# Saturday, October 25, 2008

So the hubby and I just celebrated our 8-year anniversary. Woohoo! I was all set to write a sweet, touching account of "the Scott & Mo" story, but he beat me to it: see his post This man doesn't sleep! Happy anniversary, Scott! Can you believe it's been 8 years?!  P0002861

Saturday, October 25, 2008 10:23:40 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
# Saturday, October 11, 2008

So our toddler was on the cover of a local magazine in September. Can't say I fault the editors - they sure know cuteness when they see it:-) And yes, I'm being humble:-)

Zenzo on NWKidsSeptCover

Saturday, October 11, 2008 8:38:25 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
# Wednesday, October 01, 2008

So the other day I decided to take the boys to the mall downtown for a snack. It was a nice day, and I figured we could take the MAX (public transportation), which would be fun for our toddler. The baby would naturally come along for the ride, and a fun time would be had by all. I have ventured out with the boys alone before, of course, but I usually drive. It makes it easier to abort outings if there's a major meltdown, for instance, or if something comes up that requires us to change our plans. So going on the MAX was risky, but it felt like a calculated one.

 

Z had fun on the train, especially the tunnel. In fact, the whole getting there and back was just what I had expected - uneventful. The challenge came when we got off. Hubby insists I always overpack the diaperbag - but who knows when we'll be stuck in an elevator for hours and that 5th bag of raisins will come in handy?! I refused to leave anything out, thus making it too big to fit in the stroller, which is how it ended up over my shoulder. So there I was, pushing a stroller with the baby in it, a diaperbag over my shoulder and holding Z with my other hand. Go figure we have the one toddler who insists on walking instead of being pushed in the stroller (he actually prefers running, but we compromise.) I was heavily burdened, and could barely navigate my group while dodging pedestrians.

 

I take responsibility for being poorly assembled - clearly I had too much, and would have been wiser to have reorganized my load. Still, I was taken aback at how thoughtless people were. For the most part, they expected my crew and I to walk around them, instead of the other way round. Then there was the guy who came right at us. I tried to get out of his way but someone was to my right, and to my left was a wall. In the end I kept going and hoped that he, being less burdened and therefore better able to slip between people, would take the high road. He didn't. A few steps from us I made it a point to say "excuse us", whereupon he mumbled something and went to his left, which was free. Seriously, why not go there in the 1st place?!

 

Then we tried to actually enter the mall -- fun. There were a bunch of stairs, no automatic door and no ramp. Huh. "How do people in wheelchairs do this," I wondered. I knew there had to be an easier way in, but I couldn't find it. (I learned much later that there is a specific entrance on a different street for people who need the ramp.) Finally, I rolled up my sleeves, made the toddler sit in the stroller, and lifted it (2 boys and all) and tried to go through the door. Denied: I was too wide. So I readjusted the darned diaperbag, came at it sideways, and knew that this time we could fit. Denied: the door closed, and I had no hands free to open it. From behind me came a woman - my angel! My savior! Denied: she opened the door, went through it, and didn't so much as think to hold it open for me. I reached out with my foot, managed to wedge it open, and promptly dropped the diaperbag. It was a frustrating exercise. I was shocked at how self-absorbed people are. 4 or 5 people went around me as I stood there, trying to get in and not one of them said a word. I actually thought of asking one guy to help me, but when I met his eyes he very quickly looked away and walked off. Wonder what he thought. Did he think I was trying to sell him something? Or maybe that I was "yet another unwed woman expecting society to help her while she gets a free pass?" Or maybe he was just in a hurry and really needed to be on his way? In the end a grandmotherly type came from across the street and said she'd noticed me struggling. She held the door open, I sucked in my tummy, went in sideways, and darned if we didn't make it down the stairs, diaperbag, stroller with 2 boys and all:-)

 

The moral of the story (besides better-packed diaperbags!) is that we need to be a little more thoughtful out there! If you see someone who looks like they might need help, ask (don't reach out and give it without asking, because you'll probably get your head chopped off for that!) This experience has made me more sensitive to others. Just the other day I saw a woman who had - get this: a stroller, an overflowing diaperbag and 2 kids - struggling to get out of a store. "Ah-ha!" I thought, "I know the answer here!" Seemed so familiar! I asked her if she needed any help with the door. "No no," she said, "I can do it. But thanks for asking!" I smiled and went on my way.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008 2:23:18 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
# Wednesday, September 17, 2008

So last week Scott came back from a business trip. He'd been gone for almost 10 days - the longest stretch yet since we had both kids. He was in New Zealand and Australia, so the idea that he could get back "in a heartbeat" if he had to was off the table. Nothing worse than having to wait 30 hours or so while your spouse tries to get back in a crisis! Thankfully, there were no crises. Still, 10 days is long enough for the heart to grow fonder and all that!

 

I hadn't intended for this post to be a salute to spouses, but it's probably going to end up that way, at least indirectly. Like most wives, I can often be heard telling hubby to do more around the house. And while he's at it, why not try to teach the boys a thing or 2?! But I hadn't realized just how tough going it alone can be, even for 10 days. At first, it's downright awesome:-) The kids do what you want, they eat what you say, you watch what you want when you want (no need to compromise and sit through an hour of some lame show so that he can sit through a cool show you like!) In fact, for those first few days it's downright giddying! But alas, reality sets in soon enough:

 

* The inevitable waking up in the middle of the night.

We've been blessed in that both our boys sleep very well, and have since they were each about 4 months old. But go figure they each got up once a night for a couple of the days Scott was gone. Which, when you consider that I wasn't exactly going to bed early myself, made for very limited sleep for mommy! And while I could pull all-nighters back in college, I've had to come to the sad conclusion that those days have come and gone:-(

* The need for a second opinion.

Since the toddler can now string together some fairly complicated sentences, every now and then it's good to have someone to bounce off an idea or 2 with. Is he being too sassy if he refuses, and quite eloquently, at that, to do what I ask? How much discipline does it call for? And am I overreacting because I'm tired, or is the toddler really trying to gouge his brother's eyes out?

* The never-ending shoveling, and the diaper-changing and the runs to the potty and...!

I love my kids to death, but I have no shame in admitting that the administrivia of child-raising can be exhausting when going it alone. What is often a sweet, enjoyable family experience became a battle. I tried to shovel, the baby took it upon himself to see how far he could spit the food in my face. I'd come at him from the other side, and he'd reach up at just the right moment, grab the food then merrily rub it in his hair. DSC_0284 And oh yeah, while my attention was turned the toddler was mixing his food with his hands, adding juice and basically making a mess. "Cooking", he calls it. When my eyes focused accusingly on him he, being at the potty-training stage, would decide that that was the minute he had to go. It couldn't wait, of course!

 

* The feelings of inadequacy.

With one of me and two of them I felt there wasn't enough of me to go around. I wondered if I was spending enough time with each child. Would I be wiser to let the dirty dishes keep piling up, let the goop on the floor remain there, ignore the laundry and instead use that time to engage with the kids? And how best to put them down, without making one of them wait too long?

 

The challenges were many. Wanting what's best for the boys, and trying to give it to them without compromising on some basics (no matter how much fun we're having, we must eat) was hard. Which brings me back to appreciating Scott and all he does around the house. Let's not take bets on how long it'll take me to get back to insisting that he do more, but while he was gone I definitely got a chance to feel what it's like to be a single parent. And boy, is it hard work! What was particularly interesting to me was that I had a lot of help - family stepped up, and we even got a baby sitter for part of that time. Yet still the responsibility of taking care of these little dudes felt like it was mine alone. If I found it so tough for just 10 days - knowing that Scott was going to be back "soon" - I wonder how single parents do it? I tip my hat off to them!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008 11:50:20 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
# Friday, August 15, 2008
So okay, dear reader, we've danced this dance before: I start blogging, disappear for months on end, only to reappear full of new life. I blog a few more times, then disappear again. The cynics among you are no doubt thinking "here we go again!" For shame! Have you no faith? I'm back, really. For good! Oh fine, I'll admit that even I'm having a little trouble believing that:-)

So where have I been, you might wonder? Well, I disappeared in February 2007 because we became pregnant again. Being pregnant the 2nd time was exhausting! It was tiring the 1st time, too, I suppose, but I don't remember. All I know is that this time around, with a toddler in tow, I basically sleep-walked the entire 9 months. Blogging did not rank highly on my "to-do" list! So I have returned, unrepentant for being gone, but nevertheless glad to be back.

I would blog about our beautiful son Thabo's arrival, but hubby Scott already beat me to it by a mere 8 months! Check out Baby Thabo Arrives Note the part where he says he will always listen to me from now on...music to my ears, that! Suffice it to say that November 19, 2007 was a phenomenal day for us:-)

So yes, I'm back. Wiser, this time, and less hasty about making foolish promises. No daily blog updates from me, I tell you! But I am going to blog regularly -- and for those that read Scott's blog, I'm talking "regularly" by common-man standards, not super-geek ones:-)

I thought hard about what to blog about for this "je reviens" entry. There's lots to say about putting my career on hold while I enjoy time at home with my boys. There's the ever-interesting marriage and family dynamics. There's money. But ultimately, as a parent it had to be about the kids.

A few months ago Zenzo, now an old man at over 2-and-a-half, became ill. It started out fairly harmlessly, a little throwing up, an upset stomach. He goes to school 3 mornings a week, so he picks up all sorts of bugs there - joy. So we weren't unduly alarmed when he became sick. But then the illness progressed, and after 2 full days of keeping nothing down (not even a small sip of water) it became evident after talking to his pediatrician that it was time to head to the ER. Every parent knows the anxiety that goes with this trip. Should we have gone in earlier? What if it's spread and become incurable while we waited at home? What if he picks up other bugs while we're there? Will they keep us overnight? If they do, should one of us go back to be with the baby, or just let him keep sleeping at his aunt's? The questions are endless, as is the second-guessing.

We got to the ER and were seen fairly quickly, thank God. There's nothing worse than having to wait hours to be seen when you have a sick child! The chap on duty was pleasant enough, and seemed to know what he was about. He confirmed that Zenzo was dehydrated, and recommended that he be given an anti-nausea pill, and also be put on an IV. I cannot describe the dread that filled my heart when I heard that! My family is notorious for having hard-to-find veins, and after 2 days of drinking and eating almost nothing I could only imagine how tough it would be to find Z's. We promptly mentioned this to the Doc and the nurses, who of course told us it would be fine, they were trained at this, etc, etc. Scott and I looked at each other, but what could we do? You hate to be that parent that thinks you know better than the professionals, and yet in some instances, you really do.

There have not been many moments thus far as a parent that I have wanted to kill someone with my bare hands. I like to think of myself as a fairly educated, rational type. Reasonable people do not maim doctors and nurses who are trying to help their kids. But in the interest of full disclosure I must admit to having some troubling thoughts that day. Zenzo's screams could be heard miles away, and the wrenching "don't let them hurt me, mommy!" gave me nightmares for days. There I sat, trying to convince my son that they knew what they were doing (while secretly wanting to punch them for the pain they were causing him as they kept poking him unsuccessfully), and still I asked him to be brave. I'd heard parents talk of wanting to trade places with their kids, of wanting to be the ones subjected to the pain, not their kids...I got it that day. After failing - twice - to find his veins Scott finally called a halt. Everyone was apologetic, couldn't believe how hard his veins were to find, did we want them to bring in the specialist team so they could try his feet, etc...no, we were done.

I learned a lot that day about endurance. Trust. Faith. Humility. I am in awe of my son. Sobbing and screaming through it all, he would have stayed there because he trusted us. Mommy and daddy said the doc and nurses knew what they were doing, so even though it hurt he would have endured. I am in awe of Scott, too, who made the hard call and ended the misery. A tough night, for sure.

As you've probably guessed, Zenzo soon got over the bug, and the weight he had lost came back. For the longest time I couldn't even talk about this incident, that's how traumatized I was. And yet, interestingly enough, Z has not-unhappy memories of that night. Why? Because on the way out the doc gave him a popsicle. Which he promptly threw up 15 minutes later in the car, to be sure! But all he says about going to the hospital that night is that the doctor tried to poke him, but that was okay because he was sorry and gave him a popsicle. Oh, to be a child!

Friday, August 15, 2008 5:36:06 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
# Sunday, March 18, 2007

In December 2006 Scott and I took our son (Zenzo) and my in-laws to Tanzania. As you may recall, beloved reader, I am originally from Zimbabwe (Zim). But with all the challenges that Zim is facing my family has slowly left, one member at a time. I now have no immediate family remaining there. And, when you consider that I have 6 siblings, it is quite a testament to the level of brain drain that is happening there. But I digress!

My oldest sister works for the United Nations in Arusha, Tanzania. She took my mother and our youngest sister in, and they have been living with her for the past 4 months. The purpose of our visit to Tanzania was to spend time with them. In fact, my brother, his fiancée and their daughter also came up from South Africa, so the trip became a family reunion.

I have much to reflect on from that visit. The food, the kindness of the people, their way of being – there was much that was impressive. But one thing I observed that stands out in my mind is the notion of “belonging”. Something interesting happens when a person looks like they belong, but in fact does not. I say that because being black allowed me to very quickly and very easily be accepted as a local. The fact that I speak very little kiSwahili, the language spoken there, became secondary. When the locals saw me they saw one of their own, and they treated me as such.

When I went into town, I was left alone. People would greet me politely, and I would greet them back. But other than that, I was free to wander the city at will with absolutely no problems (except for when I had to communicate at length with a local.) My husband and in-laws, on the other hand, had a different experience. You may have noticed that they are white. When people saw them they immediately saw “muzungu” (which I believe translates to “foreigner”, though many assume it means “white person”.) The treatment they received was different from mine, and try though they did they could not blend in and “go unnoticed”. Children begging in the streets would come running as soon as they saw them, and very persistently, too. Likewise, the vendors on the street would come rushing with their wares, hoping that the muzungus would buy something. I was left alone, largely ignored. It was assumed that as a “local” I would have little interest in buying anything from them. In fact, a couple of times I got the distinct impression that the vendors hoped that I would not hinder their potential sales. If I could not help them convince the muzungus I was with that their wares were worthy, would I mind stepping aside and not ruining it for them?! I marveled at that.

Scott is an amateur linguist. In the month we were there he learned more than 200 kiSwahili phrases, all of which he spoke with an uncannily authentic accent. But even though he spoke and understood so much more of the language than I did, he was still treated as a foreigner. And one, it was assumed, who did not speak a word of kiSwahili. I, on the other hand, would often have people holding one-sided conversations with me. I would turn to Scott, and between the 2 of us we often got the gist of what was being said... though I remember a couple of instances when we had absolutely no idea what they were saying whatsoever! But the resistance to the idea that he could speak kiSwahili better than I could remained. Even at the end when we left, some still assumed that I was his translator.

I have come to no conclusions about this concept of belonging. As I continue to learn more about myself, the world and what it means to belong, I am often surprised at how accepting we can be. And yet, conversely, how resistant we can be when others sound like us, but look different…

Sunday, March 18, 2007 10:05:07 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
# Saturday, February 17, 2007

My cousin once pointed out something I hadn't noticed about Zimbabwean (Zim) society. He said in Zim a person can be promoted to family status. I chuckled at that, but am inclined to agree with him. In truth, a person can go from a stranger to family, it just takes some time.

I was reminded of this because my sister (Chipo) recently went back to Zim and returned full of news about how things are there. She was also kind enough to bring me some tea and music...no doubt fearing that she would never hear the end of it if she came back empty handed! I was explaining to a friend that I was going to visit this sister of mine, and the friend was surprised: as of last week she thought I only had 1 sister in the States (Nqo), why didn't I tell her that other family had arrived? I explained to her that this sister I was talking about is not my biological sister. In fact, she's not related to me at all. However, consistent with the Zim way, we are family because we come from the same place. Having that in common means we look out for each other, and basically treat each other as family.

I like that way of being. The idea of having 2 kinds of family (the ones we are born with and the ones we choose) is a rather neat one. It meant that when I 1st came to the States by myself I found myself surrounded by several "family" members. And if the price to pay for that is having to explain which brother or sister I'm talking about, that's okay with me!

It's a special thing, this concept of the fluid family! Oh, and this cousin of mine I mentioned at the beginning? We're not biologically related, either - his family lived in the same neighborhood as mine for many years, and they were eventually promoted to "cousin" status.

Saturday, February 17, 2007 10:43:22 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
# Saturday, January 27, 2007

So Scott David had a birthday recently, and the family got together to get him a Wii. Who knew that actually finding one would be such a to-do! We searched high and low in the Portland area, but no luck. (Remind me, didn't this thing come out at the end of last year? So why is it still so hard to find?!) It practically took an act of God but we got him one, just in time for his birthday, too!

I'm actually enjoying the Wii. I had almost given up on trying to understand Scott's toys. Having been through the PS, the XBox, the XBox 360, etc. with him, I had decided that these gadgets were designed for men. And not just ordinary men: engineers! I found them rather clumsy, they weren't intuitive and it just took a lot of work for me to sort of "get it". So I had just about given up. But the Wii is a lot of fun, more so since it gets us moving.

But my reason for this post is to do a little reflection about something that happened to me. Scott had mentioned in passing that he would like more Wii remotes and nunchuks. I happened to be in Salem for a couple of days and I thought "what the heck, I'll look around and see if they have them". I went to a large retailer and of course they were out. But in my infinite wisdom I asked them to call their sister store to see if they had any there: I was in luck. So off I went to the sister store.

I am rather ashamed to admit that when I got to said store and found 2 older women (probably in their 70s) working in the electronics department I groaned silently. I seriously doubted that they would know what I was looking for. In truth I didn't know too much about it myself. I looked around the department, and there in the distance was a male sales assistant who looked to be in his late teens/early 20s. I was so tempted to go to him, even though he was helping someone else and I would have had to wait. To be fair to myself, it wasn't that I thought these ladies were incompetent or unkind - I just didn't think they were into Wiis. But I gave myself a stern talking to. After all, many people have been discriminated against because of their age. Did I want to contribute to that kind of humiliation of others? Am I not a better, kinder person that that? And what if they were the "with it" types, the ones who played the Wii every week-end with their grandkids? So, full of shame, I approached the counter:

Mo: "Hi, I called about some Wii remotes and nunchuks and was told they'd be put aside..."

Saleslady: "You called about some what?"

Mo: "Wii remotes and nunchuks"

Saleslady: "Oh. What are those? Are they related to that new gizmo that came out?"

I'm not going to bother blogging the rest of the conversation. It was painful, probably because it was the blind leading the blind. In the end we did have to find the young salesguy I had 1st contemplated going to. (And no, it wasn't at my insistence! The lady helping me graciously suggested that he'd probably know more about it.) He did, and I was out in minutes. 

I am still noodling on that experience.

Saturday, January 27, 2007 10:05:33 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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