Sunday, January 30, 2011

Maisha Kamili

Remember my post about my biggest challenge for 2011? Well, we've been working on it a lot.

We've written mission/vision/values/strategies, a tentative plan and timeline, and our intentions for the future of the ministry. We didn't know what to call it, though.

We got to meet with a couple who are doing a similar thing, also in Kenya, but another part of the country. They rent houses and put 8 orphans and 1 widow in each house. This gives the widow a good, steady job, and also provides a mother figure for the children. It's not the approach we're intending to take, but talking with them was helpful. They recommended we read a book called When Helping Hurts: Alleviating Poverty without Hurting the Poor...and Yourself. Rodgers bought it the next day. He has read it, and I am on chapter 3.
[from Amazon]
You can read the first few pages on Amazon or
What I have read so far discusses the fact that people's needs are deeper and more complex than what meets the eye. Also, white Americans tend to have an air of superiority (or maybe a Superman complex) when dealing with those in poverty, though we are messed up people, too. They discuss different kinds of poverty besides not having money. We are all in some kind of poverty. It is important when helping people to 1) consider the fact that you are also in poverty, even though you may own a home and 2 cars and 2) minister to the person's full life, not just the part that you think is causing their poverty. For example, a single mother may not be able to hold a job, not because she's a poor employee, but because she has trouble getting childcare and lacks confidence in herself. Helping her get training or finding someone to hire her won't solve either of those.

Street kids will remain in poverty for many reasons. If we are to truly help them, we must consider their full life. This is what we've been discussing all along, but reading it in this book made me realize that the name of our ministry is Maisha Kamili, which is Full Life in Swahili. (The A's are like the A in father, I's like the I in ski: ma-I-sha ka-MI-li.)

Maisha Kamili will have its own blog one day, but not yet.

Friday, January 28, 2011

I want preseeeeeeeents!

[Teen Girl Squad quote]

We took Nate to Toys R Us today to get his birthday presents. We had a $5 off coupon from the Birthday Club, plus a TRU gift card, plus some cash he got at his birthday party. So, we ended up spending... $0.

We found this really awesome Elmo spinning chair, but didn't get it. It would have taken more than half of his birthday money, and then we couldn't get him an umbrella stroller. Rodgers thought it wasn't fair to make Nate buy his own stroller with his birthday money, but I don't think it will really make a difference to him one way or the other.
[Toys R Us]
I love our Metrolite stroller, but I've really been wanting something more compact, especially since he's getting too big to be worn in the Baby Bjorn or sling. Rodgers really likes the Jeep umbrella stroller, but we went with the cheaper one instead.

He got two toys, one which he picked out himself. He got a flip phone, which sings "Lalalala Elmo's World," and the buttons make noises too. He knows the song and giggles when he hears it. If you've seen the newest videos on our YouTube channel, you will see that Nate loves opening and closing flip phones.
[Toys R Us]
There is a piano in the church nursery he loves to play. So when he saw a piano at the store, he got very excited. He was too excited to even touch it at first, he just kind of looked at it in awe. But after Rodgers played a few notes, Nate got into it too. Rodgers put it in our basket so we could buy it. Nate threw a fit and tried to get another one off the shelf. He thought we were just taking the toy away from him. We let him hold his piano until we checked out. He was so happy.
[Toys R Us]
So, there you have it. Nate's first birthday is now complete.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

cross-cultural marriage: bonus

After posting, one of my friends shared this on Facebook. Very interesting and a suitable addition to my series!

10 Fascinating Interracial Marriages in History

cross-cultural marriage: misunderstandings

One common thing in cross-cultural marriages is that you don't always understand what your spouse is saying. Sometimes you understand the words, but they don't make sense to you. Sometimes you don't understand the words, though they are in your language. And sometimes, your spouse is speaking to you in a language you don't know.

This may be more of a personal characteristic than first-language-not-English, but it definitely comes into play in me not understanding what Rodgers is saying. He starts talking before he knows what he's saying. A couple of times a week, he will say a word that may start or end with the same syllable as what he wants to say, but is, in fact, a different word. It would be something like saying "exterminate" instead of "extrapolate," but I don't think that's one that's actually happened. These instances always end up with both of us in fits of laughter. Scary thing is, I usually know which word he's trying to say.

Rodgers' language is one of those in which each vowel only makes one sound. A (as in father), E (as in hey), I (as in ski), O (as in rode), U (as in dude). He has particular trouble with the short vowel sounds of a and u in English. He considers staff and stuff to be homophones, same for us and ass. Not only does he pronounce them the same way, he hears them the same way, too. A typical exchange in our house:

me: I'm talking about us.
him: Whose ass?

him: All the st(a/u)ff was there.
me: All the stuff or all the staff?
him: Those are both the same thing.
me: No, listen: stuuuuuuff, staaaaaaff.
him: ???

When he's spoken to me in Gyriama, he's usually either just woken up or he's talking in his sleep. I first noticed this tendency while we were still dating.

I had driven down to Brenham to visit him for the weekend. By the time I arrived it was after 9. I was tired from driving, he was just tired. We should have gone straight to bed, but we wanted to spend some time together first. (Since we slept in separate rooms, bedtime would not be time together.) About all we had the brain power for was watching TV. We found a movie on, and Rodgers fell asleep. At 11, his watch beeped, waking him up. He opened his eyes and asked me a question about what was going on in the movie. I sat for a minute, replaying the question in my mind over and over. For the life of me, I couldn't make any sense of it. So I asked him the obvious, "Was that English?" It wasn't.

More recently, just last week or so, I woke up in the middle of the night hearing Rodgers' voice. I looked over at him, and he was still sleeping. I didn't understand anything he was saying, so I'm guessing he was speaking Gyriama again. The only English word he said was, "Whatever."

What's the moral of these stories? I don't know. Maybe it's that misunderstandings can be frustrating, or they can amusing. They are what you make of them. Or maybe it's that you should ask for clarification if you don't understand what someone's saying. I mean, maybe you just weren't listening well, but it could be that they were speaking another language.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

birthday update

So...we had a birthday party. Considering the fact that we are planning to move to Kenya possibly soonish (we are so precise in our plannings), we can't be sure when Nate may have another birthday in Texas. I wanted to have a very small party, but we ended up having 18 of our closest friends over for lunch instead.

I made lots of chili. According to the food experts, I should have made much more for the amount of people we had there, but we ate only a little more than half what I made. I made 2 double batches of cornbread - one with sugar and one without - in my iron skillet. My iron skillet is big, and Rodgers always complains that a single batch of cornbread isn't tall enough. We had a tray of cheese, crackers, and summer sausage (don't tell the guests, but this was leftover from the previous weekend...), a tray of veggies with ranch dip, and a tray of apples with caramel dip. The veggie and apple trays I bought pre-made so that I wouldn't have to do more work, but I washed them because I'm not convinced that they're really clean when you buy them. We also had Ranch Style beans, grated cheese, sour cream, and jalapeƱos.

I made monkey cupcakes. We'd had some the previous weekend when my family was in town, so they could celebrate Nate's birthday, too. I used the leftovers from that (which had been frozen all week) and made another batch. I used part of the batch to make a little cake for Nate.

The party was great. Everyone was impressed that I can cook. Nate loved his birthday lunch so much that he didn't have room for cake. He sucked some of the frosting off his fingers, though, and fed me some, too. (Feed Mama is a favorite game of his.)

Nate was entirely overwhelmed by the amount of people, so he was rather clingy and fussy, but he did have some fun, especially opening presents. Especially when one of his presents happened to contain a can of Gerber Graduates Lil Crunchies, his all-time favorite snack.

Our dear friends helped us clean up, and some even helped bring stuff back to our apartment. (We were in the "club house" by the apartment office because our apartment cannot accommodate 21 people!) Then, Nate took a nap and Rodgers and I crashed for a while. That was nice!

Yesterday, Nate had his 12 month checkup. It included MMR, Hep A, and Varicella vaccines, as well as a blood draw to test for anemia and lead exposure. That was rough. He is big enough now to put up a significant fight. The Dr had been concerned with his growth because his weight had been going down in percentiles - he was still gaining weight, but at a slower rate than "average." His height percentile went up this time, though, so she's not too concerned, but she did warn us that if his weight percentile goes down at 15 months, she will be concerned. He comes from skinny stock, so I totally expect his weight percentile to go down as his head weight : body weight ratio decreases. They didn't measure his head this time, so I will do it with my sewing measuring tape because I am curious to see if his head is still monstrous or if he's starting to grow into it. Anyway, sum up:
weight: 22 lbs (25-50th percentile)
height: 30 in (50-75th percentile)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

what a year!

At the time this is published, it is exactly one year since Nate was born! Life has only gotten better for all of us over the past year.

A year ago, Nate didn't really eat much. He did sleep a lot. Today, Nate eats 4 meals a day of table food (breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner). He drinks 3 bottles of formula every day and is starting to drink whole milk instead. He naps from about 9-11 am and 1-3 pm, and sleeps overnight from 7 pm - 7 am.

A year ago, he loved being cuddled and nothing else. Now, he loves Elmo, his monkey, and his blankie, and he will occasionally tolerate a cuddle. His favorite toys are those which make noise (whether by a mechanism within or simply by banging them on the furniture) and those which can be thrown (most everything is in this category).

A year ago, Nate had a cry that sounded like a sea gull. Now, he screams (for fun), babbles, and cries like a little boy. He also says Mama and Daddy, though sometimes he leaves out the dd, making it Da--y. Or Dada. Or Baba. He calls Rodgers many things, but I'm just Mama.

A year ago, Nate could support his head well for a newborn, and he could grab things. Now, physically, he can do just about anything but walk. He is strong and has good fine motor skills, but he just hasn't quite mastered balancing enough to walk. My theory is that his head is too big and throws him off balance. It was big when he was born, too. Either he has a big brain or a thick skull. ;)

A year ago, Nate liked looking at me, Rodgers, and anything shiny. He still likes shiny things and us, but he also likes looking at pictures and books and watching Elmo on TV. His favorite books are the ones with lift flaps. He loves finding the hidden pictures. He discovered my birthday card that plays music. He opens and closes it over and over again to make the music start and stop. He loves controlling things.

A year ago, Nate had tons of thick, curly, black hair. Now, he has short (because we cut it), thin (because it was falling out around 9 months, but is growing back), brownish hair. He still has his huge dark chocolate eyes, chubby cheeks, and dimples. He was wearing NB and 0-3 clothes; now he's in 12 mos and 18 mos.

He has changed so much in these short 12 months. It's amazing how fast this year went, especially considering that the preceding 9 months were the longest of my life. While it is strange to think of him as a little boy more than a baby now, I'm not sad that he's growing up. Every stage of this past year has been more fun than the last, and we have much more to look forward to.

Friday, January 14, 2011

baby books

Before Nate was born, I found a baby book (The New Baby's Baby Journal) to record his milestones and little tidbits about him as a baby. I purposely found one that was more fill-in-the-blank style. I have kept up with it, mostly. There is a page for every week of the first year, and some weeks I didn't really have anything to write. Sometimes I skip weeks, and try to remember later what happened. But also, there are pages for major events, some of which don't apply (first pet), and some things I wanted a page for but there wasn't one (dedication at church), but in the end, it's all kind of worked out. I still have to fill in the winter page, but I can't decide if I should do last winter or this one; the artsy outing page; walking/dancing/talking/singing; and the first birthday.

We also have a baby's first year calendar. This has helped with the weekly fill-ins. It's easy to jot things down on the day they happen. Then, I can go back and fill in the journal later.

But also, at one of his showers, we got a little scrapbook. It has cute paper and stickers and things to make it up as you go. Well that's a lot of work. I want to do something with it, but I haven't yet. I have the journal from his first year, so I don't think I need to fill it with baby things.

I am thinking, though, if we move overseas, like we plan to, maybe I can make this scrapbook into some kind of Texas picture book for him. I could put pictures of his Texas relatives, some Texas culture. OR, I could do that for half the book and do the other half with Kenyan family and Kenyan culture. Or maybe I can just make the whole thing family pictures. Or I can drag it out over the next 17 years as a Nate-grows-up book. So many options.

I really think that when he's 2-, 3-, 6-years old, he'd enjoy looking at pictures of his relatives who don't live in the same country as him. That's my favorite option so far. Any other ideas?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

working mommy wednesday

Prompt 2: favorite recipe

You must know, we love to crockpot. Especially when I'm actually working, it's so incredibly efficient and makes such yummy meals. We used to crockpot once a week. Now, not so much. Our favorite is pot roast. I don't exactly have a recipe per se. And definitely no measurements. More like...estimations.

1 beef roast
Some potatoes, scrubbed and cubed
3 handfuls of frozen whole green beans
2 handfuls of frozen chopped carrots
1 can cream of something soup (I use whatever happens to be in the pantry, usually mushroom)
1 packet dry vegetable soup mix (onion soup mix works great, too)

Put roast in the crockpot
Throw veggies on top
Pour soup and soup mix over and stir
Cook on low for 6-8 hours

Doesn't get much easier than that.

We also cook in substitutions. Don't have the "right" veggies? Throw anything in there. Almost everything tastes awesome in that sauce. The only thing I don't recommend is cauliflower. We tried that once, and we both thought that the flavor of it overpowered the other flavors. Sometimes we mash the potatoes instead of serving them cubed. Or, sometimes we don't have potatoes so I make biscuits to go with it instead. The only thing you really have to have is the roast. Without it, this is vegetable soup, which is also good, but not pot roast.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

working mommy wednesday

Prompt #2: Biggest challenge of the new year.

I'm not ready to talk about it in detail on this blog yet, but my biggest challenge for the new year is huge. I mean HUGE. Not wanting to leave you too much in the dark, I give you a brief overview:

Rodgers and I have had a dream to start and run an orphanage in Kenya. They don't have the same kind of system that we do, where the state takes care of children when they lose their parents. It is expected that aunts, uncles, and grandparents will take the children in. However, there are many cases where there are no relatives, or at least there are none who can take care of the children. Maybe they have already adopted so many of their nieces, nephews, and grandchildren that they really can't handle any more. Or maybe all the relatives have died, or they have no contact with them. However it happens, children end up living in the streets. There are an estimated 250,000-300,000 street kids in Kenya. We want to help out a few of them.

We had been thinking that this project is years away, but it's becoming clear that 2011 is the year we get all the logistics worked out. Like I said, it is a huge challenge.

Monday, January 3, 2011

cross-cultural marriage: in-laws

This is how things go when I visit my mother-in-law:

We greet my mother-in-law with "Shika moo," the appropriate way to greet your elder. She shakes our hands saying, "Marahaba," which is the proper response. They find me a chair and sit me down with one of the men who speaks English - either a cousin or brother. Then, Rodgers goes off somewhere (he doesn't always tell me where). My mother-in-law goes to her kitchen or wherever she is making meal preparations. Even if it's not mealtime, she has to offer me a meal because she regards me as a special guest.

All the relatives live nearby, and news that there is a mzungu (white person) around travels fast in the Kenyan countryside. Everyone has to come see me. The women and children greet me when they arrive, then they go off to their respective places. The kids are usually running around; the women help cook. I have tried to help cook before. Rodgers told them that I needed to see the way things are done in Kenya, but they will not let me. So I sit and tell Rodgers' brothers and cousins about what crops we grow in Texas and what our homes look like. They are sorry that Rodgers and I don't have any land where we can plant corn (we live in an apartment).

When men arrive, they greet me. If the know English, they will say, "How are you?" If they don't speak English, they will say, "Habari." Then, they send a child to get them a chair. Once Rodgers' uncles arrive, no one speaks English anymore.

So I sit, greet newcomers who arrive, and keep a ear out for English. Usually, they're talking about me and will ask me about something every now and then. It's quite lonely.

Eventually, Rodgers will return, and then I feel a little more comfortable, but I'm still on display for all of his relatives. He doesn't translate everything for me, but will at least tell me what they're talking about, and ask a niece to bring me chai or something.

I don't have in-laws telling me how to raise Nate or meddling in my marriage. I have in-laws who find me something of a spectacle, fascinating, but can't or won't talk to me. And we barely know each other. I think this will be different if/when we live in Kenya.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

end of year slideshow

Some of these pics are in the Christmas letter post. I was just choosing pictures to print for the frame that Rodgers got me for Christmas. It has 7 frames, front and back, so 14 pictures. I thought that would be perfect for one picture from each month of Nate's first year, plus a family picture from last January, and a family picture from this month. I love this collection of pictures so much, I had to share.

goals for 2011

I had a couple of goals last year. One was to lose some baby weight; the other was to be more strict with the budget.

Nate was about 10 months old when I hit my goal weight (I lost 27 lbs in the first 2 weeks, then about 1 lb per month after that, for a total of 37 lbs lost) and 11 months old when I hit my goal size (I slimmed down in 2 spurts: 1 in August, 1 in November). I had a whole month to spare. By the way, I am not even trying to get down to pre-pregnancy size and weight. That would be ludicrous.

We did better with our budget the first half of the year, then when we found out I was losing my job, we did a lot better. I didn't feel like we ate out a lot, but when I told Rodgers "no more fast food and one eating out or delivery per month," we suddenly had a lot more money. We've also only been buying new clothes with gift cards/money we receive for birthdays/Christmas (he's as bad as I am about wanting to buy new clothes, though at least now, he gives away the ones he doesn't wear anymore instead of stockpiling them). That's been tough with me changing sizes, but the perfect thing is that I know other people who are changing sizes, too, and sometimes the size they are coming out of is the size I'm going into, and ta-da, new clothes for Rachel!

On to the future.

1. Read through the Bible
In the past, I have read through the Bible in a year a few times. I'd like to do that again this year. We will be doing books 3 and 4 of MasterLife, and I anticipate it will take a lot of time, which makes me kind of reluctant to make this goal. However, I am still going to go for it. I've come up with a reading plan that takes a little less than 11 months. I hate plans that assume you're using them during leap year. It bothers me to have to double up or carry the reading plan over an extra day. Also, I can guarantee that I will miss days occasionally. I needed a plan with a little wiggle room. There is a link to my reading plan in the sidebar on the right.

2. Christmas in Kenya
We will take two weeks off next December to spend Christmas in Kenya. Rodgers has already put in his request for time off. We are making this plan in faith that whatever job I get will allow me to take the time off as well. And we have already started saving for the airfare, as we'll have to buy 3 tickets next year. Technically, Nate will still be young enough to ride in our laps, but seriously? Who wants to share a tiny airplane seat with a 23.5 month old for 18 hours straight? It will be a tough trip as it is, I think we'll need that extra seat.

3. Get a Job
Ok, I know I just said we're doing ok because we're budgeting so much better now than before. But, I only have 3 more months of unemployment left, and after that, we will have to start taking money out of savings. Which means that goal #2 would be less likely to become reality.

4. Read 2 Books per Month
I really love reading. I got a library card last year and checked out books once. Then, some people gave me some books to read, I bought some off a clearance table, Nate was born, I had no time to go to the library anymore... Sometime around August, I started going to the library again. While I'm home I can read about 1 book per week without neglecting my chores. Once I have a job again, I assume I'll be back to lunch break reading only, which means it will take me longer to get through a book. I think 2 per month is a reasonable goal.