5 Fun Places To Go With Kids In Nairobi

So, it’s Saturday morning and your kids are already fidgety and whining that they’re “so booooored”. They’ve already had breakfast, watched a tv show, played on your tab, played on your phone and locked the sim (AGAIN), drawn all over your magazines and made you play a gazillion pretend games. And it’s only 9:52 AM. What to do????

I’ve been in this predicament with Ella many a time – Not been forward-thinking enough to plan an activity for the weekend and then before I know it BOOM. Saturday is here, we both have cabin fever and need to get out of the house ASAP.

I’m here to save you the work of Googling “fun things to do in Nairobi with children” next Saturday.

Here are some of the fun things to do with kids out and about Nairobi:

1. Animals. Come on people, This Is Africa! Home of Lion King! Timone and Pumba! Hakuna Matata! (I’m sorry). Seriously speaking though, Nairobi is an amazing city because you can experience the beauty of our wildlife without even leaving town. And what’s more, there are so many options to choose from: KWS Safari Walk, The Giraffe Center, Mamba Village, The Elephant Orphanage, Animal Orphanage, Maasai Ostrich Farm, and more! Going to see the animals is lots of fun for kids AND adults.

 

2. Picnic. There is something very fairytale-ish about picnics. Maybe that’s why children love them so much. Or maybe it’s just that they love eating off the floor and this adds some flair to it. Who knows? Point is, picnics are fun (and inexpensive!) ways to eat out on nice-weather days. At places like Karura Forest, Machakos People’s Park and Oloolua Nature Trail, you can throw in a pleasant, scenic walk on the trails with the little ones before settling down for your picnic. Tip: Remember what I said about the deficient attention span of kids? Yeah. Plan an activity to keep the kids busy after the picnic e.g. ball to kick around, bicycle, kite, etc.

 

3. Pamper. You know what’s awesome? Killing the proverbial two birds with one stone by turning a necessity into a luxury. Kids will inevitably need to get their hair done at some point, and when you find a kids’ haven like Sprout Kids Salon & Barbershop, you can turn this usually mundane activity into an exciting outing. Sprout is extremely child-friendly. It has a little library and play area full of books and toys; colorful, kid size furniture; hairdressers who are great with kids and pretty much everything that will make your little prince or princess feel pampered from start to finish. Ella’s favorite hair dresser at Sprout, Lydia, sometimes does this thing where she has Ella pick out a storybook and then reads it to her WHILE SHE PLAITS HER HAIR. The woman is a modern day miracle.

 

4. Splash. If your kid is a fish and loves water parks like mine, Splash Waterworld is the place to go. It has pools and slides for all ages and swimming levels. At this preschool age I’m not comfortable with Ella being in the water without me so this particular activity involves me getting into a swimsuit *gently puts down second cupcake* and joining in the fun myself. When I forget how I look in a swimsuit and avoid every mirror within a 3 mile radius, I actually have a blast at water parks. Self-conscious parents of the world, this is me encouraging you to JUST DO IT. You’ll feel like a kid again, and your kid will love you for it!

 

5. Time Out. OK. Let’s finish up with some honesty here. Sometimes you’re tired. You’ve been struggling all week with your bitch boss and all you want to do on Saturday is REST. Well, tough. YOU SHOULD HAVE THOUGHT ABOUT THAT BEFORE YOU DECIDED TO HAVE KIDS. Just kidding. I have my fair share of days like these and that’s when I go to places like Java (Valley Arcade), Jolly Roger Theme Park or any of the Spur Restaurants. There you can sit at a table with your glass of wine juice and relax while your kid runs up and down on the playground. Better yet, you can squeeze in a date at any of these places with that friend who you always say you’ll call but don’t. While the children play, you guys catch up. Everyone wins!

Posted in Fun Stuff, Kenyan Mum, Motherhood 101, My Life, Nairobi, Parenting in Kenya, Tips | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Restaurants & Restless Kids

I love to eat. Ella loves to eat. We love to eat together. We especially love to eat together when it’s outside of our home. I don’t know if I unknowingly passed on my restaurant love to my child or if God in his infinite wisdom blessed me with a child that appreciates different kinds of yummy food eaten in a variety of wonderful places. Either way, we love going out to eat together. Well…sort of.

It usually starts out great! First, the light bulb moment when we decide to go out for brunch/lunch/dinner/whatever. Then! The gleeful deliberation over where to go eat (so many glorious options!). Finally, the exciting trip to the chosen dining destination. Oh, the joy! The anticipation! Fun times!

There is just one problem though: Those long, excruciating minutes between restaurant arrival and food consumption. You see, children are impatient little things. The minute you sit down at the restaurant table they begin to fidget. And then the whining starts. They want their food NOW. Why is it taking so looooong? They are so hungryyyyyyy. When is the food comiiiiiiing? All this happens even before the waiter has taken your order. It’s terrible.

It is for this reason that my decision on which restaurant to go to is based solely on one factor: Can they keep my child entertained enough not to whine me to death before our food comes? CAN THEY? If no, bye (see you when I’m raising a teenager). If yes, please continue as there are some caveats.

I need the establishment to have more than one entertaining activity. Children have the attention spans of tropical fruit flies. Dear restaurant, please don’t come at me with just a paper and some crayons. This will keep her entertained for exactly 6 minutes. Will our food be here in 6 minutes? I think not. I need you to have a secondary activity that she can dive right into when we’re past the 6 minute mark.

Ella coloring during those 6 peaceful minutes.

Ella coloring during those 6 peaceful minutes.

 

My preference for secondary activities are those that involve the child actually leaving the restaurant table. A children’s play area, for example, fits in wonderfully here. Pulling the child away from the parental unit is key in reducing her urge to begin operation W.H.I.N.E. (And you really don’t want this..Despite the deficient attention span mentioned above, children demonstrate remarkable dedication and focus when it comes to whining).

But this is the thing, I’m a nervous mom. I can never fully relax when Ella is out of my sight. This fear is exacerbated by some of the restaurant play areas I see around. Oy vey! Why must the equipment be so rusty? So high off the ground? Why must the playground look like a treacherous, tetanus infested death trap? That nervousness is almost worse than the whining.

As you can probably tell from the neurosis displayed above, I only have a handful of favorite restaurants that meet my child friendly criteria. One of them is the Java at Valley Arcade – they have a nice play area which features well-maintained equipment as well as a Samsung Galaxy playground for added (electronic) entertainment. The others are the Spur restaurants – both the one in Westlands and the one at Eka Hotel have rust free INFLATABLE jungle gyms as well as Child Minders in the play areas. And! Both Java and Spur provide paper and crayons for those all-important initial 6 Minutes of Peace, yay!

Those are my favorite two restaurants for dining with a restless kid. Do you guys have any that you can recommend?

P.S. – I posted this past Wednesday after saying that I would be posting on Sundays from now on. Sigh. I’m such a fail. You can find that post here. (I should have known that I’m too random for schedule posts!)

 

Posted in Fun Stuff, Kenyan Mum, Motherhood 101, Nairobi, Parenting in Kenya, Restaurants | 2 Responses

She’s Not A Toddler Anymore

I’m so used to calling Ella a ‘toddler’ that it took a complete stranger to make me realize that I need to let that term go. The lady asked me how old Ella was and when I said 4 and a half, she laughed and said, “Oh! So she’s old!”.

First of all, lady, thanks for making me feel like I’m nearing retirement age by calling my child “old”. Secondly, I only stopped calling Ella a baby the other day. And that shift from baby to toddler was dramatic enough. Like, I’m not ready for this. But. I have no choice. Because now I’ll just end up sounding like those moms that say that their kid is 37 months old. No.

Ella is… a Preschooler.There, I said it.Preschool News

Preschool is generally accepted as the age group between 3 and 5 years old – the time in between starting nursery and joining Std. 1. This age is not discussed as much as it should be. Everybody talks about the horrors of teething babies. Mothers will complain about the terrible two’s of toddlerhood. Older folk will rant about rebellious teenagers. But nobody, NOBODY, warns you about the perplexing nature of preschoolers.

Preschoolers are crazy. There’s no point beating around the bush. They just make no damn sense! Their emotions only manifest in extremes: They are either so giggly and filled with joy that their cheeks could positively burst! OR they’re wailing while slumped on the floor because all hope is gone and they have lost the will to live. Extremes.

It’s almost as if God took the defining qualities of toddlers and teenagers, and combined them to create preschoolers.

You know how toddlers throw tantrums? Preschoolers have found a way to perfect the tantrum to make it more sustainable AND more annoying: They Whine. Whining is ten times worse than a tantrum because unlike the latter which only lasts a few minutes, a whine can be sustained for hours. HOURS. Preschoolers (diabolical as they are) have discovered that whining consumes less energy AND yields better results as parents capitulate due to sheer exhaustion.

Then. You know how teenagers are overly emotional? Preschoolers are not just overly emotional. They’re emotionally unstable and completely unreasonable. Whilst in the middle of an emotional meltdown they will not, under any circumstances, listen to reason. And meltdowns are part and parcel of the typical preschooler’s day.

Here is a recurring example of a typical Ella meltdown:

Ella: Mummy, please can I have some water.

Me: Sure honey. *hands her a cup of water carefully and instructs her to sit very still so as not to spill the water. Because I know EXACTLY what will happen if she spills her water*

Exactly two minutes later…

Ella, already in tears and in the early stages of meltdown: Mummyyyyyyyy, I poured water on my dreeeeeessssss. My dress is weeeeeeeeeet

Me: Don’t worry toto, it will dry

Ella: Nooooooooo. It wooooooooooon’t. It’s just weeeeeeet.

Me: Yes, Ella. It will

Her: NOOOOOOOOO!

At this point the wailing gets louder as she gives in to her own hysteria

Me: Ok, let’s take that dress off and you can put on anoth-

Ella: Nooooooo, I want to wear this dreeessssss. I want this ooooooooone.

This is the point I usually give up and let her wail it out. She usually wails and moans and gets over it all on her own (and honestly, sometimes it’s a bit funny when you put her utter despair in context) . But do you see what I’m saying about being unreasonable?! That’s a preschooler for you.

But all that being said, you know what? I’m enjoying this stage of motherhood more than any other since I started this journey ! This is the stage of such emotional and mental blossoming. The rapidly expanding vocabulary means they mix up words in the cutest ways: like how Ella says ‘repposed to’ instead of supposed to or ‘betil’ instead of until. Or how she begins to use new words almost immediately she learns them in any way she can; One time after watching an episode of Dora, a friend of hers made her mad and she angrily shouted at the little boy, “I’LL LASSO YOU!”As in, like a horse.

And then there’s the sweetness that flows out of them so naturally. The eagerness to be good little helpers, the twinkle in their eyes when you join in their little games, the out of the blue “I love you mommy”s…they fill your heart with so much love. Like, just yesterday Ella told me, “You’re my best mommy”. And my heart nearly exploded.

It’s definitely a bittersweet stage. And their sweetness is the absolute best thing in this world.

Now I just need other moms to come clean about the next stages. No more surprises!

 

Posted in Baby, Ella, Milestones | 2 Responses

Testing, testing…

Testing 1,2,3
Does this still work? Anybody still out here?

Tumbleweed

Wow. So much has happened since I jotted down my first post 5 years ago. And even more during my 2 year blogging hiatus after I moved back to Kenya.

Do I have a valid excuse for my blogging sabbatical? No. Have I missed you guys? YES. I’ll give you guys the deets on all these happenings in bits and pieces…some of it is quite heavy. Like the fact that I am no longer a housewife,or a wife for that matter (Yes. Yes, I know. A LOT has happened. All these stories will come. Eventually).

HOWEVER! In the meantime, allow me to bribe you with pics of Ella. Remember the little chubba-bub she was back then? OR the little horror she was here?

Well, look at her now. She’s practically a GROWN UP!

Ella at 4 years old! (I need to break down her personality to you guys in a whole other post. SHE. IS. A. CHARACTER)

Ella at 4 years old! (I need to break down her personality to you guys in a whole other post. SHE. IS. A. CHARACTER)

Should we make this a regular thing? Sunday posts? Should we?! See you next week!

Posted in Ella, Life Change, My Life | 17 Responses

Potty Time!

The first time I tried to potty train Ella was a few months ago, right before her 2nd birthday. I looked her straight in the eye and said, “Look kiddo, you are a grown ass woman. This diaper business ends today” And that was that. Well, not exactly, but that was the gist of the talk.

 

Then I went at it guns blazing, commando-style; I left her sans diaper for an entire day.

 

It. Was. A. Disaster. She peed everywhere, NONSTOP. Seriously, how much pee can the bladder of a 2-year-old hold? I’ll tell you, A LOT. I spent that whole day mopping up little puddles of pee around the house. I offered her reminders, begged her, bribed her and even threatened her, to no avail. She just peed at will, without an ounce of remorse. She wasn’t even trying.

 

After a few days spent cleaning up pee puddles around the house, I accepted that she just wasn’t ready and decided to try again in a few months.

 

Fast forward to the beginning of this year.  I made a few cautious attempts at getting her to use the potty and lo and behold! She took to it. And I’m thrilled…sort of.

 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m uber excited that we’ve reached this milestone. And super proud of my little girl for getting here. But OMG, is potty training a lot of work or what? Fact: Toddlers pee A LOT. I feel like I’m always taking her to the potty. And when I do, it’s never, EVER a calm affair. It usually goes something like this:

 

Me (noticing her shifting around awkwardly): Ella, do you need to go potty?

Ella: NO.

And then, 5 minutes later…

Ella: MOMMYYYY!!! NEED TO GO POTTY NOOOOW!!

 

Followed by a mad dash to the potty. Most of the time we make it but sometimes we don’t. When we don’t make it in time and she pees on herself, she cries HYSTERICALLY. I try to tell her that it’s ok but more often than not, she’s inconsolable. She is especially distraught if she happened to be wearing a “princess dress” (To Ella, any dress or skirt is a “princess dress”). She will NOT calm down until she is all cleaned up and wearing another “princess dress”. EXHAUSTING.

 

There is also the issue of peeing at inopportune moments. The pee monster could strike at ANYTIME. In a traffic jam, in the dead of the night, in the middle of a juicy Downton Abbey episode… ANY. TIME.

 

Here’s a question: Have you ever taken a toddler with you into a public restroom? IT. SUCKS. Here’s thing, toddlers are insane little curious things. They want to touch everything.

 

In a public restroom, a toddler’s brain is all like: “Oh, look! A roll of toilet paper! Does it float? Let me throw it in this here toilet and find out!” Or “Wow! What’s this brown interesting looking puddle on the restroom floor? Does it taste good? Hmm, let’s see!”

 

Meanwhile, mommy’s brain is going: “I. WILL. DIE. IF. SHE. TOUCHES. ANYTHING. This place is positively crawling with germs. Why didn’t I carry gloves?! I should buy her some gloves. Do they make little plastic gloves for kids? Like the ones on C.S.I? Well they should, because – NOOOO, HONEY DON’T TOUCH THAAAAT!!”

 

Aaaah, the joys of potty training.

 

Anyway, let me not complain. This is par for the course. Like Ella, I’m going to put on my big girl panties and soldier on.

 

Goodbye Pampers!

 

 

 

Posted in Ella, Milestones | Comments closed

Nairobi. Two months in.

Surprise, surprise… I didn’t post my update when I said I would. Sorry. Again. I feel like I’m always apologizing to you guys for one thing or another. OMG! Is this what husbands feel like?! LOL. Sucks to be them.

 

Can we just accept that I’m a mess? And have a standing forgive and forget policy? Great.

 

So, we’re still in Nairobi and still loving it. This relocation was long overdue. I’ve been homesick for the past 5 years. I mean, the U.S. is great and all but I missed my family WAY too much. And when Ella was born my homesickness went into overdrive. There’s something about having a child that makes you cherish your family roots even more.

 

I had missed having sisters to borrow shoes from, nephews and nieces to love on, parents to teach “the facebook” to, …I HAD MISSED EVERYTHING. And so, after being in the U.S. for 10 years (10! YEARS!) I finally left.

 

Ella seems really happy with the move. She gets to spend all day outside, playing with her cousin. Infact, I’ve had to get used to changing her clothes several times a day. Yes, she gets THAT dirty. It’s pretty awesome. She also gets to be loved on by her grandparents, aunties and uncles. And that’s pretty awesome too.

 

I hired a nanny (in preparation for when I start working) and she has quick become Ella’s best buddy. They bonded instantaneously. Ella’s nanny is actually the daughter of the lady who was MY nanny when I was a child. And she genuinely seems to enjoy playing with kids (see tweet below).

 

 

We still have a ways to go before we’re settled (finding work and a place to live being top priorities). But so far, so good.

Posted in Kenyan Mum, Life Change, Nairobi, Nanny, Parenting in Kenya | Comments closed

Happy New Year and Greetings from Nairobi!

Happy New Year and Greetings from Nairobi! Ok, I know it has been AGES since my last post and I totally understand if you think I suck at life for that …BUT! I have a good excuse! Well, sort of a good excuse…WE’VE PERMANENTLY RELOCATED TO NAIROBI! So you seeeeee, I’m not *that* bad.

My last couple of months in the U.S were spent hurriedly trying to pack my entire life into 5 measly suitcases. MY ENTIRE LIFE! It was so hard, you guys. (I hope my attempts at earning your sympathy/forgiveness are working. No? Read on.)

And then! My flight over here with Ella was ABSOLUTE HELL. (Ella and I had to go ahead of Dr. Science because his work schedule wouldn’t allow him to leave as early as we wanted to). FACT: An international flight with a 2 year old is a very effective form of torture, used somewhere in the world, I’m sure. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. At one point during the trip, about 10 hours in, I almost opened the emergency door of the plane and hurled myself out. It. Was. That. Bad.

To start with, Ella did not sleep a wink during the 2 day journey. Actually, CORRECTION, she slept for approximately 10 minutes at the very start of the first flight. I was lucky enough to catch this fleeting moment of peace…

Trying to keep a toddler under control during a long flight (let alone 2!) should be an Olympic sport. It didn’t help that she wasn’t interested in the in-flight entertainment. And there is no amount of storybook reading, coloring, singing or wine that can compensate for the decreased mobility of a toddler on a plane. Forget what you heard. It just sucks, for everyone involved.

To add to the general misery of the trip, I thought it clever to bring all of the following with us as hand luggage:

1. a stroller

2. a portable crib

3. an infant duvet

4. a large purse

5. a stuffed Elmo

6. a stuffed Big Bird

7. a Dora The Explorer backpack full of toys and diapers AND

8. a small suitcase

It was a DISASTER. On one of my layovers it took me 2 hours to reach my connecting gate because I had way too much to carry (DUH!) and a toddler who (after being cramped on the plane) just wanted to run wildly through the airport. DI-SAS-TER. I could go on and on about how generally nightmarish the trip was but I think you catch my drift. I WOULD TAKE SNAKES ON A PLANE OVER A TODDLER ON A PLANE ANYDAMNDAY. There. The end.

Anyway, thousands of miles and many tears (all mine) later, we arrived at our final destination: NAIROBI! And I am so, so, SO happy to be living here again!

*Oops… this relocation might seem very sudden and random, so I’ll fill you in on why we’ve left the U.S AND how we’re settling down in Nairobi next week!

Posted in Life Change, Nairobi, Relocation | Comments closed

Happy Halloween

Hurray for the change of seasons! Listen, I love the summer and all, but that heat? It was beginning to get to me. I had missed my fuzzy socks and knee-high boots and hot drinks from Starbucks. And unlike the Winter (which I detest with every fiber of my being), I find Fall to be quite pleasant and pretty.

Overkill with the winter jacket AND snow boots? Probably.

This past weekend we introduced Ella to Halloween. We figured that she’s old enough to enjoy the holiday’s festivities. BOY, WERE WE WRONG. First of all, let me put out this disclaimer: I never grew up celebrating Halloween and know precious little about this holiday. But then I thought, well, this might be our last Halloween in the U.S, so Ella should at least have some photos of herself “trick or treating” in costume.

COSTUME – this is where the disaster that was Halloween began. Many moms start planning their kids’ costumes months in advance. Many moms lovingly craft intricate, creative costumes from scratch. I am NOT one of those moms. I drove to the nearest store and bought the first thing I saw.

Unsurprisingly, I waited until one hour before we left for the “trick or treating” to see if the costume fit. It didn’t.

It’s too small. She knows it. She’s not impressed.

Despite the wardrobe malfunction, we pressed on with the festivities. When we arrived at the venue, the “trick or treating” was in full swing and the place was packed with kids. Kids in costumes.  And masks. Lots of masks. It was at this point that we discovered that Ella is TERRIFIED of masks. And, every single over-achieving mother in this doggone town decided that no child’s costume was complete without a mask. It was a tear-filled disaster. We lasted about 30 minutes before scooping up our scared toddler and heading back home.

It wasn’t all bad though. We got a decent amount of candy. I should say *I* got a decent amount of candy because Ella isn’t old enough to recognize candy for what it is (life is not fair, is it?). I couldn’t wait for her to go to bed so I could dig in. BUT THEN (!) she decided that she loved her bucket (BUCKET!) so much that she wanted to sleep with it. WITH ALL THE CANDY STILL INSIDE.

I had to wait until she fell asleep and then creep into her room like a common criminal and steal rescue the bucket from her death grip. Seriously. I had to pry her miniature fingers off the handle one by one. I was successful though and made away with the loot.

Aaaaah. Not bad for 30 minutes.

All in all, let’s just say that it was an experience. Photos were taken, tears were shed and memories were made.

Oh! Before I forget! It wouldn’t be Halloween without a pumpkin and Dr. Science carved one up. Surprise, surprise, it was science themed. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you “H1N1″.

 

 

Posted in Ella, Holiday | Comments closed

On the Farm

Ella is fearless when it comes to animals. Also? I think she was a farmer in a previous life. We took her to see some farm animals this summer and I’m pretty sure that given a choice, she would have chosen to live with them permanently.

"Niiiiiiice goat. Gooood goat"

 

She also took it upon herself to offer some free pet grooming to EVERY animal in sight.

"BEST. DAY. EVER!"

 

"These pigs? They don't smell too good."

 

Good times.

Posted in Ella, Trip | Comments closed

“Hell called. It wants its weather back.”

The heat this summer has been nothing short of hellish. What other word would you use to describe 42°C heat? HELL-ISH I tell you.

I hate to keep Ella cooped up in the house all day long, so we fill up the water bottles, lather on the sunscreen and brave the heat…at least for a while.

It usually starts out superbly: we’re thrilled to be outside … chomping on watermelon, communing with nature and whatnot.

Happy happy, joy joy!

 

Every so often, we’ll turn on the hose in a last-ditch effort to revive the deteriorating lawn. Our region is in the middle of the worst drought in decades. Our lawn has not been spared. It has been scorched to the point of no return. The other day I thought I saw a cactus growing in the corner. All we can do now is pray…

A prayer for our dearly departed lawn

 

After a couple of hours we’re usually boiling hot, dripping with sweat and ready to go indoors. You know the heat is unbearable when your toddler walks up to you and says, “All done outside!” and then starts chanting, “House, house!”

Oh, summer!  Why do you punish us so?!

Posted in Daily Routine, Ella | Comments closed
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