Ok, this blog is all messed up because the pictures won’t post like I want them to….but it’s just gonna have to do! 

We woke up on Christmas to a very traditional time.  Stockings filled by Santa, a yummy breakfast made by dad, and presents under the tree. 

Now, the stockings might have been stickered up plastic bags, and the tree may have been very plastic and a bit pathetic, but I don’t think the kids noticed at all!  

We had Lucy's bag be the bag we all affectionately call the "poo bag" on account of it looking like all of the ones dog owners carry around in the States. Kenyans love them and use them to carry EVERYTHING! The adults got a kick out of her stocking.

 

Underneath our tree was pretty full thanks to family and our Portland care group!

 

The kids thoroughly enjoyed all of their treats, as did Ian, Megan and I.  I was pleasantly surprised by the number of thoughtful thank  you’s coming out of the 3 year old and 4 year old mouths!  Seriously, I don’t think we had one typically impatient 4 year-old comment all day….well, not until the lego building began, but that’s a bit understandable.  Dad worked on Eli’s transformer  for a while, and then mom took over, resorting finally around 8pm to a tutorial on youtube.  Seriously, what 4 year old can transform Optimus Prime on their own?  I dare you to find me one!  It definitely wasn’t our 4 year old pirate.  Lucy thoroughly enjoyed her  dolls, color wonder, books, paper dolls & miniature figures, art  and her stocking stuffers.  She is turning into quite the little organizer, insisting that everything be put away just so.  Her Christmas clothes remain folded still, in the living room, as she would not hear of me putting them away in her closet.  Ian enjoyed his gifts of clothes and new running shoes, and enjoyed getting to shop for himself in Nairobi.  I loved my purses, soaps, clothes, books, coffee, and coffee mug.  I am sure that I am leaving things out, but we had a wonderful time!
 
At around 11 am, we got ready for Christmas, the unusual.  Stay tuned for Part 2 of the day!
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It’s interesting to live in a foreign culture simply to experience all of the expectations and unique traditions that come along with the holidays.

Kenya is a warm climate place (ever read that book “Foreign to Familiar”?) and relationships are of premier importance.  At no time is this more apparent than at Christmas.  We are asked multiple times a day what our plans for Christmas will be.  Generally, the conversation goes something like:

Them:  “So are you going for holiday?”

Us:  “No, just staying home.”

Them:  “You are not going anywhere?  Are you having a big dinner for everyone?”

Us:  “We’re just staying around, having a quiet day.”

Them:  “You will come to my house for Christmas!”

And then the fun begins.  We have had many invitations, and what we have learned in the 7 months that we have lived in Kenya is that an invitation to someone’s home does not mean an hour meet, greet, snack and run.  It is generally an ALL DAY affair.

Thankfully, Esther, our house help knows better and is a good judge of about how long of a visit we can muster!  She invited us to her home for lunch on the 23rd as we would be busy at the Centre on the 24th with an outing for the vulnerable moms and babies.  On the 25th, we have been invited to a slum elder’s home…for an agreed upon 2 hours rather than the whole day as he initially requested.

Here are some shots from our lunch at Esther’s place.  Esther lives in a 3 bedroom concrete home with her mother and children  that does not have piped water, but does have electricity.

Megan hanging out on one of Esther's sofas in her living room. Rodda, Esther's mom crocheted all of the covers

Ian chilling in the living room

Here is Esther and her mother Rodda preparing our lunch in their kitchen which consists of a sideboard, a jiko (charcoal bbq type thing), and water storage tanks.  No cooker, no refrigerator.

sideboard in the kitchen

Here is Rodda with some green grams (a type of African and Indian lentil) that we ate mixed with cooked beans and peanuts, and also spooned into dough and fried as samosas as you’ll see in the 2nd photo.

Ian says Esther’s house makes him feel like he’s back at his grandmother’s place on East Burnside in Portland, Oregon.  I agree.  Same kind of feel.

Here we are with our meal, eating at a picnic area set up in Esther’s yard:

You can’t see it here, but we had some fresh chicken for lunch that Esther’s mother fried up.  It just so happens that I couldn’t find Esther for awhile the day before, and as I was driving away from the Centre I found her running back up the dirt road with a live white chicken held by the wings in her hand.  I figured it was our lunch.  Megan made really good friends with our “lunch” when it got stuck in the Centre toilet trying to get a drink of water.  That will be a whole blog unto itself, you’ll have to keep checking to see if she’s posted about it:  www.megansteele.wordpress.com.   You’re probably wondering though, “how does a chicken get into a toilet?”  Oh, the things that happen here in Africa.  I really wasn’t surprised at all.

We had a great time and enjoyed getting to know Esther’s mother and one of her boys a little better.  We exchanged gifts, and here Esther is opening hers:  Her first full Bible ever.  She mentioned a few months ago that she had never had one and would like  one so very much, so I filed that away in my brain for Christmas.  She looks pretty thrilled huh?  Esther’s gift to our family was large and heavy, but doesn’t shake.   We’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see what kind of treasure she has sent us home with!

Esther's mom enjoying some silliness with Lucy

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Ever since being about 9 weeks pregnant, and having a second ultrasound that showed that there was actually a baby in there, and that we were not in the middle of our 3rd miscarriage in a row, I have waited for this day.

I briefly considered being amazing like some of my friends and waiting until the day of birth to find out the gender of this baby.  But really, who was I kidding??  I haven’t ever made it through a birthday or Christmas without knowing some of my presents and I’m not gonna make it 9 and some old months through nausea, puking, back pain, stretch marks and other awesome pregnancy related happenings to find out the gender of who I’m gonna meet.  These kids of mine have plenty of personality to keep me surprised the rest of my life!

So, the day finally came this week.  The gender ultrasound.  Or at least that’s what it was to me.  My order read “20 week anomaly scan” and my doctor referred me to a different hospital that houses a more sensitive sonograph machine.

We arrived early in the morning to the walk-in ultrasound clinic and were promptly received and  routed to a waiting room.  Eli, Lucy, daddy and I waited.  Eli and Lucy were GRUMPS with a capital “G” from about the moment they climbed into the car in Thika.   Not quite what I had envisioned for “our” happy day, but I rolled with it.

Here we are with the doctor, as he was reading the ultrasound.  I have never had such a detailed ultrasound through these last 4 pregnancies and 2 births.  It was kind of cool.  He looked at the different portions of the brain, measured leg and arm bones, checked for the nose bone, ruled out cleft palate, identified the 4 chambers of the heart, ensured that all of the organs were inside the body and checked the spine to make sure that the neural tube was complete and closed.  It was really cool!

Looking at the different parts of the baby's brain

 

And, being quite skilled at his craft, he kept the suspense of the gender to the very end, and then pointed out 2 lines, identifying them as “f.g.”  Huh??  I was thinking for sure, those must boy parts hanging around there.  And now that I think  about it, I remember thinking the same thing during the ultrasound for Lucy.  Nope no boy parts there.  Those lines were female genitalia, as the doctor  very quietly said, “Girl”. 

For sure I thought we’d get a great reaction out of Lucy who had been rooting for a partner in crime since finding out that there is a baby rolling around in my tummy.  Just a slight grin and head turn from her.  Eli just sat  blank stared.  He’s in shock over the fact that there will be 2 little girls to deal with.  He seemed much cheered by my telling him that he was all the more special for being “the only boy” and that for sure this new little sister wouldn’t want to steal his toys…..she’d for certain go after Lucy’s toys.  Now he’s back to his usual self!

Everything looks great, I feel great, and it was exciting to see this new little one.

Here is a picture of the baby  in the 3D mode of the ultrasound.  Here, it looks a bit like that cartoon from the 80’s:  Skeletor, but you can see her holding her hand up to her face.  When we saw the picture at first, Ian exclaimed that the baby, “Looks like your brother Andy!” and I said, “Wow, it has big lips like Eli did!”  I can’t wait to see how she changes and develops between now and 2 months from now when I go back for another scan.

a side view of the baby's head on the left, with the arm and hand on the forehead on the right

 

Thank you to all of you who have shared in this long baby journey with us that began before Africa and will continue long after.  We hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

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I’m starting to think that Kenyan’s have a very  different idea on how to help children develop positive self image, well actually, a different idea on interacting with children in general.

My first clue to this was the large Kenyan man working in the toy store that grabbed Lucy’s arm and said in a not child friendly voice, “Hey little girl, come here, or I’ll take you to the police!”

Scary.  Sure, that will endear any child to you.  Absolutely.

Eli is a little short for his age.  He’s well aware of this fact especially as many locals like to point it out to him.  Over, and over, and over.  The waitress at Java House almost had Eli in tears insisting that he could only be 2 and not 4 years.  Not being that short.  He was so insistent I had to step in and vouch for him.

This is Eli’s self-portrait, and it’s actually pretty darn accurate, all the way down to his ears that stick out a little.  All the better to hear you with!

Spikey hair, check.  Short legs, check.  Biggish ears, check.  No arms.  Hmmm.  I’m no child psychologist, oh wait, I’m a school psychologist….but I’m choosing to think that for now, it’s because he’s happy letting mom help him out rather than being helpless.

Speaking of helpless, that was me when Eli came home telling me what his teacher kept saying to him the last week of school before break.  I can hear it being said in jest, but you know, this kid is getting a little sensitive about his self image when it comes to height.  His teacher said, “Eli, you must be shrinking!!!  You are shrinking.  You are getting shorter”! 

I laughed when he first told me.  Wrong response.  Bad mom.  Gotta work on that. 

He’s actually perfect, just he way he is!

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That was the title of Eli’s school Christmas concert.

I was pleasantly surprised by the content of the concert which very much had a “Christ”mas theme!   I was surprised because a great deal of the families that attend Eli’s school are either Hindu or Jain….so I expected some random meld of various world religions.

Anyhow, Eli had been eagerly anticipating this concert for a good month and a half.  He would come home and give us snippets of songs and choreographed hand motions.

On the day of the concert, as Eli and I were driving alone on the way to his school for his “early” drop off, Eli said this to me, “Mom, make sure you look nice and pretty ok?  Cause you look really nice in that, black-black, like that”.  I stifled a laugh, but had to give the boy credit for wanting his mom to look nice.  He is often aware of my appearance and makes sure to point out when my hair looks beautiful, or soft, or my outfit is nice.   I made a mental note to spice up my makeup and hair a little just for Eli.

I dropped him, drove home, picked up the rest of the family, Megan, and her volunteer friend, and back to the school we went.  With spiced up make up and outfits.

They had transformed the auditorium into a festive venue

Here are a few shots of Eli at his school concert.

He was “that” kid.  You know, the one who is kind of the center of attention, without meaning to be….because they are doing something silly and VERY 4-yearish.

Eli did it all.

Random gazing around while all of the other kids’ eyes are pasted forward and their hands were glued to their sides.  He was mesmerized by the stage lights for a good song or two.

Robotic hand motions when the song appeared to call for glued to the side hand motions.

Batting at the cute little girls braided and beaded pigtail next to him.  Apparently pleased with the enormous swing he got out of it.

Trying to put his arm around the boy next to him…and hugging….in the middle of another hands glued to the side song.

Playing with the tinsel hung on the bench.

Dancing and hugging girls.

Anyhow, it was a wonderful time.  I don’t think that Ian, Megan or I have laughed that hard in a long time.  We seemed to be the only adults laughing, but apparently the Kenyans (black and indian) are much more reserved and were laughing “on the inside”.  This proved by the fact that several parents come up to me afterward to comment on Eli’s exuberance.   Wait, how did they know that was my kid?  Oh yeah, we match.

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I’m a little behind in posts, but catching up.  *Smile* 

We were so thankful to have Ian’s parents here in Kenya over the Thanksgiving Holiday.  It made being so far from home on a holiday much more bearable.   And, Ian’s mom makes some great Candied Yams (or were they sweet potatoes??), which we were happy to have on the menu for dinner. 

A few weeks before Thanksgiving, before family arrived, I scoped out a butcher shop in Nairobi to see how much a real deal turkey might cost.  I about cringed when a 16 lb. turkey (ok, we could have done a 10  lb. one too, but leftovers rule!) that was marinated and stuffed was coming to $150.  Were they CRAZY?   I passed. 

Then I kind of forgot about it all with all of our adventures once Ian’s parents arrived. 

Day before (just like at home, but without the crowds), we shopped for Thanksgiving. 

This is what our wonderful African Thanksgiving turned out like: 

Chicken, mashed potatos, asparagus, roasted carrots, candied yams, french bread. Yum!

 

And here we are enjoying it, and sharing what we are thankful for: 

 

Happy, tan, with good food in the near future!

  

What a year of blessings and surprises we have had.  Last year at this time we thought we would be leaving for Kenya any moment.  Who knew that God would have us wait until May of this year?  We continue to trust that God will continue to grow us all while we are here.  That our empathy and compassion will grow, that He will give us wisdom in all of the relationships we have here (this is a VERY relational culture) and at home, and that we will have the strength to continue trusting that He has a wonderful and amazing plan for our family’s future!

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Our good friends the Prins’s gifted Lucy with a Corelle (I think I’m spelling that right, but Nat, you can correct me since I don’t want to go into Lucy’s room while she’s asleep clutching it, to sneak a peak at the baby’s belly) doll.  I specifically remember Nat saying that these were the BEST dolls ever, and that her girls loved them.  Not cheap, but worth every penny.

Lucy didn’t seem so into hers in the beginning.  I was sad to think Nat’s hard earned money might have gone to waste.

Then, somewhere along the line, and I don’t know when, baby worked her way into Lucy’s life and became a staple.

Baby is just “baby”.  No cute nickname.  No real name.  Just.  Baby.

Well, baby went on vacation, and boy did she have a good time:

resting up for a big day at the pool

I think Lucy just discovered that Baby peed her pants

Clean Baby, happy mother

A talk with grandpa about pool safety and not running....

Getting a time out from Lucy for trying to get in the pool with her clothes on and for splashing other kids. Tssk, tssk.

Who let baby lay out in the sun all day every day??

 

baby arrives at the Malindi airport to fly back to Nairobi

Baby looking out of the airport lounge just prior to her fall out the window

Baby on the swing at Utamaduni shop in Nairobi

Baby's 3rd major fall after being dropped down the stairs, and out the airport window....

 

Someone saw Lucy with her baby yesterday at the Centre and asked why she was so dirty.  Lucy explained that she washed her shirt (in her bath), but that it “Was just so dirty!”.  Wonder why???

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Part 2 of our family vacation was a 5 night trip to the beach.  We used a missionary specific travel agent in planning our trip and got a pretty good deal on an all-inclusive family resort (I’ve never been to an all-inclusive before). 

The morning after returning from our safari we set out early for the Nairobi airport and took a one-hour flight to the coastal town of Malindi on the Indian Ocean.  Here is it’s location in relation to the rest of Kenya. 

map of kenya 

From Malindi we drove slightly south to the town of Watamu to Turtle Bay Beach Club, which was located directly on the beach.  There was a large swimming pool with 3 separate kiddy appropriate areas that we greatly appreciated! 

 

 

 

Our netted room

 

This was a very different vacation than others we have taken because it was pretty much a full relaxation  vacation.  No sight-seeing, no running arond.  Just swimming, laying around, reading, eating and sleeping.  Ian made the comparison to being a walrus, which is true except for the whole reading part.  Here are some pics of the family enjoying themselves as walruses: 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

baby went everywhere....but that's another blog.

 

 

drying off after a day in the pool

 

enjoying the evening breeze after sandcastle building on the beach

 

A family early evening dip

 

 

 

With weather in the high 80’s and I’m guessing about 60-70% humidity, we had all of the warm weather we’d been hoping to find at the beach.  The evenings were gorgeous with a wonderful ocean breeze and plumeria scenting the air and dinner served in the outside dining room, or seating by the pool which we enjoyed for a few nights.  It was wonderful to have fresh seafood and a selection of American and European foods to choose from!  We all filled up at every meal!  I think Ian’s dad liked the Shepard’s Pie and porridge the best,  Bonita liked the fresh crepes made every afternoon for snack, I loved stir-fried shrimp and I think Ian sampled about everything, even if he didn’t love any of it! 

It was a wonderful time.  We even managed to pick up  some souvenirs from the vendors in shacks right on the beach just beyond the hotel property.  Kikoy wraps, woven scarves, carved soapstone, carved ebony, jewelery and the like.  Some things we just didn’t quite need, but it’s hard not to give a dollar or two when you know this might be their only sell for the entire day.  I can handle an extra gecko and hot pink hippo carving I suppose! 

We were so thankful to get to spend together as a family…it’s been about a year since we’ve traveled away from home (Thika or Portland) and taken time off work, so it was much needed and appreciated! 

Here’s to all of you getting some much needed rest, relaxation and family time….

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