31 January 2013

Free Draw.

The other day, another mom came by to pick up her kids, who were over for a playdate.  I was inside the house.  She stood of the porch and, laughing nervously, yelled into the house, "Wow!  You're brave!"

I smiled modestly and thanked her for complimenting my capable creative spirit, "Oh, well, I thought the kids might like some painting and the porch is the perfect spot..."

For what I believed I was being complimented.

A few seconds later, I realized I hadn't seen Lou in awhile.  "Awhile" in toddler time, which roughly equals two minutes or ample time to destroy something quietly.

So, while trying to wrap up the playdate, I sweetly called, "Lou! LouLou! Lou?"  She was nowhere.
Finally, the mom said, "Jill, she's here with me.  On the porch.  That's what I was talking about when I said you were brave..."

And there, was my daughter, wearing her fancy dress, standing on the table, meticulously smearing blue paint over every inch of exposed skin.

  For whom I was actually being complimented.  (This was the second time it happened.)

The playdate mom smiled anxiously at me.

While Lou is a paint girl, Elias' preferred medium is a really nice, top quality, fine-but not-too-fine pointed, black pen.  He spends hours filling up blank notebooks with maps, spaceships, cats, cows, and planets.  I have hundreds of pages of his work.  He blasts through blank notebooks at a disturbing pace.  Good thing South African sketchbooks are relatively cheap here.  (I am awfully tempted, however, by some of the gorgeous paper options listed here.)



We're planning a trip to the pen section of Pearl Paint this summer.  His mind will be blown.

Buy this original print (sans pink arrow) here.

We'll just make sure to keep Lou away from the paint.

29 January 2013

Redheads Forever

Hope my two little redhead girls grow up to be half as feisty as their Grammy was.  


26 January 2013

Winter, Here We Come



I’m about to make an unexpected trip to the United States - and I’ve just realized it’s January over there. (Listen, it’s surprisingly difficult to keep up with the month when the weather stays the same year-round. Don’t judge.)

I have experienced exactly one winter in the last eight years and it was only for a few weeks. We went to the States for Charlotte’s first Christmas. I remember nothing except feeling exhausted and nauseous the entire time, which I blamed on cold weather. Then I learned I had been pregnant for an embarrassingly long time, without a clue. And that is my memory of the last time I was cold. 

And this is what happened to Charlotte's beautiful face. Windburn and chapping. It wasn't pretty.



Every June when we get back to the States, I look around at everyone and think, "Wow, you've all made it through another winter. You've worn so many layers of clothing. How did you do it?!"

And so, I’m trying to mentally prepare for the cold. It’s like when there are too many air conditioners on, right? Or maybe it’s more like that time a few weeks ago when I wore long sleeves because it had just rained and there was a light breeze?

I can’t stress how much I hate the cold. When I was little I was literally allergic to being cold. I would break out in hives and have to take warm oatmeal baths. I slept under an electric blanket in the summer. Yesterday Charlotte said she was “SO COLD” and wanted to take a warm bath. It was one of the hottest days of the year…in the tropical Congo. She is not coming with me on this trip.

This time it's just me and Anna├»s and she's only experienced winter in utero. Next Post: Baby’s First sub 85° Weather.

22 January 2013

Tuesday List!

Since we denied you your Friday List last week (the horror!), I thought I'd compile some stuff for your Tuesday.  Here goes it:

I have this popular item in a bag of makeup-I-never-use-but-can't-throw-away.  I have a little problem in airports with MAC stores.  I buy expensive lipstick.  None of which I ever wear.  I desperately want to be fantastic enough to pull of this shade.  This post gives me a bit more confidence to shock everyone around me with a ruddy pout.

Image from Huffington Post.

Have you heard about this film?  Crazy.  Awful.

Image from the film's official website.

My student's verdict on M.O.'s bangs = decidedly lukewarm.  (I promise you, we were actually discussing content of importance.  Things like this...just come up...in 6th grade classrooms.)  Here's what the rest of the world had to say.

Image from NPR.

The first two defined my travel-lusting teenage years. Now there's a third?  And it's supposed to be "nearly perfect?"  Man, I love Julie Delpy. And her French apartments.

Image from here.


Free cesarean-sections as public health strategy in (the other) Congo.  Working?  Hmmm.

Image from here.

A version of this middle class whine has appeared every few years since 1909.  Truth or fiction, New Yorkers?  (Please say fiction.)

Image from NYTimes.

Andy Warhol letterhead perfection. (Really written by his mother?)

Image from here.

 Sussing out SlateAfrique.  Any thoughts?


And, because it was one hell of a day, my husband sent me this link.  With the encouraging statement, "Paris is apparently overcome with Leprechauns and Goth Warriors.  But, this will make you happy." He was right.

Image from here.



16 January 2013

The Kinshasa Negotiation

The professor sussed out my situation via email, "Will you have a reliable internet connection for quizzes?"
"Yes. Yep. Absolutely." I responded.

I mostly told the truth.  My Kinshasa internet connection is pretty good.  I think it is absolutely good enough to take an online Statistics class...with some minor headaches.  If I pre-dial the minor headaches into the equation, I'm banking on being able to plow my way through this class and arrive on the other side with 3 precious grad school pre-requisite credits.


However, I already had to use the "But, I live in Kinshasa" line. This class has not even started yet.


I was hoping to keep this negotiation point to myself until it was really necessary and I had heartily proven myself as legitimate by passing a couple of quizzes.  But, it turns out that just because a class is "online" doesn't mean you won't need a real-life, textbook.  (You can laugh at me now, it's okay.)

So, when the class received an email asking us to recheck to make sure we had the correct book as there had been a problem with the bookstore listings...I had a few hours of panic.  Because, no, I did not have the right textbook.  And, unlike most others taking this class, it will take either several weeks or several hundred DHL dollars for "Discovering Business Statistics" (the one with multi-colored pushpins on the cover) to land on my Central African doorstep.

Textbook (the right one) image from Amazon.com

So, I'm still working on a solution, but it seems like the professor is - slightly reluctantly - willing to help me out.

Loads of people take online courses while living in bizarre places.  In reality, I am not that special.  I admit, however, to hoping that my "interesting living circumstances" buys me a little American patience.

At least until that book gets here.

14 January 2013

Cast Off: A DIY Photo Essay

After a bit of a hiatus, Mama Congo is back and well-rested. First up, let's review. Remember the time Adam broke his hand and I was more concerned about my sore throat? (C'mon, it was a really bad sore throat.)



The time finally came for his cast to come off. So on our first day of vacation when everyone was jet set to exotic locales, we took a field trip to our community workshop, better known as the atelier.

Atelier workshop. More fun for the children than any vacation destination.

Here our favorite Maintenance Manager Neil, met us to do the deed.

Neil the "MM." He fixes things, builds things and performs tasks ordinarily reserved for medical professionals.

He started with what I am told are called tin snips. (An entertaining and educational field trip.) Adam is obviously extremely comfortable with this and not concerned whatsoever.

The look of utter relaxation.





Confirming that look of relaxation.

And then the vise came into play.


I swear that's a look of concern, sympathy and love--having nothing to do with "I told you so."

Neil pre-made a metal plate just to Adam's specifications to protect him during the process. Perhaps the sweetest, most personal thing anyone's ever done for him.

Trying out Adam's favorite Christmas gift.
Does it really get any better for a 6-year-old? Best day ever.

And then the saw came out.



More incriminating evidence that I will not win wife-of-the-year.

Meanwhile the children play unsupervised amongst the power tools.

Grease face.

Snot face.

The moment we've all been waiting for...



 Is quite disgusting...


And that, children, is why you should never break a bone away from home. 


*All photos by Jill Humphrey, who can make an atelier workshop look like the most beautifully lit photography studio.





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