Saturday, August 24, 2013

coral reefs and broken playgrounds

Some of the largest coral reefs in Africa are on the coast of Kenya, running the full coastline. In Malindi, there is a marine park. Lots of companies have glass-bottom boats that take tourists out on the reef. There is snorkeling, as well as an island outside of the park where they take the tourists to cookout fresh fish.

Thinking that they would take us around the reef to look at stuff through the glass bottom of the boat, we decided that it would be a cool thing to do with the boys during Nate's school break. Turns out we didn't actually see anything through the glass bottom. It may as well have been a regular boat. But it was still cool.

Even though it's high tourist season, we managed to get a room with 2 beds at a hotel in Malindi. We'd never stayed there before, but it looked nice. They recorded our reservation wrong and only had rooms with 1 bed available when we got there. So we got to have adjoining rooms for a discount, which was perfect. Also, they have hot water.

The boys really really wanted to go swimming. Being a Texan, I'm used to swimming when it's 100 degrees outside. Our highs are in the mid 80's. We swam after nap, so it was a bit chilly to be in the pool. We got the boys floaties (a baby one for Ben with a seat and a ring for Nate). It was so cold that Ben would only put his feet in the pool. He cried when we made him try his float and wouldn't stop until he was out. Nate gradually warmed up to the pool. He didn't want to use his float, despite it being a Buzz Lightyear spaceship shaped one, but he did hang out in the baby float for a while. He doesn't quite get the kicking to propel himself part of the float, so I got to push him all over the pool. What a workout!

We wanted to swim on Thursday, too, but they decided to add chemicals to the pool since there were kids on Wednesday who swam in their underwear. I don't really understand why they didn't put the chemicals in Wednesday after everyone was out of the pool or why underwear are so much less sanitary for swimming than a swimsuit. But anyway. That's what they decided to do. So we went to the beach twice Thursday.

We walked around the coral where we could, checking the pools left by the receding tide. Nate thought it was an awesome adventure. Ben was a little unsure. He doesn't trust the water.

We saw crabs, cool seashells, and lots of weird looking plants (one that looks a lot like bacon). One of the beach vendors found a starfish for us. Rodgers held it for a few seconds before we put it back in the water. It was trying to walk off his hand. The way it moved was so weird!

When we went back in the late afternoon, the tide was in. We watched the waves until it was time to leave for supper. It was kind of cool to see waves and water where we had been walking earlier. We walked far out there. I didn't expect the water to come so far in.

We have often seen a playground on the other side of Malindi. It looks like a mix of modern equipment (slides and bouncy houses) and old stuff (bumper cars, jungle gyms, ride-on things). We were skeptical about whether or not any of it was in working order. We expected we would have to pay to use it. We tried it out, and we ended up paying for nothing because nothing the boys wanted to do was working and everything that worked terrified them.

Nate could handle the big slide that wasn't broken, but Ben was afraid to climb up there, and we didn't really feel like paying to use 1 slide and then taking Ben up the stairs every time. It was almost lunchtime anyway, so we left without officially playing there.

The boat ride was Friday. It would have been best if we had water shoes. We had to walk from the beach to the boat, sometimes through water, from a few inches up to knee-deep. I didn't want to do it in flip flops because they get stuck, come off, and only protect the bottom of the feet anyway. So our shoes need to be washed now. But that's ok.

That's how far we walked. We were the first boat out there that day. Several boats full of Italians followed us.

I don't know if this little boy is the son of one of the guys that works for this company or is just a random kid. He and at least 2 other boys are learning the trade. They do little jobs on the boats. He was wearing clothes on the beach, but gradually took the off as we got into deeper water. He got dressed again later.

They are propelling the canoe with poles because the water is that shallow.

This sailboat is called Sawa Sawa. It made me think of my dad. :)

Ben still doesn't trust the water. He was hanging on to either me or Rodgers the entire time.

Nate loved it. He would have stayed out there all day, just watching the waves. Some of the bigger ones rocked the boat a little too much for him, though.

We fed the fish to attract them. They were mostly zebra fish, though many red snappers and reef fish as well. I don't know that reef fish is the official name, but that's what the guy told us. There was also one bigger fish that was a dark color and had bright turquoise fins. It darted in, then quickly left. I was very sad that I couldn't get a picture of it. It was so pretty!

Since we weren't swimming, they took us over to a little island of sand for us to get out of the boat and take pictures. Nate thought it was very exciting, and he walked in the sand, let his feet sink in, and let the waves lap at his feet. The sand was so much looser than the sand on the beach. Ben did not let Rodgers put him down.

Our mini-vacation was not really what we planned. However, it was great. We will have to go on vacation again sometime...

Saturday, August 17, 2013

what you've all been waiting for

Before we got married, Rodgers used to have breakfast at a donut shop every morning. Every day, he would leave for class early to sit in the donut shop for donuts and coffee. The people who worked there even gave him a Christmas gift! (Five $1 gift certificates!)

Then we got married. I had a coffee maker with a timer. We had coffee waiting for us when we woke up, and we would have cereal or toast or cooked breakfast. This is why Rodgers lost weight the first year of our marriage. I was pregnant, so we still got donuts often enough, but they weren't such a big part of our lives. (No more Christmas gifts from the donut shop, unfortunately). But we do like donuts. Good ones.

A donut in this country is horrible. There are no donut shops (that I've seen), but some bakeries sell donuts. And they are a huge disappointment. Think of a really big cake donut. Which is completely dried out. And has no flavor. Or moisture. And you can hardly even bite into it without breaking a tooth. That is the Kenyan version of a donut.

We have lamented this many times.

My husband loves experimenting in the kitchen, and he has been learning something that I haven't yet: how to use yeast. Making donuts was the next logical step. Our first try was so much better than Kenyan donuts but (as my mom pointed out) they were ugly. The taste and texture also wasn't quite right. On the second try, we had perfection!

We found the recipe on the internet, but optimized it for our own needs. For instance, the original recipe says to put the dough in the oven to rise, on the top rack, with a roasting pan of boiling hot water on the bottom rack, to create a nice, warm, humid environment. Our kitchen is already warm and humid, so we let it rise on the counter. I won't make you wait any longer, though. This is what you came here for:

1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup + 1 Tbsp sugar
3 Tbsp yeast
1/4 cup shortening
3 egg yolks
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
3 2/3 cup flour

Warm milk, vanilla, 1 Tbsp sugar; put in mixing bowl; add yeast and let stand until foamy (~5 min). Add shortening, egg yolks, 1/2 cup sugar; beat until shortening is broken up. Beat in salt and baking powder. Add flour 1 cup at a time, until dough firm but tacky (usually only takes 3 cups, but we use the 2/3 cups while kneading/rolling/cutting).

Transfer dough to lightly floured surface and knead a few times. Pat into a disk, dust with flour, and cover with a towel. (Or put in the oven with the boiling water if your kitchen is cold.) Let rise until doubled (~1 hour).

Roll dough into 12 inch round, 1/2 inch thick. Cut donuts as close together as possible. (We use about 2 1/2 inch circle and 1 1/4 inch hole.) Let stand until doubled (~45 min). When they are almost ready, make the glaze (and a pot of coffee to enjoy with the first hot donuts). Set a wire rack on cookie sheets for glazing the donuts and letting them cool.

Fry donuts a few at a time in 2 inches of oil (~1 min or less per side). The donut holes fry very fast. Transfer immediately from frying pan to glaze.

1/4 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups powdered sugar

Combine milk and vanilla and warm (either on the stovetop or for about 30 seconds in the microwave). Whisk powdered sugar in slowly, until well combined. Set this bowl into a pot of hot water to keep it from cooling and hardening. Drizzle over the donuts with a spoon while the donuts are still hot.

You can apply a second coat of glaze after they have cooled for about 5 minutes or flip them at that time to glaze the bottoms. I add sprinkles to the donut holes for the boys, while the glaze is still wet.


Thursday, August 15, 2013


This is about the organization Gideons International, not about guys named Gideon. 

The first Gideon I can remember coming to speak at my church had one hand. His other hand was a hook. Being an amputee has nothing to do with being a Gideon. Gideons distribute Bibles in hotels, schools, prisons, and hospitals. But in my head, they are also kind of pirate-y. Because of the hook thing. That was my first impression. (Not that it's a bad thing - this is the way my mind works.)

There was a Gideon in church Sunday, talking about the work they are doing in the area. Rodgers mentioned to him that he is always in schools and could very easily help out in the Kilifi and Malindi areas.

I told him that if he's going to work with the Gideons, he needs to get an eye patch or a peg leg or something. Maybe a talking parrot.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

mini Thanksgiving

Since we moved to Kenya, we have been trying to get Rodgers' mom to come visit us. Because of farming, there are certain times of the year that she really can't get away. She needs to be planting or harvesting or something else. She usually has a few grandkids living with her, too. She hasn't traveled far in a long time. Going to Mombasa would be a long trip for her.

Our move to Kilifi made the visit more possible for her. She was supposed to come in July, but one of Rodgers' sisters had a baby (when there are 8 sisters, someone is always having a baby...), so Esther had to go there instead. A month later, though, she made it here, with one of Rodgers' sisters (Alice, the second-born) and two of Alice's kids (Gladys and Esther). Grandma Esther told us that she had not been to Kilifi since Rodgers was a baby, and he was born in 1976.

Ben getting a cuddle after he got in trouble with Daddy.

They stayed 2 nights. The girls loved playing with Nate's and Ben's Legos and all of their musical/light up toys (like Baby Einstein Take Along Tunes).

Nate is on school break, so he got to spend all day with his cousins.
Ben is not used to sharing so. much.

Grandma Esther enjoyed watching Nate and Ben play. They took it upon themselves to introduce her to Lightning McQueen and Buzz Lightyear.

They were probably watching Toy Story

Alice tried to talk to me a lot. I didn't understand her most of the time (between her broken English and my broken Swahili). But she did help me in the kitchen a bit, and that was nice.

Alice making ugali in my kitchen

The first night, I made them American food. I had found some turkey legs, so I roasted them and made dressing and stovetop green bean casserole to go with them. Unfortunately, by the time our guests were ready to eat, the power had gone out, and it had been a couple of hours since supper was ready for the boys. We couldn't reheat the food for them, so they ate cold turkey in the dark. They seemed to like it, though! After that, we stuck with more Kenyan-style food.

Hopefully this is just the first of many visits.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

I Support You - my opposites

My boys don't even drink milk much anymore, and what they do drink now is plain old cow's milk. One won't drink it unless it's on his cereal. The other only has a cup of milk every now and then. My firstborn is 3 1/2; my baby will be 2 years old in a few weeks. Some time has passed since I was caught up in the infant feeding phase. But I remember the anxiety and having everyone in my business. The most frustrating part was assumptions that I made the decisions I did because either: a) I wasn't trying hard enough to breastfeed; b) I was doing something wrong which sabotaged my own milk production; or c) I was mistaken about what my circumstances actually were (i.e. my milk was enough, I just thought my baby needed to eat more than that). Not to mention that, even if all of these were true, it's none of their business anyway. There are vocal minorities on all sides of infant feeding, so much so that there is no decision a family makes in this area will be free from judgement.

I Support You is a movement which says that even though we may choose different methods of infant feeding (or maybe we're in a situation in which we feel we have only one option), we're all doing the best thing for our individual circumstances, and we can support each other.

I Support You post from Fearless Formula Feeder here.
I Support You post from Mama by the Bay here.
I Support You post from I am not the Babysitter here.

Technically, I combo fed my babies. Since they mostly got formula, my experience is more that of a formula feeder. For the I Support You blog hop, I'm interviewing some of my friends who breastfed their babies, Ashlea, Kristen, and Melissa. Their babies are all 2 years old now. Their experiences seem so different from mine on the surface, yet we're not really so different. We all did what was best, and pay attention to their first statements on question 3 especiallythat's exactly what I would say about the way I fed my babies.

1) Please share a brief summary of your feeding experience.
A: I breastfed my son 90% of the time for the 1st three months of his life. He did receive some formula in the beginning due to jaundice and occasionally he would get it because I truly did not understand pumping. I went back to work when he was three months and from then until he was about 9 months he got about 50-60% formula and 40-50% breastmilk (pumped or through breast).
K: I breastfed my daughter on demand until she weaned herself at 15 months old. She was exclusively breastfed until 6 months old when we slowly introduced solids, but we rarely used a bottle as I am/was a stay at home mom and found it easier to just use the breast. Our challenge was the fact that my daughter had food allergies to dairy, soy, wheat, and egg which meant I could not eat any foods that contained those items myself.
M: I exclusively breastfed my son for 15 months.
2) What was your original plan for feeding your child, and how did that compare to what you ultimately ended up doing?
A: I planned to breastfeed exclusively for three months and then pump exclusively for 9 months after that.  
K: I had planned on exclusively breastfeeding. Other than the food limitations, it was just as as I had planned.
M: I had planned to breastfeed for two years. He started eating more food at 13/14 months and nursed less over a long period of time. By the 15th, he was barely nursing so, essentially, he weaned himself. When I stopped offering, I did not engorge or experience pain. I was not disappointed about stopping earlier than planned after it ended so naturally.
3) What was the best part about how you fed your child? What was the worst?
A: I loved the bonding with my son during breast feeding. I was sad when he no longer wanted to do so. I hated pumping. Going back to work was stressful and I could not produce a good amount of milk when I pumped.
K: The best was the bond it formed between us, knowing I was giving her the best I could, and as a bonus, I always had her food ready and available without anything to clean up afterwards. The worst part was the fact that I was the sole provider of her food, so if I couldn't have her with me, I had to pump in advance (which wasn't my favorite thing to do).
M: The best is the intimacy and bonding. It also forced me to slow down giving me time to really appreciate him. The worst was that it was harder to have a break since my husband couldn't easily feed him. It was either spend the time to feed him or spend the time pumping. I chose him. It was also difficult to pump when I went back to work. Teachers don't really have a lot of flexibility in the day so that was a struggle.
4) What myths about how you fed your child were the most hurtful? What is your truth that counteracts those myths?
A: The myth that if he gets formula or drinks from a bottle, he'll never nurse properly. I was so scared to do either that I exacerbated his jaundice. When I finally did, he was fine and went back to breast feeding with no problem whatsoever.
K: That not only should I have switched to formula because she had food allergies (and was suffering from reflux and digestive issues before they were identified), but it was selfish of me to continue breastfeeding. The fact is that once the allergies are identified and removed from the mothers diet, breast milk is the most beneficial and healing to the food allergic child. Breastfeeding past a year old is gross and mostly for the mother. The fact is that breast milk changes as the child grows and continues to provide the perfect composition of nutrients, antibodies, and immunity.
M: I think breastfeeding is unpopular with people who think it is an outdated trend. This is weird to me because I feel that this is the reason I was given breasts, and they provide the most nutritious and customized food for your baby. It seems like a no brainier for me. I know there is a lot of good formula out there that might come close but I didn't have trouble producing milk so I never felt the need to try it.
5) What would have helped you to feel supported/understood by society and/or medical professionals?
A: I think if the nurses were more open-minded about formula, I wouldn't have felt so conflicted.
K: I think the bad stigma that society has regarding breastfeeding in public really puts a damper on the positive experience. It can potentially make breastfeeding mothers feel unnecessarily uncomfortable about leaving their house in the beginning as well as to make it seem that using a nursing cover and finding a spot away from other people is a necessity. It would be nice if all of society saw it as a normal occurrence instead of something sexual or something to hide.
M: I really didn't care what people thought. I was doing what was natural and best for my baby.
6) Think ten, twenty years into the future. If you could give your grown child one message about how you chose to feed him/her, what would it be?
A: We did what was best for you. It may be different than what we do for future children, but it worked so well for you and your personality. We learned a lot about you through this experience.
K: Every mother does what they feel is best for their child and family and that is exactly what I did given the knowledge and circumstances that we had. As a mother, you have to trust your instincts and ignore any negativity or outside persuasion. Otherwise, you will always be questioning yourself instead of enjoying those precious first years.
M: I would tell him to support his wife. Do his research. Encourage her and be her cheerleader. It isn't easy or convenient sometimes especially if you lead a fast paced life.
7) Is there anything your friends/family could have done to help you feel more supported in your feeding journey?
A: Most of my friends were very supportive. The ones who struggled with nursing mostly stopped and switched to formula. I didn't get many perspectives similar to my experience. My mom could've been more supportive in the beginning. She eventually came around once she saw how well he was doing with supplementing and how well he started nursing from me. 
K: I would have appreciated them trusting my decisions more. For instance, some of my family tried to convince me that scheduled feelings were better than nursing on demand, which was something I was just not comfortable with. It would have been nice to not have to defend the decisions that I made while my child was crying for the breast.
M: My grandmother was probably the least supportive although she never told me directly. My mom explained that in her time, people only breastfed if they were poor and couldn't afford formula. That sounds crazy to me. Haha. I appreciated that she never tried to discourage me. No one did. It was nice to find a friend or family member that has been through it that can help provide encouragement and answer questions.
To me, the most important thing you can do to support others (both in this area of parenting and other areas fraught with judgement) is just what Kristen said: trust their judgement. Apart from instances of actual abuse, parents are all making decisions based on what is best for their families in their individual circumstances, even if it's not what you did/would do/are doing.

Now, go check out more of the I Support You blog hop.