A Little Breather

This past weekend we took a little breather at one of our favorite retreat spots in Ethiopia, Aregash Lodge.  It’s about an hour away from Awassa but light-years away from our crazy pace of life.  There is no cell phone reception and no Internet connection.  Just what Ben needs every once in a while to really disconnect from work.

Our little “tukul”

The food is delicious and they grow their own veggies and fruit and farm their own honey.  And the juices…oh, the juices.  Elaine was in heaven.  They have strawberry, passion fruit, mango, guava, avocado, and papaya.  Picked from their orchards and made to order.  A little taste of heaven.

Some friends from Awassa joined us for the first night and then we had another night on our own. A perfect combination.

They serve dinner at around 7 and we could put Elaine down in our tukul and have a quite dinner on our own.  I’m not going to lie, the thought did cross my mind of a hyena sneaking into the hut and stealing Elaine.  It didn’t help that when we arrived an Australian lady was telling me “a dingo ate my baby!” stories. Know what I’m talking about?

Every evening they do this beautiful coffee ceremony and a cackle of hyenas (yes, it’s really called a cackle, I just looked it up) come out to join.

The staff that work at Aregash loooved Elaine and they swept her away while Ben and I played games and drank juice.  It is such a different culture out here when it comes to babies and I certainly am embracing that part of it.

They also did some crazy things with her hair:)

We also fit in some beautiful hikes through the hills.  It was just what the three of us needed.

The short rains have been going on and the grass is this florescent shade of green.  It’s just beautiful.  Thanks to the rains it was also super chilly.  Ben was in heaven.  Elaine and I were a little frozen.  And thanks to a crazy rainstorm the first day that flooded our hut, the warmest thing Elaine had to wear was a fleece blanket until her clothes dried out. Good thing she likes being snuggled (by strangers only) these days. She is one bizarre kid.

Funny enough, a lot of big life decisions have been made at Aregash.  And lots of healing and rest and escape have also happened there.  This time was no different.  There is a lot going on in our lives right now and sometimes it’s a little easier to hear God when the rest of the world is on mute and the we’re sitting on a mountainside in Ethiopia.

So thankful for weekends like that.

Miss·Elaine·eous: 9 months

Hard to believe this little goomba is 9 months old.

Everyday we marvel at how she is turning into a real little person.  Her mannerisms and personality are really coming out and we are completely enthralled.

Her favorite thing these days is cruising.  And speed crawling.  She does everything fast.  Making for lots of excitement…and exhaustion (on our part).

She is still quick to smile and wants to go to any Ethiopian she sees.  She’s a little more hesitant with white people.

Her first tooth made an appearance and I strangely got a little emotional about it.  All of a sudden that gummy smile was no longer.  But now we lovingly refer to her as snaggletooth and we’ve grown quite attached to her new grill.

Along with the tooth came a crazy, spirited, talkative phase.  One afternoon we were trying to get her to say “Hey Dadadadada” and kept repeating it.  She turned looked at Ben and said “Hey Dad”.  It was a total fluke but of course we thought she was a geniusJ.  “Dada” is definitely her favorite word…still working on the “mama” thing.  We thought she said “bucca” (enough in Amharic) the other day.  But we also think she says “go Tar Heels” and “see you later”.  Translating her babble is Ben’s newfound skill.

Clapping and bouncing are two new hobbies she’s taken up as well.  When LemLem’s phone rings she shakes her hips and squeals.  It’s pretty cute.

Cheerios are her new BFF.  We just need Auntie Jen to be closer so they can share a bowl together!

This nap phobia that’s been plaguing us is still a challenge.  A big one.  More for me that for her.  But she’s napping right now and I shouldn’t complain lest my negative thoughts rouse her.

Mac continues to be Elaine’s muse.  Anything that barks or resembles a bog elicits loud gasps.  Pretty sure she thought that the hyenas we saw the other day were a pack of Macs.  She was happy.  We held her close.

9 months.  My goodness.  It just keeps getting better.

A Day

A snapshot of what goes down in the Taylor home on a not-so-exciting monday….

4:30-  Elaine starts crying.  I put a pillow over my head, roll over, and she goes back to sleep. Thank you Jesus.

6- I hear Elaine and go into her room.  She’s standing up waiting for me when I walk in. She gets so excited she acts like she hasn’t seen me in years…and eats like she hasn’t eaten in days. She plays on the floor in the living room while I read my Bible, journal and try to stay awake.

7- Elaine chills in the living room while I get breakfast ready for all of us.  Granola and smoothies for Ben and me and oatmeal for Elaine. I forgot to make milk last night so I throw some ice cubes into the warm powdered milk.  yum.

7:15-  I bring Elaine into our bed to wake up Ben.  Best alarm clock ever.  He is not a morning person these days. She shows off her standing up skills and plays with her favorite thing ever, the light switch above our bed.

7:30- We sit down for breakfast and Ben reads our devotional aloud. Elaine loses it and we lose focus.  The guard leaves for the day and Mac settles into his chair on the porch. Power goes off, comes back on.

8- LemLem arrives and Elaine gets passed off, much to her delight. They are BFF.

8:30- Ben and I head out the door to the office.  I drop him off and say hi to the guards at the office who are wondering where I left Elaine. I promise them I’ll bring her by later.

9- I have the car for the morning- a rare occasion, so I head to the gym and squeeze in a quick workout before going to the grocery store.  They have cheese at the store.  And eggs.  My lucky day.

10- I drive home and beep at the gate.  LemLem and Elaine open the gate.  I guess Elaine’s nap was non-existent.  Surprise, surprise.

10:15- LemLem and I make a list for her weekly trip to the market.  4 lbs of mangos, 5 lbs of bananas, 4 lbs of avocados, 6 lbs of passion fruit, 2.5 lbs of beets, tomatoes, onions, garlic, cabbage, potatoes…  Man.  We eat a lot.  I give her the equivalent of $15 to cover it all.

10:30- Elaine and I chill on the floor in the living room.  I try to write emails and get work done.  She has other plans.

11- Ben calls to remind me to pick him up before lunch.  I hop in the shower and get ready  for the day. Power goes off.

11:30- Power comes back on. I pack up Elaine and put her in her carseat.  No one else is home so I have to navigate the gate by myself.  I open the gate.  Put Elaine in the car and back out.  I get out of the car to go close the gate.  A cow wonders into the drive way.  I try to shoo it out.  Mac is ready to attack.  I shout at Mac, shout at the cow, and debate leaving it in the compound to trim the grass. It finally leaves and I close the gate and start the drive to the office.

11:45- I pull up to pick up Ben from the office.  I check in with the guards at the entrance and they are concerned about Elaine’s mouth. I can’t tell what they are saying and can’t see Elaine in her carseat so I get out to check on her.  I realize they don’t know what a pacifier is and I crack up and try to explain it.  Ben is waiting for me and after a few more greetings he takes the driver’s seat and we head to lunch.

12- We have lunch at the Selam women’s vocational center.  We meet up with friends and eat 5 courses.  An ETV (Ethiopian Television) crew is here filming.  We make our acting debut and make the food look really tasty. Elaine is passed around the room and spends most of her time in the kitchen. She finally has a seat and munches on puffs while we eat.

2- We get home and Elaine goes down quickly for a nap.  Ben heads back to the office and I go into the kitchen.  I make granola for us and roasted broccoli with parm for Elaine.  Her food looks better than ours. LemLem washes the dishes while I cook and I am so, so grateful for her.

2:30- Elaine wakes up screaming.  Can’t get her back to sleep.  There goes the afternoon.

3- Elaine is still out of sorts.  We take a walk outside and find a bug the size of a pancake.  I call Mac over and he goes crazy.  We are amused for a while as they attack each other.  Elaine belly laughs as Mac barks.  Mac wins, bug is destroyed. I feel sorry for the bug.

3:30- We go out back and pick the mangos that look ripe before the monkeys get to them.  Head back inside and make a mango smoothie.  Sit out on the veranda and Elaine hogs the straw and drinks more than me.

5- Elaine is still out of sorts and I clean and cook dinner one-handed. I make some calls and catch up with Awassa happenings.

5:30- Ben gets home and I pass Elaine off for Ben to feed and bathe. I finish cleaning up the kitchen and join them.

6:30- Elaine’s in bed, I am pooped.  Eat dinner with Ben.  Skype with my mom and friends back home.

8:30- Climb into bed to watch an episode of Modern Family.  I’m asleep before it’s over.

Life is good.

Field Trip

A little while ago we were invited to a little village not far from here for a “house warming” party.  Well we thought it was a house warming party, but it was actually a hut building party.  Mussie, one of our well drillers, is building this house and it is perched on a mountain in Huwela Tula overlooking a big valley and lake Awassa in the distance.  It was beautiful.  I’ll be honest, it wouldn’t have taken much to convince me to build a house right there and watch our little Taylors grow.

It was pretty fascinating to watch this house building process.  It was mostly family members of Mussie.  That’s when it comes in handy that your dad has multiple wives and a bunch of kids- lots of free labor.  We got a grand tour of the house that was mapped out in string.  He said it would take 5 months to build.  I saw him yesterday and asked how it was going.  He said it was finished.  Quickest home build ever.

Of course Elaine garnered lots of attention.  She was equally fascinated with everyone that came up to touch her.

After the party we headed over to Selam’s vocational training program for women.  This is a really neat project that speaks to my foodie side and my heart for Ethiopian women.  Selam is our partner here in Ethiopia and they have recently started this cooking school project to train low income women and prepare them for the work force. At lunch these women make this delicious 5 course meal and serve it at this little restaurant. We get a staff discount so it’s half price, $1.50.  $1.50 for 5 courses.  Not bad:)  Needless to say we leave a pretty big tip.  We go every monday for lunch and bring along anyone we can rope in. It’s great practice for the women and a tasty treat for us.  Come visit us in Awassa and we’ll take you there.  It does not disappoint.

We now walk in the door and pass off Elaine to one of the ladies and enjoy a nice meal baby free. They call her Nigist Eleni (Queen Elaine).  I hope this whole being treated like royalty thing doesn’t go to her head.

I’m looking forward to spending more time with these ladies over the next few months and teaching them some of my favorite recipes. They’ve already mastered Wacky cake:)  I love seeing programs like this take off and love that I get to be a part of it all.

Though she be but little…

“Though she be but little, she is fierce!”

~William Shakespeare

I came across this quote the other day and turned to Elaine and asked her if she had met William in her past life, because he most certainly was describing her when he wrote that. Holy moly.  This girl has lungs.

As I write this Elaine is sleeping. Yes. Sleeping. It is a rare and wonderful thing. A large part of why these posts have been few and far between is because Elaine just didn’t nap. At all. The other reason is because I was always taught that if I didn’t have anything nice to say I just shouldn’t say anything at all. Those reasons are very much related.  We had a rough few weeks…or was it months? We may or may not have had conversations that included questions like, “are there boarding schools for babies?” and “does brandy really put a baby to sleep?” On top of other huge, life-changing things going on in life, the lack of sleep was just the back-breaking straw.

People don’t believe me when I share my baby woes.  Elaine comes across as the happiest and most sociable baby. She is quick to smile, snuggles up to strangers, and is oh-so-lovable.  I truly believe that God gave her that temperament so that we could survive the hard parts..of which there have been many recently.

Ever since we moved to Ethiopia, Elaine’s beautiful sleeping schedule went out the window.  If we let her, she could go from 6 in the morning to 11 at night without sleeping.  I’m not kidding.  We’ve lived through it.  Now if she was pleasant during that whole time I wouldn’t have a problem, but that wasn’t the case.  We finally broke down and bought a whole collection of baby sleep books.  We committed a month to each technique.  And they all failed miserably. I swear this girl was the exception to every sleeping tip known to man- be it Ethiopian or American.

You certainly learn a lot about yourself when you’re trying to calm an exhausted, writhing, screaming, sweaty baby day after day. Most of what I learned about myself was not that pretty. Evidently I lack patience. And boy do I need it. I spent lots of time bouncing and swaying and praying. And praying. And praying. Coming to terms with the fact that I am not so good at this job without the help of a Father that is gracious and slow to anger. So much still to learn in this parenting crash course.

But right now the babe is sleeping and I just need to take a moment and soak it in…

Miss·Elaine·eous: 8 months

Miss Elaine.  She is quite the adrenaline junkie these days.  Maybe she always has been. The higher, the faster, the closer to the edge- the better.  She loves to let go when she’s standing up just to see if she can stand yet.  She wobbles for a few seconds, pumping her arms like she’s raising the roof, and then squealing as she falls.  Laughter is not in short supply these days.

Her goal, as of late, is to escape into the great outdoors and live, cuddled up, with her buddy Mac. As I write this she is making a b-line for the front door. She’s speedy.

Elllie Fin is feisty as ever and snuggling with us is usually not on her agenda for the day.  But pass her to the waitress at the restaurant or one our well drillers and she’ll snuggle right in. I try not to take it personally.

Her latest trick is trying to wave.  It’s cute and awkward and makes us laugh.

Still no teeth yet.  I’ve thought she was teething for the past three months.  But no.  I just like to blame everything on teething.  One day I’ll be right.

Her favorite person these days is LemLem.  She loooves her. And especially loves to follow her through the house as she sweeps and chat with her in the kitchen.  I wouldn’t be surprised if her first words were in Amharic.

She is goofy and feisty and sweet and ornary and we love her mucho.

Strolling around Awassa

Coffee break

 Hitting golf balls with pops

Miss·Elaine·eous: 7 months

I always think I’ll get better at this whole blog thing. But when life gets crazy and emotional and hard I rarely want to sit down and etch those moments into this stone that is our blog.  But just so Elaine knows her 7th month of life did happen…and the g-parents know she has not been shipped off to spend the rest of her sleepless infancy in the bush (yet)…here are a few photos that I scrounged from phones and cameras and computers.

Elaine trying to survive the heat wave that is melting us…

Elaine is a handful and we are getting our exercise chasing her cute little booty all around the house.  She has mastered the art of crawling and is a now a crawling MACHINE.  It’s not uncommon to be working on something and look up and not being able to spot her.  She will make a b-line for the front door and onto the veranda whenever she gets the chance.  She also surprised me the other day when I went in to get her after a nap and she was standing straight up waiting for me. That is now her new favorite thing- standing up on anything she can find. This lady is non-stop motion and her rolls are slowly but surely getting smaller and smaller. She even sits, crawls, and now stands in her sleep (it’s not as cute as it sounds- lots of tears involved!)

Trying to breath deep and enjoy all of this- even the sleep phobia that is KILLING all 3 of us!  She is just the cutest thing around.  Hard to hold a grudge against her for too long:)

Happy 7 months (a lil’ late) Laney Bug!