Thursday, August 26, 2010

Nate loves monkey

Before Nate was born, we decorated his nursery. We had been gifted a collection of jungle [stuffed] animals. Two of these were lanky monkeys with velcro hands. When you squeeze their tummies, they shriek. We decided that could get annoying, so I hung the monkeys over the changing table for Nate to look at while we change him.

One particularly cranky diaper change, Rodgers made one of the monkeys shriek. Nate has been obsessed with them ever since. (See video previously posted to our YouTube channel.)

A few months ago, Nate started leaning towards his bottle when he was hungry. Then he started reaching for it. Then, he started reaching for Rodgers or me if he just wanted us to hold him. Then he started reaching for toys. He has only reached for 3 toys, that I know of: the Razzberry teether, a plastic cup, and the monkeys.

When he's standing on the changing table (I stand him up in the process of picking him up after a change) he can reach one of the monkey's feet. Last week, he started grabbing them. I would sometimes lift him up so that he could grab the monkey and bury his face in its tummy. He loved it.

Tuesday night, I decided to throw caution to the wind and pull down one of the monkeys. Nate grabbed it with both hands and didn't let go of it until he was sleeping. He can easily get tangled in the lanky arms and legs, so we don't leave it in the crib with him overnight, but he cuddled it while falling asleep Tuesday and Wednesday nights. He is clearly in love.

I wish we'd gotten his face in this picture. It was precious.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

stay-at-home-mom day

Nate puked twice yesterday. We were trying him out on a store brand formula that's comparable to Enfamil. He seemed to be adjusting well to it until Sunday morning. We're back on Good Start now. No saving money. His tummy is still a little sensitive, but otherwise he's doing great now. He's back to his cheerful, good-sleeping self.

But, regardless of how well he feels, since he puked yesterday he couldn't go to daycare today (they have a 24 hour rule). I stayed home with him rather than Rodgers because I have paid sick days and he doesn't. If he were still feeling bad, it would have been a rough day. But it was so much fun! I got things done, too. I straightened and dusted the living room and dining room (the daily chore for today). I unloaded and reloaded the dishwasher. I did prep for tonight's dinner (but haven't made it yet), and steamed rice for tomorrow night's stirfry (the stirfry doesn't take long, but the rice is sloooooow). Also, I installed babyproofing things. We have outlet covers and cabinet latches. There is just one door giving me trouble, so I saved that one for Rodgers. We went to the church and picked up MasterLife books because Rodgers and I have decided to join the study that starts next month. Also, I spent hours playing with Nate, cuddling him, feeding him, etc. Rodgers was home for lunch, and we decided to order pizza since it's a treat kind of day. I almost wish Nate had puked today, just a little bit, so we could stay home tomorrow, too.

My happy boy, feeling good on Stay-At-Home-Mom Day.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

our trip! stories from Kenya. Thursday, Friday, Saturday

Revival Baptist Church had a big party for us. We were supposed to be there at 11. So we had breakfast at Little Chef (rather than the free hotel breakfast), who has the best breakfast in town, complete with mango juice (in season). Then we went to pick up Rodgers' laundry from Agie's (his cousin) house, and got to the church early.

Rodgers sat me with the kitchen ladies, while they prepared veggies for cooking. They spoke English with me for 20 minutes or so, then switched to Swahili and kind of ignored me. I felt awkward butting into their conversation in English, especially when I didn't really know when there was an opportunity to do so, since I didn't understand most of what they were saying. So I went inside the church to change Nate's diaper and sat with Rodgers and Alistone, who will talk to me.

Rodgers sent me with Florence (in the picture in a black shirt) when she needed to go home to find a document for the guy doing the inspection on her truck. We talked the whole way there. She is very impressed by our church forming the partnership with theirs. She was also impressed by the activities we do. At her house, she fixed breakfast for the kids who were there, and I fell asleep on the couch.

Once back at the church, I took the opportunity to use the new restroom. It is not totally complete yet, but looks pretty good and is usable! One outside wall is painted:


We sat in front of the church while some men swept and prepared the inside for our lunch and a service. I left Nate there when I went home with Florence. Rodgers had passed him off to Esther. He took a nap, then she fed him his lunchtime bottle, and played with him till he was ready for some baby food.

Our lunch was fabulous! Clockwise, from the chapati: chicken, rice, stew from the chicken, potatoes and onions, and mixed veggies in some kind of sauce. Watermelon, pineapple, and bananas for dessert.

After lunch was a little worship service. I knew the first song that was sung (thanks to Rodgers playing it on YouTube nonstop), but not the rest. Then, of course there was speaking. Then Kenyans do love their speeches. I should have known we'd have to make speeches ourselves but I was totally unprepared. Naturally Rodgers made me go first.

When it was all over, we went home with Florence. She prepared a late dinner for us, and Rodgers' cousin showed up just in time to join us. He brought his wife and their 1 month old baby. Nate was already in bed, but we brought him out to meet George, then put him back to bed.

Florence thought it was too cold for Nate to sleep in our room with the windows open, but it was actually the warmest night we'd had since being in Kenya - probably about 78 degrees or so in our room when the breeze wasn't blowing through the windows.

We did a little more shopping before leaving. Rodgers wanted a Big Five shirt, and I wanted some kikoys for my family.

We went to Domians, to return the car. We intended to take him to lunch, but he and his wife offered to feed us there. Florence's husband was flying in from Afghanistan (he works with a humanitarian aide organization) that morning. His flight was delayed, but when he finally arrived, she brought him to Domian's to see us. Rodgers and Mwangome are both rarely in Kenya, but it's cool that the past couple of times Rodgers has been home, their paths have crossed for a day or two.

Nate made friends with Domian's two year old, Don

Then, Domian took us to the airport. We'd decided to leave at 3:30, giving us an hour to get there, arriving about 2 hours and 20 minutes before our flight. Turns out our 6:50 flight actually was scheduled to depart at 5:30, so we waited in the airport a much shorter time than expected, but we had forever to wait in Nairobi.

On our overnight flight to Heathrow, we had an extra seat on our row. I sat by the window and Rodgers on the aisle. Nate slept the whole way on the seat between us.

It was a long day. Literally. We started the day in Kenya's time zone and ended in Texas, so it was a 32 hour day. We made it to Houston without incident, and Mom and Dad were there waiting for us. We stopped at Sonic on the way to their house. Nate fell asleep at 3ish central time, and only woke up a couple of times to eat before morning.

our trip! stories from Kenya. Wednesday

Rodgers told his family that we'd be back to see them this morning. There were clouds rolling in Tuesday night, but it didn't rain. It rained enough Tuesday that one more shower would render the road too squishy for the Corolla. If we had a Land Cruiser, no problem, but the Corolla's a bit more delicate.

Since it didn't rain, we packed up, had breakfast. In 2008, they had the lovely breakfast pictured below, included in the price of the room. In 2010, we bought chai and a few chapatis.

At Esther's house, Rodgers told me to sit in Wilson's sitting room since he speaks English. It seems that Rodgers really doesn't like interpretting for me. Anyway, I answered all of his questions about America. We wanted to leave by 10:30. About 10:15 I started noticing some dark clouds. We left 10 minutes later, and the rain hit a few minutes after we cleared the potentially squishy road.

We took Halima with us to Malindi (she would take a matatu home to Marereni). We sat in our cafe, waiting for lunch with Francis. He was in some kind of meeting with missionaries. When he finally showed up, we had lunch, then went to his house to pick up his backpack, and took him with us to Mombasa. His house was still under construction when we were there in 2008. It's complete now and looks great! I told Rodgers he can build me a house like that, but it has to have a sitting toilet in the house. I would also like a stove.

in the cafe with Halima

It was nice having Francis and Halima with us on the drive south. In each town and some villages, there are huge speed bumps. Here in Texas, they would be called speed humps. They are not painted and have no signs to warn you they're coming. You just have to know. We missed one on our way north. Rodgers saw it at the last minute, slammed on the breaks, left some tread on the pavement, and we still caught some air coming over the bump. I thought for sure the car would be broken after that, but it seems fine. Francis and Halima have made the trips enough times that they know where the speed bumps are and gave Rodgers sufficient warning ahead of them.

We dropped Francis at his hotel. He was asked to come down to help some missionary conference. There were some Americans there whose English was unintelligible to the Kenyans at the conference, so Francis was to translate American to Kenyan English or Swahili.

Then, we went to the airport to get my suitcase! I was so relieved that it arrived before we left. There was hardly any traffic because it was a public holiday. They had elections on a new constitution for Kenya. The final count on the voting was 67% for, 33% against, so Kenya has a new constitution! Rodgers was able to get a copy of it before we left, and he has been poring over it.

Besides Nate's malaria pills, my suitcase contained gifts for Esther. We took her 2 mugs with pictures of us on them, Nate's first school picture, and some gifts from friends of ours. Of course we didn't have them when we were at her house, and we wouldn't have time to go back up there before leaving Friday, so we left them with William. Hopefully he will have a chance to take them home soon.

We went back to Jundan Hotel for the night. I suggested to Rodgers we go to Blue Room for dinner. It's a pretty nice restaurant, and he loves their pizza, so he readily agreed. It's walking distance from the hotel, so we carried Nate in the Baby Bjorn.

Then it was somehow already bedtime.

There is a mosque next door to the hotel. Last time I stayed there, it took several days before I was able to fall asleep again after the call to prayer. The 2 days we stayed there this time, I only barely woke up for it. Either I'm becoming a deeper sleeper or having a baby makes me really really tired.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

our trip! stories from Kenya. Tuesday

Today was the main feature of our trip. We spent the whole day at Esther's house. By tradition, they can't kill the meat and start preparing the meal until the guests of honor (us) have arrived, so they wanted us to get there at 7 am. We were there by 8:30 or so.

I met several cousins, a few of my sisters-in-law, and my youngest brother-in-law (Jonathan) right away. The rest were yet to arrive.

They set up some chairs under a tree for us and brought tea and mahamri (sort of fried bread). We could have eaten breakfast at our hotel, but left too early. Rodgers' cousin Freddy (I think) sat with us. He's not afraid of speaking English, so we were able to have a conversation that I could be part of. Then, Rodgers' older brother Wilson walked out of his house into our midst. We didn't really expect him to be there. He was excited to meet Nate. Some of Rodgers' uncles also showed up about that time, and passed Nate back and forth.

The first scattered shower came through, so we moved our chairs into Wilson's sitting room. When the rain let up, the cousins would take Nate outside to play. When another shower started or he got fussy, they would bring him back.

Before slaughtering the goats, they had Nate and me (and Rodgers, but that pic didn't turn out well) come out to take a picture with the goats and the givers of the goats. Rodgers' dad's only living brother (in the maroon shirt) gave us one goat (which instigated the whole party) and Esther (in blue) gave us two. I don't know why the other people are in the picture.

As we sat in Wilson's sitting room, everyone who arrived would come in to greet us. The uncles would stay and talk for a few minutes. Rodgers asked one of his sisters to bring us some roasted corn. She picked it from the garden, roasted it, and sent it to us by way of one of the nieces or nephews. It was delicious. Then, she kept sending more and more and more. We gave those to Rodgers' uncles and whoever else happened to be there, until Rodgers told her, "No more!"

Eventually they brought us the goat livers, by tradition. Despite all the weird things I've eaten in foreign countries, I still can't quite stomach the thought of liver. Rodgers knows this, so he told Jonathan (who brought it to us) that I can't eat it and to give it to the uncles. There was a lot of it, so they also shared some with the kids who were hanging around.

Finally, it was time to start the ceremony. They set up a table and 2 chairs under the trees where we were before. Everyone gathered in a big circle around us.

Not everything was translated for me, so I don't know exactly what was going on. Freddy said some stuff, then another relative got up and led everyone in a song. I felt like they were celebrating the fact that we were there, and it was quite touching. I got a little misty eyed.

Rodgers' dad's cousin gave us some marriage advice. Is it bad that I don't remember what it was? It's on video, in English, so I will watch it soon and remember.

After this, different people also got up and talked. The family patriarch, Esther, Wilson, and Kadzo (a sister, the first-born), and Rodgers and I also had to say something. I almost cried again when Esther was talking. She called the song leader up for another song. She danced and sang and cheered before she said her piece. Rodgers almost cried when it was Wilson's turn because he gave Rodgers the biggest hug ever. Rodgers has never expected such affection from his brother.

Then, some of the kids and some of Rodgers' sisters sang a song while people brought money to put in a basket for Nate.

The whole time, there was a white box on the table in front of us. I thought it looked like a cake box, but who knows what Kenyan cakes come in? Turns out it was a cake. The frosting was odd, very sugary and food-coloring-flavored. The cake itself was more like banana bread. It was small and there were a lot of people, so everyone got one bite. We fed each other a bite, then took a plate of bite-sized pieces around the circle. We fed (together, with both of our hands on the fork) the elders in order of importance. We tried to get it on video, but the cameraman accidentally stopped filming in the middle of the cake cutting. We should have checked on him. We started with the #1 uncle (the one who gave the goat), then I think was Esther, then the other uncles/father- and mother- in-laws' male cousins, and also Wilson. Then the aunt who presented the cake cut more pieces and everyone else got to come get their bite.

Finally, it was time for lunch. I should have taken a picture of the food! It was lots of rice (we bought 50 kg dry) with goat meat, eaten with the hands. I would call it pilau, but I don't know if there are other requirements besides rice and meat that make a dish pilau. I really haven't mastered the art of eating with my hands, yet, but I tried. Rodgers had a sister bring a spoon for me, but I told them I need to practice eating with my fingers.

They put one or two heaping plates for each group of children. The adults got their own plates. The uncles cleaned their plates and ate ugali afterwards, but we couldn't eat that much.

We stayed for a few hours afterwards. Rodgers had a couple of meetings with his uncles. They said he needs to give his mom some money to build a storage building for her corn, which he has already done twice. Then she gives it to the uncles so they can make the arrangements, aaaaaaand nothing ever happens. So Rodgers told them if they want her to have a building they can cough up the cash themselves.

Eventually, we took some group shots, then left. We had dinner at our hotel - chicken fry and chips. Chicken fry is stir fried chicken in a tomato based sauce. Just before we left, the airport called and told us that they finally had my suitcase! We were supposed to stay with the in-laws until Thursday morning, but started making plans to return to Mombasa Wednesday.

Oops! I almost forgot. One more interesting thing. Rodgers' dad's sister sat down with Joyce (a friend of Rodgers) for a few minutes. Joyce speaks English well, so she interpreted for us. This aunt wanted to know how it could be that Rodgers and I got married without his parents/aunts/uncles going to talk to mine. I told her that's not the way we do things in the US. If people want to get married, they decide on their own, without their parents' involvement. She asked about the bride price. In their culture, the groom has to put together a dowry of sorts for the bride. He brings it to his future in-laws, and they inspect it. If they approve, the wedding proceeds. So I told her that we don't do that, but in our history, it was customary for the bride to provide the dowry. That totally blew her mind.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

our trip! stories from Kenya. Monday

After confirming that my bag didn't make the next flight to Mombasa, we went shopping. I bought 3 t-shirts, 3 pairs of undies, and some capris (which had a Giorgio Armani label). We also got baby wipes and some toiletries for me.

Then, we headed home. Our friend loaned us his car, which simplified life so much. I was kind of dreading trying to take all our stuff (which wouldn't be such a problem since I had no stuff) and Nate on matatus and buses, and then walking to Esther's house.

We met up with Halima (Rodgers' sister, the one who had a baby last time I was in Kenya) in Malindi. We were supposed to see some friends, but for some reason Rodgers' phone wasn't working, so we couldn't call them to meet up. We had lunch in the cafe we frequented in 2008, then bought some groceries for Tuesday's party (including 50 kg of rice).

Then, it was off to Marereni, to the same place that we stayed in 2008, which has gone to pot. We wanted to check in before going home in case we were late getting back, and it was after check in time. The place was quite nice (though sparse) in 2008, but it's not very nice anymore. The plumbing was broken in every room, in some way. Maintenance isn't a priority in Kenya, so they let things go until it's absolutely unsuable. We got a room with a shower that dripped constantly but wouldn't shower. We collected the water in a bucket and had spit baths. At least the toilet worked. The sink did not.

We went home, and Esther greeted me much more warmly than before. We sat with some cousins and talked for a while. More people showed up every 30 seconds or so, including Esther's 3 sisters. They somehow made me think of Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which from A Wrinkle in Time. Rodgers noted that, the longer we stayed, the more people would show up, and the harder it would be for us to leave. Because of the road, we wanted to leave before dark. So we quickly told them goodnight and left.

Nate wouldn't have been able to use his travel bed at this place because we needed to use mosquito nets. Their rooms all have 2 twin beds, so one of us slept with Nate the first night (with a rolled up towel filling the gap between the mattress and the wall), and the other one the second night. Here he is before Rodgers and I went to bed:

Rodgers' phone was working again, and he called the airport, but my bag was still missing.

our trip! stories from Kenya. Sunday

After a long flight, we arrived in Nairobi a bit late. There was a huge mob of people at immigration, but we found out that there was another area of immigration that didn't have so many people, and we'd be allowed to use any line to get a visa. So we went over there and it took a few minutes. By the time we got to baggage claim, our flight was boarding but we had about 20 minutes before it was scheduled to leave (which turned out to be about 15 minutes earlier than our travel itinerary said). We had taken so long at immigration that luggage from our flight was already on the carousel. I waited for about 10 minutes but my bag never came out. I asked one of the baggage handlers if my bag might be coming soon or if I should forget it and run to my flight to Mombasa. He took my baggage claim sticker and looked around in the back (where they load the bags onto the carousel), then came back and told me to just go and report my bag missing in Mombasa.

The flight was still waiting for us, but someone had taken our seat because his seat was next to a person who took up 1 1/2 seats. Since he was a bigger person than me, I told him he could keep my seat, and Nate and I squished in to the only empty seat on the plane. It turned out well. The girl next to us (on the other side from the large person) was very excited to play with Nate, and she even held him for me for part of the flight.

We got to Mombasa, did the missing baggage thing, and Rodgers took us to the hotel - the same one I stayed at in 2008.

In my wisdom, I had Rodgers pack things for Nate (clothes, formula, food, etc), and Rodgers had bought diapers, so Nate would be fine without my luggage. The only Rodgers didn't have for Nate was his malaria medicine (it's a weekly pill, which he was supposed to have Sunday night). In our carryon, I had bottles and some other small necessities for Nate, but I packed it very lightly. I had nothing for myself, not even a toothbrush.

Nate's travel bed was also in my suitcase. We made him a pallet on the floor, but when he woke up, he was terrified, so we put him back to sleep in between us in the big bed.

a little tidbit

While I work on writing up our Kenyan adventures, here's something to keep you going:

On the flight from DC to London, I was sitting next to a Scottish girl. I was supposed to be in the middle seat between her and a little girl, but she traded with me so that I could lean against the window, since it was an overnight flight, and I looked like I could use some sleep. Very thoughtful of her. I was concerned I wouldn't be able to get out easily, but we only had to get up once or twice since Nate slept the whole way. That's not the story, though.

She told me at the beginning of the flight (before Nate's first meltdown), "Your baby is lovely!" The way she said "baby" immediately reminded me of Fat Bastard from Austin Powers. Suddenly I had a mental image of her standing in the aisle shouting, "You look like a baby! Get in my belly!" 'Twas quite amusing.

Monday, August 9, 2010

our trip! stories from England.

We left home before lunch. Mom dropped us off at the airport, and our adventure began!

Our flight arrived late Thursday morning. Because of Nate I was allowed to go through the very short permanent resident line at immigration to get our visas, rather than the super long line I should have been in. Olly and Cat met us outside of customs.

After a pitstop for shower, coffee, changing Nate, etc. at Olly's parents' house, we drove out to Somerset. We drove right past Stonehenge. We didn't get out to look more closely because the view from the road is actually pretty good, and you can't get very close to the stones anyway. I didn't take a picture, but it would have looked something like this:

I tried on my dress for the wedding that afternoon. It was tight in the waist, even with my tummy sucking undergarments, but it fit surprisingly well. (Picture is from Saturday morning.)

Nate slept well until about 11 pm, when he started waking up every 10-15 minutes. I brought him to bed with me, and he slept until about 5 am.

Cat had some pampering scheduled in the morning in Wells. Bethany (maid of honour, BFF, sister weekends, former flatmate), Nate, and I went with her to Wells, and toured the cathedral while Cat was being pampered. We taught Nate that if he does something important enough in his life, his tomb will become a tourist attraction like the ones at the cathedral.

After Cat was done, we went to Cheddar. We sampled cheddar cheese from Cheddar, then I had to choose between cream tea and fish and chips for lunch. I chose cream tea, and it was an excellent choice.

The wedding rehearsal was that evening, followed by dinner of courgettes (zucchini) at home. Emma and Ruth had arrived for the wedding, so they hung out with us. It was very good times!

Nate was back on his schedule for the most part Friday, but still had trouble staying asleep around midnight, so he slept with me again.

Wedding day!

The wedding was beautiful. Nate did well sitting with Mother and Father Weekends during the ceremony. The reception was lovely as well. It was a very long day, though.

The toasts were particularly entertaining. Father Weekends, the best man, and Olly all gave little speeches and made toasts. My favorite part was when Olly started getting sappy talking about Cat. Right at the climax of sappiness, Nate spit up a massive amount, as if in response to the gross amount of romantic sentiment. That's my boy! Olly noticed which made it all the more awesome.

The bride and groom went off on their honeymoon, and Olly's parents took Nate and me home with them, so that his mom could drop us off at the airport Sunday morning.

Nate spent the whole night in the pack and play. I don't know whether it was from being super tired or if he was getting used to the new time zone and not being in his own bed. Whatever it was, I was so thankful for a full night's sleep.

Airport, flying, arrival in Kenya!

Next: our trip! stories from Kenya.