Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!!

We were so looking forward to being stateside for Halloween this year!! Although I can do without the ghouls and goblins, blood & gore type decor kids dressing up and collecting bags full of free candy is pure joy!! From the moment we described Halloween to Annikah she was so excited and would scream with glee at the thought of getting to dress up as something girly AND get free candy. She wore a Tinkerbell dress that my mom found when she cleaned my sister's old stuff out of her room and she was THRILLED! She also got to be together with ALL her cousins in Cedar Rapids!! It was such a blast and I got to use my new camera to capture every door ringing, candy acquiring, sweet moment. My idea of a great day! Happy Halloween!!

Anni & Aunt Annie
our fam heading out for trick or treating!
our little Tink

ready to go!
The first house we approached she yelled "Hoodi" but soon Joel and Silas showed her the ropes of saying "Trick or Treat" and we ran from house to house as they filled their bags with sugary goodness.
just take one
People who go all out for Halloween are hilarious! This house had knights to welcome us!
Dillman fam (minus Mark)
all the cousins together!! trick or treating at Bibi & Babu's house
how sweet is this?
"check out my loot"

all our trick-or-treaters
the cowardly lion
the scarecrow
the tin man

a butterfly
Hey! Who is this guy?

Cedar Rapids with the Engstrom Fam

We are enjoying time with the Engstrom clan in Cedar Rapids, Iowa! After a memorable trip to find a pumpkin patch with what seemed like off road driving through corn fields:) (except for the frigid temps we felt like we were back in Africa) :) we have been enjoying great food at Jason's parents house. Bibi Rhoda also had a craft day with leaf rubbings, stickers, galore, and even pumpkin tattoos for the kiddos. We have loved spending time with the Dillman family (Anni reunited with cousins Joel and Silas, and we met Anni's new cousin Joshua!) We also spent the day today in Iowa City with Jason's sister Annie and her husband Justin and their little girl Claire who was born after we left for Africa. Claire is so sweet and LOVES Anni, she even shakes with excitement when she sees Annikah. Here are some pictures of the festivities so far. Trick or treating tonight....Yeah!
cousin hugs....Silas & Anni have been looking forward to this for a long time!
Anni & Silas in the Dillman's backyard "park",
Anni was super impressed!
playing in Bibi & Babu's house...tearing the joint up! cousins reunited!
Annie & Claire
kissing cousins

fall decor is fun!
trying out my new camera!
Bibi with her granddaughters
Bibi teaches the kids how to do leaf rubbing
Joel made a book
Silas & Anni show off their "tats"

works of art

carousel ride with Claire

the indoor play place at the mall will have to do since it is sooo darn COLD!

Friday, October 30, 2009

a few of my favorite things...

Before returning to the states we sort of lusted after certain comforts we would enjoy once home. So far we have been able to enjoy a few of our favs. We hit Target, Trader Joe's, and Costco (where we got a great deal on a new camera...exciting stuff and I will post pics as soon as I read the instruction manual and figure our how to actually take pics :), and other "Ge-nerica" favs. These past two have been vastly different than the lives we have been leading the past year and a half but I must say it is not as weird as I thought it would be and we are all enjoying the change of pace and surrounding.

It is fairly easy to be at least partially critical of one's home country when you live there all your life. After all most thinking individuals can see that certain things have just gone a bit astray in our culture and like every culture we have missed the mark on some things. Especially being a history teacher I like to investigate, study, and reflect of the mistakes and triumphs of the past to see how we can move forward in making our nation even better than it is.
Living outside the U.S. for a time has made me realize that while those things are very true there are also soooo many amazing benefits to living in the states, so many things we miss, and so much that you cannot get anywhere but home. Darn it...makes me want to stand up and sing the national anthem, ok I will resist but we have missed some of our American favs. Of course we miss family and friends the most but this post will focus on the less important but monumentally fabulous favs we have missed, at least some of them (we have only been home 2 weeks and we shall get to more especially when I actually can enjoy eating:)). While I posted these pics (in record time...add Internet that works quickly to the list) I found myself humming "a few of the my favorite things" from Sound of Music. Feel free to join me in celebration of all that is excess, of all that is fast, of all that is immediate gratification, of all the selection, of all that is HUGE, and .....American.....we have missed it so!!

ridiculously HUGE sizes of everything.....

here we bask in the glory of gi-normous and free refills on fountain beverages!

cute fall and winter clothes!! & NOT sweating all day!
bizarre angle.. but Anni's first ever movie theater experience!!

We saw Toy Story 3D! Thanks Bibi!
the mall!! With rides that work & also have safety features

and more Starbucks....They mistakenly gave us a Venti as we whizzed through the drive complaints here!

Target is exciting stuff!!! Anni cannot believe how much "stuff for kids they have"

ridiculous sizes of cheap cheese!!! Hallelujah!

the park! the park!!
there is sun here Anni!
a massive burger and too many fries...American portions rule! We found out they built a Five Guys in our old neighborhood in the city...Jason approves!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

mtoto mchanga update

Thanks to everyone who offered prayers and called or emailed to ask about how my various doctor appointments went these past 2 weeks. We have found a practice near my Mom's house in Wheaton that we will use for the arrival of mtoto mchanga. The doctor we met was very nice and although we waited forever (we are good at that:) he was experienced with situations like mine and offered various options for us. I also was a good preggers and got my flu and H1N1 vaccinations there. We will deliver at Central Dupage Hospital if everything goes as planned and we have heard great things about it from friends that had their baby there. It has a huge new wing for labor/delivery and mother/baby stuff so we are excited! We have not been on a tour yet nor do we have any clue what the set up or plan will be but honestly anything here is more familiar and probably better than anything in Tanzania so we are not that worried.

After a brief scan for growth the Friday we returned the doctor ordered another scan with the specialist on Monday at the hospital. I was hoping everything would be fabulous meaning we would be smooth sailing until checks toward the end of the pregnancy. The great news is the baby continue to measure at her due date, I have gained a few more pounds since returning to the states (there is a reason why we are the fatest nation people!! The food rules!), and although I don't feel like "myself," for my sicky prego self I am feeling better most days and able to function and eat. The placenta blood flow looked ok as well so that was great. The doctor did see a "sign of stress" as he called it and wants to recheck with non stress tests every week and an additional high risk scan in 3 weeks. The issue as explained to me is that although her measurements are on target her abdomen is measuring too small for the rest of her body possibly due to her not getting enough nutrition. He boiled it down by saying she is "too skinny." Poor baby but it honestly does not surprise me as I lived on bread and coke for months. He said she could just be predestined to be tall and skinny (in which case she will thank me profusely one day:) or it could be a result of lack of nutrition during pregnancy, an untreated thyroid issue early on, and /or the HG. It is too difficult to separate out what may be the root issue nor does it matter at this point. We just have to monitor it more closely and continue to pray everything is fine. The doctor ordered another thyroid check which came out normal this time: YEAH!(we will recheck soon). He also said most babies catch up with the growth before birth and I was encouraged again that ultimately this is all in His hands. I am grateful for the medical care we are able to get here but also it is just a lot to take in and I continue to wonder if we would be better off in some cases just not knowing since I cannot really DO anything about the situation. Physically the pregnancy has weighed on me so much and Jason was not able to go with me to this last scan so hearing everything without him (luckily my mom was there) is just emotionally exhausting. We will have the non-stress tests here in Iowa but may have to return for the next major scan if we cannot find a doctor who will do it out here (Jason's initial calls did not go well). We know everything is in His hands and with perfect His timing so we wait yet again but this time not much longer, less than 2 months to go!! Thanks everyone for your care, concern, emails, phone calls, and prayers.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

friends & family

By far the most difficult part of living overseas is being so far from family and friends. There is no substitute for time spent with ones you love and we are soaking it in, sort of saving it all up for a rainy day (or a stifling hot day with no power day as our case may be). Thanks to everyone who has come to see us already and we hope to spend more time with those that are dear to us soon. We just arrived in Cedar Rapids and are spending time with Jason's fam for a few weeks.
Beck and her girls drove up to Lake Geneva....sort of like the "band being back together"

showing Ais & Indi her "monkey room" in Bibi's house
we celebrated my Dad's Bday and Anni was more than happy to help eat his free dessert!
we stayed in Chicago with friends Jim and Andrea and their son was so sweet to share his bikes with Anni
no sidewalks where we live so Anni loved it!!
spending time with Laura & Joshua in Lake Geneva....
NOTE: 9 month pregnant friends who drive to Lake Geneva to see us get rock star awards!
next time we see each other we will both have newborns :)
Joshua and Anni...they are only 1 week apart!
Jill also came all the way to Lake Geneva!! My friends rock!
Anni reconnects with some friends at our church in Chicago
taking a ride on Great Grandpa's new wheels!! We got to visit Jason's grandpa as well as my grandparents. Annikah performed some of her songs she learned at her school and after singing her ABC's my grandpa yelled "what language was that?" He needs a hearing aid but we love him!:)
our friends in Chicago had a mini welcome back party for us but I forgot to take more pics. It was awesome to see everyone, especially so many new babies born since we left and to reconnect. They even had chips, salsa, and guacamole from our fav restaurant in the city!! They also collected clothes for Anni and I as well as tons for the new baby.
Community is a blessing we do not take for granted! Thanks everyone!