Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Not A Christmas One

Merry Late Christmas & Happy Early New Year! I simultaneously love & am somewhat tired by the holiday season. The excitement of it all is wonderful, and the let down is a bit larger than I'd like it to be. As my husband said Christmas morning as we were tidying the living room post gift exchange "cleaning up from Christmas...biggest let down ever."

We had a very nice Christmas (I'll post pictures soon - irritatingly enough I can't plug in the USB cable from my camera to the computer at the same time as our internet modem so by the time I realize I need some pics from the camera, I'm already connected to the internet and...well, you get the idea. Pictures later). We spent our Christmas morning as just us 4 (as far as gift exchange is concerned, 2.75 - Chris & I equal 2, Kai .5, and Mika .25. She slept through Christmas; hardly counts.) Our morning was incredibly relaxed & enjoyable with us each getting a fun 'bigger' gift. Kai got a tricycle, Chris got a guitar amp & I snuck over his favorite music gadget (loop station) & I got a sewing machine! Watch for some crafting blogs...I may try my hand at a couple tutorials for things I'm putting together.

Our Christmas afternoon was spent with family friends, and lots of skyping with our families. We spent Boxing Day (truly a holiday here) at an alumni reunion for the highschool I graduated from. It was incredibly enjoyable to reconnect with people, and to find a few people who are now back in the area/never left. It's much nicer to reconnect with people when you know your 'hello' is not also your 'goodbye'.

I won't bore you with too many details of our Christmas season, but I did want to pass on a little 'gift' to you. As Kai has grown up, he has provided us with a plethora of stories, and while I have shared some of them, I have been encouraged to share more of them. So - my gift to you, dear blog readers, is a Kai story:

Our second week in Kenya, Chris went on a work trip to western Kenya. I didn't like the idea of being home alone with the kids so, I called a few people I knew...ok the few people I knew and invited them over for dinner. I decided if Chris had to be gone at work all the time, I might as well just ramp up my social life.

I took on the ambitious, and delicious, endeavor of making homemade tortillas with all the required fixings. I was in the final stages of preparation, and everything was going fairly smoothly. Kai was outside watching the birds, Mika was asleep in the kitchen. Kai came back in & started playing nicely with Mika...perfect.

I continue cooking the taco meat & stirring the refried beans. Glancing at the floor, I realize I dropped some refried beans & reach down to the floor, scooping the bit up with my finger, and bringing it to my mouth. With less than a second to spare, two terrible thoughts race through my mind:
1. Kai is potty training
2. These are not refried beans

These two thoughts were followed very quickly by, well, by a lot of things:
1. the thought: Kai has been playing with Mika...oh no
2. the irrepressible squeal of disgust that snuck out of my mouth, despite my refusal to be a 'shrieky' girl
3. a quick grabbing of Kai to prevent further collateral damage
4. a phone call from my dinner guests saying they were at the gate & needed to be let in

I ran Kai back to the bathroom, stripped him down to his nothings, throwing his soiled clothes in the toilet & closing the lid (I'm not sure what I thought would happen...they would flush? wash themselves? disappear?), wiping my hands off quickly, and running to get the gate - leaving Kai covered in his own excrement in an empty tub.

I haphazardly, though with every effort at grace, greeted my guests (and met several new people) with my non refried bean hand, hurridly & incompletely explained the story & hurried back to give Kai the quickest & most needed bath of his life.

My guests were of course exceptionally gracious, and when I re-emerged from the bathroom with a clean Kai & more composed self, dinner was done, Mika was being held (she had somehow avoided any, how shall I say?, fall out? from Kai's lackadaisical approach to potty training)

The night proceeded smoothly, and while we have had quite a few brown reminders we are not yet done with potty training, nothing has come close to our refriend bean encounter.

So - with that lovely story to usher in your day with happy thoughts - good night & Merry Christmas :)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Through Kai's Eyes Pt 3 - Camping

I think I like it here..

So, it’s been awhile, and I have so much to tell you – which is why it’s been so long since I’ve written. I’ve been busy. I continue to be exceptional at most things I do, and my parents have even found a few friends who think as highly of me as I do – they’re wonderful.

I have a new friend, his name is Ndemi (like Demi, but start to say the ‘d’ like you’re going to say ‘n’). He lives in the same apartment block as we do, and is a bit older than me. He doesn’t talk much. Ok, he doesn’t really talk at all, but I kinda like it that way. I’m not really a talker with people my age either. Ndemi and I just hang out, play with our toys, and sometimes help my mom with projects (hanging laundry, shelling beans, watching Mika). Ndemi thinks our house is his and really just walks in all the time – mom kicks him out sometimes…something about him needing to knock before he walks in on her nursing Mika, but I like it when he comes.

Ndemi & me helping mama snap green beans for supper.
In other news, we went camping and it was awesome! We went on a great hike through this gorge formed from natural hot springs – there were some tough climbing spots but mom & dad did great carrying/wearing Mika and me. There was one tricky part where we had to climb down near a little ‘waterfall’ (12ft), Mika got passed down from person to person but I just stayed on dad’s back and we made it fine! It was super fun, and super pretty. 

Me & papa! Go Kelty kid carrier!

The 12ft drop, they passed Mika down to mama who was half way, and she passed Mika down to our friend at the bottom. Success!

The gorge we hiked through...that little brown spot across in the distance is where the next picture was taken

After our hike, we went for a drive – oh, I’m sorry…I drove
Yeah, I did. See, I have a photo to prove it.

I can drive!!!
I wish I was still driving...
I also have a photo to prove I got a time out in the car. My mother gave me a time out in the car – she said I was being unsafe because I didn’t want to sit on her lap & gave me a time out…oddly enough not on her lap. Oh well, I guess I got the point.

My nose, in the corner of the car - and yes, my mother is taking a picture while also disciplining me.
I was able to get out of the car and go chase some giraffe & zebra too. I told mama I was gonna “hit it” but she said we don’t hit giraffes…not sure why not, but I obeyed, didn’t want another time out, you know? Mika stayed in the car, but she had a great time too. See?

Mama says to tell you it's not 'photoshopped' - they really were that close.
Mika stayed in the car, but she had so much fun!

After that we went to our campsite & set up our tents – Mika supervised. 
Looks like Mika's directing traffic...

After the sun went down, the hippos came out of the lake and were super close to us. We were separated from them by a ditch & a little electric fence so mama said we all “felt safe” (didn’t know we needed to worry…). The hippos just ate their grass, but they were pretty close – maybe 30 ft away and we could’ve gotten closer.
The view from our tent...so much space to run & play!
The next morning, I got to see monkeys up close. I mean, really up close. 

Mama told me I could hit them as long as they were smaller than me. I think she was still mad one was going to take her banana. She sure showed that monkey though! 
Please note the banana in mama's left hand, and the ball in her right...she did throw the ball, and hit the monkey.                      It was awesome.

Anyway, me and monkeys got along just fine – we’re thinking about buying a boat, we just have to check it out a bit more first. 

"what do you think Sal? Will it float?"
So – that was camping & it was awesome. We’re going again after Christmas, which will also be awesome.

In other news:

I go potty like a big boy!!! I still can’t take off my own pants, or put them on (I think this will be an advantage later on…) but I can definitely go potty all by myself. Because of my inability to put on my own pants, mom just lets me run around naked most of the time….I am planning on not learning how to pull my pants up or down, because I love being naked. Love it.

I also am learning how to use toilet paper the right way – to wipe my behind; I even try to help mama change my own messy diapers, which she seems a bit flustered by. Today I also tried to help mama use toilet paper the right way when she was done going to the bathroom but she said she didn’t need my help…whatever. I explained myself pretty clearly “Kai mama boobey u” (note from Sarah: I refer to Kai’s behind as his booty boo).

Um, family updates: 

Mika is awesome. We have so much fun together, I love to hold her, to give her her pacifier, and to make her laugh. Sometimes, mama lets me help with Mika or asks me to make Mika happy when mama is busy – I love to help with Mika. She’s rolled over a few times, she’s starting to laugh, and she is crazy, I mean crazy about solid foods.
Mika's first time eating! When she eats, she's a mess. I mean a giant mess.

Mama also talks about Mika making her melt, or something…I don’t know, it’s always in reference to how much Mika likes to cuddle. 

Mika's auditioning for a model gig...ok, not really but what a good lookin' sister!
Papa is home for the next 2 weeks, which I don’t really comprehend yet, but mama seems happy and I love having papa around. We play on my bunk bed, and he lets me get a lot more messy than mama does.

Mama is good – we go on play dates a lot with other kids. They all talk funny…but I’m learning to understand them. I can now count to 10 in three different languages – I’m told that’s “impressive”. I just think it’s useful for getting attention.

Scola is great, I’m pretty sure she’s only here to play with me…we play so much together, and a lot of times mama just leaves me with Scola all morning – I love it. Scola can play play play! She also sings to me a lot, which I really like.

Well, I need to scoot – mama says I’m still bad at sleeping because I’m too tired…so I’m going to bed. I hope you guys enjoy the update! 

Best look of the day...who said I have big cheeks?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Life is getting into more of a rhythm. The overwhelming task list of ‘settling in’ projects is slowly diminishing, and daily life is taking on some semblance of a routine. It’s amazing how much the human race craves routine – yes we love spontaneity, and surprises, and some would argue they are against routine. But inside each of us lies a desire for something to remain predictable, to become uniform, to not catch us by surprise.

I am surprised a little less every day – the incredulous aspects of life now seem a bit credible, and the unexpected seems to be a little more anticipated. We have dozens of acquaintances, a few friends, and some favorite things to do, places to go, and specialty foods to buy. We are settling in.

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the reality of our moving situation – both the reality that we’ve just moved, and the simultaneous reality we may move again soon. It’s difficult to establish oneself in a place when impermanency shouts from every corner.  Even if we decide we love Nairobi, and Chris’s job continues to be a solid working situation, and we’re able to afford the rising costs of living combined with children rapidly nearing school age* there is a good possibility we would move out of this apartment to another place.

*(most expats in Kenya put their kids in school at the age of 2 or 3…not our first pick, but something we’re aware of)

And there’s always the possibility that after 2 years of being here, we decide our time here is done. This thought can cause great hesitation when deciding on rug colours, wall decorations, craft projects.  It was already difficult getting everything here, if we accumulate more (which we have), moving will be an even bigger headache. I think this is why people don’t move.

But despite these questions of potential impermanency, I’m struck by the reality I owe stability to my children, to my husband, and to myself. And subsequently, I choose to settle in. This requires a degree of courage, and a degree of stupidity/foolhardiness/intentional dismissal of reality. So, we are investing ourselves. We’ve purchased a house full of furniture, are establishing routines, and investing ourselves in new friendships, even with people who already have plans to move out of the country within the next 7 months.

And we’re beginning to enjoy ourselves – to find pleasure in little things each day, such as a cup of tea, a book on the porch, a triumph in parenting, or an absolute failure in parenting which results in some sort of loss of property, property damage, or need to acquire new property. This transition has not been an easy one – the whirlwind of changes we’ve experienced has left us a bit battered and bruised, but not only can we see a light at the end of the tunnel, we also have a pretty good sense of what the terrain is like between here and that light.

Just wanted to give you a positive update since it’s been a little while. I’ll regale you with stories of camping & a note from Kai soon.

Saturday, December 17, 2011


We're headed out of town for a little camping trip, and we are very excited. It will be our first 'break' as a family since Mika was born - the first time when transition won't the focus of almost every day. We are in desperate need of a break.

Kai has learned how to make crying 'sniffs' due to his heightened exposure to a teary mommy, and I'm hopeful this little jaunt out of town will set a new precedent for a more peaceful existence in Nairobi. I sat with Chris last night and just had a great big boo hoo over every single challenge I face every day. The majority of listed challenges resulted in Chris struggling not to chuckle, which he managed beautifully. And while it was a huge relief to 'let it all out', it was also a good reminder that the things that overwhelm me are probably more worth a chuckle than a sob. Or potentially, worth a chuckle and a sob.

Several of the things I listed:
I never know how long errands are going to take because inevitably something will go wrong, I just have no gauge of how directly it will affect me, or how long it will take to solve.
* stuck behind a stalled vehicle (nobody here pulls off the road when they are in an accident, have car troubles, or are waiting for someone...and most roads are only 2 lane, 1 going each direction...or 2 going 1 direction while the other direction is just screwed)
* cash register at the store will jam
* cashier decides it's time for a social break half way through ringing up my items,
* store employee thinks they know what 'journal' means, and spend 15 min finding the perfect 'journal of African slum art' book - not what I was looking for...oh, and you don't have what I'm looking for

Parking lots are insane, and usually the car is so close to other cars that getting the kids out of the car is not just difficult, but actually worth receiving some sort of accolade for - perhaps this is also contributing to my weight loss...bare necessity.

Kai. While he is 20% of the joy in my life, he is an immense challenge while running errands. I often lose sight of him momentarily while in the store - and usually find him with some store employee in some state of destruction or undress...Kai is in a state of destruction or undress, not the employee. Thankfully.

My solace in regards to losing Kai at the store is that every store has a guard at the front entrance, and they won't let him leave the store without me...when in doubt, I just check with the guard, and I can usually find my son. Kenyans are wonderful with children.

Life in Nairobi continues to be a challenge, and while we are slowly making friends (now defined as the people we don't have to tell our names, how long we've lived here, or what organization Chris is working with) we recognize we still have 5 months until the transition experts say we are out of this phase of transition.

So, with all these thoughts, with the knowledge that perhaps some of the greatest challenges are still ahead of us - we are going camping. A quick get away, and an opportunity to take a deep breath.  We'll take lots of pictures - Kai's first African animal experience, and Mika's first camping trip - yeah!

Happy weekend to everyone.

Monday, December 12, 2011

A picture one

So...I realized it's been a while since I actually posted any substantial amount of pictures. Some of these pictures date back to about a month ago and some of them are within the past couple days. I've done my best to keep them in chronological order, and hopefully they give you a sense of where we've come from over the past month to where we are now.

In general, Kenya continues to surprise, delight, infuriate, and occasionally defeat us one grocery store run or uneven table top at a time. We are overall glad to be here, I think - and while we attempted to ignore the impending holidays, the absurdly large & fake Christmas trees at every shopping center, and the Caucasian electronic dancing Santas greeting us at the entrance to many grocery stores forced us to come to terms with the smallness of this holiday for us.

So, we've embraced it - we borrowed a fake Christmas tree from some family friends - it independently stands at a glorious 3 feet but we've elevated it using a couple moving trunks so from the right angle, it looks like it almost touches the ceiling :)

Kai borrowing Mika's giraffe towel - Thanks Robbie & Marie!
I hope you really enjoy these pictures - Kai promised to write soon. He's getting so big, so quickly & has quite a bit to tell you, I hear. For now, enjoy these pics and understand the randomness of them is truly just a representation of life in Kenya itself.

Reasons #2345-2401 why we're looking to purchase a larger vehicle...the smaller ones don't really survive

Road construction 

Happy Mika in a laundry basket

Taking the kids to a restaurant I went to as a kid - very weird.

Kid plastic cup? Um no...but wait, we have a washed out yogurt container. Perfect.

Kai at his 'playground'. There are no real kid friendly parks here, but dozens of restaurants have full playgrounds. Works for me!

Delicious pizza in the middle of setting up our apartment - the boys liked it....

And so did the girls!

Kai learning the finesse necessary for drinking coke from a bottle - he's also developing an affinity for Ethiopian food. Good  boy.

First dinner in our new apartment - no table, or beds, or couches, or dressers...but we have plates!

Kai eating lasagna...coffee table + trunk = perfect kid table

Kitchen now...pretty much the same but now the cupboards are full!

Kitchen pantry - a Kenyan commonality the US could use

Living Room when we first moved in...and for about a week and a half after.

Making couch cushions

The cushions I'm making...
Making lamp shade covers...
I think it worked!

Dining room when we first moved in....

Dining room with a small table...we currently have the big table but it's crooked so I'll post a pic once it's improved :)

Kai has a bed!!!
Kai's bunk - as is for now, until he learns to stop falling out of bed & we can put the mattress underneath his bed back on the top bunk.

Kai's room is mostly finished - much further along than the rest of the house...

Mika's bed - right next to ours...think I'm gonna keep her there for a while. Who needs a crib at this point?

Practicing table top dancing

Am I a negligent parent?..note: no children were harmed in the taking of this photograph, or immediately thereafter.

Oh Charlie Brown...how I do empathize with your tree...
Kai's first time hanging ornaments
He did a great job, if I do say so myself.
Mmmm....I think my head is getting bigger.

Settling in - one obscure piece of foam for couch cushions at a time. 

So - there you have it, there you go. Some little bits & pieces of our lives here. I'll be better about putting up pictures on a more regular basis. Unfortunately our internet has been given us quite a few problems which is why there are far fewer entries here than I would like, and far fewer pictures. Give me a bit of time (Kenyan time...which means 3 times longer than you think it should take) and we'll be updating you, and giving you 'glimpses' much more often.

For now - I leave you with the two brightest spots of my every day:

The Favorites