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Good-bye, Seattle

Last day in Seattle. It feels like it should have been a whirlwind trip, but getting two extra days here really made a difference in how relaxed we are. Case in point, I am at a cafe this morning, drinking a delicious latte and typing this blog post.

I have been surprised at what an amazing city Seattle is for kids. Last night, we said good-bye to Liz and Mike by visiting the Fremont Brewery. The Brewery is explicitly kid friendly, so much so that they have a box of toys on the bar floor for toddlers to get into. It was great (and nobody looked at me weird when I popped out the nipple to nurse Grace when she got a bit peckish).

Also awesome, the Pacific Science Center, which was not only full of fun exhibits for kids, but also had a space for toddlers to run around and play with toys (and for mothers to nurse!).

seattle_pscWe also visited the Woodland Park Zoo, which was great. It was a weekday morning, which meant that the few folks who were there were other parents of toddlers. Jasmine LOVES animals, but the best picture of the day was Jasmine falling asleep on the way home. Who needs a double stroller, anyway?

seattle_double

 

The Space Needle was cool, although Bertrand and Jasmine weren’t nearly as impressed as I was. Grace, of course, didn’t care. She’s happy anywhere she’s warm and surrounded by people.  It was a beautiful day, though. The snow melted completely, and we were among the first to climb the tower in the morning.

seattle_needleWe made it a really full day by visiting Matt’s in the Market, which could have been a disaster with Jasmine (they were clearly not set up for toddlers), but wasn’t. The wait staff was super friendly to her, and very understanding with our odd requests in regards to her food. Again, clot me impressed with how great Seattle is with kids. A similar restaurant in DC would have given us the side-eye (and DC is a kid friendly city!), but folks here didn’t blink an eye.

That afternoon, we went on the Great Wheel. It was a blast! Great views and what a gorgeous day. State has turned me into a logistics nerd, and I couldn’t resist the chance to snap a great shot of the container port. Man. It was great!

seattle_wheel

 

And no trip summary would be complete without mention of our fabulous apartment.

seattle_linden

 

Living in a residential neighborhood with a kitchen and laundry machine has been amazing. The price was comparable to a decent (but not luxury) hotel, but we didn’t have to eat out every meal, and we could pack lighter. Jasmine had her own room (not that she used it), and it’s been AMAZING having a place nice enough that we could invite friends over for drinks. We will definitely use VRBO again on our next trip.

So that’s it. We fly out bright and early tomorrow morning, and I can’t wait to get home. Seattle’s been great, but it’ll be so nice to finally be in our own place in Crystal City again.

 

 

Rants and raves about raising a baby in Freetown

Every eight weeks or so, I get a barrage of emails about raising small children in Freetown. I suspect that it’s closely linked to how often Freetown shows up on A-100 bid lists. In any case, I brought Freetown’s youngest baby since kids were allowed to come back in 2010. Jasmine came over at 10 weeks, and we haven’t regretted it for a moment.

Just remember that I write this from the perspective of a baby wearing, cloth diapering, make my own baby food hippy. Bertrand and I are pretty crunchy, from an American perspective.

5 rants about bringing a baby to Freetown

We are at least 24 hours from real medical care. Of course, we were planning on raising Jasmine in Cotonou anyway, so moving here wasn’t the end of the world for us. She’s healthy, doesn’t have any serious allergies, and hasn’t yet been mobile enough to be accident prone. But there’s only one flight to Europe a day from Freetown, and it takes hours to get to the airport.

Getting to the airport with a car seat and a stroller is a real hassle. The airport is on the other side of a 9-mile wide estuary. To get there from Freetown, you have to cross the water in a speedboat. It’s actually a lot of fun, except for having to carry all of Jasmine’s stuff onto the pier and then onto the taxi. I usually end up just wearing Jasmine on my chest, handing all my stuff to the taxi staff, and tipping like mad.

No baby food. No diapers. Which is fine for us, because I make Jasmine’s food, and we cloth diaper. Otherwise, we’d have to have put all of her food in the UAB/HHE and good lord, we’d be pouching in two years worth of diapers. Babies are a real ecological disaster. For my recent R&R, Bertrand and I spent an entire day scouring grocery stores looking for baby food and disposable diapers to take on the plane with me. We finally found some, but it was gone from the shelves by the time I returned.

Low bandwidth means it’s really hard to share pictures with family. My husband uploads low resolution photos to Facebook several times a week, but I can’t upload anything nice enough for my family in the States to print. We’ve been shuttling 4GB SD cards back and forth. Ugh.

There aren’t a ton of other accessible-to-us babies around. There are a few, and there are now two (two!) playgroups that Jasmine’s part of, which helps. There are also a couple of daycares with good reputations that accept babies who aren’t potty trained yet, but it occasionally bothers me that she’s not socializing as much as she could be.

5 raves about bringing a baby to Freetown

Household help is dirt cheap. OMG. It’s summer transfer season, the end of the fiscal year, and time to move folks into new houses, all at once. I’m working long hours. My husband is working long hours. And we can do it because we have two wonderful ladies who spend all day at home with our baby. And cleaning. And taking care of the little things in our house so that when we get home, we can do what’s important—hang out with Jasmine.

It takes a village. We desperately wanted to come back to West Africa for the first few years of our daughter’s life. One of the things I missed about Benin while we were in the States was the sense of community. My child is everyone’s child, and everyone’s children are mine. If someone else’s kid is misbehaving, it’s everyone’s job to let him or her know. And if my child is being bratty (or sweet!), it’s also the responsibility of many people besides just Bertrand and I. I like that. I miss it.

The Mission community is awesome about babies. I get it. Not everyone likes babies. Wants babies. Wants to be around babies. But the community here has been incredibly welcoming and understanding of the fact that I’m a baby wearing hippy, and where I go, Jasmine goes. Folks welcome her to evening and weekend social events, and she’s often explicitly included on the invitation.

Everyone’s a baby wearing hippy. It love that it’s not weird that Jasmine spends a lot of time on my back. It’s not weird that we feed her regular food off our plates. It’s not weird that we expect her to behave in public (yes, at 8 months!). It’s not weird that we coslept. The Americans think we’re nuts, of course, but as our parenting style is heavily influenced by my husband’s culture and my time in Cotonou, the Sierra Leoneans think we’re pretty normal.

There’s really nothing to consume here. Jasmine gets the clothes and toys she came with. And that’s pretty much it. I’m a big enough snob that I’m not going to buy cheap Chinese plastics in the market, which means that we either pouch stuff in for her, or she doesn’t get it at all. She’s going to spend the first few years of her life happy with what she’s got.

Bottom line

Freetown is awesome. Jasmine is awesome. I don’t regret for a moment our decision to bring our newborn with us. Freetown could be a nightmare for infants, and it’s not, largely because the Mission has made it a real priority to make Post friendlier to families. There are things we could do better, but change only comes with time. I’m sure that as Freetown gets more and more accustomed to having young children around, it will only get easier.

Hi, my name is Theresa, and I am back!

I stopped blogging here at himynameistheresa when I found out that I’m pregnant. Six months in, I’m back in the States, enjoying DC as a foodie city, cooking up a storm, and wondering why I ever left!

There are a lot of reasons, actually, mostly having to do with Judgey McJudge Judgers. You know, those people who think they have the right to tell me that I’m going to be a Bad Mother and Irreparably Harm The Fetus if I dare drink coffee, eat soft cheese, or have half a glass of wine. And then there are those folks who tell obese pregnant women not to diet while they’re expecting, but hey, fat lady! You shouldn’t gain too much weight either!

Is calorie counting while I’m pregnant unhealthy? What about walking several miles a day? What about starting a running regimen? What happens when I get tired of following all of the ridiculous rules that society imposes on pregnant women?

Telling myself and the world that the baby will be born fine with or without my help should not be a revolutionary act. My girlfriends should not blink when I order half a glass of wine with dessert, and then tell me hells yeah! That’s awesome! Because I’m courageous enough to brave public opinion. Drinking coffee is not revolutionary. Eating deli meats is not revolutionary. Having sushi is not revolutionary.

I stopped blogging because I didn’t want to expose myself, my husband, and Lucky* to public censure on teh Internets. Now that I’ve spent a few months back home, I’ve realized how impossible it is to avoid judgement.

Haters gonna hate.

So I’m back! Check back tomorrow for granola, granola bars, and delicious coffee creations!

* not it’s real name, but “Lucky” is better than “the fetus” or, God forbid, “Peanut”.

Home!

So besides the nauseating introspection about culture shock, what have I been up to? Well, I’ve been sick for the past week, which is miserable and not fun at all. Every time I think I’ve beaten one malady, another pops up to take its place.

Between complaining about my muscles, my gut, and my pregnancy, I’ve been shopping. The State Department is all about Being A Suit (because we work for The Man), and guess what I haven’t acquired after running an IT business in Benin and working in Embassy Cotonou? Damn straight, I needed some clothes. And jewelry. And make-up. And this and that and the other and now I sure do have a lot of stuff. Conspicuous consumption indeed.

I’ve also been visiting family, catching up with friends, cooking, signing up for a cell phone (see my Facebook profile or email me for the number), and keeping ridiculously busy.

This week I’m going to focus on getting healthy before class starts, prepping meals so that Bertrand and I have leftovers to eat once class starts, and catching up with friends before class starts.

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

SVO’s moved to a new server! Despite rebooting serveral times, I was unable to solve the malware problem, so I up and moved. Archives will be back as soon as I get back to Cotonou from Parakou. In the meantime, enjoy visiting my blog w/o risk of downloading a virus.

Monday + day off work = well balanced meals

I had a great post typed up for yesterday, and Evernote lost it! Boo! Anyway,  here’s the delicious food:

Benin’s got amazingly delicious (and cheap!) fruits! So I nosh on mandarin oranges when I need a quick pick-me-up.

Mandarins

We had tacos for lunch, mostly because I need to use up the rest of last week’s tortillas. The picture is blurry, so you don’t get to see it. And for dinner, I whipped together some pumpkin spinach sauce to go over pasta and served it with a delicious ranch salad.

Salad and pumpkin pasta

I’ve noticed that my pictures are getting blurrier and blurrier, the more I pay with aperture and exposure. I don’t want to invest in a tripod, but I’ve got to figure out a good way to take a picture at an angle without shaking the damn camera when I push the button.

Any suggestions?

On oversharing, undersharing, and plain-old sharing

A recent medical disaster in the Carpenter-Sondjo household prompted a great number of discussions in our small household about what we’re willing to share with the world, and what we feel should be strictly private. Blogging, tweeting, and Facebooking came up because we’re both avid communicators and users of social media. Where’s the line? What should we share? Who should we share it with? When can we share it? Continue reading