Thursday, August 21, 2014

Wollersheim Time 2014

Can you taste the sweat and dust?  In our taxi on the way to Guinea & Sierra Leone - April 2009
After living and loving in Albuquerque, NM for Esther & Alaric's wedding, I headed to Phoenix, AZ to see my buds Joe & Ashley - and their (now two!) babies, Mia & Tucker.  I already waxed poetic about how I know Joe and Ashley in this post when I spent ten days with the Wollersheims in 2011 (wowsas - y'all are some generous friends letting me crash that long!).
Just living the dream on Banana Island in Sierra Leone
 Back in 2011 I wondered what it would be like to visit with the Wollersheims in the US - since all of our friendship initially revolved around Mali.  Of course, I wonder no more and am so thankful to have such dear friends who knew me during such an impactful period of my life.  I loved going down this rabbit hole of memories, too - so many good times.
That time Joe convinced us climbing Hombori was no big deal.  
 This trip, I just spent two days in Phoenix but we still packed a lot in!  We went to Mexican with Ashley's brother, Bubba, and his wife, Becky, to celebrate Ash's birthday and then spent the next day traveling to Sedona and soaking up the cliffs (while eating ice cream :)  I loved getting to know Tucker (who was just three months old when he came to our wedding in 2013!) and seeing how much Mia has grown since I met her when she was just seven months old back in 2011.
One of the most epic pictures I've ever taken.
While our lives have changed considerably since Mali (even since our visit in 2011!), and instead of eating stale bread and laughing cow cheese on the top of Hombori or in the back of a taxi on the way to Guinea we were eating cheese sticks and ginger ale in Joe & Ashley's pool - our friendship has been a true constant.  It is such a blessing to have lifelong friends like Joe & Ashley and to be a part of their lives as their family grows.  I'm already looking forward to our next visit!
 And now here we are five years later - two Wollersheim babies out and one Bangoura baby on the way!  My oh my how life changes in beautiful ways!
 Some of my favorite parts of the trip include: sharing a room with Tucker and him waking up in the morning in his crib, me rolling over to look at him and then him starting to grin like the little sweet pea that he is; Mia asking me if I was able to get ready quickly so we could go swimming (in nearly matching bathing suits no less!); and Mia asking on our way home from Sedona when Jenny (me) would be going home...hah!
Making cleaning out the dishwasher better since 2013

See more pictures from my trip here!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Two are better than one: An Albuquerque Wedding

Albuquerque sunrise
Last week I had the honor of attending, and participating in, Esther and Alaric's wedding in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  Aside from placing part of my foot in New Mexico in the summer of 2000 (or was it '99?) at the four corners, I had never been to New Mexico before.  I loved the chance to visit Esther and Alaric's new home together and to get to know, albeit briefly, some of their closest family and friends over the three days of wedding festivities.
October 2009 - Mali
But let me start from the beginning.  I met Esther and Alaric in July 2008 when I joined the Peace Corps and moved to Mali.  We not only spent two years in the same wonderful country, we also lived in the same region of Mali - San - and spent most of the American holidays - and quite a few volunteer house parties - together over our two years of service.  I would love to recap all of our adventures here but I realized I already have in some old blog posts!

Esther, Cassie and I had a lot of good times together including visiting Cassie's village for Ramadan in 2009 and riding our bikes the 60 miles from Esther's site to San to celebrate Thanksgiving in November of the same year.  We filmed a video about Moringa in my village and visited the nicest eco-tourism resort in Mali.  Of course our most epic creation was our close-of-service video.
October 2009
In Albuquerque, I had the chance to visit the downtown area and the Sandia Peak Tramway with some of Esther's lovely friends before attending the Mehndi ceremony on Thursday and the Garba celebration on Friday.  On Saturday morning, vendors set up shop outside of our hotel (The Hotel Blue, which was great) for their weekly farmers market.  Some of my favorite vendors were Miss Charlie Bean and Baby Blastoff.  I highly recommend hitting up the market if you're visiting Albuquerque, it was definitely a highlight!
The wedding took place on Saturday at the First United Methodist Church with a reception at the Hotel Andaluz, which took me back to Rgizlaine's wedding with all the intricate Moroccan-influenced architecture.  Esther and Alaric asked Cassie and I to do a reading from Eccelesiastes 4: 9-12 during their ceremony - but to read it in Bambara - what an honor!  A friend in Mali helped us out at the last minute with the following passage because while a friend here had a Bambara bible, we didn't know which chapter in Bambara corresponded to Ecclesiastes (it's Waajulikela if you're wondering :)

From Eccelesiastes 4: 9-12:
Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.  But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.  Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.  But how can one keep warm alone?  Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.  A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
In Bambara:
Mogo fila ka fisa ni mogo kelen ye, k'a ma soro u be tono gnuman soro u ka barra la.  Ni u la kelen binna, do be se ka a lawuli.  Nga ni mogo kelen binna, o ye bone ye sabu mogo si te yen k'a lawuli.  O cogo la ni mogo fila be da nogon kerefe, u fila be nene bo nogon na nga nin kelen don, o be se ka nene bo a yere fari la cogodi?  Ni bin kannikela binna mogo kelen te se.  Jurukise saba melekelen nogon na o tige man di.

I love any opportunity to go down the rabbit hole of my old Mali blog posts, pictures and memory lane and Esther and Alaric's wedding is one of the best excuses yet.  We have so many wonderful memories together and it was such a blessing to witness their marriage.  Just over six years ago we all got on the same flight headed to Mali - I don't think any of us could have predicted where that journey would take us six years later :)
Giving baby girl some love!
So much love for my San-kaw!
See more pictures from my trip to New Mexico here!

Friday, July 11, 2014

baby Bangoura: 7-19 weeks

telling Mom & John the news.
When we found out we were expecting a baby back in March, I knew I wanted to take pictures every week with the corresponding fruit size of the baby (for all those who don't/didn't know - you can sign up for emails and each week they email you and let you know your baby has graduated from the size of a blueberry to a raspberry to a mango and so on).  There are examples all over Pinterest but one of the photographers I follow put this post up and I loved what she had done.

Not much happens in the beginning (in terms of the belly growing) and then all of a sudden you're showing so we skipped from week 7 to week 19 (OK, might have been some, oops, we forgot happening there, too) but just imagine me getting incrementally bigger from week 7 to 19 and you'll know what I looked like.

7 weeks and the size of a blueberry to 19 weeks an the size of a mango.  

For posterity's sake, I want to remember here some of my favorite parts of the pregnancy so far:

Finding out!  I took the test and it immediately made that little plus sign (much to my surprise though Abdoulaye said he already knew I was pregnant).  Abdoulaye was making coffee and getting ready to leave for work when I peeked out of the bathroom with a big ol' grin on my face.  I called the doctor that morning to set up a pre-natal appointment and I said, "I think I'm pregnant..."  "Did you take a pregnancy test?" the nurse asked.  "Yes!" "Was it positive?"  "Yes!" "Did you miss a cycle?" "Yes!"  "Then you're pregnant!"

Telling family and friends.  Marija offered me a glass of wine and I said no and she said "You're pregnant!"  This was quite early on so let it be known that if you want to conceal your pregnancy, don't hang around Marija.  Cassie and I were at this movie when I told her and we squealed over the news while sharing candy.  Kate was in the baby section of Target when I called and was so, so happy.  When we told Sheri, Lindsay & Dan, Abdoulaye said "We have some news."  They nodded.  "We're moving to Virginia!"  They looked puzzled.  "Just joking.  Jennifer's pregnant."  Heads cocked to the side.  Mrs. Shellnutt was picking me up at the Tampa airport and said I was taking too long and costing her money on parking as I walked through the gate.  Then she saw my belly!

Going to pre-natal appointments with some of my favorite treasures.  Mom & Memaw came to my 9 week check-up and we saw the baby for the first time (sort of, it was still pretty murky); Marija came to my 12-week appointment and bawled/sobbed at little baby Bangoura when I had another sonogram and Cassie came to my 14-week and we got to hear the heartbeat (now the nurses/doctor wonder where my posse is when I come to appointments alone).  Abdoulaye has come with me to my specialist ultrasound appointments where they take pictures of all the baby's parts.  We found out we're having a girl on Wednesday (at my 20-week appointment) and were totally surprised.  Lots of folks thought it was a boy!

Enjoying the now and getting ready for what comes next.  Thankfully, so far I've felt great.  No morning sickness.  My back feels fine.  I can get around OK.  But I know it's just the beginning and summer isn't over yet and I'm getting bigger by the day.  It's been such a blessing to be surrounded by loving family & friends for the beginning of this new chapter of our lives and to experience the support of colleagues and neighbors.  Thank you!!

And since Abdoulaye finds the expression "We're pregnant" puzzling/humorous, and I take practice shots on him to get the lighting/position right for my photo shoot, here are some outtakes from my fruit shots with my handsome husband. 

7 weeks and the size of a blueberry to 19 weeks an the size of a mango.  Everyone tells him he looks fantastic.

Any and all baby/pregnancy suggestions are welcome - goodness knows folks let the advice pour in when that belly starts sticking out!  :) :)  

Monday, July 7, 2014

Happy 4th of July!

Our little sparkler.
 Last year, Cassie and I spent the morning of the 4th of July making American & Guinean flag cakes (that American/Guinean children begrudgingly ate) for a Guinean 4th of July party.

This year, we spent the morning picking blueberries & beets at Larriland Farms, the afternoon watching the Brazil vs Colombia World Cup match and the evening watching the fireworks from the Armed Forces Retirement Home (AFRH).  I wouldn't have had it any other way.

I forgot my camera's memory card at home for our trip to the farm so I don't have any pictures but imagine lots of blueberries, raspberries & beets.   And sunshine.  And smiles.  And then we got BBQ from the Town Grill - a must visit if you're headed out to Larriland Farms or Howard County.

The World Cup game was actually the first one I watched all the way through and it wasn't a disappointment (sorry, Colombia!).  I always enjoy Africa is a Country's reviews and their summaries of the World Cup do not disappoint - especially this post about racism in Brazil (sorry to read this post about the AP stealing their content).

The AFRH was such a treasure! Beautiful views of the DC skyline, food trucks, parking and views of fireworks on the Mall and in the neighborhood.  It was also an appropriate location to remind me of the reason we celebrate the 4th of July and the men and women who serve our country.

Who knows what our next 4th of July will bring?  There'll be one more of us along for the ride to celebrate - hopefully we can go berry picking and see the fireworks again from the AFRH.

Cassie promised us she would spend every 4th of July with us so we could take the same couch picture (see 2013).
Come on, those smiles.

Peeks of the fireworks on the Mall
Street fireworks going off nearby.
Fourth of July 2013
Fourth of July 2012
Fourth of July 2011
Fourth of July 2010 
Fourth of July 2009


Saturday, May 10, 2014

Family, Frolics & Foundry

Memaw and Tyson spending some quality time together. 
A couple of weeks ago Mom and Memaw took the Amtrak up to DC to spend a weekend with Abdoulaye and me.  Well, mostly me since Abdoulaye was hard at work fixing up our basement (hence the limited amount of photos, ahem, none, with my handsome husband).  We visited a nearby lake, tidied house (Mom re-alphabatized our spice rack, among other handy putzing contributions), had dinner with friends and visited the church where Memaw grew up, was married and where my Mom was baptized.  Whew.
Buddy Attick Lake Park (Greenbelt, Maryland)
My little babies (Marija, I think this is my new favorite picture of us, thank you!!)
One of my favorite parts about Memaw coming to visit is seeing Washington, DC through her eyes.  When she inevitably shares with a friend, new or old, that she grew up in DC, they always ask thoughtful questions about her time here and tease out stories I've heard over and over again but that truly never get old.

Having Mom and Memaw around is like having home come visit you.  I don't have to work to entertain them and they are perfectly happy sitting on the loveseat in the sunroom reading their books with a glass of wine.  They're also lovely mini-adventure companions - with Memaw interjecting stories of her time as a little girl, and then student at George Washington University, on the streets of our nation's capital.  It's lovely, too, to be with two ladies who are as enamored with our little bungalow as I am and who gush just as much about Abdoulaye as I do :)
Three generations of matching little nubby noses
Visiting Foundry United Methodist Church where Memaw was raised (and where she was married)
Visiting Foundry UMC was a real treat -and not just because of the 200 years of history (this year!) that fill the sanctuary.  Robtel Pailey, a PhD candidate at the University of London, delivered the sermon, which you can listen to here.  Ms. Pailey attended Foundry with her family while growing up after she and her family came to the US from Liberia.  After graduating from college in DC, she went on to "serve as special assistant for communications to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf." (see more of her writing here and here).  How neat!  I loved learning about her path in life and her roots at Foundry and imagining her growing up as a little girl in the same church as my grandmother and how their lives, though incredibly different, had a similar base in a church that welcomes so many people from so many backgrounds. 
Abdoulaye is disappointed I asked them to take the bus.  DC public transport adventure!
I did get a little teary-eyed putting these two little nuggets on the train on Monday - it gets harder and harder to say goodbye!  We had a lovely lunch together at Union Station and then I left them at the waiting area in the Amtrak station, paper-back novels in one hand and the other waving goodbye to me, cupped and flapping up and down.   

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Lucky in love: Virginia Beach Shamrock 8k

While we're packed in close to 4 inches of snow here in DC, I'm warmed thinking of our weekend in Virginia Beach.  Cassie, Abdoulaye and I loaded into our car on Friday evening to head down to VB for the Shamrock 8k (and to cheer on my sister-in-law, Courtney, who ran the 1/2 marathon).
Abdoulaye wearing a medal before the race to get into the spirit!
When we arrived at the starting corrals on Saturday morning, we scanned the crowd for familiar faces and where we could slip in with our starting group.  As we looked around, I saw a man who looked like an elite, African runner (tiny frame, seemed freezing in the 70 degree temps).  At the same time, his eyes landed on Abdoulaye and he bee-lined his way over to us.  I wouldn't say he gave Abdoulaye elevator eyes to check him out but it was close.  We all greeted one another and then Edward, as we later learned was his name, asked Abdoulaye "what is your time?" to which Abdoulaye replied, "not so fast."  We all laughed as we realized Edward thought Abdoulaye was a fellow elite runner and wanted to know his mile time.  He told us he was living in New Mexico (to train in high altitude) and here with three other Kenyans for the marathon the following day.
On a pontoon ride after the race with my treasures :)
While Abdoulaye didn't win the race - he did beat everyone in the family except Dan, my soon to be brother-in-law who is a serious athlete.  I ran my best and was encouraged by Cassie who is a steady runner and didn't let me slow down :)  Thankfully the wind wasn't too harsh and the day was as close to perfect for running as you can get.
Cap'n Morgan and his trusty crew
After the race we loaded into Dad & Sheri's new pontoon boat for a spin on Linkhorn Bay.  Lisa and Louise joined us as well (they're running with us next year! - right, Lisa??) and loved soaking up the rays and checking out First Landing State Park (though I'll never stop calling it Seashore State Park).
On our trip to Virginia Beach last year, Jarrett was just three weeks old  - now he's 12 months and 3 weeks and looking at him feels like seeing the past year on fast forward.   I'm already looking forward to next year's race!
Lindsay and me with our nephew, Jarrett, in 2013 - less than a month old!
2014 :)
See more pictures from this year's Shamrock race here and last year's here

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Days of love

Abdoulaye is with his family in Guinea until next week.  Until then, I'm celebrating my favorite Valentine from afar and giving thanks for all the loves in my life.  Every day is a day to celebrate love!

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