Saturday, July 27, 2013

what's in your collection?

On Dinosaur Train, the kids collect various things. Shiny collects shiny shells. Buddy collects dinosaur facts. Don collects anything that strikes his fancy. Tiny collects...her Tiny Doll? I think that's the only thing in her collection. Nate is a collector like Don.

From the time he could walk, Nate wanted to stop in parking lots and collect rocks, shiny objects, dirty things, and anything that could slice his finger off. If we were playing outside, rather than just passing through, he would fill my pockets with rocks. The only exception was when there were puddles. He always wanted to throw rocks, but I only allowed him to throw them into water. He took advantage of that every chance he got.

For the longest time, he never cared to take these collections with him. But eventually, after enough Dinosaur Train talk of collections, he decided he did want to keep a collection. I gave him this mesh zipper bag (it used to serve as my on-the-go toilet paper carrier, but it is a tiny bit too small for my Coleman camping TP).

hung on a nail in his room, high so no kids can pull it down and scatter tiny things all over my floor
He is now rather selective of what he adds to his collection. Often he chooses only one thing to add at a time. Last week, he came home from school with a piece of mother-of-pearl. I thought he would want to get out all the pieces in his collection, sort them, hang on to some for a few minutes. But, no. He just handed it to me and said, "Put this in my collection."

To date, he has 7 bottle caps (3 Coca-Cola, 1 Sprite, 1 Fanta, 2 AFCO), 5 tiny shells, 3 cashew nuts still in the shell (I'm worried about these rotting), a big spiky shell (found in our yard), 61 Euro cents, a stone carved into a heart and painted blue, a piece of white glass, and a piece of mother-of-pearl.

Thursday, July 25, 2013


We were planning to get Nate a bicycle for his 3rd birthday. I thought a tricycle would be more suitable for his abilities, but all the trikes here were 100% hard plastic, really bad quality, and expensive. There are acceptable quality tiny bikes with training wheels, so we decided it would be best to go straight to that.

Nate had his birthday in TX. We gave him some small toys and books so that he would get birthday presents from us. Once we got back, we decided to wait until the end of the school term to get his bike. It was too hot to ride in February, and he would have more time to enjoy/learn to ride the bike during school break anyway.

Then, we ended up moving during school break, and there is no pavement around our new house, just soft sand (oh, the troubles of living 500 yards from the ocean). We had already waited months after his birthday, what was a little longer?

We debated when to get the bike, or if we should put it off until we moved somewhere with at least hard, flat ground for him to learn. Then also was the problem of Ben. If Nate was riding a bike, we wanted to get Ben something to ride for his birthday, too, but the trikes are horrible and the ride-on cars are even worse.

Then today, we saw these babies at Tuskys:

Aluminum frames. Sturdy wheels/tires. Good quality grips. Comfy seat! Only 2 in the store, and they won't restock. They're like Big Lots. They get what they get, and when it's gone, that's it.

In Texas, we could choose from a wide variety of products, in many price points and varying degrees of quality. We could determine which product we wanted and buy it at an appropriate time. In Kenya, when we see something like this, which has been on our "fat chance we'll find it here" wishlist for months, we buy it right away!

Ben's birthday is 7 weeks away. Nate's birthday was over 6 months ago. A very merry unbirthday to them!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


While he still loves his favorite books about his favorite characters (particularly any Thomas & Friends books), Nate is in a non-fiction phase. From time to time, I find free books for our Kindle Fire that I think the boys might like and download them. This week I found many, many non-fiction picture books about animals, Nate's favorite.

We already had Penguins, Lizards, and Giraffes, which are all featuring during bedtime stories of late. They were free when I got them, but aren't free today.

At school, he is learning about insects (and spiders) this term. I think this may be sparking some of his enthusiasm for learning about animals. I remember we had several scientific books about our world when I was a kid, and I loved looking through them. I also remember several non-fiction animal books (like Chickens Aren't the Only Ones), that I had. With these books on our Kindle, Nate can have something like that for free! Win/win! These books tend to be rather wordy and informative. It's too long for us. Usually when we read them, I just give him a few key points about each page or picture. He loves seeing all the different kinds of penguins or lizards, and learning about which ones live in Kenya (agama lizard) and which ones live in Texas (TX horned lizard), but penguins don't live in Kenya or Texas, though we did watch a movie about them on the airplane between the two places (Happy Feet).

I love this one

Now, we have Killer Whales, Bats, Horses, Sharks, Dinosaurs (one and two), Meerkats, and Ants. The killer whales, bats, and horses are still free today.

The free books change so frequently, sometimes I wish I could check them every day. I was really surprised to find so many free non-fiction animal books yesterday. And actually, there are a lot on there right now, too. Jackpot!

Next stop, do they have any about space?

Thursday, July 18, 2013

us vs us

We love the movie Cars in this house. Recently, we found Cars 2, and now it is also a favorite. We watch both of them once a week. In the credits of Cars 2 is a cool song, Collision of Worlds by Robbie Williams and Brad Paisley. It compares US to UK, not in a better and worse kind of way, in a different yet the same kind of way. It has me thinking about Texas and Kenya this way. Rather than us vs them, this is us vs us because we are Kenyan-Texan.

In TX, we have Dallas Cowboys (American football).
In Kenya, we have Harambee Stars (soccer football).

In TX, we drink iced tea.
In Kenya, we drink hot chai.

In TX, we have I-35 and I-10 (among many other major highways).
In Kenya, we have Mombasa-Nairobi Road and Mombasa-Malindi Road (which have numbers, but no one knows them).

In TX, "taking lunch" means packing it up and bringing it with us.
In Kenya, "taking lunch" means eating lunch.

In TX, "sweet" means something has sugar (whether cane sugar or another sweetener) in it.
In Kenya, "sweet" means something is delicious, even if it's savory, tart, spicy, or otherwise not ... sweet.

In TX, we love shopping at Target.
In Kenya, we love shopping at Naivas.

In TX, "smart" means intelligent.
In Kenya, "smart" means well dressed.

Texas is a state, part of a country, and it contains counties, on the continent of North America.
Kenya is a country, which contains counties but no states (though it used to have provinces rather than counties), on the continent of Africa.

Texas has TXDOT.
Kenya has KeNHA.

In TX, we can buy food from the driver's seat of our car by going through the drive thru at a fast food place.
In Kenya, we can buy food and more from the driver's seat of our car by sitting in traffic and waving to a street vendor.

In TX, we can get TV via antenna, cable, satellite, U-Verse, Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Instant, or Roku.
In Kenya, we can get TV via antenna or satellite.

In TX, we have 2 seasons: summer and Christmas.
In Kenya, we have 2 seasons: dry and rainy.

In TX, we often hear English mixed with Spanish.
In Kenya, we often hear English mixed with Swahili.

In TX, we drive on the right side of the striped road, which has designated passing zones and speed limits.
In Kenya, we drive on the left side of the may-have-been-striped-at-one-time road, which is full of speed humps and pot holes (and maybe we drive on the right side if it's smoother and there is no oncoming traffic).

In TX, we have the Gulf of Mexico.
In Kenya, we have the Indian Ocean.

The list can't be complete yet. What else?

Monday, July 15, 2013

"if you think 2 is bad...

...just wait until he turns 3!"

This is what they all told me. Most of Nate's "terrible twos," I felt like I was at the end of my rope. Everything was a battle of wills. Everything was a struggle. He was indifferent to impending punishment. Oh, he would scream during punishment, but the threat that he would be punished if he didn't obey didn't matter to him.

His "willful two-ness," as I've come to think of it (separate from general personality willfulness), was exaggerated by a feeling of insecurity because his baby brother was born when he was 20 months old; we moved 6 weeks later; then we moved in the extreme, coming to Kenya 6 weeks after his second birthday.

The kid snapped. He hardly ate anything for the first month or so (and I have a horizontal line on his weight growth chart to prove it). He threw a fit about everything. He disobeyed simply to be defiant. There was a phase of about 6 months, peaking at 30 months old, when I really didn't think we were going to make it. Especially if what they said was true: that it would get worse at age 3.

[I realize I'm dwelling on the negative so far, and I feel I should add that we had lots of good moments during that 6 months, too. We had some new, wonderful, fun experiences together. We had many great, normal afternoons just playing at home. Not to mention that parenting through infancy was far easier on me the second time around. It certainly wasn't all bad. Nate's 2-and-a-half blog post, 1 year ago.]

I'm happy to report that they were wrong. Unless Nate is saving some epic breakdown for the second half of his 3s, it has been so much better. Easier. More peaceful.

For example, now he cares about having privileges taken away. Before, "No TV until you clean up toys" would have been met with screaming. Nothing but screaming. Now, he will clean up (albeit grudgingly) in order to get what he wants. We have a required number of bites of vegetables now, which he will comply with in order to get a second helping of his favorite item on the menu or to simply have permission to leave the table. We've worked out some ways of dealing with him not listening or just not wanting to do what he's been told. Some of them work and some of them...well, at least they don't make things worse.

Of course he has a will of his own. He's a human being. Of course he still has his father's stubbornness. That's part of who he is. Of course it's not easy. I said it's easier. It's not easy. It's life.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

church hunting

The population of Kilifi is only about 50,000 people, and a significant percentage of that are foreign nationals. Driving around town, you see white people everywhere. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of non-Kenyans here.

With this in mind, we thought it would be simple to find a church with an English worship service, or even an all English-speaking church. This has not been the case!

Just before moving, we had started going to an all English-speaking church there, which we really loved, and we have toyed with the idea of spending Sundays in Mombasa. However, then we would miss the opportunity of being involved in a local church and its ministry in Kilifi.

We've talked with pastors of several churches. They say, "Well, we used to have an English service, but then the people who were leading it moved, so we stopped." They tell us that the people who used to attend those services now drive all the way to Mombasa for church. They don't seem to care, either.

In this town, you don't need to know Swahili to go shopping, to get a haircut, to have a dress made, to get your house repaired, to go to the bank, to put something in the mail, to eat in a restaurant. Schools are taught in English in Kenya (they don't just teach English as a class - classes are taught in English), and people speak English in their businesses in order to get business from foreigners. But the churches won't speak English to minister to these people?

Two churches we know of have English worship services. One is at 7 a.m. We have not made it to that one. The other is the Anglican church. The first time we went, we thought maybe it was an odd Sunday because the service was so not like a worship service. 35 minutes of announcements. Offering and 1 hymn. Then small group Bible study. No preaching. Also, awkward trying to join in a small group Bible study when you have no idea what's going on and have 2 small children in tow. We went back today, and it was exactly the same, so we're beginning to think that's just the way they do things.

Rodgers has left his phone number with some other pastors, "Call me if you want someone to start an English service again." Now we're not sure what to do.