Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Santa is not that critical

Rodgers grew up without Santa Claus at all - he doesn't come to Kenya. I grew up with a fictional Santa, but we didn't believe in him - my parents' choice. Rodgers and I saw no reason to have our kids believe in Santa. We both feel Christmas is full without him. Not surprisingly, complete strangers have Very Important Opinions about this. And you know what? If you are on the other side, other complete strangers have Very Important Opinions about that. It's not unlike...well everything else that goes along with using social media as a parent. Sure some people will say these things to you in person, but with social media, you get read complete strangers' opinions about how you're ruining your children's lives from the comfort of your own sofa, at any hour of the day or night.

My sister posted this on Facebook yesterday, which I felt is one of the most well-thought-out pieces on why not to believe in Santa. The post itself is not judgmental, but there are always judgmental comments on posts like this. For what it's worth, I love that post and agree with all of her points, especially numbers 1 and 4 (and even more the first one since we live in a country where there is no Santa - I mean, can you imagine the American kids not only getting more Christmas gifts from their parents but also being the only kids in town visited by Santa?!).

(the whole bit in gifs here on imgur)
Later yesterday, Christianity Today posted this one, which is a bit more inflammatory (tactic to ensure more people will click on it). The title says that your kids should believe in Santa, whereas the previous one just said that their kids don't. While I agree with the conclusion on that post (that Jesus communicated truth using parables to appeal to the imagination through fiction, and other fiction can be used the same way), I don't agree that believing fiction is real is necessary.

There are a zillion other posts, from both sides. Some simply state the practice of the particular family, like the first post I linked to. Others tell you why you (and, more importantly, your kids) would be better off adopting their viewpoint. Regardless, the comments are predictable:

"HOW COULD YOU LIE TO YOUR KIDS?!"
"HOW COULD YOU DEPRIVE YOUR KIDS OF THE MAGIC OF CHRISTMAS?!"
"Your kid is going to ruin Christmas for all the other kids!"
"Your kids only behave because of that creepy elf? How sad."
"There's enough reality when you're an adult. Let the kids have some fun."
"Well, I grew up not believing in Santa, and I'm just fine."
"Well, I grew up believing in Santa, and I'm just fine."

Let's focus a little on the last two comments.

While there are people who feel deprived to not have experienced believing in Santa, and there are people who felt betrayed when they found out their parents had lied about Santa, for the most part, it just doesn't matter much. It's not that critical.

And if people comment to you in ALL CAPS that it is that critical, that what you're doing will Ruin Christmas or Deprive Your Kids, just imagine them like Little John because this is what they're fighting over.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Lamu

Lamu from a boatLiz and me in a boat taxi
Since becoming parents, I have done many an overnight with the kids without Rodgers. I have spent some nights away from the kids, with Rodgers. But I have never left them with him overnight. It's not that I didn't want to, I just had no reason to - nowhere to go without them. Until...

My friend said she wanted to take me to Lamu, where she grew up, and we actually put it on the calendar and started planning it. And did it! My very first ladies' getaway for 4 days and 3 nights, and it was everything I dreamed it would be. The boys called me at least twice a day, and Rodgers and I texted pictures back and forth to each other. I did miss them, but the break was extremely welcome!

boatsdonkeys hauling sand from the Indian Ocean side of the
island to a construction site in town

We took a bus. It takes about 7 hours from Kilifi. The road is not paved the whole way, but actually the unpaved part of the road is smoother than some of the "paved" part! The bus takes you all the way to Mokowe. Then, you hop on a boat to cross to Lamu Island.

Lamu's biggest industry has been tourism, but recently, that industry has been suffering tremendously. Until two weeks ago, they had been under a 6 pm curfew enforcement. No one wants to go on vacation and be stuck in their hotel room for the night starting at 6 pm. The curfew has now been pushed back to 10 pm.

empty mkokoteni on the seaside roadaround 4 o'clock every day, they roll out the mats and play bao

Everyone told me how happy they were to see a tourist in Lamu again. Restaurants have only been keeping the basics stocked so that they don't waste money on ingredients that won't be used. Artisans are selling other things in their shops because there aren't any tourists to buy souvenirs. The economy is really suffering from the lack of tourists. We did our part to stimulate the economy: stayed in a hotel, ate in restaurants, shopped, went to the museum, used boat taxis, and shopped some more.

Lamu is famous for having no cars on the island. The only way to get to the island is by boat. There are no bridges. There is only one road that can accommodate a car, anyway (we saw 2 cars and a tractor using it). The other streets are narrow corridors between buildings. This trait, probably more than anything else, has caused ancient culture to be preserved. They say Mombasa and Zanzibar started much like Lamu, but because they've made way for roads and cars, much of the old culture of the town is lost. Walking the streets of Lamu today is not much different than walking the streets of Lamu 400 years ago. The main differences being that now there are power lines overhead and everyone carries a cell phone. Also, within the main part of town, all of the streets are paved and there is a drainage system in place.

This one's actually not so narrow.

The main method for getting around town is walking. If you have a load, there are mkokotenis (the cart in the picture above), but they don't navigate the streets quite as smoothly as the donkeys. Lamu claims the highest number of donkeys per capita in the world. They use them to transport loads of sand or whatever else they need carried, including themselves! It's not uncommon to see donkeys roaming around unattended when they are off-duty.

off-duty donkeysdonkeys bringing the sand through town
The street wasn't wide enough for us and them, so we hopped
up on someone's front stoop. They all have benches outside
their front doors, where they sit in the evenings.

There are 3 cities on the island, all along the coast. The center of the island is orchards of mangoes and coconuts. You might be able to walk through the orchards to get from one town to the next, but why do that when you can get a boat taxi? This is the fastest mode of transport on the island. My friend's parents live on the outskirts of town, and we were staying in a hotel right in the middle of town. We walked to and from a couple of times, but it is far. Our last visit with them, we were so tired when we left, we just walked to the beach and got a boat taxi to take us back to town center. Much better!

our captain for the time we stayed
We called him any time we needed a ride.

My cultural experiences included: labania (a sort of cardamom praline made in Witu, on the road to Lamu), kahawa tamu (local spiced coffee that has more sugar than coffee in it) mixed with kahawa tungu (unsweetened local coffee, which they didn't think I could handle, but which I had the following day without the tamu mixed in because good gracious! the sugar!), and henna. Also we walked all over town one day, with a guide who pointed out some of the old architectural traits like door carvings and coral facades. He took us to some of the historic homes that have been converted to guest houses and past an old, but still-functioning water well (the kind you draw with a bucket, rope, and pulley).

henna in progressposing in the street/corridor

Rodgers is a little jealous because this is part of his own country he has never visited. I have an invitation from our friend's parents to bring my family to visit them. The dad actually asked me to bring my family for Christmas this year, which is not possible. Maybe we can try for a family visit to Lamu next year.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Monthly Musings [a linkup]

Spending Thanksgiving as an American expat is weird. Christmas is different - it's hard being away from our family in the US, but at least the holiday is celebrated, and some familiar things like nativity scenes and Christmas carols help make me feel more homey. Thanksgiving is kind of like Independence Day. The day comes and goes like any other. No one is off work. No one is celebrating. I had a very hard time my first Thanksgiving outside of the US, during which our Thanksgiving dinner had to be postponed for about 7 weeks.

Thanksgiving dinner in the dining room of a ship in the Philippines, 2006

Since then, with help from Rodgers, I try to introduce the holiday to my non-American friends. It is a lot of work for me in the kitchen, but so much fun! We get to teach a tiny bit of American history and introduce our friends to some super yummy American foods. It helps that I make cornbread dressing and the staple food here is corn (as in maize). The dressing and turkey are always eaten up very quickly. Not so much the veggies, but that's ok with me - I can eat creamy green beans for days!

Our first Thanksgiving in Kenya, 2012

As Christians, it is important to us to have a day set aside to particularly focus on giving thanks to God for providing for us. Of course, we give thanks every day, every time we pray. But we have holidays to pay special attention. We celebrate Christmas to pay special attention to the coming of Christ. We celebrate Easter to pay special attention to Jesus' death and resurrection, even though we worship on Sundays every week for the same reason. In Deuteronomy, the Hebrews were commanded to celebrate God's provision for seven days! (The Feast of Tabernacles) We don't personally celebrate the Jewish feasts, but I believe Thanksgiving Day serves the same purpose to us as the Feast of Tabernacles.

Our second Thanksgiving in Kenya, 2013

We invite Christian friends to celebrate with us. We thank God for what he has done for us, for the ways he has worked in all of our lives, for the ways he has made his presence known in the world around us. We eat before the Lord our God, and we rejoice! (Deut 12:7)

This is a monthly linkup. Check it out for more musings about thankfulness:
The Rambling Llama

Monday, November 17, 2014

Advent 2014

I love suspense movies and books. And TV shows. Suspense is fun. Alfred Hitchcock is quoted as saying, "There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it." In the same way, as a lover of Christmas, I enjoy the days leading up to Christmas so much. Not that Christmas is terrifying. There is fun in the anticipation. And Suspense's last name is Anticipation.

This anticipation, the expectant waiting, is what Advent is about. Thus, we have an Advent calendar. As we anticipate the arrival of Christmas Day, we do Advent readings as a family and focus on what Christmas is about, why it's all about Jesus, and who Jesus is anyway.

This year we are using the same short Scripture readings for each day, December 1 - 24, that we used last year. We start with some prophecies, move on to the gospels (particularly who John the Baptist said Jesus is and how Jesus describes himself), and conclude in Paul's letters. I print out the list, cut the days apart, and tuck each one into a pocket of our Advent calendar, with the tree ornament for that day. You can find my printable file below, if you want to follow along! Or if you prefer to follow digitally, follow Maisha Kamili on Twitter or Facebook. I will post each day's reading, as well as posts for the 4 Sundays of Advent on the Maisha Kamili blog.

The boys are very eager to get the new ornament out each day. They bring me the slip of paper and I read the designated Scripture as they place the ornament.

 advent pdf


In past years, I've done a daily blog post Advent guide. If you're looking for a different kind of Advent reading, flip through some of these:
Advent 2013 (Dec 1) || Advent 2012 (Dec 1) || Advent 2010 (Dec 1)


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Mamas Tell All: Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle [a linkup]

during one anti-sleep phase, Rodgers would sleep on the couch
and let Nate play in the living room. Nate would end up
crashing somewhere like this eventually. Always entertaining!
...when you have children.

The three main components in physical health are sleep, nutrition, and exercise. The problems with being healthy when you have kids are many. Here's how I deal with them!

sleep 

Kids don't sleep when you need them to. They eventually start sleeping through the night, then have sleep regressions due to cognitive development, teething, illness, name it. Both of our kids had their last major sleep regression around age 30 months (2 1/2 years). Now they may wake up during the night occasionally, but for the most part we sleep through the night.

After Nate was born, we started going to bed way earlier to make sure we got enough sleep. Rodgers wakes up before dawn, so he tends to take a nap in the evenings. I am not a good napper, so I have to get all of my sleep overnight. I sleep until the kids wake me up, which is usually around 6:15.

It was obviously much harder with infants. However, since they were bottle fed, we had the freedom to split the night feedings. If it was before 2 am, Rodgers would get up. If it was after 2 am, I would get up. (Or was it the other way around? I don't have a clear memory from those time periods...) That way, even if we both woke up when the baby woke, one of us could go back to sleep, and we each got at least half a night's worth of sleep.

nutrition 

Either you have no time to feed yourself and go hungry or you end up eating too much, i.e. all of your toddler's leftovers because they keep saying they're hungry, but are "done" after a bite and a half. It's hard to eat well!

One of my time savers is to prep produce as I put it away. Fruit will be cleaned and put away ready to grab and eat. Veggies will be cleaned, blanched, and frozen, ready to add to a quick recipe later. I don't always stay on top of this, but snacking well and cooking meals are so much easier when I do! We keep healthy snacks like yogurt, boiled eggs, and nuts, too. We also enjoy some not-so healthy snacks in moderation.

exercise

With kids, I feel I have neither the time nor energy to exercise. I've never really liked exercising anyway. However, in the interest of health, I try to stay active and exercise for real a few times per week. I rely on the internet. I don't have time to go to a gym to exercise. I also don't have childcare. My gym is my living room floor, and my trainer is YouTube. I'm not strict about it, though. If I am genuinely tired (or if it's too hot - we don't have a/c), I will skip exercising. It works for me!


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