Nairobi National Park: Where Safari Meet City

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In February, my mother-in-law came to visit and we decided to meet her in Nairobi, Kenya since she would have a 24 hour layover. We decided to make it a three day adventure and stayed at the beautiful Ololo Lodge in Nairobi National Park. It's a great place if you are okay with just staying in the park and not doing much else, but don't worry there's still TONS to do. 

You can take a safari every morning and evening, walk the beautiful grounds and see their farm and where they make their own furniture. You can also take a 30 minute walk to a nearby glass factory where you can watch them make glass. There's also a fun little place next door where you can buy more glass products and see animals, and just explore the quirky, fun grounds. 

And if you want to just rest and kick back they have the best space for relaxation. Take up a chair by the pool or grab a book and curl up in one of the cozy nooks around the grounds. 

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 They also grow their own mushrooms!

They also grow their own mushrooms!

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 The dirt contrast!

The dirt contrast!

 They grow their own herbs, veggies, and fruits in the greenhouse

They grow their own herbs, veggies, and fruits in the greenhouse

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 Walking to the Glass Factory & of course little man falls asleep

Walking to the Glass Factory & of course little man falls asleep

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 even the pigs have cute houses!

even the pigs have cute houses!

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 I can't get over all the cacti!

I can't get over all the cacti!

 Little man still fast asleep!

Little man still fast asleep!

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 Ready for a Safari!

Ready for a Safari!

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 of course, he fell asleep through all the good parts!

of course, he fell asleep through all the good parts!

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 It's just like the Lion King out here! 

It's just like the Lion King out here! 

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Tips for Surviving the Heat

 
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It's that time of year. The season of shiid (pronounced like sheet) dresses, sports bras, and top buns. In the US many people are starting to thaw out from the winter snow or if you are from my part of the US, you may be nearing the infamous tornado season. So many days spent hunkering down in closets, sleeping with an emergency bag next to bed and always making sure I had a pair of running shoes ready to slip on. You may find this a little much, but once you actually survive a tornado and see your entire house, belongings, neighborhood, and school blown away by nature, then it's really not that crazy.

So what is Spring in our part of Africa? Well first off, Spring is nonexistent, and so is winter and fall. It's Summer all year round here and we have three seasons: hot, humid-hot, and dry-dusty hot. Depending on your preference for humidity there is a debate on whether the humid-hot or dry-dusty hot is worse. I HATE humidity, so I will also choose those months as the worst. So here's  a breakdown of the year:

January - March - hot, but totally bearable without a/c
March - May/June - hot and humid (imagine yourself living in a sauna or a hot yoga room)
June-August - hot and windy and dryish (imagine yourself living in the exhaust of an airplane)
September - aaaaaand back to humid (again sauna)
October-December - the humidity begins to fade into the more comfortable heat


So needless to say the transition in April is always a rough one. You have to drink more water, watch your hours outside in the sun, and check your attitude because heat makes us all a little cray-cray!

So here are my tips for surviving the heat both physically and mentally:

 

1. Hibiscus Tea

Did you know that hibiscus tea actually cools your body? Crazy right, but whatever works! But if you are pregnant, DO NOT drink this. So I make a big 'ol pitcher of it and leave it in the fridge. When I'm super hot or just come in from outside I grab a glass and drink away. Plus I used Starbucks for a little inspiration and made my own version of the Pink Drink:

1. Hibiscus Tea (whatever form you have, I've been using leftover via packets, but you can get the tea in tea bags at the store)
2. Brew or mix with water
3. Add coconut milk
4. Add a sweetener (unless it's a via packet because it's already in there)
5. Chill and drink!

 

2. Invest in some quick dry underwear

Yeah, I know sounds weird, but seriously the best thing my husband and I ever did. Before, I was changing underwear like 3-4 times a day (because wet underwear is gross y'all). And my husband had these amazing quick dry briefs from Exofficio and was totally good. So that summer, I ordered as many as I could find in my size on amazon. Plus you save on laundry.

 

 
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3. Get you some anti-chaffing techniques

So maybe this quote doesn't resonate with you, and that's fine, just skip this point. But if it does, here is my favorite trick—Balmex. Yep, diaper cream. But specifically this one. I just rub it between my legs and it stays on even in the sweatiest of days. And if it does come off, I carry a little travel size one around and apply as needed. I tried using biker short type things under my skirts but they would either roll up or roll down or just make me more hot, so a friend suggested Balmex and it has been the best thing so far. 

 

4. Get that top bun down & a good pair of earrings

Sounds dumb, but perfecting a good top bun is key. When I'm sweating in all the places I want my hair off my neck, but I also don't want to scare people with wild hair, so I finally figured out how to make the top bun work. I added a pair of my favorite earrings and voila! Maybe that top bun isn't your thing, but having a go to hairstyle that you can transition for a nice event and yet still sweat to death has been very helpful in so many situations here. For example, I got invited to a really nice Olympic committee dinner last year. I had a nice dress on, make-up, hair down,  I was so proud of myself. Then I show up and the whole thing is outside...in May! Woof. So bam, switch that hair to a top bun and I still look somewhat presentable. I just felt bad for the rest of the attendees because this was their first time in country and they had no idea what hit them...

My earrings of choice
My top bun method

 

5. Carry a towel

Nothing worse than sweat running off your nose and into everything. The other day I was at the market looking for a shiid dress and sweat kept falling onto their pretty fabrics, can we say embarrassing? So I now carry a small little towel that attaches to my bag and it's perfect for wiping away that pesky face sweat.

The REI mini towel is apparently no longer available but here are a few other similar options:
REI Towels
Amazon Towels

 

6. A mini fan that plugs into your phone

So I've only needed this a few times, but there have been a couple close calls for both Ezra and myself. The heat gets to be too much or we are inside an stuffy airport with no a/c and I whip this thing out to cool us both off. I actually picked it up at the Texas State Fair, but don't worry I found it on Amazon. 

 

7. Makes trips to the pool/beach

I mean who doesn't love a day in the water! While it's hot enough to swim year round here, we really try to save our pool visits for the later months. Pools can be very expensive here and the beaches for swimming require some crazy road navigating. Needless to say it's not as convenient  as when I was a child growing up with a pool in the backyard, but it is possible. So on those weekends when life is just too hot and you don't want to have a $1,000 electricity bills, we just go to the pool and cool off in the water.

 

 

 

 

8. Invest in your mental state

I have so many people ask me how I do it in the heat. Honestly, I hate being hot. I love the cold and will take a rainy day over sun every time. (Unless I'm in Hawaii) But, it's about getting your mental state in order. For me, I just think of it as the easiest diet ever. I know that I'll detox and loose weight by letting my body sweat and get rid of some of those toxins. It's only a couple months out of the year so I tell myself it's for a season and then we are usually traveling during the summer months anyways, so I know I can enjoy a few months in unlimited a/c and cooler conditions.

If you aren't in the physical condition to where you need to loose weight, then this may not work for you. And if that is the case, you have to really take extra caution in watching your calorie intake and how much time you spend exercising. Stay safe, drink water, and if you want to keep up your work-out routine, just run the a/c for a bit or do it first thing in the morning when your room is still nice and cool from the night of a/c. 

One of the most common things I've seen with people experiencing their first humid heat season is they are determined to keep doing their same routine, and get frustrated when it just doesn't happen at the same pace. Life will slow down. You will get tired faster and if you don't drink enough water and eat right you will get sick. People have had migraines, vomiting, stomach issues, etc. It's a real thing, don't pretend your special and exempt from it, but instead lean into it and expect a season of self-care and a slower pace. Take from the locals who have lived here most of their lives. They are slowing down and so should you. 

Okay, so for those who live in hot climates (or Texas) what are your tips for staying cool?

Getting My Life in Order: Part 3, Rest is the New Hustle

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I once saw this quote on a lock screen graphic and I instantly fell in love. We often equate success with a lack of rest and hustling with the only way to live. Instead it leaves us tired, burnt out, and cranky. What if we began to work smarter, not harder, and found a way to rest in between. 

Now you have to realize this may mean letting those dishes sit a little bit in the sink or having the laundry pile up for one more day, or even not getting your inbox cleaned out at the end of the day, but isn't our sanity worth it? 

Did you know that by resting our brains at night it allows our brain to properly store all the information we've absorbed throughout the day? That's right. So all those late nights you pulled in college cramming for an exam might have actually been better spent sleeping. That way your brain has a chance to file away the information and you are rested and ready to go. 

So what does rest have to do with organizing and getting things done? A lot. The more you rest the more joyful you feel and the more energy you have to...work smarter, not harder! 

That said, below I've outlined how I choose to rest. While this schedule is VERY tailored to life in Africa you can still apply the principles in your life. 

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1. REST EVERYDAY

Find a way to incorporate rest into your daily routine. This can happen a number of ways: exercise, quiet time, or naps (my favorite). The culture I currently live in is a nap culture. From 2-4 business close and people sleep, and I mean sleep. They sleep on the street, under a tree, in their car on the side of the road...wherever they are. And this has been a lifesaver for me. Because the weather is harsh here I find myself so tired from the simplest of tasks. Getting to have a couple hours where I can't do anything lets my body gain strength for the afternoon and evening activities. And it also is why I tend to stay up till midnight working...not sure if that's a good thing yet.

2. REST WEEKLY

Every week you should find a day where you do nothing buy play. Maybe it's binge watching Netflix or cooking a gourmet meal at home. Maybe it's eating out and letting someone else cook the gourmet meal. Whatever it is, make it happen! And if it's not feasible to take a whole day for fun, then at least try and take a meal or an evening to do something. We usually do one of two things—stay in our pjs all day and cook really good meals or adventure to the mall and get some free a/c. Other things we might do on a weekend are catching up on movies and tv shows, cooking brunch, splurge and have a little sugar, or take a bath instead of a shower.

3. REST MONTHLY

Every month we take a day to do something fun. While the weekends are for "fun" like Netflix chilling and brunch having, one day a month we do something out of the ordinary. We may visit the pool at the really nice hotel or drive 45 minutes out of town for the only nice playground in the country or even eat out at fancy restaurant. These are the things good for our souls, and we know our budget allows them to only happen once or twice a month so we do it! Other ideas (not applicable in my location) might be to visit a museum, drive to a nature center, or go to the movies. 

4. REST YEARLY

This one is your vacation people, or family trip. Whatever you call it. Find a place, save up, and go! It doesn't even have to be far. Maybe it's a staycation at hotel or maybe it's a trip with the extended fam in Colorado. But plan for it, save for it, and do whatever it takes to make it happen. I cannot tell you how many yearly vacations have refreshed me and given me the energy to keep going, especially in really hard seasons. And if money is tight, just remember you have a whole year to save. Try staying out of town at a friend's house or looking at an Air BnB so you can cook your own meals. There are always ways to travel cheap, you just have to be willing to plan ahead.

So that's my advice for finding ways to rest and recharge your soul. What are some of your ways or things that give you rest? Leave a comment below so we can add them to the list!

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Getting My Life in Order: Part 2, Organizing Emails

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First off, if you missed part one of this series, start here.

Let’s talk emails. 

I am big on communicating via email and I also can’t stand to let emails go unanswered. But answering emails every time you receive one is one of the most inefficient ways to manage your time…at least that’s what everyone swears by! But I also use to work in an office where not being tied to your email wasn’t much of an option.

So here’s my strategy:

I check emails on my phone or computer whenever I think about. So basically I make my rounds through social and then end on my emails. If it’s an email that requires an answer and I know the answer, I respond right away with a short reply. If I need to find out more information I simply let the person know I’ll respond later with more information, but I want them to know I received the email and am working on it.

While there are some people who are not into the answering email thing, I believe it’s important for those in any kind of business. You are trying to establish customer service and genuine connections with people, and one way to do this is by promptly answering their email. I also hold a fast email responder in high regard! Seriously, if I’m ever in charge of hiring an office manager I will ask them how fast they respond to email. Also, I’m a receiver for multiple contact pages for websites and I want my potential clients/donors to know we value and care for them and are on top of their request—even if we don’t have the answer just yet.

That said, it’s also important to set boundaries. If you are working from home or have office hours just put an autoreply on your emails so that if someone emails you outside of those hours they know why. This is especially important because I’m working with a 9 hour time difference for Central Time. This allows me to not feel pressured to answer every email all day long. Again, I’m only checking emails periodically during the day.

 

Okay, so that’s daily replies. If it’s an email that does not require a reply I have a few actions I take:

1.     Flag, so I know to look at it later as soon as I can

2.     Delete it, because I either skimmed it or am not interested

3.     Don’t flag it but leave it in my inbox to read later (this is usually for newsletters or websites I send myself to check out)

As for email organization I have A TON of folders where I then move emails from inbox. For example, purchases with tracking info, important bills, useful newsletters from friends or companies, etc.

 

Then once a week (or sometimes longer) I do a full clean-out. I will get 20 plus emails in my inbox and I take a couple hours to sit down and slowly go through everyone:

1.     Read all the flag emails and either delete or file

2.     Read all the newsletter emails and then delete or file

3.     Answer any unanswered emails and then delete or file

 

Don’t stop until the inbox is done! I usually still have a few emails left in my inbox because they may contain events happening soon or I’m still waiting on some information. But that’s how I stay on top of email, making sure to answer people promptly and keep everything organized.

1.     Check and answer important emails a few times a day

2.     Use flags to mark important emails

3.     File emails that don’t need to be deleted but don’t need to be in your inbox eithe

Alright, in the next post we will talk about taking time to rest. This is the one I'm most passionate about and what I truly believe makes or breaks you in doing anything long-term (or just keeping your sanity).

Getting My Life in Order: Part 1

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I wanted to do a follow-up blog about my day in the life with a one year old. But in this post I want to talk more in depth with how I organize my days. I’ve always been a fan of organization, I mean, I use to play office in lieu of the ever popular "house" as a kid. But over the years I’ve had to adapt to not just an organized way for life, but also an efficient way of life.

I’m a big fan of worker smarter,
not harder.

So here are a few of my tools and tricks that help me work full-time from home for a non-profit, take care of a one year old, and run a side-hustle business, all while navigating the waters of living overseas in Africa.

First off, you have to be dedicated.

These things won’t work unless you actually have the desire to get stuff done. And let’s be honest, most days I don’t! And for those really low days where I have absolutely no energy and no motivation...I just rest. Yep, sometimes that’s allowed. Because, when I am working, I work smart.

So what are my ways for working smart?

I'm going to try and break it down into a few steps. Then I'll expand on some of these things in separate blog posts. Today, I just want to give you an overview so you can get the basics of what I do for my life. 

1.     Organize your day on paper

Be specific! Write out each task that needs to happen and try to write at what time it will happen. Refer back to it everyday. 

2.     Dedicate specific times to work on emails

Be willing to reply back to those who need it, even if it’s only to say I got your email and I’m on it! (Read tomorrow's post for how I organize my email life and why I think it's important to answer quickly)

3.     Take time to rest.

Seems counter-intuitive right? But if you take a little time for yourself each day then you will actually be more productive during the time you do work. (Part three of this series will go in-depth on how I find time to rest daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly) 

4.     Limit social media during work times.

I actually only post to Instagram when I’m in bed for the night and everything else is done.  That’s when I take the time to comment, interact, and post, not just for my personal page, but for my business pages as well. I manage 4 Facebook pages and 2 Instagram accounts, so I schedule everything in advance, but in order to grow anything online you have to interact!

Since I was already using social media at night anyways, I just decided to be intentional about also interacting on the business accounts. (Part 4 of the series will go in depth on how I manage all the social media accounts, as well as my night-time routine for getting things done -- see next point)

sidenote: I also get on social media if I ever find myself in a lull at home or while I'm out waiting in a forever long line. But I don’t do social media why I’m trying to get things done; it never works out!

5.     Take advantage of the times of day that you are most active.

For me, I’m my best at night. Mornings are my enemy and it takes me forever to get going. But at night I get a second wind and it’s all I can do to stop working and go to sleep. For some people it may be that mornings are their best time, so wake up a couple hours before your kids or before you have to go work and use that time to get emails answered or books read or whatever it is. (Part 4 will cover how I use my nights to get the final things crossed of my to-do list and how I use that time for cracking down on my goals like social media, reading more, and listening to podcasts)

6.     Block out Distractions

We are focusing on working smarter, this means we have to limit all distractions. For me I know if I'm working in the same room with someone I will tend to just talk. So if I am in the same room with my husband working I usually put my headphones on and have an upbeat playlist going. This helps me block out the distraction to talk and it allows me to focus on the task at hand. Other times I’m simply working to beat of the clock, which is really my best motivater of all…

7. Use your tribe/village/community/whoever

Who are your people? Do you have any people? There have many many times in my life where I felt I didn't have people, but this season I have a whole team working behind me, many who don't even realize the importance they play in helping me accomplish all the things. And it's really the number one reason why I can do all of this. There have been seasons in my life where I didn't have a tribe and I didn't have the energy, so my workload was less and I just made up my mind to be okay with that. Remember you may not be accomplishing everything because you are in a season of something else! 

Last year after having Ezra I could only manage taking care of newborn, pumping exclusively, getting the bare minimum of my duties done for the non-profit, and figuring out how to live life overseas. That was it. No more. But it didn't last forever. Eventually I found my rhythm, I was no longer pumping, and I had people who came around me to help babysit and offer support. So lean into whatever season you are in and don't beat yourself up if you just can't get it all done. Maybe it's because you are actually getting the most important thing done—like taking care of yourself or your family! 

So what does my tribe do for me?
(Also, I'd do any of things for them in a heartbeat...let me make it clear it's not a one way street!!)

Well, These people are essential to me getting things done. I could not get everything done if it wasn’t for my house helper. I love that having a house helper here is normal and not just a luxury of the upper class. Our house helper is a friend who cleans, cooks, and watches Ezra during the mornings and three nights a week while Reed is at language class and I’m at practices.

I also could not do what I do without the most helpful husband. He changes diapers, cooks meals, gives baths, and basically anything I do he does just as much. We don’t see our jobs as defined by mommy or daddy. (Except when it comes to boogers…) But one person gets the bottle ready and the other helps with bath time. One day he cooks dinner, and another day it’s my turn. We alternate and lean on each other. We both work from home and so we have the luxury to be flexible in our schedules. It also means we have the luxury to pick up the slack when needed. I know that this is a unique aspect to our relationship, but I encourage stay at home mammas to find someone who can help you. Maybe it’s a nanny or a grandma or another mamma or a younger single bestie. It’s about finding your tribe and helping each other when times get tough. I also have a handful of people I know I could call here in Africa and would jump at any chance to help us out.

 

So I want to hear from you?

Is there a tool or trick that really helps you get things done or is there a question you have for me after reading this? Comment below and let's learn from each other! 

IRL: Dinner and a Baby

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Clean dishes. Hear baby cry. Look down. Baby has salt shaker from trash and now salt is all over the floor. Grab rag, clean, clean bottom of baby’s feet, baby grabs my hair and pulls on for his life. Scream. Finish cleaning salt, realize baby still has salt shaker and shaking it furiously. Groan. Give up. Start Bath. Get pitcher from bathroom. Walk in bedroom. Why does it smell like poop in here? Who pooped? We haven’t even been home today? I don’t understand. Grab pitcher. Go to water tower. Fill pitcher with filtered water for baby’s bath. Realize we are almost out of water and the rest will be used on bath water. Great.

Put small amount of water in kettle and wait. Baby sneaks up behind me. Step on baby. Baby falls. Baby cries. Mom feels bad. Pick up baby. Kiss baby. Soothe baby. Baby cries. Hug baby. Tell baby I’m sorry. Baby cries. Hold baby and finish bath water. Poor hot water into cold water for lukewarm bath water. Baby cries. Realize there are weird white flakes floating in bath water. Why?! Pour bathwater into another pitcher. Flakes still follow. Put baby down, baby cries. Get out strainer and strain bath water because it’s all the filtered water we have left in the house.

Baby stops crying. Yes. Baby grabs household cleaner and starts running. Grab baby. Take away cleaner. Baby cries. Ugh. Pick up baby.

Grab bottle of milk so it’s ready after bath. Realize all the milk in our country gives people the poops. Grab Formula. Scoop with left hand four scoops of powder into a small tiny hole of a bottle. Spill formula. Groan. Go to water tower to fill up with water. Remember I just used the last of the water for the bath. Groan.

Smile, because I also remembered that I saw two water bottles in the hallway. Frown, because said water bottle is empty, and the other water bottle was taken by husband to class. Smile again, because I still have some water in my thermos from today’s trip. Open with one hand and fill bottle.

Put bottle on changing table in bedroom. Realize I forgot to turn on the a/c during dinner. Go get remote. Where is remote? Wait, I saw baby with remote this morning. Then I saw daddy take remote from him. Where is remote? Look in drawers. Nope. Look in bedroom. Nope. Hmm, why is the office open? Look in office, on the bookshelf. Logical place…grab remote, turn on a/c, note time so in 2 hours I can turn off a/c.

Go to bathroom in bedroom. Ugh. It still smells like poop. Why? What the? Hold breath, put baby down. Baby grabs shaving cream…every.single.time. Clean baby. Forget towel. Grab towel. Get baby. Carry baby into bedroom.

Dry baby. Lotion baby. Brush baby’s teeth. Clothe baby. Brush baby’s hair. Wait. What is this? Why are there orange flecks in his hair? Where did it even come from? Pick out flecks. Kiss baby. Fill up diffuser. Turn on fan. Turn on sound machine. Place baby in crib with blanket and paci. Say good night. Walk out. No crying, yes!

Go to kitchen. Remember the salt incident. Moan. Grab broom. Sweep. Smell Chili. Yumm. Grab a spoon to taste. Realize the new chili powder has way more spice to it than the last one I bought. Spit out chili. Acknowledge chili is ruined and try not to cry. Grab a diet coke and google how to make chili less spicy.

UPDATE: Not but 30 minutes after writing this did I get a call from my husband. After learning of the chili dilemma he offered to go up the street to get us Kebabs. He called because our car died. Nothing, zilch. And he was parked on the street. Luckily, we have a spare car from our teammates parked in our driveway. But, Ezra is asleep and even if I woke him there would be no where for him to sit safely in the car. I would normally call our bosses and/or teammates, but they are all out of town. I would then call a friend to run over, but they don't have cars. So here we sit on the photo, figuring out how to get my husband home, and how to get our spare car back to the store so we can jump the car and bring it home...oh how life is never boring around here!

Swimming With Whale Sharks

Go! Go! Go! The man yells in a thick accent; it actually takes me a second to understand what he said. Then I quickly pull my mask over my eyes, put a death grip on my phone, and jump into the deep ocean blue. Immediately I begin clicking the shutter on my phone, hoping to catch the giant creatures swimming toward me. 

When I heard we would go swimming with whale sharks I couldn't decide if I was excited or scared. The term shark seems intimidating, why would want to go looking something that has the potential to kill us? But whale sharks are gentle creatures and they don't eat meat. There are only a few places in the world that you can actually swim with whale sharks and they are only around for a limited time. 

We packed up our truck with food, snorkel gear, drinks, blankets, and everything needed for a day at the beach. We then headed out of town driving for an hour on a paved road until we get to a bumpy, dirt road. If you didn't know the way, you would never know it led to anything. Another hour past military bases, camels, and goat herds and you reach one of the most serene and unique beaches. 

Instead of sand the shore is lined with large rocks, in the distance there are old run-down concrete buildings, now decorated with graffiti. Once we set up camp we wait for the man to pick us up with is boat. We left Ezra with two of our teammates who stayed behind on shore. They said he did great and only cried once he saw us returning. Finally, our little guy is starting to be comfortable around others!

Once we reached the area where the whale sharks hang out we then wait for the driver to tell us to jump. He does a fantastic job of pulling in front of the whale sharks so when you jump off the boat you land right in front of them! It was amazing! My flippers didn't fit so I wasn't able to swim to keep up with them, but I was still able to grab a few shots with my camera. Which by the way I highly recommend the Lifeproof case for your iPhone. It allows you to take it under water and take photos and videos. A dream come true!

After a few times in and out of the little boat you are so tired and ready to return to shore. We spent the rest of the day snorkeling, eating, talking, and of course getting way too much sun. 

I recently watched a video clip of a guy who traveled to every country in the world. He then would shout off a few things to do in each country, but when he came to our neck of the woods, he said he couldn't find anything to do. Well, mystery man, I feel sorry for you, because you spent all that money traveling all over the world and missed one of the most unique opportunities. I wish I could write him and tell him about all the things there are to do in our little country, whale sharks just one of the many!

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Life in Africa: Part 2

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Since posting the blog A Typical Day in Africa with a Baby, our little guy has grown a lot! He is now 16 months old and all over the place! And now that he is no longer an infant our schedule has opened up to do more in the community. So I thought I'd do another post on what our day/week looks like here in Africa.

7:30 - wake up and get going (In an effort to be vulnerable, I'm not a morning person, so it takes me fooooorever to get out of bed, but I aspire to get better and spend some quiet time during these 30 minutes instead of hitting the snooze button) *insert thumbs down emoji*

8:00 - Sometimes Ezra wakes up around this time, but he usually just plays in his crib until we come and get him. Then we change him, give him some milk, and get him in the high chair for breakfast. Sunday through Thursday our house helper arrives and she often takes over on days I have appointments in the morning.

9:00-12:00 - Mondays I spend my time in the home office or visiting the women at our Project House. I'm usually meeting with the jewelry group for Dreamer & Co or meeting with others as I leave this day open for appointments. On Tuesdays we have team meetings, and Wednesday through Thursday I have language lessons. Friday and Saturdays are the weekend here and on Sunday we get ready for chapel at the base.

10:00 - Ezra takes a nap (depending on the day) and Monday-Thursday our house helper is actually watching Ezra and getting him down for a nap so we can attend language class or work in the office. When he wakes up he has another 4 oz. of milk.

12:00-2:00 - Ezra is usually awake by now and we get ready to have lunch. Lunch is the main meal here so we usually have a big spread, pasta and bread, rice and beans, and other dishes prepared for us by our house helper. 

2:00 - 4:00 - Ezra goes down for a nap, sometimes we do as well :) Most places close down for "siesta" time and so we take this time to rest as well.

4:00 - Ezra has a snack, and depending on the day I leave for my next activity. Monday I attend Girl's Run 2 practice, Tuesdays I have women's volleyball, and Wednesday I have women's basketball on the French base. Reed has langugage class Monday-Wednesday so our house helper stays with Ezra. Thursdays and Sundays I use the afternoon to catch up on office work in the living room, while Ezra runs around playing. 

6:30 - We start preparing dinner. I return back from volleyball or girls' running. On Wednesdays I am actually leaving to go to basketball, so our house helper feeds Ezra dinner and put him down for bed.

7:30 - We eat dinner together. Ezra eats with us and we try to get him to eat whatever we are eating as well. But if he refuses it then we chop up some fruit and bread or make a smoothie for him. 

8:00 - Bath, bottle, bed for little man! He gets one more 4 oz. bottle of milk and then goes down for the night. 

9:00 - We watch tv, catch up on emails, and try to be in bed by 10:00pm, however most days it's really more like 12:00 am. But we are working on that, because getting in the morning is so much harder!

Below are a few answers to some common questions we get about raising a baby in Africa:


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1. What do you feed Ezra and does he still take bottles?

We have transitioned from bottles to sippy cups and we hope to eventually transition to milk only being drunk from the 360 cups. Right now Ezra is such a wiggle worm when we change his diaper, so we often use the sippy cup full of milk to keep him still. It's really the only way. As for food, we try to get him to eat whatever we are having, but there are a few foods that we eat consistently that we found do not bode well for his digestive system (i.e. beans). His favorite (outside of all fruit) is spaghetti and musil (a local dish made out of red lentils). We also make him grilled cheese sandwiches and left over rice pilafs for days when he won't touch our food. We can always count on cut up fruit, pureed fruit, and crackers to be a big hit. His other favorite is any kind of smoothie. In fact, if I make a smoothie for myself as soon as he hears the blender he starts whining for some. The good thing about our smoothies is that we use Juice + so we know he is getting a good dose of fruits and vegetables. 

2. What kind of milk do you use?

The milk here is actually a point of contention. A local company started producing milk, but it gives everyone bathroom issues (even the locals won't touch it). But the company refuses to fix the issue and they have stopped letting many companies import other brands. Sometimes we can find milk from France, but it comes in tiny bottles and is skim milk. We would go through four containers in one week! We finally decided to use the formula designed for babies 12-36 months. We can buy it in a large container and it last for a couple weeks, plus it has extra vitamins to help with growth. 

3. How do you keep Ezra cool in the hot climate?

From November to March the weather can range from upper 60s to upper 80s. While it's still warm inside the apartment we have found it's not too hot for sleeping. So Ezra will sleep in his crib in his own room during this months. We run the a/c for two hours before bedtime and then shut it off when he goes to sleep. We also keep his ceiling fan on high and have a tower fan blowing on his crib. So far, he hasn't woken up sweating, so we count is as success. During the hot months we will move him into our room with the a/c and he'll sleep in the pack-n-play. During the day we keep the fans running and if he's out in the stroller we have a portable fan that attaches to his tray and blows on him. It works wonders! During the hot months if it gets too hot inside then we run the a/c for a little bit and make sure he stays cool. 

4. How do you get clothes and other supplies for him as he transitions?

We plan ahead. We have yet to find a place that sells affordable baby clothes so we find it easier to bring several sizes with us. We have stocked up through size 2T and when we travel during the summer we will plan for the next year. We also have visitors that come from the US during the year and will ask them to bring us something if we find something breaks or we need something.  

5. How did you get Ezra to sleep through the night? 

When Ezra was four months old we read the book, 12 hours by 12 weeks. We started following the guidelines and with a lot of practice we got Ezra to sleep through the night. He would still wake up around 6 am, and sometimes have an occasional mid-night wake-up, but around 1 year he started sleeping 12 hours at night and waking up anywhere from 8am to 10am! He was also going to sleep at 9pm or later. That's the downside of sleeping in the same room, he can't fall asleep until we are quiet in bed and all the lights are off. 

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Who Runs The World?

Life is much easier with a one year old than a newborn. I am finally plugging into community here and able to be away from the house for more than a couple hours. One of the joys of my new schedule is getting to work with our running girls. Every Monday I drive out past wadis, camels, crazy drivers, and end up at a huge stadium with turf grass and an actual track. Underneath my sheet dress is my scandalous capri pants and t-shirt waiting to be seen by this group of teenage girls.

The girls start by warming up for 15 minutes around the track. Afterwards they do their stretches as a group and then for 30 minutes I work with them on strength training. It can be a challenge tailoring exercises for 9 year olds all the way to 17 year olds. We've done sprints, push ups, squats, stairs, resistance bands, and medicine balls.

A few weeks ago we had to break up a fight between two girls because the younger girl kept talking bad about the older girl. And their natural instinct is to start fighting, pulling hair, crying, the whole shebang. But how can you blame them when they have never been taught anything else? How do you teach respect? Well, first off, you model it.

We try to live our lives with respect for the culture, the people, and the customs in the country we are guests in. Second, these girls will have to endure lectures and be disciplined according, something they have never really seen before. Most of their discipline has been in the form of physical abuse. We want to show how one can love sternly but still gracefully. 

So this past week we began implementing discipline. The girls have started arriving late to practice, talking back, and refusing to do drills. It's frustrating to have to tell them to go home for bad attitudes or starting fights, but as I've discovered it's necessary to teach them respect and the importance of listening. So when they arrive more than 10 minutes late they now have to run extra and do push-ups. When they refused to listen, push-ups, when they talk back, push-ups. Yes, some girls began crying and faking push-ups, but others got down on their knees and did what had to be done. It's a slow process, but a necessary one. 

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Ethical Gift Guide

This might be a little late, but at least I got it out before Christmas! Besides, we always need gift ideas all year round, birthdays, mother's days, etc. So here it is, my gift guide that gives back.

One of the things I've been wrestling with lately is understanding where our goods come from. I'm not even close to having an ethical shopping life, but slowly maybe by thinking through our purchases we can make this world a little bit better place.

Here are six of my favorites from this year:

1. AKOLA PROJECT

I've been following Akola for a few months now. "Akola is a nonprofit jewelry brand that empowers women in Uganda and Dallas, TX to redesign their stories. Each piece is handcrafted by 1 of 500 women in poverty working to redesign the future of their families. 100% of Akola revenue is reinvested in our mission to help these women transform their families and communities."

 

Another similiar jewlery company is 31 bits. They also just released their home collection, and I'm in love! They also have some great ideas for little girls. 

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Premptive Love Coalition works across Iraq, Syria, the United States, and beyond. They started in 2008 helping children receive life-saving medical care. As they have grown so has their work. They started the Sisterhood Collective, which turns refugees into business owners. They make handmade soap, candles, and other refugee-made products. Buying from them helps provide jobs, income, and hope for Syrian and Iraqi families.

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I found out about Starfish Project earlier this year and have been eyeing a few pieces of their amazing jewlery. Even better, they have an amazing mission behind what they do. Starfish Project restores hope to women escaping human trafficking and exploitation in Asia. They provide life-changing opportunities through their Holistic Care Programs and their social enterprise where women create beautiful jewelry and become managers, accountants, graphic designers, and photographers.

 


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I couldn't leave out gifts for babe, now could I? Cuddle + Kind makes beautiful handmade dolls for kids, and each purchase provides 10 meals. The dolls are also made by women in Peru and create sustainable fair income for these women.  


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I love Seek the Peace because they are working locally in Dallas to help refugees. I have personally volunteered with them and know those behind the scenes working tirelessly to help refugees acclimate to live in the U.S. I love their new shop and am eager to try out the candles! 


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Another great company that I have had the pleasure of getting to know on a personal level. Stephanie, the founder, is an amazing woman with an even better heart. She started Vickery Trading Co. in order to help empower refugee women through jobs. They make the most beautiful girl's clothes and also have Christmas pajama pants newly released this season! 

Here's a photo of my cute little niece wearing one of the dresses. ---->