wouldn’t really make much difference for malnutrion in Tanzania.

So this place (Holiday Out) they always give you sooo much rice and now that I am in my mid-thirties my metabolism isn’t what it used to be so I’m trying to cut back on the carbs a little. So I tell the designated rice-scooper-guy that I only “nataka kidogo” (want a little), but he still gives me a very large portion…and, in this way this place reminds me of the Cheesecake Factory (Lisa may disagree because they don’t actually have any forks or knives at Holiday Out). Anyway, he gives me more rice than I wanted so upon finishing my meal I put the large plate aside leaving a handful of the dangerous high-carb white rice on my plate.

Suddenly, in the middle of a casual lunch conversation with my colleagues from our sanitation unit, a street boy walks up to our table and asks me if I’m going to eat the last rice. I say no. He takes the rice in one quick hand motion, gives an appreciative nod and walks off.

So, there you go Mum: my inability to finish my meal actually helped someone in Africa this time.


Saturday, July 6, 2013

July 6, 2013 - Six Years Later

And I wouldn't change a thing.


Friday, July 5, 2013

July 5, 2013 - Transition

Transitions are tough, and we're in one right now.  School ended last week, many of Grace's friends have gone to their home countries for the summer (we're the only ones not traveling at ALL this summer!) OR have moved/are moving away for good, and Rose is in Kenya for a couple weeks.  There is no normal routine or schedule, and they (okay, maybe it is mostly ME) do not function that well under such circumstances.  So today we're trying out a "substitute" nanny/housekeeper to see if that adds some more stability to the day.  And even though we have had three consecutive days of the worst possible behavior, it looks like they might be settling down a bit.  And they better!  Or it is going to be a very loooooong vacation before school starts again on August 13th!

They "look" sweet, don't they?


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

July 3, 2013 - Ras Kutani

Last Saturday, June 29th, was the 10th anniversary of the day Kristoffer and I met. It is certainly a day that we both remember fondly (and humorously) and we were excited to celebrate such a milestone.  For two people from different countries/cultures who were "set up" as mostly a joke, I think we've had a pretty incredible decade. 

As I also posted to my Facebook, 10 summers ago we looked like this:
And now, after 4 years of long distance dating and extremely high telephone bills, 6 six years of marriage (on July 6th), 2 kids, 3 countries and a whole lotta air miles, we look like this:

For this celebration, we drove 2 hours south for one night to an exclusive beach resort called Ras Kutani. It is a place for honeymooners and others seeking some simple luxury and romance.  They don't allow kids under 10, and we prayed for no kids at all (got some 10-12 year olds, but they were well-behaved!)  The food was AMAZING.  The rooms were lovely.  The staff was extremely friendly and acommodating. They really paid attention to a lot of small details to make you feel welcome.  There was a great massage therapist and we both enjoyed treatments from her.  We drank fruity cocktails with little umbrellas on the beach, we kayaked, we snorkeled.  We L O V E D every minute of our 30-hour trip.

Here are a few photos of the place (Nokia mobile phone quality).  Rose did great on her first overnight with our kids, and THEY did great without us.  Grace was practically pushing us out the door on Saturday morning.  We look forward to our next getaway, and highly recommend this lodge to anyone coming our way.  

Happy Anniversaries to us!  I wonder what the next 10 years will bring!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

July 2, 2013 - The Latest Buzz

As my last blog described Grace's journey of forgiveness related to Buzz Lightyear's broken leg, I thought it best to take a look at Buzz's journey!  It took Kristoffer some days to figure out HOW to fix Buzz...but then fix him, he did!

The Before Picture
Only the lower half of the leg was broken, but it was amputated at the hip for fixing purposes.

The Process
Involving candles and melting plastic and screws and nails and other such things.

Throughout his full leg-reattachment, Buzz was a true Space Ranger and smiled through the pain.

The After Picture
Buzz has greater movement in that leg than he ever had before!  As a bonus, the lower leg is now completely detachable, which we hope Buzz finds to be useful in some way during encounters with suspicious aliens.

Well done, Kristoffer! Grace finds herself even more protective of Buzz now, but she was very grateful her Far fixed him up for good.