I wish I was better at writing down the cute little things our kids say. Sometimes their statements are so random that it’s funny. Other times their statements are way too mature for their age that it’s funny. But most of the time the things they say reflect their unique personalities, their unique perspective on life, and the interesting observations they make about the world around them.
This last month has been especially interesting with all the things they have been observing and commenting on. We just arrived back in the US early May, and after 2-1/2 years of living in Cameroon their perspective on things here in the US has been really interesting to observe. I have to admit that I have very much enjoyed seeing the world through their eyes. They have such an appreciation for the things around them, and such a wonder and excitement about every little new thing they see.
Keturah: “Mommy! We have a swimming pool in the house!! Can I go swimming in it, PLEASE!?!”
It took me a moment, but I soon realized that she was talking about the bathtub. Since we don’t have a bathtub in our house in Cameroon it made sense that she would mistake it to be a swimming pool. Compared to the bucket baths she used to take sitting in a basin of water in comparison to that it’s no surprise that to a little girl the spacious bathtub would feel a lot like a swimming pool.
Caleb: “It opened by itself!!”
The sliding doors on our mini-van or the automatic doors at shopping centers. Yes, they’re automatic and open all by themselves. For a 2-year-old who is VERY interested in all things technical these “magical opening doors” have been really amazing! And it seems like no matter how many times he sees it happen each and every time he reacts as if seeing it for the first time. It never seems to get old for him. And he just HAS to exclaim “it opened by itself!!” EVERY SINGLE TIME!!
Keturah: “I don’t know how to speak English very good!”
This was not a very accurate statement by any means (Keturah is actually VERY good at speaking English), but it did go to show her level of insecurity when we first arrived in the US. The English that is spoken here has a very different accent from what is spoken in Cameroon, and very often in her young mind she has a hard time telling the difference between what is a different language (French, Fulfulde, Pidgin, Kwanja, Yamba — the language spoken in the neighborhood where we live in Cameroon) and what is a difference in accent (Cameroonian English vs. American English). It was a little intimidating for her to speak with different people here at first, but it didn’t take her long to realize that even though the accent is very different she actually CAN speak American English really well.
Keturah: “Mommy, LOOK!! They’re going up into the ceiling!!!”
This one is perhaps my favorite! You’ll never guess in a million years what she was referring to when she said this, and I’ll admit that it took me a bit to figure it out as well. A two story house! She had never seen (at least not that she would have been able to remember) a two story house before! We were visiting at a friend’s house and the first time she saw the other kids running up the flight of stairs she got SO excited and hardly knew what to think of it. You see, in all the other houses we’ve been in they’ve all just been single story. Sometimes in our house in Cameroon there were times when daddy needed to go up into the crawlspace of the ceiling to access things in the attic. But KIDS never go up there! So to see her friends running upstairs and “into the ceiling” was quite the surprise. At first I just couldn’t help but laugh. What fun it was to explain to her how it wasn’t actually the ceiling but just more rooms in the house. And when asked if she wanted to go up there and see it for herself she was just the happiest girl in the world!! She marched bravely up the stairs and checked it out for herself and then came marching down again (quite a long time later) to tell me all about it!
Caleb: “There’s a police motorcycle!!! . . . There’s an excavator!!! . . . There’s a firetruck!!! . . . There’s a dump truck!!! . . . There’s a backhoe!!! . . . There’s a cement truck!!! . . . There’s a firetruck!!! . . . There’s a garbage truck!!!”
Caleb loves vehicles of every kind, but a lot of vehicle types were ones he had only heard about and had never actually seen for himself. So now, here we were in America, and all the different vehicles he had only seen in movies were showing up in random places all around him. And oh the joy and excitement for our little guy. It was like his movies and vivid imagination were coming to life! And every time he saw another vehicle it was like a dream come true for him!
Caleb: “What’s that sound?”
This question has come up quite a lot as he is getting used to all the new sounds around him. Everything here in the US is so different from Cameroon, and sometimes it’s hard for him to put his finger on exactly what is making the different sounds. He’s really eager to find out, though, so he just keeps asking and we try to help him identify all the strange and new sounds as best we can.
Caleb: “That’s eating the house!! That not nice!”
Oh my goodness! This one took a bit of figuring out but it was SO funny when I finally realized what he was talking about. I had been in the kitchen preparing some food and Caleb had come in and asked me is usual question of “what’s that sound” — this time it was the furnace turning on. Well, Caleb just stood there a while staring at the furnace and after what seemed like a really long time (especially in 2-year-old attention spans) he finally spoke up with his comment of “That’s eating the house!! That not nice!!”. . . What?!?
It took a little clarification before I finally realized what he was talking about. Apparently he had heard us comment several times about the furnace “heating” the house and he must have mistaken that word for “eating”. And yes, in his little 2-year-old mind if that big loud machine was somehow eating our house then yeah, that’s certainly not very nice of it!
Keturah AND Caleb: “You’re driving mommy?!!”
The fact that mommy can drive was quite the novel idea to the kids. When we are in Cameroon we don’t have a private vehicle but just take public transportation whenever we go anywhere, so the kids were very surprised to learn that I can actually drive. They’ve seen daddy drive his motorcycle in Cameroon, but they’d never seen mommy drive before. Keturah was especially inspired by this idea and at one point asked the question, “You mean girls can drive too!?!”. I hadn’t realized it before this, but apparently I was the first female driver she had ever seen before, and it was like a whole new world of opportunity had just opened up in her mind.
Keturah AND Caleb: “Green light means GO!!!”
Coming from the remote parts of Cameroon the kids aren’t used to having traffic lights. And while the traffic lights are quite a novelty for them it can be a little much having 2 and 4 year-olds constantly telling you what the traffic light says. Especially the green light! “Why aren’t you going mommy? . . . The light is green you’re supposed to go now!”
Ha! And when we explained that sometimes even when it’s green you have to wait until the cars in front of you start moving, well, Keturah’s conclusion to that was to turn to Caleb and explain, “Sometimes when the light is green you can’t really go, and sometimes when the light is red you can’t really stop.” — Well, not exactly, but you’re only 4-years-old, there’s still time to figure it out before you take the wheel!
Keturah AND Caleb: “Mommy, you’re going the wrong way!!!”
We have some serious backseat drivers in our van! I sometimes joke with Sammy that, “How did I ever manage to arrive at my destinations before I had kids to help me know how to drive and which way to go?!”.
They call out every time there’s a red light. They very loudly urge me to “GO!” when the lights turn green. They get nervous when we take a new route that they don’t recognize, and are so insistent sometimes with their comments of, “Mommy, you’re going the wrong way! . . . I don’t think this is the way to our house! . . . No mommy, this road goes to the playground, not the library . . . We need to turn around! . . . I don’t think this is right! . . . We’re going to get lost!!”
Of course, then there are the follow-up comments of, “Oh! I guess you WERE right mommy! . . . Yay! We didn’t get lost! . . . You found it, mommy!” — Yep, mommy DOES actually know where she’s going (most of the time).
Keturah: “Can I talk to the policeman? I need to tell him that I can sit really nice without a car seat!”
One of the biggest adjustments for the kids since getting back to the US has been the fact that they have to sit in car seats when we’re driving around. They don’t use car seats when we’re in Cameroon so it took them a bit to adjust to the idea of needing to sit in the car seats when driving. Timothy protested pretty strongly the first few times. Which, when you consider the fact that he’s used to sitting on mommy and daddy’s laps when driving it’s understandable that he would be opposed to having to sit in a car seat. Caleb was probably the one who has the easiest time adjusting to the car seats. For him, he was just so excited to be driving in a vehicle that he really didn’t mind how he had to sit in it. In fact, I think he kind of enjoyed the idea of having his own seat! As for Keturah, she had a lot of questions about why she had to sit in a car seat here and for the first while she seemed to be under the impression that if she could just talk to a policeman he might make an exception for her, and she just couldn’t understand why mommy and daddy wouldn’t let her talk to the police about her little “problem”.
Keturah: “I think I like America! You can buy anything you want!”
We are pretty limited in what is available in our area of Cameroon, so going shopping here has been such a wonder. You can pretty much find anything you’re looking for, and if one store doesn’t have it another store does!
Caleb: “Can I ride my bicycle? . . . Daddy, you need to buy tools to fix my bicycle!”
That boy and his bicycle! He’s just not happy without a bike to ride. It took a bit of doing to track down a bike that he could use and a bit of doing to tune it up and get it working well for him, but now that he has his bicycle to ride he is the happiest boy ever!
Keturah AND Caleb: “Can we go to the playground?!!”
I wish I could have captured the awe and amazement that was in their eyes the very first time I took them to a playground here. We don’t have anything in the way of playgrounds where we live in Cameroon, and only very basic playground equipment when we visit the capital city there. So for them to go to a REAL playground here was just incredible!
There was no hiding their surprise and excitement when we arrived at the playground. And after getting some rather strange and curious looks from another mom that was there I finally had to explain that it was their first time ever going to play at a “big” playground (and boy did that take some explaining! I mean, seriously, what deprived children have never been to a playground before?!). Of course, the mom had to point out that this wasn’t really a “big” playground, and she was right — (we’ve been to even bigger ones since) — but for kids who are coming from Africa it was HUGE!!
Keturah: “The sun doesn’t think it’s bedtime yet!”
Since living in Cameroon has us positions very near the equator the sun is very consistent in the hours that it rises and sets, and our kids are used to judging when it’s time to wake up or when it’s time to go to sleep based on the fact that the sun comes up when it’s morning and goes down when it’s night. Well, the hours of daylight are different here, and that has definitely taken some getting used to. We eventually had to get blackout curtains in the kids’ room because they just couldn’t adjust to the idea of going to bed while the sun was still up. Keturah, especially, would protest bedtime based on the fact that it wasn’t dark outside yet.
Keturah: “When the sun is up here then it is night in Cameroon. That’s just how it works!”
We were having a very pleasant Skype call with a friend from Africa (making the call from outside since it was such a pleasant afternoon). At one point in the conversation our friend mentioned that she needed to be getting to bed now, and that was rather confusing to Keturah. It took a bit of explaining, but she eventually figured it out. The sun has to “take turns” who it shines on, so if the sun is shining on us here in America than it’s nighttime for all our friends in Cameroon.
Keturah: “Where are we on the map? Where is Grandma Konrad? Where is Africa?”
Keturah took a very sudden interest in maps when we first arrived in the US. She wanted to see where we are in the world and she wanted to know where everyone she cares about is also located. We were able to get her a mini globe and even found some great books at the library to help her figure things out and that seemed to help her a lot in the adjustment process.
As you can see, a lot of the comments the kids have been making have been really funny and just plain cute! But there have been some other comments as well of a more serious nature that have also been a huge part of the transition and adjustment period.
At 7-months Timothy wasn’t officially talking yet, but the one word he did know was “back-pack” (“bac-bac” — referring to the baby carrier backpack). He actually associates the word “back-pack” with taking walks outside. So when we were on our second flight back to the US (the first flight being 7+ hours and the second flight being 11+ hours), Timothy reached his limit of how much he could take being cooped up in the plane and his way of telling us that he just really wanted to get off was to just keep repeating this word over and over again . . . “bac-bac . . . bac-bac . . . bac-bac”. I never wanted to “that mom” who had the screaming kid disrupting everyone on the flight, but Timothy did not like the airplanes at all, and certainly made sure everyone knew he was unhappy. How do you explain things to a 7-month-old, though? Yes, he was doing a really excellent job of communicating what he wanted (he wanted to go in the baby backpack and go outside!) but it just wasn’t an option at the time.
Keturah: “Mommy, you were wrong, big planes aren’t good for me either!”
Poor Keturah, she gets SO sick when traveling. Her degree of motion sickness, regardless of the mode of transportation, is really bad, but traveling by airplane is definitely the worst for her. We already knew that she got airsick really bad on the small bush plane that we had occasionally taken in Cameroon, but even people who aren’t prone to motion sickness can experience problems on those tiny planes. So when getting ready to board the bigger airplane we tried to assure her that this experience would be different and that the bigger airplanes don’t make people feel as sick as the smaller airplanes do. Well, that assurance didn’t last long. She was pretty miserable, and in the end she concluded that big airplanes are just as bad. In fact, her way of coping with the situation was to actually turn to me and give me the comfort and consoling that she was needing, “Sorry, mommy” she said, “sorry we had to go on the airplanes”. At least she was old enough to understand why we had to go on an airplane. In that way it was a little better than trying console Timothy.
Keturah: “Dear God, please help us to be happy and to hide our sadness”
This was a portion of her prayer just a few days after we arrived in Cameroon. I am quickly learning that our bubbly and happy little girl often carries some very heavy burdens under the surface and often times I don’t get a glimpse into those burdens except through the things she says in prayer. When I asked her later what “sadness” she is hiding she shared about how sometimes people have to leave their homes and go to new homes and that makes them very sad. She speaks of her struggles in the third-person as a way to detach from them, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that she’s been feeling homesick.
Keturah: “Dear God, please tell my Grandma and Grandpa Weber that I really miss them and that I’ll love them forever and ever!”
We had the joy and privilege of getting to spend time with Sammy’s parents for a few weeks leading up to our departure from Cameroon. It was such a blessing, for the kids especially, to have so much quality time with their grandparents. But it was also hard for them (Keturah especially) to say goodbye.
Caleb: “Oh no, I lost my house!!! . . . I can’t find it! . . . Where did my house go?!”
This has been the hardest of the comments to respond to. Of all the kids, Caleb has had the hardest time adjusting and transitioning, and especially when it comes to bed-times and nap-times he has been known to cry about having “lost” his house. We try our best to comfort him and to assure him that it isn’t lost and that we will go back to his house again later. But the reality is that he just needs to be free to process the emotions, to grieve his loss and to adjust to his “new normal”. We do our best to keep his bedtime routine’s familiar and consistent, we even travel with his blanket and other bedtime comfort items. But as much as they help they just can’t replace the fact that he is going to sleep in a strange bed, in a strange room, in a place that isn’t “his house”, and that’s been really hard for him.
On a positive note . . . this past week Caleb has seemed to really start liking our new house here. Now, when we’re driving up our street, he looks at each of the houses and asks, “Is that Caleb’s house? No-o-o. Is that Caleb’s house? No-o-o. Is that Caleb’s house? YES!!!” — so glad to see him finally getting excited about our new house here.
Caleb: “Mommy, can I come with you to the doctor? I’m broken too! The doctor needs to fix my back too, it has lots and lots of owies all over it! . . . . Are you broken mommy? Doctor needs to fix you?”
Caleb knows that I have been going to the chiropractor (“doctor”) several times now and really wanted to accompany me. No, he doesn’t have any “owies” on his back at all, but he knows that my back has been hurting me a lot and he has been very empathetic and very curious about what why I need to see a “doctor”. When I finally took him along with me on one of my chiropractor visits he was very relieved to find out that I didn’t need any “pokies” (aka: finger pricks for blood tests) and after seeing what it was like “going to the doctor” he was able to conclude in the end that what the doctor was doing to “fix me” was okay and “not too bad” of a procedure.
Keturah: “I’m sorry we have to be sick. Sorry mommy.”
In hindsight it probably wasn’t the best idea to take the kids to a McDonald’s play-place so soon after arriving in country. And we probably won’t be taking them to that particular one again as we have since heard from other parents saying that their kids always seem to get sick when they go to that particular McDonald’s. Two weeks later the kids each got hit with various different illnesses (each kid contracting something different). That’s when I realized that while our kids may be accustomed to a lot of the germs they’re exposed to in Cameroon, the Africa germs are different than germs here in America, so we had a bit of a rough transition as they were accustomed to the new germs and a few of the American illnesses we aren’t used to dealing with in Cameroon.
Caleb: “Can I go to Abel’s house to get sand?”
Abel, our neighbor in Cameroon, always had piles of sand in his yard for various construction projects he would be working on. The kids were very used to going over to his house to play in the sand with their “outside toys”. Well, the other day Caleb found some sand toys and right away asked if he could go to Abel’s house. It took a bit of explaining to help him realize that Abel’s house is just too far away right now. We WERE able to find him some sand at a playground that he could play in, but he was pretty sad about not being able to go to Abel’s house anymore.
Keturah: “I think Christi is sad to go to my house and find that I’m gone.”
I think Keturah was under the impression that Christi would be surprised to go to our house and find that we weren’t there anymore, but I assured her that Christi’s mommy knew we were going to America, and that she would explain to Christi why we aren’t there right now. Christi was Keturah’s best friend and she has moments when she really misses her. Unfortunately Keturah is very strongly introverted and really not used to interacting with a lot of other kids, so she’s having a really hard time really connecting or building friendships with other girls here, though she has connected well with a couple babysitters we’ve had over, so that’s something at least.
As for Timothy, he isn’t really talking yet, apart from a couple very basic words, but even without talking he is able to communicate really well! He has been really happy over-all. He loves going to the playgrounds. He loves getting to swing on the swings. And whenever we go to new places he has this look of awe and wonder as he’s looking around.
Timothy’s mode of “coping” with all the new, though, is to be extra clingy to mommy, and he is always the happiest when he’s tied on mommy’s back — African style!
Well, overall it has been quite the month of adjustments. Lots of new sights, new sounds, new places to see, new things to get used to. Lot of just “processing” and wrapping our minds around the “new normal”.
Life here in America is just so different to what we are used to in Cameroon and it has certainly been different seeing these differences from the perspective of our children. They certainly have a unique perspective on things, and it has been really neat to see this transition period from their unique point of view.
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