Swaziland Updates

My Life with Two Kids


Asa turned 2 weeks old yesterday, and I wanted to record some of my thoughts on my recent “upgrade” to mom of two.

I love what a friend said, “These last 2 weeks flew by compared to the previous two!” How true that is. Living with Asa on the outside is much more exciting than the agonizing wait for him. I could pretend it wasn’t that bad – and probably will – as the years roll by, but let me remind  you, Self, being overdue by a long shot is hard and you didn’t exactly like it.

Asa still sleeps rather long stretches at a whack. I’m talking 4-6 hours. Now his rhythm is he’ll wake up in the morning, be up for 1-2 hours. Then go back to sleep (easily or sometimes that’s a little trickier!). Once asleep, he sleeps about 4 hrs. This gives me time to prep dinner (yes at 9 am!) when we don’t have a meal brought or thawing, play with Cedar, do chores and do our lunch time.

Lunch time with C may be my favorite. Around 11 she’s inside and we sit ourselves down to leftovers from the night before. I’ll grab several books, too! We pray. I pray, then I ask if C wants to pray. As we hold hands, she’ll smile and sing a prayer and say, “Am” (amen). Then I read books out loud while we eat lunch. It takes a while for her to eat, so we take our time. I resist the urge to get up and “do something,” instead being with her and soaking up our special time. Some days I’ll make us tea as well. We’ll sit across from eat other at the coffee table. Loving one another with our eyes, sipping tea and trying to teach her the usage of “me.” Of course she says, “Me” as she points to her mother and wants to make sure that I am fixing tea for myself. Or that I take a drink of my tea too. Or to check that my drink is all gone. “Me” mostly means “you” and “person over there,” but I don’t mind. I love figuring out our secret language to communicate in that even dad can’t decipher sometimes!

After lunch, she heads down for a nap. These days, I will change her diaper, read a book or say a prayer in her room. She sleeps in a twin bed with a rail, so I usually lean over the rail or lie next to her in bed. I kiss her and tell her I love her. She has (finally!) learned to stay in her bed during nap time, so that’s no longer a boundary we have to enforce. She takes between 30-45 minutes to fall asleep on her own. We leave the door to her room open because she’s used to incorporating her life into ours and gets upset when the door is closed. She lays or sits in bed without interacting with me much. Even the other day I had a friend over for a little bit, and Cedar merrily went about putting herself to bed while she watched us chat in the next room. Friends, this is a FAR cry from the toddler who refused naps for almost 2 months while she was cutting her 2-year molars. Far cry! All my fears of having a toddler who doesn’t nap while juggling a newborn have not been realized. Praise. The. Lord.

Almost everyday (read: 10 days) the kids overlap in their nap time. Because I feel amazing, yet know I can easily overdo it, I do try to take even a 20 minute nap or just sit down with  my feet up to relax for part of the time. Any other moms out there just need that bit of rest time in order to keep your mental and emotional energy up until bedtime?!

Asa enjoys being swaddled as a sleeping cue. Without a swaddle or being held in the ring sling, he will usually only sleep about 45 minutes. Once he’s swaddled, he can easily sleep 4 hours even during an active, noisy day at home! He also likes the wubb-a-nub we introduced around 1 week. Similar to Cedar, he wants to suck to sleep, but would get frustrated when nursing and milk keeps coming out. When I see he’s to that point, I switch to the soother, turn on the pink noise of rain from my phone’s app and if I’ve timed it well, he’s asleep within a few minutes!

Can I just say that having a second child takes about 25% of the energy it took to have the first. With your first everything is new and unknown. You don’t have a rhythm. You’re learning how to care for a baby and how to balance your own needs in the midst. This go-round I know the things that are hard for me – going into a long night without enough rest, or letting a baby get overtired and battling for hours, etc. I know some tricks to soothe a baby. I know some signs of when baby is tired. Breastfeeding is a no-brainer for me. Hah! It should be! I spent 18 months working on that relationship with Cedar, and that only ended 5 months ago!

The best part about feeling like this whole ‘having a newborn is old hat’ gig is that we just get to ENJOY him more. I’m not so anxious or worried if his needs are being met. I’m not too freaked out dropping him when I walk (lol ever plan out how you’d fall with a baby in your arms and not harm the baby? Yup. I’ve got that scenario down pat. Thankfully, my clumsiness has held off when I’m carrying my children!). So we get more joy. I just sit and sniff his head. I smell him so much that I connected he smells reminiscent of his father. There is an essence to both of their smells that echoes one another. I get to notice that. I get to just sit with my two kids and watch them interact. Watch how Cedar kisses and smothers him. Watch how she climbs into his crib and lies down with him while he’s sleeping. I get to cover them with a blanket and smile thinking of all the nights they’ll spend snuggled under blankets together – watching movies, reading books, comforting each other when they’re scared, and plain old bed-sharing. I can’t wait until Asa is old enough to share a bed with his sister.

I’m noticing that Asa’s hair is getting lighter. We may have another blondie after all. I’m noticing how Cedar’s speech has seemed to increase once her brother was born. I notice how heavy, yet familiar she feels in my arms compared to her brother. I miss the bump she used to sit on during these last months of pregnancy. I notice that I see my family more because I’m more intentional at needing to spread my time and hugs, listening and love between 3 people now instead of just 2. I notice how full my heart is. How it bubbles up at any given moment. How I just can’t get used to saying, “the kids” without smiling. How I kiss both of their faces one more time before I crawl into bed. I’ve kissed them a lot today, but I just want them to know they’re safe and secure. They’re loved and wanted. They’re accepted and dear to my heart regardless of what happened that day. I need them to know our home will always be a place to be themselves, to show emotion, to confess fears and wrongs, to receive forgiveness and offer it. To laugh. Oh how we laugh.

Our days won’t always be like today. Things will change. Our rhythms will shift. Teeth will come and fall out. Foods will be favored and then rejected. Nursing will be the fix-all and then gone one day. But for now, our todays are good enough. They’re rich enough with love and peace, rest and excitement. Our todays are not perfect, but yes, yes, they’re good enough. And I am grateful.

 

Categories: Family Life, Swaziland Updates | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

We’ve Got Land!!! – a wild update


Many of you who’ve been on this journey with us from the early days, may recall that our vision in coming here was to acquire our own piece of land. Through many, many, many ups and downs, disappointments, failed attempts, and new opportunities, owning land never became part of our story. We instead found an amazing landlord eMasini, where we currently live in #theboehrighut. Our land thrives and has connected us to many people and opportunities.

On Tuesday, we made our final decision with peace in our hearts that we would leave Swaziland. Let’s be honest, we’ve lived here for more than 4 years. This was/is our dream. Our decision came with a lot of effort, prayer, struggle, heartache, so just because I don’t share the intimate details doesn’t mean we decided flippantly. 😉 And although we felt a burden lifted in deciding we’d return to America, and began announcing our proposed return date of June 2017, there was still those questions .. .

Will the seeds we planted blossom?

Will the church grow? Has our time been in vain? Is the Lord in this? 

We know this decision is the healthiest for our family; healthy for our work; and well-timed. But the questions lingered.

Tuesday night, the very evening after we felt this peace, Sean, Cedar & I were sitting outside enjoying the evening as it cooled off. Sibosiso (a KEY co-worker with Sean) phoned to see if he could come for a visit.

Sibosiso arrived with his usual smile, speeding in on his bicycle, as Cedar hopped in greeting. After exchanging greetings, Sean asked, “So how did the meeting go?” He’d had a meeting earlier that day about acquiring a new piece of land. Sibosiso’s current land is rocky, uneven, and far from the river. It’s distance from water makes caring for his  chickens (and therefore his livelihood) difficult at best. He has developed quite a skill for growing food for his family in our garden space, but without easy access to water, he’s paralyzed .. . and hungrier.

Because of this land challenge, Sean started pushing him more than a year ago.

Do you know someone who has land by the river? Can’t you use that?

You have GOT to get land. It’s possible. This is your family’ s livelihood at stake. You’re a smart, hard-working man, with land, you are invincible. 

On and on Sean’s affirmations went. On and on his encouragements for him to get land. On and on went Sibosiso’s search. He biked to further communities, found land by the river, inquired about the chief giving it to him (here land is either privately owned & expensive, or owned by the King, who gives chief the authority to “gift” land in exchange for a cow. Most Swazis acquire land this route, but like anything, it’s a who-you-know-determines-your-slice-of-the-pie). He and Sean visited private pieces of land with exorbitant price tags. On and on he biked and prayed and told his family he would find land.

Through months and time, he began contacting our own chief and visiting the mphakatsi. A few weeks ago, Sibosiso acquired favor with the chief’s advisor. I’m not sure the details, or what the indvuna was spurred by (maybe the ole Holy Spirit), but he told Sibosiso, “I’m going to help you find land.”

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“So how did the meeting go?” Sean asked as Sibosiso pulled up a chair. Through excited siSwati, he told us. It’s mine. I have it. 

My gapping mouth must have surprised Sean because he turned and started to “translate” for me into English. I laughed and said, “I heard him. You will get the land?” 

We all laughed and clapped and looked up and let questions fly.

So what do you have to do? When will you khonta (a ceremony that seals the deal and “purchases” the land)?

He pulled out a list and showed us what he needed by tomorrow at 1pm. His wife would cook chickens and rice and veggies for all the guests that would come to witness the giving of his land. Of course beer and juice made the list as well. Additionally,  he needed about $500 to pay the price of the cow . . . by tomorrow.

Our deal from long ago was the if Sibosiso found a piece, Sean would help front the money of the cow and he would pay us back over time. So here we stood. With a bank account reading $124. About $150 in my pocket (to last us for some time). My mind jumped to that savings account I’d be slowly pinching pennies into over the last few months. To give us cushion. . . to cover new baby delivery costs  . . . to be our “nest egg” in case our car broke down. I guess we’ll just have to pull it out of there.

Pushing those worrying thoughts of  money aside, I continued celebrating. Land. LAND!! All these years we’d prayed for our own piece of land. We’ve studied how to khonta. Learned what NOT to do. And wondered why we never did get that piece we felt so certain could become ours. And now I saw it. The land prayers were never for us. Well, never for the Boehrigs. The Lord had a much greater purpose in fulfilling those prayers. Because Sibosiso and his family of 4 need the land much more than we do, will be infinitely blessed by it, will further the Kingdom from their space, and will be rooted in this community until the days they die. How much more they will do than we ever have, or could.

How perfect that the Lord gave us this gift, of watching Sibosiso’s heart lift as he shared how every night he prayed. Everyday he told his family of his dreams. Everyday he hoped. And here he was. Praying God alongside us for this incredible provision.

Because his piece of land isn’t just any piece. It’s on the river. His water source is immediately there!! It’s fertile. It’s free from rocks. And it’s in the community he knows. It’s also uncontested land that was a secret nugget no living person has lived on, which is so rare. I imagine the Lord closed off this land, not too unlike the Garden of Eden. Land guarded and protected from any human eye, and thieving neighbors, or conniving uncles. And I imagine the Lord was saving the land for such a time as this.

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And when Sibosiso left, I turned to Sean with that worrying question on my mind, “So we’ll just take the extra money we need out of savings, right? I can transfer that tonight, so it’s ready in the morning.”

Placing his hand on my shoulder, Sean said, “Nicole. The Doula project money.” He was right. Just 2 weeks prior, we (I) had decided that the Doula Project would not be moving forward (a whole other blog to come). Because the money had been half-raised for the project, some of our donors to this point had allocated their funds to be re-distributed to whatever project we saw a need for.

“Oh my goodness. You’re right. Sean! Do you realize how much money has been reallocated from our donors?”

“I don’t know, $500?”

“Yes. that’s just a little more than R6,500. More than enough of what he needs!”

Can we even fathom the greatness of this? Can you marvel at the intricate dance of preparation of our Lord?

Wow. Wow. Praise.

The very next day, the chickens were cooked, the drinks were poured, over 40 witnesses gathered on Sibosiso’s new land. The witnesses saw him give money in exchange for the land. Siboniso took photos of everything for evidence later (we’ve learned, people. We’ve learned). And now the land is his. Just like that.

To firmly establish his boundaries, the Gwebu family needs to erect a fence. Because they can’t leave their chickens all day, they’ve been employing Sizwe to come and sit. Yes, Sizwe would take 2 days to walk the distance from his house to theirs, so he needs transport. But here is the neighbor whom people had easily forgotten about. Who had forgotten about his own worth, until others began reminding him in recent years. He may not be able to do much, but what he can do, he does with gusto, a hearty laugh, and follow-through. And so while the Gwebus work on their new land, their new-found-friend Sizwe cares for their chickens. He knows about the business, because after all, he was the first to insist that Sean start a chicken business for him.

And it comes full circle. Our hearts are full.

 

Categories: Kingdom Coming Related, Social Justice, Swaziland Updates | 6 Comments

A [delayed] Mother’s Day


Mother’s Day weekend we spent rock climbing with friends and freezing in our tent. While we had fun, it was a bit tiring for a weekend, but I was happy being surrounded by friends and enjoying the outdoors with Cedar and Sean. I was surprised when Sean told me, “I’m going to treat you to a Mother’s Day make up, since we didn’t do anything too special on the real day.” Not one to deny a treat, I quickly agreed.

Sean had recalled my comment from months before of “If you ever want to treat me, you can take me to Forresters Arm for a night.” So off we went into the mountains of Swaziland. The air is cool. The fires are cozy. The beds are to collapse in. And the food is enough to gorge yourself on.

Three things I love about this place. 1. Wifi. 2. Dinner and breakfast incuded. 3. It’s away.

I’ll start from the bottom. It’s away. We have found that it’s incredibly and increasingly difficult for us to relax, rejuvenate and connect as a family while staying at home. A lovely hazard of communal living, but still a hazard. Our greatest solution is to be away from home on the days we need some time to ourselves. Forresters’ Arm isn’t so far we have to travel all day, but it’s far enough away that we can’t easily be interrupted.

Dinner and breakfast included. As a special treat for Swazi residents, the owner adds dinner into the discounted price for locals. This is no chintzy dinner. They have a set menu with 2 appetizers, 4 mains, and 2 desserts. All the portion sizes are small, so you could literally have a taste of them all if you like and your stomach can manage. Plus, there’s divinely baked breads and home-presserved jams, veggies and fruits to enjoy. Their dinner is one to linger over. Open a bottle of wine. Stay for tea and coffee. Relax. Take your time. Your seat is yours for the night and you’re invited to be there for so long.

Wifi. No, it’s not because I can just check my email while I’m away. But wifi means several treats. Streaming yoga classes for my body and spirit (a luxury African internet does not often allow me) and the use of our Baby Cloud Monitor. We feed Cedar dinner, tuck her into her luxurious duvet and crib, set the monitor (that uses wifi!), lock the door, and bounce 100 meters to the restaurant. On this Mother’s Day get away, we did just that. Sitting in the restaurant with audio and video to watch our sleeping peanut, while we went on a date. A real date.

Rare are the evenings we get to go out since Cedar’s birth. It’s not that we don’t want to leave her, but that babysitters are limited and places to go within 30 minutes’ drive after 7pm are also very limited. So rare is the evening date. Rare and luxurious.

On this evening, the wine was uncorked. We lingered over an appetizer of salmon slivers on toasted ciabatta slices with cream cheese and herb; spiced lamb curry with fried veggie slices; vegetarian lasagna with feta; plus a dessert of homemade orange ice cream and fluffy chocolate cake. The tea was warm. The lighting low. The conversation hushed. The times good. After leaving the lounge where we’d had our final drink, this tired momma slunk down the rock path to that cozy bed and drifted off.

That afternoon, prior to our delightful dinner, we had planned to take advantage of some other fun things Forresters’ has to offer – babysitter & a horseback ride. With babysitters on staff, we planned to leave Cedar for an hour and head out on horseback to trot around the forest. Alas, our horse plans were thwarted, but a tandem bike enticed us. A tandem bike that originated circa 1971. . .and had a broken seat. . . and only one gear.

It wasn’t past the first speed hump that I went hurtling off the seat, cackling in disbelief as the rear seat had tipped back & dumped me plum off! I climbed back on, righting the seat and trying to sit forward to prevent the seat’s nose from jutting skyward again. No such luck! Sean did the jiggle and wiggle test, but didn’t have any tools, so we decided, “We would keep going,” because to return for tools would mean an utter delay. Plus, I’m always up for a challenge.

Sean switched with me, so I could steer from up front. Steer us I did – straight into the azalea bush 2 feet away. hah! Well, that wasn’t working, so back to our original posts we went.

We made it to the main road and headed uphill. Now, dear friends, I am essentially riding a fireman’s pole. A fireman’s pole. Uphill. While clutching desperately to the handle bars and laughing too hard to care if I’ve peed myself or not. After breathless protests of “No! Really! Stop! I’m going to fall off. I’m falling off!” I surrendered my unheeded shouts & deftly (it actually was deft, which is a stroke of luck if you know me) hopped off the back of the bike. Sean promptly halted the fireman’s pole and we drug that 30 pound beast to the side of the road and collapsed in laughter.

How ridiculous is this? 

How much did we pay to rent this bike? 

Seriously. I couldn’t hold on any longer. 

I just need something to wedge underneath it. 

Our search for the perfect rock ended in finding the multi-purpose water bottle. Tilting the seat slightly more forward than “normal”, we wedged the Klean Kanteen (love these guys!) between the underside of the seat and the bike’s frame. When I plopped my derriere down upon the seat, lo and behold, it stayed! Off we went again. Now I could rest my hands on the handle bars. .. and my feet on the peddles. Let’s be honest, a one-speed tandem bicycle who weighs 30 lbs is not for the mildly in shape mother. That is why I married a-beast-of-a-man who proceeded to haul my behind around town.

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The broken-seat-fixing water bottle

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Obligatory shot on our tandem bike date.

We walked up hills (we’re not crazy!), coasted down hills, laughed and got greeted by the neighborhood watch who welcomed us to his neighborhood. We sipped water from the bottle/seat and snapped pictures that my WordPress won’t let me upload. With a glance at our watches, we did an about face and headed back to our daughter dear, a warm bath, and playing on the grass.

The rest of our time rolled by gently with gentle ease. We played with Cedar on the grass. We lounged. I napped. Sean napped. I soaked in the bathtub. I read my book. We watched a little tv. We had a screaming child in the wee hours of the night (why does that always happen when you leave home and have 10 neighbors all trying to sleep in?). We rubbed our bleary eyes and stumbled to a gourmet breakfast. We watched fires crackle in their places and headed out before the rain.

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Breakfast with the little girl who makes me the happiest momma!

When looking back on the weekend, both Sean & I’s favorite moments came from that ridiculous bike ride. As many parents of young children know (or recall), sometimes the moments you get to discover something new together are more limited with a tiny tot, but we’ve found when we take the hour or three that we get, when we get it and do something different, it’s always a rich reward of laughter, quality time, and just, good memories. A perfect weekend for this woman, wife, and mother.

Categories: Family Life, just for fun, Swaziland Updates | 2 Comments

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