Thursday, June 27, 2013

get to know Ben a little better...

Interviews with Ben. The first is about pizza. The second is about jobs. Ben's job, apparently, is to be crazy.

Kenyan or Texan?

Me: Are you Kenyan?
Nate: No
M: Are you Texan?
N: Yes
M: Do you like Texas?
N: Yes
M: Who lives in Texas?
N: Tex
M: What about Gigi and Grandpa?
N: No, just Tex.
M: What about your cousins James, Megan, Lauren, and Ryan?
N: Only Tex lives in Texas!!

Monday, June 24, 2013

return of potty training

In the dinner post I mentioned that Ben is trying to potty train.

as if talking about potty training isn't TMI enough...
He asked to pee in the potty daily and would take his diaper off to do so before we moved from Bamburi. I didn't start working with him then for 2 reasons. 1) I didn't think he was actually ready yet. He was 18 months old and was still going a tiny bit every 10-15 minutes. 2) I was fairly certain he would regress after the move. Still, I let him go in the potty when he asked.

After we moved, he did lose interest. Recently, he started wanting to potty train again. He told me he didn't want to wear a diaper, he wanted to stay naked, or he wanted to wear undies. We have mostly cement floors. Penny does laundry daily, so wet clothes would get washed right away with the diapers. I'm not that concerned about having to clean up pee. I let him do as he wanted because it was easier. He was happy. And hey, he's kind of training himself.

With Nate, I read blogs, parenting websites, helpful potty training hints and tips, etc. It's one of those (aren't they all?) parenting topics which, no matter how you do it, you're doing it wrong. Expert advice is conflicting, just look at all of these methods. This one says, "Give treats for motivation!" That one says, "Treats will ruin your child!" This one says, "If your kid is resistant to training, they may not be ready yet. Give it a rest and try again in a month or two." That one says, "Work through the resistance." This one says, "The average child takes 10 months to toilet train." That one says, "You can potty train your child in 1 day if you do it right." It's all so helpful. (But I did find this history rather interesting.) I saw "the best method" for potty training on Pinterest. It looked like so much work. Basically living in the bathroom for 3 days with the kid, with all kinds of supplies, rewards, stuff... Not for me.

Anyway, back to my "let Ben do what he wants" method. For 1 week, he was about half in diapers and half not. He was peeing less frequently, though. He could go for an hour without needing to. Last week,  he really only wore diapers away from home and in bed. Friday and Saturday, we still put diapers on him to leave the house, but he stayed dry every time! Yesterday, he didn't wear a diaper at all. I put a pair of good water-proof training pants on him when we were out, just in case. And he stayed dry! I am so impressed. He is doing great with #1.

However, he has yet to poop on the potty. At least he doesn't freak out about sitting on the potty anymore, but he will not poop there. We've pretty much got #1 down. On to #2.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

taco night: a recipe

Months ago, I found a recipe for homemade flour tortillas. We have occasionally found some imported tortillas here and there, but they are horrible. Really, extremely unpalatable. I made this recipe a few times. I blogged about it. I tested various methods. A few secrets I would add to that post are these:

The oil. The recipe calls for 2 tsp of vegetable oil. Our vegetable oil here is palm olien. It's ok in the tortillas. I tried coconut oil, but it made them too stiff. EVOO is the best for tortillas, in my experience.

Cast iron. I have a cast iron skillet now. It does a great job! And it is big enough that, when the tortillas are done, I can cook the taco meat in it. Great tortillas, fewer dishes to wash. Win/win!

Fluffiness. I don't know the true scientific basis for this, I'm no chemist, but it seems to me that in our warm, humid, coastal Kenyan kitchen, baking powder has super fluffy powers. I have to reduce the amount I use in our pancakes to keep them less than an inch thick. I also reduce the amount in tortillas to 1 tsp.

Floured surface. Perhaps also because of the climate, the dough is either way too sticky to work with or it has too much flour in it to stick together. I use about 1/4 cup of flour re-flouring my hands, rolling pin, and surface as I roll them out.

1/2 cup this time because I made a double batch

 Most importantly. When I first started making tortillas, I would stack them on a plate when done, covered with a towel. Then we got these nifty insulated serving bowls, with lids. In there, the heat from the tortillas creates a bit of condensation, which helps them retain their chewy texture. I think this has improved my tortilla results more than anything else. I'm assuming it's the same concept as a tortilla warmer.

But, this is about taco night, so on to the taco filling.

In Kenya, people don't really eat raw vegetables. We've gotten into the habit of cooking ours, especially if we're having company. It's only natural for our Ken-Tex-Mex tacos to have cooked vegetables in them.

A couple of months ago, I wanted to make cheesy enchilada casserole, but I didn't want to go to the trouble of making tortillas just to put them in a casserole. I had seen recipes for noodle-less lasagna, using slices of zucchini in place of the noodles. I had zucchini. I tried to mimic that for our enchilada casserole. It ended up soupy, so we used it as dip. But it was so yummy, Rodgers asked for it again! I tried it again, but didn't have the zucchini that day. It was not as good. We realized that ground beef + taco seasoning + zucchini = a winning combination. Thus, our taco meat recipe includes zucchini. And it is so, so yummy.

2 medium tomatoes, boiled, peeled, and smashed
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 Tbsp water
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp oregano

Prep the above ingredients in a large saucepan while the tortilla dough is resting. Put it on to simmer while cooking the tortillas.

4 zucchini, cubed
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium bell pepper, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp black pepper

Prep while the tortilla dough is resting (or get your husband to do it while you're cooking tortillas, like I did). After the tortillas are done, wipe out any flour left in the skillet with a clean towel. Heat oil, then add above ingredients and saute until done. Add to the tomato sauce (which is still simmering).

1 kg ground meat
1 tsp salt

Brown the meat with some salt (I always add the salt to the meat, rather than the sauce, don't ask me why - that's just when I remember to do it!). When it is done, drain and spoon into the sauce. Continue simmering. Do a taste test. I'm never sure quite how much spice I want to use, so I keep tasting and adding more spice. For the dip, I use the same amount of tomato sauce, but half the zucchini, half the meat, and top with cheese. Mmmmm, boy.

Finished product. Ben can't keep his hands out of my plate.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

my multicultural children

[Previous post on the topic here.]

A few weeks ago, we were out at a restaurant. There are many expats in Kilifi, though we don't know any of them. There happened to be a family at the restaurant that night who were a mzungu (white) mom with a black Kenyan dad. Their son was about Nate's size. Nate was so excited to see them, even though we didn't talk to them. He said, "Mama! That boy looks like me!" All of our friends here are black. All of his classmates are black. In the US, our friends are a bit more varied, but mostly white. Nate doesn't know any other kids who are half black and half white. It was kind of cool to see him find out that he and Ben aren't the only tan kids with curly hair.

Of course, he knows he's different from the majority of the kids here. Everywhere we go, kids run after us calling out, "Mzungu! Mzungu!" (And they aren't just talking about me.) But he still thinks that someone being black or white means they are wearing that color clothes.

This morning, I saw this posted on Facebook [click]. I think it's a cute commercial. I didn't see any of this hate speech myself, but I don't understand why people even care. But anyway, I mentioned this ad to Rodgers, and it started a conversation with Nate about our ethnicities and skin colors.

Rodgers asked Nate, "Are you mgiryama-mzungu?" (Which our boys are.)
Nate said, "No. I'm Mr. McQueen." (As in Lightning.)
Rodgers, "Are you mgiryama?"
Nate, "No."
Me, "Are you mzungu?"
Nate, "Yes."
It looks like we don't talk enough about being mgiryama. He has been told a lot that he is mzungu.

I asked Nate what color his skin is. He said his is red. He went on to tell me that mine is orange. Ben's is pink. These are his favorite colors, by the way, in order. Rodgers' skin is brown. And Gigi's is peach. Later, I realized he was holding these crayons in his hand, so his answers may have been influenced.

note Ben's teeth marks on the end of the peach

We'll keep talking.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

family praise history

Around the time Nate was born, Rodgers' and my Bible study class was studying prayer. Our study leader mentioned a great prayer study course called Disciple's PrayerLife, which was out of print. I mentioned this to my mom, and she said that about 20 years ago, she and my dad had done this study, and she still had her notebook. She gave it to me, and I managed to start week 1 during my maternity leave, but that was as far as I got. I really wanted to do the study, though, so it was one of the few books I brought with me when we moved here. I recently started it again.

During week 5, it teaches about a life of gratitude which involves (of course) expressing gratitude in prayer. Throughout the Old Testament, we see the Israelites singing the history of what God has done for them: rescuing them from Egypt, parting the Red Sea, providing manna in the desert. One of the assignments in week 5 is to write a praise history with your family. Recount the major things that God has done for your family, use scripture to thank and praise God, and read this as a family at least once a year, adding on to it as you go. This is about major events or blessings that have impacted your family. This is about a big picture perspective. We are to be thankful daily for "small" blessings as well, those things which we possibly take for granted. However, the praise history is for big, major things.

I love this idea, so I shared it with Rodgers, and he loves it, too. We wasted no time writing our family's history, starting with our marriage, though there are many big things that God did in each of our lives, before we got married, which impact our family. We may yet go back and add some of those. For now, I am just including our personal salvation. Since we'll be reading this as a family, I'm referring to us as "Dad and Mom." We are planning to to read through and add to our praise history every New Year's Eve, as a family tradition.

[God] chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.
Ephesians 1:4 
For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
Philippians 2:13 
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.
Psalm 136:1  

family and life events

  • As children, Dad and Mom both gave their lives to Christ
  • Dad and Mom got married
  • Dad was given permanent resident status in the US, miraculously hassle-free
  • Dad graduated from UMHB
  • Nathanael was born, active and spirited
  • Benjamin was born, goofy, but thoughtful
  • God sustained us financially through low paying jobs, unemployment, and beyond
He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
1 Thessalonians 5:24
The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father's God, and I will exalt him.
Exodus 15:2 
Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them.
Psalm 111:2 
31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Matthew 6:31-33

maisha kamili []

  • Maisha Kamili was dreamed up, at the encouragement of our pastor
  • Maisha Kamili board was formed
  • We moved to Camp to prepare for moving to Kenya
  • We received the remaining 60% of our fundraising goal at once, making us financially able to move to Kenya
  • We moved to Kenya to start Maisha Kamili
  • Maisha Kamili began sponsoring community MKKs
  • We had great support (in many forms) of Maisha Kamili during our trip to Texas in 2013
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
Philippians 1:6 
He remembers his covenant forever, the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations.
Psalm 105:8 
You have led in your steadfast love the people whom you have redeemed; you have guided them by your strength to your holy abode.
Exodus 15:13
And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:19 
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.
Hebrews 11:8

discipleship and spiritual growth

  • Dad and Mom took discipleship courses and learned to disciple others
  • We started teaching discipleship classes at one church in Kenya, with 2 others to join in the next year
Who is like the Lord our God, who is seated on high?
Psalm 113:5 
1 Praise the Lord! Praise the name of the Lord, give praise, O servants of the Lord, 5 For I know that the Lord is great, and that our Lord is above all gods.
Psalm 135:1, 5 
Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?
Exodus 15:11  
1 Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! 2 Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works! 3 Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice! 4 Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually! 5 Remember the wondrous works that he has done.
Psalm 105:1-5a

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

dinner with the Ken-Tex family

We have dinner kind of early. The boys eat best if they aren't super tired and ready for bed. When 5:15 rolls around, I start setting the table. It goes something like this:

I fix the boys' plates so that their food can cool. They are already in their chairs, ready. Nate says, "I don't like carrots! I like crunchy chicken." (Which is not on the menu.) Ben says, "Meat! Meat! I want meeeeeeat!"

I fix their drinks and turn off the TV, and Rodgers fixes our drinks. Nate and Ben have already burned their mouths on their food because they just couldn't wait any longer. Ben blows on his and says, "Go away hot!"

We sit down, and Nate blesses the food, "Thank you Gooooooooood, for the fooooooooood. Aaaaaaamen!" Then it's Ben's turn, "Thank you Gooooooood, for 'cchini. And carrots. Aaaaamen!"

I've taken 1 bite, and Ben is already asking for more zucchini. I give him a lot. Repeat x 4. Then he starts eating Rodgers' food. "More meat?!"

Ben has decided he wants to potty train, so he spends most of the day in only a T-shirt. Generally he should put something on his bottom to sit at the dinner table, but today I've forgotten about that. His skin makes a scooting sound on the plastic seat cover of his chair. Nate exclaims, "Did Ben TOOT?!" Then I realize that, not only is Ben wearing nothing but a T-shirt, Nate is wearing nothing but underwear. Oh well. We'll work on proper dinner dress next time.

Meanwhile, Nate has eaten only a few bites because he is making noises. I tell him to stop making noise and eat. "But I'm saying 'zee-zee-wha-wha-wha!'" Rodgers tells him, "Eat 10 bites, then you can say 1 word."

As I eat in the relative peace, it dawns on me that Nate is counting to 10 way too fast. "Nate! 1 bite, chew and swallow, then another." He's got half a link of sausage in his mouth and can no longer close his lips. He manages to get through it without choking himself, so that's a relief.

Rodgers and I attempt conversation. We are trying to teach the boys not to interrupt, so I think it's important that we give them chances to practice. They do a pretty good job, but it's still a little chaotic.

Ben announces he's done, jumps down, and goes into the living room to play. Nate is also done. It's time for him to do his homework, but Rodgers and I have only just started eating. I tell him I'll get his homework out for him once I've finished. I remind him to take his plate and fork to the kitchen, which he does. Then he goes to play in the living room with Ben.

Rodgers keeps an eye on them. This is the time of day when they run off all that extra energy they have so that they can go to bed. They are all over the place, but at least they aren't fighting.

Once I finish eating, I call Nate back to the table to do his homework. Rodgers is still finishing up. Ben gets back in his chair to eat more from Rodgers' plate and some from his own because he still had food left when he was "done."

Finally, the food is all eaten, homework is done, and we have a few minutes of play time left before the bedtime routine starts.

And Nate says, "I'm ready for a snack."

Saturday, June 8, 2013

school update

The Happiest Toddler on the Block (full disclosure: I've never read it) describes 3 main personality types of toddlers: easy, shy, and spirited. Ben is mostly shy, though he has some traits of the easy toddler as well. Nate, who is not so much a toddler anymore, is fully spirited. Neither is as good with new situations as the easy toddler, but Nate has gotten a lot better recently, maybe as part of coming out of toddlerhood? It did take him 4 weeks to warm up to his new school, though. (P.S. He is still 100% a spirited child.)

showing me how Jamali plays cars, in his Monday/Wednesday uniform (with the sweater because it was raining and a bit chilly)

Nate fussed when I dropped him at school a few times. He cried real tears once, when his teacher wanted to talk to me. I had to go into his classroom instead of just sending him in with one of the teachers. They have a diary in which they record what the kids do and eat each day. There is a spot for the teacher to make a note to me, so I don't really know why she needed to see me in person that day. It really disturbed Nate, but I think he calmed down as soon as I left.

Last week, he was telling us about his friend Jamali (Jamal, actually). He has since added to his list of friends Kevin, Munda, Makunene, and Felista. He has playtime and extracurricular activities that he didn't get at his old school. We didn't sign him up for every activity offered, but he has football (soccer) on Tuesday afternoons and Taekwondo on Thursday afternoons. The whole class has computer class on Tuesdays, too. Nate loves showing us what he's learning in football and Taekwondo.

showing off his new backpack in his Tuesday/Thursday (PE) uniform

We've just completed the fifth week of school. And this week, he started being excited to go to school. Previously he would ask hopefully every morning, "I'm not going to school today?" Now he finishes breakfast and announces, while still in his PJs, "OK! I'm ready to go play with Jamali!" There's no more fussing during drop off, and he even says "good morning" to the security guard.

On Fridays, they usually let out a few minutes early. The kids go out to the playground to wait for their parents. Rodgers had arrived early to pick Nate up and was walking up to the gate just as Nate was taking his backpack off to go play with his friends. Nate was not excited to come home - for the first time ever.

At his old school, Nate took his lunch and snack every day, but the principal here wanted to see if we could get him to eat their food. We're paying for it anyway, it's worth a try! They repeat the menu every week, so every Monday is rice and beans; every Tuesday is sukuma wiki and ugali, and so on. They have porridge for morning snack, except Wednesdays when they have milk. In the afternoons, they have fruit, usually bananas.  The first week, he drank porridge most days, but at nothing. Eventually, he decided to like bananas (which, I might add, he only ever ate in the puree phase), and gradually started eating the lunches. Besides Tuesday lunch and milk on Wednesday, Nate ate everything served to him this week! He even ate pojo! I think his teacher is still a little concerned that he won't eat Tuesday lunch or Wednesday morning snack, but I am totally happy with this.

ready to go to school, in his Friday "home clothes"