Monday, September 17, 2012

September 16, 2012

Catching Up With September

It is halfway through the month of September and I haven't even written about August yet.  I will put that off just a bit longer as I write about this month's events.

It was great weather to get a few things done outside.  Ryan "helped" my mom clean things by rinsing them off with water.  He cleaned just about anything he could find, including himself.  That child loves playing with water!  I don't know that he was really much help, but he had a great time and was not in the way.

 Justin worked on a project with my dad.  The two of them waterproofed the ladder.  Justin had an interesting technique and it often looked like he was dancing more than painting.  He had a blast though and my dad was able to finish up the project.
 September meant the end of the summer and Justin's first year of school.  He had been really nervous in August when we went in for the kindergarten screening.  By the time we went in to the meet the teacher event he was feeling more confident.  On the first day, he was ready to go.  I was lucky I got a picture of him before we left.  He was one anxious boy!
 After school he told me that it was probably the best day of his life.  Off to a good start!  Since then it has been an up and down ride.  Evidently he doesn't like that he can't do whatever he wants whenever he wants.  The teacher even makes them walk in a line instead of trampling around the school like a herd.  The nerve!

 Justin also started soccer.  I was worried that it would be competitive and the kids would have a lot of experience.  I was thrilled to see parents trying to figure out shin guards and kids who asked the coach if they got to go play in the dirt when they were done.  His coach is a gem.  She is a high school student who played Park and Rec soccer all through elementary school and she is really good with the kids.  The first game will be this week.  We will see if Justin is able to keep his cool.  I have been proud of him at the practices.  He has been a good sport when he does well and also when he does not do so well.

While the weather is good we have been trying to get out and take advantage of all of the playgrounds here.  We missed having such nice playgrounds in Namibia.  This playground is at Justin's school, and is perfect for weekend play because it is not as crowded as some of the other more popular playgrounds are.  Ryan enjoys getting the chance to play at Justin's school too.

Although Ryan stopped taking naps long ago, sometimes he still gets worn out.  I always hate when he takes a nap because it means he will be up late.  This nap lasted all of about twenty minutes, but it meant he was up three hours past his bedtime.  He still woke up at the same time the next morning and was a bit cranky.  Who would have guessed I would see naps as an enemy?
 I didn't want Ryan to feel left out, so I signed him up for soccer too.  His group meets once a week on Saturday mornings.  It was such a joy to watch the three year olds run around with so much energy and so little skill.  They had a blast!  The instructors are from the college soccer team.  At one point they were trying to get a 3 on 3 game going with the 7 in Ryan's group.  They wanted to make sure everyone got equal play.  Another mother and I said we thought it would be fine to have four on one team and three on another.  Sure enough, that seemed to work fine.  Sometimes there were multiple goalies, sometimes more than one ball on the field, and frequently there was rolling around on the grass, but the kids had a lot of fun.  Ryan is so excited to have shin guards and a soccer shirt like his brother.

  Ryan doesn't like to do much without his brother.  I was able to get him to go out on his bike with me.  I need to find a better place because there are too many hills when we go around the block.  I was either pulling him or trying to slow him down.  He had a good time, but I was sore by the time we got back.
We miss Rob and can't wait for him to finish up in Namibia and join us here.  In the meantime, it is pretty routine with school, soccer, library, and playing.  The boys are having a wonderful time with Grandma.  She is spoiling me too!  :)

Monday, September 03, 2012

Flying With Preschoolers

When you spend over over 30 hours on planes and in airports with your kids you really want to make sure that you can keep them entertained.  I did it WITHOUT breaking out the ipod.  Don't get me wrong, I love the ipod, but one doesn't work so well for two children and the battery life just isn't that great.  I got so tired of trying to find good ideas online.  People would talk about long flights across the US and I would think, really?  I have done that and it is a piece of cake.  What can I do for a long trip knowing I will be carrying it all myself and going through security in each country?

I know, you are thinking that the kids should sleep a good chunk of that 30 hours, especially since our first flight was at 8:00 PM.  Nope.  Justin didn't sleep until the last hour of the entire journey.  He woke up around 5:00 AM the day we left so yes, my five year old was awake and busy for over 40 hours before he finally crashed.

These are magnetic dry erase boards.  One side is the dry erase side and I made the back into a flannel board.  I found Mario and Angry Birds clip art online.  I printed some on non-gauze milk filters to make them flannel board figures.  (Hard to see them well in the picture.)  I also printed out the pictures on cardstock, laminated, and stuck magnets on the back.  One board could be used for flannel board play, magnetic play, or writing/drawing with dry erase markers.  The Mario magnets were the biggest hit and the boys played with them for hours.  You could make figures out of whatever a child's current interest is.

My boys LOVE mazes, but they get frustrated if they make a mistake on the harder levels and zip through the easy mazes.  I rip out the pages of the maze book (or print some out from online) and put them in plastic sheet protectors.  Add a dry erase marker (the dry erase crayons don't work so well on the plastic sheet protectors) and a sock for an eraser and you are good to go!  Each protector was able to hold about half of the maze book.  This was very popular for the boys as well.

Travel Guess Who, Travel Checkers, Travel Connect 4, and Travel Tangoes are all lightweight and not very large.  Justin liked Connect 4, but I didn't really want to play with him and he lost interest on his own.  We didn't get to the other items on the plane.  We have since used the Travel Tangoes and Justin LOVES them.  Ryan hasn't gotten a chance to try them out yet, but I don't think that he would like them as much.  Justin remains occupied with them for over an hour during church.  They are small and magnetic. :)  You could make your own too.  I will probably print out some additional cards for Justin because eventually he will get tired of doing the same ones each week.

We had some activity pads, sticker books, and flashcards.  I punch holes in the $1 flash cards that I pick up from Target.  I stick a ring through them and then tape over it with masking tape so the boys don't open it up and scatter the cards.  This doesn't keep them busy for more than about 20 minutes at a time, but is great for planes, cars, waiting rooms, etc.  They also seem to pick up some information from them as well.  Could work with any cards you purchase or make yourself.  We didn't get to the activity pads, but I know that my children enjoy the variety of tic tac toe, mazes, word scrambles, etc.  The sticker books were a hit on previous flights, but not so much on this trip.  I think a lot had to do with the timing of when they were pulled out.

My mom sent us some Angry Birds, Mario Brothers, and one other type of little figure.  The boys liked them, but I swear Ryan was acting more like a baby dropping them over and over again so I would have to take off my seat belt and retrieve them.  We also had some of our Littlest Pet Shop figures.  I have found that the boys enjoy having those or small finger puppets to play with.  Buying sets from the Dollar Store or Oriental Trading Company is good so you don't have to worry about losing them.  Also pictured is a calculator.  My boys LOVE calculators.

We had some crayola wonder markers and stamps.  They prefer the regular markers, but since Ryan still likes to "decorate" himself I like the crayola wonders for trips, hotels, etc.  We didn't get to them on this trip.  Books were great for times when we were taking off and landing.  The boys were restless and wanted to do something and it was easy for me to read to them and then just stick the book back in the bag quickly.

We also had some other items that were given to us.  One friend gave us Snakes and Ladders (the size of the checkers set we took) and another small game (I can never remember what it is called or how to play, but my boys have made up their own rules) and we didn't get to those either. 

Another friend gave us dot to dot books.  Justin enjoys them, but sometimes it was hard when it was bumpy.  She also gave us a really cool crayola set that I have not seen in the US.  It had small markers (like the pipsqueaks) and a variety of small projects (finger puppets, paper dolls, picture frame, mobile, etc. AND all necessary materials to make them.  The projects were small and it came in a very compact package.  We didn't get to that on the trip either.  I have let Ryan do some of the projects during church and it has worked out well.  I will probably keep some in my purse in case we have to wait at the doctor's or a restaurant and they need something to do.

My boys also LOVE measuring tapes.  I had those in the bag as well.  They work better in airports where they can move a bit more freely and measure things.  They also like to use the measuring tapes when playing with some of their small figures.  The measuring tapes can be made into nests, slides, leashes, snakes, and heaven knows what else.  Ryan enjoyed his mostly broken slinky.  It is tangled beyond untangling, but it still has a little bit of bounce.  He held it by one end and bounced it along as he walked through airports.  It really distracted him while waiting in lines or trying to cover long distances between terminals.

I did not take play doh because sometimes I have had it taken from me in screenings.  Even if they just pull it out of the bag for inspection it slows me down.  My kids like a lot of accessories for play doh too and that means more bulk to transport.

Snacks are definitely the biggest help of all for me on trips.  My boys had so many different Angry Birds and Mario fruit snacks that I am surprised they didn't turn into one!  They like to sort them, play with them, and then eat them.  Crackers in fun shapes and pez dispensers with refills are big hits with them too.  I try to get some less junky things for them to eat, but really it is the junk that keeps them happy.  As long as they don't get sick, I am thrilled that it keeps them happy and quiet.

Before flying I checked to see if there would be movies/shows for my children to watch.  Our flight from Frankfurt to San Fransisco had the Lorax.  They boys watched that at least six times.  There were a couple of other cartoons (maybe an hour or so) appropriate for them as well.  Having this meant I didn't have to worry about hauling around DVDs, not that the DVD player can last that long anyway.

For the record, I can fit in the airplane lavatories with both boys.  It isn't pretty, but it sure beats the days of changing their diapers in there!  I convinced Ryan that he should wear a "cool Diego pull up" instead of "boring underwear" just in case.  I am so proud of him for making it through the whole journey dry.   He has been trained for some time but I didn't want to risk it.  I have probably traumatized him for life, right?

I have also found band aids and/or masking tape helpful for limiting the boys' access to controls that are on the seat arm.  Who wants to call the flight attendant every five minutes?  Cover up the button and no worries!  They also like to band aid/tape themselves (or me) up.

Our next BIG trip will be from Idaho to Armenia.  I am sure I will be planning it months in advance.  I would rather have too much than not enough.  I also know that I will be the one who ends up hauling all of the carry on bags (hand luggage).

Hope this gave you some ideas of what you might be able to use for your next trip.  If not, it will help me remember what I can pull out.

Saturday, September 01, 2012


I just got the air shipment from Namibia.  That means that I now have my laptop again!  I hope to soon catch up on my blog and all that we have done this past month.  Soon, soon...

Sunday, August 19, 2012

August 19, 2012

     It's a lot of fun to come to summer in Idaho from winter in Namibia.  Not that Namibia was cold, but picking peaches and going to the lake with cousins is a lot of fun.

Picking Peaches!  Justin and Papa picking peaches in the orchard.

Justin was not content to pick the peaches he could reach.  He wanted to climb.  That meant Ryan wanted to climb too.

Rocking horses at the front of the little restaurant by the orchard.  The boys enjoyed their suckers while they rocked.  They continued to enjoy their suckers in the car all the way home.

The boys loved running back and forth among the trees.  They got a lot of exercise.

Playing on the playground at Fernan Elementary School.  Ryan was braver than Justin and he was the first one to go over the arch.  Once Ryan did it, Justin figured he should be able to do it as well.

Justin loved building in the sand by the lake.  He would get in and swim sometimes, but building was his passion.

Soup enjoyed a drink while drying off.

David enjoyed soaking up a little sun before jumping back into the lake.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Leaving Namibia

Rob has been working a lot lately, but fortunately he did not have to work this weekend. :)  This is our last Saturday in Namibia together as a family.  Wednesday the boys and I will leave for Idaho. 

We started out going to Vintage for brunch, but they appeared to be having a party there so we went for plan b.  We drove on to Avis Dam to walk around a bit and, of course, to throw rocks into the water.  We saw so many pelicans there today.  The boys enjoyed themselves, but I was grossed out by all of the dead fish.  They were washed up on the ground and floating in the water.  Yuck!  A lot of them were small, but one was as big as my arm.  I know I don't know anything about fishing, but when I saw people fishing in the area I thought they were insane.

Some of the lovely fish floating in the water.

Fish on the shore.  I had to point them out to the boys.  They were clueless and I was afraid that they would pick one up when they were trying to choose a rock to toss in the water.

Dad and the boys

Mom and the boys.  Love the windblown hair.
Hmmm, can't really tell that they are pelicans from this pic.  I didn't want to get too close though because it smelled so bad from the dead fish.

After Avis Dam we went to go get ice cream.  There is a sign for ice cream that we drive by eery week on our way home from church.  I don't know how many times Justin has asked if we could go there sometime.  Today was sometime.  We found a parking space and went to the shop only to find that they didn't have any ice cream.  Rob knew of another place, so we drove over to Wernhill Park and walked over only to find that it is closed on the weekends.  Fortunately, we were able to have another place.  We ended up skipping the boring ole ice cream cone for more elaborate items.  Ice cream for lunch!

We also ate out at Spur for the last time.

The boys with Miss Mathilde.  It was sad to have her clean our house for the last time.  We will miss her.

We also went to the petting zoo for the last time.  Ryan cried when we left.  He says the animals will miss him.

I think that ostriches look so funny when they sit (or whatever you call it).

Ryan likes feeding the sheep more than the goats.  Sheep aren't as aggressive.  We also got to see a one week old baby lamb.

Meerkat sentry keeping watch.  I doubt there are a lot of predators at the petting zoo.

The goats never stay put.

Ryan was able to get his Tadpole 3 badge this week.  The boys have come so far over the course of their swimming lessons.  I hope they are able to continue.

Ryan on his back.
Packers come on Monday. Tuesday will be our last day for swimming lessons and our last time to attend playgroup.  Wednesday we are off on our 30 plus hour journey.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Phone Help!

I need help selecting a phone.  Having lived in Namibia for almost three years, I have no idea what is available or what I even “need” to have.  Currently, I am using a Nokia phone that cost me about $15 US.  I have my SIM card and recharge as I need.  Here in Namibia you can recharge with as little as 62 US cents!

I don’t use my cell phone much.  In fact, I often find that the battery is dead.  I use it so I have a phone when I am out.  It is also helpful for sending SMS/text messages to people.  Here in Namibia people text all the time because it is so much cheaper than calling.  I would rather call, get my answer, and be done with it rather than have a back and forth text conversation.  We will see if that changes in the US.

Why I would NEED a smart phone of any sort is beyond me, but I am sure that if I had one I would use it.  Since we already have an ipod touch and an ipad2 I would think that an iphone would make the most sense if I went that route.  It would be familiar and I could use the apps I already know and own.

I will be in the US from August 2012 until May/June of 2013 so I don’t know how much sense a 2 year contract makes.  I hate to spend money on something that I know I won’t be using.  I know some plans let you put your contract on hold while you are overseas, but since I primarily live overseas it would take forever to finish up the stupid thing!

When I leave the US, I will be going to Armenia and I would like to be able to use my phone there with a local SIM card.  That means I am looking for an unlocked GSM quad band phone and a US provider (prepaid?).

I have read a few articles, but I have lived outside of the US for so long that I am truly clueless.  Here I went super cheap because crime is so high.  In Armenia that is not a big problem.   I would like something that I can use for awhile.  Suggestions?  I feel like someone who has never driven being asked to select the most important features in a new car.   Send me a Facebook message or e-mail. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Our "Safari" to Okapuka July 14, 2012

Okay, so it has become obvious to me that as much as I mean to write updates on my blog, I am not.  This week we actually DID something so I figured that since I have pictures I should write.  Soon we will be leaving Namibia and heading off for our next adventure.  We have been out and about in the area on some trips, but especially with the children still so young I wonder how much they remember.  Taking an afternoon trip to Okapuka seemed like a good way to refresh their minds with some of the wonder and beauty Namibia has to offer.

Before our game drive we had a snack at the lodge cafe.  Warthogs were running all around the area and Justin and Ryan wanted to get a closer look.  At first they were hesitant and then they got bolder.  I had to remind them not to chase after the poor animals.
Before we even left on the 1 1/2 hour game drive, Ryan managed to fall into the pond.  Yes, I had told him not to get too close.  His shoes and socks were soaked and his pant legs and rear end were very soggy.  In the car I did have some spare clothes, but not an appropriate replacement.  It is the middle of winter here (thus the long sleeves in the pics) and all I had in the car were some shorts.  I chose shorts because they easily fit either boy and we haven't really needed any spare clothes since summer anyway.  I did not have spare shoes, but this is Namibia and shoes are optional pretty much anywhere.  (It still weirds me out to see people running around barefoot in supermarkets and malls.)  Not ideal, but we were still ready to go.
I enjoy the clear blue skies of Namibia. 

Warthogs are so ugly that they are cute.  I love the way they get down on their little knees and stick their snouts in the ground to eat.  One of the animals I least fear, but I am sure they could do some damage.

The only thing I saw move on this guy were his eyes.  They would slowly open a bit, roll around, and then close.

Get out of the way, giraffe!
I love seeing giraffes.  They are just so interesting to watch.

These trees have thorns that are nasty.  Doesn't seem to bother the giraffes though.

I could hear the bones snap.  Justin noticed that meat has a lot of red.  Most of us know that red as blood.
These rhinos really got into it with each other a couple of times.  We were often close enough that we could touch one if we had wanted.  The lighting didn't help me with getting good pictures, but you can see from the shadow just how close we were.

There were also, of course, about a million different kinds of antelope and other less known animals.  I swear I could live here 100 years and never get them all straight.  They included kudu, springbok, wildebeest (gnu), bush buck, oryx, and waterbuck.

We knew that Justin can get seasick, but this trip makes us think that his motion sickness is getting worse.  He really enjoyed the first part of the drive, but by the end he was curled up in a little ball covered with a blanket.  Luckily Ryan didn't need the blanket right then even though he had bare legs and feet.

It was a nice little trip and I hope that the boys have some nice memories of the animals we have seen here.  It is definitely different than a zoo.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Victoria Falls! May 13. 2012

What a great week!  The first few days were normal routine for us.  Getting things done around the house and running errands.  The boys had two play dates.  One was our weekly playgroup and the other was an extra play time with some of their friends.
 In addition to the normal tasks I had packing to do for our weekend vacations.  Justin and Ryan were so excited about their first sleep over.  They were getting to go over to stay with Zak (Rob’s boss) and Amy and their daughter.  We talked up their vacation, and mentioned very little of ours.  I am not sure if they realize that we went anywhere.  We told them they were getting a vacation and we were too.  Who needs details?  Maybe we can even show them pictures someday and they will think they were there. J
Thursday after dinner we got the boys ready for bed and then took them over to Zak’s house.  Rob and I returned home to go to sleep.  The next morning while we were getting ready to leave, we got a text message from Zak saying that the boys had slept well.  I might have believed it if the message hadn’t come in at 5:15 AM!
Rob and I drove to the airport.  Long term parking was full so we parked in the regular lot.  Fortunately it is not horribly expensive the way it is in some places.  If you have ever been to the airport in Windhoek, you know that it isn’t very big.  They still want you to arrive early for flights, but when things are going well it doesn’t take long to get through. 
Our plane stopped in Botswana to refuel and pick up more passengers.  We got to wait in the lovely boarding area.  Back on the plane and onward to Victoria Falls.
Guess they don't have a large budget for airport decor at the Maun, Botswana Airport.

As we approached, we could see the spray from the Falls in the form of a cloud off in the distance.  Immigration left much to be desired.  Heaven forbid a large plane ever flies in.  The time it took to process each visa was considerable.  Our bag was waiting for us when we got through immigration and our driver was waiting for us.  On the drive to our hotel we saw baboons, monkeys, warthogs, and African wild dogs.
The rural area eventually leads to the town of Victoria Falls.  Tourism is definitely the business of the town.  Tourist police, markets full of souvenirs, hotels, and tour operator offices are all around you.  Our hotel was nice, but, like just about everything in town, overpriced.  Lodging in many places in southern Africa is expensive for what you get.  I had been nervous after reading some of the hotel reviews, but I think they were written by people who hadn’t travelled in Africa much.

We checked in and then went to look around the hotel area.  In the back there is a path that leads to the gorge viewing area and another that goes off towards the falls.  We saw plenty of elephant poop as we went along the path.  The gorge was amazing and we were able to see someone who was slowly being raised back up to the top after her gorge swing activity.  Lots of high adrenaline activities in the area.

We walked on as we went to pick up some groceries.  The main currencies used in Zimbabwe are the US dollar and the South African rand.  Everywhere I went I saw things priced in dollars.  Our groceries were overpriced and selection was poor.  My favorite part was getting change.  They only use bills, so we got our 36 cents change in the form of a lollipop and a mini menthos.  The guy in front of us was disappointed they were out of chewing gum change.
We went back to the hotel and ate and rested until it was time to be picked up for the sunset cruise.  Dancers stood on the shore while they had everyone get on the boat.  We were able to see a crocodile and some hippos in addition to a beautiful sunset.  It was a relaxing cruise. Since the dinner cruise options didn’t appeal to me, we ended up having pizza for dinner.  We ate way too much.

Saturday morning we got up and went out to some of the craft markets.  Bargaining is the name of the game.  It was interesting to look at the goods for sale and to see some of the artists at work.  While I admired a lot of the things, there was little that I wanted.  I did find a stone carving that I liked.  I liked the guy selling it too.  I ended up paying right around what I saw it selling for in the stores.  I also got some cheap little necklace things for the boys.  I think I got 10 for the sweater I had with me.  I intentionally took some clothes out of my donation pile for the purpose of bargaining.  The sweater was definitely worth more than the necklaces, but it doesn’t fit me very well anymore so it ended up a win-win deal.  Later someone tried to trade me something for my socks, but I liked my socks more than what he had to offer.

We went back to the hotel to freshen up a bit.  It might be winter here in the southern hemisphere, but the sun was strong, the temp in the mid 80s and no breeze.  After that it was to the Falls.
I don’t even know what to say about Victoria Falls.  They are just awesome.  The spray is so intense even across the gorge.  By the time we were finished there we were soaked.   It was hard to get any good pictures, but it was such an inspiring experience.  The noise of that much water pouring down was so loud.  I know why this is one of the natural wonders of the world.

The train ride we had hoped to take was cancelled because they didn’t have the minimum number of people.  I went back to pick up a few things at the craft market.  I wanted to get some keychains, but the starting price was $40.  At first I thought it was 40 rand (about $5) which I would have paid.  I had good things to trade as well as cash in US dollars and South African rand.  I wasn’t going to waste my time bargaining back and forth to get to a reasonable price.  Wouldn’t you know I found the same keychains in a store priced at $3?  Sold!  If you enjoy bargaining, the markets are great.  They are fun to look through, but so much of the stuff is the same and I think they are starting the prices way too high.  I found it easier to buy things in stores, not that I wanted to get a lot.
We decided to go back down the trail to see the gorge again.  We were rewarded with an elephant sighting.  We watched for awhile and then continued on our way.  When we were coming back to the hotel, there were still elephants in the area.  They can stay hidden pretty well for such large creatures.   With trees between us and them it was hard to get a good shot.
That evening for dinner we went to the dinner buffet in the hotel.  I did not try the mopane worms, but I did have some crocodile stir fry.  I must say that I like crocodile more than a lot of the things that I have had here.  I wasn’t a very adventurous eater, and stuck mostly to things that I knew.  More dancing for entertainment.  I imagine it is similar wherever you go in town.
Sunday morning we didn’t have to leave until 10 AM.  That meant a leisurely morning, something that I don’t have very often.  I was getting anxious to see my boys again though.  We made it back to Namibia and in typical Namibia fashion, no one was there at immigration to let us through.  An officer saw that some of us were lining up and decided to get some people to the counters to help us.  At least we didn’t have to wait forever for our bags like we did when we got back from Cape Town.
The boys survived without us.  In fact, they seemed to have a good time.  Guess that means that I can leave them again. J  Back to reality and to our laundry.