Posts Tagged ‘Family’

Ameena

Today we celebrate one wonderful year of having Ameena in our lives.  

What a full year this last one has been. 

Being pregnant while living in Africa was interesting.  I felt healthy, but had more physical symptoms than with any of my other children.  Crazy high blood sugar that I monitored much less than I should have—seriously, you think they have glucose meters and testing strips there?  I think the chemist laughed me right out of his pharmacy when I asked about it.  About 4 months into the pregnancy my in-laws were kind enough to bring a meter and strips…and I rationed those babies out til almost a month before the baby was born.   I perfected a pretty good routine of walking a brisk path from our house to the Centre office, around the playground and back to the house…generally before I started dinner as darkness falls quickly and routinely every night there by 7pm.  On some evenings if my sugar was especially high I’d lay on the thin rug covering our concrete floor in the living room and do the “bicycle” like I was escaping town.  I’m sure it looked humorous, but it was pretty effectively in bringing the sugar levels down.

I also dealt with some horrid lower back pain which was in no way helped by the fact that we did all of the washing by hand until mid November.  Unlike our Kenyan househelp who would come twice a week and stoop to do the laundry, I happily seated myself on our little green plastic stool to dunk the clothes in and out of the bin.  The laundry (aka shower room) was my home for good parts of the day.  Sometimes I’d go to stand, and would cry out in pain……it seemed like the only relief would come from going into the child pose.  Many a Kenyan walked into our home in the evenings and found me there in the middle of the room practicing some good ol’ yoga.

I also suffered a great deal more nausea than usual.  This was not helped by the schizophrenic driving conditions we navigated on a daily basis.  One day, when driving with Megan into Nairobi I had to pull over to vomit on the side of the road.  We had just passed through a rural town and I carefully picked the pullover spot to ensure that it would be free from the usual roadside gawkers.  I got out of our car, crossed in front of the car to the side of the road and bent down to vomit.  Out of no where  a group of school kids appeared and in broken English began to ask questions like, “Why the muzungu vomit?”  “Muzungu vomit?!?”  “What wrong pretty lady?” as they pointed at me.  Megan yelled from the car for the kids to go away.  They were unphased.  I quickly signaled for her to take the wheel and climbed into the car hoping to escape their curious stares and prying questions.  A staff member at the Centre later informed me that Kenyan’s have all sorts of beliefs about white people:  1)  We never vomit   2) If we are in the sun too long, our skin might melt  3) We can get anyone into the US and so on.

Even my delivery with Ameena was interesting and so Kenyan.  I was pretty determined to not have to have an epidural during this delivery…I mean I was at a nice hospital, but crazy stuff happens in a 3rd world country and I didn’t want first hand experience.   Having had my first two babies in the US, I was used to nurses coming in and out, checking the vitals, seeing how “far along” things had progressed, bringing in ice chips, wiping down your forehead, fluffing the pillows, telling you what a great job you were doing.  Pretty high standards.  While I did get a visit from my doctor at 9 am, I had labored all morning mostly alone and had walked my room (not a delivery room) wondering when someone might come to check on me.  I parked myself on that labor ball and counted the floor tiles in my room.  There were a good 30 tiles that I could count through on every contraction.

Same position for about 5 hours….and all I could get on t.v. was the election of a new Prime Minister in England. Torture.

Ian finally arrived back from breakfast (it’s never an easy trip in Kenya) at about 10am and after one good look at me went for a nurse.  She came back and decided we better MOVE!  We barely got into that Labor and Delivery room, had me on the ball and in a position to see a good 30 tiles when DANG that pain ramped up.  I started to panic and asked if we might put that sweet bathtub to use.  I’d always wanted to try it during labor.  True to Kenya again, the nurse indicated that it would take a while to get some hot water into it. I was willing to wait.

 
My body wasn’t.  My water popped like a good summer water balloon.  Ian and I later cringed over the thought of that birthing ball rolling over to the corner of the room without a second look from staff.  Gross.
 
I really started to panic.  No hot bath.  Was there anything else I could have?!?  PLEASE?  You know that moment.
 
The nurse started babbling about laughing gas, but that we would need a fetal heart rate first.  She got me up onto the delivery table, strapped that monitor on my belly and started to fiddle with the machine.
 
At that moment, I went a little CRAZY.  The pain was insane.  I starting that horrible writhing around and ripped the belt off of me.  The nurse (Yes, only one) was a little taken aback by my behavior and decided to check me.  “Just 7 cm” she pronounced.  I wanted to kill her.  7 freaking centimeters?  Was she high?
 
She proceeded to get on her cell phone (nope, no landlines, not even in the hospital) to call my doctor on over…..and as she did, I think I made some vulgar comment about either having a major bodily function happen or I was having this baby. 
 
“NO!” everyone (ok the nurse and Ian) yelled.
 
“Whatever” I thought….and you know what?  I pushed that freaking (sorry Ameena) baby out as that darn nurse about had a stroke (trying to hold the phone and put on her dang gloves) while yelling out into the hall and Ian jumped to keep this surprise from dropping on the floor.  The nurse  recovered, and quickly grabbed her goo basin to put at the end of the table and took over for Ian in holding Ameena.  Poor Ian slumped and an additional nurse who had just walked in grabbed his arm and a paper bag for him to breathe into.  Poor  guy.  Too much blood, too much gross, too much baby–all way too fast.
 
Not enough doctor.  She sauntered in 10 minutes later to check everything out.   All I could think was, “Man, I still have to pay her delivery fee and she didn’t even deliver the baby!  But then again, it’s a good thing we don’t pay them for how long they “attend” or some of us would have some ridiculous bills!
 
With all that said, it has been quite a ride Ms. Ameena.  The first 3 months of your life in Kenya have made these last 9 months in the US pale in drama, but I wouldn’t trade a second of it.  You are everything God intended you to be for our family.  Without a doubt I can say that we all adore you and are thankful for the gift that you are to all of us. 
 
Baby, you were worth the wait.
 
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Life is short

In the past month I have been so reminded of this fact.

My dear sister’s husband came down with a horrid illness that led to hospitalization, then acute rehab, and now home.  He has a long road of recovery & we are all praying  that he recovers all of his language and brain function.  Life changes in a second…..even when you live in a place like the US that seems relatively safe and routine with state of the art medicine, and technology and all of the things we surround ourselves with.

A friend returned from Kenya this last week.  She is a regular supporter of Karibu Centre and conducts regular trainings with the staff there.  A wonderful woman.  She brought with her the news that the husband of our househelp Elizabeth, had died.  I’m guessing he’s a few years older than I.  She lived right next door to our home at Karibu Centre, in the slum.  I met Elizabeth early on during our time in Kenya, she was one of 5 core women from the slum that volunteered to help Ian and I cook food for the feeding program that started Karibu Centre.  Elizabeth had spunk.  A tough woman who was interested in these wazungu.  A woman willing to pound stone all day long into ballast (gravel) just to earn a $1.50….because idle hands don’t feed  a family.  A few months before we left Kenya, and before Ameena arrived, Elizabeth came to work in our home.  It was an adjustment for both of us.  For her to be privy to American customs and ways of interacting.  For me to have this rough and slightly awkward woman in my business.    I am trying to imagine the circumstances that might have led to his death.  Thinking of Kenya, it could have been a sudden case of cholera, a misunderstanding that led to being beat to death, a matatu/truck accident, or trouble at work (he was a security guard).

And then dear Ameena.  My sweet baby is approaching a year old this next week and I can hardly believe it has come and gone so fast.  She truly is a unique baby.  Happy in spirit almost all of the time, quick to smile and laugh.   Easy going and pleasant.   She is the product of  such longing and hope, and a pregnancy experienced in a different culture and place.  Truly she had to end up a special baby!  I squeeze her, take in a breath of her smell as I rub my nose on her cheek and close my eyes capturing it all in a memory.

With Ian’s temporary job ending after May, it is easy to get wrapped up in worry and anticipation of what might be next.  But, in remembering how life is short, and unexpected, and never what you think…..I’ll choose instead to be grateful and thankful for the moments of today.

Dear Karibu.

“We are stitched together, and what love has tethered, I can never undo”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KI2JJ1OCz8U

Dear Karibu Centre family,

When you call me crying, you make me cry. 

When you call and need answers, and neither you nor I have them, I hate telling you so.

When you call and say you’re expecting a baby, I wish I were there to watch the amazing miracle of life grow and change you into an amazing woman and mother.

When you grieve the loss of a baby, I grieve with you and wish I were there to walk with you through the valley of the shadow of death (psm 23:4).

When you struggle, and fight, and are harsh with one another like Kenyans can be…..I want Ian to come over there and do something silly, just to make you all laugh and lighten up a bit.  And then I’d like to look you all mean in the eye, as if you were my kids, and tell you to knock it off!

When you send pictures of new babies, I yearn to KNOW them, not know of them. 

When you need an encouraging, loving, uplifting friend, know I will be here.  That though I may be a world apart from you all, we are stitched together.

I love you.

In the thick of it!

Today is December 8th, and I find myself in the thick of the Christmas crazy hustle and bustle.

I listened to a wonderful segment on the radio about scheduling in “the ordinary” during the holiday season, just so you can have enough time at home….to get all the ordinary done.  Laundry, cleaning, feeding, email, bills, grocery shopping.  You block out a few days a week….to just do the ordinary…and when someone asks if you can do something/go somewhere/attend something, you’ve already got plans!

This afternoon, I’m trying to do the ordinary and be at home, and get a few things done….along with a few Christmas tasks.

First on the list of Christmas tasks to accomplish:  Christmas cards.

I was THRILLED beyond belief to find a link of a girlfriends blog for free Shutterfly Christmas cards for bloggers.  http://blog.shutterfly.com/5358/holiday2010-blog-submission-form/ For years now we’ve done a photo Christmas card from this site as well as other fun products.  I am LOVING how many options there now are for Christmas cards….photo  cards, stationary stock, stationary folding  etc.  I’ve made about 5 different cards that I hope to choose from in the next day or so. 

Here are a  few of my options, you’ll have to wait for the mail to see what I end up choosing, but you can make one for yourself, and take advantage of the free cards for bloggers if you do so before this weekend!  http://www.shutterfly.com/cards-stationery/christmas-cards

If I had just one adorable photo, I’d probably have to go for this card that is available this year.  I love the colors, graphics,fonts, everything:

These are 2 of our past photo cards:

Here are a few of the things we have enjoyed creating over the years!

and then we’ve made a variety of mugs, which you can explore here:  http://www.shutterfly.com/photo-gifts/photo-mugs

While these ones were made for Father’s Day a few years back, I love the idea of them for easy and inexpensive gifts for family who are far away from us!

And last but not least, I’ve eyed this product for a while yet, and I think that this year might be the year that I bite the bullet and get it done!  I’d love to have one of our favorite Kenyan pictures turned into some art for our home!   I see a picture very similar to this one, just of my toes peeking out over the Indian Ocean….

 http://www.shutterfly.com/home-decor/canvas-wall-art

I can’t wait to get this Christmas project off the ground and into the mail for all of you….if you are one of our wonderful friends in Kenya, please be so  kind to either Facebook your address to us, or email it to:  ianandanne1@yahoo.com, so I can send you our card!

How can it compare?

You might notice that the number of blogs posted since our return to the States the first part of  August has been 3.  That’s about one per month.  That’s pretty pathetic.

I guess it’s just really hard to compare our life here with our life in Kenya….it all seems so mundane and usual and NOT blog worthy.  I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, just a REALLY different thing.

I  notice that I can drive for long distances here and be daydreaming the whole time.  None of that knuckle gripping tense driving that is par for the course in Kenya.  No need to constantly scan the environment for dangers.  No need to dodge people, vehicles or animals. 

So, I guess you’ll all just have to adjust your expectation of what this blog is gonna be now, and I will too.

No more amazing tales of African adventures.  Now you’ll be getting disgusting tales of baby, preschool and kindergarten kids, which can be just as entertaining, I’m sure.

I am thankful and adjusting well to regular life again.  Thank goodness we don’t have cockroaches, disgustingly large spiders/locusts/crickets/beetles, or random goats/chickens walking through buildings (or our house).

I am thankful for the wonderful group of family and friends who supported us while we were in Kenya, and that we know get to see some part of the group almost daily.  LOVE, LOVE, LOVE!

And now, for a few pictures that highlight our first few months home from Kenya:

An afternoon….

I’m guessing that at times it might be hard to imagine what life over here is like.

At least that’s my guess since I really had very little idea of what to expect before we come over.  I thought I was pretty prepared with my expectations as I’d taken work and witness mission trips in high school and college to less developed countries.

What I wasn’t prepared for (now I think, duh!) was how different everyday life can be from a 1 – 2 week visit to one of these developing countries.

It’s the everyday mundane things we might take for granted in the States that often take up my afternoon….that and work stuff.  So, I thought hey, I’d share what a typical Sunday might look like here in Kenya.

We wake up here daily, without an alarm (which never would happen for me in the States), promptly at 6:30am  every day because the sun rises and sets at the same time, every day of the year when you live this close to the equator.  And, if the sun weren’t enough to rouse me, I have a 3 year old who is happy to stand by my net enclosed bed to alert me that the sun is out and I need to get up.  NOW!  If I am lucky enough to beg off a few minutes, she is promptly back to remind me that my few minutes are more than over…..

On Sunday, we hang around and eat some breakfast until about 8:20 when Ian leaves to take the Centre girls to church in the van.   On some days this can be quite an experience, especially if the dirt road to the Centre from the main road is flooded in about 2 feet of water (as it is now) .  Thank goodness the Centre van has a snorkle on it.  Plenty of gripping on the roof handle still occurs as we plow through the water, along with Centre girls saying all sorts of exclamations in Swahili.  Ian usually arrives home by 8:45 when we need to leave to make the hour trip into Nairobi so we can attend church ourselves.

Church.  Thank goodness it’s only  1 1/2 hours long.  American-style.  Out by 11:30.

When they travel a very short 5 minutes to eat at the mall food court (really people, there aren’t any other choices, and the food court is the highlight of our week).  Usually we are accompanied by friends from church.  1 hour.  Customer service just doesn’t equate to quick or fast food in Kenya.

Leave food court & drive to what is in my opinion, the good  grocery shopping store.  Really, you all know what it’s like to shop in a store with a horrible layout and poor stock.  It’s not even worth the effort.  This drive takes 30 minutes.

Grocery shopping.  1-2 hours.  Check out can last 30 minutes (usual) or longer.  I think that 10 key instruction would revolutionize Kenya…sometimes I just want to hop on over that belt and whip some UPC codes out for those guys.   I’ll take a slow checker or broken scanner though any day over having all of the groceries scanned and packed, and then having the computer (yes they do use a computer system) turn off.   That happened 2 weeks in a row, with cranky kids (and me) in tow and that was enough to ensure that now I carefully investigate the checker technique and speed of each line before lining my cart up.

By the time we leave the grocery store (and this is speedy by most standards because I have a list and Ian and I divy it up) it is either 2 or 3 pm.

We then cram in the car  (generally 3 adults and 2 toddlers in a 5 person sedan)and prepare for the hour or  more drive back to our beloved home of Thika.  This generally involves the following statement, “Kids, go to sleep right this minute or you’ll have to take a nap when we get home.”   Amazingly enough, this is all it usually takes to have them conked out in less than 5 minutes…..because who really needs a 3 year old asking about 20 times where the camel was that she was too slow to see out the side window?

We arrive home by 3:30 or 4pm usually, unload the groceries and put them into the fridge/pantry.  Today I put them into a warm fridge because the power was out again.  Thankfully it came on within the  hour.  It is not unusual for us to have power outages 3-4 times per week for as little as 30 minutes, but also up to an entire day.  You never know.  Thankfully, I’ve relaxed a lot about food in general, and it seems like a lot less gets thrown out here than would at home.  The food police or Terry Goldman are going to need to come and help me when I get back to Portland because I’m sure that I’ll be allowing way too many unsanitary food practices to go on.

Then, I usually end up doing laundry (like all of you at home), but in my  dual drum washer that requires manual filling/emptying and transferring to the spin tub.  Now don’t get me wrong, I love this baby…..it has reduced laundry to a 2 hour chore instead of all day.  Then (like today) I might take a bucket of water out to my front concrete porch to wash off all of the mud that was brought in by the nightly/morning rain.  If you leave it, it gets tracked into the house like no ones business.  Such was the case today, so I washed the concrete floors in the dining/living room and the kitchen too.

By the time that was done, it was 5:30….and dinnertime.

Dinner prep, dinner, dinner clean-up.

Kid clean-up, Bed prep, kids to bed.

Now it’s 8:30, and I am getting ready for me time.

So, I guess that there are many things here in Kenya that are the same as life in Portland, just without the speed and modern conveniences we are accustomed to.  The slowness rather than being invigorating tends to drain the body of energy…..and we have never found ourselves staying up til 11pm like we might at home.  Perhaps it is the heat, or the need to shut the house up from the darn Malaria mosquitos at dusk, the darkness by 7pm, or the inability to go out on the town at night because of safety concerns…..but, I’ll be heading to bed within the hour.

At home I’d “melt” by 10pm and need to be in bed.  In Africa, I feel melted by 8pm.

So with that said, goodnight all, it’s 30 minutes past melting hour.

a day in the life of my active child

Last week Ian was able to tag along on a climbing trip up Mt. Kenya. This is one of those things he has hoped to do while we are here, so we both agreed that it wasn’t an opportunity he should pass up. 

It meant that he would be gone for a total of 4 days. The most he’s been gone while we have lived here in Kenya is overnight. I’m pretty ok being by myself here in Kenya now, but the thought of managing house and the work of the Centre was a bit overwhelming. 

The running of the Centre and family proved to be quite manageable, with the help of Megan who is the Volunteer Coordinator at the Centre. She took over a great number of tasks that Ian might generally do, and watched the kids when there were meetings etc. that I needed to be in. 

Just as I was about to pat myself on the back for a job well done on the final night 3 alone of Ian’s trip……drama occurred. 

Drama isn’t unusual in our house though. Especially when it comes in the variety produced by 3 and 4 year olds. 

It started with Eli and Lucy in the shower, taking baths. This is what our shower looks like: 

Lately, bath time has turned into Eli and Lucy crawling around on the tile floor, barking like dogs and taking turns passing under the cold water spigot. It’s a thrilling and cheap experience for them. Kind of like a water park without the park.

Well, Lucy comes out of the shower room yelling and screaming that she slipped and bonked her head. I did a brief inspection of her head, and couldn’t come up with a bump or any redness so I told her to stop her fussing so we could get ready for bed. I think I might have also told both kids to knock off all of the craziness, that bath time was OVER! and to go and get their pajamas to put on. 

I did the regular night time routine, brushing teeth, filled water cups, necessary blankies, books, baby dolls, hugs, kisses, about 20 random questions answered, zipped nets and the whole deal. 

About an hour after falling asleep, Lucy woke up screaming that her head hurt. I gave her some kids Tylenol and laid her back down. She proceeded to wake up every 20 minutes or so for the next 2 hours until I finally decided to lay her down in my bed with me at 10:30 pm. 

Just as I laid her down and opened my AWESOME “Baby and Child A to Z Medical Handbook” courtesy of Paula Smith to head injury and reminded myself of the symptoms…..well….then she proceeded to grace me with the symptoms of vomiting. Everywhere. All over my bed. 

Thus the frantic search for her pediatrician’s phone number (he has like 6 numbers, of which 1 might work at any given time). I made multiple calls, and finally received a call back instructing me to immediately take her into the emergency room of the Children’s Hospital in Nairobi. 

Does anyone recall how long that drive to Nairobi is?? I am certain I have talked in length about the perils of driving the Thika Road highway (yes, Erika, I know you can hardly describe it as a highway or freeway) and how awful it is. And, to mention that we rarely drive at night because of safety issues.  

And here I was staring down the fact that I was alone, with a pretty sick kid, 8 months pregnant, at 10:45 at night getting ready to drive frantically to the hospital in Nairobi a minimum of an hour away. 

I put on my calm hat. 

Called Megan and asked her to come over and stay with Eli (who of course slept through all of the commotion) and changed Lucy into some clean clothes. 

I load her into the car, and get in, and then realize I can’t find my phone. 

As I’m hunting for the phone, I hear Lucy moan from the back of the car, and then she has vomited all over herself and the back seat. 

So out of the car we go again. I stripped her down on the patio, and Megan helped me dress her again. Baby doll, blankie, and her crocs get left because, well, they’re covered in puke. 

I make the drive to Nairobi without any hassle other than a 30 minute traffic jam just outside of town. We arrive to the hospital a bit after midnight, with just one more incident of car puking. A great smell when your closed in, but not that bad when compared to the usual smells of Africa I must admit. 

We were quickly ushered through emergency (we didn’t even have to sit down on a chair), Lucy went through triage, and then the doctor was in to see her within a few minutes with the diagnosis of a concussion and the need for admittance into the hospital for observation for 12-24 hours. 

Then we sat for a while. The typical ER room sit. A good 1 – 1 1/2 hour sit. Then we were checked into a room in the Felicity Ward (which was decorated with a walking purple grape that had eyes and antenna and bright green and purple paint) where I promptly crawled into bed. Lucy refused the “crib” because it was for babies, and crawled in next to me. Food service came in and asked if I wanted dinner. I thought, “Uh, no, it’s 2 am! LET ME SLEEP!” But I politely declined until morning. 

Lucy or perhaps the nurses woke us up at 6 am, and thus our long day of sitting in an empty room on the children’s ward began. For Africa, the hospital was quite nice, but by about 9am, with a restless 3 year old, I was really beginning to question how they couldn’t have a single child’s toy or activity available. It was a children’s hospital after all. I finally scrounged 5 crayons and a piece of paper which bought a good 30 minutes of nap time on my part. I reminded myself that this was how sleep goes with a newborn baby, so this experience was just a good dress rehearsal. 

By 10:30am I broke down and called in emergency reserves and begged a friend who was working clear across town (probably an hour drive) to bring me a coffee. I made sure to call a friend who has trouble saying no. We’ve all got those friends (Eve Stoughton) and love them in moments like these. He kindly obliged and then told me about the cafeteria downstairs in the hospital after he arrived. Whoops on my part, but please, cafeteria coffee (ie a packet of Nescafe) can never compare to real brewed coffee. 

Lucy and I stayed in the hospital the rest of the day and then after a lovely 2 hour discharge process and payment to all of the involved parties, took ourselves on the hour drive home, after stopping off for a celebratory milkshake of course. Who stays in the hospital and doesn’t get an ice cream for goodness sakes? I cheated on my diabetes diet and had one too. I told myself I deserved it. Sorry baby May. I’ll try not to make it a habit. 

And so, my week without Ian ended with a bang, but it was manageable and everyone made it through it, albeit with a few dents and a little puke later.