Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Daddy's Home!

Since David started his new job in July, we've had to make some adjustments to our family life - namely getting used to not having him around. The hub of his work is in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second largest city about a 6-hour drive away. The separation was our main reservation about the job. That said, given all the other reasons to take it, we didn't dwell much on what it would mean.

The intermittent work to be done in Harare (where donors and partners are based) gives him business-legit reasons to come home, but we have never been able to work out a schedule. We look ahead in terms of weeks.... Will he be here? Will he not be here? And then 30% of the time, plans change. Luckily, we've had years of training in dealing with a certain degree of uncertainty!

Here are some benefits to our new arrangement:

1. Daddy-Value is Made Evident!  While daddy is away, we develop a virtual (and sometimes literal) what-to-do-when-daddy-gets-home lists that includes such projects as sort out the laptop memory issues, dig deeper into 4th grade invention concept, test out our new talent show idea, figure out what we're doing during the summer break, review the new "fashion app" that Eliza wants, practice guitar, etc, etc. While we try not to pile too much on him when he walks in the door, we have lots of ways of making him feel valued!

2. The Mundane Gets Special.  OK, we pretty much always made a habit out of celebrating when daddy got home. Woohoo! Let the division of labor at home be further divided! But now, we have days of anticipation. Just spending time together, we feel like something good and important is happening. The usual things become exciting: daddy's taking you to school!
Eliza's usual enthusiastic attack
3. Daddy is Refreshed.  Alone in his penthouse flat in the tallest building in Bulawayo, daddy gets alone time. Even seeing his building in the distance during the work day gives him joy. His very own space. After 10 years of sharing, of living in a family domain decorated by his wife and set up to accommodate children, he now has an almost zen like spartan-white man cave. But in the clouds. A man-cloud? Where no one bothers him. And he can happily live on scrambled eggs and peanut butter sandwiches for days at a time.

4. Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder.  There's truth to that. And it works both ways. David is happy to see us, too!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Perseus (or We Had a Dog)

I started this post nearly six months ago, and the very sad news is that this little dog which was part of our family for almost a year is no longer with us. No, he's not dead. He's with another family.

But before I get into all that, I will start from the beginning, which is that Eliza, especially, has wanted a dog for a long time, and both of the kids were at an age when having a dog is just...from my perspective...an ideal part of growing up. Kids relate to animals in ways adults don't. They learn from the relationship. I felt it was important to the family dynamic. And I had some time. It's not like I have a job or another baby to take care of...

Now, I've never dreamed of getting a Jack Russell, but that's what we got. Why? First of all, they are well loved in Zimbabwe and prolific. A friend of mine got one for her son, and I saw my chance... I have always imagined getting a beagle, and this breed was really like a smaller beagle...in a way.

Also, important to the decision-making was transportability. We move. We don't know where. The bigger the dog, the more of a fortune to move him. The bigger the dog, the more space in and around the house you need. For all we knew, we would be living in a flat in a high-rise in Jakarta in a year.

I thought seriously about getting a "local dog." Like all mutts, they are usually the best, most loyal, most appreciative and well-tempered. But I was worried about going with a dog of unknown parentage, and let's face it, Perseus may have been a Jack Russell, but he was the cutest dog EVER.

We (read: I) started reading The Puppy Primer, which was pretty good at getting us through the early training. He learned not to pee in the house (sort of), how to sleep in the kitchen (we moved from crate to basket), how to not chew on furniture, how to play with his own toys, how to come, sit, down, roll-over, stay...
With his beloved otter that he would find when we said: Where's your toy?
Otter, Perseus, and Eliza

He sort of learned how to not get on the furniture?...

...how to play without hurting others?...

There was a change around the time we had a new house guest. We were fostering Dante while his owner was away for an indefinite time (October to present). Perseus was getting bigger and stronger. Mambo, the cat, had long left the scene...only to return in the middle of the night when Perseus was in the kitchen.
At Eliza's birthday party, I was persuaded against my better judgement to let Perseus out of the utility room. He chased and pretty much attacked a kid who then fell down and had Perseus all over him: bites with blood up a leg. Then there were the occasional times with Panache and our kids when he would get too excited and bite them.

David pointed out to me once how I had succeeded in getting a dog just like our kids: intense, energetic, adorable in their fine features, but not so great at self-control or anger management. David is also a self-proclaimed Cat Person. He indulged me when I bought Perseus, but he was not free of complaint after I got him. He did not indulge Perseus. Only the cat was allowed on the furniture.

In no way did I ever accept that I would be the kind of person to give up on a dog. But then he bit Miles in the face when Miles lay down beside Perseus. It wasn't the first time Perseus had been annoyed at being woken up from a nap. Apparently, we had moved beyond...this is a puppy being too mouthy...to this is a dog with a bad habit. It wasn't as bad a bite on the face as Sara got when she was a kid, but it was close to M's eye, on the nose and lips and was bleeding.

David was clear, albeit sympathetic. I discussed it with my dog-avocate parents. Perhaps we could seek professional training help? But they were all on the side of finding Perseus a home without kids.

It was harder on me than anyone else. The kids are already talking about what they want for their next dog. The fact, though, is that Perseus has been adopted by our veterinarian who is great with dogs (obviously), and our house is a lot less stressful. Dante runs and plays without fear of being run over, and Mambo has come back to seeing us all day.

But we still miss Perseus. His last day with us:

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Miles turns 8

The theme this year was snakes. (Not my idea.) We took our time getting the right terrarium with the custom made (heavy) wooden lid, and we were just in time for M's birthday.

We went to Lake Chivero Lion and Cheetah Park...which is next to Snake World...but then we realized that even better than Snake World was Steve's personal collection. He's the guy who gave us the snakes, too. So we all went there...(well, I ended up sitting in the car after a while)...and then it was roasting marshmallows over the fire back at our house. A long, perfect day.

1st - drive-through lion park
View from our car window 
Vaughn and Mikhael 

2nd - walk-around zoo and birthday cake

while the children played...
the older ones socialized

3rd - drive-around / climb-around park (no human-eating predators). [Parents looking for a way to bring pure bliss into the heart of your youngster without having to spend a penny? Let them hang their head out the window while driving on (safe) back roads. Seriously. The joy, you cannot imagine.]

Picnic tables Zimbabwe style

We're kings of the world!
Eliza, Panache, Mikhael and Miles

Heading back to the city
4th - Steve has in his personal collection more snakes than you'll ever dream of seeing in one place (even in your worst nightmare): rattlesnakes, copperheads, water moccasins, puff adders, gaboon vipers, green mambas, black mambas, lots of cobras, a 20-foot Burmese python, etc. The children held a rainbow boa constrictor and a rat snake. The man also has monitor lizards, leopard tortoises, two 10-foot-long crocodiles, and a huge Boerboel mastiff named Bart who greets you as you get out of the car. 

[I managed my anxiety of seeing the kids around that dog whose head was twice as big and eye-to-eye with them, and I managed the low-ceilinged, cramped, dark, snake house with wall to wall terrariums. I started losing it when I saw my children wrapped in heavy, huge snakes (albeit gleefully wrapped). But when I went to get a chair in another part of the snake house and had cobras spitting at me on one side and puff adders hissing and puffing on the other... I took my couple of photos and reluctantly handed over my children to these crazed lunatic men who for whatever reason are into that sort of thing.] 

Miles brought home two female brown house snakes, each around two feet long. He named the bigger one Peach and the smaller one Clea. They mostly sleep in their box (inside the heavy-lidded terrarium); however, my husband has made a (bad) habit of getting them out and playing with them with the children on the living room couch.

in the snake house...rainbow python?
Brave, curious, nauseating

Rat snake?
5th - s'mores by the campfire at home, harmonica and guitar playing...good ending to a long, exciting day brought to Miles and friends, in large part, by his Super Daddy.

Click link for slideshow of more photos:  Highlights in April

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Fun on Easter Break

For Easter, our friends Sheryl and Vaughn took charge. Cookie decorating one weekend, egg decorating the next, and a Sunday brunch with an Easter egg hunt. As if that weren't enough, we had two more Easter egg hunts - one with the American Embassy folk and another on Easter morning at our house.

Sheryl at work on her cookies.
A few of our goodies.
What happens when you give a 7-year-old boy creative license. 
Kitty Egg
 At the Embassy Shindig
Emma and Eliza
 Easter Morning hunt at our house

The Easter Bunny put the eggs in the chicken coop!
Mambo is on top of the coop trying to get in on the action.
The final egg...as you can see - top center.

Sheryl's house for Easter brunch
All the kids ready to go!

Crashing at the end of a great week.
Click for Slideshow Link