Friday, September 26, 2014

advertising in Kenya

We have many of the same products here that exist in the US. But the advertising is very different. It is culturally appropriate.

In the US, advertisers often compare their products to "the other leading brand." There are some here which follow that method. However some products aren't competing against another brand but a completely different way of doing things. For example, Pampers are compared to old-fashioned flat cloth diapers without waterproof covers. Always are compared to using folded up toilet paper.

Not many people have washing machines. The vast majority of laundry detergents are hand washing powders. They do compare to other brands, are a little too obvious about to which brand they are comparing, and get in trouble all the time. The commercials are quite different to what we would have in the US, yet they use the same elements.

OLX is like craigslist in Kenya. Most of their ads show people living in flats in Nairobi. They have house help putting away groceries and advising the woman of the house to sell some stuff so she can buy a bigger refrigerator. Or a couple is preparing for the birth of their first baby, selling stuff from the husband's bachelor days to make room and get money for baby gear. But one is such a great juxtaposition of traditional Kenya and modern technology - a country boy using a smart phone to sell stuff on OLX so that he can buy a cow.

I'm hoping that these commercials are available worldwide, and you can watch them. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Mamas Tell All: Kids and Eating [blog linkup]

my picky eater, eating a zucchini spear
If you're visiting from the linkup, you won't know this, but I would say I have some experience in this category! When my oldest was 20 months old, his baby brother was born, 6 weeks later we moved to a temporary home, 4 months after that, we moved to another country. He was, understandably, shaken up. As a strong-willed kid, he needs to feel in control of some things, and his whole life seemed to change, 3 times, in rapid succession. What could he control? What he ate. He stopped eating everything but bread, deli meat, grapes, sausage, bacon, scrambled eggs, and junk food. For us, picky eating was all about insecurity, fear, and control. I think this applies to a lot of picky eaters, even when their lives haven't been so completely turned upside down.

When he was 2 years old, Nate (now 4 1/2) couldn't be reasoned with. I focused on making sure he ate enough calories and gave him vitamins. Still, he didn't gain weight at all for several months. After he turned 3, Nate was more reasonable and had started eating a little more variety. It was a window of opportunity. We used it.

  • I identified that trying new things was scary for him. We encouraged bravery (doing what you need to do, even though you are afraid), started with just 1 bite, and celebrated that bite!
  • He wanted to be in control, so he was allowed to choose when he would eat his new food, but he had to eat it or he gave up second helpings of what he liked at supper and couldn't have his usual bedtime snack.
  • I focused on vegetables because that is the main food group he has trouble with, and it was a huge hole in his nutrition. I choose my battles, in all things parenting. One I don't fight, for example, is potatoes. If he never eats potatoes (besides the fried variety), he's not missing much. He knows this and enjoys the control. He voluntarily tried roasted potatoes recently, liked them, but chose not to eat them the next time they were served. Fine by me. My battle is veggies.
  • In the beginning, I served the same vegetable for supper every night for a week. The first 2 days, he had to eat 1 bite only, then 2 bites for 2 days, then a full serving until the end of the week. 
  • The next week, I still served the previous vegetable once or twice (now a welcomed old friend), but added a new every-night-veggie, and we repeated the process until we worked through all of our usual vegetables.
  • When we are not at home, we take a break from the rules. Sometimes when we're at a restaurant, he wants to eat nothing but a plate of french fries. Hey - it's a special occasion! Why not?

Now, he knows he is required to eat the veggies on his plate, and if he doesn't, there are no seconds or snack. I don't fight him about it because the conflict makes him more resolute and me more grumpy. I just remind him of the consequences. Two nights ago, he chose not to eat his veggies, and we held to our consequences. Last night, he apologized and told me, "I will eat my vegetables tonight so I can have a snack." And he did.

My advice to parents dealing with a picky eater:
  1. Determine why. Do they genuinely not like the taste of many foods? Are they afraid? Do they just want control? (If said picky eater is a toddler, you may just be dealing with toddlerhood.) Then address it from that angle.
  2. Choose your battles. 
  3. Have consequences and stick to them.
  4. Give the kid a break sometimes! 

Find more tips at the linkup!

Monday, September 22, 2014

tomato soup: a recipe

As a kid, one of my favorite lunches was tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches. Of course, it was quick and painless canned soup. There are canned soups here, possibly even Campbell's tomato, but processed food is expensive. Also, I had about 3 cups of diced tomatoes (from our tomato plants!) in the freezer. It was time to recreate my childhood lunch. I threw this soup together on a whim, without a recipe. All measurements are approximate, especially the seasonings. I just sprinkled, tasted, added more, tasted, etc, until it was enough. I added carrots for consistency because I thought the tomatoes would be runny by themselves. A lot of recipes add sugar to combat the acidity of the tomatoes, but I think the sweetness of the carrots did the job. My husband, who as rule doesn't like tomato soup, said it was good, for tomato soup. I, who love tomato soup, thought it was awesome.

3 cups diced tomatoes
2 or 3 carrots, diced
1 small to medium onion, diced
2" ginger, grated
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups bone broth
2 cups water
1/2 tsp (or more) basil
1/2 tsp (or more) oregano
salt and pepper to taste

Put tomatoes, carrots, onion, ginger, garlic, broth, and water in a big pot. Bring to boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes.

Add seasonings. Simmer for another 5-10 minutes.

Remove from heat. Transfer to blender and purée.

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Hair

My naturally curly hair has long been my most identifying feature. When I've been mistaken for someone else, it has never been because we have similar facial features, build, or fashion sense. It is always because of The Hair. When someone searches for me in a crowd - even my own mother - they just look for The Hair.

5th grade. The beginning of the end.

From preschool through most of elementary school, I always had fluffy, wavy hair. Sometime in 5th grade, prepubescent hormones fundamentally changed the texture. My mom and I spent the next few years grasping at straws trying to figure out how to deal with my coarse, frizzy, unruly mass of curls.

8th grade. Losing the hair battle. Bonus: me before braces.

My mom has naturally curly hair, and she tried all of her tricks to get my hair under control, to no avail. Her curls are completely different from mine. After I left for college, I experimented with my curls on my own. Finding the best way to wear my curls has been a 2 decades long project.

I've tried mousses, creams, gels, sprays, serums, oils, relaxers, every shampoo and conditioner made for curls and/or dry hair, and chemical straighteners. I've used blow dryers (with diffuser of course), curling irons, hot rollers, foam rollers, and hair straighteners. I've had my hair long, short, and in between. When ceramic hair straighteners became popular, I bought one and started straightening my hair regularly. But I realized that I prefer my hair curly. I feel more "me" when my hair is natural, and also, it takes less work! The curl isn't my enemy; it's the frizziness. (And the straightening may have tamed my hair, but it did not solve the frizz.)

My curls are somewhere between Type 3A and Type 3B, high porosity, high density, and medium width. I love the curl. The density and width serve me well. The porosity has been the root (pun intended) of all of my hair woes. So I plan my attack accordingly. I am very much loving my curls these days. Here is my current method:

    I do need a better curly hair cut.

  • Shampoo only in extreme circumstances (like if I've been swimming), and then with sulfate-free shampoo. Working conditioner through the hair and rinsing with water cleanses it sufficiently.
  • Use a thick, hydrating conditioner several times per week.
  • Don't brush or comb, just work knots out with fingers while hair has conditioner in it.
  • Squeeze water out of hair with an old t-shirt, not terry-cloth. 
  • Turn hair upside down, separate curls, scrunch a bit, spray on argan oil and leave-in conditioner.
  • Turn right-side up, part hair on opposite side (to prevent the flat-head look), smooth coconut oil through hair.
  • Let air dry partially, correct part, style now if not wearing hair down, let hair air dry the rest of the way. 
  • "Pineapple" hair to sleep.
  • Sleep on a satin pillow case.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Mamas Tell All: How to Keep Your Marriage Alive After Children [Blog linkup]

hanging out while our boys were playing with friends
There are so many lists of ways to have a strong marriage with kids. I must see one posted online every month in one parenting magazine or another. I think they take turns. "Let's see,, you publish the list January. take February. will be March..." [I'm joking.]

Clearly it's a topic that's important to a lot of families. I think in a lot of ways, marriage maintenance after having kids is a lot like marriage maintenance before having kids, in that you have to do it on purpose, you have to pay attention, you have to put forth effort. It's just that after having kids, we are totally distracted by our needy offspring. I say "I think" because our first child was born 10 months (and 1 day, if you want to be specific) after our wedding. We don't really know much about marriage without kids.

The magazine lists always include these in some way: keep dating, flirt, have sex, share kid-related tasks, and something about dads pitching in around the house. I'm going to focus on the first one because it is a particular challenge for us. Even when were "dating," it was a long-distance relationship (and for a year an extremely long-distance relationship), so we didn't go on dates much. Now we have to find a babysitter, and our kids hate babysitters, and Ben isn't used to being away from me and screams the whole time until he passes out on my pillow... We average about one real babysitter date per year right now. We find ways to date without a babysitter.

1. Post-bedtime dessert date. We wait until the boys are asleep, then sit on the couch and have dessert together in peace and quiet. Sometimes we talk about grown-up things; sometimes we are so exhausted we say nothing at all.
2. Restaurant with a playground. One of our favorite Saturday lunch spots has a playground. There are tables right next to the slide. The boys play with minimal supervision, Rodgers and I sip Malindi macchiatos, and none of us minds if it takes them too long to cook our lunch.
3. Use naptime. Our boys still nap most days. Once they're asleep, we have one-and-a-half to three hours to ourselves, to do whatever we want.
4. Lunch dates (when kids are in school). This is one I intend to implement when Ben starts school next year!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Ben 20 questions, age 3

The interview itself took place over the course of several days. He would only answer a few questions before saying, "I don't want to talk to you anymore!" My words; Ben's words.

1. What is your favorite color? orange and green
2. What is your favorite toy? Zuma. You don't have a Zuma toy. Marshall that's stuck in his truck [like this], Rubble that's stuck in his digger [like this], Chase that's stuck in his truck [like this].
3. What is your favorite fruit? apple 
4. What is your favorite tv show? Teenage Muni Turtles [that's TMNT] and Paw Patrol 
5. What is your favorite thing to eat for lunch? Well, it's pizza
6. What is your favorite outfit? Ice cream shirt [from the Blue Bell Creamery]. I can make ice cream by my own self!! And jeans.
7. What is your favorite game? My favorite game is the hotel game that we used to swim in the hotel. [He's talking about Pictureka (just the cards, not the board game), which we bought while staying in a hotel with a pool.]
8. What is your favorite snack? goldfish snack
9. What is your favorite animal? CAAATS!
10. What is your favorite song? [singing "Do Something" by Matthew West] I'm sick and tired of life with no desire. I don't want a flame. I want a fire! [but lately he's more likely to request "Low Down the Chariot" by the Gaither Vocal Band. Like father, like son.]
11. What is your favorite book? My favorite book Story! [a Toy Story 3 book]
12. Who is your best friend? Daddy and Nate and Mama and Mikey [TMNT]
13. What is your favorite cereal? Oatmeal
14. What is your favorite thing to do outside? I can play in the dirt with cars
15. What is your favorite drink? My favorite drink is milk only.
16. What is your favorite holiday? A holiday from school with drinking milk. Do we have milk in this house?
17. What do you like to take to bed with you at night? my blankie and my animals and books and my flashlight
18. What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast? I like omelette!
19. What do you want for dinner on your birthday? pizza
20. What do you want to be when you grow up? When I'm growned up, I can wear my ice cream shirt and make ice cream!

Friday, September 12, 2014

felt TMNT masks

Last year the boys started watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It wasn't long before they chose their favorite Turtles and started acting out their favorite scenes. I made them masks out of some old jersey fabric I had. It didn't look right, but they have good imaginations.

When my parents came in January, my mom brought me some felt. The first thing I did was let the boys choose a color and make quick masks out of them. Nate had red for Raphael. There was no orange for Ben's Michelangelo, so he went with anonymous green. Of course, the felt stretched out. By now they need to be thrown away. 

For Ben's birthday, I decided to make a set of better felt masks. I didn't have all the right colors for the Turtles, but Ben said he wanted one of every color I had.

I made the pattern by trial and error: cut, hold it up to his face, cut some more, and repeat. I back-stitched around all the edges for reinforcement, hopefully preventing too much stretching. 

I also reinforced the ends before sewing the elastic on, as illustrated below (that stitching didn't show up well in the pictures). I didn't have enough elastic for all six, so the last one ended up with ribbons to tie it on instead.

Ben knows about them already because of the trials, and he's very excited to get them. He's always asking if they are ready. We'll have some friends over to celebrate and have cake on Sunday, so he will open his presents from us tomorrow!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Mamas Tell All: The Perfect Mama [Blog linkup]

I was still in high school when I started learning about "The Perfect Mama," via Bible studies on Proverbs 31. During pregnancy and as a new mom, lots of people had advice for me. I've written before about how this advice - even so-called expert advice - doesn't always agree. It's impossible to be absolutely perfect because perfect according to Expert A is harmful according to Expert B. Even if they did agree, we all know that no one will ever achieve perfection. However, an idea of what perfection is will give us a goal to work towards.

At my baby shower for Nate, I was given a small scrapbook. Before they gave it to me, they passed around a few of the pages for the attendees to write parenting advice for me. There were a lot of sweet blessings and "cherish every moment" (which is impossible - some moments aren't cherish-able!). But there was also much more than that. What I see in this advice, and I what I've learned through experience, is that perfection as a mom is not so much in what we do, but in our faith in God, in our sanctification in Christ, in our eternal perspective. The things we do are important, but the good things will flow out from God at work within us when we are disciplined followers of Jesus.

Here is my favorite advice, some which helps me identify what I want to be like, and some which was just very helpful during the infant stage.
Patience is the one thing I learned right off the bat. Patience with labor, crying, husbands, countless diapers.
Never be afraid to hold and rock your baby as much as you want. Many times when a baby cries, he just needs warmth and comfort that only you can provide. You won't spoil him!
Always look to God for guidance. He has wonderful plans for you.
The most important thing I can think of is to love your children. Spoil them with love, and I know you will bring them up to love the Lord Jesus. 
Truly the greatest gift God has given me is the privilege to be a wife and a mother. I have learned so much about the character of God through the lives of my children. One of the things I have learned as a mother is that God loves my children even more than I do...He is trustworthy! He will give us wisdom concerning our children, as well.
Remember that the Scripture says, "Raise up your child in the way he should grow and when he's old he will not go away from it." Because I'm the oldest one at your shower, please let me encourage you to begin early to teach your child the Word and prayer. The Word will get him through life, prayer will help him have a personal relationship with Jesus. These will take him through his entire life no matter what comes.

Friday, September 5, 2014

boy mom tricks: high energy and noise

This may come as a shock: I am not a high-energy person, and I don't like noise. My boys...well, they can't be still, and the only time they are quiet is when they're sleeping. Not only are they loud and rowdy, they also fight. Over anything and everything. Siblings, you know?

We're a single-car family, and I don't currently have a valid driver's license in this country anyway. There is public transportation in this town, but we're a bit far from town center to easily get a tuk tuk to get out of the house. So what do I do with these boys when we're stuck at home during school breaks and Rodgers is at work? Yes, they drive me crazy, but I have a few tricks up my sleeve.

1) Send them outside. When they start getting loud and crazy, my first line of defense is, "Go outside." If it's hot, I tell them to stay in the shade. If it's raining, I send them onto the veranda. Actually, one day last week, they played in the rain. When they're loud and wild, they usually need to move - a lot - and this is the best way.

2) Sunday School. We haven't yet found a church here with a good Sunday School program, so we started using some lessons from Ministry-to-Children, especially on weeks that we couldn't make it to church at all. Then I realized that the singing and dancing (with help from YouTube) burned a lot of their energy, and they were always peaceful for the lesson. We're now working through the lesson series on The Lord's Prayer, not on Sundays, but we still call it "Sunday School."

3) Build a fort. When I build them a fort, suddenly they want to sit still and look at books. I do this if they've played outside, they've been active, but are for whatever reason still too rambunctious for being in the house, and especially if they are fighting a lot. We built this epic fort while Nate was on school break this time. Sheets over the backs of several chairs, connected to the "big couch," which they can crawl under, connected to the washing machine box they have been playing in.

4) (If possible) Get out of the house. These guys seem to get a bit of cabin fever after a few days, which manifests in insanity. By now, we know a couple of restaurants with playgrounds, there's always the beach, and sometimes just going to the supermarket helps them reset. But like I said, getting out is a bit difficult right now. When they're older, we'll be able to walk until we find transport, but they're still too small for that right now. I mean, if they get tired, I can't carry a 4-year old and (almost) 3-year old, together, at the same time.

5) Get out a "special" toy/game/activity. For Christmas last year, the boys got a train set. We have always kept the tracks put away because they turn into weapons when the train play is over. It's special when we get it out, and they play well for a solid chunk of time. There is also bubble-blowing, painting, cutting paper (a new obsession), and sidewalk chalk. We did all of these this school break. During Christmas school break, we'll make tree ornaments and snowflakes and do Christmasy things, which are all very necessary since it's a 9 week break!

6) Give them chores. They are still at the age where chores make them feel important and grown up (rather than enslaved). One day during break, I was trying to clean the bathrooms. Rodgers had just left for work, and the boys could not, would not get along. I gave them each a sponge and something to clean. They were occupied until I was done cleaning bathrooms, and were ready to get along with each other. They also both adore washing dishes, though this requires much more supervision on my part.