Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Dylan, the Recovering Binkie-aholic

Dad, comforting Dylan by napping in the room (and risking getting malaria).
Dylan kicked Wilbur, the pig, out of his bed.

Dylan is a recovering binky-aholic. Here is his story.

About 100 days ago, on Christmas Eve, Dylan got into his pajamas and crawled under his covers. He had visions of sugar plums dancing in his head. He knew Santa would come if he fell asleep, so he kissed Mum and Dad good night, said ‘bonne nuit’ to Laird, and then…. for the last time in his life…. put his binky in his mouth.

What followed was a sound sleep, and a tearful 5 am start to Christmas Day, when he realised that Santa – that hulking, bearded man in the red suit – had taken away all of his binkies.

Every morning, around 5 am, Dylan often stirs as the Call to Prayer echoes throughout our neighborhood.  On this particular Christmas morning, Dylan stirred and looked for his beloved binkie to lull him back to sleep.  Mom and Dad were very strict about his beloved binkie; he was only allowed to use the pacifier at nap-time and bed-time in his bed.

'Biiiiiiiiiiinnnnkkkkiiiieeeeeee', we heard on the monitor.  Mom ran in quickly and consoled him.  Dylan was trying to be so brave and not cry as we reminded him of why Santa had taken his binkies.

The story we told was that Santa needed to redistribute the binkies to babies all around the world, and that, in exchange, he left behind a beautiful baby pig for Dylan to hug in his bed. (Laird, who had given up his binkies willingly a year-and-a-half earlier, got a fuzzy rabbit for supporting Dylan in this trying time.)  We thought it was a lovely way to embrace the season of giving.

At 5 am, Mom and Dad consoled Dylan repeatedly.  His lip quivered and his eyes were full of tears that he refused to let fall.  He was trying to be strong but he was in such pain inside.

'Dylan', Mom whispered, 'it's okay to cry if you feel sad.  Let it out my angel.'  As soon as Mom said that, Dylan let the tears free.  He sobbed for a good 15 minutes while laying on Mama's chest.  Mom and Dad too, shed tears along with him, as we both second guessed our decision to take his binkies away.

Dylan loved his pig, but he had trouble grasping the fact that his binkies were gone forever. It seemed so final. He also loved Santa, but had trouble understanding why he would take all his binkies and make him feel bad.

“Santa gives us presents at Christmas when we are good, but he also teaches us how to give. Your binkies are making millions of babies happy, all around the world,” Mum and Dad reminded Dylan.

It all hit home again at nap time. Dylan crawled under his covers. He hugged his pig, but had no binky. His face was the picture of sadness, but he held it together. He looked at Dad and said, “I want to give back the pig to Santa and have my binkies,” his voice cracking, the corners of his mouth turning down. His chin quivered.

Dad felt like his heart was being crushed. “It will be okay, Dylan. Your pig will take care of you. Your binkies are gone, but they are making babies happy, all around the world.” Dylan rolled over and then quietly, unable to hold it back, started to cry.

This was the low point. Dad napped in the room on the floor with Laird and Dylan, which made Dylan feel a little bit better. He eventually fell asleep. Mum and Dad worried that night that they had made a mistake – that they had ruined Dylan’s image of Santa and scarred him for life. Maybe they should have waited another month. And what’s the big problem with binkies anyway, if they make your child happy?

But the next day, it was less painful, and by New Year's, just 6 days and nights later, Dylan had stopped asking about his binkies. He still loved Santa, and he loved his pig. And hopefully, he seemed to feel good that millions of babies were happy, all over the world. More and more, Dylan seems to enjoy giving things to people, like rocks, or tiny pieces of his food.

A few days ago, while hanging out on the beach, Dylan asked Mum “What’s that thing, Momma?” He was pointing at a binky, planted firmly in the mouth of a little girl.

Monday, April 8, 2013

First Professional Haircuts

Jet-lagged Laird arrived at the salon in a deep sleep.
At 3 1/2 years old, Laird and Dylan got their first 'professional' haircuts.  For the past few years, Mom, who was self taught with youtube videos, always cut their hair.  Dakar does not have many hairsalons that specialize in cutting 'toubab' hair, not to mention a child-friendly place.

If you know Laird and Dylan at all, then you know they are very active and always on the go.  Cutting their hair often meant chasing them with scissors around the house.  Even the special treat of watching TV wouldn't keep them still.  (Mom admits trimming their hair while they slept.)

As you can imagine, Mom's skills were...well...lacking.  Their cuts looked fantastic in hot and humid Africa as their hair curled beautifully.  But during a recent visit to the cold and dry Northeast, Laird and Dylan's hair flattened out, and exhibited Mom's not so successful haircutting skills.  One word....mullet.

During that visit home, Laird and Dylan received their first haircuts at Envy hair salon in Portland.  Unlike their haircutting activity with Mom, they sat perfectly still for Yvonne who clearly had the magic touch.  In fact, they took quite a liking to her, as they asked if Yvonne could cut their hair again for several weeks after the cut.

Brave Dylan, had his haircut first while enjoying Sesame Street as Laird slept.


Jetlagged and Exhausted

When we fly South African Airways, we leave Dakar at midnight to head to the airport after only a few hours of sleep.  We wait 2 hours, then have a 8-9 hour flight to DC.  After going thru customs and getting to our next gate, it is usually around 730 am, or 1230 pm our time.  It has already been a 12 hour long day with little sleep, yet we have a 10 hour layover in DC until our 2 hour flight to Portland!

When you travel like this, you become desperate for even a few minutes of sleep, especially if you are travelling with 2 very active 3-year olds.  After we have breakfast, or in Kelly's case, her beloved buffalo wings and a local microbrew, we roam the airport for awhile, tiring the boys out and find a quiet nook to sleep for a few hours.  Absolute desperation, indeed.

Mom and Laird
Dylan, who fell running on the tarmac.

Sweet and Rare

With 2 busy toddlers that stopped napping midday months ago, moments like these are precious.

Snuggle Feet.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Kelly the Market Woman

On the stairs at the main entrance.
When Gustave Eiffel designed Dakar’s ornate Marche Kermel in the mid 1800s, he probably never imagined that, more than 150 years later, a beautiful young lady from Maine would make it her No. 1 grocery shopping venue.

Surrounded by traffic-jammed alleyways and child beggars packed with hawkers that speak little French behind rows of vegetable, fruit, fish and meat stalls, the lofty circular building in the centre of Dakar’s buzzing downtown area would intimidate most expats.

But not Kelly.

She arrives nearly every week, often wearing a brightly coloured African shirt, and always carrying her huge grass woven basket to fill with whatever’s in season.  

“Salamu Aleikum,” Kelly says – Arabic for God be with you – as she crosses beneath the high arching threshold and into the melee.  “Nangadef?” she adds – Wolof for how are you? Responses flood back from the market workers who, after three and a half years, now know Kelly well and seem to admire her.

“Ana wa keur?” they say – How is the family? “Et les jumeaux?” they say – How are the twins?Three languages so far, none of them English, and Kelly is in her element – a South Portlander in Senegal’s oldest and most storied urban markets.  Built in 1860 during the French colonial period, Kermel burnt to the ground in 1993. It considered such an important landmark – mingling colonial history, gorgeous architecture, and local color, - that it was rebuilt in 1997 in strict adherence to its initial structure and decoration.

On special weeks, Laird and Dylan accompany Kelly to the market. They tromp through puddles in their firemen and frog boots, often receiving many gifts from vendors. Laird and Dylan - who are called 'Ouseinou' and 'Assane' in Senegal according to the tradition that governs the naming of twins - are admired and adored. Like all twins, they are considered a special Gift from God. Senegalese believe that if a mother has three sets of twins, she wins a free pass to heaven when she dies. Just 2 more sets to go! Strangers tend to stop Laird and Dylan in the market, shake their hands, and touch their own hearts. After the greeting, they put a gift of fruit in their hands. Laird and Dylan leave the market with bellies full of tangerines, clementines, apples, and bananas.

In her early days in Kermel, Kelly had to haggle. In Senegal, negotiation is a method of getting to know someone. A person who caves easily has a weak character, and can expect to get little respect. One who can remain polite while whittling down the price with reasonable counter-offers and arguments, sprinkled with kind words of respect, is warmly appreciated. Kelly inherited a mastery for winning bargains – probably from her father – and has earned a record of halving prices almost effortlessly. (She once got a high-five from a street vendor who sold her a bag slightly over cost after four days of on-and-off discussions).

Now, though, the haggling is not required. Kelly is loved at Kermel and gets the local price for anything she wants, although she always leaves a 'cadeux' in their hand.



Kelly in action.

Enjoying a gift of oranges.

Fresh fish, caught this morning.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Go Habs Go!

Go Habs Go!
Laird and Dylan had a special Sunday date with Dad, as Mom needed to stay home and work on report cards.

Here they are, sporting their Canadian Hockey shirts in celebration of their newly awarded citizenship  at the African Renassaince Monument.

After the trek, they enjoyed crepes for lunch at their favorite seaside creperie, and ended the day at Abdou's Cabane du Surfeur.

Dylan braving the 30 knot winds at the top of the monument, while also sporting his new hairdo.

Abdou and the boys.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

O Canada!

It's official: Richard received a phone call at his office today from the Canadian embassy granting Laird and Dylan dual citizenship from Canada.

It certainly wasn't easy getting this paperwork processed from Africa (and to be honest, it was quite pricey).  But Dad was patient, eager, and excited to get the boys their citizenship as this would open up many more doors for our bilingual darlings.

Dad is picking up the official documents tomorrow, along with 2 Canadian passport applications.

O Canada!
                                                             Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.
With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!
From far and wide,
O Canada, 
we stand on guard for thee.
God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, 
we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, 
we stand on guard for thee.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Bon Hiver Quebec City

The Valdmanis Family
What began 10 years ago as a romantic Valentine's Day getaway, has turned into a dream come true family vacation.

A decade ago, Richard and I escaped on Valentine's Day to Quebec City in the dead of winter.  Little did we know at the time, this special weekend would be the beginning of an annual trip, which would eventually be shared with our angels - 'nos fleurs d'amour' - Laird and Dylan.  Our romantic February 14th getaway, just so happened to coincide with Quebec City's Winter Carnival - a glorious celebration of winter.

This was our 7th trip to the historic city, as living in Africa and abiding by a teacher's calendar year vacation schedule made it impossible to go during the last 3 years.

We stayed at our usual hotel, this time upgrading to a perfect suite to accommodate our family size.  We enjoyed the below zero temperatures for hours and hours...skating, sledding, and simply walking around the historic city.  We enjoyed hot chocolate to warm up, Kilkenney at our favorite pubs, and warming up at the outdoor fire at the ice bar.

Laird and Dylan blasted their Winter Carnival Trumpets throughout the village, and even slept with their beloved new instruments after promising to not blow the horn indoors.  (See pic below).

It wasn't like the old trips. It was better. It was a reminder of the romance that brought Richard and I together, and a celebration of the little miracles - Laird, Dylan, our family - that our love created.

Dylan and Laird, having a giggle on the ice rink.

Rico and Suave, at the Montreal Queen Elizabeth Hotel.

Sweet Dylan and his pursed lip.  (He does this when he's happy, and it makes my heart melt every time.)

Dadda and his dream come true.

We found the Bonhomme  d'hiver at the Chateau Frontenac! 

King Laird and King Dylan blowing the trumpets at the Ice Bar!

Warming up by the fire.

Dylan, fast asleep, with his new trumpet.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

We hope this makes you smile Dadda!

We missed Dadda terribly while he was covering the war in Mali. 
This was a fun pic taken to make Dadda smile while he was away.  

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Nursemaid's Elbow, or Radial Head Subluxation

If you are a parent or caregiver, or a medical wizard, you have probably heard of this condition: Nursemaid's Elbow.  Nursmaid's elbow is a dislocation of the elbow joint caused by a sudden pull on the extended pronated arm, such as by an adult tugging on an uncooperative child or by swinging the child by the arms during play. 

Nursemaid's Elbow generally occurs between the ages of 1 and 3 years, although it can happen anytime between 6 months of age and 7 years. After age 3, children's joints and ligaments gradually grow stronger, making radial head subluxation less likely to occur.

And sure enough, it happened to Laird.  I gently put him down, as I was 'piggy backing him', his arm extended, and I heard a quiet 'pop' in his arm.
From that point on, he was unable to us his arm and in pain.  

At first I assumed it was a dislocated shoulder.  But after researching the symptoms, this diagnosis did not match up.

I came across Nursemaid's Elbow, and without a doubt, knew that this was what happened to Laird.  I was 100% sure.

I called SOS medical service, in my best French, and explained the problem.  He was in utter pain, and despite me begging for them to come as soon as possible, the soonest they could arrive would be minimum 1 1/2 hours.

Poor Laird was uncomfortable, in pain, and it was well past his bedtime.  I knew that 1 1/2 hours would feel like 100 days to my darling, and Mama Bear needed to step into action. 

I researched how to treat the dislocated elbow.  I watched 2 youtube videos over and over.  At least 20 times each.  I poured a glass of wine, drank it, and popped Laird's elbow back into place.
Unlike a dislocated shoulder joint, Nursemaid's elbow is quite simple to re-place and does not use force.  Straighten arm, pronate left or right, and gently bend all the way to the shoulder while squeezing elbow.  

It worked like a charm.  The 'pop' was loud and happened on the first try.  Laird, as I prepared myself for, was in absolute pain for 15 seconds, and then it was over.  He bent his arm, looked at mama with tears streaming down his face and whispered, 'Mama fixed it'.  He was asleep in bed within 2 minutes.  It was a textbook procedure. 

I sat in shock about what I had just done.  Mama Bear doesn't mess around.
I was beyond proud.  I was beaming. 

The next morning, he apparently forgot about me popping it back into place, as he excitedly arrived at my bedside at 5 am yelling, 'My arm is all better mama.  My good sleep fixed it!'  

Lucky him, he doesn't remember me popping it back into place.  I, however, will never forget it.