Bei ya Gari imepanda sana!

The exchange season is now open!

If I got a thousand bob every time I heard this statement, I would own an island and refuse entry to all humans, save the ones I bear!

So it is that time of year when conversations about the cost of bus tickets rocketing and causing failure to return to work stations are had. Given that the festive season is an annual occurrence, and so is the hiking of bus tickets, I get mildly irritated when these girls get surprised that the return ticket will not cost the same as the one going to their rural homes.

So this was my civil conversation five days ago.

Surprised Girl (SG): Nilikuwa nataka kukujulisha, bei ya gari imepanda sana sitaweza kurudi kesho. ( I wanted to let you know that the bus tickets have increased far too much, and I will therefore not be able to resume work tomorrow)

Me: Sawa sawa ( Okay)

SG: Lakini ningoge tuu, nitarudi hii mwaka ( but do wait for me, I will return this year)

Me: Sawa sawa ( Okay)

SG: Sijui nikwanini wanapandisha bei hivyo, numeshangaa sana.

( I do not know why they hike the prices so much, I am really surprised! )

Me:  (facepalm! ) Usijali, itashuka tu. Kwaheri.( Do not worry, it will come back down. Good bye)

I head back to the bureau where I got SG and request for the same profile : A mature lady with at least 6 years’ experience working in a home with children.

The lady owner of the Bureau talks up the lady she is about to bring out, and says that she previously worked for a bi racial couple in Kileleshua who recently relocated to the UK. She will be perfect for me because she is honest and very patient with children.

She goes to fetch the said lady…

Only for SG to appear, and turn white as a sheet at the sight of me.

Yes people…the exchange season is now open!

Happy Holidays!

Make Mary… I meant Merry!

I feel the need to say that what I really want for Christmas is world peace, and to set the clock back in time so Steve Harvey has more time to read the poorly written card properly. Buuuut, as I said I am not the MD of the world and I will let what is simply be.

This however does not stop me from sending positive vibes into the universe, and prance around with an elevated sense of expectation.

What I really want is this pair of shoes, in this colour, any-time between now and May 8th. The size is 7.5M.

christianlouboutin-hotchick

I know Santa and all his helpers are literate…. lets go to work people!

And also,

Happiest holidays to you and yours.

XOXO!

Where Whiter is brighter…

Colours of Benetton come to life…

I know for sure that without drive or inspiration, your aspirations will come to naught.
I also know that self-actualization is a very important part of life’s progression. Some people actualize earlier than others, some die without getting there, others force issues.
It is the latter group that I address.
I have always thought myself smarter than the average, I do not find myself swayed by advertisements (I’ll give you shoe adverts) or images forced down everyone’s throat. However, there are those who wish to revisit the already broken mould that was used to shape and present them in the form they were born.
Dear bleachers, it is you that I speak of.
I have accepted but yet to move on with your acquired skin tone. The ones with a success rate of less than 30% have shocked me to my naturally brown core.
The other day, I received a guest who had in tow a phenomenon. My guest, a strapping young lad, has rendered love an emotion that dulls the senses, either that or he is colour blind. The woman in his company was a full representation of my entire day.
How do I mean?
Well, her face was truly beautiful. I am refereeing to her bone structure and not skin color. Her skin reminded me of the orange rays that pierce the clouds as the sun kisses the skies with plenty of tongue. The beautiful rays remind you of sweet ripe oranges, which will be poured into your glass along with eggs, served sunny side up. Orange, the shade of leaves in autumn, and a favoured theme colour for many weddings. But not with this one, her face was a scary shade of whorange.
Her arms, my oh my! Her arms were still evolving. They reminded me of dusk, when the sun is playing hide and go seek with approaching darkness. When tones are dark one minute, and then bright the next as shadows shift and the sun loses its battle. Her arms also reminded me of a childhood quilt. My quilt was bought a beautiful brown, that kind of brown that reminded you of fertility. Fertile earth that bought forth harvest, and that felt cool and welcoming to bare feet. But years of Omo with extra power foam, power foam plus and new packaging left my quilt a tired undecided shade of brown. It even had spots of blonde, some mocha, others deep, but altogether not a welcoming sight. Yes, her arms were like my old quilt. Deep brown here, blonde there, a giraffe that ended at her pits.
Her legs scared my appetite away, and this not even illness does. Her legs were the color of midnight. That type of deep dark midnight that causes blackouts. I thought she was wearing dark panty hose, only to be met by stencilled toe nails. She was that darkness that scares demons, as in if they could they would use a flash light, or take the night off because it is NEVER that serious. Black, complete black, I wondered what part of this Republic she came from, if she hailed from here at all.
How does one person hold three times of day? Is she a secret manual to men? Start in the darkness, but do not linger, then work your way towards the light? I do not understand this, I really don’t.
I gather that light skinned or people with fairer complexion have been portrayed as more attractive or desirable, but what most people forget is majority were born this way.
So, if you must self-actualize, because your inspiration was plastered on your wall since you were 10; and you have aspired to lighten until now. Please adjust your wardrobe accordingly. Do not display your hands, because your knuckles have shadows that look like coal mines. Long sleeves and pants will be your portion, display the united colours of Benetton only under florescent lighting, there is no need to be a single clown party.

leg oooh 1

LEGO

I can’t finish my thoughts…

I have been avoiding this.

My success lasted for about three hours, then all my clever distractions and bribes  lost their shiny essences, my first has just called me out, he has caught on to the fact that I do not want to play with LEGO’s. I am smack in the middle of a new episode of Chopped, I hope the bitchy caterer gets eliminated, how dare she refuse to share garlic? Evil woman!

“Mama, mamaaaaaaa! Come we play.”

Sigh! I may as well play with him, before my second wakes up and cries over being denied the pleasure of eating all the pieces.

A box of Lego’s is retrieved; today we shall build two choppers, complete with a pilot and co-pilot, and blades that look real enough to lift my weight.

I need some incentive. I leave my first clearing the table ready for building. I head to my secret cabinet and retrieve some honey from Tennessee, yaaaassssss! I am sure its 1700hrs somewhere on earth, I pour me two fingers of the golden liquid, I take a whiff and my hand goes ahead and pours me an extra finger. Another whiff, and a little taste to warm up the taste buds.

Joy!

Throw in two ice cubes, take a sip, hold it in my mouth and pick up the beautiful notes. I swear I will dub on some of this to my next meeting, it smells sweater than Vera Wang. I wonder if I can start a home brewery… mmmmmmh, but do I have the patience to brew anything that takes longer than two cups of tea? Maybe a wine cellar in the ba…

“Mamaaaaaaaaaa!”

I walk back to the dining room to find the table littered with about a thousand miniscule multi coloured pieces of what is to be two choppers. My first is sitting there with a sheepish look on his face, a smile revealing his missing teeth that form an odd triangle.

“Sorry… they fell out by themselves” says my first, boys will be boys.

I take my seat and we start working on what I hope is the base of the Heli something.

A sip is savoured as I battle to fit in the tiny pieces together.

“Mama, why do they make these so small? My fingers can’t make it! The box says it is for my age, but I doubt it, this cannot be for child’s play.”

I have to agree with him, the pieces are far too many and require a robot to assemble.

Another sip, the chink of the cubes against the glass remind me of a time well spent by the ocean. How I miss the beach, golden sands and warm salty water, and the smell of the ocean, the beautiful smell of warmth and aphrodisiacs, I really should buy into a time share at Dia…

“Mamaaaaaaa! Look, look!”

My first has finished assembling something, I cannot tell what it is but I cheer wildly and encourage him to show me how it works. Turns out it’s a dinosaur, and it’s going to destroy the city because the people destroyed the forest where the dinosaur and his family used to live. I quickly help assemble a city and we proceed to build and crush and build and crush.

We attempt to build the second aircraft, but fail to find a red part that goes into the base. So I teach my first the word improvise, and how improvising will be a daily occurrence if this country continues in its course.

He gives me a puzzled look, and requests that I explain.

A sip is taken. I clink the ice, and decide against introducing the evils of politics to my Dinasour building young. Instead I ask what he would like for dinner. My innards are warm, a delightful buzz occupies the section where my brain should be. My thoughts if any have slowed to any acceptable pace, I wonder who decided to name the brain brain, mmmmmmh! I actually think that the brain named itself… tee hee hee!

“Mamaaaaaaaa! Guess who has woken up.”

Oh dear, that must be the world’s shortest nap. I have my first tidy up, as I attend to his now screaming sibling.

What did he say he wanted for dinner?

Eve, why I blame her!

Introducing the original Momo.

I have got a million problems, and Eve is one of them.

Why?

She started in me a bad habit, which happens to be more pronounced in my kind of women than others .

Let me explain.

The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too. Genesis 3:6

Therein lies the genesis of my problem… She ate!

I do not know what kind of fruit that was. Maybe back then, because it was Eden, fruit smelled like freshly baked cinnamon cupcakes about to be drenched in vanilla frosting. Or perhaps the fruit tasted like carbs.

I can see how resisting a giant grape, that you know too well tastes like perfectly crisp salted French fries, at 0300 hrs after imbibing industrial amounts of alcohol from Westy can be a challenge. Yes, I know how the battle against a hyperactive sense of smell and watering taste buds is lost at the sight of juicy eats that are forbidden, is it just me or do all forbidden foods look brighter and smell better when on diet?

I cannot count the number of times I cheated on Atkins especially when near the end like on day 12, because my mother broke out the heaviest wok and worked her magic on the demon infested wheat flour to produce those perfectly sized chapattis that I swear melt in your mouth. I do not know where tea appears from, but before I know it, its four cups and two chapattis later and I am regretting but still chewing on a chapo as I ponder my next move.

How I desperately try to mind my own business, making a bee line to my car from a meeting only to be assaulted by the delicious smell from that horribly located Kenchic. I am led by my nose like Salmon on bait to the counter, where the intense aroma slaps the mint from my mouth and replaces it with greasy chicken and fries “zakuonjesha”.

Yes, I know what it’s like to pack a dressing free salad to work, on the day that the boss decides to order pizza for the team, Something meaty becomes something you want to murder. My one bite turns into two slices washed down with Coke Zero, because the calories must be kept to a minimum.

The battle with food is an everlasting one. One that would not have happened if Eve had known some choice words that would have kept he who slithers at bay. Perhaps if Adam had opted to be extra romantic at that hour, and held her hand the entire time, she would not have been available to be tempted, but that is a story for another day.

Eve, I have beef with you… pun intended!

A Nanny cheat sheet…

You are not the Managing Director of the earth.

I feel that I have over the years gathered enough experience and dealt with enough drama to write a book. But, I find that it will be more beneficial if I shared the highlights of my experience with nannies, I could save someone time in jail.

I must be on nanny number 350,  stopped counting after hiring the 70th one and after experiencing tunnel vision.  They all looked and behaved the same, I can barely remember which one I had the week before last. However, they have left me scared; I will not soon forget my shock and sheer horror at the things that I have found. If you remember my sentiments on Parenting 000, then this is simply a continuation of where I left off.

There is nothing I find more difficult than relying on someone. I am the kind of person who goes ahead and does, because procrastination grinds away at my nerves, and actions are more attractive than words that do not bear fruit. My tendencies have therefore left me depleted, very very depleted. I had not realised what the problem was, I became irritable, more snappish than usual (wipe the grin off your face, I know I snap sometimes … tee hee hee), and constantly tired.  And then it occurred to me, I was cracking! Just so you know, it is completely normal to feel overwhelmed and want to run out of your house clapping two sufurias and screaming like a banshee. There are times I have looked at my house and wanted to collapse in a heap and wail for all I am worth, and not out of joy. It is okay to feel defeated, to feel as if you are chocking, being lifted off the ground by a force that has you by your neck and is slowly coiling its cold fingers around your chest like a Boa, leaving you weak and tired and without the will to be cheerful. It is okay to call for back up, because super woman is a fictional character and you CAN NOT operate at 100% all the time. It is exhausting to be everything to everyone, to manage your boss, to service clients, to deal with traffic, to run your home, to keep fit, and be a student, please your husband, be a mother, a good neighbour and a friend, and the ever cheerful Christian.  Do all this in heels, a fitting pencil skirt and a blouse that does not bear sweat stains.

Heaven knows I tried, but bowed out of the race, because fault lines begun to appear and monsters are not cute even at Disney.

People, and more so ladies, please stop. Just stop. Pull over and take a breather. YOU ARE NOT THE MANAGING DIRECTOR OF THE EARTH. A lot may revolve around you, but you will crack if you do not take care of yourself. And what good will you be dead?

Do I have a solution? Yes, delegate! Delegate what you can not handle on that day or that period. As it happens, we do not all have family close by, so we heavily rely of nannies. I can not stress how relevant these ladies are to us, but we all know that some are devils capable of the most odious of crimes. Judge me if you must, take out what you will, share with your pals or add on information that will help somebody. All I know is, if someone had told me this earlier, I would have saved my self a lot of trouble.  

Trust your gut.

If you ever feel even the slightest discomfort with a situation or your nanny, please step back and assess the problem. I have more than once ignored my gut, and come to regret it later. I once hired a nanny who stayed with me through my entire maternity leave and for the first month after I resumed active duty. She was a quick study, worked well and I could not find any fault with her. She was under my circumstances then, perfect, she even refused to take her weekly  day off saying she was new in Nairobi and did not know anyone or where to go. But my gut would not let me be.

Then items in my house would vanish. Completely vanish. My clothes, jewellery, food stuff, you name it, it grew legs and walked away from the house. I once searched her stuff thinking she had them, but found nothing. I looked everywhere in my house, and they were nowhere to be found. Since she never left the house, I figured she was not the culprit.

I could not have been more wrong.

She requested for a week off to go see her daughter, I more than obliged. She left the next day, early in the morning, having hired a truck the day before and shipped half my home to a house she was renting near Limuru.

Conclusion.

If I was not forever tired from being super woman, I would have noticed my house was slightly empty. If I had trusted my gut, I would have fired her way before. Do not ignore your gut feeling, ever!

Listen to your children.

When kids approach the age of three, they talk a lot. They also start telling fibs, some are cute, others are straight up ridiculous. Most are a rendition of their favourite cartoons, which if you watch together, you will be able to recognize and handle accordingly.

So my son would constantly tell me he did not like a certain nanny. I would ask why, he would say he just did not, or tell me stories or dragons that ate children. I told him dragons did not eat children, and went ahead to clock channels that might be airing such cartoons. One weekend, I shipped my son and his nanny to my mums. My son was at the time coming out of using night time diapers, so we had dry days and wet days, without a particular pattern. It turned out that the said nanny, out of irritation of washing bed sheets and having to put the beddings out to dry would tell my son that a big red eyed snake will eat him if he continued to wet his bed.

To her, this was no biggie because that is what her culture did to stop bed wetting. My son on the other hand was petrified, and ended up wetting his bed more than he normally did. It took many months of searching the room for a snake and waiting for him to fall asleep before things got back to normal. She was fired after failing to understand that fear is not a good motivator for children.

Conclusion.

Children will raise red flags when something is wrong. As adults, we will disnmiss it or make the situation worse by telling the kids to stop the nonsense, or unknowingly empowering the person who is the source of the problem. If talking to our children is not helping, try changing the environment or having someone else do the asking for you.

Interviews.

Because of the high turnover and the fear of helps from bureaus , I ended up having various women arrive at my house from various people who referred them to me as good workers who worked well with children. So, I never really interviewed, we usually just started a working relationship. However, I remember one lady I hired this year as part of those who came recommended. She arrived at my door step  at 2030hours, and sashayed in like she was the lady of the house and I was a trump (the fact that I had on a head scarf, a branded tee, dirty sweat pants did nothing to salvage the situation). She kicked off her shoes and sat at the dining table, asked for a glass of water and crossed her legs.

Again, my gut did back flips, blew a vuvuzela and waved red flags but because I was desperate I ignored.

I gave her the glass of water and she sipped it as if chilled wine.

I decided to ask her the basics.

Do you have an ID card?

Where are you from?

How old are you?

Do you have children and  where are they?

Have you worked with children before?

All of which she answered, but not with much detail.

I showed her to her room, asked her to freshen up before dinner.

When she returned, I asked her another of “my getting to know you” type question, she looked at me with a creased forehead and a sneer on her lips and snorted something in her vernacular language, which she declined to explain. The next day at ten, she called me while at work and declared she had no desire to be employed.

Conclusion.

Find a way to interview the person you are about to hire, even if it is on phone before arrival. If you have the opportunity to have a face to face interview, try her patience as much as you can, if she folds, she will not be patient with your children or with you for that matter.

Check her bags.

Up until recently, I only checked bags when the ladies were leaving my employ. And this is where I suffered the mother of all shocks. These bags hold a lot of secrets, and will reveal information she may have misrepresented. Let me explain.

You will not identify a kleptomaniac by how they look or how they speak, you will sadly discover far too late that you were living with one. Every 5th lady I have hired has stolen from me, and I usually discover this as I check them at the exit interview, and most times long after they have gone. Some even have the audacity to argue with me, declaring that my size 7.5 shoes, hidden at the bottom of her suitcase fit her size 9 feet. And how a size 10 woman is trying to explain how my size 16 pants are hers, and that she came to my house with them.

There is also the sticky issue of HIV status. I have come to realize that stigma is not really with those whom are affected, but with those who are infected. These ladies, even when you ask do not always tell the truth. I realize that it is not my place to force someone to be tested, but it is my right to know what risks I need to deal with. I have heard more than my fair share of stories of how children are abused and therefore infected with the virus by malicious nannies, and I cannot for the life of me get over it.

I have come to discover that I have unknowingly hired infected women when I find bags upon bags of anti-retroviral drugs, and the most I get out of them upon discovery is silence.

I have lived with HIV positive people, and believe me when I say transmission does not come from sharing the same space with them. You however will be facing a different challenge when you have infants who do not know how to talk yet, or children who are easily threatened to silence and cannot defend themselves.

Conclusion.

Check the bags on day one. Before you show them to their quarters, ask them to show you what they have come with. If you find the bags of drugs, CCC count clinic cards, little Knick knacks that you know are way above her pay, then you know she is a kleptomaniac or sick. Please be cautious, and informed, and then make your decision.

Nanny Cam.

I know these have revealed the demons that assault children or worse, I also know that they have caused paranoia and unnecessary anxiety. I have never installed one in my house, but with every passing day, I feel the need to wire up my house like a bloody Christmas tree. For those who have them, what are the pros and cons of these gadgets?

Work with your neighbour.

If you have the fortune of having a good neighbour, then take advantage and be each other’s keeper. Many a child has been saved from hostile nannies by neighbours who did not approve of the treatment the child was getting. Small signs like a child who is always crying, or one who is always outside even when it is cold, or nannies who have a stream of guest coming can be signs of problems ahead. A simple conversation with your neighbour will ease your burden, and on days when she quits and you are miles away, the neighbour can take care of your babies as you break all the speed limits.

Conclusion.

If your neighbour brings something to your attention, please do not ignore, investigate, fire, have arrested or replace the nanny. Also, be friendly with your neighbour.

“Mimi sifanyangi” declarations.

Mmmmmmh! In the last two weeks I have been told this statement twice. And twice, the nannies have relieved themselves of their duties.

Again, at the interview stage, please ask her, and speak slowly and audibly the following question.

“Are there any house chores that you do not do?”

If she responds with a list longer than your weave, please call in the next one. I have found it usually starts with one condition e.g. she does not spread beds. Then by day three, she adds a few more “I do not do’s” such as she does not wake up before five, and she does not cook Githeri or she does not cook using a gas stove.

Conclusion.

Spare yourself the headache, if she feels that she can call the shots, she will for sure have you working for her.

All in all, it is difficult to find the perfect balance, neither is it okay to completely fall off the wagon. Please hire a nanny, treat her kindly, help her often, do not let her become the mother to your children. Always remember the exhaustion you felt when she wasn’t there, allow her to rest when you are home. There are good ones out there, but there are also evil ones, be very alert and pray over your children and homes.

Meanwhile….my struggle continues.

Parenting 000

Someone should have told me…

No one prepared me for this.

I may have 12 years of work experience, 3 degrees under my belt, quick wit and the vocabulary of a well-educated sailor, but still! Parenting has me gob smacked!

It has been said that there will never be a perfect time to become a parent (given the continued failure of morning afters, bursting condoms, trying to “trap” you a man), and should you find yourself looking at two strong red line, please be advised of the following.

Gadgets central.
After the arrival of my first… I was armed to the teeth with all manner of gadgets to ease my new shiny status…mother. I had two bottle warmers, one in my room and the other in the kitchen, in case crying begun while I was somewhere in between. I had baby monitors everywhere, just so I can see the blankets gentle raise and fall, to make sure he was breathing right and not choking on air or milk. I had two Moses baskets, so he could lay in comfort either in his room or the living room. Diaper changes were also electronic, first the heater had to run for at least ten minutes at full heat, and the wipe warmer had to have blinked green before my young could be undressed. Conversation was reduced to hushed tones, because should he wake before his time, I will take your life! Given that I felt my two eyes were not enough, I had the help of two nannies, strangely enough, this did nothing to make rest easy.
Someone should have told me…

Feeding frenzy.
I was all nerves and pure irritation. I wanted to mute the world, and have everything operate on grey scale to match my mood. I absolutely despised humanity; hormones raked havoc and my lack or constant need for some shut eye went unrewarded. So I became a mammoth red eyed Grinch, taming my unhappiness with mouthfuls of food and industrial amounts of tea and bone soup, because the women in my family believed that a new mother must eat and drink in order to keep up the milk supply. And eat and drink I did, which morphed my then trim figure into something akin a croissant, folds and rolls where none should exist. But still, I ate and drunk my days and nights, until all foods merged into blurred substances that filled my waking moments. Did you know Njahi mashed with sweet bananas has the singular ability of adding a kg to your weight with every bite? You have been warned!
Someone should have told me…

Colic aka your time in hell.
It would be unfair to paint my first as a colicky babe who cried specifically between 2030hrs and dawn everyday for the first four months of his life, because he did not. My second however did. I believe he will one day be knighted by the Queen for blowing her away with his Luciano Pavarottiesque abilities developed at my expense and thanks to Colic.
Did you know that a child can hold his breath for over a minute? Whilst howling at a pitch Mariah is yet to reach? And strangely enough, one does not become numb to the incessant screaming… Noooooo! You will pace and coo and sing and swing and ride your car in hopes to having the crying subside, but nothing! And just as the sun comes up, all will be calm, he will sleep, and you will suit up to attend that two hour strategy meeting where your only contribution will be agreement to everything, as you nod off in fitful slumber.
Someone should have told me…

Nannies.
Grannies and nannies are Angles without wings. Honestly, I would not have survived without them. However, there are those nannies who come to add to your troubles in the most annoying of ways.
I have had those who “killed” a relative every time they needed extra money and extended weekends. I had another who would only eat Ugali, and whose portion sizes could have fed a Greek army twice. Then there was the other who decided to quit as I walked out the door headed to the office. Let me not give you details of the illiterate one, who fed my son a tablespoon of suncream lotion instead of his antibiotic, on account that it smelt sweeter than the drugs and looked more legit than the actual medicine. Then there was the phone operator, the one whose cell rung every four minutes (I kid you not), and she had conversations at about 1000 decibels, and would shoo away the kids so she can narrate the tale of their village drunk who was beaten up by his 4 wives. Then I had the one who cleaned me out, she went ahead and hired a truck, loaded my belongings and called it a day.
I have hired and fired so many nannies, my house begun feeling like a bed and breakfast. And yes, the search continues.
Someone should have told me…

Turn up? Not!
My social life died 7 years ago.
I had not the energy to go anywhere whilst pregnant, and upon arrival of the children, I mostly can not be bothered. On the occasions when I would like to grace an event, I find myself without help, so I have to do the dread right thing and choose my young over the club, party, alcohol, rachetness and other inviting events.
I do not mean to be the devils advocate, but someone should have warned me of the drama that comes with bring forth the fruit of my womb. Children are very much a blessings, and there are countless times of shared laughter and inexplicable joy. But when the devil gets the upper hand, you will want to pull a Houdini and disappear from unsavoury situations.
Someone should have told me…

I am not saying that this is your portion, however, please wrap it up before you slap it up… unless you are in a hurry to meet the fruit of your loin. 😉