Saturday, January 25, 2014

January 25, 2014 - Noah's 3rd Birthday Party!

For Noah's first two birthdays we were visiting my family in America, so he had small family birthdays.  They were wonderful and lovely, and totally appropriate for a 1- and 2-year-old.  But our 3-year-old was definitely ready to expand his birthday partying style, and so this year he had a party with his four friends from school and his big sister.  

The first and only glitch was that the drumming teacher, who was going to come to do drumming with the kids for 30 minutes, cancelled 2 days ago and I was not able to find a replacement (and Noah did ask for him twice today!).  So we sort of had a little more "free time" than anticipated.  But otherwise it was really fun: bouncy castle, bajaji rides, treasure hunt, great cake!  All of this made for a happy birthday boy.  
Fun Presents!

Bouncy Castle with Friends!

Bajaji Rides!
So the story behind this is that Noah would love to ride in a bajaji all the time, but we never let our kids do it because it is so unsafe (and we have a good friend who was in a bad accident).  So for 30 minutes we hired a bajaji to drive around our compound with the kids...and as you can see below Noah loved it, which was totally the point!

 (check out this smile!)
 Kristoffer and 6 kids in the Bajaji at the same time!

 My first ever "selfie" with Noah and his friend Anker :)

 Treasure Hunt!
Kristoffer had the kids going all over the compound and the house finding shovels and buckets (and some candy) along the way until they came to the spot where the treasure (their goodie bags) was buried.  The hard part was that Noah's treasure was buried the deepest and was found last - but he was a great sport.  And the goodie bags - which were sand buckets filled with a few beach items - were a big hit (although the kids thought they were missing the actual "goodies" - candy!  My bad!).

Grasshopper Cake!
Noah really wanted a grasshopper cake for some reason. And I found a great expat baker who was able to make this from an internet picture.  It not only looked insanely cute, but tasted REALLY good.  Moist and delicious chocolate cake - everyone loved it! And after dinner tonight we polished it off :)

So happy for our happy 3-year-old boy!
(and now we have a month to gear up for Grace's birthday! Then I can fly over to Boston for the final countdown to the BBG's arrival.  Yikes!)

Friday, January 24, 2014

January 24, 2014 - Major Milestone

I hope this isn't tooooo embarrassing to Grace (or perhaps with five years of being blogged about we're beyond embarrassment and just fueling her future-pyschologist's hours...), but in our house this week we are super excited that she has started sleeping through the night DRY.

Obviously she has been potty trained for a long time - like more than 2 years - but night time has never been easy.  As much as mentally and emotionally she's been ready to sleep in big girl underwear since before she was 4, physically it has not been possible.  Even over the Christmas holidays when we tried it she had several nights of accidents and we went back to Pull Ups.  Even recently she was wetting through Pull Ups and changing them in the night herself.  

But to all the Mamas out there who told me not to worry or stress and promised me that she would not go to high school sleeping in Pull Ups - Thank You!  You were right!  I don't know exactly what has clicked in the last few weeks but something has changed.

Now we continue to not let her drink too much after 5 pm (she used to be sort of an addict-drinker), she goes potty 2 or 3 times before bed, and one of us wakes her up to pee once before we go to bed (a strategy that previously only worked if I set an alarm and woke her up every 3 hours...which was horrible for both of us!).  She has been dry in her Pull Ups for a few weeks, and three nights ago she said she was ready to try underwear again.  With complete success!  

Her pride and confidence has sky-rocketed, and so has mine!  I feel like this is a particularly good reminder that all kids are different, and there is no "right" or "wrong" time necessarily for these things to happen.  I am especially happy for her that it happened before she turned 5 (since we know kids who have been dry at night since they were even 2 or 3!) because that was something she was really hoping for!  

And here is our happy almost-5 year old big girl today being cute and silly with her 3 year old brother before school today.  We've definitely had some happy mornings this week!


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

January 22, 2014 - Three Cheers for Noah!

Our little buddy is three years old today!  THREE!  Here is a look at his day.
(We have a serious camera problem these days - relying primarily on the iPhone, a problem that we better solve before the BBG arrives - sorry to you and mostly sorry to Noah for the poor quality photos.)

The three year old woke up to a full family birthday party!

Gifts galore!
His favorite upon opening might have been his fireman costume.  The scooter, big boy Legos, and his new baby doll were also very popular.  Later in the day he literally played with everything!

 (below, eating the chocolate that Grace bought him to go with the helicopter she also bought him with her own money from her own piggy bank...the whole thing was pretty darn cute, if you ask me...)
Pancakes by candle light with SPRINKLES on them!
(Note that Noah loves sprinkles!  He would eat them on any food if we let him.  Today he got a LOT of sprinkles!)

(Bad picture below because of K's big elbow, but I just loved how happy he was to get his baby doll!)

Far stayed home late in the morning so we could all go to school together and Noah could help raise the Danish flag in honor of his birthday.  You know Danes...they LOVE their flag!

This is my favorite video of the day:
 Grace (who had a pretty hard time NOT being the birthday kid) made a big presentation to everyone so they would know that it was her brother's birthday.
 And my favorite moment of the day was when Noah ran over to say goodbye to his Far, and then the two of them just cuddled and spent some minutes looking up at the flag he had just raised.  For the rest of my life, when I think of Noah turning three, these are the three picture I will see in my head. 

 I came back a bit later to bring ice cream for his class to eat after lunch.  
He always gets a little weirded out when I am in school during the day, but he was pretty happy about the ice cream.

Noah's flag flew all day...
 Back at home for the afternoon there was a lot of playing with new toys, and a few minutes of watching his new movie, Finding Nemo (while Grace has had the attention span for a full movie since birth practically...Noah still doesn't quite have the patience for a full-length film!).
 He requested chapati and "balls" (read: peas) for dinner, so that's what he got!
 And at 7 am this morning before school he requested Superman cupcakes for the evening.  
Supplies are limited and costly in Dar, and my baking talents are even more limited...but while they might actually be the ugliest cupcakes ever presented to a 3-yr-old on his birthday, Noah was still happy about them (and they did taste good.)!
 Noah closed out the night by building his new "big boy" Legos with Far and Gracie before bed.  He has a great eye for detail and a big attention span for projects like these.  At school they are always talking about his great attention and fine motor skills - so this was the perfect project for him (even if Grace didn't enjoy letting him do his own thing not exactly according to the directions).

Stay tuned for more in a few days...his small birthday party with his four friends will be on Saturday, with a better looking cake I assure you.  

So what can I say about this boy?  Three years later I am still sappy and emotional and totally in love with him.  He is a happy, great kid (also quite stubborn and tenacious when he wants to be!) who makes me smile and laugh, asks a lot of really interesting questions and still whispers sweet nothings in my ear (like today:  I don't want my Mama to ever get eaten by a shark like Nemo's Mama).  He never fails to charm my socks off, and I am so grateful he's ours.  I can't wait to see a whole new side of him in the coming year as he becomes a big brother!

Happy Birthday, Noah!  We love you very much!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

January 16, 2014 - Fundis

Living in East Africa, something you get used to pretty quickly is the constant presence of "fundis".  The word fundi in Kiswahili actually means "technician" I think, but is applied generally to any kind of handy man, skilled (or not so skilled, as the case may be) laborer, day worker.  We use it to talk about the plumber, electrician, carpenter, mechanic, etc.  And because of a lacking or absent proper vocational education system here, you often need a LOT of fundis because quality is not so good and things are often breaking.  Also, you can't buy as many "ready made" things as at home, so you are often hiring people to build or make things for you.

In the last few weeks we've had a number of fundis in our house:  to give us new wireless internet, to reupholster the sofa, to fix the cars, to build Grace and Noah's new bunk beds (coming soon!), and to fix a blown fuse (note that we've had an unusually long stretch with no need for a plumber!).  Of course I have gotten so used to this that it doesn't phase me at all and when we are not home Rose and Christopher are perfectly capable of managing different fundis, but last night I heard Grace's perspective on fundis for the first time.

Situation: the fundi came (during dinner of course) to fix the blown fuse and check other electrical wiring

Grace:  Another fundi is here?

Me:  Yup.

Grace: Why is everything always broken?

Me:  Well, sometimes that just happens and we need different people to help us fix all of the different things.

Grace:  It's too many fundis.  How about for tomorrow and the whole weekend, we have no fundis at all!  I'm tired of all these fundis!

Who knew she had such pent-up fundi aggression!  HA!  I really got a kick out of it.  Not that at home you don't have repairmen or workers around too, but certainly not to the extent or degree that I think we're used to here.  Someday this will be one aspect of Grace's culture shock when we move back to the US or Denmark! But in the meantime, I hope we can honor her request to have a fundi-free weekend.


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

January 15, 2014 - Crowded...again...

Living in Africa brings an expectation of being sick sometimes.  Dealing with all the bacteria and germs and God knows whatever else is not the most pleasant part of living here.  You might recall from way back in the final month of my pregnancy with sweet Simba (Grace!) that I got sick with a parasite called giardia (flashback to here if you want the gory details).  I got sick with the same parasite this past June, and it appears that giardia has hit me once again.  For the last 3 nights I was in truly great discomfort with the symptoms of giardia - which are distinctly different than symptoms of other bugs, in my experience. I will spare you the deets on that. But on Monday my doctor gave me medication to treat my symptoms, advising me to wait to actually treat the parasite for another day or two.  It is pretty difficult to diagnose with lab work and in my case the parasite wasn't showing up (which doesn't mean that I don't have it, at all), so she just wanted me to wait and see if I improved before taking the medication for it.  It is safe to take it after 3 months of pregnancy, but of course in general you don't want to take anything you don't have to take when you're preggo.  So I waited and seemed to get better because I had largely stopped eating.  But with feeling better came bigger meals yesterday, which led to tremendous suffering last night.

Finally at almost 11 pm Kristoffer found an open pharmacy to fill the prescription.  The symptoms are so clear that I have no doubt it's giardia...and it could take another week for it to show up at the lab.  YUCK! So the meds work really quickly - you take a lot of pills all at once for two days and that's it.  I am already feeling soooooo much better and really hope this is my last bout with giardia (although let's be real...).

By tomorrow the BBG should have a bit more square footage back on the inside that she doesn't have to share with anyone (anything?) else.

Monday, January 13, 2014

January 13, 2013 - The Big K

In August, Grace will start Kindergarten.  This blows my mind.  The pretty formal (and expensive) kindergarten application I submitted to the International School of Tanganyika one week ago also blew my mind.  And then when I got there and actually walked around the campus to see the pool, the gym, the classroom buildings...well, I was done for.  Admissions permitting, she will be in a school with an actual campus that looks more like a mini-university than any kindergarten I've seen at home.  It seems so surreal.  Our girl, who is more or less a big fish in the Nordic School pond she attends now, will be a very small fish in what might as well be an ocean!  

The kindergarten has a good reputation, and is a more American-system of education; she will also be with or near many other children she knows from pre-school in a very diverse environment.  Our drop-offs and pick-ups will now be at two different schools in different parts of town (newborn in tow, I suspect...but then again, we have Rose!) so logistically life will be more complicated.  But she is sooooo ready for it.  She talks about going to the "Little IST" (since Mama works at the "Big IST" - secondary campus) pretty often, even though I don't think she has ANY idea what it will be like.  I think we'll take her for a visit soon actually.

Even though we're not "in" yet (fingers crossed!  It is competitive, but my employment at the school and our diplomatic status should have us at the top of the list...) I have to start processing/writing about it now because I think when the time comes it will be a hugely emotional transition for all of us (or maybe just me?) and I have to get ready for it!


Sunday, January 12, 2014

January 12, 2013 - On Parenting

Parenting comes with very high hopes, goals and expectations.  Like most other parents, we strive to do all the right things for our kids: provide for all of their basic needs, feed them healthy, give them a good and predictable routine, play with them, teach them everything we know (and think we know), love them crazy and unconditionally but set boundaries and limits and provide discipline that does not include screaming at them, give them new and interesting opportunities, know, the works!  

And there is a lot of pressure to be the "perfect" parent in our society right now; just this week alone I read quite a few articles or blogs about "mompetition" or "the mommy wars" and how much stress these societal dynamics cause. It can be really overwhelming, so I just try to remind myself that most days we are doing well and the kids are doing well and we're all trying our best, and hopefully we have more wins than losses on the "good parenting" front. 

But some days (yesterday, specifically), we can't stop yelling at them!  Absolutely everything they do drives us crazy and we literally can't stop yelling.  And we feel tired and frustrated and exasperated, even though they are pretty awesome.  And then we feel really guilty about all of that yelling and end up letting them eat popcorn in front of the TV for dinner while watching a Disney movie and totally skipping their bath and blowing off their usual bedtime routine.  And every now and then that has to be OK too.  They're still well and we'll just try again tomorrow.


Thursday, January 9, 2014

January 9, 2014 - Staff Stories

While certainly much more comfortable in my "employer" skin than I used to be, having household staff remains one of the most interesting parts of living the expat life.  We have definitely become completely dependent on having staff - especially when pregnant! - because they do make our life here so much less difficult and stressful than it would be without them.  And they also make it really tempting to never go home again, where we will most certainly have to do our own laundry, iron our own clothes, wash our own dishes (in the dishwasher, at least) and clean our own toilets!  

Discussing things like contract and salary terms and conditions, over-time and vacation days, etc. always feel totally awkward to me because we are in our house - not in a place of business!  I always end up feeling horrible during these discussions, even though I know I have learned a lot and gotten better at them.  It is a delicate balance for sure, communicating these things with East Africans who have very different cultural perceptions and understandings than we do.  

But I do really like our staff, Rose and Christopher, and especially enjoy moments when we are together in the house laughing about something or trying to "teach" (maybe just explain?) some cultural differences to each other.  That part of having staff is great.  It is also very educational because sometimes I overhear or am told things that really remind me of how different our two worlds really are.  They never cease to surprise me!  This week there were two surprises.

First - Rose's daughter traveled back to her boarding school on Tuesday. She had to be there by 2 pm and her aunt took her on a bus, which was late.  So that Karen, Rose's daughter, arrived at school 20 minutes later than she was supposed to be there.  Not only would the teachers not let her in the gate of the school's compound, they told her she had to return the next day with an adult, or sleep outside the gate until the next day.  Her aunt was no longer with her and the teachers would not let her use one of their phones to call anyone.  Karen somehow got an askari (guard) to let her use a phone to message Rose, who called back to hear the story and could then try to get through to her sister or the school.  I think Rose harassed the school enough that they eventually - though several hours later - let Karen in, but they told her she would punished.  This would most likely mean that she would be woken up at 4 am to tend to the school's crops before breakfast.  CAN YOU EVEN IMAGINE THAT THEY WERE ACTUALLY GOING TO MAKE A TEENAGE GIRL SLEEP OUTSIDE THE GATE BY HERSELF OVER NIGHT!  No security risk there!  AHHHH!  The whole thing was maddening. Rose was really upset, understandably, and frustrated (at the school and at her sister, who would not go back to the school to help sort the situation out) and I kept telling her: Don't stop calling!  Just keep bothering them!  Don't let it go!  They will give in!  Crazy strict Kenyans.  

Next - Christopher tells me at the same time as the Karen situation is going on, that he has malaria.  Now granted, he didn't know this.  But he felt like he had a fever (as he prepared our dinner.  I told him: put down the veggies!  Please!) and to all East Africans a fever = malaria.  They just assume.  I told him to go right to a clinic for a malaria test.  Often here people are incorrectly diagnosed and treated for malaria because it is just "easy" for clinics to do that.  But I hoped he would get an accurate result.  He didn't come to work yesterday but he did come today.  He said it was not malaria but some other kind of infection which they could see in his blood work.  So he was getting antibiotic injections and painkillers for a bad headache yesterday, and was starting to feel better today.  He worked half of the day before I got home from work and sent him BACK home because I was not convinced that should be working yet. I am happy that he doesn't have malaria of course, but also that he did not get a false positive malaria test and, therefore, medication he doesn't need.  That is a really big problem here from what I have heard.

There is always something interesting to learn or hear about from our staff.  In an otherwise totally expat/cushy environment where we are not at all faced with the "real" life of Africans, we do get some understanding of their realities this way.


Sunday, January 5, 2014

January 5, 2014 - 24 Weeks

The BBG is 24 weeks on the inside today.  I feel huge.  Not sure if it is because of the heat and my hands and feet feel swollen, or if I am actually bigger because of the whole "third baby" situation.  I know two other women here with due dates the month before is having her first and the other is having her second and they are both MUCH smaller than I am. Kristoffer thinks I look smaller than I was with Noah at 24 weeks, although I am definitely bigger than I was with Grace at 24 weeks. Well, you can form your own opinion using today's picture for comparison.

Aside from the heat and my sciatic nerve, I feel really good.  As long as I avoid fried food, my indigestion is not bad and I have fewer eating issues than I did in pregnancies past.  I have fighting some sinus pressure, but that is just Dar for you.  I have been really tired but have probably been doing too much the last three weeks and hope to get a better balance starting tomorrow (when school reopens and our staff returns to work...can you hear the angels singing?).  

On Friday we took Grace and Noah with us for an ultrasound, just to check on how the little one is doing in there.  This was them in the waiting room...giddy with excitement, as you can see.

The BBG looked really good.  She was extremely cooperative in some ways - we could easily tell that she is DEFINITELY a girl.  She was moving around well, but much to Grace's disappointment she did not wave to her big brother and big sister.  She was puckering her lips though, which was pretty sweet. She weighs 600 grams right now (more than a lb!) with the placenta in the right place and lots of fluid in there.  Her heart rate was normal, and all of her parts and pieces looked just as they should.  

There is a lot of baby excitement in this house.  Because this time of year a lot of expats depart, there are quite a few sales going on and we're pretty much stocked up on everything we need.  There are a few items on our amazon wish list for when I get to the US but all major supplies have been secured already, which is KIND OF AMAZING.  I'm talking swing, exersaucer, bumbo, bouncy seat, walker, bassinet, etc.  We're totally loaded!

With the baby coming and the confirmed extension of Kristoffer's contract, I'm going a little nuts in the nesting department.  We got new higher-speed Internet, we've ordered bunk beds** so that Grace and Noah can share a room and give the BBG her own space eventually, and we're reupholstering our filthy white sofa.  I'm organizing and purging and having a great time.  I have WAY more mental energy for all of these activities than I do physical energy in the heat...but I feel confident that it will all get done before I head to Boston mid-March.

So all is well on the Bonus Baby front, and I feel like with each day we are getting more ready and excited to meet her.


**Everyday for the last many days, when Noah wakes up he asks me a version of these two questions:  1) why aren't we going to the doctor to take out the baby today? and 2) why are the bunk beds taking a long time?   It is great news that at this stage is so excited about two big upcoming transitions in his life!