29 April 2013


Time for a refurbish, revamp...a refresh?  Or, maybe just a classic facelift.

Sarah and I just pressed "order" on this site for our very own Mama Congo business cards. (Subtle doses of hot pink and letterpress may be involved).

And that long-overdue action got us rolling.

So we designed three new headers for the blog while our kids chased each other around with whisks in the back yard.  (Yes, this is true.)

Help us decide which one is best!  Leave a comment with your thoughts.  




And as a bonus, here are our new "favicons."  (I just like writing that ridiculous word.)

Or, do you prefer it with the hot-pink arrow?

Chime in!

26 April 2013

Friday List!

Jill's List:

Sarah and I realized we should start studying up on "third culture kids" or "modern global nomads"...or whatever they call themselves these days...because we have four between the two of us.  We're starting here.

Image from denizenmag.com

Oh really, Florida?  You're freaking out over those?  You've obviously never tripped over a family of giant snails while trying to find your way to your front door in the dark....and then eaten them in a delectable peanut sauce.

Image from National Geographic Daily News

I love photos.  I really, really do.  There's a reason I've subscribed to Aperture Magazine for 11 years. 

Image from Aperture.org

Image by Paul Kwilecki from NYTimes Lens Blog. 

And while we're discussing photography, let's talk about llamas.

Image by Jen Osborne for Colors Magazine.

Good news if you are white, well-off, emotionally stable, and educated!  What do you think about this American Psychological Association article on the secrets of a happy marriage?

Beautiful image by Bruce & Rebecca found on Miss Moss.  (Isn't this Karoo setting incredible?  Oh, South Africa...)

Don't you wish you could qualify as a "modern Mennonite" too?

And yeah, I totally know that girl.  No biggie.  Image from the WSJ's Metropolis.

I posted this article on my Facebook page and caused a ruckus.  So, I'm posting it here too!  Apparently, this is a very controversial suggestion:
We must begin to see our fellow human beings as precisely that:  fellows.  They need not be friends, but they must be counted as worthy of our respect, bearers of dignity in their own right.  Those who struggle must no longer be seen as failures, but more often as unlucky, and perhaps worthy of our extending a hand.  Those who come to our shores, whatever our policy toward them, must be seen as human beings seeking to stitch together a decent life rather than as mere parasites upon our riches.  Those who are unhealthy must be seen as more than drains upon our taxes but instead as peers that, but for good fortune, might have been us.

Image from the Opinionator Blog.

Sarah and I have both done this with our babies on a part-time basis.  More out of laziness and a general distaste for diaper changing than anything else.  But, it works!

Image from the NYTimes

Vintage image from Ashley.

Sarah's List:

I can't stop thinking about this article: Why women should embrace a "good enough" life. Jill and I got into a really great discussion about this in her office this week. There may or may not have been tears. My only issue with this is that the "good enough" life seems pretty great. I want to hear more retrospectives from mothers just ahead of us.

Image from the WashingtonPost.com, here.

Why does American lose its head over "terror" but ignore its daily gun deaths? Good question. I think we should be losing our heads over both until there are no more heads lost.

Photograph: Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images. From here.

I've bought birth control in a lot of countries (don't judge me!) and you know where it was the easiest? Answer: In the "Conservative Islamic Dictatorship" of Egypt. You know the hardest place? The USA. Here's an interesting opinion: Put the pill on drugstore shelves. Pregnancy is more dangerous than birth control

Photo by Philippe Huguen/AFP/Getty Images. From here.

Okay, let's get to the important political issues. Did you know Obama loves Sno-Cones? Like really loves Sno-Cones? SnObama does. Totally hilarious.

"Eyes on the Ice." From here.

Have you seen/heard this? Study Determines This Is the Most Relaxing Song Ever. Adam and I listened and I just got all stressed that I wasn't relaxing. 
From ApartmentTherapy.com.

Today is Adam's birthday. Mama Youyou will be making him this. And this. This guy is throwing him a party. And for my gift, I made the coffee this morning. (Hey, I offered to make breakfast, but he said that would just stress him out too much.) Happy Birthday, dear one. 

Way back when he was 31. Photo credit Jill Humphrey.

24 April 2013

Tooth on the Roof

The anticipation almost killed us.

Elias drove us crazy with the prodding and pushing and whining.
And I started to get worried.  Because that little tooth wiggled but it wouldn't come out.

After awhile, he developed a disturbing "shark tooth" issue (a name I thought I cleverly invented to describe the fact that his adult tooth was growing in behind his baby tooth, but turns out to be something dentists say all the time).




You see, I was convinced he was going to turn out just like me.

Only one of my baby teeth simply fell out on it's own.  I remember when it happened.  I was six and we were watching Marty Stauffer's Wild America.  After that, my teeth refused to fall out and I had to go to the dentist every couple of months and have a few pulled.  It's a real testament to the extreme kindness of my childhood dentist that I still really love him and even take my own kids to him each summer for a check.

I got overly anxious with motherly transference and considered yanking it out.  Mama Vida caught me wiggling it a little too vigorously one day and said, "Mama!  Leave the tooth alone!  It will come out when it's ready."  Wise woman.

Thankfully, one evening last week, it fell out.  Just like that.

Moments after.

One tooth down, we had to figure out what the proper arrangements were for a baby tooth in this part of the world.  Elias told me we needed to throw it on the roof.  Seriously?

He was remembering a skit his kindergarten class did last year about baby tooth traditions around the world...and turns out, he was right.  I double checked with Mama NouNou, who told me that yes, of course he should throw the tooth on the roof, but he needed to tie it to a pieces of coal first.  I initially thought this to be absolutely bizarre, but then reminded myself that if we were in Virginia, Elias would be placing the kinda-nasty little tooth under his pillow to wait for a fairy to take it away in the night, leaving a treasure behind.  Yeah.

The only problem was that Elias, being a good American, still wanted his treasure.

We decided to meld traditions and figured that, in Kinshasa, the tooth fairy would find the coal-wrapped tooth more easily on the roof, whereupon s/he would magically place a treasure under the pillow.  Naturally.


I mean, how would you tie a tooth to a piece of coal?

The toss!

Later, Sarah found a great book to back up this whole ritual.  Except, she informed me, (days after the fact), that because the tooth was a bottom tooth, we should have buried it.  You only throw top teeth on the roof.

Dang it.

Elias lost his second tooth today.  I'm trying to convince him to bury this one, but he's not buying it.  He got 2,000 FC out of the last tooth and so he's playing it safe and sticking with the most logical route to success: throw the tooth on the roof!

22 April 2013

I lied to Baby Center. I'm sorry. Kind of.

It's true. I lied to Baby Center, which is one of my favorite go-to websites that has led me through many-a parenting questions. I didn't mean to. Well, kind of...

Image from babycenter.com. We love you!

You see Jill and I are so famous now (ahem) that we're part of World Mom's Blog. And on the evening it was made official we were asked to quickly come up with "the best advice a mother gave you" to contribute to a list with other World Mom bloggers. I panicked. I couldn't think of anything good a mom's ever said. (Ha!)

And somehow I missed the tiny detail that this post was going on Baby Center the next day. So Jill very appropriately quoted Mama Vida and said:

“Leave the tooth alone. It will come out when it’s ready. This advice has a deeper meaning that can be applied to many mothering moments.”

Double points for quoting a Congolese mama.

And I said:  "As long as your baby is eating, breathing and pooping, you’re doing alright."

Which was not a quote from a mother or even a woman, but rather an old, white man who I'm not even sure is a parent. He is definitely not a mama. My lie has been recommended on Facebook 596 times.

Listen, I'm quoted at the bottom of the list, so most people probably didn't even get there. But let me explain.

Charlotte was born in Cape Town (as mentioned too many times here and here and here and here. Sorry guys). South Africa is the land of first class, low key healthcare. I love it. Everyone calls their doctor by their first name. Something I never embraced. But these doctors are top notch.

The morning after Charlotte was born, my assigned pediatrician, we'll call him Dr. L, came to visit. I was bleary from ya know, just giving birth. And had just had a blubbering breakdown in the bathtub, which alarmed a nurse so I had to explain between sobs, "I'm....just...so...happy." Obviously a freakish combo of hormones and happiness goin' on there.

So maybe Dr. L. had been alerted to the American crazies before he came in. All I remember from his first visit was how rough and simultaneously kind he was with newborn Charlotte. He picked her up by just her arms and flopped her head back and forth between them. Then he picked her up and made her walk. One step after the other. Hours after being born. This new baby wasn't getting off easy.

For his last trick, he held her skull in his giant hands and pushed down on her soft spot with both thumbs. Repeatedly.

"You see! Her brain is just like jelly in there!" (To which we knew he actually meant JELL-O, silly South Africans.) Then he said, "Don't be afraid of the soft spot. You can mess with it all you want."

I'm sure he was doing fancy reflex testing here, but the point he was also making was that we shouldn't be afraid of our new baby. "Did you see how she was born? It was rough and she's fine. Babies are tough. Don't be afraid of your baby."

After head flopping and arm hanging, Charlotte demonstrates the newborn reflex of walking.

And we felt super confident...until we found ourselves taking shifts the next few nights to make sure she was breathing. Seriously. She would do this weird holding-her-breath-thing until she finally ran out of oxygen and then breathed. ALL. NIGHT. LONG. We were terrified. I vividly remember watching my only Super Bowl abroad because I was up at 4am waiting for my newborn to take her next breath.

Waiting for her to breathe.

This was getting ridiculous. So we called Dr. L.

"Um, so, she's doing this weird breathing thing where she stops breathing."

Dr. L: Does she eventually breathe?


Dr. L: Then she's fine. Relax.

Then he went into a very logical explanation about what was going on. All about how newborns don't know how to breathe and are figuring it all out and it can be erratic and scary, but not to worry. Then he said, "Listen guys, as long as your baby is eating, breathing and pooping you're doing alright." And he reminded us the eating thing isn't all that important. No healthy baby is going to starve themselves.

In Congo we don't really have a pediatrician at the ready, so I think about this a lot. Is she eating (at least every once in a while)? Is she breathing? Is she pooping? And honestly most of the time even a combination of two of these things is okay.

I remain ever so grateful that our first pediatrician was low key and sensible. So much so that I made him into a mama and quoted him on Baby Center. I guess men sometimes have okay things to say too.

19 April 2013

Friday List!

Sarah's List:

What a terrible week. Jill and I have been ruminating about what to post all week. Nothing seemed appropriate. So here's a pic of our kids stacking rocks on Monday evening Congo-time when all was right with the world.

Okay on to links for a distraction.

Have you seen this STFU Parents blog? A blog all about the phenomenon of parental over-sharing on Facebook. Surely you've seen it. Details of dirty diapers and "Wait until you’re a parent! on every Facebook status in which someone complains about being tired." Quote from here.

I try not to do this on Facebook and thus we created a blog for over-sharing. I figure you make a choice to look at Mama Congo, so you know what you're getting into. There's a STFU Parents book too! (I have to admit I had to Google what STFU stands for. I am officially old and lame.)

The jaw-dropping, self-indulgent and occasionally rage-inducing world of parent overshare. All in one book! Image from here.
Is your old t-shirt hurting African economies? Chances are, yes. Most everywhere I've been on this continent there's an excellent market for castoff American clothing. When I was in Ghana the market was called "Obruni Wawoo" meaning "Clothes from dead white people." Here it is. I got some great clothes there. Probably not what the donators intended...

Image from here.

This is going to be my new favorite movie that hasn't yet been made. Mrs. Ballarin's War: The improbable tale of a WestVirginia heiress the Pentagon hired to take on Somalia's jihadists. Holy cow. A great read.

Image from Foreign Policy.com.

And I've been watching this link for a while now. I'm sure many of you have. It seems like a good time to post it. 

Jill's List:

Terrible week.  For so many people.  I keep looking for the helpers in Boston, Texas, Syria, India, China...

Empty Boston street image from here.

"I can still recall the moment I thought I was going to be able to separate my love life from immigration issues."  Great opening line. Even more gripping story. Read on here.

Banksy is awesome again.

Tomorrow, Sarah and I, plus our friend Anna, are going to La Bella Salon for a "bain d'huile."  Did anyone just put this into Google Translate?  I hope you did.  We'll let you know how it turns out.

Really cool soda.  I associate these with the awesome taco trucks in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

So good.  Image from here.

I've been saving this candle for the final, crazy stretch of the school year.  Om.

Image from here.

This post makes me really miss Seattle.  "The first asparagus, radishes, fiddle-greens, wood sorrel, rosy spring garlic… I even discovered chickweed, which I had never tasted nor heard about. Grassy, watercress-like green that I have been adding to nearly everything."  Sigh.

Beautiful  and delicious image from Cannelle et Vanille.

Amazing 35-year partnership. Documented.  Musician and photographer. (Very random fact: LouLou's in-utero name was "Tom Waits." We called our unborn baby "Tom Waits."  Bizarre and true.)

Image from here.

And, this article is purposefully absurd, but is it really?  Gabby Giffords sums up the reality of this absurdity here.  The first sentence makes me cry every time I read it.  (So, now I'm going to read the Onion.)

Image from here.

13 April 2013

Friday List!

Sarah's List:

If you read one thing this week, it should be this article from The Atlantic. Have you seen it? I couldn't stop reading. Being Gay at Jerry Falwell's University.

Sparky. Liberty's mascot. Yep. From here.

Oh man, I am really loving this blog, How Babies Work. Check out this post on what parents from different countries want from their children. Italy: Even tempered babies. Spain: Character. The US: Intelligence. Congo: Good machete skills. Kidding, but check out this link too. Not totally kidding. 

"My child is so intelligent!" says every American parent. Photo by Christopher Robbins/Digital Vision/Thinkstock

Calling all Fact Checkers at the New York Times! I'm here to say that even The NYT exaggerates once in a while. Check out this article about flying out of Kinshasa. She claims there are 18 check-points. I know that's not true, but there might be 15. But it is the worst process imaginable. Or maybe she was particularly suspicious looking. I really don't want to get into a feud with the New York Times, who I'm sure are avid Mama Congo readers.

Bonus: Oh man, try Googling "Kinshasa airport" there's some great stuff out there. Including airport reviews and a several hidden cam videos. ("Hidden" because we were once almost arrested for taking a photo in our car in the airport parking lot. Of a waffle, no less. That's a pretty serious no photography rule!)

N'djili in a haze, which is sort of how you feel after the all-day departure process. Photo from here.

Is Congo really trying to wean off the dollar? This seems like an article from The Onion.

Comparison of Congolese francs vs. the more widely used Dollar. Image from TexasinAfrica, a great Congo blog and this post is fabulous for explaining a common issue. Can you guess which bill is rejected due to wear and tear. Find out.

Jill's List:

Just to follow up on Sarah's mention of N'Djili Airport.  I would like to thank that place helping my children develop mad peeing-while-being-dangled-over-a-nasty-toilet skills.  Though, I have to say, things have really improved in the two years we've been here.  Here is a photo that I took inside the airport last time I was there during a brief moment when I forgot that I wasn't supposed to do that:

The blur comes from me remembering mid-click that taking photos in the airport might actually be illegal...

Mama Congo has joined the World Mom's Blog community - which is featured on the UN Foundation's Global Mom Relay today.  We are pleased to contribute to this forum of families around the world - especially since one of our continental favorites, Mama Mzungu, is also involved.  Sarah and I were asked our favorite parenting advice for an article, which appears on Baby Center:
I said:  "Don't mess with a loose tooth.  It will come out when it's ready."  (Deeper meaning can be applied to a variety of parenting situations.) Mama Vida told me this...oh, Monday.
Sarah said:  ""As long as your baby is pooping, eating and breathing, it's going to be alright."
Yep.  Simple does it.

If you go here, and share the "best mothering advice" post, $5 will be donated by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Johnson & Johnson to  one of four organizations supporting women and children around the globe.

Johan, LouLou, and I received belated birthday gifts yesterday via Mail Call.  (Don't even ask how Elias felt about this.) Including, a TWO POUND block ofMast Brother's Chocolate.  Bless. My. Soul. and Brooklyn.

A whiff.


Gorgeous.  From Brooklyn to Congo.  With love.

We also received this in navy and this in white.  Both highly recommended.  Though, my kid did just (while gently stroking my covered arm), say, "Mama, this is so strange.  I've never seen you wear long sleeves.  It's very beautiful."  I guess we've been in Africa for a lot of his little memory.

Image of Everlane Affordable Silk Shirt from andyheart.com

Johan used to work with kids in Seattle.  Usually unaccompanied minors who had crossed the U.S. border illegally and found themselves in that strange in-between land of not-old-enough-to-be-automatically-deported but also not quite welcome - some as young as 11.   This op-ed is a powerful defense of the rights of these children.  A must-read.

Image by Shannon Freshwater for the NYTimes.

And, a scene from my favorite "I'm practicing my French but really just looking at the amazing photos" blog:

Photo from Tous Les Jours Dimanche

Reading this right now and wondering how many French parenting books can be printed in a 12-month period.  But, still reading it.  Because the author is. hilarious. and my little one has been getting up at 5am and I'm wondering what the French would do about it...

Buy book here.

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