Safety First!

Have you ever been pulled over for not wearing your seat belt?

I have.

There’s a long back story…but the short story involves me driving Ian’s 94 White Ford Escort to Idaho with the automatic door belt stuck in the forward position. Since I couldn’t drive 8 hours with it like that, I unclipped it and drove with just the lap belt.

Not only was I stopped and ticketed once by Oregon Highway Patrol, but twice. I asked the 2nd officer how many tickets he thought I might get before the Idaho border? He shrugged and sent me on my way. I can’t say how glorious it was to cross the state line into Idaho where I knew I wouldn’t be bothered.

I ended up having to go to seatbelt school at Legacy Emmanual Hospital in order to have the charge removed from my record.

I think it was like 2 hours of gorry video showing every possible accident scenario with and without seatbelts.

I’ve been a pretty big seat belt advocate since then.

Here in Africa, there are seat belts in cars. But the only people I see wearing them are tourists, or us. Most of our workers laugh when we tell them they have to put the seatbelt on in our car. In the Centre van as well. They don’t fuss much about it anymore.

I guess there just hasn’t been one of those public service announcements by some important actor about the importance of seat belt use here in Africa.  You’d think with the high mortality rates that they’d do all of the easy stuff to try and stay alive.  Seat belts, motorcycle helmets….you catch my drift.

Our cook tried to put the seatbelt on (her first time ever) and after she ended up with wrapped around her neck twice, and tried to put the belt into the belt on the other seat (I know, that can’t even be done, but she tried), Ian surmissed that this was the first time a seatbelt had arisen to her consciousness and he stepped in to help her out. She thought he’d done a magic trick the way he latched it so easily.

Two taxi drivers have yelled at me in the last 2 days for having the back windows by the kids down. I think that they are afraid the kids might hop out of the car when we’re driving. They probably would too……except I have them BUCKLED!

We’ll see how many Kenyans I can get to buckle up!

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So, it looks like the stork that was stalking me had the wrong target.

The “real” stork made a real visit to Karibu Centre this last week though.

We welcomed our the first baby to one of our vulnerable young pregnant women this week, and what a week it was.

On Monday morning we were informed that the president was declaring Tuesday a holiday.  As in the next day.  National Census Day.   Hey, we’d take a day off!   We were lucky enough though to be informed by one of the nearby elders that our house would be first on the census roundup and to make tea for him at 7pm Monday night.   The census itself was pretty uneventful.  I was glad that we had our “house visit” at 7pm and not at 10pm like our neighbors.

 So, you can imagine my surprise when I heard a rap, rap, rap on my bedroom window at 5am in the morning on our holiday!  I climbed out of my securely zipped up net and peeked out my window to see both of our night security guards looking at me.  “One of the girls is sick” the younger guard mumbled out.  I threw on some clothes and walked over in the still dark morning to investigate.

A short investigation indicated that this girl probably wasn’t just sick, but experiencing some serious Braxton-Hicks, or in premature labor.  We were supposed to have another month or so to go here!  I loaded the girl and our house mother who had arrived one day prior into the car, and off we went to the Municipal Hospital.

Many visits and a day later, Karibu Centre had it’s first mother and son!  Baby and mother are doing fine, and we are busy getting them into all of the necessary appointments they need. 

Beyond that, the whole experience was such an eye opener.  It is something to experience the different foods, or social customs of a culture….and then entirely something different to go with a regular Kenyan to experience the whole hospital/labor/and newborn experience.   The Municipal Hospital here in Thika is the only one around for quite a ways, so it is our option for the pregnant women  here at the Centre. 

I am trying to think of something to compare it to in the States.  I’m not sure that I can.  I guess when you lack the infrastructure to have the necessary number of trained nurses and doctors, then you end up with 15 laboring women sitting in a hall on benches and the floor waiting for the 1 doctor or nurse on duty to make it around to them.  In this instance, it really appeared that the women in the most obvious pain got served first.  Fortunately, at 5am in the morning, with no one around,  a young nurse caved in to the pushiness of a white woman and our girl got seen.  I was pretty proud of myself for pushing her to the front of the line.  Unfortunately, the day nurse didn’t favor me so well, and I had to stay sight unseen in the afternoon after the nurse yelled out, “Who is with that mazungu?  You can wait!”  I’m thinking that the nurse might be bought off with a nice thank you card from Karibu Centre (for bringing the first Centre baby into the world….) and some chocolates.  That should make her a little more willing to like me, for the next mother’s sake.  Either that, or I’ll stay home and let our wonderful Kenyan house mom and social worker do the hospital drops!

For the next mothers, I have learned that the following needs to go into the hospital bag:  Bottle of bleach, cotton rolls, washing up basin, hot water thermos (for tea), and nappies and other clothes for the baby.  Silly me, I just packed clothes for the mother and baby this time.  Who woulda thought that one had to provide their own sterilizing solution, cotton and wash basin???  Good thing there was a nice little shop outside the hospital perimeter selling the necessities.  Quite handy!

The local hospital experience was sobering.  Too many patients, not enough staff.  No supplies.  Sanitation standards that we haven’t seen in the States in decades.  Wheel chairs without their wheels and foot rests.  Hospital beds leaning to one side (perhaps because they are sitting 3 people deep?).  And oh the smells emanating from those buildings.  They really don’t translate into type.

I am thankful that we have access ourselves to good medical care and that through the work of the Centre we are able to ensure better medical care for these women than they would ever be able to receive otherwise.

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Eli likes to hang out at the main gate where he practices playing “guard” with Tito our security man.  One morning last week, he was over there particularly early, like by 7:45 or so.  I don’t generally have a problem with him being over there…it allows him free time outside, he keeps Tito company, and I get a little break from the chaos that can often become my world.  Anyhow, I looked outside and noticed that Eli’s shoes were still neatly parked by the door.  And, if his shoes are still by the door, then they are not on his feet!  I think that we have had the conversation of the importance of wearing shoes about a thousand times already.

It obviously isn’t sinking in.

Anyhow, I walked myself over to the gate and walked Eli back home, while on the way explaining the importance of wearing shoes and socks.  Followed by a lot of comments from Eli such as, “But Joseph and Bernard don’t wear shoes”, “But I haven’t stepped on any thorns”, “But I’m fine mom” and my favorite, “Just let me do what I want to do mom!”

As we approached our crushed gravel driveway and the journey with Eli became quite slow (he has to walk carefully over those sharp stones in bare feet), I heard a funny noise behind me.

I’m getting pretty used to the sounds of the birds that frequent our yard.  This was not a familiar sound.

I turned and looked over my shoulder, and what did I see?

A Marabou Stork.  One of these:



He was huge…especially in contrast to these little guys (Pied Crow) that are everywhere in my yard:



The stork stayed around for quite some time, picking up large sticks that I hypothesized were for nest building, but Uncle Dennis, you can tell me if that is a correct assumption or not.  I yelled for Megan to come take a look, we snapped a round of pictures, and then the stork flew off to a nearby tree to roost.

I told my mom about my sighting.

Later she face booked me (yes, she is with the times and on FB!) and she commented that maybe my being stalked by a stork is a good sign.  I hadn’t thought of it that way, but I kind of like the thought.  Perhaps there will be another little May in our future yet!

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We still enjoy the many packages we receive in the mail.

Most of them are from family (thanks to both moms) and friends (Anna Goodworth again!).

We were surprised this last week however with a package from Jannie Bahrs a woman I have never met, or spoken to!  She happens to be a sponsor of Megan Steele (our volunteer coordinator, also from Portland) and she was kind enough to send us some more kiddie band aids and gum.

Sadly for Megan, the package to us from HER sponsor arrived before her own package.   But now too she has received her first package and is very happy.

Anyhow, thank you to those of you who are contributing to our work here, even if we don’t know you or haven’t met you in person.  Each and every thought, prayer, contribution is appreciated!

Other ways that you can contribute to our work here at Karibu Centre include:

–Volunteering time to Orphans Overseas in Portland, Oregon as they prepare for the annual fund raising auction.  Orphans Overseas accomplishes SO much with just a couple of employees, so manpower is always appreciated!

–Giving a donation of some sort (services, silent auction items, live auction items) for the fundraising auction.

–Attending or hosting a table at the annual fundraising auction (generally held around February each year).

–Coming to Africa to volunteer your time or services for Karibu Centre (and then you are welcome to go off on your own for sightseeing etc!  Really a great opportunity to combine service/pleasure in one trip).

–Donate & ship supplies for use at Karibu Centre.

–Keeping our families health and safety in your daily prayers and thoughts.

–Spreading the word about our work here at Karibu Centre among interested friends and family.


If you are interested in any of the above, feel free to let us know here on the blog, or you can go to the Orphans Overseas link (I think it is labeled as our African hookup) and find listed ways to contact Orphans Overseas staff.

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We got to chat with a wonderful civil servant Saturday (on Ian’s birthday).

On the drive home from Nairobi we were stopped by the police at a police check-point.  Generally only buses, mutatus and trucks are stopped so they can pay a bribe.

Our man in blue did not state a reason for stopping us. 

Just asked the following, in this order:

Where are you coming from?  *Nairobi

Buy me lunch.   *Ignored

Open your boot (trunk).  (He paws through our bags for a while)Show me your drivers license. *Ian produces Kenyan paperwork for the license he has paid fees for but hasn’t received in the posta yet.

Where is your US license?  *Ian doesn’t have it

Why don’t you have it?  *Ian left it at home

Where do you live?  *Makongeni

What part of Makongeni?  *Across from the police station

I live in Makongeni.  *Oh


Obviously we were getting nowhere.  Then I popped up from the backseat with my camera and loudly said, “Hey, do you want me to take your picture?”  Silence.  Then a smile.  Then I said, “I’ll print it and leave it for you” knowing that by chance he would relish having a copy of his picture just like almost every other Kenyan I’ve met, adult and child alike.   Suddenly Mr. Policeman who was just downright gruff & soliciting a bribe for no obvious offense is nice and friendly and this results:

August 09 234








You should note that he was kind enough to hold his AK-47 down out of the picture. 

Really, there is a reason that Kenya receives the most US Foreign Aid of ANY African country, yet is still experiencing severe poverty, lack of development, drought etc., etc.

Anyhow, if you want to read up on Corruption, go here:

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Today (8/22) we celebrate Ian’s birthday!

He’s a big whopping 35 years old.  He is an amazing husband, father, friend and leader!  I am so proud of everything he has directed here in Africa.  He really knows how to get things done!

Here’s what he looked like when we were first married, I think this was at a casino in Tahoe when we were there for a relatives wedding:

Ok, well this was almost 4 years into marriage

Ok, well this was almost 4 years into marriage










Here’s what he looks like today (in all of his full beard glory):


Note:  I pulled this self portrait from Ian's BEARD file on the computer

Note: I pulled this self portrait from Ian's BEARD file on the computer











I went to the market here in Makongeni and designed/ordered a pair of sandal type shoes for him earlier in the week.  The man assured me they would be ready by yesterday.  Silly me,  I forgot I lived in Kenya and believed his time frame.

I went to pick up the shoes yesterday late afternoon after work and…..they weren’t ready.  They hadn’t even been started.  ARGGH.  But, he did have a huge gigormous pile of about 30 other sandals he had made sitting there on the workbench.  When I enquired what they were for, he replied, “Nairobi”.  Dang, I don’t think my 1 shoe order can compare to the demand of the Nairobi market!

Anyhow, at least Ian gets some birthday loving from the kids (complete with way too early morning back scratching) and a birthday outing, dinner & cake.


So, we went out for our birthday adventure to explore new places of Nairobi with Ian & I both feeling a bit under the weather.  Our explorations to 2 new places in Nairobi were dampened (literally) by ran and horrible traffic.  In total, we probably spent 4-5 hours in the car (with 2 preschoolers) in traffic.  Not the best way to spend the day when you aren’t feeling well, let alone on your birthday.

Megan and I drug Ian and the kids to the Toi Market which we discovered last week.   We thought it was WONDERFUL!   Ian described it as his worst nightmare, but here he is in a rare moment looking at something in the market:


Looking for new *old* pants

Looking for new *old* pants











Eli enjoyed the market, especially because vendors kept trying shoes on him:


the vendor trying to cram Bob the Builder sandals on Eli

the vendor trying to cram Bob the Builder sandals on Eli

When we got home, Megan and I worked at making dinner and Ian’s birthday cup-cakes:
August 09 241
August 09 242
We ended Ian’s birthday by lighting the candles on his birthday cupcakes and singing happy birthday to him with his parents who had just skyped in.  But, because it had been less than a *perfect* day already, Eli added some drama by throwing up his last tiny, tinybite of soup and then some that dad had somewhat insisted he eat..all over himself, the chair and the floor.  We had to take a little break before we felt ready to eat cupcakes after seeing and cleaning that up.  But in the end, the cupcakes were delish and we all went to bed happy and full.
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You know how in the states you just assume that any kid who is NOT potty trained is pretty much in diapers or some type of equivalent?   Silly me for assuming that such would be the case here!

I guess in the program planning here we (or at least I) didn’t consider that there would be little kids wandering around letting nature take it’s course wherever and however….without diapers, or nappies, or underwear.

Let me paint a visual picture for you girlfriends there in Portland with young ones.  Imagine a Portland Public Parks, or Tualatin Hills Parks Play Gym day….with 50 little kids…..all without diapers or underwear!!!  And no experience using toilets.

So, it truly is a miracle that we have not been peed on or pooped on more than we have.  Megan takes the award for actually having a kid poop on her while sitting on her lap.  That whole wet, warm feeling when it shouldn’t be there!!!  I haven’t had the pleasure, just some piddle all over my pants.  I have had the not so awesome pleasure of having to clean up after some kiddos have stood in class and just let loose….wow…I don’t know about you, but I hardly enjoy cleaning up my own kids poo, let alone someone elses when it is all over their pants, their legs, all the way down to their socks and shoes.

With all of that said, these little kids are making amazing progress….in just a few weeks time they have gone from being clueless over how to to use a squat toilet and running wild all messy to being able to walk single file in a cute little duckie type line to the bathroom where they are able to potty and wash appropriately.  That is a great life skill!

So, if you have any grand ideas on how we can move (a whole group of children from the slums whose parents can’t afford diapers, let alone a single nappie or plastic pants) to something more hygienic for all of us, let us know!  We thankfully have some extra baby/toddler clothes on hand here at the center, so we can change them into something clean and dry.  You are all welcome to always send over any used clothes 6months – 4 years on over, they are always put to good use.

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History lesson

I wasn’t ever very good with history.

My brother was.  He was a history major in college.  Blech is what I thought about that.  That seemed like torture to me, but then again, I picked chemistry as my major.  Who woulda thought with where I am today?

Anyhow, I’m not one of those people who is good at remembering dates, or people, or major events.  I dread the day when Eli and Lucy ask me to help with their US History homework. 

So, for those reasons, you can now probably recall that this blog has been entirely DEVOID of Kenyan history.  Although, yes, history is made here every day and they have some real doozies to talk about.   I am working at learning some Kenyan history through some historical fiction, and asking questions, and reading the paper.

I have learned an introductory amount about the Mau Mau.  It is significant to know about the Mau Mau rebellion or revolution because it was led mostly by the Kikuyu ethnic group…which is the majority of the population here where we live. 

So, in honor of my brother, here is a bit of a Kenyan history lesson for you!

Here is a timeline of the Rebellion that I found online:

The Mau Mau were a militant African nationalist movement active in Kenya during the 1950s whose main aim was to remove British rule and European settlers from the country.

August 1951
Information is filtering back about secret meetings being held in the forests outside Nairobi. A secret society called the Mau Mau, believed to have been started in the previous year, requires its members to take an oath to drive the white man from Kenya. Intelligence suggests that membership of the Mau Mau is currently restricted to members of the Kikuyu tribe, many of whom have been arrested during burglaries in Nairobi’s white suburbs.

24 August 1952
The Kenyan government imposes a curfew in three districts on the outskirts of Nairobi where gangs of arsonists, believed to be members of the Mau Mau, have been setting fire to homes of Africans who refuse to take the Mau Mau oath.

7 October 1952
Senior Chief Waruhui is assassinated in Kenya — he is speared to death in broad daylight on a main road on the outskirts of Nairobi. He had recently spoken out against increasing Mau Mau aggression against colonial rule.

19 October 1952
The British government announces that it is to send troops to Kenya to help the fight against the Mau Mau.

21 October 1952
With the imminent arrival of British troops, the Kenyan government declares a state of emergency following a month of increasing hostility. Over 40 people have been murdered in Nairobi in the last four weeks and the Mau Mau, officially declared terrorists, have acquired firearms to use along with the more traditional pangas. As part of the overall clamp down Jomo Kenyatta, president of the Kenya African Union, is arrested for alleged Mau Mau involvement.

30 October 1952
British troops are involved in the arrest of over 500 suspected Mau Mau activists.

14 November1952
Thirty-four schools in Kikuyu tribal areas are closed in the continuing clamp down on Mau Mau activists.

18 November 1952
Jomo Kenyatta, president of the Kenya African Union and the country’s leading nationalist leader is charged with managing the Mau Mau terrorist society in Kenya. He is flown to a remote district station, Kapenguria, which reportedly has no telephone or rail communications with the rest of Kenya, and is being held there incommunicado.

25 November 1952
The Mau Mau has declared open rebellion against British rule in Kenya. British forces respond by arresting over 2000 Kikuyu suspected of Mau Mau membership.

18 January 1953
Governor-general Sir Evelyn Baring imposes the death penalty for anyone who administers the Mau Mau oath – the oath is often forced upon Kikuyu tribesmen at the point of a knife, and calls for the individual’s death if he fails to kill a European farmer when ordered.

26 January 1953
Panic has spread through Europeans in Kenya after the slaying of a white settler farmer and his family. Settler groups, displeased with the government’s response to the increasing Mau Mau threat have created their own Commando Units to deal with the treat. Sir Evelyn Baring, the Governor-general of Kenya has announced that a new offensive is to begin under the command of Major-general William Hinde. Amongst those speaking out against the Mau Mau threat and the government’s inaction is Elspeth Huxley, author (who wrote The Flame Trees of Thika in 1959), who in a recent newspaper article compares Jomo Kenyatta to Hitler.

1 April 1953
British troops kill twenty-four Mau Mau suspects and capture an additional thirty-six during deployments in the Kenyan highlands.

8 April 1953
Jomo Kenyatta, known to his followers as Burning the Spear, is sentenced to seven years hard labour along with five other Kikuyu currently detained at Kapenguria.

17 April 1953
An additional 1000 Mau Mau suspects have been arrested over the past week around the capital Nairobi.

3 May 1953
Nineteen Kikuyu members of the Home Guard are murdered by the Mau Mau.

29 May 1953
Kikuyu tribal lands are to be cordoned off from the rest of Kenya to restrict movement of potential Mau Mau terrorists.

July 1953
Another 100 Mau Mau suspects have been killed during British patrols in Kikuyu tribal lands.

15 January 1954
General China, the second in command of the Mau Mau’s military efforts is wounded and captured by British troops.

9 March 1954
Two more Mau Mau leaders have been secured: General Katanga is captured and General Tanganyika surrenders to British authority.

March 1954
The great British plan to end the Mau Mau Rebellion in Kenya is presented to the country’s legislature — General China, captured in January, is to write to the other terrorist leaders suggesting that nothing further can be gained from the conflict and that they should surrender themselves to British troops waiting in the Aberdare foothills.

11 April 1954
British authorities in Kenya admit that the ‘General China operation’ revealed previously to the Kenyan legislature has failed.

24 April 1954
Over 40,000 Kikuyu tribesmen are arrested by British forces, including 5000 Imperial troops and 1000 Policemen, during a widespread, coordinated dawn raids.

26 May 1954
The Treetops Hotel, where Princess Elizabeth and her husband were staying when they heard of King George VI’s death and her succession to the throne of England, is burnt down by Mau Mau activists.

18 January 1955
The Governor-general of Kenya, Sir Evelyn Baring, offers an amnesty to Mau Mau activists — the offer means that they will not face the death penalty, but may still be imprisoned for their crimes. European settlers are up in arms at the leniency of the offer.

21 April 1955
Unmoved by Kenya’s Governor-general’s, Sir Evelyn Baring, offer of amnesty the Mau Mau killings continue — today two English schoolboys are murdered.

10 June 1955
Britain withdraws the offer of amnesty to the Mau Mau.

24 June 1955
With the amnesty withdrawn, British authorities in Kenya can proceed with the death sentence for nine Mau Mau activists implicated in the death of two English schoolboys.

October 1955
Official reports suggest that over 70,000 Kikuyu tribesmen suspected of Mau Mau membership have been imprisoned, whilst over 13,000 people have been killed (by British troops and Mau Mau activists) over the last three years of the Mau Mau Rebellion.

7 January 1956
The official death toll for Mau Mau activists killed by British forces in Kenya since 1952 is put at 10,173.

5 February 1956
Nine Mau Mau activists escape from Mageta island prison camp in Lake Victoria.

July 1959
The deaths of 11 Mau Mau activists held at Hola Camp in Kenya is cited as part of the British opposition attacks on the UK government over its role in Africa.

10 November 1959
The state of emergency is ended in Kenya.

18 January 1960
The Kenyan Constitutional Conference being held in London is boycotted by African nationalist leaders.

18 April 1961
In return for the release of Jomo Kenyatta, African nationalist leaders agree to take a role in Kenya’s government.

14 July 1961
Jomo Kenyatta, now aged 71, is finally released from house arrest in Gatundu, 22 kilometres outside Nairobi.

21 August 1961
All restrictions on Jomo Kenyatta’s movements are lifted following his release from prison last month.

27 May 1963
Jomo Kenyatta is elected prime minister in Kenya’s first multi-racial elections.

12 December 1963
Kenya becomes the 34th African state to achieve independence.

16 December 1963
General amnesty is announced for Mau Mau activists.

12 December 1964
Kenya is declared a republic. Jomo Kenyatta is to be its first president.

1 September 2003
After more than 50 years the Mau Mau, who fought for independence in Kenya, is finally unbanned.

 You can read more about them and the rebellion here:

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We try to make believe like we live in a 1st world country here.

But we don’t.

It’s a 3rd world country, and at times, that is quite apparent.

I thought tonight as I was doing the dishes, “Wow, I’m not even bothered by that cricket coming out of the cupboard” and was  even less bothered when he went and hid under the stove.

When did I get to this point?  When did I stop caring about the thousands of mini ants that march along my walls throughout the day despite my attempts to keep the floor absolutely crumb and liquid free?  Ok, I guess I still care about them still…otherwise I wouldn’t march around the house behind everyone with my antibacterial cleaning spray (which smells a lot like straight isopropyl…….details, details).

Anyhow, these are but a few of the items that help me remain in my delusion that I am residing in a developed country somewhere:


Oh, hot pot, I use you a hundred times a day for my instant hot water and I love you!

Oh, hot pot, I use you a hundred times a day for my instant hot water and I love you!

My hot pot is the one way to get hot water quick, besides in the shower:
Yes, that is an instant hot heater on the end of a water our shower with wires going to the wall

Yes, that is an instant hot heater on the end of a water our shower with wires going to the wall

For clean water to cook with and drink, we use this:
Our gravity system with 3 ceramic filters on top and a storage tank/tap on the bottom

Our gravity system with 3 ceramic filters on top and a storage tank/tap on the bottom

And then something most of you are familiar with, although mine has several dials I can’t quite interpret, the element is on the top of the oven….and the instruction manual wasn’t left for me. 
My cooker as they are called here!

My cooker as they are called here!

One electric burner, and 3 gas burners….great for when the power goes out.  I especially like that it has a lid!
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I truly can’t believe the way you all spoil us with mail.

I love it.  It is really one of my favorite things.  The kids too.

So, thank you’s go out to these recent package senders:

Bonita May (mother-in-law with a flair for getting as much as she can into a flat rate box)

Carol Barnum (mom who gets the prize for the most random collection of things that are amusing and fun like a toy mosquito on a spring)

Vicki Moore (a co-worker of Ian’s who sent a wonderful package with something for everyone..I really should met you rather than just hearing about your “presentations”! )

and Anna Goodworth (for thinking ahead and sending the most adorable Gymboree outfit for Lucy’s birthday next month and fun stuff for Eli)


This isn’t to say that you have to send us stuff to get a mention in the blog, but you do get a bit of a sweet spot in my heart!

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