Sunday, January 31, 2010

reunion of the mamas'

A must while in Chicago was seeing the Roger's Park Mama's (est. Jan 2007)and kiddos. These friends and kids were such a part of our lives when we lived in Chicago. We met weekly from when our first born kids were a few months old and there is just something about the bond of motherhood that has kept us connected. Everyone was there (minus Sarah who was dearly missed) and all of us had our second with us (one still in the belly:). Rock star award Shayna's hubby (he is literally a rock star too:) kept the older kids busy so we could catch up. We talked of jobs, culture, change, kids, and mostly how things have changed but how they have stayed the same since we were all together last. They asked a lot of great questions about Africa and I got to hear about their jobs and lives. We ate hummus and fabulous home made soup while we wrangled kids. These women never cease to amaze me with their mama skills, love for their kids and others, and strong spirits.
*Michelle's blog has GREAT pictures of the last 3 years in her post- check it out here.

Last time we were all together:

the kids this past week (minus Elliot whose fam moved to Michigan)

they are big kids compared to this picture

girly love!

picture of round 2: the new babies. 6 months, 5 months, 5 weeks, and due next week!
I love you ladies! It was awesome to see you and your gorgeous kiddos!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

a bit of honesty

I have a newborn. Well, she is 5 weeks old now and she is beautiful and a blessing. But I am remembering why I am not a big fan of the newborn stage. I felt this way the first time around but then was too concerned about being a "bad mom" to admit it. I am over feeling that way. I feel a lot more freedom now. Why do we mothers spend so much time in guilt-ville? We compare and feel guilt. We struggle and feel guilt. We fail and feel guilt.

The truth is I love kids especially my girls who are undeniably adorable little people and amazing blessings that God has entrusted to me and J. But we all know how I feel about pregnancy. And the first months are pretty hard for me. I am still struggling with my milk supply as I did with Annikah and while I am committed to working through it it is hard to feel like I cannot provide for my baby. Feeling like a dairy cow is getting old especially having to whip out my boob through layers of clothes a billion times everyday. The sleep deprivation is nothing compared to the HG nausea but is beginning to take it's toll. Add in the other newborn issues; gas, fussiness, and epic baby blowouts (seriously how does Evy poop UP TO HER NECK) and I am just spent.

Newborns are unpredictable and I like to know what is next, what to expect, how I can plan, the flow. Once they can offer feedback, smile, communicate, laugh, even be naughty I just enjoy being a mama more. I think it is hard for me because this stage can make me feel powerless. Like the hours you spending rocking, bouncing, nursing, burping, and holding sort of in an unpredictable succession unsure of what they really need or want. The other night in complete exhaustion I cried because after trying my arsenal of Mama powered soothing techniques Evy was still upset. inconsolable. Then we were both crying and it was just no good.

Overall, this time around it is much easier. Maybe because I know myself more. Maybe because I know more of what to expect. Maybe because I am more laid back. Maybe it is because Evy is (oh, please Lord let it be true) "easier" so far. Maybe it is because I have an adorable helpful older daughter and a supportive and concerned husband. But still, honestly it is hard. I am trying to savor every moment as I know this stage will pass and I will long for the days of smelling a sweet newborn bald head, or snuggling with a baby that I can cradle in one arm, or that tight but tiny hand gripping my finger, and those quiet and sweet moments spent nursing her in the middle of the night. I remind myself it will go quickly. Savor, cope, love, breathe, and enjoy.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

good times in chicago

We are still in Chicago enjoying some time catching up with friends and sharing about our work in Tanzania. It has been a whirlwind but fabulous to see everyone and we are storing up amazing warm fuzzies and memories for a rainy day(or a power-less sweltering one in our case). Here is a sampling of our crazy week... sleepover buddies. Anni got to sleepover at Fellow princess lover Ava's house and the girls had a blast. Anni kept praying for Ava the next day and told us over and over again (accompanied by giggles) "Ava and me don't like to sleep. We play and talk"

Anni got to attend Ava's ballet class at a real dance studio the next morning!
After dance class we hit the Kohl's Children's Museum
fun at the museum...Phin checks out where Tanzania is!
some art projects
putting on "make-up"
train table fun
On Saturday we got treated to tickets of The Last of the Dragons at Lifeline theater by Beck (thanks girl!!). A friend actually worked on the production and we were so excited to see the kid's show. We went with Beck, her daughters, a friend from their school, and us. Anni was "in" the moment she heard that there was a princess involved (that and the fact we hit McD's play place before the show). Evy enjoyed her first live theater experience by sleeping during most of it (except a few loud farts :) that the kids sitting around us thought were pretty funny. Local theater: Yeah!
with the cast of The Last of the Dragons
Anni & the princess
Beck & me
After the play we headed to a friend's house who graciously offered to have all the Mama folk and kiddos over since all of our hubbies were having a guy's night out playing sports and eating way too much :) It was hilarious as there were 6 women and 14 kids (plus two women are expecting)!! It was nothing short of total chaos trying to feed everyone, kids running everywhere, and us Mamas chatting. It was hilarious. The best moment came when a friend's son toddled out of the bathroom playing with an open DIRTY diaper (at least it was his own poop!). I laughed out loud reflecting how different our lives were just 5 years ago!! Instead of sipping wine at a restaurant we were feeding babies, wiping bootays, refereeing kid fights, and generally trying to contain the craziness. Oh, how times of changed!! But in that moment I also realized how blessed I am to have friends that we have grown with. We have seen each other move through life and I am amazed at the awesome women I have in my life. Jason arrived home late that night but as we were sharing about our nights we both started tearing up as we do not take these friendships for granted and are certainly going to miss everyone desperately in a couple months. Thanks everyone for some fabulous memories made in the Chi!! More to come this week...
some of the crazy kid chaos!!
*Notice my child doning a tutu & jumping on the bed
Anni loves her "chicago friends"
Evy & Wesley chill-axin' at church

1 month stats

here are Miss Evy's 1 month stats & facts:
We had Evy's 1 month check up yesterday. She is now 8lbs 6 oz! Yeah she has gained almost 2 pounds. The Dr. said she is long and lean; taller than average and her head size and weight are a bit smaller than average but nothing to be concerned about. Tall & skinny: I'd take it! She has a bit of acid reflux like Anni did but other than that she is healthy and doing great! She does look like a teenager (minus the attitude and insecurities) as she has ushered in her baby acne. I hope it clears up soon as we want to take a family picture before we head back. She got her 2nd Hep shot and was not at all a fan as evidence seen in the picture below.

me....I am also one month out and although I am still not getting much sleep I continue to feel amazing and am so thankful to be well. Even though I gained less than 20 pounds with this pregnancy I still have about 15 pounds to lose...figure that one out!! I know as soon as we return to the land of rice and beans along with the non stop sweating I will shed the extra weight so I am not worried and choosing to EAT. I also forgot how hungry you are when breastfeeding. I swear I am ravenous at least once everyday and will eat anything in my path. I am again struggling with milk supply issues but feeding her on demand is helping and I am hopeful it will continue to go well.

It is fun to see a bit more of Evy's personality develop and it is awesome to see Anni interact with her. Evy is a drama queen like her sister utilizing the quivering lip and whimpers to gain kisses and snuggling at will. We also have seen a couple smiles (or near smiles) mostly at her sister but have yet to catch photographic evidence. Evy has acquired some nicknames that have stuck. She is now officially known as "The Bean" and "Beany" or if you ask one 3 year old girl "Little" said in high pitched voice 1 inch from aforementioned baby's face.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

playing house

We are staying a friend's parents home near the city while they are in Spain. It is fabulous to have our own space. Friends and family have been ubber generous in taking us, cooking for us, treating us, providing much needed clothes, etc for us so in no way am I ungrateful but it is hard to always be with other people and to always be in shared space. We are still living out of a suitcase but we can spread out, I can walk from the bathroom to the bedroom chochote (in the buff-another great Kiswahili word), and we make dinner and leave the dishes until the morning.
Jason spent our first 2 days here puking and generally feeling craptastic with the flu but now that he is on the mend we are enjoying visiting friends, having people over, and enjoying some Chicago favs. Most days I am taking the girls out so Jason can work without the chaos of kids in surround sound. After a life affirming trip to my all time favorite grocery store Traders Joe's we are lovin' some meals here. I was able to share at a Mom's group of some friends and spend the day at their new home in Chicago enjoying a yummy dinner and catching up. The Mamas gifted us with some awesome supplies to take back for Anni's school and even a Starbucks giftcard for me -Fabulous! Jill and new hubby-to-be stopped over and even brought me some beautiful flowers :) Annikah is also loving some play dates (me too!) with dear friends here and even gets to tag along to a friend's dance class tomorrow morning before we hit the children's museum. Yeah! We are liking it so much we may stay for a few extra days....
my pretties..
Annikah loves holding her sister (don't worry we monitor this closely)
Joshua & Wesley visited (it is their grandparent's home:)
Jill & hubby to be Les with the girls...insta-family:)
Anni & Elynor loved their play date

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

hamna umeme

still no power.....

Here is an interesting article about our island and the power issues. Our team leader emailed us and the latest is that there may be power when we return but only for 6 hours a day. Argh! cut to us trying to save some funds for solar power solutions before we return...Jason was already looking into them but we now have new motivation. No water and no cold drinks is plenty for me.

my girl's prayer

This morning I was explaining more of what happened in Haiti to Annikah and I showed her some pictures of the buildings that had fallen. I explained that many people were suffering and hurt and that it is a very hard time for the people there. She has heard me pray for them before but today after seeing some of the pictures she prayed on her own....

"hey, dear Jesus, can you please help these people feel better and get help. Please, Jesus"

I say AMEN!

Monday, January 18, 2010

baby bits

Sunday, January 17, 2010

meeting the wazee

Wazee means older person in Kiswahili but like many words come with an inherent meaning of respected elder. In Kiswahili there is even a separate greeting offered for older people by anyone younger than them to show respect. I love this aspect of the culture as it is very important to teach children to always offer this greeting upon entering a place where elders are present. Annikah and Evangeline are blessed to have 5 living great grandparents and we wanted to make sure they all met Evy before we head back to Africa. Here are some photos we treasure:

meeting Grandpa Lower

meeting Grandpa Kunneman on Christmas Eve
meeting Grandpa & Grandma Engstrom in Iowa
4 generations of women of my side

a few more shots from our photo shoot:

Saturday, January 16, 2010

time at lake geneva

My parents rebuilt their house in Lake Geneva right before we left for Africa so we did not get to enjoy it much but we made up for some lost time by spending last week there with my family. Anni loves her "monkey room" which is a kid's play room painted and decorated like a jungle (now new and improved with some decor straight from Tanzania). We ate a ton, enjoyed the warmth indoors, played games, and hung out. Here are some pics of our time at Lake Geneva:

Rob loves on Evy
Anni LOVED (more like was obsessed) with Katy's friend puppy Bella, she kept saying "she is just my size"
Thanks for coming to meet Evy Aunt Karen!
Rod and Babu try out the new pool table
Rob & his dog Data
Babu & Bibi with their "baby" Dippity
Katy and her boyfriend; Rich

Friday, January 15, 2010

far away yet so close

The earthquake in Haiti is now old news but the images that flood the TV and Internet make it impossible to not think about the suffering of the people. In an already impoverished nation where 54 % of the population lives on less that 1$ a day and it is the poorest nation in the Western hemisphere. Looking at the images of pain and rubble, destroyed and devastated buildings and lives I have no answer to why this would happen. But I know that God is still good. That even in the midst of suffering He is there. I know this but after being up throughout the night nursing Evangeline and continuously seeing an image of a little girl's body probably only 2 years older than Annikah laying in the street loosely covered by a dirty sheet I cannot help feel helpless. As I hold my dear baby I ache for those mothers that are searching for their children, for those that have lost family members, for those that are suffering and those that feel abandoned or lost. I have never suffered like this. Not even close. I pray that I would chose hope if I did.
It also makes my soul ache that some people chose to make comments that wound deeply and in my opinion show no understanding of the true Gospel of peace. That Jesus loves loves all people, that all of us have fallen short, and none of us can sit in judgement of another person.

Watching images and hearing interviews makes me want to help in a real way.
What can I do? I can give, I could go (probably not realistic right now not to mention I have little skills needed), and I can pray. I can be affected and chose to not allow the images simply become the news sandwiched in between some celebrity going to rehab and the latest must have gadget which is all too easy and to be honest is my natural tendency. I can create awareness, foster empathy, encourage prayer in my and my family's life.

Because of where we now live it is also easy for me to picture the chaos. I can see similar scenes where we are and my thoughts are also drawn to the island that has become our home and to which we will return shortly. We have often thought about how many things happen there that the rest of the world in unaware of. How if something happened like a natural disaster the situation of lack of health care, supplies, resources, etc would be similar to what is now happening in Haiti. Tanzania is a poor country and many people live day to day. Many of my neighbors cannot afford to send their children to school. And to put it in perspective Anni's school costs the equivalent of 11 dollars a month and yet is still out of reach for many people we know. The rate of doctors to the population in Tanzania is around 0.02 per 1,000 people. Things are just different and hardship is a reality more of the time.

Right now on our island there is a power outage that while is no where near the same as the disaster in Haiti is causing hardship for the people that live there. So far it has lasted 5 weeks and according to our team mate's latest info may last at least another month. While I do not understand all the factors that caused the outage this has happened before (in May 2008). Like many problems there it is the result of failing infrastructure and lack of planning (a power cable that connects the island to the mainland was only supposed to last 25 years but has been in use for 35 years). The issue is not only power but that when there is no power many people also have no access to water (because pumps are used to fill water tanks). The length of the outage seems to also be causing some political unrest and hurting the economy as well. Read more here and here. I have been praying for our team mates and our friends as it is HOT there right now and I cannot imagine day after day of no power (meaning no refrigerators, no fans, little or no water, etc). People that have generators can run them but the diesel fuel costs a ton and as the outage continues becomes less and less practical or sustainable due to the high cost and availability of fuel (also it is only a solution a few hours a day). Our team has been providing water to some villages and trying to bless the people that are struggling during the power outage and desperately need water but recently their van broke down. The power may still be out when we arrive and while it is nothing compared to the hardships in Haiti that worries me.

While all of this is far away from most of us where others are hurting help, healing, and hope is needed. I can act and I can pray. And I will.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Iowa days..

We are freeloaders......let's face it. We have no home and little fund-age :) and thus have been staying with generous family and friends that take us in, feed us, and generally put up with our chaos. Lucky for us we have awesome friends and family since having a newborn also means that we are not much help in the cooking and cleaning arena. Annikah decided she wanted to try to earn her keep a bit during our time in Iowa....

shoveling snow with Babu...
Anni tries to earn her keep!

by making cookies with Bibi......she went a little nutz with the candy decor & I am pretty sure we collectively ate way more than we made :)
As always everyone spoiled us with family time and lots of cousin love (Thanks!):
cousin sleep over at Joel, Silas, and Joshua's house
Bibi Rhoda and the girls
Babu shows Anni the backyard...Iowa is COLD!!
cousin time at the local library
We will be back one more time before heading back to Africa.....we can't wait!