Happy 6 months, baby girl!
Last night we went out to eat at Addisu with our friends Trevor and Jenee. They have a toddler boy and a baby girl just like we do, so our families match perfectly. The only problem with this wonderful setup was that Nati didn’t have a nap yesterday. Apparently, the combination of a sleep-deprived toddler, a public place, and a friend, results in pretty much the same situation as feeding a young child Red Bull. This kid was literally running around the table and shrieking.
The people at the table behind us moved farther away. Awkward turtle. All us parents agreed that it was a reasonable decision, and that we would very much like to move farther away from our table too…you know…if the kids weren’t ours and all.
I’m very self-conscious in public. I think a part of it stems from growing up in Kenya where I stood out like a giant marshmallow in a bag of chocolate chips. Whenever we drove into a town, the kids would chase behind our car yelling, “Mzungu! Mzungu!” (“White person! White person!”) I don’t think I cared as much about the fact that I stood out as I did about the fact that people assumed I didn’t belong. I hated that people could take one glance at me and label me a foreigner in the same league with all the ridiculously loud tourist who walked around in shorts, so I tried my best to prove that I knew my “place” in society. There was nothing I hated more than looking like I didn’t know what I was doing, which unfortunately happened often.
When we moved back to the States, suddenly I was like a giant marshmallow in a bag of giant marshmallows. Except maybe I was secretly chocolate flavored and nobody knew it. Nobody thought I was a foreigner, and everyone thought it was perfectly okay if I talked ridiculously loud and walked around in shorts. Of course I didn’t talk ridiculously loud, or at all, because I didn’t know what to talk about and I was still terrified of looking like I didn’t know what I was doing. I once ate my lunch in a bathroom stall at school because I didn’t know where to sit in the cafeteria and I didn’t want to look like I didn’t know what I was doing.
Thankfully, over time with some really great support from friends and family, I developed a little more self-confidence. But I still have a long way to go. Yohannes knows that if he wants me to take the car to get the oil changed, he first needs to draw me a map of the building including the entrance and exit I will be using, and give me step by step instructions of when to get out of the car, who to give the keys to, exactly what to say, where to wait, how much it will cost, etc. He usually gets an earful afterward, because he forgot to tell me that the door opens away from you or some tiny detail like that, which was obviously not his fault but made me feel stupid.
I consider taking my kids out in public to be my therapy for this. I know every time I walk out the door that it is probably not going to go according to plan and I will somehow end up in a situation where I don’t know what I’m doing. I feel like it’s okay, because this is what every parent goes through and I’m not supposed to have it all together. This is my opportunity to grow along with everyone else in an environment where I’m finally not way behind the curve. So go ahead, Nati: Run around the table and shriek when we go out to eat. You’re making Mommy a better person. And for the rest of you who are just trying to have a nice dinner, feel free to move to the other end of the restaurant. I’ll only die inside a little bit.
I’m one of those people who is lucky enough to frequently have very vivid and detailed dreams. The first one I remember was when I was 7 or 8 years old. There were giants chasing me, and one of them closely resembled Big Bird. Unfortunately, over the years the dreams have generally stayed within that same genre: Horror.
Last night was no exception. I dreamed I was walking around outside under a clear sky when I heard a droning sound and look up to see airplanes fill the sky. I knew what was coming next, but everyone else seemed oblivious and continued about their business. I screamed for everyone to get down and cover their heads just as the airplanes began to drop red and white bombs. We tried to dodge them, but…they’re bombs.
I wonder if the dream had anything to do with this picture I came across yesterday.
Seriously. I laughed out loud. We watched MacGyver as kids, and I think I had a vague sense that this show was not based on reality. But I still took some small comfort in the idea that all I needed to survive any situation was a Swiss Army knife, duct tape, and a high school chemistry class. The world is just so much more manageable when you look at it that way. And a Swiss Army Knife was something I asked and asked for and finally got for my birthday when I turned eleven on the condition that I be very careful because my mom did not want to have to take me to the hospital to get stitches. (A few days after my birthday, she had to take me to get stitches.)
Now that I’m older, I can’t help but think that this poor man looks very silly walking around carrying a missile. He doesn’t seem like a very good person to take safety advice from anymore. Shame.
My son is a genius. I know this because my mother tells me all the time. Now, you might be thinking, “Sure, his grandmother thinks he’s a genius. What grandmother doesn’t think their grandchildren are geniuses?” Well I’ve compiled a list of evidence so that you can make up your own mind.
He knows his numbers.
Me: “How many times do I have to tell you not to do that?”
Nati: “Three times.”
He knows his colors.
“My poop his brown and Lily’s poop is yellow!”
He can tell temperature.
“My popsicle is too cold. You gotta make it warmer.”
He can improvize.
“I hurt my knee…I hurt my leg…I hurt my kneeleg.”
He knows the subtleties of human anatomy.
“Nati and Dada have pee-pees. Mama and Lily have pee-pas.”
He knows how to give a killer disappointed-in-you look.
“You woke Lily up, Mama!”
He knows how to give a compliment.
“That’s a nice baby you got, Mama!”
So now that you’ve seen his superior intelligence for yourself, you might be wondering where he got it from. His father.
Yohannes: “I am serious. I’m serial, in fact.”
It’s hot. I feel like it’s all I can talk about. Every few minutes my mouth just spontaneously blurts out some complaint about the temperature. I thank God for technology every time I walk in front of a fan. The humidity kills me. I hate the way the air seems to coagulate on my skin and in my lungs. I think gills would do better getting oxygen out of this air than lungs do. I don’t have gills.
So as I stand in the kitchen leaning into the freezer, wondering how long I can do this before I start feeling guilty that the Earth is melting because of me, I think to myself, This is almost as bad as winter.
Stop right there. This is not as bad as winter. I hate winter. I hate the way my bones ache with cold, and the fact that I will have that feeling for at least six months straight. I hate that even if I burn my feet on a space heater and wrap myself up in two blankets, I can’t get rid of that icy chill. I hate that the only time I truly feel warm and happy is when I’m in a hot tub. I don’t have a hot tub.
But now it’s not winter. It’s summer, and I’m hot. I know it’s only a matter of time before I wake Yohannes up in the middle of the night and ask him in my most desperate voice if he would please put the A/C in, and RIGHT NOW. Yohannes is often befuddled by this. “As soon as we turn off the heat you want the A/C. Why is there only a five degree range where you don’t need to change the temperature?”
Because I BORE YOUR CHILDREN. YOU WILL OWE ME FOREVER. GO GET THE A/C NOW!
I may be a little touchy when people imply that I’m not tough enough. 4th grade was my first year going to school in the States after living in Kenya for six years. In gym class, when I couldn’t do a pull-up, one of the guys in my class said, “Way to go, Jungle Girl.” Since then, I’ve caught myself feeling ashamed more than once because I didn’t live up to the expectations of what a girl from Africa should be like. When I freak out because a spider is on me or I don’t have a good time camping or am not athletic enough or think that A/C must have been part of God’s divine plan, I feel like I come up short. I even ate ants one time in the US to impress my friends.
Let me tell you something about growing up in Kenya. I never ate ants in Kenya. I never did pull-ups. None of my friends ever did pull-ups. Our family did go camping but none of my Kenyan friends ever went camping. My friends might not have been as afraid of spiders as I am, but they were afraid of frogs, and I once kissed a frog. Also, I did not live in a jungle. I didn’t swing from vines or wrestle with tigers (Tigers don’t live in Kenya). I lived in the plains of Kenya, which is the next closest thing to Paradise on this Earth. It does not freeze ever. The temperature is often mild, but even when it gets hot, it is not humid. If there is moisture in the air, it rains. When you take a deep breath, you don’t drown. There is simply no comparison between 90 degrees in low humidity and 90 degrees in high humidity.
I will try to improve myself and become less dependent on the energy-sucking machines, but I am a plains-of-Kenya girl, and I am truly convinced that when God invented the nervous system, it was with the intention that humans would never live this far from the Equator. So maybe go find a real jungle girl and see whether she needs A/C not.
I have exactly three pairs of pants that fit me: one black, one brown, and one khaki. Considering that the black pair is starting to get threadbare and the brown pair has a bleach stain, and that leaves the khakis. I preserve that pair by wearing pajamas for most of the day (like right now, I’m probably wearing pajamas) but whenever I leave the house, I put on those same khaki pants.
Yohannes started to pick up on this trend and asked me why I don’t wear a different pair of pants. When your husband starts to take an interest in your clothing, you know that either, a. He is about to get in big trouble, or b. Your clothing is in some serious need of help. In this case, it’s B. I told Yohannes the woeful tale of my pants, but instead of sympathizing with me and lamenting my catastrophic situation, he just said, “So why don’t you buy some new pants?”
What?! Because I…hmm.
Let me give you some background. “Dressing well” was never a priority for me growing up. Actually, among my friends it was “cool” not to care about looks and clothes. We made fun of (hypothetical) people who spent hours getting ready in the morning or who freaked out when something got on their clothes. I did go through a phase in middle school where I wanted to look trendy, but I fought the urges and my wardrobe came through pretty much unscathed.
During college, a friend once said, “You look really nice today!” The compliment was somewhat diminished by his surprised tone-of-voice, and when I gave him a hard time about it, he said, “Well you usually look a little sloppy.” I was indignant…or pretended to be, at least. But I couldn’t really argue his point. Jeans and a loose tee-shirt were my staples, along with a healthy supply of frumpy hoodies.
Soon after this, I was introduced to the real world. That is, the world in which you’re expected to dress a certain way, and where you realize that those people who told you that looks don’t matter were lying. I don’t mean that it’s okay to judge people on their looks or what they wear…I just mean that it happens. I knew that I was expected to dress “professionally” and I was okay with this, so I stocked my wardrobe for my first job by rummaging through the Goodwill Bargain Bins.
Right now I don’t work outside the home and don’t have a dress code so it’s hard for me to bring myself to spend money on clothes, and I don’t really have the free time or the free hands necessary to tackle the Bargain Bins. So instead of taking Yohannes’s suggestion to buy a pair of pants, I decided to recycle one of my delinquent pairs. The bleach-stain on the brown ones is truly microscopic, so I started wearing them in public again.
But yesterday I was going to a meeting and felt that the bleach stains might fall into the “unprofessional” category. The solution?
Buy new pants. Color in the bleach stain. My first attempt was with an eyeliner pencil. I never would have tried it, except that the paint on the pencil really, truly did match the pants. Fail. The pencil didn’t really leave any color on the pants, but it did leave sparkles. So now I have a brown pair of pants with sparkly bleach stains. The next obvious solution? Buy new pants. Color in the bleach stain with one of Nati’s markers.
The color did not match as well as I’d hoped, but the stains didn’t stand out as much as before, and I thought people would be understanding of the fact that I couldn’t find the exact matching color of brown marker to color in the bleach stains on my pants.
It wasn’t until halfway through the meeting that it occurred to me: People are not going to be understanding of the fact that I couldn’t find the exact matching color of brown marker to color in the bleach stains on my pants, because who does that?! But what brown thing might people expect to see on the lap of a stay-at-home-mom with two kids in diapers? Poop.
I’m going to buy a new pair of pants.
We lived in the States when I was in 4th and 5th grade, and Rebekah and Hannah and I went to Krabyill Mennonite School. This is my 5th grade yearbook picture.
We also attended Bossler Mennonite Church. There was this really obnoxious kid at church named Zachary Garber. He thought I had a crush on him, and I totally didn’t. (Yes I did.) Well, he saw my 5th grade picture and thought I looked funny for biting my lower lip (see above) and called me Rabbit for the remainder of the year. I had to move to Africa to get away from it. (Kidding. I had no say in that move.)
There is a reason why I looked like a rabbit in my school picture. I was trying to look like my mom. She had this certain way of smiling in pictures that showed off her teeth, and I thought I could replicate it. Fail. Also, notice my kinky hair? My mom was perming hers at the time, and had a little bit left over once so I did mine too. I thought my mom was the prettiest person ever, and I was always trying to look like her.
So happy Mother’s Day, Mommy! I still wanna be like you, even if I don’t always do it right.
Nati didn’t get any teeth until he was a year old. Actually, his first tooth finally cut through when he fell and hit his gums on a coffee table. His front teeth grew, and grew, and grew, until he looked like an adorable little rabbit.
And by the time he was 18 months, he had his first cavities. I don’t know how it happened, but one day, I went to brush the food residue from his two front teeth near his gums, and it wasn’t food residue. They were “decalcifications”…so basically, cavities that hadn’t fully hit puberty yet.
I called my mom and cried on the phone. I called my sister and cried on the phone. I called Yohannes at work, and told him very solemnly that I had bad news. He thought someone had died.
The dentist was a really nice guy, and tried not to make me feel too bad about it. He said it was in the very early stages, and instead of fillings, they could just grind away some of the tooth so that it had a smooth surface and wouldn’t catch food and bacteria.
So he went from rabbit teeth, to this:
I was so disappointed when I saw the tiny, spaced-out little stubs that were left, but
they grew on me they grew. Soon they were just about has big as before. If they had never been shaved down, he would have looked like a saber tooth…er…rabbit. Just in time for his second birthday, he fell, and killed the root in one tooth. He had to get a crown.
So this poor kid, who was nervous about doctors in the first place because of his heart surgery, in the span of six months had to have two dental procedures. Dental procedures on toddlers are not pretty. So when his 2.5 year checkup came around, I told Yohannes it would probably make more sense for me to keep the baby while he took Nati. (I’m noticing a theme here of getting Yohannes to do all the hard stuff.) It didn’t go well. Nati cried when the dental hygienist cleaned his teeth. Most little kids probably do. But the moment he saw the dentist, he became uncontrollably and inconsolably hysterical.
I’ve always thought the fear of dentists was somewhat overdone and irrational. But if your earliest memories are of a dentist grinding away at your teeth, who could blame you? We go back in six months. What can I do to ease the fear?
There are many things I don’t like about living in the city. One is that it’s a ridiculous mess. There are trees planted along some of the sidewalks, and people use the base of the tree as a trashcan. I have no idea why it makes more sense to litter on the one living thing in sight than to just throw your trash on the street where at least it will get swept up when the street sweeper comes around to
give you a parking ticket clean. Also, Dear Neighbors, why must all twenty people at your party stand on the sidewalk and have a dramatic fight at 2am every time the temperature rises above 60?
A couple years ago, a little boy was hit and killed by a truck on our street. Last year sometime, I saw a woman get mugged as she was walking down the sidewalk across from our house. These aren’t things that happened when we lived out in the cornfields in Manheim. These aren’t things that happened when we lived in the bush in Kenya. So I don’t always love living in the city.
But I have to admit, there are positives, too. The street we live on has at least five different nationalities represented in the span of half a block, and that’s just on one side. Sometimes when we go the park, the Paris Hilton lookalike in a designer jogging outfit stops to let Nati pet her chihuahua and one time a homeless woman in a motorized wheelchair gave Nati some candy corn from her stash. Having the chance to interact with such a variety of people on a regular basis is a gift.
Sometimes people ask me if I feel nervous in the city. Aside from the traffic, I can honestly say, no. When I was living in DC during my last semester at EMU, our instructor gave us a tip. She said that when you walk down the street, you should smile at the people you pass. Over time a sort of bond is formed, even if no words are ever exchanged, and those people are looking out for you. When I walk down familiar streets in Lancaster, I know that dozens of people are “looking out for me” and I feel safe. And sometimes, complete strangers are looking out for you too. Like that time Nati almost ran out in the street and a woman stopped him.
Yesterday, as I was walking the kids to the park in their stroller, it got stuck in a crack (gaping hole) in the sidewalk. The one person who rushed to help me looked something like this:
Only with more tattoos and piercings, and a little less…you know… The Rock. Nothing quite compares to having a giant help you with your stroller. So thanks to the anonymous biker guy who helped me out, city life is not so bad.
One of the joys of motherhood is being able to distinguish the meanings of different cries that your child makes. They might be hungry, frustrated, wet or in pain, and only you can tell the difference. It’s like being a cryptographer, and parenting is much more exciting when you think of yourself as a cryptographer.
Nati has developed a new one recently. It’s not so much a cry as a mixture between a yell and a wail. He’ll be playing nicely, then freeze in place and, “AHHHHHHH! AHHHHH! AAAAHHHHHHHH!”
This cry means, “I am peeing on the floor!”
In the last week or so, he’s gotten pretty good at telling me if he has to go to the bathroom. However in the last few days, he’s also taken an interest in underwear. The underwear are a problem. They must add the security he’s used to with a diaper so he doesn’t think about telling me when he has to go potty. The result is…peeing the floor.
So far, I have found only one solution to this problem.
Lucky for me, Nati loves being naked.