Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Growth Spurts

At this rate, he'll reach my size in about a month.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Walks at Rhodes Memorial

We live about 5 minutes' drive from Rhodes Memorial, a tribute to Cecil John Rhodes. I've long avoided it because I'm on my anti-colonial high horse, but one day I decided to visit (there's no cost), and found it incredibly beautiful. It's at the foot of Devil's Peak, and offers some amazing walks (we walked about 500m with Noah highlighting each and every pine cone) and a restaurant with a play ground. Cappuccino is R15. Babycinos are R8 though, so I'd recommend getting a latte and slipping some of your milk to your toddler that way. It's a great place to visit with Noah, and even to get tiny pine trees for bonsai, since Pines are being cut down and are not left to grow to maturity (I think because they're an alien species and people are concerned about the amount of water they draw from the water table?)

We always get babycinos (steamed milk) for Noah, since juice is expensive and pretty sugary. I'm trying to remember to always have his Kleen Kanteen for water, also, since he's actually equally happy with water. Noah feels part of our coffee breaks this way. The key is figuring out the coffee shops that will do the babycino for free, or who separate their lattes into milk and expresso (so you can share some milk before adding the expresso). We've found filter coffee in SA really unpredictable- we never know if we'll get something super strong or super weak. 

Leah, Eli is wearing your hat!

I loved that this article mentioned a woman who put on the microwave for 1:11, 2:22, and 3:33 to save time (Eug's response: doesn't her microwave have a minute button??) It seems so absurd, but I can relate to this need to find extra moments, even as I don't own a microwave and waste a lot of time doing random stuff. This morning, forced awake by Noah, I tried to cook enough for the whole week to save time- and almost succeeded. I'm also going into another "no checking email" phase. But I'm giving myself some leeway on the blog. 

I was crushed to hear this news about one of my favorite blog families- one of the few blogs I read and comment fairly regularly. Seems strange to tuck this in at the end of the post-- this doesn't seem the time or place to discuss why this happened, but I didn't want it to go by without saying anything. I am so sorry for the loss of Elijah Rainbow Fisher- God bless the Fisher family. [update: Leah over at The Squibix Family Blog has written about this in a way that I couldn't- thanks]

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Saturday Links

Here's a few things that I've been reading the past week:

  • A spirit-filled experiment with living on $1/day for 40 days and a reflection on the Soul of Money at a blog called Transcendant Moments- I loved that this was a pretty low-key experiment and that she is willing to venture into the waters of generosity knowing sometimes she'll want to pull back. I could relate to some of that uncertainty not having a monthly paycheck, and also to that entitlement to buy something (chocolate? Coffee? a whole meal?) as a pick-me-up.

  • I've been reading some posts over at Rachel Held Evan's Synchroblog on Mutuality. If you're from a conservative church background, I highly recommend checking it out and seeing what you think. Even as I recognize how different motherhood and fatherhood are physically (at least at the beginning-I'm breastfeeding Eli right now), I'm encouraged that God does not order me into baby church (though I like baby church) and making coffee (though I like making coffee). That is, the gender differences dictated by biology weigh much more lightly than those imposed by theology.

  • And here's an article about Why Women Can't Have it All by Annie-Marie Slaughter, the first woman Director of Policy Planning at the U.S. State Department. While I stepped off the fast-track a long time ago, I'm hoping to explore with you how partners could share the slow-track without the world falling apart. A follow up article on Salon challenged the language of "having it all", and asked whether our struggles really reflect the human condition of "dissatisfaction and yearning". 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Trees, Rats and Bathtubs

Upstairs, we have a bath and a sink which we are not changing in the foreseeable future. Noah loves bathing, but it's much too cold for Eug and I right now (and, with cold weather, our solar geyser has only been providing enough hot water for Noah. 

How do children not feel the cold??

Or the rain, apparently. Noah wanted to stay outside and play with rocks in the rain. We let him.
One tentative foray into unschooling has been to allow Noah to watch the cartoon Kipper any time he wants to. It's certainly not all the way unschooling (it's just Kipper, and he can really only watch an 8 minute clip again and again), but it's been refreshing to let go. I was a bit surprised that he really only wants to watch at the beginning of the day (maybe 8 minutes X 3, a blessing when Eug is making us coffee) and in the late afternoon (maybe 8 minutes total).

My dad came over to help cut our tree, which will make our wall collapse if it keeps growing (and prevent me from growing food in the little back area) It's so wonderful to have sun in the back now. 

Not sure if you can see the scissors in Noah's hands, but he's been helping to take the leaves off the branches-  the leaves we'll compost at my dad's, and the branches we'll put aside for a year to dry, then use as firewood.

Mushroom Pizzas. Mushrooms seem to be in plentiful supply at the moment, so I'm grilling them with tomatoes, bacon, cheese and garlic.

Observatory (note I avoid saying "our house") has a pretty serious rat problem. We have some holes in our floor, and pictured here is a potato a rat tried to drag into his home. No more humane traps. WAR.

Poor Eli. His picture follows a potato so that you get the full measure of his cuteness.


My friend Connie mentioned that in her work on interfaith conversations one Imam said that he had learned from Christians to pray at all times- that God is accessible always.

I'm learning from Muslims the sacredness of setting aside specific times of day to check in and recognize where we are in relation to God.

Every day I'm at home, I hear the call to prayer from two different mosques. In a previous life I would have found it annoying or threatening, but I've come to really enjoy these markers of my day and night. I've been using them as an opportunity to thank God for my life. When I'm away from home, I find myself instinctively praying at 1pm, with the music of the call to prayer in my head.

I'm in a time of low inspiration when it comes to sharing authentically about our life choices, so while this is not a Christian-themed blog, I'm hoping it is not threatening to share a moment of gratitude with you today (feel free to join me). I'm thankful

  • for Noah being able to know and love his great-grandparents, and the way he demonstrates totally unconditional love and admiration for them.
  • for sunlight in our little back area, after my dad cut down many branches of our oversized tree. The prospect of fruit trees and quail in a tiny, tiny space.
  • for sunlight in general, after a couple of weeks with a lot of rain.
  • Our beautiful fireplace, which works perfectly and warms up the whole living room.
  • That Eli started to kick around, and that he's growing well, that I don't have to worry about milk supply.
  • That my PhD funding is sufficient to support us, and that it gives me so much freedom to spend my days any way I like.
  • That July marks the beginning of two months of visitors.
  • Prayers at the beginning of each day being answered-even if only in knowing that God is present and giving us grace through our day.
Let me know if there are ways I can remember you in prayer, whether you're a praying type or not. You can reach me through Facebook or through 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Misleading Reflections and Measuring Up

We have one tiny, hazy mirror in our house at the moment. It's pretty dark in there. So while I know I haven't exactly been looking awesome, I thought it was passable for now. 

In the absence of a shower, I've been taking bird baths in the morning for about three months now, and hoping that basic hygiene was covered. While I don't wash my hair, I try to wet it occasionally. I used Eug as my other reflection: he's doing the same, and if he looks ok I'm probably ok, right? Wrong. I caught a glimpse of myself in a different mirror and found that my neck was just really, really dirty. Who would have thought that necks are a very important thing to wash? Without a mirror, and with my hair covering my neck most of the time, I just didn't know that I hadn't washed my neck in several months! 

The bathroom before we started to demolish and rebuild
Wanting to find a lesson from this, I thought about the ways in which I've been freed from comparisons, and the places where I still try so hard to measure up. Misleading bathroom reflections have taken away my need to look a certain way to fit in (though I'm pro-clean-necks), but misleading reflections of what a home should look like can suck up our lives and our joy: Our bathroom had issues, but it was largely functional. Ultimately we would have had to do something, but we probably wouldn't have gone all out if not for both internal and external expectations. 

I felt embarrassed to have people over, because bathrooms everywhere are much nicer than this one. We bought a fixer-upper house, which means we actually have to fix it up, right? I felt very fearful of judgement, that Eug's family would not be comfortable with our lives here in Cape Town if they saw this bathroom. 

So we (Eug) pulled apart the bathroom and started to rebuild when I was 7.5 months pregnant. We thought 1.5 months would be plenty of time to rebuild, but 3 months later the bathroom has taken time away from Noah and Eli, from our marriage, from our respective works, from making new friends and being available to our family. (I guess the obvious lesson here is that renovations never go as planned)

So lately we've been actively praying against the power a bathroom- a totally inanimate room- has had over our lives. When we named it and prayed for more grace from God, some of that power over us was broken.

I've found lessons here: I think a non-picture-perfect home is just right. Pinterest and NYTimes and the rest of the internet be damned, our lives can be beautiful wherever we live. The work we put into learning how to be compassionate and empathic and good neighbors has to be more important than whether our silverware matches and we have just the right ambience (though I'll probably still post thousands of before and after pictures of our house).

I want to live more gently and consciously, and I want to be able to explain that and convey that to those who ask or are concerned for us- by the very fact that we're available and can chat and have visitors when many of our peers cannot due to work and other commitments. I'm not there yet, but I want to advocate for minimalism that doesn't require everything to look zen. Minimalism that maybe looks a little more like poverty and less like the LifeEdited apartment. [I am married to a designer so I respect the need to balance this a little-we love taking pictures that make us grateful for our lives].

The flip side of this is that I don't want to judge people by their houses. I don't want to judge people, period, and not judging their houses is a good place to start. We miss some of the beauty of this moment in our lives because of fear of judgement:

Eli keeps getting fatter, and the necklace Angie made for me (and my AC roommates) reminds me of our time together in Milano

Pomegranates are coming into season, and I keep converting rands to dollars to make myself feel like I'm getting a great deal on fruit. We buy 7kg bags of oranges for $2, pomegranates for $1, 1kg bags of kiwis and guavas for $1. Our standard of eating has never been higher. 

My mom gave me one of her dishes so I can make stuff like banana brownies. I love that this is the same dish I've seen since birth.

Monday, June 11, 2012

A New Blog Joins the Blogroll

I was feeding Eli late on Saturday night and had trouble getting him back to sleep, so I found myself at Tamara Out Loud, one of my favorite faith-ish blogs.

It felt like particular grace that the guest author was a coworker from my work in Boston- though she worked at a different campus - who I had opportunity to cross paths with a few times. She was a colleague you don't forget- passionate and affirming, wise without being condescending.

I wished we worked more closely together as there was so much I could learn from her as  a Public Health person (I still don't know what to call us), as someone who has lived around the world, and as someone who has raised five children. But I changed positions from coordinating a program (where I had a lot of contact with many people) to coordinating a research study (which was a very new thing at my work, so didn't lend itself to as much collaboration), and then I moved to South Africa. So I am so grateful to have a second chance to learn from her, through Communicating Across Boundaries.

In short, I'm a huge fan and was so excited to introduce her blog to you, particularly if you're in Boston or navigating multiple cultures. Check out the new addition on the right!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Friday Links

Daniel Suelo quit money twelve years ago. I read his monthly posts, and wanted to introduce him to you through this interview. I am not sure how his story translates in our lives now. In Boston, I started to dumpster dive for food after reading his story.

Eug and I are gradually, with a lot of ups and downs, learning to give more aggressively and not do anything purely for money, because we're trying to follow Jesus. The Lazarus at the Gate course in Boston was a great way to have a place to talk to others about it. On the subject of dumpster diving: I noticed Fruit and Veg City in Roeland street clearing a lot of slightly-old produce from their shelves, and I wanted to ask what they did with it (there are many people living on the street and even in the parking lot), but I wasn't brave enough. I wondered if the some of the vegetables were discarded because they need to be cooked before being eaten, and the people on the street mainly ate the leftover foods that didn't need cooking. At Oude Moulen ecovillage in Pinelands, I did ask, and was told that some people from the village help clean up the cafe at the end of the day, and they eat whatever produce is left over.  Not as much food is wasted here.

Noah got this super-cool outfit from new friends at church. We felt really blessed.
I learned yesterday that lye comes from ashes! Who would have known! I saw this very simple tutorial on making backwoods old-school soap, and I'd love to try, since we're producing a lot of ashes at the moment. Does anyone in Cape Town have a very old large pot they'd be willing to give up? We could exchange for soap!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Scratch Patch

My sister in law recommended the scratch patch at the V&A Waterfront as a fun place to go with Noah (with the added bonus it's right next to the aquarium, and right next to the parking lot). She was right! 

Noah really, really loves rocks and has started picking them up wherever we go, often to my embarrassment. So we thought rather than constantly tell him that he can't take rocks with him, we'd take him to a place where he could! It was a really fun hour, where we paid R25 for a little bag and Noah collected, emptied, and collected again for as long as he wanted. He clutched the bag the rest of the day, and has been inventing games with them ever since.

"More rocks there? More there More there, More rocks more rocks more rocks more rocks?!" Yes Noah, more rocks.

 Later in the day, Eli had his bottle.
Noah is obsessed with the flash on our camera and insisted that I take "one more" "two more" "three more" photos. I had to stop after a while for Eli's sake.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A Much Longer Photo Update

I've been thinking about tone during my break from posting: how to avoid making it sound like our lives are perfect, and how to avoid sounding like we're wallowing without making progress. I may be especially guilty of comparing and trying to measure up to people in blogs I read, but to the extent that there might be a few people who actually try the things we do, I want to figure out that balance. Until I figure that out, here are pictures that hopefully are a good representation.

Since Eli was born,
We still go to the aquarium pretty often.

I still make sourdough, though it now takes 16 hours to rise (with the winter), which is actually better. I want to branch out, but I'm going to stick with the tried and true sourdough until Eli is a little older.

We don't have nearly as many pictures of Eli as we did of Noah, and for some reason we struggle to take good pics of him.

We celebrated Noah's birthday at my brother and sister-in-law's house. We said no gifts, but Noah got this incredible train anyway.

I love their living room and the beautiful fireplace.

Cousin Ethan is also expecting a new brother. He's practicing on this doll.

This is how we multitask. Poor Eli.

He's not actually going to school or anything. Just wanted to wear the bag.

This is how crammed we were before the sofa. Yay for the sofa!

Mornings consist of orange and grapefruit juice and Kipper  on Youtube with daddy before I come downstairs with Eli. Kipper keeps Eug sane, so I now love Kipper. When Noah wakes up in the morning, he says "Down, daddy, arroorororo (Paroro, his word for cartoon, because his first exposure to video was the Korean Paroro) rusk"

This is our beautiful fireplace- it makes our living room feel like home.

I started pumping 1 bottle/day two days ago, because apparently babies need to get used to bottles around 6 weeks or they may reject them totally. Eli is ambivalent, but willing to try. 

Noah loves the new couch so much he pretends to go to sleep on it.

The bathroom floor is almost complete after the long wait for the cement. Eug keeps having to do extra adjustments, so it's a lesson for us in DIY and patience.

Runaway capitalism: we bought a soda stream to celebrate buying our sofa. No, really it was a planned purchase since Noah associates daddy with coke, Eug wanted to try something more natural- we won't' use the syrups.